posted on 4-Mar-2002 2:40:10 PM by Behrable dream
Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.

And if you would like this story to continue... PLEASE LEAVE FEEDBACK!!! I have another story (Tapestry) that I am writing and if no one likes this one, then I will just concentrate on that one... ;)

Prologue

“Liz? What is it? What’s wrong??

Liz brushed past her friend and kicked off her shoes, running into his living room and fighting back the urge to scream in frustration and anguish. Alex looked at her perplexed. He didn’t know what was going on, but he knew it had something to do with Sean, Liz’s ex-fiance for about one month now.

“I ?went to see ?him ?and he had ?changed the locks ?she was there??she sobbed, taking in gulps of air between words. She tried to speak again, but the sound hitched in her throat and refused to come out. Then the tears began to fall and she stood there limply, her legs beginning to give way beneath her. “Oh God??she cried helplessly.

Alex rushed over to her. He grabbed her roughly and pulled her into his arms. Sobs racked her body and he held her closely to him as heart wrenching cries were torn from her. Liz slumped in his arms, grateful for his presence and reassuring embrace.

She hadn’t even seen him approaching her. All she remembered was barely making it to his house in one piece after she left Sean’s place in a complete shambles. She was surprised that she hadn’t had an accident, although she had come perilously close many times. She knew that Alex would likely have her replanting the flower bed by his mailbox, as she had left a huge tire mark there, but hopefully that would wait. As she replayed the day’s events in her mind, a feeling of complete and utter helplessness overtook her and she covered her face with her hands, trying to hold back the tears, because with the tears came the pain of betrayal and the realization that it really was over between her and Sean.

But when Alex’s arms wrapped around her forcefully and she held on to him like a life preserver, the tears spilled over into heart wrenching cries of pain. Alex had never heard sounds like that coming from Liz. Liz rarely ever showed emotion like this in front of people and she certainly never broke down like this. Normally she just tried to deal with her emotions intellectually. Alex had never seen her so defeated and broken. It was practically killing him.

Alex closed his eyes and tried to whisper words of comfort to Liz as she cried. “I’m so sorry,?he said softly as he held her tightly against her. He knew that his words wouldn’t help right now, and he wanted to kill Sean for hurting Liz. He couldn’t believe Sean had done this to her. First, he broke off their engagement and blamed Liz for it. Then after she had dutifully taken the blame for the breakup, he admitted to her that when she had gone to a wedding on the East Coast and he had gone to one in northern California, he slept with someone.

Liz buried herself in Alex’s chest and cried. She cried for the six years she had spent loving the man she thought she would marry. She cried for finding out three weeks after he called off their wedding that he had slept with someone else while she was actually trying on wedding dresses. She cried for the fact that she had saved herself for this man and now she was afraid she would be alone forever. She cried for the best friend she lost when he gave himself to the woman he left her for. She cried for every dream she had for the two of them that would never come true.

***
Liz sighed and rested her head in her seat as the stewardess passed by her and retrieved her empty cup. That was over a year and a half ago. She had left Sean and all of his drama far, far behind. She had finally finished her PhD at Stanford and she was moving to work for a pharmaceutical company outside of Los Angeles. Even though she had been able to repair herself enough to know that her breakup with Sean was his loss, it still hurt. Sean had been the perfect guy up until his betrayal. No one ever expected him to turn into such a first class asshole. Liz secretly thought that everyone believed that she must have somehow driven him to it, since many of their mutual friends thought he was so perfect. Deep down, a part of her railed against this thought pattern, but when she was feeling really down, she could almost convince herself that somehow, she had driven Sean to cheat on her and then leave her.

That was why she had shut men out of her life. Apart from Alex and her other friend Kyle, whom she had known since she was in diapers, she pretty much stayed away from men. She didn’t trust them. Her life had been so lonely after she and Sean had parted ways. Once, she had opened up to a man, hoping that they would become friends even though he clearly wanted more, and she discovered that he was married. Liz was so angry at him and it destroyed what little faith she had left. How could he think she would want to put another unsuspecting woman through anything like what she had been through?

So, Liz left the world of dating and threw herself into her work. She shaved months off her PhD dissertation in Biology and had also managed to get a Master‘s degree in Computer Science also. She published eight papers in less than a year and received numerous awards from her department and school, including a trip to the Nobel Laureate meeting in Germany. She was a long way from the small-town girl who had grown up in Roswell, New Mexico. Her life was really taking off and she promised that she would never again find herself in a situation where she could be hurt.

Never again, she promised herself. Never again.


Chapter One

Liz pulled up to the townhome that she was renting. It was beautiful and she was very happy that she had been able to afford it. Well, truthfully speaking, she couldn’t afford it at market value, but her father knew the owner, and he allowed her to rent the unit for much less than the market rate.

Liz hadn’t been able to see this place before she rented it, but her father assured her that she would love it. He couldn’t be more right. It was perfect. Liz thought that even heaven itself couldn’t be better. It had only one bedroom, but there was a study on the bottom floor. The bedroom took up the entire second floor, along with the master bathroom. There were French doors that opened up to the bedroom from the staircase landing, and a wall of French windows and doors led to a large balcony that overlooked a small garden and the beach beyond.

Liz could just imagine what it would be like to have breakfast on that balcony in the morning. A small part of her wished she could share this with Sean and she brushed the thought away viciously. She hated that. Everytime she experienced something new, she wanted to share it with Sean. Even though everything had ended between them in the worst way possible, she still loved him, even if she wasn’t in love with him anymore. But she missed her former best friend. She supposed a part of her always would.

Liz sighed and looked at the boxes upon boxes of stuff she had yet to unpack. Her furniture had already been moved in, but the boxes still loomed large in the even larger room. Running her hands through her hair, she got to work. She first cleared the boxes from the foyer area and then the living room/den. She left most of the boxes alone in the study and her bedroom, but she realized she had to go through the kitchen ones for practical reasons. After about six hours of going through her boxes, she was almost relieved to hear her cell phone ringing.

“Hello??

“Hey chica! How’s the unpacking going??said Maria, Liz’s best friend since they were old enough to speak.

“It would be going a lot better if you would come over and help me with it,?laughed Liz, settling into a plush chair and kicking her feet up.

“I’m sorry girlfriend, but I have been so swamped here today. These recording sessions just go on and on and on. We had to retake “In the Air Tonight?like, ten times. I’m just not with it today,?sighed Maria.

“Well, maybe I should knock off early and we could get some dinner? Are you and Michael free tonight??

“I think we can arrange some time for you, although Michael has that art class he is teaching at the studio, you know,?answered Maria, twirling her hair in her fingers.

“Where and when should we meet, then??asked Liz.

“There’s this incredible salsa bar I’ve been wanting to try not too far from you,?replied Maria. “It’s like a little bistro with a latin flair.?

“That sounds great,?said Liz. “Just let me get freshened up a bit.?

“Okay. Meet us there at say, eight sharp??

“Sounds great. See you then,?said Liz, hanging up.


***
Max Evans rubbed his eyes tiredly. This was turning into the longest business trip ever. But he was glad that he had been able to handle this latest crisis. Once again, the software developers had fallen behind schedule, only this time, he knew it wasn’t their fault. The suits had not prepped the client properly and as a result the client kept changing his mind. As an MBA with a Master’s Degree in Computer Science, he knew the problems that customers could cause by saying things like, “Oh, but can we just change that little thing right there?? Luckily, he had been able to get the customer’s requirements mapped out to the developers and notify the customer that no more design changes would be possible without serious bottom line issues. For the customer, this always meant extra money.

Of course, that had been after developing about five different prototypes for the customer to look at. He had been most relieved when the customer finally settled on a design that appeared to work for them and the developers could now finish up everything almost on schedule. This problem happened on most projects, but the company had sent him in to solve this situation, because the economy was so tight and this client’s business was so important.

As the taxi coasted into the plush neighborhood he was familiar with in this area, Max smiled to himself. The business trip had spilled over into his personal vacation time and he wanted to extend his stay, but not at the corporate suite the company provided. He decided to stay at the townhome his family, or rather, he owned near the beach. He just wanted to stop by his favorite restaurant first for some dinner and a drink. One of the developers from the project, Tess Harding, had offered to have dinner with him, so he told her to meet him there.

Although the restaurant was unusually crowded, he found his way to an uncrowded portion of the restaurant and ordered a drink from the bar. Not noticing the women who looked at him appreciatively, he continued to look for a place to sit. As he moved away from the bar and looked at the salsa dancers performing on the central stage in the restaurant, he caught sight of a beautiful raven haired woman making her way to the bar. She was wearing a dark red slipdress that hit all of her curves perfectly and her hair was tossed about in luxurious waves that framed her face. But it wasn’t her attire that arrested Max’s attention. It was ?her. Max’s breath hitched in his throat as she turned to look at him with the most incredible brown eyes he had ever seen. The music around them took on a sensual and seductive flavor as soon as their eyes met and he couldn’t have torn his gaze away from hers if his life depended on it. The air between them was charged with a sultry heat and Max felt his gaze sweep over her body before coming back to rest on her eyes again. She studied him for a moment, as their gazes locked, and then one of the dancers blocked his view of her. When the dancer moved out of the way, she was gone.

Max looked around wildly for the mystery woman, but he couldn’t find her and too many people were milling about for him to figure out where she had gone. Afraid that he had dreamt the entire encounter, or that his drink had been laced with something, he shook his head and made his way to a small table to wait for Tess.

***

Liz moved swiftly away from the center of the restaurant toward the bar. Her wordless encounter with the dark haired man with the soulful amber eyes had stirred something deep within her that she wanted to remain untouched. Shuddering despite herself, she grabbed a seat at the bar and waited for Michael and Maria to show up. They were late as usual, she thought wryly. Her thoughts drifted back to the man she saw earlier. She could still feel the way he had stared at her from across the room. He held her in his gaze effortlessly, as though he had cast some sort of enchantment over her. His dark features were mesmerizing and his eyes seemed to be portals to his soul. And, the strange thing was, it was as if she recognized it. No man had ever looked at her like he had. It unsettled and excited her all at once and her reaction was to get as far away from him as possible. Glancing around the room, she saw her mystery man sitting at a table, although he wasn’t her mystery man. He was talking with a young blonde woman, who was flirting and laughing with him voraciously.

Slightly disturbed by the disappointed feelings that arose in her, Liz turned to focus on the architecture of the salsa bar. It was an amazing space, with soaring ceilings and Italian arches and columns around the perimeter of the room and an amazing staircase that led to other more intimate areas of the bar. It was beautiful. It reminded her of an Italian palazzo. In fact, thought Liz, it was very similar to the Breakers mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. It wasn’t as large, but it did have the same flavor.

“Liz!?called Michael from across the room. Liz looked up to see Michael making his way toward her. She couldn’t believe her eyes. The staunchly rebellious young man had morphed into a serious looking high school teacher. He actually looked ?responsible. Liz grinned and launched herself from her stool. Michael grabbed her in a suffocating bear hug and then pulled back to look at her. He looked so happy to see her.

“Michael ?you look amazing. I‘ve never seen you look so calm and ?well, respectable,?smiled Liz as Michael led her over to the table he and Maria had reserved.

Michael laughed gregariously and blushed slightly. “Oh come on?why do you look so surprised??

“Well, I just never thought you would turn out to be so ?normal,?quipped Liz.

“You wound me, Liz,?said Michael with a look of feigned hurt as they neared the table.

“Liz!?squealed Maria, jumping up to greet her best friend.

“Hi Maria,?answered Liz as she enveloped Maria in a hug.

The trio sat down, ordering drinks and talking about old times. Soon they had completely caught up on all of the gossip about old friends and their current lives. Maria was so excited that Liz had decided to move close to Los Angeles. Since they had all graduated from Roswell High long ago, most of them had been split up over the country. Alex was now living in Phoenix, Arizona, Kyle lived in Denver, Colorado, playing for the Broncos, and Maria and Michael lived in LA. Now Liz had moved to LA for her career and to get a fresh start.
“So, how is Alex doing these days??asked Maria.

“He’s fine,?answered Liz. “He met this woman named Courtney. I think he’s in love,?she chuckled. Alex always seemed to fall for the worst women. They tramped all over his heart and then they left him.

“And how are you doing, Liz??asked Maria gently.

Liz looked up from her drink sharply. She knew what Maria was getting at. She had been fielding similar questions from friends and family for the past year. It was funny, actually. At first, she wanted to vent and talk about Sean and what he did to her all the time. In a small way, it felt like if other people validated her anger and pain, then she wouldn’t feel like it was somehow her fault. But now, she wondered why her friends didn’t just come right out and say what they meant. Especially Maria. Since Sean was her cousin.

“Maria, you can just ask me about Sean, you know,?Liz said calmly. “It still hurts a little sometimes when I think about it, but I’d rather not dance around him like he’s that person-who-shall-not-be-named or something. That just gives him more power than he deserves to have over me.?

Maria nodded, happy that her friend seemed to be adopting a healthy attitude where Sean was concerned. Liz had gone through so much on account of her cousin, whom she loved to death, but she hated what he had done. It was so unlike him, and Maria honestly felt that Sean hurt himself when he did those dishonorable things.

Michael shifted in his chair uncomfortably. It had been he who had pushed Liz and Sean together in the first place. Although he and Sean were not close anymore because of what happened with Liz and Sean’s subsequent break from most of their old friends afterwards, he still felt somewhat responsible. Liz noticed his look of discomfort and she tried to smooth things over for him.

“I never blamed you, Michael. You can’t hold yourself responsible for what someone else did,?she said softly.

Michael looked directly at her, his eyes full of sympathy and admiration for how strong Liz had become. “I hope you take your own advice, Liz.?

Liz looked to the floor. She didn’t like where this conversation was going. She decided to change the subject. “So, when is the last time you heard from Kyle??

Maria noticed the shift and tried to maintain her bubbly disposition. “It’s been awhile,?she said somewhat soberly. “He was injured, you know. He’s afraid he may not be able to come back this season.?

“Oh, no?I didn’t know that,?said Liz. She had been so wrapped up in her own drama that she didn’t even know about Kyle. “When did that happen??

“About two months ago. It’s been all over the news Liz. How did you miss that bulletin??asked Michael.

“I’ve kind of been trying to finish my degree,?said Liz sarcastically. “As it was, I only took about two and a half months off anyway. But,? she paused, taking a sip of her red-wine sangria, “I really should try and call him.?

Maria nodded and then glanced around the bar. It was clearing out rather quickly as the hour got later and later. “Do you have to work tomorrow??she asked Liz, standing up to leave.

“No, I don’t start until next Monday,?answered Liz, grabbing her purse and standing alongside her friend.

“Well then, let’s have lunch,?Maria offered. Liz was about to nod, when Maria slapped herself upside her head and grimaced. “Oh?not tomorrow, I have meetings all day. How about I call you? And Michael can come and help you unpack some of your stuff??

“Hey!?protested Michael when he heard Maria volunteer him for grunt work.
“Please, Michael,?begged Maria, with puppy dog eyes.

Michael sighed and Maria grinned with satisfaction.

Liz laughed at the hopeless couple. Sometimes she could actually believe ?no, she wouldn’t let herself think that she would ever find anything like what they had.

***
Max watched as the raven haired, doe-eyed beauty greeted a tall young man at the bar. He greeted her as though she were his lifeline, he thought with a pang of jealousy as they walked to a more private area of the restaurant. Max was so involved in his observance of the mystery woman and her date that he wasn’t paying attention to his own date. Not that Tess was actually saying much.

“Max? Max? Are you listening to me??she asked him, pouting.

“What -- oh, I apologize,?Max said absent mindedly, his attention still drawn towards the area where the dark-haired woman had disappeared to. Slowly he turned back toward Tess, trying to ignore the feeling that he should be anywhere but sitting at this table with her. “What were you saying??

“Oh, it was nothing?really,?said Tess dryly, obviously miffed that his attention had been drawn elsewhere. She wasn’t used to being ignored. No man had ever done that to her before. Usually they had trouble looking at her face rather than her chest, but no one had ever been indifferent before. And Max Evans wasn’t just any man either. He was a primo catch, definitely on his way to becoming CTO of the company she developed software for.

Max turned to Tess, instantly sorry for his rude behavior. His encounter with that woman made it difficult to concentrate. He needed to go home. Max pretended to stifle a yawn and then became acutely apologetic. “I really apologize for my behavior, Ms. Harding. It’s not a reflection on you, I’m just very tired. I’ve been in meetings since seven this morning. Perhaps we should do this another time. I’ll call a cab for you.?

Tess tried not to roll her eyes. He was sending her home? She couldn’t believe it. This date was shaping up to be rather pathetic. She couldn’t let him get away from her like this. Not after everything she went through just to get this chance with him. Tess hated admitting this to herself, but she hadn‘t been able to stop thinking about him since she met him. Something about those eyes ? An orphan, Tess rarely let herself become attached to anyone, but Max Evans was different. She wanted him more than she had ever wanted anyone in her life, and she was ticked that he didn‘t seem to feel the same way about her. He was so distracted. “Sure, that’s fine. I can see how tired you are. But, you have to promise to give me a raincheck,?she said in her most seductive tone, reaching for his hand and rubbing it.

Max sighed inwardly and nodded. Right about now, he would promise almost anything to get out of here. He felt like he was suffocating, sitting across from her. It just felt ?wrong, and that was odd, considering women like Tess, blonde, busty and blue-eyed, were normally his type.

What was wrong with him? What was it about her that had him so ?entranced?

***
Liz yawned sleepily and locked the door as she dragged herself inside. She really was tired, what with all of the traveling, unpacking and hanging out she had done today. As she dragged herself to bed, she tripped over a box she forgot to move and pushed it out of her way. She couldn’t wait until she got her place set up the way she wanted.

She drifted off to sleep almost immediately after her head hit the pillows on her bed, only to be awakened an hour later by a noise downstairs. Jerking awake with her heart racing, she tried to let her eyes adjust to the darkness in the room and craned her neck to listen for the noise again. Thinking that she must have been dreaming, she was about to settle back into the covers again when she heard the noise again, followed by someone swearing.

Feeling fear creeping into her heart, she leapt out of her bed and moved to pick up one of her decorative candlestick holders. It was heavy and blunt and she supposed it would do. Cursing herself for leaving her purse -- and cellphone -- downstairs, she tried to creep down the steps without making a sound. She could definitely hear someone stumbling around in the dark, swearing under his breath.

Remembering that she had a personal alarm in her purse, she tried to make her way to the bottom of the staircase, where she had hung it. She slowly reached into her purse, pulling out her key chain with the alarm on it. She pressed the button and an incredibly loud alarm noise went off, startling the intruder.

But he didn’t race for the door, as Liz expected. Instead, he turned on the light. Liz blinked and tried to let her eyes adjust to the newfound brightness in the room. When she could see, she saw who her intruder was. She gasped.

It was the man from the salsa bar.

The man looked at her, a stunned expression on his face and then both of them blurted the same thing to each other?

“What are you doing in my house?!??

TBC???????


[ edited 27time(s), last at 26-Aug-2002 2:30:54 PM ]
posted on 4-Mar-2002 6:26:47 PM by Behrable dream
wow... thanx for the feedback guys... I am glad you like it so far!!

I am retooling the 2nd chapter... trying to make sure everything fits...

I'll have it up soon enough!!

-behrable dream
posted on 6-Mar-2002 11:20:44 AM by Behrable dream
Here is Chapter Two ... sorry it took me so long to get it back up... I've had a very hectic week so far *happy*

-Behrable dream...


Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.



Chapter Two

Liz stumbled back a step when she realized that the man had spoken the same words she had. Suddenly feeling very frightened, she sprinted for the door, but he was too fast for her and he cut her off, trying to grab her arm. Liz grabbed his hand, twisted it and soon the man was face down on the floor with Liz sitting on his back and holding his arm behind him.

“I know kung-fu!” she screamed, holding up the candlestick holder. “And I have a … a weapon!”

The man grunted and sighed, trying to twist his head around, but Liz pushed him forward into the floor and turned off the alarm so she could call the police. “Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my home?” the man yelled, once the alarm had been turned off.

Liz stared at the back of his head, perplexed. “Just shut up so I can call the police,” she said, slightly short of breath. She placed the candlestick holder down and that was a mistake. Suddenly the man lurched to the side and rolled over and soon Liz found herself pinned underneath him, looking up into his confused amber eyes.

Max felt something shift inside of him when he looked down at her. He was struck with a strange sense of vague familiarity that unsettled him completely. Shutting his eyes to try and clear his head, he looked back down at his mystery woman, who was struggling under his firm hold.

“Now that I have your attention, miss, would you care explaining what you are doing in my home?” his eyes flashed momentarily as he looked down at her. She was only wearing a tank top and very short sleeping shorts. Max shook his head slightly and focused on getting a reaction from his mystery lady. Not that he minded seeing her again, but what was she doing in his townhome?

“I don’t have to explain anything to you. I live here. You’re the one who’s intruding,” she snapped, trying to press 911 on her cellphone.

Max noticed and pulled the phone away from her. “Look, we’ll get the police here when I am good and ready. Who are you?”

“I’m not answering that! Some strange man breaks into my house in the middle of the night and then asks who I am? I’m not stupid,” said Liz caustically, struggling to get free of his grasp, but Max captured her wrists and pushed them over her head, while he loomed over at her, his gaze penetrating.

Liz stifled a tremor that threatened to escape from her body. This was always how rapes began in the movies, she thought fearfully. After everything she had done to guard herself, she was in danger of being attacked right in her own home by a psycho. Being in this vulnerable position frightened her and an involuntary whimper escaped from her throat.

His gaze softened when he heard the frightened whimper coming from the mystery woman. His heart lurched painfully when he realized that she was actually scared of him. Something weird was going on here, thought Max. She acted as though she honestly lived here. Feeling an instinctive need to make her feel better, he released her from his grip and pulled her up to a sitting position. Still holding on to her, he asked again, “Please tell me who you are. I won’t hurt you. But something odd is going on. This is my home, and I am really confused by your insistence that you live here.”

Liz swallowed, unnerved by the softness in his voice. That was the last thing she expected. “I do live here,” she said emphatically. “I don’t know who you are, but I know you don’t own this place, unless Mr. Evans sold it.”

“I am Mr. Evans,” Max replied, confused. Suddenly it dawned on him. He did own this town home, but he still allowed his father to manage it. His dad must have rented it out and somehow, Max missed the memo where his father told him about it.

“You are not Phillip -- “ began Liz, but she quieted immediately when Max placed his finger over her lips to silence her. Liz tried to ignore the current of electricity that coursed through her when he did that, as well as the supreme disappointment she felt when he removed his finger from her mouth.

“I’m his son, Max. I actually own this place, but he still manages it. I think he rented it out to you and he neglected to tell me.”

Liz quirked her eyebrow suspiciously. “How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

Max pulled out his wallet and showed Liz his driver’s license along with a picture of him with his dad. Liz relaxed visibly and slumped slightly.

“Do you need to see my lease?” she asked. Max shook his head. “Actually, I think a name would be more than sufficient,” he said, flashing her a devastating smile.

Liz blushed in spite of herself. What was this? she wondered. Fighting to regain control of her wayward emotions, she licked her lower lip and responded, “Liz. Liz Parker. Maybe you know of my dad, Jeff Parker? He’s a friend of your dad’s.”

Max seemed to be trying to remember if he had heard of her father. “No. Doesn’t ring a bell. But that’s not a surprise. My dad has many friends that I don’t know.” He glanced at her slightly shivering form as Liz wrapped her arms around herself and fought down the fluttery feeling in her stomach.
His mystery woman’s name was Liz. And she was even more beautiful than she was when he had first seen her in the salsa bar. Her hair was mussed up, probably more from her having been asleep when he came in, than from their tousle earlier and he longed to run his fingers through it. Before he could stop himself, he reached out to move a stray hair out of her face and she flinched.

“Sorry,” he mumbled. “I have no idea why I just did that,” he said apologetically.

Liz blushed and muttered, “It’s alright. I’m still a little jumpy.” She moved to stand and went over to move the box that Max tripped over.

Max jumped up behind her and picked up the box before she could get to it. “Let me get this. Where did you want it?”

Liz moved around and ducked her head to see where the box was supposed to go. “The downstairs bathroom,” she said and flicked her hand toward the bathroom. “It’s over -- oh… I suppose you know where that is, considering you own this place.”

Max smirked and moved to carry the box to the bathroom. He wondered absent-mindedly if Liz planned on painting. The dark colors didn’t seem to suit her. Max glanced around the study he had designed himself, or rather, he came up with the ideas and paid someone else to implement them. The colors seemed way too dark and closed in for someone like Liz. Maybe he should get the painters to come and do whatever she wanted with the place.

“Max?” called Liz from the large living room area.

Max jerked his head in her direction and stifled a laugh as she tried to suppress the yawn that was threatening to overtake her. She looked really tired. Suddenly, Max realized that he had nowhere to stay. It was too late to get his room back at the Four Seasons, he thought ruefully.

Liz regarded him curiously. He had a strange, unsettled expression on his face and that made her nervous.

“I appreciate your help with the box, Max, but I would rather get to the rest of them after at least seven hours of sleep… “ she trailed off, hoping he would somehow take the hint and leave. She felt safe and comfortable in his presence and that terrified her. She needed him to leave.

“Would you mind if I slept on your couch?” he asked her, folding his arms. “I kind of expected to be sleeping here tonight, since I own this place and I‘m certain it is too late to get a room at the hotel I was staying at.”

What??!?! No!! Liz‘s mind practically imploded. She needed him to leave so she could regain her equilibrium. “Um…” she mumbled uncertainly. She had just met the man for God’s sake. And now he would be spending the night? Liz glanced over at Max. He didn’t have anywhere else to stay tonight. He was right. It wasn’t likely that he would be able to find a room anywhere but a sleazy motel this time of night. Sighing, Liz nodded. “Fine. I have some blankets in the closet. I’ll just get them for you.”

Max breathed a sigh of relief. He hoped she didn’t think he was some nut. He watched as Liz went to the closet near the bathroom and reached up to get the blankets. She didn’t notice the box perched on the top shelf and when she tugged on the blanket, the box tipped precariously on the edge of the shelf. Max sprinted over to her just as the box started to fall and snatched her out of the way.

Max shook forcefully when he saw what had been inside the box. It looked like a toolbox of sorts. Liz had almost been hit on the head with that. Max shivered. It didn’t bear thinking about. He stood there with his arms wrapped protectively around her until his heart stopped racing.

“Thanks,” breathed Liz, slightly shaken after seeing the contents of the box..

Max let out a low sigh. “You’re welcome. But I think you ought to keep that under a cabinet or something,” he suggested, releasing her gently. Liz pulled away and looked up at him gratefully. The two stood frozen, looking at each other, until Liz cleared her throat.

“Let me get you a pillow from upstairs,” she said, retreating toward the stairs. “A-and you probably will need a towel too, for morning… I’ll be right back with it.”

Max watched as Liz ran up the stairs. What was with him? He felt like her protector or something. He knew he would do that for anyone, but if that box had hit her… Max didn’t want to think about it. He was too confused. This was the woman he had seen in the bar earlier and he had already held her in his arms. He tried hard not to even think about the electric current that raced through him when he grabbed her. It was all the more heightened by the adrenaline rush that accompanied his successful attempt to save her.

Liz walked tentatively back down the stairs with two pillows and some towels. She placed them on the couch and turned to look at Max nervously. It felt so strange standing here like this with him after the way they had been introduced. She tucked a stray hair behind her ear to hide her nervousness and shifted her weight to one foot.

“Okay… well … Do you need anything else?” she asked him.

Max shook his head. “I think I’m fine. What time do you normally get up?”

“Oh… it … it depends. I don’t have work yet, so I may sleep in. Do you need me to wake you?”

She was really accommodating, thought Max. “No. You have been more than helpful. I’m only sorry that I’m putting you out by crashing here like this.”

Liz simply nodded. She just wanted the night to be over so he would leave. She had zero control over her emotions around him. “Just be a gentleman. I happen to know your father.”

Max laughed. “Of course I’ll be a gentleman.” Unless you don’t want me to be, he thought. Where in the hell did that come from? Max looked to the floor and closed his eyes briefly. He had to get a hold of himself. How was he going to sleep with her upstairs?

Liz turned and headed back upstairs. She knew he must think she was the biggest bitch around, but she just couldn’t allow him to break down her walls. Unsuccessfully fighting the need to look at him one more time, she turned and caught him staring at her. The intensity of his gaze caught her off guard. Sighing, she turned and trudged up the stairs. This was going to be a long night.


posted on 11-Mar-2002 2:09:31 PM by Behrable dream
Hi guys...

Thank you so much for all of the amazing feedback!! I'm sorry that I haven't posted the other part yet... My hardrive just died on the machine in my office (I have this story saved on another machine though), and my research is on that machine...

*sigh*

They said they'd have it all back for me in a couple of days, so I will just continue to write this story along with my other story (Tapestry) and I will post new parts soon.

I was helping with a conference earlier this week and weekend and I've been going on almost no sleep...

So, I'll get the new part up soon.

And for those who want the gerbil away from Max... trust me... I have something very special planned for Tess... Gosh, sometimes it hurts to even type her name...

*happy*

-Behrable dream
posted on 13-Mar-2002 11:31:41 AM by Behrable dream
Finally!!!!! I will be posting TWO new chapters as an apology for waiting so long to get the next part up!! *happy*


Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.


Chapter Three

Chapter Three

Liz woke with a slight cry. She hated dreams like that; ones where you were falling and then right before you hit the ground, you wake up. Even more bothersome was the fact that Liz couldn¡¯t remember the dream or why she was falling. The only thing she knew was that it scared the life out of her. Everything else was a jumbled mess.

As she looked around the room, she frowned as her eyes fell on the numerous boxes she had yet to go through. She started work in a little over a week, but she felt like it would take forever to get through her stuff. When had she become such a packrat? Sighing, Liz trudged downstairs to get some juice.

She tried to ignore the strong desire to look toward the couch. Max must still have been sleeping, but she averted her eyes before she could get a good look. All she saw was a tumbled mass of blankets and pillows. Last night had been quite an adventure, she thought to herself as she passed the living room and went into the kitchen.

Last night. Max.

She had never met anyone like him before. With a single look, he had begun dismantling the walls she had built up around herself. Because Liz was definitely intrigued by him. More than that, she felt around him. She hadn¡¯t done that in so long, because she had been working so hard to keep anyone and everyone out, except her friends. And even they weren¡¯t allowed to get that close to her anymore. No one did. And when Liz found herself getting lost in Max¡¯s entrancing amber gaze, she wanted him to get that close. But she could never allow him to.

Walking back into her bedroom with her juice, she decided to grab a magazine and watch the ocean while she read and drank. Looking out at the water, she noticed someone swimming in the surf. Liz smiled appreciatively. Whoever it was had the body of a god. Adonis couldn¡¯t have a nicer shape. He must have swum for at least another twenty minutes before emerging from the water, and Liz was too hung up on his smooth form to go back inside. As he got closer, Liz got a good look at him and gasped.

It was Max.

Her breath caught in her throat when she realized that he could see her staring at him. Trying to appear nonchalant, she turned her attention back to her magazine as Max made his way inside. But he had already noticed her observation of him and he smiled cockily before disappearing underneath her balcony. Liz frowned and decided to go inside and take her shower before he could come up and say something sarcastic.

***
Max glanced upstairs after taking his shower downstairs. He had really needed that morning swim to release the tension in this body from yesterday¡®s meetings. ¡°Liz?¡± he called. But she didn¡¯t answer. Maybe she was still on the balcony. He needed to let her know he was leaving, but a part of him also wanted to ask her out.

It was crazy, he knew, but he felt drawn to her. He wanted so much to get close to her, but he also had baggage that he couldn¡¯t ignore. Instinctively he knew she was different than most of the women he dated. He wouldn¡¯t be able to see her and stay closed off. He knew she would demand more. He could sense it.

But he didn¡¯t care. Every fiber in his being told him that she would be worth the risk.

Walking halfway up the stairs, he called her name again. This time she appeared at the landing, with her freshly washed hair hanging around her face in wavy tendrils. ¡°What is it? Did you need something?¡±

¡°I have some meetings later on today, but I thought I could help you unpack some of your things a bit,¡± he stated.

Liz looked at him incredulously. This was not going the way she wanted. She honestly needed him to leave. ¡°It¡¯s nice of you to offer, but -- ¡°

¡°You look like you could use the help. What if you knock a box off another shelf and it hits you this time? You¡®ll need your knight in shining armour,¡± he countered.

Liz rolled her eyes. If that wasn¡¯t the lamest thing she had ever heard. ¡°I am perfectly capable of unpacking my own boxes. I¡¯m not one of those helpless females that you must be used to.¡°

¡°I didn¡¯t mean to offend - ¡° started Max, but Liz was too flustered to let him finish.

¡°I know I let you stay here last night, but please don¡¯t get the wrong idea. We hardly know each other and since you own this place, I really think it should stay that way.¡± Liz bit her lip as soon as the last words were out of her mouth. She hadn¡¯t meant to come off so harshly. Max¡¯s face fell as he tried to compose himself. ¡°I - I mean,¡± started Liz, but Max cut her off.

¡°No problem. It¡¯s fine. I¡¯ll just - I¡¯ll just go. Have a nice day Liz,¡± he said curtly before grabbing his things and closing the door behind him.

Liz stood in the middle of her living room, sorry that she had rejected him so forcefully. She wasn¡¯t prepared for the fluttery feelings he evoked in her. She didn¡¯t know what else to do except to flee from him - or to make him leave her. But now that he had gone, she was saddened.

Liz brushed those feelings aside. She couldn¡¯t let him or anyone else near her heart. And if rejecting him like that was the only way to keep him from knocking down those walls she had built up, then so be it.

***
After spending most of the day trying unsuccessfully not to think about Max, Liz decided to go for a run on the beach. It was a great way to exhaust herself even more and when she returned to her place, she decided to watch the sunset over the water. It was an amazing sight and she had never seen anything quite so beautiful. There was something restorative about watching the waves crash along the shoreline. She could almost feel her soul opening up and drifting out over the water. It calmed her frazzled senses.

Then her mind betrayed her and she flashed on an image of Max emerging from the water earlier that morning. She could almost imagine what it must be like to caress his taut skin like the salty ocean water had. When involuntary images of Max caressing her skin crept into her mind, a faint blush crept up her cheeks and Liz was unnerved to discover that she was aroused.

I need a shower, she thought, annoyed with herself.

***
Liz rose early the next morning and tried to get an early start on getting her place together. After unpacking the bath stuff and getting her bathroom arranged just right, Liz went downstairs to try and clear out the things in her living room. Frowning at the dark paintjobs in the study and the downstairs bathroom, she wished she could paint. Thinking that after the way she spoke to Max yesterday, he probably didn¡¯t want her living here, much less painting his place.

Liz sighed and pulled out the decorative bath items she had purchased. They were all regal in nature, and they went fairly well with the dark taupe paint that ensconced the bathroom walls, but Liz wished she could open the space up with more airy tones. Even though it was a full bath, Liz knew she would likely never use the bathtub, so she considered covering it and making a seating area of sorts. She had some beautiful art that she thought would work really well in the bathroom, if she could change the wall color.

Hearing the doorbell chime, Liz wondered who on Earth would be stopping by. She remembered that she was expecting a few packages today and hurried to the door. That was why she was so surprised to see Max Evans standing in her doorway once she opened it.

¡°Max,¡± she said in surprise.

Max nodded curtly and handed her some papers. ¡°I didn¡¯t know if you had the manuals for the appliances here, so I brought them by. I couldn¡®t reach my father, but I did leave a message. I also brought over the numbers for the painters that I normally use to do the wall and trim work here. Just call them and they¡¯ll paint the walls whatever colors you want, no charge.¡±

Liz was absolutely taken aback. ¡°What?¡±

Max saw her confusion and tried to supply the missing pieces for her. ¡°Since my father never told me you were coming to stay here, the place still looks like, well, a bachelor pad. I noticed the dark colors and the overwhelming masculinity of it last night, so I thought it was only fair that you should be allowed to paint it to suit your tastes.¡±

Liz blinked. This was a pleasant surprise. ¡°Th-thanks,¡± she stammered, glancing at Max in gratitude.

But if Liz thought he was being overly friendly, that thought vanished as he nodded and turned to leave. ¡°Wait!¡± she called out.

Max turned to look at her with a startled expression. ¡°What is it? Is there a problem with the townhome?¡±

Liz looked flustered for a moment. ¡°No ¡¦ I just thought you might like to come in for a minute. I was about to make coffee,¡± she offered.

¡°I - thank you, but no. I have plans. Plus,¡± he gestured toward the townhome, ¡°seeing as how I own this place I don¡¯t want to confuse our relationship. I think you were right the other day when you said we shouldn¡¯t know each other.¡±

Liz could only nod her head slowly, hating herself for that comment she made. But you can¡¯t let him in your life anyway Liz, said a small voice in the back of her head.

Max nodded and turned. He walked over to the car he rented and got behind the wheel, never once turning to look at Liz, who had by now gone back inside. As he drove off, he cursed himself for behaving so obstinately. What he just said was a load of bull. He wanted to know Liz. He wanted her to know him. The look on her face when he rebuffed her offer to have coffee was etched into his memory. A face as lovely as hers should never look that uncomfortable and crestfallen. But her comment the other day reminded him of his normal motto of not getting attached - to anyone. Life was easier for him when he just played on the surface with other people, not letting them get to close to him. That was why he normally kept company with women like Tess. They were never deep enough to stir anything in him, unlike Liz. With one look, she touched him in a way that no woman ever had. But he had to leave her alone. His reaction to her rejection of him last night and their awkwardness this morning was proof of that. He couldn¡¯t allow her to get too close. He could never let anyone get too close.

***
Liz sighed inwardly as she closed the door. She hadn¡¯t expected that sweet gesture from Max, but now that he seemed to be distancing himself from her, she wished that he had kept his sweetness to himself. Then she wouldn¡¯t have embarrassed herself by asking him to come in for coffee.

What was I thinking anyway? thought Liz miserably. I¡¯m sure he has better things to do than to sit around drinking coffee with me. He probably has a wife or girlfriend or something anyway. Liz turned beet red with humiliation when she remembered the woman she had seen him with the night before. How could I have been so stupid? she thought, slapping her head with the palm of her hand. He clearly is involved with someone and I invite him in for coffee!

Liz tried to bury herself in unpacking, hoping she could forget about Max and the stricken look on his face when she told him she didn¡¯t want to know him. She tried even harder to forget the disappointment and rejection she felt when he turned down her offer for coffee. See, this is exactly why she had to shut men out of her life. She hated these anxious feelings she was having. She hated the rumblings in her heart when he looked at her. She hated the way she felt like she had never even lived before last night. And she hated that she wanted to be around him anyway.

Deciding to take a run on the beach to clear her head, Liz threw on some jogging shorts, a top and a hooded sweatshirt and hurried outside for her run. At this rate, she would be looking like J-Lo in less than a month.

***
Max pulled up to the guarded security gate for ViaChem, his latest client. It looked like his vacation was over, but at least he would be staying in this area for the duration of the project. It was too bad he couldn¡¯t use his townhome. He had received a call from the Ceo, telling him that they had just secured a new account at this pharmeceutical company. The BioTechnology division had just received a large research grant and a large portion of their funding was for technology. Of supreme importance to this research group was Nanotechnology, and they needed MediaTech¡¯s assistance in developing the necessary tools.

Max studied the buildings beyond the security gate. The complex was smaller than he imagined and if you didn¡¯t know it was there, you could almost entirely miss it. As he walked to the conference room that he had highlighted in his palm device, he saw a brunette walking ahead of him. When an image of Liz flashed in his mind, he had to stop walking to get a hold of himself. First of all, that wasn¡¯t Liz. And secondly, he was going to stay away from Liz.

Disgusted with himself for not being able to go an hour without thinking about her, he got to his meeting and tried to concentrate on what this new client needed. He was fairly familiar with nanotechnology, because his master¡®s degree focused on this area. Sometimes, Max missed being a researcher. Of course, he was on his way to becoming the CTO of MediaTech, but there was something special about the discovery process involved in research that he didn¡®t get to experience anymore.

Some of his colleagues had even started their own company, FirstTech, based on the NanoManipulator, one of the tools that he and other researchers developed at UNC-Chapel Hill to study things on a nanite level. Max figured he would have to call on them for some support, and possibly in a consulting capacity.

Max set their first major meeting for next Monday, because one of the scientists on the team would not be starting until then. It would make for a rather rushed first day at work for her, but they needed to get started on this. He already knew he would need to pull in consultants from FirstTech. He also needed to go over the profiles of the developers at MediaTech. He sighed and walked back out to his car. He had just enough time to grab a quick lunch before meeting with the developers for the other project.

As he pondered the merits of Mexican versus Chinese food, his cellphone rang. ¡°Hello,¡± he said into the receiver.

¡°Max. Son. How are you?¡± asked Philip Evans.

Max smirked. ¡°I¡¯m fine, although I have a slight bruise where Liz tackled me to the floor last night when I came into my own home.¡±

Philip laughed in spite of himself. The thought of Max being one upped by Liz was quite amusing. ¡°Sorry about that Max. I meant to tell you before you left for LA, but I got caught up in this brief.¡±

¡°It¡¯s okay dad. But let¡¯s not let this happen again, ok?¡± said Max wryly, hearing the laughter in his father¡¯s voice.

¡°Sure. Oh, and Max - do me a favor? I forgot to give Liz the key to the storage cabinet on the balcony, as well as the keys for the grill and the outdoor kitchen. Do you think you could drop by and give them to her?¡±

Max grimaced. ¡°Uh¡¦ sure.¡±

Max could have slapped himself silly and he wouldn¡¯t have been more stupefied by his father¡¯s request. After the way he had treated Liz this morning, he was certain she never wanted to see his face again. And now he would have to go back to give her some stupid keys. Not for the first time, he wished his father had been more thorough in his leasing of the townhome to Liz. He didn¡¯t know how he was going to keep himself from looking like a fool in front of her.

***
¡°Oh, thank goodness Michael. I was about to go nuts in here all by myself,¡± Liz said, moving so Michael could come in.

Michael looked at the stack of empty boxes that Liz had already gone through. ¡°Well, it looks like you¡¯ve already done a ton of work here without me. I¡¯ll just be on my way,¡± he smirked, pretending to leave.

¡°Yeah, right Michael! I¡¯m not letting you off the hook here. I seem to remember helping you and Maria that time you moved into your office over at the art studio. I swear, if I never see another paintbrush again, it¡¯ll be too soon,¡± Liz laughed, playfully slapping him on the arm.

Michael cut his eyes at her, amused. ¡°I¡¯ll just clear out all of these empty boxes and take them over to the recycling dumpster. You can tell me what you need help with after that.¡±

Liz nodded and moved upstairs to go through the boxes in her bedroom. She was practically done with the ones downstairs. All she had left to do was go through the boxes in the study and she would be done with the lower level.

Liz collapsed on the bed in her room. She would definitely need to get some more furniture for her room. After fitting her bedroom furniture in the room, she still had a ton of floorspace left over. Liz knew part of that space would include her elliptical trainer, but that would fit in a corner, hidden away by one of her oriental screens. Deciding to find some furniture for the space, she flipped through the phone book, looking for furniture boutiques.

Then the doorbell rang. Liz ran to the stair landing, yelling, ¡°Michael?!?! It¡¯s open! Just come on in! I¡¯m in my room!¡±

Then she turned and went back to unpacking her bedlinens and bath items. At least Max had left the upstairs bedroom and bath painted in a nice old world wash. Liz glanced up at the molding in the room and thought maybe she could do a gold leaf accent trim on it. The room just needed a little more ¡®sparkle¡¯. And she needed to figure out what to do for the wall to wall French windows and doors. The windows closest to the adjoining walls, she knew she could drape in a long panel that she tied back with some nice tassels. Then perhaps she could top the entire wall of windows off with a tab top valence.

As Liz stood there, staring at the expansive wall of windows, she didn¡¯t notice someone step up behind her. Hearing a noise, she remembered Michael and spun around. ¡°Did you find the recycling -- oh ¡¦¡±

Michael wasn¡¯t standing behind her. Max Evans was. Liz¡¯s breath caught in her throat as she gave him a once over. He was wearing casual gray slacks and a charcoal grey v-necked thin gauge summer sweater that showed off his perfect upper body and golden tan. She had never seen anyone look more ¡¦ delectable. Feeling flustered at her response to him, she blurted, ¡°You certainly are bold. First you enter my home and now you are in my bedroom? Can¡¯t you respect a person¡¯s boundaries?¡±

Max narrowed his eyes at her. ¡°I rang the bell and you said come in. How is that not respecting boundaries?¡±

¡°I said come in to Michael, not you -- and coming in does not include this bedroom,¡± retorted Liz, feeling her face flush at the way he was looking at her.

Max lifted an eyebrow. ¡°I¡¯ll remember that the next time you blindly tell me to come in, without knowing who¡¯s at the door.¡±

Liz opened her mouth to refute him, but then closed it again. He had just rendered her speechless, because he was right. Plus, it was hard to think when he captured her gaze like that. It really wasn¡¯t fair.

¡°I think that¡¯s the first time I¡¯ve ever seen you speechless,¡± he smirked, taking a step toward her.

Liz wanted to move back; knew she should move back, but she couldn¡¯t. There was just something in the way he looked at her that made her common sense fly out the window. ¡°It isn¡®t like you¡®ve spent a ton of time with me for that to mean much,¡± she managed to say before he came to stand directly in front of her.

¡°It¡¯s a nice change,¡± he said snarkily.

That broke his spell over her and she cut her eyes at him and moved back to the boxes she had been unpacking. ¡°Is there something you wanted Mr. Evans?¡±

I want to kiss you. I want to throw you on that bed right now and make mad, passionate love to you and never stop.

Max shook his head, trying to dispel the images that raced through his mind. ¡°I - I ¡¦ ¡°

¡°Liz! Where are you? I finished with the boxes. Do you have anymore?¡± called Michael from downstairs.

Liz hastily made her way past Max and down the stairs to Michael. She was actually relieved to see him. Being so close to Max was unnerving and she didn¡¯t know how much longer she could stand it without losing her mind. ¡°Michael!¡± she said, a little too breathlessly.

Michael looked at her suspiciously. ¡°What have you been doing? You look all flushed! Are you lifting heavy stuff? You know you aren¡¯t supposed to do that.¡±

¡°Do what?¡± asked Max, from the landing on the stairs. He was none too pleased to see the guy from the bar last night here now.

¡°Who¡¯s that?¡± asked Michael, regarding Max with a curious eye.

¡°Max Evans. He owns this place. Max, Michael. Michael, Max.¡± At Michael¡¯s unchanged expression, Liz continued. ¡°It¡¯s a long story. He just stopped by - for - for ¡¦ What did you come by for?¡± Liz folded her arms and looked up at Max, perplexed.

Max started down the stairs. ¡°My father called to tell me that he neglected to give you some keys for the outdoor kitchen outside on the patio. I was just bringing them by.¡±

Michael seemed pleased with this explanation and he turned to Liz for more directions. ¡°So, got anymore boxes?¡±

¡°Yeah, the study. That¡¯s where all of the heavy stuff is. All of my books and stuff,¡± Liz answered, pointing Michael in the direction of the study and turning to face Max.

¡°Boyfriend?¡± he asked.

¡°Keys?¡± answered Liz, avoiding the question.

Max handed over a set of keys. ¡°Why shouldn¡¯t you be lifting heavy stuff?¡±

Liz looked at the floor for a moment. For some reason she didn¡¯t want to discuss this with Max. It was private, and she had put it behind her a long time ago. But it still brought up painful memories and she took in a shuddering breath. ¡°I was shot.¡±

At Max¡¯s stricken expression, she hurried to explain. ¡°It grazed the area around my spinal cord at the base of my back and I was in physical therapy for about a year. Michael is just being overprotective. I can lift most things just fine, but it doesn¡¯t hurt to let him think that I can¡¯t.¡± Liz tried to lighten the moment with humor.

Max¡¯s gaze only intensified more. ¡°I¡¯m sorry,¡± he whispered hoarsely.

Liz was taken aback by the tenderness in his voice. He almost sounded like it had been his fault. ¡°Hey ¡¦ Max. It¡¯s no big deal, really. I was working in my dad¡¯s café and two of the people eating there got in a scuffle and one of them had a gun and it went off. I got hit.¡±

Max¡¯s face contorted with concern. Liz narrowed her eyes at him in consternation. ¡°Goodness Max, you act like it was your fault or something,¡± she said lightly, tapping him on his arm.

A tremor rushed through Max at her touch. He tried to remain nonchalant about it, but it was like a hot iron pressed to his skin. He moved slightly, trying to give her a reason to let go, and she did. ¡°Did they catch whoever shot you?¡±

¡°No,¡± she said quietly, struggling to not look up at him. Liz tried hard not to think about that time. It had been so long ago, but standing here with Max, she couldn¡¯t fight back the scary thoughts that had been haunting her for years. It had seemed to be such a senseless act, but it had cost her the use of her legs for almost a year. She had spent much of her junior year in physical therapy, and in a wheelchair. Feeling her eyes well up with tears, she tried to blink them back so Max wouldn¡¯t see.

Max looked at Liz as she struggled to hide her pain from him. He hadn¡¯t even known this girl for more than two days, but he wanted to protect her and make her feel safe. But at the same time, he didn¡¯t know if he could let her in his life either. But he wanted to. He really wanted to.

Liz recovered from her trip through time and surreptitiously wiped her eyes as she turned away from Max. ¡°I should go and see if Michael needs any help,¡± she said, clearing her throat.

Max nodded and followed. ¡°Do you need another hand?¡± he asked before he could stop himself.

Liz turned, surprised. ¡°Isn¡¯t that going to ¡®confuse our relationship?¡¯¡± she asked sarcastically.

Max smirked, happy to be bantering with her once again. ¡°Touche,¡± he muttered. ¡°But seriously, I have some time. If you need any help, I¡¯d be glad to -- ¡°

¡°She would love the help. In fact, I have a class at the studio that I am teaching in about an hour, so if you could just take over, that would be¡¦ cool,¡± yelled Michael from the study.

Liz glanced at Michael with a venomous look. ¡°I¡¯m sure Mr. Evans has better things to do than to sit around here helping me unpack a bunch of books.¡±

¡°Nonsense. I¡¯d love to help. And since Michael has to leave anyway, you probably need it,¡± said Max, throwing Michael a slightly grateful glance. Michael must not be her boyfriend, he thought, pleased.

Liz glanced from Michael to Max, feeling she would be fighting a losing battle if she tried to protest. ¡°Fine,¡± she said, throwing her hands up in defeat.

Max laughed and followed her into the study. Michael regaled Max with embarrassing stories from Liz¡¯s childhood and Max ate up everything he said. They both took turns teasing her and making fun of her until Michael left to teach his class. Liz walked him to the door and told him to make sure Maria called her about lunch. He promised he would and Liz closed the door behind him.

She turned to find Max standing right in front of her. He walked toward her until her back was against the door. ¡°Whatever happened to not confusing our relationship, Mr. Evans?¡± she asked, trying to fight down the fluttery feelings in the pit of her stomach.

Max didn¡®t flinch. His amber gaze deepened to impossible depths and Liz thought she saw a flash of gold flicker in them. ¡°Have dinner with me Liz,¡± he said huskily, his gaze never leaving her eyes.

Liz felt her heart thudding wildly in her chest. She could barely breathe. A part of her wanted to scream, ¡°yes!¡± but the other, more cautious part wanted to run. ¡°Max,¡± she began, sighing heavily.

¡°I have been inexplicably drawn to you since I saw you in that bar,¡± he continued, his voice caressing her face in ways that made her long for him to touch her. ¡°And I know you felt it too. I can¡¯t stop thinking about you, and I am tired of making up flimsy excuses to see you. When is the last time you saw a man actually wanting to unpack something?¡±

Liz smiled, the tension between them easing slightly. ¡°But Max,¡± she swallowed, trying to get her bearings.

¡°Just have dinner with me Liz,¡± he said again, looking into her eyes intently.

¡°I ¡¦ I can¡¯t,¡± she stammered, pushing her way past him and wrapping her arms around herself.

Max turned to look at her in consternation. ¡°Liz, I know we only just met, but ¡¦ I really ¡¦ I want to get to know you.¡±

¡°I just ¡¦ can¡¯t. Please understand. I can¡¯t,¡± said Liz, close to tears. He was getting too close.

Max fought the urge to run to her and take her in his arms. He knew she felt something for him, that he wasn¡¯t alone in this thing, whatever it was, between them. But if she wouldn¡®t admit it, there was nothing he could do about it. ¡°Okay,¡± he said, heading toward the door. ¡°Goodnight Liz,¡± he said softly and closed it behind him.

¡°Goodnight Max,¡± said Liz, to the door, fighting back the urge to run after him. He was so ¡¦ beautiful. All of him. He had really gotten on well with Michael, even. And Michael wasn¡¯t always the easiest person to get along with. And he was right. She did feel something for him. But that was the problem. She didn¡¯t want to feel anything. But when she was around Max, she felt all sorts of things. Things she was afraid to feel, because they ultimately led to pain.


Chapter Four

For the umpteenth time, Liz woke in her bed, crying out. She was having that same dream again. The one where she was falling. It was terrifying. Each time she had the dream, she had the distinct impression that she was going to die. But before she could hit the ground, she woke up. It was enough to drive her mad. And in less than a few hours, she had to report to work at ViaChem. She wanted to make a good impression, and it wouldn¡¯t do to look like crap on her first day.

Liz struggled to get back to sleep. If she had been awake, she might have been disturbed that she was now dreaming about Max Evans. At first, everything would be fine and she would feel safe with him. Then she would see his crestfallen expression from when she rejected him and everything would fall apart. Dream Max would assume Sean¡®s voice and then he would spout all of the excuses Sean had used after he cheated. That it was her fault. That he wasn¡¯t getting what he needed in their relationship so he had to look elsewhere.

This time, Liz woke up in tears. Max Evans was causing this, she thought miserably. He was the one who had stirred up all of this with his amber gaze and his husky voice. He unlocked all of the pent up emotions that Liz thought she had dealt with a long time ago. Somehow, when she was with him, she felt open and exposed and that made her want to scramble and cover everything; herself, her heart and her soul. Liz sighed. Her only solace was that she never had to see him again.

After her rather sleepless night, Liz got up and showered. As she dried her hair, she pulled out the outfit she had selected the night before. It was a simple camel colored suit with a camel and cobalt blue fitted shirt. She wasn¡¯t sure how people dressed at this company, so she just decided that a simple suit would be best. Liz finished off her ensemble with some camel colored slingbacks and headed out the door.

***
Max paced in the small conference room at ViaChem. The meeting started in less than five minutes. He was meeting with the principal investigator for the nano project first, and then he would meet the team of scientists that were working on the rest of it. His team of developers, including Tess, should have been here by now, he thought distractedly. He smirked when he thought about Tess. After that stinging rejection from Liz, Tess¡¯ superficiality was a welcome change. At least he wouldn¡¯t feel so dejected if she ever rejected him, not that she ever would.

¡°Mr. Evans,¡± said a voice behind him. ¡°It¡¯s so nice to meet you.¡± Max stood to greet an attractive African-American woman as she walked into the conference room. ¡°I¡¯m Serena Hughes, the principal investigator. I¡¯ve heard so much about you.¡±

¡°Dr. Hughes, it¡¯s nice to meet you as well,¡± said Max, taking her hand and shaking it firmly.

¡°Please, call me Serena. That ¡®doctor¡¯ stuff is so¡¦ well, stuffy!¡± she laughed, her eyes twinkling.

Max nodded and looked around as his developers, including Tess, finally arrived. ¡°We got hung up at the security gate,¡± said Luc Davies, his head developer. When they finished discussing the nano project, they headed down to tour the labs. Serena wanted Max and his developers to meet the nano team. She was talking about some of her favorite people when she started babbling about one in particular. Max listened intently as she went on and on about some whiz kid from Stanford, who had finished her PhD way ahead of schedule and she had also made huge advances in the field of BioTechnology. Her area of expertise was Nanotechnology, because she also had a master¡¯s degree in Computer Science. Serena laughingly called her the Technobot, because she was so efficient in her methodology.

Max¡¯s interest was peaked when he realized that this person was involved in computing and biology. He was just about to ask Serena who this ¡®technobot¡¯ was when he walked into the lab. It was quite amazing. They obviously had some of the best graphics engines one could get. Max looked in one area and saw a SGI Reality monster, one of the fastest graphics machines around. Max was almost jealous of his own developers. Even MediaTech didn¡¯t use hardware like this.

He turned to ask Serena a question about their other available hardware systems, but she had walked off somewhere. Tess walked up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. ¡°Nice hardware,¡± she muttered, glancing around the room. Max smiled at her slightly. ¡°You guys may be putting in some late hours here. You think you can handle it?¡±

Tess rolled her eyes. ¡°No problem. In case you didn¡¯t notice, we developers don¡¯t get out much, and when we do, normally our companions are distracted.¡±

Max caught the reference and smirked. ¡°Sorry about that. I was really tired.¡±

Tess shrugged. ¡°It¡¯s not a problem. But don¡¯t wait to long to cash in that raincheck,¡± she smirked and sashayed away from him.

Max enjoyed the light banter with Tess, but his heart and soul betrayed him with images of Liz. He wanted to focus on Tess, because he knew that he would never get deep with her and she wouldn¡¯t threaten his heart or soul. But Liz¡¦ Liz was ¡¦ different. And she didn¡¯t want anything to do with him.

¡°Mr. Evans? Max?¡± Serena called out to him. ¡°I wanted you to meet our little technobot, but it¡¯s her first day and I cannot seem to find her. I know she¡¯s in the lab somewhere, but as these labs are so huge, that could be anywhere.¡±

Serena looked apologetic. ¡°At any rate, she will be rather useful to you on this project. We hired her specifically for this project. We thought you should talk with her at length about this project.¡±

Max cocked his head to the side for a moment. ¡°Well, I think she will probably be working more closely with Luc,¡± he said, knowing that he wouldn¡¯t be working that closely with this project.

¡°Oh ¡¦ right,¡± said Serena, still looking for Liz. ¡°I can¡¯t find Ben Matheson either. He is another one of the scientists on the team and he was showing Liz around today.¡±

Max coughed. ¡°Liz?¡± he asked, his voice hoarse.

Serena smiled and nodded. ¡°Liz Parker. She¡¯s a phenom, I tell you. We are really expecting great things from her.¡±

What??? Liz was the technobot? Max¡¯s head was spinning and he struggled to gain control of himself. He didn¡¯t have long. Liz was walking up with who he assumed to be Ben.

¡°Ben¡¦ Liz. Did you finish your tour yet?¡± asked Serena. Liz nodded, not seeing Max yet. Then Serena moved to introduce them.

¡°Liz Parker, Ben Matheson ¡¦ Max Evans. Mr. Evans is leading the development side of the nano project from MediaTech. I imagine he has a lot of questions to ask you,¡± said Serena, leaving them to it.

Liz paled when she saw Max. Her mouth dropped open slightly and she quickly tried to mask her astonishment. Suddenly, she looked extremely uncomfortable.

¡°Dr. Parker,¡± said Max, extending his hand cordially, but lacking the warmth he had the other night. ¡°I understand you are quite the phenomenon around here.¡±

Liz blushed. What kind of trickery was this? she wondered. The odds of Max being in charge of the development side of her new company¡¯s newest project were so slim, she could only shake her head in bewilderment. And she thought she would never have to see him again.

¡°In case you haven¡¯t noticed, Liz is rather modest about her accomplishments. That¡¯s fine. I¡¯ll let her do all the work and I¡¯ll take the credit,¡± Ben laughed and shook Max¡¯s hand.

Liz remained silent, apparently still reeling from the shock of seeing Max at her workplace.

Max decided to break the uncomfortable silence. ¡°Dr. Hughes -- er, Serena, said that you and I should talk about the nano project a bit.¡±

Ben nodded. ¡°That¡¯s fine. I want to have Liz sit in on this. She¡¯s going to be working closely with you guys. She¡¯s probably one of the most knowledgeable in this area, so you¡¯ll probably want to talk with her separately as well.¡±

Both Liz and Max stiffened visibly. Ben didn¡¯t notice. He was too busy pulling out his handheld device and entering Max¡¯s contact information. Then his cellphone rang and he was off, muttering into the receiver and leaving Max and Liz to stare at each other in a tense standoff.

¡°This is a surprise,¡± said Max, once Ben was out of earshot.

Liz rolled her eyes, not trusting herself to speak.

¡°I had no idea you were so ¡¦ accomplished,¡± he continued.

Liz tried not to let his words of admiration get to her. ¡°Weren¡®t you too busy pegging me as helpless?¡± she asked quietly.

Max simply looked at her. Perhaps he deserved that. ¡°I¡¯d love to hear about your dissertation sometime,¡± said Max, taking a step toward her.

Liz felt her face flush. She wouldn¡¯t be able to work with him. She wouldn¡¯t. She would definitely have a nervous breakdown if she did. ¡°I¡¯m certain it would only bore you to death,¡± she said, narrowing her eyes and backing up a step.

Max cocked an eyebrow. ¡°You think I wouldn¡¯t be able to understand it?¡±

Liz smirked. ¡°I didn¡¯t say that.¡±

¡°You didn¡¯t have to,¡± countered Max, moving even closer.

Liz was flustered. How was she supposed to get a hold of her emotions with him standing so close to her? Her resolve strengthening, Liz backed away from Max and tried to busy herself with looking at some of the computers behind her.

Not wanting her to get away from him so easily, Max stepped next to her and watched her fiddle with the SGI machines. ¡°These are made by -- ¡° he started, but Liz cut him off.

¡°Silicon Graphics, I know. We use these at Stanford, for the most part. For all of the visualization work we end up doing, SGIs are usually great to use,¡± said Liz.

Max quirked his lips slightly. He should have known better than to try and impress Liz that way. She had a master¡¯s degree in computer science for God¡¯s sake. She was basically at his same level as far as computing went. ¡°Of course you would know that, technobot,¡± he said, his eyes twinkling.

Liz turned to look at Max. She was tired of this little cat and mouse game they were playing. She needed him to back off and give her some space. ¡°Look, Max -- ¡° she began, but she was cut off by the blonde woman she had seen him with at the salsa bar.

¡°Max, Serena has some information she forgot to give you. I think it is a collection of research papers she needs us to catch up on. You might want to take a look at them,¡± said Tess moving close to Max¡¯s side.

Liz backed up a step and Tess gave her a cursory glance. She nodded tersely and turned back toward Max. ¡°Luc wants to meet to discuss a plan of action. He wants to start the design cycle as soon as possible,¡± she continued, ignoring Liz.

Max saw a flicker of something cross Liz¡¯s face. ¡°Liz Parker, this is Tess Harding, one of our developers. Tess, Liz is a new scientist here. This is actually her first day.¡±

Tess smirked at Liz slightly. ¡°You must be overwhelmed. All of this techie stuff is probably not your thing, huh?¡±

Liz started to respond, but Tess turned back to Max and began talking about conducting exploratory interviews with the science team. Frowning, she mumbled, ¡°Excuse me then,¡± and walked away toward her office. She figured if anyone needed her, she would be in there. She was walking so fast, she rammed right into Ben, who was coming back into the lab.

¡°Oh. Sorry Ben. I was just headed to my office to decompress for a moment. I didn¡¯t expect things to be quite so hectic today,¡± said Liz, slightly out of breath.

¡°Understandable. I¡¯ll let you know when Max wants to meet with us,¡± said Ben. ¡°There¡¯s a lounge on the third floor if you want to grab a soda or something. They¡¯re free,¡± he said, nudging her playfully.

Liz nodded and headed up to grab a drink. She had a splitting headache now and she hated to admit it, but she was completely taken off her guard by Tess. She hadn¡¯t expected to see the woman from the bar. Heck, she hadn¡¯t expected to see Max either. How on Earth was she supposed to work with Max and Tess if they were dating? Chiding herself for that thought, Liz punched the machine. This was ridiculous. What did she care who Max dated?

Pocketing her diet Coke with lemon, Liz made her way back down to her office. But when she got to her office, the door was open and Max was sitting behind her desk.

¡°I was right. You don¡¯t know anything about boundaries,¡± spat Liz, frustrated at the way he just did whatever he wanted.

¡°I would like you and Tess to pair up for this project. She¡¯s one of the best developers I have and you obviously know a lot. I think we¡¯d get a faster start this way,¡± he said, resting his head back in his hands.

Liz slammed the door. He was really overstepping his boundaries. ¡°Have you discussed this with Dr. Hughes?¡±

Max¡¯s eyes narrowed. ¡°I don¡¯t need her permission. I¡¯m the lead guy on this project for a reason.¡±

Liz snorted. ¡°Oh. And I suppose the fact that Tess is your girlfriend has nothing to do with you pairing us up? Is this some sort of sick payback for me rejecting you? You can¡®t expect me to work with her. She¡®s ¡¦ she¡®s -- ¡±

Max stood abruptly and walked over toward her. ¡°What?! A good developer? I see no reason why you cannot work with her.¡±

¡°Why wasn¡¯t I paired with your lead developer, Luc? Since I¡¯m -- ¡° started Liz.

¡°On your FIRST DAY??!! Who do you think you are, anyway? You¡¯ve had a chip on your shoulder since the moment I met you! You may not like working with me and I may not like working with you, but I am a professional. I get the job done and I won¡®t tolerate your little temper tantrum.¡±

Liz narrowed her eyes at him. ¡°I was hired by ViaChem because of what I know. And right now, I¡®m not certain Tess will be able to handle the stuff we are talking about. In fact, I¡®m not sure any of your development team can handle it. It¡®s not like any of you really know anything about nanotechnology.¡±

Max laughed. ¡°What an intellectual snob! Since you know so much, tell me¡¦ Have you heard of the NanoManipulator?¡±

Liz huffed. ¡°Of course I have. It was developed at UNC - ¡°

¡°Chapel Hill,¡± finished Max. She wanted to play hardball. Fine with him.

Liz faltered. ¡°I¡¯m sure you read that in a research paper somewhere. But that is still a far cry from - ¡°

¡°I was one of the developers. For your information Dr. Parker, I happen to have an M.S. in Computer Science and my master¡¯s thesis was based on the NanoManipulator,¡± said Max smugly, folding his arms across his chest.

Liz was speechless yet again.

¡°Wow. That¡¯s the third time you¡¯ve become speechless since I have known you. Since I¡¯ve known you about a week, is that more meaningful now?¡± Max cocked an arrogant eyebrow.

