posted on 16-Nov-2002 7:49:19 PM
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TITLE: The Forging of a Lifebond
AUTHOR: Tasyfa
EMAIL: tasyfa⊕
DISCLAIMER: The characters of Roswell are the property of Twentieth Century Fox Television and Regency Productions. All original characters and concepts are the property of the author. No profit has been made from the distribution of this work of fiction.
SUMMARY: Set after ARCC. The granolith does something strange when Max touches Liz's arm in the chamber, sparking a flash of Future Max that leads to Max and Liz's reconciliation. Strange events continue to unfold around the couple and their six friends.
Roswell Fanatics Fan Fiction Awards:
Runner-up for Sex Scene That Made You Go 'Whoa!'

Winner for Most Passionate Max/Liz Lovemaking Scene
(banner to come)

Chapter One

They entered the room, all eight pairs of eyes going immediately to the huge, black inverted cone in the center. The granolith was quiescent, its white base glowing softly. There was a feeling of waiting, of tightly harnessed power. The air hummed with the anticipation of its release. Yet, nothing happened.

Michael was the first to break the silence. He cleared his throat, voicing the question on all their lips.

“So, what the hell is it?” he asked, his frustration palpable.

Max circled the granolith, his outstretched hand not quite touching its surface.

“Lonnie said it was a religious artifact, some kind of Holy Grail,” he replied thoughtfully. “How much of that we can believe is anyone’s guess, but…I don’t know, that feels right, somehow.”

Max turned to look at Liz. She had remained by the entrance, just barely within the chamber.

“Liz, you told me the granolith was powerful, but you wouldn’t say how you knew that. I’m asking again—from where did you get this knowledge?” he inquired.

The others collectively turned away from the granolith to stare at Liz. She froze under their scrutiny, her throat closing in fear. Her eyes sought out Maria, the one person to whom she had entrusted her secret.

Maria looked back at her, her torn feelings clearly displayed in her face. Liz could almost see her thought processes—to tell or not? Liz gave her a look, one she knew well, and Maria began to fidget. At last she capitulated with Liz’s silent plea and dropped her gaze, giving an imperceptible nod.

Not imperceptible enough, it turned out, because Michael had witnessed their exchange.

“You told Maria, but not us,” he practically growled. The angry statement brought everyone’s eyes to Michael…everyone’s but Max’s. His eyes never left Liz’s face.

“Liz, is that true?” he asked, too softly. Liz could feel the anger radiating from him as he came towards her, stopping directly in front of her. She said nothing, refusing to look at him, which was all the answer Max needed.

“Why, Liz? Why would you tell Maria something so important to us, and not tell me?” he asked, fighting to get the words out through his anger and hurt.

Liz opened her mouth to answer, but nothing came out. She took a deep breath and tried again.

“Max, it—it isn’t what you think. Please. I—I can’t tell you; I promised,” she whispered, her eyes filling with tears. She couldn’t bear that she was the cause of all the pain in his beautiful eyes—again. Liz made a helpless motion with her hands.

“Max, I don’t think I should be here. I—I’m going to go,” she said, and she turned from him, struggling to hold in the tears. Max caught her arm.

“Liz,” he began, only to be silenced by a flare of white light from the granolith’s base. Startled, Max whirled to look at the granolith, letting go of Liz’s arm, then turned back to her.

The light faded, returning to its customary faint glow. Liz’s mind was already racing as the questions began to flow.

“What made it do that?” wondered Alex. He, Michael, Maria, Isabel and Tess approached the granolith, all echoing the same basic question. Kyle stood a little apart, his wariness evident in his posture. It was his first visit to the granolith chamber as well as Liz’s, and it made him a little nervous.

Only Max and Liz ignored the granolith. Instead, they were looking at each other, communicating silently. Max had a pleading expression on his face, and Liz’s resolve began to crumble under what she could read in his eyes.

“I’m as surprised as you are,” she stated quietly. “My—informant told me only what I have already told you, that it was extraordinarily powerful and could be dangerous in the wrong hands. I guess, like any other kind of power, it can be abused,” Liz continued, her voice taking on an air of speculation. “Anything that bestows power is an object of desire for all the wrong people,” she mused absently.

The corners of Max’s mouth quirked up as he tried not to smile at this proof of the engagement of Liz’s facile mind. She saw the tiny movement, though, and laughed self-deprecatingly.

“Yeah, I’ll admit I’m all curious now,” she said, still smiling at Max.

By this time the other 6 had realized that Max and Liz had some idea as to the cause of the flare up of light, but no one wanted to intrude. Finally, Alex decided to poke his nose in.

“So I take it that you two know why all of a sudden it was daylight in here,” he remarked. “Would you mind sharing, because the rest of us are still in the dark over here.”

Max’s gaze swept the group.

“The light brightened when I touched Liz’s arm,” he declared quietly. “We’ll have to set up some experiments, see if this happens for anyone or anything else, and go from there. We should approach this scientifically,” he added, smiling wryly at Liz.

“Yeah, um, we can try different combinations of people holding hands or linking arms, that kind of stuff,” she said, already focusing on planning the experiments.

Michael and Isabel exchanged a look, and Isabel spoke up.

“That’s great, but before we do that, could we just, make sure it wasn’t a fluke?” she asked, looking back and forth between Liz and Max. “Would you guys just, you know, hold hands? Just as a test?”

Liz hesitated, then nodded and reached for Max’s hand as everyone watched the granolith.

The second their hands touched, the granolith began to grow brighter. As Max interlaced their fingers, its light intensified till they could barely look directly at it.

Eyes watering, Liz held onto Max’s hand for another moment, then squeezed it and let go.

The granolith’s reaction was just as immediate. The light died back down to its customary level in a matter of seconds.

Max cleared his throat, carefully not looking at Liz. He’d gotten a brief flash from her mind, an image of himself with shoulder-length hair, dressed in black leather. He wondered if it was another fantasy, but it was neither the time nor the place to ask about it.

“I think that’s enough for tonight,” Max said, amazed his voice was so steady. “We can come back later, when we have a plan. Tomorrow’s Friday. Can we all meet at the Crashdown after close to discuss this? Does that work for everyone?” he asked.

There were nods all around, and Liz said, “Yeah, that’ll be OK. Maria, Michael and I all work the closing shift tomorrow night anyway, so we’ll already be there. And my parents never mind us hanging out.”

Max nodded. “OK, then we’ll see you all tomorrow.”

Everyone began to file out the door. Liz turned to go too, but stopped when Max spoke to her.

“Liz, please stay for a moment. I need to talk to you,” he said quietly.

Liz sighed, knowing she had this coming, and turned to face Max.

“OK, Max, but not here. It seems like that is, well, listening or something. I don’t really want to talk in front of it till I have a better idea of what it is,” she declared with a dramatic shiver.

Max smiled. “Yeah, we kind of feel like that too. Where would you like to go, then?”

“Let’s just go to the Crashdown. My parents are at this party tonight, they won’t be home till late, so it’ll be private, and we can get warm,” Liz replied, rubbing her arms.

Max ached to take her in his arms and tell her that he would keep her warm, but instead he just nodded.

“All right, let’s go then, before Isabel leaves us stranded. It is too cold to be out here all night,” he stated, starting to walk out of the chamber.

They got back to the cars to find the Jetta already gone, and Alex and Isabel waiting for them in the Jeep.

“Come on you guys, I’m freezing,” called Isabel. Liz and Max hurried to climb in the Jeep, and Isabel gunned the engine and took off the minute they were seated.

The ride back to Roswell was silent, everyone lost in their own thoughts. Isabel dropped Alex off first then stopped in front of the Crashdown. She wasn’t surprised when Max got out of the Jeep, too.

“Don’t stay out too late, Max,” she cautioned him. “Mom and Dad’ll be back around 11 o’clock from their bridge night.”

“Thanks, Izzy,” Max said, smiling at her. She winked and mouthed **good luck** while Liz was fitting her key into the door, her back turned to the two of them. Max flushed and waved Isabel on.

[ edited 6 time(s), last at 18-Jan-2003 11:15:50 PM ]
posted on 16-Nov-2002 7:50:51 PM
Chapter One cont.

Liz opened the door to the café as the Jeep roared off down the street. Max followed her inside, and she locked the door behind him. By unspoken consent, they headed to a booth at the back of the café, near the door to the kitchen, and Liz paused for a moment to flick on some lights. They sat down, sliding onto opposite benches in the same booth.

“Do you want anything?” Liz asked. “Hot chocolate or something?”

“No, thanks, Liz,” Max smiled a little. “I’m fine.”

“OK,” Liz responded, then she fell silent. They sat in an awkward silence for a few minutes, neither knowing how to begin. Finally Max just plunged in.

“Liz, can I ask you kind of a personal question?” he queried

“Yeah, go ahead. I’ll try to answer it,” she replied, a little puzzled. He wasn’t going to bring up Kyle again, was he? After he said he wouldn’t? Liz didn’t think she could live through lying to him even one more time about that.

Max had no idea how to proceed. He stammered, “Liz, do you…I mean, have you, um.” He paused for breath then rushed on, “Do you still think about me?”

Liz slanted a look at him that clearly said she thought he’d lost his marbles. “What are you talking about? Of course I still think about you—we’re friends, aren’t we?” she answered questioningly.

Max sighed. She didn’t get it; he was going to have to come right out and say it.

“I, uh, I should have worded that better, I guess. What I meant was, do you still think about me in, you know, that way? As in, like, fantasies?” he managed to get out.

Liz quickly scanned his face, then her eyes slid away. Her cheeks flushed in an automatic response to the question, a response that was really her answer.

Max plunged ahead. “What I need to know, specifically, is, um, if you’ve ever thought about me looking, well, differently.”

Liz was confused and still embarrassed, but she asked anyway, “What do you mean by differently? Different clothes or what?”

“Well, partly, yeah. I was actually wondering if you’ve, um, ever pictured me with long hair. Like, say, shoulder-length? And wearing, um, black leather?” Max asked.

Liz’s head snapped up and the color drained from her face as she looked at Max. “I knew I shouldn’t have held hands with you, I knew it!” she railed, angry tears welling up and spilling onto her face. She got up from the booth and started pacing. Max got up too, but just stood beside the booth, waiting. He was completely baffled, but remained silent as Liz struggled to compose herself. Annoyed, she scrubbed away the fallen tears, taking deep, slow breaths. When she had regained some measure of calm, she turned to face Max.

“Why, exactly, do you want to know if I’ve, um, thought about you looking like that?” Liz asked, not quite meeting his eyes. Her cheeks had returned to their pink color.

Max answered, “Because I saw me, like that, when we linked hands tonight. That’s all I saw, only a glimpse of myself looking…very different.” His voice had taken on a wryly amused tone.

Liz’s gaze met his, and quickly slid away again. Her voice was a little unsteady as she lied, “I was just, you know, imagining how you would look that way. Like you were, um, in a—a revolution, or something.” Her cheeks grew even rosier as she spoke, hating the untruths coming out of her mouth.

Max stared at her for a long moment, too angry to speak. She was lying to him again! At last he found his voice.

“How could you, Liz? How could you LIE to me? After I’ve started trusting you again—after we’ve started rebuilding our friendship! Damn it, Liz, tell me the truth! I deserve at least that much!” he thundered.

Liz’s eyes flashed in fury. “You can’t have the truth, Max Evans! I can’t give it to you! I gave my word, Max. I shouldn’t even have said anything about the granolith to you, but,” she shrugged, pain in her eyes, “I thought you really needed to know before you went to the summit.” She paused, and then looked into his eyes.

“I’m sorry, Max, but I’ve told you all that I can. I am asking you to go on faith here, to trust me. You said that you believed in me; I need you to keep doing that. Please,” she begged.

Max exhaled explosively and ran a hand through his hair. “All right, Liz. I do believe in you. I do trust you. You went on a lot of faith for me before, so I guess the least I can do is to return the favor,” he sighed. “I won’t push anymore.”

“Thank you,” Liz choked out, her tears falling freely now. She turned her face from Max so that he couldn’t see her crying.

Max grimaced, then paced forward and turned Liz to face him, sliding his arms around her and clasping her to him.

“It’s OK, Liz. I don’t mind if you cry,” he stated softly, tears in his own eyes. Liz buried her face in his shoulder, sobbing in earnest now. Max simply held her, one hand stroking her hair soothingly, until her sobs quieted and at last, died away.

Liz lifted her head and Max brushed her wet cheek with the back of his hand. “No more tears, Liz,” he said softly, his hand turning to cup her face. “You…”

Max’s voice stilled as their skin-to-skin contact, strengthened by Liz’s heightened emotions, sent a flurry of images flashing through his mind. He caught only snatches:

“…able to modify it to create an artificial tear in time/space…”

“…14 years from now we are taken over by our enemies…everyone…Earth…we need to change the future…no one can know I’m here…”

“…she left Roswell…because of me, and how I treated her. And it turned out Tess was critical to our survival…”

“…you want me to help you and Tess get together…yes…it’s you I trust. It’s you I have faith in. And because it’s not just about getting me close to Tess. I need you to help me fall out of love with you…”

“…did we get married?…we eloped; we were nineteen…”

“…I just said no to Gomez…I didn’t take no for an answer…we made love…I don’t even have protection…I did…here you are, Max the Saint, just walking around with a condom in your back pocket…you are not letting yourself change, and you have to do something, before it’s too late…”

“…do you know how hard it was for me to tell him that I didn’t want to die for him? He’s the only reason that I’m alive right now…I held Michael…dead…Isabel died…”

“…what can I do that’s going to make you turn away from me?…I don’t know…”

“…I need your help…”

“…we’re not going to…consummate. I understand…”

“…maybe it would be better for you to be with a human…don’t you realize what you are to me, what you’re always going to be? You’re the love of my life. Everyone else is going to be second best. There’ll never be another you…”

Liz pulled away, but she could read Max’s stunned look all too easily; she hadn’t been fast enough to stop the floodgates from opening. So much for keeping it to myself, she thought guiltily.

Max let her move away, not really aware of anything but what was playing out in his head. The words slowly sorted themselves out, matching up with the images that had flooded into him. As understanding dawned on him, he looked up to see Liz disappearing through the swinging door. He rushed after her, pushing through the door and seizing her arm.

“Liz, please wait,” he pleaded. Slowly she turned to face him, but kept her eyes fixed on a distant point, refusing to look at him. She looked absolutely miserable.

“Liz, you didn’t tell me anything. You didn’t break your word. I—it’s my fault. I forced it from you,” Max admitted. “But, Liz, I can’t be sorry. I can’t. It has been killing me, thinking that you…when I didn’t know how you could have, I couldn’t really believe it. But you kept telling me that you had,” Max said, his voice filled with understanding. “Even when I kept pushing, you held your ground…so that we could all live.” He shook his head. “Liz, that’s—you’re amazing, do you know that? I don’t think I could have been that strong.”

Drawn by the acceptance in his voice and in his words, Liz cautiously looked at Max. His face was shining, and she had to smile, in spite of everything.

“Oh, Max. I wanted to tell you so many times. And you kept asking me and asking me. When you came back from New York, and you said, well, what you did, and then you asked me point blank if I’d slept with Kyle…I couldn’t even form the word yes anymore,” she said quietly.

“I know,” Max said. “But when you nodded, it was like—like I’d been kicked in the stomach. I just kept thinking, third time’s the charm, you know? But I still, I couldn’t just let you go. Not after everything we’ve shared. I had to be at least your friend. I couldn’t bear not having you be part of my life, Liz.”

Max’s voice trembled as he continued, “Liz—I know this is a really awkward situation, to say the least. But…”

“Don’t,” Liz interrupted, placing her fingers over his lips. “Don’t say it, Max. Don’t ruin the friendship we have now with talk of what can never be.” Her hand fell away.

Max looked at her, willing her to meet his eyes. As the silence lengthened, Liz’s head slowly lifted till she met his gaze.

“Liz,” he breathed, her name a caress on his lips. “We can find a way to make this work. Tess—she and I are friends now. I know I didn’t, I mean, I know I was rotten to her, but it’s not like that anymore. I don’t feel uncomfortable around her now. Maybe it’s because of what she did to the Skins, saving our collective asses. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because she’s not throwing herself at me anymore, pushing me to accept her that way. She’s become a friend. And I think, actually,” Max continued with a half smile, “that she’s beginning to care for Kyle.”

Liz started. “Care for Kyle?” she echoed. “I knew they were, um, getting involved, she told me that much, but…”

“May I show you something?” Max interrupted. “It’ll be like another reverse connection. You—well, you might see more than what I’m trying to show you. I haven’t had a lot of practice at this,” he said, somewhat sheepishly.

Intrigued by his offer, Liz searched Max’s face. His slight smile told her that her knew what she was trying to see, if he was truly sincere. He was.

“All right,” she acquiesced. “But, let’s sit down, OK? Just in case.”

Max smiled. “Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.” He glanced at his watch; it was 10:35. “Should we maybe go upstairs? It’s getting kind of late, and I don’t think either of us wants me to get caught here.”

Liz glanced at her own watch. “Oh. Maybe…no, never mind,” she interrupted herself. “We need to finish this now.”

“Yes, we do,” Max agreed under his breath as she turned out the café lights. He followed her up the stairs and into her room.

Liz sat on the end of her bed and hesitantly, Max sat beside her. He took a deep breath, and swiveled his body to face her.

“Are you ready?” he asked. Liz nodded, her nervousness evident as Max raised his hands to cradle her face. But she did not flinch away; she met his gaze head-on.

There was a soundless rush of air as images began to flow into Liz’s mind. She saw Max’s home constellation as it had appeared to the emissary, the 5 planets of his sun suspended in glory against the blackness of space. She felt his amazement at her apparition in the streets of New York, and his fear and gratitude as the platform narrowly missed killing him. She saw his forgiveness of his sister, and though she could not hear the words, she knew that Isabel had repeated Liz’s declaration of love to her brother.

Liz let out an incoherent cry as she slammed into the image of herself and Kyle in this very bed, feeling Max’s shock and rage, his unbelievable pain. She had no time to dwell on it, though, as the images continued to crowd into her mind, parading before her consciousness.

At last the stream slowed, and the desired scene swam slowly into focus. It was of Tess and Kyle at school, cuddled up together studying a textbook. Their pose reminded Liz poignantly of how she & Max used to sit last term, their easiness with each other, their casual intimacy. She watched as Kyle dropped a kiss onto Tess’s hair, eliciting a giggle and a look, which prompted another kiss—this one on her lips.

Liz knew that look; she’d seen it in the way Michael and Maria looked at each other. She’d worn it herself. Improbable as it seemed, Tess and Kyle were in love.

Gently, she reached up and removed Max’s hands from her face. Sense gradually returned to his eyes, and he asked, “Did you see it?”

Liz smiled. “Yes, I saw it. All of it,” she answered, her voice trembling a little. Max winced, knowing what she must have picked up. She caught it, and shook her head at him.

“No apologies, Max,” she said. She had tears in her eyes, but her smile didn’t waver as she continued, “I needed to know. How much I hurt you. Especially since you already knew what it was doing to me to keep lying to you. I—I won’t apologize, Max. I believed in what I was doing.”

Liz looked away, then said, nearly inaudibly, “I still do, Max. And I’d do it again if I had to.”

Max nodded, knowing she couldn’t see the motion. “It’s all right, Liz. I understand—completely. I do. And,” he paused, taking a deep breath before going on, “I only love you all the more for it.”

The words hung in the air between them, shimmering with promise. Liz could hardly believe that he’d said it. She licked suddenly dry lips and looked at him, finding his gaze already fixed on her face.

“Max…” she began, only to be cut short.

“Liz, I know what you’re going to say. It’s crazy. Suicidal, even, given what you were told. But things are different now, can’t you see that? I’m different. You’re different. The whole situation with Tess is completely different. She has someone now, someone other than me, and I,” he faltered, closing his eyes for a moment in shame, “I don’t treat her like—that, anymore. I treat her like the friend she’s become.”

Liz was shaking her head, tears sliding unheeded down her cheeks. She tried again to speak; Max didn’t let her.

“No buts, Liz. No excuses,” he declared softly. “No more lies—from either one of us.”

Liz kept shaking her head, splashing his arms with her wet salt. Max moved closer to her on the bed, till their legs were touching all along one side, and took her face in his hands again. He gently raised her head until she looked at him through eyes blurred with tears.

“Liz. Look into my eyes and tell me that you don’t love me anymore, if that’s the truth. Tell me you don’t love me the way that I love you,” Max insisted, his eyes never wavering from hers.

Lost in what Max’s face was telling her, Liz tried to speak. She stammered, “I—I don’t—I don’t,” but couldn’t finish the sentence. She let out a racking sob and collapsed against Max’s chest, her arms going around his torso. He held her closely, his face pressed against her hair, his tears falling into its softness. He murmured reassurances, the words incoherent but the love in his voice unmistakable.

Realization slowly crept through Liz as she listened to him. Her crying tapered off, as did Max’s, but neither of them moved for a long time, content in each other’s arms. After a while, Liz raised her head from Max’s shoulder, seeking his eyes.

“Max, I—I never stopped loving you. I never will. You’re the only one I’ll ever want,” she admitted in a whisper. Max’s face lit up, and Liz couldn’t suppress a giggle. He smiled at her, tenderly brushing a tendril of hair off her wet face.

“I had to hear you say it, Liz,” he said quietly. “I needed you to admit it, to me and to yourself. We can do this. The world has already been changed; we are already on a different path. We’ll just have to be careful.”

Liz sighed and nodded in agreement. “Yeah, we should probably act like we’re still just friends, at least until you—until you talk to Tess,” she said earnestly, waiting for his reaction.

Max smiled ruefully. “Guess I had that one coming,” he said. “I’ll talk to her before the meeting tomorrow, I promise. I—well, my stupidity was the reason you had to go through all this in the first place. It’s only fair that I deal with the fallout.”

Liz suddenly grinned at him, startling him. “You better believe it!” she exclaimed teasingly. Max brushed her cheek again, still smiling at her.

“Do you know how incredibly beautiful you are, Liz?” he asked huskily. Liz heard the change in his voice, and closed her eyes in anticipation as he lowered his mouth to hers.

It was a soft, sweet kiss, their lips barely touching. Max’s tongue flickered at the edges of her mouth. Liz sighed in pleasure, sliding her hands into Max’s thick hair and pulling him closer.

The kiss deepened. Liz opened her mouth to Max’s exploratory touches, and hungrily he took what she offered. His tongue thrust into her mouth to find hers, drawing it out then plunging back in to drink deeply of her.

Somehow, they were lying back on Liz’s bed, all thought erased by the release of their long-held desire. Max’s hands slid under Liz’s shirt, reaching up to cup her breasts. He kneaded them through the satin fabric of her bra, gently tugging on her nipples until they stood upright under his palms.

Liz struggled with the buttons of Max’s fly, finally giving up and stroking him through his jeans. He groaned, the sound echoing her moans and gasps as he continued caressing her breasts. She began to undo the buttons on his shirt when suddenly she froze and looked at her watch.

“Shit, it’s after midnight, my parents are home! You have to get out of here!” she hissed, sitting up as she hastily redid his shirt buttons. Jumping off the bed, she hauled Max to his feet. He grabbed his jacket as she opened the window, careful not to make a sound.

