posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:15:32 AM
**********AUTHOR'S NOTE*************
This is a sequel to my story Do What You Have To Do. If you haven't read it, it's on the repost board. Here's a link for you:
[link=viewthread?forum=repost-fan-fiction&id=462]

Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Hello again! Alright, these first few parts are just re-introducing you to our favorite characters and what they’ve been up to for the last few years. They all graduated alive, and live in the same apartment building with various roommates. Bear with me as the story picks up a bit here. As usual, I love you guys!

Learning to Live
Part 1

The clouds rolled fast and furious across the New Mexico skyline. Every few seconds, a white bolt of lightning arched through the sky, lighting up the otherwise dark evening. Liz Parker sat in her favorite overstuffed armchair, sipping a cup of warm tea. There had been something wrong since she had woken up that morning, a chill at the base of her spine that she hadn’t been able to shake. Now, she sat in the living room of the apartment she shared with the three women that had filled her life. Her best friend, Maria DeLuca sat on the floor, all of her attention focused on the bronze bust sitting in front of her.

With a sigh of frustration, she fell backwards on the floor. “That’s it. I give up. I can’t do it. What the hell is that thing made of anyway? Are you cheating? Did you give me some sort of metal that’s resistant to alien molecular changes?”

Liz smiled into her mug. Maria had been trying to change the molecular structure of the bust for well over an hour now. So far, she hadn’t had any luck. “You just have to break it down to each chemical component and move them around. Put each one-“

“Where I want it.” Maria finished for her. “Yeah, I know. That’s what Max already said.” She sighed again, but sat back up. “Why am I still having so much trouble doing little things?”

“Hey, moving around the molecular structure of an object isn’t actually something everyone in the world can do, you know.” Tess Harding emerged from the bathroom in a pair of silk pajamas as she ran a comb through her hair. She flopped down on the couch, turning her attention to Liz. “No luck yet?”

Maria threw herself back on the floor dramatically while Tess and Liz exchanged a smile. There was a quick knock on the door before it was thrown open.

Kyle Valenti sauntered into the room and Tess immediately sat up straighter, her face only falling when the leggy redhead followed him into the room.

“Oh, you’re all dressed. You’d think with four women all living together, the odds would be with me that I’d walk in on one of you half naked someday.” Kyle kept his eyes planted anywhere but on Tess, which he was finding harder and harder to do lately. When he’d called from his apartment, Liz had assured him that she was still in the shower. He’d tried not to think about her naked and wet, and now she sat there all pink and damp from her shower. The smell of that damn flowery shampoo she used stuck in his nostrils. Would he ever get over this punch of lust he felt whenever he saw her? She was like his sister for pete’s sake. Instead, he turned to Maria’s form on the floor.

“Yo, Ria, here are my keys. Please take care of my car. Treat it as you would a small child.” He tossed the keys to her reluctantly.

She sat up and caught the keys easily, her bubbly enthusiasm returning. “Don’t worry. I’ll treat it as if it were my own.” She smiled cheerfully at him. Driving Kyle crazy was proving to be one of her favorite pastimes these days.

“That’s what I’m afraid of. When’s your car out of the shop?”

“Day after tomorrow.” Liz tried to stifle a giggle thinking of how Maria had shorted out all the wiring in her car after she’d lost her keys and had tried to hot wire it with her new alien powers. She had discovered them a few months ago when she had been in the middle of a heated fight with Michael. To both of their surprise, she had managed to blow up every light bulb in the building. So far, she had shown that she possessed the destructive energy Michael had and didn’t have as much control over the rest of the powers the others had managed over the years. Needless to say, Michael had been walking on egg shells ever since, afraid she might set him on fire if he said the wrong thing.

“Just promise me no practicing in the car. Are you guys heading to Phoenix tonight?”

“Yep. Mom wants us to set up all her merchandise tonight before the convention begins tomorrow.”

“So, she’s going up with you and Michael tonight?”

Maria made a gagging noise. “No. She’s staying in town so she can be with Jim as long as she can.” She fluttered her eyelashes and raised her voice to a sugary sweet level. “I just don’t think I can leave him all alone for a whole weekend. What would he do without me?”

Kyle grinned at her imitation of her mother and obvious irritation over their parents hot and heavy dating. Personally, he didn’t understand Amy anymore than he understood Maria and he was more than a little afraid of the mother, having seen her temper boil a few times. But she made his father happier than he’d ever remembered seeing him. So, she was okay in his book. “Well, have fun. And please, keep all your clothes on in my car.”

Maria grinned at him. “You mean I can’t strip down and rub my naked butt all over your leather upholstery?” She turned her attention to Liz. “You know, I’ve heard that leather can be very stimulating.”

Kyle grimaced. “Maybe we should reconsider this.”

Maria jumped off the floor and planted a noisy kiss on his cheek. She ushered them out the door quickly. “It was nice to see you again, Chrissy. Oh, and Kyle, Michael and I will try not to have too much sex in your car.”

Alex came down the hallway in time to hear the last bit of conversation. Maria grabbed his arm and pulled him into the apartment, shutting the door on Kyle’s stunned face.

Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 2

Liz laughed out loud as a confused Alex entered the room. He took a seat on the far end of the couch, brooding into space. Maria noticed the crestfallen look on Tess’s face and put her arm around the girl.

“Cheer up, babe. He’s just a man. What do you expect? If he doesn’t notice what a wonderful person you are, and stunning I might add, then it’s his loss.”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t help that he has to date these long legged beauties with big breasts.” Tess sulked, comfortable talking about her crush on Kyle since the night all the girls had gotten drunk and confessed their darkest secrets to each other.

“Look, you need to remember that men are…they’re like…Alex, what’s the word I’m looking for?”

“Pathetic, manipulative bastards without any respect for anyone.”

Maria’s eyebrows shot up. This was a more depressed than usual Alex. Tess’s situation immediately took the back burner. “A little meaner than the word I was looking for. Honey, what’s wrong?”

Alex sighed. He really hadn’t meant to let his sour mood carry over. “I saw Breanna on campus today.” The female eyes immediately went soft. “And she was with him.”

“Oh, Alex, you were too good for her.” Liz wished she could do something to help her old friend. He’d dated Breanna for almost two years and she had dropped him all of a sudden for another man, claiming Alex to be too much of a push over, with no passion or romance. Personally, Liz had thought she had always had a problem with the time he spent with his old friends. He had cancelled plans with her last minute a few times when his help was needed. But poor Alex had been crushed for the last two months, unable to pull himself out of the self-pity he had cloaked himself in.

“She’s right, honey. What you need is to fall in love with someone who knows how wonderful you are. You know, I’ve always heard that best friends make the best lovers. Say, on a completely unrelated topic, didn’t Isabel break things off with Ben a few weeks ago? That means she’s single.”

“Good idea, Maria. I get out of one relationship where I’m inadequate, so you want to hook me up with Isabel, a woman who has scorn my advances and virtually ignored me my entire life. No, thank you. I’ll take a life of solitude.”

“Wait a minute. That’s not entirely true. You two are best friends now. You just took that trip to LA together the beginning of this summer. You guys wouldn’t stop laughing for days after you came back. And you took like a hundred rolls of film of each other.” Maria thought that trip had actually been the straw that had broken the camel’s back with Breanna, but kept that to herself. “You’re always doing things just the two of you.”

Alex sighed. How had they gotten on this topic? “That’s different. Yes, okay, we’re best friends, and yes, I do love her. But that hardly makes me boyfriend material.”

“Actually, it’s the very definition of it. It means that you know you’ll have things to talk about. You know you like each other for who you are, and you respect each other. I think those are all pretty good grounds for a relationship.”

Alex’s eyes met Liz’s, pleading with her to help him. Liz had known Alex so long, she knew his brain better than anyone. So, she knew all of his insecurities. “You think you’re not good enough for her, that she’s out of your league.”

Maria jumped on the thought. “What? That’s crazy! Alex-“

“Hold on for a minute. We are not going to talk about this anymore. But just to set the record straight, yes, Isabel is out of my league. I’ve known that since like birth. And second, I do not have any of the personality or physical traits that are on her ‘datable requirements’ list. Plus, I’m not interested. So, let’s just drop this.”

“She has a thing for you, you know.”

Alex let out a strangled cry. “We are not talking about it anymore.”

“What aren’t we talking about?” Isabel came through the front door and Alex had to make sure his tongue stayed in his mouth. Isabel had been wearing shorter and tighter outfits lately in an attempt to drive men crazy. She had confided it to him weeks ago. Even knowing that, it was hard to watch her in the skimpy spandex shorts and sports bra she was donning. She had just been running. That’s all, Whitman. All people wear things like that when they run. But not everyone had Isabel’s creamy white skin, and now he was getting an eyeful of it. She’s just your friend, Whitman, just your incredibly gorgeous best friend that will never think of you as more than that geeky guy that makes her laugh. He would do well to remember that.





Edited by - cookieman1234 on 09/10/2001 07:55:06

Edited by - cookieman1234 on 09/17/2001 09:42:42

Edited by - cookieman1234 on 09/17/2001 11:01:37

Edited by - cookieman1234 on 09/19/2001 10:09:45

[ edited 13time(s), last at 5-Apr-2002 2:33:28 PM ]
posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:24:31 AM

Leaning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 3

Maria looked on in amusement as Alex practically tripped over his own tongue when Isabel entered the room. Like hell he wasn’t interested in Isabel Evans. Unfortunately, the two were stubborn and insecure enough to dance around the subject forever. Luckily, Maria had nothing to do at the moment, and she was in need of a good project. “We were just talking about potential candidates for Alex to jump back in the dating pool with.”

Isabel’s face changed to near alarm. For the first time in two years, neither of them were dating anyone else, so they had been spending more and more time together. She had gotten used to being the one he called on when he had a problem or wanted to see a movie with. “Oh, do you really think you’re ready for that already? I mean, everything is still so recent.” Where was that panic coming from? Sure, she’d spent far more time with Alex since Breanna had cheated on him, but they were only friends. Why should she panic if he wanted to date?

Alex turned to flash her a grateful smile. At least he still had someone on his side he could reason with. “That’s what I’ve been saying. I am definitely not ready to date again.”

A quick flutter invaded Isabel’s heart and she decided to ignore it, like she had been doing with all the rest lately. First she was upset when she thought he wanted to date, and now she was disappointed when he said that he didn’t. She turned her attention to Liz. This line of thinking needed to stop. “Let me tell you how fantastic your other half looks tonight. I should know, I dressed him myself. Did I say how fabulous you look tonigh, by the wayt?”

Liz smiled as she continued to sip on her tea. The light green dress Isabel had talked her into buying was indeed wonderful. It had a low bodice and a low dip in the back that Isabel had assured her would drive Max crazy. Knowing she was right, she had bought the dress. It wasn’t everyday you had your fifth anniversary with the man of your dreams.

“So, he still won’t tell you where you’re going?” Maria was bouncing with excitement. She wished she could get Michael to be more romantic. Hell, she’d settle for him remembering her birthday.

“Nope.”

“Well, I think it’s romantic.” Tess elbowed Alex in the ribs when he rolled his eyes.

“Well, c’mon, it’s not like it’ll be any less romantic than a walk down the street for them. They can make grocery shopping romantic. Everything’s a special moment.”

“We appreciate each other.” Liz thought back briefly to the events three years ago that had brought them back together. Those had been the worse days of their lives, but they had survived. And even more importantly, they had discovered just how much they meant to each other. They had found something to celebrate everyday since then. But even with their reunion, they had decided to take things a bit slower than before. She had insisted on them developing a normal relationship and would have moved in with him like they both craved, but their parents had guilted them into living separately. Their compromise was that they lived in the same building and Max rented out his own apartment. They practically lived together, but without the family interference.

“So, what did you get him?” Isabel came to sit on the edge of Liz’s armchair. “Cause I have to tell you, that box you gave me weighed a ton.”

“Nope. You’ll just make fun of me and I’ll be nervous about giving it to Max later. Forget it.”

There was a knock on the door behind them and Maria let out a girly squeal of delight. Liz rose to answer the door and found herself frozen in the doorway. Max, her Max, was standing in the hallway in a black tuxedo, holding a single white rose in his hand. But her attention was captured by his eyes. They were only for her and they had all the love in the world in them. She smiled at him slowly, seductively, her senses flying out the window as her body was pulled magnetically to his.

A giggle came from the room and Max found that he still couldn’t move away. She was breathtaking. The color of the dress made her skin seem rosier than usual, added to that was the show of cleavage he wasn’t accustomed to. She had pinned her hair up on top of her head and his fingers itched to tug at her chocolate tresses. How had he been so lucky to have spent the last five years with her?

Unable to be in her presence any longer without touching her, he caught her arm and pulled her into the circle of his. He found her lips ready and waiting as they fused together. His hands found the sides of her face and cupped it lightly, turning the kiss into something softer, deeper than a hallway kiss should be.

Reluctantly, Max broke away, able to breathe again now that he had touched her, tasted her. Besides, they had plenty of time for that later. Now, he just wanted to look at her. His Liz. Her thoughts and emotions swirled in his head and he smiled as she replayed the earlier conversation in her head about Alex and Isabel. He agreed that they belonged together. If anyone could take care of his fiercely stubborn sister, it was Alex.

“Okay, I realize it’s your anniversary and all, but can you please go do the mind reading thing where ever it is you’re going? The rest of us primitive beings will be actually speaking out loud tonight.”

Liz smiled at Maria’s outburst. How was it that they could get so caught up in each other that the world simply ceased to exist? Pulling out of Max’s embrace, she turned to get her sweater.

Tess and Isabel snickered as Max’s eyes bulged at the low dip in the back of her dress. Isabel took Liz’s arm to help her into her sweater.

I told you so.

“Have fun you two crazy love birds.” Maria called after them, but they were already lost in each other’s eyes again as they slipped out the door. Maria sighed, her attention drawn by the whispered conversation between Alex and Isabel on the couch. Tess climbed down to the floor with Maria and they watched the couple together.

“Tess, do you think Alex still has feelings for Isabel?”

“Yeah,” she sighed, wanting to be loved by someone as intensely as Max loved Liz. “Do you really think Isabel might have feelings for Alex?”

Maria smiled. “Oh yeah. I guess we’re just going to have to fix them up.”

“I was hoping you’d say that.”




posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:26:06 AM

Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 4

Liz sat quietly in Max’s Jeep as they sped through the darkness. The top was up in anticipation on the coming storm and Liz longed for a minute for it to be down. They always seemed free with the wind blowing through their hair. Leaning to live each day for what it was ended up being the lesson they had taken from the trying experience three years ago. They knew there was no guarantee of tomorrow, but just today. So, she didn’t really mind Max’s surprise, or the fact that he had blindfolded her. She had agreed readily, trusting Max with everything she was. Finally, the Jeep slowed to a stop and she stayed put at his instructions until he came around to help her out.

Cautiously, Max led Liz from the Jeep, instructing her where to step so she didn’t lose her footing in the loose gravel. Anxious now, Max pulled open the door and he stopped a minute to stare at his Liz. She really was a beauty. He could have led her to the ends of the earth and she would have followed, just as he knew he’d follow her anywhere. She was his whole world, his reason for breathing.

“Max,” she warned, a smile on her lips. “Tell me you’re not staring at me while I stand here blindfolded.”

Max grinned. Caught again. With a backward glance to make sure everything was in place, he stepped behind Liz to untie the black silk.

Liz blinked to adjust her eyes to the low light in the room and felt her heart soften as she took in the scene before her. They were in the Valenti cabin in Frasier Woods, the same cabin they had been in when they’d made love for the first time. Tears filled her eyes as she took in the details. A table was set for two with fine china and crystal. A silver candelabra lit up the table. There were rose petals scattered in the path he had expected her to follow, from the door to the table and then up the stairs to what she could only assume was the bedroom.

But the flowers, they filled every available spot, spilling out of bowls and vases, a rainbow of colors, each one bolder than the last. She had confided in him her hatred toward the color white now. So he knew she loved color, even more since she had been sick and had technically died all those years ago. She was speechless. It was the most perfect room ever decorated.

“I hope you like it. I mean, I didn’t know if you had wanted to go out or just stay in, so I compromised.”

She turned to him and raised a hand to his face. Max smiled as their connection opened and he felt her overpowering joy and love.

“What would you like to do first? Eat or open presents?”

Liz pretended to think about it. “Well, I would hate to let food go cold. But on the other hand, there are presents and I’d hate to hurt their feelings by ignoring them. So, presents it is.”

Max laughed with her as she pulled him to the couch. Isabel had taken Liz’s gift earlier, so a large rectangular box lay propped against an armchair.

Liz threw herself down on the couch and suddenly felt nervous. What if he didn’t like what she had bought him? What if he bought her something spectacular and her gift didn’t measure up? Unable to take the wait, she decided to go first.

“Okay, now my gift to you – for us,” she rolled her eyes at him. They had decided to buy only things that involved them doing things together. “Well, it has two parts.” She pulled an envelope from her purse and handed it to him. He took it with a quizzical look.

Knowing he would love whatever was inside, he opened the envelope carefully, not wanting to ruin any part of it. A certificate was tucked neatly inside. “International Star Registry?”

Liz smiled at his confusion. “What these people do is name uncharted stars. Basically, what the certificate says is that somewhere up there, way off in the distance is a star named ‘Max and Liz’. So, when we sit out at night and stargaze, we can always have our very own special star to look for. There are star charts and everything else that show you how to find it.” She rushed on now, not sure if this was indeed the clever idea she had once thought it was.

Max was in awe. She had named a star for them? Words couldn’t describe the love he felt for her. So, he pulled her nervous body close for a kiss.

Liz gave in to the passionate kiss Max was demanding. She felt his tongue probe the recesses of her mouth, even as the first of the flashes danced through their connection.

“Which one is that one, Mom?” A young Max pointed up at the sky.

Diane Evans squinted as she followed the small finger. “That’s part of Orion’s Belt.”

“Who’s Orion?”

“Well, some of the stars were named after mythical people and creatures once they had done great deeds.”

“Well, if I had a star, I wouldn’t name it ‘Orion’.”

“What would you name it then?”

“Max.”


Liz pulled away from Max reluctantly. If they kept kissing like that, they’d end up spending all night in bed, or on the couch, or maybe just on the floor. She grinned at him. “Wow. You still haven’t even opened the other half yet.” She nodded towards the box and noticed the eager boyish look that gleamed in his eyes.

Max grabbed the box, wondering at its’ heavy weight. He tore at the brightly lit wrapping and his eyes grew wide. “A telescope! Liz, this is the one in the mall I was looking at! How did you know?”

Liz tapped a finger to her temple. “I have ways of knowing these things. Besides, I thought we could use it to find our star later.”

Max made a move to pull her back in his arms and she side-stepped him with a laugh. “Nope. If we start that again, I’ll never get my present.”

Max turned his attention back to the telescope. “Thank you. This is wonderful. I love it. And we will definitely find our star later. Much later.” He wiggled his eyebrows at her and she playfully slapped at him.

Liz allowed him a quick kiss of thanks. “Good. Now, on with the good stuff. Where’s mine? I don’t see it anywhere. Is it hiding?”

Max set the telescope and it’s wrapping aside. It was now or never.




posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:26:45 AM

Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Okay, you asked for it, you got it. One sappy moment coming right up. And for all you Michael/Maria fans, don’t worry, they’ll get their very own relationshippy scene soon enough. Do you really think I’m going to forget about anyone?

Learning to Live
Part 5

“Okay, now mine has a speech attached to it. Comfortable? Okay. Good. Liz,” he paused, fidgeting a bit. Shaking his head, he took both her hands in his, raising his eyes to meet hers. This was better. He could start now.

“Liz, five years ago today, I healed you. That was the day my life truly began. Before, I used to watch you from afar, wondering what my life would be like if you were in it, if I were normal and didn’t have to hide from you. Then I realized that could never be, so I stayed hidden. I had wanted to tell you my secret for so long, I even had it mapped out in my head how I would tell you someday. Only the fear that you would turn away from me kept me in the shadows.

Then you were shot and the only thought I had was if I could get to you in time. I never considered lying to you after that. And you didn’t let me down. Somehow, by some chance of fate, you fell in love with me and it was another miracle, far different from the hope of ever being your friend. You saw into the depths of my soul and cherished what you saw. Even back then before we shared emotions, you couldn’t lie to me. I could look at you and know what you were thinking, what you were feeling. And you felt everything I did, even when it wasn’t easy or the best thing.”

He paused, not liking to think of the hard times of the past. “We had some pretty rough times. We figured out the hard way that we shouldn’t lie to each other. And after I almost lost you again, I finally realized how very much you meant to me, that you, Elizabeth Parker, are my very soul and I would be lost without you. We’ve both had some moments where we had to rely on each other, trust each other without question or reservation. And I think that’s pretty good groundwork for a future together. I know that I don’t deserve you and your devotion, that nothing I could ever give you would be enough to thank you for all you’ve done for me, for us really. You gave me a home, something I thought I’d never see, and I know what wherever you are is where I’ll be.””

Max searched carefully for his next words. “Liz, I love you more than life itself. That’s not a cliché with us. I would give up everything I had, everything I was for you, to make you smile. And I know if you give me a chance, I could promise you a lifetime of starlit skies and magic nights. I’ll treat you like the Queen you already are, the Queen you’ll one day be. That said,” Max reached a hand inside his jacket pocket and pulled out a small, velvet box. He slid from the couch to his knees before her. Looking directly into her eyes, wide with surprise and misty with emotion, he opened the lid.

“I want to be with you always, to love you and support you. I want to watch our children grow inside of you. I want to spoil our grandchildren and grow old with you. I just want the chance to be in your life forever. Elizabeth Parker, will you marry me?”

Liz’s eyes had widened upon seeing the small box come from his pocket. Could that be what she thought it was? She was lost in the intense gaze of his eyes, the soft amber mesmerizing her. Max wanted to marry her. He was down on his knees. He was in a tuxedo, with a ring. How could she ever say no?

“Yes. Of course yes!” She launched herself into his arms and he caught her easily. She planted kisses on any and all skin she found, laughing with happiness.

Max felt as though his heart would burst from joy. She said yes. He was going to marry Liz Parker, his lifelong dream girl. They would live together, and make babies together. They would have a dozen, no two.”

Liz laughed at his racing thoughts. “Whoa, slow down there. Let’s make this official first.”

Max pulled the platinum ring from its’ box and took her left hand. The ring slid on easily, but he used his powers to size the ring down just a bit until it lay snug against her delicate skin.

Liz examined the simple diamond and decided it was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. Then she looked up, back into Max’s warm amber eyes and the love swirling with devotion and desire softened her heart. No, that was the most beautiful thing ever.

She leaned in closer to kiss him and he obliged happily. Dinner forgotten, Max framed her beautiful face and made love to her mouth He slid his lips over hers, teasing until she opened for him. His tongue sought out every crevice of her mouth as their minds fused together. The storm outside pounded against the cabin, lighting flashing across the sky. Liz’s earlier trepidation was forgotten. Nothing could ruin the perfect moment inside.

Max rose from the couch and pulled Liz to her feet. Sweeping her into his arms, he headed for the stairs, taking them as quickly as he could.

“What about dinner?” She teased as she nibbled on his earlobe. The low moan from the back of his throat gave her a quick thrill of satisfaction. She could still reduce him to a sex crazed teenager with a mere touch. It was good to know these things.

Max reached the top of the stairs and kicked open the door. There wasn’t time not for such minor things as doorknobs, not when Liz’s tongue was tickling the spot just behind his ear.

Liz barely had time to take note of the rose petals that littered the room, or the candles of every style and size that bathed the room in a soft glow. Max set her on the bed gently and was content to merely watch her. He’d imagined her back here like this, knew she would have that dreamy look on her face after he’d proposed.

“Pretty sure of yourself, huh?”

Max grinned and started towards her, then stopped. He hadn’t said anything, and he had let her go completely after placing her on the bed. Wanting to test a theory, Max deliberately took a step back and let his mind conjure up the most vivid fantasy he could.

Liz gasped as lusty images filled her head. Where had all that come from? And why was Max grinning at her like a fool instead of ravishing her?

“Who are you calling a fool?”

“I didn’t actually call you a fool, I-“ Liz broke off abruptly. “I didn’t say that out loud. And we’re not touching at all.”

Max’s grin widened even further. He sent her images of how many jewelry stores he’d been to in order to find her the perfect ring. She felt his excitement upon buying the perfect one. He’d had it with him ever since, not wanting to part with it. She felt his love and his unending devotion for her and her alone.

“Max,” she whispered. This was so much more intense than their previous connections. It actually felt as if they were one person all the time. She could feel and hear everything he was thinking. And his thoughts were of their future together, the one they would create starting at that very moment.

Max felt her gentle acceptance of his love as they crossed the last barrier in their life together. He joined her on the bed, taking her into his arms gently. Liz met his beautiful eyes, clouded with emotions she could feel for herself, and gave him her soul. She would be with him forever, no matter where that took them. Their lives joined as their lips met, sealing their promises to each other with a kiss.




posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:27:39 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 6

She was drowning, being dragged under by the maelstrom of emotions swirling around her. Sadness, anger, guilt, each one pulled her in deeper until she was clawing at the very walls to get out. What could be causing these emotions? She heard a weeping, not gentle, but heart wrenching. The tears fell upon her head, pushing her further into the emptiness. She kicked back at it, refusing to be drawn in. She would fight.

A new emotion raged around her then, grief. Then she knew. Someone had died. That was where these black feelings had come from. But who had died? She kicked even harder, sure that if she could made it back to the top, her questions would be answered.

But the depression was too much, it overpowered her, tired out her already fatigued limbs. She could see sunlight above her. Images played themselves out. She could see grass and a blue sky, and…Alex. She could see Alex. He was walking, his hand in Isabel’s.

Liz kicked harder, trying to gain just a few more inches to see what was happening. She saw herself, standing beside Max. What was she doing? She was hugging her parents.

The swirl pulled her back down to the murky bottom. She kept her eyes rivoted to the top and she saw flashes, bolts of lightning, then screaming, tears. She had to climb back to the top. Something was going to happen. She needed to know what it was so she could stop it.

Then, the blackness was gone, as was the scene above her head. She was in a white room. The light was so bright it hurt her eyes, and her heart speeded up. White meant death, pain. She longed now for the swirling vortex of despair. At least she had a chance to escape from that.

But when the voice called out to her, her heart lurched. She couldn’t hear the words, just the tone. And why was it familiar? There was urgency in it. Liz strained her ears, but it was no good. Still, the voice called out to her. She strained once more and was finally able to make out garbled words. Was that a full sentence she’d heard? What was it trying to tell her?

Beware the friendly face. It is not your friend.

Liz bolted upright in bed. Thunder crashed outside the window, shaking the house. Max was up and cradling her in his arms in moments. Confused and half asleep, he patted her back as she clung to him, sobbing.

“What’s wrong? Was it a bad dream?”

Liz shook her head. It couldn’t have just been a dream. It had been too real. And in the instant when she had woken up, she had recognized the voice. It was Mrs. Whitman. Alex’s mother had been trying to tell her they were in danger.

Safely tucked in another bed miles away, another figure bolted upright in bed, gasping for breath. It had to have been a dream. How could something so sad, so wrong feeling be anything else. And that voice. Her hands were shaking just thinking about it. It was the soft familiar voice of an angel, warning them of the unthinkable. Someone among them was going to betray them.




posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:28:08 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 7

Maria sat perfectly still, knowing that any movement could be a sign of weakness, and she had learned from the best. She glanced down only briefly before meeting the eyes of her foe, her greatest enemy. Oh, but this was no ordinary enemy. He was one of the super smart. No, one of the elite of the super smart, the kind you should never try to outsmart because you can never win.

Nevertheless, she had taken her chances, had rolled the dice and had found herself in her current predicament. There was no way out. It was sink or swim time. She was playing with the big boys now. This was for the whole ball of wax, for the big enchilada. This was now a matter of pride. It was do or die time.

“Maria, quit stalling. We both know you have a two, so hand it over.” Alex sat cross-legged on the living room floor across from Maria.

Dejectedly, Maria threw the two of hearts at him. “There, you’ve taken the last scrap of my pride. Are you happy now?”

Indeed happy, Alex rearranged his cards to show all pairs. “Nope. C’mon, Maria, say it. You know the rules.”

Maria glared at Alex’s grinning face. If he was happy, then she would do anything to keep him smiling, even if it was at her own expense. “Fine, I bow down to you, Alex, all time world champion and lord of all things Go-Fish.”

“Actually, didn’t we amend that to ‘all time universal champion’ after we found out we weren’t alone?” He wiggles his eyebrows at her and she tried not to laugh at him.

Isabel emerged from her bedroom and shook her head at the pair of them. “Are you two still playing Go-Fish? It’s been like two hours.”

“Yeah, well, I had him running scared for a few hands. He almost lost his all time world champion status.”

“Universal, you mean.” Alex grinned at her and ducked the pillow she threw at his head.

The front door opened and Kyle, Michael and Tess entered carrying pizzas.

“Finally, I’m starved.” Maria jumped up and grabbed a box off the top of Michael’s stack. Kyle tried valiantly to juggle the sodas he carried and close the door, but found it blocked. He looked up to see Max and Liz in the doorway.

Liz took pity of him and took some of the drinks from his arms. Max grabbed the rest and they sat them down on the coffee table. Isabel and Tess had sprung up to get cups and ice. Maria had waved them a cheerful hello in between bite of pizza. Michael was looking at her in disbelief as she finished off her second piece in thirty seconds and Kyle and Alex were trying to find the pizza that was human taste bud friendly. Max and Liz looked at each other, giddy with the weekend’s excitement and their new secret.

“Guys, we have something we need to tell you.”

Chaos still reigned. Michael had turned on the television and after channel surfing, had left it on wrestling. Maria had dove across the floor to wrestle the remote from him, claiming that she would kill herself before letting him have control over her remote. Kyle had joined the girls in the kitchen, looking for napkins, while Alex had claimed a chair to watch the fight over the remote..

Max tried again. “Guys, if you could all just come in here a minute. We have something we want to tell you.”

But still, the chaos continued. Desperately wanting to tell their closest friends, Liz raised her voice loud enough to be overheard. “Let’s go, Max. If they don’t want to help plan our wedding, we can always find our wedding party somewhere else.”

“What?” Maria froze mid-wrestle with Michael. Kyle had a slice of pizza half-way to his mouth and Isabel swore when she over-poured the soda onto the counter.

Liz beamed back at them and held out her left hand for inspection. “Max asked me to marry him, and I said yes.”

“Well, of course you said yes!” Maria jumped up and pulled Liz into a hug. “Oh, let me see!”

Isabel and Tess joined from the kitchen to examine the ring. Michael turned off the television and crossed to stand beside Max. Kyle and Alex followed, congratulating Max with hearty back slaps. Together, they watched the girls flutter about, already making wedding plans.

“Chicks,” Michael muttered in confusion, as if the one word explained it all for him.

Isabel broke away and threw herself into her brother’s arms. “Congratulations. I was wondering what was taking you so long.”

“Just picking the perfect moment.”

“Wait. Nobody here knew about this? Max, you kept this a secret from everyone?” Maria looked at him in awe. She would never have been able to keep something secret like that. Maybe that was why she hadn’t known.

“Yup, I knew that if I even mentioned it casually, everyone would know about it within the hour. So, I did it on my own.”

“Okay, so when’s the big day? Is it going to be a long engagement or a short one?” Tess was bubbling with excitement. She’d never been to a wedding before.

“Short. We already decided to get married the first Saturday in November.” Liz couldn’t help but look at the ring herself. It really was beautiful. And it was all hers. Just like Max.

“Whoa. You mean to tell me that you two are getting married in-“ Isabel stopped to count on her fingers. “Less than six weeks?”

Max felt a flutter in his stomach. It didn’t sound quite so far away when put like that. In less than six weeks the world would know that Liz was his and his alone. He would be the only one with the right to touch her, be with her. Forever. A pillow flew across the room to hit him in the chest.

“What did I tell you about Neanderthal thinking?”

Max grinned at her sheepishly. He was going to have to watch his thoughts.

“What am I missing?” Kyle had gone back to his pizza slice.

“We, uh, sort of developed this new thing.” Liz made a face at Max and the wicked thoughts he sent to her. “We have our connection all the time now. We can hear each other’s thoughts even when we’re not touching.”

“All the time?” A pang of jealousy rang through Maria’s heart before she could squash it. She and Michael still hadn’t opened up enough for any sort of mind sharing connection. Idly, she wondered if they ever would.

“That only sounds like trouble to me.” Kyle made his way through another slice of pizza, the shock of their announcement wearing off.

Isabel emerged from her bedroom and came back with a thick notebook. She sat down at the coffee table with it and a stack of colored pens. “Luckily, you two have me around. I already have lists.”

Maria looked up at Isabel. “You have a wedding notebook made up?”

“Well, it’s not for me.” Isabel sighed. “I mean, look at them. Did you think they weren’t going to get married? I’m surprised they don’t want to do it this weekend, or run off to Vegas and elope.” She pulled open a chart. “Now, let’s get down to business.”




posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:28:40 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 8

Nancy Parker say outside the small café, a tall glass of iced tea in front of her. She sighed as she watched people go by. When had she gotten so old? Everyone around her seemed to be a child. Her fortieth birthday was coming up in a few months, her baby was almost done with college and she had found a gray hair that morning. Could life get any worse?

Diane Evans hurried around the corner, waving as she saw Nancy. Nancy waved back, following her progression carefully. Diane was one of her oldest friends. They had gone to High School together, much like everyone in this town. But their friendship had only recently picked back up after their children had started dating. They had rekindled the old friendship and now met, along with their usually late husbands, once a month for lunch.

Out of breath, Diane threw herself down in a chair beside Nancy. “Sorry I’m running late. Max called right as I was walking out the door. He was acting strange too. I think he was hiding something.” A frown wanted to form on her face at the thought. Since she and Phillip had discovered the truth about their children, there had been no secrets, no lies. It hurt her to think there might be now.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine. Max is a smart boy. If it’s important, he’ll tell you.” It was just another thing she admired about Diane. The bond she had with her children was incredible, the kind of bond she had always wanted with Lizzie. But some things were never meant to be.

As the waiter appeared with Diane’s drink, Jeff and Phillip came through the small courtyard, laughing. They approached the girls’ table and leaned in to kiss their respective wives.

“Sorry I hope we’re not too late.” Phillip took his seat and Jeff followed suit.

“Right on time. So, what’s the joke?”

Max and Liz had come around the same corner Diane had only minutes ago and they stopped to watch the table’s occupants. Max took Liz’s hand in his and kissed it gently as the table erupted into laughter. Liz smiled at him, understanding his thoughts even without the ability to read his mind. They were looking at the future. They would all be one family soon and there would be hundreds of gatherings like this. Six weeks couldn’t come fast enough.

Phillip spotted movement out of the corner of his eye and was pleased to see Max and Liz in the back of the restaurant.

“Max! Liz! What are you two doing here?”

Spotted, they had no choice but to move forward now, giving kisses to everyone at the table. Jeff pulled over two chairs from a nearby table and everyone bunched together to accommodate the children.

Max and Liz found they couldn’t keep the grins off their faces. Their excitement and happiness bubbling up in the presence of the ones they loved.

Diane looked up at the couple strangely. “Is everything okay?” They were acting different from their usual contented bliss.

“Better than okay.” Max turned to look at Liz. They had decided that Max should tell them. She nodded to him in approval.

“Mom, Dad, Nancy, Jeff,” Max let out a breath. This was harder to say than he thought it would be. “Liz and I . . . well, we’re getting married.”

Diane blinked once. Has she heard that right? “Married?” Her smile grew quickly. “Oh my god! I’m so happy for you! Oh, hug me quick!” She pulled Max, then Liz into an embrace. Phillip was right behind her, hugging the couple, offering congratulations.

“You two are meant for each other. I know you’ll be fine. You even have the Royal blessing too.” Phillip whispered jokingly into his future daughter’s ear. He couldn’t be prouder of his son.

Liz broke from his embrace and turned to her parents. “Mom? Dad?”

Nancy’s smile was watery. “Oh, Lizzie. I’m so happy for you. You know I am.” She pulled her baby into her arms, clinging onto her. She was losing her baby, growing up too fast. But she was doing it with a fine young man.

Jeff waited patiently as his wife rocked their daughter. He turned to Max. The boy’s face was lit with pure joy. He remembered that feeling well. His daughter would be well taken care of in Max Evans’ hands. Jeff reached a hand out to Max, which he took solemnly.

“I’ll take care of her, Jeff. I love her.”

Jeff smiled. The boy was all nerves, as he should be. It was good for the soul to be a little afraid of your father in law. “I know you will, Max. But just so you know, we’re going to drop by unannounced a lot.” Then he smiled wider.

Max forced a smile, not sure if Liz’s father was trying to make him nervous or not. But Nancy had released Liz and Jeff was reaching for her now, whispering in her ear.

Max could feel her love and joy and he knew whatever was being said, he had given his approval.

“Okay, so when is the big day? I assume you guys are getting married soon?” Diane smiled at them. She was glowing. Her son was going to marry the most wonderful girl in the world. And oh, the beautiful babies they would make!

Liz and her parents rejoined the table even as Diane was deciding in her head the best color for a nursery.

“Yeah, November 7th.”

Diane clapped her hands together. “Okay. You need a dress. And I know the perfect place.”

“Let me guess, the Petite Parlour? Isabel already beat you to it.”

“Well, then, I guess I can’t be upset about that, now can I? So, tell me what plans has she already made and how can I help?” Diane watched as Liz turned to look at Max. They shared a brief moment and Diane found herself smiling. Oh yeah, there were going to be little footsteps around her house again, and by the looks of it, pretty soon.




posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:29:24 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 9

Alex clicked away on his computer, concentrating hard on the numbers that were displayed on his screen.

“Hey, Alex, do you want turkey or ham?” Isabel called from the kitchen.

“Turkey.”

A minute later, Isabel re-entered Alex’s bedroom carrying a tray of sandwiches and drinks. Alex pushed away from the computer and joined Isabel on his bed. He took the offered drink and sandwich from her as they fell into their now comfortable routine.

“No luck?”

“No, these files are driving me crazy. Whatever Nicholas and the skins used to code their test results, I can’t crack it. It doesn’t make sense. These files are years old, I should be able to get in.”

Isabel watched him furrow his forehead as he continued to mull over the problem. She loved watching him think. He went into his own world and she could sit and watch him, one of her new favorite past times. She didn’t know just when it started, but she had caught herself doing it quite a bit lately.

At first, she had chalked it up to concern. After Brenna had hurt him, Isabel had started spending all her free time with Alex, wanting to be the one he confided in. He had been there for her so many times in the past, it was the least she could do. It had ended up hurting her relationship with Ben and she had been sorry to see him go. He was a nice guy, bought her anything she wanted, treated her like the princess she was. But something had been missing, a spark. He’d become jealous over all the time she’d spent with Alex, although she couldn’t figure out why. Alex was just Alex, her best friend. He just needed her right now. But Ben had said something about her having feelings for Alex and he wasn’t willing to share her. But the sad thing was, she didn’t really miss him. It had scared her to think she had dated someone a whole year and didn’t miss his absence now. What kind of person did that make her? Was she really the ice princess she had been labeled?

“You know, maybe I’m going about this all wrong. This was coded by Nicholas and the skins. Maybe they had access to technology that I can’t get my hands on. “

“Well, what would you need?”

“I don’t know, a key or a guide. If I could get a conversion of a few of the symbols, maybe I could crack the rest.”

Isabel thought. “Would they have kept that at the research lab where we found the original documents? Could we have just missed it?”

“I don’t know. We’ve been out there since then and we didn’t find anything.”

Isabel was getting excited now. “Yes, but now we know what we’re looking for. Before, we were just looking.”

“I don’t see how we’d be able to find it now. It’s been years. Besides, didn’t they tear the building down a few months ago?”

“No,” Isabel thought back to the newspaper article she had read. “I think they pushed it back. It should still be there.”

Alex grabbed for the phone, hope lighting his eyes. He quickly punched up the sheriff’s office. “Sheriff Valenti? Hi, it’s Alex Whitman.”

“Hey, Alex. How are things going? No trouble, right?”

“No, not today. Listen, what do you know about the research lab where we found all those test results a few years ago? I thought I heard they were tearing it down.”

“Hold on a second.” Jim covered the mouthpiece of the phone. “Hanson!”

Deputy Hanson poked his head in the office door. “Yeah, boss?”

“What do you know about the demolition on that old research lab off the highway?”

“The old Carter building? There was some trouble with paperwork filing. I think they rescheduled for next Monday.”

“Thanks, Hanson. Alex, Hanson says it should be slated for demolition Monday. Is there anything I can do?”

“No, I might make another trip, make sure we didn’t miss anything before it goes.”

“Alright, well be careful and let me know if you need me.”

“You got it. Thanks, Sheriff.” Alex hung up and turned to Isabel. “You were right, demolition crews are coming Monday. We should probably go back before then, just check it out.”

“Should we tell the others?”

“Nah, the building’s been abandoned for years now. We’ll just pop in and take a last look. When are you free?”

Isabel smiled. She loved that it was assumed if one of them was doing something, so was the other. “Well, I have classes all week and work Saturday. I could probably get off work Sunday. The day care wouldn’t miss me and I can see if Tess could cover for me.” Isabel loved her job at the local daycare. She’d found a soft spot in her heart for the small kids that she tended.

“Well, I have to DJ Saturday night, but I can be ready to go by eleven Sunday. Let’s meet up here and head out.”

Isabel nodded. “That should give me enough time to work it out.”

“Okay, so in the meantime we do wedding stuff. When are you guys going shopping?”

“Wednesday. Liz hasn’t given me a lot of time to plan this thing, but I’ll make it spectacular.”

“Do they want spectacular? They seem more like the small wedding type.” Alex resumed eating his potato chips.

Isabel made a face. “Yes, if it were up to them they’d get married at the justice of the peace. I mean, he’s a King, she’s his Queen. Thank god I’m here for them.” Isabel’s eyes turned wistful. “I’m going to have a big wedding when my time comes, flashy and grand. It’ll be the social event of the year.”

“A wedding fit for a princess?” Alex wasn’t sure why there was a pain in his heart thinking about it. He knew one day she would find someone that would find her irresistible as he did and the lucky bastard would sweep her off her feet. Their late night conversations and private vacations would be a thing of the past, but Isabel would be happy and that was all that mattered.

“You got it. Only my five hundred closest friends will be invited. What about you?”

Alex turned sad. He couldn’t imagine loving anyone that much. Truth be told, he couldn’t picture his future with anyone but Isabel, not even Breanna. “I don’t know. Maybe some people just aren’t cut out for marriage.”

Isabel turned apologetic. “Oh, Alex, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.” Good move, Isabel. He recently lost the love of his life to another man and you ask him about marriage.

“No, it’s fine. Breanna and I …well, she just didn’t love me. I guess she couldn’t love someone like me.”

Isabel reached out to grab his arm. “No, don’t say that. Alex, you’re the best person I know. If she didn’t realize that, then she’s a fool.”

Alex gave her the special lopsided grin he reserved only for her. And it never ceased to make her heart flutter. “Thanks, even though you have to say that as my friend.”

But was she saying it as a friend? It had been getting increasingly harder to ignore the feelings that had been popping up at unexpected times. Sometimes, they were stabs of lust that confused her. Other times they were warm feelings she didn’t understand. Isabel had never been prone to moments of tenderness, but she had been settling down the last year or two. Something inside of her had changed, almost as if a light switch had been flipped and she had woken up one morning to see that maybe what she had been looking for had been there all along.

The only problem now was that she was too late. She had pushed Alex away so many times that he had finally moved on and fallen in love with someone else. Now, they had fallen into the friend trap. How could she get him to see the woman behind the friend? She’d tried skimpy outfits to get his attention, feeding him some lame excuse about attracting other men. But he barely glanced her way. She was so used to pushing men away, she was fairly new at trying to attract men who weren’t interested. This was unfamiliar territory. What would she have to do, or was it already too late?

“Uh, Isabel? You’re still holding onto my arm.”

“Oh!” Embarrassed she had been caught daydreaming, she pulled her hand away quickly. Unfortunately, her hand collided with the soda Alex held. The brown liquid flew from his hand and splashed over the two of them and Alex’s bedspread.

Isabel looked on in horror as Alex pulled his sticky shirt away from his chest. “Oh! I’m so sorry! Let me get that.” She reached her hand over to wave the stain away, but he gently stopped her.

“No offense, but the last time you did that, I couldn’t get the smell out of my shirt for weeks. I’ll just do it the old fashioned way. I was going to do laundry today anyway.” He stood and stripped the soaking shirt from his body, heading for his closet for a new one.

Isabel’s jaw dropped open as another bolt of lust sizzled through her body. She knew he had been working out, but wow. Her fingers actually itched to touch him, to feel the hardness of his chest. Deliberately, she closed her moth. This was Alex, her best friend, she was lusting over. This was getting out of hand. She’d had her shot with him and had blown it. End of story.

Alex tossed a fresh T-shirt at Isabel. “Here, you can borrow one of mine.” Why was Isabel looking at him like that? He knew he didn’t have the best physique in the world, as Breanna had been kind enough to point out, but he had been working on it. At least he wasn’t the scrawny ninety pound weakling Kyle had relentlessly picked on and would have beat up in grade school if it hadn’t been for Maria and her sneaky sucker punch.

“Uh, yeah. Sure. Thanks.” Slowly, Isabel stood and turned her back to Alex, stripping off her wet shirt to slip on Alex’s clean one. She breathed in his scent and wondered if she could find a way to keep it.

Alex meant to turn away, really he did. But when Isabel had twisted to pull her shirt off, his eyes were rivoted to her partially naked form. What in god’s name was wrong with him? Here she trusted him as a friend not to ogle her as she stripped and he was embroiled in a fantasy about helping her undress the rest of the way. He’d seen the long, smooth line of her back and wanted to taste it, taste every inch of her flesh really. And now she was wearing his shirt. Dear god in heaven, she was wearing his clothes and he was aroused more than he’d ever been in his life. He had to get out of there before he did anything stupid that ruined the perfect friendship they had. The room was suddenly too small.

“I, uh, need air. Yeah, air, outside.” He was stuttering like a fool and he knew it.

“Air, good idea.” Was the room getting smaller? Another minute and she’d be clawing at his shirt, trying to see just what his naked flesh felt like. She was going crazy. What was she thinking?

“How about a walk?”

“Good idea. Let’s go now.”

They bolted from the room, both desperate for oxygen and a grip on sanity.





posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:29:52 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 10

“Ah, I just love the smell of dress shopping in the air.” Maria threw herself down in an armchair conveniently placed next to the large mirrors.

Isabel followed Maria, glad to have a minute to relax. They had been to three boutiques already and between the five women, Liz had tried on every dress in the city. “Picking out our dresses should be a walk in the park compared to this.”

“So, we haven’t found the perfect one yet. We will.” Maria studied her fingernails carefully. She had to word this just right with Isabel or she’d be on to her. “So, Isabel, any idea on who you might be bringing to this shindig?”

Isabel frowned. She hadn’t given it a thought. “Well, I guess I was just planning to go by myself.”

“Oh, well, if that’s what you’re planning, I’m sure it’ll be fine. Except for-well, nevermind.”

“What?”

“Nothing, really. I’m sure you’ll be fine.” Oh yeah, Maria had her just where she wanted her. This was going to be almost too easy.

Isabel thought for a minute. What was wrong with going to the wedding alone? She couldn’t think of a thing. “No, what’s wrong?”

Maria hid her smile. “Well, it’s just an awkward position. I mean, you are a bridesmaid and the wedding planner. There’s going to be that moment when you see someone you haven’t seen since high school and they ask you what you’re doing and who you came with and then they’ll look around expectantly. And then you have to say no one and then they look at you with this ‘Oh, I just knew she couldn’t get a date’ look. And I don’t even want to mention the horrible first dances where you have to look around for someone who’s unoccupied and then you have to wonder if they’re just dancing with you out of pity.”

Isabel looked at Maria in horror. Carefully, she closed her mouth. “Well, I guess I can find a date.”

“Oh, sure you can.” Maria reached over to pat her arm comfortingly. “You can probably get any man you want, but do you really want your first date with someone to be a wedding? Talk about pressure. Of course not. What you need is a friend, someone you can laugh with, have a good time with. You know what? I bet Alex is free too and knowing how down in the dump he’s been, I bet he’s having the same problem. Poor guy. He has absolutely no self confidence with women. He really needs to just jump back in the game, date a few women and see how it goes. Maybe he’ll find his type. It’ll give him a chance to play the field.” Maria didn’t really think he should do anything of the sort, but she’d bite off her tongue before the said so.

Isabel shook her head. “No, I don’t think stringing along a bunch of women will help. Maybe he needs to be pursued for a change.” Isabel was consumed with the thought. She didn’t want anyone pursuing Alex but her.

“You’re right! Why didn’t I think of that before? We need to set him up with someone!” Maria gushed enthusiasm.

“You mean like a blind date?” Isabel was horrified at the thought. “But I didn’t mean-“

“Exactly!” Maria turned her attention to Liz, who had just appeared before them in a flowing chiffon dress. She held her arms out and turned a full circle for their approval.

“Liz, I love you, but you need to take that off now and hide it. Seriously. Go try on the silk one your mom picked out.” Liz rolled her eyes and Maria turned her attention back to Isabel. “So, where were we? Oh yeah, fixing up Alex. I’m glad you’re on board with this, Isabel. It’ll make it so much easier. Now, I’m thinking about Julie.”

“Wait,” Isabel was having trouble keeping up. “Julie? You want to fix up Alex with Julie?”

“Yeah, why not? She’s fun and outgoing and not afraid to go after what she wants.”

“Wasn’t she arrested last year on harassment charges?” Was Maria really serious about this? Isabel could usually tell, but she was rattling on about the best time and place to set this up.

“That was just a huge misunderstanding.” Maria waved away Isabel’s objection. This was turning out to be too much fun. What the hell, she’d even take it up another notch. “You know, Isabel, I know the perfect guy for you too. Oh! I just had the best idea! You guys could go on a double blind date, take some of the pressure off. That way, you could both get to know your dates and have someone to go to the wedding with! This is such a great plan, I don’t know why it took me so long to think of it! This is going to be great! So, when is good for you?”

Maria had actually pulled out her daytimer and was thumbing through the days of the week.. Why would she want to go on a blind date? It was crazy. She didn’t want to date anyone right now. She was enjoying all the time she got to spend alone with Alex. Who knew when they would have this opportunity again? But Maria was so genuinely excited, she didn’t know how to tell her no. “Uh, how about Alex and I check out schedules and get back with you?”

Maria closed her daytimer with a snap, pretending to be miffed. “Fine. If you don’t want my help, just say so. I can take a hint. Michael says I stick my nose in where it doesn’t belong, and maybe he’s right. I’ll just stop trying to help and when you’re at the wedding all alone, with no one to dance with or talk to, don’t blame me.”

“No, Maria, it’s not like that, really. Give me a few days to get back with you.” Maybe if they went of this stupid date, their friends would leave them alone for awhile.

Maria brightened. “Great.” She knew she’d won when Isabel had started chewing on her bottom lip. She had learned how to bluff an opponent and spot weaknesses from Alex. All those long hours of playing Go-Fish weren’t for nothing.

Isabel frowned, not sure if she was being conned. It was just so hard to tell sometimes with Maria. “Right, well, I’m just going to check in on Liz and see how she’s doing.” Still wondering what had happened, Isabel rose and walked back to the dressing rooms.

A burst of giggles caught Maria’s attention and she turned an amused face to Tess.

“Oh my god, she never knew what hit her. What are you doing?”

“Just doing a bit of matchmaking is all. Now, we’ll just let Isabel convince Alex that going out on a double blind date is the only way to get rid of me. Then, you’ll go to Alex and tell him how worried you are about him and how you think you know the perfect girl to set him up with. That way, he’ll figure going on the double blind date with Isabel looks better. And then we let fate do the rest.”

“Fate?” Tess questioned.

“Well, fate and a good dose of old fashioned jealousy.”






[ edited 1 time(s), last at 14-Mar-2002 11:42:07 AM ]
posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:30:19 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 11

Liz had changed into what she was sure was the three hundredth wedding dress of the day when the door to her dressing room opened and her mother stood smiling at her.

“Can you help me? Isabel just left and I can’t get the back just right.”

Nancy smiled and moved to help with the last of her daughter’s buttons. Done, she swept Liz’s long hair off her neck and together, they stared at the reflection they created. Liz’s dress was stunning. The bodice was a tight fitting corset top that showed off her trim figure as well as a hint of cleavage that was sure to drive Max crazy. It tapered off at the waist to flair into a shimmering skirt of silk. But it was the joy on Liz’s face that made her beautiful.

“You look perfect.” Nancy ran her hands down Liz’s bare arms. “And so happy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so radiant, so sure of yourself.”

Liz smiled. “I am happy, mom. I have everything I ever wanted. I just never knew what it would feel like being here, wearing my wedding dress, talking about my future with Max. I’m going to be Mrs. Max Evans. I can’t wait.”

“I know you two will be happy. You’re both perfect for each other. Your father and I had a bit of trouble accepting that at first. You and Max were so serious, so fast. And you were so young! We knew you two had some trouble, but he always showed up back in the Crashdown, pretending not to watch you. We got so used to having him around, it didn’t surprise us when you did start dating. But we saw how much you loved each other, how you’ve stuck by each other all this time. And I couldn’t have asked for a better son.”

“Mom,” Liz was starting to cry and Nancy hugged her from behind, her own emotions swirling dangerously high. There was a quick know at the door to the dressing room before Tess entered. She froze upon seeing the scene before her. Both women were crying. She kicked herself as she realized she’d walked in on a bonding moment.

“Oh, sorry! I didn’t mean to interrupt. I’ll come back.”

Nancy pulled her back in the room. “No, it’s fine. If we get started crying, we’ll never stop. Oh, you have the veil.” Her eyes went soft again. “I’ll let you two girls finish in here and then you can come out and dazzle us all.”

“Mom,” Liz stopped Nancy’s hasty retreat. “I love you.”

Nancy smiled. Yes, she was going to bawl before the day was over. “I love you too, honey.” Then she disappeared from the room.

Tess smiled at the picture Liz presented. She was radiant. “Turn around and we’ll get this veil on. Although why they sent in the shortest girl to pin it on you I don’t know.”

“I have a feeling they’re trying to get us to talk.” Liz bent down so Tess could help adjust the veil. “I was wanting to talk to you, actually. I wanted to thank you.”

Tess met Liz’s eyes in the mirror. “What for?”

“For doing this, for being okay with it all this time. Technically, he should be yours.”

Tess brushed aside the comment. “Liz, he was never mine. We may have been married, but even then his heart was still searching for it’s other half. I knew it even then. And after I saw what you two went through with Nicholas, I knew I would never stand another chance. Truth is, it made me realize that I wouldn’t have gone to the lengths for him that he went to for you. I guess a lifetime of training is hard to break. And I know you would do all that and more for him too. He would be lost without you. So, that makes him yours in everyway possible.”

On impulse, Liz turned and pulled Tess into a warm embrace. They had become friends over the last few years, but there still had always been a stiffness between them, never having broached the topic of Max. “Thank you.”

“Quit thanking me!” But Tess smiled at her, friends finally. They were going to be so happy together they’d probably drive the group crazy. But it was worth it.

“And I know you’ll be planning your own wedding someday.”

“Yeah, well, the list of prospects is pretty slim these days. My social calendar has been pretty lacking.”

Liz smoothed out her dress, returning to her reflection. “I’m sure Maria would be more than happy to fix you up with someone.”

Tess gave her a secret smile. “Actually, she’s pretty busy right now.”

Liz caught the twinkle in her eyes. “What is she up to?”

“You don’t even want to know. C’mon, let’s go show everyone how beautiful you look. I think we’ve found your dress.”




posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:30:50 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 12

“That was a bad idea.” Liz threw herself in Max’s armchair and closed her eyes.

“Shopping went that bad,huh?” Max had goggled at the volume of bags and boxes she had dropped at his door. His sister had said she was taking her out for a fun day of shopping when she had arrived early that morning to pick up Liz. Apparently, the Christmas Nazi had nothing on the Wedding Nazi.

“Why didn’t you warn me?”

“I thought you knew. Why do you think I banned her from the tuxedo rental shop?”

“You know, it’s not too late to elope. We could get in the car and run off to Vegas like we were supposed to do when we were 19.”

Max grinned at her, knowing she wasn’t serious, but tired. “I’d hate to repeat myself and be unoriginal.”

Liz studied him with amused eyes. “You think this is funny.”

“I think it’s hysterical. You knew what Isabel was like, then you throw in Maria and both of our mothers, not to mention Tess who’s already told me twice that she’s never been to a wedding before. It just screams trouble. But hey, as long as you’re happy. Did you find a dress?”

“You do know that they dragged me to every dress shop in town and were threatening to make a trip to Albuquerque if I didn’t find one in town? But yes, I found an absolutely beautiful dress. You’ll take one look at me and your eyes will pop out of your head. At least, that’s what I’ve been assured by Maria and Tess. Speaking of which, I think they’re up to something.”

“Like what?” Max joined her in the armchair, pulling her into the circle of his arms. He’d missed her all day. She’d told him she would be blocking their connection so that she would have some surprises for the wedding, but he had longed for even a stray thought or two of hers.

“I think they’re involved in some sort of scheme to set up Isabel and Alex, but I’m not sure exactly what they’re up to.”

“Do you think that’s a good idea? Alex still seems pretty shaken up over Breanna. Is he ready to date again?”

She snuggled closer to Max, breathing in his scent. “I think the big question is whether or not Isabel is really ready to start something with Alex. He’s convinced she’s only his best friend. But I know he still has feelings for her.”

“I know Isabel’s had a hard time letting people into her life, but I think she’s starting to realize Alex may just be what she needs. When mom was here and she told us about our true destinies, I think it scared everyone. Tess and Kyle weren’t dating anymore than Isabel and Alex were, but they probably would have gotten together by now if she hadn’t said anything.”

Liz agreed. After the events three years ago, Kyle and Tess had certainly pulled apart. They had seemed like they were on the path to couple-hood, but being told they were destined to be together seemed to make Kyle all the more determined to take a step back. Tess had confided in them that they had both agreed that they didn’t want their lives run by outside forces and would just be friends for awhile. But Alex and Isabel had turned into another story altogether.

Instead of distancing themselves, they had become best friends. After graduation, the entire group had moved on to the University of New Mexico, not wanting to be apart after all they had been through together. That was when Alex had met Breanna. At first, Isabel had been a bit jealous, having to share Alex. But then she had started dating herself. Liz and Maria had decided that she was rebelling by dating as many men as she could, to show Alex she was available and attractive.

Unfortunately for her, Alex only had eyes for Breanna then. His whole world rose and set in her, finally finding someone that wanted him for who he was. Or so he thought. Isabel had met Ben the following year and they had actually seemed serious for awhile, or they could have been if Isabel had given them a chance.

Isabel and Ben’s one year anniversary seemed to snap Alex out of his trance though. He had gotten used to his friendship with Isabel, but wasn’t used to them having to schedule in time together. It was the first time they were both dating someone seriously. And their unbreakable frienship had been hurt.

Isabel had gone to Alex in the middle of the night, sobbing, waking him from a sound sleep to tell him that she missed him and needed time alone with him so she could just be herself. They had planned their trip to San Francisco the next day. And neither Breanna or Ben had appreciated the trip for what it was. If anything, Breanna had started distancing herself from Alex more and more, but he hadn’t seemed to notice it. Liz and Maria had tried to point it out to him once, but he had brushed them off and they had let it drop for the sake of old friendships.

After Breanna had hurt Alex, Isabel had let everything else in her life slip away, making sure Alex knew she was there for him. And though she had lost Ben in the process, they both seemed happier than they had been in years. Maybe Maria’s little push was just the thing they needed to overcome the stubborn streak they both shared.

Max followed the path of Liz’s thoughts and agreed with them all. And as much as he hated to disturb the peaceful train of thought, they had bigger things to deal with, things he had put off for far too long already. “Liz, honey, we need to talk.”

“I know.” She sighed, taking comfort in the steady beat of Max’s heart against her cheek. She’d hoped Max would have forgotten about it by now. She had done her best to distract him this morning, but she should have known better.

“You had it again last night, didn’t you? The nightmare?”

Liz nodded. That was the third time she’d had it. Once the Friday Max had proposed to her, the following Monday and Tuesday, last night.

“We need to tell everyone. If it’s prophetic-“

“How do we know it’s not my mind just overexcited?”

“Fine. So, you can tell me that they don’t seem real to you? You can honestly say that something like what you saw or felt isn’t going to happen? You’ll take that chance?”

“I just wish I could remember it! I mean, I remember being lonely, depressed, grieving and I remember that voice. ‘Beware the friendly face, it is not your friend.’ That could mean anything.”

Max kissed her gently. “We need to tell them.”

Liz sighed again. “I know” She stood slowly, taking his hand for support. “No time like the present.”




posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:32:12 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 13

They made their way down a flight of stairs, knocking on the door to room 321. A very flustered Michael pulled the door open after a minute. His shirt was unbuttoned and unless they were mistaken, he had lipstick on his neck. “What?”

“Meeting in the girls’ room now.”

Michael swore and closed the door in Max’s face.

Max and Liz continued down the hall a few doors and knocked on 317. Alex answered the door while eating a sandwich. “Trouble?” he asked, seeing their grim expressions.

“Meeting.” Liz corrected.

“Like I said, trouble.” He sighed. Would they ever just have a boring day? “Let me get Kyle.”

Hand in hand, they continued down the hallway to descend another flight of stairs. Reaching her apartment, Liz pushed open the door and poked her head in on both Isabel’s and Tess’s rooms.

“Hey, guys, can you come out for a minute?”

Confused, they followed Liz to the living room and took seats on the couch. Liz sat back into Max’s chest on the love seat.

“What’s up?”

“We’re waiting for everyone else.”

“Oh, it’s that kind of meeting.” Tess wasn’t sure if she should be afraid of what was to come. They hadn’t had a reason for a serious meeting in awhile now.

There was a sharp rap on the door before it opened to reveal Alex and Kyle. Liz watched as they each moved to sit on the couch, Kyle immediately moving to Tess’s side while Alex sat as close to Isabel as he could get. Liz wondered if they even knew that they sought solace in each other in times of stress or danger.

The door flew open again and Maria and Michael entered, shooting death glares at the couple on the love seat. “This had better be good.” The shared a seat in the large armchair, waiting for whatever news was to come.

Everyone turned to Max and Liz now for the impending doom. Max squeezed Liz’s hand in support. This was her meeting.

“Okay, basically, I just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve been having this recurring dream, but I’m not sure if it’s just a dream.”

“So, like a vision?” Isabel furrowed her brows as she tried to understand.

“No, more like a feeling. Let me tell you about the dream.” She told them about the feelings of despair and loneliness, that she couldn’t remember the image she’d seen, but she was sure there were scenes played out before her. Then she told them about the voice and it’s warning. When she was done, she sat back, waiting for a response. Was she making nothing into something?

“What is that supposed to mean? So, we’re not only not supposed to trust strangers, but friends as well?” Isabel sat back on the couch, curling her body against Alex’s.

“Well, I’m not really sure about anything. I mean, it could only be a dream, not a warning. With the wedding plans and all, maybe my mind is on hyperdrive. It doesn’t have to be real.”

“I had it too.”

The room was quiet as everyone turned their attention to Maria.

“What?” Michael shouted.

Maria looked down at her hands. They were shaking. Oddly, she’d never had her hands shake before, not even after all they’d seen and done. “I had the dream too. It’s kind of like being sucked into a tornado and no matter how hard you fight, those horrible emotions pull you down each time.”

“Yeah,” Liz’s voice softened. Maria was having the dream too? Looking into Maria’s eyes, seeing her own fear reflected there, Liz decided she’d rather be crazy than to have anyone feel those things.

“Okay, so what now?” Alex put an arm around Isabel’s shoulders, wanting to warm his skin of the sudden chill. Someone they knew was going to betray them? It wasn’t right, couldn’t be.

“I don’t get it. Why are Liz and Maria having dream warnings and not any of us?”

“I don’t know, Is.” Max was worried. It was one thing for Liz to have them, but Maria too? It spelled trouble.

“Maybe Isabel can dreamwalk them, see if she can get more information.” Michael would do anything to stop the shaking in his Maria. Why hadn’t she told him she was having nightmares? And where the hell had he been?

Max nodded. “Good idea. But in the meantime, no one goes anywhere alone. We don’t know enough yet to worry, but it’s better to be safe.” Everyone agreed quietly. Whenever there was the threat of trouble, they had learned it was best to team up and be on the safe side. Isabel and the others began a discussion on the best times to try her dreamwalking. Maria caught Liz’s eye and the two girls pulled out of the conversation to stand in a quiet corner.

“Liz, that voice, did you-“

“Recognize it? Yeah, I did.”

Maria glanced nervously at Alex. “That was Mrs. Whitman. Liz, she’s been dead for over ten years and now she’s visiting people’s dreams and giving premonitions.”

“I know. This is bad, Maria. I haven’t said anything to Max about it yet. I think Alex would freak if he knew, so let’s keep it to ourselves for now.”

Maria nodded her head. “I agree. But there’s one thing I don’t understand. Why us, Liz? Why not Alex?”

Liz shook her head. “I don’t know. There’s so much of this that doesn’t make sense. But we’ll figure it out. I promise.”




posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:34:29 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 14

“No, just move it a bit more to the left, Maria.” Maria dug through the contents of her purse for her keys as she mimicked her mother’s voice. “You don’t mind staying a bit late to finish this for me, do you?” A bit late had turned into four hours on mind-numbing torture. Where the hell were her damn keys anyway? She knew what sort of plans her mother had that evening. So, she’d left her one and only daughter up at the souvenir shop to finish setting up a display of alien themed paraphernalia so she could go home to Jim Valenti and do things she didn’t even want to think about.

Her purse dropped to the ground, it’s contents spilling across the hallway floor. With a strangled scream, she gave up on the keys and placed her hand on the door handle. With a quick glance, she determined she was alone in the hallway. Summoning her powers the way Liz had shown her, she tried to focus her energy enough to move the door locks. Then she remembered why Michael had warned her not to use her powers when she was frustrated. The door knob began to spark and smoke, shocking her fingers. She pulled her hand back with a cry, waving them in the air in an attempt to cool them off. But her pain was forgotten when the door swung open.

Satisfied at least with that, Maria kicked at her purse’s contents, not willing to risk injuring her raw hand. She blew through the door, kicking the remainder of the purse on the couch as the went.

Isabel looked at her wearily from the love seat. “Again, Maria? The landlord’s going to get tired of replacing the locks every time you lose your keys. He’ll only buy the lightning story so many times.”

Maria glared at her roommate. “What do you know about it? Not everyone has complete control over their superpowers. Some of us primate humans screw up once in a while.” How could she calmly flip through a bridal magazine like that? “And what are you grinning at?”

“I know something you don’t know.”

“Isabel, it’s been a hell of an afternoon. If you have something to say, say it.”

“Michael sent you a gift. It’s on your bed.”

With wide eyes, Maria rushed into her room and let out a squeal of delight at the large white box on her bed. Her earlier bad mood forgotten, she clutched it to her chest with all the eagerness and excitement of a child at Christmas. Hell, this was better than Christmas. Michael didn’t even like to buy her things on actual gift giving occasions. She rolled her eyes thinking of the car bumper he’d tried to give her for Christmas a few years ago. But now he had gone and bought her a gift for no apparent reason? Something was up.

“Are you going to open it, or what?” Isabel sat on the bed beside Maria. She’d been bubbling with curiosity since Michael had dropped off the mystery box an hour ago. She had an idea what he was up to, but had promised not to say anything to Liz and Maria.

“I’m almost afraid to.” Carefully, she set the box down and removed the lid, gasping at the contents.

“Are those the leather pants you tried on at the mall?”

Dumbly, Maria nodded. She had fallen in love with the soft leather, but hadn’t been able to afford the hefty price tag. “He must have pulled it out of my mind.” A smile crept across Maria’s face. If Michael had bought her these pants for no reason, he had either screwed up big time or her was about to. Either way, she didn’t care. She would look fabulous while she let him apologize. A scrap of paper fluttered to the bedspread and Maria grabbed for it.

Wear these tonight. Be ready by nine.

Isabel snorted. “Well, that’s a flowery love note.”

“I don’t care. Isabel, I only have-“ she checked her watch. “Twenty minutes to get ready. Help.”

Isabel sprang into action. “You strip and put those on. I’ll get hair while you do makeup. Go.”

Maria immediately stripped off her shirt and short skirt as she hobbled over to her closet. She had a fabulous green halter top somewhere that was perfect.

Twenty frantic minutes later, a knock sounded at the door. Both Isabel and Maria looked up from the bathroom counter where she was desperately trying to add curl to her long hair.

“The one time in his life he’s on time.,” Maria grumbled.

“I’ll stall him. Hurry and finish.” Isabel departed the bathroom and found Michael standing in the opened front doorway. He eyed the smoldering remains of the door handle.

“Maria lost her keys again?”

“You got it.” She eyed the bouquet of flowers in his hands. “I told you to wear her out, not kill her with shock.”

Michael glared at her. “I still don’t like lying to her.”

“I told both you and Max already. If they know I’m going to try to dreamwalk them tonight, they’ll be too nervous to slip into REM sleep and it won’t work. It’s harmless really.”

“You try telling Maria that tomorrow.”

“By the way, the pants were an excellent touch.”

“They’d better be. I could have bought a small country for what they cost.” But as he spoke, Maria came through the doorway and time slowed down. Those soft brown pants molded to her perfect body like a second skin. The green top cut off at her stomach and he was given a nice view of her flat stomach and trim hips. And he saw a very enticing hint of cleavage that he knew was the direct result of some sort of miracle undergarment. And he silently thanked whoever had the vision to invent it. She had a spark of mischief in her eye and his body was struck by a blinding bolt of lust just looking at her. God, he wanted her right there in the living room and probably would have taken her if Isabel wasn’t standing over them like a chaperone.

Maria had it all planned out as she approached the living room. She was going to be cool, aloof, let him chase her tonight. Then she saw him and her awareness level was shot back into the stratosphere. Every time he walked into the room, her body began to simply hum, as if it were lying sleeping until he came close. And god, the way he was watching her. His razor sharp eyes were raking over her body, taking in every curve, every bit of exposed flesh. His eyes had darkened to the smoky color she loved and that always meant he wanted to nibble on some part of her body.

Her plan shot to hell, Maria took a running leap and threw herself into Michael’s arms, her legs locking around his waist, their lips fusing together as if it had been planned.

Isabel let out a cough as she hid her smile. These two would never change. At least Max and Liz only stared at each other all night. But with Maria and Michael, the odds were good that if they disappeared for longer than two minutes, you would regret not knocking first. She grabbed her purse and keys though she didn’t need them thanks to Maria, and escaped from the apartment, knowing she wasn’t wanted. She had a feeling things were going to get too heated for her liking.

Michael fisted his hands in Maria’s carefully curled and styled hair and he knew she would surely yell at him for mussing it. But he didn’t care. Their connection had roared to life at their touch and his every nerve ending tingled from the contact. She was attacking his mouth, grinding her hips into his and he knew if they didn’t stop now, they would never make it out of the apartment. And he had definite plans for her tonight.

Reluctantly, he pulled his lips from her assault. “Ria, you’ve got to stop that.”

“Says who?” She began nibbling her way down his neck, pleased when he let out a moan.

He pulled her away with a jerk, his dark eyes gleaming. “So, you don’t want your surprise?”

“Why don’t you give it to me later? After you take off these clothes and I’ve had my way with you.” She resumed her assault on his neck, snaking her wicked fingers down to cup his groin. A surge of lust ran through her as she actually felt the second his control snapped.

He grabbed her butt with both hands and pulled her flush against his rock hard member. How could she make him feel like this so fast? He staggered backward a step before pulling her face back up for a smoldering kiss. There was nothing in the world that compared to kissing Maria. Every emotion she felt, every dream she had ever had came pouring through their connection towards him. His tongue parted her lips, dipping in deep to taste her. But it wasn’t enough. He left a trail of kisses down her neck to her collarbone as he walked them forward until Maria’s back was firmly pressed against a wall.

She gasped as their bodies came into hard contact and she needed to feel him quick. Pulling his shirt from his waistband, they broke contact long enough for Michael to strip his shirt off. Maria raked her long fingernails over the naked skin of his chest, leaving claw marks in their wake, marking him as her own.

Michael growled at the sensations she created in him, a never ending need to touch, to possess, to belong. He had to force his hands to gently on her shoulders, not wanting to bruise her delicate skin.

More.

