posted on 20-Sep-2001 9:24:28 PM
Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures
by Christina
Rating: NC17 (In parts 7 [I believe] and part 38)
Category: M/L, M/M, Mi/L-sorta
Disclaimer: I don't own, don't sue.
Note: The suspension chamber was adapted from LJ Smith's Dark
Visions Trilogy. Read the books, you'll love them. *happy*

Enjoy...


Part 1

Pain and fire. The pain shook his limbs as he ran for his life and the fire burned in his lungs, making it impossible to breathe.

He couldn't be sure how far they were behind him, but he knew they were far too close to stop. So he ran, ignoring the desperate, screaming protests of his body. Reaching the center of town, he ducked in a dark alley and stopped to suck in a sweet breath of air. Sweat ran down his forehead as he leaned forward and absently wiped it away with the back of his arm.

After finally catching his breath, he tentatively took a few steps out of the shadows to see if the coast was clear, but instantly jumped backwards as he spotted the black four-door Buick coming up the street.

Knowing the darkness wouldn't mask his position for long, he looked for a place to hide. That's when he noticed that he was in the alley behind the Crashdown Cafe - directly under Liz Parker's balcony.

*****

Liz Parker stepped out of the shower and reached for her thigh-length, sky-blue satin robe. She softly hummed to herself as she ran a comb through her long, dark brown hair, happy that her shift was finally over.

It had been unseasonably humid lately and she found that just seconds out of the shower, she was already perspiring. She grimaced and plucked at her robe so it wouldn't stick to her. It had gotten to the point where she was taking three showers a day and still never felt completely clean.

After removing all tangles from her hair, she rolled on some deodorant and then made her way to her bedroom. She considered putting on some lotion but decided to pass, not wanting to go to bed feeling like she had been rolling in grease. Instead, she stretched out on her bed and tried to relax, but that was proving more difficult than said. It was simply too hot.

She was tense, sore, and exhausted from a long shift at work, where she had to do her own tables, and also cover for Maria, who was on vacation. However, despite her fatigue, no matter how she lay on the bed, she just couldn't get comfortable. It finally became clear that the only thing that could help her relax would be to write in her journal.

It was so disgustingly hot in her room that she planned on writing outside. After retrieving her journal from its hiding place in the wall, she stretched out on her recliner and sighed in contentment as a slightly cool breeze greeted her damp skin. It felt so nice that she hugged the journal to her chest and closed her eyes, just enjoying the sensation of the air dancing over her skin.

It was sometime before she opened her eyes again, but when she did, she felt slightly groggy and wondered if she had dozed off. She opened her journal and was preparing to write when she heard an urgent whisper from down below.

"Liz? Are you there?"

She sat up with a smile and looked around, expecting to see Max, but then it hit her that Max was on vacation with his family in Florida for Spring Break. "But if it isn't Max..." she murmured in confusion as she stood. Tightening her robe around her otherwise nude body, she stepped towards the ledge of her balcony and peered down to see Michael Guerin staring up at her.

"Can I come up?" he gasped. "It's an emergency!"

Liz nodded slowly, sensing the urgency in his voice, and watched as he began to scale the ladder in a rapid pace. It struck her that it must be a real emergency if Michael Guerin, of all people, was coming to her for help. She knew that he resented her most of the time for getting shot and making Max come to her rescue. And for taking him away. She may have known his secret, but he still didn't trust her, and they certainly weren't friends.

She quickly returned her journal to its hiding place before Michael got there; she didn't want him to see where she hid it now. Once the brick was securely in place, she looked up to see Michael standing behind her, looking like hell run over. His breathing was severely labored and his hair was matted and caked to the sides of his face with sweat. He began to take a step towards her, but his legs gave out from under him and he stumbled forward.

She rushed over to help him but he pushed her away, climbing to his feet once again. "I'm fine," he snapped, gasping for breath.

Liz nodded and stepped back. "W-what's going on, Michael?" she asked warily. "What are you doing here?"


"The FBI...they're after me. They came to Hank's and..." He had to stop to swallow and then his words tumbled out of him at break-neck speed. "They came asking for me. Topolsky was with them and they had a black van with a wire meshed cage in the back and I had to run and Max and Isabel are in Florida and Maria is in Rocky Point and I was right under your balcony and I didn't know where else to go. Please, you have to help me." His words ran together in his hysteria, slurring into a river of fear.

"Michael, you need to calm down," Liz instructed. She had never seen him like this. He was raving...well, like Maria. She told him so.

Despite his lassitude, Michael was still able to muster his usual scowl. "Look," he snapped angrily, "It's very simple. The government is chasing me and I'm all alone. My friends are out of town and I have no one else to turn to. They're not far behind me, practically downstairs, and it won't be long before they find me. Now, are you going to help me or are you going to be a smart ass?"


"Of course I'll help you," Liz answered, "but...but what do you want me to do?"

He took a moment to consider and Liz became overly aware of her lack of dress. Michael seemed to notice as well and he stared at her for a few seconds before meeting her eyes. "How about you go get dressed?" he suggested, averting his eyes. One eyebrow as cocked, with that half-smirk that gave him an insolent glare.

"Right," she muttered, turning towards her window and climbing in.

"Be quick about it," he grumbled behind her. "We don't have much time."

As swiftly as her body would allow, she pulled on a pair of black jeans and a red tank top, and then laced up some sturdy running shoes. Only a minute had passed before she was back on the balcony with him. His sense of urgency was contagious and her own conscience was screaming for her to hurry. "Ready. What do we do?" she asked.

She wasn't sure how but something told her that something was going to happen and they needed to get out of there. Hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry!

"Um...okay. This is the plan. We need a car."

"We'll take my mom's," Liz offered quickly.

"Good. Then, we'll...shit!" he hissed and in the blink of an eye, he had grabbed her and pinned her up against the wall right beside her window.

Liz squealed in surprise and Michael instantly clamped his hand over her mouth. Her wide eyes looked at him questioningly and he cocked his head in the direction of her window. Gingerly, he removed his hand and Liz leaned over to look inside to see Agent Topolsky and two men dressed in suits rummaging through her things. She opened her mouth to scream in protest but before even the first syllable could escape, Michael's hand was back on her mouth and he was looking at her with venom in his eyes. His entire body was pressed to hers, pinning her to the brick wall and she winced as the rigid edges of the bricks scraped against her back and arms.

"KEEP-YOUR-MOUTH-SHUT!" Michael hissed through gritted teeth. "If you say anything, we're dead. We need to get out of here. Do you understand?"

Liz stared deep into his eyes, her own eyes wide with fear, and nodded.

"Do you have the keys to your mom's car on you?"

She shook her head, causing him to swear under his breath. "Okay, when I say go, we high-tail it to the ladder, climb down as quickly as possible and keep running until we get to my house. Do you remember where that is?"

"Uh-huh," she mumbled against his hand.

"Good, just in case we get separated. Then, we'll take Hank's truck and drive out of town for a couple of days."

The minute he pulled his hand back from her face, Liz whispered, "Why do I need to go with you?" It was a valid question, she thought, since she had no idea why she would have to go with him. After all, they weren't after her.

"Don't you get it?" he snarled. "I brought this all down on you and now you're in as much danger as I am. We go now, or we're both dead. Get it?" She nodded somberly and looked down, realizing that he was right. "Okay, sink or swim time...one, two, three, go!" Michael's hand clasped hers and yanked her forward, and then they were both running towards the ladder. Instead of climbing, they slid down and then broke into a mad sprint in the darkness.

*****

The pain and fire were back, but now accompanied by a fierce sense of protectiveness. He had just dragged Liz Parker into this mess, and he knew Max would never forgive him if he let something happen to her.

As she began to lag behind, he clutched her hand and pulled her along, not stopping until they reached the sagging walls of the trailer he called home. The ungreased screen protested shriekily when he recklessly threw it open and pulled her inside.

"Hank?" he whispered in the darkness, checking to see if anyone was there but no one answered. Hank wasn't in his chair but his keys were on the coffee table. Michael reached for them and nodded once at Liz. "Okay. Let's go."

But as they turned to go, they were tackled from behind. Liz cried out in surprise as she fell and Michael landed with a grunt. "What the...?"

"What's going on?" Liz gasped as a pair of hands roughly pulled them upright and then the cold metal of handcuffs replaced the hands. Then they were spun to face their attackers - two more men in suits - and Michael recognized one of them as the man he had seen rifling through Maria's purse when Max was at the hospital.

"Don't move," he warned Liz who shook her head - she was too paralyzed with fear to move - and slowly released her to pull a cell phone out of his pocket. A gloved finger pushed a button on the speed dial and moments later, spoke into the receiver in a low voice. "We've got them." He hung up the phone.

Liz glanced at Michael in fear, and he wanted to say something to comfort her, to make her feel better, but he was as terrified as she was. His greatest fear was coming true, and there wasn't a damn thing he could do to stop it. He remained silent.


Minutes later, Kathleen Topolksy arrived, looking like she had just won the lottery. "Good job," she said to the dark-haired agent. Then she spoke to Michael and Liz.

"Almost didn't catch you. That would have been such a shame. Now listen up, kiddies. We're going for a ride. Henry?"

Hank stumbled out of the hallway in his usual drunken stupor and offered Michael a leering smile. "Yes, ma'am?"

"I believe we had an...arrangement," she said, her eyes glittering in the dark. "You came through with your part, now I'll come through with mine." She reached inside the pocket of her fine tailored suit and pulled out a stack of bills from her pocket. Hank held out a greedy hand. "Now...one...two...three...four...and five hundred. Good doing business with you. Keep in mind, not a word and the checks will continue to arrive."

Hank nodded graciously, practically bowing at her feet, but Topolsky wasn't paying any attention to him any more. She was now smirking directly at Liz. "Put them in the van, agent. Now!"

*****

After being blindfolded, both Michael and Liz were roughly led outside and shoved into the back of a van, where their handcuffs were temporarily removed, only to be snapped once again to the arm rests.

Liz wasn't sure what had her more terrified; not being able to see, or knowing that wherever they were going, no one knew about it?

She wasn't sure when they had begun, but Liz could feel tears catching on the material tightly tied to her face. So many thoughts were running through her mind that they almost seemed to jumble together. She thought about her parents and how they were out of town and would come back to find her missing; she thought about Max and Isabel and how they wouldn't be back for five more days; she thought about how she and Michael could be dead before they returned. She also thought about Michael himself.

She remembered that Michael was the weakest of the three when it came to his powers and that he wouldn't be able to get a hold of the others. He might have been all she had right then but she couldn't help feeling some contempt for him. He was the one who had dragged her into this, and now she was probably going to die because of him. But on top of these thoughts, she felt pity for him. And humiliation.

She had seen the humiliation on his face when Topolsky had paid that pathetic excuse for a human being $500 for turning him in, Hank's face lighting up as he took those bills in his grubby hand. Even now, she tried to fathom what it would be like to have a foster father who cared so little for you that he would sell you out for such a minute amount of money, but couldn't. She had wonderful and loving parents who would sell their souls for her, but Michael...he had no one. No wonder he was the way he was, she realized sadly; he doesn't know any better.

*****

Lost. Confused. Furious. Humiliated. Fucked. Pick your adjective, Michael thought bitterly. He was all of them. On top of that, he was terrified and sore and feeling more worthless than he had ever felt in his entire pathetic existence.

$500? Was he really worth that little to Hank?

It shouldn't have surprised him. After all, he had always said that the man only kept him around for the monthly check, but deep down, he had always wondered and even hoped that Hank cared for him even a little. He knew the answer to that now. It had just been made painfully obvious that the man cared for him like he cared for the metal plate in his head that he had received after Vietnam.

He had wanted to shrivel up and die when Topolsky had handed Hank that money. It had been all too humiliating to know that Liz, a little princess who had everything, witnessed him being sold like chattel. He had seen that look of pity in her eyes. It had made him want to hit something - anything.


What a laugh, he thought. He had spent the last ten years trying to convince himself that he didn't care what anyone thought about him, that their opinions didn't matter since they were just pampered babies in a rough world - a world he knew well about - but it just wasn't true.

He cared, all right. He cared more than even he wanted to admit to himself.

*****

After what seemed like the longest ride of their lives, the van finally jerked to a stop. Then the two suits were at the back of the van, flinging the doors open, uncuffing the two from their arm rests, and ungraciously strapping then down into wheelchairs.

Still blindfolded, they were rolled forward into some sort of building. They were taken down a long hallway, down an elevator, and rolled down another hallway. They finally stopped ten minutes later, after some very odd twists and turns that Michael's mind couldn't even try to remember.


The blindfolds came off next, and then the handcuffs were removed. Michael's eyes met Liz's for a brief second before they looked away to stare at their new surroundings.

They were in a relatively large room with no windows and one bed. The walls were a sterile white color, and there was another smaller, adjacent room, which contained a bathroom. There was a refrigerator in one corner of the room, to the left side of the large bed against one wall, and perched on top was a very old looking radio.

After looking around for a few more moments, Liz's doe eyes came to rest on Topolsky, where Michael's gaze was already locked.

The older woman's mouth turned up into its usual 500-Watt smile but none of it reached her eyes. They were cold as ever, and her stare was menacing enough to make even Michael cringe.

"Mr. Guerin, Miss Perfect...I mean Parker, welcome to your new home." She looked around and smiled, sympathy with a tinge of bitter triumph. "I know it's not exactly the Hilton but you're not exactly guests, either."

"What the hell do you want with us?" Michael demanded.

"Oh, come off it, Mr. Guerin. We know all about you. You and the Evans'. We've actually known about you for quite a while but we've just been waiting for the perfect opportunity to apprehend you. And now that the others are out of town, we chose this moment to seize it. Obviously you were the perfect choice because after watching you for some time, it has been made clearly apparent that you wouldn't be missed."

"Fuck you!" Michael spat angrily.

Topolsky's smile stayed with her as she stalked up to him and smacked him hard across the face. "No, fuck you, Mr. Guerin! I don't think you get it. You're in my world now and you are going to obey me. Here's your one warning, and I hope I only have to tell you once. You will do everything my little heart desires. You will lick my boots clean if I have the notion and if not, we snap your little friend's neck like a twig. It's that easy."

She smiled sweetly and turned her attention to Liz, but continued to address Michael. "You see, she's...how should I put this? She's expendable. There are at least another billion of her to choose from and only one more of you that we know about. Granted, Miss. DeLuca was our first choice for the job, but I think this will work out perfectly. Besides, beggars can't be choosers."

Suddenly, she leaned down and looked into Liz's face, her smile growing. Then Liz's shiny brown hair went flying as Topolsky's hand connected with her face. Liz reflexively cupped her cheek and tears sprang into her eyes and the older woman roughly grabbed her by the chin. "I told you that you didn't help yourselves, bitch" she growled. "And now, I'm going to make you suffer for making me look bad in front of my superiors."

Liz visibly shrank back, much to Topolsky's pleasure.

"Leave her alone!" Michael yelled, trying to stand but being forced back down into his chair by one of the suits, who was smiling cynically.


Topolsky ignored him. "Yes," she murmured to Liz. "You have no idea how long I've waited, how long I've anticipated seeing you suffer. I am going to enjoy this so very much."

Part 2

Topolsky held Liz's chin for another moment before finally releasing her, scratching her skin with her razor sharp, crimson-manicured nails in the process. The sound of her heels clicking on the tile echoed throughout the room as she made her way to the bathroom, reemerging a moment later with a stack of pea-green and white folded clothing in her hands. She carelessly tossed one set at Liz, smacking her in the face with them, and the other went flying at Michael.

"Get dressed," she barked.

"Screw you, bitch!" Michael spat incredulously. "I'll be damned before giving you the satisfaction of seeing me naked."

Topolsky's lips puffed in a fake pout. "Oh yeah, you're just too much man for my eyes to handle. Whatever, freak! You are going to change now or suffer the consequences. Do I have to remind you what I said would happen if you didn't follow my orders?" She snapped her finger and one her assistants came up behind Liz and clasped his meaty hand over the back of the neck, lifting her a foot off the ground. Liz's brown eyes showed white all around, and she screamed.


Topolsky crossed her arms over her chest and smiled in satisfaction. "What do you say, Mr. Guerin? It would be quite a loss to lose your companion so early in the game, don't you think?"

Liz cried out again and her dangling feet kicked outwards as the man in the suit started to turn her neck to the side. Her desperate eyes pleaded with him.

"Let her go!" Michael yelled, pulling off his shirt to prove he was ready to cooperate. Topolsky snapped her fingers again and the meaty oaf dropped Liz where she stumbled right into his arms. "Are you okay?" he asked. She pushed her hair out of her eyes with a shaky hand and nodded. When she could manage standing on her own, Michael released her and watched as she trembled her way to the pile of clothes she had been issued.

Michael turned as Liz slowly began to remove her red tank top and held his head high as he began to change himself. The clothing consisted of a white T-shirt, a pair of drawstring pants that were as thin as paper and a pair of matching slippers that he had seen patients wearing at the hospital when he had gone after Max and Liz's accident. That was it. No socks, no underwear.

After picking up the jeans and t-shit he had been wearing earlier today, he turned, catching a glimpse of Liz's naked bottom. He quickly averted his eyes, not wanting to invade her privacy even though the others in the room had no such reservations. Instead, he flung his clothes at Topolsky's smiling face "Happy?"

The older woman's blonde hair flew back and she glared as the clothes fell to a heap on the floor. Michael glanced at Liz to see that she was fully dressed in the same regimen clothing as his own. He tried to catch her eye but she wouldn't look at him. Her hair was a complete mess, falling over her bowed head and she had wrapped her arms self-consciously around her body. He only looked away as the sharp sound of fingers snapping rang throughout the room.

He saw a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye and flinched only to realize that one of Topolsky's oafs was retrieving Liz and Michael's clothing from the floor.

"Does he bark and roll over on command too?" Michael asked, raising an eyebrow. Topolsky shot daggers at him and Liz gave him a pleading look.

The tall blond woman's hand crashed into his face again, but Michael was unfazed. He simply smirked in response, only making her angrier. Hey, he figured, if he was going to die he might as well say anything he wanted.

Topolsky spoke through gritted teeth. "You're going to lose that snide attitude real quick, Mr. Guerin, or it's going to get quite lonely in here." Michael rolled his eyes and looked away. "Listen up," she continued, addressing Liz as well. "This is how things are going to work. Today, you will both be examined by my doctor friend. We need to make sure everything is in working order before we proceed. You will cooperate or things will get real ugly. Mr. Guerin, if you will." She motioned to the wheel chair he had occupied on the way in.


When he didn't move, one of Topolsky's associates sharp fingers jabbed into his back, and he glared at the guy but took his seat. He kept his eyes on Liz as the guy strapped him in. She still wouldn't meet his gaze.

"We're going to take Michael for a little ride," the blonde woman said. "But we'll be back for you in a little while." She smiled meanly and cupped Liz's cheek. Fresh tears sprang in the small brunette's eyes. "Until then, sweetie, make yourself comfortable in your new room. After all, it's probably the last room you'll ever see."

Liz fiercely jerked away and did her best to glower at the woman. It only made her look frailer, in Michael's opinion, but he was still proud of her.

Topolsky snickered and pushed her back into her wheelchair. "Really, Miss Parker. Now is not the time to adopt your companions less attractive qualities. Just sit back and relax like a good little girl. We'll be back for you shortly. Until then, bye-bye birdie."

She snapped her finger once more and the agent, who had tied Michael down, rolled his chair around and began to wheel him out of the room.

*****

Liz jumped as the large metal door slammed shut and a hissing noise filled the room. That noise sounded so final that she tipped her head in her hands and began to cry for all she was worth. She had never felt so helpless in her entire life, never so out of control. She strived to be in control of her life, but now her life rested in the hands of a sadistic bitch that promised to make her suffer. The look in Kathleen Topolsky's eyes as she had threatened Liz had been so feral, so alien, in fact, more alien than any other she had known, that it had chilled Liz to the bone.


On trembling knees, she stood and stumbled forward to the bed. She needed to lie down, to clear her head, or else she would go mad obsessing over the plans Topolsky had for her. She didn't allow herself to think about Michael either. She couldn't allow herself to think of what they might be doing to him at that moment.

As furious as she was with him for pulling her into this, she was concerned for him. After all, he was the only friend she had in this place.

*****

It seemed like hours had passed before Topolsky reappeared with Michael. She looked thoroughly pleased with herself, but Michael looked positively exhausted. Dark bags lingered under his eyes, which were only opened half-mast, and his body was sagging in his wheelchair. They hadn't even bothered strapping him in, she noticed, but he didn't look like he was going anywhere. He hardly looked like he could move.

"What did you do to him?" Liz cried, standing up from off the bed.

"That's not really your concern, Miss. Parker," Topolsky said in a more business-like tone than that of which she had used before. Liz wanted to snap her damn fingers off as the woman snapped again and the man pushing the wheel chair picked Michael up from the chair and laid him down on the bed.

A desolate groan left Michael's lips as he hit the mattress, and he curled up into the fetal position, wrapping his arms around his trembling legs.

Liz turned her back on her captors and kneeled down beside the bed. "Michael, are you okay?" she asked quietly, although judging by the way his face was contorted into a mask of pain, she was pretty sure she knew the answer. For a moment she wasn't even sure if Michael had heard her but then his eyes sluggishly focused on hers and he shook his head. "No," he gasped and then grimaced in pain, his entire chest spasming. "I'm pretty fucking far from okay."

Tears welled in Liz's eyes and blood painfully rushed in her ears. Her throat felt hot and thick as she asked what they had done to him.

Very slowly, Michael lowered his knees from his chest and his left hand fumbled with the hem of his T-shirt before he slowly edged his shirt up to reveal a blood soaked bandage over his ribs.

"Michael," she moaned in misery, her hands flying first to her mouth and then to touch his arm.

"I guess this shows what happens when you don't cooperate," Michael laughed bitterly and then coughed and winced in pain. Liz winced as well; sympathy pains, she figured. Then she cried out in surprise as Michael roughly clutched her arm and his piercing gaze held her in place. "Do what they say, Liz. Please. They're not fucking around. These guys are playing for keeps and I can't let anything happen to you. Max-- Max would kill me," he finally gasped and then his hand fell on the bed as he passed out.

"That's right, kiddo," Topolsky's smug voice whispered in her ear, causing Liz to freeze. "We're playing for keeps. Now, it's your turn. In the chair, NOW!"

Liz squeezed Michael's arm and then slowly stood and made her way over to the vacant chair. It took ever bit of strength she had not to pass out herself, but somehow, she remained conscious. Topolsky strapped her in the chair herself, doing her best to try to cut the circulation in her arms before her assistant wheeled her out of the room.

Able to see this time, she was led down a sterile corridor, coming to a stop at a door about twenty feet from the room she had just left. Her restraints were momentarily removed, but only long enough for her to be placed on an examination table, where she was strapped in even tighter than before.

"What are you going to do?" she asked tremulously as Topolsky took a seat on one of the chairs.

"Patience, dear," the blonde woman replied, smirking meanly. "You'll see soon enough."

Liz sighed heavily and rested her head back on the table, staring at the ceiling and doing her best not to think about what might be coming. She only looked up when she heard the door open and a man dressed in black with spiky hair and a greasy mustache entered the room.

"Aaah, Dr. Blackforest," Topolsky said happily. "Right on time. This is our little Lizzy." She smacked Liz on the arm and said, "Show some respect. Say hi to Dr. Blackforest, Liz."

"Hi," Liz murmured, not at all liking the way that the doctor was staring at her.

"You were right, Kathleen. She's a pretty one." He licked his lips and smiled at Liz appreciatively. "What would you like me to do first?"

"Give her the full exam, Don," Topolsky said. Her eyes lit up menacingly. "I actually think she deserves your specialty exam as well. I'll be in my office. Call me when you're done...or if she chooses not to cooperate. I'll leave Ethan in here just in case anything happens."

"Very good," the doctor said, not once taking his eyes off of Liz.

Topolsky smirked, and then said, "Have fun Liz. I'm sure this will be...uh, stimulating for you." Then she punched a code into the slot by the door and left.

The doctor's eyes lingered on Liz for several moments before he finally tore them away and made his way to a row of cabinets to Liz's right. He pulled back one of the drawers and retrieved a pair of silver scissors before walking over to Liz and releasing the straps on her legs.

She froze as his fingers drifted down her leg and his beady eyes gawked at her, but didn't make a sound until he brought the scissors to the cuff of her right pant leg and cut all the way up.

"What are you doing?" she gasped but he didn't answer. She cringed as he did the same thing to her left leg and then removed her pants so that she was completely exposed to him. He turned and put the scissors on a tray right next to him and then simply stared at her exposed lower body, his thin lips transforming into a leering grin.

"Liz, you're beautiful," he murmured and an alarm of panic went off in her head.

"What are you going to do?" she squeaked, never having felt so vulnerable in her life.

His eyes roved her figure before finally settling on her face. "First, I'm going to give you an examination to make sure everything is just as it should be. And then...well, who knows?" He gave an evil leer and went to work.

The other man in the room, - Ethan, Topolsky had called him- removed the straps on her arms and pulled her by the legs down to the end of the table, where she was once again strapped down. The doctor then walked over to the same drawer he had retrieved the scissors from and pulled out a tray of shiny instruments that Liz recognized. They were the same ones that her gynecologist used when she went for her yearly check-ups.

"Put your legs up on the end of the table and spread 'em," the doctor instructed.

*****

"NO!" The scream ripped itself from Liz's throat as she struggled in vain to keep the doctor at bay. The initial exam had come and gone without any scary incidents and Liz had begun to relax - well, as much as she could, given the current circumstances - but that was until the doctor started with his 'special' exam.

The doctor had removed her shirt as well and she was lying completely naked on the table. The doctor's hands were groping her breasts and his mouth was tearing into her neck. Her middle arched off the table as she fought against him but it was no use.

"Aww, poor baby," the doctor said, but he didn't look sympathetic. He petted her head and then stood up and walked down to her lower body. Liz's eyes widened.

"Please, don't do this," Liz sobbed, her eyes rolling up as she prayed to God for help.

The man lowered one hand to her curls and began to run his fingers through them. Liz struggled out of his grasp but he just laughed. He placed his hands on her hips and began to rub them with his cold hands. "You're a feisty little one, aren't you? Look, Liz, baby. It will be so much more enjoyable if you don't fight me."

"Don't do this," Liz pleaded, but her voice came out defeated. Exhaustion washed over her and her body grew heavy. She found that she couldn't even move anymore, she could only cry.

The doctor reached out and touched her between the legs again, but she couldn't even jump. He ran his hand over her and then his hands went to his belt. "Oh God," Liz cried but it came out as a whisper.


He removed his belt and then began to undo his pants when a hissing noise filled the room and the door opened. Topolsky breezed in and said, "Sorry Don, but your time is up."

Liz couldn't believe it but she was actually relieved to see the woman standing there.

"But we were just getting started," the man protested.

"Sorry, Don, but I need to get her back. I just received a call from the home base and I'm going to be tied up in a conference call all night. If you're good, maybe you can have her again sometime. I'm sure she'd enjoy that. How did the exam go?"

The man sighed and began to redo his belt. "She's fine; pure and clean."

"Splendid," she said, clapping her hands together. "That's what I like to hear."

The doctor muttered something and then exited the room.

Topolsky closed in on Liz and said, "Well, Lizzy, how did you like your exam?"

Liz couldn't answer. Her throat had completely closed off. All she could do was stare.

"Hell, girl. I thought you were so articulate and now you can't even mutter the slightest answer? What a disappointment you are." To her associate, she said. "Unstrap her and give her some fresh clothes. Then take her back into her room."

*****

When Liz was returned, she saw that Michael was still curled up on the bed but he was awake. Ethan had unstrapped her and then left the room, leaving the two of them alone.

She walked over to the bed and lay down, praying for some of the tension to leave her body. After being paralyzed with fear in the examination room, she was sure that it would be hours before the tightness left her limbs.

"What did they do to you?" Michael asked as she stared at the ceiling.

Liz shuddered and swallowed thickly. She turned on her side, facing away from Michael and whispered, "I don't want to talk about it." She felt so dirty, and she was having a hard time coming to terms with herself about what had just happened.

There was no possible way she could tell Michael.

Tears filled her eyes for the millionth time that day, and she sobbed silently to herself. Michael touched her lightly on the arm, but his voice came out sharp. "Liz! What did they do to you?" he asked, emphasizing the "what" and "do."

She flinched reflexively, her entire body jumping, and met his eyes.

Michael nodded grimly, and she could see in his eyes that he had a pretty good idea of what had happened. "That's what I was afraid of," he muttered and moved back to his side of the bed.



Visit the roswell fan fic lover's message board: http://pub24.ezboard.com/broswellfanficlovers


Edited by - Fehrbaby on 09/21/2001 22:23:37
posted on 20-Sep-2001 9:27:19 PM
Part 3

Sometime later, Michael and Liz were awoken by a loud hissing noise, signifying the opening of the door.

Liz rubbed her eyes, which burned slightly from all the crying she had been doing and were puffy. She looked towards the entrance to see a boy not much older than she and Michael, walking in with a brown plastic tray in his hand. He had blond hair and pale skin with warm, friendly brown eyes. He offered them a friendly smile. "Hi. I'm Brent. I uh...I was told to bring you some dinner. I didn't know what you'd like so I got you hamburgers and fries. I hope that's okay."

Michael scowled, but Liz gave him a thin smile as he put two plates of food on the bed. He seemed nice enough. Liz opened her mouth to tell him that that was great but never got the chance.

"What does it matter what they think?" Topolsky asked as strolled into the room.

"Let me remind you that they're not guests here, they're prisoners and they will take what you give them and be happy. And I don't believe I asked you to talk to them. If I remember correctly, your orders were to deliver their food and leave." She stared hard at him down her nose.

Brent looked away and muttered, "Yes ma'am."

"Then get the hell out of here," she said, cocking her head to the right and giving him a fake, sugar coated smile. Brent frowned but did as he was told.


Topolsky pushed a button on the wall opposite the bed and three white boards came out of the wall. When they stopped, Liz realized it was a table with two benches. Topolsky picked up the two Styrofoam plates from the bed and put them on the table. She looked at them expectantly and said, "You only have twenty minutes for dinner so I suggest you sit down and enjoy it."

"No thanks. I'd rather starve," Michael spat, giving her the same fake smile she had given Brent.

Topolsky batted her lashes and smiled back at him. "I highly suggest you eat because you're going to need stamina for what I have planned next."

"Go to hell, bitch," Michael said as he sat up. He grimaced and one of his hands flew up to nurse his ribs.

Liz's brow furrowed in concern and she reached out to touch his arm, but he shrugged away from her. "I'm fine," he said ungraciously.

The older woman cleared her throat looked and looked from Liz to the table. "Liz?"

Liz was starving but she didn't want to give Topolsky the satisfaction. "I'm not hungry," she answered, stubbornly holding her head high.

Topolsky shrugged her shoulders and rolled her eyes. "Look, I don't care if you eat or not. I'm giving you twenty minutes, and then I'll be back to take Michael for testing. Do what you want." She turned and walked out of the room.

After the door closed, Liz looked around and frowned. It was too quiet in the room, and it was getting to her. "Uh, Michael, are you okay?" she asked to break the silence.

He looked at her and his eyes narrowed. Through gritted teeth he said, "No Liz, I'm not okay. Would you be okay if you had just been sliced open with a razor blade?"

Liz felt a wave of nausea pass over her at the mental picture his words procured and shuddered.

"I didn't think so," he muttered and turned his back on her.

Liz didn't understand why he was acting so cold towards her. They were stuck in this place together and all they had was each other, so why couldn't he be nice? The more she though about it, the angrier it made her. "You don't have to be such a jerk," she said and he turned cold eyes on her. Her anger grew and her voice rose in intensity. "I'm just a bad off as you are! Did you just almost get raped? NO! So you can take your attitude and shove it because you are the last thing I want or have to worry about now! We are stuck in here together and all we have is each other, so can't you at least TRY to be nice?

Michael snorted and then threw his legs over the side of the bed. He placed his elbows on his knees and hung his face in his palms. Then he sat up and rubbed the back of his neck with his hand and groaned. "Why do you have to be so difficult? You just don't get it!"

Liz crossed her arms over her chest. "Don't get what Michael? Hmm? Talk to me." Her face was innocent and passive, although her words had a caustic, razor-sharp edge to them.

He turned outraged eyes on her. "Do I need to explain it to you?" he asked as though she were stupid. "I am an alien and I am stuck in here where they are going to do experiments and God knows what else on me, and the last thing I need is your attitude."

"You're the one who's being a jerk! And they're not just doing things to you, Michael. I'm not here just to be your companion, if you haven't noticed. Topolsky isn't leaving me out on this little experiment trip, and if I remember correctly, you came to me and you dragged me into this in the first place, so don't act like this is all my fault!"

"Oh yeah, Miss Perfect? I guess if I'm not Max I'm not worth the trouble. What was I thinking? You don't care about anyone but you and your perfect boyfriend. I actually thought you cared about helping us." He shook his head in disgust. "I knew it. I knew you were nothing but a selfish brat."

Liz glared at him and moved closer so that she was right in his face. "Oh, no, no, no!! Selfish? I helped you when you were in trouble despite the fact that you have never once thanked me for a single thing I've done before and this is what I got from it - being captured in this dungeon with you and your sour attitude. You can't even be nice to me! I don't care if were stuck in here together. I want you to LEAVE ME ALONE!!!"

"You got it," he said and then got up and walked towards the bathroom.

She threw herself back on the pillow and pouted. Her stomach rumbled and she groaned. She could smell the food on the table and it smelled marvelous. Screw it, she thought. It doesn't look like your getting out of here anytime soon so you mind as well eat. Slowly, she stood and walked over to the table. She sat down and picked up a French fry, putting it in her mouth. It tasted really good, so she shrugged and began to eat.

Michael came out a few minutes later and snorted. "I though you weren't hungry?" he scoffed but Liz ignored him. She had meant it when she told him to leave her alone.

When she was done with her plate, she found that she was still hungry and she struggled to remember when she had last eaten. She frowned when she realized that it had been two days ago, right before Max had left on vacation. She had just been too busy in the last few days to eat. She looked at Michael and saw that he was staring at the ceiling. She shrugged again and began to eat the French fries off his plate.

Topolsky appeared a few minutes later with a wheelchair and removed Michael. Liz ignored both of them. Deep down, Liz was worried for Michael, but she was just too angry with him at the moment to let him see.

After they were gone, she let her stubborn expression fade and frowned. Things were not going to work very well with them fighting. She shook her head and then stood and padded to the bathroom. She didn't know how long they were going to be gone so she figured she would take a shower and then wait for the next horrible thing that Topolsky had planned for her.

After all, what other choice did she have?

*****

When Michael returned, Liz completely ignored him despite the fact that he was badly limping on both legs.

"There will be no more testing tonight. I have plans, but I'll be back for you in the morning, Liz. Sweet dreams," Topolsky said and closed the door.

Michael sighed and stretched out on the bed. Liz glanced at him and then grabbed a pillow and the blanket, which he wasn't using and fought to get comfortable on the stiff floor.

"Liz? What are you doing?" Michael asked, and she glanced over at the bed to see him staring at her with a hint of annoyance in his expression.

She shrugged and laid her head back down on the lumpy pillow.

"Whatever," Michael grumbled and the lights went out in the room.

*****

Liz jumped when light flooded the room, and then she yawned. "Must be morning," she muttered to herself. She heard Michael grumble an obscenity from the bed and saw him throw his pillow over his head.

Liz stretched her limbs, which were stiff from her rest on the floor, and then stood and entered the bathroom. After relieving herself, she showered and dressed in a fresh pair of clothes.

Michael slipped past her as she was coming out. "You only took long enough," he grumbled.

"Sorry," she replied yawning, and Michael turned back to face her, a cynical yet amused smile on his lips.

"Oh, so you're talking to me now?"

Liz rolled her eyes. "Oh, just...go do what ever you were going to do."

Without a word he turned, and a minute later Liz heard the shower begin to run.

She lay back on the bed and sighed. The hot water from the shower had relaxed her aching muscles somewhat, but she was still sore.

Michael was still in the shower when the large metal door opened and Brent reappeared, this time with breakfast. "Hello," he said and pushed the button that released the table and placed the food on it. "I'm supposed to tell you that Kathleen will be here for you in a half hour, and she wanted you to take a shower. I see you've already done that." He looked towards the door as he went through the motions of getting breakfast ready and whispered over his shoulder, "How are you holding up?"

Liz shrugged. "As well as could be expected, I guess."

Brent nodded and then said, "I'm sorry about this. I want you to know that I think this is wrong. I wish I could help, but I'm just an assistant. I'm not supposed to talk to you two - you're being video taped - so I have to act more professional." He finished his job, straightened his shoulders and in a louder voice said, "Enjoy your breakfast." Then he was gone.

She moved over to the table and began to eat the pancakes that were on her plate. Michael came out of the bathroom in a clean pair of pants-and that was it. She made a face when she saw the fresh wound on his chest and glanced at his legs as he limped towards her. In a detached voice, she asked what was wrong with his legs.

He yawned and pulled up the legs of his pants to show nasty looking black burn marks on his ankles. She frowned and in the same careless voice asked what had happened.

"Well, they took every kind of sample they could from me, blood, bone marrow, you name it and then they made me go through some exercises, and this is what happens when you can't run two miles on a treadmill without stopping."

"Huh," Liz replied and continued to eat. Michael sat down across from her and began to dig into his own breakfast.

Liz raised an eyebrow in amusement. "I thought you'd rather starve?"

Michael shrugged in response and continued to eat. Halfway through, he walked over to the refrigerator in the corner and opened it. There was an endless supply of bottled water in there, and he pulled two out and returned to the table, placing one in front of her.

"Thanks, you read my mind," Liz said, opening her bottle and taking a huge drink to wash down her breakfast.

Michael did the same, wiping his hand with the back of his mouth. "So, did Topolsky bring this stuff in?"

Liz shook her head and said, "No, that Brent guy did. He...he told me that he was sorry that we're in here and that we're being videotaped. It seems like he feels bad."

"Oh, I'm sure."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Michael's shoulders hunched and he looked at her like she was really stupid. "Don't be so naive, Liz. It's a tactic, Liz. He's probably a spy just acting like he's our friend while really he's just trying to get information out of us. I don't trust anyone in here, so no matter how nice he is to you, you will keep your mouth shut. Got it?"

Liz felt her anger peak again, but she didn't let it get the best of her. "Whatever you say," she replied and they spent the rest of breakfast in silence.

*****

Topolsky retrieved Liz sometime later and took her to a different room. They took blood, bone marrow, hair, vaginal fluid, and skin samples from her, and she figured that she was just getting the same thing that Michael had the night before.

They didn't, however, make her do any exercises like they had had Michael do.

Topolsky sent Ethan out of the room with the samples and told him to test them personally. Then she turned on Liz and smiled.

"So darling, how you liking your stay here?"

Liz looked away and shrugged.

"Okay. You can either answer me or I will just call Dr. Blackforest in here and let him have another go at you."

Panic shot through Liz and she chose to reply. "I'm not liking it at all. You know, my parents aren't stupid. They're going to find out about this."

Topolsky laughed and clutched her stomach. "Oh dear, come on. We're the government. We know how to cover our tracks and right about now, you're parent's are reading a letter that reads something along the lines of 'I can't take it anymore in Roswell, I need to get away, blah, blah, blah. They think you've run away, so don't get your hopes up."

Liz glared at the woman and sighed. She knew her parents wouldn't believe that she had run away. At least she hoped not.

"So, I haven't been around town for a while. Are you and Max still nice and cozy?"

"He's my boyfriend, if that's what you mean," Liz replied, getting annoyed at Topolsky's cute little phrases.

"That's what I wanted to hear. You are making it too easy on me, you know. And consequently playing right into my hands."

"What are your plans?" Liz asked, trying to push away the growing ball of anxiety in her stomach and to keep the fear out of her voice.

Topolsky smiled. "Don't worry, you'll see soon enough."

Part 4

Liz was roughly pushed to the ground of the room she and Michael shared when Topolsky returned her. She still hadn't had to engage in any exercises while she had been in with the blond woman. Topolsky spent the better part of their time together giving Liz cryptic threats, and Liz spent the better part of her time growing more and more nervous.

With a grunt, Liz pushed herself up off of the ground and walked over to the bed.

Michael popped his head out of the entrance to the bathroom and said, "Any permanent damage from this morning's testing?" he asked through a toothpaste filled mouth.

Liz shook her head and looked him in the eyes. "Only psychologically," she muttered.

He nodded and went back into the bathroom to rinse. In a moment he came back out and hopped on his side of the bed. It caused a wave-like motion on the bed, which disturbed Liz's delicate stomach. Her body was flooded with heat and her stomach did flip-flops. "Oh, God. I don't feel too good," she groaned raising a hand to her forehead.

"What? Did something happen to you in there?" Michael asked, and Liz couldn't help but muse over how Michael always ran so hot and cold. One minute, he was being nice and the next, he would be totally indifferent, totally a jerk. "Why did I have to get stuck with the most confusing one of the group?" she groaned inwardly.

Her wave of nausea passed and she said, "Why are you being so nice?"

Michael nodded and then averted his eyes. He looked uncomfortable when he spoke. "I thought about what you said, about us being stuck in here together and you were right. We're all the other has, so I'm trying to make an effort."

She reached out and squeezed his hand. "Thank you."

He nodded, pulling his hand out of hers and sitting with his back facing her. "So," he called over his shoulder, "what did she do to you just now?"

Liz smiled, realizing that she couldn't really expect too much from him just yet.

"She did the same sample tests she did to you last night, minus the exercises, and then she talked with me. She wondered if Max and I were together and when I said yes, she got really happy and said that I was making it too easy on her and her plans. Whatever that means," she shrugged.

"Who knows what anything means in here?" Michael groaned and then said, "Did she say when she was coming back?"

"No," Liz replied, yawning and stretching out completely on the bed.

Michael lay down next to her on his back and crossed his arms under his head.

"Then, I guess we just have to wait. It's not like we have a choice."

*****

Brent arrived sometime later with lunch. He didn't speak, but glanced between Liz and her plate a few times and mouthed something. She couldn't tell what. She figured that he had gotten in trouble for talking to her last time and that he couldn't chance talking to her right now.

Liz nudged Michael a few times with her foot a few times in an attempt to wake him up but it didn't work. Finally, she leaned over him and whispered in his ear. "Are you hungry? Lunch is here."

His head shot up to hers and at first he looked a little disoriented, and then groaned and nodded. "Sure," he mumbled and stood off the bed with a large yawn and stretch.

Liz stopped at the refrigerator to get two waters, and then joined Michael at the table. He mumbled thanks when she handed him the water, and they both began to eat. Lunch that day was turkey clubs with a bag of chips on the side.


Liz opened her chips and ate a few and then moved to pick up her sandwich. A piece of white paper fell down from the bottom of it and landed on her plate. Both she and Michael looked at it for a moment and then Liz reached out to read it. That's what the look must have been about when he put the food down, Liz realized.

In small, neat red writing it read: 'Don't let the camera see this letter!'

Automatically she put it over her lap and began to read the rest. 'Be inconspicuous. The location of the camera is in the air duct vent above the bathroom. DON'T LOOK! I don't want them to know that you know where it is. I think I found a way to get you out of here, but we have to wait for five more days. Try to put up with it until then. I may need your help, so look for more letters. - Brent.'

"What does it say?" Michael hissed.

Liz passed the letter to him under the table and he took it. He read it and then rolled his eyes. "Right," he snapped sarcastically, giving her an icy glare. "You can't trust him."