Liz quickly recovered. ¡°I apologize for my ¡¦ judgement of you, Mr. Evans. But the fact remains that unless Tess has the same experience you do, things may not move as quickly as you want them to. You know as well as I do that this stuff isn¡®t exactly easy to pick up overnight.¡±

Max studied her carefully. ¡°Let¡¯s try it my way for now. If it isn¡¯t working for you after about a week or two, then we¡¯ll revisit the issue. Is that acceptable to you?¡±

Liz nodded, sighing. She definitely wasn¡¯t happy about having to work with that rude Tess Harding, but she would give it a go. She had to be a team player about it.

¡°And for the record, she¡¯s not my girlfriend,¡± added Max, as he collected his papers from her desk.

Liz looked at the floor. Sometimes she said the dumbest things when she was angry.

¡°What made you think she was?¡± asked Max, curious.

Liz looked up into his eyes. Should she tell him why she had thought that? He would know that she had been watching him in the salsa bar after they first saw each other. Averting her eyes, she answered, ¡°Weren¡¯t you with her that night in the salsa bar?¡±

Max¡¯s eyes darkened as he approached her. ¡°It¡¯s just this casual ¡¦ ¡° Wait a minute. Why was he explaining this to her? He asked a question, she answered. The rest wasn¡¯t her business. ¡°Weren¡¯t you in the bar with Michael?¡±

Liz¡¯s head snapped up. He had seen her with Michael? ¡°Michael is my best friend¡¯s fiance. I was meeting both of them. He came to the bar to tell me where our table was.¡±

¡°Oh,¡± was all Max said.

Both of them stood there staring at each other. Liz found herself getting lost in his eyes once again. They were so deep and engaging. They were mostly amber, but occasionally a fleck of gold would pass over them and they would take on an unearthly quality. Sighing, Liz felt her entire body relax and she tried to look away.

But Max brought his hand up to her face and turned her head back towards him. He leaned forward and, while continually caressing her cheek with his thumb, he brought his head down toward hers. Liz felt her heart constrict painfully. This was happening too fast. She didn¡¯t even want it to happen. She wasn¡¯t ready. She would never be ready for this. Oh God, she thought wretchedly as her knees started to wobble due to the sensations he was eliciting in her with his touch. She couldn¡¯t let him kiss her. She might pass out.

As a slight cry erupted from her throat, she slapped his hand away from her and fell back a few steps. ¡°Don¡¯t,¡± she said, trying to catch her breath. She didn¡¯t realize she had been holding it in.

Max turned away from her and crushed his eyes shut. What the hell had he been thinking? Liz was basically a coworker now, as well as his leasee. At the rate he was going, he would be up on sexual harrassment charges if he wasn¡¯t careful. ¡°I don¡¯t know what got into me. I¡¯m sorry.¡±

Liz nodded tersely and swept past him. ¡°If you don¡¯t mind, I have some work to get done.¡±

Max looked at her inquisitively. ¡°Liz, it¡¯s your first day. What could you possibly - ¡°

¡°Since you paired me with Tess, I thought I should prepare a summary of some necessary research papers for her. It¡¯ll help her get up to speed. Now, if you¡¯ll excuse me¡¦¡± Liz turned to her cabinet and started rifling through the papers.

Max shouldn¡¯t have been surprised. Of course she would be that thorough. Feeling superfluous, he left.


posted on 19-Mar-2002 2:37:22 PM by Behrable dream
Guys!! Thank you so much for the kick-ass feedback!! You like it, you really like it!!! *happy*

I am posting this chapter in two parts because it is rather long...

So this is chapter FIVE, part A

Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.


Chapter Five

“I don’t know how much more I can take,” said Liz as she took a sip of her latte.

“Problems with the boss?“ Maria smiled sympathetically at her and added some sugar to her coffee. Then she dumped a ton of cream in it and added yet more sugar.

“A little coffee with your cream and sugar?” smirked Liz.

“Hey, it’s cheaper than latte and I love cream and sugar,” said Maria.

“With all the money you make, you can’t afford to just buy the latte?”

Maria ignored her and continued to sip her pale coffee. “So, what are you going to do about your romeo landlord boss?”

“He is not a romeo. Far from it,” answered Liz.

“Well, he sounds like something. Michael actually liked him. That’s quite an endorsement. Michael doesn’t like anyone,” said Maria.

Liz pursed her lips. “I know, I know. I - He just makes me so flustered. I can’t think straight around him.”

“You’ve got it bad, Liz. You can deny that you feel something for him until the cows come home, but I know you,” said Maria, taking a bite of her scone.

Liz sighed and continued reading her paper. “I don’t know what you are talking about, Maria. I can‘t concentrate around him because he makes me so angry.”

Maria snatched the paper away from Liz, folded it and dropped it on the floor. “Liz. This is me. Your best friend. Maria. He got to you. Admit it.”

Liz sank back in her chair. “I’m not ready,” she whispered plaintively.

Maria leaned over and squeezed her hand. “I know.”

Both ladies sat in companiable silence for a few minutes. Then Maria decided to change the subject. “So how is work going, aside from Mr. Evans?”

Liz took a deep breath. “He has me working with this girl who knows nothing about nano technology. She’s not incompetent, actually she is a great developer, but she just doesn’t quite understand the mathematics behind this work and it is slowing us down. I swear Max is paired us up to get back at me.”

Maria’s brow wrinkled. “Why do you say that?”

“Because this is the same girl I saw him with at the salsa bar. I know they’re dating. It doesn’t make sense for us to be paired together other than to get under my skin. She’s a good developer, but we could get things done a lot faster if she knew something about this stuff. She really doesn’t have the right background for this.”

“Liz. Correct me if I’m wrong, but not many people have the background for this stuff, right?”

Liz looked at her friend and resisted the urge to smack her. She was right. Except for one thing. “Well … there is someone with the proper background, but …”

“But what?” prompted Maria.

“Max has the proper background. But I don’t think he wants to work on this project. Tess is a very good developer, but we just don’t work well together,” said Liz.

“Well that’s because you’re jealous,” chided Maria.

Liz choked on her coffee. “I am not jealous, Maria. Just because I don’t like the woman that Max happens to be involved with doesn’t mean I’m jealous.”

“Didn’t he tell you that she wasn’t his girlfriend?” asked Maria.

“Just because he says that doesn’t mean they aren’t involved in some way. But that isn’t the point,” replied Liz.

“Then what is the point Liz? Because all I see is a woman who is trying to deny her feelings for someone,” started Maria.

“I can’t let myself get involved with him, Maria. I can’t. Look at the havoc he’s wreaked on my life and we aren’t even involved!” exclaimed Liz.

“One, you are involved with him Liz. And two, the havoc in your life is partly due to your stubborness. If you would just let him in - “ tried Maria.

“What? We’d live happily ever after? I don’t believe in fairytales anymore, Maria. Remember?” said Liz, gathering her things.

Maria remained silent and raised an eyebrow in concern.

“But there is something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about…” Liz trailed off vaguely.

Maria’s interest peaked, she ventured, “What?”

“I - I get this strange sense of familiarity with him. I feel comfortable with him when I know I have no business feeling that way. It’s completely unsettling,” said Liz.

Maria smiled. She got the same feeling from Michael. She always had. But then again, she felt that she and Michael were meant to be together, and even though they only started seeing each other in their senior year of high school, she felt like she had known him all of her life. “Maybe he’s your soulmate,” she said, winking at Liz. She knew Liz didn’t really believe in soulmates anymore.

Liz grimaced and stood up. “Thanks for lunch,” she said hugging her friend. “I’d better get back to work. Tess wants to go over the code she just finished.”

“Okay chica,” sighed Maria. She wished that she could help Liz more. That mess with Sean had really broken her. Liz used to be one of the most optimistic people she knew. She definitely had believed in soul mates before Sean. After his betrayal, it was almost as if her spirit had been broken. But this Max person seemed to be repairing and awakening her all at the same time. But Liz was afraid of being hurt - no - devastated again, so she was resisting it with everything she had.

“I’ll see you later, then. Remember next week we are going to look at wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses,” said Maria as Liz left the café.

“Ok,” Liz called out as she passed through the swinging doors.

***
Max drummed his fingers on the desk in the temporary office that had been set up for him at ViaChem. He had been trying to find a place to live for the past few days. He was afraid that he would have to purchase a place just to find somewhere to live.

His timing couldn’t have been worse. If his dad hadn’t rented out his place, he would be able to live there. But since Liz lived there, that could never work. He would have to figure out something else. This project would likely last for almost a year, and he didn’t relish the thought of flying in on Sundays from his home and leaving on Friday evenings to go back like Tess and the other developers did for the most part.

Frowning a bit, Max picked up the phone and dialed. This wasn’t going to be pretty. A sugary voice answered. “Rothbert and Stern Real Estate. How may I direct your call?”

“Melissa Stroud, please,” said Max.

“Hold please,” was the reply.

Max took a deep breath. He was at his wit’s end. He would rather purchase a condo or townhome or even a small bungalow than to stay at a hotel indefinitely. It was simply too stuffy and he wanted a more carefree living arrangement.

“This is Mrs. Stroud-Johnson,” said a no fuss voice on the other end.

“Melissa. This is Max. I didn’t know you’d gotten married,” he said lightly. “Congratulations.”

“What do you want, Max? I thought we agreed to leave each other alone,” said Melissa, obviously irritated.

“Look Melissa. I need your help with something. I also remember that we always promised that we would be there for each other in a pinch,” remarked Max.

“What’s the big emergency this time, Max?” asked Melissa.

“I need to find a place to stay. I can’t seem to locate an apartment, so I am open to purchasing a condo or a townhome. Preferably near the beach, on the outskirts of LA,” replied Max, shuffling some research papers on his desk.

Melissa sighed. “Okay,” she finally said. “I’ll see what I can turn up. But you owe me, Max.”

Max smiled on the other end of the phone. “How are you Melissa?”

“Happy. Very happy. I couldn’t wait forever for you to wake up and commit, Max,” said Melissa, glowing.

“I’m really happy for you. Truly. You deserved so much more than what I could give you,” he sighed.

“Max - you deserve more than you give you,” said Melissa cryptically.

“Could you be a little more cryptic?” laughed Max.

“I was just wondering if you had opened yourself up to anyone yet. You never quite let me in, Max. But ultimately you’re going to have to, if you ever want to honestly be happy,” answered Melissa.

“Thanks for the advice Mel, but can we just stick to the house hunting?”

Melissa sighed. This was Max. This was why it had never been able to work out for them. “I’ll get right on it.”

“Thanks Mel,” said Max, hanging up the phone.

Max stared at the receiver a moment and then let his gaze drift to the stack of research papers he was perusing. Mel was right. He knew he needed to open up. But Mel didn’t know why he had to close himself off like that. Her life was way too ordered and perfect to truly accept every part of him. He honestly hoped that she was happy in her married life. But he would simply have to muddle through on his own.

***
“Hi Liz,” said Tess cheerfully when Liz came through the doors.

“Hi Tess,” answered Liz. “You are certainly cheerful. Did you get that code working the way you wanted?”

“I certainly did. I think I finally understood the articles you pulled for me. I know I’ve been a dunce about it, but I think I got it now,” answered Tess, starting the program for Liz.

Liz glanced at the screen. “That does look pretty good, Tess. But I think your transformations are still just slightly off. Let’s take a look at them together.”

Tess nodded and moved so Liz could sit down next to her. “I hope this isn’t slowing you down too much, Liz. This sort of thing isn’t my strongest point. Most of my development work has been in interface design.”

Liz stopped, stupefied. She had never seen Tess be so apologetic about her work. Something had to have happened. “Don’t worry about it. That’s why I’m here. You have much better development skills than I do.”

Tess blushed. “Yeah… well, I wish I had more of a scientific mind like you do. I can code reasonably well, but for complex problems like this, I get really lost in the mathematics.”

Liz was shocked. Were they actually having a conversation? “It just takes a little practice. Maybe I could lend you some books on the subject that you may not have in your library. That‘s what helps me. No one just knows how to do this stuff right off the bat.”

Tess looked pleased. “Thank you. I would really appreciate that.” She paused and then turned to look at Liz. “You know, I misjudged you Liz.”

“Really? How?”

“I thought you were some geeky brainiac who would be fumbling around with these computers. I was really, uh, threatened by you, because everyone around here was talking about you like you were the second coming, and then to find out that you were as good at this stuff as I am… I wasn’t the nicest person to you when we first met,” said Tess, lowering her gaze to the floor.

Liz was actually touched. “Well, if you must know, Tess. I misjudged you too. I was not a happy camper when Max paired us up. I felt uncomfortable around you when we first met.”

“Well, I wasn’t exactly being very nice to you that first day. When I saw you and Max talking so closely that day, I kind of got jealous,” continued Tess.

Liz blanched. They had been close? Then she remembered that Tess and Max were involved. “I - I …” she stuttered, trying to think of something plausible to say.

“Hey, you really don’t have to explain,” said Tess. “I can see that you guys have nothing between you. Anyone can see that, actually. I heard about the argument you two had over the working assignments.”

Liz sputtered. “What?” she said, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Someone came by your office and heard yelling that day. They didn’t hear everything, but it was right after Max decided to pair us up, so we all just assumed that it didn’t sit well with you … “ Tess trailed off, somewhat uncomfortable.

“Well, aren’t you and Max - “ started Liz.

Tess sighed and rolled her eyes. “Slowly but surely,” she laughed ruefully.

Liz laughed a little too, but this conversation was making her very uncomfortable. So, Tess and Max were together, at least from Tess‘ perspective.

“I’m going with him to the benefit next weekend,” Tess continued.

“What benefit?” asked Liz.

“The one your company has every year this time. It supports the Pediatric Aids Foundation. You know, formal gowns and stuff. There’s going to be an indoor carnival style cocktail hour and then a huge reception afterwards,” replied Tess.

“Oh,” was all Liz said. She would have to find something to wear.

“Max asked me to go with him,” continued Tess. “So maybe things are finally picking up between us.”

Liz was floored and rather jealous. She tried to change the subject, but Tess kept talking.

“You know, we were at this salsa bar last week, and our waitress kept trying to pick him up,” said Tess.

“Ew,” said Liz.

“I know!” exclaimed Tess. “I just hate women like that, you know? Those women who don’t care who they hurt as long as they get the guy they want - regardless of the fact that the guy is taken.”

Liz’s breath lodged in her throat. She knew exactly what Tess was talking about. She never wanted to be that woman. Never. She knew how painful that could be, if you were the jilted woman. “I know exactly what you mean,” she managed, clearing her throat.

“My ex-fiance left me for a woman like that, so I totally get where you are coming from. I hate women like that.” Liz hadn’t really wanted to tell Tess about her past, but the desire to denigrate that horrible wench that Sean left her for overrided her normal sense of privacy.

Tess smiled enigmatically and turned back to the monitor. “Wow. I can’t imagine what that must have felt like. To have some heifer just disregard you completely in her quest to get a man - and an engaged one at that.”

Liz nodded, suddenly uncomfortable. This weird thing with her and Max was making her really uncomfortable. She felt like Max had taken on Sean‘s role, Tess was her, and she was that distasteful other woman. She decided to change the subject again. “So how about this module? I think I see your problem. Everything is just right except for this number. The decimal is off,” she said turning to look at the monitor.

“Oh good grief. I’ve been killing myself over a typo? Don’t you just hate that?” asked Tess, slapping her head with her hand.

“Aren’t all bugs icky like that? So small it’s almost impossible to find them? I just got lucky and remembered that number from my notes,” said Liz.

“Thank goodness, I would have been here all night debugging that part,” breathed Tess in relief.

“No problem. Now, can you take a look at this next set? We can talk about the best way to go about coding the next part,” said Liz, as she and Tess busied themselves with the job at hand.

***
Sometime after Liz and Tess finished that segment of code, Liz began working on a new problem, trying to translate it to the point that it could be coded and Tess watched thoughtfully from across the room.

Liz had turned out to be much nicer and she was different than she thought she would be. Tess almost felt guilty for bringing Max and the benefit up. And she had completely lied about people thinking that there was nothing between Max and Liz. In fact, everyone was talking about it.

She hated to admit it, but whenever Max and Liz were in the same place, the chemistry between them was tangible. Sometimes when they were together at work, discussing a problem, you almost felt like you were intruding on something almost sacred. It was enough to drive Tess crazy, because she wanted it to be that way with her and Max and so far, it wasn’t even close.

So, she had staged her words carefully to give Liz the impression that she and Max were an item. Tess knew this wasn’t true, but she wanted it to be and she thought that if she could keep Max and Liz apart, she might have a good chance with him.

Deep down, she knew this was underhanded and rather manipulative, but she had learned that if you want something, you have to be prepared to do anything to get it. Still, a part of her felt badly about what she was doing, even though it felt harmless. Liz was the first person who actually seemed to like her. She didn’t seem threatened by Tess, and she looked like someone Tess could actually call a friend.

But if Liz ever found out what she was up to, she definitely wouldn’t want her as a friend.

***
“See Maria,” started Liz miserably. “This is exactly why I wanted to stay closed off from this kind of stuff. If I had never met Max, I would just wear the dress I wore to that show you sang at last year.”

“Didn’t you say he was taking Tess to this benefit?” asked Maria.

“Yeah, I know,” whined Liz. “I don’t even know why I am doing this. He’s with Tess.”

“Maybe, maybe not. He asked you out how many times? And he did try to kiss you, Liz. There’s something there with him. And there’s something there with you too,” said Maria, holding a pale champagne beaded dress up to Liz. “Try this one on.”

Liz grabbed the dress and retreated into the dressing room. “I don’t think so, Maria. He hasn’t so much as looked at me in the past few weeks. I think whatever prompted his coming on to me has ended. He’s back into Tess now.”

Liz emerged from the dressing room. The dress was actually beautiful on her. But Maria thought she could find something else better. She went out into the boutique and emerged shortly thereafter with a light, airy halter style gown in silk chiffon. It was a knockoff of the dress Charlize Theron wore to the Oscar’s, except it was a deep claret color. Liz gasped. It was a beautiful gown, but she was afraid to wear it.

“I can’t wear that! Look at how deeply the back goes. It’ll never stay on me,” she complained. “Plus, I’m too short for it.”

Maria tossed the dress to her and shoved her into the dressing room. “It has a wrap to match if you are feeling particularly exposed. I’ll go and find some shoes for you. You’ll need some high heels.”

Liz sighed and pulled the dress over her head. She hadn’t told Maria the main reason why she didn’t want to wear this gown. She was afraid her scar would show. Luckily though, it fit perfectly and her scar still remained hidden beneath the fabric covering her lower back. It hit the floor in a puddle and Liz was certain she would need the highest heels for it. It was a form fitting bias cut dress, with layers of sheer chiffon floating about in effervescent waves. But best of all, it made her skin glow too. The deep red color really brought out her olive skin tone. The cute little jeweled brooches attached to the straps really added a nice sparkle to the gown and Liz decided she needed some sparkly sandals and an equally sparkly purse to go along with it.

Liz slowly emerged from the dressing room. Maria was standing there, with her mouth agape, holding some gorgeous, strappy and sparkly sandals. The straps were covered in crystals and rhinestones. “Hand me those sandals, Maria. And find a nice matching purse for me. I am definitely wearing this dress.”

***
“So, do you like it?” asked Mel.

“Of course I like it. But it is a little big. I wasn’t looking for something quite this large. You didn’t see anything else?” asked Max.

“I did, but this one is being let go at a really great price. And just think of the possibilities. You can entertain your clients here. And look at how it opens up to the ocean. It’s really exclusive too. Only the best for you, Max,” gushed Mel.

“It’s a bit extravagant,” he said, strolling to the far side of the condo. The bedroom was amazing, with a large platform bed and floor to ceiling windows. The condo was decorated in a contemporary modern style that appealed to him.

“It is, but you can get it for the same price that you bought that townhome for. The owner is in a hurry to sell it,” said Mel from the kitchen. “And since you are renting the townhome out, and it is already paid for, this really isn’t going to pinch you too much, is it?”

“I see your point,“ he called. Then he paused, “Speaking of my townhome, this place isn’t too far from there is it?”

“No, it isn’t far at all. With the way you swim, you could easily go right past it on one of your morning jaunts,” answered Mel, rapping her fingers on the commercial grade countertops.

Max walked into the kitchen and looked around, sighing. “So?” asked Mel.

“Start the paperwork,” smiled Max.

***
Sometime later, Max was back in his office at ViaChem and Serena burst through the door. “Max,” she panted, obviously out of breath. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”

“Is there a problem?” asked Max, his curiosity peaked.

“First things first. Can you hold all of your calls?” answered Serena gravely, closing the door behind her.

“Ok,” said Max slowly, turning off his cell.

“We have a huge security problem, Max.”


posted on 19-Mar-2002 2:39:19 PM by Behrable dream
Chapter FIVE Part B

***
Liz was running through the halls of ViaChem, late for her meeting, when she nearly bowled over a security guard.

“Whoa, there!” he said and then stopped abruptly. “Do I know you miss?”

Liz looked at him earnestly. “I doubt it. I just moved here for my job. Perhaps you saw me in that capacity?”

The somewhat burly man rubbed his jaw thoughtfully. “I - I don’t think so. I really feel as though I’ve seen you before.”

Liz laughed. “Is that what’s passing for a pick-up line these days?”

The guard laughed in response. “Oh. Sorry. I suppose that is what the young bucks are saying these days. I’m a family man myself. Got three kids myself. You sure I haven’t seen you somewhere before?”

“I don’t think so,” said Liz, moving away from him. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting to get to.”

The guard smiled and let Liz walk away. He regarded her with a curious expression and then his look turned brooding and pensive.

Dusting herself off from her encounter with the security guard, she heard raised voices in one of the offices. She slowed down and was nearly run over when Tess flew out of the room, looking shaken. A man followed behind her and grabbed her arm.

“Let go of my arm,” hissed Tess.

“Is there a problem here?” asked Liz, forcefully. She had never seen this guy before. He was tall and he had red hair that he had slicked back. He looked rather squirrelly.

“No problem here,” said the man. “I was asking Ms. Harding about the benefit and she mistook my questions for something else. I meant no disrespect.” He glanced at Liz furtively.

Then he extended his hand. “Nikolas Knox. I’m - “

“The owner and ceo of ViaChem. It’s nice to meet you. I’m Liz Parker. I work on the nano team,” said Liz, glancing over at Tess to make sure she was alright.

“Nice to meet you as well, Ms. Parker. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you,” he said and walked away.

Liz gave Tess a searching look. “Are you going to tell me what that was about?”

Tess looked around shiftily. “It was pretty much nothing. He just creeped me out a little. I’m fine.”

Liz frowned, but decided to let it go. Tess was probably afraid the incident would get back to Max or something.

“Why don’t we get to the meeting?” asked Liz, already moving toward the conference room.

“Sure,” answered Tess, following behind.

If Liz thought that her day was going strangely already, she was in for even more surprises. First, when she got to the meeting, Max met her gaze strangely and then looked away.

Liz was puzzled by this. It wasn’t like him to regard her so coolly. Then she looked at Tess and she seemed puzzled too. Liz slowly sat down and waited for the meeting to start. She was startled when Max, and not Serena stood to speak.

“We have a problem. An extremely large and highly sensitive dataset has been lost. We estimate that this will cost the project at least three extra months,” he began, looking rather tired.

Tess spoke up. “What dataset is missing?” she asked.

“It’s the dna dataset we had gotten from a batch of experiments that ViaChem had already done long before this project was started. The original dataset is missing and the ones we had on backup are missing as well. But that information was one of the driving forces of this project and until we find it again, we will have to work double time to make up for the loss,” continued Max.

“Can’t we just do the experiment over?” asked Luc.

This time it was Liz who answered. “I highly doubt it. That would take longer than the extra months would take.”

Serena concurred. “Liz is right. We really need to find out what happened to that dataset. We may have to come up with another way to run our simulations.”

Liz nodded. “I’ll get right on that.”

Everyone seemed satisfied for the moment. Max adjorned the meeting and started after Liz, who was already headed back to her office. “Liz. May I speak to you for a moment?”

Liz turned, feeling really uncomfortable talking to Max with Tess so close by. She glanced in her direction, but Tess was nowhere to be seen. “Sure.”

“Let’s grab this room over here,” he said quietly, taking Liz by the elbow and leading her to an unused room.

Liz quirked an eyebrow curiously, but followed anyway. When they had finally gotten to the room, she turned and faced him with her arms crossed. “What is it Max?”

He walked slowly toward her, searching her eyes for something that Liz had no clue about. “How are things? Working with Tess, I mean?”

Liz was momentarily surprised by the question. “Fine, I guess. She’s really trying hard to get all of this stuff. I don’t have any pressing complaints.”

Max nodded slowly, still looking at her intently. He rubbed his forehead, not knowing how to tell her this next part. “There’s something I need to tell you,” he began.

Sensing where he was going with this, Liz tried to cut him off. “I don’t see why it’s any of my business that you are going to the benefit with Tess,” she stated plainly.

Max’s eyes narrowed. “How did you know that?”

Liz smirked. “Tess told me. We had a bonding moment and I guess she wanted to share. But this is really not my business and I don’t feel comfortable talking about it with you.”

Liz turned to leave the room and Max reached out to stop her. “Liz, wait.” He really had wanted to tell her personally about this. About why he asked Tess to the benefit. About everything. But could he trust her with this information? Were his suspicions about Tess unfounded?

“That’s not what I wanted to talk to you about,” he said finally.

Liz stopped. “It’s not?”

“No, it isn’t. We think that Tess has something to do with the missing dataset,” said Max uncertainly.

“You don’t sound exactly certain, Max. Why would you think that?” asked Liz.

“Because I checked all of the machine logs in the lab and the machine that you and Tess use has a discrepancy in its log. It’s been tampered with,” he continued.

“So why suspect Tess only? Why not me? I’m sure you know that I’m perfectly capable of tampering with those logs as well, Max,” said Liz, beginning to get angry for Tess’ sake.

Max shifted his weight onto his other foot and shoved his hands in his pockets. Liz was getting angry and for good reason. She was not going to like this next part. “I can‘t tell you.”

Liz huffed. “Why did you tell me this then? I didn’t need to know, did I?” asked Liz.

“We need you to keep an eye on her. If she is involved, then maybe she will confide in you,” continued Max.

Liz’s eyes dawned in recognition. “You want me to be a spy? That’s not in my job description. Plus, that file is harmless. We can use something else as a test domain.“

“No. You don’t understand everything. First of all, we only used part of the information from that dataset. And it wasn’t just a dna dataset that was taken. There were some extremely sensitive documents from our company that were taken as well. We traced all of our leads back to Tess. Either she is behind this, or she knows who is and she is working with them,” answered Max.

“Well then why don’t you call the police?” asked Liz, frustrated.

Max saw her frustration and tried to supply the missing details for her. “We don’t have enough information about this yet. Plus, that dataset has highly sensitive information on it and the files that match the test subjects to their dna is also missing. This means that someone out there knows who the participants were. That information is highly confidential. We could be sued if it got out,” he said, hoping Liz would believe him.

“What’s so special about those dna file?” asked Liz, curious.

“I honestly don’t know,” said Max. “I didn’t think there was much to them, but someone apparently does.”

“Well, why are you handling this?” she asked, softening. “Don’t they have someone who does this stuff?”

Max snorted. “Yeah. Me.”

“What if Tess is innocent?” asked Liz.

“Well, then we will find out. Sooner or later she will have to be told, but I hope we’ll know she is innocent or otherwise by then,” replied Max.

“What about the benefit?” asked Liz. “Tess … she - she really likes you Max. And if she is innocent, she’s going to be really hurt that you asked her to the benefit just to keep an eye on her.”

Max sighed. “It isn‘t like I don‘t enjoy her company, Liz.”

“Oh,” Liz stopped and stared at Max. Of course he enjoyed her company. They were dating.

“This isn’t totally insidious. I needed someone to go the the benefit with. And I sort of owed her a rain check anyway. When we had dinner the first time, I was a little distracted by this incredible brown-eyed beauty that I saw across the room,” he said, his eyes locking with hers temporarily.

Liz looked down and blushed slightly. This was dangerous territory. First of all, she didn’t want to discuss Max and Tess. Second, how did he do that? He always managed to turn everything into something about the two of them. He was the most confusing and infuriating man she had ever met. “How is it that you have turned something about Tess into something about us?”

“There is no us, remember? Your wishes, Liz,” answered Max cavalierly.

That was the last straw for Liz. “I’m leaving.”

“Wait,” called Max, in the midst of getting his things situated. He sprinted over to her, ignoring the disarray he left his laptop and briefcase in.

Liz turned and looked at him plaintively. “Why do you keep doing that?”

Max’s eyes darkened as he came to stand directly in front of her. “Doing what?”

“You constantly throw ’us’ in my face; regardless of the fact that there is no us. Why?” she asked, looking up at him.

“Perhaps I cannot believe that you constantly turn me down, Liz. Can’t you feel it when we’re together?” he asked, looking into her eyes.

Liz stopped breathing. She couldn’t think. She certainly did feel it whenever she was with Max. And that scared her. Slowly she let out a long breath. She was just about to respond when Max swooped down and covered her lips with his own.

Her surprised gasp was lost in his searing kiss. It was the most heady of sensations. His lips were soft and warm and an electric shock raced through her as he tangled his fingers through her hair. His other hand held her head at the nape of her neck and his thumb brushed against her cheek in a dizzying pattern. When he captured her bottom lip between his lips and tugged slightly, a soft whimper escaped from Liz’s throat and she responded eagerly to his kiss, trying to pull him even closer to her. There was just something in that simple act that touched something deep within her. It felt familiar and new all at the same time.

Max was utterly lost in her. This kiss went way beyond anything he had ever experienced and he thought she tasted faintly like strawbehries. Her scent was overpowering him and he found himself drowning in the sensations her lips against his produced. He flicked his tongue out and dragged it across her lips. Then he captured her bottom lip with his lips and tugged. When he heard the soft moan that she emitted, he pulled away from her and searched her eyes.

“Liz,” he said roughly, still caressing her cheek. “Please tell me you feel it.”

Liz’s breath totally caught in her throat as she tried to pull air into her lungs. “I - “ she stammered, trying to think of a way to excuse what just happened. She couldn’t admit anything to him. She couldn’t even figure out what she was doing here with him. She had to get away. She was suffocating.

“Max, please,” she started, trying to blink back the tears of panic that threatened to overtake her.

“Just tell me you feel it too,” he asked, looking into her eyes as if his very life depended on it. Max honestly didn’t know why he kissed her. He just had to. Every cell in his being, his entire soul cried out for hers. He didn’t completely understand it, but when he was with her, there was this sense of familiarity that he fell into. That familiarity was what had beckoned his lips to hers.

Liz was fading fast. He looked so earnest. She wanted to tell him that she felt it, but she was terrified about what that would mean. And then there was Tess. The girl was practically head over heels for him.

A loud banging noise startled Liz out of her confused and jumbled thoughts. She jumped nearly ten feet into the air and looked around wildly for the source of the noise. She glanced at Max who was picking up his laptop. It had fallen on the smooth floor, along with his briefcase. He grimaced in apology, not yet noticing the way Liz was shaking.

She wrapped her arms around herself, trying to stop the shaking and failed. She was completely wound up. Panicked. And she couldn’t figure out the reason why. This couldn’t just be a reaction to Max’s kiss. Could it? Feeling the need to flee, Liz moved to pick up her purse and headed toward the door. Max was there in a flash, trying to keep her from leaving.

“Liz. We have to talk about this,” he said, and then his voice softened, noticing her shaking. “Are you alright?”

Liz sighed and tried to calm down. “I’m fine,” she said unevenly and opened the door. “Don’t ever do that to me again,“ she said breathlessly before walking through the door and leaving a thoroughly perplexed and frustrated Max behind.

***
“So, what do you think it was?” asked Alex, into the phone.

“I have no idea, Alex. All I know is that I was shaking all over and I was really panicked. This couldn’t be a reaction to Max kissing me, could it? I mean, I’ve been kissed before,” answered Liz.

“Not since - well, not since Sean, Liz,” countered Alex, trying not to ruffle her feathers too much.

“Just what is that supposed to mean?” snapped Liz.

“I just meant that maybe you are experiencing a little shock over this. I know you’ve been closing yourself off from men lately and maybe this Max person got to you without you realizing it. It would make sense if you were experiencing some sort of shock because of that kiss,” answered Alex calmly and soothingly.

“Do you think you could come here for that benefit, Alex? I really don’t want to have to go alone,” asked Liz.

“Um… sure, Liz. I think you could use the company anyway. And I can size up this Max guy. See if he’s good enough for you,” said Alex, puffing his chest out importantly.

“Well, he’s actually dating someone else,” said Liz meekly.

“Are you sure about that, Liz? All you know about is that one time you saw them out together. And perhaps that wasn’t really a date. Just coworkers meeting for dinner,” prompted Alex.

“Well, he didn’t deny that he enjoyed her company,’ said Liz.

Alex snorted. “I enjoy my dog’s company, Liz. That doesn’t mean I want to be with my dog, though.”

“Well, Tess believes that they are an item,” said Liz defensively. “Max must have given her some reason to think that.”

“Well, you know the situation better than I do, but I also remember how you and Maria would practically send up flares to ward off other women when you were trying to snag a guy, especially if you didn’t already have him on lockdown. Tess could have been doing that, you know,” he said thoughtfully.

Liz sighed. Alex might be right. “When are you getting into town, then?”

“The benefit is Saturday, right? I will call you when I get in at the airport on Friday. Can you pick me up?” he asked.

“Of course I can. And you can sleep on my couch. It is going to be so wonderful to see you again. I’m so excited!” squealed Liz.

“Hey, my ears! My ears!” yelled Alex.

Liz laughed and said more softly, “Okay. Just call me when you know your itinerary.”

“Okay. Bye Lizzie,” said Alex.

“Bye Alex,” said Liz jovially and hung up, hearing her doorbell ring.

She trotted over to her door and opened it, seeing a deliveryman outside. He handed her a long rectangular box and and she signed his pad.

Going inside, she took the box into the kitchen and laid it on the counter. She opened the box and gasped. It was a box of black roses.

All of them dead.

posted on 25-Mar-2002 3:43:34 PM by Behrable dream
Wow!! Thanks for all of the amazing and insightful feedback...

I am so happy that you like my story and many of you have touched on some very important points here and there... It's almost like you are reading my mind...

A thought about Liz and how she is supposedly being taken in by Tess... I don't think Liz likes Tess very much, but they did get off to a rocky start and some people, like Liz, feel that they deserve second chances. And Tess is likely confused herself. Here she meets a woman who is likely smarter than she is and who seems to have the attention of the man she wants...

Liz on the other hand, does NOT, I repeat, does NOT want to be anything like the woman that interloped in her engagement... so even if Max and Tess have nothing between them, Liz believes they do (because Tess is playing it that way), so she has to face down her own issues before she can open up to Max anyway...

But as you will see in this part, Max has definitely gotten to our girl Liz...

But here is Chapter Six!!

Chapter Six

This traffic is awful, thought Liz as she weaved in and out of the sea of moving vehicles. Finally giving up, she settled into the right lane and simply decided to wait it out. Her brooding thoughts quickly moved to the dead flowers she received earlier this week. She supposed that the flowers could have simply died, but there had been no card.

And Liz couldn’t really think of anyone who would want to scare her like that. Her mind flashed on Max and maybe Tess, but she didn’t think they were actually capable of anything like that. Liz found herself racking her brain for anyone who would want to rattle her.

She came up blank.

Sighing, she pulled up to baggage claim and glanced around, looking for Alex. She was just about to punch her hazard lights on and hop out to find him when she saw him running toward her, waving his hands.

“Alex!” she called happily, getting out to hug him. “It’s so wonderful to see you!”

“Wow, you look incredible Liz! Los Angeles must really agree with you. And - has Maria been into your closet? Your wardrobe has like, totally changed. Since when did you start wearing clothes like that?” Alex looked her over appreciatively.

“Keep looking at me like that Alex, and Courtney might get jealous,” Liz teased.

Alex’s face fell a bit. “Oh, well … we aren’t seeing each other anymore,” he said.

Liz bit her lip. “Oh, Alex. I’m sorry. What happened?”

“She decided she wanted to see other people,” said Alex. “Well, one in particular.”

Liz pulled on her shades after Alex’s stuff was placed in the trunk of her car. “Well, it is definitely her loss Alex. Honestly, I don’t know what is wrong with these women you meet. Can’t they see how wonderful you are?” she asked, opening the sunroof.

“I guess not,” answered Alex. “I’m starving. Can we get something to eat?”

“Sure,” replied Liz. “I thought we could grab something and then I could take you on a tour of the labs. There is a beautiful solarium lounge where we can eat our lunch at ViaChem.”

“Sounds good. But please… none of that California cuisine, alright?”

Liz laughed. “Okay, Alex. I know a great Mexican place. How does that grab you?”

“Perfect. I love Mexican food,” answered Alex, rubbing his stomach.

***
“Max. Max?”

Max broke out of his thoughts and glanced around the table at his development team. “I apologize. You were saying?” He spoke directly to Serena, who had brought him out of his erstwhile thoughts.

Serena cleared her throat and continued. “I was just saying that even with the delay due to the missing files, we are making good progress. I think it was an excellent idea to pair Ms. Harding and Dr. Parker, Max.”

Max smiled and tried to refocus his attention on the meeting. His decision to pair Tess and Liz had actually panned out very well, even though he had to admit, his motives weren’t entirely noble. He knew it would get under Liz’s skin and he couldn’t resist playing his boss card.

But now he felt like he was definitely playing with fire. Here he was, going to the benefit with Tess, even though it had been her subtle suggestion that had prompted him to ask her - well that and his suspicions of her - and he was also entertaining not so pure thoughts of Liz.

He wanted her like he had never wanted anyone in his life. Kissing her had been the dumbest thing he could have done. If she wasn’t already frightened off for good, she would be now. And she looked like she was developing a friendship of sorts with Tess. One that would probably stop her from wanting anything romantic to do with him, even though there was actually nothing between him and Tess.

Nothing except one platonic dinner where he had been distracted the entire time after seeing Liz for the first time.

Max sighed and tried to concentrate on the meeting. It was difficult to concentrate on anything other than the way Liz tasted and how she felt when he held her in his arms. It was a feeling he wanted to savor and he was disappointed that their encounter was so short. Glancing at the people at the meeting, he was glad they had a secretary to transcribe what was happening. He would definitely need to consult those notes.

Everyone then began to get up to leave. Serena grabbed Max’s arm before he left. “Is there something bothering you, Max? You seem distracted today.”

Max sighed. “Is it that obvious?”

“I know this must be difficult for you, with everything going on with her lately,” said Serena.

Huh? Did Serena know how he felt about Liz? Did everyone know? “What do you mean?” he asked.

“I just thought that since you and Tess were seeing each other that all of the suspicion surrounding her might be tough to handle,” answered Serena.

Max breathed a sigh of relief. “It is difficult. But not because of any involvement with Tess. We are actually just friends, but I still find it hard to believe that she would have anything to do with all of this. I believe she is innocent, Serena. There has to be another explanation.”

Serena sighed. “I hope you are right, Max. But if Tess isn’t involved in this, then who is? Who took those files?”

“I don’t know, Serena. I just don’t know,” said Max, looking out of the window.

***
When Max finally left the room, he headed to the solarium to eat his lunch. He had been able to move into his new place and he brought his lunch, a simple ham and cheese sandwich, chips and an orange, with him. As he approached the solarium, he heard laughter and gaily spoken words and then he froze when he recognized one of them as belonging to Liz.

Slowing his steps, he tried to figure out if he should just find another place to eat or if he should just go on in there. He fingered the paper bag with his lunch thoughtfully as he pondered his options.

Finally deciding not to let Liz run him out of places he had a perfectly good right to be in, he forged ahead. When he rounded the corner, he saw Liz sitting and laughing with a young, dark haired man. She turned and caught sight of him, and the smile vanished from her face.

Max wanted to curse himself for putting that look on her face, but he didn’t have time. When her laughter stopped, her friend looked at the two of them, a confused expression on his face. An uncomfortable silence settled over all three of them until Liz finally cleared her throat.

“Alex, this is my boss, Max Evans. Max, Alex, Alex, Max,” said Liz, still slightly uncomfortable.

“It’s nice to meet you Alex,” said Max cordially, extending his hand.

Alex rose to shake his hand and Max found himself face to face with a guy who was as tall as he was. “Same here.”

Both men stood to look at each other, until Alex finally broke the staring contest to sit back down with Liz.

“I was just going to eat my lunch here,” said Max, moving to sit near one of the windows.

Liz and Alex nodded and then tried to resume their earlier conversation. But Liz was completely distracted by Max’s presence. Since they had finished their lunch long ago, she began getting their containers and moving to throw them away, until Alex took them from her. “Let me get that, Liz,” he said, smiling and winking in Max’s direction.

Liz cut her eyes at him and folded her arms. “Thanks,” she said dryly.

Alex chuckled and went to find a trash bin. Liz glanced over at Max quickly and then folded her hands in her lap. Max looked up from his lunch, which seemed unappetizing now and walked over to her.

“Hey,” he said softly.

“Hey,” said Liz, stiffening slightly.

This did not go unnoticed by Max, who desperately searched for something to say. “I’m sorry, Liz. I had no idea that you had a boyfriend. I never should have kissed you like that. It was inappropriate.”

Liz looked up, surprised. He thought Alex was her boyfriend? “Max,” she began, but she was cut off by Alex, who had returned.

“How about that tour now?” he asked and Liz nodded, standing.

“Bye Max,” she said and walked away with Alex.

Max merely frowned after them and then kicked himself for kissing Liz yet again. She had a boyfriend. How could he have been so blind? No wonder she was so completely resistant to him.

Liz and Alex walked in complete silence for at least five minutes. Finally, Alex spoke. “You know, most tour guides actually talk,” he said jokingly.

Liz brought her hands to her temples and rubbed them. “I know I know. I’m just so distracted. Sorry I’m neglecting you.”

“It’s alright Lizzie. I know what’s bothering you, though,” continued Alex, looking down at her.

“What?” asked Liz, her nose twitching.

“It’s Max. You have it bad for him Liz,” said Alex gravely.

“Now you sound like Maria. I don’t need another little matchmaker, Alex,” said Liz, fidgetting with her purse strap.

“I’m not trying to make any matches Liz. I don’t have to. You could cut the chemistry between the two of you with a knife. How long are you going to run from it?” asked Alex pointedly.

Liz merely sighed and tried to come up with something to say. Failing that, she turned and looked at where they were. “This is the biotechnology lab … “

***
“You thought he was cool, didn’t you Michael?” asked Alex.

“Yeah. He was cool,” answered Michael, taking a sip of his drink.

“Can we please stop discussing my private life?” asked Liz, irritated.

Maria laughed and joined in on the fun. “Oh come on Liz. How long has it been since we’ve been able to tease you about something like this. Plus, I haven’t seen him before. He must be amazing to have you all wound up and crazy over him.”

“I am not crazy over him!” whined Liz.

“Okay, calm down chica,” said Maria, patting Liz’s arm.

“There’s nothing going on, guys. Okay? Nothing,” said Liz furtively.

“Well maybe there should be,” shot back Maria.

“Why in the world would you say that, Maria?” asked Liz, folding her arms across her chest.

“Because he is successful, he sounds nice, and he seems to be genuinely interested in you,” replied Maria.

“Oh, really? Well then, please explain to me about him seeing Tess,” said Liz easily, taking a long sip of her sangria and eating her maraschino cherry.

“I didn’t say I had all the answers, Liz. But tomorrow night, I’ll let you know if there is anything going on between them. I’ll be able to tell if the interest is mutual between them, or if it is all on Tess’ part, like I’m inclined to believe,” stated Maria, sitting back in the lounge chair and leaning against Michael.

Liz huffed and tried to change the subject. “Have you guys heard anything else about Kyle? He hasn’t been returning my phone calls.”

Maria shook her head and Michael and Alex both shrugged.

Yawning, Liz stood. “I’m really beat, guys. If you don’t mind, I’m just going to head home. Alex, you can stay if you like. I live basically around the corner and down the street. You have a key, so you can just come on in. I’ll leave everything you’ll need on the couch.”

Alex nodded and Liz left.

Once she was out of earshot, Maria leaned forward conspiratorily. “So, tell me the truth. Is this Max guy really all that?”

***
“Max, don’t,” whispered Liz plaintively as Max brought his hand up to cup her face.

But he didn’t listen and he instead pulled her mouth to his for another breathless kiss. Liz felt herself falling, falling helplessly. She couldn’t fight the pull of him. He was irresistible. But this was all wrong. As she looked around, she found herself standing in the middle of her parent’s café. Max picked her up and placed her on the countertop, still kissing her as though the café wasn’t full of people.

As Liz tried to open her heavy eyelids, she saw that the café was empty. She and Max were the only people in it. And she was dressed in her old Crashdown uniform. Well, she was almost dressed in it. Max was steadily kissing his way down to the swell of her breasts and his tongue darted in and out of his mouth, tasting her as his hands moved to unbutton her uniform.

“Max,” Liz whimpered softly as Max dragged his lips from her chest to her lips once again, sending a shiver of delicious pleasure coursing through her.

When he pulled back to look at her, he said seductively, “There is something between us, Liz. Admit it.”

Liz groaned as his hands traveled all over her body and then he fitted himself in between her legs, which he grabbed and locked behind his waist. The movement made her skirt pop open even further and soon it was hanging open completely. Liz felt herself falling into an abyss of pure erotic pleasure when Max began to kiss and suckle the skin that was exposed. Her breathing was coming in ragged puffs and she moaned involuntarily when his hand brushed over her breast.

Sensing the pleasure in her reaction, Max began methodically stroking her breast and when he grew tired of that, he reached behind her and unbuttoned the clasp. They both gasped with relief when he finally cupped the soft globe in his hand and then brought his lips to it. Liz threw her head back wantonly as his tongue traveled over the erect nipple, sucking it and sending spasms of delight through his aroused captive.

Feeling his arousal straining in his pants, Liz pushed herself against him, the wetness in her panties coming into contact with the roughness of his jeans. Max groaned and pulled back slightly. With a steely glint in his eye, he leaned forward and took her breast into his mouth, keeping his gaze locked with hers, and then slipping his finger inside her panties.

When his rough finger came into contact with her smooth lower lips, Liz let out a cry of abandonment and pushed herself even further against him. “Max! Don’t stop! Please don’t stop,” she gasped out, bucking against his finger wildly as he rhythmically stroked her. Liz could feel every bit of her body’s life force pooling underneath his touch and she strained to release what had built up inside of her.

When his finger slipped inside her, she gasped at the contact and then began moving with him, meeting each thrust of his finger avidly. Her head thrown back, her lips parted seductively and Max leaned her back on the table, bending down to kiss the place where his hands were working their magic.

Suddenly, there was a loud bang and Liz found herself falling into the same black abyss that she remembered from all of her other dreams. But this time, instead of waking up, she found herself on the floor of the busy café, with people screaming in terror. There was a commotion, and then there was complete silence. Finally someone spoke.

“Liz! Liz! Can you hear me honey?” called a voice too far away for Liz to discern who was speaking.

“She’s going into shock. We need to get her to a hospital immediately,” said another voice.

“Omigod Liz!! Liz!!” shrieked another voice, that most certainly had to belong to Maria.

Liz tried to sit up and winced as she felt a dull pain in her back. And she couldn’t move her legs. The pain was starting to become unbearable now. She tried to speak and her mouth felt like it was filled with cotton. She couldn’t move her lips, much less speak.

“Max?” she struggled to say, but no sound came out. “Max??! Max!”

“MAX!!!” Liz woke with his name on her lips. She was shaking all over in an uncontrollable fright. She fought to calm her breathing, which had spun erratically out of control. Even more unsettling to her was that she still felt aroused.

“Liz! Are you alright?!” Alex had come flying into her bedroom when he heard Liz cry out.

Liz tried to swallow to get control of herself. Feeling embarrassed at her body’s other reaction to her dream, she shook her head quickly. “I’m fine. I just … had a really bad dream… about when I was shot.”

Alex nodded apologetically and then turned to give her some space. They had been here before. Liz would be alright. Normally she just wanted to be left alone when she had nightmares of this nature.

Liz watched Alex leave and then shuddered. What she hadn’t told him was that she was more bothered by the part before the gunshot than the part afterwards. That and the fact that she hadn’t had a dream or nightmare about her shooting in over eight years.

How had she managed to connect Max and her shooting in her mind?


posted on 26-Mar-2002 5:56:11 PM by Behrable dream
Hey everyone!!

I love the feedback I am getting!!

And no, I cannot answer all of the questions directly, but that psychological analysis that one of you gave is just superb and very intriguiging!!

I cannot tell you all everything, but more details will become apparent in this next chapter that I will probably post tomorrow.

I am just fine tuning it... I have written a few ahead, but to make sure that the story flows cohesively, I like to get ahead of myself... I triple check my storylines to make sure there are no plotholes or inconsistencies...

And many of you have wonderful insight, let me just say that... either that or I am not as subtle as I wish I was... lol!!

Anyway, thanks for the feedback and I will be back tomorrow with another part...!!

-Behrable dream
posted on 26-Mar-2002 6:06:34 PM by Behrable dream
quote:
Cookie2697 originally wrote:
That was a really interuiging ending there! Wow... IS this AU at all connected to the show? Or is it just by chance that Liz would mentally connect Max to the shooting. And I know you're not planning on telling, but I have to say it anyway to let you know that I'm thinking it: IS he an alien?


I wish I could answer all of your questions, but alas...

But I can answer one of them... This AU is connected to the show, somewhat... *happy*

posted on 27-Mar-2002 2:40:27 PM by Behrable dream
quote:
Wayliz originally wrote:
*happy**happy* Love this story *happy**happy*

I'm like everybody else. I can't wait to find out why Max and Liz are so connected and why Max was in her dream. *bounce*

Poor Liz. She got shot and this time she didn't have MAx around to heal her :(. Is Max gonna see her scar and find out about what happened ? Will he continue to think that Alex is her boyfriend???

I'm thinking Max is gonna lose it when he sees Liz in that dress *big*

Can't wait for more!!*bounce*


Max already knows she was shot... Liz told him when Michael came over to help her unpack the boxes and Max was still there...

I think that happened in chapter 2 or 3...

:-)

Will be posting the new chapter shortly...

posted on 27-Mar-2002 4:59:41 PM by Behrable dream
Here ya go... new part that I promised!!

It should answer some questions and create new ones...

Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.


Chapter Seven

“Morning,” said Liz as she passed by Alex on the way to the coffee maker.

“Good morning,” he said, looking at her searchingly. “Did you sleep better … after?”

Liz made a face. “I did.”

“It’s been a while since you’ve had one, hasn’t it?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she replied, taking a sip of her very strong, black coffee. She only flavored it with a hazelnut syrup that she fancied.

“Any idea - “ started Alex.

“No,” replied Liz quickly, cutting him off. It was obvious that she didn’t really want to talk about it.

“You know Liz,” he said, taking a bite of a croissant, “you never did see a therapist about that.”

“What are you talking about? I spent a year in therapy!” she exclaimed.

“Physical therapy, Liz. You never saw anyone about the stress you were under, and the fear,” said Alex quietly, trying not to anger her.

Liz sighed. She had been through this enough times with her parents. “It isn’t a big deal, Alex. I got shot; they never caught who shot me. I got through it.”

Alex didn’t want to press the issue further, but he felt he had to. Liz got through it with the help of one very important person. A person who turned out to betray her in the worst way. Treading carefully, he pressed on. “With Sean’s help.”

Liz snapped her head up and looked at him accusingly. “That means absolutely nothing now, Alex. Why would you even bring him up?”

“Because I know how instrumental he was in helping you get over the shooting, Liz,” said Alex as non-threateningly as he could.

“So?” sighed Liz.

“So, the shooting brought you two together. You drew your strength from him. And now he’s gone.”

“I know that,” snapped Liz. “He’s been gone for over a year, Alex. If the two were related, wouldn’t I have had these dreams back then?”

Alex shrugged. Liz just looked at him and then said curtly, “I’m going for a walk.”

Watching her storm off, Alex took a deep breath. He knew this had to be difficult for her. But she never dealt with her emotions then and she wasn’t dealing with her emotions about it now. Repressing her feelings wasn’t going to get her anywhere.

Liz ran toward the beach, fighting back tears. Who in the hell did he think he was? she thought miserably. Your friend, responded a small voice in the back of her mind.

She was so tired of rehashing those issues with Sean. She really didn’t know what to think about it. Alex made it sound like she was suffering from some weird sort of post-traumatic stress. Liz huffed. None of this made sense.

But then again, this thing with Max didn’t make sense either. She couldn’t understand why she felt so comfortable with him. She had only just met him and that terrified her. The last time she felt comfortable with someone that way, he betrayed her. And she had known and been with Sean for such a long time. If she didn’t know Sean was capable of such things in that short amount of time, how would she know about someone she had just met?

Liz’s mind had already formulated an answer. She wouldn’t.

The problem was, her heart and soul seemed to be in direct contradiction with her mind.

***
Max sputtered a bit as the salty water went up his nose. He simply couldn’t concentrate. His mind was completely focused on Liz. She had a boyfriend. He couldn’t believe he had never thought to ask her that. He felt like a total and complete idiot.

He had never been so jealous in his entire life. When he first saw her, everything in his world shifted and it seemed to settle on the inevitability that they would eventually come together. Of course in his mind, he knew that it wasn’t that simple. There were things about him that Liz didn’t know and he wasn’t completely sure that he could or even should share them with her. He wanted to, but her life seemed to be complicated enough without adding to it.

But now that he knew she had a boyfriend, all of that was shot to hell anyway. Liz didn’t seem like the type to be casually involved with anyone. The disappointment that Max felt over this was profound. Trying to quiet the gnawing feeling in the pit of his stomach, he decided to leave the water and jog back to his new condo.

As he emerged, soaking wet from the water, he tried to shake off the excess water from himself. He was wearing a sleeveless wetsuit, because it was a cool morning. He hoped it wouldn’t hem him in too much as he ran.

As he got closer to the area where his condo was, he saw a lone figure walking aimlessly along the shoreline. It was a dark-haired woman and for a moment he wished it was Liz. Then he remembered that she had a boyfriend and he wished fervently that it wasn’t her.

Too late. It was Liz. What was she doing all the way down here? They were miles from where she lived.

He slowed to a walk as he noticed how distraught she looked. She looked desolate and vulnerable. Max remembered when he had seen the movie Philadelphia. He had been struck by one scene in particular. It was after Tom Hanks’ character had left Denzel Washington’s character’s law office. After the latter had refused to represent the former in court. Max had never seen such a look of utter hopelessness and devastation. It was as if he had realized that the world as he knew it was completely against him.

Liz was wearing almost the exact same look.

He didn’t want to disturb her, but he actually had no choice in the matter. She seemed to know he was there.

Not even looking at him, she spoke. “What are you doing out here, Max?”

“I could ask you the same thing, Liz. You live almost five miles that way,” he answered, pointing behind him.

Looking up, Liz seemed to take notice of her surroundings for the first time. She laughed ruefully and then grew quiet.

“Is there something wrong, Liz?” asked Max sincerely.

Liz didn’t say anything. She merely stared out at the crashing waves, wishing she could drown her sorrows in them.

Max sighed and offered yet another apology. “Liz, I never should have - “

“I know,” she said softly. Her voice held no ill-will toward him. “And for the record, Alex isn’t my boyfriend.”

Max felt his heart soar and almost lift him off the ground. “He isn’t?”

“No. Alex is a friend. A really, really good friend. I’ve known him since I was - well as long as I can remember,” she continued, still staring out at the waves.

She turned to him and he could see her face more clearly now. She had been crying.

“Can I help?” he asked tenderly, wanting to help her through whatever had her so upset.

“I had a nightmare about my shooting,” said Liz. Somehow, it felt easier to talk to him about this than to her friends. Max knew nothing of her past and she didn’t have to talk about Sean if she didn’t want to. All of her friends connected the shooting and Sean together. In their minds the two were inseparable.

Max sucked in a breath at her words. Then he glanced at her and noticed that she was shivering. Violently. “Are you cold?” he asked, wanting to wrap her in his arms if that would help stop the shaking fit she seemed to be immersed in.

“No - I … Actually, I am. I should get home,” she said and started back up the beach. Max put out an arm to stop her.

“Wait. I live right up there. I can get you a jacket or something,” he offered.

Liz’s head spun. He lived where? “Since when did you live around here?”

“Just earlier this week. I just bought it. Got a great deal on it too. I got tired of living in that hotel and since I had income coming in from your rental of my old place, it wasn’t beyond my means,” he explained.

Liz smirked slightly and then nodded. “Oh.” Then she hugged herself and motioned up toward the homes he pointed to earlier. “About that jacket - “

Max placed his hand at the small of her back and led her up to his condo. Liz was actually too weary and spent to protest the familiar gesture. Plus she drew a measure of comfort from it. Once they reached a large wraparound deck and patio, Max turned and walked up the stairs leading to it. He opened the door to the condo and let Liz walk in.

It was a stunning place. Or, it would be once all of the furniture got there. Right now, the place was rather empty. But the wall to wall windows and marble floors definitely made this place look like it was out of some fantastic home décor magazine. Liz itched with the desire to run rampant through the condo and look in every room. She looked around in wonder and finally commented on it. “It’s amazing Max.”

“I’m glad you like it. You’re actually my first visitor. I apologize for the mess,” he said apologetically. “But look around if you like.”

While Max went to retrieve his jacket for her, Liz decided to take him up on his offer to look around. But she had only made her way into the commercial grade kitchen when he returned. “Thanks,” she said when he gave her the jacket and handed her a cup of hot tea.

“You’re welcome,” he replied and then gave her a quick once over. Her shaking had subsided slightly, but she still looked worse for wear. “I don’t suppose you want to talk about what’s bothering you, do you?”

Liz regarded him silently for a moment and then blurted out, “I haven’t had nightmares about - the shooting - for over eight years. And I don’t know why it’s coming back up again.” She blushed faintly as she remembered the other part of her dream. She certainly didn’t know why she had dreamed about that either.

Max motioned toward the lounge chairs on the patio. Liz nodded and followed him out there. They sat in companionable silence for a while and finally he spoke. “I lost someone really important to me a long time ago,” he said, his voice low. “But I never dealt with the loss. I just tried to bury it. So, it haunted me in dreams until I allowed myself to grieve.”

Liz laughed. “You sound like a therapist.”

“My mother is a therapist,” he smirked.

“I’m sure that helped,” said Liz. She wanted to ask who he had lost, but she also didn’t want to pry. In the end, she remained silent.

Max seemed to be lost in his own thoughts. “The point is, I had to let myself grieve the loss.”

Liz nodded slowly. “I’m tired of grieving,” she said bitterly.

Max noted the bitterness in her voice and tried to think of something comforting to say. He could think of nothing, so he just reached for her hand and squeezed it. This time she didn’t jerk or pull away.

They simply sat like that for a while, until Liz finally broke the silence. “I better get back. Alex will probably have the police after me shortly.”

“Can’t have that,” said Max gamely.

“Thanks for the tea and the advice, Max. I appreciate it,” she said, looking at him in a new, more favorable light.

Max nodded. “Don’t mention it.”

***
Liz tried desperately not to think about Max all day. When the time drew near for her to get dressed for the benefit, she was trying to get herself psyched up to go.

She had honestly enjoyed being with Max earlier that day, but all of this drama bothered her. She never wanted to be ‘that woman’. You know, that woman who doesn’t care if a man is taken or not. She doesn’t care who she hurts or tramples over in the process to get her man. Liz never wanted to be that person. She never wanted anyone to ever be able to compare her to the piece of trash that Sean had cheated on her with and then left her for.

All of the little thoughts that told her that this situation was totally different, that Max and Tess weren’t engaged like she and Sean had been, that they weren’t even close to being together, that she and Max had been drawn together since the first time they laid eyes on each other, didn’t help either. In her mind, she felt like if she acquiesced to Max’s advances, she was just as bad as that other woman was.

Of course, she knew she wasn’t. She had been in a situation where a married man had been pursuing her and she was steadfast in her resolve not to see or even speak to him. That had given her a wonderful feeling of integrity, but she didn’t feel anything for that guy.

But she did feel something for Max.

Hopping into the shower, she tried to let her troubles roll off her back just as the water was. It soothed her frazzled nerves a bit and when she emerged she was both refreshed and calmed.

Soon she was dressed and ready to go and she tried to ignore the playful catcalls and whistles from Alex when he saw her. She knew she looked beautiful, but she was trying to squelch the thought that she only wanted Max’s approval.

Once they arrived at the benefit, a valet took her car and gave her a small ticket, which she placed in the beautiful jeweled purse that Maria had found to complement her ensemble.

Once they got inside, Liz gasped. It was really amazing. Someone had outfitted the huge lobby area with tent like swaths of fabric. Liz felt like she was inside a magnificent tent. A carnival or circus tent. There were magicians set up everywhere, pulling off magnificent tricks and feats of magic. She saw a troupe of gypsy style dancers in one area and there were carnival games set up everywhere. There was even a carousel.

“Come here, my dear,” said an old woman’s voice to her right. Liz turned and glanced at the old woman. She was standing in front of a fortune telling booth and she had her hand out, waiting for Liz to take it.

Liz shivered. There was something about the way the woman looked at her that unnerved her. “No thank you,” she said politely and tried to move on, but Alex looked excited.

“Oh go on, Liz. It’s harmless. She’ll just tell you about your future happy life anyway. They want us to spend money, remember?”

Liz frowned and tried to protest. The woman merely commented, “Afraid I might see something interesting about your future? You aren‘t afraid of what the future holds for you, are you my dear?”

Liz made a face and huffed, “Of course not. Lead the way.” Liz stuck her tongue out at Alex and went inside the small tent. It was covered in red, purple and pink fabric and there were chains of fake jewels strung about everywhere. Plus, it was hot and stuffy. There was a small table in the center, with two chairs set up around it. On the table was a small crystal ball. Liz laughed softly to herself when she saw it.

Suddenly everything took on a familiar feeling. It was just like Madame Vivian’s tent just outside of Roswell. Maria had dragged her and Alex there one fall to see if she and Michael would live happily ever after. Liz had gotten her fortune told for the hell of it and everything the old woman said was a farce.

She had told Liz that she would find and be with the one her heart and soul desired. She couldn’t have been more off. Sean had definitely ruined all of that.

Knowing that all of this was pure hogwash, she settled into the chair and the old woman pulled out a stack of tarot cards. She put the crystal on the floor and instead concentrated on the cards. She pulled them out and laid five of them facedown. Then she flipped them all over and fell back, gasping.

“This can’t be right,” she mumbled and picked them up again, shuffling the deck. When she repeated her steps, and flipped over the cards, Liz gasped.

They were exactly the same as before. “This is not possible,” said the other woman disbelievingly. “Can’t happen.”

Liz’s curiosity was peaked. “What can’t happen?”

The woman looked at her as though she were looking at a ghost. “You’re dead.”

“Excuse me?!?!” sputtered Liz. She knew she would have remembered something like that.

“You died, over eight years ago. It’s all right here,” said the woman, pointing at the cards.

Liz laughed nervously. “That’s ridiculous. I was shot eight years ago, but I didn’t die,” she said.

“It’s all wrong,” muttered the woman. “Everything happened all wrong.”

Liz was beginning to get scared. This was spooky. Glancing at the woman again, she decided to just pay her and leave. She probably pulled this crap on everyone; telling them some dark and mysterious fortune.

Or maybe she had gotten it right, but she was confused. She did almost die from that gunshot wound. If she had been standing just one foot to the left, and if she had been facing the men who were yelling, she would have died. The gunshot would have pierced her in her abdomen and she would be dead right now. The only thing that saved her was the noise of crashing dishes from the kitchen. She had turned to go and see what the hubbub was about when the fight broke out and the shot was fired.

Liz paid the woman and left, slightly shaken from the experience. She decided to go and watch one of the magicians perform.

As she approached the stage and glanced behind her, she saw Max and Tess walking towards the fortune telling booth. Liz laughed to herself. If Tess wanted good information about her and Max, Madame Spooky wasn’t going to give it to her, more than likely. Max hung around outside and soon enough, Tess came out of the tent, looking just as shaken as Liz had been. But there was something different in Tess’ posture now. She was honestly rattled by whatever Madame Spooky had told her.

Turning back to the magician, she saw that he had just made himself disappear. Watching Max and Tess, she wished she had that gift.

***
Max watched as Tess emerged from the tent. She didn’t look good at all. She was fidgetting nervously with her bracelet as she emerged and she was wound up.

“Don’t let her get to you. Fortune tellers just like to rattle people’s cages,” he said, trying to get her to calm down.

Tess smiled nervously at him and then said, “Let’s go and see something else. She really creeped me out.”

Max laughed and led Tess over to the magician booth. He was unprepared to see Liz standing not three yards away from him. She looked stunning. She was wearing a deep red gown that left most of her back out and it hugged her curves and fluttered about at the same time when she moved ever so slightly. Her hair was swept up in a bun and wisps of hair hung tantalizingly around her neck. His breath caught in his throat when she turned and looked at both of them.

She was beautiful. The most beautiful creature he had ever laid eyes on. He so wished that he was attending this benefit with her instead of with Tess. He wanted to go to her right now and just stare at her. She was so incredibly gorgeous.

But as she met his gaze, he frowned. She looked angry, or bothered; he couldn‘t tell which. There was something unreadable in her expression. Then he saw that she was glancing at Tess. Oh. Right. She still didn’t like it that they were hiding what they knew about those files from Tess. Sighing, he took a step forward and walked over to her.

The three of them just looked at each other, until Tess hopped in, seemingly unaware of the tension between Max and Liz. “So, Liz,” she started. “How long have you been here?”

“I just got here a short time ago,” answered Liz. “I made the mistake of going into Madame Spooky’s tent too,” she continued.

“Who?” asked Tess, but then recognition dawned on her. “Oh, you mean that kooky old fortune teller. She did freak me out.”

“Yeah. Me too. I think it’s all an act. She probably thinks we’ll all have to go back to her so she can clear up the intentionally weird and foggy things she said the first time,” laughed Liz.

Tess nodded, but Liz could still see that she was rattled.

“Lizzie!” called Alex from behind Max and Tess. “Hey… I got you something to drink,” he panted shoving a cosmopolitan in her hand. “And look who finally showed up,” he added, revealing Michael and Maria.

“Lizzie?” mouthed Max as Alex and Liz’s other friends approached. Liz ignored him and rolled her eyes, accepting the drink from Alex.

“Thanks Alex. Hi Maria, Michael,” said Liz, hugging Maria, carefully trying not to spill her drink. “Alex, Michael, you remember Max, right? And this is Tess. Maria, this is Max and Tess,” she added.