She sent him through their connection. She was beyond being able to form a single word to speak aloud. His touch alone was enough to drive her out of her mind, but her thirst had become insatiable when she had become able to read his own thoughts and needs. And to think she had been so insecure in the beginning about their relationship. It all seemed to silly now, when she could feel the sheer force of his love for her.

I need more, Michael. Touch me, please.

Her thoughts were a jumbled mass filled with a throbbing urgency, a deep seeded need for his hands and his hands alone. And as it always did, a thrill raced through his body at the thought that this amazing woman felt such deep, primal, wild things for him.

He gave in to her silent demands as his hands cupped her rounded breasts. She thrust herself into his hands as she continued to beg him for more. He complied, kneading the soft flesh until she sobbed out his name. Knowing she was as close to a release as he was, he released his grip on her and they both scrambled to remove their clothes.

Maria hopped one foot as she struggled with her boot with one hand while stripping off her shirt with the other. With a cry of frustration, she managed to get the rest of her clothes off and turned to find a very naked Michael. He stared down at her with a desire that matched her own. God, how she loved this man, could never get enough of him. Her red marks still shone clearly on his chest.

Mine. She thought to herself before Michael began a slow stalk towards her. He backed her up against the wall again, their new connection crackling to life.

Now, Michael.

Michael pulled her lips back to his as he lifted her off the ground, positioning their bodies to familiar heights.

“Is this what you want?” He slid into her slowly, burying himself to the hilt in her warmth.

Maria gasped as he filled her. But it wasn’t enough, not when she was so close to the edge.

Yes. More. Now.

Even her thoughts were incoherent now. Michael felt the dizzying array of Maria’s emotions and the powerful waves of pleasure that were building within her and it was too much for him. He slid out of her only to sink back into her harder, building a rhythm that would only last a minute or two.

Maria’s breath was coming fast near Michael’s ear where she was sucking on his earlobe. She only had another few seconds before the waves built too high and Michael was determined to go over the edge with her.

With a long scream, Maria wrapped her legs tighter around Michael’s waist and lt him take her. Michael felt her release and allowed himself to follow her with a low moan of his own. Together, they sank to the floor, still joined.

Maria took a minute to regain her breath, then flashed him a wicked grin. “Hi.”

Unable to resist her, he chuckled. “Hi yourself. I hadn’t actually meant to jump you in the living room.”

“No?”

“I was willing to wait until we were in the car.”

Maria chuckled now as her fingers traced small circles on his flesh. “So, did I hear something about a surprise?”

“Maybe. Do you deserve one?”

A wicked gleam back in her eye, she turned her full attention to the man who held her in his arms. “Always. But you might as well tell me, or I’ll just pull it out of your brain. I can’t stand the suspense.”

“Well, I was thinking we could go to the fairgrounds outside of town and ride some of the rides.”

“Ooh, can I get cotton candy?”

“You might get sticky.”

She flashed him a saucy smile. “Then you’ll just have to clean me up, won’t you?”

Michael grinned at the images she sent of him licking the pink substance off her body. “I’ll stock it in my apartment year round.”

Maria giggled and sat up, looking around for her clothes. She wasn’t done with him yet. It was going to be a very long evening.




posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:35:19 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 15

Maria lay snuggled in bed with Michael, relaxing in his strong embrace. Even in sleep, he clung to her like a lifeline. She smiled lazily as her thoughts drifted back to their evening. They had indeed made it to the fair, after having another round of sex in her car. They rode all the rides, filling up on popcorn and elephant ears. Michael had spent nearly thirty dollars trying to win her a stuffed animal in the basketball toss game. But he had managed to win her one and it now stood as her prize possession in the world. She couldn’t remember the last time she had laughed as much. They had paid their fair and taken a boat ride through the tunnel of love. They had made out and Michael had used his powers to stop the ride long enough for them to have their fill of each other.

But throughout it all, Michael had been trying to hide something from her. She had known something was up when he bought her the pants, but she could feel the tentative block he had thrown up in his mind. It was laughable really. Michael hadn’t been able to hide things from her before they shared a brain, but he really thought she couldn’t read him. It had taken her precisely ten minutes for her to secretly unlock his block and see what was going on.

Isabel was planning to dreamwalk her and Liz tonight. At first, she had been furious at the invasion of privacy. But the anger had only lasted a minute. She’d felt Michael’s resistance to the idea and Isabel’s insistence that they do it this way.

So, he’d taken her out to try to wear out her body and mind. But he had fallen asleep before their bodies had even cooled from their most recent lovemaking while she remained awake. Her body at least was comfortably shut down, still humming from Michael’s constant attention tonight. But her mind was still alert, refusing to shut down. There were too many questions, too many potential dangers swirling around not too far off in the distance. And she couldn’t shake the feeling of impending doom. That horrible dream had been trying to warn her that someone they least expected would betray them and someone was going to die.

Maria shivered, burying herself deeper in Michael’s bare chest. She couldn’t think about that now. It was impossible to think anyone they knew could hurt them. Instead, she forced her mind back to the incredible kiss she had shared with Michael at the top of the Ferris Wheel. With a dreamy smile, she allowed her mind to close down, awaiting Isabel’s intrusion in her dream world.

Michael found himself in a field of wild flowers, each color more bold and vibrant than the last. This was how he pictured the colors of his planet, although he wasn’t sure if he pulled it out of a memory or made it up in a desperate attempt to know where he came from. But this place always soothed him. Just over the hill to the left would be a cemetery, marked graves of soldiers that had died in battle, a battle he had led and lost. Sometimes, he would wander that way and read the epitaphs, hoping for a clue as to whether this place actually existed, looking for a spark of a memory from home. But he would not go there tonight.

He turned his attention to his right and the forest loomed before him, an intimidating tangle of purple and crimson. Instinctively, he knew that only trouble awaited travelers beyond the first wave of trees. He knew of snares and pitfalls, traps built by a band of nomadic gypsies that would trap a man and leave them at their mercy. And though no one had seen one in decades, their legend of an insatiable blood thirst was enough to keep the meek at heart away.

He felt a hand on his shoulder, but he didn’t have to turn to know Maria had joined him. The air had simply changed and he had felt the hum of her energy. She took his hand and together, they walked to the top of the hill, waiting for the minute when the second sun had dipped below the horizon and the land was cast in a hazy glow of electric blue. It wasn’t the first time they had met together in this place, but the effect never seemed to dim. The couple relaxed against each other, content to listen to the silence of the hills.

“You have to go.” Maria nudged him gently, not wanting to disturb the peace of this place.

He knew she was right, though unsure of how she knew. “You’ll be here when I get back?”

She smiled at him. “Always.”

Michael released her hand and felt the gruff awakening of his mind and body. He sat up in bed, taking a minute to watch the gently rise and fall of Maria’s chest. She was so beautiful, so peaceful when she slept. She didn’t have any of the cynicism the world had corrupted her with.

Upset that their time of peace had been interrupted, he snatched at the phone, careful not to break contact with Maria. Isabel picked up the phone immediately, and a bit sleepy sounding.

“About time,” she snapped.

Who the hell gave her the right to snap at him? He’d been dreaming peacefully and had left Maria in their place to call her. “Yeah, whatever. Maria’s sleeping. Do your stuff.”

Michael turned off the phone quickly, knowing it would get a rise out of Isabel. The thought brought back his good mood. Settling back among the mountain of pillows Maria insisted on, Michael went about trying to resist the urge to kiss Maria awake so he could do wicked things to her body. On a sigh, he willed his overeager body to relax. He would give Isabel some time to do her thing and then he would wake Maria up. He checked the clock and did a mental calculation. How long could it possibly take to pull the information out of Maria’s mind?


Max too had been watching Liz sleep for almost an hour now. He hadn’t liked lying to her anymore than Michael did, but he understood the necessity of it. These nightmares had been keeping her up for the last few nights and he would do whatever it took to get rid of them. He too couldn’t imagine that any of what the dream seemed to be telling them would come true. Why would someone they love betray them?

Max had sworn long ago to do whatever it took to keep Liz safe, and he would do nothing short of the impossible to clear the sadness from her eyes. He knew that the images from the nightmare plagued her during her waking hours, and that it was hard for her to get anything accomplished sometimes when her thoughts drifted that way.

Liz was curled up in sleep around a large pillow. She had turned her body away from him in sleep and he found the naked curve of her back almost impossible to resist. A thrill raced through him at the thought that she would be his soon, officially anyway. They both knew that they belonged to each other the day they had first kissed, all those many years ago.

That kiss had been an instant attraction, a lightning bolt to his very soul that had awakened him in ways he never knew possible. His every sense, every instinct had been sharper when she was near him. And now that they were connected every minute of the day, he felt invincible. The level of love and complete faith she had in his was staggering, and each day he had to question how he had been unfathomably lucky enough to have earned that faith and love. Soon, they would stand before their friends and family and announce to the world what they already knew. They would love each other forever, beyond the boundaries of space and time itself, and they had proven it time after time.

Unable to resist at least some contact, Max ran a hand down the silky length of her hair. He had worn her out tonight, and he felt horribly guilty for it. They had gone roller skating, laughing as they each tried to stay on their feet, fuming in jealousy as small children performed difficult tricks around them. They had feasted on hot dogs and nachos before heading out of town into the desert.

Max had taken her to a hidden spot they had discovered a few months ago near a lake. They had set up the telescope Liz had bought, and spent awhile trying to locate their star in the nighttime sky. And though Liz said it was his imagination, he swore that their star shone brighter than them all.

Afterwards, they had laid out on a blanket and had made love, making full use of the cool evenings fall had brought them. He knew as they reluctantly drove back into town that she would fall asleep instantly, and he had been right. Now, he sat and continued to watch her, wondering how each day could top the last as the most perfect day they had ever spent together.

He smiled as he thought of their future together. It was sure to be full of love and laughter. And one day, they would have children, little Liz’s running around with big doe eyes that would wrap him around their little fingers as surely as Liz had done already. It might not be soon, but there would come a time when things were safer, and until that day came, he would hold onto his dreams of the perfect family they would become.

Isabel would be a doting aunt, buying extravagantly expensive gifts that no one else would consider buying. Maria would be a willing babysitter, dragging Michael along in hopes of getting his fatherly juices flowing. And he would surely grumble and complain, but would be just as hooked as Max himself. Alex would no doubt try to pass on his computer knowledge and buy the latest high tech gadgets. Kyle could be counted on to teach their children the basics of any sport imaginable, and Tess would love their child and future heir as much as any other. She had come a long way from the girl she was when she arrived with Nasedo. They all had.

As he watched, Liz’s eyes darted back and forth from under her closed lids and he knew it was time. She was dreaming peacefully, and he hated to disturb her by having Isabel drag her into the nightmare, but they needed to know what they were dealing with. And maybe if his sister found something tonight, this great weight on their shoulders would lift and Liz would be able to enjoy planning her wedding the way she was entitled to.

Reluctantly, he picked up his phone and punched in Isabel’s number. She picked up immediately, as though waiting for his call.

“Hey, Is. It’s Max,” he whispered as he continued to run a hand through Liz’s soft hair. “Liz is sleeping pretty deep.”

“Alright. Oh, Max, quick question. You and Liz, don’t uh, play Scrabble do you?”

Max considered the question in confusion. What was she talking about? Had he woken her up or something? “What? Is, are you okay?”

“Yeah, fine. Forget it. Bye, Max.”

Max hung up the phone with a click. It was done. He knew Liz would forgive him for lying to her when he explained it, but the knowledge didn’t help. He settled back in bed beside her, drawing her into his arms until their bodies lay flush against each other. As usual, the feel of her naked flesh warmed his body, but he pushed the thought to the back of his mind. The least he could do was be there for her when the nightmare started. Maybe his presence would lessen it somehow. He draped an arm around her stomach carefully, settling on the flat surface of her stomach and smiled. Someday, her stomach wouldn’t be so flat, and he would be able to feel their child growing within her. November couldn’t come fast enough.



posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:36:03 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 16

Isabel had settled down on her bed, idly flipping through a magazine. A quick glance at her clock told her she’d been waiting none too patiently for over an hour and a half now. After the group had split up, Max and Michael had pulled Isabel aside. Together, they had decided if the girls knew they were going to be dreamwalked, they would be nervous and possibly wouldn’t go into REM sleep. So, they wanted to try it that night and if something came out of it, they would tell everyone else in the morning.

Max had taken Liz to his apartment and Michael had taken Maria to his. They were supposed to relax them and call Isabel when one of them had fallen asleep. That had been hours ago. Now, she fought her own battle with sleep. Maybe she would just close her eyes for a minute.

Her head had no sooner hit the pillow when the shrill ringing of the telephone filled the room.

“About time.”

“Yeah, whatever. Maria’s sleeping. Do your stuff.”

Isabel fumed as she heard a click on Michael’s end of the phone. Sometimes she hated Michael’s gruff attitude and wondered for the millionth time how Maria put up with himl. Trying to shake off the anger, she laid back down in bed, one hand on a picture of Maria’s smiling face.

After a few minutes, she was in what she assumed was Maria’s dream. She was standing in a grand ballroom with hundreds of occupants swirling around together, dancing and chatting. Standing in the corner of the room was a woman that had to be Maria. Her dress was more decadent than any other. Her body was adorned with a yellowish gem Isabel had never seen before. But Maria was covered in them, dripping from her ears, intricate designs on her neck and arms. They seemed to be sewn into the fabric of her dress and spun through her long blonde hair, which had been swept up. She looked like royalty as her haughty gaze slid over the room. She pulled an elaborately decorated feather mask to her face as a stranger approached her.

Sure enough, it was Michael. Isabel would know his arrogant swagger anywhere. He was dressed all in black, adorned with medals of honor. A mask with a long, pointed snout covered his face and Isabel tried not to giggle as Michael approached Maria. He took her hand, placing a kiss on her fingers.

“Would milady do the honor of dancing with a veteran of the Great Wars?” There was a hint of mockery in his tone.

Maria merely looked down her nose at him. “A Duchess such as myself would not be seen with such riff raff.”

Michael leered at her through the mask. “You didn’t seem to mind consorting with riff raff last night when you were in my bed.”

Maria gasped. Isabel rolled her eyes. Trust Maria to dream like a Harlequin romance novel. Isabel broke her gaze on the couple, instead examining the room around her. Usually, there was a doorway in dreams to people’s subconscious, allowing Isabel access to things outside of the dream. She had stumbled across it accidentally as a child and had walked in on a hailstorm of emotions and images. It had scared her so much, she hadn’t tried it since then. But she knew that her answers lie within those doors. She only had to find it here.

Belatedly, Isabel noticed that the scenery had changed and they were now in a forest, only the colors were all wrong. The tree leaves were a dark crimson color, their trunks spiny and purple. Where the hell was she? She turned back to the couple and immediately regretted the decision.

Michael and Maria were sitting at a table, a game of Scrabble open before them. But they were both naked now. Isabel’s eyes burned at the sight. She should leave now, god she wanted to leave. But she had answers to find. Averting her eyes, she moved around the forest, looking a door. Please dear god, let there be a door.

“Your turn,” Maria stated in a monotonous voice.

Curious but knowing she would regret it, Isabel turned back towards the table, still careful to avert her eyes. She’d already seen more of Michael’s naked skin than she’d ever wanted to. But a look at the Scrabble gameboard was too much even for Isabel. They were taking turns making words that described different parts of the body and varying sexual terms.

As she watched, Michael lay down letters to form the word ‘breast’. He smiled smugly and crossed his arms over his naked chest. “And it’s on a blue square too. You know what that means.”

Maria smiled at him seductively.

Door or no door, Isabel was out of there. She forced herself awake and opened her eyes in her own bedroom. She let out a breath of relief. She could live comfortably the rest of her life never knowing what happened when a Scrabble tile fell on a blue square. And then there was Michael. She wasn’t sure if Maria was enhancing his features in her dream, or not, but Isabel was quite sure she was going to keep her distance from him until the dream had faded from her head. She wasn’t supposed to ever have to think of him naked. He was like a brother, for god sakes. This was all too disturbing, and the very last time she ever invaded Maria’s dreams.

Isabel’s phone rang again and she answered it happily.

“Hey, Is, it’s Max.” He was whispering and Isabel could only assume Liz was asleep beside him. “Liz is sleeping pretty deep now.”

“Alright. Oh, Max, quick question. You and Liz don’t, uh, play Scrabble do you?”

“What? Is, are you okay?” She heard the confusion in his voice and she knew just how ridiculous that must have sounded.

“Yeah, fine. Forget it. Bye, Max.”

Isabel hung up the phone with a sigh. Weary now, she settled back in bed and reached for a photo of Liz. Isabel closed her eyes and let her energy seek out Liz’s. The connection with her was formed quick and was strong. Isabel had time to be momentarily amazed by it and wondered how her lessons with Max were going.

Then Isabel was sucked into Liz’s dream, finding herself standing in the middle of the Crashdown. Wary, Isabel took a seat in one of the booths, preparing to watch the scene unfold before her.

Liz emerged from the back of the restaurant, a broom in her hands and a tired expression on her face. Without a sound being made, Liz’s eyes were drawn upwards to the front doors. Max stood on the other side of the glass, the same intense look on his face that still remained after all these years.

Liz moved to the door and unlocked it. Max stood in the doorway, watching her every movement. He reached a hand up and released her long, dark tresses from the rubber band that held it captive. He let his fingers wind through her hair, caressing her neck, indulging himself in the feel of her smooth skin. Liz tilted her head towards him, angling for a kiss. Max didn’t disappoint her as he lowered his lips to hers. They stayed locked in the slow kiss for ages, neither having anywhere else to be.

Music began playing from the jukebox in the corner and the couple swayed to the seductive rhythm, never breaking their kiss.

Isabel watched longingly. She had a feeling she was seeing a memory of another time, and not a wish for something that couldn’t be. Feeling intrusive, she began looking around the room. The door had to be here somewhere. A glow from the break room caught her eye and she moved quickly and quietly towards it. She pushed open the swinging doors, but found that Liz blocked her path. Isabel turned back to the dining area, but it was empty, quiet.

“Don’t go in there.” Liz warned, a far off look in her eyes.

“Why? What’s in there, Liz?”

“Danger. It can’t be stopped. Some things are meant to be the way they are meant to be.” She raised her eyes to meet Isabel’s in a piercing stare.

And Isabel knew she was talking to who or whatever had been trying to warn Liz and Maria. “If it can’t be changed, then why are you here warning us of what’s to come?”

“So that you may all be more prepared. If your group doesn’t remain a unit, many more will be lost.”

“Who are you?” Isabel was getting tired of people using her future sister-in-law for a cosmic telephone. “Are you one of us? Are you from Antar?”

“No.”

Isabel tried to push her way past, but her path was once again blocked. “Why won’t you let me see what’s going to happen?” She was frustrated to the point of tears. She knew something bad was going to happen and she was powerless to stop it.

“If you were to see, then you would try to stop the events before they unfold.”

“And why is that so bad?”

“Didn’t you learn anything from Liz’s experience with changing the future? An event that seems wrong now may save thousands of lives later.”

“So you’re saying that whatever is supposed to happen will happen or something even worse will happen later?” Did that even make sense to her own ears?

“Exactly. I can see things more clearly than you. I know the outcomes and consequences of thousands of events, and I’m afraid that this one must remain.”

“Who are you? Why do you seem so familiar?”

“We have never met, but you are already in my heart.”

Isabel frowned in confusion. “I don’t understand any of this.”

“You will. Liz won’t remember our meeting and you can’t tell her. I will be unable to stop her from changing the events of the future if she were to discover them. . Go, it’s time to wake up now. Be there for him, Isabel. You will be needed.”

Isabel opened her eyes wide and looked around. She was back in her room, awake. But what the hell had just happened? Reaching into her desk drawer, she pulled out a pad of paper and a pen. She would write down everything she remembered before it faded from her memory. A glance at her clock told her that she was supposed to meet Max and Michael in a few hours for breakfast. They hadn’t told Maria and Liz that Isabel would be dreamwalking them, thinking maybe they would be more relaxed. But now she was certain that the cryptic dream should be kept from the girls. This was starting to sound serious and if this mysterious figure knew as much as she claimed to, secrecy was going to become their old friend again.





posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:36:37 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 17

“Look, Michael, I don’t like it anymore than you do, but Isabel’s right. We should keep this to ourselves for now.”

Michael shook his head. “I still don’t like it. Secrets only spell trouble.”

“It’s not exactly like Isabel learned anything more than we already knew.” Max hated doing this and had in fact presented Michael’s argument to his sister already, but she had been adamant. Something had spooked her to the bone and he needed to trust her judgement. So, he had agreed to stand by her for now, until they knew for sure trouble was looming over the horizon. But the problem was, he still had a hard time believing that anyone they knew would betray them for any reason. He trusted everyone of his friends and family with his life. The threat had to come from someone new in town. They would just have to keep their eyes peeled and wait.

“Right, we don’t know anything else except something horrible is going to happen that could potentially split up everyone and change things forever. But if we try to stop it, something even worse could happen.”

“Fine, then you go tell Maria the only reason you took her out all night was so you could wear her out, so Isabel could secretly invade her thoughts and dreams. Maria’s a rational girl. I’m sure she’ll understand.”

Michael threw up his hands in exasperation. “Fine. We’ll do it your way. But I just want it to be known that I think this is a bad idea.”

Max agreed, but didn’t say so. He had to trust his sister’s instinct. “Fine, consider it filed away for a later ‘I told you so’.” Max tried to lighten the mood. They had been standing inside the rental store for ten minutes arguing, while they waited for the other men to arrive. “So, Maria didn’t suspect anything was up when you offered to take her out all night?”

Michael gave Max a wry grin. “She was too worn out to do any thinking by the time I was done with her.”

Max grimaced. “What have I told you in the past? I don’t need the details of your sex life with Maria.”

“I don’t think you could handle the details of my sex life, Maxwell. Those tales are not for the faint of heart. I know how delicate you are.”

“Really? Do tell.” Michael was in an uncharacteristically good mood and Max didn’t want to spoil it.

“Well, I suppose I should start with the basics for you. I know what a sheltered life you’ve lived, being a king and all. When a man and a woman get together-“

“I think I have a pretty good idea of the basics, Michael. In fact, it ‘s a safe bet that Liz and I can put you and Maria to shame.” He had no idea how they had gotten on this topic, but he was powerless to back down now. He had a reputation at stake.

“Oh, really?” Michael’s eyebrows went up at the challenge from Max. He really thought their sex life was better, more explosive than his and Maria’s? It was laughable.

“Hey, guys. What are we talking about?” Alex came through the door, munching on an apple, Kyle in tow.

“Who has the hotter sex life, Michael and Maria or Liz and I.”

Alex choked on his apple and threw the rest away, deciding he’d lost his appetite. “Guys, please. These are my sisters we’re talking about here, the closest to blood relations you can get. I like to think that when they stay over in your apartments all night, you’re playing checkers. Nothing more.”

“So, where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever done it?” Kyle grinned at them. Max was looking at him like he’d grown a second head, Alex was torn between being appalled and wanting to compete, and Michael was returning Kyle’s grin. Kyle addressed Max and Alex. “Well, it’s the only way to settle this. Guerin? How about you?”

“The mall.”

Max looked on in disbelief. “You two had sex in the mall?”

“Where?” Kyle questioned, having become the official referee.

“Bathroom.”

“Womens’ or mens’?”

“Womens’.” Michael looked smug, sure he’d won.

“Floor, wall or bathroom sink?”

“Guys, maybe this is too much information for me to live comfortably with.” Alex couldn’t shake the nauseated feeling in his stomach. His girls were innocent, pure. They would never engage in things like bathroom sex. He was sure of it.

“Wall.”

Alex sighed. Maybe he’d been horribly wrong. He had learned never to underestimated either one of them. And if Maria decided she wanted sex in the mall in the bathroom, then heaven help whoever tried to resist her.

“What time of year?” Kyle continued his interrogation, not paying attention to Alex. He knew his roommate well enough to know that he wasn’t truly bothered or upset by their talk. If he was, he would have left by now.

“Thanksgiving.”

“Wait, on Thanksgiving Day? You were with us all day.”

“No, the day before actually.” Something in Kyle’s tone was deflating his ego.

“Hmm, while you do get bonus points for it being in the woman’s room, you would have scored higher if it had been on the sink. However, being that it was the day before Thanksgiving, the slowest shopping day of the year, I have to take off drastic points.”

Michael narrowed his eyes at Kyle. “Well, what’s your story?”

“My car.”

All three men scoffed at him, all resistance to the game forgotten.

“While I was driving.”

“Like, the car was actually moving, with you behind the wheel?” Alex was trying to figure out how exactly that was possible.

“Oh, yeah, it was moving all over the place.” He gave them his cockiest grin.

“What road?” Michael took over the interrogation, determined not to lose.

“Main highway out of town.”

“In the middle of the desert? Sure, there’s a big thrill factor there. Next please.”

They all looked at Max. “Ah, well…”

“C’mon, Max, spill it. It’s not like Maria doesn’t know every intimate detail of your sex life already. What’s the harm?” Kyle still loved to harass Max even after all this time. He figured it kept the young king humble.

“Well, the eraser room.”

“You and Liz had sex in the eraser room?” Alex’s voice carried a bit further than he’d intended and a few heads turned in their direction.

“A little louder, Alex, I don’t think the people next door heard you.” Max hissed at him, embarrassed.

“I’m sorry, it’s just a strange thought. I mean, I walked by there dozens of times a day. You could have been doing it in there at any time. You two had actual sex, not just fooling around?”

“Alright, give us the details.” Michael was proud of Max, didn’t know he had it in him to have sex in a very public place where just about anyone could have walked in on them.

“Well, you know, it was the end of the year and finals were pretty stressful. So, we sort of had a quickie.” Max blushed even as a grin spread across his face, remembering how Liz had grabbed him by his shirt collar and had pulled him into the closet forcefully. That had been back when they had dedicated every minute to exploring each others bodies. And he’d also discovered quickly that Liz had a wicked streak in her.

“Oh my god, did you just say the word ‘quickie’? This is more than I can handle. Really, I’m all for male bonding, but this is wrong. I do not need to know that you and LIz had quickies in school closets.”

Miffed that Alex was ruining their fun, Michael turned his hard gaze onto Alex. “Your turn, Whitman. Where’s your story? Unless you can’t compete.”

“What, it’s not enough for you to corrupt Max, but you need fresh blood?”

“Yeah, it’s a hobby of ours, corrupting innocence wherever possible. Look, you got a story or not?”

“Yeah, I’ve got one. Disney Land.”

“Okay, so Alex doesn’t have a story. Based on our findings, I’d have to say-“

“I’m being serious. Breanna and I were at Disney Land last summer. We were up on that skyway thing. Breanna said something about it being romantic at night.” Alex just shrugged, not understanding. “Well, the thing broke down and we were up there like two hours or something. We got bored.”

Kyle’s jaw was hanging open. “You had sex in the skyway car? Above the park and all the people? And you never said anything to me about it?”

Alex grinned now. “What can I say? That was back when she found me irresistible.”

Michael folded his arms over his chest, knowing he’s lost. “Yeah, okay, so Alex wins. But mine was better than Max’s.”

“In your dreams. Liz and I have a far better sex life.”

“How often do you do it?”

“Do what?” Isabel walked through the door to the rental shop and the men immediately scattered apart. “What did I miss?” They were all facing different walls, examining the merchandise that hung closest to them.

“Nothing,” Max stuttered out. “What are you doing her?”

“You left your wallet in the Jeep. I thought you’d need it.” Isabel made sure she averted her gaze from Michael. Every time she looked at him, she saw him naked. It was enough to bring a bright red to her cheeks. She was seriously going to have to work on that.

“Thanks, Is.” Max took his wallet from her, his own cheeks flaming in embarrassment. He’d actually been arguing with Michael over who had the better sex life. Of course, he knew he and Liz could beat out Michael and Maria anyday.

“Okay, well, I’m out of here.” She moved away from the two men quickly, heading for Alex. “Hey, Alex. What time do you guys think you’ll be done here?”

“I don’t know, maybe an hour.” He knew he shouldn’t but he felt a surge of satisfaction knowing he’d beaten Max and Michael, and even Kyle in their little competition.

“Do you want to grab lunch with me? I want to try that new deli down the street.”

“Sure, I’ll just meet you there.” Alex noted that Mr. Parker and Mr. Evans had walked through the door and Max seemed to still be a bit uncomfortable. For no reason in particular, it made him grin.

“Good, well I’m out of here, boys. If I were picking out tuxedos, which I have been told that I’m not, I would go with the charcoal vest and tie. But it’s your choice.” She squeezed Max’s arm and kissed her father on the cheek as she passed, careful to sidestep Michael, and then she was gone.

Michael frowned as the saleswomen flocked over now to help them spend their money. “Anyone notice Isabel acting strange?”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. She won’t look at me today. Any ideas why?”

Mr. Evans clasped a hand on Michael’s shoulder. “Don’t even ask why. Just apologize. That’s twenty-five years of marriage talking there, boys. You might just want to write that down.”

Michael sighed, hoping it didn’t have anything to do with Maria’s dreams last night. But the nerves in his stomach told him it did. Now, he had to worry about what sort of depraved things Maria dreamed about him, as well as the threat of horrible events they were powerless to stop. And just when he’d gotten used to a bit of normal.










posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:37:19 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 18

Isabel sat inside the small deli, patiently waiting for Alex to join her. She had been forbidden from helping them pick out anything. And she had a feeling that stories of Liz’s shopping expedition had reached their ears. But just because she wasn’t allowed to be there today, didn’t mean that there was anything stopping her from going by yesterday to pick out what she thought would be the best color and style. Then she had casually mentioned it to Alex, knowing he’d pick up on her subtle hint. But to cover all of her bases, she had also written it down on a piece of paper and threatened Kyle to make sure they picked out her choice. She figured Kyle was still afraid enough of her that they would end up picking out the charcoal.

Content, she tapped her feet to the rhythm of the radio. She picked up her glass of iced tea for a sip and nearly swallowed her straw when someone bumped into her from behind. She whirled indignantly to face the stranger and found herself looking into the remorseful face of Alex’s father.

Isabel’s face lit up. “Mr. Whitman, this is a surprise.”

“Sorry about that, Isabel. I didn’t see you there. But this is a very lovely surprise indeed. What brings you down here?”

“Alex is tuxedo shopping with the boys today, but he’s meeting me for lunch.”

“Oh, then I’ll just move along. I don’t want to intrude.”

“No, stay. Have a seat. I’m just waiting. It could be another hour for all I know. Besides, I like having two handsome men escort me to lunch.”

Charles blushed a bit, but took the offered seat. Isabel Evans had become a permanent fixture in the Whitman household the summer before Alex’s Junior year of high school. It seemed to him that their friendship had cropped up overnight, but Charles couldn’t have been happier. She had brought grace and charm back to the old bachelor pad and he had secretly harbored the hope that his son would come to his senses and snatch up the young beauty. But children were too often stubborn and set in their ways of thinking. It was too bad Jenny wasn’t still here with them. She would have known exactly the right things to say and do that would have had them together years ago. Then Alex wouldn’t be suffering such heartache from that horrid girl. Something about her had rubbed him wrong from the start, but he had kept it to himself. Maybe he was just biased because thought Isabel was perfect for his son. But oh how Jenny would have loved Isabel. He smiled at the thought.

“Now, what were you thinking of that brought on the famous Whitman smile?” Isabel loved this man like her own father and could never resist bringing a blush to his cheeks. Like father, like son she supposed. Both were too easily flustered by women.

“I was just thinking of my wife.” His eyes turned wistful and Isabel smiled sadly at him. Isabel had learned how to become a listener over the years. “We were so desperately in love. I knew the day I met her that we were meant to be together.”

“You still miss her. You both do. Alex doesn’t talk about her much, but when he does, he gets the same look in his eyes that you have now.”

“He doesn’t really remember her, and it’s a shame. He was so young when she died, he never understood that when she got sick, she wouldn’t recover. You know, I remember, a few months before she died, there was one day in particular when she was sicker than I’d ever seen her. She was too weak to move, much less get out of bed for Alex’s birthday. I think it was his eighth. But we didn’t have much money after all the hospital bills, but Jenny insisted that we buy him toys. She had trouble breathing that day, and we had to rush her back to the hospital that afternoon. We spent Alex’s birthday waiting for news on her condition and a nurse took him to the children’s ward to have something to do. I’ll always remember the way he came back to me and asked when the little kids would get better so they could go home. I had to tell him that they were terminal patients, that none of them would ever get better and some of them would never get to go home again. They sent us home after that, having put Jenny to sleep for the night, and Alex was quiet the whole time. When we got home, he asked me if I thought his mom would mind if he gave all his birthday presents to the sick kids to play with. He was always doing things like that. Is he still volunteering at the children’s ward of the hospital?”

Isabel smiled through the pain that threatened to break her heart. “Every chance he gets.” Though, now she understood why it was so important to him.

Charles nodded, expecting as much. “He doesn’t like to talk about it, but watching his mother die was the hardest thing he ever had to do. I’m only telling you these things, Isabel, because I know that you know him better than anyone in the world, even myself these days. And I know you’ll love him no matter what. He’s a better person with you in his life and I just wanted you to know that. Now, tell me, is he still pining over that wretch of a girl?”

Isabel wiped at a tear that threatened to fall and offered Charles a smile. “I actually prefer the term ‘She Devil from the Fifth Dimension of Hell’.”

Charles rewarded her with a boisterous laugh, covering her small hand with his own. “Jenny would have loved you.”

“Thank you, Mr. Whitman.”

“How many times have I told you to call me Charles?”

“How many times have I told you I know the perfect girl for you?” She countered.

Charles grimaced. “My heart is old and it’s only ever belonged to one girl. I think I’d like to keep it that way.”

“Suit yourself. But if you change your mind, I know a red head that’s just your type.”

Charles wagged his eyebrows at her comically. “A redhead, huh? Well, why didn’t you say so?”

Alex stood frozen in the doorway he had inhabited for the last few minutes. He’d seen his dad with Isabel and had been a bit surprised. He’d listened to their usual banter and as his dad said something in a whispered tone, Isabel threw her head back and laughed. A bolt of white hot lust shocked Alex’s body immobile. For a second, the long, slender column of her throat was exposed, and he wondered if his lips would fit perfectly at the hollow of her throat. She would sigh, he imagined, and as he nibbled his way up her neck, her lips would be waiting for his to fuse against.

In a desperate attempt to clear his obviously brain damaged head, he took several deep breaths. This had to stop. Here he was fantasizing about his best friend in the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of a crowded restaurant, sitting at a table with his father. What the hell was wrong with him? If he kept this up, she’d see through his carefully constructed mask and she wouldn’t want anything to do with him anymore. She had enough men drooling over her in a day. She didn’t need another one in the form of her best friend.

Charles noticed movement from the corner of his eye, and he noticed that his son was transfixed in the doorway. And he only had eyes for the lovely Isabel. Charles’ face lit up. Sure, his son had always had a crush on her, but this look was different. There were dozens of emotions swirling in his son’s eyes and he recognized most of them. It looked as though Alex may finally have come to his senses. He cleared his throat and turned his full attention to Alex.

Isabel noticed that Charles’ attention had been diverted and she swiveled to find Alex staring at her. She wanted to offer him a smile, but found her heart lodged in her throat as he pinned her with his stare. She could almost swear there was a longing in his gaze, a yearning for more that she felt with every cell in her body. But then it was gone as quickly as it appeared and he was moving towards their table.

Charles clapped him on the back as he sat down, watching with amusement as he was careful to avert his eyes from Isabel. “I hear you’ve been shopping. Any luck?”

Reaching for his father’s water glass, Alex gulped down the cool liquid. He had to cool off his body before it betrayed his feelings. “Yeah, we chose a very lovely charcoal gray color.” Alex turned an amused look at Isabel. He could do this, had known the drill for years now. Push the feelings to the back of your mind and crack a joke. It worked every time. “For some reason, Kyle was very adamant about the charcoal color. He refused to try on any others. Strange, huh, Isabel?”

Her own system overloading from something as simple as him walking into the room, Isabel pushed her unrequited feelings away. This was Alex, her best friend, nothing more. She forced her lips into a smile. “I wouldn’t know anything about that. I wasn’t allowed an opinion on the tuxedos.”

Charles watched the interchange with a grin. “Well, I’ll leave you two kids to your lunch. Isabel, as always, a pleasure to see you.”

Confused, she watched Charles place a kiss on her hand. “You’re leaving? I thought you were here to have lunch.”

“I just remembered that I had plans this afternoon. You two enjoy and I’ll see you at the BBQ at Phillip and Diane’s house Saturday. It was good to see you, Alex. Come by the house sometime and visit your old dad. Isabel, I just might take you up on the red head sometime.” He winked at her before vanishing out the door, a skip in his step.

“Weird. He almost seemed excited for some reason. Are you trying to fix up my dad?”

“Trying to. He still won’t let me.”

“Can’t say I blame him. Who wants to go out on a blind date anyway?”

Isabel grimaced. “Actually, I sort of needed to talk to you about that. I’m still not sure how or why, but I think I agreed to let Maria set us up on a double blind date.”

“She used her superior Maria logic on you? There’s no way to escape that trap once she’s got you. Entire nations have fallen and world leaders have crumbled at her feet from sheer confusion. So, what did she say when you told her no?”

“That’s the thing. I sort of told her I’d get back to her with a date.”

“What?” Alex exploded. “Isabel, I’m not going out on a ate with one of Maria’s looney friends. Didn’t you meet her friend the arsonist at the club last month? And I don’t even want to talk about the contortionist whose family worked for the circus.”

“Rita wasn’t all that bad. Okay, maybe she was a little flaky, but I couldn’t say no to her. I tried. Really, I did. But face it, we’re both single with attached friends. We’re fair game to them. Maybe if we do this, they’ll leave us alone for awhile.”

“What about Tess? She’s single?” Alex pouted, hating the idea.

“No good. She’s still way hung up on Kyle. They’re taking pity on her. Plus, Maria already set her up a few months ago. So, it’s our turn.”

“Look, if I know Maria, she’ll let this whole thing blow over in a few days. We just have to avoid her until then.”

“I don’t think it’s going to be that easy, but we’ll try it your way. Oh, I can get Saturday night off. Did you want to go ahead and go out to the research lab after Mom and Dad’s picnic?”

Alex thought about how late it would be before they got out to the lab, looked around and drove back. They’d probably have to stay out there the night, and that was definitely a temptation he wanted to avoid at all costs. “No, I have to work at the club anyway. We’ll just head out Sunday like we planned.”

“Well, if we’re not going, I may just work then.”

“Oh, is everything okay with you and Michael? He said you were acting funny.”

Isabel blushed a deep crimson. “Um, no, everything’s fine.” Nothing some memory repression techniques wouldn’t take care of. She just needed to get started on that soon before he asked her point blank about it.




posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:37:57 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 19

Diane Evans sighed as she watched her kids interact. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and everyone had gathered to celebrate the announcement of her baby’s engagement. She had insisted on making it a casual family BBQ,, and had invited the Parkers, Amy Deluca, Jim Valenti, and even Charles Whitman. She considered them all a part of her extended family, though they didn’t know it. But these wonderful people had helped make her children who they were.

She had secretly called all eight of the children hers after that horrible day when she and Phillip had woken up from the same dream and jumped into their car without questioning what they had been told. They had walked into that cave and the battle weary look in the poor children’s eyes were enough to make her heart break. Their clothes had been torn, their skin bruised and bleeding. But worst of all had bee their eyes, hooded and guarded, unable to trust. And when she’d seen Liz’s broken body lying in her son’s lap, tear tracks running down Max’s face, Diane had thought she had lost her son too. Even then, she knew that Max wouldn’t be anything more than a shell without Liz. Diane thought back to how in love the two had always seemed to be after that. The pair had been inseparable, a single entity, ever since.

Phillip came up behind his wife and planted a kiss on her head. Even after almost thirty years of marriage, he still loved this woman with his whole heart, and could read her mind like a book. He’d watched her from the doorway of the two story deck she had insisted he build and had known she was reminiscing. “What’re you smiling about?”

“Oh, just remembering. Actually, I was thinking about the time we walked in on Max and Liz necking on the couch.”

Phillip chuckled at the memory. “Yeah, I can still see the looks on their faces.”

“But Max just sat there, holding her hand and told us he was sorry for getting carried away, but he loved her and they belonged together. That was the day I knew he wasn’t our little boy anymore.”

Phillip hugged his wife closer. He’d known this would be coming. Maybe he would have to give her that surprise he had for her earlier than he’d expected. “He’ll always be our little boy, even when he’s all grown up and bringing peace to every planet in the solar system.” Phillip couldn’t have been prouder of his children. It may have taken him a bit of time to get used to the idea of his children being rulers of a far off planet, but all the qualities of a strong ruler were there in his son. And with Liz by his side, and Isabel to always be there to lend support, there would be no stopping them when the time came. He just selfishly hoped that it was many, many years from now.

Diane smiled. “You’re making me all weepy. Help me carry these glasses down to the others.”

Maria half dozed on the lounge chair as she watched the others around her. The Evans seemed to be having a private moment on the second floor of their brand new deck. She had to admit that Mr. Evans did good work. No doubt, they were upset about losing Max to Liz. Her gaze traveled over to The Parkers, who had pulled Max and Liz aside and were probably giving them advice on how to have a happy marriage. Maria rolled her eyes. As if they would ever need any help.

Mr. Whitman popped his head through the open fence gate and called out a general hello. Kyle and Tess waved to him from the grill where Jim was teaching them the finer points of grilling the perfect hamburger. She knew all about that, having been given the pointers herself months ago. Alex and Isabel had been keeping their distance from Maria all afternoon so far, and she couldn’t help but smile at the thought. They were thinking that if they could keep away from her, she wouldn’t have a chance to fix them up on a blind date. Maria sighed. If only they knew that all she had really done was push them another step closer together. When would they ever learn not to try and outsmart her?

Alex took hold of Isabel’s hand and pulled her toward his father. Unable to resist herself, Maria called out to the soon-to-be couple.

“Oh, Alex, Isabel, I had a quick question for you. Michael and I have decided to start doing more group activities, and we were thinking of picking one night a week and making it a couple night. You know, get together and play games and such.”

“Games?” Isabel swallowed hard, her mind inadvertently wandering back to dark, scary places it should never go.

Maria flashed her an angelic grin. She had decided not to be angry about the secret dreamwalking, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t have a little fun. “Yeah, like board games and such. We are such big fans of board games,” she gushed enthusiastically. Her voice held just the right amount of excitement. Alex might know her better, but she had Isabel right where she wanted her. You couldn’t just go traipsing around in people’s minds, no matter what the reason. It was a lesson, she was sure Isabel wouldn’t soon forget.

“You’d never know that by looking at us, but we are. But it’s just more fun with a group of people. What do you guys say? Are you free Tuesday night? We were thinking of setting up a Scrabble game.” Maria could only snicker as Isabel’s face turned a bright shade of red and took off towards the house, muttering her apologies.

Alex looked at Maria funny. “What did you just do? You and Michael have never played a board game in your whole lives together.” She was up to something alright, and he had a feeling it had something to do with why Isabel was avoiding Michael.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Why don’t you ask Isabel about why she gets nervous playing Scrabble? Maybe it’s a Czech thing.”

“Right. I’ll just let that go for now. But I’m on to you, Deluca.” Hurriedly, he chased after Isabel.

Without warning, Amy Deluca crouched at her side. “Hey, baby. How are you doing? We haven’t had a second to talk all afternoon.”

Maria rolled her eyes. “That’s what happens when you’re attached at the lips to Jim Valenti.”

Amy ruffled her daughter’s hair, taking no offense to her words. “Hey, I wanted to thank you and Michael again for helping out last weekend with that convention. I couldn’t have done it without you two. So, I thought I’d take you both out to dinner sometime this week. What do you say?”

Maria pulled the sunglasses down her nose to examine her mother closely. “Who are you and what have you done to my mother?”

Amy laughed, then followed her daughter’s gaze to where Michael was standing next to Max and Liz. Michael seemed as though he was desperately trying to have a conversation with Max, but Max’s eyes kept drifting back to Liz. The two Deluca women could practically see the steam coming off Michael.

As she watched the young couple, Amy sighed in envy. She barely remembered being that young, but she was pretty sure no one had ever looked at her the way Max looked at Liz. With that thought burning in her head, she felt the hair stand up on the back of her neck. She turned her head and caught Jim staring at her. She watched in amazement as he blushed and quickly turned back to his grill. He swore and set about trying to save his burgers. Maybe there were some things you waited your whole life for. Amy turned her attention back to her daughter. “So, how did their parents take the news?”

“Well, the Evans were crazy excited. But I think they know Liz better than the Parkers know Max. They sort of adopted her a few years ago. Mrs. Evans started getting all weepy and making plans. The Parkers took it well. I mean, you date someone that long, you kind of expect it to happen sooner or later. But Liz said there was something a bit off in their reaction.” Maria shrugged. “Who knows why parents do what they do?” Movement caught her eyes and she watched the Evans balancing large trays of tea glasses to carry down the wooden stairs.

Maria started to get up to help them when a fierce pain slammed into her head. She covered her ears as a loud ringing threatened to deafen her. But the visions that filled her brain were flashing too quick for her to do anything but fall back in pain. It was traveling through her veins now, pumping through her body like blood, making her nerve endings scream from the violation.

Distantly, she heard voices shouting, but she found that her body was frozen, unable to move. She felt a hand on her forehead. Were they trying to open her eyes? She thought she saw Michael’s face behind the images, but she couldn’y be sure. Her head felt like it was swollen, her brain swelling to full capacity inside her skull. Along with the pain came the sudden, alarming knowledge that something was trying to push it’s way into her mind. Not knowing how she knew or why, she knew she had to resist it or it would overtake her.

She allowed her newfound powers to gather, hoping to form a connection with Michael. Maybe he could lend his strength to her, or at very least prevent her from detonating something. Her hands began to shake violently and as they did, so did the very ground beneath her feet. What was happening? The force seemed to be pushing impossibly hard, but her will had to be stronger. She felt the hand on her forehead increase in pressure, trying to break the alien grip on her mind, but it did no good. She would have to force it out on her own. With every bit of strength she had in her, she pushed with a mighty shove, demanding that her mind be her own again.

The ground shook with one last , violent shudder before her hearing began to clear. She could hear screaming now, followed by the breaking of glass. The visions began to recede, the horrible ringing all but gone. And as it slipped back into nothing, she found she could open her eyes. Somehow, she had beaten back whatever evil had tried to invade her mind, and while she felt a surge of triumph, she knew it was a prelude to darker things.

The ground had stopped shaking but the party’s inhabitants had been left lying on various parts of the lawn. Suddenly, Michael’s beautiful face filled her vision. His brows were creased together, and she knew he was worried about her.

“Thank god, Maria, are you okay? Can you hear me?”

Dumbly, she nodded, still not sure what had happened. It had all happened so fast, she had been left dizzy and disoriented. It felt like that time Alex and Liz had made her ride that roller coaster and she had been sick for hours afterwards. Michael pulled her tight against him as he stroked her head. Slowly, she became aware of her surroundings, her shock subsiding. Max was sitting on the floor, hugging Liz to him as though his life depended on it. Was Liz hurt? Before she could process the thought, or look for the others, she heard Isabel’s long scream.

They scrambled to the base of the wooden staircase as quickly as Michael could manage to drag her over to check on the others. They found Isabel and Mr. Evans crouching over Mrs. Evans. Her own experience forgotten, Maria tried to access the damage. Isabel was crying and Maria’s own mother was ordering everyone back. She turned to Jim and ordered him to call an ambulance. Maria struggled through the fog in her brain. Had she fallen down the stairs? The last time she had seen them, they had been carrying those trays down the steps. But nothing looked broken. What was wrong?

Then she saw it. A large shard of broken glass was protruding from Diane’s neck. Dark red had stained her clothes already and Maria could see the pool of blood deepening every second she stood there.

“For, gods sake, Jim, call an ambulance!” Amy had moved to Diane’s head to hold it as still as she could. She turned her attention to Diane. “You have to stop moving for me, honey. You’re going to be fine.”

Phillip and Isabel locked eyes above Diane’s pale body. Blood had stained them red already and Max was frantically trying to reach his mother, Liz trailing slowly behind.

“Max,” Isabel sobbed out. Max met her eyes, then the eyes of his mother. She was struggling for every breath now. His mother was dying. An ambulance wouldn’t be able to save her. It was up to him.




posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:40:10 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 20

Phillip met his son’s eyes and saw the inner struggle. To save her would mean exposing them all, but to do nothing would mean her death.

Max saw the pain in his father’s eyes, and didn’t know what to do. His mother had made him promise to never do anything for her sake that would expose them or put them in danger. But surely she hadn’t meant this?

Isabel placed a hand on Max’s arm and begged again. “Max, please.” She didn’t care about any promises. All she cared about was her mother.

Max looked down at his arm and found a bloody handprint from his sister’s grasp. His mother’s blood. She was dying. Promise be damned, he swung into action, cursing himself for even hesitating for a second, and pulling Isabel out of his way. Amy looked at him as though he were crazy, but he ignored her, placing a hand over his mother’s neck to access the damage. It took him only a few seconds before he broke contact and met Liz’s terrified eyes.

“There’s internal damage as well as the artery. She’s lost too much blood for me to fix alone. Are you up to helping me?”

Liz nodded and moved to Phillip’s place. They had discovered that Liz was the only other one with any sort of healing powers. Not even after Michael had been able to heal Maria, had he been able to anything else after that. So, despite the pain in her head, she forced herself to focus on Diane’s energy. She took Diane’s hand in hers and joined her other hand with Max’s over Diane’s neck.

Max turned to Jim. Someone was going to have to take care of Amy. “Sheriff?”

Jim nodded and stood behind Amy, firmly pulling her away from Diane. Amy kicked and screamed, but Jim held her firm. No matter how many times he saw Max do this, it never ceased to amaze him.

Max was oblivious to everyone but Liz and his mother now. It had to be that way if this was going to work. “I’m going to have to pull out the glass. It’s going to get bad fast. Are you ready?”

Again, Liz could only nod. What happened if she couldn’t do this? There was so much riding on her often inept abilities that it frightened her.

Grimly, Max reached down and pulled the jagged shard from his mother’s neck. The cut artery began pumping furiously, coating Max’s hands even as it spilled onto the ground. Amy was screaming at them, but Max closed her off. All of his concentration had to be on his mother.

Amy went lax in Jim’s arms as she sobbed. Her friend was dying and there was nothing she could do to stop it. Isabel clung to her father, both of them praying softly as they cried together. Michael held Maria close, hoping Max and Liz could do this, and letting the jealousy that he could not help course through his body. He had been unable to heal anything after he had healed Maria that one time. They had figured that the act had been more him claiming Maria, marking her as his own, and beginning her cellular changes, than anything else. It was just one more thing about themselves they didn’t understand.

The Parkers stood by with wide eyes as they struggled to take in the events unfolding around them. Something odd was happening, and they didn’t know how to explain it. Charles Whitman also stood in shock, unable to say anything. He’d never seen so much blood, he wondered what they were trying to do to help. Kyle, Tess, and Alex stood by, hoping they could save Diane, but wondering what consequences it would bring.

Amy continued to watch, her eyes glued to the trio on the ground, but her face contained a wondrous fascination now. A light had formed between Max and Liz’s joined hands and the flow of blood seemed to have slowed, or had it stopped altogether? It was almost impossible to be sure. They were all slick with the horrible substance.

Max struggled to heal the tears in his mother’s skin. She had suffered internal damage from the fall and Liz had been working on those injuries. With the blood flow stopped, and the artery repaired, he had been working on urging along the production of blood to replenish what she had lost. He checked and rechecked the blood pathways until he was satisfied there were no blockages. He felt Liz’s energy pulling back and he joined her without hesitation, breaking the connection together.

Isabel watched as the glowing faded and Max and Liz pulled back with a deep breath. Diane’s eyes fluttered open and she struggled to sit up. Isabel threw herself into her arms, sobbing. Phillip moved to sit behind his wife, rocking both women gently.

Jim let go of Amy and she stumbled forward in disbelief. She wasn’t bleeding. There wasn’t even a hole or cut. She was fine. But how? She turned her attention to Max. “What the hell just happened? I saw…she was…”

Max looked around him for the first time. Most of the group understood what had just happened, but four very important sets of eyes looked on in bewilderment and in fear. Max turned to Michael, needing his strength for the moment.

Michael nodded, proud to have been given control of the situation for the moment. Max looked too weak to do much of anything and Liz looked as though she were going to pass out any minute. The physical toll their bodies had just gone through were too much. It was up to him to get everyone organized. “Alright, people. Questions will be answered, but inside. I think we may need some hard liquor for this explanation.”



posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:40:48 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 21

After everyone was comfortably seated and Diane had been wrapped in a blanket with a glass of juice refusing to be taken to a doctor or be shuffled off to bed, Max took control of the meeting with hesitation. How did you begin a conversation like this? Telling Liz had been the hardest thing he’d ever had to do, but at least he’d had faith in her. He’d known somehow that she would understand and could be counted on not to betray his trust. Did he have that level of confidence for the people in this room? Unfortunately, no.

“What are you?” Amy asked coldly, not willing to wait for them to find a way to start this.

Liz took Max’s hand, knowing he would need the support. Maria let out a quiet gasp at her mother’s harsh words, her own hand seeking out Michael’s as well.

“I know you’re not normal. Are you?” The group remained quiet, and Amy’s temper exploded. “Tell me something, damn it!”

Max nodded, facing the his fate. “No, I’m not normal.” He sighed, weary beyond his years. “I’m not…from here.”

“What are you talking about, Max?”

Max turned to face a distraught Nancy Parker. She had a right to know what her daughter was marrying.

“I’m not…human, Mrs. Parker. Well, not completely anyway. I was part of the 1947 crash, safe in an incubation tube, a pod. I woke up only knowing that I was different, special. And that I could never tell anyone.”

“Wait, wait a minute. Are you trying to tell me you’re an alien?” Amy’s voice held the scorn Max had feared his whole life.

“I thought Diane and Phillip found you and Isabel together.” Charles was confused. When had they stepped into the Twilight Zone and talking about aliens as though they actually existed? Aliens were the horrible creatures from movies that came to conquer, to brainwash and to kill. They were made up to sell more merchandise and movie deals. They weren’t real.

“Yes, what I’m saying is that I’m from another planet.” He chose to answer Amy’s question, not wanting to expose the others. Their secrets were their own. To his surprise, he felt Isabel’s hand on his shoulder. And he knew she wouldn’t leave him alone in this. When you mess with one Evans family member, you mess with them all.

Isabel turned to address Mr. Whitman. This man was one of the most important in her life. He had single-handedly raised Alex, and his opinion of her mattered more than she cared to admit. “Yes, Mom and Dad found Max and I in the desert after we had been released from the pods. Max and I are from another planet, a planet we don’t remember. We woke up in human form, knowing we had gifts that would protect us.” Her tearful eyes implored for them to understand. “We grew up never knowing where we belonged, who we really were.”

Amy studied the trio on the couch and her heart wanted to stir at the story, but she wouldn’t allow it yet. There was much more they weren’t telling them she was sure. “That’s all? Just the two of you then?”

The room was uncomfortably quiet. Finally, Michael spoke up. “No, Amy. They’re not the only ones.” Michael paused as he let that sink in. He knew Amy could be a ticking time-bomb especially when it came to Maria, and he knew this wasn’t going to end well. Though, he could hardly blame her.

Amy felt her temper snarl into a living creature. Her baby was consorting with this…words even failed her. “You’re telling me that you’re…you’re one of them? That my daughter is sleeping with an alien? Doing god only knows what with…with…” She couldn’t even finish the thought. Her Maria had been involved in this mess for years now. And god only knew what sort of risks she’d been exposed to, how much danger she’d been in. All because of some no good punk that wasn’t even of this world. Her daughter deserved happiness, a normal love that could be returned. Not the freak show this had become. She whipped her gaze fast and furious to Michael. “Who else? How many of your kind are here?” She didn’t doubt what she was hearing. She’d seen with her own eyes that they were capable of non-human acts. But to what end?

“I’m the last.” Tess’s voice was barely a whisper. How could they hope to salvage this now? She’d never seen anyone as angry as Mrs. Deluca was.

“So then, all of you come here, pretend to be normal, and expose us to all sorts of horrible things.”

“Now wait a minute, Amy.” Diane found her voice, despite her weakness. “You’re not being fair to them. Just listen to what they have to say. They’ve all been through so much.”

“And my daughter was a part of it. How many times was her life in danger? And the others? Liz, Kyle, Alex, Jim? She was living with them for all that time!”

“Now, Amy, calm down a minute. Things aren’t as bad as you’re making them out to be.”

Amy turned her cold, surprised eyes on Jim now. “You knew about this, didn’t you?” She felt like a fool now. They had all known, had probably laughed about how easy it was to fool the simple minded parents.

Jim knew he was trapped. “Yes.” Just answer the questions with a simple yes or no. Don’t elaborate. Don’t show fear.

“You, a law enforcement officer, knew about aliens running amok in our town and you didn’t do anything about it?”

Tired, Jim faced the woman he was learning to love. She was hurt and scared. He had to remember that. “What was I supposed to do, Amy? Lock them away? Turn four innocent teens into the FBI for government testing so they could pick them apart to see if they feel pain the same way humans do?”

“He hasn’t always known, Mom. A lot happened that led up to where we are today.”

“I’ll deal with you later.” Amy dismissed her daughter, not ready to think about what they had done to her baby.

“What did Max do to Diane?” Jeff Parker spoke up, wanting to diffuse the situation, looking for something firm to hold on to.

“I have the ability to heal. That’s how Liz discovered our secret. She was the first to know. Before her, we only trusted each other. But then she was shot-“

“You really were shot?” Nancy sat forward in her seat, wanting to go to her daughter, but afraid.

Liz nodded. “Yes. But Max healed me. He dissolved the bullet and fixed the damage it had caused. He risked everything they were, everything they had just to save me.” Liz continued, thinking there was a better chance they would listen to her. “I confronted Max, and when he told me the truth, I didn’t believe him either. Maria knew I was lying to her about the shooting and the Sheriff was on our backs. She threatened to go to him with everything she knew if I wasn’t honest with her. So, I was and believe me she freaked out too. We lied to Alex a few months longer until he threatened to go the Sheriff too. Kyle was accidentally shot and Jim begged Max to save him. He’d been hunting us down up until then. Tess came along later. She had been raised by their guardian. Yes, they have enemies, and yes there have been dangerous times, but we’ve chosen to be where we are and who we’re with.”

The room was silent, broken only by Jeff Parker. “Why did Max ask for your help when he was…fixing Diane?” He’d never feared the truth more in his life.



posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:41:40 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 22

Liz paused. This was going to be hard to explain. “Daddy, I’ve changed. When Max saved my life, we formed a mental connection, a bond. I saw into his memories, his soul and he saw into mine. As time passed, we fell in love and every action we took strengthened that bond. When Max healed me, he sort of evolved my brain, activated parts of it that lets me use their powers. Nobody else can heal anything more than superficial cuts, but I seem to have the same abilities as Max. I know you’re hurt and confused, but I love Max. They might be different than us, but they’re not bad. They have the same problems we do, and in many ways far more. I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done because I love where I am. The people in this room are the people I love the most. And I would do anything to protect them, just like they would do anything to protect me.”

“That’s a nice story, Liz. But what the hell was all that about outside? You and Liz fell to the floor at the exact same second, just a minute before we had an earthquake.”

Liz and Maria met eyes in shock. They had both felt that pain at the same time? Liz stuttered. “I…I don’t know.”

“Okay, so tell us something you do know. You said you were ‘changed’ by Max. What about Maria, Alex and Kyle?”

Alex spoke up, hoping knowing he was only going to make things worse. “Actually, I’m the only one not changed.”

Amy’s eyes flew back to Michael. “What the hell did you do to my daughter? She’s not even human now? How dare you do that to her? Do you even know the damage you’ve done to her? How you’ve ruined her life?”

“Mom,” Maria tried pleading with her.

“No, you stay quiet. I’m still not ready to deal with you yet.”

“Amy, that’s not fair. Just listen to her.”

“Don’t you tell me how to raise my daughter. If you want to raise some kind of a freak for a son, that’s your business.”

Phillip stood up. “I think this discussion is over for tonight.” He wouldn’t stand by and let anyone bad mouth his children.

“Fine.” Amy stood up to gather her things.

“Mrs. Deluca, please wait.” Liz stood with her. They had to get through to her for now. “Please understand how serious this is. If anyone says the wrong thing to the wrong people, we’ll end up test subjects in a lab for the rest of our lives. Max has already been taken once and I promise you that you cannot begin to imagine the horrors he had to endure.” She linked hands with Max, who stood beside her now. She hated even bringing up those times, but it was necessary.

Never again, she promised him. I’ll die before I let anything happen to you.

“But this time things would be worse. There are hundreds of tests that can be done to the human body without causing death. They can remove patches of skin to see how long it takes to regrow. Maybe test pain receptors while they’re at it. They can make incisions to examine muscle structure, maybe even brain functions. And with four real live aliens, why not autopsy one to see how it lives?” Liz knew she was being harsh, but she needed them to understand. “And don’t forget, if you turn in the aliens, the human/alien freaks would be even more valuable. All eight of us would be taken away in broad daylight and you’d never see us again. So, please think before you act. I know you’re all confused and scared and angry. But our lives are in your hands now.”

Amy continued to stand in the center of the living room, her face unreadable. Without another word, she turned and left the house.

Alex turned to his father. “Dad,” he began.

Charles held up a hand. “Alex, I don’t know what to say right now. It’s a lot to digest. Give me some time, a few days.”

Alex nodded. He’s never seen his father so distraught before. Maybe a few days would be good. He watched as his father left slowly, his heart breaking more with every step.

Liz turned to her parents, tears shining in her eyes. This was the hardest thing she would ever have to do. “Mom? Dad?”

Nancy sighed. “Liz, I don’t know what to say either. This isn’t just the kind of thing you just accept easily.”

“Mom, we’re the same people we were yesterday.”

“But you’re not the same little girl that used to tell her parents everything either. You’ve changed, Lizzie. And I don’t know how to feel about that.”

Liz turned to her father. “Daddy?”

Jeff shook his head. “Liz, your mother and I need to talk.” She had always been able to bend him to her will with sad eyes. But this was too serious to be dismissed lightly.

“Okay, you two talk, and I’ll come by tomorrow after lunch and we’ll talk together.” She wasn’t willing to let them leave that easily. She would force them to hear her out and she would make them understand.

Her parents exchanged a look. “I don’t know.”

“Please. Look, I’ll come alone, just me. At least give me a chance.”

Jeff nodded reluctantly. “Alright. But just you.”

Liz heaved a sigh of relief. “Thank you.”

Awkwardly, Nancy turned to Diane. “Diane, I really am glad you’re okay. I don’t understand it, but I’m glad.”

Diane smiled weakly, sorrow in her heart. “We raised good kids, strong and smart and loving. Believe me, I know it’s hard, but sometimes you have to trust they know what they’re doing.”

Nancy nodded and fled the room, not wanting anyone to witness her impending breakdown. Without another word, Jeff followed behind her.



posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:42:07 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 23

When all the parents were gone, the group fell back onto the couch in silence. What could be said now?

One minute of silence rolled into two, which stretched into five. Finally, Kyle couldn’t take it anymore.

“Well, that could have gone better.”

“They had a real scare today. They just need some time to think.” Jim didn’t know which pair was more distraught. Michael was clinging to Maria as though she were going to fall apart any second, her eyes firmly fixed down. Alex was still locked in Isabel’s embrace. Max was trying to soothe Liz, but it didn’t look as though anything he tried was going to work. Only Kyle and Tess remained unaffected by this.

Maria had yet to raise her eyes from her lap. “Guys, I’m sorry about my mom.”

Liz was quick to reassure her friend. “You don’t have anything to be sorry for. She’ll come around. She always does.”

“Yeah, but there was no excuse for the things she said.”

Diane shrugged the blanket off her shoulders and brushed past hr family, who tried to push her back on the couch. She crossed the room to sit beside Maria, pulling the younger girl into her arms and rocking her. Maria was a dam ready to break. Her own mother’s words had cut her deep.

Max let his mother comfort Maria for a few minutes before breaking the silence. “Guys, I hate to do this now, but we need to talk about what happened out there.”

Liz sighed. “Do you want to start, Maria?”

Maria sniffled from the protective circle of Diane’s arms. “Okay. I was talking to Mom outside when I got this sharp pain in my head. My ears started ringing and I couldn’t hear anything. Then I started seeing things. I don’t really know what I was seeing, but it hurt. And I think, now I could be crazy, but I think something was trying to take over my brain. God, that sounds like the plot to a bad B-movie.”

“That’s it?” Isabel had been hoping for more. Both of the girls had dropped at the same time and they had been unable to do anything to help them. Max had tried connecting with Liz but hadn’t been able to break through.

Maria sat up a bit. “I sort of got the impression that it was a single person we were seeing images of, or seeing through his eyes rather.”

Liz closed her eyes, trying to see some of the images again. She remembered feeling a thrill, excitement, but why? “I think…yes! I remember! They were traveling. They felt this rush of adrenalin, like on a roller coaster.”

“Oh, yeah! Then there was this bump, something jarring. Then nervous energy again.” Maria found that it was easier to focus on the strange images than of her mother’s face.

Max and Michael exchanged a look, neither one liking this.

“Max, it sounds like a crash landing.” Tess spoke up softly, afraid of what this meant. “Nasedo told me stories about how exciting space travel was. He always hated being stuck here.”

“Wait, there’s no reason to jump to conclusions. It doesn’t mean spaceships are landing.”

“Think about it, Isabel. This makes sense.” Liz was getting excited, the day’s earlier traumas slipping away as the pieces fell into place. “It feels right. I really think that’s what I saw.”

“Beware the friendly face. It is not your friend.” Maria mumbled softly.

“Let’s not jump to conclusions, kids.” Phillip stood up and started straightening up the living room. He couldn’t sit still any longer. How could they all calmly discuss enemies coming for them?

“What was that, Maria?” Jim was intrigued. He’d known this group too long for them to be able to hide secrets from him.

“Liz and I have been having these nightmares. At the end, there’s a warning someone whispers. ‘Beware the friendly face. It is not your friend.’”

“Okay, let’s recap.” Alex started ticking off items on his fingers. “First, Maria and Liz share the same nightmare where someone possibly dies. Then they get the same warning about a friendly face betraying them. Now, they both are seized by flashes, in the middle of the day, while not doing or touching anything abnormal. We have like 6.0 earthquake caused by something alien, either by you two or an unknown person crash landing on Earth. And now we think the visions you both saw were of space travel, which ended at the same time the ground shook and Maria says it felt like someone was trying to take over her brain. I think I can safely say we have serious trouble here.”

“Do you think the crash was what shook the ground?” Liz turned to Max for an answer.

“I don’t know. Maybe. It does make sense.”

“Great. So, now we have another enemy walking around Roswell, waiting to kill us.” Michael stood to help Phillip straighten up the room.

“Alright, so we go back on alert mode. Anyone new in town is a possible enemy. No one goes anywhere alone, ever. Jim, can you keep an eye out, see if anyone new pops up in town?”

“Yeah, I can put out the word. Quietly.” He added.

“If anything like this happens again, we call a meeting. And we need to get this straightened out with the parents. They’re in danger now too.”

They all nodded their agreement.

“I’ll try to talk to Mom tomorrow.”

“Are you sure it’s a good idea to do it so soon, Maria?” Liz knew how badly her mom had hurt her best friend.

“Yeah, I know Mom. She needs to cool off tonight, but the longer I let her stew, the more vivid her imagination gets.”

“I’ll try to approach Dad tomorrow too. It can’t hurt.” Alex shrugged, though the look in his father’s eyes had hurt him more than he’d let on.

“Okay, we have a plan then. But let’s be careful.”




posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:42:39 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 24

Jenna Robertson zoomed down the long stretch of New Mexico road. She loved this drive and tried to make it once a month to see her old college roommate. After graduation, Jenna had moved further west to get her masters degree, but Chrissy had decided to move back to Roswell where her family was.

Jenna smiled as she thought about her friend. She’d been born with flaming red hair that Jenna had envied for years. Added to it were long legs and a curvy figure, and Chrissy had always gotten any man she wanted. Just a few days ago, she had called, asking her to visit and meet her newest conquest. Jenna had agreed though it was more to see Chrissy than the newest flame. What was his name again? Kevin? Carl? Kyle? Yes, that was it. She was sure Chrissy already had him wrapped around her finger. But none of them lasted.

She sang along with the radio, happily. She was so distracted, she almost missed the large billows of smoke coming from the side of the road. Curious, and afraid someone might be hurt, she slowed her car and pulled onto the side of the road. She stepped outside of her car and took a few steps into the desert. About a hundred yards out, a twisted mass of metal was burning and smoking.

“Hello? Is anyone out here? Are you hurt?” Her eyes darted across the landscape, finally falling on a figure lying unmoving in the sand. She ran forward, kneeling before the figure once she reached it. “Oh, god, are you okay?” He was lying on his stomach and wasn’t wearing any clothes. A dozen reasons ran through her head to explain it, but she wouldn’t judge. This man needed help. “I’m just going to roll you over now and see if you’re hurt.” His skin was a strange color but she paid no attention. It wasn’t until she managed to roll over his limp form that she gasped.

His face wasn’t like anything she’d ever seen. Thick ridges of skin covered the sides of his face, closing over the areas that would have been his ears. They tapered down his neck and shoulders to smooth out across his hands.

Her first instinct was to help. Obviously something had happened to this man. Maybe there had been a hit and run and his car had been thrown into the desert. Or he could be a kidnap victim. There wasn’t anything around here for miles. She made the trip often enough, so she knew this man was lucky she had found him. Her cell phone was still in the car. She would just go get it and call for help.

Jenna jogged back to her car and punched out 91 even as she made her way back to the accident.

“911 operator. What is the nature of your emergency?”

“Yes, I’m on highway 72 traveling into Roswell and there’s been an accident. It looks like a hit and run.”

“Are there any survivors, Ma’am?”

“Yes, a man. He isn’t wearing any clothes and his arms and face look burned.”

“Okay, can you feel for a pulse?”

With shaky hands, Jenna juggled the phone while she reached down to place two fingers against his neck. She quickly pulled her hand away as if burned. His skin was on fire. She had never felt heat like that before. But she hadn’t felt for a pulse. The 911 operator was speaking into her ear, but she ignored her and pressed her fingers back against his burning flesh. Then she felt it, his pulse beating erratically.

“What the hell?” she mumbled more to herself. If she didn’t know better, she’d swear she was listening to two heartbeats. No, that was ridiculous. He might just be having a heart attack.

“I…there’s something wrong with his heart.”

“Ma’am, are you hurt? What’s your name?”

“Jenna, Jenna Robertson. I wasn’t in the accident. Look, this guy is burning up. He needs help. Is someone-“ she screamed as a hand shot up to grab her arm. She tried to tug her hand free, but his grip held firm. She dropped the phone to the ground as he stood and began dragging her closer to the flaming wreckage.

The heat was unbearable and Jenna tried unsuccessfully to once again run away. Just when she thought he was going to drag her into the fire itself, the man stopped. He raised a hand, outstretching it before him. He mumbled something Jenna didn’t understand and with a sinking feeling in her stomach, she noticed that the ridges on his arm were beginning to glow. He waved the hand and not only did the fire disappear, but the entire wreckage as well. Then he turned his empty eyes on her.

Seeing the young woman as a vessel and nothing more, he placed a hand atop her forehead, oblivious to her screams as he began the body transfer. He and his companion had tried to connect with strong life forces from the group they were sent to infiltrate before they had crashed, but the humans had proved to be more powerful than they had anticipated. That and the death of his companion set things back dramatically. He would be forced to wait now until Khivar’s plan could be carried out.

The transfer took only a minute and when it was done, the man’s form lay shed on the sand, a dead skin no longer in use. A gust of wind blew through and the skin disintegrated into the very air. He flexed his new hand, admiring the differences in the species.

Yes, this body would do for a day or two. When it had been drained, he would find another. He had become used to this inconvenience over the years. With purpose, the female body walked back to the car. After a quick glance, he thought back to his briefing on this assignment, pleased he had insisted on industrial training. He put the car into drive and sped down the highway, no outward appearance of any wrong doing was visible.

The Royal Four would die before too long. The prophecy would never have a chance to come about. It was the duty of his people to prevent that occurance, and it was a legacy he didn’t take lightly.



posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:43:14 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:Cookieman123⊕go.com" Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Yeah, okay, so this part ended up being WAY longer than I thought, but I couldn’t bring myself to cut it. So, here you are, confrontation with the parents number 1…

Learning to Live
Part 25


Liz pulled open the familiar doors to the Crashdown Café and let the fast paced movement take her in. Around her, customer chatted while they waited patiently for their meals. She recognized Lou, the new cook in the kitchen and remembered how close in personality he was to Michael. She and Maria had joked about abrasiveness being a job requirement for that position. But with a curious glance, Liz tried to find the waitresses. There should be at least two on duty, but she saw none.

