|posted on 9-Apr-2002 11:28:43 PM|
|CATEGORY: M/L, with others blended in. AU. Characters do not belong to me.|
RATING: PG – PG-15
SUMMARY: The alien group are all 25 years old. They’ve known for several years, because of their special gifts, of their alien status. But only recently are pieces of the puzzle beginning to fit together. Read on and find out how.
SMELLING THE FLOWERS ALONG THE WAY
(At the law firm of Evans, Evans, Guerin and Harding)
“Max, you have a call on line 1.”
“Take a message, Rose. I’m going to an important meeting.”
“I know that. But the caller says it’s urgent.”
Not having a clue what could be so urgent, Max thanked Rose and took the call.
“Is this Mr. Evans?”
“Hi. This is Dr. Johnson, at Roswell Community. I wanted to let you know we admitted your grandmother, Claudia into the hospital because she had a stroke. It was fairly mild, considering. But we’re going to keep her here overnight for observation. If everything checks out okay, we’ll release her tomorrow.”
Too stunned to form any coherent questions, all Max could think to say was to thank the doctor for his call before hanging up.
After contemplating these developments, he called his partners into his office to apprise them of what had happened. “Guys, I need to take the day off tomorrow to take care of our grandmother. I was going to begin depositions on a really important case, but I’m going to need you guys to take up the slack for me.”
“Don’t worry, Max. Of course, we’ll help out. But since you are starting that case, maybe it would work out better if I got help her instead.”
“That’s a thought, Isabel. But your apartment is a lot farther from the office than mine. I think it will probably be more realistic for me to do, since we don’t know yet what the final prognosis is. They’re going to do further tests on her tonight, and I’ll get further details when I pick her up tomorrow.”
“Okay. If you think that’s best. Just let us know whatever we can do to help out,” Isabel said. And Michael and Tess chimed in their agreement to her statement.
(The next day at the hospital)
“Mr. Evans, before you see your grandmother, I need to fill you in on the results of the tests we took last night.”
“There’s good news and there’s bad news. What would you like first?”
After briefly considering, Max said, “I really need to hear some good news. So let’s do that first.”
“The good news is, your grandmother’s stroke was rather minor. So there will be very few residual problems with that.”
“That’s great news! But you don’t look too thrilled with that. What’s the bad news?”
“The bad news is, we’ve found she is suffering with terminal brain cancer, which really contributed to the stroke she had.”
Stunned speechless, Max was quiet for several seconds. Finally, when he spoke, he asked, “How long does she have?”
“I don’t have hope beyond 6 months, if that. I’ve already talked with her about chemo, but she’s already informed me she does not want anything to do with that. She’s adamant that she doesn’t want it. The problem is, as she goes downhill, she’s going to need more and more care, practically 24/7. We could keep her in the hospital, but she’s also stated she would much rather spend what time she has left with her family. Is there any way your family can provide that kind of care for her?”
Before Max could think, let alone respond, there was a voice behind him that said, “I’ll be available for the next several months to care for her.”
“Oh, good, Liz. You got our message. Claudia just gave us your number this morning. I’m glad you were able to get here on such short notice.”
As Dr. Johnson was speaking, Max sat there, staring at the young woman who had just spoken. The name sounded familiar but, for the life of him, he couldn’t remember ever having met her before.
“I’d just gotten into town when my mom told me you’d called.”
Max finally regained his thinking faculties and spoke. “Excuse me, but how do you know my grandmother?”
“Oh, I’ve known Claudia since I was a child. She’s lived next door to my parents for years.”
“I’ve visited my grandmother often, but I don’t remember ever seeing you there.”
Before Max could get an answer, though, Dr. Johnson interjected. “Perhaps you could discuss that at another time. Right now we need to get the arrangements settled, so we can release Claudia today.
“Now, Liz, you said you’d be available for the next several months. As I mentioned, it would really be wise for her to have care around the clock. Would you be available under those circumstances?”
“Absolutely. I’m on a sabbatical from teaching for the next several months. So it will be no problem.”
“The next question, Max, is, would you be able to accommodate Liz with a room, so that she can be there 24/7?”
Max had had absolutely no opportunity to meditate on the circumstances which had just befallen him. So he paused briefly before responding. “Yes, of course. I have two rooms right next to each other. That way Liz can be in the room right next to Claudia.”
“Excellent. Then I suggest you go home and pack some things, Liz, for at least a few days. Perhaps, when Max has some free time, you’ll be able to get any other things you’ll need.”
Liz started to exit the room, but then realized she didn’t have Max’s address. So she turned back toward Max and asked, “It will be easier for me to get there if I know where I am going.”
