posted on 3-Oct-2002 11:07:42 PM by Deejonaise
Author: Deejonaise aka Dee aka Boy

Catagory: M/L

Rating: PG-NC/17

Disclaimer: I don't own Roswell, blah, blah, blah, Jason Katims and Melinda Metz, blah, blah, blah...

Summary: Want to know what happens after Liz and Max leave with Zrei?

Author's Note: This is the sequel to Contemplating Normal. So you might want to read it first. Now I started this story off with the intention of making it about teenage adventure but the more I write the more angsty it gets. Sorry... So forget that pretty angst-free stuff, okay. What can I say...I have a hard time writing fluff, but I'll work on that...I promise.

I will try and update every time I write a new part. How's that?

Feedback: Of course I want it. Please give it. Please, please, with ice cream on top?



Revising Normal

Prologue (2002)

Her palms were sweating. She gripped the steering wheel tighter to prevent her hands from slipping, beating her thumbs nervously against the top. Another countless time she found herself glancing into the rearview mirror, willing him to emerge. What is taking so long, she thought restlessly. She flicked up her wrist to glance at her watch. Ten minutes, already. Dammit! She only remembered at the last second to guard her thoughts. Her emotions were running high and could be easily sensed if she weren’t careful. She had to be cautious, she diligently reminded herself. This would be their one and only chance. They couldn’t afford to blow it. For that reason alone she had to maintain a cool head.

Heaving a nervous sigh she pushed her long, dark hair back from her face in a reflexive action. She had to find a way to calm down. In a desperate effort to do just that she reached forward and turned up the volume on the radio, hoping to drown out her thoughts and calm her frayed nerves. She was trying to create a mental block with the raucous music that would drown out her true thoughts. They were always listening, always waiting… She couldn’t be too cautious. Even as her heart beat a frantic tattoo in her chest, she sang the words loudly, with determined concentration, as if her life depended on it. In some ways, it did.

And they say that a hero can save us…
I’m not gonna stand here and wait
I’ll hold on to the wings of the eagles…
watch as they all fly away


She sang the words over and over like a prayer, her breath coming in shallow pants as she did. She was beginning to perspire all over. They hadn’t discussed it taking so long. What if something had gone wrong, she wondered. What if he needed her? She couldn’t chance a mental connection for fear they might be intercepted. She clenched the steering wheel even tighter.

And just when she thought she would be unable to remain in the jeep waiting one more second he came running from the temple, his arms full of a small, blanket covered bundle. The moment he fell into the back seat she rounded on him anxiously, her eyes straining to see the precious cargo the blanket covered. “Is that him? Is that him?” she burst out frantically.

He nodded quickly, half covering the bundle with his body. “Come on, they’re right behind me! We have to go now!” he ordered, glancing back at the entrance of the temple to see the counsel emerging, their white, flowing robes billowing in the breeze, indignation etched into their stern features, their eyes blackened with the coming force of their gathering strength. If they waited just one more second, escape would no longer be an option. He trained eyes widened with fear and apprehension on her rapidly paling face. “Go now!

But he needn’t have said anything at all. She had already swiveled around in her seat and was yanking the stick shift into drive. She well recognized the urgency of the situation before he’d even said a word. They were running for their lives and she knew it. He had barely slammed shut the jeep door before she was stamping down the gas pedal and roaring away, kicking up a gigantic cloud of dust in her wake as she did.


[ edited 42time(s), last at 5-Dec-2002 10:47:12 PM ]
posted on 4-Oct-2002 7:13:06 PM by Deejonaise
You guys know that I update fast, so don't act surprised.;) Chapter Two might take a little more time though. Thanks for the feedback and keep it coming.


Chapter 1 (1999)

“God, Liz, are you supposed to be this wet?”

Max Evans groaned deeply as he bracketed his wife’s slim hips with his hands, pinning her back into the mattress. As he drove into her moist cleft one last time and moaned her name, his body jerked with the force of his premature ejaculation. Max pressed his forehead against hers and closed his eyes, his body shivering with delightful aftershocks of pleasure. After his spasms had finally ended he collapsed against her, his body slick with perspiration. Framing her face between his hands, Max pushed back the sweat-dampened hair from her forehead and kissed her mouth fiercely. “I’m sorry I was so quick,” he panted against her lips with a sheepish smile, “I didn’t expect it to be that intense.”

Liz gazed up at him, idly twirling a silken strand of his hair about her index finger. They shared a long, leisurely kiss. Max dipped his tongue lazily into her mouth again and again until, what had begun as gentle, quickly became fierce and desperate. When he finally lifted his mouth to suck insistently at her earlobe Liz asked, her tone husky, sultry, “Isn’t it always intense between us, Max?”

Max found himself stirred by her words, hardening inside her body once more. He plunged his tongue into her ear, causing Liz to groan in anticipation. She could feel him expanding, filling her up. Her creamy vaginal walls closed around him reflexively as Max began lightly rocking his hips against her. Liz slid her hands down the slope of his back to cup his flexing buttocks, her fingers biting into his taut flesh as she held him against her.

“Never like that,” he gasped, pressing his hips against hers in small, grinding circles, “It’s like I could feel more of you…I could feel…how you felt…God…”

Liz closed her eyes, trying to concentrate on his words but finding herself distracted by the gentle stroking he made inside her body and the small, biting kisses he made at the corner of her mouth. “And…and…what did…did I…feel?” Liz moaned into his neck.

“You like it hard…and deep,” Max whispered against her cheek, demonstrating his words with the motions of his body and plunging so deeply he caused them both to gasp. He drove inside her with long, slow strokes, his words hoarse and breathless as he continued, “Because…whenever I thrust inside you…like this…I touch you...here,” he reached down between their pulsating bodies to rub sensuously at her clitoris, his fingers delicately feathering the swollen lips of her sex, “…and it makes you…”

Liz moaned low and deep, arching her back with the sudden, languid feel of her climax. Max exploded inside her seconds later, thrusting himself as deep as he could. Liz tightened her thighs about his hips reflexively, grinding against him and riding out the delicious sensations of their shared orgasm. She only relaxed completely when those enchanting tingles finally began to wink out and Max’s burning hardness gradually went limp within her. When she opened her eyes again Max was grinning down at her in satisfaction. “You did that on purpose,” she accused him weakly.

They had stopped in Las Vegas, Nevada, despite Zrei’s recommendation that they keep moving, to be married. Zrei felt that Max and Liz could easily be wed in Woodstone, that making the stop in Vegas was unnecessary and time consuming. Max conceded that his guardian might have been right on both counts, but that didn’t alter his decision one iota. It was important to him and to Liz that they have at least one thing in their lives happen because they willed it and not merely because they’d been left with no choice.

For the last fourteen hours of their lives, every decision they’d made had been out of necessity. Want or desire had never been figured into the equation. But Max would be damned if they didn’t, at least, get a choice in where they were married. It wasn’t as if Las Vegas, Nevada was the first choice for either one of them. Max would have preferred to give Liz an extravagant wedding where she could walk down the isle escorted by her father. However, that wasn’t possible and they both had to settle on what was available to them. In the end, eloping in Vegas sounded a hell of a lot better than being married in Woodstone, Nebraska.

So, after purchasing a pair of wedding bands from a local pawn shop and with a stern faced Zrei looking on, Max Evans and Liz Parker became husband and wife at three o’clock in the afternoon before an Elvis impersonator in a bad wig. Afterwards, with much difficulty, Max managed to convince Zrei to relax his rigid guard and allow him and Liz to have a few hours alone in private. Only after Max had assured himself that Zrei was not lurking somewhere out in the hall beyond their hotel room did Max join his wife in bed. Now he leaned above her, breathless and satisfied, his body still joined with hers and feeling happier than he’d ever been in his entire life.

Max’s smile only widened as he slipped himself from her warmth and shifted onto his side, spooning against Liz’s backside and contouring her to the curve of his body. He kissed the nape of her neck, burying his face into her tangle of fragrant hair. “Mmm, I never want to leave this spot,” Max moaned in pleasure.

His words, sweet and delightfully wistful, filled Liz with a warm, contented pleasure. There had been a time when she thought she would never again hear joy reflected in his voice. Those awful weeks after their time in captivity had been hell for them both. In some ways they were still suffering from those traumatic events. In fact, that brief time of torture was the very reason they had been forced to leave their childhood home for a place filled with strangers.

Liz languid smile slowly faded, her thoughts bringing her, albeit reluctantly, back to reality. She stroked his arm, which was looped about her waist, in leisurely regret. “Yes, but we can’t stay here forever, can we, Max?” she murmured sadly.

Much as Liz wanted to pretend that nothing in the world existed besides her, Max and the bed in which they lay, she knew that the time had come for them to discuss their plans for the future. Earlier that morning when they’d left Vasquez Rock and their friends, family and past behind, it had seemed surreal, like walking in a dream. The reality that they’d left their entire lives behind still hadn’t hit them even during their long, exhausting trip to Vegas.

They had been so keyed up about getting married, so excited about the prospect of becoming husband and wife that they had thought of little else. Following their elopement they had rented a hotel room for the evening and Liz had only wanted one thing. Max. And she had him. Over and over again, each time more passionate than the last. But now that their bodies were sated, for the moment at least, Liz couldn’t help but wonder what the hell they were going to do next.

“Max, are you sure that going to this colony is really the best thing for us?” Liz asked him now, not really wanting to break up their romantic mood, but unable to skirt around her anxiety any longer. “We don’t really know anything about these people. How do we know that we can trust them?”

Max lifted his face from her hair with a sigh of regret. At the moment, Max really didn’t want to talk about anything beyond her nakedness, his nakedness and the many suggestions that swirled around in his head involving the two. Anything outside those lines did not peak his interest. But he heard the apprehension in her tone; the slight tremor of doubt and Max found that he couldn’t ignore her fear. “I don’t know if we can trust them, Liz,” Max answered honestly, “But Zrei seems to…I guess that just has to be enough for us.” He sighed. “We really don’t have anywhere else to go.”

Those weren’t the words she wanted to hear at all. He’d have to be a special kind of stupid not to realize that she didn’t want to go. She had yet to actually say the words, but Max knew instinctively that it was true. And although her back was to him at the moment, Max had little doubt that her reluctance was stamped all over her beautiful features. He couldn’t blame her for her lack of enthusiasm; however, he was also less than thrilled about their trip to Nebraska.

“And what about our parents?” Liz continued on carefully. She knew that she was putting a damper on the mood, but she couldn’t help it. Reality was slowly, but certainly sinking in. She had left the home she had known all her life, her parents…everything… All her dreams for her education, her future as a molecular biologist had been crushed. She’d probably never accomplish those goals now.

She didn’t blame Max, however. It had never even entered her mind to do so. He wasn’t anymore responsible for their current situation than she was. But still Liz lamented the changes, and not just for herself, but for them both. And what was worse, there was every possibility that neither of them would ever see Roswell again. It wasn’t that she hadn’t spent the better part of her life imagining the day when she would finally leave that godforsaken little town, but she had always believed it would be on her terms. As it was she had left without even an explanation to her parents. Of all the plans and dreams that had gone awry for Liz, it was that missed farewell that she grieved for the most.

Max knew everything Liz was thinking without her needing to say a word. Her body language spoke volumes. She had suddenly gone stiff in his arms. Not so in a way that she didn’t want his touch, but in the manner that told Max she was holding something back, keeping her emotions bottled inside. He knew her too well. She thought she was spoiling things for him, putting a pall on their honeymoon. But she wasn’t. Liz wasn’t asking any questions that Max hadn’t already asked himself one hundred times over.

He couldn’t help but feel guilty, solely responsible, for Liz’s disheartened mood. After all, it had been his alien DNA that had started this entire mess to begin with. And now here they were, high school dropouts, married teens on the run, expecting a baby that wasn’t even human. All things considered, Max thought Liz was taking the rapid changes in her life marvelously well. She still managed to love him, even despite the fact he might very well have ruined her life. He couldn’t help but adore her even more for her loyalty and gracious heart; even while regretting that she had been put in such a position to begin with.

Max felt guilty, but it wasn’t enough to push her away or hold himself off from her. He had learned the hard and painful way that his life was absolutely worthless without Liz in it. She wanted him. God knew why she did because he’d caused nothing but hell in her life since the first he’d stepped into it. But the fact remained that she loved him and because of that Max felt inclined to move heaven and earth if need be to make her happy.

He presently dropped a kiss to her naked shoulder, dragging his hand down the slope of her silken skin. “Do you want to call your parents, Liz?” he asked her gently.

Liz held her breath for a moment, almost afraid to believe that he was seriously asking her. But then she relaxed and shifted in his arms, turning so that they lay face to face. “What would I say to them?” she mused in miserable confusion, “How would I even begin to explain?”

Max threaded his fingers through her hair and kissed her forehead tenderly. “You could tell them we fell in love, Liz.” They had both already agreed earlier that if they did contact their parents they would keep the truth about Liz’s pregnancy to themselves.

She peeked up at him through lush, dark lashes. “Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

Liz tucked herself beneath his chin, wrapping her arms about his body and stroking his naked back with her fingertips. “It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to call them though, huh?” Liz sighed in question.

“Probably not,” Max replied bluntly, rubbing his lips across the top of her head, “They’d want to know where we are, Liz, and you can’t tell them, which would only end up making them even more furious.”

Liz recognized the logic in his words even though she didn’t want to. There was nothing she could really say to alleviate her parents’ worry in the end anyway. Max was right. She couldn’t tell them where she was and she couldn’t go home. Neither of those scenarios would serve to please her folks. It might actually antagonize them further, to the point where they would even be inclined to involve the police. She and Max had enough to deal with without the cops breathing down their necks as well.

And yet, even with the circumstances, Liz was having a difficult time stifling her regret. Max sensed her feelings and sought to put her mind at ease as best he could. “Why don’t you write them a letter when we get to Nebraska? How about that?”

Liz nodded glumly against his chest. “I suppose I could do that.”

The lackluster tone of her response was impossible to miss. Max craned his neck so that he could see her face. “Liz, look at me,” he ordered softly. Doe brown eyes fluttered up to meet his concern darkened gaze. “What else is bothering you?”

Liz sighed and before she could stop herself, all her fears came tumbling out of her mouth in a babbling rush. “Max, we have $38.16 to our names,” she said in a panic, “$38.16! We’re broke. We have no clothes, no home, and no jobs! What about school, what about food? How are we going to take care of ourselves, much less our baby?”

Max tried unsuccessfully to bite back his grin at the sight of her obvious discomfiture. She was so adorable when she was flustered, her cheeks pink with vehemence. He felt more like kissing her at that moment than anything else. But then he reminded himself that Liz was genuinely worried and now was the time to address her fears, not make out. He buried his fingers into her heavy hair. “You’re really freaked out about this, aren’t you?”

“And you’re not!” Liz burst out incredulously.

Max shrugged as if unconcerned. “Liz,” he began serenely, “we’re together. You’re my wife and we’re lying here together, naked. There was a time when I thought I’d never be able to touch you again, let alone make love with you.” He trailed his index finger down the curve of her jaw, stroking at her lower lip with his thumb. “I have to believe that anything is possible after that and that you and I will be okay.”

“Next thing you’ll say is we can live on love,” Liz remarked blithely. But despite her teasing tone her eyes were darkened in response to his sweet words, her lips curved in a dreamy smile.

“Now I wouldn’t go that far,” Max replied, his laughter rumbling in his chest, “I spoke to Zrei earlier about where we would stay and school and stuff. He says he’s got it all taken care of. We’re going to stay with some friends of his. I trust him.”

“And I trust you,” Liz emphasized softly.

Max deftly rolled her onto her back and leaned above her with a wide grin. “Good,” he said, kissing her lips soundly, “Because everything will be fine. We’ll finish school, we’ll get jobs, we’ll raise our kid…we’ll be perfect…”

Liz traced the line of his smile with her fingertips. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this happy before,” Liz breathed in wonder, “You look so beautiful when you smile.”

“And that’s thanks to you,” Max whispered, his eyes hooded and darkened with desire, “So why don’t I take this moment to thank you properly.” He began tenderly kissing his way down the expanse of her midriff and belly, his intent unmistakable as he came to the nest of downy curls at the apex of her thighs. Insistently, deliberately he bent her knees, spreading her legs apart. His eyes met with hers in one, brief sizzling moment before he darted forth his tongue to caress her quivering flesh.

Liz emitted a shuddering moan as he tongued the lips of her moist cleft experimentally, acquainting himself with her taste, his taste, their taste together. She smelled musky, arousing, a heady mixture of sex and the scent that was Liz’s alone. He kissed between her legs as he would kiss mouth, fierce and insistent, rubbing his lips hungrily against her dewy wetness. And then he opened his mouth wide against her, sucking, devouring, and spearing his tongue deep.

Liz writhed beneath him, her fingers unconsciously twisting his thick hair and pressing his face closer against her tingling sex. And just when she thought she would go insane from the sensations his flicking tongue created her world exploded in streaks of vibrant colors. She cried out his name in a broken wail as he drank up every drop of her release.

When he leaned above her again, his face was flushed, his eyes dilated with burning passion. He moved between her thighs, pressing his lips against hers and filling her mouth with his sex flavored tongue. “God…I love being married to you,” he moaned as he slid his throbbing erection into the warm, moist center of her.

It was the last coherent thought he had before his mind became completely saturated with lust.



posted on 8-Oct-2002 6:52:27 AM by Deejonaise
Chapter 2

Then next morning Max was awakened by someone poking insistently at his shoulder. At first, he was determined to ignore the sensation and instead cuddled even closer against his wife’s naked form, burrowing deeply into the blankets surrounding them. But the poker refused to relent. In fact, he intensified his efforts. Finally, Max slit open one sleepy eye to find Zrei standing above him, his expression grave. Max yawned and extended his long body in a luxurious stretch. “What is it?” he asked Zrei groggily, only mildly surprised to find his guardian in their room. Privacy was a concept that Zrei had yet to grasp.

“We must leave immediately,” Zrei told him tersely, “Your human parents are downstairs searching for you at this very moment.”

Zrei’s words rendered Max instantly awake. His eyes popped open wide and he tossed back the comforter and flung himself from the bed, impervious to his nakedness as he knelt to scoop up his pants. Digging into the back pocket of his jeans for his wallet, Max retrieved the last of their money and shoved it at Zrei. “Go ahead and settle up for me…” he told Zrei urgently, “Liz and I will meet you downstairs in ten.”

Zrei stared at him blankly for a moment. “Ten what?”

Minutes,” Max clarified impatiently, while shoving his legs into his jeans and pulling them up over his hips. “Go now!”

Once Zrei was gone Max slipped his t-shirt over his head and then scurried over for the bed to shake Liz awake. She responded by groaning and burying her face deeper into her pillow. One naked leg crept out from beneath the comforter and sprawled across the length of the bed. Max forced himself to remain focused. “Liz, come on,” he urged quietly, “You’ve got to get up.”

“We made love almost all night, Max,” Liz moaned into her pillow sleepily, “that at least entitles me to one break.”

“Liz, this isn’t about sex…my parents are downstairs in the lobby.”

Liz bolted upright as if she’d just been scalded with hot water. “Are you serious?” she burst out, frantically searching the covers for her discarded underwear.

Max nodded. He was already running about the hotel room, tossing items of her discarded clothing at her as he did. Her bra slapped her smack in the face, not that Max noticed in his frenzy. It was quickly followed by her tennis shoe, which Liz was quick enough to duck. “I have no idea how they found us,” he muttered as he checked the floor for her other shoe, “I swear my dad must have the instincts of a bloodhound.”

Liz leaned over the edge of the bed to wear he crept along the floor looking for her shoe. “Would that be such a bad thing…you know…if they found us?”

Max halted in his search and fixed her with his pensive gaze. She could see the indecision plainly in his honey-colored eyes. He couldn’t deny that part of him wanted for his parents to find them. Part of him didn’t want to run any longer. But he still shook his head in spite of himself. “If we were to go home with my parents today, there’s no way I could continue lying to them, Liz,” Max said softly, “But I’m not so sure I’m ready for them to know the truth about me yet either.”

“So we run,” Liz surmised, somewhat disappointed.

Max moved to sit next to her, framing her face for his gentle kiss. “Only for now…we won’t run forever, I promise.”

Liz nodded her acquiesce. “Okay.”

After that they both rushed around the hotel room in frantic circles double and triple checking to make sure they’d left nothing behind, even while they realized logically they hadn’t brought much with them to generate the possibility. Finally, when they were dressed and had gathered together their meager belongings, they crept out into the hallway and down the back entrance of the floor. Little did they realize that as they were making there way down the stairwell towards the lobby, Philip and Diane Evans had just exited the elevator and were headed straight for their recently vacated room.

By the time Liz and Max arrived in the lobby downstairs, however, there was pandemonium. Police officers seemed to swarm the entire area, all while flashing pictures of Max and Liz to any person who happened to pass by. Max deftly grabbed hold of Liz’s elbow and steered her over to a darkened corner, turning his back to the lobby crowd while simultaneously shielding Liz from view with his body.

“This can’t be good,” Max groaned, darting his eyes about him nervously, “There’s got to be at least six cops out here…I can’t believe my parents orchestrated all this.” He was partly pleased to realize that they’d gone to such lengths to find him, but definitely annoyed that they were making his escape somewhat difficult.

Suddenly, Liz gasped, her eyes widening with incredulous horror. “Not just your parents it seems,” she murmured, hitching her chin towards the lobby area behind him. Max managed a cautious look over his shoulder to discover just what had Liz so worked up. “My parents are here, too,” she concluded miserably, “What are we going to do, Max?”

Max stood there, fear and adrenaline coursing through his veins, while racking his brain for a plausible plan. And then, abruptly, he grabbed hold of Liz’s arms and dragged her into a nearby men’s bathroom. Once inside, he pushed a confused Liz into an empty stall and then crowded in with her.

Liz frowned up at him in puzzlement. “Exactly, how is this helping our situation?” she asked in a sarcastic underbreath.

“Just shut up and trust me,” Max whispered back with a smile. He began running his fingers through her heavy hair, shortening its length and changing the color with his powers as he did. When he was done, her hair hung in blond, bouncy curls about her shoulders. Next he waved his hand over her eyes, altering their color from brown to aqua. “I hope you know what you’re doing,” Liz mumbled, as he began touching spots on her cheeks and lips, applying color where necessary.

Next, he worked his magic on himself, but instead of shortening his hair he lengthened it, coloring it the same wheat blond as Liz’s hair. Next he smoothed his hand down his ching to give himself a trim goatee and, after blinking several times, he altered his eye color to hazel. Liz’s jaw dropped in amazed awe. “If I didn’t know you better than I knew my own heart I might not recognize you,” she said, running her fingers experimentally over his new chin hair, “I think the goatee’s sexy though.”

Max nipped lightly at her fingers, wiggling his eyebrows lecherously. “Maybe I’ll just have to grow one for real,” he replied, grabbing hold of her hips mischievously to bring her against his suddenly aroused body.

Liz rolled her eyes in laughing annoyance. “God, Max, this is hardly the time!” she admonished with an exasperated shake of her head.

“If not now…when?” Max countered, already lowering his head to suck playfully at her neck.

Liz slapped at his shoulders. “Parents, remember!”

Max lifted his head in chagrin, scratching behind his ear. “Oh yeah…forgot about that.” He was doing that with her a lot lately, always losing focus. But he couldn’t help it. He was just so damned happy. It didn’t matter what happened, what ridiculous situation they seemed to find themselves in, Max couldn’t seem to wipe the grin from his face. The world could be falling down around his ears and as long as he was kissing Liz, caressing her, Max wouldn’t give a damn.

Shaking his head to clear it of his less than innocent thoughts, Max took hold of Liz’s hand and led her from the stall. As he pulled her towards the exit Liz flicked a quick look in the mirror at her reflection. He hadn’t done such a bad job at all. She hardly recognized herself.

“Come on, let’s get out of here,” he said right before they burst out into the hallway outside the bathroom. The moment they exited the bathroom, however, they found a policeman waiting for them outside. Liz imagined that her face must have blanched of all color but Max managed to maintain a cool head. Though, the cop did eye them curiously for having both exited the men’s bathroom he didn’t seem at all suspicious of them. In fact, he only asked them if they had seen two missing teenagers around the hotel and even paused to show them their own pictures. If the situation weren’t so grave Liz might have burst out laughing right then. But Max, with his face scrupulously straight, said in his best surfer dude impression, “Dude, no, I can’t say I’ve seen either one of them.”

“What about your girlfriend here?” the officer asked, turning the class photos of she and Max at an angle where she could see. “Have you seen either of these kids before?”

Liz shrugged and shook her head, causing her curls to slap girlishly against her cheeks. “No, I’m sorry,” she said and then, to her amazement the police officer actually nodded and walked away. She gaped up at Max in astonishment. “You’re good.”

“We still haven’t made it past your parents yet,” Max said quietly. And then he began leading them purposefully through the lobby, on a direct collision course with Jeff and Nancy Parker.

Liz started to pull back, apprehension prickling down her spine. “No, Max, wait! We can’t just walk right past them! We were able to fool that cop, but that won’t happen with my folks. They’ll know me!”

Max halted in his stride and gave Liz a comforting look. “Liz, I promise you…they won’t even look twice.”

He was right. When she and Max passed her parents arm and arm, neither of them even looked up for a casual glance. They hadn’t looked at her, but Liz had looked at them. As she walked by quickly Liz noted that her mother appeared haggard and somewhat anxious. Her father, on the other hand, looked angry and distraught, alternately muttering to her mother while giving the cops grief for “taking so damned long to do their jobs.” To see their torment firsthand made Liz feel guilty and ashamed. She didn’t take an easy breath until she and Max cleared the lobby.

Zrei was waiting directly in front of the hotel in the jeep. Max had altered its color the previous morning to a dark, forest green. Zrei’s idea. He’d believed it might serve to throw off any persons who might be following them. At the time, Max had been completely against the idea and had raised adolescent cane over having to change a single thing about his beloved Bob. But in the end he’d consented and now he was glad as hell he had. As he and Liz climbed into the back seat he ordered Zrei tersely, “Get us the hell out of here.”

Liz looked back into the lobby through the large windows for one last look at her parents as they began to pull away. She wished that her last glimpse of them wasn’t so bittersweet, but sensing this was the last time she would see them for a long while Liz wanted to look her fill. At the last moment, just as they were clearing the parking lot, Nancy Parker lifted her head and she and Liz unexpectedly made eye contact. Her mother’s eyes flicked away briefly before widening and slowly returning to settle on Liz’s face. Liz felt her breath freeze in her chest. In that moment, she knew her mother had recognized her and Liz cringed inwardly.

They had been on the road for a full thirty minutes before Liz could relax completely enough to fall asleep against Max’s shoulders. Liz spent the first half an hour absolutely certain that they would be pulled over by the cops at any moment. And when she wasn’t being paranoid, she was beating herself up about the heartache she and Max were putting their parents through. But eventually her nervousness began to ebb and her guilt began to dull. After Max had restored their regular appearances, Liz settled herself down against his shoulder, curling herself against his warmth. Before long she was asleep. But her sleep was far from peaceful.

In her dreams Liz was plagued with images of DeVoe’s maniacal face. The gunshot that had briefly ended Max’s life echoed through her mind. She relived over and over again the exact moment when the bullet had slammed into him…and then ripped right through his body. And he had fallen to the ground in such a heap, not moving, just bleeding and bleeding and bleeding. There was so much blood in the dream. She pressed her hand over the wound, praying to Max, praying to God, only this time Liz couldn’t make it stop. She couldn’t save his life.

Liz awoke abruptly with a small gasp of fear. She placed her hand over her racing heart and glanced back over her shoulder at Max to see if she’d startled him. He was awake, and apparently had been for some time, watching her with glistening eyes. Liz noticed that dusk had fallen during her nap. Apparently, they had even stopped to put the top up on the jeep, but Liz remembered none of this. She swallowed and, still shaking, snuggled back into Max’s open arms.

He stroked the length of her hair, waiting for her shivering to subside before asking, “You were having another nightmare, weren’t you?” Just last night he had listened to her whimper in her sleep. The sound of her own crying had awakened her. Afterwards Max had held her in his arms, just as he was doing now. She hadn’t wanted to talk about it then and Max hadn’t pressed her. Instead she had asked him to make love to her and, for the moment, they both forgot about it. But now Max wasn’t willing to let the matter slide so easily again.

“It was nothing really,” Liz brazened, but the tremors in her voice gave her away, “I barely even remember it.”

Max sighed. “Don’t say that, Liz,” he insisted gently, “Don’t hide from me. We’re married now…you should be able to tell me anything.”

Liz tightened her arms about his waist. She knew the truth in his words and she did want to confide in him. But there was still part of her that was reluctant to bring up the ordeal they’d endured before. They both had agreed to leave DeVoe and all that had happened in that cell in the past. And Liz wanted that, she truly did. Yet, the experience still seemed to live within her. She couldn’t shake it, couldn’t shake the fear that lurked within in. She and Max had been nothing but puppets to DeVoe and in some ways he was still controlling her, controlling them both and Liz hated it. Liz waged a silent, internal battle with herself over whether to voice her true feelings or remain silent before finally admitting after a long pause, “It is DeVoe…I just feel like we’ll never be free of him, Max.”

“Liz, of course, we’re free of him,” Max whispered softly. He rubbed his lips across her temple tenderly. “He’s dead, Liz…he can’t hurt us anymore.”

“But you see that’s just it, Max…he is still hurting us. They very reason we had to leave Roswell is because of what he did to us. It’s like he’s still torturing us, even from the grave.” Liz shuddered. “DeVoe was a monster, Max, but he wasn’t the only one. It just makes me uneasy to think that there are people out there who would take such pleasure in hurting others…in hurting you.”

“And it makes me uneasy to think that there are people out there who would take pleasure in hurting you in order to get to me,” Max countered softly, “That’s why it’s important that we go to this colony, Liz. I want to protect you.” He moved his hand between their bodies to cover her belly. “I want to protect our son.”

Liz smiled and covered his hand with her own. “I know you do, Max.” She settled back against him and kissed his chest through the soft jersey material of his t-shirt. “Do you think we’ll fit in there?” she asked him in a small, uncertain voice, "You know...in Woodstone."

Max smiled into her hair. “I don’t know if we fit in anywhere, Liz,” he acknowledged quietly, “I’m just glad I fit with you.”


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 8-Oct-2002 6:53:55 AM ]
posted on 8-Oct-2002 1:10:14 PM by Deejonaise
quote:
frenchkiss70 originally wrote:
That was a close call!!!*bounce* Did Nancy really recognize Liz? Will they be safe in Nebraska?


frenchkiss70 would you believe me if I told you I have no clue? This story has just suddenly taken on a mind of its own, lol. I do know for sure that Max and Liz will not be safe in Nebraska as the prologue reveals. Max will trust the wrong people and it will eventually lead to trouble. Secondly, Nancy's recognition of Liz isn't really going to play into the story until the second half, so no major worries there. Thirdly, in addition to providing external conflict for Max and Liz I'm exploring internal conflict for them as well.

Let's think about it. We have two sixteen year old runaways, who are without jobs or skills and they are married and expecting a baby. I could write a whole novel about the situation so I wouldn't be expecting happily ever after in their marriage just yet.

I didn't say it would be completely angst free, now did I, lol?;)
posted on 10-Oct-2002 11:14:13 AM by Deejonaise
quote:
BLS40 originally wrote:
I can't wait for more, just hope the angst is not too painful.


Now BLS40 you know me...when have I ever written painful angst? LOL.

Oh and starlady I know what you mean about sometimes forgetting that Max and Liz are only sixteen. So do I. And then I have to remind myself that they're just kids and write accordingly. (Do you have any idea how many parts I've re-written just because of that?)

Anyway, thanks to all for the feedback...it is like a drug and I am now addicted so please, PLEASE feed my habit.

Dee
posted on 11-Oct-2002 9:32:34 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 3

Max squeezed Liz’s hand nervously as Zrei drove through the opening of the wide wooden gate that read: “Woodstone Private Communities.” He didn’t need to ask if they had finally arrived at the Antarian colony. He had seen for himself the strange hieroglyphic carvings embedded ornately in the wooden façade of the gate. Though Max had never seen those symbols before they seemed intrinsically familiar to him and he knew instinctively that they were part of his Antarian past. And with that comprehension came the knowledge that their journey was finally at an end.

He was scared. Until that moment Max had done a rather fine job of hiding that fact. He had wanted to be strong for Liz. She was nervous enough. She had left her childhood home of sixteen years to travel hundreds of miles away to live among strangers, and alien strangers at that. Max knew that she must be feeling nervous, frightened to death that she would not fit in, that she would be an outsider.

Max knew the feeling quite well. He’d spent all of his life on the outside looking in, where he was the minority, the freak, the oddity. And now his and Liz’s roles had been reversed. Max would no longer be an outsider, he was returning to the place he’d always belonged. It would now be Liz who was the minority, the freak, the oddity. Max well understood how isolated that must make her feel and, as a result, made it his strictest endeavor to put her at ease. So if that meant eating his own feelings of nervousness and putting on a happy face that was exactly what Max would do.

And so, not once, during the nearly fifteen-hour trip, did he ever mention his own apprehension. If he were to admit to being frightened at the prospect of meeting his own kind Liz’s anxiety would double. After all, if he, who was one of them, had his doubts about fitting into their society, how would Liz, a complete outsider to them, feel about it? Max absolutely refused to double her worry.

Besides he had to think about their baby. It couldn’t be good for either Liz’s or the baby’s health to be under a constant barrage of stress. Liz had already endured enough anxiety the last two days to last her three lifetimes. She had been kidnapped, seen him die, brought him back to life, then made the life altering decision to marry him and head off for parts unknown. Liz’s stress level had to be through the roof already and Max didn’t want to compound it. The only things Max wanted Liz to be preoccupied with was their baby and the marvelous future he had planned for them, beyond that, nothing else mattered to him.

Presently, they were moving deeper into the quiet community of farmland and, despite himself, Max began gripping Liz’s hand even tighter. It was midnight already. Small houses began to litter the roadside sporadically, only illuminated by the jeep’s headlights as they passed. However, the longer they traveled the more farmhouses they passed. And the further they traveled the harder he squeezed until he was nearly crushing her hand.

Liz favored him with a teasing grin. “Your grip could break bone, you know,” she remarked impishly.

Max immediately released her hand, his brow furrowed in a contrite frown. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled, not quite meeting her eyes, “I didn’t realize I was squeezing so hard.” He placed an absent kiss to her cramped fingers.

“Obviously,” Liz replied, wriggling her slightly numbed digits, “So I guess you’re really nervous, huh?” Max didn’t answer her, rather feigned preoccupation with tracing the threaded pants seam along her thigh with his finger. Liz caught his hand and brought it to her lips. “It’s okay if you are.”

“I just wish I knew what to expect,” Max admitted haltingly. He pulled her against his chest, nuzzling his cheek against her temple, “for both of us, Liz.”

“Are you not so sure this is going to work out anymore?” Liz asked calmly.

“I don’t know…I want us to be happy, you especially and…I just suddenly don’t have such a good feeling about this anymore.”

Liz tugged playfully at his ear. “This is just your nerves talking, Max.”

“Maybe…” Max grumbled, “I just don’t want you to be disappointed.”

Zrei listened to both their verbal and mental conversation without speaking a word. He heard the things they wouldn’t even admit aloud to themselves. They were beginning to regret their decision. He wanted to reassure them, but he didn’t entirely feel it was his place to speak on thoughts and emotions they had not verbally voiced, not even to each other. Besides that, he also found himself somewhat apprehensive about what sort of reception their arrival might evoke.

Bayok and Nesui were some of his oldest and dearest friends. He had known them from his younger days on Antar. He and Nesui had even served in the same Trsa household until Bayok took her for his lifemate. They would be thrilled to see him, just as they would be thrilled to learn that he had finally found his young podlings. However, their elation would stop there. They would not be at all pleased to learn that Max had formed a lifebond with a human.

Though Zrei himself had once believed that all humans were untrustworthy he had lately come around to revising his opinion with the acquaintance of Elizabeth Parker. Her loyalty and devotion to his young master, even when he was at his worst, elicited Zrei’s grudging respect. But her willingness to carry her Antarian pregnancy through to term, even when she had no idea what to expect, won his adoration and devotion. He no longer believed that all humans were dishonest and he now counted Elizabeth Parker among those he called friend. But that would not be the case with Bayok and Nesui.

As close as an Antarian could come to the emotion hate his friend Bayok flirted dangerously on that edge. After Zrei had been captured and he had learned of the treatment his old friend had endured Bayok was never quite the same. His mistrust and disdain for humans had only seemed to grow with each passing year. And now as chief elder of the Jnuian counsel he had even instrumented a law that rendered any contact with a human, outside of what was necessary, forbidden. No, he would never accept a human as Maxwell’s lifemate.

The anxiety over his friend’s possible reaction rendered Zrei even more taciturn than usual. He had been so preoccupied with his own thoughts that he had barely noticed the periods of intimate kissing and caressing that Max and Liz occasionally engaged in during the long trip. Normally, he would have spoken aloud his disapproval at their lurid display of affection, for it was not the Antarian way to be so blatant about the intimacies that took place between lifemates, but he was much too busy mentally preparing himself for the confrontation he knew lay ahead.

Zrei briefly considered warning the teenagers of Bayok and Nesui’s disapproving attitudes but then discarded the idea. The two young lovers were already nervous enough. Zrei could not risk the chance that they would become even more so with the knowledge and inadvertently offend their hosts. No, the matter with Bayok must be handled delicately. Perhaps, with time, Bayok might even become fond of Elizabeth as Zrei had. But that would only happen if the young people behaved themselves and kept in their place.

A short time later Zrei pulled onto the long graveled road that led to his friends’ farmhouse and the moment he did Max’s mental groan of anguish permeated his thoughts. Once he had finally pulled the jeep to a stop in front of the two-story house, Zrei sighed and turned to face the anxious couple in the back seat. “My friends are called Bayok and Nesui,” he stated implacably, “They have been gracious enough to extend their hospitality to us indefinitely. I would greatly appreciate it if you were to return their courtesy accordingly and respect the traditions of their household.”

“In other words,” Max revised dryly, “Don’t embarrass you, right?”

Zrei’s face remained perfectly straight when he replied, “I would never presume to instruct you in the ways of behavior, young Maxwell, but yes, that is exactly what I am asking of you.”

The three of them had only just emerged from the jeep when, two persons that Max could only assume were Bayok and Nesui, came floating towards them. They hardly looked as Max had expected. And even as he told himself these were just copied bodies they had, Max couldn’t help but be impressed by the forms they had chosen.

Bayok was tall, at least half a head taller than Max, with long dark hair that curled slightly at the ends. He had a thick, flowing beard to match that made him appear wise and stern. He was dressed in a flowing, white robe, apparently some sort of tribal garb, that reminded Max of something a Greek citizen might have worn or an Israelite. For a moment Max felt as if he had been catapulted back into the Biblical era.

Nesui was just as peculiar, just as interesting as her lifemate. She was dressed in the same manner as Bayok. Her stature was small and the top of her head barely touched Bayok’s massive shoulder. Her frame was petite like Liz’s, her beautiful face serene and free of cosmetics. She also wore her dark hair loose and free flowing. It cascaded in a dark waterfall down her back, whipping lightly behind her as she and Bayok made their way down the walk towards Zrei.

When they reached Zrei they embraced him immediately, their eyes shining with genuine pleasure. Max sensed that some sort of exchange was going on between them, although the three alien beings had yet to speak a verbal word to one another. As those long seconds of silence passed uncomfortably, Max held Liz close against his side, waiting with suspended breath for Zrei to introduce them.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Zrei brought his friends attention around to Max and Liz. For the first time since arriving Zrei spoke aloud. “Bayok, Nesui, I would like for you to meet my young master Maxwell Evans and his lifemate Elizabeth.”

Neither Bayok nor Nesui even spared a glance at Liz but kept their keen gazes trained directly on Max. “We are pleased to receive you into our home,” Nesui spoke graciously. She stepped forward to envelop Max in a welcoming embrace, “Your return has been greatly anticipated by the council.” She stepped back and regarded Max with solemn pride. “It is good that you have come back to us.”

Her words caused a curious blooming within Max’s heart and it took him a moment to decipher the exact emotion he was experiencing. Acceptance. After ten lonely years of being an outcast, an outsider he had finally come home to the family he had lost over fifty years before. The realization left him shaken and humbled.

“Where are the others?” Bayok intoned, addressing his question to Zrei, “Did you not tell us that there were three remaining pods?”

“Michael and Isabel chose to remain in Roswell,” Zrei replied. He didn’t bother to explain further and in those seconds Max suspected that Bayok well understood all that he had left unsaid.

Bayok nodded, his expression betraying nothing. “Well, come then. Let us adjourn into the house. Nesui has prepared a late dinner for us.”

Only when they followed Bayok and Nesui into the house did Max realize that neither of them had managed to acknowledge Liz at all. He glanced down at her quickly. Though her expression was carefully blank, her features were colorless and Max could it had hurt her feelings to be ignored. His laced his fingers through hers in a gesture of reassurance and offered her a small smile.

Liz smiled back at him, though it failed to touch her eyes. She was greatly disappointed and a little heartbroken. Though she had expected some awkwardness when they arrived at the colony she had never thought that she would be ignored outright. If Bayok and Nesui’s reactions were any indication of the future Liz was certain that the time she spent in Woodstone, Nebraska would not be filled with pleasant memories.

But despite her disappointment, Liz was happy for Max. It was impossible not to be. She could see firsthand how it pleased him to have these people’s acceptance and she wanted him to enjoy his newfound family without having to worry about her feelings. So she tried to put on a brave face, tried to smile when inside her chest her heart was crumbling with disillusionment and dread.

Liz followed Max into the house, although every instinct she had screamed at her to run in the opposite direction. She gripped his hand, much like he had held hers earlier in the jeep. She was somewhat afraid to leave his side, feeling that as long as she remained close to him she would be safe.

He must have found her clingy behavior somewhat bizarre because he stared down at her with a quizzical expression on his face. And then he caressed her cheek, allowing his hand to slide deliciously down the side of her neck. “Just relax, Liz,” he whispered in reassurance, “It will be okay.”

Liz had serious doubts about that, but she was willing to try…for Max’s sake. Inside the kitchen, Nesui was already placing food dishes out onto the table. Max gave her a gentle nudge, wordlessly telling her that this was her opportunity. Seizing her chance to make a good first impression, Liz stepped forward and asked brightly, “May I help you, Nesui?”

Nesui seemed to regard her suspiciously for a moment, as if trying to decide whether Liz’s gesture was sincere or not. And then she shrugged and inclined her head laconically. “You may,” she conceded demurely, without sparing Liz another glance. Liz tossed an uneasy glance over her shoulder to Max who graced her with a smile of encouragement. Sighing as if she were about to face the French guillotine, Liz trudged on into the kitchen.

While Liz assisted a silent Nesui with dinner, Bayok led Zrei and Max into a small study adjacent to the living room. He gestured for Max to take a seat. As Max sank down into a small chair located in the corner of the room he only vaguely noticed that the study had no door. He also noticed that, although small, the room was impeccably furnished, with bookcase-paneled walls that were filled with hundreds of books. Max gaped with awe before he caught himself. He hoped devoutly that his demeanor didn’t betray the extreme nervousness he felt.

“Zrei, has informed me that your lifemate carries your child,” Bayok stated bluntly in opening. “That is the reason you have come to us, is it not?”

Max tore his fascinated gaze from the doorless frame and regarded Bayok solemnly. He was startled by Bayok’s first statement and his stomach began to bubble with mild agitation. “Yes, that is true.”

“The situation proves to be rather interesting,” Bayok commented, stroking at his luxuriant beard, “I have never heard of a human becoming impregnated with an Antarian’s child before.”

“I would think it was expected, seeing that my DNA is partially human?” Max replied in amazement.

“Only so that we could adopt human form and live among them without being detected,” Bayok informed him flatly, “Not so we could mate with them.”

Max felt his cheeks warm in acute mortification. “Oh.”

“I must say that you are the first to do so. It is unheard of that an Antarian would form a lifebond with a human, even if she is an altered one,” Bayok continued deliberately. He was already aware that Max had healed Liz’s gunshot wound and the changes that had manifested themselves shortly after that event. His knowing manner made Max want to squirm and it took every ounce of willpower he had to remain still in his seat. He folded his arms across his chest to regard Max solemnly. “It is why your child is so special to us. He is a blessing to us…a first among our kind.”

“Th-Thank you,” Max stammered, not really knowing how he should respond to Bayok’s candid admission.

“You are probably wondering what it is we expect of you,” Bayok surmised suddenly, noting Max’s uneasy expression. When Max only shrugged he said, “I own several acres of land which I farm. This is how I make my livelihood. You will assist me in doing this.”

Max couldn’t contain his stunned expression. Of all the things he had expected Bayok to tell him he could have never imagined that. Before he could stop himself, he blurted out, “You’re a farmer!”

Bayok leveled Max with a chastising gaze. “We must all make our living by some means, young Maxwell.”

Belatedly realizing that he had inadvertently offended his host, Max quickly stammered in apology, “Wh-What I meant was, I didn’t expect you to be a farmer.”

“What did you expect?”

Max lifted his shoulders in an uncomfortable shrug. “Definitely not this,” he muttered to himself. Definitely not you, Max added silently.

“We hold ourselves separate from the human society,” Bayok explained to him kindly, “but we still have association despite that. We attend school with them, we work along side them, but we do not form attachments to them.” His gaze became positively penetrating. “That is forbidden here.”

The way he said the last of that left little doubt in Max’s mind. He didn’t approve of Liz. Max had vaguely suspected that was the case in the first few minutes of meeting him, but now his suspicions had been confirmed. And with that confirmation came the sinking realization that he and Liz would never fit in there. Perhaps, it would be better if they left after all…

“How did you come to choose this human for your lifemate? Was it because you healed her?” Bayok asked suddenly, his penetrating gaze boring right into Max.

Max stiffened. He’d heard the disdain in Bayok’s question and it irritated and saddened Max. He had looked forward to making this place his home, but the fact that Bayok had obviously drawn conclusions about Liz without even taking the time to get to know her made Max want to go off then and there. He was just about to do just that when Bayok held out his hand for silence. “I take it from your racing thoughts that you are displeased with my question.”

Max swallowed his sarcastic retort when he noticed the quelling stare that Zrei was directing at him. He closed his eyes for several seconds, reigning in his temper, before addressing Bayok again. “I apologize,” he said stiffly, “Your question took me by surprise, that’s all. I got the impression that you were…ah…displeased with my choice of lifemate.”

“My question has clearly offended you. Your thoughts are quite clear. You are no good at hiding them,” Bayok stated bluntly, “But you have too much respect for Zrei to tell me so verbally. Am I not correct in this?”

“You’re the one reading my mind,” Max bit out in sardonic reply, “You tell me!”

“It is not my intention to antagonize you, young Maxwell,” Bayok replied soothingly, “But this lifebond you have formed, it is unheard of. No Antarian has ever mated with a human, created a child with one…healed one. What you have done leaves me with an uncomfortable feeling. I do not know how to respond to it.”

“Liz is a good person,” Max sighed in forgiving surrender, “She loves me very much and I love her. I don’t know about any of the other humans you’ve known, but Liz is the most kind, decent, loving person I know. She would never do anything to disrespect you or your household, if that’s what you’re thinking.

Frankly, Bayok couldn’t have cared less what sort of person “Liz” was. He had already made up his mind that Max’s lifebond was unacceptable and that other arrangements would have to be made. However, he was wise enough to hide his true thoughts from both Max and Zrei. “I will take what you have said under advisement,” Bayok replied expressionlessly, “Now…shall we dine?”

posted on 13-Oct-2002 12:22:32 AM by Deejonaise
Okay Sansu I read your post and I'm literally LMAO as I write this. Not a good situation considering it's 12:00 a.m. in the morning and I run the risk of waking my kid...you know, the screamer, you've got one yourself.

And I would just like to emphasize to all of you the words "pretty much," I believe I did say that this fic would be pretty much angst-free...sorta...in a way...at least that's what I intended in the beginning... (Ducks rotten fruit)

I promise not to put our dream couple through anything they can't survive. Trust me...*wink*
posted on 14-Oct-2002 9:29:19 AM by Deejonaise
Chapter 4

Their bedroom had no door.

After the uncomfortable fiasco dinner had been Max was hardly surprised by this newest development. In fact, he might have laughed if he weren’t so disappointed at the moment, for himself, but especially for Liz. Bayok and Nesui had treated Liz with cold politeness the entire meal. Any attempts she had made at conversation with them were rewarded with searing disdain, as if they were annoyed that she even dared to speak to them. Max might have left the table altogether, taking Liz with him, if Zrei hadn’t silently beseeched his patience with Bayok and Nesui.

Consequently, Max sat through dinner, mechanically chewing his food while lovingly stroking his wife’s hand under the table. He couldn’t wait until they were alone together. Then he would make her forget this miserable night, forget everything other than being in his arms. Max had barely been able to sit still. He was fairly humming with anticipation for his plan. And now the time to retire had finally, blessedly come and their bedroom had no door.

It was a factor that could almost be overlooked with the casual glance. Almost. There was the bed, two small lamp tables on either side of the bed, a chest, even a gleaming brass vanity in the far corner of the room and a solid oak writing desk beside it. Their bedroom also included a large, pristine bathroom complete with a shower stall and separate bathtub, but it also had no door.

Both Max and Liz slid their questioning gazes toward Zrei. He only regarded them with his usual implacable stare, as if nothing whatsoever were out of the ordinary. “This is where you will stay,” he announced quietly before turning away and heading back towards the living area where their hosts were waiting. Neither Max nor Liz understood why they had even expected an explanation from him to begin with.

Liz favored Max with an uneasy look before staring at the entrance to the bedroom as if it were the leaning tower of Pisa. “Imagine that…a bedroom with no door…”

“Antarians do not believe in privacy,” Max mumbled, more to himself than to Liz, “This is friggin unbelievable.” He didn’t understand how it knew that fact, but he suddenly did. Antarians were a communal people, unified in their feelings, thoughts, and deeds. They would see no need for doors, for barriers of any kind because all things were known in the Collective state of mind. There was nothing to hide. Not even the intimacy shared between a husband and wife.

Max groaned inwardly. Somehow he didn’t think Liz would be too keen with the idea of an entire colony of Antarians mentally sharing in the intimacies of their lovemaking. The situation would definitely do little to enhance a romantic atmosphere, Max thought morosely. And yes, that was the crux of what was bothering him about this doorless situation. He was married to the girl of his dreams, his hormones were raging, and he’d just been newly introduced to the exquisite joys of sex. And dammit, he wanted to…well…fuck, quite frankly!

There it was, somewhat blunt, definitely crude, but infinitely true. And the way things were looking, the chances of him getting a little or anything remotely close wasn’t looking too good. So much for his fantasies about making Liz forget her miserable night. And that wasn’t even what he found most annoying. Max also couldn’t help but notice, and neither could Liz, that if you stood at a certain angle you could see straight into the living room…and vice versa. Nope, he definitely would not be getting any.

As if they’d heard Max and Liz’s thoughts, and they probably had, Zrei, Bayok, and Nesui lifted their eyes and regarded the teenagers solemnly. Max and Liz quickly turned away, scurrying out of view. “I think they know what we’re talking about, Max,” Liz said nervously, her eyes darting around the room as if she expected someone to pop out of the closet at any moment.

He didn’t want to tell her that they knew what she was thinking about as well. Unlike before, when Zrei had been able to walk around in his mind without his knowledge, Max could now sense when someone was picking his brain. Max knew that Zrei had been doing it all morning even though he probably thought he was being subtle.

Max leaned back a little to peer into the living room. Sure enough, Zrei was looking straight at him, his expression guiltless. Max shook his head in exaggerated annoyance before turning his attention to his flustered wife. “We could always put up a sheet,” he suggested brightly, slipping his arms about her waist. He rested his cheek against the top of her head, smiling at the way her hair felt against his skin when she shook her head.

“I-I don’t think that’s a good idea, Max,” Liz hedged in unease, “Bayok and Nesui don’t like me as it is…we might offend them by doing that. I don’t want to rock the boat, especially since we just got here.”

Max’s smile widened. “Bayok and Nesui don’t know you well enough not to like you and besides I talked to Bayok…he says he’s willing to give you a chance.”

“Did you see the way he looked at me at dinner tonight?” Liz asked sullenly, “Like something he stepped in. Yeah, he wants a chance alright…a chance to push me into a hole most likely.”

“He’s warming to you,” Max assured her sweetly, “Give them some time to know you, Liz. I know they’ll love you.”

“Future tense. But for right now they quite obviously hate my guts, so let’s not make the situation worse, okay,” Liz countered stubbornly.

It was the thin note of dejection in her tone that made Max turn her in his arms. He closed his arms about her waist tightly, his hands splaying wide over her lower back to hold her hips against him. “It’s not you, Liz,” Max assured her in a whisper as he grazed his lips across her cheek, “I think we must freak them out or something…they’ve never heard of an Antarian taking a human mate…”

Liz tried not to be distracted by the nibbling path his lips were taking toward her mouth. “And…And based on their…attitudes toward me tonight…I…I take it they don’t approve.”

Max only shrugged and favored her with a flirtatious smile. His eyes fairly golden and dancing with mischief, he began peeling back her leather jacket from her shoulders. Liz’s eyes widened at his unmistakable meaning. “You can’t be serious,” she exclaimed, as her jacket slipped with a small plop to the floor.

“I don’t want to talk about Bayok and Nesui all night,” Max murmured as he whisked her shirt over her head in one fluid motion, “Do you?”

“No,” Liz moaned as he bent his head to nuzzle her neck, deftly unclipping her bra as he did and pulling it from her shoulders, “ But, Max, there’s no door and they’re out there! They’ll hear us for sure!”

“Don’t care,” Max mumbled. He was already sinking to his knees, his lips already beginning their trek down the naked slope of her exposed breasts.

“Max, please,” Liz groaned when he suddenly drew her nipple into his mouth. He sucked at it expertly; the way he knew she liked it best. Liz was torn between the desire to push him away and the desire to bring him closer. Instead, she somehow found the strength to stammer, “M-Max, I feel weird…about this…”

The slight, uncertain tremor in her voice was all it took. He lifted his mouth from her skin, hovering there for a few seconds before finally heaving a sigh of regretful defeat. Max had thought that he would be able to seduce her into forgetting that their privacy was zilch. Obviously, he had overestimated his charm. With a boyish pout he retrieved her shirt and bra from the floor and wordlessly handed them to her as he came to his feet. Liz regarded him from beneath her lashes as she slipped back into her clothing. “Are you mad at me?” she asked him tentatively.

Max schooled his face to remain perfectly blank as he crossed the room to stretch out across the queen-sized bed. He rolled onto his side, propping up onto his elbow to observe her. “I’m not mad exactly…” Max began, trying to find the right words to describe his feelings, “Disappointed and frustrated maybe…but not mad. This is still our honeymoon, you know…I was looking forward to…‘honeymooning’.” He wiggled his brows comically for emphasis.

Liz smiled at his lighthearted teasing and went to sit beside him, scooping up his hand in hers. His willing acceptance of her rejection made Liz want him to understand her reasoning behind it. “I want to be with you, Max, but I just can’t do it with an audience,” she admitted honestly, “it reminds me too much of being back in that cell.”

Max looked away quickly, but not before Liz saw the slash of guilty pain flicker across his beautiful features. He pulled his hand away and pretended to examine his fingernails closely. “Is that how you feel right now?” he asked her thickly, “Are you afraid I’ll be like I was that afternoon?”

Liz gently flipped him onto his back and then climbed up over him so that she straddled him and they lay chest to chest, hip to hip and were at eye level with one another. “No, that’s not how I feel,” she denied sweetly, “I don’t want you to think that, Max. I want you. I want you right this second, but I can’t do anything…not when I know they’re listening and watching…”

Max relaxed at her words, smiling slightly. He framed her cheeks with his hands and smoothed back her hair, which fell about their faces like a dark curtain. “What makes you so sure they’re watching and listening,” he whispered, strumming at her lower lip.

“Maybe I can’t read their minds, Max, but I can read yours.” Max widened his eyes in surprise. “I can hear your thoughts as clearly as my own.” She brushed his lips in a seductive kiss, trailing her lips across his cheek down to his sensitive earlobe. “I know that you want to have sex with me right now, even though that isn’t the exact wording you used in your head,” she whispered against his ear. It would have been impossible to miss even if she hadn’t heard his earlier thoughts about it. His erection was nestled quite comfortably in the juncture between her thighs.

“God, I can’t believe you heard that!” Max groaned in embarrassment. He tried to cover his face with his hands, but a giggling Liz held them captive.

Still laughing, Liz nodded so that the tips of their noses bumped against one another. “I hear a lot of your thoughts, Max…the good, the bad, and sometimes the downright oo-gly.”

Max chuckled at her teasing tone, his mortification quickly fading into desire. He slipped his wrists from her grasp and trailed his hands down her back, sliding them into the back pockets of her jeans and cupping her ass suggestively. Lifting his hips slightly, he ground his arousal against her in leisurely, provocative circles. Liz lowered her face to the crook of his neck and nuzzled, as the gentle rocking motion began to ensue between them. Pressing against her with more insistence, Max teased her huskily, “Then I suppose you would already know about a certain fantasy I’ve been having about you involving honey, lots of whipped cream and a nice…red…cherry…”

Liz giggled against his lips. “You’re such a naughty boy.”

“Ahem.”

Liz quickly rolled from Max’s body as if she’d been scorched. Their guilty gazes ricocheted to the doorway where Zrei, Bayok and Nesui stood, their individual expressions ranging from disapproval to keen discomfiture. Liz looked away hastily, burying her embarrassed face in Max’s shoulder. Max sat up holding her against him, uncomfortably aware of the hardened bulge in his jeans and trying, nonchalantly, to hide it. He pulled up his knee and draped his arm across the top. “You guys need something?” he asked almost casually. But in truth his cheeks were flaming.

“We came to bid you good night,” Zrei said calmly.

“Yes, for now is the time for sleep, young Maxwell. You have had a long trip and need your rest,” Bayok added with a critical stare directed at Liz. “We will talk again in the morning.”

The three started to turn away from the doorway when Max called out after them in question. “Why aren’t there any doors in this house?”

Bayok turned slightly to regard him over his shoulder while Zrei and Nesui continued on into the living room. “Privacy is not the Antarian way, Maxwell. I sense that you know this already.”

“But it is my way,” Max insisted stubbornly, “No disrespect to your traditions or beliefs, Bayok, but I would feel more comfortable with some sort of barrier. I would like to close off the entrance to this room, with your permission, of course.”

Bayok averted his gaze, turning his back completely to Max. “It is not what I would prefer, but I sense you will do what you wish.” As he began walking away he added, “I simply request that you fix any alterations you make every morning after you rise. I would not want to give my visitors the wrong impression. Goodnight, Max. Goodnight, Elizabeth.”

The moment he was gone Max bounded from the bed and wasted no time using his powers to bond the wall together. When he was finished the doorway was completely gone. Max could hear Zrei in his mind admonishing him for his rebellious action but he quickly shut him down and turned his complete attention to his wife, leveling her with a feline smile. “Alone at last, Mrs. Evans,” he sighed, rubbing his hands together in anticipation.

Liz sat upright, gaping at him in speechless surprise. “You’re insane,” she told him with an affectionate smile.

“About you,” Max finished for her sweetly while removing his shoes and socks and tossing them aside, “Make no mistake about it.”

“I cannot believe you just did that,” she gasped in amazement, “Zrei looked like he wanted to pummel us both.”

“He did,” Max confirmed with a shrug, deliberately removing his t-shirt and dropping it to the floor.

“But I don’t get it,” Liz said in confusion, “You’d think he’d be used to it by now. He’s been watching us make out for, like, the last two days.”

“And hating every minute of it, I assure you,” Max added as he slid his jeans down his hips and kicked them aside.

It was then that Liz finally recognized that Max was standing there wearing only his boxers and a broad smile. She bit at her lip to keep from returning his playful grin. “Max, why are you standing there half naked?” she asked as seriously as she could manage.

“Why do you think?” Max quipped in reply before climbing into the bed with her, inching his way above her so that she had no recourse but to lie back against the mattress as he lowered his body atop hers. “Antarians do not believe in public shows of affection…” Max told her, surprising himself with this knowledge that was suddenly innate in him, “mating is for procreation only…never pleasure. Our behavior is shocking to them.” He lifted his body a little to push up Liz’s shirt and play lightly at the delicate skin of Liz’s midriff. “Your silver rash has spread a little more, I think,” he observed softly, brushing a kiss across her collarbone.

Liz tunneled her fingers through his hair, her eyes drifting closed when he began nuzzling at her breasts through her t-shirt. “I guess you know why that is,” she murmured breathlessly. She was also amazed by the extent of Max’s knowledge and avidly curious as to why this wealth of understanding had suddenly opened up within him.

“Mmm, the baby,” Max clarified in a distracted whisper, “It will be just underneath your breasts when the time comes for the baby to arrive.” He kissed his way down the silver expanse of her skin, plunging his tongue into her navel. “I think it looks sorta hot,” he groaned in delight.

Liz rolled her eyes with a giggle. “Of course, you would,” she teased him.

Max fingered the snap at the waistband of her jeans questioningly before raising his exquisite honey eyes to hers. “Have you…you know…changed your mind about earlier? We’re alone now.”

Liz offered him a leisurely, sensual smile before deliberately flipping back the snap of her jeans and carrying his eager hand down into the satin confines of her panties.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 14-Oct-2002 9:31:43 AM ]
posted on 16-Oct-2002 2:03:14 AM by Deejonaise
Chapter 5

Max’s morning began with a lecture. He was awakened; after a restful night of being cradled in his wife’s arms, to Zrei’s blistering telepathic tirade. The previous night Max had managed to successfully block Zrei’s displeasure due to the fact he had been concentrating his mind on more pleasurable pursuits. Now, however, his thoughts were relaxed with the restful vestiges of sleep and Max could no longer ignore Zrei’s insistent nagging. His voice had begun faintly, barely detectable, but now his blazing disapproval was fairly blaring in Max’s head.

But Max Evans had a stubborn streak. He had proven that time and time again. Though he could hear Zrei beckon him quite clearly he didn’t budge from his spot. Instead, he tunneled his fingers into Liz’s soft hair and buried his face in her throat, closing his eyes once more. But even with her nearness, her scent, Max found sleep elusive and Zrei’s voice impossible to ignore.

Max groaned and gingerly extracted himself from Liz’s tangle of arms and legs. He then flipped onto his back, drawing up one knee and flinging his arm across his eyes in frustration while Zrei continued to berate him in his mind. He lay there for a few moments longer out of sheer rebellion before finally throwing back the covers in disgust. But before he could slip from the bed to retrieve his boxers from the floor a slender arm looped about his waist pulling him back. Max glanced down find Liz awake and watching him with half mast eyes, her cheeks flushed a becoming pink, her tousled hair falling over her forehead endearingly. “Where are you going?” she asked him, her voice husky with sleep.

Max felt himself melt in response her sleepy inquiry. Despite the irritated voice that continued to pound in his head Max settled back against the bed and cuddled close against his wife. “I was trying not to wake you,” he whispered, purposefully ignoring her question for the moment. He brushed her lips in a tender kiss, nuzzling the tip of his nose against hers. “Good morning, angel,” he added in smiling afterthought.

Liz felt her heart warm at his tender endearment. It was the first time really that he’d ever called her anything other than Liz. Of course, the way he said her name, in that sweet, breathy way of his, was almost an endearment in itself. Liz rewarded him with a contented smile. “Good morning to you, too,” she replied happily, pursing her lips for another kiss. “Did you sleep well?”

Max's eyes sparkled with contented laughter. Had he slept well? He’d slept like heaven. He’d slept like he had nothing but blue skies and sunshine to wake up to for the rest of his life. In a way, he did. He had Liz. She was his blue sky now, his sunshine. He never would have believed that the contented bliss he felt at that moment was even possible had it not been for her. And now she was his wife. His forever. Before God and man…and even Antarian. He couldn’t help chuckling inwardly over that one.

But Max was still having a rather difficult time adjusting to that particular reality himself. He was actually married, married to Liz Parker! Had it only just been earlier that month when he thought for sure that they would never be together? Had it really been so recently that his future had seemed bleak and colorless without her? And yet, here he was, nestled in bed with the woman of his dreams, feeling so happy at times he thought his heart might just explode from his chest.

And she was looking at him now as if he were the only person in the world she could see, playing absently with his ears. Her adoration made Max feel humbled and exhilarated all at once. The look in her eyes was unmistakable. Liz truly did love him. She did. It wasn’t some fantasy that his desperate mind had cooked up in the lonely hours of the night. She was really here. She was really his. Max didn’t think he would ever cease marveling over that small miracle.

He grinned at her now as he roamed his hands down the length of her naked body in a feather light touch. “You slept beside me all night,” Max said in answer to her earlier question, “How do you think I slept?”

“Obviously not the deep sleep of the sexually satisfied,” Liz teased thickly, brushing the back of her fingers across the sensitive tip of his erection.

Max blushed at her reference. His body had responded almost the instant she smiled at him and said “good morning.” “You should get used to this,” Max told her breathily as she began deliberately sliding her hand up and down the length of him, “I’m afraid…it’s the side effect…of being completely…in love with you.”

“In lust, too,” Liz added cheekily, her hand drifting lower to caress his testicles.

With a small, regretful moan, Max caught her hand and brought it from beneath the sheets, placing it harmlessly against his hip where it could do less damage. Or so he thought. He swallowed hard as Liz’s nimble fingers began sensuously caressing the tender flesh of his hip, rotating her thumb insistently in his groin. “Stop,” he whispered playfully, brushing away her hand, “you’re going to start something I can’t finish.”

Liz pouted, detecting the underlying seriousness in his voice despite his teasing smile. “Why can’t you finish?”

“Zrei has requested my presence this morning.”

Liz’s eyes widened with dawned understanding. “In other words…he’s not happy with us right now.”

Max confirmed her guess with a terse nod. “Probably not.”

Liz heaved a gusty sigh. “Well, I guess there goes my plan to keep you in bed for the rest of the day,” Liz whispered with mock regret.

Max took her comment seriously, however, and his face crumpled like a little boy who had just been denied his favorite toy. “Huh?”

She swallowed back her helpless giggle at his obvious disappointment. “I can’t very well keep you in bed all day doing delectable things to your body when Zrei is waiting for you,” she told him, tweaking his nose.

But her husband was nothing if not determined. “Don’t…move…from…this…spot…” Max ordered her between breathless kisses, “I want you naked and waiting in this bed when I get back.”

As he pulled on his clothing, Liz rolled onto her belly and watched his every movement. Realizing he had an audience Max happily took his time in getting dressed. He remembered another time she’d watched him dress and, on a whim, decided to leave off his boxers. His decision obviously pleased Liz because her eyes darkened hungrily.

Once he was done he went to sit next to her. “How about when we’re done this morning we go and grab some breakfast in town…see some sights maybe? Since we start school tomorrow we might want to get some shopping done for school clothes and stuff.”

The sound of shopping did sound appealing. She had been in the same jeans and shirt for almost three days and, alien gifts or not, it was getting pretty gross. Still… “Max, how do you propose we go shopping when we’re flat broke?” Liz asked petulantly.

“We won’t be for long, I don’t think.”

“What, did you strike oil or something?” Liz exclaimed teasingly, “Maybe win the lottery while I was asleep?”

“No, smart ass. Zrei said he would help us, remember? I would think that includes giving us money. I’m going to ask him this morning, in fact…after he finishes chewing my ass out.”

Really? I didn’t know that Zrei even had money to give…with no job and all,” Liz persisted.

“Will you stop analyzing everything,” Max huffed with a smile, “Now do you want to go to breakfast afterwards or not?”

“Why don’t we go right after you finish with Zrei. I can get ready while you two talk,” Liz suggested, her mind already drifting to visions of steaming hotcakes, fresh coffee, and sizzling bacon. Hmm, bacon. Liz didn’t know if it was her pregnancy or the alien changes taking place within her body, but the simple act of eating food lately had become a sinful pleasure to her.

But Max’s mind obviously wasn’t as preoccupied with the thought of food as Liz’s. “Nuh-uh,” he said in protest to Liz’s suggestion, “I have every intention of having dessert first.” And to emphasize his meaning his hand snaked between her thighs with calculated purposefulness, cupping her sensitive center.

“Since when did you start thinking about sex so much,” Liz gasped in anticipation when he dipped two tapered fingers deliberately into her creamy warmth. She shuddered in response.

Max leaned down close so that their lips were almost touching when he answered her question. “Since I had a taste of you,” he told her boldly, increasing the speed of his thrusting fingers when her thighs fell open in welcome, “Now I never want to stop.”

It was true and Max was helpless to explain it. Instead of tapering off, his desire for her seemed to increase with every touch, every taste, every sweet foray into the silky wet cavity of her body. He couldn’t understand it. If anything, he was hungrier for her now than he had been before they had even begun an intimate relationship. And with each time the connection became more intense, so mind-blowing with pleasure that Max sometimes thought he might die from the exquisite sensation of it all. He wondered if Liz felt that same powerful need for him as well.

And then, Max was suddenly possessed with the desire to make her feel it. He wanted her to be saturated with the same intense lust for him that he felt for her. The aching want that left him shaking, burning, frenzied to be buried deep inside. He intensified the strokes of his fingers. In and out. Back and forth. Max drove his fingers hard and long and deep. His rhythm was deliberate, sensual, methodical in his need to make her come.

Liz’s breath escaped her in soft, catchy moans. Her climax burst upon her a few seconds later, insisted by the driving force of his fingers, causing her to stiffen and groan his name in repletion. Max slipped his fingers from her burning center only when her orgasm was thoroughly complete and then brought them to his mouth. His eyes locked with hers in a sizzling moment, before he purposely, provocatively, hungrily sucked away the creamy juices that moistened his fingers. Liz’s mouth went dry with that one simple gesture and Max knew immediately that she’d been turned on by his doing it. He dropped a gentle kiss to her lips. “Wait for me,” he whispered.

By the time Max entered Bayok’s private study he had regained most of his composure. Bayok and Zrei were already seated inside, patiently awaiting his arrival. Max deliberately avoided eye contact with them when he asked, “You wanted to see me?”

Bayok was the first to speak. “Zrei has informed me that you and Elizabeth wish to begin school tomorrow. Is that correct?” Max nodded. “Very well. I have already taken care of the arrangements and enrolled you both in North Woodstone High School as my nephew and niece. It has also come to my attention that you both will require certain items in preparation. You will need money.”

Max didn’t know why he was surprised by Bayok’s thoroughness, Zrei alone should have taught him to expect it. “Yes,” he confirmed and then he looked up and regarded Bayok with solemn eyes. “I want you to know that while I appreciate your generosity I do have every intention of paying you back every single cent--,”

“That is unnecessary, Maxwell,” Bayok interrupted briskly, “You are like a son to me. As long as you reside with me I will treat you as such, out of respect for your family as well as my affection for Zrei.”

“Th-Thank you, Bayok,” Max found himself stammering as he always did when faced with his host’s mercurial ways, “I don’t know what to say.”

“Do not say anything,” Bayok replied lightly, “It is an honor and a pleasure to care for your needs, young Maxwell. I was very well acquainted with your Antarian family line, especially the household head, Leinoc Trsa-Bal.”

It was the first time that Max had heard the name of his Antarian relatives and he couldn’t quite mask the curiosity that made itself manifest in his features. “You knew my family?” Max asked Bayok in wonder.

Bayok nodded. “Nesui once served in Leinoc’s household as handmaiden to his lifemate Sheina, who was once of the family I served, the Trsa-Cui. But that was many years ago,” he finished almost dismissively. But Bayok well knew what he was doing. The boy’s interest was so obviously peaked. He was practically afire with questions and it was just as Bayok wanted. It was the first step in his grand scheme, the laying of the groundwork. Bayok was pleased to have it all falling so perfectly into place. “Perhaps you would like to know more about them,” he suggested to Max casually, “when time allows?”

“Yes,” Max replied, nodding eagerly, “yes, I would.”

“Good,” Bayok declared, clasping his hands together and moving to his feet, “That only leaves one other matter for us to discuss.”

Max felt the hairs on the back of his neck begin to prickle. “Discuss?”

“This privacy that you seem so intent upon having,” Bayok clarified.

“Now, with all due respect--,” Max began.

“I will grant it to you,” Bayok declared magnanimously before Max could even begin his argument. As expected his announcement rendered the young man speechless. “If it is so important to you then you may have your privacy. I would not make you uncomfortable for all the world, Maxwell.” And then he sighed thoughtfully. “It is only that I cannot understand your reasoning for it. What is the point of this privacy you seek?”

“What are you asking me exactly?” Max inquired carefully.

“What Bayok questions, as do I,” Zrei spoke up, voicing both his and his friend’s puzzlement, “is why you continue to mate with Elizabeth despite having already conceived a child. What is the rationale behind such actions?”

“Rationale?” Max repeated blankly.

“What is it that you are trying to accomplish?” Zrei elucidated.

“Accomplish?” Max knew he must look and sound completely idiotic, standing there with a vacant expression on his face, repeating everything Zrei said dumbly. But he couldn’t help it; he didn’t quite understand what they wanted to know.

“What Zrei is trying to understand is,” Bayok interrupted, hoping to clarify and end the awkward conversation quickly, “if you have already conceived a child with Elizabeth why do you insist upon continuing your sexual relations, even though reproduction has taken place. We do not understand this reasoning.”

“We do it because it feels good,” Max answered with in blank annoyance as if the rationalization should explain everything. But apparently, judging from their puzzled frowns, Max realized that his answer hadn’t been at all satisfying to them. An uncomfortable sigh shuddered from his chest.

He suspected he would be in that study for a long time to come.


[ edited 3 time(s), last at 16-Oct-2002 9:42:12 AM ]
posted on 18-Oct-2002 8:34:38 AM by Deejonaise
Okay, first of all I want to thank everyone for their awesome feedback. You sure do know how to make a gal feel special.*big* As for Bayok, it's good you all don't trust him because he is bad, bad news. I'll put it this way, if you thought DeVoe was evil he will seem like a cakewalk to you compared to Bayok. Hell hath no fury like an Antarian scorned...

Now then, onto the next part. (Sorry, no nookie)



Chapter 6

Max was half hoping that Liz would still be in bed waiting for him when he returned almost an hour later. Indeed, she was in bed…but she wasn’t naked. He was only mildly surprised, but very disappointed to find that so.

She sat in the middle of the mattress dressed in a baggy gray sweatshirt and pants, her knees folded against her chest while watching an episode of “The View.” Apparently, she had taken a shower while waiting for him to return. Her long dark hair was still damp and hanging in moist waves down her shoulders and back. She looked so beautiful and innocent sitting there, absently fiddling with her bare toes that Max almost forgot his disappointment over not finding her naked. Almost, but not quite.

As he strode into the room he favored her with a boyish pout, his expression clearly asking, “What happened?” Liz ducked her head and smiled sheepishly. “You were taking so long,” she said in explanation, “I didn’t know when you were coming back.” Max continued to pout. “I waited as long as I could honest,” Liz cried out laughingly, “But Nesui came and asked if I needed anything. I couldn’t ignore her.”

Max sighed in candid dejection and plopped down beside her on the bed, laying his head in her lap. Liz stroked the thick hair at his temples playfully. “So that must have been some lecture Zrei gave you,” she remarked, smiling.

Max gazed up at her, an indescribable expression on his face. He was trying to find the exact words to describe precisely what had taken place in Bayok’s study during that hour he was there. But the truth was that he didn’t have the words. He was still as flustered now as he had been during the conversation. The questions they had asked him…God…and with their expressions never wavering one iota. They had made their inquiries with clinical detachment and open candor, never seeming to notice that Max was burning with embarrassment and aching to run.

He bit his lip presently, carefully replying to Liz’s observation. “I wouldn’t call what happened a lecture…exactly,” he hedged.

“Well, you were gone an awfully long time so it must have been pretty close.” But then she noticed the expression on his face. He seemed as if he wanted to say more, but felt uneasy about doing so. Her hands stilled in the unconscious twirling of his hair. “Max? What aren’t you telling me?”

He frowned pensively, as if he were still trying to process the reality of what had happened himself. Truthfully, he was. “They asked me about sex,” he blurted finally.

Liz’s mouth fell open. “They what!”

“They wanted to know why we continue to be…ah…intimate,” Max clarified archly, “ “and they asked me questions about it…a lot of them.”

“Questions like what?” But the instant Liz asked she had the sinking feeling that she would regret she had.

“Weeell,” Max sighed, reaching up to twine a strand of her hair about his finger, “for starters, they wanted to know why we did it.”

Liz grimaced in discomfiture. “That’s an odd question.”

“Not for a species who only mate in order to insure proliferation,” Max replied with painful logic, “They don't seem to be into sexual gratification, if you take my meaning.”

“O-kay.” Liz digested that and then pressed on, “What else?”

“Mostly technical questions…you know…how long…how does it feel…how often…”

His tone was blasé as he spoke but Liz still found herself drowning in a sea of mortification. She brought her palm against her forehead and groaned. “Oh my God…how will I be able to face them all after this? And that’s what you talked about all this time…sex?”

Max squinted up at her and scratched his head thoughtfully. “Well, most of it.”

“And the rest?”

He reached into his pocket and pulled free the roll of twenties that Bayok had given him earlier, passing it to a stunned Liz. “I’ve got money.”

Liz jaw dropped open for the second time in five minutes as she counted quickly counted through the money. 100, 200, 300, 400, 480… When she was done, Liz held up the money, clenched tightly in her fist. “Max, there’s over five hundred dollars here. Where and how did Zrei get his hands on so much money?”

“Zrei didn’t give it to me,” he told her quietly, “Bayok did.”

He could tell immediately that she didn’t approve. Though she didn’t utter a single word she rolled her lips inward, compressing them into a tight, thin line. Max knew her far too well by now. Whatever it was that was bothering her at the moment she was having a difficult time keeping it to herself. She was just itching to voice her opinion. Besides that Max had clearly heard her thoughts on the matter and he knew exactly why she was upset even if she refused to say so. But when she didn’t seem inclined to mention it herself, Max demanded rather bluntly, “So what’s with the look?”

Liz gave him an innocent glance. “What look?” she asked, pressing the money back into his palm.

That look you’re giving me right now,” Max clarified with a frown.

“What look is ‘that’ look, Max?”

“The look that says you disapprove of the fact Bayok gave us money…or that I took it.” He sat upright when Liz didn’t respond immediately, but only continued regarding him with wide brown eyes. “Do you deny it?” he asked her persistently.

Liz shrugged. “What’s the point…I’m sure you already know what I was thinking anyway…don’t you, Max?”

Max huffed a guilty sigh, but he didn’t deny that he had been reading her thoughts. “Don’t try to turn this around on me, Liz. You don’t trust Bayok. Why not?”

Liz waved her hand dismissively. “Whether or not I trust him isn’t the issue, Max,” Liz explained with a trill of impatience, “We’re married now…that means we take care of ourselves and we don’t live on Bayok’s handouts. We’re living with him now…isn’t that enough?”

“But you wouldn’t have had a problem living off Zrei’s handouts?” Max questioned quietly.

He knew he’d hit his mark because she became all sullen and pouty. “It’s not the same,” she persisted stubbornly.

“How is it not the same?” Max all but cried.

“I trust Zrei,” Liz gritted in response, “And I don’t trust Bayok.”

“Of course, you don’t! You’ve only known him for two days, I don’t expect you to trust him, Liz,” Max replied with mounting impatience, “But you could, at least, give him a chance. Bayok wants to take care of us the same as Zrei does. That’s why he’s allowing us to stay here. He only wants what is in our best interest.”

“He’s allowing us to stay here as a favor to Zrei,” Liz clarified coolly, “He’s not doing it because he has some great affection for us or anything, Max!”

“How do you know what he feels?” Max countered, feeling anger begin to bubble forth in his chest. Despite the embarrassing conversation with Bayok earlier Max couldn’t help but feel a kinship towards their host, especially when he seemed so willing to share the pieces of Max’s past with him. Max realized that Bayok, to that point, had given neither him nor Liz any reason to trust him. But then, he considered optimistically, he hadn’t done anything to incite mistrust either. Max held on to that fact like a lifeline.

“Max, he doesn’t even know you!” Liz retorted fiercely, “Why are you all of a sudden just trusting him like that?” Liz snapped her fingers for emphasis.

“He knew my family, Liz…my Antarian family,” Max retorted, “He says he fond of me, that he thinks of me as a son and I believe him. Besides he’s Zrei’s friend! He’s got to be trustworthy; otherwise Zrei would have never brought us here. All he wants to do is help us!”

“No, he wants to help you,” Liz corrected bitterly, “Us never entered into the equation.”

Max’s eyes narrowed in dawning suspicion and anger. “Is that what this is about? You’re jealous because I fit in here and you don’t?”

“You’re seriously deluded if that’s what you think this is about!” Liz bit out furiously. But it was, for a small part of her, it was.

In all fairness, Liz did truly disagree with the wisdom of trusting Bayok and his family implicitly simply based on the fact that he had taken them in. If there was one thing that Liz had learned from Zrei, it was that Antarians never did anything without a purpose. Bayok had given them a home and money, but Liz couldn’t believe he had done so out of the goodness of his heart or even a real loyalty for Zrei. She couldn’t pinpoint exactly why she felt that way because while Bayok hadn’t exactly been welcoming to her, he had been nothing but polite and courteous. Still, there was something about him that didn’t strike her as genuine.

Couple that with the fact that Liz did feel isolated and left out, she was quickly finding herself on sensory overload. She just knew that there was more to Bayok than what he was allowing them to see, but what she didn’t know if what he was hiding was good or bad. She honestly didn’t see the wisdom of putting their complete trust in him when he had yet to prove himself. But she could tell that sharing her suspicions with Max at that point would be a complete waste of time. Anything she said against Bayok would be seen by him as merely a manifestation her own insecurity.

Even now she could hear his thoughts working furiously. His jaw was knotted in anticipation, almost as if he were spoiling for a fight between them. And in those moments, Liz’s own frustration and anger died away because she suddenly understood the reason for Max’s defensive attitude. He had wanted this. All his life, to belong, to be accepted, to truly know and understand where he came from. He had been so close with Conner Douglass only to have it all wrenched away from him in the end. That was what he felt she was doing to him now…trying to wrench away the dream he had hoped for all his existence.

Abruptly Liz’s features softened in a smile of submission. She reached forward to brush the backs of her knuckles across his stubbled cheek. “Are we having our first married fight?” she asked him tenderly.

She was trying to diffuse the situation, Max realized immediately and the knowledge caused his own anger to die down. He returned her gentle smile and sighed. “I don’t want to fight with you, Liz.”

Liz nodded grimly. “I know that, Max, I really do.” She clasped her hands together in her lap, staring down at them fixedly. “But we’re not going to settle this today so why don’t we just agree to disagree, okay?”

“Okay.”

Although, Liz was happy that they had opted on the side of peace she knew deep within her that their discussion was a far from being over. She suspected that this argument would just be the first in a long line of disagreements they would have over Bayok. For now Liz would tread the path of least resistance. Bayok would reveal his true motives before long; she would only need to be patient and wait.

Hearing her thoughts Max said quietly, “You should stop expecting the worst from him, Liz. He really does want what’s best for me…for us, Liz, and especially our baby.”

Liz caressed her belly unconsciously, feeling her child’s energy hum for a moment before lifting her frowning eyes to Max. She didn’t like that Bayok was so anxious for their child’s arrival. She also didn’t like that Max had obviously taken to reading her mind when she didn’t voice her thoughts aloud. It was obvious that Zrei’s Antarian thinking was rubbing off on him. “We’ve really got to set some ground rules about this telepathic thing,” Liz informed him in disgruntled tone, “Not everything I think is open for you to hear, Max.”

“This coming from the same person who eavesdrops on my private fantasies,” Max grumbled under his breath, “Besides I didn’t think we had secrets from each other being married and all.”

“Oh, now you sound like Zrei and Bayok!” Liz snapped.

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Max retorted defensively.

“Draw any conclusion you want, Max!” The moment she spat out the words she wanted to call them back. Liz could see that the discussion was quickly degenerating into another fight. Clearly, the tension from their earlier disagreement was still lingering. But Liz didn’t want to spend the morning fighting with Max, especially over petty grievances and she so sought to quell the argument between them by backing down in her indignance. “Okay, this is not how I pictured spending my morning with you,” she confessed to him softly,"I'm sorry for snapping...chalk it up to pregnancy hormones."

“This isn't what I planned either. I’m sorry,” Max said and then he pulled her into his arms, cradling her against his chest. “Liz, let’s just get out of here, okay,” he whispered into her hair, “We’re both obviously stressed out and I think we just need to go someplace where no one is listening and watching us…just be alone. Let’s just go out and have fun today…forget about everything else.” When Liz seemed hesitant and uncertain Max tried teasing her by adding cajolingly, “We can still have breakfast…it’s not too late. Just think, Liz…all the bacon you can eat.”

Hmm, Liz thought, all the bacon she could eat. Liz favored him with a sweet, widening smile. Now how was she going to say no to that?




[ edited 2 time(s), last at 18-Oct-2002 11:11:17 AM ]
posted on 20-Oct-2002 11:17:32 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 7

“Wait, Max, stop the car!” Liz exclaimed, wildly gesticulating to the side of the road.

Though Max was anxiously curious as to why she wished to stop, he pulled over to where she’d indicated without a word. However, once he’d parked the jeep and cut the engine, he turned on her in concern. “What’s wrong? Is it the baby?” he asked, his face already darkened with concern as he reached across the jeep to splay his hand over her abdomen, “Are you in pain?”

After breakfast they had decided to go shopping for the day. With a great deal of reluctance Liz had agreed to spend Bayok’s money. She decided to look at the matter practically. There were items that she and Max needed, especially if they were to start school the following day. Taking Bayok’s money would just prove to be a means to an end, but Liz was determined she wouldn’t live off his generosity indefinitely. She had told Max that and not only did she want to pay Bayok back every penny he lent them, but she also wanted them to get their own place soon after the baby was born. Which was the exact reason she had asked Max to pull over the jeep when she saw a gigantic “Help Wanted” sign in the window of a diner as they passed.

Liz smiled now and covered his hand. “Max, the baby’s fine…stop worrying,” she reassured him, her heart melting at his husbandly concern, “There’s a help wanted sign in the window of that diner a few doors down.”

Max leaned forward and glanced around her so that he could glimpse the diner she was speaking of. A large, dilapidated sign read: The Chuckwagon. Max grimaced and shot Liz an incredulous look. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said to her in disbelief.

“You agreed that I could get a job if you were going to be helping Bayok on the farm in the mornings and after school.”

“Yeah, I did,” Max sputtered, “But surely you can find some other place to apply.” He slid another glance at the diner through the window. “I mean…my god…”

“It’s close and it’s convenient and from the looks of things they might just hire me right away,” Liz argued pragmatically, “Besides it’s got a certain flavor.”

He grimaced at the diner once more before giving her a knowing look that was tinged with a trace of sadness. “Do you really hate taking Bayok’s money so much that you’d work in that dump?”

Liz decided to answer him carefully, wanting to avoid another argument between them at all costs. “Don’t get me wrong, Max,” she began cheerfully, “I’m very happy to have new clothes and shoes, and my goodness, I can’t tell you how grateful I am for a toothbrush, not to mention other necessities, but…I don’t want to have to go running to Bayok every time we need something.”

Max nodded, not really understanding her reasoning. What was so wrong about accepting Bayok’s help if he offered? It wasn’t as if they would have been able to take care of their basic needs on their own, at least not at the moment. He and Liz had nothing. They were completely broke at this point and had no choice but to live off the goodwill of others until they established themselves. And maybe that was the problem, Max surmised suddenly with a sick feeling of dread.

Here they were married and expecting a child and yet they had no jobs, no homes, no future security. They had made grown-up decisions, but were unable to deal with the responsibility that came along with those decisions. Or more aptly, he was unable to deal with the responsibility. Max didn’t know much about marriage but he knew enough to realize that a wife had to feel financially secure, that she had to believe her husband could provide for her needs. Liz definitely couldn’t be feeling that way about him right now. She was probably wondering what was going to happen to her from one day to the next. Maybe she was even regretting her decision to marry him.

The moment the thought entered his brain Max felt as if he’d been punched in the gut. God, he didn’t want Liz to regret marrying him! Just the idea made him feel like curling into a small ball of shame. But, truthfully, he wouldn’t blame her if she did. He’d had nothing to offer her when they married and he had nothing to offer her now. Except his love. God knew he loved her more than his own breath. But even he wasn’t naïve enough to believe that a marriage could survive on love alone. Max knew that Liz felt the same as well and that was why she was so anxious for them to begin life on their own.

The sudden fear that she might want to leave him churning in his belly Max burst out unexpectedly, his forehead wrinkled in a frown of uncertainty, “Liz, are you happy? I mean…are you happy you married me?”

Liz was taken aback by his question. “What…Max? Of course,” she assured him, “Of course, I’m glad I married you.”

“But it hasn’t been ideal…I mean…it never will be,” Max admitted somewhat shamefully, “And I can’t provide you with the things a wife really wants.”

“What things are those, Max?”

“You know…a big house, a big car, a big credit card with unlimited spending.”

“I don’t want any of those things, Max, I never have.” When he opened his mouth to argue she reached forward and placed her index finger against his lips, silencing him. “All I want is you, Max. You. Always.”

“And you don’t resent me?” Max asked with boyish insecurity.

Liz caressed his cheek, smiling. “No, I don’t resent you. But what about you, do you regret that you married me?” Liz had a ton of insecure feelings concerning that question. How could she not? Max was an intelligent, gifted, beautiful sixteen-year-old boy with his entire future ahead of him. He could have been what he wanted, gone where he wanted. His future had been full of boundless possibilities and then he had sacrificed everything, his youth, his future, his freedom, to make her his wife. Liz couldn’t help but wonder, in some small part of her heart, if he had done so more out of obligation to his child than love for her.

Max listened to Liz’s musings carefully even as her emotions chased themselves plainly across her face. Though he’d promised her earlier he wouldn’t eavesdrop on her thoughts he still couldn’t stop himself from taking note. Liz thought that he regretted marrying her? No way. Never. Even the mere possibility was ridiculous. He cherished her, adored her. She was what had given meaning to his damned alien existence in the first place. She was the reason he’d actually begun yearning for happiness and believing that he might possibly find it. He’d never regret marrying her, not ever.

A slow, glamorous smile spread across his features as he looked at her now. “Marrying you is the best decision I have ever made in my life,” he declared with heartfelt tenderness, “I thank God every day for blessing me with the brains and insight to do it.”

Liz relaxed, his words causing a curious fluttering in her belly. The feeling was almost too powerful and Liz felt the need to laugh if off, to lighten the atmosphere somehow. She made a tsking sound with her tongue and gave Max an appraising, sideways glance. “And this coming from the guy who, not one month ago, told me to stay away from him,” Liz teased laughingly, “Oh, how quickly things change.”

Max recognized her playful tone and, as a result, didn’t take her words too seriously but instead offered her a sheepish shrug. “What can I say? I’m an indecisive ass.”

Liz leaned across the gearshift to peck him lightly on the lips. “Yes,” she agreed thoughtfully, “but you’re my indecisive ass.”

“Are we going to sit out here all day while you recount my past misdeeds,” Max muttered into her mouth, “Or are you going to go in that diner and apply for a job?”

“Come on,” Liz sighed against his lips.

It was a greasy dive, but then Liz had expected no better. The floor was yellowed with age, slightly grimy and scuffed beyond all help. At the counter, she noticed that the spin stools, like the floor, were beyond help. The red vinyl material of the seats had faded to a brandy color and were cracked and peeling, revealing the dingy yellow foam beneath. The place certainly didn’t have the homey feel of the Crashdown Café, but it was a job and from what she could tell the place looked as if truckers might frequent it a great deal. That meant two things: she’d be privy to much lewd behavior, most of it probably directed towards her and, if she played things just right, she’d make a helluva stash in tips.

Liz felt Max press closer against her side and give her hand a gentle squeeze. “Are you sure you want to work here?” he asked out the corner of his mouth. He looked as if he thought he might catch something merely by standing inside the place.

“I have a feeling it looks worse than it actually is,” Liz assured him with a smile as she led them over to the counter. Immediately, a sour faced man in a hairnet and a greasy t-shirt that must have at one time been white approached them. “You two gonna order somethin’,” he demanded gruffly.

“No,” Liz told him quickly and she wasn’t sure she’d ever want to eat in the place, “Actually I’m here about the sign in the window. Are you hiring waitresses?”

“Yeah,” the cook answered gruffly, sliding a skeptical look up and down the length of Liz’s tiny frame, “You got any experience?”

“I’ve been waitressing since I turned fifteen, sir,” Liz replied briskly, “But I’ve worked in a restaurant environment longer than that.”

“You look kinda small,” the man remarked tersely, “You sure you got what it takes to do this job. My clientele can be demanding at times.”

“I think I can handle myself,” Liz said demurely.

The man grunted, appearing to think over her words. But he was in a desperate situation and he wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth, so to speak. “Hmm, when could you start?”

Liz looked at Max and smiled. “As soon as possible, I think.”

“What about tonight?” Liz was startled by the request and her features revealed it. “Look, I’ll be straight with ya,” the cook told her candidly, “I’ve had two girls quit just this morning…like I say the guests are…er…demanding. They might give a sweet, young thing like you problems. You sure you can cut it?”

Liz thought about the many late nights when she had waited on drunken jocks after football games and all the lewd comments and behavior she’d had to deal with on those occasions. She glanced around the diner, noticing the burly, scruffy looking guests who littered the place before leveling her gaze back on the cook. “I can handle it,” she told him again, more firmly this time.

The man nodded his consent. “I got a uniform for you in the back…might be a little big, but it’ll do.” He lumbered from behind the counter and pointed to a red haired waitress on the other side of the diner. “That’s Alice,” he informed her, “You can follow her for and hour or so…get the hang of things, so to speak, then you’re on your own.” He stuck out one beefy hand towards Liz. “Names Owens, by the way.”

Liz pumped his hand graciously. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Owens. I’m Liz.”

“Naw, I ain’t no mister,” he corrected crustily, “Just Owens.” And then he looked up at Max who was surveying the restaurant in obvious disdain. “You her man?” he demanded bluntly. Max nodded, his face hard with protectiveness and challenge. “Come pick her up at eleven then, that’s when her shift ends.”

“I’m not leaving,” Max told him firmly. Liz might be comfortable with working in such an environment, but everything he’d seen had served to make him ten times more apprehensive. In the space of five minutes he’d watched the same patron pinch the asses of three different waitresses. Oh no, Max wasn’t going anywhere without Liz.

Liz braced her hands flat against Max’s chest and pushed him back slightly so that they were somewhat out of Owens’ earshot. “Max, you don’t have to stay,” she told him sweetly, “I’ll be fine.”

“I’m staying,” Max replied stubbornly. And that was that.

Max sat in a quiet, smokeless booth in a far corner and watched his wife wait tables for the night. She had the same easy rapport she’d always had, smiling and laughing with her customers as if she’d known them all her life. And it obviously must have made her guest feel plenty good, having a pretty, young girl banter with them, because they were leaving her unimaginable tips.

Four hours into her shift, Liz skipped over to Max’s table with a beaming smile. “This is just unbelievable,” she gushed, stuffing another wad of bills into her apron, “I think I might leave here tonight with close to $100. I never made that much at the Crashdown in a night, even when we had a rush.”

Max glanced up at her, his expression petulantly sour. “Maybe it has something to do with all the giggling and flirting that you do with your guests,” he remarked peevishly.

Liz gaped at him in stunned surprise. “Max? Are you jealous…” she asked coyly, secretly pleased that he was, “cuz you definitely sound jealous?”

Max’s expression didn’t waver. “If I was I’d have plenty of reason to be,” he grumbled, studying the tips of his fingernails closely, “It’s not like you’ve taken two minutes to even look at me in the last hour, but you’ve had time to flirt with almost every other guy in here.”

Liz cast a cautious glance around her for Owens before scooting into the booth next to Max and giving his thigh a playful squeeze. “I promise you my heart wasn’t in it. I have been looking at one guy all night, Max, and that’s you,” she whispered in his ear, sliding her tongue tantalizingly along the rim of his ear, “You’re the sexiest guy in here…how could I not?”

Max could feel the beginnings of a smile though he fought to hide it. “That’s not so hard,” he sighed, his eyes rolling closed at the gentle tracing of her tongue along his earlobe, “My only competition in the place are all sporting beer guts and pit stains…of course, I’d be the cream of the crop.”

His words caused Liz to giggle girlishly in his ear and he couldn’t help but join her. All too soon they were both snorting with laughter. And then Max leaned forward to kiss her, sliding his tongue into her mouth for one deep foray. When he pulled back, his eyes were glowing with desire and he whispered, “I want you.”

“The feeling is so mutual,” Liz murmured, her breath stirring provocatively against his lips. Her eyes drifted closed in anticipation for his next kiss.

“Hey, this ain’t love connection!” At the sound of Owens’ brash voice behind her Liz ripped away from Max and stood up nervously, her face blooming with hot color. “Go take care of your tables,” he barked at her. Liz nodded quickly and offered Max a fleeting smile before scurrying away. As Owens turned away from the counter heavily he gave Max a knowing wink.

By the end of the night Liz had made $92.48. She and Max exited the Chuckwagon with the bag of Liz’s casual clothes, laughing and giggling, huddled close together in the frigid night air. When they reached the jeep they noticed that the lot where they had parked was virtually empty, save for a few lingering cars. Max walked Liz up against the jeep’s door deliberately, pinning her against the cool metal with his body. “You know, you look kinda sexy in this uniform,” he whispered breathily, “Even if it is two sizes too big.”

Her uniform was the same pattern cut as the one she’d worn while waitressing at the Crashdown, but instead of being teal with a silver sleeve cuff lining, it was white with a pink checkered sleeve cuff lining. Max fingered the skin right below her collarbone, trailing his finger seductively between her breasts. “You still owe me from this morning,” he told her, bumping his middle against her suggestively.

Liz wrapped her arms about his neck, kissing him long and slow. “And I have every intention of paying what I owe,” she said when they finally came up for air, “just as soon as we get home.”

“And what if I can’t wait that long?” Max whispered.

Liz zeroed her eyes in on the sly smile that hovered on his sensual mouth. “What exactly are you suggesting, Mr. Evans?” she asked him mischievously.

He nodded to the backseat of the jeep, inciting a disbelieving giggle from Liz. Max stared down at her in wide-eyed innocence. “What? There’s plenty of room,” he murmured as he began inching the cotton material of her skirt slowly up the length of her thighs.

“You’re out of control, you know that,” Liz teased him huskily even as she opened the door of the jeep and scooted inside, pulling him in after her.


This part is meant to be a happy Max and Liz chapter, you know, kind of serving as the calm before the storm because Chapter 8 is not gonna be so good. (please don't hurt me)

As usual feedback is appreciated, welcomed, and desperately needed.
*big**wink*

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 20-Oct-2002 11:53:17 PM ]
posted on 21-Oct-2002 2:23:14 AM by Deejonaise
quote:
McGees originally wrote:

Oh yeah...and just out of curiosity, how do you pronounce all the Antarian names? I like to know these things. *happy*


Just when I was about to call it a night, I peep in to see if you've updated your story and I find a post from you instead.*big**big**big* Now as for your question, I can't believe I've never considered this before. Duh! Alright, here goes:

Zrei: Zuh-ray

Bayok: Bay-yuck

Nesui: Nee-shoo

There's gonna be a couple of more later on so I'll be sure to include pronunciation for those as well, lol.

Oh, and don't worry about Liz's job...she's probably safer there than she is in Bayok's house.
posted on 23-Oct-2002 11:29:21 PM by Deejonaise
Okay, first I want to start by thanking everyone for the fantastic feedback, Sansu for making me laugh, and Lillie for the lovely bumps. Really, I do appreciate the time all of you take to reply. It's really motivating when it comes to getting these parts out.

Now then, as for the story, I want to tell you that this next part is not going to be a retelling of JK's destiny storyline. There is an unfolding mystery that begins with this part and gets clearer as the fic progresses, so please bear with me.

Alright, enough gabbing...on with the fic...




Chapter 8

They didn’t share a single class together.

It kind of stung, especially after they had shared such an amazing night. Even long after he and Liz had returned to Bayok’s and settled into bed Max had lain awake, reliving each gentle caress, each heated stroke. He had thought about how it had felt to undress her an inch at a time, removing her clothing with unhurried leisure. Making love in the back of a jeep had probably never been so romantic.

Liz was his angel, his goddess. He revered her, wanted to be in her presence always, physically, emotionally, mentally, constantly basking in her nearness. He had even spent most of the night simply watching her sleep and smoothing his hand delicately across her soft, soft skin. The desire to be simply near her was quickly becoming an obsession for him.

And so far, they hadn’t shared one single class together. Not one.

Max mulled over that depressing thought while chewing his bologna and cheese sandwich with mechanical efficiency. The morning had begun with such promise, too. His first sensation of the day had been the warm, enveloping feel of Liz’s eager mouth surrounding his cock. By the time he became completely cognizant of her ministrations he was already in the throes of his release.

“What a way to say good morning,” he had teased hoarsely when her rumpled head finally emerged from beneath the covers.

