posted on 16-Sep-2001 11:56:27 PM
Title: Eyes of Fear
Author: SansuCry
Email: sansucry⊕earthlink.net
Rating: PG-13, some parts R for violence and language, others NC-17 for sexual content.
Category: AU, M/L with other CC.
Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Roswell or any one associated with it.
Summary: What if one of the podsters hadn’t been found as a child and had to fend for himself?
In my little AU world everything you know or think you know about the aliens may or may not be true.
Author Note: This is my first real fic, so please be gentle. No, I don’t have poor grammar—certain parts are written that way for a reason. If you’re confused, I’ll try to answer any questions you have. Feedback is appreciated.
This is dedicated to Big Bird, my soulmate and the love of my life.

Chapter 1

“Michael, have you noticed any stray animals around the garbage cans recently?” Liz Parker asked as she finished sweeping the Crashdown’s dining room floor.
“I haven’t really paid much attention Liz. Why?” Michael called back from the grill.
“It’s just…I noticed that for the past couple of weeks, the cans are always knocked over when I get up in the morning. I guess I’ll have to let my dad know,” she answered, saying the last part more to herself than to her co-worker.
“Let your dad know what?” Maria asked as she returned from the storage room, arms holding boxes of napkins and sugar packets.
“It’s nothing really. A few times I’ve been out on my balcony and I hear rustling down by the garbage cans. I was just asking Michael if he’s seen any stray animals around.”
“I think the only animal around here is Michael” Maria joked, speaking loud enough for her boyfriend to hear.
Michael came from the back, drying his hands on a towel. “I didn’t hear any complaining last night, Ms. DeLuca.” He planted a quick kiss on her forehead.
“I guess you’ll have to remind me, Mr. Evans. Liz, I’m all done restocking. Do you mind if we take off?” Maria said with playfulness in her voice.
“Go ahead. I’m just about done here anyway,” Liz said as she gave her best friend a knowing look.
“Thanks, chica. We’ll see you tomorrow.” Maria gave Liz a quick hug, then grabbed Michael’s hand and headed out the front of the restaurant. Liz locked to door behind them, staring wistfully as they walked away. Quietly she whispered, “Enjoy it for me too, Maria. I don’t think I’ll ever find someone to love me.”
----------

Slowly he drifted out of the haze of sleep, curling into himself as he became aware of the chilly night air. He looked around, trying to recognize his surroundings. Suddenly he remembered.
* You sure know how to scare an old man *
* Hey, sonny. You look hungry *
* Do you gotta name, boy? *
* I’m not one of them. I won’t hurt you. *
* You don’t talk much. Are you mute? *
* Here boy. Put these on. You can’t go runnin’ round naked*
* Eat this. It ain’t much, but its better than starvin’ *
* I won’t call the cops. They’d probably lock you up in some nuthouse. *
* My name’s Max. You can come here anytime you need to, ya hear? *
One day, he came to eat and the old man was sleeping. The next day, the old man was still sleeping. The third day, the telltale smell of death began. The fourth day, They came and took the old man away. He had snuck into the old man’s house a few days after They had taken him away. He had grabbed the jacket that the old man had always worn at night and put it on himself. The smell of the old man, the only one of Them he had ever trusted, comforted him. He was alone again.

The ache of hunger brought him out of his thoughts. He sat up slowly and rubbed his arms, still getting used to the feeling of the clothing that now covered his body. He had been sleeping for a while. The sky was now dark enough for him to venture over to where there were lots of Them—the ones he feared and instinctively knew to avoid. He had no choice but to go there for there he could find what the old man had called food. He quietly made his way through the town, hiding between buildings and slipping from shadow to shadow, slowly creeping towards the place he had found several nights ago.
----------
Liz sat up and rubbed her eyes. She had been tossing and turning for the past three hours and finally decided to head downstairs for a piece of Men-in-Blackberry pie. That always seemed to cure her insomnia. As she headed towards the refrigerator, she noticed the garbage bags that she had forgotten to place out back. With a quiet moan, she propped open the door and gathered up the bags. The cool night air felt good on her face and she stopped for just a minute to let it fill her lungs. As she exhaled, she heard a quiet rustle by the garbage cans. “OK, you damn animals, stay out of the garbage,” she said in her most threatening voice. She was greeted with silence. Slowly she made her way over to the garbage cans, holding the bags in front of her like a shield. Not seeing anything out of place, she opened the can nearest her and deposited the bags. She turned to head back inside when she heard another rustling sound. She softly stepped back towards the cans, and bending down to look between them, she spotted a pair of soulful amber eyes staring back at her. Startled, she jumped up quickly. Before a scream could form in her throat, the realization hit her. Those weren’t the eyes of an animal. They were human.
And with that last thought, she passed out.

Chapter 2

He sat on the ground behind the garbage cans trying to stop his body from trembling. It had taken him a moment to realize that the door was opening, that one of Them was making their way outside, so now he was stuck here, too paralyzed with fear to move. He pulled himself into the shadows as he heard a voice call out. “OK, you damn animals, stay out of the garbage.” Had the one of Them seen him? Fear coursed through his blood, tinged with a hint of curiosity to see the one of Them that had spoken. The one of Them came closer and closer to where he was huddled and the urge to flee was beginning to overpower him. The one of Them set the food near him and began to leave. His body relaxed as the tension left it, causing his arm to rub against one of the metal cans. The one of Them stopped and turned back to where he was hiding. As They crouched down in front of him, he could not help but be drawn to this one of Them. He leaned forward slightly, only to have the one of Them jump up quickly. The one of Them’s sudden movement made him curl up in a ball, fearfully waiting for the inevitable beating and kicking that had always happened when he had come in contact with Them, except with the old man. When the one of Them did not make any noise or touch him, he cautiously lifted his head up to see why the one of Them had not attacked him. Sitting up straight, he could not see the one of Them. He quickly sprang to his feet, eager to make his escape into the night. As he jumped over the cans and began to flee, he stopped in his tracks when he saw the one of Them sleeping on the ground. The fear pounding in his heart was compelling him to leave, but something stronger, the same feeling that had drawn him to this one of Them earlier, forced him to edge closer to where the one of Them lay. He crouched down and stretched his body closer to the one of Them, making a careful examination as the one of Them slept.

* See this picture here boy, this is my Maggie, bless her soul. Wasn’t she a beauty? *

His mind struggled to match the words to the image in front of him. This one of Them was a Maggie. Was a She. Was a Beauty. He reached out to touch the Maggie. He reverently ran a finger down the side of her face. As he trailed it across her lips, she let out a low moan, and he pulled his hand back as if he had been singed. He wanted to stay there, staring at the Beauty but the fear of more of Them coming won out and he ran away, disappearing into the shadows.
----------

Liz let out another moan as she came to. The back of her head hurt where it had contacted the ground, so she rubbed it as she slowly sat up, trying to remember what had happened. A sudden chill ran down her spine as she remembered those eyes. Why had someone been hiding among the garbage cans? Was this person the one who had been going through the garbage? The thought of someone eating the refuse almost made her sick. Maybe she had just imagined it. It was probably only an animal. She had just been so surprised that she thought they were human eyes. As she pulled herself up and made her way back into the Crashdown, she tried to come up with evidence to back up her theory. But as she climbed into bed a few minutes later, she knew in her heart that without a doubt those eyes had shown too much emotion to be anything but human.

Morning came much too soon for Liz. She had lain awake the rest of the night, not able to get the image of those eyes staring back at her out of her head. Analyzing the events of the early morning encounter had only brought her to one conclusion. She needed to find the person those eyes belonged to. However, she had to push that thought aside to get ready for her Saturday morning shift. Sitting up quickly, she remembered the little blow to her head too late. She winced at the pain, hoping that she could make it through the day without it hurting too much. As she walked out to the living room, her father was at his desk, going over the previous day’s receipts.
“Hey Lizzie. I think you’re right about something getting into the garbage cans. I’m pretty sure I heard something down there last night. I’ll see about having some traps set or maybe putting out some poison.”
Panic flashed through Liz as she thought about those eyes again, and the fear she had seen in them. Suddenly she felt very protective. Whomever those eyes belonged to, they certainly didn’t deserve to be poisoned. “No, dad, that was just me last night. I forgot to take the bags out after my shift, so I ended up doing it in the middle of the night. It didn’t seem like anything had been in the garbage, so maybe it was just kids playing a joke or something. Why don’t you hold off and see if it happens again before you go spending money on something we might not need.”
“If you think so, honey. Let me know if you notice anything else.”
Liz smiled and made her way downstairs, wondering how she was going to make it through her shift without thinking of ways to find her mystery person.
----------

He made it back to the shed behind the old man’s house before he realized he did not get any food. After the scare he had just had, he was not about to make another trip the where They lived. He would have to wait until the next night to eat. And now he would have to find a new place for food. Going back to that place was not safe now. He could not take the chance that They might be there, waiting for him to return. Waiting to hurt him. His thoughts turned to the Maggie. He had been so drawn to the Beauty. What if she kept sleeping, like the old man had? Still, he could not take the chance of returning there to assure himself that she had not kept sleeping. As the adrenaline drained from his system, he drifted into a restless slumber as nightmares of being chased and hurt by Them overtook the pleasant thoughts of the Maggie.
----------

As her shift drew to an end, Liz couldn’t help but notice that Maria had been on cloud nine all day.
“So, I guess you and Michael had fun last night?”
“Yeah, you could say that. Mr. And Mrs. Evans are out of town for the weekend, and since Isabelle spent the night at Tess’s, we had the house all to ourselves,” Maria smiled like the Cheshire cat. “ So did you do anything fun and exciting after we left?”
“C’mon Maria, this is me we’re talking about. Do I ever get to do anything fun and exciting?” Liz sighed.
“Well, obviously something happened ‘cuz your head has definitely been somewhere else all day.”
Liz didn’t think she had been that obvious, but she couldn’t lie to her best friend. “Remember how I thought that animals were getting into the garbage? I don’t think it’s an animal. I think it might be a person.”
“That’s crazy Liz. Who would want to eat garbage?” Maria questioned.
“I don’t know, but I plan to find out. And soon. My dad wanted to put out some poison but I convinced him to wait. I think I’m going to stay up tonight and keep watch on my balcony. I just have this feeling….” Liz trailed off.
“OK, honey, whatever you say. Not how I would spend my Saturday night, but to each his own. Good luck with that.” Maria shrugged. “But if you do find out it’s a person, what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”

Liz spent that evening pumping herself full of caffeine to endure the long night ahead. She was determined to stay awake until her mystery person showed up. After saying goodnight to her parents, she made herself comfortable on the balcony ledge that overlooked the back alley, surrounding herself with candles as she wrote in her journal. Throughout the night, her pulse raced and her heart skipped a beat at every little sound, but as the sky began to lighten with the morning sun, it was obvious that the alley visitor would not be returning.

Chapter 3

Liz performed her surveillance routine every night for a week, but when the lack of sleep began to catch up to her, she gave up all hope of ever seeing those amber eyes again and had begun to believe that the whole thing had been her own wild imagination trying to create some excitement in her dull and boring life. Two weeks later, it was purely by accident that she found out her suspicions had been correct all along.

She had left her window open to allow the cool night air to enter her room, but the rain from an unexpected thunderstorm began to pelt her floor and soak her belongings. As she got up to close the window, she heard the sound of metal from the alley below. At first she was sure it was just the rain drops hitting the garbage cans, but her curiosity got the best of her and she climbed out her window into the downpour. She slowly leaned over the edge of the balcony to look at the alley below, and her heart almost broke at the sight. There, soaked by the rain, was her mystery person rummaging through the garbage cans for something to eat. Squinting to get a better look at the person, she could tell that it was a man, a boy, actually, about her age. He looked around nervously as he methodically searched for food. He grabbed a handful of items, quickly placed them in a discarded take out bag and then disappeared down the alley. As Liz watched him leave, she vowed to find a way to make sure he never had to eat someone else’s throwaways again.
----------

He knew that he should not go back to where he had been seen by the Maggie. It was not safe. But the water was falling down, so he knew he would not see any of Them that night. He would go fast, too. He quickly made his way to the place with the Maggie, and made haste as he found food. The same drawn feeling that he had with She when he was here before came over him. He looked around cautiously for signs of the Maggie or one of Them, but he saw nothing. As he finished his search for food, he began to hide in the shadows of the alley. If he had taken one second to look up, he would have seen the Beauty watching over him.
----------

As the Saturday night shift ended, Liz asked Jose to make up a carryout order for her to take to her room. His eyes grew wide as he saw what she wanted. “Are you feeding an army or what?” he teased.
Liz just smiled back at him. “I have an all night online chat. I want to have enough energy to keep me going 'til morning.”
“Whatever you say, boss.”
After Liz made sure the Crashdown was completely empty for the night, she went through the back door to the alley. Making sure all the garbage bags were tied tightly, she covered each can with a lid. On the can she has seen him rummaging through, she placed the bag with her carryout order on top, placing a cup of soda next to it. “I hope it’s what you like,” she mumbled to the silent night. She made her way back inside and upstairs, took her perch on the balcony wall and waited. It had been almost three in the morning when he had been there the night before, but she wanted to be sure she didn’t miss him. She wrote in her journal to try and stay awake, but eventually she couldn’t fight sleep a minute longer. When she awoke with a startle at almost four in the morning, the bag and drink were gone.
----------

He knew he should not return to where the Maggie was. Not now that the water was not falling down. It was not safe. But he could not resist. Those few seconds the night before when he had felt the draw of the Maggie were fresh in his mind. He needed to feel that draw again. As he made his way through the shadows of the night, he could feel the Maggie’s presence grow stronger as he came to the place where She was. When he got to the alley and saw the bag where he always went to look for food, he could feel the fear rise in his chest. Had one of Them done this? Did one of Them hurt the food? Would the food hurt him? He reached toward the bag, afraid that even touching it may bring him harm. As his fingers contacted the paper, he suddenly got a flash. “I hope it’s what you like.” The Maggie had put the bag there. Just for him. His heart leapt in his throat for a second before his vigilant instincts took over. He grabbed the bag and the soda and, once again, disappeared into the shadows.
----------

The next night, Liz told Jose that her friends were getting together after she got off work. After placing the carryout order in the same spot, she forced herself to stay awake until he arrived. He did come around three in the morning, and she watched him carefully as he took the food. He looked around as if trying to find her. She froze in place as he looked up and spotted her. Time seemed to stand still as their eyes met, exchanging a knowing look. Finally he tore his gaze from her and ran away.

Monday night Michael worked. Liz was not yet ready to reveal her new found friendship, so she placed several small orders throughout the day and hid them in the refrigerator in the storage room. Michael was too wrapped up in Maria to notice Liz trying to hurry him out the door after closing. She quickly finished mopping the floor and wiping down the tables, then went in search of the hidden dinner. She desperately wanted to stay in the alley and wait for him, but she knew that the fear she had seen in his eyes was not unfounded, and she could not let her own selfish desires get in the way of the food he so desperately needed. So she climbed the stairs to her bedroom and out to the balcony, anxiously awaiting his arrival. He did not disappoint her. He arrived around 2:45 that morning, and before he took the food, he looked up at her with those soulful amber eyes. He reached into his coat pocket and withdrew something the she could not see. He picked up his food and set the item down in its place, looking up at her again. Silently his eyes communicated that he wanted her to have it. She waited until he was gone before she ventured out the back door to retrieve his gift. She picked it up and carefully examined it. It was a pendant on a leather necklace. It had some type of symbol on it, almost like a planet with swirls around it. The end of it was broken off, and it looked very old. A smile crossed her lips as she fingered it. It was obvious that he had no money, so he must have given her something that had meant a lot to him. She knew it was his way of saying thank you.

Chapter 4

Liz spent the next three weeks leaving food for him. She had fallen into a routine by then, and Jose didn’t even question her anymore when she placed the carryout order. The urge to stay in the alley and wait for him had finally overpowered her, so this Saturday night found her leaning against the alley wall. She could almost feel him approaching before she saw him, but as he rounded the corner and saw her there, he froze.

She almost gasped when she saw his face up close. She had been able to see his eyes from her balcony, but nothing could have prepared her for seeing him just three feet in front of her. He was dirty and his black waist-length hair was matted, but there was no denying just how handsome the face underneath was. His eyes were more amazing than she remembered from her first look at them in the alley those long weeks ago. They were a deep amber, and the flecks of gold in them reflected the security light from above. He had a strong chin under his light beard and chiseled cheek bones that enhanced his eyes. He was so stunning that it took her a minute to regain her voice and speak to him. “Hi. My name is Liz. I thought you might want to meet face to face.”
He continued to stare at her with a blank expression. She had hoped he would at least tell her his name. She began to get up off the ground when a look of terror crossed his face. When he began to retreat, she stopped and sat back down. “ I promise I won’t hurt you. If I wanted to hurt you, I wouldn’t be feeding you, would I?” she said in a light-hearted tone. The panic was still in his eyes. Liz tried to think of anything that might remove the look of alarm from his beautiful features. She slowly reached into her shirt and pulled out the pendant necklace. “Thank you for the gift. It really is beautiful.”
He continued to stare at her in fear. She then realized that he might not be able to understand her.
“Do you know what I’m saying? Can you speak English? Hablas Espanol?” She was getting desperate. She picked up the carryout order and tried to hand it to him. She saw him begin to shake, and then suddenly he bolted into the night. She thought about going after him, but it was obvious he was already scared. She didn’t want to aggravate the situation, so instead she let out a low moan and muttered to herself, “What was I thinking?”

The next morning when she woke up, she climbed out to the balcony and looked over the edge. The bag of food and drink were exactly where she had left them. She dressed herself for work and was just about to enter the lounge when she overheard Michael and Maria talking in tense tones.
“What do you mean you recognize it?” Maria questioned.
“I don’t know for sure. I just do. Please Maria, you gotta find out where she got it from.” Michael begged.
“I’ll try, ok? She’s been really distant the past couple of months, so I’m not sure if she’ll tell me. I can’t just say, ‘Oh Liz, Michael wants to know where you got that nifty piece of jewelry.’” She snapped back.
“She’s always wearing it, so just tell her you like it and want to get one too. How hard is that?” he questioned.
“Michael, you know how much I hate lying to her. Don’t make me do it more than I have to.”
“You know I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t important,” he said as he gave he a quick kiss.
It took Liz a minute to realize that they were talking about the pendant that He had given her. She didn’t even know his name. What should she call him. A friend? Friends don’t run away from you. The alley guy? That seemed so impersonal. She shook her head in confusion. Whoever he was, it seemed really strange that Michael would be so interested in the pendant. What had Maria meant about lying to her? Of course, she hadn’t been completely honest with Maria lately either. She hadn’t lied, exactly. She just neglected to tell her anything about the mysterious stranger with the soulful amber eyes that she had been feeding for the past several weeks. For some reason, she felt very protective of him. And she knew that when Maria asked her about the pendant, she could not tell her the truth. She couldn’t dwell on her problem with Maria too long. She was too worried about Him. She had hoped he would return for his dinner once she had left, but it was obvious he hadn’t. She spent the rest of the day hoping he would return that night.

Liz faithfully set out the carryout order every night for two weeks, but he never returned. Even so, when Maria asked her about the necklace, she still felt the need to protect him, so she lied and said her Grandma Claudia had given it to her. Maria never pushed her for an explanation, and Liz had almost forgotten the conversation she had overheard. Then one night, a series of events combined to guarantee that Liz Parker’s life would never be dull or boring again.

It was a Sunday night and Liz was closing alone. She had been in a foul mood all day, so she sent everyone home so she could clean up the Crashdown in solitude. She took the last of the garbage bags out and turned to go back inside to retrieve His dinner, even though he had not been back since she had tried to talking to him. As she approached the door, she was suddenly grabbed from behind and slammed into the brick wall. She felt a sharp point in her ribs as a rough voice whispered in her ear.
“What do we have here? You sure are a sweet thing. I think I want to have me some of that.” He fondled her breast roughly and as she was about to cry out, he continued. “Now if you know what’s good for you, you’ll keep that trap of yours shut.” His hand began to travel lower down her body. Tears began to streak her face as she trembled in terror. She was numb. Her brain refused to work as she tried to think of a way out of his grasp. She knew she was in trouble when he said, “C’mon, you’re going with me.” There was no way she would let him take her out of the alley, so she twisted around in his arms, trying to knee him or scratch his eyes. He was much too strong for her, and she only succeeded in pissing him off. “You little bitch. You’re gonna pay for that.” And with that, he plunged the knife into her back. Just as she thought he would drag her down the alley and away from life, he was suddenly ripped away from her as he was attacked from behind. It took a minute for her to realize he was no longer holding her, and when she did, she slumped to the ground as the blood seeped from her body. As she tried to keep her eyes open, she realized that He was the one who had come to her rescue.

As the attacker fled the scene, He knelt down before her and held her face with one hand, running his other hand over her back as he looked for the wound. He looked deep into her eyes and she sensed a warm tingling feeling come over her. Images flashed through her mind so quickly that she could not decipher them, but the emotions she felt were unmistakable. Fear. Mistrust. Pain. Loneliness. Curiosity. Love. Fear. As she fought the darkness, she whispered, “Who are you? What is your name?”

She thought she had imagined it when she heard him reply “My name’s Max.” just as the darkness overtook her completely.

Chapter 5

The Maggie gave him food. Good food. He went back the next night and the Maggie gave him food again. Good food. The draw he felt to She was there and growing stronger. The Maggie gave him food. He wanted to give the Maggie something back. He could go into the old man’s house and take something to give her. No. He wanted the Beauty to have something of him. He gave her the only something of him he had. The Maggie gave him food. He would look up at the Beauty. Every night, the Maggie gave him food. He would look up at the Beauty. The draw he felt to She was growing. But it was not grown enough for him to forget Them. And what They could do.

When he came for the food the Maggie gave him, She was there. Beauty was there. Waiting. He felt the draw of She, but the fear of Them was stronger.

She: “I promise I won’t hurt you.”
Them: “You’re a f*cking freak !”

She: “If I wanted to hurt you, I wouldn’t be feeding you, would I?”
Them: “Quit lookin’ at my girl, you psycho.”

She: “Thank you for the gift. It really is beautiful.”
Them: “I should kick in your ugly face”

She: “Do you know what I’m saying? Can you speak English? Hablas Espanol?”
Them: “Are you an idiot or what? Little faggot doesn’t know how to talk? Let me guess, you’re a wetback too lazy to learn English.”

Them: “I’ll teach you to steal from me.”

Them: “Get outta here, you worthless bum.”

The fear of Them was stronger that the draw of She. So he ran. And ran. And hid. And cried. And did not go back to where the Maggie was. The draw of She was strong. But the fear of Them was stronger. He did not go back to where the Maggie was. He did not go back to where the Maggie was.


Until the draw of She was strong.
And the Maggie’s fear of one of Them was stronger.


One of Them was hurting the Maggie. One of Them was hurting the Beauty. One of Them was hurting She. He would not let one of Them hurt the Maggie. He would hurt one of Them before They hurt the Beauty.

So he ran. And ran. He ran to where the Maggie was. He hurt the one of Them that was hurting the Maggie. But he was too late. The Maggie was hurt. The one of Them that hurt the Maggie ran away. The Maggie was hurt. He could make the Maggie not hurt. He could feel the draw of She leaving her body.
He found where the Maggie was hurt and covered the hurt. He felt for the draw of She. Connected to the draw of She. Connected to the Maggie.

All that was the Maggie flashed through his mind.

The Maggie was not hurt. The Maggie needed sleep. The Maggie spoke. “Who are you? What is your name?”

* You don’t talk much. Are you mute? *
* My name’s Max. You can come here anytime you need to, ya hear? *

He spoke.
For the very first time.

“My name’s Max.”
----------

When she awoke, she was on the lounge chair on her balcony, covered with a blanket from her bedroom. She felt disoriented. How did she get here? She had had a horrible nightmare.

She was so alone. Scared. Afraid of Them.

* You’re a f*cking freak ! *
* Quit lookin’ at my girl, you psycho. *
* I should kick in your ugly face *
* Are you an idiot or what? Little faggot doesn’t know how to talk? Let me guess, you’re a wetback too lazy to learn English. *
* I’ll teach you to steal from me. *
* Get outta here, you worthless bum *

She knew she was different. She was hated because she was different. Then she met him.
* You sure know how to scare an old man *
* Hey, sonny. You look hungry *
* Do you gotta name, boy? *
* I’m not one of them. I won’t hurt you. *
* You don’t talk much. Are you mute? *
* Here boy. Put these on. You can’t go runnin’ round naked*
* Eat this. It ain’t much, but its better than starvin’ *
* I won’t call the cops. They’d probably lock you up in some nuthouse. *
* My name’s Max. You can come here anytime you need to, ya hear? *
* See this picture here boy, this is my Maggie, bless her soul. Wasn’t she a beauty? *

Then came the images of herself. But this was not how she saw herself.
This one of Them was a Maggie. Was a She. Was a Beauty.
* I promise I won’t hurt you. *
* If I wanted to hurt you, I wouldn’t be feeding you, would I? *
* Thank you for the gift. It really is beautiful. *
* Do you know what I’m saying? Can you speak English? Hablas Espanol? *
* Who are you? What is your name? *

The wonder of using her voice for the first time.
“My name’s Max. My name’s Max. My name’s Max.”

The images stormed through her mind.
Being thrown against a wall.
Being kicked in the face.
Searching for food.
Them yelling in her face.
Hiding in a shed.
The old man. Sleeping and not waking up.
Hiding behind the garbage cans.
Running a finger down her face.
Looking up at her on the balcony.
Leaving the pendant.
Seeing her waiting.
Running away from her, crying.
Hurting the one of Them that hurt her.
Healing her.

The shock rang throughout her body.
She had been stabbed.
She had been dying.

He-Max-had brought her back to life.

And now, somehow, she knew almost everything about him.

She had seen his soul.

“Liz, are you up? Your mom sent me to come and get you. You know you’re late for your shift.”
Maria’s voice startled her from her thoughts. She climbed through the window and opened the door to let her friend in.
“Hi. Maria. I must have fallen asleep outside last night. Just let me put on a clean uniform and I’ll be down” Liz said as she unbuttoned the dress and turned towards the bathroom. Pulling the dirty uniform over her head, she was not prepared for the gasp that came from her best friend. Turning back to Maria, she asked “Maria, what is it?”
Maria could only point to Liz’s back in shock and say “Oh. My. God.”
Liz ran over to her mirror and turned to see what had upset her friend.

There, on her back, was a silver glowing handprint.

Chapter 6

“Liz, who did that to you?” Maria asked frantically.
“I…I…I don’t know.” Liz lied.

She knew.
Max.
Max had healed her.

“Liz, please don’t lie about this. You have to know who did this.” Maria grabbed her hand. “Please, Liz, you HAVE to tell me. Who did this to you?”
Liz could see the expression of panic on her best friend’s face. Something was suspicious.
“Maria, keep your voice down or my Dad is going to hear you! Do you know something about this?”
“NO….Yes…..maybe….Liz, PLEASE, who did this?” Maria begged.
“OK, fine, I’ll come clean. But you first. Why did you ask me where I got this necklace?” Liz pointed to the pendant that had become a permanent fixture around her neck.
Maria closed her eyes in frustration. Michael might never forgive her for what she was about to do, but she knew she couldn’t keep lying to Liz. Not now.
“Liz, …”
“Tell me, Maria. Why did you ask about the pendant?”
“I promise I’ll tell you. But there’s something else you need to know first.”
“Something else?” Liz raised her eyebrows. This did not sound good.

Maria signaled for Liz to sit down on the bed and then took a few deep breaths. “OK, here it goes. Remember over the summer, how Michael and I went to that concert in Santa Fe where they had the gang fights break out?”
“Yeah. So….what does this have to do with….?”
“People were shooting off guns, Liz. Someone shot off a gun, and it hit me.”
“WHAT?! You got shot?!” The panic started to rise in Liz’s voice.
“Yes. I got shot. In the ribs. If it hadn’t been for Michael, I would have died.”
“Died? Maria, why didn’t you tell me?”
“Probably for the same reason you’re lying to me right now. Liz, Michael did something to save me. He healed me. And when he was done, there was a handprint where he had healed me. Just like the handprint that is on your back.”
Liz just sat there in shock, trying to digest what Maria had just told her.
“But HOW could Michael have healed you? I don’t understand.”
Maria sat down and took Liz’s hand in her own, turning so she was facing her. “Liz, Michael and Isabelle are different.”

Max had felt different too. But Liz still didn’t understand.
“Different how?”
“They have special powers. They can do things we can’t do because they aren’t exactly like us.”
“Aren’t exactly like us? Maria, what are you saying? Would you just get it out already?”
“Liz, they’re aliens. They can’t be positive, but they think they may have been involved in the 1947 Crash. And from the looks of things, whoever’s been touching you is an alien too.”

Liz was floored. “Max is an alien?”

Thoughts of abductions and probes and UFOs came to mind, but she pushed them aside.

It made sense to her in some bizarre way. He had always felt so alone, so different. Instinctively, he knew to fear people and avoid them as much as possible. He had always fended for himself, eating and sleeping wherever he could find a safe place. No one had ever been kind to him until he met the old man. Until he had met her.

“So his name is Max? And where exactly did you meet him?” Maria quizzed.
“The eyes. He’s the one with the eyes.” Liz said as she stared off into space.
“The eyes? What does that mean? Chica, you’re not making any sense. Oh, what the hell am I saying? We’re sitting here talking about aliens, for Christ’s sake!!”
“Max is the one who had been going through the garbage cans. A couple of months ago I saw him one night. So I began to leave food for him.”
“So that’s where all that extra food has been going. Geez, and here I was all jealous ‘cuz you were packing away so much and not gaining an ounce. So where is Max now? And how did you get that wonderful little souvenir on your back?”
“He’s all alone, and he’s really afraid of people, Maria. After I had been feeding him for a few weeks, I tried to talk to him. But he got scared and ran off. I hadn’t seen him for over two weeks until last night.”
“So what happened last night?” Maria asked, concerned.
“When I was taking out the garbage, a man attacked me in the alley…”
“Oh my God. I’m so sorry, Liz? Are you ok? Obviously he hurt you.”
“He stabbed me, Maria. I thought I was going to die. And before I knew it, Max was there. He must have healed me like Michael healed you.” Liz analyzed. Maria brought her into a quick hug.

“OK, so where is Max NOW?” Maria emphasized.
“I don’t know. I woke up and I was here. And he was gone.” Liz said sadly.
“Liz, we have to find him. And I have to tell Michael and Isabelle about him.”
“I would have no idea of where to look for him.”
“Maybe Michael can think of something.”
“Maria, can I ask you a question?”
“Of course.”
“When Michael healed you, did you see things?"
"See things?" Maria asked, confused.
"Yeah. Like images. It's like I was seeing his life through his eyes." Liz tried to explain.
“No, no images. But I did feel all his emotions. It was amazing, finding out how much he loves me.” Maria said dreamily.
Liz could only nod.
Maria continued, “I gotta get back downstairs before your Mom comes looking for me, and you damn well better get dressed before she sees that. After shift we can sit down with Michael and Isabelle and decide what to do.”
Liz sat there after her friend left, trying to absorb all these revelations.

Max was an alien. And a very scared and lonely one at that. Liz knew that no matter what, she had to find Max and let him know that he wasn’t alone anymore.

Chapter 7

When he connected to the Maggie—no, not Maggie—to Liz, something changed. He knew everything about her. He knew more words now. Even if he could not say them, at least he understood their meaning.

And he had seen her soul.
The draw had been her soul, calling to him.

After he had healed her, he took her up the ladder to where he had always seen her. He laid her down and covered her up. Then he watched her sleep as he gently stroked her hair. He knew he had to go. He could not stay and be caught by Them. But now that he had seen her soul, he did not feel so lonely.

He would come back to her. Soon.


He went to the old man’s house, tired from making Liz not hurt. He took some more of the old man’s clothes to wear. After he changed, he curled up in the corner of the room to sleep, dreams of Liz and the beauty of her soul overtaking the nightmares of Them.
----------

At first Michael had been furious with Maria for revealing his secret to Liz, but his mood quickly changed when he discovered why she had disclosed the information. He had been on edge all day, waiting for their shift to end so that he could question Liz about Max, and if the Crashdown hadn’t been so busy with Labor Day customers, he would have dragged Liz out of there and begun interrogating her the minute she came down the stairs that morning. Once they were free for the afternoon, they decided the best place to have their conversation was at the quarry on the eastern edge of town. Isabelle met them there, not understanding why, but knew that meeting in secrecy was never a good sign. As she nervously sat down on one of the rocks near the water, Michael turned his attention to Liz.

“Why don’t you start by telling Isabelle what happened. Maria already gave me a general idea, so I want to hear what you have to say, then maybe I can ask you some questions,” he explained.

“Sure. Um…I guess I’ll start with the alley. I saw this guy, Max, eating out of the garbage cans from the Crashdown, so I started leaving food for him. He was really scared, so I never got too close to him. I’d just leave the food and watch him from my balcony. One day I decided to talk to him, but he freaked out and ran away. I didn’t see him again until last night. I was attacked by a man as I took out the garbage. He stabbed me. I thought I was going to die, but suddenly Max was there and …healed me. I didn’t know about the handprint or what he was until Maria told me.”

Isabelle let out a deep sigh, the shock evident on her face. “A healer…”
Giving Isabelle a sharp look, Michael interrupted her to begin his interrogation of Liz.

“This guy told you his name is Max?”
“Yes.”
“What else did he tell you?”
“Nothing. Last night is the first time he’s said anything to me.”
“So, how long have you been feeding this guy?”
“Since July.”
“July?”
“Yes.”
“Why didn’t you tell us?”
“I didn’t know there was anything to tell.”
“This guy’s been around since July and you didn’t bother to tell us?”
“Well, I’m sorry. Up until last night, I though he was just a regular homeless guy.”
“I have to meet him.”
“Michael, I don’t think it’s going to be that easy. I’m not even sure that he completely trusts me yet. Remember he ran away from me the last time I tried to talk to him. I think it would be better for me to see him alone first before I introduce him to you guys.”
“Well, obviously he’s more like us than he is you. He’d probably trust us before he’d trust you.”

Michael’s words stung Liz, but she stood her ground.
“Trying to meet him is NOT a good idea. He is REALLY scared. You cannot believe what he has been through.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s been on his own for as long as he can remember, and he avoids people as much as possible. The few times he has run into people, they ended up attacking him or hurting him. He’s only trusted one person before, and that guy’s dead.”
“Wait. I thought you said he’s never talked to you before.”
“He hasn’t.”
“Well he must have if you know all this stuff about him,” Michael said in an accusing tone.
“I’m telling the truth, Michael. He only spoke to me once.”
“So, then explain to me how you know so much about him. Or did you just make it up?”
“No! Damn it, I don’t need this! You guys have been lying to me for God knows how long, you spring all this alien crap on me, and then you get pissed at ME because I didn’t tell you about another alien when I didn’t even know he was an alien or that aliens even existed? That’s bullshit!!” Liz was losing her temper quickly.

Isabelle glared Michael into silence and tried to calm Liz down. “Liz, please. I don’t think Michael meant to call you a liar. But you can’t believe what it would mean if this Max really is another alien.”
“Liz, why don’t you tell them about what you saw,” Maria interrupted.
“Saw when?” Isabelle asked.
“When Max healed me, I think he made….some kind of connection. I saw all these images of his life, of everything that has happened to him. It’s like I have his feelings and memories inside of me now.”

Isabelle said in a nervous voice, “Michael, do you know what this means? This could….” before he gave her an icy glare and cut her off again to question Liz.
“You actually SAW things?” he asked in disbelieving awe.
“Yeah. Maria said something similar happened when you healed her.”
“We felt each other’s emotions, but to see things…Liz, we really need to find this guy. Do you have any idea where he could be?”
“I’m sorry guys. He’s always come to me. I have some images of an old man and a shed, but I don’t know where they could be. I’m sure he’ll come back tonight. After all, it is free food, right?” she tried to joke.
Michael and Isabelle exchanged looks. Liz was taking this all a lot better than Maria had. She had been a basket case for weeks after initiation into the I-Know-An-Alien Club.
“Well, I guess we all know where we will be tonight. What time does he usually show up, Liz?”
“Please Michael. Right now, I think I know him better than anybody. Just give me one night with him to see how much he trusts me. You really have no idea how isolated he is. I don’t want to take the chance of driving him away forever.”
He scowled in frustration. “OK, you have one night. After that, I can’t make any guarantees.”
Liz smiled a silent thank you.

As Michael stalked off towards the jeep, signaling the end of their meeting, Liz realized that she didn’t get to ask any questions of the aliens. Just as she turned to Isabelle, the tall blonde took off after Michael, grabbing his arm as she caught up with him. Turning to her best friend, Liz asked in an irritated tone, “What, I spill my guts and then I get left in the dark about your out-of-this-world boyfriend and his sister?”
Maria patted her arm and said, “Just let him cool off, ok? I’m sure he’ll answer all your questions once he’s had time to digest this other alien stuff. In the meantime, I’ll try to come over later and tell you what I know, ok?”
“Fine, fine. I’ve had about all the alien bonding I can handle for now anyway. Maria, does Alex know about Isabelle?”
“No, nobody know but you and me, and trust me, the only reason we know is because it’s impossible to hide an alien hand hickey,” Maria joked. “I think we better go before we miss our ride.”
Liz gave a small smile and habitually reached around her neck to finger the pendant under her blouse. Realizing that no one had brought it up, she started to mention it to Maria. Seeing her best friend’s attention was already on Michael, she decided to ask her about it later.

That evening, Maria called Liz to cancel their alien discussion. Amy DeLuca was on a bonding kick, and there was no way Maria could talk her way out of a mother-daughter movie night. Liz tried to take advantage of her free evening to catch up on a book report, but thoughts of Max continuously interrupted. Her body hummed with excitement. Max had told her his name, so she hoped it was the beginning of a closer relationship than just her leaving food for him to eat. She had been afraid to admit it before, but his eyes had captured her heart the first time she had seen him. And since they had connected, she knew he felt the same about her. Late that night Liz left Max’s dinner down by the garbage cans as usual and waited for him to arrive.
----------

Max was literally yanked out of his dreams by a fist threaded through his hair, roughly pulling him into a sitting position as a familiar voice addressed him. “Boys, I just cannot believe my luck. Do you have any idea who this is?” The man’s two partners nodded no. “This here is my friend I was tellin y’all about. The one from last night. If it wasn’t for this ol’ bastard here, I woulda had myself a nice piece of pussy.” Jerking Max’s head back further, he continued. “Now tell me my friend, why did you mess that up for me? Did you want her for yourself?”
Max didn’t quite understand all the words this one of Them was saying, but he knew that this was the one of Them who had hurt Liz. He glared at the man with all the anger his eyes could summons. He knew from experience that there was no use fighting when there were more of Them than him, so he waited to see what They had planned for him.
“Cat got yer tongue? I asked you a question, damn it!” the one of Them spat at him.
Max continued to glare at him.
“Boys, I think it’s time we took a little road trip.” The last thing Max remembered was the feel of the one of Them’s fist as it smashed into his face, sending him into blackness.
----------

As the night wore on and Max did not show up, Liz began to worry. Her earlier excitement dissapated, it was now replaced with feelings of restlessness and fear. Had healing her frightened him away? Could she possibly have made up all those images? Refusing to give in to her doubts, she waited up until the sun began to rise, and then quietly conceded that he was not coming.

She waited for him every night for four more weeks, and every morning when his dinner would still be on the garbage cans, her heart broke a little more. Finally, she stopped waiting up for him and spent her nights crying instead.

Chapter 8

“C’mon Jake, how much longer you gonna hold onto this guy. It’s been like, what, over a month now. I’m getting sick of draggin’ him around everywhere.” Joe addressed his traveling buddy.
“You wanna let him go, let him go. I’ll just let you take his place.” Jake challenged.
“Look, I’m just saying. He looks like he ain’t 18 yet. Takin’ a kid across state lines, that can land us doin’ some real time,” Joe countered.
Mike put in his two cents. “He’s gotta point there, Jake. We’ve already taken the kid across two state lines. I don’t wanna risk doin’ it again. Besides, it’s startin’ to get colder outside. We can’t keep him in the trunk much longer.”
Jake continued staring out at the wooded area as he finished his cigarette. For a minute his companions had wondered whether he had heard them. Suddenly he ordered, “OK, you win. Get him out of the there.”
The two men carelessly jerked Max out of the trunk. He was so weak his legs collapsed underneath him. Jake reached under the front seat, grabbing the gun and quickly checking it to be sure it was loaded. He grabbed Max by the back of the collar and dragged him into the brush.
“Jake, man, what are you doin’?” Mike questioned.
“Do you really want to know? That would make you even more of an accessory than you already are,” Jake smirked.
“This is crazy. He’s just a kid. Let him go, man.” Joe responded.
“The kid can’t even talk. It’s not like he can tell the cops anything anyway,” Mike added.
Jake turned around and pierced Joe with deadly eyes as he raised the gun and pointed it at the man. “Like I said before, I’ll just let you take his place.”
Joe shook his head. “No, man, you go do whatever you think you gotta do.”
Jake continued dragging Max into the woods and out of the sight of the two men, Mike muttering under his breath, “He’s crazy. He’s f*ckin’ crazy.”

Max was barely aware of his surroundings. He had forgotten how long it had been since he had eaten or drank. There was no part of him that wasn’t covered in bruises. At first he had tried to heal himself, but he quickly learned to save his energy to repair only his gravest wounds. His thoughts often drifted to Liz and the amazing emotions he had felt from her. He wanted—needed—to see her again. Sometimes these thoughts were the only thing that stopped him from giving up completely. As Jake dragged him into a low clearing, he was suddenly forced to kneel.
Jake grabbed his chin and forced his head up. “Look at me, you little prick!”
Max slowly raised his eyes to meet those of his tormentor. Jake released his chin and stepped back, raising the gun and pointing it directly at Max. “I guess you won’t be helping any more damsels in distress, now will you? I hope that little bitch was worth your life.”
As Jake’s fingers began to squeeze the trigger, a flash of pure terror overcame Max. He thought of Liz and how much she meant to him, how she had cared about him when nobody else did. He wished he could touch her one more time, feel her silky hair against his face, see her beautiful eyes again. Suddenly, he could feel an energy build inside of him. Never before had he experienced such a feeling, but instinctively he knew to focus it at the one of Them about to end his life. In an instant, a blinding flash of light surrounded the evil man and forced him backwards, the gun firing wildly into the air as he fell. It didn’t take long for Max to realize that his captor had been knocked out or killed. He didn’t plan on sticking around to find out. He forced himself up and began to run deeper into the woods, tree branches and leaves drawing blood as they hit his face and arms. He continued to run for what seemed like hours, until the sky was dark and his body could take no more. He collapsed onto the soft earth and began to sob. He never thought he would be free again. Now all he had to do was have enough strength to find his way back to Liz.
----------

Liz had been working the afternoon shift with Michael and Maria. Michael had been irritated when Max hadn’t returned, but it had devastated Liz. In the month since Max had healed her, she seemed to walk around in a constant haze, never able to give her full attention to the task at hand. Her friends had hoped it would get better over time, but it hadn’t. She couldn’t explain to herself, let alone them, how Max had had such a profound effect on her life. So instead she said nothing. The constant fear and restlessness persisted in haunting her the entire month, and occasionally she had felt such overwhelming despair that she didn’t think she could go on. But it seemed that after these bouts she would suddenly regain her resolve tenfold and continue on with her day.

She had just put her headband on to return from her break when a jolt of pure terror shot through her body so intensely that she cried out. She had to brace herself against the lockers to stop from falling to her knees. Michael and Maria came running.
“Liz, Liz, what’s wrong?” Maria begged.
“I don’t know. I don’t….I just felt so scared all of a sudden. But now it’s gone.” She moved over to the couch and settled down in it.
“Has this happened before?” Maria continued her questioning.
“No, nothing like this. I mean, I’ve been on edge for a long time now, but nothing like this…”she trailed off.
“Do you think this has something to do with Max?” Michael asked.
Instinctively Liz reached to feel the pendant under her uniform. “I don’t know…it was almost like a panic attack, but it was so forceful.”
“Do you want to go upstairs and rest? I know things haven’t been very easy lately.” Maria said in full best friend mode.
“Thanks. But I think I do better when I keep busy. Less time to think about things.” Liz said as she wiped away the single tear that had trickled down her face. Maria pulled her into a quick hug.
“You know I’m here for you, Lizzie. If you want to talk about this….”
“I’m sorry, Maria, I just can’t. Please, let’s just get back before my folks wonder where we are.”

That night as Liz drifted off to sleep, she felt a sudden wave of calm seep through her, almost a polar opposite of the flash of terror she had felt earlier. And for the first time in over a month, she slept peacefully.

Chapter 9

Max only traveled at night, avoiding the main roads and Them as much as possible. He had suffered a lot of pain at the hands of Them over the years, but the one named Jake had shown him exactly how cruel They could be. Just hearing an approaching car sent his body into a shaking fit, and he had to stop to catch his breath. His body was weak from lack of food and drink and rest, and any sleep he got during the day was plagued by the face of the one named Jake. Over and over again in his nightmares, he watched in fear as the one named Jake aimed the gun at him and pulled the trigger, and in this constant hell he was not able to stop the bullet from ending his life.

Everytime he would stop at a dumpster or garbage can to search for something to eat, his thoughts turned to Liz and the wonderful food she always made sure he had. She was not one of Them. He missed her desperately and could not wait to see her again. Would she want to see him? What if she turned him away? He could not let himself think these thoughts or he would drown in his sorrow. After he had made sure he was far away from the one named Jake, Max had tried to focus on how to get back to her. He did not know where he was or how far away she was from him, but he could faintly feel the draw of her soul. It called to him gently and he followed it like a beacon in the night. He had tried to track the days and nights when he was being hurt by the one named Jake, but he would be locked inside the back of the car for long periods and could not be sure how much time had passed. Now all that mattered to him was that each new day brought him closer to her.
----------
Every morning as the sun crept over the horizon to create a new day, Liz relished the few moments between being fully awake and fully asleep. It was during this time that she could pretend she felt Max’s presence in her mind. Sometimes it was nothing more than a deep comforting feeling. Other times she could almost see him, touch him. She had wished she could hold onto the feeling longer, but no matter how hard she tried, she did not succeed. It had been 71 days since she had last seen him, the night he saved her life. Michael had spent the three weeks after Max’s disappearance driving Liz around Roswell, hoping she would recognize the old man’s house and shed from the images she had received from Max. When they finally did find the abandoned place, the only trace of Max was the jacket he had been wearing the first night she had seen him. Liz took it home with her, clinging to the thought of returning it to him some day. Last week, Maria had finally convinced her to stop leaving food for him by the garbage cans. It was obvious he was not coming back. Michael and Maria no longer mentioned trying to look for him, nor did they try to discuss the pendant Max had given her. She refused to remove it from her neck—it symbolized her last vestige of hope that she would see him again one day.

Liz tried in vain to hide from her parents how painful her life had become. Even so, they had noticed the change in her over the past months and had grown concerned enough that they were talking of canceling their annual honeymoon trip over the Thanksgiving holiday. Liz reassured them that she would be just fine. The Crashdown was always slow this time of year so she could handle running the restaurant by herself. She even planned to have Maria spend the weekend with her and have some long needed girlfriend time. Her parents seemed satisfied with her responses, and she pasted on her best smile as she bade them farewell the Tuesday morning before the holiday.
----------

The exhaustion of walking night after night was finally catching up to him. He knew he was coming closer to her, but for the first time since he had escaped from the one named Jake he worried that he would not make it to see her face again. As the sun began to rise on the horizon, he knew it was time to hide himself from Them and try to rest his weary body. He tried to reach out to her with his mind, even if it were just to assure himself that she was safe. But he had pushed his body too far, and sleep and fatigue overwhelmed him before he had the chance to find her.

The sun was just leaving the sky as he awakened, and now that he had rested he took a few minutes to examine his surroundings. He was near some type of water—he could smell it. The place looked familiar to him. He had been here before. He could sense it. Jumping up to walk in the shadows of the roadway, his heart began to pound in his chest as he walked over the rise and saw the place where They were. Where Liz was. He knew he should wait out here in the dark—wait until most of Them had been sleeping, but the urge to go to her was too strong. He could not wait a moment more. He steeled his resolve and forced his body forward. He was going to her. He was going to Liz.
----------

Liz had buzzed with nervousness all day. She could not seem to calm herself, and as they day wore on the tension only grew worse. If that weren’t bad enough, things at the Crashdown were busier than they had ever been. The high school’s drama and band students had decided to take over the place for an early Thanksgiving celebration, and Liz had to hold her tongue several times over the course of the evening. She was so jumpy that she felt like she would crawl out of her own skin. She couldn’t wait to get upstairs away from all the happy laughing people, so she let out a deep sigh of relief when the last patron walked out of the restaurant. She was so out of sorts that she sent Maria and Michael home for fear she would snap at them needlessly.

As she methodically washed the floor, she felt her nerves slowly begin to calm. By the time she had finished all the clean up, she actually felt at peace. She headed out the back door to take the garbage to the cans, smiling to herself as she remembered her first encounter with Max, as she did each time she came back here. Her heart ached to touch him, to be able to thank him for giving her back her life, in more ways than one. She discarded the bags and covered the can. Walking back to the restaurant door, she faintly heard the scrape of something against one of the metal cans. Her heart leapt in her throat and she rushed back to where she had just been standing. “Max? Max? Is that you? Please let it be you,” she called out in desperation. She circled the cans carefully to approach the scraping sound, only to find a metal coat hanger looped over the edge of the can, scraping it in rhythm with the late night breeze. Unable to hold back any longer, Liz sank to the ground and began to sob in heartache. Her whole body shook with the pain of her tears as she allowed all her buried emotions to surface. Crying until she could no longer breathe, she finally pushed herself up against the wall and whispered to the empty alley, “Oh, Max. I miss you so much. Please come back to me. Just so I know you’re safe.” The tears continued to stream down her face as she sat there for the next half hour, making the same wish on every star she could see.


Chapter 10

Liz knew that she would have an especially difficult time sleeping with her parents not home, and she debated whether she should bring a piece of Men-in-Blackberry pie upstairs with her. Deciding that it was a pretty good idea, she quickly cut herself the piece and made sure the rear door’s double dead-bolt was locked before she headed upstairs. She set the pie down at the kitchen table, then stripped off her apron and draped it over the back of the chair. She lit a few scented candles and then headed towards her room, unbuttoning her uniform as she walked down the hallway. Closing her eyes as she relished the sweet vanilla scent, she reopened them as she passed through the doorway. Suddenly she froze, too shocked by the sight in front of her to do anything else. Max.

It took her a minute to realize she had stopped breathing. She took a few deep breaths and then stood completely still, afraid that if she moved he would disappear and prove to her that she had completely lost her mind.

He looked different from the last time she had seen him. He sat in the dark corner of the room, curled up in himself, eyes closed and shivering, from fear or cold she couldn’t tell. His face was gaunt, covered in the dirt and mud than also covered his tattered clothes. His raven black hair was even longer than before, and the matts that had been in it were now joined with what she prayed was anything but the blood it appeared to be. His arms were covered in bruises and she almost cried out at the sight of the dried blood covering his hands.

She slowly lowered herself to the floor and quietly crawled over to him. Under all the dirt and blood, he was still so handsome. She reached out to touch him and found that her hand was shaking terribly. She took a few steep breaths to steady it and then closed the space between them by gently touching his cheek. His eyes flew open at the contact, shrouded in fear and confusion as he looked around him.

“Max…Max…It’s me….Liz…” she squeaked out with her trembling voice. He looked so scared, so alone. She just sat there with her hand extended, praying that he wouldn’t jump up and run. His beautiful amber eyes met hers and she melted at the sight. They were just as emotional as the first time she had seen them. She withdrew her hand and sat back against the side of the bed, hoping that giving him the extra space might persuade him to not flee. Her eyes never left his. Silently she begged him to remember her, to stay with her.

“Liz.” The second time he had ever spoken.

“Max. Oh, God, you’re here. You’re really here.” Liz choked out as tears streaked down her face.

Suddenly Max sprung towards her, throwing himself into her lap as he buried his head into her chest. An animalistic howl came from his throat as he began to sob against her, grabbing her frantically as if he were afraid she would get up and leave him. Liz wrapped her arms around him, holding him as close to her as possible. She ran her hand soothingly up and down his arm, trying to avoid the bruises. She rested her cheek against the top of his head, steadying him as his body shook. Up close, she realized that indeed there was dried blood in his hair. Fresh tears formed in her eyes, amazed that he had obviously been through quite an ordeal but now was finally safe here with her. They sat there on the floor, clinging to each other, Liz whispering soothing words to him. She didn’t know how long they were there before Max’s crying subsided. She ran her hand under his chin and lifted his face to hers. She placed gentle kisses on his forehead and cheek. Pulling back, she looked into his eyes and noticed the awe there. Smiling she asked, “I guess you’ve never been kissed before?”

“Kissed” he repeated, then brushed his lips against her cheek. “Kissed.” He reached up and touched her face, beginning with her forehead, trailing along side her cheek and finally resting his thumb on her mouth, his amber eyes never leaving hers.

Liz stared at him, the realization surprising her. “Max, do you speak English? Do you know what I’m saying?” She remembered asking him the same thing in the alley that fateful night he had run away. She prayed that he didn’t have the same reaction now.

“Speak less. Know more,” he tried to explain.

“Wow. I just never bothered to think that you didn’t know English. Of course it makes sense. I remember now. The best way for you to survive was to avoid people as much as possible…” she trailed off when he looked at her confused. “I’m sorry. I’ll go slow. Let’s start with the basics. Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?” she asked as she placed her hand to her mouth.

“Food?” he queried.

“Yes. Food? Do you want food?”

His eyes lit up like a child at Christmas. She started to get up to bring him some food when he grabbed her hand, a desperate look in his eyes. He didn’t want her to go.

She wrapped her hands around his elbows, signaling for him to stand up with her. As they stood, she wove her fingers through his and pulled him towards the kitchen. Looking down, she realized her uniform was half unbuttoned, and she struggled to rebutton it with one hand, unwilling to let go of the hand that had saved her life.

Her piece of pie sat neglected where she had left it almost an hour ago. He pulled out the chair and, after a second of confusion, sat down. Liz pushed the pie towards him. “It’s not the most nutritious thing in the world, but it’s a start,” she joked, more to herself than him. He started to pick up the pie with his hands to eat it when she quickly put her hands over his. “Wait. One minute.” She set his hands in his lap so he would understand. He refused to let go of hers, so she pulled him over to the sink with her. Reaching into a drawer next to the dishwasher, she grabbed a wash cloth and wet it with warm water and soap. She brought it up to his face, wiping the mud and grime from his exquisite features, trying to avoid the gashes. She rinsed the cloth and brought his hands under the running water. She caressed them with the soap, carefully removing the dirt and dried blood, then rinsed them thoroughly. Drying them quickly, she planted a soft kiss on his palm. He repeated the gesture on her. She led him back to the table, leaning back towards the sink to grab a fork. She cut a small bite of the pie with the fork and brought it up to his lips. He accepted it eagerly and it was gone with one swallow. She fed him another bite before she handed the fork to him. He looked at it as if it would burn him, but she curled his fingers around the handle and gave him a reassuring nod. His first attempt ended up down the front of his shirt. When his second attempt ended the same way, Liz took the fork away from him, handed him the plate with the rest of the pie on it, and placed his fingers in it. He grabbed the pie up quickly and ate with abandon.
“There’s a time and a place for everything, and teaching you to use a fork when you’re starving to death is too mean,” Liz mused. Wiping his hand clean with the wash cloth, she took it and led him downstairs. “Let’s get you some real food.”

She spent the next hour cooking for Max and watching him devour every bite. He seemed so afraid to be alone that she had to work around him in the kitchen as he followed her like a lost puppy. Liz smiled at the change in him. She couldn’t believe he was the same person who had run from her in the alley. Of course, now she knew why he had run. It broke her heart to know that anyone could hurt this gentle soul. Directing her attention back to the handsome face in front of her, she teased. “I guess you haven’t eaten in a while, huh?”

He swallowed the bite in his mouth and pierced her with a serious look in his eyes. “Liz. Good Food.”

“Thank you,” she whispered back. She hastily cleaned up the rest of the dishes as he finished the last of his dinner, wondering what she should do next. She was going to have to let Maria, Michael and Isabelle know that he was here, but she didn’t want to share that information just yet. She needed to find a way for Max to understand that she knew he was an alien and that there were others like him. But, did Max even know he was an alien? From the connection, she knew he felt he was different. Obviously he knew he could heal. What else could he do? Damn, why hadn’t she asked Michael more about this? She had been so wrapped up in the pain of losing Max that she had never bothered to find out more about Michael and Isabelle’s unique heritage. She could really use that knowledge right about now.

She looked up to see Max taking in his surroundings, carefully examining the counters and appliances that made up the Crashdown’s kitchen. He wandered several steps away from her as he spied the pick up window and, beyond it, the large store front window that looked out on Roswell’s main street. He stood as if in a trance, and Liz wondered what he was thinking about. As a car passed by outside, he shrank away, instinctively hiding himself from view. As he turned to go back to Liz, the car outside backfired, causing him to dive to the floor and curl up at Liz’s feet, instantly shivering as he had been when she found him upstairs. She sank down next to him and immediately brought him into her arms, rocking him gently. “It’s ok. It’s ok. It was just a car. No one’s going to hurt you. You’re safe with me. I won’t let anyone hurt you.” She continued to rock him until his trembling slowed. The fear coming from him was palatable. It was much stronger than what she had felt from his memories. It must have something to do with his current physical condition and why he had been gone so long. Quietly she asked, “Oh, Max, what happened to you?”

Turning his face up to look at Liz, Max replied with such fear in his eyes that a chill went down Liz’s spine.

“Jake.”


Dreams remain just as long as there's Dreamers--Dennis DeYoung

[ edited 14time(s), last at 23-Oct-2002 12:55:54 AM ]
posted on 16-Sep-2001 11:58:30 PM
Chapter 11

After Max had calmed down, Liz managed to get him back upstairs. As she brought him back into her bedroom, she observed that she had been too happy to see him and too worried about feeding him to realize how desperately he needed to be cleaned up. Slight tremors still shook his body, so perhaps a bath would help calm his nerves as well. He seemed too shaky and tired to stand for very long, so a shower was out of the question.

“Max, I’m going to run a bath for you and find some of my dad’s clothes for you to wear,” she said as she gently pried her hand from his. But he would not have it. He grabbed her hand back and the look in his eyes begged her to not let it go again. She sighed, knowing the only way he was going to get a bath was if she were sitting right next to him. The idea of it turned her cheeks a deep red. Of course, a few of her dreams of him over the past couple of months had definitely had him naked, but she never could have guessed that the reality of seeing him that way for the first time would be under such bizarre circumstances. She forced herself to put aside all erotic thoughts of him and bring herself to the task at hand. Even with all he had been through, he was still very innocent—a little boy in a man’s body. She would bathe him as if he were her son. Even if it killed her.

Not letting go of his hand, she took him into her private bathroom and pulled the shower curtain aside. Plugging the tub, she turned on the faucets and checked the temperature. Once the tub was filling, she stood in front of him and looked up at his beautiful face. The fear was still in his eyes, but he also looked so tired. Placing her hands on his shoulders, she gently pushed him down to sit on the closed toilet. Kneeling before him, she carefully cradled each of his legs as she removed his mismatched tennis shoes. Seeing that he had no socks on, she reached for his shirt. He took her right hand with his left and brought it up to his face, placing a kiss on the palm and then cupping his cheek with it. She held it there a minute, reveling in the feel of his soft beard against her sensitive flesh. Taking his other hand in hers, she lifted their clasped hands over his head, then slowly released them, silently assuring him that she would not move away from him. She ran her hands down his arms and sides until she reached the edge of his torn shirt. She tenderly lifted it up and over his head, standing as she did. His arms fell back to his sides in weakness, so she helped him stand up to remove his tattered jeans. As she unbuttoned them, she realized that socks weren’t the only thing he hadn’t been wearing. Closing her eyes to stele herself, she silently chanted, “Pretend he’s your child…pretend he’s your child…pretend he’s your child…” It didn’t help very much.

Opening her eyes, she forced herself to keep eye contact with him as she unzipped his jeans and let them fall to the floor. She wrapped his arm around her shoulder so he could steady himself as he stepped into the tub. She descended to the floor as he lowered himself into the tub, forcing herself to look anywhere but the place that made them so different. He instinctively drew up his knees and curled up into himself, causing him to hunch over. Examining his hair, Liz realized that most of it was too matted and caked with blood and dirt to be saved.

“Max, I’m going to have to cut your hair,” she quietly explained. The look of terror in his eyes as she said the word “cut” made her realize she would have to find a better way to explain it to him. She turned around to the drawer of the vanity and took out a small pair of scissors. Turning back to him, she held the scissors up and said, “Watch me. This is ‘cut hair’”. She took a small section of her hair and cut the ends off with the scissors. The tension in his face eased as he understood her example. She reached out and took a few strands of his hair, then cautiously brought the scissors up and cut them. He didn’t jump up and run out of the room. She took it as a good sign. She took more of his hair in her hand and cut it so that it fell just below his shoulders. After a few more cuts, he completely relaxed and closed his eyes as she worked. She cut the rest of his hair as close to the same length as possible, hoping he might eventually let Maria style it the rest of the way.

Setting the scissors on the edge of the vanity, she reached into the nearby cabinet to retrieve a towel and wash cloth. Standing quietly she obtained the shampoo and soap from the holder by the shower head. As she went to kneel back down on the floor, she got her first good look at the area his long hair had covered. She felt so sick that she was certain she would vomit. There was not once place on his back that didn’t have either a bruise or a scar from a cigarette burn. Whoever this Jake was, he had used Max as a human ashtray. Liz couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down her cheeks. She wanted to ask Max why this man had injured him so badly, why hadn’t he healed the scars, but the bath water was growing colder by the minute. Her questions would have to wait until later.

Grabbing the drinking glass off the counter, she dipped it into the tub to fill it, pouring the water over Max’s remaining hair. She soothingly massaged the shampoo into his scalp, aware of the small bumps and welts scattered over it. Turning the faucet on to a small stream, she filled the cup and poured the warm water over his head repeatedly until clear water flowed down his back.

Kneeling back down, she wet and soaped the wash cloth. She ran the cloth along his back lightly, trying to be as gentle as possible. He winced occasionally, but kept his eyes closed the entire time. She trailed the cloth over his neck and shoulders lovingly, rinsing and resoaping to rid him of the layers of dirt. He seemed to relax the more she touched him, and it wasn’t until she asked him to lean back so she could wash his front half that she noticed he was asleep. She rolled up a towel and placed it against the wall at the end of the tub, then softly guided his body to lean back, cradling his head as she went. The movement made him stir, and his eyes fluttered open. Upon seeing her face staring back at him, his eyes closed again and he returned to slumber.

As she began to wash his chest, she observed his ribs prominently showing below, confirming her earlier observation that he hadn’t eaten in a while. Burn scars marred his chest as well, though not as numerous as the ones on his back. She cradled each of his arms affectionately as she washed them, wishing she could rid him of his emotional pain as easily as she rinsed away the dirt. She slowly washed her way down his body, stopping when she reached the patch of dark hair below his abdomen. She shifted her body to the head of the bathtub and began washing his feet and legs, unable to bring herself to touch him in such an intimate place just yet. His lean, well-muscled legs were covered with small cuts and bruises, with a long scar running up the inside of his right thigh.

Knowing that there was only one place left on him that hadn’t been washed, Liz forced herself to repeat her mantra. “Pretend he’s your child…pretend he’s your child…pretend he’s your child…”
She took a deep breath and washed him quickly, stifling her fascination as his body began to naturally respond to her caress. She hastily drew her hand away from him and quietly stood up, deciding there was no time like the present to go to her parents room to get him some clothes. Watching his face intently, she was certain he was sleeping deeply enough that he would not wake up in the few minutes she would be gone.

She tip-toed out of the bathroom and into the bedroom, pulling down the covers on her bed and turning on the small lamp as she made her way to the hall. Walking quickly into her parents’ room, she hurried over to the dresser to search for something for Max to sleep in. Finding an unopened package of boxers in the second drawer, she grabbed them, making a mental note to replace them with a new package before her parents returned the following Monday. As she made her way back to her bedroom, closing the door behind her, her head began to spin at the thought of her parents returning. What was she going to do with Max? She couldn’t very well say, ‘Hey, Mom and Dad, meet my alien boyfriend. I’ve been feeding him Crashdown carryouts so he won’t have to rummage through the garbage cans. He’s going to be living with us from now on.’
Bringing herself back to the moment, she worked her way back to the bathroom doorway. He was still sound asleep, so she decided to dress herself for bed before trying to wake and dress him. She unbuttoned her uniform for the second time that night, and quickly put on a pair of flannel boxers and a white tank top. He fingers automatically drifted to the pendant around her neck. Glad that she had never taken it off, she silently thanked whoever had been responsible for bringing him back to her.

“Max. Max. Wake up. We need to get you out of the tub now.” His eyes drifted open lazily, trying to focus on the beautiful sight in front of him. When he began to sit up, Liz leaned over and wrapped his arm around hers, pulling him up with her. He stepped out of the tub onto the rug, and she guided his hands over to the towel rack to brace himself as she dried him off. She kneeled down with the boxers in her hands, softly placing his feet in them and pulling them up to his waist. She took his hand from the towel rack and wrapped his arm over her shoulder, taking as much of his weight as possible for the trip to the bed. Turning out the bathroom light behind her, she steered him to her bed and laid him down. She stepped away to cover him up when he took her hand, his eyes begging her to lay with him. Knowing she couldn’t refuse him, she smiled shyly and slid in next to him. He propped himself up on his elbow and looked reverently at her. Holding the pendant around her neck, he looked at her with amazement. Wrapping her hand around his, she explained, hoping he would understand her. “This has been here since you gave it to me. Every time I feel it against my skin, I think of you. I never gave up hope that I’d see you again.”

Max looked back at her, eyes filled with love and trust. He leaned over and gently brushed his lips against hers in a tender kiss, the pulled back and rested his head on her chest, wrapping his arm around her waist. Liz ran her fingers through his damp hair. Feeling the pull of sleep, she whispered “Good night, Max.”

The words that sleepily left his mouth as he used his voice for the ninth time made her heart soar.

“Liz. Beauty. Liz. Max. Home.”


Chapter 12

So tired. Where here? They were here. He had to hide. Liz was here. He had to hide. So tired. Up. Go up. Liz was here. So cold. Liz. Up. Liz sleep here. He put Maggie here. So tired. Liz not here. So cold. In. Go in. Liz. Hide. Wait. Liz is here. So cold. So tired. Wait. Liz……wait…

* Do you have any idea who this is? *
* If it wasn’t for this ol’ bastard here, I woulda had myself a nice piece of pussy *
* I think it’s time we took a little road trip *
* You burned me on that girl. Now I’m gonna burn you back *
* I should cut you like I cut her *
* She’s already forgotten about you, boy *
* If she even lived *
* The boys want me to let you go, but I like havin’ a dog to kick around *
* Get in there, you stupid bastard *
* I bet she’s f*cking some other guy right now *
* I should just kill you now *
* You should be glad your leg is the only thing I cut *
* Look at me, you little prick *
* I hope that little bitch was worth your life *
* She won’t want you once I cut up that face of yours *

Cut. Face. Touch. No touch. NO TOUCH.

“Max…Max…It’s me…Liz…”

Liz. Maggie. Liz is here. Maggie is here. Liz is here.

“Liz.”

“Max. Oh, God, you’re here. You’re really here.”

Liz is here. Not one of Them. Liz. No cold. Liz. No hurt. Liz. Home. No tired. Touch Liz. Beauty. Touch Liz. Maggie. No cold. Not one of Them. Liz. Home. Liz is here. Not one of Them. Liz. No cold. Liz. No hurt. Liz. Home. No tired. Touch Liz. Beauty. Touch Liz. Maggie. No cold. Not one of Them. Liz. Home. Liz is here. Not one of Them. Liz. No cold. Liz. No hurt. Liz. Home. No tired. Touch Liz. Beauty. Touch Liz. Maggie. No cold. Not one of Them. Liz. Home.

Liz touch. Touch face. Liz beauty. Liz no cold. Liz no cold. Liz no cold.

“I guess you’ve never been kissed before?”

“Kissed.” Liz face. No cold. “Kissed.” Touch Liz. Touch Liz.

“Max, do you speak English? Do you know what I’m saying?”

So cold. So tired. So cold. So tired. “Speak less. Know more.”

Liz speak. So tired. Liz speak. So cold. “Do you want something to eat?”

Food. “Food?”

“Yes. Food. Do you want food?”

Food. No tired. Food. No cold. Food. Liz. Food. Good Food. Maggie. Food. Good Food.
Liz not here. No. No. NO. Liz here. Liz here. Liz touch. Liz touch.

* This is called a chair, sonny. You put yer keester in it.*

Liz. Good food. Liz touch. “Wait. One minute.” Liz not here. No. No. Liz. Water. Liz touch face. No cold. Liz touch. No cold. Kissed. Kissed.

Liz. Good food. Liz. Good food. No good food. No good food. Liz. Good food.

“There’s a time and a place for everything, and teaching you to use a fork when you’re starving to death is too mean.”

Liz touch. No cold. Water.

“Let’s get you some real food.”

Liz. Good food. Good food. Liz not here. No. Good food. Good food. Good food.

“I guess you haven’t eaten in a while, huh?”

“Liz. Good Food.”

“Thank you.”

Liz. Water. Food. Look. See. See more. Look out. Out to Them.

* Get his ass back in that car * Car. Them. Hide. Them. Hide.

* Look at me, you little prick *
* I guess you won’t be helping any more damsels in distress, now will you? *
* I hope that little bitch was worth your life *


LIZ HERE. LIZ HERE. MAGGIE. LIZ HERE. MAGGIE HERE. LIZ HERE. LIZ. LIZ. LIZ.

Liz touch. Liz touch. “It’s ok. It’s ok. It was just a car. No one’s going to hurt you. You’re safe with me. I won’t let anyone hurt you.” Liz touch.

“Oh, Max, what happened to you?”

* Jake, man, what are you doin’? * Cold. Hurt. Cold. Hurt. Cold. Hurt.

“Jake.”


So tired. So cold. So tired. So cold.

“Max, I’m going to run a bath for you and find some of my dad’s clothes for you to wear.”

Liz not here. No. No. NO. Liz touch. Liz touch. Liz. Water.

So tired.

Liz. Chair. Liz. Down. Liz touch.

Touch Liz. Kissed. Liz touch face. Liz no cold.

Liz up. So tired. Liz touch.

Liz down. Down. Water. Not cold.

“Max, I’m going to have to cut your hair.”

* She won’t want you once I cut up that face of yours *

Cut. Hurt. Cut. Hurt. Cut. Hurt. No. No. NO.

“Watch me. This is ‘cut hair’”

Liz cut hair. No hurt. Liz no hurt. Liz. Not one of Them. Liz cut hair. No hurt. Liz cut hair.

So tired.

Water. Hair. Not cold. Water. Hair. Not cold.

Liz touch. Liz touch Max. Water. Hurt. Not one of Them. So tired. Liz not cold. Liz touch Max. So tired. Not cold. Max so tired….

Liz…Liz…Beauty…Beauty…So tired…Max so tired…

Liz touch Max…so tired….

“Max. Max. Wake up. We need to get you out of the tub now.”

Maggie…Liz…so tired…Liz down….Liz…Max…up….Liz down…Liz touch Max…not cold….

Max sleep….Liz no sleep

NO. Liz sleep Max. Liz sleep Max.

Beauty. Something of him. Liz. Only something of him.

“This has been here since you gave it to me. Every time I feel it against my skin, I think of you. I never gave up hope that I’d see you again.”

Liz. Beauty. Not one of Them. Not hurt Max.

Max kissed Liz. Liz not cold. Max so tired.

“Good night, Max.”

Liz…Beauty…Not one of Them…Not hurt Max…Liz…Beauty…

“Liz. Beauty. Liz. Max. Home.”

Chapter 13

Maria DeLuca woke up an hour early on the last day of school before the long Thanksgiving weekend.
She wanted to go to Liz’s before school to check on her best friend. They had planned on spending the weekend having some girlfriend time, but after the way Liz had acted the previous day, Maria knew this conversation couldn’t wait until then.

Liz had been her best friend since kindergarten. They had changed a lot as they had grown into their teens, and sometimes it amazed Maria that they had stayed best friends, especially since Maria’s need to lie to Liz about her alien encounter with Michael. Even so, Maria didn’t need to be Liz’s best friend to see that she was obviously not taking her own alien situation very well. As a matter of fact, Liz refused to talk about it at all. After their initial discussion with Michael and Isabelle regarding what Liz knew of Max, there had hardly been another word said on the subject. Not that they didn’t have more questions they wanted to ask her, but her demeanor was such that asking those questions was just not an option. Of course, Michael had wanted to push Liz to tell him more about what she knew of Max from the images she had received, but Maria had put her foot down. Playing up on the guilt he had for making her lie to her best friend, Maria told him in no uncertain terms that Liz was in enough pain over the missing alien and that she was not to be harassed.

Michael had been thrilled when Liz had asked him to help her find the old man’s shed and house from her vision, but the elation was short-lived once they had actually located the place, completely abandoned with no sign of Max, save a worn and dirty jacket that Liz insisted on keeping. The results of the search seemed to throw Liz into a deeper state of depression, and despite their hopes that she would eventually snap out of it, her actions of the previous night had been the last straw.

Liz had been irritable all day at school, and when the three of them began their evening shift at the Crashdown, her mood had definitely not improved. She snapped at Maria and the other waitress for no reason whatsoever, and the fact that the usually quiet Tuesday night dinner crowd had exploded into a full blown party did nothing for Liz’s mood. Maria and Michael had both been relieved when Liz had sent them packing for the night, but Maria knew that this situation couldn’t go on. She had to get Liz to open up and talk to her about Max and the aliens and all the other things she had been keeping inside. Maria had begun to fear that Liz might actually harm herself if she didn’t get this stuff off her chest soon.

So with that thought, Maria headed to the Crashdown to confront her best friend. Unlocking the double dead-bolt, she quickly entered the building and called upstairs for Liz, who should have been up and getting ready for school by now. When she got no answer, she decided to head up there to make sure Liz hadn’t done something drastic, silently kicking herself for leaving her best friend alone last night. Walking into the main part of the apartment, nothing seemed suspicious or out of place. Looking into the kitchen, Maria noticed the plate on the table with the last remnants of pie on it. Maria smiled to herself, well aware of Liz’s insomniatic routine. Not wanting to be late for school, she decided she better wake up sleeping beauty. Unfortunately, the main part of the best friend confrontation would have to wait until after school.

Quickly opening the door to Liz’s bedroom and rushing in, she said in her best drill sergeant voice, “Rise and shine, Lizziebits, school’s awaiting!!”

Then she screamed. At the top of her lungs.

Liz was in bed with a guy. He didn’t stay there for very long, for as she screamed, he jumped up quickly and looked around frantically, as if trying to find some way to escape.

“Oh my God! Holy Sh*t! Who the HELL are you? And what are you doing in Liz’s bed?”

Liz awoke to the startling sight of Max pacing like a caged animal. Noticing Maria standing at the doorway, she realized what was going on and knew she had to act quickly or disaster would strike.

“Maria, go back. Go out in the living room. I’ll be there in a minute.”

“But Liz…”

“Maria, PLEASE, just go!!”

Too shocked to do anything else, Maria retreated to the living room, anxious to hear why Liz was in bed with a guy she had never seen before. Maybe her suspicions had been right--her best friend had finally gone off the deep end.

Once Maria was gone, Liz turned her attention to Max. She silently made her way over to him, taking his face in her hands and forcing him to look at her. “Max, Max, it’s ok. She won’t hurt you. She’s my friend.”

* Now tell me my friend, why did you mess that up for me? *

Max’s eyes reflected his fear, but underneath was an implicit trust in Liz. Remembering what he had seen of Maria when he had connected to Liz and knowing how Liz felt about her, he relaxed slightly and allowed her to lead him back to the edge of the bed. Sitting down next to him, she took his hands and explained, “Max, I have to go talk to Maria. Can you stay here? I’ll be right outside the door. I promise I won’t go anywhere.”

“Maria. Not one of Them. Not hurt Max?” he questioned.

“No, Maria won’t hurt you.”

Max relaxed further, but when Liz stood up to go talk to Maria, he refused to let go of her hand. “Well, if it means that much to you, I guess you can come with me. I’m sure Maria will love to meet you. But I think you better wrap up in this blanket. I don’t want to give the poor girl a heart attack.”

Liz made her way out of the bedroom, followed very closely by an extremely anxious Max. She settled down on the couch, positioning herself directly across from the chair where Maria was bouncing nervously. Max took his place next to Liz, instinctively curling his legs up to hide as much of himself as possible, neither taking his hand away from hers nor removing his gaze from her best friend.

“First of all, Maria, you have to stay calm….”

“Calm. I’m calm. Oh, I’m calm. I come here thinking that you may be planning to kill yourself. And what do I find? I find my best friend in bed with some guy I’ve never even seen before. Why wouldn’t I be calm?”

“Maria, please…”

“OK. I’ll try to be calm. I’ll try. I can’t promise any more than that. I’ll try. Oh, God, where’s my cedar oil when I need it?”

“Maria, I want you to meet Max.”

“Max?”

Liz nodded.

“Like, Mr. Handprint Max?”

“That would be the one.”

“Liz, why didn’t you tell me? How long has he been here?”

“He just…”

“And where exactly have you been?” Maria addressed Max. “Don’t you know how worried Liz has been? You better have a good…”

“Maria…”

“Oh God, I’ve gotta tell Michael and Isabelle…”

“Maria!! Would you slow down? I didn’t tell you because I didn’t know he was here until I came to bed last night. I was just as surprised as you are. And trust me, last night he was in no condition to see anybody. I’m surprised he’s not freaking out right now.”

“But he was in good enough condition to SLEEP with you? Liz, I know you really fell hard for this guy, but…Listen, buddy, if you hurt her…”

“Maria, stop. You don’t have to worry. It’s not what you think. He did sleep in bed with me. But sleep is all we did. He was so tired, he could barely move, let alone do anything else. He was just so scared that he wouldn’t let me go. Something terrible had to have happened to him since he healed me. His whole body is covered with scars. He was afraid before, but this fear is completely different.”

“My God, I’m so sorry. I had no idea. There I go again, putting my foot in my mouth…”

“Relax, Maria. Please. He can tell that you’re nervous, and you’re making him nervous.”

“Sorry. He doesn’t talk much does he?”

“No, not really. I’m not exactly sure how well he can speak, but I don’t think he knows too many words.”

“So what are you going to do with him now? It’s not like you can drag him to school with you.”

“I’m not going to school. My folks aren’t home, so I’ll just tell the teachers I went with them and forgot to notify the school. I can’t leave him alone Maria.”

“Well, I have to go to school. Leave it to Mr. Boyer to give us a test the day before a holiday. Liz, I have to tell Michael and Isabelle. You know they’re going to want to meet him.”

“I know. Go ahead and tell them, but I think we better hold off on any more introductions for now. I think you gave him quite a scare, and I need to try to find out more about what happened to him. From what I saw last night, he really doesn’t know much about living with people.”

Maria stood slowly and headed for the stairs. Liz stood, following behind her, Max clinging to her arm. “I better go before I’m late. I’ll give you a call at lunch time, ok?”

“Sure. I think I’ll spend the day trying to figure out what to do with Max now that he’s really here. He obviously has a lot to learn.”

Maria looked down at the floor by Max’s feet, and as she walked down the stairs she said with a slight laugh, “If I were you, Liz, I think potty training would be the first lesson.”
----------

“He came back?” Michael asked incredulously.

“That’s what I said, Spaceboy. Not only that, he and Liz slept in the same bed last night.” Maria quipped.

“THEY WHAT?” Isabelle gasped.

“Relax. It was completely innocent. This guy is almost like a little kid. Not only does he not talk, it seems like he knows nothing of the social graces. Liz wasn’t kidding when she said he had lived an isolated life,” Maria added. “Anyway, she knows how anxious you are to meet him, but she thought it would be better to wait a day or two to see how he reacts to his new situation. And after seeing him, I have to agree with her.”

“Maria, I’ve been waiting MONTHS to meet this guy…” Michael said in an irritated voice.

“So another day or two isn’t going to matter. If you push this meeting, he might freak out and disappear for good. Is that what you really want? I don’t think Liz could handle that, and right now, she does not need any added pressure. She’s going to have her hands full as it is just teaching Max the basics.”

“Well, if he’s anything like us, that shouldn’t take too long,” Isabelle observed.

“What do you mean?” asked Maria.

“Well, when our parents found us, we didn’t know anything either. We couldn’t even talk. But we learned really quick,” Michael explained.

“How quick?”

Isabelle smirked. “Let’s just say we have almost photographic memories. Once we learned how to read, we could easily memorize any book you could imagine.”

“So THAT’s how you got to be top of the class, Michael? Oh, when Liz finds out that she’s not number one because of some alien super-intelligence thing, she is gonna be so pissed!” Maria exclaimed.

Trying to get back on topic, Michael added emphatically “In any case, if we help Liz, it just might take less time for Max to learn.”

“Michael, you did not see this guy. I mean, he didn’t look like he wanted anyone near him but Liz,” Maria argued. “You know that I know how important this is to you, and that I wouldn’t be asking you to not press the issue unless I though it was the right thing to do. I’m telling you, you have to give her some time with him.”

“Fine Maria, I’ll wait, but time’s a little bit of a problem, isn’t it? Her folks are gone until, when, Monday night? What is she gonna do with Max after then? I don’t think they’d be too keen on the idea of him living in her bedroom,”

Maria sighed. “I don’t know what she’s going to do. Right now, he’s almost like a puppy. He’s gonna have a lot of emotional baggage to deal with. He’s scared to death to leave her side. She said that someone did some major damage to him ‘cuz he’s got scars all over him.”

“Scars? Don’t you think he would have healed them?” Isabelle asked Michael.

“He should have. Unless he was too weak to.” Michael reasoned to himself.

“Well, maybe once you meet him, one of you guys can get rid of them. You know, nothing says ‘Welcome to the Neighborhood ‘ better than some alien plastic surgery.” Maria quipped.

“Well, that’s up to Michael, ‘cuz I don’t heal people.” Isabelle answered.

“Why not?”

“I can’t.”

“You can’t? But I thought you two were alike.” Maria asked in confusion as she pointed between them.

“We are and we aren’t. We’re from the same place, but we have different abilities.” Isabelle explained.

“Huh. I guess I just assumed that you could both do the same things. So if I had gone to that concert with you, I’d be dead right now?”

“Pretty much.”

So, if you can’t heal people, what can you do, Isabelle?”

“I can blow things up…and kill people,” she said in a low voice as she leaned over the table towards Maria.

“Kill people? Wow…but you haven’t, right?”

“Maria!” Michael warned her.

“Ok, stupid question. So you’re like a what? A soldier?”

“I think it’s a little more complicated than that, but I guess you could put it that way.”

“Wow. Remind me to never piss you off. So then Max is a healer, like Michael? That’s what you called it, right?”

“Right.”

“So, if you can’t heal, does that mean Michael and Max can’t blow things up or kill people?”

“Right.”

“Ok. So, then, do all healers have the same level of expertise?”

“What do you mean?”

“I was just thinking about Liz. Why is it when you healed me, we only felt emotions, but she got Max’s whole life story?”

Michael and Isabelle quickly exchanged a look before he answered, “We don’t know exactly why.”

“I’m surprised you guys know as much as you do. Michael, didn’t you tell me you couldn’t remember anything from before your folks found you?”

“I don’t think these are really memories. It’s more like instinct. I always knew I could heal. Isabelle always knew she could be destructive. And we both knew that it was something we should keep to ourselves.”

“I guess you guys are pretty lucky then. After seeing Max, I can’t imagine how you would have turned out if you hadn’t been found. Max definitely has some trust issues. Oh damn, I forgot I told Liz I would give her a call and see how her new student was doing. Can I use your cell phone, Isabelle?”

“Sorry, I forgot to charge the battery last night. It’s dead.”

“I guess I’ll just call Liz after school. I’m sure she had her hands full right now anyway.”

“So, did Max look like Liz had described?” Isabelle asked.

“Pretty much. He’s so skinny that he looks like he hasn’t eaten in months. His hair is jet black and only goes down to his shoulders now. He’s got this thin beard and great cheek bones. But I gotta agree with Liz. This guy has the most amazing eyes I have ever seen. They’re like a really warm brown color, but they have gold in them too. When he was watching me, its like he could see right through me.”

“So should I be jealous?” Michael asked as he reached for Maria’s hands.

“C’mon Michael, you know you’re the only alien I want.” She said as she leaned over the table and gave him a sweet kiss. “Besides, I’m not into those high maintenance kinda guys, and I get the feeling that Max is going to be VERY high maintenance.”

Chapter 14

Liz had no idea exactly how much Max had to learn about civilized living. Fortunately for her, he was a very fast learner. By the early afternoon he seemed to have mastered the finer points of personal hygene without too many embarassing moments for Liz. Now that she had his complete trust, she found that he had no concept of personal space, although she couldn’t bring herself to be too upset about it. She had missed him so much while he was gone that it felt wonderful to feel him so close to her, especially when he would reach out and touch her arm or reverently caress her face. She felt cherished.

Liz decided to spend lunch time teaching Max some table manners. She carefully stood behind him as he sat in the chair, helping him grasp the silverware and guide it to his mouth without spilling too much of the food. When he would seem to be getting frustrated at his lack of improvement, she would whisper words of encouragement in his ear until he was relaxed enough to try again. At the end of three bowls of soup, Max was able to spoon the liquid up spill-free, and when he scooped up the last spoonful and fed it to her, she had never tasted anything better in her life.


She talked to him constantly throughout the day, and for the most part it appeared he understood what she was saying. Occasionally a look of confusion would cross his face and she would rephrase her sentence, but it was obvious that he was quite intelligent. She had hoped he would try speaking to her more, but he stayed quite for a majority of the day. She could tell he was still rather tired from his ordeal, so after lunch, Liz sat down on the couch in the living room and had him stretch out with his head in her lap. She slowly finger-combed his hair as he explored the wonderful world of television until sleep took over. When he restlessly shifted so that his face was turned up to her, she gently caressed his eyes and cheeks and lips, humming a lullabye to him until he settled down again.

After she was certain he was sound asleep once again, she picked up the phone off the end table and called Maria’s. She hated to ask her best friend to cover her shift for her, but Maria accepted without hesitation, knowing how important it was to Liz. Maria then relayed the lunchtime conversation to Liz and volunteered to pick up some children’s books at the library on her way in to work so that Liz could begin teaching Max how to read. Liz thanked Maria profusely and sighed in satisfaction as the phone call ended. It was only a few minutes later that she joined Max in slumber.

When they woke from their nap, Liz tried to get him to speak to her. She had an important topic in mind, one she wasn’t certain he would want to discuss. She began by taking his hands in hers.

“Max, I have to ask you some questions. I’m not sure if you can answer them, but would you at least try?”

He nodded in agreement.

“First, I need to know who hurt you, who gave you all these cuts and burns. Was it this Jake?”

Max nervously pulled away from her, and averted his gaze to the floor. She could tell she had hit quite a sore spot with him. Not wanting for him to withdraw from her, she gently reached for his chin and turned his face up to meet hers. The terror in his eyes almost broke her heart and, afraid of undoing all the progress they had made that day, she decided that he was not ready to deal with the pain the name obviously brought him. “Maybe we’ll save this topic for another day.”

His eyes silently thanked her.

Switching her thoughts to another subject, Liz said, “Max, I want to show you something.” Standing up and leading him to her room, she reached into her closet and brought out the old man’s jacket, much cleaner than when she had found it. He looked at it with obvious surprise then gazed at her with a questioning expression.

“When you didn’t come back, I was so worried about you. I missed you so much that I had to look for you. When you healed me, I saw the old man’s house. Michael and I searched and searched until we found it. I took this, hoping I’d be able to give it back to you one day.” She handed it to him. “Why don’t you put it on. I want to take you outside.”

His eyes widened and he began backing away from her. Silently chastising herself, she reached out to him and explained. “Max, please. We’re only going to go out there.” She pointed to the balcony. “We’ll just sit in the lounge. It will be dark in a few minutes, so no one will be able to see you. I promise you’ll be safe. I won’t let anything happen to you. Please?”

He stopped moving, contemplating her words. Then, accepting her plea, he stepped closer to her.

“Thank you,” she smiled. Grabbing her own jacket and putting it on, she reached down to the end of the bed to retrieve a blanket.

As Max slid the jacket on, he was instantly assaulted with emotions and images.

Fear.
Finding the jacket.

Sadness.
Realizing he was really gone.

Pain.
Laying on the bed clutching the jacket.

Loneliness.
Putting the jacket on.

Despair.
Wearing the jacket and crying on the balcony.


Looking up at Liz, tears began to form in his eyes. He reached over to her and pulled her into a tight embrace, breathing in her scent.

Liz reveled in the feel of Max surrounding her and she almost didn’t hear him as he whispered, “Max missed Liz. Max missed Liz.”

They stood there holding each other for several minutes before Liz gently pulled away and took his hand to lead him to the window. She tossed the blanket out first, then climbed through, turning to look back at him. He cautiously stepped out, eyes darting about apprehensively. She guided him over to the lounge chair, sitting herself down and then reaching her hand up to him, signaling for him to sit down with her. She positioned him so he was leaning back against her, then turned him slightly so that she could look into his face as she spoke. She quickly covered them with the blanket, then gently kissed his forehead and cheeks as she had the night before. Stroking his cheek with her finger, she began, “Max, I never got to thank you for saving my life. Not only did you chase that guy away, but you healed me. And when you did, I saw things—I saw your life. Do you know what I mean?”

A quick flash of fear flickered in his eyes before he nodded in understanding. He placed his hands on either side of her face and stared directly into her eyes. Several images of her own life flashed in her mind, mixed with images of her laying in the lounge chair after being healed, Max touching her hair and covering her with the blanket.

“You saw my life too?”

Max nodded yes.

“Wow. That’s just amazing….” Liz said with astonishment in her eyes as she stared out at the horizon. Returning her attention to the handsome face next to hers, she spoke tenderly, “Max, I know how scared you are and how much you’ve been hurt. But you’re not alone anymore. I hope you know that. You have me, and I promise you that I will do everything I can to keep you safe and make sure no one ever hurts you again. And I have friends who will help me protect you, too.”

“Maria? Not hurt Max.”

“Yes, Maria. And there are others.”

“Not Them? Not hurt Max?”

“No, they won’t hurt you either. Max, I have two friends who are different, the same way you are different. They know about you. And they want to meet you.”

“See Max?”

“Yes, see you. One of them can heal like you. Do you want to see them?”

Max broke his gaze with Liz and looked out at the night sky. Liz was certain that Max would be happy that there were others like him, so she worried that he had not understood her. Just then, he looked back at her and said, “Wait.”

“You want to wait to see them?”

Max nodded yes.

“Whatever you want, Max. I’m not going to make you do anything you don’t want to do. I’m just so happy you’re back,” Liz said as she cupped his face with her hand. “Do you know how many nights I sat over there, dreaming of this moment?”

Max gave her a knowing look as he planted a light kiss on her palm.

“Of course you know. You know more about me than anyone else on Earth. Or other places, I would guess.”

Max picked up a lock of her hair, rubbing it between his fingertips to feel its silkiness. He then ran it soothingly across his cheek as he snuggled up closer to her. She wrapped her arms around him and breathed in the cool November air, content with the thought that she now had a reason to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Maria brought up the library books during her work break, just as Max and Liz were finishing their late dinner. She was surprised to see Max looking so relaxed, and even more surprised when he said her name. Liz explained how Max had seen her life just as she had seen his, and he seemed comfortable with Maria because he knew how much she meant to Liz. Max even stayed seated at the table as Liz walked Maria to the stairs.

“Maria, I asked Max about seeing Michael and Isabelle. He wants to wait a little while first.”

“Why? I thought he’d jump at the chance to meet other aliens.”

“I don’t know. I’m not even sure if he knows he’s an alien. But in any case, I’m not going to push him.”

Maria let out a groan. “Liz, you know Michael’s not going to be happy about this, and I really don’t want to get stuck in the middle. I told him that you would need some time to teach Max how to be a good house guest, but you know how stubborn he can be. So PLEASE, tell him yourself.”

“Ok, I’ll call him after dinner,” Liz said as she gave her best friend a hug. “Thanks for the books, and for covering my shift. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Hey, it’s the least I can do. I guess I won’t see you tomorrow, so Happy Turkey Day, ok?”

“Yeah. You too.”

Liz returned to the dinner table and cleared the dishes as Max finished his last few bites of food, using the fork with surprising accuracy. Liz marveled at how quickly he had adapted, and how anyone just looking at him could never guess what he had been through. After loading the dishwasher, she picked up the books and led Max to her bedroom. She settled them down on the bed and picked up the first book.

“Max, I’m going to try and teach you how to read, so you can communicate with people. I’ve never done this before, so we’ll just take it slow and see what happens.”

She opened to the first page of the alphabet picture book, depicting a bright letter A and a drawing of an apple. She took Max’s finger and traced the letter as she spoke it and the word apple. Max gave her a confused look, and she thought a minute before an idea popped into her head.

“Max. Wait here. I’ll be back in one minute.”

She got up off the bed and headed to the kitchen, Max following behind her. She went to the refrigerator and pulled out an apple. She put it in his hand, saying, “A-apple”. Max gave her a small smile and set the apple on the table. Taking her hands in his, he said “A-apple” as the image of Liz putting an apple in one of the carryout orders flashed in her mind.

“Wow, Max, how did you do that? Hey, let’s go try another one.”

Walking back to the bedroom, she picked up the book and said “B-ball” as Max traced the letter with his index finger. Holding her right hand in his, Liz got the image of watching Maria and Alex playing dodgeball as kids as Max repeated, “B-ball”. Liz stared at him in amazement. She had forgotten all about her friends’ childhood games, but Max showed the scene to her as if it had just happened.

“Max, that’s wonderful. I don’t know what to say…”

He eagerly pointed to the next page, and as Liz said “C-cat”, an image of her deceased kitten, Mr. Fuzzy flashed before her with Max repeating, “C-cat”.

“D-dog”. An image of a wild dog growling at her as it guarded its food. It shocked and saddened Liz when she realized that this was one of his memories, but Max seemed unfazed as he repeated, “D-dog”.

They went through the rest of the book page by page, and Liz was both surprised and distressed by the images Max gave her, a mixture of his and her lives. Just as Max turned back to the front of the book to start over, the phone rang, frightening him off the bed.

“It’s ok, Max, it’s just the phone,” Liz assured him as she reached to answer it. Max stared at her curiously as she held the object up to her face and talked into it.

“Hello.”
“Yes, I was going to call you. I got involved with something...”
“Yeah, about that. Look Michael, I asked him, and he wants to wait to meet with you and Isabelle.”
“I didn’t ask him why, but you have to give him some time to adjust. He’s barely been here a whole day yet.”
“I’m sorry, but I think right now his needs are more important than yours.”
“Michael, I said NOT YET.”
“How do I get off? He came to me, remember? I promised him I wouldn’t let anything happen to him, and if he’s not ready for this, then he isn’t. I’m not going to push him.”
“You know what? I DON’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT WHAT YOU NEED. I JUST GOT HIM BACK, AND I LOVE HIM TOO MUCH TO TAKE THE CHANCE OF LOSING HIM JUST SO YOU CAN PLAY TWENTY QUESTIONS…”
Tears began to streak down her face. She took a couple of deep breaths to settle herself down. Max began to grow tense at her obvious upset.
“How dare you presume to tell me what I do and do not feel.”
“I already know everything I need to know about him.”
She continued through clenched teeth.
“Yes, Michael, CRYSTAL CLEAR. Now let me get something straight with you. IF AND WHEN Max decides he wants to meet you, I will be more than glad to have you meet him. But so help me if you try to talk to him before he is ready, alien or not, there WILL be hell to pay.”

She quickly slammed the phone down and let out an exasperated sigh, “Damn it, Michael, why do you have to be such and a$$hole?” Realizing Max was still standing and staring at her, she patted the bed next to her, signaling for him to sit down. “Sorry about that. I guess I’m just a little overprotective.”

Max sat down on the bed again, leaning over to touch the tears on her face. “Liz hurt?”

“No, I’m not hurt. Just a little mad. I’ll be all right. You know, it’s getting kind of late. I think I’m going to take a shower and get ready for bed.”

She stood up and walked to her dresser, pulling out clean pajamas. Heading towards the bathroom, she noticed Max move off the bed to follow her. She led him back to the bed and sat him back down, handing the alphabet book back to him. “Sorry, but you have to wait here. Why don’t you go through this again and try to remember the letters and the words. I won’t be long, I promise.” Max nodded in understanding.

She went into the bathroom and closed the door behind her. She showered quickly, and when she shut the water off, she could hear Max’s voice coming from the other room.

“C-cat. D-dog. E-egg. F-frog. G-goat. H-hat…” As she dried off, she closed her eyes to concentrate on his deep tone as he pronounced the letters and words. Amazed, she realized he was remembering every last one of them. She dressed hastily and hurried out the door, eager to praise him. She nearly fell flat on her face as she tripped over him, realizing too late that in his constant need to be close to her, he had planted himself in the bathroom doorway. She let out a startled yelp as she hit the floor.

Max scurried over to her, the panic quite visible on his face. “Max hurt Liz. Max hurt Liz.”

Pulling herself up to a sitting position, she assured him she was fine, but she couldn’t help the warm feeling that spread through her body as he lightly touched her skin everywhere to convice himself that had had not caused her harm, oblivious to the effect he was having on her. She finally got them both up off the floor and ready for bed with only one additional incident. Now that Max had finally tasted clean living, he wanted to shower before going to sleep. He remembered everything Liz had showed him about adjusting the water, washing his hair and body and drying off with the towel. Unfortunately it took his pain-filled cry to be reminded of exactly how much a little shampoo in the eyes could sting. As she helped him rinse it out, Liz silently chastised herself, making a mental note to add baby shampoo to her growing shopping list.

Once they were snuggled in bed together, Liz remembered to compliment him on his rapid mastery of the alphabet. He began to repeat the letters and words without benefit of the book, and Liz decided to try a new game with him. She’d say the letter with the original word and then add a word. “A-apple, ant B-ball, bird” while thinking of the images in her mind. Max caught on quickly and repeated every letter, word and image back to her. Then he began to give her images, and she would provide the letter and name of the item. They continued for the next hour until exhaustion began to win out. Finally the last image Max gave her was of their previous bedtime kiss. Liz smiled.

“K-kiss.” She gently kissed his lips.

“K-kiss.” He repeated the gesture and curled up closer to her, falling asleep within minutes. Liz lay there, mentally tracing his features in the moonlight, reveling in the peace that spread across his face as he sank deep into slumber.


