|posted on 18-Sep-2001 10:55:07 AM by dira|
|Title: You bet your life it is|
Author: Dira Oceansea
Disclaimer: Show is owned by the wrong people and hence, not mine. Story is mine, characters are being borrowed. Please do not sue, as I am poor third world country dweller.
Category: AU, M/L
Rating: So far, R
Author's note: Title from Tori Amos Cornflake Girl.
Part 1 - Walking the plank
No. No. No. NO.
"He's gone," he said, matter-of-factly. Why did he pretend this wasn't changing their world as the words vibrated inside his throat? Why did he not look like he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown?
"He can't be gone. He wouldn't. He wouldn't leave us," she said. Yes. It was true. He wouldn't.
"He's not here."
"He went for a walk."
"Maybe he's gone to find that girl..." His voice trailed off.
"The one from his dreams."
"The ones he never told us about, but that we read each time you dreamwalked him."
"The little girl?"
"She's probably all grown up now."
"It's been years. No. It can't be. He'll be back, you'll see."
"No. He's gone."
Isabel was shaking. He couldn't have left. Not this... "What if they caught him? What do we tell Tess? How... No. They probably have him. They probably have him and they're torturing him. We have to get him back, Michael, we have to."
"He said he was going to leave, Iz. You heard him. We all did."
"HE CAN'T BE GONE. Don't tell me otherwise. I'm going to Tess. She'll help us find him. Nasedo, we can go to Nasedo."
"Max gave orders never to contact him. Not after he tried killing Tess..."
"Tess will help me," Isabel muttered, tearing Max's room apart in search for the keys. "He couldn't have gotten far, right? He's got to be nearby. He didn't take the Jeep, and everything is going to be just fine. We'll get him to come home. I'll apologize and he'll come back, right?"
Michael could feel his heart breaking. This was their fault. They'd hidden the Vilandra thing for so long, they'd all but forgotten about it, burying it somewhere inside their heads.
But the decision Max had made last week had shaken them to the ground, beaten them down.
He'd said, "We are not killing anyone. Not anymore."
Max had looked so broken.
Sorenson had died, and it was their fault.
He was... harmless. But fear had risen in their throats with the taste of bile. And they had waited for no explanation before pushing him against the wall with such force that the man would never have survived.
He'd been an innocent.
But not killing wasn't an option. There were so many dangers out there, lying underneath the streets, following them through every corner of this god-forsaken city.
Vegas was killing Max.
Max was killing people. A person. One man.
Sorenson was dead.
"We're not killing anymore."
Isabel cried in his arms, and they knew it was their fault. His, Izzy's, Tess'. They had killed Max. Just like Vegas.
But it was his words that had turned the world upside down, tilting it as far as it would go and letting it loose.
"No wonder your sister betrayed you before. You're not fit to rule," he'd reproached, hiding his own faults, his own guilt, behind the hate-tinted words.
Max's eyes had narrowed, becoming nothing but slits.
He was not angry at Isabel for Vilandra's past sins. They were and they were not 'the ones from before'.
"Leave the past be," Max had said.
He was angry with all of them, for keeping a secret, a secret that could have been used against them. For betraying his trust, for keeping hidden messages and holding secret meetings.
"I'm leaving," he'd said. Stated it clearly.
They had chosen to ignore it. Ignore everything.
And now he was gone.
Tess paced the length of Max's room. Exactly forty-five steps.
"What if we find his girl? The one from the dream?" she asked. There was still a trace of jealousy in her tone, but she masked it well. She and Max had decided long ago that this desert had a larger expanse than their feelings for each other, and thus they would stay only as friends.
Their friendship would last longer than the desert, right?
But now he was gone.
And they were nothing but a broken compass. She was the south. Isabel and Michael were east and west. And Max had always been the north, and the arrow had always pointed to him.
Now the arrow just spun incessantly, looking for a place to rest.
Decisions just tossed about for them to make.
They hadn't decided anything on their own in years. Years.
Not since high school.
"We don't know what she looks like, or where she lives. Even if we did, he wouldn't be there. Those dreams were years ago. They were grade school dreams," Isabel reasoned.
Michael and Tess exchanged secretive glances.
"What is it?" Isabel's impatience was evident in her voice. "No more secrets," she whispered, her eyes filling with tears. "It's what got us in this mess in the first place."
Michael assented. "Two weeks before the... incident... he started having the dreams again. She was still a little girl, and he was still little too. And then, for a fraction of a second, he'd see the girl's face as it is now. But by the time he'd woken up, he couldn't remember anything about her."
"I still think he was taken," Isabel argued, crossing her arms over her stomach.
It hurt. It hurt so much.
"It's not your fault Iz. I convinced you not to tell..." Michael countered. She wanted this not to be her fault. That's why she was so adamant. If he'd been captured, then it wasn't her fault.
"It's my fault, your fault. We drove him away. We freaking screwed him up. We killed him. Not just Sorenson. We killed Max." Isabel sat on the edge of Max's bed again. Finally accepting it. Finally defeated. "We drove him away."
"Do you think he'll come back?" she asked, her voice tiny. She was once again a small girl, lost without her brother.
Michael sat next to her and folded her in his arms.
She didn't need to feel him shake his head against her hair. She didn't need to hear him say it. She knew.
Sector B. Quadrant 5. A capture had been made.
"Do you copy? Over."
"Yes, sir. We have him, sir. Over."
"Did he struggle? Over."
"Nothing the cattle prod couldn't handle. Over."
"How far are you? Over."
"Take the long road, don't double back. I want him unable to communicate. Be in Las Cruces by Friday. Over."
"Yes, sir. What about the others, sir? Over."
"We only need one. After we're done with him, we can get the others. Good job. Over and out."
A smile crept across his face.
Stevens had been waiting for this moment all his life.
The New York group had been of no use. They had died off quickly.
But not before mentioning the existence of another group, along the deserted lines of Nevada.
They had used all their existing methods. Every John and Jane Doe, every unknown, every question mark... they were all investigated. Every word to come out of their mouths. Every adoption record, every ward of the state.
The Sanders house was famous for its strays.
It became increasingly suspicious when four of the Sanders kids turned 18 and moved in together.
Vegas is a town that's easy to get lost in.
But Stevens never lost them.
The bugs were carefully placed by the robotics department, so as not to leave any residual energy.
The snatch had been made on a back alley. The house was too big a risk.
What those freaks had done to Sorenson had been a good show. They were violent.
Sorenson was a decoy that had served its purpose. His death was inconsequential to their plan, but it did help to add the one factor that he'd always known.
These weren't young adults. These were violent, irascible murderers.
And he'd rid the world of them.
Cold walls. White.
Drilling at his insides
Kicking at his outside
Bruises and cuts and...
Pinching and probing and sticking and...
Blood and gore
They were going to open him up and...
While he was watching...
Oh god oh god oh god oh god
I don't want to die today
It's not your fault Izzy
I was going for a walk, I really was
I want to tell you
It doesn't hurt anymore
You disconnect yourself from the pain
It hurts him, down there
I don't hurt
Yes I do
It hurts so much
I'd scream for mommy and daddy but I don't have any
Good old Mrs. Sanders couldn't save me
No one can save me from myself
I am evil
I am bad
They clean me, blue liquid white walls red blood
It stings and they clean but I'm dirty
I'm a bad alien
I don't want to die today
They have knives and everything
I'm glad you can't tell what I'm feeling Izzy
I'm talking to your absence, I'm mumbling
They know about us, run
I have to run
I have to run
I have to run
Code whatever the fuck the color of the moment is
The alien is loose
He's no more
Alien is loose
Dead or alive
Dead will do
There are others
The front door of the lab was locked.
They always locked it at midnight. She was always in until three am.
She liked being the night owl. Working at odd hours gave her a sense of privacy. Of not being observed.
Although, in reality, who watched her?
No one. No one had any need to.
No one wanted to.
She unlocked the door, walked out and locked it again. The night watchman waved at her and she waved back. At least the man was polite. The day guard was annoying as hell.
She'd had the satisfaction of telling Guard Sean De Luca off quite a few times.
She walked to the pick up and smiled at Alex. He was such a good friend. She and Maria had mentally kicked themselves over the years for not finding him attractive in THAT way.
"Hey," he greeted her, smiling. She hopped into the cabin of the pickup and kissed Alex's cheek. Alex grinned and gunned the engine. In response, Liz buckled her seatbelt tightly. Alex's driving reminded her of her failed relationship with Kyle. Fast, skidding, awkward, starts and stops. And they each missed the road signs. They were better as friends, really.
Of course, Alex's driving was, in many ways, worse than her headed-for-disaster relationship had been.
"Alex, I really wish you'd drive a little slower," Liz said, bracing herself by holding on to the hand support.
Alex laughed softly. "So how was your day?"
"Slow... I like things slow. Hint Hint."
"Really, how was it?"
"There haven't been any good breakthroughs lately."
"Well, the last one was pretty huge. And then it wasn't."
Liz nodded in agreement. Last month... last month the entire town had been abuzz with the latest news from the laboratories. The experimentation had been a success. They would be in the news.
But the buzz died down fast upon discovering someone had messed with the numbers to warrant himself a prized position.
"I really thought we had it, you know? I was certain this time. We were so close. And it would have helped so many people..." Liz's voice trailed off. This was her dream job. No. No it wasn't, not exactly, but it was what she'd wanted. She had thought that working in Harvard or teaching there would be her life passion.
But Las Cruces had beckoned her.
And here she was again, back home. Or as close to home as she could get without actually returning to Roswell.
The desert still expanded beyond the horizon, just the way she liked it.
"Well, maybe next time. Hey, before I forget, Maria got the gig."
Liz grinned giddily. "No freaking way."
"Yea freaking way. She called me today. She's coming back and rehearsing the entire next month at the club with us amateur folk, but next month it's Maria Time in Vegas, baby!"
Liz laughed at Alex's inflexion. He was doing the Maria, not watching the road. She glanced ahead and could see a bundle, getting larger as they approached. "Alex, watch the road. I think there's an animal there."
Alex switched lanes and slowed down a bit.
The form grew larger as they approached, and Liz recognized a human being as they got closer.
"Stop the car, Alex."
"That's a person."
"It could be a trick. You've heard the stories."
"We'll call 911," Alex said, fumbling to find the cell phone.
"Alex, stop the freaking car!"
Liz's foot found its way to the brake pedal and stepped on it. Hard.
Alex might be a bad driver, but there was a reason Liz didn't drive. HELL ON WHEELS.
The pickup skidded and screeched to a halt.
"LIZ, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!"
Liz ignored Alex and pushed the door open. "Keep the lights on," she said to him as she ran towards the pile of humanity folded on the floor. "We don't want to get run over."
It was a man. A young man, his features chiseled but his eyes gaunt, hollow. Even though they were closed, the pain in them was evident.
He was trembling, trembling in the cold desert night.
He was completely naked, his skin sticking to his bones. Lacerations covered almost every inch of him. Needle marks, half-healed cuts, signs of electrocution. Liz ran the list through her mind over and over. He had to be dead. But he wasn't.
Or, at least, he was breathing.