“Liz,” he whispered as he reached the window, “I love you.” She kissed him fiercely, her tongue flashing in and out of his mouth almost before he registered its presence.

“I love you too, Max. I’ll see you tomorrow. Go!” she whispered back, smiling.

Max threw her a grin as he climbed out the window and headed for the ladder. As carefully as she had opened it, Liz closed the window then dove for her bed, yanking off her clothes and dropping them on the floor under the bed. She flipped off the light, pulling the covers over her and wriggling into her pajamas underneath them. She’d just settled into a pseudo sleeping position when her dad poked his head into her room.

Finding her apparently asleep, Mr. Parker smiled fondly and closed the door again, going down the hall to his own room. As soon as he was gone, Liz scooped up her clothes and deposited them into the hamper in the bathroom, where they belonged. She quickly splashed her face with cold water, so her eyes wouldn’t be all puffy from her crying in the morning, then crawled back into bed, her body still tingling from Max’s touch. She was still going over everything that had happened tonight, a contented smile on her hot lips, when sleep overtook her.

As soon as his feet hit the ground, Max sprinted away from the Crashdown. Once he was a few blocks away, he slowed, breathing rapidly. He looked up at the stars overhead, smiling, and said aloud to the night, “I choose my own destiny. I choose Liz Parker.”

Unable to stop smiling, Max crept up to his house and tried his bedroom window. It wouldn’t open. “Damn,” he muttered, stepping back and glaring at it, wondering how much trouble he was going to get in this time. He might even be grounded. But not even that prospect could dim his joy tonight.

Suddenly, the window swung open and there was Isabel, beckoning him in. Surprised, Max nevertheless took advantage of the situation and climbed through the window. Isabel closed and latched it behind him, then turned around. She surveyed him closely.

“Well, since you’re grinning like a fool, I can only guess that it went well,” she said dryly. The color slowly crept up Max’s neck until he was blushing a bright red. He was still smiling, though.

Isabel laughed, not unkindly, and gave him a quick hug. “It’s so wonderful to see you happy again, Max.” She hesitated. “I know that I haven’t always been that supportive of Liz, and your relationship with her, but… When we dreamwalked together to warn you at the summit, I could sense how much she really cares about you. I respect that, and I respect what she did for you, even though she was scared out of her mind. So,” Isabel took a deep breath, “for what it’s worth, you have my blessing, Max. I’ll support you in this.”

Max blinked in shock then caught her in a bear hug. Isabel giggled as she swatted him away.

“Get off me, you big lug! You’re suffocating me!” she said, smiling.

“Iz, you don’t know what this means to me. Thank you. And, thanks for bailing me out—again,” he said apologetically. “One of these days I’ll return the favor, I swear!”

Isabel waved dismissively. “You better believe it, Max! I’ll collect when I’m ready. Now, I am going to bed, because it is way past my bedtime. I’ll see you for breakfast,” she said quietly as she let herself out of his room.

Max threw himself down on his bed. He thought about the events of the night, his smile still firmly in place. Gradually he became painfully aware that he was still wearing his jeans, and laughed at himself. He got up and stripped to his boxers, climbing under the covers as he got back into bed. Even as he forcibly turned his thoughts to what he was going to say to Tess, and as he drifted off to sleep, that smile never left his lips.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 17-Nov-2002 5:00:18 PM ]
posted on 16-Nov-2002 7:52:19 PM
Chapter Two

At breakfast the next morning, both Max and Liz’s families noticed a change.

Mrs. Parker told Liz that she was looking especially lovely today. Liz smiled and thanked her, then asked, “Dad, Mom, is it OK if everyone comes by after close to hang out tonight? It’ll be after I’m finished my shift, and we’ll be careful, I promise.”

“All right, Liz. But not too late, you hear me?” Mr. Parker replied, smiling at his only daughter.

At the Evans home, Mrs. Evans kept remarking on how nice it was to see Max smile, he’d been so down lately. Isabel kept making kissy faces at Max when their parents weren’t looking, until he finally kicked her under the table. She wrinkled her nose at him, then smiled and the morning continued in peace.

Max was giddy all day in school. He was glad that he had P. E. on Friday morning, so he could work off some of his seemingly boundless energy. Back in the locker room after class, Michael finally asked, “Maxwell, what the hell is with you today? You’ve been bouncing off the walls since you got here this morning. I haven’t seen you like this since…actually, I’ve never seen you like this. What gives?”

Max looked around to make sure they were alone, then said very quietly, “Liz and I worked things out last night. I still need to talk to Tess, but I’m doing that today after school, before the meeting.” He broke out into another smile.

“And then, when I got home way after curfew last night, Iz actually let me in and gave us her blessing. I was floored!” he finished.

Michael just stared at him for a moment then shook his head in amazement, a half smile on his face. “Well, far be it from me to get in the way of you and a girl who makes you this foolish. Just—don’t lose sight of the big picture, all right? Not everything is perfect because you’re in love—again.”

Max laughed. “I won’t, Michael, especially not with you around to remind me. Thanks.”

Maria took one look at Liz standing fumbling with her locker, practically glowing, and dragged her off to the nearest girl’s washroom.

“What happened, Liz?” she demanded excitedly. “You could supply the electricity for the entire town this morning. Spill!”

Liz blushed, and checked to make sure that no one else was in the washroom. She whispered, “Max had a flash when he grabbed my arm in the granolith chamber. He came back with me to the Crashdown, and we had a fight. I started crying and he held me, then he touched my face and it all came flooding out. He saw everything, Maria. We talked and argued for a long time. So long that we went up to my room so that we wouldn’t get surprised by my parents. He—he showed me how Tess and Kyle are kind of a couple now, and…”

“You mean you hadn’t noticed that?” interrupted Maria. “God, it’s been all I can do not to yak, they’re so sickening with each other!”

Liz shrugged. “Well, I guess I just thought that they were, you know, using each other. But Max showed me that they really do care about each other. He’s going to talk to Tess today, actually, before the meeting tonight.”

Maria looked puzzled. “Talk to Tess about what? Did I miss something?” Liz blushed again, and Maria giggled. Liz resumed her whispering.

“Yeah, I skipped a part because you interrupted me! Anyway, he, um, he understands what I did, he’s not mad and he still loves me.”

“Any idiot could see that,” Maria remarked, earning herself a glare.

“Anyway, I admitted that I love him too, and then…” Liz trailed off, her eyes dreamy. Maria nudged her.

“Yeah, and then WHAT?” she appealed. Liz coughed before continuing.

“Well, then he kissed me. Somehow we were lying down now—we’d been sitting on my bed—and we just kept kissing, and…” she paused, unsure of how to phrase it.

Maria jumped in helpfully. “So, how far did you get? Farther than with Kyle?”

Liz nodded, her cheeks rosy. “Yeah, like second base—but for real this time. Max’s hands were under my shirt and everywhere—and I, um, I kind of, well, touched him, too.”

“You mean—no, really?” Maria breathed. “Is he, like…”

“Maria! I’m not going to tell you that! Besides, it was through his jeans—I couldn’t get the stupid buttons undone. And then I heard my parents come in so I kind of shoved him out the window. I kissed him goodbye, and he told me he loved me before he sprinted to the ladder,” she giggled. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him disappear over the railing so fast—it was after midnight when he left!”

Maria leaned back against the wall and took a good long look at her best friend, approving of what she saw. “Liz, hon, I am SO glad to see you are both where you belong now—together,” she declared, beaming.

Liz laughed and hugged her, and then they both scrambled to get to class as the bell rang.

By unspoken agreement, Liz and Max avoided each other at school all day, knowing that they wouldn’t be able to keep up the charade of just friends in close quarters. Max finally caught up with Tess and Kyle at the beginning of last period at Tess’s locker.

“Hi guys,” he greeted them. “Listen, I was wondering if we could talk today after school—all three of us, I mean. I could meet you at your place. Would that be OK?” he asked.

Kyle and Tess looked at each other, perplexed, then Kyle shrugged. “Sure, no problem, Max. We’ll see you there maybe half an hour after school’s out. Sound all right?”

Max nodded. “Sounds fine. I’ll see you then.”

At about 4:30 p.m., Max knocked on the Valentis’s door. Tess opened it and waved him in.

“The sheriff’s not home right now, so we can sit in the living room,” she said, closing the door behind him. “Kyle’ll be back in a sec, he just took something out to the garage. Can I get you anything? A glass of water, maybe?”

“No, thanks, I’m good,” Max replied. Tess ushered him to the plaid couch, and he sat down. She took a seat in an obviously new rocking chair, its wood burnished to a gleaming finish.

“I don’t remember that chair,” Max said. “Is it new?”

Tess grinned. “Yes, this is my Christmas present from Kyle and the sheriff. Isn’t it nice?”

“Mmm-hmm,” Max agreed. Just then, Kyle came in the room. He kissed the top of Tess’s head on his way to the couch, where he flopped down beside Max.

“So, what did you want to talk about?” he asked, snagging a handful of chips from the ever-present bowl on the coffee table.

Max took a deep breath. “A couple of things, really. The first one is that I want to thank you again, Tess, for saving our butts from the Skins. I know that Nicholas is still out there somewhere, but he has a seriously diminished power base now, and that’s because of you. And,” he went on, “I know that we—well, mostly me—haven’t treated you like you were a real part of the team. But you are, Tess. Just as much as any of the rest of us. I—I’m sorry for my past behavior. It was—rude, and unkind, to say the least. I consider you to be a friend now, and I’d like it if you would consider me to be the same.”

Tess looked at Kyle, then back at Max. “I do think of you as a friend, Max. I’m glad you’re finally acknowledging me, though,” she said quietly. Max nodded and shrugged, and Tess smiled in return.

“OK, the second thing has to do with you, Kyle,” Max said, his stomach clenching with nervousness. “I want to thank you for what happened with you and Liz.”

Kyle and Tess both stared at him as if he’d gone crazy, and Max laughed weakly, realizing how that had sounded.

“I meant, for helping her, Kyle. I know the truth now,” he said softly. Comprehension dawned on Kyle’s face, but Tess was still confused.

“Would one of you gentlemen be so kind as to explain to me just what the hell that’s supposed to mean?” she asked, a dangerous edge in her voice. Kyle beat Max to the explanation.

“Liz and I didn’t really sleep together,” he confessed, looking at Tess. “She asked me to help her make Max think we’d slept together, but we didn’t do anything. I’ve seen more of her at the beach,” he snorted. He looked at Max.

“She wouldn’t tell me why she was doing it. I’ve got to admit, I’ve thought about telling you more than a few times, especially after she got so upset that she hadn’t said anything before we left to take out that time field. But I didn’t think it was my place. I take it you know why, now, too?” he queried.

Max nodded, then noticed Tess’s grin. “What is so funny?” he asked, bewildered. Her smile widened.

“Kyle owes Liz big time. When you and Isabel left us in the Jeep to check out the Universal Friendship League, Max, I asked Liz about what had happened—and she told me you were great!” she laughed at Kyle.

He grinned back at her, flushing a little. “Well, aren’t I?” he asked archly. Tess’s cheeks reddened, but she was still smiling as she retorted, “Not on your life, Valenti!”

Max cleared his throat and requested, “Could we get back on topic here, please?” They both smiled at him, and Kyle waved at him to continue.

“As I understand it, mine and Liz’s future selves found a way to modify the granolith so that my future self could travel back in time 14 years to change the future and prevent the end of the world. This future self came to Liz and told her that she needed to find a way to make me fall out of love with her. We had several painful conversations, but I wasn’t giving up, so she went to you, Kyle, for help. Are you still with me?” he asked with a half smile.

Kyle nodded, and Tess said, “Yeah, I can see that—I know how devastated you were, but…why?”

Max sighed and steeled himself. He looked at Tess as he replied, “Because the closer I grew to Liz, the worse I treated you, Tess. Eventually, you reached the breaking point and you left Roswell. When all hell broke loose and Earth was invaded, the three of us weren’t enough. We failed. At the point that my future self returned, Michael and Isabel had already been killed; presumably you were dead as well. We needed you, and you were gone, because of me.”

There was an uncomfortable silence in the room as they digested the information. Finally, Tess looked back up.

“Max, you and Liz—you’re back together now, aren’t you. That’s why you’re here, why you needed to get this out into the open,” she stated. Max nodded, and she continued speaking.

“You and I are…we’re not the people that we used to be, Max. Just like Isabel is not Vilandra, you’re not Zan…and I’m not Ava. I think I always knew that if you were ever given a choice, that choice wouldn’t be me.” She looked down, tears swimming in her eyes. “All my life, Nasedo told me that you were my destiny. But you—love someone else. And I care about someone else now, too.” She glanced at Kyle, who smiled at her. Tremulously she smiled back.

“Max, since the day that everyone disappeared and I somehow tapped into that firestorm, I’ve felt that you respected me, even cared about me. I see the way you look at Liz, the way you’ve always looked at her, and I know that no matter who we were in that other life, in this life you will never look at me like that.

“You said once that we create our own destinies. I don’t know what mine is yet, but I think that yours…is with Liz.”

She wiped her tears away, smiling at the expression on Max’s face. He looked dazed. “I’ve been thinking about this for a while, now, Max, I just—I couldn’t quite bring myself to say it to you. Roswell is my home now; I belong here. Just not—as more than your friend,” she concluded.

Max looked in shock from her to Kyle, who was nodding in agreement. “Well, um, I guess that’s it then,” he managed. “I must say, Tess, that’s—more than I had any right to expect from you. I want to keep on being your friend—both your friends,” he amended.

“Sounds like a plan, Max,” Kyle said, rising from the couch and going to stand behind Tess. “Friends are the flowers of one’s soul.”

Tess winked at Max as she reached up to hold Kyle’s hand. “Just remember, Max, love makes people do crazy things. Be careful.” She tilted her head back and she and Kyle shared a long look.

Max coughed. “I think I’ll leave now before my teeth rot from all the sweetness,” he remarked sarcastically. Kyle looked sheepish and Tess giggled.

“Seriously, you two, thanks. I appreciate everything you said,” Max stated. “I’d better go before I’m late for supper.”

It was the end of the dinner shift at the Crashdown Café and Liz and Maria were both tired. Michael, too, was dragging his feet as he cleaned up the kitchen.

“Come on, Michael,” Liz called. “The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can have this meeting.”

Michael appeared at the pass through window. “That’s supposed to make me go faster, being able to go to one of Max’s little meetings? Not!” he exclaimed.

Liz and Maria both laughed. Maria went to change out of her uniform—Liz had already done so—and Michael motioned Liz over to the window.

“What?” she asked, stopping in front of him.

Michael grimaced. “I just wanted you to, you know, congratulate you. Though why you’d pick Max is beyond me,” he said, one corner of his mouth lifting in a smile. “Isabel gave you her blessing, too, in case Max didn’t tell you yet.”

Surprised, Liz shook her head. “No, I haven’t seen him today. We kind of figured we’d be a dead giveaway if we were seen together, so… Thank you, Michael. That means a lot—coming from you,” she smirked, ducking as he aimed a mock blow at her. They both laughed as Maria reentered the café, looking her usual polished self.

“What’d I miss?” she inquired. “Liz, you just got your man back. Leave mine alone!”

Michael smiled. “I was just telling her that Isabel and I both approve, this time around,” he explained. Maria squealed and hugged Liz, then grabbed Michael’s shoulders and pulled him far enough forward to give him a long, slow kiss. At last she released him and pushed him back upright.

“Thank you, Spaceboy,” she said, her eyes twinkling mischievously. Liz tried not to laugh at the expression on Michael’s face, but couldn’t help herself. She and Maria collapsed against each other, holding on for dear life as they shook with laughter.

Max and Isabel entered through the front door, followed by Alex. They took in the laughing girls then Isabel spotted Michael and smiled.

“Wipe your mouth, Michael. You’re wearing most of Maria’s lipstick,” she informed him. He looked heavenward, shrugging, and disappeared into the kitchen, emerging a moment later through the swinging door with a clean face. He grabbed Maria and dragged her to a back booth, where they both sat.

Liz clutched her stomach and looked for Isabel. She saw Max first and her smile changed, growing more luminous. They stood there like that for a few moments, lost in each other’s gazes. Michael was rolling his eyes, and the others were trying not to laugh. No one really wanted to break the spell, but finally Alex gave Max a little push.

“Kiss her already,” he ordered. Max gave a guilty start, flushing as he realized that several minutes had gone by. Liz smiled and came to him.

“Hi,” she said softly.

“Hi, yourself,” he replied, then drew her to him for a sweet, tender kiss. When he lifted his head, Liz was radiant.

There was the sound of applause, and they turned to find that Tess and Kyle had come in unnoticed. They were clapping and smiling, and after a moment’s hesitation everyone else joined in. Liz, blushing furiously, led Max to the booth where Maria and Michael were sitting. Alex, Isabel, Tess and Kyle took seats in the chairs at the table beside the booth.

Once everyone was seated and a pitcher of fruit punch and glasses had been passed around, Max spoke up. “I’m actually going to hand this meeting over to Liz, because she’s the one with the scientific bent. Liz, would you mind?”

Flabbergasted, Liz groped for her notes. “Um, OK, Max. Um, we’re here to talk about what experiments we should do with the granolith, because it had a definite reaction when Max grabbed my arm in the chamber yesterday.”

She glanced around at the group; everyone had slightly blank looks on their faces. Liz smiled. “I know that we haven’t had much time to think about this, but what I propose is that we start out with something pretty basic. We have four human/alien pairs—sorry, Alex and Isabel, you’re stuck together again,” she apologized.

Isabel looked at Alex and they both smiled. Encouraged, Liz continued, “Since the granolith reacted to Max and I linking hands, I thought we could see if it does the same thing for any of the other 3 pairs. Then, we can combine 2 pairs, then 3, and finally all of us in one big group. That’s it for now. I figured that we could rate the brightness on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the brightest. Michael, you can do that, you’re the most light sensitive,” she teased.

“Ha ha,” Michael said. “But all right, I’ll do it.”

“Tess, you have the neatest handwriting, so maybe you could mark down Michael’s measurements? I’ve already done up a chart of the combinations on the computer,” Liz asked, looking hopefully at her.

Tess looked surprised but pleased. “Sure, I can do that. What about everyone else, though?” she asked.

“The rest of us can just play guinea pig,” Liz replied. “So, do we want to go do this now? It probably won’t take all that long; it’s not complicated.”

Everyone was quiet for a moment, taken aback by Liz’s efficiency. Then Max shook his head and smiled. “I’m all for getting it done now. Let’s go,” he agreed. “We can always work out any bugs onsite.” There was a murmur of agreement, and everyone stood up. Liz grabbed the pitcher to put back in the fridge; Maria and Michael washed the glasses and put them away. As they left the café for the cars, Liz carefully locked up behind them. Maria, Michael, Liz and Max got into Maria’s Jetta; everyone else piled into the Evans’s Jeep.

Isabel and Maria drove out to the mountain where the granolith was concealed, parking their vehicles in a sheltered, private area. Everyone got out and headed for the pod chamber.

The granolith was exactly as they had left it, its base glowing a soft, steady white. The group spaced themselves around it, each couple taking a compass point in order to achieve perfect balance.

“Michael, Tess. You guys ready?” Max asked. Tess nodded. He couldn’t see Michael on the opposite side of the granolith, but Max heard his grunt of assent. Liz rolled her eyes at Max and he smiled.

Isabel spoke up. “I think it would be a good idea to start with Max and Liz, as, like, a baseline. Since we saw what happened before, we could set that level of brightness as, say, 5 on Michael’s scale. That way we’d have something to base the scale on.”

There were nods around the circle. “That’s a great idea, Isabel,” Liz praised her. “A baseline is really important. And we should time it for 30 seconds too, just for consistency.”

Michael snorted. “So, go ahead then. I’ve got a watch. Let’s see what 5 looks like,” he remarked.

Max and Liz looked at each other then clasped hands. Max’s thumb caressed the back of Liz’s hand as they watched the granolith’s light grow to brilliance, their eyes watering.

Michael called out, “Time!” A little reluctantly, they let go of each other, smiling.

“So who’s next?” Alex asked. Tess consulted the chart. “Maria and Michael are,” she replied.

They worked their way through the list. There were very slight changes for the other 3 pairs, more noticeable changes for the combinations. The only thing that came close to producing the same kind of brilliance that Max and Liz had created alone, however, was when all eight of them linked together in a circle around the granolith.

At last Max sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Man, I’m beat,” he muttered, then spoke louder. “That’s it, guys. We’re not going to get anything else done tonight. It’s almost midnight; let’s get out of here. We can talk about the results later.”

The group started heading for the door. They were all as exhausted as Max was.

Liz smiled wanly at him. “I feel like I could sleep for a week,” she declared. Max chuckled tiredly.

“I know what you mean,” he said. “I was kind of hoping we could have some private time, though.” He lowered his voice. “I want to kiss you again, without an audience this time,” he half smiled.

Liz’s breath caught in her throat, and she murmured, “What’s stopping you?”

Oblivious to everything but the invitation in her eyes, Max stepped closer to Liz and slowly lowered his head to kiss her. As their lips touched and their tongues entwined, there was a soundless explosion of light. Startled, they broke apart as everyone came running back in.

“What did you DO?” cried Michael. “That blew our 10 point scale all to hell!”

Max rubbed his upper lip, a little embarrassed. Liz was staring at the floor trying not to laugh.

“We, uh,” Max cleared his throat, also holding back laughter, “We kissed.”

Michael stared at him. “Kissed how? Are we talking tongues down each other’s throats French kissing here or what?” he demanded.

Liz dissolved into giggles, grabbing for Maria for support. Max’s lips twitched and he kept his gaze fixed in the other direction from Liz.

“No, it was just your basic garden-variety kiss,” he managed to say. “Sorry, I guess we weren’t really thinking about it.”

Liz was standing on her own now, her giggles reduced to a wide smile. Max stole a glance at her and grinned, unrepentant.

Michael exhaled audibly. “Yeah, I can just guess what you were thinking about,” he said sardonically. “Just try not to give the rest of us heart attacks in the process, OK?” Max nodded, his eyes sparkling with mirth he dared not give in to; he figured that if he started to laugh, he was a goner.

In spite of himself, Michael smiled at Max. “Let’s go, guys. Max—it’s good to see you like this again,” he admitted. “Thanks, Liz.” Shocked, Liz just nodded as the group turned to leave again. Maria smiled and winked at her, and went to link arms with Michael. Finally just Liz and Max were left in the granolith chamber, though the others were still audible in the pod chamber.

“Man! That was something! And from one little kiss?” Alex’s voice drifted back to them. “Makes you wonder…”

“If they, you know,” interjected Kyle.

“Shh!” Isabel hushed them. “Do you want them to hear you?”

The mutterings faded away as the six of them moved out of the pod chamber, but the seed had already been planted. Max just stood there, shaken to his core by the idea. He looked up only as Liz came up to him, stopping just short of contact.

“Max,” she said softly, “Let’s go. Once we get back to town, come over. We need to talk.”

“Liz, I don’t—I can’t—I—ah, hell!” he burst out, nearly in tears. Liz nodded.

“It’s OK, Max. We’ll talk about it later. Let’s just go now.” She touched his cheek, ignoring the brightening of the granolith. “All right?” she asked.