Chapter 15

Liz’s parents called her early in the morning to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving, and she couldn’t help the cheerfulness in her voice as she asked them how their New York trip was going. They were quite happy that she seemed to be out of her depression and reminded her that they would be home late Monday night. Stretching lazily as she ended the conversation and hung up the phone, she couldn’t help but smile at the face next to her. Max was sleeping so soundly that he hadn’t even heard the phone ring.

She crept from the bed into the bathroom, dressed quickly, brushing her teeth and running a comb through her hair before heading to the kitchen. She planned to make a special breakfast for Max and, considering some of the things he had eaten before she had begun to feed him, she knew he would enjoy every bite. She glided around the kitchen as she worked, humming away as she mixed the pancake batter and scrambled the eggs. She heard Max stirring in the other room as she took the last of the pancakes off the griddle, silently congratulating him on his new found restroom skills as she heard the toilet flush. She made her way into her parents’ room to grab some sweatpants and a T-shirt for Max to wear, then walked back to her room to wait for him. He breath caught in her throat as he entered the room.

He was rubbing the sleep from his eyes, and his tousseled hair gave him the appearance of a little boy, but there was no doubt that his body was all man. How had she slept next to him all night and not ravished him? Trying to find her voice, Liz said in a choked whisper, “Um, I brought these for you to wear…I guess I ‘m going to have to get you some more clothes. I think I’ll go downstairs later and wash a load of laundry, otherwise we won’t have anything to wear.”

Max took the clothes from her and put them on, then sniffing the air, asked, “Food?”

Liz smiled, “Yes, and plenty of it. Come on. I’m not much for turkey, so I though we’d celebrate Thanksgiving with a big breakfast.” She reached for his hand and led him down the hallway to the kitchen. He pulled out the chair at the table and before he sat down, he asked, “chair”?

Liz let out a little laugh. “You’re right, that’s a chair.”

She quickly made a plate for him and was impressed when he wielded the silverware like it was second nature. Everything about him impressed her. He was obviously quite smart. He had picked up the alphabet in a matter of hours, and at that rate, she was certain that he would be spelling words by the end of the day, probably reading by the time the weekend was over. She loved hearing his voice, and every time he spoke she could feel herself being surrounded by his warm deep tone. But the most impressive thing had to be his ability to silently communicate with her. Somewhere in the back of her head she knew she should be frightened by thoughts of aliens and mind control, but instead she only felt a profound sense of satisfaction that he trusted her enough to share his unique gift with her. She had never felt so close to someone before.

Which led to a big problem. Her parents were going to be home in a few days, which meant she would have to find some place for him to live. As a last resort, he might be able to go back to the old man’s house, but with no electricity, gas or water, she knew they had to find a more permanent solution. Which meant she was going to need help, and the most obvious source of help was Maria, Michael and Isabelle. She really didn’t want to push Max in to meeting with the other aliens, but she had to let Max know that he would not be able to stay with her for much longer. The thought of that tugged at her heart. Max had occupied most of her mental world for the last four months, and now in less than two days time, he had managed to become her whole physical world as well. How would she ever cope with not being near him for hours at a time? Worse yet, how would he?

Pushing herself away from the table, she resolved to work on the problem later. After all, it was Thanksgiving, and she wanted to spend the day showing Max how thankful she was that he was a part of her life. She cleared the table, deciding to hand wash the few remaining dishes instead of running the dishwasher. Max stood beside her, running his fingers soothingly up and down her arm as if he had sensed her distress. He gently took her right hand and as if trying to distract her, he sent her an image of the toaster, silently asking her to identify it. She took the bait, and before she knew it, they had spent the better part of the day going through all the rooms in the apartment, identifying anything and everything Max could touch, occasionally stopping for an explanation when a look of confusion would cross his face.

Remembering that she had to do the laundry, Liz gathered up a load of clothes and addressed Max.
“I have to go downstairs to wash our clothes. Do you want to stay here or go with me?”

“Stay here. Not Them.”

“You don’t have to worry about other people. There’s no one downstairs today. It would just be us.”

“Max? Liz?”

Liz nodded,”And I can teach you more words.”

Max eagerly accepted, taking the laundry basket from Liz’s arms as they made their way down the stairs to the back of the restaurant. Once there Liz quickly started the load, and grabbing a pile of paper placemats and two pencils, sat on a stool by the main kitchen counter, signaling for Max to join her.

“I want to try something new. Is that ok?”

Max nodded in silent agreement. Taking his right hand in her left, she said “cat” and then recalled as best she could the image of Mr. Fuzzy that Max had sent to her.
“Cat” Max repeated.
“C-A-T” Liz spelled as she wrote it on the placemat.
“C-A-T” Max mimicked. He clumsily tried to write on the placemat, but Liz had to wrap her hand around his to show him how to grip the pencil. After filling the front and back of two placemats, Max had the word mastered.
“Ball. B-A-L-L”
They practiced spelling as Max recalled all the words from the alphabet book, stopping only to switch the load of laundry to the dryer. As Liz returned to her seat, Max said, “Liz.”

“What?”

“Liz.”

“What, Max? What’s wrong?…..oh, you want to know how to spell my name?”

Max nodded.

“L-I-Z” she said as she wrote it, “and your name is M-A-X.” Before she could write it, he took the placemat and carefully wrote “M-A-X”.

“You did it, Max. You wrote it all by yourself. I think that calls for a treat, but you’re going to have to work for it,” Liz explained as she headed to the refrigerator. Pulling out a box, she said, “I’m going to tell you four words and spell them. If you can write them all, then you get the treat. Are you ready?”

Max nodded. Liz frowned and said, “OK, this is a practice word. Instead of doing this…” she nodded her head, “say yes. Y-E-S. Yes.”

“Yes. Y-E-S” he said as he wrote it. She walked behind him and leaned over his shoulder to check his spelling, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek as she praised him. “Right again. Ok, let’s get started.”
Heading back to the box, she reached in and pulled out a strawberry pie.

“Word number one-pie. P-I-E.”

“Pie. P-I-E.”

She cut a piece of pie and placed it on a plate. Reaching into a drawer, she drew out a fork and held it up.

“Word number two. You should remember this from upstairs. Fork. F-O-R-K.”

“Fork. F-O-R-K.”

“Word number three. Eat. E-A-T.” Max gave her a confused look. She explained, “We eat food. Watch.” She closed her eyes and took a bite of pie, letting out a light moan at the taste. Max watched her in fascination. Opening her eyes and seeing him distracted, she teased, “If you want some of this, yu better get spelling.” He looked down and moved the pencil.

“This is the last word. Good. G-O-O-D. This pie tastes SO good,” she said as she crossed the room towards him, holding the plate in front of her. She came up next to him, examining his spelling skills.
“One. Two. Three. Four. You spelled them all. Now, you get your treat.”

“Max eat pie?”

“That’s right. Here you go.” She handed him the plate, but as he took it he handed the fork back to her.

“Liz eat pie.”

“You want to share it?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, but I already had a bite, so it’s your turn.”

“Liz fork. Max eat.”

“You want me to feed you?”

“Yes.”

Liz smiled and pulled her stool closer to Max’s. Climbing up next to him, she fed him a bite and watched for his reaction, silently admiring his long lashes as he closed his eyes in aniticpation.
As he chewed, he imitated her earlier moan.

“Pie good.”

“I’m glad you like it. I’m certainly enjoying it.”

They continued to eat in silence, until a lone strawberry was left on the plate. Max picked it up with his fingers and held it up to Liz’s mouth. His naive eyes indicated how completely unaware he was of the sensualness of the act, and as she parted her lips to take pleasure in this intimate gesture, Liz Parker knew she would never look at strawberries the same way again.

By the time they got back upstairs, Max had written on over fourteen placemats, occasionally stopping for Liz to massage his hand as it cramped from the unfamiliar position of holding the pencil. Liz couldn’t bring herself to throw the placemats away, so she brought them with her as a memento of the day. They had a light dinner, and since it was a little too early to go to sleep, Liz decided to introduce Max to music, starting out with some songs from her mother’s classical music collection. As the music played, Max sat on the couch with his eyes closed, a peaceful look on his face. After the fourth song, Liz sat up from her position on the floor by the stereo and made her way over to him, kneeling in front of him. Reaching up, she caressed his face, and he leaned into her hand and gave it a quick kiss. Not opening his eyes, he took her hand between his. Suddenly he flooded her with images so fast that they appeared to be a movie playing in her head. There was nothing discernable, only swirls of light and color that danced in time to the music accompanied by such deep feelings of love and contentment that Liz almost couldn’t breathe. As the song ended, Liz said, “That was so beautiful, Max. Thank you for sharing that with me.”

She stood up and pulled Max to his feet, leading him over to the stereo to change the CD. As the new song began to play, she directed him to the center of the living room. Placing his left hand on her hip and holding his right one with hers against his chest, she softly sang to him as she guided him in a slow dance.

Come stop your crying, it will be all right
Just take my hand, hold it tight
I will protect you from all around you
I will be here, don’t you cry

For one so small, you seem so strong
My arms will guide you, keep you safe and warm
This bond between us can’t be broken
I will be here, don’t you cry

‘Cause you’ll be in my heart
Yes, you’ll be in my heart
From this day on, now and forever more
You’ll be in my heart
No matter what they say
You’ll be here in my heart always

Why can’t they understand the way we feel
They just don’t trust what they can’t explain
I know we’re different, but deep inside us
We’re not that different at all

Don’t listen to them
‘Cause what do they know
We need each other to have, to hold
They’ll see in time
I know

‘Cause you’ll be in my heart
Yes, you’ll be in my heart
From this day on, now and forever more
You’ll be in my heart
No matter what they say
You’ll be here in my heart always

As the song ended, Liz reached up and drew Max’s face to hers, gently brushing her lips against his in a gentle kiss. She began to pull away, but he cupped her face with his hands and sent her an image of them in a french kiss, taken from one of her many dreams of him. She gasped in shock, but when she saw the love and reverence reflected in his eyes, she leaned in close to him and mentally directed him to open up to her. He did so willingly, and as their tounges danced, the swirls of light and color returned, filling her heart and soul with love and contentment.





FYI, the song is You'll Be in My Heart by Phil Collins. I hadn't planned on including a song, but my daughter was watching Tarzan when I was writing this, and the words were just so eerily appropriate, I had to include it.


Dreams remain just as long as there's Dreamers--Dennis DeYoung
posted on 17-Sep-2001 12:00:14 AM
Chapter 16

Liz awoke Friday morning to the feel of Max’s fingers lightly tracing over her arms, neck and face and when she opened her eyes, she could see he still had his eyes closed, as if he were trying to commit the feel of her skin to memory. Their kiss last night had been so amazing, and it had taken all of Liz’s resolve to push the thought of going further out of her mind. She knew she needed to find out exactly how unique alien physiology was before she could think of having a physical relationship with Max. His body had naturally responded to their closeness, just like any other typical teen-age boy, although he did not seem to notice. Instead he had spent the next hour doing nothing more than caressing her exposed skin as he was now. It was as though he felt privileged just to be able to touch her.

Looking at the clock, she gave Max a light kiss before pulling away to reach for the phone. She and Maria traditionally spent the day after Thanksgiving together, running from store to store and window shopping to their heart’s content. She was sure Maria knew that Max’s presence would negate the adventure, but out of courtesy, she decided to call her best friend and officially cancel their plans. As Max made his way to the bathroom, she gave Maria an update on his progress but decided to omit the part about teaching him how to kiss until she could have a sit down discussion with her friend on the finer points of loving an alien. Honoring Maria’s wishes, she avoided mentioning the heated discussion with Michael, only stating that she would ask Max again whether he was ready to meet with them. They said their good-byes as he returned to the bed, agreeing to talk again the next morning.

Liz gave Max another light kiss before she reluctantly climbed out of bed herself. Showering quickly, she silently wished he would join her. She pushed the notion out of her mind as she reminded herself that that particular line of thought would not help her focus on finding Max a place to live or teach him how to read. When she stepped out of the bathroom, Max was no longer there. Panicked for a moment, she immediately relaxed as she made her way into the living room to find him sitting on the couch, rapidly changing television channels with the remote he had just learned to use the previous morning. Channel surfing. “It’s nice to know some things are universal,” she mumbled to herself.

After breakfast, the rest of the morning was occupied with reading lessons. Max learned to read just as quickly as he had learned to spell, and as much as Liz loved hearing his deep, rich voice, the thought of listening to “Green Eggs and Ham” or “Barney Goes to the Grocery Store” for the tenth time was too much for even her, so she decided to see how well he could read one of her school books. He did not disappoint her, and they spent the early afternoon curled up together in the lounge on the balcony reading “Of Mice and Men”, pausing each time Max found a difficult word, a gentle, sweet kiss his reward for pronouncing it correctly. Liz had worried that Max would object to sitting outside in the daylight, but he seemed to be dealing with it quite well, although she had directed the lounge towards the window to block the view of the surrounding buildings.

Dinner time came and Liz felt it was as good a time as any to discuss Michael and Isabelle with Max. She was silently dreading the conversation, but knowing that time was not on their side, she braced herself to begin, “Max, remember that I told you I knew others like you?”

He looked up at her nervously, “Yes.”

“I know that….I was just wondering…do you know what makes you different?”

“Yes.”

“Do you remember what your life was like before you came here, to Earth?”

“Some.”

This was not going well at all. Liz had hoped Max would use some of his new language skills to elaborate on his answers, but it was obvious he did not want to volunteer any more than necessary.

“Max, can you tell me what you remember?”

“Liz, I…I….that does not matter. I am here with you now.”

“Well, that’s the problem, Max. You have been here with me because my parents have been gone, but they will be back in a few more days. When they come back, you can’t be here,” she said regretfully.

The look of panic on Max’s face made her feel like a clod. But she knew she had to continue. “Max, I know that you wanted to wait to meet the others, but we are going to need their help to find you a place to live.”

“Liz, I do not want to leave you.”

“Believe me, Max, having you move is the last thing I want, but we don’t have a choice. I promise that I will spend as much time with you as I can. If we can find some way to fix it up, maybe you could stay at the old man’s house…”

“NO. I do not want to go back there,” he said adamantly.

“I don’t understand. I thought you felt safe there,” she said, confused over the forcefulness of his voice.

“I did. I do not now,” he said, his actions displaying the emotions absent from his voice.

A slight chill went through Liz’s body, “Does this have something to do with why you were gone?”

“Please, Liz, I cannot talk about this,” Max said, visibly shaken.

“Ok, we won’t then,” she said softly. “But the problem of finding somewhere for you to stay still remains. I don’t want to push you, Max, but I really do need their help with this. I know how scared you are. But you can’t hide forever. Eventually you are going to have to go out there and live, and I think the first step is to meet with Michael and Isabelle. They probably know better than anyone what you’re going through.”

“I do not know if I can do this, Liz. It is too much…”

“I know it is, Max, and we’ll take it as slow as we can. I meant what I said. You aren’t alone. I’ll never let anyone hurt you again.”

Max sighed in defeat, “I will meet them.”

Liz leaned over and kissed his cheek, “Thank you, Max. I know that it isn’t going to be easy on you. If it makes you feel any better, I’m not any happier about this than you are. But my parents won’t be back for three more days, so I want to make the most of our time together, ok?” she gave him a half smile.

“Yes. Liz?”

“What?”

“No one will know me better than you. Please do not forget.”



Max and Liz cleaned up the dinner dishes together, staying in constant contact as they worked. Sharing a kiss as they finished, Liz commented as she touched his face, “If I kiss you too much more, this beard of yours is going to give me a rash.”

“Beard?”

“Yeah, beard. The hair on your face.”

“Can you cut it? Like you cut my hair?”

“Uh, yeah. It’s called shaving. I’ve never shaved someone’s face before, but if you want me to, I’m willing to try.”

“Will it hurt?”

“It shouldn’t. I have to use a razor—it’s sharp, but I promise I will be very careful.”

“I think yes. I do not want you to stop kissing me,” he said with a shy smile.

Liz returned his smile and led him into the main bathroom. Grabbing her dad’s can of shaving cream out of the cabinet, she filled the sink with warm water and had Max sit on the edge of the long counter. Just before spraying the foam in her hand, she realized that this could get messy.

“Max, I think you better take your shirt off.” He pulled the shirt over his head and set it next to him on the counter. Liz stepped between his legs, setting the can of shaving cream down to caress his bare chest. Running her hand over the cigarette burn scars, she asked, “Max, why don’t you heal these?”

“I am not strong enough yet.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I wish I could give you some of my strength…,” she said as she gently kissed several of the scars, “…to heal all your scars, inside and out.”

Max leaned his forhead down to touch hers, “Liz, you gave me more strength than you know.”

Remembering what she was supposed to be doing, Liz pulled back and sprayed the shaving cream into her hand. “Well, let’s hope I have enough strength to do this right,” she said playfully as she spread the foam across his beard. The first few strokes of the razor placed a tortured expression on Max’s face, but despite her protests, he refused to let her stop, and eventully he relaxed enough to be able to open his eyes and watch her as she worked. Afraid of nicking his skin, she worked with a slow surgical precision, telling him what she remembered of the plot of A Knights’ Tale, the last movie she and Maria had seen together, to keep his mind off the sharp blade at his throat.

When she finally finished, she soothingly washed off the remaining shaving cream and gave him a deep kiss as she ran her hands up his now smooth face. He slid off the counter and wrapped his arms around her, leaning over so that his lips brushed against her ear. His warm body pressed against hers felt heavenly, and she couldn’t help the heat that spread through her as he huskily whispered, “Liz, will you do something for me?”

She nodded into the side of his neck as the scent of the shaving cream and the feel of his freshly-shaved skin filled her senses.

“Please touch me.”

“Max…” she said, pulling away from him.

He stilled her with a finger to her lips, “I want you to touch me like I touch you—my arms, my face.”

Looking up into his questioning amber eyes, she could see how important this was to him. “Yes.”

He took her hand and led her to the living room. Sitting down on the couch, he guided her to him, settling her so that her hips were straddling his lap. She began by running her hands through his hair, tilting his head back so that she could watch the full effect of her touch as his emotions played across his handsome face. She dragged her fingertips over his eyelids, silently asking him to keep them closed. Continuing down the sides of his face, she lightly brought her fingers together at the tip of his strong chin, more prominent now that his beard was gone. His smooth warm skin felt so alive under her fingers as she brought them back up his face, caressing his lips with her thumbs while fanning the rest of her fingers across his cheeks. She then turned her wrists so that she could lightly touch his eyes and forhead with the backs of her fingers before threading them through his hair, working her way to the ends. Moving her hands to cup his face, she then drew them down the sides of his neck, separating them to graze the soft depressions of his collar bones. She lightly trailed her fingers down the outer sides of his arms to meet his hands where they rested on her waist. Reversing direction, her fingers now traced the insides of his arms. As she made her way back to his collar bones, she flattened her hands to palm the edges of his bare chest, wishing away his scars as she gently massaged a path down to his stomach. A slight smile played across his face as he concentrated on memorizing the feel of her soft warm hands against his skin. The emotion coming from him was like nothing Liz had ever felt before. She could only think of it as the purest form of joy she had ever experienced, an unadulterated bliss that consumed his soul and fed hers through their connection. His body hummed with her energy as she carefully repeated her pattern, making sure to cover every part of his naked flesh with each repitition. After her palms came to rest on his stomach for the fifth time, she gently brought them up the center of his chest, cupping his face in her hands once again. She leaned over him and brushed her lips against his forehead, working her way over his eyes and cheeks. When she reached his lips, she gently ran her tongue over them, asking him to open up to her. As he did, she ran her hands up through his hair, pouring her love out to him as their mouths came together in a languid, intense kiss. When they stopped to catch their breath, Max opened his eyes and stared deeply into hers, raggedly saying her name.

“Yes, Max,” she whispered.

“Thank you.”

“For what?”

With awe and conviction in his eyes, he reached up and caressed her cheek. “You are the first one to touch me…and not hurt me.” He gave her another passionate kiss, reciprocating all the love she had just given him.

Chapter 17

She was being dragged from the old man’s house
* You sure did piss Jake off, kid *
A sandwich was forced into her mouth
* Here, eat this before Jake sees me feedin’ you *
She was being pulled outside, the sky pitch black
* Sorry, kid, I gotta put you back in the trunk *
Her wrists were being tied behind her back with a coat hanger
* Mike and I would let you go, but Jake would go nuts *
She was trying to wipe the stinging blood out of her eye
* Joe, he’s goin’ too far. He’s gonna kill this guy*

Liz woke up to a flash of lightning, sitting up in bed in the process. What was that? Had she been having a bad dream? She had felt so scared. She looked down at Max who was asleep beside her, his body tensing as the sound of thunder rolled into the bedroom. He looked like he was having a nightmare, too. She reached out to soothe him.

A burning liquid was being forced down her throat
* Here, kid, lighten up—some whiskey’ll do you good *
She was tied up in a dark dreary motel room
* Mike, we gotta get him to dump this guy *
She felt like her back was on fire
* Damn, Jake, how many more times ya gonna do that? *

Falling out of the bed, Liz looked over at Max, who was now thrashing about restlessly. He was definitely having a nightmare. Had she been seeing it? It seemed like every time she touched him, the images flooded her mind. She had to wake him up, without touching him.

“Max, Max, wake up. You have to wake up,” she yelled as loud as she could. He continued to thrash about. Liz looked around frantically for something to touch him with, but couldn’t find anything. Just then, he began to moan in pain. Instinctively, she reached out to comfort him and was again assaulted with images and feelings.

Pain.
Being kicked in the crotch.

Fear.
Having the knife drawn across her cheek.

Sadness.
An image of herself.

Terror.
Staring at the gun.

Liz’s inhuman shriek snapped Max out of the nightmare. He jumped up from the bed, frantically searching for his captor. Liz quickly regained her composure and turned on the light.

“Max. Max. It’s ok. You’re safe. It was just a bad dream. Max, please. There’s no one here to hurt you.”

“Liz?” he asked with glazed eyes.

“It’s ok, Max. It’s all right. You’re here with me.” She climbed over the bed and reached out for him. “You were having a nightmare, Max. I was there with you, in your nightmare. I think you were giving me your memories.”

“What…did you…see?” he panted, not sure whether he really wanted the answer.

“Umm…the old man’s house…two guys…a motel room….being tied up….” she recalled.

“Jake?”

“No. I think their names were Mike and……Joe. Max, I saw what they did to you. Oh, God, Max I’m so sorry….I knew it was bad, but…this…” She wrapped her arms around his waist as tears trickled down her cheek. He brought her back to the bed and they sat down. The storm outside continued to pelt the room with lightning and thunder.

“Max, what happened with this Jake? Why did he…”

“Liz, I cannot talk about this…” he said as he turned his gaze to the floor.

“Max, please. I felt something. I…I…saw a gun and I felt this…wave of…terror come over me. I felt it before…about a month ago….I was working, and all of a sudden, I felt it…it was just like in the nightmare. At the time, Michael asked me whether I thought it had something to do with you. I wasn’t sure then…but I am now. It was the exact same feeling,” she explained.

“I am sorry, Liz. I do not want to hurt you,” he said, looking up at her with a tear in his eye.

She brought her hand up to caress his arm, “Max, that’s not my point. What exactly is this…connection we have? I can feel what you are feeling…you can show me images of things in my life that I barely remember…and …the beautiful colors of the music the other night…the most incredible feeling when I was touching you last night…that you can share that with me…it’s such a wonderful gift. How do you do it?”

“I just do. I have always known I could do it. I think what I want you to see, or feel what I want you to feel and I send it out to you.” He reached up to caress her cheek, “You are the first one I have connected with.”

Liz laughed lightly, “I can say the same.” Turning serious again, she continued, “But, if you can give me these images, then you could have let me seen that you were being taken. I could have helped you.”

“No, I have to touch you to give you images. Like this.” He took her hand from his arm, setting it in her lap but not releasing it. He sent her an image of their afternoon reading on the lounge. He took his hand away and it disappeared, reappearing when he returned his grasp to her hand.

“But we don’t have to be touching for me to feel your emotions, right?”

“Correct.”

“They seem much more intense when we are touching. All the time you were gone, I felt scared…and restless. I thought it was just because I was missing you, but those were your feelings, weren’t they?”

“Yes.”

“And you could tell how I felt?”

“Yes. It is what kept me alive. When I would sleep, I would try to reach out to you with my mind. I could feel that you were sad because of me. I had to come back to you.”

Deciding to take advantage of his sudden openness, she continued her questioning. “That night in the alley, when you saved my life, how did you heal me?”

“I just did it. I put my hand on your hurt and focused out to you. When I took my hand away, you were healed.”

“I know it wasn’t easy to reach out to me that night. I’m so glad you did, Max.” she said as she squeezed his hand. Letting out a yawn as she noticed it was three in the morning, she decide to get them settled back in bed, hoping that the rest of their sleep would be nightmare-free. They curled up together, and as Max reached out to stroke her hair he said, “Liz, may I ask you a question.”

“Sure.”

Gathering his thoughts, he started, “Since the first time we connected, when I healed you, I have had this feeling. It is getting more strong. I feel it from you too. When you touched me last night, it was very strong in you. It is this one,” he said as he concentrated on sending her the emotion. “I do not know what it is. Does this feeling have a name?”

“Yes, Max. We call it love.”

“Love. You tell your parents that you love them,” he said, more a statement than a question.

“Well, there are different types of love. I love my parents like this,” she said, concentrating on a mental image of her mom and dad.

“And Maria?”

“Maria is my best friend. She knows me better than anyone. Well, she did, until I met you. I love her sort of like I love my parents. Still, it’s a little different. Like this,” she said as she thought of some of the fun times she and Maria had shared, how they would help each other out, and the secrets they had shared.

“Alex?”

“He’s my good friend, like Maria. We aren’t as close as we used to be, and I don’t love him as much as I love Maria.”

“Do you feel love for Kyle?”

“Kyle?”

“Yes. I am sure that is his name. You kissed him the way you kissed me.”

Liz let out a light laugh. “I liked Kyle a lot, but I didn’t love him. We had fun together, but we do better as friends.”

“You told Michael that you love me,” he recalled.

Liz smiled shyly, remembering her outburst during the phone conversation, “Yes.”

“You told Maria that you did not think you would find someone to love you.” He added, more to himself than her, “It made you sad.”

Liz frowned. “When was that? I don’t remember…”

“I love you, Liz.”

“What?” she asked, amazed to hear him express in words what she had felt from his heart.

“I love you,” he repeated softly. Looking into her eyes, he said, “I feel it very strong. When you are close, it is the only thing I feel.” He leaned over her and lifting his hand from where it was entwined in her hair, he cupped her face and caressed her lips with his thumb. He replaced the thumb with his lips, giving her a tender kiss. “When I feel this love for you, my body comes alive. I need to touch you and feel you touch me. To have my lips on you and taste you. I want to feel your body against me as I mate with you. I felt these things in you too. Do you want these things, Liz?” he asked, his voice filled with desire.

“Max, it’s not whether I want them…it’s what we do about it. And now is the wrong time to be doing anything about it,” Liz explained, desperately trying to convince herself as well as him.

“I am wrong to want these things.” Max said, desire now replaced by a dejected sadness.

Liz closed her eyes and sighed sorrowfully, realizing he had misunderstood her. Reopening them, she propped herself up on her arm and fixed her gaze on him, willing him to see the truth in her response. “Max, it doesn’t make you wrong or a bad person. These things are a normal part of being close to someone, to being in love with someone. And yes, I have the same exact needs, because I love you. But as much as our bodies need each other, there are some things we have to find out before we can do anything more than touch and kiss. If we were to give in to our needs, there are a lot of consequences…umm, side-effects, that could happen, things that we aren’t ready to deal with. So for now we can’t do more. I hope you understand.”

“I do. I will stop wanting these things.”

“Well, you can’t stop your body from doing what is natural. It will do it on its own, no matter how much you wish it not to. I would like to keep touching you and kissing you, if you want. Please, just know that I want the rest of it as much as you do, and when the timing is right for us to share those things, I know it will be wonderful.”

“I always want to kiss you and touch you,” he said reverently. Caressing her face, he whispered, “I will do anything to feel your touch on me, Liz.”

Liz sat up and turned off the light. Settling back down next to him, she said “Well, you can start by giving me a good night kiss.” They kissed lightly and as they broke away, Liz turned on her side to face away from him. Taking his hand and sliding it up under the hem of her pajama shirt, she pressed it against her bare stomach as she leaned her back into his chest. Max gently kissed her neck, then pulled her tight against him as they drifted back to sleep.


Chapter 18

The rain was still falling when they woke back up at ten in the morning, although the thunder and lightning had ceased. Liz silently cheered. There was nothing like a cool November rain to keep customers away from the Crashdown, and she knew she could skip her afternoon shift without leaving the restaurant short-handed. Giving Max a quick kiss as she got up to shower, she smiled at how comfortable it felt. This was their fourth morning together, and they had already fallen into a routine. If only it could last…

While Max showered, she went downstairs to tell Michael and Maria that he had agreed to a meeting. Liz explained that although Max was now able to spell, read and speak, he was still very nervous and Michael must be on his best behavior. With an irritated “Yes, Mom”, Michael dismissed himself to immediately call Isabelle, directing her to bring a few items from his bedroom for the 3 o’clock event. Before Liz headed back to the apartment to make a late breakfast, Maria quietly thanked her for whatever she had done to convince Max to see the other aliens.

Liz told Max about the meeting while they ate, and as they washed the dishes, she could feel a subtle change in his mood. His conversation had returned to short answers, so she came up with a plan to hopefully take his mind off the afternoon get-together while exercising his new-found language skills. She settled down on the couch and invited Max to lay with his head in her lap and finish reading “Of Mice and Men” to her. She continued the previous days’ ritual of rewarding him with kisses for correctly pronouncing the difficult words, but as she kissed him for correctly pronouncing the word “apple”, she finally caught on that he was intentionally finding “difficult” words just so he could kiss her. When she told him she had figured out his little scheme, he looked up at her with a shy smile on his face and not an ounce of remorse in his eyes.

Three o’clock came quickly after that, and as the sound of the knock on the apartment door reverberated through the quiet apartment, Liz could feel Max’s apprehension welling up inside of her. He sat up swiftly, almost jumping off the couch before Liz could graps his hands to calm him. “Remember Max, they won’t hurt you. I’ll be right here with you. I won’t leave your side.” He nodded his understanding, and as they made their way to the door his hand reflexively clenched and released hers.

Liz opened the door to find Maria and Isabelle standing there, with Michael bringing up the rear. Maria smiled at the couple as she tentatively made her way into the room, carrying a bag with sandwiches from downstairs. “Hey, guys, I hope you’re hungry. Well, not now. Maybe later. I’m sure you want to talk first. Or maybe not. Maybe we could eat first to break the ice. Oh never mind, that’s a bad idea….”

Liz reached out to her best friend with her free hand. “Maria, it’s ok. Just relax. Why don’t you put the bag in the oven on warm. They’ll keep until we’re ready for them.”

“Good idea,” she said as she slipped past the couple to get to the kitchen.

Isabelle stepped up next. As Liz said, “Max I’d like you to meet Isabelle”, the tall blonde stuck out her hand for him to shake. Max just stared at her, not knowing what to do. Liz, realizing the awkwardness of the situation, took their clasped hands and guided them to Isabelle’s, gently placing Max’s in Isabelle’s as she covered them with hers.

“Hi, Max.” Isabelle said quietly.

Liz directed Max. “You say hi back to her, and then think of something nice to say to her, like “nice to meet you” or “you’re looking well today”.

Max said with a shy smile, “Hi, Isabelle. Nice to meet you.” Isabelle shook his hand and then broke apart, moving past them into the apartment. Liz let out a sigh of relief as she silently thought, “One down, one to go.”

Michael stepped up and stuck his hand out. “Nice to meet you Max. I’m Michael.”

Max took Michael’s hand and with innocent sincerity said proudly, “Hi, Michael. Why do you have to be such an a$$hole?”

Liz turned white as a ghost as she realized Max was repeating her own words. Trying to not burst out in laughter at the shocked expression on Michael’s face, Liz quickly tried to think of a way to cover her tracks. “Uh, Max, that’s really not the right thing to say. I knew I shouldn’t let you watch so much TV.”

“But, Liz…” Max tried to explain.

Begging him with her eyes to be quiet on the subject she interrupted, “Max, we can talk about this later. I’ll explain everything, ok?”

“Yes,” he said, looking like a scolded child, pulling his hand away from Michael’s and sticking it in his pocket.

She felt so terrible for hurting his feelings. She gave his other hand a squeeze as she willed him to feel her love, and he gave her a shy look that almost melted her heart.

“Uh, Liz. Can I come in? I really wanted to get started,” Michael brought her back down to earth.

“Yeah, sure. Why don’t we sit in the living room. That way everyone can be comfortable.” Liz led them to the room. She directed the three to sit on the couch while she sat down with Max on the loveseat. “Um, why don’t you guys start by telling Max about yourselves…what you remember.”

“Ok.” Michael started. “Well, we were found on the side of the road out in the desert, just outside of town—we looked like we were about six years old. We didn’t know how to speak or communicate, but we knew we had to stick together and find someone to take care of us. Our parents, Philip and Diane Evans, found us and eventually adopted us. Once we learned how to talk and read, everything else came pretty quick. We always knew we were different, but we don’t know where we come from, although we think we might have been in the 1947 crash. We don’t remember anything about our family, except I know that I am a healer, and Isabelle knows that she is a warrior.”

Liz sensed a sudden flash of nervousness coming from Max, and when she glanced over at him, she could see a look of confusion cross his face.

Michael continued. “I hear that you are a healer, too.”

“Yes, I can heal.”

Michael responded. “But Liz said that you connected with her and gave her your memories, so you have telepath abilities, too?” Max nodded.

Isabelle interrupted. “That would make you a diad.”

“A what?” Maria asked.

“A diad. Like Die-Ad. Our people can have one of three abilities: healing, telepathy, and for lack of a better word, destruction. Very rarely, there are people who have two abilities. They are called diads.” Isabelle explained.

“How do you know that? I mean, I thought you didn’t remember anything about where you came from…” Liz queried.

“It’s like I told Maria. This isn’t really a memory. It’s more like instinct.” Michael explained. “As we got older, we did remember that we had been in some kind of incubation pods, and that they were in a cave somewhere near here. Two years ago we started looking for the cave, and we found it a little over a year ago.”

“I take it the pods were still there,” Liz commented.

“Yes. We looked around the cave to see if we could find any clue as to where we came from or why we were here. That’s when we found these.” Michael reached into a paper bag and pulled out three journals. Liz noticed that they didn’t look alien—they looked just like the journal she wrote in.

Michael leaned toward Liz and handed her the books. She gave one to Max and, opening one up herself, she frowned at the strange scribblings. “This is beautiful. What is this? Is this some kind of language?”

“We don’t know. We can’t read it, although a few of the symbols seem familiar.” Isabelle explained.

“I can read it.”

Liz looked at Max, shocked. “You know what this says?”

“Yes. It is written in Antarian.”

“Antarian?” Isabelle asked.

“From Antar. We come from Antar.” Max replied.

“Oh my God. You can really read it?” Isabelle asked in awe.

“Yes. This is the second book. Liz, give me that one.” Max pointed to the closed one in her lap. “This is the first one.”

“Well, what does it say?” Michael asked impatiently.

“These were written by your parents, Rath and Vilandra.”

“Michael, it’s about our family. Our real family.”

“What’s the rest of it say?” Michael asked in an eager voice.

“There is a lot here, and I do not know some of the words.” Max explained.

“But you can tell us what most of it says, right?”

“Yes. It will take some time to read all of this. This first book explains why you came to…Earth.” Max fumbled over the last word as Liz felt another flash of nervousness from him. She worried that this might be too much for him to handle, but overall he seemed to be doing better than she had expected.

“What about the other books? What are in those?” Michael asked with curiosity.

“This second book is the history of your family, the House of Kentaru, and the third book is a history of Antar.”

“Will you translate all this? You don’t know how much it would mean to us.”

Max looked up at them. “Yes. But I will need help. Liz, will you write it out for me? I can say the words faster than I can write them.”

Liz smiled. “Yeah, I can do that. Better yet, I’ll put it on my laptop so I can type it. The restaurant will be slow enough with Christmas that my folks would probably let me have a week off, maybe more if the other waitressess want extra hours for Christmas money. If not, I could always tell them that I need to work on a school project.”

Maria spoke up, “Hey I can type pretty fast—not as fast as Liz, but if she has to work maybe I can help out Max. Or work Liz’s shift so she can work with Max.”

“Those sound like good ideas.” Michael added.

“Is there anything else, Michael?” Liz questioned.

“Yes, this is the only other thing we found in the cave.” He reached back into the paper bag and pulled out an oval object that was obviously alien. “Do you know what it is or what it does?” He handed it to Max.

“It is a storage device. It is used to store information—maps, ship information, personal information such as a family’s history. These marks and lines should not be here. It is damaged. These books probably contain the information that was stored in here.”

“Max, how much do you know about Antar?” Isabelle asked.

“I have some memories. I can read Antarian. I know some Antarian history.”

Liz could feel the tension coming from Max in waves. Remembering how he had closed off when she had originally questioned him about his home planet, she wanted to move the conversation in a different direction. “Well, maybe after we translate those books, you’ll know a lot more. Guys, I hate to change the subject, but I am going to need your help. My folks are going to be home in a couple of days, so we have to find a place for Max to live. Does anybody have any suggestions?” The room was silent for a few minutes before Michael responded.

“Can you stay at that house we searched? It’s not ideal, but…”

Max quickly cut him off, “No, I cannot go back there. It is not safe.”

“I might have an idea. It’s not a permanent solution, but it might work until we can come up with a better idea.” Isabelle began.

“Let’s hear it.” Michael said, recovering from Max’s quick nullification of his plan.

“Well, Mom and Dad rent some storage units out by Highway 42 to store old client files. I take them out there every other month. We could rearrange the file cabinets in one of them to set Max up in there.”

“Isn’t it a little too cold for that?” Maria asked.

“I have lived outside. I have lived in the cold,” Max said quietly.

“No, you wouldn’t have to be cold. There are electric outlet in each unit. I plug my radio in out there when I have to go and look for old client information. We could get one of those space heaters,” Isabelle explained.

“That’s not a bad idea, at least for now. What do you think, Max?” Liz asked, feeling through their connection how sad he was at the thought of being separated from her. “I can come out there every day after school so we can work on translating the journals. We can have dinner together.”

“I want to be here with you. But if I have to go, it is better than outside,” he said, the grief apparent in his voice.

“Isabelle, do you think you and Michael can handle getting the storage unit organized? That way Max and I can devote more time to the translation.”

“Sure. We’ll have to come up with a list of things to take out there. Do you have a pen and some paper?”

“Out in the kitchen. Why don’t we eat our lunch while we put the list togther?” Liz asked.

They all agreed, and as they sat down around the table to eat the late lunch, it didn’t get past either Michael or Isabelle how close Max had placed his chair to Liz’s. Michael finally understood why Liz had been so adamant about not pushing Max to meet with them. This guy definitely had some major trust issues. He wanted to find out what Max remembered from Antar but decided to wait and see what his parents books said. Rath and Vilandra, his alien parents. It sounded a little strange.

After lunch, Michael, Maria and Isabelle decided to get started on rounding up the gear for Max’s new living quarters. They agreed to have everything set up by Sunday evening so that they could get Max settled in Sunday night, since Monday was a school day. Liz’s parents wouldn’t be home yet and she was still debating whether to spend the day in class or with Max. In any case, Max needed to be out of the house by then. Looking over at him sitting on the couch, her heart ached at his sadness. He had been unusually quiet and withdrawn since the others had left, and she worried that he would not be able to handle being separated from her. What would he do if she weren’t around? It was one thing to be apart for a short time while she went downstairs, but to not see each other for hours at a time? Of course, there really was no other option. She knew the next step in Max’s education was to have him go out and be among other people. Knowing him as she did, she realized that this would be the most difficult thing for him to do. Being near people, socializing with them, trusting them went against every one of his instincts, and that deeply ingrained intuition of his had always been correct before. She needed to find a way to slowly introduce him to the outside world, to convince him that even though he was the same person, people would treat him better now that he looked presentable and could now communicate with them.

She sat down next to him on the couch and looked over his shoulder as he thumbed through the first journal. The scribblings were like nothing she had ever seen before. Except one. Pulling out the pendant from under her shirt, she carefully compared it to the symbol in the book. Pointing it out she asked, “Max, these are the same thing. What does it mean?”

He remained quiet, and for a minute she worried that he had not heard her, so she repeated the question. “Max, do you know what this means?”

“It is Zantier, the Antarian word for Earth.”

“Zantier. Zantier. Well, it sure sounds a lot nicer than the word Earth.” Liz tried to joke, but Max’s melancholy persisted, so she tried to draw him out of it. “Is this a difficult language to read? Is it harder or easier than English?”

“I cannot compare the two. Antarian is mostly a language of separate symbols. Each symbol has it’s own distinct meaning. With English, you must put the symbols or letters together to form words. The letters themselves have no real meaning, only the words created by the letters. It would take several English words to describe one Antarian symbol.”

“How long will it take you to translate these three books?” she asked as she stroked the back of his hand.

“I do not know. Several days at least. Do you want to start today?” he asked.

“Not just yet. First I want to tell you I’m sorry.”

“Why?”

“For what happened with Michael when you met him. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” she explained.

“But you were upset with me.”

“No, Max, I wasn’t upset with you. I was upset with myself. You were only saying what you had heard me say. I shouldn’t have said it in the first place.”

“Why?”

“Well, when I said it, I was very angry with Michael. It is not a nice thing to say, and I only said it because I was angry. It’s never a good idea to say things in anger. You could regret saying them once you are no longer angry.”

“You were angry when you told Michael you love me. Do you regret saying that?” Max asked sadly.

This was turning out to be a real crappy apology, Liz thought to herself. “Oh, Max,” she said as she took the books from his lap to place herself there. Giving him a gentle kiss, she continued, “Saying that I love you is the one thing I will never regret.” She gave him another gentle kiss, then caressing his cheek with her hand, she deepend it, willing him to feel all the love she had for him. Her heart leapt when he returned the feeling, but she could feel an undertow of other emotions. Sadness. Fear. Lonliness. Nervousness. Guilt.

Liz still did not know how or why Max was here on Earth, but she silently thanked whomever was responsible for sending him to her and vowed to permanently remove those painful emotions from the soul of the alien she so desperately loved.

Chapter 19

Liz set up her laptop at the desk in her bedroom, a fascinated Max watching as she plugged in all the cables and cords needed to power it. She brought in one of the kitchen chairs so he could sit next to her as she typed his translation. She had thought it would be an easy task—Max would tell her what to type and she would type it. It soon became apparent that Max would not be able to give her a word for word translation. He either did not know what some of the Antarian symbols meant or there was no equivalent English word. For some of the symbols, he knew what it translated to, but he did not know the English words himself. After spending half an hour debating on how they should handle the problem, they agreed that Max would read a section to himself to get the general idea of it. He would then paraphrase it to Liz, giving her images when he knew what he wanted to say but didn’t know the words. It was slow work, but neither one of them seemed to mind as long as they were working on it together.

Three hours after they began, Liz stared down at the laptop in amazement, still not believing that she, boring little Lizzie Parker, was now the assistant biographer of an alien race and in love with one of its members. She and Max needed to take a break, but she first wanted to read back to him what she had typed in case he wanted to make any changes or additions.

“Our beloved children, we your parents, Rath and Vilandra of the House of Kentaru, hope that one day you will find this history of your creation, your family and your people so that you may have all the knowledge we had wished to bestow on you ourselves.

We are from the House of Kentaru in the province of Tarulis on the planet Antar. We have come to Earth by means of an accident. Our plans had been to travel to the planet Bertor, a planet whose inhabitants have a genetic make-up compatible with that of Antarians. There are four such planets within a safe traveling distance of Antar that have these type of inhabitants: Bertor, Esseje, Yelris, and Teragor. On the way to Bertor our ship developed a severe problem and we were forced to land on Earth. Our ship was mostly destroyed in the landing and we were forced to hide from Earth’s inhabitants before we could communicate with Antar. Earth’s inhabitants took away what remained of our ship before we could return to retrieve more of our belongings.

We hid ourselves in this cave. Not knowing whether we would be able to survive on Earth for very long in our natural form, we wanted to try to save you, our unborn children, so that a part of the House of Kentaru would continue to exist.” Liz finished as she stretched her arms up into the air. “Wow, at least their parents crashed somewhere where Michael and Isabelle could survive. I guess they’re really lucky. Obviously whatever their parents did to save them worked. But there’s something I don’t understand.”

“What?” Max asked, standing up.

“Did they choose to crash on Earth or was the ship so badly damaged that they chose the closest planet and hoped they could survive.”

Max said with a pensive look, “I do not know.”

“Well, they had to have know about Earth, right?” Liz asked, the scientist in her working out her theory.

“Why?” Max asked, not following her train of thought.

“Michael and Isabelle were born here, but maybe others traveled here. Like you. Do you know how you got here?”

“Not exactly. I do not remember traveling here.”

“But if Antarians are genetically compatible with humans, wouldn’t that mean there are five compatible planets instead of four?” she concluded. “Maybe they didn’t know about Earth.”

“That is possible.”

“Yeah, but the Antarian word for Earth is Zantier, right? Why would Antar even have a word for Earth unless they knew about it?”

“That is an interesting question. Maybe I just translated it wrong. It has been a long time since I have read Antarian,” Max answered. “Liz, can we do something else for a while? My eyes are tired from so much reading.”

“Sure, Max. Although I don’t think you’re going to be happy when I tell you what I want to do.”

“Why?” he asked apprehensively.

“Well, I thought we could have some dinner together,” Liz explained.

“All right,” he agreed, then puzzled, he asked, “Why would eating dinner not make me happy?”

“I thought maybe we could go downstairs and have dinner,” she said slowly, trying to gauge his reaction.

“With Them? Liz, I do not think I can eat with Them.” he said, his voice so shaky that he had to choke the words out one at a time.

“Max, you ate up here with Maria, Michael, and Isabelle today. I thought I would call them and have them meet us downstairs so we could all eat together. It would be the same thing, only a different place,” she said in a quite voice.

“No. It would not be the same. There would be others. Liz, do not ask me to do this,” he begged, his eyes filled with fear.

“Max, I know how scared you are. But you can’t stay up here forever. You can’t stay in a storage unit forever. Sooner or later, you are going to have to start coming in contact with other people. Look, it has been raining all day, so there won’t be a lot of other people in the restaurant.”

A tear started to fall down Max’s cheek, “Liz, I do not want to do this. Please.”

Liz stood up next to him and wiping his tear, led him over to the bed. She laid them down, positioning them so she could kiss his forehead while stroking his hair. She wanted so badly to give in to his wishes just so she would not have to see his hurt and feel his fear, but she knew that he had to keep moving forward or he would never get over the demons she had seen in his nightmares. Searching for a compromise she said, “I have an idea. It’s a little after seven now. Let me call Maria, Michael and Isabelle and have them meet us here after the diner closes. Then we can go eat downstairs with them. It will be just like the first night you were here, only we will sit out front at a table with our friends. There won’t be anyone else around and you can take time to just get used to being there with people you already know. Will you do that?” she asked as she continued to soothingly stroke his hair.

“No one else?” he asked, his voice much calmer than before.

“No one else.”

“All right.”

Liz called Maria’s first. Michael was over there, so she talked to him for a little while about the alien journals and what they had translated so far. They agreed to meet downstairs at 10:30, knowing the restaurant would be desserted since the Saturday night employees were always eager to leave as soon as they were done with clean up. Isabelle wasn’t home when Liz called, so she left a message with instructions to meet at the restaurant.

Since they had a few hours to go before dinner, Liz thought it would be nice to pretend to be a normal couple by curling up on the couch together to watch a videotape and eat some junk food. Watching Max sit in front of the microwave, completely absorbed with studying the bag of popcorn as it grew from thin nothingness into plump fullness, she realized that if they really were a normal couple, she would be missing out on this—seeing her mundane world with a new set of curious eyes. How could this wonderful being continue to evoke such varied emotions in her?

As the credits for E.T. ended, Liz remembered what Max had said as he fell asleep in her arms the first night he stayed with her. Looking back, she now knew that he had not been able to speak very many words, but he had definitely said “home”. Did he miss Antar? Would he leave her to go back there some day? “Max, what do you remember about Antar?”

Max had avoided answering the first two times he had been asked the question. Now that Michael and Isabelle were around, she knew he would have to eventually respond. Hopefully he would open up to her first.

“I have some memories. What do you want to know?” he asked.

“Do you miss it? Do you want to go back some day?” she asked, waiting with baited breath for his answer.

“I do not miss it. I do not want to go back, and even if I did, I cannot,” he said, emotionless.

“But it’s your home,” Liz said, worried. She could feel none of his emotions through their connection. After feeling so many things from him in the past few days, it felt very empty, almost as if he were blocking his feelings from her.

Suddenly she felt his sincerity as he said, “Antar was never truly my home, Liz. You are my home. It is one of the strongest things I have felt from you, how you feel when you talk of home. You feel safe, loved, cared for, that you will always be accepted. If these feelings are what make a home, then you are my home. I want you to always be my home.”

Liz melted at his heartfelt confession, and concluded that maybe finding out about Max’s Antarian past wasn’t important, since all he wanted was a future with her.



As 10:30 drew near, Liz went downstairs to confirm that all the Crashdown employees were gone for the night. As she headed back up to get Max, she smiled when she saw the garbage bags by the back door, waiting to be taken out. Who would have thought that a bunch of forgotten refuse could have changed her life as drastically as it had. She opened the door to take the bags out but suddenly froze at the thought of her attacker. The others would be here soon, so she would just have Michael take them out for her.

Max was pacing around the living room when she returned, trying to not show his nervousness. She held her hand out to him, giving his a quick squeeze when he joined her. They made their way downstairs just as Maria was unlocking the front door so she and Michael could enter. Once inside, she relocked the door, leaving the keys in it for when Isabelle arrived. Michael planted himself in the corner booth, giving Maria a light kiss before she headed to the kitchen. Seeing the way Max was clinging to Liz’s hand as he had done the first time she saw him, she could easily tell that this little downstairs get-together was a major step for him. Trying to ease his mind, she gave him a big smile as she said hi to him. Remembering what Liz had taught him upstairs, he stuck out his hand and said, “Hi, Maria. You look pretty today.”

Taking his hand, Maria said coyly, “Why thank you, Max. It sure is nice to have you around.”

She shooed the couple out of the kitchen and towards the booth when there was a knocking at the front door. Liz froze as Max pulled his hand from hers and ran back to the kitchen, realizing too late that Isabelle was not alone. Michael stood up to let her and Alex in as Liz went after her fear-stricken charge. She found him curled up in the corner of the couch, her heart breaking as he spoke, the sense of betrayal evident in his voice, “You said no one else. You said no one else.”

Isabelle, seeing the panic on Max’s face as she and Alex stood at the door, had to be sure he would be all right. “Alex, why don’t you go sit down. I’m going to see if Liz needs any help with the food.”

Alex laughed as he sat, joking to her back as she left, “My Isabelle being domestic? Who are you and what have you done with the real Isabelle? Was she kidnapped by aliens?”

Michael shook his head as Maria let out a nervous chuckle, thinking to herself, “If you only knew…”
Before she could think of a snappy comeback, Alex asked, “So, who was that guy with Liz? I’ve never seen him before.”

Isabelle slowly stuck her head into the break area, watching as Liz tried to calm Max. She spoke softly, “Liz, I am SO sorry about this. Alex was right next to me when I was checking the messages, so I couldn’t tell him to not come with me. I feel terrible.”

“It’s ok, Isabelle. Just give me a minute with Max and we’ll be out. There are some potato chips and cans of soda on the far side of the kitchen. You can start with those.”

As Isabelle left to seek out the snacks, Liz turned her attention back to Max. “Max, you just heard Isabelle. I didn’t know Alex would be here. But he is my friend, too, and you can trust him. You know that, right here and here,” she said as she pointed to his head and heart.

“I’m sorry, Liz. I did not mean to run. I was just scared for a minute. Now that I know it is Alex, I will be all right.”

“Max, Alex doesn’t know that Michael and Isabelle are not fully human. And I’m not really sure how to explain you to him.”

“What do I do if he asks me questions?”

“Let me do most of the talking. If we have to, I can think of an answer and give you an image of it, ok?”

He nodded. Standing up from the couch, she gave him a loving kiss before leading him to the front of the restaurant. Liz decided it would be easiet to tell Alex as much of the truth as possible, so after the introductions, she explained that Max had rescued her from an attacker and since he was homeless, she was trying to help him get on his feet. Fortunately, Alex had accepted the story with ease, his attention too focused on Isabelle to pay much attention to Max or anyone else at the booth. As the night ended, Liz was bursting with happiness. Despite the harried beginning to the evening, Max had relaxed quickly and seemed to have actually enjoyed himself. Michael and Isabelle had introduced him to the wonders of Tabasco sauce, and Maria managed to talk him into letting her cut his hair sometime in the near future. Of course the hilight of the gathering had been something completely unexpected. Liz had been talking with Maria and Isabelle about picking up some new clothes for Max, not really paying attention to the guys’ conversation. Suddenly she heard this deep husky laugh, and her heart caught in her throat as she realized it had come from Max. It was music to her ears. Looking at him, she took in his crescented eyes, his blushed cheeks and the beautiful curve of his lips as he continued to listen to Alex’s jokes. She silently thanked Alex for giving her such a wonderful gift and prayed she would always remember this night.

Chapter 20

It was a little before one in the morning when their friends left, and as the couple made their way back upstairs, Liz sadly realized that this would probably be the last night she and Max would share a bed for quite a while. She headed into the bedroom to change into her pajamas while Max plopped down on the couch, sleepily rubbing his eyes. She had removed her shirt and was just about to take off her bra when she heard his voice behind her.

“Wait. Do not remove your clothes. I want to take you somewhere,” he said softly.

Surprised, she turned around to face him, forgetting that she was shirtless. “Did you say you want to take me somewhere?”

“Yes,” he said huskily, his attention temporarily diverted as the dim light from the bedside lamp cast a milky haze on her smooth skin. With her shirt in his hand, he stepped closer to her and helped her slip it back on. He then knelt down in front of her to button it, planting tiny kisses on her stomach and along the edge of her bra as he made his way from top to bottom. He then stood and leaned over her, taking her in a gentle embrace as he whispered, “You are my beauty.” They shared a deep kiss before he broke away from her, going to her closet to retreive their jackets. He slipped his on and helped her with hers before he made his way to the window.

“Where are we going, Max?” Liz asked with curiosity, amazed that he was leaving the building of his own accord.

“You will see in time, but you must not speak until I allow it,” he answered mysteriously as he climbed out and held his hand out to assist her. She obediently followed behind him as he made his way over the balcony wall and down to the alley below. Once on the ground, he took her hand again and quickly led her into the shadows, moving with the calculated grace of experience. They made their way in the dark, avoiding the streets in favor of dim alleys and shadowy back yards. Liz marveled at how confidently he moved, realizing that this had been his element for so long it was second nature to him. They had to move slowly in a few places, either to avoid a lone person out at this late hour or for Liz to navigate a particularly rough terrain, but in less than an hour they were at their destination. It was a hill at the edge of town, and as Max led them up a now over-grown path, a building came into view.

“Max, what is this…” she began, but was silenced by his finger pressed against her lips.

“I told you you must not speak until I allow it,” he whispered, a light smile on his face showing in the cloudy moonlight. She smiled back at him, removing his finger with her hand so she could reach up and kiss him. They resumed their journey toward the building, and as they neared, Liz recognized its general form. It was a church, or had been at one time before being abandoned, left alone to fend off the elements and vandals, its shattered stained-glass windows and charred interior testament to its demise. Even in its present condition, Liz could tell that it had been magnificent at one time, and she felt a tinge of sadness at the loss of such a beautiful place.

Turning her attention back to Max, she realized he was leading her to the front of the church and as they approched the now gaping entrance, he carefully helped her over piles of debris, gauging their steps as the moonlight faded in and out of the clouds. Once inside, her quickly guided her to a doorway just around the corner, grabbing the wooden railing to assist their descent. As Liz discovered they would be climbing stairs, she suddenly worried about the safety of such a venture. Before she could voice her concern, Max stopped in front of her. Unable to see in the sudden darkness, she could feel him as he turned to face her but still jumped slightly as she felt his breath on her cheek. “I trust you with my life, Liz. Please trust me with yours.” Goose bumps covered her body as his deep voice filled her ear. Nodding in agreement, she let him lead as they made their way in the black of night. At the top of the stairs, he directed her to close her eyes before taking her to the corner of the small bell tower. Standing behind her, he wrapped his arms around her waist, leaning down and giving her a feathery kiss on her neck. Pressing his lips against her ear, he whsipered, “Now open your eyes.”

Liz’s breath caught in her throat at the sight before her. The city of Roswell lay below, nothing more than small specks of white and yellow light againt the blackness of the desert. It was framed all around by the church’s dense trees, centered among the leaves as they danced in the light wind, still glistening from the earlier rains.

“Max, this is breathtaking. Everything looks so peaceful from up here.” Liz whispered reverently.

He nodded his head in agreement before speaking, “One of the first things I remember about Earth is this place. I had been down there, looking for food, when a group of Them cornered me. They hit me and kicked me until I could not stand. I got away but They followed me. I ran and ran until I ended up here. I thought I could still hear them behind me, so I ran into here and up the stairs, hoping to find a hiding place. I did not know about the hole in the middle of the floor, and I almost fell straight down into it. I jumped over it and hid in the corner. I stayed up here a long time.”

Liz turned to face him, the tears running down her cheeks appearing as silver strands in the moonlight. “Oh, Max. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for all the bad things that have happened to you, for all the cruel things people have done to you. No one deserves the kind of abuse you have suffered,” she whispered, caressing his cheek with her hand.

Max continued as though he had not heard her. “After you started to leave food for me, this is where I would come to eat it. I would look down there and know that there was one person on this Earth who cared for me. The night I came back to you, I was so tired that I never thought I would reach you. I could not go on any longer, so I slept. When I woke up, I was certain I knew where I was. I got up and walked a short way when I saw this place and the city down there. You were so close. I could not wait any longer to see you, so I ran all the way down there. I do not know how I got to your room. I only remember seeing your beautiful face and knowing I was safe.”

There were no words to describe how she was feeling. Her heart broke remembering how much she had missed him, how happy she was when she had found him in her room, and how glad she was to be here with him right now, so instead of wasting her breath on speech, she reached her arms up around his neck and pulled him to her, kissing him passionately as she willed him to feel everything she was feeling at that moment. They continued to kiss hungry, searing kisses, as if trying to burn the bad memories from their hearts and minds.

When they finally broke apart, Max held their clasped hands to his lips as he quietly spoke, “Liz, I cannot tell you how much I love you. You have given me more than I ever could have hoped for. You cared for me when no one else did and you made me believe that I could be loved. I will forever be in debt to you for these things, and I will spend the rest of my life proving I am worthy of your love.”

“Max, you don’t have to prove anything to me. I loved you from the minute you healed me, maybe even before, and I will always love you, alien, human, or whatever combination of the two you are. Don’t you know that nothing could ever change that?”

As he slowly dropped their hands to bring his arms around her, holding her close to him in the cool night, he mutely hoped he would never need to find out.




Max was still sleeping when Liz woke up for her Sunday morning shift. She tried repeatedly to rub the tiredness out of her eyes, but less than three hours of sleep just wasn’t enough. She had forgotten to tell Max that she had to work that morning, and now she worried that he would be upset at waking up and finding her missing. Suddenly it dawned on her that she could just leave him a note. Laughing at the absurdity of it, Liz could not believe how amazing Max was. In just four days, he had gone from being a scared, closed-off semi-animal to this handsome, literate “normal” teen-ager. He had made such remarkable progress that she couldn’t help but be very proud of him. Even so, she knew he had a long way to go before he would be completely integrated into society. She only hoped that he could continue to handle all that was thrown his way. After all, teaching him how to read was the easy part. Teaching him how to live would be the greatest challenge of her life. She couldn’t help but wonder what his life would have been like if he had been found like Michael and Isabelle. Of course, more than likely she wouldn’t have met him if that had happened, a thought too painful to consider.

She opened the restaurant doors promptly at six, and fifteen minutes later there was not an empty booth or table in the place. What was it about Sunday mornings that made people wake up way too early just to have some eggs or hash browns? At least the heavy customer load would keep her busy enough to pass the time until her break. When the time came, she made her way upstairs to see whether Max was awake yet. She found him sitting at the kitchen table eating a bowl of Tabasco-laced Cocoa-Puffs, his full concentration on the alien journal in front of him.

“Hey, sleepyhead. Find out anything new?” she asked as she walked over and planted a kiss on his forehead.

“Yes, you will find this interesting. This whole section explains in detail the process Rath and Vilandra used to create Michael and Isabelle’s pods. Some of this is too difficult for me to understand, but I think I get the idea,” Max said in between bites of his breakfast.

“Well, I only have fifteen minutes for break, so give me the condensed version for now,” Liz teased.

“This says that on Antar, the seeds from a human male and female are combined to create a new being for genetic implantation. They take the seeds from different parts of Earth to reduce the possibility of this being having any full-blooded siblings. Rath and Vilandra did not have that option. They needed to use existing humans, but they were still afraid that someone would recongnize the donor. So they used two elderly humans as the genetic donors and delayed the hatching of the pods for forty Earth years, or two generations, to reduce the possibility that Michael and Isabelle could be identified as someone else.

Liz, the things Rath and Vilandra did are not things every Antarian would know how to do. They did a lot of hard work to give Michael and Isabelle the best chance of survival. There were a lot of things that could have gone wrong: the implantation might not have worked, they could have hatched before they were properly developed, the pods could have been found. They do not even mention these things. Their big concern was that they could only give Michael and Isabelle some basic knowledge of who they were. It was not possible to implant their detailed family history or any of Rath’s and Vilandra’s memories.”

Liz just sat dumbfounded. “Wow, with parents like that, no wonder Michael is valedictorian.” As the rest of the information sank in, her scientific mind kicked in, “So basically on Antar they’re creating humans by putting together the sperm and egg of people who have little or no chance of meeting and having kids together in real life, then implanting them with Antarian genetic material. That’s…just…so…so…so is that how you were created?”

“I do not know. I know that I am part human.”

“If you were created that way, that would make you mostly human, wouldn’t it?” she asked rhetorically. Turning her thoughts back to Max, she asked, “Is that as far as you got, or is there more?”

“Just the scientific details, but I do not recognize many of those symbols.”

“Well, I hate to say it, but I have to go back downstairs. I’ll be back up in a few hours. Isabelle and Maria are supposed to bring by new clothes for you early this afternoon. I am going to send them up here when they arrive, ok?” she asked as she headed for the stairway.

“Yes. Liz, I am going to try to sit out on the balcony to read this. So if they cannot find me, tell them to look there.”

“Sure.” Liz said, unable to hid the smile on her face. Max was definitely amazing.


Maria and Isabelle entered the Crashdown in a flurry of conversation and shopping bags. Liz had given them almost five hundred dollars to spend on things for Max, and it seemed like they had spent every penny and then some. The girls headed into the back room to show Liz their purchases, and as she sat there looking at the clothes, she suddenly burst into tears.

Maria instantly pulled her into a hug, wondering what had gotten into her best friend. “Lizzie, honey, why the tears?” she asked as she pulled back to look at Liz.

“Oh, Maria. I’m just being stupid…I…I’ve gotten so used to…being with Max all the time, and…being down here the whole day…I miss him so much…and now he has to move out tonight…and how can I make it…how can I go back to school…” Liz choked out through quiet sobs.

“I’m going to go take these upstairs, ok?” Isabelle said in a whisper, trying to give her friends some privacy. Maria nodded in acknowledgement.

“Liz, I don’t know what to tell you. I know it’s going to be hard to be apart, but sweetie, at least Max is here now. You might not be able to spend every waking minute together, but considering that a week ago you didn’t know whether you would ever get to see him again, I’d say you’ll make it,” Maria said as she rubbed Liz’s back.

Liz blotted her eyes with the edge of her apron, “Well, when you put it that way…Thanks, Maria, I needed that. I guess I better get back out there.”

“I tell you what,chica. Let me get my uniform on and I’ll cover the rest of your shift so you can go be with Max. After all, it is your last official day together.”
“That would be great,” Liz said, smiling as she hugged her best friend. “Thanks so much.”

“No problem. What are best friends for?”


Isabelle and Max were sitting on the couch discussing the most recent part of the book translation when Liz got upstairs. She thought she had felt some nervousness coming from Max, which seemed odd considering his relaxed state at the previous night’s gathering. Why would Isabelle make him nervous? Max looked up at her as she took off her apron, worry showing on his face. He reached out his hand to her, gesturing for her to join him.

“Are you feeling better?” Isabelle asked with concern.

“Yes, much. Thanks.” Liz answered while plopping down on the couch, “So is everything set for tonight?”

“I think so. Michael should be finishing up right about now, but I’m going to head over there to double check him. It isn’t the Ritz, but I think it turned out quite well,” she said with a proud smile.

“Why don’t you have everyone meet back here at eleven tonight. I think it would be better to do this after dark,” Liz commented to Isabelle, gently squeezing Max’s hand to help ease his tension.

“Will do. Thanks for the information, Max. It really means a lot to Michael and me that you are doing this for us.”

“Thank you for finding me a place to stay,” Max said sincerely.

“I’ll see you guys tonight,” Isabelle said as she made her way back downstairs.

As she disappeared, Liz leaned over to give Max a proper hello kiss. “So what have you been doing while I was downstairs working?”

“I read more of the book for a short time, but it makes my eyes hurt. I rested for a while, and then tried to read one of the books from your bag. It was too difficult. I did not understand most of it,” he said, the disappointment evident in his voice.

“Which book was it? You’re doing great with your reading. I didn’t think any of my books would be that difficult.”

“It was the one called Advanced Placement Calculus.”

Liz let out a light laugh. “Oh, Max, don’t feel bad. I barely understand it! I can’t believe I didn’t think about teaching you any math. You have to know how to count!”

“Math?”

“Wow, how do I explain math? It’s like, how we keep track of things—we use numbers. Five apples, three cats, that sort of thing.”

Max looked completely lost. How could she show him what numbers and counting were? Suddenly she had an idea. “Have you eaten lunch yet.”

“No,” he answered, confused on how the subject had gone from math to lunch.

“Ok, then go in the kitchen. Let me get changed and I’ll be out there to feed you and teach you math,” Liz said with a kiss to his forehead.

Max sat at the table, curiously watching Liz as she danced around the kitchen, gathering various items from the refrigerator and cabinets. Once seated, she separated the pile of bowls and filled each one with a different food: strawberries, Cocoa-Puffs, carrot sticks, pretzels, cheese cubes, and marshmallows.

“Ok, we’ll start with counting, but I’m telling you now. This food stays Tabasco-free. It’s too messy to count things when they’re full of sauce,” she said in a teasing voice.

“Agreed.”

“The basic numbers are one through ten. Everything else builds on those. So this is one strawberry,” she explained, picking up the piece of fruit from the bowl and feeding it to him. After he swallowed, she continued, “And this is one-two pretzels.”

She continued her feeding count up to ten, and as he began to accurately repeat the count while feeding her, he started to put a pouty look on his face. “What’s wrong, Max? Is it too hard to understand?”

“No. But I think I like reading better,” he with downcast eyes.

“Why?” she asked, concerned that this really was too difficult for him.

“You give me a kiss when I’m correct,” he said, now giving her an irresistible look.

“Oh, I see,” she said in a flirty voice as she moved from her chair to his lap. “So you think I should give you a kiss for each number you get right?”

“Yes.”

“That sounds fair. So far, you have one and two right. So how many kisses should you get?”

“Two?”

Leaning into him, she gave him two sweet kisses, “That’s right. Next number…”

They continued alternating numbers, food and kisses until Max reached ten. After the tenth marshmallow, Liz asked her final number question, “So now you have to tell me…how many kisses have I given you?”


“Ten,” he said proudly. “Now I have a question for you.”

“Oh?” she asked, her brows raised in curiosity.

“If I kiss you from now until the time I have to go, how many kisses would that be?”

“Umm…..I don’t know. How many?”

“I do not know either. Do you want to find out?”


Dreams remain just as long as there's Dreamers--Dennis DeYoung
posted on 17-Sep-2001 12:05:23 AM
Chapter 21


Eleven o’clock came too quickly, and as Liz packed up the last bag of things to take to the storage unit, her body was overflowing with Max’s and her combined emotions. Their kiss counting session had ended with them taking a nap, the previous night’s lack of sleep finally catching up to them. When she had awakened a little over an hour ago, Max was propped up on his elbow, watching her sleep. Noticing she was awake, he gave her a sad kiss before sitting up and settling on the edge of the bed, staring down at the floor. He had been in that same position since then, and no amount of talking she could do would get him to respond to her. But the emotions coming through their connection mirrored her own, and once again, she worried how he was going to handle being separated from her. Kneeling down before him, she took his chin in her hand and gently forced him to look up at her, her heart breaking as she saw the tears trailing down his cheeks. She sat back down on the bed, pulling him with her as she laid back against the headboard. He began sobbing uncontrollably, the deep animalistic howls he had cried the night he came back to her. She couldn’t help the tears flowing down her own cheeks as she soothingly stroked his hair, whispering words of comfort and solace, willing him all her love over their connection. Slowly Max’s crying subsided, but he continued to cling to Liz, silently hoping that she would change her mind about sending him away.

They laid that way until a soft knock from the front door broke the silence. Slowly disentagling herself from Max’s grasp, she gave him a light kiss before making her way to the living room. The three friends entered quickly, Maria stopping to give her best friend’s arm a light squeeze upon seeing the dried tears on her face. “Hey, chica. Are you guys ready?” she asked in a hushed voice.

Liz nodded. “Yeah. I’ve got a couple of bags to put in the car, you know, some snacks and a few books for him. And his clothes.”

Turning to look at Michael, Maria asked, “Michael, would you please take these down and put them in the trunk? I think there’s some room on the left side.”

“C’mon, give a guy a break. I just got up here,” he complained.

“Oh, stop it. Gee, whatever old guy they cloned you from or whatever it is they did must have been a crochety old guy. Please Michael,” she asked, her eyes directing him to her stressed out best friend.

“Sure,” he said as he picked up the bags. He had sensed a possible Maria DeLuca blow up over his protest, so any excuse to escape it was fine by him. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

“So how’s he doing? If you’re any indication, it can’t be good,” Maria asked with concern as she turned her attention back to Liz.

“Not good. Not good at all. This is so much harder than I ever imagined,” Liz answered sincerely.

“Do you think it would help if you stayed out there with him tonight? You parents won’t be home yet, will they?” Isabelle inquired.

“They’re coming back tomorrow night. Staying with him might not be a bad idea. But we have school tomorrow. I don’t know if I should miss another day…”

Maria piped in, “Why don’t we do this. Get showered now and take your books and some clean clothes with you. I can stop out there in the morning. If you want to go to class, I’ll give you a ride. Otherwise I can come pick you up after school. You’ll have to be back here before your folks get home.”

“Yeah, thanks guys. My brain is mush right now…I never would have thought of that.”

Michael came through the door as Liz headed to take her shower. The girls filled him in on the plan, and he decided to find Max to ask him whether he had translated any more of the book. Realizing that Max was holed up in Liz’s bedroom, he turned to his girlfriend, “Maria, I was hoping to talk to Max for a few minutes before we leave. Could you go get him? With Liz in there, I don’t want to take the chance…”

“Sure, SpaceGeezer. Keep your teeth in,” she teased as she wandered out of the living room.

Max was curled up on Liz’s bed with his back to the door, so he jumped slightly as Maria gently placed her hand on his arm. “Hey, buddy. How’re you doing? You know, Lizzie’s really worried about you. You mean a lot to her. When she was crying downstairs…”

Max’s head shot up, “I made Liz cry?”

“Relax. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just…I know this is hard on you. But it’s just as hard on her. So I’m going to tell you what I told her. You two are going to miss each other. A lot. But you are still going to be here. Together. You’ll still be able to spend time together. I mean, when you were gone, it’s like she had stopped living. Compared to that, spending a few hours apart should be simple, especially knowing that you’ll eventually see each other again. So instead of being sad for the times you’ll be apart, try to be happy for the times you’ll be together. I promise I’ll take good care of her for you when you can’t be with her, ok?” she asked as she gave him a light smile.

Max nodded, “Now I know why Liz loves you as much as she does. Thank you.”

“Hey, it’s the least I can do. After all, you make my best friend happy.” She gave his arm a light squeeze. “If you’re up to it, Michael wanted to ask you some questions about the journals.”

“Yes.”



Max was trying unsuccessfully to explain to Michael how the incubation pods had been created when Liz entered the living room. It was almost midnight and she knew they had to get going before the Evans and Mrs. DeLuca realized their children weren’t home yet. Michael explained that he and Isabelle would drive out in the Jeep while Maria took Max and Liz in the Jetta. Giving Liz’s apartment one last look, Max allowed her to take his hand and lead him out the door. The other three made their way downstairs while Liz quickly locked up the apartment, feeling the tension pulsing through her connection with Max.

As they made their way out the back door into the alley, Liz suddenly felt as if her arm were going to be ripped off, blinding terror rapidly innundating her senses. She was suddenly jerked back as she realized Max was going crazy, holding her hand so tight that she couldn’t break free.

“Max, Max, what is it? What’s wrong?” she said, the fear still permeating her body.

Max was hyperventilating, his eyes wild as he paced back and forth, distancing himself from the others as they stood watching him in disbelief. He began to chant with a nervous tremor, “JAKE. NO CAR. NO CAR. NO. JAKE. NO. NO CAR…”

“Max, please, you have to calm down. Max, look at me, please, look at me,” Liz begged, trying unsuccessfully to get him to focus on her.

He continued pacing and chanting, his body shaking as his feet created a frantic pattern in the dirt of the alley. Liz had to find a way to get through to him. Realizing he was still grasping her hand, she tried to send him some images.

Curling up in her bed the first night they were together.
Dancing together.
Their first real kiss.
Reading on the lounge.
Her caressing him on the couch.

Max suddenly stopped pacing, his chest rising and falling with the stress of his frenzied exertions. Looking at Liz with untamed fear in his eyes, he said, “Liz, do not make me get in there. I cannot go in there. Please.”

Suddenly remembering the images from his nightmare, Liz realized too late that he thought they were going to make him ride in the trunk. “Oh, God, Max, I’m so sorry. I forgot. How could I have forgotten? I’m so sorry,” she said as she reached up and cupped his face, directing him so that he could see the apology in her eyes. “It’s ok. It’s ok. I promise. I won’t make you do anything.” She gave him light kisses all over his face until the fear she felt from him diminished to the level where they could move again. “I love you, Max. I won’t let anyone hurt you. I won’t make you do anything.”

Remembering the others standing behind her, she slowly turned and asked, “Um…guys, can we have a few minutes?”

Maria, expecting some smart-ass comment from Michael, took his arm in a tight grip. She was surprised when all he said was, “Sure, Liz, take as much time as you need. Why don’t you go back inside and we’ll wait out here.”

Liz led Max back through the door and sat down on the couch with her arm around him. They sat there in silence for several minutes while Max tried to get his breathing under control, his eyes closed as if trying to block the agonizing memories from his mind. Once he seemed calmer, Liz took her own deep breath before she began, “Max, you know I would never do anything to hurt you or upset you on purpose. I am so sorry that I didn’t even think about the car and how that would affect you.” She gave him several light kisses on his temple and in his hair. “Max, I know you don’t want to talk about Jake and what he did to you, but you can’t keep it all inside either. You have to let that pain out or it’s going to destroy you. If you can’t talk to me about it, please try to discuss it with Michael or Isabelle or Maria. They’re here to help you, too.”

“Liz, I do not think I could talk to anyone but you about this, but I just cannot…” he said quietly, his breathing still heavier than normal.

“Max, we need to do something to help you get through this. I’ve already seen some of the things that happened to you, like the car and the trunk. Maybe we can start slow, and you can tell me a little more just about that.”

He nodded reluctantly.

“How long did they keep you in there?” she asked, slowly stroking his cheek with the back of her hand.

“I do not know. It would be for a few days at a time, then we would stop somewhere and they would take me out. We would be in a motel room or an old building for a while. Then they would put me back in there until we stopped at the next place,” he closed his eyes as he remembered, small tremors shaking his frame.

“And they took you from the old man’s house?” Liz prodded.

“Yes.”

“There were three of them, right? Joe, Mike, and Jake?” she asked, recalling the names from the frightening images she had seen.

“Yes.”

“Why did they take you?” she questioned, puzzled as to what Max could have possibly done to warrant such abuse.

Silence.

“Max, do you know why…”

“Liz, please, no more. Not tonight,” he quietly begged.

She gave him another kiss. “Ok, no more. But we still have to get you to the storage unit. If I have to, I will walk with you all the way out there. I’d prefer not to, but it’s obvious that you aren’t up to riding in a car.”

“I am sorry, Liz. I just…”

“Shhh. You don’t have anything to be sorry for, Max,” she said as she caressed his arm. “What about the Jeep? I could have Michael take the top off so it would be more open. It would be a little cold, but no colder than walking.”

“I don’t know…”

“Will you at least try it? I’ll ask Michael to take the top off, and we’ll go from there. All I ask is that you give it a chance—I won’t leave your side for a second, and I won’t let go of your hand. Maybe I’ll have to find a way to distract you,” she teased, trying to lighten the mood as she gave him another kiss. Turning serious again, she continued, “If it’s still too much for you, then we’ll walk out there.”

She could feel Max’s conflicting emotions. He trusted her and knew she would keep him safe, but all the things he associated with riding in any type of vehicle were overwhelmingly frightening. All the same, he loved her too much to ask her to walk such a long distance just for him. And a small part of him was just a little curious as to how she would distract him. “I will try. But if it too much, please understand…”

“Max, you know I understand. We will do this only if you are completely ok with it. Otherwise, we walk, and no, don’t feel bad about it if it comes to that.”

“Liz, I do not think I will ever be worthy of your love. Thank you.”

“Max, you are more than worthy. Now, let me go talk to Michael. I’ll be right back,” she said, giving him a kiss on the forehead.

He sat there on the couch in the dark, wondering to himself how much longer he could avoid telling her about Jake. Ever since he had returned, he had stayed busy, occupied with learning so many new and fascinating things and being with the one person on this Earth who cared about him. Fortunately, he had been able to keep his demons at bay until this morning’s nightmare. He still couldn’t believe he had connected to Liz without even knowing it. He could not allow that to happen again. It was bad enough to think she might find out about Jake that way, but the thought of what else she might find out terrified him more than any car or gun ever could.

“Ok, it’s all set. Are you ready for this?” she asked as she leaned into the room, shaking him from his thoughts.

Max nodded as he stood up and walked over to her. She entwined her fingers in his, bringing them up to her lips to kiss them. “Remember, I will not let go of this hand.”

She led him out the door again, more cautious and vigilant of Max’s feelings this time. Liz had told Maria to drive the Jetta around the corner so it would be out of Max’s view. She also had Michael keep the Jeep running after removing the top, hoping that Max would be less frightened if he didn’t hear the vehicle start up. They made baby-step progress toward the Jeep, Max’s hands shaking so hard that Liz told him they should abandon the idea and go with the alternate plan. He steadfastly refused, compelling himself to continue forward. He had told Liz just the night before that he would prove to her he was worthy of her love. This was one way to do that. If she believed he could do this, then he needed to believe it, too. Once by the Jeep’s side, Liz stepped into it backwards, never removing her eyes from him. If he could just get in, she knew he would be all right, so she leaned over him and gave him a deep kiss, willing him to feel all the love and contentment he evoked in her. When she pulled away, she pressed her forhead against his and whispered just loud enough to be heard over the idling engine, “Don’t look anywhere but in my eyes. I will guide you up into the Jeep—all you have to do is keep looking in my eyes and holding my hand.”

Max followed her instructions, feeling her arm grasping his elbow as she pulled him up into the Jeep. The engine’s low rumble vibrating up his legs unnerved him, and he almost began hyperventilating again. Liz wrapped her arm around him and directed him to sit down. She turned sideways in the seat, propping herself in the corner for stability. Pulling him so that his head was tucked under her chin, she covered them with a blanket. She was afraid that the sight of the scenery moving past them might make him ill or frighten him, so giving his forehead a gentle kiss as she pulled the blanket higher, she instructed him to keep his head covered while the Jeep was moving. With a shift of the gear, the Jeep took off to Max’s new home, the fingers of his left hand still entwined with Liz’s, the ones of the right deeply embedded in her left thigh, holding on for dear life.

Chapter 22

The trip to the storage unit did not go as well as Liz had hoped. She had thought the blanket idea was a good one, until she heard the strangled whimpers coming from underneath it. Pulling it back, she realized that being covered up reminded Max too much of being confined in the trunk, so she quickly adjusted it around his shoulders to keep them both warm in the chilly night air. Unfortunately, she had been correct about the moving landscape bothering him, so she had him try closing his eyes to reduce the effect it had on him. He seemed to do all right with that, but as his entire body trembled with fear, she desperately wanted to find a way to comfort him. He was settled against her in such a way that she could only kiss the top of his head, and with his hands so frantically attached to her, her movements were quite restricted. Finally she remembered the night she had introduced him to music and how it seemed to bring him such peace. She leaned close to his ear, trying to block out as much of the wind as possible, as she began the song she had sung to him that wonderful night, “Come stop your crying, it will be all right, just take my hand, hold it tight, I will protect you from all around you, I will be here, don’t you cry…” Feeling his racing pulse slow a little, Liz continued to sing the song, repeating it for the rest of the trip as this wonderful man who had stolen her heart continued to fight one of his many demons.

Getting Max out of the Jeep proved to be a much easier task than getting him into it had been, and as Liz climbed out to join him, she noticed that Maria and Isabelle had already dropped off the things from the Jetta’s trunk and hidden the vehicle out of sight. She was quite impressed with the way they had set up the storage unit. It almost looked like a small dorm room. The file cabinets had been arranged in the corner of the unit in such a way that all the drawers were still accessible. An air mattress sat in the opposite corner, covered with a down comforter and matching pillow. Next to it was a small bookcase with a portable TV and reading lamp sitting on top of it. Next to that was a miniature refrigerator, with paper dishes, plastic silverware and cups on top. The space heater sat in the corner nearest the door, directed toward the air mattress. Isabelle handed Max a set of keys, and when he looked at them in confusion, she showed him how to unlock the unit and the one next to it, which held a small light and a camper’s toilet, as well as a small bucket with bottled water for brushing his teeth and washing his hands. Liz took the books she had brought for Max and added them to the few Isabelle had used to stock the bookcase. Deciding to leave his clothes in the duffel bag, Liz placed it at the end of the air mattress, along with her bookbag.

As Isabelle and Max returned from next door, Liz noticed her watch now said it was almost 1:30 in the morning. “Hey, guys, it’s getting really late. If you want to take off, I can finish getting Max settled in.”

“Sure, Liz. I’ll come by around…uck, 7:30 to see about taking you to school,” Maria said as she looked at her own watch. “I hope I don’t oversleep.”

Making a split-second decision, Liz said, “Don’t worry about getting me for school. Just stop by after so you can take me home, ok?”

Giving Liz a knowing smile, Maria said, “Sure, chica. Whatever you want. I think we might have to get a do not disturb sign for you.”

Liz blushed, “Maria, it’s not like that. I just don’t want to be apart until we really have to be, especially since tonight didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped.”

“I hear ya. Tomorrow after school it is.”

As everyone filtered out of the storage unit, Max said, “Thank you for all of this. I appreciate it.”

Isabelle turned to the couple, “If you guys think of anything else you need, just leave a message on my cell phone. I’ll check it at lunch tomorrow and have Maria bring it when she comes to get you. See ya later."


Now that they were alone, Liz wrapped her arms around Max’s neck and pulled him close to her for a loving kiss. “I’m so proud of you, Max. You did really well riding in the Jeep. I know how frightening it was for you, but you still did it. That took a lot of courage.”

“You were right, Liz. I cannot…can’t?” he asked.

“Hey, that’s good. Yes, it’s can’t.”

“I can’t go on being afraid of everything. You have shown me an Earth that I did not know existed. Now that I have seen it, I want to be a part of it very much. I want to do all the things I have seen on the television, all the things I have seen you doing with your friends in my images of you. I want to wash my clothes. I want to go to the mall. I want to play basketball. I want to go for a walk at the park. I want to take you out on a date. How can I do any of that when I can’t even eat in your restaurant unless your friends are the only ones there or ride in a vehicle without you holding my hand the entire way?” he asked, sitting down on his new bed, a slightly defeated tone in his voice.

Placing herself next to him, Liz responded, “Max, it isn’t going to happen overnight. You spent a long time—years—doing everything you could to avoid people and coming in contact with them. It was a part of every one of your thoughts, every move you made. That is something that’s not going to go away quickly. You just have to give it some time. Move forward in slow steps instead of trying to do it all at once. Sort of like when you trusted me. The first time you saw me, you were terrified. But somewhere inside of you, something eventually told you to go back to that alley. So you did. Something told you that I left that food for you. So you trusted that it would be safe to eat. That night when I tried to talk to you, that same something told you that I wouldn’t hurt you. That something was your instinct. Another instinct, fear, was stronger than the instinct of trust, so you ran away. Then you saved me. Suddenly, you saw my whole life, how much I wanted to help you, and you knew that you had nothing to fear from me, that you could trust me completely. But it took you two months to get to that point. And if I hadn’t been hurt, if you hadn’t healed me, it may have been a lot longer before you trusted me completely. Or you might never have gotten to that point.”

“Liz, it would have happened. You are correct that it may have been a lot longer if I had not healed you, but I know it would have happened,” he replied sincerely as he took her hand in his.

“That’s exactly what I mean, Max. All those things that you want will happen if you are patient enough. I will always be here for you, to help you with whatever you want to do. I’ll never force you to do something you aren’t comfortable doing. I may offer a different way to handle it, but still, in the end, this is all up to you. You know that you can trust me completely. And now that you have met Maria, Michael, Isabelle and Alex, you know that they are trustworthy, too.”

“But I do not trust them like I trust you. I don’t think I can.”

“No, you may never trust them like that. Just like there are different kinds of love, there are different levels of trust. Have you ever watched a rain drop in a puddle before?” she asked, an analogy quickly coming to her mind.

“Many times. Why?” he asked, puzzled by her unexpected change of subject.

“Trust and relationships, friendships, are like the rings that a raindrop makes in the puddle. You are the raindrop. The small circle that forms first are the people you are closest to. For me, those people are you, Maria, Alex, and my Grandma Claudia, before she died. You are the people who know me best, who I would trust with my life. The next circle is people you are close to, but not as close as the first circle. For me, those people are Michael, Isabelle, Kyle, my parents, and my Aunt Kathie. They are a big part of my life, but they don’t know me as well as the first circle of people do. The third circle of people is even further removed from you. Maria’s mom, Alex’s parents, Mr. & Mrs. Evans, Tess, Jose the cook, and the waitresses at the diner are in this circle. We are friendly to each other, but we really aren’t close enough to say we’re friends. Some people call this group acquaintances. The farther out you go, the bigger each circle gets. Each circle has more people in it, but they are not as close to you—they don’t know you as well. The edges of the puddle, where the circles stop, is where the people you don’t trust at all are.”

“How will I know whether or not to trust someone?”

“Believe it or not, you still have to use your instinct, the one that has told you to avoid people. You just have to retrain it a little to balance your fear with trust. That instinct told you to trust me. And you have learned to give your trust to the others because I trust them. Now you know what trust is supposed to feel like. When I meet a new person I give them a certain amount of trust, let them into one of my circles. As I get to know more about them, that level of trust goes up or down depending on what they do to me, or my experiences with that person. You do the same thing—the only difference is that my initial level of trust is here,” she said as she raised her hand so it was level with her eyes, “and yours is here,” she continued as she lowered her hand so that it was at her waist, “because of the different experiences we have had in our lives. Almost all your experiences with people have been bad, so you naturally are not going to trust people. As you have better experiences, you will learn to trust more.”

“Is it possible to give your trust to someone who does not deserve it?”

Liz shook her head sadly, “Yes, it happens. A person can betray the trust you have given them. Sometimes they don’t mean to do it, like when I tell Maria a secret, something I don’t want anyone else to know, and she lets it slip out later.”

“Slip out?” Max asked, confused.

“Umm…when she tells that secret to another person.”

“Has she done this to you?”

“Oh, yeah, several times!” Liz exclaimed as she rolled her eyes.

“But you still trust her?”

“Yes, because I know she didn’t do it to hurt me or be cruel. Maria says her brain can’t keep up with her mouth, and that gets her in trouble. Now, I’ve finally learned that if I have a secret I really don’t want anyone to know, I don’t tell it to Maria.”

“Oh. What if a person did betray your trust to hurt you?”

“That happens, too. There’s a girl at my school, Pam Troy. I thought we were friends, and I told her something very personal about me. By the next day, the whole school knew it. She pretended to be my friend, and she used what I told her to intentionally hurt me. Now I don’t trust her at all.”

“I’m sorry that happened to you.”

“It’s all part of learning who to trust, Max. Sometimes we do trust the wrong people. I know this all must be confusing to you. It won’t be easy for you to move from trusting no one to trusting someone until they give you a reason not to, but I promise you it will get easier with time. For now, you can borrow my instincts. Trust the people I trust. Eventually you will learn how to do it on your own,” she said as she gave him a light kiss.

“You make it sound easy, Liz,” he said as he leaned his head on her shoulder.

“Max, the best way to start is with small steps. You’ve already done that by allowing me into your life, and now Maria, Michael, Isabelle and Alex. When you’re ready, we’ll see about getting you to meet some of the other people I trust, ok?”

She felt him nod against her. Turning her attention to the next subject, she began, “Speaking of small steps, I have an idea on how to get you over your fear of cars. Do you want to hear it?” she asked quietly.

“Yes. If only to hear your voice,” he answered with a slight smile.

“Let’s get ready to go to sleep first. I’ll tell you once we’re laying down,” she said as she went to her backpack to pull out her pajamas. Showing them to Max she said, “I’m glad I brought warm ones. Even with that heater, it’s going to be chilly in here.”

Max stood up and walked over to her, running his hands up her arms. He gently pulled her hair to the side and planted a light open mouth kiss on her neck as he whispered, “I will keep you warm, Liz.” His soft lips against her sensitive skin sent an electrified heat throughout her body, and as much as she wanted him to continue, she didn’t trust herself to ask him to stop if he went too far. Reluctantly she pulled away and told him as much and as he promised to restrain himself, Liz made a mental note to have that talk with Maria about human-alien relations very soon. The couple decided to take turns going to the other storage unit to prepare for bedtime, and by the time they were actually ready to lay down it was nearly three in the morning. Snuggling very close together on the small mattress, Liz had to make a concerted effort to focus on her idea as Max idly stroked her lower back.

“What is this idea of yours?” he asked in a deep whisper.

“I thought we could start small and work our way up. First, I’ll go to the library in the next day or two and get a couple of books about cars, some with photos, maybe one that describes how the engine works. Maybe the more you know about cars the less intimidating they will be. The noises they make might not be as frightening once you know why they make them.”

“Ok.” He gently rubbed her stomach.

“Then I’ll get you a few small toy cars, just so you can get used to seeing them. If they are small, maybe they won’t be so frightening. Once you are comfortable with the toy cars, then I will bring my parents’ car out here or borrow Maria’s car and drive it out here one day when I don’t have school.”

“Mmm.” He lightly caressed her arm with his fingertips.

“We can spend as much time as you need just getting you used to the car. You can stand in the doorway here and look at it, maybe work your way outside to see it. After that, you can take your time touching it, looking in the trunk, sitting in it. You can do whatever it takes to make you comfortable with the car.”

“All right.” He ran his fingers through her hair.

“Once you are completely at ease with being in the car, then we can start the engine and have you get used to it running. We can then drive around the parking lot here so you can get used to the movement of the car. Then we’ll try going on the road.”

“Whatever you say.” He leaned over and gave her a gentle yet passionate kiss.

“Have you been listening to anything I said?” Liz asked, not knowing whether to be annoyed or flattered at his apparent lack of interest in the subject.

“I heard every word,” he said, the seriousness of his eyes confirming his statement. “I was doing what your school book called ‘aversion therapy’. You mix a pleasant…experience with a not pleasant one. Touching you and kissing you makes it easier to discuss my fear of cars.”

“You read my psychology book?” Liz asked in amazement.

“After that Advanced Placement Calculus book, I thought I had forgotten how to read. So I had to prove to myself that I still could,” he said in all seriousness.

Quickly stifling her laugh, Liz merely said, “Oh, Max, I love you,” before returning his kiss.




“So you never did tell me what you thought of my idea last night,” Liz commented, “well, technically, earlier this morning.” She pulled out two paper bowls and some silverware for them to eat their cereal.

“How long do you think it would take for me to do all that?” he asked nervously, all traces of teasing about aversion therapy gone.

“The amount of time it takes isn’t really the important thing, Max. There’s no rush to get this done. I think your only goal should be to move forward, no matter how long it takes.”

“What if I never get over this fear?” Max asked sadly.

“Then we’ll do our best to work around it. What about the Jeep? I think it’s less intimidating to you than a car, so it might be easier to start with it. With winter coming, we’d probably have to get you used to the top being on it pretty soon.”

“I agree. I think I should try the Jeep first. Will you still bring me the car books?” he asked as he began to eat.

“Sure. I’ll get you some other ones to read, too. Meantime, I’ll check with Michael and Isabelle tonight to see whether we can borrow the Jeep on Saturday.”

The mention of the word tonight brought an eerie silence to their conversation, neither one of them willing to voice their thoughts on the impending separation. After they finished eating, Max tried to read more of the first alien journal while Liz caught up on some of her homework, knowing the teachers wouldn’t protest her absences as long as she turned in all the assignments they had given while she wasn’t there.

They spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon concentrating on the journals, Liz first typing out the parts Max had discussed with her during her work break the other day. The technical explanations of the pods and Michael and Isabelle’s creation were the most difficult sections for them to translate so far, and Liz hoped that they hadn’t lost any important details in converting the information from Antarian to English. The part Max read this morning explained that Rath and Vilandra were able to obtain the human genetic material from two residents of a nursing home. Vilandra had changed her form to resemble that of a human female and entered the home one night posing as a nurse. She took blood samples from the two subjects and used that blood to extract the genetic sequences needed to create Michael and Isabelle. According to Rath, the drawback to engineering the two in this manner was that the implantation of the Anatarian genetic material was not as complete; on Antar they would have been able to add components called gandarium to the human genetic material to facilitate the merging of the two different species. Since that was not possible with the few resources they had on Earth, Rath and Vilandra feared that Michael and Isabelle might not inherit any Antarian traits, whether it be their abilities or instincts. Hearing how much effort these alien parents had put into saving their children, Liz was glad that their suspicions had been wrong.

Glancing at her watch and seeing that Maria would be there in two hours to pick her up, Liz insisted that they spend the rest of their time concentrating on themselves. They began with another math lesson, this one consisting of addition and subtraction, both of them pleased with how many correct answers Max gave. Then Liz gave him a map of Roswell she had hilighted with the landmarks he knew, such as the abandoned church, the old man’s house and the Crashdown so that she could show him where the storage unit was located and how to get back to the apartment so he could shower that night. Giving him her digital watch, they agreed that he would wait until one in the morning before arriving so that Liz’s parents would certainly be asleep. She showed him the duffel bag to bring clean clothes in, and directed him to put any dirty clothes in the laundry bag she had placed in the storage unit next door.

Once they finally finished going over all the details of Max’s new living arrangements, they spent their remaining time laying close together on the small mattress, exchanging loving caresses and tender kisses. As their connection swam with love, contentment, and harmony, they silently agreed to follow Maria’s advice and just enjoy their remaining time together instead of worrying about being apart.

Liz pulled away reluctantly at the sound of the Jetta outside and gave Max a final kiss filled with passion and loneliness as a single tear escaped her eye. Placing her hand on his chest to silently ask him to stay in place, she slowly stood up, gathered her belongings and walked out the door.

Chapter 23

Maria greeted Liz warmly as she got in the Jetta, giving her best friend’s hand a squeeze before driving out of the parking lot. “So, is he settling in ok?” she asked as she glanced between Liz and the road.

“Yeah, I think we’ll be all right. He’s going to come by late tonight to get a shower,” Liz explained.

“Get a shower? Is that what they’re calling it now-a-days?” Maria teased.

“Maria, it’s not like that,” Liz answered, quietly adding, “At least not yet.”

“Oh? Do I detect a slight sense of horniness there, Lizzie Parker?”

“NO!…maybe….oh, I don’t know.”

“Well, thank you for the straight answer. C’mon Liz, this is me. Spill.”

“I’m not……I don’t……Maria, for as long as I can remember, for as long as we’ve been friends, I’ve had my whole life planned out. Go to Harvard. Become a molecular biologist. Get a great job. Get married. Have kids. Even after everyone else started talking about how great sex is, I always thought I would be a virgin until my wedding night. But now, when I’m with Max, it’s like part of me doesn’t want to wait. I don’t even know whether it’s safe to…be…with him…that way, and the crazy part is, I don’t even care.”

“Whoa, Liz. I know you guys are close, and believe me, I’ve seen some of the looks you two give each other, but you’ve always been my idol. Cautious, innocent, obedient little Lizzie Parker. I’ve always EXPECTED you to wait for sex until you were married.”

“What are you talking about? You mean to tell me you and Michael haven’t …”

“Oh no, we have, but I’m not you, Liz. I was raised a little different than you were. It’s almost like my mom expected me to do it before I turned eighteen. I got the whole safe sex speech, complete with a demonstration, when I was like, ten.”

“I know that this isn’t like me, Maria. That’s why I can’t ignore it. When I went out with Kyle, I never felt like this—ever. I mean, he wanted to go a lot further, but I didn’t. When Max said he wanted to…”

“Max told you he wanted to have sex with you?”

“Yeah, but I told him that we couldn’t yet. I needed to find out for sure that it was safe. Obviously since you’re still alive, it is.”

“As far as we know it is. Before I knew about Michael’s not-of-this-earth heritage, I thought he didn’t want me because he never once made a move on me. But then he healed me, and we figured that if that didn’t have any bad side effects, then it was safe to move forward with the, uh, physical part of our relationship. But Liz, you shouldn’t do this just because I did it or because Max is pressuring you…”

“No, it’s not like that at all. Since I told him we couldn’t yet, he has shown a lot of restraint—I mean A LOT considering that we’ve been sleeping in the same bed on a regular basis. But there’s a big part of me that doesn’t want him to be so restrained…and it sort of scares me.”

“You’re scared that something alien-related will happen or something human will happen, like a baby or STDs?”

“Both I guess.”

“Well, like I said, as far as the alien stuff goes, so far, so good. As for the human stuff, well, if you’re even considering doing this, then we need to make sure you’re protected…”

“Oh, god. I can’t believe I’m really talking about this…”

“I know, Lizzie, but don’t you think it’s better to talk about it now, before things get too far? I’ve been there, chica, and trust me when the urge hits, STDs and getting pregnant are the last things on your mind.”