“Of course. How negligent of me.”
“I understand. You’ve just been handed a lot to digest.”
“Thanks for understanding.” As he responded, he wrote his address on a Post-it for Liz.
“Thanks. I’ll try to get there as soon as I can.” With that, Liz promptly left.
Once she’d gone, Max continued getting further information concerning his grandmother’s prognosis, and then tried to discreetly find out more about how it came about that Liz was contacted.
“I don’t really have that much information. I just know that Claudia had Liz on her ‘Emergency Contact’ list. In fact, I was a little surprised to notice that her name was listed even before you or your sister Isabel.” After giving just that little bit of information, Dr. Johnson brought the conversation to a close, indicating he had his morning rounds he needed to do.
Needless to say, Max hadn’t really learned much to satisfy his growing curiosity about this young woman who had so mysteriously just entered his family’s life. So he was definitely going to put his lawyer skills to work, trying to learn more about her. For now, though, his first concern was getting his grandmother released and then settled comfortably in his apartment. Since it appeared Liz would be around for a while, he determined he’d have plenty of time to do his research. With that thought in mind, he decided to put it on the back burner for the time being and start the procedure of getting Claudia released.
As Liz left the hospital, she reflected back on the conversation that had taken place in Dr. Johnson’s office, and the comment Max had made about having never seen her around. She couldn’t help but remember herself why that was.
“Aunt Claudia, (that was how Claudia had asked to be addressed by her), why do your grandchildren always ignore me when I’m around?” 12-year-old Liz asked.
“Child, don’t think it has anything to do with you. They’ve had difficulty being able to blend in, what with being adopted and all.”
Liz paused thoughtfully and then responded, “Because they’re different. I understand.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“No, I don’t. Why don’t you tell me.”
Liz was hesitant to respond, fearing she might say something she shouldn’t. But as Claudia reassured her, she relented. “Well, the other day, when my cat got hit by a car, Max healed her.”
“How do you know that’s what happened?”
“Because I saw my cat in the street. I was so afraid to go get her because I knew I would start crying. Before I even could think what to do, I saw Max look around before he walked over to her. He didn’t see me because I was hiding around the corner of the house. When I saw him run over to her, I was wondering what he was going to do. I didn’t want him to see me watching him. That’s why I didn’t let him know I was there.
“Anyway, after a couple minutes, he stood up, with Misty in his arms, looked around, and then gently put her down. Misty ran right to me. But by then, Max had already run off again. I wasn’t sure if maybe I’d just thought it was a mistake. So I went over to the street where I’d seen Misty lying just a few minutes before. And right there in the street was a big stain of blood. So I knew I really had not imagined it.”
After listening to Liz’s explanation, Claudia paused briefly before deciding how to handle this new development. “How do you feel about what happened, Liz?”
“I’m a little afraid of Max. But I’m also happy he helped Misty. I’m also sure he wouldn’t like it if he knew I’d seen him. I think he’d really be mad at me. You won’t tell him, will you?”
“Of course not, honey. It will just be our secret. But that also means you shouldn’t tell anyone else either.”
“Oh, don’t worry. I won’t tell a soul.”
“Does that help you understand, though, why it seems that Max and Isabel ignore you?”
“Yeah, I guess so. But it makes me sad. Because I really wish we could all be friends.”
“Don’t worry, Lizzie dear. You will be one day. It’s just not time yet.”
“How do you know, Aunt Claudia?”
“When the time is right, I’ll explain it to you.”
~~End of Flashback~~
After coming out of her flashback, it occurred to Liz that Claudia never had given an explanation about what she’d meant. Now she wondered, with Claudia being as sick as she was, whether she ever would learn what Claudia had meant.
“Oh, well,” she thought to herself. “I’ll have to think about that later. For now, I need to get myself prepared to help her.” With that, she started packing an overnight bag before heading off to Max’s apartment.
As Liz was preparing herself to meet Max at his place, Max was busy trying to get Isabel and his partners caught up on what had transpired that morning. After he’d taken care of the preliminaries of discussing Claudia’s prognosis, he then proceeded to explain what had been arranged for her care. Before he’d even begun to explain, he knew he was going to get flack from everyone.
“But, Max, how could you allow this? We don’t even know this person. For all we know, she’s someone connected with the FBI who’s working undercover.”
“I have to agree with Isabel, Max. It’s not like you to be so quick to allow a stranger into our lives, and in such close proximity,” Michael said, quite beside himself with Max’s apparent lack of concern for the possible consequences.”