She had folded her arms atop his chest, resting her chin on her hands, and regarded him with a smile that was both seductive and innocent. “Yes, well I wanted to make sure you started your morning off right,” she replied softly. She kissed his lips softly. “Happy first day of school.”

He had tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear, feeling as if nothing in his life could exceed the sheer perfection of that moment. “Happy first day of school to you, too.” After that, things pretty much went by in a blur of happiness for him. He had drifted through his shower, breakfast, the ride to school, and even his initial meeting with Ms. Perkins, the guidance counselor, with a sappy grin of satisfaction plastered to his face.

Max Evans had everything he wanted…well, almost everything, but still… He had a gorgeous wife, who was not only smart as hell and carrying his kid, but who actually loved him, loved him. Max Evans, freak extraordinaire! Sometimes he got the ridiculous notion to pinch himself, just to be sure that he was awake and the events turning in his life were, indeed, reality. He awoke each morning with the same giddy anticipation for the new day, expecting rainbows of happiness and all because he had Liz. That had been the exact mood she’d left him with when they parted ways after walking together to Ms. Perkins’ guidance office.

That feeling of euphoria had stayed with him through his first two periods of school. But by his third period he started to grow restless from having gone so long without seeing Liz. He spent the majority of that period daydreaming about her until the limited amount of sleep he’d had the night before began to catch up with him. When the time finally came for his fourth period U.S. Government class Max was very nearly on the verge of nodding off. He had perked up briefly with the arrival of a latecomer to class, but only because in that moment, when his eyes were closed, he could have sworn he sensed Liz.

Now he had finally made it to lunch and still there was no sign of her. He was beginning to feel the first stirrings of real alarm. Maybe something had happened to her. Perhaps her morning sickness was giving her trouble again and she’d had to leave school early as a result. Lately, she had been doing better in that regard, but she still had some episodes of queasiness. And Max couldn’t be too cautious, especially when he had not seen her since that morning. The possibility that she had gone home sick continued to nag at him until Max got up from the lunch table with every intention of searching for her. But he never made it completely to his feet.

Before he could leave a young woman promptly slid into the chair across from him, smiling in candid greeting. “Hi,” she said breezily, her cheeks dimpling as her smile widened, “You’re Max right? Max Evans? I’m Kaala Stafford. We have fourth period U.S. Government together…I came in late today.” She stuck out her hand to him in greeting.

Max stood frozen, half standing, half sitting, and stared at her, feeling as if he’d been clubbed by a two by four. He could have been a complete idiot for all the function his brain produced. Every coherent thought he had fled his mind as he looked down into Kaala Stafford’s face. A face he had never seen before in his life before that day, but a face who seemed eerily familiar to him as well. Max sank back down into his seat, frowning slightly. As much as he wanted to he couldn’t seem to compel himself to leave then.

He didn’t understand the sudden, inexplicable magnetic pull he felt for her. One minute she wasn’t there and the next she was and Max felt as if he’d been knocked onto his ass. It was an odd sensation, but he felt almost hypnotized, dazed in her presence. And it wasn’t only because she was beautiful. She was. Almost achingly so. But Max had seen plenty of beautiful girls in his lifetime and yet only one had moved him. Liz Parker. Liz Evans. His wife.

The forceful reminders tumbled through his mind to no avail. Max couldn’t look away. The realization shocked the hell out of him. He had never felt obliged to look twice at the others. Until now. He couldn’t help but feel ashamed and confused by the notion.

The situation was damned mind boggling actually. What was so special about this girl? Why would he feel this way towards a stranger he’d never seen before? He didn’t know her, didn’t want to know her and yet…he couldn’t stop staring.

The sensation was foreign, overwhelming and unwelcome. Especially so, because he had never felt attraction for any girl other than Liz and had never been inclined to either. Even now he felt a longing for Liz that made him ache inside. He didn’t want anybody else. Both his heart and his head sang that refrain loud and clear. And still his eyes didn’t waver.

Unconsciously, his gaze began roaming over her features, avidly drinking her in. She had thick, dark brown hair; so dark it looked almost black. Though she had the tendrils pulled away from her face with several small clips Max could see that her hair had a tendency to curl. Her glossy locks were the perfect compliment to her rich, golden skin. Flawless skin. And her eyes…he had never in his life seen eyes quite that color. They were green. Magnetic green, real green like the color of wet spring grass. Fathomless, bottomless, and hypnotizing, eyes he couldn’t seem to look away from.

That’s when he began to panic. If the strange attraction weren’t enough to make him nervous then the sheer lack of control he had over it sent him into a tailspin. He didn’t like it; he sure as hell didn’t want it. But the reality remained unchanged. She was there, sitting before him and he couldn’t help but be intrigued by her. In that moment, Max felt like an adulterer, unfaithful, and as low as he had that afternoon in the cell. Maybe other married men found themselves looking at other women when they were married, but not him. Not Max Evans. Because he loved Liz.

His need to find Liz became almost desperate then. Because he was obviously having a nightmare or he had hit his head and passed out somewhere. What was happening to him could NOT be reality. He had to be in the Twilight Zone, because the only woman he loved, the only woman he wanted was Liz. Max needed to kiss her, to feel her body against his in order to right within his body whatever had gone so unnaturally wrong. And it was unnatural. The pull he felt toward this girl, this stranger wasn’t, in the slightest way, normal.

What was happening inside him was beyond physical, it was almost chemical, this crazy attraction he felt for Kaala Stafford, as if her nearness had clicked on some alien mechanism inside his body. He felt as if she’d awakened something inside him that had long since been lying dormant, something that was now suddenly, undeniably alive. And that’s when Max finally understood the reason for his body’s chaotic response to her. Kaala Stafford wasn’t human. She was like him. He slumped slightly in his chair from relief.

Kaala Stafford smiled a slow, knowing smile and dropped her hand, which he had refused to shake. “Took you long enough to figure it out,” she whispered, “I was beginning to think you wouldn’t get it.”

“Who are you?” Max asked warily. He felt guarded in those moments because he had the nagging suspicion that she knew exactly what effect she was having on him…and she was enjoying it.

His suspicions were quickly confirmed when her smile widened broadly, as if she had heard his thought and was amused by it. “It’s funny…but I thought when this day arrived you would know me…just as I know you,” she murmured quietly, “All my life I’ve been told all about you, taught to anticipate your return and here you don’t even have the slightest clue who I am.” She glared at him with eyes made hard and bright as polished marble. “But what then should I have expected from someone so obviously human?” she spat out in disgust.

Her manner made Max extremely uncomfortable. She was talking as if she knew him, as if he knew her or should know her and that was impossible. He’d never seen her before in his life. “I think you must have me confused with someone else,” he informed her uneasily. He started to gather together his books once more but her next words halted his movements.

“You’re not Max Evans from Roswell, New Mexico, then?” she scoffed sarcastically, telling him then that she knew exactly who he was, “You have a sister named Isabel. Your best friend is Michael Guerin. And your parents, if you insist on calling them that, are Phillip and Diane Evans. They’re lawyers. There…did I cover everything?”

“Y-Yes,” Max stammered, shocked that she seemed to know absolutely everything about him when he didn’t have the slightest clue about her. He pretty much told her that. “Look, I think you must be mistaken about me. I…I...don’t know how you know so much about my life, but you’re obviously confused or something. I don’t know who the hell you are.” He started to get up then but she reached across the table and grabbed hold of his wrist in an iron grip.

The moment she touched him Max felt as if his body had been jolted through with hundreds of electrical currents. He jerked reflexively as he was instantly assailed with a series of jagged images filled with rugged mountain peaks and sapphire seas. Max jerked back his arm as if she’d burned him, rubbing his wrist absently. Her green eyes studied him knowingly. “I think you do know me, Max,” she countered softly, “You just don’t want to know me.”

Max pushed himself to his feet completely with a grimace of fearful discomfort. He might not be able to control his inexplicable attraction to her, but didn’t have to sit there and listen to her ramble on about things that made absolutely no sense either. “Excuse me,” he said none too politely, intent on leaving her there.

“She must be some human, that wife of yours, to inspire such loyalty in you,” Kaala called out to his back, causing Max to freeze mid-step, “Especially when it seems you can’t even dredge it up for your own kind.”

Max spun to face her, suddenly angry with her for the endless confusion she had caused him, for making him feel things he didn’t want to feel. He had never had any contact with a female of his species before other than Isabel and he had to admit that he found his reaction to her disconcerting and frightening. It also made him furious as hell. “Who the hell are you?” he demanded in confused irritation.

Her face abruptly lost all bitterness and she looked up at him with an expression filled with a strange sort of sympathy. He suspected she must know what sort of effect her nearness was having on him, but in that second she appeared almost sorry for it. When she answered him her voice was barely above a whisper, “I’d actually like to be your friend, Max…if you let me.”

Max gaped at her. Her sudden change in attitude had taken him completely off guard, which was, Max suspected snidely, what she probably wanted. “First you insult me and now you’re offering me friendship?” he scoffed, “Exactly what game are you playing?”

“No game at all,” Kaala told him, “If I came off rude earlier…I was just nervous. I didn’t expect to see you again so soon after class. It overwhelmed me. I’m sorry…I’m obnoxious when I’m nervous.”

Her candid admission threw Max through a loop once again. One minute he was angry and only seconds away from storming off and now he was…reconsidering? What exactly? It was true that she was obnoxious, but his intense desire to be away from her had less to do with her acidic attitude and more to do with the discomfort he felt at his unprecedented reaction to her. That unnerved him more than anything she could have said or done. He didn’t like the powerless feeling that had settled over him and it made him even more anxious to beat a hasty retreat.

Max averted his eyes, backing away from her as he said, “Look, no sweat alright. I’ve gotta go now…so…uh…later.” The moment he turned around to run, however, he collided with another body and the impact between them immediately sent her sprawling to the ground. Liz grunted from the contact she made with the floor and pushed herself upright, slanting a smile up at Max as she did. “You really know how to knock a girl off of her feet,” she said laughingly.

Max stooped down instantly to assist a fallen Liz to her feet, absurdly relieved to see her all the while clucking his concern. “God, are you alright? I’m so sorry, Liz,” he apologized as he helped her gather together her books, “You just came from out of nowhere.”

“Apparently,” Liz surmised, flicking him a teasing smile as they stood upright, “Where were you going in such a hurry?”

“I’ve been looking for you actually,” Max replied smoothly, casually linking his arm about her neck and leading her off in the opposite direction, away from Kaala Stafford and her fathomless eyes. The last thing he needed was for the two girls to come face to face, especially when he had yet to figure out just what the hell was going on.

“So where have you been all morning?” he asked her when they had found a seat together on the opposite side of the cafeteria.

“Obviously in every class you’re not,” Liz replied bluntly, “Hey, let me see your schedule…I want to know if this phenomenon is destined to continue.” After he handed her his class schedule Liz retrieved her own from her backpack in order to compare the two. “According to this the only class we share together is fifth period and, ironically, that’s Biology.”

“Wow, seriously?”

Liz handed him back his schedule and stuffed her own into her bookbag. “I’d say things couldn’t possibly get any worse, but can you believe Bayok actually registered us as his niece and nephew? That's just sick."

“Maybe he meant his nephew and his niece by marriage,” Max suggested hopefully, while keeping a keen eye trained across the cafeteria on Kaala Stafford.

“Somehow I doubt that,” Liz replied with a humorless smile, “He probably did it on purpose.”

“I’ll talk to him,” Max reassured her, but honestly he had only half heard her. At that moment he was far too preoccupied with avoiding Kaala Stafford’s penetrating green gaze. And then Max suddenly had the sick sensation that she was going to come over there and oh God, if she approached them… Max did the only thing he could think of. He grabbed hold of Liz and sealed their lips in a desperate kiss.

Amazingly, the moment their lips met it felt as if Max’s world had suddenly righted itself. Whatever crazy mechanism had been going off in his body suddenly shut down, as if it had never existed at all. The peculiar electrical currents fizzled from his body and then resurged again, only this time in response to his beloved Liz. His thoughts were rapidly all consumed with her lips and how warm and soft and familiar they felt beneath his. Wonderful. The only lips he wanted to kiss. When he finally pulled away Liz’s eyes were glassy and dazed from surprise and desire. “Well, that was intense,” she murmured softly, fingering her lips, “Where did it come from?”

“I missed you,” Max told her in solemn honesty, fingering her cheek, “It feels like forever since we last saw each other.”

“It was just this morning, Max,” Liz sighed, but truthfully she knew how he felt. She’d had the same gnawing feeling in her stomach all morning from missing him. “But I’m still glad you missed me,” she whispered into his mouth, “Especially when you miss me like that.” They shared another kiss, infinitely gentle this time. “God, I wish I didn’t have to work tonight…I’d show you just how much I’ve missed you,” Liz whispered when their kiss had died down to tiny nibbles, “Are you going to sit through my shift again like before?” She was actually surprised to find herself hopeful he would.

“Not this time, I think,” Max said, tunneling his fingers through the soft hair at her temples, “I’ve got to talk something over with Bayok after school. But I promise to come and see you right after, okay.”

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

After dropping Liz off at the Chuckwagon Max wasted no time speeding back to Bayok’s farm. He didn’t know why it surprised him that upon entering the house he found Nesui sitting alone in the living room as if she had been awaiting his arrival. She calmly announced that Bayok was anticipating his presence in the study. It was quite unnerving to have people know what you wanted before you even voiced it. And considering Max’s already heightened anxiety the knowledge served to fray his nerves even more.

When Max burst into Bayok’s study a few minutes later Max found him seated behind his desk, apparently filling out some paperwork. He was dressed in overalls and a long-sleeved, plaid shirt, his long, dark hair pulled back into a ponytail and secured at his nape. It was the most normal he’d looked since Max met him. He stopped short, left speechless because he had never seen Bayok dressed in anything other than his ceremonial robes.

Without ever pausing in his writing, Bayok said in answer to his thoughts, “We have been celebrating a festival these three days to commemorate Zrei’s return to us. It has been the reason for my and Nesui’s odd dress.” He looked up at Max then, setting aside his work. “That time has ended now.”

Max nodded in understanding and sank down into the chair directly in front of Bayok’s desk. At present, he was too flustered to even be mildly annoyed that Bayok had read his thoughts. “I don’t want to bother you if you’re busy--,” he began haltingly.

Bayok shook his head, his gaze steady when he said, “You are never a bother to me, Maxwell. What is exactly is troubling you?” But he already knew. He had been anticipating this moment long before Max had even seen it coming.

Ignorant to the devious plot Bayok was launching, Max rushed to the heart of his problem. “I met a girl today,” Max confided in a whisper, leaning closely over Bayok’s desk, “A girl like me…her name is Kaala Stafford.” Bayok nodded for him to continue, and Max suddenly had the dreaded thought that Bayok was already well aware of what had taken place with him at school. “Who is she to me?” he asked urgently, “Why do I feel as if I should know her or that she knows me?”

“Because she does know you…” Bayok provided implacably, “The girl you know as Kaala Stafford was once your intended bride.”



posted on 24-Oct-2002 11:50:34 PM by Deejonaise
Okay, I'm sensing the worry here and I thought I'd give some reassurances. First, Max will not sleep with anyone other than Liz in this fic. I may make it seem different at times, but trust me it's not gonna happen. Second, Kaala is not a Tess repeat. What I'm doing with her character is what I thought TPTB should have done with Tess's character. In the end I think you'll love her more than you hate her. Third, nothing in Chapter 8 is what it seems so DO NOT take it at face value. My Max will NOT be a repeat of Season 2/3 Max. My Max has actually got a spine, although he may be a little dense at times...

And Sansu you will definitely get your nookie, although not for another 3 or 4 chapters so hang on. It will be worth the wait, I promise.

So everyone just breathe easy and relax. I promise you that there won't be a Max/Kaala hook up at all.*big* I just wanted to put your minds at ease on that score.

Once again, thanks for all the feedback! It sure makes me feel good.

Dee
posted on 25-Oct-2002 7:17:19 PM by Deejonaise
Lillie you crack me up! Nobody dies...at least not for a few parts...duh, duh, DUHHHHHHH!

Sorry, I'm just in a silly mood tonight.
posted on 26-Oct-2002 12:13:10 AM by Deejonaise
Chapter 9

Had seraphs suddenly sprouted from Bayok’s ass and taken flight around the room, Max wouldn’t have blinked an eye. Life no longer held any surprises for him after the statement Bayok had just made. Max sat there, rooted in his seat, staring at his benefactor as if he’d just spoken another language. For those first few seconds he had been almost certain he had for all the sense Bayok’s words had made to him. His intended bride? Why, Max wondered, why? He had thought that by now he would be used to surprises, but as usual this new revelation concerning his alien heritage left him speechless.

He had prepared himself for many things, a myriad of explanations as to why he would feel such an inexplicable draw towards a girl he’d never met. Perhaps it was the natural reaction to meeting one of his kind. Or maybe it served as a sort of identification in order to make others aware of your presence. Anything, but what he’d just been told.

But then, when the words finally penetrated his befuddled skull, Max briefly shook his head and blinked his eyes in a reflexive action. “I’m sorry,” he said somewhat vaguely, “b-but what did you just say to me?” Maybe he hadn’t heard him right, maybe he just thought that Bayok had referred to Kaala Stafford as his intended bride. He hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before so hallucinations were highly possible. But then again…weren’t hallucinations visual?

“I believe you heard me the first time, Maxwell,” Bayok stated mildly, “Kaala Stafford, as you know her, is your intended Antarian bride. Had you not crashed in Roswell, New Mexico you would have been raised here in this colony and would have been bonded with Kaala in the summer of your eighteenth year.”

Max crumpled back in his chair, his breath leaking from his lungs in a disjointed wheeze. “That is just…impossible.”

“No, young Maxwell, it is not,” Bayok told him, “You were promised to Kaala even before your pods were formed, though your pods were made around the same time.” Max stared at him in questioning confusion. “Leinoc sought to form an alliance between his household and the house of Trsa-Ja, Kaala’s ancestral family. The union was planned long before our planet’s fate was widely known.”

“No, that can’t be true,” Max protested, shaking his head a little wildly, “Zrei never said anything about my being engaged…he never mentioned any of this to me.”

“What would have been the point,” Bayok countered logically, “You had already bonded yourself to the hum…er…Elizabeth by the time he had found you…the knowledge would have served you no purpose.”

“No purpose?” Max scoffed bitterly, jerking angrily in his seat, “I think I deserved to know about this, to know I had a fiancée floating out there somewhere. God!”

“Why?” Bayok demanded coolly, “Would you have then broken your bond with Elizabeth and honored your betrothal with the house of Trsa-Ja?” Max dropped his eyes in surreptitious guilt. “I had not thought so.”

“But I don’t understand,” Max mumbled, “If the betrothal alliance is null and void because of my marriage to Liz then why am I…why do I…” He trailed off, unable to find a delicate way of stating his abnormal attraction for Kaala Stafford.

“You find yourself attracted to her?” Bayok surmised.

“Essentially,” Max muttered in miserable shame and then he lifted his head and added stubbornly, forcibly, “But that’s only because I can’t control whatever weird thing is happening in my body right now. I don’t want her in here,” he continued, tapping his finger against his temple, “and definitely not in here,” he said, splaying his hand against his heart, “So what I can’t understand is why I feel anything for her at all when I’m completely in love with Liz. It’s not like I remember her or anything.”

“Because it is how you were designed,” Bayok prevaricated on impulse, “Kaala was engineered with the human equivalency of pheromones and you were engineered to respond to them. But it is only during Kaala’s fertile time that these pheromones would be exuded. The attraction between you is both deliberate and planned.” Bayok silently commended himself for coming up with such a plausible justification.

“Deliberate and planned?” Max repeated blankly, “Why the hell would they do that?”

“To ensure the conception of the next generation,” Bayok replied, unblinking.

Max was quickly learning that Antarians were nothing if not efficient. His family head had obviously thought of everything right down to whom he would marry and when they would bear children. Efficient and controlling. Max couldn’t help the tendrils of resentment he felt in response. But then, as he sat there lamenting his situation, something else occurred to him. Michael and Isabel. Had their marriage mates been picked out in advance for them as well?

“No,” Bayok said quietly in answer to his thought, “Arrangements were made only for your marriage. You were the one formed with the DNA of Leinoc’s firstborn son. It is through you that the family legacy is passed.” Bayok told Max this fact deliberately; knowing that if he did the boy would be less likely to run to Zrei for confirmation. Besides Max was truly betrothed to Kaala, just as he was truly the genetic replication of Leinoc’s son, Zan. The attraction he felt for Kaala, however, that was purely Bayok’s own fabrication. Regrettably, Max knew none of this.

When Bayok finished speaking Max’s one resounding thought revolved around Liz. What would she think of all this? He couldn’t possibly tell her. What would he say? Max could barely process all that was happening. It seemed the revelations were coming at him too fast and too hard. He felt devastated, uncertain, but, most of all, frightened. What would be expected of him now, he wondered. He stared up at Bayok with vacant eyes. “You said that Kaala only exudes these…these pheromones during her fertile time…how long does that last?” Max asked, but what he was really saying was: “Exactly how long will I feel this unnatural attraction for this girl I don’t know?”

Bayok’s expression became even more inscrutable, if that was possible. “A month…sometimes less…sometimes more…”

Fan-friggin-tastic, Max thought sarcastically, I can look forward to the next month or more avoiding this chick while trying to keep my wife in the dark about this entire thing. But even as Max had the cynical thought he knew he would never go through with it. Not the part about avoiding Kaala because that he intended to do fully. However, he couldn’t lie to Liz. He wouldn’t. They were married now…that meant no secrets between them. No matter the consequences Max wouldn’t keep this newest information from her. She deserved complete honesty from him, she had earned as much.

Max buried his face in his hands, agonizing over just how the hell he was going to tell her.

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

“So, whasa madda wid u?”

Liz stood in the entrance of the bathroom, fresh from her shower and wrapped in only a thick yellow towel, her toothbrush suspended from one hand and her other propped against her hip. From the bed, Max lifted his distracted gaze to her questioning one. Any other time he might have smiled at the adorable picture she made, her wet hair wound up in a towel, her mouth full of toothpaste foam. But tonight he was much too agitated over the news he had to break to give her appearance much notice. “Huh?” he asked her blankly.

Holding up one finger, Liz disappeared into the bathroom to rinse out her mouth and then sauntered back out, heading over to the nightstand for lotion. “You’re acting strange, Max,” she told him as she nonchalantly dropped her towel to the floor and began smoothing lotion over her naked body. “You’ve been acting weird ever since you picked me up from work tonight. What’s going on?”

Max had never in his life been more disconcerted than he was at that second. After grilling Bayok to the point of annoyance Max had gone off in search of Zrei. He had found him a short time later in the barn, apparently deep in meditation. Under different circumstances Max might have felt guilty for interrupting such a private moment, but at the time he was too furious to care.

“Just why the hell didn’t you tell me the truth from the beginning!” Max had blazed, his were fists clenched tightly at his sides as he began furiously pacing the length of the barn. “You gave me no warning…nothing!”

Zrei had seemed unaffected by his anger. He had merely unfolded his legs and moved gracefully to his feet, staring at Max with solemn eyes. “I did not see how the truth would benefit you,” Zrei replied indifferently, “You had already bonded yourself with Elizabeth…that could not be changed.”

“I still needed to know the truth!” Max cried, “God, I brought Liz here, Zrei! Do you have any idea how she is going to feel once she finds out? You should have at least prepared us for this.”

Zrei continued to stare at him guiltlessly. “Would you have agreed to come with me had I told you the truth?”

“I wouldn’t have agreed to come here,” Max answered truthfully, “But I would have gone to another colony with you.”

“But this is where you belong…where you were meant to be from the start. It is proper that your child be born here, raised here.”

Max shook his head, realizing the futility of trying to make Zrei understand what sort of damage his withholding information had done. He hung his head, his anger suddenly draining out of him. “We can’t possibly stay,” Max informed him miserably, “The situation is intolerable. I can’t put Liz through the discomfort and embarrassment.”

“Elizabeth is strong,” Zrei replied, “She will survive. As will you.” And then Zrei did something that he had never done in all the time Max had known him. He placed a comforting hand on Max’s shoulder. “You will solve nothing by running away, Maxwell. Remember that.”

By the time he had gone to pick Liz up from work Max was a bundle of nerves. She had chattered the entire way home, hardly seeming to notice his pale face and shaken demeanor. It was only when they had finally made it back to the farmhouse that Liz began looking at him strangely. She hadn’t pressed him to talk to her or even tried to make a mental connection with him to find out what was bothering him. Liz wanted him to approach her with his problem on his own. But finding he was no more inclined to talk than he had been prior to her shower, Liz’s patience came to an end and she broached the subject he seemed so intent on avoiding.

“Did you and Bayok have a disagreement?” she asked now as she sat down on the bed beside him and massaged lotion into her elbows.

Max looked away, feeling peculiarly uncomfortable in her naked presence all of a sudden. “We didn’t have a fight,” he replied vaguely, chewing at his thumbnail.

Liz set aside her lotion and swiveled around to face him, folding her legs beneath her. “Then if it’s not Bayok what is it? You’ve barely said two words to me all night. Max, look at me,” she beseeched, framing his face and bringing his gaze around to hers, “What’s going on with you?”

He averted his gaze, unable to look her in the eye. “Can you put some clothes on first?” he implored her, “I can’t tell you while you’re just sitting here naked.”

That was Liz’s first indication that whatever he had to tell her could not be good. The last couple of days Max had wanted her naked as much as possible, and now he was implying that her nudity made him uncomfortable. She found the sudden change strange and panic inducing. Liz felt her stomach turn in trepidation. She briefly considered tapping into his thoughts to find out exactly what was going on because the anxiety of not knowing was causing her heart to pound crazily, but she decided against it. Liz didn’t want to resort to reading Max’s mind, especially when he seemed perfectly willing to tell her the truth anyway.

So, she nodded in agreement to his request and quickly donned the classic Winnie the Pooh pajamas she’d bought the previous day. When she was dressed she climbed back into bed before him, folding her legs beneath her once more. “So tell me what’s going on, Max,” she ordered him gravely.

Max took Liz’s hand and sandwiched it between his own, his honey brown eyes boring into her face intensely. “Liz, I need you to know that…no matter what I tell you tonight…it’s you I love…it’s you I’ll always love.”

Liz swallowed back her groan of anxiety, preparing herself for the worst possible news. It had to be bad, otherwise why would Max feel the need to qualify it with a declaration of love? Liz felt her palms grow damp. She reached forward to caress Max’s face with her free hand, her fingers lingering at his lips before falling away. “Just tell me, Max,” she urged him lovingly, anxiously.

Taking a deep breath, Max closed his eyes and plunged in. “Tonight Bayok told me some things about my past, Liz…some disturbing things.”

The prickles of apprehension intensified down her spine. “What kind of things,” Liz asked carefully.

“On Antar I came from a family called the Trsa-Bal,” Max began haltingly, “They were a very influential family. Much of my family held seats on the Antarian Council, including the Bal family patriarch Leinoc.” Liz watched him in rapt concentration. Max paused to take a deep breath before continuing, “Leinoc was always looking for ways to strengthen his family’s political ties in the Antarian Council. He decided to do this by forming an alliance with another influential family on Antar, the Trsa-Ja...”

“And so?” Liz encouraged gently when he trailed off into silence, “What then?”

“Leinoc arranged for a marriage to take place between his son and the daughter of a Jnuian named Kwinec, the Ja family patriarch in order to unite the two families. This arrangement was made long before it was widely known that the planet would be destroyed.”

“His son?” Liz echoed hoarsely. The ball of dread in her stomach was slowly making its insidious ascent to her chest.

“Yes, his son…me,” Max confirmed miserably, “I was formed with the DNA of Leinoc’s firstborn son Zan.”

Liz slowly pulled free her hand, her breath coming in short, little gasps. She tried to laugh off her discomfiture but she couldn’t quite manage it. “What are you trying to say? That…that you have an Antarian fiancée out there somewhere, Max?”

Max tried not to be hurt by her obvious withdrawal or the angry resentment beginning to bank in her eyes. He had partially expected such a reaction from her, but he still wanted to cringe when presented with the disgusted look on her face. Mentally, bracing himself for the worst that was yet to come, Max stammered out in correction of her assumption, “No, Liz, not somewhere. Here…in the colony. In our new school…actually.”

Liz felt an odd sort of numbness settle over her body and she regarded Max with eyes that were both devoid of surprise and dulled with pain. “I assume that means you’ve met her already then?” she stated flatly, her throat working spasmodically against her tears. She couldn’t help the wave of jealousy that surged forward in her chest at the thought. But then she was justified. It wasn’t everyday that you learned your husband was engaged to another woman.

Max hung his head in miserable shame and the confused, insecure expression on Liz’s face was making him feel infinitely lower. “Yes,” he admitted in a mumble.

Max didn’t want to hurt her, would have done anything to keep from doing so. Anything, except lie to her. He couldn’t do it. Not when the chance was great that she would eventually run into Kaala Stafford herself. Not when all these weird things were going on with his body, threatening to make themselves manifest. No, Liz needed to know the truth. It was the only way that they would be able to move past this newest obstacle that blocked their pathway to happiness.

He tried to touch Liz’s hand but she jerked it away from him reflexively. Max blinked back the tears that threatened at her rejection. “She doesn’t mean anything to me, Liz,” he moaned plaintively, “I didn’t even know about her before today.”

“But you’ve seen her already, Max,” Liz spat, unfairly angry with him, “Spoken to her.”

“Only by coincidence,” Max burst out, “We have a class together and...”

Max wanted to bite his tongue. The moment the revelation left his lips Max wanted to call it back and that was before Liz’s face drained completely of color. The fact that he had seen her once was one thing, but to know that he shared a class with her and would see her every day…that was unbearable.

Liz’s mouth worked for several moments, endeavoring to push forth sound with no results. Finally, she cleared her throat and asked with tremulous hope, “You…you just have the one class, though, right?”

Guilty amber eyes skittered away. “6th and 7th period as well,” Max admitted despondently.

Liz nodded mutely, lifting her hand to her mouth in an attempt to stifle the anxious sobs that threatened to erupt. “What’s her name? What does…what does she look like?” she asked shakily. Liz didn’t know why it was important to her, but she needed to know. She needed to know everything she could about this woman who potentially threatened her marriage. And she was a threat. Liz had only to look upon the shame stamped all over Max’s face to know it.

Despite his assurances that he’d felt nothing for the girl, Liz knew better. He was no good at hiding his thoughts from her, though that didn’t keep him from trying. But the attempt he made was a futile one, especially when he was upset. She could read his mind quite easily then and didn’t hesitate to do so as she’d done earlier. The reality was almost too much for her to bear. Armed with the truth about his feelings, Liz cried out forcefully, “Dammit, answer me! What’s her name, Max? Surely you know it by now!”

“Her name is Kaala,” Max replied thickly, “Kaala Stafford. She’s about your height and build with dark brown hair that’s sorta curly and green eyes.”

Liz gasped sharply, strangely hurt that he’d paid such close attention. “Oh my God…that’s the girl,” she breathed, her brown eyes rounding with realization, “That’s the girl I saw you talking to at lunch today. You knew something was strange then and you didn’t say a word, Max! That’s why you kissed me all of a sudden. You…you tried to keep me from seeing her on purpose!”

“I didn’t know who she was--,” Max protested.

“But you knew how she made you feel,” Liz spat in accusation, “Don’t deny it! It’s all over your face, Max!”

“It’s not something I can control, Liz!”

“Oh, you can never control anything can you, Max?” Liz bit out sarcastically, “So why should this be any different?”

“That’s not fair! It’s not like I planned for things to happen this way.”

Liz glared at him in angry pain, impervious to the tears gathering in his eyes. “You know what’s not fair, Max?” she asked him rhetorically, “That being with you is never simple! Never. I can’t just love you without having to expect some major fallout in return! And, dammit, I’ve had it. I’m sick to death with all of it!”

“You sound sorry you married me, Liz,” Max choked out quietly.

But Liz was too far gone with anger, fear and insecurity to allow herself to feel anything for him, to keep herself from inflicting further pain. She looked him squarely in the eye and said, “Well, right now, Max…I think I am.”

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

“And you’re positive these will increase his attraction to me?” Kaala Stafford confirmed, closing her hand around the silver colored pills in her palm. “What makes you so sure that this alone will work? You said yourself that he is completely devoted to her, that telling him that we were destined mates didn’t change his feelings for her at all.”

Bayok smiled as he stepped from the shadowy place behind his barn, his face illuminated only by the pale moonlight. Though smiling was something the Jnui rarely did, Bayok was much too satisfied with himself to refrain. “My dear, sweet Kaala,” he said in flawless Jenga, his native tongue, “it has changed much more than you realize. The seeds of doubt have already been planted in them both. It will only be a matter of time before we both get what we want.” His smile widened deviously as he reached forward to play at an errant curl draped across her shoulder. “Trust me.”


Please let me know what you think of this part.

posted on 27-Oct-2002 3:01:16 PM by Deejonaise
quote:
Old Enough originally wrote:
Honestly, I'm not buying into Max's motivations here. I know you've said that he wants to belong. We all do. But I don't see him as being as being as weak as he would have to be in order not be highly alarmed and well, basically, out of there by now.

Old Enough


Okay, let's keep in mind that it's only been three days so far. I'm not going to keep Max clueless, but come on, he's just met people who are like him, a lot of them, when all his life he'd only known about two others before. Above all else, he's a sixteen year old boy full of insecurities, not a grown man. I'm not saying that makes him stupid, but he might not be able to spot the obvious as quickly as he would of had he been older. Of course, being young and impressionable, he's curious and maybe a little desperate for these people to be everything he expects. He wants to trusts them and ALL of us can delude ourselves, no matter what age we are, when we want something bad enough.

When I wrote these parts I kept thinking about what it would be like for a child who's been adopted to one day come to know his biological family. I don't think that child would just write off the family just because they had ideas he didn't agree with. He'd probably stick around, at least for a little while, trying to make a relationship with them work. And that's just what Max is doing here. He's trying to make it work. And while he's been given every indication that the Antarians are extremely weird and even summarily prejudiced, he's been given NO reason to believe they're dangerous at this point.

However, I can promise you that once those suspicions start to arise Max will be out of there. Don't let the prologue fool you...nothing in this story is what it seems. NOTHING.

I just would hate for you to make assumptions about Max and his motivations so early in the story when I haven't even painted the entire picture yet.

Dee
posted on 28-Oct-2002 4:47:05 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 10

Crap didn’t even begin to describe how she felt.

Still half asleep, Liz stumbled for the bathroom only to collide with a fully dressed Max as he exited. She jerked a surprised look up at him, not expecting to find him showered and dressed for school already. Though he looked refreshed at first glance, the longer Liz stared at him the more apparent it became that Max had spent just as restless a night as she had.

Underneath his eyes the delicate skin was a smudged purple color, slightly puffy from crying. His face was haggard and colorless. Judging by his appearance alone it was apparent that Max was bone tired, emotionally and physically exhausted.

Following their fight Liz had stalked into the bathroom and sealed herself inside with the use of her strengthening powers. She had spent the majority of her time in there fuming. However, later when she emerged from the bathroom, she had managed to put the situation into perspective and found that she wasn’t angry anymore. Max hadn’t known about this mystery fiancée any more than she had. She had become caught up in the stirrings of jealousy and had seriously overreacted. She realized that Max had to be feeling as if he’d been blindsided, as well as shocked and vulnerable. She should have never reacted the way she had, she should have known better. Max loved her; no number of arranged marriages was ever going to change that, but in her uncertainty she had momentarily forgotten that fact.

When she had crept from the bathroom almost an hour later she found him curled up on the bed, crying softly into his forearm. However, the moment the brilliant flash from her powers illuminated the room he swiped furiously at his cheeks and turned on his side so that his back was to her. Liz had swallowed past the knot of painful apprehension in her throat and had approached him anyway, placing a tentative hand against his shoulder. He stiffened under her touch. “Max, I was hoping we could talk,” Liz began achingly.

“Nothing to say,” Max mumbled into his pillow, his words raw with pain.

“Max, please,” Liz implored, “please don’t be this way. I’m so sorry for what I said to you.”

“Don’t!” he ordered sharply, brusquely shaking off her hand, “Don’t say you’re sorry…you just said how you felt, right?”

Liz sighed. She could see that insisting on a conversation then would accomplish nothing. He was hurting too much and, truthfully, so was she. It would be better to talk in the morning, Liz had thought as she climbed into bed, when they both had clearer heads.

However, when she woke the next morning it was to find that Max was already gone. For a moment she was disoriented, because lately she and Max had taken to waking one another up with kisses and gentle caresses. Frowning slightly, she ran her hand over his empty pillow in confusion. And then she remembered. They’d had a fight. No wonder she’d awakened feeling like the contents of a septic tank. And now he had left without even giving them the chance to talk. Liz was still mourning her missed opportunity to set things straight with Max when she collided with him coming from the bathroom.

“You’re dressed already,” she croaked because it was the only thing she could think of in that second.

“I went to help Bayok in the field earlier this morning. I’ve been up with him for a while now,” he explained emotionlessly, “We hung out together for a bit.” Liz frowned at his phrasing. For the life of her she could hardly imagine Bayok “hanging out” with anyone. But before she could comment, Max had saddled around her and bent to retrieve his backpack from the floor. He began packing the bag with his Trapper Keeper and various homework assignments, attending to the task as if it were the most important job of his life.

“Oh yeah,” Liz said, watching his mechanical movements with an aching heart. God, he was in so much pain, every move he made screamed it. “What did you do…with Bayok all morning?”

He shrugged into his jacket and slung his pack across his shoulder. “Worked mostly. He’s teaching me Tysh and Jenga,” he replied and when she looked confused he added for clarification, “They’re the Antarian languages, his and mine.”

“Oh,” was all Liz could say in reply. Max shrugged and headed for the door. He hadn’t bothered to seal it closed as he had been doing the last couple days. After last night he hadn’t seen the need to do so anymore. It was hardly likely that he and Liz would have a need for privacy any time soon.

“Wait!” Liz cried out in anxious surprise when he would have left, “Are you leaving already? What about me? Don’t you want to ride to school together?”

He flicked her a brief glance but seemed unable to meet her gaze directly. He avoided the answers to her question about wanting to ride together just as effectively. “Zrei is giving me a ride to school this morning. You can take the jeep since you have to work tonight.”

Liz blinked back the tears rapidly forming in her eyes. “You’re gonna leave without me?” she squeaked painfully.

Max seemed to be having his own battle with tears at that moment. “Yeah,” he confirmed thickly, “I’ve got some stuff to take care of at school so…um…I’m just gonna…” He started for the door again, seeming somewhat desperate to leave.

“Max, please wait!” Liz called after him pitifully, “What about last night…don’t you even want to talk about it?”

He kept his back slightly turn to her when he answered. “There’s nothing to talk about, Liz.”

“Yes, there is,” she insisted, going to him. She wrapped her arms about his waist, laying her cheek against his heart. Liz held him tightly, even when he made no move to embrace her in return. “Max, what I said about being sorry I married you, that—,”

“Was true,” Max finished for her, jerking her arms from around him and stepping away. He stared down at her with amber eyes made vacant with pain. “You might have been angry when you said it, but that doesn’t change the fact that you meant every word.”

“No, Max…no I didn’t.”

“Stop lying to me!” Max snapped so fiercely that Liz jumped at the intensity of his words. And then he began shaking, his body trembling with the silent sobs he fought to hold back. He swiped his forearm against the tears falling on his cheeks. “Just stop lying, Liz,” he whispered hoarsely, “especially to yourself.”

As Liz watched him leave she thought the pain might actually swallow her whole. God, why had she said those hateful things to him, she bemoaned to his retreating back. Why? Why? She wasn’t sorry she’d married him. She’d never be sorry, no matter what alien hell she had to endure. Last night her angry words hadn’t been about him at all, but her own insecurities really.

She gazed out blankly into the living room as Max and Zrei left for the morning. Bayok came up behind them, apparently wishing them a good day. He spoke briefly with Max and Zrei before telling them good-bye and closing the door behind them. When Bayok turned around his and Liz’s eyes locked in a telling stare. Liz could have sworn she glimpsed a gleam of satisfaction in his eyes right before he turned away and disappeared from her sight. Bastard, she thought with a flash of angry hatred, using her powers to definitively seal the doorway shut.

Once she’d established some semblance of privacy Liz drifted over to the bed and sank down on it. But she couldn’t cry. What would be the point in feeling sorry for herself? She had well known the damage she’d inflict when she told Max she was sorry she married him. She had done it deliberately. At the time she hadn’t been thinking about anything beyond hurting him the way she hurt. And she had. Now she was terrified that she would never be able to take the words back.

Liz didn’t understand her feelings. Logically, she knew she should be secure in Max’s love for her. After all, he had married her and she was expecting his child. Liz’s hand drifted low to her abdomen, caressing the still flat surface. It was true that the conception hadn’t been under ideal circumstances but the love that they had for one another had never been in question. Max had given her his name, his child, his devotion, what other affirmation did she need that he loved her and only her? But even as Liz asked herself those questions she couldn’t forget the beautiful dark-haired girl she had glimpsed for those scant seconds at lunch the day before.

She had briefly seen her and Max talking, but before Liz could approach them Max had already turned away and then they’d collided. Afterwards, he had made no mention of the girl or what she’d said to him and Liz dismissed the incident from her mind. She didn’t have any cause for worry until his confession last night because, whatever that girl had said to him, whatever emotions she had evoked, had compelled Max to keep his conversation with her to himself. Guilt had been apparent on his face the entire time he spoke to Liz.

That’s when Liz had begun to feel her first stirrings of jealousy. They had started off fleeting and faint when he first began, but by the time he was finished the feelings were blazing in her chest. How had he expected her to react though? She had just discovered that her husband was intended to marry another woman, a beautiful one at that, a woman he was obviously attracted to, a woman he would see everyday for the remainder of the school year. Liz had felt beyond threatened, beyond frightened and, as a result, she had voiced the first thoughtless words that sprang to her mind.

God, what a mess she’d made. This is a consequence of decisions you’ve made, Liz. Her mother’s voice reverberated in Liz’s head ominously. Nancy Parker had been right about everything. She had been behaving rather recklessly of late. The reality was actually ironic. Liz had often thought of herself as careful, extremely methodical when it came to her life decisions but then she’d fallen deep in love with Max Evans and her life had spun quickly, wonderfully, magically out of control. She had never been sorry. But sometimes it got so hard loving Max, being married to him.

And now Liz could admit that she hadn’t thought her marriage to Max completely through. She had been so caught up in the romance and adventure and, yes, the newness of their sexual relationship to think about anything else. But that hazy colored euphoria was slowly fading, leaving Liz to face some harsh realities.

She had married a man that was not human. There it was. The fact was hard, cold, and inescapable. Having made that choice she had also exposed herself to certain risks. For example, being kidnapped by the FBI, possibly destroying the relationship she had with her parents, alien pregnancies, isolation, and the like. Liz had adjusted to all those consequences rather well she thought, but then she hadn’t counted on mysterious alien fiancées popping up out of the blue either.

Why did she have to be so friggin beautiful, Liz wailed inwardly, pitching herself back against the bed. Why was it that even when Max spoke about her his eyes took on this far off look, as if he’d just mentally left the room? No, Liz could deal with anything else, but not that, not another woman. And not just any woman…a woman who was like him.

Liz rolled over onto her stomach, moodily contemplating the nightstand beside her where her notebook and pen lay. She wished she could talk to someone about the turmoil that was rolling around inside her. Briefly, she considered ringing Maria but Liz couldn’t take the chance that the FBI was still watching her friends in Roswell. Besides, knowing Maria, she’d never be satisfied until Liz had divulged her location and promised to return home immediately. Yet, even realizing she couldn’t call Maria, Liz still felt a yearning to talk to someone.

On a whim she grabbed up her notebook and ink pen and reclined back against her pillows and began penning a long overdue letter to her parents.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I know it’s been a couple of days since you’ve heard from me. I’ve actually been meaning to write this letter to you for some time now, but well…life interrupted. I guess I should start by telling you that I’m safe. I’m also married. But I suppose you both already know that. I saw you in Vegas that day. You’ll never know how much it broke my heart to leave you guys there, especially when I could see how worrying about me was killing you. But I did it for Max. I’ve done a lot of things for him lately.

Don’t get me wrong…I love him, so much sometimes that I can hardly stand the intensity, but I didn’t know it would be this hard. I mean, I’m a smart girl, I know logically that a marriage cannot survive on love alone, but I’d somehow thought that it would at least make things smoother. I looked at the two of you and I thought, “Hey, I can do this. I can be a wife.” But recently I’ve found myself wondering if I really can.

I don’t know if I’m wife material or even what that really is. Does it mean standing by and supporting my husband in his decisions even when I think he’s wrong? I’ve done that. Does it mean being patient and understanding when pieces of his past come back to knock me on my rear? I’ve tried doing that, too. But I still feel like I’m doing something wrong. We haven’t been married even a full week and already I feel as if Max and I are drifting apart.

Listen to how selfish I sound. This is probably the last thing you want to hear from me right now, whining about my problems when I’ve probably driven you out of your minds with grief. I didn’t want to do that Mom and Dad, honest I didn’t. If I’d had the choice I would have stayed…I would have told you the truth. But I didn’t have that option and, before you start laying the blame at his feet, neither did Max. There’s still so much that you don’t know…so much I wish I could tell you. Maybe someday…

But right now life is just so crazy. I feel so turned around and confused, but I guess I wanted you to know that I was safe and that I missed you. I wanted you to know that I was sorry and that, despite how it may seem, I do care, I do love you. I’m just coming to realize that being an adult is a lot harder than I ever expected and I sometimes find myself wishing that I could go back to those days when I was just your little girl and nothing else.

Please don’t worry about me. Max will take good care of me. He always does. I’ll try and write to you again soon.

Liz


Liz stared at the one page letter for a long time before finally folding it and stuffing it into an envelope addressed to her parents. It was strange, but just writing that letter had somehow eased the burden she’d been carrying for the last few days. She turned the envelope over in her hands, considering filling in the return address but then deciding against it. Afterwards Liz took a quick shower and dressed for school. She stopped in the kitchen briefly to pop a bagel in the toaster for breakfast before bundling it up in a paper towel and then heading out the door. The last thing she did before climbing into the jeep was to place the letter to her parents in the mailbox.

Liz was already halfway down the street when Bayok came outside right after her and removed the envelope, using his powers to disintegrate it into ash.

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

The guidance office was packed full of students trying to change their class schedules. Max groaned inwardly. The last thing he wanted or needed after his emotional confrontation with Liz that morning was to be surrounded by a sea of strange people. If he weren’t so anxious to change his schedule he might have left right then. But in the interest of reducing further angst in his life Max opted to stay, sinking down onto one of the crowded benches with a disgusted sigh.

His head was throbbing. He had barely had any sleep the previous evening. All night he had replayed Liz’s words over and over in his head.

“You sound sorry you married me.”

“Well, right now, Max…I think I am.”


Max cringed in remembrance of the sarcastic way she’d bitten the words out and the awful pain that had constricted his chest when she had. She was sorry she married him. To hear her admit it aloud made Max feel as if he were being sawn in two. He had felt sick, agonized, so pathetically close to begging her to change her mind he’d felt desperate and ashamed. But when she had locked herself in the bathroom he hadn’t bothered to go after her. He knew then that she didn’t want him and the realization had left him sobbing like a baby.

By the time she came out an hour later, Max had felt emasculated, shamed and utterly miserable. The searing agony that her words had caused him had finally died down to a dull ache. When she had asked to talk Max’s heart had screamed with elation and he had almost accepted her offer, but, in the end, he proudly forced himself to turn away. He knew better. He knew Liz. She would try and convince him that she hadn’t meant the things she’d said and Max would let himself believe because he loved her so much. However, Max knew that would be a lie. All Liz had done was voice aloud feelings that she’d obviously been suppressing for days now.

But in acknowledging to himself that Liz had spoken her true feelings Max had opened up the floodgates of anger as well. He had never made any secret of who he was to her. Hell, he had spent the beginning of their relationship pushing her away because he knew just how complicated her life would become if they got involved. But Liz had wanted to move forward; she had wanted him, despite his warnings and pleas. She had told him that she could handle the consequences, but obviously that hadn’t been true.

Now they were stuck…married and with a baby on the way. God, the baby! She might have never even gotten pregnant if she’d have stayed away from him like he asked. Liz hadn’t listened, however, and now they were in a mess. She had pledged herself to him as his wife until death parted them and it was a promise she seemed to want to take back now. Max felt destroyed to know that, gutted emotionally.

He didn’t see any other recourse but to give her space, to step back from Liz and let her decide if she truly wanted him. Honestly, he needed time for himself as well. Max didn’t have the energy to go through the motions of convincing her that they belonged together. He wouldn’t sit there listing the merits of being with him to her. At the moment, he wasn’t entirely sure there were any in the first place. He was an alien. His life was chaos. She had but two choices: like it or lump it.

But, oh God, he prayed for the former. Max loved Liz and he loved their baby and he would spend the rest of his life trying to make her happy if only she’d let him. If that’s what she wanted. All she had to do was tell him so and he’d move heaven and earth for her.

Max didn’t count her attempt that morning. Liz had reacted in some knee jerk response to heal the rift between them without ever taking the time to examine her true feelings or why she’d felt compelled to say what she did in the first place. But this wasn’t something that could be brushed over with apologies and kisses. They both needed to take some time and consider the expectations they had for their marriage and each other.

Liz needed time to do that and Max would give it to her, no matter how much it hurt. Max’s jaw clenched in determination with the thought as well as resolution to withstand the pain he knew it would cause. After all, what else could he do?

If he simply let the incident go he would always wonder. He would never be completely sure of Liz’s happiness or her desire to stay with him. Max didn’t think he could spend the remainder of his marriage waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. Liz had to decide now, with no influence from him, if she wanted him or if the complications and risks involved with loving him were simply not worth it. He hoped to God, however, that she thought they were.

“We’ve got to stop bumping into one another like this.”

Max jerked up his head, suddenly startled out of his morbid reverie by the laughing voice above him. However, the moment he lifted his head he regretted doing so because he suddenly found himself staring into the frank green gaze of Kaala Stafford.

posted on 29-Oct-2002 11:05:58 AM by Deejonaise
mpls muse I'm sorry you dislike Kaala, but I'm hoping I'll be able to change your opinion in the coming chapters. She's not all bad. Trust me.*wink*

starlady Tell me how you really feel, LOL! I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but it looks like Max won't be snapping out of his "idiot" mode anytime soon. He will briefly pull himself out of the abyss of stupidity only to fall right back in again.

roswelluver Eeek! I've driven you to thoughts of homicide, lol!

MamaDee52 You crack me up! Obviously, you and roswelluver should form a collaboration and come up with the best way to off Bayok.

(Side note to all: Bayok hasn't yet reached the zenith of his evil...he will get worse and someone will have to die before Max finally wises up to him.) That's it...that's the only clue I'm giving.

Kate Okay, I take back what I said about giving one clue. How about one more? You will get plenty of make-up nookie in Chapters 12 and 13, lol.*wink* Two chapters full of nookie goody goodness. But be forewarned, this angst you have seen is just a precurser to a larger angst I have planned and it's a DOOZY!!!

BLS40 After Chapter 11 I promise happier times...albeit briefly, but happier times, lol.

frenchkiss70 and Wayliz You both have my solemn promise that I will fix this. It might not happen for some chapters to come but I promise you I will. In the meantime, I've got a few more things I need to break before I can start. Hang in there with me... To quote the title of my most favorite fic, I'll Never Let You Down.

Dee

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 29-Oct-2002 11:06:42 AM ]
posted on 30-Oct-2002 12:37:40 AM by Deejonaise
Chapter 11

“That was a joke,” Kaala provided with a wide smile when Max didn’t so much as twitch an eye at her teasing comment. He continued to stare at her as if she were a bug under a microscope. She began squirming like one. “Okay…yeah,” Kaala sighed expansively, “Well, I guess I’m not as funny as I thought.”

“What are you doing here?” Max asked her, coming straight to the point.

Kaala tried not to let his suspicious, annoyed tone discourage her. “I just came from Ms. Perkins’ office and I saw you sitting here,” she told him, “I thought I’d come over and say hello.” It was true. Her meeting him at that moment had been completely coincidental and innocent, however, it still had saved her the trouble of having to stage one later.

“Why?” Max demanded bluntly.

“Why?” Kaala echoed, slightly thrown by his direct manner.

“Yes, why?” Max clarified in impatience, “Why say ‘hello’?”

Okay, obviously the perky, go-get ‘em persona she’d adopted was not going to fly with him. Good, Kaala thought, it was beginning to make her nauseous anyway. He wanted to be frank well she could do that. In fact, that’s exactly what she wanted. Besides she was not in the mood to play games. After years of waiting she was finally on the precipice of having everything she wanted. If being direct would get her to the goal faster, she’d be direct. She couldn’t help but feel a tendril of respect form for him because he was evidently not in the mood to play games either.

Yet, instead of answering him immediately right then Kaala took the opportunity to study his features, drink him in. She had never imagined that he would be so beautiful. The fact she was attracted to him stunned her. She hadn’t counted on that. She and Bayok had discussed Max’s being drawn to her many times, but she had never once considered she would find herself equally drawn. Kaala found his eyes especially enthralling, golden and fringed with thick, lush lashes, soulful eyes, intense even when they were darkened with irritation. But despite his outward show of annoyance Kaala suspected that he found her somewhat intriguing. She was glad.

“Well?” Max snapped impatiently, “Are you going to answer my question or stand there and stare at me like a mute idiot all day!”

That comment certainly managed to snap Kaala out of her hypnotized stupor. She sneered at him, suddenly insanely angry with him for his unprovoked attitude. Her intentions might not be completely honorable, but, hell, he didn’t know that! “You just ooze with charm, don’t you, Maxwell?” she quipped mockingly.

She was about to walk away when he grabbed hold of her wrist to stop her. He had barely touched her when the picture flashes of their home planet began as they had the day before. Max released her quickly before they could overtake him; uncomfortable with the things she made him feel and see. He might have simply let her go if he didn’t feel so damned guilty for treating her like shit. Especially, since she’d done nothing to deserve his rancor, at least nothing she could control. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled, dropping his eyes, “I’m just having a crummy day and I took it out on you.”

Kaala was momentarily shocked speechless by his unexpected apology. Bayok had driven home to her over and over how foolish and weak he was, but Kaala was quickly finding him to be quite the opposite. What Bayok would probably consider weak Kaala found strangely sensitive. Again she was disconcerted by the feelings he aroused within her. She sank down in the recently vacated space beside him on the bench. “Is it something you want to talk about?”

Max uttered a soft, mocking laugh. “Hah! Don’t you know already?” he quipped in bitter irony, “I thought all things were known in the Collective.”

Kaala decided to return his blunt honesty with equal measure. Suddenly, the idea of playing further games with Max seemed repugnant to her. However, while she had decided against manipulating him she still was careful to keep her thoughts filtered in his presence. She had only taken one of the capsules that Bayok had given to her. He had advised her to take more thereby increasing their affect. But something inside Kaala shuddered at the idea of using them period. She wondered vaguely why Bayok seemed so at ease with the idea of her seducing Max when the very thought was twisting her in knots. However, Kaala knew that Bayok would be angered if she got rid of them, so she took them moderately…for now.

“You found out the truth about us last night and it doesn’t please you,” Kaala stated flatly, confirming Max’s suspicions that his personal problems were widely known in the Colony. He didn’t know that Kaala had her information firsthand from Bayok.

“What? Of course it doesn’t please me! Nothing about this place pleases me,” Max cried out in frustration, “Did everyone just decide to tap into my psyche last night?”

“Max, let me explain some things to you,” Kaala began tentatively, “The Collective mind is to Antarians as the news is to humans. We can choose to tap in to the telepathic currents or we can choose not to. Unfortunately, for you the latter didn’t happen last night.”

Max felt his cheeks burn with heat and he sighed heavily, massaging his aching temples. “Might I ask what is so damned interesting about my life that everyone wants to know what’s going on in it?” Max gritted in irritation.

“You married a human Max,” Kaala informed him quietly, “When you should have married me.”

Max lifted his head to look at her, surprised to hear a note of wistfulness in her tone. He couldn’t help but marvel how different she was from Liz. They were both beautiful brunettes, but that was where their similarities ended. Liz possessed a classical beauty that was both gentile and delicate. Her features were ethereal almost, taking his breath away every single time he laid eyes on her. In contrast, Kaala’s beauty was dark and exotic…wild…alien, as was the attraction he felt towards her. With Liz, Max didn’t just feel desire with his body, but with his head and heart and entire soul. However, his desire for Kaala seemed a primal thing, innate, a reality that he could not escape.

He lowered his eyes again, suddenly afraid that she might be able to read his thoughts. “Doesn’t it make you feel weird?” he asked her tentatively, “that you were expected to marry someone you’ve never met?”

Kaala shrugged. “I wasn’t raised to want anything different,” she answered him simply, “But I have found there are ways around what is expected…if you want something bad enough.” Kaala couldn’t help but think of Bayok as she said that.

Max mistakenly believed she was speaking about their being together. “But how did you know you would even like me?” Max persisted, “You couldn’t have known what to expect or even if you’d be attracted to me.”

“Oh, I am definitely attracted to you, Max,” Kaala admitted boldly. Bayok would like that now, wouldn’t he? To bad her admission had been absolutely true. She’d have to ponder that one later.

Max’s eyes skittered away. It was as if, in that moment, he suddenly remembered whom he was speaking to. He quickly reverted to his previously reserved attitude. “You should know that I’m in love with my wife…I always have been. I always will be. I’m not interested in anyone besides her.”

“But is she in love with you?” Kaala countered pointedly.

The question was like a kick in the groin, but Max managed to mask the pain it caused him. “Of course, she is,” Max replied in a weak whisper.

“She loves you, but she’s sorry she married you?” Kaala surmised sarcastically, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”

Max glared at her. “Can you please not treat my personal life like it’s something you saw on the evening news! God!”

“Sorry,” Kaala mumbled contritely, “I guess being brought up in a society where there are no secrets I never learned how to hold back, you know?”

“Yeah,” Max whispered in morose understanding.

Kaala wished it weren’t true, but looking at him just then all she could dredge up in her heart for him was pity. Bayok had coached her to see him as an obstacle in the way of her happiness, but Kaala couldn’t do it, not when he was sitting there looking as if his world had just fallen apart. His misery showed plainly on his face, darkening his eyes and giving them a lackluster appearance. And what made it all worse, Max still had no idea that it was all a grand game and he was merely a pawn. Kaala, then suddenly despised the idea of using him, and even briefly considered telling him the truth but fear kept her silent. Fear of losing all she held dear.

Presently, Kaala nudged against Max with her shoulder. “Hey, I know something that might cheer you up,” she told him.

“What?” Max replied sullenly.

“You don’t have to wait around to change your classes,” she said knowingly, “cuz I’ve already changed mine…so your efforts to avoid me are not necessary.”

The fact that she knew his objective dead on filled Max with acute embarrassment. “Well, I…uh…um…well…” Max stammered, unable to devise a polite means of telling her that those had been his exact intentions.

“It’s okay, Max,” Kaala relented with a sideways smile, “It’s not exactly easy for me being around you either. So we’re agreed?” she asked, extending her hand toward him.

“Agreed?” Max repeated in question.

“Polite strangers from here on out,” Kaala clarified when she shook her hand firmly, “You think you can handle that, Evans?”

Max felt the first glimmerings of a genuine smile pull at the corners of his mouth. “Yeah,” he said, pumping her hand once more, “I think I can handle that.”

But despite their resolution Max requested to change seats in his fourth period class so that he sat on the back row exactly three desks from Kaala. Since it was the only class they shared together now what could it hurt? She flashed him with a surprised smile before turning her attention to the teacher and focusing on the lecture.

Max felt a mild trill of guilt at his actions, but quickly squashed the feeling. It wasn’t as if he was flirting with her. He wasn’t. That hadn’t been why he’d moved at all. No, he had moved because he found that he actually liked Kaala Stafford, not in an overtly sexual way, but as a person, as a potential friend. God knew he could use one of those, especially in light of the mess his personal life had recently become.

God. Liz. He had barely gone ten minutes in the day without thinking about her. Even now his teacher’s lecture rushed through his ears as his mind wandered, speculating on just what Liz was doing at the exact moment and if she was thinking of him, too. So yeah, he knew he needed to give her space, but that didn’t mean he had to be eager about it. He wanted her to miss him and want him, just like he missed her and wanted her; only lately he couldn’t be so sure that she did.

Max briefly considered dismissing the reasons for their argument completely all for the sake of peace, but he knew the situation would only be temporary. Their underlying problem would still remain the same. Liz didn’t trust his newfound family and she didn’t want him to either. She had never said so in words and even if Max’s hadn’t been able to read her thoughts, he could have glimpsed them plainly on her face whenever she saw Bayok and Nesui.

But from his vantage point, Liz was being too hasty in her opinion. They had only been living with Bayok and his mate for three days, three friggin’ days! That was hardly enough time to know someone and form an opinion. It seemed to Max that Bayok was willing to try and move past his prejudice against humans to get to know Liz, but she didn’t seem inclined to do the same. And then, after her admission the night before, Max had finally understood why that was.

Liz had come to tolerate the alien side of his nature, even accept it, but she was a long, hard way from loving that part of him. And that was the problem. Because if Liz couldn’t love all of him, the good and the bad, she couldn’t love him at all. The sudden epiphany left Max shaken. He wondered why it had never occurred to him before. But then again, maybe it had and he’d just been too blind, too foolish to acknowledge it. No wonder Liz was beginning to regret their marriage. She had rushed into it without even having a true inkling of who he really was.

When fourth period had finally dragged to a close Max trudged off to lunch full of dread and anticipation at the prospect of seeing Liz. He spotted her the moment he entered the cafeteria, sitting alone at her table right in the middle of the noisy lunchroom. He considered avoiding her but wisely realized that doing so would accomplish nothing. So with a heavy sigh he made his trek across the cafeteria towards her. She caught sight of him halfway there and watched him approach with her feelings raw and plain in her eyes.

“Hey,” she said quietly when he finally leaned over her, bracing his hands against the surface of the lunch table.

“Hey,” Max replied just as quietly, staring down into her beautiful face and feeling utterly lost in her eyes.

“I didn’t know if you’d show up today,” Liz admitted in a small, insecure voice, “I was afraid I wouldn’t see you at all.”

“I started not to,” Max replied honestly, “But then I figured that you and I needed to talk. I didn’t want to spend the day avoiding you. Can I sit down?” Liz nodded mutely, looking at him through wary eyes as he plopped down into the chair across from her. She couldn’t help but note how weary he seemed, almost half asleep on his feet. Weary and heartbroken.

In that second, Max knew what he had to do. He was just going to lay it all bare, present his feelings to her and demand the truth. Afterwards he would decide if he could live with the consequences of his boldness. “So…Liz…I’ve been thinking about what you said last night--,”

“Max, no,” Liz interrupted quickly, “I already told you that I didn’t mean it and I didn’t. I really didn’t.”

“Liz, I don’t want you to try and spare my feelings about this,” Max argued quietly, “How will we ever be able to work through our problems if you’re not honest with me?”

“I’m trying to be,” Liz whispered, “I’m…just afraid to tell you the truth…you know, the real reason why I got so mad last night.”

“And what is the truth, Liz?” Max asked tentatively, bracing himself for some dreadful revelation.

“…that I was just jealous of Kaala Stafford.”

Max widened his eyes in shock at her unexpected disclosure. He had anticipated that she would say a great many things, most of them hurtful, but hearing her admit that she was jealous stunned him into momentary silence. But the idea of Liz being jealous of anyone seemed so absurd that Max still felt the need to protest. “Liz--,”

“Look, I saw her, Max…I saw your face when you talked about her. It was obvious she made you…feel something,” Liz revealed shakily, “That hurt, okay.” It had more than hurt, it had devastated her. Liz laid her feelings bare, however, left them wide open so he could see, so he could FEEL just how much it had.

Max closed his eyes against the gentle assault her words and feelings inflicted on his already raw emotions. But he still couldn’t allow himself to hope completely that her words had come completely from simple emotional reflex to pain. He continued to suspect, at least on some small level, that she did feel an amount of regret for marrying him. “Don’t you feel like we rushed into this marriage too fast, Liz,” he asked hoarsely, after taking a few moments to regain his composure, “You can tell me the truth…I won’t resent you.”

“Sometimes,” Liz whispered sadly, “But I’ve never once regretted doing it. Not ever.” Her words were like a soothing balm to his abraded emotions. They were the words he was desperately longing to hear, even though part of him still feared they weren’t true. His stoic expression broke for a moment in a sob of relief as she continued, “I’ll never be sorry I married you, Max…or that I’m carrying your baby. I love you.” She inched her fingers across the table so that the tips brushed against his wrist. “Please, Max…look at me.” Max lifted his glistening eyes to her solemn gaze, “I’m so sorry about the things I said…that I hurt you last night.”

Max stared down at her hand lightly brushing against his own before finally curling his fingers around hers and bringing them to his mouth with a sobbing sigh of relief.

posted on 31-Oct-2002 8:57:39 AM by Deejonaise
Welcome Subterfuge and Leto1281! It always thrills me to see new posters. I always get all squeally (is that even a word) and happy. Glad to have you and I hope you'll be staying a while.

Now to address some Kaala issues. I'm gonna say this again because there can never be too many assurances, "As Bob as my witness, there will be NO, absolutely NO Kaala/Max sex!" There may be some kissing, but that's the extent of it.

Okay, I know a lot of you don't trust Kaala right now and truthfully you shouldn't at this point. I said Kaala wasn't all bad, but that doesn't mean she's not at all, so MamaDee52 don't accept her into the folds just yet. McGees hit the nail on the head when she said that Kaala reminded her of early Season two Tess. That's exactly what I was going for. I think at that point the writers had tremendous opportunity for her character but they just dropped the ball so now I'm seeing what I can do with it. I want Kaala to be one of those good bad girls, you hate her, but you love her, too. We'll see...

This is actually the first time I've really attempted to develop a character other than the main in a fic before. I usually focus on the primary characters and that's it. When you think about it that's not too hard because the readers are already emotionally invested. However, with a new character you have to start from scratch and give the readers a reason to give a darn. I'm working on that...we'll see if I'm successful.

Anyway, that's all for this post. I'm gonna go and write a little more. Hopefully, I can get part 12 up tonight...maybe sooner.

Again, thanks everyone for the awesome feedback!

Dee

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 31-Oct-2002 9:00:25 AM ]
posted on 31-Oct-2002 9:03:22 AM by Deejonaise
quote:
Leto1281 originally wrote:
I was wondering how far along is Liz in her pregnancy? And how long will she carry the baby?


28 long, grueling months. Hopefully, the way I write them they'll just fly right on by, lol.
posted on 31-Oct-2002 2:48:25 PM by Deejonaise
quote:
BLS40 originally wrote:
Sorry Dee, but even kissing Kaala is wrong in my book because Max is married to Liz - he took a vow 'forsaking all others'. Knowing how Liz feels, he would be lower than pond scum if he did that IMO.


I didn't say it was mutual kissing, lol! Anyway, I'll be back in a minute with the update.
posted on 31-Oct-2002 2:50:35 PM by Deejonaise
Okay, I thought you guys deserved a break from all the angst. Here's the make-up nookie. I hope it's worth the pain I've put you through.


Chapter 12

Liz cradled a sleeping Max against her breast, idly stroking his cheek with her fingertips. After lunch they had skipped school for a chance to be alone together and rented a cheap motel room on the other side of town. The accommodations weren’t exactly the best, but Max and Liz were, at least, guaranteed to some much needed privacy so they didn’t care. Once they had secured a room Liz and Max had sat down together on the bed and openly discussed their feelings for each other and their impromptu marriage as well as their living arrangement with Bayok.

It was a difficult conversation for the both of them. Max had to admit to Liz that he wanted her to love all of him and not just his human side. He told her that his alien side was not something he wanted to deny and that, in her rejection of his Antarian heritage, he felt as if she were rejecting him. Liz had to admit to Max that for the first time in their relationship she was seriously feeling overwhelmed and frightened by the prospect of being with him. In the past three days she’d never felt more lonely or isolated in her entire life.

It was evident that while Max was finding a place for himself within the Colony, Liz had been left out in the cold. Liz couldn’t help but wonder if she and Max really belonged together after all. She even confessed, albeit reluctantly, that she’d been harboring doubts about their relationship and had considered the possibility that marrying him was a mistake. Considered the possibility and discarded it.

Max encouraged her to be patient with Bayok and Nesui and not to be so quick to expect the worst. He still naively believed that they would come to accept her. Max wanted her to remember that this was perhaps Bayok and Nesui’s first intimate contact with a human being and that they probably needed adjustment time.

Though, Liz saw the logic in his argument but she advised Max to be careful of imparting his trust so easily. She thought he should wait for Bayok and Nesui to earn his confidence, just as Zrei had earned it. But after some time, realizing that they would never come to a mutual opinion about the subject, they both agreed to work on their individual insecurities and, above all else, trust in their love for one another. If they did that, nothing and no one could come between them, despite their disagreements.

By the time it was over they were both in tears and they were weeping, not only for the confusion of the last day and a half, but also the loss of their youth and that wide-eyed innocent love that would probably never be theirs again. They had changed tremendously in the last three months. After their brief captivity with the FBI neither of them had mourned the loss of that innocence because they had been too busy mourning the loss of each other. Now, however they did. The floodgates of that grief were finally opened and they were powerless to stop the flow of healing pain that poured through. Later after Max had fallen asleep Liz held him in her arms, basking in the simple joy of just listening to him breathe.

Liz would have been content to lie there forever just holding him, but Max began, all too soon for Liz, stirring against her in wakefulness. His thick, dark lashes fluttered open to reveal eyes of liquid gold made darker from sleep. He lifted his cheek from her breast, peering at her through hooded lids. “What time is it?” he asked thickly, grinding the sleep from his eyes with his knuckles.

“Almost four o’clock,” Liz whispered, sliding her hand up and down the length of his forearms.

“Four o’clock?” he repeated, rising up a bit, “Liz…aren’t you late for work?”

“It’s okay,” she reassured him, splaying her hand over his chest to push him back against the pillows, “I called in sick.”

“Aw, Liz, I wish you hadn’t done that,” Max said, feeling guilty because he knew she had called off work for his benefit. He knew how important it was to her to assert her independence. They were already in a tight enough money situation with renting the motel room for the night even as cheap as it had been. “Why?”

But Liz was anything but remorseful. “I didn’t want to wake you,” she replied as she brought up her hand to caress the pouty fullness of his lower lip, “You looked so tired…I wanted you to get some sleep. Besides…we needed this time alone together, I think.”

“Yeah, I think so, too,” Max murmured in agreement, leaning over to brush her lips in a soft kiss. When he pulled back their eyes connected however, speaking volumes to one another, pleading softly for more. Max leaned in again, staying longer this time, opening his mouth to receive her eager tongue. It seemed ages since their last kiss and Max was starved for her. He kissed her exquisitely, feasting gently on her lips, touching his tongue to hers again and again.

Without ever breaking contact with her mouth Max lifted himself up onto his knees, pulling her with him. He kissed her voraciously, pressing his fingers against the back of her neck to hold her captive to his plundering tongue. In the desperate desire to be closer, to absorb her into his skin, his hands raced over her flesh in fierce hunger, caressing, grasping, leaving a burning trail wherever he touched.

Lost in a sensual haze of desire and longing, Max cupped Liz’s breasts against his palms, circling her hardened nipples with his thumbs. Liz emitted a soft little moan at his touch, arching her back to press her breasts more securely into his hands while her own hands were skimming lightly over his shirt clad chest. When Max was finally able to tear his mouth away from hers it was only to nuzzle his lips against her ear and tug her sensitive lobe lightly between his teeth. “Liz…Liz...” Max moaned against her cheek, “I want you…God…I want you so bad…”

As he tenderly feasted on the underside of her jaw, Liz nimbly undid the buttons of his shirt with shaking fingers and then spread the lapels wide over his smooth, tanned chest, pushing the thin material from his muscled shoulders. He shrugged out of it quickly, eager to return the favor and rid her of her shirt and bra so that they were torso to torso, her naked breasts pressed invitingly against his chest, her hardened nipples abrading his skin in the most arousing fashion. Max bent his head for another kiss, which he tantalizingly trailed from her mouth down length of her throat, strumming his hands hungrily across her torso and breasts and silky soft back.

Their breaths came in harsh, shallow pants, the only sound in the room besides the friction created by their jeans as they rubbed against one another. As Max nibbled at the side of Liz’s throat he caught her hand and carried it between them, resting her palm against his distended fly. He lifted his head, his eyes full of boyish pleading. “No one makes me feel the way you do, Liz,” he told her hotly, “Touch me…make me feel good,” he groaned, closing his eyes as she flipped back the snap of his jeans and slid his zipper down the ridge of his bulging erection.

“What about Kaala?” Liz asked breathlessly as she pushed his jeans down past his hips, causing his penis to spring free.

Passion-dazed eyes fluttered open. Who? “What?”

Even in her heightened state of arousal Liz still couldn’t manage to completely dispel her insecurities. Liz had been too frightened to bring it up before, but now she could no longer ignore the issue. She had to know the truth before continuing further. She needed to know that she was the only one Max wanted, the only one he would ever want. Tentatively, she brought her hands up to rest against his chest, lifting her uncertain brown eyes to his heated gaze. “I saw you talking to her in the guidance office today, Max,” Liz admitted timidly, her eyes seeking reassurance from him.

Max framed her face with his hands, kissing her lips softly. “Liz, is that all? We were just talking,” he told her fervently, “It didn’t mean anything…”

“But, Max, she’s so beautiful,” Liz moaned in a plaintive whisper.

Max darted his tongue out against her lips, playing at their pouty fullness. “You’re beautiful,” he insisted in a heated whisper, “Don’t you realize by now? I don’t see anyone but you, baby. You don’t have to be afraid. This,” he continued, taking hold of her hand and spreading her palm out over his thundering heart, “this is yours. It always has been and it always will be. And this,” he murmured in the same honeyed tone, taking hold of that same hand and guiding it down to where his penis throbbed between them, “this is yours, too. All of it, Liz,” he moaned when her tiny hand closed around his hardened flesh, stroking him. He arched into her palm spasmodically, leaning his forehead against her shoulder weakly.

His words left Liz trembling with longing, suffused with burning passion. “This is mine, Max?” Liz whispered intensely, increasing the tempo of her strokes, “All mine?”

Max grabbed hold of her hips and pulled her against him, thrusting into her hand urgently. “God yes!” he groaned, “It’s yours…yours…mmm…baby…every inch…”

Liz slid her hand along the length of him, root to tip, in long, sensuous strokes. “Tell me what you want…how to please you, Max,” she murmured, finding herself suddenly invigorated with this newfound power she had over him.

Max could barely form a coherent thought. His world was now completely centered on his cock and the marvelous sensations Liz was eliciting with her bold touch. “Keep…keep…don’t stop…yes, like that…don’t…don’t stop.”

“Don’t stop what, Max?” Liz prompted huskily, burying her mouth against his throat and sucking gently at the delicate skin. She slid her free hand down his muscled back, cupping one taut buttock firmly. “What don’t you want me to stop?”

God, was she trying to friggin’ kill him? “Your hand…god…Liz!” Max cried out hoarsely, thrusting faster, his desire to come increasing with the delicious friction her palm caused against his sensitive flesh.

“Is that all you want, Max?” Liz prodded seductively, nibbling at his lips, “My hand? You don’t want my mouth? Don’t you want me to taste you, too?”

Max swallowed, his thrusts coming to a gradual stop at her heated invitation. He regarded her with glittering eyes, deliberately uncurling her hand from his penis. “Yes,” he breathed urgently. Together, he and Liz wasted no time removing his jeans and boxers completely, dropping them to the floor.

Liz bestowed upon him a satisfied, feline smile and then slipped from the bed, pulling him along with her so that he was left to sit on the edge while she stood between his open thighs. Her eyes locked with his in silent promise, Liz unsnapped her jeans and hooked her fingers in the waistband, pushing them down the curve of her hips enticingly. She took her time kicking them away, building up the anticipated moment when she would stand before her lover proudly, provocatively naked.

With wordless appeal Liz closed her eyes and brought Max’s head against the soft flesh of her belly, moaning slightly as he swirled his tongue over her skin delicately. “Your skin is so soft, Liz…I love touching you here,” he uttered against her hoarsely. But when he would have kissed lower, his agile tongue beginning to play at the top of the curly vee between her thighs Liz pushed him backwards and sank to her knees before him.

Liz looked up at Max with brown eyes made so intense with desire they glowed almost black. “Tell me what you want, Max,” she whispered again, her breath stirring hotly against the sensitive tip of his erection. She was so close, her mouth only a few scant inches from his sex.

Max repressed the urge to lift his hips slightly and pierce her petal soft lips. Instead he slid his hand down the curve of her cheek, his desire increasing as he watched her eyes darken even more with want for him. “You know what I want,” Max told her gruffly, swallowing against the dry lump of arousal in his throat.

Her tongue darted out to wet her lips, to whisk quickly against the throbbing head of his cock. Max groaned. “But I want you to tell me, Max,” she insisted, blowing against him, “Say the words.”

Max wanted to whimper. Actually he did, her name escaping his chest in a painful gasp. “Please, Liz…” he urged, circling the tip of himself against her teasing tongue.

“Say the words,” Liz ordered softly.

“Suck me, Liz.” The words were barely audible, escaping him in a soft breath that was made gravelly with desire.

“Hmm?”

“Suck me…please, baby….” She did just that, taking him into her mouth fully then startling a gasp of unexpected pleasure from him. He groaned at the immediate contact of heat suffusing his stiffened flesh. “Fuck,” Max whispered mindlessly, further stimulated by the way her hair spilled across his lap like a chocolate river, obscuring her face from his view. But he wanted to see her, wanted to see her take him into her beautiful mouth, watch her tongue play over the rigid length of him.

Max shoved his fingers into her hair and pushed it back from her face, leaning back slightly so that he could watch her swallow his body. His mouth went dry as her lips descended over his penis again and again. And she took so much of him inside her mouth too, before withdrawing upward towards the sensitive head again, only to descend once more. Max lifted his hips spasmodically, thrusting into her mouth as he would thrust into her body. And it feels so damned good, Max thought hungrily, his eyes rolling to the back of his head as he was overcome with sensation, so damned good.

Max dimly realized that he was dangerously close to coming and he didn’t want that. Not in her mouth. Max grabbed hold of Liz abruptly and dragged her up against him. He flipped their bodies effortlessly so that Liz lay pinned beneath him and his hips were settled snugly between her spread thighs. He brought his lips down against hers in a burning kiss, his tongue scouring the wet recesses of her mouth, tasting her, tasting himself.

His body shaking with anticipation, Max reached down between their straining hips to find the liquid center of her, sliding his fingers into her moistness without preamble. “Fuck,” he uttered again, absolutely amazed by the extent of her creamy wetness. He shoved his fingers inside her deeply, almost brutally, loving the sexy moans that gurgled from her throat, the hungry way she ground her hips against his hand, his erection.

“Tell me what you want, Liz,” Max ordered, turning her earlier game back around on her. He fingers continued to grind into her body, even as the aching tip of his penis demanded entrance, rubbing against the swollen folds of her sex.

“Max, please,” Liz panted, lifting her hips in response to the driving force of his fingers, the teasing head of his cock. “Please…” she whimpered.

Tell me.

“I want you…inside me, Max,” Liz moaned. Her body was trembling with the pleasure he was giving. She felt as if she might splinter apart from the intensity. God, she needed, she needed…

“What do you want inside you, Liz?” Max asked deliberately, his words muffled in the crook of her neck. He slipped his fingers from her burning flesh long enough to take hold of her hand and bring it down between them. When he plunged his fingers inside her again, he took her fingers along with his into the damp recesses of body.

“Oh god…” Liz groaned, unable to believe what he was doing to her, but powerless to stop him either. Their fingers pumped simultaneously inside her. Liz knew they were losing control tonight, as if something had opened up inside them both, something hungry, something primal. There were no inhibitions, no hesitations, just burning, piercing desire. And just when Liz thought she could take no more Max jerked up their hands, entwining his fingers with hers and thrust inside her with such force it tore a low scream of pleasure from her throat.

He hammered into her, his hips rotating, thrusting in no particular rhythm, just hungry, insistent. In and out. Up and down. Back and forth. It didn’t matter. The goal was the same. To be encased in her wetness. To feel the contracting walls of her sweet, sweet pussy swallow his cock again and again. To drive as fucking deep as he could. Max hooked his forearm beneath one of her knees, bringing her leg up high against his hip, allowing him to gain deeper access into her creamy hot cavity. “I can’t be gentle right now, Liz,” he growled against her cheek, thrusting quick and shallow now, “I can’t…I can’t…”

“Don’t be…” Liz gasped, as swept away in the storm of their passion as he was, “Don’t be gentle…” she urged him fiercely, “I need you, Max…need all of you…give it to me…” He groaned at her words, losing himself completely in the milking walls of her exquisite flesh. Liz could only lay captive beneath him as he drove hard, speared inside her over and over. Her nails bit into his back, raked across the sinewy muscled smoothness drawing tiny ribbons of blood. But Max barely felt the sting. His only awareness was of Liz’s body and her frenzied chanting of, “Yes…yes…yes…yes…” in his ear.

And then it began to happen, first with a low hum and then growing louder and louder until even the bed was vibrating with the force of it. The room suddenly filled with a strange, iridescent light, stunning and ethereal, but it escaped both Max and Liz’s notice that the glow was radiating from their own perspiring skin. It grew brighter, hotter as they were suddenly caught up, already sailing over the edge into the white sizzling abyss of their mutual orgasm, gasping and grasping and splintering apart in each other’s embrace.




[ edited 2 time(s), last at 1-Nov-2002 9:17:10 AM ]
posted on 2-Nov-2002 4:23:39 PM by Deejonaise
This is just to let everyone know that I plan on updating again this Sunday night after I get off of work, which will probably be about 10 or 10:30 p.m. More nookie goody goodness before the storm's starts brewing again.

jb2 LOL at your cigarette comment! I guess that means you approved of the part.*wink*

Catch ya'll later,

Dee
posted on 3-Nov-2002 10:32:47 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 13

Max began movement in gradual stages.

First, he unsnarled his fingers from Liz’s hair, somewhat stunned by how tightly he gripped the silken strands in his fist. Next, he contritely unhooked his forearm from beneath her knee, allowing her leg to slide down along the length of his. And finally, he slipped from her body, groaning at the rush of cold air that assaulted him upon leaving her silky hot depths. Then he rolled upright and sat off on the bed’s edge, burying his face in his hands, his body still trembling but its incandescent glow faded. What the hell just happened?, he wondered, somewhat panic-stricken. When his breathing had evened out somewhat he asked Liz without making direct eye contact, “Did I…uh…are…you…okay? I…uh…didn’t hurt you?”

God, he wouldn’t be surprised if he had hurt her, driving into her as hard and deep as he had. In those last stunning moments he had been amazingly out of control, completely lost in her body, in the desire to become part of her, to make them one. The feeling left him dazed and a little frightened. Because, though he always wanted Liz with a fierceness he couldn’t explain, what had just happened between them was beyond intense. It was as if something was changing inside them both, reaching, becoming stronger, merging them into one.

Liz leaned up on her elbow and placed small biting kisses against his shoulder. “No, you didn’t hurt me,” she assured him, already realizing that he was beating himself up over the possibility that he had been too rough with her, “…but I hurt you,” she finished in amazement coming to sit upright fully. Her eyes widened in shock as she took in the raised red welts and dried blood that marred the tanned smoothness of Max’s back. “Oh my god, Max…” Liz murmured to herself as she gingerly fingered his wounds, “Do these hurt?”

“What?” Max tipped his head back to peer over his shoulder, seeing only the one scratch near the top of his shoulder. “That’s nothing, Liz. It barely stings.”

“No,” Liz said, climbing from the bed. She grabbed hold of his hand and led him over to the full-length mirror, turning him so that he faced her and his back was to his reflection. “I mean this.”

Max looked again, this time getting the full view of his back, and his jaw dropped open when he glimpsed the reddened welts that crisscrossed his shoulder blades and middle back. He emitted a low whistle. “You did all that?” And then he turned back to face her, grinning broadly. “I must have really put it on you, huh, baby?” he teased, bracketing her hips and bringing her against him.

“This isn’t funny,” Liz pouted as he nuzzled her neck, “I could have really hurt you.”

Max lifted his head, staring down at her intently. “But you didn’t,” he insisted gently, “It’s okay that you got carried away…so did I.”

“Is that what happened?” Liz mumbled into his chest, “Cuz I was feeling like I just wanted to crawl inside your skin for a moment there.”

“Really?” Max asked in surprise, both relieved and oddly aroused by her confession, “Then you felt it, too?”

Liz nodded, but was at the moment too distracted to consider the importance of Max’s question. In reaction to the close proximity of their mutual nakedness Max’s sex had begun to respond, swelling and hardening against her thigh. Liz wasn’t quite able to bite back her grin of delight and looked up at him with amazed eyes. “Again?”

A low chuckle rumbled from Max’s chest as he backed her towards the bed. “Well…we missed last night…so I have a lot to make up for. And no scratching this time,” he warned laughingly as they stretched out on the bed for a second time, “my back is starting to burn like hell.”

Much later when their bodies were wrung out with weariness from another session vigorous lovemaking they clicked on the television. Max reclined back against the headboard, settling Liz between his legs while they both watched Everybody Loves Raymond with only passing interest and briefly discussed whether to heal the scratches on Max’s back. In the end, Max decided against doing so, preferring to wear the marks like some sort of trophy. Liz was still laughing over his decision when Max began trailing his hand lazily up and down the length of Liz’s arm, creating a glowing path as he did so. Liz snuggled back against his chest and enjoyed watching him conduct his little amusement.

“You’re not paying any attention to the television, Max,” Liz chided in a sing-song voice.

“Oh…is that on?” Max joked as he ran his glowing trail up the length of her arm once more, “I hadn’t noticed.” She felt so soft and smooth. He didn’t think he’d ever tire of the sheer infinite joy of touching her skin.

Liz grinned up at him. “Yes, I’m sure you hadn’t.” He tweaked her side in response, startling a laughing yelp from her. “You be good,” she admonished, wagging her finger at him.

“I’ll be good,” Max replied in a little boy voice, his lower lip protruded in a becoming pout, but his eyes were glinting mischievously. Seconds later he attacked Liz’s sides with his tickling fingers causing Liz to twist and turn against him in a fit of giggles. “Who’s your daddy, Liz,” Max demanded triumphantly, easily avoiding her attempts to knock his hands away and increasing his tickling efforts, “Say it, Liz! I’m your daddy!”

“Max! You’re gonna…make me…pee!” Liz gasped out in between bursts of laughter spurred on, not only by his tickling, but his ridiculous question.

“Who’s your daddy, Liz!” he laughed teasingly, “Come on say it, ‘Max is my big daddy!’.”

“Jeff Parker is my daddy!” Liz panted stubbornly, jerking against him in hysterical laughter. She managed to poke her tongue out at him.

“Elizabeth…”

“Okay…okay…” Liz choked out laughingly, “You are! You are!” she cried and he immediately stopped tickling her. She glared up at him in mock displeasure. “You’re such a bully,” she told him petulantly.

“I’m such a bully what…?” Max prompted in an arrogant air.

“Daddy,” Liz whispered back reluctantly, swallowing back her laughter. Still, Max eyed her with dissatisfied expectation. She sighed, conceding defeat. “Big daddy, okay…are you satisfied?”

“For now,” Max drawled, fully pleased with himself.

Liz settled back against him once more, still chuckling, and looped Max’s arms about her waist. After awhile, however, she became engrossed in the comedy unfolding on the television screen hardly noticing that Max had begun nipping at the underside of her cheek. When he saw that his teasing lovebites weren’t working Max decided to switch tactics. It was a peculiar feeling that he didn’t quite understand, but he didn’t want Liz paying attention to anything other than him tonight. “So Liz I’ve been thinking…” he began just at the funniest part of the show, causing Liz to miss the punchline of the joke and roll her eyes in exasperation.

Realizing she obviously wasn’t going to get to watch the program between Max’s talking and nibbling, Liz muted the television and stared up at him in the hazy blue dimness of the room. “What have you been thinking, Max?” she asked him gamely.

Max grinned. “Well, I just realized…we’ve never been on a date together, have we?”

Liz started to disagree with that statement with a laughing, “Of course we have,” when she caught herself at the last minute, realizing with some shock, that he was right. “Well, there was that time in Utah,” Liz recalled hazily, “You asked me, but I don’t think we went anywhere. As I remember it…we were kidnapped shortly after.”

“Yeah…” Max said with a sardonic smile, “fond memories…those, but that time aside, I thought we might try again…you know…to have a date…without the FBI this time.”

Liz ran her fingers along the fine hair of the forearm that was hooked around her waist. “You want to go on a date, a real date?” she asked carefully, “But we’re already married, Max. Isn’t that a little like closing the barn door after the cow is gone?”

Max smiled down at her in quizzical laughter. “You’re just full of quaint sayings now, aren’t you?” Liz pinched him for his trouble. Max growled at her playfully. “The point I’m trying to make is…” Max clarified, “How many people do you know who are married and expecting a kid, but who have never been on a date together?”

He made a good point, Liz realized. She shrugged sheepishly. “Just us, I think. But then we’ve always been the exception to the rule.”

“But why do we have to be? Let’s just do it,” Max suggested enthusiastically, “Let’s go on a date together. We could see a movie, go bowling, maybe do dinner and afterwards…maybe do each other.” He lowered his head to nip against her ear. “What do you say? It’ll be fun.”

“I don’t know, Max…” Liz drawled in teasing indecision, “that sounds an awful lot like normal to me. Kinda flies in the face of our tradition of going with the exact opposite.”

“We’re entitled to at least some normality, Liz,” Max insisted, plunging his tongue into her ear, “Come on, say yes.”

Liz giggled in happy concession. “I’m off on Friday…we can do something then.” Max groaned in delight and anticipation, sucking mischievously at her neck before resuming his “glowing” game once more.

“I wish I could make you glow,” Liz half sighed, half groaned. She turned slightly in his arms, looping her arm up around his neck so that they could share a languid kiss. Max slid his hands down over her shoulders to cup her breasts, “glowing” her skin there as well.

“I can teach you,” Max whispered into her mouth thickly.

“Mmm hmm,” was Liz’s only response. Max drifted his hand lower, past the soft skin of her belly to the enchanting curls between her legs, his fingers delving into their springy softness. Liz opened her thighs wide, bringing up her knees to give him greater access. Max shivered at her silent invitation and instantly dipped his fingers inside her, his moan of satisfaction coinciding with hers. “God, Max…that feels so…so good…” Liz moaned as his fingers began their playful rhythm, not entering completely, but not entirely withdrawn either. He rotated his fingers against her creamy, wet folds, massaging her delicate clitoris with his moistened digits.

“I want to taste you, Liz,” Max panted against her ear, wondering how his innocent little game had turned serious so fast, “I want to put my tongue inside you.” Liz groaned at his bold admission. “Can I, baby?” he pleaded, his fingers rubbing faster, harder, “Can I tongue between your legs.” The combination of his words, his hands, and his awakening erection at her back was almost too much. Liz jerked against him, a guttural moan escaping her throat. “I’ll take that as a yes,” Max murmured, smiling into her hair.

And then he was leaning over her, kissing a burning path down her midriff to the place he craved most. He buried his mouth in the soft curls of her sex, licking sweetly at the distended nub hidden between the swollen lips. He then lifted both her legs and draped them over his shoulders, spreading her thighs as wide as he could.

She was so pretty down there. So glossy, so pink, so incredibly wet. Max tenderly separated her folds with his fingers, touching his tongue to her creamy, quivering flesh. At his touch, Liz stiffened beneath him in response to the rush of pleasure that shot through her limbs. Her hands twisted in the coverlet as Max delved his tongue even deeper, licking inside her.

Max cupped her buttocks, pressing his mouth deeper into her burning center, opening his mouth wider to lap up her succulent juices. He couldn’t believe how unbelievably responsive she was to his touch. She bucked her hips wildly beneath his mouth; ground herself against the gentle thrusts of his tongue. Max ate her rapaciously, as if he could never get enough. And he couldn’t. Her taste, her scent, her sweet core contracting around his tongue was too much.

His tongue went wild, his lips moving across her engorged lips in no particular direction. He just wanted to taste more, to drink his fill of her, to make her come. And then she did, arching her back and screaming his name, flooding his mouth with the warm rush of her orgasm.

When Max lifted his face from her his entire body was trembling from the experience, his penis erect and aching. He lifted his eyes to Liz’s face, smiling with contented satisfaction when he saw it. A curious white light had begun emanating from her fevered skin spreading it’s way downward, causing her eyes to glow like fire opals. Max moved up to his knees in complete amazement, gaping down at the sight of her beautiful, shimmering nakedness.

As she became cognizant once more Liz realized that Max was leaning above her staring intently. “What is it?” she asked him slowly.

“Liz, you’re glowing.” He took hold of her arm and lifted it to her eye level so she could see for herself. “Look.” In the darkness, the flickering blue light from the television and the glowing white light from her skin complemented each other, melded together.

“Wow,” Liz uttered with calm thoughtfulness, “Would you look at that?” Her befuddled senses had yet to process that her skin was actually glowing.

Max stretched out flush against her, so that there were chest to chest, hip to hip, his manhood pressed hotly between them. He kissed her lips gently. “How do you feel about it?”

Liz studied her glowing hand over his shoulder before bringing her gaze to his. “I always thought that being with you might cause some weird side effects but--,”

“You’ve never glowed before,” Max finished astutely. But despite the fact she was weirded out she seemed to be taking this new aspect of their lovemaking in stride. “I think it’s starting to fade,” he told her, when the incandescent glow began to drain from her skin.

Liz saw for herself that he was indeed right and then regarded him with a regretful, little frown. “I think I’m kinda sad it’s gone,” she said with a small pout, “I would have liked to try and figure out what triggered it.” Now that some of her shock was beginning to fade Liz wondered if this was just one manifestation of the changes Zrei had warned them about.

Max grinned down at her. That was his little scientist; Max thought affectionately, always looking for a cause to every effect. He caressed her damp hair away from her face, raining small kisses across her eyes and her cheekbones. “Well, there’s always one way…” he said, nudging his sex against her warm entrance, “You wanna see if we can make it happen again,” he invited throatily, already sliding himself home.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 3-Nov-2002 11:35:36 PM ]
posted on 4-Nov-2002 7:50:50 PM by Deejonaise
Okay, I'm so excited that I'm already posting the next part. Sadly, there's no M/L in this chapter, but hopefully it will explain a few things about Kaala and her motives. Hope you like it. And please leave feedback because I'm curious to know what you think.


Chapter 14

“You were told never to come here,” Nesui intoned coldly as she raked her eyes scathingly down Kaala’s scantily clad length.

Kaala Stafford blew an obnoxious bubble with her gum before irreverently snapping it back into her mouth. The last person she’d wanted to see was Nesui. She’d rather walk over crushed glass than deal with her bullshit, but Kaala knew she had to overlook Nesui for the big picture. But the fact still remained. She didn’t like Nesui. Never had. Kaas had always reprimanded her for showing such disrespect for the wife of the Jnuian Counsel’s chief elder, but Kaala had never been impressed. Even for a Jnuian Nesui was colder than most. She was also shifty and untrustworthy. Kaala had learned that painful fact a long time ago.

Yes, she would have liked to avoid Nesui completely and, in fact, she usually did, but this particular meeting with Bayok was different from all the others she’d had with him. This meeting she had called to order. Bayok had been annoyed by her request, but Kaala knew that he would not refuse seeing her. Which was probably the exact reason Nesui was grinding her teeth at that exact moment. After all, no woman liked to entertain her husband’s mistress in her house, no matter how tolerating she’d been of the affair.

Kaala brushed past Nesui into the foyer, not bothering to wait to be invited inside. Nesui whipped around to glare at her. “You stupid little idiot!” she hissed in a furious underbreath, “How many times has Bayok told you that you are not to be seen in the house, especially with them here!”

“Relax,” Kaala ordered sharply, “I have my bases covered. Today I switched textbooks with him when he wasn’t looking. If he wants to know why I’m here I’ll tell him that I’m just returning his U.S. Government book. God, Nesui, mad cow much?”

“There is no need for the fabrication,” Bayok said, intruding, suddenly materializing from the shadows beyond the foyer, “Maxwell and Elizabeth are not here.” He propped his shoulder against the wall, regarding both Kaala and Nesui with a small degree of amusement. Though he would never admit it verbally or mentally, for that matter, part of him was secretly pleased to have them fight over him.

“Well, I guess that’s good then,” Kaala replied meekly, suddenly feeling cowed in Bayok’s presence. Her bravado was diminished, as it always did whenever Bayok was near. No matter how aloof or mature Kaala believed herself to be Bayok would manage to cut her down to size with just a glance. He always had a way of making her feel small and insignificant even when his manner was casual. She supposed that’s why she went out of her way to make Nesui feel the same. Why should she be the only one to feel lousy?

“Come with me into my study,” Bayok ordered, taking Kaala lightly by the elbow, “Nesui you may serve us refreshments in ten minutes time. Until then do not disturb us.” He turned away from her, simply dismissing Nesui as he led Kaala off towards his study. Nesui glared at his retreating back for several seconds before obediently trudging off for the kitchen.

Inside his study, Bayok stroked Kaala’s cheek with one lone finger. Though she was a nuisance and a complication, Bayok did miss their mental connection vaguely. He considered sliding his fingers into her riotous hair and merging himself with her, but then dismissed the idea. He was so close to his goal and he didn’t need the aggravation. Wisely then, he retreated behind his desk to regard her in businesslike detachment. “You insisted I see you this evening,” he stated implacably, “I wish to know the reason.”

Obviously, Kaala was gaming with him now. She’d been blocking his mental probe of her thoughts all night. He’d evidently taught her well. Maybe too well.

Kaala flashed Bayok a flirtatious smile, trailing her index finger along the gleaming surface of his desk. “Since when do I need a reason to see you, Bay?” But despite her familiar attitude their relationship had been rather frosty of late, usually stemming from Bayok’s distant manner. Kaala had too much pride to chase after him, but still it hurt to be ignored. In fact, he had not mentally shared himself with her since the week before Zrei was due to arrive. At first, Kaala had believed it was because he was preoccupied, but now she wondered if his remoteness was due to something more.

He narrowed his eyes at the familiar use of his name. “I have told you countless times that you must never come here,” he replied emotionlessly, “You put our plans in jeopardy each time you do. I am beginning to suspect that you mean purposely to annoy me.”

“You find it annoying that I would wish to see you?” Kaala demanded, “Every time I come to the temple you brush me off.”

Bayok’s expression remained remote but, beneath the surface of his cool veneer, he was quickly losing his patience. “It is not appropriate to see me at the temple, Kaala. We have discussed this many times.”

Damn his controlling attitude! Kaala wanted to stamp her foot in pure frustration. She wondered for another countless time how she had ever come to be involved with him. Had he always been this cold? How had she missed it? And yet, Kaala could still remember the stunning sweetness of their first union and because she could it was impossible for her to reconcile the cold Bayok before her with her warm lover.

Bayok had come to her unexpectedly, just after her coming of age ceremony. For many months they had been cultivating a quiet friendship so Kaala was not surprised he had come to her, especially because he had been the one to perform the ceremony. When he had slipped into her private chambers under the pretense of giving her an Antarian blessing Kaala had been overjoyed to see him. But the blessing had not been his motive for coming to her. Instead, he had framed her face in his large hands and murmured soft, lilting words to her in his native tongue. That day he had made an intimate connection with her so intense Kaala felt as if she’d been taken to the stars.

She fully believed that in those brief, stunning seconds that she had seen into Bayok’s soul. And that was all it had taken. A few breathtaking minutes and Kaala had fallen in love. And thus began their clandestine affair and she was only fifteen at the time, at least, by human standards.

But like any teenage girl, no matter what species, she was duly flattered to have gained the attention of an older man. He’d said all the right things to her, about how he had bonded with Nesui too young and how she didn’t share his same mental evolvement, not like Kaala. He had called Kaala beautiful. He had said that he needed her. In all her life, no one had ever called her beautiful or expressed need for her other than Kaelen. Those sort of things mattered to a young girl, especially a young girl who felt as isolated and alone as Kaala Stafford.

Though her kind was somewhat in abundance in Woodstone there weren’t many other hybrids that were her age and attending high school. Beyond her brother Kaelen and his intended mate Rahsha and her brother Ruaak there was no one. The four of them spent everyday of their lives hiding their real identities, never making any friends in school because it was forbidden to have any human contact.

Kaelen and Rahsha were usually always fused together, so wrapped up in each other’s presence that Kaala sometimes felt intrusive when she was with them. Like Rahsha’s brother Ruaak, she began isolating herself and, in the process, increasing her loneliness. Unlike Ruaak, who happened to dislike both her and Kaelen, she kept to herself to be unobtrusive but not disdainful. It became quickly apparent to Kaala that she wasn’t going to find a friend in Ruaak, which served to depress and isolate her all the more. A few months before her coming of age ceremony Kaala had seriously considered leaving the Colony altogether just to escape the vortex of miserable loneliness her life had become.

