|posted on 30-Aug-2001 11:03:21 PM|
|Title: A Truer Destiny|
Disclaimer: I don't own anything Roswell, etc.
Summary: This picks up RIGHT at the end of Max in the City, literally the second after Max leaves through Liz's window. It is right after he asks her for the truth one more time about sleeping with Kyle.
I want to apologize to all of you for deserting this story and you all who were reading it. Been having a lot of personal stuff going on, and coupled with the horrid spoilers and disappointing Roswell season, I have not been able to get inspired at ALL. I am hoping I will pick this up sometime soon....
Thank you so much for all of the support and wonderful feedback.
Liz stared at the window, and her eyes filled with tears. She could almost still feel Max's presence in the room even though he was gone. She knew he would ask about Kyle again. And she couldn't stop herself. She had to let him ask. Again. But this time she couldn't yell out her answer. She couldn't be strong and insistent. All she could do was barely give him a nod. It felt like her head weighed 100 pounds. But he got the message even though she was having trouble communicating it. And he gave a forced smile. And he left. Max walked out of her world, her room, her life. Again.
The truth was she was tired of lying to him. She was tired of being strong, of having the entire fate of the world on her shoulders. She was a teenager, a teenager who should have been immersed in high school, exams, school dances, and puppy love. But she felt like an old soul, like she had lived a thousand lives. And she felt like she was condemned to live a thousand more alone without the boy she loved.
Liz wrapped her arms around her middle, and she doubled over in pain. The tears wouldn't come. They hadn't spilled over since the night she changed her future, the night she ended the most important thing in her entire life. The night she broke his heart and the night she let her heart be ripped from her body until she couldn't feel a thing anymore. The pain was unstoppable. It was so intense that she could feel a rushing in her ears. She started to feel dizzy and almost lost her footing.
Just as she thought she would finally give in to the pain, it disappeared. She stood up straight, closed her window, and pulled off her clothing. Grabbing a shirt from her dresser, she yanked it over her head. She turned out the light and slipped into bed.
Lying in the darkness, her mind went blank, and she started to go to the one place she could escape the darkness. Her dreams.
That was the thing about losing your heart. It gave you the ability to switch off emotions, to shut down, to pretend you could forget…
Max walked to the jeep, his eyes staring straight ahead, one tear escaping and sliding down his cheek. He reached up and used his sleeve to brush it away. No more tears, he thought. Tears wouldn't do a damn bit of good. They were a weakness. She was his weakness, and he was supposed to be strong, a leader, a king. He scraped against his eyes with the back of his hand, trying to rip the evidence of his weakness from his skin.
And then he couldn't help himself. He looked up at her balcony one last time, and watched her light turn off. Without warning, he felt the pain of his loss intensify. It almost felt like he was feeling another person's pain. He started to double over, holding his stomach. The same question echoing in his head, louder even than the pain and the rushing in his ears…
Why? Why? WHY?
And there were no answers. He had lost the most important person in his life, his reason for living, his heart, his inspiration, his best friend. And now he felt like he was losing himself. Suddenly, the pain passed. He stood up again, got into the jeep, and drove home.
Max could see Isabel's light was on from the crack under her door. He knocked softly.
"Come in," she said.
"Hey." He looked over at her, and stuffed his hands into his pockets.
He looked so lost and hopeless; Isabel stood up and reached over to hug him. "Did you go see Liz?"
"Yeah," he replied. "I wanted to thank her. I still don't understand how she did it, how I saw her. It was pretty shocking, really."
"I'm sure it was," Isabel said, looking into his eyes. "Did she tell you anything else? Anything about the whole experience, how Ava helped us? Where Ava went?"
"Iz, I didn't stay long. We didn't really go over everything. I…I think …It was hard enough to be in her room at all. You know?"
"Max, I really don't understand what happened…what's going on between you two. All I know is I have never seen Liz that scared before. I have never seen such fear and desperation…"
Isabel sat back on the bed. "I was so cold to her before that…both Michael and I were. We knew something was up - we heard rumors - something about Kyle?"
Max winced involuntarily at the mention of Kyle.
"We blamed her for you leaving us…for running off to NY without even telling us. We were so hurt, Max. Michael, too. We didn't understand. We had no idea about Lonnie and Rath pretending they were us…"
"None of us knew, Iz." Max sank down next to her on the bed and put his head in his hands. "They showed up in Roswell without warning, without notice. Between the shock of what it meant, and the craziness we have had around here lately….who could think straight about anything at all."
"I know I am to blame also…I should have talked to you. I should have told you about Vilandra. But I was so scared, Max!" she said.
Isabel's eyes filled with tears. "I was so scared of what I was, of how I could hurt you, hurt Michael." She took a deep breath. "I was just so scared," she whispered.
Max put his arm around her, and she leaned her head on his shoulder.
"We have to learn something from this, Isabel. We need to communicate with each other. You know, for the longest time, it was just the three of us. We depended on each other for everything…for friendship, for family, for safety. And all of a sudden, things have been coming apart, ya know? We aren't hearing each other… "
He pulled back and looked at her. "It's still the three of us, Iz. No matter who comes into our lives…or what happens, it needs to still be the three of us. And right now I really need to believe in that again."
He looked down at the floor. "Because right now I am having trouble believing in anything."
Isabel looked at him. She still didn't understand what was going on. But she had heard Liz desperately begging Ava to help them. She had heard her tearful pleas and her professions of love for Max.
"Please don't ever stop believing in me Max. I promise from now on, we'll try to do things right." Isabel sighed. "You know, I still don't understand how Liz did it either. She was so scared. And she was frantic. She really loves you, Max. Really loves you."
Max sprang from the bed and looked down at Isabel.
"What are you talking about, Iz?"
"Max you should have heard her. Telling Ava how much she loves you…that she had to help us. That she couldn't lose you…"
"Isabel, Liz…she….she slept…with… Kyle." Max practically spat the words out.
"Max, what are you talking about!" Isabel exclaimed. "Are you crazy??? Who told you that? You believed that?"
"Iz, I saw them," Max whispered. " I saw them."
Liz woke up with a start. She was soaking wet, shaking. The nightmares again. Future Max telling her repeatedly, yelling at her to change. Change, change, change. You have to change, Liz…
She laughed softly, bitterly. How was she supposed to change? How could she change anymore than she already had. She was living without a heart, she was appearing in visions across the country for god's sake.
She was shivering with cold. The night air on her sweaty body was freezing. Her wet shirt clinging to her was starting to feel like ice. She grabbed her blanket off the bed and wrapped it around her. She then walked over to the window, pushed it up, and climbed out onto the terrace. Dragging the blanket behind her, she curled up on the chaise lounge. Weeks ago she had turned the chair around to face the wall. She stared at the bricks now. Sometimes if she stared long enough, she could almost see the heart Max had drawn on her wall. The red heart with their initials. He had made it glow that night. That whole night had been like a dream. Max had used his powers in the middle of the street, throwing caution to the wind. He had made the streetlights sparkle like fireworks, and he had told her the truth about how he felt. That he loved her…
Liz stared at her wall. Her empty, barren brick wall. She stared at it until her eyes began to close and she could see the red heart begin to come to life…and glow again…
Max was lying in his bed. He was even more distraught. Isabel hadn't said a word. She had just looked at him with pity, with sympathy. She felt sorry for him. HE felt sorry for him. Would he ever stop feeling sorry for himself?
If only he could understand it. What he saw that night through Liz's window made him doubt anything he had ever believed to be true in his life. Seeing her bare flesh lying next to Kyle…their bodies wrapped in her sheets… her look of shock as she saw him looking at her through the window. It was supposed to be him in those sheets. Him lying next to her. Only ever him…
He rolled over, his arms wrapped around himself, full of despair, and tried to shut out the feelings, the memories with sleep.
Liz was dreaming of the desert. She was lying on the ground near the pod chamber. And Max was calling to her. She couldn't find him. She searched everywhere her eyes could reach, his voice getting louder and louder, more frantic.
"I hear you, Max. I hear you!" she called. "Where are you? I can't find you!"
And suddenly he was there in front of her. Kneeling on the ground facing her, staring into her eyes.
The ground disappeared, and they were standing in a field of flowers. Close enough to touch, but both with their hands at their sides. No words were spoken. There were no words to say. Max put his hands on either side of her face, and the visions began, hurling at her mind one after the other. Children, babies, battles, tears, laughter. So many things coming at her at once that she was left gasping for air, begging him to stop.
And then suddenly, his lips were on hers, and they were kissing hungrily, desperately. Nothing else mattered, just the kissing, the touching, the feel of each other. The rightness of their hunger, of their need to connect as one. They slid to the ground, pulling themselves against one another, trying to feel everything at once.
Max slid his hands under Liz's clothing, feeling the heat on her skin. Sliding his hands up her stomach, sending her body into quaking shivers. He covered her breasts, and gasped from the feel of her in his hands. Rolling over her gently, he moved his hands onto her bare back, feeling the length of her body in alignment with his.
She could feel every part of him touching her, fitting into her curves perfectly. The sensations of him touching her were almost too much to bear. So intense, she wanted to cry. She reached up into his shirt and rubbed her hands up his chest, distracted by his ragged breathing and hard body pressing against every part of hers.
"I love you, Max. I love you," Liz cried into his ear. "Please don't let me be alone. Don't leave me."
"I need you so much, Liz. So much."
Their ardor began to calm a little. Their desperate touching slowed, and they gazed into each other's eyes.
"Hold me, Max, " Liz pleaded. "Just hold me like this forever…"
Liz's sleeping form moved slightly on the chaise. She was moaning softly.
"Max, Max…." she whispered. "Please don't leave me. Max…"
As she moved again, she came into contact with a hard form. Thinking it was part of the dream, she reached out and pulled him tighter against her body.
"Max," she moaned.
She opened her sleep-filled eyes at the same moment that he did. Their bodies were completely intertwined in Liz's blanket, tangled and wrapped around each other, Max's hands on the bare flesh of her back. They stared at each other for what felt like long minutes, so closely attached they looked like one form on the chair.
"Max," she whispered. And closed her eyes.
Max gazed at Liz in his arms, loving this dream, and never wanting to awaken from it.
And then an ambulance siren sounded in the street downstairs and whizzed by with a deafening screech. So loudly, Max and Liz both sat up at once. They moved so quickly that they both went rolling off the chair and crashed onto the terrace floor. Max landed on top of her, causing her to gasp for breath. In an instant, they sprang apart and scooted across the ground away from each other.