“I don’t think I have to worry about STDs. I know he’s never done it with anyone before.”

“Well, leave it to me and the Amy DeLuca school of sexual enlightenment to help you with the rest. My mom keeps a bunch of condoms in the bathroom. I mess with her mind by taking four or five out and then putting two or three back at a time so that she can’t really keep count.”

“So you don’t really keep any?”

“Not now. Spaceboy and I know that we’re not ever going to be with anyone else, and since my mom put me on the pill when I was sixteen, we don’t really need to use them.”

“You never told me you were on the pill.”

“It was sort of embarrassing…like my mom was saying ‘here, go be a tramp’. But now I’m glad she did.”

“So…can you tell me what it feels like?”

“Being on the pill?”

“NO! You know what I mean.”

“OH, you mean IT— making love, having sex, doin’ the wild thang, screwing, f*cking your brains out…”

“MARIA!!!”

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist seeing your face turn a million shades of red,” Maria laughed. “Really Liz, I can’t believe you’re thinking about having sex when you can’t even say it.”

“I can too say it.”

“Ok, then, let’s hear it.”

“Maria,” Liz whined.

“Say it, Liz. Tell me what you want to do to Max.”

“Why am I letting you do this to me?”

“Because, I’m your best friend, and as your best friend, it’s my job to make sure you know what you’re getting into…”

“I have my mother for these conversations…”

“And have you had this particular conversation with your mother?”

“No.”

“My point exactly. I’m just watching out for my best friend. Now, if you can’t say it, then you shouldn’t be thinking about doing it.”

“Fine. I want to make love with Max. I said it. Are you happy?”

“Mind-blowing.”

“What?”

“The sex. It’s mind-blowing. Although I have to say it got even better once we ditched the condoms.”

“Really? How?”

“Yeah, really. It’s like, before, we could sort of sense each other’s feelings, but after we went au natural, it really got intense, like we could communicate with each other silently.”

“And you can do that all the time?”

“Oh, no, not all the time. Just when we’re, uh, ‘in the act’, so to speak.”

An awkward silence filled the car before Liz gathered her nerve to continue, “So could you help me get on the pill?”

“You really are serious about this, aren’t you?” Maria asked, dropping the teasing tone in her voice as she noticed her best friend’s emotion-filled countenance.

“Maria, nothing in my whole life has felt as right as this does.”

“Ok, then. I’ll call my doctor’s office tomorrow and make an appointment for one day after school. I’m going to get you some condoms, too, because you have to wait at least a month before the pill kicks in.”

“Thanks, Maria. What would I do without you?”

“I’d hate to find out, chica. I’d really hate to find out.”




“Lizzie, we’re home,” Jeff Parker called out as he and his wife entered the apartment.

Liz came out of her bedroom to greet her parents. “Hey, you made it home safe. How was the flight back?”

“It was crazy! I’ve never seen a plane as full as that one before,” Nancy said as she gave her daughter a light embrace. “And as nice as that hotel was, I am so glad to be back home.”

“I see the restaurant is still standing,” Jeff teased.

“Yes, it’s still there. It rained all day Saturday, but a couple of groups from school had a big party Wednesday night, so the revenues sort of balanced out,” Liz replied.

“You didn’t have a hard time with the school crowd, did you?” Nancy asked with concern.

“No, they were no problem at all,” Liz answered, remembering how that awful evening had turned out to be the best day of her life.

“Did you and Maria have fun with your girls’ weekend?” her mother queried.

“There was sort of a change of plans, so we postponed it for another weekend.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear it. I hope it was nothing serious.” Nancy responded.

“No, just some unexpected company from out of town. Maria didn’t want to be rude,” Liz said, implying the company was Maria’s and not hers while trying to not stray too far from the truth.

“Well, I ‘m wiped out. I’m going to go unpack a few things, then I’m going to bed,” Nancy said, stifling a yawn.

“Wait. Before you go, I wanted to talk to you about something. Both of you,” Liz said as she sat down on the couch.

“Sure, honey. What is it?” Jeff asked as he sat down on the loveseat, his wife walking over and sitting beside him as they exchanged a worried look.

“Well, I sort of have this big project I’m working on, and I really need to spend a lot of time after school doing research. Do you think I could have a week or two off from working? I figured that with Christmas coming some of the other girls might want to take my hours, but if you needed someone to cover I still could,” Liz explained.

Relief washed over her parents’ faces. “That’s all?” her dad asked.

Liz nodded.

“That shouldn’t be a problem, honey,” Nancy answered. “Liz, you know that your dad and I have been worried about you, moping around the house, not wanting to go out with your friends. It seems like you’re doing better now, but you know you shouldn’t just throw yourself into your school work to try to escape your problems.”

Liz groaned inwardly. If you only knew what I was really doing, she thought to herself. Out loud she said, “I know Mom, and I’m not doing that, I swear. I’ll be working with other people on this project, so I’m not closing myself off at all. And you’ll be glad to know I did spend some time with my friends this past weekend.”

“Ok, sweetie. We just worry about you. You know you can always come to us if you have a problem,” her dad reminded.

“Yeah, I know. Thanks for letting me have the time off,” Liz answered as she stood up. Giving her parents a hug and kiss, she said, “I’m glad you’re home. I’m going to go finish my homework, ok?”

“Sure. Like I said, I am going to go hit the bed as soon as I get a few things put away. We’ll see you in the morning,” her mother answered.

“Goodnight.”



Liz couldn’t believe that the two hours that had gone by so quickly when she was with Max earlier in the day were the same two hours until she saw him again. It seemed like one o’clock would never arrive. She had already showered and was ready for bed when she decided to throw on her jacket, grab a blanket and wait for Max out on the balcony. She sat there for over an hour, simply staring at the blank page of her journal. She had so many things she wanted to write about, but the more she thought about it, the more she realized that words could never describe the life she had experienced over the past several days. It was hard to believe that a week ago, she was so wrought with grief over missing Max that she could hardly function. And now…for the first time in a long time, she felt like she had a reason to live…a real future. She never could have imagined that anyone would have that much influence on her life, would ever love her as completely as Max did. The way he touched her, and they joy he felt when she touched him made her feel incredibly cherished.

She had meant what she told Maria. Nothing in her whole life felt more right than the thought of making love with Max. Still, she worried about what he would think of her. Her experiences with the opposite sex were limited to her disasterous relationship with Kyle, and she fretted that she might disappoint Max when their first time actually arrived. In the back of her mind, she knew she was being ridiculous. After all, she knew through their connection exactly what he thought of her, and he had no more experience than she did. Sitting out here waiting for him only allowed her mind to wander places it really didn’t need to go, the dark night echoing the dark thoughts attempting to invade her psyche. Would one o’clock never come? Knowing that Michael and Maria had not encountered any problems in their alien-human relations was comforting. Liz had not wanted to hurt Maria’s feelings by telling her that she and Max only had to touch to experience the deep connection Maria had described as part of her physical relationship with Michael. Of course, that made Liz all the more curious over what would happen when she and Max finally did make love. Exactly how much more intense could their relationship get?

Before her mind could conjure up ideas to accompany that last thought, she heard the tell-tale sound of movement on the metal fire-escape ladder. Exactly one o’clock. First, the duffel bag was tossed up and landed with a small thud, then as Max’s face peered over the ledge of the balcony, Liz quickly stood up and made her way over to him. As soon as he had both his feet on the roof, she threw herself into his arms, planting quick loving kisses wherever she could reach. He pulled away from her just far enough to cup her face with his hands to give her a deep, passionate kiss that made her knees weak and her heart race. Nine and a half hours was just too long to be apart from him.

Leaning his forehead against hers as they broke their kiss, he whispered, “I thought that watch of yours was broken. It seemed like one o’clock would never be here.”

She let out a light laugh, “I know exactly what you mean. I missed you so much.” They stood there for several minutes, simply caressing each other’s faces and reveling in their closeness. Liz hated to break the mood, but she knew she had to let Max shower and get out of there as quickly as possible. Getting caught by her parents was something she definitely did not need. How could she ever explain a naked guy in her shower? Leading him through the window she pressed her finger to his lips, whispering that he needed to keep quiet. He simply nodded his head and made his way to her bathroom.

Liz sat on the edge of her bed as he showered, listening for any signs that her parents were stirring in the room next door. Her breath caught in her throat as he came back into the bedroom, looking sweetly handsome with his damp hair and freshly-shaved face, complete with a few minor cuts. Wearing only his boxers, he made his way to her and knelt before her. Reaching up to lightly trace her cheek and throat with his fingertips, he quietly pleaded, “Liz, please don’t make me leave.”

Liz’s heart broke at the sorrow in his eyes, certain that it was a reflection of what he was seeing in her own. Her mind was screaming for her to not allow this. It was way too risky. Explaining a naked guy in her shower would have been difficult enough, but an almost naked guy in her bed? Damn near impossible. Still, her heart was telling her that they both needed this, even if it were for only a few hours. Reluctantly she spoke, “Max, you know we shouldn’t be doing this, but I can’t tell you no. I don’t want you to go any more than you want to leave. I’ll let you stay on one condition. You have to wake up in time to be out of here before daylight, ok?”

The smile that lit up his features was all the answer she needed. Silently she slid under the covers and moved over to make room for him. She reached up to turn off the light before moving to spoon against him. After giving her neck a delicate kiss, he buried his face in her hair and continued his nightly ritual of placing his hand under her pajama top to caress the bare skin of her stomach as they drifted off into a heavenly slumber. Liz was still sleeping soundly when he left four hours later.

Chapter 24

Liz’s first day back to school in a week was not going well. Even with her lack of sleep, it started off deceptively easy. Biology was her favorite subject to begin with, and she had been working ahead of the class since the beginning of the school year, so there were no complaints from the teacher regarding Liz’s lack of attendance. Her second class was American History, and she had completely forgotten to do her two-page analysis on Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis. She had convinced Mr. Jackson to let her turn it in the next day, but he had imposed an instant one-letter-grade reduction as a condition. After receiving the third degree from her English Literature teacher about her absences, she nearly welcomed the pop quiz in her Anatomy class. Fortunately, lunchtime brought her a quiet reprieve from the horrors of the morning. She usually ate with Isabelle and Maria, but since her best friend was auditioning for the school musical, she was going to be flying solo with Isabelle. This would give her the opportunity to pick the female alien’s brain.

“Hey, Liz, how’s your first day back?” Isabelle asked.

“Don’t ask. I don’t think this day is ever going to end,” Liz sighed as she dropped her bookbag on the table.

“I bet it’s rough not being with Max all of a sudden.”

“Worse than I thought. I really wanted to thank you for thinking of using the storage unit as a place for him to stay. You guys did a great job with setting it up.”

“Well, it was mostly Maria and I. You know Michael, Mr. I-Have-Better-Things-To-Do,” Isabelle laughed.

“Speaking of Michael, I have a favor to ask of you two. I know he drives the Jeep more than you, but since technically it belongs to both of you, I thought I would ask you, too.”

“Sure, Liz, what is it?”

“Well, as you know, Max has a huge fear of cars. We’ve worked out a plan to hopefully help him overcome it, but it’s going to take a while. As we’re working on that, I was wondering if we could borrow the Jeep this weekend to get him used to it first. He’s already ridden in it once, so he and I thought that it might be easier to start with it.”

“That sound fine with me. Alex and I are going to spend the weekend in Artesia with my grandmother, so I won’t need it. You’ll still have to check with Michael to see if he has any plans. I gotta ask, though, do you even know how to drive a stick shift?”

“Well, I don’t think we’re going to get to the point where I actually have to drive the Jeep. I think it will be more than enough if I can get Max to sit in it while I start it up,” Liz said honestly.

“Liz, has Max told you what happened to him to make him so afraid? I know you told us he was really scared of people, but I had no idea it was that bad.”

“He won’t talk about it. He says he’s not ready to yet, so I hope that means one day soon he will. I know that these three men took him and dragged him around with them while they abused him. They would force him to stay in the trunk of the car while they traveled from place to place. He won’t tell me whether he knew the guys or why they did what they did. I told him I wouldn’t push him to tell me more than he was ready to. I just hope he can open up eventually because I know it’s not good to keep all that inside of him.”

“I know what you mean. It’s never good to be closed off. Sometimes I wish I could tell Alex about what I really am,” Isabelle said with a regretful voice. “It hurts to have to keep part of my life hidden from him.”

“Why don’t you tell him?”

“Partly to protect me, partly to protect him. I’m afraid if he knew he was dating an alien, he wouldn’t want to be with me anymore, especially when he found out that my ‘special gift’ is destroying things.”

“How do you feel about your ‘special gift’?” Liz asked curiously.

“I’d never really thought about it much. At least I didn’t until Michael healed Maria. We had always been so cautious about using our powers that it had never been an issue. Now, with finding out about our real parents and how we were created, it’s all kind of overwhelming.”

“Do you think you could ever really kill someone?” Liz queried cautiously, not wanting to overstep her boundary.

“I honestly don’t know. My parents have always tried to teach us right from wrong. We go to church each week, were raised to live life as morally as possible. And all that tells me that killing someone is wrong. But there is a feeling inside of me, an instinct, that says if push came to shove and I had no other choice but to kill someone, I could do it with no regrets. It’s who I am.”

“I guess I understand why you wouldn’t want to tell Alex. Although honestly, he’s crazy about you. I think he would be able to handle the truth, but I understand that you want to protect yourself. However, I don’t understand how him not knowing protects him.”

“Well, I’m sure there are people out there who would do anything to get their hands on a real live alien, especially the government. If Alex knew about us, someone might use him to get to me.”

“I guess I didn’t think about that.”

“If you don’t mind my asking, why didn’t you freak out when Maria told you that aliens existed?” Isabelle voiced the question she had wanted answered for so long.

“I guess she was just confirming something I already knew. I mean, I had no idea you and Michael were ones. When Max healed me, I saw his life, and I knew that whatever he was, I didn’t need to be afraid. Does that make sense?”

“Yeah, it does. Well, let me tell you, I am just SO glad you didn’t react how Maria did when she found out,” Isabelle said, giving out a laugh.

“So what did happen?” Liz asked, curious that her best friend had never gotten around to explaining the incident.

“Well, the day after the Santa Fe concert, Michael had convinced her that she had been slipped some kind of drug and had imagined the whole thing. What he didn’t plan on was the handprint…” Isabelle began as she was interrupted by the bell signaling the end of their lunch period.

“I guess it will have to wait for another day,” Liz said regretfully. “Back to the hell that is my school life.”



Liz was anxious the rest of the school day, counting the hours until she would see Max again. Her afternoon classes had not been much better than the morning ones. Physical Education was a class she always disliked, so just the fact that she had to attend it was enough to make the second half of her day get off to a bad start. At least her study hall, spent in the library finding books for Max, had been uneventful. Settling herself in the seat for her AP Calculus class, a small smile crossed her face as she remembered how much the book had confused Max. At least it had helped her realize that he needed to learn at least some basic math. As she opened the book to the place the class had last stopped, she found a small piece of paper slipped in next to her bookmark. Pulling it out to read it, she wasn’t sure whether she should laugh or cry. It simply read:

1 Max - 1 Liz = 2 Sad People
1 Max + 1 Liz = 2 Happy People
I Love You.

Suddenly Liz’s day wasn’t so bad after all. It only got better when she found a second note in her Psychology book, revealing Max’s wishes for more of what he discovered was called ‘positive reinforcement’. She was glad it was her last class so she wouldn’t have to wait long to thank him in person for brightening her day.

Liz met Maria in the parking lot, waiting next to her friend’s Jetta as the warm afternoon sun reminded her of the time a few days ago when she and Max sat in the lounge reading. She had never imagined that doing something so simple could feel so wonderful, but as she was rapidly learning, any time spent with Max was wonderful. Seeing her best friend approaching with an irritated look on her face, she asked, “I take it the audition didn’t go well?”

“Damn Trudy Peterson got my part. I was this close to having it until she started batting those fake eyelashes of hers at Mr. Sommers.”

“Sorry, ‘ria. I know how much you wanted it.”

“You know what they say, easy come…oh, speaking of, I have a little present for you,” she said as she reached into her backpack and began to pull out a handful of condoms.

Before she could extract them completely, Liz said, “Maria, can you wait until we’re in the car? I don’t want everyone to know about my sex life, you know.”

“Yeah, we wouldn’t want to ruin your image now, would we?” Maria teased.

Liz blushed as she and Maria got in the car and the items of discussion traded hands. Liz took a quick look at them before putting them in her own backpack.

“I gotta tell ya, girlfriend, as much as I love ya, you’re nuts if you think I’m giving you the banana demonstration that my mom gave me the first time I saw one of those.”

“MARIA!”

“God, how I love to embarrass you. You are just too cute!” Maria laughed. “Ok, just for that I’ll take you to your Prince Charming.”

“Thank you.”

“Just remember, don’t use all those in one day, ok?”

“MARIA!”

Maria broke into a full-out laughing fit. “I love it, I just love it.” She was still laughing when she dropped Liz off.


Liz waited for the Jetta to disappear from sight before knocking on the door of the storage unit. Max opened it immediately and pulled Liz inside before giving her several intense, needy kisses, running his hands up and down her arms as if to confirm she was really there with him. The feeling of loneliness mixed with his joy crashed into her, and she quickly dropped her bookbag to the ground before wrapping her arms around his neck to bring him closer. Tearing her lips away from his, she began planting hot, open-mouth kisses across his cheek, along his jaw and down his throat, gently nipping his skin where it started to disappear under the collar of his shirt. His skin felt so soft and warm under her lips, and as she breathed in the scent that was only his, she could hear a low groan forming in the back of his throat. As his hands made their way under her shirt to caress the bare skin of her lower back, he instinctively pressed his hardness into her. He then commenced an assault on her own neck, and as her body tingled wherever his mouth or hands made contact, she knew she had to slow things down before they got out of control. Gently pulling away from him and leaning her forehead against his, she whispered, “I guess you missed me as much as I missed you.”

“More, Liz. I missed you more,” he breathed out, his eyes reflecting a combination of love and desire.

“Max, I’m sorry I got carried away. I don’t know what came over me. It isn’t fair to do this to you…” Liz started before Max put his finger to her lips.

“Liz, please, don’t ever be sorry about showing your love for me. Every touch, every kiss from you means more to me than you will ever know. I love you, you are my beauty. I will take what you give willingly, and I will never ask for more than you are willing to give.” He leaned in and gave her a light kiss.

Liz’s resolve almost melted at his heartfelt words. She didn’t think she could possibly love him any more than she did at that moment. She knew how difficult it was to stop herself from going further, so she could only imagine what it must be like for him. Still, there was no guilt trip or pressure, just an assurance that he would only do as she wanted. Returning his kiss with one of her own, she vowed, “I love you more than I ever imagined I could, Max, and I know one day soon I will give myself to you completely. Thank you for being so wonderful.” They reluctantly separated as Liz bent down to pick up her backpack. Remembering the sweet notes he had left in her books, she stood up and held his hand as she thanked him for making her day.

Sitting down on the mattress together, she reached in to the pack and pulled out the books she had picked up during her study hall. Handing them to him one at a time, she explained what each one was.
“Here are the books I promised you. This one is a history of cars from the time they were first invented to now. This second one goes into more detail on the internal workings of the car, like the engine, transmission, brake system, things like that. It may be a little too technical for you, but if you need help with it, I’ll be more than glad to figure it out with you. It wouldn’t hurt me to learn about this stuff, too.”

Max reluctantly took the two books from her, and taking a deep breath, opened the first one. It contained mostly pictures, with a description of each vehicle and its significance in the history of cars, whether it be the first one with seat belts, air bags, or air conditioning. Liz watched the emotions that played across his face as he looked at the pages. She had expected to see the fear and discomfort, but what else she saw gave her hope: a slight hint of curiosity. His newly acquired thirst for knowledge compelled him to continue turning the pages, observing the different shapes and forms of vehicles that all held the name ‘car’. Finishing the book, he placed it and the second one in the small bookcase. Looking at Liz, he only said, “I think I’ll look at the other one later.”

Liz handed him four more books, continuing her description of them, “That one is an astronomy book—it’s all about the stars and planets. The other two are by the same man who wrote “Of Mice and Men”. This one is “The Red Pony” and this one is “Grapes of Wrath”. “Grapes of Wrath” is good, but sad because it talks about a bad time in our history, when people turned against each other instead of helping one another. That last one is a math book on multiplication and division. Since we won’t be able to spend as much time together, I thought you could try to teach yourself. Of course, I’ll help you if you have problems with it.”

“I would hope so, Liz. After all, I still want to try more positive reinforcement,” Max teased with a shy smile on his face.

“Well, I have to go home in about two hours, so until then we can do almost anything you want,” she teased back, hinting at their earlier greeting.

He sighed, “As much as I want to do other things, I think we should work on the translation. I was able to read five more pages before my eyes began to hurt.”

Pulling out the laptop from her bookbag, Liz cringed when she remembered how she had haphazardly dropped the bag to the ground earlier. The computer appeared unharmed, so she powered it up as she told Max about her lousy day. He gave her a sympathetic hug before he began dictating what he had read in the journal. The majority of the new information involved a description of the ship the alien couple had been traveling in when they crashed to Earth. It was a standard Antarian vessel, one Rath and Vilandra knew intimately from their many trips off-planet, and although the government had seized it almost immediately upon their ill-fated landing, their description of it was exhaustive.

An hour of straight typing on the laptop’s small keyboard was beginning to take its toll on Liz’s wrists, so she suggested they break for dinner. When Maria had dropped her off earlier, she recognized the taco stand across the road as a place she had eaten with Kyle a few times. She thought about asking Max to accompany her, but realizing it would mean crossing the street and possibly encountering cars, she decided she would go by herself and bring the food back for them to eat. Max devoured the two burritos and three enchiladas she had purchased for him, so she ended up giving him the rest of her dinner as well. They talked about nothing in particular as they ate, just enjoying each other’s company.

Liz’s time to leave snuck up on them, and as they said their good-byes, they quietly confirmed that one in the morning was a good time for Max to make his way to the Crashdown for his shower. He stood in the doorway of the storage unit as she made her way back to the taco stand to wait for the bus. When her transportation finally arrived, she quickly climbed in and took a seat so she could watch him until he disappeared from view.



** “What’s the matter, you little prick? Not so brave after all? If that slut of yours could see you now, I bet she’d dump you in a heartbeat. I bet she’s f*cking some other guy right now. If she even lived.”

Jake grabbed a fistful of his hair and jerked his head back so his face was inches away.

“Look at me, you little prick. You burned me on that girl. Now I’m gonna burn you back.”

He could feel the stinging all over his back, the smell of burnt flesh permeating the air. He refused to let Jake know how painful it was. He would not give in.

“I was so lookin’ forward to doin’ that little girlfriend of yours. And you had to go and f*ck that up for me.”

Jake dragged the tip of the knife over his face, pressing it threateningly against his cheek.

“She won’t want you once I cut up that face of yours.”

Jake continued dragging the knife down his body, resting it against his crotch.

“I should cut you like I cut her.”

The tip of the knife now pressed into the zipper of his jeans.

“You won’t need this anyway. She’s already forgotten about you, boy.”

Jake pressing the knife deeper.

“Don’t even think about trying to get away from me, or you know what will happen.” **


Max’s eyes flew open in panic as he looked around the room, trying to remember where he was. The room was small and dark. Was he still with Jake? No. Liz. He had been with Liz. She had been here in this room with him. As he attempted to calm his heavy breathing, wiping the sweat from his brow, he continued to scan his surroundings. He had moved here. Michael. Isabelle. Maria. The Jeep ride. It was coming back to him as he buried the nightmare deep in his mind. Storage unit. He was at the storage unit. Liz had been here, but she had to go back to her home, leaving him alone. He needed her. He had to see her. He couldn’t be alone. He couldn’t fight Jake, couldn’t fight his nightmares alone. He needed Liz. Needed to be sure she was safe. Safe from his nightmares.

He turned on the small lamp as he climbed off the mattress. He must have fallen asleep after she left. The sunlight that had been filtering in through the cracks around the door and the small window at the end of the unit had long since vanished. It must be dark out now. Opening the door, he confirmed his suspicion before looking at Liz’s watch to check the time. 11:00. He needed an hour to walk the way to Liz’s, but he didn’t want to wait a minute longer than necessary to see her. Hoping she would not be angry with him for arriving early, he quickly stuffed some clean clothes in the duffel bag before he headed out the door, making sure it was locked behind him.

How hard could it be to write a paper on the Cuban Missile Crisis? Two pages. She should be able to do that standing on her head. But here she was, sitting in front of the blank screen on her computer, trying to string a bunch of words together so that she would have something to turn in tomorrow. She was so restless she almost couldn’t sit still. It was just a stupid paper. Why was it making her so upset? Damn, she needed to calm down. This was getting ridiculous. Max would be here in two hours and she really wanted to get it done before then. Max. That’s why she was so upset. These weren’t her feelings, they were his. What was happening to him? What had him so agitated? She was up and pacing now, feeling her own worry pulse through her as his emotions seemed to be diminishing. This was a good sign. He was calming down. She knew she had to get that paper written because he would be here within the hour.

Sure enough, Liz was waiting for him on the lounge with open arms when he arrived just a little before midnight, his upset still evident in his eyes. He looked at her tentatively, trying to search her face for any sign of anger, but only saw love and concern staring back at him. He climbed on the lounge with her, burying his head in her chest before she pulled his face up to plant gentle, loving kisses on his forehead and eyelids. The change in his mood was immediate, the earlier restlessness now replaced by a serene contentment. They sat there in the chilled night air, cherishing each other’s closeness, until the beckoning warmth of her bedroom drew them both in. As they settled into the covers, she voiced the question she didn’t really want to ask.

“Do you want to tell me about it?”

Silence filled the room as his arm gripped her waist a little tighter. He spoke softly, “I fell asleep after you left. I had another nightmare.”

“I’m so sorry, sweetheart. I wish I would have been there to wake you up,” she quietly replied.

“I know you do. And that’s enough to make it better,” he answered sincerely.

Not knowing whether she should prod him for details or let him continue the peaceful silence, her ambivalence ended when he began to speak again. “It was about Jake, and some of the things he said to me.”

“Oh. What did he say?” she inquired, not sure of what to ask so that he wouldn’t clam up on her.

“A lot of things that I don’t think I should repeat to you,” he said with an embarrassed voice.

“That’s ok, then, don’t. You don’t have to tell me anything you aren’t comfortable with.” She gave him a light kiss.

“He had a knife. He threatened to cut up my face. He was going to…he…he cut my leg,” his voice trailed to a whisper as he continued. Liz could see the tears starting to form in his eyes.

“Shh. It’s all right, my love. You’re safe now. You’re safe with me.”

He brought himself flush against her, as if more contact with her meant she would be able to keep him safer.

“Go to sleep, now. I’ll take care of you,” she consoled, rubbing his shoulder and arm lightly.

Max took several deep breaths as he let Liz’s love heal the invisible wounds the nightmare had inflicted.

Liz could feel Max grow heavy against her as he relaxed into sleep. Gently stroking his bare back as she joined him, she absently wondered how much longer it would be before he could heal his scars, both the emotional and physical ones.

Chapter 25

As Liz got ready for school that Wednesday morning, she marveled at Max’s internal clock. She had heard him showering earlier, and as he leaned over to kiss her goodbye, she noticed it was exactly 5:30, just enough time for him to be back to the storage unit before the sun came up and for her to sleep another hour.

She had arranged for Isabelle and Michael to pick her up so that she could talk to him about borrowing the Jeep over the weekend. He had already volunteered to be part of the carpool for the school’s debate team on Saturday, so they agreed that he would bring the Jeep out to the storage unit on Sunday when he and Maria could use the Jetta to go on their planned trip to Mirror Lakes.

The school day had gone surprisingly well compared to the previous day, and as Michael and Isabelle dropped her off at the storage unit, her body hummed with elation as she saw Max standing outside the door waiting for her. Not only had he not flinched at the sight and sound of the Jeep pulling up, he actually had a sappy smile on his face. Liz bounced out of the vehicle to join him, giving her friends a quick wave before going inside with Max.

“I don’t get that guy,” Michael commented to Isabelle as they made their way out of the parking lot.

“What do you mean?” Isabelle queried.

“He’s so…emotional,” he said, as if it were a disease.

“What’s wrong with that?” she asked.

“He’s a guy!” he said as if were the most obvious thing on Earth.

“So?”

“Well, I hate to tell you, but most guys I know don’t wear their hearts on their sleeve. I mean, the guy cries, for God’s sake!” Michael smirked.

“Give him a break, Michael. I’m sure if you’d been through half the stuff he’s been through, you’d cry too. After all, he was forced to ride in the trunk of a car for days at a time. Besides, crying is a natural response to pain or stress. Men are just conditioned by society to not do it.”

“Thank you for that brilliant analysis, Dr. Evans,” Michael joked, trying to hide his discomfort at the thought of how he could one day suffer the type of abuse Max had, just because of who he was.

“You could learn a few things from him. I think it’s kinda sweet that he can show how he feels. He and Liz are cute together.”

“Of course, what should I expect from the girl who’s dating Alex Whitman, computer-geek extraordinaire?”

“Well, not every girl appreciates the caveman approach to dating.”

“Maria doesn’t seem to mind.”

“Then more power to ya, bro. Really, Michael, I’m serious. I mean, did you ever think about what would have happened to us if we hadn’t been found? Or if we had been separated? It’s a good thing Max trusted Liz enough to let her help him. Otherwise, he’d still be out there on his own, eating food out of garbage cans.”

“Yeah, I know you’re right. I can see why he’s not really much of a talker. I’m sure as he gets more comfortable with the whole friends thing, he’ll start blabbing as much as that boyfriend of yours.”

“Or your girlfriend! It really does make you appreciate Mom and Dad, though, doesn’t it?”

“It sure does, Iz. It sure does.”



For the most part, Max and Liz had a repeat of their previous afternoon together. Max managed to go through both of the car books without it upsetting him, and he had already memorized about half of the book with the pictures in it. They didn’t spend any time on translating the first journal, but rather opted to read together in silence so that Liz could keep up on her schoolwork. Final exams would be coming in a few weeks, and Liz knew she needed to work harder in a couple of her classes to make up for the dismal scholastic performance she had given while Max had been missing.

As the time came for her to go to the bus, Liz suggested that Max show up an hour early again that night, giving him a sweet kiss as he eagerly agreed. Counting the hours ‘til midnight as she walked across the street to the bus stop, she smiled as she realized they were falling into another comfortable routine. She had never enjoyed doing homework so much.


When she got home that evening, her parents were waiting for her in the living room. She didn’t let on how much the sight of them sitting there on the couch unnerved her, but she silently wished for a sinkhole to swallow her up before their questioning began. Had her parents found out about Max? Had they seen him leaving this morning? Damn, she knew it had been too risky to let him stay.

“Lizzie, can you come and sit with us a minute? We have something we need to discuss with you,” her father said as he pointed toward the loveseat.

Setting her bookbag down, she slowly made her way into the room and sat down, saying as casually as possible, “Sure guys, what’s up?”

“Well, Lizzie, when your mother and I were on our trip in New York, we trusted you to keep things going around here. Making sure there was enough staff, checking the doors at closing, doing the money counts at the end of the day. We wanted to discuss those things with you.”

“Did I do something wrong?” Liz asked, worrying over what she could have messed up.

“Well, we just want your opinion. How do you think you did? Do you think you did a good job while we were gone?” her mother asked.

Damn. Was this a trick question? Were they trying to catch her in some kind of lie? The only way to find out was to go ahead and answer. “I think I did all right. I tried my best to keep all those band and theater kids happy, and with the bad weather and the holiday, I think we had more than enough staff to cover the floor.”

Her parents exchanged a look that she couldn’t quite read. After what seemed like an eternity, her father put on his “I-have-a-speech” face and looked at his only child. “Well, your mother and I agree with you. We are very proud of the job you did while we were gone. Not too many kids your age would be able to handle that kind of responsibility. So we wanted to show you how much we appreciated your hard work. We would like to get you a car. Now, it wouldn’t be anything fancy, and it would be your Christmas present, too. Does that sound all right to you?”

Liz sat there a minute, unable to breathe, unsure whether it was due to the fact that her parents were getting her a car or that Max hadn’t been found out. In any case, her parents were sitting there waiting for her answer, so she had to force her brain to work. “Um, yeah, that sounds great. Wow, my own car? Really?”

“Well, there is one more condition,” her mother added.

“Okay,” Liz answered, a smile now invading her expression.

“The place your dad and I stayed, the Waldorf. They had been running this contest for their 75th anniversary, and we were automatically entered when we went there on our trip. Your dad and I just got a letter today saying that we won the second prize, which is air fare and a one week all expenses paid tour package. We get tickets to some of the Broadway shows, the Symphony, and a few of the tourist sites like Ellis Island.”

“Wow, guys, that’s great. I can’t believe how lucky you are,” Liz continued to grin enthusiastically.

“Now, that would mean you would be in charge of the restaurant again while we’re gone,” her father added.

“But I have to go to school. How can I do both?”

“Well, that’s the other part. The dates of the trip coincide with your Christmas vacation. We’d be leaving the morning of the 22nd and returning early on the 29th,” her mother explained.

“So you wouldn’t be here for Christmas?” Liz concluded.

“That’s right. Now, honey, this is entirely up to you. If you really don’t want Mom and I to go, if you want us here for Christmas, we’ll call and tell them we don’t want the trip.”

“No, no, don’t do that. It’s ok, really. You guys would have to be crazy to pass that up,” Liz replied with a straight face, silently rejoicing inside.

Her parents smiled at each other, “Well, then, it’s settled. Your mother will call tomorrow to confirm the trip and you and I will have to plan a time to go and find you a car.”

“Thanks, guys. For everything,” Liz said as she retrieved her bookbag and headed for her room.



Liz couldn’t wait to share the car news with Max when he showed up later that night, deciding to wait until later to tell him they could spend Christmas together. She almost felt guilty about hiding the truth from her parents. Almost. As she lay in bed, with the love of her life using his fingertips to gently explore the lines on the palms of her hands, she was lovingly reminded of her priorities. Feeling his love as he placed chaste kisses on the sensitive skin near her wrists, she knew she would do anything to protect him.

“No white,” Max said quietly, drawing her out of her blissful state.

“What?”

“No white. When you get your car, please do not get a white one.”

“Ok.”

“His car was white, and I think it was a Chevrolet,” he added.

“Ok, no white, no Chevrolets,” Liz confirmed.

“Thank you,” he said as he gave her palm a kiss.

“Max?”

“Hmm?” another kiss.

“Do you know why he took you?”

Silence as he pulled away from her and lay flat on his back, draping his left arm over his eyes.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.”

Silence.

“Max, I’m…”

“He thought I took something.”

“What?”

“He thought I took something that belonged to him.”

“Did you?”

“It was not his to take.”

“Oh.” More silence. “It must have been pretty valuable for him to go to such extremes.”

A small smile flitted across his face, “Yes, it is.”

“What was it?”

He removed his arm from his eyes and curled back into her side. Taking her hand again and giving it another kiss, he simply said, “It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it was not his to take, and I made sure he did not take it.” Before she could ask another question, he reached up and pulled her to him to give her an intensely passionate kiss. “Now go to sleep, my Liz. Morning will be here soon.”



Thursday and Friday were pleasantly uneventful as Liz and Max both continued to adjust to their new routine. Max finished memorizing the car picture book and was soon able to tell Liz all about the first car to have fuel injection, the last car to not have seatbelts, and the quirks and nuances of many other vehicles. He felt he was ready for the second step of their plan, so she agreed to bring him a few toy or model cars when she came to see him Saturday. He ended the vehicle discussion by giving Liz a description of Jake’s car. He believed it was a white Chevrolet Malibu from sometime in the early 1980’s, with some rust spots forming along the wheel wells and the trunk lid.

Liz spent their afternoons continuing to study for the two classes she was have problems with, disappointed to see that she had received a B- on her Anatomy quiz. Now was the worst time for her grades to be slipping. She didn’t need to draw any more of her parent’s attention.

As she left the storage unit Friday evening she was in an especially good mood. Not only would she get to be with Max later that night, but she would be able to spend the whole day with him Saturday.
After her parents had gone to bed, she decided to wait for Max inside her room, the early December sky making the air a little too clear and cold to sit outside in it. She turned off the small table lamp and lit the vanilla scented candles spread out around her room, their reflection in her full-length mirror adding to their soft glow.

Max arrived exactly at midnight, and they spent an hour engaging in hushed conversation while holding each other on Liz’s bed. As Max went to shower, Liz quickly changed into her nightgown and was buttoning the last button when she heard a knock on her door.

“Lizzie?” her mother’s voice called from the other side.

Damn.

Knock. Knock.

“Lizzie?”

As the doorknob began to turn, she realized too late that she had forgotten to lock it.

The shower was running. She ran to the bathroom, shutting the door behind her as she listened for her mom’s voice in her room. Damn, why didn’t the bathroom door have a lock?

“Lizzie?” the voice was getting closer.

She quickly put her finger over Max’s lips as he looked out from behind the curtain, surprised to see her standing there.

A knock on the door. “Lizzie, are you in there?”

The shower was running. How could she explain why the shower had been running and she was standing out here high and dry in her nightgown?

Quickly she stepped in, her finger continuing to cover Max’s lips as her eyes begged him to be silent.

The door opened. “Lizzie, are you all right?”

“Yeah, Mom. Why?” Liz called out, pretending to be confused over her mother’s concern.

“Well, it’s one in the morning and you’re taking a shower,” her mother explained.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you up. I just had a bad dream and I woke up all sweaty, so I wanted to wash off before going back to sleep.”

“Are you sure you’re all right?”

“I’m fine, Mom, really. I’m just going to be a few more minutes and then I’m going right back to sleep.”

“Ok, honey. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Liz let out a sigh of relief as she heard the door close. Turning her attention back to Max, she realized he was no longer looking at her face. Following his line of sight down to her body, she noticed what had distracted him. She was now soaking wet, and the light colored material of her gown had become transparent as the water showered over her. Max reached up to remove her finger from his lips as his eyes met hers again, the fascination and desire reflected in them flowing through their connection in full force. He placed her hand down by her side and tentatively reached for the top of her gown. Their eyes never leaving each other, they began to breathe in unison as he undid the buttons, slowly working his way down the front of the gown. Their breathing grew heavier as he gently nudged the gown off her shoulders, allowing it to pool at her feet. He slowly knelt before her, pulling her forward just enough to block the spray from his face while allowing the water to continue flowing over her newly exposed skin. Taking her hands and placing them on his shoulders for balance, he reached out and slid her panties down her hips, silently directing her to step out of them and the wet gown, setting them behind him as he returned his gaze to her completely nude body. Struck with a moment of embarrassment, Liz reached to cover her nakedness. Max held her hands at her sides as she heard his thoughts whisper in her mind, “Please, my beauty, do not hide yourself from me.” Feeling all his love and how desperately he wanted to touch her was all she needed to comply with his request.

Splaying his left hand across her lower back, he placed his other hand flat against her stomach, watching the water play around it. He gently caressed his way up her body until his hand was cupping her left breast, marveling at the soft weight of it against his skin. Her nipple, already stimulated by the water, stiffened even more as he rubbed his thumb against it, the pleasure of his touch pulsing through both of them. After several strokes he slowly slid his hand away and moved it to behind her back, replacing his left hand, as he brought it forward to repeat his loving caress on her right breast. Liz’s body was humming with excitement, and she could feel the heat gathering in her lower body, begging for him to touch her everywhere. As if reading her mind, he lowered his hand from her back to her bottom, pulled her closer to him and pressed his lips to her stomach, planting hungry kisses on her front and sides as he continued holding and rubbing her breasts. Gently biting her skin as he worked his way down and over her hip, she closed her eyes tightly as she stifled her moan, letting out a deep breath as she ran her hands through his damp hair, bracing herself against the onslaught of ecstasy his mouth was creating.

She needed to feel his body against hers, needed to touch and kiss him as intimately as he was touching and kissing her. Guiding her hand down and under his chin so he would look at her, she willed him to stand up, letting her hands caress his chest as he did. The gauntness that had been present when he first returned to her was now gone, replaced by a soft, strongly muscled body that felt like warm satin under her fingers. She reached forward and pulled his head down to hers, kissing him from behind his ear down his neck and over his damp chest, gently biting him as he had done to her. As she felt the sensations of what her mouth was doing to him echo through their connection, she wrapped her arms around his waist, pulling him as close as possible to her. She felt his hardness pressing into her, and the desire to feel him inside of her and become one with him, was overwhelming her, too intense for her to resist. She reached down between them to touch his erection when she felt his hand on her wrist, pulling her hand up and against his chest.

“Beauty…Liz…” he breathed out, his labored voice filled with the same desire she was feeling, “I want you. I want you so much, but we cannot…not now…not with your parents here…”

Unable to speak through the lust-filled haze they had created, she simply nodded her understanding. He leaned over her and gave her a loving, passionate kiss as his hands caressed her body one last time before turning off the shower.

They dried off quickly, Liz sighing in relief that her mother had not noticed the duffel bag tucked in the corner, a pair of clean boxer folded on top of it. She stepped out into the bedroom to check that it was indeed empty before rushing over to the door and locking it. She grabbed a dry gown and some clean panties as Max came out of the bathroom in his boxers. Imitating his actions from the shower, he knelt before her and removed her towel, helping her step into her panties before pulling them up to rest on her hips. Standing up, he raised her arms and guided the fabric of her gown over her shoulders, bunching up the material and pressing a sweet kiss between her breasts before sliding the gown down the rest of her body. He settled her in bed and covered her up before he whispered, “I shouldn’t stay. It isn’t safe.” She agreed reluctantly and watched him as he dressed in the light of the fading candles.

Taking his jacket from her closet, he kissed her goodnight and said, “Thank you, my Beauty.”

“For what?”

“I may have to sleep alone tonight, but I know I will have only good dreams.”

Before she could respond, he turned and walked towards the window, flashing her a seductively innocent smile before silently climbing out and disappearing down the ladder.


Dreams remain just as long as there's Dreamers--Dennis DeYoung
posted on 17-Sep-2001 12:08:16 AM
Chapter 26

Liz stopped at the Walgreens down the street from the Crashdown, looking to see whether they had any toy or model cars. She chose a few vehicles from the limited selection of medium-sized toy cars, and asked the guy ringing her up if he knew where she could buy model cars. He suggested she try the Hobby Hall store a few doors down, and she thanked him as she paid for her purchase and headed out the door.

A man in his late forties in Hobby Hall introduced himself as Earl and offered to help Liz as she entered the store. She asked him to show her the model cars, becoming dismayed when he explained that the models were kits that had to be built. Asking whether he had a kit of a 1982 Chevy Malibu, he scanned his inventory records and told her that it was rare and would have to be special ordered, which might take up to a week. Claiming that she was not the creative type, she explained that the car needed to be painted a certain way for a final exam project at school, and she would pay any extra fees necessary to get the car ASAP. Feeling sorry for her, he offered to build and tailor the model for her and have it ready by the following Saturday. She thanked him profusely and was about ready to leave when she noticed a display of remote controlled cars. Grabbing one of the vehicles, she returned to the counter and paid for it, confirming that Earl had her phone number and would call her as soon as the model was ready to be picked up.

Climbing onto the bus that would carry her out to the taco stand, she grew slightly giddy as she thought about getting her own car. It would be so great to not have to take the bus or beg rides off of her friends. She hoped that Max would be over his car phobia by the time she actually had the vehicle so that he and Maria could be the first people to ride in it. Daydreaming to make the trip go by faster, she imagined the fun she and Max could have out at Buckley Pointe. Ok, the car definitely needed to have a big back seat. Or at least a bench seat in the front. Maybe a van…

She still couldn’t believe what a close call they had had last night with her mother. If she had really wanted to make sure Liz was all right and had pulled back that shower curtain…or if she had seen Max’s boxers…or the duffel bag on the floor…it would have been a disaster. Instead it had been the most erotic experience of Liz’s life. The feel of Max’s hands and mouth all over her body had felt so incredible, and she knew that if her parents had not been in the next room, they would have made love. She was so glad her appointment with Maria’s doctor was only two days away. If last night had been any indication, she really wasn’t sure whether she trusted herself to stop in the heat of passion to worry about a condom. The sooner she was on the pill, the better off everyone would be.



“Good morning, Beauty,” Max said lovingly as he stood at the door of the storage unit, watching her approach him.

“Yes, it is. Any morning I get to spend with you is a good morning,” she answered happily as she came to stand in front of him and give him a gentle kiss. “I come bearing gifts,” she said as she handed him the two shopping bags.

He ushered her inside the building, propping the door slightly ajar to let in some of the fresh December air. She removed her jacket and put the rest of her things down at the end of the mattress, motioning for him to sit with her. She took the two bags from him and set them on the floor in front of them, asking “Are you ready for the cars?”

He nodded and said quietly, “Yeah.”

She started with the three toy cars. Pulling each vehicle out one at a time and setting them down next to the bag, she showed him how each of the six-inch long vehicles had moveable parts, the last one having a trunk that opened and closed. Max sat quietly as she did this, almost as if lost in his own world. Liz could feel his nervousness, so she set the other bag aside and told him it could wait until later. He reached out for the first car, something that resembled a red VW bug, but pulled his hand back before he actually touched it. Taking his hand in hers, she kissed the back of it as she asked, “Should we do this together?” He hesitated, unsure whether even her help could bring him to make contact with the item. Liz watched as his struggling emotions played over his features, smiling slightly when she recognized the final look on his face: determination.

“Yes, let’s do this together.”

Weaving the fronts of her fingers against the backs of his, Liz stretched out their joined hands so that they were facing with his palm up. Using her free hand, she picked up the toy car and slowly placed it in his hand, gradually allowing him to take all the weight of the small item.

His eyes never left the toy as he stared at it for several long minutes, fighting to prevent his hand from trembling. Eventually he tore his gaze away to catch a glimpse of Liz. Seeing the pride in her eyes, pride she had for him, he took a deep breath and pushed himself to move forward. Reaching out with his free hand, he removed the car from their hands and brought it closer to his face to examine it. He disentangled their fingers to grasp the toy with both of his hands, angling it different ways to view all its sides.

Liz picked up the second toy and held it up, mimicking Max’s gestures. He looked back and forth between his car and hers, and after a few minutes traded vehicles with her.

“This wasn’t as difficult to do as I thought it would be,” he said as he examined the second car.

“Sometimes the anticipation of doing something causes more fear than actually doing it,” she explained.

“Your book had a name for that. Phobia? I have a car phobia?” he asked.

“Well, a phobia usually means an irrational fear—being afraid of something for no reason. I think with what happened to you, you have every reason in the world to be afraid of cars. In either case, the best way to get over it is to deal with it head on, like we are doing. I’m very proud of you for all the progress you’re making.” She leaned over and gave him a loving kiss, softly nipping at his lower lip, asking him to open up so she could deepen it. He did so, and it wasn’t long before the toy cars were back on the floor, quickly forgotten as the couple lost themselves in each other. Max lay back on the mattress, pulling Liz along so that she lay with him, stretched out on top of his strong, warm body. He caressed her everywhere he could reach, the sensation of his hands all over her rapidly erasing every thought from her mind save the ones coming through their connection. She pushed herself up so that she was straddling his hips and reached down to unbutton his shirt. As she got to the third button, Max took her hands in his and said, “Liz, please stop.”

Confused, she frowned and replied, “I’m sorry. I just wanted to feel your skin.”

“And I would love to feel your hands on me. But right now, I think it would be better if we left our clothes on. After last night, I do not think I would be able to control myself if I saw your bare skin.”

“Who says I want you to control yourself?” she asked in a seductive voice.

He closed his eyes as her feelings and images washed over his senses, leaving no doubt as to what she wanted to do. Steadying himself, he sat up on the mattress, with Liz still straddling his hips. He wrapped his arm around her back to support her as he gave her an intense kiss, trailing his lips down to gently suck on her neck and shoulder. He pulled away from her but remained close enough to whisper in her ear. “Liz, I want you so much I ache inside. Knowing how much you want me just makes my desire stronger. But I want more for us. I want this to be the most wonderful thing we ever share, and I know that that can’t happen here. This room, this bed is not the place this should happen. It should be as in your thoughts and dreams--a comfortable place, with candles and warm scents surrounding us, with music playing softly.”

“Max, those things don’t really matter to me…”

“They do matter to me, Liz, because that is how I first saw us mating--through your dreams and thoughts. It was like nothing I could have ever imagined, that two people could be so close, feel so much for each other, give each other so much love. But we are that close, and I love you beyond words. So now I want…I need…the rest of it to be that special. Please understand, my Beauty.”

Liz was speechless. How could he be any more wonderful? He was doing this for her, for both of them. She knew that he wasn’t rejecting her--she could feel exactly how much he wanted her. Suddenly a secret plan formed in her head and Christmas couldn’t come soon enough. Turning her attention back to her love, she gave him a gently kiss as she teased, “I guess if I have to wait, I have to wait. And here I was about to tell you that we are going to have to start showering together.”

“What?” he asked in fascination.

“Well, after that close call last night, I got to thinking that my parents might realize my shower is running two times a day. Obviously it isn’t smart to have you showering in the middle of the night anymore, so I thought we could shower together in the mornings. But if you don’t want to see me naked…”

“I didn’t say that, Liz. I just said that I want to wait before I…what are your words…make love with you.”

“And being in the shower with me won’t make you want to ‘lose control’?” she teased.

“I think the fact that your parents would be right next door is all the control I would need,” he said with a shy half-smile.

“So then it’s settled. Starting tomorrow morning, we shower together.”

“Does that mean I can’t come and sleep with you anymore?” he asked sadly.

“Well, I think we better hold off for a few days, just in case my mom gets the urge to check on me overnight. If things seem calm, then you can come back, ok?”

“All right.”

Not yet willing to stop kissing and touching Max altogether, Liz leaned from his lap to pick up one of the toy cars before pushing him back down on the mattress. “Now where were we on your car therapy? Oh, yes, I remember. Now that you’ve held the car in you hands, it’s time to get the rest of your body used to touching it.”

Max gave her a look of utter confusion, unable to determine her intent. She climbed off his lap to kneel next to him so that she could have access to his entire body. Starting at his foot, she placed the car on him and slowly began to roll it up his leg with one hand, using the other hand to slowly massage a trail behind it. Max let out a light laugh as the car tickled his skin through his jeans, then gave a soft moan at the feel of Liz’s hands on him. “This is your idea of car therapy?” he asked in a hushed voice.

“My own personal combination of aversion therapy mixed with positive reinforcement--add some touch therapy to the object of fear to make the fact that it’s touching you enjoyable,” she explained as she continued the car’s travel up his leg to his waist and over his chest.

“So where’s the positive reinforcement?”

“Right here,” she whispered as she captured his mouth in an intimate kiss, leaving the toy on his chest to caress the sides of his face as she continued his reward. They spent the next hour on his ‘therapy’, with Max spending some time trailing the car over Liz’s form, only to discover that touching her sides made her emit the most musical sound he had ever heard. He continued tickling her until she couldn’t take another minute of his sweet torture. As they snuggled up together on the mattress, he asked her what the next step to his therapy was.

“Well, I think you passed this stage successfully,” she teased, “so tomorrow Michael is bringing the Jeep out here so we can start getting you used to that.”

“So I don’t get any more positive reinforcement today?”

“Nope. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow. Once you get to the point where you can sit in the Jeep with the top on and be all right with it, I want to show you just how much fun the back seat can be.”

“I never thought I would say this, but now I’m actually looking forward to seeing the Jeep tomorrow.”

“That’s the whole point.”



Their first entire night apart was, for the most part, a sleepless one. As Max entered her room for his shower, the dark marks under his eyes told Liz that he had shared her same fate. It’s amazing, she thought, how they were so much a part of each other now that they couldn’t really sleep well unless they were in the same bed. They showered silently to be certain her parents did not become suspicious, although no words were necessary for the couple to know how much they were enjoying each other’s company. Max insisted on washing Liz’s hair, gently massaging the soap into her scalp as he stood behind her, planting soft kisses on her shoulder. They stopped short of washing each other, afraid that too much contact might make them throw all caution to the wind, not a prudent thing to do with mom and dad right next door.

Max left soon after their shower, not wanting to be in her bedroom by the time the restaurant opened downstairs. Maria picked Liz up at ten that morning and they made their way out to the storage unit with Michael following behind in the Jeep. He had insisted on showing Liz the basics of driving a stick shift just in case she needed to move the Jeep, and after a few times around the parking lot and up and down the street in front of the taco stand, he was convinced that she wouldn’t do major damage to the vehicle. Taking enough time to say hello and get a quick update from Max on the status of the translations, Michael and Maria took off in the Jetta for their trip to Mirror Lakes, reminding Liz that they would be back to get her and the Jeep around five that night.

After several hours of hand-holding, talking, caressing and whispered reassurances from Liz, Max was able to sit in the Jeep with the top on and the motor running without wanting to run away and hide. As promised, Liz gave Max his positive reinforcement by allowing him to explore the back seat with her, and he was still being rewarded when Michael and Maria returned from their trip.



Chapter 27

“Wow, I wish I had someone to do my laundry for me,” Maria commented as she watched Liz put Max’s dirty clothes into three different washing machines. “What do I have to do to get you to do mine?”

“Get kidnapped by a psycho who burns you with cigarettes and locks you in the trunk of a car,” Liz retorted, her voice harsher than she had intended.

“Ouch. I can tell you’re in no mood to joke. Are you nervous about this afternoon?”

“A little. It’s not every day I have some strange guy touching me in places no guy has ever touched before.”

“You didn’t seem very nervous about it when it was you and Max in the back of Michael’s Jeep yesterday, chica. Let me tell ya, I have never heard my Spaceboy bitch so much in my life about his precious ‘Bob’.

“Bob?”

“Yeah, Michael named his Jeep ‘Bob’. I told him to relax, that you guys didn’t do anything he & I haven’t done. It’s not like you two were actually doing it back there or anything, were you?”

“NO! It was just a little positive reinforcement. I was just rewarding him for his courage,” Liz said as she closed the lids on the machines and added the money.

“What are you, the Wizard of Oz?”

“I’m serious, Maria. Do you know how much work it took to get Max to that point?”

“Well, I know it doesn’t take much to get Michael there…”

“MARIA! That’s not what I meant. I mean, Max was actually sitting in the Jeep with it running and the top on, and he didn’t freak out. Considering that just…eight days earlier he practically cut off the circulation to my leg on the ride out there, I think he and I both deserved to have a little fun.”

“Hey, I’m with you, sister. Michael’s the one who didn’t appreciate the back seat being used as a shrink’s couch, or should I say your own personal playground."

“Damn it. I forgot to add the detergent. I guess I’m more nervous about this than I thought.”

“Well, it’s not too late to cancel. You have until an hour before the appointment time before they charge you a no-show fee.”

“No, I’m going through with this.”

“Ok, then you’re going to need to relax a little. Trust me, being tense only makes it feel worse.”

“I’m sorry I snapped at you, ‘ria. And I really appreciate your help with all this. I’d really be lost without you,” Liz said as she added the detergent to each of the machines.

“Well, you do know that there’s a price to pay for my help, right?”

Liz was silent for a minute before she asked the dreaded question. “So what do you want to know?”

“Well, if no guy had ever touched you there, then obviously you guys haven’t done it yet. Exactly how far have you gone?”

“We’re showering together.”

“And…?”

“And what?”

“C’mon Lizzie, don’t make me pull teeth here. Has he touched you above or below the waist?”

“Above the waist.”

“Have you touched him?”

“No.”

“Do you want to?”

“This is too embarrassing. Can we change the subject?”

“Ok, one last question. How much longer do you think it will be before you guys actually do do it?”

“Well, my mom and dad won this trip to New York, so they’re going to be gone over Christmas break. I think it will be then.”

“That’s almost three weeks away. Max doesn’t mind waiting that long?”

“Max isn’t the problem. I am. I was ready to go for it Saturday, but he said he wanted to wait until it could be special.”

“I can see why you don’t want to cancel the appointment then,” Maria said pensively. “He actually said he wanted to wait?”

“Yes.”

“God, this guy’s a saint. And you guys are showering together? Like, everyday?”

“Uh-huh.”

“And making out all over the place?”

“No, not all over the place. Just the Jeep. And the storage unit. And my bedroom.”

Wow. I guess you weren’t kidding when you said he had a lot of restraint.”

“Now can we change the subject?”

“Sure. How are you guys doing on translating the books? When you aren’t making out, that is.”

“Funny. It’s going slow, but it’s going. I think we are about halfway done with the first one.”

“Any new revelations I can use to tease Michael?”

“Not really. After the description of Rath and Vilandra’s spacecraft, the rest of the book is like a diary of their time here. They were able to change their shape to look like humans, and that’s how they got a lot of the supplies they needed to create Michael and Isabelle and the incubation pods.”

“Wow, I wonder if that means Michael can make himself look like that sexy guy from Pearl Harbor.”

“Nope. He’s mostly human. It appears that whatever was in the Antarian DNA that allowed them to shapeshift is the same thing that made it so that they couldn’t survive on Earth in their natural form.”

“What about Max?”

“I don’t know. He’s not really sure how he was created, but he does know he is part human, so I would assume he can’t shapeshift either.”

“This Antar must be a really weird place to live, with everyone always changing what they look like.”

“On their home planet, they can’t shapeshift. More than likely it has something to do with a difference in their planet’s atmosphere.”

“This whole thing is just too bizarre. I mean it was one thing to find out Michael is an alien, but now to find out all this weird stuff about how he was made and what his parents went through, it makes it all the more real.”

“Oh, yeah, speaking of, Isabelle started to tell me about how you reacted when you found out they were, uh, not of this Earth…”

“Oh, my god, what did that little witch tell you?”

“Enough. Now why don’t you just tell me the whole story?”

“No way. Nuh-uh. Ain’t gonna happen, chica. My lips are sealed.”

“C’mon, it couldn’t have been that bad.”

“You have no idea.”




Liz was so glad when her appointment was finally over. The doctor had been nice enough, giving her two months of sample birth control pills and explaining that she should start taking them immediately and use back up protection for the first thirty days. At first she had been really nervous, but the doctor took the time to tell her what to expect and put her at ease by answering all her questions. Even so, she was glad to be out of that office and heading back home in Maria’s car. She had only been able to see Max long enough to drop off his clean clothes, giving him a few deep kisses to hold them over until he arrived for his shower the next morning. She had desperately wanted to tell him to come and spend the night with her, but she knew it was still too soon after her mother’s late night check-up to risk it.

She and Maria made their way up to her room, carrying their trademark bowls of ice cream to quietly celebrate her first step into the world of sexual intimacy. Dropping her bookbag on the floor, she pressed the button on her answering machine to check the lone message. The familiar voice gave away the speaker’s upset.

“Liz, it’s Isabelle. You have to call me as soon as you get home. It’s really important that I talk to you as soon as possible. I’ll be home all night. Bye.”

Maria and Liz exchanged worried glances. This did not sound good at all. Taking the phone and dialing the Evans’ number, Liz was glad when Isabelle picked up on the second ring.

“Isabelle, it’s Liz. What’s going on?……You’re kidding……How soon?……That gives us, what, nine days tops?……No, I’m not mad. I guess we should be glad we got this long out of it……Yeah, I’ll tell him when I see him tomorrow after school……Thanks. Bye.”

Liz sighed as she sat down on the edge of the bed, eating a bite of ice cream before she explained the problem to Maria.

“Isabelle’s parents are giving up one of their storage units. The landlord is raising the rent by a hundred bucks a month, so they decided to condense all the files so they fit in one unit instead of two.”

“So that means Max has to go, right?”

“Right.”

“How long do we have to find him new living arrangements? Did you say something about nine days.”

“The rental agreement expires on the 15th. They had wanted Isabelle to clean out the files before they moved the cabinets, but with school there is no way she can. So for now they are just going to cram everything together and let her work on it a little at a time.”

“What do we do with Max? He obviously can’t live here.”

“I guess I’ll call around to some of the motels and see how much they cost. I’ve got a CD Grandma Claudia left me that my parents don’t know about. She called it my mad money to spend on something frivolous. I can cash in on the 13th, but I don’t think I could afford to get him an apartment. Besides, they would ask for a lot more information than a motel would. As it is, I think we’ll have to get Max some kind of identification to be able to register him at a motel.”

“Hey, you might want to talk to Alex about that. He was able to get a fake driver’s license for Michael that looks so real you can’t tell the difference.”

“Alex, huh? What did Michael need a fake driver’s license for?”

“Well, it was supposed to be so he could buy booze. But after the first time he used it, it was obvious that alcohol is something aliens cannot handle.”

“Why? What happened?”

“We were at Paulie’s party at the beginning of the school year. Michael was supposed to bring the beer, so when we got there we were swarmed by all these jocks wanting a can. I stood there and watched Michael take one sip from the last can before Kyle stole it from him. One sip, Liz. The way he acted the rest of the night, you would have thought he had drunk the whole case. I swear Liz, I was afraid he would NEVER sober up.”

“How long was he drunk?”

“Seven hours. Seven hours on one sip of beer. So you better warn Max now to stay away from the stuff. It’s bad news.”

“Well, you know I don’t drink, so the chances of Max drinking any alcohol are pretty slim. I don’t really think it’s going to be a problem.”

“Ok, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Look, I gotta get home before my mom has a fit. If you need anything, let me know,” Maria said as she hugged her best friend. “Don’t worry, we’ll figure out someplace for Max to go.”

“Thanks, ‘ria. For everything.”

Chapter 28

The next morning as Liz and Max showered, she had wanted to tell him about his inevitable eviction from the storage unit. However, they had agreed to not speak to avoid her parents’ suspicions and this was something she just could not bring herself to relay through their connection. Instead she chose to enjoy this glorious part of her day, basking in the sight and smell of him surrounding her. As he washed her hair, he would lightly touch her body in places that would not normally be considered intimate, but just the occasional strokes of his skin against hers were enough to stir her desire. She finally could not resist the urge to wrap her arms around his neck and give him a deep kiss as she pressed her naked body against his, feeling his desire for her. She slowly took one of her arms from around his neck and lowered it to her side, reaching in between them to caress his hardness. Before she could, he took her hand in his and brought it up to kiss it, his eyes telling her that she needed to stop. Reluctantly she leaned over and shut off the water, giving him one last kiss before stepping out to dry off.



As Liz sat at her regular lunch table with her friends, she decided to enlist Isabelle’s help with approaching Alex about getting some fake documentation for Max. Isabelle agreed to bring Alex to Liz’s locker after school to find out what he needed in order to get Max a social security card and some type of state ID. Spending the rest of their lunch time trying to come up with a decent cover story as to why Max didn’t have such things already, they finally agreed to tell Alex that Max had run away from a foster home because he was being abused and could not use his real identification for fear of being found and returned to state custody.

The school day ended and Liz made her way to her locker, silently wishing that Alex knew the aliens’ secret so that she would not have to keep track of more lies to one of her best friends. The couple was already waiting for her, and she said a quick hello before getting down to business.

“Did Isabelle tell you why I wanted to talk to you?” she inquired.

Alex shot a swift glance at his girlfriend before he answered in his best James Bond voice, “She told me as much as I need to know. I’m like the government—don’t ask, don’t tell. The less I know, the less trouble I can get into.”

Relieved, Liz asked, “So what info do you need for this stuff.”

“Well, usually you can just lift someone else’s identity, but this goes way beyond getting a fake license to buy booze. The ideal situation would be to get some dead person’s info, especially someone who’s been dead less than a year. Uncle Sam moves slowly, so it takes a while for the paperwork to catch up with the body.”

“Ok, I think I could actually do that,” Liz said pensively.

“You know someone who died recently?” Alex asked, his voice sounding a little hurt. He and Liz had grown so distant that he had no idea of what had been happening in her life lately.

“Yes, I know of someone. He didn’t have any family that I know of, and it just so happens his name is Max, too,” Liz replied, a plan forming in her head.

“That’s good. I’ll need as much info on this guy as you can get. Name, address, social security number, mother’s maiden name, the works…”

“How long will it take before I can get the new ID?”

“Well, if you can get a hold of the actual social security card, it shouldn’t take long, maybe a week. If I have to get a fake one made first, it could be a little longer, maybe two or three weeks. Trust me, once you get them, you’ll be impressed. It’s almost impossible to tell they’re fakes,” he said as he gave Liz a knowing wink.

“I’ll try to get the info tonight or tomorrow. The sooner we have the ID, the better. Thanks so much for helping, Alex.”

“Well, the bad news is, I don’t do this myself—I’m just the middleman. So it’s going to cost you. I usually mark up my guy’s price, but since you’re like a sister to me, I’ll give it to you at cost,” he teased.

“Do I want to know how much cost is?” Liz asked, knowing she would pay whatever amount Alex quoted her.

“First see if you can get that social security card, then we’ll go from there.”

“Can you give me a ballpark of the worst case scenario?”

“Worst case-five hundred bucks,” he answered honestly.

Liz’s eyes widened. “Five hundred dollars? I’m going to rethink my career plans,” she snorted. “Hey, do you guys think you could drop me off at Max’s? I really don’t want to take the bus.”

“Sure. Where does he live?” Alex asked.

“Ummm…my folks’ storage unit,” Isabelle answered, expecting Alex to start asking a million questions.

“Oh. I get the idea that this is another ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ scenario, huh?” he questioned.

“That would probably be a good idea,” Liz answered, ending the discussion.



“Max.” Kiss.

“Hmm?” Kiss. Kiss.

“Max, I have to tell you something.” Kiss. Kiss. Kiss.

“Must wait. Need Liz.” He unbuttoned her shirt just enough to suck on the sensitive skin at the base of her neck.

“Max, it’s important.” Kiss. What was she supposed to be telling him again?

“Nothing is more important than this. I missed you.” Another button undone. Kiss. Suck.

“I just saw you this morning.” Kiss. Kiss.

“Doesn’t count. Parents.” Another button. Kiss. Suck.

“Please Max, I really need…oh, god Max, that feels good.” Why couldn’t she remember what she was supposed to be telling him?

“You like that?” Kiss. Kiss.

“Definitely.” Kiss. Nip. Nip.


What about this?” Kiss. Yet another button. Kiss. Nip. Suck.

“Mmmm, Max. That’s incredible. Where did you learn how to do that?” To hell with whatever she was supposed to be telling him. His mouth was doing indescribable things to her body, and right now that’s all she cared about.

“From you.” Kiss. Nip. Kiss. Suck.

“Me?” Kiss. Suck.

“Yes.” Kiss. “You.” Nip. “In the Jeep.” Suck. “Sunday.” Kiss. “You wanted me to do this.” Kiss. Nip. Nip. Nip.

“I did?” A deep moan. “Oh, yeah, I did. Why didn’t you do it then?” Kiss. Nip.

“Maria and Michael.” Suck. Kiss. Nip.

“I’m going to kill them for interrupting us.”

“What?” Max pulled away from her, visibly upset by her comment.

She sat up and looked at him confused until what she had said finally registered. “I’m sorry, Max. It just slipped out. It’s a figure of speech. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

He pressed his hand to his forehead. “It’s all right, Liz. I know you didn’t mean anything by it. It’s just…”

“I know. With Jake and what happened, I should have been more sensitive. I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right, Liz, really.” He leaned over and gave her a light kiss as he began to button her shirt up, his mind no longer concentrating on enjoying his exploration of Liz’s body. “So, what was this important thing you had to tell me?”

Disappointed in herself for ruining the moment, it took her a minute to remember what she had wanted to tell him. “Um, you are going to be moving out of here very soon.”

Max’s eyes lit up and he gave her an intensely blissful kiss, catching her by surprise. She thought he would be upset that he would have to adjust to new surroundings. Obviously he disliked being here more than he had let on.

“I’m glad you’re so happy about this, Max.”

“Of course I’m happy. I get to live with you again,” he said as he gave her neck one last kiss before doing up the last button.

Her heart fell in her chest as he revealed the reason for his happiness. She had already upset him with her thoughtless ‘killing’ comment and now she would have to destroy his excitement about moving by setting him straight on where he would be living. She grasped his hands in hers as she looked up at him, concentrating on her love for him as she spoke. “Max, I would like nothing more than to have you live with me again. Those days we were together were so great. But I’m not moving you out of here to come and live with me. It just isn’t possible.”

All the happiness drained from his face as her words sunk in, and a lump formed in her throat as she saw the single tear escape from his eye. “I don’t understand, Liz. I thought you meant I was moving back with you.”

She pulled him so that he was lying back down on the mattress with her, wrapping her arm around his shoulder as she gently stroked his hair. “I’m sorry that I made you think that, Max. But that’s not why you are moving. Isabelle found out yesterday that her parents are going to give up one of these storage units and condense everything into the other one. Once that’s done, there won’t be enough room for you and your things.”

“Where are you sending me?”

“I’m working on that. There are a few small motels downtown that I think I could afford. You would have a real bed and bathroom, and you would be closer to me.”

“There would be other people around?”

“Yes, there would be other people around. The place I’m thinking of is relatively small. There’s probably twenty rooms altogether.”

“Liz, I do not know whether I can stay in a motel room. I remember the last one I was in.”

“I’m sorry, Max, but we don’t really have much of a choice. You can’t go back to living on the streets. I’ll try to spend the first few nights there with you—maybe help you replace those bad memories with some good ones.”

“I would not have to talk to other people?”

“I think it would be nice for you to meet other people, but I told you before that I won’t push you to do anything you don’t want to do. It’s up to you. You will have your own room. If you want to spend the whole day in there by yourself, you can.”


Max was silent for a long time, although Liz only needed their connection to know what he was feeling. She could sense the nervousness and disappointment coming from him in waves, and just as it seemed like he was settling down, it would start all over again. Finally, he voiced his thoughts, “How many days before I have to move?”

“Well, today is the 7th, and their rental agreement ends on the 15th, so it would have to be within the next seven days.”

“Liz…I…I want to go to this motel in a car.”

“Max, that’s awfully soon. You don’t have to push yourself on this.”

“Yes. Yes I do, Liz. Please help me. This is something I really want to do.”

Liz closed her eyes and thought about what he was asking. Was he really going to be ready to ride in the Jetta by then? She had told him she would go at his pace, so she had to honor his wishes. “Ok, Max, I’ll talk to Maria about borrowing the Jetta tomorrow so we can get started. But I don’t want you pushing yourself. If it is too much, you have to let me know, all right?”

“All right.”

The couple snuggled closer together on the small mattress as Liz continued to stroke his hair. She could feel her shirt growing damp where his tears gathered, and she felt terrible that she was the one responsible for his distress. She had wanted to introduce him to other people a little at a time, but it seemed like fate had other plans for him. She silently hoped that he would take it as a chance to make some friends instead of hiding himself away from the world. For now, she did have something that would make him feel better.

“Hey, Max, I do have a good surprise for you.”

“You do?”

“Yes. I wasn’t going to tell you this ahead of time, but I think you need something to cheer you up right now. In about two weeks, sometime after you get moved into the motel, my parents are going to be gone on vacation for a week. That means you can come and stay with me the whole time they are gone, including Christmas.”

“Christmas?”

“Yeah, Christmas. Isn’t that great?”

“What’s Christmas?”

“Wow, that’s right, you wouldn’t know what Christmas is, now would you? Well, Christmas started out as a religious holiday, but now almost everyone celebrates it.”

“A religious holiday?”

“Umm…that one is kinda hard to explain, so let’s save that for another time and focus on Christmas, the secular version. Christmas is on December 25th. It is a time when you give gifts to the people you love and care about to show them how much they mean to you. Many people do special things for others who are less fortunate. Most families get together and eat a big dinner to celebrate as well.”

“Is that what this is?” he asked as he sent her images of her past Christmas celebrations with her parents and friends.

“Exactly. I’ll never forget that Christmas when my mom and dad gave me Mr. Fuzzy. I kept bugging them all year to give me a horse, and they didn’t want to disappoint me. There was no way I was getting a horse, so they did the next best thing. Mr. Fuzzy still had four legs and a tail, so I was the happiest girl in the world.”

“So you give gifts to people that will make them happy?”

“Yes. It can be something that you know they want, or you can pick something based on what you think they would like.”

“What if the person doesn’t like the gift, like the blue sweater your Aunt Kathie made for you?”

Liz laughed, “You know way too much about me, Max. Even if you don’t like the gift, you should still be grateful that the giver thought of you. And you should always thank them.”

“Can I give people gifts?”

“Sure, if you want to. Although I don’t think anyone expects you too.”

“I would like to finish translating the first two books for Michael and Isabelle so that I may give them the books back with the translation written out. Can we do that?”

“We’ll definitely try. I can print out the translation from my computer in a nice format, and maybe we can find something to bind it in so it looks more like a book. How does that sound?”

“That sounds good. I think I would also like to give something to Maria, if you could tell me what she might like.”

“Good luck! She’s my best friend and I still have the hardest time finding something for her every year.”

“Oh.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll think of something. So, should we get working on that translation then?”

“Yes, I guess we should. Liz?”

“Yes?”

“What kind of gift would you want?”

“Max, I already have the best gift I could have ever asked for: you came back to me.”


Chapter 29

Liz was neither surprised nor upset when Max showed up at her window later that night. His feelings had remained in turmoil during the rest of her visit to the storage unit, and when she left to catch the bus, he had clung to her like a man who was drowning. Now here he was in front of her with that same cheerless look on his face. She quickly took his duffel bag and removed his jacket, placing both items safely in her closet. She slowly undressed him until he was only in his boxers, and when he removed her nightgown, she did not object. Once they were lying in bed, he made no attempt to kiss her save a chaste goodnight kiss. Instead, he curled up close to her and pressed as much of her bare skin against his as possible. They gently ran their hands over the rest of each other’s bodies as they drifted off to sleep, each caress seeming to soothe away more of his emotional distress.



“Please, Michael? I have to get this stuff for Alex as soon as possible.”

“Liz, I’d go out there with you, but I’ve got practice after school,” Michael said as he shoved the rest of his books in the locker. “What about tomorrow?”

“No, I really need to get this stuff to Alex so I can get Max’s identification before he has to move. We’re going to need it to get him a motel room.”

“A motel room? How are you going to pay for that?”

“I have some money saved up. I called around to a few places, and The Regent rents rooms for $200 per week or $600 per month. I’ll have enough to pay for three months.”

“The Regent? Is that the one at the end of the strip?”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

“It’s certainly not the Ritz.”

“No, but it’s clean and cheap. And Max will have a real bed and a toilet that doesn’t require a garbage bag.”

“A real bed? Good. Now you won’t need to use the back of my Jeep. So when are you going to move him? And how?”

“The money is tied up in a CD until the 13th, so I’ll have to wait until then. I just hope your folks don’t decide to move the file cabinets sooner than that. As for how…he wants to be able to ride in the Jetta by then.”

“Do you think he’ll be up to it?”

“I honestly don’t know.” Snickering she continued, “You saw how comfortable he was in the Jeep, so I guess anything is possible.”

Ignoring Liz’s jab, he said “Well, I’ll keep my ears open at home to see if I can tell what my folks are planning. Liz, I don’t want you going out to that place alone, especially since we know that Jake creep took Max from there. Please wait until tomorrow so I can go with you. If worse comes to worse, we can rent the motel room with my fake ID, ok?”

“Thanks, Michael, I appreciate it. So I’ll meet you here after school tomorrow?”

“Yeah. See you then.”



Liz dropped Maria off at the Crashdown for her after-school shift, only being allowed to drive the Jetta away after she pinky-swore to her best friend that no positive reinforcement would be taking place in the back seat.

Max was not waiting outside for her when she pulled up to the storage unit in the little red car. She cut the motor and had to actually knock on the door before he opened it, just wide enough to let her in.

“Max, are you ok?”

He nodded.

“We don’t have to do this yet, you know. Just say the word and I’ll take the car back.”

“No. I will be all right. Just give me a minute to calm myself.” He sat down on the mattress.

“What can I do to help?” she asked quietly as she sat next to him.

“Will you hold my hand?”

“Sure,” she said as she took his hand in hers, gently rubbing the back of it before bringing it up to her face and pressing it against her cheek.

“Thank you, Liz. For doing this, for being so patient with me. You must think I’m pathetic.”

“Pathetic? Where did you hear that word?”

“It was on Judge Judy today,” he said as he pointed at the little television.

“Figures. No, Max, I do not think you are pathetic. I think you are very strong, determined, brave, and handsome, and I love you more than words could ever say. But I don’t think you need words to know that anyway.” She leaned in closer to him and gave him a loving kiss, willing him to know all she felt for him.

“That’s what kept me going, Liz. When I didn’t think I could put up with another day of being locked up, of being with Jake, the things I could feel from you were what kept me going, what gave me the strength to fight. I couldn’t believe that anyone would ever feel about me the way you feel about me. I knew I had to find a way to come back to you.” He returned her kiss, softly caressing her cheek as his love filled her heart.

Pulling away from him just enough to brush her lips against his as she spoke, she asked in a hushed voice, “So, now that you’re here with me, why don’t we go outside and show that car that nothing can defeat us.”

“I don’t know how you do it, Liz. You fill me with such strength that when I’m with you, it seems like I can do anything,” he said as he gave her a light kiss. “Let’s go take a look at this car.”

They stood up together and walked out the door, determination playing across both their faces as they approached the vehicle. Max’s nervousness was still there, a small undercurrent unable to surface against the couple’s resolve. Liz slowly reached out their clasped hands and touched the door of the car, holding Max’s hand steady as it trembled slightly. After several minutes of surveying the vehicle, Max spoke in a calm yet distant voice.

“Usually they would put me in the…trunk at night time, I guess to avoid suspicion. The first few times they put me in there, I fought them, but then Jake began hitting me with the tire iron until I would give up. Eventually I was too weak to fight him. I only saw the car a few times in the daylight, but I know almost every inch of it. The… plate…license plate was from New Mexico and had the letters and numbers GJ6301 on it. There was also a label on the bumper. It had some writing and a picture of a fish on it. There was some tape on the window of the back door—I think the glass may have been cracked. Jake kept a gun under the front seat.”

“What about the other two guys, Mike and Joe? Did they have guns?”

“Not that I saw. I think they were just as scared of Jake as I was. They told me over and over how they would let me go if they weren’t afraid he’d kill them instead. I don’t doubt he would have either. I don’t know how many times he showed me what that gun could do by killing some poor animal and telling me I was next, but I never really thought he would pull the trigger on me, at least not until that last time.”

“Why weren’t you afraid he’d shoot you?”

“He enjoyed hurting me too much, keeping me afraid. Once he killed me, it would be over.”

Liz reached up to cover her mouth as he revealed the shocking details of his captivity. “Oh, Max, I don’t know what to say. I just can’t imagine anything valuable enough to cause someone to treat another person that way.”

“You don’t need to say anything, Liz. I am here with you now and I feel safe. This is all that matters,” he said as he tore his gaze away from the car to focus on her. “I am sorry, but I think touching this car is as much as I can handle tonight. I hope I have not disappointed you.”

“Max, you could never disappoint me. I’m very proud of everything you have accomplished, and especially since you have done it in such a short time. Why don’t we leave the car for now? I do have an idea, but it will be up to you.”

“What?”

“Would you care to walk across the street with me to get our dinner?”

“I don’t know…”

“C’mon, Max. Remember you can do anything when you’re with me,” she teased.

“If I can’t do it, can we turn around and come back?”

“In an instant.”

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “All right. But I expect a lot of positive reinforcement for this.”

“I’m looking forward to it, Max.”



Liz had asked Michael to wait in the Jeep as she searched the old man’s house for his identification. Although she had asked him to come with her, once they had arrived she realized that going into the house was something she needed to do on her own. For some reason coming here now was different than when she had been searching for Max, and she wanted to be alone to deal with the demons this place had created in her mind.

Looking around the living room, she noticed the scarce furnishings. Nothing had changed since the last time she had been here. There had once been a television on the small stand, the antenna cable so viciously torn from the wall indicating that someone had taken it in a hurry. Probably Jake and his creepy friends. The reclining chair was stained a strange color, and the smell it gave off made Liz avoid it, choosing to skirt around the edges of the room instead. Hanging on the wall were dozens of photographs, slowly being taken over by dust and cobwebs. Liz looked at them intently, noticing the couple in them as they grew from very young newlyweds into their elderly years. She recognized them immediately. Maggie and the old man, Max. Other pictures were scattered among those of the couple, pictures of a young boy. On his bicycle. In a pool. Older pictures of him with his parents. A professional photo of the boy, almost an adult, in a military uniform.

Liz made her way through the kitchen quickly, heading to the bedroom where she had found the old man’s jacket, the one she had kept for Max. The mattress was bare of sheets, and the drawers were still scattered all over the floor, the contents strewn about the room. Praying that Jake or his friends had not taken the old man’s wallet, she breathed a sigh of relief when she found it halfway under the bed. Rifling through it quickly, she found an expired driver’s license. Maxwell J. Stephens. D.O.B. 04-04-19. Not finding a social security card, she looked down at the papers all over the floor. Should she bother to look for it in that mess? It might make a two-week difference in obtaining Max’s identification. Kneeling down to sort through the debris, she came across more pictures of the couple and their son. A copy of a hospital bill, dated November 12, 1953 with $350 in charges for the delivery of a baby, was attached to a birth certificate for a baby boy, Jason Matthew Stephens, born on November 4th of that same year. A yellowed marriage license announced the joining of Margaret Marie Gaffney with Maxwell Jonathan Stephens on December 24, 1937. Folded in half with the ink smeared on it, as though stained by tears, was a copy of a death certificate for Margaret Marie Stephens, deceased on May 10, 1991. Underneath one stack of papers, Liz found an official looking telegram, dated June 20, 1971.


Dear Mr. And Mrs. Maxwell Stephens:

We regret to inform you that your son Jason Matthew Stephens was killed in action on April 4, 1971. The President and his staff offer their sincere condolences on your loss. Private Stephens died serving his country, and as his parents, you should be proud of the supreme sacrifice you son made in the fight against communism.


Her heart saddened at the realization that all the important milestones in the old man’s life, all the things that defined his existence, were now just pieces of paper scattered on the floor of an abandoned house. Gathering the items and a few of the photos, she made one last sweep of the room to see whether she may have overlooked any other places a social security card may be. Not finding any, she slowly made her way through the once happy home to the waiting Jeep.



Maria met Michael and Liz out at the storage unit with the Jetta. Liz smiled when she saw Max standing outside talking with her best friend, just a few feet away from the car. She had sensed a little bit of nervousness from him earlier, probably when Maria had first arrived, but now he was relatively calm. Climbing out of the Jeep as Maria got in and handed her the Jetta keys, she walked over to stand by Max. Giving him a hello kiss, her cheeks turned slightly red when she heard Maria call out “Remember, no psychology stuff in the back seat” as the Jeep rounded the corner.

“So, you’re out here with the car, I see. Doing a little better than yesterday?”

“Yes I am. Liz, I’m sorry that I couldn’t go with you to get dinner last night. It was just all too much for one day.”

“Max, please, you don’t have to apologize to me. This isn’t about me; it’s about getting you over your fears. You take all the time you need.”

“Thank you,” he said as he kissed the top of her head. “I think I am ready to move forward now. I would like to try sitting in the car.”

“Sure, if that’s what you want,” she said as she opened the door and rolled down the window. Turning back to him, she held out her hand. He took it immediately, and she gave his hand a light squeeze before leading him to the front seat. Closing his eyes, he sat down slowly as she guided him, whispering loving words of encouragement the entire time. When he was seated completely, she knelt down next to him on the ground, gently rubbing his thigh with her free hand. After a few minutes, he assured her he was all right, so she stood up and walked around to the driver’s side to get in.

“Would you start the car, please?” he asked as he looked over at her.

“Are you sure, Max?” She wrinkled her brow in concern.

He nodded.

She started the car up, carefully watching his expression to be sure that he would be able to handle it. It surprised her to see that he almost seemed to relax at the noise. “I thought hearing the car start would really scare you,” she commented.

“No. It is hearing the car turn off that scares me.”

“Why?” she asked as she clasped his hand between hers.

“When the car was running, I knew I was safe…well, as safe as I could be. That meant we were moving, that Jake was in the car, away from me. When the car would stop running, I would get scared. Sometimes they would leave me in there, probably while they ate or put gasoline in the car. But then, other times, he would have Mike and Joe take me out and into the place we were staying. That’s when he would……hurt me.”

Liz reached up to caress away the tear streaming down his face.

“As time went on and I grew more tired, my brain would trick me. When the car was running, I would lay there, waiting for it to stop. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t relax even a little. Instead of knowing I was relatively safe, I just lay there fearing our next stop. Later I would continue to feel the car vibrating underneath me even though it actually had stopped. After a while I could no longer tell whether the car was really running or I was just imagining it. ”

“Chinese water torture,” Liz whispered.

“What?”

“Chinese water torture. A person would be tied up with only a drop of water hitting them in the same place at a set interval, or time. The water would keep dripping over and over for days. Pretty soon the person starts to anticipate the next drop of water. They interval between the drops is slowly increased. After a while, the anticipation drives the person crazy.”

“Crazy. That is a good word for it. Crazy.”

“Why doesn’t the motor running bother you now?”

“Because I am here, in the seat. I can see the key turned, I can see the gauges that tell me the car is really running. If I can see the evidence that it is running, I know I am not imagining it.”

“Why did the feel of the Jeep frighten you then?”

“It was the shock, I think. Not knowing. I had not read the car books, yet. I didn’t know about the gauges that showed what the motor was doing, so I went back to wondering whether it was real or imagined.”

“Wow. I’m glad the books helped you,” she said as she leaned into him. “Maybe I should get you some books on world-famous motel rooms then.”

“I like the idea of you spending your nights there with me better.”




Chapter 30

Friday dragged by slowly, and Liz thought lunchtime would never come. When she finally met with her friends, Isabelle reassured her that Michael had given her the documentation for Alex, and it was now safely in his possession. The three girls discussed their plans for that night, each of them spending an evening with their favorite guy. Liz thought she should be jealous that her two friends got to go out on actual dates while she spent her evening in a small room with a concrete floor, but she just couldn’t bring herself to feel any envy. In her heart, she was the luckiest girl in the world to have someone who loved her so completely, and even if they did no more than snuggle up together and read, she knew it would be a perfect night.

Liz went directly home after school, doing some schoolwork before she got ready for her night with Max. Maria was going to pick her up at six on her way to get Michael, and Isabelle had agreed to return her home on the way back from her date with Alex. As she unpacked her books, she noticed the light on her answering machine was blinking. She pressed the play button and listened to the message as she continued her organizing.

“This message is for Liz. This is Earl from Hobby Hall. I got your model all done for you. I just have to spray the protective coat on it and have it dry, so it should be ready for you to pick up first thing in the morning. Your total comes to $ 28.76 with tax, and we do take personal checks, but no credit cards. If you have any more questions, please call me at 555-0342. I’ll be here ‘til seven tonight and starting at nine tomorrow morning.”

The car was ready. Liz made a mental note to pick it up in the morning. Max was nowhere near ready for that step in his ‘therapy’, so she would have to double back to the apartment and drop it off before going out to see him.



She and Max spent a good part of their evening working on the final piece of the first book’s translation. Max had shown her how the Antarian symbols on these last pages were haphazardly written, becoming more and more indecipherable until they eventually just stopped. Liz could feel tears stinging her eyes as she typed the words that described Rath and Vilandra’s final days on Earth, her sadness multiplied by Max’s feelings as he dictated their last hopes for the children they would never know.

After they completed the first book, they lay together on the mattress and exchanged thoughts on Grandma Claudia. It still amazed Liz that Max had seen every bit of her life when he healed her. More astounding was that he instinctively knew the important role her grandmother had played in her childhood. Seeing an opportunity to ask Max more about his Antarian background, she began by commenting about the marooned aliens.

“Michael and Isabelle are lucky that they had Rath and Vilandra as parents. They sure went through a lot to make sure those two survived.”

“Yes they did,” he agreed as he caressed her cheek.

“Did you have anyone in your family that you were close to, like I was to Grandma Claudia?” she asked, watching his eyes to gauge his reaction to her question.

“No, I didn’t,” he said quietly.

“What do you remember about your family, Max?” she queried as she returned his caress.

“I don’t remember anything about them,” he said sincerely.

“Nothing?”

“No. I never knew them.”

“None of them? Why?” she asked in disbelief.

“I was separated from them when I was young, before I could remember them.”

She propped herself up on her elbow to look closer into his eyes, silently expecting a stronger emotional response from him than the indifference she was feeling. “I’m sorry, Max. I had no idea.”

“You do not need to be sorry, Liz. There is nothing you can do to change the life I have already lived. Please just promise you will be with me to live the rest of it.”

“Of course I will, Max. I will be here by your side through anything that happens, good or bad.”

“Shall we test that commitment?” he asked as his voice took on a lighter tone.

“What did you have in mind?” she asked curiously.

“Dinner. You and me. Across the street.”

“Are you serious?”

“Very. Now, I may be so scared that you will have to feed me my dinner. That is, if I am able to let go of your hand long enough to do so.”

“Are you sure about this, Max?”

“Yes, Liz. Will you consider this a date?”

“A date it is, Max. I promise to feed you every last bite.”

Max helped Liz put on her jacket, then quickly put his own on as they made their way out the door, breathing in the crisp night air. Taking a look at her watch, Liz realized that the lateness of the hour meant the taco stand would not be very busy, especially on a Friday night when most of the kids stayed closer to town.

They made their way out of the parking lot and to the street, Max’s hand tensing against Liz’s each of the few times they saw a car pass by. Liz gave Max worried glances the entire way, only to be reassured by the determined look that was becoming his trademark as of late. Thankfully traffic was sparse this time of night, so they had no problems crossing the street. Once on the other side, Max’s fear began to swell inside of Liz, his tight grasp reinforcing his feelings. Liz leaned up and gave him a kiss, willing him to feel her confidence and make it his own. He gave her a thankful look and swiftly pulled her toward the stand before he could change his mind and bolt back across the street.

“Hey, sweetie, you brought your boyfriend with you. I was beginning to think you were making him up?” the matronly woman behind the counter teased.

“No, he’s definitely real. Max, I’d like you to meet Mrs. Ortecha. She and her husband have owned this taco stand for as long as I can remember,” Liz explained.

“Hi, Mrs. Ortecha. It’s nice to meet you,” Max said, shyly staring at the ground, unable to stop the trembling in his voice and hands.

“It’s nice to meet you, too, Max. What can I get you kids tonight?” she asked as she eyed the quiet young man.

“I think we’ll have our usual, plus a couple of Cokes, please,” Liz replied, giving his hand a squeeze as she whispered, “Are you doing all right?”

He nodded.

“So what are you kids doing out her without a car? It’s pretty late to be walking.” Mrs. Ortecha asked, trying to pass the time while her husband prepared the order.

“Well, we’re over at the storage units again. Our friend is condensing her things from two units to one, so we are helping out.”

“I see. Don’t stay over there too late. It’s supposed to get pretty cold tonight,” she said as she placed the order on the short counter. Liz had to pry her hand away from Max’s, looping his arm in hers so she could carry the order to one of the little picnic tables.

“Max, we don’t have to stay here. We can take this back and eat it.”

“No. This is supposed to be a date. I want to eat my dinner with you under the stars,” he said reverently as he forced himself to sit down.

Liz snuggled close to him as she divided up their dinner, reveling in the feeling of his warm body pressed against her. She was feeding him as promised, occasionally taking time to rest her head on his shoulder, when a vehicle pulled into the taco stand’s parking lot. Feeling Max stiffen next to her, she reached under the table to give his leg a reassuring rub. Following his eyes to where the car had stopped, she let out a low groan as she recognized the vehicle’s owner.

“Liz, is that you?” he asked as he got out of the car, walking over to its other side to let out his passenger.

“Hi, Kyle. Hi, Tess,” Liz said in the friendliest voice possible.

“Hey there, Liz,” Tess purred, “Who’s your friend here?” Turning to Max, she continued in a flirty voice, “I don’t think I’ve seen you around before. I definitely would have remembered.”

“Nice to meet you, Kyle. Tess. You must be the girl who stole Ky…” Max began before Liz cut him off.

“Who stole Kyle’s heart…that’s right, Max. So what are you guys up to tonight?” she asked, trying to change the subject.

“Just picking up a late night snack. I can have a pretty big appetite, depending on what I’m hungry for,” Tess said, focusing all her attention on Max.

“How about you guys?” Kyle questioned.

“Enjoying dinner under the stars with my Beauty,” Max said, completely ignoring Tess as he wrapped his arms around Liz. Tess gave Liz an angry glare before stomping off to place their order.

“So…you two? How long have you been dating?” Kyle asked as he realized he had never seen this guy before.

“For a while now,” Liz said cryptically.

“Oh. How come I’ve never seen you around together before?” Kyle said as he eyed Max suspiciously.

“We don’t go out much,” Liz and Max said in perfect unison.

Kyle’s face broke into a knowing grin, “Oh. I get it. Yeah, Tess and I are going to stay in, too. My dad’s got the late shift tonight.”

Liz smiled, “That’s nice, Kyle.”

Looking around, Kyle noticed that there was no car in sight, besides his. “So, you guys don’t have a car? Do you want a ride back to town?”

“No, thanks. Isabelle and Alex should be here soon to pick us up.”

“Ok, well. Have a good night.” Kyle winked at her as Tess approached him with the bag of food.

“Bye.”

As the couple walked away, Tess turned around and said, “Bye, Max. Hope to see you again,” keeping her eyes trained on him as she got in the car. Feeling Liz’s discomfort as Tess continued to stare at him, he quickly pulled her onto his lap and gave her an intensely passionate kiss, weaving his hands through her hair as his love flooded her senses, not stopping until the sound of Kyle’s car disappeared into the night.

“Wow,” Liz said, “What was that for?”

“Because I love you. And you needed it,” he said honestly.

She gave him another kiss.

“She is the reason you are no longer with Kyle?”

“Yes and no. Kyle and I really didn’t belong together in the first place. I just wish she would have waited for us to stop dating before she tried to go out with him.”

“I understand now,” he said as he gave her another kiss. “You are worried she will take me away from you.”

Liz buried her head in his neck, embarrassed to look at him.

He stroked her hair for a minute before he took her face in his hands, forcing her to look at him. “Liz, you are the only one who has ever loved me and the only one I could ever love. I want to be with you and no one else. You know that, don’t you?”

She nodded.

“Good. Then you have nothing to fear from Tess,” he said as he rubbed her cheek with his thumb. “Well, I think I’m done with my dinner. Why don’t we go back and I will show you just how much I love you while we wait for Isabelle to arrive.”

She nodded again.

He couldn’t resist adding, “Besides, I think I deserve that positive reinforcement now.”



Michael was surprised to see his parents sitting at the kitchen table when he came home from his date with Maria. He looked over his dad’s shoulder as he greeted them, trying to see what had their attention as he made his way to the refrigerator. He froze as he took a step back, realizing they were looking over a floor plan of the storage units, complete with little miniature file cabinets, drawn to scale.

“Well, I think tomorrow would be better than Sunday. It would give us more time to deal with any last minute problems,” his mother was saying.

“I just hate to give up our whole weekend, Diane. Why can’t we do this during the week again?”

“Phillip, we have to go to Clovis for the Darcy meeting, and you know that will take the better part of two days. The 15th is Wednesday, so I don’t see any other way around it but to move the cabinets this weekend. Unless you want to go out there after work.”

Damn, Michael swore to himself. He could not let his parents go out to the storage units tomorrow. There was no way he could sneak out of the house to warn Max, and if his folks showed up out there unannounced, there was no telling how badly Max might freak out. What could he do? Before he could think, he heard his own voice talking to his parents.

“You guys shouldn’t have to do that stuff. The weekend is the only time you take off, so you should be able to enjoy it. Why don’t you let Isabelle and me take care of moving those cabinets? Once we’re all done, you can come and inspect our handiwork.”

“That’s nice of you to offer, Michael, but we want to make sure the cabinets are arranged in the right order,” his father replied.

“Well, I can read a diagram. Besides, Isabelle is usually the one to go out there to work with the files, so maybe it’s better that she be there to give her input.”

“Are you sure you wouldn’t mind giving up your weekend?” his mother asked as she took a sip of her coffee.

“No, not at all. Maria has to work all weekend, anyway,” he added.

“Well, thank you, Michael, we truly appreciate this. Lord knows we will be spending enough time out there deciding what to keep and what to shred” his father commented.

“I thought Isabelle was going to be doing that.”

“Well, she is going to do some of it, but there are files out there that have hundreds of pages. She wouldn’t really know what we want to keep,” Diane said as she tried to stifle a yawn.

“Oh, I see. Well, I’m going to go to bed now,” he said as he glanced at the clock on the wall: 11:52.

“Good-night, honey,” his mother called after him as he ran up the stairs to call Liz.



It was a little past one in the morning when Liz finally made it into bed. Isabelle had dropped her off exactly at midnight, and she had immediately gone outside to sit in her lounge and stare at the stars. When she and Max had returned from dinner, they sat outside the storage unit and watched the heavenly objects dance in the sky. He pointed out several constellations to her, explaining the mythology behind each one. They even managed to have half an hour of snuggling time before Isabelle showed up to take her home. As she drifted off into a restless sleep, she hadn’t noticed the new message light flashing on her answering machine.



Dreams remain just as long as there's Dreamers--Dennis DeYoung
posted on 17-Sep-2001 12:11:42 AM
Chapter 31

Liz and Max were both in a melancholy mood as they showered early Saturday morning, both realizing that soon Max would have his own bathroom to shower in and would no longer need to shower with her. Liz could also feel Max’s apprehension about taking the next step in his car therapy. Liz was to bring the Jetta out to the storage unit later so that he could actually ride in the car, and the thought of it was causing quite a bit of anxiety in her boyfriend. Add in his uneasiness about moving to the motel, and you had one miserable alien. All Liz could do was offer him adoring kisses and will him to feel her love and support. She was glad that they would be able to spend most of the day together—it was something they both needed.

She was waiting on the doorstep of Hobby Hall when Earl opened the door for the day. He smiled as he saw her, saying, “You must really be in a hurry for this model.” She simply nodded her head, thanking him when she saw his craftsmanship. She quickly paid for the item and headed back to the apartment, giving Earl a grateful smile as she left.

“Hey, chica, what’s in the bag? My Christmas present, maybe?” Maria teased as Liz came in the back door.

“No, it’s a model car I had made for Max. It’s a replica of the car he was forced to ride in.”

“And you’re giving this to him as a Christmas present? Not exactly my idea of a Hallmark moment.”

“No, this is supposed to be the final stage of his therapy, but I may need to rethink my plan.”

“Why? What were you planning?”

“Well, I was hoping that getting him over his car fear would help him get over the things Jake did to him as well. He’s doing a great job with the car stuff, but he still refuses to tell me much about what happened with Jake. It’s like he’s holding back from me.”

“Maybe he just needs some more time, Liz. I’m sure something that traumatic is very hard for him to talk about. So when were you planning on giving him that car anyway?”

“I was going to give it to him after he successfully rode in a car, but now I think I’d better wait until he’s dealt with the Jake stuff a little more. I don’t want it to be too soon for him.”

“How are you going to know that? Are you just gonna keep asking him ‘Are you over Jake?’”

“No, I think I’ll have a good indication of when the time is right.”

“And what would that be?”