Despite, being groomed and raised to become the wife to the heir of the Trsa-Bal family Kaala found herself unexcited, unmoved by the idea. She didn’t wanted to marry someone she didn’t know no matter how powerful and influential his family had been, but whenever she voiced her feelings aloud Kaas was always quick to label her emotions as human. Her protector never wanted to hear anything beyond her yielding cooperation. The only one who seemed to understand and sympathize with her agonized plight was Bayok.

As a trusted member of the Council and community Bayok seemed the most likely person to take her problems to. Countless times after school she had gone to him at the temple and poured out her fears. Bayok had even begun blocking their many visits together so that they didn’t become Collective knowledge. Truthfully, before that time Kaala hadn’t even known that blocking the Collective was possible. Bayok had seemed eager and proud to teach her the technique. At the time Kaala had believed it a kindness. Now she realized that he had been grooming her for his lover even then.

She looked at him now, wishing that she could sever ties with him right that instant, yet feeling a magnetic attraction toward him she didn’t understand, loving and wanting him still. Kaala didn’t realize that her emotions were plain in her eyes and accomplished nothing beyond distancing Bayok further. “I wanted to talk to you about Max Evans,” Kaala stated, jumping straight to the reason for her visit. Bayok was direct and had no tolerance for chit-chat.

“What is there to discuss?” Bayok asked, folding his hands atop his desk, “It seems to me that our plan is progressing just as I would like.”

“See that’s just it…” Kaala informed him uneasily, “I’m not liking this plan, Bayok.”

She had never liked the plan, not from the moment Bayok had suggested it to her. He had come to her that day and inundated her mental senses in pure, mind numbing pleasure. Later, as they floated together in blissful serenity on the surreal mental plane of their connection he told her that Zrei, his good friend, was returning home. The conversation had begun innocently enough but very soon his true intentions became glaringly apparent. He wanted to secure his seat in the Jnuian Counsel and make himself the uncontested leader of the Woodstone Antarian Colony.

Bayok was extremely ambitious and proud. He resented having to consult the entire Counsel in the decisions he made even though that was the Antarian way and had been for centuries. Though he preached the traditional doctrines of their world and seemingly held them in esteem Kaala knew the truth. Bayok disdained them. He sought to gain personal glory for himself, something that was unheard of among the communal Antarians, and he had proven he would go to any lengths to achieve it.

He had done so by asking his lover to seduce her intended husband away from his current wife. He told her that he wanted to use the influence of the Trsa-Bal family to gain complete and uncontested control of the Council. Though he had some allies, many of the elders still clung to the old Antarian ways tenaciously. Bayok insisted that he needed the authority of a strong family to change their minds. He had assured her that his plan of seduction was the way to accomplish that.

That should have been Kaala’s first indication that she needed to run far and fast. Alarm bells had clanged loudly in her head at his bold and demeaning proposition, but she had ignored her instincts and foolishly allowed Bayok to persuade her. This was their way to be together, he had urged. Once he gained absolute control of the Council then he could dissolve his lifebond to Nesui without challenge. Then they could truly be together, then he would make Kaala his lifemate.

However, in spite of Bayok’s assurances, Kaala had never understood how her seduction of Max Evans would help to bring that about and Bayok had never made any attempt to explain it to her. She supposed it had to do with Zrei’s position as Max’s protector and Bayok’s inopportunity to influence Max as he would have liked, but she couldn’t be sure. Whenever she had been audacious enough to question him about it he had always patronized her with vague responses. Eventually, Kaala had stopped asking. But Bayok kept insisting that his ultimate goal was for them to be together. And Kaala had been desperate to believe him, so she had gone along with his plan. But now that she had acquainted herself somewhat with Max Evans, she was finding that she harbored some serious doubts that could be quelled no longer.

“Max is a good kid,” Kaala told Bayok now, “All he wants is to learn about his history. He trusts you completely, Bayok. Doesn’t it bother you to use him this way?”

“No, it does not,” Bayok replied callously, “This is a lesson he should learn, despite it’s outward cruelty. He is a boy and a fool. If nothing else, this experience will make him worthy of his Antarian bloodlines.”

“But you’re not doing this for Max’s sake or for the good of the Colony, Bayok,” Kaala snapped, “and we both know it! Your motives are purely selfish.”

She was cut off from saying more with the untimely arrival of Nesui, bearing a tray laden with tea and delicate pastries. Nesui lowered her eyes respectfully to Bayok as she carefully set the tray down upon his desk. She stood there for a moment, hoping devoutly that he would request she stay. But too her humiliated disappointment he merely said, “Thank you, Nesui. That will be all,” as if she were nothing more than a servant.

However, her pride and not to mention her Antarian lineage refused to allow her to betray her hurt or hatred of him in that moment. She squared her shoulders instead, inclining her head to him slightly before exiting the study. Kaala stared after her in disgusted amusement. “I can’t for the life of me figure out why she lets you treat her that way,” she scoffed, offhand.

“Nesui knows her place,” Bayok commented thoughtfully, stroking his beard, “She makes it her business to please me.” Unlike some others, his pointed gaze silently transmitted to her. Kaala only shrugged, trying to appear outwardly unaffected. “Why do you not eat,” Bayok invited graciously, “you know I do not need these things. The refreshments are more for your benefit than mine.”

“I’m not hungry. Besides it’s probably poisoned…you know Nesui hates me,” Kaala snapped as she began pacing the room in agitation. Her constant movement brought attention to her shapely legs, which were barely covered by her denim miniskirt.

“You look like a human whore,” Bayok spat out as he watched her move across his study, his eyes both disapproving and interested. He was quickly coming to discover why humans seemed so preoccupied with displays of flesh and carnal love. “How many times have I commanded you not to dress in that manner?”

Kaala tossed him and unconcerned look. “And how many times have I told you that I don’t care?” But she did care. It bothered her that he didn’t approve of her dress. Kaala didn’t like displeasing him; not really, especially he was the only person besides Kaelen to champion her. That was why it was doubly hard for her to come to him with her true feelings about the Max Evans issue. Kaala didn’t want to refuse her help, but her conscience wouldn’t let her proceed further without a great deal of moral anguish.

She flung herself into a chair with a moody sigh, slumping in it slightly. “You haven’t acknowledged a word I’ve said, have you, Bay?”

Bayok sighed. “I have acknowledged it…and dismissed it. Max Evans will not sustain any lasting damage. He is a resilient boy, Kaala. Do not allow yourself to become so emotionally involved with him.”

Kaala gaped at him. Only Bayok would insist that she seduce someone without getting emotionally attached. She fearfully wondered if he’d done the same with her, but refused to dwell very long on the thought. “I don’t care how ‘resilient’ he is,” Kaala retorted, “I don’t want to be party to manipulating him…I never did to begin with.”

“Unfortunately, you do not have a choice, my love,” Bayok replied apathetically.

“There has to be another way for us to be together,” Kaala argued.

“There is not.”

“I refuse to do it.”

“But you will regardless,” Bayok predicted.

“I think you’re forgetting your place,” Kaala replied sharply without thinking, “You are the servant here, Bayok, not me…you do as I command.”

Bayok moved with the swiftness of a striking snake. One moment he was seated calmly behind his desk the next moment he was gripping her roughly by her forearms and yanking her from the chair, his hands banded like iron manacles around her flesh. “Those old Antarian days are dead, Kaala,” he uttered precisely in her native Tysh language, “We no longer live in a world where Jnuian serves Trsanite. Make no mistake, my quiena…I serve no one.” He flung her away from him then, as if she were contaminated.

Kaala rubbed at her smarting forearms. “The Council won’t--,”

“The Council,” Bayok scoffed in English, “I all but own the Council. I am respected and revered in this community, Kaala. Can you say the same?” They both were well aware that Kaala’s reputation among those in the Colony was far from spotless. “And then there is your brother…” Bayok added in hanging threat.

“I’ll go to Max and tell him the truth,” Kaala whispered defiantly, even though she was quaking at the thought he would hurt Kaelen.

“I would not try it,” Bayok warned silkily, “It would only require one word from my mouth to convince the Council you were in need of banishment…or even execution. I have not come so far in my plans to have you ruin it with your foolish notions. Do not test me.”

Kaala shuddered at his threat to have her killed. She was, at first, stunned that he could utter something so hateful and with absolute sincerity. And in that painful, clarifying second she fully realized what she had been to him all that time. A means to an end. She was the way from him to acquire what he had been plotting probably long before her existence. His opportunity had risen and he was seizing it and damn whoever stood in his way. Kaala could feel her eyes begin to swim with tears and she cursed herself for betraying even that much emotion. “You never loved me at all, did you?” she accused him softly.

“Do not be foolish! Of course, I care for you, Kaala,” Bayok denied with an offhand shrug, “But I will not permit you to jeopardize all that I have worked for. I would kill you myself before I allowed that to happen.”



posted on 5-Nov-2002 10:38:10 AM by Deejonaise
quote:
slewell originally wrote:
Wow! This story is intense! But also amazing! I am hooked, and can't wait to see what happens.

Will Isabelle and Michael be involved at all? It isn't like Max to not keep in touch with his family. I am a bit surprised that Isabelle hasn't dreamwalked Max yet to see how things are either.

Post more soon! *big**big*


Welcome, slewell! New posters make me so happy. Heck all posters make me happy. Hmm. Feedback is nice. Now to your question:

Yes, Michael and Isabel will be involved, but much later in the story. Now for the other:

I've only touched on this briefly, but the reason Max and Liz haven't contacted their family is because of the FBI threat. Remember, it's only been about a week/week and a half since DeVoe was killed and they left home. Contact would be dangerous at this point.

As for the dreamwalking, that will be explained in coming chapters, however, keep in mind that Max and Liz haven't been in the Colony that long...less than a week at this point, so Isabel's dreamwalking him might be a little premature.

On another note, I'm glad to see that you all seem to be taking the last chapter rather well. I was hoping the twist would surprise you, but reading some of your posts I'm thinking you were more disgusted than surprised. BLS40 seems like you suspected something all along, lol. So much for my surprising twist.

Hopefully, however, my future surprises will go off a bit better. And don't worry, future chapters will have plenty of Max and Liz featured. I think this is the only one I've written that doesn't feature them at all.

Since I'm so far ahead in my writing I might post the next chapter tonight or early tomorrow morning. We'll see how things go...*wink*

Dee

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 5-Nov-2002 10:41:40 AM ]
posted on 5-Nov-2002 11:05:35 PM by Deejonaise
Okay, now I realize I've been in a posting frenzy the last couple of days. I promise I'll slow down after this part, but I've just been so excited with my progress in this story that I couldn't help myself. After this, I probably won't update again for another 3 or 4 days. In the meantime...Enjoy.

Oh yeah, can you feedback me, too?*wink**happy*



Chapter 15

Underneath the brilliant porch lamp, Max and Liz shared a slow, drawn out kiss. It was close to midnight. They had reluctantly relinquished their romantic hideaway, painfully aware that they could not avoid reality forever. Still they lingered on the porch, kissing and touching like new lovers. When Max finally broke the kiss they were both breathless, their mouths a dewy, swollen pink. “Are you sure you’re ready to go in there?” Max teased, playing at an errant strand of her hair, “We could always make a run for it.”

Liz found the offer sinfully tempting, but she shook her head. “As much as I’d love to run away with you right now we can’t, Max,” Liz replied regretfully as she ran her hands down the flat terrain of her stomach, “We have someone else to think about.”

Max nodded, reluctantly conceding to the logic of her argument. They did have their baby to think about. Considering that they knew absolutely nothing about what to expect concerning his birth, both Max and Liz realized their wisest choice would be to remain in the Colony…for the time being, at least. Max framed her face in his hands, his eyes drifting over her beautiful face with tender reverence, “I will never be able to thank you for putting up with all this craziness.”

“Don’t thank me,” Liz whispered softly, “Just guarantee me happily ever after with you and it’s all worth it.”

“Done,” Max granted with a smile. They shared another sweet kiss, but again reality was proving impossible to ignore. “Much as I’d like to stay out here in the freezing cold and kiss you all night, Liz,” Max mumbled against her mouth, “we’re going to have to go inside and face them sometime.”

“Do you think they’re still awake?” Liz asked in dread.

“I don’t sense anything,” Max told her, “but then I’m still getting used to these new Antarian abilities of mine.”

“Thanks,” Liz quipped mockingly, “that’s very reassuring.”

Max shrugged. “Hey, you asked.”

In the end they decided to sneak inside, which seemed ridiculous really because they were married. But then it was hard to shed the mentality, they were sixteen, it was a school night and they were out long past what would have been their normal curfew. But, upon creeping into the house and scurrying past the living room into the hall they realized that the house was blessedly silent. “Maybe they fell asleep,” Max speculated as they tumbled into their bedroom with breathless giggles.

However, Max’s theory that the house was completely asleep was disputed the moment he lay his head down against his pillow. No sooner had he sealed the entrance to their bedroom and snuggled against Liz than Max heard Zrei’s voice calling to him telepathically. Max sighed, preparing himself for the mother of all lectures and eased himself from Liz’s sleeping form, careful not to wake her. And then, after pulling on a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt, he crept, barefoot, up the stairs for Zrei’s bedroom.

His protector was sitting in the middle of his bed, his legs crossed in meditation when Max arrived. Wordlessly, Max cleared his mind and settled down on the floor beside the bed, crossing his legs as well and joining in the Antarian prayer that Zrei had recently taught him. During those times Max felt suspended in time, locked in a world where he could only hear the words of the prayer, “The Great Being bless us, the Great Being exalt us.” It was the only time he felt that he knew what his being Antarian truly meant. Just yesterday Zrei and Bayok had shown Max the written form of that prayer. Max now recognized that it had been the symbols carved in the wooden gate at the front of the community.

When the meditation period was over Max felt drained and slightly dizzy. He opened his eyes to find Zrei watching him intently. “You are late, but well I see,” he stated simply, his face betraying neither displeasure nor pleasure at the fact.

“I was with Liz,” Max explained.

“I sensed that…though I did not know for sure. You were too far away for me to read your thoughts.” Max filed that new bit of information away. Apparently, proximity had something to do with an Antarians ability to read minds. Perhaps that was another reason why they lived within such a small community together. “You are very astute,” Zrei commended demurely, easily divulging his thoughts, “I am glad you have returned.”

“You didn’t think I would?”

“Your transition here has not been easy,” Zrei replied, “I know that Elizabeth has had an especially difficult time adjusting.”

“Well, at least you’re not completely oblivious like I thought at first,” Max commented dryly, “But I’m still having a hard time forgiving you for not warning me about Kaala Stafford.”

“I did what I believed best,” Zrei told him without an ounce of repentance.

“I’m sure you did, Zrei” was Max’s sarcastic rejoinder and then his irritation vanished in the face of something more pressing, the real reason he’d acquiesced so easily to Zrei’s request to see him. “Zrei, may I ask you a question?” He waited for his protector’s nod before continuing, “Tonight something happened to me and Liz…” Max could feel his cheeks flooding with heat as he explained but he forced himself to go on, “when we made love tonight we…we started glowing. Is that normal?”

“Maxwell, our people are naturally persons of light,” Zrei explained pragmatically, “and that being the case, it does not sound abnormal to me. However, from a human standpoint I can understand your concern.”

“What’s going on?”

“You are changing,” Zrei told him simply, “Your Antarian physiology is maturing. It will make itself manifest at strange times, but especially when your emotions are high.”

“And Liz?”

“Because you are changing so shall she.”

“But how? Why? Is it because of the baby?” Max fired out the questions one after the other until Zrei held up his hand for silence.

“When you healed her,” Zrei began quietly, “you changed her fundamentally, in the sense that you became one person. You transferred your essence to her, made her part of you. The same happened when she healed you. What changes you experience, you will experience together…as will your child. The three of you will become one unit, connected in all things. Only your child will have the option of severing the bond that ties you together, but you and Elizabeth will remained connected…always.”

“What does that mean exactly?”

“Simply stated, if I prick you, you will bleed, but so will Elizabeth and so will your child as the bond between the three of you grows stronger and stronger.”

“So you’re saying that Liz and my son are bonded to me in everything and vice versa,” Max surmised in whisper. When Zrei nodded he added softly, “And if I die?”

“So shall they…as you will die if Elizabeth or your child loses their life. You share a true lifebond with Elizabeth. It is a privilege few Antarians are blessed with.”

“Privilege…yeah.” But Max didn’t sound as if he felt privileged at all. He wilted a little bit, somewhat overwhelmed. “That’s heavy,” he uttered.

“Precisely.”

Max expelled another sigh, caught up in his own thoughts. Though part of him was inordinately pleased that he and his family should be connected in such a profound way, it frightened him to think they would share in all his experiences, good and bad, even his death. He shuddered to think how Liz might react to the news. They had just reached the point where Liz was coming to accept his alien side. What would she say when she learned that his alien side was now her alien side as well?

“You really must learn to guard your thoughts, Maxwell,” Zrei warned, startling him out of his reverie.

“What?”

“You make your thoughts plain for all to hear,” Zrei chastised him softly, “Not all your thoughts should be made known…they make you vulnerable to the enemy.”

“But I thought you said that there were no secrets in the Collective,” Max protested.

“There are always exceptions to that rule, however,” Zrei countered, “I will teach you how to block your thoughts, Maxwell. It is a skill that all Antarians should possess.”

Something about the stubborn edge to Zrei’s tone made Max jerk up his head. He stared at Zrei closely. “But Bayok doesn’t agree that you should teach me?” Max replied, correctly guessing at Zrei’s thoughts although he hadn’t been able to read them. He didn’t understand why exactly, but Max suddenly suspected that there was a great deal more going on between Zrei and Bayok than either of them were revealing. Zrei’s next words confirmed that suspicion.

“It is true,” Zrei admitted, “Bayok and I have disagreed on this matter. We have disagreed about many things. However, I feel this is a skill you must have.”

“Why?” After all, he wasn’t in any danger, Max concluded to himself, his only enemies were human and they couldn’t read his thoughts.

Zrei mentally rolled his eyes at Max’s naïve thoughts. “Have you not realized that every thought you hear from myself, from Nesui, and yes, even from Bayok are thoughts we allow you to hear.” Zrei allowed a pregnant pause before continuing, “There are secrets in the Collective, young Maxwell. They are necessary now. The Antarian ways are long since over and a new era for our people has begun.”

“Meaning?” Max prompted.

“Meaning I have come to view things more clearly,” Zrei clarified, “For instance, I have pondered what you told me of the intimacy between human mates. You engage in intercourse not only for means of procreation, but for pleasure as well.” Max nodded, feeling another uncomfortable conversation coming on. “You mistakenly believe that Antarians do not share in that sort of intimacy, in a supreme achievement for pleasure, but you are wrong. The satisfaction you find in physicality we find by mentally sharing ourselves with one another. It is all the same, we merely go about different roads to achieve it.”

Mental lovemaking, Max considered to himself, what a concept! “Could I learn to do that?” Max asked, an idea suddenly occurring to him.

“I see no reason why you could not.” And then Zrei frowned, the first facial expression that Max had ever seen him use. “There are certain truths about you that I do not wish to know, Maxwell,” Zrei said pointedly, causing Max to blush because he had obviously heard the very naughty thought Max had concocted seconds earlier.

“Teach me how to guard my thoughts then,” Max told him, smiling in anticipation when Zrei nodded.

By the time he returned downstairs, three hours had passed and he was thoroughly exhausted. It didn’t help to know that Bayok would be coming for him in less than an hour to help with the farm animals, either. Max suppressed a groan of weariness as he crept quietly into his bedroom. However, his attempt to avoid waking Liz was in vain. She was already awake, propped against the pillows and waiting for him.

“You’ve been gone awhile,” she commented softly as he eased into the room, causing him to jump.

“What are you doing awake?” Max whispered, barring their bedroom entrance and scrambling beneath the covers with her. They snuggled together, shivering slightly in the cool night air.

“I woke up and you were gone,” Liz explained with a yawn, sliding her hands under his t-shirt to caress his back, “I couldn’t get back to sleep.”

“I went upstairs to speak with Zrei.”

“That must have been really interesting,” Liz teased laughingly.

Max tipped his head down to better see her face. “Why do you say that?”

“When you came back in here…you just looked sorta stunned.”

“I guess I was,” Max sighed thoughtfully, “Zrei was acting halfway normal for a change.” They shared a soft laugh and gentle, giggling kisses. “Seriously though,” Max said when his chuckles had died away, “He really talked to me tonight…like for the first time ever.”

“And that made you happy?” Liz concluded with womanly intuition.

Max nodded, dropping a kiss to her forehead. “I don’t know…” Max began, searching for the right words, “I just felt like tonight he was really seeing me, not just doing his duty, but caring about me, Max Evans. It felt good.” For the first time since their acquaintance Max felt as if he had finally connected with Zrei, crossed over that barrier between protector and podling.

“I’m glad for you, Max,” Liz whispered, hugging him tight against her, “Maybe things will start looking up around here, after all.”

“Yeah,” Max agreed optimistically as he closed his eyes in sleep, “maybe.”




Hey welcome SpoiledRoswellPrincess and thanks! I hope you'll be coming back to visit often!




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 5-Nov-2002 11:08:14 PM ]
posted on 7-Nov-2002 7:14:30 AM by Deejonaise
Welcome chili!!! It's always nice to have another poster even if they aren't new, lol. Oh and NATEVANS I noticed you, too. The more the merrier, really!!!

As for the story, I'll probably be updating late Friday night or early Saturday morning. We'll see how that goes. I'm still working out some kinks in the next part, but for the most part it's finished.

Check you all later,

Dee

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 7-Nov-2002 7:16:03 AM ]
posted on 8-Nov-2002 8:38:48 AM by Deejonaise
quote:
mareli originally wrote:
let me quote you:

quote:
for the most part it will be pretty angst-free


you wrote this, didnt' you? You know what? You are a evil! *wink*
It's only because you wrote so wonderfully that I can't stop reading your story, that hooked me from the very start!!!!!
arggghhhhhhh!!!!!! I think that you are really into angst, instead, you write in such a heartbreaking way...

I will keep on reading and I hope to see Liz kicking some a⊕⊕ here and there...


*bounce**bounce*


I'm glad to see you're not holding it against me.*wink*
posted on 11-Nov-2002 1:50:34 AM by Deejonaise
I'm sorry this update took me so long. I've had a lot going on lately. First my son got sick, and then a friend of mine went missing and I've been worried to death about her (she's okay, but for a minute there I was really freaking), then I had to work during the Tennessee/Miami game, which was HELL, then we had tornado warnings all over the place... Let's just say the last five days haven't been pleasant for me, lol.

Anyway, here's the next part. Hope you enjoy it.




Chapter 16

“So where were you last night,” Kaala chirped with a cheeriness she didn’t feel.

At the intrusion of the teasing female voice Max jerked his eyes from the love letter he had been writing for Liz to Kaala’s curious face. She was casually peering over his shoulder. Max quickly closed his notebook with an embarrassed snap. “Hey, Kaala,” he greeted uneasily, wondering if she’d glimpsed the gushy words of love he’d written to Liz. Judging from the expression on her face, however, she hadn’t.

“You’re working awfully hard considering Craddock’s not even here,” Kaala observed, tracing her finger along the spirals of his notebook. Today their regular U.S. Government teacher was out sick so Kaala didn’t understand what Max was working on so diligently, something he apparently didn’t want her to see either, judging by his fidgety manner. Unfortunately, when she attempted a mind tap she was met with a blank wall of resistance.

Max gave her a look of scathing disapproval. “That’s not nice,” he admonished, referring to her attempt to read his thoughts.

Kaala didn’t bother with an attempt at repentance. “Obviously, someone’s taught you how to block,” she replied breezily.

“Obviously,” Max confirmed, revealing no more than that.

Kaala wanted to moan in frustration. This new development was completely unexpected and would only serve to make what was already difficult ten times harder. And of course, Bayok would blame her for it. She shuddered when she thought of his angry reaction, especially when he’d told her specifically that Max had not been taught mind blocking and that he must never learn to do it. When he learned of this latest hitch he would be furious and, considering his threat the night before, Kaala couldn’t be sure that he wouldn’t slake his frustration by hurting her.

After her confrontation with Bayok the night before she had gone home with her heart broken in pieces. But she didn’t cry. Kaala Stafford had too much grit for tears, especially when they wouldn’t serve any purpose. Instead, she had wracked her brain for a way to get out of the mess she’d entangled herself in. She was used to getting herself out of messes. It was a task she’d been doing most of her life.

Kaala spent the majority of her time in trouble. It was a well-known fact. She was such a handful, in fact, that she had cost her protector, Kaas, a seat on the Council because of his inability to control her. Suffice it to say that her protector didn’t harbor any great affection for her. In her younger years the knowledge had devastated Kaala, but now she had learned to accept the fact coldly. Kaas didn’t love her. No big deal. It had never been his duty to do so anyway.

Bayok had been right about one thing for sure. The days when Jnuian happily and proudly served Trsanite were done. Kaala suspected that the deterioration in respect among the protectors had a great deal to do with their masters’ human forms. It was no great secret that humans were not revered among the Jnui-Antarians and so, inevitably, dissention had begun. Jnuian loyalty was no longer a quality to which one aspired, now it was seen as a curse. Yes, those ancient days of Antarian loyalty were almost completely dead.

Kaala knew of some old timers who felt the loss over such tradition, but Kaala couldn’t have cared less. What did she have to do with traditions and cultures that existed long before she did? Besides that, Antarian lifestyle held no mystery to her, no flavor. The ways of her people had been drummed into her head since the moment she’d emerged from her pod. However, the part of herself that she had been truly curious about, the part that she was forbidden to speak of, was the part of which she was most ignorant.

Kaas had always taught her and Kaelen that humans were weak, mediocre. For some time Kaala had even found herself believing it, even still to that day she struggled with those beliefs that had been ingrained in her. To acknowledge her humanity would be to admit weakness or faultiness and Antarians were neither. Though humans had always fascinated the Antarian race they had always been viewed as a subspecies, rather the way a birdwatcher was enamored of birds. Humans were pretty to look at but inferior just the same. Still, Kaala’s natural curiosity could not be squelched.

In her third year of elementary school she made her first human friend. Lillie. Even now Kaala could remember with stinging clarity the color of Lillie’s hair and how her wheat blond locks had bounced whenever they jumped rope on the playground. In all that time she had been Kaala’s first and only true friend.

Of course, Kaas had gone insane with rage when he learned of her friendship. He had beaten her in an attempt to make her break it off but Kaala had only come away more determined. The more Kaas beat her, the more Kaala dug in her heels. And then, abruptly, one day the beatings stopped and shortly thereafter Lillie stopped coming to school. Her parents had been frantic over their little girl’s disappearance. However, a few weeks later their uncertainty was put to rest. Kaala and Kaelen had found Lillie’s body while digging for worms in the woods. Kaala never made another human friend.

Consequently, she spent much of her life lonely. Of course, she had her brother and she knew that Kaelen loved her, but he had a life of his own and he didn’t need her tagging along after him. Bayok had come along like a cool draught of water in the emotional desert that had become her life. She had fallen for him quickly and hard. But in doing so she had made yet another foolish choice in her life. Now she stood to hurt so many people just as she had hurt Lillie by being insistent on keeping her friendship.

Kaala looked at Max now and her heart ached. She didn’t want to involve him in her mess of a life, but what choice did she have really? Bayok had threatened her with banishment if she didn’t comply with his wishes. And then there was Kaelen. He had already been hurt enough by the Council to last a lifetime. Kaala did not want to compound his pain by having him pay for her mistakes.

And she knew Bayok well enough to realize that he hadn’t been bluffing. He would make good on every threat if she reneged on her promise to help him. And though Kaala liked to believe she was tough, she knew that she wouldn’t survive a day outside the Antarian community on her own. She had to do what was necessary and pray that Max could find it within himself to forgive her later on.

“So are you going to answer my question or what?” Kaala asked again when Max resumed scribbling in his notebook.

With a sigh, Max halted in his writing and looked up at her inquiringly. “What question is that?”

“Where were you last night?” Kaala clarified succinctly, “I’m not asking to be nosy, okay, but I saw you in the Caf yesterday and you looked pretty raw…I was worried. I even came by your place last night to check on you,” she lied smoothly, (and when had she gotten so good at that, Kaala wondered), “but Bay…ok, Bayok said you weren’t there. So you okay or what?”

Max relaxed his guard enough to smile. “I’m much better now. Thanks.” He wanted to finish his love letter to Liz, but the expression on Kaala’s face said that she was in a talkative mood. And why wouldn’t she be talkative? They had a substitute for the day and it wasn’t as if Kaala had any work to do. Besides he had seen her around school the last couple of days. She always seemed to be alone and Max suspected she didn’t have any friends. Add her friendless state to being an alien and Max imagined that her existence must be pretty lonesome. Feeling pity tug at his heart, Max sighed again and closed his notebook, pushing it off to the side of his desk. “So what’s on your mind?” he asked her politely.

“I have some people I would like for you to meet today,” Kaala informed him bluntly, “As I’m sure you’re aware our kind aren’t the majority here, but there are a few of us and I’d like to introduce you to them.”

Her offer made him uneasy. Max hadn’t forgotten Bayok and Nesui’s initial reaction to meeting him and Liz. They had been so cold and distant towards her and, truthfully, still were to some extent. Max didn’t want to put her through that same sort of rejection again. But then, Kaala had made no mention about Liz meeting these “people” also.

Kaala watched as Max’s thoughts chased their way across his features. He was concerned that his wife would be rejected. She wanted to reassure him and not only because Bayok had commanded her to gain his trust, but because she genuinely wanted him to feel welcomed. “My brother and his friends aren’t like that, I promise you, Max…well maybe one of them, but he doesn’t count. For the most part Liz will be completely accepted. Besides I’d like the opportunity to meet her.”

But instead of putting him at ease Kaala’s reassurance only served to make Max more apprehensive. He didn’t think it was such a good idea for her to meet Liz. Max had been completely honest about Kaala and the feelings she incited within him. However, just because he had told Liz the truth didn’t mean she wanted the girl shoved down her throat either. Besides that, he and Liz were in a good place at the moment and he didn’t want to muck it up by throwing all her insecurities back in her face.

“It will be a group thing,” Kaala said, sensing the reason for his hesitation, “You and I won’t be alone together. Liz has to know that there’s no reason for her to feel threatened.” Kaala certainly felt like a hypocrite saying that! Of course, there was reason for Liz to feel threatened. She was attempting to seduce her husband even if neither of them really had a clue about it.

“I don’t know,” Max hedged worriedly, “Liz is not at all comfortable with the idea of you. I wouldn’t want to cause more tension where there’s already plenty.”

“Max, it’s my brother and his friends,” Kaala pleaded, “I really do want you to meet them.”

Max heaved a defeated sigh. “Just let me talk to Liz first.”

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

Liz shut her locker with a reverberating clang. “Absolutely not.”

She was mad. Her lower lip was quivering. That only happened when she was good and truly steamed. For that reason alone Max was tempted to let the matter drop. He didn’t want her to be angry or feel uncomfortable. But he’d be lying if he said he weren’t looking forward to the prospect of meeting other Antarians his age.

Why wouldn’t it excite him? He had only known of Isabel and Michael all his life. But now here was his chance to broaden his circle of friends and he wanted to take it. If only Liz didn’t hate the idea so thoroughly. “It’s not like we’ll be alone,” Max assured Liz, using the same argument that Kaala had used on him earlier, “This is just a group thing.”

Liz shifted her books in her arms and slanted a glare at him. “I’m supposed to eat my lunch with the girl who’s supposed to be your wife…a girl you’re attracted to, Max,” Liz enunciated through clenched teeth, “Now tell me again why I should be alright with this?”

“Kaala isn’t like that, Liz,” Max protested, “She doesn’t have any designs on me, despite the circumstances.”

“How would you know what she’s like, Max?” Liz asked suspiciously, “You’ve barely had a conversation with her.”

Max ducked his head guiltily. “Maybe my last conversation with her was a little longer than I led you to believe,” he admitted reluctantly.

Liz narrowed her eyes. “Oh, I definitely know I don’t want to go now.” She turned away from him then and began stalking down the hall towards the cafeteria. Max ran after her, grabbing hold of her arm and bringing her to a stop. “Liz, I know you’re upset,” Max began sympathetically, “but there’s no reason for you to be like this. You have to know I love you…just you, Liz.”

His words had the desired effect. Liz’s anger drained from her face, leaving her looking uncertain and vulnerable. “I just don’t know if I can be face to face with her, Max,” she admitted to him miserably, “What if one of those alien whammies happens while I’m sitting right there? I don’t think I could stand it if you were sitting there just staring at her and knowing that you…that you wanted her…”

Realizing that they were standing in the middle of the hall and gaining some attention, Max propelled Liz over to a vacant corner near a water fountain. Then he kissed her. Hard. His tongue swept the inside of her mouth hungrily before he pulled back, satisfied to see the glassy expression in Liz’s eyes. “Okay, I did that because you need to know I don’t want any woman but you. What happens with Kaala is just animal instinct, it doesn’t compare in the slightest to what I feel for you. Secondly, the pull hasn’t been so strong lately,” he assured her, “I can definitely control it better now, Liz, so you don’t have to worry about me staring at her, okay?”

Liz nodded dumbly, still dazed from his passionate kiss. “Okay.”

When Max and Liz entered the cafeteria hand and hand a few minutes later they found Kaala already seated at their usual lunch table with her friends. The moment Liz saw Kaala’s face her steps faltered and she squeezed Max’s hand reflexively. Max favored her with a reassuring smile. “I love you, Liz,” he whispered intently, “don’t ever doubt it.”

As they approached they watched a blond haired young man bend and speak quickly to an equally blond girl before hastily grabbing up his books and stalking past them. He had glared daggers at Liz as he passed. Liz shuddered, but Max only shrugged, immediately put on the defensive. “It’s okay,” he told Liz, giving her hand a playful tug, “We wouldn’t have liked him anyway.”

Once they reached the table Kaala and her friends stood in greeting. “Max,” she cried in relief, “I didn’t think you were coming at first.” Kaala then looked over to Liz and immediately wished she hadn’t. It was one thing to plot the seduction of a man when his wife was nothing but a faceless blob, but it was quite another to seduce that same man once you’d looked the woman who loved him in the eye.

Liz Evans had a penetrating stare that made Kaala want to squirm. She looked at Kaala as she would have a night crawler, as something that needed to be squashed and quickly. Liz wasn’t bothering to hide her dislike. That fact was impossible for Kaala to miss. It was a funny feeling, but even knowing that her intentions weren’t honorable Kaala didn’t want this girl to feel threatened. Maybe she should have. Perhaps it might make what she had to do easier, but honestly Kaala didn’t want the hassle. Her life was complicated enough. Besides that she didn’t want to do anything beyond what was absolutely necessary to carry out Bayok’s plan. She didn’t need Max falling for her, no way! In fact, the last thing Kaala wanted at all was to become emotionally involved in another relationship.

Taking a deep breath she stuck out her hand and introduced herself. “I’m Kaala,” she said, sighing a little when Liz reluctantly shook her hand, “I know this must be a little awkward for you.”

“A little,” Liz admitted warily, reaching forward to clasp Kaala’s hand.

“Well, I’ll tell you that I think Max is a great guy, but that’s as far as it goes, okay.” It was the truest statement Kaala could have uttered. She was attracted to Max, but she was a long way from wanting him for herself. She was just doing a duty and that was it.

Liz only nodded in response, searching Kaala’s gaze for insincerity. Max stood beside the two young women, figuratively suspended in hell, as he awaited some kind of explosion between the two of them. Seeing the way Liz was scrutinizing Kaala, Max was overcome with the urge to duck under the lunch table. Only when Liz tentatively shook Kaala’s hand did Max finally expel a breath.

Realizing Liz had accepted her tentative truth Kaala smiled and turned to introduce the people with her. “Max, Liz, this is my brother Kaelen and his girlfriend Rahsha Quinn.” Max and Liz reached for to shake their hands while studying their features closely. Kaelen was a male version of his sister. Same curly dark brown hair, same vibrant green eyes, but his seemed less sharp and more inclined towards mischief.

His girlfriend reminded Max of Isabel. She was very tall, very blond with a rather haughty appearance. She had deep blue eyes that were wide, clear, and impudently direct. However, her looks were deceiving because when she reached forward to shake their hands her smile was warm and genuine and lit up her entire face.

“Kaala’s been yapping about you for some time, Max,” Kaelen revealed as they all settled down at the lunch table, “You’d think you were an alien or something.” He looked around the table expectantly but was only met with dull amusement at his lame joke. “Well, at least Rahsha thinks I’m funny,” he quipped, hooking his arm about his girlfriend’s shoulders and giving her a squeeze.

“Don’t do that,” she warned him half teasing, half serious as she shrugged off his arm, “Ruaak might still be lurking somewhere watching. The last thing I need is for him to go running to Galek on me.” Rahsha acknowledged Max and Liz’s questioning look. “Ruaak is my brother. He just left. And Galek is our protector.”

“Yeah, and a supreme pain in the ass,” Kaelen muttered under his breath.

“That’s the understatement of the century,” Kaala wisecracked in agreement, slanting a wry glance at Max and Liz, “Welcome to our world.” Everyone in the table erupted in laughter at her sarcastic quip as well as the expression on her face as she said it. Liz decided then that maybe Kaala and her friends weren’t so bad after all.



posted on 12-Nov-2002 4:21:03 PM by Deejonaise
Okay, I want to thank everyone for the marvelous feedback and extra bump. It really means a lot and because it does I'm going to admit something to you. I have this fic written all the way through to Chapter 42. It's a little over half completed. Now my question is because so much of it is written would you like me to post a new part every day or would you rather me continue to do so every couple days?

On average, I get a new chapter of this story written everyday and I try not to post a new part until the part I am currently working on is finished so I do a pretty good job of staying ahead of myself. Anyway, to post everyday or not...let me know.

Now that's done, on to the story:




Chapter 17

Four hours later Liz was revising her assessment. She pulled on her work uniform in disinterest, grumbling to herself. Nothing drastic had happened really, but Liz felt her old insecurities bubbling to the surface.

They had wanted to go clubbing, more specifically Kaala had wanted to.

At first, Max and Liz had been shocked by the suggestion. For days now they had been subjected to straight-laced Antarians who never seemed to smile, never seemed to laugh, never seemed inclined to have anything resembling a good time. They had assumed that was the norm. However, talking with Kaala, Kaelen and Rahsha during their lunchbreak Max and Liz had discovered them to be typical teenagers. They shared the same angst and woe as other teenagers across the world over. They just happened to be another species.

The knowledge made Liz relax somewhat and, as a result, she had actually been able to enjoy herself. It also helped that Kaelen, Rahsha and Kaala seemed to accept her without reservation or prejudice. Rahsha and Kaelen seemed to genuinely want to know her better, but Liz was having a hard time discerning Kaala’s motivations. She seemed nice, but Liz sensed there was much more to Kaala than what she revealed on the surface. Still, Liz had appreciated their acceptance immensely.

Kaala and Kaelen had engrossed themselves in a playful food fight, tossing french fries across the table at one another, while she and Max chatted with Rahsha about how they liked living in the Colony. Everything had been going smoothly until Kaala had suddenly suggested, “Hey, why don’t we do something tonight?”

“Because it’s a school night, genius,” Kaelen had retorted, flicking another fry at her, “Besides I don’t feel like coming up with another lie to Kaas about where we go so late at night.” Kaas, Kaala and Kaelen’s protector, wasn’t held in any higher esteem than the aforementioned Galek. Kaala made a face at her brother. He made one back and received a kick in the shins. Typical siblings.

Kaelen started to retaliate when Rahsha caught his arm, rolling her eyes in laughing exasperation. “Children, please!” she scolded teasingly and then emitted a long-suffering sigh, “I can never take them anywhere.” Everyone laughed at her joke, except Kaala.

“I still think we should go out,” Kaala insisted obstinately, “Kaas or not Kaas. Who cares what he thinks anyway?”

The laughter faded from Kaelen’s eyes. “The Council cares, Kay,” he told his sister softly, “You know Kaas wouldn’t hesitate in going to them if he thought it was necessary.”

“I’ve never had a problem with Zrei censoring me that way,” Max commented, popping a potato chip into his mouth, “He’s always pretty much let me do what I want.”

“I’d expect that since you weren’t raised here,” Kaelen replied with a touch of envy, “and Zrei only lived here off and on. It’s completely different when you’re raised in the Colony and taught to eat, live and breathe antarian culture every single day.”

“So you’re not supposed to have fun?” Liz wondered aloud.

“’What is the purpose of fun, how will it benefit you’,” Kaelen quoted his protector flawlessly, his face the blank mask that Max and Liz had come to expect of antarians, “If what you want doesn’t further antarian agenda…it’s worthless. As far as our protectors are concerned, nothing outside antarian culture matters.”

“But you don’t feel that way,” Max surmised slowly, hearing the trill of bitterness in Kaelen’s tone.

“Some do,” Kaelen admitted, “They seem perfectly content with their antarian heritage never seeming to wonder about their human one. I’m not like that. I want to know about my human roots.”

The moment he said the words Rahsha rewarded him with a vicious pinch to the forearm. “Don’t say things like that!” she admonished sharply, her eyes drifting over the cafeteria, “Ruaak could hear you. You know what happened the last time he overheard you talking that way!”

“What happened last time?” Max asked curiously.

“Kaelen was reprimanded by the Council,” Kaala provided cautiously.

“Essentially I was mind fucked,” Kaelen confessed tightly, his teasing expression giving way to something darker, “It wasn’t a good experience…I don’t like to talk about it.” He abruptly scraped back his chair from the table and reached across the table to pump Max’s hand. “Good to meet you, Max, Liz…but I gotta go.” He was obviously upset when he excused himself.

Rahsha favored them with an apologetic look. “I need to go after him,” she explained, gathering together her and Kaelen’s books, “It was nice to meet you.”

Max and Liz regarded Kaala with questioning eyes. She shrugged. “It happened a year ago,” she began, “Kaelen had been flying off at the mouth about how he was sick to death of antarian society and wished he could go live among humans.” Kaala paused and sighed. “Basically Ruaak overheard the entire thing and ratted Kaelen out. Next thing you know he was dragged before the Council for one of their infamous brainwashing ceremonies. We call it a mind pull. The Council can extract memories, ideas, anything they want from your mind and replace it with whatever garbage they see fit. It’s how they keep us rebellious teens in line.”

Max trembled at the idea. “That’s awful.”

“Actually, Kaelen was lucky, if you can call it that,” Kaala said in laughing bitterness, “Besides taking away the memory of what he said that day and how he felt about it, as well as a few childhood memories they pretty much left him alone.” Kaelen no longer remembered the day he and she had found Lillie’s dead body in the woods. He didn’t remember the constant beatings she’d received from Kaas either. Kaala didn’t see any point in enlightening him either. That would only serve to get them both in trouble. She shook the bad memories from her mind. “Anyway…it’s over.”

“Do they…do they do that to everyone who defies them?” Liz asked shakily, thinking of how she and Max had antagonized Bayok the past few days by insisting on their privacy.

“No,” Kaala reassured her, quickly reading her thoughts, “The practice is usually restricted to antarian males. They’re held to a higher standard than females, although, it’s not unheard of for a female to be recommended for a mind pull.” She had come dangerously close herself on several occasions. The last time Bayok had stepped in and saved her. At the time Kaala had been grateful, but now she realized that it had all been part of his plot to trick her into helping him. “Okay, let’s stop talking about unpleasant things,” Kaala commanded laughingly, “What was I talking about before? Oh yeah, we should go out tonight.”

“Is that wise?” Max asked, erring on the side of caution, “Do you want to run the risk of getting in trouble?”

Kaala reached across the table and gave Max’s hand a playful pinch, something Liz noticed with an angry flash of jealousy. “You only get in trouble if you get caught,” Kaala quipped jauntily, “and I have no intention whatsoever of being caught.” Besides that, the chief elder himself had sanctioned their outing so even if they were discovered Bayok would simply make it go away. The Council would never even hear of their indiscretion. “We could go clubbing tonight,” Kaala suggested with a smile, “I know this great 18 and over place down on Broadway--,”

“Kaala,” Max interrupted quickly, “but we’re only sixteen.” He said it slowly, as if he thought she were an imbecile.

“Minor technicality,” Kaala responded with an frustrated groan, “Besides…we’re aliens, Max, I think we can handle adjusting our age.”

“It’s a school night,” Max reminded her responsibly.

“What are you, ninety?” Kaala retorted in disgust, “Come on! Throw caution aside and start living, Max! Geez!”

“He doesn’t want anyone to get in trouble,” Liz replied quietly in defense of her husband. She knew that Max didn’t want to get into trouble either.

“No one is going to get in trouble,” Kaala wheedled, “I’ve been sneaking out for years now…it’s practically an art for me.”

“Well, I have to work tonight,” Liz said as if that should end the debate.

Kaala leveled her with a mildly disgusted look. “So what? Does that mean Max can’t come? You really got those apron strings tied tight, don’tcha, Liz?”

Max heard the criticism in her tone and was quick to jump to Liz’s defense. “I don’t really want to be there if Liz isn’t anyway, Kaala.” To emphasize his point, Max swept up Liz’s hand and brought it to his mouth. The two shared a syrupy sweet look. Kaala groaned in response.

“So you’re telling me that instead of coming out tonight and having a good time you’re going to hang out all night with Bayok, Zrei and Nesui,” Kaala demanded sarcastically, “That should be a barrel of fun.”

“Actually, I thought I might hang out at Liz’s job,” Max countered softly, gazing into his wife’s eyes, “and wait for her to get off.” Liz melted under the sweet look he was giving her. She offered him a shy smile.

Kaala fought the urge to be nauseous. She just wanted to put Bayok’s plan into motion and be done with it. But she realized that she would never be able to seduce Max away if she didn’t cause some dissention between him and Liz first. “Whoa there, Max, you really do know how to live on the edge. Nothing like watching the little wifey work to get the blood flowing…whoo-hoo,” she quipped mockingly, deliberately seeking to provoke Liz, “Is that really what you want to subject him to, Liz?” Her question was meant as a challenge. Liz took it without hesitation.

Kaala’s demeanor made Liz feel foolish and insecure, but most of all angry. Though, she wanted for Max to have a good time tonight, a large part of her was very uneasy about him spending time alone with Kaala without her there to supervise. Liz had yet to get a read on Kaala Stafford and her motives. At times the girl seemed sincere and genuinely friendly, but then at other times, like right then, she seemed calculating and devious. Liz couldn’t help but feel that there was more to her wanting to take Max out than showing him a night on the town.

Still, Liz didn’t like the implication that she was keeping Max from having fun based on her own uncertainty and that’s exactly what she suspected Kaala was silently trying to imply. Furthermore, Liz didn’t want Kaala to start accusing her of not trusting Max. Liz trusted him implicitly; it was Kaala she was getting a bad vibe about. Out of resentful anger she had turned to Max and said, “If you want to go it’s okay with me, really.” She had said that, but then she hadn’t expected that he would be genuinely interested. But he had been. There had been no mistaking Kaala’s satisfied smirk afterwards.

Before Liz could process what was happening Kaala was making plans to pick Max up later that night. He had only agreed after she promised him she would find a way to convince her brother and Rahsha to come along, too. When she skipped off from the lunch table Liz had felt a sick feeling of dread settle in the pit of her stomach. The cramping feeling had only doubled when they returned home and Max informed Bayok of his plans to meet for a “study date” with Kaala and her brother. Bayok had been much too pleased with the development for Liz’s own comfort.

So now she stood in front of the full-length mirror in their bedroom, moodily contemplating her reflection, while listening to Max hum to himself as he shaved in the bathroom. She didn’t want him to go out tonight. What was worse, if she said something about it now she would just seem fickle and indecisive and Max would resent her in the end. Moreover, she was loath to shatter the peace that had settled between them since last night. He was still spending too much time with Bayok in her opinion. After they had arrived home he had gone off with Bayok into the study and had stayed with their host for nearly an hour following, but Liz was willing to keep quiet on the matter. For now.

His soft, resonate voice drifted over to her from the bathroom. She listened to him practice Tysh in the bathroom. “Shi qui quon diesh Max,” he pronounced carefully, “My name is Max. Esh cai voyen ba doosh. I am pleased to meet you.”

Liz poked her head into the bathroom. “You plan on speaking Antarian tonight,” she quipped teasingly.

“It’s Tysh,” Max corrected with a smile, “and I’m just practicing. Bayok said my pronunciation needs work.” He turned to her then, running his hands down the front of his chest. “How do I look?”

Liz surveyed Max’s ribbed, black turtleneck and cargo khakis. She couldn’t help but appreciate how his shirt clung delectably to his muscled chest and arms. Max was very fit, well built for a boy of sixteen. He had a great body and the clothing he’d chosen only emphasized that fact. Liz suddenly found herself wishing he were flaccid and fat. She wondered precisely who he was trying to impress. “You look good,” she said without much enthusiasm.

When she started to turn away he grabbed hold of her hips and pulled her back against him, resting his chin on her shoulder. “If you weren’t okay with me going tonight why didn’t you just say so, Liz?” he asked her gently.

Liz offered him a chagrined, sideways smile. “You knew I had a problem with it?”

“I’d have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to have noticed. You’ve been moping around ever since,” Max replied, hugging her back against him.

“If you knew I didn’t want you to go then why did you agree?” Liz wanted to know.

“You’re going to have to learn to tell me how you really feel about things, Liz, especially if you don’t want me reading your mind to find out,” Max admonished, “But until you learn that lesson, I guess I’m just gonna have to try teaching you the hard way.” Liz elbowed him playfully in the ribs. “Oomph,” Max grunted and then he whispered directly in her ear, “I’ll call off if you want. I’d much rather sit and watch you wiggle your cute little ass in this uniform all night.”

“No,” Liz protested, shivering a little at how his breath stirred against her ear, “I want you to have a good time. I’m just being silly. I guess I’m still a little jealous.”

“Of what!” Max exclaimed feelingly, “Liz, you’re my moon goddess!”

Liz laughed at his cheesy compliment. “Moon goddess?” she questioned with a smile, “I think you might want to stick with ‘baby’.”

“Agreed,” Max laughed, then added sultrily, “…baby…” He nuzzled her neck, his hand creeping into the unbuttoned front of her uniform to caress her warm skin. Max pressed his growing erection against her back. “How much time before you have to go?” he whispered suggestively as he fanned her nipple with the pads of his fingers.

“Not nearly enough,” Liz moaned regretfully, pushing away his hand and whirling out of his arms. “I already missed yesterday, I can’t afford to be late today.”

Max regarded her with a playful grin. “Hey, I only need two minutes…five tops.”

“You get none,” Liz told him definitively, her lips curved in a smile. “Now behave while I finish getting ready.” She was halfway out the door when he called her back, grabbing hold of her hand. “What, Max?” she asked in laughing exasperation.

“If you get off early tonight why don’t you come by the club?” he suggested, “It’s called The Room. I really want you to come. I’ll give you the directions before you leave.”




posted on 13-Nov-2002 5:07:20 PM by Deejonaise
Now I promise you after this part Max will start to get a clue...sometimes you just have to hit rock bottom, you know?

So it's been decided, I'll post a new part everyday, however, here's the catch...my posting times may vary due to the fact I want to finish whatever part I'm currently writing before posting a new part. For instance, I just began Chapter 44 today, so I want to have that entire part finished before posting Chapter 19. But don't panic, I should have 44 completed late tonight. I'm still having a little problem with the beginning, but I know how I want the middle and end to progress otherwise it would be finished.

Anyway, enough with my rambling...onto the next part.

P.S. Try not to hate Max too much, please, lol.



Chapter 18

Max felt out of his element. The Room was definitely not his scene. The music was too loud, the girls were too forward, and the liquor flowed too freely. Which was exactly the reason why he sat alone with Kaelen and Rahsha at a table on the edge of the dancefloor, sipping cherry coke while watching Kaala shake her stuff underneath the multi-colored strobe lights. Her movements were fluid, sensual, attesting that she was completely comfortable and absolutely aware of her own sensuality. Max slanted Kaelen an amused look. “She sure is lively, isn’t she?” he commented wryly.

“Yeah,” Kaelen agreed loudly over the blaring music, obviously displeased with the spectacle his sister was creating, “she sure is that.” He flicked Max a long-suffering look. “You have a sister…does she act like this?”

Max resisted scoffing at the notion. “Isabel…,” Max considered pensively, “she’s somewhat reserved, not nearly as…outgoing as your sister.”

Kaelen smiled wryly and took a sip of his drink. “That’s just a nice way of saying wild, huh?”

Max ducked his head, hiding his smile. Kaala had come to pick him up shortly after Liz left for work. He had been apprehensive at first because she looked dressed for anything other than a study date. She had dressed in a knee length lavender colored skirt made of some sort of shimmery jersey material. The skirt might have actually been all right if she didn’t have a slit on either side that revealed a great deal of her thighs. The top she wore wasn’t much better. It was white, backless, held in place only by a thin scrap of material around the small of her back and a flimsy tie around her neck. Max had expected that Bayok would put a halt on their “study date” before it even began seeing her dressed like that.

Just that morning he had lectured Max for staying out so late with Liz the night before and Liz was his wife! Knowing the conservative values Bayok held Max was cringing in expectation, waiting for him to toss Kaala from the house and order her never to return. But he didn’t do any of those things. Instead he only nodded and clapped Max on the back, telling him to have a good time. Max was still dazed over his reaction when Bayok stopped him halfway out the door and told Max that he was glad to see he and Kaala were getting acquainted.

Max had puzzled over his strange behavior all the way to the club. Surely, Bayok wasn’t pushing him towards Kaala. They had spoken just that morning about the subject. Max had been forthright with Bayok. He loved Liz, he always had and he always would. Bayok had seemed to accept that, but he had been insistent that Max at least get to know Kaala, if not as her future husband then as her friend.

Max had believed they had reached a turning point. Bayok had even been solicitously considerate of Liz that morning. They had spoken about his unusual turn around all the way to school. He had honestly believed things were getting better, but now, judging how Bayok had seemed so very eager to send him off with Kaala, Max wasn’t so sure anymore. He found himself wondering if Bayok was trying to manipulate him.

The moment Max had the thought he felt immediately guilty. How could he think something so underhanded about someone who had been so generous with him? Bayok had graciously taken him into his home, into his life despite the fact that Max was a virtual stranger to him. Of course, Bayok wasn’t trying to manipulate him, Max told himself briskly. He was just eager for Max to know about his past just as he’d stated. Nothing more, nothing less.

His nervousness was just making him paranoid, Max reasoned. Earlier that afternoon when he and Liz had lunch with Kaala, Kaelen and Rahsha he hadn’t felt so awkward. Maybe because Liz had been there. Max had felt stronger with her at his side, more secure. Now, however, without her calming presence he felt lonely and isolated and a little scared.

To his credit, though, Kaelen Stafford had done everything in his power to put Max at ease by smoothly including him in his and Rahsha’s conversations until Max began to open up without prompting. They talked about everything from Max’s life in Roswell to how he had come to choose a human for a mate. Max realized by their questions that they weren’t so disdainful as they were curious, especially because, as they had put it, they didn’t get a human vibe from Liz at all.

Max had explained to them about healing Liz in the Crashdown after she was shot, which really seemed to fascinate them. They had asked him all sorts of questions about what it was like to have parents and live like a human. They seemed hungry to know, envious that he had experienced such freedom. Eventually, their conversation had steered away from Max and he began asking questions of his own.

Max was surprised to learn, however, that Kaelen resented being brought up in the Colony. Kaelen said he could not wait for the day when he and Rahsha would be free of oppressive Antarian society. But then he had deflated in his conviction, saying he didn’t think that desire would ever come to fruition. You were born in the Colony, so to speak, and you died there as well.

Realizing their chat had taken a rather morbid turn, Kaelen, Max and Rahsha turned their attention to the dancefloor. Kaala had chosen a new dance partner and was gyrating against him in quite a familiar manner. She ground her hips so provocatively against the man that Max blushed, Kaelen muttered curses under his breath, and Rahsha looked away in embarrassment.

“You really should do something about her, Kaelen,” Rahsha advised him with a frown of disapproval, “She’s behaving like a total skank.”

“Since when do I have any control whatsoever over how my sister behaves?” Kaelen asked tiredly, “She’s never listens to anything I say to her…why should this time be any different?”

“You could at least try,” Rahsha insisted in an accusing whisper.

However, no sooner had she said suggested Kaelen retrieve his sister than Kaala herself came skipping from the dancefloor up to their table, perspiring and out of breath. “Is this what you guys plan to do all night,” she pouted breathlessly, fanning herself vigorously, “Audition as live mannequins or perhaps you’re going for table art? I thought we came here to have some fun!”

“Not everyone’s idea of fun is the same as yours, Kay,” Rahsha told her quietly, “Maybe you should sit the next song out.”

Kaala sent Rahsha a look that could have dented iron. “Rahsha, I have managed just fine for the last ten years of my life without a mother, thank you very much.” She turned her attention to Max then, dismissing Rahsha for the moment. She grabbed his hands and began tugging him from his seat insistently. “Come out and dance with me,” she invited with a smile.

Though outwardly, Kaala was trying to create the image of a fun loving, free spirited girl, inside she was quaking with nerves. She couldn’t put it off any longer. When she had returned home from school that afternoon Bayok had telephoned her almost the instant she walked through her front door. He was growing increasingly impatient with her progress concerning Max and threatening her with a number of unpleasant things. He had ordered her to make a move tonight or he would make her seriously regret it.

She had hidden her fear well. Though Kaelen had been curious over her mysterious phone call he hadn’t pressed her too hard for information. He probably figured that it was a friend from school and that Kaala was up to her usual rebellious ways. For a second, she had considered breaking down and telling him the truth right then, but quickly discarded the idea. What could Kaelen possibly do if he knew the truth?

Bayok was the Jnuian Council leader. Within the Colony he had power and influence. There was nothing neither she nor Kaelen could do to hurt him. But he could definitely hurt them and he would, too…if they crossed him. So Kaala kept silent, dressing for their club night as if nothing at all were amiss, all the while her stomach was bubbling with dread.

Bayok had been thorough in his coaching for her that night. From Max’s own mouth he had learned how human males liked to be pleasured. In painstaking detail he had told Kaala the exact things she must do. It didn’t seem to bother him in the slightest that he was sending his lover out to seduce another male. In fact, he seemed to find the entire situation somewhat amusing.

Kaala, on the other hand, was terrified. She had never in her life had a physical relationship with a man. The lovemaking she had engaged in with Bayok had always been via mental connections. Their joining was almost spiritual in the intensity and Kaala highly doubted that any physical touching she did with Max would ever compare to that mind-blowing pleasure. But that was what Bayok had insisted she do, kiss and caress Max until she bent him to her way of thinking, until she seduced him away from his human wife.

Kaala thought that Bayok was greatly overestimating her appeal and greatly underestimating Max’s loyalty to Liz. It was readily apparent from the calf eyed way he’d watched her all during lunch that Max was absolutely smitten with his wife. One kiss from Kaala, no matter how pleasurable he found kisses to be, would not turn Max away from Liz. No, Kaala realized, before she could even begin of seducing Max she had to find a way to come between him and Liz first.

Liz’s insecurity and mistrust of her seemed the perfect place to start. Kaala wasn’t ignorant to the fact that Liz didn’t like her or Bayok for that matter. But the beauty of the situation was that Max did. He wanted so badly to be a part of something, to belong somewhere that he was willing to overlook the glaring flaws in both she and Bayok. She could easily use that to come between them. No, she silently corrected herself, she would use it. She didn’t have any other choice in the matter.

She tugged on Max’s hands again when he refused to be budged from his seat. “Come on, Max!” she coaxed, “Loosen up and live a little!”

“Kaala, if he doesn’t want to dance just leave him alone!” Kaelen ordered his sister evenly, his eyes narrowed with suspicion over her behavior, which was even odder than usual. He knew that something major was troubling her, but she didn’t seem inclined to talk about it. And it was obviously something she didn’t want him to know because she was mentally blocking him from finding out as well.

Kaelen knew better than to push her. Kaala would only become more resistant if he did. She didn’t like leaning on other people and always insisted on handling her problems by herself. To do otherwise would have been conceding weakness and Kaala would never do that. Still, it bothered him to see her behaving so flirtatiously around Max. She knew that he was in love with his wife and yet she had persisted in wagging her tail in front of him all night. That wasn’t like Kaala at all. If she couldn’t be first then she didn’t want to play.

“Look, it may be your idea of a good time to sit at a table all night and nurse cherry coke,” Kaala retorted sarcastically to her brother, “but I actually brought Max here tonight so he could have fun for a change. Lord knows, he could use it living with Bayok and Nesui!”

Kaelen gave his sister a pointed look. “I don’t think he wants to dance with you, Kaala,” he hinted at her through clenched teeth.

“Why? Do you think that Liz will have a problem with it or something?” Kaala demanded with false blankness. And then she turned to Max, putting him on the spot by asking, “Do you think Liz will care if we dance?”

Her bluntness left Max somewhat speechless. “I well…you see…uh…” he stammered, looking desperately at Kaelen and Rahsha for rescue.

“Just one little dance,” Kaala wheedled, “then you can sit out all night if you want.” Just then the deep bass sound of the Notorious B.I.G.’s Hypnotize begin blaring through the club. Kaala yanked Max to his feet. “Oh my God, this is my song!” she exclaimed, dragging a reluctant Max out onto the dancefloor while she enthusiastically sang the words of the song:

Biggie, Biggie, Biggie,
Can’t you see
Sometimes your words
Just hypnotize me
And I just love your flashy ways
I guess that’s why they broke
And you’re so paid


On the dancefloor she moved her hips in time with the music, rhythmically swaying to the reverberating bass. However, Max didn’t possess her fluid grace and he jerked in stiff movements, made all the more awkward by his acute embarrassment. Kaala bit her lip, trying to keep from laughing out loud. He looked as if he were in the throws of a seizure, jerking back and forth mechanically. Kaala cleared her throat and cried out over the blaring music, “You don’t really dance much, do you?”

“WHAT?”

“I said, YOU DON’T DANCE MUCH, DO YOU?”

Max shook his head, his cheeks flaming to realize that his lack of talent was quite obvious. Kaala smiled and pulled him against her, rhythmically rotating her hips against his. “Just listen to the music,” she instructed him patiently, “and move your body in time with the beat.”

Max was hesitant; going instantly rigid the moment Kaala pulled him into her arms and began grinding her hips against his thigh. He shoved at her in an attempt to turn away. “I don’t really think this is a good idea, Kaala,” he said, frantically searching for a means of escape when she held him fast. “I want to go back to the table!”

“God, Max, you need to relax!” Kaala ordered sharply, “I’m not trying to molest you…I just want to teach you some moves.”

Max suddenly felt ridiculous. Despite her provocative movements Kaala was obviously not trying to come on to him. He felt kind of dirty having drawn that conclusion about her, especially when she was just trying to be helpful. Trying not to be too mortified by the close proximity of their bodies Max did as she told him, swaying his hips and torso, mimicking Kaala’s bopping movements. Kaala backed away from him slightly, but kept her arms looped around his neck and grinned up at him in satisfaction. “Now you’ve got it, Max. You’re a fast learner,” she praised him, losing herself in the music once more.

Only when the song had ended did Kaala finally open her eyes and offer Max a pleased smile. She started to pull her arms from around his neck when at that very moment, out the corner of her eye; she spotted Liz at the entrance of the club. Their gazes connected in a telling moment and Kaala watched as Liz’s face drained completely of color, her expression a mask of surprised pain. Kaala knew in that moment her opportunity had arrived and she went for it. In those whizzing seconds she didn’t think, but quickly executed the plan she and Bayok had concocted long before she’d ever seen Liz Evans’ face and her kind, kind eyes. She grabbed the back of Max’s head and pulled his face to hers for a passionate kiss.




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 13-Nov-2002 5:15:50 PM ]
posted on 14-Nov-2002 1:04:08 AM by Deejonaise
quote:
Solaris originally wrote:
As soon as you're done with chapter 44, post 19. Please. I'm begging you. Please.


Solaris I'm working on it, I really, really am!

LOL, I didn't know I'd get everybody so riled...I kinda like it. Really, since everyone seems to be getting a little antsy. I'll go ahead and post 19 now. I'm already a third of the way through 44 and it will probably lead quite nicely into 45. However, I probably won't post another part until late Thursday night because the chapters on from 45 are going to be the building point for some major angst I have planned ahead. Oh yeah, it gets worse...

So now that I've rambled enough...I'll be back shortly with the next part.

Dee
posted on 14-Nov-2002 1:24:24 AM by Deejonaise
Chapter 19

Upon entering the club Liz began scanning for Max immediately. She had begged Owens to let her leave early and after she finally convinced Alice to cover the remainder of her shift he let her go. Liz had wasted no time rushing into the bathroom to change her clothes and get out of there. She had been so eager to get to Max that she’d paid little heed to the speed limit. Liz was both surprised and relieved that she hadn’t been stopped by the cops and ticketed. And the possibility had been likely considering they were out in record numbers.

When she reached The Room she presented her altered I.d. to the bouncer and tried not to squirm as he scrutinized it closely. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he handed it back to her and moved aside to allow her entrance. It had only taken her a few minutes to spot Kaelen and Rahsha among the dense crowd of people. They sat together at a small round table on the outskirts of the dancefloor.

Vaguely puzzling over Max’s absence Liz let her eyes wander absently out over the dancefloor. And that’s when she saw him. Standing beneath the red, blue and green strobe lights…entwined in Kaala’s arms. That alone was enough to cause Liz’s breath to suspend painfully in her chest. But then Kaala had looked directly at her and then did something that made Liz feel absolutely sick. She kissed Max. Passionately. And he…he did nothing.

Liz stood there with clenched fists, waiting, praying that Max would shove her away or something, but he didn’t. He just stood there and let her kiss him. Liz didn’t stick around to see more, but quickly whirled around for the exit and stalked from the club.

At first Max was too stunned to move. He was bombarded with disjointed images of the desert and snapshots from Kaala’s childhood. It felt strange, foreign and completely surreal, especially because the kiss and the images had seemingly come from nowhere. And then reality penetrated his befuddled senses and he grabbed her forearms roughly, shoving her away from him. “What the hell is the matter with you!” he spat, swiping the back of his hand across his mouth in disgust.

The moment Kaala witnessed the white-hot fury etched into his usually mild features she regretted her impulsive actions. “I’m sorry…that was a mistake,” she mumbled, lowering her eyes contritely.

“A mistake?’ Max repeated in irate disbelief, “A mistake! I thought you understood when I told you that I’m in love with Liz. She’s my wife, for crying out loud! I’m married, Kaala!” he shouted, holding up his hand to reveal his ringed finger, “Married!

“I know that.”

“Obviously not,” Max accused sarcastically, “or you wouldn’t have kissed me!” He glared down at her with betrayed eyes. “I’m getting out of here,” he told her before doing exactly that and leaving her standing on the dancefloor.

Kaala started to chase after him as he exited the club but her brother grabbed hold of her arm firmly and jerked her to a stop. “What the hell was that you just pulled?” Kaelen demanded with an angry glower.

“I can’t explain right now,” Kaala told him impatiently as she tugged to free her arm in vain, “I have to go after Max!”

“No,” Kaelen ordered, “Leave him alone! I think you’ve done more than enough damage for one night.”

Still struggling to free herself from his iron grasp, Kaala gritted, “What are you talking about?”

“I saw Liz, Kaala, and I know you damned well did, too.”

Outside the chilly night air did nothing to cool Max’s fevered nerves. Fishing around in his pocket for .35 cents, Max trudged over to a pay phone a block away and called for a cab. As he settled down on the curb to await his ride Max thought over the night’s events.

Kaala had kissed him. The knowledge made Max feel guilty and confused. After all, he didn’t remember doing or saying anything to give Kaala the impression that he would welcome her advances. But he apparently must have given her such a notion or she never would have kissed him in the first place.

He must have led her on somehow. It was the only rational explanation that Max could come up with. Anything else made absolutely no sense. One moment he and Kaala had been engaged in simple, harmless fun, just dancing together and then the next moment Kaala had been yanking his head down to hers and kissing him as if her life depended on it. Max didn’t understand how they had gone from A to Z so fast. Unless, he’d given her mixed signals about his feelings.

After all, he had let her grind up against him in that provocative manner on the dancefloor. But he’d really thought that they were just dancing. She had done the same thing with practically half the men in the club; Max didn’t think she viewed him as anybody special. Besides that, hadn’t she told him that she wasn’t interested to begin with? She had told him that she only wanted to teach him how to dance and he believed her. Now he had a mess on his hands.

Max could see clearly now that the road to that moment in the club hadn’t begun on the dancefloor that night, but days before. He had suspected that she was being somewhat flirty with him from the very beginning, but he’d figured by making his feelings for Liz known from the start he would quell any romantic hopes she might be harboring. But obviously his decision to even involve himself with her casually had given her false hope.

Even before tonight Max had long since been accepting her overtures at friendship knowing that she wanted something more. He had made things worse by changing seats in his U.S. Government class to be nearer to her. She had probably taken that to mean that he liked her, whereas Max had been more intrigued with the idea of knowing someone else like him. He’d never been interested in her in the slightest…at least not when he could help it.

Yes, Max realized now, what happened on that dancefloor tonight had been entirely his fault. A sigh of guilty shame shuddered from his chest. If he hadn’t been so blinded by his own desires and intentions he might have seen the kiss with Kaala coming. Liz had been doubtful all along. She had suspected that Kaala’s intentions weren’t as honorable as they seemed. What she didn’t realize was that Max was completely to blame for that.

How in the world was he going to face Liz after this, Max wondered? As much as Max knew he should tell her the truth he didn’t think he had the stomach to do so. He dreaded the look of hurt and betrayal he would see in her eyes. There was no need to put her through such pain, either. It was over now. He didn’t have any intention of going near Kaala ever, ever again.

Max’s cab pulled up along the curb and he climbed into the backseat with a heavy sigh. “The Chuckwagon diner,” he told the driver before leaning back wearily against his seat. He closed his eyes, allowing his mind to blank out for a few minutes. Half an hour later the driver was alerting him that they’d reached the Chuckwagon.

Max started to climb out when he realized that the jeep was no longer there. Liz must have left already. He wondered vaguely if she’d headed over to the club like they discussed earlier. Considering that possibility Max asked the driver to double back to the club so that he could check. But she wasn’t there either.

She’s probably just gone home, Max thought to himself. And it was late now, close to midnight. He doubted that she would have gone anywhere else. With a sigh, he gave the driver the address to Bayok’s house.

“Oh, you’re one of them, huh,” the driver commented absently as he drove through the gates into the private community.

“One of them?” Max questioned, reaching into his back pocket for his wallet.

The driver seemed hesitant to answer his question, but then stated bluntly. “You know…the Woodstone freaks…the cult. Really strange group, you folks.”

“Oh?”

“Not saying that you’re a freak or nothing,” the cabbie quickly reassured him, “It’s just the folks around here can be mighty strange like I said.”

“Yeah, tell me about it,” Max muttered under his breath as the cab pulled to a stop in front of Bayok’s house, “How much do I owe you?”

Max quickly paid the man and scooted from the cab. The jeep was in the driveway and Max noticed this with a relieved sigh that was tinged with dread. When he finally crept into their bedroom he found Liz sitting on the bed with her back propped against the headboard, balancing her notebook on her knees. She didn’t look up at his entrance although she did remark with some coldness, “You’re home late…must have been some good time.”

Max winced as guilt rolled through him in monumental waves. Keeping his eyes carefully averted he shrugged, removed his jacket and hung it up in the closet with deliberate precision. “It was alright I guess,” he said.

Liz narrowed her eyes on his back, longing to pitch her shoe at him then and there. She couldn’t think of a more satisfying feeling than watching her shoe thunk against his solid, stubborn, stupid head! “Must have been better than alright,” she remarked with a tight smile, “It’s a little after midnight now.”

He turned to face her then and shoved his hands into his pockets, trying not to fidget. “I went to the Chuckwagon to look for you,” he explained lamely, “What happened? I thought you were coming after work.”

Liz flicked him a glare before returning her attention to her notebook. “I was tired,” she replied in a tone made flat with anger, “I decided to call it a night and come home.”

“Oh,” was Max’s reply as he sat down on the bed and began removing his sneakers. She seemed extremely laconic, completely unlike Liz. But his guilt prevented him from asking her directly what was wrong. He had a sick feeling that she already knew. However, rather than being straightforward and asking her, Max attempted to be sly and mindwalk her instead.

He was immediately rewarded for his efforts with a hard smack to the back of his head. “Ow!” Max cried, swiveling around to face Liz with a frown, “Why’d you do that?” He rubbed at his smarting head.

Liz stabbed the point of her pencil at him. “You know exactly why I did it!” she snapped, “I’ve told you over and over how I feel about you reading my mind!”

“I was just trying to find out what was wrong with you,” Max replied defensively, “You seem a little cranky and I don’t know why.”

“Yes, you do,” Liz contradicted, glaring at him, “Now are you going to admit it to me or do I have to accuse you? And Max, if I have to accuse you…let’s just say you won’t like the results.”

Max sighed in misery, wisely relinquishing all pretense. “Tonight at the club Kaala kissed me,” he admitted quietly, “but somehow I suspect you already know that.”

Liz’s answering nod was grim. “I was there,” she told him, “I saw it all…when she kissed you and…when you didn’t push her away.”

“Now, Liz I can explain that--,” Max rushed out.

“What? What are you going to say, Max?” Liz interrupted angrily, “You couldn’t control it? I know…you didn’t know what you were doing. Oh, oh, how about this one…she made you do it so it’s really all her fault.”

“I know you’re mad--,” he began.

Liz smacked him then, so hard that her palm left a stinging print behind on his cheek. “Mad doesn’t even begin to cover it,” Liz ground out. She wouldn’t allow herself to be moved by the tears glimmering in his eyes or the contrite expression on his face. “Do you know how humiliated I felt walking into that place and finding you draped all over her? ‘She doesn’t have designs on me, Liz’ isn’t that what you told me?”

Max hung his head in shame. “She was just teaching me how to dance,” he mumbled by way of excuse. He fingered his flaming cheek gingerly. He supposed he deserved the slap, but damn, it still hurt and not just physically.

Liz flung her notebook onto the floor. “Oh, is that what they’re calling it now?” Liz replied in a tone drenched with sarcasm.

Max closed his eyes, unable to believe that things had gone so terribly wrong between them so fast. “Liz, you have to know that I lo--,”

“I swear, Max, if you say you love me, I’ll smack you again,” Liz threatened.

Max closed his mouth with a snap. She wasn’t in the mood to hear anything he had to say. He didn’t blame her. He had screwed up and he knew it. Max shrank back from her, swallowing past the lump of tears forming in his throat. “I never meant to hurt you, Liz,” he whispered achingly, “I wasn’t trying to humiliate you.”

That was when the enormity of the situation hit Liz like an oncoming train. Her anger had gotten the best of her once again. She didn’t understand what was happening to her. Never had she shown such a lack of patience with anyone, but especially Max. And God, she had slapped him. He was sitting at the edge of the bed now, all but cowering as if he expected her to attack him again. Liz felt as if she was being split apart, as if she was watching herself do and say the things she did, but being helpless to stop. It was almost as if someone else was controlling her, like she was just a puppet playing a part.

She wiped at the tears falling on her cheeks, shivering a little. “I don’t like what’s happening between us, Max,” she muttered tearfully, “I don’t understand what’s going on here.”

Max wiped his palms down his pants’ legs without meeting her gaze. “Maybe you just don’t love me any more,” he suggested haltingly, wanting to cry himself. He squinted up at the ceiling, trying to maintain a handle of his unstable emotions.

Liz hurled herself at him then, wrapping her arms around his neck and burying her face in his shoulder. His hand hovered over her back for a few moments before he went ahead and pulled her into his lap, holding her against him tightly. “I do love you, Max,” she sobbed into his neck, “I love you so much…I just don’t know what came over me just now. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Max murmured into her hair, alternately kissing her temple and forehead. “You were angry…you had reason to be.”

Liz lifted her head then, peering at him shamefully from beneath her lashes. “I hit you, Max,” she whispered regretfully. She raised her hand to delicately touch his cheek. “How could I hit you…how could I do that?”

Max captured her hand, brought it to his lips. “It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not,” Liz argued quietly, “I know that you didn’t mean for that kiss to happen. I know that in my head, but it’s like something else took over and I just lost control.”

He framed her face with his hands, urging her to meet his intent gaze. “Liz, couples fight. It happens. We’re no different,” he told her firmly, “But we’re gonna work through our problems, alright. We’re gonna be okay.”

Though they each desperately wanted Max’s words to come true, something in his tone seemed to ring hollow for Liz. She laid her head back against his shoulder, unable to quell the doubt that was beginning to unfurl in her chest.

posted on 15-Nov-2002 12:02:19 AM by Deejonaise
Okay, I won't be able to update again until Sunday night and this is why: I have to work this entire weekend. Sorry.*sad* I know you're probably thinking, "What's the big deal if the part is already written?" Well, it's because I won't really have any time to sit down and edit it until Sunday night when I get home. Please be patient with me and don't hate me. (ducking the rotten fruit) Hopefully, this part will keep you tied over until then.


Chapter 20

The next afternoon Kaala came over to apologize to Max. She had tried to do so earlier at school but he had avoided her. It had hurt, especially when she was coming to think of him as her friend, but she supposed it was what she deserved. He was probably feeling that she couldn’t be trusted, that she was more trouble than what she was worth. However, Kaala wouldn’t let it go. Her conscience wouldn’t let her rest until she had made amends.

She swallowed back her groan of long suffering when Bayok himself answered the door. “I was expecting you to be here sooner,” he said, stepping aside to allow her entrance.

His eagerness to see her left Kaala speechless and for a second she could only stare at him dumbly. And then she adopted her usual flippant attitude and said snidely, “I didn’t come here to see you.”

Bayok shrugged, evidently unhurt by her barb. “I realize that, Kaala,” he replied, “You are here to see Maxwell, of course, and your timing could not have been more perfect.” He pressed his hand into the small of her back, leading her towards his study where they could talk privately.

“I don’t know why you’re acting so pleased with yourself,” Kaala snapped once they were there, “I came here today to be straight with Max and tell him the truth.”

“Nonsense.” Bayok propped his hip against his desk, folding his arms across his chest. “Why ever would you do that when our plan is working out so marvelously?”

“Marvelously?” Kaala bleated incredulously, “It’s a friggin’ disaster! Max can’t stand the sight of me, Bayok. I don’t care if he likes to be touched in a million different ways and I do them all…he doesn’t want anyone but Liz!” Kaala threw her hands up in exasperation at the last of that. “Besides that, I don’t want to do this anymore!”

“Calm yourself, Kaala,” Bayok ordered briskly, “Just continue to focus your energies on Maxwell and I will handle Elizabeth as I have been doing.”

“I still think this is a waste of time,” Kaala muttered under her breath.

“Fortunately, I do not depend on your judgment to dictate my actions,” Bayok replied dryly, “In the future, concentrate yourself on seducing Maxwell and leave all other details to me.”

“And if I refuse?” Kaala challenged stubbornly.

Bayok twirled one springy brown curl around his finger and gave it a sharp tug. Kaala couldn’t manage to hide her wince of pain, although she stubbornly refused to utter at sound. “You are a smart woman, my darling, somehow I do not believe you will. Now then,” he said by way of dismissal, “I will let Maxwell know that you are here to see him.”

Max and Liz sat in the privacy of their bedroom pretending to study. Liz was on the bed with her Trigonometry book balanced on her knees, but her mind focused on Max. Max sat at the desk, his literature book opened to the second act of Julius Caesar but his head preoccupied with thoughts of Liz.

They hadn’t spoken much to one another the entire day. That morning he had gotten up early to help out Bayok, as was becoming his custom, and by the time he returned to the house for a shower Liz was already up and dressed. During breakfast they had made polite conversation, but each of them still seemed to be smarting over the argument they’d had the night before.

The silence continued all throughout school and followed them home as well. Max wanted to open up conversation but he wasn’t really sure where to begin. He and Liz were having a major problem and the source always came back to one thing. Bayok. Or rather, what Bayok represented. She was jealous of Max’s alien life because she felt shut out of it. It was true that he had been wrong about Kaala. He’d admit that without question. But he couldn’t be wrong about Bayok, too, he couldn’t be. Liz’s insecurities were slowly tearing them apart. Max wanted to tell her that, but he was afraid that he would only succeed in creating a bigger wedge between them. And so he kept silent and pretended to do his literature assignment.

Liz also wanted to address the situation. In her opinion Max was being naively trustful of his newfound alien family and was allowing them to interfere in their marriage. Max was willing to consider that he’d screwed up with Kaala, hell, he would admit it, but he continued to be blind when it came to Bayok. His protector, Liz thought sarcastically, his friend.

He didn’t think she noticed how Bayok always seemed to be whispering in his ear, always offering his advice. Bayok had been pushing Max toward Kaala and he didn’t even see it. Instead he went walking around constantly spouting on about what Bayok thought and what Bayok did and what Bayok said. Bayok, Bayok, Bayok, Bayok! Liz was sick to death of hearing about him! But of course, she couldn’t say anything to Max about it. He’d probably just accuse her of being jealous or, worse yet, paranoid. And so she kept silent and pretended to review her trigonometry lesson.

They were so engrossed in pretending not to be aware of each other that they didn’t hear Bayok enter their room, which Max had left open. He cleared his throat, causing them both to start violently. “I did not mean to startle you,” Bayok said apologetically, “but I came to tell Max that he has a visitor.”

Max came to his feet, frowning in confusion. “Who’s here to see me?” he asked curiously.

“I am not entirely sure,” Bayok lied with little effort, “Nesui answered the door, I am only relaying the message.” Max was halfway out the door when Bayok added after him, “I believe you will find your visitor waiting in my study.”

After Max was gone Liz fully expected for Bayok to leave as well, but he didn’t. Instead he leaned his shoulder against the doorframe and asked, “So how are you enjoying school, Elizabeth?”

“It’s fine…I guess,” Liz mumbled, uncomfortable by his sudden interest. Truth be known he had been increasingly friendly to her of late. He was always stopping to chat her up in the hall and making small talk at the breakfast table. Still, Liz got the distinct impression that he couldn’t stand her.

Hoping that was all to his questioning, Liz repositioned her textbook on her knees. However, Bayok was apparently not done. “Have you made any friends recently,” he inquired politely.

“No, I’ve been busy getting adjusted,” Liz replied tersely.

“And is Maxwell adjusting as well?”

“Yes,” Liz replied impatiently, “I think he is. He likes school, too.”

As much as he likes Kaala Stafford?

Liz stiffened. “What did you say to me?” she asked him in a silky whisper.

“I said that I am pleased that Maxwell is enjoying his new school,” Bayok replied innocently, “I was worried that the transition would be difficult for the both of you.”

Liz narrowed her eyes suspiciously. She could have sworn he’d said something else to her. She frowned at the uneasy feeling that settled over her. “I think we’re handling it all just fine.”

Are you handling the fact that your husband wants another woman just as fine? “Would you care for some tea, Elizabeth?” Bayok asked politely, “Nesui has just prepared a fresh pot.”

He is probably with her at this very moment…kissing her again, just like he kissed her last night. Liz’s mouth went dry as the insidious little voice crept into her head once more. At first, she’d believed it was Bayok, but he was prattling on about tea at the moment. He probably enjoyed it. Can you not see he wants her, Elizabeth? Craves her? Stop lying to yourself!

“Elizabeth!” Bayok barked sharply, snapping Liz out of her daze, “you have not answered my invitation to tea.”

They are making a fool of you, Elizabeth. Can you not see it? They are laughing at you, humiliating you. The voice pounded in Liz’s head, inescapable, taunting her mercilessly. Was Max making a fool of her? Was he with Kaala at that very moment locked in passion’s embrace? No, no, Liz told herself firmly, Max loves me and only me.

Does he? Does he love you really? Or is that just what he tells you to keep you quiet? You know it for the truth. Max yearns for something you can never give him. Liz ignored the mocking echo in her head, forcing herself to focus on Bayok’s question. “Th-Thank you for the offer,” Liz stammered absently, “but I have lots of studying to do.”

You mean to study while your husband makes love to another woman? You deserve to lose him, you foolish twit! And you will, Elizabeth. He does not want you. You do not satisfy him, not like Kaala! You will never satisfy him like her! “Stop it,” Liz yelled suddenly, clapping her hands over her ears.

Bayok appeared shocked by her unexpected outburst. “My goodness, Elizabeth, are you well?” he asked in apparent concern, though he never took a single step forward.

Make them pay, Elizabeth, make them pay for making a fool of you! Liz tossed her trigonometry book aside and scrambled from the bed. “I’ve got to go,” she said brusquely, stalking past him, no doubt headed for the study. Bayok turned to watch her with a smirk of satisfaction hovering at his lips.

Upon entering the study Max stopped short, both angry and flustered to find Kaala waiting there for him. He started to turn on his heel and walk out of there, but she called him back when he did. “Max, please wait!” she pleaded, “I really want to set things straight between us.”

Max turned to face her stiffly, his fists clenched at his sides. “There’s nothing to set straight, Kaala,” he told her flatly, “You crossed the line last night. I’m married. That may not mean a whole hell of a lot to you, but it means the world to me and I’m not going to risk ruining my marriage over you.”

“I don’t expect you to,” Kaala admitted softly.

Max wanted to groan in frustration. “Then why are you here?” he demanded in impatience.

“I came here to apologize to you,” she said, “and to give you a warning as well.” Indecision had kept her up most of the night, that and Kaelen’s berating her on the childish stupidity of her actions. But before she finally fell asleep she had made her decision. No matter what the consequences she would warn Max about Bayok. She owed him that much.

Deliberately, ignoring her offer of apology Max skipped ahead to the latter part of her statement. “A warning? A warning about what exactly?” Max scoffed.

Casting a furtive glance about the study Kaala inched closer to Max until they stood within a foot of each. “Do not trust Bayok…there’s more going on with him than you know. He doesn’t have your best interests at heart.”

Max’s features twisted in open disgust. “You don’t have any shame, do you?” he bit out angrily, “First you make a play for a married man and then to make yourself feel better about the whole thing you badmouth a man who’s been nothing but kind and decent to me.” He recoiled from her in revulsion, pointing towards the doorway. “I think you need to get the hell out of here right now.”

“You think I’m lying to you,” Kaala concluded in mounting dismay, “I’m not, Max! I swear to you.”

But Max wasn’t willing to hear anything else she had to say. “Get the fuck out,” he ordered her coldly.

Kaala opened her mouth to plead with him one last time when a shrill voice erupted from the doorway. “What is she doing here?” Max and Kaala whirled around to see Liz framed in the door, her entire body bristling with rage. She glared at Kaala. “You have some nerve showing up here after what you pulled last night.”

Kaala’s expression closed off and she regarded Liz impassively. “Well, I was just leaving anyway so--,”

“No, you’re not going anywhere,” Liz spat, “Not until you and I have gotten a few things straight.”

“Look, I came here to see Max, not you.” Kaala shrugged dismissively. “I don’t have time for this.”

“Well, make time you bitch!” Liz suddenly exclaimed, launching herself at Kaala with her claws bared. Max hooked his arm around her waist just in time, holding her firmly even as she continued to flail her arms and legs in Kaala’s general direction. “Let me go, dammit!” Liz screamed, digging her fingernails into Max’s forearm, “Let me go!” She fought him like a wildcat, bucking her head back against his chin and cheek.

“Liz, ow! Stop it!” Max ordered, wincing at the wounds she inflicted, “What the hell’s the matter with you!”

“You’re making a fool of yourself,” Kaala snapped, disgusted.

They are making a fool of you, Elizabeth. “I’ll kill you! I’ll fucking kill you!” Liz yelled, struggling all the more violently, “Let me go, Max, damn you! Stop trying to protect your fucking bitch, you bastard!”

“For God’s sake, Liz, get a grip!” Max ordered sharply. His words seemed to penetrate the momentary madness that overtook her. She went limp in his arms, the fight abruptly leaving her. She started sobbing softly. Max looked over to Kaala his eyes devoid of emotion. “You should go.”

“But we’re not finished--,”

“We’re finished,” Max determined, “Get out.” Max cradled a whimpering Liz against his chest as her body began trembling with the force of her sobs.

Kaala was reluctantly making her exit just as Bayok was entering. “I was in the dining room and I heard screaming,” he said, looking every bit confused, “is something amiss?”

Max shook his head, running his hand soothingly down his wife’s shaking back. “Liz is just a little upset,” he explained gently, “She’ll be alright soon.”

“No, I won’t…I’ll never be alright,” Liz cried brokenly into his chest. She lifted her head then and leveled Bayok with tear-filled, accusing eyes. “I know you’re doing this to me,” she whispered. And then she tore out of Max’s arms and ran from the study with an tormented cry. She didn’t see Zrei in the shadows watching as she rushed by in blind anguish.

Max started to run after her, but Bayok detained him. “Let me see to her, Maxwell.” He glanced down at the bloodied scratches on Max’s arms. “You look in need of attention yourself. How could Elizabeth do such a thing?” Bayok well knew how insidious his words were.

The younger man dropped his eyes, fidgeted nervously. “She’s not herself…”

“She hurt you, Maxwell…that is unacceptable.”

“No, it’s not! She’s upset and she needs me,” Max protested, “She doesn’t know what she’s saying…I have to go to her.”

“Give her time to herself,” Bayok ordered, bracing his hand against Max’s chest, “That is the wise course of action.”

“No, you don’t know Liz like I do, Bayok…I have to go after her right now.”

“Elizabeth is upset,” Bayok told him, switching tactics. If berating Elizabeth for a violent abuser wasn’t working then Bayok would simply convince Max that he would do more harm than good in seeing her at that moment. “She is afraid that there is more going on between you and Kaala than just friendship.”

Max became perfectly still. “She told you that?”

“Not in so many words,” Bayok hedged manipulatively, “but I have sensed her insecurity. Seeing you now would only make her feel worse. Why do you not take a walk instead and give Elizabeth some time to regain her composure.” Now that he had successfully created a schism between the two young people he wasn’t about to let them attempt to heal it.

Max found himself nodding in agreement to the logic in Bayok’s statement, although he was still reluctant to leave Liz. “But if she needs me--,” he added sincerely.

“I will come find you immediately,” Bayok promised, “But in the meantime, please, take a moment for yourself.”

“I do need a little time to calm down, I think,” Max muttered to himself. The scene with Liz had shaken him and left him completely drained of energy. After the wild way she’d just behaved he didn’t think he could face her right then without losing his temper.

“Take as much time as you need,” Bayok urged him, “I will care for Elizabeth.”

“Thank you, Bayok,” Max replied, impulsively wrapping his arms around the older man in a brief hug, “I don’t know what I would do without your support. I’ll be in the cornfield if you need to find me.” Max trudged from the room, still worried about Liz, but trusting in Bayok to keep her safe.

But keeping Liz safe wasn’t part of Bayok’s agenda. However, Max was much too naïve to realize that Bayok had just manipulated the entire scene that had played out with them earlier. They were all to Bayok nothing more than pawns in the great chessboard of his scheme.

Sadly, Max was ignorant to these things. Inside, he was still an insecure sixteen-year-old boy who was desperately in need of parenting and guidance. He mistakenly believed that Bayok could provide that guidance for him. He didn’t realize that his trusted benefactor was playing him for a fool.

Fortunately, Zrei wasn’t nearly as easy to deceive.




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 15-Nov-2002 7:20:22 AM ]
posted on 15-Nov-2002 7:18:04 AM by Deejonaise
quote:
Old Enough originally wrote:

I feel the need to quote from your "Author's note" back at the beginning of this story. (Italics added by me*wink*)
quote:
On a side note, there will be NO surprises in the fic and for the most part it will be pretty angst-free.

Old Enough


Old Enough! It's good to see you back.*happy* I'm thinking I'm gonna have to go back and edit my author's note because about a week ago I got this brilliant idea for the end of this story and it's kind of bittersweet. I can't get it out of my mind so I know that I'm probably going to stick with it.

As to Bayok, I will let you all know that he does meet an excruciating end and at the unlikest of hands, but it won't be for a while yet. It's strange I thought that I really couldn't surpass DeVoe in outright evilness, but I think I have. Maybe because DeVoe never pretended to be anyone's friend. He had an agenda and he was pretty plain about it. Bayok is a manipulator and that's how he gets what he wants. He plays mind games. I'm glad to see you all hate him so much...means I'm doing my job.*happy**wink*

Well, I guess I'll pop off...gotta take the kiddies off to school.

Catch ya'll (I'm Southern, can you tell?) later,

Dee
posted on 15-Nov-2002 3:20:00 PM by Deejonaise
Okay, this is a drive by posting. I was reading some of the responses and you guys strike me as somewhat worried so I just want to put your mind at ease. I'm issuing DREAMER INSURANCE people. There will be a happy ending for our dream couple, a very happy one I think, but it's just sad how they have to get to that happy ending.

So that's what I mean when I say bittersweet. But I promise you, PROMISE YOU the end will be happy, Happy, HAPPY. I WILL NOT end this fic until it is so. I will make up for every ounce of misery I cause you as BOB as my witness, lol!

Have I ever let you down before?*wink*
posted on 17-Nov-2002 9:32:43 PM by Deejonaise
I should probably call this chapter, "Max Gets a Clue," LOL! Here's the part...as always: Let me know what you think.


Chapter 21

Liz sobbed into her pillow sullenly and wondered what the hell was happening to her. Her life was spinning completely out of control. That outburst…god, she had no idea where it had come from or that she’d even been capable of such a spectacle. Liz rubbed her cheek against her pillow, closing her eyes in remembered humiliation. Max had looked at her as if she were a freak. In those moments, Liz could tell that he didn’t recognize her, didn’t particularly like the person he saw.

But what Liz couldn’t understand was why. She had not been feeling insanely jealous, in fact, she hadn’t even stopped to consider that Max’s visitor might be Kaala Stafford. They had talked about her quite extensively the night before. She was not an issue. Liz knew that Max loved her. And yet, not even twenty four hours after he had reassured her, Liz found herself in Bayok’s study having, what could only be described as, a full blown cow. At the time, she had been so enraged she couldn’t see straight, but then when her anger had drained away Liz had never felt so mortified in all her life.

Now she couldn’t even remember the reason she had gone into the study to begin with. She had been sitting on her bed with her trigonometry book, talking to Bayok of all people. But then the more Bayok had talked, the more Liz felt the burning desire to go to the study. Suddenly, she had felt suspicious, angry, and betrayed. The feelings of resentment had been hard to stamp down even when she couldn’t pinpoint exactly where they were coming from.

What was weirdest of all was that Liz had genuinely not felt threatened. She had been positive of Max’s love for her. In her gut, she knew that he didn’t want anyone but her. And yet she had still exploded. The same had happened last night.

She’d had almost an hour to cool down before Max came home. During that time she rationalized what she’d seen on that dancefloor. Yes, her husband had been kissing another woman and by looks alone that would have been damning. But Liz knew Max better than that. He was too loyal, too loving, too devoted to cheat on her. And even if he did have some breach in his moral code he would have never chosen someplace so public to do it.

Liz had figured all that out for herself before he ever returned. At that time she had believed herself to be calm and prepared for a mature, healthy confrontation. But when she saw him she completely lost it. It had been like some mechanism had clicked on in her brain and she couldn’t shut it off to make herself stop. In the end, she had smacked Max. She could still remember the indescribable expression on his face following those tense, few seconds.

Liz buried her face deeper into her pillow. That was where the real confusion for her lay. Because even at her angriest, slapping Max, wildly ranting and cursing at someone was just not her. It was out of character for her completely. Despite that, such displays were becoming increasingly typical behavior and happening with alarming frequency. The patience she’d always prided herself on had seemingly vanished leaving her in a constant state of suspicion and insecurity. The very thought made Liz feel sick.

She was so lost in her own misery that she didn’t realize that someone had entered her bedroom until she felt a hand lay across her shoulder. Liz jumped and rolled over, expecting to see Max, but finding Zrei standing there instead. “He has gone for a walk,” Zrei told her, answering the silent question in her eyes, “Did I come at an inconvenient time?”

Liz shook her head and pushed herself upright, brushing away the silent tears that continued to fall on her cheeks. “I suppose you heard me yelling earlier,” she guessed miserably. Zrei nodded his confirmation. “Great!” Liz muttered, “Now I feel confused, humiliated, and mortified all at once.”

“Such a display is unlike you, Elizabeth,” Zrei remarked carefully.

Liz lifted her shoulders in a shrug, hugging her arms about her middle. “That’s just the thing,” Liz replied in candid gloom, feeling so desperate at the moment she’d confide in anyone, even Zrei, “I know in my heart I trust Max…I do. But then I turn around and act like I don’t. I don’t understand what’s happening to me,” Liz wailed, burying her face into her hands.

Zrei watched her cry out her dejected misery as his brain worked furiously. He had his suspicions about exactly what was happening to Liz but he had to ask her some questions to be sure first. “Elizabeth?” Zrei said softly when her sobs had died down to hiccups, “Exactly how long have you been feeling this way?”

“What way?” Liz asked, dabbing at her eyes.

“How long have you been having these swings in your mood? Have long have you felt like you could not trust Maxwell?”

Liz shook her head in denial. “I don’t think I feel like I can’t trust him. Even though, lately, I’ve been accusing him of the most awful things, in my heart, I really don’t believe he’s capable of doing them. Does that make sense?”

“Yes,” Zrei said, trying to keep his mounting anxiety from showing plainly on his face, “It makes perfect sense. Tell me something…before these outbursts do you usually speak with Bayok prior to their happening?”

Liz gaped at him in dumbfounded incredulity. Bayok? Only Zrei would mention Bayok to her when she was at her most wretched. But then she couldn’t really fault him. After all, she had been the idiot to bare her soul to him in the first place. Still, she had to ask, “What has Bayok got to do with what’s happening between Max and me?”

“I only need to know if you have spoken with him recently,” Zrei insisted vaguely, “Most specifically if you have done so preceding your arguments with Maxwell.”

Liz didn’t know what he was getting at, didn’t understand the importance of his question, but she still tried her best to answer him. She thought hard for a moment. “Well, lately, Bayok has been friendlier to me. We speak in passing in the mornings sometimes…nothing profound really, just ‘good morning’ and maybe some small talk.”

“And how are you with Maxwell afterwards?” Zrei prodded.

Liz frowned in hazy puzzlement. “Okay…I guess. We’ve been fighting so much lately I don’t really know. Why are you asking me these things?” Alarm bells were suddenly clanging loudly in her head. Did Zrei suspect Bayok of doing something to her? Were she and Max in danger? She wanted to ask Zrei the questions but knew he wouldn’t answer any of them. “Should I be worried?” she asked him instead.

Suddenly, Zrei’s eyes were full of compassionate zeal, something Liz had never seen before. “Elizabeth,” he began almost gravely, “I am most fond of you. It has taken me some time but I have come to believe that you are the perfect mate for Maxwell. I realize I do not show it, but you both mean a great deal to me. The love you share is an inspiration, a blessing. You must never allow anything or anyone to come between you,” he continued on fervently, “Always trust in your love and your devotion to one another. Promise me this.”

Shaken by the urgency of his words, Liz whispered tremulously, “I promise.”

“I was mistaken in bringing you here,” Zrei admitted quietly, “I suppose I now understand what it is to feel regret,” Zrei sighed heavily, “We should have never come… It is clear to me that neither of you belong here.” He looked at her with determined eyes. “I will correct this situation, Elizabeth, I swear to you. But, please, go to Maxwell and repair this rift between you…before it is too late.”

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

Liz found him just where Zrei had told her he would be. He sat against a large mound of hay in the barren cornfield, studying his forearms. Liz effortlessly folded herself down beside him. She winced when she saw the raw abrasions she’d made to his skin. “I’ve been looking for you,” she told him softly.

Still looking at the bloodied marks Liz had made to his forearms and hands Max said dully, “I could heal them…I know that, but I guess I’m still having a hard time believing that you did it in the first place.” He turned eyes darkened with pain and confusion to her pale, guilty face. It seemed appropriate that he would be angry with her, but he wasn’t. At the moment all Max felt was sadness and gnawing fear. “What’s happening between us, Liz? Are you falling out of love with me?” Max asked in dread. He had asked her that very question the other night and she had denied it, but still he couldn’t be sure. Max didn’t know what was happening anymore. Nothing seemed to make sense lately.

Liz’s tears spilled over onto her cheeks. “God, no!” she exclaimed fervently, “Why would you think something like that, Max?”

“You just seem so unhappy with me…unhappy with us…”

She cradled his cheeks in her hands, kissing his jaw, his eyes, his trembling mouth. “I’m never unhappy with you, Max…”

“Then what’s going on with you,” Max demanded urgently, “Why have you been acting so strange?” For that matter, why have I, Max added sadly. He was gradually coming to realize that he, too, was playing a part in the disintegration of their marriage.

Liz lowered her hands from his face and twisted them in her lap. “I don’t know, Max…I don’t understand any of this,” she said in a soft, keening tone, “But I promise you that I never meant to hurt you…I never did…” Liz gently took hold of his arms, running her hand slowly down the length of them, healing the raw flesh wounds as she did.

His skin tingled slightly when she touched him. Max didn’t know if that was a result of her healing or her nearness. He wanted to lay her back in the soft hay, make love to her with his mouth and hands and body. But his desire wasn’t born out of lust but rather the longing to wash away the weariness of the last two days. Max tipped his head forward so that their foreheads were resting against each other. “I love so much you, Liz,” he sighed raggedly, “I know you didn’t want to hurt me.” He laced his fingers through hers, “I don’t want to hurt you either.”