Max nervously raked his fingers through his hair.
"I…What….what happened. What's going on? I don't know what I am doing here, what…how did…"
"Max? How long…I mean, how…Max…." Liz tried to speak, failing miserably.
Her eyes filled with tears. "Max…" One tear escaped and rolled down her cheek.
Max looked at her. So painfully beautiful, her hair a mess from sleep, hanging all around her face, her flushed cheeks, trembling lips. Her crumpled shirt and sleep-laden form creating a picture that stabbed into his heart like a knife.
And without a word, Max scrambled to his feet, ran to the fire escape, and disappeared.
Liz blinked her eyes in confusion. She started to wonder if she was still dreaming, if Max was ever really there. And she looked at the brick wall, searching for the glowing red to tell her she was asleep. But it was a new day, and she was awake.
As Liz sat and stared stupidly, Maria suddenly hopped though the window, her silver antennae getting caught on the window frame.
"Hel- lo, Sleeping Beauty…." She called. "You too good to wait tables on a Saturday now? I have to drag your sorry butt out of bed an hour into your scheduled shift?"
"Damn, why your Dad forces us to wear these retarded headbands…" Maria muttered, trying to straighten the twisted antennae.
"Maria," Liz answered. " What time is it?"
"What time? Time to throw on that uniform and give me a hand." She said. "Unless your new-found alien gifts are gonna magically feed the mob waiting downstairs. Hmmm…come to think of it, that isn't such a bad idea…."
Maria skipped away giggling and climbed back into Liz's room. She peeked her head out again. "Hello….Earth to Liz…We are on Earth time now, Princess Leia. Downstairs. Alien blasts. Fries. The smell of fried, oily food awaits…"
"C'mon, Maria," Liz called back at her. "What time is it?"
"Half the day is gone, Liz. We're an hour into the lunch rush, " Maria replied, exasperated.
"By the way," Maria said, eyeing Liz's blanket wrapped around her. "You're lucky your parents left last night for their little weekend getaway. I'm sure they would be thrilled to see that you've made the balcony your new sleeping place of choice."
"Give me ten minutes, Maria," Liz called. "Ten minutes, I promise."
She looked over at the fire escape one more time.
"Max…" she whispered. "What the hell was that?"
Max had spent the whole afternoon in his room. He was a confused mess. He couldn't understand what had happened. How he got to Liz's terrace. How they woke up the way they did. What did it mean?
His jeep hadn't even been downstairs. He'd had to walk home, and when he got there the jeep was parked exactly where he had left it the night before. He felt like he was really losing it, and he wasn't even going to think about Liz's reactions to him being there. The look in her eyes, her willingness to lie in his arms. He couldn't. He wasn't about to go there….it was too much to even consider.
No, he'd rather concentrate on how he got there, how they woke up the way they did. Things were just getting totally out of hand, and he was having trouble thinking straight lately. He couldn't believe the past couple of months. They had battled aliens, met some that looked exactly like them, and he'd even been to New York City! Could things get any weirder?
And he had been feeling so alone. Isabel and Michael had been keeping things from him. He'd been keeping things from them. And the one thing he depended on, the one thing that kept his feet on the ground, the thing that gave him hope for the future, well, he had found it in bed with someone else.
God, just the thought of Kyle even touching Liz made him want to scream. It made a blackness fog up his sight, and he felt murderous. He felt like he could just go out of control with rage and frustration. No matter how much time went by, he couldn't let go of the feeling, the feeling of overwhelming loss and despair. A feeling so strong, sometimes he felt like he would just stop breathing forever. Like he would just shrivel up into nothingness and disappear.
For now, his only disappearance act would consist of not coming out of his room. At least until he could think. He had to think…
Maria looked over at Liz, balancing three platters in her arms. She still had that glazed look on her face, like she wasn't even seeing in front of her. As Maria continued to watch, Liz placed the platters on the table in front of her, and smiled at the customers without even looking at them.
Maria rushed over and took a quick appraisal of the table. It looked like Liz got the order right. Amazing. How Liz could still serve these tourist nuts while sleepwalking was unbelievable. She twirled around and saw Michael and Isabel walk in and take seats at their normal booth.
"Hey, guys," she called. She gave a small wave, and started back toward the kitchen. But not quick enough to miss Michael's quick lowering of his head when she waved to them. She bit her lip and headed over to Liz.
"You know this thing with Michael and me working overlapping shifts is getting old, Liz" Maria muttered under her breath. "Liz? Hey, earth to Liz…what are we going to do with you?"
"Maria, I just can't concentrate. I am so tired, so sick of this." Liz exclaimed. She looked down at her order pad, and then looked up at Maria again sheepishly. "I'm sorry, Maria. What did you say?"
"You know, Liz, when they invented the game Space Invaders, I never thought we would be living inside the damn game," she said. " What's going on with you today? Have another nightmare last night?"
"I don't know, Maria. Things are getting really weird." She saw Maria roll her eyes. "No, I mean weirder than usual. I don't know how much longer I can do this. You know, be strong. Lie to him. I have never lied to him before."
"I don't know what to say, Liz. You seem pretty sure about this whole Future Max thing. It is hard for me to believe it, really. But I trust you. And you believe it really happened." Maria walked over and put her arm around Liz.
"I am so lost, Maria," Liz whispered. "I feel like I am dead. Half the time I can't breathe, and then I see the look again in his eyes, that look when he found us, and I don't want to breathe anymore."
"Don't say that, Liz!!" Maria exclaimed. "Don't ever say that! We will figure something out. We have to. Nothing is normal anymore, so the regular rules don't apply."
Maria looked over at the booth where Michael and Isabel were leaning their heads in close talking about something. She swallowed. "We have to live through this craziness somehow, Liz. We just can't let these space invaders ruin our lives."
"Maria, I don't want to live my life without him," Liz said. "I just can't. I just can't take it anymore. But how can I tell him the truth? How can I risk everyone and everything for my own selfish need for him?"
Maria looked over at Liz and took a deep breath. " I don't know what to say, Liz. We need to really think this all through again. I mean, really think about the whole thing - what happened, why, how we deal now? You know? Maybe there are answers. Maybe we can figure it out somehow. Maybe things can change again. He did tell you the future was undecided now, right? Anything is possible Liz, really. Please don't give up hope. We could even go see another psychic, see what they say now. But, I can't do all of this if I don't have you with me."
"You know, Liz, when everyone was disappearing that day and we were in the car rushing toward the billboard, I got my strength from you. When you disappeared, I almost lost it. I can't lose you, Liz. We are all a team, now. You and I always have been, but our team is bigger now. And regardless of what happens, we still are a team. All of us."
Liz looked over at her friend, and saw the panic in her eyes. "I know, Maria. We'll figure something out. But sometimes…" Liz paused. "Sometimes I wish he hadn't saved me that day I was shot. Sometimes I wish it had all ended there. Because I wouldn't know the loss I know now. I wouldn't have had anything to lose."
"Liz," Maria hissed. "We all would have felt loss then. Worse loss then what you feel now. Don't ever say that to me again."
Liz watched Maria give her one more hurt look and stomp away. Grabbing two more platters, Liz headed back toward the front of the restaurant. The platters nearly went crashing to the ground when her eyes locked with Max's. He was there. She hadn't seen or heard anything from him since he'd run away from her on the balcony earlier. But there he was…
Max had been watching the exchange between Liz and Maria with interest. What was going on between those two? He wondered if Liz had told Maria about that morning. Probably not, knowing Liz. Well, actually, he really didn't know Liz anymore, he thought bitterly.
After lying on his bed, wishing his life away, he had decided to confront his problems. Well, sort of. He had decided to come find Michael and Isabel at the Crashdown, with the subconscious hope of catching a glimpse of Liz. He didn't know if he could speak to her yet. But he wanted to see her. God help him, he did want to see her. The image of her from that morning was etched in his brain, the memory of the way she had snuggled into his arms, called out his name. He had to get some answers.
All of a sudden, she was looking at him. And she stumbled, losing her balance and almost dropping the food in her arms.
Isabel saw the look on her brother's face and swung around in the booth to see what he was gazing at. Liz. Of course. This was getting ridiculous. Taking a deep breath, she reached out and grabbed Max's arm.
"Max, talk to her. You have to," she pleaded. "We can’t go on like this. I told you we would try harder to get things right. This is one of those things. Make it right, Max. Fix this. Because we can't deal with anything with you when you're like this. And god only knows what we'll be dealing with next."
"What do you mean, make it right, Iz?" Max said angrily. "I didn't do anything."
"Then do something now, Max." Isabel said. "Do something now.
She pushed him out of the booth. " GO, Max. And remember we all have to have faith in each other. We all need each other. It's only human, and we are mostly human, flaws and everything. Remember how bad things have gotten lately without depending on each other? Remember how we stopped trusting? I trust you, Max. You’re my brother, and I love you. I trust you to fix this."
Max took one last look at Isabel's pleading face and saw Michael shaking his head. He looked over at Liz who had started to walk into the back. He followed her and cornered her by the Crashdown's staff lockers.
Liz heard her name. It was so soft she thought it might have been in her head. But then she felt him behind her. She felt his warmth, and the air seemed to crackle with electricity.
She turned around slowly. "Hi, Max."
"Liz, we need to talk," he said. "I need to talk to you."
"There is nothing to talk about Max," Liz sighed. She slammed the locker closed. "I can't talk to you right now."
"Are you even curious about this morning? Do you even wonder about what happened? Why it did? What it meant? Liz, whatever way I got here, the jeep wasn't it. It was at home where I left it." He grabbed her arm, yanking her over to him. "Liz, what is going on with you?"
"Ahhh!" she let out a yelp of pain. Max dropped her arm instantly. "Max, please leave me alone. We are supposed to be friends, right? Friends give each other space when they need it."
"Space? You want space from me Liz?" Max said with a disbelieving look on his face. "Is that what you really want?"
"Yes, " she whispered. "It's what I really want."
Max looked at her sadly. "You're lying to me again, Liz. You are always lying to me now. What happened to you…" Max turned away, taking some deep breaths.
Liz stood there stupidly, wanting to reach out and lose herself in the safety of his arms. But, instead she was cursed to stand away from him and cause him more pain.
Then suddenly, Max turned back to her angrily and grabbed her arm again. He started to drag her toward the back door. "You know what, Liz? I am sick of this, and I am getting some answers. NOW."
"Max, wait. Stop. You can't do this," Liz cried out. "Please, Max. Don't do this."
