|posted on 18-Sep-2001 5:15:00 AM|
| Title: The Midnight Hour|
Disclaimer: Roswell and all its characters, etc. are the intellectual property of Melinda Metz, Jason Katims, UPN, etc. I own nothing related to Roswell, and no infringement is intended.
Summary: Post-Departure, CC, M/L, M/M, and the rest of the gang. As the group is still dealing with the aftermath of recent events, they are forgetful that other enemies are all around them, waiting for opportunity. When Liz and Maria come up missing one morning, the rest of the group desperately searches for them, unaware that they are now caught up in a conflict larger and more dangerous than any of them realizes....
Author's Note: This is my very first fic and I really appreciate all comments - Thanks!)
He sat, hands clasped neatly in his lap.. he despised these meetings. A bunch of old geezers with too much money and time on their hands; once prominent, powerful. Now they were even more powerful, but they hid it discreetly behind closed doors, around fancy tables like this one. With so much as a lift of a finger one of them could change an economic forecast of a continent.. he laughed inwardly at the prospect.
“So do you understand what needs to be done? What.. can.. be done?” The older man addressed him as if he were a child who needed gentle prodding. “There is only so much the local authorities will put up with before they call in someone who would be more troublesome… the FBI, for example. Of course, you understand we do not usually endorse this kind of thing -”
“I understand, sir… everything will be taken care of,” he replied as politely as he could.
The older man shifted in his seat. “Good. We will do everything we can to.. assist you… this threat to our world – our way of life – must be stopped at no cost.. We cannot stand by while everything we’ve worked for goes into the hands of – outsiders. If this one is as powerful as you say –“
“Oh yes, the king is powerful.. he has many allies on this planet. He will not rest until he has laid your world to waste - as he did my own. But do not worry – I am here to help so that he will not prevail. I will stop him and protect all of our… interests.”
The men murmured to each other in hushed whispers for a few moments, then one by one they nodded to the gentleman who had spoken to him earlier – their leader, no doubt.
“These are desperate times… they call for ..desperate measures and ….sacrifice,” he said in a low but commanding voice.
He silently scoffed at them – they thought they were so important – so powerful. They had no idea how ignorant they really were, and it disgusted him… But as much as he hated to admit it –
“Leave everything to me.”
- Nicholas needed them.
“Max, over here,” Liz called to the familiar figure walking towards her through the night shadows. She watched him as he came and seated himself into the swing beside her own, secretly longing to catch one of the sheepish glances she knew would be cast from his dark, secretive eyes. The two sat quietly for a moment, gently rocking back and forth as the night air rustled in the leaves overhead.
“So, what did you want to see me for, Liz?” Max broke the silence. He noticed the tenseness that developed in her movements, and he knew this was not going to be a friendly quiet chat. She brushed at a stray lock of her dark hair that had moved from its place, and his heart melted. He wanted desperately to stroke her cheek, to whisper to her that everything would be all right, that he would take care of her for as long as they both lived, but something held him back…
“I have something I need to tell you… but it won’t be easy for me to explain,” she said quickly and almost forcefully, noticing his hesitation. She took in a deep breath and let it out, and he looked down at the ground as if he’d been doing that all along. But he could feel her eyes on him, and bashfully he met her stare.
“It’s about you .. and me, Max.” The images of the night his heart split into more pieces than he could count came rushing back to him. A dimly lit room that he had frequented on so many occasions, the faces of his beloved and a confidante glaring back at him from a place he had someday hoped to take his bride. He knew now it wasn’t real, and all it did now was seek to make him feel even worse about his ill-fated night with another.
He quickly tried to remedy the situation. “It’s all right, Liz… I know you didn’t sleep with Kyle. You don’t have to..”
The insistence in her voice compelled him to turn to her once more. “No, Max, you don’t understand. I couldn’t –“
“There you are, Max – I’ve been looking all over for you!” Michael called walking across the park, with Maria in tow. “I need your help on something.” Maria finally caught up from behind and elbowed Michael in the side and he barked in protest. “Michael, I think they’re busy…. Maybe we shouldn’t-“
“Anyway, Maxwell,” he continued as Maria sighed, “I’ve gotta show you something I found – I need you to come see it tonight.”
“Well, what is it?” Max asked him, somewhat dismayed at the interruption.
“It’s too hard to explain, it would be easier for you to just come look at it.”
“But Michael, I don’t think this is the best time, baby,..”
“It can’t wait Maria,” Michael snapped a little more than he’d intended. Now are you coming or not, Maxwell?” He asked shortly as Maria pulled him away, re-airing her grievances.