“I don’t know what’s happening to me, Max,” Liz admitted, her tears falling in soft plip plops onto their entwined hands. “This afternoon…and when I slapped you last night…it’s like I was a completely different person. I can’t tell you how sorry I am…”

“You don’t have to say a word, Liz,” Max whispered, “It’s written all over your face.” Her countenance crumpled immediately at his words and Max’s control over his own emotions broke. “Oh baby,” he crooned, ducking his head to kiss her lips, “Let me make it better…let me make it better.” He urged her back against the mound of hay with his insistent kiss, caressing her mouth with his own, plunging his tongue inside gently.

“I’m sorry, too,” he said when he finally dragged his lips away. Max leaned up over her and began slowly unfastening the buttons of her shirt. He groaned when he pushed the material apart to find her breasts braless, completely naked to his hungry eyes. He loved his head, nuzzling against her stiffened nipple. “I should have never agreed to let Zrei bring us here,” he mumbled against her skin. Although, they had never formally spoken about his decision Max knew that was where the source of their problems had begun.

Liz emitted a soft, keening moan of gratification. “That’s just what Zrei said earlier.”

Max lifted his head. “Zrei?” he inquired, his gaze questioning, “What does he have to do with all this?”

“I spoke to him earlier before I came out here to you,” Liz said, trying unsuccessfully to urge his head back down against her breasts. However, with his next question she gave up the fight with an exasperated smile.

“What did he say?” His desire was momentarily forgotten.

“I don’t know…he didn’t really make a lot of sense,” Liz explained, “He asked me a bunch of questions though, and then told me to find you.”

“What sort of questions?” Max asked promptly, pushing himself upright to peer down at her intensely.

He knew he was grilling her, but Max was helpless to stop himself. There was something that was nagging at him. The time he had spent alone before Liz’s arrival had afforded him with much time to think. It was then that Max decided to face some hard truths that he had been avoiding for days now.

He was beginning to have doubts about Bayok. His reservations had started out rather mild. Just small things that made him uncomfortable, but nothing major. Max had been quick to label his uneasy feelings to the adjustment of living in a new place with people he didn’t really know. He had wanted to give Bayok a chance especially because he had seemed so eager to help them. Bayok had provided for him and Liz financially and physically without seeming to want a thing in return. Because of his extreme gratitude Max had purposely stuffed any and all misgivings he had down deep.

However, his going out with Kaala the day before had brought all those misgivings surging to the surface once more. Bayok had seemed too eager, too excited about the prospect of Max spending time with Kaala. And with the way she had been dressed, Max had been sure that would set off warning bells for Bayok, yet his benefactor hadn’t blinked an eye. In fact, he was wildly encouraging about the time Max spent with Kaala whereas his attitude always seemed reserved about Max’s relationship with his own wife.

Max had tried not to let Bayok’s lack of enthusiasm about his marriage bother him much, chalking it up to Bayok’s wariness of humans. But now Max began to wonder if Bayok had ever had any intention of accepting his marriage to Liz, despite all the many reassurances he had given Max. Instead Bayok seemed to push for Max to form some sort of relationship with Kaala, saying that he owed his allegiance to her because of the betrothal agreement and that he had a responsibility to her welfare. Bayok’s words had made sense to Max at the time, but now he wondered exactly why they had.

Zrei had never been encouraging of a relationship with Kaala. On that subject he and Bayok were in complete disagreement. Zrei felt that Max didn’t have a responsibility to Kaala at all and that he should commit himself wholeheartedly to Liz. Max felt pulled in two different directions, caught between his desire to be with his wife and his obligation to please his benefactor.

But the very fact that Zrei and Bayok disagreed on that subject should have been Max’s first indication that something was wrong. However, when he found himself second guessing Bayok’s motives Max felt disloyal and ungrateful. After all, Bayok had opened his home to them. He had been nothing but kind to Max since his arrival and, lately, he had been making an effort to be friendlier to Liz as well. But lately Max had been feeling that something about Bayok didn’t ring true, especially so after last night. When he had taken Bayok’s suggestion to take a walk it was as much for the need to cool off as it was to think about just what was going on in his life.

Whether Bayok was sincere in his intentions or not, something strange was happening with Max’s wife. She was moody, temperamental, especially so when Bayok was around. However, when they were alone she was the Liz he had always known, sweet, kind, and so infinitely loving. He, too, was different when they were alone. Instead of constantly being on the defensive about Bayok he actually found himself relaxing in Liz’s presence and considering what she had to say. During those times he didn’t feel like she was attacking him, but instead felt that she was offering loving counsel. He never resented what she had to say.

But the moment they were in Bayok’s house again the camaraderie and understanding between them dissipated. Liz would become unrecognizable to him once more and he suspected that he became just as unrecognizable to her. Suddenly, it seemed that he and Liz weren’t loving allies anymore, but bitter enemies and for the first time Max considered the possibility that Bayok had something to do with that.

Kaala’s words continued to replay themselves over and over in his head. Do not trust Bayok…there’s more going on with him than you know. Max now understood why he couldn’t dismiss her words of warning from his mind. She had only confirmed something he had been harboring in his heart for a long while now. He had known, known that something was terribly wrong, but in his desperation to belong, his mad desire for a family he had allowed himself to be blinded to the truth. But now his eyes were gradually, irrevocably being opened and Max did not like what he saw.

“What sort of questions did Zrei ask you, Liz?” Max asked again. His tone was urgent. “Did he ask he say anything about Bayok?”

Liz frowned at Max’s anxious tone, nodding slightly. “He wanted to know how often I talk to Bayok…you know, asked me for specifics like when and where.”

“Why would he want to know that?” Again Liz shrugged. “Did he give you any indication?”

Liz shook her head. “You know that Zrei never reveals what he’s thinking no matter how many times you ask him…but I got the impression, from the way he asked the questions, that he might be starting to mistrust Bayok. He said that he regretted bringing us here.”

Max couldn’t help but feel uneasy at the notion of Zrei feeling regret, even more so because his protector was obviously beginning to have doubts about his long-time friend. “That’s impossible…Zrei never regrets what he does.” Zrei had all but hammered that fact into Max’s head. And yet, he had told Liz that he regretted bringing them to the Colony. It seemed absurd, unreal. But it also meant that Max’s suspicions about Bayok weren’t unfounded. Zrei was evidently having doubts as well. Liz’s next statement only confirmed that fact further.

“Well, he does regret coming to the Colony,” Liz stated concisely, “His exact words were, ‘I was mistaken in bringing you here.’”

Liz started to sit up then and button her shirt, recognizing that Max was obviously no longer in the mood to make love, but he stilled her movements. “Not yet,” he whispered, tugging away her hand.

Liz lowered her eyes in awkwardness. “I feel weird talking to you about Zrei when my breasts are exposed, Max. We’re in an open field, remember?”

Max felt torn between mulling over all these new thoughts concerning Bayok and making love to his wife. But then, he thought, as he found himself drowning in Liz’s deep brown eyes, maybe he could do both. “I know,” he murmured insistently in response to her statement about feeling weird. He pushed her shirt completely from her shoulders so that her torso was left bare, “But that’s part of the appeal.” Together, they leaned back into the hay once more. Max kissed his way down the column of Liz’s neck and cupped her breast in his hand, kneading her firm flesh. “Now tell me again what Zrei said about not trusting Bayok.”

Liz could hardly think with his thumb circling the areole of her distended nipple in his provocative way, still she tried valiantly to answer his question. “I…I …uh…he…uh… God… Max, yes…didn’t say that,” Max traced his lips over her collarbone, placing nibbling kisses over the slope of her breast before drawing her sensitive nipple into his mouth to suck, “…oh god…he didn’t say…yes, that’s good…yes…hmm….that uh…he didn’t trust Bayok,” Max sucked harder, hungrily, “…he…he…oh yes, Max…that’s so good…he just acted like it. God, Max, can…can we talk about this later?”

Max nodded, kissing a burning trail down her abdomen. At that second, the last thing on his mind was talking. The Bayok situation would just have to wait until a little later.



posted on 18-Nov-2002 4:19:33 PM by Deejonaise
Thank you all tremendously for the feedback. It's really, really appreciated!*big* And to brianna welcome! As I've said before, new posters just make me plain dotty.

I just wanted you all to know that all of your questions will be answered very soon in the next parts. I'll try and post chapter 22 later this evening, but I'm still trying to work out the kinks in chapter 52 before I post. However, if that doesn't work out I'll still go ahead and post 22 because I'm anxious for you all to see where this story is going and get your opinions.

Thanks again and I'll check in later tonight.

Dee
posted on 18-Nov-2002 9:15:40 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 22

“You have changed, Nesui,” Zrei remarked as he watched his hostess bustle around the kitchen in preparation for the evening meal, “You are not as I remember you.”

Zrei was quickly coming to realize that a great many things weren’t as he remembered them. He studied Nesui as she methodically prepared dinner, slicing the roast meat for her stew with careful precision. Why had he not noticed before now how hard she was trying to hide her thoughts from him? But he realized it just then, just when he asked his question and her mind immediately became a blank wall to him. That was a shock within itself. Nesui had never closed her mind to him, not even after she had been bonded with Bayok.

She shrugged in response to his comment, failing to meet his gaze directly. “Of course I have changed, Zrei,” she replied pragmatically as she slid her casserole into the oven, “it has been nearly ten years since you last saw me.”

She was deliberately misunderstanding his comment, Zrei realized. He had never known her to be dishonest with him. But true to his Antarian nature Zrei found himself more puzzled by this occurrence than hurt. His past with Nesui had been over for some time now. In the years since Bayok had taken her for a mate, Zrei had taken his own mate and had grown to love her and lose her. But he wasn’t so naïve to believe that his life would be full of great loves. Though he had cared deeply for his mate she couldn’t replace the one who possessed his heart. There had only been one to do that…and she’d bonded to another.

Zrei could still remember their days on Antar together. Nesui had possessed a beauty that was incomparable. Her light had shined more brightly than any other female in their region. And she was loyal as well, a faithful worshipper of the Great Being, a servant in a prestigious family…a fine match for any Jnuian male. However, she had only wanted Bayok. Bayok, who served in one of the highest Antarian families, Bayok, who’s master was the Antarian Council chairman, Bayok, who possessed an ambitious streak that no Jnuian should have.

On Antar Bayok had served a great master, a great house, but after coming to earth his respect for both his master and his house had seemed to wan. Bayok had been one of the many Jnuian who had disagreed with their masters genetic cloning. Though the Trsanite race would survive in some form, it would never again be pure, never again know its original greatness. Zrei had known all these things, but he had mistakenly believed that Bayok had resigned himself to his new existence. After all, had he not himself raised four hybrids from his master’s original household?

However, now Zrei’s blinders were slowly being removed and he began to note alarming details about his friend that he had, heretofore, ignored. For one thing, Bayok and Nesui never talked about their hybrid masters. In the brief time that Zrei had stayed with them before being captured by the FBI he had noticed the interaction between Bayok and his charges. He had been cold and distant, but then that was usually how most Jnuians behaved.

Later when he had returned post capture all four of the podlings were gone. Bayok had told him that they had proven rebellious and he had, reluctantly, had them ousted from the Colony. Zrei had never questioned him about it, had merely accepted Bayok at his word. Now he found himself wondering if Bayok had been honest with him.

“Have you not heard from Jeunn and the others lately?” Zrei asked Nesui pointedly.

She immediately burned herself. A soft Antarian curse hissed from her lips as she brought her blistered finger to her mouth. Zrei moved gracefully from his perch at the kitchen counter and took hold of her hand, healing her burn. Their eyes met in a long, telling stare before Nesui looked away, pulling free her hand as she did.

Nesui turned away from him completely, busying herself at the sink. “What an odd question to ask me, Zrei,” she croaked softly, vigorously scrubbing the pot she’d just submerged into the soapy water, “Jeunn, Lilta, Queyn, and Roala have been banished for nearly fifty years. We no longer speak of them here.” But despite her casualness, her fear and nervousness were plain on her usually stoic face.

“Since when has a Jnuian ever had the authority to banish a Trsanite?” Zrei questioned grimly.

Nesui’s hand halted for only a moment before she resumed her furious scouring. “They were a danger to the Colony,” Nesui replied tightly, “You were already aware of that, Zrei. If Bayok had not banished them, who would have?”

“Nonetheless, it has never been our people’s place to judge…only to serve without question,” he argued, “Besides that, the details of their banishment was never made known to me.”

She spun on him sharply, her eyes glittering daggers of hate and fire at him before she had the forethought to mask her emotions. And then she shrugged and scoffed, “It is not as if they are our true masters, Zrei. Those died with our planet,” she reasoned coldly, “These new ones are merely reproductions, replicas of an original and poor ones at that. We do not owe them any real loyalty.”

“Are those Bayok’s words…or yours?”

“They are the truth!” Nesui spat.

Her vehemence did not ruffle Zrei in the slightest. He merely nodded and repeated his earlier statement to her. “You are not the Nesui I remember.”

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

An hour later Max and Liz found themselves strolling back to the house in companionable silence. Their hands entwined like new lovers, they drifted through the field together slanting one another soft, longing looks. In just that brief time they had shared alone all that had seemed to go wrong in their relationship the last thirty-six hours was now blessedly right. Max couldn’t have been more relieved to find that so.

Presently, Liz’s eyes were linked with his in a profound stare and Max found himself thanking God for, what seemed the millionth time, for the privilege of loving her and being loved by her. She smiled at him adoringly before sidling up right along side him and laying her head against his shoulder. Any other couple faced with such an unhappy outlook on the future might have crumbled by now, but he and Liz…somehow they managed to keep going, despite all the obstacles. And Max was beginning to realize that there were a lot of them.

Max’s mind inexorably drifted to the abbreviated conversation he’d had with Liz earlier. Something was going on with Bayok. He couldn’t deny it. Max also recognized that the something could not be good at all, otherwise Zrei would have never seen the reason to question Liz about it so extensively. But even as Max was finding that all his suspicions were slowly being confirmed or heightened, his heart still ached at the prospect.

He had actually grown fond of Bayok. Max had wanted to trust him, had thrown himself wholeheartedly into doing so. Yes, he had even come to respect him. Max had really wanted to believe that Bayok cared about him. Whereas Zrei had always been rather stilted in his relationship with Max, Bayok had been welcoming, even affectionate towards Max. Many were the occasion when Bayok had taken time out of his busy schedule to teach Max his native tongue or even answer Max’s endless questions about his past.

Whenever he had gone to Zrei with questions about Antar he had always given Max the same laconic response, “That time was the past. You live in the present, Maxwell. You must focus on the here and now.” Just a complicated way of saying “mind your business.” But Bayok had never been dismissive of his questions. He had always eagerly answered and even encouraged Max’s curiosity.

Naturally, Max had gravitated towards him instead of Zrei. Though recently Zrei had seemed to develop some warmth and had opened up a little about Max’s past, he still had never been as convivial as Bayok. Before that day Max had always found himself ridiculously grateful for that fact, now however, he began to wonder if Bayok’s understanding attitude hadn’t all been his attempt at manipulation.

There was something odd going on. Max might have continued to walk around stuffing his stirrings of suspicious doubt had it not been for one pertinent fact. Whatever Bayok was doing…he was doing to Liz. And so was revealed the real source of Max’s heartbreak. He had trusted and respected Bayok so much and to the exclusion of all else, definitely his good sense, but most especially his wife, and now it was highly possible that Bayok had been hurting Liz the entire time.

He thought about the forlorn words she’d uttered in the study right before running out. You’re doing this to me. Liz had always known, always seen what Bayok was, but Max had been too blinded by his own hope. He had desperately wanted to believe that Bayok would come to accept Liz based on the fact that Max loved her if for no other reason. He had told Max that he would try on several occasions. But had those promises been just empty words. Max’s mind was in turmoil as he began to wonder just what Bayok’s true motivations actually were.

“You’ll pull a muscle doing that.”

Liz’s soft teasing jerked Max out of his morose musings. He favored her with a delighted, little smile; overjoyed to see her face aglow and radiant with love as opposed to earlier when she had been tearfully pale. He didn’t like to see her cry. If he had his way she’d never have reason to do so again. Unless, of course, they were tears of joy.

He hugged her tighter against his side. “I’ll pull a muscle doing what?”

Her smile became absolutely gamin. “Thinking,” she clarified, laughing, “You look like you’re straining your brain cells really hard.”

Though she was joking Max felt his lighthearted smile falter. He stared down at her with eyes made liquid with regret. A few yards from Bayok’s house, Max gradually stopped walking and pulled Liz over to a fallen log. They sat down together on the dead tree stump. “I’m sorry I brought us here,” he told her solemnly, “I need you to know that.”

“I understand why we have to be here, Max,” Liz responded, “It just gets hard sometimes, that’s all.”

“Is that all?”

Liz furrowed her brow in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“Earlier in Bayok’s study…you said that he was doing this to you. What did you mean by that Liz?” Max prodded urgently.

Liz continued to stare at Max in hazy confusion. She didn’t quite know what he was talking about. In the study, she knew she had been upset. She couldn’t quite forget the ranting and raving she’d done no matter how humiliated remembering made her feel. But she didn’t recall ever speaking to Bayok. He had been standing there, watching everything with his too smug eyes, but Liz wasn’t aware she had even acknowledged his presence. “What are you talking about, Max?” she asked, thinking he must be mistaken.

Max gaped at her and grasped her by the shoulders. “Liz, don’t you remember? In the study…you were crying into my chest, almost hysterical,” he reminded, his alarm increasing when she continued to stare at him blankly, “I told Bayok you were going to be fine and that’s when you lifted your head and said that you weren’t. You accused Bayok of doing something to you.”

Liz brushed out of his grasp with an uncomfortable shrug and jumped up from the log. She turned away, wrapping her arms around her middle. “I don’t remember saying that,” she uttered quietly. Liz could feel that familiar uncertainty settling over her once more. She felt cornered, anxious, and mistrustful.

“But you did,” Max insisted in a gentle tone, moving up behind her and placing his hands on her shoulders, “Maybe you’re just too upset to remember.”

“I think I’d remember if I said something like that, Max,” Liz said tightly, “but I don’t. Maybe you misunderstood me.”

Max rested his chin atop her shoulder, sliding his arms over her own and encircling her waist. “Liz, it was almost as if you believed Bayok was trying to hurt you,” Max reminded her, “You said Zrei asked you all kinds of questions because of it.”

He is grilling you, hounding you. Make him stop, Elizabeth. Do not trust him. The order abruptly hammered in Liz’s brain. She actually jumped from fright with the suddenness of it. As usual the voice jumbled Liz’s feelings, made her feel confused. Was Max trying to help her or was he trying to trap her? Maybe he wanted her to say something bad about Bayok so that he could accuse her of being prejudiced against his Antarian heritage. Yes, Elizabeth, that is what he wants, the voice confirmed, that is exactly what he wants. Liz refused to play into his hands.

“Liz, are you alright?” Max asked in concern, feeling her stiffen in his arms.

“I’m going back to the house,” she said dismissively, shrugging away from him, “I feel weird talking about something I don’t even remember.”

Max made a grab for her, holding her gently. “Liz, it only happened a little while ago,” he prodded, “Just think, baby.”

“Stop trying to control me, dammit!” Liz cried, yanking away from him. She felt suddenly like she was suffocating, like she needed to run… But from whom? From Bayok, from Max? Honestly, Liz didn’t know anymore.

Max frowned over her abrupt and unexpected mood swing and stalked after her, grabbing hold of her arm and spinning her to face him once again, this time with urgent alarm. He could already feel that familiar rift coming between them once more and he couldn’t stand the thought of it happening again, not so soon after their reconciliation, not ever again. “Liz, I’m not trying to control you, I swear,” Max promised her intently, “I’m just trying to figure out what’s wrong…I just want to help you.”

Liz’s eyes were deep pools of confusion and pain when she looked up at him. She could see plainly that she was scaring him. She was scaring herself. “I don’t know what’s happening, Max,” she moaned softly, “I’m scared, please…you have to help me,” she finished in a whisper, “You have to take me away from here.”

Max opened his mouth to promise her that he would do exactly that when a dark figure suddenly emerged from the shadows.


Tune in tomorrow...same bat time, same bat channel...

posted on 20-Nov-2002 1:15:49 AM by Deejonaise
Hay caramaba, muchachos! I'm so sorry for taking so long. RL just bit me on the butt tonight! Alright, here it is now. Please don't hate me...*big*


Chapter 23

“Zrei is becoming suspicious.”

Nesui stated this irrefutable fact the moment she entered the secret compartment located behind the paneled bookshelves in Bayok’s study. Snapped from his meditation, Bayok glared at her, clearly displeased by her intrusion. His small hideaway was only known by two persons, himself and Nesui and he greatly desired to reduce that number by half.

Bayok had come to appreciate the privilege of privacy long ago. He well knew the reason that Max fought to have it even while he feigned his ignorance. There were still many secrets he needed to keep from the Council, many plans he had yet to reveal. He could not risk anyone discovering his plans before he was ready and so he guarded his solitude almost religiously. Bayok smiled to himself in ironic realization. He might very well be privy to everyone else’s intentions and thoughts, but that didn’t mean they needed to be privy to his.

Which was why it further annoyed Bayok that Nesui had intruded. Although, he had provided her with knowledge of the place’s existence he had also forbidden her against ever coming there barring an emergency. Barging in to give him information he already had did not constitute an emergency.

As Nesui closed the entrance behind her Bayok unfolded his knees from beneath him and came to his feet, realizing that his mate had no intention of leaving any time soon. He emitted a grunt of disapproval and gave up the task of further manipulating Elizabeth’s thoughts. He would never be able to gather the necessary concentration to continue especially with Nesui prattling on. Besides he was absolutely positive that he had caused enough doubt between the young couple to last the night. Tomorrow he would finish the task.

With a heavy, contented sigh, Bayok stretched his body languorously. He leveled Nesui with an annoyed stare before responding to her earlier statement, “Nesui, do you not realize I am already aware of that fact.”

“And yet you do nothing!” Nesui spat.

Bayok shrugged, moving to light another candle in the flickering dimness of the small room. “What is there to do?” he replied, “Zrei has not come to me yet. He is careful and methodical. He will accuse me of nothing until he is absolutely sure and by then we will be ready for him.”

“He asked about the podlings, Bayok.”

Bayok sneered at her. “Of course, he did. I would have done the same,” Bayok acknowledged, “He wanted to shake you and you allowed him to do so…as you always do. You have no better self-control when it comes to him than you had when we were on Antar together. He still manages to expose your weaknesses.”

Nesui detected the note of critical disdain in his tone and she glared at him. “Do not forget that you have come as far as you have only by my assistance, Bayok,” she reminded him coldly.

“How would I ever, my love, when you persist in your constant reminders of that fact?”

“If the truth were to be discovered about Jeunn and the others, the elders would not hold me responsible…only you, dear husband. And we both know what your punishment would be.”

Bayok reacted immediately, grasping her by the jaw and squeezing almost brutally. “Turn on me, Nesui, and you will be as good as signing your own death warrant,” he warned between clenched teeth, “Not all the elders are loyal to the Council, remember that! Do not forget who needs whom in this little arrangement of ours.” He flung her away in disgust.

Massaging her aching jaw, Nesui glowered at him in angry hatred but refrained from betraying further emotion. “What are your plans for Zrei?” she asked succinctly.

“It depends on what he will say to me tonight,” Bayok told her, “If he reveals that he has even the smallest inkling of our plan…we must keep him quiet…any way we can.”

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

After shoving Liz behind his back in an instinctive, protective gesture Max almost collapsed with relief when Kaelen Stafford and his girlfriend Rahsha stepped out fully into the pale moonlight. However, his relief was replaced seconds later with burning irritation. “What the hell are you doing lurking around in the bushes,” Max demanded crossly, “You scared us half to death!”

“We went to the door,” Kaelen explained in a whisper, “Bayok said you weren’t home, but I didn’t believe him. I decided to wait until you got back.” Max eyed him skeptically. “Hey, your jeep’s still here so I didn’t imagine you’d gone far.”

Max nodded in acceptance of his explanation, but he didn’t relax his guard. “What are you doing here?” he asked Kaelen and then he added irately in afterthought, “If you’ve come here to make excuses for your sister you can just save your breath!”

Kaelen held up his hands in immediate surrender and expelled a scoffing laugh. “I couldn’t make excuses for Kaala even if I tried,” he said wryly, “I’m actually here for another reason entirely.”

“What reason?” Max asked suspiciously.

“There are some things I think you should know,” Kaelen replied, his voice dropping to a whisper once more, “about Bayok.” Both Max and Liz regarded him with silent interest. Encouraged, Kaelen suggested, “Let’s go someplace so we can talk privately.”

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

“Exactly how long have you been mind-warping Elizabeth and Maxwell,” Zrei asked serenely as he entered the stables and approached Bayok from behind.

Bayok paused in the task of brushing down his favorite mare. He dropped his brush to the ground, twisting on his stool slightly. “That is a very serious accusation you have made, my friend,” he replied, his tone even and blasé.

“But one, no doubt, you have been expecting,” Zrei rejoined coldly.

That much was true. Bayok had been expecting the question. In fact, he had spent the majority of his evening planning for this very confrontation. No longer did he fear alienating Zrei. He had already insinuated his way into Maxwell’s good graces. He didn’t need Zrei anymore to establish trust. It had even become increasingly apparent that Maxwell preferred him to Zrei as well so his old friend had now served all his usefulness. Bayok saw no further need to lie. If it came down to it, Maxwell would take his word over Zrei’s and Bayok suspected that Zrei knew it.

“You are already aware that I have no respect or affection for humans, Zrei,” he replied finally in Jenga, “Your Elizabeth is no different. Maxwell…well, perhaps I am only helping him to see what he would not have otherwise.”

But Zrei made his reply in deliberate English. It was an act of defiance on his part. “You never intended to accept her,” Zrei said. His words were a statement of cold, hard fact.

Bayok didn’t bother to deny his accusation. “I do believe our antarian legacy has been tainted enough with human DNA,” Bayok jeered, “And yet that foolish boy chose to do so willingly. And you have stood aside and allowed him to make these disastrous decisions without a word. It’s despicable!”

The rage and loathing came off Bayok in waves, but Zrei remained calm in the face of his shaking anger. “You are obviously overwrought. Antarians do not feel hate, Bayok, or have you forgotten,” Zrei goaded, as if he believed citing the Antarian code would snap Bayok back to reality or, at the very least, penetrate his icy shell of disdain.

“Antarians are not weak either!” Bayok spat, “You were once a great warrior, Zrei, but you have allowed these weak and puny humans to cow you!”

“I am still a warrior, Bayok,” Zrei emphasized, “I will give my life protecting those in my care and serving my master’s household.”

Bayok resumed control of himself then, his expression thoughtful and calm. “This must be your way of informing me that you are leaving, then?” Bayok surmised.

Zrei nodded. “I will leave in the morning,” he stated, “I am taking Maxwell and Elizabeth with me. I will not return.”

“So you will choose them before me, before our friendship,” Bayok accused.

Zrei looked away. “I must serve my house,” he said quietly, “You have been as a brother to me all these years, Bayok, but I can no longer trust you and for that I am sorry.”

Bayok nodded with insincere acceptance. “I would hope you still consider me your friend, Zrei,” he replied softly.

Zrei was silent for a long while before finally speaking again. “I can no longer count you as a friend, Bayok. Your ways are no longer the ways of our people. I must inform the Council of your rebellion, but I will offer you time to go to them personally and plead for leniency.” He turned and exited the stable, effectively ending the conversation between them.

Bayok knew he was operating on borrowed time then. Zrei would only wait so long before he exposed Bayok and his conspirators before the Council and his dream for a new Antar would be destroyed. No, never! Not when he was so very close to victory! He wouldn’t allow it to end this way, not yet.

Bayok immediately hurried after Zrei into the house, anxious to find Nesui. He had a job for her.

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

“Bayok can’t be trusted.”

They had driven to a small pizza parlor in town. Once inside, they chose a small, secluded booth in a darkened corner and nibbled on pizza while making meaningless small talk. To the onlooker they appeared to be four normal teenagers out for a good time. However, after the formalities were dispensed with Kaelen immediately drove to the heart of the matter, namely Bayok and what a danger he was.

Max leaned back against the booth cushions, looping his arm around Liz’s shoulder as he did. “I think that’s something I’m beginning to suspect on my own,” Max told him, “but I’m interested to know where your theory came from.”

“Not all the protectors are like yours, Max,” Rahsha informed him softly, picking at the leftover pepperoni sprinkled over her plate, “It’s quite obvious that Zrei cares about you.”

Max’s eyes widened with this revelation. “Really!” he exclaimed incredulously, “And just how is it obvious?” Sure he and Zrei had their moments, but saying he cared might be a bit extreme.

“Max, you must understand the ways of the Jnui,” Kaelen began with a sigh, “They are not an emotional people. You’ll be waiting a long time if you’re expecting Zrei to embrace you in some hearty hug or something.” The four teens shared a snorting laugh at that unlikely prospect before Kaelen continued on, “However, Zrei would give his life to protect you. He has only your interests at heart.”

“Aren’t all antarian protectors that way?” Liz asked, bewildered.

“Unfortunately, no,” Kaelen replied, “Some Jnuians never agreed with the idea of hybridization. In fact, they had been thoroughly against it, but on Antar it would have been unheard of for a Jnuian to question his master.”

“So what’s the problem, then?” Max inquired, taking a bite of his cold pizza. He took a moment to chew his food and swallow before adding, “The hybridization took place…the protectors came to earth so what’s done is done, right? I still don’t understand what this has to do with Bayok and why he can’t be trusted.”

Kaelen didn’t keep him in suspense long. “Many of the protectors were resentful…embittered really to be sent to earth to serve their genetically recreated masters,” he explained, “Though much of our DNA is antarian when they look at us all they see is human and that incurs their disgust…not their loyalty.”

“But you’re not human,” Liz argued, “at least not completely.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Rahsha answered, “even a little human DNA is too much for them.”

“And apparently you think Bayok feels this way as well?” Max prodded.

Kaelen drummed his fingers against the table and leaned forward so that his words couldn’t be overheard. “He’s never admitted it openly, but neither has my protector or Rahsha’s either. But they were all responsible for my mind pull, although I have been told that Bayok made some great production of trying to stop it.”

“So he was trying to protect you?” Max questioned.

“Hardly!” Kaelen scoffed, “He was making a show for someone…who, I don’t know yet.”

“Why would he do that?” Max asked, frowning. Truthfully, all the subterfuge and mystery was beginning to make his head ache. What he was more interested in was what was happening with his wife and if Bayok had anything to do with it. Since leaving Bayok’s house Liz’s demeanor had become much better. The further they got away, the more like his Liz she seemed. She was once again snuggled against him, her hand playing lightly on his thigh, as if she’d never had her earlier outburst. He was beginning to worry. “Just cut to the chase, Kaelen…you know, short and sweet.”

“Okay, here it is,” Kaelen replied flatly, “There was never a Jnuian Council on Antar. It never existed. Only the Trsa were allowed to hold public office, yet only a decade after founding the Colony Bayok instituted this new council. He said it was necessary to do so since there were no pure blooded Trsanites to sit on the original Antarian council. I’m not saying that all the elders who sit on Bayok’s Council are bad, but some of them are definitely corrupt.”

“And…” Max encouraged, still not getting the big picture.

And Bayok has been slowly dismantling the old Antarian system since he arrived on earth and replacing it with his own way of doing things,” Kaelen clarified darkly, “Haven’t you ever wondered what happened to the hybrids in his care. He had been sent to earth as a guardian as well, just like all the others, but where are the podlings?”

Kaelen watched as dawning realization chased its way across Max’s face. Furrowing his brow, Max considered Kaelen’s point. It had never crossed his mind that Bayok may have been a guardian. Not once, in all the times they had spoken, had Bayok ever mentioned them. There was no evidence that they had even existed. And although Bayok and Nesui did live in a six-bedroom farmhouse it didn’t occur to Max to wonder why they would need so much space. But now…good god, now he was starting to wonder… “Do you know where they are?” he asked Kaelen in a anxious whisper.

“Dead, we believe,” Rahsha concluded morosely.

“No one has heard from them in nearly fifty years,” Kaelen said, “According to the Council they were all banished, but that seems highly suspect to me. Maybe it would make sense for one of them, but all four? Not hardly!” He paused to sigh, dragging his hand down the length of his face. “Don’t you get it? Bayok plans to exterminate us hybrids, probably humans, too, and he will…sooner or later.” He leveled Max with his emphatic green stare. Liz trembled. “You’re not safe as long as you stay in that house,” he warned.

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

“Bayok has informed me of your intention to leave in the morning,” Nesui remarked quietly as she entered Zrei’s bedroom. He regarded her with a blank stare before he resumed packing his meager belongings. Nesui remained undeterred, however. She said, “You will need these,” and held out her hand, revealing the silver gel capsules in her palm. Zrei flicked only a mere glance at them and continued to remain silent. Nesui sighed. “How else will you retain your shape?” she pressed.

“My welfare is no longer your concern,” Zrei finally answered.

“You need them,” Nesui insisted, “Already you are starting to lose your form…I can hear it in your voice. If you do not take them you will be unable to remain undetected among the humans.” Still Zrei did not answer her. Nesui tried a new approach. “You were right when you said that I am not the same.” Finally, she had his attention though he still did not speak. “I suppose I miss my home,” Nesui admitted with uncharacteristic candidness, “The want for it has made me bitter.”

Earth is your home now, Nesui,” Zrei answered gently.

“Never.”

“Antar is destroyed…we can never go back.”

“No,” Nesui denied, “There is the prophecy, Zrei. One day the promised child will rise and he will lead us to a new Antar. Only then will our people have true happiness and security. I have always believed this.”

“You believe in myths and fairy tales,” Zrei replied but without rancor, “You will never find happiness striving after the wind, Nesui.”

“I will never find happiness among the humans either,” Nesui countered, “What they did to you only proves that fact.” Zrei grunted and turned away from her slightly. “Bayok said that you no longer trust him,” Nesui said after a lengthy pause, “Do your feelings include me as well?"

“Bayok has gone against the antarian standards for the Jnui, everything we were brought up to believe,” Zrei replied evenly, “You have allowed him to pursue this rebellious course, Nesui, without making any attempt to stop him.”

“I am but a female, Zrei,” was Nesui’s cool reply.

“But an antarian first,” Zrei argued, “It was your place to inform the elders of his behavior.”

“And not yours?” Nesui accused.

Zrei turned his back to her. “I will admit my fault there,” he said with his usual stoicism, “but both you and Bayok are allowing your hatred to blind you. Can you not see that those hybrids you disdain so much are all we have left of our masters, all we have left of our world? We must preserve them safely for our sakes as much as for theirs.”

Nesui came to stand behind him, placing her hand against his shoulder. “We will never agree on this matter, Zrei,” she whispered. She pressed the capsules she held into his palm, not quite meeting his eyes when she urged, “Take them… If you would live among the humans I would have you be safe.”

Zrei curled his hands over the capsules with a small nod of consent. He turned away too soon to note the gleam of satisfaction in Nesui’s eyes.




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 20-Nov-2002 3:07:11 AM ]
posted on 20-Nov-2002 1:33:22 AM by Deejonaise
quote:
Cinder originally wrote:
Why would she not accept his alien side if she continued to explore hers?


Oh Cinder, I love you! During that inner monologue Max isn't thinking so much about his powers as he is about his quest to know his roots, his people. He thinks that Liz can accept being with him, but she can't accept the people who come into his life as a result of who he is. Example: I love my husband, but his family is just a little hard to take. Max, however, is of the mindset that if Liz can't like Bayok and Nesui, when, in his eyes so far, their only crime is being alien, how does she truly feel about him?

At least, that was my mindset when I wrote it.*big*

Dee


posted on 20-Nov-2002 11:39:53 PM by Deejonaise
Okay, party people we have officially entered ANGST territory. Sorry.*sad* Just wanted to give you all a heads up. I hope you keep reading anyway.*big*


Chapter 24

Max and Liz had barely cleared the front door before Nesui fell upon them anxiously. Her unusual familiarity only served to heighten the tension that was already hanging over them in an oppressive cloud. Although, their conversation with Kaelen and Rahsha hadn’t been very enlightening it hadn’t served to put them at ease either. As if Max hadn’t had enough to worry about with his burgeoning suspicion of Bayok, now he had to speculate on whether his seemingly benevolent host had plans to kill him as well.

Over dinner, Kaelen had filled his head with all sorts of rumors and speculations about Bayok’s reputation and what had possibly become of the hybrids in his care. Kaelen and Rahsha seemed to lean toward the belief that Bayok had killed them although neither of them offered Max any direct proof. Max, however, felt uncertain about attaching any credence to their conjecture. It was still somewhat difficult for Max to reconcile the generous, benevolent Bayok he knew with the manipulative sadist they described. But…

Even though Max found he couldn’t mentally connect to two personas in his head he did know for certain that Bayok was hiding something. Suddenly, the jumbled pieces of the last few days were fitting together and forming a picture. Now Max understood why Zrei had insisted on teaching him to mind block even when he knew Bayok would disapprove. Max now began to wonder why Bayok always seemed full of questions about him, but never seemed inclined to divulge any information about himself. And then, of course, there was the warning Kaala had given him.

But could he really pay what she’d told him any mind? She had already proven that she couldn’t be trusted, that the only loyalty she possessed was for herself alone. Kaala probably would have said anything at that point to turn Max back over to her side. But even as Max told himself all this something about her earnestness kept pulling at him. Perhaps it was that and the fact that Liz herself had accused Bayok of “doing something” to her. Of course, she didn’t remember saying it…

And that was another puzzle. Why didn’t Liz remember saying that? Why, also, didn’t she remember exactly what had driven her to seek him out in Bayok’s study to begin with? Max had wanted to push her for the answers, but she had seemed so uncomfortable with the discussion that he hadn’t wanted to continue, not if it meant upsetting her. But still he wondered, especially when lately her behavior had been so out of the ordinary. All these things were hurtling through Max’s mind as he and Liz stepped through the front door.

Which was exactly the reason they both nearly jumped a foot in the air when Nesui approached them with such frightening urgency. Liz clung to Max’s arm reflexively, staring at Nesui with wide, frightened eyes. Both their faces blanched of color and their hearts began thundering like jackhammers. Neither of them did a very good job of hiding their fear, and at that second, neither of them tried.

Nesui’s steps faltered when she noted their terrified reactions. “It was not my intention to startle you.”

“You didn’t,” Max replied tightly, trying to cover his unease and keep his thoughts pleasantly blank. He prayed that Liz was doing so as well. He’d only taught her how the mental block that evening on their way back home from the pizza parlor so there was no way to know for sure if she’d be successful until she tried. And that was not a good thing. Currently, they couldn’t afford to alert Bayok or Nesui of their newfound suspicions. “It’s after eleven…we didn’t expect anyone to be awake.”

“Something happened while you were away,” Nesui told them gravely.

Max’s heart actually paused in mid-beat before resuming its frantic thumping with his chest. His mind began careening from one dire possibility to another. “What happened?” he asked shakily. He and Liz were still huddled against each other. They had not taken more than a few steps beyond the front door. Max realized in the logical part of his brain that their actions would only raise Nesui’s suspicions, but neither of them could help it. Especially with Nesui’s ominous tone, Max couldn’t help but expect the worst. And he got it.

“Zrei has fallen ill,” Nesui stated with quiet solemnity, “I am afraid he is dying.”

“Dying?” Liz repeated in a squeak.

Max felt dizzy. He swayed against Liz and braced his hand against the front door for support. He frowned at Nesui in disbelieving confusion, expelling his breath in a small huff. “That’s impossible,” he wheezed, shaking his head in denial, “Zrei can’t die.”

“We are not immortal, Maxwell,” Nesui replied, “We do indeed die.” And then she added with less sting, “Bayok has been waiting for you to return so that you can spend a few moments with him before the end.”

“Wait, what happened?” Max demanded anxiously, his mind racing in a thousand different directions at once, “When we left Zrei was fine. He was well. Now you’re telling us that he’s sick and dying. No…” Max spat, backing away from her, “I don’t believe that.” Automatically his mind had jumped to the conclusion that Nesui or Bayok must have done something to Zrei.

It was peculiar that Max had never dwelled on his feelings for his protector before that moment. Zrei was simply there, a part of his life and performing a duty. The matter was simple. But now Max realized that he’d become quite accustomed to Zrei’s everyday presence in his life during the last month. Now Max couldn’t imagine his days without having to endure at least one of Zrei’s droning lectures. With a stunned sense of disbelief Max recognized that he cared for Zrei and that he had come to rely on him in more ways than one.

Max well-remembered Zrei’s weakened condition after their confrontation with DeVoe. He had been critical, very nearly on the brink of death, but he had come back. Though faint, his voice had carried through in Max’s head that entire night. Every instinct Max possessed had told him that Zrei would be all right. And he had recovered that time. But Max couldn’t hear his voice now.

At that moment, Nesui actually dared to reach out and touch his arm. “I know this is difficult--,”

Max jerked away from her grasp and stabbed her with angry eyes brimming with accusation. “You don’t know anything!” he spat, “I want to see Zrei. I demand to see him now!”

He saw it then. A flickering of hateful resentment in Nesui’s eyes before she turned away with a meek, cooperative nod. Why had he never noticed before, Max wondered as he and Liz followed Nesui upstairs to Zrei’s bedroom, that Nesui’s eyes were devoid of emotion. Had they always been so? That day when they first arrived he had been so overwhelmed by their seemingly warm welcome that he had never taken the time to consider whether it was sincere or not. But judging by way of the fleeting glare she’d just given him it hadn’t been.

Now Max found himself wondering what, if anything, had been genuine? Had Bayok and Nesui ever been happy to have them there or had they been resenting his and Liz’s presence all along? It seemed ironic that the moment when Max began doubting them completely was the instant that Zrei became ill. After all, if something were to happen to Zrei now whom would Liz and he have to turn to? Max tried not to wonder what the implication would mean for them and their future.

When they reached Zrei’s bedroom Nesui paused outside the doorway before allowing them entrance. “Everything has been done to make him as comfortable as possible,” Nesui assured them, “The elders have prayed over him and entrusted the Great Being with his spirit. He will be at peace now.”

Max doubted that. It seemed the only was who would be at peace would be Nesui and Bayok because they would no longer have to worry about Zrei revealing something terrible about them. The more Max thought about it the more certain he became that Zrei must have discovered something monumental, something Bayok and Nesui wanted to keep secret at all costs. His cryptic response about having had a disagreement with Bayok was beginning to make more and more sense.

Wordlessly, Nesui stepped aside to let them go inside. Max entered the bedroom with a trembling sense of foreboding. In the back of his mind Max expected to find Zrei just as he had been the night DeVoe had drained his energy. He was thoroughly surprised to find Zrei twisting fitfully on the bed in his human form.

As he and Liz crept closer Max could see that Zrei’s chest was naked beneath the comforter that covered him. His skin had a cheesy, pasty appearance and was grotesquely swollen. He was covered over with a glistening sheen of sweat. His tortured body contorted against the bed, gurgling out the same foreign phrase in a demented mantra. “Nish ba qui des. Nish ba qui des. Nish ba qui des.” His eyes were a blank, filmy white, partially obscured by his wildly fluttering lashes. Alarmed and mildly disgusted by the sight of him Liz hung back as Max moved to his knees beside the bed.

“Do not get too near!” a voice sounded sharply from the shadows. Startled, Max reared back from the bed slightly as Bayok came into full view. “We have no idea if his affliction is contagious,” he finished ominously.

Zrei’s chanting became more furious, almost frenzied. Max glanced from his convulsing form to Bayok. “Do you know what he’s saying right now?”

“The end is near,” Bayok provided without a single hint of emotion.

His reply hit Max like a punch in the gut. He rose on shaky legs and regarded Bayok with narrowed eyes. “What happened to him?” Max demanded quietly, “He was fine when we left.”

“Zrei has always been prone to these attacks,” Bayok explained, “A sad consequence of his captivity with the FBI and the drugs they injected him with. This is the worst we have seen yet.”

“Zrei has never mentioned any such attacks,” Max replied with careful precision.

“Of course, he has never mentioned them, Maxwell. Zrei has never been the type to discuss his personal afflictions with anyone,” Bayok countered, “However, I am quite sure that you realize what sort of effects his captivity may have had on him.”

Yes, Max did know. He suffered from the ill affects of his imprisonment as well. Even now his powers would blink out on him completely for no reason, sometimes for only minutes, at times it had stretched out for a few hours. One time his powers had been useless for nearly an entire day. And then, of course, there were his nightmares. They still tortured him. But he’d come to accept these facts as merely part of his existence now. However, nothing he suffered was as severe as what was happening with Zrei at the moment.

Partially mollified, but not completely, Max nodded his acceptance of Bayok’s words. And then he asked, “How long has he been like this?”

“Shortly, after you left Zrei came to me to talk,” Bayok related in what he meant to be an earnest tone, “While we were speaking he simply collapsed.”

Max was reluctant to believe a word of it and, although Bayok’s expression betrayed absolutely nothing, he couldn’t keep from wondering whether the older man was telling him the truth or not. “What were you talking about?” Max inquired softly.

“It is of little importance.”

“No,” Max disagreed, “It might help me to understand why he collapsed. Maybe you upset him.” Max could have sworn he saw a smug gleam ghost the other man’s eyes.

“There was no disagreement, Maxwell,” Bayok lied, staring Max straight in the eye as he said it.

Max dropped his gaze down to Zrei where he continued to convulse and chant against the bed sheets. It was obvious that death was near and it would not be stopped this time. “I need a moment alone with him,” Max murmured, sinking to his knees once more.

“Very well,” Bayok conceded with a nod, exiting the room quickly. When he emerged into the hall, he found Nesui waiting for him. He grabbed hold of her arm and dragged her towards the top of the stairs. “How long will he last?” he asked her coldly.

“A few hours at most,” Nesui told him, “The poison I administered is fast acting and strong.” Despite her assurances Bayok still seemed somewhat apprehensive. “He will tell them nothing that makes any sense, if he’s able to speak at all. Do not be so anxious.”

“I will stop being anxious when he is dead,” Bayok said as he descended the staircase.

Inside the bedroom, Max took up Zrei’s pale, trembling hand and pressed it between his own, staring down into his protector’s agonized face. Liz somberly dragged over a chair beside him and sat down, her heart aching at the sight of him. “Do you think they did this?” Liz asked in a tentative whisper, voicing aloud the question that was currently whirring around in both their heads.

Max released a scoffing little sigh. “If you had asked me that yesterday I would have told you ‘no’ in a second. I probably would have even gone off on you for daring to suggest it…” he admitted in shamed honesty, “…now I’m not so sure.” He bent his head forward, resting his forehead against Zrei’s hand. “God,” he uttered, “I’ve been so wrong about so much…first Kaala and now Bayok, too…”

Liz circled her hand between his shoulder blades in a comforting gesture. “Don’t blame yourself, Max,” she urged him gently. He looked up at her with eyes darkened with sadness and remorse, desperate for her reassurances, hungry for her understanding and love. “You wanted to believe they had good intentions. Obviously, so did Zrei.”

“And it’s gonna kill him,” Max concluded sadly, looking at Zrei once more, “He can’t even tell us the truth about what happened.” He reached onto the nightstand where a basin of water and a towel had been laid. Gingerly, he dipped the cloth into the cool water and begun sponging down Zrei’s clammy forehead. “I should have been here,” he muttered to himself.

“And then maybe you would have ended up the exact same way,” Liz pointed out softly. But she didn’t know for sure. She didn’t know anything. Were Bayok and Nesui angels or devils? Liz couldn’t fathom what their motivation would be to hurt Zrei, or Max for that matter. It was true that they didn’t like her, but they had taken to Max like a son. They had always seemed so concerned about him…but was it all an act?

“Come on,” Max said, jerking Liz from her morbid thoughts, “help me roll him over. The sheets beneath him are soaked.”

They worked together in silence, rolling Zrei’s sweaty form onto his side so that they could change the soiled sheets beneath him. Once they had replaced the bed with cool, dry linens they settled Zrei’s flailing body back against the mattress and covered him over with several blankets.

“He seems cold,” Liz remarked, noting how Zrei shivered miserably despite all the blankets they had piled atop him, “But his skin is fiery hot.” She glanced at Max in expectation. “Do you think you could try and heal him?”

“I think if it were possible maybe Bayok would have done so by now.” But his statement didn’t sound all that convincing, not to Liz and definitely not to himself.

“Why don’t you try anyway?” Liz insisted softly.

With a shuddering sigh and a jerky nod Max once again sank down to his knees beside Zrei’s prone form, spreading his hands out over Zrei’s chest. Closing his eyes, he allowed his mind to blank out, relaxing himself for the anticipated connection. But he was met with nothing but blackness. He tried again, searching harder, looking deeper for the invisible specter that was killing his protector, but again he found a black wall of nothingness, oblivion.

Swallowing back a sob of frustration, Max tried over and over before finally lifting his defeated gaze to Liz. “I can’t…I can’t do it…” He started to pull his hands, his overwhelmed tears already coursing down his cheeks when Zrei suddenly sat up and grabbed hold of his wrists in a viselike grip.

Max’s shocked gaze ricocheted to Zrei’s face, his entire body shaking. His protector was staring at him, his eyes unseeing, but he uttered three ominous words of unmistakable warning in a thready whisper before falling back against his pillows once more and gasping one final breath. Max leaned up over him, lifting his shaky fingers to Zrei’s neck to feel for a pulse. He threw an anxious glance at Liz over his shoulder. “Oh god, Liz…” he uttered, “…I think he’s dead…I think he’s dead…”

Liz crept over behind Max, peering over his shoulder down to Zrei’s unmoving form. “Oh my God…” she whispered, “What did he say to you just then, Max?”

Max turned to regard her with eyes glistening with the sheen of haunted grief. “He said, ‘Leave this house.’”



posted on 21-Nov-2002 1:13:48 AM by Deejonaise
quote:
MamaDee52 originally wrote:
Please tell me there's no more doom and gloom on the horizon for at least one part? I realize this is all part and parcel of this wonderful story but could we please have a ray of sunshine for just one eensy weensy part? *big*

~ Dee ~


MamaDee52, your wish is my command. I promise it's going to start to look up after this part...for a while. I don't know if you all have figured it out, but I've got a pattern. When I get to the height of the angst I usually start to taper it off before I begin building it again. Max and Liz will actually have some peaceful time ahead of them for the next six chapters before the angst kicks up again. But the payoff is gonna be so big, I promise...

The ending I've got planned is gonna be great because I've figured out a way to have my bittersweet ending without the bitter! It's going to work out...trust me.

And thanks so much for sticking with me through this! You're right, things can't get much worse after Zrei's death. I've actually got a little comic relief planned in the upcoming chapters to take the edge off. That's a literary tool actually, so hopefully that will help.

Dee

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 21-Nov-2002 1:17:00 AM ]
posted on 22-Nov-2002 4:15:33 AM by Deejonaise
Okay, here's the next part. Sorry it took so long...again. But I beta read my own work and I'm really meticulous when I do, but today I haven't had a single solitary moment to do that. But finally, here it is...perserverance... Feedback is nice. I'll say it twice. Feedback is nice.*big*



Chapter 25

Evidently, antarians did not believe in mourning their dead. Among Max’s people it was deemed an honor to return to the Great Being and therefore no funeral arrangements were made for Zrei, not even a memorial service to commemorate his life. A simple funeral pyre had been fashioned for his body in a field not far from the sacred temple, the common Antarian place of worship. There he’d been set ablaze with only Bayok, Nesui, Max and Liz to stand as witnesses.

Max stood with his arm banded around Liz’s waist, watching stoically as the fire consumed the body of his protector, a being that he had been tentatively coming to count as friend. He did not even flinch at the intense heat that rolled off the platform from the large, fanned flames. Max barely registered the Antarian prayer Bayok uttered, entrusting Zrei’s spirit to the Great Being. His mind continued to revolve around the conversation he’d had with Isabel the night before as well as his and Liz’s immediate plans for their future.

Isabel had dreamwalked him. She had tried several times in the past week, but Max had successfully blocked her. Though he knew that dreamwalking was probably the most secure form of communication they had, he believed it would only be more painful for Isabel to talk to him, but never have any reassurance from him that he would come home or even where he was. However, the night before when she had come to him he had let her in.

She had sat on the edge of his bed while Liz slept sweetly beside him. “So you’ve finally stopped ignoring me?” she asked, her tone sarcastic and hurt, but extremely grateful as well.

“I thought I was doing what was best…for all of us.”

“You can’t speak for me, Max.” She leveled him with a penetrating stare, taking in his haggard appearance. “You don’t look too good. Is Liz okay…are you?”

“Zrei’s dead,” Max had revealed bluntly. He watched her face closely for a reaction. She gasped, but her expression remained curiously composed. “You’re not surprised.”

“I didn’t expect that,” Isabel explained to him, “But I knew something was different…like I sensed you were in pain. That’s why I tried dreamwalking you tonight. I was worried. How did it happen?”

He considered the wisdom of telling her his speculations at that point. He didn’t have any hard concrete facts only his gut instinct. Still the risk was too great. First, Max couldn’t be certain that if he did Isabel and Michael wouldn’t come charging out to the Colony in some half-assed attempt at rescue. Second, the situation was complicated enough without adding the two of them to the mix. Besides that, it was highly likely that any antarian within a fifteen-mile radius could hear every word they uttered, but Bayok in particular. And that was the last thing Max wanted or needed. “Zrei was sick…” Max lied to his sister haltingly, “…from…from all the experiments they did on him. He died yesterday.”

“God, Max, I’m so sorry.” There were tears in her eyes, for him and for Zrei. Because she had cared for their protector, even if she’d never admitted it aloud. “You shouldn’t come home though,” she told him before he could reply, “I think the feds are watching us still. There’s been a van parked outside our house for the last two weeks. First it was a cable van, now it’s a utility company. But I don’t think they’re legitimate, especially with the break-in last week…”

“Wait, wait, wait, what break-in?” Max exclaimed.

“It’s what I was trying to tell you about when you’ve been blocking me all this time,” Isabel told him pointedly, “Someone broke into the house, stole Mom’s jewelry, our computers, your stereo…they tossed up our rooms really bad.”

“You think they were looking for the files,” Max asked in a whisper.

“Maybe,” Isabel answered with a shrug, “That’s why you shouldn’t come home…they’re probably looking for you right now. It’s not safe…so just stay where you are, okay?”

The small hope that Max harbored that he and Liz might be able to return home in the near future died in his heart. Perhaps expecting things to be calm now was a bit premature, but Max had always assumed that things would be safe again once Liz had the baby. However, now he realized there was no guarantee. Even with DeVoe dead and the damning evidence in their possession, the FBI continued to be relentless. If the feds thought for a moment that the payoff was big enough they’d take the risk. And what better payoff than a hybrid-alien baby? Max sighed. “We’ll stay here until the baby’s born,” Max told Isabel, “Then we’ll see where we are…and if we can come home.”

“I’ll keep in touch,” Isabel told him softly right before her image faded away completely.

Max had a lot on his mind afterwards. The FBI was in Roswell watching his family, Zrei was dead and he could no longer trust Bayok. He and Liz couldn’t turn to their families for support without putting lives in jeopardy. The conversation with Isabel had served only to increase his anxiety, but it didn’t change the fact he had to leave Bayok’s house, even if he and Liz couldn’t return to Roswell immediately. Max had lain awake for a long time afterwards, worrying about his family and deliberately plotting his next move.

He was still obsessing over just what his next move would be while Bayok recited Antarian rites over Zrei’s burning body.

Leave…this…house…. Zrei’s warning words echoed in Max’s mind, drowning out Bayok’s chanting of the holy Antarian prayer. And that was exactly what he and Liz had every intention of doing. They were leaving. Tonight. There was nothing to stop them anymore. Zrei was dead now. If ever they had been staying for a reason he had been it, now the point was moot. They had to leave. And nothing would stop them, Max determined, setting his jaw tightly.

In the three days since Zrei’s death Max had occupied himself with the fine details for their departure. The day after Zrei died he and Liz had skipped school and spent the entire day looking for an apartment and dropping off job applications for Max. Though Max fervently wanted to pick up and leave Woodstone altogether he and Liz had no real money saved up. They couldn’t just take off with what they had because they needed to be sure to set aside money for when the baby came, not to mention buying furniture for their new place.

Besides that neither of them knew what to expect out of Liz’s pregnancy. Zrei had told them over and over that there would be changes, but would those changes be physical, mental, what? At least in Woodstone they could blend in since the townspeople were used to strange goings-on. It seemed logical to stay somewhat near the Colony. Even if they couldn’t trust Bayok and Nesui they had recently found other allies among the antarians who would help them.

Assistance had come from a rather unexpected source. The last three hellish days Kaelen and Rahsha had proved invaluable to them. They had both offered their help and support without seeming to want anything in return. Their selflessness was almost like a red flag for Max, however. After enduring so much betrayal in the last few days, Max couldn’t help but be suspicious of their motives. If the last couple of months, but precisely the last few days, had taught him anything it was that everyone, antarian and human alike, had an ulterior motive.

Surprisingly, however, Liz didn’t share Max’s suspicions of Kaelen and Rahsha. She truly believed that the young couple wanted to help them and had even urged Max to give them both a chance. Given the last few days and the whomping blindness he seemed to have when spotting character flaws in others Max was willing to trust her instincts on the subject. Still, Max couldn’t help but harbor his doubts.

He had seen the worst of humanity while imprisoned in that cell. Before that time Max hadn’t thought that sort of evil was even possible. He had deluded himself with the same thinking where the antarians were concerned. They were enlightened beings after all and a communal race. He hadn’t known that it was even possible to hurt one another without hurting all, but he had evidently been wrong in his assumption. Bayok hadn’t had the slightest inclination towards remorse when hurting Zrei.

And Max fully believed that. Even while Bayok droned on in Jenga conducting the semblance of some sacred ritual Max knew the truth. Bayok had killed Zrei. He would never be able to prove it, didn’t even know if he wanted to. But he knew it for the truth deep inside. Max truly did understand now that they needed to leave as soon as possible. Whatever secret Bayok was hiding he was willing to kill for it and Max was willing to let him keep it. It didn’t matter. All Max cared about was protecting his family. That was his priority and that alone.

Just the day before he and Liz had finally found an apartment after two days of frantic searching. The place wasn’t the best. It was in a seedier part of town, not very far from the Chuckwagon. Max wished devoutly that he could provide something better for Liz, but with their money situation and the one job between them, a one-bedroom apartment downtown was the best he could do.

Briefly, they had considered availing themselves to the money in Liz’s grandmother’s account, but then had discarded the idea. Surely, her father would have discovered the account by now and had to be wondering why it had been put in Liz’s name. If they made any attempt to procure that money it would not only bring their parents down on them, but possibly the FBI as well. They couldn’t touch that money, despite their desperate situation…

And though the apartment situation was taken care of, finding a home didn’t serve to ease Max’s anxiety. He still needed a job. Liz couldn’t maintain their livelihood on her own. And although Kaelen had offered them money to help them get started Max had refused to take it. He was done with taking handouts from others. Max would find a way to make it work. But in the meantime, he couldn’t keep himself from worrying.

He had planned to continue his search for a job that evening after school but Bayok had informed Max of his plans to cremate Zrei’s body that night and had requested that Max and Liz be there. Max didn’t want to do anything to raise Bayok’s suspicions or give him the impression that he was no longer trusted so Max agreed. But Max wasn’t ignorant. Now that Bayok had proven that he would eliminate any obstacle that stood in his way there was nothing would keep him from harming Max and Liz if he perceived them as a threat.

Once the ritual was over the two couples walked back to the house in utter silence. Max and Liz couldn’t help but be filled with a mounting sense of dread. They had managed to completely and effectively avoid Bayok and Nesui for the last two days without incident, but now it seemed that time was at an end. Max didn’t like to think about what Bayok might have planned for him.

Max glanced down at Liz, who was holding onto his hand as if her life depended on it. Her face was pale and fatigued. Every movement she made was darting and fearful, as if she were expecting to be attacked at any given moment. Max hated to see her so frightened, hated that he had been the one to put them into such danger to begin with. But Liz didn’t blame him, even though Max blamed himself. There was so much he could have prevented if he hadn’t been so blind to the truth. Now he could never go back…he couldn’t bring Zrei back to life.

Max was still mulling that over as they rounded the bend for the farmhouse, his trepidation at the prospect of being alone with Bayok growing with each step. Max’s mounting fear gave way to sighing relief when, upon approaching the farmhouse, he saw Kaelen standing outside waiting for them, his back propped against his black Ford Explorer. Max and Liz immediately broke away from Bayok and Nesui to greet him, ignoring Bayok’s frown of disapproval.

“You will not be long, Maxwell?” Bayok inquired, his eyes shooting daggers of dislike at Kaelen, “There are matters I wish to discuss with you as soon as possible.”

Max barely glanced over his shoulder, hoping his tone was casual when he said, “We won’t be long.”

After Bayok and Nesui disappeared into the house, Kaelen gave an exaggerated shudder. “Whoa…he’s scary. Does he know that you’re leaving tonight?”

“Not yet,” Max said quietly, surreptitiously watching the house from the corner of his eye. In the living room the drapes swayed almost imperceptibly. Bayok and Nesui were watching them from inside. “They’re watching us right now…” Max warned casually, feigning interest in Kaelen’s suv by running his hand over the hood, “They might try and mental tap.”

“Got it covered,” Kaelen replied smoothly, reaching inside his suv and clicking on the radio. The heavy metal sounds of Kiss soon rocked the air. Kaelen straightened to regard Max and Liz with a satisfied grin.

“What is that supposed to do?” Liz asked loudly over the music.

“It’s not so easy to form a tap when there’s loud background noise,” Kaelen explained, “Music is the one sure thing that will always interfere with the telepathic connection. They won’t hear what we’re talking about…mentally or otherwise.”

“So what are you doing here,” Max wanted to know.

“I got you a job,” Kaelen told him as Max watched the draperies flutter once more, “I talked to my boss and he said you could start as soon as tomorrow.” Max jerked his head around in surprise. Kaelen worked at a local auto body shop as a part-time mechanic. He had offered to put in a good word with his employer for Max days before but Max had declined, saying that he didn’t know anything about cars. From the expression on his face Kaelen could tell he was about to reiterate that argument. “Max,” he began reasonably, “you need a job…there’s a job available where I work…it’s as simple as that.”

“I’ve told you before that I don’t know the first thing about fixing cars,” Max said, shaking his head.

Kaelen shrugged. “It’s not that big of a deal. What you don’t know I’ll teach you and what you don’t learn just fake. It shouldn’t be too hard,” he added glibly, “You are an alien, after all.” When Max still appeared skeptical he tacked on, “It pays good money.”

Liz looked at Max then, her eyes full of suggestive pleading. “We do need the money, Max,” she stressed gently.

“I won’t have any idea what I’m doing,” Max protested in exasperation.

“It’s not that hard,” Kaelen assured, “You’ll learn it in no time.”

“And when exactly will you be teaching me?” Max sighed sarcastically, “It’s not like I plan on coming back here once Liz and I blow this joint. And you’re forbidden to have any outside contact with humans so if you get caught you get in trouble.”

“I won’t have to worry about getting caught,” Kaelen replied with breezy indolence.

“And why is that?”

“Because Rahsha and I are going to be your new neighbors.” Max and Liz stared at him in incredulous shock. “We took the vacant apartment down the hall from you.”

“You’re leaving the Colony?” Max asked, but he really didn’t know why it came as a surprise to him. The night they had gone out for pizza Kaelen had spoken of little else. It was no secret that Kaelen was curious about life outside the Colony, but Max had never expected that he would make the decision to leave so soon.

“Does having us live so close bother you,” Kaelen asked stiffly, mistaking the reason for their dubious responses.

“No, of course not,” Liz said so quickly that Kaelen couldn’t help but believe her.

“Good. Because Rahsha thought she could help deliver the baby when the time came…since going to a hospital is out of the question.”

“Thank you for the offer. I’d like that,” Liz replied sincerely, “But I’m still a little shocked. I just didn’t think you’d make the decision to leave so soon. Won’t you get in trouble…I mean, won’t they come after you?”

Kaelen shook his head, his green eyes clouded with traces of remorse. “Once you leave the Colony for the outside world you’re as good as dead to them. You’re banished…end of story.”

“But Zrei left plenty of times,” Max argued, “And they threw him a damned celebration when he returned.”

Kaelen folded his arms across his chest and regarded them in amusement. “But he had an excuse, remember,” he reminded them, “Zrei was out looking for you all that time. Rahsha and I just want to get the hell out of dodge…but once we leave they won’t let us come back.”

“Not ever?” Liz asked, appalled.

“Oh, I’m sure we could under certain circumstances…” Kaelen hedged gloomily, “but not without a heavy price.”

Kaelen left a few minutes later, reminding Max to meet him at the auto body shop the next day after school. When he and Liz were alone once more, they turned to face the farmhouse and drew in a mutual, fortifying breath. “Tonight we’ll be gone,” Max told her, taking her hand and lacing his fingers through hers, “The jeep’s already packed with our stuff…all we have to do tonight is sneak out.”

“That’s not all,” Liz mumbled morosely, her reluctance to enter the house apparent on her face, “We’ve got to make nice with them for the next six hours. I don’t know how I’ll manage to do it without gagging.”

“Just go in our room tonight and stay there til I come for you,” Max ordered softly when they reached the front door, “By morning none of this will matter anymore.”


I'll probably post again sometime this afternoon before the weekend kicks up so be looking for me.



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 22-Nov-2002 5:39:50 AM ]
posted on 22-Nov-2002 4:16:03 PM by Deejonaise
AN: I decided to go ahead and post another part because, as some of you may know, I work over the weekends and am barely home during that time. I'll post Chapter 27 on Sunday night when I get home from work.

As for this story, I wanted you all to know that I will probably be completely finished with it by next week. I'm only three chapters from the end. Yippee!!! Anyway, I'm taking all of your comments for a happy ending under advisement and I am working on it I promise. This is going to be the happiest ending you can imagine!!!

Okay, enough rambling...on with the story. Remember to look for me Sunday night.

Dee



Chapter 26

His son lay asleep on his chest. Beautiful, perfect with downy brown ringlets of hair. Max lifted his hand to touch one tentatively, dragged his fingers lightly down his son’s gently rounded cheek. His skin felt so soft…so delicate. Max had never felt more at peace, more content than in that beautiful moment. He felt bathed in a golden light, content, shimmering, feeling instinctively that everything in his world was gloriously right. But then his arms were suddenly manacled to his sides and his son was ripped away from him. Max could hear the voices whispering around him as the darkness closed in, could hear them jeering. He bucked and screamed as his son was lifted away, swallowed into the darkness. His baby, his joy, and Max was powerless to stop them. They were taking him way…and he was taking the light with him…

Max bolted upright in his bed at the exact same time Liz awakened from her own nightmare. Max’s harsh pants broke the quiet darkness within their bedroom. Groping in the dimness for the lamp on the floor next to their air mattress, Liz flooded the small bedroom of their apartment with light. Max flinched at the brightness, swiping his forearm across his perspiring brow. “I just had the most intense nightmare…” he uttered breathlessly, hunching over a little as his heart continued to thunder.

They had only been in their apartment for two days. Two peaceful, quiet days. It was meagerly furnished for now with only a ratty sofa they’d found second hand at the Salvation Army as well a recliner. They had purchased an air mattress and lamp from K-Mart for their bedroom, but save for those things their place was pretty bare. Still, Max and Liz were content. No, they were beyond that, they were ecstatic. Living in such conditions, no matter how sparse, was definitely preferable to living under Bayok’s thumb. They were free and finally on their own and that was all Liz could ask for.

Presently, Liz pushed herself into a sitting position and pressed a gentle kiss to his naked shoulder. She trailed her hand up and down the slope of his back. “I had a nightmare, too,” she whispered, “I dreamed I was sleeping and someone came in and took the baby.”

Max stared over his shoulder at her with wide eyes. “So did I,” he said shakily, “God, it seemed so real.” He shuddered, leaning back against Liz. He didn’t resist as she pulled him back down against the mattress and settled her naked body against his.

“But it wasn’t real,” Liz whispered, nuzzling her nose against his cheek, “It was just a bad dream. No one’s going to take our baby.” She splayed her hand wide over his chest, idly strumming his skin with her fingers. Despite the intensity of her dream, the realness of it, Liz was not worried.

Just the day before she and Max had lain in bed together while Max tried to establish a connection with their son. At the very moment the union had bloomed between them both she and Max had been overwhelmed with the most glorious vision of glowing light, tiny and thriving within her womb. Their son was breathtaking, golden, and completely alien…their little antarian… He hadn’t looked remotely human. Perhaps that was why the dream hadn’t upset Liz too much. The baby in her dream had been one conjured up in her fantasies and had nothing to do with the reality of her pregnancy.

Liz had mixed feelings about that. She loved her child unconditionally and anticipated his birth, but there was still part of her that was intimidated by the thought of him. He was an alien creature, after all. How could she and Max possibly raise him in normal society? What kind of parents would they make? Would their son even be able to survive on earth? Would her child have a chance at a normal life?

The questions pounded on in Liz’s brain until she thought she’d go crazy with uncertainty. There was nothing she could do, nothing either of them could do but wait. Though Max had tried to deepen his connection to discover more about their child he could determine nothing beyond the fact that the baby was indeed male and happily alive. Besides that small bit of information, their baby remained a mystery to them. It was as if the baby were deliberately hiding himself from them.

Liz forced herself not to worry about it. They had a little more than 26 months left to prepare for their baby’s arrival and in that time who knew what could change. Zrei had told them many times that she and Max were changing, that they had to in order for the baby to survive here. Liz had to believe that everything would work out accordingly. She couldn’t very well spend the next 26 months worrying herself into a frenzy over what might happen either.

And thus Liz had adopted a new motto. The possibility for unexpected disaster loomed before her and Max every single day. It would be unhealthy as well as futile to obsess over the things that could potentially go wrong in her life. Instead, Liz focused on what was wonderfully right. Max. He was with her. They were together and nothing would ever change that fact. No matter what happened in the future they would face it by each other’s side. Liz couldn’t be afraid as long as she knew that indisputable fact.

She snuggled against his side, burrowing her face in the curve of his neck. “Max, our baby is safe…we’re safe. It was just a dream,” she said again in the same gentle tone. She waved her hand, extinguishing the lamp with her powers.

“I don’t know, Liz,” Max sighed wearily, closing his eyes and savoring his wife’s touch as her fingers played over his flesh, “I’ve just had this sense of foreboding ever since Zrei died…like something bad is going to happen.”

“Nothing bad is going to happen,” Liz assured him sleepily, “Besides we can’t spend our lives worrying about what’s going to happen in the future. We’ve got to focus on the now and what’s positive in our lives. Bayok can’t hurt us. We know exactly what he is now. He has his precious secret, whatever it is, and we’ve left his house so we’re not a threat to him anymore. We’re free of him, Max…we’re finally free…”

Yes, but for how long, a niggling voice in the back of Max’s mind asked. How long before the relative peace they had found came crashing to an end? Max knew he was being pessimistic but life had taught him to be so. And even as Liz drifted off into contented sleep Max remained wide-awake, obsessing over circumstances he couldn’t change. But even knowing that he was, his apprehension just wouldn’t ebb. He hadn’t slept an easy hour since the night they’d snuck from Bayok’s house. Max waited in dreaded anticipation for Bayok to show up at school or at the apartment, or worse yet at Liz’s job. As a result, Max could hardly focus on his own schoolwork and job for worry and paranoia over what might happen to Liz.

He felt he had good reason to be worried. Though Bayok hadn’t had any knowledge of his and Liz’s plans to leave that night, Max’s last conversation with his benefactor hadn’t been exactly heartening. He had listened to Bayok go on and on about how Zrei would have wanted for Max to remain in his house and how it was so important that they stick by one another. He was doing damage control, Max had thought. Whatever he was hiding, it was big and he seemed quite fearful that it might be discovered. It was the only reason Max could think of for Bayok laying it on so thick.

But, in an emotional moment, Max had become fed up. He had lost control then and blamed Bayok for Zrei’s death. He had been horrified by his angry outburst, furious with himself that he had revealed so much. But he had quickly covered over his animosity by stating that his grief had him saying things he didn’t mean. Still, Max couldn’t be sure if Bayok had been suspicious or not, although afterwards his attitude towards Max had been somewhat subdued, as if he was reevaluating something…

Max recalled with chilling clarity Bayok’s parting words at his back as he turned to leave the room. There is a consequence for every action, Maxwell. Sooner or later we will all pay the price. Max had stood frozen in the doorway, his heart hammering at the veiled threat he thought he heard in Bayok’s tone. And then Bayok continued on, as if his statement had been completely innocent and not designed to scare the hell out of Max, Zrei suffered for the actions of others. I will miss him terribly. Max had all but stalked from the room with his fists clenched tightly at his sides. It was one thing to threaten him, but to stand there and actually pretend he was sorry Zrei was dead made Max want to kill Bayok with his bare hands.

That night, he and Liz couldn’t have escaped from that house fast enough. But Max couldn’t shake the intense feeling that Bayok had known they were leaving and had simply let them do so. And if that were true Max had to wonder why he had. Max tormented himself with questions. Was Bayok as evil as Max was making him out to be or had he really misunderstood the circumstances surrounding Zrei’s death, surrounding everything? At that point Max didn’t really know what to think. He decided to examine the facts.

Fact: Liz had been a walking basket case almost from the moment they had taken up residence in Bayok’s house. Fact: He had become a living, breathing idiot from that day onward, continually dismissing Liz’s concerns and subsequently isolating her. Fact: Zrei had begun to doubt Bayok. That was all the evidence Max needed to know that something had gone terribly wrong.

The night that Zrei and Max had their heart to heart had been Max’s first indication that life in Bayok’s household wasn’t what it seemed. But he had been so excited over the prospect of having a new family, a family he could be honest with, a family who knew everything about him and wanted him anyway, that he had ignored the nagging suspicions whispering in his head. He hadn’t pushed for answers from Zrei. At the time he had pacified himself with the assumption that if he had asked questions Zrei wouldn’t have told him anything anyway. But the truth was that he hadn’t wanted to know and his desire to remain in ignorance had probably cost Zrei his life.

But obviously Zrei hadn’t been content to linger in unawareness. His doubts about Bayok had probably driven him to confront his old friend with the truth. Perhaps Zrei’s boldness had frightened Bayok or perhaps Zrei had discovered something he shouldn’t, but whatever it was Zrei was never given the opportunity to tell anyone else. Whatever secret Zrei harbored had gone to his grave with him. Now if only he’d had the chance to reveal to Max what that secret was…

But he hadn’t. Zrei had died before he could divulge what he knew. Max couldn’t believe for a second that was a coincidence. Which brought him around to his most pertinent question. Was Bayok really so ruthless that he would kill Zrei, his good friend, to protect his own interests? All that Max had seen about Bayok in the past few days was in direct contradiction with such a person. But then Max had to consider that he had never really known Bayok at all. It was just as Zrei had told him; Bayok let Max see what Bayok wanted Max to see.

Beside him, Liz snuffled softly in her sleep and rolled onto her back, taking the comforter with her. After wrapping herself inside it more securely, she spread out a little more against the bed before settling back down into restful sleep. Max shifted onto his side, propping himself onto his elbow so that he could stare down at her sleeping form. She took his breath away. He loved how she stole the covers from him at night and how she was a bit of a mattress hog. He loved everything about her. He loved her. He’d spend the rest of his life protecting her and his baby from harm, although, he had to admit to himself, he hadn’t been doing such a sterling job of that lately.

Though he had no proof, Max was almost certain that Bayok had been manipulating Liz somehow. Once they were finally free and able to talk confidentially Max had questioned Liz extensively about her dealings with Bayok. Liz had admitted to him that she thought that the situation between her and Bayok had actually improved, especially because Bayok had seemed willing to strike up conversation with her even when it was obvious that Liz didn’t want to be bothered.

However, Max thought it was strange. Not once in all the time he’d spent with Bayok had the man ever mentioned any conversation with Liz. It seemed to Max that Bayok should have been eager to inform Max of how well he and Liz were getting along. But Bayok hadn’t said a single word. Couple that with the several memory gaps Liz seemed to be experiencing as well as her uncharacteristic mood swings and Max could believe that Bayok was doing a great deal more to Liz than talking to her. But he couldn’t prove that any more than he could prove that Bayok murdered Zrei.

Max shuddered. When he thought about all those times Liz had warned him and all the times he had dismissed her fears he wanted to lose it. What if is stupidity had cost him her life and the life of their child? In his blind trust he had put them and their baby in severe danger. Max didn’t know if he could ever forgive himself for that error in judgment.

Max rested his hand on Liz’s belly through the bulky down of the comforter. Even through the thick material he could feel his son’s energy radiate warmly. Though Max instinctively realized that one day his son would possess power and strength like no one had ever known, he also knew that this was the time when his son was at his most vulnerable. He needed to be nourished, kept safe inside his mother’s womb until the time came for his birth. He was growing in strength everyday, but he was not invincible. He needed his father to protect him and keep him safe.

“I will,” Max promised in a solemn whisper, shifting downward to lay his cheek against Liz’s womb, “I’ll protect you and your mother…always, I swear,” he continued on softly, closing his eyes in response to the soft lull his son’s presence seemed to create, “I love you, baby…I love you both so much.” Beneath his cheek Max felt the warm radiance of his son’s energy intensify, becoming almost like a caress, an open gesture of love and complete trust. It was as if Max’s son had heard his words and was expressing absolute faith in his father’s promise. His son’s trusting touch was almost tangible and filled Max with a tremendous sense of peace.

At long last Max was able to fall asleep and his thoughts were no longer troubled.



posted on 24-Nov-2002 9:16:19 PM by Deejonaise
Okay, this part is just transition and fluff. I am capable of writing that, you know.*wink*


Chapter 27

“Okay, we’ve got regenerated Coco Puffs and stale popcorn…what’s it gonna be?” Rahsha declared. Though she was smiling broadly, her statement was met with lukewarm enthusiasm by those seated around the dinner table. She couldn’t blame them, however. She wasn’t too excited about their choices for dinner either.

Max and Liz were having dinner over to their apartment once again, something that had become a weekly tradition since she and Kaelen had moved down the hall from them six months earlier. In the passing months their fear of reprisal from Bayok had gradually begun to diminish. Neither Max nor Liz had heard anything from him since leaving the night of Zrei’s cremation. When they had first left the Colony they lived in a constant state of awareness, fearful that every time the phone rang or every time someone knocked at the door it would be Bayok come to get them.

But he had never come. He hadn’t contacted them. Not one single time. That first month Bayok’s apparent silence had only served to heighten Max’s nervous paranoia rather than alleviate it. The succeeding month Max had spent every evening he had off at Liz’s job, watching her from his usual booth. When he couldn’t be there to watch her he burned up the phone lines calling her nearly every hour. Max had been so desperate to know what Bayok was planning that he had gone to Kaelen and begged him to go to Kaala for answers. At that point Max had reached the depths of his anxiety. He had been actually willing to consider whatever Kaala had to say. Ridiculous really since he hadn’t spoken to her since before Zrei died.

Yet, he had insisted Kaelen go to her anyway but the effort had proved futile in the end. Kaala didn’t have any idea what was going on with Bayok…or so she said. According to Kaelen, Bayok had told the elders that Max and Liz had chosen to find their own apartment following Zrei’s death and that he had consented. Apparently, Bayok had led the Council to believe that Max had discussed leaving with him and Bayok had merely granted his permission to do so. The very thought of Bayok misleading the elders about their whereabouts made Max uneasy and he shared his feelings with Kaelen.

“Well, Bayok is a proud man, Max. Maybe he was just trying to save face,” Kaelen had suggested hopefully. But he hadn’t sounded at all convinced.

Max’s reply had been just as unconvincing. “Maybe.”

But still, by the third month of quiet, Max began to gradually relax his guard. He considered the possibility that maybe Bayok was no longer concerned with them after all. Maybe all he had wanted all along was to simply rid his house of Max and his human wife. Maybe he had only wanted his peace and quiet again. Perhaps now that Bayok had secured whatever secret he was keeping and prevented it from exposure he didn’t have any further use for them. That explanation did make sense…sort of.

Yet there was still part of Max that wondered. He shouldn’t shake the feeling that Bayok had wanted something from him. But what? He was just a sixteen-year-old kid…he didn’t have anything. Max tried to wrack his brain in consideration of each conversation he’d had with Bayok. While Max had foolishly revealed many things about himself, Bayok had remained elusive, a mystery. Beyond his almost worshipful attitude towards Max’s antarian family Max knew very little about what motivated Bayok.

Perhaps that was the answer. Perhaps his reverence for Max’s bloodline had overridden his disdain for Max’ humanity. Perhaps that had been his entire motivation for killing Zrei, to assume the protector role he had secretly coveted. Bayok had been alarmingly eager to establish himself as Max’s new protector following Zrei’s death…

Max didn’t know what to think. All he had was speculation and conjecture and the uncertainty had started to drive him a little crazy. But eventually, as winter melded into spring and spring into summer, Max found himself obsessing over Bayok and his motivations less and less.

His life had settled into a comfortable and, albeit, hectic routine. He, Liz, Kaelen and Rahsha had transferred schools shortly after moving away from the Colony. For the first time in a long while all four teenagers lived semi-normal existences. Kaelen, Rahsha and Max, having never experienced high school life to the full before, were thrilled at the chance to join the many after school extra curricular activities.

All four teens fit into their new school almost effortlessly. The second half of the semester Max had served on the Student Council as the treasurer while Kaelen had been elected as 10th grade class representative. The development hadn’t been entirely surprising considering that both young men were extremely engaging and charismatic when they opened themselves up. Liz and Rahsha, on the other hand, had each joined prospective after school clubs. Liz had served as the secretary in the science club during the school year while Rahsha had become a highly popular member of the drama club. She had even starred in the school production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth as Lady Macbeth and she’d been quite good.

Their last five months of school had been full of chaotic activity, a continual rushing from school, to activity, to work, to home and back again. The constant movement hardly left any time for worry or anxiety and, interestingly enough, helped keep their lives full and exciting. Now, however, school was out for the summer and the four teens were faced with a mountain load of time on their hands. A person could only work so much, though Lord knew they all needed the money…

They all sat together around Kaelen and Rahsha’s kitchen table now staring at the box of Coco Puffs she had just placed there. Liz looked up at Rahsha with eyes full of distaste, “Regenerated Coco Puffs?” she repeated slowly, “Why do I not like the sound of that?”

“I think it sounds nasty as hell,” Max commented, grimacing.

“Look money’s tight sometimes…you know that,” Kaelen explained, shaking out a handful of Coco Puffs and stuffing them into his mouth. Crunching loudly, he continued, “When we get low on food I just take a few of these babies in my hand …use my powers…badda bing, badda boom…more Coco Puffs.”

Max tossed Rahsha an ironic look. “I see you’ve been letting him watch reruns of Happy Days again.”

“We really don’t have to eat cereal, Rahsha,” Liz insisted, “There’s like a thousand packages of Ramen noodles at our place.”

“Yes, we know,” Rahsha said with an exaggerated roll of her eyes, moving over to the cupboard to retrieve four bowls, “We’ve had the chicken, the beef, the pork, the oriental…every flavor imaginable…so please don’t torture us further.”

Liz heaved a disgusted sigh. “Regenerated Coco Puffs it is then.”

“They’re actually pretty good,” Kaelen said, munching furiously, “You don’t even need the milk.”

Liz tossed him a long-suffering look full of affection and hopped up to help Rahsha set the table although there wasn’t much to do. She couldn’t help but marvel over their newfound friendship. She hadn’t expected to form such an attachment to either one of them. It was true that she had urged Max to trust them and Liz hadn’t been opposed to accepting their help when they offered it, but she had never suspected a long-lasting friendship would be the result. “So what will it be tonight?” Liz asked as she set out the spoons, “Uno? Spades? Poker? Monopoly?” Liz shuddered at the last of her statement. Everyone present knew just how seriously Kaelen took his monopoly game.

Kaelen perked up at the mention of Monopoly. “Hey, yeah…Monopoly’s a great idea,” he said around a mouth full of cereal.

Max tossed him a revolted look and shook some Coco Puffs into his bowl. “God, Kaelen! Chew then swallow.”

His expression blasé, Kaelen flipped Max the bird. The two girls ignored the antics of their boyfriends, resuming their seats at the kitchen table. “We’re not playing Monopoly,” Rahsha stated definitively, “You get too emotional, Kaelen.”

“I do not get emotional!” Kaelen protested.

“Last time we played you accused Max of stealing money from the bank and the two of you almost got in a fight,” Rahsha reminded him briskly, “Monopoly is out.”

“He was stealing,” Kaelen pouted in a mumble, slumping down in his chair, “What are we gonna do then?” he asked petulantly, “It’s a Friday night…I don’t want to be stuck in the house. Why don’t we go out and do something?”

Max rubbed his fingers together in the universal gesture for money. “Need cheddar, brother,” Max quipped as he poured milk over his cereal, “Fun’s not free, you know.”

“We’ve got money,” Kaelen argued.

“Yeah, but then we’d have to worry about how to pay our rent,” Rahsha added dryly.

“Since when did you become such a party pooper,” Kaelen asked his girlfriend dourly.

“Since I liked having a roof over my head,” Rahsha replied, giving her boyfriend’s head a disdainful pat and then she turned her smiling attention to Liz, dismissing Kaelen for the moment, “Hey Liz, I found this wonderful little maternity top at the mall last week. It was on sale and practically a steal. I think you might like it…you wanna go in back and take a look?”

“Sure,” Liz said, hopping up from the table. She leaned over to place a gentle kiss on Max’s lips. “I’ll be back,” she whispered, smiling.

“I’ll miss you,” Max murmured, nuzzling his nose against hers.

“I’ll miss you more.”

Beside them Kaelen fell into a fit of mock gagging. He was ignored. They took their time kissing before Liz straightened and followed Rahsha to the back bedroom.

Max watched Liz leave with a sappy, far-gone expression while Kaelen moodily contemplated Rahsha’s back until she and Liz disappeared into their bedroom. When he heard the bedroom door click shut, however, he rounded on Max, his expression altered from playful to anxious in two seconds flat. “I thought they’d never leave,” he sighed in relief.

“Why?” Max asked, shoveling in another spoonful of cereal, “Trouble in paradise already?” He had noticed that there seemed to be a fair about of tension between Kaelen and Rahsha tonight, which was unusual considering how well they always got along. They always seemed to be in agreement about everything. But not tonight apparently, judging from Kaelen’s sullen frown.

“Rahsha and I had a disagreement.”

“You’re kidding,” Max deadpanned, “I would have missed that fact completely.”

“Shut up,” Kaelen growled good-naturedly, “I’m trying to pour my heart out here and you’re making jokes.” Max affected his best “I’m listening and I share your pain” face. For extra measure he reached across the table and patted Kaelen’s hand in exaggerated concern. He was awarded for his effort with a flying Coco Puff, which bounced off his forehead. “Can you be serious for a minute,” Kaelen grumbled, “I’ve really got a problem.”

“Okay, okay,” Max relented, “What has got you so twisted up that you’ve spent nearly the entire evening staring at Rahsha while she’s completely ignoring you?”

“This is what happened,” Kaelen began in a confidential whisper, “Last night me and Rahsha were fooling around--,”

“Wait,” Max interrupted, his expression full of painful embarrassment, “is this really something I want to hear?”

“It’s G-rated, I swear,” Kaelen promised.

“Well the minute you step into NC-17 territory I’m outta here.”

“It’s not like that,” Kaelen denied hotly, “Will you just shut up and listen already?” Max nodded slowly, still harboring his doubts. “Anyway,” Kaelen continued through clenched teeth, “We’re in the bedroom and I was tickling her, you know, we were just playing around and then…then I just looked down at her and she looked so beautiful…” Kaelen began to drift then, no longer in the room with Max but again with Rahsha, staring down into her lovely, flushed face. “I wanted to be close to her…closer than we’ve ever been…so I tried to kiss her and…she freaked on me.”

“She freaked?” Max prodded, needing clarity.

“Freaked…as in kicked me out of our bedroom…ranted, raved, the whole deal.”

“Hmm,” was all Max said. Kaelen didn’t have to go into specific detail; Max knew exactly what the problem was. Only two months earlier Kaelen had admitted the truth to him in confidence after Liz had made some innocent comment about Kaelen and Rahsha being embarrassed to kiss in front of others. Their reluctance had nothing to do with embarrassment. Kaelen and Rahsha had never kissed. In fact, they had never done anything beyond holding hands with other another. At least, nothing physical. Kaelen and Rahsha shared a mental connection that defied all reason. He knew her as well as Max knew Liz, but he didn’t know her body.

In the Colony they had both been raised to believe that physical relations outside of procreation was wrong. It had always been forbidden. And though both Kaelen and Rahsha had experienced those normal teenage urges to become intimate with each other they had never given into them. They had seen the oversexed groping that went on between their peers at school and had figured that they weren’t missing out on much. Besides that, they shared an intimacy that transcended the physical. They had seen into each other’s souls.

The day that Kaelen decided he wanted to know more than Rahsha’s soul had taken him completely off guard. It had been a night just like any other. Max and Liz had come over for an evening of playing cards and dinner. They had spent the night tossing back their usual barbed banter when Max had suddenly pulled Liz into his lap and planted one on her right there at the table.

Kaelen’s first instinct was to look away. And he had…straight at Rahsha. That was the very instant that he knew. He wanted a physical relationship with her. He wanted to know all of her, not just her mind. The realization stunned him and left him a little dizzy. He hadn’t had any clear plan in his mind of what he would do. He just thought he’d kiss Rahsha and see what happened. So he did just that and it was a disaster. But that still didn’t change the fact that he wanted her, a reality made even more painful because they shared the same bed.

“Have you talked to her about it?” Max asked.

“I’ve tried. She’ll barely look at me.”

“Maybe you just overwhelmed her,” Max suggested, trying not to be acutely aware of the subject matter they were discussing, “Did you talk to her about how you were feeling…I mean…about wanting to kiss her.”

Kaelen shook his head. “No, I just went for it.”

Max mentally rolled his eyes. For a guy so intelligent, Kaelen could sure be extremely dumb at times. Max pondered that for a moment. It must be a guy thing. “I’m kinda thinking that was the wrong tactic, Kaelen.”

“You think I was too pushy.”

“Probably,” Max advised. Definitely, he silently added. “Look, you’ve already told me that you and Rahsha were raised to believe that making love for pleasure was wrong. She’s been taught that all her life…she’s not gonna get over it in ten minutes.”

“I did.”

“Yeah, well you’re thinking with a different part of your anatomy right now, so your judgment isn’t too clear,” Max retorted, “Girls are different…they have to have time to adjust emotionally to change and all that crap. You just gotta feel em out.”

“Is that what you did with Liz?” Kaelen asked, “Feel her out?”

“Well, first off, Liz and I are different. We weren’t raised to believe that sex was a cardinal sin…” Max paused a moment, revising his statement, “…er…at least not the way you’re thinking.”

“So what should I do?” Kaelen moaned plaintively.

“Try talking to Rahsha about your feelings instead of me,” Max told him, “Because Kaelen, I love you, man, but I never want to have this kind of discussion with you ever again.” Max reached into his back pocket and pulled his wallet free. After flipping it open he extracted a condom and passed it to Kaelen. “This is in case your talk is successful.”

“What’s this?” Kaelen asked, frowning down at the small, square package in his hand.

“I assume you and Rahsha don’t want to be having kids any time soon, right?” Kaelen confirmed with a shake of his head. “Well, what I gave you will keep that from happening. And don’t even think about asking me how to use it!” Max added sharply when Kaelen opened his mouth to voice further questions, “You’re going to have to figure that one out on your own, bud.”



posted on 25-Nov-2002 10:07:32 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 28

Kaelen pulled open his front door, still half asleep, yawning and idly scratching his naked chest. However, the moment he saw who was standing there he was instantly wide-awake. “Kaala? What the hell happened to your face?” he exclaimed, unable to see anything past her split lip and blackened eyes.

“Good to see you, too,” Kaala quipped, breezing past him and lugging two enormous suitcases along with her.

Kaelen barely processed her words, didn’t even glance at her suitcases; he was staring too intently at the large bruises that discolored her striking face. Kaala plopped onto the sofa where Kaelen immediately sank to his knees before her, his fingers carefully skimming over her features. “Who the fuck did this to you?” he whispered in burning fury.

“Who do you think?” Kaala snapped out before she remembered. Kaelen had no memories of Kaas ever beating her. The Council had taken those realities from his mind long ago. It was the reason that, although he disliked Kaas thoroughly, Kaelen continued to respect Kaas as their guardian and protector. Kaala sighed, swallowing her anger. “It was Kaas,” she whispered.

“No,” Kaelen breathed, “he’d never dare…he’d never…”

“He did dare, Kaelen,” Kaala insisted, “Kaas dares whatever he wants because he’s got Bayok’s backing to do whatever he wants.”

“But why…why would he do this?”

Kaala gave him a sad look. “You didn’t think your leaving would go unpunished, now did you?”

At that moment, Rahsha emerged from the bathroom, briskly rubbing a towel against her wet hair. “Kaelen, who was at the--,” her voice trailed off when she spotted Kaala’s bruised face. “Oh my…” she uttered, rushing over to sit beside Kaala, “Kay, what happened?”

“Kaas did this,” Kaelen clipped, surging to his feet, his fists angrily clenched at his sides. The desire to murder had suddenly exploded in his brain. He began pacing the room in stalking strides.

Rahsha shivered at the expression on his face. “Kaelen don’t do anything foolish,” she warned him softly, full knowing how his temper sometimes had the tendency to get the best of him.

“You mean like kill him!” Kaelen snapped, “Exactly why would that be foolish when it’s precisely what he deserves!”

“Rahsha’s right,” Kaala agreed tiredly, falling back against the couch cushions, “You’ll get yourself killed if you go back to the Colony…that’s exactly what Kaas wants.”

Rahsha grimaced at Kaala’s battered face. “Why haven’t you healed these, Kay?”

“I’ve been too upset to concentrate,” Kaala muttered in response, sighing a moment later when she felt a tingling warmth saturate her face as Rahsha tenderly healed her bruises.

Kaelen stomped over to the living room window, turning his back to them to stare down into the courtyard below. “Is this the first time this has happened?” he asked his sister tightly. His guilt was making him feel sick. He and Rahsha had been gone over six months. There was no telling what sort of hell Kaala had endured all that time. He cursed himself for not having the forethought to ask her to come along with him when he left. But he’d assumed that she would refuse him.

Kaala considered lying to her brother. Guilt and remorse were plainly eating him up and she didn’t want to make him feel worse. But she knew that any attempt to lie would be futile. Kaelen would mindwalk her, if necessary, to discover the truth. Kaala closed her eyes and admitted with a sigh, “No…this wasn’t the first time.”

Kaelen uttered a soft, but explicit curse. “Why didn’t you tell us what was happening before now?”

“I could handle his rage before…this last time he was just out of control.”

“You should have told us the truth,” Rahsha told her softly. Kaala’s face was completely healed now and but for the sad far-off expression in her green eyes she looked perfectly brand new. “You shouldn’t have had to endure this on your own. You would have always been welcome to stay here.”

“I figured if you had wanted me to come along you’d have invited me to begin with,” Kaala replied with mild contempt. She knew she sounded ungrateful, but it was difficult to keep her anger at bay, especially after holding it inside for so long. Bu when she spied the color draining from Rahsha’s face and glanced back at Kaelen to find him standing near the window, his head lowered in shame, Kaala reigned in her indignation. “It doesn’t matter anymore,” she said softly, absolving them of blame with her statement, “I’m here now and I’d like to stay…if you’ll have me.”

“Of course, we’ll have you,” Rahsha replied warmly, pulling Kaala into an awkward hug. The two girls had never really been friends but that didn’t mean that Rahsha wished Kaala ill, quite the opposite. She did truly want to get along better with Kaelen’s wayward sister. “We only have the one bedroom but you’re more than welcome to the sofa.”

Kaala looked over at her brother, seeking his approval. “Is that okay with you, Kaelen?”

At that very second Kaelen was trying to talk himself out of going to the Colony and beating the living hell out of Kaas then and there, but his sister’s meek question caused him to spin around and gape at her in stunned disbelief. “You know it’s okay with me, Kay!” he exclaimed feelingly, “Why would you think otherwise?”

“I didn’t know for sure,” Kaala said, tossing her hair back from her eyes, “I saw Max in the courtyard when my cab pulled up.” Kaelen and Rahsha exchanged looks, unsure of how to respond to her quiet probe. When they remained silent, Kaala pressed on, “I’ve been here to visit you guys at least seven times in the last six months and not once did you ever mention that Max lived in this building.”

“We didn’t want to make you uncomfortable,” Rahsha hedged.

“I wouldn’t have been uncomfortable,” Kaala scoffed, “Max Evans means nothing to me…at least not the way you’re thinking.” Truth be known, however, Kaala hadn’t taken much time to analyze her feelings about Max Evans in the last six months. She’d been too busy trying to survive.

“Hmm,” was Kaelen’s only response.

“I’m serious,” Kaala insisted, “That kiss wasn’t anything…in fact I have a perfectly reasonable explanation for it. I’m actually glad they live here so that I can explain it to you all at the same time.” Again Kaelen and Rahsha exchanged uneasy glances. Kaala suppressed the desire to roll her eyes in exasperation. “Come on…it’s been six months, for crying out loud! They can’t still be holding a grudge.”

“Liz loathes you,” Rahsha admitted reluctantly, “We haven’t even mentioned to them that you come to visit us.”

Kaala shrugged as if the knowledge didn’t bother her in the slightest. But it did. At least, a little bit. “What about Max?”

“He’s only mentioned you twice,” Kaelen replied, folding his arms across his chest, “The first time was when he asked me how you knew so much about Bayok. He said you told him not to trust Bayok and he was wondering what you knew that we didn’t. The second time was when he asked me to have you look into Bayok’s whereabouts. That’s it.”

“That’s it,” Kaala whispered to herself, oddly disappointed by Kaelen’s admission.

“Speaking of Bayok…” Kaelen began pointedly, “You’ve never really explained to us just how you knew so much about him. I hadn’t realized that you and he were even that close. Would you mind explaining that…finally?” Kaelen had let her evade his questions long enough. The time for secrets between them was at an end.

Kaala looked away and stared down at her hands. “Well, there’s a lot you don’t know,” she murmured softly. When she lifted her eyes again they were soft and earnest and full of pleading. “I’ll tell you everything you want to know tonight…I promise.”

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

The basketball hit the backboard with a hard thud, ricocheting off the wood and whizzing inches past Max’s head before bouncing harmlessly to the asphalt. “Hey!” Max exclaimed as he ducked, half covering his head with his arms. Only after the ball had rolled to a harmless stop did he straighten, regarding Liz in laughing amusement.

She hung her head sheepishly. “At least I was closer to the net this time,” she said, bending down to scoop up the ball and toss it to Max.

“No offense, baby,” Max replied, dribbling the ball effortlessly between his legs, “but you’re something of a disgrace to the basketball court.”

“Gee, thanks,” Liz retorted sarcastically, lunging for the ball.

Max easily sidestepped her, never missing a beat in his expert dribbling. He shrugged. “Sometimes you have it and…sometimes you don’t…”

Liz plunked her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes. “Watch it, Evans! I can see your head swelling,” Liz mocked.

“Oh yeah…which one?” Max teased lewdly.

“You’re so gross!” Liz whined. She dove for the ball again, but this time Max pivoted around her and executed a beautiful hook shot that was all net. Liz glared at him good-naturedly. “You make me sick.”

“Jealousy…” Max admonished, grabbing hold the ball as it bounced towards him while wagging his finger at Liz, “…is never a good thing. Makes you old before your time, Liz.” He balanced the ball against his hip and walked up against her, his fingers playing lightly at the tendrils of hair that had been loosed from her ponytail. “See…I think I see a couple of gray hairs already.”

Liz playfully swatted his hand away. “Shut up,” she ordered him, smiling. But when she would have turned away Max grabbed hold of her arm and swung her back against him. The basketball bounced away, for the moment forgotten. Liz tipped back her head to stare up at Max with a petulant expression. “Were you wanting to gloat some more?”

“No,” Max replied, suddenly all the teasing and laughter gone from his eyes and replaced with dark solemnity, “I wanted to tell you how absolutely beautiful you are.”

Liz blushed and ducked her head. “Stop.”

Max fingered her cheeks, dipping his head to nip at her chin. “I mean it,” he whispered sweetly, “You’ve got that pregnancy glow.”

“You’re so full of it,” Liz giggled, sliding her arms around his waist, “I wonder if you’ll be saying that when I start to show…” Her smile faltered then, gradually becoming a thoughtful frown. “If I start to show.”

“Of course you will.”

“How do we know? We’re just assuming that this pregnancy is going to progress normally when nothing about it is normal.”

“Liz, Zrei explained it to us…” Max reminded her gently, “the first nineteen months of your pregnancy is when Antarian development occurs, the last nine months is when the human development happens…which means you probably won’t be showing for another seventeen months.” He made it all sound so logical when it was actually quite ludicrous.