Max ignored her words and half carried, half dragged her to the jeep. He lifted her into it, and jumped in quickly before she could get away. He turned the ignition, while still holding one of her arms, and peeled away from the diner.
Finally, he let go of her. He concentrated on the road ahead, and made the turn off into the desert. He glanced over at her, and he saw her sitting there, stunned, staring straight ahead. Her face tugged at his heart.
"Did I scare you, Liz?" he asked. "Are you frightened?"
She kept staring straight ahead. "No, Max," she said, worn and defeated. "You could never scare me. I could never be afraid of you."
He swallowed against the lump in his throat, and kept driving, knowing where they would go to talk.
Maria sailed over to the booth where Isabel and Michael still sat.
"Alright, where is Liz? What happened?" She yelled at them. "And, Michael, you plan on working at all today? What is it with everyone? Am I the only dedicated Crashdown employee in this place?"
Michael looked over at her. "I don't start my shift for another 10 minutes, Miss Employee of the Month."
"Gee, Michael. Did you say something?" Maria quipped. "I can't hear a thing."
Isabel rolled her eyes. "Please don’t the two of you start again. I can't take it. One tragic love story at a time, ok?"
"Isabel, did you see Liz leave?" Maria asked again. "Where is she?"
"Max went to talk to her," Isabel replied. "He headed to the back to talk to her. I told him to straighten out this mess once and for all. It's like we're living with the intergalactic Romeo and Juliet here…"
Maria's eyes darted to the back of the Crashdown. "How long ago Isabel? How long? She can't talk to him. She can't be alone with him. This is a disaster." She started to panic. "I need like a vat of cypress oil." She muttered and started to run to the back.
Isabel and Michael jumped up and ran after her. They found her at Liz's open locker, turning in circles. Michael grabbed her and flipped her around to face them.
"Alright, Maria. What's the deal?" he said under his breath. "Why can't Liz talk to Max? What really happened between them?"
"You know something, don't you, Maria?" Isabel asked. "You know about the Kyle thing, right?"
Michael turned to Isabel. "What Kyle thing? What does Kyle have to do with this?"
"I don't know anything," Maria attempted. "Leave me alone. I have customers. And, Michael, babe…" she pointed to her watch. "I think your 10 minutes were up like 10 minutes ago…"
Maria tried to escape, but Isabel grabbed her again. "Please, Maria. Tell us what's happening."
Maria looked at them and started to panic. "I can't. Don't make me betray anyone. It's all for a reason, ok? Just trust Liz. She's doing the right thing."
Michael looked at her. "What exactly is she 'doing', Maria?"
Maria took a deep breath. "The same thing she's always doing, Michael. She's giving her life for ours. Although, at this moment Max may be messing everything up…"
Max and Liz arrived at the rocks that enclosed the secret pod chamber. The sky was almost completely dark now as the day completed its fading into night. He drove the jeep behind the rocks, and hid it from view between the back of the caves and some bushes. She didn’t fight him now, just quietly got out of the jeep and followed him up the path to the entrance area. She had to take deep breaths, and tried not to think about the fact that this was the place that had taken Max away from her before.
They walked into the chamber and stood staring at each other, neither one attempting to start the conversation. Finally, Max couldn't wait any longer.
"Liz, please." He begged her. His eyes, those deep, soulful dark eyes were boring a hole into her. She couldn't speak when he gazed at her like that. She could almost feel the emotion that poured from his gaze. She could feel his pain - pain she herself had caused him.
She broke their gaze first and looked down.
"Liz, what happened to us?" Max asked quietly. "What happened to the love, the love I know you felt, too? How could you betray me like that?"
"Max, I…I , I don't know what to say to you," Liz whispered.
"Did you really do it Liz? Did you really do what you want me to believe you did?" Max couldn't actually say the words, the actual act that he caught Liz in.
Liz looked down at her feet again, and when she raised her eyes to him, they were wide and filled with tears. But this time, the tears came. They spilled out over her lashes and began pouring down her face. And she couldn't stop them. They kept coming, pouring harder and thicker down her face until her eyes were swimming in the tears so that she couldn't even see him in front of her anymore. Her tears were silent. She didn’t make a sound, just stood there with water pouring down her, sliding down her clothing, falling to the floor.
Max started to get scared. He had never seen her like this. He didn't know what to do. He wanted to reach out to her, but was afraid to touch her.
Then, as he watched her crying, her knees buckled under her and she sank to the ground. Kneeling on the floor, she bent over and slid on her side. She covered her face and wept, whispering unintelligible words. Max strained to hear what she was saying. He kneeled down and slowly crawled over to where she lay, wrapped inside herself, weeping.
"Liz," he whispered, trying to pry her hands from her face. "Liz, what is it? What have I done? I'm sorry. I don't know what I did, but I'm sorry." He reached underneath her and pulled her towards him, wrapping her in his arms.
"You didn't do anything, Max." Liz said, brokenly. "I did. I did it, and I have to live with it for the rest of my life."
Max's arms stiffened around her. He started to pull away. "Why did you do it? Why did you sleep with Kyle?"
"Kyle?" Liz asked, stunned for a moment. "Kyle has nothing to do with this. It was all my idea."
"Your idea, Liz?" Max ventured. "What do you mean? You aren't making any sense. Are you trying to protect him? Are you afraid I'll try to hurt him? You know me better than that, Liz. It wouldn't change anything…beating him up, hurting him wouldn't change what the two of you did. Physical pain couldn't even compare to what I saw with my own eyes," he said hopelessly. "Did you ever really love me, Liz?" Max whispered.
"How can you ask me that, Max? How can you even say that to me?" Liz wailed. She turned to him and grabbed his shoulders. She was trembling. "Max, you don't understand. You don't understand, and I can't explain it to you. I am trying to protect you. You, Max. I would do anything for you. And if it means living without you loving me, I have to do it. Don't you see? Don't you see you have to stay away from me?"
"Liz, I don't see anything," Max said, searching her eyes. "And what I do see, I don't understand. I don't want to believe in what I see. Because what I saw was you naked in your bed with a boy you claimed was just a friend. So, no I don't 'see' anything. And I don't want to."
"Please, Liz. Tell me why you slept with him. Did you doubt my love for you? My devotion?"
"Max, your love is what makes me want to live. It makes me want to breathe. And it makes me want to forget all the promises I've made. Promises that protect the people I love. Promises that, if broken, could hurt all of you." Liz answered.
"What promises, Liz? Promises to whom?" Max asked.
"Promises to you, Max," she whispered.
"I never asked you to promise me anything, Liz." Max said. He leaned back against the wall of the cave. "Other than promising to always be honest with each other, and to love each other. And those promises you have already broken."
"Come with me," Max said. He took her hand and dragged her to her feet. Pulling her deeper into the cave, he knelt down and motioned for her to follow him. He crawled through one of the pods, and looked back to make sure Liz was behind him. He helped her up, and when she saw where they were standing, she gasped.
"Is this the..the granolith?" she asked in awe. She gazed up at the energy before her, her eyes wide and full of amazement. "It's beautiful, Max. Nothing like what I had imagined."
"So you haven't seen this before, Liz?" Max asked.
"What do you mean? How could I?" she walked around it, reaching out her hand to it, but afraid to actually touch it. She was mesmerized by its size, its power. And suddenly a fresh wave of tears threatened behind her eyes, as she remembered this was the instrument that had taken away the most important thing in her life.
"You warned me of its power before I left for NY. You talked about it as if you knew its purpose, its importance." Max said, breaking into her thoughts. "How did you know Liz? Why did you warn me? Is this just another secret you insist on keeping from me?"
"I feel like I don't even know who you are anymore, Liz," Max said.
"No, Max. That isn't true," Liz insisted. "No one knows me like you do. No one. Ever."
"Not even Kyle?" Max asked viciously.
Liz walked over to him, and stood in front of him. They were so close they were almost touching. She looked into his eyes. "Look at me, Max. You know me. What do you really believe?"
She dropped her gaze as the tears started to pour again. " I can' t do this anymore," she wept. "I am 17 years old, I'm in high school. I can't hold the fate of the world on my shoulders. I just….can't…do….it. It isn't fair. It isn't fair to have to live this way."
"So you've told me Liz," Max answered bitterly. "I've heard this speech before. You've told me how my life, my future has damaged you. I know you don't want to die for me. You don't have to tell me again."
Max started to turn away to leave.
"No, Max. You don't understand," Liz pleaded desperately. "Please." She ran to him and put her hands on his face. Holding his face in her palms, she gathered strength.
"You don't understand, Max. I mean I can't do this anymore. I can't lie to you. I can't live without you. I can't keep hurting you. I want to be selfish, really I do. I want you, Max. I want you so much I want to die."
"Liz, what are you talking about?" Max asked, taking her hands from his face and holding them in his.
"I never slept with Kyle," she whispered. Max froze, pain and confusion sweeping his features. "I've never slept with anyone, Max. There is only one person in this world I want to touch me, and I was told I couldn't have you. That I couldn't be with you."
"Liz, you aren't making any sense. What do you mean, you were 'told'? What were you doing in bed with him? What did I see?"
"I was told our friends and our planet would be destroyed if I continued to love you and let you love me. That our marriage and our love was the ruin of everything. That I made you weak."
"Marriage?" Max whispered.
Liz continued as if she never heard him. "I would die for you tomorrow, Max, if it would save your life. I would do anything for you. Until now. Until I became weak, right now, and began telling you the truth…"
She stopped and took a breath. They both sank to the ground, both weak and drained from the emotion, from her words.
"The night I planned that - that I planned for you to see Kyle and me, I was desperate. Even as I put the plan into effect, I secretly hoped your love for me would never allow you to believe what you were going to see. Every other attempt to convince you to let me go had failed, and deep down I was glad. Even as I kept trying, I was glad that you wouldn't let me go. I didn't want you to. I didn’t want to give up the most important thing in my life. I was selfish, and I was in denial. I wanted you even as you told me I couldn't have you."
"Liz, when did I ever tell you that?" Max asked in confusion.
Se ignored him and continued speaking. "When I saw the look on your face through the window, I knew it had worked. I had hurt you just as deeply as we had planned to. But the reality was worse than the plan. I never stopped to think about where it would leave me, what I would have to endure."
"And I had to endure it alone. No one could know. So, I was alone and without you, and I wanted to die. And no one could know why I had to do what I did. I couldn’t be your downfall, Max. I couldn’t be your weakness. I would never have been able to live with the knowledge that my existence in your life would be the reason for you to lose all the people you love."