Max looked back and forth between Michael and Liz, who had been in a stunned silence since Michael and Maria’s entrance. Liz finally returned his stare, and he knew she wanted him to stay with her, even more so than normal. ‘But Michael had been rather insistent, so maybe it was important,’ he thought. ‘Besides, I can’t deal with this right now.’
“Liz, can we talk later?”
Liz turned her gaze over to Maria and Michael several yards away, as wisps of her friend’s shrill, annoyed voice reached them.
“Sure, Max, um… we can talk later,” she replied, trying to sound a little upbeat. “I guess it is getting kind of late, so I’m going to go home anyway.”
Max lightly touched her shoulder, and she turned to him almost expectantly, he thought. “I promise, we will talk – maybe somewhere where we won’t be interrupted.”
She nodded, and she watched him as he walked over to where Maria and Michael were standing. ‘Poor Michael,’ Liz thought, ‘He looks like he’s just been rescued.’ The two guys left Maria standing there, who stomped over to the swings.
“How do you like that? Isn’t there some rule or something that says that men aren’t supposed to leave their women out alone at night? Shouldn’t it apply to space boys, too?”
“I’m not his woman, Maria, remember? Tess had that honor,” Liz replied somewhat sarcastically. Maria, taken aback, looked at her friend, and her mood suddenly altered to one similar to that of an over-concerned parent.
“Oh, honey, you were going to tell him about Future Max, weren’t you? Liz, I’m so sorry, but Michael – well, you know how he can get sometimes.”
Liz shifted uneasily in the swing, and then decided to stand up. “I don’t know, Maria. I mean, I think I shouldn’t tell him anything, but I can’t help it. Everytime I see him, I think about what could have been – with us, I mean. Deep down I know he thinks I was just being mean that night he saw me with Kyle. But now with him and Tess – I mean, how do I handle this Maria? It’s like even though she’s gone, she’s still making my life miserable.” A single tear had started its path down her cheek and she brushed it away. Maria reached over and squeezed her arm.
“Then you’ve got to tell him, Liz. Screw future earth and all that crap! Just make it right when you see him again. Besides, now that she’s gone, … you might as well enjoy him while he’s here and she’s not. Liz didn’t seem convinced, so Maria tried a different approach. Liz, hon, if the world’s gonna end, there’s nothing you can do to stop it now, right?”
Liz smiled at her best friend and begged her not to be too hard on Michael. Maria asked her to come stay the night at her place, but Liz just wasn’t up to it. Finally convincing her of this, Liz gave Maria a quick hug and started walking home. ‘Well, this night certainly didn’t go like I wanted it to,’ she thought to herself. The most comforting thing she could think of would be to drop by the drugstore and pick up a bottle of her favorite bubble bath, then go home and soak her worries away. Since her parents were gone for the next several days, she could turn the music up and have the place to herself. She could think about Max in peace and quiet.
Maria DeLuca watched her friend leave, feeling very much alone. ‘Funny,’ she thought, ‘the air is so much colder when you’re by yourself.’ She pulled her small jacket up closer around her neck as she fumbled for her keys and walked towards her Jetta. She cursed under her breath as she tried in vain to start the engine three times, finally realizing the tank had been closer to empty than she and Michael had thought earlier. She got back out, and kicked the door shut. She reached inside her purse for her cell phone and tried to reach Sean at home, but figured he must have been out for the evening. Her mom was gone for the weekend, so there would be no help there.
Resigned to the fact that she was just stuck, she decided to walk to Liz’s, which was not too far away. Her friend had already left, but Maria knew it wouldn’t have been enough time for her to get all the way home. She locked her car and started towards the Crashdown, hoping she could convince Liz to spend the night with her anyway.
It took Liz a few moments to find what she needed, but soon she was on her way to the register to check out. The clerk handed her the purchase, and as he counted her change, a funny look crossed his face.
“Hey, don’t you work over at that Crashdown place?” he asked her just before she opened the door to leave.
“Yeah, I’m a waitress,” Liz replied, not bothering to mention the rest of the story.
The man nodded as if he were reassuring his memory. “I thought so. Didn’t mean to bother you, it’s just that I was thinking I recognized you from there. A couple of men were in here earlier asking for directions to the Crashdown. Can you imagine that? Asking for directions in a small place like Roswell? They must be from way out of town.”
“I guess you’re right,” Liz replied curiously. “The restaurant’s closed - were they going there tonight?”
“Well, I don’t know, they didn’t say. Looked real fancy, though, kind of like salesmen or something.”
Liz thanked the clerk and headed out the door. Her parents were supposed to meet some suppliers today before they left, but they never showed up. ‘Maybe it was them and they got lost getting here,’ she thought. Knowing how important that meeting was, she hurried her pace. Well, so much for her long bath. This night just kept getting worse.