A loud crash caught her ear and she grimaced. Dad would have someone’s head over that. Moments later, a young brunette she’d never seen before swung through the break room doors and took one look at the overwhelming crowd. Liz knew that look on her face well. The poor girl was ready to have a nervous breakdown. Liz approached her carefully, not wanting to frighten her.

“Excuse me.”

“Oh,” the girl focused on Liz’s calm face. She wouldn’t be so calm after a few minutes of waiting for her order only to be wrong and cold. “I don’t have any booths available, but I can clear off some space for you at the counter.” She eyed the half-eaten dishes that had been left abandoned and despair sunk in anew.

“It’s fine. I’m not here to eat. I’m Liz, Nancy and Jeff’s daughter. It looks like you need some help. Where is everybody else?”

“Oh! You’re the one getting married! I’ve heard about you. Um, Janice was supposed to be here an hour ago, but she hasn’t shown up yet and I tried to call Hillary, but she has the flu. I’m Cassie.”

Liz glanced at her watch. She had a bit of time still. “I’ll tell you what. You clear off tables and I’ll get the customers.”

Gratefully, Cassie took Liz’s hand in both of hers. “Thank you. God, I still don’t know what I’m doing here half the time.”

Skillfully, Liz pulled a spare apron off a peg in the break room and grabbed an order pad. There were some things you just never forgot. She grabbed four waiting plates from the bar and warmed them slightly with her powers. She’d learned that alien powers came in handy when waitressing. With an ease born of years of practice, she delivered the plates, soothed the customers and took several new ones on her way back to the kitchen. Cassie was still clearing the counter when Liz swung back through to deliver her orders to Lou. She pulled out the makings of an alien blast as Cassie looked on in awe.

“So, you must be new here.”

“Yeah, as of last week.”

“Do you go to the high school?”

“A Junior this year.”

Liz smiled in memory of her Junior year of high school. She and Max had only just found each other and had been bound and determined to spend every possible minute together. They had explored each other through physical contact and by their new bond, testing it’s limits and that of their love.

“So, your family transferred here? What do they do?”

“I don’t have any real parents. I came with my foster parents, though. They’ll both be teaching up the middle school next week.” And thankfully, far away from her.

Liz’s hand paused in it’s movement. She knew it was ridiculous, but newcomers to the town still set off warning bells in her head, especially newcomers that had no living relatives.

“I’m sorry to hear about your parents. Where are you from?”

“Oh, here and there. We travel a lot, so I’m not really from anywhere.”

“Right.” Liz didn’t like the sound of this and made a mental note to talk to the others. She was about to finish her line of questioning when the doors flew open and Janice blew through the door.

“Sorry, I’m late! Car trouble again. I was stuck on the side of the road for hours. Oh, Liz, you’re here. Thank god! I was hoping Cassie wasn’t here by herself. Give me two minutes and I’ll be back!”

Liz forced herself to flash a smile as Cassie. “It looks like you have help now.”

Cassie gave Liz a warm smile. “Thank you so much. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t shown up.”

Despite the possible consequences, Liz wanted to like this girl. She reminded Liz of herself a bit. But you never could tell who an enemy was until it was too late. She would keep an eye on the young girl for now.

“No problem. Maybe I’ll see you around sometime.” Pushing all thoughts of Cassie from her mind, Liz disposed of the apron and made her way up the steps to her parents apartment. With a deep sigh, she knocked on the outer door. Just yesterday, she wouldn’t have thought twice about merely entering, but that was before she had seen the fear and pain in their eyes.”

Her father opened the door and examined her silently a minute, and Liz tasted fear. Had they changed their minds? Would her own father tell her to go away? For the first time, Liz truly understood why Max hadn’t ever wanted to tell his parents the truth about who he was.

Jeff watched his daughter’s face fill with pain before his very eyes. He wanted to go to her and tell her t was all right. But was it? Could things ever be okay again? Without a word, he turned and headed for the living room, trusting her to follow.

Swallowing the lump in her throat, Liz entered her old home. She could do this. She would just have to make them see that things weren’t as bad as they seemed. She almost laughed at herself. Not as bad as they seemed? Her parents just found out she was engaged to an alien that had transformed her cells from human to alien. Yeah, they were obviously overreacting.

Liz took a seat opposite her parents, a unified force on the couch. Her mother was wringing her hands nervously, her eyes focused on the floor. Her father was still watching her with that steely gaze that she couldn’t interpret. But at least he was looking at her.

“Liz, your mother and I have been talking. We just don’t know what to make of all this. If you’d told us any of this before yesterday we probably would have thought you were crazy. But the things we saw yesterday…” He paused, lost in his own memories. “And then to find out that you now have some sort of superpowers. It’s all just too much to take in. There’s still so much I’m sure we don’t know. So, we’ve decided that we need to know everything, not just the easy parts. All of it.”

Liz considered this. If she agreed to this, how would they take the story she’d have to tell? Could they handle knowing how dangerous their journey had been? Yet, if she refused their request or didn’t tell them everything, it would ruin their relationship completely. There really was only one way.

“Okay, but you have to hear me out completely. There’s going to be a lot you won’t want to hear, but I won’t lie or hold any of it back.”

At their nods of consent, Liz took a deep breath and began. She told them about Max saving her, how she had confronted him and his reluctance to let her into his life. She told them how each of the other group members discovered the truth. She told them of the enemies they had discovered and made, from the Sheriff to Topolski and the FBI, to Nicholas and Khivar. She told them of Nasedo and of Max’s capture, the dangerous rescue that followed. She told them hurriedly of their discovery of the orbs and the message they had received from their mother and of their royal heritage, the role destiny supposedly dealt them. That had been the real reason she had fled to Florida that summer.

She related the entire saga of how Max had traveled from the future twice in order to change events. And as her mother cried softly, she told them of Nicholas taking her, of the poison she had been injected with and how everyone had put their lives on the line to save her. She forced out how Nicholas had shot her and of her encounter with the Queen, then of the relative quiet that had been their lives until a few weeks ago. Grudgingly, she told them of the nightmares and of what they had discovered so far. After she had been talking for almost a full hour, she was finally done.

The three of them sat quietly. Liz waited to see how they would handle the news. Had it been a mistake to give them so much information at once? She had to think it hadn’t been. She had always been able to be honest with her parents until she had learned Max’s secret, and she had mourned the loss of that relationship.

“I know it’s a lot to take in. But I need you to know that I don’t regret anything I’ve done or said that has brought me here.” She bowed her head, tears threatening to overwhelm her at their silence. “I know I’m a disappointment to you both, and this isn’t how you imagined my life would be like, but neither did I. I’ve learned that you can’t really plot out your life because life throws you curve balls that make it impossible to be who you thought you would be by a certain point in your life. I know who I am inside, my priorities, my values, my head and my heart. You both taught me to trust and to love, and I know I can trust Max, Michael, Isabel, and Tess with my life. They’re good people.”

“This isn’t about trust, Liz.”

“But it is, Dad. Before yesterday, you both loved and trusted every one of my friends. You treated Max like a son, because you know you could trust him to take care of me and to love me.”

“But what kind of life will you have with him?” Nancy couldn’t understand her daughter. How could she sit there so calmly after the stories she’d just told them? She had been kidnapped numerous times, almost killed a half dozen times and actually had died once already. “If Max is supposed to be some sort of King, what happens to you when he has to go home?”

Liz met her mother’s eyes. “I’ll go with him,” she whispered softly. She watched as her mother started crying anew and buried her face in her husband’s shoulder. And her heart broke. “I’m sorry. I know that’s not what you want to hear. But it doesn’t mean I have to give up my dreams. I love studying science, the how and why things work. If I have to leave Earth, I’ll take that love with me, put it to use. Max isn’t forcing me to do anything. If he was called home and I couldn’t go, he would denounce his title, his name, his family and his planet to stay with me. But I can’t let him do that. We love each other in ways I don’t think a lot of people understand. When he touches me, I can see into his soul, touch it, and he can do the same. It took us a long time to reach that point, and we can’t ever give each other up. Our wedding is just a formal step in our journey.”

Jeff cleared his throat, not wanting to think about his little girl leaving them for another planet. “About that, the wedding. Maybe if you could give us a little more time to think about some of this. You two have waited this long already, what harm would a little more time do?”

Liz’s face froze, her resolve firmly in place. “No. I can’t push back our wedding day. We’ve waited so long already to tell the world what we both already know. I’m sorry. But I won’t put the start of our life together on hold. Nothing has changed between us. We still love each other more than any words can express.” She paused again, her face crumbling. “I’ll understand if all this is too much, if you can’t make it to our wedding. But it would mean everything to me if you could support us, and accept Max as the son you wanted him to be. I love you both and I know I’m not the daughter you wanted me to be, but I have to do what my heart tells me to do. And it tells me that if I give up Max, my life will be over.”

Hesitantly, she reached into her purse and pulled out a book. She extended it to her parents, placing it on the coffee table when they made no move to take it. “It’s my journal. I started writing in it after Max saved my life. If the facts are too cold for you, maybe this will help you see that I haven’t made decisions lightly, and how miserable I was when Max and I tried to be apart. Every emotion I’ve ever felt is in here. And I’m trusting you with them. It’s already been stolen once, and the information in there is enough to insure that we will disappear in a heartbeat if anyone ever finds it. But I want you both to read it. Maybe it can help you understand who I’ve become.”

Overcome with sadness, Liz moved off the chair. Her heart was breaking at the sight of them huddled together, as if to protect themselves from their own daughter. She had to get out of there now.

“I’m sorry, I have to go.” She turned and fled out the door, running blindly down the steps as the tears streaked down her face. She collided with something soft and found herself looking into Max’s worried eyes. She lost control completely, sobbing as his arms came around her to protect her from the world.

Max felt his own heart constrict as Liz’s grief flowed through him. She had insisted on coming alone, but he had followed her anyway. And when he had felt her emotions churning, he had been prepared to charge upstairs and take her far away where no one would ever make her cry again. He rocked her gently as she let out all her fears, her sorrow. She was afraid she had lost her parents, that they would never be able to understand and love her now that she wasn’t human anymore.

A soft noise caught his attention and his eyes drifted up the stairs. Jeff Parker stood in the doorway, looking down at the couple. Their eyes met and Max found himself unable to read the older man’s features. But as he watched Jeff’s eyes slide down to Liz’s body, wracked with tears. Jeff closed his eyes tight before he returned to the apartment, closing the door behind him quietly.

Max returned his attention to Liz, whispering of his love for her throughout their connection. He would fix this, whatever it took. He would make things right with Liz and her parents again.




posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:43:48 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.


Learning to Live
Part 26

Maria cautiously poked her head into her mother’s kitchen. She had sat in her car for almost an hour before she had been able to convince herself to go inside. Now that she was actually here, she wasn’t sure why she had thought it was such a good idea in the first place. But she was a Deluca, and the Deluca women never ran.

“Mom?” She called out hesitantly. “Are you here?”

Taking a deep breath, she pushed the door open wide and entered. The smell of cleaning products immediately invaded her nose. Gagging on the fumes, she almost didn’t hear her mother’s footsteps approaching.

“Maria, you’re here.”

Maria took in her mother’s jeans and t-shirt and raised an eyebrow in question. “Mom, what are you doing?”

“Spring cleaning.” She hurried past Maria, digging under her cabinet for bottles of bleach.

“Okay. Um, Mom, can we talk?” Maria was confused. Where was the irate woman everyone had been afraid of yesterday?

“Now isn’t really a good time, Maria.”

Amy tried to brush past her daughter, but Maria reached out and grabbed her arm. “Mom, please. Can I have just a minute? I really wanted to talk to you about yesterday-Mom! Where are you going?” Maria rushed out of the kitchen after her mother. Amy was pacing the living room, a gallon of bleach in one hand, and a scrub brush in another.

“I don’t want to talk about yesterday yet.”

“You can’t keep avoiding me. Talk to me, Mom! Are you angry? Worried? I don’t know how to fix this if you don’t help me.”

Amy stopped pacing and faced her daughter, fury lighting her eyes. “Fix this? Can you? Tell me, Maria, can you fix all this? Can you fix that I know there are aliens living in Roswell and that my daughter has been sleeping with one? Can you fix the fact that you are no longer human? That you’re not the little girl I used to rock in my arms at night? Can you fix that? Because you were all I had left, and now I don’t even have that anymore!”

“No, that’s not true, Mom. I haven’t gone anywhere. Let me tell you more about Michael and their people. There’s so much you don’t know.”

“I’ll bet. Tell me, did you all get a kick out of fooling the stupid parents? I know I’m not the smartest person, but I’m not a fool. I knew something was up when you kept disappearing. But I trusted you to know what you were doing with your life! And look what happened!”

“It’s really not all that bad!”

“Not all that bad? Are you crazy? Do you even understand how bad this is? What happens if you get sick, Maria? Can you go to a doctor now?”

“I don’t get sick anymore. Anterian DNA is immune to stuff like that.” For the first time, Maria wished she had paid closer attention to Liz’s ramblings of the scientific reasons for them not getting sick anymore.

“And what if you get in a car accident?”

“Max can heal me.”

“And what if you can’t find Max, or you’re unconscious and taken to the hospital? Have you even thought of these things?”

“Yes, of course. Look, it’s a risk we take, but It’s not Michael’s fault. He was trying to heal me after I was hurt-“

“And how were you hurt?” Amy’s voice was cold.

“There was this fight,” she mumbled, knowing she was only getting herself into worse trouble. “It doesn’t matter.”

“Of course it matters. You were hurt because of Michael, right?”

“Actually, no. I was trying to protect my friends!” No matter how upset her mother was, she would not let her blame all this on Michael. Especially not that night. It had been the most horrible 24 hours of her life but it had ended up having the happiest outcomes.

“This isn’t a game, Maria. This is your life and you’re not taking it seriously.”

“You think I don’t know that?” Maria forgot that she had come to smooth things over. How could she say she didn’t take this whole situation seriously? “Mom, this has been my life for the past five years. Everyday, I look over my shoulder, weary of any stranger that so much as passes through town. Always wondering if their eyes watch us a little too long, always waiting for a secret to slip and danger to come. I take my life very seriously.”

“And what kind of life is that? Always waiting for something to hurt you?”

“It’s the kind I want,” Maria said levelly.

Amy decided to change tactics. Why was her daughter being so stubborn that she couldn’t see what a horrible mistake she was making? Why did she think Michael Guerin was worth all this danger? “Did you even know what Michael was when you started sleeping with him? Or was the excitement and the danger a big turn on?” The words sounded harsh to her own ears, but she had to get through to her daughter somehow.

Maria’s jaw dropped. “I don’t think that’s any of your business.” Her tone had dropped several degrees, frigid with anger.

“Maria, I know what that’s like, thinking you’re falling for someone when it’s really only the thrill and the excitement. How do you think you got here? But men are lieing bastards that will do whatever it takes to get girls into their bed, and we’re not even talking about human men here! Honey, I just want a better life for you than I had.”

But Maria wasn’t buying the concerned mother act. “No, I love Michael and he loves me.”

“How do you know that for sure? Does Michael even feel real emotions? Because I don’t think I’ve ever seen any from him. How do you know he’s not just using you for a convenient cover? I bet when he needs an alibi or a conspirator in something, he’s the perfect boyfriend. But how do you know he loves you?”

Maria scrunched her forehead in thought. Michael did love her, she knew it. But in the back of her mind, memories of their first year together came back in full force. Michael sweeping her off in the middle of the night to drive across the state border in search of vague clues. Michael ignoring her for weeks on end until he popped back up to demand the use of her car for something. How many times had he lied to her, only giving her enough of the true story to pacify her? He’d even lied to her just a few nights ago when he’d given Isabel permission to invade her head. By his own admission, their first kiss had only taken place because he’d been trying to shut her up. And they didn’t ever talk about the future. Sure, their sex life was fantastic, but they couldn’t even go a day without fighting.

“He understands me better than anyone.” She knew it was lame, but her heart was threatening to seize as her brain continued to produce more evidence of what her mother was saying.

Amy snorted at her answer. “He understands you? Let me guess, he listens to you too? It’s the oldest trick in the book. Their people have probably been watching us for years. Of course he knew exactly what to say.”

“It’s not like that.” But her voice held none of her earlier conviction.

“I’m not surprised you can’t see it, you’re too close to the situation. But you’re going to end up alone and broken if you even live long enough. I know his kind. What happens to you when his real family comes calling for him to come home? I don’t want you to be alone and pregnant with some alien baby when something better comes along.”

“Just because Dad didn’t care enough to stick around doesn’t mean Michael will take off too!” But there was fear in her heart now. What would Michael do if his real family contacted him and wanted him to come home? There was nothing tying him to Earth, or to her for that matter.

Maria met her mother’s eyes, saddened and hurt by her daughter’s words. “I’m not you, Mom. I’m not you.” Without another word, she turned and fled from the house she used to call home.





posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:44:21 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 27

Alex walked downtrodden through the small park beside his apartment. His head bowed, eyes focused on the grass beneath his feet, the conversation he’d had with his father earlier today ran through his head in an endless loop.

He had agonized over the decision to go and had found himself sitting in his car until his father had opened the door as if he’d been expecting him. The two men had sat at the kitchen table of his childhood, sunlight streaming through the windows as Alex had told his father everything that had happened to them over the years. Charles had interrupted often, asking questions or clarifying statements. By the time the two had finished, they had gone through a pot of coffee and a full ten minutes of silence when neither had known what to say any longer.

“I’m torn here, Alex. I know you were just protecting your friends, but your life was in very real danger. And above all else, I’m your father and I worry about you. I know I haven’t been there for you to talk to through all this, but you could have come to me. I thought we had that kind of relationship.”

“We used to. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. Truthfully, I didn’t believe them when they first told me. I accused Liz of doing drugs. But back then, it was one thing after another and if I had come to you and said I needed your advice on how to handle an alien enemy bent on destroying us so he could rule a far off planet, you wouldn’t have believed me. The thing is, no one has ever been told until it was down to a life or death incident. It was just too big to risk.”

“My mind just keeps going back to when your mom died. One of the last things she asked me was to make sure you were safe and happy. And I feel like I failed her.”

“Dad, no. I may not have been safe all the time, but I am happy. Isabel is the best friend I’ve ever had. I trust her more than anyone in the world. And I know Mom would have loved her despite all this.”

Alex shook his head to clear the snippets of conversation from it. From there, the conversation had gone round and round to touch on the same points. His father had tried hard to understand, but Alex knew he didn’t. He blamed himself for not knowing everything that had happened and for not being there to help.

A hand tentatively touched his arm and he knew it was Isabel without even looking. “Hey.”

She offered him a sad smile. “Do you want to talk about it?” She had seen him off that morning, offering to go with him if he wanted, but he had insisted on going alone. And more than ever, she had felt that her place was by his side that morning. But she had let him go, watching the windows anxiously for his return.

Needing the contact, Alex linked his fingers with hers as they continued the path he had traveled alone a minute ago. He related the conversation to her quietly.

Isabel’s heart was breaking as she listened to Alex. It wasn’t what he was saying so much as how he was saying it. His tone was monotonous, without feeling and she was afraid he had shut down. Because underneath it all, he felt that he had disappointed his mother by risking his life constantly. But she knew Alex’s heart was all gold and he could never turn his back on his friends. And Isabel felt completely to blame. It was irrational, she knew. But so was Alex’s guilt.

“Hey, look, if you don’t want to go up to the research lab, I’ll understand.”

Alex shook his head. “No, they’re tearing it down first thing in the morning. If we don’t go, we may never uncode those files.”

“I can always just ask Max or Michael to go. You’ve had a hard day. The last thing you should have to do is track down alien decoder rings.”

He stopped walking and faced Isabel for the first time. Concern for him clouded her beautiful face and he felt the familiar stirrings of emotion ripple through him. This could be their last chance to find out more about where she came from, about her heritage. She had come so far in the last few years, but how could she ever really grow if she didn’t know who she was or where she came from?

“No, I’ll go. We’ll go. Together. Thank you, Isabel.”

“I haven’t done anything.”

“Yes, you have.” Tired of holding back on her, he pulled her into a tight hug, afraid to let go, afraid to face why he hadn’t felt whole before he’d touched her.

Isabel let him cling to her and she closed her eyes as her heart beat against her chest. She would do anything to take his pain away. Unfortunately, there was nothing she could do, except be there for him. Reluctantly, she pulled out of his embrace.

“C’mon, if you’re sure you want to go, we should leave now.”

Hands rejoined, they set out across the park and towards the apartment building they shared.


Tess sighed as she flipped through a magazine. She was miserably alone and bored. Everyone was still off dealing with the aftermath of yesterday’s picnic. Liz, Maria and Alex had insisted on going to visit their parents alone, despite their agreement to never go anywhere by themselves. So, Max and Isabel had gone to check on their mother while Michael had gone to work. Tess had been hoping to spend time with Kyle at least, but Chrissy had called and he’d gone running. So, now she sat alone.

A knock sounded at the door and Kyle came in, a distracted look on his face. “Hey, Tess. Anyone back yet?”

“Nope.” She moved over on the couch as he settled beside her. “Isabel left awhile ago when she said she saw Alex across the street, but other than that, nothing. She knew she was going to regret this, but Kyle really looked like he needed to say something. “What’s wrong?”

“Hmm? Oh, nothing. Chrissy’s upset. Her old roommate was supposed to visit yesterday, but she never showed.”

So, it was another Chrissy emergency. Try as she had, Tess still couldn’t figure out why Kyle was so stuck on the girl. Okay, she was drop dead gorgeous and always looked like she had stepped off a runway, but she had no personality as far as she could tell. Did men really go for that? Of course they did. That was why she had spent the majority of the afternoon by herself. She just wasn’t the kind of girl men fantasized about.

“I’m sure she just got caught up or something.”

“No, from what Chrissy says, Jenna’s kind of like Liz. If Liz had said she was going to drive a state over then never showed up, we’d be worried because she’d call for sure. It’s kind of like that with Jenna.”

“Well, did she try Jenna’s home number? Maybe she just had car trouble and had to wait out the night.”

“Maybe. But nobody answered at her home and Chrissy didn’t get any messages. We stayed up all night waiting for her.”

The door was blown open and Maria flew through the living room, stalking past Tess and Kyle to her bedroom, slamming the door with a force that shook the walls. Kyle turned to Tess.

”I take it all did not go well in the Deluca household.”

Tess eyed the door nervously. She really wanted to find out what had happened, but was pretty sure Maria would need some time to herself to work out her anger. “They’re both so alike, I would have been surprised if they hadn’t argued.”

The phone rang from the small end table beside the couch and Tess grabbed it automatically. “Hello?”

“Tess, it’s Max. I just wanted to let everyone know I’ve got Liz with me and we’re going to be out of touch tonight.”

“Is she okay?”

“No. Look, I can’t really talk right now, but just tell everyone for us, okay?”

Tess understood that Liz was probably in the same room as Max and he didn’t feel right talking about her when she was so close. “Sure, Max. Just take care of her.”

“I will. Thanks, Tess.”

She hung up the phone with a frown. “It sounds like Liz’s parents didn’t take the news too well either.”

“What is it with parents today? You’d think they’d take this stuff okay, since they’re all so close, but noooo. They have to go all panicked and give us more to worry about than we already did. I feel like I’m back in High School.” Kyle rubbed his hands over his face. Last night’s lack of sleep catching up with him. But he didn’t want to leave Tess’s side yet. Being with her was oddly soothing, like he could be himself without worry.

“I wonder how Alex’s dad took the news.”

“Not well.” Alex and Isabel came through the door, hand in hand. “He blames himself. He asked for a few days to process it all before I came back to harass him.”

“Sorry, man. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

“Yeah, thanks, Kyle. Actually, Isabel and I are going out. There’s this thing we were planning to do today before all this happened.”

“What sort of thing?” Tess’ naturally suspicious behavior kicked in. There was something they weren’t telling her.

Alex and Isabel exchanged a glance. “Nothing. Just a thing. We might not be back until late tonight, so don’t worry.”

“Have you heard from Liz or Maria?” Isabel was genuinely concerned for her two friends.

“Yeah, Maria stormed in a few minutes ago and then Max called and said he was taking Liz away tonight. I don’t think either one went good.”

Alex sighed. He had grown up with three sets of parents thanks to Liz and Maria and knew how fiercely they protected their children. “We’ll find a way to fix this. Sooner or later, they have to come around.”

Tess nodded her head in agreement, though she wasn’t so sure. If there was one thing she had learned from Nasedo, it was that humans were unpredictable, and did stupid things when they were scared. She only hoped that they were able to put their love for their children before everything else, otherwise they were in for some hard times.




posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:45:08 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 28

The Jeep bounced along the rugged dirt road as Max pulled into the driveway of the Valenti cabin in Frasier Woods. He pulled the car to a stop and cut the engine, turning to face Liz. She had been quiet since he had found her at the Crashdown, and he had let her. He knew what emotions were churning inside her and what path her thoughts had taken. But he had given her privacy and hadn’t told her that her thoughts were crazy. Her parents didn’t hate her, loathe her presence. They just needed time to understand.

“You know, just because you don’t say that you think I’m crazy doesn’t mean I don’t know you’re thinking it.”

He smiled at her, but couldn’t muster up real amusement. “Sorry, I forget how this new connection works sometimes.” He looked towards the cabin. “I didn’t really ask if you wanted to come here. If you want we can go somewhere else.”

“No, this is fine.”

“If we keep coming out here, we’re going to have to pay Jim rent soon.”

She smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “You didn’t see their faces, Max. Mom wouldn’t even look at me, and Dad had this look…I can’t even describe it. He’s never looked at me like that before. I think…I think they’re afraid of me.”

Max shook his head, running his fingers through her silky hair. “No, they’re not afraid of you, they’re afraid I’m going to take you away from them, that I already have.”

“I’m sorry, Max. I never wanted any of this to happen. The things they said, I don’t even want you to know, but I know you already heard.”

“I tried not to listen, but you were so upset, I was worried.” He really had tried to give them privacy, blocking out their connection. But when he’d felt Liz’s soul cry out in pain, he’d damned the consequences. “Don’t worry about me. I’m tough. It was easier with Mom and Dad. At least we were their children. They had raised us and they knew we weren’t evil incarnate. But the rest of the parents, how well do they really know us? It only makes sense that they’re worried.”

“I told them I wasn’t pushing back the wedding.” She announced.

Max hadn’t wanted to bring that up. “Are you sure? It might not be such a bad idea, Liz.”

She turned to him with anger in her eyes. “Don’t you do that. You know as well as I do that nothing is guaranteed. I will not postpone our wedding. It is the single most important event in my life and I want to be your wife. I’m tired of staying over with you while all my stuff is on another floor. I hate having to leave you at all. I want to sleep in your arms every night. I want children with you. Not right now or anything.” She saw the look of fear that passed his face and found herself laughing at his thoughts. “You’ll make a wonderful father someday, Max. Quit worrying. But I’m tired of postponing things because it might not be too safe.”

“I know, I just want you to know that if you change your mind, It’s fine with me. I love you, Liz, and I just want you to be happy. And as much as it does terrify me, I do want to have children with you someday. I want to be there to watch you grow up to become the best Molecular Biology Department Head any University’s ever seen. And I want your face to be the first thing I see every morning when I wake up. I want to bring you home and introduce you as my Queen and watch everyone fall in love with you like I did. You are my life, Liz Parker, and I’ll do whatever it takes to make you happy.”

The empty hole in her heart filled at his words, until she felt whole again. How had she been so lucky as to be loved by this wonderful, gentle man?

“It was the antennae. I can’t resist a girl in a pair of them.”

She laughed out loud at him, feeling better than she had before. Which she was sure was his plan. “I’ll have to make a mental note of that.” Her thoughts drifted to how she could get her hands on one of her old uniforms, when she suddenly remembered Cassie.

“Oh! Max, I almost forgot! There’s a new girl working at the Crashdown. I met her earlier.” She told him about Cassie, and Max frowned as he listened.

“I don’t like how it sounds. But it doesn’t definitely mean she’s evil. We should keep an eye on her.”

“I don’t know how we can though. I don’t think any of us are really welcome at the Crashdown just yet, and I don’t know if I feel comfortable going back right now.”

Max pulled Liz into the safety of his arms, cupping the back of her head with his hand. “We’ll figure this out, baby. Don’t worry anymore.”

Liz pulled out of his embrace and smiled seductively at him. “Well, Mr. Evans, you’ve brought me all the way out here to the woods, where there’s nobody around for miles and miles, and we’re still sitting in the car talking? What’s a girl got to do? Wear antennae all the time?”

“It’s a start. But if you really want to turn me on, bring me a cherry coke while you wear the antennae.” He wiggled his eyebrows at her. “That’ll do it everytime.”

She slapped at his shoulder, laughing. “I’m going inside. You can sit here all night and think up all the sexual scenarios you want involving cheese fries and Will Smith burgers, but leave me out of it.” She climbed out of the Jeep and started towards the house.

“Cheese fries, huh?” Max conjured up a pretty wild image of Liz bringing him a plate of cheese fries and a cherry coke while wearing nothing but her antennae.

Liz snickered, turning to face her fiancée with her hands on her hips. “You’re horrible, you know that?”

“Yeah, but you love me anyway.” He hopped out of the Jeep and took off at a run, catching Liz in his arms and lifting her off the ground as he continued for the door. He unlocked the door with a wave of his hand and carried her inside, laughing.

Unceremoniously, he dumped her at the foot of the steps. “You’re getting kind of heavy, Miss Parker. I don’t know if I can carry you up the stairs like I used to.”

“Oh yeah? Well, your loss then. She started up the stairs slowly, arms gathering at the hem of her shirt to pull it over her head. She tossed a glance over her shoulder to find Max’s full attention on her bare skin. Dropping the shirt at her feet, she climbed another few steps before reaching up to undo the front clasp of her light blue bra. Without bothering to look back, she let the elastic fall off her shoulders to pool on the wooden steps.

Max watched, entranced as Liz slowly removed her clothes. He’d seen her naked hundreds of times, but the effect was still the same. It made him dumbstruck. She was in the process of pulling off her crème colored skirt when he caught a glimpse of black lace underneath. It was enough to spur him into motion. What the hell was he doing at the bottom of the steps when Liz was almost at the top, half naked?

“I was asking myself the same question. Hey, I was just remembering that hot tub we found up here. You in the mood?” Liz grinned like a cheshire cat, knowing she had him right where she wanted him.

But Max had no words, he was at the top of the steps in a heartbeat, Liz firmly planted in his arms once again as he made his way to the hot tub. He entered the room and waved his hands over the water, heating it up instantly. Liz just smiled at him, squiggling until he set her down. She walked over to the control panel and turned it on. “I don’t think Jim would appreciate it if we broke his hot tub.”

Not really giving a flying fig about what Jim would or would not appreciate at that moment, his eyes were fixed on her small body. She had dropped her skirt somewhere in the hall and she stood now only in black lace underwear.

“Liz,” he hissed. She knew what that did to him, but by the smile on her face, he was pretty sure it had been intentional.

Slowly, she continued stripping, and then immersed herself in the warm water. It was only then that she spoke.

”Well, are you going to stand there all day?”

Without a care for his clothes, he dove in, surfacing to find Liz laughing at him. The sight made his heart swell.

“I don’t think you understand how this works.” She eyed his sopping clothes and the mad gleam of lust in his eyes. “You’re supposed to be naked with me.”

Needing no further invitation, he stripped as quickly as the wet clothes allowed and tossed them to the side.

Liz’s breath caught in her throat as Max began his slow stalk towards her. He reminded her of a sleek panther sometimes, his muscles all bunched and coiled to pounce. And he was all hers. He closed the distance between them and when his lips descended onto hers, she was waiting. Skin met skin as their bodies pressed together, arms twining to gain better contact.

Tired of waiting for Max to make a move, Liz propelled herself upward in the bubbling water and latched her legs around Max’s waist. Max groaned, deepening their kiss further. It was never enough. No matter how often they touched, he still craved her more every time. Their connection was stoked higher until pleasure and need mixed into one burning desire they both felt. Max entered her swiftly and her head fell back on a sigh. Max moved forward until Liz’s back was flush with the wall as he kissed his way down the smooth length of her neck. They moved quickly, neither wanting to waste time tonight on romance and candlelight. They just needed to feel, to join together and reaffirm their devotion to each other.

Max began quickening his pace, knowing Liz would only do it herself if he didn’t hurry. He could feel her muscles tightening around him and he willed himself to hold back another minute longer. Finally, he heard her breath catch in her throat and he let go, his body quivering in release.

They stayed locked together, their bodies cooling despite the warmth of the water. Liz lowered her forehead to Max’s, eyes still closed.

“Do you think Jim would sell us this place?”

He chuckled at her as she rested her head in the curve of his shoulder. He cupped the back of her neck, letting his other hand stroke her back. “Anything for my Queen.”


TBC…




posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:46:43 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 29

“This place looks exactly like it did when we left it.” Isabel glanced around the open lab room in awe. They had stumbled in darkness for almost twenty minutes before Alex had finally located the light switch. Now, he stood on the opposite side of the room, gawking at it’s disarray. Papers were scattered on tables and the floor, file cabinets were left wide open, their contents spilling out, chemicals had been knocked over and spilled until they pooled together, glass shards littered the floor.

“It looks like someone trashed this place.”

“Yeah, we did.” Isabel strode purposefully to where Tess had located the files on Liz. They had already come back years ago after Liz had been healthy again, but all of the files they had left had been missing. Still, maybe there was still something here they had missed. “I’ll look through the rest of these files.”

“See if they say anything about a key, or a code, or a program. Hell, I don’t even know what exactly we’re looking for.” But for once, his mind was off Isabel and on the situation before him. This room was huge! There were a dozen workstations, but he remembered that there had only been one scientist allowed to work. Indeed, as he passed the wreckage of each table, he noticed that they were set up exactly the same. He knew from visiting Liz at her lab at work that each workstation was individually set up to the preferences of the user, within reason. So, Alex was able to confirm that the journal Tess had found was probably real. They had questioned it for awhile, but know he knew and Liz would probably be able to confirm it. There might have been a dozen different experiments running, but they had been run by the same man. The thought of it made his blood boil. Someone had performed experiments on Liz, to prove or disprove the she was to be part of some sort of prophecy. According to Nicholas, Liz was supposed to be it, her cells having been completely changed to match Max and the others now. Plus, whatever else the encrypted files said made Liz the best candidate to fulfull this alien legacy.

The whole thing scared the hell out of Alex, but he would never say so. He was the last of their group to still be completely human. Liz had accepted everything they had told her with the calm grace she took everything with. Maria for the first time in her life had been quiet for days on end. After Michael had healed her the one and only time he’d ever been able to, her cells had begun changing almost immediately. He supposed she and Michael had talked it out because she had returned to her old bubbly self overnight. And then there was Kyle. He had proved to be the key to all the information they had gathered. Although Max had saved both Liz and Kyle’s lives, Kyle’s cells remained human. Based on that, they had decided that the healing wasn’t enough. There had to be an emotional bond to one of the aliens, so that they new powers might be awakened by the flashes or joining of souls or whatever it was that happened.

But as usual, for every question they was answered, a hundred more were raised. Alex had actually grown used to it and had a healthy respect for what the three had gone through their whole lives, never knowing anything solid. Alex enjoyed the challenge or trying to decipher the puzzles and he believed in his technology holding all the answers the way Liz believed in science. That was how he had become responsible for uncoding the data they had uncovered years before. It had been fun at first, but had quickly turned into a full fledged quest to discover the truth, both for Isabel and for Liz and Maria.

Alex rubbed his hands over his face tiredly. Maybe Maria was right and he did need to lay off some of the scifi. He looked around the room again, this time analyzing it in his mind for someplace to hide a decoder. The room held several carts with medical equipment, some with test tubes and beakers, others with scalpels and other sharp looking devices. Alex turned from them quickly, not wanting to know what they had been used for.

There was a small utility closet to the side and he examined it quickly. It wasn’t much larger than one of the metal carts outside and he figured it was used mainly for storage. A glance at the supplies showed him nothing useful. There were large vented slats low to the ground and his curious mind wondered what reason they could have.

The rest of the room itself was bare. The walls looked to be separated into floor to ceiling panels of about a foot in length. Alex frowned as he heard Isabel rustling through more papers. Maybe they were going about this all wrong. He checked every cart, every piece of equipment, looking for something that might resemble a key of some sort. When these searches proved futile, he searched each workstation, careful to look for hidden panels.

When several hours had passed with still no luck, Alex went with his trusty fallback, technology. He retrieved his bag from the doorway and rummaged through it for the new device he’d been itching to try out. It was a metal detector of sorts, only it detected concentrations of iridium, an element found mainly in asteroid and meteorite crash sights, and oddly enough in Antarian artifacts.

Tired and bored, Isabel sat back and took a break, watching Alex fiddle with one of his newest toys. The man was like MacGuyver sometimes and it always brought a smile to her face. His face was all screwed up in concentration and her heart turned over in her chest. She loved watching him unaware. He was innocent and carefree, with none of the cynicism that lived in his eyes since Breanna.

“Whatcha got there?”

“Testing for any traces of iridium in the building.”

“Oh.” She watched him walk around the room with a remote control in his hand, occasionally pointing it up or down. “And, uh, why are you doing that?”

Alex grinned, though she couldn’t see. Then decided she would probably skin him alive if she knew he was amused by her. “All of the artifacts we’ve seen from Antar, the Destiny book, your pendant, and so on, all had varying traces of iridium. I think it must be a core element up there, kind of like Oxygen on Earth. So, if there is some sort of device that will help uncode the files, this should pick it up. In theory, of course.”

“Of course.” Isabel licked her lips, feeling all the world like the town idiot next to Alex. “And, uh, what if the device was created on Earth?”

“Well, if it wasn’t made from Antarian pieces, we’re screwed.” He had already scanned the workstation and filing cabinets. He had done the carts and had now moved on studying the floor, hoping for a beeping of some sort.

Isabel watched him in silence a minute. She’d already gone through most of the files and had found the same test results performed on dozens of people, or numbers rather. None of the files referenced actual names, but test subject numbers. The actual files Tess had found that had linked Liz with her number were gone. Isabel now had no way of determining who the remaining test subjects were.

Alex finished scanning the floor and had meticulously begun scanning the walls. Isabel tucked her legs under her and rested her chin on her knees and let herself think about the last time she’d been here.

It had been a week after their mother had saved Liz and banished Nicholas. It had been impossible to remove Max from Liz’s side. So, they had waited a whole week until Michael had finally yelled at Max about learning more. But Isabel had always thought that no amount of yelling would make Max leave Liz alone. But Liz herself usually forced Max into going. So, they had journeyed to the research lab to find that most of the paperwork they had left was gone. Someone had come back after them and had removed whatever was left. They had still sifted through files only to find nothing of any great significance. Michael had been upset, but if Isabel remembered correctly, that was also when Maria hadn’t been speaking to anyone while she processed her new status of alien in progress. So, Michael had been on edge the entire week.

Max had gone ballistic, trashing the place when they had found nothing else that had spoken of any of the tests they had performed on Liz. Isabel knew that he held himself responsible for everything they had done to her, and he’d been hoping for some sort of news to tell her, that she wasn’t destined to play some part in a prophecy. They had all had enough of those words to last them a lifetime.

A shrill beeping snapped Isabel out of her daze. Alex spun excitedly towards her as he stood in front of one of the wall panels.

“We found it. It’s here.”

Isabel got up and quickly joined him. “What, the wall panel?”

“No, there’s something behind this panel. There has to be a switch of some sort.” He turned off the device and began running his fingers around the edges. Isabel followed his example, still not sure what exactly they were looking for. Then it came to her why they weren’t finding anything.

“Alex, stand back.”

Alex looked at her quizzically, but did as she asked. Isabel dredged up a small flow of energy and swept her outstretched palm over the panel. Her face lit up in a brilliant smile as a faint silver handprint appeared on the wall.

“Good job! Open it!”

Isabel nodded and placed her hand flat on the handprint. The panel immediately separated from the rest of the wall and a small, octagon shaped block glittered in the fluorescent lighting. Isabel reached her hand in to pull it out, but recoiled quickly as the cool metal shocked her.

“What happened?”

“It shocked me.”

Without warning, a loud buzzing filled the room. Isabel looked at Alex, fear forming in her chest.

“Damn. Someone triggered the alarm I set.” He turned towards Isabel. “Somebody’s coming.”

“What are we supposed to do?”

But Alex was already moving. He grabbed the cube, bracing for the shock that never came. He pushed at the panel until it clicked back into place while Isabel had run for the light switch, plunging them into darkness.

“Alex?”

“I’m to your right. There’s a closet over here. Can you follow my voice?”

“I think so.” She reached out for him, relieved when her hand came into contact with his. He pulled them both into the cramped closet and he closed the door at the same second they heard scuffling outside.

Alex had questioned the need for the large slats in the storage door earlier, but he was thankful for them now. There was very little light and the closet was barely big enough for the two of them to fit into together.

Isabel crouched down beside Alex, trying to see if it were friend or foe that had come. She couldn’t make out Alex’s face, but she could feel the tension radiating off his body. God, this room was small. It felt as though the walls were closing in on her, but she tried to push the constricting feeling back. She could be brave for Alex. Besides, it wasn’t as if they were really locked in the closet.

Alex listened carefully. If it were one of their friends, they would have called out for them by now. No, this definitely wasn’t a friend. He listened to the footsteps echoing throughout the dark room and he wondered what they would do if they were caught. If it was a skin, he didn’t have any way of protecting Isabel. It would be up to her alone to get them out of there, but there was something wrong with her besides the tension of the moment. He didn’t know what it was, but he hoped she could keep it under control.

The lights came on with a blinding force and Alex had to blink a few times to adjust his eyes. It was a girl, about 5’5, 120 pounds, dark brown hair. She was wearing a pair of jeans and a brown shirt and a pair of boots that echoed every step she took on the tiled floor. She didn’t look like any skin he’d encountered, then again, Courtney had been a skin too. As he watched, she strode over to the exact panel they had just left and waved her hand over the wall. When the handprint appeared, she flattened her palm over it and the panel swung open exactly as it had moments before. Only this time, there was an empty hole.

The girl swore, her head whipping around to examine the rest of the room.

Alex held his breath as her gaze turned to the closet door. He prayed silently to whoever was listening that they remain safely hidden in the closet. But her gaze continued on before she moved over to the file cabinets Isabel had been rummaging through. Alex let out a quiet sigh of relief. But was when he became aware of Isabel’s body pressed firmly against his. And she was shaking like a leaf.

He couldn’t ask her what was wrong, couldn’t ask what he could do to help, and he was terrified that something had happened to her when she had touched the cube. She was on the verge of losing it and all it would take in this room was one wrong move and they would be discovered.

Alex turned his body carefully to meet Isabel in the eye. He could see her face in the shadows of the vented door slats and her eyes were wide open and glazed with fear. Her eyes were darting around frantically, never settling on one place. What the hell was wrong with her? He saw her open her mouth and he knew that if he didn’t find a way to calm her down, she was going to make a noise.

Without taking the time to think about the repercussion, Alex did the only thing he could come up with. He crushed his lips to hers. Isabel froze against him, but only for a breath of a second. Then she flung herself into his arms, pulling herself as tightly against his body as she could.

Alex sunk to the floor completely, not prepared for Isabel’s weight. But as her arms came around his neck to deepen the kiss, Alex nearly moaned himself. He tangled his fingers in her long hair like he’d fantasized about doing thousands of times and found it silkier than he ever imagined. Her lips parted under his and he took advantage of the opportunity to slip his tongue into her mouth. She had crawled into his lap now, legs straddling his waist as she tried to pull him closer still.

And that was when the images started flashing though his brain. He was in the pod chamber. Only, the image was warped, distorted somehow. He whipped his gaze to the right, then to the left and he saw the remaining three pod chambers, their occupants still sleeping inside them. His panic level began to rise as he clawed at the clear membrane surrounding him. But it wouldn’t move. It couldn’t be punctured. He was trapped. There was no way out. He would die in that small coffin like chamber. The air was thinning out and it was becoming harder to breath.

As quickly as they began, they stopped. Alex broke away from the kiss, guilt clouding every pore in his body. He met Isabel’s wide eyes and he pulled her into a fierce hug. She continued to cling to him, fear still controlling her every move. But it wasn’t enough. Being in Alex’s arms was better, but there was still room for fear in her brain. She needed him to make it stop. She needed his lips back on hers.

She felt the remorse that flooded his system when she continued to touch him, but she couldn’t think about that right now. She dragged his lips back to her own, greedily sucking at the flesh she found there. God, she needed more. Kissing him was like a balm to her soul. Never had she felt so right in her life. More images continued to flash across her eyes. She saw him moving to town and befriending Liz and Maria, saw hundreds of moments they had spent together. She saw him watching her throughout High School, always watching, always waiting for her to notice him. Then she saw him meeting Breanna, how at home and comfortable he had felt with her, his deep pain at her leaving him and the words she said that had been too painful to repeat to anyone, even Isabel.

Neither could say how long they stayed locked together. One kiss had turned into two, which had melted into dozens. At one point, Isabel had slipped her small hands under the hem of his shirt and her fingers had found warm, hard flesh.

The slamming of a car door jarred Alex from the fantasy he was living out. Isabel’s hands were all over him, running down his chest, her long nails raking his skin. He heard an engine roar to life and gravel spew in the wake of the retreating car.

He broke his lips from hers, knowing it was the hardest thing he would ever do in his life.

“Isabel,” he whispered even as he checked through the slats to make sure they were alone. Sure enough, they were.

But Isabel had shifted her lips from his mouth to his neck, kissing her way down to his collar bone.

Alex felt his body respond even as his eyes crossed. God, he wanted her like he never thought possible. Her lips were finding all the sensitive spots of his skin and if she kept this up, he wouldn’t be able to hold back much longer.

“Isabel.” He was a bit louder this time, more forceful. He gripped her arms and gave her a slight jerk.

Isabel snapped out of her daze immediately, horror crossing her features as she realized she was straddling Alex’s waist, kissing him senseless. She immediately distangled herself from him and tried to stand up. She was humiliated to find that her knees were weak and threatened to give under her.

Alex stood a bit more slowly, trying to hide his discomfort. God, his best friend was having a panic attack, and he mauls her in a closet. He would have to make sure she never knew what kissing her had done to him or their friendship was done for sure.

“We’re alone. She left. Are you okay?”

Mortified, Isabel wrapped her arms around her body, cold without Alex’s warmth. Had she really just done that? God, he’d just been trying to calm her down and keep her quiet, and she jumped him. How was she ever going to look him in the eye again? Mutely, she nodded at him, afraid to speak. She remembered the remorse and guilt that had run through him when she had reached for him earlier. He hadn’t wanted her after all. It really was too late. She’d seen what he felt for Breanna, what she now longed for him to feel for her. She really had missed her chance with him. But how was she supposed to go back to just being his friend, now that she knew what it was like to be held in his arms? To know the kind of passion he could stir in her? It wasn’t fair, and she wanted to cry.

Alex reached for the door handle, launching himself out of the closet and into fresh air gratefully. Another minute of feeling her soft skin against his, and he would never be able to go back to being just a friend. Even now, he found that he couldn’t meet her eyes, couldn’t even turn in her direction. What would she think of him now? Would she be appalled? He knew that if he’d seen into her mind that she had surely seen into his. What sort of things had she seen? Did she know how he felt about her? That she still filled his dreams every night? He could never ask. If she knew, she would say something about it, let him down easily, remind him of all the reasons why he wasn’t her type.

He pocketed the small cube that had brought him so much trouble, and stuffed his laptop and other electronics into their bag. Knowing she would follow, he practically ran out the door, desperate for the cool night air. He needed anything that would calm down his overexcited body and was thankful that they had hidden the car and hiked the half-mile to the lab. It was going to be a long drive home.




posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:47:27 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 30

“Good morning, sleepyhead. You up for breakfast this morning?”

Maria merely grunted at Tess as she poured herself into a chair at the kitchen table. She had lived through hundreds of nightmares last night, most of them with her mother saying she had told her so while Michael boarded a rocket ship to go home. She really wasn’t ready to deal with yesterday yet.

Tess seemed to know what she was thinking, because she didn’t press for information, just set a coffee mug in front of Maria. Maria shot her a grateful smile and let the smell alone wake her up.

“So, do you have any plans for today yet? Because I heard there was a big sale at the mall today. Maybe the two of us could go.”

Maria let the first glorious sip settle in her stomach, feeling better already. The nightmares were fading in the morning sun. “Yeah. I think that would be great, Tess. Thanks.”

Tess smiled at her. “I’ll just go jump in the shower. Do you want to leave in an hour?”

“Half hour.” She didn’t want to be here any longer than she needed to. She wasn’t ready to run into Michael yet, still not sure what to say to him. Logically, Maria knew that her mother was just scared and angry her daughter had been in danger, but still some of her words had made a certain kind of sense.

Isabel’s door opened and the blonde sunk down in a chair across from Maria. From the red eyes and dark circles, Maria assumed Isabel had suffered through just as bad an evening as she had. But she said nothing. She really wasn’t ready to talk yet, and Isabel seemed content to live in her head today.

The front door opened and Max and Liz stepped into the living room. Liz seemed to be in high spirits, but Maria knew her well enough to recognize the sadness lurking in her eyes. She was just covering it up better than the rest of them were. Their eyes met and a silent understanding passed between the girls. They would talk later.

But Max sensed the vibe in the room and approached the kitchen table. His sister was staring off into space and she looked horrible. The last time he’d seen her, she’d been with their parents. Had something happened after he left to get Liz? He hadn’t thought about what being out of touch all night meant.

“Is, are you okay? Did something happen with Mom?”

“What? Oh, no. She’s fine. She kicked me out of the house after you left anyway.” She saw the relief on his face and she kicked herself for making him worry. Couldn’t she do anything right? “Really, she’s fine.”

The door flew open and Kyle skidded into the room. “Where’s Tess?”

Maria pointed to the shower and Kyle went racing off in that direction. A moment later, they heard a shriek and Tess appeared in the living room, tying the belt of her bathrobe. Kyle followed her closely, anxiety written across every feature.

“Here are your keys.” She fished them out of her purse and Kyle snatched them out of her hand and headed for the door.

But Max was there to stop him. “Whoa. Is everything alright?”

“Dad just called. They found Chrissy’s friend, Jenna, a couple of hours ago. She’s dead. I’ve got to pick up Chrissy so she can identify the body.”

Liz stepped forward, placing a hand on Kyle’s arm. “My god. I’m sorry, Kyle. Is there anything we can do to help? Do you want someone to go with you?”

“Thanks, but no. Alex already offered. I think Chrissy’s going to need me today.” Kyle turned his attention to Isabel. “Are you okay? Alex has been acting funny since you two got back last night. Did anything happen?”

Isabel’s cheeks flamed red at the memory of what indeed had happened. “Don’t worry about it now. Just go, and give Chrissy our best.”

He nodded. “I’ll be in touch later.”

Max barely registered Kyle’s disappearance. His attention was trained on his sister. Something had happened. “Isabel, where were you two last night?”

“Oh, um, well, Alex and I went up to the research lab.”

“You went where?! Isabel, that could have been dangerous. Why would you want to go back there anyway?”

“Well, Alex and I were working on decoding those files-“

“I thought he said it was next to hopeless?” Tess took a seat at the table, uncaring that she was sitting in her bathrobe.

“Well, he likes long shots. Well, anyway, we figured that there must be some sort of device to decode the files, and that if it was anywhere it was probably still in the lab.”

“Why didn’t you say something? We could have all gone?” Max was torn between being angry for her going alone, and his curiosity at what happened.

“It was bad timing all around. It’s been crazy since Mom was hurt.” She fell silent a minute, trying to banish the memories of her mother dying in her arms.

Concern won out over everything else, and Max crossed the room to take his sister in his arms. He didn’t want to think about how close they had come to losing her either.

“What happened, Is?”

“Well, we were there all night. Alex had this thing, I don’t remember what it was, but it found something. I found a silver handprint in the wall and inside the panel was this thing. I don’t know what it was, but it shocked me when I tried to touch it. Anyway, after that, we heard someone coming, so we jumped in a closet and waited. Someone showed up and started looking around. I don’t really remember much that happened after that.” She tried to keep the blush off her face, but knew she was failing.

“Was it the thing that shocked you?” Liz approached her cautiously. Isabel looked like she was in desperate need of a friend and for some strange reason, Alex wasn’t there for her. Liz put a comforting hand on Isabel’s arm, and was assaulted by flashes. She quickly pulled her hand away, and tried to pretend that nothing had happened. But Isabel wasn’t fooled. Her eyes went wide, but Liz smiled reassuringly at her. She put her hand back on Isabel’s arm.

We’ll talk about it later if you want.

Isabel sunk down deeper in the chair. Could this day get any worse? “Yeah, I thought about it all night, and I think that whatever that thing was, it amplified my feelings or something. I don’t know. It sounds crazy, but I was acting like a lunatic. Anyway, whoever it was left and Alex and I came home right after that.”

Max stood. “I’m going to see if Alex is up yet. Maybe we can figure out what this is together.” He passed Liz and pulled her into a quick, but heated kiss. Then he was out the door.

Isabel was trying to figure out a way to get out of this when the phone rang. She picked it up on the third ring.

“Hello?”

“I want to talk to Maria.”

Isabel rolled her eyes. “Good morning to you too.” She covered the mouthpiece with her hand and nodded at Maria. “Loverboy’s looking for you.”

Maria paled, then shook her head. “No. I’m not here. Please, Isabel, tell him I just left.”

Isabel crinkled her eyebrows in concern, but pulled the phone back up to her ear. “Michael, sorry, you just missed her. I guess she had places to be this morning.” Michael swore in her ear and she found herself really confused. Had Michael and Maria had a fight?”

“Look, just tell her I’m looking for her.”

There was a click, and Isabel knew he had hung up on her. Okay, this was new.

“Michael’s looking for you.”

Maria’s eyes filled with tears. She just couldn’t do this right now, not with her mother’s words still swimming in her ears. She got up from the table and retrieved her purse from the counter. “Look, I’m fine. I just need some time alone today. You should call Michael back and tell him about last night. He should be here. It might just be the key to everything you guys are looking for.” Her throat was tight and she didn’t want to cry now. Her eyes threatening to spill over, so she rushed past the sea of concerned faces and out the door, not really knowing where she was planning to go but knowing she had to leave.

Liz watched Maria’s hasty retreat and knew something horrible had happened yesterday. Briefly, she felt guilty about not being here last night to see if she could help, but she knew she needed some time alone with Max. Maria’s heart was breaking, and so was Isabel’s. What was going on here lately?

By the time Max returned with Alex and Michael, the others were sitting quietly around the room. Alex’s eyes immediately sought out Isabel, but she was studiously looking down at her coffee mug, refusing to meet his eyes. He sighed. It was as bad as he thought. She couldn’t even look at him, she was so disgusted by him.

“Okay, now that we’re all here-“

“Where did Maria go this morning?”

The room was quiet as they tried to decide how to answer Michael’s question. Finally, Liz spoke up. “I think she said something about a sale at the mall.”

Michael snorted. “Figures she’d think something like that was more important.”

“Anyway, Alex, can you tell us what happened last night? Isabel says she doesn’t remember much after she touched the object.”

Alex’s eyes flew to Isabel again. She didn’t remember everything? What did she remember? Oh, god, this was getting so much worse. Had she forgotten that the only reason he had kissed her was because he was trying to calm her down? What if she thought he was taking advantage of her? But then again, hadn’t he? It was no wonder she wouldn’t look at him.

“Yeah, well, it shocked her when she touched it, then the alarms I had set went off, and we hid in the closet. A woman showed up a minute later. She was about our age, maybe a little older, brown hair, about 5’5, 120 pounds. She went right to the wall panel and opened it. She got pretty upset when there wasn’t anything there, she looked around the place a little more, then she left.” Or at least that’s what he thought she did. She could have danced naked in the middle of the room and he wouldn’t have known, because he had been kissing his best friend, taking advantage of her in ways no one should ever do. And if he lost his friendship with her over it, he would regret it the rest of his life.

“What happened then?” Michael was sitting backwards on a chair, curious as to what this object was.

“Nothing happened!” The answer was reflex, and he took a deep breath to calm down. “I mean, uh, we waited until she was gone and we were sure it was safe to come out and then we left.”

“You didn’t try to follow her?”

Alex grimaced. The thought had never even occurred to him. He’d been so focused on Isabel’s presence that it hadn’t left room for any other thoughts. “Hey, I did the best I could under the circumstances. Isabel was completely out of it and I didn’t think I could take on a skin all by myself.”

Isabel let the conversation continue around her as Alex’s words sunk in. He’d done the best he could under the circumstances. God, this was just too humiliating. She had not only thrown herself at Alex, but had let this newest enemy get away. How many times could she screw up in one night?

They were all examining the object, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. She already hated the thing. It had brought nothing but pain and anguish so far. Isabel stayed firmly planted at the table, staring at her coffee mug until the coffee was long gone. She couldn’t stand the thought of seeing disgust in Alex’s eyes. Maybe she should have just left with Maria that morning.

A shadow fell across the table as someone took a seat next to her.

“Can we talk?”

Oh, god.. Isabel’s heart seized. She couldn’t do this yet. She didn’t know what she was planning to say. She had to fix things before they got even worse.

“I’m sorry.”

“What?” Alex was confused. He’d been watching her for the last hour, his heart breaking at the sight she created. He’d just about convinced himself that maybe they would be able to laugh the whole thing off, when she had apologized.

She took a deep breath. “I’m sorry for last night. I don’t really remember much, but I know that whatever that thing was, it was making me crazy, not responsible for my actions. I think it may have been controlling me somehow. And I just wanted to apologize for the whole thing.” She raised her head and forced herself to smile at him. “I think we should just forget the whole thing ever happened.”

“Right. It was just a mistake then.” Alex couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Sure, he’d known all along nothing was going to come out of last night, but to hear it was another story altogether.

“A mistake,” she agreed sadly. “I mean, it’s not like we’re compatible or anything. Can you imagine us actually dating?” She forced out a chuckle.

“Yeah. I guess you’re right. I mean, what would a princess like you be doing slumming with a computer nerd like me?” Alex’s temper was boiling even as another chunk of self-esteem was chiseled away.

Isabel’s face fell, but Alex wasn’t looking anymore. “I didn’t mean-“

“I know exactly what you meant, Isabel. It’s fine. We’re just friends, and that’s the way it should be. If you’ll excuse me,”

Isabel felt Alex’s loss in her very soul when he rose from the table and left. Had she hurt him? She didn’t understand. They were just friends. Where had she gone wrong?






posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:48:08 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 31

The doorbell rang in the Deluca household and Amy felt like screaming. The least little things seemed to be making her crazy these last few days. For a brief minute, she considered ignoring it. There really wasn’t anyone she wanted to talk to. But she never could resist a visitor.

It had been two days since she’d seen her daughter, two days since they had yelled and spoken horrible words. And she wasn’t sure if she was ever going to have a relationship with her again. How could they after all that had happened?

With a heavy sigh, she pulled open the door to find Charles Whitman. “Hey, Charlie. I didn’t expect to see you here.” Her heart sunk. How could she talk about this with him right now?

Charles raised tired eyes to his old friend. “Hey, Amy. Do you mind if I come in a minute?”

“This really isn’t the best of times, Charlie. Maybe later in the week?” She tried inching the door closed. She knew she was being cowardly, but she wanted to just close the door and forget about everything.

“Amy, please? We’ve been friends a long time. You were there for me when Jenny died, and I was here when Jack left. I could really use you to help put this in perspective.”

Amy knew he was right. They’d been through hell together and had dated once, almost marrying themselves. They’d been two teenagers with stars in their eyes, until Jenny had caught Charles’ eye and he’d broken Amy’s heart gently. She never had been able to resist him anyway. She opened the door wide.

“Coffee good with you?”

He flashed her a relieved smile. He hadn’t been sure she would let him in, and he completely understood how she felt. “Sounds great.”

He followed her into the kitchen, settling at the table while she poured coffee.

“I don’t even know where to begin. Have you talked to Maria?”

Amy looked down at the contents of her mug, letting the liquid warm her skin. “Yeah, if you could call it that. We yelled mainly.” And oh, how the words still hurt. Did Maria really think those things of her? “What about Alex?”

“Oh, he came by and we calmly sat and discussed aliens and royalty and obligations and destiny. And the whole time, I was wondering to myself how all this could possibly be real. How could we really be having this conversation? And how did I not know about all the danger my son was in? What kind of parent does that make me?”

But Amy was stuck on the first parts of his statement. “Royalty?”

“Yeah, Alex explained it all. About how they were married in their old lives, how they were rulers of their planet, murdered in some rebellion. So, they were sent here to grow up to return one day and stop some evil guy from taking over.”

“What?” How could Maria have not told her any of this? But even as she wondered, somewhere deep inside, she knew the answer. She hadn’t asked, hadn’t let her daughter explain when the opportunity had presented itself.

Charles was confused by Amy’s reaction to all this. Could she really not know? “Maria didn’t tell you?”

“We didn’t quite make it there.”

Charles started backpeddling. “Oh, well maybe you two should talk.”

“No! Don’t go. What else did Alex tell you? Did he say…what Michael’s done to Maria?”

Obviously uncomfortable, Charles sat back down in his chair. “He said something about their cellular structure changing to this Antarian DNA.”

Amy was confused, a hundred translations for what that meant ran through her head. “What exactly does that mean?”

“I think it means that their cells have changed, their DNA structure. Alex said they could change the molecular structure of things.” And he still wasn’t entirely clear on that one either. Tired, he dragged his hands over his face.

“This is all just too much for me. I invited Isabel into our home, and I don’t even know what she is. Did she do something to Alex? I know he’s been infatuated with her since he was a kid and I always thought it was harmless. But now…I just keep asking myself what Jenny would do if she were here. She always knew exactly what to say, what to do. And I feel like none of this would have happened if she were still here. She would have known something was wrong instantly.”

Amy had been wondering the same things herself about Michael. Had he done something to Maria to draw her to him? They never did anything but fight, had absolutely nothing in common. Things she had taken for fact only a week ago she now questioned. And that bothered her.

“I wish I could say what Jack would have done. But I didn’t really know him as well as I thought. I mean, he left before Maria was born.” She sighed again into her coffee. “What do you say we switch this coffee for something stronger? You can tell me the rest of the story.”

“It’s only eleven in the morning.”

Amy met his eyes. “I just found out my daughter’s sleeping with an alien. I think we’re safely out the realm of social norm here.”

“Do you have any whiskey?”

“I’ll find some.”

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

Liz checked her watch for the tenth time. Isabel was late, and that was completely unlike her. Their last class of the day, History, had been cancelled, and the two girls had decided to head for the mall to shop for some wedding items. Now, she had been waiting for fifteen minutes with no sign of her future sister-in-law.

With a sigh, Liz resumed watching the people passing around her. She’d grown up here and recognized most of the people she saw. She would miss that when she left Roswell, but at least she had begun preparing herself for it. She knew full well it could be any day that Salia called her children back home. And Liz Parker would leave Earth behind. It was just another reason why she refused to postpone her wedding. She wanted to be married here, on Earth, with her friends and family. She only hoped that would be the case.

Movement caught her eye and she turned to see another familiar face.

“Cassie?”

The young girl swung around, confused when someone recognized her. “Oh, Liz. Hi.”

Liz abandoned her bench. “Hey. What are you doing here? Don’t you have school?”

“Teacher workday.”

“Ah. So, catching any good sales?” She couldn’t believe her good luck. She had sat up with Max last night, trying to figure out a way to talk to Cassie again, and here she was.

“A few. Are you here by yourself?”

“For the moment. I’m waiting for Isabel. She’s dragging me off for more wedding shopping.”

Cassie saw the same hint of sadness in Liz’s eyes that she had seen when they first met. Why would she be so sad when her wedding was so close? Was she not as in love with the groom as she’d heard they were? “Oh, well, I don’t want to interrupt.”

“No, you’re not. If you’re not doing anything, you’re welcome to come with us. I could use the moral support. When Isabel get started, there’s no stopping her.” Cassie looked lonely. Her instinct was telling her to trust this girl, and that she was supposed to help her. But she didn’t understand it.

“Sure. It’s always more fun spending other people’s money anyway.”

“Isabel’s motto.”

“What’s my motto?” Isabel approached Liz’s side, curious about the stranger she was talking to. There wasn’t anyone in Liz’s life that she didn’t know. And everyone was a danger to them these days.

Liz took Isabel’s arm, forming a connection. “Isabel, I want you to meet Cassie. She works at the Crashdown. She just moved into town.”

“Nice to meet you.”

Liz?

Sorry, I forgot to mention it. She just moved with her foster parents. Max and I were going to keep an eye on her. Make sure she’s okay.

Isabel flashed a charming smile at Cassie. The young girl looked ready to bolt from nerves. Yes, there was definitely something she was hiding, but was it dangerous to them?

Cassie had never felt more intimidated in her life. Standing in front of her was the most beautiful woman she’d ever met. And then there was Liz, who was stunning herself. What was she doing with them? She was clumsy and oafish looking next to them. “Hi,” she managed to get out.

“I was just telling Cassie she should come shopping with us.”

“Great idea. I could always use someone else to talk you into the silver punch bowl fountain.” Isabel linked arms with Cassie and steered her towards one of the nearest shops. “Tell me, how do you feel about ice sculptures?”

The trio spent the next few hours making wedding preparations. Liz found that Cassie was extremely smart, wanting to major in physics one day. They had talked about the math teachers at the school until Isabel had made gagging noises and begged them to stop. Cassie seemed a bit unsure of herself, but she had confided that her foster parent’s work made them move around a lot. She didn’t talk about them much, almost seemed afraid to. And it screamed trouble to Liz.

Now, she was seated across from Isabel in the food court while Cassie was standing in line to get them ice cream. Liz checked to make sure they were alone before approaching her friend.

“Hey, you wanna talk?”

As tired as she was, Isabel’s brain knew exactly what Liz was talking about. They had accidentally connected the other day and she was sure Liz had seen the truth of what had happened in the research lab. “How much did you see?”

Liz grimaced. “I’m pretty sure all of it. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do it. It’s your brother’s fault really. He’s the one that gave me these powers.”

Isabel managed a chuckle, knowing Liz didn’t mind any of the changes she had undergone since Max had healed her. They had actually discovered that Liz had her own unique power, much like the others did. She was able to form connections easier than any of them. And she could communicate freely throughout the connection. Unfortunately, it also meant that she couldn’t really touch anyone when their emotions were running high, and she had to keep up a constant mental block. Liz had assured her it wasn’t as horrible as it sounded, but Isabel wasn’t so sure about that.

“So you saw the whole embarrassing thing.”

“Yeah. And it really wasn’t all that embarrassing. It was more steamy than anything.”

“Oh, it was embarrassing, all right. Liz, I couldn’t control myself. I threw myself at him. God, I don’t even want to know what he thinks about me.”

“Are you crazy? This is Alex, who’s been in love with you since like third grade. You two are best friends. You can either go one of two ways. You can just dismiss the whole thing as Czechoslovakian induced feelings and forget about it. Or you can take this as an opportunity to see if they might go anywhere.”

“It’s a bit late for that. Alex and I talked. He said the whole thing was a mistake.”

Liz frowned. “He said that?”

Isabel dropped her head in her hands. “How did this happen?”

“I’d say love makes you do strange things.”

“What? I’m not in love with Alex. I mean, I love him as a friend, but not like that.”

“Okay. If you say so. But let me ask you a question. If you’re not honest with me, be honest with yourself. What exactly do you feel for Alex? Before the night in the lab, were you completely happy with your friendship? You didn’t want anything more out of it?”

Isabel frowned now. “I don’t know. No, I do know. I wanted more. God, that was hard to say. I’ve been looking at him and wondering, Liz. I’ve been wondering if there’s a reason I’m only happy when he’s around. And I feel kind of empty when he’s not there. This is insane. This is what got me into trouble in the first place. Alex doesn’t feel that way about me.”

“So, he wasn’t kissing you back?”

“That’s not the point. Maybe he was.” She thought back to the urgent pressure of his lips, and her heart filled with a longing. “But you didn’t see what I saw in his head. He still loves Breanna. He still wants her, even after everything she’s done. And how am I supposed to compete with that? I had my chance, and I blew him off too many times before. He moved on. End of story.”

“Isabel, I know you both better than that. And I can tell you that you stand out alone in his mind. You’ll always be perfection to him. I’ll bet he’s just as confused as you are. You two should talk again. But before you do, you need to think about what it is you want from him. Because if you two decide to go for it and see what happens, it might crush your friendship if it doesn’t work out. You both have to be willing to put everything you have into it or it won’t work. Max and I figured that out the hard way.”

“I know I need to sort all this stuff out. I know what I want. I want Alex.” She found that the more she said it, the easier it was to say. “But I’m afraid I won’t be able to stand up to the image he has of me on that pedestal. And there’ll always be Breanna. What if she decided to come back for him?”

“There are always risks. But I think knowing you want more from him is a good place to start. I’ll bet he doesn’t know that, does he?”

“Probably not.”

Liz placed a hand on Isabel’s. She could see Cassie returning to the table, so they only had a few minutes left. “Just follow your heart. I think Alex is a good person to trust it to.”

“I know you’re right. I’ll talk to him first chance I get. I think I do want to see what could happen between us.”

“Am I interrupting? I could come back.”

“No, come sit.” Liz waved away Cassie’s hesitancy. “We were just girl talking. It’s so hard to do with so many men around. We like to talk about them every chance we get.”

Cassie took a seat beside Liz and Isabel. “So, what’s your fiancée like?”

A dreamy smile crossed Liz’s face as she thought about Max.

Isabel sighed. “Great. Another afternoon spent talking about the virtues of my brother. Get comfortable, Cassie. This could take awhile.”



posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:48:48 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 32

“Alex, there you are! I’ve been looking all over for you!” Kyle rushed through the front door of the apartment they shared.

“Well, I’ve been hiding from you on the couch in plain sight. My evil scheme worked.” Alex was idly flipping channels on the television. Nothing was appealing to him, and everything he settled on reminded him in some way of Isabel.

Kyle jumped in his path, effectively blocking his line of sight to the television. “Get up and get dressed, you’re going out with me.”

Alex tossed the remote down beside him. “No offense, but you’re not my type.”

“Funny. Look, I need you to help me out, man. It’s an emergency.”

“And that would be what?”

“I need you to go out to dinner with Chrissy’s sister.”

“Forget it.” Alex rose from the couch, heading for the kitchen. He began pulling down a glass, searching for the soda bottle he’d seen earlier.

“Alex, my man, think about this for a minute. It’s not like it’s an actual date. I mean, Chrissy’s old roommate just died. Her sister came into town to make sure she was alright and help her make plans to move the body home. It was her idea to take Chrissy out someplace nice, maybe get her mind off things for a few hours. And if it’s the three of us, Amber will feel out of place.”

“Have you seen the soda?”

“What is your deal? I’m handing you a gorgeous woman on a silver platter – and she is gorgeous, believe me. And you’re completely not interested. We are in the prime of our lives. We’re both single men, living in a swinging bachelor pad, and are we living it up? No. I’m disappointed in us.”

“I’m just tired, Kyle. I’m not up for living it up tonight.”

“Does this have anything to do with Breanna? Because I know she hurt you, but you’ve got to get over this.”

Alex sighed, leaning against the counter, the soda forgotten. He actually hadn’t thought about Breanna in quite awhile, and the knowledge surprised him. He eyed Kyle carefully. He could trust his roommate. “No, it’s not about her. There’s something else.”

“Oh, really? Do tell.”

“Well, there’s sort of someone else, maybe.”

“What?” Kyle’s interest was definitely piqued. “Well, make with the details. Is it anyone I know?”

“Actually, yes. But it’s complicated. Isabel and I sort of ended up making out the other night.”

“Whoa! Run that by me again. You and the very lovely Isabel made out and you haven’t given me all the details yet?” Kyle was impressed. He knew Alex had crushed on her for years, but he didn’t really think Isabel would ever give him the time of day.

“It was strange.”

“Always a good description for making out.”

Alex glared at him and Kyle fell silent, a smug grin on his face. Sometimes, they could banter back and forth for hours, trying to one up each other. “I don’t know what happened. She touched that alien device we found and she started acting funny. Somebody showed up, so we hid in this closet thing. I think she was reacting to the device and she started freaking out.” Alex was hesitant to tell Kyle about her claustrophobia panic attack. Somehow, it felt wrong to share that. “And I didn’t want us to get caught, so I did the only thing I could think of, and I kissed her.”

Kyle started laughing. “You didn’t.”

“I did. It’s not funny.”

“I know. I’m sorry. What did she do?”