"It really seems like he's trying to help, Michael," she whispered. "Maybe we should trust him."

"No, we are in danger in this place. We don't trust anyone. That's the final word."

Liz held his eye. "Michael, you can do whatever you want, but I want to get out of here, and he may be my only link. Do what you want, and I'll do what I want, got it?"

Michael looked a little surprised. "Fine."

"Good," she replied and continued to eat her lunch. She did have to agree that it seemed a little too good to be true that Brent would get them out, but hope was all she had anymore.

*****

Topolsky didn't arrive for several more hours. At least, they figured that several hours passed, but couldn't be sure because there were no clocks.

Liz and Michael had spent most of the time since lunch either sleeping or listening to the radio station, which played classical/elevator music without commercials. They didn't really talk or interact with each other.

Liz spent a good deal of her time thinking about Max and how much she missed and needed him. She couldn't wait to be safe in his arms again. If you ever get back in his arms, a voice in her head reminded her. You may never see him again.

Michael spent most of his time sleeping, hoping that maybe somehow Isabel would come visit him in his dreams as she sometimes did, so he could tell her what was going on. He knew that Isabel liked to dream-walk, and he had caught her lingering around his head more than a few times. Of course she wouldn't come when he really needed her, he mused bitterly.

When Topolsky arrived, the first thing Liz noticed was that she looked different from usual. She was wearing a light pink sweat suit and her hair was pulled back into a very neat French braid. It made her look younger somehow, and even her manner was more casual.

"Sorry for leaving you alone all day, I had some outside business to conduct, but now I'm back."

"Oh, joy. Our day is complete," Michael muttered.

Topolsky ignored him and continued. "There's no more testing scheduled for today. I've just come to talk to you." She walked over to the radio and turned it off. "Glad you are enjoying the entertainment I have provided you."

Michael continued to be sarcastic. "Yeah, classical music makes my day. How about you Liz?"

"Yeah, it's just super," Liz agreed in the same sarcastic voice, not caring about trying to stay on Topolsky's good side. If she was going to die, she wasn't going to do it kissing Kathleen Topolsky's ass.

"Sorry about not being able to provide you the music of your choice, but we can't let you have any music from the local stations. We can't have you knowing where we are located. That would only cause more problems than necessary. I'm sure you understand," she smiled and nodded towards the end of the bed. "Do you mind if I sit?"

"Actually, I do mind," Michael replied.

"Now, Mr. Guerin. Michael. I really don't see any reason why things have to be so unpleasant between us."

"Look, I'm not really in for playing buddy-buddy with you, so why don't we just get down to whatever your reasons for being here are so you can leave?"

Topolsky looked disappointed. "Why do you have to be so difficult? I don't see why we can't try to get along in here! This doesn't have to be an unpleasant experience for any of us if we don't want it to be."

Michael's face twisted in rage and then his expression became incredulous. "You're a piece of work. I think we passed the point of unpleasant when you sliced me up, had my ankles electrocuted when I couldn't complete your exercises and when you almost allowed Liz to be raped but that fucked up doctor! And now you come in here acting like you want to be out friend? Are we supposed to be grateful? Because I'm sure as hell not grateful. You've done nothing but threaten us and treat us like slaves since we got here, so you can just go fuck yourself! Quit playing games with our heads!"

Liz was just as upset at Topolsky as Michael was, but she didn't feel she had to add anything to what he had just said. He had expressed her feelings just perfectly.

Topolsky narrowed her eyes and said, "Fine! If that's the way you want to play. How about I make things really unpleasant!" She snapped her fingers and the door opened. Both Ethan and Dr. Blackforest appeared with wheelchairs. Panic shot through Liz, and she backed up against the headboard, curling her knees to her chest. "Michael, in the chair!"

When Michael didn't move, Topolsky snapped again and Ethan stalked up to Michael and pulled him into the chair. Michael tried to fight, but the guy was just too strong for him. The older woman's eyes glittered with excitement as Ethan strapped Michael into the chair and then she looked at Liz.

"The doctor has been missing you, sweetheart, so I figured that maybe I should give you another chance to get acquainted. And this time, Michael gets to watch."

"No," Liz moaned as her eyes misted. "Please don't do this!"

"Leave her alone, you sick fuck!" Michael yelled as he struggled to get out of his harnesses.

Topolsky broadened her grin but ignored him. "Ethan," she said and the man walked over to Liz and pinned her to the bed. He produced a length of rope and tied her up to the headboard. Liz cried out for help, but there was no help to be given with Michael strapped up. Her vision blurred with tears as the doctor approached her.

"I'm going to have to excuse myself. This is all a little disturbing for me to watch. Have fun, doctor. I'll be back soon." The woman exited the room.

Liz struggled to get loose from the bed, but it only caused the ropes to cut into her wrists.

"You better pray that I don't get loose because I'll fucking kill you!" Michael growled He was completely ignored by the other men in the room.

"NO!" Liz screamed as the doctor crawled onto the bed. He reached out to caress her face.

"Hi, Liz. I've missed you so much," the doctor purred as he made contact with her cheek.

Liz cringed and closed her eyes. "No," she moaned. "Please don't do this."

"What a beauty you are," he continued and ran a finger over her lips.

Liz did the only thing she could think of; she bit down hard on his hand and gagged as the coppery, metallic taste of blood flooded her mouth. The doctor recoiled and swore, pulling his hand back to examine the wound. "Fuck!" he snarled, his face twisting into a mask of rage. "You fucking bitch! You're going to pay for that!" he vowed and slapped her across the face.

Liz's head snapped back and red waves exploded before her eyes. The doctor's ugly face swam before her vision for some time before she was suddenly forced into sobriety as his hands ripped her shirt down the middle. She screamed and tried to kick him away but he was too strong for her. He was pinning her down with one hand while the other fiddled with his belt and then slid his black pants down his legs. He smiled triumphantly and crawled on top of her.

Both desperate and livid, Michael struggled against his restraints. He couldn't allow this to happen. He had to get free. He yanked his hands back and forth, feeling the leather cut into his flesh but ignoring the pain. His entire being was only focused on one thing; inflicting serious amounts of pain on both the men in the room. He continued to thrash wildly until finally one of the straps gave way. "Bingo," he whispered.

"Get off of me!" Liz shrieked as she fought against the doctor. The man had dropped his hot, wet mouth to her neck and was clutching Liz's arms tightly, holding her down while Ethan watched silently. Both of the men had their backs turned to Michael, and they didn't see when he broke free of his restraints.

Without being seen, he slowly stood up from the chair and scanned the room for some kind of weapon. The radio was the closest thing to him so he slowly reached out for it and then noiselessly slipped behind Ethan, careful not to be seen. Liz cried out again and he cringed. *Focus! This is your only chance Michael, so make it good! One, two, three, now!* He swung with all the strength he had, hitting the oaf upside the head with corner of the radio. The man crumpled to the ground with a strangled grunt, and a pool of blood spread out around his head. Michael breathed a sigh of relief but knew it wasn't time to celebrate yet.

He knew he didn't have much time before someone came in: they were, after all, being watched, so he jumped into action.

*****

Liz helplessly looked up at the ceiling and prayed for her life as the doctor pulled down her pants and cupped his groin. She clenched her eyes closed tight and prepared for the worst, but it never came.

When she finally dared to open her eyes, she realized that the doctor wasn't even there any longer. She bent her head and saw that he was sprawled out against the opposite wall with Michael standing over him, his face white with fury. He grabbed the doctor by the shirt, picking him up from the ground and shoving him hard up against the wall.

The doctor appeared to regain his balance and he reached out to strike Michael, but his fist never connected. Michael hit him hard across the side of the face. Liz jumped slightly at the sharp sound of Michael's fist connecting with the doctor's skin. It must have been quite a blow, because the doctor fell to a pile on the ground. Michael reached down to where the doctor's pants lay around his ankles and he pulled out his belt. It had a large silver buckle on it, and Michael wrapped it around his hand and then pulled the doctor up again, punching him repeatedly in the face.

Liz saw the man's nose spurt blood and heard a sharp cracking noise. The doctor reached his hands up to his face and screamed, "You broke my nose!"

"That's not all I'm gonna break!" Michael growled and threw him across the room again. Michael stalked up to the man and stared down at him. When he spoke, his voice came out soft and cold but it grew in intensity. "You think it's fun to force yourself on women? Does it give you some kind of rush to hear a woman scream for her life as you rape her?" He growled low in his throat. "Well, I'm gonna make it so you never-EVER force yourself on a woman again!" Michael raised his foot and then stamped on the guys groin with all his weight.

Liz cringed and looked away as she heard the man yowl in agony. "Please, have some mercy!" The doctor cried as he held his hands up.

"Fuck mercy!" Michael yelled. "You didn't have any mercy when that poor girl was screaming for her life!"

He leaned down and began to punch the doctor senseless. With each blow he spoke forcefully. "I want you to remember tonight the next time you even think about touching another woman ever again. You are lucky I don't kill you!"

Liz watched as the doctor went limp as a rag doll and his eyes rolled up in his head but Michael continued to speak in the same deathly voice and pound his fists into him. "Michael?" Liz said, but he didn't hear her through his anger. She spoke a little louder. "Michael?" Finally she screamed, "MICHAEL! I THINK HE'S UNCONSCIOUS!!"

Michael's head jerked towards her, startled as if he had forgotten her presence. For a moment he looked at her without recognition but then understanding came to his face and some of the anger faded. He looked down at the man's lolling head, and dropped him to the ground in disgust.

Liz was still openly sobbing, and she couldn't seem to stop shaking, even though she wasn't in danger for the time being. She wondered if Michael had killed the man. No matter how much she hated the doctor, she didn't wish death on him, and she was relieved to see his chest rise and fall slightly. She looked up at Michael and saw he was walking over to her. He reached up undid the ropes on her wrists and then grabbed the blanket from the ground and covered her naked body.

Liz lost it. She curled up into a ball in his arms and cried her heart out.

*****

Michael didn't know exactly what to do, but he wanted to comfort her and reassure her that she was going to be all right. He pulled her tighter against him and began to rock her trembling body back and forth. "It's...okay," he said awkwardly. "He can't hurt you anymore."

Her body relaxed in his arms and she looked up into his face. "Thank you, Michael. You saved my life," she whispered.

The door flew open and Topolsky arrived with three burly men. One went to Ethan's aid, another went to the doctor's, and the last stood behind Topolsky, playing bodyguard.

"Are they alive?" Topolsky asked breathlessly.

"Ethan is alive but he needs serious medical attention. There is a nasty wound on his head."

"What about the doctor?"

"He's alive. He also needs medical attention, though. I think his nose is broken."

"Get them to the hospital, then." She looked towards Michael and Liz and she clenched her jaw in anger. "Reeves, take Michael to my office, now!"

The bodyguard moved towards Michael, pulled him up from the bed with one hand, and dragged him out of the room.

Topolsky's eyes didn't leave Liz's. "You may have gotten away this time, but I assure you, I have plans for you, bitch! And next time, you're not going to be so lucky!" With that, she turned on her heel and exited the room.

*****

Part 5

"Who the fuck do you think you are, Mr. Guerin?" Topolsky growled, getting right in his face. Michael could tell she was upset, but her manner was very calm and collected.

Michael narrowed his eyes to small slits and stared her up and down in disgust. "I'm a guy who couldn't allow an innocent girl get raped by that fucked-in-the-head doctor. You disgust me," he snarled and spat in her face.

She wiped the spittle off of her cheek, inhumanely calm, and then crisply snapped her finger, and the blockhead tightened his grip on Michael's arms. "You shouldn't have done that, Mr. Guerin," she whispered, and moved like she was going to turn.

Instead, her leg flew towards him, smashing him in the knee. He yelped in pain as his leg gave out on him and he fell to the ground.

"Bitch!" he cried out, trying to suppress the wave of revulsion that overtook him. .

"You never learn, you little prick, do you?" she asked, grabbing him by the hair and smacking him as hard as she could. His head snapped back and he felt his neck pop.

Through blurry eyes, he looked up at her and smirked.

"Is that all you got, you demented bitch?" he said, knowing that he shouldn't provoke her, but refusing to let her get the best of him.

She grinned. "Are you kidding? I could do this all night. It gets so boring in here sometimes, but this is fun." She then raised her knee to his face, smashing it into his nose.

Blood erupted from his nose and into his eyes, blinding him. He groaned in misery, not knowing how much more of this he could take. He watched through the red in his eyes as Topolsky walked over to the desk and pulled out a whip from her desk. It was black leather, and he cringed, knowing how much this was going to hurt.

"Didn't know you cared that much, Kathleen, but really, bondage isn't my thing."

"Take his shirt off!" she instructed the man holding Michael, ignoring his last comment. Immediately, his shirt was pulled up from his back and Topolsky circled around to the back of him. His stomach tightened and he closed his eyes.

"You know, Mr. Guerin," he heard her say from behind. "It really doesn't have to be this way. If you hadn't pulled your little stunt back there, this wouldn't have had to happen. I really should be having Liz's precious little neck snapped at this moment, but I'm having too much fun toying with her, and that would just interfere with tomorrow's plans. I'm sorry that I have to do this but...wait, no I'm not," she laughed wildly, and he heard the wind of the whip being pulled back and then it crashed into his back. He screamed in agony, his cried echoing off the walls and his middle arching forward.

The lashing continued to come until his back had gone numb from the pain, and then she stopped and walked back around to face him. She grabbed his chin and smiled sweetly at him. "I hope you've finally learned that it isn't good to fuck with me, Mr. Guerin. I hope I don't have to remind you again." She dropped his chin and then her knee whipped up and crashed into his throat, causing his teeth to crash into each other.

The pain of her last blow was too much for him and the last thing he saw was her smiling face before he was falling down a black spiraling void.

*****

Michael awoke to the sound of light sobbing. "Michael?" he heard a girl's voice ask- Liz's voice.

He parted his lips to speak but it caused a sharp pain to thrash through his jaw and that's when he remembered what had happened in Topolsky's office. Fucking bitch broke my jaw, he though, reeling from the aftershocks of the pain. He brought his hand up to his mouth and fought to focus on the molecules in his face.

Almost...I...there, he pushed, finally finding what he was looking for. He felt a weak power leave his hand and slowly, healed the shattered bone.

He moved his jaw from side to side, testing its strength. It was healed. He used his arms to push himself off of his stomach and on to his back. The minute he touched the sheets, he jumped up and yelped. "Damn it!" he cried when another bolt of pain shot through his body.

"Michael, it will be better if you don't move. They're really bad," Liz sobbed. "I...I wanted to clean them while you were sleeping but I was afraid that you would go into shock or something. If you want, I can try and clean them now before they get infected."

He looked into her frightened face and nodded slowly. She got up off the bed and disappeared, reemerging with a wet towel and a shallow dish of water. "Turn over," she instructed as she dipped a corner of the towel into the water.


He gritted his teeth and fought to reposition himself back on his stomach. As soon as he was there, he felt a cool towel touching his raw skin and he swore.

Liz pulled away from him, but he told her to keep going. A little unsure, she dripped the cold water on his wounds and he squeezed his eyes shut until the cool water began to soothe the pain. He sighed and let his body relax.

"What did she do to your back, Michael?" Liz asked through her tears as she continued to clean his wounds.

"She whipped me."

He felt the bed shake as Liz shuddered. "Oh Michael, this happened because you saved me. This is my entire fault. I'm so sorry. If you hadn't..."

"Liz, think of what you're saying. I don't regret what I did. That bastard was going to rape you! I couldn't stand by and let that happen. I'm the one who is sorry. If I hadn't come to you the other night, none of this ever would have happened. You would be safe at home instead of in this hellhole. I'm so sorry."

"I don't blame you," she said and he could tell by her voice that she meant it. "Look at me for a second so I can clean your face." He looked up and she gently cleaned the dried blood from his face. "Your nose...I think it's broken."

He nodded. "It is and so is my knee but I used up my powers to heal my jaw. I'm gonna have to wait to heal them."

She climbed off the bed and went back into the bathroom to return the dish and towel. When she returned, she helped him move his body around so that his head rested on the pillow, and she pulled the blanket over him.

Just then, the lights went out in the room and it struck Michael that he must have been unconscious for some time.

Liz's sobbing was the only thing he could hear in the room, and he reached out blindly for her hand, wanting to comfort her somehow.

Her shaky hand gripped his tightly and she said, "Michael?"

"Yeah?"

"We're going to die in here, aren't we?"

He wanted to tell her no, that they would get out somehow, but he couldn't because he wasn't so sure himself anymore.

"That's what I thought," she breathed in a desolate tone and released his hand.

Part 6

Michael had two dreams that night after he fell asleep.

In the first he saw Maria. Not the real Maria, but he didn't know that right away. He had been sitting on the bed in his cell, listening to the radio and waiting for Topolsky to bring Liz back from her latest round of testing when he heard a knock at the door. He looked at it unsure, knowing that the damn thing was always locked. Who would be knocking? he asked himself. When he didn't answer, the knock came again and he finally stood and stepped towards the door, grabbing the handle. Wait. Was there a handle there before? he wondered.

He finally turned the knob and it opened freely to reveal a smiling Maria wearing a short sundress and looking breathtakingly beautiful. "Hi Michael," she said throatily and then giggled, wrapping her arms around his neck.

He was never so happy to see her. "Maria!" he cried and embraced her tighter, never again wanting to let his beautiful angel go. "God, Maria. I have been in absolute hell thinking that I would never see you again. Are Max and Isabel with you? Are you all here to save us?"

She pulled back and smiled. "Of course. What else would we be doing here? Come on." She held out her hand. "Let's go before Topolsky gets back."

"Wait! Liz is with Topolsky. We have to wait for her."

Maria rolled her eyes in annoyance and she looked him up and down. "Why are you all of the sudden so interested in Liz?" she asked suspiciously. "Are you two fucking around?"

"What? No, Maria, of course not. I love you. But Liz is in there with Topolsky and she's going to do something awful to her if we don't stop her. It's my fault she's in here."

"Oh, so you have to play knight in shining armor, then? Who cares about what she's doing to Liz? She can kill Liz for all I care!" Maria yelled. "Liz can go to hell!"

"What are you saying Maria? She's your best friend!"

"Defending your little girlfriend? Well, you can go to hell too!" she screamed and pushed him back in the cell, locking the door after him. "MARIA!!! NO!!! PLEASE LET ME OUT!!! IT'S YOU I LOVE, NOT LIZ!!!!!"

But he got no response.

He had woken up in that instant in confusion and pain shot through his body. He doubled over and waited for the severe ache to pass. It was just a dream, he told himself. Maria would never act like that.

He had looked over to where Liz was peacefully sleeping on the bed beside him and wondered why he would be having a dream about Maria being jealous over Liz.

Sometime later he fell asleep again and he had another dream. The second dream was a little more complex. This time he saw Isabel, and he couldn't be sure if it was the real Isabel or not.

He had been sitting in his cell once again, waiting for Liz, when he decided to try and dream walk to call for help. He had only dream walked twice in his entire life, and those had both been visits he made with Maria, and he had a picture of her in front of him. This time he didn't have a picture, but he knew he had to try.

He chose to try and reach Isabel over Max because he knew that Isabel was more receptive to dream walking. Since he didn't have a photo, he had closed his eyes and attempt to picture her in his mind. He started with her long blond hair, and at first, it wasn't long enough, so he made it grow longer. Then, he pictured her face, but he got it all wrong and had to do some mental artwork.

Her eyebrows need more slant...got it…and her cheekbones need to be higher...there. Now, her lips need to be a little bit fuller...wait, not that full, just a little bit thinner...and he had it! There was now a clear picture of Izzy in his mind. It could have been a photograph. He had even gotten her expression right; the one she often flashed at him when she was particularly annoyed with him.

Now, how do I get into her dream? he thought, feeling frustrated. How am I gonna touch the picture? He groaned and threw himself back on the bed. Then another thought came to him and he sat back up. I created the image with my mind. Maybe I should try and enter with my mind. It's worth a try.


He closed his eyes and focused intensely on the picture of Isabel in his mind, willing himself into her dream. And it worked! Suddenly, he saw the picture of Isabel ripple, and he was sucked inside of the picture, while his physical body collapsed back on the bed in a peaceful slumber.

He was walking down a long hallway following the pink neon arrows hanging on the walls. Applause and cheering came from behind the door at the end of the hall, and he knew that was where he needed to go. He reached the door and pushed it open and all of the sudden he was in a huge auditorium, and there was music playing loudly.

"There she is, Miss America...."

He looked up to the stage and realized that he was at a beauty pageant, and Isabel was up on stage crying as she was crowned Miss America. He snorted because this was so Isabel. After the large crown was placed on her head, she wiped her tears away and began to walk around on the stage, waving her hand dramatically and mouthing "Thank you, thank you."

Michael walked down the long carpeted aisle and climbed the steps to the stage, walking right up to her. "Isabel, I need to talk to you."

Isabel's step faltered and she glared at him, but kept the huge smile plastered on her face as she smiled at the crowd. "Michael, go away! This is my big moment!"

"But it's important. Topolsky has kidnapped Liz and me and were stuck in some lab. She's going to kill us."

Isabel stopped walking around and her eyes widened. The smile dropped from her face as she dropped the bouquet of flowers to the ground. "Are you serious?" she asked, ignoring the murmur from the crowd.

"Yes Isabel, and she's doing horrible things to us. She was going to let this doctor rape Liz, but I stopped him, and Topolsky practically killed me because of it. She's evil, Izzy, and if you and Max don't save us, we're not going to last much longer."

"Oh my God," Isabel said, her eyes watering the way they always did when she was worried.

"Will you come?"

She nodded. "Yes, I'll tell Max and we'll be on the next flight back to New Mexico."

"Hurry," he said, "I have a feeling that things are going to get really ugly."

She nodded and then the dream Michael bolted out of bed and nodded to the empty room, trying to reassure himself that they would come.

Then, the real Michael woke up as the lights to the room were turned on. He was in total confusion. He didn't know whether or not it had all been a dream, or if it had been real, or what? Did he really talk to Isabel, or had that been in his imagination?

He groaned and threw the pillow over his head as he opened his eyes to the bright fluorescent lighting. He tried to move, but felt like he had been hit by a freight train, his body was so stiff.

"Are you feeling any better today?" he heard Liz's quiet voice ask as she sat up, the mattress moving under her body.

"No," he whispered, his voice cracking. "I feel like hell run over, but I think I may have enough strength to heal myself. My throat is so dry. Can you get me some water?"

"Yeah. Now that you mention it, you do look like hell run over. Your entire face is purple and you have two black eyes," she said and got out of bed to walk to the refrigerator.

He finally looked at her and noticed that she wasn't looking so good either. The entire side of her face was black and blue from where the doctor had slapped her. "Does that hurt?" he asked and used his arms to prop himself up against the headboard.

She raised a hand to her cheek and touched the swollen flesh, cringing at the pain that flared through her face. "Yeah, it hurts," she replied and then bent down and retrieved a second bottle of water, placing it on her cheek. "But that feels good." She sighed.

"Do you want me to heal that for you?" he asked.

She shook her head. "No, you need to use all your power to heal yourself, and you're in much worse shape than I am. Here," she handed him the water and then walked around to her side of the bed sitting down next to him. "So, besides the obvious, is everything okay? Because you were moaning and talking in your sleep."

It was then that he remembered his dreams. The one with Isabel was still fresh in his mind. He actually believed that it could have been real. "Oh my God, Liz!" he cried and then glanced at the air duct where the hidden camera supposedly was. He quieted his voice to a whisper. "Don't get your hopes up but I had this dream where I dream walked into Isabel's dream and told her about what's going on. I can't be sure if it's real, but if it is, she said that she and Max would hop on the next plane to New Mexico."

Her eyes widened for a moment, and he saw her shake her head. "I hope that's true, but I'm not going to get my hopes up."


"Maybe I should try what I did in my dreams then."

"Maybe you should, if you have enough strength. But first, you need to heal yourself. You need to be well for whatever Topolsky has planned for us today. I have a feeling it's going to get ugly."

He looked in surprise, shocked to hear his own words coming from her mouth.

"What?" she asked, looking self-conscious.

"That's exactly what I said to Isabel in my dream."



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posted on 20-Sep-2001 9:32:18 PM
When Topolsky arrived that morning, she was positively radiant, almost giddy. She skipped into the room like a schoolgirl, her hands locked behind her arms, her head tilted to one side, a sly smile on her lips.

Liz and Michael exchanged wary glances, and Liz scooted up against the headboard with her knees drawn to her chest. She was terrified of Topolsky and her plans. It gotten to the point where she was so drained that she didn't know how much longer she would last in there. She had very little hope left for survival.

"How are we doing today, Mr. Guerin? Feeling better?" Topolsky asked.

Michael narrowed his eyes and grunted in response. He was feeling better, but only because he had healed his knee and nose while Liz was in the shower. He cringed to think that Topolsky had it all on tape. He had also attempted to dream walk into Isabel's dream after the healing process was complete, but he hadn't been able to reach her. She must have been awake.

He only prayed that they really were on their way back to New Mexico, like Isabel had promised in the dream - that is if it had been a real dream. He just couldn't be sure.

"So," Topolsky began, her sugary voice snapping him back to attention. "I had a talk with my supervisor, and he has come to the conclusion that I'm not being very productive here, that I'm just wasting tax-payer's dollars, blah-blah-blah. And I must agree. Beating the hell out of you two has been fun, granted, but it's not very productive. After all, there's so much research to be done, so many things we don't know about, and I guess I've forgotten about that." She lowered herself on the corner of the bed.

"So, I had to ask myself: what route should I take to become more productive? How do I find out the answers we need? And then, in a moment of sheer brilliance, a burst of clarity, it came to me." She began to smile broadly, obviously anxious about sharing her plans, but wanting the suspense to last a little bit longer.

"Fine, what's that?" Michael sighed when she didn't continue.

Her smile turned to a self-satisfied grin. "How should I put this? Everyone, humans that is, are so terrified of aliens. What they don't understand is that aliens are like humans, only more advanced. How can I put their minds at ease, I have to wonder. How can I teach the world that aliens can better our society, better our race?"

Liz's heart began to beat madly, and she glanced nervously at Michael. She couldn't be saying what Liz thought she was saying, could she? "And...how exactly do you propose to do that?" she asked, swallowing thickly, dreading Topolsky's answer.

Topolsky turned her attention to Liz. "I'm really glad you asked that, Liz. I knew you were the brains of the two. I mean, come on - Michael? Not exactly the brightest person. All I got to say is thank God for genetics. If it wasn't for his alien make-up, I would have had killed him a long time ago. He's quite annoying if you ask me."

"Glad to be of service," Michael muttered.

"But Liz, back to your question. How do I propose to make our race better? Very easy. It's all about...experimentation. I mean, we're only assuming how to make a better race, but to find out for sure, we have to run tests. And would you looky here, I happen to have two viable test subjects in my possession. Are you understanding any of this yet?"

"You want to breed us?" Liz cried, having been right in her original suspicions. She pulled the blanket further up to her chest and her body began to shake uncontrollably, the entire mattress quivering beneath her. This couldn't be happening.

*****

Michael looked over at Liz and saw that her eyes were white all around. He could feel her fear radiating off of her in massive waves that threatened to take him along for the ride. "No," Liz mouthed silently, her head shaking violently. "You can't make us do this."

Michael himself was appalled. He understood what Topolsky was doing. She was just playing one of her regular games. And now he completely understood why Topolsky had been so interested in whether or not Max and Liz were together and if they had been intimate. What better way was there to torture Liz than to make her first time with someone other than her own true love?

"You sick bitch," Michael said matter-of-factly, fighting the wave of revulsion pulsing through his body. "This has nothing to do with the furthering of science. A hybrid? This is one of your sick little games where you only try to further your methods of torture. You can go to hell, bitch, because it ain't going to happen!"

"Wrong Mr. Guerin!" Topolsky replied and snapped her finger. Immediately, the door opened to reveal to men in army fatigues with semi-automatic rifles in their hands.

"You see Mr. Guerin, I've grown really tired of your attitude and empty threats. I'm not going to fuck around with you anymore. I've been lenient up until now, but that's all over. From now on, you will do exactly what I say, when I say it and the moment we hear the slightest peep of protest, both Lt. Shart and Lt. Green will put a bullet in your head. And that goes for BOTH of you!"

Michael smirked. "You wouldn't. I'm too valuable to you. How will you 'further' your research without me?"

Topolsky smirked right back. "You forget, Mr. Guerin, there is another one of you who can easily be ascertained if I get bored with you, which mind you, is happening very quickly. Do you understand or do you need a visual demonstration?"

"I hear you," Michael muttered.

She stood off the bed and, but her eyes never left Michael's face. "Now, we can do this the hard way or the easy way. The hard way would consist of all sorts of unpleasantness; needles, probes...I think you get my drift. The easy way would be much more preferable, don't you think? Besides Michael, you know you want her, so how can you complain? You would never get a girl like Liz in the real world - unless you paid for it or if she were really drunk. You should actually be on your hand's and knees thanking me for putting you in this situation."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Michael asked. "It's not like that between me and Liz."

She smiled. "Granted, Liz would never give trash like you the time of day. We all know that she has the hots for the strong, silent types like Max, but Max isn't here. You, on the other hand, you may be sticking it to her best friend, but it's her you really want, isn't it? I've been watching you for the longest time, longer than you think, and I've seen the way you look at her. You want her so bad you can taste it. Don't deny it, I have all the proof I need on camera."

Michael scowled, "I've only watched her in here to check on her after the fucked up things you've done to her."

Topolsky tossed her head back and laughed. "You can keep on telling yourself that kid, but really, who are you kidding?" She snapped her fingers. The two army men walked over to where Liz was frozen against the bed and picked her up. They stood her up between them, each grasping her with one arm. She snapped again and the men quickly stripped Liz down naked. A strangled gasp escaped Liz's trembling mouth and the two men stepped away, leaving a crying Liz to stand alone freely, completely exposed.

Topolsky looked Liz up and down a few times, a sadistic smile on her face. She circled Liz a few times, and finally came to a stop behind her. "See Michael, look at these breasts." She groped her from behind causing Liz to whimper. "They're so firm, so round. Look at these nipples, so pink, so hard. She wants you, Michael.

Michael turned his head, unable to watch this display of perversion.

"I said look!" He still refused to look, so Topolsky took matters into her own hands, not giving him a choice. She snapped her finger and one of the army men snapped him in the head with the back of his gun, hard enough to cause a sharp pain but not hard enough to knock him out. The army man grabbed him by the head and forced his head in the direction of Liz. He kept his eyes on her face only.

Liz couldn't look at Michael- she was too humiliated. She clenched her eyes shut tight and Topolsky's hands slid down from her breasts and over her ribs. "And look at this Michael, what a figure," she whispered as she ran her hands over Liz's waist and stomach. "Couldn't you just imagine this beautiful, soft body against yours? I know you've thought about it." Liz jumped when Topolsky dropped her hand down to the space between her legs, cupping her.

"NO!" Liz screamed, her body still frozen.

"Look at this Michael. Look at these soft, black curls. You know what's down here, don't you?" She said as she thrust her hand against Liz's core, and Liz moaned desperately. "Please, NO!"

"She wants you, Michael," Topolsky continued, her breath becoming labored. "She's so wet, so hot, just for you. She wants you to give it to her, Michael. She wants you to fuck her." She finally released Liz and threw her roughly towards the bed.

Topolsky walked around to Michael's side of the bed and leaned to whisper in his ear as the army guy kept his head in place. "Give it to her Michael. Or the lieutenants will give it to you and I don't think you want what they'd like to give. Liz's body would be the much more preferable alternative to a round of bullets in your head, don't you think?"

She snapped yet again and the army guy released his head and grabbed his gun, cocking it and putting it to Michael's head. "It's your choice, Michael."

Michael looked over to Liz. She was looking at him with such terror in her eyes, such fear. He couldn't do that to her. He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth. "You're going to have to kill me," he said loudly, hearing the shakiness in his voice.

Topolsky sighed gravely. "Very well."






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posted on 20-Sep-2001 9:33:50 PM
Part 7

"NNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

Everyone stopped what he or she was doing to look up at the dark-haired girl as she cried at the top of her lungs. This was no whine or whimper; it was a blood-curling scream that demanded attention.

Michael opened his eyes to look at Liz, as she stood on top of the bed, in all her naked glory. "You will not kill Michael!" she spat at Topolsky, her eyes fierce and wild. Then she looked to Michael. "What the hell are you thinking? You're going to let them kill you? It isn't worth it Michael! Nothing is worth your life, or my life or anyone's life! You can't leave me in here alone and if...having sex," she swallowed hard, her voice weakening. "is what we have to do to live, then we do it! I'm not giving up so easily and neither are you!"

Liz held her head high and glared at all the faces in the room.

Michael let out a breath and then looked back to Topolsky and saw that the woman looked mildly impressed. Then, she smiled and bit her lip. "You know, Michael, that's the kind of camaraderie I like to see." She nudged him and said, "I told you she wanted you."

"Fuck you, Kathleen," Liz spat, shocking Michael for the second time in one minute.

Topolsky only continued to smile, and patted Michael on the head. "You two have fun," she said. "I'll leave the lieutenants in here to make sure the deed is done."

"You don't need to leave them in here," Liz said calmly. "Besides, you'll be watching anyway, won't you?"

Topolsky's face blanked and then hardened. "You're damn right I will. Got to make sure that Michael doesn't metamorphosis into anything while you're screwing."

"Then take your lap-dogs with you," Liz said firmly, clearly stating by her actions that she refused to be shaken by this woman anymore.

The blonde woman considered this for a moment and then nodded. "But keep in mind, they'll be right outside of this door. If you back out, they will come in and blow your heads off."

"Get out," Liz hissed.

Topolsky left with her army men on her tails.

Liz turned to look at Michael and for the first time in a few minutes showed how truly horrified she really was. "Michael?" she squeaked, her face pinching.

"Liz, are you sure?"

Liz put her face in her palms and her muffled voice came out. "I don't have a choice. I'd rather this than being in here alone." She looked up at him and said, "I'm...we're...we should get this over with."

Michael didn't know what to say and he just watched as Liz laid her shaky body down on the bed. She couldn't look at him. "Come on, Michael. Let's just do this now before I lose my nerve and something terrible happens."

Michael nodded slowly. "How should we...I mean, I've never done this before. Fuck! It's going to hurt you Liz. You're supposed to be...turned on, for lack of a better term, and I...how does...how do I make that happen? I don't want to hurt you any more than I have to."

*****

Liz closed her teary eyes and thought about that. She had learned that the first time could be painful as it was, but if she wasn't ready, if she wasn't well lubricated, the pain would be torturous. The only thing she could think of was to pretend he was Max.

She took a deep breath and then grabbed Michael by the arm and pulled him down on the bed. Keeping her eyes closed, she reached out for his face and slowly brought his lips to her. His lips were stiff so she pulled back and said, "Look Michael, I'm just going to pretend you're Max. It's that simple. I think that's the only way I'm going to get through this. Pretend I'm Maria if you want. Now kiss me."

She closed her eyes and kissed him again and this time his lips weren't so stiff. He began to kiss her back and even if his kisses weren't like Max's, she would deal because she had to.

At first, their lips just brushed each other’s slowly and then Liz parted her lips and began to suck on his. Some of the shaking began to fade in her body and she began to relax. As their kisses got deeper, Liz wrapped her arms around his neck and scooted her body closer into his.

When he wrapped her arms around her and pulled her in even closer, she thought, his arms don't feel like Max's. No! You can't think that way. You're in Max's arms!

After a few more moments of kissing, something began to heat up inside of her. Max, she moaned in her head, not daring to say it aloud. She pulled 'Max' on top of her and began to rub her hips over him. She felt him grow hard against her and she moaned as the juncture between her legs pushed up into his arousal.

She could feel a heat between her legs and dampness on her inner thighs. She pressed up into him again, her back arching as she let out a small cry.

Liz blindly reached for 'Max's' shirt and she pulled it up over his head. She needed to feel his bare chest against hers. Then she lowered her hands again and began to push down his pants as far as her arm-length would allow. He pulled them off the rest of the way and soon, their hot, trembling bodies were pressing up against each other’s and their legs were entwined.

Liz's head fell back as 'Max's' mouth trailed kisses over her neck and she moaned again. His mouth felt so wonderful on her skin. Her hand drifted down his chest, lower over his stomach, and even lower until she gripped his manhood in her hand. She tugged on it lightly and heard him groan.

His own hand dropped low until he encountered her core and he began to rub his finger over her wet center. Her body felt like it was going to combust. She had never felt anything so wonderful, and she arched her hips toward his hand demanding more. He teased her a little bit longer and then took her by surprise when he slowly pushed a finger up into her.

She bit down on his shoulder to stop from crying out and then she threw her head back again with a gasp. Her entire body was on fire. His hands wove into her hair and pulled her mouth back to his, his tongue exploring her mouth. He continued to slide his finger inside of her for a few more minutes and she cried out when he stopped only to coo with pleasure when he brought it up to circle her clit.

She tugged on his arousal again and slowly began to run her hands over him and smiled when she heard a strangled groan in his throat. Then, she led him towards her center and began to rub her lower lips over him. He pulled back and cupped his erection in his hands and once again placed them up against her lips. Then, he began to very slowly inch into her. She clenched her eyes tight and bit down on her lip when plain flared through her loins. She felt like she was being ripped apart at first, and she cried out as tears fell down the sides of her cheeks.

She felt him stop halfway in her and she whispered, "No, don't stop. Please."

He hesitated a moment more and then finally continued his path inside of her until she was fully sheathing him. He relaxed on top of her, giving her a moment to adjust, she figured, and didn't move until she did. She felt her insides stretch far apart and the sharp pain began to dull. Then she sucked in a deep breath and began to pull her hips back from him a little and then forward again.

He began to move over her slowly and her dull pain began to diminish even more. They started out quite slow at first, but their pace increased and Liz shot out a hand to grab onto the corner of the mattress as his thrusting came harder and harder. At first, he was just keeping her need under control, soothing her inner ache, but eventually she was feeling things come undone inside of her, and she bucked her hips up against him at a crazy pace until she exploded with a delirious cry on her lips as she flew apart into a million pieces.

She felt his own warmth spread into her as a loud exhausted groan escaped his lips. She continued to thrust up into him until he had gone limp inside of her. His lips had touched hers again and they continued to devour each other's mouths until they were so exhausted that they couldn't move anymore.

He moved off of her and pulled her into his arms at his side, pulling the blanket over their bodies. She snuggled into his side and sighed in happiness. Happiness, why did that notion feel so foreign? Then it hit her and her eyes slowly opened, having finally been torn from her beautiful reverie.

She looked up into Michael's, not Max's, worried face, and swallowed thickly, fighting the tears.

"I'm sorry, Liz," he whispered gently, his own throat choked up.

She sniffed and looked away. Her voice was void of emotion. "It's okay. We didn't have a choice, right?"

When he didn't answer, she nodded. "We had to," she whispered and excused herself to go take a shower.


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posted on 20-Sep-2001 9:36:07 PM
Part 8

Michael quietly watched Liz walk stiffly to the bathroom, a blanket wrapped around her body, and felt his throat swell. He couldn't understand it. She wasn't showing any emotion at all. It was like she was a shell of who she used to be. She's probably just in shock, he told himself.

He had seen the ways her statement had shattered when she had finally looked into his face after their coupling. He had never felt like such scum. It was his fault that they had had to do this. He was the one who had got them caught in the first place. Why had he gone to Liz that night anyway? He should have known that they would have been caught! He should have just kept walking, but instead he had gone to her for help, and all he had ever brought to her since then was pain. What kind of person was he? No person at all, he reminded himself, and that was the whole problem. No wonder people didn't help each other anymore, he thought, bitterly. Look where helping had gotten Liz.

Liz walked on shaky legs to the shower. Zombie-like, she spun the faucet and pulled out the knob to route the water to the showerhead. The blanket fell away discarded as she stepped under the spray. The water was hot, scalding hot, but she didn't dare add more cool water. She felt dirty and she wanted the fiery spray to wash it all away.

Her eyes drifted down to the tiled floor and she absently noticed that the water was turning reddish. I must be bleeding, she thought. She had heard of that happening to girls the first time they had sex.

Mechanically, she washed her hair and rinsed it, not even noticing the heat of the water burning her skin. She was too busy trying to process the random scraps of information scurrying around her brain. It took a while, but soon her thoughts began to separate themselves, bringing her to the brutal realization that she had just had sex with Michael; not Max. The experience itself had been wonderful, but only because she had let her imagination run away from her. She had believed that it was Max's body she had been feeling, that it was Max she had made love to, but who was she kidding?

She reached for the soap and began to ferociously scrub her body, trying to cleanse herself of the filth. When she couldn't scrub anymore, she increased the hot water and rinsed. Space and time had abandoned her. It took awhile before she realized that she was sitting on the tiled floor with her arms wrapped around her soapy legs, crying.

She tilted her head back. "What did I do to deserve this?" she choked, waiting for an answer that would never come.

Michael put his pants back on after a length of time, and then mechanically stripped the bed of its sheets. There was blood on them and he didn't want Liz to see that. He couldn't stand to see it himself. He tossed the pile away in disgust and walked over to the refrigerator to get a bottle of water. He needed something to wash away the bitter taste of bile in his throat. He chugged the entire bottle in seconds, feeling a spike of pain in his forehead from its coldness, and moved to grab another. The pain grew fiercer with the second but he enjoyed it. He deserved all the pain in the world. He looked up as Liz reappeared, her skin looking pink and scrubbed, her eyes emotionless. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and awkwardly stepped forward.

He wanted to say something, but what? What could he possibly say to her after what had just happened? He had done the worst thing a person could do, and he was supposed to act like nothing happened? Various remarks scuttled in his brain, some mushy and sensitive, other cutting and sarcastic. He settled for incredibly lame.

"Are you okay?"

She looked up from the spot on the ground she'd been studying, but didn't quite meet his eyes. He saw her chin quiver. "Yes."

He wanted to run to her, to beg for forgiveness, to pull her into his arms and comfort her. But he didn't have the right to do that. He simply nodded and motioned to the bathroom. "I'm gonna go shower."

Liz took a seat at the table and stared at the shiny white surface until it faded into bright blur. Now that her mind was clear, it was telling her that she should stop thinking about what had happened and focus on something more constructive. Their lives were still in danger and they would never get out if she let herself be sucked into a trap of shame and self-pity.

Her eyes hardened as a mechanical hiss filled the room and moments later, Brent entered with their evening meal. At least she thought it was evening; she couldn't be sure. Time didn't seem to exist here.

He didn't look at her or utter a single syllable, and was gone almost as quickly as he had arrived. Her stomach clenched and did a somersault as she stared down at her plate. Pushing it away, she stood and was moving towards the bed when she saw the white sheet of paper tucked under her sandwich. Knowing that Topolsky was probably still watching them, she sat back down and forced herself to take a bite. A wave of revulsion swept over her as she struggled not to gag. Placing it back on the plate, she swiftly palmed the slip of paper while reaching for the napkin to spit the food back out.

She let a full minute pass, sucking in mouthfuls of air to calm herself, before standing and casually walking to the wall directly beneath the air-vent where she was sure she'd be out of view. There was one word scratched on the paper in what looked like charcoal, but she read it several times over. TONIGHT!

Liz felt something stir inside of her. The rescue mission would be tonight! She looked towards the bathroom and then with only a moment’s hesitation, walked inside and knocked on the fiberglass door of the shower.

"Yeah?" Michael said, his drippy head appearing a moment later. He attempted to hide his irritation at the interruption: he had put Liz through enough lately.