* * *
As Maria reached the restaurant, she found it odd that the lights weren’t on upstairs. ‘Liz didn’t go to bed this quickly,’ Maria thought to herself. ‘She must’ve stopped off somewhere first.’ Knowing where the spare key was kept, she decided to let herself in the back door and headed up the stairs. Liz’s parents were gone for a few days, so Maria turned on a few lights and headed to Liz’s room to wait on her friend. As she opened the door, someone grabbed her, pulling her into Liz’s bedroom. Maria, kicking and screaming, planted her foot into her assailant’s shin, and he loosened his grip long enough for her to stumble forward towards the window she knew would be open across the room. Suddenly another figure tackled her from behind, his weight coming down on her like a ton of bricks.
“Shouldn’t have done that Lizzie,” the male voice rang out in the darkness as he bound her hands with rope behind her back. For once, Maria was glad it was dark; at least he hadn’t seen the confusion that crossed her face.
The man picked her up from behind and threw her on Liz’s bed. Maria’s head was swimming between dreams and reality.. she saw her current situation – two men who were after her best friend for something… well, something not good anyway. She watched them as they came towards her again – a large, hefty guy and an only slightly smaller one, with fierce, dark eyes. Flashbacks of all the times she and Liz had growing up filled her mind… on the swings in the park… working together at the Crashdown… long nights talking till dawn in giggled whispers. They were standing over her now, and in the dim light she could make out their black clothes, gloves… no one would ever know, she thought. Her mind had been made up even before all that, but it was nice to reflect on her best friend – and all the reasons why she had to convince the men in front of her that she was Liz Parker. She looked into her attacker’s menacing eyes with a look of fear that even the best actor would be envious of… but all along what she really feared was what would happen to Liz if she showed up, and how Michael was going to feel about this.
The one with dark hair and soulless eyes stepped forward.
“We’ve been expecting you, Miss Parker…..”
Nearing the Crashdown, Liz began looking for the two men. The night air had grown quite chilly, and the bright moon above kept distracting her mind from the more immediate task of finding whoever was supposed to be at the cafe. As she rounded the corner, she noticed a vehicle parked down from the restaurant that seemed a little out of place, but the thought passed as quickly as it had entered her mind. Letting herself in, she set her bags down on a table.
“Is anyone here?” Liz called out into the empty dining area, solely to reassure herself that noone was there. She set her things down when she heard a bump in the next room. Her breath stopped as she stood perfectly still, wishing her heart was a little quieter, too. She knew her parents were gone; their car keys were missing from their usual place. She ventured to take a small step forward, only to hear another louder thud. A muffled male voice could now be discerned, and Liz continued moving towards it, ignoring the voice in her own head reminding her that curiosity had killed the cat. When she heard a scream that sounded to eerily like Maria’s, she grabbed the closest thing she could find, an old broom handle, and bounded up the stairs.
“Maria?!” she screamed repeatedly, wielding the broom handle loosely like a martial arts staff. She could hear her friend struggling and crying out from what sounded like her bedroom – what was Maria doing in her bedroom? Liz burst through the door to see a man hovering over Maria, who was tied to Liz’s bed and had a bloodied face.
“Get away from her!” Liz screamed as she swung the handle as hard as she could over the back of the man’s head. He lost his balance and fell to his knees as Maria looked up at her in amazement and a hint of - determination?
“Listen – you’ve got to get out of here, now! They want –“
‘They?’ Liz thought as she very briefly realized what the word ‘they’ implied. Maria screamed a futile word of warning as Liz felt a pair of arms reach around her and grab the broom handle on either side of her body, pulling it tight against her and trapping her in place. She struggled and managed to get loose only to feel an arm reach around her and a hand come over her mouth.
The man on the floor stood up, rubbing the back of his head before turning around. He had dark, piercing eyes, and a gaze that made Liz feel like he could see right through her very soul. He lowered his hand from his head and looked back at Maria, who looked so tired, but the determination Liz had seen earlier still echoed from her frail form.
“Who are you?” the man asked in a low voice. Liz looked frantically around the room, the place that she had once considered her haven of peace when the world was going crazy around her. She swallowed hard, still breathless. “Liz..Parker,” she replied in a voice that sounded smaller than she’d hoped it would.
“So, it looks like we have two Liz’s here – hmm.. must be our lucky night. Or…” he swung around and backhanded Maria’s cheek. Liz watched in horror as her head recoiled against the blow and swelling began almost immediately. “Or one of you has been lying to us all along,” the man said in the same even-tempered voice. “So I wonder which one it is,” he seemingly asked the wall behind them as he brought his hand up for another swipe at Maria, who was still trying to recover from the last barrage.