“Well, she sort of attacked me. I thought she’d just break it off, kind of calm down again, but it just set her off again. The next thing I knew she was in my lap and her hands were in places they’d never been before.”

“This is the best thing I’ve heard in years. Go on.” Kyle settled on the barstool directly opposite where Alex was leaning.

“Well, then nothing. I stopped her, and the intruder was gone. And we came back to Roswell.”

“So, what happens now?”

“Nothing happens now. It was a fluke. Isabel doesn’t feel those things for me. It was just a weird moment. She probably just reacted bad to whatever it was that shocked her.”

“And good old King Max doesn’t know what it is?” Kyle was suddenly sorry he’d missed yesterday’s meeting.

“No. But the weird thing is that it didn’t shock anyone else. They were all able to pick it up just fine.” The whole thing was frustrating, but since he’d exchanged harsh words with Isabel, he didn’t even have anyone to run his ideas by. And he always worked better when she was around.

“So, are you going to go for it with Isabel?”

“Are you crazy? I’m not her type. She’s a princess, for gods sake. How am I supposed to try to date her? She should be wooed by counts or something.”

“Okay, first of all, don’t ever use the word ‘woo’ again. It went out of style with ‘hither’ and ‘thou’. Second, if you’re not dating Isabel, there’s no reason why you can’t go out with us tonight. It’ll just be a favor from you to me. I really need some time with Chrissy, and if you’re there to talk to Amber, I might get that.”

“I don’t know.” It still felt wrong, but why? Kyle was right. He wasn’t dating Isabel. She made it perfectly clear that she was as mortified about the whole thing as he was. Why shouldn’t he go out and have a good time? It would probably only be another week or two before Isabel started dating someone new and he’d be back to being alone again. He should get out more and make new friends. Maybe even start dating again. Surely, that would get rid of the dull ache in his heart. And in time, he would probably forget all about how soft Isabel’s lips were. And how he was right thinking that the curve of her neck was made for his lips to fit perfectly. No, it wouldn’t do any good at all to think about those things. She was his friend, and he would just have to start thinking of her that way again.

“Okay, I’m in.”

“Great! Okay, go get dressed. We’re going to the French restaurant outside of town. Chrissy’s been dying to try it out. So, dress up and we’ll leave in fifteen minutes.” Kyle loped off to call the girls and set things in motion.

Alex remained at the counter for a minute. This was going to be an interesting night.

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

Four hours later, Alex found himself waiting for the evening to grind to a halt. Amber had indeed been gorgeous, more so than Kyle had led him to believe. She had a lighter shade of Chrissy’s red hair and a body that would make any man sit up and take notice. But Alex wasn’t interested. He had politely sat through dinner while Kyle had tried to cheer up Chrissy, and made small talk with Amber. He learned that she was a four years older than he was and she had majored in computer science. So, they had tons to talk about. But Alex couldn’t help but compare her to Isabel.

If she had been there, he would have looked at her and she would have politely hid a grimace behind a napkin. They would have escaped somewhere to make fun of the couple at the table next to them. It would have been fun. Amber was nice, but she wasn’t Isabel. Isabel’s neck was longer, her skin a shade softer than Amber’s was. And her eyes didn’t have that sparkle that Isabel had when she looked at him. They could just pretend the rest of the world disappeared sometimes. And her voice, it could be cold as ice one minute, or as warm and silky as brandy the next. No, Amber just wasn’t Isabel, and he was beginning to think the rest of his life was doomed to be spent comparing every other woman in his life to her.

So, now, he was driving Amber back to the hotel she had rented out and he hoped against all hope that she wasn’t expecting him to try anything with her. It just wasn’t going to happen.

He pulled into a parking space in front of her room and cut the engine. They sat in silence a minute.

“Thank you for coming tonight. I know Kyle dragged you along, and your mind was somewhere else tonight, but you still tried.”

Damn. Was it that obvious? “No, I’m sorry. You’re right. I have been somewhere else. I didn’t mean to make you feel ignored. I really did have a good time, despite everything.”

Amber turned sad, her face crumbling at the mention of Jenna.

“You two were friends too?”

“Yeah. Chrissy and I are only a year apart, and the three of us went out a lot. Would you mind helping me out for a minute? I’m trying to decide which pictures to use for the visitation and the funeral, and I didn’t think Chrissy would be up to helping out.”

Alex forced out a small smile. “Of course.” He got out and opened Amber’s door, waiting while she let him into her room. It was small, but comfortable. A single suitcase sat in the corner. But a barrage of pictures lay scattered across the rooms’ single table.

Amber picked one up and handed it to Alex. “This one was taken when I was twelve. We went camping together and hated every minute of it.” She smiled at the memory.

The picture showed three girls, all in matching bathing suits, wearing identical grins. They were hugging for the camera. Alex found himself smiling sadly at the image. “When was the last time you saw her?”

“A few months ago. We try to get together periodically. Or we tried.” Her face fell again, and Alex pulled her into a gently hug. “I don’t understand this, Alex. It doesn’t make sense. They still don’t know what killed her. She was so young, and she had so many plans.” She was sobbing now and Alex rubbed her back soothingly. He couldn’t image what she was feeling.

Amber hiccupped and pulled out of his embrace. She stared into his eyes, and wanted to get lost for just a few minutes. She didn’t want to think about what she would do with the plane ticket she had bought to visit her old friend next month, or how empty the house would be a Christmas when she didn’t breeze through the room in her funny Santa hat.

She leaned forward and brushed her lips against Alex’s. She let herself fall into the strength of his arms as she tried to deepen the kiss.

Alex froze at the unexpected contact. This was wrong. It was horribly wrong. But how could he turn her down without hurting her worse? Gently, he eased out of the kiss. “Amber…”

But she was smiling at him. “I know. I’m sorry. I just wanted to…I don’t even know what.” She broke away from his embrace, embarrassed by her actions. She walked over to the table again, sifted through the pictures until she found the one she was looking for.

“You were trying to forget. I’m sorry if I did anything to lead you on.”

“You didn’t. Don’t worry about it. I’m really sorry.”

Alex sighed. What was it about kissing him that made women sorry later? “It’s just that there’s kind of someone else. It’s something in progress, maybe.”

Amber raised her dark eyes back to Alex, and she smiled. “Then she’s lucky.” She looked back down to the picture in her hand. “We took this one the last time we were all together. It seems so long ago now.”

She handed it to Alex, and he took it reluctantly. Because he was expected to, he examined the photo. Amber and Chrissy were on either side of a brunette. She kind of reminded Alex of Liz in her looks. They were laughing together, obviously having a wonderful time. But there was something about her face that looked familiar. Had he seen her before? It didn’t seem possible since he lived out of town. But he could have sworn that he knew her.

“I would definitely use this one for the visitation.” As he moved to hand it back to Amber, something clicked in his brain and he froze. No. It couldn’t be. He pulled his hand back and looked at the picture again.

“Do you have some others I could see?”

Amber smiled, happy to show off her friend. Alex moved closer to the table, feeling bad for not being honest with her. But as he looked through picture after picture, he was certain. Jenna Robertson had been at the research lab two days ago. He had seen her through the slatted vents of the closet he and Isabel had hidden in. And she had used alien powers to open the wall panel. He had to talk to Max and the Sheriff right away.

“I’m sorry, Amber, but I have to go.”

“Thank you, Alex, for understanding.”

Alex didn’t hesitate to pull her into another hug. “Call me if there’s anything I can do to help while you’re here.”

“I will.” And she smiled at his retreating form as he climbed into his car. He waited until he had pulled out of the parking lot before he started making phone calls. They were going to have to get together tonight, regardless of the time. This was too big of a coincidence to dismiss.






posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:49:31 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 33

“Okay, I’m here. What’s the emergency?” Max entered the deserted Sheriff’s office to find Alex and Jim huddled over a stack of papers.

“We’ve got trouble.”

“Tell me.” He knew by Alex’s tone that he wasn’t kidding. He had asked for a private meeting first, since they seemed to get more accomplished without the entire group butting heads.

“Jenna Robertson.” Jim slid a file towards Max.

“The girl Kyle was talking about that died?” Max began flipping through the file, but he knew he wouldn’t find what he needed in there.

“That’s the one. I just spent the evening with Chrissy and her sister. And I managed to put two and two together to make a very disturbing four.”

“Okay, it’s late. Could we please just get down to it?”

Jim rifled through his desk for another report. “The autopsy on the girl came back earlier tonight. It’s the damndest thing, but he can’t find a cause of death.”

“What?” Max leaned over to see for himself.

“Age twenty three, graduate student, non-smoker, ran five miles a day. This kid was a picture of health. All of her organs were functioning normally, except for her brain. When the pathologist checked, he said it was functioning abnormally.”

“I don’t understand.”

“She was using parts of her brain that I imagine you do.”

Max studied Jim carefully. “Are you saying she’s one of us?”

Alex jumped in, tired of waiting. “No. She was human. At least she was last week. I’ve seen her before, Max, at the research lab Sunday. She was the one who followed us, who used the nifty silver handprint doorknob you guys use. She was looking for the device, knew exactly where to go for it.”

“So, what are we saying then? How can she be human, but not be human?”

“Maybe possession. It’s been done to Brody before. And those people at the Summit meeting years ago.” Alex paced the floors now, anxious about what all this meant.

“But that was just inhabiting bodies. Can they use powers like that?”

“I don’t know. But I think the answer to everything lies in those encrypted documents. Have you guys had any luck with that device?”

“No, Michael, Tess and I tried everything we could think of. Isabel hasn’t been around lately, so I don’t know about her.”

“There’s something else.”

Both Max and Alex turned to Jim.

“After Alex called, I did a bit of investigating. I scanned for anything unusual since Saturday.”

“And you found something?” Max was hanging on Jim’s every word.

“There was a 911 phone call made Saturday evening. I managed to pull a copy of it. I thought you should hear it yourself.” He pushed the play button on an old recorder and sat back to watch their reactions.

911 operator. What is the nature of your emergency?

Yes, I’m on highway 72 traveling into Roswell and there’s been an accident. It looks like a hit and run.

Are there any survivors, Ma’am?

Yes, a man. He isn’t wearing any clothes and his arms and face look burned.

Okay, can you feel for a pulse?


Max and Alex exchanged nervous glances as there was a pause on the tape. Then the woman’s soft words could be heard over the tape, and a chill ran down Alex’s spine. He knew somehow that he was hearing the voice of a dead woman.

What the hell?

I…there’s something wrong with his heart.

Ma’am, are you hurt? What’s your name?


Max found that he couldn’t blame the operator for the panic in her voice. The woman sounded dazed and fairly hysterical.

Jenna. Jenna Robertson. I wasn’t in the accident. Look, this guy is burning up. He needs help. Is someone-

A scream filled the air and Max’s heart constricted with fear and anger. There were muffled noises that followed her screams, and the operator continued to call out her name. Then there was nothing. Jim stopped the tape and waited for their reactions.

“When was that call placed?”

Jim checked the records. “Five twenty three.”

Max turned to Alex. “That was an hour after Maria and Liz had those flashes.”

“Do you think they’re related?” But he already knew they were. They had to be. Coincidences had ceased to exist in their lives years ago.

“Yes. I’m not sure what this all means, but I think the key is in those files. We may be dealing with a new kind of enemy here.”

“There was one other thing the pathologist found.” Jim interrupted, knowing from experience that they could talk of possibilities for hours. “According to the records we had sent over on Jenna, she had no identifying birthmarks or tattoos.” He pulled a photo from the file and slid it across the table for their viewing.

Alex felt sick. The last thing he needed tonight was to have to see forensic pictures of a girl he’d heard the virtues of all night. But he forced himself to look anyway. The photo was a close up of her neck. It had been turned to the side, her hair pulled back to reveal a small red mark.

“What is that? Is that a tattoo?” It seemed wrong to Alex. Jenna hadn’t seemed like the type to get a tattoo, and if she had, she would have told her two friends about it.

“Maybe she just didn’t tell anyone about it.” Max offered.

But Jim nodded. “We checked out that angle. They took trace samples and it’s not an ink. So, all I can tell you is that no conventional tattoo parlor made that mark.”

Max tore his eyes away from the sight he knew would burn in his mind forever. They had done this. Their presence was a danger to everyone around them. He had no doubt that this was some new form of enemy, a new danger. And he didn’t even know what it was, much less how to deal with it. He turned to face Alex, and found an expression that matched his own. “I need you to decode those files, Alex.”

Alex nodded. He knew there was no other way to protect them from whatever was out there. “I’ll work on it tonight.” He would find someway to crack those codes if it was the last thing he did.

Max turned back to Jim. “What happened after this call was made?”

“Well, they sent out a dispatch unit, but they didn’t find anything. There wasn’t a wreck, or a car to be seen for miles. They passed it off as a prank.”

“Until now,” Alex noted grimly. Suddenly, a thought occurred to him. “Was her cell phone found?”

Jim frowned as he checked the records. “No, it doesn’t look like it.”

Alex turned back to Max. “If we could get a lock on that phone, it may still be in the desert and we might find some answers.”

“Can you do that?”

“Oh yeah, it ‘s just a simple matter of triangulating the-“

“Stop. I don’t want to know. Just do it.”

Alex mock saluted him. It looked as though he wasn’t getting any sleep for the next few days.






posted on 9-Sep-2001 7:50:15 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 34

“This had better be life or death.” Isabel grumbled as she drug her tired body into the living room. It was ungodly early for a meeting. But with everyone’s class and work schedules, it was hard to schedule these things. Unfortunately for Max, her rational side was still sleeping.

Isabel knew she looked horrible and for once she didn’t care. She hadn’t slept well, tossing and turning while she tried to find the right words to tell Alex how she felt. It was nerve wracking, not knowing how he would react. But the memory of his lips, a bit hesitant, spurred her onward.

She could hear sounds of life from the bathroom and she knew it was Tess. Liz had been glued to Max’s side lately, and Maria hadn’t come home again last night. She and Tess and been worried, but Maria had been in class and had said she was fine, just busy. So they hadn’t said anything to the others yet. But Isabel knew that Michael was a ticking time bomb. He hadn’t seen or heard from Maria since she’d gone to see her mother and Michael had taken to calling for her a half dozen times a day.

As Isabel set about making coffee, the door opened and Kyle slinked through the room.

“Late night?”

“You have no idea.” He rubbed his hands over his face and followed his nose into the kitchen. “If that’s coffee you’re making, I’ll love you until the end of time.”

She snorted at him. “That’s what they all say.” She poured a cup and handed it to him. Casually, she leaned against the counter, examining her nails. “So, uh, is Alex coming?”

Kyle sipped the coffee gratefully, his brain still upstairs in bed. Damn Evans and his early morning meetings. He’d barely gotten four hours of sleep.

“Yeah, he was just getting up when I left. He wasn’t even home from dropping off Amber by the time I went to bed.”

Isabel froze. “Amber?”

“Chrissy’s sister. They went out with us last night. They must have hit it off if he didn’t come home until almost five this morning.” As Kyle took another sip of coffee, his brain caught up with his mouth. Isabel was frozen in place, pain clouding her eyes. Shit. Now he’d done it.

“What I meant to say was that Alex was doing me a favor last night. He didn’t even want to go at all.”

“Oh, I see. So, you dragged him along against his will and then they happened to hit it off?”

“Exactly. No, wait. I meant to say no. Damnit, Isabel, wait.”

But Isabel was striding across the room, fury guiding her steps. What a fool she’d been. Here she’d been trying to find a way to tell Alex she had feelings for him and he was out all night with some girl. Oh, he was moving on from Breanna alright, but not with her.

The door opened and Max, Liz and Michael entered the room, an argument already in progress.

“No, Michael. Just hand on a second and I’ll tell everyone at once.” Max glanced around the room. “Where is everyone else?”

“I’m here.” Tess also headed for the kitchen, fresh from her shower and dressed for her early morning class.

Kyle had to force himself to look away from her. Instead focusing on Isabel. She was lost in thought and Kyle just knew he’d screwed up royally. Why couldn’t he just keep his big trap shut?

“Where’s Maria?”

“She’s not here. She can’t make it.” Tess lied quickly. Maria had asked them to cover for her a few days while she sorted out some stuff in her head.

Worry mixed with anger on Michael’s face but before he could reply, the door opened again and Alex rushed through, a lock box in his arms.

Liz took one look at Alex and knew something was wrong. He looked awful. His eyes were bloodshot, dark circles hollowed his face. And he looked utterly exhausted.

“Alex, are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” He hated dismissing Liz like that, but they had bigger things to talk about. “Did you tell them yet?”

“I was waiting for you.”

“What’s going on, Max?” Liz knew something was up when Max had been blocking her all morning.

Max and Alex quickly relayed the information they had learned from the Sheriff the night before.

Kyle was shocked to the core and angry. Why weren’t there just accidents anymore? “So, Jenna’s death is alien related?”

“It looks that way.” Alex had never been more tired in his life. After finally returning home, he’d poured over the rest of the documents, hoping to find something that might help make sense of this new puzzle. He knew it wouldn’t be so hard if he hadn’t spent the night with Jenna’s loved ones.

Kyle saw the fatigue in his friend’s face and cut him a break. “How’s Amber?”

Alex rotated his shoulders, trying to get rid of some of the stiffness. “Upset. She doesn’t understand why she’s dead. And I didn’t know what to tell her.”

“Who’s Amber?” Tess didn’t know if she had missed something.

“Chrissy’s sister,” Isabel answered.

Alex raised his eyes to meet Isabel’s. How had she known that? And what was that note in her voice? It was almost frosty, but he hadn’t heard that from her in years. But even more disturbing was that she wouldn’t meet his eyes.

“Yeah, well in any case, I went back through all the files we did have, and I think I may have found something.”

Alex opened the lock box to pull out some folders. “I found some references to a race called the Scaribes.”

Max interrupted. “Where? We went through those files and I don’t remember that.”

“That’s where the no sleep comes in on my part. Some of the files were partially encrypted and when we translated the destiny book, it was wrong in a few places. I ran them all through the translation program I made a few times, and I came up with a bit more information. The scaribes were-“

“Bounty hunters,” Liz finished for him. Her eyes had a sort of glaze to them as she struggled to find the memory.

“Is she doing it again?” Kyle still got creeped out when Liz went into one of these trances. It had scared the hell out of them the first time it had happened. But there were some things you just never got used to.

Max knelt beside Liz, taking her hand. Since his mother had inhabited Liz’s head, she occasionally went into a daze where she started drawing on memories that belonged to Salia. It usually took a key word, or a phrase to trigger it. But no matter how many times it happened or what answers it gave them, Max hated it more every time.

“What can you tell us about the Scaribes?”

“Ruthless, uncaring. I banned them from my provinces after their attack on the palace. But Khivar promised them shelter in return for their services defeating us.”

Isabel knew she was hearing her mother’s memories, and that Max couldn’t bring himself to question her for answers. So, she would have to.

“Is it possible for them to have traveled here to Earth?”

“Yes. But the atmosphere on Earth is corrosive to their bodies.”

“What can you tell us about their physical makeup? Do they have any special abilities?”

“They have two hearts, but no way to regulate their own body temperature. They came from a dead world, tricked us into believing they were peaceful creatures in need of a new home. We gave them sanctuary, hid them from our suns so that the last of their race would not die.”

“So they couldn’t live on Earth? Not with the sun?”

“They have the ability to inhabit the bodies of other creatures. But it is only for a short time. The physical demands on the borrowed body would be great.” Her voice wavered and Isabel knew Liz was breaking out of the trance.

“How can we recognize him?”

“They travel in pairs only. And if they have inhabited another body, they will continue to search for their targets until their mission in complete.”

Isabel dreaded doing this, but they had to know. “What would be the purpose of sending them to Earth? To kill us?”

“The Royal Four are safe. One of them will be needed to fulfill the prophecy, and to produce an heir to the throne. It is their human counterparts that would be targeted Khivar will stop at nothing to see that the prophecy is not fulfilled. It would be his downfall.” Liz’s breathing was labored, the memories harder to find.

“What is the prophecy?”

“Before the joining of the two suns, a child will be born of two worlds. It will…” Liz faltered, a pain building in her head.

“That’s enough.” Max placed a hand on Liz’s temple, strengthening their connection and pulling her back. He couldn’t sit by any longer and watch this.

Liz slumped back in her seat, blinking a few times. She noticed at once that everyone was staring at her. Then she felt Max’s presence in her mind, showing her the conversation they had just had.

Liz blew out a breath, hating the lapse in time she experienced when this happened. “I guess we know a bit more about that prophecy now.”

Michael pounced on her despite Max’s warning glare. “Liz, do you have a clear picture in your head of what these Scaribes look like?”

She thought a minute, surprised to find an image in her mind. “Yeah. Do you think you could sketch it?”

“Give me one minute to get my sketchpad.” He loped off to get his things.

“Okay, that helped. While they do that, I need you guys to see if you can work on unlocking this device. Liz, maybe you could try it too, see if something surfaces in your memory when you pick it up.”

Tess checked her watch. “I only have a few minutes before I have to leave for class.”

“I’m not touching that thing,” Isabel said flatly.

Max approached his sister carefully. “Is, we need your help.”

But she shook her head vehemently. “No, Max. Please, don’t ask me because I can’t.”

Max heard the note of panic in her voice and backed down. If they couldn’t get it to work, there probably wasn’t much she could do to help anyway. “Okay, Is. Maybe you could help Liz and Michael.”

Isabel nodded. There was no way she was going to be at the mercy of that thing again. The last time she’d touched it, everything she’d felt had been amplified until her own body was beyond her control. There was no telling what she’d do if she held it for longer than a few seconds.

Alex too saw the sheer panic in Isabel’s eyes and when the others split off, he rose from his chair to approach her.

“Isabel, can we talk a minute?”

Isabel’s temper was stretched to a very thin thread still. Her pride was still bruised and battered, but she still found herself unable to resist Alex’s soft voice.

“Fine. In my room.”

They passed the group, Isabel’s stride fast and furious. She just wanted to get this whole thing over with. The conversation with Liz earlier had drained the last of her energy, and she wasn’t up for Alex telling her why he only wanted to be friends. In her hurry, she didn’t see the phone cord stretched across the floor. Her boot caught on it and she wobbled in the air, trying not to fall. Warm arms caught her and she knew it was Alex without even looking.

She raised her eyes to politely thank him when the images slammed into her head. She saw him sitting in a candle-lit restaurant, his attention focused on the petite redhead before him. She saw the redhead laugh, placing a hand on his arm. Then she was in a motel room, saw their lips locked together in a kiss as the redhead angled her body closer.

Isabel pulled herself out of Alex’ arms as though she’d been burned. Her heart ached and broke in her chest. That was Amber. She knew it. They’d gone out and had ended up back in her motel room. Had she thought she was mortified before? Thank god at least she hadn’t made a fool of herself before she found out about last night.

Alex studied Isabel carefully. He knew she’d seen something when he’d touched her, but he could only guess what. Watching her carefully, he saw the wall go up around her emotions, and he knew what she’d seen. Somehow, she knew about last night. And he wanted to kick himself, kick Kyle for making him go. Instead, he grabbed Isabel’s arm and pulled her into her bedroom, ignoring her protests.

“We need to talk.”

Isabel folded her arms stiffly. “I don’t think we have anything to talk about.”

“Isabel, about what you just saw.”

Her eyes flared and she headed for the door. “I don’t think you have to explain yourself to me. I mean, it’s not like we’re dating or anything.”

Alex blocked her retreat. “It’s not like that. And besides, where do you get off being upset with me? You’re the one that told me yesterday that you wanted to forget the whole thing ever happened between us.” He was yelling now, but he didn’t care. It felt good to get the whole thing off his chest.

Isabel turned indignantly towards him. “Well, you’re the one that said the whole thing was a mistake. And maybe it was. So, if you want to go sleep with the first bimbo that comes along, go right ahead and do it. Don’t let me stop you.”

“Oh, don’t worry, I won’t. Yes, she found me attractive and irresistible. Is that so hard to believe?” Alex was tired of being turned down. He was tired of feeling like second best no matter what he did.

“She found you attractive and irresistible? More like she was looking for a warm body and found you there and willing.” Isabel didn’t know what was coming out of her mouth or how to stop it. What was she saying? She saw Alex freeze and she knew that last one had just cut to the bone. With everything in her, she wanted to take it back, to apologize and tell him she would do whatever he wanted to just go back to being his friend. But she couldn’t.

“Just because you don’t think I’m a catch doesn’t mean nobody else will. I know I’m not a count or a prince, dazzling you with jewels and money. I’m not the most attractive man in the world or the most interesting. But I deserve more respect than that. When I said that kiss at the research lab was a mistake, I meant it. I’ve never regretted anything more in my life. And I’m not going to stand here any longer and take your abuse. You’ll just have to find another servant to bow and scrape at your feet. Cause this one just quit.”

Alex pushed past her and out the door to the living room. He scanned the room and found that only Maria was there.

“Maria, good. Just the person I wanted to see. That blind date you wanted to set me up on? I’m in. Saturday. Just tell me where.” His gaze shifted back to Isabel, still standing in the doorway. “It’s time to move on, find someone new.”

Isabel’s eyes hardened even as her heart continued to break. “I’m in too. It’s time I met a real man. I’m done with children.”

Maria watched in confusion as Isabel turned and strode back into her room, slamming the door behind her. Alex turned as well and fled out the door, mumbling to himself as he went, slamming the front door as well. What the hell had just happened? She sighed as she grabbed for the phone. She disappears for a few days and the whole group dynamic crumbles around her. It looked as though it were up to her to set things right.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:42:08 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 35

Liz sighed in frustration as her computer finished running comparisons of the test data she had fed it. She’d already been here hours longer than she’d expected and she thought longingly of the dinner she’d had waiting at home for her. It would just have to wait.

Max had already called a few hours ago to try and persuade her to come home, but she’d explained that she’d been behind from all the time off she’d taken already that week. And then she had reluctantly hung up the phone.

And now she sat at work when she had a wonderful fiancée at home waiting for her. Life just sucked.

An older woman popped her head in the room, gaining Liz’s full attention.

“Hey, Parker, I’m going home now. Why don’t you do the same?”

Liz flashed her a smile. “Thanks, but I really wanted to finish this up tonight. I won’t be too long.” Doctor Kidare was recognized as one of the most brilliant women in her field and Liz had a sort of hero complex around her.

Kidare frowned at her young researcher, reminded a bit of herself at that age. “Okay, but no more than a half hour. And I’m going to send Ralph up to check on you.”

Liz smiled with her at the thought of the burly securing guard kicking her out. He may be three hundred pounds of muscle, but he was a complete softie.

“A half hour, I promise. Now, go. Don’t you have a hot date?”

“Date, yes. Hot, no. But I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Shaking her head, Liz returned to her computer. Hopefully, she would be able to keep her promise and finish soon. Footsteps echoed back in the deserted halls and she swiveled to face the door.

“Did you forget your keys again?” she called out.

“Nope. Got em right here.”

Liz’s eyes widened when she head the teasing voice of her fiancée answer back a second before he appeared in the door frame.

“But you on the other hand forgot to eat dinner, didn’t you?”

Casually, she tossed her hair over her shoulder. “Actually, my boyfriend Roberto stopped by earlier and I ate wonderfully.”

“Roberto, huh?” He set the large brown bad he carried down and moved slowly towards her.

A thrill of anticipation ran through Liz’s body at just the sight of him. He carefully side stepped lab tables to stand directly in front of her, hand braced on each of her armrests, trapping her.

“Don’t worry. I’m still planning on keeping you around.”

“I’m flattered. So, would this be a good time to tell you about my girlfriend?”

Liz’s eyes narrowed. “You’re treading on thin ice, you know.”

He leaned in close, trying to tempt her with a kiss. “I missed you. It was lonely all by myself.”

She could feel his warm breath on her skin and her head wanted to roll back in pleasure, to give him access to her neck. Instead, she wrapped her arms around his neck and closed the distance between them.

Max wasn’t disappointed when Liz joined her lips to his. They stayed joined, not really trying to entice the other for more, but content to merely touch.

Finally breaking the soft kiss, Max smoothed down Liz’s hair, pure silk beneath his fingertips. She hadn’t been eating lately and he’d been trying to force her to eat at least one meal a day.

“So, I guess since you already had dinner, you don’t want what I have in the bag.”

“I wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings.” She eased out of the chair and opened the bag, starving. “Senior Chows?! You’re the best.”

“Oh, sure. I’m your favorite if I feed you.”

“And don’t you forget it.” She helped pull out the boxes and open them, inhaling the inviting scents.

“So, what are you working on? I thought I could help you out and get you home quicker.”

Liz gestured back to the computer screen with her fork while she finished chewing. “I’m just trying to analyze some of the test data they gathered this week. It shouldn’t take too long now.”

“Good. I was hoping we could celebrate.”

“And what are we celebrating?”

Max watched as she continued shoveling bites of Mexican food into her mouth. How long had it been since she’d eaten? He was going to have to watch her more carefully. She put up a good front, but he knew how bruised her heart was by her parent’s reaction to her news and then by their silence.

“Well, tonight happens to be our anniversary. We’ve been engaged for exactly thirteen days and if that isn’t cause for celebration, then what is?”

She knew he was trying to cheer her up and she decided to let him. “I agree completely. Should we celebrate naked in your apartment?”

His food forgotten, he took her in his arms. “I think that’s the best idea I’ve heard all day.”

He leaned in closer for a kiss, when a muffled ringing sounded from his pants. Max groaned in frustration.

“You’d better answer it.” Liz was torn between her own disappointment over losing Max’s attention, and her own hunger for the spicy meal he’d brought her. A wicked image formed in her mind of a way she could have both.

Max chuckled at her thoughts as he grabbed his phone. “Hello?”

Liz poised her fork to take another bite, almost dropping the fork when waves of panic and fear rolled through her. She immediately turned to Max.

“Yes, Sheriff, I understand. I’ll be there as quick as I can.” He turned off the phone carefully, feeling Liz’s nerves through their connection.

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know. He just asked me to come down to the station right away.”

“I’m coming with you.” She closed the lid to her dinner, no longer hungry.

“No, Liz. I’m taking you home.”

“Max,” she warned, but he took both shoulders in his hands.

“Liz, please. I don’t know what’s going on. At least let me pretend I can keep you safe. I know you’re strong and independent and I love you for it. But this could be serious.”

Liz thought about it. She really hated being left out of things, but she knew Max couldn’t concentrate if he as worried about her. “Okay, but I don’t want you to block me while you’re there. Promise me, whatever it is.”

Max hesitated, but knew she was right. If it were him, he’d at least want that much. “Fine. How long will it take you to finish here?”

But she was already up and turning off the machines. “Give me ten seconds.”

As in all times of trouble, the car ride back to the apartment building was quiet. Between the two of them, they had a dozen emotions churning inside of them. Liz no longer knew which of them were hers and which belonged to Max. They simply belonged to them both, their energies evolving into one.

Max pulled to a stop outside the building and Liz placed a hand on his to stop him from cutting the engine.

“I’ll go up alone. Just go and be safe.”

Not needing to say anything, he pulled her into another kiss, softer and gentler than any they had shared in a long time. It was the kind of kiss sadly reserved for times of danger. And they both knew whatever the Sheriff knew was going to make things worse.

“I love you.”

Liz rested her forehead on Max’s. “I love you too.” They no longer actually had to say the words, finding the proof in every heart beat. But they were nice to hear.

With a forced cheery smile, she slipped out of the car and up the stairs. She crossed to the window where she knew Max would be waiting to see she was safe. With a wave, he pulled the Jeep away from the building and into the night. With heavy limbs, she sunk into a kitchen chair. Not wanting the light, she waved them out with her hand.

And it was twenty minutes later that Maria tried to slip in unseen and found her best friend alone in the dark, looking lost. And in that moment, she realized that her brave friend wasn’t as strong as she pretended to be. It was easy to forget that sometimes.

She slipped soundlessly into a seat beside Liz and pulled her dark head onto her shoulder. Maria smoothed Liz’s hair back.

“Tell me.”

Liz heaved a heavy breath, happy to let Maria be the strong one for once.

“What’s going on, Maria? This is supposed to be one of the happiest times in my life, and I can’t even enjoy it!”

Both girls looked up when the front door opened softly. Alex peaked his head into the room, his eyes adjusting to the dim light. Then he spotted them in the corner, clinging to each other, eyes wide with worry. He joined them, pulling a chair behind them so they could both lean back into his chest. He’d seen Maria come home and he’d wanted to talk to her about her recent absence from the group.

“We’re falling apart here, guys,” he whispered. “We’ve always been a family. And families stick together.”

“The Sheriff called Max earlier, asked him to come down to the station. But he wouldn’t say why.”

“What’s been going on with you, Maria?” Alex was worried about his friend. She had distanced herself from the group and from Michael, and though no one had said anything about it yet, they were all worried.

“I don’t know. Things went bad with Mom. And I guess some of the things she started saying made sense.”

“Maria, you know better than that. Is this about Michael?” Alex guessed. “You know him better than anyone on this planet.”

“That’s my point. On this planet. But what about on his?”

“You need to talk to him. He’s worried about you.”

She sighed, wishing he would have offered her any sort of advice other than that. “I know.” Maria turned to Liz, surprised she hadn’t tried to knock some sense into her yet about Michael. Her face was twisted, in a grimace of pain. “Liz, are you alright?”

Maria and Alex watched in confusion as Liz leapt from her chair and bolted for the bathroom. There was the unmistakable sound of her retching into the toilet. The both got up at the same time as Isabel and Tess’s bedroom lights turned on.

“What’s going on?” Tess asked sleepily.

Isabel saw the concerned look on Alex’s face, and forced herself to ignore it, no matter how hard it was. He didn’t want her concern or her help. But something was going on. So, she turned to Maria. “Is Liz okay?”

Liz stumbled out of the bathroom, holding a hand to her mouth, still looking a little green. Her stomach lurched again as the images of what she’d seen from Max’s head replayed over and over. Not now. How could this be happening? She turned to face her friends, hands trembling in fear.

“They found another body.”








posted on 16-Sep-2001 11:00:22 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 36

Michael dragged himself up the stairs to his apartment. His life just sucked. He’d been forced to take a job as a cook at a greasy dive outside of town and hated every minute of it. The place made the Crashdown look like a four star restaurant. But money was money and he still had rent to pay.

Amy had been paying he and Maria to run odd jobs for the evergrowing fledgling business she had created. It had usually meant setting up cheesy alien displays and checking stock for her customers. But it was flexible to allow for their school schedule and Amy had paid them well. Plus there had been the added bonus of feeling for the first time like he was part of a family. A dysfunctional, neurotic family, but a family nonetheless. But she wouldn’t want him around now, not when she knew the truth about what he was.

Thinking about Maria and Amy made his stomach twist and his head throb harder. He knew Maria had gone to talk to her mother, then she had all but disappeared. And his gut was telling him that something had gone really wrong. Had Amy convinced Maria not to see him anymore? The thought was heart wrenching, and it had prompted at least a dozen phone messages for her a day. Of which she hadn’t returned a single one. He knew he was driving Isabel and Tess crazy, but he didn’t care.

Michael rubbed at his temples again. The only thing worse than working a horrible job was getting fired from one. They had something about a poor attitude, and he seemed to be distracted. Hell yes he was distracted. How could he concentrate on not burning hamburgers when Maria was avoiding him? Then there was the whole threat of alien invasion. He knew the Sheriff had discovered another body, and if bodies with no cause of death kept popping up, there would be some real explaining to do. They had to find the cause of this new threat and wipe it out. But how do you find an enemy that changes bodies like some people change clothes? Then on the way home, the tire on his motorcycle had gone flat and he’d had to walk it back into town, only to get an astronomical tire bill.

He’d even tried to use his powers on the ache in his brain, but that hadn’t even gone right. In fact, he thought it had made it worse somehow. It had been the worse day in the history of days and he just wanted to curl up in bed and close his eyes and maybe he wouldn’t feel the frustration clawing at him that he usually felt. If there was one thing he hated, it was being helpless to do anything when he knew danger was looming.

He jammed his key in the lock and tried turning it. He’d forgotten to call the superintendent to fix the damn lock. Great. He used more force, trying to force the key to move. Curbing the instinct to just kick the door in, he turned it one last time with more force, and the key broke off in the door.

Giving into the emotion, Michael kicked at the wall a few times. Could this day get any worse? The frustration clawed it’s way to the surface and he simply kicked at the door. The lock gave way and the door swung wide. Taking no satisfaction in the splintered wood, he slammed the door shut behind him, then stopped cold. Maria was standing in the middle of the living room, confusion mixing with anxiety in her eyes.

His heart lifting at just the sight of her, he took several steps towards her. If he could just get her in his arms, it would all be okay. But Maria took a step back from him and held out a hand to stop him. Michael froze. She hadn’t ever done that.

“Maria?”

“Michael, we have to talk.” She began pacing the room, wringing her hands.

Shit. This couldn’t be good. “What’s wrong?”

“I’ve just been thinking about us. And where we are and where we should be.”

Michael felt the throb begin anew. God, she wanted to talk about their relationship now? With everything else that was going on? When he hadn’t seen her for days on end? “Maria, can we talk about us later? I’ve had the day from hell.”

“No. We need to talk about this now. Michael, when people get together, there is a progression they take. They flirt, they do couple things, maybe move in together, marry, start a family, buy a house in the suburb with a white picket fence. Of those things, we’ve done absolutely none. We’ve never really dated. All of our time together was spent in cars either running or chasing somebody down. We’ve never done couple things. We don’t walk down the street holding hands. We don’t go dancing. The only place we eat at is the Crashdown. And it’s been five years. We’ve been together technically longer than Max and Liz, and they’re getting married in a few weeks.”

Michael crossed the living room into the kitchen, desperate for any drug that would rid him of this headache. What the hell was she talking about? She hadn’t wanted any of those things before? Why now? He began pulling items from his cupboard, looking for any form of aspirin that would help.

“Maria, I really don’t want to do this now. Why don’t you tell me what happened with your mother?”

But Maria shook her head as she watched him dump the contents of a drawer onto the kitchen counter. What was he doing? “No, Michael. We need to talk about this now. I’m tired of putting off discussions about our future. I need to know where we’re going.”

Michael frowned, unable to follow what Maria was talking about. “What do you mean, where are we going?”

Maria threw her hands up in the air. “I mean, where do you see us in five more years?”

“I don’t see us anywhere. I don’t know where I’ll be. You know that. You’ve always known that.” He continued his search, unable to see the rising agitation on Maria’s face.

“Right. Because you’re leaving Earth and everything on it behind whenever you get the big phone call. So, you can’t make any plans.”

“Exactly.” He missed the dead calm tone of her voice.

“So, what is Max doing? Isn’t he going with you? Cause, last time I checked, he was your leader, and here he is getting married to his high school sweetheart.”

“Maria, I’m not Max.”

“No, you’re definitely not.”

Michael froze. He carefully closed the cabinet door and stood in the doorway of the kitchen. He’d been compared to Max his whole life and had always fallen short.

“What do you want from me, Maria?” He chose his words carefully.

Maria took a deep breath. “I want to get married. Today. Now.”

Michael closed his eyes, shaking his head in confusion. “What? You want to just jump in the car and run off and elope? Just like that?”

“Yes.”

“Where’s this coming from? You didn’t want to get married last week.”

“Things have changed. I’m not asking you, Michael. I’m telling you. I want to get married. I want to know we have a future together. And if you can’t give me that, then…” Maria let her voice trail off, not knowing what she would do.

Michael’s features stiffened. She was ordering him to marry her in the dead of night. His stubborn streak kicked in and his chin raised a notch. He hated when she gave him ultimatums. “Then what?”

Maria crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m not going to waste any more time on someone that doesn’t plan on having a future with me. In five years, I’ve never asked anything of you.”

“No, you’ve never asked, you’ve just told me what you wanted and expected me to fall in line. Why should this be any different?” The pounding was making him weak in the knees. His head had never hurt like this before, but then neither had his heart.

“Yes or no, Michael. I need an answer now.”

He examined her, face and features cold with fury. She had closed herself off from him. And he didn’t know what to do. If he went to her now like he wanted to, she would push him away, he knew that. But why was she so hell-bent on getting married today? They’d talked about this briefly a few years ago and she’d told him she had wanted to have graduated from college before she got married. Why the sudden rush?

“Maria, let’s just talk about this for a minute. Can we sit down?”

But she wasn’t moving. “Yes or no?” Her heart was on the table. Either he wanted a future with her or not. This was the deciding moment. She needed to know that she wouldn’t wake up one morning to find him gone, his real family wanting him back home.

Michael crossed his own arms over his chest. “Not like this, Maria.”

“So, no then?” God, the pain in her chest was unbearable. She’d hoped, prayed he would say yes, that he would love her enough to want her in his life forever. But maybe her mother had been right. Michael Guerin just didn’t feel normal human feelings. She had been useful to him, and leaving this apartment now would be the hardest thing she would ever have to do. But a clean break now was better than last minute goodbyes when he stood at the door to a spaceship ready to blast back home.

Michael took a step toward her, knowing if she left now, it would be bad. “Maria, just stop this. Sit down with me and we’ll talk about whatever you want.” His heart had never felt as broken as when she took steps towards the door, away from him. How could she do this to him? Didn’t she know how much he loved her? How much this was hurting him to see her upset and not to let him help her?

“Goodbye, Michael. I hope you find your family someday.”

Michael watched dumbstruck as she fled out the door. He took steps toward her, but stopped. Now wasn’t the time. She was obviously upset about something. He would let her cool off then talk to her, set things straight. He would need a clear head to approach her, and he couldn’t do that right now without making the situation worse. Because what she didn’t know was that he had already found his family, and it had just run out the front door.





posted on 18-Sep-2001 10:09:17 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

This is probably the longest part I’ve ever written, but I couldn’t break it up. You’ll see why. And maybe this will make up for the Michael/Maria scene? Love you guys!

Learning to Live
Part 37

“And so I told him, ‘Bob, I’m the VP of the company, not a salesman’. Needless to say, he was embarrassed.”

“That’s so interesting. Tell me more.”

Alex ground his teeth together as Isabel cuddled closer to her date. He had been going on about himself for thirty minutes now and Isabel was actually encouraging him further. What the hell had he been thinking when he had agreed to this nightmare? Oh, yeah, he had wanted to move on with his life, prove that some women might actually find him desirable. He forced himself to turn away from Isabel and Mike and faced his date instead.

Alice was pretty, about 5’2, with a dazzling smile. And she was into computers. He found that he couldn’t be mad at Maria for doing this because she had found them perfect matches. Alice was everything he thought he wanted at one point in his life. She was smart and pretty, could understand what he was talking about half the time and didn’t humor him. He had been able to have a fairly intelligent conversation with her most of the evening. But the other part of it, it had been spent glaring at Mike. Mike, the tall VP of one of the largest corporations Roswell boasted. He was good looking, rich, smart. What wasn’t to like? He was the kind of man Isabel deserved. And where the hell had Maria been hiding normal friends? All the ones he’d ever met were the strangest of the strange.

“How is that desert?”

“Delicious. But I shouldn’t be eating it.” She covered her mouth with her napkin delicately.

“Nonsense. You’re in perfect shape. If you can’t splurge on deserts once in a while, what’s the point?”

“I guess. Here, you really should try a bite of this. It’s good.” She spooned a bite onto her fork and held it out for Alex to try.

Isabel was ready to scream. What the hell was Alex doing? Here he’d only known Miss Goody Two Shoes for a few hours and already she was feeding him? She watched as he rolled his eyes exaggeratedly when he tasted the sweet desert. The last few hours with Mike had been pure torture. She hadn’t spoken with Alex since their fight three days ago. And she missed him. She missed their late night talks and the way their minds clicked together, solving problems as a team. She missed hearing his voice, his laughter when she said something that amused him. She missed his sense of humor. She just missed Alex.

Mike chuckled at his own joke and Isabel was brought back to the present. “Enough about me. Maria tells me you two are friends. How did you meet?”

Alex met eyes with Isabel quickly and for a brief moment, they connected. Then Alex slid his eyes away. “We went to school together. But we were never friends growing up. Isabel traveled in different social circles than I did.” He couldn’t help the bitterness that crept into his voice.

“Oh really? So, you were a social butterfly?”

Isabel forced a smile. “Yeah. That’s me.”

Alice placed a hand timidly over Alex’s. “It doesn’t matter what circles you travel in, but the real friends you make along the way.”

Alex smiled at her. “I had two best friends growing up, Liz and Maria. They’ve been there for me everyday of my life. They’ve never let me down and they always support me.”

“You’re lucky then, man, two women for friends. That’s the way to do it.”

Alex just smiled at Mike, sipping his water. If the guy didn’t get his hand off Isabel’s back soon, he would simply have to rip his arm off.

Oblivious to any danger, Mike rubbed a lazy circle on Isabel’s bare back. “So, what about you, Isabel? You must have fascinating stories about growing up.”

Alex choked on his water and started coughing. Alice looked alarmed and began patting his back. Isabel glared at him before turning back to Mike. “No, I had a pretty typical childhood. Nothing out of the ordinary at all.”

“So, how did you two become friends then?” Alice was still darting glances at Alex as he caught his breath.

Alex just couldn’t help himself. The entire thing was just too funny. Here they were on a double date when all he really wanted to do was grab Isabel and take her somewhere alone where he could apologize to her and tell her how he really felt. Instead, he was being forced to make up stories. Should he tell them about how Isabel first dreamwalked him to make sure he wouldn’t turn them into the FBI? Or maybe how she had tried to come on to him in the Soap Factory to try to insure his loyalty? Or he could just make up something completely original. What the hell.

“Actually, I saved Isabel’s life.” He saw her jaw drop open and almost felt like laughing. Maybe this dinner was salvageable after all.

“Wow. Really?” Mike looked impressed.

“Absolutely, you see she was crossing the street and wasn’t paying attention to where she was going, and I pulled her out of the path of an oncoming car.”

Isabel glared at him. What the hell was he talking about? He’d never done any such thing. Well, two could play at his game. She pasted a sweet smile on her face. “I sure was lucky Alex was there to save my life. Who knows what might have happened to me otherwise. Oh, Alex, you should tell them about the time you locked yourself in the storage closet at the Crashdown. That’s this little restaurant in town.” She had turned to Mike to explain. “He was stuck in there for almost two days. He was forced to eat frozen waffles to survive.”

Alex narrowed his eyes at her. So, she was playing along, huh? Fine. “Oh, that’s boring compared to the time you tried to bake a cake for Max’s birthday and you forgot to put sugar in the cake.” He turned to Alice. “We had cut the cake and everyone went to take a bite, and it was the most foul tasting substance you’d ever eat.”

Isabel listened to Alice’s giggle and her temper started to boil. She was a damn fine cook and Alex knew it.

“Don’t worry about it, honey. Some women were born to cook, and some were born to be served.”

But Isabel hadn’t heard a word Mike had said. “Well, let me tell you about the time Alex tried to learn to juggle oranges and he dropped one right on his computer and it busted open and fried the whole thing.” There was steel in her voice now.

“How about the time you drove out of town and didn’t check your gas gauge and got stuck in the middle of the desert all night because your cell phone wasn’t charged?”

“At least I didn’t forget about Midterms last semester and walk into class oblivious to everything around me.”

Mike and Alice watched them banter back and forth, each throwing incidents at each other quicker than they could interrupt. Alice glanced at Mike and he merely shrugged at her, as confused as she was.

Finally tired of the made up scenarios, Isabel stood up abruptly. “I’m going to use the ladies’ room. Mike, if you could get our check, that would be great. I’m ready to leave.”

Mike stood with her and watched her with an appreciative glance as she left the table. Alex’s temper was ready to erupt. Nobody looked at Isabel like that. She wasn’t just a piece of meat. And the worst part of all was that she was letting him get away with it. What the hell was wrong with her? He was just going to have to ask her himself. He stood as abruptly as she did and excused himself from the table, not bothering to look back at the remaining two occupants.

Alice smiled at Mike and he grinned back at her. “So, did Maria tell you what was going on with them?”

Alice nodded. “Yeah. I think it’s really sweet she’s trying to set them up. So, are you really a VP?”

“Nope. I’m a video game tester.”

“Really? I’m a security guard for one of the department stores.”

“Small world. So, you ready to get out of here? Maria’s already paid for the dinner.”

Alice stood and picked up her purse. “Yeah, they could be gone awhile. It’s really kind of cute. They make a good couple.”

“Yeah. But there were a few times I thought he was going to rip my head off.” Mike placed a hand behind Alice’s back and guided her out of the restaurant. “So, what are you doing tomorrow?”

Alex stalked the length of the restaurant, looking for the way Isabel had gone. If she thought she was letting that creep take her home, she had another thing coming. He rounded a corner in time to see her quiet retreat out a set of double doors. He followed and found himself outside on the back deck.

Isabel turned around quickly, surprised at the intrusion, anger lighting her face when she saw Alex. “What the hell did you think you were doing back there? You saved my life? Could you have made up anything dumber?”

“Me? What about you? Juggling oranges? Are you insane? And what was I supposed to tell him? They wanted to know how we met. It’s a pretty standard question.”

“What about the truth? That Liz and Max started dating, and we started hanging out?”

“The truth? Isabel, the truth is, you never gave me the time of day the first few years we actually hung out. It wasn’t until after Nicholas took Liz that you saw me as useful, and not a nuisance.”

“I never saw you as a nuisance. And we did too talk.”

“Not unless you needed something from me. I wasn’t good enough for the Ice Princess to lower herself to talk to.”

“Ice Princess? I’ll show you ice.” She closed the distance between them and crushed her lips to his. She barely registered the fact that his hands tangled themselves in her hair as he pulled her against his body. There was no alien device controlling her now, just adrenalin and desire pumping through her veins faster than she’d ever experienced. If he didn’t want her, so be it, but let him see what he was giving up. She slanted her mouth to give him more access and he took advantage, dipping his tongue, possessing her mouth.

Alex’s whole body was on fire. Kissing Isabel was unlike any other experience in this world or any other. Her hands had gathered at the base of his spine and were moving up his back. And he wanted nothing more than to feel her bare skin against his, would have traded his life gleefully for it in that moment.

He broke the kiss and Isabel rolled her head back, allowing him access to her neck. He nibbled on her jaw bone, moving across to her earlobe. When Isabel gave him a breathy sigh in return, he made a mental note to return to that spot. In the meantime, there were a hundred other places he wanted to taste. He lips traveled lower, down her neck as he’d imagined doing a thousand times. But this moment was better than he ever could have imagined. Her skin was soft, smooth in ways that human girl’s would have killed for. The perfume she had dabbed on herself clung to his skin now and he knew the scent would burn in his memory forever. She smelled of gardenias, so strong and so sweet it was almost too much.

One hand reached up to the spaghetti straps that held up her dress and lowered one side. His lips replaced the strap, suckling the tight skin. His tongue moved on to the hollow of her throat and he vaguely felt her hands tangled in his short hair, pulling him closer, ever closer.

Then he broke contact with her, pulling his lips from her skin in a movement that was jerky and harsh. But he knew that his control was wire thin tonight, and he didn’t want to hurt her. He held her shoulders in his hands, waiting until desire cleared from her eyes and unfogged her brain. He saw the moment she had realized what she had done and before she had a chance to pull her wall back up, Alex pulled their lips together for a quick, bruising kiss. It was time to stop playing games. Things were never going to go back to normal. This was the second time she had kissed him. Maybe things between them weren’t as hopeless as he’d thought.

“Isabel, I want you. I’ve wanted you since the day I first met you. And I tried to push it away, but it just keeps coming back no matter what I do. And now that I’ve kissed you, I don’t think I can pretend anymore. I can’t pretend you don’t affect me.” He took her hand and placed it on his chest, over his heart. “Do you feel what you do to me? In this moment, I’ve never wanted anything more than to make love to you. And I don’t know how you feel about any of this. You could tell me no, and we could laugh this whole thing off as a joke tomorrow. But in this moment in time, I can’t lie to you anymore. No matter what we do from here, this was a perfect moment for me.”

He looked down at her beautiful face, her eyes filled with tears, and he was lost. This beautiful creature he had no right to touch could break him. Because standing here, holding her in his arms in the moonlight, he realized that he loved her. There would never be anyone else in his life that would make him feel what he felt for Isabel Evans. And if she told him no right now, it would ruin this moment. And he needed it to last a bit longer. “Please don’t say anything right now. It’s a lot to think about, and everything will change after this. Just know that nobody could ever feel anything for you that I didn’t feel first.”

Isabel’s heart threatened to seize. Never in her life had she heard such beautiful words. And his eyes, they were shining, burning for her. She wanted to say yes, to follow him home and finish what they had started here tonight, but he was right. This would change everything, and they would have to talk when they had clear heads.

“Let’s give it the weekend, okay?” Alex smiled at her, all of his anger and frustrations gone. Nothing that had been said or done in the last few days mattered anymore. They would either forget any of this ever happened and move on separately, or they would do it together.

Isabel nodded, afraid her voice would fail her, but she offered him a smile. Reluctantly, she eased out of his arms, but joined hands with him, squeezing gently.

“So, we should probably go find out dates, huh?”

“Oh! I’d forgotten.”

Alex grinned. “The sound you just heard was my ego swelling.”

Isabel smiled, blushing furiously. What was he doing to her? She tugged on his hand and pulled him back into the restaurant.

Alex followed happily. He’d done the impossible. He’d made Isabel blush. He had made out with her in the moonlight and then made her blush. Yep, he could die a happy man.

“They’re gone.”

“Guess they got tired of waiting. Can I escort you home?”

They made their way to Alex’s car and rode silently back to their apartment complex, Isabel’s hand still clutched in his tightly. They parked and walked up the stairs to Isabel’s door. She turned to face him, truly nervous for the first time in her life. Would he kiss her goodnight? Everything in her hoped he would.

“Well, ah, it was interesting.”

“Especially since our dates ditched us,” he agreed. He wanted to kiss her goodnight. Would it be too forward? Hell, he’d already made out with her. What harm could a simple kiss do?

He leaned closer, taking her in his arms. How was it that she could fit so perfectly against his body? Then her lips were on his and a connection was blown wide open. Images of childhoods long past mixed and merged into one. Alex was able to feel Isabel’s feelings, and he knew she must be able to read his. And he was amazed. She, Isabel Evans, Princess to some far off planet, wanted him. She didn’t want to let him go. And the knowledge was more intoxicating than anything he’d ever known. Slowly, he pulled away. Not tonight.

He raised her hand to his lips and placed a kiss to her smooth skin. “Goodnight, Bella.”

She smiled at the old nickname he sometimes used for her. And it had never sounded so sweet. “Goodnight, Alex.” She opened the door and slipped inside, not breaking eye contact with him until absolutely necessary.

Alex stood alone in the hallway, a grin stretched from ear to ear. He knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight, or the next, not until he’d be able to hold her again. He would stick to his promise and give her the weekend to think about them with a clear head. But it didn’t diminish the pure joy that filled his heart. Because for the first time ever, he thought he might have a chance to spend his life with the girl of his dreams.






posted on 15-Oct-2001 12:52:12 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 38

The sun was shining bright in the sky when Alex stepped out of the shower Sunday morning. The air was crisp and fresh and the world had never had so many possibilities. He had shaved, wondering briefly if Isabel would like the rugged look on him, then he’d dressed and entered the kitchen with a spring in his step and a whistle on his lips.

Kyle watched Alex putter around the kitchen for a few minutes in amusement. What was going on here? Alex almost seemed happy. No, he seemed deliriously happy. This was a definite improvement.

“What’s your deal?”

“Not a thing. Can’t a guy just be happy? Do you want breakfast? I’m starving.”

Kyle rose from the table to pour himself another cup of coffee. Alex was pulling things out of their refrigerator that he hadn’t known they owned. “Not that I’m not all for the new improved ‘the glass is half full Alex’, but I just feel that I should ask as your roommate if you’re doing drugs. You can tell me.”

Alex laughed. What was that old saying of his fathers? “I’m just high on life.” And he’d never meant the words more.

“Yeah, is that a new street drug? Cause, I’m not familiar with it.”

Alex closed the refrigerator door and stared off into space. “I had the most amazing night.”

“Oh, right, the blind date. So, I take it everything went well?” When Alex only grinned at him, he knew this had to be good. “So, what is she like? Tell me everything and don’t skimp on the features.”

Isabel’s smiling face filled Alex’s mind. “She’s beautiful and smart and funny, and…perfect.”

“Wow. That’s some package. What’s her name?”

“Isabel.”

“Hey, that’s funny, didn’t you-oh, wait. Are you talking Isabel as in our Isabel that you’ve had a thing for your whole life?”

“Yup.”

“I’m confused.” Coffee couldn’t even help him with this one. He pushed the mug aside and leaned easily against the counter. “Isabel was your date?”

“No, Alice was.”

“But you ended up with Isabel?”

“Only after we fought about how we first met.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“We fought, she ran away, I followed, some kissing ensued, then we talked. It was amazing, Kyle. I’ve never felt this way, so alive and invincible. Nothing can stop me today.”

Kyle couldn’t help but grin at his friend. Good for him. It was about time something good happened to him. And it just made his news even worse.

“I’m happy for you, man.”

“Well, nothing’s happening officially yet. We’re thinking things over.”

“Well, if Isabel’s on the same cloud you’re on, then I’d say you’re in business. Besides, how could she resist your charm? Or that wit?”

“Don’t forget the bulging biceps.”

Kyle laughed as Alex flexed for him. “Save it for the ladies. So, do you have plans today?”

“I’ve got to work tonight.”

“Well, I really hate to ruin your day in the clouds, but Max wanted everyone to meet in the girls’ room this morning.”

“What’s wrong?” Alex sobered immediately.

Kyle saw the amusement fade from his eyes and he regretted it, but knew it was necessary.

“Dad called early this morning. They found another body out by the rock quarry.”

“A third one?” Alex paced the small kitchen. When was this going to end? “So, you’ve already talked to Max?”

“Thus the meeting.”

Alex nodded, putting the breakfast pieces back in the fridge. “Let’s go now.”

Together, they made their way to the girls’ apartment in silence. Kyle knocked, then entered as was his custom. The girls were all there, Tess and Maria pacing. Max sat in an armchair, deep in thought, Liz pulled tightly in his lap. But Alex only had eyes for Isabel.

Isabel was sitting at the kitchen table, playing with her mug of coffee anxiously. Max had told her Alex and Kyle would be up shortly and her stomach had filled with butterflies. What if he regretted last night? What if he thought about it all night the way she had and he regretted what he’d said? She didn’t think she could bear it if she never saw his eyes cloud over with desire for her again, if she couldn’t be held in his arms.

Then he walked in the room and his beautiful, passionate eyes found hers and her fears were put to rest.

It was taking every bit of willpower Alex had not to rush to her side and kiss her. He’d promised her time to think and he would give her until Monday before he did whatever it took to convince her they should be together. How could he lose her now when they’d just discovered what could be?

So, he forced himself to walk calmly to the table to sit beside her.

Nervous, Isabel averted her eyes. “Hi.” But her grin was enormous.

“Hey.” His grin was back in full force. At this rate, the whole room would know about last night in the next five minutes.

“Sleep well?”

How was it that just the sound of his voice could turn her warm and gushy? “Not very well. I was all alone.” Isabel couldn’t believe she’d just said that. It was far bolder than she’d ever been before, but then again, this was Alex.

Alex’s eyes flew open. He didn’t think it was possible to become fully aroused in two seconds, but he was currently faced with that problem. “Are you flirting with me, Isabel Evans? Cause if you are, I like it.” He moved his hand to cover hers.

Gathering her courage, she raised her eyes to meet Alex’s. They were shining with happiness, lighting his whole face. And she knew that despite her fears of losing his friendship if their relationship ended, she wanted more with her best friend.

Max shot up from his chair, anxious to start. “I’m going to check on Michael. He should have been here by now.”

Maria watched Max leave with trepidation. She hadn’t seen Michael since Friday when he’d turned down her proposal. Oh, how that still hurt. Why couldn’t something just go right for once? Sure, she knew after she’d thought it over that maybe it had seemed a bit rash to Michael. But damn it, he’d said no. And not only her pride had shattered, but her heart as well.

She just had to accept that maybe he didn’t love her as much as she’d thought he did. So, when Liz had told her Max was calling a meeting, her first impulse had been to run, but that was ridiculous. They lived in the same building, shared the same friends. They would simply have to learn to be in close quarters without touching or being together.

And somewhere around two in the morning, she had discovered that anger was far easier to deal with than hurt. So, she clung to her anger now like a security blanket. If she focused on that, she wouldn’t start crying and never be able to stop.

Isabel stood abruptly, jarring Maria from her bout of self-pity. “Alex is going to help me with something in my closet.”

“I am?”

“Yes.”

Maria watched as Isabel dragged Alex into her bedroom, firmly closing the door behind them.

“Weird,” Maria muttered. “Isn’t Isabel taller than Alex?” But at least they were talking to each other again.

Kyle settled himself more firmly on the couch, slinging an arm over the back and behind Tess. He was struggling not to chuckle, but he’d seen the sparks flying between Alex and Isabel since the minute they’d stepped into the room. And he had a pretty good idea what Isabel needed help with.

“Something funny?”

Kyle flashed Tess a grin, studying her. They were the last of the group to not be a couple now it seemed. He’d probably be seeing far less of Alex now. Maybe he should make more of an effort to spend time with Tess. “Just an inside joke. Look, it’s a guy thing,” he explained when she merely raised an eyebrow at him. “Listen, why don’t we get together this week sometime and have coffee, you know, hang out? We haven’t done that, just you and me, in awhile.”

Surprised, Tess nodded. “Sure, that would be nice.”

“Great.” He watched her smile grow and he gave himself a mental pat on the back for doing the right thing for once. Now, if he could just push away the punch of lust he felt every time he saw her, he’d be just fine. He didn’t need destiny and other worldly beings carving out his fate. He did just fine for himself, thank you very much. But when she shifted closer and their legs touched, he knew he was in trouble.

*~*~

Alex couldn’t breath, but if he died, he would be happy. Isabel had dragged him to her bedroom and before the door had even clicked shut, her lips had locked onto his. He’d been surprised by the attack, but had recovered quickly.

Now, they stood against the wall, mouths devouring each other and tongues dueling. Alex held his hands firmly at Isabel’s hips, forcing them not to roam her body as they longed to do. He would wait for her permission, until he knew it was okay with her. She may not remember, but she was still a Princess, and she deserved to be treated like one.

Isabel pulled out of the kiss reluctantly. Her emotions were already out of control and all he’d done was kiss her. God help her if he ever worked up the courage to do more.

“Alex,” she breathed out in a sigh as he refused to stop kissing her. Her pulse was hammering wildly as he trailed kisses down her neck. “Alex, we have to…”

“We have to what?” He whispered in her ear. He’d never tasted anything like her skin before. It was more intoxicating and addictive than any drug could ever be.

What had she been saying? She couldn’t remember now, not when Alex was doing things to her that made her dizzy. “Stop, Alex. We have to stop. I wanted to talk to her.”

“I’m listening,” he promised, nibbling his way back up to her ear lobes.

“Alex!” She laughed, giving him a playful shove. “I mean it.”

With a long sigh, Alex held up his hands in defeat. “Alright, I give up. But just for the record, you kissed me first.”

Isabel blew out a deep breath. “Okay, I’ve been thinking about us, like we talked about. Obviously, there’s a physical attraction between us and while it is amazing, I don’t know if it’s smart.”

Anger flared in Alex’s eyes. “So, you drag me in here to kiss me and then tell me it’s a mistake? Look, Isabel, I know I can be a pushover, but this is ridiculous.”

Isabel closed the gap between them and placed her hands on his face, smoothing away the lines she found. “Just hear me out. I’m not saying no, I’m saying I’m scared. My whole life, I’ve held the most important part of myself back from people, but I can’t do that with you. You know me better than anyone, even Max.”

Alex’s eyes softened. Fear he could deal with. He had more than enough insecurities for the both of them. “Is, don’t you think I’m afraid too? Holding a part of yourself back isn’t an alien trait, it’s a human one. I’m afraid to cross this last line with you, that you’ll wake up tomorrow and realize you deserve someone better than me. And I’m afraid that if something goes wrong, I’ll lose you as my best friend. And that’s the only reason I stayed away from you as long as I did.”

Closing her eyes against his soft words, she felt Alex pull her into his embrace. Why had she thought he wouldn’t understand what she was feeling? “I’m afraid of that too,” she confessed. But it was truth time. She owed him that much after all she’d put him through. She opened her eyes and met him on even ground. “But as scared as I am, I don’t think I can stop feeling these things for you. They get stronger every time I see you.”

“You don’t have to decide now.” Alex brushed a strand of hair off her face. His heart was in her hands and he would respect whatever decision she made.

“But I already have. This thing between us, I want more of it. I want…” she paused, digging up the courage to say the words. Honesty was one of the most important things to her, and she wouldn’t lie to Alex. “I want you, Alex. You walk into a room and it does things to me, it has for awhile now. I thought I’d lost my chance with you, that I’d pushed you away too many times. I’ve hurt you so many times, I wouldn’t have blamed you if you never talked to me again. It took me awhile to see it, but I want you. I want to make love to you, to wake up and listen to you yell at me for stealing all the covers.”

His own heart bursting with love, Alex covered her mouth with his. She wanted him, had wanted him for a long time. How had he been so blind as to miss that?

“Ahem.”

Liz grinned at them from the partially opened doorway. Alex and Isabel sprang apart guiltily when they heard her. It appeared as though Isabel had decided to follow and trust her heart after all.

“I, um, just wanted to let you two know we were starting the meeting, remember the one outside where we’re all waiting?” She was speaking a little louder than usual, knowing prying ears were listening. “But I see you two are still working on that closet thing, so we’ll just start without you.”

Both Isabel and Alex blushed crimson, and it filled her heart. Still smiling, she winked at them, then dropped her voice to a whisper. “Your clothes.” Then she slipped back out the door.

“Well, that was mildly embarrassing.” Alex reached down to straighten out his clothes. When had his shirt become untucked?

“Yeah, but you should have seen some of the things I walked in on when Max and Liz were dating.”

Alex pulled her into the circle of his arms, not caring about their appearance. It was amazing how easy it was to do that now. “Anything you want to reinact?”

She gave him a sultry smile, running her fingers down his chest. “Maybe. You got any plans today?”

Alex sobered. “Yeah. Actually, I was going to try to talk to Dad again.”

Isabel’s eyes clouded with guilt. “Alex, I’m sorry. I wish there was something I could do. I’d come with you if you thought it would help.”

Alex considered it. “You know what, maybe it would help for him to see you’re still the same person you always were. Do you mind?”

“No. When?” The idea that she could help in some small way gave her a sense of purpose.

“Right after the meeting. And if you’re up to it, I may be in serious need of cheering up.”

“I think I can handle that.”

“I thought you might.”



posted on 15-Oct-2001 12:53:12 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 39

“Michael’s not coming.” Max slammed the door behind him, anger and frustration making his movements jerky. He really could have used Michael’s opinion on this. But he claimed not to be feeling well. They never got sick, so what was his deal?

Liz watched as Max paced the living room, more agitated than when he left earlier. She’d heard the brief argument between them through her connection with Max. Michael claimed to have a headache and wasn’t able to come down. And that worried Liz. Usually, Michael was the first one in line to form a plan of action and he had declined to come downstairs for a meeting?

Maria’s eyes went wide as she took in Max’s appearance. Michael must have said something to upset him, it was what he was good at. But Michael wasn’t coming? He was avoiding her, and the knowledge made her heart bleed. God, was this how things were going to be now? If she was in the room, he wouldn’t be? Well, she’d be damned if he was going to push her out of the group. Czechoslovakian or not, he was dealing with Maria Deluca, and he was sadly mistaken if he thought she would be a pushover about this.

“Let’s just get started. Where are Isabel and Alex?”

“I think they’re still in Isabel’s room.”

Max frowned at Tess. “What are they still doing in there? Nevermind, I’ll get them.”

“Wait! That’s not such a good idea, Max.”

Max stopped mid-stride to face Kyle. “Why?”

“Uh, well,”

“I’ll go get them.” Liz rose from the couch, pausing briefly to meet Kyle’s eyes. She saw an amused twinkle and she had a pretty good idea Kyle was in on the progressing relationship. She’d known something had changed the minute Alex had walked into the living room this morning.

“Tess, are you sure Nasedo never mentioned anything about these Scaribes?”

She shook her head at Max, “No. He never really talked about it much.”

Kyle listened to the conversation between Max and Tess with half an ear. The one sided conversation Liz was having through Isabel’s cracked door was far more interesting. He could only imagine what she’d walked in on that gave her cheeks a pinkish hue as she reclaimed her seat on the couch.

“They’ll be out in a minute,” she explained, sharing a private smile with Kyle. She would have to find a better time to explain to Max that his baby sister was falling in love. But for now, her attention turned back to the Scaribes and Michael. So, she turned to Maria. “Has Michael seemed okay to you lately?”

Panic clawed in Maria’s chest. Now was when she should tell them that they were through. But the words stuck in her throat.

“I wouldn’t know.”

Liz frowned at the flat tone in Maria’s voice. Now what was wrong? But before she had a chance to ask, Isabel’s door opened and the new couple emerged, matching grins on their faces.

“Sorry. We’re here.” They took a seat at the kitchen table, hands linked together.

“Okay,” Max took immediate control of the situation. “You know Jim found a third body. So, we have big trouble. They’ve all definitely been alien related, which means that there’s no official cause of death. It’s only a matter of time before the press picks up on this and I don’t want to be national news. Innocent people are dying. We need a plan. Alex?”

Alex shook his head sadly. He knew Max was counting on him now to do something. “No luck with the files yet. But even if I get them cracked, I can’t guarantee they’ll have anything we need.”

“What about the cell phone?”

Alex nodded now, “That I can help you with.” He turned to address the puzzled faces of the others. “Jenna made a 911 call from what we think was the crash site. But her phone wasn’t found with her body. Sorry,” he turned to Kyle, wincing at his own words.

“It’s okay, man. So, we find the cell phone, we find the crash site?”

“In theory. I rigged up a device that triangulated the last known signal of her transmission, and…” he broke off, noting the blank faces of his friends. “It’ll tell us where the phone is,” he modified.

The phone rang beside Isabel and she answered it.

“It’s a starting place,” Max conceded. He knew it was a long shot, but it was all they had right now.

“Sheriff? What’s wrong?”

The group froze again at the mention of the Sheriff’s name.

“Oh, god.” Isabel clamped a hand over her mouth, tears filling her eyes.

Max stalked across the room as he heard the despair in his sister’s voice.

“No, no. I understand. Don’t do anything else to draw attention to yourself. Someone will be right over.” She hung up the phone carefully, then turned to Kyle.

Kyle returned her even stare, terrified of her next words.

“Vicki Delaney was just brought into the coroner’s office.”

Kyle let out a breath. “Vicki?” He hadn’t talked to her in over two years, but he felt the loss as if they had dated only yesterday.

“I’m sorry, Kyle.” She turned to Max now. “As soon as they brought her body in, the coroner sealed off the building. There isn’t any apparent cause of death, and Jim says the coroner wants to call in the CDC before he even autopsies her. So, he has no way of knowing if her death was alien related or not.”

“We’ll have to split up.” Liz stood to join Max’s side. She slipped her hand in his and squeezed firmly.

I love you. He sent her feelings of warmth, gratitude and love.

Liz returned his smile, wishing she could offer him more. “We’ll take the crash site, locate the phone.” Max had been to the morgue already and she could feel his growing panic that he would have to return to look into another pair of dead eyes that blamed him, looking for alien markings. He was strong, but there was a limit to even his strength.

“I’ll go to the morgue.” Kyle’s eyes were hollow, losing any and all emotion that would hinder him from doing this. Of them all, he was the only one who’d known Vicki. He owed it to her to find out what had killed her.

“I’ll go with Kyle.” Tess slipped a hand over Kyle’s thigh, squeezing gently. Did any of them really know how hard it would be for him to do this?

“I’ll help Alex with the files,” Isabel offered.

All eyes turned to Maria.

“I’ll go to the morgue too, I guess.”

Max made a mental note to find out if things were okay between Michael and Maria. “Okay, let’s meet up here later today. And be careful.”




Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 40

It had been one of the longest days in history. There just wasn’t any other way to describe it. After following Alex’s device around half the state of New Mexico before trusting they were going the right way, Liz and Max had pulled alongside the desert road and had begun the tedious task of looking for crash debris.

Really, they had no idea what they were looking for. Max still had the device, but it only told them they had the correct coordinates within a hundred yards. Liz walked with a metal detector in one hand and another of Alex’s devices to measure iridium in the other hand. And as if things weren’t frustrating enough, Max had been effectively blocking her for the last hour, brooding while they searched.

The sun was beating down on them with vengeance, even though the hottest noon hours had already come and gone. The heat was almost sweltering. Why had she volunteered for this job again? Oh, yeah, she was in love.