Max shrugged, but followed her out of the chamber, into the unusually warm desert night. They reached the parking area just after the rest of the group. Liz went to talk to Maria, and Max went to the Jeep to speak to Kyle and Tess.

“Maria, we’re going to go in the Jeep with Isabel and Alex. It just makes more sense, since Max is going to the same place,” Liz smiled.

Maria shrugged. “Sure, whatever. I’ll call you tomorrow, then.”

Liz nodded and walked over to the Jeep, smiling at Tess and Kyle as they passed her on their way to the Jetta. Her stomach in knots, she climbed into the back seat beside Max. He looked at her and reached for her hand, holding it tightly as Isabel started the Jeep and swung out onto the road.

They rode back in companionable silence, Liz resting her head on Max’s shoulder, listening to Alex and Isabel talk about one of their teachers. When they reached the Crashdown, Liz kissed Max lingeringly, then gave him a look and said, “See ya.”

He nodded, echoing, “See ya.” He brushed her hair back and she smiled, then said goodbye to Isabel and Alex and got out of the Jeep.

posted on 16-Nov-2002 7:54:27 PM
Chapter Three

After dropping off Alex, Isabel pulled up outside the Evans home. Max had moved to sit beside her, and he put his hand out, preventing her from turning off the engine.

“Don’t bother, Iz. There’s something I’ve got to do. Tell Mom—whatever, it doesn’t matter. You don’t know where I am, but you’re sure I’m fine,” he said.

Isabel stared at him. “You’re going back, aren’t you? With Liz. To…”

“Isabel,” Max said quellingly, “Enough, already. I know what I’m doing.”

“Do you? Do you really?” she queried. “You’ve been back together for what, all of 24 hours, and now this? It’s too soon, Max.” Max just looked at her, and Isabel threw up her hands in defeat, climbing out of the Jeep as its engine stalled. She stood on the curb, hands on her hips, glaring at him. Max sighed.

“It’s not your decision to make, Iz,” he said, fatigue evident in his voice. “It’s just…”

“I know,” Isabel told him. “I do know. I think you’re rushing it, is all. And it isn’t just your decision either, Max,” she observed.

Max ran a hand through his hair. “That’s the weird part,” he admitted. “This is kind of her idea, not mine.” Isabel blinked in surprise, then smiled.

“She’s probably dying of curiosity, Max. Wondering what the granolith will do as much as—wait, you heard us didn’t you,” she stated.

“Yeah,” Max nodded. “It feels strange to be contemplating this. I know it’s fast, but—it feels right, Izzy. Like nothing else ever has. Liz is…” he groped for words. Isabel put her hand over his.

“I know, Max. I know what she means to you, and what you mean to her. But, still, think about it. Do you want your first time to be some sort of science experiment? Because I promise you, Liz will be dividing her attention between you and the granolith. That busy mind of hers isn’t going to disengage just because she’s with you. Is that how you want it to be—especially for your first time?” she asked him.

“No! God, no. I never—that didn’t even occur to me,” Max exclaimed, disgusted with himself for not seeing it.

Isabel laughed. “Understandable, brother dear. You are a little distracted!” she commented. Max laughed a little, then sobered as she fixed a look he knew on him.

“Max, do you have something?” she asked seriously. He looked perplexed, and she sighed, exasperated.

“Protection, Max. Do you have some?” Isabel enunciated each syllable. Max felt himself growing red as he shook his head, no. Isabel sighed again and reached into her purse, pulling out a 3-pack box of condoms and handing it to him.

Max looked at the box, then back at Isabel, his lips forming the question. She shook her head and smiled.

“Don’t ask. Just—be careful, OK? This is not something to take lightly, Max. Make sure that you’re ready—that you are both ready. Will you promise me that much?” she asked.

Max nodded, his throat closing as tears appeared in his eyes. “I promise, Iz. And—thank you,” he whispered. She slapped his hand.

“Get out of here, Romeo. You shouldn’t keep a lady waiting. I’ll think of something to tell Mom, don’t worry,” she winked. Max smiled gratefully and restarted the engine. He drove down the street as Isabel disappeared into the house, and eventually parked on a side street a few blocks from the Crashdown. He slowly walked up the street towards Liz’s home. He looked at the box Isabel had given him and stuffed it into the back pocket of his jeans as he reached the café and slipped down the alley.

Max climbed the ladder to Liz’s balcony as quietly as possible. Reaching the top, he strode across to her window and was about to knock when it opened and Liz poked her head out.

“Hi,” she said. “Give me a sec.” She withdrew her head and disappeared into her bathroom, emerging a moment later. She grabbed a folded blanket from the foot of her bed and climbed out the window to stand beside Max.

He noticed that she had changed into a thin pink sweater and khakis. He suddenly wished that he had stopped to at least change his shirt. Liz had to have seen this old gray T-shirt dozens of times before. Not to mention that his post-P. E. class shower seemed like an awfully long time ago, now.

Liz tugged on his arm. “Come on, let’s go. We can talk when we get there.”

They went to the ladder and climbed down, practically running to the Jeep once they were both on the ground. Max started the engine as Liz buckled herself in, putting the blanket on the floor between her feet. He put the Jeep in gear and drove out of town.

The drive was quiet. Liz watched the stars, the unseasonably warm wind whipping back her long hair. She laid one hand on Max’s thigh, smiling when he glanced at it then at her.

It was a good thing that they saw no other vehicles on the road as they drove through the desert, because most of Max’s attention was focused on the heat spreading through his body from that oh-so-innocent hand on his thigh. He consciously controlled his breathing, not wanting Liz to know how even her most casual touch affected him.

Liz felt as light and free as the air around her. She felt almost as if she could fly. Her blood sang in her veins from Max’s warmth under her palm. She thought of what she’d said to Future Max. She hadn’t been ready; not then. Now, though…now, it was different. It was as if everything in her life had led up to this moment, and she had never been so sure of anything.

Unconsciously she rubbed her hand across Max’s leg, her fingers dangling across his inner thigh. Max bit back a moan as he tried not to think about how close her fingers were to his groin. Another inch and…ruthlessly he quashed that thought and focused on mud as he pulled the Jeep into a secluded spot and turned off the engine. Liz sighed, her eyes still on the sky above them.

“It’s a beautiful night,” she remarked softly, her hand sliding across his thigh again. Max swallowed as her fingers closed the gap, then growled as they brushed against him.

Liz jerked her head down to look at him, to find him reaching for her. His fingers tangled in the dark glory of her hair and he drew her head to his, capturing her lips in an aggressive kiss. Her sudden forward motion caused Liz to splay her hands to keep her balance, and she realized exactly where her hand was: braced squarely against Max’s groin.

As he continued his assault on her mouth, his tongue demanding and receiving entrance, Liz melted against him. She took advantage of her earlier unconscious action and began to fondle Max deliberately, her warm fingers caressing him through the denim.

After being teased for so long, Max was teetering on the brink. He grasped Liz’s wandering hand, removing it as he came up for air. Liz’s lashes were dark against her cheeks, her lips still parted as he withdrew. Her eyes fluttered open.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, a hint of a quiver in her voice. Max sighed and kissed her forehead.

“Nothing that further development of my self-control wouldn’t cure,” he said wryly. Relief filled Liz’s face, followed by mischief.

“You mean I nearly…” she stopped as Max held up a hand, his thumb and forefinger held close together.

“That close,” he admitted, a little embarrassed. Liz laughed delightedly and gave him a quick kiss, snuggling into his shoulder.

Max was amazed at her reaction. “You’re not upset?” he asked, confused. Liz laughed.

“No way. I like knowing that,” she faltered. “Well, that I can make you feel the same way you make me feel,” she finished in a whisper. Max titled her head back to look at her. He had an incredulous look on his face and Liz giggled.

“I—do that to you?” he asked, disbelief evident in his voice. Liz nodded slightly, serious now. She held his gaze.

“You do,” she confirmed softly. “You make me feel like nothing else exists beyond you and I, and the way we feel about each other.” Max caressed her hair, caught by the truth he read in her face.

“I never dreamed...I knew I could, like, turn you on, but if you feel what I feel—Good Lord!” he breathed. Liz smiled at him, love shining from her.

“Let’s go into the granolith chamber, Max. Right now,” she added, watching his emotions flit across his face. At last he nodded and released her.

Liz scooped up the blanket and they both got out of the Jeep, walking through the pod chamber into the inner chamber where the granolith was housed. He watched as she spread the blanket out on the floor, a few feet away from the granolith itself. That done, she straightened up and looked at him.

Max moved forward till he was almost touching her. He searched her face. Liz met his gaze, knowing what he was looking for.

“I’m ready, Max. It’s OK,” she said, her voice almost too quiet to hear. Max did hear her, though, and reached out to cup her face, his other hand sliding into her sleek hair. His thumb gently caressed her cheekbone as the light from the granolith brightened. Max ignored it in favor of the light in Liz’s eyes.

“Are you sure?” he asked, stroking her hair. Even that comforting gesture was sending little shivers down her spine, and Liz grinned, touching Max’s cheek with a steady hand.

“I’m sure,” she declared. “As sure as I am that I love you, Max; that I’ll always love you.”

He smiled at her and said, “I love you, Liz. I always have; I always will. I can’t imagine a life without you in it, and I don’t want to.” His gaze intensified and Liz’s stomach began to do flip-flops. She felt herself flush, and her lips parted to accommodate her suddenly rapid breathing.

Max pulled Liz to him, sealing her parted lips with his own. Both of his hands tangled in her hair now, he leisurely explored her lips with his tongue, kissing each corner of her mouth and tracing its outline before plunging between her lips to find her tongue.

Liz’s arms went around Max as his kisses continued, sliding her hands under his T-shirt to feel the warm, smooth skin on his back. She traced his musculature with a gentle fingernail and Max groaned. He freed one hand from her hair to grasp Liz’s waist, holding her tightly against him. She felt his hard warmth pressing against her and her knees began to buckle.

Max sensed her unsteadiness and eased her down onto the blanket. The chamber was filled with brilliant pulsing light from the granolith. It seemed to pulse in time to their heartbeats.

Liz smiled tremulously. “I guess it’s working,” she said softly, her tone unreadable. “It’s never done that before.” She watched the pulsing light while Max knelt beside her, watching her face. He thought of what Isabel had said and made a snap decision. He stood up, pulling Liz back onto her feet alongside him. He picked up the blanket as Liz stared at him, baffled.

“Max, what are you doing?” she asked, wondering if he had lost his mind. Max caught her against him for a quick, hard kiss that left her speechless.

“Just trust me, please. Come with me,” he pleaded, gazing at her. Liz didn’t know what was going on, but she did trust him so she just nodded and allowed him to lead her out of the pod chamber into the balmy New Mexico night.

Max kept walking, heading around to the other side of the mountain. Liz walked beside him, her hand in his, completely bewildered but knowing that he would explain soon enough. They reached a sheltered place, where the wind’s vigor was tamed a little, and Max finally stopped. He dropped the blanket on the ground and turned to Liz. His face was outlined by the starlight from the sky above, and Liz thought privately that he had never looked so beautiful.

“I love you, Liz. More than anything; more than life itself,” Max said earnestly, looking into her eyes. Liz was held spellbound by his next words.

“I want—no, I NEED this to be special for you. To be perfect. In the granolith chamber, it wouldn’t be. It would be too scientific; you would be thinking too much,” he said, one corner of his mouth lifting in a wry smile. Liz’s cheeks grew warm. He wasn’t wrong. She would have been analyzing the granolith’s reactions.

“You deserve more than that, Liz,” Max continued. “You deserve to have your first time be perfect. And I just—I don’t know if I can give that to you.” His eyes glittered with tears that he was trying desperately not to shed.

Liz was in tears too, but with joy. She let out the breath she’d been holding and kissed Max’s eyes, then his forehead, pulling his head down so she could reach. He smiled a little at the gesture.

“Max, don’t you know that it’ll be perfect because it’s you? Nothing else matters than the way we feel about each other. You are the one I want, the only one I’ll ever want,” she said, trying to project to him that she really did feel that way.

Max not only heard the words but felt the emotions Liz was sending to him, and he broke into a wide smile. Liz giggled at the relief on his face.

“So do you believe me now?” she asked playfully, grinning along with him. Max laughed.

“Yes, Liz, I do,” he admitted as he sat down on the blanket and smoothed it out. “Come sit with me,” he invited, patting the ground beside him. Liz sat, leaning against Max, her head on his shoulder. His hand stroked her hair, and then he cradled her against him as they lay back, staring at the starry sky.

They lay there quietly for some time, comfortable with the silence. At last Liz spoke.

posted on 16-Nov-2002 7:55:48 PM
“It’s such a beautiful night, Max. It’s so perfect,” she said, nearly whispering for fear of breaking the spell. Max heard what she said and what she didn’t have to say, and turned on his side to look at her.

“You’re sure,” he stated softly, wonder in his voice. “Here, now, tonight, even after what I said, you’re sure.”

“It’s partly because of what you said, Max. I love you and I trust you with my life and my soul. I am sure, and I’m ready. Are you?” she asked, searching his face. She had her answer even before he spoke.

“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be,” he smiled, his voice cracking a little. Liz hid a smile; he was nervous, but he was telling the truth. This night belonged to the two of them, and it was sheer magic.

They reached for each other in the starlight, sharing a tender kiss that quickly grew heated. Liz’s hands slipped under Max’s T-shirt, caressing his bare skin. With a muttered oath, he broke the kiss long enough to draw the T-shirt over his head and toss it away. Then he moved over Liz, his thighs sliding between her knees as he resumed kissing her.

As Max’s tongue swirled against hers, Liz explored his bare torso with curious fingers. She learned the shape of the muscles of his back then slid her hands up his sides and in between their bodies, lightly rubbing her thumbs over his hard nipples. Max groaned low in his throat, and Liz smiled against his mouth, delighted with his reaction. She did it again, this time scraping very lightly with her nails.

Max caught her hands and pinned them above her, gazing at her. His eyes glowed with desire, and Liz felt a slow heat steal through her body at the way he looked. She arched against him instinctively, her legs wrapping around his hips, and Max smiled in satisfaction.

“Turnabout is fair play, Liz,” he warned softly, then let go of her hands to grasp her thin pink sweater and pulling it up and over her head to reveal her pink lace bra.

Max exhaled forcefully, dragging his gaze back up to Liz’s face. She just looked at him, love in her eyes. He smiled.

“Did I ever tell you that you look fabulous in pink?” he asked, eyes twinkling. Liz laughed, and then gasped as Max cupped her breast, kneading it gently.

“Especially pink lace,” he breathed as he bent to kiss her again, his fingers never stopping their caresses. He propped himself up beside her and continued kissing her as he began to stroke both breasts. Liz’s nipples were hard, pushing against the lace of her bra as he carefully rolled them between his thumb and forefinger, tugging gently.

She moaned, and Max stepped up the pace, trailing kisses down her throat, past her collarbone. He licked the valley in between her breasts, then moved to the right and circled her nipple with his tongue, careful not to touch it. Liz was breathing hard now, nearly every breath a little cry of pleasure. She gasped when at last Max sucked her nipple into his mouth, and her cries became progressively louder as Max unhooked and removed her bra and went back to suckling her nipples, alternating his hands and his mouth. He was breathing hard too, struggling for control as each of Liz’s sounds vibrated through his body.

Max moved his head back up to Liz’s mouth, and she kissed him hungrily, her tongue darting into his mouth to meet and twine with his. Max groaned as he gently undid the button and zipper of Liz’s pants and managed to slide them past her hips before breaking the kiss to pull them off completely. He quickly stripped himself before returning to Liz’s mouth for another deep kiss.

Liz was reeling, her mind and body drunk with sensation. She knew she wanted to do some exploring of her own, though. She rolled Max over so she was on top of him and sat up, straddling his thighs.

Max opened his eyes and looked at her. She was smiling, a mischievous glint in her eyes. He smiled back, thinking that she looked incredible, her long hair brushing against her bare breasts.

“What was it you said?” she asked archly. “Turnabout is fair play?” she continued, looking into his eyes then letting her gaze slowly travel down his body.

Max’s breath exploded from him as he grasped her meaning, and he found himself praying for the strength to hold on as Liz bent to kiss his chest. Her warm body pressed against him, sending shivers of excitement down his spine. He would have sworn it wasn’t possible, but as Liz’s tongue found his erect nipple and her hand slid down between his legs, he could feel himself growing still harder at her touch.

Liz stroked his erection gently, her hand forming a ring that slid from its base to its tip and back. Intrigued by the softness of his skin, like velvet-covered steel, she slid her body down Max’s and experimentally touched her tongue to the tip of his erection.

The sight of Liz’s mouth on him was almost too much for Max, and he closed his eyes, abandoning all control to her. Liz smiled at the expression on his face: a combination of nervousness and deep desire. She knew Max’s gesture for what it was: a symbol of his complete trust and faith in her.

Liz licked around the ridge at the head of his erection then took it into her mouth. She carefully covered her teeth with her lips and drew back slowly, creating suction. She repeated her actions, her speed increasing a little as she found a rhythm. With one hand she stroked the base of Max’s erection in perfect time with her suction. Her other hand reached farther down to fondle his testicles very gently.

Max was breathing hard and fast, his mouth open to gulp in air. His hands grasped fistfuls of the blanket as he rode the tidal wave that Liz’s warm hands and soft mouth were creating in him. At last he opened his eyes and reached for her, pulling her back up so he could look into her face.

“No more, Liz, or I won’t make it,” he got out between breaths. His skin had a faint sheen of sweat, and the look in his eyes—Liz felt her blood heat at the way he was looking at her. Those eyes held the promise of what was to come.

Still breathing raggedly, Max buried his face in Liz’s hair, inhaling its fragrance. He needed a moment to collect himself, and Liz was more than happy to grant it. Once he could breathe more evenly, Max kissed her hair tenderly, eliciting a giggle from Liz. He smiled then turned his head to kiss her lips.

He devoured her mouth, his tongue not seeking but demanding entrance. He claimed her tongue, drawing it into his mouth then slipping back into hers. As Liz melted against him, Max’s hands explored her naked body. She had a moment’s hesitation when he reached her inner thigh and began moving upwards, and Liz opened her eyes.

Max just looked at her, his hand stilled on her thigh. She could see all his love, his overwhelming desire for her, his need to please her and she relaxed under his hand. Max smiled at her as he reached her dark curls, his face reflecting wonder he found her wet. He bent to kiss her neck as he began to explore her womanhood.

Max’s fingers traced a careful path, learning Liz’s contours, her peaks and valleys. He found the hard little nub of her clitoris, and gently began to rub it. His circular motions were echoed by Liz as her hips began to move in time with his caressing, and Max sucked on her neck in an effort to keep himself from taking her right then and there. He managed to keep himself in check by a bare thread.

Liz was moving wildly, her moans no longer low in her throat but bursting from her to echo in the still air of their sheltered spot. Max couldn’t believe how responsive she was to his touch, despite what she’d said, but he definitely could not deny it. Something raw buried deep within him, a long-held doubt about himself, began to heal as his rhythmic stroking brought Liz to a flashing orgasm.

She cried out, “Max!” His name echoed across the hills as she grasped his shoulders, her fingernails digging into his flesh as she rode out the waves. Max winced, but welcomed the minor pain as a distraction. He watched her face as she returned to earth, her shaking gradually subsiding to a mere quiver. He continued to stroke her, very gently now, until she opened her eyes. Then he withdrew his hand, proceeding to carefully lick his fingers as she watched.

Liz smiled, her long lashes sweeping down to veil her eyes then opening again. She knew that some people found this moment uncomfortable or embarrassing, but…it just seemed so natural to her. Everything with Max felt so right.

He smiled back, reaching to cup her face. Liz could faintly smell her own fragrance on his hand, and the knowledge of why that was so darkened her eyes with renewed desire.

Max saw the change and realized that now was the time. He reached for his jeans, pulling the little box out of his back pocket and extracting one condom. Liz giggled, and Max smiled ruefully, remembering what his future self had said.

“So I am, on occasion, a little predictable,” he grumbled, loving the way Liz could laugh about it now. He tore the package open and rolled the condom onto his erection. Liz watched him in fascination. He suppressed a laugh—it was probably the last condom he would ever have to put on himself!

Liz tore her gaze away from Max’s groin and met his eyes. There were so many emotions swirling there she could hardly name them all. But uppermost were love and desire; nothing else really mattered. She grasped his hand and pulled him back down onto the blanket so that they were lying side by side, facing each other.

Liz broke the silence first. “Max, are you sure? We don’t have to; I mean, I could…”

Max touched her lips with his fingers. “Shh, Liz. I’ve never been surer of anything. I love you so much,” he whispered, tears in his eyes.

“Oh, Max,” Liz breathed through her own tears. “I love you every bit as much.”

They kissed, and the comforting nature of that kiss transformed rapidly into burgeoning desire. Max knelt in front of Liz, poised between her legs. He broke off the kiss, and she opened her eyes to see him gazing at her, his eyes reflecting concern.

“This is going to hurt, Liz. Are you sure you’re ready for it?” he asked. Liz smiled and tightened her legs around his hips. Max’s eyes blazed, desire for her burning out everything but his love, and he thrust into her.

Liz cried out and Max stilled, letting her body accustom itself to the sudden, aggressive stretching of her muscles. He gritted his teeth with the effort, sighing in relief as Liz began to move beneath him.

Max withdrew almost completely and plunged back into Liz. This time, her cry was not one of pain, but of pleasure, and Max felt her tighten her hold on him, her fingernails raking down his back, her head thrown back. He kissed her throat.

“Liz, look at me,” he breathed, and she opened her eyes, to drown in the love she could see in his.

They kept eye contact as they found a rhythm together, Liz rising to meet each of Max’s thrusts. They started to merge into each other, their pleasure swirling back and forth till it was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began. The stars were not only overhead: they could see them in each other as all the walls came down. Liz could feel everything Max had ever felt; she even knew how it had felt to break through the membrane of his pod. Likewise for Max. He had images of his own umbilical cord being cut, and the face of Liz’s mother, fuzzy with the imperfect vision of the newborn child.

Caught up in an unstoppable force, Max and Liz reached climax simultaneously, falling together into a brilliant explosion of color and light. Their motion slowed, and gradually came to a stop. Max rested his weight on his arms, still locked into Liz’s gaze. Ever so slowly, the world around them swam back into existence and they were able to move independently of each other.

Max moved to one side, pulling Liz with him and pulling the blanket up over them. She snuggled against his shoulder, listening to his heartbeat, feeling its synchronicity with her own.

Nearly half an hour went by while they cuddled close together, neither able to speak. They had gone so much farther than either had dreamed was even possible. Liz was the first to find her voice.

“Max, what happened here? That was…” she trailed off.

“Incredible. I know,” Max said, his voice shaking. Liz stared at him in shock, realizing that he had not guessed what she had wanted to say; he had known. She could feel Max balancing on the edge of panic.

“Max. We can deal with this. It may not even be permanent,” she started to say, but knew as soon as the words left her mouth that it was permanent. The link between them had been blown wide open. They could sense each other’s feelings, hear each other’s thoughts. It was intoxicating, and more than a little frightening.