"Alex, do you have a blanket?" she asked. Alex had slowly walked towards her, and now his mouth hung open, dry and speechless. He nodded, quickly running towards the car. He grabbed a blanket and shuddered. That man was broken, beaten. Yet he was still breathing.
As he approached, he could see Liz's hand reaching out for the man. He recoiled, shivering against the cold wind. "Please," he whispered.
Liz had never seen a man cry. But this one... he was bawling like a baby. His fear was palpable, the air around him seemed to swirl along with his pain. He was probably suffering recurring bouts of nausea, her medical mind kicked in. "It's ok. We won't hurt you. We'll take you to the hospital."
"No... they'll get me there. Not the hospital. Please..." his voice was shaky, strangled. His mouth formed the words but he had almost no strength to voice them out.
Liz was genuinely worried. What was so wrong that he feared he'd be tortured in a hospital? Who were 'they', those he feared? "We'll take you to my place, then. You'll be safe."
"No," he whispered. "Just let me die."
He needed the strength to get to a pay phone and call Izzy, call someone, warn them to make their move, disappear. But he had so much in his system. His eyes only saw a blur instead of a woman, this woman that was talking to him. He curled up tighter. Maybe she was in on this. Maybe she would hurt him. Maybe she was a trick, along with her friend, a trap waiting for him to fall into it. Maybe he'd just stop breathing and let go in the middle of a cement road.
"I am not leaving you here," Liz stated, taking the blanket from Alex's hands and covering the shivering man before her. "And you don't have the strength to fight me."
Max felt defeated. Well, if he was going to die, he might as well stop fighting it. This had drained so much energy from him, he was as good as dead.
It was his fault. It was his burden. He had killed, and this was retribution.
"Alex, help me carry him," Liz ordered, somehow managing to make the man stand up. Most of his body was covered by the blanket; what remained exposed was mottled with dark bruises and fresh cuts.
Alex tried to hold up most of the man's weight. "Ok, buddy, a few more steps."
"Tell Isabel that it's not her fault," Max whispered, his mind slipping in and out of consciousness.
"You'll tell her yourself, ok?" Liz reassured him.
"Please tell her... promise..." Max mumbled, his eyelids becoming heavy.
"I promise. I'll tell her you..."
"Max. Tell her Max said it. Tell her I love her, and Michael and Tess..."
"I'll tell them," Liz promised, helping Alex prop the man (Max... he now had a name) on the seat.
Max winced and moaned once before slipping into complete oblivion.
The man with a name and a face and so much pain was out cold.
"Is he alive?" Alex asked, waiting for Liz's reply instead of entering the car.
Liz dug into her purse and found a mirror. She held it up to Max's nose and watched as it fogged up. It would have been easier to take his pulse, but she didn't want to bruise him any more. "Yeah, he is. Let's get him to my place."
"He needs professional care..."
"Which I can provide for now. You heard him... he's terrified of the hospital. He needs warm covers and some attention and we'll figure out the rest tomorrow."
"He might be some sicko nut, a psycho, a basket case."
Liz tugged the covers around Max so that they covered him better, careful not to touch any of his wounds. "Look at him, Alex. He's so weak... whatever he is, he won't harm me tonight. Now drive. And hand me the c-phone. I want to call Kyle and tell him to get me some stuff from the drugstore and to bring over some old clothes and new underwear."
Alex assented, hoping with all his heart that Liz knew what the hell she was doing.
She had a weakness for wounded birds, and she had a strong proclivity for picking up strays.
And this Max fellow seemed to fit both categories nicely.
Where is he?
The alien is out on the streets.
How had he managed to take out his tracking device?
How had he managed to deactivate the shields? How had he gotten out?
Heads would roll, only to be served up on a platter later on.
Had he recovered his powers? Would he become more violent? A threat to the population at large?
Would they need to capture the others?
Or would they just wait until he made his move?
It was obvious the search efforts had been futile. He was gone.
Now wasn't the time to cry over the spilled milk. Now was the time to wait. To wait for the right instant. For the first mistake.
It would come soon enough.
Will try to post part two again tonight... this is a repost, some might have gotten this on the old board, but just in case...
Please leave feedback. It speeds up the writing...
*Denial dreamer: There's no such thing as season 2.*
*Fictional Dreamer... borrowing Angela's idea... it is in fanfic where dreams come true*
*Proud -yet inactive- member of the Isabel Evans Haters Alliance*
"Never was a cornflake girl... thought it was a good solution." -- Tori Amos
Edited by - dira on 09/20/2001 10:45:51
Edited by - dira on 09/21/2001 10:11:28
Edited by - dira on 09/28/2001 11:54:08
[ edited 2 time(s), last at 31-Oct-2001 1:45:19 PM ]
|posted on 19-Sep-2001 10:44:08 AM by dira|
|Disclaimer included in part 1|
Part 2: Nasty little bugs
Kyle knocked on the front door of Liz's apartment.
In all honesty, he was expecting the worst.
She had, after all, called him at four am. Asking for a pharmacy run and men's clothes.
If he was expecting bad, he got worse. What he saw was far beyond his worst nightmare.
Alex opened the door and silently led him to Liz's room. There, in the middle of the bed, a very naked man groaned and pulled off the blanket that covered him.
"I can't get him to stay covered. I think the fabric is chaffing him," Liz stated, not even blushing. This was serious business. "Did you get what I asked for?"
Kyle nodded, his eyes intent on the ghastly form before him. "What the fuck happened to him? And why isn't he at a hospital? Why is he here?" He handed Liz the bag and she searched through its contents until finding what she was looking for.
"Alex, please pull these on him," she said, handing him a pair of loose boxers. "I'll explain everything to Kyle." The mortal glance she sent Alex's way suggested he better not complain about his assignment.
Alex nodded. The walls muffled the voices in the other room.
Slowly he pulled the boxers onto Max, trying hard not to touch any laceration. But it was an impossible task. Every inch of skin seemed to be sore, bruised, burnt or cut.
Liz returned to the room, followed by a sheepish Kyle. "Thanks, Alex," she whispered. She kneeled beside Max and pulled the bag with everything up to the bedside table. "I have to start working on his cuts; otherwise, he won't heal and they'll get infected. You can stay here if you want, or you can wait outside... It might be a little... gross for you."
Alex nodded. "Can I help?"
Liz thought for a second before assenting. "Why don't you boil some water? I might need to sterilize some needles later on, if I need to suture. Kyle, you can help me move him when I need to. He's still too heavy for me to..."
Both men nodded in acquiescence.
There he was.
The day was soft, the wind would touch his cheek ever-so-slightly.
He laughed that day, like he'd never laughed before.
She appeared out of nowhere and took his hand, waiting. Watching. Hoping.
She pulled him along with her, so small as she was...
Under the table, where no adults could see. It was their haven, their paradise.
She opened her hand and showed him.
All the worlds out there, she had the power to see everything. Every detail. For a fraction of a second, she could cross over to the other side of existence and smile at him.
"Look," she said, her voice rich like butterscotch, yet somehow broken. Raspy, like the gravel they had walked upon.
And he'd looked into her hands.
Under the table.
Where no one could see them.
Where their secret was safe.
And there they were. Or would be.
But he didn't.
There was a blur and her face was covered by it. But he knew she was lovely.
Her hands held the secret.
His scream filled the air, clinging to every molecule.
His eyes opened immediately.
"Kyle, hold him still," Liz ordered. Kyle nodded, doing as he was told. Alex almost collided with the doorway.
Max writhed and tried to escape his hold.
"Max, if you don't stay still I can't heal you."
Healing. She was trying to heal? It hurt so much, it did.
"I know it hurts, but I have no anesthetics."
Max bit his lip and, for the first time, looked directly at her. She was not as blurry as before, but he still couldn't quite make her out. He looked into what appeared to be her eyes. "I have to call someone."
"Later. After I'm done here and you eat and sleep."
"I need to call..."
"Isabel. You said so. You will. Just get yourself back together." She finished cleaning the cut on his chest and moved on to his stomach. The one close to his heart had been the largest one, the most painful-looking laceration she'd seen in years. "Look, trust me. You'll be safe here."
"I don't know you... I can't... trust you... You're with them, aren't you?"
"The name is Liz. That's Alex, this is Kyle. And you are in no shape to speak. So just try to sleep as I clean all these other cuts up. You don't need any stitches as I've seen so far. And no, we're not with them... whoever they happen to be. Whoever did this to you won't get in here."
Max wanted to keep arguing, but sleep was taking him over, threatening to consume him.
He wanted to be consumed. He was a burnt out candle.
He was scared and hungry and tired and hurt.
He wanted to trust this Liz.
But so far, life had taught him that trust meant nothing at all.
So he wouldn't trust. He'd just... sleep.
Liz finished cleaning the cuts four hours later. The care she was giving was pretty basic. Clean, put some ointment on the burns. She left everything without bandages, because she was certain occlusive bandaging would be worse.
She covered him with a light sheet and started cleaning up the mess she'd made. She'd gone through three packages of cotton and nearly one liter of rubbing alcohol. Blood made the cotton look like raw meat.
Ugh. Day one of vegetarianism.
He was running a fever, but Liz figured it would probably go down soon. She didn't want to inject anything into his system. He was sweating so much that she thought he probably had enough drugs inside him.
Kyle and Alex had fallen asleep on her living room couch long ago. She was exhausted as well. Morning had broken hours ago, and both Alex and Kyle had paying jobs to get to in a few hours. She had the day off, and even if she hadn't, she would have stayed home.
She was up for a sick day any time now, and she still hadn't used any vacation time.
"Kyle," she whispered, shaking him gently. "It's almost nine," she explained as he opened his eyes.
Kyle nodded, barely registering the information. Liz moved on to Alex, who was snoring lightly, and woke him up too.
Both men noticed how tired Liz looked. She had been up all day and all night. Sporadic periods of insomnia were not uncommon for Liz, which was one of the reasons she liked working nights. It was also another reason that led to her breakup with Kyle; she worked nights, he worked days.
"You should catch some sleep," Alex suggested. Liz gave him a half smile. "Humor me," he added, grabbing his coat. "I'll have the cell phone with me. Call if you need anything, or if you decide to take Max to a hospital."
"I've never seen that much blood... and the cuts... and cigarette burns," Liz whispered in disbelief.
"Whoever did that is fucked up," was all Kyle managed to say.
Liz nodded in agreement. "Go. I'll be fine. And I'll call if I need anything."
Alex patted Liz's head and followed Kyle out the door.
Liz paced the halls of her small apartment. It was more of a small house, but she'd taken to calling it apartment just for the heck of it. She liked to think that she was part of a bigger structure.
It was quiet and filled with sunlight.
Quiet and filled with the presence of a stranger.
She peered inside her room and found that he remained in the same position, sleeping on his stomach. Every few minutes, a small moan would escape his lips.
The apartment had never been this full at this hour. People would always be at work, and she would be either asleep or working silently in the kitchen.
She quietly made her way to the bed. He was facing almost to the door, his eyes shut tightly against the sunlight that streamed into the room. Gently, Liz's hand moved to his forehead. The fever was going down, which meant that there was probably no infection.
The thin white sheet did not cover his back. He was muscular, or at least had been before being starved half to death.
She would need to feed him. Make him drink lots of fluids.