Liz looked around cautiously and then held the sheet of paper over her chest. Michael read it and then stared at her questioningly. Liz leaned in close and whispered, "Brent dropped this off with dinner. I think they're going to save us tonight." Whoever they are, she added silently.

Michael stared into Liz's face and saw the desperate spark of hope in her eyes. He didn't dare tell her what he was really thinking; he feigned optimism. "Let's hope it works."

"It has to," she said passionately, "It just... has to."

Michael attempted to smile sincerely and went back to his shower. The smile faded from his face and he prayed that it was true. It seemed unlikely, but he needed to be able to hope. He knew better than most that when you hit rock bottom, hope is all you really have left.

Topolsky and the two army men reappeared sometime later. A leering smile darkened her features, making her look a little insane. "Color me impressed. I've seen porn’s with less heat."

Michael and Liz stared at her, both cringing horribly inside at the realization that it must have looked like they had been enjoying themselves on camera.

"Please just leave us alone," Michael said with none of the usual animosity in his tone. He was defeated, exhausted, and in no mood to fight.

"Fine," Topolsky said. "I just wanted to congratulate you on a splendid performance." She turned as though she were going to go and then she sighed. "Oh, that's right. Actually, there's something else I wanted to tell you." She walked over to the trashcan and picked up the few shreds of paper that Liz had thrown in there after showing Brent's note to Michael. She waved the scraps of paper in their faces. "Mr. McFadden will not be coming for you tonight or any other night. Sorry, but the rescue mission is off." A cruel, triumphant smile twisted her face. "I'll be back for Liz in the morning. There is much testing to be done." As she turned to leave, the door opened. Her mouth fell open and she jumped back.

Michael and Liz's heads, bowed in disappointment and grief, both shot up when they heard a familiar voice.

"Am I interrupting something?"

Part 9

The prisoners jumped off the bed and watched as Max entered the room. The mere sight of Max made Liz's body tingle with warmth, just like it always did. He was there to rescue them!

Topolsky recovered quickly from her backward stumbling and narrowed her eyes. "What are you doing here? Come to join in on the fun?"

"Hardly," Max said. He glanced at Liz and offered her that small smile that always made her body flush from head to toe. This time, it made her feel guilty. She was overly aware of Michael's closeness to her and she swore to herself that if she ever got out of this, she would tell Max what happened. After this, he deserved an explanation! "I'm here to get Liz and Michael and take them home with me."

Topolsky threw her head back and laughed. The sound was high and shrill, like a hyena, and went on for about two seconds before it was cut short abruptly. "You've got to be kidding." She shook her head, an amused smile playing on her face and spoke over her shoulder. "Lieutenants, we have a visitor. This is Max Evans. Let's make him feel at home."

The army men both positioned their guns at Max and slowly begin to walk towards him. Liz felt a scream crawling up to her throat but the only thing that prevented it from escaping was the fact that Max didn't appear too concerned. Granted his body showed all the signs of being nervous as he held up his hands in defense and began to cautiously walk backwards, but Liz could see something in his eyes that calmed her.

Just then, Isabel and Maria appeared behind him, both looking oddly confident as the soldiers continued to move in on Max. Topolsky smirked. "Aaah, three new members to add to our team of lab rats."

"Yeah, that's so going to happen," Maria smirked and rolled her eyes.

"Oh, do you think you can stop us?" Topolsky asked.

"Damn right we can," Maria replied, a smile reaching her lips. "Isabel?"

"Got it." Isabel began to walk towards the soldiers.

"What's...?" Topolsky began but didn't get to finish because Isabel shot her a long look and her eyes widened, her mouth closing.

Isabel turned back to look at the soldiers and kept her eyes on their faces as she slowly walked forward. The soldiers stopped advancing and their grasps on their guns began to loosen, their eyes became dazed. Slowly, she reached out for their guns and put her hands over the sides of the barrels. She kept her eyes on theirs and smiled at them as power began to flow out of her hands and into the guns.

Liz watched on, cringing inside, expecting the soldiers to shoot at any moment but that never happened. It was like she had some kind of control over them and Liz was positive that it wasn't just her wily Isabel Charm. Liz's breath caught in her throat as she watched the barrels of the guns melt in Isabel's hands.

Isabel kept contact with the men's eyes a few more minutes in complete silence. Nobody knew what to think but they weren't going to interrupt because whatever she was doing, it seemed to be working. Liz looked over at Max, questioning him with her eyes but he just raised a finger to his lips and winked at her. Liz nodded and looked back at Isabel as she continued to stare at the men. Everyone in the room seemed to be holding their breath, not wanting to break the spell Isabel had over the men and waiting for...well, Liz didn't know what they were waiting for, but she held her breath as well.

Suddenly, the men nodded, saluted Isabel, and then walked out of the room. Everyone watched them go and then let out a collective breath as the men disappeared around a corridor. Isabel turned to Topolsky and snapped her finger. The dazed look disappeared from the older woman's eyes and transformed into rage.

What's going on?" she spat. "Where did the lieutenants go?" She looked around the room and then pulled a radio out of her back pocket and began to speak into it. "We have a code red! Repeat...we have a code red! There has been a security breach in..."

Michael stalked up to her and slapped the radio out of her hand, grabbing her by the shoulders. "It's payback time bitch!" he snarled and then shoved her back against the wall where she hit with a resounding thud.

"Oh no, Michael. She's mine," Liz said, appearing at his side. She didn't know what was happening, but she really wanted to hurt this woman. She wanted to make her pay for all the horrible things she had done to them in the last few days. Max appeared at Liz's side and tugged on her arm.

"Liz, we should really get out of here."

"NO!" Liz replied, shrugging out of his grasp, her eyes never leaving Topolsky's face. "I'm not leaving until she gets what she deserves."

Topolsky stood up straight and smirked at Liz. "Oh, Mrs. Perfect. You really think you've got what it takes to go against me?"

Liz nodded but never got the chance to reply because at that moment, Topolsky's booted foot shot up for her head, connecting with her head. Liz fell with a grunt, seeing stars but she didn't stay on the ground long. A moment later she was up on her feet. Topolsky came at her again but the woman was at an extreme disadvantage with five other people in the room, three of them being aliens: she never reached Liz. Michael had taken hold of the woman from the back and Liz found Maria standing next to her holding a crowbar in her hands.

"Here you go babe," Maria said, wiggling her eyebrows. "First shot is yours."

Liz swiftly took the solid metal bar from Maria's hands and gripped it tightly. "You think it's fun to torture people?" she growled to Topolsky. "Let's see how much you like it!" The woman glared at her and spat in Liz's face.

Liz immediately swung the bar towards Topolsky's stomach. The connection caused the wind to be knocked out of the woman, and she tried to double over, but Michael was holding her tight. As the woman struggled to catch her breath, Liz heard the sound of many footsteps coming up the hallway and the room filled with Topolsky's two bodyguards.

After that, everything erupted in chaos. While Liz was looking away, Topolsky has caught her breath and Liz caught it out of the side of her eye as she tossed her head back sharply, cracking Michael's nose. Blood was spurting from his face and his hands instantly moved up to touch it, in turn letting Topolsky go.

Topolsky charged Liz, but try as she might to swing the crowbar again, she couldn't make it in time, and both of them fell to the ground. The crowbar went flying from Liz hands and she and Topolsky began to struggle.

In the rest of the room, Max was rolling around on the ground with one of the bodyguards, and Isabel and Maria were backing away from another one, who was threatening them. Michael recovered and came to their rescue, tackling the man from behind. Isabel and Maria slipped away and ran to help Liz who wasn't doing so well.

"Liz!" Maria shouted, distracting Topolsky who had been landing punches in Liz's gut. Topolsky's head shot backwards and at that instant, Maria swung the crowbar at Topolsky's face, sending her across the room. Liz sighed and muttered thanks as Isabel helped her up. She looked over at the crumpled older woman who was cupping her bleeding cheek and saw the hatred in Topolsky's eyes. She moved to go after her, knowing that she wouldn't stay down forever, but stopped when she heard a desperate voice cry out.

"FUCK!" Michael screamed and all three swung their heads around to see that the man he was wrestling with had pulled a gun on him. Liz grabbed the crowbar from Maria's hands and ran up to the man, swinging with all her might at his head.

The man slumped over with a grunt, his gun dropping to the ground and Maria rushed to his side. "Are you okay?" she asked and Michael nodded, clutching at his side.

"I think he broke everyone of my ribs on my left side," he gasped, grimacing in pain. He looked up at Liz and said, "Thanks. I though he was going to kill me." Liz nodded and began to speak but her reply never left her mouth because at that moment, Maria screamed her name and Liz ducked out of the way before Topolsky's body crashed into hers. Instead, the woman flew into Michael and Maria and Michael cried out in pain because her shoulder had landed in his shattered ribs. Liz's foot shot out and she kicked Topolsky in the side, knocking her sideways.

"I could use a little help over here," Max yelled, and gasped as the man he was struggling with punched him in the face.

"HELP ME UP!" Michael screamed and Maria pulled him to his feet. He ran to help Max and all three of the girls jumped on Topolsky. Isabel grabbed her by the hair, her head snapping back and Maria punched her in the face.

"Get out of the way Maria. She's mine!" Liz yelled and Maria jumped back just as Liz's foot slammed into the woman's gut. Topolsky gasped in pain and glared at Liz.

"Fuck you!" Topolsky choked out.

Just then, Max and Michael appeared at Liz's side and Michael took the crowbar from Liz's hand. Liz didn't even notice because she was intently focused on Topolsky, who was fighting to get out of Isabel and Maria's grasp.

"We should go," Max said, his breath labored.

"What do we do with her?" Michael asked, nodding to Topolsky. "You'll never get out of here," Topolsky yelled fiercely, as Isabel tightened her grip on her hair. "The exits are all guarded heavily."

"We managed to get in here without being caught, bitch!" Maria yelled, her voice breathless.

"We'll go, but there's some things that need to be settled first," Michael said. "Stand her up!" Isabel and Maria struggled to pull her up to her feet and Max moved to help them.

"What are you going to do?" Max asked, not looking comfortable. He did, however, pull Topolsky up to her feet. But the woman wasn't done struggling. The moment they pulled her up, she put her weight on them and kicked both her legs out at Liz who was standing in front of her. Liz flew backwards as the booted feet crashed into her ribs. She clutched her arms over her middle.

"LIZ!" Max cried, wanting to run to her but he was too busy holding Topolsky back. "This is what I'm going to do!" Michael said, and his foot slammed into Topolsky's knee, causing it to bend backwards with a loud cracking noise. Topolsky cried out in pain and her body slumped. Michael bent down to the woman's face and snarled, "Doesn't feel so good, does it?"

"Go to hell!"

"Michael! Let's just go! Don't hurt her anymore than necessary!" Max yelled.

"Fuck that!" Michael replied. "I'm just doing exactly what she did to me. You haven't been in here! You don't know how evil this sick bitch is and you haven't had to endure her torture. Now, what else do I owe you? Oh that's right. You did this...," he raised slammed his knee to her nose, and blood spurted around, spraying her white shirt, Michael's knee, and the floor. Michael glared at her and said, "Well, I guess I don't have the whip, but I vaguely remember something like this." He reached for her hair and then brought the same knee up to her chin, snapping her head back again, smiling at the sharp sound of her teeth crashing into each other like his had. The only difference was that Topolsky didn't black out, even though her head lolled around like a rag dolls.

"God Michael, stop this!" Maria yelled. Michael ignored her and bent down to get in the woman's face and smirked. "I'm sorry but I can't help myself. I just have to say it." He cleared his throat and recited the last words he remembered her saying before he had blacked out. "I hope you've finally learned that it isn't good to fuck with me Ms. Topolsky. And I hope I don't have to remind you again. Don't come after us, you understand?!"

Topolsky looked up at him with glazed eyes and she nodded. "Whatever you say," she whispered hoarsely.

"Good! Let her go!" Max, Isabel and Maria dropped her, and she fell to a heap on the floor. Max ran to help Liz up and pulled her into his arms. "Are you okay?"

She nodded into his shoulder and whispered, "I'll be just fine as soon as we get out of here."

"Then let’s go." They all jumped into motion and began to leave the room. Topolsky's weak voice stopped them. "This isn't over yet," she hissed.

"Just ignore her. We need to leave," Max said but Liz shook her head and pulled out of Max's arms again as she slowly walked towards Topolsky.

"Liz!" Maria pleaded. "Come on."

"Please Liz!" Max yelled. Liz glared down at the woman and felt something snap inside of her. Before she realized what she was doing, she snapped her leg out and kicked her hard in the face, hearing the woman's neck crack. "Now it's over," she whispered and then turned back to the others. Everyone except Michael was looking at her with wide eyes, and as she approached them they almost seemed to cringe away from her. Michael just nodded and said,

"Good job."

"Let's go," Liz said, and they all turned and walked out of the compound with out any problem at all, to find Alex sitting in the Jetta with the engine running. They all jumped into the car and sped off towards home.

Michael appeared at Liz's balcony at 3 a.m. that night as she had requested, to find Liz sitting on her recliner.

"Thanks for coming," Liz whispered, not meeting his eyes. The entire day had gone so fast. They had all talked about what had happened, at Maria's when they got to town, leaving out some “more private” parts. Everyone had expressed their opinions, except Liz, who seemed to be in shock. The only words she had uttered since they left the compound were to Michael. "Come over at 3 a.m. We have to talk." So he came.

"What did you want to talk about, Liz?" he asked awkwardly.

She raised her head to his face and said, "What do we tell them?"

Michael swallowed. "About what?"

Anger flashed in Liz's eyes. "About what? You know damn well what I'm talking about. What do we tell them about..."

Michael shrugged. "Nothing."

"Nothing? No Michael, we have to tell them!"

"No we don't Liz. It will only create more problems."

"I don't want to lie to them about it. They're already scared of us because of what we did to Topolsky. They need to understand why we hurt her so bad. We don't know if she's alive. They all think I killed her, and what if I did? She won't be able to tell, but we can." Liz argued.

"That's just it! They'll never understand, Liz. All they will be able to hear is that we had sex, not that we were forced to do it or that I would have been shot if we didn't."

"No," Liz shook her head. "Max will understand. He never jumps to conclusions. He will understand!" she repeated for emphasis, or maybe it was just to convince herself.

"Yes, but they'll never forgive us. It will tear us all apart!"

"But it will tear me apart to keep that from Max. I just want to get it out there and move on with my life."

"NO!" Michael screamed and stomped up to her. "This is one thing we shouldn't tell them! You are not telling them and I'm not telling them. We take it to the grave!"

Liz looked away and shook her head. Michael grimaced as he saw tears in her eyes. "Fine," she muttered in the same dead voice she had used after kicking Topolsky. "We take it to the grave."

Michael nodded and then shoved his hands in his pockets. "So, are you okay?"

"No, I'm pretty far from okay," Liz replied flatly.

Michael nodded again and then looked around for a moment, the quiet getting to him. "Well, I better get back to Max's before he notices that I'm missing."

"Yeah you better." Liz said as she stood up. "But I have one more concern."

"What's that?"

"What do we do if I am pregnant?" Michael thought about that for a moment and then shrugged. "We'll cross that bridge when it comes. Without them knowing."

"Fine, good night," Liz said and disappeared inside of her window, slamming it closed.

"Good night Liz," Michael murmured to the empty air, praying that they were making the right decision. Then he left.



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posted on 20-Sep-2001 9:37:49 PM

Part 10

Liz waited to make sure that Michael was completely gone before she opened her window and slid out again. She looked around briefly and walked over to the brick wall. Her hands fumbled for the loose brick, and she pulled it out. She placed it on the ground and slowly placed her hands inside the hollow wall to retrieve her journal. She stood up, hugging it to her chest, and letting out a sigh. Her journal had become one of her best friends in the last seven months. It was the only friend that she could tell all of her secrets to. The best part was that the journal would never judge her or make her feel bad about her secrets. And boy did she have a secret for the journal now. What she really wanted to do was to try and forget what had happened and move on with her life, but first she needed some closure, and she hoped that writing it all down would give her that.

She walked over to her recliner and got comfortable, pulling out her favorite pen from the last page she had written, which had been the day before she had been kidnapped. She didn't know how to start, so she decided to read the last entry she had written.

April 1

I'm Liz Parker and I love Max Evans. I know, I know, I've written this many times before but it's as true now as it has been before - even more so now! I love him. I can't help it. I love his dark soulful eyes, I love his hair, I love the smile he always has to offer when he sees me, I love the touch of his skin, the feel of his mouth, I love to feel his gentle caress. I love everything about him. It's like he's the one person that I can completely trust, the one person that I can tell all my secrets to, the....

Liz's eyes widened at the last line and she felt her throat choke up.


...the one person that I can tell all my secrets too...

Those words seemed to almost be flashing in bold neon off the page: they were all she could look at. She re-read them many times, over and over until they blurred into nothing. She finally had to close her eyes to stop the tears from spilling over.

She finally let out a strangled cry and threw the journal at the wall, where it bounced off the wall and landed on the ground with a dull thud. She let herself cry freely for only a minute before she wiped away the tears and gave herself a mental shake. She stood up quickly and walked over to retrieve her journal. She sat down on the ground and began to frantically write. She had chosen to write to get closure and she was damn well going to get it.

I'm Liz Parker and I have to get this out. Today is Friday and it all started four days ago...

She wrote it all down, not leaving a single detail out. She included every event, every motion, every feeling. The tears continued to fall, even to the point of smearing her inked pages, but she paid them no heed. Her breath came faster and faster as she quickly scribbled it all down. She wrote so fast, so determinedly. The pages filled quickly but she didn't stop, she refused to halt until it was all down in print. Her writing was sharp and jagged, almost to the point of being illegible, but that was okay because she wasn't ever going to read it again.

Quite a while later, she let out a gasp as she finished and realized that she had must have written over fifty pages, and that hands were stained with smeared ink. She had it all written down like she had wanted, and now there was only one more thing to do. She grinned bitterly at the ground and laughed. *Oh yeah,* she thought to herself, *You have officially lost it!*

Holding the journal to her chest, she stood up and ran over to the window, practically jumping through it. She ran to her bedroom door, tore it open, ran down the stairs and didn't stop running until she reached the kitchen of the Crashdown. She haphazardly retrieved a few items from the kitchen and then kicked open the door they used to take out the trash. She walked by the dumpster, not stopping until she reached the end of the alley. There was the one thing she needed.

Liz smiled approvingly as she jerked off the lid of the metal trashcan and threw the journal inside with a triumphant cry. She opened the bottle of whisky she held in her hands and took three large swigs, then poured it all over the journal, saturating it until the bottle was almost empty. The rest was for her. She took another swig and placed the bottle on the ground. Then, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a box of matches. She slid the inner box out and retrieved one of the small sticks. Then she closed it and raked it across the sand paper strip. She smiled as the fire caught and then put the rest of the matches in her pocket. Not wanting the match to go out, she very slowly leaned to pick up the bottle of whisky and then she held the lit match up and sneered at the trashcan. She held the bottle up in a toast. "Here's to closure," she said and then threw the match into the trashcan. She took another drink from the bottle and then threw it in with all her strength. The glass shattered across the side of the metal can and she jumped back as the trash can exploded violently

She couldn't find her feet as she fell and she landed on her bottom. For some reason, she found that terribly funny and she began to laugh. The alcohol had started to set in, and her vision was now blurry. But to her, it was all good because the pain of what had happened was beginning to disappear

Liz laughed for a few more minutes before she clumsily crawled over to the trash can and then stumbled to get to her feet. She reached out for the brick wall as she watched the journal burn and prayed that her memories would burn with them.

Liz spent the weekend in her room with the phone off the hook and the door locked. Everyone had been calling non-stop, but she just couldn't talk to them yet. And she definitely didn't want to talk to her parents. She had given them some lame story of deciding to go with a fictitious friend to Albuquerque for a few days, and although they weren't happy, they didn't seem suspicious. Thankfully, Isabel had healed her bruises before she went home so that she didn't have to explain that to her parents.

Liz groaned when the alarm went off on Monday morning and threw her pillow over her head. Why did she even set the damn thing? It's not like she had been asleep. She found it strangely ironic that she had slept like a baby while in the compound, in “hell” as she now called it, but she couldn't sleep at all now that she was safe at home.

She still wasn't ready to see anybody yet, but she knew she had to go to school. She had to move on, and if she stayed home again she knew she would only feel sorry for herself.

Her body was stiff from lying on the bed all weekend, and it took her several tries before she could sit up. She put her feet on the ground and forced herself to stand up and walk over to the bathroom. When she reached the bathroom, she turned on the shower and then walked over to the medicine cabinet to take her morning vitamins. She filled a glass of water and then placed two of the pills on her tongue, tossing her head back as they slid down her tongue she caught a glance of herself in the mirror and spit out the water in surprise.

She looked like death. Her skin was pale and there were dark circles under her eyes. Her hair was all tangled and matted and her lips were dry and cracked. How had she let this happen? When was the last time she had taken a shower?

She fought to remember and realized that she hadn't showered since the last day they were in the compound. She really hadn't slept since the night before that. She had a lot of work to do if she was going to convince her friends that she was okay.

Liz took a long shower and then got dressed. She usually didn't wear much make-up but that morning she had to put a lot on in order to make herself look halfway normal. Then, she drank two cups of coffee to try to make herself more awake. She knew it was a desperate attempt, but maybe the caffeine would make her a little bubbly, like usual. She knew that this next week was going to be the hardest. Lying to her friends, to Max, was going to be torture, even worse than “hell”, and she knew she would have to put forth an Oscar-worthy performance to keep the truth from them.

"Looks like your feeling better," she heard a voice say and looked up to see her mother had entered the kitchen.

Liz sighed and then placed her coffee cup on the counter. "Yeah. I'm feeling a little better," she murmured weakly and then chastised herself. She was going to have to better than that if she was going to convince everyone she was okay. "Mom I..."she trailed off as she realized that she owed her mother an explanation for the last few days but then realized that she didn't know what to tell her to put her mind at ease.

“Yes honey?" Her mother faced her expectantly.

Liz offered her a weak smile and shook her head. "Nothing. I better get to school." She walked over to her mother and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

Nancy gasped in shock. "Thank you."

Thank you?" Liz asked, wondering what her mom meant by that.

Yeah, well it's just, you haven't kissed me in over two years Liz." Liz's eyes widened when she realized that her mother was right. What was she doing? "Bye mom," she said awkwardly and then made a dash for the door. She was going to have to watch herself. Doing uncharacteristic things wasn't going to help her charade.

*****
Maria was waiting for her at her locker when Liz got to school. When Liz saw her, her heart jumped into her throat, and she looked down and slowly sauntered up to her locker. *Fine start you’re having,* she thought to herself. *Three seconds into the week and you're already freaking.*

She took a deep breath. “Hi Maria," she said quietly as she reached her locker and spun the dial.

“Hi Liz. Um...I, are you feeling any better? I called all weekend but your phone just kept ringing, and when I called your parent's line they said that you didn't want to talk to anyone. I mean, don't get me wrong. I completely understand that it must be hard to get back to normal, Michael's having the same problem, but I just wanted to make sure you were okay?"

Liz couldn't help her lips turning up a little. Same old Maria, talking a million words per minute. "Yeah, Maria. I'm fine. I just needed some time to myself."

"Completely understandable," Maria nodded sympathetically. "That's what I told everyone when we got together on Saturday afternoon. They were all worried about you but I said that you just needed some personal space."

"Thanks," Liz replied, offering her friend a thin smile as she closed her locker. But she still couldn't look her in the eyes. "Well, I better get to class."

“Yeah. Of course! We'll see you at lunch, then?" Maria asked, and Liz felt her throat choke up. Her best friend's concern caused a wave of guilt to pass over her, or more like a wave of self-revulsion for lying to her, and she began to panic.

She nodded quickly. She had to get out of there, away from Maria. "Yeah. Lunch. Right. Bye!" She choked out the last word and ran for class, leaving behind a puzzled Maria.

*****
It was when she was sitting in her first period history class that the change came over her. She spent the entire time ignoring the teacher's lecture and focusing on the task at hand. If she was going to do this, if she was going to lie, she was going to have to have to do it all the way. In this game, there was no half efforts, no partially-baked stories. She was going to have to make herself believe the lie.

As the bell rang, she stood up and walked to her biology class with a new sense of determination. Liz kept her emotions in check as she walked in and took her seat at her biology table. And she waited for Max. This was going to be the true test of self. If she could convince Max that everything was okay then she knew she'd be okay, that the rest of the day would be a cakewalk.

She looked up as Max entered the room and forced herself to look straight into his eyes and smile. He smiled back at her and walked over to take his seat. The room was mostly empty of students yet so Liz stood up and hugged him. Then she closed her eyes and searched out his warm mouth with her own. She only intended the kiss to be a mere peck, but once it started, she couldn't stop it. Some classmates made catcalls, but she didn’t care: she wanted more. Their tongues began to massage each other’s as he enveloped her in his arms and she began to lose herself in his kiss. She kissed not to think. Kissing was good for that.

Suddenly, she felt like she was falling and something happened. She began to have a flash.

*Flash* Max being woken by a crying Isabel and Isabel saying "I had a dream. Michael and Liz have been kidnapped. *Flash*

*NO!!!* Liz panicked and fiercely pushed him away. What had she been thinking? She had forgotten about the flashes!!

“Liz, what's wrong?" Max asked, looking thoroughly confused and concerned.

Liz couldn't hear him over the blood rushing in her ears. She had to find Michael and tell him she couldn't do this! She shook her head at him and then ran out of the room.

She spotted Michael coming up the hallway and she ran to him and looked him in the eye. "WE NEED TO TALK!" she seethed and pulled him towards the eraser room. It was the closest place, and they needed absolute privacy.

*****
Maria smiled happily when she saw Michael walking up the hallway. She had been aching to see him all morning. She walked towards him eagerly, but her step faltered when she saw Liz run up to him and pull him in the eraser room. Why would they be going into the eraser room, she wondered, irritated.

Maria moved to walk over there to find out what was going on when she ran into Max running out of the biology room. The impact was so hard that she fell to the ground.

Oh God. Maria! I'm so sorry!" Max said as he helped her up.

"It's okay," she replied distractedly. "Where's the fire?"

Max laughed, and then shook his head, his statement worried. "I was kissing Liz and all of the sudden she freaked out and ran away. Have you seen her?"

Maria nodded slowly, confused as well. "Yeah. She just pulled Michael into the eraser room."

Max's eyes widened. "The eraser room? They're not..."

"NO!" Maria practically screamed. "At least I don't think so," she said more quietly.

"Let's go find out what's going on," Max replied and they both began to walk towards the eraser room, faces set.



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posted on 20-Sep-2001 9:39:36 PM
Part 11

“What the hell?" Michael yelled when Liz pulled him in the eraser room. He shrugged out of her grasp, then froze when she turned around, immediately feeling bad.

Liz's eyes were over filling with tears, and her entire body was quivering. He watched as she gasped and then doubled over. "I can't..." she choked out but her words trailed off.

Michael softened his tone and bent down to look in her face. "Can't what?" he whispered. He had spent the entire weekend feeling horrible about the way he had treated her on his last visit. She had been through so much hell in the last week because of him, and as soon as they had gotten back, he had reverted to the same insensitive jerk he had always been. He had wondered all weekend: why he had acted so cold to her? He knew that he was the last person who had the right to treat her like that, and he had promised himself that he would try to be more compassionate, even though compassion wasn't exactly his strong suit.

Liz looked into his face, her chin quivering, and she whispered. "I can't do it. I can't lie to them."

"Please Liz. We can't tell them."

Liz shook her head. "But it isn't just about lies. I can tell them whatever I want but that isn't going to prevent them from knowing. Did you forget about the visions? I was kissing Max just now and I started to have a vision and I had to pull away."

“You're kidding, right?"

“No. I'm dead serious. Don't you see? I want more than anything to be able to move on, and I want to keep Max in my life and it will only raise suspicion if I pull away and freak out every time Max tries to kiss me. I can't live like that Michael, and I sure as hell can't move on if I'm always reminded of it when Max kisses me."

Michael stood up and sighed. He had forgotten about their 'flashes.' But no, he knew he was right. "We'll just have to come up with a new plan then."

Liz's eyes narrowed and her voice rose. "A new plan? What the hell are you talking about, Michael?" She stood up and got in his face. "A new plan? That's not going to solve anything! No! WE HAVE TO TELL MAX AND MARIA THAT..."

“Tell Max and Maria what?" A new voice asked and both Michael and Liz practically jumped out of their skins as they turned to see both Max and Maria standing in the doorway and staring at them suspiciously.

Liz's eyes widened and she looked back at Michael, pleading with her eyes. Michael's eyes were frantic and he was staring at her so intently, telegraphing to her to keep her mouth shut. He watched her for a few more moments as she silently pleaded with him, but finally bent her head in exhausted defeat.

“Liz?" Max asked again when she didn't answer and Michael looked back at Max. Both Max and Maria were staring between the two of them looking sick with suspense. Michael dropped his eyes in shame because he hated keeping something so important from his best friend and the girl he loved.

"What's going on here? Tell us what?" Max asked impatiently, crossing her arms over her chest, and Michael opened his mouth to speak but Liz got there first.

“I wanted to tell you that..." Liz's voice faltered and Michael sucked in a deep breath, fearing the worst. *Here goes,* he thought. "...that I'm still terrified for my life and when you and I were kissing right now I had a flashback of some of the horrible things that happened at the compound and I ran. And then I saw Michael and I thought that maybe talking to him would make me feel a little better since he always made me feel better in the compound and then I realized that you guys might get the wrong idea about it. And we began to argue because Michael said that you two weren't like that, that you would never jump to that conclusion and I was just insisting that we get it on the table right now before it made you suspicious." Michael had to fight to not let out a huge sigh of relief

"Oh," Maria replied, sounding relieved. "Is that all?" She walked over to Liz and put a sympathetic arm around her shoulders. "Of course we wouldn't get suspicious. I can totally see where talking to Michael would make you feel a little better because he was there with you and he would be the only one who would understand exactly what you’re feeling, because he went through it as well. Have a little more faith in us, Chica. We understand. Right Max?" Michael looked over to where Max was standing and still saw a little doubt in his eyes, but finally Max shook his head and the doubt dissolved.

"Of course," Max said and walked over to Liz to pull her into his arms. "I understand Liz. And look, I know that I wasn't there, but I will always be here for you. I'd like to try to help as well," he whispered and gave her a soft kiss on the lips.

Michael watched on as Liz briefly stiffened in Max's arms and then relaxed when he pulled his face away from hers, but Michael didn't see anything from there on because Maria walked up to him at that moment and wrapped her arms around his waist. He wrapped his arms around her and bent down to kiss her lips, and then just held her, loving the sent of her strawberry scented shampoo. God, how he had missed that smell.

Then the bell rang and they all left to go to class.

*****
The next week was pretty uneventful. Liz began to feel a little more at ease around Max and Maria, even though she wouldn't allow herself to kiss Max too deeply. Things were getting back to mostly normal and for that Liz was extremely grateful. The guilt still lingered around her every thought, but for the most part she was able to relax around everyone.

A few times she had gone to talk to Michael, but it was all just a front to confirm the story they had told Max and Maria. When they were alone, they didn't even really talk. Mostly, Liz would study and Michael would pace around or watch some TV. It was all for appearances, a front, but they were still a little nervous, so they had decided that they should at least make it look like they had to talk. Only one time did they really have a conversation, and it was about Topolsky. Liz couldn't help wondering if she had really killed the psychotic woman and if someone would come after them again, if they were still being pursued or watched. She got that feeling sometimes, but Michael tried to soothe her nerves by telling her that he was sure that Topolsky was gone for good, even though he wasn't so sure himself. Basically, everything was going fine. At least they thought it was. It wasn't until two weeks from the day that they had been rescued that their world fell apart.

*****
On that Friday, Liz had been sitting in her fifth hour geometry class anxiously waiting for the bell to ring, when she saw Alex standing outside the door trying to get her attention. He motioned for her to come out and talk, and Liz looked around the classroom to see that everyone was being really loud and talking so much that no one would really notice if she disappeared. Besides, class ended in five minutes, anyway, so she knew that she wouldn't miss anything. She grabbed her bag and walked out of class.

"What's up?" she asked Alex after the door closed. He looked a little odd, reserved, almost.

"You really need to come with me," he said sternly and pointed down towards the end of the hallway.

Liz nodded and they began to walk. "So what's this all about Alex? What's going on?”

Alex sighed. "Don't worry, you'll see."

Liz looked at him, suddenly feeling uneasy. He was acting so...stiff. His words came out a little cool, a little distant, and she wasn't sure why. Had she done something? Alex was usually so warm and friendly to her, but he definitely wasn't that way now. He seemed to be all business.

They turned into the art wing of the school and continued to walk down the hall, passing door after door. Liz saw Michael and Isabel coming up the other hallway and as she reached them she asked them if they knew what was happening.

Michael shrugged helplessly. "I have no clue."

"Isabel?" Liz asked, not liking the steely gaze that the girl was giving her.

"Find out for yourself," Isabel said coolly, pointing to the door that they were standing right outside of, and crossing her arms over her chest. Liz stared at the girl for a few more moments, wondering what she had done for them to act so strangely towards her. She reached out for the handle of the door. What door was this, anyway?

She walked in with the rest at her back and realized that they were in the audio-visual room. She turned back when she didn't see anything unusual. "So?" she asked.

"Keep going," Isabel replied. "It's in the back room."

Liz hesitated and gave a short nod, walking toward the door of the room that she figured was the back room. She caught site of Max inside, facing the opposite way and smiled, quickening her step. She walked up to him and put her arms around his neck, squeezing tightly. "Hi," she whispered into his ear.

She was stunned when Max stiffened in her arms and jerked away. Her mouth fell open and she slowly stood up straight. She saw Maria then, sitting in another chair and her throat went dry when she saw the hate in her best friend's teary eyes. Hate directed towards her.

"What?" Liz asked, looking around at everyone, trying to study his or her faces. Michael looked just as lost and confused as she did, but the others all looked stony. A new kind of fear washed over her. No! They couldn't know, could they? Michael wouldn't have told them, and she didn't either, so it had to be something else.

Just calm down, she told herself.

"Why don't you tell us, Liz?" Max said through gritted teeth.

"I don't know," Liz breathed.

"Maybe this will help," Max replied and reached over to push a button on the nearest television.

The world rocked under Liz's feet as a picture appeared on the screen. A picture of she and Michael making love. Making passionate-looking love.



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posted on 20-Sep-2001 9:47:53 PM
Part 12

Liz couldn't move her eyes from the screen that showed the misleading picture of she and Michael, lips joined and naked limbs entangled. For one horrifying moment, she was sucked back into time, back to that moment where everything had seemed so beautiful because she was making love to 'Max' for the first time. And then she was sitting in the bottom of the shower, crying for all she was worth because it hadn't been Max she had been with. It had been Michael.

It was only the sound of her own moaning that brought her back to reality and caused her throat to sting with hot and salty tears. No! How was she going to explain this?

She let out a soft cry and stumbled over to the television set, fumbling with fingers as clumsy as sausages to find the button, any button that would remove the appalling image from the screen. Finally, the screen flashed and then blinked off with a slight hiss.

Liz took a deep breath and then stood up straight, feeling a single tear slide down her cheek. She took another breath and then turned to face the firing squad. Oh God, this was going to get ugly. "Max," she whispered. "It's..."

"How could you Liz?" He asked, cutting her off. A hand squeezed around her heart at the pain and grief she heard in his voice, the pain and grief she saw in his eyes. He stood with his shoulders slumped and his head hanging lower than usual. His eyes were shattered. "Please Max," she pleaded with him, taking a few cautious steps forward. "It's not what you think. We were..."

“NOT WHAT I THINK???" He screamed, causing Liz to jump. She had never heard Max raise his voice like this before, and it made her recoil as though she'd been slapped. "God Liz! Do you really think that I'm that stupid? Was that not you and Michael that I saw fucking on that screen?"

Liz's eyes widened. Max never cursed. Then she hung her head, and closed her eyes nodding slowly.

"And wasn't it you that I heard moaning in his arms?" She nodded again.

"Damnit!" he yelled and turned around and kicked his foot out, sending a chair flying into the wall with a loud crash. This was so unlike Max! Max was usually so rational and patient, but all that had changed once he had seen the image of his girl making love with his best friend. She had to do something. She had to make him understand. But Michael spoke before she had the chance.

“Max," he muttered, causing Max's head to whip around violently to face him, fury in his eyes. "It's not what it looks like."

"Don't even try it Michael," Max growled, anger flashing in his eyes. "I don't want to hear a word you have to say right now."

"Damnit! Will you just listen?" Michael cried in frustration.

"Listen?" Max asked incredulously, steel in his eyes, this time, "You've got to be kidding me if you think that I'm going to sit here and listen to you tell me that while you and Liz were in that compound, you all of the sudden decided that you wanted to be together."

"Shut up you stubborn asshole! It's not like that!"

"IF YOU SAY ANOTHER WORD I'LL KILL YOU," Max screamed, surprising everyone in the room. Liz felt as if she had stepped into another reality where Max was the one with the crazy spirit, the one who didn't think before acting, and Michael was the calm one. She couldn't watch this any longer.

“MAX!" she yelled over the voices in the room. "Stop it, please! You have to understand that we were forced to do it! We did everything we could to stop it, but she would have killed Michael if we hadn't! You have to believe that I never wanted that to happen. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. We tried to stop it from happening, but they had guns to our heads!! If we didn’t do it, they were going to kill us." There, she finally got it out. They would understand right?

WRONG!

"Yeah right Liz," Maria said, speaking for the first time. She stood up from her chair and looked Liz dead in the eye. "I can see that you were struggling a whole lot."

"No, Maria," Liz whispered, shaking her head desperately. "It's...it wasn't like that at all."

"How was it then Liz?" Isabel asked, putting her hands on her hips and looking Liz up and down in distaste. "You said no at first, but then decided, sure, why not once you had him between your legs?"

"NO!" Liz cried, stamping her feet in frustration. Why were they doing this? Why were they twisting around everything she said?

"How could I have been so stupid?" Maria asked, a statement similar to dawning realization coming over her face. "All the signs were right in front of me, the eraser room, the "comfort" meetings. I told myself that nothing was going on, that you just went through so much together, that it was only natural that you would find comfort in spending time together. I believed you Liz when you said that it would make you feel better if you and Michael hung out sometimes to get over your fears, but all this time you just wanted to be together so you could BE TOGETHER! Oh God! Michael, I just thought that you were making her feel better but in reality you were fucking her. My best friend and my boyfriend! I think I'm going to be sick!" She shook her head in disbelief and then broke out into tears.

“NO!" Liz cried for what seemed like the millionth time. "That's not true. None of it. Why won't you listen to me?" But it was no use. No one would listen to her. She had never felt so helpless in her entire life, not even while she was in the compound. It was like a veil had been dropped so far over their eyes that nothing that she said, nothing that Michael said would penetrate.

"Now everyone, maybe we should calm down and hear them out before we jump to such harsh conclusions," Alex said calmly and Liz sighed in relief. Finally! A voice of reason.

"Frankly, I don't give a damn what either of them has to say," Maria spat, giving Liz a once over with her angry eyes, and Liz could actually see the irises burning like red-hot coals.

“Same here," Max agreed, his voice sounding deadened. "I've seen all I need to see. Nothing they say can take back what happened. Nothing they say will make me feel any better about this. They lied to us, and I can't associate myself with liars."

"Max," Liz whispered. "You have to understand. You were the only thing that got me through the whole ordeal."

"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" he asked, his eyes widening in disbelief. "If I ever meant that much to you than why didn't you tell me about it right away instead of lying to me? God Liz, if you can't be honest with me, at least be honest with yourself. You didn't tell me because you realized that it was Michael that you wanted."

"Please!" she cried, bursting into a fresh wave of tears. "It's you I want Max. It's always been you."

"It's too late Liz," Max whispered, shaking his head.

"No, I can't believe that. Max, I wanted to tell you, you have to believe that. But Michael said..."

"What did Michael say?" Maria snorted. "That if you told us, you couldn't continue with your little tryst?"

"God will you just shut up and listen?" Liz screamed. She had enough of all this...persecution. They weren't listening to her any longer. It was like they were only hearing what they wanted to hear. "Will you please just hear me out?"

Maria's jaw locked and she shook her head. "I don't want to hear you out Liz. I don't want to listen to you. I don't want to talk to you. I don't even want to see you. Get this clear. We are not friends. What you did can't be repaired." She then turned to Michael. "And you, if you ever bother me again, I'll turn you in to the authorities. I'll tell them all about you. I can't believe that I ever loved you. You're nothing but a liar and a coward and I hate you! Both of you! I want you to both stay the hell away from me!" She gave them both one more look, letting them know she meant business, and then turned around and left the room.

Liz couldn't believe it. She and Maria had been friends since they could talk and now, Maria was saying that was all over. She had always told Maria everything. Only Maria knew her deepest, darkest secrets, and the one time she kept something from her, it ended their friendship. Why wouldn't they believe her? It's not like she was know for lying. She had always told them the truth to the best of her ability but that counted for nothing now. That damn tape!

“Wait," she whispered and turned to Max. "Where did that tape come from?"

Max muttered to himself and walked over to pick up a big, padded manila envelope from the seat of a chair in the corner of the room. "I hope you're happy together," he muttered and dropped the envelope to the ground, walking off with Isabel and Alex at his heels. Liz wanted to follow them, but she knew that it would do no good. Never in her worst nightmares had it ever been this horrible. She felt as if she had lost everything, everyone, who had ever cared for her now. She had to get them back somehow, but she knew it would be harder said than done. Lots harder.

She sniffed and shuddered as an immense wave of loneliness washed over her, and she looked at the envelope that was lying on the ground where Max had dropped it. She stooped down and picked it up from the ground, studying the writing on the package. "The writing is feminine," she whispered. Then she looked for the post-date and her heart began to pound in her ears. "This was mailed yesterday!" she said in shock.

"What's going on?" Michael asked, but Liz ignored him. She'd probably kill him if she looked at him right now. She had told them that they should tell the others. She had known that it would blow up in their faces if they didn't, but he had convinced her to keep quiet about it and now things were worse than she could have ever imagined. She tossed her hand inside the envelope, checking to see if there were any other contents inside but it was empty. Or, almost. Her hands brushed a small slip of paper inside, it's texture different from the bubble-wrap interior, and she pulled it out, letting the package drop to the floor.

She looked at it in confusion. The only thing on the paper was a smiley face in red, bold writing. What did that mean? she wondered. Was it supposed to be something significant?

"Liz?" Michael asked again, his voice impatient.

Her head shot up and for the first time since they had entered the room, she looked him in the eye. "What?" she growled.

"I'm sorry about all this," Michael said softly. There was pain in his face, and he sounded sincere, but Liz would hear none of it.

"Sorry? You make me keep a secret that I knew would destroy both of our lives if we kept it, and all you have to say is that you're sorry?" "What do you want me to say Liz? I know now that I was wrong."

"I knew it two weeks ago!"

"Oh, once again this is all my fault?! If you knew I was so wrong than why didn't you just tell them anyways? It's not like you've ever listened to anything I've said before. Why did you have to start now?" "Oh no! You are not turning this around on me Michael! I did what you asked and it blew up in our faces. Asked? Ha! That's a laugh. It was more like a command!" Michael glared at her and then walked over to the VCR, turning it back on.

"What the hell are you doing?" she asked, not wanting to go through that once again.

"Shut up," he spat. "I want to see something."