All of a sudden, Liz caught sight of the empty condom package, and weakly she began to laugh. Puzzled at first, Max followed her gaze, and then her errant thought communicated itself to him and he howled in laughter. They clutched each other, tears rolling down their faces, and Liz managed to gasp out, “So that’s what Future Max meant when he said things between us were cemented!”

posted on 16-Nov-2002 7:57:57 PM
Chapter Four

In a few minutes Max and Liz's laughter faded, its near-hysteria releasing their panic, calming them down. They lay contentedly in each other’s arms, watching the heavens. There was no need for words. Would there ever be a need again?

Liz had been staring for a while at a patch of sky that seemed lighter than the rest, puzzled, until she realized what it meant.

“Max! It’s almost dawn!” she cried out, sitting up. The blanket slid down her body with her motion, and Max’s mind was elsewhere as he absently replied to her.

“Mmm-hmm. We should probably go,” he said, his voice conveying worlds of regret—and desire. Liz blushed, but did not move to cover herself. She was too aware of what it meant to Max to have the freedom to look at her, and she felt beautiful and desirable because he saw her that way.

“I don’t need—this,” she waved a hand at her head, “to tell me where that line of thought is going!” Max chuckled and sat up beside her, drawing her into his arms. Liz rested her head on his shoulder for a moment then looked at him. Max heaved a sigh.

“OK, we’ll go. But not before I do this,” he warned, and claimed her for a deep, sensuous kiss. Liz was shaking when at last Max came up for air, and the look on her face, her lashes dark against her cheeks—he had never wanted to do anything so badly as to make love to her again, right now.

“Max,” Liz protested, though she felt much the same way.

“I know, I know…control myself,” he smiled wryly. “It’s just that it’s so much harder, now that I really know…”

“Uh-huh,” Liz agreed, shushing him with her fingers. “But if we don’t get moving…”

“You’re going to be in trouble, and we’ll get separated again. I couldn’t bear that, not now,” Max said softly, brushing his thumb across her cheekbone. Caught in the love shining in each other’s eyes, they sat gazing at each other until what Max had just said sunk in.

“Max, why would it be just me in trouble?” she asked. His answer filled her mind even as he spoke.

“Isabel said she would cover for me. She probably left me a message on my cell—it’s in the Jeep,” Max said. There was more, unspoken but still heard, and Liz suddenly knew how Max had come by the condoms. She giggled, and he smiled, flushing a little.

“She didn’t need to do that,” Liz said. Max followed her thoughts, remembering that she had ducked into her bathroom before climbing out her window to join him. Safe in her own pocket was another condom, one of a package she had purchased at a gas station while on the road to Copper Summit. Max shook his head, amazed, and Liz answered his question before he could ask it.

“After Future Max told me that we had made love, and I—I didn’t have anything, I—well, I didn’t ever want to get caught unprepared, in this life,” she admitted. “I didn’t expect to need them, but I couldn’t just buy some in town, everyone would know, so…”

Max kissed her into silence. “I understand,” he said. “So, how exactly are we going to keep you out of trouble here?”

Liz thought for a moment then brightened.

“Your cell’s in the Jeep, right? I’ll call Maria—she can let me into her place. I’ll come up with some story for my mom as to why I was there. Maria’ll back me up, no problem.”

He nodded. “Yeah, she always has. She’s a good friend, Liz.”

“The best,” Liz declared, smiling. She reached for her clothes and began pulling them on. Sighing internally—getting dressed was not what Max wanted to be doing—he followed her example. Once clothed, he picked up the blanket, rolling it into a small bundle, and they started walking back around the mountain, hand in hand.

As they neared the pod chamber, Liz stopped. Turning to Max, she looked at him questioningly.

“Should we check on it before we head back? You know, to see if anything has changed?” she asked.

Max thought about it for a second and then nodded. “Yes, we should. Let’s go.”

They entered and passed through the pod chamber into the granolith chamber, to find everything as they had left it. They were both somewhat disappointed; they’d been so sure that they would find some change. But it seemed as though the granolith had taken no notice whatsoever of their nocturnal activities.

“It’s all right, Liz. We can always try it again,” Max reassured her, a small smile playing about his lips. Liz punched his arm.

“Yeah, I know. But it was so…I was so positive something would be different!” she remarked. “Oh, well. It doesn’t change how I feel about what happened.”

Max smiled. “And how is that, Liz Parker?” he asked, knowing the answer but wanting to hear it anyway. She turned to him, her face serious.

“Max, what we shared last night was beyond anything I’ve ever experienced—and probably ever will experience. It was,” she groped for the words, “incredible, awe-inspiring, mind-blowing. I never dreamed that I could feel like that, and that it was with you…well, Max Evans, in a word, it was perfect.”

“Truly, Liz? I—it’s harder to believe, somehow, in the daylight. Did it really happen?” he said wonderingly, lost in her glorious eyes. She smiled tenderly at him.

“Yes, Max, it really did. Let’s go now, all right? I’m getting the creeps in here,” Liz said, giving a dramatic shudder. Max laughed and they turned to leave, the intensity dimmed but not lost.

They walked back to the Jeep slowly, neither really wanting to return to reality. Max took his cell phone out of the glove compartment and handed it to Liz. She dialed Maria’s number.

“Hello?” a sleepy voice answered the phone on the seventh ring.

“Maria, I need your help. You’ve got to do this for me. I need to come over to your house, and I need us to tell my mom some story about why I stayed with you last night and didn’t tell her about it, OK?” Liz rushed into her plea for assistance.

Maria was suddenly wide-awake. “Where the hell are you, Liz?”

Liz glanced at Max. He knew what she was asking, and he knew that they would not be able to keep it a secret from their friends that their relationship had entered a new dimension. He nodded slightly, and Liz answered Maria’s question.

“I’m out in the desert, near the pod chamber. With Max,” she said. She paused, and then continued hesitantly, “We’ve been here all night.” She looked at Max as she spoke, and he smiled, caressing her free hand.

There was the sound of choking on the other end of the phone, and Liz called out, “Maria? Are you okay?”

Maria coughed before answering. “Yeah, I’m fine. I just…wasn’t expecting to hear that. Uh, take as much time as you want to get here—my mom went out with the sheriff last night and she hasn’t come home yet. It must’ve gone well,” she said disgustedly. Liz laughed, a little breathlessly.

“OK, Maria. Thank you so much—you’re the best! The absolute best. I’ll be there soon, a—and we can talk then,” she finished.

Maria snorted. “You’d better believe it, we’ll talk then! You have some major explaining to do!”

“Yeah, I know. I will, I promise. See you soon,” Liz said then hung up. She looked at Max, her eyes sparkling. He let out the breath he’d been holding.

“Her mother isn’t home? That’s great,” he exclaimed, relieved. Liz laughed, and ran her hand down his chest, watching his muscles contract in the wake of her gentle touch.

“And she won’t be home for hours…so I don’t have to go there right away,” she said, her voice husky. As she looked at him, tilting her head, Max knew what she meant.

“Liz,” he breathed, his arms encircling her as she raised her face to his and ran her tongue around his lips. He groaned and pulled her closer, molding her against him. Liz bit his lip gently, causing a smile, then trailed darting little kisses across his face and down his neck, coming back up to lick his earlobe. He shuddered and she smiled—a new discovery! She licked the folds of his ear while his hands roamed her body, caressing her everywhere.

He held her crushed to him as she sucked on his earlobe, her hands buried in his thick hair. His eyes were closed, his lips parted as Liz continued down, biting his neck and sucking his warm skin till there was a red mark where her mouth had been. Noticing it, she smiled. She was about to continue her ministrations when Max pulled her head back and took her lips, thrusting his tongue between them.

Liz moaned, and Max lifted her off the ground, onto the front seat of the open Jeep. Her legs were spread, one on either side of his body, as she leaned forward to continue the kiss. Max’s hands resumed their roaming, impatient now with the barrier of her clothing. He reached around her and unclasped her bra, breaking their kiss long enough to pull her sweater and her bra off. As he returned to her mouth, drinking from it like a starving man, his hands molded her breasts, pulling gently at her stiffening nipples until they were like small pink diamonds in his hands. Only then did he leave her lips, his mouth traveling down her neck to her torso, to circle her breasts, teasing her erect nipples until she was gasping for air, her hands threaded through his hair, holding him to her.

Tenderly, Max pushed her back till she was lying supine across the seats. He looked into her eyes as he slowly removed her remaining clothes, dropping them onto the back seat. When she was naked, he took a long, slow look at her, lying vulnerable and beautiful before him, her pink nipples thrusting into the air, her legs spread wide to accommodate him, her lovely dark curls glistening with moisture. If it were not that he could feel exactly how aroused she was, exactly how much she loved and trusted him, he would never have believed that such a wondrous woman as his Liz could be so open to him.

Liz was feeling fevered, her skin burning in the wake of Max’s eyes, knowing he could see how much she wanted him and not caring; glorying in it, in fact. Her breathing came faster as she saw how he looked at all of her, and then she closed her eyes as he bent to kiss her thigh.

Max let his mouth skim over Liz’s hot skin, softly kissing and nibbling his way up to the juncture of her thighs. He looked at her face as he hovered over her curls, enjoying the way her mouth tensed in anticipation of his touch, the way she licked her lips. Then he spread apart her folds with both hands and took one long, loving lick. Liz shivered, a cry escaping her lips. Max could feel the tension in her thighs, sense her waiting for another intimate kiss. He obliged, softly licking all around her clitoris, thrusting the tip of his tongue into her opening, feeling her musculature clench around his tongue. He withdrew, to the sound of a moan of loss from Liz. Max smiled, and bent his head to her again.

He licked her clitoris very lightly, just once, feeling Liz’s body spasm under the feather light touch. Again, he licked her, and again, and settled into a slow rhythm, just the tip of his tongue making contact with her swollen clitoris. Liz’s cries were louder now, and as Max increased his speed she slid her hands back into his hair, holding on tight. Max was aware of little else but the taste and feel of Liz beneath his mouth. Her legs closing around his shoulders, her hands in his hair, her sweet honey filling him as he continued licking her, his tongue working faster and applying more pressure as her hips began to undulate in a primal pattern. Her body was vibrating with the force of her cries, and Max could feel her tension building to the breaking point.

With a wild cry, she climaxed, holding onto Max as she spiraled out into space. The explosion of a red star filled her mind as her body shook from her incendiary response to Max’s tongue. Her shaking gradually subsided, and only then did Max move away, kissing her thigh as she relaxed her legs and her hands from their stranglehold on him. He was smiling as he watched sense come back into her eyes.

“God, you’re so beautiful,” Max whispered, loving her so much. Liz smiled tremulously, and reached for him.

“Max, I need you. Now,” she declared urgently. His stomach dropped away at her words, and he quickly stripped himself and put on a condom. He climbed into the Jeep with her as Liz stood up. Max looked at her, a little confused, then understanding dawned. He felt a surge of desire as he sat down in the just-vacated seat, and Liz straddled him. She grasped his erection and guided it as she lowered herself onto him, watching his face as he entered her.

Max inhaled abruptly as he was sheathed in Liz’s body. In spite of her boldness, he could sense that Liz was a little unsure of herself as she began to move, sliding her body up and down, letting her motion dictate his penetration of her. Max kissed her deeply, his tongue thrusting into her mouth, echoing his thrusts between her other, satin lips as he moved with her, his hands on her hips keeping them in perfect unison.

Liz broke their kiss to lick Max’s neck, biting him softly through her low moans. He tilted his head back, and she grew more daring, kissing and sucking along his shoulders and then down his chest. She flicked her tongue across his nipple, watching the muscles in his chest jump in reaction.

Max let go of one hip long enough to drag her head back up to where he could capture her lips in another deep kiss. He tasted her hungrily, and their vertical motion became more frenzied as they felt each other’s pleasure start to spin out of control.

Liz threw her head back, her long hair whipping past Max’s face as she cried out incoherently, her entire body quivering with her orgasm. Max buried his face in her exposed throat, murmuring her name over and over as he exploded into her.

Long minutes passed while they clung together in the aftermath of their passion. What finally broke their pose was the warm sun on their bare skin.

“I don’t think I could explain it if my mother saw that I’d managed to sunburn my butt,” Liz said, laughter in her voice. Max chuckled, agreeing with her.

“No, I guess not,” he said. He thought about it for a minute then said, “Liz, did you feel it? It was different from last night. I can still hear you—I mean, mentally—but only if I really concentrate. Same with how you’re feeling,” he said wonderingly. Liz looked thoughtful.

“Yes,” she replied. “Maybe it was because it was our first time, maybe that’s really special for you guys. Physically speaking, I mean,” she hastily added. Max laughed.

“Yeah, maybe. It didn’t seem to mean anything to the granolith, though.” He paused. “ I, uh, I enjoyed this time just as much,” he said shyly, looking appealingly at Liz.

She suppressed a chuckle and said softly, “Me, too, Max. It was just, amazing. I think it always will be, with you.” She looked at him, willing him to feel the truth behind her words. He did, and smiled, shaking his head at himself.

“Sorry, Liz. I guess we really should be leaving now, just in case Maria’s mom gets home or yours starts calling around,” he said regretfully. Liz nodded and moved off of him, getting her clothes from the back seat and putting them on. Max did the same, grimacing at how dirty his jeans were from being dropped on the ground. Liz laughed at him, and ruefully he joined her.

“That’ll teach you patience,” she teased. Max grabbed her and kissed her.

“As I recall, it was you who said “now,”” he teased her back, and she blushed then smacked him. They both laughed, then sat in the Jeep and buckled their seatbelts. Max picked up his cell phone and checked the messages.

“Iz said that I was staying at Michael’s for the night, and she’s told Michael to cover for me,” he said. Liz nodded; that was about what they had expected. There was no way they were going to be able to keep this a secret now, not when 3 other people basically knew already. They would just have to deal with it straight up.

Max started the engine and drove out to the road. He caught Liz’s hand as they drove back to Roswell, caressing it with his thumb. Liz could feel her stomach start to flutter again, and she was surprised at herself. Max caught her feeling and smiled at her.

“I know, Liz. If we had more time…” he trailed off then winked at her suggestively. Liz laughed, knowing that it was going to be difficult for both of them to keep their hands off of each other, now more than ever. She figured that somehow, they would be able to handle it.

Max drove to about a block away from Maria’s house, and Liz climbed out of the Jeep. She suddenly felt a little lost, knowing they were going to be separated for a few hours. Max looked at her, the same expression in his eyes, and she knew that everything would be fine. She smiled at him, and came around to the driver’s side of the Jeep for a sweet goodbye kiss.

When they separated, Liz saw Maria on her front porch, waving like mad. She giggled, then said, “I’ll see you later, Max. I love you.”

“And I love you, Liz,” he replied. “I’ll see you tonight.” He gunned the engine and took off for Michael’s as Liz ran to Maria and was immediately swept inside and into her best friend’s room.

“My mom just called—she’s on her way home,” Maria explained. “So, here—just put on these p.j.s. You can wash off your makeup later, Mom won’t notice it.”

Liz was confused. “I’m not wearing any makeup, Maria. What are you talking about?” she asked as she began to undress. Maria turned to look at her, and her eyes went to the marks on Liz’s neck, her still-flushed body, her dark pink lips. The realization crashed in on her.

“Oh my God, Liz, you didn’t!” she cried. “No, you did! I can see it, it’s written all over you! Oh my God!”

Liz laughed, a little nervously. “Calm down, Maria. I, uh, we—yes, we did, actually. I can still hardly believe it myself,” she continued excitedly. “Maria, it was so incredible!”

Maria looked very carefully at her closest friend. She could see minute differences in her. It was more the way she carried herself, the look in her eyes, than anything she said or did. There was no doubt in Maria’s mind: Liz’s experience had definitely changed her. But it was not a change for the worse, Maria thought privately. Liz looked…completed, now. Like she had found something she had not even known was missing.

“Sit!” Maria ordered as soon as Liz had finished putting on the pajamas. She pointed at her bed, where they both sat down cross-legged, facing each other.

Maria took a deep breath. “Okay, first things first. Did you use protection?” she asked.

“Maria! Of course!” Liz responded, a little stung that she had even asked. “This is ME, Maria. I was prepared. Actually, so was Max,” she smiled, her eyes unfocusing in memory.

Maria smiled and snapped her fingers. “Earth to Liz! I just needed to make absolutely sure, that’s all. Now that I am, please explain to me how, after being back together for, like, 24 hours, you ended up sleeping together,” she commanded.

Liz looked down at her hands, clasped in her lap. “It, uh, it started in the granolith chamber last night. We heard you guys talking,” she started.

Maria rolled her eyes. “Isabel didn’t shut those boys up fast enough,” she declared. Liz smiled.

“It was no more than I had already been thinking—but I don’t think it really occurred to Max before then,” she said, shaking her head a little. “He was—frozen, you know, by the whole idea. I told him to come get me after we got back into town, and we could talk about it then. So, he did—come get me, that is. We, um, we never really did talk about it.

“When we got back out there, we kissed and went into the chamber. We kind of just started making out, and the light from the granolith was, like, pulsing in time with my heartbeat. It was really strange. The Max gave me this look, and all of a sudden he was pulling me after him, out of the chamber and around the mountain. I didn’t know what he was doing. We got to this little, I don’t know, clearing or whatever, and he stopped and looked at me.

“He told me that he needed this to be perfect for me, and it wouldn’t be in the granolith chamber. And,” Liz nodded and shrugged, “I mean, he was right. That’s just—well, that’s who I am, I would have been thinking about it.”

Maria smiled. “Liz, Max loves your brain too—we all do. So, go on—he wanted it to be perfect. That’s so Max! Then what?”

“Well, then we looked at the stars for a while, till I kind of nudged him and said it was such a perfect night,” Liz giggled.

Maria laughed too. “Uh-huh. So, get to the good stuff!”

Liz blushed. “Okay, well that’s when we started kissing again, and, well, stuff. Oh, Maria. He touched me everywhere. And I did too—I mean, I touched him everywhere. It was just—it was like magic, Maria. Even though we were close last year, I still—I never knew that it could be like that.” She was glowing, and Maria’s last doubts faded away in the face of Liz’s happiness. She sighed, knowing she would have to keep prodding Liz out of her memories in order to finish getting the story.

“Liz. So—orgasms?” Maria asked impudently, winking at her friend. Liz’s face grew even rosier, but she nodded.

“Yeah—twice. Both times,” she admitted with a tiny smirk. “This morning, I could swear I felt my toes curl. And I still—well, if there had been more time…”

Maria caught onto her first words. "Both times? You did it again this morning?” she exclaimed. Liz was a brilliant pink now, a shade that Maria had never seen her turn, and they both had to laugh.

“Um, yeah, after I called and you said to take my time…we just couldn’t keep our hands off each other, Maria! And it was just as incredible, but more…well, more normal,” Liz finished in a near-whisper, not looking at her friend.

“What do you mean by that, “more normal”? What happened last night that wasn’t normal, Liz?” Maria asked, alarmed. Liz sighed and pushed her hair behind her ears.

“We connected, Maria. As in, completely. Like—remember the flashes? It was like we saw flashes of each other’s complete lifetimes. I could feel everything he felt, and hear everything he thought, Maria, and he could do the same with me.” She fell silent for a moment. “It’s not gone, now, it’s just—reduced? Diminished, not as strong. But if I concentrate, I can feel what he’s feeling right now. It’s really strange, Maria, but the strangest part is that it doesn’t feel bad, or wrong, or anything like that. It feels like—like that’s what was supposed to happen. I don’t know if that makes any sense at all, but that’s how I feel. How we both feel,” she corrected herself, smiling tenderly as she received an echo from Max.

Maria shook her head, smiling at Liz. “Well, if you think you can deal with this…” she began, only to stop talking at the sudden look of dismay on Liz’s face.

“Liz? What is it?” she asked, concerned now. Liz looked at her.

“We have to go over to Michael’s, Maria. Now,” she emphasized. Maria nodded and started pulling out clean clothes for both Liz and herself, and they dressed hurriedly.

Max whistled on the way over to Michael’s place. He could not stop smiling. He still couldn’t quite believe it had really happened, except that there was a little corner of his mind that said “Liz” on it. Dimly, he could sense what she was doing, what she was feeling. He thought about what she might say to Maria, and his face reddened as he decided he was probably better off not knowing too many details of that conversation. Liz was happy, anyway—he was getting that much, and that was enough.

Max parked the Jeep and walked up to Michael’s back door. He had barely knocked when the door opened under his fist, and Michael and Isabel both were waiting for him, looking serious.

“Max,” said Isabel, “We need to talk.”

posted on 16-Nov-2002 7:59:31 PM
Chapter Five

Max’s smile faded as he entered the apartment and closed the door behind him. He looked back and forth between Isabel and Michael then addressed his sister.

“What’s wrong, Iz? Did Mom & Dad find out? Or did something else happen?” he asked worriedly.

Michael answered him. “Nah, your parents think you were here the whole time. Isabel, ah, filled me in on your actual location. Apparently everything went according to plan,” he stated dryly.

Max shook his head, confused. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You look—different, Max,” Isabel said very quietly. “It’s subtle, but it’s there.”

Max sat down heavily on the couch. “I guess it’s a good thing we decided not to keep it a secret from you guys if it’s that obvious,” he said. “I—didn’t know I would look different, too.”

“Too?” inquired Michael, arching one eyebrow.

Max rubbed his upper lip and stood up, starting to pace slowly as he spoke.

“Yeah, I feel different. I haven’t really sorted through it all yet, but—it’s not just the permanent connection with Liz, it’s—there’s other stuff too…”

“The WHAT with Liz?” Isabel exclaimed.

Max sighed. “You guys remember the flashes we were having last year, right? Well, it's—kind of evolved, I guess you could say. We were—totally open to each other, and it, um, hasn’t gone away. I don’t think it’s going to, either, though it is weaker now. But—if I concentrate on her, I can feel what she’s feeling, hear a little of what she’s thinking. Get some mental pictures of what’s going on. For example,” he said with a wry smile, “Maria just parked the Jetta and they’re almost here. I guess she must have known that I was worried about something.”

Michael and Isabel exchanged a concerned look. Michael shrugged.

“Well, we can finish talking when they…” he was interrupted by a knock on the door.

Max opened it, not even seeing Maria as every fiber of his being suddenly oriented itself towards Liz. He knew that she was feeling the same complete focus on him.

Maria sighed and pushed Liz into the apartment ahead of her. “You two are going to have to watch that if you don’t want every single person who sees you together to know that you’ve had sex,” she remarked caustically.

Liz and Max both blushed. Maria laughed and patted Max’s cheek.

“Interesting. Her, I’ve seen turn several fascinating shades already today, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you do it before. Mission accomplished, however,” she declared impishly.

Max smiled and mimed a blow at her, which Maria pretended to duck, and then he took Liz’s hand and drew her with him to sit on the couch. She snuggled into him, his arm around her shoulders, as the other three perched on stools or chairs around the room.

Liz and Max shared a look then Liz spoke up.

“Since neither of us is in parental trouble, and you all know about the, ah, unexpected aftereffects, we’d kind of like to know what’s going on,” she said, searching everyone’s faces.

Michael sighed. “What happened to the granolith when, well, you-know-what happened?” he asked.

Max coughed. “Well, it seemed normal this morning when we looked in on it. But we—were outside, last night,” he said, a little embarrassed.