"Liz," Max moaned. "How could you think these things? What or who could possibly have convinced you of this?"
"You, Max," she whispered. "You, the person I love above anyone else, even myself."
"Me? Me, Liz? You couldn't be more wrong. Don't you realize that? You are my strength. You are my purpose, my inspiration, my conscience. Without you I am weak, unable to lead. How can I lead people or inspire anything without you by my side, loving me, supporting me? Don't you understand that without you, nothing else matters. Not my destiny, my fate, my future? You are my future, Liz. You are my whole world. I don't want to breathe without you. I could never stop loving you. Nothing you could do would ever make me stop loving you."
Max looked over at her. "You hurt me deeply. You did. But the love didn't disappear. I couldn't connect what my eyes had seen with who you are. Who I know you as. Who we are. You are the other half of my soul, Liz. Without you, I am only half a person. The emptiness without you is debilitating. I can't function without you. How could you think taking yourself away from me would help me? It would only destroy me Liz. Why would you want to destroy me?"
Liz began to shake, and her tears kept coursing down her cheeks. She reached out to touch his chest. She never thought she would ever hear him say these things to her again.
"I am so weak," she cried. "I can't live without you."
"That doesn't make you weak," Max said incredulously. "It makes us strong, Liz. Our love is the strongest thing in this world. I can't live without you, either. And I don't want to ever have to try. Please don't try to destroy our love, Liz. Please don't destroy us."
He grabbed her in his arms, and pulled her on top of him. "God, Liz. Why did you do this to us?"
They were both crying openly now. Max buried his face in her neck, in her hair, trying to lose himself in the feel of her next to him.
"Because I love you, Max." she answered. " I love you so much."
He held her tighter against him. "I love you, Liz. I love you."
She pulled back slightly and looked into his eyes. And then she closed her eyes, and she could feel his lips on hers. They were kissing each other hungrily, crying and pressing into each others bodies like they were melding into one.
As Max slid his mouth over Liz's, images started to hurtle into his mind. Strange, disturbing images of himself, but not really himself. An older version of himself talking to Liz, dancing with her, making her cry. He saw Liz curled up on her terrace chair wracked by pain, weeping. He could feel the hopelessness, the fear.
He pulled back, suddenly fearful, looking deep into her tear-filled eyes. The flashes he received confused him. He could see her love for him shining back at him through her sad eyes, and he wanted to kiss her until the sadness disappeared.
She pulled him back toward her, and closed her eyes, pressing her lips to his again. And he concentrated for a moment to block away all the images. He shut out every thought in his head to concentrate on Liz. Liz, who was finally back in his arms. His head was filled with Liz, only Liz.
She reached down and pulled his shirt up over his chest, tearing it over his head. She ran her hands up his chest, following them with soft kisses, moving higher up toward his neck. Max moaned and pulled her face up to his to kiss her harder, thrusting his tongue into her mouth, desperate to taste her, eat her alive. She then pushed gently on his chest, scooting up until she was sitting on him, straddling his hips, never once separating her lips from his. And she could feel him beneath her. She could feel his hard, firm body full of love and desire. The taste of him on her lips was making her light-headed.
She pulled her lips from his and sat back on him, quickly unsnapping the top of her uniform, pulling it down her shoulders and around her waist. She could hear Max's quick intake of breath as she unhooked her bra from behind and let it fall to the ground. Looking into his eyes and taking his hands in hers, she guided them over her stomach and onto her breasts. She gasped as he touched her bare skin and closed her eyes, her breathing becoming difficult. The feel of his touch was so intense, she nearly collapsed on his chest. He looked up at her reverently, amazed by the feel of her, her beauty.
"Liz," he moaned. "My Liz."
She closed her eyes and leaned forward until she could feel his bare chest on hers. She sighed and trailed her fingers up his sides. If she never had to leave this moment, she would stay here forever. "Max, I want you so much." She whimpered. "I love you, Max."
He pulled her to his side, and looked at her, searching her eyes. "Nothing feels this right Liz. Nothing feels like you."
She looked down at his stomach and trailed her hands down to his waist, stopping briefly to undo his button and zipper, and sliding his pants and boxers down his legs. He was so beautiful. She ran her hands up his thighs, resting them next to his groin. She looked up at him. He watched her, trembling, expectantly waiting to see what she would do. He felt exposed and could feel the pressure building by her hands, wanting her to touch him.
She did. She caressed him, feeling his strength and power and desire. She heard him moan as she took him full in her hands and imagined him inside her. She let go for a moment, and leaned back, asking him with her eyes to undress her. He read her mind, as he always did, and put his hands on her waist. "Are you sure, Liz?" he asked, afraid of her answer.
"Please, Max," she moaned. "Please love me. I want to feel every part of you. Every part. I belong to you, Max. Only ever to you."
He brought up his hand and caressed her face. "This is my destiny, Liz. Here with you. Always with you. Nothing anyone could do could change this."
She closed her eyes. "Touch me, Max."
He unsnapped the rest of her uniform, and spread it away from her body. Slowly, slowly, he took both sides of her underwear and pulled them down her legs and off of her. He gazed at her naked body, tinged with the green glow of the granolith in front of them. "God, you're beautiful," he whispered. "So beautiful."
He moved his hands up the length of her body, watching her writhe in pleasure as she moaned his name. He dipped his hand between her thighs, felt the wetness, the heat created by him. She moaned loudly, and reached for him, but he stopped her. He caressed her breasts, and then leaned his head down to drink from her skin. Leaning over her, he planted kisses along her shoulder, moving down to her stomach, and down further to her hips. He could hear her shallow breathing as she fought to keep control of the sensations he was causing. He kissed lower, opening her legs, planting feather light kisses on her inner thighs until he reached her warmth and heat. And he explored the inside of Liz with his mouth, his hands. She began gasping, moaning, and reaching for him, pulling him on top of her. She desperately pulled him close, feeling every inch of his body on hers.
"How can I give you up, Max" she whispered.
"You can't, Liz," he whispered back. "I won't let you."
He took her mouth in his once again, and felt her hands on him, caressing his hardness, making him dizzy with desire. He wanted to lose himself in her forever. She spread herself and pulled him down closer, begging him with her eyes to join her. He panicked for a moment, afraid he would hurt her.
"You can't hurt me, Max. You could never hurt me," she said. "Please…"she whispered. "Please…"
He opened her and began to slide himself into her depths. She moaned softly, her arms wrapped around him trying to pull him deeper into her. He felt a barrier, and started to retreat, but her hands held him firm. Soon, he felt himself break through, and she cried out. He tried to stop again, and she pulled him deeper into her. It was fire and heat, and the sensations were overwhelming. He was blinded by desire and sensation, feeling her hands all around him, urging him deeper and deeper into her small body. He didn't think it was possible to enter into another person this deeply, but the feel of her was like ecstasy. She began moaning his name over and over again until he felt he would explode. Her hips rising to meet his, her hands pushing against his back and his behind, pushing him deeper and deeper and deeper into her. With each thrust, he could feel her rising to meet him until they both cried out at exactly the same moment, and the explosion was like stars and fireworks echoing against the walls and the green glow of the granolith, rivaling its power and energy. Liz kept moaning and pulling him into her, as he felt her contracting all around him, tightening and creating unbearable sensations, bringing them both to a precipice that exploded for them like blinding light.
They stayed joined for many minutes, trying to catch their breath. Neither of them would let go, holding tight to each other, never wanting the moment to end. "Oh my god," Liz finally murmured. He started to pull away, afraid he would hurt her. She grabbed him and kept him in place.
"Please, Max." she pleaded. "I want you to stay inside me forever."
He smiled. "That could get a little difficult, don't you think?" He kidded. " You might get hungry at some point."
"I don't want food, Max" she said and smiled. "I don't want anything but you. Just you."
He looked into her eyes. "God, Liz. That was…we just…I mean, god…"
"I know," she said, smiling serenely.
"I hope you won't hate me for this," he said worriedly. " I hope you won't regret what just happened."
"Oh, Max," she sighed. "The only thing I regret is that we can't stay here and continue doing this forever. Every second of every minute, over and over."
"Liz!" he exclaimed. "Are you going to become a little sex fiend now? I like the sound of that." He smiled wickedly.
Liz began to blush. The red crept up her neck and into her cheeks. She tried to hide her face in his neck. She could feel him shaking with silent laughter, and ventured out of his neck to peek up at him.
"Do you think I'm awful?" she asked sheepishly.
Max brought his hand up and ran it through her hair, tucking the strands behind her ear. "I think you are incredible, Liz."
They continued to lay there quietly, still connected, reveling in the feel of each other, the closeness.
"So, Liz, what was that this morning?" Max finally asked, breaking the silence.
"I…I Don't know, " she answered. " I know I was dreaming about you. I couldn't sleep, and I went outside on the terrace. I was staring at the wall, remembering the night you drew that heart on it and made it glow." She stopped then, embarrassed, and looked down at the ground. Then she realized there was no shame between them anymore. She could tell him anything. They had gone beyond silly embarrassments.
She looked up and met his gaze again. "I must have finally slept then, and I was dreaming, dreaming of you, wishing I were with you, willing you to hear me. And then I woke up and you were there. I thought I was still dreaming."
"I thought I was dreaming, too," Max said. "I felt like I couldn't find you, and I was calling you, searching for you. And then you were in my arms. I could see you, feel you needing me. I wonder if this is part of your new powers." He smiled playfully. "The power to draw me to you at any time. Although," he added. "On second thought, you always had that power over me…"
"But, seriously, Liz," he said, "you appearing to me in NY was unbelievable. I don’t know how you did it. You really did save my life."
"You've saved mine every day since I've known you, Max. You are my life. I was saving myself."
Max squeezed her against him. "What was all of this Liz? The games? Kyle? Will you tell me what's been going on? I don't want anymore secrets between us. Not after this."
"Ma…Max...I am so scared."
"Why? What are you so afraid of?"
"I'm afraid you'll hate me for being weak," she said forlornly. "I'm afraid you'll be disappointed in my weakness, that I let you and everyone else down by giving in to you today."
"Liz, look at us!" he exclaimed. "There is no other place in this world I should be than right here with you. Right now with you."
He took her face in his hands. "Please, Liz. You can tell me anything. Anything. You know that."
All of a sudden, they heard a noise.
Liz sat up quickly. "What was that, Max?" she whispered.