With a sigh, she moved to the left another foot, studiously checking the ground for any sort of unusual activity or markings. At this rate, it would be Christmas before they could check the entire area. Just as pessimism was starting to break through her usual cheerfulness, the machine in her hand began beeping. It took her a moment to figure out it was the metal detector and by the time she had, Max had appeared by her side.

“Do you have something?”

“I don’t know.” She handed him the other device and concentrated her search with the metal detector. It was the first lead they’d had all day. Studiously, she swept the metal detector in a circle, listening to it beep more furiously as it covered a small space. “There’s something here, alright. Point the other one over here.”

Max aimed the remote control looking device over the area Liz had marked off with a few scattered rocks and watched in amazement as it began lighting up.

Determined now, they both sunk to the sandy ground and began clawing at the surface. Something was buried underneath the sand, something with traces of an atmospheric substance. They dug a hole a few feet deep, occasionally bringing the devices back to make sure they were still on the right track. Finally, Liz’s fingers brushed against something hard and metallic. She pulled it free from the sand with a small cry and the couple looked at the artifact with puzzlement.

In Liz’s palm was a small, metallic cylinder no larger than a tube of lipstick, but wider. She moved it in the sunlight, and a clinking noise told them that there was something encased inside.

“Max, what is this?”

“I don’t know.” He took it from her hand, turning it over to examine the ancient markings on the case. He wished more than anything that he had the knowledge to read the markings, but a familiar frustration washed over him as he thought about how flawed the plan to send the Royal Four to Earth had been. Why would you send the King to another planet and not give him any knowledge of the planet he was supposed to save? “But I don’t think we should open it until we have a better idea.”

Liz moved closer to Max to catch another glimpse and bumped the metal detector with her hip. The alarm went off and it began beeping wildly. Liz exchanged glances with Max before turning to her left and digging another hole. Within seconds, she had produced a large piece of metal buried under the surface of the sand. She handed it to Max for examination.

“This doesn’t look like any metal I’ve ever seen.”

Max pointed Alex’s iridium device at it and it went off. “I think we found the crash site.”

“Want to see what else we can uncover?”

Max pocketed the cylinder and crawled a few feet to Liz’s left. He turned on the device again and wasn’t surprised to find it beeping wildly. “This may take awhile.”

“You have a hot date I don’t know about?”

Max grinned at her through the heavy weight on his heart. She was so beautiful, still so innocent. How would he tell her what he needed to? Today, he promised himself. He would tell her today. He had put it off long enough.

*~*~

“Okay, how are we doing this?” Tess watched Kyle and Maria with a careful eye. They had been silent on the ride to the morgue and she hadn’t even tried for conversation. Kyle seemed to be blaming himself for all of this for some reason, and she wished Maria hadn’t come along. Maybe if they’d been alone, he would have opened up to her, but Kyle wasn’t one to share his feelings with a crowd. And then there was Maria herself. To say the girl was sullen would be an understatement. She knew she was missing something as she watched her roommate brood out the window into the parking lot.

“I’m going into the morgue itself,” Kyle announced.

“You’re going to need a distraction.” Tess watched the crowd of people milling around the outside of the building. Apparently, news was traveling fast this morning.

“I’ll do it,” Maria offered.

“Uh, are you going to use powers for that?” Tess asked apprehensively. The last thing they needed was Maria botching her powers in front of this many witnesses.

“I’ll be fine,” She waved away Tess’s worries with a wave of her hand. “Can you find out first how many of them there are?”

“I think so.” Tess concentrated hard on the first of the guards. It was a new trick she was working on, invading the mind of a single individual in order to gain information. She felt the first tendrils of energy meeting her target, a balding security guard standing guard at the side entrance.

Maria watched anxiously as Tess crinkled her forehead in concentration. The sooner they got this done, the better. She tapped her foot nervously. She needed a distraction. What could she do?

“The guard on the left side of the building is the easiest to get through. He’ll leave his post before the others. Inside, there are two more guards patrolling and one outside the morgue door.”

“Right, so I’ll get you two inside. Tess, you can disable the cameras, right?”

“Well, it might look a little suspicious.”

Maria’s eyes lit up with an idea. “No problem. I think I’ve got it anyway. I’ll get you inside and past the cameras, but you’re on your own inside.”

“We can take it from there. But you’re sure you can manage a distraction?” Kyle was only mildly worried about Maria. If anyone could take care of herself, it was her, but her powers were still fairly unstable.

“Yeah, now go already. Give me five minutes, maybe ten.”

They climbed out of the car and separated into different directions, Maria going one way and Kyle and Tess another.

Maria dashed around one side of the building, careful to stay in the shadows. She saw Jim’s squad car parked to one side and she thought he caught a glimpse of her out of the corner of his eye, but she kept moving. Finally away from the crowd and out of site, she found what she was looking for, a power line dangerously close to a nearby tree.

With one last glance to make sure no one was watching, she aimed her hand up towards the tree. “You know, these overgrown tree branches are really dangerous. You might lose your power if you’re not careful,” she murmured to herself as she released a small blast of energy. The tree branch cracked and fell, taking the power line down with it. It sparked and sizzled on the ground just as she heard a loud pop from behind her. Hopefully, that would kill all the power in the building and give them enough time to do what they had to do.

Tess and Kyle hid behind an overgrown bush, one eye on the guard at the side door and one eye on the group of people. Maria had disappeared awhile ago and they had yet to see her distraction. Without warning, there was a sizzling pop and the perimeter lighting went out. They heard yelling from the other side of the building and they watched as the older security guard craned his neck to see what was going on. They saw his agitation that he couldn’t tell what was happening.

“C’mon, just go check it out. You know you want to,” Kyle whispered.

As they watched, the guard moved from the door and around the corner of the building to investigate the noise.

“We’re in.” Kyle crouched low as Tess followed him behind the bushes to the unguarded door. The security system they hadn't known about was disabled. “Thank you, Maria.” They slipped into the dark corridors silently. Tess didn’t question how Kyle knew exactly where the morgue was, she merely followed. She could tell by the set of his shoulders that he was dreading this more with each step, but still he continued on.

“Can you get the guard by the door?” Kyle whispered to Tess when they found themselves around the corner from the last guard.

“Give me a minute.”

Kyle watched Tess work her voodoo and a minute later, the guard began talking to thin air before turning and walking down the other end of the corridor. Tess opened her pale blue eyes and smiled at him sympathetically.

“It’s all yours.”

Kyle nodded. “Just keep an eye on the corridor. I’ll be a few minutes.”

He slipped into the morgue, each footstep echoing impossibly loud in his head. He’d grown up the Sheriff’s son and for many years had been allowed free access to anything while his father conducted business.

He’d stumbled across the morgue quite by accident the summer of his freshman year. He’d been a bit more fearless then, doing anything he pleased to prove he could. And had found his way into the morgue. When he’d seen the first body, lying stiff and cold under a white sheet, it had given him nightmares for a month. He’d suffered a horrible fear of death that summer, afraid to let his father out of his sight for fear he would become one of the cloaked bodies in that cold room.

But even in his impetuous youth, he’d never faced one of those hidden faces, hadn’t dared. And now he not only had to do just that, but also examine the body of a friend, to see if the simple act of knowing him had been enough to have her killed.

Kyle stepped closer inside, knowing they had time restraints, but unable to force his legs to move any quicker. There was only a single body laid out on a gurney. Deaths in Roswell weren’t common occurrences, at least not until lately.

He could clearly make out the impression of a woman’s figure under the sheet. He could see Vicki clearly in his mind, the dance club they had snuck off to in the middle of the night, a shared New Years Eve kiss at Greg Harrison’s party. They hadn’t dated long, but had packed more fun into that short time than he’d thought possible.

With a deep breath, he tugged the sheet down her head, folding it carefully well before revealing anything inappropriate. It was Vicki all right. Her auburn hair was dull and lackluster in the dim lighting that was allowed to filter in.

Forcing himself to look for the alien mark, Kyle pushed past the queasiness rising in his throat. He turned her head gently, looking behind her ears and down her neck. He searched every square inch of skin down to her shoulders, and found no mark.

Max had assured him that the small star shaped symbol would be quite visible. And yet he found nothing. He knew he should have felt relieved, but it seemed wrong when it meant that Vicki was still dead.

Needing to say goodbye to an old friend, Kyle placed a kiss on top of his fingers, then rested them atop her forehead. With a dull ache in his heart, he replaced the sheet and slipped out of the room as efficiently as he had entered.

A hand grabbed his arm and despite himself, he jumped.

“Sorry, it’s just me.” Feeling awkward, Tess wasn’t sure if she should offer him comfort or even how to go about doing it.

“Let’s go.” He led the way down the halls to the side door. Conveniently, the guard was still away and they were able to escape unnoticed.

Tess continued to follow Kyle long after they had cleared the area where a group was still trying to restore power and figure out what had happened. She couldn’t help but wonder what Kyle had seen. Before she even had the chance to ask him, he stopped his violent strides and she ran into his back.

“Kyle?” He was staring off into space again.

“It wasn’t the Scaribes,” he stated, answering her unspoken question. “Whatever killed her was natural.” But it still left a friend dead.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you two were that close.”

But he had no reply to that. They really hadn’t been. Without questioning why he did it, he pulled Tess into a tight hug, feeling better than he had all day.

Kyle was crushing the life out of her, but she didn’t care. She kicked herself for standing frozen in shock the minute she already had and cautiously returned his hug. She may have come a long way from her days with Nasedo, but hugs still weren’t a part of her everyday life.

Kyle felt her warm up to his embrace and relief passed through him. She wouldn’t turn him away even though their old friendship had all but dwindled and died. Over her shoulder, he saw his father come into view, concern etched on his face. He mouthed that he was okay and his dad tipped his hat at him before leaving them alone once more.

Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 41

“I don’t understand it. I mean, this is obviously the crash site, but where’s the wreckage?” Liz stood and surveyed the growing pile of debris. It was a decent pile for their work, but they had only uncovered small pieces. One of the bits of twisted metal had contained a symbol they had recognized from Alex’s translations. And that alone had confirmed what they had already known. Jenna’s cell phone had also turned up amongst the debris, buried in the sand.

“We should put all this in the Jeep to take back.” Max tried to pass Liz to move the metal, but she stopped him.

“Max, what’s wrong? And don’t say nothing. Why have you been blocking me all day?”

Max sighed. He should have known better than to try to hide anything from Liz. “Liz, we need to talk.”

Panic skidded up her spine before she could stop it. “Wow, if I didn’t know better, I’d be worried.” But then she looked at Max’s face and knew she should still be. “Max?”

Max let out a breath. “We need to talk about our future.”

“What about our future? We’re getting married in a few weeks and starting our life together.”

“You might not want to when you hear what I have to say.”

Liz put her hands on her hips, glaring sternly at him. “Alright, that’s enough. Max, nothing you could ever do could make me not want to marry you. So, whatever nonsense this is, just spill it.”

“I don’t think we should have kids.”

Liz was dumbstruck. “What?”

“I don’t-“

“I heard you. I just don’t understand you. Haven’t we talked about having kids like a million times? Aren’t you the one who confessed to having the whole theme of our babies’ nursery picked out down to the color scheme and wallpaper?”

“Liz, I know you want children, you should have children. You’d be a wonderful mom. I just thought that maybe you’d be better off having them with someone else.”

“Well, you’re wrong.” Liz was angry now, fire lighting her eyes. “How can you even think that after all this time? If I told you I thought you should leave me and have children with someone else, would you be able to do that? Could you give me up and stop loving me that easily?”

“No! Of course not.” He was appalled by the very idea.

“Then why would you think I could?” She examined his guilty face. What had brought this on? Then it struck her so suddenly, she wondered why she hadn’t seen it coming before. “This is about the prophecy, isn’t it?”

Max swallowed. “Liz,”

“No, Max. I can’t believe this. You want to change our plans, to not have a family with me on some off chance some vague prophecy that we still know next to nothing about might come true?”

“Liz, you know as much about that prophecy as I do and from everything we know, we’re it. Even Nicholas agreed. The skins set up an entire lab to find out the truth. And what if they’re right and we do make a baby? Do you think they’ll let that baby live? Or you for that matter? I can’t lose you, Liz. And I can’t protect you every minute of the day.”

“But we don’t even know for sure it would happen like that.” Max’s eyes were ripping her heart to shreds. He looked broken just talking about the possibilities. He was just scared. She could deal with that.

“I’m not willing to take that chance, Liz.” He couldn’t lose her, and the fear of it strengthened his resolve.

Liz crossed the space between them and cupped Max’s face gently. “I know you’re scared. I get scared when I think about losing you too. But I don’t agree to your terms either. I love you. That comes first always. And I won’t give you up or let you push me away in the name of caution and safety. I do want a family with you, Max. I want to grow fat and round with your baby and pour over every baby book ever made to come up with the perfect name. If trouble comes because of that, then we’ll deal with it just like everything else we’ve had to. And you’re forgetting the most important part of all. If we have a child and it is the prophesized one, then our child will do good on your planet. If Khivar is terrified, then that’s what we want.”

“Liz, he’s already managed to kill us all once before. There won’t be another chance.”

“You won’t need one. You guys have something here that you didn’t have on Antar – us. Maria, Alex, Kyle and I are a part of everything that happens. We’re all a group that trusts everyone else with our lives. That’s something you didn’t have on Antar before and something Khivar will never have.”

Max didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing, choosing instead to lay his forehead against hers. He knew she was right, but he was still scared. If he lost Liz and their child to Khivar, he couldn’t survive.

Sensing his apprehension, Liz smiled at him. “Hey, how about a compromise? We don’t say no, but we don’t say yes either. How about ‘not yet’? We wait until we know more about this prophecy and then we make a decision.”

Max nodded reluctantly, “Not yet.”

But someday, Liz added in her mind. She’d be damned if she let fear of Khivar or anyone else run her life. Slowly, she felt Max opening himself back up to her and she did her best to reassure him that she wasn’t going anywhere. Madmen were done running her life.

*~*~

“Gah! I give up! How the heck is this stupid thing supposed to work anyway?” Alex tossed the small alien device on the bed beside him in frustration. He had been working on unlocking the thing all morning now with no luck.

Isabel watched Alex’s frustrated posture and felt bad she couldn’t be any help. He had been playing with that foul device for awhile now and it still gave her the creeps. But as she bit her lip nervously, she knew he was dying to ask her to try the device again. So far, she was the only one that had any sort of reaction to it. She pushed off from the desk chair and crossed the room to sit on the bed beside Alex.

“Can I try?”

Alex turned his gaze sharply on Isabel. He could see that she didn’t really want to do this, but was making an effort. “You don’t have to, you know.”

“I know. But if I can help, then I need to do whatever it takes. Besides, if anything happens to me, you’ll be here.” And that gave her great comfort.

Alex joined hands with her. “You got it.”

She stretched out her hand and took the device from Alex. It was cold and smooth against her skin and she called out when a jolt ran through her body. She felt the familiar dizziness and she fought the urge to drop it. Alex’s warm hand gripped her arm tightly and she focused on his strength. She could do this. Almost without warning, she began to see images flying through her brain.

Alex watched, panic stricken as Isabel’s face paled. Her eyes closed and she was rocking back and forth gently. This couldn’t be good. Was she talking to herself now? Mumbling under her breath while the alien thing glowed in her hand? Oh god, it was glowing. Alex’s panic rose in leaps and bounds. This had definitely not happened with any of the others. Should he break her away? The soft green glow was darkening, growing darker and more intense in energy. Even he could feel it. Hell, he was going to risk it.

Isabel watched, amazed as the scenes played themselves out before her. She was watching her own life unfold, or parts of it anyway. And it was the coolest thing she had ever seen. Slowly, she became aware of Alex’s hands on her arms, shaking her awake. She only needed a few more minutes. She hadn’t remembered everything she needed yet. She could feel Alex pulling her from the other world she had fallen into and she opened her eyes to meet his.

“Isabel? Are you okay? God, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have let you touch that thing again, not after last time.” He pulled her into a hug. She seemed okay, a little spacey, but okay.

“It’s a neural translator.”

“What?” Alex pulled away from Isabel, confused.

“The device, it’s called a neural translator.” She picked it up again, looking at it with wonder this time.

“How do you know that?”

“Because I named it.”

“Okay, I think you should lie down. You were glowing for awhile and it may have done something to your head.”

“No, I’m fine, Alex. In fact, I’m better than okay. I’m great. I need to show you.” She scrambled out of his worried embrace and off the bed, hopping up and down in excitement. “Do you know why we couldn’t get it to do anything? We didn’t turn it on.”

“Oh, well obviously. I suppose you know how to do that now.” Hadn’t he read somewhere that people with head trauma could become delusional and should be humored?

“Yes.” She waved her hand over the flattest surface of the neural translator and thrust it towards Alex like a kid showing off her science fair project.

“What the hell?” Alex climbed off the bed slowly, staring at the small object in Isabel’s hand. It was glowing, symbols scrolling across a small screen of sorts that he hadn’t even given a second thought to. “How did you know how to do this?”

“I created it.”

“Run that by me again.”

“On Antar, I created it. It was meant to keep Khivar and the skins from reading sensitive documents. See, there had been this security breach and we had lost an important battle. So, I created a code to send military documents in. And this,” she help up the translator. “is the key.”

Alex felt as though he had walked into a Twilight Zone episode. “Okay, let me get this straight.” He pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers. “You, on Antar, created this piece of equipment that your army adapted.”

“Pretty impressive, huh?” Now that the memories existed in her head, she didn’t know how she could have forgotten. She had loved that king of thing, had fought with nannies and tutors to allow her to continue when they would have loved nothing more of her than to marry properly and bear children. “I remember so much. I had this nanny that took care of me.” Isabel chuckled at the memory. “She didn’t understand med at all. I remember she went to the King because I wouldn’t sit still long enough for her to teach me how to be a proper lady. Dad came to me that night and struck a deal with me. He said if I would be the perfect princess around anyone but family, not only would he let me keep creating things, but he would let me take a crack at some of the new security measures the palace was upgrading to.”

“You remember him?” Alex watched her go from elated to sad. He’d heard stories of their mother, but never of their father.

“Bits and pieces. Our mother wasn’t the kisses and hugs kind. She loved us, but I think she had a stiff upbringing and she didn’t know what to do with us. Zan was always getting into trouble with
Rath and Larek. The three of them were inseparable. God, this is amazing! I remember more every second.”

Isabel’s sudden slip of names didn’t go unnoticed by Alex. “So, you created this translator to keep important documents encrypted. Why was it hidden in the lab?”

Isabel paced the room, applying her new knowledge to the situation at hand. “They must have figured out it had energy coding on it, sort of like DNA or fingerprints,” she explained to him. “The energy we draw our powers from has individual signatures. So, they must have figured out that one of us had created it. They could have downloaded the encrypted files into the computer hard drive and have been trying to figure it out just like us.” She stopped, feeling self-conscious when Alex continued to stare at her. “What?”

A grin broke out across his face. “This is so cool.”

Isabel’s grin was slower, but just as radiant. “Yeah?”

“Are you kidding me?” He crossed the distance between them and pulled her into his arms, pleased when she yielded easily. “You actually understand all of that? Do you know how amazing that is?”

“Why don’t you show me?” she teased, already preparing for the sensations his kiss brought out in her.

“I could, but then we wouldn’t get any work done.” His lips were an inch from hers, teasing. God, was she really his to kiss when he felt like it? Could he take her in his arms and hold her if the mood struck? A lifetime of holding back on his emotions was crumbling before him, and he could get used to it.

“You’re right,” Sober, Isabel slipped out of Alex’s embrace easily and returned to his desk chair.

Stunned, Alex could only look at her. Could she really leave him that easily? Did he not effect her as she effected him? He might have believed it if it hadn’t been for the half smile on her lips. Okay, so she wanted to play that game? “Okay, so can you translate these documents?” He moved to stand behind her, standing close enough so that his body was pressed against her back.

Isabel had thought she had the upper hand here, but how could she think about anything when he was barely touching her? He was a breath away and her skin was tingling from the anticipation. When she felt his warm breath against her bare neck, she almost sighed aloud.

“Excuse me. I’ll just get out of your way.” He leaned in closer than he should have, invading her space as he reached past her to gather his papers. He kept his voice low and tried to hide a smile at her reaction. Well, it looked as though she wasn’t as immune to him as he thought.

Isabel turned and glared at Alex, annoyed when he calmly settled himself on the other side of the room. Tired of games, she rose from her chair and moved to the floor where he had started setting up his papers. She lowered herself onto his lap and had her lips locked on his before he could say anything.

Alex sighed against Isabel’s soft lips. When had life become perfect? And would it really matter in the grand scheme of things if they took a fifteen minute break? As Isabel slanted her mouth over his, he gave up all pretense of work. Okay, maybe twenty minutes.

*~*~

“Alex? Isabel? We’re back!” Liz forced her voice to a higher pitch, sure to draw their attention. She’d been unable to convince Max they should knock first and she desperately hoped they were decent. Max didn’t need to find out about his sister and Alex by walking in on them.

Max glanced at Liz strangely. She’d been acting weird since they had pulled up in front of the building., like she wanted to tell him but couldn’t. He’d thought they’d worked through their problems in the desert earlier, but maybe not. Before he could call her on it, Alex burst through the door to the living room, a wide grin on his face.

“Great! You’re here! There’s something you guys have to see.”

Intrigued, the couple followed Alex into his bedroom and found an odd scene laid out before them. Isabel sat at Alex’s desk, tapping away happily at the keyboard.

“What’s Isabel doing on your computer?” Max was sure something strange was going on. First, his sister never helped when it came to the technical side of things, and second, Alex never let anyone touch his computer. Ever. It was one of the sacred laws in their group since Kyle had tried to get into a chatroom and had erased Alex’s hard drive.

“Max!” Isabels’ head popped up at the sound of his voice. “This is so amazing. I’m glad you’re here. I’ve almost got these files decoded.”

Liz stepped forward. “You do?” She turned to Alex for answers, but he merely grinned at her. She really hadn’t meant for the stunned tone of voice in her question to come out, but she was more than a bit confused.

“Yes. Listen, I remembered so much.” Isabel launched into the story of what had happened this afternoon, complete with everything she had remembered.

Liz stood back with Alex as Isabel excitedly recounted the story to Max, giving him as much detail as possible. “So, it looks like our group just got a little bit stranger.”

“This is just amazing, Liz. I don’t have any other word for it.”

Liz saw the gleam in her friend’s eyes and was happy for him. “So, I guess you two are a thing now?” She was careful to keep her voice low, not sure if it was a secret or not.

“Yeah, at least I think so. Liz, the things I feel for her…I can’t even put them into words.” Alex faultered, staring at Isabel. He loved her so much, but he knew she wasn’t ready to hear about it yet. And the last thing he wanted to do was scare her away or make her feel pressured or rushed. But he’d loved her in some form or another for most of his life.

“Then I’m happy for you both.” She pulled Alex into a hug that he returned happily. Maybe things could be looking up. The old friends broke apart to watch the siblings. Isabel was trying to explain to Max why the decoder only recognized her and no one else.

“So, Isabel speaks techno-babble now, huh?”

“Yes, and I’ve never been more turned on in my life.”


posted on 15-Oct-2001 12:55:30 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 42

“Are you sure this is such a good idea?” Isabel paused, stalling for time as Alex pulled her towards the front door of the Whitman household. She had all but grown up here, spending more time in this house than in her own the last few years of High School. Charles Whitman was a second father to her, and if that wasn’t enough to make her nervous, the fact that she was now dating Alex was.

Knowing that her nervousness matched his own, he pulled her into his arms gently. “Isabel, I want him to know that you’re the same person you were last week.” And he wanted his father to approve of their relationship. That was more important to him than anything in the world. He had fallen in love with Isabel Evans and he wanted his father to love her as much as he did. “If you don’t want to do this, you don’t have to. But I need to talk to him again. It’s been a few days. He should have had some time to think through some of this. And I’m sure he has more questions. I won’t hold it against you if you don’t want to go in with me.”

Isabel took a deep breath. She had to be strong for Alex, not a burden for him to worry about on top of everything else. “No, I’ll go if you want me there.”

Alex raised her hand to his lips. “I’ll always want you with me, Bella.”

Her heart a puddle of mush on the floor, she could only follow him up the path to the front door. She felt bad that he had to knock on the door he once would have breezed through without hesitation. His hand found hers and their fingers twined together. She could feel his apprehension and worry and wished she could find a way to sooth his fears. But the truth was, the existence of aliens was a pretty hard thing to accept, especially when your child was dating one.

The door opened slowly and a haggard looking Charles peeked out. “Alex? What are you-“ he broke off, seeing Isabel for the first time. His features immediately became unreadable.

“Dad, I know this is kind of unexpected, but we thought that maybe if we came by we could answer some of the questions you had come up with.”

“Now isn’t really a good time, Alex. Maybe tomorrow.”

Alex’s stomach fell. “Please can we come in for a few minutes? We just wanted to talk to you.”

He looked uncertainly from Alex’s eager face to Isabel’s. After an eternity, he nodded his head. “Just a few minutes.”

Alex sighed and squeezed Isabel’s hand as they followed Charles’ to the kitchen. He took a seat at the table, positioning his chair so that he was far enough away from the two children. He waited as they sat, wanting to offer then something, but holding back. He hated to see that look of fear on their faces, but he wasn’t ready to just accept this whole thing yet.

“What did you want to talk about?”

Alex glanced at Isabel, then back at his father. “I don’t know, whatever you wanted to talk about. I know you must have a dozen questions, so we thought we could-“

“Clear some things up?” When Alex only nodded, Charles continued. “Well, the only question that comes to mind right now is what’s going on with you two? There is something going on, isn’t there?”

Alex looked down at the table. He hadn’t expected his father to be so perceptive. “Yeah. Isabel and I, we’re sort of dating now.”

“Dating?” Charles was torn. He had loved and trusted Isabel for years now, had thought she was perfect for his son. But she was dangerous and Alex would never be safe if he was with her. “Is that smart?”

“Smart? I don’t know what you mean. Does it make sense? Yes. We fit together better than with anyone else we’ve ever known. But that’s not what you meant, was it?”

“Mr. Whitman, I know you’re worried about Alex, but I would never let him get hurt.”

Charles turned to Isabel. “And can you protect him all day every day? Liz and Kyle were shot, Maria was hurt doing god only knows what. How many other times have you been hurt or in danger? How close to getting someone killed have you all come?"

“We’ve come close. I’m not going to lie to you. But we’re a team, a group that looks out for each other. And as long as we stick together, we’ve discovered that we can’t lose.” Isabel was proud of herself for making what she thought was a valid and strong point.

“So, you all didn’t die on your home planet?” He kicked himself for the look that passed her face. “Isabel, I know you’re a good person. But you’re also dangerous to my son. How many enemies are looking for you right now? How many would kill you and anyone in their way to take control of your planet? Alex told me everything, at least I think he did. Your lives are not safe. How can I be okay with you two dating when I don’t know if he’ll live through the year?”

“There isn’t ever any guarantee, Dad. I could be hit by a bus on my way home from class tomorrow. Max, Michael, Tess and Isabel are my friends. And Isabel is my girlfriend. We’ve waited so long, and we’ve both finally realized that we have feelings for each other. I’m not going to turn my back on her just because it may be dangerous. Things have been safe for the last few years. And together, we will all figure out a way to stop the newest threat.”

Charles nodded. “I just have one question for you then. All the deaths I’ve read about in the paper? Have those been related to this new threat?” He let the silence drag on for a long minute, already knowing the answer. He’d known the answer the minute he’d picked up the newspaper and read about the first of the mysterious deaths that had hit Roswell.

“Yes.” Alex had promised himself that he wouldn’t lie to his father any more after that afternoon they’d sat down and he’d given him the whole story.

“Okay. Then how can you convince me that your life isn’t in danger? And I’m sorry, Alex. I know you wanted me to say that I’m okay with you dating Isabel, but I’m not. I can’t be okay with it as long as your life is in danger by just being next to her, much less if someone wants to hurt you to get to her.”

Alex stood up. “Isabel, can you give us a minute?” He willed her to understand that he wasn’t trying to exclude her from the conversation, but he had something to say to his father that he didn’t necessarily want her to hear.

Isabel nodded, giving his hand one last squeeze of reassurance before turning for the front door. “I’m sorry, Mr. Whitman. I want you to know that I would never let Alex get hurt. And if he did, then I would do everything in my power to help him. And that’s more than anyone has ever been able to promise him.” She disappeared through the door quietly.

Alex faced his father. The door had clicked behind Isabel. “Dad, I can’t give her up. I know you wish I would. But it’s not worth it to me. I’ve waited my whole life it seems for her and for some reason, when she looks at me now, she doesn’t see me as just a goofy friend anymore.”

“I just want to keep you safe, Alex. I promised your mother. And as long as you’re with Isabel, how can I keep that promise?”

“I love her, Dad. This is more than a childish rebellion. Don’t you think that would have been more important to Mom than anything?” When his father had nothing to say to that, he placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m not going to stop coming by. I love you and I want you to see that Isabel is still the same person. Please, just give her a chance. Do it for me.” Out of things to say, Alex stepped back. “I’ve got to go. Isabel’s waiting.”

Charles watched his son leave with a heavy heart. With everything in him, he wanted to call them both back, to take them in his arms and be happy for his son that had finally found the other half of his heart. He remembered how powerful a feeling it was to be in love. But if he did that, it would be turning his back on his wife and her last wishes. How could he choose between the two of them?







posted on 25-Oct-2001 10:46:05 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 43

Michael paced the length of his apartment, angry. Why the hell did this have to be happening now? His head still pounded as though a jackhammer had been taken to it. But at least he knew why, or he at least had an idea.

Following his fight with Maria, he’d not only experienced the first of his migraines, but also the first of the blackouts. And those had been enough to scare him senseless. He still remembered waking up on the sidewalk in an unfamiliar part of town just before the first rays of sunlight had cast away the shadows. He’d been in so much pain he’d wanted to curl up and die right there. But he had managed to crawl home and sleep. Things similar to that had been happening for the last few days now.

It hadn’t taken him long to figure out what was going on, though it was probably still longer than it would have taken Max. This new threat , these Scaribes were trying to take over his body. But hell if he could figure out why it just hadn’t yet. By all rights, he should be another body in the morgue with an unknown death. The only thing that made sense to him was that the Scaribes’ powers weren’t meant to take over the body of a hybrid. If he’d been 100% human or 100% Antarian, he’d be dead. Instead, he had the growing fear that his body was being borrowed to carry out this insane death plot of Khivar’s.

He had done everything in his power to stay away from the others. He figured if he knew anything about their plans, or what they had been discussing or uncovering, then it would be information the aliens would have too.

So, he had picked a fight with Max yesterday when he’d come to collect him for their meeting. And he’d even gone along with Maria’s insane statement that they were through. If pushing her away for now would keep her alive, then she would have to suffer through miffed feelings. But how he’d wanted to shake her when she’d given him her ultimatum. The whole thing was coming from her mother he knew. True, they didn’t sit down and have daily conversations about their plans for the future. But surely she knew that he didn’t imagine a future without her? He hadn’t asked her to marry him yet, not only because the entire thing scared the hell out of him, but also because they had discussed it once for like ten seconds when Maria had made the statement that she didn’t want to get married until she’d graduated from college.

And because he could still feel Maria’s presence in his apartment and because he knew it was only a matter of time before someone, probably Liz, came to check up on him, he had been staying away from the building. So, he had hidden in the one place he’d sworn never to go to again.

The knock at the door jarred him out of his daze as the sound echoed through his head. He pulled the door open before the knock could sound again and came face to face with Maria.

“Michael, finally. Look, we need to talk.” She breezed past him into the apartment to pace the living room.

“Maria, this isn’t a good time.”

“When will be, Michael? God, you’ve been missing for days now. And that’s what we’ve got to talk about.” She stopped pacing to face him for the first time. “This isn’t going to work.”

“What isn’t?” He had a hard enough time following her train of thought on a good day, much less when his scull echoed the sound of her voice.

“Us, Michael, this break up. We were friends before. Well, actually, we weren’t, were we? I mean, even when we first dated you didn’t like me much. Which is the root of all our problems anyway. Maybe I should have known then. But I guess I stupidly thought you could actually want to spend your life with me.” Why wasn’t he saying anything? Her heart was raw and bleeding and he was still standing in the doorway. Didn’t he care? Was he really so heartless and glad to get rid of her?

Michael listened to her ramblings, unsure as to what the hell she was talking about. All he knew was that a world of pain was swimming in her eyes and he had put it there. He would make it right. Hell, he’d do whatever it took to win her back. Later. For now, he had to make her leave and make sure she stayed gone.

“Look, Maria. I really don’t have time right now. And actually, I guess I don’t have to make time either. That’s the beauty of breaking up with someone. So, if you don’t mind, I’m a little busy and I was on my way out.” He grabbed his jacket off the couch and put it on, careful not to look at her. She was dead silent. Yep, if there was one thing he’d learned how to do well, it was how to piss off Maria. “Tell you what, why don’t you just shut the door on your way out?”

Maria watched, stunned, as Michael picked up his keys and calmly walked out the front door. What the hell had just happened? Did he just cut her off, insult her and walk out?

A bubbling rage filled her small body. He had some nerve talking to her like that. By the time she was done with him, he would be wishing he was roasting on an open flame rather then deal with her.

*~*~

“Thanks for the coffee, Kyle.” Tess continued sipping her coffee as they walked down the sidewalk towards home. It had been nice when he had called to ask her out for a few hours. It had been ages since they’d even pretended to be friends again.

But once they’d left, Tess had realized that Kyle had a purpose for asking her out. He had something on his mind. She’d noticed that he had been quiet and withdrawn all morning and she’d been trying to figure out if she was supposed to ask him what was wrong or not. But she’d been so concentrated on figuring it out, she hadn’t noticed that they’d made it home.

“Tess, do you have a few more minutes? Can we sit outside?”

Tess nodded, not sure how she of all people could help him. This was more Liz’s area, or even Maria. But for whatever reason, he’d chosen her and she wasn’t going to let him down.

They took a seat across the street from the apartments on the swing set. Tess sat, quite uncomfortably, never having learned how to sit on a swing. “So, what’s going on?”

Kyle stared off into the distance, his mind elsewhere. “Have you ever been in love?”

Not being even close to what she had expected, she narrowed her eyes. “I thought I was with Max. But it was just Nasedo’s image of who we would be together that I fell in love with. And then there was someone else that I thought…but no.” Tess trailed off, catching Kyle’s sadness. Why hadn’t she ever been in love? The closest she’d come was what she felt for Kyle, but he didn’t see her like that anymore.

“Neither have I. After all the women I’ve seen, none of them ever mattered. They can come and go and it doesn’t touch me. Does that make me a bad person?”

Trusting her instinct, she laid a hand on Kyle’s shoulder, careful not to move, lest she fall out of the swing. “If it makes you a bad person, then so am I. Maybe we just haven’t found our other halves yet.”

“But it looks so easy. Look at Max and Liz. They knew from the first time they saw each other. I used to watch him staring at her all through school, way before he healed her. And she used to stare back. Of course, they never caught each other, but it was there. And even Michael and Maria are perfect for each other. Sure, they fight, but I think it turns them on, which is something I don’t want to delve into any further. And now even Isabel and Alex have the gushy, ‘look deep into my eyes’ thing going on. So, why is it so easy for them and not for us to find significant others?”

“I don’t know. Kyle, what is this all about? You never seemed to care before about any of this.”

“Chrissy. She left town yesterday with her sister. With all the deaths and nobody knowing what the cause is, she didn’t feel safe.”

“Oh, Kyle. I’m sorry. Are you okay?” Good going, Tess. His girlfriend leaves town and you ask if he’s okay? Of course he’s not.

“Actually, I am. That’s the problem. I was seeing her for months and she just picks up and leaves and I probably wouldn’t even give it another thought if it weren’t for Vicki.”

Tess sat in silence. What could she possibly say to that? He was grieving over a friend and she had no idea how he was feeling. Nasedo was the only person she had ever known that had died and she had been more relieved over his death than anything.

“Seeing her like that, it was harder than I thought it would be,” he confessed softly. He lowered his head, not wanting to see her in his mind again.

“I wish I knew what to say. Maybe it’s just not our time. Liz and Max knew each other for years before they said anything more than ‘please pass the test tube’. And Michael and Maria hated each other for years. Alex and Isabel have been friends and just now did something about it. Maybe the time just hasn’t been right yet. We still have time.”

Kyle looked at Tess for the first time since they had sat down. She was sitting primly on the edge of the swing, looking like she was about to fall off. Yet, she was still holding onto his shoulder, trying to offer some sort of comfort to him. Why had he let their friendship taper off? Then he looked into her crystal blue eyes and knew the answer. He had started falling for her and hadn’t wanted destiny to tell him he had to spend his life with anyone. Had he been crazy?

“Thanks, Tess. I guess I’m just in a mood today.”

“Well, you’re entitled. And you bought me an iced mocha latte, so you can be in any kind of mood you want.”

The both jumped when the sudden noise jolted them back to their surroundings. They looked across the street to the apartment building in time to see Michael storm out onto the sidewalk. He looked as though he was muttering to himself. Kyle looked at Tess.

“I wonder where he’s been lately?”

“He doesn’t look so good.”

“Maybe we should check up on him?”

One of the upper level windows of the building opened and they watched in confusion as Maria poked her head out. She saw Michael, took aim and threw something out the window.

Michael swore loudly, grabbing the back of his head in confusion. He looked down to the pavement and then back up to Maria.

“Did you just hit me with my own shoe?”

“Damn right I did. And I’m going to hit you with more than that too.”

Maria disappeared into the building again and when she returned, she began throwing books at him this time. Michael dodged them as best he could, dancing around on the sidewalk.

“Are you crazy? Ow! Quit that!”

Kyle watched in amusement as Maria nailed Michael with a rather heavy looking book. He settled in on the plastic seat. He’d seen Maria angry before and he’d seen Amy upset as well. If Michael had done something to piss off Maria, this was going to get good. Maria had run out of ammunition and had disappeared again, giving Michael a chance to survey the damage she had created. A minute later, she started throwing clothing out the window. Socks and shirts followed jeans and underwear. They cascaded down the side of the building to litter the ground at Michael’s feet.

“What are you doing? You’re throwing things out of my apartment!”

“Well, duh. I know that. It seems that there isn’t anything of yours in my apartment. How’s that for commitment?”

Michael turned around and fled in the other direction, ignoring the items Maria continued to throw at him.

Tess looked at Kyle in confusion. That was true love? “Should we help?”

“Oh no. I’m not going anywhere near Maria when she’s that worked up. In fact, if I were you, I’d stay away for awhile too. How about catching a movie with me?”

“Okay.” Tess stood, grateful to be out of the swing. Maybe she didn’t have as good of a grasp on human behaviour as she thought she did.

Kyle swung his arm around Tess’s shoulders, in a far better mood than before. Maybe being in love wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. “Tell me, how do you feel about horror movies?”





Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 44

“I’m glad you kids could come for dinner tonight, Liz.”

“Well, it was a good idea. When was the last time we all had dinner together?”

Diane placed a hand over her heart. “I got up at five this morning to start cooking,” she confessed, checking to make sure they were alone. Her children and her husband would never let her live it down. “I couldn’t help myself. I just got so excited. I don’t remember the last time I had both of my children together, plus you and Alex. We should take pictures. Excuse me a minute.”

Liz smiled as Diane went off in search of her camera. A family dinner had been a good idea.

“There’s a sight I don’t see enough of these days.” Max came up behind Liz and wrapped his arms around her waist.

Liz let her body relax against Max’s chest. Here, she was safe. She could handle anything the world threw at her as long as she had these arms to fall back into. Max nuzzled her ear, delighted when he felt her quick shiver through their connection. He liked knowing that he could still effect her with just a touch. He was constantly amazed that their desire for each other hadn’t diminished over time. Each time he held her, it was like the first time. He could still hardly believe in a few short weeks they would be married and nothing would ever separate them again.

Amazing, isn’t it?

I still can’t believe you’re going to be mine.

Oh really, who says I’m yours and not the other way around?

I say. I’ve already claimed you as my property.

Liz laughed at him, knowing he was teasing her. She turned her head so their lips could meet in a kiss. Keep it up and I’ll have to take pointers from Maria on how to handle Neanderthal behaviour.

A camera flash jolted them back to reality and reminded them they were in the Evan’s living room.

“Mom!”

“Sorry, honey. I just couldn’t resist. You two are just so cute together.”

Liz giggled, reluctantly pulling out of Max’s arms.

Later, she promised him.

“I’m holding you to that.”

“What was that, Max?”

Max winced. He really needed to work on getting used to their new connection. It kept getting him into trouble. “Nothing, Mom. Is Dad still outside grilling?”

“Yes, now go scoot outside so Liz and I can talk. Go on now,” she insisted more sternly when he remained planted in his spot.

Max cast them a dark look before escaping outside. Isabel and Alex had disappeared without a trace and he was beginning to wonder where they were. Had they gotten together to discuss something they’d found in the files? He decided to find them after he checked in to see if his Dad needed any help.

In the living room, Diane ushered Liz onto the couch. She hadn’t had a chance to really to talk to her future daughter since the horrible barbecue, and she had been worried.

“Tell me, honey. How are you really? You haven’t heard anything from your parents yet?” Max had filled her in on what had happened and her heart broke for all of these kids. But another part of her had swelled with pride that when faced with their first big hurdle, Liz had stood by her son and defended him, even against her own parents.

“No, nothing yet. I sat down with them and explained everything.” Liz paused, feeling more than a bit anxious about their lack of response. “I gave them my journal to read. I wanted them to see that I didn’t make any decisions lightly and that Max and I tried to stay away from each other and it never worked. Then I left. I haven’t heard anything yet.”

Diane slipped an arm around Liz’s small shoulders. She carried so much weight on them these days. “I’m sorry, Liz. I wish I could do something. Phillip and I talked about trying to get together with everyone, but we thought it best to let you kids handle it at first before we stepped in.”

“It’s probably a good idea. It just makes me so mad. Just when everything is going so perfect-“ she paused. It seemed petty of her to think such things when people were dying.

“Don’t do that. You have every right to want to be happy. You were planning your wedding, and now you’ve had to stop and wait.”

“We’re not waiting.” Liz sat up straighter. She was tired of everyone assuming the wedding wasn’t going to happen. Didn’t they understand how important this was? That was why she was glad they had wanted to get together for dinner tonight. She could set them all straight. “The wedding is still on for November.”

“Are you sure? I thought you two might wait until your parents are a little more comfortable with everything.” Diane was caught off guard. She hadn’t planned on this, but that selfish motherly part of her stood up and cheered.

“They asked me to postpone it, but I told them no. Nothing is going to have changed in the next few weeks. Max will still be who he is and so will I. I want them there, but if they’re not, I’ll deal with it.”

“Well, whatever you two decide, you know we’ll support you. No matter what happens, you’ve been my daughter for years already. And nothing will change that.”

Liz smiled at her. “Thank you. It means a lot. They just need a little more time. I’m sure they’ll come around. There’s just no way I can live without Max, and they have to understand that.”

Jeff entered the living room hesitantly when he saw the two girls huddled on the couch together. “Am I interrupting? I can come back if this is a female thing.”

“No, we’re done here. Is Max bringing in dinner?”

“Max? No, he checked in a few minutes ago, then I sent him to look for Isabel and Alex.”

Warning bells went off in Liz’s head even as she felt a jolt of shock run through her body. From the other side of the house, they heard a loud cry and then the slamming of a door. Max strode down the hall and into the living room, his face beet red. Liz tried to contain her laughter as Max’s thoughts rolled around in her head. When he saw his parents in the living room, he stopped suddenly.

“Alex and Isabel will be out in a few minutes,” he announced.

You knew about that, didn’t you?

Liz covered her mouth with her hand, trying to contain the laughter when the image of his sister tangled with Alex on her bed overwhelmed her brain. I’m so sorry. I didn’t think you’d walk in on them or I would have said something sooner.

I don’t want to talk about it. Max strode to the back of the house and out the sliding glass doors.

Liz’s giggles filled the living room.

“What was that about?” Diane inquired. She could tell by now when Max and Liz were having private conversations and it looked as though her son was annoyed.

Before Liz had a chance to open her mouth, Isabel and Alex came through the door, hand in hand. Alex’s cheeks were flaming red, but Isabel held her head high. “Mom, Dad. I was planning to tell you tonight, but now is as good a time as any. Alex and I are dating now.”

“Really?” Then realization dawned in Diane’s head. “Oh, no. Max didn’t…” Her giggles matched Liz’s as she could only imagine what Max had walked in on that had put the kind of color red on Alex’s face. “I’m so happy for you two.” She moved across the room to pull them both into a hug. She’d always hoped the two would find each other one day. They’d been inseparable for years now. It was about time her children had come to their senses.

“Thanks, Mom.”

Phillip was grinning at them as well, but he pulled his daughter into a hug nonetheless. Then he turned to Alex. “You keep her happy.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Liz, is Max okay?” Alex couldn’t help but ask. He needed to know if it was safer to head for the hills now or if he could try to choke down some dinner first.

“He’ll be fine. It was just sort of a shock.”

*~*~

“Well, I think dinner was a success.” Liz pulled off her sweater as she walked through Max’s living room. She would be living here officially soon, and it gave her a giddy sort of feeling.

“Uh huh.”

“Max, I know you’re not upset they’re dating. We talked about this. You thought they were perfect for each other too.”

Max stuffed his hands in his pockets. “That was before he put his hands all over my sister. What was he thinking? They were in our parents house! Do they have no decency?”

Liz crossed the room to wrap her arms around Max’s waist. She smiled lovingly into his eyes. “As I recall, we spent an entire weekend trying to have sex in every room of that house.”

“That was different. We were young and stupid and we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. Besides, we were in love.”

“And how is that so different from them?”

Max frowned. “It just is. I’m going to ring his neck if he thinks he can just…just…use my sister.”

Liz laughed at him. “Max, this is Alex you’re talking about. He’s worshipped the ground she’s walked on his whole life. Besides, did you see the way he kept looking at her during dinner? He’s fallen in love with her.”

Frozen with the thought, Max thought back to the way his former friend had been watching his sister all night. He was forced to admit that there had been something different there, a kind of longing in his eyes, a wistfulness that he’d had when he and Liz had first started dating.

“Are you sure?” The image of him pounding Alex into the sidewalk was becoming less and less likely to happen.

“I’ve known Alex long enough to know. I’d lay money on the fact that Isabel doesn’t know it yet, though.”

Max sighed. “I guess I can’t beat him up then, can I?”

“I’m afraid not.”

Max bowed his head so that their foreheads touched. “Can I at least give him a hard time?”

“What kind of brother would you be if you didn’t?”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“I can’t wait till we’re married and you don’t have to leave me alone here.”

“Who says I’m going anywhere tonight?” Liz wound her arms around his neck, pulling him closer.

“You know, I do remember something about us getting together later to finish what we started at Mom and Dad’s.” He pulled Liz impossibly closer, never able to get enough of her. She smelled of strawberries, reminding him of the tortures of his adolescence. That smell drove him crazy when he was nothing more than her Biology lab partner. And he would forever connect it with her.

He shifted his lips to connect with her soft skin, leaving a trail of bright light down her neck. Liz moaned, letting her hands go lax on his neck. He could feel the pleasure building in her and he loved that he could make her as crazy as she could make him with just a touch.

“Max,” she sighed, letting her head roll back as Max’s lips found the sensitive spot under her ear.

Almost undone by the need to touch her, he forced his hands to calm down before they started unbuttoning her shirt. She’d worn jeans and one of his old shirts this morning and it had nearly driven him crazy. She knew what it did to him, and suspected that she did it on purpose some days. But he didn’t really mind.

“Liz,” he hissed through clenched teeth. She hadn’t worn a bra today. “Do you know what it would have done to me all day if I’d known you weren’t wearing anything under here?”

Liz only smiled, indeed knowing what it would have done. “So do something about it now.” She met his lips, pulling their bodies together.

Needing to feel her flesh against his own, he began pulling at his own shirt. Why had he worn a T-shirt anyway? He hated breaking contact with her, but it was for a worthy cause. But in the interest of saving time, he stripped completely.

“In a hurry?” Liz grinned at his eagerness. How could they still want each other so badly after all this time?

“Always.” He pulled her against his naked form, his lips beginning the trail of light on her skin anew.

“Max, I want you now.”

Max read her emotions. She was still trying to reaffirm that he wasn’t going anywhere and their lovemaking had been a bit more frantic than usual lately. She was still upset about her parents and wouldn’t talk about it, but he could read her better than anyone.

“Max, please, don’t think.” She could read his thoughts and she was tired of having to worry about what was to come. She just wanted to sink into Max’s skin and let go. Spending the day with Max’s family had only made her miss her own all the more. She wanted to be held by him and loved until no thoughts could intrude.

“Anything for you,” he kissed the tip of her nose, his hands already moving down to loosen the snap of her jeans.

“Not quick enough,” she sighed, helping Max rid her of her clothes. The task done, she bit back a moan to feel him pressed against her. “Max,” she all but begged.

Helpless to deny her anything, he allowed her to pull him to the soft carpet. She wrapped her legs around his waist and he slid into her gently.

As Max filled her, Liz’s eyes filled with tears. This was what her life would be like, an eternity with a beautiful man that loved her and did everything in his power to make her happy. They would love and laugh together, and always fill in each others holes. But as she thought back to her parents, and the hole they had left behind, she wondered if that was an emptiness that even Max could fill.






posted on 5-Nov-2001 10:17:42 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 45

“I’m just worried, Phillip. Sure we took it pretty easy when we found out, but the rest of them don’t understand. They haven’t seen what those kids have gone through together, or how closely they rely on each other.” Diane lowered her voice in the crowded restaurant.

“I know, but I still think it’s going to take some time. We had the benefit of raising Max and Izzy and knowing that beneath it all, they’re just kids.” Phillip took a sip from his water glass, unsure of how they’d gotten back on the topic to begin with. They’d merely tried to go out to lunch, but he could tell his wife was still agitated from her talk with Liz yesterday. “Where is all this coming from anyway?”

Diane poked around at her half-eaten sandwich. “Something Liz said bothered me the more I thought about it. She told her parents everything, gave them her journal to read and when they asked her to postpone the wedding, she said no. She’s going to marry Max regardless of whether they’re there or not. And as much as I want to see them get married, I think she’ll regret it later if they’re not there.”

“It’s her decision to make. You know how they are, how they’ve always been. Ever since Nicholas took her they’ve been almost violent about anybody coming between them.” They had words over it as father and son their senior year more times than Phillip could remember. But they had been insistent on staying together.

Diane pursed her lips. “I just don’t want it to ruin their day. I just wish there was something I could do to help.”

“Maybe there is.” Phillip’s gaze wandered to a spot behind Diane’s head.

Curious, she turned around in her chair and saw Nancy and Jeff Parker being seated in a secluded corner booth.

“We have to talk to them.” Diane was out of her seat and halfway across the room before Phillip could even form a protest in his brain. With a sigh, he threw a few bills down on the table and set off after his wife.

Diane made her way over to the table without a clue of what she was going to say. They hadn’t noticed her yet and she was grateful when she felt Phillip’s hand at her elbow. He may not agree with what she was doing, but he would support her. And she never loved him more.

“Jeff? Nancy?”

The Parkers looked up in confusion then in fear. The last people they’d expected to run into were Diane and Phillip.

“Can we sit down? I promise we won’t take but a minute and then we’ll leave if you want us to.”

Phillip saw the indecision in their eyes, but figured it was better than outright rejection. “For Liz, please. We know so much we’d like to tell you, things she would probably never tell you herself.”

Reluctantly, Nancy nodded, clasping Jeff’s hand in her own.

The Evans took a seat, unsure of how to begin now that they had the opportunity. “Liz told us she gave you her diary. Have you had a chance to read it yet?” She figured she had only a few minutes, so she should cut to the chase.

Nancy nodded, emotion clogging her throat. She had read it a dozen times, crying harder each time. Her baby had gone through so much pain, had been hurt time and time again. And she hadn’t been there for her.

“I don’t know what Liz told you or what she wrote about in her journal, but I know what I saw. Four years ago, we didn’t know anything. That was when Nicholas kidnapped Liz.” When Nancy’s lower lip quivered, Diane knew she had some knowledge of the story and she continued. “Max and Isabel’s other mother came to us in our dreams and told us impossible things about them, but we’d always known then were different somehow. She showed us images, a thousand things that had happened to them. I know Max tried to push Liz away to keep her safe and they were only both miserable. Then Liz tried to convince Max that she’d been unfaithful in order to save their lives. And I know how you feel. I hate that my children’s lives are in constant danger, but I have to accept it. That’s who they are and it’s the life they will live.”

“But we don’t have to accept it. Why should Liz’s future be filled with danger and uncertainties?”

“It always will be.” Phillip jumped in to counteract Jeff’s statement. “There’s no going back now. Liz was shot and would have died if Max hadn’t saved her life all those years ago. And because of it, she was changed. Her life will always be in danger from the government, or Antarian enemies. She is who she is and it can’t be changed. Trying to tear Max and Liz apart won’t make her any safer now. It might seem like a high price to pay for you and I, but they’re so happy, so in sync that no threat has ever been stronger than that bond they have.”

“Liz is upset.” Diane spoke up after a long minute of silence had followed her husband’s speech. Jeff’s eyes flew to her in what she could only call jealousy.

“You’ve seen her?”

“We had dinner last night. She’s hurt inside. All she wants is your approval of her relationship, her marriage with Max. And if this rift between you guys gets any deeper, it may not be repairable. Your approved of them before. You loved our son as if he were your own, because of how he treated your daughter. They take care of each other in such a beautiful way, it hurts to watch. Even after all the challenges and heartache, choices that thankfully none of us will ever be forced to make, they not only triumph but it makes them stronger for it. You want what’s best for Liz and I’m telling you it’s Max.”

The Parkers hadn’t spoken yet and she knew her time was all but up. “She thinks you don’t love her anymore because of who she is now, because of what she’s become.”

Nancy and Jeff’s eyes met and held, their hearts breaking. Could she really think that?

“Tell her you still love her and let her be happy again. If you make her choose, you’ll lose. She loves him with everything she is and if you don’t see that, then you’ve already lost her.”

“C’mon, Diane. We should go.”

Diane nodded, allowing Phillip to help her from the table. “Just think about it and if you need anything, call us.”

The Parkers watched their old friends walk away with heavy hearts and a silence settled over them.

“Jeff, could she really think we don’t love her anymore?”

“I don’t know. We haven’t given her any reason to think otherwise.” Jeff thought back to the picture Liz and Max had made standing in the back room of the restaurant. Liz had poured her heart out to them, then ran crying from the room. It had been Max that had caught his baby girl and let her cling to him as though her life depended on it. Max Evans, not her parents, had been there to comfort and protect her against every hardship life had thrown at her. Diane had been right to say that they would lose her if they have her an ultimatum. They’d known for years that Max would protect her with his life, now they just had been given proof of it. “Nancy,” he turned to his wife, taking her hand. “I think we were wrong.”

Nancy met Jeff’s eyes, caught p in her own memories of the couple’s tenderness. Max had never intentionally hurt her baby, had never held her back, but complimented her. It had been them who had taken the sparkle out of her eye and looked at her like a monster. “I think you may be right.”

Jeff placed a kiss on her hand. “So, how do we fix this mess?”

*~*~


posted on 27-Nov-2001 11:41:04 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 46

Liz sat in front of a large table, china patterns and table linens lay before her in a barrage of colors and patterns. And she was ready to cry. When she had left for the mall three hours ago, her goal had been to get ready for her wedding that was still rapidly approaching. But all she had done was overwhelm herself.

The more she sifted through, the more she wondered how Isabel had kept all these things straight. One shade of blue looked identical to the shade next to it, though she had been assured that they were indeed different. Since Isabel had rediscovered her love for technology, she and Alex had been working day and night to decipher the files in hopes of finding more answers. But even that was still looking next to impossible. All in all, life wasn’t looking good.

“Liz?”

Liz blinked when she heard her name above the store crowds. She snapped out of her daze and tried to place the brunette standing next to her.

“Cassie?” Liz shook her head. “Cassie, hi. What are you doing here?”

The young waitress smiled hesitantly at Liz. “I was shopping and I thought I saw you inside. You looked kind of…well…are you okay?”

“Hmm? Yeah, I’m fine. Just a little…” Liz waved her hand over the table that presented her with so many problems. “Overwhelmed. Tell me, you don’t happen to know the difference between teal and aquamarine and if so, do you have a preference for one?”

Cassie tucked her bangs behind her ear and glanced at all the fabric swatches. “Well, I like the aquamarine, but only if you put it next to…this shade of purple.” Cassie reached across the table and pulled several swatches together.

Liz watched in awe as Cassie maneuvered the colors until they lay before her in a beautiful scheme. She pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers as Cassie became more comfortable chattering about designs.

“Wait. Hold on a second. Do you want to make some money? I hope so, because I’ve just hired you to be my wedding coordinator.”

Cassie pales. “What? Oh, Liz, no. I couldn’t do that. Besides, I thought Isabel was doing that.”

“She has a side project she’s working on and she doesn’t have time to help me. So, either you do it or I’m choosing the color white for everything.”

Cassie began picking at the tablecloth. “I don’t know. It wouldn’t be right.”

“Why wouldn’t I hire someone to help me that knows exactly what I like?”

“What if I pick something you don’t like?”

“Impossible. I have no real opinion on anything these days. Just don’t pick this ugly pea green color and we should be fine.” Uncertainty still marred the young girl’s face. “What is it really?”

“I don’t know if I should. I think…I think your dad is going to fire me.”

Stunned, Liz sat back and examined the girl. Sure, she was a little clumsy, but she tried hard. “Why would you think that?”

“I’ve broken more dishes than I’ve served and I get the orders mixed up all the time.”

“Maybe you just don’t know all the secrets yet.” Something in her felt sorry for this girl. Although she hadn’t been around the Crashdown enough to know for sure, Liz was fairly certain that Cassie still didn’t have any friends. “Tell you what, you help me out and I’ll show you hundreds of waitressing tips.” Liz tried hard not to focus on the pain in her chest at the thought of her parents. She was beginning to think that maybe they wouldn’t find a way to understand about her and Max after all. And it was the hardest thing she’d ever had to face.

Cassie beamed a smile at her, unaware of her new idol’s turmoil. “Deal. But if there’s something you don’t like, you have to tell me.”

“Believe me, if I don’t, Isabel and Maria will.” Liz linked arms with Cassie and led her to the back row to help look at china patterns.

*~*~

Max lay in bed, his history book open on his lap. He’d been trying to study for his exam next week, but he found that his attention was elsewhere. The apartment was quiet, darkness having fallen hours ago. But try as he might, his thought kept drifting back to the vision that slept beside him.

She had come home from shopping and classes to collapse in bed. Max had made her soup and had it waiting, knowing the things that had weighed heavily on her mind.

She’d worried about her parents never accepting them, and how it made him feel. She’d second guessed her own decision not to postpone the wedding. She’d tried to figure out what was wrong between Michael and Maria and how to help. But most importantly, she’d worried and questioned why the Sheriff hadn’t found any more bodies. And Max had found himself wondering the same thing. It had been five days since the last body had been found and according to the pattern the Scaribe had set, there should have been more bodies found by now.

Liz shifted in her sleep and Max closed his history book with a sigh. She was having another nightmare. Last night, it had been one where she showed up to the church late and when she started walking down the aisle, she found she was naked. Max chuckled at the memory. He usually blocked their connection when she was sleeping, but he’d been distracted and before he knew it, he’d been sucked into her dream.

He adjusted his body until he was lying beside her, his head propped on one hand. She looked so peaceful when she was sleeping, it was hard for anyone to understand how many things she worried about in a day. He wouldn’t have believed it himself if he didn’t have access to her every thought. But she felt more and hurt deeper than anyone he’d ever known. And this thing with her parents was cutting so deep, he didn’t know how to begin fixing it. At first, he’d been torn between giving them time to accept things, and wanting to shake them and ask them if they were crazy and if they knew what they were doing. So far, he’d been forced to wait. Liz must have caught a stray thought or two of his and had asked him to wait it out. So he had.

She sighed, a frown marring her perfect skin. Unable to stop himself, Max gathered her closer until her head was resting on his chest. She whimpered as she buried her face against his bare skin. Max ran a hand down her back, soothing her in sleep as her dreams took a more violent turn. He thought about waking her up, but wanted to see if she could resolve it herself. Besides, he would have to get used to not stepping in every time she had a bad dream.

Max closed his eyes and let himself enter the dreamworld she was pulling him into. He figured if he could lend her his strength, she would at least know he was there for her.

Immediately, he was surrounded by inky blackness. Without knowing why, he felt panicked, lost, and was filled with a sense of loneliness and despair he’d never known. What was this place?

He seemed to float forever until the images began shifting as though he was watching things through a television screen. It only took a second for Max to know where he was and it scared the hell out of him.

He saw Liz trapped in the vortex of emotion she had talked about, was forced to watch her try to claw her way up to the surface, to the sunshine that peaked over the edge. Max tried to escape, to pull Liz from the nightmare that had plagued her and almost driven her to insanity. But he was helpless. He watched the events play out, knowing they were almost over. He could feel Liz’s terror, her sense of urgency to escape, to set things right. And Max’s mind was drawn back to the conversation he’d had with his sister about the message she had received. Whatever was coming, wasn’t supposed to be stopped. And Liz didn’t know.

A soft voice filled the air around him and he felt Liz’s recognition. She wasn’t afraid of the voice, just the message. And then he knew that there was something else that she hadn’t told them.

Then it was over and he felt himself being ripped through the darkness to find himself in his own bed again. Liz was awake, and was sobbing into his chest. Max tightened his arms around her, offering her whatever comfort he could give. They would talk tomorrow and get everything out in the open. Consequences be damned, they would get the truth out and figure out what to do with this mess.



posted on 27-Nov-2001 11:41:22 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 47

“Hey, Is, can you juice this thing up for me?”

“Yeah, sure.” Isabel paused where she had been scrolling through the incoherent symbols to wave her hand over the alien device in Alex’s hand. It still gave her a small thrill to see it light up and know that she had creatred that. But she felt that she was on the verge of something and returned her attention to Alex’s computer screen.

“Thanks,” Alex mumbled, knowing Isabel was full engrossed in her work again. He ignored the device and watched her for a minute. She really was amazing. Her eyes were riveted to the screen, her attention focused on the foreign language. Idly, he wondered if he could get her to put on a pair of reading glasses, and then one of his lifelong fantasies would be fulfilled. Putting his lust aside, he let his pride show through. She really felt that if she tried hard enough, she could decifer them herself. Her hand wandered up to the delicate skin of her neck to rub at a sore spot and Alex found his mind wandering back to the previous weekend at her parent’s house.

She had taken him to her room to tell him what she had thought about the decoding and somehow they had found themselves on Isabel’s bed. They were still relatively new at the whole relationship thing, but whenever they were in the same room, it had become impossible not to kiss her. And despite the desperate longing that ran through his veins whenever he touched her, they still hadn’t done anything more than kiss. Although that night in her bedroom they’d been far closer than ever.

Isabel had gotten impatient, stripping his shirt off in the midst of their kisses. And when she had begun to unbutton her own shirt, Max had burst into the room and interrupted them. The whole thing would have been funny if it hadn’t been for the fear that Max would come to his senses and kill him on the spot. It had been that very event that made Alex realize that he hadn’t been treating Isabel the way she deserved to be treated. So, he’d asked her out on their very first date. He’d gone to extreme lengths to make sure that every moment went perfect. If only he’d known that nothing would have gone according to his plan.

Isabel felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up and she knew Alex was watching her again. She never would have guessed in a million years how wonderful it would feel to know that all she had to do was turn around and smile and she could all but see him melt in front of her. She’d never been this giddy before, this alive. And last night when Alex had shown up at her doorstep with a dozen white roses, she’d never been more in love.

He’d been dressed in a tuxedo, complete with top hat and a scarf which had made her want to giggle. It was so completely Alex she should have expected it. He’d swept her off to his car so they could make the dinner reservations he’d arranged at the french restaurant outside of town she’d been dying to try. Unfortunately, on the way to the restaurant, one of his tires had blown out and they’d spent an hour on the side of the road while Alex had replaced the tire. It still warmed her heart to remember how insistent he was that they continue with the evening. He hadn’t wanted anything to ruin their first date.

So, he’d taken them to a carnival. They’d gorged on cotton candy and elephant ears until they’d almost overdosed on sugar. She knew Alex had plans for them in the tunnel of love, but after waiting in line for a half hour, they had announced that the ride was broken for the evening. She had seen that Alex’s always optimistic mood was dwindling, so she had taken the initiative and had dragged him over to the booths.

She had picked what she thought was the easiest game, a game where you had to shoot a water gun at a target and beat out everyone else to win a prize. It had seemed flawless. She had claimed to want one of the stuffed yellow ducks hanging from the rack. The bell had sounded and Alex had screwed up all his concentration on hitting the target. Unfortunately, a small child had broken free from his mother and in his haste to escape, had knocked into Alex and sent him flying. Since Alex had already been engrossed in the game, he’d already started spraying water and when he fell, he didn’t release the trigger and ended up spraying Isabel with a steady stream of water.

The look of horror on poor Alex’s face when he saw what he had done was enough to send her into fits of laughter, not giving a second thought to the ruined dress or to her makeup. She’d grabbed a hold of Alex’s arm and they had run to the ferris wheel, making it into the last car. And so what if she had used her powers just a little bit to stop the car at the top of the wheel? It had only been long enough for her to convince Alex that she wasn’t upset and that their first date hadn’t been ruined by any of the bad luck that seemed to follow them.

Belatedly, she realized that she had been staring at an empty screen for a few minute and that a grin had spread throughout her face. She turned to Alex, wanting to take advantage of the last few minutes of peace before her brother showed up to intimidate her boyfriend, but her computer started beeping frantically.

“What the hell?” Alex snapped out of his own daydream and rose to stand behind Isabel. “What did you do?”

“I don’t know. I was running some decryptions sequences and it just started beeping.” Oh god, don’t have let her done something to his computer. The screen started scrolling text documents, filling the monitor with actual words, instead of the hieroglyphics they had become accustomed to.

“You did it.”

“What?” Isabel looked at the screen again. Alex was right. “No, we did it.”

The couple smiled at each other a minute longer before springing into action. Isabel jumped up to turn on and load up the printers and Alex took her place in the chair to start punching up sequences to save and print everything given to them.

And it was amidst this chaos that Max, Liz and Maria walked in a few hours later. Isabel was sitting on Alex’s bed, scrolling through page after page of documents while Alex battled with the printer to unjam.

“What did we miss?” Liz stepped over one stack of paper to get into the room.

“Guys, we did it! We’ve got the files.”

“Really?” Max snapped to attention, moving to join his sister on the bed. Their speed reading skills had never come in more handy.

“What do they say?” Maria took off her coat and tossed it in a corner, the only place she could find that wasn’t littered with paper.

“Well, it looks like we have the history of our planet. Wars fought and won, royal families, births and deaths. It looks like we have everything we need.”

“So, we should be able to find out more about the Scaribes and find a way to beat them?” Liz turned to Isabel, who’s excitement level was through the roof.

“I’ve already found out more about them. Our mother was right when she said that their planet died. It was a civil war gone wrong. They traveled the galaxy for years until they found someone who was willing to take the last of them in. They fooled us into thinking they were peaceful, but when Khivar stepped in and offered them a chunk of the planet that wasn’t lit by the suns, they agreed to help him win the war however they needed to.” Isabel continued scanning. “It looks like Khivar’s rise to power is documented here. This reads like a history textbook.”

“Only this is history we’re definitely interested in.” Maria picked up the nearest stack and began flipping through it, as did Liz.

“Oh,”

“What is it, Liz?”

Liz turned to face Max. “Well, it seems that I found the death records.” She met Max’s eyes. “Your death records.”

“Let me see.” Max moved across the room to take the stack of papers from Liz. “King Zan Rosenthal of the Lavencourt Provinces, pronounced dead…” he stopped reading. “fought bravely in battle. That’s all it says.” Liz placed a hand over his, offering her support, murmuring it through their connection. He knew it was crazy to be affected by something he couldn’t even remember, but just knowing how he had died was enough to move him. He moved on through the list. “Princess Vilandra Rosenthal of the Lavencourt Provinces, pronounced dead…” Max looked up to meet the expectant eyes of his sister. “Tortured to death in the prison camps beyond the forest.”

Isabel slumped forward, her strength gone. Immediately, she felt Alex’s arms around her shoulders, supporting her. She had been tortured to death. Had she cracked? Had she given information in the end in exchange for her life? She would never know if she had been the reason for the downfall of her kingdom, the deaths of her family and friends.

“It wasn’t your fault.”

Isabel turned to Alex with teary eyes. How did he know what she was thinking? “How do you know? They already told me I betrayed my family.”

“I don’t believe that.” Oblivious to everyone else in the room, Alex cradled Isabel’s face in his hands. He would worry about Max killing him for touching his sister later. “If you were…tortured,” he found the words hard to say, even harder to think about. “then it was because you didn’t want to give them information. And besides, that’s not who you are now. You’re not Vilandra, you’re Isabel.”

Isabel sniffled, not entirely convinced. She closed her eyes, not wanting to see the looks the others were surely giving her now. How could she look her brother in the eye again?

“Is, you have nothing to feel guilty about.” Max saw the scene unfolding before him and approached his sister, knowing how difficult this had to be for her to hear. “Didn’t we agree years ago that the past was the past? Alex is right. We really are different people here. And if the events hadn’t unfolded the way they had, we wouldn’t have ended up here. And I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t trade my life now for anything.”

Isabel opened her eyes, looking not at Max, but at Alex. Maybe things had happened for a reason. All the events of her lives had led her to this point, and she honestly could say that she wouldn’t trade being held in Alex’s arms for anything in the world. “Okay. I’m okay.” She gave her brother a shaky smile, nodding for him to return to the papers.

Reluctantly, Max returned to the death certificates. “Princess Avania Daly of the Breckthal Provinces…poisoned to death. Captain Rath Hosford of the Lavencourt Provinces, killed bravely in battle.” Max scanned the records further. “That’s all I recognize.” How many of the names on this list should he know? How many of them had fought beside them? And he couldn’t even remember who they were?

“Michael should be here,” Maria announced quietly.

“I’ll go,” Liz offered, knowing she was the only one in any shape to do so. Are you okay?

I’m fine, go. Maria’s right, he should be here.

Liz rose from her seat and hastily made her way out the door and down to Michael’s apartment. She knocked once, waiting for an answer. It didn’t matter what was going on between him and Maria. He was coming back upstairs with her and was going to become a member of their group again. When she received no reply, she tried the knob. Finding it locked, she glanced around the hall quickly and sent a surge of energy into the lock. When it clicked free, she entered quietly, a chill sweeping up her spine. The room was unnaturally dark, even for Michael and his brooding artist mood swings.

She continued down his hall into his bedroom. “Michael? Are you here?”

She pushed open his door and let out a sigh of relief when she found him sprawled out across the bed. He was just sleeping. Why was she being so jumpy? Feeling foolish now, she strode across the room and gave Michael a rough shove. She remembered Maria telling her what a deep sleeper he was.

“Michael, get up. We need you downstairs.” When he didn’t move, she shoved him again. “Michael. C’mon. It’s time to wake up, sunshine.” She moved to push him, but his hand grabbed her arm before she had the chance. The movement startled her, as did the force in which Michael was holding on to her wrist.

“Ha Ha. Very funny. If you were awake, you could have said so.”

Michael rolled onto his back and Liz caught a glimpse of his appearance for the first time. His skin was pale, as if it hadn’t seen the sun in far too long. He’d lost weight, his clothes hanging off his body. But the bags under his eyes caught her off guard. What was wrong with Michael? Why wasn’t he eating or sleeping? “Michael?” She tried not to flinch against the pressure on her wrist, but it was getting harder.

Michael’s eyes flashed open and Liz gasped aloud. Beneath his usual dark brown was a swirl of red. Trying to step back from the bed, she found herself trapped by his hand. She slid on something on the floor and fell. Michael was advancing on her now, moving his body closer to where she lay half paralyzed on the floor. The red was glowing a darker shade now and she found herself truly afraid of what he would do to her.

“Michael,” she whimpered, afraid her wrist was about to snap under the pressure.

At her plea, Michael snapped out of the trance he had been in. She watched as the red tendrils snaked back out of view from his eyes and he stared down at her with a look of confusion on his face.

“Liz? What are you doing here?” Why was she looking at him like he was a serial killer? He followed her gaze to where he was holding her wrist and he dropped it as though burned. Had it happened again? Was Liz hurt? She didn’t look hurt, but she was afraid of him. What had he done? He lunged off the bed and backed out of the room, never taking his eyes off Liz’s small form huddled on his floor. “Liz…I’m sorry. I have to go.” He turned and fled out the door.