The lacerations on his back were strangely shaped. It was as if he had been whipped, and as though the whips was covered in metallic spikes that were burning. The marks were at the same time scalding, cutting and cauterizing his skin.
Her fingers traced along the spaces that rested between the raw skin. It was almost impossible to tell if he was healing, there was almost no skin to compare to.
Cautiously her index finger reached to trace the largest cut on his back.
He shifted and arched off the bed in pain, his eyes shutting even more tightly before opening.
"Oh, god, I'm so sorry," she whispered. The cut had started bleeding once again.
She couldn't make out the words he was mumbling, his quiet litany. Maybe he was praying. Maybe he was cussing her out. "It hurts," he finally whispered. "Everything... Isabel... have to call... Isabel..."
"Isabel... Sanders... Vegas... Izzy... Tell her I'm fine... please? I have... warn her... need to... run... tell her to... run..." There was an urgency in his voice. He had brought his knees up to his chest and he was probably bruising himself more with the pressure. He seemed so scared...
"Do your remember the phone number?" Liz asked. Whoever this Isabel was, Max thought it necessary that she know his whereabouts. So she would find Isabel for him. Maybe this Isabel could convince him to go to the hospital.
"4...5... 4... no... 59... I... I can't remember..." his lower lip trembled. He was a little boy. A little lost boy.
"It's ok, Max, it's ok," Liz reassured him, running her fingers through his hair. It was growing back from being shaven, she could tell by the clumping. "I'll look her up on the phone book. But you have to promise me that you'll eat something. You are... weak... and you need to get your strength back to heal."
"I can heal myself."
Oh, so he and Maria shared a philosophy. "Yeah, I know that, but not until you're strong, right?"
Max's eyes looked a little panicked. What if she knew? What if she hurt him? "How... how do you know I can heal?"
Liz scrunched up her nose, puzzled but chalking it up to the fever. "You just told me. Now, get some sleep while I fix you something to eat."
Max nodded slightly. He was hungry. And thirsty. And aching, aching all over.
He'd gotten a good look at her this time. Quick, but good enough to trace her features. Liz. Her name was Liz.
Why did he trust her?
Maybe because she'd picked up a stray. He could barely remember last night, but he knew she'd taken care of him. Her and two others... her husband and a friend?
Her hair was dark brown and so were her eyes. She smiled. And she had a scar above one eyebrow.
He looked down at his body and was slowly brought back to reality. He couldn't be thinking about this girl's looks. He had to wonder how to get out of it, out of her care. He had to heal himself and get help.
Only he had no energy to use in his own healing. No adrenaline to keep him going. Just heavy eyes...
He had to call Iz, but he couldn't remember the phone number. He had pushed into the back of his mind so many things that it would take years to bring them back to the surface.
Liz had promised to help.
But could she?
Should he trust her?
And if he did, should he place her in the middle of this mess, whatever this mess was?
What if he got her killed...
Thoughts and ideas swirled around him. Time to sleep, his mind ordered.
His body could do nothing but obey.
Isabel set the table for breakfast once more.
Traditions, like bad habits, are hard to break.
Friday breakfast always meant the four of them. It was their temple, their mass, their church.
Now they were short a chapter, a limb, a soul.
Now the table felt empty and crowded at the same time.
She still set the table with four places.
She still wept.
Not a word for three whole months. This was not Max. Her baby brother. Max may have been angry, he may have hated them, but he would have never...
She was going to bring it up again.
She hadn't spoken of it for three months, but it was time to face it.
Once breakfast was over.
She wiped the kitchen countertop. So much dust. She'd have to dust later. One glance at her watch told her she might as well start now.
She opened the floor cabinets, looking for the feather duster. She knew it was in there somewhere, it was just a question of where.
Her hands groped at the walls of the cabinet, looking for the hook where the duster hung.
Instead, her hands came in contact with a small disk. She pulled it from the wall.
It was small and black.
And eerily similar to the device they'd used to spy on Sorenson.
It was a bug.
She could feel the tears making their way silently down her cheeks.
They were being heard. And probably watched.
Someone had Max.
"Canned beans," Tess called out. She held the pen up to the grocery list and watched the ink pool beside the words she'd just chanted.
She heard the clang of metal against metal inside the grocery cart. "Check," Michael muttered.
She crossed out the scribble of canned beans and went on to the next item. "Canned soup: chicken, tomato, broccoli and cheese, Jambalaya..."
Ink pooling. Clang, clang, clang... "Check."
"I'm gonna buy an Indio Rojo one, just to try it..." Michael stated, looking over at the label.
"That's Ecuadorian. What do Ecuadorians know about hot sauce?"
Michael shrugged and dropped the bottle into the cart. "What do cowboys know about cigarettes?"
Tess shook her head. "Huh? Never mind. Just get a couple of the red Tabasco and a couple green."
Ring. Tess's cell phone started ringing.
"It's Isabel," Michael added.
"Why don't you just get the message while you're at it?"
"I can't. Answer that, will you?"
Tess unfolded the phone and put it up against her ear. "Iz?"
"Just calm down. Where are you? Ok. What casino? Good. They won't hear you over the noise. Yes. Calm down. We'll be there in a few minutes." Tess closed the phone and started hyperventilating. "Man oh man oh man oh man..."
"What is it?" Michael asked, his eyes widening.
Tess loosened her grip on the cell phone. "We're royally screwed."
Hey again. This was just a repost of part 2. I'll try to get a new part out this weekend. Thanks for the lovely FB.
If this is your first time reading it, I encourage you to leave feedback, please.
*Denial dreamer: There's no such thing as season 2.*
*Fictional Dreamer... borrowing Angela's idea... it is in fanfic where dreams come true*
*Proud -yet inactive- member of the Isabel Evans Haters Alliance*
"Never was a cornflake girl... thought it was a good solution." -- Tori Amos
|posted on 20-Sep-2001 10:07:32 AM by dira|
|Disclaimer on part 1|
Part 3: Window or aisle
Her face in the scree.
That's what Michael had told him. Screeing glass. It was common among Native American tribes, and among the welsh.
It was used to see into the future.
Michael always knew odd things like that.
It was what the little girl's hands had held. A round mirror. His reflection did not appear.
Only her beauty.
Then the little girl screamed and the glass broke, shattering.
Pain. Her hands full of blood.
All he wanted to do was heal her tiny hands.
But his fingers only worsened the cuts, pushing the glass deeper into her palm.
And she screamed in pain.
Liz was awakened by his moans.
He was sweating out the fever, she sensed, placing her hand against his forehead. His skin was cold and clammy, but warmth radiated from his nose.
She took the temperature in a strange manner. The air he exhaled was hot, extremely hot.
He was feverish.
She gently shook him out of sleep, paying special attention not to bruise him any more. His skin was still tender in places, puffy in others.
His words were slow in coming. "I'm sorry... I didn't mean to... I'm sorry," he mumbled, over and over. He struggled to sit up, his eyes closed against the daylight. His arms found Liz and crushed her to his own body. Liz was certain he was hurting himself, and cringed at the thought of him being in any more pain. "Max..." she whispered gently. Soothing.
His eyelids fluttered open and he found he was almost choking Liz's breath. "I'm sorry... I..." He let her go.
Liz gave him a half-smile and surveyed him for any bleeding. Nothing. Good. "It's ok... you were having a dream?"
Max had instinctively distanced himself from Liz. She had the scent of the desert imbedded into her being, swirling around her aura like a sandstorm had gone through her. He couldn't answer, because he didn't know. Lately, he knew very little.
"I need to talk to Isabel..." he muttered. He ran numbers through his mind... "I can't remember..."
"It's ok... you've been through a lot..."
What had he been through? She had found him, a stray, in the middle of a deserted desert road; the wind swirling sand around him as he curled up on the freezing concrete, waiting for death to take him over.
"You have a fever," she added, almost as an afterthought. "We have to bring that down."
"No pills... no drugs..."
Liz assented. "My mother... she gave me a recipe for homemade fever reducer... You'll sweat it out."
Max nodded once. "Isabel..."
"I'll look up the number," Liz promised. "Isabel Sanders. Las Vegas. I'll get the number and we'll call. Don't worry..."
"DON'T WORRY? DON'T TELL ME NOT TO WORRY!" Isabel screamed, pacing the hallway outside the dining hall.
They were above the casino, so noise shouldn't be a problem. This was the cheapest section of the hotel.
"He's... alive. Or maybe he isn't anymore. But they had him. And whoever they are, they're well equipped. And we are screwed. Royally, completely, undoubtedly screwed," Isabel muttered, her thoughts diverging, her tears spilling. "They have Max... we need to get him back."
Tess closed her eyes against the wave of nausea threatening to knock her down. "Izzy... he hasn't contacted us in any way... that means his blocks are still up or... he's dead."
"Tess is right," Michael added. "We can't dwell on him... he could be gone... we have to get away."
"That's not what I'm saying," Tess interrupted. "I mean, I know we have to run, but we need to find Max too."
"What, and be four dead aliens with an unfulfilled mission instead of just one?"
Isabel spun on her heel and stopped her pacing. She raised her eyes, filled with unshed tears, and stated clearly, "I don't give a rat's ass what you two think... he's my brother and I'm getting him back. And if... if he's dead, then I'm going into wherever and I'm going to get his body out. He will not be a freaking guinea pig for them, another alien autopsy. Now you can come with me or you can just stand there and argue who gets to rule over our little dead planet in whatever galaxy it is."
"Isabel..." Michael started, but an icy look from Isabel stopped him.
"Yes. Fine. First we run. But we find a way to contact Max and then we find him. Or we find a way to get in touch with his dream plane... it outlasts the body..." Isabel explained.
Michael and Tess nodded.
Because there was absolutely nothing else they could do.
Liz dialed Kyle's number. He would probably be at the University at this hour. He taught two criminal law classes, and then a class at the police academy. Kyle had put his foot down at being a cop; he'd decided when he was eighteen that he would not follow the long line of men in blue his great-grandfather had started. But he'd been unable to stay away from civil service in some way.
So, yes, Sheriff Jim Valenti was a proud father.
"Hello," Kyle answered from his small office. Alex had taken to calling it the eraser room, not because any 'activity' went on inside, but because it was as tiny as their high school's makeout-central.
"Hi. It's me," Liz replied, biting her lower lip. Years of phone calls had made their voices familiar.
"Liz. How's the patient?" Kyle asked.
Liz sighed. "Sleeping. I'm going to fix him mom's Cold Brew."
"You need ingredients?"
Liz could practically hear him ruffling his car keys in his pocket, ready to help at the first sign of need. Kyle Valenti, man in blue at heart.
Not that she'd ever - EVER - tell him that.
"No... actually, I need a favor. He keeps asking me to find this Isabel girl. Isabel Sanders. In Las Vegas. So I was wondering if you could use any of your... cop connections or something... and contact her. Tell her Max is doing ok and that he's here."
"Family member?" Kyle asked. Liz heard a pencil flying across one of Kyle's meticulously neat legal pads.
"Probably. Maybe a girlfriend. Or wife. He doesn't have a ring, but he might have been robbed."