Liz sighed and crossed her arms over her chest. She watched as he hit rewind on the tape and had to look away as the backward motions of she and Michael making love appeared on the screen. She looked over when she heard the tape stop and looked over. "Why are you watching this?" she cried.

“I wanted to see how much of the tape got sent. This was definitely a botch job. All that stuff that happened before is gone."

"So?"

"So? They have to see that. It's the only thing that will make them see reason. I refuse to lose any of them over this."

"And what exactly do you think you can do about it now?”

Michael finally turned around and faced her. "I'm going back to the compound," he said simply. "I want the tape collection so they can see what it was like."

"Are you crazy? Don't you get it? This tape was sent yesterday, which means that Topolsky could still be alive! Only she would send a tape like this."

"Yeah? So what? If she's alive, she could come and get us right now, right here. We need those tapes. So, are you coming?"

Part 13

“You mean right now?" Liz asked, appalled by the idea of returning to the compound.

“Now is as good as time as any," Michael shrugged. "Besides, don't you think it's better if we get this settled as soon as possible?"

"But how are we supposed to get there? Neither of us have a car, and another thing, what do we do when we get there? It's not like we can just waltz right in and out without being seen. Have you even thought about that?"

Michael shook his head. "No Liz. I haven't thought about that. All I can think about is the fact that my 'family' and my girlfriend just told me to get the hell out of their lives because they think we've been lying to them, and all I want to do is take care of that right now." “But Michael, don't you think we should have a plan first? I mean, if we wait for a few days, I can probably get a car and we can get weapons and I don't know..." she trailed off, taking a deep breath. "Maybe we could actually develop a solid plan that will stop us from getting killed."

"Are you kidding me? Look Liz, I don't want this to drag out over the weekend. I want to take care of this now." He gave her one last look and then left the room.

Liz growled in frustration and then ran after him. She had to stop his recklessness before it got them both killed. She caught up with him in the hallway and grabbed his arm. "Wait! Look, you're right, I don't really want this to drag over the weekend either, but I think that maybe we have to. You saw them in there. They were so mad that they couldn't even see straight. They weren't listening to a word we were saying. Nothing that we said got through to them because they were still blinded by the hurt and anger of seeing us together. If we just show up tonight with a tape and say, 'Oh here, this is what really happened, please forgive us,' it's not going to make a damn bit of difference. They need to blow off some steam first. We need them to be rational if we are going to convince them that what we said is true. Don't you think?"

Michael narrowed his eyes at her and Liz groaned inside. Why did he have to be so thickheaded? But finally he nodded grudgingly. "I guess," he muttered, looking away. Liz let out a sigh of relief.

"Good. Now, I have to go to work right now. Why don't you come over after my shift and we can begin planning?"

"I still think this sucks," he muttered.

"Yeah, well the entire situation sucks Michael," Liz shot back. "It would suck even more if we were dead because we didn't plan this out correctly. Right?" She searched his face, not really expecting an answer and then glanced back at the audio-visual room. "Um...I have a favor to ask, if it isn't too much trouble?"

He rolled his eyes and let them settle on her face. "What?"

God, why do you always have to act like that? All I wanted you to do was go back in that room, take that tape and destroy it so neither I nor anyone else ever has to look at it again. I need you thinking straight tonight, so you should use all of your frustrations and anger and whatever to absolutely demolish that tape and then come back to me with a clear head. Can you do that?"

The idea seemed to have some appeal to him. He nodded and sidestepped her to get to the room. "You got it," he called over his shoulder.

*****
"God, I hate Friday nights," Liz sighed to herself as she wiped her forehead with the back of her hand and glanced at the clock. Only one more hour to go and then she would be done for the night.

She couldn't remember ever having a day as horrible as today had been, and it wasn't even over. Maria had called in sick for her shift (yeah, like that was true) so Liz was manning the tables with only Agnes who was the most useless waitress ever, and The Crashdown was packed. The hours seemed to drag on endlessly and to top it off, she still had to meet with Michael after work.

"Orders up!" Jose called from the kitchen.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm coming," she muttered and walked over to the pick-up window. She loaded the three 'Will Smith Burgers' up on a tray and then lifted it and turned to make her way to table seven.

"Miss?" an impatient customer called from the counter and Liz groaned silently. Aloud, she called, "I'll be there in a moment." Then as she reached table seven, she plastered on a fake smile and began to pass out their meals. "Here we go. A Will Smith with no onions, that's for you, Will Smith - no mayo or ketchup for you, and a Will Smith with extra tomatoes and onions for you. Would you like anything else?" The three tourists at the table shook their heads and Liz nodded. "Enjoy your meal." She turned around quickly, sliding the tray under her arm and immediately ran into someone. "Oh, I'm sorry," she said automatically and then looked up into the person's face. "Alex!"

"Hi Liz," Alex replied, giving her a thin smile. "Do you have a minute?"

Liz looked around quickly, knowing that she couldn't really stop for a break, but then shrugged. Screw it. She nodded and looked over to where Agnes was standing. "Agnes, can you take this gentleman's order?" she asked, nodding to the impatient man at the counter.

The older woman rolled her eyes and slowly walked up to the man to take his order. "Come on," Liz said to Alex and nodded to the employee's break room. "Let's talk in there."

Alex followed her to the room and Liz turned to look at him, a little nervous. "What did you want to talk about?"

Alex moved to take a seat on the break couch and then looked her in the eye. "Liz, we've been friends for a long time and I've never known you to lie about something important, well, except for the secret about Max and the others, but… that's why I'm here. I wanted to find out what really happened in that place. I'm ready to listen. I wanted to hear it all earlier but it got..."

"A little crazy," Liz answered for him. "No one wanted to listen to a word I had to say."

Alex nodded. "I want to hear it though. If you don't mind telling me." Liz offered him a thin but grateful smile and sat down next to him. "I'll tell you everything, but please don't make judgments before you hear it all. I can't handle being judged any more today."

"Hey, if I were going to make judgments do you think I'd be here right now?" Alex raised his eyebrows at her and searched her face.

"Of course Alex. It's just, you saw the tape. I thought that you'd think the same things as the others. I'm sorry. But you have to believe me, it's not like it seemed."

"Well then, why don't you tell me and I'll decide for myself."

"Okay. It all started last Monday...." She told him the entire story to the best of her recollection, trying to prevent her own emotional breakdown. It was difficult and heartbreaking, re-living the entire thing again, but she doubted it would be the last time that she told the story. It was easier to pretend that it all happened to someone else. It was the only thing that kept her sane.

"So? What do you think about I said?"

Alex kept his eyes on the floor and whistled. "I...I think I understand what it must have been like for you. Or maybe I don't, because I wasn't there, but I believe you did what you had to do in order to keep yourselves alive."

Liz nodded sadly. "But what do you think about the comparison of how it looked on the tape and how it really happened? That's what I need to know."

Alex looked her in the eye and nodded softly. "I believe you only because I know that you wouldn't lie about a thing like this. If I were in the same situation, where I was forced to sleep with the last person in the world I ever thought I would be having sex with, I would have done the same thing. My fantasy would be the easiest way to get through it." He paused for a moment, glancing down quickly and then sighed as he looked back at her. "But it isn't me you have to convince Liz. There are two very hurt people who feel betrayed because of this whole thing. They're convinced that you two have been doing it ever since then."

“I tried telling them..."

"But they wouldn't listen, I know," Alex nodded sympathetically. "But even if you did tell them, do you think that they would believe you? I mean, as true as it is, it still seems like a kind of weak excuse. If only there was a way for them to have seen it, to see what you had to go through."

"Michael and I are working on that," Liz said grimly.

"It's going to take more than words Liz."

"Oh I know. It isn't words that we're searching for. We are going to get proof, even if it kills us."

Alex's forehead wrinkled in suspicion. "Proof how?" he asked warily. She sighed. "Michael and I are going back to the compound in a few days to get the tapes," she stated, keeping her voice even.

Alex's face reflected shock, his voice traveling up an octave. "Are you crazy? What if you get re-captured or even worse-?”

"Believe me, it wasn't my idea, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. I can't think of another way to show them that it wasn't what they saw. So I'm doing it," she finished firmly, glaring bitterly at the ground.

"But it won't do any good to anybody if you get yourselves killed! There has to be another way!"

"There isn't Alex. At least not that I can think of. And as for getting myself killed, if that's what happens, so be it. At least in death, I could escape the persecution I'm receiving in life."

"That's deep," Alex muttered sarcastically, looking away in anger. Liz narrowed her eyes at him. "Yeah? Well it's the truth. I can hardly bear a day of all this crap, and I absolutely refuse to spend the rest of my life like this. I look at it this way; we'll either redeem ourselves or die. And if you don't like it, that's too damn bad! We're doing it!"

Alex held up his hands in defense. "Okay, okay! I guess I see your point." He stood up and walked over to look out the window into the restaurant. "So," he called over his shoulder. "What do you want me to do?"

"Do?"

"Yeah, how can I help?"

"No," she shook her head and walked up to him. "I'm not getting you involved in this, Alex. It could be dangerous and I won’t chance anything happening to you."

"Too late," he said stubbornly in a singsong voice. "I'm in. When are we leaving?"

Liz sighed and did her best to look disapproving, but a part of her was grateful for his support. "You shouldn't be doing this, but if there is no way to change your mind..."

"Which there isn't."

"...Michael will be here in a half-hour so we can go over our plan." "Then I'll wait right here. You, on the other hand, have left Agnes out there for a half-hour already, and I'm sure that the customers are… displeased.” He winked. “Go finish your shift, and if Michael gets here early, send him on back."

"Right," she said, having forgotten that she was skipping out on a busy shift. She smoothed down her uniform and turned to go back to her shift. She stopped when she reached the door and turned back to him. "Oh, Alex?"

"Yes Liz?"

"Thanks," she whispered gratefully, giving him the best smile she could offer under the circumstances. "You're...understanding and help means a lot to me."

"No problem kid, now go to work."

She rolled her eyes, "Yes dad."

*****
Michael arrived five minutes before closing, carrying a map under his arm and holding a storage box in his hand. He walked up to Liz, who was trying to urge her last customers out of the restaurant, and she nodded her head to the break room. "In the back. Alex is waiting for you there."

"Alex? What is he doing here?"

"He wants to help."

"Really?" he said slowly, looking speculative.

"Yes, I know it’s weird. But it’s good, right? So don’t bother with the details. Now go back there while I finish up."

Michael turned and disappeared through the door.

Ten minutes later, Liz finally locked the door of the restaurant and took her apron off, making her way to the back. "I think this would be the best route for getting there," Alex was saying when she entered. He and Michael were both leaning over a map, and Alex was tracing his finger over a route on the map. "It may take longer, but it will allow us to sneak around the back of the compound without being seen. The best tactic is to use the element of surprise."

"Good point," Michael agreed. "Can we use your car?"

"Of course," Alex responded. "Now, what about getting inside? That place is huge. How are we going to get inside without being seen, and be able to find the place where the tapes are being kept?"

"That's why I have this," Michael answered, reaching inside the box he had brought and pulling out another map, which he unfolded.
"What's that?" Liz asked, and both of them looked up in surprise: they hadn't even noticed that she was there.

"Hi: it's a map of the compound," Michael replied, looking back down.

Liz raised her eyebrows suspiciously. "Where did you get this?" "That's classified," he responded, looking up at her. She nodded, deciding that she probably didn't want to know, but she still was impressed. She felt slightly ashamed for ever thinking Michael was nothing but a hothead with no determination. When it came to school, it was obvious that he didn't give a damn, but when he was really determined about something, he knew his stuff. It was obvious that he had done a lot of preparation that night before he came. She smiled at him in respect but he shrugged it off and looked back down at the map.

"Now this," he pointed to a large square on the map, "was the room that we were being held in. We'll call that U." He wrote a large red letter on the paper. "We were in the basement of the compound. This," he pulled out another map from the box, "is the first floor here." But he put the first-floor map aside. "This here," he pointed to a small room near theirs, "was the doctor's examination room, and here," he pointed to another room across the hall, "is the room that Topolsky used for questioning. That's D amp; I. This," he pointed to the largest room on the map, "is the commissary, C, and this is the elevator we went down." He marked that one E. "All of these other little rooms appear to be for storage or sleeping quarters and this is the morgue, M. Now, Topolsky indicated that her office was upstairs." He put the first floor map on the top of the other one and absently marked the elevators. Then he reached in and pulled a sheet of paper from the box. He consulted it for a moment and then continued. "This large room above the commissary is the auditorium, A. Above our room is a storage facility, A, and the two adjourning rooms, which are conference rooms. Above the morgue is a laboratory, L. These," he pointed to the row above the storage rooms and sleeping quarters, "are marked as offices except the last room which is marked as "viewing", and this room is marked laundry. There’s nothing marked underneath it in the basement, there's just vending machines outside.

"Viewing? What do you think that means?" Alex asked.

Michael shrugged. "It could be an audio-visual room or a private screening room for observance, who knows. It's possible that the tapes could be in there, but they could be in Topolsky's office for all we know."
"And we don't know the location of that, either," Liz sighed.

"Well," Alex began, and she could practically see the wheels turning in his head. "It's all a matter of narrowing down our options. We can pretty much narrow out the commissary and the auditorium, and probably laundry. Your room is out, and both the labs are, too. That leaves us...hmm, how accurate do you think this map is?" he asked Michael.

“I guarantee you that it's accurate," Michael replied, avoiding eye contact. Liz smirked, but looked down so he wouldn't see her amusement. His statement only confirmed her suspicions that he had gotten the maps in a way that she didn't want to know. She couldn't help but adding to herself that he must have had a damn good time destroying that tape because he had come back with more intent and drive that she thought was possible.

"So," Alex continued, snapping her back to attention. "That means we have these six 'offices', possibly the interrogation room, the viewing room and maybe even the storage and sleeping quarters."

"And maybe this space," Liz added, pointing to the unmarked room in the basement. "It could be a hidden room."

"Good idea," Michael said. "Now, that's a lot of space to cover and we don't have much time to search. How do we go about this?"

"We could all break up and take different sections," Liz suggested but that was greeted with swift objections.

“Not a chance, try again," Alex responded

"Yeah, that won't work," Michael added.

"But why not?"

"Because, Liz, we need to stick together. It will be much harder if we’re separated. If we don't all get out, we won't know if one of us is hurt or captured. We don't need that kind of stress to add to it," Michael replied, speaking logically. "We need to stay together. We either all get out or we all get captured."

"But-" Liz protested.

"No buts. That's the way it is. If you don't like it, oh well. Sorry," Michael said firmly, his voice letting her know that it was end of discussion.

"So when do we do this?" Alex asked.

"I wanted to do it today, but Liz made a good point. First off, the others need to blow off some steam, second, we need time to plan properly, and third, if we go on a week day, it will take them by surprise."

Alex nodded. "Sounds good to me," he said.

*****
The time she didn't spend at work during the weekend Liz spent either crying, worrying in her room, or with Alex and Michael preparing for their break-in. After all, they still had the smallest details to clear up, such as time and how they we're going to be inconspicuous and of course how they were going to protect themselves, a.k.a. weapons.

By the time Monday came, they had completed their plans and all they could do was wait. Liz still tried to convince them that they should split up to make it quicker, but they wouldn't even listen to her anymore on that subject.

School on Monday was horrible. In Biology, Max had asked the teacher to change lab partners, and because there were an odd number of students in the class, Liz was left without a partner for the rest of the year while Max was teamed up with Pam Troy - YUCK!!! Maria wouldn't even look at her in the hallways, and all Isabel would do is flash her dirty looks.

Liz would have just gone home at lunch if it hadn't been for the fact that she had promised Alex and Michael that she would meet them so that they could finalize everything. When she had made that promise, she had asked Alex if they should maybe do it at a different time so that they wouldn't get mad that he was sitting with she Michael. Alex had just shrugged and said, "They can be mad all they want. This is too important to just let go." Again, Liz was warmed by Alex's kindness and loyalty.

When the bell rang signaling the end of fourth period, Liz jumped up from her seat and anxiously ran for the quad, knowing that they would need the entire lunch period to go over everything one last time. Michael was already outside when she got there, and Alex joined them a few minutes later. "Should we meet somewhere more private?" he asked as he arrived.

"Why?" Michael asked, a challenging scowl on his face. "Scared that the others will see you slumming with us?"

"No," Alex replied defensively. "I was just thinking that it would be better if we went somewhere quiet so nobody can over-hear our plans. Topolsky was a spy, there could be more people around like her."

"He has a point Michael," Liz agreed. "Besides, with that smiley face in the envelope, it's already likely that she's expecting us. I mean, we already know it's a trap, but we have no choice. We should at least try to keep it all on the down low so we have the advantage of some element of surprise. We can't let our plans fall into the wrong hands."

Michael just stared at her for a moment with a patronizing look, causing her to roll her eyes and then he stubbornly said, "I guess you're right. Where should we go?"

"Library?" Alex suggested.

"No, too many people," Liz replied. "How about we go to the biology room? Mrs. Hardy had this hour off and she won't mind if we there."

"Whatever," Michael sighed, standing up. "Let's go."

They all turned back towards the entrance of the school together when something caught Liz's eye and she stopped short. "Oh My God!"

"What?" Michael asked, instantly alert, but Liz couldn't answer because her throat had closed up. "Is it Topolsky?" he hissed.

She shook her head and squeaked, "Worse." She raised her hand and pointed towards the lunch-tables outside the cafeteria, where she saw a ghastly picture of Max holding Maria in his arms.

Michael saw what she was looking at his face pinched. "Oh my God is a good word for it," he replied through gritted teeth, the sparks practically flying from him.

“Guys, he's probably just comforting her," Alex offered, trying to make them feel better.

"I don't think so," Liz whispered hoarsely as she watched Max pull back from Maria and then drop his lips on to hers in a soft, passionate-looking kiss.

"I'LL KILL HIM!" Michael raged, before jumping into action.

Part 14
Michael stalked right up to Max and Maria, pulling them apart and landing a punch square in Max's jaw. "You son of a bitch!" Michael yelled as Max fell to the ground, clutching his jaw with a look of shock on his face: but that look quickly turned to anger, and he stood up and charged Michael, landing his elbow in Michael's stomach, and forcing them both on the ground

Max, on top of Michael, pulled his fist back with venom in his eyes and used all his power to smash his fist into Michael's nose. Michael's head snapped back, and he saw stars for a moment, but then his vision cleared just as Max went for another punch, and he ducked his head out of the way, causing Max's fist to slam into concrete. Max yelled in pain, and Michael took advantage of the moment of weakness to roll over on top of him and send punch after punch into Max, not caring where it landed as long as it caused Max intense pain.

"STOP IT!" Maria screamed loudly, but Michael ignored her.

The punches continued to come from both of them until finally, someone - make that two someone’s, pulled Michael off of Max and held him at bay. "Let me go!" he demanded wildly, not feeling he had finished the job yet. He tried to shrug out of the tight grasps on his arms and looked back to see two huge athletes from the football team holding him. Another from the hockey team pulled Max up off the ground, stopping him before he moved for Michael again, and that's when they noticed the large crowd that had formed around them. "Go to hell!" Max screamed, pushing the jock away, but he didn't move to go after Michael this time. Instead he placed his hands on his hips and struggled to catch his breath.

Liz stepped in front of Michael. "Please calm down, Michael," she pleaded through the tears falling down her face, not sure when they had started. "This isn't going to solve anything."

"Fuck that!" he yelled, the heat and fire still in his eyes. "I'm going to bash his fucking skull in! LET ME GO!" he demanded of the jocks, continuing to struggle in their grip.

"Yeah Michael, you better listen to your whore," Maria spat, causing both Michael and Liz to look over sharply, and Liz's mouth fell open, a part of her dying at Maria's hateful words. Gasps and whispers could be heard through out the crowd.

Michael was stunned! He stopped struggling and could only stare at Maria. The jocks loosened their grip on him and he had enough power to push them away. "How dare you?" he growled at Maria.

Her eyes narrowed at him and she walked in closer to him. "What? Did I say something incorrect Michael? The way I see it, I told nothing but the truth!" She glared at Liz during this last part, causing Liz to gasp in pain and then burst into a new wave of tears before running away.

Michael watched her go, feeling a sharp pain, himself, and looked at Alex for help. No communication was needed because Alex nodded and then ran after her. Michael looked back at Maria and snarled, "You have a lot of fucking nerve, Maria! I can't believe that you would be so blinded by a lie that you would treat your most loyal friend like that."

“Loyal?!" she spat. "If she was so loyal then why would she FUCK my boyfriend?" More whispering could be heard in the crowd, but Michael ignored it.

"She FUCKED your boyfriend to save his life," he seethed, not caring how ridiculous that sounded to the rest of the school. "But of course, you don't care about that do you? You are just too ignorant to even listen to reason on this. Maybe it would have just been better if she let me get killed! Then I wouldn't have to sit here and watch turn into the lowest kind of person. I wouldn't have to watch you throw yourself at Max like a goddamn whore!"

Maria's eyes widened for a flash and then narrowed. "You have no right..."

"To what Maria? Tell the truth?" he taunted, using Maria's own words. "What Liz did, she did because she was forced to. You, on the other hand, did it out of malevolence. What kind of person are you? You're not even friends with Max!"

"I did it to make a point," Maria replied, tossing her head back in pride.

"Oh yeah, Maria, what's that?"

"To show you that it doesn't feel so good," Max replied for her, his glare settling on Michael. "We just wanted to let you see what it feels like to watch the people you supposedly care about find "comfort" in each other's arms."

Michael shook his head in disgust and then looked back at them. "You know, you two aren't even worth it," he spoke with dawning realization. "I don't really care about me, but Liz is the last person who deserves this kind of treatment from you, and I'll be damned if I allow her to go through this kind of torture over you jerks. Now, I'm going to go find Liz and tell her that our plan is off. What? You don’t know what our plan was? Maybe that’s because you don’t even bother to listen. We were going to go back to the compound to get solid proof that it wasn't what you saw. She loves you so much, man,” he continued, addressing Max now, “that she would risk her own life to prove her innocence. I refuse to let her go through that, though, because the simple truth is, she's better off without people like you in her life! People who don't have enough faith in us to take what we say at face value just aren’t worth endangering our lives again to prove to you that we did nothing wrong." He gave them one last long look before shaking his head again in disappointment and muttering "What a waste," He turned on his heels and left to search for Liz.

*****
Michael caught up with Liz and Alex near the football field a few minutes later. He jogged up to where they were sitting on the ground and squatted down in front of them. "How you doing?" he asked lightly of Liz.

She looked up, her emotions drained and shrugged. "I've been better," she joked, but her chin began to quiver and he knew she was about one second from falling apart again.

He pulled her into his arms as she burst into tears again and awkwardly patted her head. He didn't speak, just allowed her to cry it all out. When she pulled back, the tears had slowed and she looked calmer. "Thank you," she whispered, turning her gaze away, looking with dazed eyes at nothing particular.

"The plan’s off," he said a few moments later, causing both she and Alex to look at him quickly.

"What are you talking about?" Alex asked.

"I've decided that we shouldn't have to prove anything to those assholes. Anyone who would refuse to hear all the facts and then be so cruel and vengeful to ease their own pain doesn't deserve Liz's friendship. Or mine."

Liz didn't speak right away but when she did, her voice was firm. "That's your choice, Michael, and in this case we can make our own choices. Max and Maria may have not have gone about this the right way, but they're doing what they're doing because they are hurt. I'm still going to the compound."

"Why? You have nothing to prove to people who have no faith in you!" Michael said.

Liz looked him straight in the eye.” That may be so, but I have to do this Michael. Don't you see? I have to do this for myself. It probably won't make things better, and really I haven't decided if I care anymore, but it will give me some peace and closure, and that's what I need. I've tried finding it other ways, but it hasn't helped. I need to do this."

"You didn't even want to do it in the first place, Liz." Michael tried one more time.

"That's true, but I do now. There is no way to talk me out of this."

"I'm with you," Alex said, grabbing her hand.

>Michael sighed. He could understand why this was so important to her. She needed to do this to close this chapter in her life, and he knew it was the least he could do to stand by her and assist her in moving on. "Count me in," he finally said.

She nodded softly. "Thank you," she whispered. "I know it's hard to understand but..."

"It's okay," Michael interrupted her. "I think I do."

Alex nodded and said, "I don't know that I completely do, but then again I wasn't there. I strongly believe in being there for my friends when they need help, so if it's that important to you, I'll stand by you." He reached out and took her hand again, squeezing it.

"So," she sighed, "should we go over the plan then?"

Alex looked at his watch and said, "We have fifteen minutes left. If you really want to..." he trailed off when he noticed Isabel walking their way.

Liz and Michael looked in the direction she was coming from and glanced at each other in confusion.

When she approached them, she ignored Michael and Liz, looking only at Alex. "I need to talk to you," she fumed.

Alex looked at the others and sighed, "Can we finish this after school?"

"Yes," Liz replied. "Let's meet at my house at 2:20."

"Okay," he shook his head and stood up. "See you guys later."

He left with Isabel then and they walked to the outside freshman locker bay. "What's this all about?" he asked.

She turned to face him. "I want to know how you can side with them after all they have done to poor Max and Maria!! I mean, Michael just attacked Max for no reason!" she practically screamed.

"Is that what you think?" he asked. "Well, I was there and it wasn't for no reason. He did it because he saw Max and Maria kissing."

"So? That gives him no reason to beat Max to a bloody pulp! Did you see Max's face?"

“So? He was jealous, Iz. He saw them kissing, and he got insanely jealous and went after Max

"Why should he be jealous? He's got Liz!"

"Oh, get a clue Isabel," he replied, fed up with it all. Isabel's mouth fell open, this being the first time he had ever talked to her like that. "He's in love with Maria just as Liz is in love with Max, and if you're too stupid to see it...," he shook his head and sighed. "Why are you so mad anyways? Did they "betray" you? No! I don't think so!"

"Yes they did! They lied to all of us. After all Max and I have done for Michael, he turned around and gives us thanks by sleeping with Liz? His selfishness makes me sick!"

"Do you really think that's what happened?"

"Don't treat me like I'm stupid, Alex! I know what I saw!"

"Yeah, but you don’t know what you didn’t see.” Isabel looked as if she didn’t understand. “You didn't listen to what they had to say," he amended. "If you did, you would know how horrible that place was for them and that it meant their lives to do it!"

"Oh yeah, right! I'm supposed to believe that Topolsky would want to torture them by making them sleep together? That's a crock of shit!"

"Did you ever think of why she would want them to sleep together? HELLO!” He waved a hand in front of her face. “Does the word ‘hybrid’ mean anything to you?"

"They didn't look like they were fighting it that hard, either,” Isabel barreled on, “They could have..."

"Could have what, Isabel?" he jumped in. "Ignored the guns at their heads? They only got through it all by pretending they were with the ones they loved. But you wouldn't know that, would you? You were too busy hearing what you wanted to hear! Look, I'm doing what I think is right, and if you're going to continue to treat them like the enemy without knowing all the facts, that's your choice. But don't expect me to follow suit just because of my feelings for you! I'm sorry, that's just not the kind of person I am." When Isabel didn't reply he just nodded and said, "I'll see you around Isabel."

*****

Liz woke up to the sound of her alarm at 2 am the next morning, and quickly shut it off, hoping it didn't wake her parents. She slipped out of bed and took a quick shower, then dressed in a pair of jeans, flannel shirt and her sturdiest pair of boots. She pulled her hair into a knot at the top of her head and pulled on a jacket. She quickly scribbled a good-bye note to her parents and placed it in the back of her nightstand, figuring if she didn't come back, they would find it eventually. Lastly, she slung her backpack over her shoulder and climbed out of her window, taking one last look into her bedroom in case it was the last time she would see it.
She walked over to the brick wall of the balcony and looked down to see Michael and Alex leaning against Alex’s car waiting for her. She waved at them and then threw her backpack down, following it as quietly as possible.

As she neared the ground, Alex took hold of her waist and helped her jump down. She reached to pick up her bag before turning around and whispering, "Thanks. Are we ready?"

"As we'll ever be," Alex whispered back, suppressing a yawn. They all piled into Alex's '85 Dodge Spirit and took off.

"Did you guys get any sleep?" she asked as the car began to move. Michael was now staying with Alex since he wasn't exactly welcome at Max's, and there was no way to go back to Hank.

"No," Michael shook his head. "How about you?"

"About an hour. I was just too anxious to sleep, but it caught up with me around 1. I wish I could have gotten more. I'm so tired," she replied, yawning.

"Oh, this is for you." Michael handed Liz a number of items, including a trigger release knife to strap to her arm, a small gun and extra bullets, a length of rope, a Swiss army knife, a Tazer gun and a vile of ginseng. She looked at the vile in confusion, and Michael shrugged. "Maria says it gives you energy. It should wake you up."

She nodded and placed the items over various parts of her body. She slid the gun in one of her boots, then strapped the knife to her arm. "How do I get this to work?" she asked fiddling with her wrist, and jumped when the knife shot out, almost cutting the vein in her wrist. "Oh God," she gasped, clutching one hand to her heart. "That scared the shit out of me. I don't know if I want this."

"Just keep practicing," Michael encouraged. "You might need it."

She nodded and kept working on it until she was comfortable. "What's the Swiss army knife for?"
"Here, hand it to me," Alex said, keeping his eyes on the road, but placing his open palm towards her. She placed it in his hands, and keeping his wrists on the wheel, he used his hands to show 2 small knives, scissors, a flat screwdriver, and a nail file. "We can use these for the heating ducts and for picking locks."

"But I don't know how to pick a lock, and it won't help anyway it all the doors have key pads."

"That's why Alex has this," Michael replied, bending down in his seat and pulling out a blank credit-card attached to a small box-like device.

"With some keypads, there are slide devices, and this machine can decrypt the code. My design," Alex boasted proudly. "We're almost there," he announced a second later.

Liz felt her heart plummet into her stomach at first sight of the building. "God, I'm so nervous," she muttered.

"We can always turn back," Michael suggested, but Liz shook her head fiercely.

"No! I have to do this."

"Okay," he sighed. A minute later the car stopped, and they all looked at the building for a moment, silent.

Her thudding heartbeat was all she could hear in the quietness as she stared at the building and fought to calm herself and suppress her fear. "Let's do it," she said finally, and they all climbed out of the car.

They pulled on their backpacks, sighed collectively, and turned to make the quarter-mile trek to the building. They froze as a car pulled up behind them.

"Shit!" Michael hissed. "Get back in the car!"

Everyone jumped into action and ran for the car, but stopped when they recognized the new vehicle. They looked at each other in bewilderment as the driver stepped out.

"Isabel?" Michael breathed in astonishment. "What the hell are you doing here?"



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posted on 20-Sep-2001 9:50:21 PM
Part 15

"What am I doing here? What are YOU doing here? In the middle of the night? Outside the compound where you were held prisoner for a week? You look like a bad rendition of the Mod Squad." Isabel said, wrapping her arms around herself.

Michael crossed his own arms over his chest. "You didn't answer my question! How did you know we were here?"

She shrugged. "I followed you."

"From where did you follow us?"

She shrugged again, looking away. "I was outside Alex's house. I wanted to talk to him, but I couldn't bring myself to do it, so finally I decided to leave. Right before I took off, I saw you two sneaking out of Alex's window. So, I followed you to Liz's house and then I followed you here. Do you have a problem with that?"

"Let me get this straight," Michael replied sarcastically. "You were sitting outside Alex's window at two in morning because you wanted to talk?" He snorted. "I don't buy it. You have to do better than that.”

"I'm telling you the truth," she insisted, her face flushing. "I couldn't sleep after what you said to me yesterday," she said to Alex, "so I thought that if I talked to you..."

"Then what?" Alex asked. "You'd feel better about yourself? Look, Isabel, I'm not the one you should be talking to. And if you haven't noticed, this isn't exactly the time for talking. We're a little busy here."

"That brings me back to my original question; why are you here?"

"To get proof," Liz replied simply. "To get proof that what you all saw didn't really happen that way."

"I thought you didn't care anymore," she snapped, looking at Michael. "At least that's what you told Max and Maria."

"He doesn’t, care, but I do," Liz answered for him, “And unlike some people, he’s a faithful friend.” She waited a moment as Isabel registered the barb. "Besides, it's not for them anymore. I plan to give the tapes that prove our innocence to them, but I'm doing this for myself. You wouldn't understand," she shook her head and looked away bitterly.

"Try me," Isabel's said, in a decidedly un-Isabel, and a decidedly unsure voice.

"We don't have time for this," Michael grumbled, giving a pointed look at Liz.

"You're right," she agreed. "We better go."

The guys nodded, and turned to leave again when Isabel asked them to wait.

Michael sighed. "What Isabel? We really need to get going here, or we will get caught."

"Do...you need some help?" she offered.

Liz grabbed Michael's arm in warning before he blew up at her. Michael just scowled. "Why would you want to help us?" Liz asked.

"Because I don't want you to get killed, and you might need someone with real power inside to stop that from happening… and I want to believe you," she finished in a small voice.

"We don't need the help of someone who doesn't even trust us," Michael hissed, scowling at her in disgust.

"I want to trust you, though," Isabel said steadily. "Please, let me do this."

"Maybe we should," Liz said turning to Michael. "Her mind-control thingy might help. You know, the thing she did on Topolsky’s lap dogs to get us out?"

"That's not all I can do," Isabel said excitedly. "I learned a new power in the past couple of days."

"What's that?"

"Ever hear of empathy?" There was a silence.

"Isn’t that the ability to sense people's feelings and thoughts?" Alex asked. She nodded, then her head. "I'm not that good at it yet, but if I touch someone or an object that belongs to them, I can do it."

"That might be useful," Liz told Michael.

Michael spoke to Liz quietly. "Why would you want the help of someone who thinks so little of you that she wouldn't even hear you out?"

Liz shrugged. "Because she seems to really want to help. Besides, life it way too short to hold grudges. You, of all people, should know that. I say we let her come."

"Fine," he muttered, looking away. "She can come as long as we go now. Time’s running out, Liz."

"I know, I know." She turned to Isabel. "Come on."

*****
"One two three and alley...oop," Alex grunted as they tossed Liz up on to their shoulders. She placed her palms on the brick wall to get her balance, then slowly took them away to test her steadiness.

"Okay," she whispered, reaching into her front pocket for the Swiss army knife Alex had given her. She pulled the screwdriver from its slot and held her hand up to the duct vent in the back of the compound. She swore.

"You guys! It needs a Philips screw-driver!"

"Hand me your army knife," Isabel said and Liz did so, watching as Isabel altered the head to a Philips. She handed it back to Liz, who nodded in thanks.

Liz turned back to the vent, working with shaky hands on removing the four screws. "Got it," she announced when all the screws were removed. She placed them in the pocket of her jacket, and pulled the smaller knife out of its slot, sliding it in between the wall and the rim of the duct, struggling to pry them apart. It was obvious that the vent had been there a long time because it took her forever to remove it. When she did finally get it off, she grabbed the large sheet of metal, which wobbled in her hands and tossed it in the grass, making very little noise. A shower of rust that dropped into the hair of Michael and Alex, and they both shook their heads like wet dogs.

She turned and placed her hands inside the air-duct, taking a deep breath as she put all her weight on her wrists and pulled her body up, crawling inside. Quickly, she untied the lose knot that held the rope to a belt loop on her jeans and wrapped some of it around her waist, tying a secure knot, and propping herself sideways. She put her feet flat against one wall, doing the same with her shoulders for leverage. Tossing the rest of the rope down, she pushed as hard as she could against the wall to support Michael's weight as he climbed up. At first, she felt herself sliding out and let out a small cry, but she pushed her legs harder and held on, grinding her teeth to bear the pain of the rope digging into the flesh of her waist until Michael was inside.

With both of them now in the duct, it was easier for Isabel and Alex to climb up, and soon they were all inside the duct, catching their collective breath. Liz untied the rope from her waist, grimacing at the slight pain of rope-burns on her skin, and spun it back into small circles, tying it on her belt loop again. "Lets go," she whispered to the others, taking the lead towards the offices on the first floor. They crawled slowly and quietly through the narrow ducts, following the path they had gone over so carefully. They crawled for nearly ten minutes before they came to the large juncture above the offices.

"How do we tell which one is hers?" Liz softly whispered to Michael.

"I don't know. Look for anything that might be hers."

Liz nodded and they all moved to look into the ceiling vents of the offices. They were all dark so Liz pulled out a flashlight she had brought from her backpack and flashed it inside the first one. Everyone else had brought their own flashlights, with the exception of Isabel, and they used theirs to do the same.

The office Liz was looking in appeared to belong to a man, judging by the messiness of the office (she knew that Topolsky was extremely neat) and the photo that appeared to be a man and his wife on their wedding day. She shook her head and crawled over to the next one.

The next one was extremely neat, but even though she couldn't read the nameplate on top of the desk, she could tell that the name was too short in length, and could detect the over-powering smell of cigarette smoke. She seriously doubted that anal-retentive Ms. Topolsky would smoke.

“Anything?" she asked the guys, but they both shook their heads.

"This one, maybe," Michael answered doubtfully, and Liz crawled over and peered inside. She saw a neat desk with a vase of flowers on top and a nameplate that looked long enough to read Topolsky. "Let's give it a try."

Michael nodded and leaned back on his arms and gave a swift efficient kick to the ceiling vent, knocking the small latch that held it up off and swinging it open with a grinding noise. He quickly grabbed it to stop the noise and then looked up at Liz. "Shhhh," he waited for a few moments to see if it had alerted anyone, and when the coast appeared to be clear he let it hang loose. "Alex," he prompted and Alex crawled closer, pulling out his own rope from his belt loop, untying it, and slowly dangling it inside.

"What are you doing?" Isabel asked in confusion.

"Shhh," Alex replied, holding his finger over his lips. "I'm checking for movement-triggered alarm systems."

She nodded, impressed by all their preparation. Alex dangled the rope all the way to the ground, spinning it around a few more times and then quickly pulled it back up. "We're good," he whispered, nodding at Liz. Liz nodded back and sat down, putting her feet through the vent. She placed her flashlight inside the waist of her jeans and then nodded at Michael.

Michael grabbed her hands as she slid through and slowly lowered her down as far as he could, until she jumped easily to the ground. They had decided it was best if only one of them went into the offices, just in case someone heard something. Because Liz was the smallest, it would be easier for her to hide if someone came in.

She landed bluntly on the ground with a grunt, feeling a sharp pain in her ankles and took a deep breath as she stood up completely. She pulled her flashlight out of her waistband and turned it on to the lowest setting, looking at the nameplate. TOPOLSKY- score on the first try! Her heart skipped a beat and she looked up and gave the guys a thumbs up. Quietly padding over to the bookcase, she began to search. She looked in the bookcase, the desk, the file-cabinet, and even searched for a safe or anything like that. She came up with nothing.

Liz had told herself before that she shouldn't be disappointed if there was nothing in Topolsky’s office, but her heart sank nevertheless. She just wished it had been there so it would all be over with, but she knew she was asking too much. She looked up at the others and shook her head. Instantly, a rope was dropped for her. She swiftly tied it around her waist, tugging on it when she was ready, letting them know to pull her on up.

Michael grabbed her hands when they pushed up and pulled her through the duct. "Nothing," she whispered sadly.

"It's okay Liz," Michael replied, "We knew that they probably wouldn't be in here anyway. What's next?"

"The 'viewing' room," both Liz and Alex reminded him, and they crawled over to the last ceiling duct in a group. They shined their flashlights in, but still couldn't tell anything about the room, so they repeated the process with the rope and Liz once again was slid in. Unfortunately, the viewing room appeared to be nothing more than a secret room for viewing people in the adjourning rooms: once again, no tapes. They pulled Liz up and she explained what it was. They all sighed when they realized that they were going to have to go down to the basement. That meant leaving the security of the duct.

"What next?" Isabel asked, having not been completely filled in on the plans.

"We have to leave the ducts," Alex explained to her. "In most buildings the ducts for multiple-story buildings are connected, but this building is different, which means it's at least twenty-five years old. It wasn't until '75 that they discovered that it was more efficient to connect the air ducts."

"So this is where it gets more dangerous then, right?" Isabel asked, looking worried.

"You got it," Michael replied. "Liz, get up front and take us towards the stairs

Liz took a calming breath and took the lead. The plan was to take the stairs down and sneak into the closest room. Then they would climb in through the vent, hopefully limiting their risks. The hardest part would be walking through the hallways without being seen, by people in the halls or security cameras.

Liz stopped outside the vent near the stairs and turned to the others. She needed a minute before they did this.

"Oh, I almost forgot," Alex whispered as he unzipped his backpack, pulling out a stack of green cloth. OR scrubs he told her. "I conveniently visited my mom at St. Mary's during her lunch break, and as I was leaving, I took a stack of these thinking that maybe it would look a little more inconspicuous if we were wearing these." Liz could have kissed him. "Brilliant!" she whispered loudly, leaning over and giving him a big kiss on the cheek.

Alex smiled and then passed out a shirt and pants to everyone, including Isabel. "How did you know?" she asked surprised that he had enough for her.

"I didn't," he admitted. "I just grabbed a large pile and stuffed them in my bag. I didn't count them after I got them."

They all put the scrubs on awkwardly over their clothes in the small crawl space, and then Alex handed them all shower-cap like hats and protective masks.

“Are we ready?" Michael asked but Liz shook her head.

"Not yet. I need another minute- I'm scared," she admitted.

Michael nodded. "Take your time. Whenever you're ready."

"Thanks." She turned around to look out the vent, into the stairway, fighting to calm her nerves. She knew that this could be the end, if they get caught. She had to ask herself, was it was really worth it? But she knew the answer to that. As horrible as this could become, she knew in her heart that the answer was yes. Besides, she had already cheated death once, and she was thankful for every extra minute she was given because of it. It had opened her eyes to a world she never knew existed, where everything was intense, and valuable in a way she never knew. That was enough for her. "I'm ready.”

Everyone nodded and got into position, as Michael popped open the vent with his feet. Liz began to climb through, but froze when she heard a noise, and jumped back inside, weaving her fingers through the slots of the vent to hold it closed.

"What?" Alex asked.

"SHHH! I heard something!"

Everyone looked over at each other quickly, holding their breaths. Liz looked out and saw the door to the hallway open and two soldiers holding their guns at staff march up the stairs. When the door to the upstairs closed, she let out a sigh of relief and had to relax muscles that she hadn't even realized she had tensed.

She looked at Michael, who was directly behind her and said, "Let's try this again," then slipped her feet out the vent.

"Let me go first," Michael said, as she reached for his arms.

"Why?"

He didn't exactly know why he felt that he had to go first. He shrugged. "I just have to."

"Okay," she said in confusion, and maneuvered so that she was facing him. He flattened his body as much as he could against the wall, and she crawled over him. Once she was behind him, he put his legs forward and slid them through the vent.

"Do you want me to help?" Liz offered, knowing that it would be a long jump.

"I’ve got it," he replied and then with a grunt, disappeared through the vent. They heard him land a split-second later, and then the others followed, Michael catching them as they jumped.

"Look like you belong here," Liz whispered as they walked to the door to enter the basement floor.

Everyone stood taller as Michael pulled the door open and poked his head out. The coast was clear, so he waved them in and they all walked with fake ease, following the winding hallway towards the morgue.

Alex sucked in a sharp breath when he caught sight of a surveillance camera and the others did the same. "Don't look. Act like you belong here," Michael hissed, and the others tried to act normal as they passed by. When no alarms went off and no one came after them, they all began to relax

"God, this hallway makes me feel like I'm in a fun-house," Isabel commented and everyone had to agree. All the sharp turns were unsettling. Finally, they reached the end of the hall and were standing directly across from the doorway of the morgue.
Liz gave Michael an unsure glance, thinking that this was all too easy. His statement read that he clearly thought the same thing.