Everyone exchanged pleasantries. Maria regarded Max thoughtfully. He was a hunk, she thought to herself. Liz sure knew how to pick ‘em.

“Max,” said Alex shaking Max’s hand firmly. “And Tess, it’s nice to meet you.”

“Likewise,” said Tess, her eyes darting everywhere. She seemed more nervous now than she did before.

Michael was much more animated in his reunion with Max. “Max! The man! Liz didn’t kill you with all of that unpacking did she?”

Tess looked completely taken off her guard. When had Max been unpacking for Liz? Before Max could answer, she jumped at the chance to cut him off. “So, Liz. You never told me you had a boyfriend,” she said, winking at Liz and trying to draw everyone‘s attention to that fact.

Maria snorted. Tess was a piece of work. Liz may be fooled by her polite exterior, but Maria could tell that she was being manipulative. She was certain now that there was nothing between Max and Tess. Especially with the way Max looked at Liz. Oh yeah. There was definitely something between her friend and this mysterious dark haired stranger.

“That’s because I don’t have one,” answered Liz, slightly confused. Then she glanced at Alex and laughed. “Oh, you thought - nevermind. Alex and I are very good friends. He’s the brother I never had.”

“Oh,” said Tess, and Liz could have sworn the girl looked disappointed.

“So, you three all work together?” asked Maria, trying to test the waters a bit.

Max, Liz and Tess all nodded. “Liz and I are sort of partners for the time being. Max here paired us up. He says we are the best he’s got,” she laughed playfully, placing her hand on Max’s arm flirtatiously, not noticing the way Max stiffened.

But Maria noticed.

Michael saw it too and decided he needed to get away from all of this tension. Plus, he knew Maria was deliberately fishing for information about Tess and Max. He knew it would drive him crazy, so he could only imagine what Max must be feeling about it.

He must be feeling like a fish in a fishbowl. Under intense scrutiny.

But before he had a chance to do anything, Max cleared his throat. This had gone on long enough. He needed to talk to Tess and set some things straight. He could feel her clamping down on him and he wanted to let her know how things really stood. “Tess, why don‘t we go and see the rest of the carnival?”

He looked at everyone else and started to turn Tess away from them. He tried not to look at Liz, because he didn’t want to see her not paying attention to him. But as he glanced at her briefly and saw the crestfallen expression there before Liz covered it up, he felt a pang of remorse for hurting her, even though he hadn‘t meant to. Hopefully, Liz wouldn’t shut him out later.

Tess nodded happily as Max led her away and Liz couldn’t help feeling a pang of immense jealousy. So Max wanted to be alone with Tess. That had little to do with her anyway. As she watched them walk away, with Tess trying to get as close to Max as possible, she tried not to let it get to her too much. But Alex had already seen her reaction.

“That really bothers you, doesn’t it?” he asked her.

“Nope,” she lied.

“It doesn’t matter anyway,” said Maria. “He is completely taken with you. Trust me.”

“That isn’t what it looked like to me,” spat Liz.

“Wow, you really are jealous,” said Maria in wonderment.

Liz huffed and then realized the truth. Maria was right. She was jealous. And she hated it.

***
Liz decided to get away from the hubbub of people at the reception. The carnival cocktail hour was long gone and they had opened up the main ballroom for dinner and dancing. She had told Alex that she would be right back, but now, looking at the beautiful architecture of the old theatre hall, she decided to go on a little tour.

Wrapping herself in the chiffon wrap she had, she slipped down the hall and stopped when she saw an elevator that led to the roof. Wondering just how beautiful the city must look from this height, she decided to get on. She pressed the button and waited for the bell to ring.

She didn’t notice Max come to stand behind her and when the door opened, she walked in and gasped to find herself alone. In an elevator. With Max. “What are you doing here, Max? Shouldn’t you be with Tess?”

“We need to talk Liz. I know you are angry - “ Max began, but Liz cut him off.

“I beg your pardon? I am not angry,” said Liz pressing the button for the roof over and over again.

Max crossed in front of her and pressed the emergency stop button. “Liz, I know you are confused by everything that is going on. Frankly so am I. I do think Tess is innocent. But you have to appreciate the gravity of the situation.”

Liz ignored him and pushed the button to get the elevator going again. Max repressed it. “What do you think you’re doing?” she asked angrily.

“I’m trying to talk to you Liz,” he said honestly as Liz pressed the button again.

Suddenly the elevator lurched and Liz and Max were thrown together as it fell. Liz clutched Max fearfully as she felt the ground give way beneath her and they both fell to the floor. Finally the elevator came to a sudden halt and Max fell over on top of Liz, who was breathing erratically. The lights shut off and they were plunged into darkness.

“Are you alright?” he asked, trying to help her to her feet as the dim red emergency lights flickered on.

“I think so,” she said nervously. Liz was fine about the elevator. What she was having trouble with was the fact that his hand was resting at the base of her back and his other hand was caressing her cheek, almost lovingly.

“I didn’t hurt you when we fell did I?” he asked, concerned. “What about your back?”

“Max, really. I’m okay. I really am,” answered Liz, touched at the way his concern for her shone through.

Max sighed and rested his head against her forehead, still looking at her intently.

Liz pulled away from him and decided to try the emergency phone. She pulled it off its hook and held it to her ear. Nothing. The line was dead. Frustrated, she hung the phone up and started to pace across the short distance of the elevator. Realizing that the best thing to do here would be to just wait it out, she decided to just continue their earlier conversation.

“Why can’t you just tell Tess the truth about this Max. Isn’t honesty always best?” she asked.

“I don’t know Liz. Is it? I was honest with Tess about my feelings for you. But you aren’t being honest with me about this thing between us,” he said softly, his eyes beginning to give off a sultry heat that was making Liz dizzy with anticipation.

Thoughts of her dream last night ran through her mind and she felt herself getting aroused. Blushing, she looked down. “W-what thing between us?” she managed to say, shocked that he had told Tess about his feelings for her.

“This,” he said and attacked her mouth with his own.

Liz’s protest was swallowed up by Max’s onslaught of her mouth with his. Weakening in her resolve to not get caught up in him, Liz softened and her knees went weak. Feeling her wobble beneath him, Max pulled her up against him, continuing to kiss her passionately.

Loving the feel of him and forgetting all about her protestations about Tess, Liz whipped her tongue out and flicked it across his mouth, demanding entrance. Max easily complied, his own tongue darting out and dueling with hers fiercely.

Liz shivered as he ran his fingers over her back, squeezing and caressing her skin lightly. “You look so … incredible … in red,” he said thickly, in between kisses. “I’ve been wanting to do this to you all night.”

“Oh,” breathed Liz, her mouth parting in delight when Max lowered his head and began kissing down her neck slowly. He wanted to rip the gown off of her and make love to her right there, but he held himself in check. He didn’t want to completely scare her off, but she felt so right in his arms. He was more aroused by kissing her than he would be if fifty women paraded in front of him naked.

“Really,” stated Max firmly as he returned his kisses to her face. “God, Liz. You are so beautiful. Do you have any idea how much I have dreamed about this?”

Liz blushed as she remembered her dream. But being here with Max was so much better. Finally she was going to give in to him, and she hadn’t felt this free in a long time. Her fingers curled in his hair and he moaned appreciatively.

Tired of his jacket impeding her hands’ progress over his chest, she tugged on it and Max quickly removed it and threw it on the floor beside them. When her hands tugged on his tie, he snatched his lips from hers and practically ripped it off. Then he captured her lips with his again and slowly sucked on her bottom lip before pulling away completely.

Liz moaned and tried to follow, but Max hung back, unbuttoning his shirt. Liz stood back and watched him, thinking that she must be crazy and what was she doing? That thought soon disappeared though, when she saw his tanned and chiseled chest emerge from his shirt. Unable to stop herself, she flung herself at him and dragged her hands over his chest in silent wonder.

Max shook slightly beneath her questing touch and he began to caress her shoulders and back, massaging them lightly. When Liz looked up at him with big, searching brown eyes, he shuddered and pulled her up against him again, covering her mouth with his.

Liz made a gutteral sound and tried to push herself against him. Max tried to rest his legs between hers, but her dress was too slim to get her legs around him. Slowly, his hands traveled up her back to the clasp behind her neck. He undid it and the straps fell slightly, exposing her shoulders. Max moved back slightly and the dress fell completely around her waist, exposing her creamy breasts to him.

Smiling appreciatively, Max leaned down and captured one of the silky globes with his mouth, dragging his tongue around her erect nipple over and over again, until Liz was shaking in his arms and writhing beneath him. “Max,” she gasped his name, feeling her body’s arousal reach a fever pitch.

But she was completely unprepared for Max dragging the zipper of her gown down slightly and reaching inside to cup her hips with his hands to pull her more firmly against him. She wanted to stop him now, because she didn’t want him to see her scar from her shooting, but everything he did to her felt so amazing, that she couldn’t think. She twisted slightly and tried to pull his hands away from her body, trying to keep him from seeing her scar, but she needn’t have bothered. He was too busy kissing her to look at the area his hands were caressing.

He ground his erection out against her and Liz let out a small cry of heady desire. Her head thrown back against the elevator wall, she reached behind her and grasped the rail bar, trying to steady herself.

Max pulled her lower body even closer to his and they began a slow, rhythmic dance together. Just like in her dream, Liz felt all of her body’s energy flowing to that single area of contact between her and Max.

But suddenly, Max slipped his finger into the back of her panties and reached for her heat. When he dragged it against her, Liz let out a cry of pure pleasure and arched her back against him.

“Max, please,” she gasped and Max smiled sensually.

“Max please stop, or Max please don’t stop?” he teased, rubbing her sensitive lips after Liz parted her legs for him to get better access.

“Please … “ she gasped unevenly. “Don’t stop.”

“Your wish,” he started, but he was interrupted by the elevator taking another sudden lurch.

But instead of stopping his sweet torture on Liz, he quickened his pace and dipped his head to capture her breast in his mouth. His tongue was like a fiery whip that lashed against her breasts setting them, and Liz on fire. His finger was causing the most erotic sensations to overcome her and Liz felt her mind begin to cloud over. Her center began to throb with a joyful pain that she knew only Max could quench.

“Oh… oh God! Oh … oh…” gasped Liz, clinging to Max and bucking against his hand wildly as the elevator still dropped, seemingly as out of control as she felt.

When Max finally took her wet heat and rubbed it against her sensitive nub, Liz convulsed. When the elevator lurched to a sudden halt, she felt her body shatter into a million pieces and the most intense orgasm she had ever experienced broke in waves over her body.

“Uuuuhhnnnnhnnhh,” she ground out against Max as a shockwave of intense pleasure washed over her and she cried his name. “Max… oh Max,” she gasped, licking her lips.

Then both of them fell to the floor in a heap as the elevator plummeted even further, finally coming to a jarring stop. Max’s hand was still stroking her and Liz gasped as she felt another all-consuming orgasm start deep within her. She threw her head back in wanton abandonment as Max moved up and covered her mouth with his own, stifling the scream that started deep within her.

Finally, he simply held her as her body shivered and shuddered with the aftereffects of the orgasms he brought her to.


posted on 29-Mar-2002 1:11:56 PM by Behrable dream
Um... Okay... Please please please don't hate me for this chapter... I promise I am a huge dreamer!! There IS a method to my madness and that will become clear to you as these chapters progress...

And I can answer some questions... No this story is not someone's dream or an afterlife... But it is related to Liz's past...

Liz is suffering from some sort of PTS disorder... My little in-house shrink is really hitting some nails on the head!!

I know as a dreamer I have always wondered what it would have been like for Liz had she never met Max as a teenager. Would her life be better, or worse?

And we all know both of them think about what their lives would have been like had he never saved her that day in the Crashdown...

And that's all I can say without being too bold... The alien thing... well, you'll still have to wait and see...

I ain't sayin nuthin... *happy*




Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.


Chapter Eight

“Wow,” gasped Liz unevenly when her body finally calmed down. Then reality hit her and she sat up, covering herself, ashamed of what just happened.

“Oh God,” she said quietly, frantically trying to reattach her gown over her shoulders. “Oh God oh God. What was I thinking? And in an elevator!”

Max immediately tried to soothe her fears. “Liz,” he began.

Liz’s shoulders shook as she tried to fight back the tears. “I never should have let this happen.”

Max tried to placate her. “Liz, don’t run from this. From us.”

Liz felt her head go off in every direction. She couldn’t figure out how she had let this happen. She remembered the elevator falling and her fear and his concern. She had been worried about her back and he was worried as well. Why didn’t she stop him? “Why didn’t I stop you?” she asked, her voice a plaintive whisper.

“Because you wanted that Liz,” answered Max directly. He wasn’t going to let her run from this. “You needed that.”

“No. I knew I wasn’t ready for this. And I have been telling you to stop and you wouldn’t. You just keep coming after me. You knew I was vulnerable tonight Max,” spat Liz disgustedly.

Max knew she was referring to their talk on the beach that morning and also the first drop of the elevator. He closed his eyes momentarily. Perhaps he had taken advantage of her situation. But he hadn’t meant to. “Liz, I - “

“How many times do I have to ask you to back off, Max? I told you I couldn’t do this! I told you! Why won’t you listen! And even if I had been ready, I wouldn’t have done it in an elevator! God!” she said harshly, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Liz. I never meant to take advantage of you. I - I just feel things when I am around you. Things that make me want to love you,” he said somberly.

“It’s not safe to love me, Max,” said Liz, a single tear running down her cheek.

“I don’t care,” said Max, brushing the tear away with his thumb. “Plus, I don’t believe that you think that. I think you believe it’s dangerous to love me.”

Liz blinked. He was right. That’s what this was all about. She was afraid of being hurt. That was why she had shut men out of her life. That was why she was fighting her feelings for Max. But she still wasn’t ready. She didn’t know if she would ever be ready. And that was why it would be dangerous for Max to love her. “Max … there‘s so much you don‘t know,” she sighed.

“Who was he, Liz? Who hurt you so badly that you’ve closed yourself off like this? That you can’t allow yourself to even enjoy the glow of what we just did? I loved making you feel that way. And I want to do it as many times as I have to until you realize that you deserve to feel that way,” said Max, kissing her hands softly.

“Is that the truth, Max? Is it really the truth? Then please, back off,” she said, her voice breaking. “Please back off.”

Finally the tears started to fall and Max pulled her into his arms. She shook slightly and finally, after her tears subsided, she slumped in his embrace. He rubbed her hair soothingly and kissed her forehead over and over again.

“Okay. Okay, shhhh… I’ll do whatever you want me to do, Lizzie,” whispered Max, using the moniker that he had heard Alex use earlier. “Whatever you want.”

***
Finally, the elevator doors opened and dumped Liz and Max out on an unknown floor. As the reception was happening on the floor just below the roof, they both stepped out and looked at each other uncertainly.

“What are we going to say to people Max?” asked Liz, uncertainly. “I don’t want people to know what we were doing in that elevator.”

“That bothers you doesn’t it? That this happened in an elevator?” asked Max, turning to look at her.

Liz swallowed and nodded slowly. “I - I just wish that an experience like that hadn’t happened in a place like that.”

Max said nothing as he pulled her to him. He never meant her to feel this way about it. To be honest, he wasn’t thinking clearly. He was somewhat blinded by his all-consuming desire for her. But he vowed to himself that he would never put her in that position again. He was going to show her much more respect than that. “I promise it won’t happen again like that, Liz.”

Liz nodded and buried her face in his jacket. “I’m going to go and freshen up a bit. I probably look like a wreck. We should probably tell someone about that elevator so no one else gets trapped in there.”

Max laughed softly and released her. “I’ll take care of it.”

***
By the time they reached the reception, everyone was talking about how the power had gone out. Most of the guests had left, and Alex, Maria and Michael rushed up to Liz when she came into the room.

“Where were you? I’ve been looking all over for you!” exclaimed Alex worriedly. Maria glanced over at Max, who had just appeared at the doorway. She saw him glance at Liz longingly and then she knew.

“Oh, hush Alex. I’m sure Liz has an explanation. Don’t you Liz?” she asked.

Liz tried not to blush. “Actually I was stuck in the elevator when the power went out. It actually fell a couple of times with me and Max in it. We were stuck in there for almost an hour.” She hoped that everyone would simply gloss over the part about Max.

“Max? You were stuck in an elevator with Max?” asked Maria.

No such luck, thought Liz wryly. “Yes, Maria. I was going up to see the roof and he followed. Now, if you will excuse me, I’m tired. I want to go home. Alex, are you coming?”

Alex shook his head, glancing in Max’s direction. “No, you go ahead. I have something to do here. I’ll be there later. Get some sleep.”

Liz nodded and hugged her friends before wrapping herself in her chiffon scarf and walking toward the stairs.

“Liz,” called an irritated voice behind her.

Liz turned to find Tess hurrying after her. “If you had just told me about you and Max, you would have saved us all a lot of trouble.”

Liz was confused. “I - I didn’t want - “

“Didn‘t I tell you that we were together?” asked Tess, drawing a small crowd.

“But I never - ” began Liz beseechingly, her patience with the other woman fading fast.

“Oh really? I thought we were friends Liz! I told you that stuff about Max in confidence and you used it against me!” shot back Tess.

“Tess, Max has claimed from the first day at work that you and he weren‘t involved,” said Liz as calmly as she could considering the attention they were drawing to themselves.

Tess looked like she had been slapped. “Well maybe not yet! But now we won’t be! And all because you just wouldn’t leave him alone!”

“I never - ” started Liz.

“I thought you were my friend, Liz. I trusted you!” spat Tess angrily.

“Tess, if you would just look at the reality of the situation,” pleaded Liz anxiously.

“Is everything alright, here ladies?”

Both women turned. It was Nikolas Knox. Liz closed her eyes and bit her lip as she became aware of all of the people who had gathered to see this little debacle. “Mr. Knox. Um, everything - everything is fine. We’ve just had a misunderstanding,” said Liz.

Tess folded her arms. “Yeah. A misunderstanding. Right,” she said and walked away in the direction that Max was last seen.

On the other side of the room, Max was under a similar assault.

“I asked you a question, Max,” asked Alex. “What exactly are your intentions toward Liz?”

“I don’t believe that’s totally your business, Alex, but I don’t have any malicious intent where Liz is concerned,” answered Max.

“I just need to know that you won’t hurt her,” said Alex.

“I don’t plan to,” replied Max.

“That is really not a good enough answer Max,” stated Alex.

“Uh, guys, I need to interrupt,” interjected Maria, turning to stare at Max. “Your girlfriend is harassing Liz.”

“How many times do I have to say that Tess isn’t my girlfriend?” said Max as he followed Maria.

Maria, Alex and Max both hurried over to where Liz had been last and where the crowd of people had been. But the only person there was Liz, who was staring out the window forlornly.

“What happened?” Max asked, moving toward her and not noticing the way Maria’s eyebrows shot up as she watched him take control of the situation involving Liz.

That was actually a good sign. Max seemed completely interested in her well-being.

Somewhere behind them, a balloon popped loudly and Liz instinctively grabbed her back and began checking herself, almost as if she had been shot. She let out a short cry and looked around frantically. Her breathing grew shallow and she started to pant uncontrollably.

“Tess happened,” she spat bitterly, still not understanding the other girl’s anger. It would be one thing if she and Max were an established item, or even if she had had more than one date with him, but to be angry over this… when Max had been after her since his first dinner with Tess… And that dinner hadn’t even been a real date … what gall, she thought, still shaking horribly.

Alex saw her frenzied reaction and bit down on his lip. He wanted to punch Max Evans out for this, because he knew this had something to do with him. He wondered if Liz’s reaction to his kiss was similar to her reaction to loud noises. He glanced at her worriedly. She hadn’t been this sensitive to loud noises since the year following her shooting.

Max’s eyes narrowed and he approached slowly. She was shaking just like she had been earlier at the beach today. He was slightly disturbed to realize that she had had the same reaction when he had first kissed her, although he believed that had been because of the laptop falling. “Liz,” he said gently. “Could you tell me what happened?”

Liz started shaking even more forcibly before she forced out her response. “She accused me of coming between you two.”

Max swore under his breath. Was Tess delusional? Technically, they had never been on a date. That dinner at the salsa bar was not a date, just a friendly meeting, and he had made it clear earlier tonight that he just wanted to be friends and that he had feelings for someone else. Tess had guessed that the someone else was Liz. He never even had to tell her. And she had seemed fine about it. So he had never expected her to verbally attack Liz over him.

“You’re making her worse, Max,” spat Alex, moving to comfort Liz.

“Alex!” protested Maria.

“No, maybe he’s right Maria.” Turning to Alex, Max continued, “Maybe you should get Liz home, Alex,” said Max, glancing at Liz’s broken posture. He couldn’t help but feel guilty about what was happening. Tess was acting completely out of line, and it was over him. And Liz was in no way pursuing him. She actually spent most of her time running away from him.

He wondered if she would ever allow him to get close to her again after all of this drama. First him in the elevator, then Tess, and then her reaction to that balloon popping. She must be completely overwhelmed.

Alex nodded and wrapped Liz up in his jacket, leading her downstairs. As soon as they were gone, Maria folded her arms and looked at Max. “Were you and Tess really dating?” she asked.

“No. We met for dinner once, but she asked me and it was supposed to be platonic. So was tonight. I made that clear to her. I even told her about my feelings for someone else. She guessed on her own that it was Liz,” he answered.

“Well, someone stopped payment on her reality check! Apparently she didn’t believe you when you told her there was nothing between you two,” said Maria, disgusted.

“I honestly don’t know where Tess got the idea that we were an item. I knew she was trying to pursue me, but nothing ever happened between us. As far as I am concerned, she’s a friend and that is all she ever was. Once I met Liz, I couldn’t concentrate on Tess to save my life,” said Max ruefully.

So Alex had been correct in his assessment. Tess was purposefully trying to trick Liz to keep her away from Max. But she obviously hadn’t counted on Max being so persistent in his pursuit of Liz. Maria snorted. For once, Liz might actually get the guy, although from the looks of things, Tess never even had a chance. “Max, let me talk to you about something…”

Once Maria finished filling Max in on what happened, he suddenly realized why Liz had been so protective of Tess’ feelings where he was concerned. Tess had convinced Liz that they were romantically involved. No wonder Liz was so adamant about that. Max’s jaw clenched in anger at how manipulative Tess had been. He had never known her to be that way.

He didn’t like it and his trust in her was waning significantly. Perhaps she was capable of stealing those files afterall.


posted on 3-Apr-2002 11:43:15 AM by Behrable dream
Thanks for the great feedback... I love a good mystery, don't you guys??? The stakes start to rise in this story, starting now...

I hope you like this next part... As usual, it answers a few questions, but opens up more... *happy*

-Behrable dream


Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.


Chapter Nine

A man with slightly thinning hair, sat at a table in a darkened room. As usual, he couldn’t remember how he had gotten there. He glanced at the half-empty glass next to him and groaned as he sniffed it. This couldn’t be happening again. He had cleaned himself up a long time ago, gotten his life together.

And now, everything was going to fall apart. It always did whenever Rick came back. The man glanced around the room nervously. He glanced at the plaid shirt and the rugged boots and jeans. He looked at the porn magazines strewn about the room and he knew that his life would never be the same.

Finally, a harsh and gravelly voice spoke. “Aren’t you gonna welcome me back?”

“Are you kidding? Go away, Rick!” Now the man knew how he must have gotten here. Rick practically dragged him.

“Not on your life, you idiot. I’m back for good this time!” snorted Rick, taking a swig of liquor from the glass on the table and walking into the bathroom.

The other man groaned and buried his face in his hands, wondering how he was going to get rid of Rick this time.

***
“May I come in?” asked Max as Alex held the door open uncertainly.

Alex moved to the side so Max could come in. “Liz is asleep, so you can’t talk to her, but we didn’t finish our other conversation anyway.”

Max moved smoothly past Alex to sit on the couch. “I just wanted to make sure Liz was alright.”

“She’s fine. I’m glad she left when she did. Your friend Tess is quite a piece of work,” said Alex.

Max nodded. “I made it clear to Tess earlier tonight that there would be nothing between us. She acted fine about it to me, but obviously she wasn’t.” Max rubbed his face tiredly. “But she never should have attacked Liz.”

Alex got a pondering look on his face. “I need to ask you a question, Max.”

“Shoot,” prompted Max, bracing himself.

“When you and Liz got … close the other day … she had a reaction to you, didn’t she? She had a shaking fit?” asked Alex, slightly uncomfortable.

Relieved that Alex’s question was more innocent than he originally thought, Max exhaled. “She did, but my laptop had fallen and it made a banging noise.”

“I see,” said Alex thoughtfully.

“Do you have a theory as to why Liz is reacting to her shooting again in this way?” asked Max.

Alex nodded. “I do. I think it’s post-traumatic stress syndrome. She never really dealt with the emotional fallout from her shooting. She was too concerned with learning to walk properly again.”

Max bit his lip for a moment and then looked at Alex askance. “You think I’m part of the reason behind these new attacks, don‘t you?”

Alex looked up sharply. “I never said that,” he said, beginning to pace.

“But you basically just asked me if she had a similar reaction when I first kissed her. You didn’t know that my laptop fell and startled her,” asserted Max.

Alex sighed. He didn’t have all of the answers. The ones Max wanted, he did have, but couldn’t give. Liz would have to decide if she wanted to let him in. Alex felt that it would definitely help her if she did, but he wouldn’t push her.

“Her new attacks have something to do with me, don’t they?” asked Max more directly.

Alex tried not to answer, but he realized it was futile. “I don’t think it‘s about you specifically, but you are somehow connected to this. But you are going to have to get more answers from Liz, if she is willing to give them to you.”

***
Liz tossed over for what had to be the hundredth time. She couldn’t sleep. She was so wound up. Too much had happened over the last few hours and she was rather overwhelmed. Taking a deep breath, she decided to go out and sit on her balcony.

There was a full moon, and Liz chuckled a bit when she saw how it shone over the water. It looked so … fake. As a kid, she had seen The Love Boat reruns, and the moon had always looked so unreal as it shone over the water in whatever sea the boat was in. She had expected the reality to look, well, real. How wrong she had been.

Still it was beautiful though.

Liz tucked a hair back behind her ear and sighed. Her life, seemingly so in control before she moved here, had spun unbelievably out of control. And all of it could be traced back to one man. Max.

Liz scoffed at herself. That wasn’t fair. She couldn’t pin all of this on him. Yes he was being rather relentless in his pursuit of her, but her reactions were her problem. It wasn’t his fault that she was reacting so strongly to her shooting now, although maybe Alex was right. Max may have been somehow related to her reactions, but he wasn’t responsible.

Liz realized she had to face some issues that she had buried, rather than dealt with. Sure, she had read all of the self-help and spiritual books on the subject of relationships and getting over the loss of love, but there were some things that she had pushed way down; things she had repressed. And being around Max had brought all of them up again, although she didn’t understand why she had connected him to her shooting.

On the surface, Max must seem like quite a catch to most women, but Liz just wasn’t ready for what he represented. Plus, Max had been right earlier this evening. She was afraid to love him. She was afraid it wasn’t safe to love him. And that made it unsafe for him to love her.

Love. How had she and Max started to bandy that term about? She didn’t love Max. He didn’t love her. Liz didn’t even know why she was having this discussion with herself. She had already told Max that she wasn’t ready. She had already told him to back off.

The problem was, Liz was uncertain if she really wanted him to do that.

Then again, there was Tess. Liz’s rational mind knew that Tess was being unreasonable. She had no claim at all on Max. They were not involved. But the entire situation was making her feel rather uneasy, all the same.

She had never done anything like that before in her life. It was at once exhilarating and dismaying. Max had taken her body to heights that it had never been taken to before. True, she and Sean had never made love, but they had been intimate before. Liz had felt erotic pleasure before. But she’d never felt anything close to what she felt with Max. Actually, when she thought about it, Max felt more right than Sean ever had with her.

What a frightening thought. Liz imagined that if she let Max in and he hurt her, it would be a million zillion times worse than what she went through when Sean hurt her. And Liz never wanted to get close to that kind of pain again. She knew she wouldn’t survive it a second time.

***
“Ready to go Alex?” asked Liz, looking up from her herbal tea at the morning ocean.

“Not really. It’s incredible here… I wish I could stay longer,” he said regretfully.

“Me too,” agreed Liz mournfully. “Everything is so much easier when you’re here, Alex.”

“That’s because I figure out your personal drama for you. You’ll be fine without me,” Alex said reassuringly.

“I’m not so sure,” said Liz. “I thought I had everything under control. Turns out I have no control over anything these days, not even myself.”

“Well maybe you should stop trying to control everything Liz. You know its impossible. Just take things as they come for a change,” said Alex, picking up his bags.

Liz quirked an eyebrow at him. “What things should I be taking as they come, Alex?”

“Max for one,” answered Alex, smiling cheekily.

“I thought you didn’t like Max much after last night,” said Liz, confused.

“Well… he managed to change my mind. I think he really cares about you Liz. Maybe you should give him a chance. Maybe you should be honest with him about your feelings. Let him in,” pushed Alex, gently.

“I don’t know if I can do that Alex,” said Liz. Deep down, she didn’t want to tell Max about her past. She was afraid that if he knew that her fiance had dumped her for another, that somehow he would lose interest in her. She didn’t want to invite that kind of pain into her life.

“He already knows that he is somehow related to your episodes and nightmares about your shooting, Liz. Maybe it would help if you told him about Sean, Liz,” said Alex.

“And see him run away from me since the first guy who wanted to marry me apparently wised up? I think not,” scoffed Liz.

Alex shook his head disbelievingly. He couldn’t believe she was still carrying those kinds of negative thoughts around. Sean cheated on her and then left her for someone who was obviously a skank and Liz still blamed herself. She still felt like somehow she hadn’t been good enough for Sean and that’s why he left her. “Sean was an idiot Liz. He left the crown jewels for a used up lollipop ring. You must know that, right?”

Liz felt herself tearing up. She wiped her eyes furiously. “I thought I was over this,” she said, rubbing her eyes until her skin was red.

“I know Lizzie. It’ll be okay. This is just a temporary low time. You’ll bounce back,” he said, moving to hug her. “You were way too good for Sean, you know.”

Liz smiled in spite of herself. “You think?”

“I know. I wish - well, I wish I had been the one to comfort you after the shooting … at least I could have kept Sean away from you… spared you all of this pain and heartache,” said Alex, rubbing her hair soothingly.

“Alex… that’s so sweet of you to say,” said Liz. “But I know I’m not your type,” she laughed into his shirt.

Alex pulled a slight face, unnoticed by Liz. He knew that she would never look at him that way. They were such good friends that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea anyway. Although he would do anything to keep that tearful look off of her face. “Maybe we ought to get going,” he said softly.

Liz thought about what Alex said after dropping him off at the airport. She had to admit he was probably right, but it still hurt. If she was so wonderful, then why didn’t Sean realize that? He had done nothing but convince her of her greatest fear… That any guy who got close enough would eventually realize all of her faults and flaws and then leave. Sean had done just that.

***
“Why won’t you leave me alone?” whined the man with slightly thinned hair, all of it slicked back carefully. After all of this time, he couldn’t believe that Rick was back. He thought he had gotten rid of him for good this time.

“You didn’t expect me to just sit back and do nothing, could you?” answered his nemesis scornfully.

“There’s nothing to do,” wailed the other man in a pleading tone. “If you stay away, things will work themselves out. You can just … go back to where you came from!” He wanted Rick to just leave him alone. Why couldn’t he just stay gone? His life was perfect now. Perfect. And now Rick was back, destroying everything.

Rick laughed sadistically. “You’re kidding right? After being locked up for all of this time, I am not going anywhere. I‘m finally free, and I have a debt to repay.”

The other man let out a wail of frustration. He had to do something to get rid of Rick once and for all, before he did something dangerous … again.

***
By the time Liz got back to the townhome, she was refreshed and happy. The California sun had warmed her senses and energized her. She was thinking of going out on the patio and reading a good book when she glanced at her front stoop.

Max was sitting on it.

Liz let out a frustrated breath. She didn’t need this right now. She was fresh out of resistance to him. Steeling herself, she marched right up to him and blurted out, “What part of ‘back-off’ did you not understand?”

Max had stood before she reached him and he regarded her curiously. But soon, his look of confusion gave way to understanding and he smirked. “I didn’t come by to push you Liz. I know you need space. What if we just talk? I promise I will keep my hands to myself.”

“What do we have to talk about?” asked Liz, folding her arms.

“Perhaps you could explain how I’m related to your episodes concerning the shooting,” he said.

Liz rolled her eyes. “I don’t really think that is your business, Max. Besides, my ‘episodes’, as you put it, have nothing to do with you. Not exactly.”

“Not exactly? Alex seems to think I have something to do with this,” said Max, amazed.

“What is that supposed to mean? You‘ve been discussing this with him?” asked Liz, looking at him over her shoulder as she walked into the kitchen.

“I have,” answered Max. “What is it that you don’t want me to know Liz?” he asked more tenderly. She was clearly holding out on him and he didn’t want to pry, but if he could help, he wanted to. “I want to help.”

“Then stay out of my business Max. This - I can’t deal with all of this… you, my past, Tess, my job… It’s too much,” she stated firmly.

“I know and I am sorry about what Tess did. But my advice about holding things in still stands Liz. You can’t do that for the rest of your life. Don’t you want to live?” he asked sincerely, coming to stand in front of her.

Liz sighed and tried to walk away, but something rooted her to the spot. Maybe it was the way he was looking at her so intently. Maybe it was the fact that when she stood near him, she felt safe. For some reason, safe didn’t feel so secure anymore. She didn’t know how to navigate the emotions he elicited in her. So even if one of them was a safe feeling, the rest made her feel exposed, vulnerable and frightened. “I’m breathing, aren’t I?”

Back in the recesses of her mind, Madame Spooky’s crazy forturne or past telling cropped up when he brought up living. Perhaps she hadn’t been truly living… just surviving.

“You may be breathing Liz, but you aren’t living. You aren’t living at all. How can you, when you bury your past in an attempt to escape it?” asked Max, his eyes beginning to deepen.

“What do you know about my past Max? Nothing. And it’s going to stay that way. Just because you kissed me and touched me doesn’t mean I owe you all the secrets of my heart!” snapped Liz, finally able to move away.

“Okay, okay,” he whispered quickly, trying to calm her. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to make you angry. I just - I want to know you. Even if that means we are not together, Liz. Can you let me just get to know you?”

Liz looked up to him with eyes rimmed with tears. “I - I’m not ready for anything, Max. A - and I can’t explain why. I’m sorry.” She swallowed and then ventured, “But if you want to try and forge a friendship, I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

Max smiled. He would take what he could get. A friendship with Liz was a lot better than nothing with Liz. “Okay. Maybe we can start off the friendship with lunch?” At the look on her face he added, “Dutch… we can go dutch! I’m starving. I was going to grab some lunch anyway. I’ll go alone if you don’t want to - “

At that precise moment, Liz’s stomach growled loudly. Mortified, Liz grabbed her gut and tried to squelch the sound by turning away, but Max had already heard it. Unable to control himself, he burst out laughing and soon Liz followed suit. They practically had tears of mirth spilling down their cheeks when Liz relented.

“Okay. I guess I am hungry. Did you have a particular place in mind?” she asked.

“Actually, I did,” answered Max.

***
Tess sat in the common area of the suite she stayed in five days out of the week. Normally she would be at home right now, but she’d stayed for the banquet. And look at how that turned out. She honestly believed that she was making headway with Max.

All that man and he was wasted on someone that actually didn’t seem to want him. Even Tess could tell that Liz was attracted. But for some reason, she was resisting Max. She knew that if it had been her, and Max was after her like that, she would have folded a long time ago.

But Liz was resisting, and it made Max all the more interested in her, Tess thought. She didn’t understand what it was about Liz that made Max so into her, but she wished she had it.

She was simply drawn to Max in a way that defied all logic in her mind. She’d never really felt so obsessed with anyone before. But Max filled her senses in a way that simply made her want to have him. She had seen him before Liz, and in a way it made her feel entitled to have him. Plus, she felt this strange kinship with him. Liz really didn’t fit into his world, but she knew she could.

And she hated the fact that Liz managed to mess that up without even pursuing Max. True, she had accused Liz of chasing Max at the benefit last night, but she had only done that to try and guilt the other girl into giving him up. Liz was such a good and decent person that Tess knew she would likely not want to do anything that would make others view her in a bad light.

Tess fidgeted slightly. Was she actually feeling some sense of guilt where Liz was concerned? That fortune teller really did shake her up. That tent was full of stuff that made hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. It was dark and foreboding and what was even stranger was that when she first stepped in, the colors were bright and cheerful… Purple, blue and hot pink. But now they were muddy brown, black and grey and just all around creepy.

Tess rubbed her temples as she remembered the conversation she had with Madame Spooky, as Liz put it.

~flashback~

“I could have sworn the tent colors were brighter,” Tess mumbled to herself as she stepped over the threshold into the tent.

The old woman looked at her piercingly. “They match your aura.”

Tess laughed condescendingly, “My aura?” Her eyes widened when the tent became imbued with an ugly brown color even more.

“Shall we begin?” asked the woman.

Tess began to get nervous. The tent colors were probably just some lighting trick the woman used to spook her customers. But even still, maybe coming in here to see what the future held for Max and her wasn’t such a good idea.

“You want to know about the young man?” asked the woman.

Tess looked up, surprised. “Yeah. I want to know if - “

“If there is a chance for you. Your aura is easy to read,” said the woman, laying out your cards. Then she grew thoughtful. “I see you have many secrets. Secrets will always be your undoing.”

Tess tried not to laugh. This was stupid. She was about to get up to leave when the woman called out to her. “Touch the crystal ball.”

Tess looked at her, as if that was the last thing she was going to do. And she could swear the woman’s eyes flashed briefly. “Touch it,” the lady repeated.

Tess tentatively touched the crystal ball. Nothing happened, but the old woman’s eyes flashed briefly. But then the woman said the strangest thing. It sent a chill up Tess’ spine. “What really happened to them? It wasn‘t the fire that killed them, was it?”

Tess’ eyes widened in fear. “I don’t - I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The old woman folded her arms and merely stared at her. Tess backed away from the table fearfully. This was too weird, and way too close for comfort for her. She took one last look at the woman, who smiled at her enigmatically, and started to walk away.

But the woman had one last word for her. “You have to learn to trust the right people.”

Shivers went up and down Tess’ spine and she hurried away.

~flashback~

Tess shuddered at the memory and stared out of the window of her hotel room mournfully, wondering how she would get past this mess she had gotten herself into.

***
Whistling to himself after eating lunch with Liz, Max parked his car in the garage of the hotel that his developers stayed. The lunch he had with Liz was fun and lighthearted and he hadn’t seen her look quite that relaxed since he met her. Perhaps being friends for now was really the best thing for both of them.

But first, he had to talk to Tess.

She had been way out of line earlier with Liz and he needed to make sure she knew that she couldn’t act that way. Trying to latch onto him that way was wrong and it put him in a bad position. He was in a great position with Liz. She seemed to be letting him into her life as a friend, and he didn’t need Tess causing problems, when there wasn’t anything between the two of them.

As he neared her hotel room, he noticed the door was slightly ajar and he could hear Tess talking on the other side. He could just see her through the crack in the door and he was about to knock, when she said something that caught his attention and rooted him to the spot.

“Look, I did what you said, now … I don’t care what you think you know about my past. You can’t prove any of it anyway. All of that happened such a long time ago! … God! I was seven years old! … I don’t care anymore … I’m not doing anything else for you … Leave me alone! You hear!?! Leave me the hell alone!”

Max heard Tess slam the phone down and he weighed his options. He had meant to talk to her about Liz, but he didn’t want her to know that he had overheard her conversation. He moved back toward the elevator and then headed for the lobby.

Once he reached the lobby, he took a deep breath. His suspicions about Tess were right on. She was into something alright. But he had no idea what it was. He wished he knew who she had been talking to, but Tess never addressed who she was talking to by name. Max sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. The mystery surrounding Tess was getting rather insidious.

And he still needed to talk to her about Liz. Especially now. The problem was, he had no idea if she was dangerous or not. On the phone, Tess sounded as though her co-conspirator had something on her. Max was very worried about what that something could be. If Tess was dangerous, then he needed to be careful in his handling of the Liz situation. If she was innocent afterall, then he still needed to be careful, because she still had been out of line in her treatment of Liz.

Trying to discern the right course of action, Max paused for a moment and punched his hand with his fist repeatedly. Finally he picked up the house phone and called Tess’ room.

“Hello?!?”

“Tess? This is Max. I’m down in the lobby. I thought we could talk about a few things,” said Max, hoping she hadn’t seen him creeping away from her door.

If Tess had seen him and suspected him of eavesdropping, she was covering well. “Max? That would be fine. Just come on up.”

“Ok. See you in a bit,” said Max, hanging up the phone and going up the stairs.

Tess opened the door before he had the chance to knock. “This is a surprise,” she said, letting him into the room.

Max tried not to get distracted by the small, low cut tank top and short shorts she had on. He frowned after he passed her and went to sit in a chair by the window. That hadn’t been what she had been wearing earlier when he saw her. That outfit had been way more … modest.

“What did you want to talk about?” she asked, sitting on the couch and crossing her legs.

“Why did you say those things to Liz at the benefit?” he asked her, firmly, but not aggressively.

Tess sputtered. “S- say what things?” she asked.

“Let’s drop the games Tess. If we are going to be friends, and I hope we are, then we need to be honest with each other. You verbally attacked Liz at the benefit and accused her of coming between us. I want to know why you did that,” said Max with a penetrating stare.

Tess uncrossed her legs and stood up. She was caught. She had attacked Liz. And she had played her hand completely. It never occurred to her that Max would find out about her little tirade. “I was angry, okay?”

“Tess,” started Max, standing in front of her. “Liz hasn’t done anything to you. And she didn’t come between us. There is no us.”

“I know that, okay? I see that now,” snapped Tess.

Max shook his head. “I don’t understand why you seemed perfectly fine when I told you this at the benefit, but then you ran right to Liz and attacked her. Whether or not Liz and I get involved or not has nothing to do with us. You had no right to speak to her that way.”

“I see,” said Tess, folding her arms.

“Are you going to explain to me why you did that? Why did you pretend like that?” asked Max.

Tess apparently had no answer. Max decided to press onward. “Whatever your reasons Tess, it stops here. We are not involved. Harassing Liz won’t change that. All of us have to work together and if you don’t like it then I can certainly assign you to another job.”

Tess rolled her eyes. “Fine.”

Max decided not to press the issue further. He was just going to have to keep an eye on her. Hopefully, she wasn’t dangerous. “I apologize if I somehow led you on. That was never my intention.”

“I get it Max. There won’t be anything between us. You’ve made that abundantly clear. But I don’t need your pity,” she forced the last words out distastefully.

Max sighed and tried to figure out a way to end the conversation on a high note. “I’ve been really pleased with the work you and Liz have done. I hope you don’t let this destroy all of that. I really value you on my team. You know that.”

Tess’ angry look faded. “I know that. I promise what happened won’t happen again.”

Max raised a suspicious eyebrow.

“Really, Max. I heard everything you said. It won’t happen again.”

Max nodded and left. Once he got back in his car, he breathed a sigh of relief. That had gone as well as could be expected. He only hoped that she wasn’t a dangerous person. He and Liz could be in big trouble if she was.

***
Liz splashed some water on her face. She was having the worst day ever. Her laptop had flipped out and she couldn’t get access to the documents she had worked on at home, so she had had to recreate the data from scratch. She had sent her laptop off for repair, but it would take too long to get back and they needed what she had already done today. So Liz had spent most of the morning trying to recreate the documents.

And she still wasn’t finished.

Walking back into the lab, she rubbed her eyes sleepily and decided to go to the breakout room and get a coke. She could use the caffeine. When she got back, Tess told her that the front desk called her. Liz sighed and wearily called the front desk. They informed her that she had a package.

Feeling as though her day was getting longer and longer, she trudged down to the desk and picked up her package. It was a small box wrapped in brown kraft paper. Apparently it had been delivered by UPS, but she didn‘t recognize the sender‘s address.

Liz fingered the package thoughtfully, wondering what it could be and walked back up to her desk. She sat it down on her desk and began working again. She was so tired that she could barely think straight and she hadn‘t had a chance to think about how much she had enjoyed lunch with Max Sunday.

But she had really enjoyed that. She had been relaxed and Max had stayed true to his word about not pushing with her. He had been the perfect friend, asking her light questions and letting her set the tone of their conversations. He had talked about his family, his mother and father, and how they had adopted him when he was around six years old. He didn’t offer much else about his past and Liz got the feeling that he didn’t really want to talk about it. That had been fine with her, because she didn’t want to talk about anything deep anyway.

After they had lunch at a Chinese restaurant, where Max ate the most spicy foods he could get, they went and played miniature golf. Liz was rather surprised by Max’s prowess on the course. They had made a bet and the winner had to buy the other desert. Liz never expected such stiff competition. His most unikely shots seemed to just work. He creamed her, and she used to think she was a pretty good player. But Max either had the best luck, or he was a great miniature golf player. Liz remembered one shot where the ball had a trajectory that clearly wasn’t going to land the ball in the hole and the ball miraculously changed direction, falling neatly into the hole.

Max had simply shrugged, saying that there must have been something in the grass that made the ball move like that. He ran ahead, grinning and grabbing the ball from the hole and smirking at her.

And Liz had ended up buying desert for him, although his choice was rather interesting. All he wanted was a box of Krispy Kreme donuts.

Smirking to herself, Liz remembered the way he ate each one, as if they were pure heaven to him. He honestly looked supremely happy to be sitting there with her and Liz was actually quite happy to be there with him. Her life seemed to just settle into a nice comfortable repose when she was with him. And since they were only friends, she didn’t get that frightened feeling. Everything was perfect except one thing.

She was almost certain she wanted more from him than friendship.

Tess watched as Liz tried to recreate the information she had lost. She really looked tired and Tess almost felt sorry for her. Even though she knew she had been way out of line by badgering her about Max, she still resented Liz. And she couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit of redemption seeing Liz coming under some scrutiny for her mistake, even though her laptop breaking was not her fault. But, thought Tess viciously, a good developer or scientist should always back up her work anyway.

But Liz looked like she might fall over at any point. After the system beeped at her for the hundredth time for entering an incorrect command, Tess spoke.

“Liz. Maybe you should take a quick nap or do something else for a minute. You’ve been at this since six this morning,” she said, with only a hint of the iciness that she had been giving Liz all day.

Liz looked up, startled. Was Tess actually being nice to her? “I really need to get this done,” said Liz.

“You’ve done more than enough for me to get started on. By the time I finish, you will have been able to get all of those files redone,” said Tess honestly. “Plus, you might work more efficiently if you take a small break.”

Liz appeared to take her advice seriously. “I suppose you’re right,” she said. “I really could use a break. I think I’ll just do something mindless for a minute.”

Tess smiled and went back to work. Liz looked at her desk and her gaze fell on the small package. Still curious about what it was, she decided to open it. The brown paper, removed, covered her desk as she stared at the unwrapped box.

It was made of wood and it was painted with a desert scene that looked familiar to Liz, but she couldn’t place it. Trying to think of where she knew the scene from, she began to get really nervous. Remembering the roses, she put it down on her desk and pushed herself away from it, staring at it from a distance.

Tess had been watching her and when she didn’t open the box, she asked her, “Aren’t you going to open it?”

Liz had forgotten Tess was even there. When she looked at Tess’ curious eyes, she laughed at herself. She was being ridiculous. There was nothing to be afraid of. She rolled back over to her desk and opened the box carefully. There was a parcel wrapped in red tissue paper inside.

Holding her breath without realizing it, Liz picked up the parcel and started to unwrap it. When it was fully unwrapped in her hand, she looked cautiously at the contents. It was a crystal figurine, or at least it looked like one. It was broken in two. With shaking hands, Liz tried to put the pieces together to see what it was. It was a lizard.

Frowning, she turned the lizard figurine around to examine it. There was a red stain on it that looked conspicuously like blood. Liz put the lizard down and examined her hands. There wasn’t a scar or anything on them. Liz’s blood started to heat up and a chill of fear ran down her spine.

Tess saw her expression and asked, “Is everything ok?”

Liz didn’t answer. She searched through the brown paper for a note and didn’t find one. Then she checked inside the box. There was a piece of paper in the bottom. She pulled it out, glancing nervously at Tess, who was regarding her with a concerned look.

Liz took a deep breath and opened the note. Those roses were definitely not an accident. Someone had it in for her. The note read:

Dear Lizzie Lizard,

Maybe this will get your attention more than the dead roses did, bitch.

Sincerely,

You’ll find out soon enough.



posted on 9-Apr-2002 1:36:46 PM by Behrable dream
Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.

Chapter Ten

Liz sat, whitefaced, the note slipping from her hand onto the floor. She tried to speak, but her voice lodged in her throat painfully. Her eyes darted every which way, looking at anyone and everyone she could in suspicion.

Tess noticed how shaken Liz appeared to be and moved to sit next to her. “What happened?” she asked, moving to pick up the note from the floor. When Liz didn’t answer, she read the note and gasped.

“Oh my God,” she said, her voice quivering slightly.

With wide eyes, Liz turned to look at Tess suspiciously. She didn’t know what to think at this point. First the roses and now this lizard crystal. The lizard was obviously a thinly veiled dig at the nickname that her family and friends sometimes called her.

Tess had definitely been mean to her at the benefit. But now she was actually being nice, after their initial awkwardness this morning had passed. Was she capable of doing something like this? Was this all an act? Was that really blood on the lizard?

Tess looked at the broken lizard and rubbed her chin. “This is really spooky, Liz.”

Liz nodded. “I received some dead black roses last week at home,” she said, looking for any signs of guilt on Tess’ face.

Tess showed none. Looking at the card, she said, “Isn’t Lizzie a nickname of yours? Maybe this is someone who knows you.”

Liz’s eyes narrowed. “How did you know that was my nickname?” she asked accusingly.

Tess looked affronted. “Alex called you that at the benefit. I just assumed it was a nickname,” she said slowly, looking confused and then recognition dawned. “You think I sent you the roses and the lizard? No… I didn’t. I promise. I know I was wrong for the whole Max thing, but I swear I didn’t do this. Honest.”

Liz still looked at her guardedly.

Tess went to the phone. “We should call security Liz. Or the police. Someone is harassing you. Maybe even stalking you. I honestly didn’t do this and you’ve got to find out who did.”

Liz stared at her. Maybe Tess didn’t send that stuff. But then, who did? She couldn’t think of anyone else who would do that. Liz reached for the phone and called security. She explained the situation to them and then hung up after listening for a moment.

She turned to Tess, nervously wringing her hands. “They’ll be up in a moment.”

***
Max’s attention was drawn for the third time to the corridor outside of the conference room. The door was closed, but he could still see people running in the halls through the foggy glass in the door pane. And it appeared that he wasn’t the only one who was distracted.

The other members of the meeting seemed to be drawn to the commotion outside as well. Finally Serena said what everyone else was thinking. “Why don’t we see what the commotion is? There isn’t very much else to talk about here.”

No one seemed to object. Apparently they were as interested in finding out about what was happening outside as Serena was.

Max gathered his folder and went out in the corridor. Perhaps they had found out who was responsible for taking those files. There were a large number of security guards amassing outside of the lab that Liz and Tess did their work in. Max swallowed. Maybe security had traced everything back to Tess and now they were taking her into custody. He hoped that he hadn’t pushed Tess into harming Liz, although even he didn’t believe she was really capable of that. Steeling himself, he walked into the lab to find Liz and Tess talking to the head of security for ViaChem.

“Like I said Dr. Parker, we have to call this in. It’s a matter for the police,” said the head of security.

Liz looked distraught and frazzled. “So … “

“So I need you to come with me,” continued the head of security.

“What’s going on here?” asked Max, afraid Liz was in some kind of trouble.

Liz and Tess turned to look at Max and the other people who had spilled into the lab, obviously curious about what was going on. Liz tried to find her voice to speak, but Tess beat her to it. “Someone has been sending Liz threatening gifts.”

Max’s blood ran cold. “What kind of gifts?” he said silently, focusing his entire gaze on Liz, trying to send her comfort through his eyes.

“A bunch of dead black roses and a crystal with blood - well it looks like blood - on it,” replied Tess, cringing at the look of concern that laid heavily on Max’s face.

Moving more closely to Liz, Max spoke softly, almost tenderly. “Are you alright? Is there anything we can do?”

Holding Max’s gaze unsteadily, Liz managed to shake her head. “I’m just going to go with Mr. - “ Liz paused and looked at the head of security.

“Jenkins. I’m Todd Jenkins,” he said. Just then his radio started beeping and he walked away to answer it, leaving Liz and Max facing each other.

“Jenkins. I’m - we’re going to handle this downstairs, I guess. As soon as he finishes with whatever he‘s talking about on his radio, that is,” said Liz.

Max nodded and turned to look at the small box and the crystal that had caused so much commotion. Frowning, he picked up the note. His jaw clenched when he saw what was written on it.

“Hey! Put that down!” a voice behind him snapped. Max dropped the note, startled. He turned to find another security guard gathering up all of the evidence.

“Sorry,” mumbled Max, turning to look back at Liz, who had stopped and turned when the man snapped at him.

“I met you the other day,” she said as the guard brushed past Max. “Right? What was your name?”

The guard dropped his gruff act and softened when he saw Liz looking at him. “So you did. Sorry we’re meeting again under such circumstances. I’m Dexter Williams. Do you have any idea who could be sending you all of this stuff?” he asked, pushing his glasses back up against his face and smoothing his slicked down hair.

Liz shook her head. All she had were suspicions that she couldn’t confirm.

“Well, then we better let the local authorities in on this then,” said Dexter.

“Williams!” called Mr. Jenkins from the doorway of the lab. “Something’s come up in another part of the lab. I need you to handle Dr. Parker’s case for me.”

Dexter nodded and led Liz outside. Max started to follow, but Tess grabbed his arm. “You really care about her, don’t you?” she asked.

Max wasn’t sure if he should honestly answer her question or not. Was Tess really dangerous? He regarded her silently and she quirked an eyebrow.

“You think I sent them,” she said silently.

Max looked at her directly. “I said no such thing. But I have to admit, the timing of this is really … interesting.”

Tess rolled her eyes. “I didn’t send them. In fact, I convinced Liz to call security.”

Max nodded. “I’m sure we’ll find out who sent them, Tess. Don’t worry.” Turning to go after Liz, he thought about the conversation he had overheard. “Tess,” he said, stopping and turning to look at her directly.

Tess gave him a look that told him he had her attention.

“If there is anything … anything, that you want to tell me about Liz or work or anything of the kind, I want you to know that you can come to me,” he said. “If anything is bothering you - you can talk to me about it and I can help you.” The last words he said very softly, so that only he and Tess could hear them.

Tess opened her mouth momentarily and then closed it. She wanted to tell Max everything. About the files, her past … all of it. But she was afraid that she couldn’t trust him. So instead, she chose to remain quiet and only nodded.

Max smiled only slightly and then turned. He frowned because he thought that Tess was about to open up, but she clammed up on him. He figured that whatever kind of trouble Tess was in, she was probably too scared to ask for help.

***
Liz pulled into her driveway and stared at the townhome, which now looked dark and foreboding. She looked around nervously as she exited her car and ran inside, triple checking every window and door in the place. When she finally settled into the couch and flipped on the television, she drew in a ragged breath.

She was really scared. And she honestly didn’t want to be alone. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea for her to come home early, as Luc and everyone else had suggested. Wasn’t she safer around people she knew? She was just about to call Maria when she heard something outside. She crept slowly to the window and looked outside. She saw the mailman walking away. Liz sighed in disgust at herself. She was really wound up. And she knew she couldn’t live like this. She was going to drive herself crazy.

After about an hour of struggling to calm down and take a nap, Liz sat up and looked around. She wished she had an alarm system. She was surprised that Max had never installed one. Remembering that she meant to call Maria, she picked up the phone to dial and then she heard the doorbell ring.

Fearfully approaching the door, afraid her stalker had sent her another ‘gift’, Liz looked through the peephole. She sighed in relief. It was Max. She smiled inwardly and opened the door.

“Max,” she breathed. “Come in.”

Max walked in, carrying a couple of bags. “I thought you might be hungry, so I brought an assortment of food,” he said, setting the bags on her dining room table.

“Is that really why you stopped by?” asked Liz, folding her arms and feeling safe for the first time all day.

Max turned to look at her. “No,” he said simply. “I wanted to make sure you were okay. I was … worried about you.”

Liz smiled in spite of herself. “You were?”

“I was. But, if you don’t want the food, I will certainly take it off your hands,” he said, arranging sandwiches and chips on a plate for her.

Liz eyed the food hungrily. She hadn’t eaten since breakfast because of the way her day had gone. “No… no… I’m actually starving.” Liz looked at the food he had pulled from the bags he had. There were two large sandwiches, two bags of chips, some strawberries and blueberries, and some pasta salad. “So, where is your food?” she asked cheekily.

Max smirked. “I’d like to just see you try to eat all of this food.”

“You obviously have never seen me when I am really hungry,” said Liz, grabbing the sandwich he handed her.

“I’ll give you that, but where do you put it?” he shot back, giving her a once over.

“I have a hollow leg,” said Liz, her mouth full.

Max laughed and watched her as she ate. She seemed to be relaxing, and that was really good. He didn’t want her to be scared. He wanted to protect her. He wanted to make her feel safe. He couldn’t explain the feeling that went through him when he saw that note. Even though he and Liz weren’t together, he knew there was something special between them. And he wanted to fully explore what it was. But if she were somehow taken from him, he would never be able to explore it.

And he couldn’t let that happen. He couldn’t let anything happen to her. And he wouldn’t. He would protect her, or die trying.

He wondered who could be sending those ‘gifts’ to her. Tess crossed his mind briefly and he was almost convinced that it could be her, but after hearing her conversation with her blackmailer, he figured Tess had enough problems without adding to them. It had to be someone else. Maybe someone from Liz’s past???

Lost in his thoughts, he had hardly touched his food. He didn’t notice Liz looking at him inquisitively. Deciding to just ask him what he was thinking about, she finally spoke.

“What are you thinking about?” Liz fixed him with a questioning look.

Max stared back at her. He carefully thought about what he wanted to say. “I was wondering if you had any ideas about who could be sending you this stuff.”

Liz met his gaze directly. “I don’t know. I mean - I’d be lying if I said Tess hadn’t crossed my mind briefly. But I don’t think she did this. Even after our conflict at the benefit, I don’t think she would do this. I guess I just don‘t think anyone could do something like this … but there it is.”

Max regarded her thoughtfully. “After everything you’ve seen in your life - don’t you realize people are capable of doing all sorts of things? No one surprises me anymore.”

“I guess I just think that most people are basically good,” said Liz, surprised she still felt that way. But she did. She even still felt that Sean was a good person, he just made a bad mistake. Then he further compounded that mistake with more mistakes, but he was still basically a good person.

Max nodded, wondering where her thought process just went. “Well, what about someone from your past? Is there anyone who would want to hurt you?”

Liz shook her head. “No. I don’t think so.” Liz honestly couldn’t think of anyone. The only people who seemed to harbor some sort of animosity toward her were Sean and his accomplice. They seemed to blame her for the current problems in their relationship.

Liz snorted to herself as she thought about when Maria dropped that little snippet of information on her. She had gone with Maria to see her try on wedding gowns and to try on bridesmaid gowns herself. It was only about eight months after their horrendous breakup, and she was better, but she was almost consumed by an obsessive need to see Sean and his accomplice bite the dust relationship-wise. She had started to overcome it, praying that she be granted the peace of not caring what Sean and that woman did one way or another. But then Maria had related to her that Sean’s relationship with his accomplice was not paradise at all.

Apparently, Sean was still angry over the loss of his relationship with her and the accomplice was angry that Sean’s family didn’t accept her. Liz had been floored. Thankfully, Maria wasn’t one to hold her tongue and she lashed out at Sean and his accomplice with the admonishment that if anyone had a right to be angry in this situation, Liz did - not them. They created this situation that they were complaining so much about and Liz was the one who had the bomb dropped on her that Sean had cheated with and then left her for this woman.

Maria was shocked that this woman could even form her mouth to say that she was angry or hurt about anything. Hadn’t she gotten what she asked for anyway? What did she have to complain about?

But Liz had been even more surprised that Sean and this woman seemed to have resentment for her, of all people. Wasn’t she the one who got blindsided? They were the ones who left her to deal with the aftermath of their affair and ran off into what was supposed to be happily ever after for themselves. So why were they acting like she had caused them all of this angst?

Sean must have convinced his new lady that Liz was the cause of all of his pain and that she drove him to cheat. And Liz was still trying to climb out of the abyss of guilt and blame that she had fallen into after he blamed her continually.

“It wasn’t my fault,” she said, not realizing that she had spoken aloud. Tears threatened to cloud her vision and Liz pulled away from the table, clearing the dishes away and wiping her eyes.

“What wasn’t your fault?” he asked, thinking that she had thought of someone who might have a motive to send her the dead roses and the broken lizard. He also noticed the way her demeanor changed and he realized that she had probably gone to some painful memory in her past.

“Are you ever going to tell me what happened to you in your past that still causes you so much pain?” he asked softly, moving to stand behind her. He knew that she needed him to back off, but he wanted so much to help her. He could feel that she needed to evict the demons of her past in order to start living again.

Liz felt his presence behind her and a part of her wanted to sink back against him and tell him everything. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t let him get that close to her, even though everything in her body and soul told her to let him in. “Maybe,” she whispered softly, so softly that he didn‘t hear her.

Max moved closer to her. “What?” he said quietly.

Liz fought the desire to fall back into his strong chest, burying all of her sorrows into his warm embrace. “Maybe,” she repeated, this time a bit more loudly.

Max felt himself being pulled toward her. He was getting too close. He needed to back off. She definitely needed some space right now. Max almost grunted with frustration at himself. Liz didn’t need him trying to hang all over her. She needed friendly comfort, not his perpetual longing for her. Max quickly stifled his body’s responses to her and drew away abruptly, going to sit down at the dining room table.

Liz felt his abrupt change in demeanor and she turned to look at him questioningly. When he returned her gaze but looked away quickly, busying himself with throwing away the trash, she tried to ignore the disappointment that welled up within her. But it was probably just as well. She wasn’t in the best position to be involved with him anyway. Especially not now. She was a wreck with all of this stalker stuff going on.

Max cleared his throat, breaking her out of her thoughts. “I am going to have a security system installed here,” he said, his back to her as he cleared off her table.

Liz turned and saw him wiping down her table. Fighting back a smile, she took the rag from him, murmuring, “I can get this. A security system?”

“Yeah. Don’t you think you would feel safer with one?” he asked, watching her toss the rag in the sink.

“I guess so,” she said, then turning to look at him. “That’s really sweet of you, Max.”

“Well, I’d have a tough time renting this place out in the future if the previous tenant exited due to - “ Max stopped, crushing his eyes shut in complete astonishment of his moronic stupidity.

Liz visibly stiffened. She knew he was only joking when everything became so serious all of a sudden. She felt a sudden chill and she wrapped her arms around herself, looking around nervously. While they had been eating, she hadn’t thought about it much, but now that there wasn’t anything else to think about, the stalking thing was like a big elephant in the room.

“I am such an idiot,” Max admonished himself. “I didn’t mean to -”

“It’s okay, Max. Actually, I think the security system is a great idea,” said Liz earnestly.

“What about tonight? Do you have anyone you could call? Maybe you could go and stay with Maria or something. Or I could stay here tonight and - “

Liz smirked. “Nice try Evans,” she said, winking at him.

It took everything she had to not accept his offer. She actually did want him to be there with her. But she didn’t want to send him the wrong message, and she didn’t want to become dependent on him either. He was so easily slipping into the knight in shining armour role, that Liz found herself wanting to slip into the damsel in distress role too. But Alex had been right. That was what she had done with Sean, and she couldn’t repeat that mistake with Max - even if she really wanted to. She was going to have to muddle through this on her own.

Max groaned. “No… I didn’t mean that like it sounded. I’m just worried about you Liz. If you aren’t being watched by someone, I’d rather keep an eye on you myself.” He took a step toward her. “I just don’t want anything to happen to you.”

Liz was visibly moved. Lowering her gaze she tried to find her voice. “Nothing is going to happen to me, Max. Whoever sent that is just trying to rattle me. I seriously doubt they want to harm me. Wouldn’t they have done it by now if that was their intention?”

Max wasn’t convinced. “Liz, I don’t think you understand - “

Liz interrupted him. “I do understand. You’re worried about me, and I appreciate that. But I’ll be fine. Once the security system is installed, I’ll be safe and sound. Plus, I do know self-defense.”

Max smirked. “I remember. But I also remember getting the best of you. I’m a lot stronger than you are and your stalker may be too.”

Liz sighed heavily. “I’ll be fine Max. Now go home. I’m sure you have a lot of work to do since you left work early to come here. I have work to do too.”

“But Liz - “ began Max.

“No buts. I’ll be fine. Really. Don’t worry about me,” said Liz, starting to push Max toward the door.

Max turned and in one swift motion he had her pinned up against the door. “See how fast things can change Liz? What if I was your stalker?”

Liz broke his grip and swept her leg under his, tackling him to the ground. “How do I know you aren’t Max?”

Max rolled his eyes. “Okay, as much as I enjoy being in this position with you, if you want me to stick to my promise of just friends, I suggest you let me up.”

Liz froze, looking at him. Had she just tackled him to the floor? God, was she flirting with him? What was wrong with her? “Oh, sorry,” she breathed, helping him up. “But seriously. How do I know you aren’t behind all of this?”

Max shrugged. “I guess you don’t. You either trust me or you don’t.”

Liz looked at the floor. “Trust doesn’t exactly come easily to me, Max.”

Max softened his gaze. “I can see that. But trust has to be earned. And I plan on earning yours, Liz.”

***
“Oh my God Liz! Are you alright!” said Maria worriedly as Liz settled into the couch next to her.

“I’m fine, Maria. I’m just a little jumpy. Is it okay if I stay here? I don’t want to put you out or anything,” said Liz, her eyes darting around nervously.

“Liz. This is me you’re talking to. You can’t think I would let you stay at home by yourself!” said Maria, getting indignant.

“It isn’t that Maria. I just don’t want you to be in danger too, because of my problems,” said Liz earnestly. She honestly didn’t want Maria to get hurt because of her stalker. It was bad enough as it is.

Maria moved to sit right next to Liz, putting an arm around her. “We’ll be fine here, Liz. There’s a guarded security gate.”

Liz sighed and sank back against the cushions. “I just can’t believe this is happening,” she said, shell-shocked.