“He still hasn’t healed his scars. At first I thought it was because he was too weak, like he told me. But he certainly should be strong enough by now. They are a link to Jake, and I don’t think he will heal them until he’s completely over the things that happened to him.”

“Poor guy. It looks like he still has quite a bumpy road ahead. But at least he’s doing good with the car, right?”

“Yes, he’s doing remarkably well. Speaking of, may I please have the keys?”

“Pinky-swear? No making out!”

“Pinky-swear.”

“They’re in my locker.”

“Thanks, ‘ria.”

Maria went back to working her shift, and just as Liz took the Jetta keys from the locker, she felt a hand grab her upper arm, spinning her around to face its owner.

“Why the hell didn’t you call me last night?” Michael grumbled in a low voice.

“Call you? Why would I call you?” Liz asked in confusion.

“You didn’t get my message?” he asked in shock.

“No, I didn’t even check. I must have been too tired…”

“Well, we’ve got a problem. A big one.” His face revealed the seriousness of the situation.

“What is it?”

He looked around to be sure no one could overhear them. “When I got home last night, I heard my mom and dad planning to go out to the storage unit…today.”

“TODAY! Damn it, that’s just great. I gotta get out there…,” she said anxiously.

“Relax, I convinced them to let me do the moving for them, but they still plan to go out there tomorrow morning to check on things. That means we have to get Max out of there tonight.”

“Shit…Shit. I don’t need this right now. Shit,” Liz said under her breath.

“Well, like it or not, we have to deal with this now. Is there any way you can get that money today before the bank closes?”

“If I break that CD before Monday, I’ll lose almost three hundred dollars in interest. I guess I could take the money out of my savings account, but I’ve already taken so much out of there that if my parents check they are going to be really suspicious.”

“I’d give you my money if I had any, but Isabelle and I just paid for our insurance on the Jeep. We’re both tapped out. And you know that Maria gives most of her money to her mom.”

“Yeah, I know. Thanks for the offer, anyway. I guess I’ll have to take it out of my savings account and just put it back on Monday when I cash in the CD. Can you take me to the bank?”

“Sure.”

“Ok, let me go put this up in my room. I’ll be right back.”

Michael paced nervously as he waited for Liz to return. He knew that they had no choice but to use his fake ID to rent the room. The thought made him chuckle slightly. He always thought that if he rented a motel room, it would be for his and Maria’s use, not for another alien—especially one he could barely relate to.

“Let’s go,” Liz said, snapping Michael out of his thoughts.

They made their way out of the Crashdown and jumped into the Jeep for the ride to the bank. After Liz withdrew the money from her savings account, they made their way to the Regent. They decided it would be better for Liz to wait in the Jeep while Michael rented the room. When he returned with two room keys in his hand, she couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief.

“Did you have any problem?” she asked as he started up the vehicle.

“Nope. Max is now a resident of Room 9A for at least the next month. Once they saw the money, all I had to do was fill out the paperwork while the girl at the counter yakked away at me.”

Trying to not roll her eyes at his last comment, she simply said, “Thanks, Michael. This really means a lot.”

“No problem,” he said as he headed back to the Crashdown.

“So, I’ll meet you and Isabelle out there?” Liz asked as she pulled the Jetta keys out of her purse.

“Yeah, we may be a little while. I haven’t quite told her yet that she’s spending the day playing moving company, and I don’t think she’s going to be very happy about it.”



“I have to go tonight?” Max asked, the fear in his voice reflected in his eyes.

“I’m sorry Max. Mr. and Mrs. Evans are going to be here tomorrow morning, and you have to be gone by then.”

“I am not ready for this. Liz, I cannot do this,” Max pleaded as he paced around in the small storage unit, his breathing labored.

Liz’s own frustration was nearly as great as the myriad of emotions coming from Max, and she wrung her hands in an attempt to calm her frayed nerves. “Max, please. You know I don’t want to make you do anything you aren’t ready for, but I don’t know what else we can do. If you have any other ideas, please tell them to me now.”

Max abruptly stopped pacing at her strained words, realizing how harshly his mood was affecting her. In a fleeting moment of desperation, he thought about running away, telling her she would be better off without him in her life. However, in his heart he knew he needed her too much to leave her. She was right. He had no other choice but to go to the motel, but it was entirely up to him how he dealt with it. He wanted to make Liz proud of him. Taking a deep breath, he said quietly, “You’re right, Liz. I just thought I would have more time than this to adjust to the idea. I shouldn’t have upset you.”

“We’ll get through this, Max, I promise,” she said as she approached him from behind and wrapped her arms around his waist, pressing her cheek against the tense muscles in his back. He slowly began to relax as she said, “Everything will be all right, Max.”

He turned around to face her, stroking her hair as he held her against him. They stood that way for quite some time, sharing comfort through the same connection that had brought them such turmoil just minutes earlier. Liz gently pulled away from him to stare into his stunning amber eyes, tracing his features with her fingertips as she kept her gaze on him. Gently coaxing him to lean over, she gave him soft yet passionate kisses, whispering words of love between each one. She continued until the sound of the Jeep outside brought the couple back to reality once again.

“Hi, Max, how are you doing?” Isabelle asked as she and Michael came through the door.

“All right, thank you,” he replied with a shy smile.

“We should probably get started right away on moving these file cabinets,” Michael instructed. “Maybe you two girls can take out the drawers while Max and I move the frames over to the other side.”

“Ok, but first let me pack up most of Max’s things so they don’t interfere with moving stuff around,” Liz answered.

“You might as well put them in the car now. No use in moving them twice,” Michael added.

Before Liz put Max’s things outside, she had to ask him, “Max, do you think you will be able to ride in the car? Or would you prefer to use the Jeep?”

Max hesitated a moment before answering, “I think the Jeep would be a better idea. I need more time before I am comfortable in the car.”

Liz looked over to Michael to verify that he could take Max to the motel later that night. He nodded his consent, so Liz smiled and gave Max’s arm a quick squeeze as she said, “Jeep it is, then.”

The four teens worked the rest of the morning and early afternoon arranging and rearranging the file cabinets until they all fit into the one storage unit. It intrigued Liz to watch Max interact with the other two aliens. He had an uncanny ability to keep track of which drawer went where, and he had come up with several good ideas for positioning the file cabinets, but each time he had been afraid to voice them, almost as if her were deferring to the Evans siblings.

Liz couldn’t help the joyous smile on her face when Max suggested they go across the street to get some lunch. She offered to pay for the food to thank Michael and Isabelle for all their help, but Michael refused, telling her that she needed to save her money. The four exchanged pleasant conversation while they ate, and hearing Max’s genuine laughs pepper the discussion gave her a new sense of admiration for him. He was unable to hide his true feelings from her, as they were swarming through their connection. His ability to enjoy himself despite his nervousness amazed her, and she did her best to help him feel as calm inside as he appeared on the outside. She learned quickly that constant physical contact, whether holding his hand or rubbing his thigh, worked wonders for lifting his spirits.

Isabelle drove the Jetta back into town as Liz made arrangements with Michael for him to pick her and Max up around nine that evening. In the meantime, Michael would drop off Max’s things at the motel room and check to be sure everything was in working order. Now that Max and Liz were alone, they decided to begin working on translating the second book. It had taken them almost two weeks to finish the first book and with that exact amount of time until Christmas, they would need to work a little faster on this one, a complete history of Michael and Isabelle’s family. The first few paragraphs made it obvious that of the three books, this one would prove to be the most boring. Liz suggested that they work on the third book instead, but Max insisted that since it was going to be a present for Michael and Isabelle, it would make more sense to translate the one that was the most personal for them.

As nine o’clock approached, Liz couldn’t help but compare how Max was reacting to this move versus his first one. He was definitely much calmer this time around, and she silently prayed that his placid demeanor lasted through the Jeep ride until he was safely ensconced in his new home. It was almost as if they had traded roles, for now she seemed more nervous about the whole affair than he did. However the reversal was short-lived as the sound of the approaching Jeep echoed in the now nearly empty room. A rush of fear hit Liz so hard that she almost doubled over. Worse yet, Max was now sitting on the concrete floor with his head resting on his drawn up knees. Liz panicked as she watched him bring his arms up to cover his head, curling his fingers into his hands so tightly that she was certain he would draw blood. She hastily made her way to kneel in front of him, gently grasping his hands. She began to plant quick, light kisses over them, willing him to relax them enough for her to slide her thumbs against his palms. He slowly complied as his body began to shake involuntarily. Once her thumbs were in place, she gradually pried open his hands and entwined her fingers with his.

“Max, I’m here. I’m right here,” she whispered as she slowly pulled his arms away from his head and brought them down to his sides, leaning into him in the process. Brushing her cheek against the side of his head she pressed her lips to his ear as she whispered repeatedly, “It’s all right, you’re safe with me. I’ll keep you safe.”

Eventually his trembling stopped and he was able to lift his head to meet her gaze, tears forming in the corners of his eyes but refusing to fall. She gently kissed his forehead and cheeks before loosening her grasp on his hands to reach up and caress his face. “Max, please tell me. Is it the Jeep? Or is it the move?”

“I do not know, Liz,” he choked out in a shaky voice. “I think it is the motel.”

“I won’t leave you, Max. I’ll be right next to you when you walk in that door. And I won’t leave your side for at least the next 24 hours. I know you can do this. I will give you whatever you need to get through this—all my strength, all my love, anything. You tell me and it will be done.”

He silently contemplated her words. He knew she meant what she said, and if she had that much faith in him, then he needed to have some in himself. He slowly pulled out of her embrace to stand up, offering his hand to help her. He pulled her into a tight hug as he said quietly, “Thank you, my Beauty. I do not deserve your devotion, but I am glad I have it.”

“Hey, guys, ready to go?” Maria asked as she and Michael walked into the building.

Liz nodded. “Maria, can I borrow your cell phone. I’m going to tell my mom I’m spending the rest of the weekend with you, if that’s all right.”

“No can do, chica. I’m gonna be working tomorrow. What about Isabelle?”

“She’s out with Alex tonight, so I don’t know where they might be. As long as they’re not at the Crashdown, you can use her as your alibi,” Michael added.

“She mentioned going to see a movie when we were working this morning,” Max recalled.

“Well, I don’t have much of a choice. Isabelle it is,” Liz sighed. She quickly made the phone call to her parents, relieved that they were too tired to ask any questions. Michael and Max finished folding up the air mattress as she ended the conversation, and as she handed the phone back to her best friend, they made one last sweep of the room before going out to the Jeep.

There was no hesitation as Max climbed into the back of the vehicle, his emotions under control once again. Liz made sure they were positioned so that Max could watch the Jeep’s gauges, his eyes only leaving them to glance at her after the motor started up, quickly returning as Michael put the Jeep in gear and drove out of the parking lot. The ride to the motel was an interesting one, as Max’s need to watch the gauges was challenged by his desire to see the sites Maria was describing in her best tour-guide voice. His curiosity would win out for a while and he would look around, only to suddenly tense next to Liz and turn his eyes back to the vehicle’s dashboard.

Michael gave a quiet grunt to interrupt Maria’s ramblings as they pulled into the motel’s small parking lot. Max grasped Liz’s hand tightly as the motor was cut, leaving the vehicle in complete silence. Michael raised his eyebrows at Maria, indicating that the couple in the back needed a few minutes alone. The two quickly exited the vehicle, making their way to the doorway of Max’s new home. Without saying a word, Liz and Max had both concluded that this was an important step in his development. This is the place where he was either going to open up and allow other people into his life or he would close down and isolate himself completely, never to move forward again. Liz silently prayed that he chose the first option.

“Shall we go in?” she asked as she raised his hand to her mouth for a gentle kiss.

He nodded hesitantly, unsure of whether he could handle what lay beyond that door but not wanting to sit in the still Jeep any longer. Liz climbed out first, tugging him behind her. She fished for one of the door keys in her purse one-handed, finally finding it after the third search. Pulling herself closer to him, she leaned up and gave him a tender kiss as she willed him all the extra love and strength she could muster. The walked over to the other couple and made their way inside Max’s new surroundings.

As soon as the door was opened, Liz reached for the switch to turn on all the lights in the room, making it appear cheerier than the rooms from Max’s nightmares. He gave her a grateful look as she wrapped her arms around his waist to guide him to the queen-size bed in the middle of the room.

The other couple entered behind them, and looking around the room, Michael commented, “I asked up front when I registered, and they had no problem with me bringing the ‘fridge in here. I was going to hook up a VCR for you, but they have cable so I decided to not bother. Maybe you’ll get lucky and they’ll have a porno channel.”

“Porno channel?” Max asked innocently.

Liz gave Michael a ‘don’t you dare’ look, so Michael just muttered, “Never mind.”

“Well, I have to work early tomorrow, so I think we should be heading on outta here,” Maria said.

“All right. I’ll probably see you some time before the weekend’s over. If not, I’ll see you Monday at school,” Liz said quietly.

“See you later, guys,” Michael said as he headed toward the door.

“Michael?” Max called out.

“Yeah?”

“Thanks for the ride, and for helping get this room. I appreciate it.”

“No problem. Enjoy the bed, huh? It’s a lot more comfortable than the back seat of my Jeep.”

Chapter 32

After Michael and Maria’s departure, Max and Liz explored the motel room together, deciding where to place Max’s belongings. Besides the nightstand and the bed, there was a round table with two side chairs and a tall floor lamp situated behind them. The television was on top of a long dresser, and they decided to keep Max’s clothes in the drawers on the left-hand side, placing his books in the drawers on the right. The bathroom was a long rectangle. It had a tub/shower combination on one wall, with the other wall taken up by the toilet and a double vanity, complete with a large mirror. All of the items in both rooms were well-worn but remarkably clean, and Liz could feel Max relaxing as he took in his new surroundings, thoughts of Jake now pushed far to the back of his mind.

Liz had not thought about packing anything for overnight when she hastily left home earlier in the day, so now she was standing in the bathroom cleaning her teeth with the little travel toothbrush she always carried in her purse. Maria teased her about it constantly, but she had always been obsessed with proper dental hygiene and at the moment, it seemed to be a good thing. Max was brushing his teeth next to her, and she smile at the comfortable picture they made in the mirror. In her heart, she knew Max had officially made it past this latest hurdle.

She helped Max strip down to his boxers as they got ready for bed, and when he returned the favor, she realized that she had no pajamas to wear. She was about to borrow one of his T-shirts to sleep in when he told her he wanted to feel her warm skin against his like the other night. Soon after, they were both sounds asleep, bringing a quiet end to their first night together in Max’s new home.



She was having the most incredible dream. She and Max were laying together, his hands exploring her naked body as his mouth nipped and sucked the sensitive skin on the side of her neck. His palm was cupping her breast now while his thumb teased her nipple into a hard peak, sending an arousing shock throughout her entire body. He leaned over her to gently attack the other side of her neck, working his way down her throat until his mouth was mere centimeters away from her breast. He tentatively licked her hardened nipple with his tongue, and when she moaned his name, he took more of the soft mound in his mouth and sucked eagerly, making her moan even louder.

She could feel herself being pulled awake, and as the sleepy haze cleared from her mind, she realized that her dream had been nothing less than reality invading her slumber. Max’s mouth was indeed creating amazing sensations on her breast, and the look of pleasure on his face combined with the feel of his hardness pressing against her indicated that he was enjoying this wonderful assault as much as she was. His eyes were closed as he kissed his way to her other breast, giving it the same treatment as the first while his single thought echoed over and over in her mind, “My Beauty.” She couldn’t help but squirm underneath him, instinctively trying to get close enough to press the growing ache in her lower body against his erection.

Slowly comprehending that Liz was now wide-awake, he lifted his head from her breast to meet her eyes, silently asking whether he had gone too far. The love and desire he saw there was all the answer he needed, and as she ran her fingers through his hair, he continued his exploration of her body, covering her with soft kisses that made her quiver as his hands set her skin on fire. Suddenly needing to feel his mouth on hers, she nudged his arm, signaling for him to bring his body flush with hers. He readily complied, his lips meeting hers with the passion that had overtaken every one of their thoughts as he continued caressing her bare skin.

Liz’s hands began their own exploration, running them up and down the strong muscles of his back and sliding them under the waistband of his boxers to rub his firm buttocks as the couple continued their intimate kisses. Moving slightly to the side so that she could access the front of his shorts, she reached inside, wrapping her hand around his erection as she cautiously released him from the confining material. She began slowly stroking him as she marveled how he could feel so incredibly silky soft and rock hard at the same time. Almost instantly, she felt him tense next to her as a forceful wave of pleasure flowed throughout their connection. His eyes closed tightly as he let out a deep-throated moan, his warm fluid covering her hand as his orgasm swept through his body. The second he began to relax, his eyes widened in horror and he stumbled from the bed, quickly adjusting himself as he stood up. Seeing Liz’s hand, he lowered his head in shame as he spoke, his voice filled with misery. “I am sorry, Liz. I am so sorry. Please do not be angry with me…”

“Max, why would I be angry with you?” she asked, confused by his reaction to her intimate caress.

“I do not know why that happened. Please tell me I did not hurt you. I am sorry…I will not let it happen again…” he said as his eyes looked everywhere but at her.

“Shhh, Max, look at me.” He slowly raised his eyes to meet hers, surprised to see no anger in them, only love and sympathy. “Max, I’m not mad at you for this. I’m glad that it happened.”

“You are?” he asked as he once again averted his gaze, not believing her words.

She climbed out of the bed to stand before him. “Yes. I wanted to touch you… to make you feel good. It did feel good, didn’t it?”

He nodded his head, still unable to look her in the eyes again.

“Max, you don’t have to be ashamed. It’s just your body’s natural response to being touched that way.”

He wrapped his arms tightly around his body, as if he were trying to hide.

“Is that why you haven’t wanted me to touch you?”

He nodded.

“Then it has happened before, hasn’t it?”

He almost whispered his response. “Yes. In the mornings when I wake up, especially when I have been dreaming of you. I have this ache…”

“…And you need to touch yourself to stop it?”

He nodded.

“There’s nothing wrong with that, Max,” she said. It suddenly dawned on her that he actually didn’t understand why it had happened. Lifting up her hand, she asked, “You really don’t know what this is, do you?”

His shamed expression and the confusion coming through their connection said it all.

“I guess I better stop assuming that you know all these things. When you said you wanted to mate with me, I just thought you knew what that meant, and what would happen to your body when we are enjoying each other like this,” she said, shaking her head in amazement. “Why don’t you go lay back down. I’m going to wash up and then I’ll join you. I think we need to have a little talk.” She gave him a light kiss as she made her way to the bathroom.

When she came out, he was laying on the bed with his back to her, still embarrassed by what had happened. Her heart broke that something so natural could bring him such anxiety. Neither of them was going to leave that bed until she made him understand that he had nothing to be ashamed of. Crawling in next to him, she opted to let him decide when her felt comfortable facing her. She spooned against him, wrapping her arm around his chest and pressing a kiss to the back of his neck before softly saying, “Max, tell me what you know about mating.”

A few minutes passed before he quietly replied, “I learned from you, from your images, what it would look like for us to mate, how it would make you feel. When I am near you, all I can think about is feeling you against me so I can touch you and kiss you. My body and my mind have these desires to touch you…in places I’ve never touched before. I have this need to be inside of you and become one with you. I think this is what mating is, but I do not know how it is done.”

“Max, I could spend hours giving you the scientific explanation of how it’s done, but I think there are much better things to do with that kind of time. Still, you need to know some things. I’ll give you the short version, ok?”

She felt him nod against her. Propping herself up on her elbow, she leaned over and kissed his cheek. “This conversation would be a lot easier if I could see that handsome face of yours. Do you think you could manage to look at me?"

He turned around so he was facing her, his eyes closed. She adjusted her position so that they were face to face. Willing him to feel her love, she slowly stroked his hair and cheek until he opened his eyes. Once he did, she brought her arm down and rested it around his waist, giving him a loving kiss before she began.

“Let’s start with the obvious question. Remember in the first book when Rath and Vilandra wrote about Antarians taking the seed from human males and females to create new beings?”

He nodded.

“What was in my hand, that was your seed. The correct word for it is sperm or semen. When we mate, your seed and my seed, called an egg, would mix to create a new being, a baby.”

“What just happened—that was not mating, right?”

“No, that wasn’t mating. Mating is a little more…complex.”

“Why did that happen then?”

“It happened because of the way I was touching you. That part of your body is very sensitive to touch. My hand stimulated you, and that’s what made you come.”

“Come?”

“Technically, you reached orgasm. There are a lot of ways to describe it. Some people call it coming, others say climaxing or reaching completion. It’s all the same thing.”

“But when we do mate, I will come and we will make a baby?”

“Well, making a baby doesn’t happen every time. My body only releases an egg once a month, and it is only in my body for a few days. Your sperm would have to mix with my egg during those few days in order for a baby to be made. Even then, sometimes there is a complication and the baby may not develop.”

“Develop? That means the baby grows?”

“Yes. After your sperm mixes with my egg, it becomes a fetus. It starts out so small you can’t see it with your eyes, and grows into the baby. Then the baby slowly grows into a child, then eventually into an adult.”

“If the fetus is too small to see, how do you protect it?”

“It would grow inside a special part of my body, my uterus. My body would feed the baby until it is developed enough to be able to breathe and take food on its own.”

“The baby would be inside of you?” he asked in awe.

“Yes, the baby would be inside of me,” she said, smiling at his curiosity.

“The baby. It would be part of you and part of me, together?” he asked as he caressed her cheek, his eyes beginning to tear up.

“Yes.”

“Would you want that? Would you want my baby growing inside of you?” he asked, the raw emotion in his voice exposing his vulnerability.

She leaned close and gave him a sweet kiss, letting him feel every ounce of love she had for him. “Someday, Max, I will want your baby growing inside of me more than anything else in the world. Making a baby is the fun part. Taking care of it after it is born is the difficult part. It is a lifetime commitment and costs a lot of money, so I don’t think we will be making a baby for a very long time. I know neither one of us is ready for that just yet.”

“You will not mate with me until you are ready to make a baby?”

“Making babies isn’t the only reason people mate, Max. Many people mate to show how much they love each other—we call it making love. It is the most special things two people can share. It is something I want to share with you. I do want to make love with you, Max, but I don’t want to make a baby right now.”

“What will we do if we make love and make a baby?”

“There are things we can do to reduce the chance of that happening. I went to see a doctor who gave me some pills I can take so that my body won’t release an egg each month. That way there is nothing for your sperm to mix with. The bad news is that the pills take a whole month before they start working, so in the meantime, we would have to use a condom.”

“What is a condom?”

“That’s something that might be more fun to show you than to explain to you. I hadn’t planned on making love with you today, so I don’t have any with me right now. I think we’ll need to wait for another day to continue that discussion.”

“Liz, I have never mated…or made love before. How will I know what to do?”

“Max, I have never made love before, either...”

“But, the images I got from you…how do you know what it feels like if you have never done it?”

“I don’t really know what it feels like, Max. Those images are just my idea of what it would be like to make love with you. I love you so much that I know it will feel wonderful, probably better than I could ever imagine.”

“What if I do something wrong and I hurt you?”

“I don’t think there is much you can do wrong, and I know you could never hurt me. The doctor did tell me that there will be some pain my first time, but that it won’t last long.”

“I don’t know, Liz…”

“Max, you know I won’t push you to do something you don’t want to do…”

“But I do want to, Liz. I want to make you feel the way you do in your images, but still…I don’t know how.”

“I don’t know what to do either, Max…I mean, I know the scientific aspects, but that’s not the same. There is a lot more to making love than just the actual physical act.”

“I don’t understand.”

She pulled back just enough to begin running her hands over his chest and arms. “Like you and I here this morning. Touching each other with our mouths and hands… …feeling how excited we got by what you were doing to me…making you come with my hand…that’s all a part of making love, too.”

“Wanting to feel you against me so I can touch and kiss you, that is part of it also?” he asked as he reached up to rub her lips with his thumb.

“Yes. I guess you could say that making love is a combination of a physical and an emotional bond. My love for you is so strong that I want to share every part of myself with you. I want to please you and love your body as much as I love your soul, to the point where we become one with each other.”

“I want that just as much, Liz. When you said my name, hearing your desire for me, knowing that you were enjoying what I was doing…made me feel so much love for you. I want to learn how to please you, Liz, so you feel how you felt in your images.”

“I want us to both feel that way, Max.” She moved closer to him, draping her leg over his hip as she gave him a long, fiery kiss, showing him with her mouth and tongue what she so desperately wanted from his body. Stopping to catch her breath, she continued, “So, let’s agree. We learn how to make love, together. It will just be you and me, touching and kissing each other all over, teaching each other what feels good, learning what we enjoy.” She caressed his chest as she added, “If we do that, I think nature will show us how to do the rest.”

“I would like nothing more, Liz,” he said as he wrapped his arm around her back to ease her flat on the bed, pressing himself into her, aroused again by his own images of touching and kissing this beautiful creature in his arms, finding various ways to please her. Starting with her forehead, he left a trail of light kisses on her eyes and across her cheek, languidly working his way over her jaw and down to her neck again. As he began to kiss her shoulder and collar bone, he had the sudden urge to take part of her soft skin in his teeth, to bite her and mark her as his own. He was trying to suppress the thought when she whispered heavily in his ear, “Please do it, Max.”

Surprised, he looked in her eyes, “You want me to mark you?”

“Oh, yes, Max, please,” she breathed out heavily. “Don’t hide yourself from me,” she said quietly, repeating the words he had spoken to her in the shower. “I want to share every one of your thoughts and desires. I guarantee you that I want the same things you want.”

“But what if there is something you don’t want me to do?”

“Then I’ll let you know. But you must promise me now—no hiding your desires from me, ok?”

“I promise,” he said huskily, returning to her shoulder and giving her the mark they both wanted her to have. The two lovers moaned at the contact, feeling each other’s pleasure through their connection.

Amazed by the intensity of their combined bliss, all Liz could manage to say was “Max, I think we are going to enjoy every minute of learning how to make love to each other.” He only nodded in agreement, too involved with the sensations of suckling her breasts to be distracted. He took one of her nipples in his mouth, gently teasing it with his tongue until it could harden no more. Then he moved his mouth over the rest of her breast, planting light nips on the areas that seemed to be the most sensitive. He then turned his attention to the nipple of her other breast, repeating his movements as satisfied little moans left her throat. His hands continued to explore the rest of her body, focusing on the areas she was mentally directing him to discover. After grazing over her hips and cupping her buttocks, he instinctively moved to spread her legs apart. She complied without argument, her moans becoming more vocal as he began to rub her heat through her panties, fascinated by the wetness penetrating them. He could feel Liz’s excitement growing with each touch of his hand, until she begged in his mind to remove the only barrier between his sensuous fingers and her aroused core, desperate for him to relieve her of the ache his sweet torture was creating. He quickly slid the damp material off her hips and down her legs, tossing them aside as he was mesmerized by the intimate sight of his completely exposed Beauty, aroused and waiting for him to pleasure her. He lovingly ran his hands up the insides of her thighs, over her hips and across her soft hair, stopping with his thumbs poised just above her swollen clit as he settled his body between her legs, trying to memorize her sweet, musky scent. He wanted to lay there and take in every inch of her femininity but he could not resist her labored voice as she said, “Please Max, I need you to touch me.” He could not find his voice to respond, too lost in the feelings coming from her to be able to form a coherent word. Instead, he complied with her request.

He gently pressed a thumb against each side of her opening, awed by her intense desire for him as he began stroking the length of her wetness, sliding deeper and deeper inside her folds with each pass. Wanting to watch her face as he pleasured her, he moved so that he was lying by her side, continuing to gently caress her lower lips with his thumb. Feeling her need for more, he repositioned his hand so he could slowly slide his index finger deep inside of her, he himself becoming more aroused at the sensation of her heat surrounding him. Her hips began a rhythm against his palm as he lovingly stroked in and out of her, the sight of her juices covering his hand exciting him even further. Watching as her breasts heaved in unison with her breathing, he took the nearest one in his mouth, eliciting a deep moan from her throat. The pressure in her body continued to increase until he could tell she only needed one more touch to reach completion. Brushing his thumb against her clit, her body immediately reacted, her muscles contracting around his finger as his mind was filled with her blinding ecstasy. His name tumbled from her lips in between her quick shallow breaths as the expression on her face gave away the intensity of her orgasm. As she began to relax, he gently removed his finger from her wetness, leaning over her to give her a loving, passionate kiss. She held his head in her hands, placing kisses all over his face until she finally collapsed back on the bed in exhaustion.

Unable to hide the smile on his face, he innocently asked, “Did I make you come?”

“That’s a major understatement, Max,” she panted out.

Lying down beside her again, he leaned close enough to caress her check as he reverently said, “I have never seen anything so beautiful as watching you come, my Liz. I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did,” he said with a voice full of love and desire.

“Enjoyed it? Max, that was the most incredible thing I have ever experienced. And you said you didn’t know what to do.” she said, still trying to catch her breath.

“I didn’t know. I just had this need to touch you. I merely listened as your body and your mind told me how to please you. I am glad you enjoyed it.”

“Wow. As great as that felt, I think we just might spontaneously combust when we actually do make love. I have to ask though, Max, what made you suddenly become so bold?”

“I promised I would no longer hide my desires. You are what I desire most, Liz. Thank you for sharing yourself with me.”

“I’d say the pleasure’s all mine, but it seems with us, the pleasure is both of ours,” she teased as she gave him another kiss. “But now, my love, it is time for me to please you.”

“You do not have to do that, Liz. I already…came once.”

“No, Max, that doesn’t count. You were too nervous to be able to enjoy it. Let me do this for you, please?”

With the look she was giving him, he knew he could not refuse her, nor did he really want to. Now that he knew there was nothing wrong with his body, that what had happened was not a side effect of being part alien, he wanted nothing more than to feel her hands on him, touching him as she had done earlier. He smiled as he pulled her so she was completely on top of him. He couldn’t resist running his hands over her beautifully naked body, the feel of her soft buttocks under his hands and her breasts pressing against his chest tantalizing him as he passionately mated his mouth with hers. He could feel her wet heat pressing against his erection through his boxers, and the thought of being inside of her as his finger had just been was almost too overwhelming to resist. Liz must have sensed his sudden desire to be buried in her heat, for she shifted off of him before she could recklessly fulfill his wish.

As she began her exploration of his body, she followed almost the same pattern he had used, starting with gentle loving kisses all over his face, becoming a little more aggressive as she reached his neck. She marked him several times as he had done her, being rewarded by the low moan of her name from his lips as she roughly sucked the areas to deepen the color of the marks. He let out a light laugh as her thought echoed in his mind: if Tess should happen to see him again, there would be no doubt he belonged only to Liz.

She worked her way down his chest, covering every inch of him with open-mouthed kisses, working slowly and deliberately as his loving thoughts told her where he liked the feel of her mouth the best. Sucking on his nipples elicited more low moans from him, and the pleasure she felt in their connection assured her that he was thoroughly enjoying himself, his earlier embarrassment now long gone as she continued to immerse him in her love. His breathing deepened as she moved lower, pressing her breasts against his hardness as her hands caressed his ribs and abdomen, leaving a trail for her mouth and tongue to follow. She could sense his growing excitement as she licked around his navel, so she continued further down his body, gently sliding her tongue under the waistband of his boxers to taste his warm skin. Sliding her hands under his buttocks and over his hips, she pulled his shorts down and removed them completely.

Kneeling between his legs, she took in the sight of him, his naked glory not diminished by the scattered scars on his chest or the long cut mark on his leg. She leaned over and took his erection in her hand, enjoying the feel of his silky hardness as he silently asked her to rub her thumb against his sensitive head. She was fascinated by the drop of fluid that formed there, and she couldn’t resist tasting the liquid from her finger as she brought her mouth back to kiss his chest and abdomen. She wrapped her hand around him completely, beginning a steady rhythm to bring him to his second orgasm. Their thoughts became one as the pure ecstasy her mouth and hand were creating increasingly took over his senses. He closed his eyes to completely lose himself in the wonderful sensations his Beauty was creating throughout his body. His breathing became more labored as she adjusted the speed and pressure of her strokes, feeling his body begin to move towards release. As he brought his arm up to cover his eyes, the smell of her sweet, musky scent on his hand was all it took to push him over the edge, releasing a low guttural moan as he surrendered his seed to her for the second time that day.

Chapter 33

Liz slipped home for a short time Sunday evening to gather her schoolbooks and ask Maria to pick her up at the motel Monday morning. She packed some clothes and headed downstairs to tell her parents she was going to spend the night at Isabelle’s again, thankful that she had been able to work out her alibi.

“Liz, you spent the whole weekend there. Don’t you think you should take a break?” her mother asked.

“This project is pretty important, Mom. Please let me go?” she begged.

“What exactly is this project anyway, Liz?”

“It’s a combination of things, Mom. Some History, some Psychology, even some Anatomy, if you can believe it.”

“I didn’t realize it was that big. If you need to take the time, then who am I to stop you? It sounds like this project is pretty important.”

“Thanks, Mom. I think this is the most important project I will ever work on.”



When Liz came back to the motel, Max smiled at the familiar carryout bag she brought with her. They ate the late dinner at the small table while Max channel-surfed like a pro, Liz relieved that no porno-type material had appeared on the screen as he flipped through the channels. She wasn’t against pornography per se, she just couldn’t bring herself to see the exaggerated sex between people who probably didn’t know each other, let alone love each other, in the same category as the affectionate acts she and Max had shared earlier.

Max seemed quite relaxed as they ate, and Liz was glad that she had been able to give him some peace of mind regarding the natural workings of his body. He had been in a very good mood the rest of the day, especially considering his state of mind just over twenty-four hours earlier. Nothing like having some very good motel room memories to eradicate the bad ones. She only hoped that spending tomorrow night alone wouldn’t prove to be too much for him.

They had agreed that Liz should sleep in her pajamas since she needed to wake up early for school, both of them knowing that too much bare skin would lead to an entire night of exploring each other’s bodies and not very much sleep. As it was, they woke up an hour early just so they could take their time loving each other as they showered. Hearing Maria honk the Jetta’s horn, she gave Max a deep kiss and ran out the door, not noticing the hurt and confusion that had suddenly crossed his features.



Isabelle was waiting at Liz’s locker, a sly smile crossing her face as she asked, “So did we have fun with our project yesterday?”

Liz couldn’t hide the blush that covered her cheeks, her silence only making Isabelle want to tease her more.

“Let’s hope Mama Parker doesn’t find out that your project is a guy named Max, huh?”

“Uh, definitely,” Liz managed to choke out.

“So if I were to tell you she called my house last night, this would not be a good thing?”

“She didn’t,” Liz groaned.

“Oh, yeah, she did. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to talk to you at 9:38 because you were taking a shower.”

“Thank you, Isabelle!”

“But she did leave a message. She expects you to come straight home after school today. She wants to have some family time.”

“Just what I need. Well, I guess I can tell what kind of day today is going to be,” Liz commented.

“Oh, look, here comes Tess,” Isabelle smiled as she waved at her approaching friend.

Liz quickly unbuttoned the next button on her shirt, hoping that Tess would be able to see the spot where Max had marked her. As Isabelle greeted the other blonde and began engaging in some small talk, Liz thought it might just be better to leave.

“Oh, Liz, wait,” Tess called out.

Liz closed her eyes, silently damning herself for not being quicker, then turned around to face the other girl. “What is it Tess?” she asked in a sugary sweet voice.

“I just wanted to talk to you about Max,” Tess began, the bell for first period interrupting her statement.

“What about Max?” Liz asked, barely suppressing the anger in her voice.

“I’ll talk to you at lunch about him, ok? I can’t be late for chemistry again,” she said as she waved and ran off, leaving Liz to wonder exactly how much worse her day could get.



As promised, Tess approached Liz at lunchtime as she sat in her usual spot with Isabelle and Maria. Her two friends invited Tess to join them, and they both gave Liz a suspicious look when Tess said she needed to talk to Liz privately.

Liz reluctantly followed Tess to an empty table, growing more tense as she thought about what the trampy-looking blonde might want to tell her.

“Liz, I wanted to talk about Max, and what happened Friday night,” Tess began.

“What happened?” Liz asked, feigning ignorance.

“Yeah. I want to tell you I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?” Liz questioned, now genuinely confused about what Tess was saying.

“Well, Kyle and I went to a party at Paulie’s house, and he spent the whole night talking to Trudy Peterson. I was so mad, and so hurt that I wanted to get back at him. When we stopped at the taco stand and you and Max were the only people around, I tried to flirt with Max to make Kyle jealous.”

“You were flirting with Max? I didn’t notice.” Liz lied.

“Yeah, well, neither did Max. That guy only has eyes for you,” Tess admitted. “Anyway, Kyle told me how stupid I looked trying to flirt with Max, and I started yelling about how stupid he looked with Trudy, and we got into a big fight.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Liz said with as little sympathy as she could muster.

“Oh, we made up. And since his dad wasn’t home, we really made up,” Tess smiled.

“Glad to hear it, Tess.”

“Look, Liz, I know I’m not your favorite person. And I can’t blame you. I’m really sorry for flirting with Max, especially after what happened with you and me before. What I did to get Kyle to go out with me wasn’t very nice, and I’m sorry that you got hurt. But I really do love him. And I can’t be sorry about that.”

Liz noticed the sincerity in Tess’s eyes, and suddenly it seemed like the day might be getting better. “Well, I know he really loves you, Tess. I’m glad that you two are happy together.”

“Thanks, Liz. I hope Max makes you as happy as Kyle makes me…when he isn’t acting like a jerk, that is,” she laughed. Pointing at Liz’s neck, she added. “From the looks of that hickey you’ve got, I’d say you two are off to a pretty good start.”



Maria knocked on the door of the motel room. “Max?”

No answer.

Knock. “Max, it’s Maria. Open up.”

No answer.

“Max, come to the door and let me in. It’s Maria. You know—Liz’s best friend, Michael’s girlfriend.”

No answer.

Max, I have a message from Liz. She can’t come to see you today.”

The door cracked open. “She’s not coming?” a sad voice asked quietly.

“Sorry, dude. Her mom and dad made her actually spend some time at home.”

He slowly opened the door and let her in. Closing it behind him, he asked, “She’s with her parents? She isn’t with anyone else?”

“Nope. No one else. She’s stuck at home with the parentals.”

He nodded his understanding.

“So how do you like your new home?” she asked.

“It’s different from the storage unit.”

“I’ll say. Nothing says home like a toilet that flushes,” she joked, frowning when she noticed that Max wasn’t really paying attention to her. “Max, are you ok?”

“Maria, can I ask you something?”

“Sure, Max. What do you want to know?”

“Is Liz…with someone else?”

“With someone else? What do you mean?’

“Does she have a…boyfriend?”

“You mean besides you? Max, the girl is with you almost 24/7, and she’s crazy about you. Why would you think she’s seeing someone else?”

“Never mind.”

“Trust me, Max. You are the only guy she wants. All those hickeys should tell you that,” she teased.

“Hickeys?”

“Yeah, you know—those marks all over your neck. Hickeys.”

“Oh,” he said, lost in thought again. “Thanks, Maria.”

“For telling you you have hickeys?”

“No, for being Liz’s friend…and mine,” he said shyly.

She gave his arm a quick rub as she said, “Max, you have made my best friend happier than I’ve ever seen her. She’s never been this serious before, about anything, so believe me when I tell you you have nothing to worry about.”

He quietly said, “You’re right.”

“Ok, well, now that I’ve delivered Liz’s message, I better get home to my own mother before she has a meltdown. There’s just something about a D in American History that doesn’t settle well with her,” she commented as she headed to the door.

“Maria?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you remember when you said you would cut my hair for me?”

A big smile crossed her face, “Yeah, do you want me to cut it?”

He nodded. “I want it to be a surprise for Liz.”

“Sure, guy, my lips are sealed,” she said as she detoured to the table to rummage through her purse. “Let me look at my schedule….work, work, French club, off. Ok, how about Friday? Michael has to work so I won’t be going out…but we’d have to make sure Liz keeps busy somehow. Let me work on that, ok?”

“I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere, so any time if fine with me,” he said sincerely.

“Well, maybe we can work on that, too.” She said as a plan formed in her head. “Anywho, gotta run. I’ll see you Friday.”

“Bye, Maria.”



As Liz got ready for bed, she wished that Max’s motel room had a phone so she could at least talk to him before she went to sleep. She had actually enjoyed watching “Meet the Parents” with her mom and dad, but now all she wanted to do was go see Max. The temptation was strong, since he lived right down the street now, but she knew she shouldn’t do anything more to raise her parents’ suspicions. She had been lucky so far, but there was no need to push it. Except that she missed him. A lot. She shook the thought from her head, and snuggled up in her bed alone, hoping that her dreams of Max would help ease her loneliness.


Max had stayed awake as long as possible, but he knew that he couldn’t fight sleep much longer. He had wished Liz would come to see him, but as the hour grew later and later, he gave up and got ready for bed. Leaving the night stand lamp on, he crawled under the covers and hoped that his dreams of Liz would help ease his loneliness.


** She was in Max’s motel room. As she shut the door behind her, she noticed Max was already waiting for her in the bed. She quickly took her clothes off and joined him, thoroughly enjoying the feel of his hands and mouth all over her body. He gave her deep passion-filled kisses as his finger stroked her wetness, confirming that her body was ready for him.

As he moved over her, she instinctively spread her legs farther apart so he could settle between them, to love her as no other man had.

* I bet she’s f*cking some other guy right now *

Suddenly, she was no longer in the motel room with Max. Now she was in the doctor’s office, flat on her back as he performed his examination.

* She’s already forgotten about you, boy *

It was a warm night, probably sometime in late August. She was in the alley behind the Crashdown, sitting in the spot where she had waited for him the night she tried to speak to him. When he came around the corner, she heard herself saying, “ I promise I won’t hurt you. If I wanted to hurt you, I wouldn’t be feeding you, would I?”

Instead of running away, he actually approached her and offered her his hand. She stood up, and his arms were around her instantly, pulling her close to him as he devoured her lips with his own. His mouth was driving her wild, and as he settled her back against the alley wall, his whisper in her ear made her legs go weak, “You’re the only thing I’m hungry for.”

He began kissing her neck, and as his hand moved to her breast, his touch became rougher until she cried out in pain, “Max, please, you’re hurting me.”

Pulling his head away from her neck to look at her, she froze as she realized that it was no longer Max, but the man who had attacked her. She tried to scream, but her voice wouldn’t work. She silently begged Max to come to her rescue as he had done before.

Her attacker let out a hearty laugh as he grabbed at her crotch.

* If it wasn’t for this ol’ bastard here, I woulda had myself a nice piece of pussy *

He turned to look over his shoulder, pointing at Max, who was now curled up in the alley, much like he had been in her bedroom that first night he came back. Max slowly lifted his head, his terrified eyes giving Liz a silent apology.

* Look at me, you little prick! *

Suddenly her attacker’s hand held a gun, pointed at Max.

* I guess you won’t be helping any more damsels in distress, now will you? I hope that little bitch was worth your life. *

The sound of the gun going off was the last thing she heard as her world went black. **


She shot up in bed, covered in sweat as she tried to catch her breath. She stopped breathing altogether as the implications of the nightmare hit her like a freight train.

Jake was the man who had attacked her.

Jake had taken Max because of her.

Jake had tortured Max because of her.

Jake had almost killed Max because of her.

Suddenly she was taking deep, gasping breaths. She sprang out of the bed and into the bathroom, making it to the toilet just in time to throw up her dinner and all the snacks she had eaten during the movie. She continued heaving until there was nothing left, and as she collapsed on the floor, she grabbed a towel to wipe her mouth and muffle the sobs that had taken over her guilt-ridden body.

She lay there for an eternity, until her breathing returned to normal and she had no more tears to shed.
Picking herself up off the floor, she stood in front of the vanity and examined her appearance. She pulled her damp hair back and quickly rinsed her face with some cool water to reduce the redness around her eyes before brushing the awful taste out of her mouth. She made her way back to the bed but just as she sat down, she jumped back up and threw on some sweatpants. She had to go see Max.

She grabbed her jacket and put it on hastily as she rummaged through her purse for the second room key. Once she had it, she slipped on her shoes and made her way out the window to the balcony. She took a deep breath when she climbed down the ladder, the images from her nightmare appearing as ghosts in the alley below. Closing her eyes to stifle the fear welling up in her throat, she silently prayed for the strength to continue. Slowly opening her eyes, the empty alley was all that welcomed her, so she swiftly finished her descent and ran the rest of the way to the motel room.

She wasn’t surprised to see the light on in Max’s room but still opened the door slowly as to not scare him. She crept in and had closed the door behind her when she saw Max sitting in the middle of the bed, his terrified eyes giving her the same silent apology, leaving no doubt that her nightmare had revealed the truth. She began to shake uncontrollably, and Max was instantly kneeling in front of her, his arms wrapped around her waist while he buried his head in her chest. His voice trembled as he said over and over, “I’m so sorry, Liz. I didn’t ever want you to know.”

The couple remained by the door for several long minutes, their tearful cries echoing in the quiet room as they grieved for each other’s pain.

Finally, Max stood up and brought Liz to the bed, removing her jacket and shoes for her before he settled down beside her. Her crying began anew, almost the same animalistic howls he had cried the night he had returned to her. Lying down on the bed, he pulled her to him and held her in his arms, as she had done for him so many times. Finally her sobbing diminished into soft hiccups until finally she was able to find her voice. “Max, why didn’t you tell me?” she choked out.

“I just couldn’t, Liz. I didn’t want you to blame yourself.”

“How could I not blame myself? If you hadn’t trusted me, if you hadn’t been there to help me, he would never have taken you, never have tortured you…”

“If I hadn’t been there to help you, he would have killed you. You know that. And the thought of you dying is the worst torture I could ever imagine.”

He reached over to wipe away her fresh tears with his thumb then pulled her against him in a tight embrace. Their connection was once again in turmoil, swimming with all types of fear, guilt, regret, pain and anger. Max did his best to console her and eventually the feel of his warm skin against her cheek began to calm her as the steady beat of his heart provided a comforting rhythm.

“Liz, you can’t blame yourself for his actions. You couldn’t control what he did any more than I could.”

“But everything he did was because of me—all those horrible things he said, all these scars,” she said as she traced the burn marks on his chest. “Max, he was going to kill you. He was going to kill you because of me.”

“But he didn’t kill me, Liz. I’m right here with you, now, and we are both safe. From here on, we can’t let what he did rule our lives.”

“What if he comes back, Max?”

“I don’t think he will come back, Liz. If he does, I will make sure he doesn’t hurt either one of us again.”

She snuggled closer to him and kissed his chest. Suddenly remembering the rest of the nightmare, she leaned up to look at him. “Max, that had to have been YOUR nightmare, wasn’t it?”

He nodded.

“But how did I see it? Last time, I had to touch you to see it. This time…we weren’t even in the same room. Not even the same building.”

“I’m not sure how it happened.”

“Max, you know, I saw more than just Jake.”

She could feel his nervousness as he tensed beside her. “What else did you see, Liz?”

She propped herself up on her elbow, not certain of how to phrase her response. “I’m not sure…Max, do you think I want to make love to someone else?”

He looked away from her as he mumbled, “I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Why? What made you think that?”

He quietly explained, “When you kissed me goodbye as you left for school, I got an image from you. It was a man…touching you the way I had touched you yesterday.”

She breathed a sigh of relief as the pieces fell into place. “Max, that image you saw…that was the doctor I told you about, the one who gave me the pills. He had to examine me before he could give me the pills, and part of the exam involves touching me there. Believe me, it has nothing to do with making love.”

“So you did not enjoy that?”

“God, no! Max, it is the most uncomfortable thing I have ever done, but I did it because I wanted to be able to make love with you, and only you.”

“Is that the only other thing you saw from me?”

“Pretty much, except it looks like you’re getting the right idea of what part goes where in order to make love,” she teased as she remembered the erotic beginning to the otherwise horrible nightmare. He gave her a shy look as he gave her a sweet kiss. “Seriously, Max, you are the only one I will ever want. Nothing could ever make me turn away from you. Please don’t think you have to keep anything from me.”

He kissed her again as he said, “And you don’t blame yourself for what Jake did.”

She snuggled up next to him again, closing her eyes as his warmth surrounded her and his fingers combed through her hair. She drifted off to sleep quickly, Max’s whispered, “I love you, my Beauty,” humming in her mind. She was still wrapped in his arms three hours later when he woke her to walk her back home.

Chapter 34

Max had been awake since the nightmare ended, unable to return to sleep after taking Liz back home and walking her through the alley that held such wonderful and terrible memories for the couple. He had hoped that Liz had not seen the horrible visions that displayed his worst fears come to life, but instinctively he knew she would be coming to the motel room door before the night was over. When she had arrived, he did his best to soothe her as she had comforted him all those times, and the peaceful look on her face as she slept in his arms assured him he had done well.

Now he was sitting here alone, contemplating the fact that he had unwillingly pulled Liz into his nightmare. And she had been nowhere near him. This was much worse than the first time she had seen his terrifying memories—at least then she had to be touching him. But with this new development, it was obvious that he was losing more and more control. Just as he began to wonder what he could possibly do to resolve the problem, he heard a key rattling in the door lock. He jumped off the bed to greet Liz, surprised that she would be coming to see him when she was supposed to be in school.

The door swung open and in stepped a stranger. Max froze, knowing he was trapped in the room, with nowhere to hide.

“Hey, glad to see you’re awake. I hate it when I have to kick people out of bed just so I can get my work done on time. Never saw the point to sleepin’ the day away myself,” a friendly voice said to him. He looked at her like a deer in the headlights. Noticing that he wasn’t speaking, the stranger continued. “You look like you weren’t expecting me. The girl at the desk should have told you I come to clean on Tuesdays and Fridays.”

Finding his voice, he asked, “Clean?”

“You know, clean.” Seeing that he still didn’t have a clue, she changed her approach. “Let me ask you a question. Who vacuumed the carpeting in the last place you lived?”

“The last place I lived…did not have any carpeting,” he said, confused as to what this person wanted with him.

“Ok, then, who made sure the bathroom didn’t get all cruddy?”

“It did not have a bathroom.”

“Ok, fine. My point is, I am the one who cleans this place. I know you kids think this place cleans itself, but it doesn’t. As much of a hassle as it is to let me in here twice a week, you don’t have a choice. It’s one of the rules of living here.”

“Ok.”

“And it would be a much more pleasant experience for both of us if you stopped looking at me like I’m going to slash you throat, and start talking to me to pass the time while I do my job.”

He continued to stare at her. She was a heavier set Hispanic woman, looking similar to the Mrs. Ortecha that Liz had introduced him to at the taco stand. She was still standing in the doorway, surrounded by a plethora of cleaning supplies and appliances. Realizing that he was still nervous about her presence, she decided to introduce herself. “By the way, my name is Juanita. And your name is supposed to be…Dave Peters,” she said as she looked down at the card in her hand and then back up at him. “I gotta tell ya, you don’t look like a Dave Peters, and Juanita is never wrong about these things. So what’s your real name?”

Max contemplated whether he should reveal his true name to her. She seemed friendly enough, and she had already made it clear that she would be in his room on a regular basis. Maybe this was the next step to expanding his circle of friends. A million thoughts raced through his mind as he sorted through his options. He had meant what he told Liz about no longer letting Jake rule their lives. He wanted a life with Liz. A normal life. A life where they were committed to each other and could live with each other and never be separated again. A life where his baby would grow inside of her, his Beauty. “My name is Max.”

She held out her hand, “Well, Max, it’s nice to meet you. Another rule of this place is, you do not lie to Juanita. You can tell the girl at the desk whatever you want, you can do whatever you want in your room while I’m not here cleaning it, but you need to be honest with me and I will be honest with you. Do we understand each other?”

He nodded as he shook her hand.

“So, no carpeting, no bathroom, and a fake name…sounds like you may be some kind of illegal alien, huh?”

Max’s eyes widened at her observation, but before he could think of how to respond she continued.

“Relax, my cousin is one, too.”

“From where?” he asked, stunned.

“From Mexico City. After that last earthquake, she lost everything, which wasn’t much in the first place, so she decided to take the chance and cross the border. Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with me—that’s the trade off. You don’t lie to Juanita, and Juanita doesn’t tell anyone else your business, unless you want me to. Now, let me get started cleaning this room or I’ll be here all day.”

She went into the bathroom and took out several bottles and rags while Max stood in the doorway watching her with fascination. She continued talking to him as she worked. “Gus is the guy who owns this place. He’s a decent person, as long as you pay your rent on time. What you do behind closed doors is your own business, but if you bring the sheriff in here, you’re out the door in a heartbeat. I assume you plan to be here a while since they stuck you on the long-term side. The upper and lower rooms in the other half of the L are the daily rooms, mostly tourists who didn’t plan ahead and make a reservation somewhere else. This side is the long-term rooms. Seven of the ten, including yours here, are rented out right now. Kelly lives upstairs in 3A with her two little boys. The young man in 5A is Chris, and his significant other is Mark. There’s another young man on this level in 8A, Kevin. Mrs. Lee is next door to him in 7A—she’s a really sweet old lady. She’s a widow and she doesn’t have any other family, so we all try to look out for her. I’m warning you now—there are two people you should really avoid. There nice enough and all, but hanging around with them will only bring you trouble, and you look like too nice a kid for that. Carrie in 1A is a little bit of a wild child, and she usually has a questionable group of men in and out of her place at all hours of the day and night. And Charlie over in 6A, well, he’s a good guy, but he’s a little bit of a drunk. I can’t tell you what to do, and if you want to hang out with them I can’t stop you, but you can’t say I didn’t warn you.” She looked up at him as she scrubbed out the tub, “So what about you? What’s your story?”

“I do not have a story.”

“Everybody has a story. Do you have any family?”

“No.”

“Girlfriend?”

“I think so.”

“What’s her name?”

“Liz.”

“Hmmm, she must be pretty special considering that smile on your face. Do you have a photo of her?”

“A photo?”

“You know, a photo? Look,” she said as she pulled out a small object from the back pocket of her jeans. “See, these are photos,” she said as she flipped through the small book, showing Max several pictures of a little boy and a little girl.

“Photos…another word for pictures,” Max concluded.

“Yeah, that’s right. These are my grandkids, Teofila and Jesse. They live in Chicago with their mother, so I don’t get to see them very much.”

“I am sorry.”

She smiled, “Well, at least I know they are taken care of. They have a good mother. Anyway, back to you. Now that you’re here, what are you going to do for a job?”

“A job?”

“Don’t tell me you don’t plan to work. How are you paying for your room here?”

“Liz and Michael paid for it.”

“Your girlfriend paid for the room? No, no, no, Max, that is not good. We’re going to have to do something about that.”

“We are?”

“Yes, we are,” she said as she finished up in the bathroom. “Now move over so I can vacuum the carpeting.”

He watched as she unwrapped the cord from the vacuum and plugged it into the wall. Looking over at Max and seeing how nervous he seemed, she asked, “Have you even seen a vacuum cleaner before?”

He shook his head violently, and she couldn’t help but feel sorry for this boy as she saw the scared look on his face. “It’s nothing to be afraid of, ok? It’s just gonna be a little loud, so you might want to cover your ears.”

He nodded in understanding and did as she suggested. She turned on the vacuum cleaner and began moving about the room. He didn’t realize exactly how loud the vacuum would be, nor did he know that it would cause the floor underneath him to vibrate. The sound and sensation combined were too much for him to handle, and he began to tremble with fear as tears streaked down his face. He had to get out of there, but there was no place to go. He began to hyperventilate as the terror welled up inside of him.

Suddenly he saw the open bathroom door and bolted for the small room, desperate to get as much distance as possible between him and the frightening appliance. Slamming the door behind him, he frantically searched for the place farthest from the object of his fear. He pulled the shower curtain aside and threw himself into the tub, curling up as much as possible into its far corner. He shook as the noise continued outside the door. After a few more minutes, the room was silent once again, save the small noises of Juanita wrapping the vacuum cleaner cord back up. He slowly removed his hand from his ears as he realized the vacuum was no longer running.

He heard more movement from the other room, but he was unable to move, his shame at his severe reaction mixed with his still present fear paralyzing him. Eventually, Juanita knocked on the door. “Max, are you ok in there?”

He managed to choke out a calm ‘yes’ as he slowly sat up, wiping his face with the back of his sleeve.

“Well, I’m done for today and I’m going to head on out. I’ll see you around, all right?”

“Bye, Juanita. It was nice to meet you,” was all he could say as he laid back down in the tub, missing Liz and her comforting embrace more than ever.



School had gone by much too slow for Liz, who had been unable to fully concentrate on her studies, as a sense of upset nervousness had been her companion for most of the day. After her supposed weekend with Isabelle, her parents had suddenly wanted her coming home after school, so she knew she wouldn’t be able to see Max until later that night, if at all. As it was, she had told her mom she needed to stay after to talk to one of her teachers so she could get to the bank and take care of cashing in the CD. What she discovered when she arrived at her destination added a layer of frustration to her already frazzled emotions.

“What do you mean ‘it rolled over’? It only came due yesterday!” she said loudly to the teller.

“I’m sorry ma’am. That’s our policy.”

“Your policy?”

“Yes. You should have received a notice in the mail about a month ago. It said that if you wanted to cash the CD in, you would have to give at least ten days written notice before the maturity date. If we don’t hear from you, it automatically rolls over into a new CD for the same term as the original one.”

Liz closed her eyes as she shook her head. She could not believe her luck. She had always let the CD roll over in the past, so she never bothered to read the notices she got in the mail. Now she was kicking herself for being so foolish. “So I have to wait another year before I can get my money?”

The teller looked at the computer record in front of her. “I’m afraid so. The original term was for one year.”

“So what happens if I cash it in now?”

“Well, we charge a 10% early withdrawal fee, and you would forfeit any accrued interest, which wouldn’t be much since the CD is only a day old.” She punched in some numbers on her adding machine. “So you would be giving up $193.52. If you wait until half the term is up to withdraw it, which would be six months in your case, we drop the 10% fee and you only lose the accrued interest.”

“Just what I need,” she mumbled, debating whether she should forfeit the money to cash in the CD or continue to withdraw money from her savings account and risk having her parents find out. Giving up almost two hundred dollars was hard to justify, especially since it would mean a third of a month’s rent for the motel room. She just couldn’t do it. She thanked the teller for her help and headed home, concluding that she had a month before Max’s rent was due again.

She knew what she had to do. The tips were always good at Christmas time, so as much as she didn’t want to be away from Max, she knew the only solution to her dilemma was to start waitressing again.
‘So much for learning how to make love,’ she groaned to herself as she walked into the Crashdown to tell her parents to put her back on the work schedule.

Chapter 35

Liz couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to Max while she was at school. It was nearly eight o’clock by the time she could leave to go see him, and the minute she walked in the door, he begged her to lay down with him and hold him in her arms. Now, an hour later, he still had his arm wrapped tightly around her waist as they stared at the TV, neither one of them really paying attention to the show that was playing. She wanted so badly to question him about his day, but she knew that what he needed at the moment was her love and comfort. He would talk to her when he was ready. Half an hour later, he finally revealed the events of his morning.

“I made a friend today,” he quietly said.

“You did?” she asked in hopeful disbelief.

“Yes, her name is Juanita.”

“Juanita, huh? Should I be jealous?” she teased.

Too distracted to realize she was joking, he sat up to look at her and said, “Please don’t be jealous, Liz. She is nice, but I only want to be her friend. I love you.”

“I know you do, Max. I was just trying to tease you, but maybe that’s not such a good idea right now. Why don’t you tell me more about your new friend,” she said as she caressed his face.

“She cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed the carpeting,” he said, trying to not shudder as he spoke that last half of that sentence.

“The cleaning lady? Geeze, I never even thought about the cleaning lady. I hope she didn’t scare you too much,” she said with an apologetic tone of voice.

“When she first came to the door, I thought she was you. By the time I figured out it wasn’t you, I was scared to death, but she looked a little like Mrs. Ortecha and she reminded me of Maria, so I decided to answer her when she started asking me questions. Besides, she told me that I had to let her in every Tuesday and Friday to clean the room.”

“So what did you two talk about?”

“She told me the names of the other people who live here and the rules we have to follow. She even told me her cousin is an alien.”

“You told her you were an alien?”

“No. She told me I must be one. But her cousin is not from Antar. She is from a planet named Mexico City.”

Not wanting to hurt his feelings, Liz had to stifle a laugh at Max’s comment. “Max, um, the kind of alien she was talking about isn’t the same kind of alien like you and Michael and Isabelle.”

“You mean there are other kinds of aliens?”

“Well, yes and no. Juanita was talking about illegal aliens. They are people, humans, who don’t legally belong in this country. Most of them are from Mexico, the country to the south of the United States.”

“What’s the United States?”

“That’s the country we live in.”

“I thought this was New Mexico.”

“It is. New Mexico is the state. United States is the country.”

“So, these illegal aliens belong in Mexico but not New Mexico?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess so. It sound funny when you put it that way.”

“It sounds confusing to me.”

“I know. I’ll bring you a geography book or a map of the world…uh, planet, so you can see the difference.”

“That would be nice.”

“Max, I’m glad that you’ve made a friend, but you do need to be careful. You do know that you can’t let anyone know that you are an alien, right? Although I don’t think it would hurt to keep letting Juanita think you’re an illegal alien.”

He nodded with a tinge of sadness in his eyes as he said, “No one can know what I really am. I understand.”

“Max, when I was at school today, I got the feeling that you were really scared about something. Was it because of Juanita?”

He remained silent, indicating that his fear had been caused by something or someone other than Juanita. She reached for his chin, directing him to look at her. His amber eyes were still tinged with sadness, and a familiar emotion had been added…shame.

“Max, what happened?” she asked, becoming more worried.

“I don’t want to tell you, Liz. You will think I am pathetic.”

Liz wanted to scream at the top of her lungs. Damn Judge Judy! “Max, will you please do something for me?”

“What?”

“Please do not EVER refer to yourself as pathetic again. You are anything but. You are an amazingly strong person who has endured enough pain for ten people, one of those people being me. I know what goes on in that head of yours most of the time, and I can’t imagine where you ever got the idea that I would think less of you for anything you do or feel. I love you so much, and you continue to surprise me every day with the things you accomplish. Asking me to hold you doesn’t make you weak, and being afraid doesn’t mean you’re pathetic. Everyone is afraid of something, Max. Just tell me what is wrong so we can work through it, ok?”

“What are you afraid of, Liz?”

“After you healed me and then disappeared, I was afraid I would never see you again. I’m afraid of spiders. I’m still afraid to go in the alley to take the garbage out. And sometimes I’m afraid that I will wake up one morning and it will end up that all of the time I have spent with you has been nothing more than a very wonderful dream,” she trailed off quietly as a tear trickled down her cheek.

“I did not want to make you cry, my Beauty.”

“These aren’t sad tears, Max. They are happy tears, very happy tears. I didn’t realize how lonely my life was until you came into it, and now that you are with me, I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to live without you.”

“We will just have to make sure you never find out,” he said as he kissed her forehead. He lightened the tone of his voice as he asked, “So if I tell you what scared me, you will not tease me?”

“No, Max, I will not tease you.”

He pulled Liz flat on her back and crossed his arms across her middle, resting his chin on his hands so he could see her expression as he explained the problem. “When Juanita was cleaning…she had a vacuum cleaner. I got scared when she turned it on, and I hid in the bathtub. All I wanted was for you to come and make me feel better,” he said shamefully, his voice almost a whisper.

“Oh Max, sweetheart, I’m so sorry. I can see why you would be very scared of a vacuum cleaner. That was the first one you’ve ever seen, right?” she asked softly.

He nodded.

“Max, there are a lot of things that are going to scare you, especially things you aren’t familiar with. Remember how we started out with the car books, so that knowing about them would make them less frightening?”

He nodded again.

“Maybe you should approach the vacuum cleaner the same way. The next time Juanita comes to clean, ask her if you can be the one to run it. If your hands are on it, if you are controlling it, then maybe it won’t be so frightening. What do you think?”

He was pensive for a minute before he said with a small smile, “I can try it. The worst thing that could happen is another trip to the bathtub.”

She smiled as she repositioned herself so that she was lying on her side next to Max, face to face with those exotic eyes of his. She gave him several loving kisses before she moved on to the next subject she needed to discuss with him. “Max, I have some bad news to tell you about spending time together.”

The smile that had been on his face slowly faded, “What is wrong, Liz?”

“I ran into a problem, and I need to work at the restaurant to make some money, so I won’t be able to come and see you on the days I have school.”

“Not at all?”

“Not for a while. Today is Tuesday…the 14th, so my parents will be leaving for their trip in eight days. While they’re gone, I’ll try to spend as much time as possible with you. But then once school starts back up, I’ll probably have to work every weekday. We will still have Saturdays and Sundays together, and I might be able to take off a day here or there.”

“You can’t spend time with me because of me, right?” he asked cryptically.

“What do you mean, Max?”

“You need the money to pay for the rent, don’t you?”

“Yes, it’s for the rent.”

“So you have to be away from me to pay for the rent on my room. You should not have to do that, Liz. I should get a job.”

“Max, I don’t mind paying for the room or working for the money, although it does make me sad that I won’t be able to spend more time with you. As much as I appreciate that you want to be responsible, I’m sure we both know it is probably way too soon to be thinking about a job for you.”

Knowing that Liz was right, he just sighed as he said, “Someday Liz, I will repay you for everything you have done for me.”

Seeing a way to lighten the mood, she smiled as she pushed him back on the bed and laid on top of him, “Well, then, why don’t you start paying up right now?”

“You know I don’t have any money,” he played along as he brought his hands up to caress her back.

“I guess we’ll have to find another way for you to pay me then, won’t we?” she said in a seductive voice.

Wrapping his arms tightly around her, he quickly flipped both of them on the bed. She was now flat on her back with Max poised above her, his hand going to the buttons on her shirt as he asked, “What kind of payment were you thinking about?”

Bringing her own hands down to the hem of his shirt, she whispered, “Why don’t you tell me? After all, you do know how to read my mind.”



Max spent all of Wednesday working on the translation of the second book. Since Liz was going to be spending less time with him, he decided to write down as much as he could on his own so that they would not waste their precious few hours together with the tedious task. This way, Liz could take what he had and type it into her laptop when she could find some free moments here and there.

Rath’s family, the House of Kentaru, originated in the province of Tarulis. His committed mate, Vilandra was of the House of Reesha in the province of Lucola. The couple were both warriors, and because each of their families was considered progressive, they had been allowed to choose each other as mates instead of having the province officials choose mates for them.

The House of Kentaru was known for its warrior ancestors, and the book contained a list with each famous warrior’s name. Along with each name was a vivid description of the battles the warrior had fought in and the awards the Antarian government had bestowed upon him or her for bravery in battle. Max did not recognize any of the warriors’ names, but he had heard of several of the battles listed, conflicts involving planets both within the Antarian solar system and outside of it. The entry for each of the warriors was several pages long, the entire listing taking up almost half the book. Also listed for the House of Kentaru were the names of fifteen healers, all of whom had received commendations from the government for their selfless work curing warriors in six different battles during various time in Antarian history. The next five entries were famous telepaths, three whom had used their abilities to extract tactical information from the enemies’ warriors, information that, more than once, had turned the tide in favor of Antar and its allies. The final three entries were the names of the House of Kentaru’s diads, two with telepathic healer abilities and one with telepathic warrior abilities. None of these names were familiar to Max as well.


The House of Reesha was not as well known as the House of Kentaru, but its descendants were much more numerous and had spread throughout the provinces in the upper regions of Antar. This House seemed to have a disproportionate number of diads, leaning towards the telepathic healer side. There were still several famous warriors, but the battles they fought in were smaller intra-system skirmishes that did not garner the same amount of recognition as the inter-system conflicts the Kentaru warriors were know for.

As Max read through the pages and pages of names, he couldn’t help but feel jealous of Michael and Isabelle. Their parents had painstakingly detailed the history of both their families, establishing a background for their unborn children. Keeping accurate track of that amount of information was nearly impossible, and even though Michael and Isabelle would never know Rath and Vilandra, at least they would have the sense of belonging that comes from the knowledge of generations past. In addition, they had found a secure future with their new family here on Earth, people who had selflessly taken them in and made them their own with no hesitation.

His thoughts turned to his own family and what they may have been like. Had his parents committed to each other out of love or out of duty? Had they been healers, warriors, or telepaths? Did they ever think of him or had they just discarded him without a second thought? Did he have any siblings, and if so, had they suffered the same fate as he? If it had been his parents that had crashed here on Earth, would they have gone through so much effort just to give him a chance at life? As he sat alone in the motel room, curled up in the middle of the bed, a single tear escaped the confines of his eyelid. He knew he would never discover the answers to those questions, and in the fading light of day despair took over, leaving him with a past he didn’t want and a future he could never truly have.


Dreams remain just as long as there's Dreamers--Dennis DeYoung
posted on 17-Sep-2001 12:22:46 AM
Chapter 36

The knock on the door as the morning sunlight tried to stream through the curtains pulled Max out of his preoccupied state. He drew the material around the window back just far enough to see who was standing in front of his door. The familiar pear-shaped woman was waiting for him to respond, a white bag in her right hand. He made his way to the entrance and slowly cracked the door open, widening the space when he saw the smile on her face.

“Hey, Max. I brought you some breakfast. They’re bran muffins. I thought you could use them,” she said as she handed the package over to him.

“Thank you,” he said quietly.

“You are very welcome,” she said. She looked like she wanted to say more, hesitating as she turned to leave. Looking back at him, she suddenly stopped and faced him full on. “Max, you can tell me it’s none of my business if you want, but word is that this is the beginning of your fifth day here and you haven’t opened those curtains or set foot outside of this room once. Do you plan to stay holed up in there forever?”

Max look down at the floor shyly as he answered, his voice so soft Juanita had to lean in to hear him, “I do not do well around people.”

“Well, you did just fine around me yesterday, didn’t you? And that girlfriend of yours seems to make you happy enough. I tell you what. I have to clean the upstairs units today, and a couple on the daily side. Why don’t you come with me and keep me company while I work?”

“I’m sorry, I really do not want to be around other people today.”

“Now, that’s the good part. All of the units are empty except one. Everyone upstairs has a job, so they are already gone for the day. Well, Carrie doesn’t really have a job, but she must have spent the night somewhere else. I only clean the daily rooms once the people have checked out. So for the most part it will just be you and me. What do you say?”

Max silently debated whether to accompany Juanita or stay inside the room to continue contemplating his life. Knowing that he would not be seeing Liz until Saturday, he decided that he needed to have something better to do than stare at four walls all day. There was something familiar about the tone in Juanita’s voice, the same tone Liz used when she was worried about him, that he could not refuse. He nodded his acceptance as he let her in the room, grabbing his key and slipping on his shoes before opening the bag of muffins and devouring the first one in a single bite.

Juanita shook her head and let out a little laugh as she watched him eat. “Glad you like it. I hope it helps.” she teased.


The first room they entered belonged to Chris and Mark. Max eyed the vacuum cleaner warily as Juanita parked it in the main part of the room, but he refused to let it intimidate him. Juanita began cleaning the bathroom as she chatted away at Max about nothing in particular. He sat next to her bucket of cleaning supplies, handing her whichever bottle or rag she needed for the particular task she was doing. After the fifth exchange, she gave him a strange look as she asked, “Max, you’ve given me exactly what I needed for each part of this room. How do you know what I need?”

He said matter-of-factly, “ I watched you when you cleaned my bathroom.”

“But you’ve never seen someone clean a bathroom before that, right?” she asked, recalling his comment about not having a bathroom.

“Right.”

“So after watching me do this one time, you know exactly what to do?”

“Yes,” he asked, confused by her line of questioning.

“Man, kiddo, you’ve got one heck of a memory. When I started working here, oh…too many years ago to count, it took me at least a whole week to figure out which bottle was for cleaning what part of the bathroom. Is that why you don’t have an accent?”

“A what?”

“You speak English very well. You must have learned that pretty quickly too, huh?”

He couldn’t help the smile that instantly came to his face as he said proudly, “Liz taught me. She is a good teacher.”

“I can see that. But you deserve a lot of credit, too. A good teacher does no good without a student willing to learn. How long have you known her?”

“I don’t really know. The weather was very warm when I first saw her.”

“Was it love at first sight?”

“I don’t understand.”

“Did you like her the first time you saw her, or did she kinda grow on you?”

Juanita couldn’t help but notice the pensive look on Max’s face. She had seen that look before. It was the look of someone deeply in love.

Max finally answered, his voice full of reverence, “I knew Liz was special the first time I saw her. There was something about her that made me want to take a chance, made me want a better life than the one I had. She is the first person to ever care for me, and I will be forever grateful for that.”

“Well, I’d like to meet this very special girlfriend of yours some day. Does she come around much?”

“She goes to school during the day. She had been coming to see me at night, but now she has to work to pay for my room,” he said sadly.

Juanita studied him for a few minutes as he remained silent, lost in thought. He had apparently taken to heart her suggestion that having Liz pay for his room was not a good thing, and now she wanted to find a way to help him. “I have an idea, Max, if you are willing to listen.”

Returning his attention to the dark-haired woman, he questioned, “An idea about what?”

“About a job for you.”

“I don’t know…”

“Just listen to my suggestion, ok?”

He nodded.

“Now, I’ll have to check with Gus first just to be sure he doesn’t mind, but I’m sure it won’t be a problem. You help me clean these rooms, and I’ll pay you four dollars per room. I do at least five rooms a day, so that would be an easy twenty dollars. I only work four days a week, but still, eighty dollars a week for a few hours of work is nothing to sneeze at. The catch is this—I will take the money I owe you out of my own check and pay it to the front desk for your rent. That way we don’t have to worry about any paperwork that may cause a problem with your illegal status.”

“So then Liz wouldn’t have to pay for me?”

“Well, she would still have to come up with some money, but at least you would be doing something to help yourself. And hopefully she would not have to work so many hours herself. That way she could spend more time with you.”

A smile returned to Max’s face at her last sentence. “What would I have to do?”

“Well, you would have to do all the cleaning in the bathroom, which you seem to know how to do already. You would also have to empty the garbage cans, change the sheets, dust the furniture, leave out clean towels and vacuum the carpeting. I’d have you do the long-term rooms while I work on the dailies.”

“I do not know how to do those other things. Will you teach me?”

“I’m sure I’m nowhere as pretty as your girlfriend,” she teased, “but yes, I will teach you.”

“Then I’ll try it,” he said with confidence, hoping he would have two surprises for Liz when she came to see him Saturday.


Juanita spent the rest of the morning showing Max how to perform all the necessary tasks for his new job. When the time came for her to show him the vacuum, he had a sudden stab of panic and offered to start cleaning the next room. Juanita consented, warning him that Carrie’s room would be much more of a challenge than Chris and Mark’s room had been. She advised him to leave the door open as he worked to help rid the room of its tobacco smell.

Max nearly gagged as he opened the door to Room 1A, the putrid smells reminding him too much of the stench that been a permanent part of Jake’s clothing and car. He nearly bolted as the memories flashed in his mind, steadying his panicked body against the outside railing as he willed himself into calmness. He suddenly remembered his vow to Liz: he was not going to let thoughts of Jake rule his life anymore. Mentally bracing himself, he quickly entered the room and immediately opened the curtains and turned on every available light to obliterate the shadows that held his demons.

Taking the cleaning supplies into the bathroom, he could not believe how different this one was from his own. There was not one empty inch of counter space or floor space. The vanity was covered with cigarette ashes as two separate ashtrays overflowed onto the floor. The rest of the floor was littered with clothing, and as he picked the items up to begin his work, he noticed the majority of them were similar to the things Liz wore underneath her clothes. He swiftly placed them in the main room, adding to the pile that existed near the bed. It took him nearly an hour to make the bathroom shine, but he was so proud of his work that he went to find Juanita to show off his accomplishment.

He could hear the vacuum cleaner running in the room two doors down, and as he made his way over to the frightening sound he wondered whether Liz’s idea regarding the offensive appliance would really work. Walking in the doorway, he froze as he watched Juanita move the vacuum back and forth over the carpeting. He was so intent on watching her that he almost didn’t notice the small figure on the other side of the room, a small dirt-blonde head huddled by the bathroom door. Watching the figure closely, he realized that this little person was a boy, and from the hands covering his ears and the tears streaming down his face, it was apparent that the boy was just as frightened of the vacuum cleaner as Max was. Knowing how paralyzing that terror could be, Max made his move without thought, instinctively needing to get to the child and rescue him from his fear. He ran across the room in an instant, scooping the sobbing youngster up in his arms and taking him out the door he had entered just seconds earlier. Once they were both safely away from the horrible noise, Max sat down against the building, continuing to cradle the crying child as he whispered words of comfort in his ear, the same words Liz had said to him so many times.

Juanita came running out of the room seconds later, the confusion evident in her features and her voice. “Max, what’s wrong? What happened back there? Cambell, is that you, honey?”

Max felt the little head underneath his chin give a slight nod. He whispered to the boy, “So, your name is Cambell?”

A little nod.

“Well, Cambell, it is nice to meet you. My name is Max. Do you want to tell Juanita what happened back there?”

A vehement negative shake.

“I think Juanita is worried about you. Can I tell her what happened?”

A pause before a reluctant nod.

Max lifted his chin from the boy’s head to look at Juanita. “Cambell was in the room while you were vacuuming. The noise from the vacuum cleaner scared him.”

“Cam, honey, why were you in the room? I told D.J. to take you next door.”

A little hiccuppy voice squeaked out from Max’s embrace, “He called me a baby.”

“Who did, sweetie?”

“D.J. He called me a baby for being scared of the vacuum. I told him I wasn’t a baby, so he told me to prove it. After you did the bathroom, I hid in there so I could show him…I ….wasn’t…..” The little voice broke out into a new chorus of sobs as tears darkened Max’s gray shirt.

Max rested his chin back on the boy’s head, rubbing his little back as he said, “Shhh, Cambell, you’re safe with me. I won’t let the vacuum hurt you. I promise.”

The little sobs died down as the small boy choked out, “Will you make D.J. stop calling me a baby?”

Juanita piped up, “You let me take care of D.J., ok? I bet he won’t be calling you a baby for a long time after I am done with him.”

“You aren’t going to hurt him, are you?” Max asked with concern.

“No, I never thought hitting kids did a site bit of good. Trust me, there are better ways to teach a child a lesson. I’m sure D.J. won’t be allowed to play with his all-important dinosaur collection for quite some time after his mother gets wind of this little stunt.”

Max nodded, releasing his grip on the boy as the child squirmed in his lap to stand up. Unconsciously Max wiped the little one’s tears with his thumb before he began to speak to him again. “You know, Cambell, you aren’t the only one scared of the vacuum cleaner. It scares me too.”

The boys eyes widened in surprise, “It does?”

Max gave a genuine nod. “But I have a friend named Liz who told me a way to not be scared of it any more. Do you want to hear it?”

The boy nodded emphatically, training his ears on Max as if he were about to reveal the secret of the universe.

“Liz said that I am scared of the vacuum because I don’t know what it does. Do you know what it does?”

The boy shook his head no.

Max looked up at Juanita. “Juanita isn’t afraid of the vacuum cleaner, so I bet she knows what it does. Juanita, will you tell Cambell and me what the vacuum cleaner does?”

Juanita smiled at the two as she explained, “Well the vacuum cleans the carpeting by sucking up all the dirt, but it isn’t strong enough to suck up little boys.” She pointed at Max, “Or not-so-little boys.”

“And why does the vacuum make that terribly loud noise?” Max queried.

“That noise is the motor running inside the vacuum. The motor is what makes the vacuum suck up the dirt.”

“Oh, I see,” said Max. “Cambell, do you understand what Juanita said?”

The boy nodded. Max cupped his hand to the boy’s ear and whispered to him. Cambell pulled back and gave him a scared look.

“Come on, we’ll do it together,” Max persuaded as he held out his hand.

The boy hesitated a moment before taking it, receiving a light squeeze as Max turned to Juanita and explained his plan. “Cambell and I would like to run the vacuum cleaner ourselves, if that is all right with you?”

Juanita’s smile got bigger as she said, “Sure. It’s still in the boys’ room. Do you want me to come with you?”

Max replied as he got up, “Yes, please. We would like your help running it until we are comfortable by ourselves.”

The three made their way back to the room and Juanita gave a quick description of the various parts of the vacuum before they turned the switch on, three hands on the handle, one on top of the other. They pushed the appliance in a small back and forth motion, trying hard to accommodate the smallest member of the trio. After a short time, Juanita removed her hand, allowing Max and Cambell to take over the vacuum’s operation. The two new friends made their way around the room, looking very much like a man and his shadow. Eventually Max released the vacuum and let Cambell do all the work himself for several sweeps before finally turning the appliance off. Cambell gave Max a look of triumph that let him know he’d never be called a baby again.

Max made his way over to Juanita’s observation point and said with a shy smile as he looked back at the little boy, “I think you might have another helper on your hands.”

Juanita gave Max a proud smile as she commented, “That was very nice of you, Max, to pretend to be so scared of that vacuum. I swear I could feel your hand shaking on that handle as much as Cambell’s was.”

“I wasn’t pretending,” he said, the look in his eyes telling Juanita that he was completely serious.

Remembering the events of their first meeting on Tuesday, she concluded, “So you were actually HIDING in the bathroom all that time?”

He nodded.

“I’m sorry, Max. I had no idea you were that frightened. You seemed to be doing all right, so I just turned my back for a second and you were gone. I just assumed…I guess you don’t really need those bran muffins after all.”

When he gave her a confused look, she laughed as she headed out the door and said, “Nevermind. I guess I better go find our Mr. D.J.”

Chapter 37

Max poured the last of his milk in the bowl of cereal, glad that Liz would be bringing him more groceries the next day. As far as he was concerned, he could live on Cocoa Puffs with Tabasco Sauce. It seems like the perfect combination to him, but Liz had told him that he needed to eat a variety of foods to keep healthy, even if he ended up drowning them all in Tabasco Sauce anyway. He quickly ate his breakfast, knowing that Juanita would be there soon to give him the final ok on their work arrangement. They agreed that he might as well start the day cleaning his own room, then slowly work his was through the rest of the first floor in the long-term wing while she did the four daily rooms that would need attention.

As he folded the bedspread and placed it on one of the chairs, he thought back to the previous day’s events. Not only had he become more comfortable with Juanita, he had also made a new friend in Cambell. The little boy had not wanted him to leave after their vacuuming adventure, so Juanita had relented and agreed to finish cleaning Carrie’s room so Max could read Cambell’s favorite book to him. Max didn’t even need to look at the words to “Green Eggs and Ham” as he sat on the bed, holding the book so Campbell could see the funny pictures. Instead, Max had chosen to watch the boy’s animated expressions as the story unfolded, reveling in the child’s unrestrained laughter. This little boy had certainly been in a much better state than when Max had swept him out of the room earlier that day. Max felt so proud that he had been able to help someone else for a change. The vacuum cleaner incident had bonded these two unlikely friends, and Max hoped he could spend more time with his new five-year-old neighbor. Cambell’s seven-year-old brother D.J. spent an hour pouting in the chair where Juanita had left him before the temptation to join the impromptu book reading became too great. Sitting there with the eager boys bouncing around him, Max had been almost as happy as when Liz was with him. Almost.

The knock on the door brought him back to the present. Letting Juanita in, he returned to stripping the sheets off the bed and piling them by the door to put in the laundry cart later. That reminded him that he needed to ask for Juanita’s assistance.

“Hey, Max. Gus said no problem with our cleaning arrangement. How’s it going this morning?”

“Good, thank you. Juanita, can I ask you to help me with something after we are done cleaning?”

“Sure Max, what do you need help with?”

“I put on my last clean pair of boxers this morning. Liz usually takes my clothes and washes them for me, but I want to learn how to wash them for myself. Will you show me what to do?”

“Sure. As a matter of fact, I’ll have a few loads of sheets and towels to do this afternoon, so we can do your clothes at the same time.”

“Thanks, Juanita. I appreciate your help. With everything.”

“You’re a good kid, Max. Anything else you need help with, you let me know, ok?” She added in a teasing tone. “Now get back to work.”



After he finished cleaning his room, Max went next door and worked in the room that belonged to Kevin. Evaluating the place as he set up his supplies, he concluded that the condition was halfway between Carrie’s room and Chris and Mark’s room. Although he had not yet met Kevin, he assumed that the redheaded man in most of the photos on the long dresser was this room’s tenant. Looking carefully at each one, he guessed that they were pictures of the man with his family, his girlfriend, and a few of his friends. ‘What is so difficult about keeping your clothes picked up?’ he thought as he piled the man’s dirty clothes on an overstuffed chair that had obviously been added by the room’s resident. Max worked efficiently, hoping to have some more reading time with Cambell and D.J. between cleaning and going with Juanita to do the laundry.

Juanita had warned Max that the next room’s elderly occupant would be home, so he said a quiet ‘hello’ as he entered the unlocked door.

“Patrick, is that you?” a frail voice called out.

“No, my name is Max,” he answered, stepping just inside the room. “I am helping Juanita clean the rooms.”

“Juanita…oh, yes, of course dear. Do come in,” the voice replied.

Max closed the door behind him but did not move any closer to the petite woman, instead choosing to examine her from a distance. Her pure white hair, pulled tightly away from her face in a bun, almost matched her pale skin. She sat in a rocking chair, her plain beige dress and white knit shawl clean but definitely far from new. Her wrinkled face and hands reminded him of the Maggie in several of the photos the old man had in his house. Even with the distance between them, he had immediately picked up on that overpowering scent he recognized from the few times he had crept near the old man.

“Why don’t you come closer so I can see you. My eyes don’t work as well as they used to,” she said cordially. “I would offer to shake your hand, but I just used some of that Ben-Gay. It’s awful smelling stuff, but it does wonders for my arthritis.”

He took a few more tentative steps inside the room, noticing the rows and rows of photos that covered the walls, most of them without color. A couple of larger photos sat on the nightstand, and upon closer examination, they were similar to the ones the old man had shown him of his Maggie. The first of the two looked like it had been around a while, and Max could only guess that they were of this Maggie and her old man. The woman was very young, her beautiful dark hair standing out against a radiant white dress. She held a group of flowers in her hand, and the smile on her face reflected the happiness in her eyes. The man was in very dressy clothing with a flower like the Maggie’s attached to his jacket. His eyes also shone with happiness.

The woman in the second photo looked more like the Maggie sitting in the rocking chair. Her hair still had some color, and the pink dress complimented her complexion. As she held the hand of the old man in the dark blue suit, both their pairs of eyes reflected the same happiness as in the other photo. The same happiness he saw in Liz’s eyes when he looked at her.

The woman’s voice momentarily startled him. “That’s my Bryant in those photos. We were married fifty-seven years before the Lord took him from me. I miss him more every day, I do.”

This Maggie appeared quite small and harmless. Forgetting his initial hesitation, Max quickly made his way over to the woman and knelt so that he was directly in front of her. Taking her delicate hand in his he brought it up to his face and placed a light kiss on the back of it, mimicking a gesture he had seen on a television show as he repeated the words the man had spoken, “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, my lady.”

“Oh, it’s been a long time since a gentleman has kissed my hand, not since Mr. Lee passed away. You have such a handsome voice. I bet all the young ladies swoon over you.”

“Swoon?” he asked, confused.

“Dear me, I guess that word isn’t ‘in’ anymore is it? Not to be nosy--I just meant that with such a handsome voice, and certainly a handsome face to match it, you must have many girlfriends.”

“Liz is the only one,” he said, his voice fully revealing the depth of his love.

“Well, young man, if you treat her as well as you have treated me so far, I’m sure that one day she will agree to be your wife,” she said, wistfully reminiscing on her own husband’s proposal. “My Lord, where are my manners. I know your name, Max, but I have neglected to reveal my own. I am Mrs. Bryant Lee, but you can call me Ginny. All the other young people around here do.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Ginny. I just moved into the room a few doors away from here. I’ll be helping Juanita clean the rooms.”

“That’s very nice of you dear. Now don’t let me interfere with your work. I get such few visitors that I tend to ramble on when someone does come around.”

Max could hear the underlying sadness in Ginny’s words, and he silently added her to his growing list of people to spend more time with. He was beginning to understand what Liz had taught him about adapting his instincts to be more trusting. Cambell had been trusting enough to allow him, a total stranger, to provide the comfort the boy needed to overcome his fear. Even now, Ginny had trusted that Max truly was helping Juanita without giving it a second thought. If these two people could have such trust in Max, then the least he could do was reciprocate.

He asked Ginny to tell him more about herself while he cleaned, and by the time he was ready to move on to the next room, he knew so much about Bryant Lee that he felt as if he had met the man in person. He said his good-byes to the elegant old woman, promising to have some lunch with her one day when he wasn’t so busy.

Walking out into the late morning sun, he saw Juanita approaching from the daily wing. Heading toward the room that belonged to Charlie, the man Juanita had warned was a drunk, whatever that meant, he suddenly heard a familiar little voice calling from above.

“Hey, Max. Will you come read to me again?”

Juanita stopped in her tracks as she noticed the two small children leaning over the upper railing. “Now you boys know you are not supposed to leave the room without a grown-up. Scoot back in there and Max will be up in a minute.” Turning to Max, she said, “That is, if you don’t mind.”

“Well, I still have to do Charlie’s room.”

“You leave old Charlie to me. Both of those boys could use a good male influence. I’ll come to get you when it’s time to do laundry.”

With the smile on Max’s face, the older woman wondered who would be enjoying reading time more, her new assistant or the lonely boys. The young man was certainly unlike anyone else she had ever met, and she had seen her share of people over the years. He was quite reserved, yet he had not hesitated a moment as he set his own fears aside to help Kelly’s youngest son. He was a quick learner, so he was obviously intelligent, much too smart to be holed up in a transient motel cleaning toilets. He seemed very naïve about many things, but she knew that he could not possibly be an illegal alien. Still, he was hiding from someone or running away from somewhere. From the look in his eyes when they first met she had determined he did not trust easily, and now that she had his confidence she would do what she could to help him without overstepping her boundaries and possibly chasing him away. For the time being, he seemed to fit right in with the others who called these rooms home, but eventually he would need to get out of this place and grow into his true destiny, whatever that may be.

Max made his way upstairs to the boys’ room, tackling both of them and tossing them on the double bed as he made his way inside. The two youngsters taught Max how to play tag, and they each took turns being ‘it’ before all three of them collapsed on the floor in fits of giggles. They worked as a team to make some lunch, D.J. opening the cans of Spaghetti-O’s, Cambell pouring the contents into three bowls, and Max cooking each bowl in their little microwave, remembering how Liz had warmed up his dinner one night while he was still living with her. They cleaned up their lunch dishes and had enough time to lay on the bed and read three books before Juanita came to collect Max for his laundry lesson.

As with everything else he had learned, Max’s mastery of doing laundry was fast and thorough. It only took one explanation of the difference between a dark and a light for him to understand Juanita’s whole washing routine. Even he was impressed with himself for not bolting when the machines started, instead choosing to watch with child-like curiosity as the equipment agitated the clothes around and around. The low hum of the gas dryer made soothing background noise as the two discussed his new friends. As much as he appreciated the conversation and Juanita’s assistance, Max couldn’t help but be a little distracted as he thought of spending the next two days with Liz, telling her about the rest of his busy week and listening to her stories of school and work. Even as occupied as he had been, he still missed her desperately and couldn’t wait to touch and kiss her again.


The rest of the afternoon passed slowly as Max continued to write out more of Michael and Isabelle’s family history. It was a little after seven o’clock when her heard a happy knock on the door and a familiar voice chime, “Knock-knock. Time for your beauty makeover.”

He had a genuine smile on his face as he opened the door for Maria, who had her hands full with several bags and some type of box with a handle on it. Plopping the items on the bed, she examined him carefully as she said, “Well, Romeo, you don’t look quite as miserable as Liz, but I’d say you’re a close second.”

“I miss her a lot, Maria. How is she doing? I want to go the her so badly at night, but I know we can’t take the chance with her parents.”

“Trust me, she wants you there just as bad. At least you guys get to spend Christmas vacation together. I know you’re looking forward to that as much as she is,” she teased.

“Speaking of Christmas, I want to get a special gift for Liz. Will you help me find something?”

“Sure thing. Do you have anything particular in mind?”

“No, not really. I’ve never given a Christmas gift before.”

“Leave it to me. We’ll come up with something great.”

“Thanks, Maria. I appreciate it.”

“Well, buddy, I’ve got some plans for you tonight, so let’s get started. Why don’t you go rinse down your hair. Don’t dry it, but bring a towel out with you.”

Max did as she directed, and when he returned she had one of the side chairs sitting in the middle of a small blanket, the garbage can beside it. The box with the handle on it was open on the bed, and Max could see a few combs and several pairs of scissors. Sitting next to the box was some type of small appliance.

“This is what we’re going to do. I know this haircut thing is new to you, so I will try to be as gentle as possible. The scissors are sharp, so try to not move too much. If you need a break, let me know. I consider you a friend, so I don’t want you to freak out on me or anything. Any questions?”

“I don’t think so.”

“I’m going to be cutting your hair pretty short compared to how it is now, so the scissors are going to be close to your head. I will warn you before I start working near your face.”

“Thanks.”

Maria spent the next forty-five minutes cutting and trimming Max’s hair, alternating smiles and frowns as she worked. They had to stop a few times as the sensation of the scissors so close to Max’s face became a little too much for him, but for the most part, Maria felt he had been a very good ‘victim’. The most harrowing part had been when she led him into the bathroom to trim the small hairs on his neck with the electric clippers, but he had even taken that in stride.

At first, Max had been speechless as he stared at his new image in the mirror, so different from the first time he had seen his own reflection in the mirror at the old man’s house. Although the hair made a huge difference, he knew that the most drastic change had been in his eyes. The eyes of the man he had seen at the old man’s house had been filled with so many emotions: sadness, loneliness, and mostly fear. The person who stared back at him now was a completely different man. He hoped that only he could see the underlying fear that still lingered in his eyes, a fear that would never completely disappear.

“So, what do you think, Romeo?”

“I look so different.”

She reached up to play with the bangs she had feathered across his forehead. “I have to admit, if I weren’t so deeply in love with Michael, I think I might give Liz a run for her money vying for your attention,” she teased. “Still, I don’t think I would be much competition.”

Max gave her a shy smile.

“What say we give your new style a little tryout.”

“What?”

“Hear me out before you refuse, ok?”

“Ok.”

“I know Liz is going crazy not seeing you, and I’m sure you feel the same.”

“Yes.”

“She is working right down the street. How about you and I go and pay her a little visit?”

“Go to see her while she is working? Can I do that?”

“That’s up to you. I don’t know how ready you are to be around other people. It is Friday night, so there will be people around. If you want to go, I’ll go with you. I’ll even let you squeeze my hand to death if you want.”

“I can see her tonight? I wouldn’t have to wait until tomorrow?”

“Say the word, and we can be there in under ten minutes.”

“What about her parents?”

“Not there. This is the third Friday of the month, so they’re at a Chamber of Commerce dinner. You did hear me say that there will be other people around, right?”

“Yes, I heard you, but the restaurant can’t hold that many people can it?”

“Probably thirty at the most, but this late at night there would be maybe fifteen.”

After the week he had just experienced and the new friends he had made, Max knew that this was an easy decision. He had the confidence to do just about anything if it meant seeing Liz. “I want to go.”

Maria let out a little shriek as she jumped up and down, giving him a hug as she continued with her plan. “I was so hoping you’d say yes. You said you wanted your haircut to be a surprise, so I went a step further,” she said as she went to the bags on the bed and pulled out some clothes from one of them. “I saw this shirt at the mall yesterday after my French club meeting.” Holding it up to him, she smiled, “I knew it would bring out those gorgeous eyes of yours. I got a pair of black jeans to match.”
She handed the clothes to him and pointed to the bathroom, “No arguing. The sooner you get changed, the sooner you get to see your Juliet.”

“Juliet?”

“Yeah, you know. Romeo and Juliet?” He gave her a blank stare so she just sighed, “I’ll explain later. Get dressed so we can go see Liz.”

Ten minutes later Max and Maria were approaching the front doors of the Crashdown. Maria had him hold back so she could see how many customers there were and be sure that Liz was in the back. “Ok, it looks like there are about ten people in there. Can you handle that?”

Max nodded.

“Good. Take you jacket off. I’m going to set you in a booth by yourself so Liz can only see your back. Hide your jacket on the seat next to you. I’ll go in back and get her, and when she comes to take your order, you can surprise her. Will you be all right by yourself?”

He nodded again.

“You do know you’re going to have to actually speak to Liz, right?”

Giving her an exasperated look, he said, “Yes, I know I will have to speak to her.”

“Great. Let’s go.”

Maria quickly settled Max in the booth with his back to the service door before she went to look for her best friend. She flashed Michael a ‘hey, it worked’ smile, and his eyes widened as he looked out through the pick up window to see the back of Max’s head.

“What are you doing here, Maria?” Liz asked as she spied her pixie-haired friend.

“Michael is just so gorgeous, I just couldn’t stay away.”

“And you say Max and I are bad?”

“You two are much worse, trust me. By the way, there’s a guy at table five who seems pretty antsy to order.”

“Figures. What is it with people tonight? You’d think at least some of them would have the Christmas spirit,” Liz moaned as she headed out the door to take care of her latest customer.

Maria ran over to where Michael was watching out the pick up window, wrapping her arm around his as she gave him a light kiss.

“Did you really mean you couldn’t stay away from me?” he asked.

“Of course, Spaceboy. Now be quiet so I can hear their conversation.”


Liz walked as slowly as possible towards table five. The guy had his head buried in the menu, and all she could think was, ‘If he’s so eager to order, why does he still have the menu open’. In a bored monotone voice she said, “Welcome to the Crashdown, may I take your order?”

Lowering the menu just slightly, he said in a deep seductive voice, “Are you on the menu? I’d really like to find out what you taste like.”

Liz was taken aback. She couldn’t believe what this jerk had just said to her, but she knew she had heard him correctly. Refusing to look at him, she gritted out, “Excuse me, sir, I am merely the waitress, and I don’t need to listen to that kind of talk.”

Suddenly his hand reached out and gently stroked her arm, and just as she was going to pull away from him, a familiar voice echoed in her mind, “Not even from me, my Beauty?”

Her mouth dropped open in shock at the same exact time he dropped the menu to the table to reveal his new look. A Cheshire-cat grin spread across his face, making his amber eyes sparkle with his love for her. Her hand began to tremble as she brought it to her mouth. She couldn’t think of any word that could possibly describe how handsome he was. His hair was cut short, the bangs draped across his forehead begging for her fingers to brush them back. His newly revealed ears stuck out slightly, giving him a boyish look that contradicted his suggestive statement. With his hair now away from his face, his high cheekbones and chiseled chin seemed stronger, but the most amazing thing about his appearance still had to be those incredibly soulful eyes, eyes that teased her with all the joy and passion only she could stir in him. Her mind eventually comprehended that he was no illusion and she was finally able to whisper out through her dry mouth, “Max, is that really you?”

He took her hand in his and brought it to his mouth, planting a sweet kiss on the back of it as he had done with Ginny, his eyes never leaving hers as he said, “I could not wait one minute more to see you, my Liz.”