“I can’t help but concur with them, Max. What are you thinking? You know how all these years we’ve tried to be as unobtrusive as possible, especially when it comes to strangers.” Tess paused momentarily and then proceeded. “Surely you must have some thoughts about this stranger,” a thought that Isabel and Michael quickly nodded their heads to in agreement.
“Of course, I have. Have our goals been low key for so long that you think I’ve forgotten to be careful? As soon as that person Liz left the office, I tried as discreetly as possible to find out as much information about her as I could. Unfortunately, Dr. Johnson had his rounds to attend to. And since, as he informed me, her name was on Claudia’s ‘Emergency Call’ list -- above yours and mine, I might add, my dear sister – he didn’t give it a second thought when he made the effort to contact her.”
With this piece of vital information shared, the other three people were beside themselves. “How is it possible she’s on the list? I’ve never even heard of her before. And I’m sure I’ve never met her. What about you, Max?” Isabel asked anxiously.
Max had given a lot of thought to that question himself ever since he’d heard about Liz. “Honestly, Isabel, I don’t remember ever meeting her before. But somehow her name does ring a bell. I just don’t know why. But believe me, I definitely intend to find out. We’re not all attorneys for nothing. I intend to put our expertise to work in getting to the bottom of the mystery of this Liz person.”
After pausing briefly, Max continued. “For now, though, I need to get home and get things in order before I go pick up Claudia. And, of course, I need to be there when Liz arrives.” Somehow, although Max shared this piece of information with his collective adoptive family, he couldn’t bring himself to also share with them that he found himself actually feeling a little lightheaded at the prospect of seeing the young woman again. But because of the mystery surrounding her, he didn’t dwell too long on the emotion. He just chocked it up to the uneasiness he felt at her sudden intrusion into their lives, without any prior warning.
“I’ll be in touch with you guys later.” With that, Max left the office for the rest of the day.
After Max had left, the three remaining friends continued to discuss this latest turn of events in their lives. “Was it my imagination, guys, or did Max actually seem to have an almost imperceptible smile on his face as he mentioned that person Liz?” Tess asked.
“I have to admit, I saw it too,” Michael added. “If it weren’t for the fact that I know you and Max got past the whole destiny episode ages ago, I would have been inclined to just think you were jealous to have even thought such a thing. But I actually sensed the same thing in his demeanor.”
“I don’t know, guys. Don’t you think you’re reading just a little too much into what ‘might’ have been a smile? Come on. We’ve all been taking care of each other for years. Couldn’t it possibly just be that overprotective, cautious side of you imagining such an idea?” Isabel said.
“Come on, Isabel. You, of all people, should know Max well enough to have seen it,” Michael said.
“You’re right. I feel I do know him better. That’s why I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. Although, the truth is, I have to admit I did see that look. But we’ve been over this kind of discussion so many times before. After all, isn’t Max the one who instituted the ‘Beware of all strangers’ rule, especially for Tess and me with guys, and for you and him with girls. I really have a hard time imagining that one young woman could make him so quickly throw his own rule out the window.”
Remembering back on all the meetings they’d had concerning just that one topic, Michael and Tess were forced to agree that Max had remained adamant about that rule over all the years they’d been on this planet, a topic which especially took priority over all else when they all began entering puberty in the human bodies they’d grown up in.
There was still so much they hadn’t learned about their past. But they’d learned very early on in their young lives that the most vital concern was to conceal their true identities from the people among whom they lived as much as possible. Their belief in this thought was so strong, they even concealed their alien sides from the families who had so kindly adopted them, Max and Isabel by the Evans family, and Michael and Tess by the Hardings.
After voicing these concerns with one another for quite some time, they finally decided they should get back to work, or at least to put their desks in order before leaving the office for the day. The fact was, none of them could really concentrate on work after all that Max had revealed to them earlier. So they finally just decided to call it a day and go home, anxiously waiting to hear from Max as to what else he might have found out by then.
After Max left the office, he headed home to make sure things were in order before bringing his grandmother home. But subconsciously, he was even more concerned about having Liz stay in his home. He still hadn’t had any time to come to terms with the possible implications of her presence there. Even now he didn’t have much time to dwell on the topic, since, after all, he really didn’t live that far from his office. So after pulling into the driveway of his home, he quickly jumped out, preoccupied with thoughts of tasks he’d need to take care of before his guests arrived.
But that thought was quickly brought to a screeching halt when he heard a car door had slammed. He promptly turned around and was surprised to see Liz walking toward him from a small, modest Toyota Corolla. Quickly regaining his composure, he smiled at Liz and said, “I didn’t expect you to be here until after I brought my grandmother home.”
“Yeah, I figured you might. But I also thought you may need some help to get prepared for her. So I wanted to come help you.”