“I’m so sorry chica,” said Maria hugging Liz close. “But we’ll get through it, okay?”

Liz swallowed and nodded slowly. Maria glanced at her, biting her lip nervously. She obviously wanted to ask her something. “What?” asked Liz.

Maria took a deep breath and plunged ahead. “I was wondering if you had any idea who sent you those things,” she said.

Liz sighed. “Not exactly,” she answered.

“Not exactly? Liz … I think you have one very obvious suspect,” said Maria, her voice having an edge of disbelief.

“I don’t think she did it, Maria. I know it looks like she did, but I just don’t think it’s her,” said Liz. She really didn’t think Tess could do such a thing. But then again, she didn’t think that Tess was capable of stealing those files, but Max did. An unsettling thought crossed her mind briefly. Could Max have - ?

Maria noticed the strange look on Liz’s face. “What? What are you thinking?”

Liz frowned and then pulled a face. “It’s nothing… I - I was just thinking that the timing of all of this is odd … that’s all.”

Maria looked confused. “Odd … how?”

Liz stood and started pacing across the room. She couldn’t believe she was thinking this. After everything that had happened between her and Max, she just knew he wasn’t capable of this. She knew deep down that he would never intentionally hurt her. Or at least she thought so. Her judgement wasn’t exactly the best where men were concerned. Sean and his shenanigans were proof of that. Wrapping her arms around herself, she turned to face Maria.

“I know this is crazy, and I am totally off base, but I was just thinking about the timing of the roses and the lizard. They came after I rejected Max. The roses came after he kissed me and I rejected him and the lizard came after I told him to back off in the eleva - “ Liz broke off, biting her lip. She hadn’t told Maria about her encounter with Max in the elevator.

Maria’s eyes widened. “What happened in that elevator, Liz?” When Liz just looked at her, Maria hopped up, looking at her incredulously. “Oohhh, Liz… Why didn’t you tell me something happened? You’ve been holding out on me!”

Liz looked flustered. “It isn’t that I meant to hold out on you Maria. I just - I’m a little embarrassed. I just totally lost control with him.”

Maria’s eyes nearly popped out of her sockets. “Wait. You didn’t - I mean … “

Liz jumped to set the record straight. “No! No… Of course not. But … let’s just say it went way beyond kissing. He made me feel … amazing. Not even Sean - “ Liz stopped, not wanting to think about Sean. This was about Max. And what he was doing to her. Was he sending her those things to scare her?

“Sounds like things got rather hot and heavy with you two. So why aren’t you seeing him then? Don’t tell me that you rejected him again after what happened between you two,” said Maria.

“I did.” Maria gaped at her and Liz tried to explain. “I’m just not ready Maria. I just felt so out of control with him, like I had no choice in what I was doing. I completely lose my head when I’m with him. It’s terrifying, because - “

“Because if he ever hurt you it would be worse than it was with Sean?” interrupted Maria gently.

Liz nodded slowly.

“Liz. I know you don’t want to hear this, but you have to let go of this fear you’ve had ever since Sean betrayed you. You won’t let anyone in. And it isn’t as if you haven’t had offers. If you like Max and I think you do, you should try to let him in. He isn’t going to wait around forever,” said Maria as plainly as she could.

Liz turned and looked at her lifelong friend. “You know, I thought Sean was this wonderful guy. But he totally changed on me. I trusted him completely and it never even crossed my mind that he could do something like that. And I know Max isn’t going to wait around forever. I’m not asking him to. I’m just not ready yet.”

“I understand that you don’t believe you are ready. But if you continue to close yourself off like this, you never will be,” Maria said, trying to get through to her friend.

Liz ran her fingers through her hair. “I thought I had left all of this crap behind,” she said, her voice trembling slightly.

“I know chica. Maybe you just need some time to figure all of this out. I can understand you not wanting to get involved with anyone, with everything that’s going on.”

Liz smiled slightly and nodded.

“For the record, I don’t think Max is sending you those gifts. I just don’t get those kinds of vibes from him. I think he really cares about you.” Maria straightened and moved to rub Liz’s arms as she stood in front of her. “You probably don’t remember this, but when Tess verbally assaulted you, he was really angry. He just took control of the entire situation. He wanted nothing more than to help you. Trust me when I say he can’t be doing this, Liz.”

Liz nodded in relief. She didn’t trust her judgement sometimes, especially since Sean. But she knew her fears concerning Max were unfounded, at least where this stalking stuff was concerned. She just knew he would never want to harm her. It was just that her fears and insecurities concerning Sean clouded everything.

“I think you’re right Maria. I don’t think Max is doing this. But then, who is?”

***
The man with the thinning hair sat in a dark room looking at pictures of Liz. Most of them were of her in one of the labs at ViaChem. One was of her talking to Max, another was of her sitting and eating with Alex. Pictures of Liz covered the small table completely. Slowly the man picked up a newspaper clipping about her receiving an award at Stanford. He sighed and put the article down. Then he picked up another one and looked at it carefully.

“Where did you get these?” he asked.

“I told you it was her,” answered a gruff voice.

“You shouldn’t be doing this,” said the more timid one. “This is wrong. I told you she doesn’t know anything.”

“Maybe not now, but she will. Eventually. That’s why we have to accept the offer and be done with it. No more games,” retorted the man with the gruff voice.

“No - I don‘t want to!” cried the other man.

“You’ll do whatever I say, you sniveling sycophant. Or I’ll shut you up once and for all!”

The other man looked frightened and stared at the pictures of Liz. He couldn’t believe it was her.

“We don’t have to take the offer! We can just disappear!”

“We can’t just disappear now. They’ll know what we did. Plus we don‘t have enough money to disappear,” growled Rick, throwing something against the wall.

The other man jumped and tried to calm his frazzled nerves. He stared at the wall, where it had been etched and dented where Rick threw the vase against it. Looking at the broken shards, realization dawned. “You - You’ve been sending Liz those things!”

Rick smirked. “Yeah. So what?”

“But - but why?”

Rick grunted and stared at the newspaper clipping. “Are you really that dense? Look at her! She‘s why I had to come back!” He started to pace in front of the table. “We’re taking the offer, and then we can disappear.”


posted on 15-Apr-2002 9:49:46 AM by Behrable dream
Hey guys!!

Sorry I haven't updated yet. I got really sick last week and I am just getting better. I promise to have a new part up by the end of the day tomorrow!!

I have it almost done and it might answer a few of your questions... although I am certain it will open up a few more...

Hee hee...

You guys don't know how great it makes me feel that you love my story!!!

-Behrable dream

posted on 16-Apr-2002 12:18:49 PM by Behrable dream
I absolutely love the feedback you guys have given me. And I hope this section answers some of them... I will say that Rick does have something to do with Liz's past, but I cannot divulge anymore than that.

Rick and the other guy also are connected to Tess' mess too, although indirectly. Things will start to click into place rather soon, at least about Tess...

I really hope you enjoy this part, even though it is slightly shorter than what I normally write...

*happy*




Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.


Chapter Eleven


Tess crossed the busy street and entered the large bank. She kept looking over her shoulder nervously for signs that she had been followed. She knew her time was short. It almost felt like a shadow was closing in on her. Sleeping had become almost an impossibility.

After that strange experience with the fortune teller, and then that awful conversation on the phone with the man who was blackmailing her, Tess knew she had to do something to protect herself. Part of her really wanted to just tell Max the truth - about everything, and allow him to help her. The other part feared she was in way too much trouble for anyone to actually help.

But at least she had some insurance. She had saved a record of almost every encounter she and her blackmailer had had. She didn’t understand why he wanted those dna files, but she had a copy of them saved on disc. She also had information about him. About how he had been a shadow in her life ever since her guardian died when she was almost seven years old. About how he had been her silent benefactor, without her knowing it, all her life.

The problem was, he knew everything about her. Tess felt like the walls were closing in on her and she didn’t know how to stop them. Perhaps she could threaten to use this information to expose him or something. But expose him as what? If he came forward with what he knew about her, she would be the one to lose everything.

As she waited for someone to help her with opening a safety deposit box, Tess tried to remain calm. Perhaps that fortune teller was right about one thing. She had to learn to trust the right people. Maybe she could start with Max, if she hadn’t already burned all of her bridges with him.


***
Max pulled himself up, again and again, feeling the burn as he did chin-ups. He was trying to tire himself out so he could sleep. Worrying about Liz was keeping him edgy and awake.

It concerned him that she wouldn’t let him watch her. What if something happened to her when he wasn’t with her? Max couldn’t bear the thought. He had to come up with a way to keep her safe, without making her feel like he was pushing her. Part of him reasoned that she wasn’t letting him watch her because she was afraid of what that would mean for the two of them.

But that didn’t matter to Max anymore. The only thing that mattered was keeping Liz safe from her stalker. Liz may not believe she needed protection from anything, but Max knew better. He had spent a large part of his life hiding and running from danger, so he understood danger. Liz didn’t. And she shouldn’t have to.

He would find a way to keep her from having to understand danger and fear living.

***
Tess drove with reckless abandon to Max’s new condo. Her last conversation with him kept going through her head. She desperately wanted to unload and tell him everything. Everything.

But she was afraid that he wouldn’t be what she needed him to be - what she wanted him to be. She was afraid that even after he knew the truth, that he wouldn’t care and that he wouldn’t help her. He seemed to know that she had a secret but she had so many secrets that it wasn’t saying much. The situation with Liz had unnerved her. She could see how much Max cared about her and how much he had been affected when that stalker incident came out earlier this week. Still, she hoped that he would have some leftover compassion for her and her situation and that he wouldn’t leave her in the lurch. But she was afraid.

But after that last harrowing phone call from the person who was blackmailing her, she knew she only had one option.

She had to tell Max the truth.

She saw his car parked outside and so she figured he was at home. But she rang the doorbell over and over again and no one answered. Thinking that maybe he would be out back on his patio, she turned and walked along the side of the building toward the back. As she approached the bottom level of the patio, she heard him talking on the phone to someone.

She decided to go back and ring the doorbell again, hoping he would hear it. She didn’t want to eavesdrop. She froze when she heard the conversation he was having with someone.

“Right. I want her every move to be covered. Anything … yes anything at all, you let me know. I have the pictures… that’s her. Everything looks okay for now. Right. Liz Parker. You have her information, right?. Okay… That’s good. I’ll be in touch. I have an incoming call to take… I‘ll send the money immediately… I have to take this call though… .”

Tess backed away from the deck, and gaped, openmouthed at what she had just overheard. Max was the stalker?

***
“Mom. Hey,” Max breathed into the receiver, relieved to hear his mother’s voice. He grabbed a bag of fast food from the counter in his kitchen and took it to the chair just inside the patio door.

“Hi Max,” his mother greeted him warmly. “How are you doing? How is Liz?”

“She’s okay, I guess. I just talked to the private investigator about her,” answered Max, taking a bite of his burger, which had gotten cold.

“A private investigator? Max. Isn’t that a bit excessive?” asked Diane Evans.

“No. Not where Liz is concerned. She won’t let me protect her. I installed a security system, but that doesn’t seem like enough. Maybe if I let this guy watch her, she’ll be safe,” said Max, sitting down in the chair with the food, wondering if he should heat it up.

“You really care about this girl don’t you Max?” asked his mother.

“I really do, mom. I mean, I can’t explain it, but every time I’m with her, it feels right. It feels right in a way nothing else has in my life,” he said emphatically.

“Are you sure you can let her in? Remember what happened with Melissa,” said Diane beseechingly.

“I know, I know. But I never felt like I could tell Melissa everything. But if I pursue Liz, I have to be prepared to let her in completely,” said Max, biting his newly warmed sandwich.

“I don’t know honey. I know you must really feel something for this girl. You’ve never talked so much about anyone before. But are you sure she can be trusted? I don‘t want you to end up in trouble.”

“I think so. But maybe I don’t have to tell her anything,” said Max, making a face and spitting the food out into a napkin.

“Eventually you would have to tell her something, honey,” interjected Diane. Then there was a pause and she remarked, “What are you eating?”

“A burger. It got cold and I tried to heat it up - “ began Max.

“Doesn’t that makes it taste bad? It’s worse than a microwave,” laughed Diane.

Max laughed softly to himself and threw the sandwich back into the paper bag. “I guess you’re right.”

“Max you really need to be careful with that. What if someone saw you?” asked Diane worriedly.

Max smirked. His mother was so protective. But he was alone at home. No one could see him using his ‘gifts’. “No one can see what I’m doing, mom. It’s fine. Trust me.”

Then his mood turned sober and he paused before adding, “What if she can’t accept me? What if she can‘t accept that I‘m … you know,” he asked, almost too quietly for Diane to hear him.

“If she is as special as you make her out to be, she won‘t care.”

Max smiled at his mother‘s words. Then he grimaced. “Still, it’s too early to even think about that. I need to help Liz get past this stalker thing. I have to find whoever is doing this to her before she gets hurt, mom. Plus, things are kind of complicated between us.”

“You’ll get to the bottom of all of this Max. I know you will. Keep me posted. I love you sweetie,” said Diane, hanging up.

“Love you too mom,” said Max, shutting the phone off and walking out toward the patio.

He had just gotten outside when the door slammed shut behind him and wedged shut. He couldn’t open it. Grunting, he tried to pry the door open and finally he got frustrated and brought his fist against the knob, trying to loosen it. He covered his face when the glass pane on the door shattered instead of the knob turning as he had intended. Grimacing, and glancing around furtively, fearing that someone had seen this incident, he stepped through the pane. Angry with himself for not having any control at all, he started to get a broom to clean the mess up. He didn’t trust his ability to be able to repair the damage himself.

When he heard a noise outside, he went to investigate, steeling himself.

What was Tess doing down there?

***
Tess’ mind was barely able to register all of this. Max couldn’t be the stalker. He just couldn’t be. But how else could she explain that conversation? He was talking to someone about covering Liz’s every move. What other explanation could there be?

Tess supposed that she could simply ask him about this. But she didn’t know what he was capable of. Up until a minute ago, she thought him to be a trustworthy, decent man whom she could one day tell all of her secrets to, but now…

After hemming and hawing about what she should do for a good five minutes, she started to move back toward the patio. Maybe she had heard him wrong. Then fear overtook her and she started to walk back toward her car.

He was a menacing stalker. And there was only one thing to do. She had to find Liz and warn her.

But before she could get back to her car, Max appeared in front of her. “What are you doing here Tess?”

Tess backed up slowly, trying to find a way to walk toward her car without setting alarm bells off in his head. “I - I was looking for you. I thought I heard you back here, but I was wrong.”

“Why didn’t you just ring the doorbell Tess?” he asked, looking at her suspiciously.

“I did, but I guess you didn’t hear it,” she said.

“What’s wrong Tess?” he asked, eyeing her with a pensive look.

“Nothing,” she lied.

“You came here for a reason,” he said, advancing even further. “Why don’t you come in?”

“O-ok,” stammered Tess, fearing that he knew she knew. Trying to feign ignorance of his secret, she followed him inside. “Nice place,” she gestured, seeing his luxurious abode.

“Thanks. Can I get you anything? Something to drink?” he asked.

“A diet soda would be great… with lemon if you have it,” she replied, watching him nod and back away into the kitchen. After he had disappeared into the kitchen, Tess looked around wildly. Maybe she could find some proof of her suspicions.

As she walked into the room he apparently used as a study, she saw a stack of messy papers. Glancing at them, she saw some pictures. When she was close enough to recognize the face on the pictures, she gasped.

It was her.

She moved closer, trying to see what pictures they were. They were pictures of her in the lab. They looked like surveillance photos. Of her. She almost thought that he was stalking her until she looked at the paperwork next to the images. It looked like a computer log of her activities at ViaChem. Every move she made when she logged on had been recorded. Did Max know?

This was bad. Really bad. But then, a picture fell to the floor and Tess picked it up. This was a picture of Liz. A picture of Liz in her home. She flipped the picture over and read what someone had scribbled on the back. The Consolate. What did that mean? Was that the name of the person Max hired to spy on Liz? She had to get out of there and figure out her next move.

Tess hurriedly rushed back into a safer place in his condo before he emerged from the kitchen. Noticing her harried look, he remarked on it. “Tess? Is anything wrong? Is there something you want to tell me?”

Tess tried to look nonchalant, but inside she was terrified. She had thought she could come here and tell him the truth, but now… It appeared he already knew what she had done. So why hadn’t he exposed her? Did anyone else know? Add to that the fact that he was Liz‘s crazed stalker and Tess felt she was dealing with a loose cannon.

So she couldn’t exactly trust him. He could be crazy. But then again, if he thought she knew his secret, wouldn’t he have to keep her secret? Tess tried to weigh her options. She felt like she had none.

When Tess didn’t answer, he decided to play his hand about the phone call he overheard. “I know someone is blackmailing you Tess. Who is it and why did they want those files you took?”

Tess’ eyes widened fearfully. How did he know that? “I - I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“You’re in trouble Tess. Let me help you. If we know who is behind this, we can protect you,” said Max sincerely. So sincerely, in fact, that Tess could have almost believed him, if it weren’t for the fact that she knew he was a stalker.

“I’m not in any trouble and I didn’t take those files,” she said unevenly, and rather unconvincingly.

“Yes you did Tess. Just come clean. I can help you,” said Max.

“Help me? Help me?” started Tess. “How can you help me Max? Aren’t you steeped in secrets of your own? How can you help me when you’ve got your own secret?” she said before she could stop herself.

Max’s face went white. What did she know? How much did she know? How did she know? “A secret?” he said unevenly, fearing that Tess had seen his ‘gifts‘ go awry before.

“Yes. A secret. What are you? You - You’re dangerous Max,” she said, somewhat angry that she had let the cat out of the bag.

“What are you talking about?” he asked, beginning to fear that Tess really did know his secret.

“I - ,” started Tess, glancing at the patio door. The glass was all over the place. Had he broken the glass in a fit of rage? Her eyes widened in fear as she pondered the implications. How had she misjudged his character so much? “I heard you on the phone,” she forced the words from her mouth.

Max paled. She had heard him talking to his mom. About his secret. True, he hadn’t really said what he was outright, but Tess was staring at that glass with a look of fear on her face.

Had she seen him break the glass?

Struggling to retain his composure, he spoke. “And? I was talking to my mom. Plus, that still doesn‘t answer my questions about what you have done,” he said, trying to sound unfazed.

Tess knew he was lying. Whoever he was talking to was definitely not his mom. He was talking to someone about Liz. And about payment. Maybe he had just hired someone to take her out. Maybe those pictures were so the hitman could identify Liz and kill her. The broken glass by the patio door was really unnerving her. Max was probably really dangerous.

“So, if you know all of this, why didn’t you rat me out?” she asked.

“I was hoping you would come to me first,” said Max evenly.

“I was … and then I heard you talking - “ she started.

“I don’t think you know what you are talking about. Or are you just trying to divert attention away from the fact that you took those files and gave them to someone else?” he asked, believing he could talk his way out of this. “Won’t you just look like you’re trying to discredit me to save your own skin? What secret from your past are you trying to hide?”

Tess stared at him. He had her right where he wanted her. There was little she could actually do. If she tried to tell Liz or anyone about her theories about him being the stalker, he would just reveal that she had been behind the stolen files and then they would all find out her secrets. She couldn’t let that happen. But she had to warn Liz. Liz hadn’t asked for any of this. She deserved to know that her life was in danger being with Max.

“I’m sure Liz would be interested in hearing my theories about you, Max. And you can’t prove any of this stuff about me,” she said.

“Neither can you Tess, although there is nothing to prove on my part,” answered Max, leaning on a stool, trying to get a read on the blonde girl. The thought of Tess telling Liz anything about him scared him. He was unprepared for her sudden lurch in his direction.

Caught off guard, Max tried to hold his ground to stop her, but the stool he had rested his weight on suddenly gave way and he careened off of it onto the floor. By the time he righted himself, Tess had already reached her car. Max hurried after her.

He had to stop her. He couldn’t let Liz find out his secret. Not yet.

posted on 17-Apr-2002 12:27:00 PM by Behrable dream
Hey everyone!!

I thought I should get on here and answer a few questions...

yes. Max is not of this earth...

The scoop on Tess, Michael and Isabel will come later...

BUT... Tess has many secrets, and her problem is that they are all related to one larger secret. So she just doesn't trust people very easily. But at least she is being smart about taking precautions about who is blackmailing her... kind of as an insurance policy.

For Liz's part in all of this... she is opening (slowly) to Max, which I think is the healthiest way to go. She also wants to take care of herself, and not rely on him to get her through this difficult time, as she relied on Sean to get through her shooting. She is trying to be strong and self-sufficient, but she still needs to recognize that even though she may be strong and stable, needing emotional support from Max or anyone else does not make her weak. She can still grow strong and proud and still open up emotionally to Max.

Of course, that pesky alien thing may cause a few bumps in the road for them... But that will come to a head later...


-Behrable dream


posted on 20-Apr-2002 12:50:45 PM by Behrable dream
I decided to hurry up with this part... I hope you guys like it... I rewrote it like fifty times.... well... almost...

Anyway, here it is... enjoy!

Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.


Chapter Twelve

Tess jumped in her car, aware that Max was hot on her trail. She had to find some way of warning Liz. Wishing she had a cell phone in her car, she drove like a banshee to ViaChem. She could just call Liz from there, since it was closer than her hotel.

But Max was still behind her. Wishing that she could figure out a way to get away from him, she began weaving dangerously in and out of traffic to lose him. It seemed to be working. He was falling further and further behind.

She really didn’t know what she would tell Liz. Maybe she should just clear her conscience and tell her everything. Frankly, she was tired of running from her past. If she told the truth, her blackmailer wouldn’t be able to hold anything over her head. Of course, there were aspects of her life that she couldn’t share with anyone, but she could share just enough. And it wasn’t like she didn’t have information on her blackmailer. Tess fingered the key to the safety deposit box in her purse.

Maybe it was time to confess to everything and reveal to Liz why she had taken those files. The crazy fortune teller may have been right. Maybe she had been trusting the wrong people. She had been so sure she could trust Max and he was not who she thought he was. Maybe she could trust Liz, and in the process, she could help Liz by revealing Max as the stalker to her.

Deciding not to wait to call Liz, Tess pulled over at a gas station and called Liz. When she got her answering machine, Tess cursed under her breath. She decided to try and get Liz to meet her. At least Liz wasn’t home for Max to try and attack now.

“Liz, this is Tess. I have something really important to tell you, but not over the phone. I don’t know who is listening. I want to tell you everything, about the missing files and the stalker. Everything. But you have to meet me at ViaChem now. That’s where I am,” she spoke into the phone, her voice wavering on the edge of hysteria. “Please hurry and get here as soon as you get this message.”

***
Max cursed when he lost Tess behind a truck. He honked his horn and tried to go around it, but he was stuck. Thinking that Tess was headed over to see Liz, he hurried that way, but he didn’t see her car anywhere. He didn’t see Liz’s either.

He was wondering where Tess might have gone and so he picked up his car phone and dialed her hotel room. He asked for her room number and he listened to the phone ring ten times before the receptionist broke in to ask if he wanted to leave a message. Telling her no, he pondered where Tess and Liz could be.

He hung up the phone and was surprised when it suddenly rang again.

“Hello?” he answered.

“Max. This is Stevens, from The Consolate. I have some interesting information for you. The Parker girl just left her townhome in a hurry. She looked extremely upset. I‘m following her now.”

Max’s blood ran cold. Had Tess already dropped her little bombshell? Did Liz know? “Where is she headed?”

“It seems like she’s going to ViaChem. She just got off the highway and she’s headed in that direction. Once she gets inside, I can’t follow. I don’t have security clearance,” said Mr. Stevens.

“Noted. I’ll take it from here. I’ll call if I need help,” said Max, hanging up and speeding on to ViaChem. He had to get to Liz and explain everything to her. He had to make her understand that he wasn’t a monster. He only hoped that she would understand.

***
Tess pulled into ViaChem and dropped an envelope in the mailbox toward the entrance, waving at the security guard as she continued through the gate. She had to hurry. Glancing back at the security guard, who looked like he was making a call, she knew she didn’t have much time.

Tess scoffed and rolled her eyes angrily. She knew that guard was bought. Almost everyone at this place was bought. Tess fervently wished she hadn’t taken this assignment. She could have worked on another project, but working with Max was such a big draw. Tess glanced at her watch nervously. She just had to hope that Liz would get here in time. She was tired of playing these games and she just wanted this to be over.

Hopefully Liz would be able to figure out the clues she left for her, if …

Tess didn’t want to think about it. But she was glad she had that information. It may come in handy. It may even save her life.

That thought vanished as Tess walked into the lab. Nikolas Knox was already there.

“Nice of you to make this easy for me,” said Nnox.

Tess turned to run, but two guards blocked her path. “What do you want Nikolas?” Tess asked, turning to face him.

“I want you to cooperate,” he responded, moving toward her.

“I am -” started Tess, but Nikolas just laughed cruelly.

“That’s not how you sounded when we last talked,” he sneered, the veneer of gentility he normally carried slipping away completely.

“I was - I was having a bad day,” said Tess nervously.

“Tess. You don’t want the truth about you to come out, do you? That’s what’ll happen if you don’t go along with this. You’ll spend the rest of your life in jail … or worse,” said Nikolas, his eyes shining malevolently.

Tess shivered. She knew what that meant. But suddenly she didn’t care. “I don’t care,” she said bravely. “Other people already know about you. And we have proof. If I go down, you do too.”

Nikolas’ eyes flashed briefly in anger. Who did this upstart think she was? He hadn’t been working his behind off for years so she could just destroy it all. “You’re bluffing.”

“Think so? I just mailed something to someone. They’ll know exactly what to do with it if I die. Either way, you’re screwed,” said Tess, folding her arms and looking triumphantly at Nikolas.

“I think not,” said Nikolas, advancing on her, with Tess backing away in abject fear. He quirked his head, and the two guards behind her left the room.

“Did I ever tell you what happened to Ed Harding, Tess?”

***
Liz pulled up to ViaChem and swung her car into the first parking space she saw. She jumped out of her car and ran inside the building. Something didn’t feel right.

Her panic only increased when she saw Tess lying on the floor of the lab. Liz hurried to her side, trying to breathe. Tess moaned slightly and Liz felt a tug at her heartstrings. No matter what Tess had done to her in the past, she couldn’t let her die. But she didn’t know how to help her.

She looked Tess over, but she saw no signs of injury at all. She couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. She put her ear to Tess’ mouth to listen for breathing. It was very labored. Liz cocked her head back and checked for anything blocking her airways.

Trying to figure out if she should administer CPR, Liz was startled by Tess shoving a piece of paper into her hand. Liz took the paper and shoved it into her pocket… not reading it. Tess looked as though she couldn’t breathe, but she was struggling to so she could speak. Since she was conscious now, Liz couldn’t do CPR, but she didn’t know what else to do either.

She tried to hold Tess’ head in her lap and see what she wanted to say. She pulled out her cellphone and tried to call an ambulance, but she couldn’t get a signal. Leaping up to find the lab phone, she tried to dial out, but the lines were not working. Deciding this was definitely weird, she returned to Tess’ side.

She was trying to speak. “Con - sta - “ she forced out in broken words that Liz couldn’t understand. “Key -” she finally got out something Liz could comprehend.

“Key?” asked Liz, trying to get more information from her.

But if Tess had more to say, Liz would never hear it. She collapsed, her head falling limply in Liz’s lap. Liz fought back tears and tried to get a pulse. She found one, but it was faint. She was about to go and try to call an ambulance again, but she didn’t want to leave Tess.

Thinking about the note, she pulled it out and glanced at it. It read: Max, The Consolate sta - . And that was it. Liz had no idea what that meant. She couldn’t tell if the note was to Max or about him.

Was Tess dying because of this mysterious Consolate?

***
Max pulled up to ViaChem, fearing the worst when he saw Tess’ and Liz’ cars. He ran inside the building, not knowing exactly where to look. He ended up running through the halls, looking for open doors. When he reached the lab, he saw Liz holding Tess through the door. Tess didn’t look good.

He burst into the lab, startling Liz, who looked on the verge of tears. “I tried to call an ambulance, but the lines are dead and I can’t get a signal in here and I didn’t want to leave her - “ Liz started, her voice trembling.

Max glanced at Tess and then at Liz. “Go out into the hall or outside if you have to and try to call an ambulance. I’ll watch her.” When Liz just looked at him, he said more forcefully, “Go!”

Liz scrambled to her feet, took one last look at Tess and rushed out of the lab, clutching her cellphone.

Max rushed to Tess’ side. “Tess. Tess, can you hear me?” he said urgently, willing the other woman to wake up. She looked so out of it, but the only way he had a shot at helping her was if she woke up.

Tess opened her eyes and glanced at Max in horrific fear. Max tried to ignore it. And he knew he was taking a huge risk here, since Tess likely would tell everyone if he was able to help her. But when she shut her eyes, afraid, he willed her to open them. “Open your eyes. I can’t help you unless you open them, Tess.”

Maybe the pleading tone in his voice convinced her. Max would never know, but he was glad when she opened her eyes and looked at him. He placed his hands at her temple, because he couldn’t figure out what or where her injury was. He concentrated for a moment, but then a look of shock came over his face and his breathing grew rapid and shallow. He gasped in complete surprise and looked at Tess in absolute confoundment.

Completely losing control of his concentration, he tried desperately to hold on and help her, but he couldn’t get in anymore. Something was blocking his attempt to help her. And his shock over what he had seen when he first connected with her wasn’t helping matters.

Max was very agitated and upset, watching her die right in front of him. He couldn‘t figure out what was wrong. And then there was what he had seen when he connected with her. It couldn‘t be true. How could he not have known?

Tess’ eyes widened as she watched him. She was wrong about Max. She had been so wrong. And now it was too late. A single tear welled up in her eyes. She couldn’t believe her life was ending this way. And to find this out now was just so unfair. After spending her entire life searching for someone, anyone like her to share her fears with.

Max was like her. She had no direct proof of this, but with her heightened emotional state, she just knew he was. It was a strong feeling that she just couldn’t explain. The full realization of what she was losing hit her, and her eyes widened even further in pain. Struggling to speak, she croaked out in a hoarse whisper, “Max … same… help - “

And then she collapsed completely in his arms, just as Liz returned to the lab. Max laid her down on the cool floor, regarding her in shock. This couldn’t be happening. What happened to Tess? And did it have anything to do with him?

Deep down he knew it must. Because he couldn’t deny it any longer. Tess was just like him. Just like Isabel. She was an alien. And so was he. And now she was dead. A shiver a fear ran down his spine as he pondered the implications of this. Would someone be coming after him now too? Had Tess told Liz or anyone else what she knew about him?

Liz watched the way Max laid Tess down and she knew. She was gone. Max turned to look at her and Liz’s heart broke at his expression. He looked exhausted and spent, as though he had done everything possible to save her. And as she watched him, his look turned despairing and stricken.

“I tried - didn’t know what was wrong,” he stammered, trying to get his bearings. He felt overwhelmed by all of this. True, he had never been able to control his gifts, but he had never been blocked before. At first the connection had seemed fine, but then it went awry. Something really odd was going on and he had the unsettling feeling that it was eventually going to catch up to him.

“She’s gone,” said Liz softly behind him.

“Did she say what happened to her?” asked Max, regarding Tess with an unreadable expression. “Did she give you any indication of who did this?”

Liz thought about the note she had found, but for some reason, she held off on telling Max about it. Something was bothering her. How had Max come here? She had to admit his timing was odd, yet again. Thinking about the note, she had the distinct and frightening feeling that it was about him and not addressed to him.

“No,” she finally answered.

***
After giving statements to the police, and watching the coroner take Tess away, Liz and Max looked at each other awkwardly. Max bent his head and moved tentatively to her side.

“Are you alright?” he asked. “You’re okay, aren’t you?” Max was gazing down at her with searching amber eyes.

Liz nodded, not trusting her voice. She still didn’t understand how he had shown up here. The doubts and fears that she felt creeping in on her were unsettling to say the least. Well, that and the fact that Max’s presence was overwhelming her. She wanted to throw herself into his arms, but everything between them was so jumbled and confused. She could feel his concern for her in his stance, his voice, but she was afraid to give in to it.

There was now a strange distance opening up between them. Max had completely backed off and now his manner was platonic. He was just concerned about her; just like he had been concerned about Tess. That was just the kind of guy he was and it looked as if he had given up on anything romantic happening between them.

Liz couldn’t decide if she was relieved or disappointed about that.

“Would you mind if I followed you home?” asked Max uncertainly. He didn’t want to let Liz out of his sight now, even though it may not be a good idea to be around her due to his origins. But he didn’t have any idea how he should proceed. Would Liz be safer without him around? What about her stalker?

“That - that would be nice,” said Liz, wrapping her arms around herself nervously. She shivered at the thought that Tess had been murdered. But she had no idea who did it. The only clue was the note Tess had scribbled. Liz glanced over at Max in mild suspicion. She still didn’t know how he had come to be here so soon.

Max noticed her uncomfortable look and moved closer to her. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

Liz tried to wipe the unsettled look off of her face. She rubbed her eyes tiredly. “I just can’t believe this happened. She called me and wanted to meet me here. She sounded really scared, Max. I know she had something important to tell me. Someone did something to her before she could,” Liz answered.

Max clenched his jaw and tried to remain calm. Apparently Tess hadn’t been able to tell Liz about his secret before he got there. “She didn’t tell you anything when you found her here?” he asked anxiously.

Liz noted the anxiety in his voice and wondered if Max didn’t feel guilty about Tess. He had suspected her of stealing those files and she knew Tess knew it too. “No,” she responded, softly. “I got here and she was on the floor.” Part of her felt awful for keeping the note and Tess’ dying words from him, but she needed time to think about what had happened. She needed time to process Tess’ death. On the verge of tears, she looked up at Max helplessly.

Max approached her swiftly and placed the small of his hand on her back. “It’ll be okay,” he said softly, drawing her closely to him.

Liz’s head was spinning. Not fighting the urge to stay away from him, she allowed herself to be pulled more closely against him. She didn’t want to think about the implications, she just wanted to let him comfort her. Leaning her head against his shoulder, she took in a shuddering breath and sighed heavily into his chest. Max let out a slightly strangled sound and wrapped his arms around her.

Liz responded eagerly to his embrace and flung her arms around him as well. They both stood together like that for about ten minutes before Max spoke. “I’m sorry you had to find her like that. What were you doing here?”

“She called and left a message on my machine. She was really out of it. She said she was going to tell me about the files and the stalker,” answered Liz. “She wanted to meet here.”

Max’s eyes widened. “The stalker? What would she know about that?”

Liz shook her head. “I don’t know.”

Max shook his head in confusion. What did Tess know about Liz’s stalker? Was this related to the files she stole? Even worse, was this related to his origins? Was Liz’s stalking not even related to Liz … but to him?

Rubbing her hair soothingly, Max decided the best course of action would be to get Liz home. To keep an eye on her, he figured he could pick up the work that Tess was doing on the nano project. Then he could be close enough to ward off any possible danger. “Maybe we should get you home.”

Liz pulled away and nodded stoically. “Okay,” she replied and started off toward her car.

Once they pulled up into her driveway, Max hopped out and approached her. Liz threw him an exasperated look. “I’m okay Max. You don’t have to babysit me.”

“I know… I just wanted to make sure you were okay. Plus, we need to talk about the nano project. I think I should help you with that now… since Tess… “ Max trailed off uncomfortably. Maybe this wasn’t a good time to discuss work.

Liz looked up sharply. Why was Max talking about work at a time like this? Maybe this was how he coped. “Can’t we talk about work tomorrow? I can’t - “

“Sure. I - never should have even brought that up now. I don’t even know why I did,” he said miserably.

Liz sighed and pushed her hands through her hair. “It’s okay, Max. It’s understandable that we would be a little out of sorts after all of this.”

Max nodded, hating that he couldn’t tell Liz about himself. He felt guilty about Tess dying. She had been about to reveal a huge secret about him and now she had been silenced forever. He felt sick that he was somewhat benefiting from her death. He didn’t have to deal with Liz knowing about him yet, and he felt terrible that he felt relief more than sadness.

“I’m just going to go in,” said Liz, motioning toward the door. She did feel the need to be alone. So much had happened, and she hadn’t had time to process any of it.

Max seemed to take the hint. But he couldn’t let her go without making certain she called him if she needed anything. “Liz,” he called to her softly.

Liz turned and looked up at him wearily.

“Just call me if … if anything happens. I don’t care what it is. If you feel unsafe… just call me. Please,” he added earnestly, moving so closely to her that Liz almost wanted to tell him to come in. The pull of him was so compelling that she honestly didn’t want him to leave now, even though she did want to be alone.

In the end, she just decided to let him go. She didn’t know how she felt right now and she didn’t want to do anything with him that would confuse things even further between them. “Okay,” she smiled at him warmly.

Max smiled in response and turned toward his car. Liz watched him approach his car as she closed the door, turning on the alarm. So much had happened that she really needed time alone to think.

Slowly, she pulled out the note Tess had scribbled. What did it mean? Max, The Consolate?? Was Max connected to Tess’ death? What was this Consolate?

Liz sighed and sank back against the cushions. She couldn’t believe that Max could be connected to all of this. He just couldn’t be. But there was his strange timing, and he did seem slightly off tonight. Of course, Tess’ death was definitely affecting him, so maybe that didn’t mean anything. Plus, Liz just felt that Max would never have anything to do with anything sinister.

Something told her she could stake her life on that.

***
“It looks like we have a problem,” said Nikolas, looking at the surveillance video from the lab. His eyes glinted in the dimly lit room, watching the image of Liz pulling the note from Tess’ hand and reading it.

One of the men behind him grunted.

Nikolas turned and looked at him malevolently. “You know what to do.”

The men turned and left the room. Nikolas pulled the tape out and held it in his hand, watching as it turned to ash in his fingers.


posted on 22-Apr-2002 10:40:49 AM by Behrable dream
Well hellooooooo!!!!

I'm so glad everyone liked the last part. I know I shocked some people, but I actually kept Tess around longer than I had originally planned... What can I say? Tess has a way of just not going away... Anyhoo, I did take a sort of sick satisfaction in killing her off...

I'm glad I was able to catch you guys off guard on that one... But, all will be revealed in the end... Tess' death will actually be the impetus for Liz's vigilant search for answers.


Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.



Chapter Thirteen

“That’s awful Max. Do you have any idea who could have done this?” asked Diane Evans.

“No. I have no clue. But whoever did it - I’m afraid they might be after me. Tess was - she was like me,” said Max uncomfortably, holding the phone to his ear as he talked with his parents.

“Do you have any reason to believe that whoever was blackmailing Tess knew about you too?” asked Philip.

“Nothing other than the fact that Tess was like me and I think she figured out what I was. She freaked out and she said she was going to tell Liz about me. I followed, but I lost her. The P.I. I hired told me that Liz was headed to ViaChem and that’s where I found them both. But Tess never told Liz about me - or at least I don’t think she did,” said Max worriedly.

“But if Tess was like you, why would she want to call attention to that? Wouldn’t it expose her too?” asked Philip evenly.

That hadn’t occurred to him in all of the drama. Max hadn’t even thought about that. But he had been so sure that Tess knew. She had looked so scared … of him. Why? What other possible explanation could there be?

“I don’t know,” he finally admitted.

“Something isn’t adding up here son,” sighed Philip.

“I can see that,” said Max grimly.

“Be careful honey,” asserted Diane. “Take care of Liz.”

“I will,” answered Max resolutely.

***
Work was absolutely crazy the next week. Everyone was asking about Tess and most people were looking at Liz as though she were some sort of freak. She heard whispering wherever she went and it was obvious that people were talking about the argument she and Tess had at the benefit.

When she was in the ladies room, she heard someone suggest that maybe Tess had been Liz’s stalker and that Liz did her in to save herself. Liz emerged from the bath stall and emphatically denied any of it.

The police had dropped the investigation into her death because the autopsy came back inconclusive. But Liz knew that Tess had been murdered. She knew that Tess had been about to reveal something important to her. Something about her stalker. Something about those files.

Max had been true to his word and he had started working with her on the nano project to take over Tess’ load. Working so closely with him was beginning to wear on her. Max was completely professional with her. He was completely keeping his distance - probably because of all of the rumors swirling around them. Most of the people at ViaChem knew that there had been a triangle of sorts between Max, Liz and Tess.

But Liz missed the comfortable sense of familiarity that she used to feel whenever Max was around. She missed seeing the looks that he threw her way when he thought she didn’t notice. She missed all of his attempts to get her to admit she felt something for him. Even if she wasn’t ready to admit that she did, she still missed the attention.

On this particular day, Liz barely remembered driving home. She was so unaware of her surroundings that she had been sitting at a stop sign for at least a minute before someone began impatiently blowing their horn at her. When she finally got home that night, she rifled through her mail and then fingered an envelope with familiar handwriting. Liz gasped in astonishment.

It was Tess’ handwriting.

With shaking hands, Liz tore open the envelope and stepped back as a key fell from it onto the floor. She bent down to pick the key up and then looked inside the envelope to see if there was anything else. There was no note. No nothing. Just this key.

What did it mean? What would it unlock? Would it have the answers to the mystery surrounding Tess’ death?

Liz’s hand hovered over her phone. She thought about calling Max and telling him about the key and the note Tess had pressed into her hand before she died. Thinking that she still wasn’t sure if she should tell him yet, she dialed.

“Hello?” said a groggy voice on the other end.

“Alex. It’s me. I need your help.”

***
“This sounds really sinister Liz. I think you should contact the police,” said Alex cautiously. He was still wrapping his mind around the convoluted and confusing facts that Liz had related to him.

“But if Max has nothing to do with this, I don’t want to falsely accuse him,” protested Liz. “And I really don’t think he has anything to do with it.”

“Then why aren’t you going to him with all of this? Maybe that note has to do with whoever Tess stole those files for. You can’t think she just took them for kicks can you?” asked Alex pointedly.

Liz mulled that over for a moment. “I guess not.“ Maybe that was it. Tess was trying to confess about those files. Maybe she wanted Liz to tell Max about the Consolate! But then again, why hadn’t Tess just gone to Max herself?

“I don’t see why you shouldn’t just go to the police,” repeated Alex worriedly. “Maybe I should come back down there.”

“No, Alex. I’m fine. I just want to find out what happened to her, that’s all. Maybe I should just look into this Consolate thing myself,” mused Liz, picking at the edges of the note Tess had scribbled.

Then her gaze fell on the key and she regarded it curiously. “I wish I knew what this key went to.”

“You don’t have any idea where it could go? Her desk? A safety deposit box?” asked Alex.

“No idea at all. I tried it in her desk. It didn’t go. Plus, her desk was empty and unlocked. I don’t think she kept stuff there,” replied Liz.

Alex sighed and appeared to shift on the other end of the line. She heard a few beeps and realized that Alex was getting online.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Looking up this Consolate,” he replied succinctly. Liz heard rapid typing and then Alex snorted. “What?” she pressed.

“Nothing. I tried a search for you and I got nothing. Well, nothing useful. Just a bunch of useless links,” answered Alex in exasperation.

“Maybe I should find a private investigator or something,” suggested Liz.

“Now that is an idea,” concurred Alex. “Why didn’t I think of that?”

“Because I’m the brains in this operation,” laughed Liz, feeling at ease for the moment. Maybe hiring a P.I. wasn’t a bad idea.

“You wish,” chided Alex.

“Whatever Whitman,” said Liz dismissively.

“Just keep me posted. Bye,” retorted Alex.

“Bye. Thanks for the ear,” said Liz as she hung up.

After she hung up the phone, Liz plopped down on the chaise lounge in her room and pulled out the phonebook. She started flipping through it and then she gasped. Right in the center of the page she had turned to, she found an ad.

It was an ad for The Consolate, a private detective agency.

Liz blew out a slow breath. This might actually be easier than she thought. Picking up the phone, she dialed and held her breath. She actually didn’t know what she was going to say.

A machine picked up on the first ring. “Hello. You have reached The Consolate Private Detective Agency. Please leave a message after the tone and someone will get back to you.”

Liz hung up and chewed on her lip for a moment. She wasn’t sure what to do. She couldn’t just leave a message. She needed answers.

Deciding to take matters into her own hands, Liz ran outside and hopped in her car. She was going to need some help on this one.

***
“So you’ll help me?” asked Liz.

Maria gave Liz a look of complete frustration. “Are you crazy Liz? This plan of yours will never work.”

“Yes it will! You just have to get the secretary out of the office long enough for me to get a look at their files. As long as she stays logged on, I can find out what The Consolate has to do with Tess,” she urged.

Maria sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. She couldn’t believe she was agreeing to do this. “Okay. So when do we do this?”

Liz cut her eyes at her partner in crime. “Tomorrow morning. Early.”

It was surprisingly easy. Maria had swept into the office in all of her superstar glory. Her agent had convinced everyone that she was considering a movie role where she played a washed up singer who opened her own detective agency. The entire place bought it… hook, line and sinker.

The secretary was more than helpful. Maria ‘accidentally’ spilled her latte on her desk and skirt. Luckily, it wasn’t hot. But even if it had been, Liz doubted that the woman would have even batted an eyelash.

It was probably the best experience of her life and she happily went off with a profusely apologetic Maria into the bathroom to clean up. Liz feigned concern for the mess on her desk and began to wipe up the latte with a napkin. Making certain that no one was watching, she did a quick search on Tess’ name and and then sent the resulting files to the printer before anyone even noticed. She grabbed the papers off the printer and stuffed them into her purse when she saw Maria and the secretary return from the ladies room.

Nodding at the secretary, Liz and Maria thanked her profusely and left.

Once they got outside, Liz pulled out the papers.

Maria hovered excitedly around her. “I cannot believe it. It worked! Your crazy plan worked! Whew!” Maria fell back against the building and fanned herself.

“Calm down Maria,” said Liz absent-mindedly rifling through the papers. She stopped when she saw an invoice. Tess’ name was on it.

And so was hers.

It was some kind of payment stub for two accounts that were being billed to the same address. Liz’s eyes widened in shock as she looked at it. The address was so familiar. She knew this address.

Where?

Liz gasped and the paper fell from her hand. “Oh my God,” she exclaimed, clutching Maria’s arm fretfully.

“What? What is it?” asked Maria tremulously.

“It’s Max.”

***
Liz held the phone to her ear nervously. She had been trying to get up the nerve to call Max for over an hour.

She didn’t understand any of this. He had a file on Tess and he had one on her too. Why? And was that what Tess had been trying to tell her?

Was Max somehow involved in Tess’ death?

Liz fervently shook her head. He couldn’t be. She just knew he couldn’t. Not Max. Somehow, Liz just knew Max could never be involved in anything that could harm another person.

So she knew that he couldn’t have had anything to do with Tess’ death. Everything in her told her that. But she could no longer ignore the little niggling doubts plaguing her. They had always been there, but she trusted her instincts about him enough to let them die.

But ever since Tess’ death, she had been forced to face them. That note Tess wrote. It must have been about Max. Maybe Tess had been trying to warn her about Max. Maybe she found out that he had files on both of them.

Liz sighed, flustered. The only way she could solve this mystery was to talk to Max directly. The only problem was, did she trust him enough to do that?


***
Liz opened the door to a nervous Max. “Max. Come in,” she said, moving to the side to allow him access.

“Th - thanks,” he stuttered, trying to read her. He couldn’t. He moved into the living room and sat down on the couch, trying to get his bearings and keep up the appearance of calm. His worst fear was that she had somehow discovered his secret.

Liz crossed over in front of him and regarded him curiously. He looked guilty. But she couldn’t figure out what he would be guilty about. Obviously there was some connection between him and the Consolate and her. He had started a file on her with this organization. The same organization that Tess had scribbled down on that note. Liz glanced at him furtively. Tess had wanted to tell her about the files she took and about the stalker. Up until now, she thought the two things were separate. What if they weren’t?

And then there was his weird timing. His timing in showing up at ViaChem when Tess died. The gifts appearing right when he would have been miffed at her for rebuffing him. Liz fought down the rising sense of panic in her mind.

Max looked at Liz warily. Did she know? Had she discovered what - who he was?

“I need the truth Max,” said Liz unevenly, bracing herself against the door in case she felt the need to flee. She wanted to believe in Max. She wanted to believe that he could never do anything sinister. But the doubts were beginning to overwhelm her. She knew he was hiding something from her. “You’ve been hiding something from me. And Tess knew about it.”

Max’s jaw muscle tensed involuntarily. His eyes closed briefly and he tried to figure out a way to get around this. He couldn’t tell if she knew or not. “I can explain -”

Liz wasn’t prepared for his sudden capitulation. It scared her. He wasn’t even trying to defend himself. “Explain what? You’ve been lying to me. I want to know why. What possible reason could you have?”

Max rose to his feet and slowly approached her. Liz stayed perfectly still, but held her hand up. “Stay back.”

“Liz -” began Max, but he was interrupted by the doorbell.

Startled, Liz jumped and then caught herself. She opened the door to find a deliveryman on the other side of it. Fear clutched her heart and she took the package and signed for it, her hands slightly shaking. Closing the door, she turned and held it in her hand for a moment and then brought her gaze up to meet Max’s.

He looked strange.

“Liz,” he said unevenly. “It‘s not what you think.” Max glanced at the package. He could have kicked himself. He’d sent those flowers to her before all of this drama to brighten up her day in the midst of the Tess debacle. But now he could see that she was rattled after receiving them. She must think they were from her stalker.

What the hell was he talking about? Liz thought as she ripped open the package and dumped the white roses on the floor. She was really scared now. Max was acting so strangely. What was with him? “What?” she spat, looking around for a note. She couldn‘t find one. Another gift from the stalker.

The stalker. Max. The Consolate. Suddenly everything made a sick sort of sense. Oh my God, thought Liz desperately. That’s what Tess had been trying to write. Max was stalking her!

Liz’s head was spinning. Max couldn’t be the stalker. He just couldn’t be.

“You kept shutting me out. I had to do something,” he continued, moving slowly toward her. “The flowers probably weren’t a good idea though.”

“Oh my God, oh my God,” gasped Liz, backing away from him slowly.

Max’s confusion intensified. He didn’t understand why she was reacting this way. “Liz. It’s okay. I’m here. I won’t let anything happen to you. I wasn‘t thinking. I shouldn‘t have sent those.”

“Happen to me?” repeated Liz blankly, not believing her ears. Was he delusional?

Max nodded, moving toward her again, trying to find a way to calm her down. He didn’t understand what was going on in her head.

Liz threw the box at him to stop him. “Why are you doing this Max?” she spat, wondering why he would want to stalk her, and knowing that he could never do that at the same time.


posted on 23-Apr-2002 3:18:01 PM by Behrable dream
Ask and ye shall receive... I'm on a roll now with writing... So I didn't want to sit on this chapter any longer...

Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.

Chapter Fourteen

“Doing what Liz?” asked Max in confusion as he stepped toward her.

“Why did you send me those flowers? And the lizard and the other dead roses? Why are you doing this?” Liz yelled, fumbling around for her cellphone. She had to call the police.

“What? Liz I never - “ started Max.

“You didn’t send me those flowers?” demanded Liz loudly, pointing at the roses on the floor.

“Yes but -”

“And you don’t have a file on me at this place called The Consolate?” she cried, trying to work the buttons on her cellphone.

Max’s brow furrowed. “How did you - “

Liz saw the look on his face and she knew that she was right. He had that file on her and he had sent her the roses. He was stalking her. “Why Max? Why would you scare me like that?”

Max was trying to comprehend what Liz was saying. How had she found out about The Consolate? “How did you know about The Consolate? I never meant for you to find out about that. Not yet.”

Liz couldn’t believe her ears. He wasn’t denying anything. He didn’t even look fazed by her revelation either. “But why? How could you do this to me? Is that why you killed Tess? She found out what you were doing?”

“What?!? Liz - “

“She found out that you sent those things to me and she was coming to tell me so you killed her. You killed her and now - now you’re going to kill me too, aren’t you?” cried Liz, backing away in fear and dropping her phone.

So that was it. Liz thought he was stalking her. She found out about the private detective agency and she thought he was stalking her. Then Max thought back to when Tess had visited him at his condo. He had let her wander around while he got her something to drink. He grimaced as he thought about the pictures and files on his desk. Many of them were of her and some were of Liz. Tess must have seen them and figured that he was stalking Liz.

Max clapped a hand to his gut. Of course! Tess didn’t overhear him talking to his mother. She heard him talking to Agent Stevens!! Tess thought he was stalking Liz and that’s what she was barreling out of there to tell her! The whole idea was ludicrous. He would never harm Liz. Suddenly, Max doubled over and started laughing.

Liz backed away, looking alarmed. “What is so funny?!” she spat, thinking that Max was crazy.

Max held up his hand and tried to stop laughing. “Hold on a second,” he laughed, trying to stop the deep chuckles from within. “I am not going to kill you, Liz.”

Liz just stared at him. She didn’t understand his behavior. “Forgive me if I don’t believe you.”

Max looked at her expression and his laughter died on his lips. This wasn’t funny to Liz. She was actually serious. “Do you honestly think I’m stalking you?”

Liz was caught momentarily off guard. “You just admitted to sending me those flowers. And I know you have a file on me. And you had a file on Tess too, but she’s dead. You connect the dots, Max.”

Max softened and took a step toward her. Liz backed away again. “I’m not going to hurt you Liz. I could never hurt you. Look at me. You know it’s the truth.”

Liz felt her body stiffen. She wanted to believe Max. But how could she? Everything was pointing to him being the stalker. And Tess’ murderer.

Before she knew it, Max was standing right in front of her, gazing down at her with an expression so full of emotion that Liz’s breath was sucked right out of her. “Let me explain everything to you,” he whispered.

“Go ahead,” Liz managed to find her voice.

“I hired the people at the Consolate to watch you. I was worried about you and you wouldn’t let me protect you from the stalker. I had to do something,” he said anxiously.

Liz blinked. That made sense too. “But what about Tess? And these flowers?”

“I sent you the white roses. You’ve been stressed out all week and I thought it would brighten things up for you. But I didn’t send you the lizard or the dead roses. I promise you that Liz. You can trust me,” said Max, reaching out to take her hand in his.

Liz shut her eyes in relief. Deep down she knew that Max would never do anything to harm her. But things had gotten so confused. Now she felt ashamed for thinking that Max could do anything so horrible. She knew that her own trust issues had made it too easy for her to believe ill of him. “And Tess?”

“I think she thought I was stalking you too,” smiled Max ruefully. “She came to see me the day she died and I think she overheard me talking to the private investigator I hired. She probably saw the surveillance photos of you and her that I had and thought the worst.”

Liz let out a disgusted sigh. What Max had done for her was unbelievably considerate. He had actually hired someone to protect her. And the flowers. How could she have been so stupid? She dropped her head in her hands and groaned. “I am such an idiot. I’m so sorry for suspecting you Max. You didn’t deserve that.”

“You don’t have to apologize Liz. I might have thought the same thing you did if I were in your shoes,” said Max softly, touching her arm gently.

Liz shivered slightly. “No you wouldn’t have Max. I didn’t trust you because of my past. It wasn’t even about you.”

Max smiled. “I’m just glad we got that out in the open,” he continued and then he looked as if something had just occurred to him. “How did you know about The Consolate?”

Liz shifted uncomfortably. She was going to have to confess how she had kept Tess’ note a secret from him. Because she didn’t trust him. “Okay,” she breathed. “I kept something from you.”

Max raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“Tess wrote a note before she died.” Liz grabbed the worn piece of paper from her purse and handed it to Max. “I found out The Consolate was here in Los Angeles and I thought it had something to do with her death. Then when I found out that you had something to do with it … “

“You thought the worst,” said Max resignedly and Liz nodded.

“I’m so sorry Max. I let my personal stuff get in the way of doing what I knew I should have done from the beginning. I should have told you about this before. Look at all of the trouble we could have been spared.”

Max squeezed Liz‘s arm gently and ran his hand down to hers. Entertwining their fingers, he spoke softly, “I want you to trust me Liz.”

“I want to trust you too Max. It’s just that - “

“I understand,” said Max, cutting her off and bringing her fingers to his lips briefly. “You don’t have to explain anything to me. I don’t want to rush you.”

Liz struggled to ignore the tremor that went through her when he did that. She had missed his touch, though she was reluctant to admit it. “No, I want to - Wait a minute. Tess came to see you the day she died? Why didn’t you tell me that?” asked Liz, not liking that he kept that from her.

Max just looked at her. What could he say? Well I thought Tess knew I was an alien and I was afraid she was on her way to tell you? “Uh - “

Liz abruptly hopped up and away from Max and began pacing slightly. “That’s how you showed up at ViaChem. You knew she would be there. What else aren’t you telling me Max?”

***
“I have another job for you,” said Nikolas.

The man’s eyes widened fearfully. “I thought the last job was the last!”

Nikolas snorted. “Considering how badly you botched it and how I had to clean up your mess, you’re lucky I’m only asking for one more.”

“But - “

“Shut up! You’ll take the job. It’ll be the last one and then you can disappear. Both of you,” said Nikolas, moving out of the corner of the room.

Dexter was beside himself. He couldn’t allow this. He had a family to protect now. He had everything to lose. His wife. His kids. He had gone straight a long time ago, but that one mistake from his past was still haunting him. “I repaid my debt to you years ago Nikolas. This ain’t fair!”

“Whatever,” sneered Nikolas. “Unless you want the world to know all about you, you’ll do what I say. Keep your mouth shut, do the job, and you get to keep your perfect little family and the house with the white picket fence.”

Dexter fell against the wall, defeated.

Nikolas rolled his eyes. He was tired of dealing with this. “Just don’t mess up.”

Dexter nodded and Nikolas left, getting into a limo parked outside the seedy motel room they had been in. He got inside and shook his head. There were some sick people in this world. But at least they were all in his employ.

***
Max rose slowly from the couch, trying to figure out a way to explain things to Liz without raising her suspicions even further. “I didn’t know that until the agent I had on you told me that you left here really upset that day. He followed you to ViaChem. That’s why I showed up there.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that when Tess died?” asked Liz, still wondering how Max could have gotten there so quickly. He lived at least twenty minutes from ViaChem. How had he gotten there so soon after she did?

“Why didn’t you tell me about the note?” retorted Max, folding his arms and looking at her pointedly.

Liz opened her mouth and then closed it again. “Touche,” she muttered, flopping back down on the couch. He still hadn’t explained why he didn’t tell her about Tess’ visit the day of her death. Though she couldn’t really hold it against him. She had withheld information too.

“You are so beautiful when you’re flustered,” Max said before he could stop himself.

Liz was momentarily struck dumb. Max had a silver tongue.

“And even more so when you’re speechless,” he said, drawing her to him.

Liz felt a wave of heat wash over her. How had this happened? One minute they were talking about Tess’ death, stalkers and private eyes, and now the room was charged with all of this sexual tension?

Liz tried to fight it. But this time, she couldn’t. Their lips crashed together as Max pulled her tightly against him. His tongue darted in and out of her mouth frenziedly and he brought his hand up to cup the side of her face. Liz drew in a shaky breath and pressed herself against him.

Max shuddered. It was as if he had been holding himself back for so long that the release was like a tidal wave crashing over both of them. It was so hard holding himself back from her when he knew in his soul that they belonged together. He had been so worried about her all week that he had tried to distance himself to protect her from all of the rumors. But now he wanted nothing more than to make love to her. Stalker or no stalker. Alien or no alien. Danger or no danger.

A low moan started deep in Liz’s throat and her mind clouded over as Max broke away and began kissing down her neck. She wanted to be with him so badly. It would be so easy to just give in. God, she wanted to give in. But so much was still unresolved with her. She just wasn’t ready. Not yet. Especially with all of this stalker business.

“Max…” she gasped, trying desperately to keep her bearings.

Max abruptly pulled back from her, breathing heavily. “I overstepped. I‘m sorry. I just get this feeling when I‘m around you. Sometimes I can‘t control it. Like now.”

Liz sighed. “It’s okay. I understand. And for what it’s worth … I feel it too, but I’m just not - “

“Ready. You’re not ready. It’s okay. I understand Liz.”

Slowly, the two pulled apart and retreated to opposite ends of the room. Liz cleared her throat. “So if you’re not my stalker, then who is?”

“And who killed Tess?” added Max questioningly.

“What about those files she stole? Do you think this has something to do with that?” asked Liz, as the thought occurred to her.

Max tensed slightly. He couldn’t tell Liz about Tess’ blackmailer. What if it was all related to him? If Liz went digging around for information about Tess and whoever was blackmailing her… She could discover his secret. “No,” he finally answered, hating himself for lying to her.


***
After grabbing something to eat, Max and Liz settled on her patio, looking out at the waves crashing in on the shoreline. The moon was hanging low over the water and it cast an eerie light over the crashing waves.

“I do think this has something to do with those files she stole. I wonder why she took them,” said Liz, watching as a woman and her dog jogged past them on the beach.

Max glanced at her nervously. Liz wasn’t going to let this thing go. He had to convince her to stay away from it. “I don’t think we’ll ever find out.”

Liz smirked to herself. She had the key that Tess sent her. That was a start, even if she didn‘t know what it unlocked. “She was going to tell me about those files, Max. Someone killed her because of them, I know it.”

Max stood up and stretched his arms out. How was he going to get her to back off from this? “And if you go digging around, they might kill you too, Liz. Don’t you have enough to deal with?”

“I have to find out what happened to her,” said Liz quietly, her eyes shimmering as she looked at him.

Max resisted the urge to pull her to him. He didn’t know how he would be able to convince her, but he had to. His mind flashed back to what he had seen when he had connected with Tess before she died. It had touched on his mind like a feather, unearthing a memory that he had long since forgotten.

It was a cave in the desert. A cave with pods in it. He remembered emerging from the pods and taking his sister’s hand, looking behind him at Tess, still in her pod. Max struggled to regain control of the rest of the memory, but it slipped through his grasp like sand. He actually had very little memories of that time. The early memories of his life that he remembered came after his parents had adopted him and his sister. Everything before that was a blur.

“Max? Max?” Liz tapped him on the arm. “Are you alright? You kind of zoned out there for a minute.”

Max blinked as reality reasserted itself around him. He looked around, slightly dazed. “Sorry. I just got lost in thought for a minute.”

Liz gave him a penetrating look and then resumed her staring out over the water. “Oh,” was all she said as she stretched her legs out on the lounge chair and yawned.

Max glanced over at her. She looked tired. He could try to convince her not to go digging around tomorrow. “Liz. Promise me you won’t go off looking for Tess’ killer. It’s too dangerous.”

“No,” she replied stubbornly. Liz had no intention of backing down. “I’m going to find out what happened to her. With or without your help.”

Max frowned. Truth be told, he wanted to investigate to find out what really happened to Tess himself. But he couldn’t have Liz poking around in Tess’ past. What if all roads led back to him?

***
The next few days were rather harrowing. Liz’s nerves were really on edge and her work was suffering. Max even called her on a data set that she had prepared for him that had a lot of errors in it. The rumor mill at work had stalled, since there was no real evidence to suggest that Tess had been murdered. The police had dropped the investigation entirely, even though Liz had tried to convince them that they shouldn’t and that Tess couldn’t have died of natural causes.

Liz was sitting at home in her kitchen one Saturday morning, staring at the key Tess had left her. She wished she knew what this key went to. Picking up her phone and hitting the speed dial, she waited impatiently for Alex to pick up.

“Hello?” mumbled Alex sleepily. It was only seven-thirty in the morning.

“Hey Alex, it’s me,” said Liz. “Did I wake you up?”

“What do you think, Liz? It’s not even eight a.m. yet,” he yawned, pulling himself up to a sitting position.

“I just wanted to talk about this key Tess left,” said Liz, turning the key over in her hand.

“What’s there to talk about? We have no way of knowing what it unlocks,” Alex said matter of factly.

“There has to be a way of figuring it out,” groaned Liz. “She sent it to me for a reason, Alex.”

“I agree, but I don’t know how we can find out.” Then he added, “What did Max have to say?”

“Max?” questioned Liz.

“Yeah. Max. You remember him, right? The guy you thought was stalking you?” said Alex, beginning to laugh.

“I don’t see what’s so funny,” said Liz dryly, not enjoying Alex’s fun at her expense.

“I’m sorry, Liz. But that is the craziest thing I ever heard. If I know one thing for sure; Max Evans would never intentionally hurt you,” Alex responded.

“Yeah, well… I guess you had to be there,” grumbled Liz.

“I’ll take your word for it. So, what did he have to say about the key?” pressed Alex.

“Key?” repeated Liz evasively.

Alex snorted. “Yes. The KEY. You know, that thing you woke me up this morning about? What did Max say about the key?”

Liz pursed her lips together for a moment before mumbling, “He doesn’t know about the key.”

“Uh … why not?” asked Alex, dumbstruck that Liz had kept that key a secret from Max.

“He - I don’t think he’s interested in finding out what happened to Tess. He says it’s too dangerous to go poking around. If I tell him about the key, he’ll just freak out,” said Liz, only telling part of the story. The truth was, she still wasn’t sure about Max’s actions the day Tess died. She still had a bunch of unanswered questions. She knew he didn’t have anything to do with Tess’ death or her stalking. But she felt he was keeping something else from her.

“Fine. Does the key have any numbers on it?” asked Alex, rubbing his eyes.

“Yeah. 54719,” read Liz from the back of the key.

“Anything else?” he asked.

“Nope, that’s it,” replied Liz, throwing the key into her desk.

“I think it goes to a safety deposit box. But you’ll be hard pressed to find out which bank it came from,” mused Alex thoughtfully.

Liz raised an eyebrow. A safety deposit box. That made sense. Tess must have had some vital information on someone and she wanted Liz to have it.

“I have an idea that might help us find out what bank that key goes to,” said Alex suddenly.

Liz perked up. “Really? What is it?”

***
“Alex are you sure this is going to work?” asked Liz uncertainly as she stood outside Tess’ hotel.

“Trust me. It’ll work. We just need to get her mail,” said Alex.

“You say that like it’s easy or something,” snapped Liz into her cellphone. “Okay. I’m going in. Are you ready?”

“Ready,” said Alex. “Operation G.P. engage.”

Liz snorted. “Operation G.P.?”

“Yeah. Going Postal,” said Alex in his best Mission Impossible voice.

Liz suppressed a laugh and hung up. Alex was crazy. She strolled into the hotel, trying to look more confident than she felt. She approached the receptionist and gave her the ‘official’ letter from the ‘attorney’ handling Tess’ estate.

The receptionist read over the letter and then looked at Liz curiously. “You heard about her room?”

“What?” asked Liz, confused.

“Her room. It was broken into last night. I was assuming that her attorney was notified and that’s why you are requesting her mail,” said the receptionist.