“Stop it!! I’m Liz Parker – just leave her alone, please!” Liz cried as tears again streaked her face. The man turned around, facing Liz and walked very slowly towards her, stopping inches from her face. She wanted to back away from him, but the man holding her almost seemed to be pushing her forward. He was so close she could feel his breath moving that stray lock of hair that had fallen from behind her ear.
“Liz,… no-!” Maria quietly sobbed between gasps. The face in front of Liz never flinched, however, so Liz could only reach out to her friend in her heart.
“What do you want?” Liz finally managed after enduring what seemed hours of close, silent scrutiny. The man continued his stare, but brought his hand up to her face, moving the lock of hair over to the side of her head. Liz pulled her head back trying to escape his touch, which only sought to - from what she could tell - aggravate him further. He finally moved away from her, walking around her room as if he were surveying it in deep thought.
“I thought we could do this here, but we’re going to have to find some place more…. secluded.”
Liz repeated her question, this time more insistently. “What do you want with us?”
“We only need this one, right?” The man holding Liz spoke up. When the other man nodded, her captor began dragging Liz towards the door. “Good, that one was starting to really get on my nerves.” Liz and Maria shared a horrified glance, then Liz watched helplessly as the other man raised a hand in Maria’s direction. At first Maria didn’t understand, but as if in slow motion she saw Liz’s eyes widen and heard her yell as Maria felt her body fall backwards against the bed. Her mind becoming fuzzy, she saw Michael’s smiling face, which saddened her, for she knew she had done it all for nothing.
“NO!!” Liz screamed as her struggling caught her assailant off-guard. As she fought against his grasp, she saw a hand come up – this time to her forehead. Everything started spinning and colors began to blur and her muscles relaxed against her will. So many things to do, she thought, but right now it was easier to sleep...
“Michael, I thought you needed me for something a little more important than this,” Max said, annoyed. He looked over at Michael, who was a few feet away tossing rocks over a cliff edge, listening to them hit the ground below. Kyle was still at the Jeep digging through the cooler looking for snacks.
“Well excuse me – thought we needed a little guys without girls time. Besides, you sure didn’t look like you were having much more fun back there.”
Max looked off into the sky, the full moon catching most of his gaze. “Liz said she needed to tell me something.”
Michael bent down and picked up another rock. “So what was it?”
“Don’t know. Didn’t you feel bad ditching Maria like that?”
“Yeah, but I just needed some down time… everything has been moving so fast, you know? First Alex dies, then Tess is pregnant, then we’re leaving, then we’re not leaving… I know I’ve had a hard time, but you Max,.. you haven’t said anything since…”
Max walked closer to the cliff edge, picked up his own rock, then tossed it over into the dark abyss. They listened together as it hit the bottom several hundred feet down.
“I don’t know what to do Michael… how could she love me now after what I’ve done? And why did she and Kyle – “
“Why me what Max?” Kyle said as he joined them. When he didn’t answer, Kyle looked at him again. “I said, what Max?”
“Nothing Kyle, forget it okay?” Max replied shortly, walking away from them. Kyle muttered under his breath.
“What was that Kyle?” Michael asked, always ready to defend.
“Just hold your horses, Michael! Don’t zap me okay?! Geez, and to think this might actually have been fun – I must’ve been nuts for coming out here,” Kyle replied hotly.
“Look, Max has had a hard time with everything, alright? He’s not himself, so why don’t you just give him a break?” Michael responded.
“Yeah, well he’s not the only one hurting here… I let that…. thing… have my bedroom, I loved her like a sister,… she knew me better than anyone!! I never thought she would do this – I thought I knew her better than that,” Kyle stammered.
“We all did, Kyle, we all trusted her and she betrayed us… all,” Max rejoined them. “And you’re right, I’m not the only one hurting here… I’m sorry.”
Max suddenly faltered, stepping dangerously close to the edge trying to keep his balance. Michael was there instantly, and pulled him back.
“Are you crazy Maxwell? You almost went over!!” Michael screamed at his friend, who was shaking his head, bewildered.
“Yeah man, I believe you, okay? You don’t have to go all drastic on me!!” Kyle added.
“I don’t know.. suddenly I got all dizzy. It was strange,” Max replied.
“Yeah…,” Michael said slowly. “Well, I guess we should go. Kyle, you drive, okay?”
Kyle nodded, and headed for the jeep followed by Max and finally Michael, who watched his friend intently. He would never admit how he really felt, but Michael was more relieved than he let on that his best friend had stayed on earth with him. The unknown would be easier to face now, and he was grateful.
Isabel walked thru the doors of the Crashdown the next afternoon, exhausted. All she could think of was sitting down in her booth and ordering a cheeseburger, when she saw someone already had her spot. She started to walk to another when Kyle turned around and motioned for her to join him. Rolling her eyes, she plopped down on the other side and looked at him.