“That was really thoughtful. But you shouldn’t have bothered. I’m actually quite capable of preparing for visitors.”
As Max spoke, Liz was again reminded of the time she’d discreetly watched him save her beloved kitty Misty. “Believe me, I have no doubt that you’re quite capable. I just wanted to try to lighten your load, since I’m sure you’ve probably had a lot of things on your mind since learning of your grandmother’s condition.”
As Liz was speaking, Max had opened the door of his home and then extended his arm for her to enter ahead of him. Something in her comment was unsettling to him, though. How could she so quickly indicate her confidence in his abilities? She didn’t even know him. He couldn’t stifle his curiosity. So before even having time to think through what he was going to say, he just blurted it out.
“How could you possibly be so confident in my abilities? You don’t even know me. For that matter, I don’t even know you. And for the life of me, I can’t imagine how your name could possibly have been higher on my grandmother’s ‘Emergency Call’ list than even mine and my sister’s, her own grandchildren,” he said almost in anger.
Liz was not expecting his outburst. So she was caught completely off guard by his apparent animosity. Knowing it would be difficult to even be civil to one another until at least this one topic was discussed, and also knowing how important it would be for Max and her to work together to care for his grandmother, she decided there was no time like the present to address it. So she took the bull by the horns and spoke.
“You know, I wondered how long it would take for you to bring that up. Maybe it’s just as well that we discuss this before you bring Aunt Claudia home.”
“Aunt Claudia,” Max thought to himself. Where did that come from? But he decided now was not the time to discuss that. There were obviously other, more important topics that came to mind for the time being. And then he realized Liz was still talking.
“To be perfectly honest with you, I was as surprised as you were. As I told you earlier, I’ve known Claudia since my childhood. So I’ve always felt close to her. In fact, there were times that I couldn’t even go to my own parents for help with things going on in my life. So she’s often been like a shining beacon in a dark world to me.
“And she’s often expressed to me her deep love for you and Isabel. So I know my name being on the list was not meant in any way to minimize your importance in her life. But she’s also expressed concerns to me over the years that there might come a time when you wouldn’t be available if she had an emergency. She never asked me, but I know because of our closeness, she was confident that, if I could be contacted, I would do everything within my power to help her in an emergency.” Liz paused in her comments, trying to gauge Max’s response to what she’d just said.
As Liz paused, Max found himself stunned by this new revelation about the relationship this young woman had with his grandmother. Why had his grandmother never mentioned her? How was it possible she had such a tight hold on his grandmother’s heart? But the thought that concerned him most was whether his grandmother had revealed their alien status to her. As he slowly recovered from this most recent revelation, he cautiously asked her, “Did she ever say why she thought there might come a time we would not be available?”
Knowing why Max was asking this question, but not wanting to reveal what she knew, she decided to be as nebulous in her response as possible. “She’s never gone into detail, except to say that she knew, with you and Isabel being adopted, you would likely eventually go on a quest to learn more about your birth parents. She even told me once, she was almost certain that was the reason you and Isabel and your friends all decided to become attorneys, so you could put that expertise to use in doing that research.”
Once again, within only a matter of a few brief moments, Liz had stunned Max speechless. He felt as though within only a matter of minutes Liz had succeeded in breaking down the barrier he had so painstakingly worked to develop over many years to protect himself and his friends from possible exposure.
The thing that surprised Max most, though, was the feeling that somehow he and his friends could trust this young woman to keep their secret; that is, if she even knew what it was. But with all he’d learned just now, he wasn’t quite ready to deal with that likely prospect. Instead, he chose to try to appear unmoved by her comments.
“Well, I guess, since she explained it that way, it makes more sense to me now. Okay. I’ll accept that explanation.
Concluding he’d rather spend his energies getting better acquainted with this young woman so he could learn more about her background and possibly finding out what had really motivated her to give the appearance of such a self-sacrificing spirit in volunteering so much of her free time, he decided to consider this first minor battle a draw and spoke. “So what do you say we work together to get things ready for Claudia. After all, it really will make things less stressful for me.
“Well, I think it’s about time we go pick up Claudia,” Max said, as they finished getting things prepared.
“Okay. While you do that, I’ll go run some errands.”
“Oh, you’re not coming with me?” Max asked, surprised he actually felt disappointment at her statement.
“Well, I figured you might appreciate being able to spend time with your grandmother more privately, since you may not have that opportunity often once she’s here.”
After giving her comment some thought, Max realized she was right. There were still some things he wanted to ask Claudia that he’d rather do when Liz was not around. “You know, you’re right. That would be nice. I haven’t really spent any time with her by ourselves in quite some time. Usually, Isabel and I together go visit her.”