Max started to pull on his jeans. He tossed her the Crashdown uniform, and put his finger to his lips. Quietly he approached the pods, where they had crawled through. He knelt down and crawled halfway through the pod, straining to see if someone was on the other side.
Liz silently dressed and held herself still, waiting. She watched Max, praying everything was ok. She heard Max's sharp intake of breath, and ran over to him. She tried to peek over his shoulder.
Max gazed at the sight before him. Suddenly, blond hair came into view… Tess. He saw her draw a glowing blue circle on the ground with her hand. She stepped into the circle, and sank down, sitting indian-style in the center. With her eyes squeezed shut, she began to raise her arms. In moments, the blue circle got brighter and soon shot light from the ground, coursing through Tess's body, blowing her hair up in its force. She opened her eyes and her mouth began to move, forming words Max could not hear or decipher.
Then, just as quickly, the light and the circle disappeared. Tess stood up and stared at the wall. The wall began to glow, and a man walked right through the rock. A man Max had never seen before. He remembered when Nasedo had appeared through the rock. But this seemed different somehow.
"I was getting impatient waiting for your report." He said to Tess.
She smiled bitterly. "I was busy, you know. I was out of town - on business." She started to giggle. "Everything is going quite well, actually. Max has finally seemed to come to his senses. He realizes how loyal I am, what a weak fool that little Earth girl is."
"How can you be sure?"
"He took me with him to NY. He has seen my power, my importance to his reign. And he passed our little test. He didn't give in to Kivar or the others. His stubbornness worked well for us."
"That is good, Tess" the man said. "Very good."
"Actually, you sending the duplicates here was brilliant. It pretty much tore them all apart. The betrayal was everywhere, like a spreading disease. Max is realizing he can depend on me, not the others." Tess's giggles got louder. "And the human girl. I don't know what happened there, but she has made it very easy for me suddenly. She came to see me to try to help me get him interested in me. And she actually betrayed Max with another human."
Max cringed involuntarily when he heard that. Liz saw him flinch, and bit her lip. She was the cause of so much pain…
Max, as if sensing her sadness, reached back silently and grabbed her hand, squeezing it reassuringly. What did she ever do to deserve this, Liz wondered? How did she find a boy to love her this much? Her eyes filled yet again. How could she ever give up love like this…
"Max is part human, after all," Tess said with a laugh. Her voice cut into Liz's reverie. She listened again to the conversation. "And he is a man. Men are so easy to manipulate. Like I need the help of a human girl," she scoffed.
"They are getting restless, Tess," the man answered. "You are going to have to speed things up a bit."
"Don't push me, Vanos. I'll do things as I see them."
"Just so long as you 'do things' as you so eloquently put it. Did you make sure no one followed you here?"
"Of course. They are all too busy mooning over the humans, hanging out in that stupid diner."
"Ok, Tess. I'll leave now with the report. I'll speak to you again soon…" Vanos said. With that he turned around and disappeared through the rock.
Tess smiled, and fluffed her hair. She started to hum, and turned toward the door. Liz started to take a step back, and suddenly Tess turned toward the pods. She narrowed her eyes, and took a step toward them. Max and Liz froze, and Liz started to tremble.
Just as suddenly, Tess shrugged her shoulders, spun on her heel, and exited the chamber. Liz and Max began to breathe again.
"Max," Liz whispered. "What was that? What does this mean?"
He looked at her with alarm. "I don't know…"
|posted on 30-Aug-2001 11:04:52 PM|
"Max," Liz whispered again. "What should we do? Do you think she'll come back? How will we know if it's safe to go out there?"
Max nervously raked his hands through his hair. He looked over at the granolith, and then back at Liz. "I don't know. I have to think."
He walked over to the wall and leaned against it. "I was really starting to trust her. I just don't understand."
Liz walked over to him and leaned next to him, taking his hand in hers. He stared at their joined hands for a moment, and then he looked up at her with a forced smile. She looked into his eyes and was caught in their intensity. Unable to tear away from the gaze, she felt her knees go weak and slid down against the wall, still holding onto his hand. He slid down next to her and wrapped her in his arms.
"We'll be ok, Liz. It's all going to be ok. No matter what any of this means, we're together again. And I can deal with anything now. As long as I know you are with me."
"This is all my fault," Liz cried.
Max looked at her. "Liz, how is this your fault? Stop it already. This is crazy. I have to think. I have to think."
Max closed his eyes for a moment. "Ok, I think we need to meet with everyone, tell them what we saw here. No more secrets. That's number one."
Max scrambled up from the floor, and then pulled Liz up with him. "Let's get out of here," he said. "But let's go quietly, just in case. We have to just pray she is long gone by now."
He crawled back through the pod, and Liz followed him close behind. Taking her hand, he helped her up, and they both moved slowly toward the chamber entrance. Max put his ear up to the door and tried to listen for any kind of sound.
"Max," Liz whispered. "Take my hand. I think I can make myself see what's outside the cave."
Max whipped his head around and stared at her. "What?" he exclaimed.
"I don't know how I know I can do this," she answered. "I just know. Come on. Let me try. Trust me. Please."
He looked at her and smiled. "I trust you Liz," he said and leaned over to kiss her softly on the lips. "I trust you."
Liz took both his hands in hers and closed her eyes. She cleared her mind, and began to visualize her energy being channeled into the wall. She didn't know how she knew to do it, but it was the most natural thing in the world. Soon she felt herself disconnecting from her body, and she floated right through the rock. Adjusting her eyes to the darkness of the desert outside, she floated around the outside walls of the chamber. She could detect nothing, no cars, no people, just vast empty desert. She looked for the jeep where Max had hidden it and could barely find it nestled in the back between large shrubs. Tess was gone.
Liz could feel herself falling back into her body. She felt a rushing in her chest and a burst of cold air, and suddenly she was back next to Max holding his hands. Her eyes popped open, and she found Max staring at her in shock. She felt exhausted and sagged against him.
"Oh my god, Liz," he whispered. "That was…it…was…unbelievable. I could actually feel you leave."
"She's gone, Max," Liz said. "There is nothing out there. We're ok."
"Liz, are you ok?" he asked. He began to snap out of his shocked stupor, and realized Liz looked pretty worn out. His concern grew as her eyes started to close. "I'm getting us out of here right now."
Max opened the chamber door and lifted Liz into his arms. She leaned into his chest, and he carried her to the jeep. Placing her gently in the seat, he ran over to the driver's side and hopped in. He pulled her over to him, and he put his arm around her as he began to drive toward the road. In minutes she was sleeping soundly, and she didn't wake up until they reached the Crashdown.
When they arrived back, Liz started to return a little more to her normal self. She snuggled deeper into his side, and then opened her eyes. Tilting her head upwards, she gazed at him. The sadness in her eyes was still there, but there was something else now. Hope. Max leaned forward and kissed her forehead.
"We still need to talk soon, Liz," he said. "I still need to understand everything."
She forced a smile. "I know, Max. I promise I will explain. I just hope you aren't sorry about this, about me."
"Liz, I believe in us. I believe in you. Whatever it is, we will work it out. We have to," he insisted. "I can't lose you again. I don’t think I could survive it another time."
Max made her wait in the car and ran inside to see if the others were still there. Maria came barreling over to him immediately.
"Where's Liz, Max?" she asked through clenched teeth. "What the heck did you do to her now?"
"Maria, not now," Max begged. "We need to all have a meeting. Now. Is everyone here?"
"Yeah, Michael's in the kitchen. Isabel and Alex are over by the counter." She said in a rush. "Max, what's going on? Is Liz ok? Did something happen to Liz? Because if you did something to Liz, I will personally come after your alien butt ¾
Maria!" Max cut in. "What the heck are you babbling about? Liz is fine. But we all need to meet, like right now. At Michael's. Tell everyone to meet at Michael's."
"Ok, ok. I'll go tell. Jeez," Maria muttered. "We were closing up anyway…"
"Maria, wait!" Max grabbed her back, nearly knocking her over. "Whatever you do, do not tell Tess. No one can tell Tess about this meeting. Tess can't know anything, ok? Nothing. Make sure they all know that."
"Max, no Tess. Got it." Maria started to walk away, shaking her head.
Max watched her walk away for a second and then raced back to the jeep, to Liz. When he got there, she was gone.
"Liz! Liz!" Max was yelling her name repeatedly, his voice straining with anxiety. "LIZ! Where are you?"
He was turning in circles, his hands on either side of his head. "Oh, god," he cried, brokenly. " God…LIZ!!!!"
He tuned around and raced back into the Crashdown. He looked for Maria, Isabel, anyone. They were already gone, probably heading over to Michael's. He saw Liz's dad locking up for the night and slipped back out the rear door before he spotted him.
"Liz…." He called one last time. Then, without hesitating to question his actions, he raced to the jeep and sped off into the night.
"So, Maria, what the hell is going on?" Michael asked for the hundredth time.
"I don't know, Michael." She answered, exasperated. "I told you. Max ran up to me, yelled at me to get everyone here, the lovely Tess not included, and here we are. I don't know anymore than you do."
"Maria, are you sure?" Isabel asked. "Think. There wasn't anything else he said."
Maria spun around. "Guys. Nothing. He told me nothing. He was like, freaking out. All emergency-like and nuts." She grabbed some herbs out of a ziploc bag and started to separate a couple in her hand. "You know, none of this would be happening if that boy could have kept himself away from Liz." She looked over at Michael. "Do you not see the state I am in? Do you not see the herbs in my hand? You think I could have a glass of water?"
Michael rolled his eyes and pushed himself of the couch. He headed into the kitchen to fetch the water, handed her the cup, and she quickly swallowed whatever was in her hand. "The world is probably gonna end tonight, and I am wearing my Crashdown uniform," she muttered.
"What?" Michael snapped.
"Nothing," Maria said quietly.
Alex watched the interchanges between all of them. He hadn't said a word. Taking a deep breath, he looked longingly over at Isabel. She was sitting on the other side of the room. Could she have placed herself any farther away from him? As much as he made fun of the Max and Liz saga, he wouldn't have minded Isabel pestering him the way Max did Liz.
"So, guys," Alex said. "How about we like calm down for 2 minutes, and actually wait for Max to get here and explain everything. You think we could manage that?" He looked over at each of them.
Isabel looked at him. "Yeah, you know Alex is right. Arguing and jumping to conclusions is not gonna help. I just wish Max and Liz would get here already."
Michael shrugged his shoulders and Maria turned toward the wall, chewing her lower lip.
"We just have to wait," Isabel whispered. And she prayed silently that the waiting would not be long.