Had Liz been able to look at Kyle's raised eyebrow, she would have frowned. But Kyle had instinctively raised an eyebrow at Liz's comment on the ring. Liz wasn't the kind to check men for wedding rings. Maybe she, too, had a little blue blood in her. "Does our friend Max have a last name yet?" Kyle asked.
"None. Sanders would be my best guess."
There was a pause on Kyle's end of the line. "Sanders... last name rings a bell... Vegas, right?"
Liz nodded, then reconsidered. "Yea."
"I think it's an orphanage or half-way house for kids that are between foster homes. Dad used to organize a clothes drive in Roswell for The Sanders House in Las Vegas, remember?"
The memory slowly came back to Liz. "Oh, right! It closed some years ago, I remember."
"Right, ok, I remember now. The building burned, with all the records in it. I hope this Sanders girl isn't one of the Sanders house kids, because if she is, the only way I have to find her are phone listings, credit or police records."
"So what you're saying is, 'let's hope she robbed a bank'?" Liz asked, sarcastically.
"Basically. Look, I'll check it out and get back to you. If Max remembers the phone number, give me a call. Either way, I'll drop by later. Alex is picking Maria up from the airport, right?"
"Oh, crap. I'd forgotten about Maria..."
"Don't sweat it. I'll call Alex." Kyle sighed and Liz was almost certain he was smiling. "That's what friends are for... Look, go and make Max some of your Mom's waking-the-dead serum. Just... don't tell him what you put in. He'll live longer that way."
"Thanks, Kyle. You're a doll."
"And you're feeding me for the next week."
"Deal. Oh, remind Alex to take his camera to the airport and record Maria's triumphant descent from the airplane."
"Will do. Catch yah later."
"You have the cash?" Isabel whispered.
Michael nodded, patting his pocket.
"Good," Tess said, her voice almost absent. "Here's the plan. We each buy six tickets, two different locations. Michael, you buy our destination. All cash. If they're tracking us, that's one way of slowing them down."
"Where to... the real tickets?" Michael asked.
Tess closed her eyes for a second. "Your pick," she said, finally. "Just pick a place where it'll be easy to blend in... And pick fast. It'll only take them a few hours to trace our money. Once they figure out our accounts and the fake accounts are empty, they'll be hunting us down like..."
"Like aliens. He gets it. Let's go," Isabel said. "We meet back here in twenty minutes."
Michael's eyes were fixed on the chart of prices and destinations, flight times and arrivals.
He couldn't make up his mind.
A place to blend in. To get lost in.
That's what Vegas was supposed to be, right? The perfect place to be someone else.
Yep, that had worked out just swell.
"Watch where you're going, you big lug!" a voice from his left hissed. He stopped walking to see a short blonde picking up some papers from the floor. She smacked the side of his leg. "Hello! You could, like, help me here..."
"What the hell was that for?" he asked, bending down to help even as he was whining.
"That's Roswellian for 'Inconsiderate idiot'."
"I'm helping you, aren't I?" Michael bellowed. He gathered a stack of papers and piled them together. "Roswellian?"
"As in Roswell, New Mexico? Home of all things alien and Men in Blackberry pie?"
His hand smoothed a stepped-on airline ticket. De Luca, Maria. Las Vegas - Albuquerque. "That's where I'm going," he lied. "With my sister and her best friend. We're moving there..."
"Great. Just what Roswell needs. Another weird-haired freak," she muttered.
"Hey! Look who's talking! I mean, what is that?"
"It's called retro... why am I even talking about this? Have a nice life in Roswell... hope I never run into you again," De Luca, Maria said, storming off with her papers, dropping a few as she walked in the direction of Gate C1.
Michael picked one up as he walked to the ticket counter. De Luca, Maria carried sheet music. Weird chick.
But at least he had a destination now.
Roswell, New Mexico.
Home of all things alien.
Perfect spot to blend in. A town where aliens are the theme... no one would suspect. "Three tickets to Albuquerque, three for Winnipeg. Oh, and could you tell me where the nearest Greyhound office is? I need to book seats from Albuquerque," he breathed out to the lady at the counter. The woman smiled and typed quickly.
"Will that be all?"
Michael smiled. "Can I get seat 20C on the Albuquerque flight? Lucky seat," he lied, grinning widely.
"Certainly, sir. The flight leaves in forty minutes. Have a nice trip."
Michael tapped the counter with his rings and raised his eyebrow mischievously as the lady handed him his tickets. "Oh, I will."
He was shivering silently when she walked into the room. It seemed to be part of his intention, to remain imperceptible, to do as little and say as little as he could.
"Do you need to use the bathroom?" Liz asked, sitting beside him on the bed. "Do you need help?"
Max shook his head and curled up tighter into her covers.
"Well, if you change your mind, the bathroom's right there." She pointed to the door on her right. "I'll be in the kitchen. Just ask if you need help."
He didn't move, or make any signs that he understood.
Maybe he was off somewhere else, inside his mind, trapped by violence and pain.
She stood up and started walking away when she heard his voice mumble something as the sheets ruffled.
"What?" She turned to face him again, her eyes meeting his as he sat up.
"Thank you," he whispered. "I think I can get there alone but thank you. For helping me."
Liz shrugged it off. Graciously accepting thanks was not her forte.
"Just holler if you need me," she said, leaving the room.
She stayed beside the doorway until she was certain his heavy footsteps had steadily taken him to the bathroom.
His eyes were so sad. They were like watered-down coals. Fire still lived in them, but it was buried under so much pain...
She shook her head. What did she know? For all she knew he could be an axe murderer, anyone, and she'd still taken him in.
Even if he were an axe murderer, she would have never left him there, on the cold highway between the desert sands.
She shook her head free of the image, as if it were a child's project on an etch-a-sketch.
The kitchen was comforting , reminiscent of childhood scents. When she'd moved from Roswell to Las Cruces, it wasn't only Alex, Maria and Kyle that moved with her. She took things from home... candles, stuffed aliens, cinnamon sticks wrapped in crackle paper the color of red wine.
She filled a medium-sized pot with water, nearly to the brim, and set it on the stove to boil.
She quietly chopped two apples. She then sliced two oranges and two lemons. As the water started to boil, she dropped the fruit inside. Water splashed to the sides, so she took the pot off the stove for a second and emptied some of the water. She placed it back on the stove and cleaned the small mess she'd made. She rubbed her face with the back of her hand, slowly trying to recall what ingredient came next.
Liz opened the fridge and found a small glass jar filled with honey. She popped off the lid and dropped half the contents into the boiling water.
She had to wait for it to simmer down for a minute more before adding the next ingredient.
She opened the high cupboards, her hands groping for something... a bottle.
She finally found the bottle of old whisky, still 3/4 full. It had been a graduation present, a little on the illegal side, from her Aunt Rose in Florida. Alex, Kyle and Maria had each taken a shot at it, making sour faces and prompting Liz to try some as well. She had politely declined, instead saving it for an occasion such as this.
It was an old recipe, a very old recipe. It was intended to make a person sweat out his or her cold.
Liz stirred the mixture in the metallic pot and then, slowly, started to pour the whisky, watching it boil.
She used an oil-drip ladle to remove the over-cooked apples, leaving the citrus fruit inside.
From the distance, Liz heard the door of the bathroom open, and she sharpened her hearing to make sure he wouldn't fall along the way.
Holding her breath, she sat on one of the kitchen chairs and waited for her brew to boil down to two-cup-fulls, so she could add some more whisky.
Michael boarded the flight with a slight mischievous smile on his face.
Tess and Isabel had already chewed him out about his destination of choice. What was there in Albuquerque, anyway?
Ok, so he'd lied and omitted the part about them having to Greyhound their way to Roswell.
He was expecting a bigger chewing out later. Bigger even to the one he'd gotten just before boarding, when Isabel figured out they weren't going to be sitting together.
Frankly, he needed a break from the female population of his family. Three months without any outside contact, without even a chance to visit strip clubs...
He would never admit it to another soul, but he missed Max.
Yes, Saint Max. The same Max that got on his nerves when he was so careful for some things, but somehow managed to think he was outside the rules for others. The Max that would sit quietly in the corner of a strip club, drinking beer and barely smiling, while Michael would offer one dollar bills to the dancers up front. The same Max that wouldn't allow him to use his powers to change dollar-bills into hundreds. The same Max who'd use his powers to heal children and increase the funds in his charity bank accounts, even though they all lived on a tight budget.
The same Max who was now probably dead...
He shook his head and took his seat. He couldn't think like that, because if he did, he would drown in his own guilt and never come up for air.
He shoved whoever's arm was next to him with a complete disregard for calling rights of the armrest.
"Hey! I'm pretty sure we can share the armrest!" the person next to him exclaimed. He turned to face her, glaring straight into the eyes of De Luca, Maria. She rolled her eyes and made a face. "Never mind. It's the big lug. You probably never passed kindergarten 'cause you never learned to share."
"Bite me," Michael replied, his eyes twinkling and playful. This took his mind off things, at least.
"You wish I would," Maria muttered, scowling as she prepared for the loooong flight.
Liz's hands shook as she carried the tray to bed.
Max was awake, staring at the ceiling, almost catatonic.
He was gone.
Where was he?
"Max?" she asked, trying to get him out of his little bubble.
Max didn't seem to notice Liz's presence. Only when he heard the clatter of the metallic tray against Liz's desk did he look down from the ceiling. His reaction was to immediately pull back the covers and offer help. Liz waved him off and smiled. "Can you make it to this chair or do you want to..."
Max stood up and slowly made his way to the chair.
He was aware of his state of undress, but right now there was very little he could do about it.
She was probably seeing each and every scar.
"Are you hungry?" she asked.
"Not really," he lied.
Liz frowned a little. "You need to eat."
"I don't need a mother," he snapped.
Liz's eyes clouded over for a fraction of a second, before steeling. "No, you don't. But if you find me so annoying, you should probably eat and get strong enough to leave soon."
Liz stormed out of the room while Max wordlessly stared at the place where Liz had stood just seconds ago. Muttering an apology would now be of no use, so he settled for the next best thing. Slowly, he lifted his fork and prepared for the long meal, eyeing the dark warm drink beside his plate suspiciously.
Liz flipped through the channels violently.
She hated television.
She hated all things television-y.
She hated the phony nature of acting, the duplicitous manipulation of stereotypes.
Flip. A stupid show about a young superman.
She hated light romance. She hated the doomed romance she watched on television, the fated lovers, the there's-no-freaking-chance-in-hell.
So why was she watching?
Because she was pissed.
Because of what he'd said.
She wasn't sure what bothered her more. Was it him calling her on her mothering instincts? Was it his ease to dismiss her? Was it the coldness, the hurt in his voice?
Why was she hurt by his words?
She stared into the screen, a figure blending into the next, the sound becoming a low and continuous hum.
Liz didn't blink.
Because if she blinked, a tear would fall out.
Because if she blinked, she'd start crying and she would probably never stop.
She took a deep breath and shut off the set. Whether he liked it or not, he was in her care. Nothing burned in her care. Nothing scorched. No chemicals were spilled. Nothing was stained.
No one dies on Liz Parker's watch.
Unblinkingly, she stood up and walked to the doorway of her bedroom. "You done?" she asked, her tone annoyed.
Max looked up weakly from his plate. "Not yet... It hurts to chew."
He nodded weakly.