Isabel threw up her hands. “At last! A male in my life who listens to me!” she cried, grinning as she pointedly looked at everything in the room except Michael. He grimaced at her.

“Ha. Funny girl,” he sneered, and went back to his questioning.

“So, you were outside. How was it—I mean, how was the weather? Temperature and all that. Anything unusual?” he asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

Liz and Max were both completely baffled.

“Unusual? No, unless you count the temperature, but it was oddly warm all day yesterday,” Max answered first. Liz thought about it a little longer then shook her head.

“The only thing I noticed was that the wind died down completely. I mean, it was pretty windy on the mountain, then we got to this sheltered spot that really cut down the wind but it was still there. Later, though, I remember—uh,” she stopped, coughing.

Max smirked. “The echo?” he asked archly. Liz elbowed him in the stomach.

“Yeah, that. Um, sound doesn’t usually echo unless the air is still,” she said quickly, trying to cover her embarrassment.

Michael was gallantly trying not to laugh at the expression on her face. Isabel was equally amused, but hid it better. Maria didn’t bother; she just laughed at her friend.

“So, Michael, why do you want to know about the weather?” Maria asked, rescuing Liz. Isabel answered her instead.

“I came over here last night—I just had a feeling, you know? So, Michael and I kind of stood watch, and sometime after 3 o’clock this morning, we saw—lightning. Out in the desert—all over the desert, actually, there was no specific source. But that’s not even the really weird part. I mean, it’s not like it’s that unusual to have thunderstorms here,” Isabel babbled, then closed her mouth with a snap as she realized she was babbling. She looked pleadingly at Michael for help. He sighed again, rubbing his eyes before picking up the story.

“The weird part was that the lightning was, uh, kind of purple,” he said, looking at Max. “My personal guess would be that the storm came—well, right about when you did,” he said with a half smile. “Or, when you actually, you know, connected. We’ve pretty much been waiting for you to show up since it ended. It lasted—I don’t know, maybe half an hour?”

Isabel nodded. “Yes, something like that. Long enough to get noticed—it was on the morning news.”

Liz’s expression was a comical mixture of worry, interest and mortification. Max managed somehow to just look concerned, though the corners of his mouth twitched as he spoke.

“I can’t deny that it does seem to coincide as far as the timing goes,” he admitted. “But—I don’t understand. Why didn’t we see anything?”

“You were too busy?” hazarded Michael. Liz rounded on him.

“I don’t care how busy I was, Michael Guerin, I would have noticed it if I had been surrounded by purple lightning!” she asserted heatedly. Michael held up his hands in mock surrender.

“All right, I believe you!” he exclaimed. “That just raises more questions.”

Max sighed, pulling Liz closer to him. He wrapped both arms around her and she leaned against him, resting her cheek high on his chest.

“Maybe we’d better not…” Max started to say, to be cut off by Maria.

“Whoa, boy! Before you go opening that can of worms, I have a question. Was there only one lightning storm?” she asked. Michael and Isabel looked confused, so she elaborated.

“Was there another lightning storm, later on this morning? Like, about an hour ago?” Maria clarified.

Isabel shook her head. “No, but what does that…” she stopped as she caught sight of Max’s grin of relief. “Never mind,” she said disgustedly, smiling at Max. “I should have known. Did you use them all?” she inquired mischievously.

Max choked out, “None of your business!” before he really started to laugh. A moment later, everyone else joined in. Liz was the first to recover.

“I can’t believe I’m actually saying this out loud here, but—what if the lightning appeared because it was the first time for Max? I don’t know, maybe that’s really important on your world,” she said, despite her acute embarrassment.

“I—well, that’s what I was thinking this morning, anyway. Maybe that’s why we connected at such a deep level, why we seem to have been in the eye of that lightning storm,” she continued, beginning to sound speculative. She sat upright on the couch, looking around the room. “Does that make sense to anyone else?” she asked.

Max smiled and kissed the top of her head. “That’s my Liz. Hand her a science problem and she forgets all about me,” he teased. Liz shot him a look, and Maria laughed.

“You ARE the science problem, Max. I think you’re stuck with her,” she remarked.

Everyone laughed then sobered as Liz continued her thoughts.

“I think we need to be really careful, though. Max, we shouldn’t even touch in the presence of the granolith. Not now. It looked normal when we saw it this morning, but we didn’t touch when we were in there. I can’t help thinking that it’s involved somehow with the lightning,” she theorized. Maria and Michael nodded.

“I agree, you should stay separate when you’re anywhere near the granolith. We don’t know who might have been alerted to our presence in Roswell by that storm,” Isabel said. There were murmurs of agreement, and Michael stood up, stretching.

“OK, I think we’ve gotten enough accomplished on this subject for now. Maria, I don’t know about you, but the rest of us didn’t get much sleep last night, so…”

They took the hint, standing up nearly in unison. Isabel looked at Michael, a question in her eyes; he hesitated briefly, and then nodded slightly.

“Liz,” Isabel said, coming up to her, “Michael and I—have something to say to you.”

Michael moved up to stand beside Isabel. Max was off to one side with Maria, watching attentively as Michael pulled a small box out of his pocket and handed it to Liz.

Liz took the little white box with its tiny gold bow, looking at Isabel and Michael questioningly.

“Open it,” said Michael, fidgeting nervously. Liz complied, opening the box to reveal a thin silver illusion necklace. Floating from the chain were five tiny pink stars, forming a V with the middle star being slightly larger than the surrounding four.

“It’s gorgeous,” Liz breathed.

“The stars are made of rose quartz,” Isabel said. “It’s supposed to represent love.”

“Thank you,” said Liz, “both of you. I love it. But, why?”

Michael scuffed his toe on the floor. “Well, we know Max. Max has loved you for a long, long time, and we knew that if you two ever got to, ahem, to, ah…”

Isabel took over. “We knew that if you ever came this far, you would become a permanent part of Max’s life. So, we, um, we wanted to—welcome you to our family,” she finished in a whisper, tears in her eyes.

Liz was astonished. Isabel, crying? She suddenly got a glimpse from Max of how absolutely, critically important her family was to his sister, and she began to understand just what this kind of gesture would mean to Isabel. She could sense that it was all Max could do to hold back his own tears. So Liz followed her instincts and did the first thing that came to mind—she flung her arms around Isabel, hugging her tightly.

Startled, Isabel froze for a moment, and then hesitantly she hugged Liz back. A minute later they were both laughing and crying, and Liz reached out to pull Michael in for a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

Max was watching them, smiling broadly, his arm around Maria who was happily crying her eyes out.

Michael’s voice was suspiciously husky as he broke away and asked, “Shall I put it on for you, Liz?”

Liz nodded, handing him the box and turning around, lifting her long, dark hair out of the way. Michael managed to get the necklace clasped into place around her neck, and Liz dropped her hair, patting the tiny stars at her throat.

“Thank you both,” she said shyly. “It’s so beautiful.”

Michael smiled at her, then went to rescue Max from his sobbing girlfriend. Maria willingly clung to Michael as he maneuvered her to the couch, sitting beside her. Her sobs diminished into hiccups, but she kept smiling.

Max and Isabel shared a long look, and Liz knew that he was thanking her for her ready acceptance of Liz’s new role in his life. At last Isabel sighed, smiling, as she declared, “I am going home to go to bed now. I’ll see you guys later. Oh—um, I’ll talk to Tess and Alex, you know, fill them in. Tess can tell Kyle what’s going on.” She yawned. “Just—not right now!”

Max walked over to Liz and took her in his arms, kissing her nose then resting his forehead against hers.

“We should get some sleep too,” he said quietly, regret in his voice. “Though how I’ll ever be able to sleep without you beside me…I don’t know.” He brushed her hair back, cupping her face as he bent to kiss her lightly. His lips lingered on hers, soft and warm, and just before he withdrew Liz felt the stirring of renewed desire.

Max felt her feel it, and he smiled, caressing her cheek with his thumb. Liz turned her face into his light caress and kissed his palm, her tongue flickering against the smooth skin. She felt his immediate response and grinned, wrinkling her nose at him. He sighed exaggeratedly.

“OK, Iz, we’d better go,” he said as he stepped away from Liz, reluctance showing in every line of his body.

“I have to work this afternoon, but I’ll see you tonight, Max,” Liz said, the same reluctance in her voice.

“Yeah…tonight,” Max echoed, the words a promise. Then he turned and left with Isabel. Liz stared after him, at the closed door. She felt forlorn and a little lost. Finally she gave herself a good shake and turned to Michael and Maria.

“Don’t *hic* worry, Liz. Max isn’t *hic* going anywhere,” Maria said, still hiccupping. Liz smiled.

“I know. I’m not worried. It’s just—I don’t even know how to explain it to myself, let alone to you,” she commented. “I guess it’s all so new still.”

Michael snorted. “Yeah, you might want to give yourself a whole 24 hours before you start worrying about not adjusting or something,” he cracked.

Liz made a face at him and laughed. “I’m suddenly too tired to even think about it anymore,” she yawned. Maria took the hint and stood up, giving Michael a quick goodbye kiss. She and Liz headed out the door, back to Maria’s house. Back to a reality that would never be the same.

posted on 17-Nov-2002 2:21:58 PM
Chapter Six

During her shift at the Crashdown Café that afternoon, Liz was having serious trouble keeping her mind on her work. She was in such an infectiously cheerful mood, however, that no one minded much when they got the wrong order, or if their food took a long time to come to their table. Her father, who had been watching his daughter’s giddy behavior a little apprehensively, finally asked her to come into the back room so he could talk to her. Liz was instantly on her guard. As she walked back with her dad though, she felt a wave of reassurance from Max, and her chin lifted. Their reunion was enough to explain her craziness—there was no need to go into how complete that reunion had been.

Mr. Parker sat down on the little couch in the back room, leaving Liz standing. She chose to remain so as he looked at her, worried.

“Lizzie, what’s up? You’ve been very forgetful tonight. Not to mention that you don’t usually mix anything up, but you’ve been doing that too. And I can see that you are positively joyful about something. Now, please tell me, what has you so worked up?”

“Oh, Dad!” Liz exclaimed. She came over to her father and hugged him, sitting beside him on the couch. “I, um, well…I got back together with Max yesterday,” she admitted, smiling happily. Mr. Parker searched her face, then returned her smile, sighing in relief.

“That’s great, honey. Max is a nice boy. He certainly was persistent; I can see that he cares a great deal about you. I’m happy for you,” he said, hugging her tightly. Liz laughed, the sound muffled against her father’s shoulder. Mr. Parker released her after a long moment.

“Well, it seems like my little girl is growing up,” he said, his voice rough. Liz groaned, and he smiled. “So…do you want to break it to your mother or shall I?” he asked, smiling. Liz groaned again.

“No, I’d better do it,” she said, not looking forward to that conversation. “We can talk about it later. I think we’re all going out tonight, in a big group.”

“That’s fine, Lizzie. You’re a sensible girl; I trust your judgment,” Mr. Parker said. “You can talk to your mother whenever it feels right to you. Just don’t put it off too long, or she’ll drag out of me the reason why you’re grinning like a lunatic!”

Liz laughed and hugged her father again, then stood up. “I have to get back to work, Dad. My shift is nearly over. I’ll talk to Mom tomorrow at the latest, I promise.”

“All right, honey. Just—try to pay more attention to what you’re doing, please? Your adorableness is only going to go so far towards keeping our customers happy!” he teased her. She smiled at him then went back out to finish her shift, vowing to concentrate more on her work.

Max slept a lot longer than he had expected to sleep. So long, in fact, that his mother delayed supper for over an hour waiting for him, then finally came into his room to wake him. She was a little worried as Max swam up through the layers of sleep blanketing him and surfaced in the real world. He was disoriented for a second, then memory returned and he grinned.

Mrs. Evans was startled. “Max, are you all right?” she asked, concerned. Max yawned and sat up in bed.

“Yeah, Mom, I’m fine. I was just really tired, we didn’t get much sleep last night,” he said, gloating internally about who the “we” actually meant. “You know Michael,” he continued as he rubbed his eyes. He clambered out of the covers and sat on the edge of the bed, still fully dressed. He had been so exhausted when they finally got to the house that he had just crawled into his bed.

Mrs. Evans smiled. “Yes, I do know Michael. But that can’t be what’s got you looking so happy. You’re usually a grump when you wake up.”

Max rolled his eyes. “Gee, thanks, Mom. Um, no, you’re right. Michael doesn’t have anything to do with why I feel happy today.”

Mrs. Evans waited for him to continue. She didn’t say anything, but she had a particular way of looking at her son that told him he had better 'fess up. Max sighed, seeing it, then smiled again.

“Do you remember Liz Parker?” he asked. His mother just gave him another look, and he continued hastily. “Well, we, um, we got back together yesterday,” he said in a rush. He couldn’t keep the smile off his face now, and Mrs. Evans studied him for a moment before responding.

“That’s nice, Max. I know you care about her. Is it…how serious is this?” she asked, looking directly into his eyes. Max was unable to look away as he answered.

“It’s—I love her, Mom. I always have. She—feels the same way,” he said softly, the wonder of it clearly audible in his voice. Mrs. Evans held his gaze a moment longer, then nodded. Max felt as though he had passed a test of some kind.

“Max, are you—do you have condoms, that kind of thing?” she asked. Max flushed, the color slowly rising in his face at the blunt question.

“Mom, how can you—I can’t talk to you about that!” he exclaimed. Mrs. Evans laughed and ruffled his hair.

“Max, you’re a good person. But, you’re not really a kid anymore. In a little over a month you’ll be eighteen, legally an adult. I’m not stupid. I know how you and Liz feel about each other. Last year…it was different, you were still a child. Now you’re not, and I just want to make sure that you go about this intelligently. If you and Liz stay together, you will reach that point in your relationship, and I need to know that you’re not going to make any stupid mistakes,” she said quietly, her voice vibrating with the strength of her feelings. Max was taken aback.

“Mom, I—thank you,” he said, shocked at her words. “I swear to you, I will be careful.” He knew it was a promise he would keep, and his mother nodded, accepting his word as proof enough.

“All right, then, Max. Why don’t you go have a quick shower before supper?” Mrs. Evans said as she turned to leave. “You obviously need one since you’re still wearing the clothes you put on yesterday morning to go to school!”

Max smiled. “Yeah, I know. I’ll be out for supper in a few minutes,” he agreed. Mrs. Evans smiled back at him before closing his door on her way back to the kitchen.

Max grabbed some clean clothes and headed for the bathroom. Once there, he stripped, looking at his back in the full-length mirror on the back of the door. He smirked, seeing the scoring where Liz had dug in her fingernails. The marks had already faded to a light pink, and the mark on his neck where she had been sucking was just barely visible. It occurred to him that he had better be careful about taking his shirt off around the house now. Not only because of his parents, but Isabel would tease him like crazy if she saw him like this. Max laughed to himself—he didn’t care, it was worth it. But he would be careful, for Liz’s sake. Thinking about her, he stepped into the shower.

Liz slowly unbuttoned her uniform, still tired. She had gotten a little better as the evening had worn on, but she still hadn’t been able to focus completely on her job. It had been all right, though, everyone had been nice about it. She was glad that Maria hadn’t been working too, or she never would have been able to keep her mind off of the events of last night. Not that she had been real successful at it anyway.

She sighed as she stepped into the shower, the hot water sluicing away her aches. She closed her eyes, placing her face in the stream of water, letting it run across her body. She smiled, suddenly remembering that Max had seen her locker room shower fantasy. It didn’t seem embarrassing anymore; they had shared too much for her to be embarrassed about him knowing she desired him.

As if that thought had opened a door, Liz was suddenly aware of Max, standing under his own stream of hot water. She could feel the heat soaking into his musculature as if it was her own, and she felt a moment of startlement from Max as he became equally aware of her.

Max couldn’t believe what he was feeling. The water slid over Liz’s body, caressing every inch of her skin, and he closed his eyes to concentrate on following its path, his hands unconsciously moving over his own body as he meshed with Liz.

Liz could feel Max’s hands on her skin, and her own hands began to move, tracing the steamy water as it glided over him. Her hand slipped between her legs, obeying Max’s thoughts as she began to touch herself, imagining that it was Max’s hands that were on her body, Max’s fingers sliding inside her, Max’s breath that was the steam from the hot water. Her hips began to move as she continued to stroke herself, her pleasure gathering force from Max’s actions.

Max was feeling everything Liz was, except that he felt her hands on him, her firm touch bringing his erection to surging life, her warm breath against his overheated skin. He kept his eyes closed as he imagined her kneeling in front of him, her soft lips enveloping him, and he began to stroke himself harder in response to Liz’s movements.

Liz leaned against the wall, her fingers working madly as she brought herself to climax. She stifled her cry, thankful that she had left the radio playing in her room, as she shook in reaction to her self-manipulation.

Experiencing Liz’s climax secondhand led Max to his own, his seed spurting out to mingle with the water streaming down his body. He caught himself against the wall as his legs weakened in response to their shared experience. He was shaking a little at the incredible intensity, and he could tell that Liz felt the same.

They both simply stood there for a few minutes, letting the water wash away their bodily fluids, as their minds absorbed this new level of intimacy. Gradually their mental connection faded a little as the intensity diminished, and Max sent Liz an image of him sporting a huge smile. She giggled, sending him back a similar image of herself, then regretfully sent an image of a shampoo bottle as she began to wash her hair.

Max sighed and followed suit, washing his hair and body quickly in order to forestall any questions from his family as to why he had taken such an unusually long shower. He did, however, begin singing under his breath as he toweled himself off and got dressed, carefully arranging his hair with a comb. Once he was satisfied, he opened the bathroom door and sauntered back to his room with his dirty clothes, smiling.

Liz blow-dried her long hair, brushing it smooth as it dried. She was pensive, though smiling, as she thought about what had happened. It occurred to her that their bond was getting stronger, after less than a day since its establishment. She wasn’t sure if she was frightened by that or not. It felt—natural to her, already. There was definitely a lot more to learn about it, a lot to explore. She smirked at her unconscious choice of words—“explore,” indeed! It did seem to be an apt description, she thought to herself as she finished with her hair and got dressed.

All during supper, Max was smiling. Isabel told him that his face was going to break if he didn’t quit it, and Mr. Evans hushed her, enjoying his son’s happiness. Privately he felt that it was long overdue, and he hoped to see the same silly expression on Isabel’s face before too much longer, as well.

Mrs. Evans finally voiced what she’d been thinking since Max had told her he and Liz were back together. “Max, sweetie, why don’t you invite Liz over for supper tomorrow? We’d love to get to know her better,” she said brightly.

Max froze, his fork halfway to his mouth. His father was nodding in agreement, and Isabel’s eyes were sparkling with laughter. He was trapped.

“Yeah, OK, Mom. I’ll ask her. She may not be able to come tomorrow, though, it might have to be next week. That’s kind of short notice,” he replied. Mrs. Evans smiled and patted his hand.

“That’s fine, dear, we understand that. Just as long as you do invite her,” she responded in turn. Max caught the hint of a warning in her voice and he nodded, knowing she would realize he knew what she meant. She did, and nodded back at him.

Mrs. Parker knocked on Liz’s door and entered just as Liz was refastening the star necklace around her neck. She noticed it immediately.

“That’s a lovely necklace, Liz. Where did you get that? It’s new, isn’t it?” she asked.

Liz sighed internally; she wasn’t going to be able to put off this conversation until the next day as she had hoped. She was going to have to have it right now.

“Yes, Mom, it’s new. Isabel Evans gave it to me,” she replied, deciding to edit the whole truth for ease.

“Isabel Evans? Isn’t that Max’s sister? Why would she give you something like that?” Mrs. Parker inquired, puzzled.

“Well, Mom, it was kind of a, um, bury-the-hatchet kind of thing. We didn’t used to get along very well, but,” she took a deep breath, “Max and I got back together yesterday.” She waited tensely for her mother’s reaction.

“You did? Well, that certainly explains your behavior today,” Mrs. Parker said, relief in her voice. “I was beginning to wonder if you had lost your mind!”

Liz laughed, surprised. “No, I’m fine. Just—happy, Mom. Really happy,” she emphasized. Mrs. Parker hugged her.

“I’m glad to hear that, baby. You haven’t been very happy lately, and I kind of thought it was because of Max. But you didn’t want to talk about it, and I respect that,” she said. Liz shook her head, surprised again, and Mrs. Parker continued.

“I do like Max, Lizzie. We don’t know him very well, though. Why don’t you ask him to come to supper one night? We can all get to know each other a little better then,” she said, her tone making it clear that it wasn’t a request.

Liz sighed, audibly this time, and agreed, “All right, Mom. I’ll ask him.”

“That’s my girl,” Mrs. Parker approved. She hugged Liz again then left her room, closing the door behind her. Liz sat down on her bed, groaning at the prospect of a family supper with Max. She started to giggle as she realized that Max had just had to promise the exact same thing to his mother. They had to have not one, but two excruciating evenings!

Max caught her giggles, and the reason for them, and smiled ruefully. At least they would be together, he sent back to her, feeling her agreement. Everything would be all right, because they were together now, and they would never be apart again.

posted on 17-Nov-2002 2:24:06 PM
Chapter Seven

Feeling better about the looming interrogations, Liz went back into her bathroom and checked her reflection. Her hair was fine, but the clothes…she stripped back down to her underwear, hanging her clothes over her robe on the bathroom door. She turned back to the mirror, pulling her long hair to one side and inspecting her neck. The red mark there seemed perfectly normal. It wasn’t glowing or anything, nor covered with a scabrous rash. She recalled what she had said to Max about the rash, in Michael’s apartment last year. Maybe she had been right: maybe the rash had appeared because they had been away from each other for too long. Too long without completing the process they had begun, in the kitchen of this very building.

Liz splashed her face with cold water, trying to ignore the heat that the memory of falling strawberries was creating. She had a sudden image of just how far that kiss could have gone, and she knew that Max had picked up on her daydreaming.

«Stop it» she thought at him, knowing he couldn’t hear the words. She covered the image with a crossed-out circle, like a no-smoking sign, and sent it back at him. «There are other things to think about, you know!»

All she received in return was laughter, and a feeling of…concealment. She didn’t have time to wonder about what Max was hiding, though, because just then she heard the unmistakable sound of her window being opened, and someone climbing through it.

Liz came out of the bathroom to see Max with his hand on the knob of the door to the hallway. His hand glowed for a few seconds, then he turned to face Liz. His eyes widened.

“Well,” he said, his voice a little unsteady, “that’s certainly a nice welcome, Liz.”

Liz looked down at herself, remembering that she had undressed, and was clad only in a pair of lavender satin panties. She flushed a little.

“I actually wasn’t expecting company. What are you doing here, Max? And what did you do to my doorknob?” she demanded quickly, covering her embarrassment.

Max chuckled and moved to stand in front of her. “As to your second question, your door locks now. As to the first...I wanted to give you this,” he said, his eyes sparkling with mischief as he handed one perfect strawberry to her. He grinned at the look Liz gave him.

“I took it from the fridge before leaving. Mom said that since you could come tomorrow, she wanted to make some special dessert or something,” Max told her. “But, I had already planned to come up here. After—what happened, I couldn’t not see you,” he admitted. “I wanted to surprise you, though. Do you have any idea how hard it is to NOT think about something?”

Liz smiled, her embarrassment fading in a wave of love as Max pulled her against him, kissing her forehead.