She had missed him so much these past few days that today she was certain her mind and body had literally ached for him, and now he was sitting here in front of her, looking more handsome than even she had been able to imagine. He was really here, in a restaurant full of people, strangers, because he couldn’t wait to see her. She did the only thing she could do. She threw herself into his lap and gave him a kiss that told him exactly how sexy she thought he looked. The passionate look in his eyes and his hardness pressed against her buttocks were all the signs she needed to know he had gotten the message loud and clear.

“He cleans up pretty nice, doesn’t he, Lizzie?” Maria asked, almost breaking the lovers out of their trance. “Not that you even noticed his brand new clothes.”

“Mm-huh. They’re nice, Maria,” Liz mumbled as she planted little kisses all over Max’s face, completely oblivious to everything except his warm skin under her lips.

Maria swelled with pride as she saw the look on the couple’s faces. Obviously her plan had worked.
“Here’s the rest of my plan. Max, you take Liz upstairs and help her change out of that uniform,” she said with a wink. “Then come back down here for some dinner before you go off on your own and get into whatever trouble you want to get into.”

“Maria, I can’t ask you to work for me,” Liz said as she continued to kiss Max.

“Relax, chica. I didn’t go through all that hard work just so Max could stay in his room, well, on second thought…if that’s what you guys want to do, then…”

“Maria, thank you,” Max said as he began giving Liz’s face little kisses.

“At least this way I get to spend some time with Michael, too.”

“You really are the best, ‘ria,” Liz’s muffled voice said as she began kissing Max’s neck.

“I know. Now you two scoot before you make the rest of the customers sick with all this lovey-dovey stuff.”


It had taken the pair another ten minutes to make it to Liz’s room, for once they were safely inside the apartment door, they had immediately sought each other’s mouths and began to compensate for their lack of time together. Kicking off her shoes, Liz leaned against the door with her head tilted back in submission as Max became reacquainted with her neck, his breathing heavy as her moans excited him. He needed more of her, so he reached down to cup her buttocks and thighs, silently begging her to wrap her legs around his waist.

As soon as she complied, he carried her to the couch and sat down, positioning her so that she was straddling him, the bare skin of her legs surrounding him everywhere except the place where his hardness met her burning heat. He moved his hands from her thighs and quickly unbuttoned her uniform as he continued to mate his mouth with hers. He let the aqua dress fall to the floor as he unhooked her bra, hungrily sucking her breast into his mouth the second it was revealed to him.

The feel of his tongue against her nipple was heaven and she instinctively arched her back, her bra joining her uniform on the floor as she willed him to take more of her aroused flesh into his mouth. She threaded her fingers through his now short hair, holding his head close to her body as he continued to stimulate her with his lips and hands.

With his love and passion for her flowing through their connection, she could no longer resist the urge to rub her wet heat against his erection in an attempt to relieve the tension building within her, and as she began a slow rhythm, his hands came to rest on her hips, guiding her movements as she grinded into the rough denim of his jeans. It was mere seconds before his hands began to roam again, this time his fingers inching underneath the edges of her lavender panties, the only scrap of clothing remaining on her body. Once his hands were completely caressing her bare buttocks, he held her possessively, pressing her tightly against his aroused manhood as her moans became more throaty and demanding.

“Liz…my Beauty. I want to be inside of you…,” he choked out in labored breaths.

“Yes, Max, please. I love you so much. I need to feel you in me,” she whispered as she cupped his face and gave him a searing, lust-filled kiss.

“Liz, I want to be inside of you so badly, but now is not the time. I want to make love with you and sleep with you and wake up with you in my arms. Please, my Beauty. It’s only a few more days.”

She pulled back to rest her forehead against his. Common sense told her he was right to stop them, but her overly excited body was screaming for release. Sensing her frustration, Max brought his lips to her ear, gently biting her lobe as he whispered, “I love you so much, Liz. Every touch from you, every kiss brings me such joy. To know that I am able to create such desire in you, that you enjoy my touch brings me even more pleasure. With the first breath of your scent, that sweet smell of your desire for me, I wanted to taste you. Please, my Liz, I am so thirsty for you--let me pleasure you with my mouth so I may drink my fill of you.”

She silently climbed off of his lap and he feared that his request had offended her, but then she held her hand out to him, her eyes asking him to take it and follow her to her room. He accepted and pulled her into a loving embrace as he stood up, caressing the soft skin of her back and shoulders before he silently followed her to what he knew would be paradise.

Once in her room she unbuttoned his shirt, planting kisses on his warm chest as it was slowly displayed to her. When she began to unbutton his jeans, his hand covered hers in opposition as he pleaded, “If these are removed, I know you’ll be too much of a temptation for me to resist.” She nodded her acknowledgment, turning to lay down on the bed as he removed his shoes and socks. Returning his attention to her, he found her laying on her back in the middle of the bed looking quite inviting, his own personal feast to be tasted and consumed. Oh, how he had missed her.

Joining her in the bed, he lingered above her as he began his seduction, giving her face sweet loving kisses as he whispered his adoration of her. Her skin was so soft and welcoming, and as he lightly traced the dark ring of her areola with his finger, he marveled at her responsiveness to him as her nipple hardened instantly, begging for him to take it in his mouth. He eagerly complied, the salty flavor of her warm skin tasting so good against his tongue.

Liz didn’t think her body could handle much more of Max’s touch before she gave in and allowed her body the release it so desperately needed. Their lack of time together and his enticing new look had made those few minutes of loving on the couch all the more exciting for her, and now he was focusing his entire attention on worshipping her body, wanting to pleasure her with such an intimate act. She hadn’t know it was possible to love him any more than she already did, but when he had asked to taste her, she felt such a rush of emotions that she had gone numb. As she had moved off of his lap, she was surprised to see the fear and disappointment in his eyes. How could he think she wouldn’t want him? It only took a second for her to affirm that he would have what he desired, and now he was slowly driving her insane as he took his time fulfilling his wish.

He could tell from her breathing that she was already close to coming. He did not want this to end so quickly, so he whispered to her through their connection, silently directing her on how to suppress her physical need for release while still being able to take pleasure in his ministrations. Once her breathing evened out, he continued loving her body, slowly working his was down the bed until his head was resting against her inner thigh. The sweet musky scent of her filled his nostrils as he nuzzled her panties, wet with her desire for him. He lightly drew his tongue over the damp fabric, and with that small taste he knew he could never get his fill of her, even if he loved her this way every day for the rest of his life. He reached under her hips and pulled down the small scrap of material that separated him from his heart’s desire, discarding it haphazardly on the floor, refusing to be distracted from his goal.

She had been on the edge of coming, just from his very touch, when his whisper in her head told her how to hold back, how to experience his loving without completely giving in. The sensation was unlike anything she had experienced, all her need and desire simmering under a layer of restraint. She had calmed instantly, but the feel of his lips pressed against her heat through her panties had still been so incredibly arousing that she knew she had to have his mouth on her, his tongue inside of her very soon. Seeing him settled between her legs, his mouth inches from where she ached for him, only excited her more, giving him an additional supply of her fluid to taste and drink as his love echoed through their connection.

He would never tire of the sight of her, so aroused and aching for his touch. He began to stroke her lips with his thumbs, painting her with her juices as he inhaled the scent that made him want to be deep inside of her. He then gently pressed his tongue to her hot, wet skin, the taste sweeter than in any of the fantasies he’d had of this moment. He softly licked everywhere his thumbs had rubbed, then placed his finger inside of her just enough to draw out more of her sweet nectar. Once again he covered her with her fluid before languidly cleansing it from her lips and clit. He continued touching and tasting her, her little whimpers of pleasure spurring him on until he finally needed to give her the release he had taught her to suppress.

She was in a state of pure ecstasy. Every nerve in her body was on fire, all focused on the area between her legs where he was creating such wonderful sensations with his fingers and tongue. Over and over again he would touch and taste her, each time bringing her arousal to a new level. Just as she thought she would not be able to keep up her restraint, his command whispered in her mind. ‘It’s time to let go, my Beauty. Come for me’. Her body instantly exploded with her release as she loudly moaned his name, bunching the bedspread in her hands as her toes curled, unable to contain the pleasure pulsing through her.

Feeling their combined ecstasy as she climaxed against his mouth was exquisite torture, her juices enveloping his tongue and flowing down his throat the sweetest taste he had ever experienced. He continued drinking her in until her moans diminished into deep breaths. Her whole body began to relax against him, but wanting more of her, he thrust his tongue deep into her in an attempt to reach every last drop of her sweetness. His deep moans of satisfaction reverberated against her clit, instantly arousing her once again, quickly bringing her a second orgasm more intense than the first. The blinding sensation flooded over him, and it took all his willpower to prevent his own climax.

After several long minutes, Max moved from between her legs to sit back on his knees, savoring the last of her desire as he licked his fingers clean. Liz could not move, her fully satiated body so relaxed that she couldn’t even manage to open her eyes. She felt the bed move next to her as a light kiss was placed on her cheek, his quiet voice saying, “Thank you, my Beauty. I love tasting you, and I don’t think I will ever get enough.”

Finding her voice, she teased, “So I even taste better than Cocoa Puffs with Tabasco Sauce?”

“There is no comparison. Although I do admit I have worked up quiet an appetite.”

Stretching as she rolled over on her side to face him, she reached over to caress his hardness as she said, “I can take care of that.”

He took her hand in his and gave it a gentle kiss, “As much as I would love to feel your hands on me, Liz, it took every ounce of control for me to not come when you did. I have no control left, and I fear that I would not stop myself from fulfilling this need to be inside of you.”

“You’re the one who wants to wait,” she teased.

“I know, and I need you to help me do so. Please, Liz.”

Pulling him down to her for a deep kiss, she could smell and taste herself on his skin. The thought of the intimacy they had just shared began to arouse her again, so she ended the kiss quickly as she said, “You better go wash up. Anyone who gets within three feet of you will know what we’ve been doing. Now that you’ve had dessert, I think it’s time for some dinner.”



Dreams remain just as long as there's Dreamers--Dennis DeYoung
posted on 17-Sep-2001 12:26:40 AM
Chapter 38

The restaurant had just closed by the time Max and Liz made it back downstairs, but Michael grudgingly agreed to keep the grill open so they could have their dinner, grumbling something about the owners’ daughter being a spoiled brat. The two lovers sat next to each other in the booth where Max had surprised her, discussing his week of making new friends while they ate.

“Liz, it felt so good to be able to help Cambell,” he said as she fed him a Tabasco-laden Saturn ring. “Your idea about the vacuum cleaner worked, so now both of us can say it doesn’t scare us anymore.”

“So you were helping Juanita with the cleaning when this happened?” she asked as she took a sip of her Alien Blast.

“That’s my other surprise. I wasn’t just helping her—it’s my job. She’s paying me to clean with her,” he said with pride, the happiness showing in his eyes.

“That’s great, Max! I’m so proud of you!” she said as she gave him a kiss, wrinkling her nose as she tasted the Tabasco remnants on his lips but refusing to pull away from him until they needed to catch their breath.

“Juanita is paying the money directly to the motel for my room so there is no paperwork. She said she would pay me $4 per room. I still need you to help pay the rent, but at least you won’t have to work as many hours now. Maybe you can spend more time with me,” he said hopefully.

“I would love that, Max. We’ll have to see how things go. With final exams coming up, we are all going to be busy studying the next few days. I know Michael has been staying after school when he hasn’t had to work here, something about tutoring a couple of guys on the basketball team. And poor Isabelle, she’s stuck out at the storage unit thinning out those files.”

“She’s going through the files? I thought we did all that the day I moved out of there.”

“No, we just temporarily rearranged them. She’s been spending almost all her free time going through each file and throwing away outdated stuff and things they don’t need anymore. Is there something wrong, Max?” she asked with concern as she noticed his distant look.

Turning his gaze back to her, he said absently, “No, I just…if Isabelle is going to be out there, do you think we can go out there to finish getting me used to the car? I could ride out there in the Jeep with her until I am comfortable riding in the Jetta.”

“I don’t see why not. I’ll check with Maria and see whether we can borrow the Jetta tomorrow. How does that sound?”

“That should be fine. I will have Michael ask Isabelle to pick me up in the morning, and I will wait for you at the storage unit.” He spoke the words as if this were something he had done a thousand times before. He was actually going to ride in the Jeep without her. Liz couldn’t believe this was the same Max she had just seen Tuesday night. Listening to his adventurous tales of Juanita, Cambell, D.J. and Ginny earlier, she never would have guessed that this was the same person who had barely been able to make it to the taco stand to eat dinner just one week ago. This new Max seemed so confident in himself, and Liz couldn’t help but be proud of him. The fact that he had actually walked through town on a Friday night just to see her amazed her even more.

“So do you have any more surprises for me?” Liz teased as she climbed into his lap to feed him the last of the Saturn rings.

“Sorry, no more for tonight. But I do have a question for you,” he said as he swallowed the last of the dinner.

“What?”

“How long have we known each other?”

“How long? You mean since you came back?”

“No, since the first time we saw each other. When my eyes scared you.”

Liz blushed at his recollection of the night, “I’m sorry I was scared of you. I had no idea who you were.”

“I know. I was just as scared as you,” he said with a shy smile.

“Max, you know I saw your whole life when you healed me, but there’s one thing I didn’t find out.”

“What’s that?”

“Why me? Why did you trust me?”

“It was you.”

“Me? But you’d never seen me before, right?”

“That’s true. That was the first time I’d seen you. I can’t explain it, Liz—somehow I was just drawn to you.”

“And now here we are…five and a half months later, sitting in the middle of a restaurant, eating and making out.”

“Making out?”

“That’s what people call it when we do this,” she said as she gave him a long, loving kiss. “And this,” she said, leaning completely into him to kiss his neck. Placing gently kisses over his entire face, she whispered, “I’m so proud of you, Max. You amaze me more and more every day.”

As time came for the nightly clean up, Maria made her way over to the jukebox and chose a few fast songs to make working a little more fun. Liz and Max pitched in, wiping off the tables while Maria swept the floor. Michael completed his usual task of cleaning the kitchen area before joining the other three in the dining room. The two couples danced around the empty restaurant as a slow song played, looking like four normal teen-agers in love. Liz loved the feel of Max’s strong arms around her, but as he held her close she couldn’t stop the nagging feeling in her mind. Max was beginning to blend into his surroundings a little more each day. How soon would it be before he didn’t need her at all?



When Liz found out she would have to work a Saturday morning shift for Agnes, she was even more grateful that she had been able to spend the previous evening with Max. After their little dance party, she had walked with him back to his motel room before returning home in time to greet her parents.

Now as she served pancakes and hash browns, she tried to reevaluate their plans for the day. She was sure Isabelle had already picked up Max and taken him out to the storage unit, although she couldn’t reach them on the cell phone. Now he would have to wait at least three hours before she could join him, unless Isabelle finished with her file-thinning project sooner than that, which she seriously doubted. She hoped Max didn’t get too bored—maybe Isabelle would get lucky and could find a way for him to assist her.



“Uh-oh. It looks like Isabelle put you to work, huh?” Liz’s voice sounded behind him.

He froze. Why hadn’t he heard her come through the door? He shut the drawer and turned to face her. “Well, not really. She went across the street for a minute. I just wanted to see what exactly was in all these files she has to go through. They don’t seem too exciting.”

“Legal paperwork is hardly ever exciting,” Liz joked. Taking a closer look at him, she asked, “Max, are you all right? You seem a little nervous.”

Forcing his voice to remain calm, he answered, “I’m fine. You just surprised me is all. I’m not really sure whether Isabelle wants me going through this stuff, so maybe we’d better not tell her.”

Walking up to him and wrapping her arms around his neck, she whispered against his lips, “Sure, but you know there is a price to pay for my secrecy.”

He placed his hands on her hips as he played along, “Oh, and what would that be?”

She pressed her lips fully against his and gave him a deep kiss. He instinctively pulled her closer to him as he wrapped his arms around her back. They were still kissing five minutes later when Isabelle returned.

“Oh, please guys. Don’t you have Max’s room for that?” the tall blond asked as she came through the door. “I brought some lunch, but you two are going to have to find your own dessert.”

The couple burst into laughter at her comment, silently sharing their private joke. Liz pulled away from Max and looked at Isabelle. “Unlike you, some of us don’t get to be with our boyfriends every day. I have to take it where I can get it.”

“You got me there. Anyway, I think it’s warm enough that I’m going to sit outside to eat. Would you two care to join me?”

The three settled against the side of the building, eating and discussing their plans for the upcoming week.

“I have four finals Monday and three on Tuesday. I can’t wait for vacation to start,” Liz said as she took a drink of soda, smiling at Max as she said the last part.

“Three and four. Hey, Maria said your parents are going to be gone over Christmas. What are you going to do?”

“Max is going to stay with me. We’re going to have our own private Christmas,” she said as she gave Max a kiss on his cheek.

“Ohhh, I see,” Isabelle said with raised eyebrows.

Liz blushed and then suddenly remembered, “I’ve got to talk to Maria. When we canceled our day after Thanksgiving outing, we agreed to go shopping on the first day of Christmas vacation instead. But I didn’t know you would be staying with me,” she directed at Max.

“You can still go. You don’t have to change you plans because of me.”

“Oh, no. I want to spend as much time with you as possible.”

“Then I’ll go with you two.”

Liz exchanged a worried look with Isabelle before addressing Max. “You can’t be serious, Max. We were going to go to Hondo. That’s at least an hour car trip each way, and the mall will be full of people this time of year…”

“And I want to go with you,” he nearly demanded.

“Are you sure, Max? You know you don’t have to push yourself like this. You haven’t even ridden around the parking lot in the Jetta yet. Do you really think you could handle a two hour trip just days from now?”

Quickly finishing the last bite of his lunch, Max wiped his hands on a napkin and stood up. “I’ll prove it to you, Liz. By the time we leave here today, you will be driving me back to the motel in the Jetta. Better yet, maybe I’ll be driving you back.”

“Let’s not go that far, Max. I think Maria would have a heart attack. Can we just see how it goes today before you decide about Wednesday?”

“If that’s what you want, Liz. But I promise you, I will be going with you.”



A little over five hours later, Liz pulled the Jetta into the parking space directly in front of Max’s room. She still could not believe he had handled the trip so well. There was not one bit of nervousness coming from him, and as they couple exited the car, he looked quite pleased with his accomplishment.

“Hi, Max. Can you come read me a story?” a little voice called from above.

Shading her eyes with her hand, Liz looked up to see a small boy leaning over the upstairs railing.

“Cambell, where is your Mom?” Max asked in a stern voice Liz had never heard before.

“She’s workin’.”

“And didn’t Juanita tell you to not be outside without a grown-up?” he said even more sternly.

“You’re out here.”

“Where’s D.J.?”

“He’s sleepin’.”

“Get back inside, now. I can’t read to you today or tomorrow, but I will come and see you on Monday, ok?” he said in a softer voice.

“All right,” the dejected child mumbled.

The two watched to be sure the boy returned to his room before they entered Max’s room.

“Max, how old is that boy?”

“He’s five.”

“How old is his brother?”

“Seven.”

“And their mother leaves them alone? Don’t they go to school?” she asked incredulously.

“They’re always here during the day. Juanita keeps an eye out for them. And so do I, now.”

“Still, it really isn’t safe for them to be alone.”

“They aren’t alone, Liz. They know they can find Juanita or me if they need help. You know, I didn’t hurry up to get back here just so we could talk about Cambell and D.J. As well as I did today, I expect a lot of positive reinforcement,” he said as he pulled her into his arms, giving her a demanding kiss.

“Well, I’m about to teach you a new phrase, Max. It’s called delayed gratification—that means you are going to have to wait until tomorrow for your positive reinforcement because we have work to do. Alex is letting me sneak into the yearbook room to use the binding machine for Michael and Isabelle’s books, but I have to do it in between my final exams on Tuesday. That means we have to have the rest of the translation done by tomorrow night so I have time to print it all out.”

“Alex knows about the books?” he asked as he went to one of the drawers in the long dresser.

“No, I told him it was a present for my parents. He won’t be around to see what the pages say.”

“I’m almost done translating the book. I’ve been writing it out so you could put it in your computer when you had time. Most of the words are names of people or places, so I just wrote what I thought the English would sound like,” he said as he handed her a large stack of papers.

“You have been a very busy boy, haven’t you?” she said as her eyes grew at the amount of work he had done.

“I have to do something to pass the time when you are not with me,” he said as he sat down next to her on the bed. “Did I do well?”

“Very well,” she said as she flipped through the pages.

“Well enough to forget about delayed gratification and reward me right now?”

“You certainly are a sneaky one. As much as I would love to spend the rest of the night rewarding you, I think I’d better go get my laptop out of the car and start typing this in. I won’t have any other time to do it except now. Maybe you can finish the rest of the translation while I do this.”

“All right,” he said with obvious disappointment. “Let me go get your computer for you.”

“No, Max, that’s all right. I’ll get it,” she said hastily.

“Why? What’s wrong?” he asked, concerned over her response.

“It’s just that…it’s in the trunk,” she explained.

“It’s all right, Liz. I need to do this,” he said, holding his hand out for the keys.

Reaching into her jeans to retrieve them, she gave him a gentle kiss. Placing them in his hand, she said, “You never stop amazing me.”

He gave her a small smile as he turned and went out the door. The late afternoon sun was creeping closer to the western horizon as he made his way to the back of the Jetta. Slipping the key in the trunk lock, he braced himself when a noise from upstairs caught his attention.

“You’re crazy. I already paid you your damn money before I came up here. You’re out of your f*cking mind if you think you’re getting more from me,” a voice yelled as the door to Carrie’s room swung open and a middle aged man stumbled out, zipping up his jeans as he made his way towards the stairs.

A unnaturally raven-haired girl, clad only in a short silk robe, ran out the door after him, screaming back, “You bastard. You promised me the other half after we finished.”

“You’re nothing but a lying, crazy whore. I’m sorry I ever did you,” he said as he ran down the stairs and jumped into his car.

The girl disappeared into her room and quickly returned, throwing something at the man’s car as he backed out of the parking space. The object caused a small crack in the windshield before it bounced off and landed on the ground. The car suddenly stopped and the man threw open the door, glaring up at the girl. “You little bitch. You better never show your face around Grady’s again or you’ll be sorry!” He then slammed his door and drove out of the lot, leaving a cloud of dust in his path.

Max looked after the car, puzzled by the exchanged he had just witnessed. Unsure of what to do, he walked over to the object on the ground and picked it up. Realizing it was a shoe, he went to the stairs and climbed to the upper floor to return it to its obvious owner. Standing in front of the girl, he noticed that she wasn’t much older than Liz was, but the tired look on her face made her appear much older. Her robe had been hastily tied, exposing quite a bit of her skin. Max tried to keep his focus on her face as he spoke. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah, I think I’ll live,” she said in a graveled voice.

“I believe this is yours,” he said as he held out the shoe.

“Thanks,” she said as she took it. “I haven’t seen you around before. Are you new?”

He nodded. “I’ve been here a week. I’m helping Juanita clean the rooms.”

She smiled, “So that means you’ll be cleaning my room Monday?”

“I guess so.”

“Maybe I’ll see you then,” she said as she quickly pressed against him and kissed him on the lips, “Thanks again for bringing me my shoe.”

Max stood there too stunned to move. The girl walked around him and into her room, leaning back out as an afterthought, “By the way, my name is Carrie. And your name would be?”

“Max. My name is Max,” he choked out, slowly stepping away from the door and walking back to the stairs. He ran down to the Jetta, quickly opened the trunk to grab the laptop and ran back into his room, slamming the door behind him.

Liz watched him as he leaned against the door, eyes shut and breathing heavily. Obviously retrieving the computer from the trunk had been a little more than he could handle. She quickly went to him, caressing his cheek as she asked, “Max, are you all right?”

He opened his eyes and looked down at her with an expression she couldn’t quite place. He set the bookbag on the floor and grabbed Liz in a tight embrace, planting light kisses all over her face and neck as his almost panicked thoughts echoed repeatedly in her mind, ‘I love you, Liz. Only you. I only want you.’ He then crushed his mouth to hers, almost desperate to feel her lips under his. He had done so well with the car ride, she really hadn’t expected him to have that severe of a reaction to the trunk. All she could do was will him to feel all her love as he continued kissing her.

Eventually he calmed enough that he pulled back and caressed her cheek as he ran his other hand through her hair. He then picked up the bookbag and handed it to her as if nothing had happened. She wanted to question him about his strange reaction, but she instinctively knew it was something he didn’t want to discuss, so instead she decided to focus on the translation while keeping an eye out for him.

They spent the rest of the evening in relative silence until Liz mentioned that she was hungry. A smile lit up Max’s face, whatever had disturbed him earlier now gone.

“What is your favorite place to eat?” he asked.

“My favorite? Probably Senor Chow’s,” she asked with curiosity.

“Let’s go there.”

“Tonight?”

“Yes. I promised to take you on a real date.”

“I’d love to, Max, but I really need to get the Jetta back to Maria. Besides, I have to spend some time studying for my final exams. I promise that after my finals are over, we’ll have our date, ok?” she said as she began to pack up her things.

“Will I get to see you tomorrow?”

“I really should spend the whole day studying…”

“I can help you study,” he offered, coming up behind her and wrapping his arms around her waist.

Leaning into his strong chest, she asked, “You can?”

He leaned over and kissed the supple skin of her neck. “Mm-hmm. What subjects do you have to study for?”

“Well, my first test is in Psychology,” she said quietly, closing her eyes to focus on the feel of his soft lips.

“I know all about positive reinforcement,” he murmured as he snaked his hand under her shirt and began to rub her stomach.

Thoroughly enjoying his touch, she decided to play along with him, “Can you give me an example of positive reinforcement?”

“An example…when I do this,” he whispered seductively in her ear as he edged his hand up further to cup her right breast. He took her nipple and rolled it between his finger and thumb until it hardened, eliciting a moan from Liz. “I know you will moan for me, which just make me want to touch you more. Your moan reinforces my need to do this.” He turned her around in his arms and knelt down before her, lifting her blouse to suckle her breast. She moaned again as she ran her fingers through his hair, his mouth on her sensitive flesh instantly exciting her.

“If I had known you were naked under this shirt, Isabelle would have walked in on a lot more than us kissing,” he said in a husky voice.

“You aren’t the only one who can have surprises, you know.”

“I like surprises,” he said as he took her other breast in his mouth. Her warm, hard nipple felt so good against his tongue. He played with her right breast as he sucked, lightly pinching and kneading to keep her nipple erect, waiting for his tongue to return. He loved the feel of her hands threading through his hair to encourage his loving assault, her emotions a combination of love and lust as he continued his sensual caresses.

Liz was spellbound by the arousing sensations Max could create with his mouth and tongue, loving her body as if it were the most natural thing in the world for him to do. Needing to have more bare skin contact, she lifted her arms up to finish removing her blouse, forcing more of her breast into his mouth. He moaned at the feel of her fullness against his lips and quickly wrapped his arm around her back to keep her in position. Finally, he broke away to look into her eyes as he said reverently, “Liz, please let me taste you again. I need more of your sweet flavor.”

“I thought you were going to help me study for my exams,” she said in a semi-serious tone, realizing how easily they had gotten carried away.

“Oh, I am,” he said as he gently swirled his tongue around her nipple, watching her enjoyment reflected in her features. “I think you call it Anatomy. Let me show you how well I know your body.”

The thought of his mouth pleasuring her again almost made her give in, but she knew she had to get some actual studying done. “As much as I would love for you to spend hours exploring my body, I’m not going to get any work done if I stay here much longer. I do really need to go home, now.”

“I understand,” he said as he took one last taste of her breast before picking up her shirt and helping her put it back on. "Just don’t forget about my delayed gratification, then.”

“Somehow I don’t think you’ll let me.”

Chapter 39

Liz was out of the apartment very early Sunday morning, hoping to avoid being roped into covering another shift for Agnes. She had ended up staying awake until one in the morning with her studies, and now all she could think about was getting to Max’s room and snuggling up with him to continue her slumber.

The crisp December air felt good in her lungs, almost refreshing her tired body completely by the time she made it to the motel. She quietly opened the door and snuck inside, setting her bookbag and jacket down by the door. She quickly kicked off her shoes and clothes, needing to feel as much of Max’s skin against hers as possible while they slept. Turning to be sure he wasn’t awake yet, her breath caught in her throat at the exquisite site displayed before her.

The sheet and bedspread were on the floor, banished from the bed sometime during the night. Max was stretched out on his right side, facing the center of the bed, wearing only his boxers. His right arm was covering his eyes, the left curled under the pillow cradling his head. The faint sunlight streaming through the curtains cast a heavenly glow on his skin, the well-defined muscles of his chest and abdomen hilighted by deep shadows. She could not resist the urge to touch him, but not wanting to wake him up, she knelt beside the bed and lightly caressed his chest with her fingertips. His body reacted immediately, and she watched in fascination as his growing erection pressed against the dark-blue material that prevented her from viewing him fully.

She climbed softly onto the bed, gently laying next to him in the opposite direction so she could be closer to his hardness as she began to stroke him through his boxers. She could feel his breathing becoming heavy as she released him from the confining garment, wrapping her hand around his firm warmth and stroking him in a slow rhythm. He emitted a low moan but did not move, his mounting excitement coursing through their connection stirring her own desire. As the small drop of fluid appeared at the tip of his swollen manhood, she wanted to taste him and please him with her mouth as he had done for her.

She tentatively ran her tongue over his head, relishing his sweet and salty taste as she felt his pleasure pulse through her. She gradually licked up and down his entire length, lavishing more attention on the areas that caused his desire to intensely flare through the connection. She then gently wrapped her lips around his head, slowly sucking as she stroked her hand in a steady rhythm around his shaft. He felt so warm, his velvety hardness against her lips making her need more of him. With each stroke of her hand, she took more of his length in her mouth until he was completely surrounded, her tongue pressing against his sensitive underside. His excitement made her nearly gasp as she began sliding him in and out of her mouth, keeping her lips tightly wrapped around him with each movement.

She thought he may still be asleep until he suddenly grabbed her hips, forcefully pulling her body flush against his as he buried his face in her heat. The unexpected sensation of his mouth ardently sucking on her clit elicited a loud moan from deep in her throat, causing her lips to vibrate against his erection as she continued pleasuring him. This new feeling brought him even more enjoyment, spurring him to increase his fervent attack, holding her tightly to him as he eagerly consumed all of the juices her body offered him. Their connection flowed with endless desire, each feeding upon the other’s until it was impossible to differentiate the two. Promises of love and devotion whispered in their minds as the room filled with the sound of mouths pleasuring aroused flesh while moans of excitement brought them increasingly closer to orgasm.

Sensing Liz’s intensifying need for release, Max smoothly slid his finger inside of her, quickly matching the in and out rhythm of her mouth around his manhood. This caused their shared desire to escalate uncontrollably, prompting Liz to increase her tempo to bring him to his final release. He brought his mouth back to her clit, sucking with abandon as he thrust his finger deep inside of her, causing her body to shudder in ecstasy as her climax overtook her. The force of her orgasm as it swept through their connection triggered his own, and as she took his seed in her mouth he drank down the last of her intoxicating nectar, the indescribable rapture of their combined release flowing through both of them until they collapsed on the bed.

Unable to move for several long minutes, Liz finally panted out, “The things you do to my body, Max…”

Sitting up in alarm, he said, “I’m sorry. Did I hurt you? I didn’t mean to be so rough with you…”

“Hurt me? God, no, Max, you definitely did not hurt me. Didn’t you feel how wonderful that was?”

“Yes, but I wasn’t sure whether that feeling was from you or me.”

“I think that it was from both of us, like our feelings mixed together somehow. I wonder what will happen when you’re finally inside of me.”

“I don’t know, Liz. What if I hurt you? Being what I am may hurt you somehow.”

“It won’t Max. I was afraid of the same thing, but I talked to Maria…she and Michael have already made love and she hasn’t had any problems.”

“But what if I’m not exactly like Michael? What if I was created differently?”

“You still seem to be mostly human. If everything we have done up until now hasn’t been all right, I don’t really think it’s going to be a problem, Max. If it is, at least I’ll die a very happy woman.”

“Liz, please don’t say things like that. Just the thought of you…”

“I’m sorry, my love. I don’t want to ruin this wonderful mood. Why don’t you lay here next to me and hold me a while. I don’t think my body is quite ready to move just yet.”

He spooned behind her, gently kissing her hair before pulling it aside to kiss the back of her neck and shoulder. Feeling his hardness pressing against her buttocks, she teased, “You’re ready for more so soon?”

“I can’t help it. There is just something about you I can’t resist.”

“Why don’t you use that method you taught me?”

“It doesn’t work very well where you’re involved.”

“Oh?”

“When we used to sleep together at night, I could keep myself restrained. It was a lot of work, but I could do it. But now that I’ve tasted you, it doesn’t seem to be as effective. Your scent is what woke me up this morning. As soon as I realized you were right next to me, I had to have my mouth on you.”

“I have to admit, you are quite a challenge to my own willpower. How did you learn that suppression method anyway?”

“I taught myself.”

“Really? But why?”

“I needed to survive. Just because I was hungry or cold didn’t mean I would find food or shelter, so I had to teach my body to adapt, to stop the feeling so it wouldn’t affect my thinking. Otherwise the need would be so overpowering that I could not function at all.”

“And you can do this with…”

“Just about any physical need—it doesn’t stop the need itself, just the feeling. I can stop myself from feeling hunger, thirst, cold, heat, pain…”

“So that’s how you were able to survive what Jake did to you?”

“It certainly helped, but you were to real reason I was able to survive. When I healed you, you were the first person I had ever really touched. And I wanted to touch you again, I wanted to feel your skin against mine. Laying here next to you like this, feeling you naked against me, was the only thing I ever wanted. All the other amazing things we have shared, they were just extra gifts to me, but now the more we share, the more I want. I can’t stop myself from needing you.”

“So I’m really that irresistible?”

“Yes, my Beauty.”

Rolling over so she was facing him, she said quietly, “So if I were to ask you to make love to me right now, you would do it even though you want to wait?”

“Yes.”

“Max, I really want you to make love to me, but I won’t ask. I promised that I would wait, and I will. So I think right now we’d better get up and take a shower before I lose this last little shred of MY willpower.”

After their shower and breakfast, the couple lay on the bed together, lazily touching each other as Liz studied and Max finished translating the last few pages of the second book. Several times Liz would catch him staring at her, a wistful but loving look on his face. Finally, her curiosity got the best of her so she asked, “What are you thinking about?”

“I want a picture of you in a long, white dress.”

“What?”

“Ginny has a picture in her room. It is a picture of her when she was young, probably the same age as you. She is wearing a long, white dress and is standing next to Mr. Lee. It is a nice picture. I think a picture of you in a long white dress like that would be beautiful.”

“That’s probably her wedding picture.”

“Is that a special kind of picture?”

“No, it’s a picture from a special day. Your wedding day, when you get married, is the day you agree to spend the rest of your life with just one person. You become husband and wife.”

“Ginny said that one day you would agree to be my wife.”

“She did? She must be a mind reader then.”

“Then she is right? You would agree to spend the rest of you life with me?”

“Of course I would, Max. I can’t imagine being with anyone but you.”

“Can we have a wedding day today?”

“I’m sorry, but we can’t get married for at least another year. First, we both have to be eighteen, and we need to have a license and some money saved up.”

“Oh,” he said sadly.

“Don’t worry, Max. I’m not going anywhere until then. And I don’t need a piece of paper for me to tell you that I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

“I love you, Liz, and I hope to spend the rest of my life with you as well.”

She leaned over and gave him a deep, loving kiss before returning her attention to her History book.

“Liz?”

“Hmm?”

“Kevin and Ginny both have pictures in their rooms. If I can’t have a wedding picture of you, may I have some other kind of picture of you for my room?”

“I would be honored for you to have a picture of me in your room. I’ll see what I can find when I go home.”

“Thank you.”




Max had finished translating the rest of the second book in the early afternoon, making sure Liz had it before she left for home. She had wanted to start formatting and printing the pages as soon as she had entered all the translation he had given her earlier, so here he was laying alone on his bed rubbing his eyes, tired from the strain of reading the Antarian symbols.

He had not wanted to think about what had happened the day before. How could he have done that to Liz? She was so worried about him, and he had betrayed her. Worst yet, he hadn’t even been able to bring himself to tell her. He knew he needed to talk to someone about this, but whom? Somehow he didn’t quite feel close enough to Michael to tell him something so personal. Obviously Liz was out of the question. Juanita. He would talk to Juanita about it. Maybe she could help him find a way to tell Liz what he had done.

After spending a few more minutes trying to rub the tiredness from his eyes, he finally decided to give in and keep them closed, if only for a little while. No sooner had the thought entered his mind than he drifted off to sleep.




Liz hadn’t really wanted to leave Max’s, but since she had been gone from home since the early morning, she thought it was best to do the rest of her studying in her room. Besides, having Max kissing and caressing her proved to be quite a distraction, albeit an enjoyable one. Staying at home would also give her a chance to start printing out the journal translations. She had set everything up to print while she studied, but first things first: she wanted to find her mom to see what time her parents would be leaving Wednesday morning for their trip.

“Mom?”

“Liz? I’m folding laundry in my room.”

Liz made her way to her parent’s bedroom door, leaning against it as she asked, “So are you already packed for your trip?”

“I have a few more things in the wash that I want to take with me, but for the most part I’m done. You know how it is—I finish early because your father always waits until the last minute.”

“So what are you guys going to do while you’re there?”

** “What’s the matter, you little prick? Not so brave after all? If that slut of yours could see you now, I bet she’d dump you in a heartbeat. I bet she’s f*cking some other guy right now. If she even lived.”

Jake grabbed a fistful of her hair and jerked her head back so his face was inches away.

“Look at me, you little prick. You burned me on that girl. Now I’m gonna burn you back.”

She could feel the stinging all over her back, the smell of burnt flesh permeating the air. She refused to let Jake know how painful it was. She would not give in. **


“LIZ!! LIZ!!”

She was standing in the bedroom doorway, gripping the doorframe. Her mother was staring at her, a frantic look of panic covering her features.

“Mom?” she asked confused as she continued to support herself against the wood.

“Lizzie, honey, what just happened? You sort of spaced out on me for a minute.”

What had happened? She was afraid she knew the answer.

“Sorry, Mom. I guess I’m a little more tired than I thought, with finals and everything. I’m just going to finish up so I can get to bed early tonight.”

“Are you sure you’re all right, Liz?”

“I think I’ll be fine once I can get some of these thoughts out of my head. I’ll come see you in a little while when I take a break.”

“Ok, honey.”

Once she was safe in her room, Liz sat down on the bed and leaned against the headboard, her head in her hands as she contemplated the images that had flashed in her mind. Images from Max. Images of what Jake had done to him, because of her.


** She could feel the stinging all over her back, the smell of burnt flesh permeating the air. She refused to let Jake know how painful it was. She would not give in.


“I was so lookin’ forward to doin’ that little girlfriend of yours. And you had to go and f*ck that up for me.”

Jake dragged the tip of the knife over her face, pressing it threateningly against her cheek.

“She won’t want you once I cut up that face of yours.”

Jake continued dragging the knife down her body, resting it against her crotch.

“I should cut you like I cut her.”

The tip of the knife now pressed into the zipper of her jeans.

“You won’t need this anyway. She’s already forgotten about you, boy.”

Jake pressing the knife deeper.

“Don’t even think about trying to get away from me, or you know what will happen.” **


Why was this happening? Was this some type of punishment? Was she going insane? No. She knew Max must be having a nightmare, but in the middle of the day? Her head was pounding as she wished the images away. These were much more intense than any of the other flashes she had gotten from Max’s other nightmares of Jake. She felt the burns, felt the knife pressing into her, smelled the burning flesh.

** “Don’t even think about trying to get away from me, or you know what will happen.”

Jake leaning close to her, blowing his cigarette smoke in her eyes.

“The boys want me to let you go, but I like havin’ a dog to kick around.”

Jake spit in her face, the smell of tabacco almost too strong to bear.

“I like dogs, and if I let you go or you decide to run away, I’ll have to go find me a bitch. YOUR bitch.”

Deeper still.

“Remember, I know where to find her. She owes me a piece of pussy, and I’m eager to collect.”

Jake suddenly moved the knife, drawing it down the inside of her thigh.

“And this time, you wouldn’t be there to save her.”

She couldn’t hold back any longer. The pain of Jake’s words was more severe than the long gash now staining her right leg with blood. Letting out an anguished howl, she glared at Jake with all the hatred she could muster.

“Hey, you should be glad your leg is the only thing I cut.”

She closed her eyes against the pain. Jake whispered in her ear.

“Maybe I’ll go find her anyway. I’ll bring you with me. Make you watch as I teach your little bitch how good a real man’s cock can feel.”

Fighting the pain from her leg, she forced herself to stand up, ready to make Jake pay for all he had done and was planning to do. Jake was on to her immediately and managed to make her world go black before she could make another move. **


NO. ‘Please don’t let it be true’ she whispered to herself. She couldn’t stand it if it were true. Jake had tortured Max because of her—her aching heart knew that already. Max had been so adamant that she not blame herself that she had not mentioned it to him again. It still haunted her to know that she was solely responsible for all the pain Max had endured, no matter how much he tried to convince her otherwise. But these new images, they could only mean one thing.

Max had never even tried to escape. He probably could have gotten away from Jake, but instead chose to stay and be abused in an attempt to protect her. The thought was too much for her to comprehend. This gently, caring man she loved with all her heart had intentionally allowed himself to be cut and burned and starved and tortured in an effort to keep Jake away from her, if only for one more day.

She knew she should be crying but the tears refused to fall. Her guilt stung her lungs so deeply that she wasn’t even sure she was still breathing. She desperately wanted to go to Max, drown herself in his infinite strength, but the overwhelming feeling of shame was just too immense. How could she ever face him again knowing the enormous sacrifice he had made for her? How would she ever be worthy of that kind of love? She could never repay him for all that he had suffered in her name. He would have been better off if he had never taken her first offering of food. He had certainly been injured many times before she had crossed his path, but those wounds were superficial compared to the numerous physical and emotional scars left on him by a man he never would have come in contact with had it not been for her.

She had not been able to move, her mind and body thoroughly numbed with her growing remorse at how much knowing her had screwed up Max’s life. It wasn’t until her mother gently knocked on her bedroom door to be sure she was awake for school that she noticed the morning sun shining in her window, bathing her room in an eerie light as her history book sat untouched on her desk, still on the page she had opened it to when she had first come home the afternoon before.


Dreams remain just as long as there's Dreamers--Dennis DeYoung
posted on 17-Sep-2001 12:31:28 AM
Chapter 40

“Well, take a look at you! Don’t you look like some kind of movie star now,” Juanita teased as she stood in Max’s doorway. “That Liz of yours better be careful or she’s going to have to be chasin’ off all sorts of girls.”

“Do you like it? Maria cut it for me Friday night, and then I surprised Liz at the restaurant,” he said happily.

“Restaurant?”

“Her mom and dad own the Crashdown. She works there as a waitress,” he said proudly.

“Oh, I see. I’m assuming she approves of the new look,” she said as she closed the door behind her.

“She liked it a lot,” he said as a huge smile spread across his face, “And when I told her about my job with you, she said she was proud of me.”

“I bet that made you feel pretty good, huh?”

“It made me feel stronger somehow. Knowing she has faith in me makes me have faith in myself,” he said reverently.

“I’d say she loves you quite a bit, Max.”

“I love her, too,” he smiled, then suddenly turned serious as he remembered what had happened over the weekend. “Juanita, after we’re done cleaning today, I need to ask you something sort of personal, something I can’t talk to Liz about.”

Flattered that he would turn to her with something that was obviously weighing heavily on his conscience, she assured him, “Sure, Max. You can ask me anything. If I don’t know the answer, then I’ll find it out for you, ok?”

“Thank you Juanita, for being my friend.”

“The honor is all mine, Max. Hey, I’ve got eight units to do on the daily side, so do you think you can handle the long-terms today?”

“Sure. There’s only the three rooms, right?”

“You’ll have to do 2A also. The university closes down the dorms over winter break, so a couple of college kids are renting it so they don’t have to fly home.”

“All right. I’ll be in Cambell and D.J.’s room when I finish, unless you want me to come and help you.”

“No, I’ll do fine. You go spend some time with the boys. I’ll come and get you when I’m done.”



Max started with Chris and Mark’s room, wondering why he needed to clean it at all as he dragged the vacuum and supplies into the almost immaculate room. Still, he worked diligently to clean every last inch of the place, taking pride in his hard work. Cambell and D.J. were thrilled to see him, but he had to explain that he had two more rooms to clean before he could spend time with them. He looked on in satisfaction as Cambell vacuumed the carpeting, a big smile on the little boy’s face as he showed his brother that he was no longer a baby. Room 2A was relatively clean but desperately needed to be aired out. Max propped open the door as he worked, letting the fresh breeze sweep away the musty smell. He double-checked everything in the room, not really wanting to move on to the next one. Carrie’s room. Finally when he had no more reason to linger in the empty room, he locked it up and made his way to his last room of the day.

He knocked a couple of times before using the key to enter the room, propping the door open to let the tobacco smell out of the small space. Glad that Carrie wasn’t in the room, he worked as quickly as possible to restore the place to a livable condition. He couldn’t believe how disorganized the room had become in a few short days.

When he had completely finished the room, he went to the bathroom to replace the liner in the garbage can. As he removed the old liner, he noticed almost a dozen long, thin objects made out of some type of whitish material in the trash. He peered a little closer, trying to determine what the items were.

“Don’t tell me you’ve never seen a rubber before?” a seductive voice asked behind him, causing him to drop the bag.

Turning around quickly to face the speaker, Max was surprised to see Carrie standing directly in front of him wearing a skimpy black dress that barely covered her. He stood there frozen, embarrassed at being caught going through the garbage. He took a step back from her, unable to speak to respond to her question.

She stepped closer to him, cupping his crotch as she said, “A guy as delicious as you, I’m sure you’ve had plenty of rubbers on this cock of yours.” Max continued to back up, finally being trapped between
the bathroom door and her body as she pressed her breasts into him.

He moved to the side, never taking his eyes off of her as he backed into the main part of the room.

“What’s wrong, Max? You’re not saying very much. You must be one of those shy types. Most shy guys are tigers in the sack. Are you?” she asked as she kicked off her heels and raised her leg to the chair, inching her black thigh-high down her leg, then repeating the move with the other leg.

“I do not understand,” he managed to choke out as he continued backing up.

“Have you ever had sex with a girl before?” she asked as she continued approaching him.

“Sex?” he asked, becoming more distressed by the second.

She pulled her dress off her shoulders, letting it drop to the floor as she revealed her completely naked body.

Max stared in astonishment, not believing what was happening. One minute he was emptying the garbage and now a naked woman was standing in front of him, the only other naked person he had ever seen besides Liz. He wanted to close his eyes to the sight in front of him, but he just couldn’t. She continued to approach him, and as he backed away from her, he realized too late that he was backing up in the wrong direction and fell back onto the bed.

She climbed on top of him immediately, loudly whispering, “If you don’t know what sex is, then by all means let me educate you,” as she reached to unbutton his jeans.

He suddenly understood that she was talking about making love and he knew he had to get away from her. Grabbing her hand he said, “Please stop. I do not want to do this with you. I love Liz.”

“Who said anything about love? You think you’d be the first guy to screw around on his girlfriend?” she said as she sat up, straddling his hips.

“I do not know you. I do not want you. I only want Liz,” he said as a tear escaped his eye.

Seeing his intense reaction, she quickly scrambled off of him. “Take it easy. I just thought you’d want a free ride. You did bring my shoe back after all. And you asked me if I was all right.”

He stumbled off the bed and made his way to the door, silently cursing himself for letting this happen. He realized that all the cleaning supplies were still near the bathroom, and Carrie was standing between him and them. Looking at the pile of dirty clothes near the bed, he spotted the silk robe she had been wearing the first time he had encountered her. Picking it up, he walked towards her, averting his eyes from her naked form.

“Would you please put this on?” he asked quietly.

“You can’t be serious? You’re really asking me to put my clothes ON?” she asked incredulously.

“Please,” he asked again.

“Wow. If that’s what you really want…” she muttered as she put the robe on, tying the belt around her.

He hastily gathered the cleaning supplies, dropping one of the bottles of spray cleaner. He bent down to pick it up, but Carrie beat him to it. Handing it to him, she noticed his shaking hand and tormented features, “You certainly are different.”

“What?” he asked, wondering how she had sensed he wasn’t completely human.

“I’ve offered myself to a lot of guys before, and I mean a lot, but you’re the first one to ever turn me down,” she said as she continued to study his face.

“I am sorry, but I do not love you.”

“I know. You love Liz. And believe me, whoever she is, she’s a very lucky girl.”

“I must go now,” Max said, guilt overwhelming him at the mention of Liz’s name. He moved as quickly as possible out the door and down the stairs, not looking back until he was safely in his own room.




“Miss Parker?”


“MISS PARKER?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Jackson. Is there a problem?”

“Only the fact that the exam ended three minutes ago, and your paper is still sitting in front of you.”

“Time’s up already? But I still have eight questions to go.” she said in disbelief.

“Perhaps next time you should spend less time daydreaming and more time writing. Now do you plan to turn in what you have completed, or should I just give you an F?” he said with disappointment.

She reluctantly grabbed her bookbag and brought her exam to the front of the room, dropping it on his desk as she sighed and walked out the door.




“Max, are you in there?”

He sat up in bed, wiping the tears that had gradually pooled in the corners of his eyes. He walked over to the door and let Juanita in.

“What are you doing down here? I thought you were going to be with Cambell and D.J., but they said you never came back,” she questioned him.

“I sort of had a problem—part of what I wanted to talk to you about,” he said sadly.

“Oh, ok. Why don’t we sit down and you can tell me all about it,” she said soothingly.

They both went to the table, each sitting in a chair and facing each other. Now that Juanita was here, he wasn’t sure how to proceed, so he decided to just blurt it out, “I think I betrayed Liz.”

“Betrayed? What do you mean?”

“I think I betrayed Liz…because another girl kissed me.”

“When did this happen, Max?”

“Saturday. I gave Carrie her shoe back…”

“CARRIE? Max, didn’t I warn you to stay away from her?”

“I didn’t mean for it to happen. I went outside to get something for Liz, and Carrie was arguing with some man over money. She threw her shoe at him, so I was just trying to be nice and return it to her. When I handed it to her, she kissed me.”

“Did you kiss her back?”

“NO! But something else happened,” he said, the shame showing in his eyes before he averted them to the table.

“Something else?” she asked, almost afraid to find out.

Max just sat there in silence.

“What kind of something else, Max?” she reluctantly asked.

“When she kissed me, I reacted to her,” he said quietly, unable to look her in the eye.

“Reacted?” she questioned.

“My body…reacted,” he tried to clarify.

It took a minute for her to comprehend what he was saying. “Oh…so you mean she kissed you and that gave you an erection?”

“Yes, I think that’s what it’s called,” he said shyly. “There’s more.”

“More?” This could not be good. “Max, why don’t you just tell me everything that happened with Carrie, and then we can talk about it.”

“She kissed me Saturday, but I didn’t kiss her back. I was scared, so I ran away and went back to my room with Liz. But I just couldn’t tell Liz what happened. Then today, Carrie wasn’t there when I cleaned her room, not until I was finishing up. I was taking care of the garbage when she asked me if I had ever seen a rubber before. She started touching me here,” he said as he pointed to his crotch. “I tried to get away from her, but I was so scared that I wasn’t watching where I was going and I ended up on her bed. She took her dress off and was on top of me before I knew it, and when she started unbuttoning my jeans I asked her to stop.”

“Did she?”

He nodded before he said, “I feel so bad, Juanita. She was naked, and I couldn’t stop looking at her. I couldn’t help that it gave me an…erection.”

She thought a second before she questioned, “When you asked her to stop, did you really want her to?”

“YES! I love Liz, and I only want to be with her. I didn’t want to kiss Carrie or do anything else with her, but it’s like my body wasn’t listening to my mind.”

“Max, I’m going to ask you some questions, a few pretty personal ones, and then I’m going to explain a few things to you, all right?”

“Yes.”

“How many girls do you know? Girls your age?”

“Liz. Maria. Isabelle.”

“So three girls? Have you ever…reacted…to Maria or Isabelle before?”

“NO!” he said in horror. “They’re Liz’s friends,” he said as if that explained everything.


“And Liz…I assume you and she kiss.”

“Yes.”

“When you and Liz kiss, you end up getting an erection?”

He nodded, “Most of the time.”

“Are you and Liz sexually active?”

“I don’t understand.”

“Mmm…are you intimate? Have you had sex? Have you made love?”

His eyes widened in understanding. “Oh, um, yes and no. We haven’t made love yet, but we have been pretty close a few times. We wanted to wait to make love until it could be special. Liz’s parents are going to be gone for a week starting Wednesday, so I am going to live with her while they are not there.”

“And you plan to make love then?”

“Yes,” he said with a shy smile.

Taking a deep breath, Juanita began her lecture. “Ok, Max, you came to me with a problem, so I will do my best to help you. First let me say that for whatever reason, you appear to have lived a very sheltered life and while you seem to have a pretty good grasp on most things, there are some areas where you are sorely lacking—areas where your innocence could get you into a lot of trouble. So I’m going to take it upon myself to fill in the blanks. I did it with my own son, for whatever good it did, so I think I can get through this with you. Does that sound all right?”

He nodded.

“Ok, first things first. What happened with Carrie, and how your body reacted—that isn’t surprising. You are a teenage boy, and one thing about teenage boys is that it doesn’t take much to get…excited. Any other healthy heterosexual male’s body would have responded the same way to having a naked woman on top of him.

That being said, no matter how much it feels like your body is in control, you are still completely responsible for your actions. From what you have told me, Max, you did not betray Liz. You did nothing to encourage what Carrie did, and you did ask her to stop. Now if you had kissed Carrie back, or if you had gone ahead and had sex with her, then it most definitely would have been a betrayal. Unfortunately there are a lot of young men out there who would have gone ahead and had sex without thinking about the consequences. I admire you for caring about Liz enough to not give in to a very easy temptation, but you should do your best to not put yourself into another position where you could be tempted. If I had known what she did Saturday, I would have made sure you weren’t alone with her today. Perhaps I had better clean Carrie’s room from now on. Even so, you are a very handsome young man, and there are a lot of other girls like Carrie in the world, so you need to be careful. There will always be temptation around you.

Young people today are much different from when I was a girl. They think nothing of having sex with so many different people, not caring about who they hurt or the babies they make. Your body is the most precious thing you own and should not be treated so carelessly. I was raised to believe that when you love someone you make a permanent commitment to him or her and pledge to be with no one else. Only after you have made that commitment do you give the gift of you body, something you have never given to anyone else. That commitment is the difference between having sex and making love.”

“I want to make that commitment to Liz. I only want to be with her, and I know she feels the same way about me. But…when Liz and I are ready to make love, how will I know what to do?” Max asked apprehensively.

Juanita let out a little laugh. “Well, there are probably a million books on the subject, so I suppose you could read one of them. Or that Internet thing—I’m sure someone has put up some kind of how-to manual. But really, people have been making love long before the Internet, even before there were books. All I can tell you is that when my husband and I got married, we didn’t really know what to do either. But half of the fun was all the time we spent figuring it out together.”

He gave a slight nod, smiling at how her words reflected Liz’s discussion with him on the subject.

Juanita reached across the table to hold his hands in hers. “Max, the last thing I want is to say you must believe the same way I do, but please at least think about what I have said. You and Liz are very young, maybe too young to be making such promises to each other. Be sure that this is what both of you really want before you go through with it. I’ve seen enough of you that I think you realize how serious this is, that Liz is truly the only one you want to be with. Make sure she feels the same.”

“I will.”

“One last thing. Have you and Liz talked about birth control?”

“Birth control?”

“Yeah. The last thing you need is a baby to take care of. And I know you’re too nice of a guy to get Liz pregnant and leave her.”

“I never want to leave Liz, and someday I want her to have my baby. But for now she is taking these pills so that we won’t make a baby.”

“That’s good to know, Max. I’m glad to hear that the two of you are being responsible,” she said as she withdrew her hands. Changing the mood, she said, “You know if we’re done here, there are two little boys upstairs who are very eager to have you read to them,” she said as she stood up.

“I can’t wait to see them either, but I have just two more questions.”

“Sure.”

“What is a whore?”

“Where did you hear that word?”

“The guy Carrie threw the shoe at called her a crazy whore.”

“Oh. Well, to put it as nicely as possible, a whore is a woman who is paid money to have sex with men.”

“That’s why that man was in Carrie’s room?” Max asked in shock.

“I’m afraid so, Max.”

He shook his head, disgusted but not surprised that there were guys out there who would treat a woman that way. Seeing Juanita anxious to leave, he decided he better ask his final question. “Should I tell Liz about what happened with Carrie?”

“You probably should. You wouldn’t want her to find out from someone else, would you?”

“No,” he sighed. “Now I just need to decide what to say.”




“Hi, honey. How did your exams go?” Liz’s father asked cheerily as she walked into the apartment.

“Not bad,” she said, trying to mask the exhaustion in her voice. “How is your packing going?”

“All right,” he said, then turning his attention to his wife, he asked, “Nancy, do you know what happened to that package of boxers you bought? I can’t find them for the life of me.”

“Relax, Jeff. I’m sure they’re in there. If not, I’ll get another package when I run to the store for the rest of the last minute stuff.”

Liz had to stifle a giggle. She knew it wasn’t funny that she had overlooked replacing the package, but the lack of sleep and all the stress of the past day were starting to take their toll. “Look, I’m going to go study for tomorrow’s tests.”

“Go ahead, honey. Your mom’s going to be leaving in a few minutes, and I’ll be downstairs if you need anything.”

Once in her room, Liz put down her bookbag and rubbed her eyes. There was no doubt that she had completely blown her exams today. No matter how hard she had tried to concentrate, she had not been able to get rid of the images of Max being tortured that had haunted her for the past twenty-four hours nor the guilt that accompanied them. She went to the bathroom and splashed some cold water on her face, hoping it would help clear her mind.

As she moved over to her desk, she noticed the paper bag partially hidden by the chair next to her window. She had been in such a hurry that day she had completely forgotten about it. She opened the window and, picking the bag up climbed out onto the balcony. She sat on the ledge overlooking the alley, noticing how innocuous it looked in the daylight.

That was where it had all begun. If she had only known that meeting his eyes would have eventually caused him so much pain…If she had only known that sitting here like this would lead to cigarette burns all over his body…If she had only known that seeing him eating garbage in the rain would have him sitting in an abandoned building, wrists tied with a coat hanger…If she had only known that feeding him would bring about his possible starvation…If she had only known that accepting the gift of his pendant would leave him with a deep gash on his thigh…If she had only known that talking to him would keep him locked away in the trunk of a car for days at a time…If she had only know that saving her life would put his in the hands of a psychopath…If she had only known that she was the cause of all the things she had vowed to protect him from…If she had only known…

Reaching into the bag, she pulled out the model car. ‘What a joke’ she told herself. This car, the one that was supposed to signify Max’s complete recovery from all of Jake’s horrors, now meant something altogether different. It now represented her guilt. Not just the guilt of knowing she was the reason Jake took Max and the reason Max stayed with Jake. Her underlying guilt ran much deeper. For as much as she wanted to think that she would change things between her and Max, that she never would have tried to feed him or befriend him, that she would have rather died…if she had known how Jake would end up hurting him, she knew in her heart that she would do it all over again, make Max suffer through it all again, if it were the only way for him to be with her now.

And she despised herself for it. What kind of person was she? Could she really be so self-centered that she would have let him suffer just so she could have him in her life? He had been through so much because of her, and all she could think about was how desperately she needed him, how she would risk everything, even his own safety, just to be with him.

She closed her eyes as the tears began to fall down her face. How she hated herself for having such selfish thoughts. She started to grow angry with herself. If she really thought this way, then she did not truly deserve Max’s love. She was no better than any of Them who had hurt him for their own personal satisfaction. And she hated all of Them. She hated Mike. She hated Joe. Most of all, she hated Jake. He had not been able to have his way with her body, thanks to Max. Instead he had taken something much more precious.

She could no longer contain the rage welling up inside of her and suddenly, as if by its own volition, her arm pulled back and threw the model car, slamming it into the brick wall with unbridled fury, a grunt of effort echoing around her. Jumping off the ledge she quickly retrieved the broken pieces, repeatedly smashing them into the wall until there was nothing left, all the time screaming out her frustrations and hatred for the man who was single-handedly responsible for the worst and best events of her life. She collapsed to the ground as heart-wrenching sobs overcame her, grieving for all the agony Max had experienced because of her and praying for the strength to face him again and beg for his forgiveness, wondering how she would ever survive if he rejected her for her selfishness.

Eventually her sobs were reduced to uncontrolled gasps until her tears died down and her breathing returned to normal. She sat up and leaned against the wall, wiping her face with the back of her hand. Looking around the balcony she was surprised at how little remained of the model car. Now that she had used it to let go of some of her anger and hatred, she could begin to think logically again. She knew Max was right. They couldn’t continue to let Jake rule their lives. She didn’t have a time machine to go back and change the past, so whether or not she would do it was completely irrelevant. She needed Max more than she needed her next breath of air, so leaving him out of some twisted sense of duty would only end up hurting both of them. She was through with blaming herself for what an obviously sick man had done. She had allowed Jake rape her of her spirit, but now was the time to finally take it back.

Chapter 41

“You’re here! You’re here!” the two boys screamed as they jumped up and down in the middle of the room, bringing an instant smile to Max’s face. He was already in a great mood. Tomorrow was Wednesday, and he would spend the day shopping with Liz and Maria and then go back to Liz’s apartment to begin their Christmas vacation. How could he not be excited about spending the next several nights with Liz, making love with her and falling asleep with her in his arms?

“You brought me a present?” Cambell asked, spying the books in Max’s hands.

“They aren’t to keep, but I wanted to show them to you.”

“What are they?”

“In a minute. I need to as your brother a question. D.J.?”

“Yeah.”

“I have a friend named Liz. She saw Cambell outside the other day and she was wondering why you and he don’t go to school. Do you know why?”

“My mama said we can’t go to school ‘cuz we’ll be ‘vestigaged.”

“’Vestigated? Do you mean investigated?”

“Uh-huh. If the ‘vestigate us, mama said they’ll take us away from her, so please don’t tell nobody ‘cept Juanita ‘cuz she knows, too.”

“I won’t, but that means you’re going to have to keep a closer eyes on Cambell so he doesn’t go wandering around outside when your mom is at work.”

“Ok.”

“It’s very important, D.J. I have to go away for a few days, so I won’t be around to help look out for him, ok?”

“Where are you going?” Cambell piped in.

“I’m going to go visit my friend Liz. If you’re good, I might bring her to meet you. Now, back to these books. I don’t go to school either, so Liz gave me these so I could learn about numbers and counting. I thought you might want to learn, too.”

“I know how to count to ten,” Cambell said proudly.

“That’s a good start, then. Why don’t we go sit down on the floor by the bed and we can see how much of this book you already know. You too, D.J.”

The two boys joined Max on the floor and they spent the next hour learning all about numbers and adding. Cambell was able to count up to twenty and could do some simple addition, while D.J. counted up to forty with no problem, adding and subtracting with a little difficulty.

After their math lesson, each of the boys chose a book for Max to read to them while he picked one for the boys to try to read to him. Curled up on the bed together, Max was impressed as D.J. finished the last page of Are You My Mother?.

“ ‘Yes, I know who you are,’ said the baby bird. ‘You are not a kitten. You are not a hen. You are not a dog. You are not a cow. You are not a boat, or a plane, or a Snort! You are a bird, and you are my mother.’”

Cambell had fallen asleep a few pages earlier, and as D.J. yawned, he sleepily asked Max, “Do you have a mama, Max?”

“No I don’t, D.J.”

“Do you know my mama?”

“No, I haven’t met her yet. I usually go back to my room before she comes home from work, you know that.”

“Yeah, right,” the little boy mumbled as he rested his head against Max’s side, finally giving in to slumber.

Max looked down at the two boys sleeping by his sides and felt an overwhelming sense of contentment wash over him. When he had seen the boys after his conversation with Juanita yesterday, they had a long discussion about being scared and the things that made them afraid. At first Cambell and Max had been the only two voicing their fears of the boggy man and being alone until finally D.J. piped in that he was still scared of the dark and couldn’t sleep at night. Max was glad that the boy was at least able to catch a nap. He decided he might as well nap with the boys since he was pinned between them, and as his eyes drifted shut, he began to dream of the day when it would be his own children laying next to him.




“So you’re all ready to go?” Liz asked her mother as she looked at the suitcases sitting by the apartment door.

“Finally. The limo is coming at 3 a.m. to take us to the airport. I just hope your father can get some sleep on the flight or he’s going to be a bear,” Nancy joked as she deposited the last of the bags. “How did your exams go?”

“Good. I’m glad they’re over,” Liz sighed in relief.

“Did you get to turn in your project?”

“What project?” Liz asked, then suddenly remembered what her excuse had been for spending so much time away from home. “Oh, that project. Actually it’s an ongoing thing.”

“So you don’t have to turn it in until the end of the school year?”

Liz simply nodded, afraid her voice would give away her deception. She wasn’t a very good liar, and Lord knows she’d been doing quite a bit of it lately. Avoiding her mom’s eyes, she said, “Um, I have some Christmas presents I want to wrap, so please knock first when you call me for dinner.”

“Ok, dear.”

Liz made her way to the bedroom and shut the door before dumping her bookbag on the bed. She had been able to get some sleep last night, and after her outburst yesterday, she was able to concentrate enough to actually complete and do well on her three exams. Of course it hadn’t hurt that they were her three easiest subjects. She had been so bad off Monday that she barely remembered even going to school. She knew her mother had knocked on the door to make sure she was awake, but she had been so numb inside and out that she hadn’t felt the water on her body as she showered and had only been able to dumbly stare at her test papers as she tried to force herself to care enough to write something, anything, on them. She had been completely indifferent to the significance of this day and she spent it in the same zombie-like state that had plagued her most of the school year while Max was missing. It was only once she was alone at home that she had allowed herself to feel again, smashing her overwhelming guilt up right along with that car until she had finally found the resolve to take control of her life again.

She opened her bookbag and pulled out the two books she had bound in between her exams. She had decided to leave the covers blank, knowing that placing a title like, ‘Michael and Isabelle’s Alien History’ on them would only invite their parents’ prying eyes to take a closer look at the books. She had chosen a simple black cover with an embossed gold leaf border, with a small number in the lower corner to indicate which volume it contained. She opened her closet door and pulled her desk chair in front of it so she could reach the top shelf to hide them there. She knew she should probably just wrap the books, but she wanted Max to see them first. She would have to remind him to bring the original journals to put with them. He would need to keep the third one until he was finished translating it, and she made a mental note to ask him whether he had started with it yet.

Moving the chair back to her desk to sit down, she started feeling giddy when she noticed her alarm clock said it was 4:30. In less than twelve hours, her parents would be gone and she would begin her wonderful Christmas vacation with Max, and no thoughts of Jake were going to stop her. After her initial meltdown yesterday, she realized that the bastard had kept her and Max apart long enough. She would not let thoughts of him come between them ever again.

She hoped tomorrow would be a great beginning to their week together, although she was still a little apprehensive about Max’s ability to be among so many people. It was one thing to be at the motel or sit at the Crashdown, but a mall three days before Christmas even intimidated her. Nevertheless, Max refused to take no for an answer, so she would do her best to make him enjoy himself.

Although she and Maria had no firm plans on what they wanted to do at the mall, Maria had teased her endlessly about having to stop at Victoria’s Secret to pick out something for her special night with Max. The thought had secretly thrilled her, although she would never admit that to Maria, and she couldn’t wait to find something perfect to wear. She also wanted to buy a few more scented candles and make sure she had just the right music, too.

She had hated having to spend so much time apart from Max, and she wanted to kick herself for wasting all her time studying for tests that she probably bombed anyway. She wanted to see him again so badly that she had planned to go to the motel after school, but then her mother had requested that she stay home so they could have a family mini-celebration before they left on their trip. How could she refuse them?

Standing up from the desk, she looked around the room and decided to spruce it up a bit. She would clean the bathroom, dust the furniture and change the sheets at least. After all, she wanted everything to be perfect for the night she would finally make love with Max.




A woman’s scream startled him awake. He looked around confused until he remembered where he was.

“WHO THE HELL ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?” she yelled at the top of her lungs as she approached him.

“I do not understand,” he said, the mixture of sleepiness and confusion clouding his mind.

“YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND? WELL I UNDERSTAND. I UNDERSTAND COMPLETELY, YOU SICK BASTARD. GET THE HELL OUT OF THAT BED AND AWAY FROM MY BOYS.”

“You are their mother?”

‘DAMN RIGHT, I’M THEIR MOTHER. NOW GET THE HELL AWAY FROM MY KIDS BEFORE I COME OVER THERE AND RIP YOUR PERVERTED HEART OUT.”

Max quickly scrambled from the bed and towards the door as the children’s mother circled around the bed. The two boys awakened and began to cry. “I do not know what I did wrong, but…” he said, wanting to run away but staying to try and find out why she was so angry with him.

“YOU DON’T KNOW? I COME HOME TO FIND A GROWN MAN SLEEPING IN BED WITH MY TWO BOYS AND YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DID WRONG? YOU’RE A SICK MAN TO HAVE TO HURT LITTLE BOYS…”

“I would never hurt them. They mean so much to me…” he begged.

“SHUT UP!! I KNOW YOUR KIND. YOU’RE NOTHING BUT A FREAK AND A MONSTER. STAY AWAY FROM MY KIDS. IF I EVER SEE YOU NEAR THEM AGAIN, I’LL KILL YOU MYSELF.”

“No mama, please don’t make Max go,” Cambell cried out in a choked sob.

Max made a last ditch effort, “ Please, just let me explain…”

“GET OUT!!!” she screamed as she started to lunge for him.

Suddenly terrified, Max quickly opened the door and ran outside, hearing the door slam behind him as he dashed downstairs and into his room. He collapsed on the floor as he let out a painful howl, the tears dripping down his face and onto his shirt as her words echoed in his mind. She was right. He was nothing but a freak and a monster.




As Liz sat on the couch watching her parents open their presents from her, she suddenly felt a wave of fear wash over her, and a few minutes later she sensed nothing but despair. She had felt it before, when Max was with Jake, and she knew that it was coming from him this time as well. She had to fight the desire to lurch off the couch and run down the street to be sure he was all right. She could never come up with a plausible explanation for leaving the apartment, so going to check on him just wasn’t possible. Still she needed to find a way to be sure he was all right. She excused herself to go to the washroom and quickly went to her room. Grabbing her purse, she retrieved the motel phone number out of the side pocket. Quickly dialing the number, she waited impatiently until someone finally picked up on the eighth ring, a bored voice answering, “Thank you for calling The Regent. This is Mary. How may I help you?”

“Yes, I hope so. I’m trying to get a hold of my boyfriend, Ma…I mean Dave Peters. He’s in Room 9A. Is there anyway I can talk to him?”

“You want me to go to his room and get him?” the girl asked incredulously.

Liz hesitated a minute. In his current state of mind, would Max even answer the door if this girl were to knock on it? She had to take a chance. “Would you please?”

“Sorry. I’m not really a messenger service. I can’t leave the desk.”

Liz cursed under her breath. What else could she do? “Juanita. What about Juanita? Is she there?”

“Juanita goes home at five.”

Liz looked at her watch. Eight-thirty. Damn. She quickly thanked the girl and hung up, trying to come up with another plan. Maria? No, she was downstairs working. Isabelle or Michael? It was worth a try. She picked up the phone again, dialing the Evans’ number and praying one of the two aliens would pick up. One ring. Two rings. Three rings. The answering machine picked up. She left a message for Michael or Isabelle to call her as soon as possible and prayed they would get it soon.

Liz returned to the living room with a fake smile plastered on her face. As soon as she sat down on the couch, her dad stood up and handed a present to her. She gave him a confused look. “Has there been a change of plans about buying me a car?”

“No, honey. This sort of goes along with a car, and we wanted you to have something to open from us,” he replied with a smile.

She quickly opened the package and stared at the box. “Is this some kind of fooler box, or is this really what’s in here?”

“Do you think we would tease you with something like that? Go ahead, turn it on. You mother already charged the battery.”

Liz pulled the lid off the box and pulled out the cell phone sitting inside as a big grin crossed her face, not at all reflecting what was going on inside of her.

“The basic fee that we’re paying includes two hundred minutes a month. If you go over that, you have to pay the extra. Does that sound fair?”

“Yeah. That’s more than fair,” she said as she turned the phone on.

Nancy spoke up, “I programmed in some phone numbers for you—home, the Crashdown, Maria, Alex, the Evans, and the motor club if you should have a problem once you get your car. If there’s any other numbers you want in there, I’ll show you how to program it, ok? To dial the number, you just press the button that says ‘Name’, then scroll through until the name and number appear in the display. Then just press ‘Send’. Why don’t you try it?”

“Thanks mom. And dad. This is really great,” she said as brought up the number for the Crashdown.
She held it to her ear and waited for someone to pick up. After two rings, she heard her best friend say, “Crashdown. What do you want to order?”

“One million Will Smith burgers, to go. I’ll be there in five minutes to pick them up,” Liz said in a teasing voice, trying to put on a good show for her parents.

“Hey, Lizzie, what’s happening?”

“Just testing out my new cell phone.”

“You got a cell phone. Cool.”

“I just wanted to know what time you wanted to leave tomorrow.”

“How about nine? Am I picking you up here or at Max’s?”

“Uh, I don’t know yet. Why don’t you call here in the morning, and I’ll let you know.”

“But if you aren’t there, how will you answer the phone?”

“Duh!”

“Oh. If you don’t answer then you’re at Max’s.”

“Bingo!”

“So I guess mom and dad are in the room with you, huh?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“I guess I better go do some actual work, then. Bye.”

“See you in the morning,” Liz chirped, wanting to cry at the sadness she was feeling from Max. What could have happened to make him feel this way?

Her parents gave each other a satisfied look. “Well, if we’re going to get up at two in the morning, I think we’d better get to bed,” Jeff said to his wife.

“Just let me look for my Dramamine. That’s the one thing I forgot to check before I went to the store yesterday,” Nancy replied as she rifled through the bags by the door. “Not enough. That’s just wonderful.”

Seizing the opportunity, Liz almost yelled, “I’ll go get you some. Walgreens is still open.”

“It’s a little late to be walking down there, Liz. I don’t think I want you by that sleazy motel. Lord knows what kind of people live there.”

“It’s not that late—the store closes at nine, so if you need it I should leave now. You guys need to go to bed, and I have my new cell phone. I can call if I have a problem,” she said hoping her voice was not racing as fast as her heart was.

“Fine. I’ll leave it up to your dad.”

Liz turned to her dad, trying to not look too desperate.

“Ok, but take that phone with you.”

“Of course. Oh, I might stay downstairs and help Maria clean up when I get back. Just wake me to say goodbye in the morning,” she said as she gave each of her parents a kiss.

“All right. Don’t stay up too late or we won’t be able to wake you up.”

Liz quickly went to her room to retrieve her jacket. Sticking her cell phone in the pocket, she grabbed her purse and headed out the door. She was so anxious to see Max that she didn’t even bother to say hello to Maria, and when she ran out the back door, she refused to be bothered by the creepy feeling she usually got when she went into the alley.

She made it to Walgreens in record time to pick up the Dramamine. Max’s despair had diminished quite a bit since she had first felt it, but it was still obvious that something was wrong. It probably had something to do with the nightmare he had Sunday afternoon. Perhaps he knew she had experienced it too, like last time. They were so emotionally connected that he had to have experienced all the guilt she had felt yesterday. She hoped that he wasn’t sitting in his room worrying about her foolish yet thankfully short-lived idea of leaving him.

After paying for the Dramamine, she ran across the street to the motel and went around to the back where his room was. The light was still on, so she knocked quietly instead of using her key, softly saying his name. He didn’t answer, so she put the key in the door and opened it. He was lying on the bed and staring off into space as if in some kind of trance. His eyes did not move at all as she closed the door and made her way over to him. She called his name a couple of times, but when he still didn’t respond, she reached out and shook his arm. Voices echoed in her mind.

* You’re a f*cking freak! *
* Quit lookin’ at my girl, you psycho. *
* I should kick in your ugly face *

He suddenly moved his eyes to meet hers, her heart breaking at the depth of his sadness.

“Max, what’s wrong? Please tell me,” she whispered.

He continued to stare at her for several minutes before he finally said, “I thought I was doing the right thing, Liz.”

“I know, Max,” she said as she slowly stroked his cheek. “I know.”

“But I did something wrong.”

“No, Max. You didn’t do anything wrong,” she said reassuringly.

“I’m nothing but a freak and a monster,” he said, his voice full of self-loathing.

“No, you’re not a monster. You only did what you thought was right.”

“Liz, please believe me. I never wanted to hurt anybody.”

“Shh, Max, I know that, but if anyone deserved to be hurt, it was that bastard.”

“What?” Max asked, suddenly confused.

“Jake deserved to be hurt.”

“I didn’t say anything about hurting Jake.”

“You didn’t have to, Max. I saw your nightmare again, the one you had Sunday afternoon.”

“Liz, I didn’t have any nightmare Sunday.”

“What? Are you sure? It happened in the afternoon. The images started about half an hour after I left here and lasted off and on for over an hour.”

“I’m certain, Liz. I haven’t had any nightmares since you found out who Jake was.”

“That can’t be. It had to have been from you.”

“Liz, I’m telling you the truth. I fell asleep for a while, but I’ve always remembered when I’ve had nightmares before, and I don’t remember having one then.”

“But…Max I saw more of what Jake did to you. I know that you stayed with him because he threatened to come back and hurt me. I felt everything, too. The burns, the cut on your leg…I experienced all of that.”

“Liz, I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I haven’t thought about any of those things since the night we agreed to not let him run our lives anymore. But I guess you are still having problems with it?”

She knew she couldn’t hide her feeling from him. “When I got those images, those feelings, I just felt so guilty. I know you told me that I shouldn’t blame myself, but I couldn’t help it. You let yourself be tortured to save me. I felt everything you went through and even knowing how much you would be hurt, I would never be able to give you up, even if it meant you had to be in danger again.”

“Please do not think that is a bad thing, my Beauty. I can never show you how it makes me feel for you to love me that much, to love me as much as I love you. I would endure anything to be with you, even what Jake did.”

“I don’t understand, then. You were so upset when I first came in. If you weren’t talking about hurting Jake, who were you talking about?”

“Cambell and D.J.” he said quietly.

“How did you hurt Cambell and D.J.?” she asked, knowing he could never hurt someone he cared about.

“I don’t really know.”

“What happened to make you think you hurt them?”

“I spent the afternoon with them. I brought them the math book you gave me and we worked on it for about an hour. Then we picked some books to read. I read a book to each of them and then I had D.J. read a book to me. We all took a nap together, and when I woke up, their mother was home and screaming at me to stay away from them. I asked her what I did wrong, and she told me I was a sick man to hurt little boys. She called me a freak and a monster. I don’t know what I did to hurt them, but I’m so sorry for whatever it was. I never should have gone near them…” he said, his despair quickly returning.

She climbed onto the bed the rest of the way and pulled him against her, stroking his hair as she comforted him. The couple lay there together for quiet some time until Liz could sense that he had settled down enough to listen to her. “Shhh, Max. You are not a freak or a monster, and I don’t think you did anything to hurt them. I think their mother misunderstood why you were sleeping with them and went a little crazy before you could explain things to her. That’s what happens when you try to protect the people you love—all reasoning sort of goes out the window and instinct takes over.”

“Why does she think I hurt them?”

“Have you ever met her before?”

“No.”

“She doesn’t really know you, Max. It must have been a pretty big shock for her to see you in bed with her two sons. Unfortunately, there are some men who would hurt the boys if they had been in your position.”

“Why?”

“Just because they could. As you and I both know, there are people in this world who enjoy hurting others. There doesn’t have to be a reason behind it. I think you should probably avoid them until their mother has cooled down a little bit. You won’t be here for a whole week anyway, so maybe you can approach her or have Juanita talk to her when you return.”

“But she wouldn’t even let me explain. She was just so mad at me.”

“She was just being a little overprotective. I know how I would feel if I came home and found some strange woman in bed with you.”

His eyes widened in horror, “You got images of that, too? I promise I was going to tell you, Liz. Just ask Juanita.”

“Images of what, Max? A strange woman in bed with you?”

“I promise you my life, Liz, that it was not how it appeared. I did not know that was going to happen. She kissed me…and tried to…have sex with me. I did not want to, Liz. Please, you have to believe me—I only want you.”

“Show me.”

“You did not get those images?”

“No. Now show me what happened, Max.”

“Liz…”

“SHOW ME!”

He reluctantly nodded his head as he sent her the images of Carrie kissing him and her attempted seduction in her room. He could feel Liz’s emotions rolling inside of her.

“Her name is Carrie, huh? So that’s why you were so upset Saturday?” she asked, her irritation obvious.

He nodded.

“It had nothing to do with getting my computer out of the trunk of the car?”

“No.”

“God, Max, why didn’t you just tell me? I was so worried about you the rest of the day, and it was all over some stupid kiss?” she said in a raised voice, partially angry and partially relieved to finally know the reason for his strange behavior that day.

“I’m sorry, Liz.”

“Why didn’t you just tell me, Max?”

“I thought I had betrayed you, and I was afraid you would leave me if I told you. And then when Carrie cornered me in her room yesterday, I just knew it was my fault and that you would never allow me to touch you again.”

“So while I was feeling guilty about Jake hurting you because of me, you were feeling guilty about what you had done with Carrie? You said Juanita knows about this. How? And why didn’t she stop it? Unless you didn’t want it to stop,” she said bitterly as she pulled away from him.

“Of course I wanted it to stop. I love you, Liz. Juanita did not know about this until after it happened. I went to her because I was so afraid I would lose you that I had to find out what I could do to fix it. I know you are angry with me, but please don’t leave me,” he begged.

Liz silently chastised herself as she took him back in her arms. She was so caught up in the image of Carrie’s naked body and her own insecurities over how she measured up that she had allowed herself to forget how purely innocent Max really was. Despite all he had been through and his phenomenal progress, he was still naïve about so many things. What he needed was her reassurance and protection, not doubt and anger. Taking his chin in her hand, she forced him to look at her as she said, “Max, you didn’t do anything wrong. This Carrie, on the other hand, is some piece of work, and it is her fault for trying to take advantage of you. I’m angry with her, not you.” She gave him a gentle kiss on his forehead, willing him to feel all her love. “I promise that I will never leave you.”

He leaned up to kiss her fully, his eyes glistening with tears of relief. Feeling his immense love for her as their mouths mated languidly, she could sense his underlying vulnerability. In that moment she finally understood just how fragile he could be. She loved this gentle caring creature more than life itself and she held his heart in her hands. She needed to be certain that she never did anything to crush it. She returned his love, mentally pledging her limitless adoration for eternity.

They eventually separated their lips, and Liz took the opportunity to voice another question, this time with amusement instead of anger. “Why did you have Carrie’s shoe in the first place?”

“She threw it at a man who owed her money for having sex with her,” he said seriously.

“SHE WHAT?” she gasped, certain that she had not head him correctly.

“She threw it at a man who owed her money for having sex with her,” he repeated.

“That’s what I thought you said. Are you saying Carrie is a prostitute?”

“No. She’s a whore,” he said straight-faced.

She let out a strained breath of air before she said, “Uh, they’re the same thing, Max. Prostitute is just a nicer word for the same disgusting thing. Dear God, what kind of place did I stick you in? Please just stay away from her. If I weren’t afraid I’d do some serious damage, I would go up to her room right now and give her a piece of my mind. She doesn’t have enough guys to mess around with that she needs to go after you? That is just so low. How does someone like that live with themselves?”

“She’s not all bad, Liz. Once I told her that I only wanted you, she did stop. I don’t think she will bother me again.”

“Remind me to thank her if I ever see her in person,” Liz said sarcastically.

“Juanita said she would clean Carrie’s room from now on.”

“I think that’s an excellent idea,” she said as she noticed her watch. Giving him a light kiss she said, “Max, I want to stay longer, but I have to get back home. My parents will be up in three hours, and I want to wake up with them to say goodbye. Maria and I will come by around nine to pick you up if you still want to go to the mall with us.”

“Of course I do.”

“And then we get to spend the whole week together. That will give me plenty of time to make you forget all about Carrie.”

“Who?” he said with a smile, more than willing to put his upsetting experience behind him.

“You’re a fast learner, Max. A very fast learner.”

Chapter 42

“So why didn’t Michael want to come with us?” Max asked as they pulled into the Crystal Sands Mall in Hondo.

The two girls looked at each other and broke out in laughter. All three of the teens had been in a good mood the entire trip, and Max loved to watch Liz as she and Maria belted out the lyrics along with the radio, occasionally letting out little screeches when one of their favorite songs would begin to play. Once their giggles died down, Maria answered him. “Trust me, Max, you have never seen Liz and me at the mall. After today, I bet you’ll never want to go shopping with us again.”

Maria ended up parking very far away, and Liz carefully watched Max to gauge his reaction to the hundreds of cars covering the asphalt. He looked around curiously as they exited the vehicle, and Liz was relieved that she hadn’t sensed any fear or nervousness in their connection. He seemed to have put the confrontation with Cambell and D.J.’s mom out of his mind enough to enjoy the day, and Liz was happy that he had no difficulties during the long car ride to their destination.

“Lucky for you, Max,” Maria continued, “you get the abbreviated version. They are calling for some pretty nasty weather later, so we aren’t going to make this an all-day thing like we usually do, right chica?”

“That’s right, ‘ria. Although there are three stores that I definitely have to hit,” Liz said as she looped her arm around Max’s waist as they walked towards the building. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder, pulling her closer to him in the chilly December air.

“Romeo and I have a little errand of our own to run,” Maria teased as she gave Max’s shoulder a light punch, “so let’s decide what we want to do first. I want to get a new outfit for Michael and Isabelle’s New Year’s party.”

“What’s a New Year’s party?” Max inquired.

“How do I explain New Year’s? I guess it’s when the year ends and we start the calendar all over again. A new year signals a fresh start, and people make resolutions, promises to improve their lives somehow. New Year’s Eve is the last day of the year, so family and friends gather together and celebrate. As the time approaches midnight, everyone count down until it is the new year,” Liz said.

“Everyone goes to Michael and Isabelle’s house?” Max asked.

“Us and a bunch of kids from school. Their parents traditionally spend New Year’s in Las Vegas, so they get the house to themselves. It’s always a lot of fun,” Maria explained.

“Are we going to this party?” Max asked Liz.

“Do you want to?” she asked hopefully.

“I will go if you want to,” he replied, sensing her enthusiasm.

“You have to wear that outfit Maria bought for you. I can’t wait to see you in that shirt again. Maybe I can find a dress to match it,” Liz said, turning to Max as they approached the doors to the main entrance. She gave Maria a slight nod to indicate that she wanted to stop a minute to be sure he was doing all right before they entered the place that would be filled with the hundreds of people who owned the cars in the full parking lot.

“Do you still think you’re up to this?” she asked with concern as she looked at the building.

He nodded his head. “Yeah, I think so. Please just keep touching me. Hold my hand or keep doing this,” he said as he pointed to her arms around his waist, “and I think I can do this.”

She leaned up and gave him a sweet, loving kiss. “I know you can, Max.”

They turned back to Maria, who couldn’t help but give them a humored look at their displays of affection. Max opened the door and held it for the two girls, his other hand never leaving Liz’s. They stopped and crammed all three of their jackets inside one of the rental lockers, the girls deciding that they didn’t need to be burdened with any excessive weight on their shopping adventure. As they passed the second set of doors and stepped into the wonderland of Christmas commercialism, Max’s eyes took on an expression of astonished awe. He had never seen so many bright lights before, and they almost stung his eyes, still sensitive from years of living in the dark of night. There were literally hundreds of people milling about, from other teens hanging with their friends to overtired mothers trying to finish up before the little ones with them began throwing temper tantrums. Some wandered casually and enjoyed the festive atmosphere while others shopped with a single-mindedness that dared anyone to get in their way.

“We might as well start here,” Maria quipped as she pointed at the nearest clothing store. She tugged on Liz’s arm, forcing her to drag Max behind her as he continued his visual examination of this new place. Once inside the store, the girls went through several racks of clothes, picking and choosing various things to try on. Max wanted to be useful, so he held Liz’s choices while she went through some table displays, neither one of them venturing more than a few inches from the other. Maria could only gawk when she saw how attentive Max was being to Liz—he actually looked like he was enjoying himself. She would have to find a way to get him to spend more time with Michael and hope that some of his personality would rub off onto her boyfriend.

When it came time for the girls to try on the things they had picked, Max had a difficult time understanding exactly why he couldn’t be with Liz in the dressing room. He definitely didn’t want to be alone, so each of the two girls took turns sitting next to him on the small loveseat outside of the dressing room while the other girl tried on and modeled the various items she had chosen. Clapping hands, wrinkled noses and thumb up and down signs indicated whether the two spectators liked the current outfit being shown.

During one of Liz’s modeling sessions, Max covertly brought up the subject of Liz’s present. “Maria, have you been able to think of anything I could get Liz for a Christmas gift?”

“I have something in mind, depending on how much money you are planning to spend,” she said quietly.

“I don’t have a lot. Juanita stopped by this morning and gave me fifty dollars as a gift and told me to enjoy my vacation. She said I didn’t have to worry about cleaning the rooms while I was at Liz’s.”

“That was really nice of her. What I’m thinking of should be around thirty dollars, so that will work out all right, as long as you’re able to tear yourself away from her for half an hour or so,” she teased.

“I want it to be a surprise for her, so I guess I’ll manage somehow,” he said quietly.

Just then, Liz came out in a peach-colored sweater with a black suede mini-skirt. Max and Maria both gave her cheers and thumbs up. “So should this be my New Year’s outfit?”

“Come on, Liz. This is only the first store. You know the rules say we have to go to at least five more stores before you can buy anything—have the girl hold it at the counter for now,” her best friend ordered.

“Ok. Ok. I’ll be out in a minute,” Liz pouted as she turned to go change back into her own clothes.


On their way to the second store, Liz had noticed that Max seemed distracted by a woman pushing a little girl in a stroller.

“Is there something wrong, Max? You keep staring at that woman.”

“Does she have some kind of illness, Liz?” he asked with concern.

“Not that I can tell. Why do you ask?” she queried as she watched the woman.

“She has a big lump in her stomach, and she seems to be having a difficult time walking,” he explained.

“Oh, she’s not sick, Max. She’s pregnant.”

“Pregnant?”

“That means she’s going to have a baby, and from the looks of her, I’d say within the next week or so.”

“So that lump is the baby?”

“Yup.”

He looked at the woman and the to Liz, asking in awe, “Would you look like that if my baby were growing inside of you?”

“Well, barring any ‘unusual’ developments, yes. It doesn’t happen overnight—the baby grows slowly, so it takes nine months to get to that point.”

“My baby would be inside of you for nine months,” Max half asked and half stated.

“Nine months. And by the end of the eighth month, I’d be walking like that, too,” she joked. Max squeezed her hand a little tighter as the pregnant woman finally passed them by.

Before they entered the third clothing store, they took a small detour to the bookstore. Max was enthralled by the variety of books on every subject imaginable. If he had been able to spend the rest of the day in there, it still would not have been enough time to look at all the books he was interested in seeing. What surprised Liz was that in the hour they were in the store, Max had managed to read five decent sized books, front to back. Liz couldn’t help but laugh when he told her his favorite one had come from the science fiction section. She and Maria finally persuaded him to leave his new Shangri-La with promises that they would someday return and let him roam the aisles freely for as long as he wanted. Liz made a mental note to plan a trip to the Library with him.


Liz hadn’t been able to stop blushing when Max held her hand in the third store and told her how incredibly beautiful she looked in the wine-colored slip dress she was wearing. He whispered across their connection how much more beautiful she would be out of it as he sent her sensual images of him pleasuring her as he removed the dress from her body. It took every ounce of her willpower to not immediately drag him out of the store and back to the empty apartment in Roswell. Instead, she decided to break sacred shopping protocol and buy the dress on the spot.


Liz couldn’t help but notice the wistful smile that crossed Max’s lips as they passed by the toy store. Dozens of children were inside, each one so absorbed with the item in his or her hands that the outside world has ceased to exist. Max wanted nothing more than to share that joy, but when Liz asked whether he wanted to go into the store, he sadly shook his head no. She could tell he was thinking of what Cambell and D.J.’s mom had called him, and she silently cursed the woman for being so careless with her words. Dragging Max out of the flow of shoppers, she grasped the back of his neck and pulled him down to her, capturing his lips with her own as she willed him to feel how much she loved him.


As they walked out of Express Yourself, the fourth clothing store on their shopping journey, Max still looked quite content just following the girls around and watching them try on dozens of different outfits, showing his approval or dislike of each one. He and Liz had tried to talk Maria into buying a forest green sequined blouse that matched her eyes perfectly, but she refused, mumbling under her breath about the sanctity of the shopping rules.


Before continuing with their fifth clothing store, Maria asked, “So should we eat now or split up first?”

“I’m not really hungry yet,” Max said innocently. ‘Unless you’re on the menu,’ his voice echoed in Liz’s mind.

“We should probably split up first,” Liz told her best friend, knowing she wouldn’t be able to handle much more of Max’s mental seduction.

“Ok, chica. So where do you want to meet back up and in how long?”

“Might as well meet at the food court in say, an hour?” Liz asked as she checked her watch.

“Sounds good. Can you handle an hour away from your girl, Max?”

He nodded as he leaned down to give Liz a goodbye kiss. As they pulled apart, Liz started jumping up and down enthusiastically. “Oh wait. I want to do this first. Come on, Max,” she said as she dragged him over to a small booth and pulled the curtain aside.

“What is this?” he asked, amused by her sudden eagerness.

“You said you wanted a picture of me. Well, I want some pictures of you and me together. All we have to do is sit here,” she said as she pointed to the small stool, “and that little camera will take our picture—four of them to be exact. Now sit down please.”

He eyed her suspiciously as she slid a dollar bill into the outside slot and then plopped herself in his lap, rubbing her bottom against his obvious arousal as payback for his earlier teasing. “Look right there and smile. You’ll see a flash,” she said as she pointed to the red dot across from them.

He did as she said, the light from the flash almost blinding him. “Liz, that hurts my eyes a little.”

As they waited for the next flash, she caressed his chin with her hand, silently directing him to look at her instead of the dot. She continued to hold his face in her hands as she gave him a gentle kiss on the lips, the camera capturing the sweet gesture. The third picture was a mirror image of the second, with Max’s hands lovingly caressing her face as his lips grazed her forehead. The fourth and final picture showed a full profile of Liz’s raptured expression as Max buried his face in her neck, verbalizing how much he was going to enjoy having her naked body against his as they slept that night.

“Ok, you two. It’s a photo booth, not the eraser room,” Maria teased as she noticed the camera had quit but the two lovebirds hadn’t.

Liz reluctantly climbed out, holding Max’s hand as she reached for the developed photos with her other hand. She showed them to Max and he was amazed at his difference in appearance from what he saw in the mirror. He gave her another kiss on the forehead as he told her how amazing she looked. She slipped the photos into the pocket of her purse, glad to have a memento of their wonderful first day of vacation together.

“Come on, Romeo. Let’s get going before I have to pry Liz out of your arms again.”




“Michelle will do your makeup and you can choose from any of the outfits here,” Douglas directed as he showed Liz around the photo studio. “Once you are ready, we will take twenty shots in various poses, and you can choose your photos from among them in any combination. We also have several package deals for a set price.”

“This won’t take more than an hour, will it?” Liz asked hopefully.

“The makeup and photo shoot take about forty minutes, and you can spend as much time as you want choosing photos. We also have a wide variety of picture frames to choose from,” he explained.

She still wasn’t sure whether she wanted to invest the time to do this until she spotted the perfect dress among the costumes. “All right. Let’s get started,” she said confidently.



“Maria, I cannot go in there.”

“Why not Max?”

“Look what is in there. I just do not feel right going in there with all those…things,” he said as he pointed to the store.

“Well, do you want me to just go and pick something out?”

“No.”

“Then you have to come in with me,” she emphasized.

“I cannot,” he said, the embarrassment showing on his face.

“How about this? You stand right here near the entrance, and I’ll go pick a few things I think she might like and bring them up here where you can see them. Then you can make the final choice.”

He nodded as his cheeks reddened a little more.


Forty minutes later—

“Max, I’ve showed you just about everything in the store. There has to be something you like—unless you just enjoying the looking part a little too much.”

“No. I’m sorry Maria, but this is my first gift to her and it has to be perfect.”

“What about the pendant you gave her? She loves that thing so much she never takes it off.”

Max briefly closed his eyes in concentration before he spoke, “The pendant is from my old life, my life before I knew her. This will be my first gift to her as my girlfriend. Please understand.”

“I understand completely, Max. The fact remains that we have to meet Liz in about five minutes and you still don’t have a gift for her. Do you see ANYTHING here that you might want to give her?”

“What I’d really like is that,” he said pointing to the item in her left hand, “in that color,” he continued as he pointed to an item on the rack.

“This in that color. Ok, I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thanks Maria.”




‘Please hurry up you guys,’ Liz thought to herself as she sat at a table in the food court. Smelling the faint tabacco smell from the cigarette store across the walkway, she decided she would suggest eating somewhere else to avoid the disgusting scent.

“Hey, Lizzie.”

“Kyle,” Liz said in surprised. “What are you doing out here?”

“The same thing ever other guy does just days before Christmas. I’m looking for a present for Tess.”

“Oh. I should have known you were a last minute shopper.”

“Did she tell you she was sorry for that garbage she pulled last week?”

“Yeah. We straightened everything out.”

“So, where is that new boyfriend of yours—Max? I’m surprised you two were able to tear yourselves away from each other.”

“Actually, I’m doing a girls’ day with Maria, but he decided to tag along.”

“He’s shopping with you and Maria? Tell him he has my sympathies. How much longer are you going to be staying? It’s already started to rain out, and they’re saying it will start freezing in the next two hours.”

“I’m just waiting for them to get back so we can eat. Then we’ll probably take off.”

“Well, I’d better get going, too. I probably won’t see you before Christmas, so have a happy one, ok?” he said as he put his arm around her shoulder, giving her cheek a light kiss before he turned to leave.

“Yeah, you and Tess too, Kyle. See you later,” Liz called after him. Not seeing a sign of Max or Maria, she wondered what could be keeping them. They were already ten minutes late.

Less than a minute later, Maria ran up to the table, frazzled and out of breath. “Liz, we have a problem,” she hissed out between heaves, resting her hands on her knees for support.

“I know. Kyle just told me the weather was getting bad. Where’s Max?” she asked, looking around.

“That’s the problem,” she choked out.

“What do you mean, Maria?” Liz asked nervously.

“Max—he just took off on me. He’s gone.”


Dreams remain just as long as there's Dreamers--Dennis DeYoung
posted on 17-Sep-2001 12:36:39 AM
Chapter 43

Liz looked around again, this time with panic in her eyes. She asked in a shaky voice, “What do you mean ‘gone’, Maria?”