Everything he did was weak.
"What happened to you?"
"You should drink that hot."
I don't need to hear you say you're sorry, she thought. Translated to speech, however... "No one dies on my watch," she mumbled.
"Can I drink this in the bed... The back of this chair is..."
"Sure," Liz replied, dryly. She could feel something crawling up her spine, the need to get away. This conversation was too close for comfort. She needed to walk out, run out of the house, to the desert, and scream her captivity away.
Instead, she turned her back on the room and walked quietly to the front porch of the house, gently closing the door behind her. Her back against the metallic screen door, she held her head in both hands and calmly breathed herself back to normalcy.
She had left quickly, after giving him a cold reply to some stupid question he'd started to make.
A second after she'd left he couldn't recall her face anymore. His head hurt too much, his skin hurt too much, he ached too much. There was no way he could hold that much visual information in his brain, what with his eyes threatening to pop out of his head and into a snakepit.
Yes, that would be a lesser evil.
He was upset by her behavior, and he didn't even know what color her eyes were.
He was upset by his own actions towards this kind girl with the breaking voice, but whose eyecolor he could not commit to memory.
He took the mug in one hand as he slowly rose from the offending chair and made his way back to the bed.
This was her bed.
Her name reminded him of watching vipers dancing to the music of 'I dream of Genie' on the TV when he was seven.
The endless reptile had slithered seductively to the rhythm, slinking towards and away from the screen. His hand had reached out to touch it, but it had recoiled.
A few days later, he'd seen the arm of a man who'd been bitten by a snake on the news. Swollen, blue and black. Dead.
That was the day he'd stopped watching television.
He was a walking contradiction, a duplicitous illusion someone had created and sold to the highest bidder. Why, then, would he need to watch a reflection of himself played over and over on a screen?
The cinnamon-colored liquid swirled inside the cup as he tried to find a comfortable sitting position. It was nearly impossible, seeing as every inch of his skin was torturing him. He finally settled for a slight ache under the large scar in his chest, where the tracking device had been. He'd been running on such high adrenaline that he hadn't felt that much pain when he'd ripped it out. Now, if he didn't sit just right, it would throb all the way to his throat.
He sipped the liquid slowly, trying to figure out what the amber concoction included. He couldn't smell anything under the pungent scent of orange rind. It tasted funny, after the first sip, but it was only an aftertaste. To speak truthfully, his tastebuds were seared as the liquid entered his mouth. He continued sipping very slowly until his tongue got used to the temperature.
He could feel sweat poking under his pores, trying to get out to the surface. In part, he feared this, feared that it would sting his cuts and burns. But a part of him also wanted to free himself from the trapped heat, wanted the sweat to come out and liberate him.
He started taking faster gulps of the scalding serum, not allowing his mind to assimilate it. His body caught on quickly, however. By the time he'd finished the mug-full, sweat had pooled at his temples, trickled down his body and dampened the sheets. He slid further inside the covers, lying his head softly on the pillow and shivering slightly under the light sheet. He could feel it moistening under his touch.
Closing his eyes, he attempted sleep, thinking of nothing but the warm comfort of his feverish dreams.
The tablecloth was long and orange. What little sunlight streamed through colored her face, making a pattern of shadows and light.
She held out her hands to him, no longer stained with blood. Her palms were crisscrossed by an odd pattern of lines.
She turned her hands, her palms facing away from him. The back of her hands was as interesting as the palms had been. Instead of lines, however, there was a pattern of dots. Four small freckles, forming the vertices of a square.
She lowered her hands and grinned at him, under the table, lit through the orange tablecloth.
"Now you show me yours," she stated, laughter ringing through her voice.
His eyes widened with panic as he hid his hands behind his back.
"It's ok... you don't have to be scared..." She held out her hand once again, waiting for his. He hesitantly placed it, palm facing up.
"Left is near the heart," she whispered, secretively. The music resounded in the background and he knew that everyone else had gotten up from their chairs and started dancing. Their feet no longer dangled in the vicinity of his belly. "Trust with this one."
"Right is for the head. This one is for big choices."
"What about the feet?"
"What about the feet?"
"What are they for?"
She thought for a second, scrunching up her nose. Then she decided. "For running... and for dancing."
And taking his hand, she led him from under the table to the grass. Their feet, covered only in socks, were soaked through as the rain poured down on them.
And they danced.
Liz was startled by the loud thud that echoed from her room. She sniffled once and rubbed her eyes before standing up. Then a voice... was that a scream or a hoot?
Almost running into the metal screen door, she raced to her room, hundreds of scenarios running through her head.
None of them involved Max rolling on the floor, laughing as he started taking his scarce clothing off.
"What are you doing?" she asked, trying her best not to resist the urge to cover her eyes and revert to third grade.
"It's too cold," he pointed out, matter-of-factly. It was a serious matter now, no laughing.
"And you're taking your clothes off because..."
"I don't know," he replied. He continued tugging on one side of the boxers, unaware of what he was doing.
"Max, stop. Hands over your head!" Liz declared. If he was going to act like a child... "Why are you acting like this?"
He obeyed her Simon-says instructions, his eyes closing in pain. Maybe the pain from his fall had finally reached his nerve center. Delayed reactions.... Liz calculated. "It hurts..."
"Why don't we just get you back in the bed and heal those?"
Max's eyes opened and he smiled at the three Lizes that stood before him. "Yes, we can heal those!" he exclaimed, as if he'd just discovered electricity.
He practically jumped to his feet. Where did he find all this energy? It was as if he were...
"Max, are you drunk?"
"From tea?" he asked, slowly surveying the skin on his arms and legs. So many places to start. So little time.
"Well... about that tea..."
Max placed his hand above his right knee, on a large, moon-shaped laceration. He looked up at Liz, not her eyes exactly, but the space between them, right above her nose, where her eyebrows met almost imperceptibly. "Why are you sad?"
"I'm not sad..." she replied, but he didn't seem interested anymore. His eyes were focused on the back of his left hand.
From between his palm and his thigh, a burst of light colored the room.
And when he removed his hand, the cut was gone.
He looked back up at Liz. Her mouth agape, all she could do was stare. "Which one should we heal next?" he questioned, looking straight at the scar resting above Liz's eyebrow.
Placing her hand on her forehead, as if shielding her scar, she took one step back and crouched low to the ground. She had no idea what to say or how to say it.
All she could do was focus her eyes on a coffee stain on her floor before passing out.
I am a feedback addict. I want it. I need it. Please give me some!!!!
Thanks AJK, for your constant comments.
hope you enjoyed it.
*Denial dreamer: There's no such thing as season 2.*
*Fictional Dreamer... borrowing Angela's idea... it is in fanfic where dreams come true*
*Proud -yet inactive- member of the Isabel Evans Haters Alliance*
"Never was a cornflake girl... thought it was a good solution." -- Tori Amos
|posted on 27-Sep-2001 11:51:19 AM by dira|
|Disclaimer included in Part 1.|
Part 4: The art of molecular manipulation
Alex waited patiently by Gate C2.
Albuquerque was anything but warm this time of year. The airport, however, was full of hot and dry air. He could conceivably roast to death if Maria's plane did not arrive soon. The air conditioning appeared to be broken.
He wiped the lens of the camera with his shirt again. It was the third time it'd gotten damp, and he wanted a really good picture. Maria deserved this break. She'd worked out of coffeehouses, diners and colleges for way too long.
The blaring voice over the airport terminal said something about the flight arriving. Alex could see the plane taxiing and calculated that Maria'd be out sooner than he expected. She was always the first one off the airplane.
Passengers started coming through the door and Maria was nowhere in sight.
Where was she?
The plane stopped moving, signaling the end of the eternal flight. The guy next to her had been either sullenly quiet or rude throughout the entire flight. Honestly, she was sick of it.
Maria tapped her fingers on the armrest. "Well?"
"Well, what?" Michael replied.
"Aren't you gonna move?"
"Nope. I always wait until everyone's out."
Maria stood up. "Well, at least let me through," she muttered, grabbing her backpack from under the seat in front of her.
Michael's legs were in the way.
Maria could see it now. She would trip and end up splayed on the aisle of the plane.
Not this time. Not this girl.
"Move your legs."
"You can wait."
Maria had enough. She would rip into him and leave no part of him unscathed. "Look, headbanger, I know you think you're hot and all, but please move your chicken legs before I make you realize the eighties are over."
"Headbanger?" Michael scoffed. "This coming from Miss Princess of all weird hairdo's?"
Maria's eyes filled with semi-rage. "That's it. I swear..."
"Am I interrupting?" A blonde giantess and a petite pale blonde were staring right at Michael. The taller one was shooting daggers at Michael. The girlfriend?
"No, hon, you can both have him," Maria replied. "In fact, would you do me the favor of taking him now before I decide to bitch-slap 'im 'til kingdom come? I have someone waiting for me and I need to go. Now."
Using the two blondes as springboards, Maria stepped over the guy's legs and made her way to the exit.
Isabel raised an eyebrow at Michael and rejoined the line. Tess did likewise.
The first thing Maria saw outside the boarding tunnel was a flash of light.
She didn't have time to recover before she met Alex's hug.
"How's our triumphant Vegas showgirl?" he whispered, smiling. Maria slapped him over the head.
"Call me a showgirl once more and you'll hear a lengthy account of my flight."
"Oh, you asked for it!" she replied, placing her arm around Alex's shoulder. "Let's get my bags and I'll tell you all about it."
Isabel tapped her foot against the floor as she waited for her one bag.
All her life was stuffed into one of Max's old duffels.
Michael was crouched low near the spinning band, moving his head to some beat inside his mind.
She wished she could be as nonchalant as Michael, as reserved as Tess. They gave nothing away.
She, on the other hand, was on the verge of tears.
A familiar voice excused herself and got closer to the band, paying no attention to her. "So the first guy I met, huge sleazeball. He heard me sing and then he asked me to take my top off. I was like, 'No way, buddy. You want boobs, you go to Hooters'. The add said singing and dancing, which I can do just fine, thank you, but nowhere did it say nudity."
"Maria, what was the name of the place?" the guy behind her asked. Isabel turned around discretely and met a pair of watercolor blue eyes.
"Hoochy Mama," Maria replied. Right on the nose.
Alex tore his gaze away from the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. "Uh, that ought to tell you something, Ria."
"Shut up and get the next bag."
Alex did as he was told.
When he turned back to where the woman had been, there was nothing but empty space.
Quietly, he followed Maria as she continued her story.
"Where to now, Michael?" Isabel asked. He was second in command, whether he liked it or not.
"Well," Michael started, rubbing the back of his neck. "What do you guys think about Roswell?"
Tess eyed him suspiciously. "You're kidding, right?"
Michael shrugged. "What better place to hide than the alien capital of USA?"
"He's not kidding," Tess muttered.
Isabel interceded. "It's not such a bad idea. The place is probably crawling with tourists, we can get lost easily. Plus it's small enough that we can get any suspicion through the grapevine. If there's something strange, we'd find out quickly enough to run."
Tess shook her head. "I can't believe this."
Michael just smirked. "Let's get going. There's a Greyhound with our name on it."
Isabel watched as Michael carried her duffel and followed.
Tess reluctantly trailed behind them.