“See, that’s exactly what I mean,” Liz exclaimed, pulling from his arms and going to sit of a nearby bench, “Doesn’t all this ever bother you?”

“All what?” Max asked, crouching down in front of her.

Liz sighed heavily. “That nothing’s ever normal…not even having a baby.”

“I’m not normal, Liz,” Max replied softly, “I never have been.”

“But Max,” Liz protested, “I look at you and I see a human…that’s all. Just a wonderful, special, caring young man…my husband. It just doesn’t make sense that our lives would be this complicated.”

Max covered Liz’s hands with his own, meeting her miserable gaze gravely. “Liz, are you wishing you weren’t pregnant?” he whispered, his heart contracting painfully when he voiced the words, “Do you wish that, Liz? You can tell me if you do.”

Guilty brown eyes skittered away. “Yes…no…I don’t know,” Liz confessed in indecision. She took Max’s hand and splayed it across her belly, holding it there with her own. “I love him, Max…because he’s yours, he’s a part of you…but I can’t forget how he came to be in the first place or what I’ve lost because of his existence. But at the same time I want him so much that I can’t breathe, even when I’m most afraid of what having him will mean. Sometimes, despite everything, I just feel like he was meant to be. Like I was meant to have him, as if he’s my destiny or something...”

“Destiny?” Max questioned.

“You think I sound crazy,” Liz stated with an embarrassed smile.

“No, I think you sound confused,” Max countered, “And that’s okay to be…so am I.”

“I just keep worrying about how we’re going to protect him and raise him,” Liz rambled, “I’m scared we won’t be good parents. I’m scared we won’t be able to give him what he needs, Max. I want him to have the best.”

“You’ll be his mother…so he will,” Max replied simply.

Liz slid her fingers into his hair. “You both mean so much to me.”

Max smiled softly, allowing Liz to pull his head against her abdomen so that his cheek rested on her stomach. He felt his son’s energy surge lovingly through Liz’s t-shirt. “I think he can hear you,” Max whispered in wonder, “He can feel how much you worry for him, Liz. He knows you love him.”

“I do…I do love him,” Liz confessed hoarsely, on the verge of tears, “He’s my world…you’re my world.”

“Baby…don’t worry, please don’t,” Max moaned into her shirt, “We’re going to be okay…I know it…”

Liz tenderly caressed the top of Max’s head. “You think so?” Max turned his face into her tummy and nodded, nuzzling her belly. Liz moaned, half in pleasure, half in despair. “Are we really going to be okay, Max?” she asked urgently, “Are we really?”

“Yes,” Max answered without hesitation, “we really are.”

posted on 25-Nov-2002 10:10:01 PM by Deejonaise
Okay, my post didn't bump this up to the first page so I'm doing it.

Yay, I'm bumping myself. BUMP!
posted on 26-Nov-2002 10:51:44 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 29

Max pulled the jeep off to the side of the road when he spotted Kaala walking briskly along the sidewalk in the drizzling rain.

It had been three weeks since her stunning admission, three weeks since she’d told them the complete truth about Bayok and his plans. It had all been a set up, designed to lure Max away from Zrei and away from Liz as well. Every thing Bayok had said, every thing he’d done had been carefully constructed to undermine Max’s trust in both Zrei and Liz. Bayok had wanted to destroy Max’s relationships with them, he had wanted to leave Max vulnerable. What Max didn’t understand was why and not even Kaala could give him the answer to that.

The day of her confession, however, Max had been too stunned to think, much less voice questions. Four pairs of eyes had stared up at Kaala from the sofa in staggered incredulity. Kaelen had scratched his head thoughtfully. Rahsha had coughed. Max could only blink rapidly as he processed her unbelievable tale. And Liz had just sat there, her mouth gaping wide. In the end, though, Liz was the first to regain the power of speech. “So what you’re telling us is that you and Bayok were…lovers?”

Liz’s hesitant statement seemed to break the trance that had fallen over everyone and Kaelen and Rahsha began immediately bombarding Kaala with questions. Kaala told them all of it then. She revealed to them how she had been dazzled by Bayok’s attentiveness and flattery, her initial disgust when Bayok asked her to seduce Max, her guilt and betrayal when she discovered that she’d never meant anything to Bayok at all. When she was done speaking Max could feel a giant tide of regret and anger sweep through him.

It had all been a lie. He had been nothing more than a dupe and a pawn. Kaala had never wanted him at all. And Bayok… Nothing Bayok said to him had been sincere. But Max…Max had believed him, had respected him and, yes, had even defended him. Max had come to think of Bayok as a second father, someone he could trust, someone he could love and who loved him. Before he’d mistakenly believed that he knew the extent of Bayok’s betrayal, but he hadn’t known the half of it. The realization made Max feel very foolish and naive, but mostly he felt betrayed and emotionally gutted.

Later that night he had prepared for bed in a fog, barely speaking, his demeanor heavy in thought. He didn’t turn into Liz’s body as he usually did, but remained upright, his back propped against the wall, staring off into space. Liz had wordlessly pulled him into her comforting embrace. She had gently stroked his back, holding him tightly as his body was wracked with tremors of sorrow. But he didn’t cry. He wouldn’t waste anything else on Bayok, not even his tears.

“I believed everything he said to me, Liz. Every. Single. Thing,” he had whispered into her neck, his fingers bunching reflexively in her hair as he blinked back the tears he refused to shed, “You must think I’m such an idiot.”

“You want to see the good in people, Max,” Liz had soothed sweetly while stroking his hair, “That’s not a bad thing. Bayok is the one who took advantage.”

“I hurt you…” Max sobbed despite himself, “I never believed you…all those times…all those times you tried to tell me and I didn’t listen…”

“Sometimes the truth is hard for us to hear, Max,” Liz whispered against his temple, “But you did listen eventually…that’s all that matters now.”

Max shook his head to clear it of the memory. He didn’t like to think of how blindly stupid he had been. And that was exactly why he spent the subsequent three weeks dodging Kaala and stamping down the endless questions buzzing about in his head. On the one hand, he felt extremely bad for the hell she’d endured after he, Liz, Kaelen and Rahsha had run away from the Colony and he wanted her to feel supported. But on the other hand, Kaala reminded Max of all he wanted to forget, namely Bayok’s betrayal and his own naïve blindness, which had led to Zrei’s death.

Still, he wondered… Had Bayok lied about everything? Was Kaala really his Antarian bride or had that been just another manipulation? What was so important about his Antarian bloodlines that Bayok had been willing to kill? Why did he feel as if there was more to Bayok’s plan than simply becoming the Colony’s uncontested ruler? Only Kaala could answer those questions for him or, at the very least, point him in the right direction.

Max knew he couldn’t ignore his instincts any longer. Bayok had already proven that he would do anything to achieve his goals. As long as Max was ignorant of his motives he and Liz would always be vulnerable. Max knew he had to swallow past his hurt and anger in order to protect his family. And Kaala was the key.

He gradually brought the jeep to a stop against the sidewalk and honked the horn once. Kaala halted in her step, startled, and jerked up her head. She seemed surprised to see him, surprised and relieved. Max felt an overwhelming sense of pity for her then. Though Max supposed he should be angry over her duplicity he recognized that she had been just as much as victim of Bayok’s manipulations as he had. He couldn’t hate her knowing that fact.

Max gave her a little wave from inside the jeep and Kaala tentatively stepped closer. He reached across the passenger’s seat and swung open the door. “Need a ride?” he asked cordially.

Despite the rain misting over her, Kaala peered inside the jeep suspiciously. “Where’s Liz?” she inquired with burgeoning uncertainty.

Max smiled at her hesitation. “I just dropped her off at work.”

“Would she be okay with you giving me a ride?”

“She wouldn’t want you walking around in the rain.”

Kaala still hesitated, her expression hopeful, but doubtful. “I thought you had to work on Thursdays,” she remarked, remembering that he and Kaelen usually worked late on Thursday nights, but that evening Kaelen had taken the night off.

Max’s smile widened. “There are child labor laws, you know,” he explained quickly, “I’ve spent this whole week working since school starts next Monday. So you don’t need to worry that I have someplace else to be, alright?”

“Are you sure?”

Max rolled his eyes in laughing exasperation. “Would you just get in already?” After Kaala climbed inside, Max easily steered the jeep back into traffic. “Why are you walking in the rain anyway?” Max wondered aloud, “Don’t you usually catch your rides with Kaelen?”

“He and Rahsha needed some time alone,” Kaala replied, “I thought I’d give them a break and take the bus.” Max slid an amused glance down her damp person. Kaala chewed thoughtfully on the inside of her cheek and pushed her wet hair back from her forehead while trying to keep from laughing. “But I missed it as you can see.”

“Obviously,” Max smirked.

Kaala wasn’t ignorant to the fact that her impromptu arrival had afforded her brother and his girlfriend little privacy. It was impossible not to run over each other in the small apartment, especially when Kaala had her stuff spread all over the living room. Kaelen had said that he and Rahsha would talk to the landlord when their lease was up about getting a two-bedroom apartment. The only concession was that Kaala would have to find a job in order to help with the rent. Kaala had happily agreed.

She’d afforded Kaelen and Rahsha with some much needed privacy by volunteering to go job hunting on her own and catch the bus home afterwards. Her plan was to have a job by the time school started again. However, her afternoon hadn’t gone quite as she’d hoped. She still didn’t have a job and she had missed the bus as well. The first thing to go right in her entire misbegotten day was Max Evans honking his horn at her.

Max continued to smirk at her as he braked for a red light. “At least your intentions were noble,” he teased, reading the disgruntled expression on her face.

“I just hate dropping in on Kaelen and Rahsha so unexpectedly,” Kaala commented absently, “They were expecting me to be gone for hours.” Recently, she had spied her brother and his girlfriend in several intimate embraces, not to mention the grunts and groans she heard coming from their bedroom late at night… No, she definitely couldn’t go home for a while yet.

Reading her thoughts as well as noting her blush, Max offered, “Why don’t you hang at our place for a while then?” He hoped his manner appeared casual as he steered the jeep through the intersection, turning onto the road that would take them to their apartment complex.

Kaala jerked her head around in surprise, frowning at his offer. She narrowed her eyes in mounting suspicion. “Why are you being so nice to me all of a sudden?” she demanded distrustfully, “I thought you weren’t speaking to me anyway.”

“Can’t I do a good deed without being grilled for it,” Max retorted defensively.

“You’ve ignored me for nearly three straight weeks, Max, what changed today?”

“I saw you walking in the rain…I thought I’d be nice.”

“Nice is offering me the ride, not inviting me over to your place,” Kaala stated flatly, “So why don’t you just cut the crap and tell me what you want.”

So much for subtlety, Max quipped to himself sarcastically. He released a heavy sigh. “I just wanted to know if you had any more information about Bayok and his plans. I mean…should I be expecting a sneak attack or something? What are his motives?”

Kaala felt some of her anger drain. “I’ve already told you everything I know, Max.”

Max deftly parked the jeep in the parking area of their complex and cut the engine. For a moment the only sound that could be heard in the jeep was the soft pitter-pattering of the rain against the roof. Finally, when Max spoke his words were tempered with compassion. “Look, Kaala, I know this must be difficult for you to talk about but surely Bayok must have mentioned something to you. I mean…you were lovers after all, at least in the Antarian sense.”

“Max, just because we were lovers doesn’t mean that Bayok didn’t have secrets from me,” Kaala protested, “Bayok just had this way of getting you to reveal every single detail about yourself while he remained a mystery.”

She didn’t need to explain further. Max knew exactly what she meant. On more than one occasion Max had found himself confiding to Bayok things that had taken him years to admit to anyone else. But in contrast to his soul baring Bayok remained elusive and mysterious. Max felt oddly comforted to know that he hadn’t been the only one to fall prey to Bayok’s magnetic charm. “So all you can tell me is that Bayok wanted to use me to gain control of the Council and that he wanted you to seduce me to do it,” Max concluded glumly.

“Pretty much.”

Max shook his head in disappointment. “I still can’t help but feel there’s more to Bayok’s agenda than either you or I know.”

Kaala shrugged. She was still uncomfortable with discussing Bayok; especially after the cold shoulder he’d given her when Max left the Colony. His rejection had hurt, although Kaala didn’t know why she had expected anything different. But somehow his indifference made life in the Colony much worse than it had been for Kaala before their affair began. Before he would have never tolerated Kaas’ mistreatment of her, not after they became lovers. But once she ceased to be of any use to him Bayok had let Kaas do with her as he pleased. It had been as if she’d never meant anything to him at all.

Currently, Kaala expelled a defeated sigh. “Why don’t you just let it go, Max?” she asked tiredly, “He used you…both of us…dwelling on the past isn’t going to change that. Now that his plan for you hasn’t worked out he’ll move on to the next thing. All Bayok wants is a means to an end.”

Max clenched his jaw tightly, feeling his anger surge up once more. “Was anything he said to me even true?” he speculated bitterly.

“The part that he told you about us was true. We really were engaged to be married once,” Kaala revealed in soft reluctance, “Not that it matters to you.”

The heartbroken sorrow in her tone twisted Max’s heart and he couldn’t stop sympathy from welling up in his chest as he looked at her forlorn features. “So I really was attracted to you all that time then?” he asked carefully.

“With help from Bayok…” Kaala admitted shamefully, “Nothing you felt for me was remotely natural, Max. You weren’t programmed to be attracted to me. It was just Bayok messing with your head and me…messing with your head. And I’m sorry for that.”

She sounded as if she may start crying at any moment although her eyes remained dry. Still, her pain and guilt were quite evident. “I don’t blame you, Kaala,” Max told her earnestly, “I did at first and I was angry but I realized that you only went along with Bayok in the end because he threatened to hurt you and Kaelen. You didn’t have a choice.”

While nothing else had reduced Kaala to tears his soft words of understanding were her undoing. She broke down into hiccupping sobs. “I should have never agreed to do it at all…” she cried, heartbroken, only vaguely aware of Max’s arms wrapping around her in a gesture of friendship and comfort, “…not at all.”

posted on 27-Nov-2002 5:40:04 PM by Deejonaise
Welcome Lolita Behrbuns!!! I must say everytime I read your screenname I burst out laughing. As to your question about how long this fic is...it is 61 chapters long complete with an epilogue and I am now finished with it. Yay for me, yay for me!!!

Currently, I just started another fic. It's called Growing Through it Again so if ya'll can check it out sometime that would make me really giddy!

Anyway, I've got to fly now. I just got a whiff of my son and he needs a change!

I'll post another part later tonight before I'm out of town for the holidays. When I get back I'll go back to my regular posting schedule.

Dee
posted on 27-Nov-2002 10:33:11 PM by Deejonaise
I'm back. I probably won't post again until Monday night when I get back into town. In the meantime...enjoy...


Chapter 30 (April 2002)

Liz awoke to the sound of Max munching noisily beside her in bed. She pried open one sleepy eye to find him with his back propped against the headboard, supported by several pillows. He was naked but for a pair of dark blue boxers. She took a moment to appreciate his tanned display of flesh before lifting her eyes higher. Atop his drawn up knees he balanced a book, in which he appeared avidly interested, with one hand. The other hand was buried deep within a tortilla chip bag. He popped another chip into his mouth, crunching loudly.

“What in the world are you eating?” Liz groaned groggily, struggling to push herself upright. It was quite a feet considering she was twenty-seven months swollen with child. She groaned again, her back creaking slightly as she drew herself up.

Startled from his reading, Max immediately set his book and chips aside to assist her into a sitting position, removing some of the pillows from behind his back and placing them behind hers. “Have a nice nap?” he asked her softly as she leaned back against the pillows with an exhausted sigh.

Liz nodded and gave him a tired smile. “How long was I out for?” She vaguely remembered talking to him about their next place being a two-bedroom apartment so that the baby could have a nursery, but beyond that everything was a blur.

“About two hours now,” Max said. He pushed her tousled hair back from her face. “You kinda fell asleep in the middle of our conversation.”

“I did?” Liz asked, aghast, only to punctuate her exclamation with a broad yawn. She grinned sheepishly. “I guess I’m still a little tired,” she admitted, reclining back a little against the pillows.

“Get some more rest then…I don’t mind,” Max told her, reaching over to the nightstand to retrieve his book.

In the last year and a half many things had changed for Max and Liz. For one thing the furnishings in their apartment had become less sparse. With the money Max made in overtime they had been able to purchase a new bedroom suite and a small television as well as a dining room table and a crib for the baby. They had even managed to put some money away, which would prove useful in the coming weeks when they left Woodstone, Nebraska for good.

Max had spoken with his sister, via dreamwalk, only a handful of times in the last two years, per his request. Though Max was pretty sure that he was out of the Collective range he didn’t dare underestimate Bayok’s capacity for deviousness, just in case he still might have some misguided plot for revenge. Isabel dreamwalking him was just as dangerous as her calling him on the telephone would have been. Would have been. At least that was one threat that didn’t seem to loom anymore. The FBI surveillance had finally let up the year before according to Isabel and normal life was finally resuming for her and Michael.

Max had been overjoyed by the news, though he hadn’t given Isabel any indication as to why the development thrilled him so much. Max could now be completely certain that she, Michael and his parents were safe. After Isabel’s reassurance Max had wasted no time putting together the plans to return to Roswell. Liz had barely been able to contain her excitement over the prospect of going home. Unfortunately, doing so wasn’t going to be as easy as he’d first anticipated.

Lately, money had been extremely tight for them. Liz had quit her waitressing job two months before due to the baby’s impending birth as well as their decision to leave following his delivery. The little money they had saved up Max didn’t want to touch at all because it was the money they would need to start over in Roswell. In the meantime, Liz had been spending her evenings after school with Rahsha and Kaala packing up both apartments.

Max supposed that was the strangest development of all, that Liz and Kaala had actually become tentative friends. Rahsha and Liz had seemed to get along with one another right from the beginning, but she and Kaala had always had issues. At first, Liz had been content to ignore Kaala, which caused some tension but nothing they all couldn’t live with. However, when it became apparent that Kaala and Max were forming a friendship with one another, the tension became almost unbearable.

It had all come to a head one day when Max mentioned to Liz, quite casually, that he’d begun teaching Kaala how to drive. Max didn’t know for sure if it was her pregnancy hormones or just plain old insecurity but whatever it was Liz exploded. He didn’t think he’d ever seen her so angry, not even that time she had slapped him, but after her blowout she seemed strangely calmer, as if she’d only needed to voice her frustration aloud, very loudly, in order to let it go. Afterwards, she seemed fine and went out of her way to be friendly to Kaala, even going as far as personally giving the girl a few driving lessons.

Her sudden attitude reversal had blown Max away. When he had asked her later what changed she had told him, “I’ve been holding this mountain load of resentment inside me for months…about you, about the baby, about Bayok, but especially about Kaala. I’ve just finally decided to let it go. I know that you love me and that’s all that matters.”

Apparently that was true because Liz and Kaala were getting along better than Max had ever expected. They still argued and were snarky with one another on occasion but lately their fights seemed to be tempered more with affection rather than any real animosity. Liz had even expressed some laughing excitement over what Maria’s reaction might be to meeting Kaala when they returned to Roswell. Max was secretly glad for their friendship, no matter how hesitant.

And though the five teens had never officially discussed their plans it had been silently decided among them that when Max and Liz left Woodstone the others would go as well. In a rather bizarre way the five of them had become something of a family in the last couple of years. They ate their meals together, went to school together, and hung out together. It seemed only natural that they would leave together as well. And so the girls had recently taken on the task of packing up all their belongings. Depending on how everything worked out with the baby, Max expected they would be returning home to Roswell shortly after his birth.

Roswell. He hadn’t allowed himself to think of going home too much in the last two years. Even with his off and on communication with Isabel he’d hadn’t thought the prospect likely. But he missed his family, his friends. They had never stayed far from his thoughts, not in all that time. But now life had turned in Max’s favor. With the imminent birth of their child and the threat of the feds no longer looming the prospect of returning to Roswell began to seem more real. He had briefly toyed with the idea of writing his family a letter to alert them of his plans but he dismissed the idea. When they heard from him again Max wanted it to be in person. They deserved that much from him.

“You look like you’re thinking really hard,” Liz commented softly, breaking Max’s reverie. “Have you heard from Isabel again?”

“Not since the last time about four months ago,” Max replied casually, “I think it’s probably better that way.”

“You haven’t told her that you’re coming home, have you?” Liz guessed.

“No…I want it to be a surprise…for all of them.”

“And you’re sure everything’s okay…we can really go home?”

Max held her close. “We can really go home.” It was real. It was happening. They were really going home. They were really having a baby. Max didn’t know how he would manage to keep himself from bursting with anticipation. He was actually going to be a father. Someone, some little, precious person was actually going to call him “daddy.” He smiled at the thought. “I’m so excited about the baby, Liz…” Max told her, pressing small, nibbling kisses along the column of her neck, “Just three more weeks and he’ll be here…I can hardly believe it.”

“Yeah, I know,” Liz sighed wistfully, “This has been the longest two years of my life.”

“Oh, poor baby,” Max crooned, laying his hand against the rounded slope of her abdomen, delighting when he felt his son give a kick beneath his palm. “So much about to happen…first the baby, then graduation, then moving… It’s gonna be a flurry of activity from here on out.”

“I can’t believe you can even think of all that. I can hardly get past the idea of having to deliver the baby here at home.”

A concerned frown furrowed Max’s forehead. “Are you having second thoughts?”

Liz shrugged, although her expression belied the gesture’s indifferent air. “I guess I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care whether I had the baby in a hospital or not, but I do care. I wish that we could…I know I’d feel better about it.”

“So would I,” Max whispered against her temple, “But Rahsha knows what she’s doing. She’s assisted in antarian births before. Besides she’s got a back up plan if she needs help.”

Rahsha’s back-up plan was an antarian midwife but Max sincerely hoped they wouldn’t need her. However, that was one of the main reasons he and Liz had stuck around Woodstone so long. If something went awry with Liz’s delivery they needed to be near people who were familiar with antarian births and could assist if necessary. Though, returning to the Colony for any reason made Max uncomfortable, he knew he’d gladly go crawling back on his knees for the sake of his son.

“But Rahsha’s never delivered a baby by herself,” Liz reminded him with some trepidation. “I know she said she’s got someone who will help her if it comes to that, but I’m still a little scared.”

“She’ll be fine,” Max reassured her, “You both will.”

“What about you…will you be fine?”

Long ago it had been decided that Rahsha would deliver their son, but only recently had they discussed Max assisting her in the birth. At the first suggestion of it Max had turned green with disgust and had been quick to refuse. However, once he had taken a few days to deliberate over it, the idea of aiding Rahsha in the delivery of his son filled Max with a quiet pride. He had happily agreed then, having little to no knowledge of what he was getting himself into. But at his earliest convenience he had gone to the library to do some research before heading off to the bookstore to buy his own book.

“I’m totally ready,” Max replied confidently, “I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp of what will be expected of me.”

Somewhat amused by his nonchalance, Liz asked skeptically, “And why is that?” Max held up the book he’d been reading and Liz read the title aloud, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting?” Liz lifted eyes full of comical amusement to Max’s proud face. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“No, really,” Max laughed, “There’s this great chapter on home births in here. Really interesting stuff…” Liz’s smirk of amusement gradually became a grimace as her son turned within her womb, lodging his foot near her ribcage. Max’s smile fell away immediately, replaced with husbandly concern. “Liz, are you alright?”

“The littlest antarian is stretching again,” Liz grunted as her son flexed his little toes.

“Really?” Max said with boyish excitement, “Can I see?” He was already lifting the hem of her nightgown, exposing the silver, translucent expanse of her pregnant tummy.

In the passing months as Liz’s pregnancy steadily progressed the silver coloring across her abdomen had spread just as Max had suspected. What Max hadn’t expected was for Liz’s flesh to become almost transparent, allowing them a clear view of their son as he twisted and turned within the silver amniotic fluid surrounding him. It was a strange, but not unwelcome blessing, for sometimes, when his mood was right, their son would press his small hand against the wall of his mother’s womb and they could see the outline of his tiny fingers perfectly.

Max slid his lips along the curve of Liz’s abdomen in reverence, awe and burgeoning desire. “I can make out his head just barely,” Max whispered, studying her belly closely, “He won’t get close enough to the surface for me to see.”

“I think he must have been shifting in his sleep,” Liz whispered in disappointment, “He’s not moving now.”

“Hmm,” was all Max said as he nuzzled against her navel. His hands crept lightly up her sides, coming to a rest just below her breasts.

“Max?”

“It’s been nearly a month, Liz,” Max moaned against her skin. His fingers played lightly at her nipples. “I need to touch you.”

“But Max, I’m a cow!” Liz moaned in awakened desire and disbelief, actually floored that he really wanted her. Here she was, large distended silver belly in a nylon pink nightdress wearing a pair granny panties that were currently bunched beneath her belly. She couldn’t imagine how he could possibly find her alluring.

“You look beautiful,” Max protested as he slowly inched her underwear down her hips and tossed them away, smiling to himself when Liz lifted off the bed slightly to assist him.

“God, this is so embarrassing,” Liz groaned, covering her eyes when Max lifted to his knees to slide his boxers down.

“Why? Don’t you get how unbelievably sexy you are to me right now?” Max asked solemnly, opening her legs and lifting her against him so that he could enter her in one smooth stroke. They both groaned with the sensation of his body filling her. “I love you,” Max murmured, closing his eyes as he began rocking inside her.

Liz whimpered. She quickened, her hands fisting in the sheets beneath her hips. “Max…Max…” she chanted. It had been so long, too long for the both of them. But she had been so self-conscious, so unsure and Max hadn’t pushed her. But God, how she had missed it! Her body tightened around him, anticipating the moment of her impending climax. Liz lifted herself higher, harder against him.

Max hung his head, concentrating fully on his thrusts. Shallow, quick, but infinitely gentle. “God, Liz…you feel so small,” he whispered, his mind saturated with the sensation of her lusciously soft flesh encasing him, caressing him.

“Is…that…bad…” Liz gasped.

“No…no…” Max denied fiercely, “…feels good…yeah…feels so good.” Moments later he felt her quiver around him, bathing his skin with the warm wash of her orgasm. That was all Max needed to come. He wilted against her, bracing his arms against the mattress to keep himself balanced above her rounded belly. When his breathing was steady again Max removed his boxers completely and rolled over to his side, cuddling against her. “Are you okay?” he whispered, his tone drowsy.

Liz turned into his arms, fingering his lower lip. “It was incredible…like always, like you.” She pressed a tender kiss to his forehead. “I can’t believe you even want me…looking the way I do right now.”

His eyelids fluttered open, revealing beautiful amber eyes made dark with the reverent love he felt for her. “I’ll always want you, Liz…only you.”

The somber way he said it was almost like a vow, sweet and earnest and so full of truth, dispelling any doubts Liz might have had. She fell asleep smiling.



posted on 1-Dec-2002 7:42:05 PM by Deejonaise
I'm back!!!! Here's some light, fun fluff before the angst kicks up again...and it will.


Chapter 31

Liz shook Max awake. “Max, I want a Whopper.”

Max cracked open his bleary eyes, lifting his head off his pillow slightly to squint at his wife’s eager face in the soft lamplight. “Huh?”

“I’m hungry,” Liz clarified, “I want a Whopper.”

Max turned his head to glance at the glowing, red numbers on the digital clock beside their bed. 12:37 a.m. He regarded Liz once again, this time slightly more awake, his manner incredulous. “You want a Whopper? At one in the morning?” he bleated, “Baby, I don’t think Burger King is even open this late.”

He started to close his eyes once more when Liz’s persistent reply drifted over him. “I want a Whopper. The one on 53rd stays open until one so you’d better hurry.”

Max heaved a disgusted sigh. Damn pregnancy hormones, he thought mordantly. He pushed himself from the bed with a tired groan. In the last two years he had become quite accustomed to Liz’s nocturnal snacking. He kept his clothes at the ready beside the bed for just that reason. Still half asleep he pulled on his jeans and sweatshirt then turned to regard her with half-mast eyes. “Okay you want a Whopper and what else?” he asked dryly. Liz almost always tacked something on to the order before he left.

“How about one of those Hershey’s chocolate pies, too?” Liz wheedled sweetly, batting her lashes for effect.

Max remained unmoved. “Fine,” he said, grabbing some money from the lamp table drawer and stuffing it into his pocket.

“I love you!” Liz called after him as he headed for the door.

“Yeah, yeah,” was Max’s answering grumble right before she heard the front door close.

Liz smiled, feeling only slightly guilty for sending him out in the middle of the night. It was one of the perks she would miss about pregnancy. She got her way in almost everything. But then she probably still would have gotten her way even if she weren’t pregnant. Max had always made her happiness his chief concern.

Liz reached for the remote and clicked on the T.V. disinterestedly flicking through the channels. Nothing came on at one in the morning. She didn’t find that fact surprising seeing as how they didn’t have cable. For a while she had bugged Max petulantly about it. Couldn’t they at least have HBO? She’d heard that the new series The Sopranos was actually really good. But Max had convinced her that they would be better off saving that fifty dollars a month rather than paying it out to the cable company. Sometimes she hated that he was so responsible.

However, with nothing to take her mind off her hunger, Liz rolled from the bed and waddled to the kitchen. Inside the refrigerator they had a variety of foods, but none of which particularly appealed to Liz. She eyed a carton of sour cream and the block of cheddar cheese with interest. It would have to do until Max returned with her Whopper.

Gathering together the sour cream, cheese and a bottle of Tabasco in her arms, Liz grabbed a paring knife and then trudged back for the bedroom. After spreading her booty out over the bed, she took the Tabasco and began dumping it into the sour cream. She mixed her concoction with her index finger, licking away the excess. Tasty. When she had adjusted the flavor to her liking she sliced off a piece of cheese and dunked it into her homemade dip.

She had eaten nearly half the carton of sour cream when her stomach inexplicably hardened. Liz frowned in mid-chew, laying her hand tentatively against her firm abdomen. She didn’t think it was labor, though she knew her baby was due any week now. What she felt wasn’t painful and all the stories she’d heard about labor involved agonizing pain. So nope, she was sure it wasn’t labor. Maybe indigestion, Liz thought dismissively.

Five minutes later, however, it happened again. This time Liz sat her snack aside and rubbed her belly in concern. “Are you okay in there, little guy?” she whispered to her stomach. Beneath her hand her son’s energy crackled warmly, excitedly. “I guess that answers that,” she smiled, marveling over the fact he could actually understand what she was saying to him. She started to reach for her snack again when she suddenly heard a small pop.

Not necessarily heard it, but felt it as well. Felt it inside. Liz glanced down, watching in stupefied amazement as a warm, silver colored liquid began seeping into the bed’s comforter. Had her water just broken? Liz frowned. “Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked her baby in soft accusation. Her stomach began to glow in response, pulsating brilliantly beneath the translucent material of her nightgown. “Oh, this isn’t good,” Liz murmured.

For more reasons than one. She wasn’t exactly worried about Max’s being gone. His errand wouldn’t take that long. No, her chief concern was Rahsha’s absence. She and Kaelen had decided to go away together for the weekend and weren’t scheduled to return until early tomorrow. Rahsha had left a number where they could be reached, but Liz in her absentmindedness had misplaced the paper she’d written it on. And since Kaelen had every intention of keeping his cell phone turned off the entire weekend, Liz couldn’t contact them that way either. It seemed she was in a bit of a pickle.

Still, Liz felt rather calm, her heart filling with a quiet sense of excitement. After a long, grueling, painful, uncertain twenty-eight months she was finally going to meet her son in person. She could hardly wait.

Liz reached for the phone and serenely dialed Rahsha’s home number. Kaala finally picked up on the fifth ring. “What?” she croaked groggily in greeting.

“Kay, do you know the hotel number where I can reach Rahsha?”

“Whoisthis?” Kaala rasped in sleepy irritation.

“It’s Liz, okay,” Liz provided, “Do you know the number or not?”

“Yeah…I’ve got it here,” she said and Liz could hear her rustling around in the background, “What do you need it for…Rahsha and Kaelen will be home tomorrow.”

“I think my water just broke,” Liz told her in happy excitement.

Kaala went perfectly quiet. “Is Max there with you now?” she asked carefully a moment later.

“He went to get me a Whopper.”

Kaala uttered a series of stringent curses. “I’m coming over,” Kaala told her frantically.

“That’s not necessary,” Liz protested, “I’ll just call Rahsha and--,”

“Liz,” Kaala began as patiently as she was able, “Rahsha won’t get back here in time even if we call her right this second!” She took several deep breaths. “Look, just stay where you are. I’ll call Rahsha and be there in ten minutes. God!” It was the last thing Liz heard before Kaala broke the connection.

Liz’s belly hardened again, this time with a small tweak of pain. She closed her eyes against it, holding her breath a little. “You would decide to show up now,” Liz chided her son, “when none of us are prepared…just like your daddy.”

Six minutes later Kaala came skidding into her bedroom looking disheveled and panicked, her green beauty mask still in place and her cell phone plastered against her ear. “No friggin’ way, Rahsha! Uh-uh…I can’t…no I can’t… I don’t care…I don’t …Okay…okay, Rahsha, I’m here now…I’ll give her the phone.” Kaala shoved the phone at Liz, “It’s Rahsha.”

Trying to bite back her smile of amusement at Kaala’s rumpled appearance, Liz plucked the cell phone from Kaala’s shaking fingers. “Rahsha?”

“Liz,” Rahsha’s urgent voice exploded over the phone, “Kaelen and I are on our way…just try to remain calm.”

“I am calm,” Liz replied, watching as Kaala paced the length of her bedroom in frantic circles, “Kay is the one who’s freaking right now.”

“Well, she’s got a good reason.”

“Why?” Liz demanded, “I’m the one having the baby!”

“Is Max there with you?” Rahsha asked, her tone suddenly cautious, careful.

“No, he’s gone to get some food. Why?” Liz asked again in slow suspicion.

“Because Kaala’s going to need his help,” Rahsha replied vaguely.

“Need his help in what?”

“Delivering the baby.”

Now Liz began to panic. “WHAT!”

“Liz, I’m not going to be there in time and--,”

“Then I’ll hold him in, Rahsha!” Liz cried, “I’LL HOLD HIM IN! Kaala can’t deliver my baby…she doesn’t know what she’s doing!” Another contraction seized her, this one more painful than the last. Her groan of pain coincided with Kaala’s groan of panic.

“Liz, calm down,” Rahsha placated serenely, “I’m going to talk Kaala through the entire thing. She’ll be fine…you’ll both be fine.”

“No, no, no, no, no! You’re supposed to be here, Rahsha! I can’t deliver this baby if you’re not here!”

Just then Max walked into the bedroom to find Kaala pacing in anxious circles. He took one look at her green face and uttered a mock, “Ahh!” Kaala gave him the finger. It hit him a second later to wonder what she was doing there at one o’clock in the morning in the first place. That’s when he noticed Liz on the bed having a panic attack and screaming at someone over a cell phone. “What’s going on?” Max asked, placing the Burger King bag on the dresser.

“Liz is in labor.” “I’m in labor.” Kaala and Liz answered him simultaneously.

The knowledge didn’t necessarily alarm Max. He took a deep breath and asked placidly, “Okay, when will Rahsha be here?”

“Not for another two hours!” Liz wailed.

“So we’ll sit tight until she gets here and practice your breathing just like we talked about,” Max suggested, moving over to the bed to soothe his frantic wife.

“That would actually be a brilliant plan, Max,” Kaala enunciated, “If the kid weren’t coming NOW!”

Max did a double take in Liz’s direction. “The baby’s coming now?” Liz nodded slowly. “Is that Rahsha?” he asked, inclining his head towards the phone. Another nod. “Let me speak to her.” Liz passed him the phone. “Rahsha, Liz thinks she’s in labor right now…do you think you could give her some sort of reassurance?”

“I would, Max, but her water has already broken…Antarian babies usually come pretty fast after that. Hold on.” Max could hear muffled conversation in the background, probably Kaelen. A few moments later Rahsha was back on the line. “Listen Max, I’ll call you back.”

“Call me back?” Max exploded, “You’re not calling me back! You’re not getting off this phone!”

“Max, get a grip!” Rahsha ordered, her serene tone breaking for the first time, “Kaelen and I are about to check out. I’m gonna call you back from his cell, okay? Are you on Kay’s phone?”

Max flicked a glance to Kaala, who nodded her confirmation. Sometimes mental connections could be really good. “Yeah,” he answered Rahsha.

“Good. I’ll call you back in five minutes. In the meantime get Liz prepared just like we’ve been discussing,” Rahsha ordered evenly, “And don’t let her eat anything else!”

Max clicked off the cell phone. When he looked up both Kaala and Liz were staring at him with panic-stricken eyes. “She hung up?” they both asked at the same time, “What did she say?”

“Can you two stop doing that?” Max massaged his suddenly throbbing temples. “She’s going to call back in a minute,” he reassured Liz, “In the meantime, we’ve got to get you prepared for the birth.”

“Oh my god…” Kaala uttered blankly, “this is really going to happen.” After which she slid to the floor in a dead faint.



posted on 2-Dec-2002 2:57:46 AM by Deejonaise
Okay, I'm sick with a cold and unable to sleep so I thought I would post the next part. Sorry Cinder, I know you just got caught up and all, lol!


Chapter 32

Max cradled his sleeping son in his arms, unable to tear his gaze from the beautiful, tiny face. Now that the blood and mucus had been wiped away and the glowing had subsided Max could see his features clearly. They were small, perfect, and surprisingly human. He looked like a tiny replica of Max right down to the curling ends of his hair and the curve of his ears. There was only one difference. His eyes. Though they were the same liquid amber as his father’s, the baby’s pupils were ringed with incandescent silver, lending to his eyes a haunting appearance. His eyelids were closed over those marvelous eyes now, but still Max could not forget them.

Carefully, Max looked over his sleeping form. He was wondrous, beautifully perfect. Max mentally counted his ten tiny fingers, his ten tiny toes, two eyes and one small, button nose. He smiled over his little rhyme, amazed by the sappiness his son seemed to evoke with him. But still he marveled. The baby was, by all outward appearances, normal. Neither he nor Liz had really expected that.

Of course, he had been glowing quite brightly following his delivery. But then so had Liz. So had Max. It was as if in that moment, when their son was fighting his way into the world, they were all three ultimately and supremely connected.

It had only taken two hours of minimal pushing on Liz’s part to deliver him or rather the translucent cocoon-like pod in which he’d been encased. That small detail had freaked Max out slightly. Later, when he reflected on it, Max would realize that the cocoon had been necessary for his son’s adaptation of the human form, but at the time he didn’t consider it. After the pod had split open to reveal the infant inside Max had thought of nothing, seen nothing beyond the shimmering beauty of his baby son. Barring that brief instance of surprise their son’s entry into the world was smooth, fluid and effortless. The experience had been quite different from his conception, the exact opposite actually.

Curiously, Liz hardly experienced much pain during his birth, rather she felt calm, refreshed and content during and following her labor. Though she had been nervous and frightened, especially after Kaala had fainted, Liz felt herself relax when the time came to actually push. In the end, Max was the one to deliver him and assist him in taking his first breath as Kaala looked on queasy amazement.

Max, Liz and their new baby lay nestled together on the freshly made bed now, while Kaala busied herself in the kitchen making them all a snack. They were the embodiment of the perfect bond of union, a bond that binds for a lifetime, a family. Liz smiled up at Max softly and then back at her son, amazed by his sheer beauty. She was so taken by the sight of him that she never once wondered over his appearance. Liz was in love. She sifted her fingers through his downy soft hair.

He was so tiny, so amazingly marvelous, Liz thought in awe. She lovingly counted his delicate toes, smiling at how long and slender they were. Even now she could remember them tickling her ribs, wiggling mischievously inside her. Liz was struck by that mind blowing fact. She had carried this wonderful, beautiful miracle inside her. Liz felt elated and humbled all at once. She felt content and at peace to the core of her being. She felt…like a mother. “What should we call him?” she whispered to Max gently, mindful not to wake her slumbering son.

Never taking his eyes from the infant nestled in his arms, Max replied in a tear-laden voice, “I was thinking we could call him…Connor.” He shifted a glance at Liz. “What do you think?”

When Liz looked at him again her eyes were luminous and soft with love. “I’d like that. Connor Maxwell Evans…sounds really good.”

Their eyes connected in a penetrating stare, transmitting love, strengthening their bond. “Yeah, it does.” Max’s tears slipped unheeded down his cheeks as he gazed at Liz, his emotions dangerously close to the surface. “Thank you,” he rasped hoarsely, “thank you for my son.” With gentle reverence, he caressed her cheek with his free hand. “Thank you for loving me…for loving us both.” He took her mouth in a tender kiss, caressing her lips with his own. “I love you, Liz,” he whispered solemnly when he finally pulled away.

“I love you,” Liz whispered in return, laying her head against his shoulder and letting her eyes drift closed with the contentment of the moment. Max leaned back against the pillows, gingerly positioning his son’s delicate body across his chest before resting his cheek against the top of Liz’s head and feeling the exhaustion of the last three hours overtake him.

They fell asleep that way, mother, father and child, one mind, one soul, one heart.

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

Max’s eyelids felt heavy, leaden. It took every ounce of strength he had just to slit them open. The moment he did he was assaulted by a wave of vertigo, which was peculiar because he was certain that he was lying down. He closed his eyes and tried again, this time opening them more fully. His world was a replicated blur. He blinked several times but it did nothing to clear his vision. Though some of the blurriness subsided, his double vision remained.

The inside of his mouth felt dry, as if it had been lined with cotton. His tongue felt swollen and foreign within his mouth. Experimentally, he pushed it around inside his cheeks, reacquainting himself with its feel.

Max was also aware of a dull ache in his abdomen, but couldn’t quite understand why it was there. However, when he tried to lift his hand to lay it against his stomach he discovered that his arm felt curiously tingly, as if it had fallen asleep. Max groaned, feeling inexplicably woozy and drained. He forced himself to focus, though, pushing past the urge to throw up, concentrating hard. That’s when he realized the baby was no longer laying on his chest.

He automatically looked over to Liz, expecting her to have their son nestled in her arms, and his breath froze. Liz’s complexion was waxy, colorless, her lips darkened to an alarming blue. She lay perfectly still, barely breathing it seemed. Max tried to whisper her name, but his throat was so dry he only managed a croak. He swallowed, darted out his tongue to moisten his cracked lips. “Liz?” he whispered again groggily.

She didn’t respond. Her eyelashes didn’t even flicker. Max steeled himself against the urge to pass out. He tried once more, speaking her name louder this time. He thought he might have nudged her as well but he couldn’t be sure. Yet, again Liz didn’t move. That’s when he felt the first stirrings of panic.

Somehow Max managed to push himself up onto his elbows, although the effort taxed him, made him feel like vomiting all the more. He paused for a second, his breathing heavy and labored with exhaustion. He couldn’t shake the feeling that something was horribly wrong. It was the impetus he needed to push himself forward. When he was finally halfway upright he looked down the length of the bed and screamed.

The bed was soaked through with blood. Liz’s blood. It congealed thickly between her thighs, saturating the silky material of her nightgown. “Oh my god, oh my god,” Max whispered, in a terrified mantra, “Liz…Liz…oh my god…Liz.” His fingers drifted to her neck to feel for a pulse. It was thready and weak, but blessedly still there. He went into automatic mode then, leaning over her and placing his hand against her chest, attempting the connection, his heart hammering thunderously as he did.

Max braced himself, anticipating that moment of crackling energy when he and Liz became one, mind and soul…but it never happened. He felt nothing. He tried again, ignoring how cold and clammy her skin felt beneath his touch. And still nothing. It was just as it had been with Zrei, when he’d tried and tried, but had been unable to connect. Fear and anguish gripped Max as he slowly realized his powers were defunct.

Max began sobbing her name, his efforts desperate, his hands twisting into the bloody material of her gown. “Wake up!” he moaned in grief, “Dammit, Liz…wake up…wake up!” But he couldn’t heal her, no matter how many times he tried. Liz continued to lose blood, lose time. Without thinking, he grabbed for the phone and punched in 911. The moment the dispatcher came on Max’s words rushed forth from his lips in frantic urgency. “My wife…my wife is bleeding…somebody…send somebody…my wife is bleeding…”

“Sir, has your wife been shot?” the dispatcher asked dispassionately.

“No…no…she’s bleeding…” Max sobbed mindlessly, “She won’t wake up…please help me…”

“Where are you, sir?”

“I live at…at 1609 Mulligan Lane Apt 2B…please hurry…” The telephone slipped from Max’s numb fingers. He stared down at Liz’s still form, feeling helpless and weak. He’d barely had the energy to lift the phone and the effort alone had made him even dizzier than before, but he felt imbued with a strength that defied reason to help Liz. “Stop the bleeding,” he muttered to himself, “I have to stop the bleeding.”

He pushed himself from the bed, stumbling over to a basket of laundry Liz had washed earlier that morning. Gathering up an armful of clothing he shuffled back over to the bed and began stuffing the clothes between Liz’s legs to slow the flow of blood. But she had already lost so much and Max wasn’t sure if anything he did would matter.

No, no, he told himself fiercely, she’s not going to die! Max forced himself to focus, trying to shake the cobwebs clear from his mind. And then he remembered. Kaala. Kaala was there. Kaala could heal Liz. He half ran, half stumbled for the kitchen, barely able to keep upright as he did, yelling for Kaala the entire way.

He found her sprawled across the kitchen floor face down and unmoving. At that moment Max lost his balance and fell backwards into the wall, sliding to the floor powerlessly. “Somebody…somebody, please…help us,” he muttered right before he lost complete consciousness.

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

When Max opened his eyes again it was to the incessant beeping of an I.v. His line of vision was immediately filled with Rahsha, who was hovering over him, her beautiful features pale and anxious. “You’re awake,” she whispered, seeming both relieved and stressed that he was.

Max frowned up at her, for the moment disoriented about where he was. “Rahsha?” He tried to sit upright but Rahsha admonished him for the attempt and held him firmly against the bed. Yes, he was in a bed, Max realized as he glanced around the room, a hospital bed. He began struggling against her hands. “Wait! What’s going on?” he demanded, “Where’s Liz?”

Kaelen came into view then. He looked as if he hadn’t slept in two days. His eyes were red rimmed and puffy, his face unshaven. “Liz is in surgery,” he told Max gently.

“Surgery?” Max repeated breathlessly. He batted away Rahsha’s hands in irritation. “Stop holding me down, okay! Tell me what’s happening with Liz!”

Rahsha ran a shaky hand through her unkempt blond hair. “She hemorrhaged, Max…really bad,” she said softly, “They had to rush her into emergency surgery.”

“But she’s alive…right?” Those four words sounded as if they’d been wrenched from Max’s chest.

Rahsha nodded glumly, but added, “She wasn’t in good shape when they brought her in though.”

“No,” Max denied, “That’s impossible. She was fine…everything was fine… What the hell went wrong?”

“We don’t know for sure,” Kaelen told him, “We came in just as the EMTs were rushing you guys out of there. We just followed the ambulance to the hospital and all we know is what the doctor told us.”

“And what’s that?” Max demanded, already sitting up and swinging his legs over the side of the bed. He ripped the I.v. needle from his arm. That was when he realized that he was naked, but for the hospital gown he was wearing. “Where are my clothes?”

“The emergency room nurses removed them,” Kaelen said.

“Why?” Max snapped, jerking free the numerous tubes and tapes strapped to his body, “Liz is the one who’s hurt, apparently, not me.”

“When the EMTs arrived you and Kaala were passed out on the floor. Your blood pressure was dangerously low…they thought you were going to die.”

Max felt his heart suspend mid-beat as the evening’s earlier events began tidal waving through his mind in stinging clarity. He remembered seeing Kaala…her prone body lying completely still on the kitchen floor. Max closed his eyes, swallowed deliberately. “Kaala…is she…?”

“No,” Kaelen replied quickly, “she suffered a moderate concussion, that’s all. We just came from visiting her a little while ago. She’s in the room down the hall. They’re keeping her here overnight for observation.”

Max didn’t have a clue what was going on. He felt as if he’d been asleep and had suddenly awakened in the middle of some bizarre dream. However, his one priority, the one person who seemed to permeate his thoughts was Liz. Max started to stand up, but then he realized that the gown was completely open in the back and if he stood he would give Rahsha an eyeful. “Can you pass me my pants?” he asked Kaelen with a hint of irritation.

Kaelen did as requested. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“To find the doctor in charge of Liz’s case,” Max said, pulling on his jeans, “Maybe he can give me some details as to what’s going on.” He quickly removed the hospital gown and tossed it aside. As he grabbed his shirt, however, and pulled it down over his head another thought occurred to him. He turned to face Kaelen and Rahsha with a frown. “Where’s the baby?” Max glanced around the hospital room, as if he expected to find his son there, “Didn’t you bring him with you?”

Their expressions became uneasy, tentative almost. Rahsha sighed, rapidly blinking back the tears forming in her eyes. “See, Max…we wanted to talk to you about that…”

“Talk to me about what?” Max asked slowly, his heart already beginning to hammer with dread, “Where’s my son?”

“We think Bayok may have taken him,” Kaelen answered quietly.

Max swayed, bracing himself against his I.v. stand. “You’re telling me Bayok has my son right now?” he wheezed.

“It’s the only explanation,” Kaelen said.

“Explanation to what?”

“The baby wasn’t there when we arrived at the apartment. Kaala doesn’t remember what happened…none of it…not even coming over tonight. The doctors think that it’s due to her concussion but I know better.” Kaelen paused to swallow hard. “She’s been pulled, Max…the memory of tonight is just completely gone.”

“Why would Bayok take my son?” Max rasped.

Why? Why? Why? The whys were endless, but there were no answers forthcoming.



posted on 2-Dec-2002 9:52:44 PM by Deejonaise
More angst. You have been warned.


Chapter 33

Max was still asking himself the very same questions an hour later as he stared out the large, glass paned window in the hospital waiting area that overlooked the Woodstone city lights. He had insisted that his doctor release him that night. Max had more than enough to worry about without adding fear of discovery to the list as well. Of course, they had refused to discharge him, still unaware of what had triggered the mysterious drop in his blood pressure. But he was fine now, as if nothing had happened. He still felt a little dizzy but it was nothing he couldn’t live with. So he signed himself out of the hospital anyway, against medical advice. Afterwards, he had gone to wait for Liz’s doctor in the hospital lobby.

At first, Kaelen and Rahsha had tried to stay with him, offer him comfort, but Max had insisted on being alone. In the end, they’d assured him that they wouldn’t be far and that they would be in Kaala’s room if he needed them. But Max knew that he wouldn’t call for them even if he did. No one could help him anyway. His world was falling apart.

He just felt numb, hollow inside. His son was gone, taken from him by the enemy. His wife was in surgery, probably near death and he’d been able to do nothing to stop it. In the moment he had needed them most his powers had failed him. He had promised that he would protect his family and he had failed. Max pressed his forehead against the cool glass, a sob gurgling from his throat.

“Mr. Evans?” Max whipped around at the sound of his name to find a man dressed in green scrubs standing behind him. He quickly swiped at the tears that wet his cheeks as the man introduced himself. “My name is Dr. Kincaid. I’m the surgeon who operated on your wife.”

“How is she?” Max whispered.

“She lost a great deal of blood…we had to transfuse her to make up for the loss.”

Max nodded dumbly. He remembered how saturated the bed had been so the doctor’s words didn’t surprise him. “Will she be okay…I mean…can I see her?”

“At the moment your wife is in intensive care so visitors are restricted at this time.”

“Intensive care?” Max repeated gruffly, “But I thought she was okay now…”

“Mr. Evans, your wife suffered a massive uterine hemorrhage. Following childbirth the uterus usually contracts and clamps down on the exposed blood vessels left by the placenta,” the doctor explained, “However, in your wife’s case, her uterus would not contract, which caused a massive hemorrhage. The bleeding couldn’t be stopped. As a result, we had to perform an emergency hysterectomy.”

“I’m sorry…a hys…hysterectomy?”

“We had to completely remove your wife’s uterus in order to stop the bleeding, Mr. Evans.”

Max blinked, his tears starting afresh. He felt as if the wind had been knocked from his chest. He pinched his eyes shut and took several deep breaths, but they didn’t help to ease the pain that was already spreading through his limbs like wildfire. “Liz can’t have any more children? Is that what you’re telling me?”

“I’m so sorry.”

Max wrapped his arms around his middle, rocking back and forth in agonizing grief. “No…no…”

“We did all we could, Mr. Evans.”

“God…” Max uttered, his voice breaking in a sob, rolling his eyes heavenward, mentally cursing the cosmos, cursing God, “…she’s just eighteen…my god, she’s just eighteen…”

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

He drove towards the Colony like a man possessed. It had been over two years since he’d last been there and he had been sure at one time that he would never return. But life had a way of smacking you down, of taking you down roads you would have never traveled otherwise. Max couldn’t help but berate himself for not leaving Woodstone sooner. He should have, but he’d been lulled into a false sense of security. They all had, having had no contact, not even a threat from Bayok in all that time. But he had been lurking all along, biding his time…

After talking to the doctor Max had gone crazy with grief. He had begged to see Liz, feeling that if he could at least see her, touch her then everything that had gone so horribly wrong in the last few hours would right itself. But the doctor had denied him, promising that he would send for Max as soon as Liz had been assigned a private room.

Alone in the waiting room Max had felt like he would go insane. He couldn’t sit there waiting for permission to see his wife, not while a madman was holding his son captive. He needed to act and quickly.

Max had no clear plan in mind once he reached his destination beyond the encompassing desire to reclaim his child. He was burning with such fury, such hatred that he could hardly see straight. Bayok had taken so much from him. First Zrei, then his son, and then any future children that he might have had with Liz. Max was certain of that last part. Nothing about Liz’s hemorrhage had been natural. Bayok had caused it, just as he had caused Zrei’s death.

Max grimaced in anguish. Somehow what Bayok had done was one hundred times worse than the torture DeVoe had inflicted in that cell. DeVoe had hated him, had hated his kind. But Bayok… They were the same…they should have been brothers…they should have been family… Max forced back the fresh sobs that rumbled in his chest. No more tears…tears wouldn’t help anyone now. Tears would not bring back his and Liz’s lost future children.

He and Liz had only vaguely discussed the idea of having more children. They had been tentative, not knowing what to expect from Connor’s birth, but the desire was still there. And now the choice had been taken away from them completely. Bayok had robbed them both of the option.

Though Max had to break every posted speed limit to do it, he made it across town to Bayok’s in less than thirty minutes. He screeched the jeep to a stop in the middle of the lawn, creating large ruts as he did so, and hopped out. Stalking towards the door, he raised his fist and pounded against the wood violently. “Bayok! Bayok! Open the fucking door!” he yelled loudly, following his bellow with another round of pounding.

When Bayok pulled open the door a few seconds later he had the gall to look pleased. “I have been expecting you, Maxwell,” he intoned smugly. In that instant Max saw red. His entire body vibrating with barely leashed fury, Max emitted a feral snarl and hooked his hand around Bayok’s neck, propelling him backwards and pinning him violently against the foyer wall. “Where the hell is my son, you bastard?” he gritted through clenched teeth. And then he began to squeeze, slowly cutting off Bayok’s air supply.

“If you do this,” Bayok wheezed, “you will never find him.”

Max gradually uncurled his fingers from around Bayok’s neck, allowing him to slide to the floor. Bayok coughed, gasping for breath. “Where’s my son?” Max demanded again, his fists clenched tightly at his sides. If he weren’t careful he just might kill Bayok in his rage and that would serve no purpose at all, at least not until he’d found Connor.

Bayok coughed again and pressed his hand against his throat, healing his bruised windpipe. “The child is safe…for now,” he informed Max coolly, “However, if you want that to remain so there are certain things you must do.”

“Certain things like what?” Max asked, narrowing his eyes. The two men circled the small confines of the foyer like two combatants in an arena.

“I told you once that we all pay a price for our actions, Maxwell…the time has come for you to pay yours.”

Bayok’s manner was cold and deliberate and extremely confident. It was obvious that he had been planning this day for a long while. “What do you want from me?”

“Endorse me before the Colony as sole ruler and I will return your son to you.”

“That’s it?” Max snorted, “You just want me to put in a good word for you?”

“Precisely.”

“Why will they listen to me?” Max asked bitterly, “I’m just a human after all.”

“A human with Bal family blood,” Bayok clarified, “That will speak volumes to the Council.”

“Fine, I’ll tell them,” Max agreed with an unconcerned shrug, “Now where is Connor?”

“It is not that simple, Maxwell,” Bayok protested with a shake of his head, “You can not simply go before the Council and endorse me. You must first make yourself an accepted member of Antarian society before they will hear a word you have to say.”

“Meaning?” Max ground out impatiently.

“They will never accept a human as your mate,” Bayok stated firmly.

Max’s lip curled in a grimace of disgust. “Fuck you.”

Bayok actually scoffed. “Crudity is unnecessary, Maxwell,” he admonished softly, “The choice is quite simple really: your wife or your son. You choose.”

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

Max watched Liz sleep. The last eighteen hours had been the longest of his life. He felt torn, drained and frightened. More frightened than he’d been in that cell and ten times more wretched. His confrontation with Bayok had accomplished nothing beyond increasing his sorrow and his hatred. His wife or his son, what the hell kind of choice was that? It wasn’t a choice at all really.

And Max was helpless to do anything at the moment. Not with Liz still lying in a hospital bed, not with his powers malfunctioning. He’d never be any match for Bayok in the condition he was in, mentally or physically. To ease his anxiety somewhat, Max told himself over and over that Bayok would not hurt Connor. He was only using the baby as a bargaining chip. Bayok would not hurt his son.

Max didn’t know how long he sat there, watching Liz, agonizing over things he could not change. Occasionally, Rahsha or Kaelen would drift in to urge Max to sleep, to eat, to do anything besides sit and stare at Liz. But Max would not be moved. He retained his perch at Liz’s bedside, his gaze never wavering. Kaala had even come to visit. But she was too full of questions and Max was too emotionally raw to answer her. He had lashed out at her in frustration, only to regret it later after she had shuffled from the room, her posture dejected.

His emotions were all jumbled inside him, guilt, fear, remorse, hatred… They melded together, entangling with one another so finely that Max could no longer distinguish them. He felt on the verge of an explosion…he felt lost.

Taking Liz’s limp hand in his own he rubbed his cheek against her soft skin reverently, tears leaking from his eyes. “I’m so sorry, baby…” he whispered in remorse.

“Max?”

Max froze when he heard her call his name softly. The moment he had been both anticipating and dreading had finally arrived. His entire body trembling, Max lifted haunted eyes to Liz’s pale face. “Hey you,” he murmured with a broken smile, “Welcome back.”

Liz weakly returned his smile and asked faintly, “Am I in the hospital?” Max nodded, but Liz hardly noticed because she was still struggling to clear the fog from her brain. “I had the weirdest dream…” she sighed tiredly, leaning her head back against the pillows, “I dreamed you delivered our son…and we named him Connor.” She ran her hand down the slope of her abdomen, her eyes widening at its lack of roundness. She looked at Max in amazement. “Oh my god,” she uttered, “I had the baby, didn’t I…it wasn’t a dream, was it, Max?”

“No, Liz, it wasn’t a dream…don’t you remember?” Max asked tentatively.

Liz frowned and scratched her head pensively. “It’s a little foggy…I can’t…is that why I’m here…”

Max gripped her hand tighter, as if he could strengthen her for his coming words or strengthen himself. “No, Liz…it’s not…”

“Then why?”

“There was a complication…from Connor’s birth…” Max sighed, tears tracing down his cheeks in silent torrents. “Liz, you hemorrhaged and you had to have surgery.”

“What kind of surgery, Max?” Liz asked fearfully, alarm rising in her heart at the sight of Max’s anguished tears. She whisked them away with her fingertips. “Tell me what’s the matter! Why are you crying, baby?”

It was the endearment that was his undoing. Max emitted a small, anguished cry, the words tumbling from his mouth, “You were bleeding…you were bleeding so bad, Liz and the doctors couldn’t stop it…they had to…they had to perform a hysterectomy to save your life…I’m sorry, Liz…I’m sorry…”

Liz stared at him blankly. A hysterectomy, she repeated mentally. Didn’t that mean she couldn’t have more children? No, no, it couldn’t be. She was still young…just eighteen for crying out loud. She had a future full of babies. There had to be a mistake. Max would never let them take her babies. “No,” Liz denied bravely, “That’s not true. I don’t believe that.”

Max cringed. He’d expected many reactions from her, but not outright denial. “Liz, I--,”

Liz shook her head a little wildly. “You wouldn’t let that happen to me,” she said in a rush, stabbing her finger for emphasis, “You wouldn’t let them do that…you wouldn’t let them take my babies. You wouldn’t let that happen.”

“Liz, I couldn’t heal you…I tried, baby, but I couldn’t.”

Liz’s eyes were vacant and wide as she stared at him. She pulled her hand free and fisted it against her thigh. “No, No, No, NO!” She punctuated each denial with a pound against her thigh and then she shook her finger at him maniacally. “They’ve made mistake…a terrible, terrible mistake.”

“Liz, you’ve got to accept--,”

“Bring me my baby,” Liz suddenly snapped, “I want my baby now. I want to hold him. Bring me my baby, Max.”

Her frantic pleading broke his heart. “Liz…Liz, I can’t…”

She broke down then, her face crumpling in anguish. “Oh god…oh god…” she sobbed, raising her arms to cover her head in a defensive action, “Please don’t tell me…please don’t tell me he’s dead, Max! I couldn’t…I couldn’t take it, please…”

Max pulled her arms down and framed her face in his hands, raining gentle, desperate kisses all over her face. “No, baby, he’s not dead…” he assured her tearfully, “…he’s not…”

“Then why won’t you bring him to me?” she sniffled.

Max lowered his eyes, unable to look at her when he told her the truth. “Bayok has him.”



posted on 3-Dec-2002 11:17:41 AM by Deejonaise
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you EVERYONE for sticking with this story despite the depressing turn it has taken. I promise that I will fix everything, it just might take a little while, but EVERYTHING will be fixed. I PROMISE.

However, in the meantime, the angst gets a lot worse before it gets better. And I was thinking that posting angsty part after angsty part everyday would not be good. I want everybody to stick around to the very end and that's kinda hard when you just have one depressing chapter after another to read. So I'm posting the next six chapters all at once. I'm doing it for two reasons: first, because this way you can read a large dose of the angst rather than having it a little bit at a time and second, because my son and I are sick and I need to get off the Internet and into bed, lol.

I still would like feedback though...pretty please???? And as for Bayok, you all know that the villain always gets his just desserts...you'll just have to wait a while for it.

Okay...I'll be back with the parts. Let me know what you think.

Dee
posted on 3-Dec-2002 11:20:11 AM by Deejonaise
Chapter 34

She’d had to be sedated afterwards. When he finally told her she had just screamed like she would never stop. He couldn’t calm her down. She had fought against him like a wildcat, bucking and scratching, restrained only when the nurses finally arrived to administer her a sedative. Even as she drifted off in a drug induced haze she had continued to sob pitiably, “He took my baby…why’d you let him take my baby…”

After she had fallen asleep Max had locked himself in the bathroom and cried miserably. When he emerged sometime later Kaala was leaning over near the window waiting for him. “I’m taking you out to lunch,” she stated implacably, “and I won’t take no for an answer. You’ll go insane if you don’t get out of here…at least for a little while.”

Max was too emotionally and mentally exhausted to argue with her. Besides, with the sedative they had given her, Liz would be out for a couple of hours yet. He glumly nodded his consent. “Just let me grab my jacket,” he told her.

They settled on the McDonald’s across the street. It was convenient and close and the food didn’t suck, as Kaala had so eloquently put it. “So where are Kaelen and Rahsha,” Max asked with forced interest, moodily breaking apart his french fries without eating them, “They’ve been attached at your hip since you were admitted.”

“I was released today. Kaelen and Rahsha are straightening out my paperwork right now.” Max nodded. Kaelen and Rahsha had been busily taking care of everything. It was only their quick thinking that had kept Max, Kaala, and Liz’s true identity secret. Max was grateful he, at least, didn’t have that to worry about. Impervious to Max’s thoughts Kaala continued in her monologue. “Hospital visits aren’t free, you know, especially when you’re currently uninsured,” she explained, taking a bite of her burger. She frowned. It tasted like salted cardboard. “Needs Tabasco…” she mumbled around a mouthful.

Max actually cracked a small smile at that. “I don’t think they have that here.”

Kaala shrugged and took another bite, despite the burger’s bland taste. “Beats hospital food any day of the week,” Kaala replied gamely. This time Max didn’t smile, but turned his head to stare sadly out the window at the hospital across the street. Looking at him, Kaala felt her heart ache. “When are you going to stop blaming yourself for things beyond your control?” she asked him softly.

Max’s eyes jerked around guiltily. “What?”

“You did all you could for her, Max.”

“How would you know,” Max bit out caustically, “You don’t even remember what happened!” He felt terrible the moment the words were voiced aloud. Max hung his head shamefully. “I’m sorry, that was uncalled for.”

“You’re in pain,” Kaala whispered, giving a light shrug, “You’re entitled to be an asshole on occasion.”

Max sniffled a laugh. “Thanks.”

“You still shouldn’t blame yourself though,” Kaala advised, “Kaelen and Rahsha told me what you did. If you hadn’t called 911 when you did Liz might have died.”

“I couldn’t heal her, Kay,” Max muttered in self-deprecation, “When I needed my powers most they were completely useless.”

“What happened?” Kaala asked, her burger forgotten.

“Sometimes my powers flake out on me for no reason,” Max clarified, “When I was captured by the FBI they gave me a lot of drugs. They heightened my powers…but at the same time they made them unreliable, too. What made it even worse was that I wasn’t really in any shape to help Liz anyway.”

“Yeah, Kaelen said that your blood pressure had dropped or something…what was up with that?”

“When Zrei was alive he told me that Liz and I have a bond like no other…that if I experience something so will she and vice versa,” Max whispered, “Last night, when Liz was losing all that blood…I felt what she felt. She was dying and so was I.”

“I used to think having that sort of connection with someone would be romantic,” Kaala murmured sadly.

“But it’s not,” Max replied in dull tones, “It’s damned terrifying.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t pity me!” Max ordered sharply, pinning her with eyes made vibrant with hate and rage, “If you’re really sorry you’ll help me take back Connor. He’s all I care about besides Liz right now.”

“Max, we don’t stand a chance against Bayok. He is a very powerful alien with many connections,” Kaala uttered in defeat, “You’ll never be able to simply waltz back into the Colony and take back your son.”

“I don’t accept that, Kay…I never will. I’m going to get my son back, even if I have to do it alone.”

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

He and Kaala talked for an hour more before Max finally cut their conversation short and headed back over for the hospital. Even if Liz was asleep while he was there he could at least be near her and, at present, Max needed that more than anything else. However, Liz was sitting straight up in bed when he crept inside, quietly awaiting his return. “You’re awake,” Max whispered, creeping more fully into the room.

“Not long,” Liz whispered back, “The nurse brought my lunch a little while ago.” Max tentatively approached her bed, wondering vaguely why they were whispering to one another. He supposed whispering was understandable given the delicate circumstances. It was as if they both realized the fragility of their emotions at the moment and were cautiously tiptoeing around one another. “Where have you been?” Liz asked him when he sat down beside her.

“I went to grab some lunch,” Max replied, “I haven’t eaten anything since…since last night.”

Liz stared at him with haunted eyes. “Did we really have a baby last night, Max? Cuz it just seems so surreal to me right now…”

“God, Liz…” Max uttered, lifting his hand to brush away the tears that fell down her cheeks.

“Don’t!” Liz ordered sharply, flinching away from him. Her rejection pierced his heart and Max had to swallow several times before letting his hand fall away. “I was just thinking before you came in,” Liz informed him gruffly.

Thinking was really an understatement. Liz had done a massive reevaluation of her life in the twenty minutes she’d been awake. Her life was a shambles. She couldn’t ignore it, couldn’t hide from it either and, being confined to a hospital bed, she had no choice but to face them.

Here she was a new mother and she couldn’t even take pleasure in that simple, indescribable joy without having another crisis rear it’s head. And again the source of her problems always seemed to stem from one person. Max. More specifically, who he was. His life was dangerous, unpredictable and full of insurmountable risks. Before Liz had always believed that those risks were an acceptable price to pay for the ecstasy of being with him, of loving him. Now she was no longer sure.

When it had just been them alone the danger they constantly lived with hadn’t seemed so impossible. But now they had a son and before he was even three hours old some evil alien with a hidden agenda had taken him from them. An alien that Max had once trusted. Once again who he was, what he was had risen up and bitten her on the ass. She had accepted the losses before, her parents, her home, her friends, her very life, but not her son…never her son.

The longer Liz thought the more she realized that she and Connor would never be safe, not as long as Max was in their lives. Not as long as there was someone out there with an agenda, someone who wouldn’t hesitate in hurting the persons closest to Max to get to him. Yes, it had been acceptable when it was just the two of them. No one to think about besides themselves. However, Liz was a mother now. She had a duty to protect her child no matter what. She had already failed in that duty once. She wouldn’t do so again.

And though the idea of casting Max out of her life killed Liz, made her feel even deader inside than before, she didn’t see that she’d been left with much choice. She had to protect herself and she had to protect her son…even if that meant keeping her distance from his father. It was the painful realization that Liz had reluctantly come to during her brief time alone.

Unable to read her expression or her thoughts at the moment, Max asked almost cautiously, “What were you thinking about?”

“I was thinking about how much I love you,” Liz rasped out in a tear-clogged voice, “And how…despite your kindness, your sensitivity and God, even your loyalty…you’re nothing but…poison to me, Max. You kill everything you touch.”

If words had the ability to kill then Max would have died in that moment. As it was, her tearful accusation knocked the breath out of him, left him gasping. She thought he was poison, that he killed everything he touched? Did she mean her love for him as well? “Liz, you’re upset…” Max placated shakily, “…and you don’t…you don’t know what you’re saying.”

Liz nodded sadly, whisking away her tears. “But I do, Max. I do know what I’m saying.” She paused to sniffle, dropping her gaze and twisting her hands in the white linen sheet atop her. “I’ve given my whole life for you, Max. I always thought that anything I had to lose would be worth it because I had you.” Max lowered his head, feeling her words drive at him like nails. “I would have given up anything for you, Max,” she whispered brokenly, “but I can’t give up my son…I’ve lost too much.”

Max’s tears fell unheeded to the bed sheets, absorbed there. “Liz, I promise you I’ll get him back…I swear…”

“And what about the next time,” Liz countered miserably, “and the time after that and the time after that? Being with you is risk I can no longer afford, Max.”

He lifted agonized eyes to her resolved face, his heart thudding with terror. “What are you saying to me, Liz?”

Liz looked away from him then, unable to look into his eyes and witness his anguish as she broke his heart and her own as well. “I love you very much, Max, I will…always, but I can’t be with you anymore.”

“Liz, no--,” Max protested, making a desperate grab for her hand only to have her wrench it away.

“Don’t touch me!” she exploded softly, “I can’t…I can’t deal with you touching me. Max, please, please don’t make this harder.”

“Don’t make this harder?” he choked, “You’re ripping my fucking heart out and you’re asking me not to make it hard for you?”

Liz pressed her fist into her mouth to stifle her sobs of pain. “I have to do this…I can’t lose anymore…I can’t… First it was my parents…then my home…then my…my baby…I can’t do it anymore. Being with you is killing me.”

“Liz, Liz, I love you,” Max sobbed in anguish, “If I you leave me…I’ll die…”

She met his pleading stare then, her eyes brightened with sorrowful tears but steady with bittersweet resolve. “And if I stay with you…I’ll die,” she replied solemnly, “Let me go, Max.”

posted on 3-Dec-2002 11:25:47 AM by Deejonaise
Chapter 35

“I have every reason to believe this plan will work,” Kaelen said as he hoped up from the sofa to pour himself a glass of orange juice.

Rahsha stared after her boyfriend in incredulous shock, her mouth hanging open a bit. “Babe,” she began deliberately, “Did you hit your head or what? Because what you just suggested sounds like complete suicide!”

“I actually think it’s a good idea,” Max said as he emerged from the kitchen with the omelet he’d just made and four forks. He sat the plate down in the middle of the coffee table. “I think it’s our best shot right now.”

“Of course, you would,” Rahsha replied, “You and Kaelen share the same suicidal tendencies! Kay, tell them how idiotic this plan is!”

Following Liz’s release from the hospital the previous night they had all ditched school the next day, ironically not a problem since it was senior ditch day, and converged in Max’s living room to discuss a strategy to reclaim Max and Liz’s son. They had been arguing back and forth over just what they should do when Kaelen had come up with his brilliant plan. Kaelen thought Max should take Bayok up on his offer, that he should return to the Colony and convince the Jnuian Council that he had left Liz and was ready to become a part of Antarian society.

Rahsha thought it was a ridiculous idea and in her anxiety she had actually turned to Kaala for support. Kaala, who had never showed an ounce of caution in her life! True to form, she didn’t support Rahsha now either. “I think it will be dangerous,” she said, ignoring Rahsha’s relieved sigh and continuing with, “but I think it’s Max’s best bet of getting his son back.”

“What!”

“Shh,” Max cautioned quietly, settling himself into the dining room chair he’d brought over, “Liz is still asleep.”

As if on cue four pairs of eyes drifted to the hallway that led to Max and Liz’s bedroom. When the door remained closed Rahsha resumed in a much a quieter voice, “Bayok will never believe that you’re on his side, Max. You were just at his house two days ago threatening to kill him.”

“So it will be difficult,” Max said with dismissive persistence.

“It will be impossible!” Rahsha corrected in a furious whisper.

“Not if I go with him,” Kaala interjected, shocking everyone.

Now it was Kaelen’s turn to gape in disbelief. “You wanna what?”

Steadfastly refusing to meet her brother’s incensed gaze, Kaala calmly sliced off a portion of the ham and cheese omelet Max had made and chewed slowly before clarifying. “If I go with Max…if we can convince Bayok that Max and I are together…Bayok might be more inclined to believe that he’s left Liz and his human life behind.”

Rahsha threw up her hands in disgust. “Oh, I give up!” she exclaimed with a roll of her eyes, “This plan just gets more and more convoluted as the minutes go by.”

“I don’t think you should go with him,” Kaelen advised his sister seriously, “After what happened between you and Bayok…I don’t think it’s such a good idea for you to be around him.”

“Kaelen, I can handle myself,” Kaala retorted flippantly, “It’s been two years, okay! I’m over it.”

“Well, I’m not!” Kaelen threw back.

“Kaelen, think about it,” Kaala persisted in dogged determination, “I know Bayok better than anyone in this room, and though I know that’s not saying much, it’s the best shot we have right now.”

Rahsha softened in her attitude, realizing that Kaala genuinely wanted to help. “But you were in love with him, Kay,” she reminded Kaala, “What if those old feelings are still there? How will you deal?’

“I can handle it!”

“Kay, Max isn’t just going to waltz back into the Colony and reclaim his son,” Kaelen argued practically, “He’s gonna have to win over Bayok’s trust and who knows how long that will take. It could be days…or it could be months. Could you really stand being near Bayok all that time?”

“I. Can. Handle. It.” Kaala enunciated.

“Fine, but what about Liz,” Rahsha said quickly, switching arguments, “You’re going to be living with Max and Bayok for an indefinite period of time. How do you think Liz will feel about that?”

“How will I feel about what?”

Everyone’s attention jerked in the direction of Liz’s voice. Sometime during their discussion she had crept into the hall and was now leaning against the wall weakly. Max looked away, his heart jumping a little at the sight of her, but he didn’t get up to assist her even though he wanted to. In the end the decision was taken completely out of his hands because Rahsha was already over at Liz’s side and guiding her into a chair. “What are you doing out of bed?” she scolded Liz as she eased her friend down into the recliner, “You’re supposed to be resting.”

“You guys are talking about how to get Connor back, aren’t you?” Liz ascertained immediately, “I want to be a part of this discussion, too. What’s the plan?”

When everyone seemed reluctant to speak up, Kaala provided concisely, “Max is gonna go back to the Colony and convince Bayok that he’s on his side. When Bayok starts to trust him Max is gonna grab Connor and get out of there.” She watched Liz’s face carefully as she spoke, studying her reaction. Though neither Max nor Liz had said anything Kaala suspected something between them was different. Instead of being cuddled up against one another like they usually were they were now sitting at opposite ends of the room. And they didn’t make eye contact with one another either. To test her theory that something was amiss Kaala added almost deliberately, “I’m going with him.”

There it was, a flash of angry pain across Liz’s face before she lowered her head and sighed an audible, “Oh.”

“Liz doesn’t care,” Max commented, suddenly speaking for the first time since the argument about the plan had begun, “She and I are broken up now.” Liz glanced at him sharply while Kaelen and Rahsha were simultaneously murmuring staggered “whats.” Only Kaala was not surprised. Ignoring their shock, Max looked directly at Liz and added, “Liz doesn’t care what I do anymore, do you, Liz?”

Kaelen was the first one to regain his senses. He stood up and broke the uncomfortable silence, saying, “Maybe we should leave you two alone to work things out.”

As Max walked them to the door, he told Kaala firmly, “I want to leave tonight…be ready.”

Kaala nodded and offered him a small smile. “Call me if you need anything.” She started to leave and then on impulse rose on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “Hang in there, okay?” she whispered before running to catch up with Kaelen and Rahsha.

When Max turned around after closing the door he fully expected to find himself alone, but instead he found Liz standing directly in front of him, glaring. “Why did you do that?”

“Do what?” Max asked in feigned innocence. He sidled around her and stooped to remove the debris from the group’s impromptu breakfast. “Do you want something to eat?” he asked casually as he gathered together the plates and glasses, “I could make you some eggs. You want some eggs?”

“No, I don’t want any eggs!” Liz snapped irately, “I want to know why you told our friends we were breaking up.”

“Aren’t we?” Max inquired blandly, depositing the dirty dishes into the dishwasher. When he was done he closed the door with a snap and then leaned back against it, facing her with folded arms. “We’re broken up…why keep it a secret?”

It was then that she could see how much she’d hurt him. Though his stance was belligerent, there were tears coursing down his cheeks, although he hardly seemed aware of them. Liz hung her head. “Max, I don’t want us to be enemies.”

Max scoffed. “Liz, I swear if you tell me you want to be friends I’m gonna throw up right here.”

She lifted imploring eyes to his embittered face. “But I do…I do want to be your friend. We’ve been through too much for you to just trash it.”

Max pointed his finger at her furiously. “You’re the one who’s trashing it, Liz! Not me!”

“I need you to understand why I’m doing this,” Liz pleaded.

“I don’t care why you’re doing it!” Max exploded so ferociously that he caused Liz to jump. Clasping his hands together, he pressed them to his mouth and sighed deeply. “I’m not gonna fight with you, Liz. You just got out of the hospital and you should be resting.” He pushed away from the dishwasher and headed down the hall.

“I don’t think you should go through with this plan against Bayok!” Liz called after him. That stopped him, but he refused to turn and face her. “There has to be another way for us to get Connor back.”

“There isn’t,” Max replied stonily.

“I think it’s a bad idea.”

Max whirled around, a bitter smile twisting his beautiful mouth. “Is that because I’m going…or because Kaala is going with me?”

Her expressive brown eyes skittered away. “I’m just worried about you,” she whispered.

“Well, don’t be, okay!” Max snapped in return.

Liz huffed a frustrated groan. “Breaking up doesn’t mean I stopped caring about you, Max! Stop shutting me out!”

“I’m shutting you out?” Max repeated in disbelief, almost laughing at the irony, “Oh, yeah right! Screw you, Liz!” he cried, glaring at her in tearful anger, “I don’t need your damned pity!”

“You’re angry and that’s understandable--,”

“I’m glad you think so,” Max interrupted sarcastically.

“But I’m trying to do what’s best for all of us,” Liz finished calmly.

“The vows were til death do us part, Liz!” Max yelled angrily, “Death do us part! Did they even mean anything to you!”

“I’m trying to protect my son!” Liz yelled back, just as angry.

“He’s my son, too!” Just then Liz collapsed to the floor. Max rushed over to her with an anguished cry, gathering her into his arms. “Liz, baby, are you okay?” he whispered, brushing her hair back from her clammy forehead.

“I’m just…a little dizzy.”

“You should be in bed,” Max muttered, scooping her up in his arms and carrying her back to the bedroom. He laid her gently against the bed and stretched out beside her.

Weakly, Liz pushed at his shoulders. “Max, you shouldn’t--,”

“Shh,” he scolded softly, his breath whispering against her cheek as he spoke, “Just relax, okay.” He stroked his hands up and down the length of her chilled arms. “I’ll take care of you,” he murmured into her hair.

“Max, don’t hate me,” Liz moaned, her tears leaking from the corners of her eyes, “I couldn’t stand it if you hated me.”

“I don’t hate you, Liz,” Max sighed sadly, “I could never, never hate you, Liz.”

“I’m just so confused,” Liz uttered in a little girl’s tone.

“We’ll work it out later, okay,” Max promised her, “We’ll work it out.”

posted on 3-Dec-2002 11:27:55 AM by Deejonaise
Chapter 36

His son was asleep on his chest. Beautiful, perfect with glossy ringlets of hair. He smelled so clean and new, the unique and wondrous smell of a newborn. Max lifted his hand to touch one downy brown curl tentatively. So soft…so delicate. He had never felt more at peace, more content than in that beautiful moment. But then his arms were suddenly manacled, ripped away from his son’s precious body and pinned to his side. He bucked and screamed as they lifted him away, his baby, his joy, but he was powerless to stop them. They were taking him…they were taking the light… Bayok’s face loomed above him, smiling maniacally. “There is always a price to be paid, Maxwell.”

Max snapped open his eyes and found himself looking into his wife’s wide brown eyes. Liz was leaning above him, staring down into his face solemnly. “Do you really think this plan to manipulate Bayok will work?”

Max was somewhat disoriented at first so her question didn’t immediately penetrate his bewildered senses. He was still processing the fact that he was actually in bed with her and not on the sofa as he’d been the night before. Max gazed up at her in confusion, trying to shake off the remaining tendrils of his nightmare. No, not a nightmare at all. Max realized now that his dream had, in fact, been a premonition. The thought made him shudder. He frowned up at Liz hazily. “What did you just ask me?” he inquired rather groggily, pushing himself upright.

“I asked do you think your plan will work…to get our son back?”

Max gave a tired shrug. “I don’t know if it will or not, but I have to try something…I have to get Connor way from Bayok and soon.”

“He’s going to hurt him, isn’t he?” Liz whispered fearfully.

“I don’t know…I don’t know, baby.”

Liz nodded jerkily. She was trying not to panic and to think positive thoughts, but it was hard, especially when she didn’t know where her baby was. She tortured herself with questions. Was he warm? Did he have enough to eat? Was he crying? Did he miss her? Was he frightened or, worse yet, hurt? The thought that her baby needed her and she couldn’t be there for him tore Liz apart.

What agonized her most, however, was that she couldn’t call the authorities, couldn’t alert any higher power that her child was missing. Because of what he was, what they were, they had to keep his kidnapping a secret. And because they had to, they were playing right into Bayok’s hands. Liz didn’t like feeling helpless. She didn’t like having nowhere to turn. In her anxiety she had even begun considering Max’s plan despite being adamantly against it at first. Liz now realized that she didn’t have many options before her and she had to take what she could get. “You should go then,” Liz told Max hoarsely, “Go tonight just like you planned…bring me back my son…”

“Liz, what about you?” Max asked softly. Before, when he had thrown it in her face that he was leaving, he had been too angry and hurt to allow himself to think about her health, but after she’d passed out Max couldn’t stuff down his worry any longer. “You’re still recovering…you can’t stay here by yourself.”

She ducked her head, unable to bear the loving concern for her she saw reflected in his beautiful eyes. “Kaelen and Rahsha will take care of me. You know they will.”

Max stared down at the bed where their hands lay only a hairsbreadth away from each other. If he moved his hand just a fraction of an inch he’d be touching her. Oh god, how he wanted to. He swallowed hard. “And…and us?”

Liz grimaced. “I told you, Max…I can’t be with you…besides I can’t think about that right now.”

“But I love you, Liz,” Max declared gruffly. And then he stamped down his fear and he did it. He pressed his lips to hers, soft and warm. His kiss was seeking, desperate, full of anguished pleading. At first Liz held herself stiffly against him. Giving into his kiss would accomplish nothing, yet unexplainably she did just that. She gave in. Liz opened her mouth to the gentle insistence of his tongue, slid her fingers into his soft hair in order to pull him closer.

The flashes began then. Slow clips of their life together tumbling through her head one after another and she could remember every scene, every word as if they had just happened. She could see herself smiling down at him as he pulled her into his lap that night in the motel room, admitting his love for her for the first time ever:

“I have never felt about anyone the way I feel about you, Liz.”

“And how is that?”

“Nervous, dizzy, weak…and amazingly strong at the same time…protective and protected, confused and yet absolutely sure, insane and wonderful…and…in love.”
In that instant she was back in that room once again, looking into his eyes and seeing deep down into his soul and knowing truly, amazingly that Max Evans loved only her. Enveloped in that warm blanket of his adoration, his devotion, more scenes flashed through Liz’s mind, strengthening her love and need for him, weakening her resolve.

And then she was in that cell with him once more, begging him to open up to her after the most horrible experience of both their lives: “Don’t you realize that it would have always been you? No matter what happened. You didn’t take anything that wasn’t already yours.” The first time they made love, really made love, all undulating naked flesh and electric touches. She could still hear his sweet voice clearly in her head: “Whenever I imagined us making love it was always with your hair spilling out across the bed just this way.” And even more recently the birth of their son, right in that very bed: “I was thinking we could call him…Connor.” In those moments Liz knew one irrefutable fact. Max Evans would always be a part of her soul. She could run from him. She could divorce him, hurt him in the worst way imaginable, but she would always, always belong to him. He would always belong to her.

So she let him continue kissing her, let him ease her down against the bed. She didn’t stop him when his hands began inching her shirt up over her midriff, didn’t protest as his fingers played over her nipples. Instead she moaned into his mouth, opened her mouth wider for his kiss. If she was damned being with him then she’d be damned. His hands slid around her back to unclasp her bra. The telephone rang.

They tore apart with heavy gasping, staring into each other’s eyes in hopeless longing and wild desire. “The telephone’s ringing,” Liz whispered tentatively, her gaze never leaving his face.

His questing hand stilled against her breast but he didn’t remove it. “We can ignore it,” he whispered back. The ringing persisted.

“Maybe you should get it,” Liz suggested softly.

“I want to finish this,” Max replied, deliberately unfastening the first two buttons of her blouse.

“Max, we can’t make love,” Liz told him, but added when she saw his crestfallen expression, “I just had major surgery, not to mention I’m still healing from the baby, remember?”

The baby. Max closed his eyes. He had forgotten, forgotten everything in those desperate minutes. He had been too surrounded with Liz’s touch, Liz’s scent, Liz’s heat. In those quasi-normal moments everything in his life had seemed serendipitously right. But things were not right. Their son was still kidnapped and Liz still felt the best thing for her was to be away from him. When he opened his eyes again, she was scooting from beneath him. All the while, the phone continued to ring. “You should get it,” Liz said again, “It’s probably Kaala.”

Biting back a frustrated curse, Max snatched up the receiver and growled a surly, “Yeah?”

“Whoa, can I have back my head?” Kaala said crossly, “I was beginning to think you’d left without me. What took you so long to answer the phone?”

Max lifted his eyes to Liz. She was self-consciously smoothing down her hair, refusing to meet his gaze. “Liz and I were talking,” he replied to Kaala a little impatiently.

“Yeah, I’ll just bet,” she scoffed, “So I’ll take that to mean I’m interrupting.”

“Kinda.” Still staring at Liz, Max said, “Listen I’ll call you back in ten.” He didn’t even say good-bye, but simply placed the phone back in its cradle. Max could already tell from Liz’s demeanor that reality was slowly asserting itself once more. She once again withdrew back into her protective shell, shutting him out all over again. He anticipated what she would say next before she ever opened her mouth. “Don’t tell me it was a mistake.”

“It was,” Liz insisted, “I should have never let you kiss me. Whenever you do all my reason goes right out the window.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Max teased, quirking his lips in a bittersweet smile.

“Right now…it is.”

“Bullshit!”

His vehemence made her flinch. “Max, I have strong feelings for you. That’s not a secret. I just can’t turn them off like that.” Liz snapped her fingers for emphasis.

“Then why are you trying?”

“Max!” Liz all but screamed in frustration, “I’m eighteen years old! I’ve lived through more heartache and tragedy than any one person should. I just wanna be happy.”

“I can make you happy, Liz,” Max pleaded in a whisper, “Just let me try…”

“You have tried,” Liz conceded despondently, “And I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have our moments, but that’s all they were, Max. They were moments of happiness. I can’t live like that anymore. I want to have a normal life. I need to.”

Max shook his head as if to deny her words. “No, you said you understood. You said that you could accept my life and being in my life. You told me, Liz!”

“I know I did,” Liz sobbed guiltily, “but I was wrong. I can’t handle it, Max…I tried, but I can’t do it…”

“Liz, it won’t always be this way,” Max cried in desperation, “We’re leaving, remember. When we get Connor back we’ll leave this place and everything will be fine. We’ll go home to Roswell and you’ll see your family again and we’ll be happy. Things will be normal then.”

“Things will never be normal, Max,” Liz countered, “I can’t have children anymore. My son is gone and my life is a mess!”

Max sucked in a harsh breath. “And you blame me?”

“To an extent,” Liz admitted, “I couldn’t have my baby in a normal hospital because of who you are, what you are… Maybe if I had, Connor wouldn’t have been stolen from me…maybe I’d still be able to have children…”

Guilt ate away at Max’s heart and he began actually choking on the sobs that gurgled from his chest. “God, Liz, I wish I could change it…I wish I could change who I am…”

“But you can’t, Max… I understand that, I do,” Liz told him, “But I deserve a normal life, Max…I deserve to have a family and a home and a career… I shouldn’t have to live in fear every single day of my life. Connor deserves that, too.”

He couldn’t deny the truth of her words, but it still cut at his heart to hear them. Max slowly came to realize that loving him wasn’t enough for her anymore. She wanted peace and security, things he would never be able to guarantee, not as long as he was who he was. The painful knowledge that he was really and truly going to lose her was so shattering that it caused his breath to contract painfully in his lungs. “Do you want a divorce or something?” he choked, praying, hoping, silently begging her to tell him no.

But she didn’t. Instead she slowly slid her wedding ring off her finger, that ring they had purchased so impulsively in Vegas, and pressed the small, gold hoop into his palm. They were both in tears at that point and Liz could barely look at him as she said in a strangled tone, “I think it would be best if we made a clean break from each other.”

Max opened his hand and let the ring fall to the bed. “I don’t want it.”

“I can’t keep it, Max.”

“Fine,” he bit out harshly, “Then don’t! But don’t give it back to me! Don’t tear my heart out by making me look at this ring everyday as a reminder that you didn’t want me. That none of the promises we made to each other mattered to you!”

“Max--,” But she didn’t know what to say to him, didn’t know how to ease his pain. She couldn’t take him back. It wouldn’t solve anything at all. She’d still be unhappy. The issues plaguing her now would continue to be just that; issues. They would never go away. Liz swallowed and folded her knees up against her chest. “You should go on and pack,” she said, “We need to focus on our son right now…we’ll work out the details for…for the rest later.”

“I can’t believe I ever trusted you,” Max ground out, his demeanor lost, betrayed and so very heartbroken.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“Yeah, but you did, Liz,” Max accused her softly as he flung himself from the bed, “You did.”

posted on 3-Dec-2002 11:36:07 AM by Deejonaise
Chapter 37

“So are we gonna go knock or are we gonna sit out in the jeep all night?”

Max hardly heard Kaala’s sarcastic question. He was staring at Bayok’s house without really seeing it while his mind replayed his last few minutes with Liz. After she had taken off her wedding ring Max had jumped from the bed and begun packing. He had ripped his clothes from the closet and drawers, haphazardly stuffing them into the sports bag Liz had bought him for his seventeenth birthday. He didn’t look at her the entire time, but by the time he finished and had slung the bag over his shoulder to leave she was blocking the exit.

She had tried to keep him from leaving, saying she didn’t want him to walk away angry. But he had done so anyway, slamming from the apartment without giving Liz a backwards glance. He had headed straight over to Kaelen’s to pick up Kaala. The moment Kaala slid into the jeep Max had ground out in a warning tone, “Don’t ask!” As a result, they made the entire drive to Bayok’s in utter silence.

Now that they had arrived Max sat suspended behind the steering wheel, staring blankly into space. Kaala reached across and waved her hand in front of his face, snapping her fingers obnoxiously. “Hello?” she sang, finally managing to capture Max’s attention, “What do we do now?”

Max sighed and forced himself to focus on his present problem. What plausible excuse could he give Bayok for showing up on his doorstep in the middle of the night uninvited? Max had already figured out that Bayok must know about his suspicions of him, otherwise Bayok would have never kidnapped Connor so boldly then shown such little remorse afterwards. Good, Max thought caustically, at least he wouldn’t have to pretend. He slid a glance over at Kaala, who was watching him expectantly. “I guess we go knock,” he sighed finally.

“You look as if you’re about to face an executioner,” Kaala observed grimly.

“I kinda feel like I am,” Max admitted with a nervous shudder, “I don’t think you know just how much I hate Bayok for what he’s done. Making nice with him is the last thing I want to do.”

“Then don’t.”

Max pinned her with an irritated glare. “I’m here to get my son back, Kay, not make sure I never see him again.”

“Come on, Max, think about it! Bayok kidnapped your son and tried to kill your wife…he’s not expecting to be your favorite person right now,” Kaala considered wisely, “That can work in your favor. The only thing you have to worry about is convincing Bayok that you actually plan to keep your word about backing him in the Council.”

“Fine,” Max said, reaching for the door handle.

Kaala reached out and gripped his wrist tightly, preventing his exit. “No, Max, it’s not just fine,” she said firmly, “Bayok does not like betrayal. If he gets even an inkling that you don’t plan to keep your word to him he’ll throw you to the wolves…and not even I will be able to help you.” He remained coldly silent, his eyes hard and vacant and looking straight through her. Kaala shook him slightly. “Look, just because things aren’t working out with Liz it doesn’t give you a license for stupidity!”

“Don’t talk to me about Liz!” Max bit out sharply.

“Fine!” Kaala spat, “Don’t do something that’s gonna get us both killed!”

Max stared at her for a long moment and then nodded tersely, yanking his arm free from her grasp and alighting from the jeep. They had only just stepped onto the porch when Nesui opened the front door and gestured them inside. “Bayok is waiting for you in the study,” she told them emotionlessly, “I am sure you remember how to find it.”

It was a far cry from the enthusiastic and warm greeting she’d given him two years ago, Max observed, but then many things had changed since then. He know saw Nesui for what she was, just as he saw her lifemate. With Kaala at his side Max made his way towards Bayok’s study.

Upon entering, Max noted that nothing had drastically changed since the last time he had been there. The walls were the same, the furniture was the same, Bayok was the same, seated behind his desk as always like a king holding court. However, upon stepping into the room Max got a completely different sense, fear, apprehension, and loneliness. The emotions washed over him suddenly, strongly and he swayed against Kaala under their intensity. Max knew immediately the reason for his feelings. His son.

Bayok lifted his eyes, regarding them with a pleased gleam. “I had not expected you for some time, Maxwell,” he said, rising to his feet, “and of course, your decision to bring Kaala surprises me, but is not unwelcome.”

“Where’s my son?” Max demanded bluntly.

“I have told you that he is safe and he will remain so if I have your complete cooperation.”

“I want to see him,” Max persisted, “I can sense that he’s near. Do I have to tear up this house to find him?” He took a menacing step forward, only to have Kaala grab him to hold him back. The gesture didn’t go unnoticed by Bayok.

“Well, how ironic, my efforts to push you two together were not wasted after all,” Bayok gloated.

“Max and I are just friends,” Kaala snapped in disgust, “I’m here to make sure that you don’t jerk him around like you did me!”

“No matter,” Bayok said with a dismissive wave of his hand, directing his attention towards Max, “The Council will be more likely to approve you if they believe you’ve accepted Kaala as your bride.”

“Let me see my son,” Max commanded, “as a gesture of good faith.”

“You will get what you want when I get what I want,” Bayok stated coldly, “I will not hurt your child, Maxwell. He is much too precious to me.”

Max narrowed his eyes, a new realization dawning. “You were after him all along, weren’t you?” he accused, raising his hand and gathering forth his energy, “This has all been a setup from the beginning.”

“Are you planning to kill me, Maxwell?” Bayok inquired dryly, flicking a disinterested glance at Max’s glowing hand, “However, will you learn of your son’s whereabouts then?” Max lowered his hand, frustration coursing through his body. “We can help one another, Maxwell. You have something I want and I have something you want… Let us work together, shall we?”

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

When Bayok entered the secret compartment, Nesui was already there, having slipped inside via the second entrance. She glanced up from the child in her arms when slid through the opening. Nesui smoothly popped a bottle, containing an iridescent blue liquid, from the baby’s mouth. His eyes glowed slightly as the concoction made its way into his bloodstream. Nesui smiled at him faintly before turning her full attention to Bayok. “Can he be trusted?” she asked him brusquely, referring to Max.

“He is here for his son only,” Bayok told her as he stroked the newborn’s downy head. Even as tiny as he was the baby vibrated a power that was unimaginable. It radiated from his skin, bathing his flesh in a warm, silvery glow. Once he reached adulthood, his powers would be phenomenal. Only then would Bayok finally have the power to see his plans through to fruition. “Maxwell has his own agenda, Nesui, as do we. How is the child responding to the tonic?”

“We should see results within the day,” Nesui informed him, “But I fail to see why we must do this.”

“You wish for the prophecy to come about quickly, do you not?” Bayok demanded coldly.

“Yet, it is not for you to decide. I do not understand why we can not simply take the child before the Council,” Nesui argued in a whisper, “They seek the prophesied one as we speak…why not present them with the child? That would surely secure your position among them. We have an obligation to present him.”

“Damn obligation! It is not my intention to secure my position, Nesui,” Bayok gritted, “I want to rule…uncontested. The Council must request that I take power, I can not simply seize it for then I would bring all the other antarian colonies down on my head. As for the child, I will present him to the Council only when the I wish, not a moment before.”

He scooped the baby from her arms then and walked away, cooing soft words of Jenga as he did. He did not see the mutinous glare Nesui pinned to his back.

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

After their meeting with Bayok, Max and Kaala had gone out to unload the jeep of their bags. Together they carried their belongings back to the room that Max had shared with Liz when they first arrived almost two and a half years before. Once they were alone Max let forth a stream of foul curses. “I fucking hate him!” he ground out, punching the wall for emphasis.

Kaala realized that his frustration was due to more than just Bayok’s smugness. She laid a comforting hand against his shoulder and pressed her cheek against his back. “You’re letting him goad you, Max,” she whispered, “that’s just what he wants.”

“I just want my son,” Max sobbed out, his anger drained, replaced by despair, “What if I never see him again, despite all this…”

“We’ll get him back,” Kaala told him confidently, “It might take time, but we will.”

“What if Bayok hurts him?” Max cried, “I can feel him, Kay…I can feel his fear…his confusion… He needs me.”

“Then be strong for him. You were right about Bayok. Your son has something he wants…he won’t hurt him as long as that’s true.”

Max realized what she was trying to tell him. Giving into his grief would accomplish nothing at this point. He needed to focus on his son and nothing else. Max turned to face Kaala, wiping away the traces of his tears. “Where should we start?” he asked her.

“First things first,” Kaala said, walking over to her bag and rummaging through it for the small, portable cd player she’d brought with her. Once she found it, she plugged the cord into an outlet and turned on the radio. Picking up on her cue, Max went ahead and sealed the doorway and then went to join Kaala where she had curled up on the bed with a notebook and pencil.

“We have to find out where Bayok is hiding your son.” she wrote down and then passed the pad to Max. He scribbled his response and passed it back.

“Do you think he’s in the house?”

“I’m not sure…but he must be close if you can sense him.”

“We should look, when Bayok and Nesui are asleep.”

“No, it’s too soon. He’ll expect that. Right now he’s feeling you out. Play along until we know more.”

“I don’t want to wait forever.”

“We won’t. There’s only a few places Bayok could have taken the baby. We’ll ask around tomorrow…see if anyone’s heard anything about a baby being brought in.”

“Is that wise?”

“I know someone who may be able to help. She cares about the old Antarian ways more than she hates humans. It’s worth a shot.”
Max nodded, feeling a bit encouraged by the last message Kaala scrawled on the pad. He stared at it momentarily before dissolving the page with his powers. Kaala reached over and clicked off the radio. “We’ll go to the temple tomorrow after school…how’s that?”

“Good,” Max agreed.

Kaala stretched, the long, exhausting day catching up with her finally. “I think I’m gonna hit the hay,” she said with a yawn, “G’night, Max.”

“G’night,” Max said, rolling from the bed to grab up his sports bag. He headed for the bathroom.

Kaala, who had been in the process of pulling her shirt over her head, paused in her actions. “You’re not leaving?” she asked him in surprise.

“I don’t trust Bayok,” he told her over his shoulder, “I’m not going to leave you alone as long as we’re staying here.”

“So you’re going to sleep in here…with me?”