“Oh. Right. Yes. They called us last night to inform us. Attorney Whitman felt it would be prudent to come and pick up the mail today,” said Liz, hoping that sounded plausible, and feeling really spooked that Tess’ room had been trashed. Obviously, someone was afraid she had left some damaging information around.

The receptionist nodded and then dialed the number given in the fake letter Liz and Alex trumped up. She had a brief conversation with ‘Attorney Whitman’ and then hung up, handing a large pack of mail over to Liz.

Not trusting her luck, Liz scurried out of the hotel and practically ran to her car, dialing Alex along the way. “It worked. Thanks Alex. I never should have doubted your criminal genius.”

“Make sure it never happens again. Anything useful in that mail?” he asked.

Liz glanced over the envelopes and blew out an exasperated sigh. After all of that. Nothing. Not one bank or interesting legal looking piece of mail. “I can’t believe it,” she spat disgustedly. “Nothing!”

“Well, it seemed like a good plan,” said Alex.

“Yeah,” answered Liz as she started her car and began to leave the parking deck. She was so engrossed in talking to Alex that she never noticed Dexter Williams peering at her as she drove away.

He stepped out from behind a concrete pillar and looked at her retreating car thoughtfully before going and getting in his own car. He didn’t know what she was doing here, but he would have to find out. Hopefully, he could do it without harming her. Maybe this would all just blow over. Liz wouldn’t find out about Nikolas and he wouldn’t have to kill her.

posted on 23-Apr-2002 4:29:18 PM by Behrable dream
quote:
DreamingOfMax84 originally wrote:
More more. I want to know what happens next. *big*

I missed the last two chapters before this and I didn't get to leave any feedback. So here's some for you now....

Anyway in chapter 12 where Nikolas was watching the tape, he didn't see the part where Max tried to heal Tess. Did he?? Or did you just not write that part?? Was Max really trying to heal her or was he just trying to keep her awake?? Nikolas didn't even see the interaction between them. Huh?? He stopped after watching Liz took the note from Tess.


Nikolas only looked at the part where Liz got the note from Tess. Even if he was looking at Max and Tess, it is unlikely that he would notice anything except Max trying to help her. Remember, Max he did was hold her head with his hands. It isn't like healing would produce special effects that Nikolas could take notice of.

The thing of interest to him was Liz taking the note from Tess. This was a more blatant action.

And yes, Max did try to heal Tess ... but he failed because of something that Nikolas did to Tess - that and the fact that Max isn't very good with his powers. He obviously doesn't use them for anything other than recreation. He certainly doesn't do any healing on a regular basis.

I hope I answered some of your questions...

Oh, and Liz believes that the key was what Tess died for, since Tess mailed it to her. Nikolas and the others don't know about it yet. They just believe that Tess told Liz something important before she died, hence the note and the danger for Liz now.


posted on 24-Apr-2002 1:07:17 PM by Behrable dream
Okay... This is my fave chapter so far. I spent a really long time on it... I actually wrote it before the previous few chapters... The story advances a bit and a few things are revealed that may answer a few questions...

I really hope you like it... *happy*

Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.

Chapter Fifteen - The Storm

Liz cradled the phone between her ear and her shoulder as she tried to find the earpiece for her cellphone. “Alex. Hold on a second,” she said, trying to join the earpiece to her cellphone.

“Okay… I’m back,” she breathed into the phone. “Thanks for your help Alex, but I guess we’ll have to come up with something else.”

“I guess so,” laughed Alex. “I didn’t expect the mail to be so useless.”

“Neither did I,” said Liz. Then she remembered the detail about Tess’ hotel room being trashed. “Oh… Tess’ room was broken into,” she added bleakly.

“See Liz, this is exactly why you need to take that key and go to the police!” exclaimed Alex.

“And have them drop it? No! Alex, I have to do this myself. I can’t trust the police to actually do this right.”

“So, when are you arriving in Roswell? Everything happens in a couple of weeks, right?” asked Alex, changing the subject after realizing that Liz wasn‘t going to be swayed.

“What? Oh, you mean the wedding,” said Liz. Even though she was desperately happy for Maria and Michael, she was nervous about going back to Roswell. There were memories there that she didn’t want to face yet.

“Yeah, the wedding! Do you have your dress yet? How ugly is it? Aren’t you Maria’s maid of honor?” Alex was trying to change the subject, but he realized that Liz couldn’t be totally happy about going back to Roswell. It was always difficult for her, because Sean was still there.

“I have my dress. And I am the maid of honor. There aren’t any other bridesmaids either,” said Liz, ignoring the ugly dress comment. She wondered what it would feel like to walk down the aisle. At least Sean wasn’t in the wedding.

“So are you driving or flying?” asked Alex.

“Well, I don’t have to be there until Thursday, so I thought I could drive,” answered Liz.

“You aren’t going alone are you?” asked Alex.

“I don’t want to, but Maria and Michael will already be there. Is Kyle flying?” she asked.

“I‘m not sure Liz. I haven’t been able to get in touch with him. I don’t even know if he’s still coming to the wedding,” replied Alex.

“Oh,” said Liz, frowning slightly. She was getting worried about Kyle.

“I don’t think you should be driving alone, Liz. I - I’ll come and get you,” offered Alex.

“That’s sweet Alex, but maybe I should just fly. I don’t want to put you out. Don’t you already have your ticket?” asked Liz.

“I do but - “

“No buts,” interrupted Liz. “I’ll figure this out and let you know what’s going on.”

***
Liz pondered her conversation with Alex while she drove over to see Maria. She didn’t want to impose on him and he already had a ticket. It would be nice to go with him, but she would have to figure something else out.

As she pulled up to the guarded security gate leading to Maria’s, Liz glanced at the clouds on the horizon. They looked dark and ominous. It was definitely going to storm.

Maria was waiting for her when she got to the door and she opened it without Liz having to knock. She was pouring over a bunch of wedding magazines at flower arrangements. “I can’t seem to decide on colors for the flowers,” she said.

Liz glanced at the swatches of fabric from her bridesmaid dress. It was a dark cobalt blue color. “Well, this color is kind of neutral, so you could use almost anything. What do you like?”

Maria made a face. “I don’t know! There are too many choices!”

Liz smiled in understanding. She had gone through this herself. “I think that maybe you should just send in the swatch of fabric and then just tell them what style you want. Let them do a mock arrangement for you and then you can tweak it from there. For the record, since we will be in Roswell, I would go for a wild and loose arrangement in either pale colors or vivid colors.”

“How constructed is the reception going to be? Did you plan on doing any color coordination with the reception tables or anything?” asked Liz.

Maria just looked at her.

Liz laughed. “You know, for a fashion diva such as yourself, you certainly don’t seem to care about those aspects for your wedding, Maria.”

“Fine. You can handle the flowers then,” said Maria, handing Liz the swatch and the florist’s number in Roswell.

Liz laughed and then glanced over at Maria nervously. “I need to talk to you,” she said.

Maria turned. “What’s wrong? Did something else happen?”

Liz told her about the key Tess left and about Max hiring those people to look after her. “Max thinks Tess thought he was the stalker and that’s why she was acting so strangely the day she died,” she continued, looking at Maria pointedly.

“You don’t think he is, do you?” asked Maria, her eyes widening.

“No, of course not. I believe him. He hired those people to look after me and protect me. Tess apparently overheard him when he hired them and she misunderstood,” answered Liz, drinking some Snapple.

“That is so heroic, Liz,“ swooned Maria dramatically and then she glanced at the Snapple in Liz’s hand. “Is there anymore of that Snapple? Michael will go nuts if that’s the last one,” groaned Maria, approaching the fridge.

“There were a few other ones in there. Don’t worry. I learned my lesson the last time I drank his last Snapple,” smiled Liz wryly.

“So what else is bothering you? I know there is more to this,” said Maria, spreading some chocolate hazelnut spread onto a buttery croissant.

“There is.” Liz pulled a key from her pocket and gave it to Maria. “I think this key goes to something important. Tess mailed it to me. But I don’t know what it goes to.”

“Why are you giving it to me?” asked Maria.

“I want you to keep this copy. I have another one, but I think it should be safer with you,” said Liz. “No one will know you have it. And I only want you to keep it until we go back to Roswell. I can hide it better there.”

“We should tell the police about this Liz. I think you‘re in over your head.”

“No. No police. They don’t care about this. Tess died for a reason and I want to know what it is,” said Liz.

“Well we should at least let Michael know what’s going on,” suggested Maria.

“No! I don’t think that’s necessary. If you keep the key and I just use a fake key somewhere, then if someone comes after me for this key, I can just give them the fake one. They’ll never know anything,” said Liz. “And I can figure out what Tess died for.”

“Look Nancy Drew! My wedding is in like, two weeks! And I don’t want to be having your funeral at the same time! Please go to the police!”

“No! This key was worth killing over Maria. And I don’t think the police care enough about Tess. They don’t even believe she was murdered! The autopsy was inconclusive! We can’t go to them! They’re useless!”

“Don’t you have enough on your plate Liz? You are being stalked! And you want to bring more danger upon yourself for someone who didn’t even like you? Have you forgotten how badly Tess treated you?” asked Maria stormily.

“I know that Maria,” snapped Liz. “But she called me the day she died. She wanted to tell me something important, and … and it got her killed!” Liz glanced at Maria furtively, her lower lip trembling. “Don’t you see? I have to find out why!”

Maria swore under her breath. “Okay. I’ll keep this stupid key. But you owe me big, Liz.”

After a light dinner spent pouring over flower arrangements, Liz got up to leave. “Take care, chica,” said Maria worriedly. “A storm is coming.”


***
By the time Liz got home, raindrops had already started to fall sporadically. The skies had become prematurely dark with the threat of a raging storm. Liz ran inside and punched in the alarm code. She felt safer with the alarm, but she still didn’t really like being home by herself.

Flinging her purse and keys on the couch downstairs, she frowned in frustration. This stalker business was robbing her of her life. She had just begun to put the pieces of her life together and now she felt them slipping through her fingers again. And she hated it.

This mystery surrounding Tess’ death was really confusing to her, and she couldn‘t rest until she figured it out. Maybe her life would begin to make sense again if she could solve Tess‘ murder.

Liz grabbed a soda and trudged up to her bedroom. She was tired and she wanted to get sleep while her body was exhausted enough to allow it. She left her door open so she could hear everything that happened downstairs and climbed under the covers. She decided not to drink the soda, because she was hoping to fall asleep shortly. She hadn’t slept well since Tess died. Actually, she hadn’t been sleeping well for quite some time.

She had almost fallen asleep when she heard something outside. Glancing out toward the window, she saw the trees swaying and she saw some trashcans being thrown about violently. Chalking the noise up to the wind, she double-checked the windows and French doors in her bedroom and she was just about to go downstairs when she heard something else.

Grabbing her phone just in case, she crept downstairs to investigate. Suddenly, she heard the sound of breaking glass and she spun around as her alarm went off. Feeling her heart pounding in her ears, she glanced toward the sound of the glass and saw that her patio chair had been thrown up through the glass patio door. It was apparently picked up by the wind and smashed against the glass pane in the door.

Frowning, Liz went to the alarm and turned it off. Thinking that maybe she should call the alarm service anyway, she pressed the number on her speed dial and held the phone to her ear.

The line was dead.

Liz tried not to panic and pressed the reset button over and over again. But it was no use. The line was dead. And she was in trouble. Not trying to think about what was happening, she started toward the couch where her cellphone was. But before she could get there, a hand closed over her mouth from behind, stifling the terror-stricken scream that erupted from her mouth as her mind processed the full extent of her dangerous predicament.


***
Max sat on his deck, staring out over the water. Ever since he was a kid, he loved to watch storms. Growing up on the East Coast, he had seen a few storms drifting in over the water when he and his parents went to their beach house on Martha’s Vineyard. His mother hated it when he did, but he would just sit on the deck and watch the storms coming toward land.

He loved the chaos that was juxtaposed against the calmness of the trees close to the shoreline. The trees always looked even more green against the dark grey of the cloud covered sky. It reminded him of his life. His entire existence. Always the dark, mysterious past of his otherworldly origins juxtaposed against the life he had here.

The storms on the West Coast were different though. They were mixed with the sunset and it created almost a violent reaction of fire mixed with muddy grey. There were no trees, really, except palm trees and those swayed in the wind like wheat stalks.

There was something raw in this storm. It was like unbridled fury. But still it was beautiful. The waves crashed against the sand angrily, but Max loved the sounds they made. It was a soothing sound, even though the action was violent.

Then Max noticed a flash of lightning from one of the distant clouds over the water. The gold colors of the sunset were quickly swallowed up by the dark and ominous clouds as they swept toward landfall. Large, fat raindrops started to fall on his deck and soon, there was a deluge of rain. Max moved underneath the awning on his deck to stay out of the downpour.

He stared at the storm for a moment and then stood up, wondering why his mood had changed all of a sudden. Darkness crept over the area and a dark feeling invaded his heart as well. Feeling deeply unsettled by this, he went inside his condo to grab something to drink, hoping it would settle him down.

It didn’t. Thoughts of Liz ran through his mind and he started to call her. But he chided himself, remembering that he had Stevens watching her. She should be fine. Max picked up the phone anyway. He hesitated, and then dialed her number, believing himself to be an idiot for getting all nervous and jittery over nothing.

But when he got the automated message that all lines were busy, he slammed the phone down. Something was wrong. He couldn’t explain how he knew this, but something was really wrong.

Liz was in trouble.

Feeling panic creep over him, he grabbed his cellphone and started out into the rain toward Liz’s.

It could be nothing, but everything in him told him that something was wrong. If she was fine, he would take the verbal lashing she would give him. But if he was right, and something happened to her, he would never forgive himself.

He would do anything to protect Liz.

***
“You shouldn‘t be poking ‘round in business that ain‘t yours,” said a gruff voice that sliced Liz’s heart with cold fear. She fought back tears of panic and tried to remember her self-defense techniques. Breathing deeply to clear her head she tried to ignore the venom spewing from his mouth.

“You caused us so much trouble, you stupid bitch,” growled the voice. Liz strained to recognize it, but she didn’t. She had never heard this person’s voice before. So why was he stalking her, if she didn’t even know him?

As she twisted in his grasp, he whispered hotly into her ear, “Don’t turn around! You ain’t worth the trouble! I shoulda iced ya a long time ago!”

Liz tried not to panic as her assailant dragged her toward the staircase. She knew what would happen if he got her into her bedroom. She couldn’t let that happen. Oh God, she thought frantically. This was it. She was going to die. She had escaped death over eight years ago and now she was going to die at the hands of someone she didn’t even know. Her breathing turned shallow and panicky as she imagined her demise at the hands of her attacker.

“We gon’ have a nice little chat,” said the man, practically spitting in her ear and Liz convulsed slightly.

Suddenly, she was taken over by a flight or fight response, or rather a fight, then flight response. She brought her foot up and came down hard on his shin. When he doubled over, cursing, no doubt, she pitched her shoulder forward and sent him sprawling across the room onto his back.

Not sticking around to see if he was knocked out, she ran for the front door, but he stirred and she was afraid he would cut off her escape. So, she ran up the stairs to her bedroom and locked the door behind her. Then she raced out through her balcony door, not caring when the alarm didn‘t go off again. She only cared about getting away. The storm was raging outside and it wasn’t long before she was completely soaked. But as she climbed down to the patio below, she could still hear banging noises from her room and loud curses coming from the attacker.

She was almost down to the patio when her attacker lunged out onto her balcony, seeing her climbing down. He reached for her arm and grabbed it, sending a spasm of fear through Liz’s body as she screamed and tried to free herself. Looking down below her, she realized it was a short drop and so she scratched the man’s hand and he let go, howling. Liz dropped onto the patio table below with a resounding crash.

Ignoring the searing pain that sliced through her arm, Liz jumped up and ran for the beach. As she heard a gunshot off in the distance, she ran faster, trying to stay close to the edge of the homes along the beach, in case her assailant tried to follow. She didn’t hear anymore gunshots, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t still following. She could hear her attacker screaming for her to come back, but her mind could only focus on one thing in her panic.

She needed Max desperately.

***
Stevens’ head shot up when he heard the alarm go off at Liz’s place. He sprang from the car and ran for her townhome, and approached very slowly. He crept up to the back of her townhome and stared at the broken glass from the patio door. He heard the alarm stop and then he listened for any other sounds. Hearing nothing, he raced around to the front door and he was about to go in when he heard a slight scuffle. Creeping into the house, he heard yelling and cursing and then he pulled back when he heard two voices arguing back and forth.

“Damnit! If you weren’t such a pansy, this wouldn‘t have happened!” growled a rough and gravelly voice.

Another more timid voice responded, “I don‘t want to do this anymore! You hurt her!”

“She knows too much, you idiot! She could bring us down!” yelled the rough voice.

Stevens peered around the corner and saw a man coming down the stairs. Stevens didn’t know where the other man was, so he tried to wait for the right opportunity to attack. He worriedly looked around for Liz and wanted to go up to see if she was in her room or if she was hurt or … This was not good. Max had made it sound like there was only one stalker. It looked like Liz had two and that they were stalking her to snuff her out because of something Liz knew.

Desperate for answers, Stevens lunged out toward one of the men and tried to apprehend him. But the man got away and ran for the front door toward the street. Stevens raced upstairs and searched in vain for Liz. He ran back downstairs and searched. No Liz. Afraid the other attacker had her, he picked up his cellphone to call for backup from The Consolate and then he dialed Max’s cellphone, knowing that Max was going to be angry with him for losing her.

“Hello,” yelled Max into the receiver, still headed toward Liz’s place.

“Max. This is Stevens. I lost Liz,” he said grimacing.

Cold fear gripped Max’s heart and slammed it against his chest. “You lost her? How?” he asked, now beginning to run toward her place.

“The alarm went off and then I heard two men arguing inside. I only saw one and I tried to get him but he got away. I couldn’t find the other one, or Liz,” said Stevens, slightly out of breath. The line suddenly went dead. “Max! Max! Damnit!” yelled Stevens, already knowing what had happened.

Max had hung up on him and he was probably headed this way.

Max dropped the phone into his pocket and ran blindly out into the rain, taking to the shoreline so he could run faster. He had to get to Liz. He could only pray that whoever the other attacker was, he didn’t have her. He couldn’t have her. He couldn’t.

“I’m coming Liz!” he whispered hoarsely, trying to fight down the panicky feeling in the back of his throat. He knew something had been wrong. He knew it. He should have just gotten in his car and driven over to Liz’s place as soon as he felt it.

If anything happened to her that he could have prevented… Max didn’t want to think about it. She would be okay. She had to be.

Max swore slightly as he looked out into the rain. He couldn’t see anything. He was afraid that even if Liz had run out this way, he wouldn’t be able to see her. He stopped briefly, trying to catch his breath and tried to look down the beach. He wasn’t far from her place now.

***
Liz tried desperately to get her bearings. Now she realized with a sickening lurch that she didn’t remember exactly where Max lived. She had been so out of it that day she found herself near where he lived that she didn’t remember enough. Tears from her eyes mixed with the tears from the sky and Liz tried to stop panicking.

She had to concentrate. But she also realized that she had made a mistake coming out here like this. There was no telling where Max lived. Liz sank to the ground behind some trashcans under the deck of a small bungalow. She didn’t even know where she was. And she felt so alone. She was too scared to involve anyone who lived nearby, because she didn’t want anyone else to be hurt. There wasn’t even a phone around that she could find. The beaches around here weren’t exactly public.

Liz pulled her knees in toward her chest and shivered. She was soaking wet and she was cold. The temperature must have dropped at least twenty degrees and Liz felt a violent shiver go through her. It had been at least ten minutes since she last caught sight of her attacker. But she was afraid to go out.

At least she wasn’t endangering Maria or anyone else. Liz laughed ruefully to herself, even though she felt insane for doing so. In fact, she wanted to just laugh at the absurdity of it all. Stalked. Her! It was crazy! It would actually be funny if it weren’t true. Liz’s insane laughter quickly turned to cries of fear and frustration. Her entire body shook as she thought about her parents and everyone who loved her that she would leave behind if she died.

And she thought about Max. She might die at the hands of her attacker and he would never understand why she had been pushing him away. He would never understand that the reason she was so terrified to be with him was because she was afraid that she might grow to love him more than she loved Sean. And if he ever left her, Liz knew she wouldn’t survive it.

But now that she might never see him again, she wished she had taken the risk.

***
Max was beginning to get desperate. He had almost gotten to Liz’s place when he was met with Stevens, who ran up to him. “Did you find her?” asked Max.

“No,” said Stevens. “The police are here. Maybe we can find something out from them. Liz may have gotten away. She could be hiding somewhere.”

“How did this happen??! You were supposed to be watching her!” snapped Max, his thin veneer of control starting to slip away from him. He ran his hands through his hair, frustrated.

Stevens looked around, trying to come up with something to say. He couldn’t find anything worthwhile to say other than he was sorry. His phone rang and he merely said, “Ok,” tersely into the receiver. He glanced pointedly at Max. “The police want my statement. I’ll be right back.”

Max nodded and watched Stevens run back in the direction of Liz’s place. He was really beginning to get worried. Then he heard some cans rustling near one of the bungalows. He turned toward the noise, hoping that Liz was under there somewhere.

And then he saw her. She had been hiding under a small bungalow’s deck near some trashcans. His breath caught in his throat and he staggered back a step under the force of the overwhelming relief he felt when he realized she was okay. She was alive! "Thank God," he breathed and ran toward her. “Liz!” he called, his voice hoarse and breaking with emotion.

She turned, startled, and almost ran away. Then she saw it was him and her eyes grew wide with relief. A muffled cry came from her mouth as she bit back tears and Max almost fell over with the force of pain he felt at her predicament.

Max swallowed a loud cry when she stumbled to her knees, looking at him, shocked that he was actually there. Finally regaining the use of his legs which had become slightly immobile when he first saw her, he ran to her, wanting nothing more than to crush her body against his and never let go.

Then she was running towards him, her hair flying out behind her, and Max stretched his arms out to scoop her up against him. “Liz,” he choked out. “I thought - “ He stopped himself and pulled back to look at her, planting soft, fervent kisses all over her face. He had been so afraid that someone had gotten her that he didn‘t care if she slapped him silly for kissing her.

If Liz was bothered by his affection, she didn‘t show it. Instead, she buried herself into him and clutched him with all her might. “Max,” cried Liz, her breath hitching in her throat as she threw her arms around him. “Max. Help - me … help,” she cried, grabbing on to him like a life preserver in a stormy sea. “Don’t let him get me,” she cried fearfully, glancing behind her.

Max pulled her against him and tried to soothe her fears. “I won’t. I won’t let anything happen to you, Liz. I promise,” he whispered, his voice rough with emotion. He would never let anyone get her. He wasn’t going to let her out of his sight again.

Liz lifted her head to look at him with wide, fearful eyes and his heart constricted, making it difficult for him to breathe evenly. He wanted to kill whoever had scared her that way. He glanced her over, looking at her for any signs of injury. The air swooshed out of his lungs when he realized that her arm was bleeding profusely. “Liz… “ he said softly, his eyes beginning to sting with concern. She was hurt.

Liz flinched and looked down at her wound. She vaguely remembered falling on the patio table and hurting her arm, but she didn’t know how bad it was. There was a deep gash above her elbow, probably from the broken glass of the patio table she fell on. She turned to Max with an expression of pain on her face and opened her mouth to try and speak.

But her response was cut off by the sound of a gunshot firing in the distance. Liz let out a small yelp, jumped and clutched her back, her eyes widening in shock and fear. Max felt her slump and he watched, horrifed, as her eyes rolled up into the back of her head and she collapsed completely, her body going limp in his arms.

***
Stevens finished giving the police his statement and then he went back toward the beach where he had left Max, knowing that he wouldn’t be there. He was likely combing the beach for the Parker girl. Stevens would have laughed ruefully about how obvious it was the Max was in love with this woman, but she was missing.

True, Max had never said that he was in love with her, but a man didn’t go through all of this trouble for a woman he didn’t have really deep feelings for. He claimed they were just friends, but Stevens suspected it wouldn’t be long before something significant happened between them. Of course, they had to find Liz first.

Stevens was walking toward the beach when he saw a dark figure skulking along the shoreline about 20 yards ahead of him. The figure pulled out a gun and began moving closer to the houses lining the beach. Stevens knew this was the man that he had almost captured earlier. He couldn’t make out any features, but the build was the same as he remembered it to be from his tousle with the assailant in Liz‘s house.

He followed after him and tried not to make too much noise, but the man seemed to sense he was there, because he started moving more quickly.

Stevens picked up his pace and followed, hoping that he would at least lead him to where Liz was, or that he could get that information out of him if he caught up to him. But then the man suddenly turned and fired a shot from his gun. Stevens ducked and ran behind a patio wall. When he emerged to return fire, the man was gone and he had no idea where he had gotten off to.

***
Max glanced toward the shoreline, looking for any trace of the gunman. He couldn’t see anyone, so he picked Liz up and started back toward his condo. He couldn’t risk taking her back toward her place, even if the police were still there. And if they weren’t there, then he would just be putting her in even more danger.

He would just have to get her to his place and keep her secure himself. The police could be called after he had her safe and sound and after he had addressed her wound. He looked down at the woman he carried in his arms. The woman who had practically owned his heart and soul since the day they met, only he didn’t fully realize the impact of it until now.

When he thought she was abducted, or worse, he had never felt so empty and scared. Everything he had been doing lately revolved around her. Even though she had relegated him to ‘friend’ status, he still felt a deluge of emotion when he was around her. Only now did he realize how deeply she had entrenched herself into his heart, when he thought he had lost her.

Max stumbled up to his condo and made certain that he drew all of the draperies shut. He carried her back to his bedroom and placed her on it gently. He went into the bathroom and pulled out a first aid kit so he could dress and bandage up her wound. Then he glanced at her wet clothes and thought he should get her into something warmer. But he didn’t want to violate her either. He decided to finish cleaning her gash and think about her clothes later.

But then Liz shivered violently and he decided that he would have to risk it and change her clothing for her. Max went to his dresser and pulled out a tee shirt and a pair of new boxers for her. He decided to leave her underwear on and he tried not to let her body arouse him as he softly and tenderly undressed and then dressed her. He turned her away from him as he pulled the shirt over her and his breath hitched in his throat as he stared at the scar at the small of her back.

His hand brushed over her scar slightly and he thought about everything that she had had to endure in her life. He was so glad that she had lived through that shooting so that he could meet her. But now she probably felt like she was enduring a nightmare. And he knew Tess’ death may have been related in some obscure way to him, so he felt partly responsible for that.

But as he tenderly brushed his thumb over her scar, his eyes grew wide with astonishment and he drew his hand back quickly. He stared at Liz and then at his own hand. What was that? he thought to himself, confused. He stared at his hand again and then shrugged. Maybe the night was beginning to catch up to him. Breaking out of his trance, he pulled the shirt over her head and then tried to calm himself enough to bandage her.

But as he started to clean her wound, she winced and woke up, startled. Max drew back and looked at her tenderly. A slight look of panic stole across her face and she glanced at Max, frightened and confused. “It’s okay. You’re okay. I won’t let anything happen to you,” he said as she sat bolt upright, staring at the tee shirt and boxers she was wearing.

Giving him a perplexed look laced with slight panic, she forced her voice to work. “We didn’t … I mean -”

For a moment Max wondered why he didn’t try and dry her off with his ‘gifts’. But he knew that he had trouble controlling them and he didn’t want to hurt her. He decided to cut himself a little slack and just try to get Liz not to panic.

“No. Your clothes were soaking wet and you were shivering badly. I just wanted to warm you up. But I didn’t look, I promise,” he added anxiously. Well, I mostly didn‘t look, he thought to himself, still thinking about what happened when he touched her scar.

Liz looked around fitfully and tried to will herself to calm down. Her breathing grew shallow and she placed her hand over her chest to try and calm down. Suddenly Max’s shirt felt like a noose around her neck and she tugged on it, trying to breathe. Max’s eyes darkened with concern and he tried to help her calm down.

“Liz,” he said softly, rubbing her arm. “Calm down. You’re safe here.”

Liz gazed at him with wide eyes. Her mind knew she was safe here, but her body just wouldn’t cooperate. She let out a small cry of frustration and leapt from the bed, wrapping her arms around herself.

Max smirked. Liz always did that when she wanted to calm down. Then he quirked an eyebrow as he watched her pace back and forth. He chuckled softly and Liz whirled around to face him.

“What’s so funny?” she asked, stopping, her hands on her hips.

Max glanced at Liz, who was still breathing heavily. “You remind me of someone, that’s all.”

At Liz’s look of consternation, Max hurried to explain. “My sister used to have trouble sleeping when we were little. Sometimes she paced just like you were doing just then. I used to stay up and read stories to her until she could fall asleep.”

Liz looked slightly taken aback. Max had a sister? “I - I didn’t know you had a sister,” she said.

Max looked up to meet her gaze and then lowered his eyes to the floor. “That’s because I never mentioned I had one.”

Liz was almost afraid to ask. “Why not?”

“Because she passed away a long time ago.”


posted on 25-Apr-2002 4:59:47 PM by Behrable dream
Okay, I think I can answer a few questions...

Max and Liz will hammer out living arrangements shortly... although they may only be temporary.

When Max's hand brushed over her scar, he got a flash - that's all I'm saying about that for now.

Isabel's death will be explained a little bit in the next chapter, and then much more will come out about that later...

Liz realizes that she needs to get over her trust issues and open up to Max, but that will require telling him about Sean and she is still afraid that he'll abandon her after he finds out that Sean did... Kind of like if Sean didn't find me worthy, eventually Max will find me unworthy too...

Plus, she doesn't want to let Max be her knight in shining armor, since that's what Sean did... and then he abandoned her. I don't think Liz wants to be dependent on Max...

Good grief... I'm laughing at myself... "I don't think Liz" ... hey... I'm the author here!!

Ohhhh... so THAT'S what everyone means when they talk about their muse!! I suppose SHE is the one who is absolutely certain about the characters!! LOL! I just write what she tells me!

Don't worry guys... I'm not really crazy. I'm just happy that my story is character driven and not plot driven like the tv roswell...





posted on 26-Apr-2002 5:17:52 PM by Behrable dream
Okay guys... I had hoped to finish out a later chapter last night... I like to stay ahead by a few chapters... but somebody came and chased my muse away...

But I decided not to punish you for the muse being chased off... So here ya go... ch. 16...

*happy*

Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.


Chapter Sixteen

Liz stared at him, unsure of what to say. “I’m sorry,” she said softly, moving toward him.

Max gazed at her, the soft light coming from the chandelier hanging over them casting sparkles of light over her features. She looked magical and ethereal standing there looking at him. He cleared his throat and tried to speak but words eluded him.

He had never told anyone about his sister before, not even Mel. It was a part of his past that he desperately wanted to forget. But there it was. And here he was, his soul almost bare to Liz, who was still in some ways his mystery woman.

Liz’s heart melted as she looked at the way Max was standing there so exposed and so open. She thought maybe, just maybe she could open up to him too. But she was curious about his sister. “How?”

Max looked away, turning his back to her. “The doctors never figured it out,” he said softly. “She just died. When we were only a little over six years old.” His face contorted and he was glad Liz couldn’t see. He was only telling her part of the truth and he hated himself for it. But lies had become part of him, almost as surely as his nose and ears were part of him.

“Oh,” said Liz softly, trying to think of something more comforting to say. “I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been.”

“It was. I think that’s why my mom became a therapist,” said Max, looking down at her as she approached and laid her hand on his arm gently. He could almost remember the way his mother used to sit and hold a picture of Isabel for hours, just staring at the wall. Getting into a therapy career was almost the only thing that helped her. Max fought back a sigh as he recalled how much he had wanted to help, but couldn’t. The only good that came out of her death was that he didn’t have to hide his secret from them anymore. It was shortly after her death that they packed up and left Roswell.

Liz fought the urge to grab him and kiss him. He looked so wounded and lost. It was almost as if he were reliving the moment over again. She pulled him to her in a hug, trying to soothe the pain she knew he must feel. It was the least she could do after everything he had done for her tonight.

But she wanted to do so much more. She wanted to thank him, for coming to look for her tonight. She wanted to say she was sorry, for pushing him away. She wanted to tell him that she did feel whatever it was between them, that she had felt it since the moment she first saw him. She even wanted to tell him about her past. But now that she wanted to say these things, she couldn’t find her voice.

When the doorbell rang, she didn’t know whether to be relieved or irritated. Max broke away from her, mumbling. “That must be the police.”

Liz waited in his bedroom as he walked away to get the door. She peered around the corner and saw the uniformed police officers and one whom she assumed to be a detective. When Max turned and motioned for her to join them, she moved tentatively into the living room and sat down on the couch.

The police asked her a few questions about her assailant. They wanted to know if she saw them and Liz looked confused. “Them?” she asked.

“Yes. The private investigator Mr. Evans hired heard two men talking at your home. Did you not see both of them?” asked the detective.

“I didn’t see either of them. I just heard his voice,“ answered Liz. “I heard something downstairs and when I got there, the alarm went off. I thought it was because of a patio chair falling into it due to the wind, but when I turned off the alarm and tried to call the alarm company, the line was dead,” said Liz, trying to stay calm.

“I’m detective Griffin,“ said the man, extending his hand to Liz, who shook it. “What else happened?” asked the detective.

“When I couldn’t make a call, I tried to get to my cellphone. It was on the couch. But someone grabbed me from behind and covered my mouth. He - he dragged me toward the stairs, but I fought him off and then ran into my room,” continued Liz.

Max clenched his eyes shut and braced his hands on the fireplace mantel to stop himself from punching the wall.

Detective Griffin noticed Max’s reaction and gingerly asked Liz to go on. “What happened then?”

“Well, I ran in my room and locked the door behind me and then I went to the balcony and I started to climb down, but he was banging on the door and I couldn’t get down enough before he … “ Liz swallowed and tried to get her bearings before continuing. A large lump replaced the one she had just swallowed and she couldn’t find her voice.

Max was clearly close to losing it, having to listen to her struggle through this. “Is this really necessary?” he asked.

“If you want us to find your friend’s attacker, yes. It is,” answered Griffin.

Max pulled in a breath and sat down next to Liz. “Are you sure you want to continue?”

Liz smiled at him wanly and nodded. “I have to.” Then she glanced at the detective and said, “I’m sorry. I was climbing down the balcony to the patio when he burst out and reached for me. He grabbed my arm and held me there. I scratched him really hard and he - he let go.”

The detective glanced at her arm and remarked, “That’s how you hurt your arm?”

“Yes. I fell on my patio table. I guess I cut myself. I don’t remember everything else after that,” she responded, thinking about how she blindly ran out into the storm, her only thought being to find Max.

Detective Griffin looked at her thoughtfully and then asked her another question. “So did you recognize the voice?”

Liz shook her head. “No, I didn’t.”

He exchanged a curious glance with the other officers. “The private investigator also said that the men said you ‘knew too much’. Do you have any idea what they could be talking about?”

“No.“ Liz shook her head slowly, a deeper fear beginning to creep into her heart. Was she just attacked by her stalker, or was she attacked because of her investigation into Tess’ death?

Griffin looked at her askance. She wasn’t telling him something. And he needed to find out what it was if he was going to be able to help her. “Are you sure there isn’t something that you’re involved in that we could help you with?”

Max looked at Liz carefully. She did look like she was holding out on them. “Liz?” he asked carefully, wanting her to trust him enough to help her.

Liz shrugged. “I told you. I don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Max and the detective exchanged glances. Slowly, Griffin rose to his feet. “Well, here’s my card. Let me know if you think of anything.”

Max led the policemen and Griffin to the door. “Thanks for coming by detective,” he said as Griffin nodded and took one last look at Liz before leaving. Max closed the door and then turned to regard Liz with a curious expression.

She wasn’t telling them something.

***
“Do you need to call anyone?” Max asked as Liz drank some herbal tea. It seemed to be calming her nerves a little.

Liz continued to stare at the fireplace. She was staring at a picture of Max with his parents. She wondered why there were no pictures of his sister at all. “Liz?”

Liz snapped her head in Max’s direction. “Oh. What was that?”

“I asked if you wanted to call anyone. Maria or Alex, maybe? Your parents?” asked Max again.

Liz made a face. “I haven’t even told them about the stalking yet,” she said bleakly. “My mother would freak out. I don’t want to worry them.”

“Liz you have to tell them something. They would want to know, wouldn’t they?” asked Max.

Liz rolled her eyes involuntarily. “My parents are a bit overprotective, Max. Trust me when I say it would only worry them for nothing.”

“I wouldn’t call your life being in danger nothing,” said Max, coming to sit directly in front of her, fixing her with a meaningful stare.

Liz swallowed. “I just don’t want to worry them,” she said meekly. “But maybe I’ll call Maria and Alex.”

Max shrugged. “Whatever you want to do, I’ll support. I just want you to be safe Liz.”

“I know,” she said quietly.

Max regarded her silently for a moment and then decided to ask the question that had been bothering him since the police left. “Liz, is there something you aren’t telling me? About Tess?”

“Why would you think that, Max?” asked Liz, trying not to let her discomfort show.

Max gaped at her. “There were two attackers, Liz. Two. I doubt that you have a team of stalkers.”

Liz tried to figure out a reasonable explanation that Max might buy. “And?”

“I don’t think that was related to your stalker, but to Tess’ murder. Why else would they think that you ‘knew too much’?” reasoned Max.

Liz quirked an eyebrow. That did make sense. She shivered. That was unsettling. So not only did she have a stalker, she had someone trying to kill her because of Tess? “Maybe whoever killed her knew that I talked to Tess the day she died,” she said evasively.

Max tried to read Liz’s expression, but she kept it firmly masked. If she did know something, she wasn’t going to tell him now. He would have to bide his time and hopefully she would come to trust him enough to tell him eventually.

It wasn’t like he didn’t have secrets of his own that were entirely a different matter.

***
After Liz called both Alex and Maria to tell them what happened and assured them that she was fine, Max called someone to go and secure Liz’s townhome. They relayed the news that her place was fine, and that the patio door was being boarded up as they spoke.

When Max turned to Liz after handling that last bit of business, he found her staring intently at him. “What?”

Liz smiled a slightly crooked smile. “I never thanked you for tonight.”

“You don’t have to thank me Liz. I don’t know what I would have done if anything happened to you,” said Max, his voice dropping an octave and sending a spasm of fluttery feelings through her.

“But I do Max. If you hadn’t been there… I - thank you,” she said, risking a glance directly into his eyes.

“You’re welcome.“ Max captured her gaze and held it. Liz was transfixed. He had the most amazing eyes. You could see every emotion he felt in his amber gaze. Amber. Not hazel or brown. Liz had never seen eyes that color before. They almost didn‘t look real. But she knew they weren’t colored contacts. Too much depth lived there, in his eyes. Never had Liz looked into someone’s soul before, but she was certain that if she looked into Max’s eyes long enough, she would be able to see his.

Clearing his throat, Max broke eye contact and stared at the floor for a moment. “You can sleep in my bed tonight. I’ll take the couch.”

“Ok,” said Liz. Max turned and started to head to his room. “Max?” Liz blurted before she had a chance to think about what she was about to say.

Max turned and gave her an attentive look. “Could - could you sleep on the in your room? Maybe we could move the couch in there.”

Max didn’t say anything. Liz felt herself redden. “I just didn’t want to be alone tonight,” she said, her voice quivering slightly.

Max blinked. The thought of sleeping in the same room with Liz had him tongue tied. “Sure,” he managed to squeak out. “I have an air mattress I can sleep on.”

***
“My stupid cousin is trying to get your attention, Liz,” said Maria in her characteristically sarcastic voice.

“I see him,” said Liz, not bothering to glance in his direction. She had way too many tables to think about. Sean DeLuca would have to wait. “I’ll talk to him later though.”

Liz moved deftly between her tables, refilling water and coffee. She saw two tourists talking conspiratorally and she knew they were there for the Crash Party. Thinking she should play her favorite ‘alien autopsy’ prank, she started to fish it out of her pocket when she heard the clamour of falling dishes from the back. Wrinkling her brow, she began to move toward the sounds of the breaking china. She heard arguing and then she saw a man fall to his knees behind the glass of the swinging door.

Whoever it was, he didn’t work at the Crashdown.

Moving closer to investigate, Liz heard a voice call out her name loudly. It was a man’s voice, but she couldn’t place it. It was familiar and yet - not. Her curiosity peaked, Liz started to go through the double doors when she heard Maria scream her name and then she started to whirl around before the shot rang out.

Then blackness enveloped her senses as she fell through the swinging doors, the last thing she saw being a dark haired man running out the back door. “Nooooooo!! “ she screamed out, the wail startling her awake and slamming her back to the present reality.

“WAIT!! Stop!!” she screamed, this time fully awake. Startled, she looked around the room in a panic. It took her a moment to remember where she was.

Hearing her frightened yelp, Max jumped up from the air mattress and hurried to her side in an instant, wrapping her in his arms.

“It’s okay. You’re alright now. You’re alright,” he said pulling her closely to him. Max frowned with concern as Liz started shaking again. He wished with everything he had that he could calm her down. But Liz looked like she wasn’t going to be able to stop.

“I’m okay,” she said, trying to get control of her breathing. She hated this. She felt like a stupid little victim. And she wasn’t a victim. But her dream had been so vivid and real that it had almost felt like she was really there. But what about the person she saw through the doors? She didn’t remember any of that happening. Was that real, or had she just dreamed it up?

Max looked at her and then a light bulb went off in his head and he strode over to the closet, pulling a box out. He rummaged through the box and pulled out a soft, old teddy bear. When Liz gave him a questioning look, he smiled slightly. “It belonged to my sister. To Isabel,” he swallowed. “She slept with it whenever she got scared and it always calmed her down. I thought - I thought it might do the same thing for you,” he said, offering it to her.

Tears of gratitude threatened to blur her vision and Liz fought them back, taking the teddy bear that he offered. Not thinking, just feeling, Liz reached up and pulled his head down to hers for a sweet kiss. Their lips met tenderly, gently, with deep emotion flowing between them. The kiss was at once beautiful and expressive, yet timid. It was simply the only way she knew how to thank him for the most beautiful gesture anyone had ever shown her. She was more moved by that than she had been when Sean proposed.

Max’s lips were as soft as she remembered them to be and his surprise gasp was lost as her lips met his. When she released him, his eyes locked on hers in silent wonderment. He started to speak, but Liz put her finger to his mouth before he could utter a word.

“Thank you,” she mumbled softly, swallowing the huge lump in the back of her throat.

Max caught her hand before she could retreat fully and brought the back of it to his lips for a brief kiss. “You’re welcome.”

Liz sank back down under the covers and watched a dazed Max go back to the air mattress he was sleeping on. She felt warm all over and perfectly safe, and she knew it had nothing to do with the teddy bear.

***
“I don’t suppose you want to talk about what happened last night,” said Max warily as Liz entered the kitchen, still dressed in his shirt and boxers. He could definitely get used to seeing her dressed like that.

“I had a nightmare. It‘s not like I haven‘t had them before,” shrugged Liz, taking the herbal tea he offered.

Max put down the paper he had been reading and stared at her. “Liz,” he said simply.

Liz sighed. She didn’t want to think about it anymore. She wasn’t even sure whether it had been a memory or a dream. “I - I just don’t know what else to say about it.”

“You could start with what you dreamed about,” said Max, looking at her intently.

“It was about my shooting. I - I think,” said Liz uncertainly.

“You think?” asked Max.

Liz exhaled in frustration. “See that’s just it. I don’t know anymore. I don’t know if it was just a dream or if it was something else. Right now, I don’t want to think about it. Can we drop it? I have enough to think about.”

Max nodded. “Okay, Dr. Parker.”

Liz resisted the urge to slap him on the arm.

“So … Do you want me to get some of your things and bring them here?” asked Max.

Liz looked at him quickly. Was he inviting her to come and live with him? “I can’t stay here, Max.”

“Why not? At the very least you should stay here until we figure out how best to protect you,” responded Max evenly. He had to find a way to watch her. He didn’t want to let her out of his sight again.

“Maybe I should just stay at Maria’s. She and Michael are going to be going back home tomorrow. And I have to leave on Thursday anyway,” said Liz.

“What’s happening Thursday?” asked Max, ignoring his dislike for the staying-at-Maria‘s-plan Liz was formulating.

“Maria and Michael. They’re getting married and I’m going to go home on Thursday,” explained Liz.

Max had forgotten about Maria and Michael’s engagement. “Where’s home?”

“Roswell, New Mexico,” answered Liz, taking a sip of her tea.

Max was glad that she wasn’t looking at him. His eyes had nearly jumped out of their sockets. Liz was from Roswell? How had he never discovered that? “I - I didn’t know you were from Roswell,” he said, clearing his throat nervously. All of his secrets originated there.

“Yup. Born and raised. Be good and I’ll introduce you to the Roswell aliens,” she quipped.

If only you knew, thought Max wryly as he pondered Liz’s trip. “You can’t go back alone, Liz. It’s not safe.”

Liz stared at him. He had slipped into the knight in shining armor role. “Max, I’ll be perfectly safe. It’s Roswell.”

“I don’t care. I’m going with you,” said Max directly, in a tone that meant there was no room for discussion. Didn’t she remember what just happened last night? She could have been killed. Max shivered as he thought about how close he had come to losing her. He wasn’t going to let her get around this.

“Look, Max. I appreciate what you did for me last night, but that doesn’t mean you get to run my life,” exclaimed Liz, standing and fixing him with a petulant stare.

“Okay,” said Max, sitting back and folding his arms calmly.

That was too easy. “Okay?” asked Liz, slightly confused by his capitulation.

“Yup. I’ll just be sending about three or four bodyguards with you,” he said, flipping the paper to the sports section.

Liz frowned. Max in Roswell. Max. Sean. Max. She couldn’t do this. But she also couldn’t deal with a bunch of bodyguards either. In the end, she gave in. “Okay, you can come.”

Max smiled and flipped to the stock section. “Jordan fades back, swoosh, he scooooores!!” he mumbled under his breath as Liz swept past him.

“What was that?” she asked, whipping to face him.

“Nothing,” he grinned, jumping up and planting a peck on her cheek before moving past her into the bathroom.

Liz smiled in spite of herself. “So, I think I should just stay at Maria’s.”

Max stopped dead in his tracks. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Liz was flustered. “Why not?” she demanded.

“Because they won’t be there to watch you and Stevens can only do so much from outside. Wasn’t last night proof of that?” he approached her slowly, not wanting to ruffle her feathers too much.

Liz had to admit he had a point. But she still didn’t want to just fall into his arms like some damsel in distress either. “I don’t want to put you out,” she stammered lamely.

Max gave her a flabbergasted expression. “Put me out? Liz, I - “ he started and then looked at her, frustratedly running his hands through his hair. Before he had a chance to think about what he was doing, he had crossed the room and enveloped her in his arms, drawing her mouth to his.

Liz’s gasp was lost as Max ferociously attacked her lips with his own. His hands tangled in her hair and he searched out her tongue almost immediately. Liz easily complied, she didn’t think she could resist him now if she wanted to. When he felt that she had been thoroughly kissed, Max pulled away and gazed at her intently. He brought each of her hands to his mouth and kissed each finger, never breaking eye contact with her.

“You could never put me out,” he said and continued on to the bathroom, leaving a stunned and fiercely aroused Liz behind to stare after him in confusion.



posted on 29-Apr-2002 2:46:52 PM by Behrable dream

**Author's note: I am trying to flesh out the ending to this story, so I still don't know exactly how long it will be. And, I didn't mean to say that I *had* chapters already written that I hadn't posted. I meant to say that I normally like to stay ahead, but with this story, I hit a block and well, I didn't want you guys to suffer because of that. I like to write chapters and reread them over and over again over time to make sure they work.

It's how I write Tapestry and how I tried to write Never Again, but well... I got anxious and posted before I had written everything... I have certain parts of certain chapters written, but not the whole thing... Get my drift??

Oh, and I LOVE all of the spec'ing that you guys are doing with my story. I love all of the theories and I love that you guys are inspired enough to spec on where this is all going...

Anyway... enjoy...

Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.

Chapter Seventeen

Dexter sat in his den, staring a picture of his family. His wife. His kids. How had he gotten himself into this mess?

He knew how. Liz Parker. Roswell, New Mexico. Nearly ten years ago. Dexter brought the glass of bourbon to his lips and took a long draught. He had long since buried memories of that day.

He was a different person back then. Stupid and reckless. But he had changed. He didn’t run game for petty loan sharks anymore. No, you just run game for corporate bigwigs instead, said a little voice in the back of his mind.

Dexter stood abruptly and started pacing. Ten years ago. He had been trying to collect money from Matheson. Matheson had never been one to pay on time. So of course, Dexter had had to get rough with him at the diner that Matheson had insisted that they meet at.

He just never expected Matheson to struggle with him. Matheson wasn’t himself that day. He seemed to be in his own little world, mumbling stuff that had nothing to do with anything. He had been staring at his coffee cup, mumbling incoherent stuff until Dexter had been able to pick out part of what he was saying, “… we … get rid … out of time … ”

Dexter had no idea what that could mean, and Matheson wasn’t coherent after that. He simply kept mumbling and he wasn’t paying attention to the shakedown that Dexter was trying to run on him. Matheson had to have known that Dexter would kill him if he didn’t pay up, but Matheson was completely unconcerned with Dexter.

It was almost as if he wasn’t there. This made Dexter angry, and when Dexter got angry, he got violent. Feeling the need to scare Matheson a bit, he smashed their cups off the table. Then he stood and started shouting at him to pay up; that he was here to get the money today, not tomorrow. Something seemed to shift in Matheson’s vacant gaze and he whipped out a gun. Fearing for his life, Dexter struggled with Matheson over it and it went off, hitting the pretty brown eyed waitress who was standing near the back of the restaurant.

***
“I didn’t know what else to do,” said Liz. “He was going to send a bunch of bodyguards with me.”

“Well, I for one am glad Max is coming,” said Maria, gathering some things together to take back to Roswell for the wedding.

“But what about - well, you know?” intoned Liz meaningfully.

Maria gave her a sympathetic look. “Liz maybe you should just tell Max the truth about Sean. Tiptoeing around the issue isn’t going to help.”

“I don’t know why you haven’t told him already,” said Michael, his mouth full of food.

Both ladies turned to look at him with raised eyebrows and annoyed expressions.

“What?” he attempted to defend himself. “Maria just said the same thing.”

Liz rolled her eyes and attempted to change the subject. “So, what time is the rehearsal?”

“Noon,” answered Maria. “Michael, you better be on time. I don’t want to be waiting around for you, k?”

“Whatever,” grumbled Michael, stomping off upstairs.

Liz laughed at her two friends. Fiesty as ever. Then her face crumpled slightly. “Maria,” she began and Maria turned to look at her unsettled expression.

“What chica?” she said, inclining her head toward her friend.

“I was wondering if… well,” Liz exhaled in frustration and shut her eyes. She didn’t know how to even bring it up. She didn’t want to upset Maria.

“You want to know if Sean is going to be there with her,” said Maria knowingly.

Liz nodded, embarrassed that Sean still had the power to make her feel so … blah.

“She’s not invited to anything and he has been instructed not to bring her to any events surrounding the wedding,” said Maria triumphantly. “I don’t want anything to spoil my day and that tramp would do nothing but spoil it.”

Liz managed a small smile. At least she didn’t have to face that woman. She had never actually seen her and she hoped she never had to. “Thanks,” she breathed gratefully.

“So, you didn’t give me all of the details about you and Max,” said Maria. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” lied Liz. She wasn’t ready to discuss her ‘situation’ with Max. She couldn’t bring herself to call it a relationship.

“You are such a bad liar, Liz,” laughed Maria. “But if you don’t want to talk about it, I’m okay with that. We can talk about it when you’re ready.”

Ready. Everything had become about when Liz was ready for something. She was tired of trying to get to ready. Why couldn’t she just get to ready already? “I’m not sure I know what’s going on with me and Max. I feel so many things when I’m with him, but there’s still this fear. I know it isn’t fair to him, but there it is.”

“Liz, there’s nothing wrong with being afraid. Just don’t let it run your life. There’s always a risk with love. But if you don’t take the risk, you won’t get any of the benefits either,” said Maria.

***
After helping Maria pack up her gown and double-checking her packed items with the checklist Maria had, Liz wandered off to sit on Maria’s deck. Michael was out there, painting.

“Hey,” she said, settling into a chair with a book.

“Hey,” he answered, fixing her with a look and then turning back to his painting.

“What,” she intoned flatly, knowing that he had something to say.

“Nothing,” he mumbled, switching palettes. He was painting desert scenery. This looked like the rock quarry out on 285 South, only different. Liz couldn’t explain why it was different, but somehow, it was.

“You obviously have something to say, so say it,” said Liz, closing her book and looking at him intently. “I promise I won’t bite.”

Michael grunted and put down his brush and palette. He grabbed the towel from the banister and wiped his hands. “I just think you need to be careful.”

“I am being careful Michael,” said Liz.

“Are you? Alex called,” said Michael.

Liz couldn’t believe it. Alex had sold her out. “I can’t believe he told you,” huffed Liz angrily.

“He thought we already knew,” said Michael. “And you should have told us. We could only help.”

Liz decided not to tell him about Maria already knowing about her investigation. She would have to speak to Maria later about it. “I can handle this myself.”

“Like you handled your stalker yourself? Or was that attack last night related to Tess’ death? Don’t you realize that if Max hadn’t been involved, you could have died last night?” asked Michael, shocked that Liz was falling into her pattern of trying to do everything herself. She had been that way ever since … Sean.

“Are you trying to scare me Michael? Because it’s working,” said Liz. She knew how close things got last night. And she knew she had Max to thank for coming to her rescue.

“So why are you trying to do everything by yourself?” asked Michael.

He hit a nerve. “Since when did you become so philosophical?” she demanded.

“I’m marrying Maria,” he joked, and Liz’s ire reduced slightly.

“I’m not trying to do everything by myself,” said Liz.

“Then why are you making it so difficult for Max to help you?” asked Michael directly, giving her a penetrating look.

“Excuse me?” asked Liz, stunned that he was even going there.

Michael raised an eyebrow. “The guy hired someone to protect you, risked his life to come after you last night and you’re still not being totally upfront with him.”

Liz remained quiet. Michael was right. She needed to be upfront with him. About so many things. “This isn’t exactly easy for me, Michael.”

“I realize that,” said Michael. “But maybe that’s because you’re making it harder than it has to be.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” exclaimed Liz. Had Michael become a psychologist or something?

“This isn’t the same as you and Sean, Liz,” said Michael with a sigh.

Liz sputtered. “What?!?! Of course this has nothing to do with - “ Liz’s hand flew to her mouth as her brain hurriedly processed the meaning of Michael’s statement. Of course this had to do with Sean. She was rejecting Max’s knight in shining armor role because she wanted to get through this ordeal without leaning on him like she had with Sean. It’s funny that Michael was the one to call her attention to this, though she had been aware of it herself.

“Oh,” was all she said, biting her lip.

Then her thoughts fell on the key that she had kept secret from Max. Maybe she could trust him with that information first and worry about her Sean fears later.

Then a thought occurred to her. How had Michael so astutely analyzed her? “You’ve been discussing this with Maria, haven’t you?”

Michael smirked guiltily.

“I’m shocked you didn’t tell me she was saying this, Michael,” asked Liz dryly.

“Shock makes people more receptive to difficult information,” said Michael cheekily.

***
Liz pulled up into Max’s driveway, trying to figure out her living arrangements. She felt so … safe … with Max. She sat in the car, pondering that for a moment. Was she really doing it again? Was she latching on to a knight in shining armor in her moment of crisis?

Shaking her head in confusion, Liz got out of the car and glanced behind her. She saw Agent Stevens parked across the street and waved. He simply looked at her. He had been tailing her all day, and he had actually perched himself right outside of Maria’s home while she had been there. She didn’t know if she could take being constantly watched like this. Liz frowned and walked to Max’s door. She rung it and waited.

She was completely unprepared to see Max, clad only in running shorts, dripping with water. Speechless, Liz stared at him, not knowing what to say. He looked incredible. How on Earth had God blessed this man with all of … that? Even though Liz had seen his behr chest before, it looked even better up close and well lit. Liz sucked in a breath and hastily made her way past him, her kiss with him earlier that day still fresh in her mind.

There was no way in hell she’d be able to stay here with him looking like that.

“Stevens asked if you could slow down,” said Max, smirking, when Liz walked through the door.

“What?” asked Liz, going to start up her computer, still rattled by shirtless Max.

“You drive rather … recklessly, don’t you?” asked Max, a smile playing at the corner of his mouth. Liz turned to look at him and was caught off guard when she saw him grinning at her roguishly. God he was sexy.

“I drive perfectly well,” said Liz, glancing at him. “And I can prove it,” she said, staring at him pointedly.

Max grabbed a towel and haphazardly threw it over his shoulder. Liz frowned when her view of him was obstructed by the towel. “Is that so?” he smirked. He was so relieved that she had gotten back from Maria’s safe and sound. Even though Stevens had gone with her, Max didn’t feel she was safe unless he was watching her.

Liz nodded and then decided to change the subject. “Did you just get back from a swim?”

Max nodded. “I was about to get dressed and grab us some dinner. That is, if you … were … uh - “ Max trailed off, uncertainly. Was she going to stay there? Or was he going to have to figure out some way of staking out wherever she stayed?

“Maria and Michael have their hands full getting ready for the wedding. They‘re leaving tomorrow for Roswell,” said Liz, shifting slightly. “I think I should just go there.“ At Max’s expression, she added, “They have a security gate, Max.“

“Do you honestly think a security gate is going to stop people like the ones who came after you last night?” asked Max.

Liz stared at him blankly. She didn’t want to admit to herself that he was right. But she was trying to be wary of falling too quickly into that damsel in distress mode. Deciding to change the subject, Liz figured she should tell him about the key.

“I have to tell you something,” she began, and Max’s eyes narrowed.

“What is it?” he asked gingerly.

“Tess mailed something to me before she died. It’s a key. I think it goes to a safety deposit box,” she said.

Max’s eyebrows shot up. So this was what Liz had been hiding. Now there was no way to put her off from her investigation. She had already begun it. He could only try and keep her from finding out about him. “Go on,” he said, his face a mask.

Liz was relieved that he didn’t rake her over the coals for keeping that from him. Although she hadn’t told him about her visit to Tess’ hotel. “I got a hold of her mail to see if I could find the bank that she may have a safety deposit box at, but I hit a dead end.”

Max was afraid to ask how she had gotten the mail. “When did you do this?” he asked.

“A few days ago,” she answered. “Her room had been trashed right before I got there.”

Max just looked at her. How had she not managed to get herself killed before? “You‘re staying here,” he said flatly.

Liz just looked at him blankly. She didn’t know what to say. “Max - “

“Liz, there are dangerous people after you. People who might have killed you last night! Please put me out of my misery and let me help you!” said Max, his voice rising.

“I know people are trying to kill me, Max. In case you haven’t noticed, I also have a stalker!” retorted Liz, beginning to get flustered.

“That’s why you need someone to be with you at all times, Liz. You aren’t safe by yourself,” said Max, softening his voice. “Why won’t you let me help you?”

Liz swallowed and dropped her gaze to the floor. She wanted his help, but she didn’t want to become dependent on him. But she had to admit he had a point. “Okay,” she said, defeated. “I’ll stay until we get back from Roswell. But then we have to figure something else out, okay?”

Max was so relieved that he almost shouted. “Apparently someone else knows about this key. Or maybe they just think that you know something.”

“But I don’t know anything. All I have is a hunch,” said Liz. “I can’t even prove that her death was not of natural causes.”

Max thought about his failed attempt to heal Tess. Whatever had killed her definitely was not of natural causes. He should have been able to heal her. “Well, someone thinks you know something. And what if they do to you what they did to Tess? You have to be careful, Liz.”

Liz nodded, but Max could only focus on one thing:

What was Tess hiding and how could he keep Liz from getting killed trying to find out?

***
“I refuse to be a part of this nightmare! I’m tired of what you are doing to her and I won’t help you hurt her!” yelled the slightly balding man, trying to straighten his hair.

Rick said nothing for a moment. Then, his agitated voice filled the room. “You’ll do whatever I say,” he said. “Or your perfect little family will bite the dust.”

Something inside the other man snapped. “I don’t care! I’ll go to jail! But I’m not going to let you hurt Liz anymore. Hasn’t she suffered enough?”

“Not enough to make her back off,” said Rick haltingly. “She knows too much. We have to finish her off.”

“Why? She hasn’t done a thing to us!”

“Her mere existence is a threat to us,” answered Rick angrily. It was either Liz or them.

“I won’t let you,” said the other man, growing more bold.

“You‘ll do whatever I say. Or you‘ll rot in jail for life,” said Rick caustically.

“I don’t care about that anymore. What you‘re doing to her is wrong.”

“You care about your family, don’t you? Keep your mouth shut, and they live. Challenge me again, and they die. Your choice.”

The other man’s face crumpled. He had no choice but to comply. He had to go along with it.


posted on 30-Apr-2002 1:08:17 PM by Behrable dream
New part!! I wanted a fluffier piece to lead into the return to roswell chapters...

*happy*


Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.



Chapter Eighteen

“I thought we could have dinner tonight,” said Max, coming out onto the deck where Liz was reading a book. She read constantly.

Liz looked up from her book in faint surprise. “Are you asking me out?”

Max blushed slightly and fumbled over his words. “Well, I - I mean, it doesn’t have to be a date, per se - “

“I’d love to,” said Liz, returning to her book. Then she looked up quickly. “But my things - I don‘t have anything to wear,“ she said, biting her lip.

“Yes you do,” he said, looking at her with a half-smile.

Liz turned to look at him directly for the first time. He seemed to be hiding something behind his back. “Max …” she began in a know-you-didn’t-voice.

Max pulled a large white box from behind his back and handed it to her.

“What’s this?” said Liz, taking it from him, trying hard not to smile.

“Something to wear,” he said. Then he added, smirking, “Maria helped me out.”

Liz looked at the box. “I can’t take this,” she said.

“Liz, don’t be difficult. I just want to take you to dinner. And since you don’t have your things here, I got you something. Just open it,” said Max, marveling at Liz’s resistance to his assistance.

Liz begrudgingly took the box and offered him a small smile. Opening it, she pulled out a black halter slip dress, matching sandals and a smaller pink and white striped box. From Victoria’s Secret. She shot him a stunned look and he quickly offered an explanation.

“I promise I haven’t looked at it. I had the girls at the store pick something that would go with the dress,” he said anxiously and Liz smiled. Max was being wonderful.

She stood and held the dress up to her. It really was beautiful. It was a deep v-necked dress with a matching plunging v on the back. The black heels that came with it were strappy and the straps were long enough to wrap a couple of times over her ankle and lower leg. Liz put the dress down and turned to Max.

“You shouldn’t have,” she said, her eyes sparkling. He really shouldn’t have, but she was glad he did. No one had ever done anything so … Pretty Woman-ish … for her. “I feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty woman.”

Max’s eyes lit up. “So does that mean you’ll - “

“Don’t even finish the thought,” quipped Liz before Max could complete his sentence. She knew where his train of thought was leading and she hoped to derail it.

Max smirked, enjoying the teasing banter the two were sharing. “So you’ll wear it?”

Liz turned to look at him and got caught in his entrancing gaze. How could she possibly say no to him? “Ok,” she said softly, trying to free herself from his amber gaze.

Max smiled. “I’ll pick you up at eight,” he said, retreating into the condo.

Pick me up at eight? thought Liz. “But - “ she started, but he had already gone into his room and closed the door.

At precisely eight that evening, Liz put the finishing touches on her hair and glanced at herself in the mirror. Pleased with the way she looked, she glanced around the room, listening. Max had been really quiet all evening. She had been in the guestroom that Max set up for her for a few hours, getting settled in and dressed. She thought she heard something a moment ago, but now…

Liz exited the guest room to find a trail of white rose petals leading into the kitchen. Feeling her heart beating loudly in her chest, she tentatively walked in that direction.

When she got to the kitchen, she found a small pile of petals on the counter with a beautiful full-blown white rose nestled in them. It had a ribbon tied around it and a note that said, “Take me and go to the study.”

Liz felt her heart lighten and she walked from the kitchen to the study, following a light trail of white rose petals that had been mixed in with some pink petals. Liz laughed softly to herself, surprised at what Max had done. In the midst of everything that was happening around them, he was just … amazing.

As she walked into his office, she saw a beautiful wrapped box nestled in a pile of petals. Putting her hand to her mouth to keep from gasping outloud, Liz picked up the small box and opened it.

This time, she couldn’t stop the gasp from coming out. Inside was a beautiful diamond lariat necklace. It even matched the simple diamond studs she was already wearing. She couldn’t even imagine what they must have cost if they were real. They looked real.

One thing was certain. There was no way she could keep it. As much as she wanted to. A note in the box told her to go to the patio. She would have to tell Max that she couldn’t keep them once she found him. Taking the box and the rose, she strode out to the patio door and flung it open.

She was unprepared to see Max standing by a table set for two, with candles lit all over the patio and twinkle lights everywhere. All of the pillar candles were nestled in piles of gorgeous rose petals. A portable stereo sat in a corner and it filled the patio with soft music. Liz had never seen anything quite so beautiful.

Except Max. He was dressed in a black sport coat and pants. His crisp white shirt was open at the throat, letting his tan show through. He looked good enough to eat. In fact, Liz decided, she didn’t even have to eat anything. She would simply stand here and gaze at him.

Max believed that even angels couldn’t be as beautiful as the vision standing before him. She looked incredible. Her hair was piled on top of her head and parts of it fell in waves, framing her face. And then there was her face. Her sensuous lips. Her cute little button nose. Her big, beautiful, deep brown eyes. He could lose himself in them. But something was missing. The necklace.

“Do you want me to help you put that on?” he asked, moving toward her.

Liz blinked back the emotional tears she felt forming. This was too much. Too much. “Max. This is incredible, really, but - “

Understanding her hesitation, Max broke in, “They’re on loan from the jewelry store.” He took the box from her hand and moved to put the necklace on her. “I just wanted to give you a happy night to offset last night,” he added in her ear after putting the necklace on.

When his hands brushed the sensitive skin on her nape of her neck and then slowly came to rest on her shoulders, Liz shivered. His touch electrified her and she slowly leaned back into him, wanting to feel him, needing to feel his arms around her. She was tired of not being ready.

Max felt the air slowly leave his lungs as Liz leaned back into him. He wanted to wrap his arms around her, but thought better of it. He didn’t want to do anything to scare her off, not when he was just getting her to open up to him. So instead, he dropped his hands to her arms and squeezed them gently. “Come on,” he said. “Have a seat.”