Liz is lying in a pool of blood on the floor. Kneeled beside her, Max is holding a knife.
Flashbacks of senior year's Theory of Knowledge class.
Do we induce Max has killed Liz or do we deduce it?
This is not happening.
Liz worked her way through the muddle in her head and found herself on the floor. Not, however, in a pool of blood.
Max kneeled beside her, no knife in sight.
His hands seemed to her just as dangerous.
"Get away from me," she mumbled. This had to be a looong nightmare. Alex was right, she'd never ever pick up another stray cat.
"I'm sorry," Max whispered, his voice meek. Again.
What was this, anyway?
In a second of panic, she ran her fingers over her forehead. Phew. Still there.
"You!" she accused, pointing her index finger as she slid along the floor. Too bad she hit the wall so quickly. She pressed against it as if there was a spade against her belly. "Who... what... why..."
Max slid along the footing of the bed. Try as she may, Liz couldn't help but cringe at the thought of what he was doing to his back... "I'm sorry," he whispered again.
Liz took a deep breath. Doctor mode kicking in. "Is your back bleeding?"
Max reached behind him and touched a spot. Biting his lip down hard, he nodded. "I should heal it..."
"What..." It hadn't been a bad dream. People, welcome to the sick, sad, scary, strange word of Liz Parker. "Heal it?"
Max nodded. His smile was slowly coming back.
Liz realized he was still drunk. "Max, do you care to tell me how it is that you healed that... laceration on your leg?" She backed up against the wall a little more, wincing in expectancy of his answer.
"Molecular manipulation," he replied, matter-of-factly.
"And how in the hell were you able to do that?"
Ok. This had to be a bad dream. She opted for pinching her arm hard. No dice. "You're kidding, right?"
He shook his head. "We aliens can't hold our liquor. We can't lie drunk either."
"Aliens don't exist. I come from Roswell, New Mexico. I know these things. Aliens are just... tourist attractions."
"I'm an alien." Max placed his head in his hands and shook it slowly. "Are you gonna turn me in?"
Liz took a deep breath. No passing out. No passing out. "Are you going to hurt me?" she asked, her voice wavering.
Max shook his head. Still, he didn't look up.
"I'm not going to turn you in."
He was still completely drunk. Liz could tell from his rapid mood changes. Once she'd answered favorably, he'd lifted his head from his hands and smiled. "So what do I heal now?"
Liz's eyes still filled with panic. She still held herself far from him. "No healing. Is that understood?"
"But it hurts..." Max winced in pain as he touched his back.
She remembered his scars, fresh. She wondered, about his pain, about how it felt. Did he hurt the same way she did, in the same manner? Did each cut pressing into his skin take his breath away? Slowly, she made her way closer to him.
"Max... Alex and Kyle... they've seen your scars. If you heal everything... anything more... anything visible... they'll be able to tell. Unless you tell them what you told me -which I'm already having a hard time believing- they'll panic. Even if you tell them, they'll panic. Panic is..."
"But what about what they can't see..." Max wondered.
Liz winced empathetically. She hadn't thought of that. She wondered what kinds of torture he'd been subjected to... for how long... "What did they do to you?"
A long stretch of silence.
Finally she gave in.
"Ok, you can heal whatever isn't visible... And you can speed up the healing process of everything else... but no magic. No disappearing acts..."
Max nodded solemnly.
"Max, who... why... what did they do to you?"
He was still pushed up against the bed, the wood digging into his back. He refused to look into her eyes. Even drunk, he couldn't tell her, he couldn't tell anyone.
Three months of pain were impossible to put into words. "I don't want to talk about it... everything hurts..."
"You have to tell someone... eventually..."
"NO," he replied, determined. He backed up against the bedframe again and Liz cringed.
"You should go heal the non-visible parts... then come back and I'll heal your back."
Max nodded almost imperceptibly. He grabbed hold of the bedpost for support, but fell back down. The agony evident on his face, he tried again, determined to do it without help. Liz got up and aided him anyway. She wasn't going to... she was going to...
Since he'd told her... what she almost could believe... she hadn't touched him. Whatever - whoever- he was, the option of him being dangerous had not seriously crossed her mind after his confession. And in that second before she reached for his hand, to steady him, she felt that he might be a threat to her. But it passed soon enough. He was hurt, she was going to help.
Human or not, he deserved at least that much.
Taking his hand and helping him to the bathroom, her fear that he might cause her harm disappeared. Instead, a different sort of fear took over.
He was disrupting her small world, invading it. She couldn't help it, she couldn't avoid it. And, for the first time in her life, she didn't want to.
They were already entering Las Cruces when the world exploded for Maria.
"What do you mean by 'Liz picked up this guy off the highway and he's now sleeping in her bed', Alex?" Maria asked, letting go of the steering wheel.
Why had he allowed her to drive his pickup? And why the hell did he have to be friends with the two worst drivers of the state. "Maria, hands on wheel, eyes on road," he reminded her, grabbing the steering wheel to steady it.
"Explain or I'll step on the accelerator pedal," Maria threatened.
Alex shot into it quickly. "We were driving down the highway from the lab to Liz's apartment when she sees this lump on the road. She tells me to get on the other side, she figured it was a dog or something. Well, a little closer, Liz's super-night-distance-xray-vision kicks in and she says it's a person and to pull over. I don't want to, you know, 'cause of all those stupid hitchhiker urban legend crap, right?"
Maria nodded, looking at Alex. He softly pushed her cheek until she was looking straight in front of her. "Eyes on the road, Maria."
"So, anyway, she does the Maria thing, pushes on the brake. Long story short, screeching halt, person turns out to be this guy who's had the shit cut out of him. I mean, he's had every part of his body banged, probed, cut and burned. His hair had been shaven off, and there were scars on his scalp. When I say he was hurt everywhere, I mean, EVERYWHERE. So logically, my thought is hospital. But Mr. Anonymous pleads for no hospital. At this point I'm thinking convicted felon, right? So, logically, Liz takes him home."
"God. So you just left her alone with him? She could be dead, for all we know?" Maria panicked. Dammit, thought Alex. He should have just let the surprise win her over.
"Maria, you're overreacting. He's perfectly safe... can't hardly move to piss..."
To which Maria, of course, logically, floored the accelerator in the direction of Liz's apartment. "We have to save Lizzy!"
Liz tapped her fingers against the armrest of her chair. He'd been in there for more than twenty minutes.
She had heard him moan in pain a couple of times. This healing, it also hurt, apparently.
Not as much as it had before, but it hurt.
She wondered how long it would be before he was sober again. And how he'd feel about having told her.
Would he even remember?
Should she even care?
Yes, she should.
What could he have possibly done to warrant this torture he'd been put through for god-knows-how-long.
She was deep in concentration when she heard brakes slamming, a car screeching to a halt, doors flying open and slamming shut.
Before she knew it, a very frazzled and panicky Maria was standing before her. A few seconds later Alex ran in, catching his breath.
"Maria... locking the pickup's door... always a good idea," he said, his hands on his knees.
Maria just stared at Liz in disbelief. "Where's the English Patient?"
Liz looked back at Maria in confusion.
"Don't give me that I'm-an-innocent-doe-caught-in-the-headlights look, babe, Alex told me everything about your Florence Nightingale coffee trip. That look will only get you run over by the Maria train. Now, spill!"
Alex translated. "She wants to know about Max."
"Oooooh. He's in the bathroom," Liz replied.
"Doing what?" Maria questioned, raising her eyebrow before stalking off in that direction.
Panic made Liz a quick runner. She intercepted Maria at the door. "Don't go in there!"
"Why?" Maria asked, her eyebrow cocked once more.
"Because... because he's..."
"Throwing up?" Alex contributed.
"Yes! Throwing up! I mean, yes, he's throwing up."
Maria eyed Liz and Alex suspiciously. "Well, as long as you're playing nurse, shouldn't you be in there helping?"
"Yes, right! Helping," Liz muttered under her breath. She swore silently and knocked on the bathroom door. "Max, I'm coming in, ok?"
Please let him be dressed, Liz thought self-consciously.
Liz tried the doorknob. Thankfully it moved. She smiled forcedly at Maria and entered the bathroom, closing the door behind her quickly.
At first she didn't see Max. Her eyes scanned the tiny bathroom at eye level, and he was definitely not standing. Moving her gaze down to the floor, her eyes settled on a spot at the corner of the bathroom wall, against the sliding shower door.
He was sitting quietly, no sobs escaping him. His eyes concentrated on one specific tile on the floor. His knees were drawn up, inflicting unnecessary pressure on his limb wounds and back.
Liz crouched in front of him, trying to interrupt his line of sight. "Max... are you..."
He looked at her as if he'd seen the sun for the first time in ages. "Feet are for dancing and for running," he whispered, his eyes piercing her own. "I have to keep running."
He sniffled and closed his eyes.
One by one, tears started squeezing their way through his eyelids. All that he hadn't cried... all that he was mourning...
Liz didn't know what to do, whether to pull him closer at the risk of hurting him or just simply patting his head softly.
He buried his face behind his knees, sobbing more loudly, his entire body racked by whatever he was experiencing: sorrow, mourning, pain...
Liz inched closer and placed her arms around him, as carefully as she could. She tried to regulate her breath to a slow, even rhythm.
Had he come out of his drunken state to find himself weak and in pain? Or was he still drunk and awash in all sorts of memories?
She couldn't tell, but she could tell that he was regulating her breathing to her own, calming.
The sobbing gradually died down, the tears eventually stopped flowing and he was soon cocooned in Liz's arms, drifting to sleep.
Maria finally decided she'd had enough of a wait and that she was braking into the bathroom to find out whether or not "the patient had cut out Liz's kidney and left her in the bathtub". Alex, in an attempt to save Liz and Maria the embarrassment, pushed the door open quietly and found Max asleep, his head on Liz's lap.
Maria couldn't help the loud intake of breath at the sight of Max's injuries and the terror in Liz's eyes as she gently traced their contours.
"Oh, God," Maria whispered.
No one contradicted her.
Thanks a ton for the feedback.
Ok, so tell me what you guys think.
I'm going to try to post my more advanced fics over the next two weeks... I need to go to a different computer to do that... sorry for the delay.
Oh, I just noticed this board edits the f word... hihihi, gonna have major bleepage in Between the Buried.
*Denial dreamer: There's no such thing as season 2.*
*Fictional Dreamer... borrowing Angela's idea... it is in fanfic where dreams come true*
*Proud -yet inactive- member of the Isabel Evans Haters Alliance*
"Never was a cornflake girl... thought it was a good solution." -- Tori Amos
|posted on 12-Oct-2001 9:13:37 PM by dira|
|Author's note: Well, long time, no see, yes? I was waiting for the board to get back up and now that it is (and it's fast! even on my crummy computer! Applause for the computer goddesses that worked on this). Well, here it is, a new part. Thanks for the amazing feedback.|
Part 5: Coming up for air
Alex helped Liz move Max's slumped body to the bed, where they lay him on his belly. Maria could do nothing but stare at the map of his back, at the cuts and burns and bruises that covered his skin like they were an integral, necessary part of it.
Maybe they were. Maybe he was so messed up inside that physical scars were his mask.