Liz heard the front door slam and knew Michael was gone. She held her sore wrist against her chest, wondering what to do now. Should she follow him or let him be for now? No, if she followed him, what would that accomplish? He was stronger than her and if he really did want to hurt her, he could. She pulled herself off the floor and quickly made her way back to Alex’s apartment.

“Liz, what took so long? Michael being his usual difficult self?” Isabel jokingly greeted her when she appeared in Alex’s doorway.

When there was only silence, Max looked up and nearly panicked when he saw her standing in the doorway. “Liz, what happened?” He led her to the armchair, noticed her cradling her right arm. He cursed himself for closing off their connection for the ten minutes she had been gone, but he had wanted to devote his full attention to the papers in front of him. He pulled her hand away and swore as he caught a glimpse of the large purple bruises forming on her skin. “Who did this to you?” he asked, even as he healed her.

Liz turned her attention to Alex and Isabel, who were huddled together looking concerned. “How much do we know about how the Scaribes take control of somebody?”

“Not much. Why?”

“We need to find out now. I think I know why we haven’t found any more bodies lately.” Liz turned to Maria. “Michael’s been taken over.”

Maria felt her insides freeze. “No. That can’t be. Can it?” She whispered the last few words, afraid to believe it. But there were handprints on Liz that said otherwise. She steeled up her courage. Michael was going to need help and she would do whatever it took to make sure he didn’t end up another corpse in the morgue.

“Okay, this is the plan.” Maria stood, taking charge of the meeting. “First of all, enough of these secrets. Isabel, Max, do you have something you want to tell us?”

Isabel and Max glanced at each other, not sure of what Maria knew. “Maria, I’m not sure-“

“Oh, cut the crap, Max. Enough is enough. Michael’s life is on the line here. I know you sent Isabel into mine and Liz’s dreams to find out something more about this nightmare/warning thing. So, spill it. What do you know?”

“Uh, well…” Isabel stammered, not sure if she should say anything.

“Tell them, Is.”

“Max?” Liz turned to Max, hurt showing on her face.

“Michael and I were worried about your nightmares. We wanted to know more about them and see if we could stop them somehow. I shouldn’t have done it behind your back, but I was worried about you. I’m sorry.”

Liz closed her eyes, not really angry, but afraid of what Isabel had found out. “What did you find?”

“Not a whole lot from my brain,” Maria scoffed. “And by the way, if you wander your way into my head again, I’ll give you images you’ll never be able to get out of your head.”

Isabel blushed, remembering some of the scenes Maria had dreamed about. “You knew about that all along? Wait a minute, you did that on purpose?”

“Not the point. What did you find out?”

“I talked to whoever sent you the message. They wouldn’t let me into the nightmare though. They said that what was meant to happen was meant to happen and I wasn’t supposed to tell you guys because you’d try to change the events.”

“What events?”

“I’m not sure. She wouldn’t tell Isabel, but I think it’s whatever’s going on at the top of that funnel.”

“How do you know what it looked like?” Isabel asked Max.

“I had the nightmare again last night,” Liz confessed. “Somehow, I dragged Max into it.”

The group turned to Maria. “I had it last night too.”

“Okay, so to recap once again, you guys are having the nightmares again, Isabel talked to whoever gave us this warning about a friendly face, and now this person tells us that no matter what happens, we can’t change it because why? It’ll make things even worse? Why tell us about it in the first place then?” Alex found himself getting confused in the conversation. When had all this cropped up? Here he’d thought everything was going along fine and then they get slammed again.

“She said that whatever happens has the potential to tear us all apart and that can’t happen.”

“So, it’s going to be bad.” Liz slumped against Max’s warmth.

“Is there anything else going on here that we should talk about?” Alex rose from his chair to pace the room. This was insanity. Hadn’t they decided years ago that secrets were bad? And now all of a sudden there were a dozen secrets everywhere.

Maria and Liz exchanged a glance.

“Maria…”

“Liz, he deserves to know.”

Max looked back and forth between the two girls. “What? Is there something you’re not telling us?”

Liz met Max’s eyes. “Yes, and I’m sorry. Maria and I said we wouldn’t bring it up unless it was important. We didn’t want to be wrong.”

Maria turned to look at Alex. And when Liz followed Maria, a sliver of fear ran up Alex’s spine. Why were they both looking at him like that? “What?”

Liz untangled herself from Max’s embrace. She knew he wasn’t angry, only a bit hurt and worried. It was Alex that would need their attention now. “Maria and I, we recognized the voice that gave us the warning.”

Alex waited, sure this wasn’t going to be good. “And…”

Liz glanced at Maria again, wanting to make sure this was the right thing to do. “Alex, it was your mom.”

Alex blinked. “What? My mom?” He took a step backwards. “No. You guys must have made a mistake. It was only a dream.”

Isabel replayed the conversation back in her head again from the dream conversation she had with the figure.

We have never met, but you are in my heart.

Be there for him Isabel. He’ll need you.

And it made a sudden kind of sense to her. That was the reason why she had seemed so familiar. But what did all this have to do with Alex? Was he going to be hurt in some way?

“Alex, I think they may be right. It was something I couldn’t put my finger on until now.”

Alex calmed suddenly, staring at the empty wall before him. His mother had issued a warning to Maria and Liz? Why not to him? He found a crushing sadness creeping up on him and he pushed it aside. There wasn’t time for that now. Michael was in trouble and they needed to work together to find a way to help him. “We need to keep reading, see what we can find out about these Scaribes and if there’s any way to stop this.”

“Alex,” Liz began, but found Max’s arms wrapped around her. Not now.

Liz sighed, knowing he was right. Alex wasn’t ready to deal with this now. But sooner or later, they would all have to come together or they would be torn apart.



posted on 27-Nov-2001 11:41:40 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 48

Amy Deluca swung open her front door to find Jim Valenti hovering on her doorstep. She had been considering ignoring the insistent knock, and regretted her decision to answer it now.

“What do you want?” She refused to feel any warmth at seeing him for the first time since she’d found out the truth. He hadn’t called, couldn’t be bothered to stop by. But now he wanted to show up on her doorstep and talk?

“Amy, please. Can we talk about this inside?”

She examined his stance. He was in Sheriff mode and he usually got what he wanted. It would be pointless to argue outside. “You have five minutes before I call your Deputy to throw you out.”

Jim took off his Stetson, following the small woman inside. Not too long ago, he had been welcome here, but he’d known better now. He knew she’d be angry, she wouldn’t have been the woman he knew if she hadn’t been. So, he’d left her to her anger, hoping she and Maria could at least work something out. But Kyle had paid him a visit and had let him know where things stood. And he’d known it was time to step in.

“I heard you talked to Maria.” Although she hadn’t told anyone what had happened, Kyle had informed him that it hadn’t gone well.

Amy turned to glare at him. Had he come to rub in her face that her only daughter wasn’t talking to her? She remembered Maria’s tearstained face before she had run out of her old home, just as she remembered the words that had been spoken.

“You must have spies everywhere, Sheriff. That must come from consorting with aliens for so long.”

“Stop it, Amy.” He took a deep breath, forced himself to remain calm. He wouldn’t let Amy push his buttons. And someone had to talk some sense into her. “Yes, I knew about them. And no, I didn’t tell you. And if I had the chance to do it all again, I’d do it the same way. The more people that know about those kids, the more dangerous it becomes.”

“Danger that Michael dragged my Maria into.”

“Because your daughter is so easily bullied and manhandled. C’mon, Amy. Think about what you’re saying. Even you have to know that Maria does what she wants to do and nothing can change her mind. She fell in love with Michael because underneath all that toughness, there’s a tender soul.”

“Tender soul?” Amy scoffed at his words. “What do you know about Michael Guerin?”

“I know he was beat everyday of his life with Hank. I know I answered countless calls only to find that boy huddled in a corner, bruised and beaten, sometimes burned. I imagine most of the time he would have been hospitalized or killed if it hadn'’ been for his alien genes."”

A bit quieter now, Amy dropped her defensive stance under Jim’s words. How could she be angry when she was faced with the truth? “I didn’t know that. I mean, Maria always said he had it rough…”

“But you didn’t believe her,” he finished for her. He saw the change in her face and he gentled his actions, took a step towards her. “Amy, I know you think Michael’s emotionless, that he’s out to hurt Maria. Hell, I thought the same thing when I found out what they were. But the truth is, he has more than the rest. He wasn’t adopted like a nice family like Max and Isabel were. He didn’t have soft words and encouragement, but violence and pain. Maria’s faith in him, her love, was the first tenderness he’d ever known. And he may be gruff, but he’s a good boy. And he loves your daughter. You know that. It wasn’t a month ago you were asking me if I thought he would ever get around to proposing to her.”

She remembered that morning well. She had woken up with Jim beside her and had felt content for the first time in her life. “Don’t you dare bring us into this.” She pushed aside the guilt that was beginning to surface over some of the things she had said to her daughter. Instead, she focused on the anger she felt for Jim. “The fact remains that you lied to me. You withheld information about my daughter’s safety, her health. I trusted you, Jim. I…” Amy broke off, tears swimming in her eyes. Why did this have to happen? Just when things were looking good for her, when she thought she finally had found something she could love and trust?

Jim took another step forward, his heart breaking when she took one in retreat. “Amy, you can trust me. It wasn’t my secret to tell. The only reason I know is because I hunted those kids down for an entire year. Wherever they went, I followed. I wanted to nail Max Evans to the wall, to prove that my father didn’t spend his entire life chasing after a lie. And believe me, I did everything in my power to catch them. I threw Liz and Alex into jail, I held Max at gunpoint, I bullied and harassed Maria and Kyle. And in the end, they came to me. Max was captured by the FBI, tortured and being kept in a government facility. And Liz came to me for help after all the hell I put them through. Every one of them put their lives on the line to save Max. Just like they did to save Liz. They are a unit, a family, or they were. Max risked it all again to save his mother and because the truth came out, they’ve been broken apart as a group.”

“What do you mean?” Her voice held no anger now, only curiosity.

“Alex hasn’t spoken with his dad in a week. Liz is afraid her parents won’t come to the wedding. Maria left Michael. She won’t talk to anyone about it and Michael’s all but disappeared completely. Because of what you said to Maria.”

“Now hold on a minute-“

“No! Amy, enough is enough. You are wrong about those kids. You’ve known them their whole lives and you’ve loved them. Now is not the time for dissention. They have a very real enemy out there, hunting them down regardless of whether they’re human or not. And they need to be strong. You said a lot of things that hurt all of those kids. And your daughter is miserable. What will it take for you to admit you were wrong about Michael?”

Amy looked down at her hands, unsure of what to say.

Jim sighed at the crestfallen look on her face. And he knew she was beginning to see how wrong she may have been.

“I know I probably ruined everything we had and you’ll never know how sorry I am for that. For what it’s worth, I thought I’d found a family in you and Maria. She’s like a daughter to me, and if I’d thought for single minute that Michael wasn’t taking care of her, I’d have killed him myself. And you…Amy, I fell in love with you years ago. I just never had the courage to tell you.” He met her shocked eyes. He hadn’t meant to tell her for the first time like this, but he was afraid this might be his last chance. He’d already put his heart on his sleeve, he figured he may as well go all the way. He dug into his pocket and pulled out a small velvet box. He laid it on the table beside her and took a step backwards. She was standing frozen and he didn’t know what she was thinking. But she made no move toward the ring.

“I bought that for you months ago. I was going to wait until Christmas, but now…It’s yours, Amy. I don’t need it. I…I just wanted you to know.”

His voice was so low, she wasn’t even sure she was hearing him. Her eyes were rivoted to the table, the small box capturing her whole world. He had bought her an engagement ring. And she didn’t know what to say.

The soft click of her front door grabbed her attention and she realized that she was standing alone. Jim had left. Slowly, she sunk down to the nearest chair and rested her head on her arms until she was level with the ring. The reality of the situation started sinking into her brain. She had lost her daughter, and the man she loved. And she had hurt Michael when she didn’t know what she was doing. What had she done?



posted on 27-Nov-2001 11:42:24 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 49

“Max, I can’t do this. You don’t know what you’re asking me to do.”

Max faced Maria, knowing that she was the only one they could ask to do this. “Maria, I know you and Michael have been having some trouble-“

“We broke up.” Maria turned to look out the living room window. The sun would be coming up soon and they still had no idea where Michael had run off to. They only knew he was out of time. So, they had been up all night trying to figure out the best way to free Michael from the Scaribes’ grasp.

“What?” That stopped Max cold. “What do you mean you broke up? If you two had a fight-“

“We didn’t have a fight, we broke up. End of story. That’s why I can’t do this.”

“Maria, listen to me.” Liz stepped forward. Now wasn’t the time to get Maria worked up into a hysterical rant about her and Michael. “The only way to help Michael is to get into his head, and you know he won’t let just anybody do that. That’s why we need you to dreamwalk him and help him fight.”

Defeated, Maria flopped down on the couch. “And what if he won’t let me in either?”

“You won’t know until you try. Maria, it’s you or nothing. If you don’t do this, he’ll die like the others did.”

Maria took a deep breath. Liz was right. She was being selfish. Michael’s life was far more important than silly pettiness. “Okay, what do I have to do?”

Isabel stepped forward. “I’ll show you how to do it, lend you some of my energy. But I doubt he’ll let me in. He never has before.”

Nodding, Maria followed Isabel to the couch. Isabel stood, waiting as Maria laid down. “What now?”

“Just try to relax.”

“Right.” Easier said than done. She only had six pairs of eyes on her and Michael was being possessed by some evil alien that had come to kill them all. Sure, no reason to panic there. She closed her eyes and felt Isabel take a seat on the floor. Her light touch on her arm made her jump, though she had been expecting it. It was just one more sign of her nerves being shot.

“Just think about Michael. Hear his voice in your head, feel his touch. Concentrate on his energy.” Isabel closed her own eyes, trying to focus all of her energy on Maria. A connection formed between them and Isabel saw flashes of conversations long since past. She felt the attraction between Michael and Maria when the first met. She heard a hundred conversations, some nothing more than insults, but others filled with heartfelt words of devotion and love. And through Maria, Isabel began to see a completely different Michael than she’d ever known. Where her Michael had been closed off and gruff, he softened when he was with Maria, letting himself feel real emotions.

Before she had time to adjust to this, the darkness before them began changing, colors splashing around her to paint the most colorful canvas she’d ever seen.

They were standing in a field of flowers. And the colors around her were more brilliant than any she’d ever seen on Earth. No two seemed to be the same. Isabel looked around and saw Maria standing rigid beside her, her whole attention focused on the dark forest before them.

“I know this place,” Isabel stated, beginning to put the pieces together. Maria and Michael had been in that forest the night she had dreamwalked Maria and found them playing naked Scrabble. She quickly pushed that thought away. There were more important things here to dwell on. “Is this…”

“Antar? I think so, but I’m not sure.” Maria faced the forest with its dark crimson leaves. “Michael and I used to meet here. But he never wanted to go into the forest. He told me it’s not safe. Gypsies took it over and kill anyone who comes near it.” She knew she was babbling. But she’d do anything that would take her mind off what was coming.

“So, we’re in his mind?” Isabel looked around, still absorbing everything she was seeing. This was her home.

“He’s in there.” Maria gestured towards the forest. Michael would have run there to hide, knowing she would try to come after him sooner or later.

“Well, let’s go.”

Maria stopped Isabel’s forward movement. “No. I have to go alone. He won’t let you in. I can feel it. He’s scared, Isabel. I’ve never felt so much fear.”

Isabel nodded, though she felt nothing. “Are you going to be okay here?”

“I’m not the one you have to worry about.” She saw Isabel’s hesitation. “I’ll just find him and tell him how to block his mind, just like we talked about.” She offered Isabel a smile, though she knew she wasn’t fooled.

“Be careful, Maria.”

But Isabel’s image was already fading from her vision.

“Right.” Maria squared her shoulders and started forward. She would do this one last thing for Michael, save his life so that he could see his family one day. Moving through the outer trees of the forest, she picked her way past the thorny, purple spines of the tree trunks. She made a mental note to warn Liz never to go into the forests of Antar if she ever had the chance to go.

“Go away.”

Maria froze in her tracks, looking around to find the source of the voice.

“Michael, I’m here to help you.” She licked her lips nervously. Would this work?

“I don’t want your help. I never did. Just leave me alone.”

The loneliness in his voice tore at her heart. He was trying to push her away to keep her safe. Why hadn’t she seen that before? “It’s no good lying to me here. I feel what you feel. And you’re scared.” So scared he couldn’t think straight.

Before her eyes, Michael materialized. His eyes bore into hers, looking for answers to unknown questions. “I’m not afraid.” But he knew she could feel the paralyzing tendrils of it snaking through him. That was why he’d tried to block them from coming here. But he’d been too weak, Maria too persistent.

“Michael, the Scaribe had control of your mind. He’s using you to-“

“Yeah, I know.” His voice was soft, defeated.

“Then why aren’t you fighting?”

“I was, for days and days. He’s too strong, Maria. You have no idea. That’s why you have to go.”

“I’m not leaving you here, Michael.” She reached out to grab his hand, only to have her fingers slide through him as though he were nothing more than a ghost. Terrified eyes flew up to meet his.

“I’m fading,” he explained. “Tell the others for me-“

“No. I’m not going to stand here and take notes on your dying words. You’re going to fight and we’re going to put a block on your mind so he can’t come back. He hasn’t completely taken you over yet, so we still have time.”

“He can’t. I’m a hybrid. His race wasn’t meant to inhabit a freak like me. But he found a way to use my powers.” He sunk down onto a rock, exhaustion showing in every movement.

“What are you talking about?” Maria sunk down beside him, wishing for all the world that she could touch him and take away some of his pain.

“I heard what your mother said to you, Maria. When you tried to connect with me. I heard it all. She was right. I’m no good for you, I never have been. Just go away. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. I’m just catching my second wind to finish this guy off.”

“Don’t lie to me.” Was that what he thought of her? “Why are you doing that? You’re not a freak, Michael. Far from it. You’re a hero, my hero. And you deserve more credit than anyone has ever given you. To hell with my mother and anyone else that thinks that of you. Because if that’s what they think Michael Guerin is all about, then they don’t know the real you.”

Michael turned to look at her and she knew she had his full attention now. He wasn’t looking quite as transparent as he did a minute ago. Or was that her imagination?

“Alex and Isabel decoded the rest of the files. We found your death records, Michael. ‘Captain Rath Hosford of the Lavencourt Provinces, fought bravely to the death in battle.’ That was you, Michael. Your death had meaning on Antar. They resurrected you so that you could do more good, help keep Max and Isabel and Tess safe even when they’re being stubborn. Do you want to let this creep take you down without a fight? That’s not the Michael I know. The Michael I know would never lay down and give up.”

“I’m not giving up, I’m just tired. So tired. Why are we still fighting? It’s hard to tell sometimes.” He ran a hand over his face, weary.

“For your family. Don’t you want to see them again someday? They’re still out there somewhere, wondering about you. And you’ll go back to them.”

Michael stared at her strangely a minute and she wondered if he could read her as clearly as she could read him here.

“Maria? Don’t you get it? You are my family. And you’re gone too.” He turned away from her, staring off into the distance. His form wavered a minute, becoming a bit more transparent than it had been.

Panic filled her. He was slipping away. “Michael, no. You can’t go yet. You can’t leave me.”

“He’s coming back.”

“Fight him, Michael.” She was pleading and she didn’t care anymore. She knew this was the last chance she would have and she was losing.

“I’m sorry, Maria.”

He locked eyes with her and in that instant, he opened up to her in a way he never had before. He showed her all of his fears, all of the terrible things that had been done to him that had turned him hard at such an early age. He showed her how dramatically she had changed his world, and how he had begun to plan a future with her. And she felt his love, unending waves of it. And she knew that she had been horribly wrong. Michael wouldn’t leave her when the time came. He would give up everything he was to stay with her if the opportunity presented itself.

“Michael, I-“ she stopped, unsure of what to say in the wake of such emotion from him. But he was looking at her in a funny way, and she had the feeling that he had seen and felt as much as she had.

“Fight. Fight for me. I can’t lose you, Michael. I love you.”

Michael closed his eyes, her strength filling the holes in his chest. And for a brief moment, he became solid again. Maria grabbed hold of the opportunity and latched herself onto Michael. She opened a connection between them the only way she knew how, by pressing her soft lips against his. She opened up to him, giving him all the strength she had. She gave him her love, her faith in him. And in that moment, she knew he had never felt more invincible.

Maria opened her mind to him, showing him what Isabel had told her about blocking his mind. Together, they set about the task of building a wall, brick by brick until it towered a hundred feet tall.

Exhausted, they fell back to the soft forest floor. And Maria could feel the presence in his mind gone. They had done it. She turned to look at Michael, and found him fading beside her. But she didn’t worry this time. He was simply waking up.

“Call Max,” she whispered as she felt her own body pulling her back.

And then she found herself staring at her ceiling. She blinked once, then gave up and closed her eyes.

“Maria? Are you okay?”

It was Isabel. She recognized the frantic tone in her voice. And she tried to nod, but wasn’t sure if her head moved or not.

“Michael. Did you find him?” Max hated to question her, saw the fatigue and knew they had gone through some sort of ordeal. But his friend’s life was hanging in the balance.

“Fine. Calling you,” she murmured.

On cue, Max’s cell phone rang and he scrambled to answer it.

“Michael? Thank god! Where are you?” Max glanced at Maria while Michael struggled to form the words. “I’m on my way.” He hung up the phone. “Is she okay?”

“I think so. She’s sleeping.” Alex stood up, worried for his friend. “Is Michael okay?”

“Yeah. Whatever they did worked. He says he’s okay. Take care of her,” he instructed Alex, though he knew it wasn’t necessary.

“I’ve got them. Just go. This thing isn’t going to be too happy about losing Michael. We’re going to need all the strength we have to finish this off.”







posted on 27-Nov-2001 11:42:45 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 50

Max pushed open the doors to the Crashdown Café, more than a bit surprised to find Michael slaving away behind the grill. He glanced around the restaurant, looking for signs of life, or maybe of the coming apocalypse.

“They’re not here, Maxwell.” Michael answered dryly when he saw Max enter the restaurant looking like he’d rather be any other place on the planet. “They’re out of town today. Nobody’s in yet.”

“And you thought you’d come by and take over your old job for fun?” Max moved behind the counter to talk to his oldest friend through the kitchen window.

“Hardly. The regular cook’s out with some sort of stomach virus and there wasn’t anyone else with the Parkers gone. Cassie called me.” He shrugged, trying to be casual about it. “It’s no big deal. They must have had my name on some emergency list or something. She’s new, so she called.”

“Michael, have you forgotten that we are probably the very last people the Parkers want to see, much less have working in their restaurant?” It felt odd just being there now, like he should be watching over his shoulder for the Parkers to come chase him out.

“Oh, yeah that had slipped my mind with all the alien related crap going on around here lately. Thank you, King Maxwell, lord and ruler and keeper of important facts.”

Max watched Michael go about his old routine of prepping the food. “How are you doing today?” Max still found it hard to get rid of the images of Michael’s half dead form lying in the desert where he had found him after Maria’s dreamwalk. Whatever had happened was only between the two of them, because neither one would talk about it. Maria had slept for twenty four hours and then had locked herself in her room. Michael had slept far longer and now was working a shift at the Crashdown.

“As fine as you can be after having your head invaded. But thanks for asking.”

“Michael, you know if you want to talk about what happened-“

“Yeah, I got it.” Michael sighed when he saw the look on Max’s face. He knew he’d given them all a scare and he gave in a little. “Look, I know you’re in the mood for touchy feely talks today, so just get it over with already. What did you really want to talk about?”

“Maria.” Max gauged him for a response, pleased when Michael’s spine stiffened at the mention of her name.

“How is she? I mean, she’s okay, right?” His need to make sure she was okay far outweighed worrying about the panic in his voice. Had something happened to her because of what she’d done for him? “I told her not to worry about me. But she didn’t listen. Typical.”

“Relax, she’s fine. Just a little shaken up and a bit tired. But it’s her heart I’m worried about.”

Michael frowned as he continued to form hamburger patties.

“Michael, talk to her. You two are the most stubborn people I know. If you’d just call her-“

“I did.” Michael raised his eyes to meet Max. “I did call her. She didn’t pick up the phone. But I knew she was there.” How could he explain to Max the way he could feel Maria’s presence now? Since she had invaded his mind and shown herself to him, he could feel her very essence everywhere he went. He’d stood outside her window last night, just letting the feel of her pull him in. But she had shut him out again. And he had no idea why.

“Maybe if you went to see her-“

“Max, this conversation is getting us nowhere. Maybe it’s for the best anyway. She already broke things off with me. Did she tell you that?” When Max shook his head, Michael continued. “It was right after the Scaribe had started taking over my mind. She came to see me on some sort of mission. She demanded that I marry her right then and there or nothing.”

Max’s eyebrows shot up. “She asked you to marry her?”

“No, she demanded. Do have wax in your ears or something?”

“Sorry. So, what did you say?” Max visibly calmed down. That was what the big breakup was all about? It suddenly didn’t seem so dire after all.

“I said no. What do you think I said?”

“Wait a minute. The woman you love, whom you have been seeing for five years tells you she wants to marry you and you tell her no? Let me guess, she didn’t take it very well?”

Michael considered it for a minute. “It’s not as easy as that. Not everyone can be perfect like you.”

“I’m not perfect, Michael. Just ask Liz. Have you two even talked about a future?”

“Yes. Well, no, not really. Hell, she knows I love her.” Max was eyeing him with a hint of a smile and he had the urge to knock it off his face. “We did talk about it once. She said she wanted to have graduated from college before she got married. And it hasn’t come up since then.” Giving up on the meat, Michael leaned against the counter. “Maybe it’s for the best this way. She can do whatever she wants now, have a free life.”

“You’re not talking about giving her up, are you? Because you’ve tried that before, we all have. Pushing her away for her own good only seems to make her want to come back all the more. Plus, you never could give her up for long.”

“I love her, Max.” He was more than a bit uncomfortable laying his feelings on the table. But he was at the end of his rope here. “I just don’t know what to do.”

Movement behind Michael caught Max’s eye and his stance stiffened. Michael saw the change and turned, expecting a nosy waitress. Instead, he found himself face to face with Amy Deluca.

“Max, could you give Michael and I a minute alone?”

Max turned and tried to catch Michael’s eye, but he was locked in a staring contest with Maria’s mother.

“Go, Max. I’ll be fine.”

“I’ll call you later.” Max slowly backed out of the restaurant, wondering if he was doing the right thing by leaving them alone.

Alone, Michael faced Maria’s mother. At one time, he’d never felt more at home with anyone. Now, she had the potential to be one of his enemies and as much as the thought made him sick, it had to be considered.

“Sunflowers.”

Michael blinked, confusion settling in. “What?” He was prepared for another verbal attack and she wanted to talk about flowers?

“Sunflowers. My daughter can’t resist them.”

“Wait. Are you offering me advice on how to…I can’t even imagine what you’re offering me advice on.”

Amy took a step closer to Michael. She’d seen the defensive stance he’d taken when he’d seen her and she hated herself for it. For years now, this boy had been a member of her family. Maria loved him and trusted him. And so had she. Somehow, all of that had been lost along the way. “Did you really mean all the things you were saying before you knew I was there?”

Michael shifted uncomfortably. “It depends on how much you heard.”

“All of it.” She had long since grown used to his gruff exterior. And she began to see the soft underbelly her daughter had tried to describe to her for years. “Michael, I didn’t know you’d be here today, so this is just as much of a surprise to me as it is to you. So, work with me here.” She raised her eyes to meet his. She had said so many horrible things to and about this boy. “I’m sorry.”

Now, Michael was completely taken back. “Did you just apologize to me?” Maybe the Scaribe had messed with his head more than he’d thought.

“This isn’t easy for me.” She licked her lips and Michael was reminded of Maria in the gesture. And he forced himself to back down. “When I found out…about where you’re from, it caught me off guard.” When she saw the twist of sarcasm on his lips, she smiled with him. “Okay, it did more than catch me off guard. But the things I said, they were wrong. I was wrong, Michael.” She finished closing the gap between them and laid a hand on his. “You’ve been Maria’s other half for so long, I’m used to seeing the two of you together. To think that something I said split you apart, well I’m sorrier than you’ll know for that. I said a lot of things to Maria, things she may never forgive me for. But that’s my cross to bear with her. I just wanted to set things straight with you.”

Michael watched her every action, every word that came out of her mouth and finally realized that there weren’t going to be any conditions attached. She was actually apologizing. And a sudden hope filled him. “Amy, you don’t have anything to apologize to me for. I understand why you said the things you did. You were worried about Maria, but so am I. I would never let anything happen to her. She’s my life.”

Amy’s smile was sad. “Does she know that?”

“Of course she does.” Michael frowned in confusion. Surely, he’d told her that?

“Because the reason she’s not here with you right now is because she’s afraid she’s going to lose you. Michael, what happens to her if you’re told you have to go home?”

“I’ll take her with me, if she wants to go.”

“Maria grew up with the shadow of her father. No man has ever stuck around in her life.” She reached a hand up to his cheek. He hadn’t had enough tender contact in his life and she vowed to try to make that up to him. “Will you be the first?”

Michael met Amy’s intense eyes, finding only approval there. Where was the scorn he’d seen and feared his whole life? “If she’ll let me.”

Amy shook her head. “The thing about my daughter, she’s a little headstrong.”

“Stubborn as a mule, you mean,” he scoffed.

“She’s my daughter and I say headstrong.” Amy found herself slipping into her old banter with Michael easily. “Sometimes you have to force her to pay attention. And I’m afraid I did some damage, so now I’m going to help you fix it.”

The door to the Crashdown opened and a very flustered Isabel swung into the room, gasping for breath. She set her eyes on Michael and Amy, and Michael noticed she wasn’t in the least surprised to see them together.

“I, uh, just came for pie. Is everything alright here?”

“We’re fine, Isabel. Give Max our best on your way out.” Michael raised a hand and swung the front door closed in Isabel’s face. She stuck her tongue out at him before retreating down the street.

“Well, that comes in handy. What else can you do?”

Michael turned a grin to Amy. His chest felt lighter somehow knowing he was able to be himself in front of Amy. It felt like coming home. “Some things are better shown.”

Amy linked her arm through Michael’s. “Let’s get a booth and we can talk.”



posted on 27-Nov-2001 11:43:12 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Learning to Live
Part 51

Maria dragged herself up the stairs one at a time. Why had she gone out in the first place? Every muscle ached and it was an effort to simply move. And then she remembered why she’d been trying to escape her wonderful, concerned friends that were slowly going to drive her out of her mind. She’d been trying to run from Michael, from the feelings and things she’d seen in his head. She knew he was absolutely okay after his possession by the Scaribe, and she’d never known more relief than in that moment. But he still hadn’t called her.

They had shared an experience so wonderful and so beautiful, it still brought tears to her eyes. They had bonded together in that brief, amazing minute. And then nothing. She’d almost thought she’d made a mistake, that she and Michael could have a future together. Then he’d gone and turned into Stonewall Guerin again.

Well, enough was enough. He could go back to his old ways of ignoring her and them, and she would just have to move on. Now, if only she could convince her heart it would be that easy.

She pulled out her keys, briefly considering just blasting the door open. But she figured her roommates probably wouldn’t like that very much, not to mention the landlord. So, she opened the door slowly and traditionally, automatically reaching for the light switch. As light illuminated the room, she paused in the middle of tossing her purse on the couch.

“What the hell?” The couch was piled high with hundreds of sunflowers. She glanced around the rest of the living room and found that every surface, the chairs, tables and even the counters, held sunflowers of varying sizes.

Maria let her purse drop to the floor and covered her mouth with her hands. She turned her head and her heart melted when Michael stepped into the light, a single sunflower in his hand.

She watched him a minute through blurry vision, unsure of what to say.

“You did this? For me?”

Michael bit back the sarcastic retort on the tip of his tongue. Now wasn’t the time. “Of course I did it for you.”

”By yourself? For me?”

Timing be damned, the sheer uncertainty in her voice was pushing all of his buttons. “No, I did it for Tess with the help of the FBI. Would you quit asking me that already?”

“I’m sorry. It’s just perfect. And I didn’t even think you knew I loved sunflowers.”

“Yeah, well, I may have had some help.”

“I knew it,” she interrupted, then was immediately sorry when she saw the look on his face. He was obviously trying very hard. “I’m sorry. So, who helped you?” She’d bet it was Max. Or maybe Isabel. Those two had a wicked romantic side.

“Your mom.”

“What?” Maria froze mid-thought. “My mom?”

“We talked yesterday. We got a lot of stuff out of the way.” He took a step closer, pleased when she didn’t step back. “She apologized to me, Maria. I told her everything, what little we know about Antar, how we really met, the first time I realized I loved you. I told her everything. And she sat and listened and she took me out to dinner.” He chuckled a little over the memory. “And this morning, she helped me come up with a plan to show you how much I want you back.”

Maria walked to the center of the room, still taking in everything Michael was telling her. “So, she thought of this?”

“No, well, half of it. Amy came up with the flowers, and wouldn’t let me cheat either. She helped me run to every flower shop in town and find these. And I remembered that movie you made me see a hundred times where the girl comes home to all the flowers everywhere and then they couple made up. You used to cry everytime you watched that part and then I would make fun of you and you’d hit me for it.” He offered her the lopsided grin that was his trademark. “I was hoping to avoid the hitting tonight if I promised not to make fun of you.”

He saw that for the first time since he’d known her, she was at a loss for words and he decided to take advantage of it.

“Maria, I know I’m not perfect, and I screw up, well, a lot. But I love you. You’re it for me. And if you want to talk about the future every damned day, even though I don’t understand why you would, but we can if that’s what you want. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Hell, I don’t even know if we’re going to live through this thing with the Scaribe. But wherever I am, wherever I go, I want you to be with me. I don’t care if it’s here, Antar, or the moon. And if that means that we get married, if that’s what you really want to do, then we can get married.”

Maria smiled at him and his obvious nervousness. “Is that a marriage proposal?”

“It could be.”

Maria crossed the distance between them and took the flower from his hand. Meeting his eyes, she caressed his face. “I was wrong to think you’re not perfect, because you are. And there’s nothing I want more than to spend my life with you and be Mrs. Guerin, or the Duchess or whichever province you’re from on Antar. But, no, I won’t marry you.”

Michael stared at her blankly. “I don’t understand.”

“I know I was crazy, but I thought the only way I could get you to be with me forever was if we got married. I was afraid I’d get left behind,” she confessed softly.

“You though if I found my real family, I’d leave you for them.”

The way he said it confirmed what she’d thought about their connection. He’d seen just as much from her as she’d seen from him. “Yeah.”

“Do you know how dumb that is?”

“You know, any other time, and I’d kick your ass for that, but yeah, I do.”

Michael slowly pulled her into his arms, able to breath easily again when her arms went around his waist without hesitation. “Maria, I went through the records Alex and Isabel decoded. My parents died years ago, but I still have a younger brother on Antar that’s helping in the wars. Just because he’s there doesn’t mean that I could ever forget about you. And yes, I want to meet him more than you could ever know, but only if you’re with me to do it.”

“You have a brother?” Maria could feel his excitement levels at the thought of family. But she found that she could also feel the love he had for her. And the sheer force of it had her crinkling her brow in thought. Could she really be feeling his emotions?

Michael?

“Yeah?”

“Oh my god! Don’t you feel it? Michael, concentrate real hard.”

“Maria, I don’t-“

Understand, she finished for him, slipping the words into his mind.

“How did you…”

“Michael, it’s our connection. It’s growing. I can read your thoughts and your emotions. Can you read mine?”

Unsure of how this worked, Michael closed his eyes and really focused on Maria. And instantly, he could feel a thousand emotions he was sure he’d never felt before and he was sure they were Maria’s.

“Is that…Are you…”

“Yes, and yes.” She smiled at him, joy bubbling up from her heart.

“Wow, you have a lot of crap in your head.”

Maria slapped his arm playfully. “Watch it, unless you really want to talk about the dark corners of yours. And how do you know the song lyrics for every Disney movie ever made?”

“I don’t think it’s as important as the time you broke the shake machine and led Mr, Parker to think Liz had done it.”

“Okay, point well taken.” She turned shining eyes on Michael. “I love you. And I’m sorry for everything I put you through. When I found out what was happening, I was terrified I was going to lose you.”

Michael wound a hand through her hair, pulling her closer until only a breath separated them. “Never going to happen. We’re a team. And I love you too.”

“Then why don’t you do something about it?”

“I don’t know. Why don’t I?”

Michael leaned in closer, gently bringing their lips together in a kiss that sealed their new promise to each other.



[ edited 2 time(s), last at 28-Nov-2001 11:31:34 AM ]
posted on 2-Jan-2002 8:51:51 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Hey, guys. Okay, I know it's been forever since I updated and I apologize again. My computer ate the lovely parts I'd typed up for you. And then I got sick. Let's just pause there and amend that to say I caught some mutant space bug that has made me miserable and generally unpleasant to be around. I had hoped to finish this part up, but no such luck. It looks as though it's going to be a long week. So, I will finish this part up with Alex and Isabel, and Max and Liz as well. I just didn't have the energy to finish this and I'm afraid if I try, it's just going to make me angry when I'm well again. So, here you go, and I promise to get this next part out by the end of the week. How's that? Well, unless I'm lying on my death bed, but that's a given.

Learning to Live
Part 52

“So, you’re sure you’re okay with this? Because I could sleep on the floor if you want.” Alex lay in bed, propped up by a pillow as he watched Isabel move around his room.

“No, it’s fine. I trust you.” Isabel went about her routine of laying out her clothes for the next morning. She was careful to keep her eyes averted from where Alex lounged on his bed. She’d showered and thrown on her robe and if she’d caught a glimpse of Alex’s chest while he’d been putting on a clean t-shirt, what did it hurt?

Alex cleared his throat, not sure he could trust himself once Isabel crawled into his bed. A lifetime of fantasies paraded through his brain, but he forced them back. “Um, well, it was great to see Amy and Michael working together. She really is a great woman. I just hope she can fix things with Maria as easily as she fixed things with Michael.” His friend always was a tough nut to crack. And it had been kind of a kick to see Amy back in action, ordering Michael around while he tried to fill every available spot with flowers. In the end, love had won out with them.

Letting his own mind wander to his father for a second, Alex let the self pity sink in. He’d battled it back for days now, trying to at least get his father on the phone, but he hadn’t been successful. And he was starting to get the feeling that his own father was avoiding him.

Feeling the silence settle around them, Isabel moved to Alex’s bed. She placed a hand under his chin and forced him to meet her eyes. “Hey, he’ll come around too. Just give him some time.”

“I know you’re right. Dad and the Parkers will understand and then we’ll all be able to get together for a big alien hodown,” he joked, wanting to lighten his own mood. This was a happy night. Things were looking up for Maria, Michael and Amy, and Alex wasn’t going to ruin the mood. “So, you’re sure you want to stay in this swinging bachelor pad? The comfort of your own bed is only a few steps away. Because I have to warn you that I talk in my sleep.” He wanted to give her one last chance to change her mind. Not that he expected anything to happen, but they had been progressing steadily and he was desperately afraid he was going to push her too far.

“You think I don’t know that by now? That’s how I get all the good information out of you. Besides, there was a very good reason Tess, Liz and I left the apartment tonight. You’ve never heard them when they really get going. And if they’re having make-up sex too? I’ll take you and your talking anyday.” She grimaced at the mere thought of going near their apartment. She could only hope they newly reconciled couple cleaned up and fixed anything broken before they were done.

With the warmth of her skin burning against his, Alex realized how very little was between them and he felt a blush creep up his neck. “So, are you ready for bed-to sleep!” He amended quickly. The last thing he wanted to do was pressure her or make her think there were strings attached to his offer of a bed for the evening.

“Yeah, I’m all set.” Isabel shrugged out of her bathrobe, feeling more than a bit shy. She’d decided when she was packing earlier that she wasn’t going to change her sleeping habits just because she would be sharing a bed with Alex. So, she’d packed her usual nightgown in a golden silk. But now, she was second guessing her original decision. She quickly turned out the bedside table lamp and crawled under the mound of covers. Was she supposed to stay on her side of the bed? She wasn’t sure of the protocol and she didn’t think she was ready to sleep with Alex yet. It would be crossing over the last borders of their friendship and it was a scary step. She’d never been with anyone who knew every corner of her soul before.

Alex sensed her uneasiness and pushed his own aside. “Come here.” He touched her shoulder, not a seductive hand, but a comforting one.

Isabel gladly moved into Alex’s embrace, snuggling into his chest. And when she closed her eyes and Alex’s arms enveloped her shoulders, she’d never felt more at home in her life.

*~*~

“Have you ever had a sudden flash of De je Vue?” Kyle asked from his make-shift bed on the floor. He had remembered the good old high school days when Tess had moved into his room and he’d lived on the couch for two years.

Tess smiled and gave the pillow beneath her head a quick fluff for the hell of it. “There’s plenty of room up here for two.”

Grinning at the mock seduction in her voice, Kyle decided to make the best of the situation. “You know, I don’t remember the last time I had a beautiful woman in my bed and she was wearing so many clothes.” Since their outing the other day, Kyle had rediscovered his friendship with Tess. He’d forgotten the playful seduction they used to spout like water. He’d missed the pout of her lips when she didn’t get her way and how blissfully ignorant of human pleasantries she could still be. He found her straightforward approach to life to be a breath of fresh of air. He’d missed his friend.

“Do you ever regret that?”

“What? Having naked women in my bed? I can honestly say no. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had near enough.”

Tess grimaced, tossing a pillow at Kyle. “No, and that’s just gross, Kyle. I don’t want to know the details of your sex life. I meant us.”

“I don’t understand.” But he knew exactly what she was talking about. They’d been firmly ensconced in the flirting stages of a relationship before the aliens had heard of their true destiny. They’d been told they were meant to love the humans they already knew. And for the other couples, that was fine. Alex and Isabel had stalled in friendship gear, but they were in the midst of falling in love.

Truthfully, Kyle had been freaked, followed by angry. The last thing he wanted to be told was that he had no choice but to fall in love and marry someone because it was prophesized on some distant planet by some ancient scroll. So, he’d stepped completely away from Tess. He might have stayed in their circle of friends, and he had studiously avoided Tess. But he couldn’t deny that when there was trouble, his first thought was still of Tess’s safety.

“Do you regret us never getting together?”

“Honestly?” And he sighed, because he knew she expected nothing less than that from him. “I don’t know. I like why I am. And if we’d dated and we had broken up, I have a feeling things would have ended badly. I wouldn’t be here now with you as a friend. And if we’d stayed together, beaten the odds, then I wouldn’t have had the experiences I’ve had. And I like the memories I’ve created.”

“Oh.” Tess hadn’t considered it that way. Would she be the same person now if they had dated? No, she didn’t think she would be. Back then, she’d been horribly shallow. Even now, she cringed whenever she thought of all the time she wasted trying to convince Max to follow his destiny with her. And if she had dated Kyle, she wouldn’t have appreciated him the way she did now.

Kyle heard the tone in her voice and decided to throw caution to the wind. They were picking the pieces of their long lost friendship up again and he’d always vowed to Tess to be honest no matter what. “But it would have been nice if you’d been there for some of those experiences.”

“What kind of experiences are we talking about here?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Kyle could hear the smile in her voice and knew she appreciated his honesty.

The phone rang on the table above his head and he jumped up to answer it. From the way Isabel and Alex had been eyeing each other through dinner, he’d figured they needed a bit of quiet time.

“Hello?” He caught it on the third ring, but only by catapulting himself across the floor.

“Kyle?”

“Hey, Dad. What are you doing calling so late? Isn’t it past your bedtime?”

Jim ignored the barb. “I was trying to track you kids down. Is everyone with you?”

Kyle glanced at Tess, lying in his bed. Then he thought of the rest of the group, all coupled off and enjoying what they knew to be the calm before the storm.

“Let’s just say we’re all fine. No one’s missing. We’re just having some down time. What’s up?”

Jim paused. “Actually, Amy asked me to call. She wants to get everyone together in the park tomorrow for lunch. I think she feels real bad about everything that happened. She’s trying to make amends. So, do you think you can get everyone to come?”

Kyle considered, then nodded. She had been nothing but apologetic and caring with Michael and Kyle thought they could trust her. “Yeah, I think so. Everyone?”

“That’s what she said.”

“Alright, tomorrow it is. Now, go get some sleep. People your age should be taking out your teeth and settling in for the night by now.”

“Yeah, well, I thought I’d call you before I changed my diaper. Good night, Kyle.”

“Night, Dad,” Kyle grinned, as usual taking great joy in harassing his father.

Kyle hung up the phone and turned to Tess. “Amy wants to get together in the park tomorrow.”

Tess raised her eyebrows. “Really?” She hadn’t been around to help decorate the apartment for Maria, but she’d heard that Amy Deluca had come to terms with her daughter’s alien lifestyle.

“So, will you go?”

“Yeah. I think so. I mean, we really don’t have much to lose at this point, do we?”

Kyle nodded, though he wasn’t so sure about that. “I’ll call the others and let them know.”

Tess watched Kyle pick up the phone and begin making the rounds. She had come to a conclusion sometime in the last week about Kyle. As much as she was attracted to him, and as much as she wanted something more with him, he wouldn’t be rushed. He was still repelled by the destiny idea and while she couldn’t blame him, it was frustrating. But she could wait. No matter how long it took, she would wait him out.

*~*~

Isabel threw open the door to Alex’s apartment, juggling the bag of breakfast and the carton of orange juice in her hands. Joy had filled her heart and she had decided to surprise Alex with breakfast in bed. And since she wasn’t exactly what you would call domestic, she had done her best and ordered them food from the café down the street. She dumped the bag on the kitchen counter and went about locating the breakfast tray she had bought Alex when he had come down with the flu last winter. Since she couldn’t catch his cold, she had tended to him and she had been glad to do something Brianna couldn’t.

After she had set the food out and poured two glasses of orange juice, she let her mind wander to all the different ways she could wake Alex up. A wicked grin crossed her face and she knew Alex would be shocked at some of her thoughts. He always saw her as the proper Princess and while it had its advantages, she just needed to show him that she didn’t always want to be treated like glass.

Humming a tune to herself, she hefted the tray and crossed the living room. At Alex’s door, she once again juggled with the knob, but managed to push it open with only a small amount of trouble. A smile on her face, she turned towards the bed where she had left him sleeping and her face froze.

Alex was wrapped in an embrace, his lips attached to Brianna’s. When they heard her enter, they broke apart to look at her, but Brianna stayed firmly in Alex’s arms. She smirked at Isabel.

“Hello there, Isabel. Long time, no see. Look, sweetie, she brought us breakfast. You can just put that on the dresser on your way out. We’re a little busy catching up here.”

Alex’s eyes bored into Isabel and she felt her heart constrict in her chest. “What-“ She found that she couldn’t even form coherent thoughts. Alex was with Brianna.

“She came back to me, Isabel. She said she was sorry and she was wrong and she wants me back. Isn’t that great?”

“No.” Isabel shook her head. This couldn’t be happening.

“We’re in love. And you know what they say about true love, don’t you, Isabel? It never dies. And in our case, absence definitely made the heart grow fonder.” Brianna turned back to Alex and pulled him into a searing kiss.

Isabel couldn’t force herself to look away. Everything was moving in slow motion and she couldn’t get it to stop. Their words swam in her head, until the room was moving in a dizzying motion. She dropped the tray at her feet, food flying in every direction.

“I love her, Isabel. Aren’t you happy for us?”

“We’re meant to be. You can’t fight true love.”

“She’s it for me. You knew that.”

“What? Did you think he could really love someone like you?”

Laughter, cruel and deliberate rang in her ears and she found herself sobbing. It wasn’t fair. She finally had what she wanted. She and Alex had finally found each other. How could this happen now? Sobs wracked her body until she couldn’t breathe.

“Isabel! Isabel, honey, wake up.”

Alex’s voice, low and soothing pulled her from the nightmare. Slowly, she found consciousness returning to her and she found herself in Alex’s lap. He was rubbing her back while he rocked her.

It had been a nightmare. That was all.

She let out a breath and clung to Alex. It was okay.

“It was just a nightmare. You’re okay now.” Alex kept his voice soft, wanting her to wake up gradually. He had felt her fear, her absolute panic and it had eaten away at him. Because somehow, he’d seen her nightmare.

“Alex. You’re here. God, it was so real. I thought…nevermind what I thought. You’re still here.” She loosened her grip on him and framed his perfect face with her hands. He hadn’t left her.

“Of course I’m here, Is.” Alex gave her a moment to reassure herself that he wasn’t going anywhere. Now that he knew her greatest fear, he could manage it.

Needing the contact, Isabel pressed her lips to Alex’s. She attacked, ruthlessly plundering his skin. The need to mark him as her own was overwhelming and she gave in to it.

After the shock over being attacked by Isabel subsided, Alex let her take what she needed. And he knew it was reassurance that he was still hers. But how could she not know that he’d always been hers?

Alex slowly pulled Isabel back, wanting to meet her eyes. He cupped her face now, holding her still when she would have burrowed in his chest again. “We need to talk.”

Isabel shook her head, the nightmare still fresh in her mind. What had she been thinking? Of course this thing was only temporary for him. Because if Brianna ever did decide to come back, she would lose Alex. How could he ever love someone like her? They weren’t even the same species.

“Isabel, stop that. I think you should know that for whatever reason, I can feel your emotions right now. I think we’re still connected from your nightmare. So, quit with the crazy thoughts. Secondly, I think you pulled me into your nightmare somehow. I saw what happened.”

Isabel’s eyes widened, then closed in humiliation. She tried to move from the bed, from his kind eyes, but fumbled when he refused to release her from his grasp. “Alex, let me go.”

“Isabel, you’re crazy if you think we’re not talking about this.”

“The last thing I want to do at three in the morning is hash out your relationship with Brianna. This was a mistake. I should go.”

Alex let her go, watching her throw on her bathrobe. She stumbled around in the darkness looking for her shoes, and Alex had never felt so numb. He’d spent a lifetime watching Isabel run from her own emotions. He’d let her push him away for years when she’d been afraid to feel. Now, he understood that she was afraid of losing him, and how deep that fear ran. And he was damned if he was going to let her run again.

Throwing back the heavy blankets, Alex rose from the bed. Only a sliver of moonlight peaked through the curtains, but he could still see her clearly. He picked up Isabel’s shoes from the floor and held them out to her silently.

Isabel froze when she saw her shoes in Alex’s grip and she wanted to sit on the floor and cry. How was she always messing things up with Alex? How had they gotten here?

“Don’t go.” Alex’s voice was quiet, but filled with all the emotion he’d never admitted to feeling for his princess. When she only stood in the middle of his room, he took it as a good sign. But he didn’t move towards her, not yet.

“Isabel, I saw your nightmare. I don’t know how, but I’m not sorry I did. I am sorry that you felt that way and you never said anything.”

“There was nothing to say.” She folded her arms over her chest, feeling cold. Was this how it would end? Before it ever really had a chance to begin?

“So, you think that even though I’m with you, if Brianna or someone better came along I’d dump you without a word?” She remained silent. “It’s nice to know you think so highly of me.”

“It’s not like that, Alex. I know how you feel about her. Hell, I was the one to try to pull you out of your funk when she dumped you for someone better. I know better than anyone how she turns you around in knots. She was your first great love. I can’t compete with that.”

Alex shook his head. “Compete with that? Isabel, what are you talking about? Why would you even try to compare to Brianna? Yes, I loved her. We spent two and half years together. And when she left me, it cut deep. But not because she was the great love of my life. That position was already filled.”

Isabel met his eyes, barely containing the gasp that sprung to her lips.

Even though he knew she was far from being in love with him, he knew he had to tell her, that if he didn’t, he ran the risk of losing her. “Isabel, you’ve always been the one great love in my life. You’ve been my first, my only. I can’t believe you don’t know that.” He took a step towards her now, a single step to judge her reaction. “I love you, Isabel Evans. I always will. Beyond being my best friend, you are the only person I’ve ever envisioned a future with. I spent my whole adolescence idolizing you and when I found the real you, it only made me love you more. But even that was nothing compared to these last few weeks. They’ve been nothing short of hellish, but your very presence was enough to pull me through. Because when it all got to be too much, I knew you’d be there for me. And I never thought I’d have that chance. And now that I do, you think I’d throw that away? Well, I can tell you you’re crazy if you think I’m letting you go. I don’t care if you’re half alien or half Zebra. I love the whole package. I love you.” He didn’t know what else to say, what else he could say. She was still standing there, frozen to the spot and he didn’t know if she was going to bolt or say anything at all.

“You love me.” It wasn’t a question, but she marveled over the feelings his words stirred in her. No one had ever told her they loved her, not once in the seemingly endless parade of men she had dated. And she knew it was because Alex had been the only one to ever break the surface. “Me, the real me.” There he was, this ridiculously perfect man, standing alone in the moonlight, his heart on his sleeve, and she was all the way across the room.

Crossing the room cautiously, Isabel stopped in front of Alex. Would she ever find someone that would love her as much as he did?

She stood before him, her bathrobe in disarray from her frantic search. One shoulder lay bare to him and desire warred with pride. She still hadn’t said anything after his declaration of love.

“Alex,” she whispered. And with that one word, he heard a thousand emotions. And he knew with absolute certainly that she wouldn’t turn him away. She reached for him, her hand snaking behind his head to curl in his hair. “I love you too. I thought there was something wrong with me, because I’ve never felt like this before. But now I know it was all for you.”

posted on 3-Jan-2002 2:35:32 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell.

Quicky note. Due to massive computer failure and the loss of much of what I had already typed, I will not be rewriting the part that occured before this part here. It's driven me nuts and I stopped posting on this story because of it. All you've missed is Alex and Isabel making love and Kyle barging in at the exact wrong moment to tell them about the picnic the next day with the parents. I apologize about that, but I figure it's better to skip one part and finish the story than to get hung up on a single part.

Learning to Live
Part 53

“Liz, you’re doing it again.”

Liz smiled sheepishly up at Max. “Sorry. I can’t help it, I think too much.”

“I guess I can let it go this one time. It was one of the reasons I fell in love with you,” Max agreed, pulling Liz more firmly in his arms.

“One of the reasons? And please enlighten me as to what the other reasons were, Mr. Evans.” Liz teased.

“Well, there was your smile and the way you roll your eyes when you don’t think I’m looking and you think I’m taking myself too seriously. But I think the main reason I fell in love with you was for your body.”

“Max!” Liz squealed, batting at his arms in protest. But Max simply grinned and pulled her closer still. “That’s one of the most pigheaded things I think you’ve ever said.”

“Oh come on, tell me you didn’t want me for my body back in high school.” One hand made its way up her back and he let it tangle in her hair at the nape of her neck.

Liz blushed furiously, then laughed with him. “Okay, you’ve got me there.” Memories of pulling him into closets and darkened rooms for a lengthy make-out session brought a smile to her face. She snuggled further into his chest, wishing she could find a way to stay there forever.

Max held Liz close, swaying with her to the low strains of the piano in the corner. He’d tried to take her out to dinner with the promise of dancing if she didn’t brood once. And so far, she’d been doing a good job. But every so often, she got that far away look in her eyes and he knew she was thinking about her parents again.

“Do you have any idea how much I love your hair?” He let a few strands of it sift through his fingers. “I used to have entire dreams about nothing more than reaching out and tucking that one strand of hair behind your ear.”

“Oh, really? I didn’t know about that one.” Liz wound her arms around his neck seductively. “Any others you care to share?”

Max didn’t miss the gleam in her eye. “Maybe I have one or two left. You don’t know everything about me, you know.”

Liz rolled her eyes. “You’re right. I can only see the inner workings of your mind and soul. But okay, if you say you still have hidden areas, then I guess I believe you.”

“Well, what if I told you that I also had this wicked fantasy about attacking you on the lab table we used to share?”

Her grin spread wide and slow. “I’d remind you that we actually played out that one. Or could you have possibly forgotten?”

Max blushed just thinking about it. “That would be impossible to forget.” Had they really been so daring back then? But then, he’d waited so long to simply be in Liz’s life, that when there was finally nothing to lie between them, it had all seemed ridiculously surreal. And while he knew those years had been and would always be the most amazing years, they had slowly driven everyone they knew crazy. There had been an entire year when their friends had been terrified to open a closed door. It didn’t matter if it had simply been a broom closet. No dark corner had been safe from them.

“Can we stay here forever?” She murmured against his collarbone. She had followed the path of his thoughts and the memories brought her warmth. The amazing thing was that her passion, the exhilaration of simply being with Max still hadn’t faded or worn off.

Max felt the warmth from her breath against his skin and his body reacted instantly. “We’d have to explain that to the owner, but I think we can arrange it.”

Liz giggled as Max’s hand settled on the curve of her back. Maybe Max had been right about them needing to get away for a night. Michael was okay and if their plans were going according to plan, he should be reunited with Maria by now. With any hope Isabel and Alex were snuggled together as well. And Kyle and Tess? Well, they still had quite a way to go before they gave up on destiny running their lives. There were only so many couples that could be paired up at a time.

“I can read your thoughts clear as day, and if Alex knows what’s good for him, he’d better not be snuggled up with anything but a pillow.”

“Are you going to keep that up even after they’re old and gray and happily married for fifty years?”

“It’ll never happen. You really think Isabel will ever let herself get old and gray? Wait till she figures out her powers are the better alternative to plastic surgery.”

“You’re evil, you know that?”

“Just another reason you love me. My hot body, and evil tendencies.”

“I don’t actually recall telling you your body was hot.”

Max raised an eyebrow. “Oh really? So, what would you call it?”

Liz pretended to think. “I’m not sure. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen you naked.” She brought her lips up to his ear and nuzzled it gently.

Max nodded in agreement. “It’s been hours.”

Knowing Max’s most sensitive spot was his earlobe, Liz purposely pulled it between her lips. When Max hissed out his breath and his grip tightened on her, excitement danced in her veins. “Have you had enough dancing yet?”

“I’m done here.” Max turned, gripping Liz’s hand in his. He led her off the dance floor quickly, mentally calculating the minutes it would take to get her home and undressed. In his haste, he didn’t notice that their table was occupied. And the lust that Liz had so carefully built up in him fizzled quickly.

“Mom. Dad.” Liz froze in her tracks when she saw her parents sitting at her table. She hadn’t seen them in weeks now and being thrown face to face with them was harder than she ever imagined it could be.

“Liz.” Jeff rose from the chair he’d been occupying and found his tongue tied. He glanced in Max’s direction and nodded his head. “Max.” He couldn’t help but notice how Max’s grip on his daughter had tightened when they’d seen him. And it had broken his heart to watch Liz move to Max’s side…away from them.

“Honey, can we talk?”

It’s your call, Liz. Whatever you want.

Liz squeezed Max’s hand at his show of support. “Of course.” She tugged Max with her towards the table and waited while he snagged two additional chairs from a nearby table. She tucked her hair behind her ears carefully, not sure if she really wanted to hear what they had to say.

Nancy twisted her hands together, unsure of where to start. She’d watched them dance for twenty minutes and had seen only love and laughter. They had bantered back and forth, but each time they finished, she’d seen Max pull her baby close and kiss her tenderly. So, while she had wanted nothing more than to run up to them and apologize, they had waited. Some things shouldn’t be interrupted. “Your father and I wanted to talk to you. We hadn’t planned on doing it until tomorrow, but we saw you out there dancing and we decided to take a chance.” She turned to her husband for support.

“We thought a lot about what you said, Liz. And we read through your journal too.” He faltered, just thinking about some of the intimate and heart-shattering things his daughter had written at such a tender age. Jeff glanced at Nancy again, linked hands with her. “We were wrong, Liz.”

Liz blinked, letting her father’s words sink in. She turned them over in her mind, looking for the catch. But surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be one.

“We were wrong about a lot of things, honey,” her mother continued. “But most of all, we were wrong not to trust you. And you, Max, you’ve loved our daughter for so long now. We never really knew until we read Lizzie’s words.”

“You’ve always done your best to keep her safe,” Jeff interrupted, facing the man who would soon become his son, though he already was a part of their family. “And that’s all we have the right to ask of you.”

Max nodded, accepting Jeff’s words. “I’ll always keep her safe.”

“I’m sorry we weren’t there for you, Liz. All those horrible things you went through.” It broke her heart just thinking about it.

Liz watched the emotions flit across her mother’s face. They were genuinely sorry. She laid a hand over her mother’s, tears filling her eyes. “It’s okay, Mom.”

“No, it isn’t. But I’m going to make sure it is from now on.” Nancy choked back a sob when she felt her daughter's hand cover her own. She turned her hand over and linked fingers. “We have a lot to make up for, too much I think. But we’re willing to try if you both will let us.”

Liz smiled, warmth spreading throughout her body. “Of course. But you really don’t have anything to make up for. I’m happy and I’m in love with this wonderful man who loves me. But I need to know that you accept Max for who he is, all of him.” If they couldn’t see how wonderfully perfect he was no matter where he came from, then there couldn’t be any sort of truce.

“I think that’s what gave us the most trouble of all,” Jeff confessed. “It was hard to believe, but after everything we read, it was even harder to trust that your safety was number one. So, we had to go off what we’d seen. And we’ve never seen Max bring you anything but happiness.” Jeff met Max’s eyes. “You saved our daughter. If it hadn’t been for you, she would have died on the linoleum floor of that diner. And for that, I owe you everything I have.”

“Dad,” Liz began, but her father stopped her.

“And as for you and what’s happened to your body because of that, that’ll still take a bit of time to get used to. But what your mother and I are saying is that we’re willing to try. We love you, Lizzie. And we’re parents, so we worry. Someday you’ll understand that too. And about the wedding,” Jeff felt Nancy’s hand cover his in support. This had been the hardest of all. It would be the final step to losing his baby. “If you still have room for two more, we wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Liz threw herself into her father’s arms, her heart spilling over with love and joy. “Thank you, Daddy.” She pulled out of her fathers’ arms to launch herself into her mothers waiting ones. “And you too, Mom. You have no idea how much it means to both of us.”

The fear that had settled around Max’s heart since the ordeal had begun eased a bit. Never in his wildest childish fantasies had he ever imagined that he would grow up to find people that would readily accept him into their lives, not when they knew what he was. Yet, time and again, human nature surprised him. Or was it the human heart? All he knew was that Liz was overjoyed. Her happiness filled him as he watched her talk to her parents.

“So, we know it’s not much, but we thought it would be nice for everyone to get together and maybe mend some fences,” Nancy explained.

“Let me get this straight, you and Amy planned this outing tomorrow?” It still amazed Liz that she was sitting there with her parents again. And to think that they were no only okay with everything, but they had gone to lengths to gather everyone together for a picnic to apologize to the rest of the group.

“It really wasn’t that much trouble. Amy was working on amending things with Maria and Michael, so she left most of the picnic to me,” Nancy explained proudly. She had seen to every last detail. Lunch in the park would be perfect. It was the least she could do.

Liz smiled as her mother launched into some of the details, but her mind was elsewhere. Somewhere throughout the conversation, a ball of fear had knotted itself in her stomach. But she couldn’t pinpoint why. There was no indication that there should be any trouble. Maybe it was just left over nerves from the Scaribe and how uncomfortably close he had come to killing Michael. He was still out there somewhere and no doubt pissed now. She tried to ease the knot, but it stayed lodged where it was.

As she picked up her water glass and sipped it carefully, Liz told herself that she would just keep an eye on things. If she kept a watchful eye out tomorrow, there would be no reason to expect trouble of any kind. So, why was a feeling of dread now joining the fear? She wouldn’t stop the picnic from happening, but she would be on her guard.


posted on 13-Feb-2002 8:57:06 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Can you believe we have another part? I know...I know. I promised I wasn't going to fall behind on this story and here I am another month later. Believe it or not, we are getting close to wrapping this story up. I'd give it another ten or fifteen parts. Exciting, huh? The funny thing is that I never meant to write this particular story. I wanted to do DWYHTD and then I wanted to skip ahead a lot to just do the next story, but so much happens in this one, I decided I had to write it. Anyway, on with the story!

Learning to Live
Part 54

He paced the length of the small living room in anger. How could things have gone downhill so quickly? He had been making such steady progress, advancing towards the death of the royal four. His mind scans had produced the most viable life forms in this pathetic excuse for a town. And they had led him straight to the Royal Four themselves.

Who would have guessed that it would have been so easy to overtake the first in command? He certainly hadn’t possessed the mind of a warrior. He had been as easily manipulated as the rest. And though he had searched for a way to take his body the way he had done countless times before with others, he had encountered the barrier that he hadn’t been warned of. Rath was no longer full-blooded Antarian. Nor was he full-blooded human. So, it had been impossible to use him. But he had been able to find that by invading his mind, he had been spared the inconvenience of having to find another host body. Rath’s power had sustained him far longer than this borrowed body would normally have allowed. As it was, he could feel this body dying around him. It reeked of death and he longed to escape from it. But it wasn’t time yet.

Perhaps they had been wiser than he’d given them credit for. Maybe it had simply been luck. But the Eight had not been all together since he had arrived. And he knew for his plan to succeed, they must all be together.

He’d bided his time. No one had been any the wiser about his true identity. He’d almost let it slip when he’d seen the newly chosen Queen. He’d wanted to kill her then, but for the first time, Rath had been able to overpower him. It had angered him at first, but their deaths would be sweeter this way. Where would the fun be if he didn’t get to hear the anguished screams of the King as he killed his wife? Hadn’t it been why he had been first in line to travel the long journey?

But they’d found a way to block him. Somehow. And the knowledge that he had been outsmarted brought his anger to a frenzied pitch. He found that he had been pacing and he cursed himself for the human habit. He had to finish this mission and get off of this backwater planet.

The shrill ringing of the telephone brought him to a halt. The human device had been driving him mad, but he had learned that they always went away. He didn’t have time for such trivial things as maintaining the pretense of normalcy right now. He had a plan to create. As he continued to map out the exact plan of their destruction, he heard a now familiar voice echo through out the room.

“-just wanted to remind you about the picnic tomorrow. We’re meeting in the park at ten this morning near the fountain. Everyone will be there, so please try to come. It would mean a lot.”

With his lips twisted up into a grin, the plans began to fall into place in his mind. In a few hours time, they would all be together. And he would be waiting.

*~*~

“No, no. Where is it? I know I put it in here this morning.” Amy rifled through a brown paper bag, pulling out a half dozen items until she found the lighter she’d bought that morning. Everything was going to go perfect this morning. She would make sure of it.

“Seems like a lot of trouble just to find a lighter.”

Amy turned slowly and found herself face to face with Jim Valenti. Shame had filled her every time she had thought of their past conversation. And he was one of the last few hurdles she had yet to pass. “Jim. You came. I wasn’t sure if you would.”

“Nancy told me I was invited.” And now that he was standing in front of her, he was wondering if it had been the right decision to come. She looked miserably uncomfortable in his presence. He’d turned over in his mind his last words to her and they made him cringe. Had he actually given that ring to her? Given seemed even to be a bit more poetic than what he’d done. He’d all but tossed it on the table with a careless shrug. He’d imagined a hundred ways of proposing to her, and then he’d gone and blown it by doing it in anger.

“Nancy and I wanted to get everyone together and have sort of a group apology. We were wrong, Jim. I was wrong.” She lowered her eyes to the ground, knowing she had to get it out. She knew she had a reputation for being hardheaded and difficult, but when she was wrong, she admitted it.

“You were scared. It’s perfectly understandable. Believe me on that one.” God, he wanted to get out of there, just escape the small woman that could bring him to his knees.

Amy smiled. “That’s nice of you to say, but the fact is, the way I treated the people I loved was horrible. Michael may be a bit gruff and he might not have been my first choice for Maria, but he loves her. And she loves him. And that should mean something.”

“I think you’ve made a fine start. I heard about what you did for them last night.” And it had softened him when Nancy had filled him in. Because he knew she had it in her to fix the mess she had created with Michael and Maria. “And after everything that happened to Michael last week, he needs Maria by his side.”

“Yeah, Michael told me about that.” She remembered the conversation they’d had in the café. Michael had been open and honest with her, telling her anything she wanted to know. And she had wanted to know a lot. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for them, for you too. I know the truth about all those deaths. You’ve been taking a beating with the press about possibly covering up an epidemic of some kind.” She shrugged when he narrowed his eyes in question. “I know people too.”

“Well, it’s my job.” He looked away, looked anywhere other than at this woman he loved that he had ruined a future with.

Amy shifted uncomfortably. “So, I guess what I wanted to say, after the apology, was that I wanted us to be friends again.” Had she ruined things so completely between them? Surely, she hadn’t waited her whole life to be loved and when she finally found it, she’d thrown it away.

“Friends?”

“Yes,” she nodded, clasping her hands together and pasting a fake smile on her face. She had seen the pain slash across his face and when she saw it, she knew she hadn’t lost all hope yet. If her words could still hurt him, then maybe they could heal him too. “So, how about it? Friends?” She held her hand out for him to shake.

Jim turned his eyes down to her hand, let out a deep breath. It would be impossible he knew, but he would try anyway for her sake. “Friends.” He shook her hand.

“Good.” She picked up the brown paper bag she had set down and took a few steps away from Jim. In a carefully practiced move that she hoped would work in her favor, Amy dug into her pockets and pulled out the ring box that had rocked her world off center. She’d spent countless hours gazing at that ring. Now, she turned slightly, tossed the box back to Jim. He caught it, stunned. He tried to open his mouth to apologize, to do anything, but no words came.

“And if you want to maybe skip the friendship part, I expect flowers and dinner and candlelight when I see that box again. And don’t drag it out. I want a Spring wedding.” She smiled at him, a genuine smile that came from deep inside. Then she turned on her heels and returned her attention back to the party.

Dumbfounded, Jim watched her leave. It took a full minute before the reality of what she’d said kicked in. And he found a matching smile cross his face. He wondered if he could convince Maria to help him plan something wonderful.

*~*~

“Are you sure about this, Michael?” Maria clung to Michael’s arm, more than a bit scared now that they were actually at the park. Michael had related how her mother had apologized and had helped him set everything up for their reconciliation the previous night. And she had been confused by the sudden one hundred and eighty degree change in her personality.

“She’s genuinely sorry. Look, I didn’t believe her either at first, but it’s not a set up. She loves you.” Michael shrugged, not completely understanding the situation. He’d hardly grown up with a parent that had loved him, so he couldn’t imagine the emotions between Maria and Amy. All he knew was that when those two did things, they did them to a higher degree than normal people did. So, they had fought hard, but it had to be because they loved even harder.

Maria sighed, wanting to believe, but her mother’s words echoed in her brain. He doesn’t really love you. She shook them off, tightening her grip on Michael’s hand. She knew his heart now, had always known it really. But after the time she’d spent in his head thanks to their newfound connection, she understood with clarity the depth of Michael’s feelings for her. She was his home.

“Damn right,” Michael muttered, then turned to glance at Maria when she laughed out loud. He blushed, turning away from her. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. I kind of forget about this new connection too. I’m sure I’ll think things I’d rather you not hear, just like I know you will.” She turned his body until it was flush with hers. Framing his face with her hands, she forced him to look at her. “But I love you anyway.”

Michael’s face softened, looking into Maria’s face. Inside of him, he could feel her every emotion as if it were his own. And in her eyes, he found all the things he’d convinced himself he never needed, acceptance, compassion, love. He drew her impossibly closer, settling his arms around her waist. “I love you too, but you’re stalling. You know your mother is right behind you waiting.”

Maria grimaced. She had known somehow that her mother had been watching them from one of the picnic tables, waiting patiently for their moment to end before she approached. “When did you start being perceptive?”

“About the time I started sharing a brain with you. Now, go. Max and Liz just got here, so I’ll be with them.” He placed a kiss on her forehead, trying to ease the deep worry lines. “Good luck and be nice.” He gave her a small nudge in the general direction of her mother.

Great, Maria though. She took hesitant steps toward her mother, wiping her palms on her jeans. In the distance, she saw her mother stand, slowly making her way toward her. And she figured it was now or never.

“Maz, Liz, wait up!” Michael trotted towards them, trying to keep his eyes off Amy and Maria. They didn’t need prying eyes now. “So, you got Amy’s message? Kyle tried to find you but he said he had trouble.”

“No, actually, we never talked to him,” Max answered, wrapping an arm around Liz’s waist as they walked to meet Michael.

“Then how-“

“We ran into my parents last night,” Liz explained, a smile crossing her lips. It was still amazing to think about the conversation they’d had. If she didn’t know better, she’d have stated that things were back to where they’d been before Diane had fallen down the steps. But she did know better. They might trust Max, but could they love him truly if they still had trouble accepting him? And her for that matter?

Of course they love you, Max squeezed her hand, offering her a smile.