Noting the anxiety in her tone, Max slowly turned to face her, dropping his bag to the floor. “Do you have a problem with me staying here?” He thought it was ridiculous, especially with all the time they’d spent together over the years. Max had seen her in her pajamas and facial mask more than once. It was no big deal.

“No! I mean, yes! I mean, why would you want to?” Kaala stammered.

“I told you…I don’t want you to be alone.” Only a small part of Max would admit that he didn’t want to be alone either.

“But we will be sharing a room, Max,” Kaala emphasized slowly, as if she didn’t think he grasped the significance of that fact. “This room…the one you had with Liz.”

Max lowered his eyes, his jaw clenched. “I don’t want to talk about Liz,” Max replied just as slowly. He shrugged, clearly frustrated. “Kaala, it’s not a big deal. I’ll just crash on the floor. No problem.”

“Max, you can’t sleep on the floor,” Kaala protested.

Again Max shrugged. “Wouldn’t be the first time.”

“We can share it,” Kaala blurted.

“Share what?”

“The bed,” she clarified, “I don’t want you to have to sleep on the floor.”

Max folded his arms across his chest. “How do you go from freaking out because we’re sharing the room to casually offering to share the bed with me?”

Kaala offered him a chagrined smile. “I’m fickle?”

“You’re crazy.”

“I promise to behave and keep my hands to myself,” Kaala vowed.

“Kay, I can’t.”

“It’s not like I snore or anything. And I’ve seen you in your pajamas, too, you know,” Kaala added, turning his own mental argument back around on him.

“I can’t.”

She realized that he was perfectly serious. His dark eyes were darting nervously about the room, avoiding direct contact with her face. “Okay, okay,” Kaala relented, “I won’t twist your arm.”

“It’s just too intimate,” Max rushed to explain, “And I haven’t…I mean…Liz and I…I mean…”

“You don’t have to explain, Max,” Kaala said gently.

He expelled an audible sigh of relief. “I’m just gonna go get changed then,” he said before disappearing into the bathroom.

When he was gone Kaala flopped back against the bed, wondering just what kind of mess she’d gotten herself into this time.

posted on 3-Dec-2002 11:47:21 AM by Deejonaise
Chapter 38

“Have you seen him yet?”

Liz made a beeline for Max the moment she saw him in the hall at school. He had just barely shut his locker door when she blurted out her breathless question. Max took one look at her and his heart plunged into his stomach. God, he’d never be able to do this, never be able to look at her day after day, talk to her…and know that she didn’t want him. Max mentally shook himself. It didn’t matter! All that mattered was Connor and getting him back. He didn’t need to focus on anything beyond that goal.

Max stared down at Liz, shifting his books in his arms. “Bayok hasn’t taken me to see him yet. He’s still trying to decide whether he can trust me or not,” he told her, “But I think the baby’s safe. I sensed him last night and, though he’s frightened and lonely, he’s strong, Liz…he’s not hurt, not physically anyway.”

Liz slumped back against the lockers. “Oh, thank you, God!” she sighed.

As Max looked at her relieved face he felt the need to touch her skin, to press his fingers against her trembling lower lip. He wanted to ask her if she was feeling better. Though she seemed fine she was still very pale and she had dark circles of fatigue underneath her eyes. He hadn’t seen her look so terrible since that day they had come back from Colorado and he had broken up with her. He didn’t imagine she’d slept any better than he had last night. However, he didn’t touch her and he didn’t ask her how she was doing. Instead, he slung his backpack more securely onto his shoulder and said, “I’ll keep you posted.”

“Max, wait up!” Liz implored, grabbing hold of his arm. When he still seemed as if he might leave she tacked on a pleading, “Please.”

He stayed, but shook free of her touch. “I’m gonna be late for class.”

“I thought maybe we could talk a minute.”

Max shrugged and rolled his eyes disinterestedly. “So talk.”

Liz growled in aggravation. “Why are you being like this? Our son has been taken, can’t we at least put our differences aside to work together to get him back? This isn’t just about us, Max!”

“Oh, that’s rich coming from you!” Max retorted sarcastically.

Dropping her head forward, Liz muttered under her breath, “This bickering isn’t getting us anywhere.”

“You’re right,” Max agreed shortly, “It’s not. G’bye.” He walked away then and Liz had no choice but to stare after him. Suppressing the urge to kick his locker in sheer frustration, Liz hunched her shoulders in defeat and turned down the opposite end of the hallway to head for her class. She had only taken two steps before Rahsha was trotting alongside her, having witnessed the entire unfolding drama with Max.

“So I saw you talking to Max,” Rahsha remarked as she fell into step with Liz.

“Wow, you’re sure sharp first thing in the morning, aren’t you?” Liz mocked.

Ignoring her friend’s sarcasm, Rahsha pressed on, “I’m guessing it didn’t go too well.”

“You’re two for two,” Liz bit out, promptly feeling like a bitch right after. She sighed. “I’m sorry. It hasn’t been a good morning.” It hadn’t. She had woken up to Max’s scent, but when she rolled over to snuggle against his body she found his side of the bed cold and empty.

“Wanna share?” Rahsha invited compassionately.

“This morning was the first time in, like, forever that I woke up and Max wasn’t there.”

“You’re the one that told him to go, Liz,” Rahsha reminded her gently.

“I know that!” Liz exclaimed, a little exasperated, “And I did the right thing…at least I think I did.” Liz pounded her temples lightly with her fists. “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, Rahsh.”

Rahsha favored her with a thoughtful frown. “Fucking up, I’d say.”

Liz jerked around to face her friend in surprise. “You really think I am?”

“Liz…Max loves you. You’re his whole world,” Rahsha told him, “Everyone can see how devastated he is over all this…everyone but you.”

Liz dropped her eyes guiltily. “I can see it, Rahsha,” she whispered, “It’s tearing me up, too.”

“Then why are you doing this,” Rahsha demanded, “Why do you persist in punishing him, not to mention yourself?”

“I’m not punishing him,” Liz insisted miserably as they stopped walking, having reached Liz’s first period class, “I’m trying to be happy.”

“Yeah, you look real happy right now, Liz,” Rahsha quipped acerbically, “Positively ecstatic.” She turned and began backing away from Liz down the hall. “Look I’m gonna be late for History,” she said, “We’ll talk more at lunch.”

Great! More lecturing, Liz thought acerbically, nodding rather unenthusiastically at the prospect.

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

“Who’d you say this lady was again?” Max asked Kaala for the fourth time in the space of ten minutes. After school, they had beat a hasty exit, barely saying good-bye to the others in order to make it back to the Colony as soon as possible. At present, they stood on the rickety porch of someone Kaala referred to as an old acquaintance.

For the moment Kaala ignored him, studying the celebratory wreath that hung on the door before them. It had been made from plants native to Antar and was only displayed during times of great commemoration. Kaala wondered what had prompted it. Lifting her hand to gingerly finger the thorny branches she answered Max’s question. “Her name is Guerema,” Kaala told him absently, “If anyone knows about a baby being brought into the Colony it will be her.”

Max graced her with a skeptical sideways glance. “I don’t know…” Max said doubtfully, “Your track record as a good judge of character leaves a lot to be desired.”

Kaala favored him with a bland look. “So does yours.”

She had a point there. Max nodded, effectively silenced. Kaala began her third round of knocking. “Are you sure she’s home?”

“She’s very old, Max…give her time.”

“Who is she?”

“Kaas’ mother,” Kaala answered reluctantly.

“What!” Max exploded, “Kaas as in your protector…that Kaas? The one who beat you…that Kaas? The one who hates us…that Kaas?”

Kaala tried not to flinch as he barked his incredulous questions. “Yeah, that’d be the one.”

“Oh, I’m so outta here.” But as he turned to walk away the door finally creaked open wide enough for them to see one rheumy eye staring back at them.

“Guerema, bin su daash ni?” Kaala greeted the woman in flawless Jenga, “Su te nin Kaala, ute stan kepa. Ute stan kepa.”

Max frantically worked his brain to translate what Kaala had just said. He got as far as Guerema, how have you been? before he was completely lost. Perhaps he should have paid closer attention to Bayok’s lessons instead of daydreaming about Liz all those mornings. He devoutly hoped the woman knew English because, if not, this conversation was going to take awhile.

The door cracked a bit wider. “Kaas, conte pes bon doa esh,” the old woman told Kaala and though Max couldn’t understand what she was saying he could tell her manner was haughty, slightly angry, “Ote kash bin doa esh.”

She started to close the door in their faces but Kaala caught it with her foot. “Cotesh bei esh di?” Kaala said, gesturing to the wreath on the woman’s door. The wreath, Max thought blankly, what the hell did that have to do with finding his son?

The woman continued to glare at Kaala with mistrustful eyes before answering slowly, “Jonjai quon do-shesh. Co-ba aik quish.” With that she firmly slammed the door.

Max looked down at Kaala dubiously. “What the hell did she say?” Max whispered furiously, “I thought you said she’d help us.”

“She said Kaas told her I’d been banished,” Kaala explained, “She won’t speak to me again until the Council reestablishes me and I endure a cleansing rite.”

“She said all that?” Max questioned as they headed down the porch steps for the jeep.

“Actually she said, ‘Those who are banished are dead to the Colony’,” Kaala clarified as she slid into the passenger’s chair, “but essentially that’s what she was saying.”

“You don’t seem bothered by her reaction to you,” Max observed astutely, “or very surprised either.”

“Guerema respects the old ways,” Kaala told him, “Once I’ve been cleansed she’ll accept me like a granddaughter, but until then I’m persona non grata.”

“Seems a little harsh,” Max commented as he cranked the ignition and pulled the jeep out onto the street. “What’s a cleansing rite anyway?” he asked after a few minutes.

“It’s the formal way the elders welcome you back into the Colony,” Kaala explained.

However, something in her tone made Max tremble with apprehension. “Exactly how do they do that?”

“Usually by erasing every memory you have of the human world so that you might better appreciate your antarian heritage.” At Max’s horrified expression Kaala was quick to reassure him, “Don’t worry it won’t go that far with me. I expect we will have Connor back long before it comes to that. Bayok won’t be able to hide his existence for long, no matter how skilled he is at blocking the Collective.”

“What about me?” Max wondered aloud uneasily, “Bayok said I had to make myself acceptable among the Colony…is that what they have planned for me?”

“Most likely,” Kaala replied honestly. He groaned audibly. “I told you it won’t go that far,” Kaala told him again with absolute conviction. She was still unable to shake the feeling that something major had happened within the Colony though she had no idea what it could be. Though she had asked Guerema about the wreath the response she’d received was laconic and vague at best. She still knew no more than she had when they began that afternoon. And it was unlikely, given her current status, that anyone would tell her either. Still, Kaala felt unexplainably optimistic. “I just feel like things will work in our favor.”

“Is it something you’re picking up from the Collective?” Max asked anxiously.

“No, it’s not that. Once you’re banished you’re effectively shut out of the loop,” Kaala replied, “This is just pure instinct on my part.”

“I’m sorry, but I’m going to need more to go on than just your gut, Kay. It only seems to get you in trouble.”

“Okay, fine,” Kaala conceded, “Did you happen to notice that wreath on Guerema’s door?”

“Yeah, so…I’ve seen them on a lot of the doors,” Max said, but as they drove along the street he began noticing something peculiar and amended his statement. Max frowned in puzzlement. “…Make that all of the doors. They’re everywhere.”

“Exactly.”

“What do they mean?”

“Let’s go to the temple and find out,” she suggested suddenly.

They stopped by Bayok’s first to drop off the jeep and then headed for the temple on foot. In their unclean states, Kaala explained along the way, it was forbidden for them to enter the temple, to even lay a foot against its holy grounds. If their presence were discovered then they would be severely punished. But Max’s drive to find his was greater than his fear and he followed Kaala to the temple without a second thought.

It took them nearly an half an hour to reach the temple on foot. Once there Max and Kaala ducked behind a bit of shrubbery for cover. “What are we going to do?” Max asked in a furious whisper.

“I’m gonna see if I can tap into Bayok’s thoughts,” Kaala told him, “He’s inside…I can feel him.”

“I thought that wasn’t possible,” Max said.

“It’s not possible for me to access the Collective thoughts of the people, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t access Bayok’s.” Max looked at her for clarification. “Bayok and I once shared a connection. It may be weak now, but I’m sure it’s still there.”

“And?” Max prompted impatiently, “You couldn’t read his thoughts before what makes you think you can do it now and with a weakened connection at that?”

“Because he’s very likely in meditation right now.”

“And this helps us how?”

Kaala rolled her eyes in response to his sarcasm, suppressing the very real desire to throttle him. “When an Antarian is deep in meditative prayer, they can’t block, they can’t use their powers. They are suspended, almost comatose. I could pick his brain all I wanted and he wouldn’t be able to do a damned thing about it.”

“You’ve done this before?” Max guessed, noting her bitter tone.

“Actually no,” Kaala admitted in a sad, far off voice, “I was in love with him once, you know. I had too much respect for him to do something so underhanded.” She shrugged then. “But now I hate his guts so it doesn’t matter anymore.”

Max shivered. “Remind me never to get on your bad side.”

“Shut up and let me concentrate,” Kaala ordered with a smile. She closed her eyes then, blanking out her mind and reaching out to Bayok and the thready connection they shared. At first Kaala was greeted only by darkness. Perhaps too much time had passed after all, because though she could still sense Bayok she couldn’t get a read on his thoughts at all. She was close to giving up when she was suddenly jolted outside her body, no longer crouching in the dirt with Max, but within the temple walls floating through the inner walls as if in a dream. She could see Bayok leading the sacred prayer as the tribunal elders circled him, their minds transfixed in meditation. Kaala slowly surveyed the room, looking for some sign of the baby. He wasn’t present with the elders, but she could hear his faint cry all the same.

Kaala drifted from the prayer room and floated down the hall to the small offering room that was only to be accessed by the most sacred of elders. She pushed through the curtain covering the entrance without a second thought. There, in the very center of the room encased in a green bubble of light, was a baby. He floated in mid-air, like some miniature angel, swathed in a gleaming white robe, his small body bathed in silver shimmery light. If she had to guess his age she would have put him at a year old. Kaala shook her head slightly. This couldn’t be Max’s baby. Connor Evans was only three days old. But then the child suddenly turned his small head towards her, his silver ringed eyes speaking to her, reading her thoughts. And in that instant, she knew exactly who he was.

I am waiting.

She snapped out of the trance with a start, her body trembling and sweating profusely. Max held her fast in his arms, his expression both concerned and eager. “What did you see?” he asked her breathlessly.

“I think I saw your son.”

posted on 3-Dec-2002 11:56:07 AM by Deejonaise
Chapter 39

“My bones ache,” Max commented, flexing his shoulders a bit after his push-ups, “It feels weird.” He bent down to touch his toes several times, but it did nothing to alleviate his body’s stiffness.

Kaala flicked a brief glance at him before returning her attention to the newspaper in her lap. “That’s not surprising since you just did, like, 4000 push-ups.”

“100,” Max corrected with a wry smile, “And that’s not why I’m hurting. This isn’t a muscle ache…it’s actually my bones. Listen…I think I can hear them creaking.” Kaala’s expression remained blandly uninterested. He sat down beside her on the bed with a painful groan. “Maybe I overdid it.”

“Maybe.”

They made mundane conversation to cover up the thoughts that were really going on in their heads. They were taking back Max’s son tomorrow. All the arrangements had already been made. Kaelen was organizing it so that they could all graduate in absentia. Rahsha and Liz were overseeing the last of the packing. And Max had officially gone to Bayok and requested his desire to be reinstated into Antarian Society. Though Bayok had been surprised by Max’s request he had not gladly complied, never suspecting that Max and Kaala had an entirely different agenda.

After her vision the day before Kaala couldn’t convince Max to wait any longer. Now that he knew where his son was being held no force on earth was going to keep Max from him. It had taken all Kaala had just to hold him back from barging into the temple to take his son right then. And that would have been an unwise choice, too, because only moments after Kaala broke her connection with Bayok the meditation session ended. She and Max barely had time to scramble out of there without being seen. In the end, it was for the best. They needed to come up with a careful plan if they were going to take Conner and get away with it.

Max’s reinstatement ceremony would be the perfect opportunity. He would have access to the temple and ample opportunity to sneak away to his son. Not to mention the fact that part of the ceremony required that he enter the Collective Mind via telepathic trance and prayer. The elders would be left vulnerable, just as they had been the previous afternoon. All Max would need to do was slip away at that moment, follow the directions Kaala gave him to find Connor and then get the hell out of there. It would take ten minutes, tops, no longer. He and Kaala ran the drill several times before they felt completely comfortable.

Kaala could tell that Max was excited. He’d barely been able to sit still the entire day. In the two hours that they been home from school she’d watched him do chin-ups, sit-ups, and finally push-ups in order to work off his nervous energy. They managed to stay out of Bayok’s sight most of the day as well, not wanting to give him even the slightest inkling of what they planned.

Like Max, Kaala was nervous and excited as well, but for a slightly different reason. She was still somewhat bothered by the vision she’d had. Kaala still hadn’t mentioned to Max that the baby in her dreamwalk had been at least a year old. Kaala wasn’t sure if it meant anything anyway. It probably didn’t and was just some weird glitch she had picked up from Bayok’s brain.

“Let’s do something tonight!” Max exclaimed suddenly, jiggling his knee with barely repressed energy. He was so very close to getting back his son that not even the discouraging conversation he’d had with Liz earlier that morning could get him down. Liz had been excited over the prospect of getting the baby back, but when Max had broached the subject of their relationship she had shut him down completely. Under different circumstances Max might have been crushed by her rejection, but he was so elated over the prospect of reclaiming his son that it was impossible to wallow in his self-pity. He’d win Liz back, he promised himself, there was no way he was ever going to let her go.

Kaala appraised him with an interested glance. Max never wanted to do anything. He was always the one who hung back in the shadows while the rest of the group had a good time. He had to be in an awesome mood to suggest they go out. “What did you have in mind?”

“We could go see a movie,” he suggested, nodding towards the paper, “What’s playing?”

In that moment, Kaala caught herself entranced by his boyish smile. She really had to admire him. The last few days he had faced more heartache than any one person ever should and yet he had managed to come through it all still smiling. Even though Kaala knew that his heart must have been breaking over Liz’s rejection somehow Max managed to go on in spite of it. Looking at him now, seeing the way his eyes sparkled and danced, the sweet candid innocence on his handsome face, Kaala figured that Liz Parker-Evans must be the biggest fool on the face of the planet to turn away from such a wonderful man.

Realizing that she was dangerously close to having romantic feelings about Max Evans, her best pal and a married one at that, Kaala shook herself slightly and glanced down at the paper. “Okay, there’s Spiderman, Attack of the Clones, The Sum of All Fears, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” Kaala read, “I vote Attack of the Clones.”

“What a shock!” Max exclaimed mockingly, flexing his arms experimentally and grimacing as he did so, “I mean when every other sentence out of your mouth lately ends with Hayden Christensen, so I had a pretty good idea. But I did think for a minute you might go with the chick flick.”

“I’m not in to chick flicks. You know that,” Kaala told him. It was true. Whenever they went to the movies Kaala always seemed to gravitate towards the action films, the cute male stars just happened to be the perks. Max always said that hanging out with her was like hanging with one of the guys. Before it had always pleased Kaala that he felt that way about her, but now she found herself uneasy with the idea.

She stared at him now, noticing how he grunted softly with each movement he made. “Are you sure you’re up to going out?” she asked in concern, “You look like hell.” He did. Not only did he appear to be in pain, but also his skin was somewhat flushed and pasty in appearance.

Max shook his head firmly. “I’m fine,” he replied, “Just a little stiff. Maybe a hot shower will help.”

“If you’re gonna shower you’d better make it fast. Attack of the Clones starts in another hour in a half.” Kaala folded the paper and started to roll from the bed.

“Who said we were going to see Star Wars?”

Kaala was aghast by the question. “How could we not? It’s like a cult classic, not to mention it’s about aliens…I mean, we’re almost obligated to go.”

“I’d rather see Spiderman or The Sum of All Fears. I hear Morgan Freeman was really good in that,” Max argued, “The last thing I want to see is a movie about intergalactic battles. Don’t we deal with that enough in real life?”

Kaala rolled her eyes heavenward. “Rock, paper, scissors,” she declared, calling the traditional way that she and Max settled disputes between themselves. “1…2…3!” Kaala chose rock and, of course, Max chose paper. “No fair! You were mind reading!”

“Was not,” Max retorted, easing from the bed, “Don’t be a sore loser! We’re going to see Spiderman so get over it.” As he trotted off to the bathroom Kaala tossed her pillow at him, smacking him in the back of the head.

They left thirty minutes later with minimal opposition. Bayok hardly gave them a hard time at all, probably because he thought he was getting his way and feeling rather pleased with himself. It really didn’t matter why Bayok was being so unusually tolerant, Max and Kaala were just happy to escape the oppressive atmosphere of his house for one evening. In that respect, their evening started off rather well and they spent a little time before the movie strategizing their plan for the next day. However, by the time the movie was over Max was having a great deal of discomfort.

“I knew we should have stayed at home,” Kaala murmured in a mothering tone as she assisted a hobbling Max over to the nearest bench. She helped him to ease down onto the cool concrete scolding him all the way. “You’re just so damned stubborn! Look at you! You can barely walk!”

“I’m fine, Mom!” Max said wearily, “I just needed to sit for a moment.” But he didn’t look fine. In fact, he was even paler than he had been before and now he was perspiring as well, his dark hair sticking against his damp forehead. His eyes were slightly glassy.

“You look like hell,” Kaala replied bluntly.

“Haven’t you told me that once tonight,” Max teased with an ironic smile.

“Well, it warrants repeating,” Kaala grumbled, though her expression was anxious with concern.

“Don’t cluck,” Max brazened as he lifted his arm to swipe at his sweating brow. “I’m just hot, okay. It’s like a sauna out here.”

Though it was quite warm for the beginning of May the humidity was far from being sauna-like. “Not exactly,” Kaala disagreed, pressing the back of her hand against his forehead, “You might have a fever. You do feel kinda warm.”

“No way,” Max denied, shaking his head, but shuddering with the chill that passed through his body, “I never get sick.”

“Well, you’re sick now.” She started to hook her hands beneath his arms and pull him to his feet. “Come on, we’re going back to Bayok’s.”

That was the last place wanted to be. Max strained against her hold even though it caused him some pain. When she finally let go he patted her hand and pulled her down beside him insistently. “Let’s just sit here a while,” he implored, “I just need some fresh air. I’ll be fine in a minute.”

But even as Max said the reassurance he didn’t feel very confident about it. He couldn’t quite describe what was happening to him. He didn’t feel pain so much as he ached, ached to walk, ached to stand, even ached to sit. And it wasn’t in his muscles. He’d had muscle aches before and this was nothing like that. Instead the stretching felt deeper, imbedded in his bones. It was as if he could feel them extending, lengthening…

It didn’t make sense, Max thought; he was making a bigger deal out of it than need be. He had exercised and now he was sore. That was the extent of it. There was nothing whatsoever for him to freak out over. Yet, he couldn’t stop himself from wondering if Bayok had something to do with how he felt. Had Bayok slipped something into his food, his drink when Max wasn’t looking or was he playing a different game?

No, that wasn’t possible. Max had watched Bayok closely in the past two days. He wouldn’t have had opportunity to do anything, not without Max seeing it. Max was absolutely sure that whatever was the matter with him Bayok was definitely not responsible. But still he felt terrible and he didn’t have an explanation why. He didn’t like to think that something might be seriously wrong, especially with the important task he had before him. Nothing could stand in the way of Max taking back his son. He couldn’t afford to be sick. Not when he was so very close…

And that was the crux of what was really bothering him. Tomorrow he would reclaim his son. There could be no hesitations, no surprises and no failure. Max had no margin for error. Not only was his son’s life at stake, but the future of Max’s marriage as well.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow. It would be the beginning of so many possibilities. Maybe once Connor was back in Liz’s arms, maybe once she was finally reassured that her baby boy was safe perhaps then she would stop pushing Max away. Maybe then she’d open her heart to him again. The anxiety and hope he felt was causing more havoc to his system than his throbbing bones ever could.

Max dragged his hand down the length of his face, lost in his thoughts. He slumped against the wooden back of the bench and then wishing he hadn’t. He groaned again.

“Max, I think we should go back,” Kaala implored him softly, “You need to lie down and rest.”

“I can’t,” Max said with a tired sigh, “I can’t go back to that place and spend one more minute. I’ll go insane…I swear it. It’s taking all my willpower not to wipe that smug look of satisfaction off Bayok’s face.”

“That’s just what he wants,” Kaala warned, “I told you…he wants to make you lose control. He wants you to give him a reason to turn you over to the Council. Don’t play into his hands, Max.”

“I don’t care about that.”

“Yes, you do.” Kaala folded his hand in hers and gave it a light squeeze, careful not to hurt him. “Tomorrow this will all be over,” she told him firmly, “Tomorrow you’ll have your son again and these last few days will just seem like a bad dream.”

Max clung to those words of promise in desperation and prayed fervently that Kaala was right.

posted on 3-Dec-2002 12:11:37 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 40

Max emerged from the bathroom, nervously smoothing his palms down the flowing length of his ceremonial Antarian robe. He felt self-conscious in the free flowing linen, every inch the alien he was. Nervously clearing his throat he asked Kaala in a rush of breath, “How do I look?”

Kaala glanced up from her notebook and surveyed Max with a casual once over, letting her eyes roam from the top of his shining head to the tips of his sandaled feet. In anticipation for his reinstatement ceremony Max had used his powers alter his looks more to the Council’s liking. He had grown out his thick, brown hair so that the curling strands just brushed the tops of his shoulders. His chin and cheeks were also stubbled with the beginnings of the customary beard worn by the elders of the Council. The ceremonial robe he wore was a gleaming, pristine white and belted around the waist with a thick cord of braided gold fibers. He looked absolutely breathtaking.

His appearance hit Kaala like a plowing punch to the mid-section, not because he looked handsome, she had always known that, but for the first time, just looking at him was deeply affecting her. They had been friends for two years now. For most of it, they had shared a sibling like relationship. Kaala had thought of Max much the way she thought of Kaelen. However, in the last few days, watching Max struggle past his own personal pain, seeing how protective he was of her in Bayok’s house Kaala found her feelings for him were changing, deepening.

Fearful of betraying her emotions, Kaala quickly lowered her eyes and answered after a thoughtful silence, “You look every inch an Antarian Council member…or at least someone they would definitely approve.”

Max ran a shaky hand through his hair and forced an ironic laugh. “Thanks…I think.” He didn’t know whether he should take Kaala’s comment as a compliment or an insult.

When he and Kaala had returned from the movies the night before Bayok had presented him with his ceremonial robes as well as a list of things that the Council would expect from him. Max had barely been able to sleep. In a matter of hours he would have his son back and Bayok would be humiliated.

“You do want to fool them, right?” Kaala remarked, hopping from her bed to increase the volume on her stereo. She did it so casually that neither Bayok nor Nesui had an inkling that her real motive was to hide the content of her conversation with Max. “The way you look right now, you could fool me,” she said, thumbing through her collection of cds. And then she turned to face him fully, her green eyes clouded with sadness and another emotion that was harder to discern. “You look beautiful, Max,” she whispered reverently.

Max fidgeted and pretended not to notice how Kaala was staring at him with her heart visible in her eyes. Obviously the awkwardness from last night continued to linger. Nothing had happened, but then everything had happened. Everything had changed.

During Max’s brief meeting with Bayok he had been careful not to betray any of the discomfort he felt. But by the time he had gone back to his room his entire body was screaming. Kaala refused to let him sleep on the floor. Max refused to let her sleep on the floor either and, somehow, they ended up sharing the bed together.

It had begun innocently enough, with Kaala leaning up over him, stroking his hair away from his face tenderly while teasing him gently to take his mind off the pain. And then, without warning, she had lowered her head and kissed him gently. The touch of her mouth was fleeting and when she pulled away their eyes locked in a profound stare. Never breaking eye contact, Kaala dipped her head to kiss him once more, this time deliberately. Max turned his head away at the last moment.

“I-I’m sorry,” Kaala murmured as she rolled away from him, mortified.

“I can’t, Kay…you know I can’t,” Max choked, feeling tears start in his eyes though he didn’t understand why, “I don’t know what to say…I don’t…”

“It was stupid,” Kaala cut him off.

Their eyes met once more in a telling stare. “It wasn’t,” Max had whispered, fingering his tingling lips, “But I’m in love with Liz. I can’t think about kissing another woman when my heart still belongs to her.”

“But it’s over between you,” Kaala protested softly, “You said she wanted a divorce.”

Max scoffed a laugh that was both bittersweet and determined. “It will never be over between us.”

Afterwards, Kaala had taken a blanket and a pillow and made a pallet on the floor despite Max’s protests. That morning when they’d awakened she had seemed like her usual self, her sarcastic tongue as sharp as ever, but her eyes remained shadowed, saddened whenever she looked at him. Max felt guilty to be causing her pain, however unintentional it was.

Presently, he tried to laugh off her comment as a joke. “Not exactly the reaction I was looking for but I guess it’s better than the alternative.” He ducked in front of the mirror, studying his reflection and smoothing out his hair.

Kaala had not pushed for anything beyond his friendship since that first time she’d tried to kiss him over two years ago, that was, until last night. Max suspected the kiss had shocked Kaala nearly as much as it shocked him. Until that kiss Max had believed that Kaala thought of him as nothing but a brother, however, now Max was beginning to suspect that she wanted something more. Max hated to think that in helping him she’d begun harboring some secret hope that they might be together. Though the last thing he wanted was to hurt her, especially after her heartbreak over Bayok, a relationship with her absolutely would not happen. Despite the fact it looked as if his relationship with Liz was over Max was a long way from giving up. He would never stop fighting for Liz, not when he knew in his bones they belonged together.

When the soft, lilting sounds of Sarah McLaughlin began filling the room Max turned to face Kaala, who had resumed her spot on the bed. “Kay-Kay,” he sighed softly, using the childhood name that Kaelen had often called her, “you know you don’t have to do this. It’s not too late to bail. I can carry out the rest of the plan without your being involved.”

Kaala’s gaze was unwavering when she told him, “I’m not bailing. We’re getting your son back today…together. I’m in this for the long haul, Max.”

Still, Max protested, “But you know that we can’t be anything more than friends, right? I mean…you know that’s all I can give you?”

“I know that,” Kaala answered, averting her gaze so he wouldn’t see what tremendous pain his words caused her, “I don’t expect anything more from you, Max. Your friendship is more than enough.”

It had to be enough, Kaala told herself forcefully. But God, she was glad their brief living arrangement was coming to an end because being so near him was like agony. Kaala had finally admitted the truth to herself last night. She was so in love with Max Evans it hurt to breathe. How could a woman not fall in love with a man who loved so wholeheartedly, so devotedly? It was only too bad that she wasn’t the one he loved. And what made the knowledge ten times worse was that the woman he did love no longer loved him.

Not wanting to dwell on painful facts she couldn’t change, Kaala deftly changed the subject. “So how are you feeling this morning? Still stiff?”

Max rotated his shoulders a bit. “It’s manageable,” he conceded, “I can deal.”

“Then go and reclaim your son,” Kaala said, stepping forward to give him a light, sisterly hug. It was awkward and brief. “Remember what I told you. Don’t let yourself be sucked into the meditative trance or it’s all over…in more ways than one.”

“I know, I know…keep my mind focused elsewhere, but never on the elder’s words.”

“Good. And what else?” Kaala prompted.

“I’m to send you the telepathic signal the moment they’re in the trance,” Max supplied.

“Good, so while you’re making your way to Connor, I’ll be moving the jeep from our hiding place.” She smiled at him then. “Good luck.”

When Max and Kaala entered the living room some time later Bayok was waiting for him there. He appraised Max’s ceremonial attire approvingly. “The Council will be pleased,” he commented finally.

“Isn’t that the point?” Max bit out, “For them to be so pleased with me that they’ll fall all over themselves to do my bidding when I suggest you become sole ruler of the Colony?”

“Something to that effect,” Bayok replied vaguely.

“And where does my son fit into all this?” But Max already knew that Bayok hadn’t any intention of returning his son to him. Instinctively, he knew that Bayok had taken the baby deliberately and not only for leverage. Both Max and Kaala had heard the circulating rumors. Connor was believed to be the prophesied child long spoken about in Antarian myths. Kaala had explained a bit of the legend to him. The child would be born of a mother who was not human or antarian and would possess more power and intellect than any human or antarian before him. The Council seemed to believe that Connor was that child.

Max, however, suspected it all to be just clever nonsense designed by Bayok to manipulate the Council further. He would use Connor to further his goals, just as he was using Max now. Max was determined to remedy that fact quite soon. “When do I see my son?” he asked Bayok again.

“When I am assured that you have every intention of fulfilling your agreement to me then I shall return your son to you,” Bayok returned mildly. Max only nodded, knowing him for a liar. Satisfied, Bayok continued, “Kaala can not accompany you to the temple. In fact, following the ceremony, she will be placed back into her protector’s care until her own ceremony. Until that time you will not see her…so please, that the opportunity for your good-byes now.”

Max turned to Kaala with a nervous smile. “I’ll see you on the other side,” he told her, his quip possessing a double meaning only he and Kaala understood. After leveling Kaala with a penetrating, emphatic stare Max left with Bayok.

During the ride to the temple, Max anxiously rubbed his sweating palms against the linen material of his robe. However, he was careful to reveal only the superficial reasons for his nervousness without betraying his true motives. Bayok didn’t attempt conversation or even make a pretense of putting him at ease, but Max didn’t care. Very shortly none of this would even matter anymore.

Once they arrived at the temple Max followed Bayok inside, his eyes scanning the different rooms and hallways as he wondered exactly which one would take him to his son. And then he let his mind blank out. Now, more than ever, it was extremely important for him to keep his thoughts guarded.

Bayok led him deep within the temple until they came to a room that was completely overlaid in polished, white marble. The room was cold, lifeless and reminded Max thoroughly of the cell DeVoe had locked him in. Max suppressed a shudder at the thought. As Max stepped inside more fully he realized that the twelve Council elders were all situated on the floor in a circle. When he and Bayok entered all twelve pairs of eyes trained on them both. Bayok turned to address Max. “Today you will be reborn, Maxwell,” he stated formally, “When you emerge you will have a new name, a new life and a new purpose. Utsta beque toosh cai,” Bayok finished grandly and then he translated, “The Great Being bless you.”

He clasped his hands together then and lowered his head. “We will begin,” Bayok commanded, “Maxwell, take your place in the center of the circle.” Max did as requested. He mimicked the elders, folding his legs just as their legs were folded. No sooner had he seated himself than Bayok began chanting in his native tongue, his every syllable repeated by the Council members.

They moved forward, laying their hands against Max, his head, his shoulders, his back, his arms and legs. It didn’t matter. The moment they touched him Max felt disembodied, as if he were floating above himself. He could see them hovering above him, chanting frenetically as the flash images of his life bombarded their senses. The night the Evans’ found him on the road, the first time he ever saw Liz, the loss of his dignity in the white room, the blessed birth of his son…on and on until one image blended into the next.

Max held on, desperately trying to control what the elders did and did not see of his life. But it was as if they were looking into the most intimate depths of his soul and he was having difficulty stopping them. From above, he watched as his eyes rolled to the back of his head and his body began to twitch under the effort of resisting the trance.

Max forced himself to calm down, switching his thoughts to a subject he knew wouldn’t betray him. His son. The Council members seemed pleased with the image he was sending them, as well as the sudden relaxing of his body. Their hands fell away from him, their chanting melding together in one voice, joining Bayok’s in strength.

Max could feel the pull as it began. Alien symbols, remnants of his home world, began to fly at him in the darkness that was threatening to overtake his senses. They were beckoning him, seducing him to become one, to give in. His body became boneless, weightless and Max felt himself floating, floating away… He forced himself to remember the day of his son’s birth, looking down into Connor’s exquisite eyes and knowing that he had done something absolutely perfect in his life.

He remembered how strongly Connor had gripped his finger, how intently the newborn had watched him. He had known Max even then. The connection between them was something that defied words. Max had to stay conscious for that. He couldn’t allow that connection to be broken.

And then Max was abruptly back inside his body again. The experience jarred him violently, paining his aching bones all the more. Max gradually came to realize that the meditation room had gone silent. He looked around slowly, noting that all the elders had slipped off into the trance, their eyes blacked over. Painfully, but quickly Max pushed himself to his feet.

Bayok sat near the head of the circle, completely lost in the trance. Max froze. He could kill Bayok now, just take a heavy object and bash his skull in. He wanted to. The desire was strong within Max, sweet and heady, even making him a trifle dizzy. He took several menacing steps toward Bayok before he was able to stop himself. No, he told himself, then he would be no better than the monster before him. To kill Bayok in self-defense would have been one thing, but to take his life now when he was helpless and unsuspecting…Max couldn’t do it. Max was certain that Bayok would die one day, but not right then and not by his hands. Clenching his fists at his sides, Max forced himself to hurry from the room. Kaala, come now! Hurry!

Max rushed down the narrow hallway, following the directions Kaala had made him memorize earlier. A few moments later he came upon the wood paneled oval shaped entrance shielded with the wispy black curtain that she had described to him. Max pushed through the material without hesitation and the moment he did his breath caught.

There in the center of the room, emanating an otherworldly green light was something like a sphere, glowing, pulsating. Suspended within that sphere in mid air was a child, no more than two years of age. Max darted frantically through the room, hardly paying attention to the strange child in his anxiousness to find his son. Could Kaala have given him the wrong directions? Had he taken a wrong turn somewhere? He started to run from the room and head down the hall in the opposite direction, but something stopped him, someone calling his name…

When he turned back the two year old in the green bubble was hovering upright, his entire body bathed in a silvery sheen of light. But that wasn’t what froze Max in his tracks. It was the child’s eyes. A warm, clear amber, ringed with incandescent silver.

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

Kaala’s hands were sweating. She gripped the steering wheel tighter trying to stamp down the knot of anxiety that rose in her chest. Another countless time she found herself glancing into the rearview mirror, willing him to emerge. What is taking so long, she thought restlessly. Kaala flicked up her wrist to glance at her watch. Ten minutes, already. Dammit! It shouldn’t be taking so long. The directions she’d given him had been clear and easy. He should have been out of there by now.

Heaving a nervous sigh Kaala pushed her long, dark hair back from her face in a reflexive action. She had to find a way to calm down. There were still those who could pick up on her emotions, even with the elders entranced. Desperate to control her emotions, Kaala reached forward and turned up the volume on the radio. Hopefully, her attempt at a mental block was successful.

And they say that a hero can save us…
I’m not gonna stand here and wait
I’ll hold on to the wings of the eagles…
watch as they all fly away


She sang the words over and over like a prayer, her breath coming in shallow pants as she did. She was beginning to perspire all over. They hadn’t discussed it taking so long. What if something had gone wrong, she wondered. What if he needed her? She couldn’t chance a mental connection for fear they might be intercepted. She clenched the steering wheel even tighter. Come on, Max, she prayed silently, come on, come on.

Now that the world isn’t ending
It’s love that I’m sending to you
It isn’t the love of hero
And that’s why I fear it won’t do


And just when Kaala thought she would be unable to remain in the jeep waiting one more second Max came running from the temple, his arms full of a small, blanket covered bundle. The moment he fell into the back seat she rounded on him anxiously, her eyes straining to see the precious cargo the blanket covered. “Is that him? Is that him?” she burst out frantically. She couldn’t help but notice how large the bundle seemed for a child no more than four days old.

He nodded quickly, half covering the baby with his body. “Come on, they’re right behind me! We have to go now!” he ordered, glancing back at the entrance of the temple to see the counsel emerging, their white, flowing robes billowing in the breeze, indignation etched into their stern features, their eyes blackened with the coming force of their gathering strength. If they waited just one more second, escape would no longer be an option. He trained eyes widened with fear and apprehension on her rapidly paling face. “Go now!

But he needn’t have said anything at all. Kaala had already swiveled around in her seat and was yanking the stick shift into drive. Max had barely slammed shut the jeep door before she was stamping down the gas pedal and roaring away, kicking up a gigantic cloud of dust in her wake as she did.

posted on 4-Dec-2002 1:24:43 PM by Deejonaise
The diagnosis is in. It's the flu. Not me, my son. I have a sinus infection. Suffice it to say life is not good right now. But I wanted to post the next part, while the boy is thankfully asleep, before I reenter the land of the unconscious myself. Let me add taking care of a sick child while you're sick yourself sucks.

Enough of my bellyaching...on with the story.



Chapter 41

Max stared down at his son in amazement. He hardly noticed the piercing strobes of light that thundered past the jeep, knocking trees and utility posts down to fiery destruction. He was barely aware that Kaala was driving the jeep as if she were in the Indy 500; taking corners with such speed and force she threatened to turn them over. Max could only gaze into his son’s compelling stare, holding the solemn two year old in a tender embrace.

He scanned his son’s beloved face, taking in the drastic changes from just four short days. Gone was his wizened newborn face. His cheeks were now plump and rosy, almost cherubic. He was no longer toothless either, but now had two full rows, top and bottom. Small, pearly teeth, adorable like the rest of him. Downy brown curls had given way to dark coffee waves in need of a trim. Max smoothed his hands down Connor’s baby soft cheeks; hardly able to believe he was staring at his four-day-old son! “How is this even possible?” Max breathed to himself.

The moment he had turned in that room and found himself staring into the familiar eyes of his son Max had been too stunned to move. It couldn’t be, his mind had raced, Connor was just a baby…a newborn still and yet there was no denying the child before him, not when he looked achingly, beautifully like Max himself. Max had lifted his hand towards the sphere that surrounded the boy and it had instantly fallen away, dissipating completely.

And then calmly, trustingly Connor had toddled forward and taken his hand. Max’s brain finally resumed function. He scooped up his child, haphazardly wrapping him in a nearby blanket before beating a hasty retreat out of there. Now it was all beginning to hit him. His son had aged twenty-four months in two days. That was a rate of one month per hour. Max shuddered. He had no idea that Antarian growth was so rapid. It was something he’d never expected.

“Max!” Kaala shrieked, as she careened around yet another corner, startling him out of his thoughts, “A little help here!”

That’s when Max realized that they were being followed and that power blasts were whizzing dangerously close to the jeep. “Just keep racing for the exit!” Max ordered, swiveling around in his seat to return blasts. But his son grabbed hold on his arm, deliberately pulling it back down against his side. His movements were serene, methodical almost. Max stared into his luminous eyes, enthralled.

Just then a shimmery green shield of light surrounded the jeep at the very instant a power ball would have collided with them. The jeep shook slightly under the force of it, but sustained no damage thanks to the translucent force field. Once again his son commanded Max’s amazement. Connor offered him a small smile.

They raced toward the wooden gate, which was closed in anticipation of their escape. Kaala tossed a brief, anxious glance back at Max. “What do I do?” she panicked, “That gate is solid wood! We’ll tear the jeep apart if we go through it!”

Her alarm filled words barely registered. Max was being pulled into his son’s hypnotic stare. He didn’t feel fear or anxiety at all; his entire being was saturated with a curious feeling of peace. Connor closed his wondrous eyes then and laid his cheek against his father’s chest, tranquil despite the chaos surrounding them. A moment later the wooden gate blocking the escape dissolved completely and they were barreling towards the highway and their freedom. “What the fuck is going on?” Kaala demanded, not slowing her speed one iota though they had left their pursuers behind for the time being.

“I don’t know,” Max replied with surprising calmness, “Let’s just find Kaelen, Liz and Rahsha and get out of here.” He leaned forward to grab Kaala’s purse from the front seat and, with one hand, he rummaged around inside the bag for her cell phone. He held his son fast with the other. Max deftly punched in Kaelen’s cell number.

“Yeah, where are you?” Kaelen demanded as soon as he answered.

“We’re going down old Highway 15 as we speak,” Max told him, “We should be on the Interstate in another five minutes. Meet us out by Exit 27 near the Exxon gas station. We’ve got some things to discuss.” Max didn’t explain further, not wanting to go into detail about Connor over the phone. As he clicked the phone off he glanced down at his son once more. Connor had fallen asleep, his cheek resting heavily against his father’s chest.

How the heck was he going to explain this to Liz, Max wondered. He had promised her he would bring their baby back, but what would she say when she saw that her son was no longer a newborn infant, but a robust toddler. A toddler with exceptional powers, too, from all Max had seen. Having witnessed firsthand what his son could expend so effortlessly Max realized that Connor could have escaped long ago had he chosen to or at least immobilized his captors, but he had not. Instead, he had chosen to await his father’s rescue. To know that his tiny child trusted him that much made Max’s throat tighten with emotion.

They screeched into the parking lot of the gas station a few minutes later, spotting Kaelen’s suv almost immediately. Kaala had barely brought the jeep to a stop when they saw Liz hurl herself from the suv and come running for the jeep.

“Where’s my baby,” she demanded, her eyes scanning the inside of the vehicle for her child. She barely looked at Max, barely looked at the two year old in his arms. “Where’s my baby!” she asked again, this time with strained insistence. She lifted desperate eyes to Max. “Please tell me you got him back!”

“Liz--,”

“Tell me!” Max nodded towards the sleeping toddler in his arms. Liz could feel herself becoming irate. “What?”

“Liz, this is Connor,” Max revealed as gently as he could, but there was an explosion anyway.

“No friggin’ way!” Kaelen exclaimed suddenly. He and Rahsha had trotted up behind Liz soon after she’d thrown herself from the Explorer. Kaala and Rahsha looked on with widened eyes, speechless.

Liz stared at the sleeping two year old in Max’s arms. “No,” she breathed, falling back a step, “that’s not possible. Connor’s just a baby…that’s,” she lifted a shaky finger towards the child, “that’s not Connor.”

“Liz, listen to me,” Max began insistently, “We don’t have time to stand here and debate this. We need to get somewhere safe…but this is our son. Our son, Liz!”

“No,” Liz denied softly, turning away from him and walking back towards the Explorer.

Max stared after her in horrified disbelief. And then he felt a burning anger like he had never experienced begin to expand in his chest. He had dealt with her rejection of him, with her unfair blame, but he’d be damned if he just stood aside and allowed her to turn her back on her own son!

Gently, Max laid Connor against the seat cushions and started to move from the jeep. Kaelen planted his hand squarely in the middle of Max’s chest, halting him. “Don’t do something stupid,” he warned mildly, “Liz is hurting right now…and confused.”

“And I’m not?” Max burst out incredulously.

“This is a shock for her,” Rahsha defended, “All she’s been able to talk about for days is getting her baby back. She couldn’t wait to feed him, change his diapers, watch him grow up… She was even talking about trying to breastfeed him if she could.” Max lowered his eyes guiltily. “You can’t breastfeed a toddler. She’s just lost all of that in a matter of seconds.”

Rahsha’s words impacted him. Although, he hadn’t let himself dwell on it too much, Max wasn’t ignorant of all the things he had missed due to this rapid development. First smile, first tooth, first word…all milestones in Connor’s life that he wouldn’t experience. Now if he felt the loss so keenly, it wasn’t difficult to imagine just what pain Liz must be in. Abruptly, he felt his anger drain out of him and he regarded Rahsha with defeated eyes. “Did you know this was going to happen?” he asked her, “I mean…is this rate of growth normal?”

“No,” Rahsha replied, staring at Connor in gaping astonishment, “I’ve never seen anything like this ever. If anything, antarian development tends to be slower than human rate of growth…not faster.”

“Then what’s going on with him?” Max wondered aloud.

“Look,” Kaala interrupted impatiently, “as much as I’d like to sit here and speculate over Connor’s remarkable sprouting ability, there are people out there who kinda want us dead so I think we should probably get a move on.”

“Kay’s right,” Kaelen agreed, “We need to get the hell out of dodge before Bayok tracks us down.”

The teens took some time to gas up their respective vehicles before taking to the road once more. Max and Kaala switched places, so that Max was driving and Kaala stayed in back with Connor. After watching Connor for the first hour Kaala drifted off to sleep as well. Max drove forever it seemed with Kaelen’s Explorer never far behind, fearful their pursuers were close on their trail. However, he began taking easier breaths when he finally entered the state of Colorado. When the group finally stopped it was more out of necessity than desire. They were physically and emotionally exhausted, not to mention their gas tanks were quite near empty.

They decided to share a motel room for the night. Max couldn’t help but smile at the bittersweet irony of it all as he secured the room for them. He could remember when he, Michael and Isabel had done the same thing with Liz and Maria when they had gone to Utah. Utah, Max thought, almost a lifetime ago. That’s when all this had started. He and Liz wouldn’t even be together probably, if she had never insisted on going with him that day and changed both of their lives forever afterward. He’d admitted that he loved her that very same night and after that there had been no going back to the way things had been before.

No, but things had begun changing between them even before then, since Colorado really. Max had finally stopped running from his emotions by that point. He had finally been able to admit the truth to himself. He loved Liz Parker…would always love her. Max thought about the direction his life had taken since that night when he’d pulled off onto the shoulder of the road and saw Liz Parker emerge from her best friend’s Jetta. His life had been both heaven and hell since that day. But as Max looked back on all the changes, all the heartache and the fear he knew he wouldn’t change the outcome. He’d never be sorry that Liz ended up his wife.

When Max strode back out to the jeep Liz, Kaelen and Rahsha were standing nearby, their expressions apprehensive. Max broke into a painful run, groaning to realize the ache in his bones had intensified. “What happened?” he cried, “Is it Connor?”

The uneasy expressions on their faces was answer enough. He pushed a hovering Liz and Kaala aside, ducking his head into the jeep to see his son. Connor was twisting fitfully against the backseat cushions, his small body contorting as if in pain.

He was glowing and…growing.



posted on 4-Dec-2002 4:59:48 PM by Deejonaise
LOL, Lolita!! See, this is the very reason I'm not in bed resting. Even when I'm sick and miserable being on this board is just too much fun.
posted on 4-Dec-2002 9:29:03 PM by Deejonaise
As usual I am not in bed where I should be, but how could I resist. Hubby is finally home and has taken the boy for a little while so here I am. I've got my tissue and I've taken my Benedryl. I've got a good 20 minutes before it knocks me out cold so I thought I'd address a few concerns. LOL, I feel like a diplomat.

1. Chili, Lolita, frenchkiss70 and Cinder all your questions will be answered in the following chapter. I didn't expect the reaction to Liz to be so harsh, but then it helps me to appreciate just how different a writer's intention is from a reader's interpretation. I think so far Kate and Wayliz are the only ones who have shown any sympathy for her, lol.

2. Sansucry it's good to have you back!!! I knew you'd sympathize with the sick mom caring for sick kids. And considering that I'm sure you know that I had to BEG for the break I'm taking now. You know how men are, they want you to rest as long as there's nothing to do, lol. Oh, and by the way, Dr. Max is mine. I'm not sharing...nope.

3. Wayliz I'm sorry the events went by so fast for you, but you're right. If I chronicled every aspect of Liz's twenty-eight month pregnancy I would have been writing until the end of time, lol.

But I did want to clear up some things for everyone. Kaala and Liz are TENTATIVE friends. I don't know how to explain it really, but have you ever been friends with someone simply because they happen to be a friend of your friend. That's kinda how it is with Liz and Kaala. If it weren't for Kaelen, Rahsha and even Max, Liz probably wouldn't have anything to do with Kaala. I wanted to emphasize that in the story. They are not good friends, but Kaala and Max are, which is part of the reason Liz extends an offer for friendship. If Max had kicked Kaala to the curb Liz wouldn't have looked at the girl twice.

So here's what I'm emphasizing, Kaala's first loyalty is going to be towards Max because he's the one she views as a friend. So when she kisses him it's not a matter of betraying Liz, but trying to comfort her hurting friend who she is suddenly having less than friendly feelings for.

I am trying to include little flashbacks of the last two years throughout the story so that you guys can get comfortable with the idea of these five people (Kaelen, Rahsha, Max, Kaala, and Liz) knowing each other pretty well by now. That's why I included that little bit about Max seeing Kaala in her pajamas and vice versa. By this time they are all really comfortable with each other. Hopefully, I'm conveying that and if not...well I've got work to do.

Alrighty then, it seems the Benedryl is starting to kick in...I'm turning dyslexic here...

Catch ya'll tomorrow...hopefully,

Dee
posted on 5-Dec-2002 7:26:55 AM by Deejonaise
Hey, everyone. Thanks for the well wishes. I'm feeling a little better, although my son's still sick. But at least now I'll feel like writing a little when he's asleep. Lolita, Dr. Max did the trick. Gotta luv that bedside manner.*wink*


Chapter 42

Max shakily drew the blanket up over his son’s small body, obscuring the incandescent glow that radiated off his skin and illuminated the darkened confines of the jeep. He had reacted instinctively, in order not to draw attention, but his mind, for the most part, was seized with an overwhelming sense of fear and helplessness. He climbed into the jeep, gathering Connor’s fitful body against him. “What’s happening to him?” Max cried brokenly, tears of helpless fear coursing down his cheeks. He scarcely noticed Liz hanging in the background, her pale face anguished.

“I-I tried healing him,” Kaala stammered shakily, “but I couldn’t. I don’t know what’s wrong.” She had been still sleeping when Connor’s sudden jerking had jarred her awake. By the time she was fully awake he was already deep in the throes of his seizure. Though she had attempted to heal him, had felt the energy course through her body it had done nothing to stop his convulsions. But the things she had seen…

“None of us know what’s happening, Max,” Rahsha stated, her tone sad and fearful.

“You really don’t know what this is!” Max burst out, “How the hell are we supposed to help him then?” Just then Connor ceased shaking. One moment he was convulsing in Max’s arms and the next moment he was eerily still. For one awful second Max thought that his son had died. He drew back the blanket with an almost anguished groan. Connor was staring up at him with wide, innocent eyes more silver than amber. He didn’t appear anywhere near death. “Bengai,” he whispered simply.

Bengai. It was the Tysh word for “hello.” His son had just told him hello. Max almost laughed in relief. “I think he’s going to be alright,” he told his three anxious friends.

That’s when he realized that Liz was gone.

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

Max found her standing outside their motel room leaning against the railing. She had done an effective job of avoiding the group following Connor’s incident. Though she still hadn’t gone anywhere near their son she had watched him from across the room with an almost rapt fascination. She knew who he was, had known him instantly. Her every movement screamed out that she wanted to snatch him up and hold him tight. But something was holding her back, something Max didn’t understand. Rahsha had urged him to leave her alone because she thought Liz needed time to think. Max had stayed away as long as he could. He had even checked the urge to follow her from the motel room when she first left. His resolve lasted all of ten minutes.

He had left Connor inside with Kaelen, Rahsha and Kaala while they watched The Real World on MTV. After his “growth spurt,” for lack of a better word, Connor had seemed fine, romping around with the abandon of any normal three year old. Max was having a difficult time adjusting to this newest change. Just eight hours before his son had been two, now he was running around the motel room chattering on like a magpie in alternate Tysh and Jenga. Hell, only four days before he’d been a baby! Could life get any weirder?

He stared at Liz now, wanting to berate her for her selfishness. She had cut him off, cast him out of her life, accused him of being too dangerous and costing her their son, yet Max had risked his life to bring Connor back and Liz had not even held him once. He wanted to shake her, to yell at her with all the frustration and anger he felt in his heart, but he couldn’t do it.

As he stared at her slumped shoulders and the dejected posture of her back the only emotion Max could dredge up was pity…and loneliness. There was so much loneliness. He wanted to wrap her in his arms and take the pain away, he needed to. And at one time he would have gone up to her and made that desire a reality. He would have taken her in his arms and stroked her luxuriant hair. At one time he would have been comfortable doing so. Why did three days apart from her seem like a lifetime? Max couldn’t fathom how they would ever get back what they had or if they would ever…

Maybe it was futile, Max thought glumly, and pointless. It didn’t even seem that Liz wanted him anymore. She had done her best to avoid him and her son as well. Perhaps she wanted away from all things alien. Perhaps it hadn’t been merely her grief talking when she had accused him of being poison.

Max started to turn back into the motel room and leave her alone once more when the sound of Liz’s voice stopped him. “Will Bayok come after us?” she asked flatly.

Staring at her back, Max silently willed her to turn and face him. She didn’t. He exhaled a dejected sigh and went to stand beside her. “I don’t know…” he answered tentatively, “…maybe he will…maybe not… I’m still not entirely sure what his plan had been.”

“Probably he will,” Liz predicted, “He waited all that time to take Connor, didn’t he? He’ll wait again.”

“Liz--,”

“So where do we go now, huh?” she asked, her tone infinitely bitter, “Utah, Iowa, Kansas? Where? What new adventure will you take us on now, Max?”

“I thought we’d go home to Roswell,” Max replied quietly.

“That’s your brilliant plan!” Liz scoffed, but this time Max recognized her tearful tone. Casting aside his caution and uncertainty, Max stepped aside and slipped his arms around her waist. She stiffened for a moment as if she meant to jerk away but then she wilted, her shoulders shaking with sobs she could no longer hold back. “I don’t recognize my own son. I look at him and I expect to see a baby…where did my baby go,” she wept, “Nothing’s the same…except for his eyes, Max…his damned beautiful eyes… I’d know them anywhere.” She gripped the railing so tightly her knuckles whitened. “God, Max, why…why?”

“I’m sorry…I’m so sorry…” Max murmured into her hair, not entirely certain why he was apologizing, but only driven by the need to alleviate her pain…and his as well. “He knows you, Liz,” he told her urgently, “He’s waiting for you to go to him. He needs his mother just like any other kid.”

“Only he’s not ‘any other kid,’” Liz contradicted glumly, “He’s alien, Max…like you…like… He’s never going to have a normal life. I can’t give him a normal life.”

“Liz, you knew that,” Max reminded her gently, “Zrei told us from the beginning that he would be special…maybe this is what he meant.”

“He’s growing so fast, Max, too fast…and I’ve already missed so much… His first tooth, his first steps…” she sobbed quietly, “None of this seems real.”

“Do you want to miss more, Liz?”

Liz shook her head and turned in his arms to face him. Their noses were only inches from each other when she did. Liz was close enough to see the flecks of brown in Max’s beautiful eyes. And the love. She could see the love he had for her shining plainly. Max lifted his hand to caress her cheek. Liz closed her eyes at his gentle touch, instinctively knowing that he was lowering his head to kiss her right at that very second. She needed to feel those lips, hungrily yearned for that special comfort only Max could provide. She gave herself up to it willingly.

“Max, can I talk to you?” Liz tore out of Max’s arms at the sudden intrusion of Kaala’s voice. She flushed, turning away from them both to take a moment to compose herself. “I’m-I’m sorry,” Kaala stuttered, “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

When Liz looked at Kaala again it was with a false, brilliant smile in place. “You didn’t interrupt anything,” Liz told her brightly, “I’ve probably stayed out here too long as it is.” Liz strictly avoided Max’s gaze as she said this so she didn’t see the look of devastation that fell over his face at her words. “I should go spend some time with my son,” she rasped hoarsely, “I’ve kept him waiting long enough.” She slipped around Max quickly and disappeared into the room.

Kaala was genuinely remorseful over interrupting, especially when she saw how anguished Max was. “I’m so sorry, Max,” she whispered, wanting to comfort him but not trusting herself to touch him, “I guess I should have waited.”

Max shook his head, rapidly blinking back the tears gathering in his eyes. “It’s not your fault Liz doesn’t want to be with me,” he choked. He drew himself up straight. “What did you need to talk to me about, Kay?” If Liz could dismiss him so easily he could sure as hell do the same with her.

Kaala began nervously twisting her hands. “You know earlier when Connor had his seizure…?” she prompted carefully.

“Yeah?”

“Well, when I tried to heal him I saw something.”

“Something?” Max repeated with a frown, “Something like what?”

“I had a flash,” Kaala clarified.

“What did you see?” Max whispered.

Kaala’s voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper. “What’s happening with Connor isn’t natural at all.” Max looked at her expectantly. “Bayok accelerated his growth.”

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

Liz tentatively approached her son while he concentrated intently on taking apart the remote controller. Rahsha and Kaelen had curled up on one of the beds together soon after she had come inside and promptly fell asleep. For the first few minutes Liz contented herself by simply watching him play.

He was beautiful, completely Max’s son right down to his ears. She saw none of herself in him at all. Yet, the way he pursed his lip in concentration, that was exactly her expression when she was thinking hard about something. And his hands…they were hers. His small, delicate fingers were shaped exactly like her own. Her son.

Liz swallowed back the tears that rose in her throat at the thought. For days she had been dreaming of the moment when she would hold him again, would smell his sweet baby scent. She had promised herself that when Max got him back she wouldn’t miss another moment of his life. But now here he was again and she had missed three years…in just four days.

Her mind spun just to think about it. Another alien complication added to a life full of alien complications. But Liz found herself more worried over this newest one than genuinely annoyed. Exactly how long would Connor’s accelerated growth continue? A week? A month? If he continued growing at the rate he was he wouldn’t live out the year.

Liz brushed aside the morose thought. No, she couldn’t contemplate that…not when she’d just gotten him back. And in that moment she could no longer suppress the urge to touch him. Gathering together her courage she had eased from the bed and moved to sit beside him on the floor. She groaned slightly at the ache in her body as she did so. Liz wondered vaguely if Connor’s growth was the reason she had been hurting for the last couple of days. Zrei had said that they were all connected, would all share the same experiences…did he mean this, too? Liz wanted to ask Max about how he was feeling, but she knew she probably wouldn’t. It would be a mistake to attempt conversation with him now with her resolve so weakened against him.

However, Liz dismissed the wandering thoughts from her mind as she smiled down at her son. Connor looked up at her then, smiling a wide, guileless smile, his dismantled remote momentarily forgotten. “Bengai,” he sang out happily.

Liz had no idea what the word meant, but she had to assume that it was good judging from the happy grin he’d given her as he said it. Slowly, Liz reached out to stroke his silky hair, smoothing down the stubborn cowlick at the top of his head. Her son regarded her with wide eyes. “Do you even have any idea who I am?” Liz whispered to him.

Connor continued smiling at her, his eyes shining a bright incandescent silver. “Maa-ta ,” he said, his baby expression intense. He returned his attention back to the remote, reassembling it with his powers only to begin taking it apart again once he had.

Maa-ta,” Liz repeated with an ironic laugh, “I suppose that’s close enough,” she conceded, pressing a tender kiss against her son’s temple. He smelled so good, like baby powder and vanilla, sweet, innocent and so incredibly pure. She closed her eyes, inhaling his scent deeply. And then, because she couldn’t stand it any longer, she hugged him against her, ignoring his wiggling protests when she did and pressing gentle kisses all over his little face.

“It’s actually closer than you think.”

Startled, Liz released the squirming toddler and swiveled around to find Rahsha sitting upright in the bed, staring down at them with the most indescribable look on her pretty face. “I thought you were asleep,” Liz whispered.

“He just called you mother, Liz,” Rahsha told her gently, “Just because you can’t understand him doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand you. He knows who you are.”

“That’s a comfort I guess,” Liz sighed sarcastically as she pushed to her feet. Though he might understand her, the fact still remained that her newborn son was no longer a newborn. “I’m sorry if I woke you,” she said in apology, “I know you and Kaelen are completely exhausted from driving all day.” She took a seat on the opposite bed, rubbing at her aching temples.

“I was never asleep in the first place,” Rahsha admitted, her mouth quirked in an ironic smile. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and sat facing Liz. “I wanted to give you and Connor some alone time together without feeling like Kaelen and I were hovering over you.”

“Thanks,” Liz replied somewhat sadly, “Although all the alone time in the world isn’t going to get me used to this.” She cradled her head in her palms. “My four day old son is as big as a three year old,” she muttered, “It’s like the alien chaos never ends.”

“This isn’t an alien phenomenon, Liz.”

That statement startled Liz into lifting her head. “What do you mean?”

“While you were outside with Max we all were talking and Kaala told us that when she tried to heal Connor she got a flash.”

“A flash of what exactly?” Liz asked, her body already beginning to prickle with fear.

“Bayok,” Rahsha clarified reluctantly, “Bayok gave Connor something to speed up his growth. Bayok’s the reason that the baby is developing at the rate he is.”

Liz’s breath leaked from her lungs in painful pants. She knew through firsthand experience just how malevolent Bayok could be. He had shown no compassion for Zrei, for Max, not even for Kaala. Liz doubted seriously that he would have shown her son any either. “But why would he do that?” Liz wondered aloud, “What purpose would it serve?” Besides killing him, Liz’s mind silently added.

“On Antar it was prophesied among my people that a child would be born, a special child possessing extraordinary power like none ever known before,” Rahsha explained, gradually spinning her tale, lulling Liz with her words, “I always thought it was a bunch of nonsense, but now… The prophecy said this child would be born of a mother that was neither human nor antarian…you, Liz.”

Liz favored Rahsha with an incredulous look. “You think Connor is this prophetic child in your antarian myth?”

“I know he is.”

“Rahsh, you haven’t been sniffing nail polish remover again, have you?”

“Liz, I’m serious,” Rahsha insisted.

“Yeah…right… Last time I checked though I was human so I guess that rules me out.”

“I’m sure that’s what the elders thought as well. But Liz you’re not human, not anymore. Max changed you when he healed you. You’re not human, but you’re not antarian either…you’re something else completely,” Rahsha argued softly, “And somehow Bayok…somehow he knew, he had to know it, from the very beginning. That’s why he wanted you and Max to stay with him so badly.”

“Because he wanted my baby,” Liz finished softly. She did remember how enamored Bayok had seemed with the idea of their child. He had always made a point of telling Max what a blessing their child was and how sacred his birth would be. Bayok had known that, although his comments might make them uncomfortable, they would merely dismiss them as concern. That bastard had been mocking them the entire time, dropping hints about what he was truly after while they went about their daily lives without the slightest clue. Filled with a new understanding for Bayok’s motives, Liz asked, “Why would he possibly want Connor?”

“The power in your son is remarkable, Liz,” Rahsha said. Both their gazes drifted over to Connor. For a moment they watched him amuse himself by altering the colors on the television screen. “His energy just crackles off him,” Rahsha continued in awe, “Can’t you feel it, Liz?”

She did feel it. The energy was almost tangible, magnetic. It was the same force she’d felt when he was in her womb, only stronger, more controlled and infinitely more powerful. She looked at Rahsha again. “What does it mean?” she asked quietly.

“The older Connor becomes, the greater his power,” Rahsha elucidated, “That’s as it should be. It holds with the prophecy that human, antarian or any other species below the heavens won’t rival his power. But among our people it’s possible to transfer energy for one being to the next. Antarians believe that when they die their energy returns to the Great One. However, it is possible to divert that energy into another antarian before death occurs. This is forbidden, of course, but that has never stopped Bayok before.” When Liz continued to stare at her blankly Rahsha went over next to her to shake her slightly. “Don’t you hear what I’m telling you, Liz? I think Bayok wanted to harness Connor’s energy for himself.” Rahsha paused a moment, allowing her revelation to Liz to finally sink in before continuing. “Bayok’s probably not going to stop until he finds him again.”

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

Liz couldn’t sleep. Although, Connor had long ago crawled into bed and snuggled against her, drifting off into slumber and Rahsha and Kaelen were sleeping in blissful exhaustion in the next bed, Liz remained wide awake. She couldn’t stop thinking about all that Rahsha had told her. Her son was special, a prophecy, a new hope for the whole antarian race. Rahsha had said that the antarians believed that Connor would lead them home to the new Antar. But she also included that only a small number of antarians cared about that anymore. They had happily made their lives here on earth.

But still her mind was spinning. Liz imagined that was why Kaala had come outside to talk to Max earlier. He, also, had to be feeling as if his world had been knocked off kilter. Liz realized that this was something neither of them should go through alone. She didn’t want to go through it alone. And with that realization came other inescapable truths. She had been a fool the last few days.

She didn’t want to end her marriage. It was the last thing she wanted. After Connor had been kidnapped and her emergency surgery Liz had just been raw. It hadn’t helped either when she learned that her hemorrhage had been no natural act, but in fact Bayok trying to murder her. His capacity for evil was chilling. He had thought nothing about taking her son and then leaving her to die.

And these were the sorts of persons that were after Max and would always be after him. Liz had believed that by distancing herself she would actually be protecting her son’s life and her own. But now she saw that the very people pursuing Max would now be after Connor and for an entirely different reason. His life would be fraught with dangers also and they would have nothing to do with who his father was, but who he was. She couldn’t abandon her son anymore than she could abandon his father…no matter what kind of future lay ahead for them.

She had been wrong to shut Max out, had been wrong about a great many things. And Liz wanted to tell him all that, wanted to apologize for being such a selfish fool and beg his forgiveness, but the minutes ticked by and he never returned to the hotel room. Each second that passed Liz felt her heart shriveling with jealousy and uncertainty.

Finally, unable to lie there any longer and imagine what Max and Kaala were doing together, Liz crept from the bed and tiptoed out of the room. She had only taken a few steps toward the stairwell that led to the first floor when she spotted them. They were walking together around in the parking lot below. Kaala had her arm looped around Max’s neck and appeared to be whispering something against his cheek. Liz watched, somewhat sickened, as she kissed him several times there before pulling Max completely into her arms. Max returned her embrace fully, holding onto Kaala as if his life depended on it.

Liz turned away and backed into the room without them ever realizing she’d been standing there in the first place.



posted on 5-Dec-2002 10:23:32 AM by Deejonaise
quote:
Wayliz originally wrote:
Could I bribe you with chocolate??*big*



If it's Godiva I'm putty in your hands, lol.

On a serious note though, I have to tell you all that my Liz is working through some major issues right now. She's got to have those straightened out before she gets back with Max, but THEY WILL GET BACK TOGETHER. Remember, this ENTIRE story is already written so I know how it ends.

Furthermore, I gotta tell you all, "Don't believe the hype!" Nothing in this story is ever what it seems. How many of you thought it was Liz in the Prologue with Max? But it wasn't her, it was Kaala yet I wanted you to think it was Liz. Right now you guys have got to be thinking that there's no way I'm gonna undo the damage I've done, but I will and I have. Trust me when I say it gets better...it really will. Please hang in there...just twenty more chapters to go.

Dee

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 5-Dec-2002 10:25:51 AM ]
posted on 5-Dec-2002 3:18:53 PM by Deejonaise
Okay, I'm weak. I can't stand to see you guys in any more agony!!!! I'm sorry I can't write happy stuff, but I just don't know how, lol! I'm working on it...I swear. But in the meantime I think this story is too hard to read a part at a time. I had a hard time writing it so I can imagine you had a hard time reading it so this is what I'm going to do...I'm going to post the entire thing. Right now I've got to leave to pick my daughter up from school, but when I get back I'm posting the rest of this story. I think it would be better to read it all the way through than a piece at a time.

It's actually a good thing for me because then my attention won't be divided between this story and my new story. Even though I've finished this one I keep going back and tweaking it, adding in parts and what not and it's distracting me from Growing Through It Again. I told you I couldn't write two stories at once.*tongue*

So that's it. I'm posting all of the story today...then we all can breathe a sigh of relief.

Catch ya'll later.

Dee

(editing this because beta reading the last twenty parts is taking longer than I'd like. I also have some real life issues that are kicking my butt right now so I probably won't post the rest of this story until later tonight, probably about 11 or 11:30. Don't hate me. I promise to post it all tonight no matter what. I won't leave you hanging. Thanks again.)

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 5-Dec-2002 5:26:42 PM ]
posted on 5-Dec-2002 10:49:00 PM by Deejonaise
Here it comes...the mother of all updates...hang on.

Chapter 43

Max waved his hand before the pod chamber entrance, heaving a small sigh of relief when the silver handprint illuminated and the rocky façade of the cave slid away. “We should be safe here for the time being,” Max said as he led the tired and disheveled group into the safety of the pod chamber.

He watched as Liz went to lay their son gently onto the makeshift pallet that Rahsha and Kaala had quickly assembled. His growth had seemed to slow some during the night, although it was obvious that he was still growing. The linen gown he’d been wearing when Max took him had long since gotten entirely too small. For the time being they had his small body wrapped in nothing but a blanket. “He needs clothes,” Max stated softly, “I’ll go into town and get some.”

“I’ll go with you,” Kaelen volunteered, “The girls should be safe here until we return.”

“Wait!” Liz protested, tearing her anxious gaze from her Connor, “Isn’t it too dangerous for you to be out there in the open? What if Bayok is out there just waiting for you to leave just so he can pounce on us?”

Max rubbed the back of his neck in weariness. “That’s not how Bayok works,” he replied mildly, “He’ll wait until our guards are down before he attacks us again…just like before. Only this time, we won’t let our guards down.”

“I still think it’s a bad idea,” Liz said.

“I agree with her,” Rahsha seconded, “There’s too much risk that you’ll be seen.”

“We can’t stay in here indefinitely, Rahsh,” Kaelen told his girlfriend gently, “We don’t have any food or supplies of any kind. Connor needs clothes…he can’t just walk around in a blanket the entire time.”

“So we’re just gonna hide here for the time being and then move on, right Max?” Liz prompted a little desperately, “Right?”

Max had no intention of doing anything of the sort. Bayok was going to come after them no matter where they went. He would continue to stalk them until he drew his last breath. If Max had to contend with that constant threat he’d rather be among his family and friends for support. He’d rather be home. And he told Liz exactly that.

“What about Connor?” Liz demanded softly, “How are you going to explain him away to our parents or do you plan on keeping him a secret?”

“I wanna tell them the truth.”

Liz fell back a little in shock. It was the last thing she had ever expected Max to say and, of course, it seemed like his decision was coming from out of nowhere. “You want to tell your parents the truth?” Liz repeated carefully.

“And yours, too,” Max clarified.

“Why now? Why after so much time would you decide to tell them the truth now?”

Max unconsciously flicked his eyes briefly in Kaala’s direction. “I just think it’s time they all learned the truth. I’m tired of hiding,” Max replied evasively, his eyes shifty and furtive.

But Liz was by no means stupid. She had witnessed to small, silent exchange between Max and Kaala only moments before. So that was what they were talking about the night before, Liz surmised. Apparently, Kaala had somehow convinced Max to tell his parents the truth something that Liz herself had never been able to persuade him to do. Liz felt bitter anger course through her in burning waves. She thought she could actually hate Max Evans in that moment.

Max didn’t know if Liz was angry over his decision or not. Her cool response confused him and infuriated him a little. He thought she would be happy. Max realized that it was a long way from giving her the normal life she desired but he thought that if Liz, at least, had the opportunity to be honest with her parents about him that might make things easier. But obviously not.

Still, Max was determined to go through with his plan, despite Liz’s lackluster reaction. He had actually been thinking about doing telling his parents the truth since Liz’s surgery, really since before then. Max had made so many foolish decisions in his life while desperately trying to find the acceptance that Phillip and Diane Evans would have given to him without hesitation. He knew that now. It had taken the birth of his own son to realize that fact. No matter what he was, who he was, or what baggage came with his life, his mother and father would always love him, just like he loved Connor, because he was their son.

Of course, Kaala had flipped out completely when Max mentioned his plan to her last night. Kaala had serious trust issues, especially after Bayok, so Max’s decision to tell his parents the truth about his origins seemed like the stupidest idea on the face of the planet to her. Max knew he had blindsided her with the information. He had pretty much dropped the news on her when they were walking together in the parking lot the night before. Kaala hadn’t seen it coming.

She had stopped walking completely and had whipped around on him in appalled disbelief. “You wanna what?” she’d exclaimed.

Max had flinched at her tone, but he managed to remain firm. “I want to tell my parents the truth about who I am…what I am,” Max reiterated boldly, “I meant it when I said I’m tired of hiding.”

“Max, this could be really bad,” Kaala advised him, “What if they don’t accept you or worse yet turn you into the authorities? After Bayok we really should be careful about who we put our trust in.”

“We can trust my parents,” Max had insisted.

“Can we?” Kaala demanded, “What makes you so sure?”

“Kaala, please,” Max pleaded, “I really need somebody on my side right now. Don’t give me a hard time about this.”

At first he was sure that she’d still reject his idea, but then she’d suddenly looped her arm around his neck and said that she was behind whatever decision he made. And that was all it took. Max had broken down and sobbed right then. He had been so overwhelmed by everything…Liz’s rejection, Connor’s kidnapping and recovery, so much happening in so little time that Kaala’s willingness to stand by him was like a cooling balm. He had cried in her arms for a long time afterwards.

Max looked at Liz now, noticing that her lower lip was quivering violently. So she was mad, he figured slowly, and pretty steamed, too, judging from how that lip was working. Max mentally shook his head. He gave up. He gave up trying to understand her and women in general. Who needed them anyway?

Max sighed in disgust. “We’ll only be gone a few hours,” he told the girls, “If you need us just call Kaelen’s cell.”

When they left Max all but stalked down the mountain face for Kaelen’s Explorer. Only after he had thrown himself into the passenger’s seat and slammed the door behind him did Kaelen utter a word. “You know this car is my baby, right?”

“Women!” Max spat, completely disregarding Kaelen’s tentative statement, “Who the hell can figure them out, you know?”

Kaelen cranked up the ignition. “Who are we talking about…Liz or my sister?” he asked casually, “Which way?” He jerked the car into drive.

“Just follow the road out to the Interstate,” Max replied, “It’s pretty much a straight shot to town from there. And I was talking about Liz,” Max clarified after a short pause, “Kaala and I are just friends…that’s it.”

“You’ve been spending a lot of time with her lately,” Kaelen observed.

“We were taking back Connor…it’s not like I had much choice,” Max retorted with dripping sarcasm.

“What about last night?” Kaelen countered, “You two didn’t come back to the room until almost three in the morning.”

“How would you know? You were asleep!”

“Nope,” Kaelen denied, “Sees how much you know. I had been awake for a long time so I have a pretty good idea why Liz might be pissed off at you right now.”

“Liz has been pissed off at me for days, Kaelen, that’s nothing new.”

“And you accuse me of being dense when it comes to women?”

Max took the bait. “Fine, Kaelen, what’s your big newsflash?”

“I think Liz might have seen you outside with Kaala last night,” he revealed triumphantly, “I know she went out looking for you and when she came back…let’s just say she didn’t look too happy. She locked herself in the bathroom for almost an hour afterward.”

Max’s heart did a little flip at the disclosure, but he didn’t know quite what to make of it. “What are you saying…you think Liz is jealous?”

Kaelen shot him an incredulous look. “Are you a dumbass naturally or is it something you have to work on?” he asked sardonically.

Max ignored the barb. “Shut up,” he told his friend with a good-natured smile, “Liz asked me for a divorce, remember? She doesn’t have any reason to be jealous.”

Kaelen shrugged, a little disgusted by Max’s apparent denseness. “Fine, whatever…but I’ll tell you this, if you hurt my sister I will personally grind your ass into dog meat. You got that?”

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

“If you hurt him, you’ll have me to deal with.”

Kaala spun around on the cliff’s edge to find Liz standing behind her, her dark hair flipping lightly in the gentle breeze. Somewhat annoyed that her private sanctity had been intruded upon, Kaala rolled her eyes at Liz’s veiled threat and startled to shove past her, but Liz caught her arm in an iron grip. “I meant what I said, Kaala.”

Kaala yanked her arm from Liz’s grasp with a sneer of disdain. “If you’re talking about Max…he’s a big boy, Liz, he can take care of himself just fine.” She tried to leave again but Liz stepped in front of her, blocking her path. Kaala puffed out a frustrated sigh. “What?”

“You might have the others fooled about who you are,” Liz told her evenly, “but not me. I know you for what you are, Kaala… you’re nothing but a man-eater.”

Kaala almost laughed outright at the assessment. “I’m a man-eater?” She snickered a little. “Wow, Liz, that is just too damned funny!”

“Yeah, go ahead and laugh if up, princess,” Liz invited with a false smile, “But I guarantee you if you hurt Max, I won’t hesitate to beat that smug grin right off your face.”

Kaala scoffed at her. “Well aren’t you the little hypocrite?” Kaala jeered, “As I recall you’re the one who ripped Max’s heart out and did the Texas two step on it and you have the nerve to accuse me of trying to hurt him. You’ve already done enough damage for the both of us, sweetheart.”

Liz ignored her mocking words. “Max is very trusting man,” Liz persisted coldly, “He never wants to see the bad in anyone, which is why he constantly is opening himself up for hurt because he desperately wants to believe the best about people. For some reason I don’t understand, he trusts you completely, Kaala…don’t betray that.”

“I never would,” Kaala gritted.

“Yeah right!” Liz snorted, starting to turn away. This time it was Kaala who grabbed Liz’s arm to detain her.

“What about you, princess?” Kaala demanded silkily, “What about how you’ve hurt Max? You talk about betrayal when you’re the only one who’s guilty of it!”

It was evident that Kaala hit a nerve because Liz’s blank stoicism flickered briefly to reveal the pain beneath. Liz pulled her arm free. “That’s different,” she whispered.

“I don’t think it is,” Kaala countered smoothly, “You’re out here all in my face about hurting Max, but you don’t seem to realize that you’re the one who destroyed him.”

“Don’t stand here and pretend like you’re not happy about it!” Liz spat.

“I’m not.” Her quiet admission deflated Liz’s anger and seeing that Kaala’s own fury died away as well. “I don’t like seeing him in pain, Liz.”

“But it leaves the path clear for you now, doesn’t it, Kaala?” Liz whispered hoarsely, “Don’t think that it has escaped my notice that you want Max for yourself. I’ve seen the way you look at him.”

“And if I do? There’s no path for me!” Kaala laughed bitterly, “Max has never been able to see anyone but you, Liz. He’s crazy for you…all I’ll ever be to him is a friend…”

“But you want more,” Liz surmised softly.

“Of course, I do!” Kaala exclaimed, her eyes prickling with tears, “I love him! He’s the best friend I’ve ever had…I’ve never known anyone like him!”

“Well, I feel the same,” Liz retorted, “I love him, too!”

“But you obviously don’t want him!”

For some reason Kaala’s emphatic statement stabbed Liz like a knife in the heart. Liz did want Max…everyday of her life. It was just, presently, she was afraid of being with him, afraid of so much… “That’s…that’s not true, I…”

“…keep him dangling,” Kaala finished for her, “You won’t let him go…but you won’t be with him either.” Suddenly Kaala’s tone changed, becoming persuasive, pleading. “You’ll never make him happy, Liz, you know it. You’ll never accept him…you’ll hold him accountable for things he can’t control.” Liz turned her back, not wanting to hear Kaala’s words, but unable to ignore them just the same. “Why can’t you let him go so he can be happy with someone else? Let him be free to love, Liz, and be loved by someone. You keep him at arms length, but you don’t sever the ties and that’s not fair.”

“I’m divorcing him, aren’t I?” Liz choked, but in those moments she had never been more confused in her life.

“But you have his heart, Liz” Kaala whispered near her ear, “When do you plan to divorce that?”




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 3-Jan-2003 3:43:41 AM ]
posted on 5-Dec-2002 10:50:15 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 44

Somebody once told me
The world is gonna roll me
I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed


As Smashmouth’s All-star drifted to Max’s ears over the Kmart intercom he wasn’t feeling like the shed’s sharpest tool either. And Kaelen, his good but clueless friend, wasn’t helping matters. They stood together in the very center of the boys’ department of the retail store looking every bit as lost as they felt.

Kaelen flipped up the tag on the blue shirt he’d been perusing. “So what does 4T mean?” he asked Max.

“How the hell should I know?” Max mumbled, confounded, struggling to decipher his own shirt tag. There were so many different sizes, twos, threes, 3Ts, and 4Ts and Max didn’t have any clue what any of it meant. Did you choose the size by the age of the child or the weight? If it was wide enough, how would you know if it was long enough? And what made his problem ten times worse was the fact that Connor was growing at such an alarming rate. Even if he did happen to pick out the correct size the chances were likely that Connor would have grown out of it in the next day or so. “Maybe we should have brought Con with us,” Max said, stuffing the tag back into the sweatshirt he’d been looking over.

“Hey, we could buy one of everything,” Kaelen suggested. He pulled a pair of khaki overalls from the rack. “These look like they might fit him, right?”

Max gave an uncertain shrug. He couldn’t really be positive what size Connor was at all. The kid had grown at least twice since he’d had him. Kaelen dug into his pocket for his cell phone and slapped it into Max’s palm. “Call Liz,” he said firmly, “I’ll be over in Sporting Goods.”

For a while after Kaelen left Max stared at the cell phone in his hand working up his courage to dial Rahsha’s cell and ask for Liz. He hadn’t spoken to her, beyond polite greetings and their brief conversation that morning, since the night before when he’d almost kissed her. Max couldn’t be entirely sure who was avoiding whom at that point, but they were both doing a damned good job of it regardless.

The situation was actually colossally stupid because Max wanted to talk to Liz more than anything. They had just found out what a special and remarkable child they had. Max had a hundred things he wanted to share with Liz and he suspected she felt the same. For instance he wondered why. Why had he and Liz been chosen to be blessed with such a wonderful and exquisite gift? Had it been planned all along? Did that mean that Liz was his destiny, that she had always been? Obviously, according to the prophecy Max had been fated to heal Liz in the Crashdown that day, to change her physically. It was almost as if the moment had been ordained.

It seemed like everything in the world was telling Max that he belonged with Liz, even the Universe. The only person who didn’t seem completely convinced of that fact was Liz. Max was trying to hang in, he really was, but his heart was crumbling a little bit everyday. It hurt to see her, smell her, to be so friggin near to her and unable to touch her, not her skin, not her soul. He couldn’t even read her thoughts anymore. She was blocking him now. Before, even when he’d done it simply to annoy her, she had never blocked him. He didn’t understand how she could just dismiss the two plus years they had been together as if they were nothing.

Max realized what he was doing then. He was standing in the middle of Kmart, contemplating a cell phone while rehashing the pain of his fucked up existence. Nice. None of it mattered anyway. At least, not at the moment. He couldn’t think about Liz another second or his head would explode. Better to focus on other things he could control like… His kid needed clothes. First he’d take care of that problem. Then he’d ponder the wisdom of calling his folks…

With a heavy sigh he hit Rahsha’s number on speed dial. “Hey baby,” Rahsha purred the moment she picked up, “Miss me much?”

“Nope, not your baby,” Max corrected with a soft blush, “Actually it’s Liz’s baby or her ex-baby…whatever…could I speak to her?” There was a muffled rustling as Rahsha passed Liz the phone.

“Max, is something wrong?” Liz asked anxiously as soon as she came on the line.

“No,” Max reassured her quickly, “I just realized I’m standing in the middle of Kmart and I have absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to get.” He tunneled his fingers through his shaggy hair. “I was hoping you could help.”

“You need to know Connor’s size?” Liz guessed and he could hear the smile in her voice which made him smile. “And you think I know this?”

“Could you hazard a guess?”

“Size five I’d say…he’s grown a little more since you left, but not as rapidly as before.”

The news didn’t make Max happy. “Great,” he quipped caustically, “At this rate he’ll be our age in about a week. Damn Bayok.”

“Well what’s done is done,” Liz whispered sadly, “We can’t go back and change things now…though we might wish we could.”

Something in the way she said those words, the quiet longing he heard in them compelled him to ask, “Liz, do you think we could sit down and talk soon?” She didn’t respond and he imagined she was on the other end sorting out gentle ways to reject him. “Please?” he appealed, “We can’t go on the way we have been.”

“I’m trying to end things, Max, but you won’t let me.” Her voice had lowered to a nearly inaudible whisper and he knew she was trying to keep their conversation from being overheard by Rahsha and Kaala. For some odd reason Max felt encouraged by her actions.

“You don’t want to end things, Liz,” he contradicted softly, casually strolling through the clothes isle, “This rift between us is killing you…just like it’s killing me.”

“No, I’m doing what’s best,” Liz argued stubbornly.

“For who?”

“For me, Max!” Liz said in a furious whisper, “You’ve got to stop doing this to me!”

“Stop doing what? Acting like I love you?” Max demanded, “I can’t…I can’t do that, because I do…I love you, Liz.”

“Stop.”

Max leaned against the outside wall of the boys’ dressing room. “God, baby, I miss you so much…I miss holding you and touching you--,”

“Max, I mean it,” Liz warned, “Stop it.”

“—I miss waking up next to you in bed…making love to you in the morning--,”

“Max, I’m hanging up.”

“You wouldn’t get so mad if you didn’t feel the same way, Liz,” Max charged, “Don’t deny it.”

“I’m not gonna have this conversation with you.”

Max reluctantly conceded defeat. Goading her wasn’t going to get him anywhere. “Okay, I’ll stop,” he told her finally, “for now. Just tell me what kind of clothes to get Con and I’ll let you go, alright.” Liz rattled off a list that consisted mainly of t-shirts, shorts, underwear and socks. When she was finished she didn’t even bother saying good-bye to him, but simply hung up. It took every ounce of willpower Max had to keep himself from calling her back. It was better if he didn’t anyway. They’d probably just end up in a fight and the last thing Max wanted was to push her further away.

After picking out an armful of clothes for Connor and throwing them into an empty, nearby basket, Max went off to search for Kaelen. He found him a few minutes later in the pet supplies section, staring intently at an aquarium. Max went to stand beside him, stooping down to see what fish held Kaelen so enthralled. “What are we looking at?”

Kaelen flicked Max a brief glance. “Rahsh always wanted a fish,” he said, “I was thinking about buying her a Beta.”

“A what-a?”

“These,” Kaelen said, pointing to the red and blue fish that were confined in their own small tanks away from the rest of the fish. “She thinks they’re beautiful.” He said this with a soft smile.

Max envied his friend at that moment. Kaelen and Rahsha never seemed to have the problems that Liz and he had. Perhaps it was because they were the same species or perhaps because they had just accepted that they were meant for one another. Whatever it was, anyone could plainly see that Kaelen was madly, head over heels, crazy stupid in love with Rahsha. Max sighed. He felt exactly the same about Liz.

Max chewed at the inside of his cheek pensively. “So why are they confined like that?” he wondered aloud.

“They’re Chinese fighting fish,” Kaelen explained, “They don’t do well with neighbors, especially those of the same species. They usually kill each other.”

“Sounds like our people,” Max joked dryly.

Kaelen scratched his head and straightened. “You know…actually it does.”

Max experimentally tapped against the glass of the aquarium, amused when one small blue Beta plumed up in indignance. “They’re kinda like the fishy version of a parrot,” Max commented, standing upright, “So are you going to get one for Rahsha or what?”

“It would be a nice surprise…” Kaelen remarked more to himself than to Max, “But she wouldn’t have anywhere to keep him. It’s ridiculous when you consider it…I’m thinking of buying her a fish and we don’t even have a place to stay.”

“Yeah, I was thinking about that, too.”

“So what’s the plan?” Kaelen asked, “Are we staying in the pod chamber indefinitely? Was this just a pit stop? What?”

“I thought we might actually stay here,” Max told him evenly.

“Stay here?” Kaelen repeated with an uncertain frown.

“It’s really a nice place,” Max insisted.

“There are alien heads posted with street signs on the corner, Max. It’s weird.”

Max had to smile at Kaelen’s irritated tone. “You get used to it.”

“What about Bayok?”

“What about him?”

“He’s after us, remember?”

“Yeah, so what!” Max replied indifferently, “Bayok has ruined my life in a hundred different ways and half the time I let him do it. Not any more. I’m staying here. This is my home and where I belong…where I should have been all this time.” Kaelen didn’t say anything, just stared down at his Nikes in pensive silence. “I can understand if you want to leave, though,” Max said quietly.

Kaelen shook his head. “I don’t want that, Max…you’re my family now, like my brother,” he replied sincerely, “I’m sticking with you no matter what.” And then, as if realizing the moment had become too emotional between them, both guys cleared their throats and began bantering about more manly topics.

“So you gonna get the fish?” Max asked Kaelen again as he was studying the fish tank once more.

“Yeah, why not?” Kaelen conceded, “We can start apartment hunting tomorrow. Come on, let’s find the attendant and head out. The girls must be starving by now.”

By the time they had checked out and were making their way to Kaelen’s suv they were so engrossed in deciding what to grab for dinner neither boy noticed a dark haired man dressed in casual jeans and a button down shirt watching them from the payphone. He watched them with sharp eyes as they loaded up the car and climbed inside. As they drove away he flicked open his cell phone and placed a call. “I just thought you would like to know…Max Evans is back in Roswell.”

posted on 5-Dec-2002 10:52:32 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 45

Connor touched his chest with his index finger. “This?” he inquired of his mother solemnly.

“This is your chest,” Liz explained with a smile as she pulled his t-shirt down over his tousled head.

“Chest,” Connor repeated happily. He held up his hands and wiggled his fingers, his brows arched in inquiry.

“Hands,” Liz clarified, nodding towards his wriggling digits, “fingers.” Connor smiled gleefully as Liz bent low to pull his socks onto his small, slender feet. She felt his fingers sifting through her hair as she did and heard his soft, musical sigh above, “Shiny pretty.” Liz felt her smile broaden, detangling his fingers from her tresses before he did inadvertent damage. But he did seem extremely fascinated with her hair. Like father like son, Liz supposed.

She started to grab for his jeans when Connor abruptly pushed his Scooby-Doo underwear down around his knees and pointed to his penis. “This?” Liz went an amazing shade of red while across the cave, Max snickered, having watched the entire exchange between mother and son. Liz glared at him. “A little help here,” she hinted, unsuccessful in her attempt to get Connor to right his underwear.

“I think you’re doing an excellent job all by yourself,” Max laughed. They were alone with one another for the first time in forever it seemed. After they had all had a light lunch of Lo Mien noodles and egg rolls Kaelen ad Rahsha had said something about exploring Vasquez Rock and they had dragged a reluctant Kaala along for the trek. But Max had seen through their flimsy excuse. They were trying to give him time alone with Liz. He was grateful.

Max watched her struggle with Connor a bit more before finally giving in. “Hey, Sport, come here,” Max invited gently, motioning his son over. Though Connor was learning at an exceptional rate he still had yet to master the English language completely. He did well when gestures were included along with words. “Let Daddy help you put on your pants, okay?”

He son shuffled over to him, his underwear banded around his knees, dragging his brand new pants behind him. Max couldn’t help but chuckle at the picture he made. However, Connor was on a quest and he would not be diverted. Once again he pointed towards his groin. “This,” he demanded insistently.

“That,” Max clarified as he firmly tugged Connor’s underwear up his legs, “is your penis. It’s what makes you a boy.”

Connor cocked his head to one side, frowning a little. “Boy?”

Max regarded his son with a laughing, ironic expression. Why did he always seem to find himself in these situations? Sex talk already, he wondered. And he had only received that very same talk maybe three years ago himself. He looked over to Liz for help, but now she was the one laughing at him. He rolled his eyes at her before turning his attention back to a waiting Connor.

“Con,” he began diplomatically, “Boys and girls are…different down there. What you have makes you a male. All males have a penis.”

“You?” Connor asked with some surprise, “Same?”

“Yes, we’re the same,” Max assured him gently.

“See?” Connor requested with wide, shining eyes.

Max could feel himself blushing. This conversation was getting out of hand. “I don’t think so…” Max hedged. Connor turned slightly and pointed to his mother. “Maa-ta no penis?” he asked Max seriously.

“No, she doesn’t.”

Connor nodded, taking clearly taking in the bit of new information he had. He fell silent for a moment, thinking hard. His smooth little forehead wrinkled in a pensive frown. “And I same as you?” he asked haltingly, his eyes almost desperate pleading for reassurance. That when it dawned on Max. No one had ever explained Connor’s powers to him. They had all just assumed he knew…he seemed so special, so unique, someone like they had never encountered, but it was obvious that he was clueless about what he was. Max could remember feeling that same horror when he’d used his abilities for the first time. “Connor, are you talking about your powers.”

His son gave a reluctant nod and then reached forward to touch Max’s hair. He turned it a shining, silver gray. Max flipped up a lock of his hair, surveying his son’s handiwork. “Quite impressive,” Max praised, “When did you learn to do it?” Connor shrugged. “Are you scared because you can do these things?” Max asked carefully. Another reluctant nod. Max smiled and lifted his hand, brushing it across Connor’s hair and turning it the exact same shade as his own. Connor’s eyes widened in shock and delight. “See…we’re the same.” He pulled Connor against him then, burying his face in his son’s neck and hugging him tight. Though he was nearly the size of a five year old Max hadn’t ceased thinking of Connor as his baby.

Liz watched them together, tears burning the back of her eyes. Again she found herself wondering why she was punishing Max for something that he couldn’t control. Maybe because part of her had begun to doubt that she was truly the one for him. She thought about what Kaala had said. She would never fully understand what Max and Connor went through daily because she wasn’t the same, not really, not like Kaala. Liz looked away, wincing in pain at the thought.

When she looked up again she had her tears under control and Connor was asking yet another question while Max restored their hair to the original color. Connor pointed to his father’s chin hair. “This,” he demanded.

Max laughed at his insistence. “It’s a beard, Sport.”

Connor wrinkled his small nose in distaste. “No like,” he stated flatly. He stroked his hand over Max stubbled cheeks, dissolving the hair and leaving Max clean shaven. “Better.”

Max laughed again and looked over at Liz. “Maa-ta, you approve?” he teased laughingly.

Liz stared at him, feeling herself fall into his eyes, his smile, his beautiful, breathtaking face. God, why did he have to be so damned alluring? She had hated the beard for the most part. It had obscured his face and nothing should ever obscure such a striking face. Her smile gradually fading to a look of longing, Liz whispered, “Yeah…I approve.”

Seeing the look on her face, hearing the husky longing in her voice was too much. To hell with it, Max thought, shoving to his feet. He was going to kiss her and everything else be damned. “Hey, Sport,” Max whispered to his son, “Why don’t you go over there and see how many colors you can change those rocks.” He pointed to a distant corner of the chamber sufficient enough to afford him and Liz with privacy and enough rocks to keep Connor busy for a good long while.

Max had taken maybe two steps before the pod chamber entrance slid away and Kaala came falling inside, breathless and excited. “Kaelen said you want us to stay here, Max!” she exclaimed.

Liz looked up at him in startled surprise. “Max?”

“I was waiting for the opportunity to discuss it as a group,” Max explained, shooting eye daggers at Kaelen for blabbing. Kaelen only shrugged and pulled Rahsha down beside him onto a large boulder. Max looked back down at Liz. “Do you not want to?” he questioned.

“No, of course I do! I just never expected we would with Bayok…”

“We can’t spend our whole lives on the run because of him, Liz,” Max said softly, “Besides I’m sick and tired of running…”

“So what’s your plan?” Liz asked him.

“Well, we can’t just drop back into our parents lives after two and a half years,” Max replied, “Especially since I want them to know the truth…” he flicked a glance over at Connor, “about everything. If we just show up on their door and dump all this on them it will be too much. Plus, I really need to talk my plan over with Michael and Isabel before I go through with it. I can’t make decisions for them.”

Liz nodded her understanding. “So what do we do? Hang out in the pod chamber until after you’ve spoken to them?”

“I actually thought I would call Isabel now.”

Liz stared at him in silence. She couldn’t believe how fast things were happening. They had been back in Roswell only a few hours and already they faced the prospect of being reunited with their families as well as exposing the truth about themselves. Liz was feeling somewhat overwhelmed by it all. She could tackle the big things and she usually had a good handle on them. But several life changes coming all at once, now that was enough to freak Liz out. Yet, Liz could see the eagerness shining in Max’s eyes and it was impossible for her to deny him just as it had always been. She emitted a hitching sigh. “Call her then.”

Max briefly glanced around the group, noting their nods of consenting agreement. He then retrieved Kaelen’s cell from his back pocket and turned his back to place a call to his sister. She answered on the fourth ring.

“Isabel?” Max asked tentatively.

“Speaking,” Isabel responded suspiciously, “Who is this?”

“It’s Max.”

“Oh my god, Max!” Isabel exploded in excitement, “I can’t believe it’s you. God, I was thinking I’d never hear from you again. You’ve never called my cell. Wait! Is something wrong? Did something happen to Liz…the baby? What? Tell me!”

“Isabel, you’re rambling,” Max told his sister with a smile. It did feel good to hear her voice again. “Liz and I are fine. The reason I’m calling is to let you know that I’m here.”

“Here?” Isabel repeated, “Where’s here exactly?”

“We made it back into Roswell early this morning.”

Isabel actually squealed with delight. Max held the phone away from his ear with a surprised grin. Since when did his sister ever squeal? “Okay, so where are you?”

“We’re at the pod chamber,” Max told her, “Isabel, Liz and I didn’t come alone. We have friends with us.” He smiled over at Kaelen, Kaala and Rahsha. “I think you’ll like them.”

“I’m coming over right now,” Isabel told him.

“Are Mom and Dad there with you?” Max asked her suddenly.

There was a pregnant pause before Isabel answered. “No, I’m not at home at the moment,” she replied in a funny tone, “Why did you ask about Mom and Dad?”

“I don’t want them to know I’m home just yet,” Max explained, “I’d like to talk to you and Michael about something first.”

“Yeah,” Isabel agreed, “We’ve got a lot to talk about. A lot.” As Max hung up he was thinking that she didn’t know the half of it, but then, neither did he.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Dec-2002 12:25:56 AM ]
posted on 5-Dec-2002 10:54:00 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 46

Though he had been expecting his sister’s arrival the sunlight suddenly flooding into the pod chamber still made Max jump. He jerked his eyes from his sleeping son and wife and twisted around to face his sister. The first moment their eyes connected it was as if time stopped and rolled back. Max was once again that shy six year old boy Isabel had taken by the hand and led from the bus. She was his protector, his heroine, his sister. It hit Max in that second just how much he’d missed her. Isabel ran forward and threw herself into his arms with a tearful laugh. “God, I missed you!” she told him fiercely.