“Not yet, but I’m sure I will soon,” she replied, leaning her head on his shoulder. She smiled again as Max’s hands began to roam her body, unable to resist her near-nakedness.

“Max—my parents are home. There are still people in the restaurant,” she protested verbally. But she did not move away. Max tilted her head back and looked into her eyes.

“So?” he breathed. “We’ll be quiet.”

Liz looked back at him, knowing her protest was a token one. Knowing that he knew that, but was willing to let her decide. She surrendered to the love that surrounded her, and closed her eyes as she leaned closer to kiss Max.

It was slow and sweet, their waterplay having taken the edge off of any urgency. Leisurely their tongues explored each other in a gentle waltz as Liz undid Max’s shirt, one button at a time, until it fell open and his smooth skin came into contact with her own.

Max made a sound deep in his throat but did not remove his hands from Liz’s face as she slowly continued to undress him. At last she reached a point where she needed to break the kiss to finish, but Max didn’t let her. He kicked off his shoes and stepped out of his khakis and boxers, catching his socks with his toes and pushing them off, too. Liz smiled against his mouth and followed suit, pushing her panties down her legs and stepping out of them without ever losing their mouth-to-mouth contact.

They continued to just kiss for several minutes. Max’s hands were tangled in her dark hair now, and Liz’s were clasped around his waist, holding their nude bodies close together.

Max gently disengaged from her hair and, still kissing her, scooped Liz up into his arms. He opened his eyes just enough to find her bed, and carried her to it, finally withdrawing his mouth as he laid her in the middle of the bed.

Liz looked up at him, her eyes half-closed with languorous desire, her lips parted, stained a dark pink from his kisses. Max smiled tenderly at her.

“Liz,” he said softly, “would you lie on your stomach?”

Startled by the request, Liz looked a little fearful. Max had the grace to blush at what she was thinking.

No—Liz, I just want to kiss your back, that’s all,” he said. “It’s all right.”

Reassured but still nervous, Liz smiled hesitantly and turned over, stretching out on her stomach. Max knelt on the bed beside her, close to her waist. He lifted her silky hair, baring her neck and shoulders, and bent to kiss the nape of her neck.

Liz had been lying somewhat stiffly, but as Max’s gentle, non-threatening kisses continued, she relaxed and began to anticipate the moving heat of his mouth.

Max felt the apprehension drain out of her as he trailed tiny kisses across the top of her shoulder. He picked up her arm and continued his journey, pressing his lips in a wandering line down the length of Liz’s arm, pausing to lick the inside of her elbow, then heading for her hand.

He gently sucked on each finger, licking the webbing in between them and dropping a wet kiss in the middle of her palm. Liz forgot her earlier misgivings as Max painted her other arm and her back with kisses, seemingly covering every inch of her skin. He planted a single kiss in the center of each buttock, and Liz giggled as she felt him smile. He then continued down, alternating between her legs, until he reached her feet.

Max kissed the instep of each foot, and each of Liz’s ten toes. He smiled as her toes twitched from the ticklish sensation, then he put her feet back down on the bed.

“Turn over, Liz,” Max said softly. Liz gathered herself and slowly flipped onto her back. Max was shocked to see tears running down her face, and he quickly moved to sit beside her.

“What’s wrong? You’re not upset—why are you crying?” he asked, concerned.

Liz waved a hand. “No, I’m not upset. Nothing’s wrong. It’s just—every place you kissed, feels loved, Max. I know, that sounds silly, but…”

Max smiled. “No it doesn’t, because it’s the truth. I love all of you, Liz. Your smiles; your frowns; your tears; your laughter; the way you look at me when you’re angry; the taste of your kiss; the way you move under me. I love the little scar over your eyebrow, and the way that your mind keeps working on a problem after everyone else has given up, until you find a solution. I love the way your hair always sticks to your lip gloss. I love YOU—Liz Parker,” he declared, his voice quiet yet ringing with conviction.

Liz was crying in earnest now, but she was smiling too. Max laughed and hugged her close, nuzzling her neck. Blinded by her tears, Liz turned her head and sought his mouth. She kissed Max hungrily, sending a shockwave of desire through both of them. Max willingly followed as she lay back down, pulling him on top of her.

“Max,” she whispered, her voice full of longing. Another wave of desire crashed into him at the sound, but he had enough presence of mind left to whisper back at her, “Just—hold on a sec, Liz. I’ll be right back.”

He was gone just long enough to slide on a condom, then Max moved to cover her.

“Liz?” he whispered. Her eyes fluttered open, her lashes still sparkling with her tears. Max felt himself falling into the soul behind those wondrous eyes as she smiled tenderly.

“Yes, Max,” Liz whispered back, “I want to feel your weight on me; my anchor to this world.” Her gaze never left his as he found her ready for him and thrust into her.

Their surroundings faded into nothingness as they lost themselves in each other, their physical pleasure the only point of contact with reality. It was impossible to tell who was Liz and who was Max as they were drawn into each other, only peripherally aware of their bodies until they began to build to the point of orgasm.

As they neared that peak in perfect synchronicity, Max dropped his head to Liz’s neck, sucking at her soft skin in an effort to stay quiet as Liz raked her nails across his back, then sank her teeth into his shoulder in her own attempt at silence. Their soul-deep connection was not severed when they broke eye contact; it was too strong.

The tension continued to build to a nearly intolerable level, the pleasure so intense it was nearly pain. There came a moment when they were in perfect balance, and then the nothingness fractured into dazzling patterns of light as Max and Liz returned to the world, their bodies trembling from the force of the explosion.

They gradually became aware of more than just each other, though they were both too weak to move at first. Max recovered a little faster than Liz as his shoulder started to throb from her teeth. He could feel some deep scratches criss-crossing his back, too.

Liz smiled shakily. “My neck doesn’t feel so hot, either,” she remarked, trying to sound flippant and failing miserably. Max dredged up enough energy from somewhere to heal them both, then collapsed again. Liz grunted at his sudden weight, and obediently he moved off of her, pulling her along so that they were lying face to face on their sides.

Max caught sight of Liz’s alarm clock just as Liz realized how late it was, and they stared at each other in shock. Max swallowed hard.

“Liz, how is that—I looked at the clock when I came back to the bed…” he whispered.

“And it was just after 9 o’clock…” Liz added.

“And now it’s…” he started again.

“Nearly midnight,” she finished.

“How is that possible?” Max burst out.

“I wasn’t aware of any time passing, or—anything, really, except us,” Liz admitted.

«Me, too,» Max thought, then gave a start as he realized that Liz had heard that clearly, in words.


«I’m here, Max. We seem to have—»

«Completed the connection»


As they continued to stare at each other they could feel their minds beginning to merge again, and Liz broke their eye contact with a gasp.


«I know. I’m scared too»

«We need help»

«Maybe Isabel—»

«Or Tess»

«Yeah, they both deal with mental stuff. Michael and I»

«Have powers that deal with the physical plane»

«I’m sorry I can’t just—»

Liz brushed her hand down the side of Max’s face.

«Shh—don’t be sorry. It’ll be okay»

Max shook his head and smiled at her certainty.

«How do you stay so strong?»

Liz smiled back, her hand still cupping his jaw.

«It’s easy—you said it yourself. It’s all worthwhile for me—»

«Because we’re together. You’re right; it is. I love you, Liz»

«And I love you, Max. But—I don’t want to lose my self in you»

«Neither do I. So we’d better—»

«Find the others»

«What should we, uh, tell them?»

Liz sighed. «About why we’re more than 2 hours late?»

«Well, yeah»

«The truth, Max, as—uncomfortable as that will be. We need their help, and they can’t help if they don’t know everything that happened»

Max grumbled. «Michael is never going to let me live this down»

Liz laughed. «Probably not—he’ll be green with envy!» Max winced at her words.

«Max…what about supper tomorrow? How are we going to be able to act normally? And what about school?»

Max pulled Liz against him, stroking her hair. «Let’s just see if Tess or Izzy can help us first. Then we can start worrying about everything else»

«All right. Let me call Maria and find out where everyone is»

Max kissed her lovingly then let go of her. Liz picked up the phone and hit the speed dial for Maria’s cell phone. She answered on the second ring.


“Maria, it’s me. I—we…” she faltered.

“Where the hell are you, Liz? We gave up waiting for you at the Crashdown; we’re all at Michael’s now. Watching some hockey game,” she said disgustedly. “What happened, did you “lose track of time?””

Liz stammered, “Well, kind of, I mean—it’s not what you’re thinking. No, I mean it is—but it’s not too…”

Maria shook her head. “Liz, you’re babbling. You never babble unless you’re freaked out about something. What’s up?”

“You know me too well,” Liz laughed, a little breathlessly. “Something really weird happened when we, um, when we…”

“Yeah, I get it. Just—get over here, OK? Oh, hey, I’ll come pick you up, Isabel’s got the Jeep. I’ll be there in, like, 10. Uh, the usual place, around the corner? I assume you’re not interested in getting caught now,” she said dryly.

“I owe you so big time, Maria,” Liz said in relief. Maria laughed.

“Yeah, but I know you’ll be there when I need you to be, hon. No biggie,” she replied affectionately then hung up.

Max had put his clothes back on while Liz was on the phone. She sighed, remembering that she had been trying to decide what to wear when Max had distracted her. She opened her closet as Max came up behind her, his hands stealing around her waist as he nuzzled her.

«So that’s all I am now, a distraction?» he asked playfully. Liz turned to face him, speaking aloud because some things need to be heard.

“No. Max, you are the only one. I was ready to spend the rest of my life alone. I was prepared to watch you be with Tess, to be just your friend. To be there for you whenever you needed me, but never to hold you or kiss you again—to never let you know how much I still loved you, that I would always love you. I was willing to endure that…for you. Only for you. And now…Max, you are my life. You complete me in ways that I didn’t even know existed before you. And I will never let you go again,” she finished in a whisper, tears in her eyes.

Max, too, was on the verge of tears as he cradled her face with his hands.

“Liz Parker, I love you. I don’t want to have a day in my life that doesn’t have you in it. I need you with me, now and forever. You’re like the sunlight in my soul, the oxygen I need to live. You complete me, too,” he stated softly then he kissed her.

For a brief moment, the world fell away again, and a rush of images filled their minds. It seemed as though they had stood like this many times before, made these same commitments. Different worlds, different people…the same two souls, linked for eternity by the shattering depth of their love.

Liz withdrew first, pulling her head back far enough to kiss Max’s eyelids. He smiled at the gesture.

«Max—you saw it?»

«Yeah, we’d better talk to Kyle too. Good thing he’s a Buddhist now»

«It kind of makes sense, doesn’t it»

«It tells me why I’ve loved you since the moment I saw you, Liz»

Max stroked her hair, and then released her so that she could get dressed. Liz thought for a moment then pulled out a pair of tan pants and a short-sleeved red sweater. She hurriedly slipped into the clothes, stepping into her shoes and grabbing a jacket as Max remade her bed. They were about to go out the window when Liz remembered about the lock.

«Is it normal? Like, can I use it?»

«Yes it’s normal. What would have been the point, otherwise?» Max laughed silently. Liz made a face at him and unlocked the door, then they both went out and down the fire escape, running as quietly as possible down the alley to where Maria was waiting for them.

posted on 17-Nov-2002 2:28:10 PM
Chapter Eight

“Hi! Don’t worry, I just got here,” she greeted them. “Hop in; let’s go. It’s already pretty late, so we may have to, like, break for the night soon and finish dealing tomorrow.”

Liz and Max exchanged a look; they weren’t going to be able to wait until tomorrow. They needed to deal with this now. But neither of them said anything to Maria as they got into the Jetta.

“Thanks so much, Maria. We really appreciate this,” Max said.

Maria sighed. “I know, I know. If I hear one more word from either of you about how much you owe me, my head is not going to fit out of this car door. Look, you love each other, you’re together, I’m happy. That’s good enough for me.”

Liz giggled and squeezed Maria’s arm. “Just for that, we’ll never say thank you again!”

Maria glanced at her and smiled. “A little overboard, don’t you think? No, all I ask is that I get to be the maid of honor, and that the dress doesn’t suck,” she teased. Neither Liz nor Max had a ready response to that, which worried Maria.

“Oh, come on, don’t tell me the thought never crossed your minds! Especially since you both know what Future Max said about you eloping!” she exclaimed.

«I—hadn’t really thought about it in those terms yet. Have you?»

«No, but Max—it would only be a formality at this point. I think—I think we already are married; I think that’s why this is happening. Maybe—maybe it’s supposed to happen on your world, when the King takes a wife. Maybe that’s why the lightning storm appeared»

«You—could be right. At least, I can’t think of any reason why you shouldn’t be right. And we both—we knew that this would be forever…»

«Let’s just, not think about it right now. It can wait. I mean, we’re still just 17, we can’t get married now anyway»

“Hello? Did anyone hear me?” Maria inquired. Liz sighed.

“I’m sorry, Maria. It was rude not to include you in the conversation,” she apologized unthinkingly.

Maria slammed on the brakes, jerking everyone to a violent stop. Fortunately the streets were deserted at that time of night. She put the car in park and turned to Liz.

“What the hell are you talking about?” she cried. Max leaned forward, reaching between the seats to place his hand on Maria’s arm.

“Maria, we’re in the middle of the street. Pull over to the side and put your blinkers on, OK? I don’t want your car to get hit sitting here,” he said soothingly. Grudgingly Maria did as he had told her, turning the car off as well, then she twisted in her seat so that she could see both of them.

“OK, now that we’re not a sitting target—thank you, Max—would you please tell me just what the hell is going on?” she demanded. Liz looked at Max; he shook his head.

«You were the one who made the comment»

She stuck her tongue out at him, eliciting a smile from Max. He focused on her pink tongue, then looked back into her eyes and winked. Liz immediately closed her mouth, giving him a look, then turned to Maria.

“Um, remember what I told you, about the feelings, and the images?” she asked. Maria nodded, and Liz continued.

“Well, that was—getting stronger all day. And then tonight, when we, uh,” Liz made a circular motion with her hand.

“When you made love,” Maria supplied. “This is ME, Liz—no embarrassment here!”

“Yeah, OK,” Liz smiled. “Well, when we—made love, tonight, it—the connection was completed. It’s not just—we can hear each other now, Maria, like in words. We can still feel and see things, but…now we can talk, too.”

Maria looked at Max, who was smiling at Liz’s hesitation. She sighed.

“I take it that this is not an entirely good thing,” she commented. Max nodded.

“You’re right. It’s—we can’t control it. We’ll be talking or whatever, and suddenly we start—merging, like we do when, uh, when we make love,” he said, stumbling over the words just as Liz had.

Maria rolled her eyes but refrained from teasing them. Instead, she asked, “So is that it? The uncontrollable merging?”

Max sighed. “No, there was—look, Liz, you tell her. I’ll be outside; I don’t think I want to be a part of this conversation, and we’re better off telling her now so she can freak out in private,” he said sardonically.

“Me, freak out?” Maria huffed, pressing her hands to her chest. Max just looked at her and she dropped her hands, shrugging. He pointed at her.

“And Maria—DO NOT tease me about this. It is off limits, all right? I’m serious,” he insisted, giving her a stern look.

“All right, all right! I won’t tease you about it, whatever “it” is! Get out of the car if you’re going, because now I really want to know!” Maria exclaimed, waving him away.

Max took her words at face value and got out of the car, walking around it to lean against the rear bumper. He really did not want to hear this, but he was still wide open to Liz so he could not truly avoid it.

As soon as the car door closed behind Max, Maria leaned closer to Liz and asked excitedly, “What is it? What is he being so sensitive about? The suspense is killing me!”

Liz smiled. She could feel Max’s acute embarrassment all too clearly. She thought it was sweet, but focused most of her attention on Maria.

“Well, Max came over because—uh, well, just because; why isn’t really important,” she began, wanting to keep their long distance waterplay private. Liz felt Max’s embarrassment lessen considerably as he realized that she wasn’t going to talk about that.

“Anyway, we—oh, Max put a lock on my door, it locks now!” Liz exclaimed. Maria giggled at her excitement.

“Nice touch, keeps the parents out. So, what happened?” she demanded. Liz shook her head at herself.

“Sorry! Where was I? Oh, yeah. When he got there, I was trying to decide what to wear, so I was just wearing underwear. That threw him for a loop, which was kind of fun,” she smiled.

Outside, Max snorted. «You almost gave me a heart attack, standing there practically naked»

Liz coughed, prompting Maria to ask if she were all right.

“Yeah, I’m fine, I’m just—getting all of this commentary,” Liz said dryly, shooting Max a look. He could not see it, but he felt her intent and just laughed. Maria shook her head.

“This should seem weirder, but it doesn’t. It kind of suits you two. Commentary or not, though, would you please continue!” Maria ordered.

“OK, no more interruptions, I swear. Anyway, there I was in my underwear and Max was all surprised, and we started kissing. Which was as amazing as always,” Liz said dreamily.

“Mmm, yeah, I know all about that. Go on,” Maria pressed her.

“Well, we just kissed for the longest time, standing there, while I undressed him. Then, Max actually picked me up and carried me to my bed—he was still kissing me, I don’t know how he didn’t fall over something but he didn’t—and then he put me down and he, uh, he kissed me ALL OVER, Maria,” Liz whispered. She could feel Max only a little now; he was concentrating very hard, trying to block her out so as to give her some privacy.

“By all over, you mean…” Maria breathed, hanging on Liz’s every word. Liz nodded.

“Yeah, all over. Fingers, toes, everything—even my butt, which made him laugh,” Liz said. “I was kind of nervous at first, but oh my God Maria! It was all I could do to stay still! Everything was on fire, and I started crying.”

“Oh, totally,” Maria interjected. Liz giggled.

“Well, Max was surprised—he couldn’t figure out why I was crying when he knew I wasn’t upset! So, he stopped and hugged me, and he said the most beautiful things Maria, about what he loves about me—he even said the way my hair sticks to my lip gloss, which always annoys me! And then—I kissed him, and I kind of pulled him down on top of me, and…” Liz paused, looking serious. “Maria, I forgot about the condom. If Max hadn’t left for a moment to get one, I—I don’t think I would have noticed till after.”

“Not good, Liz, not good at all,” Maria said, shaking her head. “You are going on the pill—I’ll take you to the clinic tomorrow.” Liz nodded; that was a good idea.

«I think so too; I definitely wouldn’t trust myself to remember every time» Max added.

“OK,” Maria commented, “that’s settled. So far I haven’t heard anything that I might tease His Highness out there about, so I gather there’s more.”

Liz blushed. “Yeah, um, Max—happened to look at my alarm clock when he, um, came back to me with the, um, the condom, and it was just after nine. Then we—started making love, and we sort of—lost some time,” she trailed off.

“What do you mean, you “lost some time”? How did you lose time? When did you stop making love?” Maria asked, puzzled.

Liz looked at the floor and whispered, “Um, maybe, five minutes before I called you?” She was tense, waiting for Maria’s outburst. She was not disappointed.

“THREE HOURS??!! You did it for THREE HOURS? And you don’t remember all of that time passing?!” she squealed. Outside, Max was killing himself laughing.

«I heard that! Not from you; I mean I HEARD it» he remarked, his mindvoice thick with amusement. Liz was just happy he was finding the whole situation funny now instead of embarrassing.

“Well, no,” she answered Maria. “We just sort of—fell into each other. I can’t quite recall what I saw either, but I know I saw stuff. Same with Max,” Liz asserted after checking with him. He had regained his composure by this time.

“We only came back to ourselves when, well, you know, things started to get to that point,” Liz continued. Maria snorted.

“Yeah, well most guys reach “that point” in like, maybe 10 minutes—I’m being generous here,” she said sarcastically. “Liz, aren’t you—aren’t you sore?”

“Yeah, some. It’s not that bad, though,” she admitted.

«Why didn’t you say something? I can heal that. It was my fault, after all»

«No it wasn’t your fault, it was your—just, never mind. You get the point»

Max laughed. «Yeah, I get it. But I’d still like to heal you»

«Fine. When we’re done here, then»

Liz looked at Maria and smiled at the curious expression on her friend’s face.

“He’s just—he wants to fix that,” Liz said wryly, and Maria laughed.

“Sure he does. He just wants to make sure you’re ready to play later!” she teased. Liz pushed back her hair, still smiling.

“Yeah, maybe. Which is actually, um, just fine with me,” she admitted shyly. “It’s—this is hardly one-sided.”

«Good to know»

«As if you didn’t already»

«True, but it hasn’t, ah, completely sunk in yet»

«Well, get used to it, Evans. I could decide at any time, in any place, that I want you» Liz teased, sending him a mental picture of the two of them up against the lockers in the crowded school hallway. She felt Max’s heart skip a beat at the vivid imagery, but his words belied the effect she was having on him.

«I’m—a little more private than that» he countered with an image of them in the shower, together this time, and Liz laughed.

“Come in, Liz—hello, I’m right here!” exclaimed Maria, waving at her best friend. “Can’t you talk to him later?”

“I’m sorry, Maria. It’s just—we can’t help it, you know? You can’t help thinking, and right now everything we think is getting shared. That’s why we need help,” Liz explained.

“So, let’s go then. Otherwise everyone else will have cleared out and no one’ll be able to do anything for you tonight,” Maria sighed. She started the car, waiting until Max got in and buckled his seatbelt before pulling back out onto the road, heading for Michael’s.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 17-Nov-2002 4:58:23 PM ]
posted on 17-Nov-2002 2:30:36 PM
Chapter Eight cont.

A few minutes later, Maria parked by Michael’s building, and all three of them got out of the car. Liz turned to Maria.

“Max is just going to, you know, fix things before we go in,” she announced, blushing a little. Maria smiled.

“Yeah, OK, I’ll just, uh,” she started to reply, only to have Max interrupt her.

“Stay, please, Maria,” he said earnestly, giving her a puppy dog look. Maria groaned inwardly; no woman alive could resist a look like that from Max, even if she weren’t romantically inclined towards him.

“All right, fine, I’ll stay,” Maria grumbled, glaring at Max. “Quit it! You know I can’t say no to you when you look at me like that! Why do you want me here?”

Max’s face became serious. “I’ve never done anything quite like this, and I want to make sure that I don’t hurt Liz. I need you to, uh, just—keep an eye on her. If she looks like she’s in pain, move her away. That should break what I’m doing.”

Maria sighed. “Fine, fine, get on with it then,” she waved him on.

Liz came up to Max, standing very close, facing him. Max placed one hand on each of her hips.

«I’m going to take this really slowly, just to be on the safe side. Are you ready?»

«Go ahead»

Max stared into Liz’s eyes, letting his consciousness sink into his awareness of her body. He soothed the tense muscles in her neck and shoulders, then her lower back, on his way to her pelvic area. When he reached his goal he winced slightly; she had made light of it, but Liz had to be more than “kind of” sore.

A little guiltily, Max set about repairing the myriad little tears in Liz’s tissue, massaging the tension and pain out of her newly-discovered muscles. He was concentrating so hard on what he was doing that he failed to notice Liz’s reactions, but Maria saw them.

Maria watched in fascination as Liz’s entire posture changed. Her stance loosened as she relaxed, her back straightening, her arms curving gently. She looked like a ballerina about to launch into flight. As Max continued to fix the minor damage their extended lovemaking had caused, Liz’s expression began to change as well.