Liz woke up with a start. She opened her eyes to find herself alone in a strange-looking room. The walls were made of stone, and there was odd lighting that seemed to come from the corners of the ceiling. She strained her eyes looking toward the light, but she couldn't see a fixture of any kind. Large soft cushions were thrown haphazardly on the ground, and a large hi-tech looking machine covered the far wall. It looked like some kind of computer station, but not like anything she had ever seen before.
She looked down and saw that she was wrapped in blankets. Shoving them off of her, she tried to stand. Her body felt like it weighed a thousand pounds, and she sank back down in the cushions she had been lying on. She closed her eyes for a moment and swallowed.
Her head was pounding, and she was trying desperately to remember how she had gotten there. Wherever 'there' was. She thought back to the cave. Max. She smiled involuntarily. She and Max had been together. She and Max had….she swallowed, starting to blush. Then she remembered where she was.
She took a deep breath and tried to remember. They left the caves, she knew that. And they had arrived at the Crashdown to gather everyone together. After that, she only remembered blackness.
Max. She started to feel frantic. Where was Max? Was he hurt? Did he know where she was?
Then, the fear set in…
Max kept his foot way down on the gas pedal. His face was grim, and he kept clenching his jaws so much he felt pain start to crawl up the sides of his face. All he could think was Liz. I have to get to Liz.
Screeching to a stop in front of the Valenti house, he gave a silent prayer of thanks when he saw the both the Sheriff's and Kyle's cars absent from the driveway. He raced up to the door and began knocking on it insistently. After a moment of incessant pounding, he heard the lock turn.
Tess swung open the door, and Max shoved right past her into the house.
"Max," she said, grabbing his arm. "What is it? What's wrong?"
She saw his clenched jaw and perspiration on his face. She reached up to put her hand on his face. Before she could touch him, he smacked her hand away.
"Where is she?" he growled. "Where is LIZ?"
"How should I know where Liz is, Max?" she answered, confused.
"Tess, I am going to ask you one last time," Max started, and grabbed her arm in a vice-like grip. " Where is she?"
"If she's hurt," he warned. "If she is even touched."
"I …I don't know what you're talking about, Max. You're…you're hurting me. You're hurting my arm."
Max looked down at her face, and searched for a sign of any kind of truth. She did look scared, but after what he had seen at the caves, he didn't trust anything about her. Then he started to wonder if it had been smart to race over here without thinking things through. He didn't want to put Liz in any danger by being irrational and reckless.
Max dropped her arm in a flash, and tried to calm himself.
Tess walked over to him, and carefully reached out to touch his shoulder. He stiffened instantly. "Max, what is going on? What is the matter? What do you need me to do for you, Max?" She looked up at him expectantly.
Max mentally kicked himself. He needed help from the whole group. Why did he try to handle this alone? If anything happened to Liz…If his carelessness was the cause of anything harming her…
"Tess, I have to go." He finally said. "I'm sorry. I'll explain later. I'm just under some strain lately. Umm…Isabel and I haven't…Um...haven't been getting along lately. And the summit kind of put extra pressure on me." He started to stumble over his words. How was he going of get out of this now?
"Max, what is going on with Liz? What happened to her?" Tess asked. Max looked away, and Tess narrowed her eyes suspiciously at the back of his head.
"Noth…Nothing, really. I just kind of lost it there for a minute," he attempted. "I was supposed to meet her and she sent Maria to tell me she was busy or something. I don't know. I guess," he looked up suddenly and tried to frown, "I guess I thought maybe she was here with Kyle…"
He silently applauded his quick thinking. At least now he could use the horrid idea to his advantage, now that he knew it wasn't true.
"Oh, Max," Tess said, taking a step closer to him. "You can't think about that anymore. You can't let it hurt you. You have to let her go, Max," she advised. "You want Liz to be, um, happy, right?"
He forced himself to nod.
"Then you have to see that certain things are just meant to be. We have to accept our paths, our future," she continued. "And if Liz chooses to be with someone else, you have to respect her decision."
Yeah, right, Max thought.
He nodded again, and tried to slowly distance himself from her. "I have to go Tess. Thanks, and sorry about my craziness before." He started to open the door. "Bye, Tess."
"Max, are you sure you're ok?" she asked. He nodded. "Well, remember I'm here for you, Max. Anytime."
"Thanks, Tess," he muttered. "I really have to go. Sorry, really." He turned away quickly and tried to make himself walk calmly to the jeep and pull away from the curb without acting like a lunatic.
Tess watched him go and finally shut the door. She ran to grab her keys and flew out the side door to her car. Something was going on, she thought, and she was damn well going to find out what it was.
Liz huddled in the blankets watching the computer station's blinking lights. She could hear a low hum coming from it and every so often a long, low beep. She had no idea how long she had been sitting there.
Suddenly a piece of the rock wall began to slide open, and a man walked into the room. Liz scrambled back against the wall and stared at him. He was dressed simply in jeans and a flannel shirt. He had dark hair with a mustache and beard. He looked awfully familiar, and yet she couldn't place him.
"Who…Who are you?" she stuttered. "Why am I here? Where's Max?"
So, you're awake," he commented. His voice was soft, with a trace of an accent. He smiled at her. "I thought you'd be still be sleeping off your power drain."
She looked at him in confusion.
"You aren't very aware of how to harness your powers properly yet. That is why you were so worn out."
"My po..powers?" She asked. "Wha…what are you talking about?"
"When you searched for Tess outside the chamber," he said, as if that explained everything.
"How do you know that?" she whispered.
"I was there," he said simply. "I am always there."
Liz started to feel a little bolder. "Who are you?" she demanded.
"I thought by taking this form again you would recognize me," he answered. "I was hoping if you saw me, and it was familiar, you wouldn't be afraid."
"Should…should I be af…afraid?" she stuttered again, the fear starting to seep back in.
"No, you should not. Look closely at me Liz. Where do you remember me from?"
She stared at him, the fear keeping her from trying to think. Just then the computer let off another low beep. And another, and another. And Liz was transported back to another time. A time when she and Max were so attracted to each other that she was receiving flashes of the crash from 1949. She was getting signals, feeling things. They were drawn to the desert by a beeping signal she was receiving each time they kissed. It was a time of discoveries. A time before Tess ever entered their lives…
She thought back and remembered waking up in the desert with Max. The night they found the first orb. And then she knew. The man in the desert. The man watching over them when they woke up, when they woke up with the orb lying right next to them. He had told them to go home, that they were on private property.
"You were there," she whispered. "You were there that day."
"Yes," he replied. "I told you, I am always there. Watching all of you."
Her mouth was hanging open. She realized she was gaping at him, and quickly closed it. "You've been watching us? Why? Why haven't you turned any of is in? Why shouldn't I be afraid?"
"Because I am here to protect you," he answered.
"Protect me?" Liz asked in surprise. " I don't understand."
"You will," he assured her. "It is time you knew the truth."
Max had been sitting in the jeep for a good five minutes. He kept sneaking glances up at the window of Michael's apartment, imagining them all in there waiting for him. Waiting for him and Liz. How was he going to walk in there and tell them about all of this? How could he explain something he didn't understand himself. Suddenly, he realized he was wasting precious time, precious time that could be spent finding Liz.
He had been saying her name over and over in his head like a mantra, almost willing her to hear him. How could this happen right after things were finally falling into place? How could she just disappear into thin air? He banged his fist angrily on the steering wheel, and then dropped his head forward to rest it there. He needed help, he finally admitted silently to himself. He couldn't deal with this alone. If there was one time they all had to come together on something, this was it.
He dragged himself out of the jeep and started making his way up to the apartment, the apartment where his true family waited for him to arrive with the girl he loved. Maybe Liz was even already there. Maybe they had found her on their way there. But they didn't know she was missing, he reminded himself. Maybe she wasn't missing. Maybe she had just gone up to her room for a minute, and he had just missed her, driving off before she could get back to the jeep.. Maybe she had caught a ride to Michael's and was waiting anxiously for him to show up.
He started to quicken his steps, breaking out into a run, suddenly desperate to get up there and have them tell him everything was ok.
They all heard pounding footsteps and looked over to the door just as Max breathlessly burst through it.
"Liz?" he yelled. "Liz? Is she here?"
They all stared at him stupidly.
"What are you talking about, Maxwell?" Michael finally answered. "We thought Liz was with you."
"She…she was," Max stuttered. "None of you have seen her? Spoken to her?"
Maria jumped up from her chair. "What are you talking about, Max? What do you mean she was with you?"
Max looked over at her, his face full of anguish. "I went back to the jeep after I spoke with you, and she was gone."
"What?!?" Maria screeched.
"Liz is gone?" Alex piped in at the same time.
"What do you mean gone?" Isabel asked. "And what does Tess have to do with this?"
"I don't know," he yelled. "Gone. Not there, not anywhere. I was hoping maybe she had somehow beat me here. You know, had maybe run into one of you guys."
Isabel was nervously punching Liz's phone number into her cell phone. "No answer," she said.
Alex started to get off the couch. "Ok, hold on, guys. We're all losing it a little here, and I for one would like a better explanation than 'Liz is gone'."
"Do you think we could try to speak in like more that one syllable words?" he asked.
"Ok, Max," Isabel started. "Explain. Where were you guys?"
"We were at the pod chamber," he answered, staring straight ahead. They exchanged quick, confused glances. "Something happened there, and Liz was really worn out, almost lethargic on the way back to town."
"Um, hello, Max, worn out?" Maria shrieked. "What exactly 'happened' in the pod chamber?"
"Ugh. Do we have to hear this?" Isabel whined.
"I'm talking about something with her powers, Maria," he said woodenly. "We saw something there, something that alarmed us enough to get us all together for this meeting. Liz did something with her new powers, and it tired her out after. She was waiting in the jeep when I came to get you guys."
She looked at him skeptically. "You guys disappeared for like over 2 hours, and you're telling me all you did was hang out in the pod chamber examining Liz's 'powers'? Oh, please."
"We...we talked," Max said, looking over at her. "We had a lot to talk about."
Maria sighed. "So she told you. You dragged the girl away to the desert, and you got her to tell you, didn't you? I knew she would cave."
Maria whipped out her cypress oil, and took a sniff.
"Told him what?" Michael asked. "What are you two talking about?"
"Told him she didn't sleep with Kyle, right Max?" Isabel asked. "I knew she wouldn't have done that, not really. I knew it."