“What?” Kyle retaliated. “I was saving it for you!”
“Thanks,” was all she could muster. “Look Kyle, if you’re wanting me to help you dreamwalk your latest fling, forget it. I’m just – “
“No way, Isabel. I was just being nice, honest,” Kyle replied, hurt.
Realizing how she sounded, Isabel relented. “I’m sorry Kyle, I didn’t mean to snap. I’ve just been shopping all day and I’m tired. Liz and Maria were supposed to meet me today, but I guess they had to work or something.”
The bells on the door rang and Kyle turned with Isabel to see Sean deLuca walking towards them.
“Hey,” he greeted them shortly.
Isabel nodded in response as Sean walked past them to the back where Michael was working. A few moments later, both Sean and Michael returned to the table.
“Have you seen Maria, Isabel?” Sean asked her. “She called last night to tell me she was out with Michael and that she was going get Liz to come over and spend the night, but she never came home. I’m supposed to keep an eye on her while Amy’s gone, and-“
“Did they work today Michael?” Kyle chimed in before Isabel could answer.
Michael looked back at him, wringing his hands in his apron. “No, they both had the day off today.”
“They were with me, Sean,” Isabel replied quickly. When Kyle started to open his mouth, Isabel kicked him hard under the table, to which he grimaced and quickly shut it. “We went shopping all day, and they’re still at it. I’ll have Maria call you when she gets here later.”
Sean looked back and forth between Isabel’s smile and Kyle’s frown, but finally seemed convinced.
“Thanks Isabel. She’s so forgetful she drives me nuts sometimes.” With one last look around, he left.
Michael walked behind him and locked the door, placed the closed sign out and pulled down the shades.
“Isabel what’s going on?” Michael demanded as he pulled off his apron and threw it over the bar.
Isabel’s eyes darted back and forth between the table, Kyle and Michael. “I don’t know, Michael, but they never met me this morning to shop – I don’t know where they are. But at least this way we can look for them without Sean breathing down our necks.”
Michael nodded as Kyle and Isabel stood up. They heard a knock at the door, and Michael went to answer it. He returned with Max, who looked as worried as they all felt.
“Tell them what you told me Max,” Michael said quietly.
“Liz was going home last night. I don’t think she was going to spend the night with Maria.”
* * *
All day, Michael had been antsy and he knew it was getting worse by the moment. “Well, let’s get to it – we’re not getting anywhere standing around here.”
“Kyle, is your dad home?” Max asked. When Kyle nodded, Max turned to the rest of the group. “Let’s get over there – he can help us figure out the best place to start.”
Isabel watched Michael as he did some last-minute chores around the café. He was more nervous and anxious than she’d remembered seeing him in a long time. As he passed her in a frenzy, she stopped him.
“Michael, are you okay?” Everybody turned towards him, and suddenly feeling the glare of several pairs of eyes, he shook his fears off mentally and continued as if nothing had happened.
“I’m fine. Just let me finish what I’m doing!”
A few minutes later they all dashed out of the cafe. They walked wordlessly towards their vehicles, Michael in tow. Every step became harder and harder for him, and he felt as if someone had put him in a box that was quickly shrinking around him. The vision was so real that it made him suddenly gasp for air…
“Stop!!” Michael suddenly yelled out, startling everybody. Max was at his side in an instant.
“Michael – what is it?” he asked in his low, cautious tone. Michael stared at the ground, gathering his thoughts. Something was wrong.. very wrong…
Liz Parker woke up in stages. First, she dreamed about flying in the dark. She remembered the sounds of doors opening and closing, echoing as if far in the distance. Next she thought she was awake, but knew she wasn’t. She felt herself lying on a cold hard surface, but yet it felt like she was floating just inches above it. Then came the periods of semi-consciousness and consciousness, where lucidity was still very intangible but looming in front of her. Finally she came to a full awareness, and it was one she did not like. She now realized that she was on a bed, and could smell the musty odor that rose up from the mattress. Her hands were bound tightly, and she could feel something over her mouth. Though it was dark, her eyes adjusted quickly to the rest of the room. Oddly enough, it looked like an old hotel room, though she could hear water dripping somewhere beyond the wall and hitting a puddle. The echoes the drips made resounded over and over in her head, and she silently wished it would cease.
A figure moved in the corner of the room out of the shadows, and Liz tensed up immediately. The dark-eyed man she’d seen earlier came towards her, a smirk played across his lips.
“Well, I was wondering when you would greet us with your presence,” he said sarcastically but with a certain amount of falsified charm. Liz looked at him, trying to seem unimpressed. She watched him as he neared the bed and sat down. Gently he pulled at the tape covering her mouth, going to seemingly great lengths to spare her discomfort.