“I can tell,” Max teased, although he was on the verge of tears, “You’re cutting off my air supply.” He exaggerated a wheeze for emphasis.

Isabel contritely released him, framing his face in her hands, studying his features like a blind person suddenly given sight. “My God, you look so different, older, not my little brother anymore.” Even though they were technically the same age Isabel had always assumed the role of elder sibling. It had always seemed to fit her, but looking at Max, seeing the cynical lines and hardness that had been bred into his gentle face Isabel didn’t feel that way any longer. She rubbed a tendril of his hair experimentally between her fingers. “You need a haircut,” she told him.

Rahsha, Kaelen, and Kaala looked on at their reunion with swelling hearts, hardly noticed by the siblings for now.

Max pushed away from her, laughing. He, too, was a little stunned by the changes in her. She no longer seemed the hard, brittle Isabel she’d once been, but her brown eyes were sparkling now, full of a contentment and joy that had nothing to do with his return. This Isabel was happier, freer and obviously quite pleased with her life. But one thing remained the same. She was still as opinionated as hell. “I’m glad to see some things never change,” he said with a smile and then he thought to look around her, realizing she was alone, “Michael didn’t come with you?”

“Now you know me better than that, Maxwell,” Michael commented as he ducked into the cave.

Michael wasn’t alone when he entered. Maria DeLuca was glued at his side. Or at least she was until she spotted Liz. Then she squealed, “Chica!” and went running for her best friend, who had been awakened in the commotion. The two young women embraced tightly as Max stared at Michael and his sister incredulously.

“You brought Maria?” he exclaimed. Although, he didn’t know why he found it all that surprising. Maria and Michael had been dating when he and Liz left. But then he had expected that their relationship would fizzle out rather quickly. It was rather ironic to find that they were obviously still together when he and Liz were on the brink of divorce. But before Michael could explain his reasoning Alex entered the chamber as well followed by, non other than, Kyle Valenti. At that point, Max’s disbelief became outright anger. “What the hell is he doing here?” Max demanded, pointing at Kyle.

Liz was also gaping at Kyle in disbelief. “Kyle?” Rahsha, Kaelen and Kaala stood back and watched the unfolding drama with avid interest.

“I told you we had a lot to talk about,” Isabel said lamely.

“That doesn’t explain why you let Kyle follow you here,” Max exploded.

“He didn’t follow us,” Michael interrupted bluntly, “We brought him here.”

Max shoveled his fingers through his hair, taking in great gulps of air. “I must be in the Twilight Zone,” he muttered anxiously, “Because for a second I thought you said that you brought Kyle here with you.”

“I did,” Michael confirmed. Max looked as if he might suffer apoplexy then and there. Michael tried a more diplomatic approach. “Okay, Maxwell, before you pop a vein let us explain to you what’s happened in the last two years. Can you deal with that?”

Max folded himself down onto a boulder. “Start explaining,” he invited tersely.

“No, Michael, let me,” Kyle interrupted, stepping forward a little bit so that the pod chamber door sealed behind him. “You want answers, Evans, well here they are. After you and Liz ran off I was shocked and scared and worried. I mean, Liz was this straight A, all around good girl and yet you’d convinced her to leave her family, her friends, everything without a word of explanation to anyone…”

“Get to the part where Michael and Isabel are suddenly trusting you,” Max bit out impatiently. Somehow Kyle’s presence made Max feel more threatened than he had ever felt before. And it wasn’t because Kyle apparently knew their secret. It was because Kyle happened to be Liz’s ex-boyfriend, her human ex-boyfriend and she and Max were on the rocks right now. He wouldn’t put it past Valenti to try and insinuate himself back into her life, especially with the way he was presently talking.

Kyle glared at Max, contemplating the wisdom of punching his face in. Of course, his newfound religion of Buddhism probably wouldn’t defend such actions, but at the moment Kyle wasn’t feeling very enlightened. Inhaling a deep, calming breath he continued with his story. “Look, I was worried about Liz. Her parents didn’t know anything beyond her plan to elope with you. Maria wasn’t talking no matter how much I grilled her. I almost gave up, but then…”

He trailed off and almost without missing a beat Maria picked up where he left. “Our parents got married.”

Again Liz found her mouth hanging open. “What?”

“Eloping to Vegas is quite popular it seems. Yeah, me and Kyle are stepbrother and sister now,” Maria clarified glibly, “I understand your shock…it took some time for me as well.”

“But…but when,” Liz stammered, “How?”

“Long story, don’t want to bore you with the details,” Maria replied with a dismissive wave of her hand, “Short and sweet, Jim and Amy got married. Okay, so that makes things rather awkward with keeping the Czechoslovakian secret and all. Which is how Kyle found out…he overheard Alex and me talking one day.”

“And he promptly freaked out afterwards,” Alex provided, filling in his share of the tale, “He threatened to take everything we’d said to his father if we didn’t tell him the entire truth right then and there…and so we did.”

“So you blackmailed them,” Max spat out in disgust.

“No, you moron!” Kyle retorted, “I wanted to make sure my friend was alright, that she wasn’t in any sort of danger. I did what I had to.”

Liz was touched by Kyle’s determined concern. She offered him a small smile of gratitude that didn’t escape Max’s attention. His jaw knotted even tighter. “Is that all?” he asked Isabel.

“Not exactly,” Isabel hedged.

Max groaned. “Oh god, what else?”

“I told Mom and Dad the truth about us.”

Isabel had expected a bigger explosion than the one he’d had over Kyle, but instead her brother merely regarded her with surprised eyes. “You did?”

She nodded, frowning slightly over his unexpected reaction. “Yeah, a little over a year ago,” Isabel admitted, “I was afraid to tell you before…I thought you’d be mad. Are you?”

“No,” Max said thoughtfully, shaking his head, “I never expected you would tell them.” He looked over at Michael. “And you didn’t have a problem with her doing that?”

“I raised holy cane,” Michael told him, “but you know Isabel…she does what she wants.” He shrugged. “It worked out fine though. Your parents were a little weirded out, but definitely cool.”

“It doesn’t change how they feel about us, Max,” Isabel quickly interjected.

“Do my parents know?” Liz asked hesitantly, torn between hoping they did and hoping they didn’t.

Maria was the one to answer her. “I tried to explain things to them, but I don’t think they really believed me,” she told Liz, “Your father probably thinks I’m on crack.”

“They probably won’t believe until they see you and you tell them face to face,” Alex added wisely. Liz looked between her two best friends, noting the slight differences in their personalities. Although Maria was far from having lost her spunk, her demeanor seemed more sedate now, calm and content. Alex, on the other hand, still had his easy smile and engaging heart, but he seemed more confident, self-assured. Liz realized that she and Max hadn’t been the only ones to change in the last two years. “Do they talk about me?”

“Your mom still asks if I’ve heard from you sometimes,” Maria admitted, “Your dad won’t even speak your name, though. It’s like after you left something inside him just died. He hasn’t been the same since then.”

Liz knew that Maria wasn’t telling her those things to break her heart, but that was exactly what she was doing. She hated to think of what kind of anguish she’d put her parents through and how deeply she’d apparently hurt her father. Evidently, the sporadic letters she had sent them over the years hadn’t been nearly enough. Her eyes skittered away guiltily. “I don’t guess he’ll be glad to see me then, huh?”

Maria framed her friend’s delicate face between her hands. “Of course he’ll be glad to see you, chica,” she reassured Liz softly, “right after he finishes beating you senseless.” Her comment startled a teary giggle from Liz. Something suddenly dawned on Maria then. She clapped her hands over her cheeks. “My God, Liz! The baby? Did you have to leave him in the Colony after all?”

Liz’s eyes shifted away uneasily. “No, he’s here,” she replied vaguely. She and Max exchanged anxious glances.

“Where is he?” Isabel asked, excited to se her nephew as well.

“He’s there,” Max said, pointing over to the corner where his son lay curled in a ball, fast asleep. He’d had another seizure that seemed to rid his body of the remaining toxins of whatever poison Bayok had given him. Max had instinctively known his growth spurts were finally at an end. Following the episode Connor had a burst of energy followed by sweeping exhaustion. Max and Liz went through the extreme changes in emotion right along with him, feeling his exhilaration following the spurt and his crushing fatigue once he fell from the high. It was the reason Liz had fallen asleep soon after Connor and Max had been about to follow them right before Isabel arrived.

Isabel, Michael, Alex, Maria and Kyle stared in silence at the sleeping child before them. It was obvious that he belonged to Max. He reminded Isabel exactly of the six year old version of her brother. But then that was the problem…he looked at least five or six and that just wasn’t possible, was it?

“I can tell you have questions,” Max assumed quietly, “You’d better have a seat…this could take awhile.” Max started his story from the beginning when Zrei had first taken him and Liz to live with Bayok and Nesui. From there he explained how Bayok was actually evil and was after Connor. With his limited understanding of the situation he tried to make them understand why Connor was growing at such a rapid rate and why his existence was so important. They took everything pretty well. However, when he told Michael and Isabel how Zrei had really died they seemed just as upset as he had been…and frightened.

“So we’re definitely on our own now?” Isabel asked a little sadly, “And at the mercy of whatever alien lunatic comes along.”

“We’ll be alright. We were fine before Zrei came into our lives, Isabel,” Max replied softly, “We’ll be fine again…we have been so far.”

“And what about this Bayok,” Michael asked, not dwelling on sentiment for the moment, “I mean what’s his whole agenda anyway?”

Max sighed deeply. “He wanted to use me to influence the elders in the Woodstone Colony. He wanted me to help him become sole ruler there.” But Michael and Isabel still didn’t seem any more understanding of the situation so Max elaborated. “In antarian society there is no sole ruler. Antarians believe that only the Great One…, God I guess, should have that power. Bayok knew that there would be protest against what he wanted unless he had someone powerful to back him.”

“You?” Kyle snorted incredulously.

Max regarded him with narrowed eyes. “My family on Antar was a very influential one…very political. What I said and thought would have held merit with the elders.”

“Okay then, so you back this Bayok guy,” Isabel said, “Why kill Zrei…why take Connor? I mean, you said yourself that he wanted the baby and not just for leverage. What was the point in aging him in the first place? What has that got to do with being made sole ruler?”

“Isabel, you have to understand that Woodstone is just one American colony,” Max explained gently, “There are dozens more sprinkled across North America, not to mention the ones over seas. Bayok would have only had control of the Woodstone colony for so long before his actions became commonly known throughout all the Colonies in the world. He knew he was operating on borrowed time.”

“Okay, so…?” Michael prompted.

“So…enter Connor,” Max clarified, “Once Connor is fully grown no human or antarian power will be able to stop him. His power can be used for good or it can be used for evil. But his destiny is only to fulfill a prophecy, to take our people home to a new Antar where they can live as they once did and not in secret. Bayok knew that if he could harness Connor’s power for himself that no one could stand against him.”

“That’s why Bayok accelerated his growth,” Isabel whispered, “to steal his powers? Can he do that?”

“Unfortunately, he can,” Max replied, “And if he’s successful no one will be able to stop him. That’s why he can never get his hands on Connor again.”

“Can’t we just tell the other antarians what Bayok is doing?” Michael asked impatiently, “You know…blow the whistle on him?”

“They won’t listen to us,” Max told him, “We’re just humans to them. Our words will hold no value.”

“It’s not that antarians hate humans,” Liz interjected softly, “but that many of them see humans as the reason why they had to come to earth in the first place. They try to avoid contact with anyone outside their Colonies for that very reason.”

“So Bayok can just roam free doing whatever he wants until somebody finally gets a clue and stops him, is that it?” Michael snapped out, “Where is the hell is he right now?”

“Still out there,” Max whispered.

“What are you going to do?” Isabel whispered, “Are you just going to hide out here until you know it’s safe?”

Max shook his head. “I’m not running anymore,” he stated firmly, “I want to see my parents…I want to have my life back. If Bayok comes, he comes and I’ll deal with him then.”

“You mean, we’ll deal with him,” Kaelen corrected quietly, “Besides it might not come to that. Bayok won’t be able to hide his plans from the Collective forever…they’ll find him out eventually and then they’ll deal with him.” As Kaelen was speaking five pairs of startled eyes ricocheted in his direction.

“Who are you?” Isabel demanded, noticing him for the first time.

“Hot holy mama,” Maria muttered under her breath, clearly pleased with Kaelen’s appearance. But then Kaelen always did tend to dazzle the girls with his glinting green eyes and dark curly hair. Still, Liz pinched Maria anyway, but her friend was not to be silenced. “Good lord, do they all look like that in the Colony.”

Maria!” Michael admonished his girlfriend in irritation.

“God, I love you, Michael, but I’m not blind!” Maria exclaimed.

Kaelen blushed. Liz wanted to sink through the floor. And Kaala just stood there desperately trying to hold in her laughter. When she tore her eyes away from her brother’s ever reddening face she found that Kyle Valenti was studying her with his intense blue eyes. Something about the way he was staring at her made Kaala shiver. She looked away quickly, feeling her own cheeks pinken.

“Isabel, these are my friends I was telling you about,” Max said, putting a temporary end to the awkwardness, “This is Kaelen Stafford and his girlfriend,” he paused to give Maria a meaningful look, “Rahsha Quinn. The girl over to Kaelen’s left is his sister Kaala.” Max reversed the introductions as well acquainting everyone in the pod chamber, new friends and old, even Kyle.

“So what’s next?” Isabel asked when all was said and done, “I mean do you want to go and see Mom and Dad tonight or what?”

“I guess I don’t want to put it off any longer,” Max sighed in consent, “…especially with them already knowing the truth.”

“Okay, so here’s what will do,” Maria piped up in suggestion, “How about the hybrids head on over to the Evans’ for a little heart to heart and the humans will go over to the Crashdown and get things straightened out with Liz’s parents.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Michael said in agreement, “What do you say, Maxwell?”

Max was actually feeling rather stunned at the moment. Stunned that Maria had just made a suggestion and Michael and Isabel had accepted it without reservation. Stunned because everything seemed to be happening so fast. He had also hoped that Liz would speak out against going to see her parents without him. He wanted to be at Liz’s side when she saw Jeff and Nancy Parker again. But that was something she apparently didn’t want herself. She was probably eager to tell her parents that it was over between them and that he had ruined her life. Still, he couldn’t stop himself from hoping. He looked at Liz with a pleading expression, whispered her name softly in question.

She didn’t look at him when she replied, “Maybe you should go like Maria suggested.”

“I’m coming over as soon as I’m done with my parents,” Max told her insistently. But she only shrugged, barely acknowledging what he’d said at all.

posted on 5-Dec-2002 11:02:59 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 47

“Mom! Look who I brought home,” Isabel exclaimed, dragging her hesitant brother into the kitchen behind her.

Diane Evans glanced up from slicing carrots, the beginning smile of greeting freezing on her face as she beheld just who Isabel had brought home. Inadvertently, she sliced her finger, but she barely noticed the sting. Her knife slipped from her limp digits and clattered against the counter. He seemed taller than she remembered him, broader. No longer the little boy she’d believed him to be for so long, but obviously now a man.

His hair was longer, the curling ends almost touching his shoulders. He looked exhausted and haggard. The jeans he wore were dusty with holes worn in the knees and his hooded sweatshirt was a frayed, faded green. As she continued to stare intensely at him, he shoved his hands into his pockets, seemingly nervous to have her regard him so steadily. Finally, she whispered his name in a tremulous tone, as if she were fearful that spoke any louder he would disappear completely.

That’s when Max realized his mother was bleeding. “God, Mom, you’re hurt!” he exclaimed softly, slipping out of his trance and rushing over to her side. He passed his hand over hers to heal her cut. It felt good to be so open about his powers with her, even though her eyes did widen with shock when he healed her.

Diane looked up at him with shimmering eyes and cupped his cheek. “I thought I’d never see you again,” she murmured.

“Me either,” Max choked, not bothering to blink back his tears, “I’m sorry I left how I did…can you ever forgive me?”

“There’s nothing to forgive,” his mother assured him as she enfolded his shaking body in a tender hug, “I’m just so glad you’re home, Max!” Holding her sobbing son in her arms Diane Evans didn’t feel anger or disappointment or betrayal, only a crushing sense of relief, an aching happiness that her prodigal son had returned at last. She pulled back to cradle Max’s face in her hands, raining motherly kisses all over his face. “Your father is going to flip out when he sees you,” she predicted with a teary smile.

“Where is Dad?” Isabel asked. Up until that moment she had hung back, watching her mother and brother’s reunion with tearful eyes. She had seen the daily pain Max’s absence had caused her parents, had suffered under the guilt for her part in causing it. She was relieved and grateful that all that heartache could finally end now.

Diane finally released Max, whisking away the traces of her tears and turning so that she could face both her children simultaneously. “He got called away to Clovis unexpectedly…he should be here in another hour though.” She slanted a soft smile at Max. “I know he’ll be happy that you’re here.”

“Daddy!”

Connor came barreling into the kitchen with the impetus of a small locomotive. The moment he spotted Max he ran straight for him, attaching himself against his father’s leg. Kaala came running in behind him, chagrined and blushing. “I tried to stop him,” she panted in explanation, “but he was just too fast for me.”

“It’s okay, Kaala,” Max said, bending down to hoist Connor onto his hip. It didn’t escape his notice how his mother’s curious gaze was darting back and forth between Kaala and Connor. “Mom, this is your grandson. His name is Connor.” And then he added when his mother continued to stare at him strangely, “He’s just six days old.”

Diane’s eyes fairly bugged out of her head. “Six days?” she exclaimed incredulously. She touched the cheek of her son’s tiny replica. The boy’s eyes were amazing, hypnotic almost. Diane actually had to force her gaze away. “Oh my god…”

“It’s a long story and I promise to give you every detail…later.” He motioned Kaala over. “This is Kaala. She’s a very good friend. Kaala, I’d like you to meet my mom, Diane Evans.”

Diane reached forward and shook the girl’s hand unable to keep herself from staring at the girl’s flawlessly beautiful face. She had seen the way the girl had looked at her son a few moments before, the familiar comfort they seemed to share between them. Before she could stop them blunt words of inquiry came tumbling from her mouth. “Max, where’s Liz?” The words were sharper than she had intended and caused Kaala to drop her hand reflexively. Diane flushed. “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”

But Max only smiled, taking no offense. “Mom, Kaala and I are just really good friends,” he laughed, “Liz has gone over to the Crashdown to see her parents.”

“Oh…well then,” his mother chirped with a bright smile. But you could have cut the tension with a knife.

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

Maria cut the ignition to her light green 1997 Dodge Neon and twisted in her seat to face Liz. She audaciously ignored Kyle and Alex, who were waiting beside them in Kyle’s bright red mustang. “Alright chica, spill your guts.”

Her stomach already twisted in knots over the prospect of seeing her parents again after so long, not to mention the tension between her and Max, Liz almost leapt out of her skin when Maria fired her demand. She quickly tried to compose herself, however, smoothing her hand down the length of her hair in a purely nervous gesture. “What are you talking about Maria?” She tried to seem indifferent but then Liz had never been very good at playing coy, especially with Maria.

Maria’s answering expression was blandly longsuffering. “Lizzie, just because I haven’t seen you in almost three years doesn’t mean I still don’t know you better than anyone alive…that includes Max Evans.”

Liz palmed her forehead in frustration. “Was I always this transparent?”

“Only with me,” Maria reassured her, “Now tell me what gives with you and Max.”

“I asked him for a divorce, Maria,” Liz blurted out. She found that once she’d broken the emotional dam built up insider her, however, she couldn’t stop the flow. “It’s not that I don’t love him anymore, Ria,” she explained in tearful confusion, “I do…I love him so much it hurts. But his life is so fucked up right now…”

“And you don’t want to be a part of it?” Maria finished for her.

Liz threw up her hands in the universal gesture for frustrated confusion. “I don’t know…I do and I don’t. I’ve just lost so much so fast…sometimes I find myself wondering if we even belong together..” Liz told Maria the entire story then, about how she’d mistrusted Bayok from the first but Max had never believed her. She also confided the truth about Kaala and how she had once been Max’s arranged bride. Maria had actually rolled her eyes over that one.

Liz went on to tell Maria how they had eventually gotten away from Bayok after Zrei died. She explained to Maria that although she was relieved to be free, she continued to feel like Bayok’s shadow had continued to hang over them like a storm cloud even after they left his house. It was something Liz had never confided to anyone, not even Max. Liz tearlessly recounted to Maria how Bayok had stolen Connor away from them and then taken his babyhood, as well any future chance Liz might have had for children.

When she was finished Maria slumped down in her seat. “God, no wonder you’re feeling confused,” she breathed, “Your life is never simple, is it, Liz?”

“That’s exactly my point,” Liz laughed bitterly, “I would just like a simple life for once and not have to constantly be looking over my shoulder for the next disaster. I want to be with Max, but I’m so afraid of losing again. What if the next thing I lose is him?”

“Liz, you know I’m here for you, babe,” Maria said, giving her friend a tender hug, “God, I’ve missed you.”

“Same here.”

When Maria pulled away, she quickly swiped at her tears fearful of ruining her eye make-up. “Do you want me to go in with you when you face your parents?”

Everything inside Liz screamed a resounding yes. But she would have felt like too much of a coward doing that to Maria. “No, I should face them alone,” Liz replied resolutely, “I have a lot of explaining to do.”

“Well, I’ll just hang around okay,” Maria offered, “Just in case you need a friend afterwards.” She gave Liz’s hand one final squeeze before Liz climbed from the car and walked toward the entrance of the Crashdown. The moment Liz disappeared inside the restaurant Alex was yanking open Maria’s car door. “You’re just going to let her go in there alone?” he asked incredulously.

“She wanted to.”

Liz well remembered the last time she’d felt such trepidation walking into her family’s restaurant. She had been missing that time, too, only it had been for a week. This time she had been gone for nearly three years. It should have comforted her that at least her parents knew the truth about Max now and, therefore, might understand why she had run away but it didn’t. The fact still remained that she had kept a huge secret from them and that when she was in trouble, instead of turning to them, she had run away. Liz imagined that her actions had hurt them terribly and she wouldn’t be surprised if they found it impossible to forgive her.

The Crashdown was unusually busy for a week night. As Liz drifted around the restaurant she saw quite a few faces she didn’t recognize. Scanning the restaurant, Liz saw that her parents were nowhere to be found. Liz grabbed the elbow of a passing waitress. “Excuse me, can you tell me where I can find Jeff and Nancy Parker?”

“They should be upstairs,” the waitress replied impatiently, “Do you need someone to show you the way?”

“No, I remember how to get there,” Liz said graciously, not taking the woman’s brusque attitude to heart. She well recalled the stress of working the Crashdown during a rush. “Thank you for your help,” Liz told her and she headed for the back towards her parents’ apartment. She made her way up the stairs fairly quickly but when she found herself faced with the door to their apartment Liz felt hesitant to knock.

She was suddenly acutely aware of her appearance. Liz wished fervently that she could face her parents after so much time looking like a self-assured adult. Instead she stood on their doorstep in a baggy gray sweat pants that belonged to her husband and a form fitting white t-shirt. Her hair wasn’t arranged in some sophisticated fashion, but pulled back from her face in a haphazard ponytail. She looked every bit as scared and vulnerable as she had at sixteen, probably more so than before she left.

The truth was she was still that same scared little girl, only this time all her childish fairytale dreams had been crushed. True love didn’t conquer all and the good guy didn’t always win in the end. There wasn’t any pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and no cloud she’d ever seen had a silver lining. She was cynical now, having had those ideals violently ripped from her in one way or another. It had been quite a while since Liz had felt safe and protected and she realized that was what her parents represented to her, safety and security. That was part of the reason she’d missed them so much.

The idea of feeling safe and secure again was magnetic and helped Liz overcome her hesitancy. She raised her fist and rapped sharply on the door, holding her breath. Nancy Parker pulled open the door and froze immediately, her face blanching with shock.

“Hi, Mom,” Liz greeted simply, “Do you mind if I could come inside?”

“Oh my god,” Nancy Parker whispered in shock.

Liz spoke the first lame words that sprang to her mouth. “I know you weren’t expecting me and that this is a surprise—,”

“Oh my god,” her mother uttered again.

Liz rambled on. “You probably thought you’d never see me again and that’s understandable considering the circumstances and--,”

“Oh my god.”

“Mom, do you think you could say something to me besides “oh my god’?” Nancy Parker broke down then, collapsing against the door corridor and dissolving into heartbreaking tears. Liz’s own delicate hold on her emotions shattered in those seconds. She flung herself into her mother’s arms, weeping into her neck. “I’m sorry, Mom,” she cried brokenly, sobbing harder as she felt her mother’s arms band around her, “I’m so, so sorry.”

posted on 5-Dec-2002 11:11:21 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 48

“You look thin,” Nancy Parker stated to her only daughter as she sat a plate of cold chicken down onto the table before her. Liz begin attacking the food with gusto, trying not to be too aware of her parents’ scrutinizing gazes.

“Are you sick?” Jeff Parker asked, noting his daughter’s wan complexion and deep set eyes. She looked as if she hadn’t slept in weeks. “You look terrible, Lizzie.”

“Gee, thanks, Dad,” Liz mumbled around a mouth full of chicken.

Jeff made no attempt to apologize for his assessment. As he stared at his daughter, looking so thin and pale and ill, he felt pity as well as anger swell up in his heart. Obviously, Max hadn’t been taking the good care of her that Lizzie had expressed in her sporadic letters. If her appearance now was any indication the last two years of her life had been utter hell. “So where’s your husband,” Jeff bit out, feeling his anger grow with each passing second.

Liz stopped chewing momentarily, lowering her eyes. “He’s with his folks.”

“Why didn’t he come here with you,” Jeff demanded crossly, “Was he too much of a coward to come and face me like a man after stealing my little girl away?”

“Don’t talk about Max that way, Dad!” Liz replied dully.

Jeff slammed his hand down against the table, causing his wife and daughter to jump at the echoing boom he caused. “You come to me looking like death and you dare to try and defend that boy to me?” her father snapped irately.

“It’s not Max’s fault that I look this way, okay,” Liz argued, “I had major surgery a week ago…I’m still recovering.”

“Surgery!” her mother exclaimed in concern, “Why did you need surgery?”

“Is something the matter, Lizzie?” her father asked unsteadily, his anger immediately replaced with fearful worry. “Should we be concerned?”

“Dad, I’m fine…” Liz reassured them. She pushed her plate of chicken away, suddenly losing her appetite. She fiddled with her fingernails for a moment before finally admitting quietly, “I had a baby…that’s why I had to have surgery. There were complications.”

Nancy sank down into the chair next to her daughter, her breath easing from her lungs in a spasmodic sigh. “A baby?” Liz nodded.

“You had a baby?” her father repeated as if he thought something was wrong with his hearing. “You and Max have a child together?”

“Yes, a boy,” Liz confirmed, “His name is Connor.”

“Oh god,” Jeff groaned, looking as if he might start crying.

“Where is he?” her mother asked softly.

“With Max and his parents,” Liz answered.

Nancy Parker swallowed several times; visibly struggling with the news their daughter had just given her and her husband. “Can we see him?” she whispered gruffly.

“I’d like that, Mom, really I would,” Liz began haltingly, “but first I need for you both to understand some things. Maria told me she talked to you about Max and where he came from…”

Her father scoffed. “Yeah, some nonsense about Max being one of the aliens in the 1947 crash,” he recalled bitterly, “A bunch of crap. I almost fired her over it.”

“It’s not crap, Dad,” Liz insisted, “It’s the truth.”

Nancy Parker reached across the table to tentatively cover Liz’s fisted hand with her own. “Liz, honey,” she began gently, “aliens don’t exist.”

“Yes, they do,” Liz told them definitely, “and I’ll prove it to you.” She grabbed the crystal vase centerpiece from the table and smashed it to the floor. Her mother jumped in shocked surprise. Her father shot from his chair, cursing harshly. And while they were still in an uproar over the broken glass Liz stooped down to the floor and used her powers to reassemble the shattered vase. The room went utterly silent.

Finally, her father gasped after several seconds ticked by, “Holy fucking crap, how did you do that?”

“I told you aliens exist, Dad,” Liz said quietly, “Everything Maria told you guys was the truth.”

Her father began frantically pacing the length of the kitchen. “So you’re telling me that week you disappeared with Max back then you had been actually kidnapped by the FBI?” His tone was dubious as he said it, despite what he’d just witnessed. “This is unbelievable!”

“Dad, I need you both to understand all of this, especially before you meet Connor,” Liz whispered urgently, “I don’t want you to treat him like a freak or anything.”

“Liz, he’s our grandson,” Nancy reassured her daughter, “We’d never do that.”

But her mother’s understanding attitude didn’t help Liz to feel any better. If anything it heightened her frustration all the more. Liz realized she had a great deal more explaining to do before her parents got the full picture.

It was going to be one hell of a long night.

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

Max had never seen his father cry before that night. But Philip Evans had taken one look at his only son and had collapsed into a nearby chair, breaking down into sobs. Max’s family and friends respectfully withdrew from the living room to leave father and son alone. Max leaned over his father, tentatively patting his back, while struggling to blink back his own tears. “I’m sorry, Dad,” he whispered hoarsely, “I know I fucked up.” He stooped down before his crying father. “Can’t you even look at me?”

Philip dragged his hands down his wet cheeks and regarded his son with pain-darkened eyes. “Did you really hate your mother and I so much, Max, that you’d intentionally put us through the hell you did?”

Max suddenly wished he hadn’t asked his father to look at him. The agony in his eyes was almost crushing. Max felt like he was suffocating under the weight of his guilt. “I didn’t do it to hurt you.” Didn’t everyone say that when they wanted to justify ripping someone’s heart out? Max had never realized just how lame the excuse was until he heard himself say it to his father. “I fucked up,” he said again.

“Yeah, you did.”

“Liz and I couldn’t stay here, Dad,” Max explained painfully, “not with the baby. We had to go away.”

“You should have told your mother and I what was going on,” Philip insisted stubbornly, “We could have helped you.”

“Or I could have hurt you,” Max countered evenly, “I didn’t want to drag you into my mess of a life.” Max paused a moment. No, this wasn’t the way to go about it. If his father was ever truly going to know him Max would have to be completely honest. “That’s not true, what I just said,” Max amended, “I didn’t tell you the truth because I was scared…I was so scared that you and Mom wouldn’t love me anymore.”

“That’s ridiculous--,”

“Was it?” Max returned sharply, “All Isabel and I knew for sure was that whoever we belonged to left us to fend for ourselves. I kept thinking that if they couldn’t love us enough to stay with us then neither could you.”

Philip chewed at his lower lip thoughtfully. “I hope you know better now.”

“I do,” Max confirmed with a nod, “My worst mistake was running away from here. I’ll never be able to express to you how sorry I am.”

His father clapped him firmly on the shoulder, his tone bittersweet when he said, “Just don’t run away again.”

Father and son walked together in companionable silence to the dining room where the rest of the family waited. The rest of the evening seemed to progress rather smoothly afterwards. Philip was much better at covering his shock at his grandson’s accelerated growth than his wife had been. He and Connor hit it off immediately, wrestling with one another as if they had been doing it for years. Afterwards Philip formally met Max’s friends and together they all settled down at the table for dinner.

Diane was fairly beaming as she brought out the pot roast she’d made for dinner. There was nothing more she could ask for. Her entire family was finally together once again along with her grandson as the newest edition. Other than Liz there was only one person missing. “Isabel, Alex isn’t coming for dinner tonight?” she asked her daughter as she spooned salad leaves onto a plate and passed it down the table.

“Alex?” Max repeated around a mouth full of roll. He chewed and swallowed. “As in Alex Whitman? Why would he be coming to dinner?”

“Oh, Max, didn’t Isabel tell you?” Diane inquired, passing her son a plate of salad.

“Tell me what?”

“Your sister’s getting married next fall,” Philip grumbled from the other end of the table.

Isabel bristled at her father’s surly tone. “Dad, don’t start!”

“What?” Philip asked in feigned innocence, “Your brother asked a question.”

“You’re engaged?” Max bleated, “To Alex?”

“You’re acting like he’s Quasimodo, Max,” Isabel quipped dryly, slowly sliding her irritated gaze from her father, “I’ve very happy about it. Alex is a wonderful guy, the best.” She flashed a genuine grin of joy and then wiggled her fingers at him, bringing attention to the half carat diamond on her forefinger. “He emptied out half his savings account to buy this for me,” Isabel announced proudly.

“Yeah, yeah…I still think you’re too damned young,” Philip muttered for which his wife quickly admonished him to be quiet.

Max examined Isabel’s ring then angled her hand so that Rahsha and Kaala, who were straining to see it as well, could have a glimpse. They responded with the proper oohs and ahhs which Isabel ate up like chocolate. “I still don’t get it,” Max said when Isabel finally pulled her hand away, “It doesn’t seem like you and Alex would have a lot in common.”

“We don’t,” Isabel confessed, reaching for a dinner roll.

“Then how’d you end up engaged?”

“Actually that’s your fault,” Isabel replied briskly.

“How is it my fault,” Max demanded. Kaelen watched the exchange between the two siblings in amused fascination. Usually it was Max teasing him about the bickering sessions he had with Kaala. Turn about was actually quite nice. Not missing Kaelen’s smug smile, Max casually stroked his middle finger against his cheek, flipping Kaelen the bird as he did so.

All this went on without anyone at the table being aware. Currently, Isabel was in the mist of explaining to Max how he was responsible for her engagement to Alex Whitman. “After you left I was in a really bad place,” Isabel revealed candidly, “Alex was there for me. He made me laugh…we hung out, before I knew it I was falling in love.”

Next to her, Michael snorted at her succinct retelling of her courtship. “Hey, Iz, I think you left out the part where you stalked Maria everyday for almost two months trying to get the goods on whether Alex liked you or not.”

Isabel stomped his foot beneath the table, inciting a pained yelp from Michael. He started to stomp her back and a brief tussle ensued between them right at the dinner table. As Max watched them together he couldn’t help but think, who are these people? Michael was actually smiling for a change and Isabel she was positively…giddy. Max had gone away for two and a half years and we he came back both his sister and best friend had undergone some major personality transplant. In addition to that, it seemed that Michael had become a permanent fixture at his family’s dinner table in Max’s absence as well. That was strange in itself because Michael had always seemed satisfied to avoid his parents.

Diane rolled her eyes with a long-suffering sigh. “Can you children please behave yourselves?” she scolded, “Max just got home, I’d like him to have a nice dinner his first night back. Besides that, I don’t think you’re making a very good impression on his friends.” What was even stranger, from Diane’s laughing tone, Max would hazard that she cared about Michael, was actually concerned for his welfare. What the fu-- Max didn’t like the idea that he had been replaced in his own family. He felt his smile gradually fade from his face.

“So um, Michael,” Max started, sullenly pushing his roast beef around on his dinner plate with the tip of his fork, “I’m guessing you have dinner here pretty often.”

Michael just shrugged. “Only since your dad emancipated me.”

Max’s head snapped up in confusion. “Emanci-what?”

“Michael lives on his own now,” Isabel explained gently. She had sensed the subtle change in her brother’s mood but was unable to determine what was bothering him. “He has his own apartment across town that he shares with Kyle.”

“You live with Kyle Valenti! Max exploded in disbelief, his fork clanging against his plate loudly. God, had the entire world gone insane!

Michael assumed an expression that was more characteristic of the guy Max remembered. “I also have a job at the Crashdown as a short order cook, if you’d like to have a problem with that as well, Max,” he shot out sarcastically.

That was the final straw. Max didn’t think he could handle hearing about one more change. He scraped back his chair. “I’ve gotta go,” he said, addressing his mother.

Of course his announcement plunged the entire table into chaos. His father half rose out of his seat and snapped, “What do you mean you have to go? You just got here!”

“Max, what’s the matter?” Isabel pressed worriedly.

His mother only sat there staring at him with tear-filled eyes, her fingers fluttering unconsciously at her throat. Suddenly, Max felt like a complete ass. He sighed and bent down to kiss his mother’s cheek. “I told Liz I’d meet her over at the Crashdown later,” he said by way of explanation, “I don’t want her to face her dad alone.”

Both Philip and Diane wilted with visible relief, but Isabel and Michael continued to eye him curiously. “Are you sure you’re okay, Max?” his sister asked him again.

“I’m positive,” Max assured her, “I won’t be gone long, I promise.” He took a moment to thank his parents for opening up their home to him and his friends. His mother had graciously volunteered the downstairs bedroom in the basement to Kaelen, Kaala and Rahsha until they found a place of their own. Max and Liz would, of course, share Max’s old bedroom. Rather than seeming disgruntled over having so many unexpected guests Diane Evans appeared actually excited over the prospect.

Still, as Max leaned over to kiss her good-bye one last time she grabbed hold of his forearm in a grip that was almost desperate. “Max, you are coming back, aren’t you?”

“Yes, Mom,” Max replied sincerely, but she still didn’t look convinced, “If it will make you feel better I’ll leave Connor here with you instead of taking him with me like I planned, okay?” His mother nodded. She might not be confident in his plans to stick around indefinitely, but she was absolutely sure he wouldn’t go anywhere without his son.

Max crouched down in front of Connor who was staring around the table in apprehension, realizing that something was happening that he didn’t quite understand. Max kissed the top of his son’s silky head. “Con, I’m gonna be gone for a little while and I want you to stay with Grandma and Grandpa until I get back, okay?”

“I can’t go?” Connor questioned with wide, fearful eyes. In just a few short hours his English had gone from stilted to nearly flawless. His son’s capacity for soaking up knowledge was exceptional and Max couldn’t help but stare at him in amazement. “Why can’t I go, too?”

“Don’t you want to get to know your grandparents better?” Max encouraged, “And your Aunt Isabel and Uncle Michael?”

Connor gave an uncertain, little nod. “I guess…”

“You won’t be alone, Sport,” Max promised him, smiling gently, “Uncle Kaelen and Aunt Rahsha will be here with you. Not to mention Kaala. It will be okay.” But as he tried to stand Connor grabbed hold of his shirt and held on tight. Max stared down at his son’s white knuckled grasp. “Con, I’m coming back.” He leaned forward to kiss Connor’s forehead. “I’m going to get Maa-ta, that’s all. I’ll be back here quicker than you can blink.”

“Promise?” Connor incited solemnly.

“Promise.”

Connor blinked. When he opened his eyes again Max was grinning at him. “See I told you.” His son finally smiled then, his eyes dancing with silver flecks. Once Max was sufficiently satisfied that his son would be alright in his absence he said another round of good-byes and headed outside for his jeep.

He had just climbed behind the steering wheel when Kaala came running from the house. She hopped into the passengers’ seat. “I’m coming with you,” she stated firmly.

“No, you’re not,” Max countered, “Get out.”

“Max, don’t be a pain!” Kaala ordered, “I know you’re upset so don’t bother to deny it. You don’t need to be alone tonight.”

“I won’t be alone…I’m going to get my wife remember?”

Kaala refused to budge. “Max, please…let me stay…in case you need me.”

Max blew out a disgusted sigh. He didn’t have time to argue with her. “Fine! But you stay in the jeep at all times! Got it!”

posted on 5-Dec-2002 11:19:29 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 49

“Lizzie doesn’t want to see you,” Jeff Parker informed Max coldly. But as he started to slam the door in the younger man’s face Max caught the door with his foot.

“Mr. Parker, I understand I’m not your favorite person right now,” Max began magnanimously, “but I really need to see Liz.”

“I told you,” Jeff gritted, growing more irate with each passing second, “Liz does NOT want to see you. She wants a divorce. Why can’t you accept that?”

Max actually deflated against the doorjamb. His head was suddenly spinning. “She told you that,” he wheezed.

“If you persists in stalking her this way I’ll have a restraining order drawn up,” Jeff threatened.

Max could feel panic setting in. Seized with a new desperation to see Liz, Max tried to shove past her father. “Mr. Parker, please, I need to see her.”

Jeff shoved Max backwards roughly, taking a wild swing that connected with the corner of Max’s mouth and knocked him to the ground. “Do you really want me to call the police, Max?” he yelled, “Just get the hell out of here!”

At the sound of her dad’s yelling Liz came running. She found Max sprawled across the ground, fingering his bleeding lip while her father loomed over him with brandishing fists. “Dad, what did you do?” Liz exclaimed as she rushed over to Max’s side. Without conscious thought, she ran her finger across his mouth, healing his cut. She lifted brown eyes full of hurt to her father. “Why would you do this?”

“All he’s done is hurt you, Lizzie,” her father sighed, his anger spent leaving him a dejected, defeated man, “Why can’t you see that?” Her father shook his head sadly and shuffled back into the apartment.

Liz assisted Max to his feet. “I’m sorry he did that--,” she began by way of apology.

“Did you tell your parents you wanted a divorce?” Max bit out in interruption. His eyes were begging her to tell him otherwise. Liz looked away from the pleading anguish she saw there.

“Under the circumstances I think it would be best,” she replied woodenly.

“Under the circumstances,” Max croaked hoarsely, “What circumstances, Liz? I still love you…and I know you love me…”

“Sometimes love isn’t enough.”

“Don’t recite fucking platitudes to me!” Max exploded. He couldn’t do this. It couldn’t be happening. Not now. Not when he felt as if his entire world was imploding. He didn’t recognize anything in his life anymore. Liz was all he had now. Liz and Connor. He couldn’t lose her. He couldn’t. Abruptly, he grabbed her by the forearms and before he realized it he was dropping to his knees, burying his face in her belly. “Please… Liz. Please, please, don’t do this…” he begged her shamelessly, “…I’ll be better…god, I swear it…just please, please don’t do this…”

Liz stared down at the top of his head, wanting to caress his silky hair, wanting to pull him closer to her body, wanting to break down into sobs right along with him. But she did none of it. Instead she kept her hands fisted at her sides, closing her eyes and silently praying for the strength to carry out what she’d started. “Max, I don’t want to prolong this… I feel like I’m slowly bleeding to death.”

Max heard the finality in her words. He went completely still against her. “What can I say so that you won’t do this thing,” he whispered, but he already knew that there was nothing he could say. Stiffly, he pushed himself upright, staring down at the ground as he did. He wiped at his running nose. “I’m sorry…” he choked, “…I guess I made a fool of myself.”

“Max.” She whispered his name like a caress, her heart breaking to see him in agony. But when she reached out to touch him he jerked away.

“I never thought you meant it,” Max said, his head hung low, “Not at all…not until this very moment.”

“Max, I told you--,”

“Yeah, you did,” Max conceded, cutting off the rest of her statement, “and now I know.” He finally looked at her then and Liz fully realized how much it hurt to look at someone in such raw pain. His eyes were vacant, expressionless, as if he’d simply stopped caring. “Now I know,” he said again before turning to walk away. As he did something dropped to the floor behind him, but he kept walking as if he hadn’t noticed.

Only when Liz bent down to pick it up did she realize that Max had thrown away his wedding band. She continued to stare at it for a long time after he was gone.

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

When Isabel shuffled into the kitchen the following morning Max was already sitting at the counter nursing a mug of coffee. He was staring off into space as if deep in thought. She moved over to the coffee machine to pour her own cup. “So you got in pretty late last night,” she remarked as she came to sit beside him.

“A little after two,” was Max’s laconic reply.

“Mom was worried about you.”

“I was fine,” Max returned brusquely before quickly changing the subject, “Did you know that there’s a white utility van parked two doors down from the house?”

Isabel took a sip of her coffee. “Not surprising since there are utility poles all down our street, Max.”

Max fixed her with a sour look. “Don’t be glib,” he warned her flatly, “Do you know how long it’s been there? Is it something we should worry about?”

“No, I don’t think it is,” Isabel sighed, “Max, they’ve left us alone. It’s not really like the FBI has anything to go on anyway. We destroyed all the files that DeVoe had on him that night so there’s no longer any evidence of what you are in FBI records.”

“We hope,” Max replied pessimistically. He sighed deeply. “I just want to be sure.”

Isabel offered him a small smile which he didn’t return. “It’s fine, Max.” He lapsed off into silence once again, sullenly fingering his coffee cup. Isabel realized that something more was bothering him than just the white van parked outside. She was well aware that Liz hadn’t come home with him last night. She waited in silence for him to begin talking but soon came to recognize he wouldn’t be the one to open up the conversation so she decided to take the plunge herself. “I heard you come in last night,” she began carefully, staring down into the dark liquid in her cup.

“I figured you might,” Max replied dryly, having an inkling of where the conversation was headed.

“You were talking to someone,” Isabel went on, “At first I thought it was Liz but when I got up this morning your friend Kaala was in our bathroom taking a shower.” Max stared at her with unreadable eyes. Isabel checked the impulse to slap him senseless. “What’s wrong with you!” she exploded in a whisper, “What’s going on with you and Liz? Why did that girl spend the night in your room?”

“Kaala spent the night because I asked her to,” Max retorted, throwing himself from the stool and stomping over to the kitchen sink to deposit his coffee cup there. When he turned around to face Isabel again he was glowering. “Don’t you even think of badmouthing her to me, Isabel, or I swear--,.”

“What do you want me to say?” Isabel demanded sarcastically, “You spent the night in your room with someone other than your wife, Max! Am I supposed to just be okay with that?”

“Nothing happened between us,” Max told her, “Kaala just stayed with me…that’s all. I didn’t want to be alone.”

Isabel slumped in relief, her irritation quickly replaced with anxious concern. “Why didn’t you want to be alone, Max?” she asked, “Did something happen with Liz?”

“She wants a divorce,” Max stated flatly.

He was actually proud of himself. Last night he hadn’t been able to choke the phrase past his throat without sobbing let alone utter it with such lackluster emotion. A blessed numbness had settled over him replacing the hollow emptiness that had consumed his heart the night before. It was a manageable feeling. At least now he felt in control of himself. Hard, cold…dead inside.

Max didn’t remember how he had managed to make it back downstairs and past the crowds of people packed into the Crashdown, but when he burst outside into the cool night air Kaala had been standing there waiting. He didn’t remember crying so much as he just felt numb and cold inside. Kaala had taken him into her arms without a word. Afterwards she had ridden with him as he drove aimlessly through the streets of Roswell. They didn’t speak a word to each other the entire trip.

Later, when they arrived back at the Evans’ Kaala had walked Max to his bedroom, but when she turned around to leave he grabbed hold of her arm. “Do you think you could stay with me?” he asked her hoarsely. His request hadn’t been about sex and Kaala had known it. He needed comfort…he needed a friend. That night she had listened to him bare his soul about Liz, laughing about the times he’d had with her and crying too, revealing to Kaala the depth of his pain that he hadn’t let anyone else see. She had stayed the night, crashing on the floor, even after he had sobbed himself into unconsciousness.

Isabel stared at him in shock following his flat statement. “No,” she half laughed in denial, “that’s just…that’s just crazy. Liz is totally in love with you. She always has been, Max.”

“Tell her that.”

Kneading her temples, Isabel huffed, “This doesn’t make sense. Why would Liz want a divorce? Is it about that Kaala girl?”

“No, it’s not about that Kaala girl,” Max bit out sarcastically, “Liz doesn’t think she can be happy with me anymore.”

“Why?”

“Long, painful story.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Isabel countered softly.

“Look, I don’t want to talk about it.”

“But you could talk about it with your friend,” Isabel retorting, feeling hurt.

“I didn’t tell her anything she didn’t already know, Isabel,” Max sighed tiredly.

“Max, please talk to me,” Isabel pleaded, “Tell me what’s wrong…let me be your sister again.”

Sighing in defeat, Max told her the entire story. Surprisingly, when he was done he was glad he had, although it didn’t make him feel any better. But talking about what happened between him and Liz aloud with his sister had somehow allowed him to see Liz’s side of things with clearer perspective. When he looked at the sorrow and pain she had endured in the last three years and the reasons that she had Max didn’t find it difficult to understand why she wanted to leave him. Hell, he would have left himself if that were possible.

“What are you going to do?” Isabel asked him, tracing the rim of her coffee cup with the tip of her fingernail.

“I thought I’d try my hand at avoidance,” Max quipped dryly. But his teasing fell flat because the pain he was in was quite evident.

“What about Connor, Max?” Isabel asked, “You and Liz have a son…that should mean something. Not to mention the fact that Roswell is a small town. You’re bound to bump into her everywhere you go.” She didn’t mention her graduation ceremony taking place that Saturday. Isabel knew from the expression on his face that he had already counted on running into Liz there.

“I can’t think about that right now, Izzy,” Max said dully, “Right now I’m just trying to get through today. I’ll deal with the rest as it comes.”

posted on 5-Dec-2002 11:32:48 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 50

Max managed to avoid Liz for almost that entire week. When Liz had come by to pick up Connor that afternoon following their confrontation Max had asked his mother to act as an intermediary. Diane hadn’t wanted to, especially because she wanted Max to work out his relationship with Liz, but in the end she had succumbed to his begging.

Max spent the following five days in a flurry of activity. When he wasn’t out with Kaelen apartment scouting he was spending time at his father’s law office in Clovis. Philip Evans had agreed to take him on as a legal clerk. Max had been extremely grateful for the break, especially because he was leaning towards political science as his college major. He spent his spare time with his son just marveling over the changes the boy made every day.

Connor’s growth had finally stopped, thankfully, but his mind, his fertile mind would not be hindered. He asked questions about everything, constantly barraging Max with a frenzy of whys and why nots. Though Max appeared outwardly annoyed by his son’s endless questions the fact that Connor came to him for the answers brought a secret smile to Max’s heart. In fact, he was smiling at that very moment while he, Kaelen, Rahsha and Kaala perused their latest preference for an apartment, just thinking about it.

“So what do you think?” Kaelen asked him, snapping him out of his daydream.

“What’s not to like,” Max ventured, “Three bedrooms, two and half baths, complete with a balcony and a walk in pantry…I’d say it’s damned great!”

“It’s seven-fifty a month,” Rahsha whispered as if the rent amount were a curse.

“Between the four of us I think we can swing it,” Max assured her. He quickly did the mathematical calculations in his head. $187.50 wasn’t a bad rent to pay.

At that second, Kaala came skipping back into the living room, her green eyes glowing with excitement. “I call the room with the bathroom,” she sang. She was fairly dancing around the room in anticipation.

“We’ll work out the rooming arrangements later, Kay,” her brother said practically, “First we have to decide if we really want to commit to this place or not. They only offer year long leases. So once we sign…we’re stuck like chuck.”

“I say we do it!” Kaala rushed to say.

“Wait a minute,” Rahsha cautioned, “This place is really expensive. None of us have jobs yet…I mean, except Max. Are you expecting him to handle the rent all alone until we find jobs? And what about the utilities? He can’t bear all the financial responsibility.”

“I’m not saying he should. Rahsha, we’ve got plenty of money saved up from before we left Woodstone,” Kaelen told his girlfriend, “We’ll be fine for at least a month or so.”

“Besides that,” Kaala interjected, “Max isn’t the only one who has a job now. As of yesterday afternoon…so do I.”

“You have a job?” Rahsha bleated incredulously.

“I said job, not third eye, Rahsh. Geez.”

“Where?” her brother asked.

“At the museum next door to that Crashdown restaurant.” Kaala was careful not to mention Liz when she answered although she noticed that Max still winced when she said the word “Crashdown.”

“You’re working at the UFO Center?” Max asked her.

“Yeah, that’s the one,” Kaala confirmed, blowing a humongous bubble with her gum. She snapped it back into her mouth. “What’s the big deal?”

Max slanted her an ironic grin. “I just used to work there that’s all.”

“Really?” Kaala squealed, “That’s so incredible! How long?”

Kaelen stepped between them. “Much as I’d hate to break up your stroll down memory lane,” he interrupted with an exasperated smile, “we have to decide what we’re going to do about this apartment. Do we get it or not?”

“I say we get it,” Kaala voted, not surprising anyone. Now Kaelen’s agreeing with her was a surprise. And it was already a forgone conclusion that Max was in love with the place.

Rahsha frowned. “I guess that leaves me the odd woman out,” she muttered, “I just don’t know about this, you guys.”

Max hugged her lightly around her shoulders. “Rahsha, you’ve got to loosen up. Have some fun. Live on the edge,” he teased, “You’re eighteen not eighty.”

“Look who’s talking…Mr. Staid and Dependable himself,” Rahsha retorted, elbowing him in the ribs.

Max blushed at her pointed teasing. “Come on, let’s get the paperwork done,” he suggested, glancing at his wristwatch, “I’ve got to pick Connor up in another hour and then hightail it back home in time to get ready for the graduation ceremony.”

“Why don’t you go on then,” Kaelen told him, “We’ll take care of the details here.”

Max nodded and grabbed up his jacket from the floor. “Rahsha, you’re still coming right?” For the last two days Rahsha had been going into the Crashdown to fetch Connor so that Max could avoid seeing Liz. But she didn’t like doing it and she never failed to tell him so. Over and over. He could see from the expression on her face that she was going to outright refuse him now. “Come on, Rahsh!” he wheedled.

“You need to talk to Liz,” Rahsha insisted obstinately, “I’m not going to help you avoid her anymore. I’m tired of feeling like I have to choose sides when you’re both my friends.”

Max turned his pleading gaze to Kaala. Her eyes promptly skittered away. “Kaelen made me promise not to get in the middle,” she mumbled into her chest.

Clenching and unclenching his fists at his sides, Max snapped, “Are you guys ganging up on me or what?” He was met with silence. No one would meet his gaze directly. “Come on,” he pleaded. No one showed him mercy. “Fine!” he spat, stalking from the apartment, “Fuck you all!”

Rahsha and Kaala looked towards Kaelen in uncertainty, but he only shrugged. “He’ll be alright.”

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

Max sat parked outside the Crashdown, giving himself a mental pep talk. You can do this, he told himself firmly, she’s just 5’2 and she doesn’t weigh more than 110 lbs. There’s no reason for you to be intimated. So what if you melt into her brown eyes every time you see her? So what if the scent of her hair makes you ache? So what if you’ve woken from a wet dream about her every night for the last week and a half? It didn’t matter! She is nothing to you now. Just the past. She’s just a part of your past! But Max still didn’t budge from his seat.

Why couldn’t Rahsha have just come with him, Max wailed inwardly. Was it asking too much to have at least one person on his side? No, instead he had everybody hounding him to go after Liz, to try and talk to her, to make things right when he wasn’t the one who had made them wrong! And now Kaala, the one person he had been able to count on in this whole mess, the one person who had always seemed to be in his corner, had apparently been turned to the dark side as well. Max wanted to grind his teeth in frustration. He brooded there for a few moments longer before finally pushing himself from the jeep and stalking through the Crashdown entrance.

Liz was waiting at a booth right near the door. She saw him the moment he entered, surprise and relief registered on her face, and watched keenly as he approached the table. “I see you didn’t send in your second today,” Liz remarked quietly as he glared down at her. He had done a rather fine job of avoiding her in the last five days so she was more than surprised to find him striding into the Crashdown and a little anxious to talk to him as well.

“Rahsha flaked out on me,” he replied tersely, “She said she didn’t want to choose sides.”

“Yeah, she said something to that effect to me yesterday,” Liz murmured.

But Max wasn’t in the mood for small talk. He wanted to get in and get out. “Where’s Con?” he demanded, scanning the restaurant for his son.

“My mom took him out to the park to give me a break. God, he’s a handful! We really need to talk to him about when it’s appropriate to use his powers,” Liz laughed. It didn’t escape her attention that Max’s face remained perfectly straight despite her teasing. Liz sighed. “You’re early…I wasn’t expecting you for another thirty minutes.”

A dozen frustrated curses tumbled through Max’s mind. It seemed nothing was going according to plan and having Liz attempt to chat him up after the hell he was enduring because of her was the final straw! He mentally counted to ten, praying for patience. “I’ll just come back later,” he clipped, turning on his heel.

“No, Max, please stay!” Liz implored at his back, “You can have a galaxy sub…it’s on me!” When he still didn’t turn around at her bribery Liz tried appealing to his logic. “Come on, Max, don’t leave. By the time you get home you’ll just have to turn right back around to come here. You know how the jeep eats gas…that would just be a waste.” She held her breath, waiting for his response. Finally, his stiff back relaxed and he turned around and slid into the seat across from her. Liz wasn’t successful at biting back her tearful smile even though he didn’t look at all happy about his choice.

Liz wasn’t heartless. She didn’t want Max to hate her and she didn’t want to pretend he didn’t exist either. They had been friends once, long before they became lovers, long before they married. Liz didn’t want to lose that. She wanted to keep at least some small part of what they had shared. It seemed only fitting since Max would always retain a part of her. He would always have her heart, no matter what. “So you don’t have to have a galaxy sub,” she babbled, so happy that he had decided to stay that she found herself rambling, “you can have a Will Smith burger or a--,”

“I’m not hungry,” Max said, cutting her off. For some reason it bothered him to see the disappointed pain that flickered across her face at his terse reply. Why did he care? After all, she was the one who wanted to be apart, let her deal with the consequences! But even as he had the cynical thought he couldn’t just sit there and knowingly cause her pain, no matter how much she was hurting him. “I’m not just saying that, Liz,” he told her sincerely, “I split a pizza with the guys before I came here.”

“How are Kaelen and….and Kaala?” Liz had to choke the last of that out. Recently, Liz had heard from Maria who had heard from Isabel that Kaala had been spending the night in Max’s room. The idea made Liz feel sick…and jealous. Kaala had been right. Liz didn’t want to let Max go and the thought of him moving on from her love really hurt. “Rahsha mentioned you all are trying to get a place together.”

“We actually found one today.”

“Really? How many bedrooms?” Liz asked casually.

But not casually enough. Max quirked his lips in a derisive smile. “Does it matter?”

Liz shrugged, although her throat was suddenly clogged with tears. “No, I guess not,” she whispered.

Again Max found himself concerned with her feelings though he didn’t want to be. “Liz, I’m not sleeping with Kaala if that’s what you’re thinking.”

Liz lowered her eyes, feigning absorption in her newly done manicure. “I didn’t ask you about that, Max,” she replied neutrally.

“But don’t deny that you wanted to know just the same,” Max countered.

“What you do in your bed and who you take to it is no longer my business, Max,” Liz returned with forced indifference. But inside she was relieved, she was so very relieved. But Liz realized that their conversation was progressing quickly towards a place that neither of them needed to be and so she deftly changed the subject. “Are you going to the graduation tonight?”

“Isabel would have my head on a spike if I didn’t.”

Liz nodded at that. She picked at a small chip in the table top. “They’re having a party afterwards, you know. Down at the old Soap factory.”

“Yeah, I heard about that,” Max replied without much interest.

“Are you going to go?”

“Probably not. You?”

“Nah…I think I’ll just stay in…curl up with a good book or something.”

“Yeah?” Max asked, remembering just how much she’d enjoyed reading in bed, that is until he would come along and distract her with something more enjoyable. The memory caused a burning in his cheeks as well as his groin. He coughed to cover over his sudden arousal. “So you reading anything good?” Liz ducked her head a little, a secret smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. “What?” Max asked, noting her smile.

“I don’t know…you’ll laugh at me.”

Her smile was infectious and Max couldn’t stop himself from responding in kind. “No, I won’t laugh, I promise,” Max insisted. Sometime during their brief, awkward conversation Max had forgotten that he was supposed to be mad at her. He forgot that she had broken his heart in the most terrible way. He forgot about everything in the face of her beautiful, shining eyes and sweet, laughing mouth. “Tell me.”

“I’ve recently discovered Dawson’s Creek fanfiction.”

“Dawson’s Creek fanficwhat?”

“Fanfiction,” Liz clarified, “You know…like the fans write the show the way they’d like for it happen. For instance, you know I didn’t like the way the writers handled the whole Pacey and Joey romance, right?” Max suppressed the urge to roll his eyes. He well remembered Wednesday nights on the WB. Every week Liz forced him to live out the saga that was Pacey Witter and Joey Potter’s love affair. Max might have thought the characters were real people the way Liz had carried on. “Anyway, I found some fanfiction on the Internet by this girl named Laura Smith which I am absolutely addicted to. I think she writes great Pacey/Joey fics.” Liz noticed then that Max was looking at her rather strangely, an odd combination of affection and longing. “You think I’m crazy, don’t you?”

He shrugged. “Whatever makes you happy,” he quipped and then instantly regretted having said anything at all. Her need for happiness was the very reason he and Liz were sitting in a Crashdown booth discussing fictitious characters rather than at home in his bed making love. Because, according to Liz, she couldn’t be happy with him in her life. The forceful reminder of that caused Max’s smile to fade away. The façade of their tentative friendship suddenly seemed just that, a façade. In reality, he and Liz were now just polite strangers because that was the way she wanted it.

He looked away from her then and stared out the window. “Maybe I should wait for your mother outside,” he suggested quietly.

“No,” Liz protested gruffly, sensing the change in his mood and regretting the loss of his smile, “you don’t have to do that.”

“I think I should,” Max insisted, sliding from the booth.

Impulsively, Liz grabbed hold of his wrist to keep him from walking away. “Max, please,” she entreated, “I want to be your friend.”

He looked down at her sadly, shaking his wrist free. “And I want to be your husband,” Max countered softly, “that’s why this will never work.” He backed away from her. “Good-bye, Liz.”

posted on 5-Dec-2002 11:39:56 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 51

A smile pulled at the corners of Max’s mouth as he sat at the dining room table and watched Connor color diligently his newly purchased Spiderman coloring book. Just seeing his son’s contented smile served to wash away the weariness of Max’s day. It hadn’t started out too horribly but as the hours progressed his day had become increasingly unbearable.

Attending Isabel’s graduation had been the most normal that Max had felt in ages. He had been pleasantly surprised to find that many of his classmates still remembered him from before despite how introverted he had been back then. He had even blushed a little as some of the girls from his tenth grade class twittered on about what a hottie he’d been and how saddened they had been when he left. To Max’s surprise, he didn’t find being back at West Roswell nearly as excruciating as he’d expected. He had actually begun to believe his day might actually go rather well when Liz finally arrived with her parents. After that Max’s mood had quickly plummeted from fair to poor. He had felt as if the wind had been knocked from him at the sight of her and he hardly noticed much of the program following.

She had stopped over near his row to visit briefly with her son and to try and persuade him to sit with her and her parents, but Connor had been content where Max’s parents, although he had given Liz plenty of kisses to take away the sting of his rejection. Liz had meticulously avoided Max’s gaze, but Max, on the other hand, stared at her outright as if mesmerized. Max knew he was being obvious as indicated by the several sharp pokes Michael had given him with his elbow, but he had been past caring.

Max had watched as Liz and her parents joined the Whitmans and the Valentis in the row across from where he sat with Michael, Kaalen and Kaala, admiring the fluid grace of her steps and the gentle sway of her hips as she moved. From the angle of the seats Max was afforded with a clear view of her lovely profile. She was dressed in a cream colored linen dress with a floral print, which accentuated her creamy gold complexion, and strappy brown high heels. When she sat down she crossed her legs, affording Max when ample view of her shapely calves and slender ankles. In that moment, Max got hard and stayed that way.

When Michael had jumped out of his seat and began hooting wildly as Maria made her way across the stage Max hardly noticed. He had been watching Liz, watching as she mimicked Michael’s undignified cheering, her cheeks flushed with excitement. Watching her breasts jiggle slightly beneath the wispy material of her dress. He had shifted uncomfortably in his seat for the remainder of the program, feeling acutely aware of his erection the entire time, but most especially when his sister walked across the stage to receive her diploma. Instead of being filled with pride, as he should have been at that moment, Max had been filled with rampaging lust.

By the time the ceremony had ended Max felt embarrassed, flustered and more than eager to leave. He didn’t waste time afterwards, but had grabbed Connor and had beaten a hasty retreat, claiming a headache. Max had known that his excuse was flimsy and that his sister would probably be hurt by his absence but Max didn’t think he could stand another minute in that place being so close to Liz, wanting her so bad and yet unable to be near her.

Once he had made it back to his parents’ house, Max and Connor settled down in the living room together to watch The Lion King at Connor’s request. They were nearly half an hour into the movie when Max’s mother had called and said that she and Philip were taking Isabel out to dinner to celebrate. It was evident in her tone that she wanted Max to join them though she didn’t ask outright. However, his mother did try her hand at emotional blackmail, saying that Connor might enjoy spending time with both sets of his grandparents for a change.

The remark had hit its target and filled Max with an uneasy sense of guilt. He had briefly considered agreeing to meet them out of sheer shame, but the likelihood that Liz would be there as well was just too great. After all, Alex had graduated as well and he was one of Liz’s best friends and Alex and Isabel were engaged so… All this played through Max’s mind as he bid his mother to extend congratulations to his sister and to have a good time. He hung up the phone before his mother could evoke further argument.

But his conscience bothered him slightly for having blown off his sister’s graduation dinner and Max had a hard time enjoying the remainder of the movie with his son. Later, when the movie was over, Max went into the kitchen to prepare a small snack for him and Connor to eat in the dining room. And that’s where they were currently, Connor alternately coloring and nibbling on his peanut butter sandwich while Max watched in silence.

Suddenly, Connor set aside his bright red crayon and fixed Max with a pensive, silver stare. “Dad, you’re not a super hero, are you?”

Max was surprised by the question, mildly amused. “No, I’m afraid not, Con.” He ruffled his son’s silky head. “You’re not too disappointed I hope.”

Connor shrugged, his eyes more silver than gold, alerting Max that he was thinking about something rather deeply at the moment. “So you’re just an alien and that’s it?”

“I think that’s enough, don’t you?” Max laughed.

But Connor’s small face remained unsmiling. The luminescent silver in his keen eyes increased. “Do you like being an alien?”

The question caught Max off guard. He couldn’t recall ever being asked such a question before, much less considering it. “It’s never really crossed my mind before,” Max answered him honestly, “My alien side has always been who I am…I never thought much about how I felt about it or if I liked it.”

“But would you change who you are…I mean, if you could…would you not be an alien?” Connor persisted urgently, “Would you choose to be completely human?”

His son’s seriousness prompted Max’s own and he pondered Connor’s question quite deeply before answering. “I think I might like to be completely human…if it were possible.” Max realized that his son had obviously been contemplating this subject for a long, good while now. Connor’s eyes were fairly dancing with the intensity of his thoughts. “Why so many questions, Sport?”

“I just wondered,” Connor hedged vaguely, “…if you had a chance to become completely human…to live out the rest of your life like any other normal person if would you do it?”

“Yes,” Max answered softly, “yes, I would.” But the possibility of something like that happening was unattainable, Max thought; still it didn’t hurt to dream.

“And Mom?” Connor prompted.

Max’s smile became tinged with sadness. “I know she would.”

“Is that why you aren’t together?” Connor questioned astutely, “Because she wants you to be normal and you can’t be?”

“Neither of us are normal, Con,” Max answered softly, “Not anymore.”

“But once?”

“Your mother…never me.”

“But you did want to be normal, didn’t you?” Connor surmised wisely. His eyes were completely silver now, glowing wildly in their intensity, mesmerizing almost.

Max felt sucked into his liquid gaze, struck by how mature Connor seemed in that moment, more adult than boy, so intuitive about the human heart and yet so ignorant of the motivations that drove it. “I can’t wish away what I am, Sport,” Max sighed, “Neither can your mother. Some things are just beyond our control.”

“But that’s doesn’t keep you from trying to have control,” his son countered, “Just like it doesn’t stop Mom from trying to break the bond between the two of you.” Max could only stare at him. What could he say when his son was stating an irrefutable truth? “She can’t break it, you know,” Connor informed him quietly, “She doesn’t have the power to do so…no one does, at least not on earth. Not even me.” His eyes were older, imparting a wisdom far beyond his years, far beyond his time.

The eerie serenity in the last of his words caused Max to shiver slightly. “What do you mean, Con?”

“The love between you has always been strong,” Connor told him, “even long before either of you recognized that falling in love was your destiny. You will never escape it…you weren’t meant to.”

Max tried to laugh away the feeling of disquietude Connor’s somber manner had evoked, although his entire body was beginning to tremble with the vague sense that Connor was telling him something of vast importance. “Con, what do you know about destiny?” he teased shakily, “Has your grandmother been letting you watch Days of Our Lives again?”

“You are not yet ready to hear these things,” Connor concluded wisely, “But someday…when the time is right…” And then he retracted back into himself, the iridescent light fading from his eyes and leaving his pupils their usual amber ringed with silver light. He was no longer an old soul full of timeless wisdom, but a five-year old boy with an open, candid expression. It was as if the last few minutes had not happened at all. He picked up his crayon and resumed coloring. “Why couldn’t we have dinner with Aunt Isabel and grandma?” he asked curiously.

Max frowned at him for a moment, puzzling over the sudden shift in his demeanor. He wondered if he might have imagined the preceding minutes completely. “Your Mom would have been there,” Max said, finally answering Connor’s question after an extended pause, “It would have been awkward for her…for us both.”

“I still wish she was here,” Connor said innocently, “She lets me have all the chocolate I want.”

“Yes, I’m already well aware of how your mother spoils you.”

“You spoil me, too,” Connor conceded, swinging his legs beneath the table, “I just wish we could live together again like we did before.”

“Before?” Max questioned. Again Max was dumbfounded. He and Liz had broken up shortly after Connor’s birth. They had barely even shared the same room since then. “What do you mean before?”

“When I was inside her,” Connor replied offhandedly, “You would sing to me sometimes…I liked that. I was never afraid when you were around.”

Max could only gape at him. Connor had memories…from the womb! It didn’t seem possible, but then there were a great many things about his son that didn’t seem possible. “You remember being inside your mom?” Max whispered in soft question.

Connor nodded, never glancing up from his coloring book. “That’s when we were a family,” he told Max wistfully, “That’s when we were happy together. I miss that.”

“I’m sorry we can’t give that to you anymore, Con,” Max explained gently, “But sometimes things don’t work out the way we want them to no matter how hard we try. Sometimes love isn’t enough.” It was the very thing Liz had told him nearly a week earlier. When she had said it to him he had been furious, but now he realized just how true the words had been. “Your mother and I can’t be happy together.”

“Because you’re not human,” Connor deduced.

His frankness filled Max with uneasiness. “That’s one reason, I guess.”

Connor nodded and Max didn’t know what prospect bothered him more, that his son hadn’t understood any of what he’d explained to him or that Connor understood perfectly. He didn’t seem to acknowledge that any of what Max said had affected him too deeply, though. He never paused in his coloring once. But despite outward appearances Connor’s fertile mind was working furiously.

While his father watched him with absent eyes Connor made a decision. He would begin the process of healing for his father and mother. That was where his journey must begin. Abruptly, his green crayon rolled from the table, with a little help from Connor, and onto the floor.

“I’ll get it,” his father said quickly, already bending down to retrieve the crayon. The moment he stooped down Connor stretched his hand out over his father’s back, closing his eyes in concentration as he gathered forth his energy. Immediately, Max fell into a trance-like state as Connor opened the connection between them, seeping not only into his father’s psyche, but his body, his very marrow. Connor flashed past the epidermis, beyond muscle and sinew to where the blood flowed quickly, to where his father’s cells divided at a dizzying rate, to where the very DNA was encoded. Connor concentrated himself, his energy, his power, his very existence as he morphed that strand of DNA, recoding the genetic chain meticulously, one link at a time.

“Max, I thought you would be getting ready to leave.”

At the intrusion of his grandmother’s voice Connor yanked back his hand, retracting his energy and the tell-tale glow that accompanied it. He shoved his hand underneath his leg, smiling up at his grandmother in guileless innocence. Seconds later, Max snapped out of his daze and straightened, never realizing that his son had just changed his very insistence. He passed Connor back his crayon. “Getting ready to leave where?” Max asked his mother curiously, “I didn’t even know you guys had made it back.”

“We just got in a few minutes ago,” Diane Evans explained, leaning forward to drop affectionate kisses on the cheeks of her son and grandson. “Well, I thought you might be attending Isabel’s graduation party for one. They’re leaving in a little while, you know,” Diane commented, taking a seat at the table with them. She casually glanced over Connor’s artwork. “Why that’s spectacular, honey,” she praised Connor, “You’re already coloring like a professional.” Connor beamed up at her and she beamed right back. Already her gamin-faced grandson had her wrapped around his finger. She glanced back up at Max. “So are you going to go?”

Max jerked his eyes from his son once again. He was still preoccupied with the strange conversation they’d had before. “Go where?”

“To the party,” his mother clarified in exasperation.

Max wanted to roll his eyes at the question. “It’s not my scene, Mom,” he replied.

“You can’t stay cooped up in the house all day, Max,” Diane admonished, “It’s unhealthy.”

“I don’t stay cooped up, Mom,” Max protested, “I work, too.”

“You know what they say about all work and no play, Max.”

Max arched his eyebrows. “No, Mom, what do they say?”

Diane gave his hand a playful tap. “You know what I mean…you should do something constructive for a change.”

“A party is constructive?” Max prodded sardonically. His mother only frowned at him. Max sighed. “I am doing something constructive,” Max insisted, “I’m spending time with my son. We barely had any time together after I picked him up from Liz’s. We’re keeping each other company now, aren’t we, Sport?”

Connor finally glanced up form his coloring book. “Well--,” he hedged uneasily.

“What?”

“I kinda have a date with grandma,” Connor admitted reluctantly, “We planned it this morning before Mom came to get me.”

“You did?” Max asked, surprised. This was the first he’d heard about it.

“Yes, I’m taking him to see Monsters Inc.,” Diane clarified.

“No big deal. I’ll come, too,” Max volunteered, not looking forward to the prospect of being alone.

“Nuh-uh,” Diane protested, shaking her head, “This is grandma-grandson time only. Why don’t you go have a good time with people your own age?”

“Why do I feel like you’re bullying me?” Max countered crossly.

“Because I am,” Diane admitted without an ounce of shame. She rose from the table, grabbing hold of Connor’s hand as she did. “Just try to have a good time tonight, Max,” his mother pleaded softly, “No matter what you decide to do. I can’t stand any more of this funk you’ve been in.” With that she left him alone at the table, dragging his son determinedly behind her.

posted on 5-Dec-2002 11:46:08 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 52

The moment Max stepped into the party he felt that coming there had been a bad move. He didn’t know how he’d let his mother talk him into it in the first place. As he stared out into the sea of gyrating bodies that consisted of his former classmates Max had never felt more isolated. But instead of leaving, as he should have, he drifted over to a row of chairs lined up against the wall and took a seat. It was obviously the geeks and losers’ station, Max surmised as he slanted a look down the line. These weren’t the self-proclaimed wallflowers; no they were the rejected, the unwanted, the social lepers of their class. Max felt depressingly at home among them.

He had been sitting, alone and quiet, for maybe ten minutes when Isabel abruptly joined him. Max wasn’t surprised to see her. He’d expected her to find him eventually. “I should slug you,” she announced tightly over the blaring music, glowering at him, “It’s only the fact that I know that you’re in extreme pain which keeps me from doing you bodily harm right now. Besides that I’m just glad you decided to pull your head out of your ass and have some fun tonight.”

“Gee thanks,” Max replied, somewhat disgruntled. But then he sighed in regret. “I’m sorry I missed your graduation dinner, Isabel,” he told her genuinely, “Did you have a good time?”

“It would have been better with you there,” Isabel responded dryly, “As it was I think your friends felt a little awkward without you, but I guess it’s lucky that Liz was there to smooth things over.” Isabel studied her brother carefully. “That’s why you didn’t come, isn’t it? Because of Liz?” Max didn’t answer. Isabel groaned in frustration. “When are you two gonna end this nonsense?”

“This is what Liz wants,” Max said, “I’m just complying with her wishes.”

She almost rolled her eyes at that statement. Not because her brother’s attitude was uncharacteristic, but because it was so absolutely typical of him. Here he had loved and adored Liz Parker for all of his life from afar and then, finally by some cosmic coincidence, he won her heart after years of pining and now he was simply willing to let her go? The idea was absolutely ridiculous! And yet that was exactly what Max had planned. He wasn’t even bothering to put up a fight.

It was his defeatist attitude that irritated Isabel the most. She couldn’t understand why he was giving up so easily, especially when it was clear that he was still in love with Liz and that she was still in love with him. However, when Isabel would try to bring these facts to her brother’s attention he would only shut her down, exactly what he was doing at present. She stared at him in disappointed annoyance. “Alex is having a guy’s night out next Saturday,” Isabel informed him dryly, “Do you plan on skipping that as well.”

“As long as Liz won’t be there I won’t have a reason to miss it, now will I?” Mar retorted bitingly. He could tell from the expression on Isabel’s face that she was about to launch into another Liz tirade and Max was not in the mood to hear it, especially after the conversation he’d had with Liz earlier that afternoon. It was obvious that he was never going to get anywhere with Liz. She wanted to be friends and that was it. Obviously, in her mind the relationship they had shared was over. What was the need of fighting anymore when faced with that heart shattering truth?

Isabel emitted a soft, aggravated curse. “You both are just so damned stubborn,” she muttered under her breath, “I would have thought for sure that Liz would--,” She cut off abruptly and pressed her lips into a thin line, realizing what she had been about to reveal just in time.

But Max was too shrewd. His eyes were already narrowed in suspicion. “You would have thought Liz would what?”

Isabel adopted an innocent look, regarding him with wide brown eyes. “Nothing,” she squeaked, “Nothing!”

“Isabel, you’re lying to me,” Max sang silkily, “Spill it.” She refused to answer and, as a result, Max decided to pull out the big guns. “You do realize that I know a number of embarrassing things about you, don’t you Is? Things I would be more than happy to share with Alex…if it came to that.”

“Fine, you ingrate!” Isabel snapped, “I kinda told Maria that Kaala was sleeping in your room…this entire past week.”

“You what!” Max exploded. He lifted himself from his chair to loom over her menacingly.

“Listen, before you mad cow let me explain why I did it,” Isabel rushed out, holding up her hands to stave him off. “I know what a blabbermouth Maria is…there was no way she’d be able to keep from telling Liz what I told her.”

Max had to blink at her several times because surely in those moments she had gone completely insane! “You told Maria that Kaala and I were sleeping together? Why, Isabel?” Max uttered in a choked whisper.

“I didn’t say you were sleeping together…I just sorta implied it.” Max’s face became positively flushed with rage. He was obviously on the verge of losing it completely. Isabel repressed the urge to cower before him. “I only did it because I thought if Liz believed that you were moving on from her she might fix this mess between the two of you,” Isabel admitted meekly, “I was only trying to make you happy.”

“Next time send a Hallmark,” Max gritted in a curt tone, “You didn’t make things better, Isabel. In fact, I think you might have made things worse.”

“I had the best intentions, Max.”

“Well, they backfired,” Max snapped. Now he completely understood the reason for Liz’s attitude towards him that afternoon. She hadn’t been merely jealous, as he had first supposed, she had been hurt as well. No wonder she had believed he was sleeping with Kaala. No wonder she hadn’t looked at all convinced when he denied it.

He raked his fingers through his mop of unkempt hair. “I’m already having a hard enough time trying to convince Liz of the reasons we should be together without you throwing Kaala into the mix! She is just a FRIEND! Now you’ve just given Liz one more reason to decide our relationship isn’t worth the fight. God!”

“I just wanted to help.”

“Just don’t,” Max uttered fiercely, “don’t help anymore!” He glared at her one last time before stomping away, so intent in his need for escape that he hardly noticed the petite brunette blocking his path. Their bodies collided and, being the smaller person, Liz went sprawling to the floor in a haphazard heap. “Oh my god,” Max groaned, stooping down immediately to help her up from the floor, “Are you okay, Liz?”

“My pride is wounded,” Liz answered him with a smile, “and my butt is a little sore, but other than that, I’m peachy.” She brushed the dirt from the seat of her denim hip huggers before looking at him again. “So I thought you were going to sit out tonight?”

“So were you,” Max pointed out wryly.

“Oh yeah,” Liz agreed with a small smile, “Where’s Con?”

“Mom took him to a movie.”

“That’s good,” Liz said, “It’s good that she gave you a chance to have a night out.”

“But I’m not staying.”

Liz’s smile collapsed. “Oh…um…why not?”

Max’s shrugged uncomfortably. “Parties aren’t my scene…you know that…”

Liz nodded. She did know that. Still, the fact that he didn’t plan on staying was…disappointing. No, beyond that. She had actually come to the party in the hopes that he might be there. Now that he was leaving she didn’t have any motivation to remain.

Liz didn’t get herself. She told Max she wanted a divorce and she did mean it. She did. Their relationship and their lives had become far too complicated. Liz had also discovered that her residual feelings of resentment concerning their brief stay with Bayok had stayed with her. After Connor had been taken and her surgery those feelings had flowed to the surface and Liz couldn’t stamp them down again.

She had told him, warned him over and over again that Bayok could not be trusted. But Max had been too involved in discovering his alien heritage, in belonging that he hadn’t listened to her. His stubbornness had very nearly cost Liz her sanity. And because Max had opened himself up to Bayok he had left himself and his family vulnerable to attack. That was the reason that Bayok had been able to take their child in the first place. Maybe if Max had listened to her sooner perhaps Connor would still be a baby and they would be watching him grow up like a semi-normal kid.

Maybe. What if. The possibilities rolled through Liz’s head at least a hundred times a day and whenever she found herself wavering in her resolve, those questions would always harden her. She supposed she needed someone to blame for all the things that had gone so horribly wrong in her life these last two weeks. Max was easiest to blame.

But her resentful feelings were only the surface problem. Liz was aware that she and Max would easily be able to work through them if she gave him even half a chance. Yet she continued to push him away, even as she yearned for him as well. She ached for his presence, his smile, the unnerving way he had of looking at her as if she were the only person in the room. The way he was looking at her at that very moment. She wanted to toss everything aside based solely on that look. But she couldn’t do it.

She couldn’t go back to the danger and the constant fear. She just couldn’t live like that anymore. It was bad enough knowing that Bayok was still out there, still had the potential to hurt them. But what about the other hidden menaces? There were more of that Liz was sure. Someone was always hunting Max Evans. And Liz didn’t want to be hunted anymore.

Maybe it was wrong, maybe it made her a coward, but she was scared. So scared. Scared of losing. But not her dreams, not her life, but Max. She was deathly afraid of losing him. Because if his life continued on in the manner it was one day she would. One day they would come to take him away and they would never bring him back. One day she would lose the joy of his presence, his smile and the unnerving way he looked at her forever.

Liz knew and understood that people died. That was life. No one lived forever. But at eighteen she lived with the daily prospect, no it loomed over her, that she could lose her husband, her soulmate, her reason for living at any given second. She stayed in a constant state of anxiety just waiting for the inevitable. After Connor’s kidnapping she had been unable to bear it any longer. And so she decided to leave him before he left her.

So she was a fool, definitely a coward, but she wouldn’t see that day, she wouldn’t be there when his life was taken away. She had witnessed that once and it had nearly torn her apart. Her sanity wouldn’t withstand a second time. Still, she couldn’t let him go, couldn’t let him walk completely out of her life. She loved him so damned much.

Max stared down at Liz, watching as her expression as her thoughts played out behind her eyes. Curiously, he didn’t need to delve into her mind to know exactly what she was feeling, he just knew. She was confused and scared and so in love with him she couldn’t see straight. He was familiar with the feeling. But the way things were looking nothing would come of it anyway.

Max offered her a small smile that didn’t quite meet his eyes. “Well, I guess I should go then,” he murmured, starting to move around her. And then he paused and turned back. “I spoke to my father, by the way, he agreed to draw up the divorce papers.”

Kaala trotted off the dancefloor for the punch bowl station, breathless and laughing. Kyle Valenti was leaning indolently against the table, sipping punch from a paper cup and watching her with hooded blue eyes. Kaala carefully avoided eye contact with him as she ladled up her punch, trying to ignore the crazy tattoo her heart was suddenly beating in her chest. When she started to walk away she heard his voice sound behind her filled with disdainful amusement. “So you’re a really friendly girl, I take it?”

Perceiving the insult in his tone, Kaala spun around to face him, eyes narrowed. “Just what is that comment supposed to mean?”

“It means that nearly half the guys at this party have already felt up your ass,” Kyle clarified bluntly.

Kaala would have gladly blasted him at that moment. “I was dancing, but you wouldn’t know about that,” Kaala retorted, “You’d much rather hang out near the punch bowl with the other losers while trying to exacerbate me with your less than witty rejoinders.”

Kyle’s eyes widened at her choice of words. “She’s smart, too,” he praised with mock applause, “You get a Scooby snack.”

“Fuck off,” Kaala bit out. And then at the last moment she flung her punch right in his face. It was worth the scene she caused just to watch him sputter. “You’re a bastard!”

Kyle wiped at his dripping brow and ruined shirt. “Why the hell did you do that?” he demanded, glowering fiercely, “God!”

“You’re being rude to me for no reason,” Kaala clarified, “You’ve been doing it all week and I want you to stop now. You don’t even know me.”

“Oh, I know you all right,” Kyle countered acidly, grabbing up some napkins to sponge up the red liquid soaking into his shirt. “I can spot your type a mile off.”

“What are you talking about?” Kaala groaned in exasperation.

“The divorce papers haven’t even been drawn up and already you’re panting after Max like a bitch in heat!”

She moved so quickly. One moment he was trying to salvage his shirt the next she had him pinned against the wall, her hands fisted in the lapels of his shirt. “I could blast you here and now for saying that to me, you asshole!”

Though his heart was thundering, (What the hell had compelled him to provoke this alien pixie?), Kyle didn’t back down. “Why? It’s the truth, isn’t it?”

Gradually, Kaala unfurled her fingers from his shirt and backed away. “Max is just a friend,” she told him quietly.

Kyle snorted. “Yeah…and I’m the Duke of York.”

Kaala offered him a mock curtsy. “Your grace.”

Snorting another laugh, Kyle grasped her by the shoulders and spun her around so that she had a clear view of Max and Liz talking rather intensely near the entrance. “Are you telling me that you don’t want to go over there right now?”

She slanted him a cold look. “No, I don’t.”

“You’re full of shit.”

“And you’re in love with Liz,” Kaala countered in surprise.

Kyle released her, his smugness suspended for the moment. “I care about Liz,” he replied vaguely, “I don’t want her to be hurt anymore, I.e. you and Max getting together.”

“She’s the one asking for a divorce,” Kaala pointed out.

“But she doesn’t really want it…and we both know it, don’t we?” His blue eyes were penetrating as he stared at her. Staring into them, Kaala found she couldn’t brazen her way out of the question. She didn’t really want to and so she nodded. “So then you know it will hurt her if you and Max start dating, right?”

“Max and I aren’t going to start dating,” Kaala told him, “He loves Liz…always will. That’s become painfully obvious to me in the last week. I don’t like being second.”

“So you’re saying what?” Kyle prodded warily, “You’re not sleeping with him because I heard--,”

“I don’t know what you’ve heard,” Kaala interrupted dryly, “but Max and I are just friends. It’s all we’ve ever been and all we’ll ever be. Once I might have wanted something more, but that’s different now.”

Why her words should fill him with such elation Kyle didn’t have a clue. He just knew he was grinning from ear to ear following her admission. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Kaala replied, grinning back at him just as widely. How in the world had they gone from insulting one another to goofy smiles, she wondered. She felt her smile falter a little at the thought, but not fade completely. “You can stop worrying, okay, Valenti,” she said, punching him in the arm playfully, “Liz isn’t going to be hurt…at least not by me.” But something in his look told her that, at that second, Liz was the last person on his mind.

Liz felt like she’d been socked in the chest. Hard. Tears immediately sprang to her eyes and she was so shocked, so broken she didn’t bother to blink them back. “You asked your father to draw up divorce papers,” she asked in a thready whisper.

“That’s what you wanted, right?” Max whispered back, “Why prolong the inevitable, I say.” He saw her tears and they made him bitter somehow, indescribably angry. “Why should we prolong it, Liz?” he asked her again, “after all, it’s not like you want to be with me anymore, right?”

“No, no I guess…” She faded off, sighing heavily. To Liz the step he’d taken felt so final, so definite and nothing about her feelings were concrete. She was still sorting through them. Now Max had taken the decision out of her hands. It made her a little angry. Maybe it was Max who didn’t want her anymore. In the back of her mind Liz knew she was being irrational but at the moment she was too hurt to care. “No, you’re right…I don’t want you anymore.”

That stung, but Max managed to keep his expression neutral. “Good so we’re agreed?”

“Agreed,” Liz murmured hoarsely, closing her eyes to hold back further tears, “Thank you for seeing to the papers.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll bring them by when Dad is finished,” he replied, his throat aching just to say the words. Neither of them spoke the words that were truly in their hearts. Both were too angry, too hurt, too frightened to say what needed to be said. Max swallowed spasmodically, his eyes dropping away. “Well, I guess I’d better go then, huh? Take care, Liz.”

He left quickly in order to hide his own tears of remorse and sadness. And in his haste he had missed the longing and sorrow in Liz’s eyes begging him to stay.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Dec-2002 2:00:38 AM ]
posted on 5-Dec-2002 11:48:19 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 53

Liz walked into Max’s bedroom and stopped short with a soundless, embarrassed squeak. Max stood at his closet, casually flipping through his clothing, fresh from a shower and standing in nothing but a blue terry cloth towel that was wrapped low around his waist. Liz emitted a small, stunned gasp at the sight of him, startling Max and alerting him to her presence. He whirled around to face her in surprise. “Liz?”

He had been in his apartment a little over a week and he had barely spoken to Liz in all that time unless they were trading off with Connor. Needless to say he hadn’t been expecting her in his bedroom. It was still littered with unpacked boxes and useless junk. Though he had managed to move most of his stuff from his parents’ house in that time Max really hadn’t had the opportunity to organize anything. The resulting chaos would have been worth of a natural disaster. Max regretted that. He would have liked for Liz to be impressed the first time she saw his new place. However, he need not have worried about Liz surveying his room. She was far too preoccupied with surveying him.

Liz hastily averted her gaze, but not before getting an eyeful of his damp chest. “I-I didn’t mean…that is…I didn’t know…” she stammered, her cheeks flushed.

The shock of seeing her in his bedroom starting to fade, Max realized that Liz was evidently uncomfortable with his near naked state. He shrugged and turned back to his closet, resuming his search for clothing. “It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, Liz,” Max commented, offhand.

Though Liz’s mouth had gone dry in reaction to him she somehow managed to croak dryly, “Yeah, but not for a long time…besides we’re getting divorced in a few days.”

“Yeah,” Max snapped in irritation, yanking a pair of jeans from a hanger and tossing them onto his bed, “you don’t have to remind me.” Liz fidgeted under the intensity of his honey stare, unconsciously roaming her eyes over his body even while she tried to ignore how absolutely mouthwatering he looked standing there. His chest seemed wider than the last time she’d seen it, more golden, his nipples were hard, pebbled in the cool air… “Liz!” She tore her gaze guiltily from his chest and met eyes glinting with annoyance. “What are you doing here?”

Liz shook her head slightly, trying to reclaim her control on her volatile emotions. “I came here about Connor,” she said thickly, “I wanted to know if I could take him for the day. Now before you say anything…I know today’s your day and we agreed to take turns with him, but my mother has this whole family day planned for us and she’s absolutely determined to have Connor there and--,”

“It’s okay,” Max said simply, silencing her ramblings.

“It’s okay?”

“Liz, Connor is your son, too,” Max replied magnanimously, walking towards her, “I’m not going to keep you from spending time with him if that’s what you want,” with every word he advanced closer, like a lion stalking its prey, “Besides Connor needs to spend time with your mother. I’m not so heartless to keep them apart no matter what’s happening between us.” He stood directly in front on her then, so close that his chest was mere inches from his nose. Droplets of water from his damp hair fell against her shoulder. “Just let me know when you plan on bringing him back,” Max finished in a whisper.

“Uh…maybe eleven,” Liz said, swallowing around the sudden lump of desire that rose in her throat, “Th-Thank you.”

“No problem,” Max breathed, leaning close against her ear as he did. Liz shuddered. It didn’t escape Max’s notice either. “What’s the matter, Liz? My nakedness isn’t bothering you, is it? Surely it can’t be…after all you don’t want me anymore, isn’t that what you said?” Max could feel the bitterness he had been suppressing for weeks now surge up in his chest. He knew he was antagonizing her, deliberately provoking her, hammering her with the words she’d thrown in his face last week, but he was too angry to care. “It shouldn’t matter to you if I’m standing here 100% naked, should it, since you don’t care either way.” He whipped his towel from his hips then and let it drop to the floor at his feet.

Liz was speechless. He was standing there absolutely naked! Nothing, but tantalizing, tanned skin as far as she could see, that is, if she dared to look. Liz was having difficulty concentrating, but she was well aware that her instincts were telling her to run away fast. But her feet remained stubbornly rooted to the floor. It was as if her heart were hammering for her to stay, while her head was screaming at her to go. She swallowed again past the dryness in her throat. “Max, please--,”

“What’s the big deal, Liz?” Max taunted, stepping even closer, “It’s not like you want to touch me or anything…or do you? Do you want to touch me? Do you want to see if I still feel the way you remember?” Despite his raging anger for her, his body began responding to her proximity. His erection swelled between them, brushing against her thigh. “Go on and touch me, Liz, I won’t tell anyone.” She glared up at him, well aware that he was playing a game with her. “Touch me…for old time’s sake.” And then he ruined his biting response by bending forward, his breath rushing across her ear as he added in an imploring voice he hadn’t used with her in nearly three weeks, “Please…baby…”

It was the simple pleading in his words that melted Liz. With a soft moan, Liz closed her eyes, her hand descending between their bodies. Max’s breath froze in his chest, his body primed with anticipation for the moment when her slender fingers would close around his throbbing cock. Their breaths melded together in harsh, shallow pants. Max lowered his head, his mouth mere inches from her lips.

“Holy nuts!”

The unexpected exclamation sent them spinning apart. Kaelen stood in the open doorway, his hand clamped over his eyes.

“Oh my God, I’ve got to go!” Liz groaned, mortified, pushing past a hapless Kaelen in her haste to get out the room. Max watched her run from the room with an oppressive feeling of regret. He swore under his breath.

“For God’s sake, man,” Kaelen cried, his eyes still covered, “put away your package before I’m forced to gouge out my eyes!”

Max chuckled at his friend’s antics but obligingly pulled on a pair of boxers and then sat on the edge of his bed. “You can open your eyes now,” Max told him with a smirk.

“And I won’t be blinded?” Kaelen joked, lowering his hand. He gestured toward the door through which Liz had just made a hasty retreat. “What the hell just happened in here? Last I heard Liz just wanted to ask you a question.”

“I don’t know what happened…” Max groaned, “…a mistake, I guess.” He rubbed the pads of his fingers against his tired eyes. “God, she’s twisting me in fucking knots, Kaelen!” And then he leaned his head back and expelled a long, tired sigh. “This whole mess is just too fucked up.”

Kaelen leaned against the doorjamb, folding his arms across his chest. “You’re not helping by pulling that crap like you just did.”

“She still wants me, Kaelen,” Max argued stubbornly, raking his fingers through his damp hair, “She was gonna touch me before you came in and--,”

“Whoa!” Kaelen exclaimed, holding up his hands to ward off Max’s words, “Some things I just don’t need to know about ya, okay bro.”

Max massaged his temples. “You know what I’m trying to say…god, it’s just been so damned long,” he groaned. He didn’t need to explain to Kaelen what he meant. The last time he’d made love was the night Liz had gone into labor with Connor, the night when his entire life had gone to hell.

Kaelen leveled him with a sympathetic stare. “So go get laid, man.”

Max balked in surprise. “I’m sorry, but did Kaelen ‘I’m a one woman guy’ Stafford just advise me to get laid with someone other than my wife?”

“In three days she’s not going to be your wife anymore,” Kaelen reminded Max gently, “You’ve got to stop holding on to something that’s over, Max…she obviously has.”

Max looked away, trying not the dwell on the truthfulness of Kaelen’s candid response.

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

“Mom, are you mad?” Connor asked tentatively, noting how his mother wheeled their grocery buggy through the store with the determination of a soldier marching off into battle. Her lips were compressed in a tight, thin line and her fixed ahead in deep thought.

Liz looked down into her son’s innocent face and felt her frustrations melt away the moment she gazed into his silver ringed eyes. She had been obsessing over her earlier confrontation with Max. God, how could she have been so stupid! She had been so close, so dangerously close to touching him…and if she had it would have been all over. They were scheduled to be divorced in two days! The idea of intimacy between them was ridiculous. But Liz couldn’t manage to banish the desire or the nagging voice that kept asking her why divorce was even necessary. However, looking down at her son at that moment, none of those things seemed to matter anymore.

Liz slanted him a smile. “Of course, I’m not mad, Con, why would you think so?”

The astute five year old shrugged. “You’ve been frowning ever since we left the apartment…I thought you and Dad might have had a fight.”

Liz gaped at him. Sometimes her little boy was just too intuitive. She halted her supermarket buggy mid-isle and turned to regard him fully. “Con, I’ve already explained to you about what’s happening between me and your dad,” she began patiently.

“But he loves you,” Connor interrupted.

“Con--,”

“And you love him!” he persisted stubbornly, refusing to be quelled.

“Well, sometimes love isn’t enough,” Liz snapped harshly. And then she muttered a soft curse, regretting her tone. He’d heard that phrase enough from Max and her both. What he needed at the moment was understanding and patience. Kneeling before her son, she grasped him lightly by the shoulders and whispered softly, “Connor, things between your dad and I are just very complicated.”

“You don’t want to be with him because he’s…Czechoslovakian,” he argued, using his Aunt Maria’s favorite coined phrase for “alien.”

Liz bit back a wry grin. “This has nothing to do with your dad being…er…Czechoslovakian, Connor.”

“But what if he wasn’t?”

“Wasn’t what, baby…um, Czechoslovakian?”

“Yeah.”

“But he is, Con,” Liz insisted dismissively, “I can’t change that…neither can he.”

It was on the tip of his tongue to tell her the truth right then, but Connor knew she wasn’t ready to hear it anymore than his father had been. He tried another approach instead. “You think his life is too dangerous, so you won’t be with him. But, Mom, my life is dangerous, too. Will you leave me?”

Liz scowled at him. “Of course not! Has your dad told you these things?” she demanded. Liz couldn’t believe that he had come up with such questions by himself.

Connor actually looked affronted by the suggestion. “I figured it out on my own,” he replied, clearly appalled by her question, “I’m not stupid, Mom, and I’m not a kid.”

“You’re a five year old boy,” Liz insisted firmly.

“I think we both know I’m much more than that,” Connor countered, his eyes gleaming.

“Fine, but you’re my little boy,” Liz conceded with a sigh, “I don’t want you worrying about things you can’t change.” Liz straightened, resuming her stroll down the cereal isle. Connor’s next words halted her in her tracks, however.

“Dad isn’t in love with Aunt Kay, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“Connor, you need to drop this,” Liz warned in her serious mother tone.

But Connor continued on doggedly, as if she’d said nothing at all. “You can’t just dissolve the bond you have with Dad, Mom, not even if you divorce him. It can’t be wished away,” he told her wisely, “It’s stronger than you, stronger than him and even stronger than me. It will still be there even when the two of you are old and gray and too feeble to remember one another’s names. It will last a lifetime and beyond, Mom. It will always endure…even when you don’t want it to.” By the time Conner finished speaking, those sad, soulful eyes of his were glowing, burning brightly with conviction.

Liz stared down at her beautiful son, tears of wonder stinging her eyes as she beheld him. “So much has happened,” Liz found herself confessing, “and I don’t know if we can ever get it all back again.” Her voice trailed away then, her eyes focused on something beyond Connor’s shoulder.

Connor glanced in the direction of his mother’s stare. A woman stood on the opposite side of the isle slowly perusing the hot cereals. She looked, at least, eight or nine months pregnant. Connor looked back at his mother, catching the pained look of longing in her eyes. When Liz looked at him again it was with the usual painful vacancy that haunted her eyes. “Your father and I will never get back what we lost, Con,” she said sadly, “Never.”

When Liz pulled Connor into a hug he brought up his hand so that it was sandwiched between them, bringing his powers to the surface, regenerating and repairing what was broken within his mother, altering her DNA just as he had changed his father’s. Liz hardly noticed. Her eyes remained glued on the pregnant woman across the isle idly rubbing her swollen tummy, as she looked over the Quaker Oatmeal, in almost trance-like fascination.

You will get back what you lost, Mom, because I’ll give it to you, Connor promised in his heart as he lowered his hand and hugged his mother tight, I swear it.

posted on 5-Dec-2002 11:49:42 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 54

“You’re being an idiot.”

Liz jerked her gaze from where her son was playing touch football with his grandfathers about twenty feet away to Rahsha’s disapproving face. “Gee, Rahsh, thanks…you really know how to turn a girl’s head,” Liz quipped sarcastically.

“I happen to agree with her,” Maria added casually, “You are being an idiot.”

Maria, Isabel, Rahsha and Liz all sat together on a picnic bench watching while Sheriff Valenti cooked burgers over an open flame. The smell of roasting meat permeating the summer air was heavenly and stomachs were grumbling in anticipation for a taste. Liz’s parents had decided that a park picnic would be a great family outing and invited the Valentis, the Whitmans, and the Evans to join them. It was actually a good day for a barbecue and though dusk was falling the festivities weren’t scheduled to end any time soon. Liz didn’t know that her mother had strategically planned the invitation list so that she and Diane Evans could devise a way to bring their children back together.