"Yeah, she told me," Max said softly, and his eyes filled for a moment.
"So, are you happy now, Romeo?" Maria asked. "Got her to breakdown and tell you what she did for all of us? How she sacrificed her happiness for the good of mankind and aliens everywhere, blah blah blah?" She sank back down in the chair. "So are we all gonna die now? Does the world end like right away or do we get tortured first or something? What's the plan, your majesty?"
"Maria, what the heck kind of nonsense are you talking about?" Michael asked.
"Yeah, Maria," Max added. "What are you talking about? What do you mean the world's going to end? Why is no one making sense anymore?"
Maria's head shot up and she looked at Max in surprise. "Max, what exactly did you guys talk about? What did she tell you?"
"I think the question is what did she tell you, Maria," Michael answered.
"What is going on here? Why all these crazy secrets?" Isabel asked, exasperated. "What did Liz do or not do and what's with all the end of the world crap? And why do some of us know things and some of us don't ?" Her eyes narrowed. "I say this ends now, Maria, and you start fessing up."
"But I swore I wouldn't tell anyone any of this ever," Maria whined. "And, personally, I want to know about Liz first. Can we talk about the most important thing here first??"
"Ok, using the brain cells here all by myself again..." Alex interrupted. "Let's try and communicate here with an attempt at understanding something."
Alex looked around the room at each of his friends' faces. The looks went from worry, to anguish, to confusion and to frustration. "Let's first go over what happened to Liz - where she could be, what you guys saw, and what the last thing you told her was, Max. Then, we can talk about the other things if any of you think they have something to do with Liz not being ok. Alright? Can we do this please? Because I, for one, want to know if Liz is in some kind of danger."
"Ok, " Isabel said quietly. "Alex is right."
"So, Max," Michael started. "What happened in the pod chamber, and when did you last see Liz?"
Liz stared at the stranger, and repeated herself again, not convinced she heard his answer correctly.
You're here to protect me?"
He nodded. "There is much to explain, and not a lot of time to do it," he answered.
"Where am I?" Liz asked angrily.
"Somewhere safe," he answered.
He walked closer to her, sensing she was losing a fraction of her fear of him. Sitting down on the floor across from her, he began to try and explain.
"I need you to trust me, Liz," he pleaded. "How can I gain your trust to really listen to what I have to tell you?"
"Kidnapping me isn't really a good start," she answered angrily. "I want to see Max. Where is he? Is he hurt? What did you do to him?"
"Max is fine, Liz," he answered hastily. "He is meeting with the others as we speak, just like you two had planned."
"Does he know where I am?" Liz asked, with suspicion.
"No, he doesn't," he answered quietly. "There was no time to speak to all of you. It is you I must explain things to first. You are the one who will understand, who will know how to make the others understand. You are the one who provides the answers, who comes up with the plans, who finds a way in times of trouble for the others. None of this is by accident, Liz. It is who you are."
"Who I am?" she asked in shock. "I don't know what you mean..."
"I am here to protect you all, but you in particular, Liz," he started. "I have been watching, making sure everything was alright for a number of years now. I observe from a distance, just close enough to see you all are safe. But I do not interfere. There have been times I have stepped in to occasionally 'help out' or 'fix' things, but never with any of your knowledge."
"To 'fix' things? You have been watching us?" Liz whispered.
"Look at me, Liz," he said. "Use your intuition, your heart. You know I can be trusted."
"Yes," she answered finally. "But I don't understand why I know this, why I trust you."
"Please. Let me finish," he said. "I was sent here by the King's mother with the ship to protect the royal four. But I was sent in secret, unbeknownst to any of the crew and certainly to the people of our planet. There was so much war occurring on our planet that things were getting confusing. No one knew who to trust anymore, and the betrayals were mounting. The royal family wasn't safe from anyone. There were no more loyalties or friends. The enemy had brought down our monarchy and our people by cleverly poisoning our people against each other with secrets and lies. They planted the seeds of deception and distrust among loyal members of our kingdom, and we weakened ourselves with our own doubts and suspicions."
He looked over at Liz to see how she was receiving this information. "Sending me was not the only secret weapon we used, Liz. We also had to do something else to ensure the Royal Four were protected here on Earth to be reborn and flourish once again. We had to split them up."
"What?" Liz interrupted. "But they all came out of the pods together..." she trailed off, still leery of saying too much to a stranger.
"No, they didn't," he said. "Only three found each other immediately, and they were split up for a short time before they found each other again. The fourth would take longer to connect with them."
"Oh, right," Liz said. "Tess...Tess came later."
"No, Liz," he interrupted. "Not Tess. You."
Tess parked her car and looked up at Michael's apartment window. She could see shadows moving across it, indicating a few of them walking around in there. Moving quietly, she started to approach the outside stairs and made her way up to the landing on the second floor. She pressed her ear to the door, and strained to hear what was going on inside.
They were all arguing as usual. She let out a disgusted sigh. Maria was yelling at Michael for a change and she could just make out Alex's voice in the background. Trying to listen harder, she didn't notice the dark form approach her.
"Tess," Vanos hissed.
Tess jumped at his voice. "Vanos," she whispered. "What are you doing here? What if you are seen? This is totally against the rules."
"Come with me quickly, Tess." He whispered angrily. "They have sent me to get you immediately."
"Vanos, don't you see I am trying to hear what's going on here? This is important. I think something is wrong..." She turned away and attempted to listen again.
"Tess!" he hissed louder. "Come with me. Now. We have bigger problems to deal with. Something has happened."
Tess let out an exasperated growl. "Fine, let's go. But this better be good."
Vanos grabbed her arm in a vice-like grip and they disappeared into the shadows.
"Michael, I think I heard something," Maria interrupted. "Something at the door. Maybe it's Liz."
Michael rushed over to the door, and peeked outside. There was nothing there. The night was dark and very still. He turned back to them and shook his head.
"I'm sorry," Maria whispered. "I could have sworn I heard something, and I just thought, you know, maybe Liz..." she trailed off.
Michael looked at her and sighed. He walked over to the couch and sat down, draping an arm around her shoulders. She automatically leaned into him.
"So, Max," Isabel said. "You guys just left after that? Liz was actually able to see outside the chamber and Tess was gone?"
"Yeah, it was amazing, Iz," he answered. "I could feel her leave the room, and could feel her return after she checked outside. She was pretty certain there was nothing out there when we left. But she was exhausted after that. Slept the whole way to the Crashdown."
"Did any cars follow you, Max?" Alex asked. "Did you notice anything like that?"
"The road was pretty empty," Max said. "It was really dark and there was nothing for miles. I came right to the diner, spoke to Maria, and went back out to the jeep. That's when...when..." he couldn't finish.
Maria sat up with a start. "I never trusted Tess. I knew that was one Czechoslovakian up to no good. Something was weird about her from the day she got here. Liz knew it, too."
Maria started to cry. Michael rubbed her arm and she turned her face into his chest. Max looked at them and turned away.
"Max, where did you go before you came here?" Isabel asked. "We got here way before you showed up."
"I went to see Tess," he admitted. "I was frantic, and my first thought was that Tess did something to her."
"And?" Alex encouraged.
"And I went a little nuts." Max answered. "In the middle of everything I started to wonder if I was putting Liz in more danger by confronting Tess alone. Without you guys. Without talking to you all first. So I kind of lied my way out of it so I could get over here."
Isabel stood up and walked over to Max to give him a hug. "We understand, Max. You were scared. I would have reacted the same way."
"But what happened?" Michael asked. "What did Tess say?"
Max looked over at him. "Well, it was kind of weird. As much as I don't trust her now, it really seemed like she had no idea what I was talking about."
"Well, let's hope if she didn't know then, she doesn't now either," Michael muttered.
"So this Vanos guy," Alex interrupted. "Who do you think he was? It wasn't really Nasedo or something, right?"
"He...he seemed different, somehow, and we all watched Nasedo die," Max answered. "Truthfully, Liz and I were really scared they would find us there. It was hard to concentrate on all the details. But Tess seemed to be amused by the whole thing. And it sounded like they had some sort of plan involving all of us."
"A plan?" Maria croaked. "So you think this Vanos guy has Liz?" She burst into a fresh wave of tears.
"Ok," Isabel said. "Here's what we should do. Maria? You need to clean yourself up, and you and I will snoop around Liz's room and the Crashdown to see if we can find anything at all. Max, Michael, and Alex - you guys go check out any other places you can think of. Everyone try to stick together. No one goes anywhere alone, and let's meet back here in no longer than 45 minutes. Ok?"
"Yeah, ok," Max said. He sounded sad and hopeless.
Maria tried to wipe her face and compose herself. "Ok, Isabel. Let's go. I can't sit around here doing nothing any longer anyway."
"Good luck, everyone," Alex called as he walked out behind Michael.
Michael reached forward and put his hand briefly on Max's shoulder. "We'll find her, Maxwell. We will."
Max swallowed. He knew they had to, because he couldn't even begin to think about the alternative.
Liz was in shock. She wasn't sure she could trust herself to speak.
"Liz?" the man asked. He looked at her, concerned. "Liz? Are you alright?"
"Who are you?" she finally asked. "I mean who are you really?"
"On my planet I was called DaVan," he answered. "But here on earth, they named me Nasedo, the Indian word for visitor."
"Wh...what?" Liz asked, suddenly frightened. She tried to scoot backwards, away from him. "But you died. They all saw you die."
"The one you saw die was not the real Nasedo. He was Tess's protector, one of our enemies. And Tess, Tess is Kivar's daughter."
"Kivar?" Liz asked. "Who Nicholas terrorized everyone for?"
"Yes," he answered.
"But why haven't you contacted us before? They were searching for you, hoping to find you! It's been so hard for them, feeling alone and different…"
"I was not supposed to make myself known to any of you - not unless there was something too dangerous for the Royal Four to deal with alone. They had to learn and grow on their own, without guidance and influence from the past. I helped when I needed to, without any of you knowing. I helped when Michael was being hurt by that despicable human he had gotten stuck with. He wasn't supposed to end up with him, but Michael always walked his own path. He was an independent warrior who had to come to his own understandings in his own time."
"You were the one who made Hank leave?" Liz asked.
"Yes," he answered. "I do whatever needs to be done to protect the Royal Four."