"Don't just stand there," Alex urged. "Let's go." Michael nodded them all toward the door to the morgue and reached for the knob.

"HEY! What do you think you're doing?" an authoritative voice demanded, causing them all to freeze.



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posted on 20-Sep-2001 9:51:58 PM
Part 16

Terror clamped on Liz's chest like a vice. Her eyes darted to Michael's, and together they slowly turned to see a soldier standing behind his desk, ten feet behind them.

They all exchanged panicked glances, none of them knowing what to say.

The soldier cleared his throat and gestured to his desk. "All orderlies are required to sign in before they enter the lower sector," he said, as if reminding them of something they should already know.

"Oh, of course," Liz said with a strained laugh, and as a group they approached the desk. Liz's heart beat rapidly with each step, but she did her best to appear aloof. Upon closer examination, she noticed that the soldier was young, no older than twenty, she guessed. He wore military issued glasses and a stiff, blank expression that most of the soldiers in the compound possessed.

The soldier sat back in his seat. "What's your business in the morgue?" he inquired absently as he opened the "Soldier Of Fortune" magazine that had been lying on his desk. Clearly he didn't care one way or the other, but it seemed he was asking out or routine.

Alarmed looks were exchanged between Liz and her friends. It was clear they were all struggling to come up with an explanation, and all coming up blank. The soldier, fortunately, didn't appear alarmed by their not answering. His eyes were entirely focused on his magazine.

Isabel removed her mask and cleared her throat to get his attention. When she had it, she flashed her best man killer smile. "May I use your pen?" she asked in a sweet, demure voice.

The soldier nodded eagerly. "Sure ma'am," he replied quickly, both hands going to the front pocket of his uniform and fumbling for a pen. Liz would have laughed at his desperation if she weren't so petrified.

A moment passed before Liz finally understood what Isabel was doing. She had spoken of a new power that required a possession, and with a little charm and alien powers, she had the soldier eating out of her palm.

"Thanks," Isabel gushed as if he'd handed her a diamond ring. She tossed her head back in a flirty manner, which wasn't really the same with her hair piled on top of her head and fitted under her cap, but the soldier was riveted nonetheless. As she signed her name, she glanced up at the soldier several times, batting her lashes and giving him her secret smile.

"Are you new here?"

"Yeah. We've just transferred from upstate. At Unico."

"That means you just finished your training for this facility then. So, what's a pretty lady like you doing going into the morgue at this hour?" he asked, obviously more interested now in what they were doing there.

She rolled her eyes as if it was all a nuisance. "Our first orders are to perform a blood test on the soldier who mysteriously collapsed yesterday before they drain him. We're supposed to determine if he died of natural causes or if it was something else."

Liz blinked, amazed at the tale Isabel was spinning. Was this part of her power?

"That's odd," the soldier said, doubt creasing his forehead. "I was not informed of this."

"Yes, I know," she replied, sighing dramatically and shaking her head. "Our arrival wasn't expected until tomorrow afternoon, but we arrived early. And after that ride, we're all a little too anxious to sleep, so they decided to put us to work. You can confirm it with Sgt. Heitz if you'd like," she added after seeing the suspicion in his featured. "He gave us the orders to come down here."

The soldier's face grew deathly pale. "No, that's all right," he insisted, swallowing hard. "You all go ahead. Just make sure to sign out before you leave."

"Thank you," Isabel said, batting her lashes once again and brushing his arm with her hand. "You're a dear. Here's your pen back."

"Anytime," he replied, nodding eagerly. At Isabel's signal, they all turned and made their way back to the morgue.

A collective sigh of relief filled the morgue after the door closed behind them.

"What was all that?" Alex gasped in wonder. "How did you know all that?"

Isabel tossed her head back and laughed. "That's empathy for you. Pretty cool, huh?" Her eyes flashed in excitement. "I could tell from his pen that all orderlies were trained in Unico before being sent here."

"I'm impressed," Michael admitted, though his voice still remained slightly cool. Liz smirked, knowing that he was trying so hard to remain mad at Isabel, but she was wearing him down.

Liz couldn't be mad if she tried. She was ready to kiss Isabel. "Why did he look so sick when you mentioned Sergeant...whoever?"

Isabel grinned. "Sgt. Heitz. And he's terrified of him. Seems that the Sgt. isn't much older than him, but one of the meanest, cruelest son of a bitch he has ever met - at least that's how his mind put it. When I centered in on that, I could tell that he'd rather except corporal punishment that contact Heitz." She laughed, and then looked around, her lips turning down and her nose wrinkling. "Gross. I just realized that we're in here with at least one corpse, possibly more, and it reeks in here. Can we please go?"

The question reminded Liz of her purpose for being there, sobering her relief and elation. "Good idea," she agreed, her eyes searching for the vent.

Michael nudged her with his arm. "Up there."

Liz followed the direction of his finger and they made their way over to it. This duct was higher than any other. They would need a ladder to even reach it.

"Let's use this," Michael said, reaching for one of the empty steel tables.

"Don't they put dead bodies on there?" Isabel asked, eyeing the table with a mix of disgust and repulsion.

Impatience showed in Michael's eyes. "You got it, and if we don't hurry up, we're going to end up on them next. So let's get a move on, okay? Thanks." He shook his head and scowled. "Liz, you're up first."

Placing both of his large hands over her waist, he helped her to climb onto the table, and then placed his hands on the corners, holding it steady for her as she released the latch. "Okay," Liz whispered as she reached up to get a grip. "Here I go."

Just as she found a steady holding and began to pull herself up, she felt hands on her legs, roughly pulling her down. "What is it?" she gasped as she fell against Michael's body. It only took a second to realize what the problem was: the door handle was rattling.

"Shit," Michael muttered, "we're dead."

"Be cool," Isabel hissed in warning as she rushed over to the other side of the room. Alex quickly put the table back where it belonged and they all stared at the door as the soldier from outside entered.

"We have a problem," he said. Everyone sucked in a breath and visibly stiffened. "There are no personal bags or belongings allowed in the morgue," he continued, looking almost embarrassed by what he was telling them. "Have you been assigned quarters yet?"

"No, not yet," Isabel said in an even, although slightly breathless, voice.

"I'll show you to them now, then," he said and turned to go, expecting them to follow.

"Is that really necessary?" Isabel asked, turning on the charm again. "I mean, I promise we won't steal anything."
But it didn't work this time.

The soldier shook his head stubbornly. "I'm sorry, ma'am, but it's procedure. You wouldn't want me to get in trouble now, would you?" he asked in a less formal, less teasing voice.

"No, of course not," Isabel replied, suppressing a sigh. "Please, lead the way," she said, placing one hand on the door to prop it open so that he would relinquish his spot and take them to the sleeping quarters.

Groaning under their breaths, they left the room. At the last moment, Liz slid her bag behind the door, knowing that they would need at least one bag of supplies.

They were shown to their quarters and each given lockers to put their personal things. Liz prayed that the guard would leave them alone so the others could grab some of the things they would need; unfortunately, he seemed to be watching them carefully.

"Where's your bag?" the soldier asked Liz.

Liz temporarily faltered. "Oh, I didn't bring one in with me. It's still in the car."

The guard scratched his head, looking skeptical. "I swear I saw you with a bag."

Liz attempted the Isabel charm. "You must have been mistaken," she drawled, batting her eyes as she removed her mask.

"Perhaps," he murmured, looking unconvinced. "Make sure you have it checked in then, when you bring it in."

"But of course," Liz replied, laughing and tossing her head.

"Have we met?" he asked suddenly, his eyes narrowing as he studied her face. Liz cursed herself for being so stupid to remove her mask.

"I don't believe so," she replied over the lump in her throat.

"Are you positive? It's just that you look really familiar."

"I'm positive," she replied in a rush, glancing at Michael. His lips were compressed into a thin, white line, his eyes throwing off sparks of rage - directed at her.

"I'll escort you back to the morgue, now," the soldier announced in a business-like tone.

As soon as they were back in the morgue, Michael whirled on her, his featured contorting with rage. "Are you out of your fucking mind?" he demanded, grinding the words out between clenched teeth.

"I know, I know! I don't know what I was thinking," she said, furious with herself for her own carelessness.

"You weren't thinking at all!" he said in a severe hiss. "Damnit!" His arm arced in the air, punching an invisible assailant. "What the hell are we going to do now without out bags?"

"I've still got mine," she offered, selfishly glad the focus was off of her and back on the task at hand.

"That helps," Alex said grimly, "but not much, considering most of the weapons were inside my bag."

"Why didn't you stash them on your body, like me?"

"Because I didn't think I'd have to," he said, tossing his hands up in exasperation. He turned around, took a deep breath, and then faced Liz once again, ready for business. "Okay, this is only a minor setback. Let's take inventory of what we have and go from there. Michael?"

"I have your father's gun and my switchblade. That's it."

"Liz?"

"I have everything; the trigger release knife, Swiss Army knife, the gun in my boot, the rope, flashlight, Tazer, and my pepper spray key chain."
"What about you, Isabel? Do you have anything?"

"Not really," she said, shrugging. "I didn't exactly plan any of this. All I have is some mace and my powers."

Alex nodded. "And all I have is my gun, rope, and crack-torch lighter."

Eyes rose in surprise all around the room. "Crack-torch lighter?" Liz croaked.

"Yeah, it burns at like 1600 degrees, so I thought it would be useful." He looked at them all with affront. "You all thought...?"

"No!" Isabel and Liz both insisted.

"Yes, you did," he sputtered angrily. "You thought I was a crack-head."

"Okay, so that doesn't leave us with much," Michael said loudly, getting them back on track. "We're just going to have to be more cautious, because if we get caught..."

"We're screwed," Isabel finished for him.

"Precisely. Now let's get up that vent." He went first this time, climbing on the table and pulling himself through the narrow opening in the wall. Liz went next, followed by Alex and then Isabel, who had difficulty squeezing through the small entry.

"Damn childbearing hips," she grumbled.

"Hey, I like your hips," Alex argued, giving her a brilliant smile. Liz met Michael's eyes and they both rolled their eyes. Isabel, however, beamed at the compliment.

"The mystery room is the closest," Liz reminded them as they began to crawl through the duct.

"If it's even a room," Michael added. "But let's give it a try." Being at the head of the group, he led them in the direction of the mystery room, only, when they got there, there was no vent.

"There has to be something here," Liz insisted, refusing to believe it really was nothing more than empty space.

"Who knows?" Michael sighed, sitting back on his haunches. "Let's hit the interrogation room next, although I have to admit that I never saw anything remotely looking like a tape in there. Not that I saw much as she was beating the crap out of me," he added in a dry grumble.

As they neared the interrogation room, Liz noticed a bright light illuminating the metal duct. Michael motioned for them to be silent as they all gathered around the vent. "I don't see anyone," he mouthed. "Should we?"

Alex shook his head fiercely. "Too risky."

"But what if..." Liz began.

"No," Alex mouthed, apparently adamant against entering the room. "It's not worth alerting them to our presence."

Liz sighed, not answering. Instead, she looked back down once more as they began to crawl away, and caught movement out of the corner of her eye. She snapped her fingers - her hands were sweaty enough that it dulled the sound - and Alex turned to look at her. "What is it?" he mouthed, tapping Isabel on the leg to get her attention.

Liz pointed down and then to her ear. "Listen."

But ever after five minutes, no sounds came and she sighed noiselessly. "Let's go," she mouthed. She took one last look down the vent and in that moment, and her heart leapt as she saw who was down there. She grabbed Michael's hand and squeezed hard. He looked at her in confusion and she pointed down the vent. "Brent!" she mouthed excitedly.

"No!" He shook his head firmly. "Don't trust him!"

She opened her mouth to protest, but couldn't very well do so if all she could do was mouth the words. Pulling a piece of paper and pencil from her bag, she began to scribble down her argument. But he wanted to help us before. I'm sure he'll help us again.

Doubtful. Topolsky knew. Don't you think they would have gotten rid of him?

She sighed in exasperation and began to write again. But...

Michael ripped the paper from her hand. No! And that's my final answer!

Liz read his last sentence and glared. How dare he! In jagged letters, she wrote, You're not in charge of me! Then she tossed the paper at him and lowered her face to the vent. "Brent," she called quietly.

She heard a scuffing noise in the room, but no reply. "Brent! Up here!"

After a moment, Brent's appeared directly under the vent. "Elizabeth?"

"Yes, it's me."

"What in God's name are you doing up there?"

"Long story," she said. "Are you alone?"

He looked around the room and nodded. "Yes. Come down here."

Liz flashed one last defiant look at Michael, who was watching her with a mix of anger and something else she couldn't identify, and then sat on her bottom and kicked her legs through the vent. Brent helped her down after she lowered her legs, and a moment later she was standing with her feet on the ground. "Thanks."

Brent glanced up at the vent. "Are you alone?"

"Yes," she said hesitantly, realizing that it was probably best if she didn't tell them about the others. He reached for her hands and pulled her to a couch resting against one wall.

"What are you doing here?"

"It's a really long story. But, basically, I need the tapes that were recorded while we were in here. Do you know where they are?"

"Yes. Why do you need them?"

She sighed, not really wanting to get into it all. But she had to tell him something. "We need to get rid of the evidence," she said.

He was watching her carefully. It seemed a long time passed before he nodded. "Right. I'll take you to them now."

"Thank you," she said graciously, standing as he was doing. "Are we going to be okay walking in the halls?"

"No, we'll be fine," he said, his lips curving.

"What about Kathleen? Is she still...around?"

The question made him pause. She could have sworn that his features darkened for a moment there, but his expression was once again normal when she looked again. "That's a matter of opinion," he said. "She's alive, if that's what you're asking."

"Oh." She felt a small amount of relief at knowing that she hadn't actually killed the older woman.

"That's all you have to say?" he said. How strange. Did he know what she had done to Topolsky right before they'd fled the complex? She wanted to ask him, but couldn't think of the right words to say. And besides, she needed to be quiet now. He was sliding his identification card through the keypad.

A hiss filled the room then, stirring some of her darker memories of her time spent at the compound. She shuddered, and glanced at Brent as the door began to open on it's own - to reveal a dozen or so armed soldiers standing behind it.

"Brent!" she cried, reaching out to close the door, but she was no match for the automated system. "Help me!" she insisted.

But he wasn't even looking at her, and the words that came from his mouth turned her insides to ice. "Take her to the Red room. Now!"

"Yes, sir, Sergeant Heitz, sir!" One of the guards replied and began to advance on her.



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posted on 20-Sep-2001 9:52:54 PM
Part 17

"You sent the tape," Liz gasped, searching Brent's eyes. No longer were they warm and friendly spaniel eyes she'd compared them to before. Now they were cold, calculating, menacing. God! For once, Michael was right. How could she have been so blind? The writing on the notes, the large bold letters, they were exactly the same as that of the slip of paper with the smiley face on it. How did she miss that?

"How very astute of you." He smiled, a smile twinged with bitterness and triumph. She tried to pull away as the soldier reached for her arms, but she was no match for the man. In one easy movement, her arms were pinned behind her back.

A voice rang out from the back of the group and the soldiers parted to reveal the kid from the sign-in desk. "Permission to speak, sir!"

"What is it, Davidson?" Brent replied, looking irritated.

The soldier gestured him closer and Brent leaned forward. The soldier began to speak to him quietly. Liz was positive she knew what the kid was telling him. She told herself to show nothing. Brent's glance skimmed between her and the empty room.

"Really?" he muttered, sounding intrigued. He walked back into the room and stood right under the vent.

"Come out, come out wherever you are," he sang.

Liz held her breath.

"Call your friends out Liz," Brent demanded sternly.

"I don't know what you're talking about," she breathed, struggling to keep composure.

"I'm figuring that it's Michael and Alex and Isabel, am I right? I mean, after the way you cheated on your Max, I'm pretty sure that he wouldn't want to come. Call them out!"

"There is nobody," she whined.

Brent gave her an unimpressed look and looked back up at the vent. "Listen up, up there! I'm giving you three seconds to reveal yourselves!" He swung his hand at the other soldiers, motioning for them to follow him in the room. Liz's heart plummeted as they all pointed their M-16's at the ceiling. Brent started counting down. "Three...two...one. That was your last warning." No one came out and Brent signaled the soldiers and they all began to fire into the ceiling.


"NO!" Liz screamed, doubling over in her captor's grip, raising her shoulders up to try to muffle the sounds of the shooting assaulting her ears.

Brent smiled when he saw her reaction. "I thought there was no one up there? If that's so then why are you so upset?"

Liz could only gasp and pray with all heart that they had been smart enough to get out of the way before the warning came.

He continued to smile cruelly at her for a few more moments, obviously enjoying her grief, and then he shifted his gaze to the soldier, nodding his head. A second later she was being whisked away to the Red room.


*****

Liz had been escorted through the hallways and into the commissary. They walked to and through the kitchen, until they reached the back corner and stopped in front of a blank wall.

Liz watched curiously as the soldier used one hand to push the wall in several different places and when he was done, a portion of the wall was released to reveal a door. The mystery room! She knew that something had to be there. A palm pushed into the small of her shoulders, urging her forward.

She stumbled forward through a short hallway until she came to a large opening. She blinked as she was blasted by a draft of icy air. Red Room was a good name for it, she thought grimly as she fought to see through the dim infrared lighting.

Directly next to the entrance was an enclosed office space. She was tossed inside and two of them took places outside the door, standing guard. She scanned her surroundings quickly, looking for any way that she could possibly escape, but there was none. She had expected as much. She sat down in a chair and wrapped her arms around herself, trying to warm herself against the chill as she waited for whatever was to come.

Why had she been so stupid? she had to ask herself. Now that she really thought about it, there were so many little things that should have told her to trust Michael's judgment on the issue of Brent, but once again, she had been too contumacious to listen. She should have instantly known that something was up when she saw Brent just hanging out inside the interrogation room with ease! If he had really been caught trying to break them out, she asked herself, would he really still be at the compound? And then there was the smiley face. That should have instantly rung bells in her head, but she had automatically believed it to be Topolsky because she though only Topolsky was the only person she though cruel enough to do that kind of thing. It was Topolsky, after all, who had said she wanted them to sleep together in order to cause her pain so naturally, Liz assumed that she would want to carry on that pain by exposing it to Max and Maria. This only made her wonder what Brent's motives were for sending the tape?

She groaned suddenly, cursing herself for being so stubborn and for probably getting the others murdered by her carelessness. It wasn't even herself that she was concerned about anymore - she had accepted the risks when she entered the compound - but it was the others who so loyally followed her into this, even when it had been decided that breaking in wasn't even worth it.

She could only hope that they were all right and intelligent enough to get out of this place as soon as possible.
But if Michael had anything to do with it, a voice in her head said, he would not allow them to leave without you. Normally, she would count on that. Now, all she cared about was her friends getting out alive.

*****

"Is everyone okay?" Isabel asked quietly, her eyes searching for both Alex and Michael in the dark.

"I'm fine," Alex answered, groaning in pain.

"Did you get hit?" she asked, instantly alarmed by the moan that passed his lips.

"Yes. It went all the way though my arm though and was only a flesh wound. It's a good thing that we decided to move quick enough to miss most of the bullets, huh Michael?"

But Michael didn't answer him and Alex turned around sharply.

Michael had been at the end of the line when they began to crawl away. "Michael?" he cried, groping in the darkness behind him.

"I'm here," a weak voice answered.

"Are you hit?" Isabel demanded, trying to push past Alex, but there wasn't just enough room.

"I think so, I mean yes, but I think I'm okay," Michael answered.

"Where are you hit?" Alex asked, moving in closer until he bumped into Michael's body.

"Stomach," he gasped. "Arm...shoulder...legs."

"You are not okay," Isabel gasped. "Let me heal you."

"No, we have to find Liz," he protested, his voice frail and raspy. "I'll be fine."

"You will not be fine," Isabel argued, fighting back tears. She needed to be strong now. She needed to help him before it was too late. "You can hardly talk. Let me heal you."

"Can you sit up?" Alex asked, his voice deceptively calm.

"I think so," Michael replied and took a deep breath as he fought to push himself up from where he was lying, stomach down. The minute he put pressure on his left arm, he moaned in pain and collapsed. "No," he gasped. "Look, just forget about me right now. I'll heal myself. Go. Find Liz."

Alex helped him up from his stomach until he was sitting, leaning against the wall.

"We're not leaving you!" Isabel protested firmly, and crawled over Alex to get to Michael. She grabbed his arm and asked where he was hit. Stubborn as ever, he clumsily shrugged out of his arms.

"I said no."

"You don't have an option here," Isabel whispered and searched for herself, feeling her way around his body.

"Only because I can't stop you." He sighed, defeated acquiescence, and slumped against the wall.
She sat down in front of him, momentarily jumping up when her skin immediately encountered a puddle of wetness. Her breath caught in her throat. "Oh God, he's lost so much blood," she told Alex in a jagged whisper, fighting back tears.


As she connected with him, she was blown away by the amount of pain that greeted her. How can he handle all this? she wondered, gasping. She was suddenly more scared than she thought possible. She couldn't lose him!

It took her a lot longer to do the healing than it would have Max because she had never done it before. At first, her thoughts were too cluttered by her frustration at Liz for not listening to Michael, and the pain he was emitting, and then once she did begin to concentrate, she had a difficult time focusing on the foreign molecules of the bullets.

Her healing took a lot out of her and by the time she had healed the wounds in his arm, shoulder and stomach, she was panting and gasping as if she had just run a thirty-mile race. "I'll finish in a second," she gasped at Michael, rubbing away the perspiration on her forehead with the back of her forearm. "I just need to rest for a second."

"Don't bother," Michael replied, his voice stronger now. "I'll take care of it."

She was the one who was too weak to argue this time. She nodded, knowing very well he couldn't see her in the dark, but too weak to speak. Her limbs trembled with exhaustion. It would be a while before she could move again.

"Are you okay?" Alex asked thickly, obviously concerned. His hands rubbed up and down her arms, as if he were trying to warm her.

"Yeah," she gasped. "Just...need to catch my breath. I'll be fine."

Isabel couldn't be sure how much longer they sat there like that, but finally her breathing transformed from gasps, to shallow pants, to normal. The shaking in her limbs subsided to insignificant trembles, but she finally felt competent enough to move. .

"Damnit," Michael muttered in the dark. "I knew something was sketchy about that guy. Why didn't she listen?"

"I think you two have been hanging out too much," Alex mumbled dryly. "You must be rubbing off on her."

"Oh God," Isabel whispered, shocked at herself. "I almost forgot that you got shot!"
"What?" Michael asked, shocked. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I'm fine," he assured them. While Isabel had been healing Michael, he had torn off a piece of his shirt and wrapped it around his arm tight enough to staunch the blood-flow. Granted, it hurt like hell - probably one of the worst forms of pain he had ever experienced - but he felt strong enough to continue.

"Where's your wound? I'll take care of it," Michael said, shifting his position.

"No, really it's okay," Alex sighed. "Besides, if healing takes so much out of you, it's probably not a good idea if you waste your powers on me. You might need them."

"Please let him help you," Isabel begged, holding his hand tightly.

"No. I said I'm fine."

"Are you sure?" she asked, not sounding entirely convinced.

"Yes." His voice was full of impatience. "We need to go find Liz now."

"Right," Michael agreed, hesitantly. "We have to go to the Red room. Wherever that is." He mumbled the last part under his breath.

"What do you think the chances are that it's where you were being held before?" Isabel asked hopefully.

"Slim to none," he said grimly. "The only thing I can think of is that it's a room we're not aware of, which means that there might be a mystery room after all. Only problem is, we have no clue how to get to it."

"We need back-up," Isabel said suddenly.

"Back-up?" Alex questioned.

"I need to get a hold of Max and tell him what's going on. I can dream..."

"No!" Michael said vehemently. "We're not getting him involved in this."

"The way I see it Michael," Isabel argued, just as strongly, "We don't have a choice! They know we're in the building and they'll be looking for us. Max can provide a distraction."

"And whose to say he would even want to help?" Michael spat.

"He will," Isabel replied, confidently, neglecting to add that he would probably be doing it because of her and not because of the others. Either way, at least he would come.

Michael sighed heavily and she could hear him shift again. "Here's a picture of us all together," he said a moment later passing it to her. "Alex, get out that torch thing so she can see the picture."

The torch lighter went on a minute later, illuminating the tunnel, and Isabel nodded. "Thank you." Then she took a deep breath and focused on Max's image in the picture of the three of them. Suddenly, the picture rippled and she was in.

*****

"You were in charge of this the whole time weren't you?"

Brent leaned against the edge of the desk and crossed his arms over his chest. "No, actually Kathleen was the master-mind of this project, but now that she is incapable of proceeding, I have taken charge."

"But you pretended to be our friend. Why is that?" Liz asked, trying to buy some time as her eyes studied him, his featured distorted and more menacing in the red lighting.

"Oh that." He smiled. "Well, I was just helping Kathleen out. She figured that giving you two some hope and then crushing it would make it all the more horrible for you. Personally, I didn't see any point to it, but she was in charge and it was my orders to follow her wishes. I would have rather preferred physical torture," he added, his gaze sinister.

"If that's so, then why would you send the tape? Isn't that just more games?"

"No, no games, just good old fashioned allurement. You two just aren't as smart as you thought. I sent the tape, and, as I predicted, you came running for the others."

"You knew I was in the building, didn't you?" she whispered with dawning realization. "You were waiting for me in that room."

His eyes twinkled mockingly. "Very clever."

Liz swallowed the lump in her throat, thinking back to his prior statement. "So, is that what you're going to do to me now? Physical torture?"

He stood up and walked over to her, leaning so that his face was inches from hers. "As much as I'd enjoy that, I have other orders for the time being."

"What kind of orders?"

He reached out and touched her stomach. "I have to see if you conceived, of course. Believe it or not, there is more important things than my vendetta against you."

"What...vendetta do you have against me?" she asked, squirming in her seat, wanting to get his grimy hand off of her tummy.

His eyes grew steely, and he stood up, moving over to the television in one corner and turning it on. She felt a rush when she saw the images of she and the others beating the crap out of Topolsky. She watched it all with a feeling of sick satisfaction until the tape came to the part where she kicked Topolsky when she was down. Brent paused the tape, leaving the image of the woman's head snapping back on the screen. He turned back to her with bitter eyes.

"You see, before this happened," he pointed at the screen, "it was nothing personal, just business. But the moment you did this, it became personal." He waltzed up to her and roughly pulled her from her chair. "I want to show you something," he growled.

Liz didn't even try resisting his pull, but he made a point of being as aggressive with her as possible. His hand gripped her arm so fiercely that she cried out. With no remorse, he dragged her from the office and pulled her across the large room to a smaller one.

He kicked the door open and thrust her to the ground while he turned to shut the door. Then he picked her up by the back of her shirt and thrust her to the far side of the room, past a curtain that was sectioned off. "You want to see what you did to her?" Not bothering for an answer, he tossed the curtain aside to reveal Topolsky lying in a hospital bed. Plastic tubes were hooked up to her nose and mouth, several needles pierced her arms. The hum of a machine echoed throughout the room and it only took Liz a moment to realize that it was a respirator.

"You see," Brent barked. "This," he pointed to the machine, "is the only think keeping her alive!"

Liz looked at him helplessly, not knowing what he wanted her to say or how he wanted her to react.

He lowered himself until he was merely inches from her face. She could feel his hot breath on her lips. "Do you want to know why this is so personal to me?" he growled, tightening his grip on her neck.

She couldn't answer. She could only stare helplessly.
"Do you?" he screamed, shaking her.

"Yes," she whispered breathlessly, tears rising in her eyes. It suddenly struck her as funny that she only now started to cry. Three weeks of tears could really drain a person, she mused tartly.

Brent reached in under the sheet that covered Topolsky's body and pulled her hand out. "You see this?" he pointed to the ring on the comatose woman's left hand.

She nodded, finally getting it. "You two were engaged."

"Bingo! Give the girl a fucking hand!" he exploded. "You screwed everything up. Even now, if she were to wake on her own, she would be completely paralyzed."

Guilt washed over her. Had situations been reversed, she knew for a fact that she'd want revenge if something happened to Max. But to go this far...

She burst into laughter, surprising Brent, as well as herself.

Brent looked both furious and incredulous at the same time. "You think this if funny?" he yelled. She knew she should stop it, that she was standing in the face of dynamite ready to explode, but for some reason, she could only laugh harder, laugh until her sides began to ache. I'm losing it, she thought. Absolutely delirious.

"Stop it!" he raged like a lunatic, but she couldn't stop. She was welcoming death after all this pitiful drama.

His face twisted and he slapped her hard against the face, snapping her neck back.

"I'm sorry," she said, cupping her cheek. "It's just...I can't think of anything more pathetic! I feel like I've stepped into a bad movie or something. You have to think of something more realistic than, 'oh, you almost killed my fiancé'. Topolsky was an evil bitch who got everything she deserved!"

This only made him angrier and this time when he slapped her, its effect was more severe. Her last thought before she passed out was, "Ouch, this is going to hurt."



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posted on 20-Sep-2001 9:55:10 PM
Part 18

The minute Isabel entered Max's dream, she felt a rush of deja-vu. She found herself standing in the exact spot of the compound she had been not a half-hour ago. This time, however, there was no guard. She frowned as she walked forward, wondering why Max would be dreaming about the compound? Upon closer observation, she realized that the halls were different than they had been before, when they had come to rescue Michael and Liz.

Oddly, there were no doors on the walls either, and the hall lead directly to the room where Liz and Michael had been held captive. It was there she found a door. Her frown only deepened as she hesitantly reached for the handle. Funny, last time she was here, she remembered that there was some kind of keypad, but not here. The door swung open of it's own accord and she stepped inside, her heart jumping in her throat at what she saw.

In Max's dream, he was the one making love to Liz. Isabel couldn't help but stare as Max passionately kissed Liz and whispered how much he loved her, how glad he was that their first time could be together.

Finally, she looked away, her heart breaking a little. She didn't want to interrupt Max's blissful dream. She wanted him to feel this happy for a little longer, but there was no way to avoid it.

Slowly, she walked up to the bed and whispered, "Max."

He looked up, shocked at the intrusion. "Isabel? What are you doing here?"

"Max," she said again, gently. "This isn't real. You're dreaming."

Max looked utterly confused. "What are you talking about?"

"This," she gestured around the room. "It's all a dream. You're not really here."

"Michael, please kiss me. I'll die if I don't feel your mouth on me," Liz begged, not even aware of Isabel's existence.

Max looked down sharply at Liz at the sound of Michael's name on her swollen lips, and his eyes shattered by the jolt of reality. "It is a dream," he said, his voice flat.

He stood up from Liz and her tiny form in the bed disappeared. He blinked and looked at Isabel. "Why did you have to come?" he screamed, surprising her.

"Max, I had to."

"No Isabel. It may not be real in life but I was happy until you showed up. Even if it was only a dream, I was happy for the first time in days. You had to ruin it!"

Isabel gasped, her eyes tearing up. "No Max, you have to understand! I didn't mean to ruin anything but I don't have a choice! Me, Alex, Liz, Michael, we're all in trouble. We need your help."

"You have the audacity to come into my dream and ask me to help the people who betrayed me?" he asked in a controlled voice but she could see him grinding his teeth.

"Please Max, I...I believe them. I don't know why, but honestly, I think we all jumped to too many conclusions before hearing them out. And look, they decided to break in the compound anyway to get the proof they needed. Don't you see? Liz loves you so much that she was willing to face one of her worst nightmares to prove to you that it's you she loves. Doesn't that count for something?"

"I can not believe this," he growled, his voice incredulous. "You're actually siding with them? You're helping them?"

She held her head high and nodded. "Yes I am. Alex made me think about some things and I realized that, like him, I had to do the right thing. Will you do the same?"

When he didn't answer she sighed. "If you don't come, you chance losing us all. Only you can save us, and if you chose not to do it, just remember that our deaths will be on your hands. On your conscience. If that's what you want, then more power to you."

Still he didn't answer, only stared her with unmoved, fathomless eyes. "Fine, do what you want, Max," she muttered in disgust. Before stepping out of the door, she turned. "You know, the Max that I have always known would never allow this to happen. You used to be so open-minded and have total faith in people when no one else did. You were the most rational and levelheaded of us all. Now you're only a shell of who you used to be, too blinded by your own hurt to see what's right or wrong. What was I thinking coming to you?" She shook her head and then closed the door.

*****

Inside the air ducts, Isabel sat up with a gasp, causing both Michael and Alex to jump.

"Did you find him?" Alex asked quickly.

Isabel blinked and slumped against the wall, feeling depleted and broken. "Yes," she mumbled. "I found him all right."

"He's coming then?"

"I don't think so," she croaked, suddenly thankful for the darkness that encased them, as she couldn't bear to see their reaction to the news. "I think we're on our own."

"I knew it," Michael's loathsome voice grumbled, kicking his foot out against the wall. A deafening, thunderous echo ricocheted off the metal partition.

"Are you serious?" Alex gasped in disbelief, sounding as beaten as she felt.

"I'm afraid so."

"That's just great." Michael sighed. "That's fine. We don't need him. We're going to do this on our own."

"But how?" Alex asked. "They'll kill us if they find us."

"Then so be it. I swore to myself long ago that I would protect Liz for Max's sake no matter what, and even if he is too stupid to see how important she is to him, I'm sticking to that. If I have to give up my life to get her out, then that's the way it's going to be. It's up to him to do the rest. You can join me if you want, but I'm going."

"It's kind of funny," Isabel whispered. "We all thought that you and Liz were screwing around, but now that I look closer, I wonder why I never saw it before?"

"What are you talking about Isabel?" he asked impatiently.

"I mistook your need to protect her for attraction. I never looked close enough to see that she is like a sister to you. I'm proud of you, Michael. I can't think of anything nobler than protecting Liz because she means so much to Max. You did it because you care for him so much, didn't you?"

"Yes," he said quietly.

"I think we underestimate you sometimes. You deserve a lot more credit than we give you and I'm sorry I ever doubted you. Can you forgive me?"

Michael reached out for Isabel's hand and squeezed it. "Yeah, come on, let's go."

*****

Liz woke up to a dull throbbing in her cheek and a pounding headache. She looked around with blurry eyes, struggling to remember where she was. The red haze in the room was enough to jog her memory, and she dimly recalled everything that had happened and how she had gotten where she was.

She groaned and struggled to lift her head, which felt both heavy and painful. The moment she moved, the pain became unbearable and she collapsed back with a sigh, closing her eyes tightly until the throbbing began to subside some.
She tried to stretch her limbs but they felt she felt too weighed down and listless and she decided that it wasn't even worth it. She sighed and resigned herself to staring at the ceiling. Funny, she though through the fog in her brain, shouldn't my vision have cleared by now?

She blinked a few times but still her vision would not clear. Must be the lighting, she decided.

"Glad to see you're finally awake," a distorted, almost omniscient voice echoed in her head. She grimaced against the sharp ache that joined her as she turned to find its source. "How are you feeling, Liz?"

She opened her parched lips to answer but the words wouldn't come. She tried several times but couldn't seem to get them to work right.

"Don't worry Liz, I know it's a little difficult for you to move or even talk. That's just the tranquilizers, but really, it's better this way. You can just listen. Do you understand?"

She couldn't even muster the strength to retort.

"To my superior's displeasure, you did not conceive a child. I was ecstatic when I found out because that meant I could dispose of you in whatever way I saw fit. But my commanding agent had different plans. Seeing how we took samples from Michael after you both first arrived, we still possess enough of his seamen to continue trying until we get it right. That's why I had no problem killing him. My dilemma is that it is my job to supervise you until the child is born. I find that rather bothersome and to tell you the truth, every time I see you I just want to smash your face in, so they offered me to the perfect solution for getting my job done and not having to deal with you. Would you like to know what that is?"

She couldn't answer, which only caused him to smile. "I'll tell you anyway. Have you ever heard of a suspension chamber?" He smiled. Liz wondered why he continued to ask her questions he knew she couldn't answer?

"What am I thinking? Of course you haven't. Only the most elite members of the government know about suspension chambers, and when I informed them of my dilemma, they made me privy to this highly top secret object. You see, in a suspension chambers, your body is suspended in water causing you to feel weightless. All of your senses are cut off. The human mind can't handle that kind of shock to the system. When you lose all of your senses, you lose your mind as well. Your body becomes vacant and you merely exist as a tool for our use. We can monitor your conception for as long as it takes and it won't affect the child at all. You'll receive the proper nutrition via IV. You will be able to breathe as always through use of a special mouth piece but for the most part you will be nothing more than a lump of flesh. Once your child has been born, our use for you will be no longer and we will stop the IV and let you waste away. Don't worry Liz, it will be painless when you go because you will have already for all intents and purposes have died. Any questions?" he mocked her, his eyes gleaming. "Didn't think so. Well, then let's begin."

It took Liz a long time to process all of the confusing information he had just shared with her but once her understanding was clear, she tried to fight and scream but it was no use. 'This is the end,' she realized as she was lifted from the bed she was resting on and taken to a large black box that looked like a coffin. A snorkel mask connected to an air tube was shoved into her mouth, rubbing her gums raw. She was fitted with earplugs, tinted goggles and her feet and hands were fitted with large sleeves made of rubber. She began to have feeling in one of her arms and she once again tried to struggle but still it was useless. She couldn't see or hear anything anymore and when she tried to scream, no sound came out.

She felt hands pick her up and a moment later she was laid inside the box or rather what she figures was the box but couldn't be absolutely sure because, between the tinted goggles and the red haze, her vision was unreliable.

A sharp needle was carelessly jabbed into her arm and another uncomfortable tube was shoved up inside of her cervix, causing her body to arch. She cried out, finally finding her voice but her mask gagged the sound. It finally hit her that this was real, that this would be the last memory she had until that was finally erased. Her only solution was to focus on something pleasant. She tried thinking of Max but every time she did, an image of his enraged face entered her mind. She wiped that out, not wanting that to be her last memory so instead, she chose to think about Michael, the person she had suffered with. And Alex, the only one who truly believed her no matter what.

Their images were snatched from her mind as she finally saw Brent lean directly over her face and wave good-bye to her, ticking his fingers off in line. The sadistic smile on her face was the last real image she saw as the door was closed over her head with a loud clanging noise. She heard that all right. Focus on Michael and Alex she told herself as the box began to fill with water. Think of Michael and Alex.

Michael and Alex. Michael and ....


Part 19

"This isn't working," Michael said through gritted teeth. "There is no where else to look up here."

Hours seemed to pass as the scoured the entire duct system for an entrance into a secret room, but it was useless, there was nothing. "If only we could reach her," he cried in frustration.

"We can try," Isabel whispered doubtfully.

"How?" Alex carefully asked, leaning closer to her. "If there is even a chance, we have to try."

Isabel began to chew on her lip. "I...I've never done this before but maybe I can try to form a connection with her."

"From here?" Michael asked, sounding as doubtful as Isabel. "Do you think it would work?"

"I don't know but we already know we can't go and search from the hallways. They'll kill us on sight. We have to try something and it's the only thing I can think of. Do any of you have a picture of her?"

Alex shook his head. "I'm sorry, but my wallet was in my bag."

"I do!" Michael said. "It's the one we all took at the state fair a month ago in Albuquerque. Here," he said, handing it to Isabel.

Isabel looked at the picture and felt a tear slide down her cheek. "I forgot about this picture," she murmured. In it, the girls were all standing in front with the guys standing behind them, their arms wrapped around the girls' waists. Everyone looked so happy, even Michael, who sported a small smirk.

That had been one of the best days of her life. They had all decided to go on a whim, wanting to get out of town for the day. It had been the first time that Alex had kissed her. On top of the 'Grand Wheel' no less.

She sighed at the memory. How she longed for more days like that. "We all look so happy."

"That's because we were," Michael said quietly.

"Yeah, it was a great day," Alex agreed, reminiscing as well.

"Well, I'm uh...Michael, I think I'm going to need your help with this."

"How?"

"Just feed me whatever power you can."

He nodded slowly and placed a hand on the back of her neck.

With her free hand, she reached out for Alex's and said, "Yours too."

"What help can I give you?"

She shrugged in response and then focused intently on the picture, on Liz. At first nothing happened but then her breathing became shallow, something that never, ever happened before, and the picture rippled. I did it, she thought, feeling triumphant.

But this was not like any dream she had ever been in. Instead of just instantly being in Liz's dream, she felt herself being sucked into a whirlwind-like spiral of darkness. She caught traces of Liz's mental voice in her head and knew she was in but still everything remained dark. What's going on? she wondered, not liking this at all.

Then she could feel Liz and the mental distress she was experiencing. "Liz!" Isabel called out desperately, but nothing came. She tried to focus on Liz's thoughts, to discover what was causing the distress. Liz's mental voice chilled her inside.

'I can't remember," she babbled incessantly. "Who am I? I knew it a...I knew it but...it was right there...there is nothing now...there is nothing at all...I...I am not an I...There is no I...There is no one...I am nothing...there is no...." The voice suddenly trailed off and the darkness vanished in front of Isabel, immediately waking her up.

She looked at Alex and then Michael with wide eyes, "There is something really, REALLY wrong. I...she...," she couldn't think of how to explain it. "God it's horrible, she's brainwashed or something. She doesn't even know who she is, Michael!" She gripped on to his shirt, bursting out into desperate tears. "DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I'M TELLING YOU? She's alive but she's not her. There is something...I can't explain it...but I've never felt anything so horrible! She can't remember anything!"

"You're not making any sense," Michael told her, gripping on to her wrists.

"She wasn't making sense! It was like she was turning into a zombie or something...like...like...a vessel!"

"A vessel for what?"
"IF I KNEW THAT DON'T YOU THINK I WOULD TELL YOU??????"

"Okay, calm down." Michael shook her. "We're going to find her, Isabel. Do you understand?"

"How?" she sobbed.

"We're hitting the floors at full force. Listen to me, we're going to go back to the storage rooms. I'm sure that's where they store the heavy artillery. Then on the floor, we shoot anything that moves."

Her eyes showed white all around. "Kill people?"

"Yes, kill people! Anything that moves!"

Isabel shook her head in fear. "I don't think I can."

"Wake up Isabel, these people wanted to kill us. They may just be doing their jobs, but so are we and we aren't going to make it one minute on that floor without guns. This is serious, it's kill or be killed, do you understand?"

Isabel sniffed and then nodded. "I understand. Anything that moves."

"Alex?" Michael asked, checking for understanding.

"Hey, I'm with you brother, but are you sure you don't want to re-think this? I mean, these men are heavily trained and I doubt that any of us will last long against them."

"That's a chance we have to take," Michael replied firmly. "Now are you in?"

Alex nodded grimly. "Yeah, I'm in. Anything that will get us to Liz."

*****

Michael growled as he slammed is foot down on the vent to the storage room harder than what was necessary. He glanced at everyone and then dropped through the hole without any precaution, landing bluntly on the ground. He held his arms up for Isabel next and then Alex and soon all of them were in the storage room.

"Take off the scrubs," Isabel instructed. "They'll only restrict our movements. Besides, Michael, yours is covered with blood."

Everyone quickly tore the scrubs off and tossed them aside carefully.

"And now..." Michael's eyes flashed with complacency as they fell on the black wrought-iron cage that held what he was looking for. He stalked up to it and held his hand over the lock, waiting not a second before the loud click of it unlocking echoed through out the room. He threw it open and stepped in. "Hello Mr. M-16," he sighed with sadistic satisfaction, picking up the machine gun with bared teeth. "Ladies first," he said, handing it to Isabel.

She hesitated before taking it and swung the strap over her neck, aiming at the wall.