As Max was leaving, he turned in the doorway back to Liz and said, “I just want you to know I – that is, I know my grandmother appreciates your willingness to help out here.”
“You have no idea, Max, how happy I am to do anything to help your grandmother. This seems like such a small thing. I wish I could do more.”
After Max took care of the paperwork, picked up his grandmother, and headed home, he knew he wouldn’t have much time to talk with her before either getting her home or, if Liz was still gone, before she would return. So he knew he needed to make these few precious minutes count. And so he began. “Grandmother, you know it’s within my power to heal you. You just say the word, and I’ll do it, no questions asked.”
“I wondered how long it would take you to offer that. But I also know that for you to do that would be the ultimate sacrifice. And I can’t allow you to make it when so much more is at stake, as well as the lives of so many others. Such a sudden ‘cure’ would not go unnoticed, and I cannot allow my desire to extend my life put you and the others at risk of being found out. You know as well as I how there’s been so much speculation over the years regarding all of you, starting at the very beginning, when you were all found in the desert, walking around naked, not being able to speak or understand, at least not understanding us. But I think the biggest mystery to everyone was how four beautiful children could be found in such a condition, and yet no one came forward indicating they had a clue where you all came from.
“And I, for one, do not want to be the cause of raising any other questions in people’s minds.”
“I know you’re right, Grandmother. But I just had to let you know how hard it is for me to allow you to progressively become worse. The four of us love you so much. We owe everything to you. If it hadn’t been for you finding us in the dessert when you did, who knows where we may have ended up. It was because of you that we were all adopted into loving homes and have been cared for enough to be able to grow into the people we are today.
“The hard part is that there are still so many unanswered questions for us, though. Even with all the work we’ve put forth in trying to find answers, it’s been almost as though there’s been a piece missing, keeping us from being able to put all the pieces together that we have found, so that there’s a picture that’s clear to us. “
Max’s admission tore at her heart, but now was not the time to dwell on that topic. For now, there were other things needing to be addressed. “I’m sure that piece will be found, my dear, when the time is right.
“But for now, are there any other things you’d like to say to me while we still have time? That is, while we still have some time alone?” Of course, she knew very well one of the main concerns that would be on his mind, and she hoped she’d baited him enough to get him to ask.
Max thought for a minute, trying to decide whether this would be the appropriate time to ask about Liz. But since Claudia had asked the question, he figured he may as well, since he didn’t know when the opportunity might come up again. “Well, since you put it that way, there is something I’ve been wondering about.”
“What’s that?” she asked, knowingly.
“This Liz person who’s going to be staying at my place to help you out, how did you come to know her? I’ve been wracking my brains trying to figure out why I don’t ever remember seeing her during all the times Isabel and I would come visit you. After all, she did say she lived next door to you during her childhood. And, for that matter, I don’t remember you ever once mentioning her to m- -- us. Why is that? And how is it possible you felt so close to her that you had her name on your ‘Emergency Call’ list even above that of mine and Isabel’s?”
“Mercy. I figured you’d have a few questions. But it looks like I’ve opened a floodgate of them,” she said in amusement.
Max had to smile at her comment, because he himself didn’t realize how much he wanted to know until he started asking questions. “I guess I do have a lot of questions. So if you only feel like answering one right now, how about, why was Liz’s name on your list?”
Claudia wasn’t quite sure how to answer that one question without having to go into further detail, which would ultimately answer all the other questions he had. So she chose to be as brief and nondescript in her answer as possible, without possibly raising any other questions Max might have that she wasn’t yet prepared to answer. “Well, Liz and I spent a lot of time together when she was growing up, and she told me many times during all the conversations we had that it would really hurt her if she wasn’t the first person I contacted if I ever needed urgent help. So what could I do? You know me, Max. I’ve never been able to say no to people I care about, especially when it’s children. Liz was a child when she said that, and I just wanted to dignify her feelings by doing that. Of course, I had no idea the time would ever come.”
As Claudia was finishing her response, Max pulled into the driveway of his home. So he didn’t have much chance to give it the full attention he felt it deserved. But he hoped he’d be able to at another time. It just wasn’t going to happen right now, especially because, as he drove up, so did Liz in her Toyota.
Which made Max think something else. He couldn’t figure out how Liz seemed to have such impeccable timing in arriving there just at the same moment he did, something else he’d like to give attention to in the future.
Just as Liz pulled up to the house, she realized Max was pulling into the driveway. It was beginning to be a little unsettling to her how impeccable Max’s timing was at seeming to arrive just at the same time she did, but she didn’t have much time to dwell on that right now. Hopefully, she’d be able to at another time.