After she was seated, he glanced toward the door nervously and then excused himself. Liz looked after him, wondering where he went for a moment and then deciding to enjoy the view. The waves were crashing along the shoreline, and Liz could still see the remnants of the fiery sunset, even though the sun had already gone below the horizon long ago.

When Max returned, he looked slightly disheveled, but he joined her at their table, gazing at her.

“Is anything wrong?” she asked, resting her chin in her hand.

“Huh? Uh, no,” said Max, glancing nervously toward the door.

“Are you sure?” asked Liz.

“I’m sure. Wait here a moment,” he said and ran back inside.

Liz stifled a laugh. Max’s little dream dinner had run into a little snag. But she didn’t mind. They could eat potato chips for all that she cared. Soon, Max returned looking pleased with himself.

“What’s going on Max?” asked Liz, glancing at him with upturned eyes that beckoned him to her.

“I was just putting the finishing touches on dinner,” he said.

Max looked at her for a moment and then extended his hand to her. “Dance with me?” asked Max. Liz nodded, placed her hand in his, and allowed herself to be swept up into his arms.

Max felt like this must be the most extreme form of torture. To be holding Liz in his arms, yet to have so many secrets between them. His. Hers. He wanted nothing more than to just open up to her completely, so he could be with her completely. She was everything that he could possibly want. But could she accept everything about him?

Max held Liz closely, caressing her as he held her to him and squeezing her hand as he gazed down at her. Liz looked up at him and for a moment, she felt a pang of déjà vu. Brushing that thought away, she allowed herself to forget about her fears and her issues and just, be, with Max. But as it was, she felt like she was sinking in amber quicksand, completely unaware of the silent battle going on in his mind. Her breath left her body as Max took their joined hands and pinned them behind her back. He brought his other hand up and cupped the side of her face.

“Liz,” he breathed, thinking about how easy things would be if she knew the truth about him. He could explain what had likely happened to Tess. But most importantly, he could completely share himself with her. But could she accept him? “I - “

Just then, they were interrupted by the sudden opening of the patio door. Max swore under his breath, angry that the moment was gone. Liz jumped slightly and looked toward the door, where a man was now standing, holding a tray with two drinks on it.

A huge smile began to dance around the edges of her mouth and Liz fought to push it back.

“Finally,” muttered Max, taking both drinks and handing one to Liz. Liz took the drink and had a sip. It was a delicious red wine sangria. Her favorite.

“How did you know?” she asked, plopping the maraschino cherry into her mouth and pulling the stem out slowly and seductively.

Max‘s train of thought completely derailed for a moment as he watched her. “I didn’t. I saw you drinking one that night in the salsa bar,” he answered, taking a sip of his drink to clear his head of the forbidden thoughts running through it. He had made certain that his drink was nonalcoholic. He remembered the one time he had gotten drunk from one sip of alcohol. Luckily, he hadn’t revealed himself or his powers, but he had probably gotten close.

“Well, it’s my favorite,” she said, trying to see what was going on inside the condo behind him. She couldn’t believe he had set this up. What a gesture on his part, she thought to herself.

Max motioned to the table and they sat. The people he hired brought out a nice salad and Max and Liz ate in companiable silence. Liz had never been treated to anything quite like this. And she loved it. Of course, she didn’t want to get used to it, but she felt so special that Max had done this for her.

Would he still be so interested in being with her if he knew about her and Sean?

Liz shook her head slightly and tried to clear the offending thought from her mind. Tonight was about making happy memories. She wouldn’t let the past get in the way of that.

Max looked over at Liz as she ate. She was so beautiful to him. And it wasn’t about what she looked like. It was about the way she made him feel when he was around her. Her laughter. Her tears. He didn’t care what she did. She didn’t understand that he had gone into protective mode for her because he was so afraid of losing her. Even if she never let him into his life as anything more than what they were right now, he had to protect her. Some Liz was better than no Liz at all.

After an incredible meal and an even more incredible dessert of tiramisu which Liz finished off happily, Max invited her into his arms again for a dance. This time, Liz hesitated slightly before taking his hand. Was she ready for this?

***
Pulling Liz flush against him, Max sighed. She looked like she had really enjoyed dinner and he was happy to have been able to provide her a respite from the neverending drama that had become her life.

Her hair was slightly mussed from being tossed about in the wind and Max longed to run his fingers through it. It was like spun silk and he wanted to savor the feel of it against his fingertips. He absentmindedly stroked the small of her back and squeezed her hand that he held firmly in his grasp. Trying to take his mind off of the scalding heat that Liz‘s hand left on his chest as she rested it there, he risked a glance into her deep brown eyes.

That was a mistake. He fell headlong into her captivating gaze when she turned heavy-lidded doe eyes to him raptly. Max’s hand tightened around her waist involuntarily as his breath left his lungs in a rush. He could get completely lost in her gaze if he didn’t do something soon.

He cleared his throat nervously and tried to find words to tell her how much he enjoyed being with her tonight. Maybe he should start by asking her how she enjoyed their dinner. “Did you enjoy dinner tonight?”

Liz was broken out of whatever thoughts she had been engaged in when Max asked her something. It was increasingly more and more difficult for her to concentrate whenever she was this close to him. The designs he was lazily drawing on her lower back were setting off a cacophony of emotions within her, making her body shudder in anticipation. She hoped he didn‘t notice. “What?” she asked dazedly.

Max’s eyes darkened to a deep shade of amber as he repeated the question. “I asked if you enjoyed dinner tonight.” He pulled her even closer to him and looked at her intently.

Liz shut her eyes briefly and swallowed, trying to gather her thoughts. What did he say? Oh, right… dinner. “It was wonderful Max. Thank you,” she breathed. She didn’t believe a simple thank you was enough for the kindness he’d shown her. “Especially the tiramisu,” she added after thoughts of the rich and creamy dessert floated through her mind.

“I’m glad you liked it,” he said, smiling lopsidedly. He moved her hand so that it rested on his other shoulder. Liz waged an internal battle on whether or not it was safe to tangle her fingers in the hair at the back of his neck. She settled for lightly twining her fingers behind his neck, trying to ignore it when Max’s free hand traveled up to caress the expanse of exposed skin on her back.

He fought with himself for a moment and then moved his hand up to cup the back of her neck. Liz involuntarily tensed for a moment as a shudder ran through her. She clutched his shoulder breathlessly, trying to weather the temporary storm. Max’s touch was causing a riot of emotions to well up within her. Heady desire filled her senses completely until she was overwhelmed by the smell of him, the feel of him, the sight of him, the touch of him. Now she longed to taste him.

The air between them was charged with something Liz couldn’t quite put her finger on, but she felt a tremendous pull towards him. No longer able to look at him, she dropped her gaze onto his chest instead. She could see his bronzed skin through his open shirt and she sucked in a breath to try and get control over her wayward emotions.

Max brought his hand up to tip her chin up so that she was looking at him again and Liz was struck by the fiery emotions she saw in his gaze. His eyes had taken on a glazed quality and she saw flashes of gold sparkling in their amber depths. There was unmistakable desire there. His hand moved to cup the side of her face and his thumb rested against her cheek for a moment. When he dragged his thumb over her cheekbone, Liz emitted a soft mew through involuntarily opened lips.

Max could no longer resist dropping his head to hers and taking her lips in a soft kiss. Their lips brushed together softly, gently and Max pulled her even more firmly against him. Liz reveled in the taste of him, but she wanted more. Flicking her tongue across his lips to request entrance into his mouth, she moaned with pleasure when he complied. Tangling her fingers in the hair at the nape of his neck, she elicited a soft growl from Max as he pulled her up against him, now crushing his mouth against hers.

His tongue whipped out to tangle intimately with hers and Max wished that he could pick her up and take her to his bed. The kiss deepened, and a small whimper from Liz elicited a guttural moan from Max in return. She pressed herself against him, trying to get closer. His fingers were kneading the skin at the back of her neck and his thumb was stroking her cheek seductively. It was making her crazy with desire for him. Liz felt her knees wobbling slightly and she clung to him as the wind picked up around them, blowing her hair all around them as it came loose. Max’s hand fisted in her tousled hair, pulling it completely free and it cascaded in a torrent of waves around both of them as they kissed voraciously. The feel of his hand in her hair sent a spasm of delight rippling through her and she shivered.

Suddenly, the table on the patio tipped over with a resounding crash due to the forceful wind that blew past them and Max and Liz broke apart, startled. Liz immediately looked around for the source of the noise, panicked.

Max could have kicked himself when he saw her reaction to the table falling. After all of his efforts to get her mind off things, this had to happen. He righted the table and immediately took Liz into his arms again. Her shaking subsided more quickly than usual and he looked to her in slight confusion. Not that he was unhappy with this new development, but it did leave him puzzled.

Liz latched onto him and drew in his scent to gain control of herself. She breathed in a few calming breaths and decided to stay burrowed into his neck for a while. It felt safe and comfortable there and she was glad when her shaking subsided, more quickly than usual. Then her mind latched onto the fact that she was yet again drawing on him for strength.

She abruptly pulled away, trying to remain calm on her own. Max noticed the change and gave her a questioning look.

“I’m okay,” she breathed, wrapping her arms around herself, forgetting that Max would recognize her coping mechanism.

Max decided not to press the issue. Instead, he thought they should call it a night. There would be plenty of time to discuss this later.

Liz watched him as he motioned for the staff to come and clear things away on the patio and she wondered absentmindedly if her life would ever return to normal.

***
“Her guard will be down there. She shouldn‘t give you too much trouble. Find out what she knows,” said Nikolas, sneering at the pictures Dexter had taken.

Dexter just looked at him. “I can’t go back to Roswell! Someone might recognize me.”

Nikolas mulled that over for a moment. The sniveling sycophant was right about something for a change. He would have to send someone else. “Fine. But I want you to do one thing for me before she has a chance to leave town.”

He handed Dexter a small package. “Make sure it looks like an accident. If you succeed, there won’t be any need to send anyone to Roswell after her.”

He left the room and Dexter eyed the package warily. Nikolas wanted him to kill Liz. Kill Liz. He wished that he could have stopped her from being shot all those years ago. Then none of this would ever have happened.


***
Wednesday evening seemed to come rather quickly and soon Max and Liz had packed up her car and left for Roswell. They decided to leave Wednesday night instead of Thursday morning because they would be able to cross the desert in the cool night air, rather than face it when the sun blazed down on them. Max offered to get a rental car, but Liz didn’t want to put him out. Plus, she loved driving her car.

Liz had mixed feelings about returning to Roswell and for the first part of the trip, she was rather quiet. She felt like she was running out of time. She had been trying to work up the nerve to tell Max about Sean ever since they left his condo. They had been driving for quite some time, and she still hadn’t been able to formulate what she wanted to say. She didn’t even know how to begin. There was so much … stuff … connected to the demise of her relationship with Sean. After hashing and rehashing the end of that relationship with friends for over a year after its demise, she had gotten sick of talking about it.

She had finally gotten to the place where she thought she was over it. But apparently she was wrong. She may be over Sean, but she wasn’t over what he had done to her.
She had to let go of the pain and hurt that he had wrought on her life. She knew she needed to come clean with Max and move on with her life. Maybe with him. But until she was able to tell him about what had happened in her past, she knew that it would haunt her.

Liz realized that not telling Max about her past with Sean was giving it way too much importance. After all of this time, she was still letting Sean’s actions control her life. Liz glanced over at Max as she sped along, passing someone on the stretch of highway. Max winced as she approached the bumper of the car and then sped around it quickly.

She ignored the blaring horn and expletives coming from the offended driver’s mouth and continued off into the night.

Max didn’t let her off the hook for that move. “You do drive recklessly,” he said, a devilish smile tingeing the corner of his mouth.

Liz snapped out of her Sean thoughts and eyed him mischievously. “You haven’t seen reckless,” she said and slammed her pedicured, sandaled foot down on the accelerator. Max’s head snapped back against the headrest of the passenger seat as the car accelerated.

They were on a stretch of desert highway that was almost uninhabited, save the car they had just passed. Liz sped along, pushing the car to its limit and taking each curve as fast as she possibly could. Max inadvertently grabbed onto the bar above his window and glanced at this wild, untamed Liz that had somehow gotten behind the wheel of the car he was riding in.

“Is this reckless enough for you?” she asked mockingly, enjoying his reaction.

Max smirked at her. Her hair was flying everywhere and she handled the car like a pro. Of course, he needed to get her to slow down, but damn she looked good. She had on a pair of short black shorts and she had on a white shirt that was tied at her waist, exposing her delicate waist. She looked relaxed and carefree, compared to the first part of the trip, where she seemed pensive and brooding. This Liz was rather sexy, he thought to himself.

Still, he did need to get her to slow down. “Plenty,” he said bluntly.

Liz started to slow down, the initial high of speeding through the desert winding down. Plus, she didn’t want to get a ticket. With happy endorphins rushing through her, she decided to just tell Max about Sean. She started to speak, but Max beat her to it.

“Would you like me to drive now?” he asked, obviously thinking that her slowing down was his cue.

“Oh,” said Liz, startled. She hadn’t expected that from him. But maybe that was a good idea. If she got too emotional about Sean, at least she wouldn’t be driving. “Okay.”

Liz pulled over and she and Max got out and switched places. Liz laughed when Max got into the driver’s seat and his chest was pressed into the steering wheel and his head brushed the roof of the car. He rolled his eyes at her and readjusted the seat.

As they got back on the highway, Liz pondered how to begin about Sean. “Max,” she began. “There - there’s something I want to talk to you about,” she swallowed thickly.

Max tensed slightly. What did she want to talk about? “Okay,” he said nervously, holding in his breath.

“It - it’s about why I’ve been pushing you away,” she started. “I should have told you sooner, but I couldn’t work up the nerve.”

Max visibly relaxed. “Liz, you don’t have to fear me. I want you to be able to come to me with anything that is bothering you.”

“I know, and I really - I appreciate that, Max,” said Liz, feeling a large lump form in the back of her throat. “It - It’s about my past. About what happened to me with my former fiance.”

Fiance? thought Max possessively. “I didn’t realize you had been engaged,” he forced out. Somehow, the thought that someone else had captured her heart enough for her to agree to marry him filled him with jealousy.

“I was,” she started, but she was cut off by the sound of the passenger side front tire practically exploding, sending the car careening off the road and spinning dangerously off into the night.

posted on 9-May-2002 2:20:21 PM by Behrable dream
Sorry it took so long to get this part up... I had some serious blockage on one section and I wanted to get it right... I'm not sure I did, but ... I hope you guys enjoy it...


Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.



Chapter Nineteen - Return to Roswell

Liz’s scream pierced the quiet of the night and a huge panic set in upon her as she turned to look at Max, whose brows were knit in concentration as he tried to regain control of the car. Her breath came in ragged pants as she saw desert scenery spin around her.

Max gripped the steering wheel and tried to concentrate. If he could just figure out where the tire was damaged, maybe he could repair it. A few beads of sweat appeared on his forehead as he furiously concentrated on forcing the damaged tire molecules back together. Then he concentrated on slowing the car down and getting it to stop. But the car was spinning too quickly and he couldn’t gather himself enough to stop it before it wedged itself up against a large rocky area some 20 yards from the road.

Liz screamed as she was helplessly tossed about in the car as it spun. She tried to look over at Max, but she felt dizzy from the spinning. She didn’t even see the large boulder crash into the car, knocking her out as the impact sent her head slamming into the passenger side door frame.

The car finally halted, Max recovered from the jarring impact quickly and looked over at Liz to make certain she was alright. He saw her head laying limply against the passenger side and his heart stopped. He heard a rushing sound in his ears and he stifled the cry that had formed in the back of his throat. She looked … No. Not on his watch. He placed his hand on her neck to check for a pulse and he was only slightly relieved when he found one.

Jumping out of the car and running around it, he cursed when he couldn’t get to her from the passenger side. The car was firmly wedged against the large rock. Holding out his hand to steady himself, he concentrated and the car moved gently away from the rock. He reigned in the urge to rip the door off its hinges with his powers to free Liz from her precarious position when the door stuck slightly. Instead he used them to open it gently.

Apparently the impact had damaged Liz’s seatbelt and she tumbled out into his arms, her head bleeding profusely. Biting back his anguished tears and cradling her against him, he laid her down on the cool desert earth and tried to take inventory of her injuries. She was coming in and out of consciousness and Max knew he had precious little time to heal her. He knew that his control in healing was sketchy at best, but if there was one time he needed to get this right, it was now. He couldn’t let her die on him.

Cradling her delicate head in his hands, he waved away the blood that had pooled near her hairline. Then he concentrated on making a connection with her. He thought about the first time he saw her and the bolt of electricity that flowed through him when their eyes locked from across the room. He thought about the way her doe eyes drew him to her, the way her cheeks flushed when she was near him, the way she shivered when he touched her.

He was completely in love with her.

The thought exploded in his mind like a thousand stars and he almost started shaking from the force of the love he felt for her flowing through his veins. It seemed to flow to his center, gathering and merging with his power. He felt strengthened from it; invigorated from it.

Images began flashing in his mind, coming so quickly he barely had a chance to recognize any of them. They were confused and jumbled. He saw Liz’s shooting from her perspective, a sandy haired guy hovering over her begging her to stay with him. He saw romantic moments between the sandy haired guy and Liz, and then he saw Liz running away from him, crying.

But superimposed on all of these flashes in his mind, Max realized a startling thing. His face and the guy‘s face switched rapidly, almost until they appeared to be the same person. Then the flashes changed abruptly, and Max saw himself hovering above Liz after she was shot. He saw himself in romantic clinches with Liz. He saw her running away from him, in tears.

All of a sudden, the flash he received when he touched Liz’s scar the night of her attack, appeared briefly in his mind and he realized that it was one of the weird flashes he had just received from Liz. It was also from her shooting. He could see the shelves behind the counter, the swinging doors some five feet behind her, and the kitchen further back and to the left of her.

Trying to shake the startling and confusing images from his mind, Max tried to pull himself together. He could figure out the strange images later.

And then he was in. He was connected to her. He concentrated and tried to find the source of the problem. He found a small blood clot on the side of her head and some swelling. He nudged the molecules of the blood clot, dispersing it and then he concentrated on the swelling that had occurred. He healed it and then fell back, completely exhausted. Liz looked up at him dazedly, still fairly out of it.

“Are you alright?” he asked, his eyes piercing her with his concern.

“Wha - what happened?” she asked, looking around. How had she ended up on the desert floor? What happened with the car?

“The car swerved off the road when the tire went out. You hit your head,” he said, hoping he could get away with his healing of her. “Don’t you remember?”

Liz tried to remember the events that led up to the car careening off the road. She couldn’t. Everything was blank. She didn’t even remember what they were doing before the car swerved off the road. “No. Did we hit something?” she asked dazedly.

Max glanced nervously at the jagged boulder they hit. But he had moved the car, so she wouldn‘t know that they had hit it. How could he explain this without revealing himself? He didn’t think now was the time. Not with everything else Liz was dealing with. He sighed with relief when he noticed the back end of the car was dented. “That boulder … the rear passenger side of the car hit it,” he lied. “But I was able to move the car away from it to get you out after you hit your head. I’ve been trying to wake you up since then.”

Liz moved to sit up and Max rushed to her, helping her to her feet and planting a soft kiss on top of her head as he lifted her in his arms. He placed her into the passenger seat and fixed her seatbelt (unbeknownst to her) as he buckled her in. “Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked again, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear and caressing her face softly.

Liz nodded, placing her palm to her forehead. “I’m okay. Just a little out of it. Is the tire blown out?”

“I’m checking that right now,” said Max, sucking in a deep breath and going over to check on the tire. He had already repaired it with his powers, but he still wanted to look at it. He looked above the tire and spotted a small razorblade attached to the frame of the car that rested over it. If he hadn’t been so freaked out when the tire initially blew out, he would have noticed it when he repaired the tire with his powers. It would barely graze the tire, but he imagined that over time, or over long distances it would make any tire blow out. He raked a shaking hand over his face as he realized what had happened.

Someone had rigged Liz‘s car.

Determined not to scare her, Max dissolved the razorblade and rechecked the tire. Liz got out of the car and approached hesitantly.

“What happened?” she asked, a hint of fear in her voice.

“I think we just hit a violent bump in the road. The tire’s fine. Don’t worry,” he lied, not wanting her to have anything else to worry about. He was determined to protect her from physical and emotional trauma, if only for a few days.

Liz eyed him suspiciously, but nodded, getting back into the car. She would ask him later about what really happened. She was certain that it took more than a bump in the road to send a car careening off of it.

Max noticed her suspicious look and tried to drive as carefully as possible into Roswell. They were able to check into their adjoining rooms without incident and Max kept the door cracked so he could keep an eye on her while she slept.

He had to admit it, he was worried. If he hadn’t been with her tonight, Liz likely would have died. Her car had been rigged, and he realized that whoever was after Liz was playing for keeps. Adding onto his worry was the fact that there were more than one set of people after her, and it was possible that whoever wanted Liz dead had alien connections.

He wasn’t sure how he could combat that.

***
The next day, Max woke early, going to check on Liz. He peeked through the door, becoming hypnotized by the sound of her regular breathing. Her hair was tossed about on her pillow, and she clutched another pillow closely to her side. Max wished fervently that he was that pillow.

He moved into the room, trying to decide if he should wake her up or not. She was sleeping so peacefully that he didn’t want to disturb her, but he knew that she had a fitting later that day and he didn’t want her to miss it.

He went to the edge of the bed, mesmerized by her rosy-hued lips. They were parted seductively and he wanted to reach down and wake her with a kiss so badly he could almost taste her. It was taking everything within him not to wrap himself around her as it was, but when she turned over unexpectedly and kicked the blanket away from herself, Max froze, his body rioting against him.

Her leg was completely exposed and he desperately wanted to run his hand up her thigh, among other places. Not able to stand the sweet torture any longer, he called her name softly. “Liz,” he called, trying to wake her up without touching her.

“Liz,” he called again, when she didn’t stir.

Max exhaled sharply, trying to calm his body down. “Max,” said Liz softly, her voice sounding hoarse and gravely.

Relieved that he wouldn’t have to touch her to wake her, Max started to respond again when Liz parted her mouth and a sexy moan escaped from her lips. Her leg began to move up on the bed, wrapping itself around the pillow she was sleeping with. “Max,” she moaned again, only this time, Max could easily discern the arousal in her voice. “Oh, Max,” she continued with her sensuous movements and Max found that he could not tear his eyes from her intensely arousing movements.

She was having an erotic dream … about him. Before he knew what to do with that information, Liz jerked awake, moaning breathlessly and arching her back as she did so. She looked around for a moment, and then her gaze rested on Max. Her cheeks flushed, she gazed at him, breathing heavily, until at last Max found his voice.

“I was trying to wake you up. Don’t you have a fitting today?” he asked.

Liz was mortified. She had been having an intense dream about Max … about making love to him. She knew that she made a breathy moan when she woke up. She could still feel her body’s reaction to the orgasm she’d had in her dream. Her lower body was still trembling from the force of it. The only thing more intense was the orgasm she had with Max in the elevator.

The elevator. Memories of that night flooded her brain and she fought to push them back. Now was certainly not the time for her hormones to take over. Why was he here? And what was Max talking about? A fitting? “Fitting?” she asked, confused.

Max smirked triumphantly and then tried to wipe the satisfied look off of his face. That dream must have been something else. He had never seen Liz quite so … out of sorts. He wished that the dream had been real and that he was actually making her this befuddled. Why couldn‘t he have been that pillow? “Yeah. Your fitting’s today, right?”

Oh, her fitting. “No, that - that’s tomorrow,” said Liz, moving to get out of the bed. But her foot tangled in the sheet and she tumbled forward into Max and they both fell on the floor. Still feeling her body’s reactions from her dream, Liz tried desperately to pull herself off of Max. She could feel his hard, chiseled muscles beneath her fingertips and it was taking every ounce of self-control she had not to simply have her way him right now.

Max was finding it just as difficult to get up. Liz was pressed firmly against him, her leg tangled intimately with his. He could feel his manhood begin to respond to her and he desperately needed to move so that he could save himself the embarrassment of seeing her face when she realized that it wasn’t a gun in his pocket.

He cleared his throat and Liz began to move off of him slowly, her gaze locked with his. “Sorry. I’m really clumsy this morning,” she said as Max picked himself up and steadied both of them.

“How about a tour of Roswell, Max?” she asked as he retreated to the door joining their two rooms.

Max froze. For years he had wondered if he would remember more of his past if he came to Roswell. Now Liz was offering him a tour of places that may or may not be connected to his alien origins. “Are you going to give me the standard alien tourist tour?”

Liz laughed. “We can do that, if you want to. But don’t you want to see what it’s really like for true Roswellians?”

Max nodded. “I suppose so. But it wouldn’t be a real Roswell visit without the alien cheese factor thrown in. What would I tell my friends if I came back from Roswell with no real souvenirs?”

“I guess we can’t have that,” said Liz wryly as she watched Max head back into his room.

***
After a thorough tour of all alien-related areas in Roswell, Max and Liz headed to the Crashdown café, the diner in town that her parents owned. Max wanted to laugh at the alien themed restaurant, and he would have, but it was apparently a very popular spot.

Finding amusement in the fact that Liz’s family had benefited in some way from his alienness, he walked through the doors and looked around. Not noticing that Liz was still standing outside, he turned to where he thought she would be standing when a waitress asked him if he wanted a booth or not. Ignoring the cute bobbing antennae she wore on her head, he turned to go back and get Liz, who was fidgetting nervously outside.

She looked like she wasn’t completely prepared to come in yet. But when she saw his concerned look, she inhaled deeply and pushed through the doors. A wave of nostalgia hit her as she entered the café, and she didn’t understand why. She had been here plenty of times since her shooting. So why was she feeling so uneasy now?

“Liz?” asked Max, concerned.

Liz looked up at Max and then snapped out of her reverie. She was being silly. There was nothing to be afraid of. Plus, she wanted to introduce Max to her parents. She pushed through the doors and strode to the back of the restaurant, motioning for Max to follow.

When she pushed through the swinging doors in the back, she saw her dad, checking the timecards. “Dad,” she said, hoping to surprise him.

Jeff Parker nearly dropped the calculator he had in his hand. “Lizzie! Liz, when did you get here?” he exclaimed, engulfing his daughter in a hug.

“We got in last night,” she mumbled against his chest, practically smothered from his crushing hug. She turned to introduce Max to her dad, but he wasn’t behind her.

She walked back inside the eating area and saw Max standing behind the register area. He was staring at the shelves behind them. “Max?” she called. “I wanted to introduce you to my parents.”

Max didn’t answer. He was lost in thought, staring at the shelves behind the counter and the space just behind the counter where he saw Liz being shot in his flashes. As he stood there, he heard a cacophony of voices, but none of them matched the people currently in the café. “ … is staring at you … this … poodle … Liz!” He heard more shouting and then a gun exploded in his ears, startling him. The noises and voices stopped as he caught his breath and found Liz staring at him intently.

“Are you alright Max?” she asked, her hand brushing his arm in concern.

“Huh? Oh, Liz,” said Max, still slightly dazed. “Sorry, I fazed out for a second,” he said, trying to dispel the voices he heard just a moment ago. He felt like he was losing his mind.

Liz grabbed his arm and led him to the back, where her father and now mother were waiting expectantly. “Mom!” called Liz as she left Max’s side and threw her arms around her mother. Nancy Parker stepped back to gaze at her beautiful daughter. She looked rested, but her smile didn’t completely reach her eyes. Something was bothering her.

She hoped it wasn’t the handsome young man standing behind her, looking at them patiently. “Oh, mom, dad, this is Max Evans. He - we work together,” she finished lamely. She didn’t know how to introduce Max. She hadn’t told her parents about the stalker or Tess, so she couldn’t say, ‘this is Max. He’s here because it was either him, or a bunch of bodyguards hired by him to protect me from my stalker or Tess’ murderers’.

Liz smiled ruefully at the thought as Max extended his hand to Nancy first, and then her dad. “Mr. and Mrs. Parker,” he said, nodding his head respectfully.

“It’s nice to meet you Max,” said Nancy. She noticed how Max stood near Liz protectively, even though his mannerisms remained respectfully platonic. She instantly took a liking to him.

Jeff Parker had an entirely different reaction. He didn’t know if Max and Liz were involved, but after the Sean disaster, he planned on screening all potential applicants a lot more carefully.

Liz noticed the look her dad was giving Max and so she decided to rescue him before anything crazy could happen. “We, uh, we have dinner arrangements with Maria, Michael and Alex, so we’d better get going,” she said, hustling Max out the back door before her parents could respond. “But I promise we’ll see you later,” she said as the door closed behind them.

Max turned to give her a questioning look. “What was that all about?”

“My dad was about to give you the third degree. I thought I’d spare you the trauma.”

***
At dinner that evening, Max and Liz happily relaxed in the company of Michael, Maria, Alex, and Maria’s 2nd cousin, who showed up early. Maria’s mom cajoled Maria into inviting her, and Maria didn’t have the heart to turn her away. She honestly didn’t know her very well, but she was family afterall and she was funny to be around.

Alex had taken an instant liking to her, as she was his normal type. Blonde, tall, and noble looking. Although Rianna was very smart as well.

Unfortunately, she was stupid enough to think that she could flirt recklessly with Max, much to Liz’s chagrin. Max was very gracious about it, and he sent obvious messages to Rianna that he wasn’t interested, but she was persistent. Alex, unfortunately didn’t seem to see the looks Rianna was throwing Max. He was too busy making wisecracks to get her attention.

After dinner was over, the gang hung around the front of the restaurant, trying to find something else to do. Maria glanced up at the sky and remarked, “It‘s a really clear night. We should go stargazing, like we used to.”

“All the way out there?” said Liz, wrinkling her nose. She’d unconsciously moved closer to Max’s side, trying to ward Rianna off.

“Where?” asked Max as he smiled knowingly. Even though Liz would never admit it, she was definitely jealous of Rianna’s advances toward him. The thought made his heart glow.

“It’s a place down on 285 South that we used to go to look at the stars on clear nights,” said Alex. “There are great places to sit in the crevices of this huge rock kind of on the side of the road. You can see for miles around.”

“That sounds very cool,” said Rianna, throwing Max a blatantly seductive look as she licked her lips brazenly. Michael placed his hands on Maria’s shoulder to keep her from knocking her family into next week. Rianna continued on, unscathed by the tension she was causing in the other two women. “So, how’d you guys find it?”

Michael spoke up. “It’s near where I was found wandering in the desert when I was little,” he said ruefully. “After I ended up in a foster home, I used to ride out there to look for clues to see who must have dropped me off on the side of the road.” He threw Max a searching look as he said this, but Max’s head had dropped to the sidewalk.

Max was completely taken off guard. He had to drop his head so no one could see the reactions running across his face to what Michael had just said. He had been found wandering in the desert as a kid? He cleared his throat, to ask how old he was, but Rianna beat him to it.

“How old were you?” she asked.

“Six or so. No one really knows. It wasn’t like they had any records on me,” said Michael.

“So, you bounced around in foster homes all your life?” asked Max, a touch of pity in his voice. That could have been him. He had ended up in a great home, with wonderful parents.

“Yeah,” said Alex. “He‘s our resident Punky Brewster, complete with hair and all.” Alex playfully tousled Michael’s slightly spiky hair.

Maria playfully punched him in the arm, and Michael laughed along with everyone else. But Max saw something in his eyes that didn’t match the smile on his face. It was the same thing that he could see in the mirror when he thought about his alienness and the fact that he knew nothing about his heritage. But at least he didn’t grow up moving from home to home, never even partially fitting in.

“But he did eventually end up in a good one, when we were juniors, right?” said Liz, looking like she wasn’t quite sure of the dates.

Michael nodded ruefully. “Yeah,” he responded and everyone grew a bit quiet for a moment.

Rianna even stopped eyeing Max long enough to notice the uncomfortable silence. “So, how about that stargazing spot?”

***
They drove out to the rock formation, with Max and Liz riding with Alex and Rianna and Michael and Maria drove their car separately. Michael had to be like him. It couldn’t be coincidence that he, Max and Isabel had all been found wandering in the desert around six years old. He and Isabel had been alien. Michael had to be too. Max glanced over at the spiky haired guy cradling Maria under his arm. Was he like him? Was Michael not of this earth?

As Max got out of the car, he expected to see or recognize something, but he didn’t. He didn’t even get the strange feeling he got when he was in the Crashdown earlier that day. Disappointed, Max followed Liz and the others to a spot that looked like a shelf of the actual rock formation. It was smooth, so they could perch themselves there without too much difficulty, and there was a back to it that they could lean against.

Unfortunately, the rock was rather uncomfortable, and after about twenty minutes of sitting on the hard rock, even with blankets, Max felt his legs lose circulation. He shifted uncomfortably and Liz glanced over at him.

“Are you alright?” she asked, touching his arm.

“Fine. My leg is falling asleep though,” answered Max, trying to stretch his legs out to get rid of the pins and needles feeling.

“You wanna walk around?” asked Liz, gazing at him sideways.

Max tried not to get too excited by the thought of walking around in the dark with Liz. The stars were pretty bright tonight and they made her look almost luminescent. “Sure,” he finally managed.

“Hey guys, we’re going to just walk around for a minute. Max’s legs are falling asleep,” said Liz to the others.

Maria nodded with a smirk on her face, while Michael merely quirked an eyebrow. Rianna looked extremely disappointed, and Alex looked like he had been granted his fondest wish.

As they walked along the jagged rock formations and low bushes in silence, Max thought about bringing up what happened before the near fatal car crash. Liz had been telling him about someone who had been her fiance, but of course, she never finished her story. He wanted to know more; he wanted to know why she had been so apprehensive about getting involved with him, but he was afraid that if he brought that up, it might jog Liz’s memory about the accident. She didn’t really remember what happened, and he wanted to keep it that way.

Finally, Max cleared his throat. “So this is the Roswell you wanted to show me,” he said softly and glanced up at Orion’s belt. He noticed a chair height boulder big enough for both of them to sit on and he led her there.

Liz smiled and looked up at Orion. It had always been one of her favorite constellations, mostly because it was so easy to pick out. “Yeah,” she breathed, feeling her face getting slightly warm. It was always this way whenever she was so close to Max. She could feel her entire being practically calling out to him.

A slight cramp crept into her neck and she started trying to rub the pain away. Max noticed and soon, his hands replaced hers. He gently moved her long, luxurious hair to the side and began kneading the muscles there. “Let me,” he said softly, his breath tickling the hair on the back of her neck as he moved her so that she was resting between his legs.

Liz suppressed a shudder as his hands worked their magic. She couldn’t believe the sensations he was causing in her with just a touch. As his hands began their slow descent down her back, Liz shivered noticeably. She wanted him to do so much more than rub her back.

Max tried to keep his hands from roaming all over her body. Even though she seemed to be enjoying his massage, he didn’t know if he could handle another rejection from her. Yes, they had had an enjoyable evening the other night, but he knew there was something she was trying to tell him. If he seduced her, she might never get it out and he didn’t want to undermine any chance he had with her.

But feeling her body shiver beneath his touch almost sent him over the edge. He could see himself slowly slipping the straps of her tee shirt down and kissing the nape of her neck … her shoulders … her breasts. God, he wanted her so badly. He wanted to make love to her right here, underneath the stars.

He tried not to imagine what it would feel like to take her right here, on the cool desert floor. He tried to push the images of his hands roaming all over her diminutive form, driving her to the brink of ecstasy before sending both of them tumbling over it. His hands tensed slightly as he imagined exploring her body from head to toe. Drinking her nectar. Burying himself in her womanness.

Max exhaled explosively and tried to clear his head. Since when had he become just like a horny teenager? He practically itched with the desire to make her his. But of course now wasn’t the time. He continued running his hands lightly down her back, satisfied when he heard a slight whimper wrenched from her mouth.

Liz bent forward, reveling in his expert touch. Max’s fingers were relaxing her to the point of drowsiness.

Max’s eyes darkened in amusement when he heard the whimper again. Then he realized that it wasn’t a whimper. Liz was snoring!

Max stopped his hand movements on her back and bit the back of his hand to stop from laughing out loud. He hoped that when he actually tried to seduce her with a massage that she wouldn’t have the same reaction. His manhood wouldn’t be able to take it.

He heard voices calling them back toward the cars. It was getting really late. But he hated to wake his sleeping beauty. Frowning, he jostled her slightly. “Liz,” he called softly. “We’ve got to get back. Wake up.”

Liz jerked and her head flew up, her hand wiping away the drool that had pooled in the corner of her mouth. Max couldn’t suppress his laugh after seeing her surreptitious move.

“What’s so funny?” she asked drowsily. Max had really put a sleeper move on her. She hoped she hadn’t been snoring.

“You, uh, have a little bit of … um … drool, on your chin,” he said, suppressing a smug grin.

How embarrassing, thought Liz as she tried to remove the drool a bit more carefully with a napkin she had in her pocket. “Thanks,” she said dryly, frowning at him slightly.

Max laughed and soon, Liz found that she couldn’t ignore the comedy of the situation and she laughed right along with him. This was really nice, she thought. Could things really be this easy? She felt a level of comfort with Max that she hadn’t realized she could have. Glancing up at him, she wanted to tell him about Sean, but the moment just didn’t seem right. She would rather just enjoy her time with him.

Because she didn’t know how much time she would have with Max.

What would happen if she told Max, and then he no longer found her desirable? Would he abandon her just as Sean had? True, he was interested now, but how did she know he would actually stay interested … past this infatuation stage?

Liz sighed in resignation.

Telling him about Sean could wait until tomorrow.

***
The next morning came rather quickly, as it was almost 3am by the time Max and Liz got back to their rooms for sleep. Liz overslept and she was in danger of being late for her fitting. This made her quite irritable, so the thought of telling Max about Sean didn’t even occur to her until later, when they were at the rehearsal.

But, the rehearsal, scheduled for midday, was going badly. Liz wished she had told Max about everything before, because with the way things were going with the wedding arrangments, she wouldn’t have a chance to see Max, much less talk to him. Michael had been half an hour late, claiming that the tuxedo shop had botched his and Alex’s tuxedoes badly. They were going to have to alter them again. He hoped they were going to have them ready by the wedding tomorrow evening.

To top it off, the musicians were supposed to have arrived well before the rehearsal so that they could go over the order of the service and they were late as well. Maria’s mom, Amy DeLuca was expected to bring the hurricane glasses they planned to use to illuminate the foyer, and she still hadn’t arrived. It was pouring down rain and Maria had had to use the contingency plan of holding the ceremony indoors. Luckily, the steel frame tent they were using for the reception was up on a stage, with its own floor, so there was no problem there.

Maria had been livid and she seemed to freak out even more when she realized that Michael may not have a proper tux to wear to the wedding. She was stalking about the ceremony site, yelling into the phone about cakes and tuxes, when Liz heard someone coming through the back door. There was a resounding crash and Liz glanced at Maria, who was still busy ranting and then she glanced at Michael and Alex, who were trying to calm her.

Maria shrugged off their help and yelled to no one in particular, “Would somebody please go and help my mom with that stuff before she breaks everything!”

Max started to get up from his seat near the altar that had been set up by a large fireplace in the mansion, but Liz held him off. “You stay and see if Maria needs anything. I’ll go and help Ms. DeLuca.”

She stepped into the foyer of the mansion Maria had rented for the occasion, expecting to see Maria’s mom carrying the items needed for the ceremony. What she saw made her stop dead in her tracks.

Sean DeLuca was in the foyer.


posted on 13-May-2002 11:17:45 AM by Behrable dream
Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.

Chapter Twenty

Sean. Sean was standing right in front of her. Liz felt herself shaking involuntarily. She knew that she had to run into him sometime, she just wasn’t expecting it to be now. She had hoped that this would happen much, much later, but she apparently wasn’t so lucky.

Sean was the first to speak. “Hey,” he said, forcing a smile to his stunned lips. He had been trying to sneak in and out, not wanting to intrude on her just yet, but now that she was standing in front of her, he couldn‘t tear himself away. She radiated beauty and warmth. He had missed her. He hadn’t laid eyes on her since that horrible day at his apartment, when she ran off crying.

“Hi,” returned Liz curtly. She didn’t want to do this. “I’ll get someone to help you with all of that,” she said dismissively, motioning toward the stuff that Amy had obviously sent him with and moving back toward the room where everyone else was in. She felt blackness starting to creep in around her and she needed to get as far away from him as she could. She wasn’t prepared to see him.

“Liz wait,” called Sean, grabbing her arm.

Liz whirled around and looked at his hand on her arm angrily. She glared at him and Sean immediately released her. “Don’t ever do that again,” she said and started to move away from him.

“I’m sorry for what I did, Liz. I was a jerk,” he forced out, nearly yelling.

Liz stopped in her tracks, folding her arms. She let out a bitter laugh and turned on him. “Sorry?”

“Yes,” said Sean taking a step toward her. “I’m so sorry. I put you through hell because I - I - I still don’t understand why I did that.”

Liz huffed. “Was it worth it Sean?” she said icily.

Sean couldn’t answer. “Worth it?”

Liz cut him off. “Because it certainly looked like it was worth it to me. You ran off with that tramp and completely devastated me. So your happiness and her happiness must have been worth it. I mean, you enjoyed yourself every time you were with her, right? So it was worth it to you, even though it nearly killed me!”

Sean backed away slightly as Liz’s voice rose. “Liz, I - “

“You know, you once told me that I didn’t fit the ideal image of a woman in your mind,” said Liz, her voice trembling with suppressed rage. “But you know what? If that tramp you latched onto while you were with me fits that ideal, then thank God I don’t. I wouldn’t want to be with anyone with such low standards. So, for your sake, Sean, I hope it was all worth it,” she spat, turning on her heel to stalk out.

But she ran headlong into Max’s chest. “Is everything okay here?” asked Max, recognizing the sandy-haired man from his visions, and running his hand lightly up Liz‘s arm. She was shaking. Max fought down the unwittingly jealous feelings and looked down at Liz. “Liz?” he questioned, his eyes narrowed in concern.

“I’m fine,” she said, turning to give Sean a defiant glare and then back to look up at Max gratefully. “I’m fine, Max,” she said smoothly, taking Max‘s arm and leading him back to where the others were.

Sean just looked after her, hating himself once again for hurting the love of his life.

***
Liz was moody the rest of the evening, running her encounter with Sean over and over in her mind. Everyone tried to bring her out of her shell, but it was rather hopeless. And she knew Max didn’t understand what had happened. She couldn’t concentrate on anything and the light that had been in her eyes the previous evenings she had shared with him seemed to have flickered out.

At the rehearsal dinner in the Crashdown, she tried to put on a brave front, not wanting to bring everyone else down with her personal issues. Michael and Maria appeared to be having a lot of fun and so was everyone else. Luckily, Sean hadn’t shown up … yet. Perhaps he realized how awkward it would be.

Valiantly trying to break herself free from her thoughts about Sean, Liz rested her hand on Max’s knee, trying to draw comfort from his presence. He had been trying all evening to draw her back out and she wanted to show her appreciation. She knew he didn’t understand what was going on with her.

She had to exorcise the Sean demon. It was the only way she could move forward. And a large part of her wanted to try to move forward with Max. But she had to clear the air first before she could do that. She resolved that she would tell him tonight, after dinner.

Feeling more confident about her decision, Liz broke out of her moodiness and flashed Max a brilliant smile. He looked startled at first and then a look of pure relief crossed his face. He placed his hand over the hand she had rested on his knee and squeezed it gently. Liz felt a jolt of sensual electricity and she dipped her head, turning to look at him through upturned lashes. Her brilliant smile vanished and it was immediately replaced with a more seductive one. Max’s heart rate sped up rapidly as he watched the way her eyes raked over him heatedly.

Not quite understanding her sudden turnaround, he loosened his grip on her hand and she took the opportunity to switch their hand positions. She took his hand in hers and began stroking the inside of his palm delicately with her thumb. Max suppressed a violent shudder and tried to put a leash on his body’s reactions to her touch. She was now drawing lazy circles on the skin between his thumb and forefinger. He risked a glance at her again and suppressed a grin when he saw the way she was casually looking around the room, as though her touch wasn’t driving him insane with lust.

When Alex went over to the jukebox to put in a few quarters to get everyone up to dance, Maria pulled Michael up to her as Celebration started playing. Everyone started cheering and hollering as Maria and Michael danced wildly and belted out the lyrics.

Alex went over to dance wackily in front of Liz, trying to get her attention. But when he started pretending to strip off his clothing, Maria had to interrupt.

“Uh, I don’t remember hiring a stripper for this rehearsal dinner,” she laughed as Alex started to pull his belt off seductively.

Alex didn’t listen and he pulled Liz up, trying to get her to dance with him. Liz laughed, feeling the weight of the earlier events of the day melting away around her. When the music changed to something slower, he pulled Liz to him. “I’m sure Max won’t mind if I dance with you,” he said, barely controlling the laughter in his voice when Liz looked over at Max stealthily.

“You’re falling for him, aren’t you?” he asked, after he pulled her across the room and when he noticed the way her eyes seemed to be drawn to Max like a magnet.

Liz turned to look at him, trying to feign a look of shock at his question. “Why would you think that?”

Alex snorted. “You’re kidding, right? Liz, the sparks between you two could light up Los Angeles!”

Liz blushed painfully, and then glanced down. “It’s complicated.”

Squeezing her hand, Alex responded, “The things that are worth it are rarely simple.”

Smiling at him, Liz felt immense relief wash over her. Alex was right. She could get through her issues concerning her past with Sean and then … maybe … she could see where this thing with Max led.

“So, have you told him about Sean yet?” Alex asked, glancing toward the door.

Liz chewed her lip nervously. “Not yet,” she said quietly.

Alex sighed heavily and then tried to figure out what he should do about the scene unfolding on the other side of the room.

Sean had arrived and he was arguing angrily with the woman that he left Liz for all those years ago.

***
Max watched as Liz was led away from him by a cheeky Alex. She had lit up in the past few moments and he was happy to see her having such a good time. He was slightly jealous that he wasn’t the one dancing with her, but he knew Alex was a good friend of hers, capable of making her laugh when almost no one could.

His eyes drifted around the café, studying everyone. Liz’s parents were dancing happily, gazing at the raucously happy Michael and Maria. Maria’s mom, he assumed, was dancing with the Sheriff from Roswell, who had placed his large hat on the counter as he spun Ms. DeLuca around. Then his gaze fell on someone he hadn’t expected to see.

The guy from the flashes he got while healing Liz had just come in through the door of the Crashdown, with the bell tinkling as he entered. Liz still hadn’t noticed him yet. He made his way around the happy dancers, his gaze firmly trained on Liz.

Max felt an unreasoning surge of anger and jealousy toward this guy. He wondered if this was the guy that Liz had been engaged to. They had certainly been having some sort of conflict at the rehearsal. He saw Liz’s father approach and the two engaged in a heated conversation near the back of the café. Jeff Parker seemed to be trying to get him to leave, but the guy stood firm. The guy motioned toward Michael and Maria plaintively and Mr. Parker stood back and sighed. After a few more heated words were exchanged, Mr. Parker walked away, grumbling.

The sandy-haired guy slowly started walking toward the unsuspecting Liz and Alex but then a blonde-haired woman grabbed his arm and jerked him around to face her. She looked rather disheveled. Her hair was messily combed, and her clothes were rumpled and wrinkled. She looked, for lack of a better word, unkempt. An ugly argument ensued and soon, their angry words were louder than the music coming from the jukebox. The woman started pointing angrily at Liz, and Max stood abruptly, not liking the menacing looks the woman was throwing at her.

He was almost to them when the woman suddenly launched herself at an unsuspecting Liz, knocking the sandy-haired guy down in the process. Max crossed the distance between himself and this lunatic, grabbing her arm before it hit Liz from behind. Alex jerked Liz toward him and Liz turned and looked at the woman in surprise. Then she saw Sean moving toward the woman, grabbing her arm. Liz’s eyes widened and her lower lip trembled as she realized who the woman must be.

Max was seething. Who did this woman think she was? “What do you think you’re doing?” he asked, through clenched teeth.

“Yvonne,” said Sean, with barely controlled anger. “Leave Liz out of this. You’re only embarrassing yourself. For the last time, it’s over, and it has been for months! Why are you even here?!?!”

Yvonne glared at Sean disbelievingly. “Why are you defending her? You promised me you weren’t in love with her anymore! I thought you said she never even appreciated you! Was all of that just a lie to keep me around until you got tired of me?”

Sean looked like a deer caught in very bright headlights. He looked around at everyone’s shocked faces. This was quite a scene. “This has nothing to do with Liz, Yvonne. But I shouldn‘t have continued to involve you when I wasn‘t over her though.”

Max held onto Yvonne’s arm and watched her warily. She glared at Liz, ignoring Sean. “This is your fault, you bitch,” she spat, her voice full of contempt. “His family could never accept me after you poisoned them against me!”

Liz had to suppress the insane urge to laugh. But she remained silent. She wasn’t going to give Yvonne the satisfaction of getting her upset. Yvonne was even more enraged by Liz’s show of class and so she tried to claw at her.

That was a big mistake. “That’s it,“ said Max, incensed. He forcibly grabbed her other hand and dragged her toward the door. Yvonne fought him the entire way, yelling obscenities about Liz and Maria too. Liz’s father followed him outside the café, obviously with the intention of giving Yvonne some choice words of his own.

As Max took out the trash, Alex turned on Sean angrily. “What the hell were you thinking, letting her come at Liz like that? What was she doing here anyway?”

“It wasn’t my fault, okay??!” yelled Sean frustratedly. “We’ve been broken up for months now! But she just won’t accept it!”

“Well, if you broke up with her like you did me, it’s no wonder she’s pissed off and angry,” spat Liz, her voice laced with venom. “Although I can’t say she didn’t get exactly what she deserved after all of her scheming.”

Sean looked down at the floor and Alex advanced on him angrily. “I think you should leave DeLuca.”

Sean looked up at Liz, just as Max reappeared through the door. Sean started to move past her, but Liz’s voice stopped him and rendered everyone else momentarily speechless. “I want to talk to you Sean. Now.”

Everyone looked at Liz nervously. Maria approached slowly, angry that her rehearsal dinner had been disrupted by Yvonne and concerned about Liz. Alex’s hands clamped down on her shoulder as he shot Maria a questioning look.

Even Sean looked nervous. “I don’t think now is the time - “ he began but Liz was through being polite.

“I said NOW!” she screamed, and Maria began to escort everyone outside to the chairs that were in front of the café. Liz turned when she saw what Maria was doing. Her rehearsal dinner was ruined. “Wait Maria,“ she whispered. “You don’t have to clear everyone out. Sean and I can go upstairs.“

Maria shook her head. “No. It’s more neutral down here and we can still kind of keep an eye on you if things get out of hand. Don’t worry. We’ll just hang out in the front.“ She wanted to give Yvonne a piece of her mind anyway.

Liz nodded. “Okay,” she breathed, taking in a shaky breath.

Michael approached and gave Liz a searching look. “You sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine Michael. I just have some things I need to say to Sean,” she said, her jaw clenching painfully. This had to be done, she thought to herself.

Max moved toward Liz tentatively. He could almost sense her anger and rage. It was radiating off of her in waves. Intermingled with her anger, he could see the hurt written all over her face. He wanted nothing more than to get to her and wipe the pain away. And knock that guy into next week. He was halfway there when Alex grabbed his arm.

Max gave him an annoyed look. It was taking everything he had not to shove Alex away and go to her. But Alex fixed him with a resigned look and cleared his throat.
“She needs this Max. She needs to finish this thing with him once and for all.”

***
Alone in the café, Liz and Sean simply stared at each other for a moment. Then, apparently unable to stand the deafening silence any longer, Sean spoke.

“Liz, I’m sorry. I know I hurt you terribly and there is no excuse for the way I treated you. You did nothing but love me and you gave me chance after chance. You always tried to do right by us and I repaid you with betrayal and then the utmost disrespect. I am so sorry for what I put you through. I’m sorry for leaving you when you must have been devastated. I know I can’t ever make it up to you, but I will never stop trying,” he said plaintively, the words coming out in a rush. Sean looked like he had been wanting to say these things for a long time.

Liz simply stared at him. She didn’t know if she was angry or hurt or just pissed. After everything she had been through. And she had finally seen Yvonne. That was one person she never wanted to see. It was why she had disconnected from Sean completely. And it made her sick to know that Sean had left her for … that. “WHY?” she asked angrily.

Sean floundered around for an answer. “I don’t know, exactly,” he said as he raised his hand in confoundment. “It just … happened and - “

“Don’t TELL me it just HAPPENED!” Liz yelled. “Sex doesn’t just HAPPEN when you’re ENGAGED to someone Sean! You made a choice to have sex with her! You went over to her house and you knew damn well what was going to happen when you got there!”

“Well, if I was getting what I needed from YOU, I never would have - ”

Sean stumbled back under the force of Liz’s hand connecting painfully with his left cheek. “Don’t you dare put this on me! Yes! We were having problems! All relationships have problems at some point. But that doesn’t mean that when you have problems, you should run out and sleep with the first slut who will have you! Tell me Sean. What did you solve by doing that? What good came out of that?”

Sean sighed harshly and looked at the floor. “You got defensive every time I tried to talk to you Liz.”

“Did you ever wonder why Sean? No? You had broken up with me before then, without explaining why, and then you changed your mind and I took you back. But I never understood why you did that, you never explained it and I felt like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop! Who wouldn’t be defensive under those circumstances?”

“Liz - “ began Sean, beginning to move toward her. She was right. He had done her a grave disservice by judging her so harshly. She was the best thing that ever happened to him, and he treated her like dirt.

“No! I’m sorry that you couldn’t open your own mouth and talk to me. I’m sorry that you didn’t love me enough to work things out. But I am tired of taking the blame for the bad decisions you made. I never intentionally hurt you Sean. Even when I left to finish my degree, I did that to benefit both of us. But you cheated on me and then left me! Not only that, but you totally disrespected me in the process,” said Liz, her voice beginning to waiver slightly.

“I know and I’m sorry! I was such a fool,” said Sean, his voice having an edge of slight panic. “You didn’t deserve any of that.”

But Liz barely registered what he said. “No I didn’t Sean. I may have been independent and strong, but it didn’t mean that I didn’t need you. Do you have any idea what I went through? Do you have any idea how many nights I cried myself to sleep? I loved you with everything I had and you - you just - you just - “ Liz stopped, trying to swallow the lump in the back of her throat.

“I left you all alone,” said Sean miserably. “I left you for her, not realizing that what I had with you was so much more. And I know I‘ve destroyed any chance I had with you,” he said, his voice filled with passion.

Liz flinched at the familiar tone he had taken with her. She didn’t want him to talk to her like that anymore. Ever. For the first time, Liz realized that she didn’t want to hear that kind of passion in anyone’s voice. Except Max’s. Anger bubbled up inside of her at the thought that she had been pushing Max away all of this time because of Sean. Because of his thoughtless and selfish betrayal of her.

“God I’ve missed you Lizzie,” he whispered.

Liz bit her lip angrily. How dare he say these things to her now? She turned away from him and focused on the wall of the café. She glanced at the desert scene, littered with some alien space ships and shivered. She grew more and more furious with Sean. How could he do those things to her? And he just looked completely unscathed. He didn’t cry himself to sleep night after night. He didn’t live with a constant ache in his heart for months afterward. He didn’t react with nausea every time he saw a woman that looked like she could be Yvonne. And he didn’t walk around with a gaping hole in his heart that had been placed there by two selfish people, who only cared about themselves!

Growing more and more agitated, Liz wrapped her arms around herself and tried to ward off the wrathful emotions welling up inside of her. Sean did this to her. He betrayed her and then left her. He disrespected her and treated her like crap. He stopped protecting her and their relationship. He allowed that harlot to destroy what they shared. And then he threw it all back in her face, telling her that he didn’t believe the loving things he had said to her during their relationship anymore.

Furious, Liz whirled around to face him, tears streaming down her face. “How could you Sean? How could you say all of those beautiful things to me and not mean them? How could you take all of that back? How? You just wanted out? Is that it? I trusted you! I trusted you to tell me the truth! How could you propose to me and not mean it? How could you tell me you loved me and that there would never be anyone else and not mean it?! Damn you Sean! Damn you!”

“I did mean them! I just got confused about the way things were going between us and - “

“Oh, so I’m supposed to bear the brunt of your confused mistakes? How is that fair Sean? When I said yes to your proposal, I committed to you for good. Right then. I didn’t say yes so I could think about it. That was it for me. And I thought it was for you too,” said Liz, growing tired.

“It was Liz,” said Sean.

When Liz threw him a scathing look, he hurriedly continued. “It’s just that after everything happened with Yvonne,” Liz winced at hearing her name on his lips and Sean tried to ignore the pain in her eyes, “I - everything got so jumbled and confused. Everything seemed easier with her. But I know now that was just an illusion,” he finished miserably. “What I had with you was so much more real and true.”

Liz turned away from him, shaking uncontrollably. It was just so ironic that Sean could say these things to her now. She furiously wiped the tears from her face and tried to calm down. What was wrong with her? She wrapped her arms around herself and rocked on her heels nervously. She felt Sean approach her and place his hands bracingly on her shoulders. “Liz, are you - “

But Liz snapped the moment his hands touched her. “I told you never to touch me like that again!” she spat, slapping his hands away and clutching her chest, trying to calm down. Her breathing was coming in shallow breaths and she braced her hands on the table to try to calm down. Breathing deeply, she tried to focus on the calming desert mural in front of her.

It wasn’t calming her. She was getting more and more agitated just looking at it. And now she finally understood why.

It was the scene from the wooden box her stalker had sent the broken lizard in.


posted on 15-May-2002 1:55:41 PM by Behrable dream
I thought I would clear up a question that I saw repeated...

When Max has those visions... He sees events that have happened in Liz's life with Sean. He sees them being together, Sean hovering over her after she was shot and then he sees Liz running away from Sean, it tears. These are all events that have happened in Liz's life with Sean.

But then, the images start flashing faster, and soon his face begins to shift back and forth with Sean's until he gets another set of visions... In these he (Max) is the one sharing romantic moments with Liz, Max is the one hovering over her after she was shot, and he is the one she is running away from, in tears.

There are numerous ways you can interpret what these flashes mean... But I'm not going to tell you what way is correct. Hopefully, I can write it in a nonconfusing way...

I'm sorry for the confusion... I will make certain to flesh it out more clearly in the future...

But I love the spec's you guys are coming up with to explain what is happening...


posted on 20-May-2002 1:21:18 PM by Behrable dream
Sorry it took so long for me to update... I tried to this weekend, but I couldn't get the page to load so I could add this next chapter... The server was just crawling, so I decided to just wait until today...

*happy*


Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.

Chapter Twenty One

“Oh, God,” Liz gasped as she gazed at the wall, terrified. The mural matched the desert scene that was painted on the box. How? No. No this wasn’t happening. This wasn’t happening. Fear welled up within her and she forgot all about Sean. All she could focus on now was Max.

Mistaking Liz’s trembling for her reaction to their argument, Sean tried to calm her down. “Liz, what can I do? How can I show you how sorry I am?” How can I win you back? he added silently to himself.

Liz didn’t even hear him. She felt like the walls were closing in on her. She had to find Max and tell him what she’d discovered. Plus, she had to get away from Sean. She ran out of the café, and frantically looked around for Max.

Sean ran after her, completely befuddled by her behavior. But he stopped when he saw Liz wrapped up in the arms of the guy who had dragged Yvonne out of the café earlier.

Max was alarmed when he saw Liz dash out of the Crashdown, looking frantic. He instantly moved to her side and he pulled her against him when she flung herself into his arms. “Max,” she whispered hoarsely, gazing up at his confused amber eyes. “I have to show you some - “

But she was cut off by an enraged Yvonne, who lunged at her again knocking over a chair before Alex was able to restrain her. The sound of the chair crashing to the concrete sidewalk startled Liz and she flashed back to her shooting, the sound of the bullet ripping through her ricocheting in her mind over and over again. The discovery about the wooden box with the desert scene on it, seeing Yvonne, her confrontation with Sean and all of her jumbled and confused emotions welled up in her. She tried to fight the ensuing blackness that was creeping around her.

But it was too much. All of this was just too much for her to handle, and she felt herself slipping into unconsciousness. Max frowned when he realized that she had fainted. Cradling her closer to him, he glared at Sean angrily. “What the hell did you say to her?” he practically shouted.

“I don’t know!” yelled Sean. “She just freaked out and ran out of there!”

“Oh, and I’m sure that had nothing to do with you, right?” asked Maria scathingly. This was probably the worst rehearsal dinner yet. Maybe she should have hired security to keep out Yvonne and the paparazzi, whom she noticed beginning to arrive. Great, she thought. Her wedding weekend was in danger of turning into a media frenzy.

“I’m taking her back to her room,” said Max purposefully, scooping Liz against him. “I think she’s had more than enough,” he added, sending a calculated glare at Sean. He wanted to kill him where he stood, but taking care of Liz held precedence. He looked around at everyone and Maria nodded, trying to clear everyone out before the paparazzi could stake out their positions and start snapping their cameras. “Good idea, Max. I think we’ve all had enough,” she said, looking at Sean angrily.

Sean started after Max and Liz, but Yvonne wrenched herself from Alex’s grasp and planted herself directly in front of him. “Oh no! You are not leaving me here to run after Liz! You are going to deal with me, whether you like it or not!”

Sean, apparently tired of this, strapped on a pair and leveled her with a devastatingly serious look. “I have dealt with this, Yvonne. It’s over. Stay away from Liz and me,” he said, his voice lowering an octave and taking on a tone of deadly calmness.

Yvonne was taken aback by his quiet, yet forceful words. They had an air of finality to them and she realized that he was serious. He really meant it was over. “After everything I did for you!”

“I’m sorry for that Yvonne. But as you said, you knew what you were getting yourself into when you did this. Our rebound relationship was a mistake. For both of us. And it ends for good, right now,” said Sean quietly.

Yvonne was speechless. He didn’t really mean that. She rounded on Maria angrily, wanting to direct her hurt and pain towards someone. “You! You and your family never accepted me! That’s why Sean dumped me. I never even had a chance! Why couldn’t you just give me a chance?”

Maria turned and gave her a pointed look. Then she laughed in her face. “A chance?” she asked calmly. “Like the one you gave Liz and Sean? Was that before or after you spread your legs for him and then moved cross country to make sure he didn’t go back and resolve things with Liz?”

Yvonne sputtered and floundered about for a moment. “I - He wanted me! If he had been happy with her he never would have - “

Maria had had enough. “Don’t you get it? Just because they were having problems, it didn’t give you carte blanche to interfere! What kind of desperate loser are you anyway? Could you not get a man who wasn’t already taken? Liz never even had a chance to get any closure from this because you pushed and pushed your way into a situation you had no business being in. Sean was wrong, but so were you. You forced the ending you wanted for that relationship so you could have him!”

Maria twirled her hair in her finger as she mocked Yvonne. “So? Are ya happy with what ya got? Because anyone of us can tell you that Sean never loved you the way he loved Liz!”

Yvonne’s lower lip started wavering. Michael put his hand on Maria’s arm bracingly, but Maria wasn’t finished with Yvonne yet. “You act like you were entitled to have Sean or something. But you got him for all the wrong reasons! You couldn’t possibly expect us all to welcome you with open arms when we knew what you did! You selfishly destroyed another person to get what you wanted. And it wasn’t like you didn’t know he was engaged! What kind of person does that?”

“The kind who goes after what she wants,” retorted Yvonne angrily.

“Well I hope you’re happy with what you got, Yvonne,” interjected Sean, wondering again why he ever left Liz for her. The problems between him and Yvonne were far worse than his silly issues with Liz. His relationship with Liz had been paradise compared to what he had with Yvonne. He had been such a fool. Once again he felt completely unworthy to even be allowed to look at Liz.

“I used you. I used you and the sex between us to make me feel better about myself. I wanted to forget what I had done to Liz and that’s why I pushed her away. But I should have stayed alone after that. I needed time to myself, but I was too weak to take that time. I’m sorry for that.”

“I stood by you Sean,” cried Yvonne. “I stuck with you, trying to help you heal so you would love me like you loved her. But you just wouldn’t.”

Maria laughed. “So why did you stay with him? Oh, that’s right. After you spread your legs for him and did all of that devious work to get him, you couldn’t just let him go back after Liz, could you? That’s why you clung to him like glue. You moved in with him before Liz even got her things out of his place. You slept with him with no protection, when you knew he was engaged. And then you chased after him even when he admitted to cheating on you. Where is your self-respect?”

Sean moved more closely to Yvonne. “I was wrong to sleep with you when I was engaged to Liz. I was wrong to involve you at all. I was unhappy with myself and I blamed everyone but myself. But that ends now. I hope you can forgive me for this some day,” he said sincerely.

“That’s it?!” yelled Yvonne angrily.

Sean nodded. He had made such a mess of things. But he wasn’t going to let himself get dragged down into the gutter anymore. It was time he stood up for himself and took his life in a more positive direction. He had a lot of making up to do and he had to start now. He turned to Maria and grimaced. “I’m sorry about all of this. I wish I had prevented it. Please tell Liz I’m sorry and I hope she’s okay,” he said, walking away.

Yvonne stared at him. He had really left her. “Sean, come back here!” she yelled angrily.

“Yvonne,” said Maria coolly. Yvonne turned angry eyes to Maria, but then cowered when she saw the look of rage on Maria‘s face. “If I see you at any of my other wedding events, I will have you tossed in jail for trespassing. Don’t push me on this. If you bother me, Sean or Liz again at all this weekend, you’ll be eating your food through a straw in a jail cell!”

Michael then led Maria away from Yvonne, who looked like she would rather eat nails than cross Maria. Alex followed and soon, Yvonne was the only one standing in front of the Crashdown, where the rehearsal dinner picked up again in earnest, sans Max and Liz. Soon everyone was laughing as if the previous events had never occurred, and Yvonne watched dejectedly from outside as she realized what a fool she had been.

***
“Wake up, Liz,” said Max anxiously. She had been out of it for a while now. He stroked her cheek lovingly and willed her to wake up. He sighed with relief when her eyelids fluttered open.

“Max,” she breathed, glad that he was there. Then the earlier events of the day came flooding back to her and she squeezed her eyes shut as a single tear leaked out of her left eyelid.

Max hated seeing her like this. She looked so hurt. “Do you want to talk about it?” he asked, brushing the tear away from her face with his thumb.

She did. But first she had to tell him about the box. Nodding, she tried to find her voice to speak. “I know where that desert scene that was painted on the box came from.”

That was the last thing Max expected to hear. “What?”

“It’s on the wall in my parent’s café,” explained Liz. “I saw it when I was arguing with Sean. I don’t know why I never noticed it before.”