"Isabel, you okay with this?" Alex asked as Michael tossed one at him.

"For some reason, this doesn't sound like such a bad idea anymore," Isabel shrugged. "I'm suddenly in the mood to do some damage. I mean I'm terrified, but not. Does that make sense?"

"It's called adrenaline, Izzy. But don't get carried away yet, Rambo," Michael said, looking unimpressed.

"You aren't doing any damage without these." He handed her and Alex several cases of shells.

"Oh, right," she smiled sheepishly and then put the first one in. She stashed those around the waistband of her jeans and then looked up as Michael handed her a belt with several slots in it.

"I think this will work better," he said. "Want grenades?"

She nodded and hooked them into the belt.

"Hello, would you look at what I just found," Alex said. They both looked to where he was standing in front of another cage. "Bullet-proof vests anyone?"

Isabel unlocked the cage this time and Alex donned everyone a vest. "What else is in there?" she asked as she put her vest in there.

"Just extra fatigues," Alex replied.

"Give me a pair."

"Uh, Isabel, you're going a little too far with this Rambo thing. We really don't have time for this," Michael reminded her.

"No, I'm not. It might take them a little longer to recognize us if we're in these."

"I doubt it, but here you go," Alex said, tossing her a set. "Michael?"

*****

Michael, Alex and Isabel walked into the hall cautiously, very aware of the fact that there were men just across the hall, waiting for them. Michael nodded at Isabel and she crept up and held her hand over the lock, melting it's insides so that they would have to break down the door to get out, and since it was made of pure metal, that didn't seem likely.

Isabel gave him a thumbs up and they all crept out to the edge of the small corridor. Michael slowly poked his head out into the main hallway. There was no one there, not even the guard at the desk. He waved them forward and they all stepped into the hall. They began to walk forward but Alex whistled softly and pointed towards the juncture that led to the interrogation room, the lab, and the room they had been held in. They all trotted to the hallway and Michael hissed, "Why the hell are we going over here?"

"Isabel needs to lock the doors, Michael. If there are people in here, they could come out and shoot us from behind. We need to eliminate that possibility."

"Oh," Michael replied, and Isabel melted the handles to the doors and fried the electronic keypads.

They walked back to the main hallway and this time it was Alex who peered out and waved them forward. They resumed their slow pace, making their way to the guard's desk with ease.

"I'm getting a funny feeling about this," Michael whispered, thinking that something couldn't be right if there was no one in the halls.

"Maybe their guards aren't up because they think we're dead," Alex offered.

"Or maybe not," Michael said suddenly as he heard the ding of the elevator. He reached down to his boot and took out the gun he had stashed there. "Come on, we're going to intercept them." He nodded them forward and they walked through the twisting halls that led to the stairway and the elevator, stopping half- way in.

Michael leaned in to Alex's ear and whispered, "Since we're going to be close range, I'm going to use this. You guys have to back me up. Tell Isabel."

Alex leaned back towards Izzy, relaying the message. She nodded and both she and Alex stepped back a few paces, getting into position and aiming their machine guns towards the turn with determination.

They heard the shuffling of feet approaching, and Michael guessed it to be more than one person. He held his gun up and blinked rapidly.

The footsteps grew closer and louder. Michael sucked in a deep breath and positioned his gun at what he estimated to be head level. The footsteps stopped, causing his heart to leap. He glanced back at the others, motioned for them to hold steady.

What are they waiting for? he wondered when they still didn't come around the corner. He waited for a few more moments and then sucked in another deep breath and hopped into the next hallway, ready to shoot, but stopped short and did nothing short of wetting his pants when he realized who was it was: none other than Max Evans and Maria DeLuca.



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posted on 20-Sep-2001 9:56:23 PM
Part 20

Michael and Max both kept their guns pointed at each other as they exchanged a long measuring glance.
The two pairs of hooded eyes locked untrustingly on one another, and the air between them almost seemed to crackle with electricity as they assessed one another.

The others could almost feel both of their strong wills battling for dominance, waiting for the other to relent.

"Would you two stop it," Isabel finally said, not able to handle it anymore. "We don't have time for this."

It was finally Max who lowered his gun, letting his hand fall to his side and Michael dropped his then as well.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded, his voice not ungrateful, but not exactly trusting either.

"Were here to get you guys and get out of here," Max replied evenly, locking eyes with his sister.

"I thought you didn't care?" Isabel challenged, still hurt by his treatment of her in his dream.

Max looked away guiltily, and sighed. "We'll talk about it later, right now we have to get out of here. Those guards won't be fooled by the distraction for much longer."

"What distraction?" Michael asked carefully.

"Uh...we brought reinforcements to cause a distraction," Maria replied for Max, avoiding Michael's eye-line. "And right about now, all the guards are checking out a mysterious explosion right outside."

A confused look crossed Alex's face. "Reinforcements?"

"Kyle and some of his friends."

"Kyle?" Michael scoffed. "You're kidding! How did you pull that off? Why would he even want to help?"

Maria finally looked Michael in the eye. "He was worried about Liz after the...fight at school yesterday. He came over this morning to talk to her before school, but she wasn't there. So he came to me and wanted to know what was going on between us, why we were fighting, and I told him what I could, excluding obvious aspects of the story. I told him that we were going to go find her right now and he insisted on coming. He brought Tommy, Ryan and Pauly with him."

"Before school? What time is it?" Michael didn't like the sound what Maria had just told him, wondering how much Kyle really knew about all this? He decided to ignore it for now, knowing that there were other more important things to worry about right now.

"It's 9 am," Max replied quickly, breaking into his thoughts." So where are the holding Liz at? The same room?"

Isabel held her hands up helplessly. "No, somewhere called the Red Room, wherever that is. We don't know, Max, but she's in big trouble. She's being brainwashed or something."

Michael decided that he needed to put his differences aside where Max was concerned, and work together with him. "We think it's a hidden room," he told them, pointing to the blank wall. "But we don't know how to get in."

"How about using one of those?" Maria asked, pointing to the grenades in Isabel's voice.

"No, I don't...," Michael started but Isabel cut him off.

"I think that's a good idea, but not in this hallway. Let's go to the other side of the wall, into the commissary, and do it. That way we can melt the handle of the door or fry the keypad or whatever to keep them out. Most of these doors are metal so it will be impossible for them to get in. That way we will only have to fight what's inside instead of everyone else."

"But what about when we're leaving?" Alex asked, agreeing that her plan sounded good but was missing that one thing.

"They'll be waiting for us right outside that door."

"We'll deal with that when it comes," Max said, surprising Isabel. His face reflected no emotion one way or the other but deep down, she could tell that he was more worried about Liz than he was ready to admit. She groaned inwardly, wondering why he had to be so stubborn, but then told herself that she should just be thanking her lucky stars that he and Maria showed up. You wouldn't have lasted long without them and their distraction, a voice in her head reminded her.

"We need to get you guys guns," Michael said grudgingly, his thoughts very similar to Isabel's. "Hurry up and follow me."

"Do you want us to go into the commissary?" Alex asked.

Michael shook his head firmly. "NO! We stay together at ALL times! We've already got one person to save, we don't need another."

*****

"Okay, all of you, run away as far as you can. Go to the back of the commissary and take cover. Move it!" Michael instructed as he held a grenade in his hands.

"Let's go," Isabel instructed, ushering everyone out of the kitchen. Only Alex stayed behind and she sighed in frustration.

"Alex, we have to go."

"Wait!" he said, sounding as though he was on the verge of some big discovery. "I think...."

"What is it?" Michael cried in frustration.

Alex didn't answer immediately. Instead, he stepped forward to the large stainless steel refrigerator against the wall, looking around the side of it. He shook his head. "Call everyone back in here, Isabel!" he called, his voice breathless and excited. "The grenade won't be necessary! Help me move this Michael!"

Michael ran up to him, having no clue what he was talking about, but not about to argue. He placed his hands on the corners of the right side of the refrigerator while Alex took the left and they began to push it out of the way, both groaning at it's incredible weight. As the others came back in, Max rushed over to help, sliding his lithe body between the wall and the back of the refrigerator, planting all his weight in his back, using the wall for leverage as his arms pushed forward. The horrendous sound of the metal scratching against the floor reverberated throughout the kitchen with an earsplitting shriek of protest.
Once it was out of the way, they all looked at the space behind with disappointment. "Alex, there's nothing here." Michael looked at him questioningly.

The thinner boy grinned secretly. "Not at first. But when you look closer.... Watch," he said and walked over to the wall. He put his fingers in between some of the tiles and easily pulled them back to reveal a hidden space behind it. He turned back to the others and gave them a brilliant smile.

"How did you know that was there?" Michael sputtered. "Do you have X-ray vision or something?"

Alex continued to smile but shook his head. "Nope, no X-ray vision. Just the power of observance. For some reason, I notice everything and if you look down there," he closed the tile wall again and pointed to the space right underneath it, "you'll see that the tiles don't match up as it does in the rest of the room."

"But that space was behind the fridge, how could you even see it?" Isabel asked.

He shrugged. "My boot lace came undone. I bent down to tie it and noticed the tile."

"Nice," Michael commented. "Now, are we going to sit here and talk about the genius that is Alex all night, or are we going to go save Liz?"

Clearly a rhetorical question.

Alex pushed into the door behind the tile wall. Nothing happened right away and Isabel stepped up and searched for catch points in the door. In no time, she was pushing the door in places and it opened up into a short hallway. "How did you do that?" Alex asked.

"There is a magnetic release in all of these. You just have to push them all to release the door."

"Come on," Michael whispered, taking the lead.

They all crept into the entrance of the room, squinting as the red haze of the room greeted them. Michael peered his head out and frowned. There was no one in obvious sight. Not that the thought comforted him. They were just going to have to be extra careful." Anyone could jump out at any time and take them by surprise.

"What are we doing?" Isabel whispered when he didn't continue on into the room.

"I don't know. I don't see anyone around but that doesn't mean they're here. Wait! I see someone!" he said suddenly, positioning his M-16 in front of him.

"Are you going to shoot them?" Maria asked, shocked, but he ignored her.

"Brent is in the group," he said to no one in particular. "There are three of them."

"Should we follow?" Alex asked.

Michael shook his head. "One of them has an M-16. Brent looks unarmed but I don't trust that bastard. We're going to wait to see where they go. That's probably where she's at."

"Or it's where they came from," Max suggested. "Did you see that?"

Michael glanced back and then said, "Back me up, I'm going to jump out real quick and see if there is a door somewhere here."

Max nodded and joined Alex who was directly behind Michael. They both positioned their own guns as Michael took one last survey of the large room and then jumped out, scanning the wall with his eyes. A second later he was back in the hall. "There are two doors on this wall and they just went into another one of two on the other side of the wall. There is no one else out there right now, so we're going to go to the closest one. If no one comes out shooting, we go where Brent just went in and force him to release Liz. Got it?"

No one argued and they all sucked in a breath and ran to the door on Michael's command. Getting in with no problem, they looked around to see that it was an office. An empty office. "No one seemed to notice us. Let's follow Brent."

"Why don't we see what's in the next room first?" Max argued.

Michael turned. "Because wherever he went, she probably is."

"We don't know that. If she's brainwashed, they might not feel the need to be with her all the time."

Michael just stared at Max for a moment, realizing that he might be right. But he was too stubborn to admit it.

"He has a point," Alex agreed. "We should give it a try."

"Fine, whatever," Michael muttered, standing next to the door again. He peeked out the small window and said, "Okay, all clear, let's go."

He opened the door and ran for the adjacent room. The lights were off and once they were all in, Michael searched around the wall for a light switch. Soon, the room was bathed in the same red lighting. "Looks like a conference room," he muttered. "I told you we should have followed them."

Max shrugged and said, "Fine, whatever you say."

"Okay, on my call, we go to the door on the left. Ready?"

"Wait," Maria said. "Do you guys hear that?"

Michael stopped and listened, not hearing anything. "What are you talking about?"

"That," she said. "It's a hissing noise."

Everyone listened again and this time they did hear a faint hissing. "Where is it coming from?" Michael asked, leaving the door. Everyone spread out in the room to search for its source. "Look, there's a door," Max said and everyone looked to where he was pointing.

"Another hidden one?" Michael asked.

"No. It's just hard to see in this light. Right here," he waved them closer and they all saw that there was in fact a door, just without a handle.

"How do we get in?" Michael asked, pushing his way to the front of the group.

Michael held his hand over the middle of the door and searched it for a catch. He was taking too long to find them so he looked to Isabel and she did the same magic she did before and the door opened a moment later. "And I though their security was lax," she muttered sarcastically.

They entered the room and the hissing noise grew louder. It was pitch black inside. Alex turned on the lights and they all flinched and shielded their eyes against the bright yellow light that came. "Oh, wrong switch," Alex muttered and switched on the other one, turning off the bright light.

"Much better," Isabel said, blinking. "I feel as if I looked into the Sun."

"The hissing is coming from here," Michael said suddenly walking up to a large metal box in the corner.

"What is that thing? It looks like a coffin," Maria's nostrils flared. Everyone looked at her sharply and she realized that might have not been the right thing to say. She gave everyone an apologetic glance and then walked up besides Michael.

"Look, there are tubes all over the place. Help me get this open," she told Michael. He sized her up for a second, glaring and then sighed and turned to help her unlatch the clasps on the side. The guys joined them as they pushed the heavy lid open.

They were so focused on getting off that they didn't even notice what lay inside.

"Oh my God," Isabel moaned, clutching her stomach and then gagging as the guys laid the lid on the ground.

"What is it?" Michael asked breathlessly, his eyes darting to the box.



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posted on 20-Sep-2001 9:57:10 PM
Part 21

"Jesus fucking Christ!" Michael cried desperately as he saw Liz lying inside the box. He rushed to the side of the box, his throat working severely as he choked on the bitter taste of bile in his mouth.

"Oh my God, Liz!" Max screamed, joining Michael.

Michael flashed him a dangerous look of warning. "You have a lot of fucking nerve," he growled low in his throat. "This all happened because of you! If you come one step closer, I swear to God, Max, I will kill you."

Max took a step back, obviously knowing it was his safest option.

Michael turned back to the box and moaned in horror, ignoring the reactions of the others. "Liz.... Alex," he said, deliberately looking back at Max in disgust. "I need your help."

Alex walked to the other side of the box, his eyes welling with tears. "We need to get rid of the water," he said, sniffing.

"Look for a release valve," Michael commanded. Together they began groping the sides of the box, their desperation making them clumsy. Not that it mattered: Michael couldn't even remember to glare as he tripped over Alex's legs. His entire focus was centered on the box, on getting Liz out of this mess. Just when Michael was ready to give up his search, his hands encountered an icy metal attachment beneath the box. A spigot. He turned it as far as it would go and the water slowly began to drain through the hose it was connected to.

It wasn't fast enough for him. Unable to wait, he reached into the box and gently lifted Liz into a sitting position. Another soft moan passed his lips as he felt her skin. It was slick and bloated, indicating she'd been in there for quite a long time. She didn't react in the slightest to his touch. She was dead weight in his arms. "In my worst nightmares, I have never seen anything like this," he said to the others in stricken horror.

With Alex's assistance, he removed the goggles from her face, the earplugs, and then the snorkel mask. He had to practically tear the mouthpiece from her swollen lips. Gently, he smoothed back her drippy hair from her face. "Liz? Can you hear me?"

She didn't answer. In fact, she didn't even appear to register he was there. Her eyes were open, but blank, unseeing.

"What's wrong with her?" Isabel cried, her voice shaking. "What did they do to her?"

"I don't know," Michael said helplessly. "Liz? Do you hear me? Please, answer me!"

Silence.

By that time there was only an inch or so of water remaining in the box. Michael quickly scanned the rest of her body, looking for signs of injury. She looked normal, bloated skin being the exception of course. He moved his eyes back to her face, but he did a double take back to her legs.

"My god," he gasped at seeing the clear plastic tube between her legs. Fighting revulsion, he forced his eyes skyward, blinking back tears.

Isabel's eyes widened and she gagged again as she saw the tube. She stumbled away from the box and over to the other corner, trying to keep her dry heaves under control. Bordering on hysteria, she forced herself to take several deep breaths. She had to gain control of herself, had to be strong, for Liz.

Michael turned to see if she was all right, but his eyes stopped on Maria instead. Tears streamed down her face and she stood stock-still. He returned her stare with icy coldness, making it clear how much he loathed both she and Max at that moment. Michael shook his head in disgust, feeling no sympathy when she recoiled as though he'd struck her.

Fighting to remain strong, he reached for the tube and threw it aside as if it were a poisonous snake. The needle in her arm came out next. Once assured all foreign objects were removed from her body, he reached around Liz's back with one arm, and under her legs with the other. Her normal 100 pounds felt like they'd doubled, as if each pound retained its weight in water. His need to save her, however, gave him the strength to carry her. He cradled her limp body to his chest and laid a soft kiss on her forehead, swearing aloud to almighty God that he would make them pay.

Isabel heard his words, they all did. She glanced pointedly at Max and Maria, making it clear that they better pray it was Brent her was talking about. She couldn't help herself. As relieved as she was that they'd come to their senses, she was equally angry with them, as she was herself, for shunning Liz when she needed their compassion and understanding. Although nothing she ever did would be enough to make it up to her, Isabel promised herself in that moment that she would spend the rest of her life trying to make it up to her.

Max and Maria's expression clearly read that they got her message. She gave them one last measuring look and then removed her fatigues. "Here, let's get her dressed," she urged, thrusting the stiff, green clothing toward Michael, but seeing how his hands were full, she handed them to Alex instead.

Laying her gently on the cold floor, Michael took the clothes from Alex and began to dress Liz. Her limbs were so stiff and heavy, though, that he couldn't do it alone. Isabel dropped to his side to help. The moment her hand encountered Liz's flesh, however, she froze. She was so cold! Mentally shaking herself, she finished dressing Liz and then strode to the other room.

She paused when she saw Alex already there. He held something in his hands, but when Isabel tried to get a closer look, he slid it into the waistband of his pants.

"What's that?"

"Nothing," he replied curtly, his smile slightly guilty. "Why are you here?"

"Clothes," she said after a hesitant pause. "Liz's body is icy cold. We need to raise her body temperature." She moved to the nearest metal cabinet, tearing the doors open, and she saw Alex do the same to the adjourning cabinet.

"Nothing," they said simultaneously.

"Oh, screw it," Isabel griped, running to the United State's Flag decorating the wall closest to the door and ripping it off.

"Put this on her," she told Michael, seeing that he, along with Max and Maria, were now in the room with them. He glanced quickly between she and the flag, his expression quizzical.

"The US Flag?"

"I can't believe in a government that would do this to innocent people," she said defensively.
After he wrapped the large flag around Liz's body, Isabel stooped down and kissed her on the cheek. "I swear," she murmured against Liz's cold, glossy cheek, her earlier promise in mind. She stood. "Now, how do we get out of here?"

Michael was gesturing frantically, holding a finger to his lips. "I hear someone," he said. His hands darted down to his boot and came back with a small pistol. He pointed it at the door. Isabel came up beside him, holding her own rifle. She glanced anxiously at Michael. "Anything that moves?"

He held her eye from a brief second before nodding.

"The rest of you," she directed, "get into the back room."

"No, we're helping," Max argued in a voice filled with pain and anguish.

"We don't want your help," she hissed, sparing him a determined glare. "Go! Alex, take Liz with you."

She turned back to the door, not even looking to see if they had left. She was sure they did.

Michael spoke without looking at her. "Aim for the legs. I don't want to kill Brent just yet."

Isabel nodded and held her gun lower, bracing herself. She may never have fired a machine gun before - or any gun, for that matter - but she knew that if she held it too loosely, she would lose control of it. She gripped it until her knuckles turned white and gritted her teeth.

The door slowly began to open. From behind it, they heard a cocky, insolent voice. "Let's see how our little vegetable is doing."

The moment the door opened, Isabel fired with no mercy. From wrist to shoulder, she felt a tingling numbness in response to the painful recoil. She released the trigger when she saw three men lying on the ground, moaning in agony. She didn't recognize any of them, but it was clear Michael did.

His eyes fell on the other unarmed man and he smiled darkly. "Well, well, well. If it isn't Dr.
Blackforrest," he said sounding pleased, his tone full of grim satisfaction.

"You!" the man gasped, removing his hands from his bloody legs, holding them up in mercy. "Please, don't kill me," he begged.

Michael shook his head. "Sorry, I can't do that." He leaned down and growled in the man's face. "I told you I wasn't done with you yet." He stood back up and held his gun to the doctor's scalp.

Isabel's watched him, cringing as Michael's finger began to pull back on the trigger. She wondered why she was getting squeamish now when she had just filled these men's legs full of bullets?

Suddenly Michael pulled the gun back and his leg flew up, snapping the man's head back. The doctor groaned low in his throat, then slumped as he slipped out of consciousness.

Isabel exhaled in relief, doubling over to catch her breath, ,when suddenly she caught something out of the corner of her right eye. "Michael!" she screamed, causing Michael to jump back just before catching the spray of bullets she unloaded from her rifle.

"Why did you do that?" Michael gasped when she finished.

"He was going to shoot you," she said, not able to take her eyes off the bloody body of the young soldier she just killed. She dropped her gun to the ground and stumbled back to one of the chairs at the table.

"Isabel, you okay?" Michael asked carefully, not taking his eyes off Brent.

She made a low, unintelligible sound in her throat.

"You had to do it," Michael said softly over his shoulder.

"I know," she whispered, reminding herself of that as well. It was either that man or Michael - and Michael had been the obvious choice. It still didn't make her feel better though.

"Michael? Isabel?" a voice called from the back. Alex.

She stood up on trembling legs and walked toward the closed door. "We're fine," she said, trying to keep her voice steady. The door opened and Alex's head poked out.

"What happened?" he asked, his eyes showing white all the way around as they surveyed the scene before him.

The moment their eyes connected, she burst into tears and he quickly took her in his arms. "I killed that soldier," she sobbed.

Alex petted her hair. "Shh, it's okay," he said soothingly. "You had to do it."

"How do you know?" she cried, her voice raising an octave.

"Because you wouldn't have done it for any other reason," was his simple reply.

"Hey Michael, what are you going to do with him?" he said a moment later, seeing Michael and Brent having a stare down a few feet away.

Michael glared down at Brent and then half-turned to Alex. "We're going to do the same thing to him as he did to Liz."

"NO!" Brent cried in fear, his icy glare breaking.

Michael leaned down and reached for the collar of Brent's shirt. "An eye for an eye, you sick bastard." In one swift moment, he'd pulled Brent to his knees and began dragging him to the back room, leaving behind a trail of blood in the man's wake.

Brent's pleads of mercy went unheard by Michael as they reached the metal box. Michael looked to Alex for help, but he was busy soothing Isabel and reluctantly he looked to Max. "Help me," he instructed.

Max hesitated for no more than a second before coming up beside him. "Are you sure?" he asked. "It's...."

"I didn't tell you to talk." Michael snarled, cutting him off. "I just want you to help me get this bastard into the box."

Max sighed and leaned down to help Michael lift the struggling sergeant from the ground. A moment later, they deposited him into the box.

"Now," Michael said, smirking down at Brent. "Tell me exactly what this box does, so I know what's going to happen to you."


Part 22

"No."

"No?" Michael repeated, moving in closer.

"I'm not telling you anything," Brent hissed, his breathing ragged.

Michael looked down at Brent's bloody legs and a slow smirk crept up on his face. "Oh, you'll tell me everything I want to know," he said confidently. "Now, what does this thing do?"

"Go to hell!"

"Wrong answer," Michael replied, obviously pleased. In a flash as quick as lightening, he thrust his hand on one of Brent's bullet wounds and squeezed hard. The blonde man howled in pain.

Michael raised the intensity of his voice, evenly spacing his words. What-does-this-thing-do?"

"Fuck you!" Brent moaned through his painful squeal.

"You obviously don't learn very well, do you?" Michael said, his voice still calm. "How about this?" he said and shoved one of his fingers inside the bullet wound he was covering with his hand. "Does this make you want to tell?"

Brent jumped as if he had been electrocuted and screamed, a sick and twisted sound of agony. "No! Please! PLEASE! STOP IT!! I'll tell you!" he cried in defeat.

Michael removed his finger from the wound and then rubbed off the fleshy blood onto Brent's white Polo shirt. He glanced up and his eyes made contact with Max who was leaning over Liz on the floor. He had never seen his 'friend' look so desolate in his entire life. He could tell that Max wanted to help some way, but it was apparent that his message to Max about staying away had obviously taken affect. That was good.

Michael turned back to Brent and leaned his arm against the metal cage. "Enlighten me."

Brent, who was now panting like a bloodthirsty animal, slowly looked upward with glazed eyes. "It's a suspension chamber."

"What does that mean?" he said, moving in to grab for Brent's wound once again.

"No!" Brent gasped. "It rapes you of your physical senses - all of them. Humans depend on their senses to stay alive. They're all we have ever known. Once we begin to doubt that which we have always learned, our mind stops working. We're not equipped to deal with the sudden lack of input and eventually we're nothing except for a body."

"How do we get her back?" Maria asked, coming up beside him. "What do we do?"

"Hey," Michael snarled. "I'm in charge here!"

Suddenly he saw Maria's eyes spark in anger and she turned on him. "Fine! You're in charge, I'm not arguing with that! No one is, but while your questioning him, Liz is falling deeper and deeper into this, and we need to know how to fix it before she's gone for good!"

For one second, his anger wavered and Michael felt something awaken in him at her explosion: desire. Something about her yelling at him always was a turn on, it made him feel alive. But it quickly was squelched when a thousand voices in his head reminded him that this was partly her fault.

"Are you quite done?"

She glared at him and crossed her arms over her chest.

"Good, because if you would have kept your yap shut, I would have already had the answer to that question."

"Fine, go ahead," she challenged him. "Get your answer."

Michael gritted his teeth and turned to breath. "So?"

"What?"

He exploded while getting right in Brent's face. "You're not deaf, you son of a bitch, you heard her question. How do we get Liz back?!"

"You can't," Brent whispered, the corners of his mouth twitching. "That little bitch is...."

Michael reacted instantly to the insult by planting a fist in his nose. Brent cried out and his hands flew to his face, his own blood dripping through the cracks in his fingers. "Shit!"

"Now, you were saying."

Brent glared at Michael through his blood-covered face and his muffled voice said, "Liz will be like that the rest of her life. The process only takes approximately two hours to work. She was in there much longer than that. She's a goner."

"You're lying!" he screamed in frustration, unable to believe Liz's present condition was permanent. He pulled his fist back again, ready to beat the truth out of the man.

Brent held his hands up in defense. "Please don't! I'm not lying. It's impossible for anyone to come out of this. That's the point of the chamber, its effect is irreversible."

Michael's insides froze as he realized Brent was telling the truth. He glanced behind him to see Isabel and Alex holding each other, both crying, and then he saw Max cradling Liz to his chest. Maria was slumped down in one corner of the wall looking. "Why would you do this to her?" he asked a moment later, his voice sounding weak and pathetic to his own ears. "What did she ever do to you?"

"She deserved it. She put Kathleen into a coma."

Michael didn't understand. "Topolsky? What was she to you?"

"She was my fiancé. We were going to get married this summer but that's never going to
happen. My orders were to force Liz to conceive and then hold her hear until the child was born. I couldn't stand having the little bitch that destroyed my fiancé's life around for 9 entire months, maybe more, so my superior told me about the chamber. I wanted to make her pay."

"Call her a little bitch again and I'll make you pay," Michael swore. If it hadn't been for the fact that both Brent and Topolsky were evil people who had done nothing but torture Liz, he actually would have felt sympathy for the man. In fact, he had to admit, he would want vengeance if anyone ever did anything to someone he loved, but their situation was different from his. They were getting back only what they had given. Three-fold.

"Why?" Brent asked, jarring him from his thoughts. "She is. Do you know what her reaction was when I showed her poor Kathleen lying helpless and unconscious in her hospital bed? She laughed! She was so cruel, so unfeeling. Scum like her deserve to die!"

"She's cruel and unfeeling?" Michael asked, practically choking at the audacity of the man. "After all your bitch did to Liz, purposely torturing her and bringing her pain, you expect her to feel sympathy and remorse for how she reacted? Liz was a totally innocent bystander in this. Can you say the same for Topolsky? I'd say that she got off light. She's lucky she's even alive. Liz planned to kill her. And I don't blame her! I was prepared to do the same thing, only Liz got there first."

Michael was too exhausted to return the hard look he got for that. "Well, I'd say I have discovered everything I needed to know. Now it's time to deal with you. Any last words?"

"Got to hell!" Brent swore, attempting to be brave, but unable to hide his fear.

Michael shrugged. "Well, I was expecting something a little more eloquent, but I guess that will do. Say goodnight Sgt. Brent Heitz and remember my face for as long as you can. I want you to remember why you're in this situation for as long as you can."

"No!" the man pleaded on deaf ears. Michael regarded the man with no mercy. After all, Liz had probably been screaming for her life when she'd been put into that...thing. This was nothing short of poetic justice.

Brent's cries and pleas continued long after Michael forced him onto his back. The others came to his aid against his struggles. Max held his face forward as Isabel pinned his shoulders down.

Solemnly, Alex grabbed the mouthpiece and shoved it under Brent's compressed lips. Michael pinched his nose when he wouldn't open his mouth and eventually Brent gasped, opening his mouth long enough for Alex to get it behind his teeth. Meanwhile, Isabel and Maria were sliding the rubber sleeves up his arms and legs, while Max put the goggles and earplugs on his head.

Everyone looked at Michael expectantly then, obedient soldiers waiting for the next command.

"Let's get the lid," Michael said hesitantly, not used to being put in this position. As a group, they lifted they lid and dropped it on top of the box.

Alex pointed to the spigot. "Do you want the honors?"

Michael began to nod - but paused. His gaze traveled to Liz's lifeless body. Her unseeing eyes stared at the ceiling, her chest rose and fell softly. He shook his head and spoke in a deadened voice. "No, we're leaving."


"You were bluffing this whole time?" Max gasped, his expression one of astonishment.

Michael moved to Liz. He gathered her flaccid body in his arms and sighed. "No. I was going to do it but it occurred to me that if I did, I'd be no better than the monster he is. That's not who I am."

Grim respect showed in Max's dark eyes.

"Come on," Michael said to the group. "Let's go."

"What if he comes after us?" Isabel asked.

Michael took one last look at the box and shook his head. "Somehow, I don't think so." Then he turned and left the room without looking back.



Visit the roswell fan fic lover's message board: http://pub24.ezboard.com/broswellfanficlovers

posted on 20-Sep-2001 10:00:10 PM
Part 23

Alex reminded everyone to grab their guns as they left the room, telling them that there still might be soldiers waiting outside for them.

Guns in hand, they surrounded Michael and Liz. Alex and Isabel took the front, Max and Maria, the back. Isabel refused to look at the soldier she'd killed as they left the room. Alex squeezed her hand and winked, providing a distraction Isabel was grateful for.

Caution in mind, they walked quickly until they were back to the commissary door.

"Isn't there any other way to get out of this place?" Max asked.

"Only the duct system," Isabel answered. "But we can't carry Liz through that. We have to go out the front."

Max sighed and then moved up to step in front of his sister.

"What do you think you're doing?" she demanded.

"I'm not letting you take the front, Isabel. Get back there, with Maria."

"The hell you say," Isabel hissed, furious. "If you haven't already learned this by now, I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself!"

"Shut up!" Michael growled. "We need to get out of here and the last thing we need is an
argument. Maria and Max, you two watch the back. Isabel, don't get me wrong, I don't want to put your life in danger after the way you saved my ass, but you've proven to have great reflexes. I'm more comfortable having you up front."

Isabel gave Max a brilliant, 'see I told you so' smile and then turned back to the door, her manner completely serious. "Okay," she said, addressing everyone. "Are you ready?" Scattered comments could be heard in the affirmative and she nodded. "Okay, here we go." She held her hand to the keypad and after a few seconds, the door gave a quiet humming noise and began to slide open. Instantly, she felt pressure on the door. The soldiers were trying to push it open. Together, she, Alex, Max and Maria rushed forward to put up resistance.

She swore under her breath as the four fought to keep the door closed and then an idea came to her. It wasn't a very good plan but in this situation, it might help. She whispered to the others. "On three, jump back and hold your guns at the entrance." Everyone looked confused but they nodded. To Michael, she said, "Get behind that corner for now. I'll tell you when to come out." He nodded as well and then disappeared behind the corner. "Okay everyone, give it all you got," she instructed and they all groaned as they fought even harder to keep the door closed. "Now, one...two...three! Jump!"

They all jumped back and quickly reached for their guns, pointing them at the three soldiers that spilled into the floor, all looking surprised and disoriented. "Hello boys," Isabel cooed, psyched that her plan had worked. Isabel stepped on one of the soldier's arms as he reached for his gun and shook her head slowly. "I wouldn't do that if I were you," she warned and pointed her gun at his head.

Max slowly walked forward and kicked one gun across the room with his foot, while Alex removed the gun from the remaining soldier. "So," Isabel smiled, batting her eyes at the soldier she was in front of. "Are there any others around?"

The soldier didn't answer right away and she stepped harder on his arm, causing him to wail in pain. Suddenly, she was happy she had chosen to wear her black platform boots today. "Are there any others?" she asked, still keeping her tone sweet.

"No!" The man gasped after a moment. "We can't find anyone else."

"You wouldn't be lying to me, would you?" she asked. "Because you know, I hate being lied to."

"No, he's telling the truth," one of the other men said quietly. "We can't find anyone else. We looked for them but there not there."

"What do you think?" she asked Alex. "Should we believe them."

Alex shrugged, not sure what to think.

Isabel leaned down, looking the soldier square in the face. "We'll let you live, but if I find out you lied to me, I'm coming back for you. And you don't want that. I already killed one of your buddies, and if I'm mad enough, I will have no problem doing it again." She was bluffing, of course, but he seemed to believe her.

"We're telling the truth," the soldier in front of her said. "That's why there are only three of us here instead of more. We can't find anyone else."

"Good, that's what I like to hear," she said and then grunted as she hopped to her feet. "Looks like Kyle did a good job."

"What do we do with them?" Max asked.

She shrugged. "I'll just re-lock the door once we leave. Michael, come on."

Michael appeared back in front of them and they all began to back into the entrance, keeping their eyes on the men. "No sudden movements," Isabel warned as one of the men began to move. "Lay down and kiss the floor, and remember if you move, you will be shot before you get three inches. Thanks for the help."

They all got out of the door and Isabel quickly pulled the door closed and went to work on the lock. "Well, that went nicely, don't you think?" she said when she was done.

"Just remind me to never screw with you," Alex muttered. "I forgot what a bitch you can be, and how intimidating you can be to those who don't really know you." Her mouth fell open in shock and he quickly smiled. "I mean it in the best of ways, Iz. I know you're not like that, but they don't."

"You're forgiven. Now, let's get out of here. No one let your guard down until we are
out of here. Michael, back in the middle."

Everyone stepped into formation and cautiously walked through the halls until they reached the elevator. As the door opened, they all held their guard to make sure no one was in there - there wasn't. They did the same thing as they reached the first floor ,and then walked through the rest of the hallways and out the entrance without a hitch.

Outside, they ran towards the cars as quickly as possible, everyone amazed by the bright, mid-day sunlight.

"Where did you guys park?" Alex asked Max between pants.

"We're by you guys. But we have to meet up with Kyle and his friends at the train tracks."

They ran the rest of the way in silence, finally reaching Alex's car, Isabel's mother's car and the jeep a few minutes later. "Let's go to the train tracks," Max gasped.

"No," Michael said firmly as he gently laid Liz down in the back seat. "You and Maria can do whatever the hell you want, but we're going home."

"Michael...."

"No, Max! Look, I know you helped us in there, and hey, I appreciate it, but that changes nothing. It's your fault that we had to come here in the first place! So," he shrugged coldly, "Thanks for the help but get the hell out of my face before I beat you down. Alex, give me your keys." He held out his hand and Alex did so. "You're riding with Isabel."

Isabel frowned. "Where are you taking her?"

"I'm taking her home, and I'm staying with her."
"That's crazy!" Maria cried. "Do you think her parent's aren't going to notice that their daughter has gone catatonic?"

Michael glared at her. "Of course not. I'm not stupid! I'll think of something, but that's none of your concern."

"Do you want us to come with you?" Isabel asked as he sat down in the driver's seat.

"No," he replied. "Go home."

"But..."

"Isabel, I said, no. I'll take care of it."

He turned on the car and put it into drive but before he took off, he gave Max and Maria one last look of disgust and then peeled out, the car spitting mad dust in the air.

"Talk about ungrateful," Maria muttered.

"Ungrateful?" Alex practically choked on the word.

"Yeah. After all we just did to help, he still pushed us away."

Alex blinked. "Pushed you away? Do you think he owed you or something? You three, and I'm sorry, Isabel, I have to include you in this too," he said and she nodded in understanding because she knew he was right. "You three pushed them away and wouldn't even listen to what they had to say in their defense. At least Isabel showed up on her own to help but you two were so stubborn that you only came when we were in real danger. And because of that you expect all to be forgotten? I don't blame him."

"He's right," Max said softly. "We haven't done enough, but come on guys, you saw that tape. The fact remains that they still cheated on us and that I can't forgive that. I may not have wanted them dead but..."

"Speaking of that tape," Alex said, reaching into the waistband of his pants. "Here you go!" he threw a jewel-case on the ground at their feet. "See for yourself what really happened. I, on the other hand am going home."

"What's this?" Max asked, picking the case off the ground.

"It's called DVD," Alex called over his shoulder. "Read the label. It's everything that happened in the four days that they were there."

Isabel blinked in wonder. She had seen him put the thing in his waistband but it didn't occur to her that it was the tape because it had looked to small to be a videocassette. She shook her head and walked over to the car. "Oh and by the way," she said to Max and Maria. "Give my thanks to Kyle. I'm sure he'll have plenty of questions. Tell him what you want. Liz is lucky to have a friend like him, even if he was a creep to her after she broke up with him."

She and Alex climbed into the car and as soon as the door were closed, Alex looked at her and said, "You know, you're not too innocent, either."

Her smile faded. She looked down in shame. "Yeah, I know. But I at least believe them and plan to do everything I can to make it up to them if it isn't too late. Those two still feel cheated and betrayed and that's not right. I don't need to see that tape to know what happened inside that compound, they do. But yes, I know, I'm far from innocent."

Alex nodded. "Let's go home. I'm dying for a shower. Then I'm going to go help Michael no matter how much he resists. She was my friend first."

Part 24

Michael pulled Alex's car up to the alley behind the Crashdown and turned off the engine. He stepped out of the car and pushed the seat forward to crawl into the back. With his arms wrapped around Liz's frail body, he stepped back and secured her against his chest, kicking the door closed with his foot.

He peered into her face as he walked towards the back door of the restaurant and saw that there was no change. After kicking the door of the Crashdown open, he carried her up the stairs. Then he knocked on the door and waited for Liz's parents. No one answered and so he knocked again. When still no one came, he leaned over slightly and used his powers, which were weak from his exhaustion, to unlock the door. He looked around cautiously before stepping in and his eyes fell on a coffee table near the door.

The letter said that the parents would be back either late tonight or early tomorrow morning, and why did she leave for school so early this morning?

Michael sighed in grim relief, thanking God for small miracles. He hadn't even figured out what he was going to tell her parents anyway, and he was glad that he still had some time to heal her and/or think up a damn good story.

Fatigue was running rampant through his entire body, causing his arms to quiver, and he decided that he better get Liz on her bed. He carried her to her bedroom and tenderly placed her on the bed, watching her hair fan out on the pillow. He raised a hand to her cheek to move some of the hair out of her face. Her skin still felt cold. He needed to warm her somehow.

He walked over to her closet and looked for anything that might warm her up. He finally pulled out a West Roswell High Athletics sweatshirt and a pair of light green sweats. He moved over to the bed and began to remove the fatigues from her body and replace them with the sweats. He walked over to her dresser and retrieved a fuzzy pair of thick pink socks, gingerly placed those on her feet. He threw the fatigues in the trash in the bathroom, making a mental note to get rid of those later, and then grabbed a washcloth and saturated it with water. He took the cloth back and began to rub it over Liz's face, for the first time noticing
the big red welt across her cheek. Bastard must have slapped her, he fumed.

After cleaning her up, he lifted the comforter off her bed and covered her. Then lay beside her, full of determination. He was going to get through to her if it killed her.

Under ideal circumstances, it would have been easy for him to enter her mind, but at that moment he was weaker than he would have liked and physically exhausted, and it took a lot longer than usual to open the gateway into her head.

Isabel described it as if she had fallen through a tunnel of darkness in Liz's head. But as Michael entered, he got to see for himself. It was different than Isabel had said. The walls of the tunnel bordered on dark silvery translucence and almost seemed to be pulsing with energy. It was livelier than he'd anticipated, especially with Liz in her present condition. He continued to fall through the tunnel, faster and faster and it seemed that at any moment, he would pass that threshold into wherever she was. But there seemed to be no end to it. He fell forever, the tunnel never changing and it occurred to him that he would just have to
go with it and try to contact her this way.

So, he forced his body relax.

"Liz?" he called out, not expecting an answer. "Liz, it's Michael. Do you remember me?"

*****

An hour later, at a little after two, Alex and Isabel took the stairs up to Liz's house to find the place empty. He and Isabel held hands as they walked towards Liz's room, calling out Michael's name.

"He wouldn't leave her here would he?" Alex asked, his voice full of doubt.

"No, not Michael. I'm sure he's here. He's just probably in the bathroom or something."

Alex nodded and then knocked on Liz's bedroom door, peeking his head in when he got no answer to see Michael snuggled up to Liz's body in the bed. "Shh, he's sleeping," Alex whispered, waving her into the bedroom. They both tiptoed inside. Isabel approached Michael.

"He's not sleeping," she whispered, meeting Alex's eyes. "He's in her head. Listen, their breathing is completely synchronized."

"And that happens when you dream-walk?"

She nodded and then frowned. "Well, actually I don't know, because I've never done it while in the same room with someone, but I can still tell that he's in. I can feel it."

"Let's not wake him," Alex sighed and motioned out of the room. "We will wait in the living room until he wakes up."

"And hopefully Liz will wake up with him," Isabel said softly as she took his hand.

*****

"Well?" Kyle demanded as soon as he came face to face with Max. "Where is she?"

"Where are the others?"

"I told them to go home. Where is she? Where is Liz?"

"Calm down, she's with Michael at home. But..."

"But what?"

Maria answered for him. "She's not her. She's...in a coma of sorts."

"Wha...? What the hell was she doing there in the first place? That was a government building. Why would the government keep her held captive? And don't lie to me! I helped you guys out. The least you can do is tell me the truth."

Max and Maria exchanged wary glances, and then, Max sighed, knowing that he owed Kyle the truth. Isabel was right, he was a real friend. "You see, it all started the day of the shooting...."

*****

"Do you think they're going to watch the tape?" Isabel asked, breaking the silence as she and Alex sat quietly in the living room.

"Yes," Alex replied yawning. "I think they won't be able to help themselves. God, I can't believe how tired I am. All the excitement is finally catching up with me."

Isabel yawned as well and smiled at him. "You're contagious buddy," she said and both of them yawned again. "Yeah, I'd say that it's definitely catching up with us," she whispered, dropping her head to Alex's shoulder.

"You know," he said, resting his head on hers, "we really shouldn't fall asleep. I mean, we need to keep an eye on Michael just in case he needs help."

"I know," Isabel said sleepily. "But your shoulder is so comfortable."