She smiled back. If you’re allowed quiet brooding time, then so am I.

“Are you two doing it again?” Michael asked in exasperation. “You know, I came over here to have a conversation, not watch you two make googly eyes at each other.” But even as he complained, he found his mind wandering to Maria and the tentative connection they’d begun forming between them. He wondered if they would ever be able to simply read each other’s minds with the ease that Max and Liz seemed to have. And if so, god help him. Because so far, the girl had more conversations running around in her head than she voiced.

“So, I guess you and Maria made up then?” Liz glanced around, looking for her friend. When she spotted Maria walking towards her mother as if they were caught in some old western gun fight. “Oh, are they going to be okay?”

Michael ran his fingers through his hair and watched Maria approach her mother. “Hell, I don’t know. They’re both so stubborn and the fight they had was pretty bad. But they’ll be fine I’m sure. Don’t you think? No, they have to be.”

Liz turned to watch the meeting and the way the sunlight filtered through the tree branches caught her attention. She paused a minute as the world seemed to move slower around her. Then she saw a brilliant flash of light behind her eyelids that she knew to be the beginnings of an image. But she saw only the trees around her, bathed in early morning sunlight, her friends and family around her, laughing. And as quickly as it began, it ended. And she was left not with the warmth the day should have provided, but with a cold shudder that traveled down her spine. She’d been in these woods a thousand times, so it didn’t surprise her where there was something familiar about the clearing. But the sense of dread that filled her filtered through her connection with Max. She felt his hand on the small of her back and she tried to let his comfort warm her. But when she smiled at him in reassurance, the chill lingered.

Liz? he questioned.

Just be on guard, okay? From the corner of her eye, she saw her parents car arrive.

“I’m going to say hello,” she kissed him on the cheek quickly before dashing off. He would only ask her questions she didn’t have answers to.

Max watched her go, but was left with the echoes of the chill that had put fear in Liz’s eyes. She’d told him to be on guard and he would be. He only wished he knew what he was guarding against.

*~*~

Maria stopped directly in front of her mother. She stuffed her hands in her pockets, unaware how reminiscent of Michael her stance was. She opened her mouth to speak, but her mother stopped her with a shake of her head.

“No, Maria. I want to talk to you. Just hear me out, okay?” Amy took a deep breath. “Can we sit down?”

When Maria only nodded, Amy gestured towards a nearby picnic table. Once seated, Amy didn’t know what to say or do. How could she possibly expect Maria to forgive the things she’d said? But she had to try.

“Do you want to start with the weather or should we jump right into conversation?” Maria asked.
So, it wasn’t going to be easy. Since when was anything with her daughter ever anything but difficult? “I screwed up. And I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said the things that I said.”

“That’s your big apology?” Maria knew she was being bitchy, but she couldn’t help herself. “You did more than screw up, Mom. You put lives in danger. You made Michael feel as if he were lower than dirt. You hurt him.”

“I know. I already explained things to Michael and I know it’s going to take time and a lot of effort to convince him I mean it, but I really am sorry. I was freaked, Maria. My god, I was given the live light show and I was told that not only do little green men exist, but they took my daughter and changed her. I felt as though I had failed you somehow and I didn’t know what to do. You wouldn’t listen to me. I was at the end of my rope, so I lashed out at Michael. I know that the things I said about him were wrong. I see that now. And you were right about your father too. Michael isn’t anything like him. He’s a good person and he loves you. I know he’d protect you with his life and I don’t have any right to try to stand in the way of that. It is your life and you know better what you want out of it. I just want you to know that while it may take me a little bit longer to really get used to the idea, I know that you love Michael and you’re not leaving his side. I just hope that you can find a way to forgive me for the things I said.”

Maria examined the downward gaze of her mother and her heart leapt into her throat. Driven by pure emotion, Maria covered her mother’s hands with her own. “Of course I can forgive you, Mom. But only if you forgive me. I wasn’t as calm and rational as I could have been.”

Amy scoffed. “Since when are the Deluca women ever calm and rational?”

Maria smiled with her mother. “I know it was probably a bit of a shock. And I know I didn’t take the news all too well when I found out either. In fact, there was a lot of running and screaming. So, I know how you feel. But I want you to know that my future and Michael’s future are joined. Wherever he goes, I go. And I don’t know where that may take us.”

Amy swallowed the fear of losing her only daughter and forced out a smile. “Then I guess we have to make the most of whatever time we have. Just promise me that whatever you do, you’ll be careful. And that’s all the mothering I promise to do today.”

“Fine, I’ll be as careful as I always am.” Maria grinned at her mother.

“I don’t think that was quite what I was hoping for, but I’ll take it. Now, how about a hug? Because I could really use one about now.”

Maria rose from her seat and met her mother’s embrace. “I’m sorry, Mom. I don’t want to fight anymore.”

“I promise not to be stubborn if you promise not to be.”

“For what it’s worth, deal.”

*~*~

“Liz! I’m glad you’re here.” Nancy climbed out of the family car and brightened immediately upon seeing her daughter.

“I thought you could use some help carrying food.”

Nancy brushed the offer aside. “That’s why we have plenty of strong men around. I have something I wanted to give to you.” She rummaged around in the back seat of the car until she pulled out a small lock box.

“What’s this?”

“Your journal. I wanted to give it back to you for safe keeping. I tried to make sure it was safe and I’m sure you have something better than this usually, but-“

“No, it’s great. Thanks.” Liz pulled her mother into a hug, relieved beyond belief to find love and laughter in her mother’s eyes. “I was meaning to buy one anyway.”

“Well then, you don’t have to. Do you?” Jeff came around to the side of the car and pulled Liz into a hug, his heart bursting with joy when she returned it easily. Maybe they hadn’t caused irreparable damage after all.

“We’re girl talking here, Jeff. Why don’t you carry some of the food over? I see Michael and Max just standing around with nothing to do. I’ll be you can get some help from them.” Nancy winked at Liz and she nodded her head.

“Definitely. Maria says I should whip Max into shape before we get married.”

Nancy laughed at the look of indignation on Jeff’s face. “Why don’t you go, honey? Liz and I are going to talk wedding for awhile.”

Liz beamed at her mother, happy to be able to discuss her wedding with her mother again. “I think I have one of Isabel’s books in the car if you want to grab it.”

“That sounds like a fabulous idea.”

“You two go and I’ll be around later to pretend to have an opinion on color schemes.” He loaded an armful of food and started toward the campsite. Almost an afterthought, he turned around. “Make sure you save me the first dance, huh?”

“I think I can do that, Dad.” On impulse, Liz crossed the distance between them and planted a kiss on her father’s cheek. She didn’t know why, but there was a growing sense of urgency inside of her. She pulled away and met her father’s eyes, searching for answers he didn’t have.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” She tried to shake it off, but found that she was having more difficulty than she’d had with Max only a minute ago. “I’m just glad you two are here.”

Jeff grinned at her. “You couldn’t keep us away. Now, I’m off to do my job as a manly man and let you women folk do your thing.”

Liz let her father slip out of her embrace, but a shadow clouded her heart. She wanted to call him back, to beg him not to leave her sight, but she knew it was foolish. What possible reason could she give him? He would think she was crazy. Instead, she waited until he was on the edge of the tree line before she called out to him.

“Dad?” He turned back to her, concern marring his features. What could she say in that short space of time? “I love you.”

He beamed at her. “I love you too, Lizziebug.”

And he turned and disappeared through the clearing. Liz stood alone, the sounds of her mother digging through the back seat of the car were her only companion. It was odd, but there wasn’t any other noise, no chirping of birds, no scurring about in the underbrush. It was almost as if the entire forest was simply sitting and waiting. But for what?

As the shadow of something dark and sinister threatened to loom over them all, she couldn’t help but wonder if she should be asking who the forest was waiting for. Because she knew with a blinding clarity that something was coming.




posted on 13-Feb-2002 8:57:53 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Another part just for you guys. This one isn't as long as I would have liked, but I think I'm going to get another part out to you this week sometime. This story has taken over my brain and I'm going to see if I can spend some brain power on it and get it written.

Learning to Live
Part 55

“Alex? I know you’re back here.” Isabel wandered into the small clearing she knew she’d seen Alex enter a few minutes ago. They had arrived at the picnic only to find that everyone was already there. Everyone except Alex’s father. And the bubble of joy that had blossomed inside of Isabel’s heart since they had made love last night had begun to shrink. Because she knew what Charles’ absence was doing to Alex. It was killing him.

Isabel rounded a large tree and saw him for the first time. He was standing on the edge of the river, his hands thrust in his pockets, his eyes downcast. And her heart broke for him.

“Alex?”

“I’m fine, Isabel. Why don’t you go back to the party? I’ll be out in a minute.”

The wind whipped around them and she took another step closer. “I’m not going anywhere, Alex. You should know that by now. Don’t you get it? When you’re upset, so am I.”

“Well, I don’t want it right now.” Anger crept into his voice, but still he didn’t move, couldn’t move. How could he face her at that moment?

“Tough. That’s part of a relationship, Alex. I might be new at this, but you should know better. Last night changed things. You wouldn’t let me run away from us, and I won’t let you either.”

Alex could feel her at his elbow now and he had the urge to throw himself into her arms and sob. “This is different. Can’t you hear them out there? They’re all laughing, mending fences and making up for lost time. But do you know what I see out there? I can’t even be happy for any of them because my father isn’t here. He didn’t come, Isabel. He didn’t come because he can’t accept who you are and what you mean to me.”

Isabel swallowed the sadness Alex’s words brought up in her. “Maybe he just needs more time. It’s different for him. He made that promise to your mother. It’s hard for him to see past that.” But there was a part of her that ached for Charles’ approval. She’d thought of him as a second father for years now and his absence was a hole in both their hearts.

Alex shook his head. “No. This was it. He would have known how important today was. If he was trying to find some way around it, he would have at least told me he couldn’t do it yet.” He turned, faced Isabel for the first time since they had arrived. “I’m sorry, Is.” He reached for her, laying a hand on the side of her face. Her skin was so soft, he would never get used to it, or the fact that he could touch her now. She loved him. She had told him as much the night before. And he didn’t think he would ever forget that night as long as he lived. It had been the night when every last dream he’d ever had came true.

“Oh, Alex, don’t be sorry.” She reached for him, drawing him into her arms. He went willingly now, wrapping his long arms around her body. She let him cling to her, drawing strength that no words could give him.

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe he just needs more time.” He didn’t think so, but he would say anything to erase the look on her face. She loved his father too, and his absence was more of a direct blow to her than to him.

“Maybe,” she agreed with a forced smile. “But I’m not going anywhere.”

*~*~

He wound his way up the path, following the sounds of laughter like a beacon. Only a few more steps to go. He had to make it, had to drag this body up those last few steps. Then he could find another host. Since Rath had broken the connection he had formed, he had been draining the host body quicker than usual. He could smell the death around him and he longed to rid himself of it.

Soon.

He could hear their voices now, laughing with a gaiety that would soon be forgotten. Death was coming and he would be its bringer. The Royal Four would die and today would be the day.

*~*~

Jeff Parker smiled to himself as he watched his wife and daughter pour over wedding books at a nearby table. Whatever rift had existed between them was gone now, repaired by the genuine hopes for a lifetime of love and happiness. He and Nancy had faced some hard truths in the last few weeks, but the most important had been that they would loose their daughter forever if they didn’t take the olive branches that had been extended to them. So, they had.

He’d given them the last hour to bond alone, sensing that they needed it. Maybe now was a good time for him to join them. Before he could head in their direction, he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. Turning, he saw Charles Whitman emerge from the wooded path. With a grin, he changed direction and headed toward the only missing member of their group.

“Charles!” He called in greeting, jogging to close the distance. “I’m glad you could make it.”

Charles turned toward him, an unreadable look in his eye. But Jeff had the unmistakable feeling that he was being sized up. He stopped a few feet from Charles, forcing the smile to remain on his face. “Alex was looking for you. He’ll be thrilled to see you made it after all.” Maybe he was just nervous about seeing Alex again. Jeff could only imagine how the other parents had handled things with their children. “He headed off that way a few minutes ago.” He pointed to a small clearing in the woods. “It’s probably a great place if you two need a few minutes all to yourself,” Jeff explained.

“Jeff! Can you come here for a minute?”

Jeff turned to his wife for a second and missed the stumbling lunge that Charles made for him. It fell short and there was only a moment to right himself before Jeff turned back to Charles.

“Sorry, duty calls. Don’t keep Alex waiting. We’ll catch up later, okay?” Jeff called out as he moved backwards towards his family.

The Scaribe turned his gaze back to the small clearing. He was able to sense power in the area and if he’d had any strength left, he would have used it in a wide grin. But the host body was fading fast and if he didn’t act quickly, there wouldn’t be any time left. He moved the broken body across the landscape as fast as he could. Time was of the essence.

*~*~

“I’m sorry, Isabel. I didn’t mean to break down on you like that.” Alex wiped a stray tear from his eye before it could fall. It still made him want to leap tall buildings to hear Isabel tell him she loved him.

“Well, don’t make a habit of it,” she teased. “I like my men strong and fearless.”

“Oh, kind of like Clint Eastwood? Too manly to cry?” he quipped.

“Exactly.”

The next barb died on Alex’s tongue as he saw his father round the bend into the clearing they were in. Never in his life had he been more nervous, so unsure as to what he should say. Isabel turned and saw Charles still moving towards them slowly.

“See?” she whispered. “I told you he would come.”

“So you did.” Was his father limping? There was a strange look on his face that he couldn’t place. “Is, do you mind giving us a minute?”

With a smile, Isabel kissed him lightly. “I’ll be out by the picnic tables if you need me.” She pulled away from his embrace and gave Charles a wide berth as she passed him by. She would have all the time in the world to mend fences with him now. The worst of it was over. He had at least come.

Alex faced his father, a dozen words rolling around in his head. Why couldn’t he put them in enough of an order to form a sentence? So much had happened in the short time since they had talked last. But the foremost thought in his mind was to tell his father about his new relationship with Isabel.

With a smile on his face, Alex tried to force his legs to move closer to his father. He had already come so far, Alex could at least meet him halfway.

The Scaribe watched as the boy approached him, a stupid grin on his face. There wouldn’t be so much to grin about soon. He had been disappointed when he had felt Vilondra slip by, but when her energy had left the clearing, he had been able to sense the growing energy in the boy. He would make a fine vessel to finish the job he had been tasked with. And the small beginnings of alien energy that lived inside of him would be enough to bend to his will. It would make his job a hundred times easier.

“Dad, I’m so glad you came.” Alex stopped just feet away from his father. He wanted nothing more than to hug his father, to hear that everything would be okay. But there were some things he needed to understand first.

Continuing forward with the last remaining drops of energy, the scaribe didn’t stop until he was within reaching distance of the boy. Without preamble, he reached a hand up to his forehead and pressed the human palm to the cool skin.

Alex was on fire. He could feel his skin all but bubbling under his father’s caustic touch. Opening his mouth to scream, he was confused to find no sound escape his throat. His eyes rolled back in his head as he felt the dark presence invade his mind. He tried to fight it, tried not to let it take over his mind easily, but the pain slashing through his head was too much to fight.

From somewhere off in the distance, he heard a gasp and he recognized it as Isabel’s voice. He tried to fight harder, knowing now what was at stake. This was their greatest enemy. He had been using his father just as he planned to use him now. And Isabel would be another casualty of this war.

His body felt light, and his knees threatened to buckle from underneath him. He knew this would be a fight he wouldn’t win. He had failed Isabel. He had failed Liz and Maria and everyone else. Because their enemy had invaded their group and it would be his face they would have to fight now.

Alex tried to find his voice, tried to apologize to Isabel, to tell her he loved her and to run and warn the others, but no sound came out. From within, he heard the deep rumbling of a laughter that could only belong to the faceless enemy that had traveled great distances to kill them all. And as the darkness overtook him, Alex’s only thought was of his friends. Because it took the meshing of minds for him to know that there was only one way to defeat this enemy. And he couldn’t do it without help.

*~*~





posted on 13-Feb-2002 8:58:44 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Okay, kiddies. We have to all sit down and have a talk here. This is where I tell you all about the harsh realities of life. Sometimes bad things simply happen to good people. I know, I know, I wish it weren't so. But it is. This part is yet another example of that. But the good news is that I will probably be updating again tomorrow and possibly the day after that. So, we should at least have a bit of resolution. I wouldn't ever be so cruel as to start some action and make you wait weeks in between. But I just wanted to address this issue before I get a legion of hate mail. These coming parts are the very reason I put this story on the back burner. I just didn't want to write them. But we still have a third story left to tell. So, I figured I should finish this one up sometime this year. LOL But enough scary warnings, on with the show.

Learning to Live
Part 56

Isabel left the pathway out of the clearing with a lighter heart than she ever remembered having. Charles had come. He’d come through for his son in the end. The look on Alex’s face had been the happiest sight she’d ever seen. But as she stepped into the sunshine, she couldn’t escape the chill that swept over her body. It was a warm, beautiful day. Everyone she knew and loved was safe and happy and together. But still she couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something wrong.

She was reminded of the phantom words that she now knew belonged to Alex’s mother. Be there for him. She’d assumed the message had referred to Alex, but what if it was meant for her to be there for Charles too?

Without knowing why, she changed direction, headed back towards the Whitman men. If they were too pigheaded to see that they needed each other, then she would have to knock some sense into them.

With a determined march in her step, she reentered the clearing, intent on giving them both an earful. But what she saw stopped her dead in her tracks. Charles was holding Alex a foot above the ground, one hand wrapped around his neck and the other attached to his forehead. An unearthly blue light pulsed between them and Isabel let out a shocked gasp.

She could feel the air crackling around her, could feel the overpowering darkness invade her senses. And a mind numbing shock set in as she realized what she was witnessing. This had been why Charles hadn’t returned any of Alex’s phone calls, why he hadn’t been around. He had been the next victim of the Scaribe.

As she watched, both men crumbled to the floor. Broken from the trance, she scrambled forward, kneeling in the dirt between them. She checked Alex first, frantically searching for a pulse. When she found it hammering wildly, she was able to breath again.

But before she could turn to check on Charles, Alex’s hand reached up to grab her arm in a painful vise.

“Alex?” she whispered, hope in her voice despite what she had seen.

“Wrong again, princess.”

Isabel cringed against the malice in Alex’s voice. But as he sat up, her arm still gripped tightly in his hand, she met his eyes and felt fear invade her very soul.

“You’re the scaribe, aren’t you?”

“Beautiful and smart. You are quite the woman even here on Earth. Aren’t you, Vilondra?”

“My name is Isabel,” she spat out, trying to wrench her arm free from his grip. “And I see you’ve discovered sarcasm.”

“A most unfortunate side effect from spending so much time in Rath’s head. But I’m sure it will go away in time.”

Isabel continued to try to wrestle her way out of his grip. It was disturbing to look into Alex’s face and see so much hatred. She had to warn everyone else before it was too late. And every second wasted was one where Charles slipped a bit further away and Alex became more under their enemy’s control. “You want a body? Take mine.”

“Not that I don’t appreciate the tempting offer, Vilondra, but we both know your body is not equipped to handle my presence. You mind, however, now that’s mine for the taking.”

In a familiar gesture, the scaribe brought Alex’ hand up to Isabel’s forehead. With a brilliant flash of light behind her eyelids, Isabel could feel her powers weakening, slowly draining from her body. And in the last few minutes of consciousness, she could feel Alex’s presence whispering to her through their connection. With tears of pain and frustration filling her eyes, she succumbed to the darkness filling her brain.

Pleased with the way things were falling in line, the scaribe let Isabel crumble to the floor beside Charles and he allowed himself a minute to revel in the new power coursing through him. With the combined energies of the two young lovers, he felt unstoppable. But he was all too aware of how easily that could be taken away. He would finish off the others before returning to kill Vilondra.

As he reviewed mentally all he had learned of the Eight, he had long since discovered their weakness. The level and depth of emotion they felt for their care givers, or parents as they called them. Because now he wasn’t merely out to complete his task. He had tasted human emotions and he thirsted to make them suffer for all the time and trouble he had gone through to find them. They would die, but first they would pay.

*~*~

“So, you really think the blue and purple flowers would look better?” Liz asked, looking up to her parents for confirmation.

“Absolutely. They’ll look so beautiful with your dress,” Nancy confirmed. “But don’t take our word for it, you should get your husband-to-be’s opinion.”

“I think I will.” Liz scooped up the scrapbook Cassie had been kind enough to put together for her and hopped off the picnic bench. “I’ll be right back.”

Nancy watched as Liz bounded off to show Max some of the pictures they had been discussing.

“You’ve done good work here,” Jeff informed her, planting a kiss on her forehead.

“We both have. Did you see the look on her face when I brought up the flowers? I can’t believe I’ve been missing this.”

“No more. We have all the time in the world to make it up to them. But Phillip and Diane were right when they said we needed to make amends before the wedding. I can’t imagine missing that day for anything.” He laid a hand on his wife’s shoulder, a smile forming on his face when she curled her hand over his. They had always loved each other more than anything. How could they not want that same thing for their little girl?

“Is that Alex?” Nancy turned her full attention to where she saw Alex stalking out of the small clearing she had seen Charles go into earlier.

Jeff squinted against the early afternoon sunlight. “Yeah, I think it is. That’s funny. I wonder where Charles and Isabel are.”

“Maybe we should go check and see,” Nancy offered, already rising from the bench.

Hand in hand, the couple approached Alex.

Liz was mid-laugh with Max when the chill ran through her body again. She had been struggling to ignore the chill at the base of her spine all afternoon, but it kept striking her at odd moments.

“Liz?” Max asked, feeling her sudden apprehension.

“I don’t know, Max. Something’s going on.” She couldn’t deny it any longer. Glancing around her, she took a quick glance at where everyone stood. Her parents were still at the picnic table where they had been pouring over wedding photos. Diane and Phillip were talking to Maria by the grill where Maria had been giving them pointers from her lessons with Jim. Jim and Amy were involved in a game of football with Tess and Kyle. Michael was standing to the side, offering pointers and acting as referee. Everyone seemed to be fine. Except for Isabel, Alex and Charles. Maybe that was the vibe she had been getting. If Charles had shown up and they had argued, then it would account for what she had been feeling.

“Where’s Alex and Isabel?” Max asked.

“They were talking to Alex’s dad a little while ago. But I haven’t seen them since. Do you think-“

“Look, is that Alex coming out?”

As Liz looked over, she saw that it was indeed Alex emerging from the clearing. And he was alone. “That’s odd.” As she watched, her parents approached Alex, calling out to him. But something about Alex’s purposeful gait puzzled her. It was wrong somehow.

“Max,” she asked, wondering if he was seeing what she was seeing.

“I feel it too,” he verified. There was a spark in the air, a sizzle of electricity. But nothing he could come up with made sense. Then Liz was clutching his arm, her finger nails digging into his skin, sending shock waves of terror to him.

“That’s not Alex,” she whispered. Then her eyes flew to where her parents were crossing to meet him. “Max,” she pleaded, hoping he would have some sort of plan.

“Your parents,” he whispered even as he was sprinting across the grass towards them. But as he pushed his body beyond the limits of endurance, he saw that it was already too late. Alex raised both hands, outstretched them towards the Parkers and the energy in the air took on a life of it’s own, sizzling and popping until it erupted from his fingertips and lanced out in an arc of lightning. The bolt hit Nancy and Jeff firmly in the chest and the force of the blast knocked them backwards until they lay unmoving in the grass.

Max froze in his tracks, paralyzed by the event he had just witnessed. Alex turned his head and met his eyes. And from within the depths of the eyes of his friend, Max saw pure evil.

“Your highness,” he mocked him with a low bow. “It is good to see you at last. I have heard so very many stories. Not to mention the memories that live in my head. You really did terrorize your sister as a child, didn’t you?” he clucked.

Max forced himself not to be enraged by the words designed to do just that. “Where is my sister?”

“Oh, she is resting for right now. She was kind enough to volunteer her powers to aid my cause. Did you like the light show? I thought it was a nice touch.”

From the corner of his eye, he saw Liz rush forward to kneel by her father’s side. The others were too far away and had noticed the events too late to be close enough to help. But he felt Michael’s presence close by. At least he wasn’t alone in this fight.

“If it’s a fight you’re looking for, all you had to do was ask for one. You’ll get it gladly.”

Alex’s eyes narrowed, his face twisted into a mask of rage. “You really think I’m looking to fight with you? You, a child playing dress up in a paper crown and a cape? You have no idea of what you can do with the powers you were given.” His lips curled into a grin. “But I do. I know more about what you’re capable of then you’ll ever know. And thanks to the lovely Vilondra, I now possess them as well.”

Michael stood beside Max now, his body angled to be ready to block any blow that might be directed at his friend. “Blah blah blah. Don’t you people ever just shut up and fight? Do you get off on talking or what? Okay, you have big scary powers. You gonna use them or just talk about them all day?”

“You want a fight? It’s yours.” Alex raised one hand to where Maria, Diane and Phillip stood. With a flick of his wrist, the very trees behind them came alive, their very branches and limbs moving to wrap around them. Maria managed to angle her body so that she slipped from the slippery branches before they could wrap around her too tightly. But the Evans weren’t as lucky.

Finished with them, Alex moved to the second group. Kyle was able to throw himself and Tess aside before the ground beneath their feet turned to quicksand. From their safe spot on the firm ground, they looked on in horror as Jim and Amy were slowly sucked into the ground. Frantically, they began looking for anything long enough to lay across the firm edges to keep them above the surface.

“Enough!” Max ordered, frantic to stop the destruction around him. He could hear Liz’s soft sobs beside him, but he dared not look at her. Hopefully any damage done to her parents could be fixed in time. But to turn his back on their enemy now was instant death. “It’s me you want. Leave the others alone.”

“You still don’t get it, do you? Your death isn’t enough. All of you must die otherwise the prophecy still has a chance to be filled. And it’s my job to see that it isn’t.”

“What the hell is up with this damn prophecy? Doesn’t Khivar have anything better to do with his time?” Michael tried not to listen to Maria’s frantic struggles to free the Evans as the tree branches continued to squeeze them. He knew the others were in trouble, but if they couldn’t stop the source first, they were doomed. So far it looked as though they had three parents down and Isabel was MIA, not to mention Alex. The odds weren’t looking to be in their favor. But he was trying to get a handle on their newest foe. Since he was the only one with any vague idea of the way this creature thought, he was still planning the best course of attack. Should they outright blast him or would he be prepared for them? It was true he had more knowledge of their powers than they did and he’d been saying for years that it would be their downfall. And Michael hated it when he was right.

Liz knelt beside her father, gently cradling his head in her lap. Tears had been coursing down her cheeks since Max had taken off running. She’d known he wouldn’t make it in enough time to do any good, but he had tried.

“Liz?”

“Shh, Dad. You’re going to be fine. You just have to save your strength for now. Okay?”

“But Alex…”

“I know. That’s not Alex, Dad.” Liz brushed her father’s hair from his forehead. “Max and Michael will take care of him though. Alex will be fine, just like you and Mom will be.” But there were still tendrils of smoke radiating from her father’s body. He was burning up to the touch, but she refused to let him leave her lap or deny him her touch. How many times had this man taken care of her when she needed him? She couldn’t even think about her mother yet. She was lying a few yards away, blown clear away from her father by the force of the blast. And she wasn’t moving.

“Nancy?” Jeff managed to ask.

“Mom is going to be fine too. She’s just shaken up too.” Liz refused to relinquish a hand from her father’s face, so she continued to look down at him through the haze of her own tears.

Jeff mustered up enough energy to cover Liz’s hand with his own. “Lizzy,” he began.

But Liz shook her head fiercely. “No, Dad. I’m not going to listen to anything you have to say right now. So, just save it for the welcome home party.”

“Lizzy, you have to listen to me. Please.” He waited until Liz had composed herself enough to look into her father’s eyes, and what she found there had her sobbing anew. “Lizzy, they need your help.”

She shook her head vigorously. “No. They can handle it on their own. They’re strong.”

“So are you.” He squeezed her hand. “They’ll always need that.” He could feel his body dying, could feel the ache from the simple effort of keeping his eyes open and focused on his beautiful daughter. She knew the truth, but she wasn’t ready to acknowledge it. “I’m not going to make it through this, sweetie.”

“No, Dad.” Her face twisted in pain as sobs continued to wrack her body. “You can’t do this. I can heal you.”

“I saw what it did to Max that one time. It drains you, doesn’t it?” When she couldn’t answer, he took it as the answer he already knew. “They need you, Liz. You can’t waste your time on me when we both know it’s not going to do any good. I’m dying, Liz.” He reached a hand up to run it down the length of her hair. “I’m sorry. God, I’m sorry for so many things. I’m sorry I won’t be able to see your wedding. I know you’re going to be a beautiful bride, so happy and in love.”

“No, I’m not doing anything if you’re not there. Don’t you see? You have to fight, Dad. You have to be there for my wedding or I won’t do it. How am I supposed to marry Max if you’re not there? Who’s going to walk me down the aisle?” She gripped his hand, brought it to her face, wet from her own tears.

“You’d be cheating both you and Max. You love him.” Jeff began coughing, felt the pressure in his chest begin squeezing anew. He waited until his breathing settled before he continued. “You love him, Liz. Your mother and I saw it too late, but we never wanted to step between that. Promise me you’ll be happy.” There was a growing urgency in his voice now as he fought to deliver each word to her. “Promise your mother and I you’ll be happy no matter where it takes you. Promise us you’ll fight. Please, Lizzie.”

Liz finally nodded her head, unable to form words. The tears dripped from her cheeks, falling to the ground. “I promise, Dad. Please just don’t leave me.”

“I’m sorry. Don’t worry about me and don’t worry about your mother. Don’t look back, Liz. Go help them. Save your friends, your husband. And tell him for us that he was already our son. You have bigger things to worry about now than us. Go.” He urged as another coughing fit seized his body. There wasn’t much time left and the last thing he wanted was for her to linger over him any longer.

“I love you, Daddy.” She leaned down to place a kiss on his forehead, letting her lips linger.

“I love you too. Go, Liz. Don’t worry about us.”

Liz eased her father off her lap gently. She knew with a certainty borne of tragedy that she would regret the decision for the rest of her life, but she rose slowly and turned away from her parents and towards the ongoing battle.

Max and Michael were encased in an energy shield while the creature in Alex’s body continued to direct streams of energy towards them. In the distance, Maria was trying to do anything with her fledgling powers to help the Evans. Kyle was busy trying to construct something long enough to lay across the quicksand that Jim and Amy could hold onto while Tess tried every trick and power she’d ever known to reverse the effects. And none of it was working. They were losing, all of them. Because they were scattered, divided. The wind had picked up and it blew her hair back from her face in a rough torrent. With sorrow threatening to invade her and shut down her body, Liz turned in all directions, unsure of what to do. How could she possibly help? She had failed not only Max and her friends, but her parents too. She had known something was wrong and yet she’d done nothing about it because she had only wanted a few hours of normal. When would she learn that nothing would ever be normal? What was the point in fighting for it any longer?

“Liz!”

Liz looked in the direction she heard her name being called from and was shocked to see Isabel stumbling towards her.

“Isabel! Are you okay?” She asked when Isabel had managed to creep to her side.

Isabel looked in the general direction that Liz’s voice had come from. “I can’t see, Liz. Whatever he did to me, I can only see through his eyes. That’s how I knew you were here.”

Liz pulled Isabel down behind a large rock, shielding her from the battle. She caught her first glimpse of Isabel’s eyes, rolled back in her head so that only the whites showed. “What can I do? They need you out there, not me.”

“No,” Isabel shook her head. “They need you. Alex is still in there. If Max and Michael fire at him, they’ll kill him.”

“They don’t need me, Isabel. I’m no good to anyone.”

“You’re wrong, Liz. I can’t do it and I don’t know where Tess is. Alex told me only you could do it anyway and I believe him.”

“What am I supposed to do? I don’t know what Alex expects from me!” How was she supposed to help anyone when she couldn’t even save her own parents?

“He said to follow your instincts. But you have to hurry, Liz. He’s wearing down Max and Michael. I can feel it.”

“Isabel-“

“Liz, you have to do it!” She snapped suddenly as her body tensed. Liz turned back to the battle and saw that the scaribe must be drawing more heavily on Isabel’s powers. Twin beams were trying to pierce the protective bubble Max and Michael had created. They looked to be arguing inside, and Liz knew they had no idea how to defeat him without hurting Alex. Isabel was right. It was all up to her now.

She stood from where she and Isabel were crouched behind the rock and the wind met her face again. Forcing herself not to stagger backwards from the sheer force, she stepped forward. And with each step after that, she hoped that the next would bring the intuitive knowledge that Alex was so sure she possessed. Because if it didn’t, then they were all doomed.




posted on 13-Feb-2002 8:59:03 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Learning to Live
Part 57

“Kyle, this isn’t working!” Tess shouted over the roar of the wind that had cropped up.

“Keep trying,” Kyle insisted. He knew Tess was frustrated over not being able to help Max and Michael fight, but he was grateful beyond belief that she hadn’t left him alone to help his Dad and Amy. Kyle turned back to his father. “Hold on, Dad. We’re working on it.”

“I’m trying, Kyle. But do you think you could work a little quicker?” Jim was already up to his armpits in the oatmeal like goop and Amy was well past her shoulders and sinking fast. After her initial panic attack that had sucked her most of the way into the pit, they’d been able to convince her to calm down enough to slow the sinking. But they were running out of time.

Kyle was already scanning the perimeter, looking for anything useful. Pulling his Swiss Army knife from his pocket, he began hacking away at some of the nearby vines.

“Tess! Can you get me some of those branches?” He asked, pointing to some of the longer limbs.

“I think so.” Though mental powers were more her specialty, Tess sprinted to the tree. She laid a hand on the nearest tree trunk and concentrated on altering its makeup. Could she split wood with her mind? She would find out soon enough.

As the first of the branches fell, Kyle scrambled to begin tying them together with the makeshift twine.

“What can I do?”

“I’ve got this now. Go help Maria,” he shouted, pulling the vines as tight as he could.

“Call if you need me.”

“I will.” He laid a hand on her shoulder briefly. “Thank you, Tess.”

“All in a day’s work.”

Kyle waited until she was gone, wanting to make sure she was safely on her way. Then he dragged the branches over to his father and Amy. Careful not to get too close to the lip of the quicksand pit, Kyle secured one end of the branch on either side of the pit. His father was able to stretch far enough to grab hold of the log. Grateful to have something secure beneath him again, Jim turned back to Amy and reached out to her.

“C’mon, Amy. Grab hold of my hand and I’ll pull you over.” He reached as far as he could, groping beneath the muddy surface for her hands. Amy was buried to her chin and she was still struggling to keep her head up. Only her face showed sign of the stress she was under and she dared not even speak.

“Kyle, it’s no good. I can’t reach her. Can you get me some more of these vines?”

“Yeah, hold on.” Kyle made quick work of the remaining vines, hurrying back to his father. “Here, Dad. Catch.”

Kyle began tossing one end out for his father to catch. His first attempt fell short by a few feet, so he reeled it back in and tried again. It was dirty work and he was covered in mud, but the fourth attempt was a success. Kyle gave his father enough slack to pull the stiff vines to him.

“Amy.” Jim was horrified to see that she had continued to sink. The mud line was almost up to her nose and a wild panic shone in her eyes.

“Amy, I swear I’m going to get you out of this, alright? I’m going to move this vine to you and when you feel it, you grab hold as tight as you can and I’ll pull you over. But you’re going to have to trust me.” Jim knew they only had one shot at this and if he failed, she would sink too far below the surface for him to help.

Hoping her body wasn’t twisted in any way, Jim began feeling around with the end of the vine. He was hoping that if he could at least poke her with it, she could grab hold. After a few endless seconds, he felt the vine meet resistence.

“Amy! Grab hold! C’mon, baby.” Amy began to thrash as her nose sunk beneath the surface of the mud.

“Dad, you need to pull her in now!” Kyle shouted. He had dropped to his stomach on the side of the pit closest to Amy, frantically hoping to be able to do something. But he was still too far away.

Praying that she had a grip on the vine, Jim pulled it to him quickly. And he had never in his life been more grateful than when he saw the top of Amy’s head move toward him. He pulled her into the circle of her arms and as her head broke the surface, she took in a large gasp of air.

Jim pulled her against his body, not bothering to wipe her mud caked hair from her face before drawing her into a kiss. Amy wrapped her arms around his neck while Jim continued to cling to the branch that kept them above the mud line.

“God, Jim, I was so scared.”

“Not half as scared as I was. Are you okay?” He tried to check her over as best as he could.

“I’m fine. Kyle?” Amy turned her attention to her future stepson. “Can you please get us the hell out of this thing?”

Kyle turned a relieved grin on her. “You bet. Just give me a second.” Kyle rose to his feet in time to hear the unmistakable sound of wood splitting. Jim and Amy were looking down at the branch that held them up, then they met Kyle’s eyes.

“Kyle, hurry?”

*~*~

Tess sprinted the length of the park until she was at Maria’s side.

“Tess! Thank god! I don’t know what to do!” Maria shouted. “Nothing has worked, and it’s getting harder for them to breathe.”

Tess glanced at Diane and Phillip, struggling to free themselves from the tree branches that held them captive. The same vines that had just freed Jim and Amy were squeezing Diane and Phillip tighter by the second.

“What have you tried?” Tess asked, glancing around to see if there was anything that could help.

“Everything I know how to do! Do you have a knife or something? I’ve got nothing over here.”

“No, but Kyle does. See if you can get it from him and I’ll try over here while you’re gone.”

Without another word, Maria ran back to where she could see Kyle struggling with a length of vines. “Kyle! We need your knife!”

Kyle gestured to it on the ground and Maria ran for it. “Do you need any help here?” She glanced at her mother, covered in mud and desperately clinging to Jim.

“I hope not. Go help them.”

“You’re okay, Mom?” Maria couldn’t help but ask before she left.

“We’re in good hands. Go help, sweetie.” They had tried to inch back to solid ground using the tied branches for support, but the wood had continued to splinter more with each movement they had made. So, Kyle was currently trying to tie some of the vines together secure enough to pull them to solid ground.

“I’ve got them, Maria,” Kyle promised solemnly. “Nothing will happen to them.”

Maria nodded, reaching down to pick up the knife. If anyone would keep their parents safe, it would be Kyle. “I know.” And she sprinted back to Tess.

As Maria began to hack her way through the vines that continued to curl around Diane and Phillip, she couldn’t help but sneak a glance over her shoulder to where Michael and Max were encased in the big blue ball. She knew it had to be a shield, but how long could they keep it up? And where were the others? Everything had happened so fast and they were so far away, it was hard to make out what was going on in the real battle. But she said a silent prayer that everyone would make it out of this okay.

*~*~

Liz took a few hesitant steps away from the rock where Isabel crouched. But she found that with each new step, a force began to take over her body. She could feel a presence growing in her mind, but she wasn’t scared. In fact, the familiar energy boosted her confidence. At that moment, there was no one she would rather have in her head than Salia.

A rage bubbled within her, overtaking the grief her mind wasn’t allowing her to feel, and growing with each step into the battle. Max and Michael’s shield was waning, the brilliant blue fading to a dull color that told her they were running out of time. Even as her eyes began to glaze over, she knew that this was something different than she had experienced before. Salia had taken over her body once before, but only when things had looked their darkest. Since then, Liz had experienced black outs when certain things triggered memories from Salia. But this was unlike either experience. Liz was in possession of her own powers, her own mind. But she also knew with an odd certainty how to stop the chaos that threatened her friends’ lives. And that knowledge could only come from the Queen herself.

Pooling her energy, she allowed a shock wave to detach from her fingertips. Shocked, the scaribe stumbled backward a step when it hit him fully and he stopped his attack on Max and Michael. He turned in her direction, twisting Alex’s lips into a cruel smile.

“Yes?”

“That’s enough.” Look past the face…look past the face She chanted the mantra in her head. This wasn’t Alex. Alex hadn’t killed her parents, even though she knew the memory of his role wouldn’t ever be forgotten.

“Oh, I assure you, I’m just getting started.” He raised a hand in her direction.

Liz heard Max yelling at her, but it all seemed far away. Her body and mind were numb now, her only concern the demon in front of her. Focusing all of her attention on the coming attack, Liz was easily able to reflect the bolt of electricity that he sent sizzling towards her. It bounced back and exploded a few feet from where Alex stood. “Is that all you have?”

He pointed one finger at her, anger making it shake. “You will die.”

“That is why you came, isn’t it? You’re not really here to kill us all. You want Max and you want me.” She couldn’t spare a glance at Max. She had to trust now that at least Michael could hold him back.

“Max, no,” Michael whispered to his friend even as he locked his arms around his friend’s chest. Now was one of the times when friendships had to be put aside. Like it or not, Max was the King, and it was Michael’s job to protect him.

“True,” Alex replied. “It has been decided that you would have played a key role in the prophecy. It is my job to make sure that day never comes.”

“By hiding like a coward behind friendly faces? I thought you would have more honor than that. You’ve been on this planet too long. You’re starting to act more human with each one you kill.”

With her words, Alex’s face twisted with a rage that Liz’s sweet friend should never know. “I have more power, more knowledge of how to use it than you’ll ever have,” he gloated.

“Yours is stolen and temporary.” Liz held the secret of Salia’s knowledge to herself. But it didn’t mean she wouldn’t knock the arrogant gleam from his eye. With a seemingly absent wave of her hand, Liz solidified the ground beneath Amy and Jim and fixed the vines holding Diane and Jeff, dropping them to the ground. But her eyes never left the cold ones of her enemy.

“A pretty trick,” he conceded, instantly revising his plan. Perhaps he had misjudged their abilities. And a trickle of fear ran through him.

“More than a trick and you know it. Did you think you could dismiss me so easily? Dismiss my family and my friends because we’re mere humans? Let me tell you something about humans,” she whispered, forcing the emotion from her voice. If she paused to think about all she had just lost in a few short minutes, she would break down and the tears would never stop. And there would be a life time for that later. “We never give up. We’re strong and we’re proud and when we love, it’s with everything we are. And if you push us, we’ll push back harder.” She locked eyes with him, seeing only the face of her parents’ murderer and she knew that moment would forever be seared into her memory. “I know about your people and your ways, DaKa,” she spat at him, savoring the look of surprise in his eyes at her knowledge of his warrior name. “And I know that if I challenge you, you have to fight me.”

“Liz, no!” Once again, Max tried to dart forward and once again, Michael pulled him back. He didn’t want Liz challenging the scaribe anymore than Max did, but the shield had eaten up so much of their energy that if Liz did nothing more than buy them a few minutes, he would be grateful. Tess would be joining them soon and she would make them stronger as a group. Michael could make out Isabel’s shadow from behind a rock on the other side of the battle and he wondered what was wrong with her that she hadn’t joined them yet.

Liz swallowed and blocked her mind from Max’s. The cold void where their thoughts usually intersected hit her hard and she knew it would hurt Max to be cut off so completely from her. But she knew it had to be done this way. She couldn’t think now, couldn’t feel. She was operating on the ancient instinct Alex had told her to use. And it told her to step forward until she was a mere foot from her enemy.

“I challenge you.” She held her hands out to him, palms up. “If you think you’re warrior enough.” He would have no choice but to leave her friends alone now. It didn’t matter what happened to her, as long as no one else was hurt and Alex was freed.

He smirked at her before giving her a mock bow and Liz had to struggle to remind herself not to hate the face, just the creature within. “It will be an honor to kill you, highness.”

“I guarantee you’ll never have the chance.”

“We’ll see. Won’t we?” He laid his hands on top of her open palms. Instantly, a red glow flared out between them, welding them together at the point of contact.

Max refused to watch helplessly as Liz’s eyes rolled back in her head. He broke free from Michael’s death grip and ran towards her but he had a sinking feeling that it was already too late. The real battle was about to be fought on a different plane of consciousness. And Liz was on her own.

posted on 21-Mar-2002 10:06:19 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Learning to Live
Part 58

“The venue has been chosen.” A loud voice boomed from the sky.

Liz looked around frantically, wondering where she was. She had literally been dropped into some sort of building. Row after row of large columns filled the main hall, but as she glanced up and down, she saw no one. Where was the Scaribe?

“I didn’t have the chance to choose anything.” She circled helplessly, her heart sinking with the feeling that she had chosen wrong in fighting alone. “Where are you? I thought you wanted a fight. Instead, you hide.”

Stepping out from behind a column, Liz came face to face with their deadliest foe for the first time. She examined the ridges of skin that tapered down his long neck to his fingers. He wasn’t wearing anything, but his body was covered in almost a leopard spotting.

“This is your real face? Now I see why you hide it from others.” She knew it was petty, but she couldn’t help the words that flew from her mouth.

“You’re out of your league, highness. You made a strategical error. Together, you might have won. Alone, you will die.”

Though he was standing a dozen meters away, his reach was no less potent. Without warning, Liz dropped to her knees in agony, clutching her hands to her head. A thousand needle tips pierced her skull, causing her to whimper from the sheer force of the attack. Tears streamed down her face as she fought to keep from crying out.

And from his corner of the room, the Scaribe watched and waited for the thrill of his first defeat.

*~*~

“Liz!” Max screamed out as he stumbled forward. He reached out for her, but was thrown back when he encountered the red force field that seemed to be surrounding the two of them. With a shake of his head, he rose from the ground and tried to charge it again, only to be met with the same resistance.

“Max! Cut it out!” Michael called out as he crouched down beside Isabel. “I need you over here.”

Dazed and a bit rattled by the shock, he glanced at the bodies around him. Michael’s words rung in his ears, but his instinct told him to help the wounded.

Tess appeared at his elbow, grimy from her encounters. She had seen the indecision waver on his face, and had known he wouldn’t leave Liz easily. “Go. We’ll take care of the others.” But Tess had already seen what she needed to see on the newly formed battlefield. There was no help needed. It was already too late, though Jim and Amy still struggled to revive their fallen friends.

Max nodded dumbly. Tess gave him a hard push and he crawled over to where his sister sat perched against a large rock.

“What’s going on? Are you okay?” He saw her eyes, blinded white and he concentrated on his sister as much as he could, forcing himself not to worry about Liz just yet.

“He’s using her powers,” Michael explained as Isabel arched her back and gasped for a breath of air. “She was talking a minute ago and then he must have taken over her mind completely.”

“How do we break it?”

“I don’t think we can,” Michael answered. “But maybe Tess could try it. This is out of our expertise.”

Max threw a look over his shoulder to Liz while Michael moved to find Tess Her face was twisted in pain and Max had never felt such rage. He couldn’t get to her, not while the force field separated them. He could hear the others rushing about behind him, no doubt helping each other. Alex’s father was still missing and he hadn’t had the chance to get a good look at Liz’s parents, but he knew it didn’t look good. His sister was slowly being drained and Alex’s body had been taken over. And Max knew with a blinding clarity that they were losing.

They had become so sure of themselves over the years, so confident that nothing could touch them, that they had become lazy. In every previous fight they had ever had, victory had been easy enough. Only when Liz had been poisoned all those years ago had they fought a harder battle. But then they’d had his mother’s help in the outcome. They wouldn’t have such luck this time. Now they were facing their darkest day and they were doing it individually.

Michael stumbled to the ground beside Max, Tess in tow. “I’ve got her.”

“How are the others?”

“Not now, Maxwell. We need to prioritize. First, we break his hold on Isabel. Second, we help Liz fight this thing.”

Max shook his head. “No. We break contact between them completely.”

“Snap out of it, Max. Look at what’s going on around you. We’re losing. Isabel told me that they only way to defeat this thing is to do it where Liz is. If you pull her out now, then we’re fighting Alex and he’s as good as dead. We need to find a way to help Liz before he kills her too.” Michael didn’t mind taking control of the situation. It was his job to keep a level head in a crisis, but he was afraid that none of them were truly prepared for the fight ahead.

Tess placed a hand on Max’s arm. “Your connection with her?”

Max dropped his eyes from where he’d been glaring at Michael. “She’s been blocking me. I can’t get in.” And the silence, the absence of her warmth left him bereft.

“You can’t push through?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never tried.” He’d never had to before.

“Alright,” Michael began, taking charge. “Tess, you try to help Isabel. Max, you work on Liz. I’m going to get Maria and Kyle. If we’re going to win, we’re going to need everyone.”

“Get the others too,” Tess instructed, thinking of the remaining parents. “We’re going to need everyone.”

“They don’t have powers,” Michael protested.

“Neither does Kyle, but his presence makes us stronger,” Tess reminded him.

Michael nodded, understanding. He rose to his feet and took off in the direction of the others.

“Max, you’ve got to reach her. Everything depends on it.” Tess closed her eyes, placing her index fingers on Isabel’s temples.

Max watched her attempts to free his sister and finally decided that Isabel couldn’t be in more capable hands. If anyone could help her, it was Tess. And if anyone could help Liz, it was him.

He closed his eyes too, tried to block out the noise around him. He put everything he had into ignoring the cries and shouts from his friends and family. And he sought out Liz. Her energy was unmistakable, like a beacon of light that led him home. He reached out with his energy, seeking his other half. Surely she had to be somewhere amidst the endless yawning void.

She’d never blocked him so effectively, but then the stakes had never been so high. He was worried about more than her safety, but her heart and her spirit too. It was far more reckless than was usual for Liz to jump into the middle of a fight the way she had. And it was the first sign of something wrong.

After an eternity of seeking out her warmth, he felt the first tendrils of Liz’s energy in the distance. Following it quickly, he hoped to find their connection. He had to tell her that she needed them.

But as quickly as her energy snaked out toward him, it recoiled before escaping behind a sealed door. Max fought against it, banging against the barrier that separated them. But it was no use. Liz had effectively disconnected them.

Rage replaced the deep sense of loss that he had been favoring. Did she really think she could martyr herself like this? Just run off and get herself killed and leave him behind without a fight? Max pounded on the door with a renewed passion. Fury and love drove him forward. He would get to Liz one way or another, even if he had to go through her own damn stubbornness first.

*~*~

“Had enough?” The Scaribe asked, letting up on the blast of power he had jolted through her body.

Gasping for air, Liz could only crumple to the floor. She couldn’t handle the pain anymore. They had underestimated their foe. He had caused far more damage than they ever anticipated. She curled into a ball, willing it all to go away.

She’d hoped that Salia would have come to their aid, but she should have known better. Salia herself had told Liz that to mess with the future was dangerous. She had only interceded that one time because the balance of time had been disrupted to begin with. And when Liz had thought she’d felt Salia’s energy building up inside of her, she’d had the courage to jump in and fight. But now she knew that what she had felt was merely a residual echo of that time. Like the trances she occasionally went into when she drew upon Salia’s memories, she had known how to challenge the Scaribe, but she hadn’t been prepared for the onslaught of flashes she’d received from his touch. She’d seen and felt every emotion from every victim he had claimed since his arrival, and they only added to the guilt and sorrow that had already dwelled in her heart.

She had failed everyone she’d ever loved; her parents, Alex, her friends, even Max. She had been so certain she could take on their enemy alone, she had staked all their lives on it. She would die here. She knew that now. She would die without ever having had the chance to say goodbye, or to tell Max what her time with him had meant. She wanted to let him know that before today, she had never known regret.

Liz could hear the Scaribe taunting her, mocking her, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. What was the point in caring anymore? She could feel the effects of his blast on her body, knew it was breaking down around her. She had already lost.

A familiar wave of warmth rushed over her so quickly, she didn’t have time to be shocked. She would recognize her old friend anywhere. “Alex,” she whispered, regretting that the only thing she could see was her friend’s face twisted cruelly as he viscously attacked her parents. It hadn’t been Alex. Her heart knew it, but her mind still couldn’t distinguish the difference.

She could feel his sorrow, his rage, and his shame as his touch surrounded her. And she knew he had seen into her thoughts as easily as she could see into his. And she hated herself for even thinking he was in any way responsible for what had happened.

“Liz, you have to fight.”

“Go away,” she whimpered, curling up tighter in her ball. Didn’t he understand that there wasn’t any reason to fight anymore?

“You can’t give up. I won’t let you. I know it’s hard-”

“What do you know about it?” She snapped. “They’re gone, Alex. I couldn’t save them. I can’t even help you. I tried, but I don’t have any fight left in me. Just go away.”

Alex physically materialized beside her. He crouched down beside her and laid a hand on her back tentatively. Time had no meaning now. It had slowed until all that existed in that single moment was Alex and Liz.

“I’m not going to let you give up, Liz Parker.” There was a firmness to Alex’s tone that Liz had never known. “I don’t care if you never forgive me for my role in all this, or even if never speak to me again. You’ll probably hate me for making you fight and care, but if you don’t get up and fight right now, you will lose this battle. You will die. And what happens then? Will Max and the others be able to do this without you? If they can’t fight him here, then they’ll have to kill me to stop him. Who will have to do it? Max? Isabel? Would you sentence them to that life because you’re a coward?”

“I’m not a coward!” Liz snapped back at him, a hint of her old fire lighting her eyes.

“Then get up! Don’t let him take you on a dirty floor. You are the strongest of them all right now. You have memories of their planet that they might never have.”

Liz sat up and met Alex’s eyes. “I can’t do it alone.”

“Then don’t. Even I can feel Max all around us, which is quite odd. But I know you can feel him trying to help. All you have to do is let him.”

Before her eyes, Alex’s image faded a bit. Horrified she hadn’t seen how much of his strength he’d wasted talking to her, Liz pushed him away.

“He’s killing you.”

Alex ignored her realization. “You have to fight him now. If he kills me first, he’ll just take over another body, maybe yours, unless we’re both dead.”

The air around them rippled and Liz wondered what had changed.

“They freed Isabel. He can’t use her powers against them anymore. We’re running out of time.”

Confused and torn, Liz looked back and forth between Alex and the Scaribe. A tear trickled down her cheek. If she fought now, there was a chance she would live. But she would also have to face the pain and sorrow she’d left behind. And if she didn’t, everyone else could die.

“What would your parents want, Liz?”

Tears welled anew when she remembered the look on her father’s face when he’d told her to be happy. Sniffling, Liz nodded her head at Alex. “They would have wanted me to fight.”

Alex smiled sadly at her statement, even as he faded even further. “I love you, Lizziebug. Tell Maria for me, and Isabel…” his voice trailed off when he couldn’t find the words.

Liz watched in astonishment as Alex faded away to nothing. And then she could feel it in the air around her, impending death. Fear danced through her, swam in her veins and energized her into action.

“No,” she whispered to herself. “No one else is going to die today.”

Even as she knew the Scaribe was gearing up for a final assault on her, Liz forced her mind to open. Immediately, she felt Max envelope her, soothe her soul like no one else ever could. And they were connected, their words and thoughts jumbling together until they were one again.

Liz!

There’s no time, Max. We need everyone’s help and we need it now.

Max lent her all his strength. Tell me.

*~*~

“Isabel, can you hear me?” Michael hovered near Isabel and Tess. Both women had fallen backwards at the same time. Max looked as though he was still trying to get in touch with Liz, and everyone else was slowly dealing with the shock of the days’ events.

“I can’t see!” Isabel gasped, feeling around to gain her bearings. Her eyes were still white and Michael felt his heart break for her.

“Isabel, calm down.” Maria appeared at Isabel’s side, fresh tears still streaming down her face. She knew that Tess would be out of her league to help Isabel now, so Maria took Isabel’s hand. “Can you see anything? Light? Movement?”

Isabel calmed her breathing, turned her head in the direction of Maria’s voice. “Shades of light. I can see shades of light.”

“It’s probably just left over from the Scaribe. It’s probably already coming back. Is it getting a little better the longer you’re free?”

Isabel blinked, then smiled shakily. “A little, but not much.”

“Forget that for now. Do you still have any powers left?”

Isabel tried to find Michael amidst the noise. “I think so, but not much.” She swallowed. “What’s going on? I know he’s attacking Liz. She wasn’t even fighting. Where’s Max?”

“He’s trying to connect with Liz,” Maria assured her.

Isabel clutched at Maria’s arms. “Charles! You have to help him! He’s back in the clearing, and I think he’s hurt.”

Maria exchanged a look with Jim and her mother. Jim shook his head slowly and Maria felt her heart shatter. Deliberately, she turned back to Isabel. “We have to fight now,” she informed Isabel. “We can worry about everyone else later.”

“We’re still waiting for Max,” Tess interjected. “We need a back up plan in case he can’t get through to Liz.”

Suddenly, Max fell backwards in the dirt. He began twitching wildly and his parents ran toward him.

“What’s wrong with him?” Diane asked tearfully as she cradled her son’s head in her lap.

Kyle nodded in Liz’s direction. The pulsating light between her and Alex was glowing a dark red.

“I’d say he got in.” Kyle turned to Michael. “Whatever we’re doing, we’d better do it now.”




posted on 21-Mar-2002 10:06:54 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Learning to Live

From Part 58…
“We’re still waiting for Max,” Tess interjected. “We need a back up plan in case he can’t get through to Liz.”

Suddenly, Max fell backwards in the dirt. He began twitching wildly and his parents ran toward him.

“What’s wrong with him?” Diane asked tearfully as she cradled her son’s head in her lap.

Kyle nodded in Liz’s direction. The pulsating light between her and Alex was glowing a dark red.

“I’d say he got in.” Kyle turned to Michael. “Whatever we’re doing, we’d better do it now.”


Part 59

“What’s going on?” Isabel asked. She turned her head in the direction of Kyle’s voice, but she couldn’t pinpoint his exact location with the wind still roaring around them. She still couldn’t see more than shades of light, but she forced herself not to worry about herself. There wasn’t time.

“Max and Liz are connected,” Maria told her, glancing nervously at her two best friends and the bubble of angry red light that surrounded them. “We need an plan now, guys.”

“If someone can connect with Max, the rest of us should be able to get in too,” Tess informed them.

“Right,” Michael decided. “Tess, can you do it? You’re the strongest of us all in that department.”

“No,” Isabel interrupted. “Max and I have a stronger bond. Getting into Max will be hard.” Max had always been closed off on his good days, only letting Isabel in during their adolescence mainly because she had forced him to connect with her and not withdraw into himself.

Tess nodded in agreement. “She’s right. Max and I aren’t close enough, and it’ll be hard with them being under attack. But we have to act fast. Isabel, are you sure you’re up for this?”

Even though she had no idea what was going on around her, Isabel nodded. “Help me up.” Strong arms wrapped around her and she was lifted to her feet. She knew it was Michael that helped her to Max, knew his touch just as she knew Max’s without having to see. They were both her brothers, just as everyone around them was part of one family now. And if she failed, they would lose more members of that family.

Kneeling in the dirt, Isabel felt her way to Max’s face. She heard her mother sobbing and knew she was close by. Max was twitching beneath her fingertips and for the first time, she was grateful she couldn’t see what was going on around her.

“Isabel, can you help him?” Diane asked fearfully.

“I’m going to try, Mom.” Her fingers at Max’s temples, Isabel closed her eyes and let the familiar connection build between them. It wasn’t as strong or as instantaneous as the bond Max could form with Liz, but she was no longer threatened by it. She had stopped begrudging her brother happiness years ago. But even though they had not had reason to connect with each other in ages, Isabel felt her brother open up to her immediately.

Is?

Thrilled to hear her brother’s voice, Isabel tried to seek him out. But he was nowhere to be seen. Where are you, Max? I can’t see you.

We’re being attacked. We’re blocking for now, but I don’t know how much longer we can hold out. We need-

We already know. They’re coming. How can I help? Isabel continued to push through the darkness, looking for them. It was a mind trick. She knew that much. The Scaribe was trying to block them out, keep them separate. But the others needed her to be able to find them or their chances were greatly reduced.

You’re too weak, Isabel.

Isabel barely recognized Liz’s voice. It was so fragile, so soft and defeated that it didn’t keep with anything she had learned about her future sister in the past years. Liz was a fighter. What was wrong?

I’m here. Everyone else is coming. Tess announced. Where is everyone?

Pulling on the last of her concentration, Isabel gritted her teeth and focused everything on Max. She could feel the warmth, the energy patterns of Michael and the others as they joined one by one. Finally, when she thought she would pass out from the effort, she could see the darkness giving way to light. And the image of Max and Liz huddled behind Max’s energy shield came into focus. The Scaribe was standing across the bizarre room, directing a menacing beam of red energy at the couple.

I’ve got you, she announced, reaching out for Max and solidifying their connection.

Max turned a grateful smile to Isabel. He could see everyone else materializing behind his sister and for the first time, hope swelled in him. Maybe they could win this after all. He looked down at Liz, sitting passively beside him. After she had let him in, she had been content to let him take over the battle. And she had all but zoned out. He was worried about her, but for now, he needed to snap her out of her reverie quick. She had been the one to challenge the Scaribe. That meant that she had to be the one to fight him.

“Liz, I need you to snap out of it. We need you.” When she didn’t respond, he reached out to her, turning her face until she was forced to look at him. And he knew he would always regret this moment, but the alternative was death. “Damn it, Liz. You started this. Finish it. I know you’re in shock. And I know you don’t want to do anything but give up. But you can’t. You reached out to me and now I’m here. We all are. If you give up now, everyone dies, not just you. We’re connected, Liz. I know you feel them here.”

Max could feel his strength waning and the shield flickered for a second. It had taken too much energy to find Liz earlier, and he was afraid the barrier would fail before he got through to Liz. “Liz, please,” he pleaded with her. “I need you. I’ve never asked you to do anything you didn’t want to before, but I need this now. I need you go to get up and fight. Finish this. Later, you can stay silent for as long as you want, you can push me away and close yourself off or do whatever you need to do. But right now, I need you.”

Slowly, Liz raised her eyes to Max. “They’re gone, Max. I can feel it here.” She held her hand over her heart. “It’s just so empty.”

Max’s heart broke for her. Connected, he could feel her emotions and he knew that she would have already given up if not for Alex’s words. If she fought now, it meant she would have to return to the real world where it would be impossible not to feel the endless sorrow and guilt. And he had to ask her to do it, knowing she could hate him for it later.

“Liz, I need you to be strong now. You can’t think about them. There is nothing that can be done. But if you don’t get it together and help me now, we’re all going to die. Me, Alex, Maria, everyone. Our lives are in your hands again. Will you do this one last thing?”

Liz saw the strength in Max’s eyes and borrowed as much as she dared. She tried to block his emotions, but it was hard after a lifetime of welcoming them in. “One more time,” she agreed, rising to her feet.

Max nodded. “I’m going to drop this shield when you give me the word.” He looked over his shoulder, signaling the others to come forward. One by one, their energies connected until they were one. And Max found that they were weaker combined than he had hoped. But he and Isabel both had already been drained significantly, and Liz had been fighting longer than most of them. But it would have to do.

Liz straightened her spine. Max was right. She would finish this, for her parents, for all the victims he had already claimed. Anger fueled her as she gathered the tattered remains of her energy. And then she let down the last of her walls and allowed the others to connect with her. The combined sorrow and fear almost buckled her knees, but she remained standing. Pooling their energy together, she let it gather behind Max’s shield. There was only going to be one chance at defeating him and she would put everything she had into it.

The Scaribe was still too far away to have seen the commotion behind the wall of blue and she took advantage of his ignorance. Milking every drop of strength they had combined, Liz formed a ball of white energy. She nodded to Max and he dropped his shield a second before she released the light from her fingertips.

Shock colored the Scaribe’s every feature as the ball hurled toward him and Liz locked eyes with him as he paused his attack long enough to build a shield. But it was too late, his reactions too slow. Liz forced herself to watch as he imploded on impact, creating a shock wave that knocked her flat on her back and pushed the air out of her lungs. And she knew it was over.

Feeling the ache in every muscle of her body, Liz let herself lie on her back for minute. She knew what she would find when she opened them. She would be back in the park. Back in the real world. And with the knowledge, the pain came crashing down around her.

She had to see for herself.

Opening her eyes, she pushed herself up on her elbows and looked around. An hour ago, this had been a happy day, a day of coming together, for reunions. Now, it looked like a battleground. Her friends were scattered around her, having fallen where they previously stood. Liz had recovered first and she took in the full extent of the damage that had been done.

And as her eyes fell on Alex, she felt a flash of anger. She could tell by the rise and fall of his chest that he was still alive and it seemed bitterly unfair. Guilt followed the anger. How could she be angry that Alex had lived? He hadn’t been a part of it all, yet in her mind, he had. She turned her head from him and instead let her eyes settle on her parents. They were lying in the green grass side by side. Knowing someone had moved them, she was able to feel grateful for that much. As if their deaths were more bearable if they were at least resting together.

On her hands and knees, Liz crawled forward as far as she dared. She stopped a few feet from her mother’s form, and she knew she couldn’t go any further. Across from her, Jim appeared and met her eyes carefully. Though she knew the answer deep in her heart already, she raised her eyes to Jim in question. When he averted his eyes and shook his head, Liz felt her whole world drop out on her.

Jim moved to toward her, to reach out to her, to comfort her. Just what his intentions were she didn’t know, but she couldn’t handle his kindness. Not now. She cringed away from his touch and closed her eyes against the pity she was sure to find in his eyes. She knew he stayed beside her, but she never felt the pressure of his fingers on her skin. Afraid of the emotions welling up inside of her, she allowed her mind to shut down. And she sat, numb, in the grass.

Max opened his eyes, blinking rapidly as he adjusted to the brightness of the afternoon sun. He felt a hand on his arm, shaking him awake and he turned his head. “Tess?”

“Max, Liz needs you,” she whispered softly. Tess had awoken a few minutes ago to see Jim reach out to Liz, and the pain that had crossed his face when she had shied away. The others had been rising one by one and Isabel was already involved in healing the damage done to Alex during the possession. “Her parents didn’t make it.”

Max awoke immediately, forcing his aching body to get up. He half-ran, half-stumbled to Liz’s side and sunk down to the earth beside her. Knowing there weren’t words to take away her pain, he simply pulled her close. She sunk into his arms without a fight, but she was unresponsive, her arms hanging limp at her sides. She was cold, despite the sun blazing overhead and he rubbed his hands down her arms. He tried to connect with her, to see what he could do for her and he encountered a wall. Accepting that she needed privacy, he pulled back, vowing to give her as much time as she needed. Whatever it was she needed, he would be there to give it to her. No matter what that meant.

Isabel held her breath as she stroked the side of Alex’s face. She had been able to come up with enough energy to connect with Alex and fix the tears the Scaribe had created in his beautiful mind and body. Now. She waited for him to wake up. She had already discovered the horrifying news about Charles through the connection they had formed earlier and she was holding her own grief in check. Alex was going to need her to be strong for him now.

Alex’s eyes opened wide and he found himself staring into Isabel’s watery eyes. He tried to move, to get up, but she held him down.

“Just stay here a minute. You’re probably going to be a little weak.”

Alex turned Isabel’s words over in his mind as he began remembering what had happened. “You healed me.”

It was a complex statement, and Isabel knew what he was actually saying. She had taken the final step in their growing relationship and had changed him, bonded them.

“Yes.” She wouldn’t deny it, wouldn’t regret the decision. They were done pushing each other away. She knew what she wanted from him and though she knew it should have been discussed before it became a situation of life and death, she would have done it over again the same way.

Alex nodded, unable to concentrate on Isabel’s words. They could sort through all of that later. He tried to swallow past the lump in his throat. “My father?”

The first tear fell down Isabel’s cheek. “I’m sorry, Alex. There was too much damage.”

Alex’s breathing turned erratic as he fought to control the sobs that wanted to erupt. He should have known. Why hadn’t he known? His father hadn’t been himself, he hadn’t returned any of his phone calls. It had been so easy to say that he would come around eventually. It had been because of that distance between them that Alex hadn’t even known his father was possessed by their enemies. Hell, his father hadn’t even known there were enemies out there to be watchful for. And he would always carry that blame with him.

He turned, seeking out the clearing where he was sure his father’s body still lay, and his eyes fell on Liz and Max. They were locked in an embrace and from the way they were angled, Alex could see the profile of his oldest friend’s face. Her eyes were glazed over and she sat, unblinking, as Max clutched her tight. But she looked hollow, empty. And he knew it was his fault. He had done that to her. When he had first come to her to force her to fight, he’d felt her anger with him. She didn’t want to blame him for her parent’s death, but she did. And he knew their friendship would never survive this. How could Liz ever look at him again and not see her parents’ murderer?

Forcing himself to look away, he turned back to Isabel. “I want to get out of here.” He didn’t want Liz to have to see him now. She shouldn’t have to worry about what to say to him yet. He already knew where their future lay and he would have to find a way to respect that he’d just lost all the family he’d ever known. He wouldn’t put Maria in the middle of this either. Liz would need her to get through the days and nights that would follow.

“I don’t think we should-“

But Alex was rising to his feet. He knew it would hurt Isabel, but he couldn’t worry about that right now. He hadn’t just killed her parents. But Jim stopped his retreat.

“Alex-“

“Don’t. Please.” He couldn’t hear words of condolence yet. The reality of it all hadn’t sunk in yet. “I just…I need to get out of here. Please.”

Alex didn’t know what Jim saw in his eyes, but he nodded his head after a minute. “I can’t let you leave yet, but you two can sit in my car and wait.”

Numbly, Alex nodded. Anything was better than knowing what the proper procedures were when you had three unexplainable deaths. He let Isabel wrap her arms around him and lead him to Jim’s squad car. She ushered him into the backseat and he rested his head on her chest, comforting himself with the steady thump of her heartbeat. Detached, he heard Jim making calls on his radio and Alex shut his eyes, tuning out the world for as long as he could.





posted on 21-Mar-2002 10:08:30 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Learning to Live

Part 60

“I’ve got another order, Maria. You sure you got it?” Michael called from the kitchen.

“Yeah, yeah. I’ve got it.”

Michael watched her swing behind the counter and pick up the two waiting dishes and the milkshake she had made a few minutes before. She delivered the food with a strained smile and turned when she heard another table calling for a waitress. He had tried to get her to slow down, but she had been insistent on doing everything herself. If it hadn’t been for Cassie’s help the last few days, they never would have been able to keep the restaurant up and running.

Maria headed for the table that had returned their burger twice already. Her feet hurt, she was in the middle of her eighth hour of work for the day, had been up since far before dawn, she hadn’t eaten yet, and all she wanted to do was sit and indulge in a good cry, but she still found the patience not to snap at the ungrateful customer at table four who wasn’t getting his greasy hamburger cooked to perfection.

The back door opened and closed suddenly, a noise Maria had trained herself to listen for in the last seventy two hours. The heavy thud of footsteps sounded from the break room, and Max pushed his way through the doors to began a tired shuffle toward the counter. Maria watched as he claimed a seat and she decided that Max needed her more than table four ever could. She crossed the room and sat beside Max, sure to offer him a hopeful smile.

“Hey, has she said anything yet?”

Max dropped his head into his hands. “No. She’s still sitting outside with that same blank look on her face. I’m at the end of my rope, Maria. I can’t even get her to eat.”

Maria laid her head on Max’s shoulder and closed her eyes for a minute. “I tried all last night to get through to her, but it was like she wasn’t there. Or maybe she just wasn’t listening. Is Kyle with her now?”

“Yeah. He told me to come down and rest for a minute.” He paused. “How’s Alex?” He had felt bad about not being able to see Alex, but he had been afraid to leave Liz’s side in the last three days. And with the Parkers’ funeral being later this afternoon, he was waiting for her to snap. And he wanted to be there when she did. Besides, Isabel hadn’t left Alex’s side, so Max knew he was in good hands.

Maria twisted the napkin in her hands, needing something to do. “He’s bad. He blames himself for the whole thing. And it doesn’t matter what anyone says, he doesn’t listen. He won’t even see anyone but Isabel now. I tried to go over before I opened the restaurant this morning, but he was in the middle of yelling at Isabel. I think she brought up the funeral today.”

Max nodded. None of them were doing very well. Maria, Michael, Tess and Kyle were either running the restaurant or had been helping arrange the funeral preparations for the last three days. They would have closed the restaurant completely if it hadn’t been for the convention party that had been booked months ago. Maria had tried to get out of it, but in the end it had been simpler to just do it and close up early for the funeral. Max eyed Maria, knowing that out of them all, she was doing the worst. She had lost two sets of people that had raised her and both of her best friends had shut her out.

“How are you?” He turned in the chair to get a good look at her. “You look like hell, Maria. Have you eaten anything today?” Max turned to where Michael was frantically fixing plates behind the counter. “Michael? Has Maria eaten today?”

Michael snorted. “I tried earlier. See if you can do better. Apparently, she wants to pass out later today.”

“Maria, please eat something. What do you want? I’ll get you anything. How about pie? Your mom makes the best pie.” Max rose from his chair and Maria tried to stop him.

“Max, no. I can get it.”

“You’ve done enough. Let me do something for a change. I’ll take over some of the tables for a bit.” He’d been feeling useless, wanting something to do. Liz hadn’t spoken a word since they had defeated the Scaribe and she was still blocking their connection. And Max had never felt so bereft in his life. He was losing Liz and he didn’t know how to stop it.