Max decided to ignore the Sean issue for the moment. “So whoever sent you that box - “

“Is somehow related to my past. Or at least the crashdown café,” said Liz, wondering who could have sent that box to her.

Max mulled this over for a moment. Then he remembered Liz’s weird behavior when they first got to the café, and his flashes about her shooting. “You were shot in that café, right?”

Liz nodded slowly. Then realization dawned on her and she gasped. They had never caught up to her shooter. He had simply disappeared. Liz had never even seen him. The only person who had seen him was Maria, because she had been serving the arguing men. But she didn’t remember anything about them, other than the fact that they were lousy tippers. “Oh God,” she said, her voice trembling.

Max shut his eyes. The stalker was Liz’s shooter. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t thought of that before. He was in a much better position to protect her now, but he wished the thought had occurred to him before. But then if the stalker was her shooter, why hadn‘t he just killed her already? Could the stalker be someone else from her past? Yvonne? Sean? Or someone else entirely? “Liz,” he began, but she jumped up and away from him, frightened.

Her past had finally caught up with her. Suddenly afraid, she went to the window and pulled the curtains shut and then glanced around the room nervously. She couldn’t believe this was happening. Now that she had a good idea who her stalker was, it seemed to make everything feel so much more real. She wrapped her arms around herself and shuddered. Her mind flashed back to the moment just after she had been shot.

Sean had been by her side, pushing past Maria and everyone else, talking her through the pain, telling her not to give up. Telling her not to leave him; he hadn’t been able to ask her out yet. Liz fought back tears as she remembered their first date, the first time they said ‘I love you’, Sean’s proposal, his betrayal…

A small whimper escaped from her throat and she pressed the back of her hand against her mouth to keep the sound from turning into a wail. She started to shake and tears blurred her vision. Hot, salty tears coursed down her cheeks and her hand fell limply at her side as she gave in. “Why?” she wailed and her knees started to buckle underneath her.

Max’s arms closed around her and she buried herself against him, choking back the sobs that wracked her small frame. He held her close as the cries were torn from her body, almost against her will. Moving slowly backwards, Max pulled Liz with him and sat down in the club chair by the window with her on his lap. He rubbed her hair soothingly and whispered words of love and encouragement to her. His heart was breaking to see her so upset. He would do anything to take away her pain.

The pain that he knew Sean must have brought up again. What had happened between them?

Eventually, Liz’s sobs subsided and she slumped in his arms, taking in huge gulps of air. Her head was burrowed against Max’s chest, with her nose turned into his neck. She inhaled deeply, finding comfort in his scent. Somehow, it calmed her. She stirred, and pushed herself up to look directly at him.

“I owe you an explanation Max. You deserve to know the truth.”

***
“So that was the last time you saw him, until today?” asked Max quietly, feeling a cold hand fist itself around his heart. He was blown away by what she told him. He couldn’t believe that anyone would be stupid enough to leave a woman like Liz. Maybe he should thank him though. If Sean hadn’t screwed up, he never would have met Liz or had a chance with her. Sean’s loss was definitely his gain, although he was certain that wouldn‘t make Liz feel any better about the pain she‘d obviously suffered.

Liz nodded. She should have expected to see Sean sooner or later. But she had been trying to avoid it. Everything had ended in the worst way between them. There had been no real closure. And having him try to apologize to her after all of this time was like adding insult to injury, especially with that woman there. But at least Sean and that tramp were no longer together. Sean even seemed to be finding his way back to himself. The man she had once loved with all of her heart seemed to be coming back. But Liz knew she couldn’t go back.

But his apology didn’t help at all. It didn’t erase the nightmares and the sleepless nights. It didn’t remove the time she spent berating and blaming herself for the loss of the relationship, when Sean made all of the choices that destroyed it. Sean blamed her for the relationship failing, conveniently ignoring everything he had done to wreck it with his cheating. He flatly denied that his affair was a large part of the reason for its demise and that tramp’s subsequent interference prevented Sean and Liz from resolving anything at all. Instead of closure, Liz ended up with a gaping wound.

“I’m so sorry, Liz,” said Max, kissing her forehead. “You deserved better than that and he is a fool for letting you get away from him.”

Liz smiled. People had been telling her that over and over again since the Sean debacle. But when Max said it, she believed him. Deep down she knew it was true, but it was so hard to believe that when Sean left. She felt invalidated when he dumped her for someone so … skanky.

“And that woman has nothing on you. I have no idea what Sean saw in her, but he certainly has low standards, apart from you,” he smiled, kissing her hand softly.

Liz laughed. “Thanks,” she said earnestly. Then her expression grew serious when she thought about what she needed to say to him.

Max read her expression and inhaled deeply. “So, I’m assuming that’s why you kept pushing me away?”

Liz nodded. “I never thought people could be so untrustworthy. I just never even realized how painful it would be to have your trust betrayed like that. I didn’t understand the risk.”

Max nodded. He could imagine what that must have felt like, but he knew that his imaginings wouldn’t be close to what Liz went through.

Liz swallowed, unsure about her next statement. “And then I realized that I had strong feelings for you.”

Max’s eyes flickered for a moment as warmth spread throughout his entire body. Had Liz finally admitted to him that she felt something deep for him?

“I held back from you because I was afraid that if you hurt me like Sean did, I wouldn’t survive it,” she continued, moving more closely to him.

Max felt an overwhelming emotion well up within him. She was finally baring herself to him; finally telling him the deepest thoughts in the most remote areas of her heart. His amber gaze flared with gold as he locked eyes with her. “You don’t have to say anything more.”

“No, Max,” interrupted Liz. “Please let me get this out.”

“Okay,” said Max, taking her hands and seating them both on the couch.

“I was afraid to trust you. Maybe I still am. But it’s because of what Sean did to me. I mean, he made all of those promises to me and then he took everything back,” Liz swallowed the lump that had formed at the back of her throat.

“I mean… He - he said he loved me and wanted to marry me and then he took it all back and said it was a mistake. The engagement was a mistake; I was a mistake,” continued Liz. “I was a mistake? All of a sudden, after over 7 years, I was a mistake?”

“You could never be a mistake Liz. That was just guilt. Sean’s guilt. He was trying to put it off on you, but it was his guilt. Don’t blame yourself for his idiocy,” said Max, looking into her eyes intently.

Liz shut her eyes to keep the tears at bay. Her lower lip trembled and her eyes burned with unshed tears. “Why did he leave me Max?” whispered Liz plaintively, throwing herself into his arms.

“I don’t know,” he said softly. “Personally, I think he’s a fool.” Max rubbed her hair and back soothingly. He wished he could take away her pain.

“That’s why I was afraid to be with you,” Liz went on. “I was afraid that you might pull a Sean and - “

Liz was cut off by Max taking her mouth into his for a searing kiss. He kissed her lips softly, yet firmly, weaving his fingers through her hair and cupping her jaw with his other hand. He pulled her to him, not wanting to even let her finish the thought. He would never do to her what Sean did. How could he convince her of that? He pulled away slightly and kissed her chin, her eyes, her nose, and then he went back to kissing her lips.

Liz whimpered against him as tears of gratitude flowed from her eyes. Part of her had been afraid that he wouldn’t want anything to do with her once he knew the truth about her past. Part of her thought that he might somehow find her unworthy.

Tasting her wet, salty tears as he kissed her, Max pulled away to look at her. Why was she crying now? Had he done something to upset her? “Liz?”

Liz smirked and wiped at her tears surreptitiously. “It’s stupid.”

“I’m sure it’s not,” said Max, brushing the wetness away from around her eyes with his thumb.

“I guess I thought you might not want to be with me … after … you knew the truth,” she whispered so softly that Max had to strain to hear her. Liz lowered her eyes. It was hard admitting that outloud.

“How could you think that Liz?” he asked, shocked. “You’re amazing. Any man would be lucky to have you. I’m lucky you’re even giving me a second glance.”

Liz blushed. “I said it was stupid.”

Max laughed. “You could never be stupid. Never.”

Liz bit her lip. Max was just wonderful. For the first time, she allowed herself to think about him as other women might. He was intelligent, incredibly good looking, charming, strong and caring. How had she managed to capture his attention? How had she managed to resist him after all this time? “Thank you,” she said, looking at him through slightly damp lashes.

“For what?”

“For being there for me. For not running away when I pushed you away and for not deserting me even though I deserved it for the way I treated you,” said Liz honestly.

Max took her hand and brought it to his lips to kiss it. Liz took in a deep breath and watched him as he kissed the tips of each of her fingers. When he flicked his tongue over her pinky finger, overwhelming desire flooded her and she lunged at him.

Liz attacked his lips ferociously. Max nearly fell off the couch, he was so unprepared for the onslaught. Though his body loved what she was doing to him, he knew in the back of his mind that she wasn’t quite ready for this.

But that thought was lost when Liz thrust her tongue avidly into his mouth. He stumbled to his feet, pulling her against him. He didn’t want to take advantage of her, but God she felt good.

Max groaned with satisfaction as Liz pressed her body more firmly against his. She was so soft, yet ferocious at the same time. He had never seen her so … aggressive. Her tongue was attacking his with relentless intensity, and she tugged on his lower lip as he had once done to her. She pulled on his shirt and he removed it effortlessly, groaning when Liz raked her nails over his taut skin. He had been imagining being with her like this again for so long that he didn’t know if he was dreaming or not.

A low growl formed in the back of his throat as she pushed him down onto the bed and straddled him, still kissing him passionately.

Max was overwhelmed. Liz had never been like this with him. There was something almost desperate in the way she was kissing him. He wrapped his arms around her waist and slipped his hand beneath her shirt, probing the delicate flesh there. Liz shuddered and kissed him even more fiercely.

“Liz,” he groaned, knowing that he had to stop this. But Liz wasn’t listening. She broke away from kissing his lips and proceeded to drag hers all over his chest, leaving a trail of white fire behind. Max nearly came up off the bed and clutched her head, not wanting her to stop. When Liz raked her teeth over his sensitive nipple, he choked out her name, gasping for breath.

A fiery heat washed over Liz when she heard his reaction to her touch. Deciding to push him to his limit, she began moving lower and lower, running her tongue over the hard, chiseled muscles of his chest and abdomen. This was too much for Max, who brought her head up to his, crushing his mouth against hers savagely as his hand tangled in her hair.

As their tongues mated intimately, Max moaned and turned Liz underneath him, laying her head against the pillows. Liz emitted a soft gasp as he broke away from her mouth, leaving a trail of kisses down her neck. When Liz arched her body towards him, his hand hovered at the tie to her wrap shirt and then he tugged on it impatiently. When it came undone, he was startled to find that Liz wasn’t wearing a bra.

Deciding not to linger on that fact, he bent his head and captured one of her breasts in his mouth, devouring it. Liz moaned and arched even further into him, pressing her lower body even closer to him, reveling in the feeling his tongue was eliciting in her. Liz pressed her core closer to him, trying to alleviate the ache that had formed there. She knew that only Max could quench it. Spasms of pleasure rippled through her every time she brushed against him and Liz felt her mind cloud over with haziness.

Max sat up, thrusting upward into her, while sucking her breast hotly. Liz threw back her head, not wanting this moment to ever end. Max’s other hand tangled in her hair and tugged her head even further back, exposing her neck to him. He greedily nibbled the sensitive skin at the base of her neck for a moment before returning to close his mouth over her breast again, bringing a thunderous shudder from Liz. “Unh,” she grunted incoherently and Max fused their lower bodies even closer together. If he wasn’t careful, this would be over very quickly.

Liz tried not to let her mind think about what she was doing. All she wanted to do was focus on Max, on how he was making her feel. She could feel his erection straining against his pants and she knew he wanted her.

And she wanted him. She always had. She’d wanted him ever since she first saw him in the salsa bar. There was something between them. She’d only been denying it because of Sean and what he did to her.

Sean.

That name was like cold water doused on her head and she stopped abruptly for a minute. Max noticed immediately. “Liz?” But Liz recovered quickly and attacked his mouth with hers again. Max’s brow wrinkled as he tried to figure out what had just happened. “Liz,” he said again, pulling away to look at her.

“No, don’t stop,” moaned Liz, pulling his head back to hers for another scorching kiss. Max’s protest was lost as her tongue dove into the deep recesses of his mouth. She arched her hips into him and began moving rhythmically against him, stirring his arousal to even further heights. Max tried to clear the fogginess in his brain. He needed to stop her. He knew she wasn’t ready for this. Her uncharacteristic aggression was proof of that.

“Liz we have to stop,” he gasped out, finally gaining the strength of mind to pull away from her. He didn’t want a repeat incidence of the elevator to strain things between them.

***
Max pulled Liz up to a sitting position, breathing heavily. He averted his eyes from her, not wanting to see the hurt look he knew must be there. “Liz,” he started, but Liz cut him off.

“You don‘t want me,” she said as she tried to move away from him. But Max gently cupped her face with his palm and brought her lips to his softly. When she gave him a perplexed look, he smiled.

“You know I want you,” he said huskily, gazing at her with darkened amber eyes.

“Then why did you stop us?” she asked, pulling her shirt around herself, embarrassed after her failed attempt to seduce him.

Max retied her shirt for her, his eyes never leaving hers. “When I make love to you Liz, I don’t want there to be any regrets afterwards.”

Liz flushed from the tip of her head to the bottom of her toes. “You want to make love to me?”

“Desperately,” he said forcefully, the intensity of his tone shaking her to her core. “But I want you to want it for the right reasons. I don’t want you to regret it and if we had made love tonight, you would have had regrets in the morning.”

Liz hung her head shamefully. He was right. She was rushing things to try to forget what happened with Sean earlier. “I’m sorry Max.”

“No apologies. You’re allowed. It’s been a rough day,” he said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear and caressing her cheek.

When she yawned, Max looked at the time. It was really late. “Maybe you should get to bed,” he said.

Liz stared at him. “Please don’t make me leave,” she whispered.

Max’s breath left his body as her eyes latched onto his. He’d do anything she wanted him to do.


posted on 28-May-2002 12:21:29 PM by Behrable dream
Sorry for the delay. I ran into a bit of writer's block for a minute there. I had things mapped out, but I couldn't find the heart of the story that I wanted to convey to you guys. I hope I did a good job with this chapter...

I'm having the same block with Tapestry... ugh..

Must be that time of year or something...

I hope you enjoy... and I really could use your constructive feedback so that I can make sure I'm still doing a good job...

Enjoy!! (I hope.)

Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.



Chapter Twenty Two - The Wedding

As the morning sunlight streamed through the crack in the curtains covering the window, Max groggily opened an eye, wondering why he felt so … good. Then he saw the tousle of raven hair spilled onto the pillow next to his, and he felt Liz snuggle more closely to him. He wished he could wake up every morning like this.

He had been unable to turn her away last night, and she had slept in his arms peacefully. Nothing had happened between them yet, but he was hopeful that after Liz’s cathartic experiences the previous day, she would be able to move forward … with him.

Glancing around the room, he saw his shirt tossed on the floor, exactly where Liz had discarded it last night in her passion, before he stopped them. He looked at the chair that he had comforted her in and smiled ruefully. He was hoping that she could get past what had happened with her and Sean and move on with her life. It seemed monumentally unfair that she had been carrying all of that pain around and from where he was sitting, it wasn’t her fault.

At least she had finally come to him with the truth. Gazing at her prone form next to him, he sighed. She was so amazing. Max admired her so much. Now all of her accomplishments seemed all the more incredible after what she went through… alone. Liz was miles from her friends and family when Sean deserted her. And she had had the strength to keep going. She finished her degree and somehow managed to keep her sanity and spirit through it all. It was what had pulled him toward her from the moment he laid eyes on her.

He was glad that he stopped them from going too far last night, because he didn’t want to rush their newfound relationship.

Max turned onto his side, watching Liz as she slept. Her lips were rosy, even in sleep and he loved the little sounds coming from her mouth. It wasn’t snoring, just soft breathing noises. Watching the rise and fall of her chest, Max reached out and removed a strand of hair from her cheek, tucking it behind her ear. He ran the back of his hand down her cheek and then smiled when she snuggled up to it.

Then her eyes flew open and she locked her gaze with his. Stretching like a kitten, she blushed slightly. “Hi,” she mouthed more than said.

Max mouthed the greeting back and smiled at her, his eyes shining. His heart felt so much lighter now that there were less secrets between them. Of course, there was still one huge secret keeping them apart, but he hoped that they could eventually shed them all. He loved Liz, but he wanted to know if she could love him back before baring everything to her. He didn’t think he could bear it if she turned against him because of his secret.

“What time is it?” yawned Liz, snuggling a little more closely to him, slightly shy now. It was heaven waking up next to him, but it was also a new sensation. Max looked incredibly sexy in the morning, especially with him not wearing a shirt. Liz dragged her eyes across his chest up to his arms and then to his lips. Finally, she let her gaze rest on his eyes and she blushed when she saw his amused look. She hadn’t been very discreet in her appraisal of him.

“It’s about ten in the morning,” answered Max, glancing at the alarm clock and fighting back a grin. Liz’s inadvertent stare had stirred something in him that he wanted to remain dormant. At least right now he did. How would it look for him to make Liz back off the night before only to attempt to ravish her the next morning?

“Oh,” said Liz, not quite sure what she should be doing now. She wanted to move forward with Max, but now that the spectre of Sean was no longer between them, she couldn’t figure out how. She didn’t know where to start. She didn’t know what to do. Suddenly, she felt awkward lying in bed with Max and she shifted uncomfortably.

Max’s gaze darkened when he saw her discomfiture. What was she thinking about? “What’s wrong, Liz?”

Liz grimaced. Max was so perceptive. “I - I guess I just feel a bit … “ she trailed off, trying to find the right words.

“Awkward?” finished Max knowingly. Liz nodded.

“It’s just that after continually pushing you away for so long, I don’t know what to do now that I’m not busy pushing you away. I mean, I love being with you, but I‘m not sure how to be with you now,” said Liz, trying to figure out if what she said made sense. “Did that make sense?” she said self-mockingly.

“It did,” answered Max, appearing to be in deep thought. “But I think I have a way to help.”

“You do?” asked Liz, propping her head on her elbow.

“Yes,” said Max thickly, swiftly dipping his head to take her lips into his for a soft kiss. He pulled away after a moment, staring at her intently.

Liz gazed back at him for a moment after that and then remarked quckly, “Works for me.”

Max laughed and then caressed her cheek with his thumb. “Let’s just take each moment as it comes.”

Liz nodded, lulled by his husky voice into submission, and allowed herself to be pulled into his embrace.

***
“Mom, where is Liz? She isn’t in her room! What if she’s sick? What if she’s still freaked out! I need my maid of honor!” shrieked Maria, pacing in her room.

“Maria, honey. Calm down. You’ll burst an artery or get an ulcer or something. Here, sniff this,” said Amy DeLuca, passing her one of the cedar oil bottles from her daughter’s purse.

Maria snatched the bottle and inhaled deeply. She looked calm for about ten seconds, and then her foot began tapping impatiently. “Did you try her room again? Her parents? Does anyone know where she is?”

“I’m right here Maria,” called Liz from the doorway.

“Liz! You’re - you’re like fifteen minutes late! I was dying here!” exclaimed Maria, immensely relieved. Now she could commence with the calming of her nerves.

“Sorry, got hung up,” said Liz as she hung her dress up on the back of the bathroom door. “Is it okay if Max comes in? He didn’t want me to come here alone,” she added quietly, under her breath.

Maria caught her true meaning and sighed. She had practically forgotten about Liz’s stalker business. “Of course he can. As long as he can stay out of the way. He can go in the other room and watch tv or something while we get ready.” It was a good thing that they were all dressing at the wedding site. The mansion had a lot of rooms that Maria and her mother were staying in. Maria had reserved a room for Liz to stay in the previous night, but she’d spent the night with Max, apparently.

Liz nodded and then went to the door to get Max. He followed her in, trying not to laugh at the sight of the ransacked room. Women. “Hey Maria,” he said smiling.

“Hey Max,” answered Maria, watching the way Liz and Max interacted. Something was … different between them. When Liz returned from the other room with a faint blush on her cheeks, Maria smirked. Some milestone had definitely been reached with those two.

“So?” she asked.

“So?” repeated Liz daftly.

Maria pursed her lips. “I know something happened with you and Max. You’re practically glowing chica.”

Liz blushed completely this time. “I am NOT!” she laughed nervously. “And what you think happened didn’t happen.”

“How do you know what I think happened?” asked Maria, her voice lowering to a hissing whisper.

“Because I know you, Maria,” responded Liz, brushing a lock of hair out of her eyes.

“Whatever. Just help me get ready,” smirked Maria, rolling her eyes.

Liz laughed and went about the business of getting them both ready for the wedding.

***
Liz left the room quietly. Maria had requested a bit of time to herself, so she started to go next door to see Max. But something compelled her to go downstairs. She wanted to see the ceremony area by herself, if only for a moment.

Luckily, it had stopped raining, and the patio area in the garden was dry enough for the ceremony to be held outdoors, like Maria wanted. As she approached the rows of chairs set up for the ceremony, Liz sighed. It didn’t seem that long ago that she was planning her own wedding. Her life was so different now. So completely different.

She hated to admit it, but she did feel a twinge as she gazed at the beautiful arch set up in front of all of the chairs. It looked like an arbor of greenery and wildflowers. It was beautiful, and perfectly in line with the mansion’s garden. The aisle was fashioned out of a carpet of rose petals. Liz tentatively bent and picked one of them up, letting it fall through her fingers slowly.

Sometimes she couldn’t believe that Sean could have betrayed her so completely. They had been best friends, and he was able to disconnect from her so abruptly. She’d never really been able to understand that. She didn’t even think Sean completely understood it himself. And she was tired of trying to. All it did was give her a headache.

But now she had other things to give her a headache. Like her stalker. And that business about Tess’ murder. She still meant to find out exactly what had happened to her. She knew Max wouldn’t like it, because he felt she was getting herself into a dangerous situation, but she was tired of just sitting around doing nothing. She couldn’t let her stalker - probably her shooter - keep her from living.

And speaking of living, she intended to do as much living as possible. And that meant letting Max in completely. She wasn’t going to let her past with Sean stand in their way anymore. She was tired of letting her past rule her life. She wasn’t going to let her past with the shooter destroy her now, and she wasn’t going to let her past with Sean destroy what she could have with Max either.

Liz was so engrossed in her own thoughts that she didn’t notice a man behind her until it was too late. She whirled around when he placed his hand on her shoulder and her eyes widened in shock.

“Oh my God,” she gasped, stumbling back.

***
Max stared out the window at the garden. He was surprised to see Liz emerge from the house and walk out towards the ceremony area. He started to run out there, his intent to ensure her safety, but he noticed her pensive stance and he realized that she probably needed a moment alone.

He wondered if she was thinking about the wedding she had planned for her and Sean that never was. Did she still love him? If Sean begged her to take him back, would she give him another chance? Was he just playing with fire by being in love with Liz? Was he just headed for heartbreak?

Max placed his hand on the glass and rested his head against it. He couldn’t believe how much he had come to love Liz in the short time he had known her. He didn’t think he could live without her. When she was in his arms, it felt like the most right thing in the world to him. Like she was made just for him. Like she was the missing part of him that he had been searching for his entire life.

Hearing Maria stirring next door, he decided to go downstairs to talk to Liz for a moment. He wanted to make sure she was okay. She had gone oddly still, staring at the rose petals on the ground. But just before he turned away from the glass, he saw a lone figure stalking toward her.

Max felt his heart squeeze in his chest painfully. He turned and bolted out of the room, fearing that he should have followed his first instinct and gone down there the moment he saw her alone outside.

***
“Kyle!” squealed Liz happily, throwing herself in his arms. Kyle stumbled back, but held on to Liz tightly.

“Hey,” he breathed with a smile as Liz pulled away from him.

“Where have you been!?” Liz demanded, punching him on the arm.

“Ow,” exclaimed Kyle, rubbing his arm thoughtfully. “What was that for?”

“I asked you where you’ve been Kyle. We’ve been calling you for weeks and weeks. Don’t you return messages anymore?” Liz fixed him with a scolding look and crossed her arms. Then her voice grew soft. “I’ve been worried about you.”

Kyle smiled shakily, staring at the rows and rows of chairs blankly. He couldn’t explain to her why he had been out of touch. She would never believe him. She would think he was crazy. He certainly did. “I’m sorry, Liz,” he finally said, plucking some grass from her hair.

Liz smiled. “It’s okay, Kyle. We - we were all just really worried about you, that’s all. It’s been a long time.”

Kyle rubbed her arm as he gazed at her. She looked good. Really good. He wondered how she was doing. He hadn’t talked to her since before she moved to L.A.. He wondered how the Sean thing was going. “How are you Liz?” he asked softly, giving her a meaningful look.

Liz smiled. Leave it to Kyle to be thinking about her even though she could clearly see that there was something going on with him. “I’m - “

“Liz!” called Max, interrupting their conversation. Liz turned to see a slightly out of breath Max running up to them. Then he stopped, giving her a slightly befuddled look. “Are - are you okay?”

Liz’s nose wrinkled in slight confusion. “Of course, Max. I was just catching up with Kyle. He just got here.”

Max exhaled slowly. Kyle was a friend of hers. No threat. At least not physically, he ammended. “Oh,” he said, beginning to feel like an idiot for barreling out here like some over anxious superhero.

Kyle stifled a laugh. What’s with him? he thought snarkily.

Liz looked from Max to Kyle for a moment. Max looked panicked a moment ago. Was he jealous of Kyle? Or - Good grief. He must have thought Kyle was after me, thought Liz. “Max, Kyle. Kyle, Max. Kyle is an old friend of mine from high school, Max,” she began to Max, who nodded and shook hands with Kyle. Then Liz turned to Kyle. “And Max is a - a very good friend,” she finished lamely. She didn’t know what she should be calling Max.

Max smirked slightly. They hadn’t discussed what they were to each other. But very good friend was better than friend. He supposed he would just have to be happy with that title … for now.

“Nice to meet you Max,” said Kyle, noticing the look that passed between Liz and her … friend. Maybe Liz had finally moved forward from the entire Sean mess. She definitely deserved better than that creep. He couldn’t believe that he and Sean had actually been friends. He wanted to kill him when he found out what he had done. After all, he and Liz had been seeing each other, albeit casually, before she fell for Sean. After he found out what Sean did, he meant to go to Liz immediately, but … He couldn’t. His life had taken a dramatic turn in that time and he wondered if it would ever be the same.

First, there had been his injury. He had no idea how it had happened. He just woke up injured, in his bed. It was enough to drive him crazy. To have all of these places in time where he couldn’t remember anything. His doctors believed that he was suffering from some sort of mental stress related to his career ending injury. They believed his blackouts were due to his refusal to accept the fact that his football career was coming to a close.

And the Broncos management was very nervous about it. They thought he was into drugs or alcohol or something. Kyle just thought he was crazy. Liz broke him out of his morbid thoughts.

“I have to get back upstairs. I’m sure Maria is ready to take pictures now,” said Liz, walking back toward the mansion. “I’ll see you later Kyle.”

Max hung back for a moment, regarding Kyle silently. “Nice meeting you,” he said, following Liz.

Kyle looked after Max as he followed Liz back into the mansion. He had the exact same look on his face that Sean used to have … before. He just hoped that Max wasn’t another Sean in the making.

***
Liz sighed as she watched Michael and Maria dance their first dance. She was so happy for them, she could cry. And she had, when she gave a teary toast to the happy couple. Maria had then chastised her for not warning her beforehand. Liz laughed at her and Michael kissed Maria thoroughly before she could get another complaint out.

Before Max had a chance to ask Liz to dance, Kyle appeared, apparently wanting to catch up. Max decided to get them both something to drink while Liz and Kyle cut a rug on the dance floor.

For a while, Liz didn’t say anything. She was too busy looking at the beautiful tent that they were dancing under. It was huge, with a clear top. There were large apple blossom trees littered all around the tables where everyone sat, and all of the tables were covered in a linen like ecru colored fabric. Their overlays were the same fabric, edged in a thick band of cobalt blue. The chairs were mahogany ballroom chairs whose seats were covered in a cobalt blue fabric. They were tied with sashes of cobalt and ecru that fell to the floor dramatically. The centerpieces, which Liz designed herself, were simple pewter urns filled with bluish colored wildflowers and surrounded by thick pillar candles.

“Maria told me that you did most of the decorating here,” said Kyle, searching for something to say. “You did a really great job, Liz. I didn’t know you were so creative.”

“Thanks,” breathed Liz as they continued dancing. The truth was, she had never really considered herself to be all that creative until she she began planning her own wedding. Maybe she should have been a wedding planner, she thought ruefully.

Kyle wondered distractedly if these were ideas that Liz had had for her own wedding, and then kicked himself for the thought. This was probably hard enough on her as it was. “So, tell me about Max,” he said, hoping to talk about something more positive.

“I’m not sure what to tell you,” replied Liz, locating Max across the room and feeling her heart leap out towards him.

“He has that look, Liz. You know … the look,” intoned Kyle meaningfully.

“What look, Kyle?” asked Liz, not understanding what Kyle meant.

“He’s in love with you, Liz. Everyone can see it,” he said, cocking his head toward Max.

“Yes, I am,” said a voice behind Kyle. Kyle turned and then grimaced. It was Sean.

“Can I cut in?” he asked, not taking his eyes off of Liz.

Liz gripped Kyle’s hand and stiffened. Kyle turned to look at her and she smiled nervously. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said to Sean, who was undaunted.

“Please. I just want to talk to her,” said Sean, his eyes boring into her.

Liz exhaled painfully. “It’s okay, Kyle.”

Kyle jerked his head back toward Liz. “Are you sure?”

Liz nodded and allowed Sean to replace Kyle. Everything else faded away and it felt like she and Sean were the only people there. He took her hand and Liz felt her entire body tense up. She went rigid in his arms and he tried to caress her back to soothe her.

“Liz, relax. I’m not going to hurt you. I’ll never hurt you again,” Sean said softly, his eyes fixed on her intently.

“It’s a bit difficult to relax with you Sean. I - I don’t know you,” replied Liz, not able to look at him. This was more difficult than she expected.

Sean sighed. “Yes, you do. You do know me. You know me better than anyone else Liz. You always did.”

“I apparently didn’t know you well enough Sean. Sometimes I still cannot believe the totality of what you did to me,” said Liz, her voice trembling slightly. “Sometimes, I still feel like it didn’t happen. Couldn’t happen. That the man I loved could do those things to me and then just leave was just too horrible to even imagine.”

Sean leaned close to her and tried to rest his head against hers. “I’m so sorry. I don’t have any excuse. I don’t Lizzie. I don’t,” he said, his voice lowering to a passionate whisper.

Liz looked up sharply as the quiver in his voice resonated with something deep within her. She was surprised to see tears in his eyes. “Sean, don’t. Please don’t do this to me,” she pleaded, her eyes locking with his.

Sean brought his hand up to her face to brush away the tear he saw forming in her eye. “I love you Liz. I need you so much. Please give me another chance … please.

Liz felt tears blurring her vision. Noooo. “I - I love you too Sean,” she started, but when she saw the triumphant gleam in his eyes, she quickly amended her statement. “I always will love you. And - and I forgive you, but we cannot be together. It‘s too late for us.”

Sean felt all of the air leave his lungs at once. He swayed slightly and shut his eyes against the pain he felt. No! He just needed one more chance to prove himself. “Lizzie, please. Please, baby,” he begged, taking her hand and kissing it.

Liz felt her heart breaking for him. As much as she hated what he had done to her, she still couldn’t bear to see him in pain. “I’m sorry, Sean,” she whispered, her voice thick and laced with tears. “I’m sorry.”

“No!” exclaimed Sean, his voice a hoarse whisper. He had to convince her to give them another try. He had to. She was the best thing that ever happened to him and he wasn’t going to let her get away from him. “I love you Liz! Do you hear me! I love you.

Liz looked at him through her wet lashes. “I - I … “ She looked down. How could she explain this to him without sounding cruel? “There is someone else who is capable of loving me Sean. And now I finally understand that I deserve to be loved. I know that I am worthy of it.”

Sean closed his eyes. “Of course you deserve to be loved Liz. How could you think - “

Liz almost snorted. He really didn’t get it. “I thought that you left me because something was wrong with me,” she stated softly.

Sean’s heart constricted. He had really done a number on her. Of course none of it was true. He could see that now. He had really screwed up. “No Lizzie,” he said, caressing her face, wanting to kiss her. “I left because something was wrong with me.”

Liz pulled back from him, needing air. She took in a ragged breath. All of her pain. All of that trauma that she blamed herself for. She had been carrying a burden that she didn’t need to carry. She had been carrying Sean’s burden as well as her own.

“Is it too late Liz?” he asked, looking at her with haunted eyes.

Liz nodded slowly, not wanting to hurt him, but not knowing what else to do. She felt the ghost of their past relationship beginning to leave their midst and she realized that her future was opening up. Maybe a future with Max.

Sean crushed her against him, holding her tightly and kissing the top of her head. Liz was startled to find that he was shaking. “Please … “ he groaned miserably, feeling his chance at a life with her slipping through his fingers.

Liz let out a slightly broken sob as she pulled back from him, trying to get away. She couldn’t bear this. She felt like she was hurting him, but hadn’t he been the one to throw what they had away? Why did it hurt so much to tell Sean what she had known for months in her heart?

Sean grabbed her hands and began kissing them, his tears spilling over onto her fingers. Liz kept trying to move away from him, only to have him move even closer, trying to gather her against him again. “Sean, please,” she pleaded over and over, until Kyle finally stepped up and placed his hand on Sean’s shoulder.

“You’re making a scene, man,” he said, feeling sorry for Sean in spite of himself.

Liz somewhat composed herself and moved close to Sean, kissing him on his cheek. “Goodbye Sean,” she said softly, walking away from him and leaving him standing dejectedly in the middle of the dance floor.

***
Max watched as Sean and Liz danced together. His fists clenched together involuntarily and he tried to curtail his jealousy. They were just dancing. It didn’t mean that she was in love with him.

Max crushed his eyes shut and tried to block out the despairing thoughts. If Sean made Liz happy, then he would simply have to just … deal with it. Maybe she was better off with someone … normal … anyway. Although he didn’t believe that Sean deserved her. But he wasn’t sure he deserved her either.

Did he have to touch her like that? he thought miserably. Max had never been so jealous in his entire life. He retreated to an area outside of the tent to gather himself. But all he could see was Liz in Sean’s arms. He wondered what they were doing now. No, don’t think about that, he chided himself. He was making himself crazy.

Suddenly, he felt a cool liquid running over his hand. His drink had spilled. How? Max groaned when he realized what he had done. He’d somehow manipulated the glass and left a hole where his thumb rested on it. Frustrated with himself, he tossed the glass into a trashbin, hoping that no one saw.

He had to get control of his emotions. Now.

“Max,” called a breathy voice from behind him.

Max turned. It was Liz. She was trembling and her eyes were bloodshot. He stared at her, unable to speak over the lump in his throat. He was afraid that he didn’t want to hear whatever she had to say. The look in her eyes told him that someone was going to be upset and he was afraid it would be him.

“I was looking for you,” she continued, moving toward him, not quite understanding why he was being so standoffish.

“Really,” stated Max, wincing when Liz flinched slightly.

“Yes,” she said, feeling awkward. What was wrong with him? Why was he being so … cold? She looked at his wet sleeve. “What happened to your sleeve?”

Max grimaced. “I spilled my drink,” he said shortly.

“Oh,” said Liz. She didn’t know what to say to him. She didn’t understand what was happening. Max was never like this with her. Was he backing away from her? Did he not want to be with her anymore? Liz wrapped her arms around herself to ward off the scared emotions she felt. After turning Sean away, all she wanted to do was go to Max. And he was acting so coolly. She couldn’t go through this anymore. Not again.

Max forced out a breath when he saw her coping mechanism. He wasn’t sure if this was a good thing or not for him. “I’m going to go and get another drink,” he said, trying to keep his emotions in check. He didn’t want to push. Okay, that wasn’t exactly true. He didn’t want to give her a chance to let him down easily.

Liz’s brow wrinkled in confusion. She tried to compose herself. Now she didn’t know what to say or do. She felt like screaming. The chasm that she felt opening up between her and Max made him feel like he was a million miles away from her, not just a couple of feet. “Max - “ she started, her voice coming out in a broken sob.

Max stopped and looked at her. She looked pained. He finally decided that he couldn’t bear to see her in so much pain. Even if she was about to reject him, it was better than having her look like this. He couldn’t let this tense standoff between them continue any longer. “Liz … do you … do you want to be with Sean again? I mean, he is available now and obviously still very much in love with you.”

Liz dropped her arms and a single tear ran down her cheek. That’s what this was all about? Max was … jealous? He thought she would choose Sean over … him? “Max,” she said breathlessly and then stopped, swallowing the lump in her throat. “I just told Sean that my future was with someone else. At least, I hope it is,” she continued, her voice lowering to an impassioned plea.

Max exhaled sharply and grabbed her to him. All this time, she had been coming to tell him that she wanted to try to have a future with him, and he had been acting like an ass. He tipped her head up and hungrily took her mouth within his, kissing her greedily. He kissed away all of her salty tears and then picked her up and turned them around a few times in his euphoria. Liz melted into him, finding safety and comfort in his embrace. She felt like she was home.

When he finally let go of her, she gazed at him happily, her eyes shining. “I thought you were about to give me some bad news for a moment there,” said Max, smiling down at her.

Liz shook her head emphatically and Max breathed a sigh of relief. But then his heart constricted when she moved to touch his arm lightly. “I want to move on with my life,” she continued, looking at him meaningfully, tears chasing themselves down her cheek.

Max had trouble forcing air into his lungs. He hoped that she meant what he thought she meant. “So … “ he began, brushing the fresh tears away with the back of his hand.

“Would you dance with me?” she asked, looking up at him with her dark chocolate eyes.

Max fell into her chocolate pools and sunk helplessly, taking her hand.

***
Moving past everyone on the dance floor, Max and Liz settled into a rhythm with each other. Liz couldn’t take her eyes off of him. He was looking down at her with an expression that Liz couldn’t quite figure out, but she reveled in it. Her breath came in slightly uneven bursts and her lips were parted in silent wonder as she fell headlong into the amber pools of his eyes.

Come to me now
And lay your hands over me
Even if it’s a lie
Say it will be alright
And I Shall Believe …

The song by Sheryl Crow struck something odd in her and she trembled slightly. The liquid amber pools of Max’s gaze flickered slightly when he noticed her posture had stiffened. “Liz?” he whispered softly in her ear.

Liz shuddered slightly against him as his voice washed over her. The words of the song resonated inside of her and filled her with an acute sense of longing and nostalgia. She didn’t understand why she was reacting this way either. She pressed herself further into Max and murmured, “Please just don’t let go.”

Broken in two
And I know you’re on to me
That I only come home
When I’m so all alone
And I do believe

Max pulled Liz to him and rubbed her hair soothingly. He would never let go, if that was what she wanted. “Never,” he said emphatically and Liz released a soft mew into his chest. Her hand clasped tightly in his, she pulled back to gaze at him. She gasped slightly when she saw that his amber gaze was like molten lava. It flickered and flared, drawing her into its depths. His head was dipped low, brushing against hers sensually. They were breathing the same air now, and Max was getting slightly dizzy from the rush of emotions he felt consuming him, and so he brought his hand up to cup the nape of her neck to steady himself.

That not everything is gonna be
the way you think it ought to be
It seems like every time I try
To make it right
It all comes down on me

Please say honestly
You won’t give up on me
And I Shall Believe

And I Shall Believe

Liz shivered at the contact of his hands on her delicate skin, wanting him to touch much more than her neck. She wanted him to touch her all over. She didn’t want to let him go. She never wanted the song to end. She was afraid that if it did, she would lose him. Trying to convey her intent, and diffuse the confusing emotions she felt welling up within her, Liz tucked her hand inside his tuxedo jacket, caressing his chest slowly. A tortured groan was wrenched from Max’s lips and his mouth parted slightly as he looked down at her.

Open the door
Show me your face tonight
I know it’s true
No one heals me like you
And you hold the key

Never again
Will I turn away from you
I’m so happy tonight
And your love is alright

And I do believe…

Max fought to stem the tidal wave of emotion he felt from crashing over him completely. He thought that he could almost sense what Liz was feeling. And it confused him. He felt an acute sense of fear that threatened to overwhelm him. He wished that he could hold her like this for all eternity and make her safe. He never wanted to let go of her, he thought he might die if he did. Brushing his thumb against her cheek as he continued to stroke the nape of her neck, he watched as a small tremor raced through her body. Her lips parted slightly and Max longed to slip his tongue in between them. He longed to do much more than that, but he was going to respect her and take things slowly.

Liz’s mind clouded over as Max stroked her skin softly. It was causing all sorts of things to happen to her inside. She didn’t know if she was going to make it to the end of the song, or even if she wanted to. Her head fell lightly against him as she took in large gulps of air to steady herself. Being this close to Max without being truly close to him was driving her crazy with need.

That not everything is gonna be
the way you think it ought to be
It seems like every time I try
To make it right
It all comes down on me

Please say honestly
You won’t give up on me
And I Shall Believe

Max kept his eyes locked with hers as he gently began to trace her lower lip with his thumb, leaving a trail of sizzling heat in its wake. Unable to stop himself, he dipped his thumb into the softness of her inner lip, stroking and teasing the sensitive flesh there. Liz closed her eyes to try and weather his sweet assault of her senses. So she was completely unprepared to feel his lips descend on hers.

Max pressed Liz against him softly and gently nibbled on her lower lip before taking her mouth into his slowly. Her breathy moan reverberated against his tongue as it snaked out to taste her more thoroughly. Taking care not to let himself get too lost in the kiss, Max pulled away and rained a light kiss on her forehead before returning to press his lips against hers again.

Liz felt her entire being open to him right there. Truth serum should be laced with whatever this man had, she thought. If he asked her her most intimate secrets right now, she would surely tell him. She would do practically anything to be with him like this.

I Shall Believe

I Shall Believe

I Shall Believe …

Max took in a ragged breath as he began to drag his lips away from hers. But before he could completely disengage his mouth from hers, the most extraordinary thing happened. He received flashes from her.

He saw Liz, dancing on her balcony with a tall man that looked strangely like him, except he was … older. He twirled her around and around until she was standing alone on her balcony, looking up at a shooting star. Laced with the flashes this time though, was an overwhelming sense of loss. It was so disconcerting, that Max had to fight to keep from doubling over from the force of it. Was this coming from Liz? How?

The flashes abruptly stopped, and Max took in a breath sharply. He didn’t understand what he had seen. He knew it couldn’t be real, could it? Was that a fantasy that Liz had? And if so, how had he seen it? And why would she be feeling such despair over it? He had never gotten flashes like that before from anyone. Normally, when he got a flash, it was a memory or something. And he never sensed actual emotion before without making a conscious connection. Max rested his head against hers and closed his eyes so Liz wouldn’t see his confusion.

Liz heard Max’s sharp intake of breath and tried to look up at him. But he brought his head down to hers and held her tightly against him. Liz relaxed as she felt him gradually begin to relax and she wondered to herself what had caused his reaction.

Both of them were so caught up in one another that they didn’t realize that the romantic slow song they had been dancing to was long over. Alex, while dancing with Rianna, intentionally bumped into Max, startling him out of his thoughts. He and Liz broke apart sheepishly once they realized that everyone around them was dancing to a really fast paced song and laughing quietly at them.

Alex grinned knowingly at both of them and Liz felt her cheeks flush. Blushing, she glanced up at Max and smiled gamely. It looked like neither of them could deny the obvious anymore.


posted on 28-May-2002 1:40:06 PM by Behrable dream
quote:
SciFiNut111 originally wrote:

Why did Liz dance with Sean? Tell him to take a hike Liz. He blew it, big time. At least she let him know he had no chance with her.


Liz danced with him to finally put the ghost of their relationship to rest; for herself and for him. Like having a clean ending to a big, ugly mess. She deserved that clean ending from the beginning, but Sean and Yvonne took that away from her.

Too bad for Sean now that he will probably never get decent closure. But - that is his fault.

Yay for Liz!

posted on 3-Jun-2002 1:31:08 PM by Behrable dream
I reposted this chapter (23) in two parts... One on page 66 and the other on page 67...

Sorry about that... I kept getting an error when trying to access it so I figured it must have been too long...

eek.

*happy*

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 4-Jun-2002 1:31:21 PM ]
posted on 4-Jun-2002 10:54:15 AM by Behrable dream
quote:
In the car, he came in his pants and then they went to the brunch. Now normally there would be...uh...evidence visible on his pants. I'm assuming, since no one said anything, that he alien hocus-pocused it away. Didn't Liz realize that something was a little odd?


Remember, Liz and Max checked out of the hotel. He had his bags in the car, so he changed clothes to keep Liz from getting suspicious. Same thing goes for the nookie in the bedroom...

Another point I wanted to make. I think Max simply gets to a point where he completely loses control. He can't get enough of Liz and when he gets around her, everything spins out of his control and he ... literally loses it. But don't worry. These two will definately be making love soon ... how could they not?

Of course, Max has to tell Liz his secret. And Liz has to make the decision to give herself fully to him; afterall, she has never had sexual intercourse before. She and Sean had been close --- just not that close.

And, I am glad that you guys are intrigued by what happened with Rick; Max's flashes and everything else... I have a lot of surprises in store for you guys...

Hee hee...

Is anyone having trouble accessing the page with part 23 on it??? I keep getting an error.


posted on 4-Jun-2002 11:07:20 AM by Behrable dream
I'm reposting Chapter 23 for the people who are having problems seeing page 64 as I am... In two sections...

Chapter Twenty Three

Max jerked awake and looked around the room wildly. He had had a weird nightmare that terrified him, but he couldn’t remember what it was. But he had a feeling it was related to Liz. Beautiful Liz. He glanced over at her to make sure he hadn’t awakened her. For the second morning in a row he felt Liz’s warm body snuggling next to his. Thankfully, she was still sleeping. Max figured that was a good thing, as he ran a shaking hand over his face.

What was going on with him? He felt like he was losing his mind. These visions he had been getting were completely unsettling. First, there had been the weird flashes he got when he healed Liz, followed by his strange experience in her parents’ café and then the odd flashes he got from Liz last night. He tried to dismiss these weird occurrences as nothing, but still they nagged at him. Adding to his confusion was his dream from last night. He couldn’t remember any details, just impressions.

Not for the first time, he considered telling Liz the truth about him. He felt this strong connection with her and part of him was certain that she would not reject him. That part was warring with the part that was terrified that she would reject him. Max closed his eyes briefly, trying to think. Maybe it would be better to simply tell her, he thought. He could ask her about those weird flashes he had received, and they could solve that mystery together. But he had just now gotten this close to her. What if she couldn’t handle the truth about him and she left?

And then there was this insatiable hunger he had for her. Since last night it had become almost unbearable. It was getting to the point that he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to control it much longer. He wanted her with a passion that frightened him. He had never wanted any woman as much. Ever since he got those unconscious flashes from her last night, his longing for her had spiraled out of control. It was taking everything within him to remain calm with her sleeping beside him. The only thing that helped was that it had been an emotional few days for her and he knew that she needed his presence for comfort.

He was glad that his lust for her hadn’t been this overwhelming the night she finally told him about Sean. He never would have been able to stop them that night.

Liz’s stirring next to him broke him out of his thoughts. He tensed when she threw her leg over his body and got even closer. His arousal began to surge when thoughts of ravaging her rampaged through his mind. He wondered if she realized what she was doing. His answer came a moment later when Liz tensed slightly and slowly moved her leg off of him.

“Good morning,” he said softly, tangling his fingers in her hair.

“Morning,” she purred, thinking about last night. She and Max had recovered from their embarrassment and left the dance floor to regain their composure. Everyone’s eyes had been on them after that, until they sent Michael and Maria off in a flurry of bubbles and sparklers. It had taken everything in her power not to devour Max as soon as they got back to his room and instead they’d stayed up late into the night, talking, until Liz fell asleep in his arms while he massaged her back.

And now she was waking up in them too.

She loved it. It felt so good to feel connected to someone again, and it was even more incredible to feel connected to Max. And it was really freeing not to have Sean between them anymore. They had no secrets between them, and Liz instinctively knew that Max wasn’t Sean; that he wouldn’t lie to and betray to her. That filled her with a sense of lightness that she hadn’t experienced in years. She felt confident that she and Max had a chance at happiness together, but for now, she would simply take his advice and take their new relationship one day at a time.

Yawning slightly, Liz rolled back onto her pillow and glanced at the bedside clock. Nine-thirty. “Oh!” she shrieked, yanking the covers back and springing from the bed.

Max sat bolt upright, trying to figure out what Liz was about. “The brunch!” she said to him, running into her room and turning on the shower. “It starts in like half an hour!” she called from the bathroom as Max ran into her room just in time to see her stripping down.

Max averted his eyes quickly. If he stood there staring at her, they would never make it to the brunch on time.

***
“I cannot believe I’ve gotten us lost,” said Liz, sinking back in the passenger seat. “And we’re already late.” They had checked out of their hotel rooms, figuring that they would leave shortly after the brunch for home. Liz couldn’t believe that they had actually packed and gotten dressed so quickly.

“Didn’t you say it was at a private ranch out by that place where we went stargazing?” asked Max, trying not to stare at the way her blouse was unbuttoned so that her cleavage was tantalizingly visible to him. She was wearing a pair of short white shorts and a pair of high heeled sandals with ties that wrapped around her ankles like roman shoes. Her tanned legs seemed to go on for miles and her hair was pulled back in a low ponytail. She looked so sexy that he could barely keep his eyes off of her.

“Well, it’s out that way, but we were supposed to turn off before we got this far,” said Liz, missing his hungry look as she gazed out at the desert landscape through the passenger side window. She knew that they had missed the turnoff by about ten or twenty miles. The ranch wasn’t out quite this far.

Max pulled the car over so he could take a look at the map. He also wanted to calm down. He felt like he couldn’t concentrate on driving and his pull toward Liz right now. Maybe he could regain control of himself while they could figure out what to do. Liz studied him for a moment and then rested her fingers at the nape of his neck, twirling them through his hair.

Max felt an electric shock race through him. How was he supposed to control himself around her if she kept that up? His attraction to her was bad enough as it was without her intentionally trying to arouse him even further. “If you keep that up, we won’t make it to the brunch at all Liz,” he said, his voice dropping an octave.

Instead of complying, Liz smiled seductively and continued caressing his neck and hair. Max moaned and began folding the map systematically, his hands moving swiftly to hide their trembling. Liz’s eyebrow raised in curiosity as she watched him. Then Max abruptly turned and grabbed her, pressing his mouth against hers hungrily. Liz groaned in satisfaction against his lips as he undid her seat belt and then summarily picked her up, dragging her into his lap.

“I don’t need to eat,” murmured Liz against his lips, adjusting herself so that she straddled him.

Max released a gutteral moan as Liz ground herself against him lithesomely. He grabbed her head with both hands, tangling his fingers through her hair. He tugged back on her head, exposing her neck to him so he could avariciously devour the naked skin there. Max moaned as he felt his manhood pulsing against Liz’s core and he wished that they were somewhere else so he could properly ravish her. But then his conscience got the better of him and he murmured words of warning to Liz between kisses.

“Don’t you … think we … should stop … “ he forced the words out, littering her bare skin with kisses. “Or at … at least wait until we can … find someplace … more … appropriate … ?”

“You’re right. We - we should stop,” she mumbled against his skin as she forced her tongue against his mouth, demanding entrance.

“Yeah … we should,” Max gasped out, fearing that he would be unable to if they continued like this for much longer.

“On three,” moaned Liz, her tongue snaking out and tasting Max‘s lips seductively. Max’s hands tightened around her. “One … two … “

“Three,” finished Max, grabbing her head and plundering her mouth with his tongue. He was beyond stopping now. He wanted her so badly. He only wished that he could take her someplace better than this. He wasn’t sure he was prepared to ravish her in a car in the middle of the desert.

Unable to control the passion welling in him, and forgetting his resolve not to take things too far with Liz, Max felt himself thrusting up into her. His thrusts were answered by Liz’s sinuous movements on top of him. She fell back against the steering wheel as Max lifted the hem of her shirt and began his sweet tortuous tasting of her bare flesh.

Feeling like a horny teenager, but not being able to control herself, Liz whimpered when Max’s hands started unbuttoning her blouse. Soon, it was hanging open and she leaned into him so he could undo her bra. He reached behind her and then stopped, looking at her in confusion.

“It unbuckles from the front,” she breathed, willing him to hurry with her eyes.

Max’s eyes sparked dangerously and he undid the clasp eagerly, his mouth falling ravenously on one of her naked breasts. Liz sucked air into her starved lungs, fearing that she wasn’t going to be able to stay in control of her own body. The feeling of thrusting against him and having his mouth close over her breast while he caressed the other one was sending her dangerously close to the edge. It was like riding an ocean wave with every nerve ending in your body tuned to the seductive lashing of the waves crashing over you.

Max,” she said his name like a prayer, igniting something feral in him. He began feverishly grinding against her even harder, not caring about anything but bringing her pleasure. Completely losing his sense of awareness, Max could only concentrate on Liz and her sensual movements.

Liz felt all of her nerve endings stand to attention and a electric energy seemed to start gathering at her core, making her ache for him. His hands seemed to be everywhere, stroking, kneading, enticing. “Ma - x - “ she gasped out brokenly, tossing her head back as she rode him, with him still thrusting against her.

This made Max crazy with desire and he he yanked her to him forcefully, filling her mouth with a gutteral moan as his arousal pressed against her over and over again. “Yes?” he ground out raspily against her, the friction driving him insane. Liz threw back her head, her hair spilling out behind her all over the steering wheel as Max descended once again over her chest, pressing her breasts together and sampling both of them with his hot tongue.

“Unh,” grunted Liz as she felt the ache inside her growing more and more acute by the second. Max dropped one of his hands, grabbing her bottom, fusing their lower bodies even closer together. This brought a cry from Liz, who brought her head back toward Max, her hair loosening from her ponytail and tumbling around them both as they took in ragged and heavy breaths. The windows of the car steamed up with their passion, and Liz looked at Max through heavy eyelids as he brought her hips down over his arousal repeatedly.

Never taking his eyes off of her, Max watched Liz’s reactions to what he was doing to her. Her eyes half-closed and her lips parted in unabashed wantonness, she looked completely intoxicated as she rose up and down from his frenzied thrusts against her womanhood. His own arousal rose sharply when he saw how excited she was becoming. The very air that they breathed seemed to be laced with their own chemical attraction, and the more they took in, the more passionate they became.

Max’s mind had completely clouded over with passion. All he could think about was Liz. All he wanted was Liz. His manhood seemed to have a mind of its own, thrusting into her as if his life depended on it. His hands roamed her body intimately and he wanted nothing more than to make love to her. Right now. The thought sent him spiraling out of control and his thrusts came faster, harder.

Liz felt her entire body become rigid with an intense orgasm as she undulated over Max, who was crushing her lower body against his. “Hunh,” she rasped out as she came fiercely, dropping her head back and thrashing herself back and forth as the sensual feelings surged through her. Suddenly, Max was bombarded with a surge of emotion from Liz. He felt her intense orgasm, almost as if it were his own and it caused his arousal to skyrocket and explode. His release nearly incapacitated him and he groaned aloud, emptying his seed into his pants, with Liz collapsing over him, exhausted.

Eventually, their ragged breathing became more even and Liz shifted above him slightly, feeling slightly self-conscious. Max had really been trying to be a gentleman, and she had pushed him over the edge. But she was glad. She didn’t want him to treat her like spun glass. Or at least not right now she didn‘t.

Max could have cursed himself for not being able to control himself. He tried to hold back, but God, Liz was so sexy. “I’m so - “ he began, but Liz beat him to it.

“Don’t apologize, please. I wanted that Max. I wanted you,” she said softly, her voice caressing him. Liz gazed down at him and saw the look on his face. Her heart swelled when she saw how grateful he was for her refusal to blame him for their passionate encounter. Dipping her head, she brushed her lips lightly over his, trying to communicate to him how much she appreciated him and how much she cared for him.

Max smiled gratefully as her lips grazed his. He was glad that she didn’t blame him and even better, she didn’t appear to regret their encounter at all. In fact, she looked like she might actually want more.

A loud car horn startled them out of their lovers clench, making both of them jump. Liz blushed against him as she saw the car racing down the highway away from them. “Perhaps someone is trying to tell us something,” she said, and Max released a deep and gravelly chuckle, sending a shiver through Liz. His voice did the most amazing things to her.

“Perhaps you are right,” he answered, his eyes twinkling and his breathing still heavy and uneven. “But if we get lost again, you have to promise to keep your hands to yourself.”

Liz winked at him as he got out of the car, probably to change his clothes. “I’m not making any promises,” she said to herself smugly.

***
“Well, it’s about time!” exclaimed Alex, looking at Max and Liz. “We thought you guys had been swallowed up by something!”

Swallowed by passion, thought Liz wryly, and Max squeezed her hand, leading her to a seat. He saw the food on the buffet, and he suddenly realized how hungry he was. Everyone was eating already, so he looked at Liz and both of them practically charged toward the food.

Maria noticed them and smirked when she saw them plowing through their food. I wonder why they are so late? she thought derisively. Then she noticed the way Liz seemed to be glowing and a mischievous glint appeared in her eyes. Liz actually looked like she got a little. Recently.

After everyone had eaten, people gathered on the deck of the house, to hang around the pool and talk. The lanterns strung over the deck and the pool bobbed gently in the breeze, and lent a festive mood to the gathering. The ranch was high on a hill, and the deck was actually a three level deck that overlooked a magnificent canyon off in the distance. Liz was staring at it when Maria grabbed her arm and dragged her back inside to talk to her. “So?” she intoned meaningfully.

Liz quirked an eyebrow. “What?” she asked innocently.

“Oh, don’t you play innocent with me Liz. I saw the way you and Max danced together last night. And then you show up almost an hour late? What gives?” asked Maria, lowering her voice so no one would hear them.

Liz blushed, sighing. “Well … “

“I KNEW it!” exclaimed Maria excitedly. “What happened?”

“Let’s just say our relationship has … progressed,” said Liz cryptically. “I guess we actually have one now … “ At the look in Maria’s eyes, Liz hurried to stem her excitement before she went screaming the news to the mountain tops. “We haven’t really discussed it or anything, but I feel close to him now. Just don’t say anything about it, though. I don’t want to jinx it.”

Maria pulled Liz to her in a crushing hug. “I am so happy for you Liz. No one deserves this more than you. And Max is … amazing.”

Liz blushed, trying to hide her giddiness. “Thanks,” she managed. “Why don’t we head back outside? Don’t let on that you know anything, okay?”

Maria nodded. Then Liz stopped them before they got back outside. “So - how’s married life treating you so far?”

Maria smiled. “Fantastic,” she said. “Being with Michael was just … out of this world, Liz. I mean, we had been together before … you know. But it was never like last night. So I was just completely unprepared for … that,” she finished breathlessly.

“Wow,” said Liz, wondering what it would be like to finally have Max inside her. A faint blush crept into her cheeks as she pondered the possibilities.

“Ahem,” said Maria, noting the faraway look in Liz’s eyes.

***
Outside, on the deck, Max settled into a large lounge chair and waited patiently for Liz to come back outside. He saw Kyle and nodded, surprised when the former football star came over to the chair on the other side of him.

“How’s it going Evans?” asked Kyle, winking at Max.

“It’s going,” answered Max, unsure what Kyle was getting at.

Kyle nodded and folded his hands. He wasn’t a man of many words, but he did want to give Max some advice about Liz. Well, actually he wanted to demand that Max treat her right, but he didn’t know how to say it without sounding like her big brother. “Look Max. I don’t know you very well, but you appear to be a stand up kind of guy. So, I’m just going to come out and say this.”

Max quirked an eyebrow. Kyle, just like everyone else, was fiercely protective of Liz. He knew where this was going.

“Just … don’t hurt her. She’s been through enough, and if you don’t have honorable intentions, then you should just … leave her alone,” said Kyle, fixing Max with a serious look.

Max simply nodded, laughing inwardly. He had no intention of hurting Liz. Ever. “I won’t let any harm come to Liz, Kyle. I’d die before I hurt her myself.”

“I hope you mean that,” said Sean, walking over to them. “Liz deserves the best.”

Kyle’s jaw clenched as Sean settled himself in front of them. “You’ve got a lot of nerve saying that after what you’ve done.”

Max tried to suppress a snort. Sean was really a piece of work. How he could stand there, demanding anything after what he did completely eluded Max. “And she will have the best,” he said, staring right through Sean intently.

Sean sighed and rolled his eyes. “I know I’m not the ‘best’ for Liz. I know I screwed up. But after what I put her through, she doesn’t deserve to have to suffer again. I just - I just wanted to make sure you would treat her the way she deserves.”

Max scratched his head and sighed. This would be funny if it weren’t actually happening. “I have no intention of hurting Liz,” he countered. “As Liz finally realized, I‘m not you.”

Kyle snorted.

Sean flinched and almost took a swing at Max. “You think I didn’t love her?”

“Not enough to treat her right,” scoffed Kyle, while Max merely looked at Sean with an eyebrow raised.

“I did. I just made a mistake because I couldn’t be honest with her about my feelings. I thought she would reject me. Turns out, if I had been honest with her, none of that would have happened, and we would be married right now.”

“Thank God for that,” said Kyle bitingly, getting up. Not wanting to be around Sean anymore than he had to, he moved away. “I’m outta here.”

Sean stared at Kyle’s retreating back, mourning the loss of another friend. He had been cool with Kyle before he devastated Liz. Heck, he had been cool with a lot of people before then. He determined to get his life back on track. With all of them. “So does Liz know how you feel?” Sean didn’t even know why he asked the question. It was obvious that Max was in love with Liz. And since he was being honest about himself, he realized that Liz was pretty far gone with Max too, if not in love with him.

“She knows how much I care about her,” said Max, thinking about what Sean said about being honest with her. It was ironic to hear Sean of all people giving advice about relationships with Liz, but he was right about one thing. He needed to be honest with Liz about himself.

“I - I know I’ve lost Liz for good, but I do want her to be happy. And I hope you make her happy,” he said, extending his hand.

Max stared at Sean’s hand. He wasn’t sure he trusted him, but there was little harm in shaking the man’s hand. So, Max shook it back, realizing that he and Sean both wanted the same thing. Liz’s happiness. One had failed in giving that to her, and the other would do everything in his power to get it for her. “I will make her happy,” he said firmly, gripping Sean’s hand tightly.

Sean paled slightly under Max’s powerful gaze. He saw the determined look in Max’s eyes and he knew that he had truly lost Liz. After seeing them dance together last night and practically drown in one another, he knew he didn’t stand a chance, unless Max messed up royally. And even then, his chances were slim to none. “Yeah,” he managed, taking his hand away and pretending that it wasn’t slightly sore from Max’s death grip.

Max nodded as Sean walked away, pondering what he said and the irony of Sean giving him good advice. Liz walked up behind him and slipped her arms around his middle, drawing him back towards her. Max turned, and wrapped her in his arms. “So what was all that about?“ she asked, motioning toward Sean.

Max smirked slightly. “Would you believe Sean was trying to make sure I treated you well?”

This time it was Liz who snorted. “That’s rich, coming from him.” Then she softened, “But that was sweet of him, I guess,” she continued, not knowing what to say about that. Realizing that Sean was concerned for her was a new feeling. Or at least one that she hadn’t felt in so long that it might as well be new. “Was that all?”

Max tensed. It wasn’t like he could tell her about himself right this minute. He knew that he couldn’t keep his secret from Liz forever. She deserved to know the truth about him. “Yeah,” he hedged, wanting to throw himself off the highest deck, and Liz sighed.

He just hoped he would be strong enough to tell her the truth soon.


posted on 4-Jun-2002 11:12:23 AM by Behrable dream
Here is the rest of Chapter 23...

***
Liz stared at Max as he ate the burger and fries she brought him. She had donned her waitress uniform one more time to help her parents out. One of the waitresses had called in sick, and there was a huge crowd around for some reason. Her dad said that there was a ufo sighting.

Periodically, there would always be some Roswellian nut who swore that they saw a ufo, and tourists and the alien obsessed would descend on Roswell like wild animals. Liz laughed as she walked among the tourists, who were all asking questions and looking around conspiratorially. Aliens. In Roswell. Right.

She had convinced Max to stay in Roswell a little bit longer so they could check out any leads the police had on her shooting. Liz’s dad had shielded her from much of that information. The case had been closed almost as soon as it opened. They never really had any leads, anyway. But she figured it wouldn’t hurt to check it out anyway. Luckily Kyle’s dad, the sheriff, had been heavily involved in that case and she had him check it out for her. He said he would call with any new information.

She sat down across to Max, rubbing her back slightly and watching him polish off a slice of men in blackberry pie. He slurped down his milkshake completely and Liz had to stifle a laugh. He looked up at her, perplexed and she paused to explain. “Didn’t you just eat like, two hours ago at the brunch? I know you did… I was there watching you.”

Max smiled. “There are just some things I cannot seem to get enough of,” he winked at her, hoping she got his double meaning.

Liz blushed. “Can I get anything else for you?” she asked, still rubbing her back.

Max shook his head. The only thing she could get for him was … herself on a platter. “When do you get off?” he asked.

“Are you trying to pick up one of the local waitresses, Mr. Evans?” she asked mockingly, feigning a look of shock.

“Very much so,” he replied, wishing he was closer to her so he could run his hands through her hair.

Liz blushed underneath his heated gaze and tore her eyes away from him. She didn’t want him to ravage her in public. “I can knock off in about half an hour,” she said, now rubbing her shoulder.

“How about a massage for your sore muscles when you finish?” he asked, raking his eyes over her languidly.

Liz felt a burning sensation between her legs. “O - ok,” she croaked out, a smile tipping the corners of her mouth.

Liz slowly left the booth Max was sitting in, unsure how she was going to make it thirty minutes without exploding every time he looked at her.

“Lizzie?” called her dad from behind her. “Lizzie, come back this way for a minute please.”

Liz threw Max a shrug and walked into the back room with her dad. He looked worried about something. “What’s wrong, dad?”

“Sit down Liz,” he instructed.

Liz stared at him with panicked eyes. “What’s wrong?” she asked again, her lower lip trembling.

Jeff Parker stared at his daughter and felt something tug at his heart. She and her grandma were so close. He knew Liz would get super protective about her. “Your mom and I have to go out of town for a couple of days. Your grandma - “

“What happened to Grandma Claudia? Is she okay?” asked Liz, trying to quell the panic that rose in her heart.