“God, Lizzie, please don’t kill me. I don’t know what happened. We were walking back here to meet you and when we came around the corner, you were talking with Kyle. Suddenly Max froze and before I knew it, he was running away. I tried to follow him, but he was going way too fast. I’m so sorry, Liz. I didn’t know what else to do.”

Gathering her things, Liz stood up. “Damn it. I just knew this would be too much for him. Unless, oh God…”

“Unless what?”

“Kyle wished me a Merry Christmas and gave me a kiss on the cheek. What if Max saw that and got jealous?”

“I can’t believe that seeing Kyle kiss you on the cheek would make him jealous.”

“I wouldn’t think so either, but just yesterday I got upset with him because some girl tried to kiss him. Maybe he’s not jealous—maybe he’s angry.”

“I don’t know, Liz. He looked really freaked out.”

“I have to find him. Did you see which way he ran?”

“I lost him in the crowd near the bookstore. I tried to keep up with him, but he was just too fast.”

“Don’t worry, Maria. We’ll find him. Maybe he just wanted to go buy another gift,” Liz tried to say convincingly. Somehow she knew it wasn’t that simple.

“I’m sure that’s it, Liz. Or maybe he wanted to go read some more books. We should check the bookstore first,” Maria said hopefully, not wanting to confirm the doubt in Liz’s voice.

“I never should have let him talk me into bringing him with us,” Liz said as she shook her head. “Let’s just hope he’s safe.”



“Attention Crystal Sands Mall shoppers. The time is now nine forty-five and the mall will be closing in fifteen minutes. We will reopen tomorrow morning at nine. We thank you for shopping at our mall and hope you enjoyed the experience. From all of us at Crystal Sands Mall, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

“Still no sign of him?” Maria asked as Liz approached her in the food court.

Liz sat down next to her, shaking her head no instead of trying to say the words that refused to pass her lips. Maria wrapped her arm around the distraught girl as Liz’s restrained sobs began to shake both of them.

Max had disappeared right around two o’clock, and the girls had immediately searched the corridor where Maria had last seen him. They went back to all the stores they had visited, and Liz had desperately hoped that she would see him lazily sitting at a table in the science fiction section of the bookstore enjoying yet another story, but he was nowhere to be found. With hundreds of people milling about and so many places Max could have gone, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. The two friends had run from one end of the mall to the other several times over, meticulously looking in each store before splitting up and searching separately for a few hours.

When there was still no sign of Max anywhere, they finally went to the mall office to have him paged. It was only when the security guard asked Max’s last name that Liz realized Max might not respond because he did not know the last name she had chosen for him. Maria had a difficult time restraining Liz when the security guard had smirked at her insistence that his name was just Max. He agreed to page Max with a message to meet his party in the food court, but he drew the line at giving out the girls’ names. Maria had waited there and prayed Max would show up before Liz returned from another round of searching, but now with the tears streaming down her best friend’s face and still no Max, she knew the hunt had been fruitless.


“Maria? Lizzie? What are you guys still doing here?” a familiar voice called from behind them.

“Kyle?” Liz asked, wiping her tears.

“What’s wrong kiddo? I thought you guys left hours ago.”

Thinking quickly, Maria said, “Liz and Max had a little misunderstanding and he took off. We’ve been looking all over for him, but he’s just disappeared. We’ve looked all over the mall and there is no sign of him anywhere.”

“How do you know he’s still in the mall?” he asked.

“Where else would he go?” Maria questioned.

“I saw some guy who looks like him run out the doors by the theater. He seemed a little pissed off. But this guy had really short hair, and Max’s comes down to here, doesn’t it?” he asked as he pointed to his shoulder.

Liz looked up in horror, “Oh God Maria, what if he’s outside somewhere?”

“You have to stay calm, chica. It may not even be him. Hey, show Kyle the pictures from the photo booth.”

Liz reached into her purse and pulled out the strip of photos, the happy couple in them now mocking her. She closed her eyes as she handed them to Kyle, hoping that he would not identify the guy as Max.

“Yeah, that’s him all right. He got his hair cut, huh?”

Liz broke out in tears again as Maria took charge of the situation. “You said you saw him leave out the doors by the theater. Do you remember what time it was?”

“Well, I was going in to see that new Jackie Chang movie. Tess hates those things so I go by myself. It must have been a little before three because the movie started exactly at three.”

“Liz, maybe he just went to the car. We didn’t even think to look there,” Maria said with hope as she tried to comfort her friend. “Why don’t we go get our jackets and see if he’s there. They are about to kick us out of here anyway.”

“If he’s not by your car, maybe he hitched a ride back to Roswell with someone else. He probably got sick of following you two around with all your shopping and hightailed it back home. He’s probably sitting at his house watching the game as we speak,” Kyle said cheerily, hating to see Liz so upset. “I’m sure everything will be all right.”

“Thanks, Kyle,” Liz said through her sniffles. They quickly parted ways, Liz now invoking every prayer she knew that Max was somehow safe and sound in Maria’s car. They grabbed their jackets, Liz almost losing it again as she pulled Max’s out of the locker, and walked as quickly as possible to the Jetta, the sleet and freezing rain having turned the parking lot into an enormous ice rink. Liz held her breath as they approached the car, looking for some sign that Max was nearby. When they got close enough to see inside, she collapsed in a heap of sobs as she confirmed that he was not there.

“Liz, babe, you have to keep it together. Max needs you.”

“This is all my fault, Maria,” she choked out as she tightly held his jacket against her face. “He could be anywhere, scared and cold and all alone, and it’s all my fault.”

Maria pulled her best friend up from the freezing ground and guided her to the front seat of the car. “Liz, you can’t do this, not now. Right now, we need to come up with a plan to find Max.” She took the wet shopping bags and threw them in the trunk before getting in on the driver’s side. “I think we need to call Michael and Isabelle and have them help us look. Do you have any idea of where he could have gone?”

“He could be anywhere. What if he’s lost? What if he doesn’t know how to get back to Roswell, or what if he’s too mad at me to come back?” she asked as her sobbing began anew.

“Lizzie please, you have to calm down. We will find him, I promise. I’m going to call Michael and Isabelle and have them look for him at the motel, at your place and any other places they can think of. It has been long enough that Kyle may be right—he could be back home by now, even if he had to walk. You and I will go back the way we came and look for Max walking on the side of the road.”

Liz just nodded, then listened as Maria spoke to Michael. From what she could tell, Isabelle was out with Alex so they would tell him the same story Maria had told Kyle regarding Max’s disappearance.
They agreed to keep in touch by cell phone, and Maria ended the conversation quickly to begin her part in the search for Max.

“Liz, is there something you’re not telling me?” Maria asked as she noticed that her best friend was shaking terribly. Liz had always been a ‘take-charge’ person even in the worst crisis and to see her in such a disoriented state shook Maria to the core.

“I can’t feel him,” Liz said softly.

“Can’t feel him?”

“Remember how you told me that you and Michael could silently communicate and feel each other’s emotions when you make love?”

“Yeah?”

“Max and I are able to sense each other’s feelings all the time. I didn’t know it then, but even when he was gone, we could feel what the other one was feeling, just not as strong. Once he came back to me, our connection was so intense that I quickly got used to having our emotions so mixed up inside of me that sometimes I couldn’t tell whether they were mine or his . Except, now I can’t feel him at all.”

“Wow Liz, I knew you two were really serious about each other, but I had no idea that it was so deep. So you can usually feel his emotions. Are you able to communicate with him?”

“Yes, but we still need to be touching to do that. I’m so scared Maria. What if I can’t feel him because something happened to him? I might never find him,” she whispered in terror.

“Liz, you can’t think that way. We will find him. He hasn’t been gone that long. I’m sure Michael or Isabelle will find him somewhere in Roswell.”

“I hope you’re right, Maria.”



The two aliens had both checked in with Maria as she and Liz methodically searched the icy roads on the slow, dangerous trip back to Roswell. No one had seen any trace of Max. The five teens continued to search their hometown for any clue as to where he may have disappeared, Liz hoping that they weren’t playing some demented version of musical chairs where he continuously moved to the place they currently weren’t searching.

Shortly after midnight, Maria finally convinced Liz that she should stay at home while the others continued looking for Max since he more than likely would show up at the Crashdown. Liz had reluctantly agreed, and now she sat on her bed, staring blankly at the comforter as she had for the past hour, hoping that mentally tracing it’s pattern over and over would clear her mind of all the terrifying thoughts of what may have happened to the love of her life.

Not being able to feel Max’s emotions had been so much more unnerving than she had been able to describe to Maria. Max’s feelings had become such an immense part of her that she now felt dead inside without them. Even when Jake had taken him she had at least felt some things from him, although at the time she didn’t know the depth of their connection. She couldn’t bear the thought of never sharing Max’s feelings again. She pulled her eyes away from the bed long enough to look around. She had managed to set everything up before Maria picked her up for their trip. Candles covered flat surfaces all over the room, some strategically placed to take advantage of the mirror’s reflective property, others placed to accent the significance of the bed, with its cool sheets and inviting down comforter.

This should have been the best night of her life. Tonight should have been the night she and Max finally made love. It should have been the night she felt him deep inside of her as they became one. It should have been the night she heard whispers of love echo in her mind while he poured his warm seed into her body as they reached their peak. It should have been the night she lovingly kissed his chest as he held her in his arms, each basking in the afterglow of the intimate act that would bond them forever. It should have been the night she felt his lips on the back of her neck as they fell asleep together, exhausted from their passionate lovemaking.


Instead it was the night that she wondered whether he was still alive.


Chapter 44

“I’m sorry, I don’t do girls,” the dark brunette said in a sarcastic voice as she stood in her doorway.

“I’m not here for that. I just wanted to see whether Max was here.” she said tiredly.

“You must be Liz. You wake me up at two in the morning to find out whether your boyfriend is with me? He’s a big boy—a very big boy from what I felt. Why don’t you let him take care of himself?” she asked with arrogance.

“First of all, I didn’t mean to interrupt your beauty sleep. I thought whores like you kept late hours. Right now I don’t know whether Max is alive or dead, so just cut the crap and tell me whether or not he is in your room before I break your f*cking neck and go look for myself,” Liz said with venemous anger as she balled up her fists at her sides.

“No. He’s not here. I haven’t seen him since this morning when he left with you,” Carrie said through gritted teeth, “so keep me out of your little lovers’ spats, will you?”

“Gladly.”

“Yeah, you have a great night, too,” she said with fake pleasantness as she slammed the door in Liz’s face.

Liz went downstairs to Max’s room and let herself back in. She knew she should be at the Crashdown, but the fear that she may never see him again, let alone make love with him, had been so overwhelming that she could not longer sit still in her room and wait for the news she was terrified her friends would eventually bring. She laid down on the bed, his scent drifting up from the sheets to envelop her in tenuous comfort. Unable to permit herself the luxury of displaying her own feelings when she could not feel Max’s, she had not cried since her breakdown in the mall parking lot. Even the confrontation she just had with Carrie brought her no satisfaction. She laid there wondering what to do next. She had taken her mother’s car and driven here as a last resort, almost hoping Max was in Carrie’s room. As painful as it would have been to find him there, even that would have been better than not knowing what had happened to him.

She wearily closed her eyes as she wrapped his jacket around her a little tighter. Deciding she had nothing to lose by trying to communicate with him, she struggled to clear her mind of any thoughts. It had always been so effortless when he was touching her that she had no idea what to do or where to begin.

‘Max, can you hear me?’ she called out in her mind.

Silence.

‘Max, please. If you can hear me, just let me know you’re safe.’

No response.

‘I love you, Max. Please come home.’

Nothing but stillness.

She had to find him. There had to be some way for her to know where he was. Fingering the pendant around her neck, she started by thinking of the first night she had seen his mysterious eyes then brought up memories of all the times she had seen him in the alley, of the first time he looked up at her, the day she spoke to him, the day he saved her life. She felt a sharp stab of anger as Jake’s face flashed through her mind before she could push it out by returning to her thoughts of Max. She then remembered how she felt when she saw Max on the floor of her room, exhausted but very much alive. She thought of all the wonderful moments they had spent over Thanksgiving, kissing and sleeping together, teaching him how to read and speak, his overwhelming joy the night she spent touching and caressing him, the evening they spent having dinner with their friends. Thinking of his midnight surprise for her, she suddenly felt freezing rain pentrating her shirt as she shivered uncontrollably in the cold.

Her eyes flew open as she leapt off the bed, expecting to find her clothing soaking wet from the wintry precipitation. She looked down in confusion as she realized that she wasn’t even outside. Her shirt was completely dry and she was not shivering. It had felt so real. She could have sworn she was shivering in the cold, watching the familiar trees grow heavy with accumulations of ice. But if it weren’t happening to her, that could only mean one thing. The sensations had come from Max. He was still alive.

And she knew exactly where he was.
----------

“MAX!”

He could not believe this was happening.

“Excuse you, you jerk!”

He never should have let her out of his sight.

“Watch where you’re going!”

He never should have left her side.

“What’s your problem?”

HE was so close to her.

“Do you mind?”

Close enough to touch her.

“Slow down, you punk.”

And he hated HIM for it.

“Quit pushing!”

He had felt the anger swirling inside his body.

“Watch it.”

He had felt an energy begin to build.

“That’s my girl you just ran into.”

He knew he could not control it.

“What makes you so special?”

He had to get away from Them.

“Be careful!”

He had to control the energy somehow.

“Thanks a lot, a$$hole!”

He had to run.

“Hey, watch the stroller!”

Run away from Them.

“Look out, will ya!”

He could never be one of Them.

“Watch where you’re going!”

He was nothing but a freak and a monster.

“Do you mind?”

He did not deserve her love.

Run. Run. Hide.

----------

“Max?”

He was here. He was really here.

She reached out to touch him. He let out a low growl as he viciously pushed her hand away from him.

“Max, please. It’s me—Liz. I’ve been so worried about you.”

He was in the same trance-like state she had found him in when she saw him at the motel the night before. Only now he didn’t want her to touch him.

“Max, tell me what happened, please.”

His unseeing eyes stared past her grieving face.

She reached out again and he repeated his physical dismissal of her.

“I’m sorry, Max. Whatever I did, I’m so sorry. Please don’t be mad at me.”

Nothing.

“Please let me touch you.”

No emotion.

“Max, please say something…anything.”

His unfocused stare persisted.

Liz cautiously looked him over for injuries but couldn’t get close enough to him for a thorough inspection. He was curled up in the corner of the bell tower, his soaked clothes clinging to his shivering form as his wet hair stubbornly clung to his forehead. His shoes and pant legs were covered with icy mud, and his hands shook violently as he tried to keep them wrapped around his knees. His handsome face, usually so expressive, completely masked any emotions he may have been feeling. Liz held her trembling hand against her mouth to stifle her sobs as tears trickled down her cheeks, chilling instantly in the freezing air.

The sky was now starting to clear, and the stars shown down upon the town just as they had when he brought her here a few weeks ago. The trees were covered in ice just as she had seen in the image. Looking back at her shivering boyfriend, she knew she had to move him to somewhere warm very soon, which meant she had to find some way to get through to him. Even if he was mad at her, he had to know that he could not spend the rest of the night there. “Max, I’m begging you. You have to get warmed up. Please let me take you home.”

His eyes momentarily flickered with recognition at the word ‘home’, and she took the opportunity to reach out to him once again. He let out a strangled whimper as he flinched at her caress, but he did not force her hand away from him this time. His eyes turned to look at her, but there was no emotion in them. She took his jacket off and wrapped it around him, not caring about the chill against her own skin.

“Max, I need to get you down the stairs. Can you help me? Can you stand up?”

His unresponsiveness sent a shiver down her spine. She didn’t believe for one minute that just seeing Kyle give her a kiss on the cheek had brought him to this state of mind. But what had happened? Had the crowded mall simply been too much for him to handle? She silently cursed herself for going against her gut instinct and allowing him to go there. She was supposed to protect him, and here he was in the worst mental condition she had ever seen. She could only hope he would recover from such a huge setback.

She slid her hand from his face to under his right arm as she slowly moved her other hand under his left one. She tried to pull him up but he was dead weight and there was no way she could get him to move without his help. “Please Max, you have to help me,” she said through chattering teeth. He was shaking so badly that she didn’t know how much help he would actually be.

He mechanically pushed himself to a standing position as she helped support him, the jacket falling from his shoulders as he straightened up the best he could. Liz’s clothes were quickly drenched as she leaned against him, hoping he would be able to walk down the pitch-black stairs. She picked up the jacket and put it on him, his arms moving like a ragdoll’s as she placed them in the sleeves. He continued to look at her with a blank expression as she guided him over to the stairs, taking them slowly as he followed behind her like a zombie.

What could have possibly happened to him that he could not talk to her? He was obviously alive, so why was it that she was no longer in tune with his emotions? What could she do to get him to communicate with her? A sudden fear washed over her. What if he was still able to do these things but was choosing not to? She tried to bite back a new set of tears at the thought, knowing that at least for now he was going with her willingly, even if he had not really acknowledged her presence.

They finally made it down the narrow steps and onto the main floor of the church as she carefully directed him around the debris that littered their path. Once outside the full moon bathed the two in an eerie glow as Liz pulled him behind her to the car. She watch him carefully, aniticipating a possible renewed aversion to the vehicle as it came into view. He quickly pulled away from her and began to run back to the church, but his shaky legs were no match for her as she desperately tackled him to the muddy ground. With no strength to fight her, he instead let out a strangled howl as she tried to calm him by whispering words of comfort in his ear. She pulled him up to a sitting position as she looked into his eyes. She knew he must be terrified yet his countenance gave away none of his emotions. She wiped the mud away from his face and gave his lips a gentle kiss. He did not respond to her at all.

“Max, I want to get you home. You have to get back up, and I can’t pull you up on my own. I won’t ask you to get in the car—we can walk back the way you showed me the first time we came here. Please,” she pleaded as a slight breeze began to chill her to the bone. She had to be strong for him, but the cold and fatigue were beginning to overtake her own body. She stood up and held her hands out to him, hoping he would accept her help and not just give up. His blank expression sent another chill throughout her body, and she struggled to focus on the task in front of her without breaking down.

He took her hands and closed his eyes as he fought to stand once again, the tremors in his body making it impossible for him to be still. They walked slowly into the shadows, heavily leaning on each other for support as they made their way back to the Crashdown. It was almost four in the morning when Liz finally dragged Max up the stairs to the apartment. She lead him into the living room, stopping long enough to make sure the door was securely locked before turning back to him. He was still standing in the spot she had left him, looking like a lost puppy waiting for someone to guide him home. Liz noticed that they were both shivering and covered with mud, so she took his hand again and pulled him towards her parents’ bathroom.

Liz filled the jacuzzi tub with warm water as Max stood nearby, not moving a muscle or showing any sign of emotion. Liz turned to him and caressed his face, hoping to see something in his usually expressive eyes besides the hauntingly unfocused stare. She had to get through to him somehow, and as she began to strip him of his damp, dirty clothes, she prayed that her naked flesh against his would stir some kind of reaction in him. He stood there like a puppet as she undressed him, not resisting her movements but not assisting her with the process. She intentionally brushed her hands against his manhood as she removed his boxers, but his body did not show the slightest bit of arousal.

Once he was naked, she settled him into the tub, sitting him forward enough to slip in behind him once she was undressed. She was certain he would not move, so she quickly ran to the living room and grabbed the phone, hastily dialing Maria’s cell phone number. Her best friend answered immediately.

“Nothing yet, Liz. There is no sign of him,” Maria answered automatically, knowing no one else would be calling her cell phone at that time of day.

Liz was relieved that her voice still worked as she said through chilled lips, “I have him. He’s here with me.”

“He’s there? Oh thank God! When did he show up?”

“I found him at an abandoned church he took me to once. I was so upset that I had completely forgotten about it.”

“Did he say why he took off?”

“He hasn’t said anything yet, Maria, but I’m not sure whether it’s because he can’t or doesn’t want to. He’s in pretty bad shape, mentally and physically.”

“Can you feel his emotions again?”

“No, not even when I touch him.”

“I’m sorry, chica. I know that must be really upsetting.”

“I can’t worry about it for now. I need to concentrate on warming him up and hopefully getting some sleep. We’re both on the dirty side, so I’m going to wash us up in the tub and see if I can get him to talk to me, even if it’s just a little bit.”

“Ok. I told my mom I was staying with Isabelle, so I guess we’ll sneak back over there now that Max is safe.”

“Wait! I need you to please do me a big favor. I took my mom’s car out to the church, but Max wouldn’t go near it so we walked home. Would you guys please bring it back? The keys are still in it.”

“Sure, where is this church anyway?”

“It’s a little ways off of Highway 16, near that new subdivision they’re building. It’s near the top of a hill by a grove of trees.”

“I think I know where you’re talking about. You go take care of Max and see whether you can find out what happened. I guess we’ll have to wait and see about exchanging presents tomorrow like we planned. Why don’t you give me a call when you guys wake up.”

“All right. Thanks, ‘ria. Tell Michal, Alex and Isabelle I appreciate all the time they took to help look for him.”

“Sure, chica. Have a good night.”

Liz hung up the phone and grabbed a large plastic glass from the kitchen before returning to her parents’ bathroom. Max was sitting exactly as she had left him, staring straight ahead at the white tiles surrounding the tub. She undressed in a hurry, taking two wash cloths out of the cabinet before climbing in behind him. She pulled him back against her, washing the remaining dirt from his face before planting light kisses on his forehead, cheeks and lips. He only stared at her, not returning her affections. She filled the glass with warm water and gently poured it over his head, then shampooed the mud out of his hair as she softly spoke to him, reminding him of all the wonderful times they had shared and professing her unconditional love for him. She rinsed the suds away from his face, finger-combing his hair as she kissed his neck. He remained unaffected.

She took the wash cloth and loving ran it over his body as she cleansed him, a smile crossing her face as she relayed the story of the other time she had bathed him. She ran her hand along the insides of his thighs, seductively describing his body’s reaction to her when she had first taken him in her hands to wash him. As she held him now, she only felt overwhelming disappointment that he did not harden in her grasp as he had back then. At least he had finally stopped shivering, she thought to herself.

She quickly washed herself up, glad that her hair had escaped the majority of the mud when they had crashed to the ground. She stood him up in the tub as she drained the water, then rinsed the remaining suds from both of them with the shower. She helped him out onto the rug and dried him with a thick beige towel, ruffling his hair with it as she hoped to get some kind of recognition from him. When his face remained expressionless, she simply sighed and lead him to her bedroom. She released his hand to find a pair of boxers in the duffel bag Maria had left when she dropped Liz off earlier that night. Finding the red and black plaid ones, she said to him with a smile, “You brought my favorite pair.”

Knowing he may still be weak from fighting the cold, she sat him down on the side of the bed and brought his boxers up to his knees before having him stand up again to finish placing them over his hips and around his waist. She wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a light kiss, hiding her heartbreak as he continued to look right through her. “I guess we should get some sleep,” she said sadly.

She gently pushed his shoulders so that he sat down on the bed again, then lifted his legs up so that he laid down completely. She walked around to the other side and climbed in next to him, desperately wishing he would take her in his arms. She leaned over him and gave him a kiss, whispering goodnight to him before turning out the light. No sooner had dark enveloped the room than she could not hold back her tears any longer. As she tried to hide her gentle sobs, she felt Max shift on the bed next to her. His hand caressed her damp cheek for a moment before he moved it back to his side. She turned to face him in the dark but was unable to make out his features.

“I love you, Max,” was all she whispered before her body finally gave in to her overwhelming exhaustion.


Dreams remain just as long as there's Dreamers--Dennis DeYoung
posted on 17-Sep-2001 12:45:17 AM
Chapter 45

The brightness from the early afternoon sun forced Liz awake. Panic set in immediately as she noticed that she was alone in her bed. She groaned at the thought that Max might have disappeared again. Why had she allowed herself to fall asleep knowing the condition he was in? She should have forced herself to stay away so she could keep watch over him. It was too much to hope that he was sitting out at the kitchen table, non-chalantly eating a bowl of Tabasco-laced Cocoa Puffs.

She rolled out of bed and sighed with relief when she spotted him curled up in the corner, the same place he had been when she had first found him in her room. She knelt down next to him and whispered his name, but he did not acknowledge her presence. His shivering had returned, and the dark circles under his eyes made it obvious that he had not yet slept. She whispered his name again as she reached out to caress his face, saddened when he cringed at her touch. Even so, she needed to be touching him to assure herself that he was still here with her, so she refused to move her hand.

She didn’t know what to do. Should she leave him where he was? Should she try to get him to eat something? Maybe she should call Michael and Isabelle to see what they could do to help him. Part of her wanted to shake him and yell at him to snap out of the stupor he was in, but she knew that would just make the situation worse. The least she could do was get him off of the floor.

“Max, I’m going to take you back to the bed,” she said quietly.

He didn’t resist as she took his hand and helped him stand up, guiding him back to the inviting warmth of her bed. She got him to lie down again, but when she began to move away to call Maria, he suddenly grabbed her hand. Although his face remained emotionless, she knew he did not want her to leave him. She climbed in next to him, pulling him close as she wrapped her arm around his shoulder. His head rested against her chest as she soothingly stroked his hair. It wasn’t long before he grew heavy against her, his deep consistent breathing further evidence that he was finally asleep. Knowing he was safe in her arms, Liz allowed herself to drift off as well. All the stress and worry of the past twenty-four hours had taken a toll on her body, and she wanted to be well rested for whatever happened once they were awake again.




A warm raindrop hit her cheek. A minute later, another one fell on her lip. Then her nose.

Where was she? When had she fallen asleep?

She opened her eyes to see Max leaning over her.

They were lying in her bed.

How was it raining in her bedroom?

As the next raindrop reached her cheek, she realized that it wasn’t a raindrop at all.

It was a tear. Max’s tear.

All the pain and terror of the past two days came rushing back to her, but it was only her pain and terror. She still could not feel any of Max’s emotions.

He was not looking at her face, so he had not noticed that she was awake. She silently watched him as the back of his hand brush against her breastbone. He had the pendant in the palm of his hand, staring at it as tears ran down his cheek and rained over her. She reached up and brushed the moisture away from his face with her thumb. His eyes met hers, and she couldn’t stop her own tears as she saw his tormented features. He closed his eyes and laid his head on her chest, deep aching sobs coming immediately. She held him close as they cried, wanting desperately to make things right with him again. He brought his arm up to her waist, tightening his grip on her as he continued to grieve.

Once she was able to control her tears, Liz pleaded, “I’m sorry, Max. I’m so sorry. I’m not sure what I did, but whatever it was, please tell me you forgive me. I can’t stand to see you this way.”

He abruptly ended his crying as he turned to look in her eyes, obviously surprised by her apology.
He shook his head no before giving her a shamed look.

“I don’t understand, Max. Why can’t I sense your emotions? Are you blocking your feelings for some reason?”

He hesitated before he slowly nodded yes.

“Please don’t punish me this way. It’s tearing me up inside—I feel so empty without your thoughts and emotions inside of me. Please Max…” she whispered hoarsely, “tell me what’s wrong.”

He looked away from her as he shook his head no.

She climbed out of the bed and stood by the window, the deep pinks and purples of the setting sun streaming through the curtains as she gathered her thoughts. Max scrambled out after her, kneeling before her and pressing his cheek to her stomach as he wrapped his arms around her waist. She reached behind her back and took his hands in hers before removing them from her body. She stepped away from him until they were completely separated. He gave her a questioning look.

“Have you been able to feel my emotions?” she asked, her voice suddenly coldly.

He shook his head no.

“Then you have no idea of what this has done to me, what I’ve been feeling. I think you need to know,” she said in a shaky voice. “When Maria came up to me I was so glad that you two were finally back because in the one hour we had been apart, I missed you desperately. Then she told me you were gone, and I was nervous that something was wrong. When Maria mentioned seeing Kyle I thought you ran away because you saw him kiss me on the cheek, and I was hurt that you didn’t know how much I love you, disappointed that you would be jealous of him. As Maria and I looked in all the stores we had been to, I grew more worried as we left each one, still not knowing what had happened to you. We kept searching the mall over and over but couldn’t find you anywhere--I was so scared I could barely even think.”

Her voice began to rise as tears once again trickled down her cheeks. “Once we realized that you weren’t in the mall anymore and that you must be outside in the freezing rain with not even a jacket, I was terrified because you were out there alone. Once I had time to stop and concentrate, I realized that I couldn’t sense your emotions anymore, and I was PETRIFIED that you were laying DEAD somewhere and I would never see you again. For over twelve hours I didn’t know where you were or what had happened to you, and once I did find you, you were so out of it that you didn’t even know who I was—you wouldn’t let me touch you. You won’t talk to me, you won’t let me feel you. I feel like I’ve lost you and that I’ll never have you back. And it would be all my fault because I let you be among all those people instead of keeping you safe like I promised I would do. I…feel so…guilty…that I …let this happen…I…hate myself…” she trailed off as her tear-swollen throat choked off her voice.

Max stood up and slowly went to her, concentrating on her agonized face as he pulled her against him. She tried to push him away, but he just held her tighter as her body trembled with all the emotions of the past two days. “Why won’t you tell me what happened? I need to know what I did. Why are you blocking your feelings from me?” she quietly begged as she tilted her head to watch his face.

He looked away, his eyes staring blankly over her head before he cupped her face with his left hand, running his thumb over her lips. He looked back down at her as he brought his right hand up to the other side of her face. In an instant, his lips were crushing hers as waves and waves of uncensored emotions washed over her. Love. Sadness. Guilt. Fear. Hatred. Over and over again her body was flooded with the intensity of his feelings. Soon they were joined by sounds and images assaulting her mind so quickly that she could barely decipher them.

* You burned me on that girl. Now I’m gonna burn you back *

Liz kissing the scars on his chest

* She’s already forgotten about you, boy *

*Do you know how many nights I sat over there, dreaming of this moment? *

* If she even lived *

Liz peacefully laying on her lounge after being healed

* I bet she’s f*cking some other guy right now *

The look of ecstasy on Liz’s beautiful face as her orgasm sweeps through her

* I should just kill you now *

* It’s all right my love. You’re safe now. You’re safe with me. *

* She won’t want you once I cut up that face of yours *

Liz kissing his forehead and cheek the night he returned to her.

* I should cut you like I cut her *

Jake stabbing Liz in the back

* Remember, I know where to find her. She owes me a piece of pussy, and I’m eager to collect *

*I will always love you, alien, human, or whatever combination of the two you are *

* And this time, you wouldn’t be there to save her *


Max pulled away from Liz, his guilt overwhelming their newly restored connection.

“Max, I know all this already. Why would you need to hide any of that from me?”

He stared at her in silence. She was afraid that he might shut her out again if she weren’t cautious with her questioning. He took her hands in his and another image appeared in her mind.

** She was suddenly forced to kneel.
Jake grabbed her chin and forced her head up. “Look at me, you little prick!”
She slowly raised her eyes to meet those of her tormentor. Jake released her chin and stepped back, raising the gun and pointing it directly at her. “I guess you won’t be helping any more damsels in distress, now will you? I hope that little bitch was worth your life.”
As Jake’s fingers began to squeeze the trigger, a flash of pure terror overcame her. Suddenly, she could feel an energy build inside of her. Never before had she experienced such a feeling, but instinctively she knew to focus it at the one of Them about to end her life. In an instant, a blinding flash of light surrounded the evil man and forced him backwards, the gun firing wildly into the air as he fell. **

“Max, I told you the other day—Jake deserved what happened to him…”

He grabbed her hands tighter as more images assaulted her senses.

** Liz was sitting at the table in the food court. Kyle was standing next to her, smiling and laughing as they talked. Kyle bent over and gave Liz a kiss on the cheek. **

“Max, you know Kyle is just a friend. Why would that make you block me out?”

Still unable to speak to her, he violently shook his head no, a sense of urgency flowing into her. She was seeing the wrong thing. She needed to see what he had seen. She had to see through his eyes to understand.

** Kyle bent over and gave Liz a kiss on the cheek. In that second, her worst nightmare was revealed, for hidden behind Kyle was the one of Them she feared and hated more than anyone else.

Jake was walking out of the cigarette store.

She could not believe this was happening. She never should have let her out of his sight. She never should have left her side.

Jake was so close to her. Close enough to touch her. And she hated him for it.

The anger swirled inside her body. An energy began to build. She could not control it.

She had not killed Jake last time. But this time if the energy left her body, Jake would be dead. Liz was so close to him, and so many other innocent people. If she killed Jake, she may also hurt Liz or others in the process.

If she didn’t kill Jake, Liz would not be safe. She had promised her she would not let Jake hurt her again.

She couldn’t risk hurting Liz to keep her safe.

She had to get away from Them. She had to control the energy somehow.
She had to run. Run away from Them. **

Liz pulled away in horror. “Jake is really alive? That’s impossible. I thought…”

He turned away from her, not wanting her to see how disgusted he was with himself. “I cannot tell you how sorry I am, Liz. You are my whole life. I should not have left you there with him, but I could not stay…I did not know what would happen if I stayed.” His shame rushed through their connection. “Either way, I put you in danger.”

Liz sighed with relief. Just to hear his voice again, so full of emotion--emotion she could feel, was all the apology she needed. She walked over to him and pressed her cheek against his back as she wrapped her arms around his waist, not forcing him to face her. Instead she quietly asked, “I still don’t understand why you shut me out.”

“I did not know what else to do to control the energy. It was so strong that it was beginning to overwhelm me. I was afraid if I did not block our connection completely, the energy might escape somehow and hurt you. I could not let that happen. I was not trying to punish you, and I regret that I put you through so much pain and worry. I was trying to protect you the only way I knew how, and I would do it again if I had to.”

Liz slumped to the floor at the revelation that the man who had caused such deep physical and emotional scars had been so close to her. Once again he had managed to take Max from her—maybe not physically, but he had kidnapped Max’s emotions.

She had to ask the question that would confirm her suspicion.

“So that means you didn’t kill Jake when you escaped from him?”

“You saw exactly what I saw. Jake is still alive.”


Chapter 46

Liz had called Maria at ten o’clock that night, knowing that she was worried about her as well as Max. She had assured he best friend that things were much better and they agreed to meet with Michael and Isabelle the next day to discuss what had happened, not wanting to explain over the phone. Max was still upset that he had not been able to protect Liz and he begged her to give him some time before discussing it with the others, but she insisted that they had a right to know what was going on. They reached a compromise where Max agreed to tell the others at the meeting exactly who Jake was and that seeing the psychotic man again is what made him run. Liz agreed to not discuss the exact details of what happened or why Max had blocked his feelings from her until he was ready to deal with it.


The two couples and Isabelle sat at one of the booths in the Crashdown Friday afternoon. They decided to stay downstairs since the restaurant had closed at noon for Christmas Eve.

“If Max saw the guy who attacked you, then we need to go to the police, Liz. He’s a nut case—who knows what he is capable of,” Maria said in an unsteady voice.

“We know exactly what he is capable of,” Liz answered quietly.

“What do you mean?”

“The man who attacked Liz is Jake,” Max explained.

“Jake? As in Jake, the guy who kidnapped and abused you?” Maria asked in astonishment, already knowing the answer to her question. Looking at Liz, she continued, “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?”

“Liz only found out a few days ago that Jake was the same person who had attacked her. I didn’t want her to know because I was afraid she would blame herself for what happened to me.”

Maria gave Max an understanding look that told him she knew exactly why he had had kept the truth from Liz. She reached over and patted the hand that Liz had resting on the table. “You could have come to me when you did find out, chica. You know I would have listened.”

“I’m sorry, ‘ria. It wasn’t something I really wanted to talk about, and truthfully I didn’t think we would ever have to worry about seeing him again,” Liz said as she reached out to hold her best friend’s hand. “Maria, you have to know that going to the police is the last thing we can do.”

“Have you lost your mind? You want to PROTECT the guy who hurt you and took Max?” Maria pulled her hand away as she stared in horror at the girl across from her.

Michael interrupted, “Think about it, Maria. Liz is right. If they go to the police, what are they going to say? This guy stabbed Liz over three months ago, but Max healed her so she didn’t bother to report it? Or worse yet, they tell the cops that he kidnapped Max. They start investigating and find out that Max has no family or identity to speak of?”

“We don’t have to tell them everything. Can’t we just say that he tried to rape Liz and she got away?” Maria compromised.

“And if they arrest him, what’s to stop him from telling the cops that Max was there? They could still end up investigating Max and exposing all of us,” Michael argued.

“Without Max as a witness, it would be Liz’s word against Jake. If the cops did press charges, she would have to testify against him in court,” Isabelle reasoned.

“They would force her to sit in the same room with him? I will not let that happen,” Max said adamantly.

Sensing Max’s agitation, Liz quickly jumped in to the discussion. “This is all a moot point. We don’t even know where Jake is any more. Max saw him at the mall in Hondo two days ago. He could be anywhere by now. We can only hope it’s far away from Roswell.”

“It would be foolish for him to show up here, especially since you two can identify him,” Isabelle agreed.

“But he may think that Liz is dead,” Max said, forcing the image of his Beauty’s lifeless body bleeding in the alley out of his mind. “Sometime he would talk to me as if she were dead, but then other times he would tell me he was going to come back for her. He either didn’t see her or recognize her at the mall, so even if he does show up in Roswell, he probably doesn’t remember what Liz looks like or what restaurant she works at,” he explained, trying to convince himself as much as the others that everything would be all right. He voiced his next thought aloud, “Knowing the kind of man he is, I’m certain Liz is not the only girl he has attacked.”

“No, but she may be the only one who has survived, thanks to you,” Isabelle said reverently, slightly jealous that Max had been blessed with the same healing gift as her brother.

Seeing that this particular conversation was coming to an end, Maria asked incredulously, “Then we’re just going to do nothing?”

“We’re not doing ‘nothing’. We’re here now talking about it so we can be on the lookout for this creep, in case he is stupid enough to come back here,” Michael explained to his girlfriend, knowing that she was just frustrated that she couldn’t do more to pay back the man who had caused her best friend so much pain.

“How are we even going to know what this Jake guy looks like?” Maria asked, knowing that the others were right.

“Could you guys come up with a drawing or something?” Isabelle questioned.

“We’ll think of some way for you to get an idea of what he looks like. This may be all for nothing—it is more than likely that he won’t bother coming back to Roswell, but at least you’ll have some idea whether it is him if you ever see someone suspicious hanging around,” Liz said in an attempt to reassure everyone at the table that they really had nothing to worry over.

“And no more of this feminist crap where you girls take out the garbage. From now on, the cooks will do it,” Michael said authoritatively. “I’ll let the other guys know when I see them.”

“What are we going to do if this Jake guy does come back here?” Maria asked, suddenly frightened by the thought that it could just have easily been her that Jake attacked that warm September night.

“We will have to worry about that when the time comes. What’s the point in talking about something that may not happen? I think for now we should just concentrate on keeping our eyes open for him,” Liz answered, not wanting to ruin any more of her Christmas vacation with Max by focusing on the man who had already stolen so much of their precious time. Seeing her friends nodding in agreement, she knew it was time to change the subject to something much more enjoyable. “Ok boys and girls, tomorrow is Christmas Day, so I think it’s time we get down to business and start passing out some goodies.”

Max stood up from the booth and walked into the kitchen, reaching for a handful of gifts. He smiled as he looked at the beautifully wrapped presents, remembering Liz’s midnight lesson on one of the many fun things about Christmas. It had been quite wonderful to hear her musical laughter as she tried to teach him how to curl the ribbons on the packages, his facial expressions ending up displaying more twists and turns than the decorations on the presents. After they had finished with the gifts, Liz made them some hot chocolate to drink while they snuggled up on the couch and watched “It’s a Wonderful Life.” They finally made it to bed at three in the morning, entwining their naked bodies together as they lovingly kissed and caressed each other before drifting off to sleep, simply content to be in each other’s arms again.

Liz had tried to sneak off at six to open up the restaurant, but he had insisted on accompanying her, refusing to leave her side for even the fifteen minutes it would take for her to do her job downstairs. When they returned to the apartment they slept for a few more hours before getting up to shower together, something they had both missed doing. Of course Liz’s wet, naked body pressing against his own had instantly excited him, and the two both looked at the clock on the linen cabinet with disappointment as they realized their friends would be arriving much to soon to enjoy anything more than just washing each other. After drying off, he had helped her get dressed, choosing which sweater he wanted her to wear downstairs and making sure she had no bra on underneath it.

Once they were in the kitchen, he had lifted her up on the counter and unzipped the sweater just enough to suckle her breasts while she lovingly ran her hands through his damp hair, neither of them stopping until they heard the key turn in the lock at the back door. Now as he returned with the presents, he couldn’t help but notice the mischievous look in her eyes that told him she had wanted to go to the kitchen with him to resume what they had started. He set the gifts on the table as he sat back down next to her, his voice echoing in her mind as he gave her that sexy half-smile of his. “Santa only brings presents to good girls, you know.”

He almost choked on the sip of soda he had taken when her seductive reply whispered in his own mind. “I don’t care about presents, and I certainly don’t want to be a good girl. I only want you, naked and in my bed, so that I can be a very bad girl.”

He gave her a warning look before turning his attention back to their friends. If she kept that up, they would be left waiting downstairs while he dragged her to her bed to find out first hand just how good a bad girl could be. She had to cover her mouth with her hand to stifle her giggle at his thought.

Max handed his gifts to each of their three friends while Liz distributed hers. Each person took a turn opening one of his or her presents. Michael and Isabelle were both awe-struck when they opened the translation books. Liz had done a beautiful job on the bindings and with their parents’ own words finally speaking to them in a language they could understand, the siblings had tears in their eyes as they thanked the couple for all the hard work they had put into the gift. Maria gave Isabelle a red silk blouse with a pair of earrings that accented the shirt’s pearl buttons, while she promised Michael that he would receive his gift once they were alone. Liz gave Maria a book on how to establish a career in the music industry and a little stuffed unicorn to add to her burgeoning collection. Isabelle gave Liz the peach sweater while Michael and Maria gave her the black mini-skirt she had tried on during Wednesday’s trip to the mall in Hondo. Liz had looked at the items with a tinge of sadness until Max whispered to her that they needed to remember how much fun they had shared that day instead of concentrating on the bad part of the trip. She nodded and thanked her friends for the thoughtful gift. Michael excused himself to go out to the jeep while the three girls chattered about their new outfits. He returned with a large festively wrapped box and set it down in front of Max, who just stared at it in confusion.

“Uh, Max. It’s a present for you. That means you’re supposed to unwrap it,” Michael chided.

“This is for me?” Max asked in awe.

“Yeah. Maria, Isabelle and I sort of went in on it together,” Michael explained. “You know how emotional these chicks can get. You better open it before you hurt their feelings.”

Max looked over at Liz and she gave him a reassuring nod. He opened the box slowly, treasuring every second of unwrapping his first Christmas present. He peeled back the paper to reveal a box emblazoned with the words, “GE 2.1 CF MICROWAVE OVEN”. He looked at it again to be sure he had read it correctly before looking over at the three friends sitting across from him.

“You really bought me a microwave?” he asked in shock.

“Well, we figured you’re probably getting pretty sick of eating just cold food, and Liz assured us that you know how to operate one of these things without causing a meltdown, so take it back to your room and enjoy it,” Maria beamed.

“I don’t know what to say. Thank you all so much,” he said with grateful emotion. He leaned over and gave each of the girls a kiss on the cheek and shook Michael’s hand. “You have no idea what this means to me.”

“We’re glad you like it,” Isabelle answered, “Now you can think of us every time you eat a hot meal.”

Max noticed that Maria had not opened his present yet, so he nudged it a little closer to her. “I think we saved the best for last,” he teased as he gave Isabelle a knowing look.

Maria eyed Max suspiciously as she began to unwrap the small present. She wadded up the paper and tossed it at Michael before opening the lid to the box. Suddenly she turned bright red and screamed at the top of her lungs, reminding Max of the first time he had met her in Liz’s bedroom.

“WHO TOLD YOU?” she asked accusingly.

“Told me what?” Max asked innocently.

Liz gave Max a puzzled expression as she noticed her best friend’s reaction to the gift he had given her. Liz had helped him pick out the star necklace she was certain Maria would like, so she couldn’t understand why the girl sitting across from her was fuming.

“DON’T PLAY INNOCENT WITH ME, MAX,” Maria said through gritted teeth. She then turned to Liz and said, “This is so embarrassing. Did you know about this?” She held up the box Max had given her and inside was nothing more than a neatly folded black plastic garbage bag.

Liz was completely lost. Not only did she have no idea why Max had given her friend a garbage bag, she also didn’t understand why Max, Michael and Isabelle had all suddenly broken out into fits of laughter, tears of mirth flooding their eyes. Liz just gave her a look that said she didn’t understand any of it. Maria buried her head in her hands, mumbling over and over, “I can’t believe they told him. I can’t believe they told him.”

Finally the three halted their outburst and regained their composure enough to look at Liz and Maria again.

“What is this about, Max? This isn’t the present we picked out for Maria.”

Max reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box with his real present for Maria as he explained to Liz, “That present was just a little something Isabelle and I came up with.”

“A garbage bag? I don’t get it?”

Isabelle choked out, “It has to do with how Maria reacted when she found out Michael was an alien. Remember I told you he made her think she had imagined…”

“ISABELLE EVANS, DON’T YOU DARE TELL THAT STORY TO ANOTHER LIVING SOUL. AND MAX, IF YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU, YOU’LL KEEP YOUR TRAP SHUT AS WELL,” Maria commanded.

“Oh, come on Maria. It really is a funny story…” Michael teased.

“FUNNY MY ASS. If you want to even think about getting your Christmas present from me, SPACEGEEZER, you’d better not say another word.”

Michael quieted instantly, so Max gingerly handed Maria her real present to unwrap. She took it grudgingly, giving Max a glare that told him she would get even with him somehow. He just shrugged his shoulders innocently.

“Wow, this is beautiful, Max. Thank you so much,” Maria said honestly, all traces of her embarrassment disappearing as she fingered the delicate necklace. “Here, make yourself useful and put this on me,” she directed to Michael.

“I thought it was an appropriate gift for someone dating an alien,” Max explained, smiling when he saw how nice it looked around her neck.

“Well, I hate to break up our little party. All our relatives are coming over tonight, so Mom and Dad want us home by five. I’d really like to spend some time with Alex before then, so we should get going,” Isabelle declared as she moved her chair from the end of the booth back to the table across from it.

“Yeah, I want to get my present from Maria while her Mom is still gone at the store,” Michael added as he wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Everyone stood up and exchanged hugs and wishes for a Merry Christmas, Isabelle whispering in Max’s ear that all the things he asked her to pick up were in a paper grocery bag in the next booth over. He thanked her and gave her a kiss on the cheek, telling her to give their best wishes to Alex when she saw him.

The three friends gathered their presents and shuffled out of the restaurant. Liz quickly locked the door behind them and turned her attention back to Max, who was clearing the glasses and snacks from the booth.

“So what is this story about Maria and the garbage bag?” she asked curiously.

“You heard her threaten me, Liz. My lips are sealed,” he said as he made his way to the kitchen.

Following behind him, she tempted, “I’m sure I can find some way to unseal them.”

He pretended to ignore her as he washed the dishes at the sink, trying to not be affected by her hand grazing his as he handed her each dish to dry. How could that simple gesture from her stir up such intense feelings in his body? It took every ounce of his willpower to not grab her and set her on the counter again so he could taste her sweet skin in his mouth.

He tried to bring his body back under control because he had very special plans for the rest of their evening together, ones that would call for a lot of restraint on his part. He had worried that the problem with Jake would put a huge damper on his time with Liz, but they had both agreed to spend the rest of their time together focusing only on each other. He was so relieved that Isabelle had agreed to help him by purchasing the items he would need for his surprises. As he looked over at his Beauty, he couldn’t wait to begin the most important night of their lives.

Chapter 47

“What is all that for?” Liz questioned as she noticed the paper bag Max was bringing upstairs with them.

“If I told you, then it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it?” he teased. “Now, I want you to be a good girl and go shut yourself in your bedroom. Stay there until I come and get you, all right?” he asked as he gave her a light kiss on the lips.

“But I don’t want to leave you.”

“Trust me, my Liz. It will be worth it.”

“All right. If I must,” she pouted.

She sulked as she made her way to her room, curiosity eating her up inside. What did Max have planned? And where had he gotten that paper bag? More importantly, what was in that paper bag? She plopped down on the bed, wondering what she could do to pass the time. She didn’t have any homework to do, and she didn’t really feel like surfing the net. She looked over at her desk and noticed that she and Max had forgotten to return the original journals to Michael and Isabelle. She grabbed one and opened it up, never having taken the time to notice how beautiful the symbols were that made up the Antarian language. She had flipped through the books several times before, but this time they appeared different for some reason. If she didn’t know better, she’d think she were beginning to understand what the symbols meant.

Max knocked on the door, and she set the book down on the desk to go answer it. He poked his head inside and asked, “I just needed to know whether you prefer lemon or strawberry.”

“Definitely strawberry.”

“I was pretty sure it was strawberry, but I thought I would check anyway. Strawberry it is, then,” he said cryptically before shutting the door. Had she heard water running?

She growled in frustration. What exactly was he up to? That whole thing with Maria and the garbage bag was getting to her too. How had Max heard the story about Maria discovering that aliens existed when her own best friend didn’t know it? It just wasn’t fair! She had to find a way to drag it out of Max. She was plotting various scenarios on how to get him to talk when he knocked on the door again.

He entered the room as she stood up from the bed, smiling at her as she took her in his arms. “I want tonight to be perfect for us, my love.”

She tried to pull him down to the bed. “You’re in my bedroom. It’s already perfect.”

He pulled her away from the bed and out of the room, “Oh, no. It’s not going to be over that quickly. I have our whole evening planned, so just relax and enjoy it.” He led her to her parents’ bathroom, where he had filled the big Jacuzzi tub with plenty of warm water and strawberry bubble bath.

“We just showered this morning, Max. Do you really think I need a bath?”

“I told you to relax and enjoy this, Liz. Of course, you don’t need a bath, but I want to take a bath with you and remember it this time. Besides, your next surprise won’t be ready for about an hour and I thought this would be a good way to pass the time.”

“It’s a lot better than sitting in my room by myself,” she concluded.

“Now you’re getting into the spirit,” he whispered as he stood behind her, pulling her hair aside to suck on the delicate skin near her collar bone. She let out a little moan at the contact, his soft lips tantalizing her as he reached under her sweater to cup her bare breasts. He loved to feel the weight of their fullness in his hands, and he used his thumbs and fingers to entice each nipple into a stiff peak, eliciting more moans from her throat. He wanted to feel her bare skin against his so desperately, but he refused to give in to the temptation to rush things along. Every touch, every caress, every surprise he had planned was all part of making love to her, the entire evening a journey of pleasure that would result in their physical joining, two bodies becoming one.

He knelt down and slowly turned her so she was facing him, reaching up again to caress her breasts with one hand while running the other over the rest of her body, finally resting it on her bottom to pull her stomach closer to his lips as he kissed her smooth skin. She loved the sensations he was stirring inside of her as she held his head close to her, reveling in every sweep of his tongue over her aroused body. He unzipped the sweater and nudged it off of her shoulders, letting it pool on the floor by the tub.

He ran his hand up her spine, guiding her to bend just enough to take her newly exposed flesh in his mouth. He teasingly circled her areola with his tongue, pulling away just as he was about to reach her hardened nipple. He then moved to the other breast and repeated his sweet torture before finally giving in and brushing his tongue over the sensitive tip, his own arousal hardening as she throatily whispered his name. He sucked eagerly as he reached up and threaded his fingers through her hair, only breaking away from her breast to devour her mouth with kisses that showed her exactly what he had in mind for her body.

She needed to feel his bare skin against her but he refused her pull to get him to stand, not ready to end the seduction he had carefully laid out in his mind. He unbuttoned her jeans, languidly undoing the zipper as he ran his hand over her hips, gently guiding the soft denim pants to the floor. She held onto his left shoulder as he removed the jeans from around her feet, setting them next to her sweater. Before she could remove her hand from his shoulder, he cupped behind her left knee, slowly pulling it up until it rested on his right shoulder. He rubbed his cheek against the silky material of her red panties, nuzzling the damp spot created by her arousal before gently lapping at her clit, the satin material adding to the exquisite sensation of his tongue swirling against the sensitive bundle of nerves. Her small, excited whimpers spurred him to continue until her panties were drenched with her juices. The smell of her arousal surrounded him, and he could no longer wait to dip his tongue into her hot center. He lowered her leg just enough to remove her final scrap of clothing, steadying her with hands on her hips as he returned her leg to his shoulder, hungrily tasting the sweet nectar his seduction had wrought from her excited body.

Liz tightly grasped his shoulder and head with her fingers as her muscle tensed with the excitement of his ministrations, her breathy moans and whimpers mixed with the throaty chant of his name. She didn’t think her right leg would withstand much more of his sensual assault and just as it was about to give out, Max lifted her up and set her on the edge of the counter. He slowly drew his tongue up her slit as he threw her weary leg over his other shoulder, her hands clenching the edge of the counter as he buried his face in her heat. She instinctively reached for his head and pressed him closer to her as he brought his thumb up to stroke her clit, his name echoing throughout the room while her orgasm swept through her in waves, her lover fervently drinking in her juices until she could withstand no more.

She relaxed on the counter, her head resting against the medicine cabinet as she tried to catch her breath. Max slowly removed her legs from his shoulders, planting light kisses on her thighs that made her overstimulated flesh shiver at the contact. When she finally came out of her passion-filled haze Max was staring at her with his gorgeous amber eyes.

“Watching your beautiful face as you come takes my breath away. Knowing that I’m the one giving you such pleasure excites me more than you could ever know,” he whispered huskily as he planted light, gentle kisses all over her face and neck.

“Why don’t you show me, then?”

“I will, my love. You can be certain of that,” he teased as he lifted her off of the counter. “But right now, it is time for us to spend some time in the water.” With that, he set her inside the tub and quickly removed his own clothes, not trying in the least to hide the effect she had on his body. He climbed in behind her and wet her hair with the cup she had left in the room the last time they shared the tub. Reaching over her shoulder to the ledge, he picked up the bottle of strawberry shampoo Isabelle had purchased for him and opened it up, pouring just the right amount in his hand to ensure Liz’s hair would soon have the same sweet scent as the bubbles that surrounded them.

Liz was certain she had died and gone to heaven. Max had already given her one earth-shattering orgasm and now he was massaging her scalp, meticulously working the foam into every inch of her long, silky hair as he lovingly kissed her neck and shoulders, carefully avoiding the suds left by his handiwork. He then leaned her back against him and brought his lips to hers, pouring his love into her through their connection as he memorized every inch of her mouth with his tongue. Keeping her head tilted back, he rinsed her hair clean of the shampoo before reaching outside of the tub for the wash cloth and strawberry soap he had laid out beforehand. He rubbed them together in his hands until he was satisfied that the white cloth held a sufficient amount of soap.

He kissed her one last time before beginning to gently cleanse her with the strawberry scented cloth, starting with her neck. Working in small circular motions he leisurely worked the lathered into her skin, holding her as if she were a porcelain doll. He tenderly washed her arms and legs before setting the cloth on the edge of the tub to reach for the soap again. Taking the bar from the dish on the edge of the tub, he moved it around in his hands until his fingers were full of suds. Leaning down to whisper in her ear, he carefully moved her just enough to wrap his arms around her, settling her in between his legs so that she could feel his desire for her. Comprehending what Max was going to do, she raised her own arms up and behind her to encircle his neck.

“I love you so much, my Beauty,” he said seductively as he gradually brought his hands up to cup her breasts. He let his soapy hands glide over and around her soft mounds as he gently nibbled on her ear. She let out a little moan as she allowed the lovely sensations of his body and mind surrounding her to block everything else from her thoughts. He caressed her stomach and ribs with one hand while lightly pinching her nipple with the fingers of the other hand. Just when she thought her breast could not take another second of his sensual touch, he would move his hands to begin a new assault on the opposite side of her aroused body.

With each change in the position of his hands, the one by her side would move lower and lower until it was under the water, caressing the inside of her thigh. He lazily brought his fingers to her center as she threaded her fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck. She pulled him down to her for a passionate kiss as he began to stroke her clit, sliding his finger into her when she silently begged him for more through the lusty haze that had overtaken her every thought.

She marveled at how easily he could make her forget everything but the feel of his skin against hers. The desire he stirred in her was almost primal, and she felt no shame as she willed him to see her erotic fantasy of them making love in the tub, the water gently lapping at them as she straddled him, lovingly impaling herself on his manhood as he hungrily suckled her breasts.

He had not expected the sensual display she sent him, and he had to momentarily stop pleasuring her to bolster his rapidly disappearing resolve. He would definitely make her fantasy come true, but he was nowhere near ready to move to that part of his plan. However, he would make sure she had plenty to think about in the meantime. After taking a few deep breaths, he continued his ministrations as he showed her his own fantasies of their next several days together. The images of them making love on the couch, on the kitchen table, on the counter in the restaurant, on the stairs leading to the apartment, even wrapped up in blankets on the balcony, flooded her mind, bringing her so close to the edge. His whispered promise that he would fulfill all of her desires was all she needed to reach her peak, deep throaty moans signaling her own sacred vow to give him as much pleasure as she had received.

When she was able to once again move her satiated body, Liz quickly turned around to give her full attention to Max. Reaching for the cloth and soap, she repeated his actions to create the sudsy fabric she needed to bathe him. She lovingly washed his arms and chest as she planted kisses on his face and neck, teasingly rubbing her inner thighs against his arousal as she performed her labor of love. She worked the cloth and her hands closer to the water line until they dipped underneath the bubbles, a light gasp escaping Max’s lips as she rid herself of the cloth altogether in favor of cleansing his erection with her bare hands. She had only stroked him a few times before he stilled her with his own hands, giving her silent instructions: he did not want to have his first orgasm until he was buried deep inside her warmth. She understood how important the simple request was to him, so she moved her hands from his arousal to caress his neck and shoulders as she gave him gentle, loving kisses.

The water began to cool to the point of being uncomfortable just as Max declared it was almost time for the next part of her surprise. He helped her out of the tub, making sure his hands touched every inch of her body as he dried her off. Liz could easily hear his thoughts echoing in her mind: he adored her--mind, body and soul—and he wanted to spend the rest of his life worshipping her. There were no words she could say that would tell him how much his devotion meant to her, so she simply pulled him as close as possible as she brought her mouth to his, kissing him with every fiber of her being. As he held the woman who had become his entire world, Max thanked the forces that had lead him to her and pledged to love her for eternity.

The far off sound of a bell ringing broke the couple out of their embrace as Max quickly dried himself and opened the bathroom door, wrapping the towel around his waist as he guided Liz back to her bedroom.

“Mmm. What is that incredible smell?” Liz asked of a wonderful aroma circulating throughout the apartment.

Max couldn’t help the huge grin that crossed his face. “It’s the next part of your surprise, my Beauty.”

“You made dinner for us?”

He nodded, beaming with pride.

“I can’t believe how great that smells—I can only imaging how good it’s going to taste,” Liz said reverently.

“I know it won’t compare to the taste of you,” Max said in a deep voice as he embraced Liz from behind, placing gentle love bites along her shoulder and neck. Just as she was about to turn around and give him a passionate kiss, he pulled away from her and whispered, “but I guess tasting the food will have to do for now.”

She sighed in frustration at his incessant teasing. It didn’t take much to stir up her desire for him, and it didn’t seem to matter to her body that he had already made her come twice. She just wanted to throw herself on the bed and beg him to take her, but she knew he had worked hard to make this a memorable night and she would try her best to not spoil his plans. “I guess we had better put some clothes on if we are going to make it through dinner.”

Max walked over to her closet and pulled out the dress she had bought for the New Year’s party. He laid it out on the bed before going to her dresser and opening the top drawer to search through its contents. He smiled as he pulled out a pair of black lace panties. Liz watched him with fascination as he approached her, his own struggle between dressing her for dinner or taking her to the bed showing in his eyes. He knelt before her and removed her towel, guiding her feet into the small piece of lace before pulling it up to settle low on her hips. Reaching over for the dress, he unzipped it and held her hand as she stepped into it. Lightly holding the thin straps in his fingers, he gradually brought the dress up as he grazed the curves of her body, delicately caressing her hips and breasts before covering them with the wine colored fabric. After he placed the straps on her shoulders he turned her around, drawing one finger up the sensitive skin along her spine as he brought the zipper to the top of the dress. He placed open mouth kisses on her neck and cheek before moving away from her to take the comb and a hair clip off of the dresser, his desire for her obvious by the bulge under his towel. He walked over and stood behind her again as he gently combed her hair out, then twisted it up and fastened it at the base of her neck with the clip, damp little tendrils framing the sides of her face. He pressed his arousal into her as he whispered, “You are so very beautiful, my Liz, beyond description. Soon my love, I’m going to bring you back to this room and kiss your breath away as I let your hair down to run my fingers through it. Then I will unzip this dress as I kiss the soft skin on your back. I will remove this dress to feel every last part of your warm flesh against my lips. I will lay you on that bed to touch and feast on your sweet skin until the scent of your desire for me fills the air. I will take off your panties and taste you until you moan my name and beg me for more. Finally, when you can think of nothing else, I will bury myself deep inside of you and make you my mate for life. There will never be anyone for me but you, and from this night forward I will spend the rest of my life making love to you in every was imaginable—mind, body and soul.”

Liz collapsed in Max’s arms, almost fainting at his heartfelt speech. Hearing his sensual words had made her wet with desire, and the images he gave her of what the night would bring were so arousing that she almost came a third time. “Max, please. I want you so much. I don’t know how much more I can take,” she begged breathlessly, quickly forgetting her vow to let his plans guide their evening.

He smiled as he supported the light weight of her body against his. “It is not time yet, my love. You must hold back your desire for just a little longer, but I promise you that it will be worth the wait. If it helps any, please know that I want you just as much.” Feeling her strength returning, he moved away enough to be certain she was all right before he continued, “Why don’t you go out into the living room and wait while I dress. I fear that my own restraint is slipping, and we will never make it to our dinner if you stay in here with me.”

Liz nodded in agreement as she slowly walked to the door, hoping to catch at least a glimpse of him in all his naked glory before she had to leave. Max was not fooled and refused to move until she was safely in the other room. He dressed as rapidly as possible, his stiff arousal making it difficult to be comfortable within the confines of his clothes. He took a few minutes to calm his body as best he could, knowing it would heat up with desire as soon as he once again saw the beautiful vision waiting for him on the other side of the door.

He managed to move past Liz to turn on the CD player and get to the kitchen without ravishing her, hoping that the extra time the dinner had spent in the oven had not ruined it. He pulled it out and set it on the stove, glad to see that it had turned out exactly as planned. He swiftly placed a serving on each of the plates and double-checked that everything else was in place before calling Liz to the table.

Her breath caught in her throat as she entered the small room, the small light over the stove accenting the two strawberry scented taper candles burning on the dinner table. Max looked so handsome in that outfit Maria had given him, and Liz melted as he made his way over to her and brought her hand to his mouth to give it a gentle kiss. His eyes were full of the love she felt through their connection, and she couldn’t help but be impressed by the wonderful dinner awaiting them.

“Wow, Max, this is amazing. You thought of everything. How did you manage to do all this?” she asked with curiosity as she took in the view from the doorway.

“I had some help from Isabelle. I saw someone make this on the Cooking Channel, and I knew it would be a perfect part of our night. The morning I went with her out to the storage shed, I asked her to help me get the ingredients for the recipe and the items for your bath. She was more than glad to help me. She even kept the things that needed to be refrigerated in a small cooler. I have to admit the fancy glasses and the sparkling white grape juice were her idea,” he said with a shy smile. “I hope you like it.”

She walked with him over to the table, and before he pulled out the chair for her she wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a gentle kiss. “Thank you, Max. No one has ever made me feel as beautiful as I do when I am with you. I don’t know how it’s possible, but I love you more every day.”

They stood together in the candle light, holding and caressing each other as they kissed, each touch of their lips a vow to love only the other for the rest of their lives. As their desire began to swirl uncontrollably throughout their connection, they reluctantly pulled away to resume with their dinner plans. Max held the chair for Liz before pouring the grape juice and seating himself at the table, their chairs so close together that she was practically sitting in his lap. Not wanting to break the mood of the light jazz music coming from the living room, they ate together without speaking, Liz whispering her praises for the delicious meal only through their connection. They took turns feeding each other as they held hands, needing as much physical contact as possible while still progressing with the dinner.

As soon as they finished eating they cleared the table together, quickly rinsing the dishes but deciding they could wait until much later to wash them thoroughly. Max lead Liz back to the table and held her hand in his as they sat down.

“Well, my Beauty, now that we have made it through dinner you need to make a decision.”

“Oh, and what would that be?”

“You need to choose which dessert you want. I wasn’t sure what kind of mood you would be in, so you have two choices. Option number one is French silk pie made by Maria’s mom. Maria told me that it was your favorite, but of course I already knew that,” he said shyly as Liz’s own words echoed in her mind, ‘Maria, there is no way anything could be better than this pie, not even having sex.’ Liz couldn’t stop the blush that crept into her cheeks. Max squeezed her hand as he continued, “And in keeping with the strawberry theme, option number two is strawberry shortcake with fresh strawberries and real whipped cream.”

Liz tapped her finger against her temple, pretending to be deep in thought. She sat up on her knees and moved her body until she was sitting in Max’s lap. She wrapped her arms around his neck and nipped at his bottom lip with her teeth as she softly said, “I think I want option number three.”
“Liz, there is no option number three,” Max explained. He thought for sure he had done a good job of describing the choices she had.

“Oh, yes. There is definitely an option number three,” she teased as she lightly ran her tongue along his jawline. She immediately felt his body’s response against her bottom, and knowing she was having the desired effect, she continued. “Do you want to hear what it is?”

Max couldn’t find his voice to answer her, his body completely focused on the wet trail Liz was leaving along the side of his face. He managed to nod yes before a deep moan left his throat as she planted gentle love bites along his neck, pulling the collar of his shirt aside to reach the sensitive flesh in the center of his collarbone.

“Option number three,” she whispered in his ear as she sucked on his lobe, playing with the hair at the nape of his neck, “is to skip the food portion of dessert and move directly to the part where we feast on each other’s bodies.”

He couldn’t resist her advances a second longer. He reached up and held her face in his hands as he hungrily sought out her mouth, his tongue mating with hers as all his love for her rushed through their connection. She clung to him as he stood up, pulling her tight against his chest as he made his way to her bedroom, his lips never leaving hers.

He sat down on the bed, cradling her in his arm as he leaned against the headboard. His hands instinctively sought her warm skin as they continued their passionate kisses, traveling over her neck, her shoulder, her arm, her hip, her leg, down to her foot and back up again. If he stayed there for the next hundred days and did nothing but caress her this way it would still not be enough touching for him. What had he done to earn such a wonderful privilege?

Sensing his doubt, Liz pulled away to bring her hand to his cheek. She found the words to voice her reply, knowing he needed to hear them out loud. “You did what no one else has ever done, Max. You stole my heart. You have every right to touch me any way you want because you own my soul. Please complete your possession of me. Please make love to me.”

Max stared back at the love of his life and saw the desire in her eyes. He leaned in and kissed her forehead before resting his cheek against hers, his lips grazing her ear as he whispered to her, a tinge of sadness in his voice, “My Beauty, you know that there is nothing I want more than to make love with you. Still, I cannot allow us to go any further.”

She furrowed her brow as she asked with concern, “Why Max? Why can’t we make love?”

He looked around the romantically decorated room before returning his eyes to her concerned gaze.

“Liz, there’s something I need you to know.”


Dreams remain just as long as there's Dreamers--Dennis DeYoung
posted on 17-Sep-2001 12:49:51 AM
Chapter 48

“Max, you know you can tell me anything,” Liz said, wondering why he was suddenly so hesitant about making love to her. “I told you that nothing will ever make me turn away from you.”

“That’s sort of what I’ve been thinking about. I’m not sure how to say this, so I’ll do my best to be direct. You are my whole life, Liz. If I live another thousand years, I will never be as close to anyone as I am to you. I never thought it was really possible for me to love someone enough to want to be with them for the rest of my days until I met you. You already know that I want to marry you some day, and that day cannot come soon enough for me. Something in here,” he said as he pointed to his heart, “is telling me that making love to you is the most important thing I will ever do, and I cannot give myself to you completely without committing myself to you first.”

“Max, are you saying that you won’t make love to me until we are married?”

“That is what you had always planned anyway, wasn’t it?”

Liz shook her head, “You don’t understand, Max. I never could have imagined what truly being in love with someone was like. I had this idea in my head of how it would feel, but once you came into my life I knew that my love for you was so much more than anything I had ever dreamed of. I know you are the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. The more you touch me, the more I need your touch. When you are close to me, my body literally aches for yours. I know exactly whom and what I want and trust me, it is not physically possible for me to wait until we are married to have you.”

Max reached behind her head and released the clip holding her hair, fanning it out over her shoulders as it fell. He asked hesitantly, “Will you do something for me?”

“Anything, Max. Just say the word.”

Cupping her face with his hand, he quietly began, “On Antar when two people have chosen each other as mates, a commitment ceremony is performed. I guess it is similar to getting married here. Since we cannot be married yet, will you go through the commitment ceremony with me?”

“What would I have to do?” she asked with interest.

His eyes scanned the room until they rested on the journals near Liz’s computer. He explained wistfully, “I have never actually seen one performed, I have only heard of them. The two people vow to spend the rest of their lives together, mating with no one but each other. The bond that is formed is a permanent one, so even if something happens to one of the mates, the other one cannot commit to anyone else. Each house or family has its own unique symbol, so the two symbols are combined to form a new one. The two are marked with this new symbol as a sign of their commitment to each other.”

“Marked how?”

He ran his hand down her arm until he was holding hers. Pointing to the dark vein running across her wrist, he explained, “Antarians and humans are very similar in genetic makeup and appearance. The symbol would be placed on your arm, right about here. The symbol represents the permanent bond that exists between the two people, so once it is there, it can never be removed. It becomes their own family symbol, so any children they produce bear that symbol until they go through their own commitment ceremony.”

“Can the symbol be placed somewhere besides the arm? I’m afraid my parents would ask too many questions if it were where they could see it.”

“Where would you want it to be placed?”

Liz gave him a sweet smile as she took his hand and placed it on her knee, his palm pressing against her warm flesh. The confusion that crossed his face was soon replaced with desire as she slid his hand under her dress until it rested on the black lace covering her hip. Giving him a passionate kiss, her thoughts echoed in his mind, ‘Mark me as yours, Max. I want us to belong to each other for eternity.’

He broke the kiss to look into her eyes. With awe, he asked, “You will do it? You will really commit yourself to me?”

“Max, how could you have any doubt? From the moment you healed me, I knew we belonged together. Everything we have been through since then has only confirmed that for me. You are the only one I will ever want to be with, and whatever the future brings I know we will make it as long as we have each other.”

He pulled her tightly against him as he crushed his lips to hers. The vast joy and love flowing from him coupled with the wonderful taste of his mouth against hers made it difficult to feel the air filling her lungs. He had promised her he would kiss her breath away, and true to his word he continued loving her mouth with his own until they had to pull apart, both of their chests heaving with the need for oxygen. Still wanting to be as close as possible, they leaned their foreheads together until they found their breath again.

“Max?”

“Hmm?”

“Do you know what your family’s symbol looks like?”

“No. I have never seen it.”

“And obviously I don’t have one either. I guess we’ll have to make up our own.”

Max nodded, a slight sadness flickering in his eyes.

“Why don’t we each choose a symbol for the other? Then we can combine them to make the one for our commitment ceremony,” Liz suggested.

“All right.”

“So do you have any idea of what you want for my symbol?” she asked curiously.

He thought for a moment before gently moving Liz off of his lap and setting her on the edge of the bed to walk to her dresser. He picked up several bottles of perfume, opening and sniffing each one until a smile spread across his face. Bringing the bottle to the bed, he asked, “What is the name of this scent?”

Smelling the perfume, she said, “It’s named after a flower. It is the scent of a rose.”

Setting the bottle on the nightstand, he took her hand and asked, “A rose? Can you show me what a rose looks like?”

“Sure,” she said as she pictured a dozen white roses, some in full bloom while other were no more than buds waiting to display their full beauty.

“I want that to be your symbol.”

Looking at all the bottles on her dresser then back at her nightstand, she asked, “Why that particular scent, Max?”

He knelt on the floor before her, moving her legs apart to get closer to her. Taking her face in his hands, his voice was filled with emotion as he said, “The night I came back to you that scent covered your skin. I was so exhausted that I don’t recall a lot of what happened that evening, but the one thing I remember as if it just happened today was that scent surrounding me as we laid in this bed together for the very first time. I knew in that instant that I could never be without you again. When we lay in this bed tonight and make love as committed mates, I will make you mine forever. I want the rose to be part of our commitment symbol to remind me of that first night in your arms, the night I knew that you would always be my home.”

Liz’s eyes stung with tears. This gentle, loving, handsome creature in front of her loved her more than any words could ever express. She could not imagine that any earthly wedding would have more significance than what they were doing here this evening. She knew in her heart that the bond they created this night would join their souls for eternity, a union so strong that even death could not separate them.

She took his own face in her hands, pulling him to her to shower his face with tiny little kisses, willing him to feel her overwhelming love and devotion for him. Each kiss was her assurance that she was giving herself to him with no doubts or fears and that he would always have her unconditional love.

As the passion began to rise in their connection, their eyes met over smiles that reflected their growing desire to make love. Max finally broke the silence by asking, “So what have you chosen as my symbol?”

Instinctively reaching for her neck, Liz touched the pendant and rubbed her thumb over the raised symbol, “Since we don’t know what your family’s symbol is, I choose this…”

“Liz…” Max said in a resistant voice.

“Pressing her finger to his mouth, she continued, “I know it means Earth, but at least let me explain first why I want it before you say anything.”

Max nodded.

“This is the first gift I received from you. I know it was the only thing on this earth that you could call your own, yet you didn’t hesitate to give it to me. Then you healed me and gave me the gift of life, but more importantly you let me see your own life. Every day you continue to share more of yourself with me, and I am constantly amazed by how gentle and caring your spirit is. Now you’re here before me and you want to commit yourself to me, someone who never imagined she would find the kind of love you have shown me. Please let this be part of our commitment symbol because I want this first gift from you to represent the most precious gift I could ever receive—the gift of you. Give me all of you, Max.”

Her poignant explanation seemed to dissolve any reservations he may have had. He took her finger in his mouth and gently tasted her sweet skin before moving to the palm of her hand to plant light kisses there. Taking the pendant in his fingers, he kissed his way up her arm to gently suck on the soft skin of her shoulder. Lightly biting her neck he moved his mouth over her ear and whispered, “Then we have decided. We will combine your rose with my symbol to create our commitment symbol.” He could feel her satisfied smile against his cheek at his words.

Releasing the pendant, he reached under her arms to guide her to a standing position. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed the length of her body against his as she languidly began kissing the base of his neck, drawing his head to hers as her mouth trailed up his throat. Slowly moving her lips across his jawline, she continued giving him light kisses until she reached the sensitive flesh behind his ear. He instinctively grasped her hips and rubbed his hardness into her as she gently pressed her lips against his ear, the light breaths passing through them deeply stirring his desire as she softly spoke the words she had whispered in his mind, “Mark me as yours, Max. I want us to belong to each other for eternity.”

He could no longer resist the feel of her soft skin against his own lips as she continued her exploration, and as he began placing open mouth kisses all over her bare shoulder, he slowly turned her in his arms until she was standing with her back to him. He gradually drew his hands up her sides, gently grazing the curves of her breasts before resting his fingers along the top hem of her dress. He continued his seductive kisses as he felt the satiny wine material, his hands inching closer to the zipper until they finally met under a cascade of chocolate brown hair, still damp from the couple’s sensual bubble bath. Draping the dark mass over her left shoulder, his fingers quickly returned to the small metal pull that would expose more of her beautiful body to him. As he lowered the zipper inch by inch, he lightly brushed his lips against the newly revealed skin, his feather-soft touch creating a wave of excitement that coursed throughout her entire being, eliciting a moan of pleasure that encouraged him to continue his loving assault.

His mouth descended with the zipper until his lips finally met the top of her panties. Kneeling behind her, he moved his fingers from the metal pull to the spot on her lower back where his lips had just been. He reached inside the garment to caress the soft skin near her stomach, lowering his hand several times to stroke his fingers against her lace-covered heat before raising it to cup the soft mound of her right breast. As he gently played with the nipple he massaged his way to her shoulder with his other hand, capturing the thin strap of the dress with his pinky finger. He rubbed his face against her velvety skin, nuzzling her lower back as he coaxed the dress from her body. Letting it puddle at her feet, he rested his hand on her ankle, following the curves of her body as he brought it up to caress her left breast, her silky hair tickling his hand as he teased her nipple into a hard peak.

Liz’s whole body was on fire. Every touch of Max’s hands or lips on her body revealed his immense love for her as his thoughts filled her mind, ‘So soft…so beautiful…my love…you have my heart…so sweet…so lovely…my Beauty…you have my soul…so strong…so delicate…you are my life…’. Each enticing stroke of his skin against hers stirred a desperate need for more until the desire to have his naked chest next to her own overwhelmed her senses. Knowing what she craved, Max stood from his position on the floor as she turned to face him, her excited hands impatiently tugging his shirt out of his pants to reach his bare skin. As soon as her hands reached warm flesh, she sighed in satisfaction, the precious contact momentarily calming her enough to allow her fingers to manipulate the buttons that kept his strong, muscled chest hidden from her aching body. She moved quickly, placing hungry kisses everywhere she could reach as he shrugged the shirt to the floor.

Max let out a low growl as he felt Liz cling to him, her luscious breasts begging for his mouth as her excited nipples stiffened even more in anticipation. Needing to be closer to her his hand moved to her bottom as he silently directed her to wrap her thighs around his waist, bracing her back with his other hand as he pulled her tightly against him, mating his mouth with hers as he pressed his erection into her welcoming heat. She chanted his name with a breathless voice as their hips began to move in unison, the sweet friction of lace against denim bringing their desire to an even more urgent level. Max turned toward the bed, kneeling on the edge as he gently lowered Liz until she was resting in the center. Unwilling to give up the exquisite sensation of his erection so close to her wet heat, she kept her legs wrapped around him, forcing him to join her where she lay. He stayed perched just above her, finally taking her supple breast in his mouth while his hands slid under her hips. He pulled her lower body firmly against his as he rubbed his rigid manhood into her wet center, reveling in the intensity of the desire he had stirred in her. She couldn’t help the moan that escaped her lips as his single thought invaded her mind: ‘Soon, my Beauty, so very soon’.

He drew his hands from under her hips slowly down her legs until he reached her feet where they met at the small of his back. He tenderly took her right foot in his hand, supporting her calf with his arm as he began kissing the inside of her leg. The erotic sensation of his tongue swirling against her excited flesh as he continued moving his mouth down her leg was quickly overshadowed by the electricity pulsing through her body as his thumb caressed the wet lace of her panties. He meticulously worked his lips closer and closer to her aroused core, teasingly stopping his journey when he could feel her desperate longing to have his tongue inside of her. As he reached his ultimate goal, he noticed that Liz’s chest was heaving with desire, hey eyes closed to block out anything that would distract her from his sweet torture.

He tenderly placed his hand on her inner thigh as he stretched out next to her, lying on his side so he could whisper in her ear. Slowly moving his hand until his index finger was gently stroking her folds, he intentionally allowed the wet lace to restrict his movements. “Liz, my Beauty, I can smell your sweet desire. Do you want me as much as I want you?”

Liz could hardly think through the sensual fog that clouded her mind, so the answers that crossed her lips were direct, reflecting the wanton need he had created in her. “Yes, Max, oh yes. I am so wet for you. I ache for your touch.”

Enthralled by the pure lust that filled their connection, he continued with his whispered questions. “I am touching you, my love. Do you want more?”

“Please.”

“Tell me what you want, Liz.”

“I want to feel your finger in me.”

He stretched the lace to pull it aside, settling his finger back into her wet folds. He slowly moved his finger until it was barely inside of her, smiling at her small whimper. “Is this what you want, Beauty?”

“More. I need more.”

“More what?”

“Deeper. I need your finger deeper.”

He slid his finger the rest of the way inside of her, momentarily closing his own eyes as her excitement filled his senses. He fought the urge to keep them closed, not wanting to miss a second of her ecstasy-filled expression. “My finger is as deep as it can go now. What do you want me to do next, my Liz?”

“Please Max, make me come.”

“You want me to make you come?”

“Yes, please.”

“Should I make you come with my finger or my tongue?”

“I don’t care. I just need to come. Make me come, Max.”

Feeling her desperation, Max knew it was time to end his little game. Without hesitation he withdrew his finger to move down her body, swiftly removing her soaked panties as he settled between her legs. He ran his tongue up the length of her folds until it rested on her clit, teasing her for only a second before bringing his lips to the sensitive nub. He sucked her gently, knowing it would not take much for her to reach her climax. As the familiar wave of her building pleasure began to seep into his mind he slid his finger back inside of her, which instantly sent her over the edge. He savored every last drop of her sweet juices as she moaned his name like a prayer.

It wasn’t long before she recovered, and her hands instantly went to the button on his jeans as he moved to lay next to her, his own arousal quite obvious. She undid the button and moved the zipper over his manhood, careful to not cause him any unnecessary discomfort. Sitting up, she pulled the pants down and off his legs, tossing them on the floor with the rest of his clothes. She reached over to his waist and quickly pulled his boxers down, adding them to the growing pile. Taking him in her hand, she said seductively, “You know, I should pay you back for teasing me so mercilessly. I thought you were never going to let me come.”

“I couldn’t resist, my Beauty. It still surprises me to know that I can have such an effect on you. I love seeing your desire for me,” he said as he reverently caressed her cheek.

She straddled him on the bed, moving her hips until the tip of his erection was barely nestled against her folds, her uncontrollable need for him making her wet once again, “I won’t pay you back right now, Max, because I still need you to make love to me. Making me come with your tongue only made me want you more. Please tell me what we need to do to begin our commitment ceremony so that we can finally become one.”

The feel of Liz’s heat so close to his throbbing arousal was almost too much for him to bear, and he fought the urge to pull her hips down across his and bury himself deep inside of her. ‘Soon, my love, very soon’ echoed in his mind as she looked down at him with love-filled eyes, a teasing glint shining back at him. He repositioned her so that she was still straddling him without distracting him from the discussion. Gathering his resolve, he explained, “I think we pledge ourselves to each other and then mark each other with our commitment symbol.”

“Do you know the words we are supposed to say?”

“Not exactly. I guess we will have to make up our own.”

“What do they need to say?”

“That we are taking each other as mates and we will never be with anyone but each other.”

Liz thought a minute before she spoke. “Should we both say the same thing or just say what’s in our hearts?”

“I think we should make our vows separately. That way they will be more personal. Do you want to go first?”

“We still need to decide what our commitment symbol will look like.”

“I was thinking we could make it look like this,” he said as an image formed in her mind. It was the symbol from the pendant created with roses. The two outside swirls were small buds, thorned stems curving around the center, now a top-view of a rose in full bloom.

Liz smiled at him in amazement. “It’s beautiful, Max. That is precisely how I pictured it.”

“So we have our symbol, and I know exactly what I want to say to you. Do you know what you want to say?”

She nodded.

“I guess it is time to begin our commitment ceremony. This is your last chance to change your mind, my Beauty.”

“Max, I have never wanted anything as much as I want this. There is no way I am backing out.”

He pulled her down so she was laying on him, his mouth meeting hers as they gave each other a loving kiss. He brought his arms up to run his hands over the smooth skin of her back as she wiped away the tear that had pooled in the corner of his eye. She whispered, “Do you mind if I go first? I’m afraid if I wait too long to say what I want I’ll be crying so hard I won’t be able to get the words out.”

He nodded in agreement.

Her brow wrinkled in contemplation as she said, “We don’t have any way to put the symbol on our bodies.”

He smiled at her concern, “You leave that part to me, all right? I’m not going to let anything stop us from doing this. You say your vows and then I’ll show you what to do from there.”

She nodded and took a deep breath before moving off of him to lie at his side, propping herself up with her pillow to lean over him. She caressed his cheek as she began, “The first time I saw your eyes, there were so many emotions in them. Fear, sadness..loneliness…even curiosity. When I look in your eyes now I still see those things, but they are barely visible compared to the love I see there, love for me. I am humbled each time you touch me because I sense the depth of your feelings for me, and every night I thank whatever forces brought you to me. You have become such an enormous part of my life that I no longer remember what it was like to not have you with me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My Max, my kind, gentle, loving, selfless Max, I commit myself to you from this day forward. I will do whatever may be necessary to protect you from the cruelties of this or any other world, and I promise to spend the rest of my life loving only you. My beloved, you own my soul in this lifetime and any other. No matter what the future brings, I am bound to you for eternity. You will never be alone again.” She ended her vows by gently kissing his forehead, eyes, cheeks and nose, finally resting her lips against his to give him a passionate kiss.

Max took her hand and tightly wrapped it around his right wrist as he cupped the back of her head with his other hand. Speaking softly, he said, “Take deep breaths and let your mind blank out. Now concentrate on the image of our commitment symbol. Picture it in your mind. Now imagine how it would look on my arm. Keep concentrating…you’ll feel the energy flowing through your body…from your mind…down into your arm…through your hand…and into me. Slowly form that energy into the symbol…picture the impression of it on my skin…feel my skin changing underneath your hand…now, my Beauty, open your eyes as you gradually let the energy drain away.”

Liz’s eyes fluttered open as she carefully removed her hand from his wrist. On Max’s skin was the commitment symbol, exactly as she had pictured it. She examined it carefully as she exclaimed, “Max, I did it. I really did it. But how? I don’t have any special powers.”

Max smiled at her as he watched her excited expression. “You used my energy. I wasn’t sure it would work, but obviously it did.”

“So that’s why my body felt like it did when you healed me?”

“Yes, my energy was inside of you then like it was just now.”

“Max, that was…amazing. That’s the only word I can think of,” she said in awe. “Look at this. The symbol…it’s part of your skin, almost like a birthmark.”

“Yes, my Beauty. You have now marked me as your own,” he said as he gently brushed his lips against hers.

She moved her mouth away from his, bringing his hand close to her face to place a chaste kiss on his wrist. “With this symbol, I commit myself only to you--heart, mind, body and soul—from now until the end of time.”

Max couldn’t stop the tears that trickled down the sides of his face. Liz had spoken such moving words of devotion and love that his heart overflowed with happiness. He could not wait another second to finish their ceremony so that he could finally make love to the wonderful woman who had just given him the only thing he had ever wanted.
He quickly changed his position so that Liz was laying completely underneath him, her head resting on her pillow and her legs open just wide enough for him to settle his knees between them, propping himself up by resting his elbows on either side of her naked form.

“My Beauty, every time I feel your lips against mine…” His lips brushed hers.

“each moment I touch your skin…” He kissed the soft skin between her breast.

“every second you spend with me…” He rested his head on her stomach.

“I wonder how I ever found such perfection. I feel your endless love for me and all the pain and loneliness I have ever known fades away. I may have healed your body that night in the alley, but you healed my soul. The most amazing part of that night is when I saw your life. I didn’t just see what you saw, I felt what you felt when you saw me, and I never thought anyone could really ever feel that way about me.”

He looked up at her with even more tears in his eyes, “And now you have committed yourself to me. You have given me something I never thought I could have, and I will forever cherish the wonderful words you have spoken to me this night. I commit myself and all that I am to you, my Liz, because the day I saved your life is the day my life began, and the day I felt the beauty of your soul is the day I truly became human. I could never give my love to anyone but you, and from this day forward, my life is in your hands, for you are my home.”

He moved his face back to the warmth of her body, placing tender kisses on her silky skin until he reached the soft brown curls below her navel. He looked up at her again as he placed his left palm over her right hip. Liz could feel the skin under his hand begin to tingle as the familiar warm sensation of his energy spread throughout her lower body. He briefly closed his eyes before gently pulling his hand away to reveal the commitment symbol that now permanently marked her as his mate. He pressed his lips to the blooming rose that now graced her body before he whispered in adoration, “With this symbol, I commit myself only to you--heart, mind, body and soul—from now until the end of time.”

Liz sat up in the bed as Max rested back on his knees, the two reaching for each other to seal their vows with a kiss. As they reverently brought their mouths together, lithe fingers eagerly sought out the most intimate of places to ready their bodies for the consummation of their commitment. It was mere seconds before Liz broke their kiss, her body still electrified by the warmth of Max’s energy. “Make love to me, Max. Bury yourself deep inside of me and make me your mate for life, give me your soul for eternity.”

He wrapped his arms around her and lowered her back to the bed, gently biting her neck and shoulder as he settle between her legs. Liz’s chest moved with deep, heavy breaths as his overwhelming need for her filled her senses. She could not force her eyes to remain open as he brushed his arousal against her wetness to open her folds for him, their shared desire enhancing the erotic sensation. In the back of her mind she knew she was forgetting something important, but she could not focus on anything but the amazing sensation of Max slowly filling her up. He began to press into her barrier but suddenly stopped when he sensed her pain, quickly pulling out of her to be sure she was all right. “I’m so sorry my Beauty. I did not mean to hurt you. I thought I would know how to make love to you, but I must be doing it wrong.”

“No, Max, you were doing everything just right. Couldn’t you feel how incredible that was? But remember what the doctor told me? I’m going to feel some pain the first time. It will be worth it to finally have you inside of me, to feel that incredible sensation.” Grasping his hips and pulling him toward her, she said in a light tone, “Now please, get back down here and finish what you started before I go insane.”

He relaxed and began to move into her again. His eyes widened as he pulled back again, causing Liz to thrash her head side to side as she laughingly cried, “No…no…you can’t do this to me. If I have to wait another second, I think I just might stop breathing.”

“I know, Liz. But you told me that until you had been taking your pills for a month, we would have to use a condom so we don’t make a baby. Is that still true?”

“Oh my God, Max. You are so right. I just completely forgot. See what you do to me? You make me want you so much that I stop thinking clearly,” she said as she leaned up on her elbow and reached over her head with her other arm to retrieve one of the foil packets from her nightstand.

The awkward movement caused her breast to arch up towards Max’s face, and he could not resist teasing her nipple with his tongue as he said, “Well my Beauty, you make me want you so much that I stop thinking altogether.”

“At least you remembered this,” she said as she tore open the package, careful to not destroy the instructions imprinted in tiny letters on the one side of the wrapper. Settling back on the bed she squinted her eyes as she read, then gave him a sexy smile while she held up the rolled condom. “May I put this on?”

Enjoying their light banter, he quipped, “From what little I do know, I think it would work much better if you put it on me.”

“Very funny. Now if you know what’s good for you, you’ll get up here where I can reach you.”

“Whatever you want, my love,” he said as he moved from between her legs to kneel at her side. She took his erection in her hand and gave him a few long, slow strokes before pressing the top of the condom against his swollen head. She inched her hand down his shaft as she rolled the latex onto him, watching his expression to make sure she was not hurting him. Once she finished, she asked, “Does that feel all right?”

“It certainly feels different. It’s not very comfortable, though.”

“Well, don’t worry. In a couple more weeks, we won’t need to use them.”

Max moved back between her legs, bending to kiss his way up her stomach, between her breasts and over to the side of her neck. Liz’s body was burning with desire and she was about to protest Max’s slow return to their previous position when he began to whisper in her ear. “You can suppress the pain, my love, just like I showed you how to suppress your desire. When you start to feel it, push the thought of it to the back of your mind and only focus on your pleasure.”

He rubbed his erection against her folds again, lubricating the condom with her fluids before slowly moving into her. His voice now echoed in her thoughts, ‘My Liz, you feel so wonderful…you don’t feel any pain…only think of the pleasure…your feel so hot around me…”

Liz felt her barrier tearing inside of her but there was no pain, only the magnificent feeling of Max moving deeper into her, his throaty groan the only sound she could hear over his mental description of their joining. His feelings of love and desire flooded her mind, his own pleasure coursing through her as he sank the rest of the way into her. Struggling to express his thoughts, Max silently whispered, ‘My Beauty, you are so warm and tight around me…like you were made just for me…perfection…”

Liz let out the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding as she moved her hips up to meet his. The change in position forced him even deeper inside of her, causing her to moan his name in pleasure. Instinctively he pulled almost all the way out of her, then gradually filled her again as she continued to moan words of love and desire for her mate, wrapping her legs around his waist to keep him close to her. He continued gently thrusting in and out of her, gradually increasing his movements as her mind and body begged him to go faster and deeper.

When he finally sensed the beginning of her orgasm, he relaxed his own restraint as he thrust hard against her spasming muscles, their bodies clinging together like two soft magnets as they came together. Max’s passionate moans of pleasure met Liz’s own breathy whimpers of excitement as the ecstasy of their first union washed over them.

Their movements finally stilled as the tension drained from their bodies, newly used muscles quickly giving way to exhaustion. Max reluctantly pulled out of her, easily removing the condom from his softening member. As he climbed off the bed to toss it into the garbage can, Liz’s eyes wandered appreciatively over the body of the man who had taken her virginity. She had to agree with him. It had felt as though their bodies were made just for each other. Her eyes wrinkled in joy as she thought, ‘We finally made love. You are now my mate…my lover…the other half of my soul’.

Max lay back down next to her as he gave her a loving kiss. “Yes my Beauty, and now you are my mate…” kiss, “my lover…” kiss, “and the other half of my soul as well.”

Liz looked at him with puzzled surprise, “Max, I didn’t say that out loud. I was only thinking it.”

“No, you said it. I heard you when I was over there,” he said as he pointed to the garbage can.

Liz shook her head no.

“You had to have said it. You know I have to be touching you to hear your thoughts.”

Liz gasped, “Unless…Max, maybe making love strengthened our connection.” She stumbled off the bed, her legs still weak from their lovemaking, and stood as far away from him as possible. “Tell me what I’m thinking.”

Max frowned before his eyes lit up with a smile, “You wish your parents were longer than a week.”

“That’s exactly it. Max, you don’t need to be touching me to hear my thoughts now. What about me? Try giving me an image.”

Max closed his eyes to concentrate. No sooner had his lashes brushed his cheek than a vivid picture of the couple making love in the shower flashed into her mind. She tried to keep a blank expression as he opened his eyes to judge whether he was successful. She sauntered back to the bed and lay down next to him. She only let him look disappointed for a moment before she said, “So, do you want to go take a shower?”

A smile instantly spread across his face. “Liz, this is amazing. I had no idea this might happen.”

“Does it upset you to know I can hear your every thought?”

“No, I just never thought we could be any closer than we already are. Although you may quickly get tired of hearing how much time I spend thinking about making love to you.”

“I could never get tired of that, Max.”

He gave her a mischievous smile before pulling open the drawer of the nightstand and looking inside.
Holding up one of the foil packages, he silently asked, ‘How many days left until your parents come home?’

‘Five. They come back late Wednesday night’

‘Then how many condoms are in the drawer?’

‘What?’

‘If there are five days left until your parents return, how many condoms are in the drawer?’

‘That’s a trick question. How am I supposed to know?’

‘Take a guess.’

‘Um…nine?’

‘That’s the right number but the wrong answer.’

‘I give up. What’s the right answer?’

‘If there are five days left until your parents return, how many condoms are in the drawer? The answer is simple, my Beauty: NOWHERE NEAR ENOUGH!’



Dreams remain just as long as there's Dreamers--Dennis DeYoung
posted on 17-Sep-2001 12:54:18 AM
Chapter 49

**She was running as fast as her legs would carry her.

She was so close—safety was just over the next horizon if she could only hold out.

If she could just stay far enough ahead of Them, They would not see her hiding place.

So close.

It was just up ahead now.

Faster.

Her right leg folded underneath her, causing her to stumble and land in the dirt.

She jumped back up to her feet, grimacing in pain.

She would not let Them catch her.

Faster.

Finally, the opening was in front of her.

She pushed through the narrow crevice, every nerve of her body protesting as she scraped against the rough walls.

She threw her head back, gasping for air as They passed by her hideout.

She was safe. For now.

She collapsed to the ground, her weary body giving out from the exhausting flight.

She lay there for several minutes before trying to move.

She stifled her cry as her legs cramped in agony**

“What’s wrong, Liz? Tell me what’s wrong.”

Max’s voice was in her ear as she squeezed her eyes tight against the pain. She finally managed to choke out, “My legs…”

“Shh. It’s ok, Beauty. Concentrate on taking deep breaths…push the ache to the back of your mind…feel your body relaxing…your shoulders…your arms…your back…your legs…there’s a little discomfort, but no pain…relax your feet…your toes…”

Liz opened her eyes as the muscles spasms passed, Max’s concerned face hovering over her own. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to worry you.”

“Are you all right now?”

She nodded, “Yeah, I think so. I guess my legs just aren’t used to, um, certain positions yet. And here I thought I had been doing a pretty good job of suppressing the pain.”

Max stroked the tear away from her cheek, “That’s what happens when you fall asleep. You naturally lose the focus you need to continue blocking it.” He gave her a sly smile as he added, “I guess I had better take pity on you and let you rest those muscles today. Maybe tomorrow, too.”

Liz gave him a playful punch. “Oh no. You don’t have to go that far. Now that I’m awake again I’m sure I’ll be fine. Although I definitely think a massage would make me feel a lot better.”

“Whatever you want, my beloved,” Max said as he began to move on the bed.

Liz finally looked around the room and remembered what day it was. Her eyes sparkled as she put her hand on his upper arm. “Wait. We’re going to have to delay that massage for a little while.”

Max gave her a confused look.

“It’s Christmas morning, Max. You have to open your presents from me,” she said with a huge grin. “Besides, I know where that massage is going to lead, and if we get started this early in the morning, those other six condoms aren’t going to last the day.”

“Can’t we just go buy more?”

“Not on Christmas Day! There aren’t any stores open today.”

He leaned over and kissed the commitment symbol on her hip. “Well if we need to make them last until tomorrow, I guess I’ll just have to take my time when I make love to you today.”

“Mmm, I can’t wait,” she said, running her fingers through his hair as he continued to gently kiss her leg, making her instantly forget about opening the presents.

He slowly massaged his hand over her knee and up her inner thigh until his finger was lightly stroking her clit. He shifted his body so that he could take her breast in his mouth, lightly moaning as the taste and smell of her sweet skin filled his senses. His hand quickly grew slick with her juices, and as he slid his finger in and out of her he tenderly lapped at her nipple, brushing his tongue against the sensitive tip with each gentle thrust into her wetness. He could feel her increasing excitement as he delicately circled her clit with his thumb, never actually touching the small bundle of nerves.

Just when she thought he was about to give her the sweet release she wanted he startled her by completely pulling his hand and mouth away from her body, causing her to whimper in protest. He brought his hand to his lips and languid cleaned his fingers of her sweet nectar as if it were his last meal. He gave her a sexy grin as his voice whispered in her mind, ‘I’ll never get enough of your taste.’

He climbed off the bed and started to move toward the bathroom. “Where do you think you’re going?” she asked with surprise.