For the first day, all she’d done was sleep. They had managed to force feed her a sandwich yesterday sometime but nothing since then. Now, she either sat outside on the balcony or she slept. Max knew she was avoiding reality, but he could hardly begrudge her that. Both of her parents were dead and it was his fault.

Maria studied Max, knew he felt guilty and she figured he would feel better if she let him do something. Sitting beside Liz twenty-four hours a day wasn’t healthy. “Okay. How about helping me drown my sorrows in ice cream?”

“Rocky road?” Max asked, remembering her preferences.

“May as well.” She considered staying in the restaurant, but she really wanted to see Liz. “Can you make that to go? I want to go spend some time with Liz.”

“Yeah. Why don’t you just go. I’ll bring it up in a minute,” Max suggested. “Maybe you can pick out something for her to wear to the funeral.”

Maria nodded. “Yeah. That’s a good idea.” She forced herself back on her aching feet. “Tess and Kyle should be here any minute. We’re not letting anyone else in. Just feed who we have and close up.”

“I’ll let them know.”

Maria turned, watching Max for a second. Cassie had stopped him by the freezer and Maria could only imagine that the younger girl was asking after Liz again. And the simple act of kindness brought on another wave of sadness. She had been on the verge of crying for three days now, but she knew if she gave in, the tears would never stop. As it was, she didn’t know how she was going to get through the Parker’s funeral today and the Whitman funeral tomorrow. And as great as the other adults had been about trying to help plan things, Maria had wanted to do most of the funeral plans herself. If Alex and Liz were too shaken up, it was a responsibility she proudly shouldered. As a surrogate daughter to all three parents, she felt as though she owed them that much.

Without a word, she trudged up the stairs to the apartment. Staying here had been the last thing Liz had been insistent on, before she had lapsed into her silence. But it had worked out. Alex had refused to stay in the same apartment building as Liz, claiming that she shouldn’t have to deal with him right now. And Maria’s heart had gone out to Alex even more. He had taken to blaming himself for the entire span of events, convinced Liz would too once she came to her senses. But with Liz staying above the Crashdown, Isabel had been able to convince Alex to stay in his apartment. Since then, Alex had pushed them away one by one, all but Isabel who had remained staunchly by his side. Even during Alex’s angry rants against the world, Isabel had refused to leave him alone. And Maria loved her for it.

As Maria walked through the living room to Liz’s old bedroom, she could hear Kyle’s voice rising and falling in conversation. She approached the window to the roof and paused to listen.

“-and Max is worried sick about you, Liz. I know it’s hard to care about any of that, but maybe if you could at least eat something, it would help. You’re going to make yourself sick this way and you’re already on the funny looking side with those big eyes and those scrawny chicken legs. I honestly don’t know what Max sees in you,” Kyle teased, hoping for any kind of reaction. When Liz continued to stare into the sky, he continued the conversation as if Liz were actively participating.

“So, you don’t want to lose even more weight from not eating.” Kyle paused, weary from the effort to get through. He’d tried putting himself in Liz’s shoes, imagining what he would feel like if it had been his father being buried today. And he knew he would be just like Liz, catatonic from shock and grief, and he was afraid of what would finally snap her out of it.

A scuffling sound caught his attention and he turned to see Maria standing at the window. She offered him a sheepish grin.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“No, it’s fine.” He scrubbed at his face, making sure none of the tears in his eyes had actually fallen. “They finally got you off your feet?”

Maria shrugged, stepping onto the rooftop and leaning against the low wall. “I don’t want to sit still. You know? I’m afraid I’ll start remembering little things and I’ll turn into a big pile of mush.”

Kyle nodded. “Yeah, I know what you mean. Are you getting dressed here or do you need a ride back to the apartments?”

“Here,” Maria informed him. “But I don’t’ want to until the last minute. It just feels…”

“Yeah.” Kyle’s suit hung in his car. The thought of wearing it one second longer than necessary made his throat thicken and swell. He knew it would feel like a straight jacket, but he would wear the damn thing. “It’s funny how things just change. You think you have all the time in the world, but you really just don’t know. I guess you just have to grab onto the good things in your life and never let go.”

“They told you?” Maria guessed. She’d seen the pensive look on his face when he’d entered earlier and she hadn’t been able to find any time in the last few days to talk to him.

Kyle managed a chuckle, thinking of his father. “Yeah. They didn’t want to. They thought it was inappropriate with everything going on. Amy was still glowing though.”

Maria smiled just thinking of the look on her mother’s face. “Did they tell you how it happened?”

“Leave it to them to be dramatic. The paramedics were checking Amy out and they drew her blood,” Kyle recounted with a shake of his head. “Can you believe they’re going to be parents again after all these years?”

“Mom said it was the best kind of surprise though. Jim already started buying teddy bears and I think she said something about a small baseball mitt. They’re getting married in a few months.”

“Eloping in Vegas I hear,” Kyle chuckled, glad he had Maria to laugh at the absurdity of the situation with.

“Ever been there?”

“Nope, but I have a feeling we’ll be making a trip pretty soon.” Kyle paused, looking out at the same spot that had held Liz captive for the last few days. What truths were out there on the horizon? “Life just continues on,” he surmised, thinking of his new brother or sister that would be coming into the world soon. He glanced at his future sister, a girl he’d already considered a member of his family for years. And he couldn’t have ended up with a better choice if he’d handpicked her himself. “Do you and Michael need a ride to the funeral later?”

Maria shook her head. “Michael may. But I think I’m going to ride with Max and Liz. Cassie was going to call and arrange for a car to pick her up in a few hours.”

“She already did.”

Kyle and Maria turned to see Max stepping out onto the balcony with a couple of to go boxes in his hands. He handed one to each of them. “Sorry, no ice cream. Michael made you a sandwich instead.” He shrugged. “I tried to fight for you, but he’s turned into a kitchen nazi today.”

Maria smiled. “He did just sort of take it over this morning. I think he’s been trying to get rid of everyone.”

Max moved to Liz and bent down to place a kiss on her forehead. “Hey, sweetheart. How are you doing?” He tried not to let the flash of disappointment surprise him when she remained motionless, but it always snuck in below his best defenses. In all their time together, they’d only known one short period of time when they hadn’t turned to each other for everything. And not being connected to her was slowly killing him. Knowing he wouldn’t get an answer from her, he turned to Kyle. “Any change?”

Kyle watched the exchange with a heavy heart. “Sorry, man. She’s just not here right now.”

Wanting to stop the conversation before she was forced to watch Max crumple before her eyes, Maria forced cheer into her voice. “So, I was going to come up here and help pick out something for Liz to wear today.”

“That’s a good idea,” Kyle agreed. Maria had been working herself into the ground and they were all just as worried about her as they were about Liz and Alex. Whatever brought a genuine smile to her face, they would all support.

“I’m not going.”

Three heads snapped around to where Liz was still sitting quietly on the lounge chair.

“Liz?” Max asked in awe, rushing to her side. He knelt on the cold concrete before her, searching her face for some sign that he hadn’t imagined her beautiful voice.

Slowly, mechanically, her muscles aching from the movement, Liz turned her head to meet Max’s eyes. And Max felt a shudder go through him when he saw how dull and lifeless her own eyes were.

“I’m not going,” she repeated.

“Where?” Max asked, not caring about anything other than the fact that she had at least broken her silence.

Liz closed her eyes, sorrow and grief marring her features. She couldn’t say it. Just thinking about them hurt more than anything physical she’d ever experienced.

“We’re just going to go downstairs,” Maria announced, grabbing hold of Kyle’s arm and dragging him toward the window.

Alone with Liz again, Max ran a hand down the length of Liz’s hair. “You scared me, honey. Don’t ever do that again.” Max pulled her into a hug, crushing her against his chest. And it was a minute before he realized she wasn’t responding. Slowly, he released her from his grip, framing her face with his hands. “Liz?”

“I can’t go,” she whispered. “I just can’t do it, Max. Please don’t make me.”

“Hey, no one’s going to make you do anything you don’t want to do. But let’s talk about this first.” Now that he knew what she was talking about, his heart ached for her. “Don’t you think you should go to the funeral? I don’t want you to regret not being there for the rest of your life.”

Liz opened her eyes, turned them to meet the spot on the horizon she had gazed at for days. “I know. I thought about that too. But I just can’t, not when I know the whole thing is my fault.”

“What? Liz, no. Nothing that happened is your fault! How can you say that?” He forced her to look at him, taken back by the anger burning in her eyes.

“Then whose fault is it? They shouldn’t have even been there! They should have been here, safe and sound. Instead, they went to that damned picnic and I had to listen to my father tell me he was ready to die. Do you have any idea how hard that was?” She broke off, choking on a sob. When Max tried to hug her, she rose from the chair, suddenly filled with restless energy.

“Liz-“

“I couldn’t heal him, Max. He wouldn’t let me heal him. And I listened! Why did I listen to him?”

“It’s not your fault,” Max repeated, his heart bleeding as he watched her pace.

“Then whose fault is it? Amy’s for helping plan it? Your mother’s for needing to be healed that day? Alex’s for not being strong enough to stop him?”

Max’s jaw tightened as he knew what she was thinking, what she had paused before saying aloud. “Mine for saving you?”

Liz stopped pacing and met Max’s eyes again. All of the anger drained out of her when she saw the hurt shining deep in his eyes. She had sliced through him with that last comment. And she would continue to hurt him until she found a way out of the madness in her brain. “I need someone to blame, but I don’t know who or why. It’s not fair they’re gone. It’s not fair that Alex is in just as much pain as I am, but I don’t care. He lost his father too, and every time I want to go see him, I can’t because I have this image in my head that I can’t make go away.”

“I understand, but-“

“How can you understand? Max, one minute, I was talking to them about our wedding and the next, they were dead. Every time I close my eyes, I see Alex killing them.”

“But it wasn’t him. It’s not your fault and it’s not Alex’s.” It took a herculean effort to stay on the other side of the roof, giving her space. But she was hugging herself tightly and he had never felt so inept in his life.

“I know that. But I can’t get past it. I’ve tried, but it’s this place. Everything reminds me of them, of Alex, of everything that happened. I need to get away for awhile.”

Max nodded. “Okay, where do you want to go? We can pack up the car and leave as soon as you want.”

Liz’s lower lip trembled. He didn’t get it. Of course he didn’t get it. She’d taken great pains to block their connection. She loved Max with everything she was. Her entire world involved him. But there were some things that had to be done alone. “No, Max. I need to get away.”

Max froze, understanding dawning. “You’re leaving me.” It was every fear, every nightmare he’d ever known rolled into one thought.

Liz saw the fear, the panic in his eyes and she moved across the roof until she was close enough to stroke his chest. “No. Never. Don’t you get it by now? No matter what happens, you are my future. But I need some time to sort out this mess in my head. I don’t want to blame Alex. I love him. And I don’t want to feel like there were a hundred things I could have done differently to save them. I need to make peace with it all.

She was begging him with her eyes, pleading for him to understand and he ran a hand through his hair, hating the idea of leaving her alone. But he knew he had no choice. If this was what it took to help her, then he would support her. Even if it meant suffering through a broken heart. “How long?” he choked out.

Liz let out a breath of relief. She couldn’t do this without his support. “A few days, maybe a week. I just need to think.”

Max pulled her into the circle of his arms, holding on to her as long as he could. “Promise me one thing. Promise me you’ll come back.”

“Of course I’ll come back.” She let her hand brush a lock of hair off his forehead. “Even if it’s just for you, I’ll be back.”

“You’re not going to the funeral, are you?”

Liz bit her lip. “I can’t. I know how weak it seems, but it’s too soon. Will you go for me?” Her lip quivered again. “You were their son, Max. They loved you too.”

“Of course I’ll go, to Alex’s fathers too.”

Liz nodded, clinging to the last scrap of her control. She couldn’t think about Charles’s death yet. It was too fresh, too raw. “I have to go now. I can’t tell the others. It’s-“

“I’ll take care of everything. Don’t worry about anything but you.” He was still clinging to her, wanting to touch her until the last possible second. But he knew that second had come. He released his grip on her, letting her slide out of his arms. “You’d better go now then. You can take my car. It’s parked across the street.” He pressed the keys into her hand, meeting her eyes one last time.

Liz closed the distance between them, pressing her lips against Max’s briefly as the first of the tears fell down her cheek. And for the briefest of seconds, she allowed their connection to open again, to allow him to see that she didn’t hold him responsible of anything

I love you, her mind whispered to him.

And with her whispered admission, she slipped from his arms and hurried down the fire escape. Max remained standing in the middle of the rooftop, listening to the roar of his engine as it came to life. Mechanically, he sunk down to the chair Liz had occupied these last few days. And though he believed her when she said she was coming back, he knew he would have no way of knowing how long that would take. But he would be waiting for her.



posted on 2-Apr-2002 12:11:38 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Learning to Live

Part 61

Max tried to relax his body as he held his hand high above the bronze bust on the coffee table. He’d been trying to change the molecular structure of the stupid thing for close to an hour now with no luck. He simply couldn’t concentrate.

“I knew that thing was rigged,” Maria proclaimed finally. She’d been watching him try to change it for fifteen minutes and she was afraid he would chuck it across the room in frustration soon.

Max sat back on the couch with a sigh. “I give up.”

Isabel presented Michael with her open palm. “I win. Pay up.”

Grumbling, Michael pulled a five dollar bill from his pocket and slapped it in her empty palm. “Thanks, Maxwell. I defended you, and this is what I get?”

“I told you he was too stressed to do it. Max, have we proved our point yet? Killing yourself isn’t going to bring Liz back any sooner,” Isabel informed him. “You can’t even do a simple trick you mastered at the age of nine.”

“It’s been two weeks, Is. Two weeks and not a word. I’m worried about her.” Max rested his head on the back of the couch, then turned his head towards Alex’s door. “He still won’t come out?”

Isabel shook her head sadly. “He blames himself for everything. And he barely lets me in anymore. I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried just sitting with him, and I’ve tried talking to him. Neither one works.”

Maria gave Isabel a sad smile. “Maybe he doesn’t need you to be soft on him anymore. You’re going to have to give him a swift kick and convince him that it wasn’t his fault. Liz won’t blame him. How could she?”

“Easy,” Alex answered from the doorway of his bedroom. “I saw it in her eyes. I felt it when we were on the dreamplane. She doesn’t like it, but she blames me. And she always will. It’s why she left.”

Alex’s eyes were boring a hole into Max’s head and Max was forced to look away. Liz had told him as much already. But Alex had never said he had known it with such certainty.

Isabel rose from the couch, happy to at least see Alex up and moving. It was more than she’d seen him do in weeks now.

“Alex! You’re wrong. Liz will figure it out in her head and come back here to tell you you’re wrong.”

Alex tried to swallow the lump in his throat that formed whenever he thought of Liz. “I wish I could believe that, but I can’t. I’m going for a walk.”

Isabel watched him make long strides towards the door. It was a second before she snapped out of her daze long enough to start after him. “Alex, wait.”

“Alex!” Kyle greeted his roommate with a grin, surprised to see him out as he walked in the door.

Alex brushed past him without a word. “Was it something I said?”

Isabel pushed past Kyle and Tess, racing after Alex. He was moving fast, but she could be quicker. Nevertheless, it took her three blocks before she caught up with him in the park.

“Alex, talk to me!”

“About what, Isabel?” Alex stopped in his tracks and spun so fast, he almost knocked her down. “They’re gone. Dead.”

“How can you still blame yourself for that? How were you supposed to go against something like him? Michael couldn’t, he shared a brain with that thing for weeks. It used my powers to do the evil things it did. Your father couldn’t even resist him. How were you supposed to?”

“It’s different.” Isabel’s tone was harsher, more angry than he’d seen her in years. For the last two weeks, she’d been content to let him be, and all of a sudden she was in his face and trying to force him to move on. And he didn’t like it.

Isabel shook her head, remembering Maria’s advice to be firm. “It’s not. You can’t keep doing this to yourself, and to the people around you. What do you think you’re doing to Maria? She’s lost both you and Liz and nothing we say helps any. Because we’re not you and Liz. You three are the best of friends, nothing has ever changed that. And she needs you to snap out of this. Liz will too when she comes back. She’ll need you to be strong for her, and how are you supposed to do that if you can’t even come out of your room and face the world?”

“Isabel, I don’t want to do this with you.”

“Tough. We’ve done it your way and now we’re doing it mine.” Relenting, Isabel relaxed just a notch. “I won’t let you do this to yourself, Alex. I love you too much,” she whispered, acutely aware that she hadn’t spoken the words aloud since their first and only time together.

Alex closed his eyes, letting her words wash over him, a balm to his aching soul. His shoulders sagged. He was tired, so tired of fighting with himself. Tired of pushing Isabel away instead of pulling her close. He was tired of being alone. Shifting his body back toward Isabel, Alex struggled to find the words to say to her. Surely, there had to be something he could say to erase the fatigue in her eyes.

“Alex?”

Alex turned when he heard his name and he came face to face with a ghost from his past. “Breanna?”

Breanna closed the distance between them and she offered Alex a comforting smile. “I was coming to see you. I just found out about your father, and I wanted to see if you were okay.”

Alex wanted to feel anger. He wanted to feel rage, anything for the girl standing before him that had once been his whole world. She had brought him to his knees when she’d left, hurting him more than he ever cared to be hurt again. But as he stood facing her for the first time since she had spewed the hateful words, he found that he felt nothing. Perhaps a few weeks ago, there would have been some form of memory that would have popped up of their last encounter and the hurtful words she had thrown at him.

Isabel shifted next to Alex, drawing closer to him in a defensive stance as anger coursed through her. Who the hell did this chick think she was? She’d destroyed Alex in the worst way possible then had the nerve to show up? “Breanna-“

“I’m doing as well as can be expected, Breanna. Thank you.” Alex knew Isabel was dying to get her hands on Breanna and probably blast her into oblivion. But it wouldn’t do any good. Alex hadn’t realized it until that very moment, but he hadn’t thought of Breanna in weeks. He had finally moved on and he hadn’t realized it. But Isabel didn’t know that. He had seen her nightmares and knew that this confrontation was one of her biggest fears. Isabel, who he had loved in one way or another his whole life, who had taken care of him day and night for two weeks, who was the strongest person he had ever known, was afraid that he wouldn’t choose her.

Slowly, second by second, Alex felt himself coming back to life again. Shutting out Isabel and his friends hadn’t done anyone any good. Isabel had been right. Maria had lost a lot too, and he had shut her out when they had needed each other. He hadn’t allowed Isabel to grieve for a man that had always been a second father, a man that had hurt her by seeing her as a monster in the last few months of his life. He had let her down worst of all. And it stopped today.

“I’m sorry I didn’t make it to the funeral, but I just moved back to town a few days ago.” She faltered, not knowing if she should share her news. “Doug and I broke up,” she confessed. “And I was thinking that maybe if you weren’t busy, we could get a cup of coffee and catch up. I’ve missed you.”

Isabel’s heart hammered wildly in her throat. This had been the moment she had dreaded. It had only been a matter of time before Breanna came back for Alex. And Alex would forgive her for everything she had put him through. It was who he was.

“I’ll let you two catch up,” Isabel decided, lowering her eyes. Before she could move, Alex’s fingers threaded and twined with hers. Optimistic, she looked up and found something she hadn’t dared hope for. Raw, undisguised love burned in his eyes. And it was all for her.

Alex smiled at her in reassurance, then turned back to Breanna. The exchange hadn’t gone unnoticed by the other girl who was frowning at the sight of their joined hands.

“Breanna, I-“

“Maybe we can get together some other time,” she suggested with a pointed look at Isabel, the only competition she had ever known.

“Breanna, I’m sorry. A lot has changed since you left. Isabel and I - I’m in love with her,” he confessed.

Isabel felt as though her heart would burst with pleasure in that moment. Alex was clinging to her hand, squeezing it as though his life depended on it. He had chosen her. He really wanted to be with her.

Breanna nodded, lowering her head. “I see. You know, I always knew there was something between you two. Not that I thought you were together behind my back. You were too good to do something like that. But maybe it was a spark.” She offered them both a smile. “I should go.”

Alex considered her words. Had he been unfair to Breanna when they’d dated? He’d been half in love with Isabel his whole life. Had Breanna always felt inferior? “Breanna, wait.” Alex glanced at Isabel to assure her nothing had changed between them, then he released her hand to take a step toward Breanna.

“I’m sorry things didn’t work out for you and Doug. If you need a friend, you can call me.”

Breanna sniffled and let out a shaky laugh. “How can you be so nice tome after everything I said to you? I was horrible. Alex, I owe you an apology. I didn’t really mean the things I said. You’re none of the things I accused you of being. But I think you already figured it out. I’m happy for you, Alex. But I really should go.”

Alex nodded and watched her go. He was sad for her as a friend, but in the end, she had done him more good than harm.

“Are you okay?”

Alex nodded, not sure if she was talking about Breanna or in general. But he realized for the first time in two weeks that he hadn’t felt as though the world were pressing in on him. And it felt like maybe things were going to be okay.

“Not yet. But I think I might be with your help. Is it too late?”

Isabel sighed as tears blurred her vision. In his eyes, she could see a hint of the old Alex struggling to come back to life. And she smiled. “How about we get some coffee and talk?”

“Can I have the complimentary relationship to go with it?” Alex quipped, trying out the old sensation of humor. It wasn’t as painful as he’d thought it would be.

Isabel linked her arm through Alex’s and led him down the street. “I think ‘love affair’ sounds more romantic. Don’t you?”

*~*~

“Max, you’ve been scrubbing at that spot for ten minutes now, man. Either leave it be or blast it away,” Michael scolded him. He’d been watching Max scrub at a juice stain on the kitchen counter, waves of frustration coming off of him that had nothing to do with a stubborn stain.

“No,” Max snapped. “I’m not using my powers to get rid of this problem. I can fix it without them.” Every time he had reached for his powers, it had been a reminder to him of what his being different had cost them.

“She’ll come back. Maria’s right.”

Max slumped against the counter. “Michael, can we not-“

“She’s already back.”

Max turned, his eyes wide with wonder. And his heart leapt to see Liz standing in the doorway with a small overnight bag at her feet. Acting on a deeply imbedded instinct to touch her, Max crossed the distance between them and had her in his arms in an instant. Needing to taste her, he crushed his lips to hers, desperate for any contact with her after so long.

Liz returned his desperate kiss with one of her own. It had been years since they’d been separated for so lengthy a time and it had left her aching for him. Dimly, she heard Michael calling for Maria, but Liz was caught up in the fireworks exploding in her brain from Max’s kiss. She tangled her fingers in his hair, pulling him ever closer. But it still wasn’t enough. Needing everything from him, she allowed the barrier she had placed between their connection to be lifted and the strength of Max’s love took her breath away.

Too long, he sobbed as their souls brushed together for the first time in weeks. Don’t ever leave me again.

Never, she promised.

“Michael, I don’t understand what all the – Liz?” Maria was still in the process of pulling her arm from Michael’s grip when she saw her friend before her. Max was wrapped around her, looking as if he would pull Liz inside of himself if he could find a way. But just because they were in the midst of a reunion didn’t mean she was going to wait for hers. They could be content to do that for hours yet.

Elbowing Max out of the way, Maria forced them to break their kiss so she could pull Liz into a hug of her own. “You have no idea how good it is to see you,” Maria cried as she crushed her friend to her chest.

Liz heard the hint of hysteria in Maria’s voice and it sliced through her. “I’m so sorry, Maria. This was so hard on everyone and I wasn’t here. Thank you for taking care of them like I know you did.”

“Knock that off before I start crying again.” Maria released her grip on Liz but kept her at arms length. “How are you really?”

Liz turned and met Max’s worried gaze. She knew he had wanted to ask the question himself, but had held back. Their connection was still holding strong, and she allowed him to see inside to the progress she’d made over the last few weeks. “I’m better now,” she supplied for Maria and Michael’s sake. “Where is everyone else?”

“Tess and Kyle are out getting lunch and Isabel and Alex left a few hours ago.” Maria tried to decide if she should tell Liz about the state Alex had been in after she left. Deciding it might do more harm not to tell her, Maria began. “Liz, he’s been…“

Liz nodded, sure she understood what Maria was telling her. And the butterflies in her stomach began flapping their lead wings. Alex was the final hurdle she had yet to cross. “I need to talk to him,” she agreed. Not talking it out would only cause a suffocating tension.

Maria nodded in agreement, though she wasn’t sure if that were going to be for the best. Had Liz found a way past the guilt and blame she had run from? “Do you and Max need some time alone? What am I saying? Of course you do. We’ll just leave.”

“No, wait. You don’t have to go.” Liz returned to her place at Max’s side. She already felt more settled just being in his presence. And she could feel his own self doubts dissolving as their connection continued to strengthen between them. “I was really screwed up when I left and I was afraid I was going to start blaming the wrong people for what happened. That’s why I left.”

Liz scrunched her forehead as she reached for a painful memory. “Before Dad died, he told me to be happy wherever it took me. And the only place I’ve ever been happy is here in this town, in this building, in Max’s arms.” Liz met Max’s eyes, soft and filled with love and it gave her the rest of the strength she needed. “I want to marry you just like we planned. I want the family we’ve dreamed about. Not now, when it’s safe like we agreed,” she added when she felt the doubt flicker through their connection. She hadn’t forgotten his fear of creating a child that was destined to be a part of some vague prophecy on another planet. I want to spend my life with you.

If you’re sure…

I’ve never been more sure of anything. I love you.

Then we still have a date to keep.

Liz smiled when Max began projecting images of what he had always imagined their wedding would be like. “Max and I are getting married next week. But I can’t do it alone. I’m going to need help.”

Max’s heart continued to swell when he felt how incredibly sure she was about marrying him. He’d never known anything like it and her love filled him until he thought he would burst from pleasure. “I’ll marry you any day, any time. We can do it on the roof right now if that’s what you want.”

Liz laughed softly. “I was thinking of something a bit more traditional, but how about we call that plan B?”

With happy tears streaming down her face, Maria pressed a hand to her heart. It was good to hear laughter again. “You know I’ll do whatever I have to do to put this thing together, and I know I’m not the only one.”

“I guess that means I’ve been recruited,” Michael conceded, but with a grin. “Just don’t ask me to bake. We’ll all be better off that way.”

The front door opened and Isabel and Alex froze in the doorway when they saw Liz. Isabel had the ridiculous urge to grab Alex and run. After all the time they’d spent that morning together, all the progress they’d made, they were standing in front of the one person that could undo it all with a single harsh word. Liz Parker could break Alex if she wanted to, and Isabel had never felt more helpless.

Knowing it was time to face the music, Alex stepped past Isabel and toward his lifelong friend. “Liz,” he greeted her with a small nod. He shoved his hands in his pockets, half afraid he would drop to his knees and beg her forgiveness right then and there.

Liz bit her lower lip, steeling her courage. “Alex, can we talk in the other room?”

Alex nodded and followed her away from the group and into Liz’s bedroom. They both remained standing long after the door had clicked shut behind them. Neither knew where to begin or if the chasm that stood between them was too large to bridge.

Finally raising her eyes from the carpet, Liz faced her friend. She’d told herself that this moment would be the ultimate test. If she could look him in the eyes and see Alex instead of the murderer, they would be fine. “Alex?” she asked softly when he wouldn’t meet her eyes.

Feeling his heart beating wildly in his chest, Alex raised his gaze until he could hold it steady on her face. Unexpectedly, her face softened and her eyes filled with tears. And he could hold her gaze no more.

“Liz, look, I know you probably didn’t expect me to be here when you came home. So, I’ll just get out of here and let you get settled in.” He was panicked now. For the last ten days, he’d told himself that he would bow gracefully out of her life if he needed to. But now, faced with losing one of his dearest friends, he found himself stalling for time.

“Alex, wait,” she called out to him. “There’s something I need to tell you. It’s something I should have told you before I left, but I couldn’t.”

She was pleading with him to understand, but he had no idea what she was trying to tell him. But he found himself nodding nonetheless. “Whatever you want to tell me is fine.” He was braced for an attack. He deserved one. The sooner they got it out of the way, the better.

Liz nodded, chewing her bottom lip nervously again. She was surprised it wasn’t raw and bleeding yet, but it was the least of her concerns. “It’s about your father.”

Alex closed his eyes as guilt automatically flooded through him. “What about him?” This wasn’t what he expected, but in some ways it was a hundred times worse. “Liz, you know I’ll do anything you want. I owe you that much. But can we please not talk about him?”

Liz studied Alex carefully. “You’re angry with him.” It had never even occurred to her until that moment. And she wondered if even Isabel had discovered that yet.

Alex felt a floodgate open wide within him and anger gushed out. “So what if I am? He led that thing right to us. He was that afraid, that disgusted by what he’d found out, that he couldn’t even see that Isabel was the same person she always was. Knowing that he saw her differently killed her.”

“Is that what you think? Alex, no. God, I wish I’d been strong enough to show you this before I left.” With a sigh, Liz took a hesitant step towards Alex. “Alex, your father was confused. When the Scaribe was in Michael’s mind, he took advantage of the situation to find the weaknesses in our group. Our parents were his best way in. He went to your father and he…seduced him, used the promise he made to your mother against him.”

Alex shook his head in confusion. “I don’t understand.”

“The Scaribe knew about your father’s promise to keep you safe. He probably found it out when Maria helped free Michael and they formed a connection. The Scaribe toyed with your dad, whispered in his ear all sorts of things about what Isabel and the others would do to you unless he stopped them. And when your father was frantic with worry, he was tricked into letting the Scaribe take him over.”

“Liz, I can’t believe that. I wish I could, but-“

“I saw it all when I challenged the Scaribe and connected with him. I can show you if you want. Will you let me?”

Unable to deny her anything, Alex found himself nodding. There was a part of him that still hoped that things could be fixed. Liz was talking to him, not throwing blame and accusations. And he would listen to her as long as she talked to him.

Liz moved to stand in front of Alex and reached out her hands, palms up. Without hesitation, Alex covered her small hands and the flashes began immediately.

Alex could feel the extent of Liz’s control over the alien powers as she tried to block some of the more gruesome images. But Alex still saw the lives and deaths of the earlier victims. He saw into Liz’s mind as she had whispered goodbye to her parents before charging recklessly into battle. He saw her pain and loneliness over the last ten days and her relief a few minutes ago when she could look at him and see only her friend in pain. And he saw flashes of his father’s life, dating and marrying his mother, his grief after her death and his pain when he was torn trying to keep her deathbed promise.

Liz broke the connection when there was no more left to show him and she waited as he processed the new information.

Shocked and on the verge of tears, Alex tried to cling to the emotions Liz had shown him. Looking around the room helplessly, he stumbled backward, catching hold of the nearby dresser to stop his fall. “He was ready to accept her,” he whispered reverently. “He knew I loved Isabel and he was ready to accept her when the Scaribe came.” He had seen it all. After his conversation with Amy Deluca, he had begun to see things in a different light. And the relief was so sudden, he wanted to sink to his knees.

Liz nodded as a tear slipped down her own cheek for the man she had loved. “He wanted you to be happy, and he knew that only Isabel would do that.”

“How do you not hate me?” Alex asked sharply as his brain continued to process all that he had seen. “I don’t understand. You should after everything that happened,” Alex insisted. There hadn’t been a trace of ill will in the connection and he wanted to sob in relief. Hell, he just wanted to sob.

Liz had known Alex wouldn’t believe that she had found a way to separate him from the murders. Meeting his eyes had been a final test for her as well. “Alex, I’ve already lost more members of my family that I can bear. You are my oldest friend in the world and I love you. I can’t lose you too.” A sob escaped her throat when she thought about how much she had lost in that single moment.

Alex took a step closer to her, wanting to dry her tears as he’d done a thousand times before. But never before had he been the source of her tears. “Can you forgive me then? Is there a way I can ever make things right between us?” He sniffled, not ashamed of his open tears. Liz probably couldn’t see them through her own anyway.

Liz laughed. “Alex, I’m telling you there’s nothing to forgive. We both lost too much. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to let go of my own guilt just like I know you probably can’t either. But maybe if we try together…I need you, Alex. I need you to help me.”

Unable to resist her heart-wrenching sobs, Alex pulled her into his arms and crushed her body against his chest. Liz settled her head on his shoulder and clung to him tightly as the sobs wracked her frame.

“I’m sorry, Liz. I’ll do anything you want,” he promised, stroking her hair. “We’ll get through this together. I promise.”

The door behind them was flung open to reveal a visibly upset Maria. “Now, listen up both of you. There’s not going to be any blame or guilt or anything but love. There’s been enough – are you two hugging?”

Liz laughed and stretched out an arm for Maria to join them. “It’s okay, Maria. Everything’s going to be okay.”

“Thank god!” Maria rushed forward to join their circle and they ended up in a heap on the floor from the force of her embrace.

And as their giggles mixed with tears, Liz could feel Max’s presence in her mind, his love and reassurance filling her. And for the first time in weeks, Liz felt like she had finally gotten something right. She had come home to the people that she loved.




posted on 4-Apr-2002 10:51:25 AM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Learning to Live
Part 62

“And when Max and I wouldn’t stop communicating with our minds instead of out loud, Isabel got so frustrated she left. She came back a little while later of course and we apologized. But neither of us want the elaborate decorations she has planned. I think we got her to tone it down at least, but she is Isabel so there’s no telling what it’ll look like. She agreed to cancel the ice sculptures, but I think she’s going to slip one in anyway. She once told me that it wasn’t a wedding reception without an ice sculpture.” Liz paused, sitting back in the fresh earth as she continued burying the small wildflowers in the dirt around her parent’s tombstones.

“Need some help with that?”

Liz turned and smiled at Alex, who was standing a discrete distance away. For the first time since their parent’s deaths, Alex and Liz had come to the cemetery. Max and Isabel had wanted to come, but in the end they had understood and let them go alone. Together, they had found the strength to say goodbye and after visiting Charles’ grave and planting flowers, they had moved to the Parkers’ final resting place. Alex had dismissed himself for a few minutes to give Liz some privacy just as she had done when they had been standing before Charles’s grave.

“I’d love some help,” Liz declared, looking up at her friend with a small smile.

Alex knelt in the dirt beside her and helped dig the neat holes she insisted on. “Did you fill them in on the wedding plans?”

Liz nodded. “Yeah, complete with Isabel’s irritation with Max and I, and the horrified expression on Maria’s face when they delivered the wrong bridesmaid dresses and she thought I had switched them. I think they would have enjoyed seeing that.”

Alex worked in silence, wrestling with whether or not to share what had been weighing heavily on his mind. “I had a dream last night. Dad came to say goodbye. He apologized for not realizing that Isabel was still Isabel no matter what. Then Mom showed up and told me how proud of me she was. They said they loved Isabel and I shouldn’t wait too long to propose to her.” Alex laughed, then sniffled, wiping at a stray tear on his cheek. “Matchmaking at it’s finest. But I don’t know if it was real like the dreams you and Maria had or just my subconscious trying to fix things.”

“Which do you think it is?” Liz had stopped planting flowers, watching Alex instead.

Alex scrubbed at another tear with the back of his hand, smudging dirt along his cheekbone. “It doesn’t matter because I know in my heart that Dad loved her and I know Mom would have too. She’s my future, Liz. I get you and Max now. I finally understand why you did everything you did in high school. And I’m sorry for all the times I made fun of you behind your back with Maria.”

Liz frowned at him. “Thanks…I think.”

Alex grinned at her as he planted another flower. “I’ve been thinking about it ever since you showed me Mom and Dad’s life together. I was really too young to remember how they were together. But seeing through his eyes how much he loved her, it made sense why he wouldn’t let Isabel set him up on any dates. He’d already found his dream woman. And he knew there wasn’t anyone else out there for him. And I respect that. I only wish I’d known it before it was too late. I would have loved to have had the chance to sit and talk to him about it. I feel the same way with Isabel. If I lost her, that would be it for me. I’d survive, but I wouldn’t have a heart to give away again.”

Liz nodded, knowing exactly what he was talking about. If she lost Max, her heart would simply be carved out of her chest and there was no other person on any planet that would be able to fill that void. “Your dad was a smart man. But I guess all the Whitman men are like that. Smart and loyal.”

“Like a Collie,” Alex agreed with a chuckle. Wanting to change the subject, he nudged her in the ribs. “So, are you nervous about tomorrow yet?”

Liz shrugged. “Not really. It just feels right. Tomorrow is just the legal way of joining us together. We chose each other a long time ago.” She resumed planting, choosing her next words carefully. “By the way, I have something I’ve wanted to ask you…a favor.”

“Name it and it’s yours.”

“I want you to give me away tomorrow.”

Alex closed his eyes when the tears unexpectedly sprung up. “Liz, I’m not so sure that’s the best idea. Why not Kyle’s dad? He’d be more than happy to do it. Or Max’s dad. Anyone but me.”

“Because aside from Max, you’re the most important man in my life. You were the first friend I made-“

“Maria came along like three minutes after I introduced myself,” he reminded her.

“But I’ve still known you three minutes longer and Maria is a girl,” she argued with a smile. “Please, Alex. This would mean the world to me.”

“Don’t give me the puppy dog eyes. You know I can’t resist them…okay, fine. I’ll do it. Just cut it out and put those things away.” He scowled at her when she grinned in triumph. “Has anyone warned Max about those things yet? You shouldn’t be allowed to use them.”

Liz planted the last flower and started gathering her tools. “He knows all about it, but he’s powerless against it. Speaking of Max, he’s probably waiting for me at the Crashdown. We should go.”

Alex helped her stand and took her bag as she brushed herself off. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure Isabel is there too. Are you done here or do you need another minute to say goodbye?”

Liz glanced back at the twin graves, now covered with brightly colored flowers. Then she met Alex’s eyes, still colored with guilt and pain, but less with each passing day, and she smiled at him. “I’m ready if you are.”

Alex held out a hand to her and she gladly linked fingers with him. Together, they left the cemetery, leaving the ghosts of their past behind them.

*~*~

“No, no, no, no, no!” Isabel yelled into her cell phone as she rifled through a stack of papers in front of her. “The gazebo needs to be delivered and set up this afternoon and I specifically ordered the white wood with the pink roses…no, that’s not what you sent me! It’s a brown wood with no flowers! No, tomorrow won’t be good enough. I need it today.”

“Man, am I ever glad she took over the vendors from us,” Maria announced from behind the counter. Beside her, Cassie wiped down the counter with wide eyes as they watched Isabel deal with the man on the other end of the phone.

“Me too,” she agreed.

“I don’t understand what all the fuss is about,” Michael supplied. “I mean, it’s just a wedding.”

Maria rolled her eyes, thinking as she always did of Future Max’s words to her three years ago.

So, Max, tell me about the future

The day Liz and I eloped, you five were the only ones we called. We partied till dawn. Later, you told Liz that while Liz and I were dancing our last dance, Michael looked at you and told you he wanted that with you.

He said that?

Actually, he said it wouldn’t be so bad to be hitched someday and he’d agree to marry you if you wouldn’t nag him about it.

That sounds more like him. So, did I?

Did you what?

Nag him.

Everyday until the day he married you. And when you came down the church aisle, Michael thought you were taking too long. So, he stalked down the aisle, picked you up in his arms and carried you up to the altar. I don’t think he let go of your hand all night.


That had been the future Liz had changed, the future that had haunted her until her capture by Nicholas when Max had finally learned the truth. So, Maria figured that if Max and Liz’s future had changed, so had hers and Michael’s. But the soft part of her heart wanted to believe that there would come a day when Michael would look at her with love shining in his eyes and ask her to spend his life with her. It didn’t have to be a sweeping romantic gesture, just a promise. And she hadn’t quite given up that hope yet.

“You’re just the calm type, I suppose,” Maria answered, though she could still hear Future Max’s words in her head. She loved Michael, she really did. But sometimes he could be the most unromantic person on the planet. “However, Max over there looks as if he’s ready to have a heart attack if anyone sneaks up on him.” Giving up on any pretense of work, Maria propped her elbows on the counter and openly stared at Max as he nervously read through the same papers over and over again. “What is he doing anyway?”

Michael snorted. “He’s reading over the program for the ceremony tomorrow. He said something about wanting to make sure he didn’t screw up.” Michael shrugged. “I don’t get it. How can you screw up your own wedding. As long as he shows up, it’s pretty much downhill from there.” He caught Maria’s incredulous look and he scowled.

Maria smiled at him and planted a kiss on his cheek that she knew would only confuse him more. The truth was, she saw through his facade. She knew Michael was just as nervous about tomorrow as Max was, and Maria thought it was adorable. Just this morning, he’d had a near panic attack when he couldn’t find the rings. And though he was playing it cool now, she’d caught him smoothing down the lines of the tuxedos that had been delivered early that morning.

“Liz is here,” Maria announced, ignoring the look of bewilderment on Michael’s face. “Maybe she can talk some sense into him.”

As Liz and Alex walked though the doors, arm in arm, it warmed Maria’s heart. She wasn’t naïve enough to believe that everything was okay now, but they were a far cry better than the state things had been in a few weeks ago. She knew her two friends still blamed themselves for what had happened and she wasn’t sure how much of that would fade with the passage of time. But at least they didn’t blame each other. And it was a start.

The bleak world Alex’s mother had warned them of would never have a chance to happen. Maria had thought about it and had talked it out with Isabel and they had come to the conclusion that she had been trying to warn them about the deaths. Alex’s mother had known that Liz would have the power to split apart their group if she hadn’t been able to push past the blame she had come close to inappropriately doling out. While she had warned Isabel that the future wasn’t to be changed, she had given them enough warning to prepare as a group to survive the test laid before them. And they had come out on the other side, stronger than ever before.

Alex and Liz split apart, seeing their significant others. Alex took notice of the way Isabel continued to yell into her cell phone and wisely decided to head for the counter.

“Isabel’s still talking to the rental guy?” Alex asked Cassie as he took a seat at the counter in front of her.

Cassie nodded shyly and turned to pour his usual orange soda before he had the chance to order it.

“I feel bad for the poor guy. She’s been up and yelling at him since dawn. Thanks, Cassie.” He nodded at her as she slid the drink in front of him.

Maria caught the young waitress’s blush at being addressed directly and Maria shook her head at how oblivious Alex was to the school girl crush. But instead of embarrassing anyone, she turned soft eyes on Alex. “Did you guys have a good visit?”

Alex nodded at Maria, absently raising a hand to rub the spot of skin on his neck just behind his ear. “Yeah, we did. Thanks for asking.”

Maria watched the movement and tried not to frown. She knew that Alex bore the mark of the Scaribe after having been possessed by him. Isabel had confided as much in her. And Maria knew that to Alex, it would forever be a reminder of the horrific events of that day in the park. But she knew how touchy he was on the subject, so she said nothing, offering him a smile instead. “So, things are looking normal again. Isabel is yelling. Max and Liz are all googly eyed in a booth. Micheal is doing nothing, as usual, while Cassie and I run the place.”

“Hey,” Michael protested. “I worked all morning with your mother delivering little green alien dolls and listening to her go on and on about being pregnant and all the cute things Jim is doing for her. If that doesn’t warrant time off this afternoon, I don’t know what does.”

“You get no sympathy from me. You didn’t walk in on them making out on the couch.” Maria grimaced. “And Kyle said something about being scarred for life after walking in on them having sex in the kitchen last week.” Maria watched as Liz kissed Max before heading in their direction.

“Hey, guys, what’s up?” She slid behind the counter and began pouring Max a cherry coke.

“Is he okay?” Maria asked, nodding toward Max.

“Nervous,” Liz announced with a smile. “You should hear some of the things he’s been think-saying,” Liz finished, remembering that Cassie was there too. “Some of the things he’s been saying have been pretty funny. He woke up at three in the morning because he’d had a nightmare where he’d forgotten to put his pants on. It took forever to convince him to come back to bed.”

“But I’ll bet you managed it somehow.” Maria grinned at Liz when her friend blushed.

Cassie beamed at Liz. “So, are you excited about tomorrow? It’s so close.”

Liz smiled at the young girl. Cassie reminded her so much of herself a few years ago. She was filled with hopeful enthusiasm and Liz enjoyed having her around. She’d already decided to keep the Crashdown open and just hire someone to oversee the day to day management. But in going through her father’s papers, she’d found that he had grudgingly decided to let Cassie go. But that was one final request that Liz couldn’t abide by. Sure, Cassie might break more glasses than she served, and she had yet to go an hour without completely mixing up the table orders, but Liz’s instinct told her to keep the girl around. And Liz always trusted her instinct.

“After all this time, she’s finally going to be Mrs. Max Evans.” Maria wrapped her arms around Liz’s shoulders. “Which is a far better name to have to live with than Mrs. Michael Guerin,” Maria decided.

“You do remember that I’m sitting right here, right?” Michael asked incredulously. “And who said I was marrying you anyway?” he teased with a half smile. “You’re stubborn and crazy.”

“Oh, you’ll be begging to marry me someday, Guerin,” she promised. “And I’m going to remind you of this conversation.” She swatted him with the dishtowel in her hands.

Liz chuckled. “You know, when I was ten, I wanted to change my name,” Liz remembered. “I decided that Liz Parker was such a bland name, I needed something more exotic.”

“That’s right!” Maria exclaimed. “I was going to change mine to Tiffany and you were going to be Janet.”

Michael snorted in laughter. “That has to be the funniest damn thing I’ve ever heard. Why would you want to change your name anyway? Why bother?”

“I was going to change my name too,” Cassie announced, wanting to stick up for her two friends.

Maria gave Michael a knowing look. “See? Cassie was going to do it too. What were you going to change your name to?”

Feeling shy again now that everyone was watching her, Cassie averted her gaze. “Well, everyone used to call me Cassandra, which I hated, so I was going to take my grandmother’s name a few years ago. Serena Taylor just seemed like a better name. But in the end, I decided to just go with Cassie.”

Liz and Maria exchanged a shocked glance, all humor dying from their faces.

“You…were going to change your name to Serena?” Liz asked carefully.

Cassie flushed, but nodded. “Yeah. Dumb, isn’t it?”

Maria found herself laughing uncontrollably until it was hard to breathe. Then she saw the crestfallen look on Cassie’s face and she back-peddled. “No! Oh, Cassie, I’m not laughing at you. It’s just that Liz and I know…knew…someone with that name. She’s kind of a long distance friend,” Maria decided, sliding a glance at Liz.

“I like Cassie better anyway,” Alex said with a smile. He was sure he should be getting the joke, but it wasn’t ringing any bells. He would have to make sure to get the details later.

“I like it too,” Liz decided with a smile. It was funny how things turned out sometimes. She hadn’t thought about the name Serena in years, had truthfully stopped wondering if she would ever meet the girl that supposedly had played such a key role in their future. But here she was standing face to face with someone she felt like she already knew. “But it’s still no Liz Evans,” she teased.

Michael rolled his eyes. “I’ve had about all the girl talk I can take. Since I know I’ll have a nervous Max to deal with all night, I’m going home to sleep now.” He rose from the stool and nodded at Liz and Maria. “Janet. Tiffany. I’ll see you two pop stars in the morning. And please don’t be late. I’d hate to have to explain it to Max. I doubt his heart can take it.”

Maria wrinkled her nose at him, but leaned over the counter to give him a kiss. “Be good, Spaceboy. No liquor, please.”

“But what will we offer the strippers to drink then?” Alex quipped, but discovered that none of the girls were laughing. “What? I can get away with it. Mine is on the phone.”

“C’mon, Whitman. We should get out of here before you get lynched.” Michael clasped a hand on Alex’s shoulder.

“Good night, ladies. Liz, I’ll see you bright and early in the morning. I’ll be the handsome guy in the charcoal tux waiting to deliver you to your destiny.”

Liz’s heart fluttered just thinking about it, and she smiled at her friend. “Thank you, Alex. For everything.”

He nodded. “What are friends for?” It still amazed him to know that Liz didn’t hold him responsible for anything that had happened. Yet, he was still faced with the knowledge every time Liz smiled at him. There were still shadows in her eyes, but finalizing her wedding plans with Max had put a bit of the old sparkle in her eyes. He had no doubt that his friend would be a beautiful bride, and she would take Max’s breath away. “Until tomorrow,” he promised with a wink. He had no doubt that the rising sun would bring magic with it. How could it not?








[ edited 1 time(s), last at 5-Apr-2002 2:32:44 PM ]
posted on 5-Apr-2002 2:29:56 PM
Learning to Live
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L with some development of other couples, M/M, I/A
Rating: PG 13 to NC 17, but you will be warned before those post
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place three years after my story Do What You Have To Do, it’s a sequel of sorts. If you haven’t read that one, I recommend it or you’ll spend your time scratching your head a lot. It’s posted at the beginning of this thread, so get out of here and go read it first. To everyone that read that one and loved it, here’s your second story. A third one is in the works as well, so there’s still plenty of story left to tell. Here we go again…

Learning to Live
Part 63

“And you’re sure everything’s ready?” Max asked as he paced, his long legs eating up the room.

“I’m positive. Isabel’s out there in full Nazi mode. I think I even saw her helping the minister pick out a robe to match the color scheme.” Michael leaned casually on the couch in the small waiting room of the church. Max had been like this since he had woken up before dawn that morning, and their long standing friendship was the only thing keeping Michael from strangling him in frustration.

“And everyone’s here, right? No one’s stuck in a traffic jam or were in a car accident on the way over?”

“Maxwell, you have got to calm down. What’s your deal?”

Max raised a hand to run his fingers through his hair, then thought better of it and let his hand fall back to his side. “I can’t hear her, Michael.”

“You can’t – oh. You mean your connection? Why is she blocking you?”

“I don’t know. She said something about tradition. But it’s been so long.”

“Max, I have good – what have you done to yourself?” Isabel rushed forward into the room, tugging at Max’s tuxedo jacket and smoothing out wrinkles only she could see. She could tell by the look on Max’s face that he wasn’t in any better shape now than he had been when she’d left him a half-hour ago. “What’s with the long faces?”

“Max is going through withdrawal. I always said Liz was an addiction to him. Now we know it’s true.”

Both Isabel and Max shot Michael a dirty look. Then Isabel set about straightening Max’s bow tie. She offered him her brightest, warmest smile. “Max, everything is going to be fine. It’s beautiful out there and everyone is waiting. You know, I couldn’t be prouder of you. You and Liz have gone through so much to be here today. You fought Michael and I when we told you being with Liz wasn’t safe or smart. You fought against Nicholas and our enemies to save her life. You even took on destiny and won.”

Max shook his head. “My destiny was never with Tess. It was always Liz,” he insisted.

“I stand corrected then. The point is that no matter what was thrown at you two, you survived it stronger than before. I look at what you and Liz have and it makes me hope that one day I’ll have that too.”

Max wrapped his arms around his sister, heedless of the jacket she had just smoothed to perfection. And he felt better than he had all morning. “I have a feeling you’re already on your way to finding that.”

“Is this a private party or can humans come in too?” Kyle asked from the doorway.

“Come on in. Bring a handkerchief. You’re just in time for act two of the Evans family sap-a-thon.”

Isabel glared at Michael again. “Don’t make me hurt you.”

Kyle clapped his hands together, taking in Max’s nervous stance, and he couldn’t help but grinning maniacally. “T minus fifteen minutes and counting. You gonna hang in there, Evans?”

“Everything looks great out there,” Alex announced, winking at Isabel.

“Yeah,” Kyle sighed heavily. “It’s just too bad Liz isn’t here to see it.”

“What?” Max snapped his head around, pinning Kyle with his gaze. “Where’s Liz?” He turned frantic eyes on Isabel. “She’s not here?”

Kyle couldn’t resist laughing at the sheer panic on his face. “Relax. It was a joke. Pay up, Alex. I told you he’d fall for it.” Kyle took the five dollar bill from Alex’s hand triumphantly. “But come to think of it, I haven’t actually seen Liz yet.”

Maria breezed through the doorway just as Max began making a beeline for it. She placed a hand on either side of his chest. “Whoa there, buddy. Where do you think you’re going?”

“I have to see Liz. I have to make sure she’s here.”

“What?” Maria crinkled her nose in confusion until she heard Kyle and Alex’s peels of laughter. “You two, out.” She pointed out the door, one hand still braced on Max’s chest to hold him steady. “Max, I can assure you that Liz is here. I just left her not five minutes ago and she’s absolutely beautiful. And she’s all yours.” Maria beamed at him, readjusting his collar and giving him a chance to calm down.

“Well, I’m going to slip out and make sure everything is still running smoothly.” Isabel kissed Max’s cheek on her way out, sure to rub the lipstick imprint from his skin when she was done.

But Max’s anxiety wasn’t to be soothed so easily. “But you left you alone? What if she starts thinking and she changes her mind?”

Struggling to remain patient, Maria turned to Michael. “Will you go sit with Liz and make sure she doesn’t change her mind about marrying Max?”

Michael caught the glint of humor dancing in her eyes and he stood from the couch. “I’ll wrestle her to the ground if she tries to escape,” he promised before disappearing through the door.

“Michael will take care of her,” Maria promised him. “Isn’t that what second in command’s are for?”

“I guess,” Max said grudgingly.

Maria stood back to take in his appearance. “Look at you. She won’t be able to keep her hands off you, you know. Not that you’ll be any better once you see her, but try not to maul each other in front of the guests, okay?”

“I love her so much, Maria. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

Maria met his solemn eyes, “Well, are you ever in the right place or what. She is down the hall, waiting for you so that she can stand up in front of friends and family to tell them how much she loves and adores you. And you two are going to live happily ever after.”

“Hey guys.” Tess slipped into the room and gave them a tentative smile. “I thought I’d come see how things were going in here.”

Maria smiled knowingly as they exchanged a nervous glance. “I’ll let you two talk. But remember, Max, today is just the beginning.” Maria squeezed Tess’s bare shoulder on her way out.

“She’s right, you know. Today really is a beginning for you guys. Because you two will still be making us sick when you’re a hundred.”

“Tess,” Max began, unsure of what to say to her.

“Max, don’t.” She held up a hand, silencing him. “We both know this day was never meant to be ours. I knew years ago that you would never be mine.”

“But it still hurts you.” He could see it in her eyes, and he had been her friend for too long for her to be able to lie to him.

Tess nodded once, tears shining in her eyes. “It’s silly, really. I don’t love you like that. And I know you don’t love me. But Nasedo spent so many years telling me how much you would love me and how it would change my life…I guess some ideas are hard to give up.” She brushed at a tear. “I swore I wasn’t going to do this today.”

Without hesitating, Max pulled Tess into his arms, letting her rest her head on his chest. “It’s okay to feel, Tess. It’s a part of being human.”

Tess took a deep breath, steeling her emotions. She forced the last tendril of hope to die out and she pushed away from Max slowly. “I’m still working on it.” She offered him a smile and was proud of herself when it didn’t waver. “What are you doing here with me? You should be out there getting ready. She’s a lucky girl, Max.”

“I’m the lucky one. I’ve had the best of both worlds.”

Tess managed a weepy chuckle. “Save your cheesy lines for Liz. I’m fine, I swear. And I really am happy for you.”

“I know you are.” And he believed it. Tess had meant no harm in coming to see him now.

“Get out of here already. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

Max nodded in understanding, knowing she needed a minute to pull herself together. “You’ll find someone, Tess.”

“Now you really have to go before I hurt you.” She gave him a small push toward the door, toward Liz. And as she watched him go, she felt better than she had all day, as if a final door had been closed on her past. Alone, she sniffled.

“I don’t know what he sees in her. I mean, have you seen those skinny chicken legs and that small chest? It just doesn’t do it for me.”

Tess chuckled again and felt monumentally better, stronger. “I’m fine, Kyle.”

“Well, of course you’re fine. Who said you weren’t?” Kyle had seen Max leave the room alone and he’d been afraid of the state he’d find Tess in. But she did seem to be actually okay. A bit watery, but okay. “I just wanted to see if you would get some fresh air with me.”

Seeing right through him, Tess shook her head. “Thanks for the offer, but there’s something I have to do first.” With determined strides, she turned and walked down the hallway, leaving Kyle puzzling over what she possibly had to do.

*~*~

Liz smoothed down the gown of her dress, examining herself in the mirror. Her hair had been swept up into a smooth twist, a sharp contrast to the stark white veil that was perched atop her head. Isabel had assured her that it would drive Max crazy, but was easy to pull down by removing a few key pins. Maria had just finished her make up a few minutes ago and Liz still had a hand towel tucked in the bodice of her gown to prevent any last minute spills. Not that it would have mattered, since there was an ample number of people on hand to remove a last minute stain, but Liz hadn’t had the heart to tell Maria that.

The four girls had stayed up until a decently late time of the night, gossiping and dreaming about what the future held. They had gorged on ice cream and had relished their last few hours of single sisterhood. And when Liz had woken to the first rays of sunlight streaming through the open windows, Liz had rolled over to see that beside her, Maria was already awake and crying. And Liz had known she was in for a tearful day.

A steady knock sounded at the door and Liz turned as best she could in her dress. “Come in,” she called.

The door opened slowly, just a crack. “Is everything covered?”

Liz grinned. “Yes, Michael, or I wouldn’t have told you to come in.”

Michael poked his head inside the room, scowling. “How did you know I wasn’t Max?”

Liz tapped the side of her head in explanation.

“Right. Well, I just wanted to make sure you were here.”

“Of course I’m here. Where else would I be?”

Michael shrugged, stepping fully inside the room. “I don’t know. Ask Max. I’m just the messenger. He was having some panic attack thinking that you were going to change your mind and bolt.”

Liz settled her hands on her hips. “Michael, does it look like I’m going anywhere?”

Even Michael knew how ridiculous it sounded. Liz was standing there in the middle of the room, hardly able to move easily in her wedding dress, much less make a break for it. “Well, he said something about you blocking the connection. I think it worried him.”

“You can go right back and tell him that we talked about this yesterday. He is not going to see or talk to me before the wedding. I think we’ve had enough bad luck to last us a lifetime.” Liz softened. “How does he look?”

“Dreamy,” Michael quipped. “What are you even asking me for? He’s wearing clothes. But would it really matter anyway?”

“No, I guess not.”

Another knock sounded at the door. “Who is it?” Michael asked, one foot braced against the door in case it was Max.

“Just us.”

Michael opened the door for Alex and Kyle, moving aside to make room for them.

“Wow,” Kyle managed.

“I second that wow,” Alex whispered in awe. “Liz, you look…”

“Amazing,” Kyle finished.

Liz grinned at both of them. “Thank you. And you guys don’t look half-bad yourself.”

“No, I mean it. You look fantastic. If only I’d known that a couple of years ago, I might have tried to sweep you out from under Max’s nose.” Kyle winked at her.

Michael scowled at Kyle. “Alright, that’s enough. You’re out of here.” He grabbed Kyle’s arm and dragged him towards the open door.

“Hey, watch the creases. Isabel will kill us both if they aren’t perfect.”

Michael glanced at Liz. “You’ll be okay for a few minutes?”

“I think Alex can manage to keep me from leaving Max at the altar. Get out of here. I’m not going anywhere, Michael. You can tell Max that before he goes crazy.”

Michael mock bowed to her before backing out of the room. Alex grinned at Liz. “Look at you. Little Lizzie all grown up. You know what I see when I look at you?”

“I’m almost afraid to ask. You know too much about me.”

“I see you when we were ten years old and Maria was teaching us to climb trees.”

Liz grinned at the memory that immediately sprang to mind. “All I wanted to do was stay in my room and look at things under my new microscope.”

“But she convinced you that there were exotic things in the trees that you could gather as specimens. She said you could be the first to discover a new species and you would be world famous and get your picture in the paper.” Alex tucked his hands in his pockets, feeling old for the first time. That had been so long ago, it was hard to remember being that young and innocent.

“And of course she had me convinced. But I never knew what she said to get you up there. Weren’t you terrified of heights?”

Alex shrugged. “I had to protect my girls. What if one of you slipped and fell and I hadn’t been there?”

Liz thought back throughout their lives. In every memory she had, Alex had been there in the background, watching, protecting them silently.

“You’ve always been a step behind us, waiting to catch us if we fell. I don’t think I ever realized that before.” She moved toward him, not letting her wedding dress stop her from wrapping her arms around his frame. “Thank you for always being there.”

“Knock, knock.” Maria poked her head through the door, smiling when she saw the embrace. “Hey you two. Alex, the minister wanted to talk to you for a second before we begin. And Liz, I have someone that wants a minute.”

Alex nodded, slipping out of Liz’s arms with a sniffle. He turned and headed toward the door.

“Alex?” When he turned back, she smiled. “Isabel’s lucky to have you.”

Alex flashed her his most charming smile. “I agree, but I like to let her think it’s the other way around.”

“Your secret’s safe with me,” she promised.

“See you in a few, Parker.”

Liz watched Alex slip out the door with Maria, and when the door opened fractionally wider, Liz was surprised to see Tess watching her. “Tess, hi.”

“Hey, Liz. Can I come in for a second? I know you’re getting ready to go out, but it’ll just take a second.”

“Sure.” Liz waited until Tess was inside before inquiring further. “What’s up?”

Tess smiled at her. “You look even more beautiful in that dress than you did in the store.”

“Thanks, Tess.” Liz was puzzled. This is why Tess had come to see her? “Tess, is everything okay?” Surely, her friend wasn’t upset about her marrying Max. It had been years since the subject had come up and the thought hadn’t even crossed Liz’s mind.

“Everything’s fine. I just came from seeing Max.” She rolled her eyes. “The man is a nervous wreck.”

“Yeah, Michael said he was worried that I would leave.” Liz found herself rolling her eyes in amusement with Tess. “As if that would ever happen.” Liz watched Tess force a smile onto her face. “Tess, what is this really about? I know you. Something’s wrong. Is it Max and I?”

Tess sighed. “No. Really, it isn’t. I know it might look like it right now with me showing up back here and everything, but I know that you and Max are made for each other. From the first time I saw you two together, I knew this day would come.” Tess knew Liz was waiting patiently to find out the reason behind the bizarre last minute conversation, but she would be too polite to ask outright. “I wanted to give you something, a wedding present.”

Liz frowned. “Tess, you don’t have to give us anything.”

Tess should have guessed that Liz wouldn’t have understood. “No, Liz. This is a present for you.” Tess presented Liz with a small box, about double the size of her hand.

“What is it?”

Knowing she had Liz’s full attention, Tess let her gaze drift down to the box one last time before she opened it slowly. She knew that Liz understood what she was looking at when she heard the small gasp and Liz’s hands flew up to her face.

“I can’t accept that,” Liz insisted, taking a step back.

“Don’t be silly. It’s yours now.” Tess stepped forward, carefully pulling the small crown from its long time resting place. It glittered in the artificial light, winking at their new owner. Yellow stones were imbedded within in the otherworldly metal, and Tess knew it had been handcrafted centuries ago for a great queen. “Nasedo gave this to me years ago when he told me who I was.” Tess reached above Liz’s head and began carefully unpinning Liz’s veil. With steady hands, Tess placed it securely atop Liz’s head and repinned her veil. “A perfect fit.”

Liz had watched Tess’s work in the mirrors and when Tess stepped back, Liz could see her new reflection clearly. The crown wasn’t large or too much more ornate than some of the tiaras Isabel had made her try on months ago. It was lighter than she would have expected, but then she had no idea what kind of metal it had been made from. “It’s beautiful. But I can’t accept it, Tess. It’s yours.”

“Liz, you are marrying Max today. That makes you the Queen. And every Queen needs a crown. Besides, it fits you better than it ever fit me.”

Knowing how difficult it was for Tess to give her the gift, Liz saw the gesture for what it really was. Tess had given up the last of her claims on Max and her place by his side. “Tess, I don’t know what to say. No, I do. Thank you.” She closed her eyes when tears threatened to overflow. “You don’t know what this means to me.”

“Just take care of him for me. Okay?” Tess knew she was desperately close to tears herself and she had vowed not to shed another tear after Max had left.

“Always,” Liz promised.

Tess nodded her head. “If you don’t stop crying, your face is going to be all red,” Tess cautioned her with a sniffle of her own.

The door opened behind them and Maria poked her head in cautiously. “Sorry to interrupt, but we’re ready if you are, Liz.”

Liz nodded, trying to compose herself.

Tess squeezed Liz’s hand. “I’ll see you out there.”

Alone with Liz, Maria smiled at her. “Wow, look at that. Is that what I think it is?”

Liz nodded again. “She gave it to me, Maria. Do you know what that means now? I don’t think it ever really sunk in before. But this just makes it official. I’m going to be a Queen. How bizarre does that sound? I think I finally understand what Max was feeling like when he found out.”

“Don’t think I’m going to start bowing to you now,” she teased, taking a closer look at the crown. “You know, I’ll bet that would look pretty good on me. What do you think?”

Liz laughed. “I think we can share it.” Taking deep breaths, Liz struggled to compose herself. “Okay, I think I’m ready to do this.”

Alex poked his head into the room. “Liz, they’re waiting.” He held out an arm to her. “Shall we?”

Never having felt more sure of anything in her life, Liz stepped forward to take Alex’s arm. She waited while he extended his other arm to Maria. “What do you say, Deluca? Care to appear on my arm and make me the envy of every man in the place?”

Maria slipped her arm into Alex’s and let him lead them out to the back of the church. The doors to the church were closed, but she could still hear the faint beginnings of music from inside.

Isabel came up beside her and pulled her into a quick hug. “I didn’t get a chance to wish you luck earlier.”

“Thank you for all of this, Isabel. We couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Oh, well, that much was obvious.” She caught a glimpse of Liz’s crown and her eyes widened slightly. “Is that…”

Liz nodded, then smiled when she saw Tess out of the corner of her eyes. “Yeah, it is. Isabel, I think that’s our cue.”

“Oh!” Isabel flew into motion, fluffing the train to Liz’s dress while issuing whispered orders to the other bridesmaids.

Liz watched as the doors were opened long enough to allow Tess to start down the long aisle. She could make out the top of Max’s head and she felt a thrill of anticipation run through her. When Tess was halfway down the aisle, Isabel smiled at Liz one last time before starting her own path. Maria was next and she turned to look at her two best friends before proceeding down the aisle.

“I love you guys,” she whispered with a lopsided grin. And then it was her turn to walk.

The doors were closed again as the music changed. Alex squeezed her arm. “Nice crown,” he observed with a grin.

“I like it,” she teased back. She could hear the minister asking everyone to stand and the doors were slowly opened again.

“Ready for your destiny, Elizabeth Parker?”

Liz could see Max clearly from where she stood, and the rest of the room ceased to exist. He was standing frozen in shock, his eyes trained on her with a single-minded intensity that surpassed every other look he had ever given her. She dropped the barrier between their connection and immediately felt every ounce of love and utter devotion that he felt for her. He wanted to form words to tell her how beautiful she was, but he could find none. From Max’s eyes and the depths of his heart and soul, she could see that in instant, he had never loved her more. There were no regrets between them, and no guilt.

Alex gave her a small nudge and Liz felt her smile grow wider than she though possible. Down the aisle, Max’s smile mirrored her own. And with their friends and family surrounding them, Liz took her first step into the church. She was more than ready for her destiny. She had already found it shining in the depths of Max’s eyes.

*~*~

Maria sighed as she watched her two newly married friends dance to what had to be their one thousandth dance of the evening. Fast, slow, they hadn’t seemed to care. As long as they were together, they were complete. She shifted on her aching feet, enjoying the coolness that came off the ice sculpture to her left.

The wedding itself had gone off without a hitch. And though it had been simple and toned down from Isabel’s early vision, it had been beautiful. Max had been so nervous by the time Liz was beside him, that his shaky fingers had almost dropped the ring. But one smile from Liz had calmed him down considerably. They had decided on traditional vows, because as Liz had explained it, they could already read each others hearts better than mere words could ever do justice.

Since then, Max had wisked her away to the dance floor, only letting go of his new bride long to enough to relinquish her to a select group of males for her to dance with. But he’d always come back to claim her as soon as the song had ended.

Maria felt a strong presence behind her and she knew it was Michael even before he wrapped his arms around her waist.

“Is he ever going to let go of her? I managed one dance with her and he glared at me the whole time. I had to make sure to keep my hands visible at all times.”

“I think Kyle danced with her three times just to see if he could irritate Max,” Maria shared.

“Actually, Kyle and Alex had a bet going to see how many times Kyle could dance with Liz before Max threatened him.” Michael fell silent, content to hold Maria in his arms as they watched the couple sway to the slow song. And Michael felt something click into place inside.

“You know, they look happy.”

“Today was a perfect day,” Maria agreed.

“No, I mean they look happier than usual.” Unable to express himself, Michael became frustrated. “Like they’ve found the secret.”

Touched by his fumbled words to describe the magic that always seemed to surround the couple, Maria nodded. “Love. They’ve always known it. They just let other things get in the way in the beginning.”

“They’re a family. They’ll always have each other no matter what.” Michael tried to place why the song playing sounded so familiar. It was some old song. Had Liz used to play it a lot? Is that why it was so familiar? “You know, having that wouldn’t entirely suck.”

“Hmm?” Maria was lost in the romance of the moment, watching as Liz shifted her head until it fit perfectly on Max’s shoulder.

That,” Michael gestured to the couple. “The whole marriage thing. It wouldn’t entirely suck I don’t think, not if it was with your best friend.”

Stunned beyond speechless, Maria turned in Michael’s arms until she could see his face. “What did you just say?”

Michael shifted, uncomfortable by the way Maria was looking at him. “What? Look, it’s not like I’m ready to start picking out invitations with you or anything, but it isn’t that big of a deal to me if…in a couple of years, you want to get hitched.” He watched as he eyes grew even wider and he knew he was digging himself into a deep, slippery hole. “You know what? Just forget I ever brought it up.” Why was she grinning at him like a loon? “You’re going to nag me about this now, aren’t you?”

Maria pressed up to her tiptoes and planted a kiss on Michael’s lips. “I don’t have to. The best things are just meant to be.”

Unsure as to whether he should be worried or satisfied by the pure contentment on her face, Michael settled for pulling her closer and into a lingering kiss.


“Dance one more with me,” Max pleaded with Liz. “One more and we can stop.”

“That’s what you said five songs ago,” Liz teased, but stayed in his arms as the current song ended. “Everyone else gave up on us an hour ago.”

“Quitters. And they’re not the happiest, luckiest man on the planet. Are they?” Max waited until the soft melody of the next song began playing and his grin grew. He knew Liz was caught up in the euphoria and exhaustion of the day to notice it yet. But the instant the words began playing, her back stiffened under his hand.

”Come to me now. Lay your hands over me. Even if it’s a lie, say it will be alright. And I shall believe.”

Liz pulled away from him far enough to meet his eyes. Max? she asked him wordlessly.

You didn’t really think we could get married without dancing to our song, did you?

”Broken in two, and I know you’re on to me. That I only come home when I’m so all alone. And I do believe.”

Liz let her head rest on Max’s shoulder as he pulled her close. Never in her life had she been so content to stay where she was until the end of time.

Then never leave.

”That not everything is gonna be the way you think it ought to be. It seems like every time I try to make it right, it all comes down on me. Please say honestly you won’t give up on me. I shall believe.”

Liz found herself thinking of her parents and the trip she and Max had made to the cemetery on their way from the church to the reception site. She’d left her bouquet on the damp earth between the twin tombstones that bore her parents’ names. And she’d known they were there just as she’d known they had been in the church when she had pledged her life to Max earlier that day. There were some things that not even death could stop.

”Open the door. Show me your face tonight. I know it’s true, no one heals me like you. And you hold the key.”

They’d be proud of you, Max whispered in her mind, reading her thoughts easily.

Liz smiled against his shoulder, nuzzling as close to his neck as her short stature would allow. I know.

”Never again will I turn away from you. I’m so happy tonight but your love is alright, and I do believe.”

Max was content to sway to the gentle beat of the song that had once represented so much heartache. Do you have any idea how much I love you?

Is it a quarter of how much I love you? Liz teased.

More. Double…no, triple times infinity.

Statistically speaking, you know that’s impossible.

But we’ve always been masters of the impossible. I think back to those days when I used to watch you from behind the Crash Down menus, just looking for any excuse to talk to you. And never in a million years would I have imagined we would be here today. You’re my wife, a Queen of another world. And one day, they’re going to love you just as much as I do. I can’t even imagine what my life would have been like without you. Loving you has made ma a better person.

Max read her thoughts as easily as he ever did, but he didn’t need the ability to know that his words had touched something within her. And she longed to kiss him every bit as much as he wanted it himself.

Big finale, he promised, spinning her outward as the song came to a close. When she let out a laugh at the unexpected maneuver, he spun her back towards him and lowered her into an easy dip.

As Max’s lips slowly covered Liz’s, she tasted the promise he was offering her. Their life together would be filled with love and unexpected laughter. And there was no other time or place she would rather have been.

”Please say honestly you won’t give up on me and I shall believe."


THE END

...to be continued in the third book Wherever You May Go...

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[ edited 1 time(s), last at 9-Apr-2002 9:02:13 AM ]