“You won’t be needing this anymore.”
The stark difference in his current demeanor caused flashes of what had occurred earlier to fly through her mind… Maria –
The image of her best friend’s lifeless body came to the forefront of her thoughts and once again the tears welled up in her eyes. The man watched her for a moment longer then stood back up.
“She had us fooled for a while, but it didn’t take long to figure out she wasn’t you, Liz..” he replied shortly and in a matter-of-fact fashion. “We thought she might know something or at least be valuable for a while… but as it turned out she wasn’t, really.”
“You killed her for nothing,” Liz made the conclusion slowly, hanging on every word.
“Well we certainly couldn’t have had her tattling to anyone, now could we? And she did seem the type,” the man responded. “You think it was for nothing.. you’re too young to remember much. So let me assure you… a casualty of war never dies for nothing.”
Liz stared at him in confusion and horror. War? As if reading her mind, he turned to her again.
“Our people – our very way of life – is in danger. Your friend’s sacrifice will only be but one of the first in what will probably be too many to count.”
Our people? But he’s not human! she thought. I can’t let him find out any-
Suddenly he came to her side, grabbing her jaw with his hand and forcing her to look at him.
“Don’t pretend like you don’t know what’s going on!! We’ve known about you for a long time and your relationship with them. Even now I can feel your concern for them,” he let her go and paced the floor. “Your actions have condemned all of us and all you do is lie there and think about them. You are a traitor, Liz Parker, to me, to the people of this earth, and yes, you were to Maria, too.”
He’s mad! I’ve got to get out of here, convince him somehow that...
“I don’t know what you’re talking –“
Liz didn’t even bother to finish her statement as the door opened and the nightmare began anew.
* * *
She waited for him. She thought that somehow, some way he would know to come to her, to speak to her softly like he always did, in that special voice he reserved for her. He’d always come through, but this time it would be different. It had been so long.. she felt time sifting through her fingers more quickly now, waiting to carry her away…
She wanted desperately to say the words aloud, but all she could manage was the thought…
“I love you…”
Michael quickly turned around, heading back to the Crashdown, a confused Max following behind him. Isabel and Kyle just looked at each other, but decided to follow anyway. Michael fumbled with his keys, but managed to unlock the front door and let everyone back in. Max was about to burst as he slammed the door behind them.
“What are you doing Michael?! We’ve got to get Valenti!!
“No!!” Michael was almost shouting at this point. “There’s something here.. something important! When we started walking away from here, I felt it fade inside me, but now that we’re back, I feel it strong again.” Using more words than he normally did, Michael looked his friend dead in the eyes as if to emphasize the point further. “Max there’s a clue here – I know it!! I feel – “
As if lightning had struck him, Michael suddenly froze in place. Then, garnishing an increased surge of urgency, Michael unexpectedly bounded past his friends and towards the back of the restaurant. He pounded up the stairs with little regard that he was now entering the Parker’s private residence. He knew now. He knew she was near, but where? He ransacked the home, opening and closing doors voraciously. His fear growing to near panic level, he reached one of his last stops – Liz’s bedroom. Slightly aware that Max would probably not approve of him barging into her room like a madman, Michael hesitated to search there, but curiosity won him over.
It came to him as if he were in the middle of a slow motion scene in a movie: the door opening, revealing the last rays of the sunlight as it streamed over the room, casting it in a dim, red-yellow haze. There was Liz Parker’s room, just as he’d seen it in times past, and except for being a little more disheveled than he’d remembered, there was nothing spectacular about the scene. He’d almost begun to close the door when he saw it. A figure lay quietly and peacefully on the bed. Yes, in a small corner of his mind, the place reserved for only the darkest secrets,… nightmares,… he knew that it was his Maria. That same small corner pointed out that she had been tied up, beaten severely, and appeared, in all likelihood, dead. It was the rest of his brain that could only register a faceless, meaningless figure, because the rest of his brain could not – would not – believe what the small corner was telling it. So, as the small corner began to grieve for Maria, the rest of his brain took a different course of action.
The voice of utter despair and anguish did not go unnoticed. Isabel’s heart sank as she watched her brother fly up the same flight of stairs Michael had ascended earlier, except that she could have sworn he cut Michael’s time in half. Kyle’s eyes pleaded with her not to follow this time – she knew he couldn’t take much more of this after Alex. Still not completely sympathetic considering that he had aided Tess – even unknowingly – Isabel made her own trip up the stairs to the Parker residence. What she saw was almost too much to bear. Michael was desperately trying to untie Maria’s hands, mumbling apologies as the tears threatened to spill from his eyes. He and Max were standing over Liz’s bed, staring at a seemingly lifeless Maria. Max turned to her briefly, his brows furrowed and jaw clenched. Isabel knew what he was thinking and went to him immediately.