Only the young men were absent, having opted for a guy’s night. The girls wondered over that and speculated over what their perspective guys could possibly have in common with one another, other than the fact they were members of the “I know an alien” club. If anything, their banding together would make for an interesting night. But still, their personalities didn’t seem to mesh at all.

Alex was the computer whiz and jokester, Kyle was the typical jock, Max was the shy one, Michael was the volatile one, and Kaelen was the pretty boy. Under normal circumstances they might never have socialized with each other, but life had a funny way of picking your friends for you. Curiously, Kaala had gone along with them. There had been plenty of speculation over that tidbit of information also, but the topic had been quickly exhausted itself in favor of discussing Liz’s personal life.

“I don’t want to go through this with you guys again,” Liz said in irritation. She felt like she was having too many people come at her at once. First her confrontation with Max that afternoon, then her conversation with Connor in the grocery store, not to mention seeing that pregnant woman, now her friends were ganging up on her, too. Liz felt beyond weary. “Can we please shelve the Max discussion for another time?”

“No, Liz,” Isabel argued pointedly, “This nonsense has got to stop. You’re in obvious pain and so is my brother. You’re the only one who can end it.”

Liz paused to cheer for her son’s touchdown; chuckling a little as he did a funny little dance out of the field before responding to Isabel’s statement. “I’m still trying to figure some things out…I just need time.”

“You’ve got three days, babe,” Maria stated frankly, “And then your divorce is final. Is that what you want?”

Liz looked uncertain.

“Is this about Kaala?” Rahsha asked, “Because you know there’s nothing going on between her and Max. They’re just friends.”

“Who live together,” Liz pointed out glumly.

“And that’s it,” Rahsha replied.

“What about before?” Liz found herself asking, “When she was sleeping in his room…was that friendship, too?”

“Yeah, what the hell was that?” Maria demanded in affront, “I mean, could he rebound any quicker?”

“That was nothing,” Isabel clarified, rolling her eyes, “God! Sometimes you two are so clueless! Do you think for a moment I could have just casually discussed my brother cheating on you, Liz?”

Liz remained skeptical. “Did she sleep in his room or not?”

“She did,” Isabel confirmed, but before Liz could say “I told you so,” she rushed to add, “But nothing happened. I asked Kaala myself. She said he stayed up most of the night crying. It happened the night you told your parents you wanted a divorce.”

Liz felt her conscience prickle with guilt. She couldn’t very well fault him for needing someone when she had been the one to throw him into such an emotion upheaval in the first place, now could she? Still, she tried to argue. “Well, why would Kaala have gone out with the guys tonight if not for Max, huh?”

“She’s got a thing for Kyle,” Maria told her.

Liz had to gape. She hadn’t been expecting that one. “Get the hell out.”

“Nope, I’m as serious as a massive coronary,” Maria deadpanned, “I’ve been a personal witness to the moony looks they’ve been passing back and forth between each other for days now. It’s enough to make me gag.”

“Kyle and Kaala?” Liz considered incredulously, “Doesn’t she seem a little wild for him?”

“Doesn’t Kyle usually prefer his women that way?” Isabel asked dryly. Both she and Maria slid a simultaneous look toward Liz. “Maybe not,” she amended with a smirk.

“Hey!” Liz cried in affront, happy the topic of conversation had steered away from Max for the time being, “I can be wild! Tell ‘em, Rahsh!”

Rahsha tossed back her head with a laugh. “Yeah, that’s you,” she quipped teasingly, “Liz ‘I don’t give a flying frack, risk-taker’ Evans! Not! Your caution is the very reason you started pushing Max away to begin with.”

Well, that was short, Liz thought sarcastically. But Liz couldn’t deny that her friend had a point. Rahsha had been right when she said that Liz had pushed Max away as a knee-jerk reaction to her grief. Liz could finally admit that to herself now. But the fear of the unknown was hindering her. She couldn’t accept her inability to control even the smallest detail of her life with Max. There would always be danger. They would always be running in one form or another and Liz was so tired, so very tired of running.

But she was also tired of pushing Max away. What good did it do? He still consumed her thoughts, still owned her heart. The connection between them was unfathomable, unbreakable…undeniable. It defied time and space and logic. It was stronger than them, beyond them, almost ordained. No, Liz mentally amended, it was ordained. They had been destined to come together, destined to create their child, to create Connor.

As Liz had the thought Connor’s head jerked up and he met her eyes in a telling stare that was far beyond his age. It was as if he could see through her, could read her heart without the slightest effort. For a brief second his eyes glowed completely silver, compelling her before they retracted back to their usual liquid gold and he trotted over to her, a little boy again.

He flung his arms around her neck, hugging her hard. “Did you see, Mom?” he burst out in excitement, “I made three touchdowns. Three! Grandpa Philip says I’m a natural.”

“I’m sure you are, sweetheart,” Liz murmured, brushing back his sweaty hair from his forehead so that it stood in stiff spikes.

Connor’s smile became wistful as he regarded his mother, sensing the conflict in her even as she tried hard to focus only on him. He framed her face with his small hands. “It’s gonna be okay, Mom.”

He spoke the words with such conviction that Liz knew, somehow, someway, they were absolutely true.

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

“Nuther White Russian,” Max ordered the bartender.

Kaala frowned at him, noting his slightly slurred speech as well as his drunken sway. “How many of those have you had to drink, Max?” she asked carefully.

Max scratched his head, trying to remember. “Three…no wait four…naw…three, three…or was it five…” He shrugged. “Hell, I don’t know.”

“Maybe you should make that your last,” Kaala suggested when Max lifted his drink to his lips. “I think you might be a little drunk. You haven’t even answered my question yet.”

“I ain’t drunk!” Max slurred, leaning against a bar stool. He frowned, taking another hit of his drink. “Wait…you asked me a question?” he said blankly.

“Yeah.”

“’kay.”

Kaala suppressed the urge to shake him. “Well?”

“Well what?” Max asked.

“Are you going to answer me?”

“Answer what?”

“My question, nimrod.”

“What question?”

“The question I just asked you,” Kaala gritted.

“Wait…you asked me a question?”

“That’s it,” Kaala announced, plucking his drink onto the bar counter and leading him back towards the table they were sharing with Alex, Kyle, Michael and Kaelen.

“Wait! My drink,” Max protested, trying to turn back.

“You’ve had enough,” Kaala told him.

Max pouted. “You’re no fun.”

“And you’re a pathetic drunk,” Kaala replied.

“Not drunk,” Max sang out giddily.

“Yes, you are!” Kaala sang in return.

They had almost made it back to the table when the DJ decided to play Notorious B.I.G.’s Hypnotize. “It’s your song,” Max exclaimed drunkenly, grabbing hold of Kaala’s hand. He began bopping in time to the music, pulling Kaala out towards the dancefloor. “Let’s dance,” he coaxed.

“You don’t dance, Max, remember,” Kaala reminded him.

She didn’t count those times when he and Liz would come over to their place when they lived back in Woodstone and they would all dance together. That was always just goofing off. Max had never been the club type and since that first time they had danced together, when she was trying to play him, they had never done so again.

But still he kept pulling at her arm insistently. “Come on…it’ll be fun,” he cajoled with a lopsided grin. Kaala sighed. She knew what he was trying to do. Max had been drowning himself in liquor from almost the moment they had set foot in the club. He was trying to forget Liz and from the dead expression in his eyes it didn’t look as if he was having much success. Kaala couldn’t help but pity him in that moment and so she relented and allowed him to drag her out onto the dancefloor.

As Max pulled her into his arms and began to sway against her, Kaala watched Kyle over his shoulder, able to see even from the distance, how his blue eyes smoldered with jealousy. Good, Kaala thought bitingly, maybe it would motivate him to ask her on a date. She wrapped her arms about Max’s neck, making sure that Kyle got a really good view of her as she did.

“Hmm…your hair smells like vanilla,” Max said softly, burying his nose in her curls and inhaling deeply. Like Liz’s, he thought, pressing his body even closer against her. He almost groaned at the thought. Even when he was drunk to the point of passing out he couldn’t get Liz out of his head, couldn’t stop longing for her. Dammit, would it ever stop hurting! He pressed his face deeper into Kaala’s hair, willing himself to forget.

“A little vanilla extract in your shampoo works every time,” Kaala replied flippantly, trying to ignore the suggestive way he was grinding against her. It wasn’t so arousing as it was disturbing and sad. Because she knew he still wanted Liz. Even now. She tried putting some distance between their dancing bodies.

“Let’s go someplace,” Max mumbled suddenly, pulling Kaala’s gyrating body against his once more. He leaned down to nuzzle her neck, making his meaning unmistakable.

But Kaala tried to laugh off his advance as a joke. A month ago she would have gladly taken him up on his invitation, now she found the fact that he was flirting with her heart wrenching. It meant that he had given up on Liz, given up on their love. And that was a shame, really, because Max had so much love to give. Trying to keep her actions light and playful, Kaala batted him away. “Surely you’re not propositioning me?”

“What if I am?” he asked seductively, his eyes hooded and burning brightly with the liquor he’d imbibed earlier. Max amended his earlier assessment of his condition. He was just slightly drunk. And heartbroken. Not a good mix on any day. But still the numbed feeling was quite welcome.

Kaala leveled him with a steadying look. “There are at least twenty girls here who would be interested in going to bed with you, Max…why ask me?”

Max pulled her back into his arms, rotating his hips against hers in beat to the music. “Cuz you’re the one I wanna take to bed,” he slurred into her ear. But even as he said the words they both knew the words weren’t true. There was only one woman he wanted in his bed, craved to have beneath him. The only woman he had ever been inside, the only woman he would ever be inside. The woman who was still inside him.

Kaala danced in time with him, shaking her head against his shoulder, knowing all the things that were playing over in his mind without his saying a word. “This isn’t about me and you know it.”

Max stared down at her with confused eyes, his movement stilled for a moment. “It’s not?”

“No, it’s not,” Kaala clarified seriously, “This is about Liz. Of all the girls you could have sex with you know that sleeping with me would devastate her more than anyone else. You’re just trying to use me to stick it to her.”

“Actually, I’m trying to stick it to you,” Max rejoined crudely. He jutted his hips against hers in a lewd gesture.

Kaala flattened her hand squarely against his chest, pushing him away from her. “Well, as charming as that invitation is, Max my friend, I’m not interested. I into Kyle now, remember? How’s it gonna look to him if I leave the club with you?” Already she could see Kyle rising up out of his seat, looking as if he were torn between leaving and beating the hell out of Max.

Max emitted a drunken little chuckle. “You and Valenti…oh yeah…right.” And then he lifted his muscled shoulders in a shrug. “You don’t want me…that’s fine. Seems to be goin’ round lately. I’m getting another drink,” he stated dismissively, stumbling off for the bar.

Kaala stared after him in dejected concern. When she turned around Kyle was standing right next to her. “So was that for my benefit or his?”

She ducked her head guiltily. “Both…I guess,” she admitted with a smile, “I wanted to help Max, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to make you jealous.”

“Why would I be jealous?”

The old Kaala would have probably made a sarcastic retort at that moment, but now Kaala was somewhat more subdued, too weary to play word games any longer. She met his blue gaze squarely. “Were you jealous?”

Kyle played at one of her springy curls. “Yes,” he whispered. Kaala kissed him then, the first genuine kiss she had ever shared with a man in her life. Her heart thumped and flipped when Kyle pulled her body against his, banding his arms around her while his mouth opened hungrily over her own. He panted breathlessly when he finally lifted his head, “So this thing with Evans…”

“Friends…that’s all,” Kaala assured him, her green eyes drawn to his mouth.

“Good,” Kyle whispered, dipping his head for another kiss.

Neither of them noticed the ruckus that had erupted behind them at the bar. The next thing Kaala realized her brother was taking hold of her elbow and pulling her and Kyle apart. “That’s enough of that,” he said tightly, glaring at Kyle, “We’ve got to go.”

Kaala was still staring back at Kyle when she asked Kaelen, “Wait! What’s going on?”

“Max just got in a brawl at the bar…they’re calling the cops!”

posted on 5-Dec-2002 11:52:53 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 55

“NOBODY KNOWS THE TROUBLE I’VE SEEN! NOBODY KNOWS MY SORROW!” Max sang in a loud drunken slur as Kaelen and Michael heaved his limp body up the stairs toward the apartment. He looked between his two best friends, smiling broadly. “You two are the best! I love you guys,” he told them solemnly then ruined the moment by howling with laughter.

“God, Max, can you shut up?” Kaelen grumbled as they edged up the steps, “You’re going to wake the entire complex.”

“Shh,” Max hissed, bringing his finger as close to his lips as possible. He blasted Kaelen directly in the face with pungent, liquored breath. Kaelen grimaced. “Oh god,” he groaned, “You need a mint!”

Max looked affronted. He turned his attention to Michael. “Mike…Mikey…Mikey G…” he hiccupped drunkenly, “Ya think I need a mint?”

Michael waved his hand in front of his face, warding off the fumes. “Hell yeah,” he agreed with a scowl.

Max followed his answering shrug by a nice, moist belch. “Whatever.” Max lapsed into silence. Kaelen mentally thanked the Great Being for that small miracle. They had only a few more steps until they were at the apartment. Too bad Max was so damned heavy. He apparently had grown tired of quiet as well. “I asked Kaala to have sex with me tonight,” Max admitted candidly to his two friends, never realizing that Kaelen was taking a mental note to beat the hell out of him at a later date, “She said no, though…,” he slurred on, “no, though…hey, that rhymes. Anyway, she din’t want to…says I’m still hung up on Liz.” He rolled his head to one side to regard Michael. “I am ya know…still love her so much, but…but she don’t want me, man.” His face crumpled as he dissolved into pathetic sobs. “Why don’t she want me?”

“Oh brother,” Michael muttered, uncomfortable with the display of emotion. He met Kaelen’s eyes over the top of Max’s lolling head. “We almost there or what?”

“This is my door coming up.” Kaelen said. When they finally reached the apartment, Kaelen deposited all of Max’s weight onto Michael so that he could fumble around in his pocket for his key. While Michael struggled to hold Max upright in his arms Max lifted his head and stared into his friend’s brown eyes. “Maybe I should turn gay,” Max murmured, looking at Michael strangely, “Would you want me if I was gay, Mikey?”

Michael frowned at him in irritation. “Maxwell, if you even think about kissing me I’m gonna beat your head in, drunk or not. Damn, Kaelen just use your friggin powers!”

“Wouldn’t want ya anyway,” Max replied carelessly at the very moment Rahsha opened the front door, “I like Liz’s pussy way too much.” He punctuated that statement by promptly passing out.

“Oh god, what happened!” Rahsha exclaimed, already coming forward to assist Kaelen and Michael with Max’s limp body.

Inside the apartment Maria, Isabel and Liz had already sprung from the sofa and were anxiously hovering as Michael and Kaelen spread Max’s unconscious form out on the sofa. Noting Isabel’s pale face, Michael assured her, “He’s not dead, Isabel, just drunk. Very, very drunk.”

“But his face…” Liz whispered, kneeling beside Max, lightly skimming her fingers over his discolored jaw and black eye. “What happened to him?”

“He decided to punch a guy in the head,” Kaelen clarified dryly as he removed his jacket, “Next thing you know there’s an all out brawl in the bar with Max right in the middle. We got him out before the cops came.”

“Where’s Alex, Kyle and Kaala,” Isabel asked worriedly.

“They stayed at the club to do damage control,” Michael said, “Otherwise Mr. Behind the Tree here might be arrested.” He slanted a look to Max who was knocked out completely, snoring loudly. “He’s not a pretty drunk I can tell you that.”

“But he’ll be alright?” Liz asked anxiously.

“He’ll sleep it off,” Kaelen said, “It’s weird though…our systems aren’t made to withstand liquor. Max should have showed signs of intoxication after his first drink.”

“How do you know?” Maria asked.

Liz was the one to answer, smiling at the memory. “It was about a year ago,” Liz recalled, “And we were over to Rahsh and Kaelen’s playing truth or dare. I forget why, but Kaala dared Kaelen to take a shot of rum. We had bought some to mix pina coladas for later, but we’d just been lazy about it. Anyway, Kaelen took his shot and he totally bugged out. He even tried to do a strip tease in the middle of the living room. I can still remember him dancing to ‘Rumpshaker’ on the coffee table.”

“Hmm, I would have liked to see that,” Maria murmured under her breath.

“Thank you for sharing my complete humiliation with everyone present, Liz,” Kaelen said ironically.

“Well, it was funny,” Rahsha snickered, “I’ve never seen you act so crazy before.”

“Hey, now that I think of it,” Maria began in afterthought, “Michael does get particularly playful after he’s had a beer and amorous, too.”

“Maria!” Michael wailed.

“I’m just saying--,”

“That’s beside the point,” Michael interrupted tightly, “Maxwell didn’t start acting like an idiot until well after his third drink.”

“What did he drink?” Liz whispered.

Kaelen flopped down into the recliner with a tired sigh. “Four Lemon Drops, one Long Island Iced Tea, and five White Russians…I think.”

“You let him drink all of that!” Isabel burst out incredulously.

“Hey, we didn’t even know he was drinking until he came over to the table acting like an idiot. By then the damage had been done,” Michael retorted in their defense, “Besides Max is a grown man…I’m not going to baby-sit him, okay.”

“Fine!” Isabel spat, stooping down to grab up her purse, “Just take me back to where Alex is.” Then she turned to Liz. “I’ll come back in the morning to see how he’s doing.”

After Isabel, Michael and Maria left Rahsha volunteered to go into the kitchen and brew a pot of coffee, leaving Liz, Kaelen and an unconscious Max alone. “Is Con here?” Kaelen asked quietly.

“He’s asleep in Max’s room,” Liz replied, “Maybe we should move him out here so that Max can have his bed.”

“We should let him sleep on the sofa,” Kaelen said without an ounce of sympathy, “He doesn’t deserve any better after tonight.”

“Kaelen, you know Max is hurt--,”

“Fine, fine,” Kaelen sighed, heading off the argument before it could begin, “But I don’t want Con to have to sleep on the sofa. He can sleep in Kay’s room instead.”

“Won’t Kaala mind?”

“I don’t think so. She’ll probably be pretty late coming home, if she comes home at all,” Kaelen replied brusquely. Gauging his demeanor, Liz could tell he didn’t want to discuss it. “I’ll just go move Connor,” he said, pushing to his feet, “You rouse sleeping beauty there.”

Liz slapped Max lightly against his cheeks, trying to wake him. Finally, long, dark lashes fluttered upward revealing eyes of dark liquid gold. “Hi,” Liz said softly.

“Hi,” Max returned, lifting his hand to slide his fingers into her silky hair, “Am I dreaming?”

“Do you want to be?”

Max groaned and closed his eyes. “I don’t want you to leave me,” he whispered, already drifting back to sleep.

“I won’t,” Liz told him, deciding against waking him and scooting onto the sofa beside him, cuddling her body against his.

When Liz woke up some time later the living room was pitch black and she was alone on the sofa. From the bathroom she heard the unmistakable sounds of retching. She rushed down the hall and burst through the half open door. Max was on his knees before the toilet puking his guts out. He flicked her with glistening eyes before doubling over once again. Without a word, Liz went to sit on the edge of the tub and lovingly held back his hair as he had done for her many times past. When his stomach was finally, blessedly empty Max leaned back against the bathtub weakly. “God, I’m never drinking again,” he groaned. He clutched at his temples. “My head feels like it’s being trampled by elephants.”

“You’re hung over,” Liz whispered, “What you need is the hair of the dog.”

The moment she said that Max turn an unbecoming shade of green and bent over the toilet once more. A few minutes later he lay back gasping. “Please…please don’t use that phrase again.”

“Got it,” Liz said, biting her lip to keep from smiling.

Max tipped his head back against her knee. “What are you doing here anyway?”

“I was bringing Connor home,” she replied, “But you weren’t here. I just decided to visit with the girls a little longer to wait for you.”

“Why?”

“Because I think we should talk.”

Max sighed. “Liz, if you’re going to innumerate all the many reasons why you and I can’t be together I’d much rather you save your breath,” he told her without bitterness, “I’m tired and I’m sick and I have the worst headache of my life so maybe we can just shelve this conversation for later, okay?” He popped open one weary eye to regard her.

“Later then,” Liz agreed, helping him struggle to his feet. After he had brushed his teeth and gargled Liz looped his arm about her neck she steadied him as they made their way back to his bedroom.

Max clicked on the light, winced and then clicked it off again. “I think I can take it from here,” he informed Liz.

“You can barely stand,” Liz protested, “Let me help you.” She reached for the hem of his shirt and started to pull it over his head.

Max grabbed her arms. “What do you think you’re doing?” he asked in a blazing whisper.

Liz didn’t let his furious tone cow her. She met his eyes squarely. “I’m helping you get undressed,” she stated implacably.

“You’re playing games with me,” Max gritted, flinging down her arms.

“No, I’m not.”

“The hell you aren’t, Liz,” he snapped, “Just leave now!” He pointed towards his bedroom door. Liz slammed it shut in response. She glared at him. “I’m not trying to play games with you!” she cried, “I just want to help.”

“By taking off my shirt?”

“Yes!”

“I can do that fine on my own,” Max shouted, ripping his shirt over his head in one fluid motion. He tossed the shirt away, but the movement made his dizzy and he swayed. Liz quickly stepped forward to support him. “You see what I mean,” she whispered.

Max didn’t answer, just rubbed his cheek against the silky top of her head. Liz’s hand meandered down between their bodies, unfastening the waistband of his jeans and pushing them down past his hips. Quite by accident, his boxers joined his jeans in their descent down Max’s thighs. Liz blushed. “Sorry,” she muttered. But when she would have stepped away Max grabbed hold her arms and yanked her against him, igniting the fiery passion between them that simmered just below the surface.

And then his mouth was everywhere. Her cheeks, her mouth, her neck, her breasts. Max’s lips roamed in a hungry trail, seeking, nibbling, demanding with every caress. It didn’t even cross Liz’s mind to resist. She returned his kisses with equal abandon. Liz buried her fingers into his hair, giving herself over completely to his plundering mouth, her tongue sweeping its minty warm recesses.

Max didn’t bother with any preliminaries, merely lifted her in his arms and wrapped her legs about his waist. Pinning her between his body and the door, Max quickly skimmed his hands along her bare thighs where her skirt had ridden up. He snaked his hand between their bodies and into the silky confines of her panties. Seconds later he was plunging his fingers into her welcoming softness. They both groaned. Max couldn’t believe how wet she was, how hot… He pushed his fingers deeper, his body mimicking the dipping motion of his fingers.

Max pressed his forehead to hers urgently. “Are you sure you want this?” he rasped, already removing his fingers from her body and hooking them in the crotch of her panties, pulling the small scrap of silk aside, “Cuz I can’t stop…” He positioned the tip of himself at her moist entrance.

“Yes, yes,” Liz moaned. The touch of his silken skin against her swollen opening was already making her incoherent with desire.

He thrust forward at her moaned plea, burying himself deep in her encompassing warmth. Their groans of gratification coincided as Max pushed his cock even higher, ever deeper. There were no words between them as Max pounded inside her, only grunts of straining need. Max buried his face in the crook of Liz’s neck and gave himself up to her body, to the lust that had been gnawing at him for weeks.

Liz locked her legs about his pumping hips, riding out his almost painful thrusts, impervious to the low moans gurgling from her throat or the loud thumping they made against the door. It didn’t take long for their climaxes to burst upon them. Brown and honey eyes met at that cataclysmic moment when Max plunged deep for the last time, burying his love, his seed, his life into the heart of her body.

Still trembling, they slid to the floor together, utterly shattered.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Dec-2002 2:19:48 AM ]
posted on 5-Dec-2002 11:54:53 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 56

Sunlight filtered in weakly from between the blind slats in Max’s room. Still even weakened light was enough to cause Max to flinch and make his head throb painfully. He threw one arm over his eyes and waved his free hand, attempting to seal the blinds with his powers. Nothing happened. Max released a pained groan, figuring that his powers were spazzing once again. He rolled over and started to pull his pillow over his head then froze. He wasn’t in bed alone.

Liz’s head lay nestled on his pillow, her face only inches from his own. Her hair spilled out across it like dark ink, partially obscuring her features from his view. He reached forward to brush the tendrils away, causing her to stir for just a moment. That brief touch made her real to Max. She was really there; she was really lying in bed next to him. But at that second, Max didn’t have the foggiest notion how she had come to be there. Yet, one covert peak beneath the bed sheets confirmed that they had obviously made up…big time. Max groaned again, more in remorse for his inability to remember than for the actual pain in his head.

Liz shifted again in her sleep at the sound. But this time her eyes fluttered open and she smiled at him, a deliciously languid smile. “Good morning,” she greeted him huskily.

Max swallowed, still uncertain as to whether she was a dream or reality. He strummed his fingers along her cheek just to make certain. Soft, warm, and so wonderfully real. Max smiled back at her. “Good morning.”

Pushing herself up onto her elbow, Liz sifted her fingers through his hair. “How are you feeling?”

“Like a hippo sat on my head,” Max admitted bluntly, “And my face kinda hurts…it feels all tingly.” That’s exactly when last night’s events hit him full force. He closed his eyes, groaning for the third time that morning, in mortified recollection. “Oh god…I got in a fight last night didn’t I?”

“More like a drunken brawl,” Liz clarified a little reluctantly, noting the green parlor to his face, “It’s not as bad as you think. But I don’t guess you can heal your bruises though, huh?”

Max widened his eyes in surprise. “How did you know that?”

“I tried last night and I couldn’t…I figured you must be short circuiting again.”

He choked out an ironic laugh. “Must be a drag,” he commented, “Sharing a connection with a guy you plan to divorce in a couple of days.” Though that seemed like a logical explanation neither of them wondered over why Liz hadn’t felt the ill effects of his overindulgence the previous night. They were too busy thinking about what had happened between them in his room, in his bed.

Max suddenly recalled every vivid detail with dizzying clarity. He had taken Liz…against the door, on the floor, in his bed…god, wherever he could have her. Their coupling had been wild, desperate, almost animalistic. No words had been spoken between them other than passionate grunts and incoherent pleas not to stop. When he finally collapsed on her for the last time before falling asleep Max’s last thought had been full of contentment and hope. Now he felt that same familiar uncertainty gnaw at his gut. Had last night meant as much to Liz as it had to him or had it been just a moment of unmitigated lust that she now found herself regretting?

Subdued by the thought, Max said, “I think maybe we should talk.”

Liz nodded against the pillow. “You want an explanation for last night.”

“Somethin’ like that.” Max pushed himself upright, groping in the sheets for his discarded boxers. As he slipped them up his legs he said, “I’ll go make some coffee. Right now my brain is still a little fuzzy and I want to be completely clearheaded before we have this talk.”

When Max stumbled into the kitchen Kaelen was already seated at the table reading the morning paper and munching on a bowl of Coco Puffs. Kaelen hardly flicked a glance at Max when he remarked with false casualness, “Feeling better?”

Max retrieved two coffee mugs from the cupboard. Thankfully, Kaelen had already brewed a pot. Under the circumstances, even preparing a coffee filter would have been too complicated for Max’s bewildered state. He concentrated hard on pouring the hot liquid into the cups before responding to Kaelen’s question. “I think I might have done something stupid last night,” he stated when he turned to regard his friend.

Kaelen looked up from the newspaper. “You think?”

“Alright, I did,” Max grumbled, “I came on to Kay last night.”

“So you informed me,” Kaelen drawled.

“And well,” Max rushed to add, “I’m sorry for it…what I mean is…it didn’t mean anything. Wait, that didn’t come out right…what I’m saying--,”

“Just shut up, will ya?” Kaelen sighed, “I’m not going to kill you, though I probably should and I would if I didn’t know already that Kay is completely over you and taken with someone else. Your being an ass last night didn’t faze her in the least.”

“That’s good…I think.”

There was a thoughtful silence between the two young men as they mutually agreed to put last night’s events behind them. “So you and Liz huh?” Kaelen prompted with a grin, “You two back together or what?”

“I don’t know,” Max replied glumly, “I haven’t figured that part out yet.”

“Well, you two were obviously getting along last night.” Max leveled Kaelen with a questioning frown. “The walls aren’t sound proof, you know,” Kaelen informed him with an exasperated sigh, “Look, I’m sure everything between the two of you is gonna work out.”

“You think so?” Max pressed hopefully.

“Liz isn’t a one night stand kind of girl, Max. You know that. Last night meant something to her.”

Max grabbed up the coffee mugs, nodding. He took them over to the kitchen table to add cream and sugar. “You’re right. I just wonder what changed over night…”

“Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth…” Kaelen grumbled. He started to bury his nose back in the Sunday paper when another thought occurred to him. “Hey, Max, what’s going on with your kid?”

“What do you mean?” Max asked, “Something wrong with Con?”

“I don’t guess so…it’s just…he’s been sneaking into our room at night.”

Max guffawed. “He’s been what?”

“I don’t know…,” Kaelen replied uncomfortably, “Last night and a couple of times this past week either Rahsha or I have woken up to find him staring at us.”

“He’s a kid, Kaelen,” Max said, “Maybe he’s just having nightmares.”

“But wouldn’t he come to you?” Kaelen pointed out, “Look, I got to talking with Michael last night. He said he had a weird instance like that with Con when Liz brought him over while she was visiting with Maria.”

“You talked to Michael about this?” Max cried incredulously.

“Before you have a major spaz attack, hear me out, okay!” Kaelen commanded, “Anyway, Michael said he had been in back in his room taking a nap when he suddenly got this tingling sensation all over his body. He said when he woke up Connor was standing over him and his eyes were glowing.”

“What are you saying? You think Connor did something to Michael?” Max snapped in affronted impatience, “That’s ridiculous!” He knew that he was becoming irate, but he couldn’t keep from being angered by the direction the conversation seemed to be taking.

Fortunately, Kaelen saw the wisdom of keeping a level head. “Max, I love Con, too,” he sighed diplomatically, “He’s a good kid. But Bayok had him for nearly three days before we got him back. We don’t know what kind of mind trips he might have played on Connor.”

“Connor is fine,” Max replied stubbornly, “He loves us all. He’d never hurt us.”

“And I believe that,” Kaelen granted softly. He sighed again. “Just talk to him okay?”

Still torn between anger and alarm, Max grunted finally, “Okay, I will.” He grabbed up the two coffee mugs and left for his bedroom. Max couldn’t help but roll his eyes at the irony. It seemed he was finally making headway with Liz and now another crisis seemed to be unfolding. Could he ever catch a break?

Liz was still waiting for him when he returned. In his absence she had donned a pair of his boxers and one of his t-shirts and had settled back to read a book while she waited. At his entrance she glanced up, closing her book and holding it up to his view. “I knew you had this,” Liz told him smugly, “‘I gave you all your stuff,’ my ass. You knew I was into this book and you kept it deliberately.”

“You’re right,” Max admitted without an ounce of remorse, closing the door behind him with his foot, “I did it just to be perverse.”

“I was beginning to think you weren’t coming back,” Liz said as she took hold of the coffee cup he passed to her.

Max folded himself down beside her. “I got to talking with Kaelen,” he replied. He had already considered the wisdom of sharing with her what Kaelen had told him and decided to shelve the discussion for later. First, he’d get their relationship problems settled and then they could deal with this newest issue about their son together. Max took a sip of his coffee. “So we had sex last night…”

Liz’s coffee nearly spewed from her mouth. She blushed deeply. “What a way to open the discussion,” she remarked wryly.

“I thought I’d try the direct approach.”

Liz set her coffee cup aside on the nightstand and folded her hands into her lap. “I guess that’s a good way to start,” she mumbled. A part of her dreaded the conversation while another part of her was bursting to say all the things she’d kept bottled up inside for nearly a month. Instead, she forced herself to remain silent and patiently waited for Max to begin. Not surprisingly he began the discussion with a question.

“So what happened?” he inquired bluntly, “A couple days ago you were saying you wanted to be my friend, now you’re in my bed. What gives?”

Liz continued string at her hands. “I’ve been blaming you for things you can’t change.”

“No really, Liz, ya think?” Max bantered sarcastically, “As I remember it you accused me of being ‘poison’…yeah, I think that was your exact word. So what happened to change your brutal assessment of me, huh?” Now that they were talking, really, finally talking, Max was surprised by just how much anger he’d been storing away.

Liz flinched at the reminder of how harshly she’d treated him. “I was out of my mind with grief, Max,” she murmured by way of explanation, “I didn’t mean those things I said to you.”

Her answer didn’t mollify Max one bit. “I remember suggesting exactly that and you told me that you’d never been happy with me and that you just wanted to be normal.”

“How did you expect me to react?” Liz flung at him angrily, her eyes glistening, “You had just told me I couldn’t have any more children and that my son had been kidnapped all in the same breath! How was I supposed to react? Was I supposed to say, ‘Oh, gee Max, that’s too bad?’”

Max set his jaw stubbornly. “You didn’t have to shut me out,” he accused her. He hung his head. “Why did you do that? I was hurting, too, Liz.”

“I was in shock,” Liz explained, “I didn’t need to have you tell me that Bayok was the reason I was in the hospital. I knew it. I knew he had tried to kill me and…I did hold you partially responsible for what happened. I was just so angry and it was easiest to take it out on you.” You always hurt the one you love, Liz thought. Never were truer words spoken.

“Do you still feel that way?” Max asked hesitantly, “Do you still blame me for what happened?”

Liz shook her head. “No, I don’t blame you anymore.” She expelled a staccato breath. “I haven’t for a while actually but I wasn’t really sure if we could go back…or…”

“I know,” Max rasped. And he did. He understood perfectly. It seemed the longer they were apart, the larger the rift between them grew, the more impossible it seemed that they would ever repair it. Tentatively, he scooped up one of her hands and laced her fingers through his own. “Why did you come to me last night? What changed?”

“Rahsha told me I was being an idiot,” Liz replied, a small smile tugging at her lips, “That…and I was watching Connor play football with my dad, just amazed at how much I loved him even though nothing about him was normal and probably never would be. I realized that I would never turn my back on him because of what he was so then I had to wonder why I was turning my back on you.”

“Why were you?” Max whispered.

Liz met his gaze earnestly. “I was just so afraid of losing you, Max…I thought if I walked away first it would be easier for me.”

Her admission earned her a lopsided grin. “Faulty logic.”

“Apparently,” Liz smirked in chagrin.

Max idly brushed the interior of Liz’s palm with his thumb. “So does this mean that you don’t want a divorce anymore?”

Liz stared down to where his finger was stroking lazily over her skin. “I think you already know the answer to that,” she whispered.

“I just need to hear you say it out loud.”

She pressed her lips to his in a sweet, but fleeting kiss. “No, I don’t want a divorce,” she told him, her tone quiet and fervent, “I should have never asked you for one in the first place. By the way I have something for you.” She reached over the side of the bed to retrieve her skirt, fishing around in the front pocket. When she straightened she held out her palm revealing two small, gold hoops.

Max picked up his wedding ring tentatively, tears stinging his eyes. “I thought I threw this away,” he whispered in wonder.

“I kept it.”

“And yours, too,” Max surmised. He held up his ring. “Will you put it on me?”

Liz smiled despite her own tears. “Only if you return the favor.” Max slipped her ring back onto her outstretched hand eagerly, his grin wide and happy. When it was Liz’s turn she kissed his hand first, holding it against her heart before sliding his wedding ring rightfully, reverently onto his finger. “I’ve been such a fool, Max,” Liz whispered hoarsely, “I’m so sorry I hurt you like I did.”

“Really?” Max asked. Liz nodded, nuzzling against his chin. Before she knew what he was about he had flipped her onto her back and slipped between her legs all in one fluid motion. He beamed down at her, his eyes sparkling with true happiness for the first time in weeks. “Why don’t you show me just how sorry you are, Liz,” he whispered against her lips suggestively, his smile widening when Liz proceeded to do just that.

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

“God, Max that feels soooo good,” Liz groaned as Max kneaded the palms of his hands into her shoulders, his deft fingers massaging the sides of her neck.

Max straddled Liz’s naked backside more fully, smiling in satisfaction at her groan of pleasure. He edged his fingers down the trim expanse of her back in a circular pattern, gently working away the kinks in her muscles. “You’re so tense, baby,” Max murmured, rotating the pads of his thumbs into the small of her back, “Your muscles are so tight.”

Liz only grunted and buried her face deeper into the pillows, her body completely boneless beneath his touch. Max pushed the heels of his hands up the length of her back then, stretching out atop her body as he did so. The contact with her soft skin hardened him almost instantly. He nuzzled her ear before darting out his tongue to trace its delicate rim. “If you turn over I’ll massage your front,” he whispered wickedly against her ear.

Liz grinned into the pillow. “I’ll just bet,” she mumbled playfully. And then she rolled over onto her back so that he lay nestled between her legs and regarded him with an expression that was only slightly serious. “We can’t stay in bed all morning, you know.”

Max nibbled along the column of her throat. “Hmm…why not?”

“Breakfast…” Liz moaned, “We have to…to…uh…feed our…uh…son…”

Max lifted his head and his eyes were sparkling with happiness as he stared down at her. “Oh yeah.”

“Oh yeah, is right,” Liz quipped, tweaking his nose playfully, “And of course we’re gonna have to shower.”

“Of course,” Max replied solemnly, but his amber eyes were full of boyish pleading and mischief.

Liz grinned up at him, finding his playful mood infectious and irresistible. “Okay…but ten minutes more and that’s it,” she told him firmly.

Max rolled over and snuggled against her side, pulling her naked body close against his. “I still can’t believe you’re here with me,” he murmured into her hair, “It’s like a dream.”

Liz shifted onto her side to kiss his lips gently. “It’s not a dream,” she whispered, looping her arms beneath his to caress his muscled back, “I’m never leaving you again.”

“I’m gonna hold you to that promise,” Max said with absolute sincerity, “I’m never letting you go again, Liz. Never.” His hands roamed freely over her skin. He touched her hair, her shoulders, her hips…it was as if he couldn’t get enough of her, didn’t want to. Liz shared his same hunger, her fingers skimming over his flesh with the same delightful urgency.

“I’m sorry I pushed you away.” She fingered his black eye remorsefully, knowing full well that she was the reason he’d been involved in a brawl in the first place. “God, I made such a mess of things…”

“Shh,” Max admonished, capturing her hand and placing a tender kiss to her palm, “That’s over now. It’s in the past…I don’t want to think about it anymore.”

“But I said some terrible things to you…”

“I don’t remember.”

“Yes, you do, Max,” Liz insisted sadly, “I called you poison…and that was just so…wrong.”

“It’s okay,” Max reassured her softly.

“No, it’s not,” Liz protested with a sad, stubborn smile, “I’m gonna spend the rest of my life regretting I ever said that to you.”

“Then that’s enough for me,” Max told her urgently, “Knowing you regret it is enough. I love you, Liz. I don’t care what you do, what you say…as long we’re together…as long as you love me…” He kissed her, plunging his tongue deep, groaning when she eagerly returned his rapacious kiss.

Never breaking contact with his lips, Liz rolled over atop his body then, straddling him so that she was poised above his rigid length. “I always will love you, Max. No one else,” she promised tremulously as she gently guided his penis inside her body, “Always.”


[ edited 2 time(s), last at 10-Feb-2003 9:33:39 AM ]
posted on 5-Dec-2002 11:57:00 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 57

Max’s first awareness upon waking was that his throat burned faintly. He swallowed, acquainting himself with the unfamiliar scratchiness. It didn’t feel dry but rather painful and…raw. That was the only word Max could think of to describe it. He swallowed again, grimacing at the pain the effort caused. Idly, he wondered if his coffee had been too hot earlier.

Earlier…hmm. Max’s frown faded to a smile of contented pleasure when he thought leisurely time he and Liz had spent making love. Life, Max decided broadly, was good. Not even the looming threat of Bayok could crumble his mood. He was back home with his family, the love of his life had taken him back, and his son was safe. Max couldn’t ask for more.

This morning had been as Max had always dreamed. After he and Liz had taken a quick shower together Max had gone to wake Connor while Liz started a late breakfast in the kitchen. They had sat down together at the table like a family. Max had scarcely eaten a bite. He had been much too enraptured by the easy affection between his wife and son, drinking in their tinkling laughter. It was a beautiful, wondrous moment, one that Max wished he could freeze for all eternity. As close to sheer perfection as anything could be.

Connor’s eyes had gleamed the entire time. Max could tell that he was happy his mother had “slept over” as he termed it. And though he really didn’t question them about the apparent change in their demeanors Max suspected that Connor was well aware that they were back together.

Max thought about bringing up Kaelen’s concerns about Connor right then but had discarded the idea. He didn’t want to destroy their moment with suspicious accusations. Besides Max firmly believed there had to be a logical explanation for whatever was going on with his son. Connor would never hurt anyone. Max could see it, feel it in his skin. His son was there to make their lives better.

Later, when breakfast was done, Max had gone to lie down again. His head had begun to ache dully and he figured the aftereffects of his hangover hadn’t worn off completely. Liz had urged him to go back to bed for more rest while she took Connor back to her parents’ and packed a suitcase. She said they would discuss their living arrangements when she came back. Max had fallen asleep grinning.

Now he was awake again and he still felt like crap. Worse even. His body ached in the most unnatural places. God, even his armpits hurt! His skin felt so tingly and sensitive that even his cool cotton sheets felt scratchy and uncomfortable. He kicked them off in irritation and rolled from the bed.

The second his feet hit the floor Max felt lightheaded. He braced his hand against the wall to keep from falling down. Man, Max thought as he stumbled from his bedroom, hangovers were a bitch! See if he’d be drinking again any time soon.

Max shuffled down the hall, stopping short when he heard voices from the living room. Kaala and Liz’s. He crept closer, but was careful to keep out of sight.

“I was wrong about what I told you. I’m sorry and I hope you don’t hate me for it,” he heard Kaala say, “I really thought I was doing what was best for Max.”

“No, that’s my fault,” Liz replied softly, “I mean…I was a little jealous of you, I admit, but that didn’t keep me from taking him back. I knew he still wanted me.”

“I don’t want us to be enemies, Liz,” Kaala said, “I’m not trying to take Max from you. I’m not even interested in him that way anymore. Max is a friend, my best friend actually, and I love him dearly.”

“I know…just took me a while to see that.” Then there was a pause. “So I heard about you and Kyle…”

“Yeah…he’s great…”

“You know I dated him once.”

“But that’s over now…right?”

“Totally.”

Kaala heaved a relieved huff and Max couldn’t help but snicker. “Good. God, now I know how you must have felt all that time I’d been hanging around Max,” Kaala sighed.

“You really like him, huh?”

“He makes me feel like nobody has ever made me feel,” Kaala whispered, “Like I’m beautiful…like I’m the only person he sees…and the way he kisses me…”

“What the hell are you doing?” Max whipped around so fast he careened into the wall and nearly went down like a felled tree. Kaelen caught him before he crumpled to the floor and helped to bring him upright again. “God, you look like total crap,” he remarked.

“Thanks,” Max replied in a croak. He frowned. His voice sounded raspy and his throat ached like fire when he spoke.

Kaelen frowned at him in concern. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

Max shrugged, wetting his cracked lips with his tongue. “I feel funny…”

“Come on, let me help you to the living room,” Kaelen said, already looping his friend’s arm about his neck, “You look like you’re going to pass out.” As soon as they shuffled into the living room together Liz and Kaala looked up in surprise.

“I see liquor doesn’t agree with you, Max,” Kaala smirked, “Maybe you should have stopped when I warned you those half dozen times.”

“I don’t think this is the effect of the hangover,” Kaelen told them as he deposited Max into the recliner, “He feels warm.”

Liz’s teasing smile immediately dropped from her face. “He does?” She shot over to Max’s chair and placed her hand against his forehead. “God, he does feel warm. Really warm.”

Alarm had set in almost instantly. Kaala hopped to her feet. “Rahsha,” she called, already heading off for the kitchen, “We need you in here!”

Just as Rahsha emerged from the kitchen drying her hands with a dishtowel the doorbell rang. Failing to register the apprehension that was currently clouding Liz, Kaelen and Kaala’s faces, she ignored them for the time being and answered the door. Isabel, Michael, Maria, Alex and Kyle waited outside, their expressions ranging from anxious to excited. Rahsha stepped back to welcome them inside.

As Isabel strolled into the living room she leveled her brother with a disapproving frown, noting his pallid color. “Evidently, you’re still suffering the ill effects of your little adventure last night,” she observed tartly.

“It’s not that, Isabel,” Liz said, “I think he has a fever.”

“A fever?” Isabel repeated blankly, “Why would he have a fever? We don’t get sick.”

“Rahsha, do you guys have a thermometer?” Liz asked her friend.

“In the first-aid kit in the bathroom,” Rahsha answered, “I’ll go and get it.” Rahsha had thought the idea of buying a first-aid kit was utterly ridiculous when Kaelen suggested it. But he had insisted, declaring that buying it had given him a sense of normalcy. Whatever floated his boat, Rahsha had thought at the time. Now she was glad they had it, despite Kaelen’s odd reason for getting it.

Isabel stepped forward to feel her brother’s forehead. “He does feel hot,” she remarked, “Max, how do you feel?”

“Like I’ve been clubbed by a two by four,” Max croaked.

Michael shuddered. “Ugh, Maxwell, try not to speak, please. You sound like Telly Savalis.”

“God, what the hell can this be?” Isabel asked Kaelen, “Some alien sickness or something? Maybe an after effect to the alcohol?”

Kaelen shook his head. “I don’t think so. Nothing like this happened to me afterwards.”

“But he drank way more than you did,” Isabel argued, “Maybe this is some sort of reaction to that!”

“Well, he’s conscious,” Kyle remarked to no one in particular, “That’s got to be a good thing, right?” Six pairs of glaring eyes quickly told him it was, however, not a good thing. Kyle wisely pressed his lips together and rolled his eyes toward the ceiling.

“I’ve got the thermometer.” Rahsha passed the device to Liz who was bent low over Max.

Liz clicked the digital setting on. “Now, Max, I’m going to take your temperature,” she explained gently, “okay, baby?”

Max favored her with a dry, exasperated look. “I’m sick, Liz,” he replied gruffly as she shoved the thermometer between his lips, “not senile.”

While everyone hovered over Max it went unnoticed that Connor had come to stand in the hallway, watching all that played out, his entire body trembling. His dad was sick. He had never meant for that to happen. He had only wanted to give them a gift, to grant them what they had most desired. But something had gone wrong. No one was supposed to get sick. Was it his fault, Connor wondered. Had he, in his good intentions, caused his father heartache instead of happiness?

Connor pressed back into the shadows, his large eyes rounded with fear and remorse. What would he do if something happened to his dad? His parents had become his entire world. It no longer mattered to him that he had another destiny waiting to be fulfilled. Connor knew the one he wanted. He wanted his parents, he wanted a normal life, and he wanted to give them one as well. But something had gone wrong.

He’d never be able to make them understand now. It had never been his intention to hurt, but to heal. Now he had messed things up royally. He had overheard his dad and Uncle Kaelen talking that morning. Did Uncle Kaelen think he was trying to hurt them? Never. He’d never do that. But Connor didn’t know how long he’d be able to control that fact.

He could feel his connection with his parents dissolving, growing fainter. He doubted that they were even aware of the change. But he was. Every day he felt distanced from them a little more. And with each day he could hear Bayok’s call grow stronger, louder in his mind. Connor could no longer ignore the pull. Bayok had found him now. It would only be a matter of time before Bayok came for him. He had to go now, had to go before Bayok found him first. Connor couldn’t take that chance, not when he knew that Bayok would kill his parents if given the opportunity. And he could do it, too. They were defenseless against him now.

Perhaps it was better if he went away in the end, Connor thought as he crept into his father’s bedroom and climbed through the window. He had caused more trouble for them than good. He had made his father sick somehow. He didn’t deserve to stay with them. How would they ever love him now?

As Connor ran down the road for the bus stop he was too blinded by his own sorrow to pay any attention to the black sedan that was parked nearly a block from his father’s apartment complex. But the two occupants within the vehicle noticed him. “Is that his kid?” the one man asked his partner, sliding on his opaque sunglasses.

“Don’t know,” his partner answered, “Seems like he might be a little old, but Cavanaugh said keep a watch on anybody who comes and goes in that apartment.”

“Looks like he’s leaving,” the man observed, hitching his chin towards the windshield, “Should we follow him?”

“Probably so,” his partner said, flicking open his cellular phone, “We’ll call in another agent to replace our post.”

His partner flicked him a telling look and pulled the gearshift into drive. “Oh, the joys of surveillance,” he quipped. They followed the bus at a safe distance.

Unaware of what was happening right outside their apartment building, Liz pulled the thermometer from Max’s mouth and held it up to the light. “What does it say?” Max asked anxiously, following his question with a massive sneeze.

“103.8,” Liz answered, “That’s high, but not life threatening.”

“For a human it might not be life threatening,” Isabel said, “But we have no idea what this fever might be doing to Max’s system.”

“I really don’t think it’s as bad as that,” Maria interrupted, speaking up for the first time since she’d arrived smack in the middle of pandemonium, “I mean, Kyle is right, he’s not unconscious. So it can’t be that bad.”

“Well, conscious or not, I feel like crap and I don’t know why,” Max coughed.

“What exactly are your symptoms,” Maria asked Max crisply. She ignored Isabel’s irritated glare.

Max thought a moment. “Well, my throat hurts, my head hurts, in fact my whole body hurts…” he groaned, “And I’m sneezing and coughing, too, so I think I might be getting a little congested.”

“Congested?” Alex parroted with a frown, “It sounds like you just described the flu.”

“The flu!” Isabel, Liz, Kaelen, Rahsha, Kaala, and Michael simultaneously exclaimed the statement.

Maria surveyed the six incredulous faces and shrugged. “That’s what it sounds like to me,” she commented dryly.

“No way!” Michael cried, “We DO NOT get sick!”

“So you’ve mentioned before,” Maria replied, “Look, there’s a way to test our theory. Why don’t we just run to the drug store and pick him up some Thera-Flu.” They all looked at her as if she’d just suggested they go dancing butt naked in the snow. “Hey, it can’t hurt!”

“There’s a Walgreens about a block from here. I’ll go,” Alex volunteered, already heading for the door.

Isabel caught him by the arm. “Wait, Alex! This is ridiculous,” she scoffed tremulously, “Max doesn’t have the flu.”

He covered her hand with his own. “Isabel, I know you’re worried, but it will be fine.” She stared at him with skeptical brown eyes. “Have I ever steered you wrong?” Isabel shook her head without a second’s hesitation. Alex chucked her under the chin and pressed a quick kiss to her mouth. “I’ll be back in fifteen.”

When he was gone, Isabel turned back to the anxious group. “I guess we wait then.”

“Could you have eaten something or done something different to bring this about,” Michael asked uneasily, as uncomfortable with Maria and Alex’s “flu” theory as Isabel was. “I mean…did it just happen suddenly or what?”

“My throat felt a little scratchy this morning but that was all,” Max answered, “By this afternoon, though, I felt like hell.” His friends lapsed into silence as they each tried to individually figure out what was wrong with him. “Has anyone checked on Connor lately?” Max asked after a coughing fit, “He might be sick, too.”

“I’ll go,” Kaala said, heading back towards her bedroom. She came running back in the living room a few minutes later, her expression harried and distressed. “He’s not here!” she declared frantically.

“What do you mean ‘he’s not here’?” Liz repeated in mounting panic.

“I checked all the bedrooms,” Kaala told her, “He’s not in any of them. But Max’s bedroom window was open.”

“That’s crazy!” Kyle exclaimed, “We’re two stories up, for crying out loud!”

“There’s a tree outside my bedroom window,” Max explained, struggling to lift himself out of the recliner, “He could have easily shimmied down it.”

“Or someone shimmied up,” Kaelen concluded ominously.

He and Max came to the same conclusion simultaneously. Bayok. “Get my jacket,” Max said to Liz.

The words had barely left his mouth when the front door suddenly swung open and Alex came stumbling in, cradling a woman in his arms. “I found her in the alley,” Alex panted, as he lay her down against the sofa, “She was chanting Max’s name over and over. I thought I should bring her up here.”

Liz leaned forward to peer down over Alex’s shoulder, her eyes widening with shock and paralyzing disbelief. “Oh my god,” she whispered, falling back a step, “It’s Nesui.”

posted on 5-Dec-2002 11:58:27 PM by Deejonaise
Chapter 58

She looked awful, as if she’d been swallowed down into the depths of hell and then regurgitated back up again.

Gone was the controlled and haughty beauty they had come to expect from her. Nesui was now a beaten, haggard woman. The long mahogany tresses that had once been her crowning glory were now dull and dirty and hopelessly tangled. But even her ratty hair was a vast improvement on the travesty that was her face. Her skin was sallow; her eyes alight with a feral gleam, her cheeks sunken and gray. She bared her teeth in a mockery of a smile revealing how decayed they had become. Nesui could see the disgust in their faces and shame coursed through her body though she tossed her head haughtily. “I would change my shape for you if I could,” she cackled, “but Bayok has seen fit to take that away from me as well.” Whatever she had been through it must have been horrible because Nesui had not only lost her looks, as a result, but her mind as well.

Max backed away from Nesui as the shock of her reappearance began to diminish. He recognized the wild glint in her eyes immediately. Madness. She was absolutely, 100% certifiable. Staring into her vacant eyes Max couldn’t dredge up the slightest bit of feeling for her, not hatred, not even pity. Max felt completely unmoved. His expression remote, Max dismissed her with a brusque shake of his head. “I don’t have time for this,” he rasped hoarsely, “I’m going to find my son.”

“You will never find him without me,” Nesui said to his back, her voice almost singsong.

Max pivoted around slowly to face her, his entire body frozen in trembling anger and escalating panic. “What did you just say?”

Nesui flashed him a toothy, black smile. “Bayok plans to kill him, you know,” she said almost smugly, “But I can help you find him before it’s too late.”

Having had his fill of threats and fear, Max started to lunge at her, but Michael hooked one forearm around his chest and held him back. “Don’t do it, Maxwell,” he said pragmatically, “She’s obviously one french fry short of a happy meal.”

“What exactly do you want from us, Nesui?” Liz asked wearily. She might have wanted to kill Nesui if she’d thought it would give her even an ounce of satisfaction. At the moment, however, Liz didn’t care. She didn’t care about anything beyond finding her son. “Why are you here and what do you know about Connor?”

Nesui lowered her eyes, played her dirty fingers over the fine seam of the sofa’s armrest. “We were found out,” she whispered quietly, “It is all destroyed now…walking dead…that is what we are now…walking dead….”

“Found out?” Kaala repeated blankly, “Walking dead? What are you talking about, Nesui?”

Until that point Isabel, Kyle, Michael, Maria and Alex watched the scene play out before them, their gazes ricocheting from one speaker to the next as they tried to piece together what the hell was going on. Finally, Isabel couldn’t stand it any longer. “Wait! Wait! Wait!” she interrupted with a frown of confusion and mounting dread, “Who is this woman and how does she know anything about who took Connor?”

“Nesui is Bayok’s mate,” Max clarified coldly.

“Bayok?” Maria repeated with a trill of alarm, “As in the Bayok that tried to kill Liz, that Bayok? The one who kidnapped your son?”

“The very same,” Max confirmed, his mouth set in a grim line.

He stumbled over to the recliner and braced himself against it, trying to overcome the waves of dizziness and nausea that were rolling through his frame. Liz went to stand near him, placing a steadying hand to his stomach. She could feel the heat of his skin radiating through the material of his t-shirt. He was really ill. Liz wondered, for the first time, if Bayok might be the reason that Max was sick.

“Poor woman,” Maria murmured, “No wonder her cake’s half baked…with a husband like that whose wouldn’t be?”

“No, believe me, Maria, she doesn’t deserve your pity,” Liz said, her mouth twisted in an ironic grimace, “Nesui is no victim. In some ways she’s just as evil as Bayok. They deserve to be mated to one another.”

“Is that what I am?” Nesui muttered to no one in particular, “I had almost forgotten…almost forgotten…evil…yes, I have seen evil…”

Gradually, the ten teens expanded the circle they had made around Nesui. “She’s definitely cracked just like Michael said,” Kaelen declared to the group, “We’re wasting time here with her when we could be out looking for Con. She’s not capable of telling us anything.”

Everyone nodded in hesitant agreement. Dismissing Nesui’s presence for the moment, they huddled together to formulate their game plan. Their confidential whispering hardly registered on Nesui who continued to mutter and laugh to herself alternatively. Isabel slid a cautious glance to the crazy woman seated on the sofa then back to her circle of friends. “Someone’s gonna have to stay with her.”

“Not me,” Kaala, Kaelen, Rahsha, Liz and Max chorused all at once. “If I’m left alone with her for even a second I just might kill her,” Liz added in passionate anger.

“She can’t stay here alone,” Isabel ground out.

“Then you stay,” Max stated obstinately, “I’m going to look for my son.”

“What if she’s legit?” Kyle asked Max cautiously, “What if this Bayok dude really does have your son? What if the crazy old broad can help us? You’re not in any shape to face him and you don’t know the first place to look.”

It was true. During Max’s brief confrontation with Nesui it had taken all the willpower he had to remain standing. His body ached from head to toe. He didn’t think he could make it to his bedroom unassisted much less embark on a citywide search for his son. But he didn’t have a choice. If Bayok had his son Max didn’t have any time to waste. What made in ten times more difficult was the fact that Kyle was right. He didn’t know where to look. Connor could be anywhere, with anyone… Max couldn’t shake the terrible feeling that his son was in trouble.

Before Max could respond to Kyle’s question, however, Kaala was already answering for him. “We can’t trust a word out of Nesui’s mouth. She’s proven in the past that she will do whatever Bayok tells her to do. This could be a set up,” she spat, “She’s a liar and a killer. We should just take her back to wherever Alex found her.”

“And just leave her there?” Kyle blurted, amazed and a little shocked by how heartless Kaala sounded, “She’ll die.”

If Kyle had been surprised by Kaala’s reaction, he had felt as if he’d been knocked on his ass when Liz said coldly, “That’s not our problem.”

“Okay, so she can’t be trusted. Where do we look in the meantime,” Alex interjected, “It’s getting late. Connor’s just a kid…he shouldn’t be wondering the streets alone.”

“If he is alone,” Kaelen muttered.

Max grimaced painfully at the thought. He knew what Kaelen was implying and he didn’t want to think about it. Because if it were true, if Bayok had taken Connor then it would mean that Max had failed to protect his son once again. “Do you really think Bayok has him? Would he really be so bold as to come here and take Connor right from under our noses?”

“He did it before,” Liz whispered quietly.

“That was different,” Max replied, stroking at her hair, “We weren’t expecting him that time, he took us by surprise. This time we were ready. We drilled Con and everything. If Bayok were here he would have let us know…screamed or something.”

Kaelen nodded his agreement. “You’re right…we did drill Con and that’s exactly why this doesn’t make any sense. It’s not like Con to just take off,” he said in brooding concern, “He knows how dangerous it is.”

“We were scheduled to be executed!” Nesui announced suddenly, startling everyone into silence. Max and Liz gradually straightened to regard her. Nesui rocked back and forth on the sofa compulsively, her eyes fixed and dilated. “Only one day…one day and we would have been dead… But he escaped…Bayok always escapes…he always wins… He asked me to come with him…oh, yes he came for me that night…” she paused to laugh to herself once more. “I thought he cared…I thought he finally could see…”

And then she lifted her hollow eyes to Max and he could see they were devoid of sense and reason. Nesui was trapped somewhere inside her own private hell. Max thought she deserved no better after what she’d done. But despite his resolve, her next words did serve to stir feelings of pity within his heart. “He took away everything I had…he did not want the Council to have the satisfaction, you see…he wanted the privilege for himself…of killing me…”

Max went to kneel before her, cautiously placing his hands on her trembling knees. “Nesui,” he said, whispering her name gently though it galled him to do so, “you have to focus. You said that Bayok has my son. Where is he? Where has he taken Connor?”

Nesui stared at him with maniacal eyes. They shone like polished marble. “He is the promised one, you know,” she stated fervently, “He will lead our people to the new Antar where we will finally be free.” She pinned Max with her fierce gaze and then looked over at Liz, her eyes just as penetrating. “You were destined to become lovers…destined to conceive him… Bayok did not know…not until Zrei…not until he told us that Elizabeth was pregnant…the promised one…in a human girl not human…” She laughed again, but it sounded more like a whimper this time.

Her words caused an odd chill to quiver down Max’s spine. He had figured out for himself that he and Liz had shared an intense connection even before he healed her in the Crashdown that day. He had been attracted to Liz from the first moment he saw her and Liz had admitted to him that the same had been true for her. Max had suspected that the reason for their mutual attraction had been because of Connor but to know with certainty that his fate had been decided with Liz long before he had even laid eyes on her was amazing. But then Max wondered exactly how much stock he could really put into Nesui’s words, especially when she was so blatantly unhinged.

He clenched his fingers reflexively in the shabby material of her grimy dress. “Nesui, I need you to help me find my son,” he insisted firmly, “Where is Bayok? Tell me where I can find him.”

“In hell I hope,” Nesui laughed madly, “In hell! He deserves no less!”

Max hung his head in disappointed frustration and half turned to face his friends. “She can’t help us,” he said, pushing himself to his feet, “This is a waste of--,”

Nesui wrapped her bony fingers around his wrist in a manacle like grip. “Our time is running short!” she almost screamed, “The transition is nearly complete! Do not let him hurt the boy! Bayok thinks the answer is on earth, but new Antar is not here. It will never be here!”

“She’s friggin’ lost it,” Rahsha muttered.

“Ditto on that,” Maria added softly.

Max tried to pry her fingers from his wrist, an endeavor that proved futile. Nesui held on with a will born of fear. Giving Max’s wrist a sharp tug, Nesui brought Max down to her eye level. In that moment her eyes seemed to clear and she was the old Nesui again, calm, clear, and always watchful. “Listen, Maxwell…listen…listen… The power within your son is beyond reason,” she whispered, “Bayok wants it…he wants to harness it and he will have it if you do not stop him… The transition has already begun.”

“Tell us how,” Max urged softly, “How do we stop him?”

“I did not want to hurt Zrei,” Nesui rushed out, “Bayok said that it must be done…for our people. But I would have never allowed him to hurt the boy. He knew that. It is the reason I gave him up to the Council even when Bayok had forbidden me. When I aged him I had no idea what Bayok’s true motives were. He said it was to speed along the prophecy, but it was a lie…it was all lies…”

“Yes, Nesui, I understand all that,” Max said impatiently, “But I need you to tell me where I can find Bayok. Please…help me find my son.”

But Nesui continued on as if he hadn’t spoken, suddenly seized with the desperate need to justify her actions. “After you ran I went to the Council with the truth,” she whispered, “I had never in my life experienced the emotion guilt,” her voice dropped even lower, barely inaudible as she revealed to Max in a confidential whisper, “It eats away at you, Maxwell, from the inside out.”

Max had reached his limit for patience. He grasped her by the shoulders and shook so hard her head snapped on her neck like a rag doll. “I don’t care about these things,” he all but shouted, “Tell me where to find my son, dammit!”

“Say I have your forgiveness!” Nesui demanded wildly.

“You’re crazy!”

Say it!

“No.”

She quivered at his refusal. “Please, please, Maxwell…forgive me…I will tell you all…”

“For God’s sake, Max,” Liz exclaimed in near hysteria, “Tell her whatever she wants to hear! I don’t care! Just do what she wants so we can find our son.” She broke down into tears then, turning into Maria’s waiting arms.

Max sighed wearily. “What do you want from me, Nesui?”

Nesui lowered her head, clenching her fists into the filthy skirt of her dress. “I am dying,” she whispered hoarsely, “I seek absolution.”

“I can’t give that to you, Nesui,” Max replied quietly, “But if you truly want to atone for your sins you can start by telling me where to find my son. Please, Nesui, tell me where to find Connor…”

She didn’t lift her head, but continued to twist her hands in her skirt. “When we die we become dust,” she admitted inanely, “From dust we were formed…to dust we return… Our energy is relinquished and returns to the Great Being who gave it…”

“What has this got to do with Connor?” Max snapped impatiently.

“Zrei did not become dust,” Nesui reminded him softly, “Do you remember?”

Suddenly, Max realized that Nesui was trying to tell him something important. Though her senses were clearly confused he could see that she was desperately struggling to maintain her hold on clarity at the moment. Max fell silent and forced himself to consider carefully Nesui’s mindless ramblings. He nodded his head in response to her question. “Why didn’t Zrei become dust,” Max asked carefully.

Nesui smiled her black smile, pleased with Max’s question. “Bayok stole Zrei’s energy. Without his life force he was nothing but a hollow shell,” she announced triumphantly, “Bayok is doing the same to your son. It was his plan all along. Only with your son’s phenomenal power will Bayok be able to bend the Collective to his will…the entire world…”

Max could feel himself trembling as the full importance of what Nesui was telling him began to dawn. Bayok was on a quest for world dominance and he was using Max’ son as the means to achieve it. If he wasn’t stopped, if he were allowed to transfer Connor’s power there would be no stopping him. Max sighed a shuddering breath. “Nesui, where has Bayok taken my son?” he asked again, but this time he knew she would tell him.

Nesui lowered her eyes. “To the first place you would run when danger threatened and the last place you would think to look,” she whispered, “Your pod chamber.”

posted on 6-Dec-2002 12:00:22 AM by Deejonaise
Chapter 59

Thankfully, there were no arguments over who stayed and who went. Alex, Isabel, Kyle, Kaala and Maria stayed behind with Nesui while the others raced out towards the desert for the pod chamber. Isabel might have tried harder to convince Max to stay behind with her had she not already known that the effort would be wasted. Despite his fever, his nausea, his general malaise Max was stubbornly determined to go.

On the way out to Vasquez Rock, Max made a decision. Tonight he would end it, once and for all. This time he would kill Bayok. He had missed his opportunity the day he had taken Connor back the first time. Bayok had been vulnerable, completely at his mercy, but Max had been unable, unwilling to do it. At the time he had believed that it would make him no better than Bayok, a monster. But now Max realized that the situation was about so much more. It was about his family’s survival. He had a duty to protect them and he would do so no matter what.

By the time they reached Vasquez Rock dusk had fallen. The setting sun bathed the rocky cliffs in a delicate orange glow, setting them ablaze with color. The small group of five scrambled up the rock face without vacillation or fear, instinctively knowing that they were about to face the biggest challenge of their lives. Their bodies were primed with anticipation and resolve for the confrontation that lay ahead of them. Unlike times before Max did not use his powers to roll back the entrance of the pod chamber, rather it seemed to sense his presence and opened of its own accord. He was still marveling over that strange fact when they stepped into the pod chamber and found it completely empty.

“She lied to us,” Kaelen spat bitterly, as he rotated the interior of the small cavern, “I should have known this was a set-up!”

“No, Bayok’s here…I can feel him,” Max breathed in contradiction, drifting over to the wall in the furthest corner of the pod chamber, “He’s waiting for us.” Right on the heels of his statement the rocky wall before him suddenly slid away revealing a labyrinth of caves behind it. Max stood there, only half surprised by the discovery of this newly revealed compartment.

Liz came to stand behind him and placed a trembling hand against his shoulder. “Did you know that this was back here?” she whispered.

Max shook his head and took a tentative step forward through the entrance. The others followed closely behind him. Once they had all stepped through the cave wall resealed itself behind them, leaving the cavern pitch black.

“Great,” Michael muttered irritably, “Do you think you could provide us with some illumination, Maxwell?”

“Powers on the blink,” Max answered him, “Kaelen?”

Kaelen waved his hand, expecting light to spark up at his will. He didn’t generate so much as a spark. He tried again with the same results.

“Hey Kaelen,” Michael prodded, “anytime dude.”

“I can’t,” Kaelen said, panicked, “Nothing’s happening.”

“What do you mean nothing’s happening?” Max gritted in alarm.

I can’t do anything” Kaelen stressed. All his life he’d been privileged with the use of superhuman powers and to suddenly be deprived of them after twelve years completely freaked him out.

“Here, let me try,” Rahsha suggested, trying to keep the situation calm. She too was met without results when she tried to bring forth light. “This is not good,” she uttered slowly.

“What the hell is going on?” Michael demanded, “Should I try it?”

“Don’t bother,” Max told him with a sudden prickling of realization, “it will just be a waste of time.”

“And that is the first right thing you have said all night, Maxwell.” They all jumped at the sound of the new voice that permeated the darkness. The words reverberated in the blackness, shook the confines of the cave, causing small pebbles to rain down on their heads. The ground even shook beneath their feet. Almost immediately following the trembling the cavern was illuminated with light.

Bayok appeared before them then, his white ceremonial robes floating about his glowing body as he hovered in mid space. He appeared awesome in the gathering force of his power, hypnotic almost. The brilliance from his true form was stunning, almost blinding. The five teens couldn’t help but shield their eyes in response. For a moment they were stuporous, only able to gaze upon him in dumbfounded awe. “The time has finally come for us to end this,” Bayok announced ominously, “I never anticipated it would be this simple.” And then he raised his hand and sent forth a blast bolt of energy.

It whizzed through the air, slamming into Kaelen with the force of a cannonball and sending his body careening backwards against the rocks. The crunch of breaking bone mixing with Kaelen’s surprised cry of pain rent the air as Bayok drew himself up powerfully. “It is time to die,” he said almost gently, raising his hand once more.

That was the moment that they snapped out of their trances. Max and Michael scrambled to hoist Kaelen to his feet and then the five of them made a desperate run for it, winding in and out of the mazelike web of caves. At that backs, Bayok followed closely behind them, his energy rumbling as he pursued, the light from his body illuminating the caverns. Max got the impression that Bayok was deliberately holding back from killing them. He was content to play a game of cat and mouse with them because he knew, in the end, that he would win.

They ran until they thought their hearts would explode, but they knew at the same time that fleeing was futile. In the end, they were defenseless and lost. It would only be a matter of time before Bayok picked them off. And besides that Kaelen was hurt and Max was sick. They could only last for so long and they couldn’t run forever. Left with little choice they ducked into a small crevice in the rocks and crouched down, careful to keep as low to the ground as they were able.

Kaelen’s lips were fairly white with the effort he exerted to keep from moaning in pain. When Max felt across his friend’s shoulder in the darkness he could feel that it was fractured, the bone jutting just slightly through his skin. “He’s not gonna last if we keep running,” Max whispered breathlessly, his eyes roaming the darkness for any sign of Bayok.

“We can’t stop,” Kaelen groaned, gritting his teeth against the pain, “He’ll kill us for sure.”

“He’ll kill us if we run,” Michael predicted anxiously.

“It’s me he wants,” Max argued in a quiet tone, “You and Rahsha stay out of sight, hide in the caves until we come for you. Liz, Michael and I will make a break for it.”

“No, I--,”

“Shh, Kaelen,” Rahsha pleaded, pressing her finger to his lips, “Max is right. You won’t last. I don’t want to lose you. We’ll just slow them down if we all stay together.”

Knowing that their time was limited Kaelen didn’t waste time debating over the decision. He nodded quickly. But no sooner had he done so than the cavern where they were hidden began filling with a creeping light, spreading further and further within the interior of the cave. Bayok was near.

“We’ll find you later,” Max promised, grabbing hold of Liz’s hand and sprinting towards an adjacent cave entrance at break neck speed.

Max, Michael and Liz ran until they could no longer see the light, but Bayok’s rumbling laughter followed them. He was toying with them, enjoying the hunt. That’s exactly what Bayok was doing, he was hunting them…and he wouldn’t stop until they were all dead.

In another one of the cave rooms they hunkered down in the darkness, grateful for the few seconds they had to catch their breath. In those few seconds the enormity of what they were up against hit Michael full in the chest. Usually, he was the impetuous one, the one with the do or die attitude, but even he had to admit that the situation was impossible.

“We’re screwed,” Michael panted harshly, “We don’t know where we’re going, we have no powers and no way to protect ourselves! We should bail right now, Maxwell.”

“I’m not leaving my son!” Max said in an explosive whisper.

“We’re not gonna do him any good,” Michael retorted, “We’re no match for that Bayok guy with our powers gone. It will be a bloodbath. I’m not saying to abandon the kid…I just think we need to go someplace safe and regroup or something.”

Max turned to Liz in the darkness. “Liz, tell him!” he implored urgently, “Tell him that we can’t leave Connor.”

“He’s right, Max,” Liz admitted reluctantly, “We’re not doing Connor any good. We need weapons to fight…we don’t have anything. Kaelen’s already been hurt…”

“Liz,” Max whispered in agony, “if we don’t help our son, who will?”

Before Liz could answer him Michael suddenly jerked beside her before going completely limp, slumping against the jagged rocks. “Oh my god,” Liz uttered, her hand floating out to touch him, “Michael?”

He lifted his body so suddenly that Liz yanked back her hand in fright. But it was when he opened his eyes that her body took to trembling. They were ringed with luminescent silver, glowing with an unearthly light. “Mom?”

“C-Connor?” Liz stammered in disbelief.

“Mom, you and Dad have to leave this place,” Connor said urgently, speaking through Michael. He used Michael’s body as a puppet, projecting his words through him much the way a ventriloquist would speak through a dummy. “You can’t defeat Bayok…you’ll die trying.”

“Connor, we’re not leaving without you,” Max said stubbornly.

“It’s too late for me,” Connor told them quietly, “The transition has already begun. The only way to stop it is to kill Bayok and you can’t do it. You have to run from here.”

“Connor--,” Liz started to argue.

“You don’t understand,” Connor stressed, “You’re human now, both of you… and I can’t help you. I’m too weak.”

“Human?” Max repeated blankly, “What do you mean we’re human?”

But Connor was never given the opportunity to answer. A sudden beam of light sliced into the rocks above their head, loosening the boulders above. The resulting boom was deafening. A falling piece of rock knocked against Liz’s head, dizzying her for a moment. She lifted her hand to finger the burn that had suddenly slashed across her forehead. Her fingers came away wet, but she didn’t need light to know that it wasn’t sweat on her fingers.

Realizing there was no time to lose, Connor gave Liz one hard push right before the ceiling of the cave came crashing down between them. “Run!” Connor cried as the rocks piled up between them creating a wall, “Run!” By the time the rocks stopped falling Bayok and Michael were on one side of the divide and Max and Liz were on the other.

Left with no other choice, Max and Liz ran. They didn’t look back, didn’t allow themselves to wonder what had become of Michael trapped on the other side of the collapse. The grief and fear would have overwhelmed them otherwise and they had to go on, they had to find their son. They ran blindly, deeper and deeper into the caverns, hell bent on survival. But eventually Max’s body betrayed him. His fever soon became too much for him to handle and his legs gave out from beneath him.

As he stumbled onto his knees Liz ran back to his side, trying to hoist up his body against her. “No, don’t…don’t,” Max protested feebly, “Go on without me.” He collapsed down onto the stone floor beneath him, panting hard.

“Max, I don’t know where I’m going,” Liz sobbed, “I can’t leave you!”

“You’ll die if you stay,” Max replied faintly.

Liz fell on the ground beside him. “Then I’ll die, Max,” she said fiercely, “because I’m not leaving you.”

Max groped for her face in the darkness, his fingertips skimming her cheeks and chin and eyes, memorizing each curve and groove of her face. “Go for our son, Liz,” he told her simply, “I’ll be here when you get back…promise…” When she still refused to budge he gave her a gentle shove. “You’ve got to do it.”

When she finally left him it was with many tears and bittersweet kisses. Liz wound her way through the darkness, feeling along the jagged interior of the cave, instinctively making her way towards her son. She could feel his presence growing stronger, although his energy felt faint, very weak.

It had all gone so terribly wrong. One by one they had fallen away and now everything rested on Liz’s shoulders. She didn’t want to be the hero, didn’t think she was even equipped for the job. But out of sheer force of will she kept going, kept trudging along until she saw a weak sliver of light flickering ahead.

At first she thought it might be Bayok and she shrank back into the shadows, trembling violently. But then she heard him calling to her, faintly at first, but growing louder and louder in her mind. Her son’s sweet little voice, lilting, angelic and so unswervingly trusting. Mom, I’m here. I’m here, Mom! She knew what the light was then. It was her son and he needed her. He was calling for her.

Liz ran towards it, her heart thundering against her ribs with each step. She could make out another cave just ahead, the cave where she knew she would find her son. Liz ran faster, but the moment before she would have reached the entrance a figure materialized out of the darkness.

A low scream rent from Liz’s throat and she began flailing wildly as her assailant banded one arm around her arms, locking them at her sides while his other hand clamped down over her mouth. Only when he spoke did Liz stop struggling. “Liz…Liz, it is okay…it is me…”

Liz squinted in the dimness, her body deflating in relief. “Max?” she croaked, “I thought you were staying behind.”

“I could not let you go on alone,” Max whispered, caressing her hair back from her face. He walked her back against the cave wall. “I wanted to make sure you were safe.”

“Max, he’s there,” Liz stammered breathlessly, “Connor is right inside there.” She pointed towards the entrance of the cave. “We have to get him before Bayok finds us.”

“Hmm,” Max considered, not even flicking his eyes in the direction of Liz’s finger.

Liz began to tremble anew, her body primed with the sense that something was terribly wrong. That’s when she realized. Max’s skin was cool to the touch, not fiery hot, as it had been when they’d last been together. Moreover, his eyes were cold, devoid of life and feeling. And his face… Gone were the bruises from his brawl the previous night. Even in the dimness she could recognize that. He wasn’t her Max at all. Liz started to scream. “You are right,” Bayok confirmed, grasping her suddenly by the neck and cutting off her cries for help, “I am not Max.”

He lifted her from the ground effortlessly, delighting in how her legs kicked desperately for the ground beneath. Liz clawed at his fingers, beat futilely at his hands but nothing would loosen his vise like hold around her throat. She could feel her air supply being cut off, but she fought against blacking out. Liz was desperate to remain conscious. If she didn’t survive then they all would die. But despite Liz’s best efforts to hold on she could feel herself slipping, could feel herself being overpowered…

“It is much more satisfactory this way, do not you agree, Elizabeth,” Bayok taunted with a maddening grin, “So much more gratifying to kill you with my bare hands.”

Liz gagged and gasped in his hold, gradually losing consciousness and ceasing in her struggles. Bayok released her then, allowing her flaccid body to crash to the ground below. He regarded her with dispassionate eyes for a moment, filled with disgust. “You did not even prove to be a challenge,” he spat.

As he started to turn aside, however, Liz’s eyes snapped open, silvered, fixed and enraged. Connor filled his mother’s body with his presence. He gathered all his remaining power, calling forth the last remnants of his energy to strengthen his mother and do away with the evil that plagued them all. He shot forth a beam of energy so powerful that it rocked the entire cavern seconds before slamming into Bayok’s back. His tormentor crashed into the cave’s rocky wall, pinned there by the sheer force of the energy blast. But still he held the ray on his enemy, allowing it to pulsate brighter and brighter, contorting Bayok’s body with its awesome power, convulsing him violently until he shattered, his body disintegrating into a million particles of dust.

The light that filled the cavern illuminated the small particles briefly, reminding Liz of fairy dust before winking out completely and leaving her in dimness once more. She slumped to the cave floor, breathing hard. By the time Liz had managed to struggle back to her feet she could hear Max, her Max calling her name in the darkness.

“Max!” she croaked, clearing her throat when her words were no more than a thready whisper. “Max! I’m here.” Her cry was louder then but still just as hoarse.

An instant later Max slammed into her, hugging her tight. “God, Liz! I heard you screaming. Are you alright?”

“Max,” she whispered, “is this really you? Is it you?” She felt the naked skin of his forearms. His skin was blazing with fever. Liz slumped a little in relief.

Max held her away from him, shaking her slightly. “Of course, it’s me, Liz,” he told her insistently, “What the hell’s going on? Did you see Bayok?”

“He’s dead,” Liz said as she confirmed his question with a nod.

“Dead?”

“Yes,” Liz murmured weakly, “It was Connor… We have to go to him, Max.” She grabbed hold of his hand and led him through the cave entrance, following the tugging of her heart, listening carefully to her son’s voice in her head.

They found him in a small interior room, strapped against a large, stone slab. If not for his unique eyes, burning brightly even in the dimness, they would not have known him. He was full grown now. His skin was wrinkled like that of an old man’s and his hair was completely white, flowing down over the table almost to the floor. Max and Liz crept closer towards them, their hearts unwilling to believe what their minds were already accepting.

Max swept up his son’s gnarled hand in his own. “We can reverse this,” he whispered to Connor tearfully, “You’re not going to die here…not today, not this way.”

“It’s out of your hands now,” Connor whispered faintly, “My time in this body has ended, Dad. This was only a transition.”

“Don’t talk like that,” Liz wept into her son’s hair, “We can change this…tell us how to change it and we will.”

Connor laughed a little at that. “You can’t change destiny, Mom,” he rasped against her ear, “But you can choose it…and I choose you and Dad…that’s the only destiny I want… It’s not your time to die here…or Michael’s or Kaelen’s…or Rahsha’s…”

“It’s not yours either,” Max argued hoarsely, “Please, Con, please tell us how to help you.”

Connor swiped his dry lips with the tip of his tongue. “There is no help…this is what is meant to be…”

“No, no,” Liz cried against his chest, “I can’t lose…not again, not again…”

“You won’t lose me, Mom,” Connor promised softly as he slipped away, “We’ll see each other again soon…we’ll see each other again. My choice this time…mine…”

Both Max and Liz felt the exact moment Connor’s life force left. The room crackled with an almost electric energy, slicing through their bodies and winding itself through the cave walls before leaving the room cold and empty. Max tentatively stretched his hand forward to touch his son’s withered cheek only to have his body disintegrate into nothingness upon contact. “Oh god…” he whispered.

He was barely aware of Liz wilting beside him, her small frame wracked with miserable sobs. He just felt numb and shocked and cold. Max didn’t know how long he sat there, staring at the stone table where his son had lain only moment earlier. He didn’t move, didn’t think until he felt someone tugging at his elbow. Michael. He had suddenly materialized beside him, bloody and bruised, but thankfully alive.

“We’ve got to get out of here, Maxwell,” he said urgently, “The whole place is coming down.”

Max snapped out of his trance then, realizing that the entire cavern was shaking as if in the throes of an earthquake. Rock and debris had begun raining down within the small room. “Liz, we’ve got to get out of here,” Max cried, grabbing hold of her hand.

“Connor’s dead,” Liz announced dully to Michael, impervious to the rock and dust billowing around them.

“I know,” Michael said solemnly, “Don’t ask me how…I just felt it…we all did…”

“We?” Max asked.

“Kaelen and Rahsha are outside waiting,” Michael clarified loudly over the rumbling, “Come on, I’ll explain later! Right now we need to get the hell outta here!”

Kaelen and Rahsha were indeed waiting for them outside the cave entrance. Above their heads there was the loud crunching and cracking of breaking rock. Large fissures had already begun to rent their way down the craggy walls. The five frightened teens ran back blindly through the maze, not one of them looking back as the rocky walls came crashing in behind them. It almost seemed as if they wouldn’t make it out at all when a portion of the cave suddenly broke away, revealing the star filled sky beyond. They scrambled towards the small opening, wasting no time climbing through, Liz and Rahsha first, followed by Kaelen then Michael, then Max last. The moment Max cleared the hole the entire structure collapsed completely, caving in on itself.

They stood arm in arm, the five of them, staring at the heap of rubble that was once the pod chamber, their breath coming in heavy pants. Ironically, save for the billowing of dust where the pod chamber was once situated, the air was quiet and still, in direct contrast with the harrowing events that had nearly taken all their lives. Max turned away, gathering Liz against his side. “It’s over now,” he stated with quiet finality. He fingered the gash on Liz’s forehead, which still oozed with blood, “Come on…we should get you guys to a hospital.”

“A hospital,” Rahsha gasped, “Can we really go to a hospital, Max?”

Max tossed her a brief glance over his shoulder. “We’re human now, Rahsha,” he replied sadly, “There’s nothing else for us to hide.”

But they never made it to the hospital. By the time they had climbed down to the base of the mountain the feds were already there, waiting for them.

posted on 6-Dec-2002 12:02:20 AM by Deejonaise
Chapter 60

Max hadn’t seen Liz or the others in over fourteen hours. In all that time no one had come in to talk to him. Only once had he seen someone and that was the orderly who had come in earlier to take his blood sample. Max had felt a mild sense of apprehension as he watched his blood fill the tube. But it was red, he saw, just like everybody else’s. Yes, after so yearning for so long, he was finally like everybody else.

Federal agents had taken them all into custody almost the moment they came down from the mountain. He had to admit that the conference room they had contained him in this time was a vast improvement over the cell that DeVoe had provided for him. But Max noted this rather dispassionately. He had lost his son fourteen hours ago. His twenty-one day old son. Connor hadn’t even been a month old when he died, but he had born a grown man’s burden.

Yet Max couldn’t feel the ache or the emptiness because, even as his mind accepted the reality that his son was gone, his heart continued to rebel. His heart told him that Connor was still with him. His heart told him that he would see his son again, just as Connor had promised.

And so, as Max waited patiently for the FBI director to make his debut, he didn’t grieve. He couldn’t. There was nothing to mourn. He hadn’t lost his son. Max refused to believe that.

Max sat quiet and unafraid, somehow sensing that his life had been meant to wind down to that one specific moment. He wasn’t even the slightest bit nervous. Max smiled to himself. He was human now, the same as them. Nothing to hide anymore. But he couldn’t help but wonder why and how. He could only assume that had been Connor’s doing somehow.

After what seemed like an eternity had passed the mechanical door to the conference room finally swung open. “Mr. Evans,” the well-dressed man in the dark suit greeted him, “My name is Agent Brian Cavanaugh. I was hoping you might be able to answer a few questions for me.” He took a seat across from Max at the conference table.

Max leaned forward, folding his hands atop the gleaming, polished wood. “Perhaps you’d like to answer some questions of mine first,” he countered coolly, “Where are my wife and friends?”

“Your wife and associates were in need of medical attention,” Agent Cavanaugh answered politely, “They are currently at a local hospital receiving treatment.”

At the mention of the hospital Max lost some of his bravado. “Are they alright?”

“Your wife and friends…what are their names,” Agent Cavanaugh paused to flip open the file he had carried inside with him, “oh yes…Michael Guerin and Rahsha Quinn sustained only minor lacerations. Your other friend, Kaelen Stafford, suffered a fractured shoulder, collarbone, and three bruised ribs.” Max couldn’t help but wince as the agent went down the lists of Kaelen’s injuries. “What were you kids doing in that cave to begin with?”

“Exploring,” Max lied flatly.

Agent Cavanaugh closed the file folder with a snap. He leaned forward across the table and offered Max a tight smile. “I don’t think you were exploring, Max,” he countered softly, “I think you kids were up there trying to hide something.”

Max scoffed, although his heart began to hammer beneath his ribs. Had they found something strange in his blood work after all? Or, God forbid, had they found the pods? How would he explain that away? Max tried not to display the panic he felt at that moment. “What could I possibly have to hide?” Max asked blithely.

“Confidential federal files for one thing,” Agent Cavanaugh replied. Max tried not to wilt with relief at the agent’s statement. Hell, if the files were all they wanted, Max thought, they were welcome to them. Agent Cavanaugh continued, “We searched the rubble extensively but we didn’t find a trace of the files.” He paused, as if he were waiting for Max to confess right at that moment. But Max didn’t utter a sound, only sat there with his lips pressed in a tight, thin line. Cavanaugh dropped all pretense. “We know for a certainty that those files were in your possession, Max,” he stated crisply, “Where are they?”

Max averted his eyes, but still refused to speak a single word. “This could go very badly for you, Max,” Cavanaugh warned flatly, “You might want to reevaluate your silence.”

Max pinned him with angry eyes. He felt cornered and afraid and those emotions were plainly visible on his face. “Are you threatening me?” he burst out.

“That isn’t my intention at all, Max,” Cavanaugh denied, “but I must secure those files. It’s a matter of national security.”

“You were planning a biological weapon,” Max accused hotly, “with some sort of alien virus. You blew up a town to keep it secret.” What was the point of pretending? They were already more than aware of the fact that Max had the files. It wouldn’t take so large of a leap to assume he’d read them as well. “You’re trying to cover up the mass murder of hundreds of people…I won’t let you.”

“The government isn’t proud of what happened.”

“That doesn’t excuse it,” Max retorted.

“And that’s not for you to decide, Max.” And then, inexplicably, Agent Cavanaugh softened, the hard plans of his face relaxing until he was looking at Max in near compassion. “Look, kid, I understand what you’re trying to do. I think it’s a noble gesture, I really do, but I’ve got to contain this. That’s my job.”

“By contain what do you mean exactly?”

“Bury it so deep it will never be found again.”

“But the Special Unit--?” Max protested.

“Was dismantled shortly after DeVoe disappeared,” Cavanaugh answered. Max tried to cover his surprise at that bit of information but he couldn’t quiet manage it. He lowered his eyes, hoping to hide the truth about his involvement in DeVoe’s “disappearance.”

Cavanaugh misinterpreted the gesture, believing Max had lowered his eyes in shame and not guile. “I’m already aware of your history with Marcus DeVoe, Max.” Max lowered his head so that his chin nearly touched his chest, his heart thundering anew. “DeVoe took most of the files on you, but a few of them remained. I know you were in federal custody for about two days and I know in that time DeVoe performed a number of experiments on you and your girlfriend.” Max’s jaw knotted in remembrance, but he neither confirmed nor denied Cavanaugh’s allegations. “He believed you to be an alien,” the agent commented after some time had passed.

“Did he?” Max inquired laconically.

“You didn’t know,” Agent Cavanaugh prodded carefully, “He had plans to breed you. He was one sick bastard.”

Max did flinch then. How could he not with such forceful reminders of DeVoe’s evilness? He could still recall the helpless feeling that had overtaken his body that day, the acid fear that had eaten away in his belly when he realized that the effects of the drug were beyond his control, what he had done to Liz… Max blinked back the tears forming in his eyes. “Yes, DeVoe was a sick man,” Max agreed.

“But, of course, you’re not an alien. Our own tests proved that. You have a high amount of antibodies in your bloodstream which means that your body is fighting off an infection, but that’s all,” Cavanaugh concluded, “Our findings make what DeVoe did to you all the more unspeakable. The fact that he was willing to falsify documents speaks of his desperation and lack of morality. If his kind were the sort of agents heading the FBI Special Unit then it’s dismantling was for the best.”

“Why are you telling me these things?” Max whispered.

“Because we don’t want to hurt you, Max,” Cavanaugh said, “I think you’ve suffered enough, as do my superiors. We don’t want to hurt you…all we want are the files.”

“I don’t have them,” Max replied truthfully.

Cavanaugh’s expression became cold and remote once again. “I thought we were telling one another the truth, Max.”

“That is the truth,” Max insisted, “I never moved them from the cave. If they weren’t in the rubble I don’t know where they are.”

The agent studied him for a long while as if trying to decide whether Max was telling him the truth or not. Finally, he sighed. “I’ll have my men comb through the wreckage once more,” he said, “Of course I’ll have to keep you here until I have confirmation that they’ve found the files.”

Max nodded his consent. But as Cavanaugh rose to leave he declared, “I’d like to see my wife, please.”

To Max’s utter surprise Cavanaugh agreed without any hesitation. “I’ll have her brought to you shortly,” he said.

Max only had to wait ten minutes before Liz arrived. She came rushing through the mechanical door and flung herself into his arms the moment she saw him. Liz skimmed her hands over his face and body in joyous agitation, confirming for herself that he was indeed unharmed. “I thought I’d never see you again,” she murmured into his throat, “They wouldn’t tell us anything no matter how many times we asked.”

Max leaned back a little so that he could stare down into her face, his eyes racing over her features hungrily. “They only want the files, Liz,” he whispered, “When they find them, they’ll let me go.” He traced the neat row of stitches just along her hairline. “I’m sorry for this,” he rasped softly.

“Don’t,” Liz sighed, grabbing hold his hand and pressing gentle kisses to his fingers, “It’s over. It doesn’t matter anymore.”

“How are the others?”

“Michael suffered a mild concussion,” Liz told him, “Rahsha had minor lacerations to her face and hands, but Kaelen was the worst of it.”

“Cavanaugh said that he had some broken bones,” Max said.

“His injuries were pretty serious. They’re keeping him in the hospital over night,” Liz replied, “When I left he seemed okay, though. Rahsha and Michael are still with him. They had him really doped up so I’d say he’s pretty happy right now.” They both smiled a little at that. Afterwards, they fell into an awkward silence, wanting to talk but not knowing where to begin.

Max sighed, tears burning the back of his eyes suddenly. “Liz, about Connor--,”

“Shh,” Liz quieted him gently, “Don’t…don’t say it, Max. He’s not gone. I don’t feel it…not in my heart.”

“Me either,” Max admitted quietly, “I don’t understand, Liz…we saw him die…”

“Maybe we’re not supposed to understand,” Liz ventured tearfully, “Maybe we’re just supposed to hold on to Connor’s promise and believe…that’s all we can do.”

Max bobbed his head once in a nod, acknowledging the wisdom of her words. In silence they sat down together at the conference table and awaited Cavanaugh’s return. Liz picked at her nails. “So how do you feel about it?” Liz asked cautiously after a few minutes of silence.

Liz didn’t need to clarify. Max knew exactly what she was asking him. “I don’t know really,” he replied honestly, “I haven't really had time to think it over.”

“Do you think you’ll miss being…er…um, Czechoslovakian?”

“Nah,” Max laughed softly, “I think it’s way past time I became an American citizen don’t you? I was tired of being an illegal alien anyway.” They both shared a chuckle at their inside joke. Just in case someone was listening they had sure as hell confused the crap out of them. Far too soon, however, Max sobered. “I wonder how the others will feel about it.”

“Well, I only really know about Rahsha, Kaelen and Michael right now,” Liz replied, “Michael seems to be handling it alright, but I think Kaelen and Rahsha are kinda freaked.” Liz regarded Max from beneath her lashes. “Do you think it’s because of Connor?”

“I think it is,” Max confirmed, “I had spoken to Kaelen earlier and he said he thought that Connor was acting strange…maybe that’s why. We’ll probably never know.”

“I can’t stop trying to figure out why he would do it,” Liz speculated aloud.

“To make us happy,” Max stated with absolute conviction, “He loved us, you know. He loved us all.”

They were cut off from saying more when the mechanical door abruptly swung open again. Cavanaugh filled the entranceway, his expression both pleased and relieved. “My men found the files,” he announced evenly, “You’re both free to go.”


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Dec-2002 12:34:53 PM ]
posted on 6-Dec-2002 12:04:35 AM by Deejonaise
Chapter 61

The first thing Max and Liz did after they were released from the federal facility was go to the hospital to check on Kaelen. Before that time Max had been reluctant to place a call to Isabel for fear their conversation might be overheard somehow. However, upon making it to the hospital he immediately put in a call to his sister on Kaelen’s cell. Isabel’s voice was fraught with tension when she answered. “God, Max, is this you?”

“Yeah, Isabel, it’s me,” Max confirmed tiredly, “We’re all fine, okay. We had a little difficulty at the cave, but everything’s okay now. We’re at the hospital right now.”

“The hospital,” Isabel exploded, “What are you doing in a hospital?”

“It’s a long story.”

“Well, it’s about to get longer,” Isabel revealed tightly, “That woman who was here last night…she died, Max, and then she just disintegrated on the sofa.”

Max took a deep, steadying breath. “Okay.”

“Okay? Okay?” Isabel repeated in near hysteria, “I tell you a woman has died and evaporated in your living room and all you have to say is okay? Why are you in the hospital? Are you hurt?”

“I’m not hurt,” Max said, “It’s Kaelen…he was banged up pretty bad last night.”

“Kaelen?” Isabel questioned, “Oh my god…what happened to him?” Immediately following her question Max heard a commotion in the background accompanied by muffled voices. And then Kaala’s voice blasted in his ear, “Max! What’s going on with my brother? Why is he in the hospital?”

“Kaala, I don’t want you to panic,” Max began calmly.

“Don’t tell me not to panic!” Kaala snapped, “Tell me what the hell’s wrong with my brother!”

Max sighed in exasperation. “He’s got a broken shoulder and collarbone and three bruised ribs.”

“Oh my god,” Kaala uttered, “What happened to him? Why couldn’t you heal him?”

“Bayok did…look, Kay, I don’t want to explain this over the phone,” Max said impatiently, “Can you please just meet us out at the hospital?”

Kaala and the others made it out to Roswell Memorial in less than half an hour. There was an emotional reunion followed by tearful sorrow when Max related to them all the events that had transpired in the last fourteen hours. Max’s revelation that they were all completely human now didn’t seem to register immediately. Alternately, they had each tested out their powers and found them lacking, but the reality of their situation still proved elusive. “Maybe it’s just a fluke,” Isabel suggested hopefully. Though she had wanted to be human all her life, the idea that a part of her had been changed irrevocably overnight frightened her a little.

“I don’t think they’re coming back, Isabel,” Max replied tiredly.

“And Con…” Rahsha asked tentatively from her perch near Kaelen’s bed, “Is he coming back, Max?”

Max regarded her sadly, lifting his shoulders in a shrug. “He said we’d see him again…”

That was the precise moment that everything came crashing in on him. Battling with physical and emotional sickness, Max stumbled for a chair and sat down. Having had to voice the night’s events aloud seemed to make the entire ordeal more real to Max. He finally felt some of his shock begin to fade as he was abruptly hit with the enormity of it all. Not Connor’s supposed death, in particular, because Max hadn’t yet grasped that at all, but the realization that only fourteen hours before they all had been frighteningly near death. He looked over at Kaelen, lying pale and helpless in the hospital bed a few feet from him and realized just how easily Bayok could have taken his life, could have taken all their lives and he shuddered.

“So what are you telling us,” Kaala asked on a trill of panic, “We’re human…and Con…he’s dead…?”

Liz brushed away her own tears. “That’s the way it looks right now,” she confirmed softly. It was peculiar but she and Max seemed to be handling the news better than the rest of them. Maybe because she still didn’t feel it. Even now their son’s energy was a tangible force in the room, almost as if she could reach out and touch him. She felt him strongly and she knew without asking that Max did, too.

But it obviously wasn’t so hard for the others to believe that Connor was gone. Their faces were clouded with sympathy and sorrow as they regarded the forlorn pair in the corner of the room. Kaala dissolved into tears, seeking and finding comfort in Kyle’s waiting arms while Maria enfolded Liz in a wooden hug. “I’m so sorry, chica,” she whispered kindly.

Liz pushed her away slightly, but without harshness. “I said that’s the way it looks, Maria,” Liz clarified stonily, “I didn’t say my son was dead.”

Maria stroked her hair gently, almost tentatively, clearly of the mind that Liz had flipped out completely. “Liz, sweetie,” she began carefully, “Max just said that the both of you saw him die. Now I can’t imagine the kind of pain you’re in, but you’ve got to accept--,”

“There’s nothing to accept,” Max stated flatly in interruption, “I said we felt his life force leave him…I didn’t say he was dead.”

“Max,” Isabel whispered cautiously, “It’s the same thing.”

“No, it’s not!” Max snapped out, causing everyone in the room to jump at his sudden outburst, “He’s not dead…my son is not dead.”

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

“Our parents are here,” Liz announced softly, padding up behind Max and slipping her arms about his waist. Max continued to stare out his window at the orange glow of the setting sun, but he did smile faintly at her touch.

“I had the most beautiful dream last night,” he sighed wistfully.

“Really?” Liz smiled against his shoulder, “What about?”

Max’s smile broadened. “It was Connor’s first birthday,” he recounted with quiet joy, “You had gone all out with this whole SpongeBob Squarepants theme. You had put one of those little pointy hats on his head and he totally hated it.” Max laughed at the memory. “He kept trying to pull it off his head, but he couldn’t quite get it… And then we served the cake and I leaned him close so I could help blow out the candle and he just reached forward and took a big chunk out of the cake. We just laughed and laughed…” He paused to favor her with a look over his shoulder. “It seemed so real.”

“Maybe it was,” Liz whispered.

Max turned in her arms then, resting his cheek against the top of her head. “Everyone thinks he’s dead, baby,” he murmured sadly.

“But we know he’s not.”

“Then where is he, Liz,” Max insisted, his words forlorn, “I know he’s near…I can feel him…why doesn’t he come to us?”

“I don’t know,” Liz said into his chest. She held him in her arms quietly, her hands drifting up and down the length of his spine, soothing him a bit. “Your parents are here,” she said again, “I think your mom brought a casserole.” Max groaned at the thought. “They think that maybe we’re in denial or something.”

“Maybe we are,” Max considered softly.

“I don’t believe that.”

Max was quiet for a moment before admitting, “Neither do I.” They held each other for a while longer. “I’m not ready to face them,” Max said after some silence, “They’ll just give us endless platitudes about how we need to move on and I don’t think I can handle that right now.”

“What do you want to do?” Liz asked him.

“Take a drive with me?” Max suggested.

“How do we leave without being seen?” Max nodded towards his window and the tree standing tall just beyond the glass. “You want to climb down?”

Max winked at her. “Can you handle it, old girl?”

Liz pinched him for the tasteless joke. “I can handle it if you can, Methuselah.”

It actually turned out that climbing down the tree wasn’t as difficult as it first appeared. And despite Max’s teasing Liz was definitely the more graceful of the two. They shimmied down the thick tree trunk in a matter of seconds, laughing lightly when they hit the ground. Like two thieves they made off for the jeep, hand in hand, running off for the unknown.

Max didn’t have a particular destination in mind when he climbed behind the wheel of the jeep. But as he drove through the darkening s