“I’m giving your legs a rest,” he tried to say with a straight face. “Now didn’t you say something about opening presents?”

“And you’re just going to leave me here all hot and aching for you?”

“Why, my love? What do you want me to do?” he asked as though he were completely unaffected by their foreplay.

“I think you really like doing this to me,” she said as she slowly climbed off the bed, careful to not let her leg cramps return. Swinging her hips seductively she made her way over to him and glanced down to where his proud erection revealed his true desire.

She pressed her hardened nipples into his chest as she took him in her hand. “I think you like to touch me…and kiss me…to get my body all excited.”

She placed her other hand on his chest and lightly scraped her fingernail over his nipple. “You like to suck and lick my breasts.”

Keeping his stiff member in her hand, she moved to his side and pressed the front of her body full against his side. She slowly ran her other hand down his back and rested it low on his hip. She gradually began to stroke his erection, running her thumb over the swollen head as she caressed the firm muscles of his buttocks with her other hand. “You like to put you finger in me, your tongue in me and make me wet with desire for you. You like to drive all the thoughts from my mind and leave only this intense need to have you deep inside of me. You like me to beg, ‘Oh Max, bury yourself in me. Oh Max, please make me come. With your finger…with your tongue…I don’t care how’.”

She circled completely around him, intimately caressing his aroused flesh until she was stand in front of him once again. She pressed herself tightly against his body as she slid down to her knees, her eyes never leaving his as her breasts rubbed against his erection. “And when I beg you to bury yourself in me, you like to tease me by just barely pressing into me like this,” she said throatily before tightly wrapping her lips around the very tip of his erection, tasting the sweet drops of his fluid that had pooled there.

‘Then when I ask you for more, you’ll slide into me just enough to make me moan.’ Her voice was only in his mind now as she took more of his length between her lips, two sets of eyes closing reflexively to enjoy her oral seduction.

‘You like to make me so crazy for you that I beg you to go deeper.’ She took all of him in her mouth, adjusting the height of her body to make her movements easier as she began to slide her lips up and down his length.

‘Faster.’ Over and over she pulled her head back until he was almost free of her mouth then quickly plunged him back inside, keeping her lips tightly wrapped around him to provide the hard suction she knew was pushing him closer and closer to climaxing.

As soon as she sensed the first inkling of his release, she abruptly stopped her ministrations and stood up. The sudden loss of her surrounding warmth made his eyes open in surprise. She backed away from him and towards the bed, her hand reaching into the drawer to retrieve a condom before she settled on the bed, her legs spread wide in invitation. She tore open the package and removed the rolled up latex, holding it in the palm of her hand. She once again voiced her thoughts aloud. “The only problem is that I don’t feel like begging this morning. So if the very naked, incredibly sexy man who has this mark—MY mark…” she said as she caressed the rose symbol on her hip. “If he won’t put this condom on and slide deep inside of me…if he won’t make me moan his name as we come together…without me having to beg…then I’ll just have to set this down…,” she said as she rested the condom between her breasts to take one of the still erect nipples between her thumb and finger.

Seeing that she was easily beating him at his own game, she gave him a demure smile as she saw the fire burning in his eyes. He had not moved from the spot where she had left him, his overheated body frozen in place as he lustily watched her touch herself. Continuing to play with her breast, she moved her other hand between her legs and slid her own finger deep inside herself, not at all surprised to feel how aroused her own words had made her. “and take care of this craving for you all by myself.”

Max’s fascination with watching Liz pleasure her own body quickly lost out to his urgent need to be the one to give her such sweet bliss. He darted over to the bed and grabbed the condom from between her breasts, then expertly rolled it on his rock-hard erection before traveling up her body. All the pretense of letting her rest now completely obliterated by her erotic performance, he pulled her knees up to rest in the crook of his arms as he drove into her.

Each of them let out a deep throaty moan as the exquisite sensation of joining together once again flooded their connection. Reveling in the hunger she had created in him, Liz continued her sensual dialog as he relentlessly thrust into her. “Oh Max, this feels so incredible. It’s amazing to feel you this deep inside of me…”

His own uncensored thoughts flooded her mind, ‘My Beauty, I love how wet and tight you are.’

She moaned with desire, “Mmm, I love how you fill me up…how you feel so big inside of me.”

‘We were made for each other, my love.’

“I’ll never get enough of you…how you make me forget about anything but this.”

‘I enjoy making you lose control.’

“Only you, Max…only you make me this way” she whimpered as her need for him pulsed through every nerve in her body.

‘Because you’re mine Beauty, all mine.’

“Yes Max, I’m yours forever.”

“Hear me beg you now…please…come for me, Liz…let me feel you tighten around me as I come with you…”

His final plea pushed her over the edge, her breathy voice barely able to articulate his name as the sensations of his own orgasm flooded her mind, his unrestrained possessiveness swarming through their connection, ‘You’re mine Beauty…only I can give you this pleasure…mine forever…I’m the only man who will ever love your body…your soul’

The exhausted couple collapsed together on the bed in a tangle of limbs, Max resting his head between Liz’s heaving breasts as he lingered inside of her. He didn’t want this moment to end, but he knew he had to move in order to discard the condom. He grudgingly climbed off of her and removed the latex cover, silently praying for the day when the thin barrier would not be needed and he would be able to feel all of her heat surrounding him.

“Mmm, I know what you mean.”

“What, Beauty?”

“The condom—it reduces the sensation. Did you notice the difference last night? When you were first inside of me, before we remembered the condom, it just felt so much more—intense. I don’t know how else to describe it.”

“You could feel that? I didn’t realize it would make a difference for you, too. I just thought it was my imagination that I couldn’t feel you as much with the condom. This was number five, so I guess we aren’t letting it bother us a great deal,” he said as he tossed it into the garbage can and lay back down on the bed with her. He gave her a loving kiss before his eyebrows wrinkled together in thought, “Have you done that before?”

“Done what?”

“Made yourself come?”

Liz looked away as her face turned red with embarrassment. “I can’t believe I did that in front of you. What was I ever thinking?”

He took her chin in his hand and turned her head back until their eyes met. “No Liz, please don’t be that way. I really do enjoy seeing how beautiful you are when you are all excited for me. I guess part of me still can’t believe that I could cause you to have those kind of feelings. When I breathe in the scent of your desire, when I feel how wet I can make you with just my kisses, you can’t imagine how it feels for me to know that you want me that much. As I watched you touch yourself, I saw exactly how much you wanted me to be the one pleasing you. How did you say it? I like to drive all the thoughts from your mind and leave only an intense need to have me deep inside of you. But you don’t realize that there are plenty of thoughts in your mind, thoughts only I can hear. When you lose control like that you don’t hold anything back. I know exactly what you want me to do—how to kiss your lips, when to take your breast in my mouth, where to bite your skin. Feeling such raw desire from you, sensing your need to have me deep inside of you, is like nothing else I have ever experienced. I will never tire of feeling or hearing how much you want me. Please don’t ever be ashamed of showing me that desire.”

She couldn’t help but smile at his loving words. “So you really like it when I become wanton and shameless, huh?”

He turned her on her side to spoon against her, his erection quickly returing as he pressed against her buttocks and gently played with her breast. “I like knowing that I’m the only one who can make you feel that way.”

Wiggling her bottom against his hardness, she teased, “I guess you like it quite a bit.”

“You aren’t the only one who loses control. I used to be able to restrain myself around you, but now the more you touch me, the less control I have. I thought this need would lessen once we finally gave ourselves to each other, but I think it has had the opposite effect. We’ve made love five times in a little over fourteen hours, and my body is already begging for a sixth time. What am I going to do when I have to go back to the motel in a few days? I can’t bear the thought of not being with you for days at a time.”

She rubbed her head under his chin as she covered his hand with her own. “We’ll have think of something Max because I don’t think I could even go one day without touching you now.”

He tenderly kissed her neck and shoulder, “I love you, my Beauty. I love you so very much.”

“I love you too, Max,” she said as she brought his arm up to kiss the commitment symbol on his wrist. “I’ll love you forever.”

She turned to lay flat on her back, pulling his lips to hers as their hands began to explore each other’s bodies. Max broke the kiss and rested his forehead against hers. “I think we’d better go open those presents now.”

Liz let out a light moan, “And I was hoping we could start round number six.”

Max stood up and pulled her into his arms, wrapping the blanket around them as he reached into the drawer of the night stand. He tucked the foil package into his hand and led her to the living room, his playful voice echoing in her mind.

‘Who says we aren’t?’

Chapter 50

“I love feeling your bare skin against mine,” Liz purred as she sat in Max’s lap, her back propped up against the arm of the couch.

“I can never get enough of touching you,” he agreed as he tenderly ran his hand down her side and over her hip, resting it on the commitment symbol that was now a permanent part of her body. He gave her a tender kiss as he whispered, “I’ll never tire of making love to you, my beloved mate.”

She returned and deepened the kiss, threading her hand through his thick dark hair as she pressed her body closer to his strong chest. As she broke the kiss her voice quietly echoed in his mind, ‘Your mate--I love the sound of that’.

‘Not nearly as much as I do,’ he silently replied. Out loud he said, “Now what about these Christmas presents that you are so eager to open?”

She turned to the end table and removed the first of two elegantly wrapped presents, handing it to him with a shy smile on her face, “I hope you like this.”

“I am certain I will love it, just because it is from you,” he said as he carefully tore the paper from the present. Setting the colorful wrapping aside, he looked at the wide flat box for a minute before feigning ignorance while saying in a light-hearted voice, “How did you know I always wanted my very own white box?”

Gently smacking his chest with her hand, she said, “No, silly, your present is inside the box. Open it up.”

“Oh, I see. So I don’t get to keep the box then?” he teased.

“Just open it before I decide to take it back altogether,” she said nervously. She couldn’t stop the thought that this had been a really stupid idea as she anxiously waited to see his reaction.

He pulled the flap from the end of the box to open it, tilting the end up to let the contents slide out into his hand. Once it was free of the box, he curiously looked it over. At first he thought it was some type of book, but upon closer inspection he noticed that it was definitely something else. It was made of a deep cherry wood, slightly taller than it was wide. There appeared to be two small hinges on one of the longer sides, so he turned it around to open it up. “Oh, Liz,” was all he could say as he spread the two sides apart. He looked up at her with shining eyes before returning his gaze to the beautiful sight in front of him. In his hands was a double picture frame, simple yet intricately carved miniature roses forming the two ovals that encircled the most intriguing photos Max had ever seen.

The left picture was a close-up of Liz with a shawl lightly draped over her arms, her hands gently holding the edges together over the swell of her breasts. Her silky hair was pinned up with small roses woven throughout, several tiny wisps grazing her bare shoulders. Her eyes were focused on some imaginary point below her, causing her dark lashes to fan out against her porcelain skin while her slightly parted lips were turned up in a sweet smile.

The right photo was a full-length shot of Liz in an antique wedding dress and veil. The weight of the heavily beaded gown made the elegant garment cling to her, accenting the delicate curves of her body and making her arms appear as fragile as the lace that covered them, while the lavish train pooled at her feet created the illusion that she was floating on a bed of clouds like an angel. Her hair was pinned up in this picture as well, the roses now replaced with a short veil that framed her face without overpowering her graceful features. Her wide doe-eyes stared straight into his and adoringly displayed the depth of her love for him as her glossed lips curved into the special smile she reserved only for him.

“I don’t know what to say, Liz. Beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe these photos. I can’t believe the detail—like I can reach out and curl those little hairs around my finger or feel your soft skin against my hand.”

“That’s the main reason I chose the black and white pictures. Without the color distracting your eyes, you can focus completely on the textures and lighting. The beads, the lace, even the tiny white roses in my hair stand out and demand your attention.”

Max gave a gentle laugh before reverently saying, “Honestly, I didn’t even notice those things, my love. I only see this stunning goddess who continues to give the best of herself to me. Thank you so much, my Beauty, for making me the happiest man on this or any other planet. If I were to receive another thousand gifts, none would be more precious than this one.” He poured all his feelings into the deep passionate kiss he gave her, making her sigh with contentment as his loving warmth radiated through every nerve in her body.

“I’m so glad you like it, Max. I wasn’t sure whether or not it was a good idea.”

“It’s perfect, Liz, especially the roses. How did you know to use them?”

“I didn’t know—it was more like instinct. They seemed to add just the right touch, so that’s what I chose. I had no idea how significant they would turn out to be.”

He set the frame up on the coffee table so that he could continue to look at it as he held her in his arms. “I’m sorry to say that I don’t have a present for you, Liz. Maria spent almost an hour helping me pick out just the right thing, but I must have dropped it that day in the mall,” he said sorrowfully, not really wanting to bring up the horrible memories of their ill-fated shopping trip.

Liz caressed his cheek and whispered in a comforting voice, “It’s all right, Max. You’ve already given me the most amazing night of my life. I had a wonderful bath and an incredible dinner but more important than that, you gave me something only you could give—your body, your soul, your mind and your spirit. Nothing other gift could be better than that.”

Max gave her another kiss, this one more somber than the last. Refusing to let his despair take over their precious time together, Liz reached around and grabbed the second present and placed it in his hands. “This isn’t really a Christmas present, but I had it anyway and it is something special so I decided to wrap it up anyway.”

He eyed her curiously at her strange explanation before hesitantly opening the package.

“And I don’t want to hear any smart-ass comments about the box,” she teased.

He gave her a sly smile before shaking the box in his hands. “It feels empty.”

“Trust me, it’s not. Open it and you’ll see.”

“Aren’t you an impatient one?” he asked in a laughing tone. “I see your eagerness isn’t restricted to sexual matters. And all this time I thought it was a direct result of my wonderful skills as your lover.”

Liz gazed at him in surprise, “You sure have become pretty confident. What happened to that guy who not too long ago thought he did not deserve my affections?”

Max shook his head as the playful manner left his voice, “Believe me, he is still there and more alive than ever. But now that he has made love to you, he realizes that it does not matter whether or not he is worthy of your devotion. You will give it to him either way, and he would be a fool to not accept it.”

Sensing a profound sadness in him, Liz pulled his face close to hers and showered him with gentle kisses and loving caresses. “Tell me what to do, Max. What do I need to do to convince you that you deserve to be happy, that you are more than worthy of love?”

He closed his eyes as he sighed in resignation, “Just promise me that you will continue to give me yours.”

She tenderly kissed his eyelids as she silently spoke to him, ‘I will love you for eternity, Max. Nothing will ever turn me away from you--ever. Please don’t forget that.’

His eyes slowly opened to stare at the amazing woman in his arms. He gave her a grateful smile before returning his attention to the gift in his hands. “I guess I had better finish opening this before your anxiousness makes you jump right off my lap.”

“Rubbing her bottom against him, she teased, “No chance of that happening.”

He pried the lid aside to reveal a smaller box alongside a manila envelope. He picked up the smaller box and removed its lid, his brows frowning in confusion as he looked to Liz for an explanation.

“Look inside the envelope first. I think you’ll understand once you see the things in it.”

Reaching for the envelope, he carefully undid the clasp and grabbed the papers within, spreading them out over the blanket covering their naked bodies.

“Maxwell Jonathan Stephens?”

“It’s a birth certificate. For you.”

“For me?”

She nodded enthusiastically, “Yeah, and a social security card and a state ID card.” Pointing to the small box she continued, “That is a wallet. Once we put a photo on the ID card we can cover it with laminate so you can carry it with you. You can also carry your money and pictures in the wallet, too.”

“I’m not sure I completely understand.”

“The birth certificate, the social security card, the ID card--these are all the things you need to have a real identity. With these you can rent an apartment, register for school, even get a marriage license once you turn eighteen.”

“But I don’t ever know how old I am.”

“Well, I had to choose your age, so I decided to make you as old as me. You’ll be seventeen on April fourth, exactly one month before my birthday. See, that’s the date right here on your birth certificate.”

“Why did you pick April fourth?”

“I didn’t really. The social security number and most of the other information is from the real Maxwell Stephens. Alex knows a hacker who can access the Social Security Office’s database, so he went in and deleted the earnings history and death certificate then changed the birth year from 1919 to 1983. As far as the government or anyone else knows, you are Maxwell Jonathan Stephens and you are sixteen years old. Your parents are deceased and you haven’t held a job yet.”

“Who was Maxwell Jonathan Stephens?” Max reluctantly asked, almost certain of the answer.

“The old man.”

“So my name won’t be Max any more?”

“I’ll still call you Max. It’s short for Maxwell. Just like my real name is Elizabeth, but everyone has always called me Liz.”

“Elizabeth? That is a beautiful name. It suits you. Would you mind if I called you Elizabeth once in a while?”

“Anything for you, Max.”

“Elizabeth, my Beauty. My mate,” he said contentedly. “But if my name is now Maxwell, then what does Jonathan Stephens mean?”

“Jonathan is your middle name and Stephens is your last name.”

“So I have three names?”

“Something like that.”

“Do you have three names, too?”

“Yes. My full name is Elizabeth Marie Parker.”

“Why do people have three names?”

“Your middle name helps to make you unique. Your last name is your family name, like your house name on Antar. My family name is Parker, and when I marry you I will take your family name and become Elizabeth Marie Stephens.”

His eyes glistened with unshed tears, “My family…I never thought I would be able to say those words.” Staring at some unknown spot in front of him, he explained, “After the old man was gone, I used to look at the photos in his house and wish that I could have been the boy in those pictures. I could see how happy they all were, how much they loved him, but I didn’t understand how he could have left the old man all by himself—why he never came to visit.” Turning his attention back to her, he choked out, “That poor man died all alone, Liz.”

Gathering the items from her lap and setting them next to the picture frame on the coffee table, she turned back to him and kissed away the dampness on his cheeks, “Shh, sweetheart. It isn’t what you think. The old man was alone because his son, the boy in the pictures, was killed in a war. I’m sure that if the son had still been alive the old man would never have died alone.”

“Earth has been involved in wars?”

“Well, not with other planets, only among its own people. I think that anywhere one group of people wants to control another group there will be war. Sadly it is usually the young and innocent who suffer the most.”

“How old was the son when he died?”

“Eighteen.”

“So he never had a chance to marry or have a family of his own?”

“No. That is why the old man was by himself. His wife died eight years ago, so he had been alone a very long time.”

“Maggie,” Max said wistfully. “He talked to me about her every time I went to see him. There was always such sadness in his eyes. Now I know why. To have such happiness and then have it all taken away from you…it would almost be better to have not known such joy in the first place.”

“But he and his wife were able to spend a lifetime together. They were married for over fifty years, and they had their son for eighteen of those years. I’m sure that if you had been able to ask him, he would have told you that having the love of his wife and son was worth the pain of losing them. I know that’s how I feel about the time I have spent with you.”

“You would still want to be with me even if you knew it would end up hurting you?”

“Yes Max because I have never felt more loved than when I am with you. None of us really know how much time we have to live our lives, so I am just glad that for this one day I have been able to have your love. As you said earlier, I would be a fool to not accept it.”

Max brought his mouth to hers in a kiss filled with love and desire. Holding her face in his hands, he pulled away to gaze into her eyes. “Words cannot express my gratitude for these wonderful gifts you have given me. In every sense of the words, you have made me the person I am today. Not only have you given me my name, but you have become my family and my home as well. I, Maxwell Jonathan Stephens will love you for eternity, Elizabeth Marie Parker.”

Remembering the immense joy Max felt the night she had spent on the couch touching and caressing his chest and face, Liz moved the blanket from around their bodies to straddle his lap. She tilted his head back and ran her fingers through his hair as she silently directed him to close his eyes. She gently drew her fingers across his warm skin, imitating the pattern she used the first time she had touched him this way. His hands instinctively rested on her waist as his thumb caressed the flowery symbol that covered her hip, his breathing growing deeper with each brush of her hand across his heated flesh.

Liz sighed with contentment as their connection swam with the same powerful bliss she had previously experienced by touching him this way. Fingers dancing across his bare chest, she gradually leaned over him and captured his parted lips between her own in a gentle but passionate kiss. She lightly massaged a path over his stomach, feeling his hardness press into her as her mouth and hands worked their magic. She moved her hands lower to stroke his growing arousal, glad that there was no clothing to restrict her access to this part of him that gave her such pleasure.

He brought his hands up her sides and around her back as they continued mating their mouths, each dip of her tongue past his lips causing him to shiver with need. His hands moved higher until he was holding her face between them, breaking their kiss to taste the warm, salty skin on her neck and shoulder. His body was electrified with their increasing desire as she continued her intimate caresses. Unwilling to surrender all control just yet, he finally stilled her hand to focus on giving her body the same adoring treatment he was receiving. He moved his hands back over her hip until he was cupping her buttocks, pulling her closer to him as he brought her to her knees.

Her breasts were now at the perfect level for him to suckle as he moved one hand between her legs, lovingly massaging his way to the part of her that yearned to be touched. Her mind clouded with lust as he sank his finger deep inside her wetness while his mouth devoured her soft mounds, eliciting little moans from her as he tongued her sensitive nipple or lightly brushed his thumb against her clit.

Quickly he sensed that she wanted so much more from him, so he reached over with his free hand to retrieve the foil package from the end table. Liz took it from his hands and tore it open as he continued his amorous assault, not stopping until she moved away from him. Sitting far back on his lap, she leaned over and pressed her hardened nipples into his chest, giving him a passionate kiss as she took his erection in her hand to roll the condom over his length. Once she finished her loving task she came back up to her knees and brought his arousal to her waiting heat, his desire pulsing through her as she stroked him against her lips.

Their moans echoed in the silent room as she slowly slid onto him, ecstasy now mixing with the unadulterated joy that consumed their minds and souls. She began a steady rhythm as his hands and mouth tasted and touched every inch of skin he could reach, his hooded eyes revealing his delight at having so much contact as she moved him in and out of her heat with long teasing strokes. Their breathing became more labored with each movement of her body over his, and as she leaned into him the friction of her nipples rubbing against the hard muscles of his chest added to their excitement.

He moved his hands down to her hips as she gently brushed her lips against his, neither one of them having enough breath to submit to the deep searing kisses their bodies were craving. The feeling of Max filling her over and over as she impaled herself on his arousal was exquisite torture, the empty seconds between each stroke becoming unbearable as she moved closer to completion, her eyes instinctively closing to prevent any distractions as she mentally focused on the place where her body met her lover’s. Each sensed the other’s urgent desire as they desperately clung to their restraint, neither one of them wanting their blissful joining to end yet helpless against the forces that drove them closer and closer to the edge.

Liz was so lost in the physical sensations of their lovemaking and the powerful emotions streaming through their connection that she nearly jumped when Max’s voice broke the silence. “Open your eyes, my Beauty. I want them looking into mine.”

She was so close to coming that she didn’t think she had enough strength to obey his request, but after a few seconds she was able to force the tension from her face long enough to compel her eyes to focus on his own, the intense love and desire reflected in them drawing her into a trance that amplified all her other senses. Her skin was burning with electricity as he touched her everywhere, their moans and cries of pleasure ringing in her ears. With each labored breath she took in the heady scent of her arousal filtering through the air as it was heated by their frenzied movements while the taste of his lips as they grazed against hers only deepened her need to be completely possessed by him.

Max managed to gasp out, “My Elizabeth…this feeling of you…surrounding me…being able to touch so much of your beautiful skin…as I mate with you…is so wonderful…”

“Max…oh Max…I can’t…hold back…anymore…”

“Then don’t my love…let yourself go…come for me, Elizabeth…come with me…”

A series of deep throaty moans passed between their trembling lips as their powerful orgasm consumed their every thought, her chocolate brown eyes incinerated by the fire burning in his deep amber ones. Surge after surge of adoration and pleasure washed over the couple until the excited tension in their bodies seeped away to be replaced by sated relaxation.

Neither of the young lovers wanted to surrender their amorous position on the couch, and as their breathing slowly returned to normal they continued their loving gestures, endlessly kissing and caressing each other as they exchanged words of love and endearment. Gradually, light laughter mixed with playful conversation until the couple reluctantly moved apart to take care of the after effects of their lovemaking.

As they showered together in her bathroom, their bodies began to protest the lack of nourishment so desperately required to sustain their passionate activities. Liz couldn’t hold back her surprised laughter as both their stomachs growled with hunger, waging a not so silent battle to determine who was most in need.

“I guess what they say is true—man cannot live on love alone,” she teased as Max rinsed the soap from her hair. “I think our next stop better be the kitchen.”

His breath against her ear sent a shiver down her spine. “Just what I was thinking. I can’t wait to feast on your sweet body again.”

“You are insatiable. Actually I meant eating real food—you know, to stop that incessant grumbling coming from our stomachs!”

He smiled against her cheek. “I understand my Beauty, but what can I say? When it comes to you I just want to skip the food part and move right to dessert.”

Chapter 51

Liz mentally traced the curves of Max's face, the look of contentment that shadowed his sleeping features the only thing preventing her from acting on this urgent need to touch him. His chest fell and rose in a steady rhythm as she surveyed his body, taking in every inch of his strongly muscled form.
Seeing the still unhealed scars on his chest and leg, she knew that the peacefulness slumber brought to him was somewhat deceptive. There was no doubt that he had come a long way since she had first found him curled up in the corner of her room just a little over a month ago, but he was obviously still haunted by his demons. That dream she had experienced the previous night was just one example of the things he had not yet shared with her. His wonderful and thorough loving had made her temporarily forget about it, but now as she watched the morning sunlight play across his bare skin, she had time to process and analyze its strange events.
At first she thought she had been reliving one of the times he had been chased by some of the cruel teens he had encountered on one of his visits to town, and the feel of the cool stone against her as she hid convinced her that she was at the church. Her heart ached with the same fear and torment that he must have felt at the time. She wouldn't have given the dream a second thought, except for what she saw seconds before waking up. As she lay there and tried to move, just as the cramps began in her legs, she had caught a brief glimpse of her surroundings. She wasn't inside the church, but on the opposite side of an immense stone wall, her hands covered with the dry red dirt that she had collapsed in. The most unnerving part had been the sky-it had definitely not been the blue sky of Earth.
Part of her wanted to force Max to open up to her, but she knew realistically that she had to let him deal with the events of his life on his own terms. As much as she wanted to be the one to heal him, only he was truly capable of doing so and she was relegated to playing the role of loving and supportive mate.
'You know that is not true. Every time you touch me, kiss me, make love with me, you heal a part of me.'
Liz let out a frustrated sigh. She had been so deep in thought that she hadn't noticed his eyes open to gaze at her as she contemplated her dream. 'I just feel like there is something more I should be doing to help you, Max.'
He pulled her tightly against him and pressed a gentle kiss to her temple. 'You have done more that enough, my Beauty. You fed me, clothed me, taught me how to read and spell-but most important of all, you loved me and gave me the strength to fight for my life. How could I ever expect more than that?'
'I love you, Max. Always.' She tilted her head up to bring her mouth to his as she caressed his face with her hand. She gave him sweet, gentle kisses that grew more passionate with each sweep of her lips until he finally took her in his arms to draw her underneath him. She moaned at the feel of his naked body covering hers, his rapidly hardening member brushing the inside of her thigh as she instinctively moved to accommodate their new position.
'Please tell me the condoms aren't all gone,' he begged as he ardently sucked on her throat.
'One left, my love. And the drug store should be opening in a little less than an hour so we can restock.'
She felt him smile against her neck. She wasn't surprised he had lost count. Yesterday had been more amazing than she ever could have imagined. True to the images Max had given her during their sensuous bubble bath, they had spent the majority of the afternoon and evening making love in several places throughout the apartment. Each time they came close to orgasm they would still their overheated bodies until the desire for release passed. Still buried deep inside of her, Max would take Liz in his arms and move them to another part of the apartment to begin their erotic dance anew. They repeated the cycle over and over until they could hold back no longer, a heavenly bliss filling both of them as they climaxed among whispers of love and moans of pleasure.
Not long after they had declared utter exhaustion and vowed to rest the remainder of the day did they begin another round of lovemaking, gentle loving kisses swiftly escalating in intensity until fatigue was replaced by the all-consuming need to be one again. Neither could control the endless craving for the other, the passion flowing through their connection feeding on itself and increasing their desire to be joined until nothing existed but the sheer ecstasy of their union. After countless hours of languidly stroking his arousal in and out of her silken heat, the couple once again reached an explosive climax as they clung to each other in Liz's bed, desperately holding on to the precious bond their mating created until they had both collapsed in a heap of tangled limbs, sleep swiftly overtaking them.
'Are you telling me you want a repeat of yesterday, my Beauty?' his voice seductively asked in her mind, bringing her back to the present.
'As much as I enjoyed making love to you all day, I'm not sure whether my body could handle a second day of it.'
'Well then I guess I'd better stop right now before we get too carried away.'
'Oh, no. I insist that you at least finish what you've started. It wouldn't be fair to either of us if you didn't follow through now. Besides my parents won't be calling to interrupt us this time.'
He pulled back enough for Liz to reach the condom, his sexy smile deepening her desire to be possessed by him once again. She hastily grabbed the package from the drawer and opened it in one swift motion, her gaze never wandering from his as she took his erection in her hand to cover him with the latex. She slowly massaged his length before gently rolling the condom into place, knowing he was as excited as she was when he was no longer able to keep his eyes open as she lovingly caressed his manhood. Laying flat on the bed she wrapped her legs around his waist to pull him close to her, teasing him as she rubbed his erection against her wet folds. She felt his need to be inside of her with each tender stroke and she couldn't resist pulling back every time he tried to thrust into her. It gave her a rush to try to make him lose control as he had done to her so many times, murmuring her satisfaction with her ministrations as she felt his frustration grow. His disjointed thoughts filled her mind and she absently wondered whether she came across that way when he was driving her crazy with lust for him.
'Please…Beauty…I need you…want to…feel you…surround me.'
Unable to resist his heartfelt plea she moved her hand away to let him take her, raising her hips up to meet his frantic thrusts. Unlike the slow tender loving of yesterday, this joining was frenzied and full of raw need. Their climax came quickly but was still filled with all the love and passion they felt for each other, their names chanted through their connection as their ragged breathing prevented them from speaking their adoring thoughts aloud.
Max brought his head down to kiss the soft valley between her breasts before reluctantly separating from her. He quickly removed the condom and tossed it in the garbage before jogging to the bathroom to wash up. Liz remained motionless on the bed with her eyes closed, every muscle in her body so relaxed that any movement was impossible. She felt Max return and lay down next to her, his lips gently pressing against her cheek in a sweet kiss.
Liz wanted to ask him about what she had seen in her dream and she knew they needed to discuss what to do if Jake should happen to return to Roswell, but she wasn't ready for the outside world to invade the wonderful private haven they had created for themselves. There would be plenty of time to deal with unpleasant topics and external influences later. Right now there was nothing but the two of them, enjoying their new found intimacy and basking in their powerful love and need for each other. Letting her disconcerting thoughts about future conversations slip from her mind, Liz snuggled up close to Max and kissed the commitment symbol on his wrist, content to let her body and mind retreat to the refuge created by their undying love for each other.



"What do you mean you can't relate to him? I'm not even an alien and I get along fine with him," Maria asked her spikey-haired boyfriend.
"I don't know. He's just a lot different than I expected him to be."
"What did you expect?"
"Someone I could shoot some hoops with, talk cars with-you know, guy things."
"C'mon Michael, even you can understand why he might not want to talk about cars, but have you ever talked to him about getting together to do some guy things?"
"No, not really."
"Why not?"
"He just doesn't seem like a guy who would be interested in that kinda stuff. If I didn't know better, I'd think he was gay."
"Believe me, Michael, the guy is anything but gay. Naïve, yes. Gay, no."
Michael gave Maria a stunned look. "And how, exactly, would you know?"
Maria rolled her eyes at her boyfriend's expression. "You're jealous! I can't believe you're actually jealous of Max. Geeze Michael, you're talking about a guy who only has eyes for my best friend. My best friend who tells me everything. And I do mean EVERYTHING. So if Max were gay, do you really think I would have needed to take her to my doctor so she could get on the pill?"
"Liz is really on the pill? Perfect little Liz Parker?"
Maria nodded her head triumphantly.
"Don't you think they're kinda rushing into things just a little? Max has been back, what? A month?"
"Relax, Liz is a big girl. I think she can make her own decisions about her sex life."
"Yeah, but Maria, we don't really know that much about him."
"Well I'm sure Liz knows him better than any of the rest of us. Can you tell me why that might be?" she asked sarcastically.
"'Cuz he sticks to her like glue. They spend every possible second together. How am I supposed to get to know him better when she's taking up all his time?"
"I've got an idea, Spacegeezer. Liz and I both have to work all day Tuesday, so maybe you and Max can hang out together then. I'm sure he'd be glad to have the company."
"Do you really think so? He seems kind of nervous around me."
"That's because he doesn't know you, and he won't get to know you unless you make the first move. Just ask him. If he says no then at least you know you tried, right?"
"I guess you're right. He seemed pretty cool when we all had dinner together, so maybe he just needs some time to adjust."
"My point exactly. You're the social butterfly of the group-why don't you show him how to spread his wings a little?"
"Is he coming to the New Year's party?"
"He and Liz said they were, but that was before the whole mall incident. He might not be too comfortable about being around a crowd just yet."
"I wanted to ask you about that."
"About what?"
"Why he ended up disappearing at the mall."
"He ran away because he saw Jake."
"Doesn't that strike you as just a little strange?"
"I'm not following you here, Michael. Could you just say it in English?"
"OK, this Jake guy attacked Liz before. If Max saw him that close to her again, wouldn't you think he would go to her and protect her instead of running away and leaving her alone with the guy?"
Maria wrinkled her nose in thought for several minutes before answering. "I think we only know a little bit of what Jake did to Max when he kidnapped him. You saw how badly Max freaked out at the idea of getting in a car because of this guy. Maybe Max was just too scared of him to do anything but run away. We were in the middle of the mall, so technically he didn't leave Liz alone with Jake. No matter how much of a psycho this creep is, he wouldn' t have tried anything with all those people around as witnesses."
Michael shook his head. "Still, if it were us in that situation, I would never have left you."
Maria moved to sit on his lap and gave him a light kiss. "I know that Michael, and I love you for being that way. But you haven't lived Max's life, so it isn't really fair to criticize him based on how you would have reacted to the situation."
Michael gave his girlfriend a smug smile. "Maria DeLuca, when did you become such a sage woman?"
"Oh, I think it was around the same time that I learned I was dating an alien."



"What are we doing again?" Max asked as he and Liz sat at booth in the empty restaurant.
"It's called counting receipts. After we close at the end of the day, I have to go through the cash register and count the money to be sure that the right amount is there. Then I print a report of all the credit card purchases and add that to the cash receipts. That should equal all the food we sold today."
"What's a credit card?"
People use it in place of money. Instead of paying for things with cash, they charge their purchases on the credit card. The card company pays the businesses for the purchases that were made and then at the end of the month a bill is sent out to the customer for all the charges that were made. Then the customer can pay the bill off or pay the company a fee to pay it a little at a time."
"Why not use money to pay for everything?"
"A lot of people fell uncomfortable carrying around a lot of cash. They're afraid someone might steal it from them. Other people use credit cards because they don't have the money to buy the things they want, so they charge it and pay a huge amount of money in interest to pay it off over time."
"I don't understand."
Liz looked around and spotted the bottle of Tabasco sauce on the table. Picking it up, she explained, "Say you wanted to buy this bottle of sauce, but you didn't have the three dollars to pay for it. Instead you charge it on your credit card. At the end of the month, you get a bill for the three dollars. You only have one dollar, so you send that to the credit card company. When you get your bill the next month the company had added an interest charge, say thirty cents, so now you owe the original two dollars plus the thirty cents."
"Why do they add an interest charge?"
"It's like a fee--you're paying for the privilege of using their money."
"Oh."
"Now you don't have two dollars and thirty cents to pay the bill this month, so you send the credit card company the one dollar you do have. Once again, when you get your bill the next month the company added another interest charge, say fifteen cents. You finally have the one dollar and forty-five cents to pay off the bill, so you send that to the company and you're all paid off. But the three-dollar bottle of sauce actually cost you three dollars and forty-five cents. Now imagine how much in interest you would have to pay if you charged three hundred or three thousand dollars worth of purchases."
Max shook his head in confusion. "Just when I think I've learned enough to be able to live with other people, something else comes along to remind me of exactly how little I know. Sometimes I wonder why I even try at all."
Liz reached over and took his hand between hers. "Max, you can't think that way. You have so much to be proud of and you have to remember that no matter how quickly you pick things up, you can't possibly learn everything there is to know overnight. The important thing is that you don't give up trying."
"I know. It's just that sometimes it feels like I'll never be able to learn enough to take care of myself without always needing your help. It isn't fair to you."
"Why don't you let me decide what is fair to me? After all, maybe it feels good to be needed," she said as she squeezed his hand. Reaching to caress his cheek, she said softly, "If it makes you feel any better, my Grandma Claudia used to tell me that the day you stop learning is the day you stop living."
Max placed a gentle kiss in the palm of her hand before giving her a shy smile. "I wish I could have known your grandma in person. She seemed like a very smart woman."
"She was," Liz said reverently. "And I'm sure she would have liked you a lot." She looked away as a flicker of sadness crossed her features. Changing the subject, she quickly added in a much lighter tone, "I think you've learned enough about running your own restaurant for the night. Let's finish counting these receipts so we can get back upstairs. I have a little surprise for you."
"What kind of surprise?"
"You'll just have to wait and see. All I can say is that it's something meant to build your interest."
"Build my interest, huh? Why do I get the idea that you aren't talking about money now?"
"And who said you weren't learning fast enough?"


Dreams remain just as long as there's Dreamers--Dennis DeYoung
posted on 25-Feb-2002 3:16:07 PM
Chapter 52
‘Are your eyes closed?’
‘Yes.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes.’
‘Are you going to be a good boy and keep them closed?’
‘Yes! Now get out here before I come in there and get you myself.’
‘Hmm, actually that could be pretty fun. All right. All right. I’m coming out now and I better not catch you peeking.’
Max smiled broadly as Liz’s teasing voice echoed in his mind. When they had returned from counting the receipts she had directed him into the living room and in no uncertain terms ordered him to strip naked and wrap up in the blanket they had used the previous day. Now he could feel her excitement over her surprise for him growing by leaps and bounds as she approached him, and just knowing that soon they would be spending another night in her bed endlessly loving each other was enough to stir his own desire.
‘Keep your eyes closed, Max. It’s almost time for you to open them, but there is one more thing I want you to do first.’
‘Yes Beauty,’ his subdued voice echoed.
‘Take your hands and link them behind you head.’
His brows wrinkled in confusion, so Liz quietly walked behind the couch and took his hands in hers, guiding them until they were wrapped around the nape of his neck. She planted a light kiss on his knuckles before moving away from him again. She tiptoed around the couch to stand in front of him, her lips gently grazing his as she leisurely placed her hands on his shoulders to balance herself as she straddled him. As she settled her silken-clad bottom in his lap, she could already feel him begin to harden at the contact. She moved her hands up to his and unclasped them from around his neck, bringing them to rest on her own shoulders. “You can touch me now, but you still have to keep your eyes closed,” she whispered before taking his mouth in a deep passionate kiss.
Max wasted no time as he eagerly explored her warm body, running his hands down her arms before bringing them back to her shoulders. His fingers stroked the satiny straps of her camisole, dipping lower each time until he was lightly caressing the sides of her breasts. He gracefully drew his fingers across each nipple, smiling with satisfaction as he felt the peaks harden beneath the smooth fabric. He leaned forward to tongue her aroused flesh through the soft material when he felt something brush against his cheek—something that seemed familiar. He leaned back in bewilderment before he moved his hand to the valley between her breasts, his expression a mixture of surprise and excitement as he felt the strip of lace that vertically divided the front of her top. His hands quickly moved to her hips and he couldn’t help the huge grin from appearing on his face as he felt the lace insets that ran along either side of the silk tap pants she was wearing.
“I guess you can open your eyes now since you know what your surprise is,” she teased.
Max blinked back the tears to get his first view of Liz wearing the Christmas present had had chosen for her. All he could manage to choke out was, “How?”
“Remember this morning when we decided to shower separately since we ran out of condoms?”
He nodded as he swallowed around the lump that had formed in his throat.
“While you were in the shower, Maria stopped by. She doesn’t remember doing it, but apparently she picked up the bag with my present in it when you dropped it and stuck it in with the things she had bought. She always waits to the last minute to wrap presents, so she didn’t even know she had it until yesterday morning. She wanted to give it to you, but after I told her that you thought you had lost it, I talked her into letting me have it so I could surprise you. I take it you were surprised?”
“Surprised doesn’t even begin to cover it. I honestly never thought I would get to see you wear this.”
Liz stood up from the couch and twirled around, her hair fanning out as she modeled his gift, “So how do I look in it?”
“More amazing than I could have ever imagined, my Beauty.”
Missing the warmth of his body, Liz quickly moved to settle back in his lap. “It makes me feel like your Beauty. It really is perfect, Max. Thank you so much.” She held his face in her hands as she gave him several soft, loving pecks.
“So you really do like it?” he asked with a hopeful grin.
“I love it. I’ve never seen a color quite like this before.”
“I had this picture in my head of what I wanted for you and I didn’t want to settle for anything less, so please let Maria know how much you like it. I think she was getting a little upset with me for taking so long to pick it out.”
“I’ll make sure she knows it was worth every minute she spent helping you,” Liz teased.
“And remind me to thank her for finding it. I am so glad that you actually have my gift,” he said solemnly, recalling the events that surrounded his losing possession of the present in the first place.
“Max, you know that tomorrow we should probably talk about what to do in case he does show up again,” Liz said quietly, not needing to elaborate further on who ‘he’ was.
Max closed his eyes and nodded, afraid his emotions would get the best of him if he tried to speak. Fortunately Liz continued, “But for tonight, it is still just you and me. Why don’t we go to bed so I can show you how much I appreciate my gift?”
Max let a soft smile cross his lips before he opened his eyes to take in the delicate features of the magnificent young woman who had shared so much of herself with him. He gently stroked her cheek with his fingertips, lightly caressing her velvety skin as he again silently thanked whatever force had originally drawn him to her and encouraged him to trust her. Wrapping her tightly in his arms, he stood from the couch and headed towards her bedroom, his voice happily echoing through their connection, ‘Why don’t we go to bed so I can show you how much I appreciate you?’
“Mmm, good morning, handsome,” Liz mumbled as she felt Max’s lips grazing the back of her neck. “You know, a girl could very easily get used to waking up like this every day.”
“I know I would never tire of it,” his deep voice whispered in her ear.
Liz wanted to give into the temptation to spend another whole day in bed, but she knew that they had issues to discuss before the group met later that evening, and the longer she laid there next to Max’s warm hard body, the more difficult it would be to resist his advances. “Nevertheless, my love, we have some things to do this morning before we can spend more time holed up in here. I think separate showers again would be a good idea—otherwise we aren’t going to accomplish much.”
Max sighed with disappointment, wanting to take advantage of the precious few days they had left before Liz’s parents returned yet understanding that Liz was right about needing some time to talk. “Why don’t you go first?” he suggested as he gave her one last kiss.
“Thanks. Then I can start breakfast while you’re taking your shower,” she reasoned as she climbed from the bed, turning to admire the gorgeous man occupying her bed before disappearing into the bathroom. She turned on the water and adjusted the temperature, pulling out a towel and wash cloth before stepping into the warm stream. She showered quickly, eager to get her conversation with Max over so they could hopefully spend some time on more pleasant activities later in the day. As she wiped away the condensation from the bathroom mirror, the small glimpse she caught of her body reflected there made her stop and think about how drastically her life had changed. It had just been days before her first encounter with Max in July that Pam Troy had been in the Crashdown bragging to her friends about all the dates she had already been on over the first half of summer. Refusing to let Pam get to her, Liz had bit back tears when the haughty girl had loudly insinuated that no boy would want a little mouse like Liz when they could date a tigress like Pam. Now just a little over five months later not only did Liz have someone who wanted her, he was as good as married to her, and the bond they shared was something the likes of Pam Troy couldn’t begin to fathom.
Wrapping the towel tightly around her body Liz walked back out to her bedroom just as Max was gathering clothes for after his shower, the mid-morning sun casting a golden hue over his naked form. ‘If only she could see me now,’ Liz thought, ‘I bet she’d never call me a little mouse again.’

The couple finally finished their breakfast around eleven-thirty, adding their bowls and plates to the dirty stack already in the dishwasher from the previous day. Liz finished programming the machine to automatically start just as Max nervously settled in the living room, uncertain whether he was really ready to discuss Jake without letting his anger take over.
Liz set two mugs of hot chocolate down on the end table and pulled a bottle of Tabasco sauce out of the rear pocket of her jeans before taking a seat next to Max. She tenderly held his hands between hers in an effort to calm the tension and restlessness that were surging through their connection. She spoke slowly, carefully choosing her words to cause the least amount of distress while still getting her point across. “Max, I’ve been thinking about how we can give the others an idea of what Jake looks like. I thought that maybe you could connect with each of them and give them an image of him, like you do with me.”
Max looked at Liz in horror, his deep despair over her plan quickly overwhelming his other emotions.
“You don’t like that idea?” she asked, the tone of her voice making it more a statement then a question.
“Liz, please understand,” he pleaded, looking down at their clasped hands as he tried to explain his feelings. “I am not certain how many years I have been on Earth, but it has been several at least. In all that time, you are the first and only person I have ever connected with.”
“You don’t think you’d be able to connect with the others?”
“No, I can connect with them, but knowing that you are the only person I have shared that with makes it something very special to me. It is just as significant as knowing that you are the only person I will ever make love with. I do not want to connect with anyone but you. There must be a different way to let them know what he looks like.” He gradually lifted his sorrowful eyes to meet hers, searching for the disappointment he feared he would see in her face.
Her expression only revealed love and understanding. “I didn’t mean to upset you, Max. Our connection is just as special to me so don’t think this is something I’m taking lightly. They need to know exactly what he looks like—it’s not like we can just draw a picture of him.”
“Why not?”
“Max, I’m good at science, but my Aunt Kathie is the artist in the family. I can’t even draw a decent circle.”
“Then I will draw the picture.”
“You can draw?”
“I don’t know, but I will do my best. If the drawing doesn’t look like him and we can’t think of any other way, then I will connect with the others. But at least give me a chance to try drawing first.”
“I’m all for that, Max,” Liz said as she quickly jumped off the couch and headed to her bedroom to retrieve the supplies he would need to begin the project. She set the items in his lap upon her return, shyly pointing to the box of colored pencils before she sat in the loveseat. “Those were a gift from my aunt when she was trying to encourage my artistic talent. As you can see, they’re almost brand new.”
Max sent her a sympathetic grin before turning his full attention to the task at hand, gently yet purposefully removing several of the pencils before taking the never before used drawing pad in his hands. A chill went up Liz’s spine as she watched Max transform in front of her own eyes. His full attention centered on the blank page in his lap, his smile instantly replaced with grim determination as his eyes darkened in obvious anger. She wanted to reach out to him to give him some type of support or comfort, but as soon as the thought entered her mind, his silent response told her that this was something he needed to do on his own. She thought about going into the kitchen or her bedroom to give him some privacy, but she could not manage to tear herself away from her spot directly across from him. His sudden single-mindedness slightly unnerved her, and she could almost feel the bile rising in her throat as unrestrained fury swarmed their connection. His lithe fingers worked steadily over the page, moving so fast at times that Liz swore he had to have more than two hands. Again and again he would trade pencils, first the brown tones, then the greens, occasionally filling in with reds and yellows. After a solid half-hour of rage driven creativity, Liz did not need to see the drawing to know that Max had been able to perfectly capture the image of the only person who was able to stir such hatred in the heart of the man she loved.

posted on 25-Feb-2002 3:19:43 PM
Chapter 53

“I know that guy,” Michael said grimly as he examined the finely-detailed sketch Max had made of Jake.

“From where?” Maria asked with worry.

“From here at the Crashdown. It was around the end of the summer. He and another guy came in here and started harrassing what’s her name--that college girl Liz’s dad hired for the summer.”

“You mean Tammy?” Liz asked.

“Yeah, that’s the one,” Michael confirmed.

“So Jake was in the restaurant?” Maria asked with trepidation.

“Not for very long. The guy reeked of booze and was saying all sorts of nasty things to Tammy, so your dad told him to leave or he would call the cops.”

“So did he leave?” Liz asked.

“Well, he exchanged a few angry words with you dad, but he did eventually leave before the cops were called,” Michael explained.

“I’m not surprised. I’m sure that someone like him has a million warrants out for his arrest. I’d leave, too,” Liz added. Her nervousness quickly crept into Max’s mind, and he instinctively wrapped his arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer to him.

“Do you think that maybe Jake came back that night and thought Liz was Tammy?” Maria questioned.

Michael thought for a second before squinting his eyes at Liz. “They don’t really look that much alike.”

“But if you were drunk enough, you might make that mistake,” Maria replied as she joined him in examining her best friend’s features.

Max spoke up for the first time since they had gathered. “I don’t think it really mattered much to Jake whether it was Liz or this Tammy girl.”

His answer visibly disturbed Maria. “So where do we go from here? We all know what this guy looks like now and obviously he is dangerous, so how do we protect ourselves?”

“Like we agreed before, I think we need to be careful, but I don’t think panicking is the thing to do. The chances are good that he won’t ever set foot in Roswell again, especially since he knows that there are people here who can identify him,” Michael assured his girlfriend, reiterating much of what they had discussed at their previous meeting.

“Michael is right. I think we just need to do the normal things we would do to be cautious. If something or someone makes you uncomfortable, then let everyone else know as soon as possible,” Max added.

Maria shrugged in defeat. She knew that the guys were right, but it didn’t make her feel any less helpless. “I guess if that’s all we can do, then that’s what I’ll do.” Realizing after several minutes of silence that there was going to be no more discussion on the subject, she finally nudged Michael under the table. He glanced at her just as she gestured towards Max with her eyes, indicating that she was giving him the chance to ask the other alien about getting together for some ‘guy time’. “Hey, Lizzie, why don’t we go get our dinners from the back. Jose has to be done making them by now,” she said quickly.

Liz turned her attention from Max, kissing the commitment symbol on his wrist through his shirt sleever before sliding out of the booth and following the other teen to the kitchen. The two young men intently watched the girls leave, but before Michael could begin to think about how to phrase his request Max said in a low, somber voice, “Michael, you have to make sure Maria is NEVER alone.”

Michael immediately understood the implications of Max’s statement. “So you think that Jake is going to come back to Roswell?”

Max looked up and out the Crashdown’s window, staring at the people strolling on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, then checking to be sure the couple at the other table was not listening to their conversation. “He told me he would come back and find Liz again.”

“But before you said he may think she is dead. What made you change your mind all of a sudden to think that he will come back to get her?”

“I did not really change my mind. I believed him the first time he said he would find her again and hurt her and I still believe it now. If there was one thing I learned from Jake, it was that he meant every word he said.”

“So I take it you didn’t tell Liz about this threat.”

“I did not want her to know, but she found out anyway. I do not want either of the girls to have to worry about what he might do, but I thought I had better let you know that they may not be as safe as I led them to believe.”

Michael let out a nervous laugh, “So basically you bullshitted them.”

Max returned his eyes to Michael. “I did what I thought was best. If you disagree, then I will tell them…”

“NO WAY!” Michael yelped, cringing when he realized exactly how loud his response had been. Max was startled by the sudden outburst and almost jumped up from the booth.

Michel lowered his voice to continue, grabbing the nervous alien by the arm to settle him down, “You saw how freaked out Maria is already. If she knew the real chance of this guy coming back, she’d be a complete basket case. I think you did the right thing by not telling them, and as far as I’m concerned you and I are the only ones who need to know the truth.”

“Actually, I think you should let Isabelle know as well,” Max said hesitantly.

Surprise quickly flashed over Michael’s features before he comprehended Max’s reasoning. “You mean because…she…can…”

Max nodded. “She may be our best chance against him when he comes back.”

“I guess you’re right,” Michael sighed in resignation. “Still, I don’t like the idea of Isabelle having to use her powers to hurt someone…”

“It is not what I want either, but she at least needs to be prepared for the possibility.”

Michael’s eyes turned towards the kitchen door where the girls were returning with their dinners. “I’ll talk to her when I get home tonight.”

“Talk to who about what, Spaceboy?” Maria quizzed as she caught the tail end of Michael’s comment.

“Oh, Max and I were talking about us getting together with Isabelle and Alex to maybe go see a movie together or something before school starts back up,” Michael lied.

‘Max, are you all right?’ Liz’s voice echoed through their connection.

‘Yes, Beauty. I guess I’m just a little nervous about this movie thing.’

‘Max, if you don’t want to do it…’

‘No, I want to. I want to do the same things with you that they do. And with you having to go back to school soon, I want to spend as much time as possible with you.’

“Speaking of school…,” Liz said aloud as she looked at Max, “I was hoping that you guys might help me convince Max to go to school with us.”

“How can he go to school, Liz? He can’t even register.” Michael asked.

“He can now,” Liz said proudly.

“How?” Maria questioned.

Max lips curved into a shy smile. “I am now Maxwell Jonathan Stephens.”

Michael and Maria frowned at Liz, not understanding what Max meant.

“It was my Christmas present to Max. Alex was able to have his friend give Max a whole identity, complete with birth certificate and social security number. As far as Uncle Same knows, Max is a normal sixteen years old.”

“Wow, that is so…cool,” Maria smiled, knowing how excited Liz must be that Max could finally be in the same building with her for an entire school day. “So I bet you can’t wait to register for classes. Are you going to start back with us after the new year?”

Michael noticed the panicked look in Max’s eyes and realized that this was probably the first Max had heard of going to school. Remembering the numbing fear surrounding his own first days of being in a classroom, Michael quickly interceded. “Hold up, girls. This is something we have to take slowly and think through very carefully. Yeah, Max may have an identity now, but you need more than that to register for school…like records from a previous school…and parents to come with you when you register.”

Max gave Michael a grateful look before adding, “Michael’s right. The last thing we want to do is draw any unnecessary attention to us.”

Maria gave Liz a sympathetic look. “They’re right, chica. I guess we’re jumping the gun just a bit. It would be a little strange if Max showed up with no parents saying he’s never been to school before.”

Liz sighed sadly. “I didn’t even think of that. Now what do we do?”

Michael said quickly, “We’ll think of something, Liz. Maybe you can ask Alex to make up some fake school records or something.”

“Hey, you know Tess volunteers in the office during study hall. Maybe she can give us an idea about how thoroughly they check those things out.”

Liz tensed involuntarily at the mention of Tess’ name. Even though the blonde had apologized to her for flirting with Max, Liz still didn’t want to be obligated to her in any way.

Maria noticed her best friend’s apprehension. “Relax chica. I’ll do all the work on the Tess front. She’ll have no idea that I’m asking for you.”

Liz gave Maria a look of relief. “Thanks ‘ria. You’re the best.”

“Do you think we can eat before our food gets cold?” Michael asked with feigned impatience.

“Dig in, Spaceboy.”

“Umm, can we get some drinks and Tabasco sauce first?” Michael pleaded with his girlfriend.

“I’m off duty, buddy. You have two feet. Why don’t you go get it yourself?” Maria teased.

“Fine. I will.” Michael smirked. “But you still have to get up to let me out of the booth.”

“Then I might as well just do it myself.”

“I’ll help you with the drinks,” Liz said as she got up from the booth.

As the girls headed toward the kitchen for their second trip Max said quietly, “Thanks for your help with the school thing. I’m not sure I’m ready to do that just yet.”

“I remember what it was like, my friend. And I know how persistent those two can be when they get an idea into their heads, so I don’t think you’re going to get much of a repreive.”

“Thanks anyway.”

“No problem. We guys have to stick together.”



“I can’t believe today is already over, Max. Tomorrow is our last night together before my folks come back. I don’t know how I’m ever going to make it through a whole night without you next to me,” Liz said softly as she snuggled closer to her mate, caressing his warm flesh with her fingertips.

Max ran his fingers through her silky dark hair as he pressed soft kisses over her face. “I feel the same, Beauty. I will have a difficult time sleeping without you next to me. I wish you didn’t have to work tomorrow so we could spend the whole day together.”

“I’d love that too, but I’ve been shirking my restaurant responsibilities as it is and I don’t think Agnes would be too thrilled if I asked her to work another last-minute shift. We’ll just have to make tomorrow night extra special.”

“Every minute with you is special, my Elizabeth. Being with you is all that matters...”

“Unless it involves going to school with me?” Liz asked quietly.

“Liz…” he began, not really surprised that she had been able to pick up on his emotions so easily.

“Max, why didn’t you just tell me how you felt about school?”

“Until this afternoon I didn’t know how I felt about it. You know how much I want to be with you Liz. I would do anything to spend more time together, but eating with you downstairs or cleaning empty rooms is a lot different than being among a group of people for hours at a time. We know what happened when I tried that before.”

“That was different, Max. You seemed to be doing fine until Jake showed up. I really don’t think that will be a problem at school. I doubt Jake would ever end up there.”

Liz’s voice was pleading, and Max knew that she was only asking because her need to constantly be with him was as great as his own need to be near her. “It isn’t just Jake, Liz. Even I know that going shopping in a mall isn’t the same as being in a school all day.”

“It isn’t that different, Max.”

“Isn’t it? If I go to school, can you assure me that we will be in all the same classes together?”

“No, but I’m sure that Michael or Maria or Isabelle or Alex would probably be with you.”

“What about all the questions?” he asked with melancholy.

“Questions? Max, you are an incredibly fast learner. I don’t think you’ll have any problem keeping up with your school work.” Liz said confidently.

“No, I mean questions. From the other people in school. Where do you live? Who are your parents? Where did you go to school before? Teachers and the other kids are going to want to know a lot about me.”

“Well, we can tell people that you live by yourself because you don’t have any parents. I’m sure we can manage to get some kind of fake court papers showing that you can live by yourself.”

“That’s not what I mean, Liz,” Max said with slight frustration. He closed his eyes for a moment to gather his thoughts before he continued. “I am still learning how to trust people enough to want to be friends with them. I do not think I can do that if I have to constantly be deceptive about my past.”

“What about your friends at the motel? What have you told them?”

“Juanita has given me her friendship without asking for anything in return. I haven’t had to tell her anything I do not want her to know. And DJ and Campbell are too young to question my past—they just wanted someone to play with them. Ginny was just so greatful to have someone to talk to that she didn’t take the time to ask me many questions.”

“Max, even you have to realize that you can’t spend the rest of your life choosing friends based on how little they want to know about your past.”

“Of course, I know that. But remember Liz, I have all your memories in here,” Max said as he tapped his head. “I know how what school is really like and how much of it is….social. Just give me some more time to practice making friends on my own terms. I’m not saying that I will never want to go to school. I just don’t think I can start next week.”

Liz couldn’t hide her disappointment, yet she had to agree with Max. She reminded herself that she had told him she would never push him to do something he didn’t feel he was ready for, and she wasn’t about to start now. However, she refused to admit utter defeat just yet. Nodding her head against his bare chest, she said, “All right, no starting school next week. But will you do something else for me?”

Max could tell by the tone of her voice that she wanted a compromise from him. He warily asked, “What kind of something else?”

Liz could feel his apprehension. She placed a tender kiss on the hand that was holding hers. “Relax, it isn’t anything major. I promise.”

Max gave a slight nod for her to continue.

“As nice as your friends are at the motel, most of them are not the kind of people you would be spending time with if you were to go to school. I think that the first step towards getting you to go to school is to make you more comfortable around people our age.”

“All right…” Max said, not certain where Liz was going with this.

“Michael’s New Year’s party is in four days, and a lot of kids from school will be there. I want you to promise me that you will try to get to know some of them.”

“Some of them? How many is some of them?”

“You want me to give you a number?”

Max gave a vigorous nod.

“Ok, how about ten?” she suggested.

“TEN?” he asked in surprise.

“There’s going to be lots of kids there, Max. Ten isn’t that many.”

“Liz, I don’t think I have talked to ten people in my whole life. And you want me to talk to ten people in one night?”

“If you don’t want ten, then how many do you want?”

“Two.”

“Two is a drop in the bucket. At that rate you’ll be an old man and still not be in school. Eight.”

“Three.”

“Seven.”

“Four.”

“Six.”

“Five.”

“Six.”

‘Five.’

‘Six.’

The couple continued their lighthearted debate in the silence of their minds, deep amber eyes casting an unbreakable spell over the dark-haired girl as the voice whispering in her mind became more passionate with each incantation. Almost too late, she realized Max’s scheme.

“So you really think you can make me change my mind just by seducing me?” she asked in a mocking voice as she propped herself up on her elbow, narrowly escaping Max’s move to pull her on top of him.

“Your words injure me, my Beauty,” Max said as he withdrew his hand from hers to clasp it over his heart. “I would think of doing no such thing.” He couldn’t stop the half-smile from crossing his face as he realized Liz had caught onto his plan. Trying to save face, he continued, “I merely wanted to end the discussion so that I could spend the rest of this evening making love to my mate.”

“Well, if you really want to end the discussion, all you have to do is agree with six,” Liz said matter-of-factly, trying to not let herself be distracted by the naked body moving over her.

He took her hand back in his and began placing soothing kisses up her arm, slowly working his way to her bare shoulder and up the side of her throat. “I’ll agree to anything, my love, as long as you don’t make me wait another minute to taste your sweet lips,” his voice rasped in her ear.

Suddenly it didn’t matter to Liz whether Max befriended a million people at the party or they spent New Year’s Eve holed up together in Michael’s bedroom. Max’s desire rushed through their connection and into her very soul until all she wanted was to feel his mouth on hers as his body possessed her own. ‘How do you do this to me?’ she asked in her mind. ‘How do you make me forget about everything but you?’

‘I’m not doing anything to you, my Beauty,’ he whispered back to her. ‘You are only feeling how I feel any time I am near you.’

Liz lay back on the bed, threading her free hand through the dark locks at the nape of his neck to guide him down with her. As he grazed her soft lips with his own, her loving voice echoed in his mind, ‘It’s getting harder for me to figure out which thoughts are yours and which are mine.’

‘Maybe our minds are truly becoming one,’ Max replied in his own affectionate tone, his movements stilling just enough to emphasize the seriousness of the comment. ‘Does the idea of that bother you?’

‘I wouldn’t say it bothers me. It just amazes me to think that we could get any closer than we already are. How are we ever going to stand being apart?’ she silently asked.

‘I will have no more talk of being apart tonight, my Beauty. Let’s spend what time we do have left together seeing exactly how much closer we can become.’



“You must have been up pretty late last night,” Maria commented to her best friend as they prepared to begin their shift.

“Why do you say that?” Liz asked as she pulled her hair back in a ponytail.

“Well I’m not sure who has darker circles under their eyes—you or Prince Charming over there in the booth,” Maria teased as she gestured towards Max, who was nursing a Tabasco-laden cup of coffee.

“We were up pretty late talking about the school thing,” Liz countered as she gave Jose the order for Max’s breakfast.

“Uh-huh,” Maria muttered, unconvinced. “What was there to talk about? I thought the school plans were on hold for now.”

“They are. Actually we were discussing how to get him used to being around other kids our age. I thought Michael and Isabelle’s party would be a good time for Max to practice socializing.”

“What did Max think?”

“Well, after a while he agreed to try to make some new friends.”

“How many is some? Two? Ten? Twenty?”

Liz rolled her eyes as she remembered Max asking her almost the same question. “I had wanted him to try to meet ten new people, but we settled on four.”

“If you started out at ten, how did he ever talk you down to four?” Maria asked, knowing how stubborn the petite dark-haired girl could be.

“Believe me, you don’t want to know,” Liz muttered as she walked towards her first paying customer of the day.



“I didn’t know you were meeting Max here,” Maria asked her boyfriend as he entered the Crashdown just after the lunch rush.

“Neither did I,” Michael said with a frown. “I just came to see you.”

“Wait. Didn’t you guys make plans for today?” she questioned.

“Uh, we never really got around to it,” Michael confessed.

“Ok, well it’s obvious you are not capable of setting up this male bonding thing on your own. Follow me, Loverboy,” she said sarcastically. Michael tagged along behind her like a scolded child, sliding into the booth across from Max before she could think of giving him the obligatory hand slapping.

“Hey, guy, what’s up?” Michael asked the quiet alien.

Before Max could reply, Maria interrupted. “Max, have you ever played basketball?”

“Basketball?” Max asked, wondering why he was being asked the question. “No. I have never played basketball.”

“Do you want to learn how?”

Max used a napkin to mark the spot in his book before closing it and turning his complete attention to the couple in front of him. “I guess.”

“Good. See, Michael here is bored and if he stays here at the restaurant and moons over me as much as you’ve been mooning over Liz all morning, NONE of the customers are going to get the right order. So please do me a favor and get him out of here so that Liz and I can do our jobs.”

Michael and Max exchanged a look that said neither one of them wanted to leave the restaurant. Michael spoke first, “Can’t a guy at least get some lunch before you kick him out?”

Maria was tempted to tell her boyfriend no, but even she couldn’t be cruel enough to deny someone food for the sake of male bonding. “I’ll get you guys some lunch to go, ok? Why don’t you two take Max’s microwave to his motel room on the way to your house for the basketball lesson?”

Looking for another out, Michael asked Max, “Are you all right with that? I know Liz said you were a little freaked about the car after that run in with Jake at the mall.”

“I’m not sure…” Max began.

“Well, why don’t you guys just walk to the motel and play ball there. They’ve got a big parking lot, don’t they? Michael always has a basketball with him in the jeep, don’t you Michael?”

“Yeah, but…”

Maria heavily placed a hand on each of the boys’ shoulders as she spoke through clenched teeth. “You two are still under the impression that you have a choice in this matter. Let’s get something straight. I am going to give you some lunch to take out of here so you my go explore the great outdoors together. You two are going to drag your butts out of this booth and not show your faces back here until Liz’s and my shift is over, which is in three and a half more hours. Do we understand each other?”

“Maria…”

“I SAID ‘Do we understand each other?’”

The two boys let out almost simultaneous sighs of defeat before nodding their reluctant agreement.

“Hey, Michael,” Liz greeted cheerfully. Noticing the slight tension in the air, she added, “Is everything all right?”

“Everything’s just great, Lizzie. Our two boyfriends here were just telling me their plans for the afternoon. Seems that they’re gonna go eat at Max’s and shoot some hoops together. Doesn’t that sound like fun?” Maria rambled as she scribbled on her order pad. Before Liz could ask any questions, she tore off the top page and handed it to the surprised girl. “Would you please be a sweetie and place this order for Michal with whatever Max wants?”

“Sure,” Liz answered slowly as she turned to look at Max. “What do you want for lunch, Max?”

‘You,’ his voice softly spoke in her mind.

‘Behave yourself or you’ll never make it out of here,’ she teased back.

‘And that would be a bad thing?’ he silently asked as he raised his eyebrow.

‘For the rest of my customers it would be.’

Noticing the two lovers were once again becoming oblivious to the outside world for the hundredth time that day, Maria loudly cleared her throat before stepping into their line of sight. Addressing Max with a glare that dared him to disobey, she said is a sugar sweet voice, “Why don’t you two stop with this whole ‘look-into-my-eyes-soulmate-thing’ and just tell the girl what you want for lunch. After all we wouldn’t want to hold up your plans any longer than necessary, now would we?”

Stumbling to speak through the sudden knot in his throat, Max finally choked out, “Anything is fine, Liz. You know what I like.”

Maria turned to look over her shoulder to where the other waitress stood behind her. “You heard the boy, Lizzie. Now please be a good girl and get those orders placed so our sweeties here can be on their way,” she said as she winked at the confused brunette. As soon as Liz was out of earshot, Maria turned back to the table. “See how easy that was? I’m sure that when I look over here in ten minutes, you two won’t be here, right?”

The two nodded vigorously while avoiding direct eye contact with the pixie-haired girl. She gave herself a smug pat on the back before moving to care for one of her other customers. Just as the two boys began to relax, she called out to them.

“By the way, guys, have fun.”



“What is this lady’s name again? And why are we going to see her?” Michael asked as he and the other alien approached the motel room a few doors down from Max’s current residence.

“Her name is Ginny and she lives alone. I just want to check on her to be sure she is all right,” Max patiently explained.

Michael rolled his eyes behind Max’s back, wondering how he got suckered into visiting an old lady instead of teaching the other teen how to shoot hoops. At least he had gotten to eat his lunch first. Maria was really gonna pay for this.

Max knocked on the door before turning the handle, certain that it was in its customary position of being unlocked. “Ginny?”

“Patrick, is that you?”

“No, Ginny. It’s Max.”

“Well, hello there. Come in my young gentleman. I was wondering whether you would return.”

“I haven’t been around lately. I have been staying with a friend, but I’ll be back starting tomorrow.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear that, Max. Nothing against Miss Juanita, mind you, but you’re a little more interesting to talk with.”

“I think you are very interesting myself, Ginny, so I thank you for the compliment. I hope you don’t mind, but I brought my friend Michael along,” Max said as he moved closer to the woman to allow Michael to enter the room.

As he slid behind his friend, Michael wrinkled his nose at the strong medicinal scent in the room. He gave the woman in the rocking chair a quiet hello.

“It’s nice to meet you, Michael,” the elderly woman replied. Turning her head towards the form standing next to her, she queried, “How was your Christmas, Max? Did you get all the presents you wanted?”

“I was able to spend Christmas with Liz, so I enjoyed myself a lot. Did you have to spend Christmas by yourself?” he asked with concern.

“No, no dear. That young lady from upstairs, oh what is her name….Kelly. She and her two little boys brought me a nice dinner and some cookies. They even drew some pictures for me. I think they are over on my nightstand if you want to look at them. My eyes aren’t the best anymore, so I’m not quite sure what they are drawings of. Maybe you can describe them for me.”

Max grew sad at the mention of his two small friends. He really missed them and wanted to go see them as well, but he knew that for now he was better off avoiding them. He was making his way to the nightstand to view their artwork when Michael whispered to him, “How long are we going to stay?”

Max noticed the impatient look on the other boy’s face. “Not much longer. Just give me five more minutes, all right?”

Michael nodded and moved to the other side of the room, examining the old black and white photos covering the wall. Max grabbed the boys’ drawings and brought them close to the white-haired woman, kneeling next to her so he could describe the two pictures to her. “D.J. drew this one on the red paper. It looks like a tree with lots of decorations hanging on it. On the top is a girl in a white dress and it looks like she has a pair of wings.”

“That’s an angel,” Michael muttered under his breath.

“An angel,” Max spoke louder so Ginny could hear. “She’s an angel. There are lots of presents under the tree. Campbell drew this other picture. I’m not sure what it is supposed to be. It looks like a man with white hair. He is dressed in red and is carrying a big red bag.”

“Is it a picture of Santa Claus?” Ginny asked.

Max turned helplessly to look at Michael, who was briskly shaking his head yes as he tried to not laugh out loud at the silliness of the whole situation.

“Yes, Santa Claus,” Max sighed in relief as he tried to think of an excuse. “I forgot his name for a minute.”

Ginny patted his hand as she said, “Don’t worry, dear, that happens to me, too…more often than I like to admit.”

Max smiled as he stood up and took the pictures back to Ginny’s nightstand. Setting them down, he turned to gesture to Michael that he was ready to leave. The other boy’s attention was completely focused on the photo wall, and Max had to do a double take when he noticed Michael’s jaw wide open in shock. He poked his friend in the arm and whispered, “Michael, what’s wrong?”

Michael turned to look at Max with a bewildered look in his eyes as he pointed to a figure in one of the photos. “Max,” he said in a low, chilling tone, “that’s me."

posted on 25-Feb-2002 3:25:31 PM
Chapter 54

Liz had felt a constant wave of nervousness coming from Max for the past fifteen minutes, so she was not surprised when he and Michael came storming through the back door of the Crashdown.

“Hey, I thought I told you two to not come back until…” Maria started, but as soon as she saw the expression on Michael’s face, she knew something was wrong. Taking his hand and drawing him to the couch, she asked, “What happened? You look like you just saw a ghost.”

The two boys exchanged glances as Max pulled Liz closer to him and quietly replied, “He sort of did see a ghost.”

Liz instantly tensed in Max’s arms as she whispered in a trembling voice, “Was it Jake?”

Michael shook his head emphatically as he ran his hand through his hair. “No, no, nothing like that. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“Then what is it?” Maria asked with frustration.

“We went to go check up on Ginny to make sure she was all right. While we were there, Michael was looking at the black and white pictures she had on the wall of her room. Two of the pictures included what we think must be Michael’s human donor,” Max explained in a hushed voice as he gently massaged Liz’s shoulder, his warm touch soothing her frayed nerves at the thought of Jake.

“What am I missing here?” Maria asked with confusion. “Who is Ginny and why didn’t she recognize Michael if she has pictures of him?”

“Ginny is an old la…uh, elderly woman who lives over at the Regent. She probably didn’t recognize me because her eyesight isn’t the greatest. Once Max and I spotted the photos, we didn’t stick around to find out exactly how much she could see of me,” Michael said with a sigh.

Maria rubbed the back of Michael’s hand with her thumb as she attempted to gauge his feelings towards this discovery. Studying his face for any sign of what he might do with this new information, she was relieved when she heard Liz voice the question she was afraid to ask.

“Are you happy that you saw those photos? Maybe you can find out more about your donor.”

“I don’t know…it really hasn’t had time to sink in, you know. I guess I should be happy, but all I can think is that it just feels…weird.”

“Is this Ginny somehow related to the guy in the picture?” Maria asked as she finally found her voice.

“I guess she was, but like I said, we didn’t think it was too smart to stick around to find out.”

“Maybe Max can talk to her and find out more about him,” Liz volunteered, sensing that her boyfriend was about to suggest doing so anyway.

Michael glanced up at Max, a mixture of hope and confusion in his expression. “Everything I know about my alien family I have learned from you. It’s too bizarre to think that you’ll be able to do the same for the human part of me.”

“I know how surprised I was to see your picture up there, Michael, so I can’t even guess what a shock it was to you. Why don’t you take some time to think about it before deciding what you want to do? I see Ginny twice a week, so if you decide you want to know more, just tell me,” Max directed.

“Thanks, man. I appreciate it,” Michael nodded.

Through the pick-up window, Liz spied one of her customers growing impatient. Squeezing Max’s hand as she guided him toward the door to the restaurant, she suggested, “Since you guys are here, why don’t Maria and I get you a couple of Alien Blasts to nurse until we’re done with our shift? It’s only another hour.”

“That sounds like a great idea,” Maria chimed in as she stood up from the couch, reversing her earlier order for the two teens to stay away in favor of keeping any eye on her boyfriend to determine his state of mind over his unexpected finding.

The four quietly made their way back into the restaurant, the girls quickly returning to their work while the boys settled into one of the empty booths, all of them hoping for the next hour to pass quickly.





“I’m surprised Michael didn’t jump at the chance to know more about his human donor,” Liz commented as she and Max snuggled in the living room later that evening. “He seemed pretty excited about the stuff in the book translation.”

Max stroked her hair as he planted light kisses on her temple. “That’s just it, Liz. After years of not knowing anything about who he was or where he came from, he suddenly has all the answers right in front of him. I think it is just a lot to deal with all at one time. I’m sure once he has gotten used to the idea, he will want more information from Ginny.”

She turned to study his face in the darkened room, the golden flecks in his eyes dancing in rhythm with the flickering candlelight as he reverently gazed at her. Softly she said, “Maria seemed pretty worried.”

“She just needs to give him some time,” Max remarked as he continued to absently play with her hair. “I’m sure he’ll be all right.”

“I think she’s afraid he’ll be too all right. She seems to think he may not want to be with her if he knows all about his family.”

“Did she really say that?”

“Not in so may words, but I could tell by the comments she was making that was what she is afraid of.”

He gave a light laugh as he shook his head in disbelief.

“What?”

“I think one of the reasons Michael is hesitant about finding out more information from Ginny is because he’s afraid of how Maria will react. He’s afraid it will scare her away.”

“Why would it scare her away? She already knows he’s an alien.”

“He thinks knowing all the facts will make it more real for her somehow. How did he put it? ‘She freaked out when she found out I was an alien. What will she do once she knows all the gory details?’.”

“It sounds like those two need to have a serious talk before all this worrying gets out of hand,” Liz commented as she leaned her head into Max’s chest, his wool sweater teasing her cheek as she breathed in his warm, familiar scent.

‘I guess we should be glad we share such a deep connection,’ his voice echoed in her mind. ‘That way we can’t hide our feelings from each other.’

She pulled away from his chest to look into his eyes again, her face set with a grim expression. ‘No, but you can hide other things from me, can’t you?’

He pulled away from her with a look of confusion. Slowly he asked, “What ‘other things’ do you think I am hiding?”

“You know what I’m talking about,” she said seriously. Then, smiling up at him, she continued in a cheery tone, “You know…the story of what happened when Maria found out Michael and Isabelle were aliens?”

Max let out the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding and closed his eyes briefly before allowing his face to break out in a grin. “I’m not hiding the story from you, my Beauty. I’m just not going to tell it to you.”

“Why not?” she moaned.

“You know why. I promised Maria that I wouldn’t, and I plan to keep my word.”

“That’s not fair! What about me? Isn’t there ANYTHING I can do to get you to tell me? Even just a little bit of the story?”

A devilish smile came over his face. He stood up from the couch and offered her his hand. “Well, tonight is our last night together, isn’t it?”

Hesitantly she took his hand and stood up next to him. “Yes, it is,” she said, hoping this meant he might change his mind.

Quickly he bent over and scooped her up in his arms, blowing out the candles before carrying her toward the soft light coming from her bedroom. ‘Then perhaps you can find some way to persuade me to talk,’ his voice whispered.

As he adoringly laid her on the bed, she rolled her eyes at him and said aloud, “Look what that got me last night. I was so persuasive that you talked me down to FOUR people!”

He slinked onto the soft comforter like a cat stalking its prey, his mesmerizing eyes keeping her in a trance as he ascended over her. He grasped her by the thighs and wrapped her legs around him, pressing his arousal into her core as he rested his arms along her sides, completely pinning her underneath him. As his tender mouth began working its magic on her sensitive flesh, he whispered, ‘My beloved Elizabeth, I do not recall hearing much complaining from you last night regarding our compromise. I must admit, though, that you were very close to convincing me that six people were not too many to befriend.’

Liz closed her eyes to concentrate on the path his ardent lips were burning down the length of her overheated body as she reveled in the love and passion filling their connection. Her mind struggled to convey her disjointed thoughts, ‘It doesn’t matter how close I came to winning. The point is I still lost…well, I lost the argument, anyway.’

She felt him smile against the bare skin above the waist of her jeans before he brought his eyes up to meet hers, now half-lidded with desire for him. “Maybe you will have better luck tonight, my mate,” his deep, lust-filled voice echoed in the quiet room. He returned to worshipping her body with his mouth. ‘All the energy I used last night to win that compromise has left me in a weakened state, but I know you would not take advantage of my vulnerability,’ he teased.

She propped herself up on her elbows as he unbuttoned her jeans and slid the zipper down. ‘You don’t look very weak to me.’

‘Oh, but I am,’ he whispered in her mind. ‘It’s taking every ounce of my strength just to undress you, my love.’

She stilled his hands as he began to pull her jeans down her hips. ‘As you said, I don’t want to take advantage of you in such a fragile condition. Let’s forget about making love tonight and just get a good night’s sleep, all right?’

He feigned a hurt expression as he sat up on his knees. ‘You would deny me the pleasure of your body on this, our last night together?’

She sat up and moved to the edge of the bed, looking back at him seductively. “What would you have me do? I don’t want to be responsible for adding to your exhaustion, my beloved.”

Spying the vacated bed, he quickly flopped down on his back and folded his arms behind his head. A Cheshire-cat grin came over his face as his desire-laden voice laid out his plan. “Perhaps you could relieve me of some of the physical burden…”

“Relieve you?”

“Yes, my love.”

“And how, exactly, would I do that?”

“Well, you could start by removing those jeans of yours that I was having such a difficult time with.”

She stood up from the bed and turned to face him. “These little old things?” she asked as she deftly slid the denim fabric down her legs, stepping out of the pants as they pooled on the floor. “What now my mate?”

“Now the sweater has to go.”

She pulled the deep purple top over her head, the commitment symbol on her hip peeking over the edge of her silken panties as she stretched her arms to the ceiling to rid herself of the garment. Her face flushed when she felt a wave of pure desire wash over her as his adoring words echoed in her mind, ‘So beautiful, my mate, my lover.’

Their eyes met and the intense emotions reflected in both their faces made it obvious that their playful bantering would soon be put aside to fulfill a more urgent need. No longer waiting for instructions, Liz walked over to the bed and straddled Max’s hips. Reaching her arms out to his, she silently directed him to sit up. She made quick work of removing his sweater, the couple moaning in unison as her supple breasts made contact with his warm, firm chest. His strong arms supported her as he leaned her back just enough to take one of her firm nipples in his mouth, gently teasing it with his tongue. She threaded her hands through the hair at the nape of his neck, willing him to continue his loving assault indefinitely as she instinctively began to move her hips in a slow rhythm across the stiffened material of his jeans. After countless minutes, his desperate voice broke through the erotic haze that had enveloped them. “Please my Beauty, I must be inside of you.”

He lay back as she worked her way down his legs, swiftly removing the rest of the clothing that stood in the way of their imminent joining. Depositing them on the floor, she added her own panties to the pile before retrieving a condom from the nightstand. She knelt between his knees as she lovingly caressed his erection, leaning over to taste him for just a second before placing the latex material over his hardened flesh. Moving her way back up to his hips, a small whimper of pleasure escaped her lips as she gradually slid down his length. Mutual desire flowed through their connection as she relished the feeling of Max being buried so deep inside of her. She wanted to stay that way forever, but soon the desperate need for the sensual friction that would bring them to climax overwhelmed her, both Max and her own body guiding her to begin their lovers’ dance.

His left hand automatically moved to caress the commitment symbol on her hip as she brought his right hand up to kiss the symbol on his wrist, cradling her face in his palm. It didn’t take long for the familiar crest of uncensored passion to flow through their connection as eyes met and mouths spoke adoring words of undying love. Liz collapsed onto Max’s chest as their satiated bodies quickly craved rest, their matched breathing a testament to depth of their connection.

Two more condoms and several hours later, the sun found the couple in this same position as it beckoned the start of a new day.

posted on 22-May-2002 12:43:16 PM
Chapter 55

The gray skies outside his motel room mirrored his mood as he removed his clothes from the duffel bag and placed them back in the drawers of the long dresser. Although he had grown accustomed to his current home and was quite fond of the friends he had already made, he didn’t want to be here.

Carefully unwrapping his flannel shirt from around the present she had given him, he stood the double picture frame up on his nightstand, turning it so that it would be the first and last thing he saw each day. Time could be such a strange thing. It seemed like days ago that he had said good-bye to Liz, not the mere hour it had actually been since they had parted. Yet the week they had spent together, becoming committed mates and lovers, had passed in the blink of an eye.

‘It went too fast for me, too.’

He couldn’t help but smile as her voice echoed in his mind, the newfound depth of their connection since their physical joining still amazing him. ‘I miss you already, my Beauty. I cannot wait to have you in my arms again.’

‘I don’t know how I’m going to survive, Max. I have all this nervous energy inside of me…I feel like I’m going to go insane if I don’t…’ she trailed off.

‘Don’t what?’ he asked, telling she was embarrassed by what she was about to say.

‘If I don’t make love to you soon. I know it’s only been a few hours, but I can’t explain it. I want to crawl out of my skin.’ She admitted quietly.

‘You are not alone, my love. I am having the same reaction,’ he assured her.

‘It’s like I’m an addict going through withdrawal or something,’ she continued.

‘An addict?’

‘An addict…someone who can’t get enough of something…damn.’

‘What’s wrong?’

‘My parents are here. I’m not sure how this connection thing between us works, but PLEASE don’t tell me anything too sexy or funny while I’m talking to them.’

‘I promise I won’t say a word. Let me know when you are free to talk to me again, my love.’

‘I love you, Max.’

Suddenly an image of a warm summer night sprang into Liz’s mind. Hundreds of stars dotted the sky as she breathed in the tranquil desert air. A pair of muscled arms pulled her back against a bare chest as soft lips grazed the nape of her neck, her whole body instantly set ablaze with need and desire.

‘MAX!’

‘What? I didn’t say anything to you, did I?’

‘That’s not fair and you know it.’

‘I’m sorry, Beauty. I couldn’t resist the temptation. You have my word that I will be good now.’

‘I didn’t say you weren’t good, Max, but I still need you to behave…’

‘Behaving from here on out. I promise.’

After Max was sure he no longer had Liz’s attention, he turned his own thoughts to the description Liz had given of an addict. It seemed like an appropriate word for how he felt about her. Since the first night he had caressed her beautifully naked body in the shower, his whole being had yearned for her. He had assumed that once they had mated, his desire for her would be more manageable. However, the complete opposite had happened and his need to possess her body and soul only increased each time he made love to her. How was he ever going to make it through a whole day without feeling her warmth surround him?

A quiet knock on his door brought him out of his thoughts. He looked out the curtained window to determine who his visitor was, surprised to see Juanita standing with Campbell and D.J.’s mother. He slowly made his way to the door, silently hoping they would be gone by the time he opened it. He nervously turned the handle, flinching as the cool December air filled the room.

“I was pretty sure you’d be back today,” Juanita said with a tentative smile. “Do you mind if we come in?”

He though for a moment before nodding silently, opening the door wide enough for the guests to walk past him and into the room. The boys’ mother gave the room a quick glance as they waited for Max to shut the door, the two women obviously intending to stay for more than just a few minutes.

“Would you like to sit down?” he asked as he pointed to the two chairs at the table, part of him afraid that the younger woman would turn into the screaming lunatic she had been during his last encounter with her.

“Thanks, Max,” Juanita said solemnly.

“Yes, thank you,” the mother replied quietly as she moved to the small dining set in front of the window.

Max sat down on the edge of the bed and focused on the table, keeping far enough away that he could escape if necessary. “I thought Wednesday was your day off?” he questioned his friend in an attempt to diffuse some of the tension in the room.

“It is. This isn’t work-related, Max. It’s more of a social visit…or a favor. Kelly here has something she’d like to say to you, and I thought it might be easier on both of you if I were here.”

Max nodded in understanding.

“I guess the first thing I should do, Max…” Kelly said in a low, steady voice, “is apologize for my little outburst last week. When it comes to protecting my kids, it’s just second nature to react first and ask questions later. I’m not proud of how I treated you, and I am sorry for misjudging you. Do you think you can forgive me?”

He slowly nodded before bringing his eyes up to meet hers.

“It’s just really hard for me to know who to trust,” she continued. “ I’m not trying to make excuses, but if you’ll let me explain…”

“You don’t need to explain anything…”

“Yes. Yes, I do. Please…I promise I won’t take long.”

He could see how important this was to her, so he decided to listen to what she had to say. “All right.”

She took a deep breath, looking at Juanita for a boost of confidence. Slowly she exhaled as she said, “The boys’ names are Scott and Steven.”

“What do you mean?” he asked in confusion.

“The boys names are really Scott and Steven, and my real name is Samantha. Campbell and D.J. are names I took from one of my favorite movies, and Kelly was the name of my best friend from summer camp when I was a girl.”

All Max could do was stare at her in silence as he absorbed what she had just told him. He looked to Juanita for confirmation, and when he saw that this was obviously no joke he asked, “Why do you not use your real names?”

Kelly covered her mouth with her hand as she gathered her thoughts, a single tear trickling down her face as she tried to recount her reason for the aliases. She made several attempts to speak, but all that came out was a choked sob. Juanita took her other hand and gave it a tight squeeze, willing this traumatized young woman to take as much love and support as she needed. When it became apparent that Kelly could not find her voice through the sorrow, the matronly housekeeper began the explanation. “Max, Kelly and the boys don’t use their real names because they are hiding.”

“Hiding? From what?” he asked, his own concerned eyes turning to the woman breaking down in front of him.

“A few years ago, Kelly found out that someone was hurting D.J.,” Juanita began to explain.

“Hurting him?” Max asked naively.

“D.J. was being molested. Do you know what that means, Max?” the older woman questioned.

A frown crossed his brow as he said, “No, I’m sorry. I don’t.”

Kelly did not hide her astonishment at his admission. Juanita had told her that the teen-aged boy had led a sheltered life, but surely he must have heard of people being molested before. She began to voice her surprise when Juanita stopped her, the older woman’s hand held up like a policeman’s to indicate that it was better for Max to hear the terrible truth from someone he knew.

“Max, when a child is molested…it means that he is being hurt because someone is doing…sexual things to him.” She watched her young friend closely, hoping he would comprehend without her having to go into too much detail. She knew it was a fragile subject to discuss with Kelly present, but the boys’ mother had insisted that Max know the whole truth.

The frown on his brow remained, and just as she was about to clarify what she meant, his focus shifted from Kelly to her. His deep amber eyes revealed his every thought and emotion—anger, pain, disgust, revulsion, but most of all, comprehension.

Between the unfortunate run-ins with Carrie and the deepened level of his relationship with Liz, Max had learned enough over the past month that he knew exactly what Juanita meant by ‘sexual things’, and his stomach turned at the thought. “Who would do something like that to a little boy?” he asked as he looked at his friend in horror.

“His own father,” came the reply.

Max turned his head towards the voice, Kelly’s face now expressing the same hatred as her words.

“What?!” Max asked in shock.

“I’m afraid it’s true, Max,” Juanita said sadly.

He sighed in disbelief as he tried to digest the complete dreadfulness of the situation. Suddenly his eyes widened as he realized exactly why Kelly had reacted the way she had when she found him asleep with the boys. “I would never do anything like that to your children,” he said almost inaudibly, his emotion-filled voice choking on the words as he willed her to not think the worst of him.

“I know that now, Max, but at the time I had no idea who you were. You can’t imagine how surprised I was to see you in my room, let alone in the bed.”

“But I thought you knew who I was…the boys said they had told you about me.”

“Yeah, they had. They had also told me about Jerry and Marty and Rudolph and a slew of other imaginary friends they have made up. They need to do something to entertain themselves while they’re holed up in a motel room day after day.” She gave him a guilty smile as she said, “ I just never expected you to be a real live person.”

“Please believe me when I tell you that the last thing I would ever want to do is harm someone, especially an innocent child. I am very sorry for causing you such trouble.”

“I have to take full responsibility for any trouble that was caused, Max,” Juanita piped in. “I had planned to tell Kelly all about you, but you two had your little confrontation before I got the chance to talk to her in person. Next time I will at least leave a note.” She gave a nervous chuckle as she focused on Kelly. “To tell the truth, it has been so long since we’ve had someone new stay around here for any length of time that I let my guard down, and that’s something that can’t happen again. The next person who shows up here may have very different motives than Max.”

“What do you mean?” Max asked cautiously.

“What she means is that for the past two and a half years the boys and I have been hiding from their father. I know he still has people looking for us, even if he himself has stopped looking.”

“He is the one who did something wrong. Why are you the ones hiding?” Max questioned.

“They are hiding because the police said Kelly couldn’t prove that Chuck molested D.J.,” Juanita explained.

“He was not punished for what he did?” Max asked incredulously.

Kelly shook her head. “Not only was he never punished, but he told the police that I only accused him because I had planned to leave him and wanted to be sure I got custody of the boys. And they believed every word he said. When we went to court he got his friends to lie for him…they told the judge I had had sex with several of them in front of the boys…Chuck told me that he’d spend every penny necessary to be sure he got the boys…”

Max was finally putting the pieces together, “So you took the boys and hid them before that could happen…”

“I didn’t know what else to do.”

“Does D.J. remember any of what happened?”

“He remembers enough to be afraid of his father. He knows he used to be called Steven, and that he can’t talk about our old names or our old life if he wants his father to stay away.”


Max hesitated before he asked, “Did this Chuck hurt Campbell, too?”

“I don’t think so. Campbell was still pretty young, young enough that he doesn’t even know his name used to be Scott.”

“And that’s why they don’t go to school?” Max added, more a statement than a question. He studied the face of the mother across from him, realizing that she was probably much younger than she looked, the stress of having a secret life aging her too soon.

“How long have you known about this?” he asked Juanita.

“I actually helped hide them here…I was a friend of a friend of a friend, you might say. Close enough to keep tabs on the boys’ father but far enough removed that no one would be able to track them down through me.” He nodded his understanding. “Max, I don’t think I have to tell you how important it is that no one else knows about this,” she added.

Max did not hesitate with his reply. “The boys mean a lot to me. I will do whatever I can to help you keep them safe.”

“Thank you,” Kelly said sincerely. She wiped her eyes before continuing. “I married Chuck, so obviously I’m not the best judge of character, but I do trust Juanita’s judgment unconditionally. I just want you to know that I am truly sorry about what I said to you. I really had no idea…”

“You do not have to apologize. Now I understand why you did what you did, and I cannot blame you for that.”

She gave him a grateful smile. “The boys have really missed you. I spent a good part of Christmas day listening to all the things you have taught them…I was hoping that maybe you could keep teaching them, since they can’t go to school and all. It would be good for them to have a positive male influence around.”

Max gave a small chuckle at the though of being someone else’s teacher when he himself still had so much to learn. Still, he knew he could not refuse. “I’ll do my best to teach them what I know. And I’ll try to make sure they don’t go outside when they shouldn’t be there.”

“You have no idea what this means to me. Between you and Juanita I can breathe a little easier when I have to be away from them. Speaking of, I better get back upstairs before they tear up the room. Being cooped up day after day does take its toll. Besides, I hardly get to spend much time with them—I want to take advantage of my one day off.”

Juanita smiled at the two young people in front of her. Her sixth sense told her that they had more in common than they thought, and this pairing would help Max just as much as it would Kelly. She was just about to tell him so when he absently remarked, “Always having to be careful of what you do and say is not easy.”

“I don’t like living a lie,” the boys’ mother said as she and Juanita prepared to walk out the door, “but sometimes you have no choice but to hide the truth to protect the ones you love the most.”

Max couldn’t have agreed with her more.



Liz had spent the rest of the day listening to her parents describe their latest trip and going over the Crashdown receipts with them until all three had retired to their rooms around eight o’clock. She had hoped to persuade Max into continuing with his desert seduction, but he had seemed distracted by something…or someone. Still, he had just told her he was tired from reading part of the third book and was probably going to go to sleep early. She had accepted his explanation and after communicating back and forth for another fifteen minutes or so, she had left him on his own.

She was beginning to grow familiar with the tiny nuances of their connection. Now that she and Max were not in close physical proximity to each other, it seemed she was able to differentiate when he was focused on her and when his attention was elsewhere. It had been quite obvious that Max had indeed fallen asleep soon after they had stopped talking. She couldn’t quite put his absence into words. It wasn’t like when he had intentionally been blocking her, yet he just wasn’t “there”.

After watching part of an old black and white movie, she had eventually drifted into a fitful sleep filled with dreams she would not be able to fully recall. Now here it was one-thirty in the morning and she was wide awake, once again consumed by the desperate need to make love with Max. After staring at her ceiling for the past hour, Liz knew that she wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep any time soon. She closed her eyes to concentrate on Max, but it didn’t take long to realize that he was not awake. How could he be sound asleep while she was burning with desire? It just didn’t seem fair. She had thought about trying to wake him up, but she knew that even the most vivid fantasy would not relieve her ache. She had to go see him.

She slowly crept out of bed and slid her door ajar, making sure her parents were still asleep in their room. Upon hearing her father’s faint snoring, she closed her door and undressed as she quickly brushed her teeth. She threw on her cranberry sweater and faded jeans, skipping her bra and socks in favor of getting to Max a few seconds sooner. Tiptoeing to her window, she pulled on her shoes as she gently eased the window open. The brisk wind hit her face as it dawned on her that she forgot her jacket. She snuck back to her closet and grabbed it before climbing out onto her balcony. She lowered the window until there was no more than a crack at the bottom, then tossed her jacket on before climbing down the ladder.

The nervous energy continued to grow inside her until her steps became a steady sprint towards the one she now considered her mate for life, not noticing the chill in the air stinging her lungs until she was stopped directly across the street from the motel. Catching her breath she quickly ran her fingers through her hair, suddenly self-conscious of the burning ache that had motivated her to initiate this late night rendezvous.

Once she was sufficiently calmed down, she crossed the street and rounded the corner of the motel. Just the sight of Max’s room was enough to make her libido go into overdrive. In just a few minutes she would be exactly where she wanted to be…

Suddenly a strong hand gripped her arm and spun her around. She didn’t have time to scream before another hand covered her mouth.


posted on 22-May-2002 12:48:54 PM
Chapter 56 (NC-17)

‘MAX!!!’

Liz’s voice pierced his mind as a wave of unbridled fear jolted him awake. It took him a mere second to get his bearings before he realized she was in trouble.

He leaped from the bed, panic threatening to overcome him before he could focus on his mate. He had to stay calm or he would be of no use to her. ‘Liz, where are you?’

‘Outside. Hurry!’

He bolted for the door and threw it open to discover Liz’s small form about one hundred feet away from him being restrained by a tall shadowed figure. “Hey! Get away from her!” he yelled as he ran towards the pair.

His voice startled the captor, who swiftly stepped away from Liz. The faint moonlight revealed a skinny man who appeared to be not much older than Max. When he saw the furor in Max’s eyes, he held up his hands in surrender. “Take it easy, dude. I’m not gonna hurt her or anything.”

Max wanted nothing more than to pummel this guy, but one look at Liz’s face and he knew that it would have to wait. He grabbed her hand and pulled her safely to his side, relief flooding their connection instantly. “What do you think you were doing?” he growled at the stranger who had dared to attack his Beauty.

The guy calmly lowered his arms once it appeared he had avoided a fight. Looking at Liz, he said, “Sorry, man. I didn’t mean to scare ya or anythin’. I didn’t know you were taken. My buddy and I just got back from Grady’s, but it’s too early to stop partyin’…it is Christmas break after all.”

“You’re one of the students from the college, aren’t you?” Max asked, the anger slowly draining from him.

Giving Max a mischievous smile, the young man replied, “You got it, pal. Name’s Paulie. Me and Jimmy only got two weeks away from the books and I plan to make the most of it, if you know what I mean.” Pointing at Max’s boxer clad body he continued, “Hey, I didn’t mean to interfere with your partyin’, dude. Are we cool?”

Recognizing that the man had really meant no harm to Liz, Max nodded.

Paulie then turned to Liz, “Maybe we can hook up tomorrow night if you don’t already have a date.”

Max pulled Liz closer to him as he said in a threatening tone, “She’s not available tomorrow night or any other night.”

Paulie glanced at Max before addressing Liz again. “Aw, man. You’re gonna be with the same dude every night? I was really lookin’ forward to havin’ some fun with you…Jimmy and me was even hopin’ for a threesome.”

“A WHAT?!” Liz asked incredulously.

“You know…a threesome. The guys on campus said you had no problem with that.”

Max gave Liz a confused look, not really knowing what Paulie was talking about but feeling a growing sense of anger coming from Liz.

“You’re here because you think I’m a hooker?” she demanded through gritted teeth.

“Call yourself whatever you want. Personally I prefer the term ‘compensated date’. All the guys around here know. Regency motel, short girl, long dark hair…why else would I stay in a dump like this over Christmas break? I wanted to be close to where the action is,” the young man said in a lighthearted voice as he rubbed his hands together greedily.