“Max, you can do this,” she said quietly. “Maria’s not Alex, Max – this is different – she’s not –“
In shock, Michael still managed to look up at his friend as he held Maria’s hands in his own. “Please, she’s…. she’s my life,” Michael pleaded. Tentatively, Max placed his hands on Maria’s head and face.
“Maria, you have to look at me…” Max begged her softly, when she didn’t respond, Michael grew frantic.
“Maria!! Baby you have to wake up!! You have to look at us –“
As if on cue, Maria’s eyes weakly opened, but just barely. Max didn’t hesitate, though he realized this was somewhat reminiscent of another glassy stare he’d seen a few years ago. The characteristic glow from his hands filled Maria’s face and head with a soft light, which was almost surreal. While he worked as hard as he could, there was so much damage that it quickly drained him to repair only a portion of Maria’s injuries. Max’s knees buckled under him, and he slumped to the floor.
“Max!! Max!!” Isabel’s voice barely registered above the rush of wind filling his ears. “Just a little longer Max, she still needs you!”
Max looked up at Michael.
“Michael, I can’t…. do this… alone,” he said between breaths.
Michael paused as he studied her quiet form, taking a few seconds to look up at Max. “Then I’ll help you.”
Michael couldn’t even grasp what he had said at first – how could he help? He couldn’t heal like Max could – sure he’d fixed RiverDog’s ankle once, but that was mere child’s play compared to this. All he could do was blow up things, and he’d hated feeling so useless for Maria. But he had to try, didn’t he? His mind was running a thousand miles a minute, but his mouth was faster.
“I think if I could support you with my own strength, we can do this.”
“Max I’ll help too if I can,” Isabel wanting to be encouraging.
Trying to understand, Max reached out and accepted Michael’s assistance to get back on his feet. As Michael grasped his friend’s – his leader’s – hand, he laid his other hand on Maria’s head as Max did the same.
“Maria, you’ve got to look at me,” Michael took his turn, and it worked. Maria, a little stronger now, wearily looked at him, though still appearing to not recognize anything.
Kyle entered the doorway in time to see a bright triangular glow extend between Max, Michael, and Maria. He watched in amazement as the two brothers focused every last shred of energy, soul, and will they had left into Maria’s body. This time her whole body cast off a silvery light, and even Isabel stepped back from the three. The ghastly injuries to Maria’s face began healing and her breathing became less labored. Kyle smiled as he watched Maria’s expression change from that of a tortured soul to one in peaceful rest. After what seemed forever, the glow faded and both Max and Michael again fell to the floor.
Michael moaned with content as he felt the soft caresses fall again and again over his face… he listened to the angel quietly calling his name across a narrowing expanse in his mind… what he loved best about it was that it was familiar.. that it sounded like –
His looked up, to be greeted by her large doe eyes.
“You’re okay!” he took her up in his arms, pulling her to the floor with him. They locked in a passionate embrace for several minutes, needing no words to express their feelings this time. When they finally sat up, they noticed their friends watching them. This time instead of scolding, though, there were only tears of happiness.
“Michael, how did you know I was –“
“You… I could feel you Maria.. it took me a while to figure it out, but something told me you were here.. and you were –“
Michael stumbled over his words, choking up at what he knew she’d been through. Once again she held him close, offering him solace.
“It’s okay, baby.. I’m okay now, and I’m never leaving you – I promise.”
After another moment, Michael gathered himself together and helped Maria up, still shaken with the realization of how fragile she was – and how important she was to him. Kyle helped too, glad to be on a positive end of a friend’s recovery.
Maria suddenly got a vivid image of what had happened, a shrill cry escaping her lips.
“Liz!! I let them take Liz!!” she shook all over, burying her head into Michael’s shoulder. He held her even tighter than before, vowing no one would ever do this to her again if he had anything to say about it.
Isabel looked over at Max, another wave of shock overtaking them both.
“If they did this to Maria and left her here –“ Kyle started.
Max paled even further as Michael got redder and Maria sobbed louder. Isabel shot Kyle a warning glance, and he knew his time left on earth was about to be cut very short. Figuring a hasty retreat was now advisable, he did the only thing he could think of.
“Sorry – I shouldn’t have - I’m gonna go call my Dad now,” he stammered on his way out.
“Who’s got her Maria?” Michael asked the question he knew Max wanted an answer to.