"What happened to him?" she finally asked Alex, while Liz applied some sort of basic care to Max's sleeping form. Once in a while Max would squirm, move, and then regain his complete stillness.
"He hasn't said... Liz asked him once, at least, but all he would do was ask us not to take him to the hospital..."
"He thinks someone's after him?" Maria questioned, her eyes still intent on Max's back.
Alex nodded. "Well, he sure as hell didn't do that to himself. And when we found him, he'd been running from someone. He was just ready to lay down and die... Maybe the government's after him... maybe he's part of some cloning experiment... I don't know... "
"Maybe he's a human guinea pig and they're testing shampoo on him," Maria whispered fiercely. "Come on, that's like saying you've bitten into a York Peppermint Patty and all you need to do now is learn to ski to prove that theory. I mean, we're from Roswell, for pete's sakes. Conspiracy theories are tourist traps. Period. There has to be a better explanation," she countered.
"Fine, you come up with one," Alex whispered back.
"He got into some gang fight."
"Maria, this is Las Cruces, New Mexico."
"It could happen!"
"It's as viable as an alien abduction, Ria..."
"Could you two please keep quiet?" Liz asked from the bed. "I can hear you, so can he."
Maria approached Liz. "He's asleep, babe."
"He keeps waking up, and when he does, whatever happened to him, he doesn't need to hear you two theorizing."
"Don't you want to know?" Alex wondered.
Liz shrugged. "Whatever it was... it must have been hell. He'll tell us when he's ready... if he's ever ready." Alex nodded in acceptance. Maria did likewise. "Have you two eaten?" Liz asked after sighing.
They both stared blankly at Liz.
"Go. Order chinese takeout or something. Order enough for Kyle, too, and give him a call so he'll pick it up on his way over."
"Did he find out about Max?" Alex asked. "And about that girl he was asking for?"
"He said he'd look it up and tell me when he found something. Who knows, in a few days when Max gets better, maybe he'll remember some more."
"He's got amnesia, too?" Maria asked. The comparison to a few too many soap operas was becoming unavoidable.
"He just has a hard time focusing and concentrating. You would too if you were in that much pain..." Liz explained. "I'm going to finish up here. You guys call the Joun Yep and Kyle, 'kay?"
Maria and Alex agreed, exiting the room.
Liz gently disinfected the lacerations on Max's back. They looked the same. If he'd done anything to make them better, the pressure he'd applied on them as he backed up against the wall had undone it.
She gathered her things and cleaned up her work area. He seemed to be resting peacefully now, he seemed so... calm.
"Who are you?" Liz whispered, looking at his back, at his open wounds, at the charred flesh and the smell of dried blood.
The bus ride had been nothing but dust and jutting rock formations for miles and miles.
Frankly, Tess was bored out of her skull.
Beside her, Michael and Isabel were ignoring each other.
Being on the back of the bus sucked.
Michael's eyes kept darting from his window to the horizon.
Isabel stared blankly at the back of the seat in front of her. Every twenty minutes she would uncross her legs, only to cross them again the other way.
Well, besides being bored, she missed Vegas already.
As much as it had eaten Max's soul, Vegas had been her home. It had been dark in all the right places, filled with artificial light where no sunlight should ever be. There was desert, too, as far as the eye could see.
She had learned to love the place. She had loved it more than Max had hated it.
Tess tried not to blink, a way to hold back tears.
Her mind was straying to a ground she did not want to visit. The idea that Max was dead because of their carelessness. How could they not have known Sorenson was an innocent? How could they not have figured it out? How could...
"Sorenson was a setup," she whispered, thunderstruck.
"What did you say?" Isabel asked, leaning closer. Michael abandoned his exploration of the windows.
"A setup... Sorenson was a setup... Think about it. It's the only alien-like thing we've ever done, in a place other than our own. There were bugs in our apartment, right? But no cameras... We don't have sound powers... us talking about it doesn't constitute proof. Are you following me?" Tess asked, her tone hushed even though there were no people in the surrounding seats. The only reason they were sitting in the back was that they needed to be together, touching.
The plane ride had been irksome enough, with Michael sitting so far away from them.
Isabel nodded, she was following, but Michael seemed a little lost.
"Ok, so they plant Sorenson, he digs around, acts as a threat... we get rid of him in his apartment... we never thought about it, but what if there were cameras?" Tess continued. "We made the body disappear, we used our powers to push him against that wall... well, we didn't. Max did. We were all too busy freaking out. We made Max kill Sorenson. But the guy wasn't an innocent, he was bait. After Max did what he did, they just waited for the right moment before snatching him."
Isabel's rubbed her tear-stained cheeks and tried to pretend. Pretend this wasn't her fault, their fault.
But it was tougher than she had imagined. Especially when she could tell Michael was crying.
Michael never cried.
Tess regretted saying what she'd thought the very second the words had left her lips. Sure, this let Max off the hook, but it also ascertained their guilt in the whole deal. If they hadn't frozen up with fear... if they'd thought of all this beforehand... if they had acted the way they were supposed to, like military, not like children in the midst of panic...
Maybe Max wouldn't have been the one being tortured. The one being killed, slowly.
Maybe they would be taking his place.
And, at the moment, with everything inside them shattering on the back of the Greyhound, physical torture didn't sound so bad.
Michael looked back out the window, pretending he wasn't crying, pretending he didn't know the girls had seen his moment of weakness.
He needed to be strong.
From his vantagepoint, he could see a small town rising among the dust and sand.
Roswell. Their destination. A town making its living off the illusion that aliens had once landed there.
As crazy as it was, Michael allowed himself to hope. For answers, for family.
And as the town got closer and closer, he did something he'd never done before.
Like a five-year-old, he wished on a star.
And he knew that Isabel and Tess were doing the same thing.
Kyle maneuvered the screen door open with his foot while trying to balance the Thai food and two six-packs. The Joun Yep had been closed and he'd had no choice but to go elsewhere for food. Not a problem, in his opinion. He liked Thai better.
Maria was the first to greet him by the kitchen counter. "Dr. Pepper!" she squealed, as she attacked the six pack. "Can you believe I couldn't find decent soda in Vegas? It was all flat most of the time, unless you can afford it in one of the touristy places, which obviously I could not." She planted a kiss on Kyle's cheek before walking away with the sodas giddily.
"Beer!" Alex added, following Maria's actions but also helping Kyle set the food on the nearby table. "Kyle, man, how was work?"
Dazed, Kyle shook his head to clear his mind. "Everything was pretty much normal. Oh, except for this one kid in Criminology asking me what city they filmed 'Cops' in. He's not going to pass, I can tell you that much. How was the trip, Ria?"
"Pretty good, except for the guy sitting next to me on the plane. Real jerk," Maria explained, between sips of cola.
Kyle nodded, taking it all in. "Where's Liz?"
"Playing doctor in her room," Maria replied before Alex could even start to think of an answer. He gave Kyle a knowing eyebrow wiggle and settled to unpacking the food. He knew where the conversation was going. "That guy is so banged up his own mother wouldn't recognize him on the street."
"From what we know he doesn't have a known mother," Kyle countered. "Our only lead so far is this girl, Isabel Sanders. Whether they're brother and sister or husband and wife..."
"What if she kept her maiden name?" Maria offered, raising her can at Kyle.
"Maria, could you please not shoot his hypothesis to hell for a while longer?" Alex asked. Maria backed away making a face.
"Thank you." Kyle continued. "Anyway, I could trace back the name to the Sanders House, that orphanage in the Vegas suburbs, and to about forty more families in that area. I'm not planning on running the University to the ground with long distance phone bills, so the internet is our ally. That and dad."
"Wait a minute. Sanders House? Vegas? Jim? I'm a little lost here, bro." Maria's stance had become more passive. She was, indeed, confused.
"Max gave Liz this name... Isabel Sanders. Two other names too. Anyway, he said Vegas as well. He couldn't remember the phone number, though. But I remembered the Sheriff's department holding clothes drives for The Sanders House, this orphanage and halfway house. It has started out near Artesia and then moved over to Vegas. The problem is, records got lost in the move and in a fire a couple of years back."
"You think Jim has some old records stored?"
Kyle smiled widely. "Remember long-distance secret-Santa every Christmas? We'd all have nicknames, they'd all have nicknames? They'd send cutesy cards made out of-"
"Construction paper!" Maria interrupted. "I remember! Glitter and crayon-doodles. And we'd send back coats and little presents we made in kindergarten..."
"Exactly. Well, Dad would later send them through the Artesia office... once everything moved to Vegas, when we were in what... first grade? Second? It was maybe six months before Dad and Amy got married. I remember him attaching cards with real names on them. The Sanders House probably sent him a list. And you know Dad and Amy..."
"They never throw out anything," Maria completed.
"Good grief, you two are such siblings," Alex muttered, as he finished dividing the contents of the food cartons into four plates. He placed the leftovers in some plastic container and stuck it in the fridge. It was true, Kyle and Maria seemed to have been split from the same genetic code, even if they weren't. Neither had learned to call the other's parent Mom or Dad, but they had become a family after the Valenti-De Luca wedding.
Maria ignored him completely. "Did you call already? 'Cause I gotta call my mom to tell her I got back ok - you know how she is with airplanes- and we might as well talk to Jim then," she suggested.
Kyle was about to answer when Alex interceded. "How about we do that after eating? I know ya'll feel like we're playing Clue here," he chastised, using a slightly southern cadence, "but let's solve our mysteries on a full stomach, shall we? I'm willing to bet my pickup that Miss Molecular Biologist hasn't eaten a thing since the last Microsoft merger..."
"You keep making safe bets," Maria muttered.
"I enjoy my pickup and would like to keep it," he deadpanned, nodding toward the plates on the table. "Take your food and the drinks, I'll take Liz's plate, napkins and the silver."
"Plastic, you mean," Kyle countered.
Liz barely registered the knock on the doorframe.
"Liz... food's here..." She turned to find Kyle, holding a six-pack on one hand, his eyes twinkling. "How's your patient?"
Liz tried to smile, but it was hard. She's been staring at Max for the past hour, just trying to get her ideas in order. "Getting better, slowly," she whispered, greeting Kyle with a hug.
Kyle kissed the top of her head softly. "You work too hard," he said, leading her to the living room, where Alex and Maria had started to eat.
"Ugh, work," Maria said, wrinkling her nose. "You ain't on the clock tonight, are you Lizzy?"
"Nope. I had today off. I'm working again tomorrow night, though."
"And you're planning on leaving Mr. Mystery alone in your house?" Maria questioned, skeptical.
"Not exactly," Liz replied, looking down at the floor, before raising her gaze to Maria's.
"Oh, no you don't," Maria countered.
"Maria, please... it would just be staying the night. You'd just sleep over."
"With a potential madman in the house? Who's your dealer, Lizzy? Because the only way this is happening is that you're on some very fine pharmaceuticals and on your way to getting me some."
"No, Ria, I'm not high. But I can't leave him alone. What if he starts feeling worse?"
"What if he attacks me? Who's gonna protect innocent little me?"
"I'll stay with him," Alex offered, interrupting the discussion. He knew Maria and Liz could disagree for hours on end. "I need someone to help me stay awake until it's time to pick Liz up, anyway... I don't have work lined up."