Max’s gaze shifted between the other two, his mind struggling to decipher their strange conversation.

“Well you were misinformed. I’m not a…oh my God, I don’t believe this. You think I’m Carrie!” Liz said indignantly as the realization hit her. Turning to Max, she repeated, “He thinks I’m Carrie,” as if her boyfriend had been deaf the first time she had said it.

“You mean you aren’t?” Paulie asked Liz as his face sank with disappointment. His eyes widened suddenly as he remembered the death ray look Max had given him just a few moments earlier. Noticing that Max’s expression was rapidly reaching that state once again, the young man stuttered, “Shit, man…I’m sorry. I just guessed…I didn’t mean to dis’ you or nothin’.”

Now that Max understood what this guy had been implying about HIS mate, it was taking every ounce of restraint to not cause some serious bodily harm. In his most threatening voice he said, “Why don’t you show us exactly how sorry you are by getting out of our sight.”

Completely sobered now, Paulie wasn’t foolish enough to argue. “Sure, man. Whatever you say.” Refusing to turn his back on the couple he had inadvertently offended, he slowly made his way over to the stairway that would lead him to the safety of his room.

Just as Max began to relax now that Liz was out of danger, a sudden flash of fury burst through their connection.

“Wait!” Liz yelled towards Paulie.

The young man froze in his tracks like a deer caught in the headlights, afraid that this non-Carrie girl wanted her boyfriend to extract a little revenge for his mistake.

Liz pulled out of Max’s grasp and strode purposefully toward the college student.

‘Liz, what are you doing?’ Max silently questioned.

‘I’m going to give someone a piece of my mind, that’s what.’

‘Beauty, please. Let’s just go back to my room…’

‘You go back to your room. This will only take me a minute.’

‘I’m not leaving you out here alone…’

‘Fine Max, but I’m warning you that this isn’t going to be pretty.’ Liz concluded as she reached the stairs and swiftly yanked a bewildered Paulie behind her. Unsure of what she was doing, he dumbly followed her, not wanting to cause any more damage by opening his mouth again.

After reaching the second floor landing, Liz abruptly stopped at the first room she came to, Paulie almost slamming into her. “Which room is yours?” she demanded.

Paulie silently pointed to the room next to the one they were in front of.

Plastering on a fake smile, Liz quipped in a sugary-sweet voice, “Why isn’t that special? The hooker you’re looking for is in the room right next to yours. How’s that for being close to the action?”

Unsure of exactly what kind of response she was looking for, Paulie could only say, “Uh…” before Liz continued with her mission.

“Let’s see if she’s home, shall we?”

Liz balled up her fist and pounded on the door several times. She stood there silently as she waited for an answer, the chilly night air making her breath visible as she played out the confrontation in her mind. She pounded again and was just about to conclude that the subject of her discussion was not there when the door slowly opened.

“What can I do for…well, if it isn’t Miss Goody Two Shoes. Lose your boyfriend again?” the raven-haired girl purred as she blew a mouthful of cigarette smoke at Liz. Noticing the young man nervously standing with Liz’s hand gripping his wrist she added, “Or did you get a new one?”

“I know exactly where my boyfriend is, thank you,” Liz retorted. “Strange you should mention Paulie here, though. See, I was on my way to see Max,” she began in an irritated tone, “when I was assaulted by this creep.”

“So?” Carrie asked in a bored voice as she impatiently looked at her watch. “What does this have to do with me?”

“He was looking for…what did he call it? Oh, yeah…a ‘compensated date’…more specifically a threesome for him and his buddy. And this is the funny part,” Liz said with no humor in her voice. “He though I was YOU! Isn’t that the damnedest thing you’ve ever heard? Imagine someone thinking I could be a shameless amoral slut like you…”

‘Liz…’ Max silently called to her.

‘Stay out of this, Max! This is between her and me.’

“No matter how desperate I was, I could never stoop so low as to do what you do…I’d eat garbage or let myself starve to death before I’d ever think of selling my body,” Liz spat out. Afraid to draw her wrathful attention, Paulie continued to stand there as she verbally assaulted Carrie, who just rolled her eyes at Liz’s comments. Catching the gesture, Liz continued her attack. “Just answer me one question before you start your ‘date’ with this weasel.”

“Go for it, Princess,” Carrie smirked as she pitched her cigarette over the railing, the burning tip nearly grazing Liz’s shoulder.

Glaring at her, Liz’s voice seethed with anger, “How can you even look at your reflection in the mirror? How do you live with yourself doing…”

“That’s two questions.”

“You know what? Just forget I asked, ‘cuz as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing you could say that would justify…”

“It’s easy to judge me, isn’t it? Little Miss Perfect with the Suzy Homemaker mom and super supportive dad, the always-there-for-you best friend, the faithful, loving boyfriend, you have no idea what it’s like to be me. You don’t know the first thing about me…”

“I know that you’ll spread your legs for anyone who flashes a dollar bill in your face…”

‘LIZ, THAT’S ENOUGH!’ Max’s warning echoed in her mind.

“I said to stay out of this, Max!” Liz yelled down to him.

‘You’re going to start waking people up!’

“Are you done yet?” Carrie asked as she grabbed Paulie’s hand and wrenched his arm from Liz’s grasp. “ ‘cuz it’s time for me to go to work now.”

Liz was about to tear into the girl once again when Paulie finally summoned the courage to speak up, catching both the young women off-guard. “Uh…ya know, it’s kinda late. I think I’m just gonna go turn in.” He extricated his hand from Carrie and nearly ran to his room before slamming the door behind him.

Training their eyes on each other again, Carrie spoke before Liz could. “Why did you bother bringing me a customer if you were just going to chase him off with that ‘high and mighty’ crap of yours?”

Before Liz had a chance to respond, Carrie slammed the door in her face.

Liz raised her fist to pound on the door again when she was startled by Max’s hand grabbing her wrist, his pleading voice in her ear. “Please Liz. Let’s just go back to my room.” She was about to berate him for interfering when she turned to look at him. First she had been too scared and then too angry to notice that Max was outside in nothing but his boxers. Dropping her shoulders in defeat, she nodded before following Max down the stairs.

The couple made their way across the parking lot in silence. Seeing the door to Max’s room standing wide open, Liz suddenly felt ashamed that her pleas for his help had ended with that unpleasant scene with Carrie. Max’s obvious disappointment with her behavior only added to her shame. Once inside the room, he shut the door and moved to the thermostat, adjusting the temperature to compensate for the lost heat. Liz followed behind him, addressing him as soon as he turned around to face her. “Max, about the things I said to Carrie…”

“I really do not want to discuss Carrie right now,” he said in an irritated tone as he ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. “What I do want to discuss is why you were out walking around by yourself in the middle of the night.”

“I needed to see you,” Liz said weakly.

“You risked your life because you needed to see me?” he asked, his tone a mixture of disbelief and awe.

Liz nodded slowly, embarrassed that her overwhelming desire for him had completely obliterated every ounce of her common sense, “It sounds like a pretty silly thing to do when you put it that way…”

“Not silly, my Beauty—dangerous,” he said solemnly as he took her hands in his. Forcing her to look up at him he chided, “You know it isn’t safe to be out by yourself. What if that guy had wanted to hurt you?” Eyes shining with thinly veiled fear, he pleaded, “What if that had been Jake?”

“But it wasn’t him, and I’m ok,” she argued. Knowing that there was no real excuse she could give Max for scaring him awake, she added, “I’m sorry…I guess I just wasn’t thinking straight. I couldn’t sleep…and this craving for you was driving me absolutely insane. It’s like the only thing I could think of was getting to you.” Unconsciously, her fingers began to roam his bare chest, the light contact instantly restoring the intense desire that had been frightened out of her earlier.

“I am glad that you want me so much, my love, but you cannot imagine how it feels to know that you would risk your safety to be with me.” He kissed her forehead and implored, “Liz, you have to promise me that you won’t ever do something like this again.”

“I don’t know how to control these feelings, Max. I was almost crawling out of my skin…what happens the next time I feel this way?” she begged as she pressed her lips against his smooth, warm skin.

‘What you should have done tonight, my mate…wait for me to come to you,’ he silently instructed as he threaded his hand through her hair, bringing his mouth to hers in a passionate kiss and pulling her body flush against his.

‘My parents are home, so I thought you would say no if I asked…’ she explained while her hands crept to his waist, her fingers gently edging his boxers over his hips.

His own need for her automatically flaring to life at her insistent touch, his breath began to catch in his throat at the wondrous torture she was subjecting him to. Instinctively he slid his now naked body down her front to kneel before her, his hands lithely removing her clothes as his mouth greedily tasted her skin. Liz struggled to remain standing as he explored her with his tongue and lips, his intentional avoidance of the most intimate parts of her body only intensifying her desire.

He languidly worked his way up her body until he was standing in front of her once again. Cupping her face in his hands, he gave her several deep loving kisses, his lips lingering on hers as he whispered, “My Beauty…”

He stroked her arms with his fingertips as he moved his hands to her hips, gently nudging her to let him take her weight as she wrapped her legs around his waist. He carried her to his bed and lovingly laid her down, his hands supporting her back as though she were made of glass. Resting his weight on his elbows, he bent down and kissed the valley between her breasts as he reverently whispered, “My Elizabeth…”

Moving lower on the bed, his muscled back coaxed her to release the grip her legs had on him. He drew his hands down her sides, lightly caressing her heated skin as they moved towards her hips. His lips journeyed over her stomach to reach the commitment symbol on her hip, “My mate…”

Liz’s entire body was aching with desire. Every single touch of Max’s hand or brush of his lips was bringing her closer to the edge while his soft-spoken words created a prayer of devotion that filled her entire being with rapture. Sensing his own need and yearning in their connection, she raised slightly to see the passion she knew would be in his eyes.

His mouth was poised to take his first taste of her, the sight and scent of her desire for him overwhelming his senses. He so desperately wanted to make this last, to savor her sweet aroma, but the pleading in her eyes and the frantic need flowing through their connection caused him to suddenly sink his tongue deep into her. She lost control instantly, his name a barely discernible moan in the back of her throat as he gave her the release her body yearned for.

As her labored breathing slowed back to a normal rhythm, Max moved to lie next to her. Seeing the contentment on her face, he gently stroked her cheek and said, “I would never say no to you, my Beauty.”

“Is that a promise?” she asked as she stretched, her smile lighting up her eyes as she turned to snuggle into him.

“I’ll promise to never say no to you if you promise to not go wandering off by yourself again, especially in the middle of the night,” he scolded as he put his arm around her to pull her even closer to him.

“Agreed,” she said as she planted small kisses on his chest. Feeling her body begin to tense again with need, she quietly asked, “Why don’t we test our new agreement?”

“Oh?”

Shyly peeking up at him, she said, “As much as I loved your tongue in me, that’s not exactly what I came here for.”

“What did you come here for, my love?” he teased. “Did you want to have some breakfast together or perhaps read a book?”

She raised up on her elbow and playfully slapped him on the shoulder. “You didn’t think you could just give me some flashes of us making love in the desert and get away with it, did you?”

“Not at all. Making love to you under the stars like that is one of my favorite dreams…but I think we had better wait until it is a little warmer, don’t you?”

“But Max, you just said you would never refuse me…” she said, dropping the smile from her face.
He gave her an incredulous look, “Liz, you can’t possibly be serious. Besides the fact that it is very cold out there, it is two in the morning…by the time we went all the way to the desert and back, it would be daylight…”

“So you’re going to break your promise to me already?”

“No…if that’s what you really want to do, then we better get dressed,” he said as he started to get up from the bed.

Liz rolled onto her back and broke out into a fit of laughter. Standing up, Max looked at her as though she had possibly lost her mind. She glanced up at him and upon seeing his confused expression, she started laughing even harder. Max stood frozen in place, uncertain what he should do. Finally he asked, “Liz, are you all right?”

When she had settled down enough to talk, she stood up next to him and gave him a soft kiss. “Relax, I was only joking about going to the desert. However, I was very serious about the making love part.”

Deciding that turnabout was fair play, Max pulled away from Liz. He walked towards the table and sprawled out in one of the chairs, positioning himself to blatantly reveal his desire for her. “Well, we have a little problem here…”

Seductively moving over to him and kneeling down, she took his erection in her hand and said, “I wouldn’t exactly call it a little problem, Max.”

He took her hands and lightly tugged on them, indicating that he wanted her to stand up. Sensing the increasing hunger in their connection, he guided her to straddle his lap. He cupped her breast in his hand, circling her nipple with his thumb while he rested his other hand on her hip. In a semi-arrogant tone he said, “As much as you want me, Beauty, we cannot make love without a condom.”

“Where are they?” she asked, removing his hand from her breast so that she could suckle his fingers.

“We forgot to put them in my bag…they’re still at your place.”

Liz immediately stopped her ministrations. “Are you sure? I thought I took them out of the drawer and put them by the computer.”

“You did, but they never made it into my bag. Remember, the phone rang and after you stopped talking we decided to get some breakfast…I didn’t discover they weren’t in my bag until I finished unpacking it.”

Disappointment clouded Liz’s eyes as she realized Max was telling the truth. She was literally aching with desire for him and now they would have to go back to the apartment if they wanted to make love. “I guess we’d better get dressed,” she said sadly as she began to climb from his lap.

Max grabbed her sides and wrapped his arms around her back as he pulled her tighter to him, his teeth gently biting her neck and shoulder.

“Max, please…I’m already going crazy, here. Let’s get back to my place,” Liz pleaded. She felt him smile against her throat before he released her from his grasp. She climbed off of him and went to the other side of the bed to retrieve her clothes. He continued to sit in the chair, and when he made no attempt to move Liz sighed out in frustration, “Are you going to get dressed?”

Giving her a cocky grin, he smirked, “Sure. Why don’t you bring me my jeans? They’re folded up on the dresser over there.”

Liz gave him an aggravated look as she grabbed the pair of pants and tossed them towards him. She pulled her panties on as she watched him set the jeans on the table and pull his wallet out of the pocket. Sensing her growing irritation, he opened the wallet and began rifling though it non-chalantly. She picked up her sweater to put it on, keeping one eye on his movements, or lack thereof. Annoyed that he was looking at his ID when she was obviously in a hurry to get going, she finally put her hand on her hip and demanded, “Max, are you going to put your jeans on so we can go?”

Casually looking up at her, Max gave her a sexy half-smile. ‘Actually I would rather put this on so we can come,’ his voice echoed in her mind as he held up a small foil packet. She recognized it instantly.

“You brat,” she screeched, throwing her sweater at him. “You knew you had that all along, didn’t you?”

“You aren’t the only one who knows how to joke, my love,” he teased as he set her sweater on the table next to his jeans. “Come here,” he gently commanded, pointing to the floor in front of him. She slowly made her way back to him. “You aren’t mad at me, are you?” he asked, hoping he hadn’t taken things too far. He didn’t sense any real anger coming from her.

“Surprised is more like it. Max, you are the last guy I would ever imagine walking around with a condom in your pocket,” she said as she took to package from his hand.

“Michael told me it might be a good idea. He mentioned something about a Boy Scout motto.”

Liz opened the package and took the condom out. Taking his erection in her hand once again, she stroked his length several times until she felt his lust for her escalating out of control. “Always be prepared?”

“Yeah, something like that,” he choked out as she rolled the condom over his burning flesh. His eyes followed her as she bent down to step out of her panties.

She lifted her eyes to meet his as she balanced her hands on his shoulders and positioned herself over his lap, her wet heat taunting him with each slight movement of her body. Her gaze never leaving his, she leaned in close to him and gave him deep, hungry kisses.

‘Are you prepared for me, Max?’

The adoration in his eyes reflecting the power her words had over him, he answered her question by taking her face in his hands and whispering, “Yes, my Beauty.”

With his simple acknowledgment, Liz allowed her legs to slowly relax. As if by silent agreement he entered her gradually, both lovers using every last bit of their composure to not let things end too quickly. Once they were completely joined, they stilled their bodies to focus on the sensations flowing through their connection…endless passion…abiding love…limitless devotion…and an unquenchable desire to become one.

After countless minutes, they began to move together in perfect unison, and in spite of the strong physical need for release, they slowly, tenderly made love. Golden amber eyes remained locked with chocolate brown ones, each marveling at their unique bond until they could no longer contain the increasing surge of emotions and finally allowed their bodies to experience the same completion as their souls.



posted on 22-Jun-2002 12:18:20 AM
Chapter 57

As the couple approached the front of the Crashdown, Liz instantly spotted the light on in her parents’ bedroom. “Damn, someone’s awake. I’ve got to get to my room!”

They covertly made their way to the alley and up Liz’s ladder, Max half-guiding, half-lifting her all the way up. She almost landed quietly, but at the last second her foot caught on the edge of the brick wall. She cringed at the loud scraping sound her lounge chair made as she grabbed it to keep herself from falling.

‘Are you all right?’ Max silently asked her.

Nodding, she turned to gaze at him in horror. ‘Max, you have to go…my parents can’t find you here.’

‘I love you,’ he whispered as he gave her a brief kiss before scaling back down the ladder and quickly disappearing from sight.

Liz ran to her window and cautiously opened it, slipping inside with as much stealth as she could muster. She kicked off her shoes and tip-toed across the room, throwing her jacket off just as the door to her room burst open. She immediately froze.

“Liz, is everything ok in here?” Nancy Parker asked with worry. As soon as she saw her daughter’s clothing, she demanded, “Why on Earth are you fully dressed at three-thirty in the morning?”

Trying to hide the guilt from her face, Liz looked around her room until her eyes landed on her journal. “I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to go out on my balcony and write in my journal for a while.”

“What was that noise I heard a minute ago?”

“Me being clumsy. I tripped over the leg of the lounge chair. That’s all. I’m sorry if I woke you up.”

Sighing with exhaustion, Nancy rubbed her eyes, “You didn’t wake me…it’s that darned jet-lag. I don’t mind you staying up since you’re still on vacation, but if you feel the need to write in your journal, young lady, I would appreciate it if you would stay inside to do so. Understand?”

“Yes, Mom,” Liz said as she hung her head, her heart beginning to race as she spotted the box of condoms prominently displayed on her desk, not more than a few feet away from her mother. Hurriedly moving to block them from her mother’s line of sight, she added, “Actually I was starting to fall asleep outside, so I’m going to put my pajamas back on and go to bed. Good-night.”

“Good-night, baby,” her mother said, stifling a yawn. She backed out of Liz’s room and shut the door behind her.

Liz let out the breath she had been holding and reached behind her to grab the condoms. In a flash she opened her closet to hide them, her eyes darting between her bookbag on the floor and the door her mother had just exited through, silently praying she wouldn’t be interrupted before the box was safely concealed. Once the bookbag was back in her closet, she collapsed on the floor, relieved that she had escaped such a close call.

‘I’ve got to be more careful,’ she chastised herself.

‘I believe I already told you that,’ Max’s voice whispered in her thoughts.

She broke out into a smile as she leaned back against the bed. ‘My mom was in my room just a minute ago. If she hadn’t been so tired, she definitely would have seen the condoms on the desk.’

‘Did she ask where you had been?’

‘Yeah. I told her I had just been sitting out on the balcony because I couldn’t sleep.’

There was silence for a minute before Max’s voice echoed in her mind. ‘So I guess this means I shouldn’t come and see you tomorrow night.’

Liz sighed in agreement. ‘I don’t think we should take the chance…not seeing you for one day is going to be hard but if we end up getting caught, we’ll be separated for a lot longer than a day.’

‘I agree. Is there any way you can come to see me sometime later today or during the day on Friday?’

‘No, I have to work all day today since I traded that one shift with Agnes, and I promised my dad I’d help him set up the restaurant Friday for his senior citizens’ New Year’s Party.’

‘Oh,’ Max said sadly.

Trying to be cheerful Liz said, ‘But we’ll be together Friday night. My folks always let me spend the whole night at Michael and Isabelle’s house. In the meantime, you better brush up on your social skills.’

‘I just got back to my room. I think I’m going to get some sleep.’

‘Are you trying to change the subject?’

‘Not at all, but if you have to start work at 6, I think you had better get some sleep as well, my Beauty.’

‘Max…don’t tell me you’re going to back out of our agreement.’

‘I promise I will not disappoint you Friday night, Liz.’

‘I have complete faith in you, Max.’

‘Good-night, my mate.’

‘Good-night, my mate.’

Max smiled with contentment as he closed the door to his room. He was almost looking forward to living up to his agreement with Liz. But before he tried to befriend any of her classmates, he needed a little practice.

And he knew just where to go.



Liz was not having a good day. If it weren’t bad enough that she had to function on practically zero sleep, the fact that seemingly everyone in Roswell had eaten at the Crashdown at some point during the day, except the one person she wanted to see, only made matters worse. Max had offered to come to see her but with the restaurant so busy, she knew that she wouldn’t be able to spend even a minute alone with him. Besides, if she were near him, she knew she would have to touch him, kiss him, make lo…no, she couldn’t even let her mind wander there or she’d never make it through the rest of the day.

“Where are all these people coming from?” Maria asked as she blew a strand of hair out of her face, her hands too busy filling drink orders to perform the task.

“I think it has something to do with the whole Y2K thing,” Michael theorized as he handed Liz one of her orders.

“Y2K?” Liz asked, not getting the connection.

“Sure,” her dad piped in as he brought another order to the pick-up window. “They want to eat at the best place in town one last time before everything goes kablooey.”

“Kablooey? That can’t be a real word.” Maria commented.

Liz rolled her eyes at her father’s explanation. “Dad, it’s going to be just another New Year’s. It’s not like it’s the end of the world.”

“Well young lady, if the world doesn’t come to an end, then today’s receipts will go a long way towards paying for your first semester of college,” her father said pointedly.

“If the rest of the day is this crazy, you won’t be using that money for college…you’ll be using it for my funeral,” Liz said over her shoulder as she carried the tray of food to her customers.




“For God’s sake, why won’t you two just leave me alone?” Carrie spat out as she saw who her visitor was.

“Um, I’m by myself,” Max said as he nervously eyed the cigarette dangling from her hand.

“And what? You came to dig the knife a little deeper?” she snapped. “Or did you change your mind about taking me up on that freebie?”

“It’s Thursday. I’m here to clean your room.” He explained. When she didn’t move from the doorway, he hastily added, “I can come back later.”

Taking a long drag, she sighed and stepped back. “Get it over with.”

Max entered the small room, momentarily stopping in his tracks as the smoky haze invaded his senses. His heart leapt in his chest as the door shut behind him, countless memories wreaking havoc on his recently acquired courage. Gathering his resolve, he made his way to the bathroom and began tidying up Carrie’s recurrent mess.

This was his last room to clean for the day, and he wanted to finish so that he could hopefully begin working on his social skills. He did his job briskly without being any less thorough than usual, even as his attention was continually being drawn to the raven-haired girl who had tried to seduce him. She had plopped down in one of her chairs, positioning it with her back to him so that she could stare out the window. If it weren’t for the occasional movement of her hand from her mouth to the overflowing ashtray on the table, he would have thought she had fallen asleep. Seeing her from this angle, he could understand how that Paulie guy might have mistaken Liz for her. Both girls were short with dark hair, although even with his limited knowledge he could tell that the flat black tint of Carrie’s mane was anything but natural. He could even picture Liz wearing the faded jeans and simple black top that currently clothed the young woman ignoring his presence.

He made sure all his supplies were packed up before he grabbed the nearly full trash bag and approached her. He gingerly reached for the ashtray, his hand instinctively recoiling when she moved to put out her cigarette. She caught his reaction out of the corner of her eye but refused to look at him. He quickly shook the ashes into the bag and tied it up, setting it next to the supplies.

“I’m all done,” he said, more to himself than to her. When she didn’t answer him, he began to wonder whether this was such a good idea after all. In any case, there was one thing he had to do. “Carrie?”

“Sayonara,” she mumbled dismissively.

“May I talk to you?”

“Now how did I know that you didn’t come here just to clean my room? You could have sent ol’ Juanita to do that, right?”

He didn’t want to admit that had been the plan, at least until this morning. To say his mentor had been surprised when he told her he would still be cleaning the girl’s room was an understatement. Nevertheless, she had merely given him a shake of her head as she reminded him that she would be more than glad to take on the added responsibility if he changed his mind. If this didn’t go well, he just might wish that he had taken her up on the offer. In response to Carrie’s observation, he merely said, “I was not here last week, so Juanita cleaned all my rooms for me.”

When she continued to absently stare out the window he began, “About the things Liz said to you last night…”

“Look pal, this is my room. I don’t need to hear any more of your holier-than-thou crap in my own…”

“She was wrong,” he said in an even tone.

Carrie finally turned to him and fixed him with a skeptical look. “What did you say?”

“It was wrong of Liz to talk to you that way, and I am sorry she did.”

Ignoring the sincerity in his voice, she focused on his words. “Do you always go around apologizing for other people’s actions?”

“I am not apologizing for her. Only she can do that. I just wanted you to know that I do not feel the same way she does,” he clarified.

“That’s easy for you to say now. I seem to recall you were pretty quiet on the subject at the time.”

Realizing that Carrie had no way of knowing he had been silently castigating Liz, he said, “And for that I do apologize to you. Although I should have been more vocal with my disapproval of Liz’s actions, she is well aware that I am not happy with what she did.”

“Apology accepted. Are we done talking now?”

“Actually, I do have something else to tell you, but would you mind going outside to talk?”

“C’mon, you’ve bee in here for over half an hour…I’m not gonna jump your bones. Unless you want me to, that is.”

“Jump my bones?” he questioned.

“You can’t really be this naive,” she muttered, part of her still believing that his reaction to her the last time he was in her room had been nothing more than an act.

“Sometimes I have a hard time understanding people,” he explained. The art of conversation was more exasperating than he could have ever imagined.

Her features softened when she realized he wasn’t bullsh*tting her. Once again, he really had no idea what she meant. “It’s a figure of speech. I’m telling you that I’m not going to try to have sex with you.”

“I did not think you would.”

“Oh, I see. You just don’t want the neighbors to wonder what’s taking you so long in here.”

“No, that’s not it. I…”

Carrie held up her hand. “Relax. We’ll do it your way. Why don’t we sit on the steps,” she suggested as she picked up her pack of cigarettes and lighter.

“Umm…do you mind leaving those in here?” he asked as he pointed to the items in her hand.

“You sure are a demanding one, aren’t you?” she asked in a sarcastic voice, her features revealing that she didn’t mean to be as harsh as she sounded.

He looked around nervously, trying to decide exactly how much he should tell her, “It’s just that I…”

“…have a thing about cigarettes. Yeah, I gathered that.”

Surprised, he gave her a puzzled look. “How did you know?”

“You mean besides the panicky looks you’ve been giving my ash tray?” she quipped as she placed the cigarettes and lighter back on the table. She steered him out of her room and shut the door behind her so they could continue their conversation in a place that didn’t make him feel so uncomfortable. Settling alongside the wall at the top of the stairs, she crossed her legs Indian style and waited for Max to sit down. He slunk down the metal support and leaned against the railing across from her before she continued, her tone now completely serious. “I’ve seen a few cigarette burns in my days, but I gotta admit I’ve never seen so many scars on one person before. I’m surprised you’re even able to look at a cigarette with the kind of damage you’re carrying around.”

His jaw dropped at her observation. “But when did you see them?”

Looking at her watch, she recalled, “Oh, about fourteen hours ago…you in just your underwear…you came to retrieve your crazy girlfriend from my doorway. Don’t tell me you’ve already forgotten?”

Max looked away, not wanting her to see the shame and embarrassment that plagued his features. “No. I did not forget, although I would like to.”

“I’m not trying to upset you. We don’t know each other, and I don’t expect you to tell me what happened with the cigarettes. Now that I know it’s a problem, I’ll be more careful around you, ok? And as for that incident with your girlfriend, we just won’t go there again. Agreed?”

Max closed his eyes a minute to contemplate his response. He had asked to talk to her, but so far he had allowed her to carry the conversation. He could walk away now without exposing any part of his life to this girl or he could do what he had originally planned and use this as an opportunity to befriend someone who was more like him than he wanted to admit. Looking down the stairway he said wistfully, “Liz is surrounded by people who care about her. Her family, her friends…they are always there for her. She doesn’t know how it feels to be truly alone, to have no one else to rely on but yourself. She doesn’t know what it’s like to be you.” Lifting his eyes to meet hers, he quietly added, “But I do.”

Carrie did not react to his admission but continued to stare at him, trying to ascertain his true motive behind this conversation.

“You probably won’t believe me, but she really is a good person. She is the most loving, caring, understanding human being I have ever met. She is usually so…”

“Cruel?”

“No. I assure you, she is just the opposite. I could not believe she was saying such terrible things to you. She has never acted that way before.”

“Maybe you’ve just never seen her act that way before, Max. You might not know her as well as you think you do.”

“I know her better than you could ever imagine,” he said reverently. “Before she came into my life, I had nothing. I can’t begin to tell you all that she has done to help me. I wouldn’t be here right now if it weren’t for her.”

“You’ll excuse me if I don’t join the Liz cheerleading squad just yet,” she said as she started to get up. “As much as I’ve enjoyed your little speech, I really do need to get back to my room now.”

“Wait!” Max begged as he reached out to stop her departure. “I’m sorry. How Liz acted isn’t really what I wanted to talk about.”

“What did you want to talk about?” she asked, wondering what else could be on his mind.

“You do not have to answer me, and please do not think I am criticizing you in any way,” he began, dropping his hand from her arm.

“All right,” she drawled out.

Glancing at the row of doors down the hallway, his eyes landed on the room where Paulie and his friend were staying. “How can you…have sex…with someone you don’t love?”

“Why don’t we go back to my room and you can find out for yourself?” she asked, automatically adding a seductive element to her voice.

Max’s gaze instantly snapped back to the girl in front of him. “Carrie, I cannot…”

“Relax, Romeo. I was just kidding,” Carrie softly snorted out a laugh as a distant look crossed her face, her vision focusing on some invisible object in the parking lot below. Just as Max was about to apologize for stepping over the line with his question, she asked him, “Did you ever play pretend when you were young?”

“I never played any games when I was young,” he admitted with a tinge of sadness.

“I’ve never stopped playing pretend,” she narrated as though she had not heard his reply. “Day after day, I am whoever my date wants me to be, and all I have to do is close my eyes to make him the man of my dreams. Sometimes I make believe he is Richard Gere in ‘Pretty Woman’, and he just showed up in his stretch limo to sweep me off my feet. Other times I imagine he is my husband and we’re on our honeymoon, making love on a warm, sandy beach. Over time I’ve managed to develop quite a few…diversions.” She began to anxiously jiggle her foot as her body began to suffer from the lack of nicotine in her system. “I can even make myself believe that I no longer have any feelings. Sometimes I think I’ve been pretending for so long that I don’t even remember who I really am anymore. If I ever knew in the first place.”

“Then why do you continue to do it?” he asked, both of them knowing what he was really asking.

She could tell by the compassionate look in his eyes that he was not judging her. He honestly wanted to know how she had gotten to this point in her life. “Why else? I need the money?”

“But there have to be other things you could do for money.”

“Probably,” she said thoughtfully. “It’s not like I’m going to be doing this forever, though. As a matter of fact, I’m going back home pretty soon. My mom’s birthday is in the middle of January, and I promised I’d be there to celebrate with her.”

“How far away is home?”

“About a thousand miles…a little town in western Illinois named Kewanee.”

“Does your mother know what you do?”

“No. It would break her heart if she ever found out…she already has enough problems raising my five little brothers and sisters on her own. She doesn’t need to be worrying about me, too.”

“You said she’s on her own? Where is your father?”

“He died when I was ten.”

“I’m sorry,” he said simply, “For everything.”

I don’t want your pity, Max.”

“I’m not trying to give it to you. I just meant that I understand…how it feels to be all alone. And I know what it is like to do things that sicken you, if it’s the only way you can survive.”

“Well, this certainly isn’t what I had planned for my life, but it will be over soon enough. Before long this will all be behind me and I’ll finally be where I really want to be.” No longer feeling comfortable discussing the hows and whys of her own life, she gave Max a friendly smile and asked, “So what about you? Where’s your family?”

“Liz is all the family I have.”

Carrie wanted to offer him her condolences in jest, but she though better of it. Regardless of how she felt about the arrogant girl who had sat in judgment of her, it was obvious that Liz was very important to Max. And no matter how much Carrie wanted to pretend otherwise, she couldn’t deny that Max intrigued her. She had almost been insulted when he had refused her initial sexual advances, but at the same time she couldn’t help but have a healthy dose of respect for someone who had such noble notions of love. After the encounter with his girlfriend last night she thought perhaps she had given him a little too much credit, wondering how he could pledge his love to an obviously heartless person.
The fact that he was here with her now, willing to accept responsibility for his part in that unpleasant confrontation, went a long way in restoring her opinion of him. And on top of that, he seemed genuinely concerned for her. As far back as she could remember, she had never known a guy who wanted nothing more from her than her friendship. This was definitely uncharted territory.

“Any friends?” she asked.

“A few people I’ve met through Liz. Juanita. Some of the other tenants,” he recounted. Making his point obvious he added, “Hopefully one more after today.”

Her heart soared. He really did want to be her friend. Without all the sexual stuff to get in the way, she hoped that maybe she wouldn’t have to pretend with him. “I’d like that, Max.” He gave her a shy smile before she continued, “I don’t want to cut this short or anything, but I really need to get back inside and have a cigarette.”

“That’s ok. I promised that I would spend some time with D.J. and Cambell, so they’re probably waiting for me.”

The two stood up at the same time, both going back to her room. Carrie waited until Max had left with all his cleaning supplies before lighting up, her mind instantly wandering to the scars she had seen on him. He hadn’t gone into any detail when she had asked about his family, so she wondered whether someone related to him had caused the grotesque mutilations. Had he lived such a terrible childhood that he had never been allowed to play any games as a child? There were so many things she wanted to know about him that it was almost worth sticking around this hellhole to find out.

Almost.



Max stayed with Cambell and D.J. until their mother came home at six o’clock. He had planned to make a small dinner for himself once he got back to his room, but he could not refuse the boys’ pleas to stay and eat with them after Kelly had made the offer. Not only did he enjoy watching his young charges interact with their mother, but it served as a distraction from his body’s mounting need to make love to Liz.

He was fortunate that he had been able to suppress his desires to a manageable level, the knowledge that it was too risky for them to attempt an encounter bolstering his resolve. And although Liz generally had a more difficult time controlling her urges, she had run herself so ragged waitressing that her body craved little more than a good night’s rest.

The couple had communicated back and forth as Liz performed her bedtime routine, her voice gradually fading away soon after she laid down. She was fast asleep. Nevertheless, he waited another hour to be certain she would not awaken before he retrieved the journal that contained the history of Antar.

As much time as it seemed to take him to translate the first two books, he knew it would be a few weeks before the others began to question what this third book had to say. If only he hadn’t admitted that he could read it…

He flipped through the journal for the hundredth time, knowing that he wouldn’t find what he was searching for. Towards the end of the book, it was obvious that several pages had been hastily removed, pages detailing the history he should not be able to remember.

In the long run, any attempt he made to erase the truth probably would not make a difference. Although it seemed they could not remember the vast majority of it, the fact remained that Michael and Isabelle had been instilled with the data the books contained. It seemed Michael was correct when he indicated the information they could recall was instinctual. They knew what they were and how to use their associated powers. They had already known what a diad was the first time he had met them. If they should happen to gain access to more of their untapped knowledge, it more than likely would center around him, especially since they had ended up here of all places.

A few weeks.

A few weeks before he had to decide what to do, what to tell Liz. A few more weeks to pretend that he could have the life, the family he wanted. Whether it was presented in written form or revealed by those he considered his friends, the reality of his identity would be exposed. And once that happened, he knew that the one person on Earth who loved him no longer would.


posted on 22-Jun-2002 12:20:35 AM
Chapter 58


“What’s your poison?” Maria asked in her finest bartender voice, straining to be heard over the pounding beat of the music.

“Cherry Coke if you have it,” Liz yelled to her best friend as she twisted back and forth on the barstool.

“Sure thing, chica.”

Liz positioned herself so she could see the card table across the room where Michael, Tommy and Kyle were sitting. A proud smile came over her face as she watched Max’s eyebrows furrow in concentration, his gaze focused on the cards in his hand as Alex, his own personal guardian angel of poker, peered over his shoulder and advised him on his next move.

“Look’s like Max is having a good time,” Maria said as she set Liz’s drink down.

Cupping her hand to her ear, Liz leaned closer to Maria, “What did you say?”

“I said, ‘It looks like Max is having a good time’.”

“Max is having a cool lime?” Liz asked, confused.

Maria rolled her eyes. She held up her finger to Isabelle to indicate she was taking a break as she stalked out from behind the bar. She picked up the plastic cup of Cherry Coke and shoved it in Liz’s hand, then proceeded to grab the other hand to drag her friend behind her. They slowly made their way through the throngs of people until they were outside on the empty patio, the loud music now nothing more than a deep drumming sound. They settled down at the picnic table as Maria took a few deep breaths.

“Wow, I cannot believe how many people are here,” Liz commented as she looked back into the house.

“Yeah…I guess everyone wants to party like it’s 1999. Oh wait, it is! At least for…three and a half more hours,” Maria joked as she looked at her watch. “So how’s Max holding up? It looks like he’s having a good time.”

“He was pretty nervous when he saw all the cars here but as soon as we got in the door, Michael introduced him to Tommy. They hit it off pretty well, so that made him relax. I think he might actually be having fun.”

“So one down, three to go? Wow, and you guys have only been here half an hour?”

Liz nodded, “I wanted to be here sooner, but my Dad conned me into helping him with the senior citizens. He wanted me to stay until they did their toast, but thank goodness my Mom talked him into letting me go.”

“Parents…what can you do?” Maria commented.

“Oh my gosh. I forgot to tell you,” Liz’s eyes widened. “My Mom almost found a box of condoms in my room.”

“What? How? Don’t tell me she was snooping through your things,” Maria said in astonishment.

Liz’s cheeks blushed in embarrassment as she admitted, “No. Stupid me left them out on my desk. Max was supposed to take them with him when he went back to the motel, but we forgot to pack them.”

“Oh. That’s not good.”

“Tell me about it. At least they’re safe and sound now.”

“We haven’t really had a chance to talk about this, but I assume that you two finally…?” Maria questioned with raised eyebrows.

Liz nodded enthusiastically, “Christmas Eve was the first time.”

“Wait…did you say a box of condoms? What happened to the ones I gave you?”

Liz’s cheeks deepened again. Quietly she squeaked out, “We used them up.”

“Already?” Maria asked with surprise. “Damn girl, I told you to not use them all in one day.”

Liz ducked her head shyly as she admitted, “Technically, it was more like 36 hours.”

Maria jumped up from the picnic table, “YOU’RE SHITTING ME!!! Oh my God, Liz. You’ve got to be shitting me. One a day, maybe two a day, I could see, but… PLEASE tell me you are joking.”

“Maria, calm down,” Liz ordered, looking around to make sure her friend hadn’t needlessly alerted the people inside.

“CALM DOWN?” she asked as she threw her hands up in the air. “You drop a bomb like this on me and you expect me to CALM DOWN?” Finally lowering her voice, she added, “I gave you ten condoms. Ten. That’s like once ever 3.6 hours. Besides the fact that you would have needed to stop for food…and sleep, this was your first time, Liz. How did you handle the pain factor?”

“Max helped me take care of that part. He taught me a little trick—mind over matter I guess you’d say.”

Maria looked at her best friend in disbelief. “So you really used up ten condoms in a day and a half?”

Liz simply nodded.

“Have you slowed down any or are you still going at it like rabbits?”

“Nice analogy there, ‘ria.”

“You know what they say…if the condom fits. Now answer my question.”

“You know, I’m not used to talking about my sex life.”

“You’re Liz Parker…you shouldn’t even be having a sex life.”

“In any case, will you promise to keep this between you and me? No accidental running off at the mouth, not even to Michael?”

“I promise, Liz.”

Liz gave her best friend a doubtful look. Even so, she knew Maria would browbeat it out of her eventually. She might as well just get it over with. “Well, since my folks are back in town, we aren’t doing it once every 3.6 hours anymore…”

“But you would if you could?”

“It’s so weird, ‘ria. It’s like Max put some kind of force on me. I can’t get enough of him.”

“He’s that good, huh?”

Making sure they were still alone in the cool night air, Liz said quietly, “If we go too long without making love, I start crawling out of my skin with this…craving for him. I even went to the motel at two in the morning to be with him, it was so bad. I think it has to be alien related somehow—even though Max is my first and all, I know it can’t be normal to be this…needy.”

“What’s so great about normal, anyway?” Maria teased. “But I gotta tell you, as far as why it’s happening, I really think you two are just horny for each other instead of it being some alien influence. I mean, Spaceboy and I sure like doing the deed, but I don’t need it so bad that I would risk my safety just to get some. That’s just crazy.”

“That’s not the only crazy thing I did that night,” Liz said pensively. Not wanting to frighten her friend, she decided to omit certain events. “After I ran off to the motel in the middle of the night, I went off on a hooker.”

“You went off on a hooker?” Maria asked to confirm that she had heard Liz correctly.

“I ran into this prostitute named Carrie who lives at the motel. I just started yelling these awful things at her about how much I loathed her for what she was. It’s not like I’d ever be friends with someone like her, but I would never say such mean things to anyone. I don’t know why I got so angry with her, but I snapped and suddenly these dreadful words were coming out of my mouth. If Max hadn’t stopped me, I think it might have even turned physical.”

“Yeah, you’re right. That doesn’t sound like you at all. So what did Max have to say about this little encounter?”

“He hasn’t said anything yet, but I know he was upset with me. I tried to talk to him right after it happened, but at the time he was more concerned with me being out alone in the middle of the night.”

“Well I don’t blame him,” Maria said emphatically. “So, did this confrontation happen before or after you…uh…satisfied your craving for Max?”

“Before.”

“See. There’s the problem. Maybe this extreme horniness of yours influences your emotions. You were just so sexually frustrated that you went temporarily insane and didn’t know what you were doing.”

“I don’t think Max is going to buy that explanation.”

“C’mon. What guy wouldn’t like knowing that you wanted his bod so badly you were willing to start a fight to get to him?”

“MARIA!” Liz shouted as she threw her empty cup at her friend.

Picking it up off the patio Maria sighed, “Well, chica. I better cut break time short before Isabelle has a fit.”

Standing up and taking in a final breath of fresh air, Liz said, “That’s ok. The poker game is over and Max wants me to come back in.”

Peering through the patio door, Maria strained to see the card table where the guys had been. When she could see nothing but groups of people standing around, she turned to give Liz a puzzled look.

“What’s wrong?” Liz wondered.

“How do you know the poker game is over?”

“Oh…um…remember how I told you that Max and I could communicate with each other when we are touching?”

“Yeah,” Maria answered suspiciously.

“Well, it seems that one of the side effects of Max and I making love is that we can now talk to each other even when we aren’t touching.”

Maria’s eyes grew wide at the admission. “Wow. That is just too damn bizarre. So, like, can Max hear what I’m saying right now?”

“Yes and no…we’re still trying to figure out exactly how it works. Max can hear my half of the conversation, but he can’t hear you. I can hear his thoughts and what he is saying to the guys, but I can’t hear them.”

“So basically you have two conversations going on in your head, yours and his? I wish I could say I’m jealous, but I can barely keep track of my own thoughts let alone someone else’s. I’m happy keeping my silent communications with Michael restricted to our intimate moments, thank you very much.”

“Well, I can’t hear or talk to Max unless I concentrate on doing so. It isn’t automatic.”

“Oh. Ok, so now I am jealous. I could have some fun with that. Like telling Michael to buy me an engagement ring and letting him think it was his idea.”

“’Ria, you are so bad.”

“And don’t you forget it, baby!”

“I really have to get back in there. Max is getting nervous. Besides, I’m not really dressed to be outside.”

Maria opened the patio door. “After you.”




Ch. 58 continued)

After the poker game had ended, Max watched as Michael, Tommy and Kyle went their separate ways. Tommy joined a group gathered around the television in the den as Kyle circulated through the crowd, slowly making his way to where Tess was gossiping with a group of girls. Michael stepped behind the bar to give Isabelle a break, and she poured herself a drink before going to sit down at the card table with Max.

“Hey, Max. How’s it going?”

“Good. It looks like you’re keeping busy.”

“I’ll say,” she commented as she sipped her drink. “Did you see where Alex ran off to?”

“He went to the bathroom. He said he would be back in a few minutes.”

Isabelle laughed, “Well, he obviously didn’t see the line for the bathroom. I think he’ll be gone a lot longer than a few minutes.”

Glancing around the room to be sure no one was paying attention to them, Max leaned closer to Isabelle and inquired, “May I ask you a question about Alex?”

“Sure.”

“Actually it’s more a question about your relationship.”

“Ok.”

“I know that Michael and Maria have made love, and I was wondering whether you and Alex have?”

“Whoa. You don’t beat around the bush do you?” she asked.

“I am sorry. I do not understand what that means.”

“Well, that’s kind of a personal question.”

“I did not mean to offend you.”

“I know. It’s just that there are certain things you shouldn’t go around asking people, and that is certainly one of them.”

“Oh. In that case, I am sorry that I asked.”

“It’s ok, Max, really. If any other guy had asked me that, I might be upset. But I know you’re still trying to figure out this stuff. The answer is no, by the way. Why do you want to know?”

“Liz mentioned that Alex doesn’t know that you are…different. I just wondered whether that affected how close you allow him to get to you.”

“Of course it does. I mean, there are other reasons besides that why Alex and I haven’t…gone all the way, but I’d be lying if I said it weren’t a big part of it. I always have to keep my guard up, making sure I don’t say or do the wrong thing.”

“Alex seems like an understanding person. Wouldn’t it be easier to just tell him the truth?”

“Sometimes I think so, but then reality sets in and I can’t go through with it. Maria and Liz found out and accepted you and Michael because you gave them back their lives. About the only thing I could do to Alex is take his. Somehow I think if he knew that, he wouldn’t be so understanding.”

“Instead of looking at it in terms of hurting him, consider the fact that you can protect him from harm.”

Isabelle rolled her eyes, “Just what every guy wants…a girlfriend who beats up bullies for him. That’s good for the fragile male ego.” The tone of her voice indicated that she wanted to end this particular part of the discussion, so Max quickly steered the conversation to the other subject he wanted to discuss with her before she could object.

“Isabelle, may I request a favor from you?”

“It depends on what it is,” she answered, concerned over his sudden change in demeanor.

“It has to do with Liz. Since you do have…certain special abilities, will you please protect her for me?”

“Of course, Max. Michael already talked to me about your worries over Jake. If he shows up anywhere near Liz, I won’t hesitate to do what I have to to keep her safe.”

“I don’t mean just Jake, Isabelle. Please, promise me, that you would protect her from anyone who was trying to hurt her,” he asked, the desperation apparent in his voice.

“Sure, Max. I promise,” she said with trepidation, “but who else would want to hurt her? Do you think those other two guys might…?”

Her question was cut off by a pair of hands clamping down on her shoulders. “Hey, Poker Buddy,” Alex said to Max before he bent down to kiss Isabelle on the cheek. “Babe, the toilet upstairs is plugged, and there’s water everywhere. I couldn’t find anything to unclog it with, so can you look for a plunger and some rags for me?”

Isabelle groaned. “Yeah. Can you just give me a minute?”

“Only if you want a bigger mess to clean up. The natives are getting restless.”

“I guess we’ll finish our conversation later,” Isabelle said to Max as she stood up from the table.

Max just gave her a sad smile as she and Alex walked away. When they were out of sight, he stood up and headed in the direction he had seen Liz go earlier.

‘Liz, where are you?’ he silently asked.

‘I’m outside on the back porch with Maria. Are you all right?’ she inquired, feeling the nervousness coming from him.

‘Yes. Our game is over. I am alone right now.’

‘Do you want me to come back in?’

‘I don’t want to interfere with your talk.’

Even as he said the words, Liz knew that Max needed to see her. ‘We were just finishing up anyway. I’m coming in right now.’

‘I love you, my mate.’

“Hey Max! Come here. You’ve gotta see this new Nintendo system,” Tommy called to him as he passed through the living room. Max looked back and forth between Tommy and the dining area, debating whether to go to Liz or interact with his new friend. Noticing the couple of guys sitting with Tommy, he took a few deep breaths before heading over to join them.

‘I’ll be waiting for you by the television,’ he advised Liz. ‘Can’t miss an opportunity to reach my four friend goal, now can I?’

‘Especially since it should be ten.’

“Hey, Max. This is Mark and over there is Tim,” Tommy gestured as he made the introductions.

‘I won fairly, did I not?’

‘That’s debatable.’

“Nice to meet you,” Max said as he held out his hand to the two boys.

Mark just grunted at Max, unwilling to take his eyes of the television screen where he was currently shooting up bad guys.

Tim grasped Max’s hand and gave it a firm shake as he said with a smile, “So you’re the guy who’s dating Lizzie Parker, huh?”

‘If you would like a rematch, I’m sure Michael would let us use his room.’

“Yeah, that’s me.”

“She’s a nice girl. A little too straitlaced for my tastes, although I gotta admit she’s looking pretty hot tonight,” Mark complimented as his eyes rapidly shifted between Max and the television.

‘Oh no you don’t. As um… excited as I am, I’d end up letting you talk me down to zero in no time just so we could spend the rest of the night making love.’

“She’s the best thing to ever happen to me.”

“You’re a lucky guy,” Tim agreed.

‘And this would be a bad thing?’

“So Tommy, what is this Nintendo you wanted to show me?”

‘Don’t tempt me, Max! Do you remember what you promised me earlier this evening?’

“Mark got the new UK2000 game for Christmas. Have you seen this thing?”

‘You’ll have to refresh my memory, Beauty. Did I make this promise before or after you ended up naked in my bed?’

“I don’t believe so.”

“I’m gonna go get something to drink while I wait my turn. You guys want anything?” Tim asked the group.

“Get me a beer,” Tommy requested.

“Me too,” Mark added.

‘After you so easily seduced me, I made you promise that we would stay downstairs and mingle instead of hiding out all night.’

‘Oh, that promise. Well you will be glad to know that Tommy has just introduced me to two other people, and I’m actually making an effort at conversing with them as this very moment. As for the rest of it, I believe that if I do end up spending time on the second floor of this house, it will be at your request.’

“I’ll have whatever you are having.”

‘You mean you don’t want me as much as I want you?’

“C’mon, Mark. You can play this any time. Let Max have a chance to try it out.”

‘You cannot honestly believe that, my Beauty, especially since you are wearing that dress. It is taking every ounce of my restraint to not steal you away from here and spend the rest of the night removing it from your exquisite body once again. However I gave you my promise, and I plan to keep it unless you direct otherwise.’

Mark grumbled as he handed the game controller to Max.

‘You never cease to amaze me, Max. I wish I could be even half as strong as you are.’

“What am I supposed to do with this?”

“You mean you’ve never played a video game before?”

‘Oh no. They want me to play something called a video game. What should I do?’

‘Let them teach you how, I guess. Listen, if you think you’ll be ok for a while, I’d better go stand in line for the bathroom before I join you.’

“No, I haven’t. Will you show me what to do?”

‘I’m sure I will be all right. However, I believe I will need to focus my complete attention on learning this video game.’

‘I’ll stay out of your head, then. I’ll come to see you as soon as I can.’

‘Liz?’

‘Yeah?’

‘I think you are much stronger than you know, my love.’

“No problem. See the buttons here. Each one makes the guy on the screen do different things. Button A makes him jump, B and C make him hit or kick, and D is for his weapons. Now you have to do hand to hand combat to earn your weapons, so D doesn’t come into play until the higher levels. If you’ve never played a video game before, you probably won’t get past level one, so I won’t bother getting into the different weapons you can earn….”




Alex and Isabelle were just coming downstairs as Liz got in the long line for the bathroom on the main floor.

“Hey, everybody. The upstairs bathroom is operational once again,” Alex announced, holding his hands over his head in a triumphant Rocky pose as sporadic applause filled the room. He protectively moved Isabelle out of the way as a large group of people hurried to the stairs to take advantage of the repaired facility.

“Alex, you’re my hero,” Liz teased as the line in front of her was instantly reduced by half.

“I live to serve, my lady,” Alex quipped as he took a deep bow.

“Speaking of, aren’t you supposed to be playing bartender?” Liz asked Isabelle.

“Well, Michael stepped in to give me a break since Maria abandoned me, but I spent it helping Alex fix the toilet.”

“Awww. How romantic,” Liz teased. “Seriously, I didn’t mean to keep Maria away for so long. Don’t worry though. She’s back to work now.”

“Liz, if you really need to go to the bathroom, I can get the keys and unlock the one in my dad’s office,” Isabelle offered.

“No, you don’t have to go to all that trouble. I’ll be fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. You two kids go and have some fun before you get roped into bar duty again.”

“All right. See you in a bit.”




“You are one lucky S.O.B., Max,” Tommy said admiringly.

“Or you were just bullshitting us,” Mark added, the accusation obvious in his voice.

“What?”

“There is no way in hell that this could be your first time playing Nintendo. You nailed every last friggin’ shot. I’ve been playing this thing practically nonstop since Christmas, and I haven’t gotten anywhere near level 30,” Mark complained.

“I am telling the truth. I have never played this game, or any other video game, before. I am able to learn things quickly, and I think that and a lot of luck,” Max said as he gestured towards Tommy to acknowledge the boy’s previous comment, “is the only reason I did so well.”

“Here’s your beer, Max. It’s probably warm by now, so you might want to go exchange it for a cold one,” Tim said as he handed the can to Max.

“I don’t mind that it’s warm,” Max answered as he flipped the top to open it, just as he had seen the others do. “Thanks for getting it for me.”

“Hey. How about a toast?” Tommy piped in as he raised his beer can. The other two lifted their cans as well, so Max followed suit. “To our new pal, Max. The best damn UK2000 player I’ve seen yet.”

“Salud!” Mark yelled.

“I’ll drink to that!” Tim added.

Max watched as the three boys greedily gulped down the rest of their beers. He lifted his own drink to his mouth but before the first drop reached his lips, the can was unceremoniously ripped from his hand. He began to protest the sudden theft until he saw the panicked look on the pilferer’s face.

“Max! Don’t drink that!”

“Liz? What’s wrong?”

“Um, nothing,” she said, not wanting to reveal the reason for her distress in front of the others. Putting the can behind her back, she leaned up and gave Max a lingering kiss. “I just can’t stand the taste of beer.”

“C’mon, Parker. You can’t deny the man his drink,” Mark griped.

“Watch me,” she said as she set the beer can on the coffee table. “If it’s a choice between me and a beer, I guarantee you I’ll win hands down,” Liz said as she looked over her shoulder at the other teen. Silently she urged Max, ‘Let’s get away from these guys. I have something important to discuss with you. Now.’

The couple began to walk away from the three boys when Tim called after them, “I don’t know that you should be giving your boyfriend any ultimatums, Lizzie. He’s pretty dangerous, you know.”

Abruptly stopping in her tracks, Liz turned around to face the group. “Excuse me?” she asked, unable to conceal the shock on her face. Quickly recovering, she made a feeble attempt to mask her concern by giggling as she hesitantly questioned, “Max, what is he talking about?”

‘Liz…’

“You could have seen for yourself if you had been here a few minutes ago,” Mark said cryptically.

“Seen what? What happened?” she inquired, her heart beating a little faster. Had Max done something to make them suspicious of him? Damn! Why had she left him alone for so long?

‘I swear to you, Beauty. Nothing happened,’ Max silently pleaded.

“Relax, Liz. These guys are just trying to ruffle your feathers. They just mean that you should have seen Max kicking some ass on this new Ultimate Killer game. He’s got some great hand-eye coordination going there,” Tommy explained.

Liz slowly released the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. “What is it about guys and video games? You know, you take those things way too seriously for your own good.” Squeezing Max’s hand tighter, she said to him, “I better get you away from here before these jokers completely corrupt you.”

“I may be a joker, but at least I’m not whipped,” Mark grumbled under his breath.

“Careful Mark. You’re looking a little green, there,” Tommy said mockingly.

“Yeah. If you get any more jealous, you’ll look like one of those plastic aliens at Lizzie’s Dad’s restaurant,” Tim joked.

“Aw, shut up.”

Liz gave a genuine laugh as the boys argued among themselves, her pulse quickening when Max’s arm came around her possessively as he quickly lead her away.

“That was close,” she sighed as she guided him into the empty kitchen, automatically pulling his body flushwith hers as she leaned back against the counter.

“Liz, I’m sorry that they upset you,” Max said anxiously as he looked at her with forlorn eyes.

“Don’t worry about it, Max. I shouldn’t have let myself overreact,” she shrugged, her eyes crinkling in a reassuring smile. “However there is something I neglected to warn you about. We could have had a major problem on our hands if you had actually taken a drink of that beer.”

“What do you mean?” he asked, frowning uneasily.

“Maria told me a while ago that Michael can’t drink beer or any other alcoholic beverages. It seems that he got very drunk on just one sip. If your physiology is similar to his, you might react the same way.”

“How would I know whether or not I was drunk?” he asked innocently.

Liz thought a moment before she addressed the question, not certain that she should bring up the haunting memories of his time in Jake’s captivity. “One of the flashes I got from your nightmares was of Jake’s friend making you drink some whiskey. Do you remember that happening?”

“How could I ever forget?” he asked sorrowfully, recalling the burning liquid that he had been forced to consume.

She tenderly brought her hand to his face, affectionately caressing his cheek as she prompted him for more information. “Did drinking the whiskey make you feel strange in any way?”

Max closed his eyes to concentrate on that horrible time in his life, drawing strength from his mate’s loving touch. “It is difficult to know with any certainty. I hadn’t slept or eaten for several days, so I cannot say whether my reactions were from the whiskey or just due to exhaustion.”

Although Liz knew from their shared nightmares all that had happened to Max during his time with Jake, hearing him talk about it was still excruciatingly painful and knowing that there was nothing she could do to change the past was almost unbearable. She rested her head on his chest, her lips pressing a chaste kiss on the patch of warm flesh created by the V of his shirt. The soft brush of his lips against her forehead was all it took for a tear to catch in her lashes.

‘Please do not be sad, my Beauty. We should be enjoying our time together.’

‘You’re right. In a little less than two hours, it will be a new century, so I think now is a perfect time to start looking to the future.’

A soothing thumb swept the moisture from her face before his fingers lightly directed her lips up to meet his, his love comforting her as he slowly swept away her sorrow with his gentle kisses. His hand instinctively threaded through her hair as their kisses deepend, passion quickly threatening to quell the other emotions present in their connection. Reluctantly the lovers separated, torn between continuing with their mutual physical adorations or returning to their friends in the other room. Somehow Liz knew she’d never hear the end of it if Maria caught them making out in the middle of the kitchen.

Changing the subject before they could get too carried away, Liz surmised, “Since we can’t be sure how it will affect you, I think you should play it safe and avoid drinking beer or anything else that contains alcohol.”

“How am I going to determine whether or not something contains alcohol?” Max questioned as he stroked her hair, unwilling to lose all contact with her.

“Just stick to drinking soda or juice and you should be ok. Or you can always just ask, I guess,” she reasoned.

“All right,” he agreed.

“Better yet, only take drinks that Michael, Maria or Isabelle give you. I’ll make sure they know that we decided you shouldn’t drink alcohol, so they’ll only give you things that are safe. How does that sound?” she asked as she looked up into his expressive amber eyes. Seeing all his love reflecting back at her almost made her lose her train of thought.

“I’d do anything for you, my beloved Elizabeth,” he breathed out in a reverent whisper.

“Anything?” she asked, raising her brow inquisitively.

“You know I could never deny a request from you,” he concurred, the adoring strokes of his fingers over her bare shoulders reinforcing his devotion to her.

Reaching up and taking his hand in hers, she ushered him out the door and back into the crowd. ‘Then I suggest we find our own little corner of the dance floor so you can practice your infamous hand-eye coordination on me.’



“Ok, everybody, gather around,” Michael yelled from the second floor landing, his arm firmly wrapped around Maria’s waist. The crowd of guests congregated below them, their chatter dying down as Michael raised his hand to speak. “We’ve only got a few more minutes of 1999 left, so make sure you have your drinks ready for our midnight toast. I just wanted to take this time to make a few announcements. First of all, thanks to all of you for coming tonight. You are the ones who truly make this party great, and we hope you’ve all had a fun time. Second, I know a lot of you are going to want to cut out of here within the next hour, so for those of you who have been boozing it up tonight, you have two choices. You can catch a ride home with one of our designated drivers, who are: my sister Isabelle, Alex Whitman, Randy Clark, Joe Summers and Karen Jones. And for those of you who don’t want Mommy and Daddy to know what you’ve been up to, you’re more than welcome to sleep off your hangover here since my folks won’t be back in town until Sunday afternoon. The ladies will be occupying the upstairs bedrooms while the gentlemen get to sack out in the living room and the den.”

“Hey, Michael, is that so we’re closer to the leftover food in the kitchen?” a male voice called out from the back of the room.

“We invited you to the party, Sean. Do you really think there are any leftovers?” Maria hollered back, followed by a chorus of “ouch”es and “oh”s.

“Third,” Michael raised his voice, “there are no…”

“Two minutes ‘til midnight,” Alex shouted.

“Hurry it up, Michael,” Maria prompted.

“Third, there are no private rooms tonight. I don’t feel like washing a ton of sheets so if any of you couples get the urge to do the nasty, then by all means go get a motel room. Finally, have a Happy New Year everyone!”

“Thirty seconds!”

“Shouldn’t we have our drinks ready?” Max bent down to whisper in Liz’s ear.

“Don’t worry about it,” she murmured back, “I have a better plan.” She pressed her back into him and wrapped his arms tightly around her waist, turning just enough to stare up into his eyes.

“Here we go!” Maria directed.

“TEN!”

“NINE!”

“EIGHT!”

“SEVEN!”

“SIX!”

“FIVE!”

“FOUR!”

“THREE!”

“TWO!”

She reached up and pulled his mouth down to meet hers, the sweetness of his lips compelling her to instantly deepen the kiss as she silently whispered a timeless mantra of passionate devotion to her mate.

“ONE!”

His entire being surged with loving contentment as he poured every ounce of adoration into the kiss he was giving the young woman who had so easily captured his heart.

“HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

Completely oblivious to the revelry surrounding them, it was several minutes before the young couple broke away from each other.

“I had to make sure I was kissing you at midnight,” Liz said quietly.

“Why?” Max asked curiously.

“Because my Grandma Claudia had a saying: the first person you kiss after midnight on New Year’s is the one you will spend the rest of the year with.”

Max buried the notion that Grandma Claudia’s proverb would soon be put to the test. He only hoped he could somehow prove her right.


posted on 22-Jun-2002 12:22:59 AM
Chapter 59


“Wow, chica. It is like ten in the morning and you’re still up here? I thought for sure that you’d run downstairs to be with Romeo the second you woke up,” Maria marveled as she stretched to work the kinks out of her back, her mouth automatically forming a yawn as she finished.

“He’s a little busy right now,” Liz explained.

“Too busy for you?” Maria asked with surprise.

“He’s working on new friend #5 at the moment. Adam Ramirez.”

“So why don’t you go give him some moral support?”

“I have to stay up here. All the guys are in the kitchen making breakfast for us, but they want it to be a surprise.”

“How did you find out then?” a familiar voice asked from the doorway.

Maria and Liz exchanged glances that indicated neither one of them had known Tess was close enough to listen in on their conversation.

Thinking quickly, Maria’s eyes widened, “Didn’t you know, Tess? Liz has psychic abilities. She can read minds.”

“Really?” the gullible blonde asked as she came into Michael’s room and sat on the floor. “You know one of my aunts on my Dad’s side had some type of psychic power. I think she had premonitions about what was going to happen in the future.”

“That’s generally what a premonition is, Tess,” Maria said, turning her head sideways so the girl wouldn’t see her rolling her eyes.

“Tess, Liz doesn’t really have any psychic abilities,” Isabelle grumbled as she sat down on the bed next to Maria.

“Then how did she know about breakfast?” Tess asked dejectedly.

“That’s easy. First of all, take a good deep breath. Smell the food cooking? It looks like we’ll be having bacon…scrambled eggs…French toast? no…pancakes…freshly squeezed orange juice…and coffee…lots of coffee for some of us…for breakfast. And since we’re all still up here, that must mean the guys are the ones doing the cooking, especially since it smells like they may have burnt something.”

“What about the surprise part then?”

“Obviously the guys want it to be a surprise. Otherwise they would have been up here half an hour ago dragging our butts out of bed and begging us to help them.”

“I guess I didn’t think of that,” Tess observed.

Liz gave Maria a relieved look. She was definitely going to have to be more careful about what she said. Her connection with Max was the most natural thing in the world to her, so much so that she could easily forget how otherworldly it actually was.

Deciding it would be best to change the subject, Maria looked out into the hallway and asked, “Did the other girls go home already?”

“Yeah,” Isabelle answered. “Shelly caught a ride with Gina and Tina about an hour ago. Pam and her gang took off as soon as she was sober, and Trudy said she had to go practice for some play.”

“It’s a musical, not a play,” Maria muttered, “and the part shouldn’t have gone to someone who can’t sing her way out of a paper bag.”

“But at least you’re not bitter about it,” Liz gently teased her friend, knowing how much Maria had really wanted the part.

“Look on the bright side, Maria. Since you don’t have to spend all you’re free time practicing, you have more time to spend with Michael,” Tess said cheerily.

Maria gave Tess a light smile. Looking around at her friends, she asked, “Speaking of, what does everybody have planned for today? Anything special?”

“Alex and I talked about going out to Mirror Lake if it isn’t too cold out,” Isabelle began.

“If it is too cold you could always snuggle up under a blanket together,” Tess suggested. “Kyle and I are going to see a movie, if we can ever agree on which one to see. He’s into those weird martial arts ones, which I can’t stand. And of course, he won’t be caught dead going to a chick flick. How about you two?”

“I’ve gotta get my folks’ car back pretty soon or they’re going to throw a fit,” Liz said. “The restaurant is closed today, so at least I don’t have to work. Max and I don’t have any definite plans. We’ll probably just spend the day at the mo…his place.”

“Does he live around here, Liz? I’ve never seen him at school,” Tess inquired.

“He doesn’t go to West Roswell,” Liz said evasively, stealing scared glances at Maria and Isabelle.

“Where does he go?” the blonde pushed.

“Actually, he doesn’t go to any school,” Liz admitted, not knowing what else to say.

“Wait. You mean to tell me that braniac Liz Parker is dating a drop-out?” Tess shrieked.

“He’s not a drop-out,” Maria defended. Technically she wasn’t lying, since Max had never been enrolled in a school to drop out of. “He just, um…moved here a few weeks ago.”

“And his parents haven’t signed him up for school yet?”

Liz wanted to scream. Why did Tess have to be so damn nosy?

“It’s just a paperwork problem,” Isabelle interjected. “Something about not being able to find his transcripts, right Liz?”

“Right,” Liz agreed eagerly, thankful that her friends were fast thinkers. Diverting the focus away from Max, she added, “You didn’t tell us what you and Michael have planned for the rest of the day, Maria.”

“Well, we’ll probably spend a good part of it cleaning up all the mess from the party. And washing a ton of breakfast dishes from the sound of it.”

“I can come back and help you after I drop off my mom’s car,” Liz offered.

“Nah, Michael and I have it under control,” Maria said as she waved her hand dismissively.

“Are you sure? I know Max wouldn’t mind sticking around to help out.”

Isabelle gave an exasperated snort. “Don’t feel too sorry for her or my brother, Liz. The reason Alex and I were planning to go to Mirror Lake is because Michael told me in no uncertain terms that these two wanted the house to themselves this afternoon.”

Liz raised a suspicious eyebrow at her friend before picking up the nearest pillow and throwing it at her. “How convenient of you to leave that part out!”

Maria caught the pillow in mid air and tossed it right back at her friend. “Look who’s talking, chica! Or should I call you Bunny? Don’t forget to eat your carrots, Bunny!”

The pillow hit Liz squarely in the face, but before she could get in a retaliatory move, Michael’s voice boomed from the top of the stairs, “Hey sleepyheads! Get your butts up and downstairs on the double! Breakfast’s waiting for you!”

Maria leaped off the bed and dashed for the door, “Whoo! Whoo! Saved by the yell. Last one to the table is a rotten egg!”




“Do you really need to take me back to the motel?” Max asked as Liz pulled away from the Evans’ house, his hand caressing the length of her arm in a reverent manner.

“We’ll only be apart long enough for me to get the car back home. I’d take you with me, but I don’t think you really want to meet my parents,” Liz said dryly.

“What if I said I do want to meet them?” he prompted.

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Max.”

Max pulled his hand away from Liz as though her words had burned him. He quickly turned to look at the scenery passing by outside the car window, not wanting her to see the single tear that so willingly trickled down his cheek. However masking his sorrow from her wasn’t so easy, and she immediately pulled off to the side of the road to give him her full attention. After putting the car in park she turned to him, reaching over and stroking his dry cheek with the back of her hand. “I didn’t mean to upset you. Did I say something wrong?”

“No,” he said in a defeated tone. “I don’t blame you for not wanting your parents to know about me.”

Suddenly Liz comprehended what had brought about his quick change of demeanor. She moved her hand to grip his chin, forcing him to look her full on. She felt an ache deep in her heart when she saw the dampness blemishing his handsome features. She tenderly wiped away the tear with her thumb as she quietly explained. “Max, please don’t think I said that because I’m ashamed of you or embarrassed by you. There’s nothing I want more than to shout from every rooftop that we are committed to each other, that in every way imaginable, you are my husband. I can’t hide how much I love you…anyone who sees us together can easily tell how important you are to me. That means my parents would more than likely notice our closeness, too. Once they do, they’ll put two and two together and will begin asking a lot of questions that neither of us are ready to answer yet.” Moving in close to him so she could grace him with a gentle kiss, her voice wavered, “We’ve already had a few close calls, my love, and I just need to be with you so much right now that I don’t want to take a chance on how they will react. I don’t know what I would do if they tried to make me stop seeing you.”

Feeling her anxiety, he reached up to wrap his hand around hers. “You are right, Beauty. I should not have let myself get so upset. It is still difficult for me to believe that you accepted me as your mate, and I am afraid that there will come a day when you regret that decision.”

She affectionately whispered to him, “I could never be sorry that I committed myself to you, never regret that I’ve been allowed to feel everything you feel when you look at me. To see myself as you see me, and to know that in your eyes I am beautiful, makes me feel like the most cherished person on the face of the Earth. You can call me selfish if you want, but I would never give up all the love you have given me.” She climbed into his lap and wrapped his arms around her waist for support. Holding his face in her hands, she forced his eyes to lock with hers. “Max, this is the beginning of a brand new year. It’s a time to leave the past behind us and focus on our future. From this day forward, I don’t want you to have any doubts about us. I don’t want to hear you think that you don’t deserve me or that you aren’t worthy of my love, because if anything I don’t deserve to be put on the pedestal that you have built for me. All I want is to have your unconditional love and to give you mine in return. Please?”

Max’s only response was a potently drawn-out kiss that sent a shiver of desire throughout Liz’s entire body. His hands instinctively moved to caress her soft curves, her quiet whimpers directing his every touch.

‘Do you know how badly I wanted to help you change out of your dress last night?’ he silently asked.

‘You made sure I knew…but if I had let you, I know exactly where that would have lead. Even I have my limits, and I don’t think I could have made love to you in the bathroom with an entire house full of people listening.’

“Now we’ll never know, will we?” he said aloud as he shook his head from side to side, the mirth evident on his face. As innocently as possible he added, “Although if you don’t get back over there and start driving this car, we’ll find out whether I can resist making love to you out here in the open.”




“Mmm, I could spend the rest of the day just like this,” Liz purred as she ran her hand over Max’s bare chest, her body still attempting to calm itself after their latest bout of loving. It never ceased to amaze her how much joy he felt just having her touch him, the ecstasy of their actual joining sometimes becoming secondary to the simple sensation of her skin contacting his.

“So then why don’t we, my mate?” he breathed against her hair.

“Because I’ve been thinking about the party last night,” she said while her fingers slowly trailed down his arm until they lovingly entwined with his.

“All right,” Max responded apprehensively, not quite certain what she meant.

“Well, the way I see it, you worked very hard to make some new friends. Now I think it is my turn. If you don’t mind, I would like to meet some of your friends here at the motel. It will be nice to put some faces with the names of the people you talk about.”

He brought their joined hands up to his mouth and feathered her knuckles with delicate sweeps of his lips. Not sure whether he should broach the subject, he hesitantly said, “Well, you have already met Carrie.”

“I’d hardly consider her a friend, Max,” she scoffed.

“But I do, Liz,” he said quietly.

She raised up on her elbow to look him in the face, trying to gauge whether he was teasing her. When she saw the seriousness of his expression, she asked, “Since when?”

“Since I went to talk to her about your…disagreement. Liz, you said some very mean-spirited things to her, and I just wanted her to understand that you don’t really feel that way.”

“How do you know that I don’t feel that way?”

He disentangled his fingers from hers to trail them down the side of her face. “You really need to ask how I know what you feel?”

“No, I guess not. I suppose you expect me to go apologize to her.”

“Liz, I don’t expect you to do anything. I hope that you would apologize because you truly are sorry for the way you acted, but if I have to ask you to do it it is meaningless.”

She sighed as she flopped back down on the bed, “Yeah. You’re right. I just don’t know what to say to her…I still can’t believe that I did that. Not that this is any excuse, but I don’t think that I’ve ever felt that much anger before…it’s like I had no control over it…how do I explain that?”

He shifted on the bed until he was leaning over her. “I think it would be enough for her to hear that you are sorry without having to try to explain yourself.”

She gave him a resigned smile. “All right. She’ll be the first person we go to see. But then I want to meet Juanita.”

Max grimaced, “Sorry, Beauty. She isn’t here on the weekends.”

“Well, this is turning out to be a really great plan,” she pouted. Worming her way underneath his warm body she rubbed her head against him like a playful kitten, her voice anything but innocent as she pleaded, “Let’s just stay in bed after all.”

Torn between his desire to satisfy his mate and his eagerness to share his friends with her, he quickly suggested, “If we can manage to delay making love for a little while, I can take you to meet Ginny. You can even see the picture of Michael’s donor.”

“I guess that will have to do,” Liz said with feigned exasperation, the corners of her eyes crinkling in a smile as she gave them an exaggerated roll. She reached up and pulled his face close to hers until their lips barely met. “As long as you promise to make love to me once more before I have to leave, you can take me to meet every last person in this building.”

“How can I resist such a tempting offer?” he asked before he gently tugged on her bottom lip, needing to taste the sweetness of her mouth. She teasingly allowed him entrance a little at a time, mimicking the way he had tormented her earlier when she had been frantic to have him buried deep of inside her. They shared several languid kisses before silently agreeing to depart from the soothing confines of the bed to commence with their plans for the rest of the day.



“She must not be here,” Max said as he and Liz stood outside Carrie’s door.

“She was probably pretty busy last night, with it being New Year’s,” Liz said with a hint of disdain in her voice. When Max gave her a dissatisfied look, she continued, “I’m sorry, Max. I do plan on apologizing to her, but you need to understand that it doesn’t mean that she and I are going to get along.” He started to protest, so she held up her hand to stop him. “I know. I know. If you want to be friends with her, I wouldn’t think of trying to stop you. But that doesn’t mean I have to be friends with her.”

“It would not upset you that I am friendly to her?” he asked with surprise.

“I’m not going to lie to you and say I think it’s a great idea, but if her friendship is something you want, then be friends with her. I’ll learn to deal with it,” she assured, wondering whether she was trying to convince him or herself. “Since she obviously isn’t here though, I guess my apology will have to wait.”

“I suppose so,” he conceded. “At least I know Ginny will be home. I don’t think she ever leaves her room.”

“Then to Ginny it is,” Liz pronounced as she took the hand Max offered and followed behind him. While they made their way back downstairs, Liz brought up an earlier conversation she had had with her best friend. “Maria told me that Michael decided he wanted you to try to find out more about his donor. Did he have a chance to talk to you about it?”

“Yes, he did ask me at the party. And I think it will be much easier for me to talk to Ginny about this with you by my side. I do not want to ask her any questions that may be too personal.”

“Well I’m glad I have a chance to meet to her. I’m sure you would have done just fine on your own, though.” Stopping outside the elderly woman’s door, she turned to face him. Giving him a quick peck on the cheek, she said, “In case I haven’t said it in words, I just wanted to let you know that I am very proud of how well you did last night and this morning.”

“Thank you, my Beauty.”

“And I’m extra proud that you didn’t stop at meeting four new people. See, six wasn’t as bad as you thought it would be, now was it?”

“No, it was not. After the first few times, it got easier,” he admitted. “However, there is one little problem,” he added with a devilish glint in his eyes.

“What’s that?” she questioned, her brows raised curiously.

Wrapping his arm around her waist he bent down to whisper in her ear, the gentle brush of his lips creating a tantalizing wave of heat that circulated throughout her entire body before settling in the places she desired him most. “Since I surpassed our agreed-upon number by half, I believe I deserve much more positive reinforcement than just a little kiss.” He pressed his hardness into her to emphasize his point. “Don’t you agree, my mate?”

“Oh, most definitely,” she said with a seductive grin, leaning her own body into his. “Of course, you can’t forget the concept of delayed gratification. Right now we’re going to knock on this door and visit with your friend Ginny. Your reward will just have to wait.” Before he could convince her otherwise she spun around and knocked on Ginny’s door.

Max gave a frustrated moan before he said with resignation, “Her door is usually unlocked. Try the handle.”

Liz turned the knob and sure enough she was able to open the door. Max took the lead and softly called out, “Ginny?”

“Patrick, is that you?” a frail voice responded.

“No, Ginny. It’s Max.”

“Why of course, Max. Come in, please.”

Max took Liz’s hand and directed her inside. She glanced around at the room’s sparse furnishings until her eyes settled on the petite white-haired woman in the rocking chair. Her eyes were closed, a gentle smile on her face as she listened to ‘Moonlight Serenade’ coming from the small radio next to her. As the song ended, she opened her eyes to find that her young friend was not alone.

“Oh my, where are my manners? I didn’t realize you had a guest with you,” the elderly woman chided, immediately turning her radio off. Her smile returned as she held out her hand. “This must be your Liz. My eyes may not see as well as they used to, but I can still see well enough to understand why you are so smitten with her.”

‘Smitten?’ he silently questioned Liz.

‘She’s saying she can understand why you like me so much.’ Liz replied to him as she accepted Ginny’s proffered hand. “I can say the same for you, Mrs. Lee…”

“Oh please, dear, I think we can dismiss with the formalities. Call me Ginny.”

“Ginny it is,” Liz corrected. “Max has told me quite a bit about you. I’m glad to finally meet you in person.”

“The feeling is mutual, my dear,” she complimented as she placed her other hand on top of Liz’s. Giving it a quick squeeze before releasing it, she inquired, “So what did you two young people do to usher in this new millennium?”

“We celebrated with our friends,” Max volunteered as he pulled up a chair and sat next to Ginny, silently offering his lap for Liz to sit in. Wanting to focus on the upcoming conversation, Liz quietly refused with a sly smile and a slight shake of her head, opting instead to wander the room.

“That must have been quite enjoyable. Although when my husband was alive, we preferred to spend New Year’s alone,” Ginny reminisced. “We would dance the entire night away, just the two of us. On our fiftieth wedding anniversary he vowed that if we were both still around to see the new millennium we would spend it dancing atop the Empire State Building.”

“I’m sorry that you didn’t make it there,” Liz consoled.

“For whatever reason it was not in the good Lord’s plans,” the elderly woman acquiesced. “I had my Bryant for fifty-seven glorious years, so I cannot be overly disappointed that he is not here with me now. Turning her head towards Max’s voice, she advised, “Learn a lesson from an old lady…make the most of every day you two have together, for the end always comes too soon.”

“We’ll remember that,” the couple said in unison, causing Ginny’s mouth to form into a knowing smile. These two were destined for each other.

Trying to move the discussion to what this woman knew of Michael’s donor, Liz questioned, “Have you lived in Roswell all of your life, Ginny?”

“Yes, ma’am. As a matter of fact, I am the third generation of Dupree’s born in Roswell, although strictly speaking I was the first one in my family to be born in the state of New Mexico.”

Liz slowly made her way to the wall where Max had told her the now infamous picture was mounted. Looking over several, she let out a startled gasp as she finally spotted the one she was after. In the center of the photo Michael’s face was staring back at her from across the ages. He, as well as several other young men, was dressed in the uniform of the Confederate forces, his arm around a small boy who looked very much like him. “So is this one of your relatives in the uniform?” Liz asked, attempting to be casual.

Ginny smiled thoughtfully. Mother Nature may have stolen most of her sight, but she still had the wherewithal to know exactly which picture her young gentleman friend’s girl was regarding. “The little boy is my great-granddaddy, Thomas Dupree. The young man holding him is his older brother Charles. That photo was taken in 1863, right before all those young men from the town left to fight in the war. The first battle they were in happened to be at Gettysburg. Out of all of those boys, Charles was the only one who made it out alive. He went on to fight in the Battle of the Wilderness, and spent almost eight months in Spotsylvania.”

“Charles was the only one who survived? Didn’t your great-grandfather survive also, or you would not be here?” Max inquired.

“Well, yes. Fortunately Thomas was only nine years old and was too young to fight in the war. If it had not ended when it did, he more than likely would have gone as well.”

“How old was your great-great uncle then?” Liz questioned.

“Let’s see…1863…1847…Uncle Charles must have been fifteen or sixteen. His birthday was in October, and I think that was taken in April or so…I’d say fifteen.”

“They seemed like they were close to each other,” Liz observed as she carefully studied the picture.

“Yes, my great-granddaddy just adored Charles. He wanted to be just like him, and the two of them were inseparable. After the war ended Charles couldn’t stand seeing all the destruction around him, all the reminders of the friends he had lost. He needed to get a fresh start, so he headed off to Texas. Well of course my great-granddaddy just had to go with him. From what I understand their mother had a terrible fit, but in the end there was no stopping them.”

“If the went to Texas, how did they end up in Roswell?” Max asked, carefully watching the emotions playing across the stately woman’s features.

“It just so happened that about the time they got to Texas, John Chisum was preparing for his first cattle drive into New Mexico. They decided to sign up and sure enough they ended up in Roswell…actually they were part of the group that originally settled the town around 1869.”

“Didn’t it start out as a trading post?” Liz recalled from her history class.

“That’s right. My great-granddaddy loved meeting all the people who passed through here. Eventually he met Ada Mae Bouchet and they settled down together. Not long after that, in July of 1874, my granddaddy was born.”

“What about Charles? Did he have a family?” Max asked, wondering how they would be related to Michael.

“Sadly, no. I think the war affected him more than he was ever willing to admit, at least to me anyway. While my great-granddaddy stayed in Roswell, Uncle Charles continued driving cattle with Chisum, going all over New Mexico, Wyoming, and Colorado. He could never stay in one place very long…it’s like he needed to keep moving or his demons would catch up to him. All that changed once my great-granddaddy passed on. Charles came back to Roswell to care for Ada Mae and help her raise my granddaddy. He always treated them as if they were his own.”

“How old was your great-grandfather when he passed away?” Liz asked in confusion.

“He was quite young, at least by today’s standards…he stepped in the middle of an argument between two men at the trading post and ended up being shot dead. He was only twenty-four.”

“How terrible that must have been. I can’t imagine not being able to see your own child grow up,” Liz commented.

“It nearly broke Charles’ heart when he got the news. Although he never said it directly, I think Uncle Charles felt guilty for not settling here when Thomas did…like he could have prevented the shooting somehow. He more than made up for it, though. My granddaddy was barely three when this happened, so Uncle Charlie was the only father my granddaddy ever really knew.”

Although she already knew the answer, Liz asked anyway, “From the way you talk, it sounds like Charles lived long enough for you to know him personally.”

Ginny nodded her head, “He was able to outlive both my granddaddy and my daddy. I think a combination of good stock and a lot of luck allowed him to have such a long life.”

“How old was he when he finally passed away?” Max queried.

“One hundred and two. And I’d say for the first one hundred of those years he was as sharp as a tack. It wasn’t until all that alien nonsense happened that he began to slip,” Ginny said with a hint of bitterness in her voice.


Liz perked up at the mention of the aliens. “Alien nonsense? Do you mean the crash that supposedly happened in 1947?”

“That’s the one. The government told everyone it was just a weather balloon, but there was no way to stop the naysayers from putting all those crazy notions about aliens and space ships and cover-ups into people’s heads.”

“What did that have to do with Charles?” Max asked cautiously.

“Well, I used to go and visit Uncle Charlie at least once a week out at the Sandview Nursing Home where he lived.”

“Sandview? I’ve never heard of it,” Liz commented.

“Oh, it used to be on the outskirts of town, but it hasn’t been there in quite some time. It was torn down in the early sixties to make way for one of those open-air shopping malls that were all the rage.”

Moving the conversation back to the aliens, Max questioned, “So Charles was one hundred when the ship crashed?”

“Supposedly crashed,” Liz corrected.

“That’s correct. As I was saying I would visit him all the time. My aunt and a few of my brothers would also go and visit with him, but I was the one who saw him the most. A few weeks after this rumored crash happened, Uncle Charlie started telling me a story about one of the young ladies who worked at the nursing home. He swore up and down that he had seen her turn from a nurse into a little green alien, complete with big black eyes. Claims she even took some blood from him. I did my best to placate him, but when the other relatives caught wind of this, they figured he had finally lost his mind. He was a very old man after all, so it wouldn’t have been unusual for him to be a little on the crazy side.”

“But you believed him?” Liz asked, trying to sound surprised without coming off as being judgmental.

“I myself thought the whole sighting story was nothing but a bunch of nonsense invented by the town leaders to revive the ailing economy, so it wasn’t so much that I believed him. After all, he could never even point out which girl he had been talking about, but I could tell that he believed he had seen an alien. Regrettably he became so consumed with this aliens hogwash that the rest of my family tired of hearing it. Their visits to him became fewer and fewer until eventually they refused to go visit with him at all.”

“What about you? Did you stop seeing him?” Max asked curiously.

“I never stopped visiting him. For his sake I continued to see him and listened when no one else would. He passed on a couple of years later, although I am still uncertain whether it was due to his old age or his despondency over everyone thinking he was senile when he knew he wasn’t.”

“Did you think he was senile?”

The sadness in her face was apparent. “That was the most unsettling part of the entire situation. Even to his dying day, he still appeared to have all his senses about him, except when it came to this one issue. I can only wonder what would have happened if he had never heard any of that rubbish about alien sightings.” Her eyes raising to give Max a piercing look, Ginny’s cheeks faintly blushed, “Oh dear, I am so sorry for monopolizing the conversation. I’m sure the last thing you two want to hear about is some long-gone relative of mine who was foolish enough to believe in aliens.”

“You might be surprised by what interests us, Ginny,” Liz replied. Certain that any further discussion of Charles would only bring more sadness, Liz perused some of the other photos on the wall. “You have quite a few pictures, here. Are any of these your children?”

“No, dear. I am afraid that Mr. Lee and I were not blessed with any children. Those are all our nieces and nephews, although now they are grown up and have children of their own.”

“If you don’t mind my asking, who is Patrick? Is he a relative?” Max slowly questioned.

“No, I am not related to Patrick, although I would be proud to have such a thoughtful young man in my family. Every day…or is it every other day…he brings me groceries and prepared meals through the Senior Supper program. I just can’t take care of myself the way I used to, but at least he sees to it that I am well-fed.”

“Then I take it that none of you nieces or nephews live close by?” Liz asked.

“Unlike my family, they decided that Roswell was too small of a town for them so now they are scattered all about the country. The closest one is my niece Caroline who lives in Tucson. She and her husband come to see me every couple of years, but I know she and her children have a busy life. They don’t have a lot of time to spend with their old Aunt Ginny. Just like you two. You get on out of here and go find yourselves some fun. You have better things to do than baby-sit an old lady.”

“We don’t consider it baby-sitting at all, Ginny. As far as your family, well, they’re the ones missing out,” Liz said as she knelt down besides the elderly woman. “I used to love spending time with my Grandma Claudia. Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my life came from her.” Taking Ginny’s hand, she continued. “You remind me of her. If you don’t mind, I would like to come back again and get to know you better. You have so many interesting photos around here, and I’m sure if they’re anything like Grandma Claudia’s, there’s a story behind each and every one of them. I’d love to hear them.”

Ginny reached out and took Liz’s chin in her hand. “Sweet child, you’ve made my day. I would be delighted to have you visit me again. Your Max here is a very lucky young man to have such a special girl.”

“And I’m just as lucky to have him,” Liz added.

“That you are. He seems to be quite a gentleman. They don’t make many like him nowadays,” she complimented, removing her hand from Liz’s face to stifle a yawn. “If you would be so kind, could you assist me to my bed. I believe it is past the time for my afternoon nap.”

Max hurried to Ginny’s side and held out his arm for her to pull herself up with, his other arm assisting her with her slow ascent to a standing position. She held onto him tightly as she shuffled her way over to the bed, gingerly lowering herself to the side just as Liz pulled the covers back. Kicking off her slippers, she sighed, “Please forgive me for not walking you to the door. I know it is poor manners, but I just don’t seem to have the energy I used to have.”

Max waited until Ginny laid down before covering her with the sheets and comforter. He gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead as he said quietly, “Don’t you worry about us, Ginny. You just get some rest. We’ll come back another time to resume our conversation.”

All Liz Parker could do was stare through her tears at the scene playing out before her and say a prayer of thanks for the man who had chosen her as his mate.



“Ginny is very nice,” Liz quietly said as Max shut the woman’s door behind him. “Thank you for bringing me to meet her.”

“I think she really likes you, Liz,” Max observed. “And I think it will do her good to have regular visitors. Except for Christmas, I haven’t heard of or seen anyone spending time with her, not even this Patrick she spoke of.”

“It’s too bad that her family can’t visit her more often. It seems like she is ending up just like Charles did. It was sad to hear how everyone abandoned him…especially since we know he was right all along. But it surprised me that Vilandra would have been careless enough to shapeshift in front of him.”

Max thought a moment before responding. “I would guess that shapeshifting takes up a lot of energy. If he only saw her do it once, and it was the day that she took his blood for the genetic material, then it is likely that she was already weakening. Perhaps she was just too weak to hold her human form for any prolonged length of time.”

“You’re probably right,” Liz said as she grabbed his hand, tugging him towards his room. “Although at the moment, the only human form I’m worried about holding is yours.” Looking at her watch, she declared, “Alex and Isabelle are going to be here to pick me up in about an hour and a half, so we’d better make the most of our time. I have to work all day tomorrow and school starts on Monday, so this may be our last chance to be together for a few days.”

Scooping Liz up in his arm, Max nuzzled her neck as he whispered, “So what are we waiting for?” Reading his mind, Liz reached into his jean pocket to retrieve his room key, her hand doing a little extra wandering along the way. Just as she found the key, a noise from above startled them apart.

“Hey Max. Can you come up and read to me?” Cambell’s small voice called out.

The couple exchanged worried looks, Liz reprimanding herself for being so careless for the second time that day. Fortunately it was doubtful that the little boy had heard their conversation and even if he had, he would have no idea what they had been discussing.

Max stepped out from in front of his door to look up at Cambell leaning over the railing at the same time D.J. came running from their room yelling, “Cambell, get back in here before you get me in trouble!” He went to yank on the younger boy’s arm when Cambell suddenly cowered, afraid of his brother’s wrath.

“D.J., stop,” Max ordered. The older boy froze and looked up to see Max staring back at him. “I don’t think you need to be so rough with your brother, do you?”

“But he keeps coming out here, and I’m sick of yellin’ at him,” D.J. pouted.

“Cambell, why aren’t you staying inside like you’re supposed to?” Max asked the little boy, who finally stood back up when he realized Max had saved him from impending D.J. doom.

“’Cuz I’m really bored in there. Momma’s been gone all day and D.J. keeps actin’ like he’s the boss of me.”

So involved with the scene in front of him, Max jumped when Liz’s voice echoed in his mind, ‘Max, why are those kids alone again?’

‘Their mother has to work. What else is she supposed to do with them? If they stay in their room like they are told to do, then they should be safe while she is gone. Usually Juanita or I am around to keep an eye on them.’

‘Well, you yourself said that Juanita isn’t here today, and you were about to…be…unavailable. Max, it is never safe to leave children alone. There are so many things that could happen to them. We can’t just leave them up there.’

‘What do you want me to do?’

‘I would say bring them down here to your room, but I don’t want their mother to have another reason to attack you.’

‘Their mother won’t be a problem. She apologized to me, and I now understand why she reacted so strongly. She trusts me with the boys now.’

Liz was surprised that Max hadn’t mentioned anything about this to her earlier. She wanted to ask him about it, but she knew that now was not the time. Knowing her response would kill any chance of making love to Max one last time, she conceded with a heavy sigh, ‘I guess it’s settled then. Bring them down here, but leave a note so their mother knows where they are.’

He gave her a grateful look before sprinting for the stairs. She opened the door to Max’s room and sat down on the bed, waiting for the trio to arrive. After a few minutes Max walked in with two suddenly shy boys clinging to the back of his shirt. “Guys, this is my friend, Liz. She’s very nice, so she won’t hurt you. Can you say hello to her?”

Liz couldn’t help but grin at the mumbled greetings she received. Trying to reassure them, she spoke in a lighthearted voice, “So this is the Cambell and D.J. I’ve heard so much about. I think you’re right Max. They do look like a couple of monkeys.”

“I’m not a monkey! I’m a boy,” a little voice protested with a giggle as Cambell’s head poked out from behind Max.

Liz widened her eyes in mock surprise and brought her hands to her face in a Home Alone gesture. “Oh my goodness…the monkey can talk! What a miracle!”

Being called a monkey for a second time proved too much for the younger brother, and he stomped up to Liz with all the authority a five-year-old could muster. Commandingly thrusting his hands on his hips, he said in his most threatening voice, “I am NOT a monkey.”

Stifling the laugh that was welling up inside her, Liz calmly offered her hand to the boy and said with a straight face, “I’m very pleased to meet you, Not A Monkey. My name is Liz.”

Cambell rolled his eyes and let out a growl of frustration. Throwing up his hands he turned to his older friend. “Max, tell her my name is not Not A Monkey.”

“She knows what your name is,” Max teased. “She just wanted to make sure you could really talk, since she couldn’t hear you a minute ago. Now why don’t we try this again.” Uncurling D.J.’s hand from his shirt, he brought the older boy to stand next to his brother, who was still giving Liz an aggravated look. “Pay attention, you two. This is the proper way to say hello to a lady.”

Max bent over and took Liz’s still outreached hand in his own, bringing it up to his mouth. Looking deeply into her dark eyes, he placed a soft kiss on the back of her hand as his love-filled voice spoke, “Good afternoon, Miss Elizabeth. I am glad to make your acquaintance.” Looking over at the boys, Max focused on D.J. “Your turn.”

“Ewwww. I don’t want to kiss a girl,” D.J. protested.

“What’s an uh…uh…quaint ants?” Cambell questioned.

The teens looked at each other and broke into a hearty laugh. “It’s another word for friend, Cambell,” Liz explained. “And don’t worry, D.J. I won’t make you kiss me,” she said with a wink. “But there is something I want you to do.”

“What?” the older boy hesitantly asked.

Liz held up her finger to indicate that she wanted him to wait. All three males watched with interest as she went over to Max’s dresser and began rummaging through the drawers. A worried frown dampened her enthusiasm when she finished searching the fourth drawer and had still come up empty. With only two more drawers to go, she began talking to herself, “I know I put it in here. Which one was it?” A smile instantly crossed her face as she found what she had been looking for in the last drawer on the bottom. “Here it is,” she declared as she pulled out an object wrapped in a brown paper bag. She tucked her hair behind her ear as she approached three sets of curious eyes. Holding up the bag, she began by pointing to D.J. “I want you…to help him,” she continued as she moved her finger to rest on Max, “use this!” With one swift motion, she removed the bag to reveal the remote-controlled car she had bought almost a month earlier. The room was quickly filled with enthusiastic and delighted cheers, making it difficult for Liz to decipher which one of the three was most excited about her surprise.

She handed the box to Max, the boys swarming around him as soon as he sat on the floor to open their new toy. Cambell attempted to read the side of the box aloud as Max worked on removing the dozen or so twist ties that attached the car and controller to the inside cardboard. D.J. picked up the booklet of directions, quickly flipping through it to glean for the most important parts.

Instead of being hurt that she had been so readily forgotten, Liz watched on in silent amazement as the love of her life completely dropped his always serious temperament in exchange for a childish abandon she was certain he had never experienced before. She continued to stay out of the limelight as the three friends took the car for a test drive in the parking lot, content to rest in the chair she had brought out with her. She laughed along with them as the car flipped upside down after a failed attempt at jumping a pothole, and leapt from the chair with concern when the vehicle smashed head on into a parking bumper.

The boys only stopped paying attention to the car long enough to greet their mother when she arrived home, Cambell proudly imitating the introduction Max had taught them. Kelly had a brief conversation with Max before disappearing upstairs to change out of her work clothes, and when she returned she introduced herself to Liz and thanked her for taking care of the boys. She told Liz what a great job Max had been doing of teaching the boys to read, and she had just suggested that he should try to find a career where he could work with children when Isabelle and Alex pulled up in the Jeep. Liz said her good-byes to her new friends before turning her attention to her mate.

The couple held each other for several minutes, both of them realizing how difficult the next few days would be until they could be together again. Liz silently assured Max that she was not upset with him for spending their alone time with the boys, but rather that she had enjoyed watching him have fun. They gave each other a lingering yet chaste kiss before Max helped Liz into the Jeep, his gaze not leaving her until the vehicle had disappeared from view.

From behind the closed curtain, a set of weary eyes looked on with heartbreaking jealousy.

Across the parking lot, a second set of eyes watched the apartment where that do-gooder from the Senior Supper program brought food every other day at precisely 11 a.m. He had been watching the room long enough to know that the old man or lady who lived there would be alone any other time of the day. Soon it would be time to pay a visit and collect whatever funds may be available for the taking.



posted on 30-Jun-2002 9:47:53 PM
Chapter 60 (NC-17)

Liz usually hated working Sunday mornings. Not only were they one of the busiest times of the week, but the crowd consisted mainly of older people who seemed much less forgiving than teens when an order wasn’t right. Of course they tended to tip better, so in the end it evened out. She decided that if she had to be separated from Max, she would rather keep busy anyway…it made it much easier to not think about how much she missed him. As a matter of fact she had been so busy that she couldn’t believe it was already 10 a.m.

“Liz, what are you doing?” Maria hissed in her ear.

“What do you mean?” Liz frowned.

“You just gave Mrs. Osworth the wrong order.”

“Oops,” Liz giggled, finding her mistake quite humorous. “I guess I better go fix it, huh?”

“Yeah, like yesterday,” Maria answered, knowing the middle-aged widow was notorious for her lack of patience.

Liz went back to the table and picked up the several plates of food she had just set down, “Sorry about royally screwing up your order. I’ll be back with the right stuff in a mi