"But you said you would only come to us if things were bad," Liz realized. "What's happened? Is it me? Because I gave in and went back to Max…"
Liz started to cry. She knew it. She had ruined everything. She would be the cause of everyone's pain after all…
"Stop it, Liz!" he admonished her. "Nothing is what it seems. This has nothing to do with you and Max being together! The world will not end, no one is going to die. At least, not from your bond with Max. I know about what happened - what Max from the future told you. That was a time of war, an alternate future. There is so much to explain…"
Liz was completely confused. It was too much to comprehend. All the pain she had been enduring….it was for nothing? She couldn't even contemplate that.
"Is…is it Te..Tess?" Liz asked. She had trouble even repeating that name aloud. "Tess and that V..Vanos guy?"
"Yes, Liz," he answered. "We have much to discuss, and the story is long. But first you must let Max and the others know you are alright. I can feel them getting more and more anxious. They are worried, and now is not the time to make mistakes."
"Then why did you kidnap me?" Liz asked angrily. "If you are here to help us, to protect us, then why would you do this? Why just me? Don't you know what this must be doing to everyone, to Max?"
"I do what I must, Liz." He answered calmly. "I do what is necessary. And your safety is crucial. I had to make sure you were safe first. We will explain everything to the others in time. But without you, I have nothing left to protect. All would be lost."
"Come," he continued. He stood up and reached out his hand to her. "You must concentrate, and tell Max you are safe. Close your eyes and contact him."
"Huh?" Liz asked, her mouth hanging open stupidly. "Wh...what do you mean close my eyes and contact him? How am I supposed to contact him? Whatever happened to using a telephone? I'd use my cellular, but it's back at the Crashdown in my locker..." She got a glazed look at she remembered why it was in her locker, how Max had dragged her away with him. How he had forced her to admit the truth. How he had kissed her, touched her. How they had.....
"Liz!" Nasedo barked, snapping her out of her reverie. "You don't need fake power like telephones to contact Max! You are connected to his soul. Anytime you will it, he can hear you. Haven't you both realized this by now?" He was frustrated. "If only I had been allowed to show you, to help you..."
"Show me what?" she asked. "What are you talking about? Here on earth, we humans use phones. "
"Yes, Liz," he chuckled. "Humans use phones. But we don't have a phone. And to tell you the truth, we don't really have a human here either."
Max walked back to the jeep, feeling hopeless and haunted by guilt. He tossed Michael the keys and climbed into the passenger seat. Michael looked over at him, and took the wheel without a word. He started to head down the main street again, for just one more look.
"Max, we'll find her," he said finally. "We will."
Max stayed silent, staring straight ahead. The guilt was enervating. It was coursing through him like a disease. The more he thought about how he had just left her in the jeep alone, the more he mentally beat himself up. How could he have been so stupid? After what they had seen, how could he take chances? Without Liz, nothing had meaning. He didn't want to live if something happened to her.
Max! Max, can you hear me?
"Liz?!" he shouted suddenly.
Michael jerked his head over and frantically scanned the street. He didn't see her. God, Max was a wreck, he thought. If he started wailing Liz's name, Michael didn't know what he'd do. He needed one of the girls around to deal with Max. He didn't know how to handle this. He swung the car into a U-turn and started heading toward the Crashdown. He needed Isabel or Maria for this. They'd know what to say or something. Especially Maria. She always had something to say. In fact, it was hard to shut the girl up sometimes. He needed Maria for this. He needed her. He felt the tightening in his chest just for an instant. He quickly swallowed and blinked his eyes a few times. If Maria had disappeared...if they suddenly thought she was taken by someone....he just couldn't even think about it.
"Liz?" Max called out again. " Liz?"
Michael peeked over at Max, who was sitting up straight in his seat, looking like he was about to jump out of it. They guy was starting to lose it. And fast. Michael took a breath and shoved his foot down on the pedal as far as it would go.
"She's definitely not here, Isabel," Maria whispered. "This bed hasn't been touched since this morning. Actually, I found her sleeping on her terrace, so the bed probably wasn't even used at all for that matter."
"Sleeping on the terrace?" Isabel whispered back. "Why would she sleep on the terrace?"
"I'm only her best friend, not her psychic," Maria answered. "Alex, you coming? We need to get out of here now. I want to get back to the car already so we can call Max and Michael and see what they found. Alex, come on."
"Coming, coming," he whispered, by their side in an instant. "I tried to snoop around the apartment a little. By the way, why are we whispering? I thought Liz's parents were away this weekend."
"Um," Maria started. "Well...um, I don't know, ok? It's dark and we're snooping, and we just basically broke into our friend's house. I think that warrants a bit of stealthy whispering, Alex, ok?" Maria last words started to go from a whisper to a high-pitched shriek.
"Ok, guys," Isabel said, a bit louder. "I hate to interrupt this oh-so-vital debate on the importance of whispering in an empty house. But can we focus for a second? Weren't we leaving, Maria? I want to meet back up with Max and Michael. I don't like us being split up right now."
She started out the window, and the other two followed close behind. As they climbed down from the terrace, they saw the jeep screech to a halt at the bottom. Michael jumped out and ran over to them.
"I think he's really losing it," he said breathlessly. "He keeps yelling out her name and staring. You've got to help me. I don't know what to do with him. Someone try to talk to him."
He looked around at them, finally noticing it was still just the three of them looking back at him. "So, I guess you didn't find her either…"
Maria stared at Michael. She didn't think she had ever heard him say so many words at once. She reached over and touched his arm lightly. That was all it took. The moment she touched him, he grabbed her in a crushing embrace. She closed her eyes and hugged him back, wishing he would never let her go.
Alex cleared his throat nervously. "Um, Iz. Maybe you should go see him. He's your brother, he'll probably listen better to you."
Michael and Maria broke their embrace, but Michael still kept one arm firmly around her shoulders. They both looked at Isabel.
"He listens best to Liz," she answered forlornly. "I don't know what to say to him either. But I'll try."
She walked over to Max and found him staring ahead with a dreamy smile on his face. She started to really worry. Michael was right. They were losing him.
"Max," she called to him. She reached out her hand, but then thought twice and pulled it back. She was afraid to touch him.
"Shhh…" he whispered. "Not now, Iz"
"Not now? Not now?" Isabel's voice started to sound shrill, and the others hurried over.
"He just told me to shush," she said. "Can you believe this?"
"Isabel, please," Max said loudly, breaking out of his seeming trance and looking at all of them. "Please, guys, just give me a minute. Liz is telling me something."
"Liz is telling you something?" Alex asked. "Max, buddy, king, whatever, I think you are seriously leaving our little realm of reality here…or what's left of it."
Alex looked over at the rest of the group. He took in the angry look on Isabel's face as she stood with her arms crossed on her chest, the way Maria and Michael were still clinging to each other.
"No, I'm fine," Max answered. "Liz is communicating with me. I'm telling you she is. I don't know how she is doing it, but it is real. I know it is."
"Real," Maria repeated. "Hello, Mr. Close Encounters. But what is possibly real about you telling us that Liz is talking to you while you sit there like an idiot in the jeep?"
Suddenly, Isabel remembered what happened when Max was in New York. Liz's powers must be growing. "I believe you, Max," she whispered. "Is…is she, um…ok?" She was afraid of the response.
"Yes," Max replied softly, and then louder, "She's ok! Liz is ok! It doesn't feel like she is in danger."
He heard everyone let out a deep breath. "Where is she?" Michael asked, still keeping his arm around Maria.
"I don't know. She won't tell me," Max answered, frustrated. "Could you guys, ah, give me a few minutes…you know…alone? With her. So I can, uh, concentrate?"
He climbed out of the jeep and walked past them all, making his way up to Liz's dark terrace.
"Well, just another day in the alien club…" Alex commented, leaning back against the side of the jeep. "Why should I be surprised by any of this?"
Maria turned her head into Michael's broad chest and breathed in his scent, hiding her relieved smile. His Michael smell was better then cypress oil. If the world was going to end now, at least she'd die in Michael's arms.
"I think he hears me," Liz whispered in awe. "I really think he does. But what should I tell him? You told me I can't lead anyone to where we are. What do I say?" She grew frustrated. She was leaning against the stone wall, her eyes shut tightly.
"You don't need to 'say' anything Liz," he answered patiently. "Your connection is not based in words. You must use feelings, emotions, images. You have to transfer emotions to him to make him understand. Words were not meant to be used for this type of communication. You both have never needed words between you."
"I don't understand," she said, opening her eyes. "How are we connected?"
"The day Max saved you, he opened up the connection. It was waiting, dormant, until you both reopened it. And since then it has been growing, building within you. It had to have time to evolve in this new life, to strengthen. As the connection developed, you were drawn to each other more forcefully. It became chemical. And it helped guide you to the beginning of the answers. It led you to the orb. You felt the changing then. You felt your being changing, and that is why the glowing appeared. And Max had left his mark on your neck that day, did he not? The connection needed you both together to complete itself, to cement."
"You and Max are two halves of the same whole. You have loved each other for lifetimes, always finding each other in each life you have lived. Nothing can destroy a bonding of the souls built on so much love. We knew Max could not be reborn here on Earth without you to guide him and connect with. This is what makes a King and Queen in our world, Liz. You are Queen of many who love you. You and Max, you ruled side by side. You did not stand behind Max, you ruled beside him. Your people adored you. You were the heart and soul of that world. Until it was ripped apart, destroyed by the evil within. The evil that spread like a disease and infected our world with its contamination."
Nasedo seemed to grow weary. "There is so much to explain, so much you both don't remember or know."
"I was his Queen?" Liz asked. She had tears in her eyes. "We were meant to be together? I'm supposed to be with Max?"
"You need to communicate first," Nasedo replied. "Then I will try to explain more. Take deep, slow breaths. Use the energy you feel, but don't drain it. By breathing properly, you can use the energy while recharging it at the same time."
Liz closed her eyes and tried to concentrate. She willed Max to feel her, to feel her love, her happiness. She tried to convey her feeling of safety. She sent images of herself smiling, reassuring him. She let the love pour from her, praying it would spill over onto him and embrace him with its power. She sent him an image from earlier, from them making love.
Suddenly, her eyes popped open. "Nasedo, can you see or feel what Max and I communicate?"
"No, Liz," he answered, trying to hid his smile. "The sacred connection the two of you share can not be broken or intruded upon by anyone. It is for the two of you alone. It is like no other we have ever come across. Now that it has strengthened, it is unbreakable again in this lifetime you are in."
"Hmm…ok," she answered, shutting her eyes again. "That's…that's really good."
She didn't even notice Nasedo quietly slipping out of the room to give her privacy.
"Really good," she added, and proceeded to open the floodgates of her mind to Max.