At first it was dreamy. Her eyelids drooped, her long lashes lowering to veil her gaze. Liz did not quite close her eyes, but kept looking at Max. He was oblivious, his brow furrowed in concentration.

Liz felt as if Max were intimately stroking every part of her. It wasn’t sexual, exactly, though it was intensely pleasurable. It felt like when he had kissed her everywhere—like she was loved.

Maria was feeling decidedly voyeuristic as she saw the look of rapture that was sweeping over Liz, but she could not tear her gaze away. Besides, she had all but promised Max that she would keep an eye on her friend. She kept watching as Liz tilted her head back, parting her lips, her cheeks flushed.

Max was so lost in trying to soothe muscles that seemed to be tensing again that the reason for their tension escaped his notice until he heard a loud gasp from Liz and felt everything suddenly relax. Abruptly his mind snapped back into his own head, and he took in the sight of Liz standing before him. Her eyes were fully closed now, and there was a certain look about her that Max was beginning to be able to recognize. A slow smile spread across his face as he realized what he had inadvertently done.

«Feel better now?» he asked flippantly. Liz opened her eyes and looked at him, feeling dazed still.

«I feel incredible, Max. There is absolutely no pain anywhere in my body. I never noticed before how there’s always an ache somewhere»

«Good. It’s not something I’ll be able to do very often; it was harder than I thought it would be»

The last of her fog disappeared as Liz looked sharply at Max. There was a faint sheen of sweat on his skin.

«I’d say rather that it’ll never happen again, now that we know how much effort it takes. You can’t exhaust yourself on something as minor as that; you may need to use your powers»

Max nodded. «Yeah, I just—I didn’t think it would be that hard, you know? But I’m definitely not sorry, because I learned something. I think I can fix things so that you won’t ever have to take the pill»

Liz stared at him, shocked. «What are you talking about?»

«I want to talk to Isabel about it first, seeing as she shares your physiology—for the most part» Max said dryly, smiling. «But I think I can manipulate your tissue to create, well, basically a reversible tubal ligation»

«Reversible. You’re sure?»

«Completely. I would be able to remove the blockage when we, um, that is, when you»

«When we decide to have children, you mean» Liz’s mindvoice was soft and full of love.

«Yeah» As if of their own accord, Max’s hands moved from Liz’s hips to her face. He brushed her hair back, enjoying its silkiness against his fingers.

Maria cleared her throat loudly, causing them both to start guiltily.

“Do you think that we could go inside before I get treated to any more shows?” she asked acidly. “I’m glad Max makes you happy, Liz, but I do not need a full-blown demonstration of the whys and hows!”

Liz shrugged, unconcerned that her best friend had seen her face—she had seen all of Liz’s other expressions, what difference did it really make? It wasn’t as if she had actually witnessed them doing anything. Max, however, was not so blasé. His face became bright red.

Maria laughed and came over to them, giving Max a quick hug from the side.

“I’m kidding! Well, not really, ‘cause I really don’t want such a demonstration, but I was just yanking your chain,” she said affectionately. “You guys looked like you were going to go into trance there, staring at each other, that’s all. I wanted to snap you out of it.”

“We may have; that’s why we need help,” Liz admitted candidly. Max nodded agreement, still red-faced.

“Yeah. Um, Maria, I knew you were kidding, but—I just got the oddest picture in my head from what you said, that’s all,” Max said. Liz looked at him, her hand flying to her mouth as she saw what he was talking about. She couldn’t help it; she started to giggle.

“She would, too!” Liz gasped out. Maria looked from the giggling Liz to the blushing Max.

“I would what?” she demanded. Max grinned sheepishly.

“If, ah, if you did get such a—demonstration, you would, um, stand over us and, uh, give us pointers. You know, like, “Move this there,” and—well, you get the idea,” he finished, blushing even harder before the color receded from his face.

Maria managed to look both amused and slightly offended. The amusement won out and she laughed.

“Well we can all relax and get over it because it’s never going to happen,” Maria declared. “Let’s go on in, you guys; I’m getting cold.”

«Max, do you think Maria would explain to everyone? Then we could come in after and answer questions and stuff. I just don’t think I’m up for listening to Michael right now»

«Only one way to find out. She’d probably be OK with it»

“Maria, would you do me a huge, gigantic favor? Would you, uh, explain the basics to everyone for us? I’m just—I don’t think I can deal with Michael’s remarks right now. Once everyone has—calmed down, you can come get us and we’ll, like, answer questions and stuff. Well, and hopefully get some help. Would you do that for me, Maria, please?” Liz begged, looking at her best friend pleadingly.

Maria threw up her hands. “How is it that I am surrounded by people who know how to turn me into mush?” she cried then pointed at Liz. “Your look is almost as bad as his, you know! All right, I’ll brave the lion’s den alone, but I will send someone else to get you when they’ve picked my brain clean. I am not coming back out here; I have no interest in becoming a popsicle!”

Liz hugged her tightly. “Maria, you are the best. I love you. I swear I’ll make all of this up to you someday,” she declared. Maria hugged her back, just as tightly. When they finally let go of each other they were both misty-eyed. Max smiled at them.

“Thank you, Maria. We’ll be right here, waiting for—whomever,” he said. Maria nodded and walked off, knocking on Michael’s door and entering immediately afterwards.

Liz sighed and leaned against Max.

«There goes my second-favorite person in the whole world»

«Dare I ask who’s first?»

«You, of course» Liz punched him in the arm.

«Well, who’s third then?»

«Alex. Then my dad, and my mom. Grandma Claudia used to be up there too, but»

«Yeah, I understand»

«I think she knew that I was supposed to be with you, Max. Everything she said, right up until the end—it just makes me think she knew»

«Like what?»

«We were—talking about soul mates, and I said what if you thought you’d maybe found him, but it was like incredibly, incredibly complicated. She said that if it wasn’t complicated, he probably wasn’t my soul mate. And then, in the hospital, she seemed to—recognize you, when you, um, called her spirit. I don’t know; that’s just how it seemed to me»

Max had been stroking her hair until she had said «maybe found him». His hand stilled.

«You knew then? We hadn’t even kissed yet. In fact, you were still dating Kyle»

«Max, I knew—well, long before that. I only truly realized it when you healed me, and then reversed the connection. But I had been attracted to you since—day one, I guess. When I first noticed you. And Maria kept telling me that you were looking at me—even that day—but I never—I didn’t think that you could possibly be interested in plain old me»

Max moved, taking Liz’s face in his hands and looking into her eyes.

“Don’t you know how impossibly beautiful you are?” he said aloud, his voice throbbing with conviction. Liz was caught by his utter certainty.

«Well, yeah, now. I mean, I guess so. I never really thought of myself like that until—until I saw me as you saw me. And, I still think that you are kind of biased» she teased. Max smiled, shaking his head at her.

«I may be a little biased, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re a lovely woman, Liz»

Liz stepped even closer, resting her head on Max’s shoulder and encircling his waist. Max slid his arms around her shoulders and simply held her.

«I guess I am one now—a woman, that is. At seventeen. I don’t know if I’m ready for everything that implies»

«You think I am? But there’s no going back now, Liz. Do you—are you sorry we made love?»

Liz jerked her head back to look at Max, startled. «NO, Max! Good Lord, no! That isn’t what I meant at all» Max sighed in relief.

«Good, because I don’t want you to have any regrets, Liz. You—are likely to miss out on a lot of stuff by being with me. I’m pretty much tied to Roswell, with the granolith and everything here»

«I know that. I—don’t have any illusions, Max. I thought about all of that, many many times, before I, um, propositioned you» They both smiled at her choice of words.

«I knew that I would be giving up some of the things that I always thought I would do or have in my life by committing to you, Max. But, I chose you. Freely. Easily, even, in the end. What good is it to see the Eiffel Tower, or the Great Wall of China, or—anything else, if you’re not with me?»

Tears stood in Max’s eyes as he kissed the top of Liz’s head, his arms tightening around her.

«What did I ever do to deserve you, Liz Parker? I love you so much» Liz smiled against his jacket.

«You—were you. Max Evans. Human-alien hybrid. The person who saved my life and risked everything for me. The person who trusted me when everyone and everything else was telling you not to. The person who shared your inner self with me, so that I would know I didn’t have to be afraid. The person who got absolutely looped on one sip of alcohol and invaded my bedroom, then ran off with me and told me that I was your dreamgirl, that it was all just magic when you thought about me, that you went crazy when you weren’t with me. The person who then proceeded to demonstrate this by making the parking meters sparkle and turning the streetlight into a disco ball. The person who persuaded me to choose you by offering not words, but a passionate kiss in front of a huge crowd.

«The person who couldn’t ask me to do anything that might hurt me. The person who let me go when I needed you to, but never gave up on me, even though you believed I had betrayed you. The person who wanted my first time to be perfect, and loved me enough to make it perfect. The person who has the most beautiful eyes, that I can lose myself in so easily, because the soul behind them is infinitely more beautiful» Liz paused then finished her monologue.

«Because you are Max Evans, the man I love, whom I will always love, with everything that is in me»

Liz held Max tightly, keeping her face pressed to his chest. His shoulders shook and he buried his face in her hair, letting its silk absorb his tears. They stood quietly for several long moments, holding each other, until the intensity of Max’s emotion faded some and his tears stopped.

«Liz, I»

«No apologies, Max. It’s—I’m flattered, actually. Here» Liz handed him a tissue. Max wiped his eyes, then blew his nose and stuffed the tissue into his jacket pocket.

«Feel better?»

«Yeah, I’m good. Just—is that really what happened that night? When Kyle gave me the alcohol? I remember a little bit about your bedroom—I made Kyle turn around when I did something to the wall—and I remember being onstage kissing you, but I have no clue as to how I got there. You never told me, and I was too embarrassed to ask then. Was I really using my powers that blatantly?»

Liz laughed. «Absolutely. Here» she replayed her memory of that evening for him, almost like it was a movie, starting with finding Max and Kyle in her bedroom and finishing with Max’s declaration that he didn’t remember what he had said.

«Thanks—I think» Max winced. «I can’t believe you didn’t deck me for that. I’m sorry»

Liz shrugged. «It’s in the past. Besides, I was in love with you. I wasn’t going to deck you for kissing me like that, even if it caught me totally off guard. I was upset that you didn’t remember anything. But, then you kissed me again, in the Crashdown»

«Mmm. That kiss I’ll never forget. I wanted you so badly, and you kept giving me these looks that had nothing to do with what you were saying. I just couldn’t take it anymore»

«I know» Liz sounded smug. Max looked at her, surprised. He laughed.

«You minx! You knew what I was thinking when I followed you in there. You were doing it on purpose!»

«Worked, didn’t it? You practically attacked me»

«I didn’t notice you trying to get away. Just like you’re not trying now»

Max tilted Liz’s head back and kissed her. His hands slid down her body to her hips and he pulled her right against him, her softness molding itself to his hardness.

Liz moaned as she came into intimate contact with the evidence of his arousal. She opened her mouth, her tongue darting out to twine with Max’s as she put her arms around his neck, holding him close. They broke apart at the sound of a familiar voice.

posted on 17-Nov-2002 2:33:43 PM
Chapter Nine

“It’s great that you’re keeping each other warm, but you can come inside now,” Alex announced, trying not to laugh at their guilty expressions. Liz punched his arm then gave him a quick hug. The three of them began walking.

“So how’d it go, Alex?” Max asked.
“Not bad,” Alex replied, “but I think Liz had the right idea in having Maria explain. There were some, ah, rather rude comments made. But everyone’s good now; nobody’s really mad. I think Isabel is a little concerned. Michael—well, pretty much what you’d expect, a little jealous but won’t admit it. Kyle seemed OK with it. He had a peculiar look on his face, but he wasn’t upset or anything. Tess—who knows, I can’t read her, but she didn’t seem upset either. Maria and I are both cool with it, of course.”
Max stopped and clasped Alex’s hand. “Thanks, Alex. Your support means a lot to us.” Alex smiled.

“Hey, Max, you make Liz happy. That’s all I need to know, man.” He gave Max a friendly slap on the back, and they walked on to Michael’s door. Max knocked once and opened it. Alex entered first, followed by Liz then by Max, who closed the door behind him and turned to find the entire room staring at him and Liz. He could feel himself grow warm under the scrutiny, and Liz’s color began to heighten.

«I feel like this is the Spanish Inquisition or something. Habla español?»

«Max, don’t make me laugh, please. If I started now I’d go into hysterics»

«Sorry. Let’s just sit down—there are two empty stools by the counter»

They walked over to the stools and sat down, everyone still watching them. Taking pity on how uncomfortable they looked, Maria once again came to their rescue.

“OK! Well, everyone’s all caught up now, so let’s get down to business. Does anyone have any ideas as to how we can help Max and Liz to stop, uh, blending?” she asked brightly. Michael opened his mouth to say something and Maria glared at him. He closed it again with an audible snap. Kyle spoke up.

“It’s not so much that you want to shut it down completely, but you want to control it, right?”

“Exactly,” Liz confirmed. “Right now we have absolutely no control, nor any warning really. It’s a potentially dangerous situation, and not just when we, um, when we’re in bed together.” She was unable to actually say, “making love.” She could feel her cheeks getting warmer as she continued.

“I mean, we could be standing there staring at each other and not even notice if Nicholas showed up. I’m not ready to die, and neither is Max. We need your help because we don’t have any idea what to do. And,” Liz turned to look at Michael, “don’t even think about suggesting that we separate. That is not an option. Besides, distance—doesn’t seem to matter.”

Liz’s face was flaming now, and she heard Max cough, knowing he was thinking of their shared shower experience too. Suddenly Isabel snapped her fingers.

“That’s why you were singing!” she exclaimed, looking mischievously at Max. He coughed again, rubbing his upper lip, and gave her a look that said she had better keep her mouth shut. Isabel winked, but stayed quiet.

As if that had broken the ice, everyone started talking, throwing ideas around. None of them were viable, though. Max noticed that Tess and Kyle weren’t participating in the brainstorming but were quietly conducting a private conversation.

“Uh, Kyle? Tess? I was really hoping that you guys would participate here, you both could have some good insights,” Max said, his tone pleading.

Tess and Kyle exchanged a long look and finally Kyle nodded. Tess turned to Max.

“Actually, we think we can solve your problem. We experienced a little bit of one ourselves, and we’ve got it pretty much under control now. It’s not anywhere near as strong as your—connection seems to be, but then, I haven’t been in love with Kyle since I was 6, either,” Tess said, smiling though she seemed somewhat embarrassed by her confession. But Liz had been right about the potential for danger.

Max sagged back into the stool, relief written all over him. Liz was also enormously relieved.

“Could we work on it some now?” she asked hopefully, looking from Kyle to Tess. They both nodded.

“It will probably be easier to do this without an audience,” Kyle advised. “Except for one person to monitor us, just in case. Michael, it’s your place, would you mind being the monitor here?”

Michael shrugged. “Nah, that’s cool. I guess that means goodnight to the rest of you.”

Everyone rose to gather their belongings. Maria came up to Isabel.

“Are you leaving the Jeep for Max? Do you want a ride home? I can give you one,” she said. Isabel looked startled, but nodded graciously.

“Yeah, um, that would be great. Alex, too, if that’s all right,” she responded. Maria smiled.

“Of course. I’m just going to say bye to Michael, then we can all go,” she acquiesced. Maria walked over to Michael, to find herself unexpectedly enveloped in his arms.

Michael held her tightly, not trusting himself to speak yet. He never thought he would want the closeness he was seeing between Max and Liz, or even between Tess and Kyle. Watching Max tonight, seeing the changes this had wrought in him even in such a short time, Michael realized that he did want to be that close to someone. No, not to someone; to Maria.

Maria could feel the tension in Michael’s body. She didn’t know what was going on, but she knew him well enough by now to know that he would tell her when he was ready, and not before. After a long moment, Michael eased his hold on Maria, reaching up to brush gentle fingertips across her lips. Maria’s breath caught at the look on his face, then she closed her eyes as his mouth descended to hers.

It was a deep kiss, full of passion and something more. Maria leaned into Michael as her knees weakened; he held her even tighter. She was intimately aware that he was aroused by her, and her every sense was flooded with him. Maria felt as though she were swimming in a sea of Michael, and just as she thought she might drown she had a flash: Max and Isabel, their hands held out in welcome, in brotherhood. She reached for their hands, realizing that that her hands were actually Michael’s hands, and Maria abruptly understood that Michael was letting her in to see part of his soul. As she grasped Max’s hand, and then Isabel’s, the vision dissolved and she became aware that Michael had stopped kissing her. He was, in fact, just looking at her guardedly, his expression a mixture of fear and hope.

Maria loosened her death grip on Michael and ran her fingers along his jaw line, smiling as she saw the relief that flooded his face before he crushed her in another hug.

“Ooof! Michael, I can’t breathe,” she said, her face buried in his shirt. He relented a little then kissed her hair.

“Not now—I have to help Max—but we need to talk, Maria. I’ll call you tomorrow,” Michael whispered into her ear. She nodded, unable to speak, and he kissed her forehead then released her. She just stood and looked at him for a moment, her heart in her eyes. Michael thought she had never looked so beautiful, so vulnerable, and he smiled at her.

“Tomorrow,” he repeated, and Maria echoed, “Yeah, tomorrow.” She gave herself a little shake and turned around, heading for the door. Michael’s smile didn’t budge as he watched her leave, knowing he had had an effect on her.

Once she and the others were gone, he turned to the remainder of the group to find Max looking at him strangely. Liz smiled warmly at him and Michael smiled back, knowing she would have noticed Maria’s reactions. Apparently Liz approved.

Kyle clapped his hands, startling everyone. “Yeah, OK, let’s get going here. Michael, the four of us are going to be in a meditative trance. All I need you to do is watch and make sure that everyone is still breathing. Sounds pretty elementary, I know, but it is important. As for the rest of us—hmm,” Kyle paused. “Um, this is going to work best if you and I work together, Liz, and Max and Tess work together because they have abilities that we don’t. Is that all right?”

Liz looked at Tess, studying her. Tess looked back at her calmly, knowing that she had earned this distrust but also knowing that things were very different now.

«What do you think, Max? Do you trust her?»

«She’s saved my life before, Liz. I think that once she moved in with the Valentis, after Nasedo was killed, she changed a lot. I think this is who she really is; she was just—distorted—by Nasedo. Yes, I trust her. Especially since Michael is watching»

Liz nodded decisively. “That’s fine, Kyle. It makes sense. So, let’s get started now.”

Max and Liz separated, each feeling a pang that was almost physical. Liz and Kyle sat on the floor at one end of the coffee table; Max and Tess did the same at the other end. Michael sat on the couch in the middle, propping his feet on the table. He watched in fascination as all four of them arranged themselves in the lotus position, surprised at the ease with which Liz and Max adopted the unfamiliar pose. He knew Max was in good shape—it was hard to miss, especially since he was obsessive about staying that way—but apparently Liz was not as fragile as her petiteness implied. That was all to the good as far as Michael was concerned; none of them could afford weaknesses. Even Isabel was running these days.

Michael’s mind drifted to wondering if Maria could sit like that, and he let it, figuring that at least thinking about Maria would keep him awake while everyone else was staring into space.

Liz was nervous. «What if we lose it completely? I don’t want that either»

«I don’t think that’s possible, Liz. It’ll be all right. Don’t worry so much»

Kyle spoke up. “OK, start taking deep breaths. Try to maintain a regular rhythm. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale,” he said, his voice measuring out their breathing.

“One more thing,” said Tess. “We’re trying to control your connection, not break it. You’ll find that even if it fades otherwise, you will not be able to stop making a complete connection when you’re actually making love. You won’t lose consciousness of the world around you anymore, that’s all. That—it’s the only time that Kyle and I really connect, but we never did get more than feelings and some images. You two are bound together so strongly that you should be able to control it by fine degrees, anywhere from absolutely nothing to total openness. You’ll have to practice—at first it might be easier to block each other out when you’re not actually working on it or—otherwise engaged,” she said dryly.

Both Max and Liz relaxed at her words, their fears soothed. They fell into a trance, prompted by Kyle’s singsong voice. All of their eyes were closed now, their breathing slow and deep, completely in sync. Tess and Kyle began issuing low instructions to their respective pupils.

“Liz, I want you to envision yourself standing in the middle of an open space. Max is a few feet away from you. Now, picture a wall of glass between you, anchored to the ground,” Kyle chanted softly. Liz concentrated, doing as he had asked. Suddenly she realized that she couldn’t hear Max anymore. She started to panic.

“It’s OK, Liz. It’s OK. Now, imagine the glass wall dissolving, until it looks like a wall of gelatin. Make sure it’s still anchored to the ground—it must always be anchored, that’s your control,” Kyle said soothingly. Liz forcibly calmed herself and visualized the gelatin wall. A trickle of Max’s feelings leaked through and she felt a rush of triumph. Jumping ahead of Kyle, she made the wall a thin layer of gelatin, like a piece of transparent vellum paper, and she could feel Max again, and get some images, but no words.

“Kyle, I’ve got it. It’s like a shield, right? The harder and thicker it is, the less I sense Max. But if I take it down, I’m still totally open to him,” Liz marveled. Kyle smiled at her, his eyes opening.

“That’s it exactly. I should have known you’d be a quick study,” he said. “You and Max will have to decide together what level is comfortable for you, and how to mesh your shields. You’re not only blocking him from getting in, but you’re blocking you from getting out, too.”

“Oh!” Liz exclaimed. “So, like, if I’ve got the glass shield up then I can, uh, project all I want and he won’t hear me.” Kyle nodded, and Liz frowned.

“I don’t think I’d want it to be like that very often,” Liz remarked.

“Probably not. Tess and I kind of keep it at the hard Jell-O stage. That way, if there’s something that happens suddenly or whatever, we can get through, but there isn’t all of the accidental leakage. You guys might be more comfortable with the mushy Jell-O. Then if you’re actively projecting, as you said, everything will go through, but your private thoughts should stay in your own head,” Kyle explained.

“That sounds about right,” Liz agreed. “So—here, I’ll do that.” She concentrated, building the wall up until it looked like Jell-O that was just barely starting to set. She could feel Max’s general emotional state, but that was it. She realized that he was frustrated, which she became sure of when he swore.

«Damn it! Glass isn’t gelatin!»

Obviously the imagery didn’t work as well for Max. Liz unraveled her shield and offered a mental hand. «Let me show you»

Max sighed. “Tess, Liz has it. She’s going to try to show me, all right? I just don’t understand what you mean by the gelatin. Apparently it’s just me,” he said dryly. Tess giggled.

“That’s OK, it took Kyle a while too. It’s kind of related to how I think of a mindwarp. But if Liz can show you, that’d be perfect.”

Max closed his eyes and slowed his breathing back down. «I’m ready»

«You and I are standing in a clearing, a few feet apart, facing each other»

«OK, got it»

«Now, watch what I’m visualizing, and feel the differences»

Liz put up a full shield first, blocking Max off with the glass wall. Gradually she thinned it down to the transparent paper, and banished it. Then she built it back up to the mushy stage. She could feel Max concentrating on what she was doing.