“She took a bad fall - now she’s fine, Liz,” said Jeff quickly seeing the frightened and alarmed look that passed over her eyes. “She just can’t get around like she wants right now. Your mom and I are going to help her out, since your Aunt Phyllis is leaving tonight. We just got the call five minutes ago.”

“Oh,” breathed Liz, relieved. Concerned, she tipped her head toward her dad questioningly. “So, how bad was it?”

“She fell down the stairs and bruised her hip. So, she got slowed down a bit. She just needs a little help getting around and situated. Don’t worry, honey. You can call her in the morning,” said Jeff.

Liz nodded and stood. “So do you need me to close?”

Jeff shook his head. “We’ve got Cynthia coming in to close. She should be out there now. You and Max just make yourselves at home until you go back to L.A.. Are you leaving in the morning? It seems a bit late to drive back now,” he finished.

Liz stared at the row of lockers behind her dad. “I guess we should probably stay over and go back early in the morning. I was waiting for a call anyway,” she said.

***
Liz closed the back door after seeing her parents off. Then she walked back into the café to get Max. He was sitting in the same booth, reading a newspaper. As soon as she crossed through the doors, he looked up, his eyes locking with hers. Liz smiled and waved him back to where she was. He exited the booth eagerly and hurried to her.

“How about that massage now?” he asked, his hand kneading her lower back.

Liz felt her insides turning to mush. She couldn’t seem to form words, so she simply nodded and led Max upstairs to her room.

Liz opened the door and led Max in. She was hit with an unexpected wave of nostalgia. Her room had been pretty much left exactly the way it was when she graduated from high school. Her desk was over in the corner, with her high school literature books stacked neatly in a row on it. Her bed was still in the center of the room, across from the balcony window. Liz laughed slightly when she realized that her apartment bedroom was eerily similar to her bedroom here.

“What?” asked Max, curious about her laugh.

“I was just thinking about how similar this room is to my room back in L.A.,” she said, opening the window to her balcony. She tried to step through the window, but her back gave her a slight twinge and she yelped softly in pain.

Max pulled her away from the window and gently placed her on the bed. “Let’s take care of that back now,” he said, leaning over her. He plucked the antennae headband off of her hair and loosened her hair from its ponytail. Then he glanced over her and decided that her waitress uniform, though cute, had to go. He walked over to the bathroom and found thick towels in the linen closet. He handed one of them to her and she smirked, raising her eyebrow in mild suspicion.

“I want to give you a proper massage,” he said, staring at her purposefully, not making any attempt to act innocently.

Liz bit her lip and rose from her bed, eyeing him seductively. “I’ll be right back,” she said, grabbing the towel and disappearing into the bathroom.

Max looked over the bed and covered it with the other towels. Then he bolted to the room Liz had set up for him to sleep in that night. He fished around the bag for the baby oil that he always used on the rough spots on his feet. It wasn’t massage oil, but it would do. He raced back to Liz’s room and nearly fell over when he saw her emerge from the bathroom, clad only in a towel.

Maybe this wasn’t the best idea, thought Max, his mouth watering. He swallowed and tried to ignore his growing arousal.

“Something wrong, Mr. Evans?” purred Liz, staring at him intently. She wanted to play with him a little bit.

Max saw the glint in her eye and he had her number. She was toying with him. Well… two could play at that game. He smiled roguishly at her and motioned for her to lie down. “Nope.”

Liz settled against the towels Max had placed on her bed. She leaned her head to one side as Max pulled the towel down so it exposed her back to him. Max’s breath grew slightly ragged as he ran his gaze over her half-naked form.

“I’ll be right with you,“ he said, moving away from her. Shaking his head to stop the dizzying array of thoughts that had begun to overwhelm him, Max stood and retreated to the bathroom, splashing water on his face. He looked back at Liz’s form on her bed and shut his eyes briefly. What the hell had he been thinking? The desire that he felt for her was at an all-time high. He had never, ever been so attracted to anyone before. He had to wonder if other, normal men felt rampaging desire like this.

“Is everything all right, Max?” called Liz, lifting her feet back and locking them together.

“Yeah,” panted Max, from the bathroom, working to get himself under control after seeing the way Liz’s calves were rubbing against each other. So she wanted to play hardball. Fine with him.

Max purposefully stalked back into her bedroom with a fierce look in his eyes. Immediately he started stroking the skin along her backside and raking his fingernails lightly over her skin. Liz shuddered beneath him and her mouth parted in utter shock. She couldn’t believe the sensations his hands were creating in her. It felt like someone had released electricity into the epidermal layer of her skin and every time his fingers touched her, her nerve endings exploded.

But when a slick liquid pooled onto her back and Max’s fingers splayed themselves through the slippery oil and scorched her skin with his fiery touch, a small gasp was ripped from her mouth. “Is the tension going away?“ asked Max softly, as Liz nodded, trying not to throw herself into his arms. Liz wondered why this massage was so different from the others Max had given her. Afterall, this was her third one. But this one had her entire body craving his touch. Liz inadvertently clutched a fistful of her bed’s comforter to keep from crying out loudly as Max‘s hands traveled to the sides of her body. Wanting him to touch her breasts shocked her slightly and she buried her head into her bed so that Max couldn’t see her reaction.

Max smiled in satisfaction as he watched Liz try to hide her excitement from him. Deciding to push her to the edge, he moved his hands lower and lower until they were butted up against the towel, which was resting at the junction between her back and her bottom. A small moan from Liz told him that he was on the right track, and when he slid the towel back and softly ran his hand over her bottom, Liz cried out and jumped slightly, shivering beneath his touch.

Liz blushed when she felt a growing ache start at her core and heat up as Max’s hands roamed over her. He was very good at this, and she found herself relaxing underneath his care. But at the same time, she felt her entire body attune to his touch and when he began to move his hands lower and lower on her body until they fell underneath the towel that covered her bottom, she gasped audibly. It was an incredible sensation that caused her body to jerk involuntarily and shudder.

“You like that, Liz?” Max whispered against her ear, as his hands continued to work their magic on her quivering bottom.

Unable to form words, Liz merely nodded, clutching at her comforter fitfully and taking in rough and uneven breaths.

Feeling encouraged by Liz’s aroused and frazzled state, Max bent his head and began kneading the flesh at the nape of her neck … with his mouth.

“Ohh!” gasped Liz, biting down hard on her lip and feeling a hot, fiery sensation flare between her legs. The sensation made her gasp and she felt her womanhood begin to throb, almost painfully. She knew that she was aching for him to touch her there. Giving up on driving Max insane with lust, she moaned his name, “Max.”

This inflamed Max’s desire even further and he dragged his lips all the way down her body until he was kissing her perfectly rounded bottom greedily. His tongue flicked out hotly, grazing her butt cheek and sending ripples of pleasure through Liz, who arched up from the bed with her head thrown back toward him. Nipping one of her sweet cushions with his teeth, Max leaned forward and grasped her breasts from behind and brought her up so that she was leaning back against him on her knees.

Circling and kneading her breasts until Liz was in a frenzy, he whispered into her ear, “Do you want me?”

His words barely registered over the din of cacophonous sensations that roared through her senses. “ … yes … Yes,” she answered hoarsely, licking her lips in anticipation.

Max let one of his hands travel down to her core, hidden beneath the triangular forest that was barely exposed to him, while fondling her breast and thrusting his tongue into the cavern of her ear. Liz arched against him, reveling in the three-pronged assault on her body by his hands and mouth. When his finger delved into her wetness and then raked it over her throbbing nub, Liz let out a shout of ecstasy and pressed herself … hard … against his arousal, now bulging against her backside.

Max grunted harshly as Liz pressed herself against him. He couldn’t stop touching her. His fingers thrusted in and out of her, rubbing against her heat, faster and faster as Liz began moving against him. Her body rocked up and down against him, driving him wild with need for her. He wanted to taste her. Right here, right now.

Consumed with that thought, Max flipped Liz over, bringing a startled cry from her. Thinking hungrily of what she tasted like, he began kissing the area below her navel, while still stroking her.

The phone on her bedside table rung loudly, startling both of them out of their desire. Liz’s breath caught in her throat sharply and she considered not answering it. But it could be about her grandma.

Sighing and cursing the fates for this interruption, she reached over and grabbed the phone, pressing it to her ear. “Hello?” she said, a little more breathlessly than she would have liked.

Max watched as Liz talked to whoever was on the phone. Smiling mischievously, he inserted his finger into her wetness again and watched as her eyes widened and she fought to control the tremors of her voice. “Okay,” she breathed jerkily into the phone. “Fi - fifteen min - utes. Right.”

Liz reached for Max’s hand, intending to slap it away, but instead grabbing it and urging it to work faster. Max looked up and smirked at the looks of utter confusion and pleasure that were causing a war to rage in Liz’s eyes. “Mmm hmm. Bye,” she said finally, clicking the phone off and tossing it away.

“Max,” she said scoldingly, until Max bent and blew over her heat, sending a shiver through her. “The sheriff will be here in fifteen minutes.”

“Then I guess I should hurry,” said Max, pulling her flush against him and then turning her so that her bottom was cupped against his arousal.

He gripped one of her breasts tightly and then delved his fingers into her wetness again, dragging it repeatedly over her heat. Liz responded eagerly, pushing back against him, and throwing her head back so he could ravage her mouth. This Max did eagerly, thrusting against her as well. He was losing control he knew, and when Liz fell forward on all fours on the bed, he realized that he was in serious trouble.

Not able to stop, Max continued thrusting against her, pulling her buttocks firmly against him while stroking her. He could hear Liz’s breathing becoming shallow and desperate as she threw her body back against his over and over. Kneading. Stroking. Stroking. Kneading. Max’s fingers had a mind of their own and he was helpless to stop himself from thrusting against her wildly, grunting with with each and every grinding thrust. He wanted nothing more than to ravage her. Fueling his desire with rampant thoughts of burying himself in her, his lower body pistoned out of control and he was rewarded with a long, gutteral moan from Liz as her arousal finally culminated in an all-consuming orgasm. This brought Max somersaulting over the edge as well and he clamped her hips to his arousal as he rode out the floating feeling and came in his pants against her. “Huh,” he grunted feverishly, amidst Liz’s gasps and moans as they collapsed on her bed.

***
“So why don’t you start with telling me where you were shot,” said Valenti, looking at Liz and preparing a small diagram of the café on a notepad.

“Well, I was standing here,” said Liz, standing right behind the counter with the spoons and forks in their little dispensers.

Max glanced at where Liz was standing and then looked at the shelves behind her with the ketchup bottles and other condiments stacked neatly on them. That was exactly where he had seen Liz lying on the ground in his vision. He supposed he had somehow plucked the memory from her, and it had only been reinforced from the weird impressions he got when he‘d stood there last Thursday, the first day that he ever stepped foot in the Crashdown.

“And then I heard a noise in the back. I went to investigate and the shot rang out. It hit me in my lower back right around here,” continued Liz, walking about eight feet away from her initial position behind the counter.

Max looked at her confused. What? He could have sworn that in his vision, Liz had been lying behind the counter when she was shot. He was hovering over her, and he clearly saw the ketchup bottles behind her on those shelves. Suddenly he realized that in his vision, Liz’s abdomen, and not her back, was pooling with blood. What the hell was going on?

“Do you remember anything about the men who were arguing that day?” asked the sheriff.

Liz shook her head. “Not much. Maria was serving them. But they were sitting over there,” she said, pointing to a booth on the other side of the café.

Max sat down in the booth that Liz had pointed to, trying to make sense of what he saw in his vision. None of it made any sense. If Liz had been shot near the swinging doors, why had he gotten those impressions behind the counter? And why did he get those visions that clearly showed Liz lying behind the counter, her stomach pooling with blood from her?

“Okay,” said the sheriff. “Let me tell you what we’ve got. According to Maria, there were two men. They were arguing over money and one of them pulled out a gun. They apparently struggled over the gun, and it went off.”

Max nodded his head as he pondered what the sheriff said. He tried to remember what he heard when he stood behind the counter. Nothing useful came to mind.

Liz nodded. That sounded about right, although she didn’t remember any of that. All she remembered was turning to go back toward the noise that she heard. But it did match what Maria had said. “Maybe we should ask Maria when she gets back from her honeymoon if she remembers anything else,” she proffered, wrapping her arms around herself as she got a sudden chill.

Max saw the familiar gesture and started to move out of the booth when he was assailed with a barage of sounds and noises. It was as if he could hear conversations that had taken place at that booth over time. Suddenly, he heard snippets of a conversation that made his blood ran cold. “… have to get rid of her … We’re running out of time! I was here to get the money today! Not tomorrow! … “ Then Max heard screams and then a gunshot. He ran a shaking hand over his face as he pondered what he’d heard. One comment stuck out in his mind. Get rid of her?

The sheriff appeared to be in deep thought. “Maybe,” he started. “But first I need to update you on something.”

Liz leaned forward in anticipation and Max came out of his confusing thoughts. “What?” asked Liz, wondering what the sheriff could possibly have to say about this.

“We did a composite of one of the men from Maria’s statement and from the statements of some other restaurant patrons. We were able to identify him as Rick Matheson, a drifter from Texas,” began the sheriff.

What? thought Liz, wondering when this happened. “Why wasn’t I told about this?” she demanded, jumping off the stool she had been sitting on and starting toward the sheriff. She grabbed the paper out of his hand and stared at the man drawn on it. She didn’t recognize him at all.

“Because,” said the sheriff. “We only discovered who he was a short time ago.”

Max and Liz looked at the sheriff warily. “How did you identify him?” asked Max slowly.

Valenti seemed to pause for a moment. Then he sighed heavily. “We didn’t.”

“Excuse me?” asked Liz, beginning to get really confused.

“Then who did?” asked Max, clenching his jaw. Something wasn’t right.

The sheriff decided not to mince words. “The police officers who found his decomposed body outside of Los Angeles shortly after Liz was shot.”


posted on 4-Jun-2002 11:13:56 AM by Behrable dream
I also forgot to answer another question someone posted...

The police in L.A. found Rick Matheson's decomposed body outside of LA shortly after Liz was shot. That was like, over eight years ago...

So that means that he was shot sometime after Liz's death, and the la police never told the Roswell police about it until now. I guess the sheriff has pull or something. So this is new information to them. But alas, it doesn't really help them all that much.



The plot thickens, huh???

*happy*


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 4-Jun-2002 1:48:10 PM ]
posted on 5-Jun-2002 3:30:01 PM by Behrable dream
Lttle Mrmaid & Eerie,

Thanks for the nomination on the fanfic nominations board!!

I was just browsing around and I stumbled across my name!! WOW!! Thanks for the support!!

I hope to have a new part up soon... Still working on it...



posted on 6-Jun-2002 3:36:24 PM by Behrable dream
Woah!!

Huge typo there... Good grief... What the heck was I typing there??

I obviously meant that he was killed just after Liz's shooting...

I think I switched the two thoughts... I used 'shot' for Matheson, when I meant to say 'death' and I used 'death' for Liz when I meant to say 'shot'...

Blame it on my new exercise program... I'm all befuddled...

No freudian slip there though... sorry about that...


posted on 13-Jun-2002 10:40:48 AM by Behrable dream
Sorry about the long gap between updates... We've had a death in the family, and I am trying to rush through getting ready for a conference next week so that I can be with my family for the funeral and wake.

I hope you guys like this chapter... I hope it sort of explains both Max's and Liz's motivations right now...

*happy*


Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?


Chapter Twenty Four

“So I guess that rules out Matheson as your stalker,” said Max, wondering how it was that the police in Roswell never found out about Matheson’s death.

“Yeah,” said Liz, staring out the car window. She had been thinking about what the sheriff had said about Matheson since they left Roswell. Apparently, the police in L.A. found his decomposing body a couple of weeks after she was shot, but it was so disfigured and dismembered that they weren’t able to make a positive ID immediately. They’d done a facial reconstruction to try and see what his face looked like, and that’s how the sheriff had been able to make a match when Liz asked the sheriff about follow-up leads. They always knew that they were looking for Matheson, but no one knew he was dead. Until now.

But that still left the other man in the café. “But it doesn’t rule out the guy he was with.”

Max nodded grimly. He wanted to find this person so that Liz would be safe from at least one of her foes. If he could keep her from following the Tess lead, maybe he wouldn’t have to tie her down to keep her from harm. “No it doesn’t,” he concurred.

Liz turned to look at him and bit her lip. Things were completely different between them now. After all of the passion they had shared in Roswell, it was going to feel strange not waking up next to him in the morning. But even still, she didn’t want to rush into anything with him. Of course, the stalker thing complicated matters. “I was um … thinking about where I should stay,” she began, knowing that Max would want her to stay with him.

“And?” hedged Max, wondering if he should press for her to continue to stay with him.

“I want to stay at the townhome Max. I mean … I really loved being with you this weekend, but I don’t want to - to rush into too much too soon.” Liz sighed. Things had gotten so complicated. “Plus, you can’t watch me all the time.”

“I understand,” Max said, smiling at her resolutely. Liz was right. He was going to have to learn how to let her live her life. He couldn’t watch her every minute, even if he wanted to. Thinking back to her tampered with tire, he considered taking back what he said, but thought better of it. Maybe he should hire extra men to watch her.

“What??” asked Liz, shocked. Max was being so … calm about this. “I didn’t think you would agree so quickly.”

Max smirked slightly. “I didn’t either. It’s just that I don’t want to push you and I don’t want to rush what this is between us either. Things have been rather … heated … between us lately,” he said, his voice lowering and his cheeks flushing slightly.

Liz blushed and looked down at her hands, her cheeks burning. Even though Max was right, it was slightly unnerving to hear him say it. It made her feel suddenly mature, as if she had grown ten years in a short time. “Right,” she said, rolling her eyes slightly as the blush turned a darker shade of red.

Max cleared his throat nervously. “Okay,” he breathed. “Maybe we should just get this out in the open, Liz.”

Liz nodded, realizing that he must be talking about their new ’relationship’. “Are you talking about … ’us’?”

This time it was Max who nodded. “I thought we should discuss that after everything … that … happened between us in Roswell. I - I don’t want to rush you, but - “

“No, Max. You aren’t rushing me. Actually you are being very patient with me, and I really appreciate that. I think we should discuss where we stand too,” said Liz, glancing up at him. The nighttime desert scenery whipped past him, and occasionally, they would pass a street lamp and his features would come sharply into view. He was gorgeous.

“Well,” Max rubbed his jaw for a moment and then rested his hand on the steering wheel. “I care about you. A lot. I’ve cared about you since the moment I met you. It’s why I could never get into Tess, even though she wanted it. Everytime I looked at her, I wished she was you, Liz. It‘s always been about you.”

Liz felt tears sting her eyes. Max’s words had been laced with a sensual sensitivity that stirred something deep within her. It fluttered in her stomach as a soft gasp left her mouth. “Max,” she said softly, a single tear running down her face. It was an overwhelmingly beautiful feeling to realize that with Max, she came first.

Max abruptly pulled the car over to the side of the road. He should have known better than to start this conversation on their way back to L.A.. He immediately gathered Liz against him and kissed the top of her head softly.

“Max, I - “ started Liz, swallowing the lump in her throat. “I - thank you,” she murmured into his chest. Even though their positions were uncomfortable, she loved being held like this by him. She realized that she would love almost anything, as long as Max held her like this.

“For what?” asked Max, cradling her head against him with his hand.

“For - for everything,” said Liz, her voice thick. “I - I’ve been drawn to you since the moment I met you. I never told you this before, but, the day I first saw you at the club … I - felt something. That scared me, because immediately after that, I saw you with Tess. I cannot express to you the disappointment I felt at that moment. It scared me, and that’s why I was so intent on pushing you away from the start. Well, that and the Sean thing.”

Max exhaled slowly. That explained so much. The chip on Liz’s shoulder couldn’t have been all about Sean. And it was an immense relief to know that she had felt the pull between them from the start, just as he had. “That’s a relief,” he breathed.

“Huh?” muttered Liz, trying to get closer to him.

“It’s just a relief to know that I wasn’t alone in my intense feelings for you from the start,” he said. “It was unsettling, feeling like I was the only one who felt this way, especially since that had never happened to me before.”

“Oh,” said Liz, trying to find the words to tell him what she felt in her heart. “I - I just want you to know that I want to try … with you,” she added. “I want to be with you, Max.”

Max nearly shouted. “Liz,” he murmured, bringing her head up so he could kiss her gently. Liz looked up at him and nearly drowned in the swirling vortex of emotion she saw churning in his eyes. “Thank God,” he whispered softly against her lips, feeling her tremble underneath him. He kissed her eyes, her cheeks, her brow, her chin and finally, he fastened his lips to hers again. “Thank God,” he whispered again and again, like a sacred chant.

They held each other silently for a long time until a car passed by. Breaking away from each other, they smiled sheepishly, staring into each other’s eyes. Finally, thought Max. Finally, he could begin to cherish Liz properly, the way she deserved to be cherished.

“Maybe we should get home now,” said Liz, the corners of her mouth tipping up happily.

Max flashed her a heartstopping smile that made her toes curl. “Whatever you want,” he said, pulling back out onto the highway.

***
“So I was thinking that I could go to Tess’ place in Sacramento to see if I can find out where that safety deposit key goes,” Liz said, handing Max a cup of coffee. She had been unable to refuse Max’s offer to stay with her last night after they got back from Roswell. They’d slept wrapped in each other’s arms and Liz felt peaceful and content waking up with him as the waves crashed over themselves outside.

Max’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head as Liz‘s statement sunk in. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?”

“No,” said Liz, as calmly as possible. Why did he have to make such a big deal out of this? “I just want to find out what happened to Tess.”

“Why? Unless it‘s me you‘re trying to kill with a heart attack from worry?” asked Max, not understanding this investigative streak of Liz’s. What with her stalker, that comment he heard in a flash about ‘getting rid of her’ and then the people who had murdered Tess, she was playing with fire. Plus, she was getting too close to his secret for comfort. He wanted to tell her the truth, but not because he felt pressure to do so because she was digging into things that might reveal his secret anyway.

“Of course I’m not trying to kill you Max. This has nothing to do with you,” countered Liz. Why couldn’t he understand?

This has everything to do with me, thought Max miserably, his eyes boring into hers. “It’s too dangerous Liz. You’re putting yourself in harm’s way and you have a stalker! Please don‘t do this. I can‘t lose you. Not now.”

Liz softened as she let his impassioned plea wash over her. “I have to, Max,” she said, locking eyes with him.

Max stood abruptly. “No. You DON’T,” he said emphatically, pacing in her kitchen.

Liz shrank away from him slightly. “Max - “

“Don’t you get it Liz? This is dangerous stuff you’re playing with! You. Could. Be. Killed. And - and I just cannot lose you to this. I can’t,” he said, running his fingers through his hair in frustration.

“I know this is dangerous Max! Tess is dead, remember? And somebody killed her! I want to know who!”

“Are you willing to lose your life to find out? Because it may come to that! You could die over this Liz!” Max’s voice rose right along with his blood pressure.

Liz just stared at him. “This isn’t open for discussion, Max.”

Max‘s gaze flared and then clouded over. “You can’t go,” he stated resolutely, stalking out of the room to stop her from rebutting him.

Liz flinched slightly and looked at his retreating back. That sounded like an order. Only there was one problem. She didn’t take orders.

***
“She’s going to get herself killed,” groaned Max to his concerned mother. “She won’t listen to me. She’s determined to find out what happened to Tess, regardless of what could happen to her.” He was at his wits end. If Liz got herself into the kind of trouble Tess was in, he wasn’t sure he could help her. After getting close to Liz in Roswell, the thought of losing her now was even more overwhelming. It would be worse than when Izzy died. Much worse.

“What do you think happened to Tess, Max?” asked Diane. She was worried about both Liz and her son. She had never met the girl, but it was obvious that Max loved her. If anything happened to her, she knew it would devastate her son.

“Nothing I can explain,” said Max. “The truth is, I really don’t know what happened.” That was what terrified him the most. If he’d understood what happened to Tess, he could have saved her. But not understanding the problem had made it difficult to heal her, even if he had been able to keep the connection going.

“But Liz is determined to find out, right? Maybe you two could work together on this. You could watch her, and she could find out what happened to Tess. Liz doesn’t seem like she is backing down, honey,” said Diane in resignation. She didn’t know Liz, but she had to admire her tenacity. Even if it was causing her son fits. But he had to learn that he couldn’t control everything.

“I could do that,” said Max. “But if Tess’ death is related to me, I can’t let Liz find out that way.”

Diane sighed. She knew that Max probably felt like he was between a rock and a hard place. Liz had just recently opened up to him and he must not feel stable enough to tell her the complete truth about him yet. It couldn’t be easy feeling like you had to reveal your biggest secret just because you were afraid the love of your life might discover it on her own. “I don’t suppose you would want to tell Liz your secret?”

“I’m not quite ready to do that yet mom. Plus, I don’t want to just tell her because I’m afraid she’ll find out on her own. Can’t I just keep her from going after this Tess thing so doggedly? She’s like Lois Lane or something,” quipped Max, irritated at his inability to keep this thing under control.

“What makes you so certain that Tess’ murder has something to do with you?” asked Diane.

“Well, besides the fact that she was like me, there was her death,” replied Max.

“What about it?”

“When I tried to heal her, I could barely get in. Then it was like all of her internal bodily functions shut down, shutting me out and I was unable to get a connection after that. I don’t know. She just became catatonic. I couldn’t heal her. What would cause a bodily failure like that, other than something … abnormal?” finished Max, staring at a spot somewhere over the ocean waves crashing against the sand. The sound was strangely calming.

Diane went strangely quiet.

“Mom?”

Diane tried to find her voice. How was this possible?

***
“I don’t care what Max said. I’m going,” said Liz defiantly as she stuffed a bag full of clothes for her trip up to Sacramento.

“I really don’t think this is a good idea either, Liz. Maybe Max is right about this. I mean, you have to worry about your stalker, who may be the shooter from the Crashdown, and you have to worry about the goons who are after you because of Tess. Don’t go borrowing trouble,” said Alex anxiously, wishing he could stop her from doing this. But when Liz got an idea in her head, she was like a dog with a bone.

“Stevens will be following me, I’m sure,” hedged Liz. “And I’m just going to try and see if she has any mail in her mailbox that might help. Even if I just see a bank envelope, it’ll be a start.”

“It won’t be much of a start if you’re dead Liz. I think Max has good reason to try and keep you from going after this. You could get killed. Are you sure Tess is worth all of this?” asked Alex, trying to figure out why Liz was being so stubborn.

“I just have to do this, Alex. I know something is fishy about her death. I just need to prove it,” answered Liz, not really understanding her need to figure all of this out. She just had to.

“But Max - “

“ - isn’t interested in finding out what happened to her so it’s up to me. I’m the only one who can do this Alex,” finished Liz forcefully.

“Max is only trying to protect you Liz,” offered Alex.

Liz sighed. Of course he was. But there seemed to be more to it. “I don’t know Alex. I think it may be more than that. For some reason, Max wants me to just drop the entire thing.”

“Well, I would too Liz! That Matheson guy is dead. DEAD! And he’s been dead for years, and he is the only lead the police ever had about your shooting. The other guy is still out there. He could have killed Matheson! He could kill you too! And not only are you playing with fire with your stalker - whom we have no idea now who he is - you are also playing dangerously with the people who may have killed Tess. Do you have a death wish or something?” asked Alex thunderously.

“No! Of course not! But … this is just something I have to do. If something like this happened to you, I wouldn‘t stop until I found out the truth,” said Liz determinedly, and Alex sighed in defeat.

“When do you plan on leaving?” he asked.

“Saturday morning. Early,” answered Liz. She wanted to get out of there before Max had a chance to register what she was doing. She wasn’t going to let Max, her stalker, or Tess’ killers deter her from doing what she had to do.

***
“Mom?” repeated Max, wondering what he’d said to cause her reaction.

“This can‘t be happening,” said Diane shakily, pausing to find her voice. After all of their precautions… sending Isabel and Max to different preschools to protect them from scrutiny after figuring out that their children were … special. Moving right after Isabel was taken ill and pretty much disappearing. At least they had protected Max from whatever got Isabel.

“Mom, what’s wrong?” asked Max, beginning to get alarmed. His mother was normally so calm.

“After all of this time,” whispered Diane, shaking her head. It just couldn’t be true. It couldn’t. This changed everything.

Max wrinkled his brow. What was his mom talking about?

“Max do you remember anything that happened around the time that Izzy died?” asked Diane.

“No, nothing more than what I remembered from the flashes that I got from Tess before she died, and that was way before Izzy‘s death,” replied Max, wondering what Isabel had to do with any of this.

“You must be repressing them after seeing what happened to your sister,” mumbled Diane.

“Mom, please tell me what’s wrong,” pleaded Max, unable to squelch the tremor in his voice.

“It’s about your sister,” she said slowly, not wanting to worry her son, but he needed to know about this.

“Isabel? What about Izzy?” asked Max, confusion settling in with his panic.

“Well, you don’t remember very much about what happened to her, because you were so young and due to the trauma, I guess, but when she died … “ Diane paused, unable to speak over the lump in her throat.

“Take your time, mom,” coached Max, trying to soothe her.

“When Isabel got sick, it was as if her bodily functions all shut down. It was like she was there, but not really. She just went catatonic immediately. It was almost like she was in a coma. She wasn’t coherent and she wasn’t aware of you, her father, or me,” stated Diane.

“How did you find this out?” asked Max. He had been under the impression that the doctor they got to look her over hadn’t been very useful.

“Well, Phillip’s doctor friend checked her out. He ran several tests and discovered that all of her internal organs had shut down. Her brain ceased to function first, and then her other organs followed suit,” said Diane, trying to stop the painful images from making her cry out.

Max stopped breathing. No! His sister … dying of almost the same ailment as Tess? How? The only difference was that Tess still seemed to be slightly aware when Liz found her and when he tried to heal her. Was it possible that Liz had interrupted the killer before he finished the job? “How is that possible?“ Max swallowed. “Could the doctor determine what caused the shutdown?”

“He said it was some sort of trauma. But whatever it was, it was mental and not physical,” answered Diane, not understanding this herself either.

“Oh my God,” he said, exhaling slowly. So his sister had been murdered, just like Tess. And their murderer was still out there. Liz was practically on a collision course with him. He had to stop her now. If whatever happened to his sister and Tess happened to Liz, he was afraid he would not be able to help her. She would die and there would be nothing he could do about it.

“Do you think that someone killed your sister and Tess? You think it’s the same person?” asked Diane. “Do you think they know about you? Maybe you should get as far away from there as possible honey.” Diane’s questions came so quickly that Max had little time to process them.

“I can’t leave. Liz needs me. I have to protect her, regardless of what happens to me. I love her,” he said, admitting that for the first time outloud.

Diane released a slow breath. “I know you do honey. But Liz’s investigation is going to lead you right to whoever is behind all of this. Are you sure you can handle things when that happens?”

Max thought about that for a moment. He didn’t know what he would do. He was all alone in this. He didn’t have any help against whoever was behind this mess. And that feeling scared him. “I don’t know,” he finally answered, feeling somewhat helpless.

He would just have to keep Liz from furthering her investigation until he figured out what to do.

***
No! thought Liz frantically, staring at the long rectangular box that had just been delivered to her door. Please no…not now…

Liz opened the box carefully and then threw it to the ground in disgust. A bunch of red roses. Dead. No note. Dammit! Things with her stalker had been so quiet that she had convinced herself that he was going to leave her alone. No such luck, she thought morbidly.

Liz considered calling Max. He would want to know about this. Walking over to the phone, she picked it up and dialed. Then she slammed the phone down quickly. No. She wouldn’t call him. Her stalker was just trying to rattle her. If he meant to kill her, wouldn’t she be dead already? And since they had a lead on her stalker, did it really matter that she had gotten another annoying gift?

Somewhere in the back of her mind, Liz could sense that her logic was faulty and rather dangerous. But she wanted so desperately to ignore all of this. If she told Max, he would surely forbid her from doing what she felt she had to do. It had barely been a week since they had argued over this. She knew that it was only because he cared about her safety, but she couldn’t let her stalker or anyone else stop her.

She tried not to feel guilty as she stuck the dead roses back in the box, carrying it out to her car. She would leave for Sacramento in the morning. She didn’t notice the dead rose that she’d missed lying on the floor next to the couch.

***
Liz tried to convince herself that she wasn’t being careless. She knew that she should have left a note telling Max where she had gone, but she just didn’t want to hear his objections right now. And she certainly didn’t want to hear him order her not to do what she knew she had to do.

Liz sighed as she continued driving north. She was slightly unnerved by those dead roses. They were lying on the back seat. She still hadn’t tossed them out. Niggling thoughts in the back of her mind began plaguing her with doubt as she thought of them. Maybe Max was right. She was almost certainly inviting trouble onto herself.

Looking into her rearview mirror, Liz breathed a sigh of relief, until she realized that Stevens had probably already called to alert Max to her whereabouts. Max was going to be furious with her, if he wasn’t already. But, Liz told herself, if he had just been more reasonable about this, she wouldn’t have had to resort to sneaking off like that.

Okay that wasn’t fair. It was her decision to do this. Just because Max had been unreasonable didn’t mean that she had the right to just do whatever she felt like without culpability for her actions. She was probably being just as unreasonable as Max was.

Liz supposed that she could have asked Max to come with her. But she was afraid that he still would have said no. Deep down, she felt Max had other reasons besides fearing for her safety that made him want to stop her investigation. She was trying to ignore those intuitive feelings, but it was getting difficult. Max was so adamant about keeping her away from whatever happened to Tess.

But what reasons could he possibly have, other than his fears for her safety?

Liz turned into the residential neighborhood that Tess’ house was in. All of the houses looked the same. Small, charming little cottages that had cute little gardens attached to them. Well, okay, they weren’t all the same. They just seemed to have similar looks to them. Liz had to admit that it was a cute neighborhood. Too bad Tess would never see it again, she thought.

Squinting her eyes as she looked for her house and turning down the radio (why do people always do that when they are looking for something while they drive?), she finally spotted the house she was looking for. She pulled into the driveway and waited for Stevens to pull up behind her.

“What are you doing, Ms. Parker?” asked Stevens. “I don’t think Mr. Evans would appr - “

“Mr. Evans isn’t my keeper, Mr. Stevens,” she retorted icily before he could finish. Just because she realized that Max may have a point about her safety didn’t mean she had to cower to his orders.

Liz stopped by Tess’ mailbox, scanning it for any mail. While Stevens was walking toward the front door, she stuffed an envelope from a bank in LA in her purse.

“Liz, I think we should call the police,” said Stevens, pushing open the door. Liz gasped. Tess’ place was completely ransacked. The sofas were all turned over and papers were scattered all over the room. But, there was a thin layer of dust on everything, so whoever broke in here did it a long time ago. She wondered if Tess kept anything important here.

Probably not, she mused, remembering the key and the entire point of her search up here. If Tess was as smart as Liz thought she was, anything important would be in that safety deposit box.

“I’m calling the police now,” said Stevens, and Liz nodded. Max was going to have a fit.

Or was he? “Did you call Max yet?” she asked, before Stevens had a chance to punch in the number.

“Not yet. But I’m going to have to call him sometime. I take it he doesn’t know about your little trip?” Stevens quirked an eyebrow.

“I think you know that he doesn’t know,” responded Liz, folding her arms.

Stevens nodded and dialed the police. He almost hated having to call Max. He didn’t want to be around for World War III. “Couldn’t you just hire someone to do this for you?”

Liz smirked. He had a point. But she couldn‘t do that. “I don’t trust anyone else to do this right.”

***
“Liz! Liz are you here!” Max called upstairs, frantically searching for her after waiting for eons for her to come to the door. He had finally used his key to get in, his worry for her superceding his common sense. It had escaped his notice that her car was not in the driveway. He didn’t like it that he had been calling all morning with no response from Liz.

He supposed it should relax him that Stevens must be with her, but after what happened to Liz before, it didn’t. His nerves were already on edge after their argument earlier that week and he had been trying to figure out a better way to handle the Tess situation. He never wanted to cause this sort of rift to pop up between Liz and himself.

After all of the effort and time he had spent getting Liz to trust and open up to him, this Tess thing was really causing a problem between them. And he wanted it to stop. It had to stop. He had to tell Liz the truth. He had to tell her why he was so adamant about her not following the leads surrounding Tess’ death.

But a part of him was angry. Angry that he would be forced to reveal himself to Liz so soon, when their relationship was still in its infancy. Angry that he wasn’t able to save Tess. Angry that he wasn’t there to save his sister. And angry that if the same thing happened to Liz, he wouldn’t be able to save her either.

His cell phone rang loudly, pulling him out of his depressing and angry thoughts. “What,” he said shortly, into the phone.

Alex was a bit taken aback by his curt response. “Max? This is Alex,” he said.

Max quirked his lips together in a grimace. “Hi, Alex. If you’re looking for Liz, I don’t know where she is,” he said grimly.

“Well,” started Alex, his voice wobbling uncertainly. Maybe he shouldn’t tell Max about this. Wasn’t it Liz’s business what she did?

Max sat on the couch, holding the phone, waiting for Alex to say something else. “Yeah Alex?” he ventured, hoping Alex would say something soon. He wanted to call Stevens and find out what Liz was up to. He stared at the floor for a moment, needing to concentrate on something other than his worry for Liz.

Then his gaze fell on some particles on the carpet. Liz normally kept her place so spotless that he stooped to pick up the dirt. Then he realized it wasn’t dirt. It looked like potpourri. But somehow he knew that it wasn’t. He expelled a harsh breath when he realized what it was. Dried rose petals. He peeked under the couch and almost swore. A dead rose. And somehow he knew that it wasn’t from the first batch of roses she had been sent from her stalker. This rose was new.

Liz had gotten another ‘gift’ from her stalker. And she had kept it from him. “Dammit!” he swore finally, and Alex jumped.

“What? What happened Max?” he asked, concerned.

“Liz got another gift from her stalker. Did she mention it to you?” he asked, his voice laced with anger and frustration.

“No, no she didn’t mention it,” replied Alex, his voice grave. He didn’t have a choice now. He would have to tell Max what Liz was up to today.

“I cannot believe she didn’t tell me,” Max was saying, his voice shaking with trepidation.

“I think I know why, Max,” said Alex slowly. Max wasn’t going to like this.

“Why then? Why would Liz keep something this important from me? I’m only trying to keep her safe,” protested Max.

“That’s what I told her Max. But she is angry that you don’t want her to investigate what happened to Tess,” said Alex, as Max suppressed a snort. Liz could be so stubborn.

“So she keeps critical information from me?” exclaimed Max, practically yelling.

“Hey, don’t shoot the messenger,” answered Alex. “But there’s something you need to know.”

“What is it now?” asked Max, feeling a headache coming on. And he never got headaches.

“Liz … “ Alex sighed. “I wasn’t going to say anything, because I didn’t think it was my place to … but … now after the roses and stuff … I think you need to know.”

Max felt his heart rate quicken sporadically. “Know what?” he demanded.

“Liz left for Sacramento this morning. She went to find out more about what happened to Tess.”


posted on 15-Jul-2002 2:40:29 PM by Behrable dream
Hey everyone!!

I am soooo sorry for leaving you guys hanging like that... I hit a sort of block and then I got sick, and well... real life is really kicking my butt right now. But I am almost finished with the next part... (I did some heavy rewriting) and I am just about satisfied with it...

I promise not to do this to you guys again...

Sorry about that... I really got behind with my dissertation work and I had to divert some of my effort to that after I got well... My advisor is a slave driver!!

I promise to have the next part up by no later than tomorrow...

-Behrable dream...

p.s. Thanks so much for the friendly bumps... you guys are balm for an aching writer's heart... *happy*

posted on 17-Jul-2002 1:22:53 PM by Behrable dream
Finally!!! Yesterday just didn't work out... I hope you guys enjoy. This is sort of a transitional piece... A little shorter than normal, but I hope still good...

Be back soon with more!!

And thanks for the wonderful feedback and bumps!!

*happy*

Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?


Chapter Twenty Five

Alex stared at the cellphone in his hand. After he told Max what Liz had done, Max reacted … explosively. That was the only word he could come up with to describe Max’s response.

He knew Max must be frustrated … and terribly worried about Liz. But a part of him wondered why Max was determined to keep Liz from investigating Tess’ murder. Couldn’t he work with her instead of against her if all he was worried about was Liz’s safety?

Alex supposed that Max just wasn’t the type to want to go around looking for trouble. But he did seem very tenacious. And it wasn’t like he spent his life looking at everyone else from behind a tree. Max seemed to be one of those guys who jumped into life and invited everyone around him to do the same.

And he was definitely responsible for forcing Liz to stop living her own life behind the tree, afraid to love again for fear of getting hurt. For that, Alex was grateful. He was grateful that Max had been there to help Liz with all of this stalker business too.

He just hoped that he and Liz weren’t headed for a meltdown with all of this tension building between the two of them. This Tess thing was really turning out to be a problem for them.

***
Max drummed his fingers against his steering wheel impatiently. He had called Stevens every half hour since he left L.A., but it wasn’t calming his nerves any. Tess’ home had been broken into, and he knew that it had to do with her death.

Of course, Liz was right about her suspicions, he was sure, but he still couldn’t have her just going after every lead like this. She was going to get herself killed. Either that, or she would discover everything about him before he could work up the nerve to tell her the truth. Max supposed that he should simply tell her now, before things got anymore out of hand, but he just wanted a little more time to build a solid foundation with Liz before he dropped his bomb on her.

As he approached Tess’ home, Max exhaled sharply. There were police everywhere. That relieved him slightly, until he thought about what could have happened to Liz if Stevens hadn’t been around and the people who broke into Tess’ home were still about. A slow, simmering rage built up in him and Max swore, abruptly stopping the car at the curb and getting out.

This was an impossibly difficult situation. And he hated having to deal with it. Tess was actually causing him more grief than she had while she had been alive. Liz was practically obsessed with discovering what had happened to her. And Max knew he was running out of time. And this made him even more angry.

He scanned the crowd for signs of Liz and Stevens, trying not to let his anger blur his vision. But it was hard. Then he saw Liz, standing next to Stevens, talking to a police officer. Max’s brows knit together, the tension making his head hurt. When he saw Liz turn away from the policeman, Max strode purposefully in her direction and grabbed her by the arm, leading her away from the others.

Liz was startled at first, but then she relaxed slightly as Max led her away. He had a right to be angry, she knew, but who did he think he was? “Max - “ she began, but Max wouldn’t hear of it.

“I cannot believe you left L.A. without telling me Liz,” he started hoarsely, his voice strained.

Liz winced slightly. Max ground the words out with barely restrained anger. “I did try to tell you Max. And you ordered me not to go. I don’t take orders,” she returned defiantly.

“Liz I was only trying to protect you!” snapped Max, his last vestiges of control slipping away as he blew out a forceful breath.

Liz stared at him. “Protect me!?! You were trying to control me!” she exclaimed, starting to move away from him.

Max caught her arm and drew her closely to him so that her nose rested just under his chin. “Do you have any idea how scared I was for you when Alex called me and told me about where you were? I had just discovered that you got another gift from your stalker Liz. Do you have even a clue of how scared I was that someone had gotten to you?”

Max said the words in a rush, his voice low and gravelly. They sent a chill of regret through Liz, and she shuddered slightly against him. She swallowed the lump in her throat and tried to will herself to speak. But there wasn’t really much to say. Max had every right to be angry with her. She had acted rashly.

Liz sighed softly in despair and shut her eyes, trying to figure out what to say to Max. She had to make him understand. This obsession, this compulsion to solve Tess’ murder … it went beyond anything she had ever experienced before. She didn’t really understand why she needed to do this. She just did.

Max softened his hold on Liz when he heard her desolate sigh. He hadn’t meant to lose his control like that. He wasn’t angry with her, he was angry at the situation. If anything, he was only frustrated with Liz for running off like that and not telling him about the new stalker gift.

Stevens watched the couple for a moment before approaching. He cleared his throat nervously, not wanting to interrupt them.

Max and Liz broke apart, with Max still looking a bit frustrated. He glanced at Stevens in slight irritation. “What is it?”

“The police want to cordon off the area,” answered Stevens. “Perhaps we should be getting back to L.A.”

***
The drive back to L.A. was long, but it gave Max plenty of time to think. He had to tell Liz about his secret. But how? She was digging and digging and she would eventually wind up in a heap of trouble. Her knowing his secret didn't seem to be enough of a deterrent. What if she managed to get herself into the clutches of those who killed Tess? Who killed his sister?

Max let out an exasperated sigh. He pulled up behind Liz in her driveway and followed her inside. Liz turned to him with her hands on her hip, studying him.

"So?"

Max raised an eyebrow. "So?"

"Are you going to help me, or continue to try to control me?" she asked, looking at him pointedly.

"Liz - "

"No, Max! You - you just don't understand. I - I have to do this. I have to know why Tess was killed. And you can either help me, or just let me do it myself."

Max crossed the room in a few short strides. He pulled her to him and trapped her in the crosshairs of his intense gaze. "Liz. I want to help you. But all of this is simply too dangerous. I don't think I have to remind you about your latest gift. Don't go borrowing trouble."

"I can't let a stalker run my life, Max. I have to live it my way. I have to - "

"What about me, Liz?" asked Max, bringing his hand up to caress her face. "When I wake up and you're not there, it - I panic. When I don't know where you are, I lose it. I can't … I can't live without you Liz."

Liz was stunned into silence. She didn't know what to say. His passionate plea had rendered her dumb. "Max," she finally managed, lost in his deepening amber gaze.

"I - " Max stopped and zeroed in on the envelope in Liz's hand. "What's that?" he asked flatly.

"An envelope," said Liz evasively, and pressed her lips together.

Max snatched it out of her hands and read it. "I don't believe it."

"Max - "

"How on Earth did you manage to find this? Who are you, Lois Lane?" Max was completely outdone. How did she do it? He felt a mixture of supreme annoyance and pride at her craftiness. And also a pang of worry. Liz wasn't going to give up.

"I found it before the police got there. Look, it's from a bank here in L.A. Tess has an account there. I can go, and - "

"No. Liz - "

"Excuse me, mouth still moving. I'm still talking." Liz was not going to be deterred this time. "I can go and open it in her stead, somehow. Alex can set it up for me to get whatever is in this box." Her brows drew together as Max frowned, crossing his arms. "It's a good plan, Max."

Max shoved his fingers through his hair in frustration. It was a good plan. To get her killed. And to expose his secret. The secret he was trying to work up the nerve to confess to her. "It's not safe."

"How is that not safe? I just said Alex could - " Liz's eyes narrowed. Max was extremely wound up about this. She could sense his anxiety and something told her that he was worried about more than her safety. He looked like a man on the edge, someone who had to tell her something and didn't know how. She knew because she'd seen that exact same look before. Sean had done the same thing before his little meltdown. All of the blood drained away from her face.

"What? Liz, what is it?"

Liz chose her words carefully. "Is this - " she sighed. "Is this really about my safety?"

Max tried to hide the panic in his eyes. "Of course this is about your safety. You have a stalker and you are running after killers. Why wouldn't it be?"

"What are you so afraid of Max? What aren't you telling me?"

"I just don't want anything to happen to you Liz. You are practically begging for trouble. Why can't you just drop this and - "

"Let the police handle it? They dropped the ball on this Max." What are you hiding, Max Evans? she thought to herself.

Max jammed his hands into his pockets. This was getting him nowhere fast. He couldn't even suggest that she give the key to the police. Then he'd have them and Liz closing in on him. "I know that. But you aren't in a position to do this Liz. You have a stalker, and now we have no clue who he is, since the guy we thought it was is dead. Don't you have any idea how worried about you I am?"

Liz started to speak, but Max cut her off. "And now you want to go after people who have already killed. Not that they haven't already come after you anyway. I cannot protect you from everything. And I would die if anything happened to you Liz."

Visibly moved, Liz shifted onto her other foot. "You're changing the subject."

"Am I?"

"Yes. What is it with you Max? Why won't you just help me? Then we could do this together."

Max considered this for a moment. He just couldn't do it. He had to find a way to keep her from getting mixed up in the alien side of his life. If she was attacked like Tess had been, he was afraid he wouldn't be able to bring her back. He wasn't able to bring Tess back. He could live without Tess. He would shrivel up and die without Liz. "I can't do that Liz."

Liz's eyes went cold. Blank. "Fine. Then I'll have to do this myself. I know Tess was killed for a reason and I'm not stopping until I find out what it is!"

Liz turned away from him, intending to go slam some doors angrily, but Max caught her arm and swung her around to face him. He glared at her intensely for a long moment. The only sounds in the room were of her ragged breathing, and the small puffs of air coming from his nose. Liz had never seen him look so tortured and angry, all at once.

Which was why she was shocked to find his lips on hers, hot, desperate and consumed with frustration and fury.


posted on 31-Jul-2002 11:05:21 AM by Behrable dream
Hey!!

I'll have a new part up today or early tomorrow... I have been swamped with real life stuff... Summers in graduate school are the worst...

*happy*

posted on 26-Aug-2002 2:29:56 PM by Behrable dream
Title: NEVER AGAIN
Category: M/L AU Future Fic
Rating: PG to NC-17
Summary: Liz tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her fiance leaves her in a horrible way. Can she find love and passion again in the arms of a dark haired stranger? And will secrets from his past and hers threaten them once she finally lets him break down the walls between them?

Wondering if there are any aliens in this story? Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and see.


Chapter Twenty Six

Max plunged his tongue roughly into Liz's mouth, his frustration rippling through him like hot lava. Desperation mingled with desire until Max was drowning in his own wrathful emotions. Liz moaned softly and Max softened the kiss, not wanting to hurt her. He drew her away from him, cursed and then dragged her back until Liz went limp in his arms.

The flashes started almost immediately after Liz's soft surrender. But they were jumbled, scenes of him and Liz arguing with a desert landscape stretching behind them. Words and phrases assaulted him like a spray of bullets, erratic and jumbled. "If this is about … what you're doing puts us at risk … may save your lives … pull that King card on me Max … not Isabel … boss … somebody killed … covered up his death … our friendship is over … guess that's the price I have to pay …

Max pulled away roughly, sucking in a pained breath. These flashes were consumed with emotional despair. Complete and utter pain and desolation. He didn't understand them. He and Liz were fighting over something, but he couldn't figure out what. More disturbing about it was the fact that he felt like he'd lost Liz. He'd lost her over whatever they'd been arguing over.

Liz stared at Max dazedly. Something was wrong. He was acting so strangely. A thin thread of panic raced up her back. She fought it down. Max was not Sean. He wouldn't just leave her at the first sign of trouble. He would talk to her. He would. She knew it. "Max?"

Max jerked from his thoughts and looked at her. He saw the worry, and worse yet, the fear. Immediately he pulled her to him and kissed her again, his intention to soothe. To protect.

Liz melted against him, until her problem radar sounded. She pulled away. "What's going on with you Max? And why are you trying to keep me from the truth?"

His voice lodged in his throat, Max dropped his hands away from Liz. He turned pleading eyes to her, needing her to understand. Needing her to drop her investigation. Had those flashes been an omen? Would he lose her over this?

Liz faltered in her resolve as his eyes bore into her. When his hand cupped her face lovingly, she fought desperately not to give in. She slapped his hand away, angry at herself for letting him draw her in like that.

Seeing her anger rise up, Max dragged her to him, hard-pressed to fight her alluring pull. It was all the more stronger now that she was ticked off.

“Max,” she started, stepping back from him and gazing at him, her eyes darkening with undeniable lust beneath the anger she felt at his refusal to let her investigate this. Her tongue darted out to lick her lower lip in frustration and Max exhaled roughly, grabbing her to him, plundering her mouth with his yet again. It may be his last opportunity. He had been holding back his passion for her for far too long, and their argument only heightened his desire for her. He wanted her more than he wanted air to breathe. He reached into her hair and tugged, loosening the pins that held it together. He loved the feel of her hair against his hands. It drove him nearly insane with desire when it brushed against his cheek as he kissed her.

Liz threw her head back as he broke away to kiss the side of her neck. But when Max captured her lower lip in his mouth and did his now familiar tugging, a shuddering gasp was torn from her and she pressed herself even further against him, causing him to stumble back slightly. Max recovered, but not before falling back against the sideboard behind them. A few knick-knacks were strewn on the floor, but he didn’t take heed. He could only focus on being with Liz.

His hands traveled to the back of her dress and he cupped her hips more closely to him. Liz gasped at the contact that she had been craving all day from him. But now that she was actually with him this way again, she was unprepared for the explosive emotions that he was creating within her. She didn’t think she could get enough of him.

When Max slid the strap of her dress down her shoulder with his teeth, Liz shivered in anticipation. Then, a certain boldness overtook her and she broke away from him, turning around. She leaned back against him and ground against him suggestively. His answering groan filled her with satisfaction that she could arouse him so.

Deciding to explore her options, she turned to face him, her hands moving to unbutton his shirt, sliding it off of his tanned skin reverently. Max had the most amazing body, one she never grew tired of seeing. His shirt soon puddled on the floor and Liz turned to look up at him as she ran her hands over his chest and then she bent her head slightly and ran her tongue over his taut skin. Max tensed as an uncontrollable jolt of sensual pleasure ripped through him and his hands unconsciously came up to cup the back of her head. He could feel his blood practically popping and fizzing in his veins, and of course, all of his blood seemed to be headed straight for his manhood.

Liz continued her sweet torture of him, and Max longed to see more of her. Her dress looked beautiful on her, but he wanted to feel her soft skin flush against his. As she avariciously sucked on one of his erect nipples, Max dragged the zipper of her dress down and soon, it too was in a puddle on the floor. Taking in the incredibly sexy lacy slip she wore underneath, Max tried to take in a deep breath. But it was as ragged as all of the other breaths he had been able to suck in, and he couldn’t stop staring at her seductive form.

His hands cupped her hips more closely to his, but it still wasn’t close enough. Nothing would be close enough, except … Max tried not to let his mind get that far. He wouldn’t last long, thinking thoughts like that.

Liz reveled in the feel of his smooth skin beneath her fingertips and lips. Getting more and more bold, she lowered herself until she was kissing the skin of his abdomen. “Liz!” gasped Max, completely unprepared to feel her dragging her teeth against his lower stomach like that.

Liz smiled deviously and then moved to kiss and nibble the skin of his side. Max threw his head back and moaned helplessly. He had been with women before, but Liz was making him insane. What was it about her that rendered him so … helpless in her hands?

Missing the feel of her lips against his, he dragged her head back up and delved into the deep cavern of her mouth again. Her lips were swollen and puffy from kissing his body and he savagely thrust his tongue inside her mouth, mimicking the act he so desperately wanted to perform with her.

Pressing herself against him even more, Liz sighed with relief when Max placed both of his hands firmly on her buttocks and scooped her up against him. The contact of her core rubbing against his erection made her gasp out. “Max,” she gasped hoarsely as he ground against her. She lifted her leg slightly and Max grabbed both of them, wrapping them around his waist.

Walking with her wrapped firmly around him, Max stopped and pressed her against the wall, kissing her fiercely. Liz threw her head back against the cool wall as he thrust against her and her hands fell away from him as heat began spreading from her womanness. She could feel the liquid fire pooling between her legs and she ached to have him bury himself in her.

Max took her hand in his and clasped their fingers together, squeezing gently. He stopped kissing her swollen lips only to greedily take in large gulps of air and then he bent his head, kissing the skin that was exposed by her lacy slip.

His other hand traveled between their lower bodies and he inched her slip even further up until he could place his hand near her core. Leaving her pressed firmly against the wall, Max pulled back to look at her as he slipped his finger inside her panties. Liz gasped as he inserted his finger inside of her and then dragged it out slowly, still thrusting against her slightly. Liz beat her head back against the wall and bit her lip, stifling the cry that almost nearly erupted from her mouth.

Max’s finger, covered in her wet heat, was drawing a trail of fire over her womanness. Liz’s nails dug deeper into his shoulder, not wanting him to stop. If he stopped, she knew she would explode. He began rubbing the area between her core and her sensitive nub, scalding it with her wetness. “Oh,” she moaned, not knowing what to do. She started writhing against his hand, believing this to be the most blissful experience of her life. She couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to have him inside of her.

Soon, Max’s hand found a rhythm, and he dragged his finger repeatedly over her heat, sending a spasm of delight through Liz as she helplessly ground herself into his hand, reaching for the release she knew only he would bring. Her head was thrown back wantonly, and her lips were parted. Heavy-lidded were her eyes as she gazed into Max’s.

The breath that she had left nearly left her. His amber eyes had darkened to an almost black color, flecked with fiery gold that flared when she returned his gaze. He began thrusting against her again, his hand still working its magic on her core, driving her to the brink, all while holding her captive in his heated gaze.

Liz felt like she was on some sort of drug. Her arms felt heavy and she couldn’t concentrate on anything except the feelings Max was invoking in her and on how much she wanted him to send her over the edge. “Max,” she pleaded, hoping he would know what she wanted - no, needed, from him.

Max abruptly pulled her away from the wall and swung her around to lay her on the couch, his hand still doing its magic. He returned his lips to her breasts, kissing and fondling them while still driving her insane with his other hand. Liz ran her fingers in his hair, wanting to touch him in some way. Slowly, he pulled her slip up and then pulled her panties down until they were able to join her dress on the floor.

Liz was in too much of a heady state to notice their absence, but when she saw his head kissing its way down, she watched, wide-eyed. Max’s tongue whipped out and covered her belly button and Liz cried out his name, gasping once again for breath. But when he slowly moved down, his breath tickling her skin, Liz waited breathlessly in anticipation.

Max glanced up at her again, and their eyes locked as he lowered his tongue to her, flicking it over her aroused femininity hotly. “Oh!” Liz nearly screamed and her hand fisted in the sofa cushions. Encouraged by her response, Max captured the sensitive nub in his mouth completely and began sucking. Liz fell back against the couch, her back arching and her legs rising. Max grabbed her hips and pulled her even more closely to his mouth as his tongue dragged itself all over her womanness.

God, she tasted good. He wanted nothing more than to drink of her until he could get no more. He thrust his tongue inside of her over and over again, sending a fiery sensation rippling through Liz as she thrashed about on the couch. Deciding to take her completely over the brink, he inserted his finger inside of her and then took her swollen nub directly into his mouth again.

Liz felt her body’s energy gathering right underneath Max’s fingers and lips and she bucked wildly against him, thrusting herself right up into his mouth. Max pulled her even closer and Liz felt herself tumbling headlong into erotica. A scream started in the back of her throat as his finger thrust into her and she couldn’t help but yell out, “Yes! Yes, Max! Oh!” over and over again as endorphins began to flood her body.

Max grunted against her, extremely aroused by her body’s reactions to his touch. He wanted to so much to bring her pleasure like she’d never known that he plunged his finger even deeper inside of her and then inserted another one.

Liz couldn’t have stopped if she’d wanted to. And she didn’t want to. She didn’t want this to end. Ever. “Don’t stop,” she begged. “Please don’t stop Max.”

Max began moving his fingers at an even faster rate and sucking on her heat as though his life depended on it. He wanted her so badly. He wanted to make love to her. Now, before the secrets between them ripped her away from him.

Sweat poured down Liz’s body as she pressed herself even further into him, thrusting against his fingers. She felt the familiar sensation of an orgasm well up within her as her center throbbed and pulsed wildly. “Oh … oh … oh … OH … OH!! Ma- Maax!” she cried, her back arching completely off the couch as her walls clamped down on his fingers and a blinding orgasm broke over her and she screamed out his name over and over again. “Max … Max … MAX … MAX!!”

But Max didn’t stop pumping into her. Instead, he continued and Liz felt another orgasm start just after the last one finished. No longer able to form complete sentences, or even words, she merely moaned with pleasure as her body shook and convulsed around Max’s lips and hand.

Max moved up to kiss her full on her mouth as he continued to stroke her. Becoming even more aroused by the taste of her on his lips, Liz shook forcefully in his hands and tried to will herself to think. She didn’t even know what had happened. One minute they were arguing and the next, she was lying half-naked in his arms.

“Max - “ she started tensely, before Max planted another heated kiss on her. His tongue plunged into her mouth and Liz felt her resolve weakening. She couldn’t deny the passion that flowed between them, and their argument only seemed to heighten the sexual tension that almost always lay simmering beneath the surface. But even still, she couldn’t let this continue. “Max,” she stated forcefully, breaking away from him.

Max’s face clouded over in confusion. Liz’s demeanor had completely changed. “What is it?” he said, bending to kiss the swell of her breasts.

“This doesn’t change anything,” sighed Liz, fearing that she was about to lose control again. She couldn’t think when he touched her like this.

Max stopped and gave her a penetrating look. Had Liz just accused him of trying to seduce her into giving up her quest? “What are you accusing me of?”

Liz met his eyes directly. “I think you know,” she said, reaching for her panties. She didn’t want to believe that Max would use their passion as a way to control her, but under the circumstances…

“No, I don’t know,” stated Max. “What I feel for you … it’s strong. Really strong. I’m sorry if I can’t seem to control it all the time, but I would never use it as a tool against you Liz. Never." His eyes narrowed and his voice deepened to a husky whisper. "I want to make love to you. Right now.”

Max said the last words so emphatically that Liz stopped in her tracks, her dress clutched in her hand. She shouldn’t have accused him like that. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t as if she didn’t want him too. She wanted to bring him pleasure too. The evidence of his … arousal … was rather obvious. The dress slipped from her fingers and she stepped toward him. She wanted him to make love to her. “I - “

Just then, the doorbell rang, accompanied by banging noises. Liz unconsciously jumped toward Max in fear and his arms wrapped around her protectively. Then she heard Maria’s frantic voice calling out to her and they both relaxed. “Liz! Liz! Are you home! I know you’re in there! I need to talk to you!! Liz!!”

Max moved to answer the door while Liz ran into the bathroom to put her dress back on. “Liz - Oh, Max. Hi. Is - is Liz home?” asked Maria, brushing past Max hurriedly.

“Uh … yeah. She’s in the bathroom. She’ll be out in a minute,” answered Max, looking at how irritated Maria looked. Actually, she looked worse than irritated. She looked wrecked. After she ripped her shades off, he could see that her eyes were bloodshot. Like she had been crying. Instantly he was concerned. “Maria are you alright?”

Maria tensed and turned away from him. “Max, could you get me something to drink, please?”

I can take a hint, thought Max as he nodded and walked into the kitchen to fix a drink for her. He scrubbed his hands and splashed water on his face to regain control of his own emotions. Then his thoughts returned to Maria. This must be a girl thing, he mused, filling a glass with ice cubes and then a diet coke.

When he returned, Liz was sitting with Maria, embracing her in a hug. She reached for the drink, murmuring a “thanks, Max,” before her attention was taken by a loud sniff from Maria. She turned to look at Max, mouthing, could you leave us alone for a second? to him. Max nodded and retreated outside to the patio. He could watch the sun set.

He'd barely closed the door when he heard Maria's wail. "Liz," she cried miserably. "Michael - he - it's - it's all been a lie. Everything's a lie!"

"What?" asked Liz, her skin prickling. Had Michael betrayed Maria like - God forbid - Sean betrayed her?

"He's been lying to me since we met," sobbed Maria, dropping into Liz's arms.

"Nothing worse than a liar," mumbled Liz. "I'm so sorry Maria."

***
Out on the patio, Max tried to block out their voices. But he'd heard enough. Michael had apparently lied to Maria. About something critical. She looked absolutely devastated by the news.

It made him feel like he had little time to tell Liz about his own past. And part of him wondered if Michael had finally told Maria about his origins.

Would Maria leave him? Would Liz leave him once she knew?

Or worse, would she look at him like he was a freak?

He'd die if she did. He could handle almost anything. But a rejection by Liz would kill him. He loved her so much, he couldn't imagine a life without her.

***
"So what happened? What did he lie about?" asked Liz, rubbing Maria's hair as Maria's sobs subsided.

"I can't tell you," she sniffed. "But let's just say I know some things about him that change everything - "

Maria abruptly stood and began pacing, looking for something to throw. But she didn't want to break any of Liz's things. "God this can't be happening to me!"

Liz merely looked on as Maria began ranting to herself. "Why didn't you tell me sooner Michael? How could you let me marry you not knowing - " She stopped abruptly, fearing she'd said too much.

Liz had a concerned look on her face. "Maria, are you sure you don't want to tell me - "

"Look chica. Michael has …" her lips quirked, " - a medical condition. One that changes how our lives will go from here on out." She tossed a glance at Liz. "I just wish he'd told me sooner. It wouldn't have changed anything between us." Her voice became wistful.

Liz raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure?"

"I wouldn't have let it. I - " Maria stopped and broke down, her tears flowing freely now.

Words failing her, Liz grabbed on to Maria and let her cry herself out.

***
Max paced. And paced. And paced. The patio was not big enough for the amount of walking he'd done.

He should just tell her now. Right now. Of course, then there would be two wrecked women in there, instead of one.

It couldn't be a coincidence that Michael was found wandering in the desert, just like he and Isabel had, could it? Was Michael like him?

Max rubbed his jaw, chewing the side of his mouth. "That would explain Maria's reaction," he said quietly to himself. "He told her the truth about himself."

Even though he didn't want them to, the fear that Liz's reaction would be the same or worse, flooded him. What if Liz reacted the same exact way to him? He didn’t want to take that risk.

He didn't want to lose her. But time was running out.

***
Maria pulled herself together. Perhaps she could distract herself. "What's happening with you? I feel like I interrupted something earlier," Maria said, her eyes still moist and sad.

Liz shook her head, intending to stay focused on what happened with Maria and Michael. But Maria placed her hand on hers. "It'll help distract me." Her eyes narrowed. "You never explained what happened when you talked to Sean at the Crashdown."

Liz paused, trying to figure out what to say and what to leave out. "I thought my stalker might have been my shooter from long ago. But one of the guys who was in the café that day is dead. Maybe it's the other guy."

Maria's brow raised, a flash of temper flaring in her hazel green eyes. "And you were planning to tell me this when?"

"You were on your honeymoon, and then … "

"And then what?"

"I didn't want to worry you with it," finished Liz lamely. Actually, the truth was, she didn't want yet another person telling her that she shouldn't be pursuing the Tess thing.

"Like you were worrying Max with it before I showed up on your doorstep?" Maria was too perceptive for her own good.

"We were arguing about my pursuit of leads about Tess. Max just wants me to drop it, but I can't." Liz's eyes latched onto Maria's. "I can't Maria."

Maria knew Liz wouldn't back down until she'd discovered the truth. The truth was so important to her. "Do you still need that safety deposit box key?"

Liz shook her head. "I've got that covered."

Neither woman saw the small listening device buried in a small bowl on Liz's console table.

In a plush office, Nikolas listened to the two women with a sneer on his face. He motioned to Rick, who was standing with his back to the door. "Technology. What might have been for the ancient Romans had they had it."