"Hmm," he sighed, his eyes starting to flutter. "God, I think I need some fresh air or I'm really going to fall asleep."

Isabel, her own voice dulled by sleep draped an arm over his chest and whispered, "Please don't leave me. Besides, a little nap won't hurt."

He considered that for a moment and then whispered, "I guess a nap would be okay."

"Mmm," she replied in agreement.

Twenty seconds later, the two were in a peaceful sleep.

*****

This isn't working, Michael thought. Calling her name was proving to be a waste of time and he realized it was because she didn't even know who she was.

He needed to take an entirely different approach with this. He needed to get back to the basics.

*****

"You're telling me that you and Michael and Isabel are aliens? And that they wanted Liz because she knew that?" Kyle said angrily, unable to believe the tale they were telling him.

"Yes," Max replied, holding Kyle's eyes. "It's the truth. I can prove it to you."

"Do it," Kyle challenged, holding his voice even.

"Only if you promise on your life that you will never tell your father, or anyone else, what I'm about to show you."

"Tell my dad?" he scoffed. "Yeah right. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction."

"So you promise?"

"Yes," he sighed, getting impatient. "I promise."

"Give me your left hand then."

"What? You want me to do a blood oath or something? Jesus, what is this crap?"

"No, I want to see your ring," Max replied patiently.

Kyle scowled, but held his hand out anyway. Keeping the ring on Kyle's finger, Max placed his hand a fraction of an inch over Kyle's. Dull warmth spread throughout his hand, and then up his arm. Then Kyle's eyes widened as he watched his football championship ring melt to a pool of gold and sapphire, right before his very eyes. Like liquid, they puddled in Max's free palm.

Horrified, Kyle's face darted upward. "What the hell was that?" he cried.

"Kyle," Max said calmly, walking closer. "Kyle, I was telling you the truth. Please, don't be scared."

"You...I gotta get out of here," he said, stumbling back toward his Mustang and fumbling blindly for the door handle.

In the blink of an eye, Max reassembled the ring and held it out. "Here's your ring. Please, remember you swore to us that you wouldn't tell."

Kyle looked at the ring as if it were poison Max was trying to hand him, and shook his head. "Keep it," he whispered, finally getting the door open.

"Kyle," Maria said, coming up to him. "I promise, they won't hurt you. You just need to calm down and be rational. It's important that you keep this secret. We're trusting it with you."

But Kyle wouldn't answer her. He only turned on the engine and drove so fast that they were eating his dust for minutes to come.

*****

"Do you think he will tell?"

Maria considered his question before shaking her head. "No. Besides, I don't think anyone would believe him. Just give him time. So where to now?"

"That depends," he replied, still looking after the retreating car. "Do we watch that disk?"

Maria's face pinched. "What do you think?"

Max paused, thinking his words out carefully. "I think...if they would go through so much trouble to get it, it must be worth watching."

"I guess your right," Maria admitted reluctantly. "How do we watch it, though? I don't have a DVD player."

"I do."

*****

"I've got it!" Michael cried, thinking that he had finally found out how to get to her. If it was senses that she had lost, that was what he was going to give her. He only hoped it would reach her.

He concentrated hard on the first of many images he was trying to send her, working on making it as realistic as possible. Suddenly the dark tunnel began to lighten into a bright yellow color. He had done it. Now, how to explain it?

"Liz, do you remember this? It's called the sun. It's yellow and super bright. If you look at it, it can hurt your eyes. Do you feel the warmth?" he intensified the reality of the situation by trying to make it warmer.

"Do you feel that? Doesn't it make you want to go to the beach? Have you ever been to a beach? Do you remember what a beach is? A huge mass of sand in front of a body of water. Do you remember water? Here is what it feels like," he said, changing the image, making it blue and cool. "And the sand, it's gritty and sticks to your body. Do you hear the sea gulls? They make a sound like this," he said, imitating the cry of a gull. He switched back to warmth of the sun.

"Doesn't that make you hot Liz? I bet you would like some ice cream. Do you remember ice cream? It cold and sticky and sweet. Super sweet. Can't you taste it sliding down your throat. I bet you are a vanilla kind of girl. This is what vanilla tastes like," he said, imagining to the best of recollection that he was tasting vanilla ice cream and then sending his thoughts to her. "And not only does it taste good, but it smells nice too." He created a small wind in the tunnel, imagining the scent of vanilla in the air. "Do you smell that Liz? Doesn't it smell glorious?"

Still, he didn't get any answer from her. But he wouldn't give up.

*****

Max placed the disk marked Guerin-Parker Observation into his computer and turned the monitor so that both he and Maria could see it. They were both sitting in front of his computer, feeling tense and reluctant, but they were going to watch it. He hit a few buttons to get it going and all of the sudden, an image of Michael and Liz with masks blinding their vision were pushed into a room with Topolsky and a few men in suits at their backs.

Topolsky was smiling brightly at both of them and then she spoke.

"Welcome, Michael Guerin and Miss Perfect, Liz Parker. Listen up kiddies, we know all about you Mr. Guerin..."

*****

"Michael?"

"Hmm?"

"We're going to die in here, aren't we?"

*****

Topolsky walked around to Michael's side of the bed and leaned to whisper in his ear
as the army guy kept his head in place. "Give it to her Michael. Or the lieutenants will
give it to you and I don't think you want what they'd like to give it to you. Liz's body
would be the much more preferable alternative to a round of bullets in your head, don't you think?"

She snapped her fingers, and a soldier raised his gun in response. "It's your choice, Michael."

"You're going to have to kill me."

"Very well," Topolsky sighed gravely.

*****

"My God..." Maria whispered. "She was telling the truth."

Max nodded grimly, his eyes riveted to the screen.

*****

"NNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!"

Everyone stopped what he or she was doing to look at Liz, as she screamed at the top of her lungs. It wasn't a whine or whimper as it had been before but a blood curling
scream.

"You will not kill Michael!" she told Topolsky, her eyes fierce and wild. Then she
looked to Michael. "What the hell are you thinking? You're going to let them kill you? It
isn't worth it Michael! Nothing is worth your life, or my life or anyone's life! You can't
leave me in here alone and if...having sex," she swallowed hard, her voice weakening. "is
what we have to do to live, then we do it! I'm not giving up so easily and neither are
you!"


Topolsky left with her army men on her tails.

"Michael?"

"Liz, are you sure?"

"I don't have a choice. I'd rather this than being in here alone." She looked up at him
and said, "I'm...were...we should get this over with. Come on, Michael. Let's just do this
now before I lose my nerve and something terrible happens."

Michael nodded slowly. "How should we...I mean, I've never done this before. Fuck!
It's going to hurt you Liz. You're supposed to be...turned on, for lack of better term, and
I...how does...how do I make that happen? I don't' want to hurt you any more than I have
to."

She reached out for his face and slowly brought his lips to her. "Look Michael, I'm
just going to pretend you're Max. It's that simple. I think that's the only way I'm going to
get through this. Pretend I'm Maria if you want. Now kiss me."

*****

"You know Liz, when I was eight I found a kitten. Hank made me get rid of it a week later, but it had the smoothest fur. Kind of like your hair. Like spun silk." He imagined the feel of silk under his fingers and then sent her the image. "Do you remember that?" he asked, beginning to get desperate.

*****

Max reached up and turned the computer off. "I think we've seen enough." His voice rang empty, hollow.

The both sat in silence for a few moments, taking in what they just saw, unable to move. "What have we done Max?" Maria squeaked, her wide, desperate eyes staring blankly at the ground. "Liz..."

"We have to go over there," Max breathed, feeling as if his chest had caved in. "We've gotta..." his voice trailed off as he tried to stand up, feeling nauseous. His legs gave out on him and he collapsed on the ground. "Oh God, please just kill me," he moaned in agony. "Take my life and give her back hers."

*****

He had given her every memory, every thought, every feeling he could think of, but nothing worked. It was time to face the facts. Liz was gone forever. He didn't' have what it took to wake her up.

Just when Michael was ready to give up, when he though all hope was gone, he felt a quiver inside the tunnel. A new spark of life that wasn't his. And then a voice. A groggy and scared voice.

"Who's there?"

*****

Alex lifted his head in the dark, having no clue where he was. He yawned and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and then realized that he was at Liz's house.

Isabel was snoring peacefully on his shoulder. He cupped her head and slowly stood, deciding to let her sleep. His body felt stiff. Raising his hands above his head, he stretched and searched out a clock. He'd been asleep for six hours!

He quickly strode to Liz's room. Neither she nor Michael had moved from their earlier positions.

He turned on the lamp in the corner and thought he saw movement out of the corner of his eye, but when he looked over, nothing had changed. He was walking to the chair in the corner when he saw it again.

Must be the lack of sleep, he thought.

He pushed the chair over to Liz's side of the bed and reached over for her hand, squeezing her fingers. "Liz," he whispered, suddenly overcome by emotion at their cold touch. "Liz, you can't leave me," he gasped. "You can't leave us. We all care about you so much. Who am I going to tell all the boring details of my life? And what about our movie night? Sure, we haven't done it in a while, but I miss them and you promised we could do that again. You can't go back on that, I won't let you. Please," he bowed his head and burst into tears.

He heard a noise outside the room and saw Isabel watching him, a single tear sliding down her cheek. "Isabel," he breathed, wiping his tears with the back of his hand. "I..."

"It's okay," she nodded, sniffing. "I understand."

Alex nodded and then brought Liz's hand to his lips. "Please don't give up, Liz," he whispered against her knuckles.

Wait, that had to be his imagination. He could have sworn that her hand had twitched under his. No, he was really losing it. But then it happened again and this time he knew it wasn't his imagination, because a second later, her eyes lost that glazed look and focused on him.

"Alex?" her hoarse voice whispered. "Where am I?"



Visit the roswell fan fic lover's message board: http://pub24.ezboard.com/broswellfanficlovers

posted on 20-Sep-2001 10:03:09 PM
Part 25

As soon as he heard the voice, he cried out for Liz , but as swiftly as it had appeared, it was gone. In fact, the entire tunnel disappeared, leaving him sitting in complete darkness.

"No!" he raged. He swore, he'd almost had her, but now she was gone. He'd failed. He'd failed Liz. He failed himself. If only he had more control over his power, he would have been able to keep it going, but he didn't. He was weak. He was worthless; not even worth the $500 that Hank had sold him out for. How was he ever going to explain this to her parents? How was he ever going to live with himself?

If only he had never existed, never would have gone to Liz's balcony that night, none of this would have been necessary. Liz would still be alive and well and living the happy life she always knew. Oh, how he wished he could go back in time and fix it all. But he couldn't. That was the most fucked up thing about life; once you did something, you could never go back and change it. Sure you could always try to make amends with those you've wronged, but he could never make amends to Liz. It was too late for that.

He would be cursed for the rest of his life with the notion that Liz Parker, the...well, there just weren't enough positive attributes in the world to describe the girl, but none-the-less, he would have to live with the fact that it was because of him that her life was gone.

*****

"How were we supposed to know?" Maria whispered.

"We should have listened," Max replied, still lying on the ground, not possessing the strength to get up. "We should have had faith in them."

"All those horrible things I said," she lamented. "The last thing she heard me say is that she was a whore. I didn't mean it, even then. I was just so hurt and angry and now I might never get the chance to apologize to her." She dropped her head to her palms and shook her head. "And you know what the worst part is?" she asked, her voice slightly muffled.

"What?" he asked glancing up.

"Even though it's not for the same reason, I still feel hurt and I'm still angry. Does that make me a horrible person?"

"No," Max replied, softly shaking his head and sitting up. "Not at all. I feel the same way."

"It's like, I'm not angry with them, they did what they had to, for their own survival, but I'm still angry. So angry that I can't see straight. I'm angry that they had to be put in that position, angry that I felt I couldn't trust them..."

"Angry that the first sexual experience of the only person I have ever loved had to be with my best friend. As selfish as it sounds," he whispered, meeting her eyes. "I feel...robbed."

Maria nodded. He couldn't have put it more succinctly.

*****

"Liz?" Alex choked, blinking several times. He couldn't believe it. "Liz?" It was all he could say.

Isabel's mouth fell open in shock, for she too couldn't believe what she was seeing. She walked over to Alex's side on trembling legs. "You're okay? You're really okay?" she asked.

Liz's dazed eyes looked up at the ceiling. She looked utterly confused. "Yeah, I'm okay," she replied, her voice thick and husky. "How did I get home? The last thing I remember, I was..." She shuddered, remembering the suspension chamber and the cruel look on Brent's face as he sent her to her death, her last thoughts of Michael and Alex.

"Liz, it's okay," Alex reassured her in a rush. "You're home, you're safe. He can't hurt you anymore."

"But, I thought you were dead!" she said, burying her face in her hands as she burst into tears. "I though that...."

"We're fine," Isabel said, raising a hand to pat Liz's hair.

"You mean you didn't get hurt at all?"

"Well, I wouldn't say that," Alex said, choosing his words carefully. "Both Michael and I were injured but we're okay. Look," he said, showing her his arm. "I got shot in this arm, but before we got here, Isabel healed it. I'm good as new."

Liz looked over and suddenly noticed that Michael was in bed with her, sleeping like a baby.

"I should have listened to him," she whispered sadly. "He knew that there was something off about Brent but I was too stubborn to listen to him."

"It's okay," Isabel said, her voice now teasing. "I think he forgives you. He was mad at first but that didn't stop him from wanting to save you Liz. I mean, you should have seen how over protective he was of you at the compound. He wouldn't even let Max go near you."

"Max?" Liz asked, mouth falling open.

Isabel's own mouth gaped for a second. She hadn't even realized that she had let that slip. "Yeah, he and Maria came to help."

A faint smile appeared on Liz's face as she looked up. "You mean, they realized that they didn't give us a chance? Like you?"

Isabel frowned and looked away, cursing herself for ever bringing it up. "I'm not sure," she replied, her tone pinched. It was the best answer she could offer without lying.

"Oh," Liz murmured, the hope draining from her face.

"I gave them the tape," Alex said a moment later. "I'm sure they will see reason now."

"Yeah, I bet they will," she whispered in the same tone. "Wait?" she looked up. "How did you find the tape?"

"It's a DVD actually. All four days are on it, so they will get to see for themselves everything that happened. I found it in the...where you were."

"I'm sorry I dragged you all into this," she whispered, her eyes filling with tears again. "It was wrong of me to chance your lives for my own happiness."

"Hey," Alex shrugged, "What are friends for? Now are you going to give me a hug or what?"

Liz smiled up at him and then slowly sat up, the feeling not completely returned to her body and then threw her arms around Alex.
"God Liz," he sighed, burying his own teary face in her shoulder. "Don't you ever leave me again. If you do, I will kill you."

"Isn't that a contradictory of terms?" she teased.

"Oh, you know what I mean. I thought I lost you, Lizzie."

"No. You all saved me."

Alex pulled back and shook his head. "No, we all saved your body. You were like a zombie, Liz. It was Michael who truly saved you, though. He freed you."

Liz nodded and then slowly turned to look at Michael. "Yeah," she whispered, staring at him fondly. "He's a true friend."

"We should wake him up," Isabel said suddenly. "So he knows what he did."

"Don't you dare!" Liz said sharply, surprising herself even. "I mean, we should let him rest. He deserves it."

*****

Alex and Isabel stayed with Liz for another hour before they finally decided that they better go.

"Here, I'll walk you out," Liz offered, slowly swinging her legs to the side of the bed. "What the hell am I wearing?" she asked when she saw the pea-green sweats and pink socks on her feet. She looked up at the others. "Who dressed me in this?"

Isabel smirked. "That would have to be Michael, because God, no one else in the most desperate of situations would have dressed you in that. I'm always telling him that fashion matters all the time but he never listens." She finished with a tsking noise.

The three of them got a good laugh out of that, and then Alex held out an arm to help Liz up. Her legs felt extremely weak as she put pressure on them, but eventually they grew steady enough to support her. She smiled up at Alex. "Okay, I think I'm good."

At the door, she motioned Alex and Isabel out first and then turned to look at Michael with a slight smile on her lips. He looked at peace for the first time since she had met him.

"Wait," she called to the others and tiptoed back on her semi-weak legs back to the bed, pulling the covers over him. He sighed and mumbled something, but didn't wake. She ran her hands through his hair and then sighed herself and tip-toed back to the door.
"What were you doing?" Isabel asked, glancing back in at Michael.

She shrugged. "I was just giving him some blanket. I'm going to let him sleep as long as he needs." She turned out the lights and closed the door behind her. "Besides, I'm hungry."

"Did you want us to go get you something?" Alex offered quickly.

She held up her hands. "No, really. It's okay. I'm going to go downstairs and order a burger and some fries."

"You want us to stay with you then?"

Liz smiled. "No, really. It's okay. I'm a big girl and I'll be okay. I want you two to go home and get some rest. You guys must be exhausted."

"Are you sure?" Isabel asked, hesitating.

"God...yes," she said, her voice slightly irritated. "Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say it that way, but I think you guys need to rest and to tell you the truth, it will get really annoying if you guys begin to smother me. I appreciate the concern but I just want to go on as if it never happened, okay?"

"Sure," they both replied and then gave her big hugs. "We're just trying to help," Alex said as he kissed her cheek.

"I know. Thanks for everything." She smiled. "Now, go before I begin to feel like you think I need baby-sitters.

"We're gone," Isabel said, grabbing Alex's hand before he got a chance to say any more and pulling him away. "Bye."

*****

Michael finally sat back and relaxed, a bitter smile crossing his lips. The darkness of Liz's subconscious fit his mood quite nicely and seemed appropriate for some reason. He should be left in the darkness where no one could find him because it's what he deserved. It would be his own little hell, but one well earned.

He began to harbor the delusion that maybe he should just stay right where he was until it was Liz's time to pass. It would be the perfect punishment for him. Sort of like karma, except he would pay immediately for his wrong doings. All by suffering the exact way that Liz had to. Maybe even he would begin to lose his own senses and feelings in the darkness until he became just like her.

The idea began to seem to excite him more and more until he realized why he was truly thinking that way.

COWARD! he berated himself, knowing that he was only trying to escape the responsibilities of his actions. A fresh wave of self-loathing rushed over him and he glared into the nothingness.

It was time to wake up and face the others, face Liz's parents, and finally face himself. He was reluctant to go but he knew that he couldn't escape these responsibilities. It would only make him worse to be not only a murderer, but also a coward.

Murderer? Where did that come? he wondered in shock.

Yeah, that's right, a voice said in his head. You may have spared those other people's lives but when it comes down to it, you murdered Liz. She may not be buried yet but she's already dead and that makes you a murderer!

He couldn't handle it any more. The voices in his head were baiting him, causing him to feel more and more guilty for his actions. He had to get out of there!

"Wake up!" he growled and then suddenly was pulled out of the present darkness into a new darkness.

*****

"We've got to get over there," Max said suddenly, breaking the silence in the room. He stood up and extended a hand to Maria.

Her eyes widened in fear. "No, you go ahead," she choked. "I...I'm not ready yet."

His brows furrowed. "What are you talking about?"

"I just can't." She stood, backing away. "I just...I'm not ready to face them yet."

Max shook his head and muttered, "Whatever." He turned to leave and saw the flash of headlights coming through his window and he rushed up to the window. "It's Isabel!"

He ran from the room with Maria on his heels and they stopped right in front of Isabel as she came through the door.

"How is she?" Max asked in a rush. "Is she okay?"

Isabel sighed, avoiding his eyes. "She's okay. Michael saved her."

"I've got to go talk to her!" Max cried a moment later, grabbing his jacket from the coat rack.

"Wait," Isabel said, grabbing his arms. "She doesn't want to be bothered right now. She said she was going to get something to eat and then go back to bed. You should leave her alone."

Max paused and then shook his head. "No, this can't wait. I have to talk to her now."

"I guess this means you watched the tape?" she asked, glancing between Maria and Max.

"Yes," Max replied, his tone clipped. "We watched it."

Maria nodded slowly and then looked away to hide her tears. "Yeah," she breathed. "We saw what really happened."

"Good," Isabel said slowly and then yawned. "Well, I'm going to go to bed. I'm exhausted. Max, I really do think you should wait to go see her, but I can't tell you what to do. Just remember, she's been through enough stress in the last few days, she doesn't need any more tonight." She shrugged and then made her way up the stairs.

Max watched her go. "Are you sure you don't want to come?"

"You're still going? Don't you think Isabel's right? That maybe tonight isn't the right time. I mean, come on, it's late and Liz has been through so much. We should let her rest."

"No," Max replied, shaking his head stubbornly. "I have to go tonight. I can't let this pass for another day."

With that, he fished his keys out of his pocket and then gave her one last look before leaving.

Maria exhaled miserably. She stood in the hall for a long time, trying to figure out what she should do now. Eventually she made her way back to Max's room to get her purse, hating herself for being so stubborn. She wasn't sure if she was ever going to be able to face it that she'd been wrong.

"Stupid pride," she muttered in disgust as she closed the Evans' door behind her and stepped out into the chilly, night air.

Part 26

Michael's eyes fluttered open to more darkness. He jolted upright with a start, scanning the darkness suspiciously. The entire room was bathed in shadows, except near the window. Multi-colored lights shined through, illuminating little, telling him where he was. They were Christmas lights. This was Liz's room. Liz...

Groaning, he slipped back to the bed. The air rushed from his lungs as it all came flooding back to him; his trip into Liz's subconscious; being so close to finding her; letting her slip through his fingers.

Having adjusted to the darkness, his eyes drifted around the room, seeing her dresser in the corner, the bedroom door, shadowed photos on the wall, a West Roswell pennant over her bathroom door. The room of a normal young girl who'd had her entire life in front of her.

A profound sense of loss settled around his chest. Bitter tears of failure misted his eyes. "I'm sorry," he whispered noiselessly, the words catching in his throat. He turned to look at Liz. "I'm so, so--" He broke off, stunned. Liz wasn't in bed.

"What the hell?" he gasped, confusion furrowing his brow. Then a thought occurred to him that made his blood turn to ice. "Oh my God, someone has her!"

He vaulted from the bed in a burst of adrenaline - and froze. He heard something. The sound of a door closing. It was a soft click, indicating that the person was attempting to be discreet. His movements cat-like, slow, prowling, he crept to the door and noiselessly turned the handle. He poked his head out into more darkness. Her parents must still be away, he noted. They, after all, wouldn't be slinking around like thieves in their own home. .

A floorboard creaked below him. "Hello?" he called out against his better judgment. He wished he could swallow back the sound the moment it left his mouth - what was he thinking, alerting possible invaders to his presence.

Either way, no answer came. And that meant, to him, that the intruder was hostile.

Sweat broke out on his forehead and he clutched the door frame with is damp palms, his eyes sweeping his surroundings. There was a lamp beside just outside the door, and although his hand itched with the desire to turn it on, he stopped himself. He needed to take the intruder by surprise. He waited for his eyes to adjust.

There! He caught sight of a dark shadow moving just outside the kitchen, directly below him. Zeroing in on his target, he silently padded his way down the stairs. He crouched down at the landing, ignoring the tense, quivering of his legs, and laid in wait for his intruder - who, fortunately, was coming his way.

His lungs began to burn as he held his breath, but he wouldn't allow himself to breathe. The world as he knew it passed in slow motion. Forever and a day passed before the figure finally stepped into range. And Michael lunged, then sprang with a righteous cry.

He tackled his assailant without mercy, flinging him to the ground with deadly intent. The clatter of breaking glass assaulted his ears as the person beneath him hit the ground.

Michael's instincts led his actions. He drew his balled fist back, ready to plant it in the person's nose, but hesitated when he heard their breathing. It was slightly wheezy, but clearly feminine. He frowned in the darkness and then scanned the wall for a light switch, catching sight of another lamp on a table nearby. His hand fumbled for the pull-chain, and after slipping through his sweaty fingers several times, light flooded the room.

He squinted against its blinding intensity, blinking back the dark spot that prevented him from seeing who was beneath him. It was another moment before the shape under him began to take form. Dark hair, chestnut brown in color, caught his attention first. Then other features. Round, bambi eyes with thick lashes, mahogany brown. Thin lips, tightly drawn back of a row of straight, white teeth. High cheekbones, flushed with exertion. Put it all together and you had....

Noooo... He couldn't believe it. She couldn't be here, there was no possible way! He was shocked beyond belief. He couldn't move, only stared down into the warm, friendly eyes. "Oh, I got it," he muttered. "I never really left! I'm still inside your head. I almost tricked myself for a moment there." He felt stupid. Of course it was only an apparition, despite how real it look.

Liz smiled faintly, as if waiting to be let in on the joke. "What are you babbling about? This isn't my head, it's my living room."

"But you're not real," he muttered softly, as though speaking to himself. "I couldn't save you, because I wasn't strong enough."

"What? You're totally confusing me here, Michael. You did save me. Look, I'm right here, look into my eyes."

Michael hesitantly looked met her eyes, searching for any indication that this was reality, not just some distorted trip in Liz's subconscious, and something clicked. Perhaps it was the truth in her eyes, or perhaps it was because he wanted to believe it so much that it had become real; either way, Liz was alive and well. "Liz," he whispered, his voice laced with awe. "It's you! It's really you and we're really here in your living room, and you're real!"
Liz laughed. "Yes, we're really here. You saved me," she added proudly, admiration shining in his eyes.

He laughed too then, throwing his arms around her in a bone-crushing embrace. "Liz! My god, I-I can't believe it."

"Believe it, buddy. You're my hero."

He continued to hold her, reluctant to let her go, lest she disappear before his eyes. He drew back slightly, wanting to see her face again. Their gazes held - and stuck. The smile faded from his face, as did hers, and for the briefest second, something he couldn't describe - and didn't think he wanted to - passed between them. As quickly as it had come, that something passed. An awkward moment followed in which Michael became suddenly all too aware that he was lying on top of her. He pulled off of her quickly and sat back against the wall. "Sorry," he muttered hastily, raking a hand through his hair.

Liz sat up slowly, clearing her throat. She glanced around, looking everywhere but his eyes. "Oh," she rasped, noticing the several broken pieces of glass around her. Using the front of her sweatshirt as a makeshift bowl, she began to collect the pieces. "I was bringing you something to eat," she said quietly. "But it's all over the floor now since you attacked me."

"So sorry," Michael replied, his voice growing defensive. "What were you doing sneaking around, anyway? You couldn't use the lights?"

Liz looked up, slightly hurt by his contemptuous tone, and then went back to retrieving the glass again. "Well, I'm sorry," she said tersely, "but my eyesight isn't quite back to normal just yet, and the bright light hurts my eyes. I could see fine in the dark."

"Why didn't you answer when I called out?"

She shrugged. "I didn't hear you. My entire body is still a little out of whack and like my eye-sight, my hearing isn't one-hundred percent yet."

"Oh," Michael whispered, wondering why he was suddenly feeling so anxious. He should be jumping for joy that he had saved her, but he couldn't be happy for some reason. He had seen something in Liz's eyes that he didn't comprehend and certainly wasn't comfortable with. No, it was just your imagination, he told himself firmly. He must have mistaken what he had seen for her appreciation. He had saved her after all and it would only be natural for her to feel appreciation for him.
He suddenly felt foolish and quickly sat up to help her clean up. "I'm sorry I tackled you. When I didn't see you in the bed, I thought you'd been taken again. I didn't know you were okay." He offered her a small grin.

"It's okay." She had gathered all the pieces by then and left the room to dispose of them. "I'll forgive you this time," she called over her shoulder. "But there's one thing I can't forgive you for."

"What's that?" Michael asked, alarmed.

Liz returned to the living room with a broad grin on her face. "Come on, Michael. Pink socks and green sweats?" Her eyes sparkled teasingly as she pointed down to her ensemble. "I mean, would you really want to spend the rest of your life in this hideous outfit?"

Michael rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Give me a break! I was in a hurry, and you were cold. I had to get you warm, and that was the warmest thing I could find. Fashion was the last thing on my mind. Geez, you sound like Isabel."

"That's good and she's right. You have to be dressed nicely at all times, even when you're wasting away on your death bed."

Michael rolled his eyes again before standing. "Whatever you say. Look, I better get going. It's late and you should probably get some sleep."

Liz's smile fell and was replaced by a look of panic. "Please don't go. Look, I saw a note from my parents and it said that they are out of town. I don't want to be alone in this house all night."

Michael nodded slowly. "Okay, if it will make you feel better..."

"It will," she insisted.

"Then I'll stay. That reminds me, we should probably call Alex. He'll want to know you're okay."

She tossed her hand carelessly. "No, he already knows. He and Isabel stopped by earlier. They were here when I woke up."

"They came over?" He cocked an eyebrow. "They're about as obedient as you are."

"Me? What are you talking about?"

"I told you not to go to Brent but you wouldn't listen."

Liz frowned. "Oh, yeah. I'm sorry about that. I should have listened to you, but...."

"No, it's okay." He held his hand up to silence her. "Look, let's just forget about it. I brought you into this in the first place, so let's call it even." He extended his hand to her.

"Good deal." She took his hand and shook it. "Well," she said, looking back at the floor. "Your food is all over the floor. I'll go downstairs and get you some more."

"Don't worry about it. I'm fine."

"No arguing," she said firmly. "You haven't eaten for god knows how long, and you're going to get sick if you don't eat soon."

Michael was a little hungry but he didn't want her to go to all the trouble. Her look, though, said that she wouldn't take no for an answer. "Okay," he conceded. "I'll eat. But I don't want you to go get it. I can do it."

She smiled. "How about we compromise and go down together? I've already eaten, but suddenly I'm in the mood for a piece of "Men In Black-berry pie." She wiggled her eyebrows comically.

He laughed and waved her forward. "After you, then, Miss. Parker."

*****

It was almost closing time when they entered the Crashdown Cafe. They snagged an empty booth in the corner and one of the newer waitresses arrived to take their orders. For a Wednesday night, the place was still pretty packed, but as the minutes passed, the crowds began to thin until they were just a few patrons remaining.

"So, you didn't do it?" Liz asked as she shoveled in a large piece of pie into her mouth.

Michael shook his head and poured a generous amount of Tabasco sauce into his cherry coke. "No. I put him in the box and blind-folded him and everything else, even closed the lid on him, but I couldn't finish the job."

"Why not? Did someone come in?"

"No, it was because of you actually." He popped a fry in his mouth and took a drink of his soda. "I looked over to where you were lying on the ground, and realized that I couldn't inflict that kind of horror on anyone else - no matter how much they deserved it."

"And he really deserved it," Liz commented. "Do you know why he did that to me? It was because of Topolsky. They were engaged and I pretty much destroyed that."

"Yeah, I know. He told me. But she deserved what she got. Don't stress about it."

"Oh, I'm not," she said quickly, shrugging her petite shoulders. "I'm just sorry that any of it had to happen. But I don't regret what I did to her, no matter how cruel that sounds. I wanted revenge for all the horrible things she did to us and I got it. I am relieved I didn't actually kill her, though. I don't think I could have lived with myself if I had."

"Isabel killed a soldier," he said suddenly.

Liz's lips parted slowly. "What?"

"He was going to shoot me. She shot him first."

"Is she okay?"

"She's still pretty shaken up about it, I'm sure, but I think she'll be just fine."

"Yeah, she seemed a little shaken tonight, but I thought it was because she was in shock that I was okay."

"Maybe it was, who knows?" He shrugged. A second later a wistful smile softened his features.

"What?" Liz implored. "What's so funny?"

Michael glanced down. "Oh, Isabel." He shook his head in amusement. "You should have seen her. The minute she had a gun in her hand, she transformed into Rambo, all gung-ho on getting you out. If the situation hadn't been so grim, it would have been highly amusing."
"I wish I could have seen that. She's a lot tougher than she thinks."

"So are you," Michael said, tipping his head encouragingly.

Liz frowned. "No, I'm not."

"Sure you are. I don't know too many people who would intentionally put themselves in danger after all the hell you had been through the first time just to win back someone's trust. You put up with a lot in there and did it because you felt you had to. I'm proud of you."

Liz smiled faintly. "Yeah, well at the time I had to do it, but now I'm not so sure it was even worth it."

Michael nodded. "I see your point. After all that, we still didn't get the tape."

"What? Yes, we did. Alex got it and gave it to Max and Maria."

Michael leaned in closer with narrowed eyes. "Are you kidding?"
"No, he got it. It was a DVD or something."

He paused, his confusion deepening. "If that's true, then how can you say it wasn't worth it? You did exactly what you set out to do."

Liz sighed and shrugged, suddenly looking tired. "But at what cost? I could have gotten the three of you killed. And now that I think about it, I don't see what I hoped to accomplish by going there. Sure, it would show Max and Maria what really happened, but what does that matter?"

"What are you saying?"

"The point is, if they couldn't believe us...."

Liz's voice trailed off mid-sentence, her face blanching as she focused on something over his left soldier.

"Liz? What is it?" he asked, glancing behind him. Then, "Oh," as he saw Max standing in the doorway. As if a flip had been switched, fire coursed through Michael's body, making his jaw clench and his limbs to tense. Hadn't he been clear enough when he told Max to stay away?

Max walked to their table hesitantly, clearly knowing he was treading on dangerous ground. "Liz," he whispered, choking on a sob.

One quick glance at Liz told Michael that she was too petrified to move, to speak. He was determined to save her the trouble. His movements were jerky as he stood, barring Max's view of Liz. "What the hell are you doing here?" his voice grated sharply. "I told you to stay away from us."

Max stepped back, as if Michael's voice alone had cut him. "I-I had to come," he said softly, struggling to swallow. "I had to talk to Liz. And you."

Rage boiled through Michael's veins until he was seeing red. He grabbed Max roughly by the collar, yanking him closer. "This is your one warning," he spat. "Leave now or I won't be responsible for what I'll do to you. You're not wanted here."


"Michael," Liz said. He didn't release Max as he met her eyes.

"What?"

"If he wants to talk, then let him talk," she said, an edge of bitter cynicism in her tone.

Michael glanced between them several times before reluctantly releasing Max with a rough shove. "Fine, talk," he challenged, making it clear that nothing Max said would change anything, but the punishment he suffered in trying would be enough to make himself happy. It was the same note he'd heard in Liz's voice. He resumed his seat in the booth and folded his arms over his chest.

*****

Max turned and grabbed a chair from another table, not daring to sit next to either of them yet. He didn't say anything, not right away, clearly unsure of how to start. He looked at Liz, not very encouraged by the blinded, un-seeing look on her face. She would listen but it was obvious that she was still too hurt to hear what he had to say.

Max swallowed the lump in his throat and braced himself for whatever was to come. He swallowed again, trying to wet his suddenly dry throat. Finally he opened his mouth to speak. "Liz, Michael, I...."


Part 27

"I...what can I say? I'm sorry," Max breathed, unable to continue right away as his throat once again closed over.

Liz frowned. "That's all you have to say? You're sorry?"

"No," he said quickly, sitting up a little taller. "There's so much I have to say. Yes, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't believe you or give you a chance to explain. But, please, you have to see it from our point of view. Seeing you two...together...it made me crazy. And thinking back to the eraser room and the fact that you were spending so much time alone, I jumped to the wrong conclusion. I'm sorry, Liz. I love you so much, and I thought I had lost you to Michael. And Michael, you're my best friend, practically a brother to me. I never thought that you, of all people, would try to take Liz from me...when I saw that tape, God, I felt betrayed by two of the five people I completely trusted with my life. I..." His voice trailed off helplessly and he looked down in shame.

Michael and Liz exchanged glances and then looked back at Max. "Is that all?" Michael impatiently asked.

"No," Max choked. "I...I was wrong and I should have had more faith in you. I know there is no excuse for my actions. And Liz, when I saw you in that box, I realized that I almost lost you because of my own stubborn pride. I was so - so wrong. Now that I've seen the tape I know what really happened in there. I realize how unfair I've been. I'm sorry, Liz, Michael. Can you ever forgive me?" He finished in a rush, his eyes pleading. There was so much else he wanted to say, but he didn't know how.

Liz didn't answer right away, but when she did, her voice was deceptively calm. "Are you done?"

Hesitantly, he nodded.

"Good. Now, please see it from my point of view. Yes, Michael and I made a mistake in not telling you, but we had our reasons, and I can understand why you were hurt, at first. I would have been too, but after a few day's I thought you'd have calmed down enough to ask for an explanation. Instead - all you wanted was revenge. I keep thinking that maybe I failed you some way in the past - that maybe that's why you wouldn't listen to what I had to say, but I keep coming up empty. I thought I had proved my dedication and loyalty to you in everything I did in the last year, but I must have done something wrong. Otherwise, you would have known you could trust me no matter what. And everything I do is for a reason."

"Liz."

"No, Max, please, I have to say this. My point is that after all we've been though together, it seems that you still don't know who I really am." Her voice wavered. "And it only hurts more to know that it really did take the tape to make you believe our story. Being your girlfriend aside, as a friend, I think you should have known. I would have. I may have been angry, but I also would have listened to my heart. I would have given you the chance you deserved to explain yourself. I would have..." She stopped to compose herself, obviously on the brink of tears. "But I guess that's one of many differences between us."


Max closed his eyes, his heart sinking. What she said held more than a ring of truth. Not that he didn't totally trust her before and believe that she was completely loyal, but she was right about the rest. It shouldn't have taken the tape to change his feelings on the matter. He should have known.

"Please. I know that I've been an incredible asshole about all this, but I'll do anything to make it up to you and you," he added to Michael, trying not to be stung by the insolent scowl on his face.

"So what? Maria couldn't bear to show her face?" Michael said in response, taking Max by surprise.

"She didn't think it was a good idea to come tonight. But I had to come. I couldn't just let this go on for another moment."

Michael snorted, knowing all too well that Maria was too stubborn to admit she was wrong. She hated being wrong and it was going to be agony for her to admit for once that she was. That was good, he wanted her to suffer for a while. She deserved it and so did Max.

An impregnable silence set in between them. Max could tell nothing from Liz's expression.

"Liz?" he finally asked, not able to handle the silence anymore.

Liz looked up at him and sighed. "I don't know," she whispered. "I'm going to have to think about it." She stood and spoke to Michael. "I'm going to go to bed now. Are you coming?"

His cold eyes warmed briefly as he looked at Liz. "I'll be there in a second."

She nodded and left. Max found little comfort in her answer but it was better than flat-out rejection. Though, he couldn't help but feel unnerved by the looks she and Michael shared.

"So, you're staying the night?" he asked nonchalantly, staring down at his hands.

Michael snorted. "Does that bother you?"

Max quickly shook his head, looking up. "No, I was just wondering."

"Not that I owe you any explanation, but she doesn't want to be alone. Her parents are gone and she wants someone she trusts there for her."

"Oh." He nodded and then sighed. "Michael, what about you?"

"What about me?" he asked, glaring at Max over the rim of his drink. "Am I going to forgive you? Is that what you mean?"

Max nodded and for the first time, felt disconcerted by Michael's hostile gaze. "Yes."

"You don't deserve to be forgiven," Michael answered bluntly.

"I know that. Believe me, I know that, but that doesn't answer my question. Are you?"

Michael looked thoughtful for a moment. "I guess only time will tell." He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and stood to leave. As he passed behind Max, though, he clutched his shoulders in a fierce, iron grip. "I want you to stay away from her until she gives you her answer," he warned. "It's the least you can do. And keep in mind, all prior threats still apply if you don't leave her alone."

"I understand," Max said stiffly, unable to turn and face him.

"Good deal," Michael said lightly, patting him on the back. "That's what I like to hear."

*****

Michael found Liz staring outside of her window in her bedroom.

"Liz?"

She turned to him and he saw that her eyes we're shining with tears. "Yes?"

"Are you okay?"

She gave him a long look before nodding. Then she turned back to the window. "I'll be fine. I just have a lot on my mind."

"Completely understandable." He walked to her bed and sat down. "A penny for your thoughts?"

"Hmm?"

"What are you going to do?"

Liz sighed and turned away from the window, moving to join him on the bed. "I haven't decided."

"Oh," he nodded, playing with a fringe on her bedspread. "Stop me if I'm wrong, but we went back to the compound to get the tape so they could see it. You wanted to do it so they would see we were innocent and hopefully repair the damage that occurred. Why isn't that enough for you now?"

"Is that enough for you?" she countered, meeting his gaze head on.

"Perhaps not," he said after a moment. "But let me remind you that you were the one so adamant about going. I knew it would never be enough then. You were the one who had to go, so I went. For you. But we're not talking about me."

Liz shuddered and put her face in her palms. The hair hanging loose over her face caught the glimmer of the bedroom light, making it shine wildly. Like silk. "I don't know, she said, looking back up. "So much has changed since then. At first I thought that the tape would make everything better, put everything back the way it was, but I now see that I wasn't being very realistic. And I've come to realize that I don't want things to go back to the way they were."

"How come?" he asked, leaning back on one elbow.

Liz stretched out next to him, her eyes staring at the ceiling. "Alex is the only one who would listen to what we had to say on our behalves. Even when none of the others would. What kind of friends does that make the rest of them. I know Isabel came around eventually, but Max and Maria couldn't go on faith alone. It was Alex and Isabel, and you, who were there for me when I needed you most. You, most of all, knew that I needed closure more than anything, and it's you, Michael, who has done so much for me since then. If things went back to the way they were, we wouldn't even be friends. I'd rather go back into that box than change that."

"Yeah, some things have really changed for the better," he mused, grinning softly.

"Yes, which brings me to my next point."

He watched her curiously as she took a deep breath and turned to face him. "You've done so much for me, Michael, and proved that you are an even greater friend than any of the others. And, sometime between the night you came to me and now, I've started to feel differently about you. I can't explain exactly what it is, but...I like being around you. You put me at ease like no one else ever has, and I have to ask myself if that means something." She smiled awkwardly. "I guess what I'm saying is that I like you."

"You're not too bad yourself," he said casually. "I'm glad to call you a friend."

Liz let out a stifled giggle as she sat up and shook her head. "No, Michael, I don't think you're understanding me." She reached out and took his hand, then looked back into his eyes. "I have feelings for you."

Michael blinked, stunned. He didn't know what to say.

"Please just listen," she said shyly, although her statement was one of earnest. "Look, I feel horrible that I never really gave you a chance before. To tell you the truth, you used to creep me out, but that was before I got to know the real you." She laughed softly. "Honestly, I could never figure out what Maria saw in you, but, I'm seeing it for myself now. Underneath that rough, cold-as-ice exterior, you truly are an exceptional person." She stopped to look down. "So, I guess what I'm saying is that maybe we should give it a try."

Part 28

Michael was at a loss for words. He didn't know what to say at first but he now knew he had been right about that look Liz had given him earlier in the living room. He did have to admit that he had grown quite fond of Liz in the last few weeks and that any guy she every dated would be one of the luckiest in the world; but he wasn't that guy. He didn't feel that way about her and besides, deep down, no matter how angry he was with Maria, he was, and would always be, madly in love with her. There would never be another girl for him.

Almost as if Liz was reading his mind, she continued. "Look, I know that you're not in love with me, that you love Maria, but I...I just think that we could have some fun together now that we're out of this crisis, get to know each other under normal, everyday settings. Look, I just don't want to lose what we have."

Michael blinked and then sighed, slowly shaking his head. "Liz," he began cautiously, knowing that he had to tread lightly, "I'm sorry if I've lead you on in some way but there could never be anything between us - nothing more than friendship. I care about you a great deal but just not in that way."

Liz's face flushed a deep scarlet and she looked away as she began to squirm. "Oh god," she said quickly. "Just forget I said anything." She hung her head in her free hand and muttered, "Oh God, I'm so embarrassed."