«I think I’ve got it»

«OK, I’ll take mine down and you try it»

Carefully, Max built a glass wall in front of him then thinned it even as Liz had. He got back to the mushy stage too before he stopped.

«This is good. I can sense your presence, but not much else unless you’re sending it»

«Yeah, I think so too. Let’s do this together, so we have the same kind of shield up»

They both concentrated, building a meshed shield between them that looked like runny gelatin; one that they could both control. When they finally had it, it seemed to snap into place with a feeling of complete rightness.

Liz and Max both sagged in complete exhaustion, opening their eyes. Tess smiled in satisfaction.

“You got the snap, didn’t you? You did it! Congratulations,” she said.

“Yeah, we did. What’s with the snap?” Max asked, yawning.

“It means that you’ve grounded the shield properly. It’ll hold now while you’re asleep. Presumably while you’re unconscious too, but we haven’t tested that,” Tess answered. She laughed as Liz yawned too. “You guys are going to feel like crap for the next few hours; you just expended a lot of energy. You should get some sleep.”

“I’ll second that,” Michael interjected, blinking sleepily. Fantasies could keep a tired guy awake for only so long. Kyle held up a hand.

“In just a minute. Max, Liz. I was still in trance when you were trying to mesh your shields, watching you, and I—saw something. A kind of cord, linking the two of you together,” he said. Michael sat up straight, his fatigue forgotten.

“Holy shit, you mean I wasn’t asleep? I saw that too!” he exclaimed. Tess shook her head.

“I wasn’t in trance, I was just watching them breathe because I saw how tired Michael was. I didn’t see anything,” she apologized.

“I got an impression of—great age, from this cord,” Kyle continued. Max and Liz looked at each other; Liz nodded.

“We wanted to ask you about that, actually. Or—something like that,” Max said tiredly. “After we realized that this connection was so wide open, we—said some things to each other, and we kissed. We both had this feeling, that we had done this many times before, and we kind of, um, got impressions of those times. We were—all kinds of different people—not even all human. It was—a really strange experience.”

Kyle was nodding. “What did you say? I don’t need the exact words, but it’s important that you give me the basic idea,” he requested.

“Liz—said that she had been willing to sacrifice everything, but now that she no longer needed to she—wasn’t going to ever let me go, and she said that she loved me,” Max said, a little unsteadily. He sent Liz a warm rush of love as she began to speak.

“Then Max said that—that he loved me, and that—I complete him too,” Liz whispered, nearly in tears. Kyle looked at her intently.

“It felt as though you were making vows when you were saying these things, right? For both of you?” he asked. Liz and Max both nodded, and Kyle let out a huge sigh, smiling.

“In fact, I think you did make vows. I suspect, Max, that on your world the consummation of the relationship is what constitutes marriage, and it creates a bond that is unbreakable,” Kyle stated.

“That…would make sense,” Tess mused. “It would explain why Nasedo kept pushing me so hard to get Max to sleep with me. But, that would mean…”

“Exactly,” Kyle confirmed. “You and Max were never married. I didn’t see any bond whatsoever between you.”

Max and Tess both looked stunned; Liz hid a smile of triumph. Kyle had just allayed her last fear.

“Then I—oh, God, Max I am so sorry!” Tess burst out, tears streaming down her face. Liz moved to hold her, and Tess collapsed against Liz’s shoulder, sobbing. Max looked at Kyle, who shrugged.

“Give her a couple of minutes. She really didn’t know. If Nasedo weren’t already dead, I’d kick him from here to kingdom come for some of the stuff he did to Tess. It’s a wonder she was able to open up to me at all, let alone as much as she has—though I don’t think she counted on that,” Kyle said angrily. He sighed, releasing the anger, then winked at Max. Max laughed, understanding perfectly well what Kyle had not said. He was glad that he and Liz had never needed to play any such games.

Tess’s sobs quieted, and she lifted her head from Liz’s shoulder.

“I am truly, truly sorry Liz. Can you ever forgive me?” she whispered. Liz looked into her wet blue eyes, struck by the truth she saw there. Her new awareness of Max seemed to make her extra sensitive to everyone else’s emotions too. She rubbed Tess’s shoulder.

“Of course I can, Tess. I do. It’s all right,” Liz said soothingly, letting Tess put her head back down on her shoulder. Tess clung to Liz like a little girl might hold onto her mother.

Max was surprised at Liz’s ready forgiveness. He knew how upset she had been last year when he had kissed Tess while under her mental coercion.

«Liz? What» he projected carefully through their new shield. Liz met his eyes.

«It’s not her fault, Max. Nasedo raised her; she believed what he said, and did what he told her to do. She feels guilty enough already without any help from me—or from you» she added pointedly. Max grimaced.

«Yeah, OK. Is she all right now?»

«She’s still very upset. There’s—a lot of pain there, Max. Maybe—maybe we should get Michael to talk to her. He might—I think that her situation with Nasedo may have been similar to his with Hank, only—worse»

Max stared at her, feeling sick to his stomach. «You don’t think that Nasedo»

«Yes I do, Max. Given what Kyle said, he obviously didn’t have sex with her or he wouldn’t have been pushing her to go for you. But—well, you get the idea»

Max was nodding slowly. «It would certainly explain her behavior pattern. So. What can I do to help?» Liz threw him a grateful smile.

«Tell Kyle my suspicions, and get him to take her home. She shouldn’t sleep alone tonight. If Kyle doesn’t want his dad to know about them still, he can camp out on the floor»

«Will do» Max turned to Kyle, scratching behind his ear.

“Kyle, Liz thinks that, um, that Nasedo…” he began.

“I know,” Kyle cut him off, not quite meeting Max’s eyes. “I kind of got some of it secondhand, when we were, um, in bed. She wasn’t ready to talk about it; maybe now she will be.”

“Liz thinks she should talk to Michael. Hank used to knock him around; maybe he could help. She also wants you to take Tess home now and make sure that she doesn’t sleep by herself,” Max said quietly so as not to wake Michael, who had finally fallen asleep on the couch. Kyle raised his eyebrows quizzically at Max’s last comment.

“Liz said to camp out on the floor if you had to keep your dad in the dark still. Listen, Kyle, if there’s anything I can do to help—I feel sick. To think that we trusted him!” Max exclaimed in disgust. Kyle clasped Max’s shoulder.

“Thanks, but right now I’d better just do as Liz says and get Tess home. I’ll let you know about anything you can do later,” Kyle said gratefully. He put on his coat and shoes, then knelt beside Liz. Tess hardly stirred as he gently put her shoes on her feet, but she placed her arms around Kyle’s neck willingly enough when he gathered her into his arms and stood up.

“She’s so tiny,” Kyle whispered. Max’s gaze traveled to Liz and he smiled.

“Yeah, I know what you mean. Goodnight, Kyle. Night, Tess,” Max said as he opened the door to let them out. “Do you need help getting her into the car?”

“No, I’m good. Thanks,” Kyle responded over his shoulder as he walked away. Max watched him for a moment, then closed the door and turned to Liz.

posted on 17-Nov-2002 2:36:56 PM
Chapter Ten

“Suddenly having dinner with your parents doesn’t seem so bad, Liz. They’re just—normal people concerned about their daughter,” Max said.

"Yeah, same here," Liz sighed. She shrugged her shoulders, rolling her head. "After all of that wonderful relaxing you did for me, I'm all tense again."

"Here, come sit in front of me," Max invited, sitting in one of Michael's armless vinyl dining chairs. Liz sank cross-legged to the floor in front of him and pulled her hair over one shoulder. Max started to massage her neck and shoulders.

"Isabel tells me that I don't completely suck at this. And, well, she keeps asking me to do it, so I must be all right at it," Max remarked quietly, amusement in his voice. Liz smiled.

"You don't suck at all. It feels really good," she murmured, leaning back against his legs as she relaxed.

Unable to resist, Max leaned forward and kissed the exposed nape of Liz's neck. His mouth moved to the side of her neck and up, and he nibbled gently on her ear. Liz giggled.

"Don't you ever stop?" she asked, mock-complaining. Max knew she was amused, not upset, so he just kept tasting her smooth skin.

"Michael is right there," Liz declared, still not moving away.

«Michael is sound asleep»

"Well, yeah, but he might not stay that way," she protested. She felt Max smile against her skin.

"Have you ever tried to wake Michael up? It's an exercise in patience, I assure you," he chuckled as he swung Liz's sleek hair over her other shoulder. Max started kissing the newly exposed side of her neck. Liz rolled her eyes.

Max paused, remembering something. "Although—on second thought, Michael does have a tendency to wake at the most inopportune times," he said wryly. Liz turned to face him, rising onto her knees.

"What are you talking about?" she asked, intensely curious at the pained look on his face. She could feel that he was thinking of something embarrassing.

"Just—never mind. It was a long time ago," he muttered, not looking at her.

Liz definitely could not let it go at that; now she needed to know. She looked up at Max with her best sad puppy expression and cooed, "Please?"

Max looked at her and his mouth twitched as if he were going to smile, but he just shook his head firmly. Liz decided to play dirty. Max was still sitting on the very edge of the chair, so she rose up on her knees and moved between his legs, pressing against him and startling him.

"Liz, I thought you said—" Max started to say. Liz hushed him, placing her fingers against his mouth. She traced his lips then playfully tapped his nose.

"Liz—" She silenced him with a stern look. Max sighed and gave up trying to ask her what she was doing. Liz felt his surrender and smiled, then slid her hands around his neck and into his dark hair. She leaned forward as she gently pulled his head to one side, and then proceeded to kiss Max's neck, just above his shirt collar.

Max shivered as Liz slowly kissed and licked her way up his neck to his ear. He closed his eyes as she licked his earlobe, his hands coming up to hold her close. She bit him softly then whispered directly into his ear, "Please tell me, Max."

Max's eyes flew back open as he realized that Liz was trying to coerce him into telling her his embarrassing story. Smiling, he responded, "Sorry, Liz. You didn't think that was actually going to work did you?"

He jumped as Liz inserted her tongue in his ear, then licked all around before breathing, "Not really, no." She pulled back enough to look at him coyly.

"But that was just a practice run," she warned. Max felt a rush of heat at her words, but he told that part of himself to go take a long walk. He was not going to give in.

Liz read the determination in his face and she smiled; a slow, seductive smile that made it suddenly difficult for Max to breathe normally. He was still resolved, however.

Liz began a full-scale sensual assault. She started by attending to the other side of Max's neck. She kissed his warm skin. Wet, sliding kisses that traveled up to his other ear. She sucked on his earlobe as her hands wandered over his torso. He was sitting completely still, arms at his sides, eyes closed to any visual temptation. Liz unbuttoned his shirt and slid it off onto his arms. She inserted her tongue into his ear then breathed across the wetness.

"I like touching your skin, Max. Feeling all the hard muscle just underneath its softness," Liz whispered. She paused for a moment, wondering if she dared say the rest of what she was thinking. She was feeling kind of reckless and bold, so she continued whispering in Max's ear as her hands explored his chest and arms.

"I especially like it when your muscles flex under my touch. Like the ones in your back do, when I scratch you," she breathed, matching her actions to her words and lightly scraping her nails across Max's bare back. She felt him inhale rather abruptly, but he still did not move. Liz smiled; time to up the ante.

"And the way your hips press into my thighs when you thrust into me," she murmured as her hands caressed his hips and outer thighs. She pressed even closer, letting his hardness make an impression on her stomach. Liz was rewarded with a muffled groan, but still no movement. On to the next tactic, then.

"And I love the way your skin tastes," she whispered, a threat and a promise both. She bit his earlobe, not very gently, and felt Max jump. He didn't say a word, but she could see the cords in his arms from his clenched fists. Liz kissed his earlobe in apology before her mouth began traveling.

Liz kissed his shoulders and his biceps then licked the hollow at the base of Max's throat, tracing his collarbone with her tongue. She licked down his chest to a spot roughly centered over his heart, where she sucked at his skin until a dark red mark appeared. Her hands never stopped their wandering, caressing Max's thighs, legs, back, chest, arms. She deliberately avoided his groin; she would get to that later.

Max felt as though every inch of his skin was on fire. He was surprised by his own self-control, and he started to think that he might get out of this with his tale untold. Just as he was feeling good about this possibility, Liz's seeking mouth found his nipple and she sucked really hard.

Max groaned and threaded his fingers through Liz's hair as she teased his nipples, using her fingers and her tongue, her lips and even, gently, her teeth. Just as Max thought he wouldn't be able to take it anymore, Liz stopped and looked at him.

Michael woke slowly, confused as to his whereabouts for a moment. He opened his eyes; oh, yeah, he was on the couch. He was about to get up when he caught sight of Max and Liz and he froze, his mouth opening in shock.

Max was sitting on a chair near the door, his shirt hanging from his wrists. He looked tense. He had his hands in Liz's hair and she was kneeling in front of him, her body in between his legs. Michael couldn't see from this angle what she was doing, but just then he heard the unmistakable sound of a zipper. He groaned inwardly; couldn't Max have waited?

«Let's see if you can ignore this» Liz projected at Max, gazing into his eyes. She slid her hands up his thighs to his groin and unzipped his pants. She broke their eye contact and slowly moved her face towards him.

Max realized that she really would do it. He froze for a moment, then just before her mouth made contact he frantically rezipped his pants.

"All right, you win. I can't—not with Michael over there," Max said hoarsely. Liz moved back a little and smiled mischievously.

"Wasn't that my line? You said Michael slept like the dead, or something to that effect," she teased. She leaned against his knee, deliberately stroking his other thigh. Max made a strangled noise in the back of his throat and slapped her hand flat.

"Are you trying to kill me? I give, OK?" His voice cracked as he spoke. Liz looked at him and moved her hand to the button on the waistband of his pants.

"But I haven't heard my story yet, Max. That was the deal, remember?" she said softly. Liz hadn't actually meant to take it this far, but since she had and she still really wanted to know...

Max looked at her hand on his waist, then back at her face and sighed.

"All right, I'll tell you. Just—quit it, OK?" he capitulated. He started to shrug back into his shirt, but stopped at Liz's look.

"Not until I get the story, Max. Until I hear it all, you are open season," she said huskily. Liz arranged herself against his thigh, her face close to his groin but tilted up so that she could see him. Max was torn between wanting to kiss her senseless and wanting to strangle her as he began to speak.

Michael was fascinated. He never would have thought that even Max had that kind of self-control. From the looks of him, Liz had been pretty thorough. She was obviously bound and determined to hear this story, whatever it was.

As soon as Max started talking Michael realized what story it was and blinked in shock. Shy Max, who had never been so embarrassed in his life, who had sworn Michael to secrecy, was about to spill it to Liz. Michael definitely did not want to miss this.

"It was—I guess we were like 11. I, um, I made this bet with Isabel. I was so sure I would win that I agreed to her stakes. I can't even remember now what the bet was about, or what she would have had to do if I won, since I lost rather spectacularly," Max said quietly. He wasn't feeling as embarrassed as he usually did when he thought about this; maybe it was because Liz was still stroking his leg.

"Anyway, so, uh, what I had to do was, um," Max coughed, covering his mouth with his fist. Reluctantly he put his hand back down and went on.

"The next time that Michael slept over, which he did a lot. Mostly without my parents' prior knowledge. I still keep a sleeping bag in my room for him, actually. Anyway, um, well, the next time he did, while he was asleep on the floor I was supposed to sit on my bed and, uh, um, and, ah," Max could not get the words out. Liz had a feeling she knew where this was going; there were distinctly sexual overtones to the embarrassment she could feel emanating from him. She raised her eyebrows at Max, looking at him questioningly. His gaze moved from the floor to her face, and Liz smiled a little as she cupped her hand into a circle and made a quick gesture. Max actually laughed, though she could see his color rising.

"Yeah, that," he admitted. "Then, when I was at, uh, at "that point" as Maria would say, Michael woke up." Liz winced in sympathy.

"What did he say?"

"Nothing. That was almost the worst part. I tried explaining about the bet, but he didn't believe that Isabel would be that crude. He did swear he wouldn't tell anyone. I didn't even tell Isabel that he'd woken up, just that—I'd done it. I, uh, I kind of—got the impression that he thought I'd been thinking about him. Which I definitely was NOT, I was—well, that doesn't matter but it sure wasn't Michael!" Max declared softly. It felt good to have told Liz. He could feel her sympathy, and it was healing the rawness of the memory.

Liz put her hand on his arm. "So, what were you thinking about, Max?" she inquired archly. "That's part of the story too."

Max stared at her, then smiled, figuring he could turn the tables a little here.

"You really want to know? You're sure?" he asked. Liz was not sure now that she had seen his smile, but she had started this so she had better finish it.

"Of course," she answered loftily. Max's smile widened.

"Do you remember what I was thinking about this afternoon, when we shared that incredible shower?" he asked mischievously. Liz nodded slightly.

"Pretty much the same thing—with the same person, even," Max told her, watching for her reaction. Liz just stared at him for a long moment.

"Max, I was flat as a board when I was 11!" she protested. Max cupped her face.

"So? You were still beautiful. You've always been beautiful, Liz," he stated. "And I never wanted anyone else, anyway."

Michael decided that he had better make his presence known before they started again. He cleared his throat and stretched, sitting upright. He laughed as Max quickly yanked his shirt back on and started buttoning it, trying to hide the marks on his chest.

"Don't bother, Maxwell. I already got a good look at you; Liz does nice work," Michael smirked, looking directly at Liz. Her cheeks reddened but she stayed where she was, her chin up as she met Michael's gaze. He smiled at her.

"Max, I think this is the first time I've ever been happy that you're shy, seeing as how it was the unzipping of your pants that woke me up," he drawled. Max looked sharply at Michael, his eyes narrowing.

"So. You heard then," he stated. Michael looked back at him.

"Yeah. Look, Max, you said it yourself—it was a long time ago. Ancient history, man; gone and forgotten," Michael declared, leaning back on the couch. Max's face softened in gratitude, and Michael waved him off with a smile. Nothing more needed to be said.

"So, Michael," Liz broke the silence. "I guess we should go and let you get some real sleep." Michael yawned.

"Yeah, that'd be nice. I'll probably be up all night thinking, though," he muttered to himself. Max and Liz looked at each other, puzzled.

"Thinking about what, Michael?" Max asked. Michael started; he had not meant to say that out loud.

"Just—nothing. Stuff," he replied shortly. Liz smiled.

"This wouldn't happen to have anything to do with that kiss you gave Maria, would it?" she asked, sure that she was right. She was; Michael nodded.

"Yeah, I—I told her that I'd talk to her tomorrow—well, today now. I've got no clue what to say though," he admitted, almost shyly.

"Talk to her about what? It's hardly the first time you've kissed her," Max said, completely bewildered now.

"No, but—something happened, didn't it Michael? Something new," Liz declared. Michael looked at her in surprise. She spread her hands.

"She's my best friend, Michael. I saw the way she looked at you after. What happened?" Liz asked with interest. Michael rolled his shoulders, looking uncomfortable.

"I, uh, I think—I hope—she had a, uh, a flash," he mumbled. Liz and Max exchanged glances.

"Why "hope," Michael?" Max asked. "What was different this time that makes you think Maria had a flash?" Michael looked at Max, and there was a vulnerability in his eyes that Max had only seen a handful of times in their long friendship.

"Because—I wanted her to. I wanted to let her in," he whispered unsteadily. Max was astonished. Michael, allowing someone in? He held even Max and Isabel at arm's length most of the time. To Liz, though, it suddenly made perfect sense. She rose and went to sit beside Michael on the couch, looking at him seriously.

"She loves you, Michael, never doubt that. But she's not ready for this kind of closeness. Not yet. For all of her bravado and vibrancy, Maria is—she's pretty fragile. I know; you know that," Liz did not allow Michael to interrupt her.

"The thing is, Michael, you are both very guarded people. If you feel you're ready to let her in, I think that's wonderful, and that you should do that. But—take it slowly. She may not be quite as ready as you are. It's—Michael, you have hurt her before. You know that. That means that Maria's going to need time to adjust to the idea of you being—open, with her. Just—don't rush into anything, Michael, please," Liz implored him. One side of Michael's mouth lifted in a smile.

"You mean don't have sex with her yet," he said bluntly, his voice heavy with irony. Liz squirmed a little at the look he gave her.

"Well, yeah. Partly. I just—I don't want you to be disappointed or hurt, or—you know, to close back up again if Maria can't be as open as you want her to be. Yet," she emphasized.

"I guess that answers my next question," Michael sighed.

"Mmm, what's that?" Liz inquired.

"Why is it OK for you and Max, but not for me and Maria?" Michael replied.

Liz choked back a laugh. Her voice wobbled as she answered, "You know, Michael, I asked Max that same question about us last year, after—after I saw you and Maria in the Crashdown during that heat wave."

Michael's eyes widened. "You saw us? I didn't know that!"

Liz let herself laugh now. "Yeah, I um, I wanted—there was no milk upstairs, so I was going to get some from the fridge, and I—heard something, so I looked, and well, there you were, on the floor."

It was Max's turn to be surprised. "On the floor? You didn't tell me that part. My, my, Michael!" he teased. Michael flashed him a dangerous smile.

"I'd watch what I said if I were you, Stamina Man," he retorted. Max reddened. Liz put up her hands.

"Enough, you two! Don't go all testosterone on me now. Michael, the point is that you and Maria got there first last year, but Max and I did get there. This time it's the other way around. You just—you'll have to be patient, that's all. I know that's hard, especially with Maria sometimes, but—you will get there. It'll be worth waiting for, I promise you," Liz said earnestly, willing him to believe her. Michael relented with a smile.

"Yeah, OK, I get your point. I'll try," he gave in gracefully. "I'm not very good at being patient but I will try." He was silent for a long moment.

"And—thanks, Liz. I appreciate the advice. Somehow you always seem to know the right thing to do," Michael complimented her. Liz's jaw dropped, then she hurriedly closed her mouth as Max and Michael both laughed at her.

"I—you're welcome, Michael, and—thank you," Liz said wonderingly. Michael threw her a brief smile then looked away.

"Yeah. Uh, anyway, it's late guys. I'd really like to hit the sack," Michael declared gruffly. Liz hid a smile as she and Max took the none-too-subtle hint and stood up.

«Someone has obviously reached his intimacy quota for the day» Max's mindvoice was full of tired humor as he shrugged into his jacket and brought Liz hers. Liz looked up at him through a veil of dark eyelashes.

«Dare I hope that someone else has not?»

Max's breath rushed out of him at the sultry feel of her mindvoice. Michael caught the heated look that passed between them and groaned—audibly this time.

"Out! Out! I don't want to see any more tonight!" he exclaimed, waving them towards the door. Max smiled and started to leave. Liz stood indecisively for a moment then walked up to Michael and gave him a quick hug.

"See ya," she said, smiling at his dumbfounded look. Liz then turned and left with Max.

It took them a few minutes to find where Isabel had parked the Jeep. They climbed in and Max started the engine then looked at Liz.

"So, um, where to?" he asked hesitantly. Liz laughed.

"Is that a new way of saying your place or mine?" she teased, her eyes sparkling. Max could not help but laugh with her.

"Not exactly. It's just—I'm so tired, but I don't want to leave you yet," he confessed softly as he reached for her hand, caressing the back of it with his thumb. Liz smiled tenderly and smoothed the hair off Max's forehead.

"I know; me too. But we have to get through d