“I don’t know – I don’t –“ her muffled voice sobbed. “They came here looking for Liz – s-she wasn’t here, so I told them I was her. Then she came home and –“
Michael stroked the back of her head, fumbling with the short locks between his fingers as he pondered this new side of this wonderful creature who called him her beloved. Max and Michael shared brief glances filled with mutual respect and admiration for the two girls, Michael eyes conveying that he would go to the ends of the earth not just for Maria, but for Liz, too. Max curtly nodded his thanks, emotionally unable to show more than that.
“What are we going to do Max?” Isabel quietly spoke.
Max slowly moved towards the window, taking in the view of Liz’s balcony, her chair and blanket looking very alone.
“I have to find her – I can’t lose her again.”
“You can stop this ridiculous charade now, Liz. They know who you are because I told them,” Nicholas closed the door behind him and stood next to the dark-eyed man. “Agent Carter has been a patient man up to this point.. but I would not test him if I were you.”
Liz looked back and forth between the two, trying to determine how this alliance had apparently taken place. Figuring that a last-ditch effort was worth a try, she tried to play towards what she hoped was Carter’s better judgment.
“I have no idea who he is. Besides, why do you care what a teenager says anyway?”
“Come now Liz, we both know he’s not what he seems. And, well, let’s just say he broadened my horizions and opened my mind to a whole new world of possibilities..” Carter raised his arm towards the bed and Liz felt a rush of pain sear through her body, as if every nerve ending was on fire. It caught her off guard, unable to utter even a small sound. When he released her, her body went limp and she gasped for air.
“So, I think I have plenty of reason to believe what he says,” Carter replied, a definitive tone overtaking his already sinister and intimidating posture.
“A nice little exchange, don’t you think? We give them advanced genetic and medical alterations that put them hundreds of years ahead of current human capabilities. In return they help us deal with Zan, or Max, or whatever he wants to call himself now. We get to remain here without concern of capture and they rid themselves of the truly tyrannical alien threat.” Nicholas put just the right spin on things so that Liz understood his meaning, but for all intents and purposes Carter was oblivious. Their eyes locked for only an instant, but it was enough to let Liz know he had complete control over this situation, and there was little she would do to change that.
Liz was still unsure of what to do at this point.. should she go along with them? They already knew most of the story anyway, so what would be the harm? But she had made a promise to Max, and she would not break it.
“So if you have all that, then I don’t see how I could be of much use,” she stated, hoping to skirt the issue altogether.
Nicholas chuckled quietly. “If that’s the way you want to play,” his laughter ceased and he glared at her intently, “then so be it.”
He nodded to Carter, who again walked towards the bed and sat down beside Liz. “There is a weapon your so-called friends have in their possession. It was designed so that they might take over Earth and rule Antar from here, as well as make all humans subject to assimilation by the Antarian culture. We have no defense strong enough to overpower it, as it is also decades more advanced than anything we have now. Whoever controls it therefore would control this world.”
Liz looked at him as if he’d lost his mind, but she knew he believed every word he’d spoken. He ignored her, and continued.
“Max had the knowledge of the whereabouts of this weapon as well as how to use it, but it is locked away with his memories of Antar. We would never gain access to that information by force.”
“But… someone close to him could,” Nicholas added.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, and even if I did, I wouldn’t do anything to hurt Max,” Liz replied, still doubtful of all they had told her.
“Of course you don’t know.. I just told you Max doesn’t really know, either, ” Carter reasoned. “But you are going to help us. You are going to redeem yourself in the eyes of your fellow men and save us all from this threat.”
“That’s the most ridiculous story I’ve ever heard! Nicholas has done nothing but lie to you, you have to believe me!” Liz begged.
“Your mind has been poisoned with media propaganda, Liz,” Carter said as he took hold of her arm. “They want you to believe that little green men are fake and UFOs are the stuff of legend. It is easier for most to live their lives thinking that we truly are alone in this universe than to acknowledge that there are other worlds – with other beings out there. And it is even more difficult to think that some of them are not the kind, gentle creatures we would have them be, but you – you and I, Liz, we know differently, don’t we? You think you have been a friend to E.T. for these past few years. Well, I’m here to tell you that you’ve really been with something that more closely resembles the Predator.”
Nicholas came to the other side of the bed and placed his hand on her forehead. “You should be grateful Liz: you’re about to receive a gift few others on this world will ever have. And you will have the opportunity to save your planet at the same time,” he’d added that for Agent Carter’s benefit and Liz knew it. “Don’t worry, this won’t hurt too –“
Liz shook herself free of Carter’s grasp and at the same time knocked Nicholas over as she ran for the door. Suddenly the door opened from the other side and the larger man from the night before grabbed Liz once again. Kicking and screaming, it took both Carter and the other man to pin her to the bed as Nicholas drew ever closer…
[ edited 2 time(s), last at 21-Oct-2001 4:30:15 PM ]