"Would you, Alex, please?" Liz asked, closing her eyes and giving Alex a pleading smile.
"I'll do it. You don't even have to ask."
"Oh, please," Maria harrumphed. "If he's half as evil as I suspect, he'll snap you like a twig, geek-boy."
Kyle stifled his laughter while Alex raised an eyebrow.
"No offense," she added.
"None taken. If you have any suggestions?"
"Begging is so unbecoming. I'll stay with you. We can have some kind of teampower. Plus, I want to rehearse some songs for you, see what you can do with them and your guitar."
"In that case," Kyle interceded. "I think I better make myself present." He smiled, fully aware that Maria had agreed to what she had refused to do only minutes ago.
"Sure, have a party in my apartment while I work," Liz said, pouting. She took a glance at the clock on the living room wall. "Well, it's time to break this little party up, you guys have work tomorrow. Any of you sleeping over?"
"Not me," Maria replied. "I want a good night's sleep. If I don't get any, I won't be able to function at the diner tomorrow."
"And I still have two crashed laptops sitting on my desk at home, untouched. The owners will get pissy if I don't get them fixed by tomorrow afternoon. I'm pretty sure they think my housemate plays solitaire on them before I give them back."
"I do not," Kyle countered. "That's what I use your home computer for. Gotta love Betsy."
"Betsy?" Liz questioned, eyebrows arched.
"It's better than Winona," Maria pointed out with a shrug.
"I miss Winona," Alex added, wistfully.
"OUT! Out, all of you. Get some sleep, go, scat!" Liz shook her head, unable to contain the giggles. She ushered everyone out, getting goodbye kisses on the forehead and cheeks, and some nice pats on the head.
She loved her friends, but once in a while they drove her a little too crazy.
And that's when she needed her silence, and her alone-time in her relatively large apartment. That's when she needed some sleep.
It was odd, sleeping at night. She generally got home at around five am. She didn't drive, she hadn't driven a car since getting her odd-hours job. She set her own hours, and she liked late. And since Alex could set his own hours as a tech-ie, he could pick her up. Generally, early hours of the night were the only time she saw all her friends together.
She checked the locks on all the doors and windows before heading for the bedroom. She'd all but forgotten about Max, except that a small moan escaped his sleeping form as she approached the bed. Ok, so that's one place she couldn't sleep on. She quietly stripped off her clothes in the dark and slipped into a pair of gray flannel pants and a tank top. Comfort was good. It was nice. It made up for not sleeping on a bed.
She sat on the couch by the bedroom window and stared at Max. In the dark she couldn't tell whether he was asleep or awake. She could only see that he had shifted his body towards her present location. She glanced intently at where his eyes should be, but no moonlight streamed through her window, no artificial light bathed his features. He was still a mystery.
A mystery that she was on her way to solving.
Ok, so he was an alien. She'd almost forgotten that part. It was easy to look past the detail of alien powers, when he was almost covered in scars and bruises. It was easy to forget he was an alien, easy to remember he was young enough to revert to being a little scared boy.
He was her age. He was a young man.
The alien part of him just went right over her head. It puzzled her, so she chose not to dwell on it. Maybe when he felt better...
It made sense that he be from the Sanders house, if he was an alien with no parents.
Maybe there were more like him. Maybe this Isabel person wasn't his wife, she was another alien.
Or maybe she was his wife and those other two he'd mentioned were their kids. Mike and Bess, was it? Cute. She'd have to ask tomorrow.
Kyle would have more answers tomorrow. He'd called his dad and the sheriff had said he'd look it up.
She glanced at the electric alarm clock. Almost one AM. She sighed heavily and closed her eyes, trying to find a way to clear her mind and sleep.
He heard a heavy sigh leave her lips and couldn't help but stare at her even more intensely than before.
No light reached him, but a soft glow from a streetlight illuminated Liz.
It was the first time he'd seen her through the haze. The strange pattern of light and shadows cast by the lamppost somehow surrounded her, gave her volume, made her real.
She had given up her bed for him. And he would gladly give it back if he could move.
His body was still heavy from the strange serum she'd given him, the cloying scent of it still clinging to his taste buds. His ideas still swirled in his head unconnected, unfocused. He was injured, he was healing, he was sleeping, he was awake, he was looking at a young woman in the shadows, it was spring, no winter, no summer, no, fall.
He was an alien.
No matter what desert he was in, he was an alien.
And he was panic-stricken because, through the haze, he could distinctly remember two things: Using his powers in front of her, and telling her what he was.
How could she sleep, a foot away from a confessed alien? A murderer? A monster?
Why was she so peaceful?
Neither of the guys was a husband, apparently. No ring shone in the dark, no male presence imposed itself.
He should give her the bed, his head said.
His body didn't listen. It had other priorities.
Like closing his eyes and letting the wind lull him to sleep.
Isabel opened her eyes slowly as the sunlight hit her.
How the hell had they gotten here?
The light was filtering through a set of dusty blinds. Trying to get up, she found herself tangled up with both Michael's and Tess's sleeping forms.
Slowly the memory of the previous night crept up on her. This was tourist paradise, so it was no surprise that there were a couple of pricey hotels. And for every pricey hotel, Vegas experience drew the conclusion of at least one very cheap, run down motel.
The clerk that had handed Michael the key had asked if he wanted special videotaping and editing services.
The shower had almost made her gag, and she had vowed along with Tess to never take another shower if they had to take it there.
They needed new names.
They could keep their first names, in any case. But last names had to go. Three Sanders would raise flags all over.
Tess stirred beside her, which meant it was time to wake Michael. As soon as they got new identities created, they would get a small apartment and set to finding jobs.
Isabel shook Michael awake.
In silence, the three of them stared at the ceiling, so strange and new, so far from home.
For the first time, they realized the gravity of their situation.
Once again they were misplaced, displaced. Once again they were aliens.
Maybe it was time they get used to it.
Still, they didn't move, they hardly breathed. They just stared at the ceiling, wondering if there would ever be a time when moving didn't hurt.
It wasn't sunlight that brought Liz out of sleep. It was movement. Followed by sound.
Heavy footsteps, trying to be fast.
"Oh, God," she heard, a man's groan, followed by the sound of dry heaves and strangled sobs.
Knees against tile, falling.
She got out of her seat and walked quickly but still sleepily to the bathroom door. It was open. Max was kneeling, his head just inches above the toilet. His skin against the cool tile, his body almost slumped.
He seemed to be praying to some unknown deity, for it all to be over. Liz shook sleep from her body and approached him slowly, painfully aware of the sound of her footsteps against tile. Did the sound hurt him? Nauseate him?
Who was she to think she was capable of taking care of someone so fragile?
"Are you ok now?" she whispered, expectant. She kneeled beside him, her fingers lightly skimming the miraculously intact skin of his left shoulder.
He nodded through the nausea. There was nothing for him to throw up anymore, there had been almost nil anyway. He'd digested most of his food.
"Do you want to go back to bed?"
He shook his head softly. Moving wasn't among his priorities right now. "I'm still a little dizzy."
"It was probably the tea," Liz explained in a hushed tone. "I put a good pint of whisky and simmered it down. It was to help you sweat out the fever, which you did. I didn't know you couldn't hold it. Sorry."
"That's ok. Thanks." His voice was hoarse.
"Max, do you remember what you told me yesterday?"
He winced in acknowledgement. Slowly, it was coming back to him. He nodded.
"I just wanted to tell you again that I won't tell anyone. I promise."
He sat back, leaning against the side of the tub. "Thank you."
For the first time, their eyes met, really met. Concentrated, Max thought he recognized something familiar in her eyes. "Do I know you from somewhere else?"
Liz shook her head. "I doubt it."
"It's probably just an impression," he muttered, looking down. He hadn't noticed his state of undress until now, and he felt a blush creeping up his cheeks. "Uh... I hate to ask... you've done so much for me already but... do you have any clothes I can wear?"
"Yeah," Liz said, getting up to find them. "They're Kyle's. I hadn't put them on you 'cause I thought they'd chafe. Here you go."
She handed him the clothes and left the bathroom, closing the door. From the other side, she continued the conversation. "Do you... have you remembered... the phone number you wanted me to call?"
Max pulled on a set of loose sweatpants and a gray t-shirt. He exited the bathroom and sat on the edge of Liz's bed, as gently as he could. "No..." he said, his voice still low.
"Kyle... he has contacts in the police department in Vegas... he wanted to know two things... How are you related to Isabel and the other two people you mentioned?"
"Isabel is my sister. Tess and Michael... they're almost like siblings, too."
"Are they...?" she asked, her eyes widening before realizing her indiscretion. "I'm sorry... I shouldn't have asked."
Max nodded slowly. "I shouldn't have told you anything," he added. "I'm getting you into a lot of trouble without your consent. This could get you hurt... I just need to heal myself and get out before you do."
Liz sat beside him on the bed, swinging her legs onto it. "I figured I was signing on for trouble the second we found you on the highway."
"Not this kind of trouble," Max pointed out, shaking his head.
"Max... I'm going to help you because, frankly, I think no one deserves to be treated the way you were. The only thing you need to decide is whether or not to tell Kyle, Alex and Maria. Because they plan on helping and, if this is dangerous, I think they should know what they're getting into."
Max nodded. Then, "Wait a second. Who's Maria?"
"Uh... You'll meet her later today."
Max assented again. "Can I trust them?"
"About as much as you can trust me. You're going to have to trust yourself with that decision."
"What was the other thing you needed to ask me?"
He was trying to steer away from the subject. "Were you one of the Sanders House orphans?"
Max nodded slowly. "How did you know?"
Liz explained. Max vaguely remembered a time of presents and letters and cards exchanged. It was all so blurry...
"Liz, what date is it? What year? And where is this?"
"You mean you don't know?"
Max's head shook vigorously.
"It's October 3rd, 2006. And you're in Las Cruces, New Mexico."
"I've been missing for three months... the others could be dead," he whispered. His face quickly buried in his hands.
"What did they do to you, Max?"
"Do you think... whoever did this to you... could hurt...."
He nodded slowly. She knew he was crying. For his pain. For the others.
Liz knew then. She had determination in her voice when she spoke. "I'll help you. We'll find them."
BTW, did I forget to thank you, Dingoes, for the insistence? LOL.
Yes, I am planning on updating my other fics. No, I don't know when exactly, but I have already written one new part for State of Emergency, one for In another place and 3 for Between the Buried. So hang in there, I'll get it done as soon as I can.
Now leave feedback! (please, pretty please, with a cherry on top?)
|posted on 31-Oct-2001 1:37:12 PM by dira|
I know, long time, no update, right?
Well, thing is, I am updating a little more regularly, but on another board, 'cause this one just keeps, well, not letting me update.
So if you'd be so kind as to follow the link below, you can read the new part of this fic:
Also on that board two new parts for Between the buried, so if you're a fan, please have a look-see. The address of that one is:
Now, I know you'll like to leave feedback, 'cause that's just the kind of lovely people you are, but you have to register there to do so... I'll leave that bit up to your discretion. But the address for the lovely board that so kindly houses my fics is:
Please visit the Boardello of fanfiction... I'll guarantee you'll get fabulous service... LOL
thanks for your time