"No wait," he said squeezing her hand. "Look, we will never lose what we have, I promise you that, but all it is, is a good friendship. We can still get to know each other, but not in that way. And Liz," he said, raising her chin with his finger and looking into her eyes. "If you search your heart, you'll see that all you feel for me is gratitude, sort of an infatuation because I helped save you. It's not real. Kind of like the Florence Nightingale syndrome, where I helped you and cared for you when you were weak and now you
think you have feelings for me because of it. It's not real."

"But I swear, I don't think it's that," she whispered, trying to look away.

"No, it is Liz," he replied, "Look at me. That's all it is. You're not in love with me, you love Max and you want to forgive him, I see it in your eyes. You're just guarding yourself against him because you've already been hurt by him. You have to remember, he's hurting too. He loves you and has been in love with you since we were kids. I guarantee that the moment you decide to forgive him and go to him, you two will be completely happy. That's what you really want and you aren't going to be able to find it here with me. Right?"

Liz shrugged, reluctant to admit the truth of his words. "I guess," she muttered. "Wait," she said, suddenly puzzled. "How can you say all those things while at the same time hating them for their reaction to the tape? It makes no sense."

"Good question," he said, smirking. "But I do have an answer for you. Listen, when we first got into this, I made a solemn promise to myself that I would protect you with my life, not only for you but also for Max. I knew he would never forgive me if I let anything happen to you. So I protected you or at least did what I could to protect you and I'm still to this very moment, protecting you for the same reasons."

"What? Okay, I'm totally confused here. If you we're protecting me for Max, then why all the animosity?"

"That's even harder for me to explain. When they saw the tape, I was disappointed in Max because I did what I did for him, and he couldn't see that, only that we were together. He felt betrayed and it made him crazy, but here's the most fucked up part, I don't blame him one bit. I would have probably been worse if the situation had been reversed. Remember how I reacted when I saw him kissing Maria? I was ready to kill him, I was crazed, and that was just over a kiss. Imagine if it had been them having sex. Can you honestly
say you wouldn't have been hurt and suspicious over it?"

"No, not right away," she admitted. "But after my head cleared, I would have known."

"I don't think so, Liz. It's much easier to say that because that isn't the situation, but if you really put yourself in that situation, you would see that you and I would both feel the same way. Besides, I think it's possible that their heads were still clearing up until the time they watched the tape."

"So what are you saying? That you forgive them and never really blamed them?"

"I'm saying that I think they deserve our compassion and our forgiveness."

Liz's expression became defensive, even slightly irate. "But you were the one who kept pushing them away and telling them that they didn't deserve forgiveness. You're contradicting yourself left and right."

"No, I'm not. If you had listened to every word I said, every phrase I used, I never talked about feeling betrayed myself. It was always about how they were treating you, never about me."

"So you're saying that you forgave them from the beginning?"
"What was there really to forgive? They weren't asking for forgiveness then. What I'm saying is that I never really blamed them for their reactions, but I wasn't going to say anything until you we're ready to see that as well. I was protecting you and I though that if I didn't blame them, you would feel you had to as well. I didn't want that until you were ready. I didn't want you to feel pressured to do it. But yes, I never blamed them because I understood that they were hurting. Don't get me wrong, I don't at all like the way that they went about it, especially at school two days ago, and it makes me angry, but I know that they were only doing it to ease their own pain. We would have done the same thing, and you know it. But things haven't changed. I'm still not going to clear the air with them until you're ready."

Liz pulled back and stood off the bed, walking towards the window. She thought about all Michael had just said, not wanting to admit he was right. She honestly did have feelings for Michael. And perhaps in another life they could have been spectacular together. But in this lifetime, her heart belonged to Max - it always would. If only she could forgive him so easily. She'd need to think about that.

Suddenly, the muscles in her face tensed, flushing with blood. She was extremely embarrassed over the way she'd just poured her heart out to Michael, confessing how she felt about him without thinking it through herself. Mortified, she couldn't bring herself to look at him, couldn't bear to see the condescending look on his face, and couldn’t bear to know that he thought less of her now.

"What are you thinking?" Michael inquired.

She blushed and told him everything she had been thinking of. "I can't look at you now," she finished, giggling nervously. "I feel so stupid."

Michael laughed loudly. "You're not stupid, Liz. You were just confused, but don't worry, I won't hold that against you. Come here."

"No." She shook her head firmly and then giggled again. "I can't."

"Then I'll come to you," he sighed, getting off the bed and stopping behind her. "Liz," he sang in a teasing voice, "how can we ever be friends if you wont look at me?"

Stubbornly, Liz shrugged. "I don't want to be your friend then if I have to look at you."

"That's not very nice," he teased. "Come on, if you turn around and look at me, you'll see that there's no reason for you to be embarrassed."

"Li-iz," he said again, bringing up a hand to tickle her neck.

"Stop it!" she cried, lunging away from him.

"Li-iz, I'm going to keep bothering you until you look at me." This time he brought his hands to her rib- cage but she jumped away before he could tickle her.

"Okay! Okay!" she said, raising her hands in surrender and turning to face him with a big smile on her face. "I'll look at you just don't tickle me. I'm extremely ticklish."

"Yeah I know," he said, wiggling his eyebrows at her. "Max told me." He sighed and offered his hand to her. "So, friends?"

She eyed his hand for a moment, and then relaxed and took it, knowing that everything was going to be all right. "Friends."

"Good, that's what I wanted to hear," he said, releasing her hand.

"Okay then, as you're first duty as my honorary friend, I have a favor to ask."

Michael moved back to her bed and stretched out, leaning his head on his hand. "What's that?"

"I want to go talk to Max right now and I don't want to go alone."

"So, you're going to forgive him after all?"

She shrugged evasively. "What you said made sense and I think he and I need to talk."

"Well how about this? You go take a shower because you stink," he teased, "and then get out of that hideous outfit, geez, didn't anyone ever tell you that you should always look you're best? Whatever possessed you to wear that thing?" he rolled his eyes, smirking and Liz's mouth fell open, ready to let out an indignant cry. "Shh, I'm talking," he said. "And then you can go over in the morning and have a nice, long talk with him."

"First off, the outfit? Don't go there. Second, I really would like to talk to him tonight. I don't want to wait for the morning."

"But if you wait until you've slept, you will be completely refreshed and know exactly what you want to say to him. Doesn't that make sense?"

Reluctantly, Liz nodded. "I suppose."
"Good, now. Besides, let's let him sweat it out for the night."

"That's not very nice," she said, disapprovingly.

He tossed her comment away with his hand. "Naaah, it's not but I think it will do him some good as well."

"Fine," Liz sighed. "And are you going to talk to Maria tomorrow?"

For the first time, Michael's face turned serious. "That all depends. I mean, I miss her more than you can know, but she didn't want to come tonight. I think it's going to be really hard for her to admit that she was wrong. She's going to need some time, I think."

"So you aren't going to go to her?"

"Who knows?" he sighed, shrugging his shoulders. "Let's deal with Max first and then we'll move on to Maria." He stood off the bed and moved to the door. "Now, I'm going to go to sleep on the couch and as soon as you get done showering, you should go to bed as well. You need to sleep before you're big day."

Liz rolled her eyes. "Yes dad," she teased and walked over to her closet to find some clothes. "Oh, hey Michael?" she called quickly as he began to close the door.

"Yes, Miss Parker?"

She smiled genuinely. "Thank you."

"For?"

"For everything, what else?"

*****

The baby blue flowered sundress, or the black sleeveless turtleneck and a pair of jeans? That was the question. Liz first held the dress to her body and gazed at herself in the wall-size mirror on the back of the door. Then she switched to the turtleneck. She was torn between the two outfits, they both had their benefits. The dress was very flirty with its flared skirt and spaghetti straps. It brought out the brown of her eyes, but the turtleneck made her look more slender somehow. She sighed. Decisions were the worst.

Now that the time had come for her to go talk to Max, she was anxious and wanted to look nice. Her anxiousness had woken her up before the sun had even risen, but she did feel more refreshed than she had in weeks, as Michael had said she would.

She tossed both the outfits on the bed and started to play with her hair, wondering if she should leave it loose around her shoulders and curl the ends, or pull it up into a dramatic sweep with curly tendrils hanging off the side?

She sighed, deciding on leaving it lose and moved back over to the bed to retrieve the clothes. She heard a soft knock at the door. "Come in," she called softly.

Michael appeared a moment later. "Good morning," he yawned and gave her a weak smile.

Liz smiled back. "I didn't think you rose in the morning before noon."

"Very funny. To tell you the truth, I don't sleep as much as everyone thinks. I've been awake for a while now." He yawned again. "So, did you sleep well?"

"Yeah, I slept fine. You?"

"Mm-hmm," he mumbled. "How long have you been up?"

Liz looked over at the clock, which read 6:28 AM and shrugged. "About an hour. I took a shower and now I'm deciding what to wear." She eyed him curiously for a moment and then smiled. "What do you think?" she asked, putting the dress up against her frame, and then the shirt.

"Hell, I don't know. You know I don't know a damn thing about clothes."

"As you've well proven, but let me put it this way; what would you like to see on Maria if she was coming to you?"

Michael sucked in a breath at the mention of Maria's name, suddenly remembering the dream he had in the compound about Maria and how she had come to his room wearing that little sundress. She had looked so radiantly beautiful, even in his memory. He cleared his throat. "Go with the sun dress," he murmured, not looking her in the eye. "I'll be out in the living room whenever you're ready."

"Wait, did you want to take a shower while you're waiting? You could borrow some of my dad's clothes."

Michael shrugged. "Sure, whatever."

"You can use the bathroom in the downstairs hall. Come on." She slipped past him in the doorway and led him to the downstairs bathroom. She grabbed some towels out of the bathroom closet and then told him to wait while she went and retrieved some clothes for him. She chose a pair of black jeans and a forest green button down shirt and handed those to him. "I'd get you a brush but..." she smirked, glancing at his hair which was in total disarray.

"Hey, I do brush my hair, you know," he said, glaring at her playfully.

"Sure you do," she nodded, humoring him.

"I do, I just brush it to my own style. Look, whatever, go finish getting dressed. I think I can handle the rest myself."

Liz smiled at him and then made her way back up the stairs. "So," she murmured, back in her room. "The sun dress it is. Good thing I shaved my legs."

She walked to her private bath and plugged in her curling iron and then her hot rollers, filling the case with some water to create some good steam. Opening her medicine cabinet, she searched through the bottles, finally pulling out a bottle of heat activated gel and massaging it through her thin dark hair. She knew if she wanted her curls to last even twenty minutes, she was going to have to use the gel no matter how much she disliked using chemicals in her hair.

Walking back to her bedroom, she removed her fuzzy white bathrobe and then slipped the dress over her head, liking the feel of the satiny material sliding over her skin. She slipped on a pair of baby blue, backless sandals, walked back to the bathroom and began to run a comb through her hair, while looking at herself in the mirror.

She noticed something then that made her lean in closer. It was her eyes. They looked different somehow. Granted, they were still round and brown as always, but they looked...hardened. They had lost some of the naiveté that had always been there before. She shook her head, and sighed. Oh well, she thought. That's probably what happens when you go through traumatic experiences.

She noticed that the curlers were now all steamy and beads of condensation were running down the sides of the case, so she began to part her hair and then rolled it up. While waiting for the rollers to cool, she minimally applied some make-up and then sat on the toilet seat and for the first time that morning, wondered how she was going to go about this? What exactly she was going to say to Max?

*****

"So, how do I look?" Liz asked of Michael, twirling around in her dress. "Do you think Max will like it?"

Michael smirked. "Yeah, he'll like it. Then again, he'd like it if you were wearing nothing but a
burlap sack."

She grinned. "Somehow I doubt it would have the same affect. You ready to go?"

"Are you?"

She took a deep breath, trying to push her nervousness away. "Yeah, I think so."

"Then let's go. If we wait any longer, we'll miss him before he goes to school."

Liz grimaced. "Oh yeah, school. I forgot about that. For some reason it still feels like the weekend."

"Are you gonna go?"

She tilted her head to the side, catching her lip between her teeth. Then she shrugged. "I don't know. I guess we'll see how things turn out this morning."

"Than you should probably grab your back-pack just in case."

"I can't," she said, shaking her head. "I don't own one, anymore. It's somewhere in the compound. They all are, remember?"

"Oh, yeah I forgot."

"Forget it. I'll just deal with it later. Come on, let's go."

*****

"MAX! ISABEL!" Diane Evans called from the hallway. "IT'S TIME TO GET UP FOR SCHOOL! YOU DON'T WANT TO BE LATE!"

Max groaned and threw his pillow over his head, not wanting to face the daylight yet. He hadn't slept much during the night and every time he did manage to fall asleep, he would wake up sometime later with terrible nightmares about the compound and Liz being in that box. There was even one where he was in the box and Liz wouldn't let him out because she didn't forgive him.

He heard a knock at the door and his mother's head popped in. "Max, it's time to get up."

He groaned and looked at his mom.

A look of concern flashed over her face. "Max! Are you feeling okay? You look exhausted and your skin is so pale." She walked over and put a hand on his forehead. "You're warm too. I think for the first time in your life you are sick."

"No mom, I'm fine," he said, his voice low and deep, still muffled by sleep. "I just didn't sleep that much last night."

"I think maybe you should stay home from school today and try to get some sleep. I don't want you running yourself down."

He shook his head fiercely, wanting to go to school so he could see Liz. Even if he could only admire her from a distance, he wanted to be able to see her. "No," he said, sitting up. "I'm fine. Besides, if I miss today I'll fall behind. I have a test today, anyway."

"Okay," she said, slowly nodding. Then she frowned. "Max, is everything okay? It's just that in the last few days, you've been acting kind of closed off from everyone," she added at his wary look.

Max's blanked his face and nodded. "Yes mom, I'm fine. It's just stress, I guess. I'll be fine."

Diane sighed. "Well, school starts in an hour so you better get a move on. Breakfast is waiting downstairs."

"Thanks." Max gave his mom a thin smile and then yawned, standing, then stumbling his way over to the bathroom for a shower.

As soon as he was done in the shower, he wrapped a towel around his waist and went back into the bedroom to get dressed. Once again, he heard a knock. "Just a second," he called and quickly walked over to his dresser to put on a pair of boxers. Then he grabbed a pair of pants out of the closet and through a yawn, muttered, "Come in."

He got another knock in response. "I said come in." When no one did, he sighed and stalked to the door, tearing it open. But no one was there. "Very funny, Isabel," he grumbled, throwing it shut and then turning back to his room. And that's when he caught sight of someone outside the window. Two someone's. His heart caught in his throat and he froze. Liz and Michael.

Michael rolled his eyes impatiently and then knocked harder, motioning for him to get his ass over there. Max shook his head to clear it, and then walked over, undoing the latch and pulling it open. "What are you two doing here?" he asked, his voice a little happier than he would have liked.

"You want to help us in first, before we make with the pleasantries?" Michael grumbled.

Max reached out for Liz first, pulling her in. He reached for Michael next, but Michael scowled in response. "I think I've done this enough times to be able to help myself," he assured him, climbing in and landing with one swift jump.

"What are you doing here?" Max asked again, taking his first real look at Liz. His breath caught in his throat. God, she was looking especially lovely today.

"We're here to talk," Liz responded and then glanced at Michael, nodding her head to the door.

Michael turned to leave. "I'll be back in a minute. I have to go talk to Isabel."

After he left the room, Max cleared his throat and then motioned to the chairs by the computer. "Would you like to take a seat?" He asked, his throat feeling thick and lumpy. He swallowed hard, gave her a brief smile.

Liz glanced at the chair and then held his eyes. "Nah, I'm fine."

"Uh, okay," he said nervously. He glanced around the room, but like a magnet, his eyes returned to her. He gave her a thin, tense smile. "So, uh...what did you want to talk about?"

"New beginnings," she stated without wavering. She glanced down and then slowly stepped toward him. Max's heart caught in his throat and the blood began to rush in his ears. She kept coming until her chest was practically touching his. Her heavenly scent of lilacs and vanilla wafted towards his nose as she looked up into his face, causing a wave of euphoric dizziness to wash over him. She was so close to him and his arms were itching to reach out hold her but he held back. He didn't have the right to do that until she gave him permission.

"New beginnings?" he breathed, not knowing what else to say.

"Yeah, Max. New beginnings," she whispered, her sweet breath tickling his lips. Her hands slowly reached up and ran up his arms, leaving electric currents and tingles behind in their midst.

"Are you saying that you forgive me?" he asked, not daring to release his breath.

Liz glanced down and took a deep breath and hen she looked up again, she shook her head. Oh God.... But he was reassured by her next words. "I'm saying that there is nothing to forgive, that I understand and I would like to put it all behind us."

"What changed your mind?" he gasped.

"Michael. He...I guess he put it all into perspective for me and made me see that there was no reason to condemn you for your reactions towards the...what you saw; that we would have done the same thing if the situation were reversed." She held his gaze and took another deep breath.

Immense relief flooded his body, but he didn't dare to make any assumptions about what that meant for the two of them. He had to hear her say it. "What does this mean?"

Liz gave him a brilliant smile and stood up on the tip of her toes, brushing his lips with hers. "It means I love you," she whispered her lips fluttering against his. "And that I want to be with you if you'll have me."

Max could restrain himself no longer. He fiercely wrapped her in his arms, closing the small gap between them and took a firm hold on her mouth, giving her a tender, passionate kiss. "Liz," he whispered, feeling the tears streaming down his face. He pulled back and swallowed, looking into her face. She was crying as well, but the tears on her face couldn't mask her happiness. "Liz, I'm so sorry for..."


"Shh." She put an index finger up to his lips. "No more apologies. Ever. Let's just forget about it all and move on with our lives." She leaned in and gave him a peck on his throat. "Together," she breathed against his neck.

"Always," he said, tipping her face to his and bringing his mouth down on hers.

Part 29

The initial kisses were soft and tender but as time passed, they grew more heated. Liz threw her arms around his broad shoulders and brought him closer to her so that her entire body was tightly pressed against his hard length.

"Liz," he moaned against her lips, his tongue gently prodding for entrance. Liz readily opened for him, wanting the kiss to deepen and immediately, their tongues began a hot ardent dance of passion.

Max sighed into her mouth as he tasted her velvety tongue, licking it, sucking it, and then delving even deeper to explore the sweet recesses of her mouth. God, how he had missed her kisses.

They kissed until they were both smothering, needing air desperately, but reluctant to let each other go just yet. Finally, they didn't have a choice and they had to release each other. Both pulled back gasping for air but no sooner did Max fill his air with lungs that he leaned lower for her neck, supporting her back with his flat palms.

Her skin was so soft and so fresh tasting. Liz's head feel back as he nipped lightly at the juncture between her neck and shoulder and Max growled low in his throat as he intensified his kisses. Her nails began to dig into his shoulders and she gasped with overwhelming pleasure and happiness. "Max," she panted.

"MAX!" Diane's voice carried up to the room, causing both Max and Liz to break apart and look at the door with wide eyes.

Max couldn't believe how carried away they had gotten with his mother just downstairs! He flushed deeply and looked back at Liz who looked even more radiant than the first time she had appeared to him this morning. "Oh. I'm supposed to be getting ready for school," he stated, a sheepish smile curving his lips.

Liz was flushed with embarrassment but her smile was teasing. "Then you better finish getting ready."

Max nodded and turned to walk to his closet, rifling through the endless supply of clothes. "So," he called over his shoulder. "Are you going to go to school today?"

Liz walked up behind him and placed light kisses on his bare back. "Well, I don't really feel like going, to tell you the truth, but if you're going, I guess I'll go too."

Max turned around with a smirk on his face. "Well, mom said that I didn't have to go to school today. We could just stay here if you wanted."

Liz's grin became devilish but she shook her head. "Sounds tempting, really, but it's probably the best idea. Besides," she sighed, her smile growing wary. "I'd like to try to find Maria and talk with her."

Max's face sobered and he nodded. "Yeah, you probably should. She's...I think she's scared to come to
you."

"But does she know what really happened? With Michael and me?"

"Yeah, she watched it with me and she felt as bad as I do, but it's...it's going to be hard for her to apologize."

"That's Maria," Liz sighed. "But I will do what I did with you. I'll make it easy on her."

"Hey, you didn't make it so easy last night."

"But I did this morning," she argued, stepping back so he could pull a shirt over his head. "I came here and just told you what I decided. Wasn't that easy?"

"Yes and thank you," he murmured, leaning in for another soft kiss.

Liz held him close, not giving him the chance to pull back. "Thank you," she whispered and then began to kiss him again.

Their tongues entangled again and the heat that had temporarily dissipated from earlier immediately sparked back up again, their breathing so heavy that they didn't even hear the knock at the door.

"Well, I guess the make-up went well," Michael's voice sounded in the room and both Max and Liz broke apart, jerking their heads towards the door.

Liz nodded at him. "Yes, I'd say so."

Michael smirked at her but then his face hardened as he looked over at Max, giving him a long measuring glare before. However, he didn't possess the effort it took to keep the facade. He walked over to Max and extended his hand. "No hard feelings?"

Liz smirked, knowing that the offer may have came out a little tense but deep down he was trying to apologize and forgive Max at the same time. It just wasn't Michael's style to make a big deal out of this.

Max nodded and then took his head. "Yeah."

"Okay," Liz said, smiling at them both. "Well, we better go," she said to Michael. "And you better get down there and eat breakfast before your mom finds us in here. Well be waiting outside for you, so make it fast."

*****

Liz entered school that morning with all her friends, except for Maria, feeling completely happy for the first time in a long while.

They all separated at the entrance of the school to go to their lockers, except for Max who remained by her side. Thank God she had left all her books at school two days ago or she would be screwed. Max nibbled playfully on her neck as she began to rifle through her locker, causing her to laugh and gleefully push him away. "Stop it or I'll never get my stuff."

"We could always go to the eraser room instead," he suggested. The idea did hold it's appeal... "No, we have to go to class. We already missed yesterday," she reminded him, closing her locker and grabbing his hand. "Come on, first period awaits."

Max sighed and gave her an adorable pout. They took a few steps before they ran directly into Kyle who was coming around the adjacent corner. Kyle's eyes showed white all around. "Liz!" he sputtered. "You're okay? Oh my God!" he pulled her into his arms and gave her a bone crushing hug.

Liz had no idea what was going on. What was he freaking out about? It's not like he knew what happened. Did he?

When he released her, he smiled into her face but his smile quickly faded as he noticed Max behind her. His expression was clearly fearful. "Uh...I'm glad you're okay," he said to Liz and the turned around and jogged away.

Liz shook her head in confusion and turned to Max. "Okay. Explain."

"You mean that you don't know?"

Liz leaned in closer. "Know what?"

"Kyle helped us yesterday. He and a few of his buddies created a distraction while Maria and I snuck into the compound. He was worried about you, so he offered to help. And after we saved you yesterday, he wanted to know exactly what happened so we told him the truth."

"The...truth?" she choked. "About you?"

"Yes, he knows everything and it freaked him out."

"Oh God," she whispered in shock, averting her gaze. "I'm going to have to talk to him."

"Yeah, that's probably a pretty good idea," he said grimly. "Only Maria and I knew about it, I didn't tell the others yet, but we need to talk to him before he exposes us to God and everybody."

"No," she said, looking at him sharply. "We are not talking to him, I'm talking to him. I might be the only person who can make him understand how important it is that he stay's quiet, and reassure him that you would never hurt him."

The bell rang at that moment and they both groaned. "Come on, let's get to class," Liz sighed, distractedly, her happy mood being washed away almost as quickly as it had come.

*****

Maria wasn't in school that day. Either that or she was avoiding all contact with Liz. She didn't appear in the classes they shared and she couldn't be found anywhere on campus. At lunch, Liz asked the others if they had seen her. No one had. Michael didn't look to happy about that.

Liz sighed and caught sight of Kyle across the quad. "Oh, I'm going to go talk to Kyle now," she told Max, squeezing his shoulder, and then walking up to the resident jock table.

"What's that all about?" Michael asked, watching her go with confusion.

"I think she wanted to thank him for helping yesterday," Max answered carefully.

"What did you tell him, anyway?" Alex asked, biting into his turkey sandwich.

"Yeah," Isabel prodded. "How did you explain why Liz was being held captive?"

Max sucked in a breath and looked away. "You told me to tell him anything I wanted - so I told him the truth."

"You did what?" a voice asked but not the one he expected.

"I told him the truth, Isabel. I didn't know what else to tell him." He shrugged. Hesitantly, he moved his gaze over to Michael, expecting to see furious rage in his eyes but there was none. Michael just shrugged.

"Hey, I told you to tell him whatever you wanted. I can't go back on that now. Let's just hope he doesn't tell his father. Hell, like it would even matter," he muttered.

"What do you mean by that?" Isabel demanded.

"The FBI already knows about us Izzy, it's not like it will make much of a difference if a small town sheriff knows either. He can't do anything to us that the FBI haven't already."

"But what if Kyle exposes you all?" Alex asked, reaching out for Isabel's hand in concern.

"I'm sure Liz will take care of that," Max said confidently.

"Yeah," Michael agreed, looking back to where she was talking with Kyle, away from everyone else. "I have complete faith in her."

*****

"Kyle, are you okay?" Liz asked, pulling him in the shade underneath the awning by the main building.

Kyle shrugged and then glanced nervously at the aliens. "You know, I stayed up all night last night trying to convince myself that what I saw Max do was just a hallucination, but it wasn't, right?"

"What did he do?" Liz asked. Max hadn't said anything about using his powers.

Kyle's eyes became incredulous. "He melted my football ring into a god-damn pool of liquid!" he said a little too loudly and Liz glanced around quickly to see if anyone was listening.

"Shh, please Kyle, keep your voice down. You're right. It wasn't a hallucination. He's a...you know, but don't worry, they will never hurt you, especially after the way you came to help me yesterday. You can't say anything to anybody. Please, I'm begging you, Kyle. I've already been through enough because we've been too careless. No one else can find out."

"So, after all this time, I know his dirty little secret," Kyle muttered. Suddenly his brow furrowed, making him look very young. "Liz, I don't believe in aliens."

Liz smiled warmly. "It took a while for me to digest the news as well, but I know better now. And you've seen their powers. You know that I was in there because of my involvement with them. They are aliens but they're good people, Kyle. I only hope you can see that."

Kyle shook his head as if trying to get water out of his ears and then backed away. "I don't know, Liz." He began to back away. "I don't know what to believe. I just...I'm glad you're okay but I...God, I've got to get out of here. I need to think." He turned on his heal and fled to the student parking lot.

Liz watched him go with a heavy heart, sympathizing with him. She had, after all, done the much the same when Max had shared his secret with her.

When he was no longer in view, Liz turned around and made her way back to the table. She stopped, however, when something caught her eye. She turned her head and her eyes momentarily locked with Maria's own pained ones. She stood next to the bushes outside the cafeteria doors. Liz began to approach her, but Maria never gave her the chance. The moment their eyes had locked, Maria's had widened and she turned and nearly ran in the opposite direction.

Liz moved to follow her but a group of people with their lunch trays got in her way, blocking her view of Maria, and when she finally pushed through the crowd, Maria was gone.



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Edited by - Fehrbaby on 09/22/2001 07:52:23

Edited by - Fehrbaby on 09/22/2001 07:59:37
posted on 20-Sep-2001 10:04:31 PM
Part 30

"I just saw Maria," Liz sighed as she sat down.

"Where?" Michael asked, instantly alert. Liz had to hide her smile. He was looking around like an anxious puppy that just found out that there was a cat lurking around. He had it for her bad.

"I don't know where she is now," Liz frowned, stealing a chip off Max's lunch tray. "I just saw her for an instant, but I went to talk to her, she ran. She looked weird, like she was shocked to see me."

"Did any of you tell her that Liz was healed?" Michael asked of the group.

A chorus of 'no's' and 'not me' could be heard around the table.

"I couldn't get a hold of her this morning to tell her," Max said.

Confused, Liz asked, "When did you call?"

"I called right after you and Michael left. It occurred to me she didn't know you were okay yet, and thought she should know."

"Oh," Liz replied, chewing on her lips. She finally exhaled a long breath and shook her head. "You know, it will be so much easier if she wouldn't run away when she saw me. She's tormenting herself this way."

"Of all the obstinate, pig-headed people, Maria's the worst." Michael agreed.

"Sounds like someone else we all know," Liz remarked, being obvious about looking away and then glancing back and giving a Michael a sweet, innocent smile.

Michael glared, making her laugh. "Whatever. Which way did she go?" he asked impatiently.

Liz pointed in the direction Maria had disappeared and without another word, Michael took off. Liz then put the chip in her mouth and her face went blank.

"Liz?" Max asked as she grimaced and her eyes began to water. Then she began to choke, breaking into a severe coughing fit and Max began to slap her on the back. "Liz! What's wrong."

Liz pointed desperately to her throat, indicating that she was choking and Max gave her a good and hard slap on the back, dislodging the chip. She turned and spat the chip on the ground and then slapped him as she gasped for breath. "Damnit, why didn't you tell me that you put Tabasco on those?"

"How many times are you going to almost die on me?" Max asked. A smirk spread across her face. "I guess that teaches you not to steal food off my plate, doesn't it? You okay now?"
"Yes." She pouted, crossing her arms over her chest. "But, next time, tell me."

"Will do. What did Kyle say?" Max asked, changing the subject. "I saw him run off. Does this mean it didn't go well?"

"Nah, I think he's fine. He just needs some more time to deal with it. I don't really think he would say anything for two reasons. One, he doesn't believe it himself; Two, he cares too much about what other people think of him, and if he started spouting off that you guys were aliens, people would think he was crazy. Don't worry, once he has some time to reflect, I'll talk to him again."

"Okay," Isabel sighed, not liking it but making an effort to put her 'faith' in Liz.

"So." This time it was Alex who changed the subject. "You won't believe this, but the school actually called my mom at the hospital yesterday to see if I was okay?"

"You're kidding. Why?"

"You see, that's what happens when you've had perfect attendance since birth."

"Perfect attention since birth?" Isabel eyed him curiously. "God, you can be such a dweeb."

"Oh, you know you love it." Alex smiled and then leaned in for her neck, nipping it.

Isabel squealed in joy. "Okay, okay, you're right. I love it," she replied in surrender.

Alex looked back to Liz. "And here's the kicker. My mom actually told the administration office that I wasn't at home, but if I took a day off of school, there had to be a good reason and that they should just mind their own damn business. Can you believe that?"

"Cheryl Whitman said that? No, I don't believe it."

"It's true. I swear. Scouts honor."

"You were a boy scout too?" Isabel cried. "God, can this get any worse."

Max snickered and Alex tickled her again.

Liz's forehead wrinkled. "But, I thought that she always made you go to school, even when you were sick. Did she interrogate you when you got home?"

Alex shrugged. "That's the even weirder part. She asked me about it when I walked in after coming back from your place last night, and believe me, I was sweating bullets. I didn't know what to tell her. I thought I was going to get majorly reamed. Instead, she told me that she didn't want to know what I was doing, just don't do it again. Now, can you believe that?"

"I'd say that you are one of the luckiest people on the planet," Max stated, slapping him on the back. "I don't know how our mom would have reacted if they had called her," he said to Isabel.

"Well, it didn't happen so let's not think about it okay?" Isabel replied, giving him a laconic smirk.

Michael returned a few minutes later looking frustrated.

"I take it you didn't find her?" Max questioned.

"No!" Michael barked, slumping down on the bench. "I didn't find her."

"We're both on the schedule tonight. I'll talk to her at work," Liz told him.

Michael snorted. "If she doesn't call in sick."

*****

Surprisingly, Maria did in fact show up for her shift, but she took great measures to avoid Liz at all costs and since they were especially busy that night, it was easy for her to do.

The gang came in for dessert close to closing time. They sat in Maria's section that night, but somehow, Maria convinced Agnes to take her table. Michael attempted - and failed - getting her to talk to him several times. She gave him the brush off, muttering nonsense about being too busy to talk. And when it came to closing time, Maria disappeared without a word.

She tried calling her after her shift. Maria wouldn't answer the phone. She asked Max to take her over to Maria's. Amy said she wouldn't come down and that she hoped whatever problem they were having would blow over soon.

Maria didn't have to work the next day and she wasn't showing up to her classes, so no talking then. Liz was beginning to wonder if she and Maria would ever be friends again? She was getting frustrated at Maria and began to doubt that Maria even cared about any of the things that had happened.

It wasn't until Friday that Maria made an appearance at school. Liz perked up the moment she saw her walk into the door, and called her name to get her attention. Maria pretended not to hear her. That's it! Liz thought, finally getting pissed. I am going to force that girl to talk to me as soon as class is over!
She looked around the room, her eyes meeting Isabel's. An accomplice. She walked over, then, and began to make plans.

When the teacher called for everyone's attention, Liz went back to her seat and listened to the monotonous lecture of the teacher, keeping her eyes on the clock.

The forty-minute class seemed more like forty hours, and when the bell signaling the end of class finally did ring, both she and Isabel jumped up and made a beeline for the door. Maria jumped up as well, bolting for the door, but Isabel was too quick for her, and when Maria tried to pass, they wouldn't let her.

"Leave me alone," Maria grumbled, trying to push past them.

"No!" Liz said firmly, pushing her back into the room until everyone else, except the teacher, left. Each taking an arm, they led her to the nearest bathroom, and waited for it to clear before getting down to business.

"What is this?" Maria's defensive voice demanded.

Isabel and Liz ignored her until everyone was gone. Isabel went over and locked the door of the entrance so no one would intrude. The door usually didn't lock but with Isabel around, that was no obstacle for them.

"Let me out of here before I scream!" Maria ordered, pushing Liz away with all her might.

Isabel turned from the door and smirked at her. "Be my guest. Scream all you want, but it wont do any good. No one can come in here anyway."

Maria's shoulder sagged and her voice became pathetic. "Why can't you just leave me alone?"

Liz stepped up. "Because you're being too stubborn for your own good and I'm sick of it. Now, we're going to talk, and if you don't want to talk, that's just fine, but you're sure as hell going to listen. You're not getting out of here until we've made some progress."

"Fine," Maria sighed, slumping in a corner on the bathroom floor. "What do you want to talk about?"

Part 31

"What do I want to talk about?" Liz's voice rose to a screech at Maria's audacity. "What the do you think I brought you in here for? To trade make-up secrets? You've been avoiding me all week and you want to know what I want to talk about?"

Maria rolled her eyes in bored aggravation. "Fine, I know what you want to talk about. So talk."

Liz threw up her hands. "God, you can be so exasperating!"

"I aim to please," Maria muttered dryly.

"Oh, just...shut up!" Liz sputtered and then took a deep calming breath. "Look, Maria, I want to know when you're finally going to give up this charade and work on repairing our friendship? Or are you really so stubborn, so...proud, that you would be willing to waist a friendship of ten years?"

Maria scowled. "What are you talking about?"

"That! That's what I'm talking about! Instead of trying to fix things between us, you're giving me this attitude. Don't you want things to be fixed between us? Because, I totally am willing to forget everything that happened, Maria."

Maria snorted and rolled her eyes. "What, Liz? Is that it? Are things fixed now? Jesus, why do you even care? Don't you have enough people bowing at your precious feet?"

Liz's eyes widened, her mouth gaping.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Isabel asked, speaking for the first time. In the classroom they had decided that she would stay quiet and let Liz do the talking but, she couldn't help herself this time.

"Oh, you know exactly what I'm talking about Isabel," she spat, but kept her steely gaze on Liz. "Everyone is kissing Liz's ass because you're all feeling guilty about the way you treated her, like bowing to her every command is going to really make it up to her. You're all a bunch of phonies, trying to ease you're own guilt. Well if that's what I have to become, then count me out."

"This isn't about making it up to me, Maria," Liz cried. "This is about moving on and working to get things back to normal. We can't do that without you."

Maria's only response was another roll of her eyes.

"What do I have to do? What do you want me to do in order to make things better?"

Maria shrugged. "Do whatever the hell you want. It's a free country."

Liz exploded. "Oh go to hell! I have been trying to fix things with you all week and you've been giving me the brush off. Don't you get how important your friendship is to me? I almost died Maria! I almost died because I was willing to do anything to get things back to normal, but you don't even seem to care!" She shook her head in disgust, angrily wiping away the trails of moisture from her face.

Maria glared at Liz, but the quivering of her chin betrayed her anger. A second later she burst into tears and buried her face in her hands.

Liz turned to Isabel, too furious to even care about Maria's breakdown. "Unlock the door," she commanded. "I want to get out of here."

"Please don't go," Maria moaned.

Liz turned back. "Why should I stay?" She barked harshly. "Give me one good reason why I should hang around and try to make things better when it's obvious that all of my efforts are in vain?"

"No, they're not," Maria whimpered. "You're right. I'm being stubborn and...but it has nothing to do with you Liz, honestly. I love you. I just..." she stopped to sigh, rolling her eyes skyward. "Liz, I don't even know why you want to be my friend after the way I acted. I'm not a good friend. If I was, I wouldn't have been so hasty to make judgments..."

"No," Liz argued, her anger draining from her body, leaving her feeling exhausted. "You did only what was to be expected. You were hurt and angry, and you felt betrayed - I would have, too."

"But I never gave you a chance to explain what happened," she lamented, fighting to swallow back her tears, but failing.

Liz hesitated before joining her in the corner. "And that too was to be expected. It's a normal reaction to that kind of situation. I don't blame you for that." She looked up at Isabel who she saw waving at her through her peripheral vision.

"I'm going to wait outside," the tall girl said softly, giving her an encouraging look.

"Maria," Liz continued, taking Maria's shaky hand in her own. "I don't blame you. We all did a lot of stupid things, things that could have put all of our lives in danger. But now that we're safe, it's time to forget about it and move on. Life is too short to hold grudges because of something as trivial as calling me a few bad names. I miss you." She squeezed Maria's hand, which had remained loose and unmoving in her palm for the last few moment. After a second, Maria returned the pressure.
"I...I miss you, too," she croaked. She wiped her face with the back of her free hand. "I miss you so much."

Liz looked over at her friend and some emotion she couldn't explain washed over her. Maria met her eyes and then suddenly they were in each other's arms, both crying and holding on to each other with all of their might.

"I'm so sorry, Liz," Maria choked, her entire body racked by her sobs. "I'm so sorry for everything. Please, forgive me."

"Shh," Liz whispered. "Like I told Max, there's nothing to forgive."

It was another few moments before she pulled back and rested her head on Maria's shoulder. They sat in silence for what seemed like forever and then Liz giggled, breaking the silence.

"What?" Maria asked, sniffing to clear her nasal choked voice. "What's so funny?"

"Oh, I was just thinking that this was our first real fight and I think we survived it."

"Did we?"

Liz gave her a genuine smile. "Yeah, we did," she said softly.

"Actually, this wasn't our first fight," Maria reminded her. "Don't you remember sixth grade?"

Liz frowned as she tried to remember what happened in sixth grade. Then it hit her. "Oh, my God!" She squealed, kicking her feet on the ground in excited laughter. "Apple Tits!"

Maria giggled to and nodded. "Yeah, Apple Tits."

"I can't believe I forgot about that. Let's see," She began to reminisce. "We were in Mr. Laney's class that year, and you had the biggest crush on Jordan Walker."

Maria's face broke out into a huge smile that wouldn't go away no matter how hard she tried. "Yep, and he had no idea that I was even alive."

"So, you decided that you were going to get him to notice you." Liz shook her head at the memory. "So you took one of your mother's bra's and stuffed it with apples." She and Maria both broke out into whole-hearted laughter, whooping until they were getting pains in their sides.

"Well, I needed to have nipples, didn't I?" Maria gasped, clutching her side. "And I went to school the next day wearing that damn bra with the two inch stems pointing out, making me look like I had mutant nipples, and you were the first to see me."

Liz snickered. "Yep, and I told you that you looked kind of ridiculous, which was an understatement, and you got so mad at me. Told me that our friendship was over. That I was just jealous."

"So, I wore the bra to class anyway, and everyone was looking at me as I pranced around like I was a movie star or something. I just loved all that attention until I realized they were all making fun of me."

"Hmm, yeah. I remember you walked up to Jordan and stuck out your chest, thinking you were hot shit, until he told you that you looked stupid and then reached inside your shirt and pulled out one of the apples. Everybody began to toss it around and Jordan made up the nick-name Apple-Tits."

"Yeah," Maria said, the smile draining from her face. "They were all being so mean and I was so embarrassed. And even though I told you that we weren't friends anymore, you came to the rescue by telling everyone that Jordan stuffed his pants with a hot dog." She laughed softly. "They all started calling him Sausage Dick."

"I think they still call him that," Liz said, snickering, and then she sighed. "You know, we've always talked about how we wish we could be grown ups but it isn't all it was cracked up to be. Our problems have just gotten bigger, but no matter what, we're still friends. We're supposed to be friends and we can't let our problems get between us, no matter what."

Maria nodded and tilted her head to rest on Liz's shoulder. "You're right. We need each other."

They sat in silence again, the only sound being the drip sound of a leaky faucet and their slow breathing.

They both looked up when they heard the door open and Isabel appeared. "Hey, how's things going in here?" she asked.

Liz and Maria both glanced at each other and then smiled at Isabel. "Just fine," Liz said. "Everything is going to be just fine."

"Good, because Maria, there is someone else out here who would like to talk to you."



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posted on 20-Sep-2001 10:06:58 PM
Part 32

"Michael," both Liz and Maria said at the same time. Liz's was more of a statement, whereas Maria's was a question.

Isabel rolled her eyes. "No, it's the pope. Who the hell else do you think it is? So are you going to come talk to him or what? It took everything in my power to stop him from barging in."

Maria bit her lip, her eyes straying to the ground. "I don't know if I'm ready to talk to him."

"Maria," Liz sighed. "Look, you're already half-way there. He's the only one you have to talk to now. Come on, he misses you so much."

Maria glanced at Liz askance. "I miss him too, but I think you're forgetting that Michael and I don't talk. We argue. I'm not up for an argument right now."

"Then don't argue. Talk with him."

Maria turned full to Liz, and Liz nodded encouragingly. Maria sighed and started to stand up. "Okay," she muttered. "But the first moment he starts to yell, I'm out of there."

"Fine, whatever," Liz replied. "Now, just go and don't get caught in the halls. We're supposed to be in class if you haven't forgotten."

"I didn't forget," Maria called over her shoulder. "But keep in mind that I didn't have a choice either. You forced me to come in here against my will."

"So," Isabel said when Maria was gone. "Do you think everything is going to be okay between them?"

Liz looked up into the girl's face, which was etched with a mix of concern and annoyance. She turned her eyes to the door through which Maria had just disappeared. "I guess we'll see, won't we?"

"If not, I'm sure we'll know in the next five minutes, because their screams will be heard throughout the entire school," Isabel muttered, extending her hand to help Liz up.

Liz moved to the mirror to splash some cold water on her face. When she was done, she looked at Isabel's reflection and smirked. "You can't base you're judgment on that. You have to keep in mind that arguing for them is usually their sadistic form of foreplay. So, in the next five minutes they'll either be fighting or ripping each other's clothes off."

Isabel frowned. "Wait, they haven't had sex yet have they?"

Liz stood erect, her posture stiff and rigid. "No, I was his first," she quietly replied.

Isabel grimaced, feeling stupid for bringing it up. She touched Liz's arm and uttered an apology.

Liz turned to her and when she spoke, her eyes were genuine. "Don't be sorry. It happened and we have to deal with it now. It's not like we'll ever forget about it," she snorted. "It's just a fact of life and can't be changed. We'll all have to live with that."

Isabel nodded thoughtfully, then tipped her head to the door. "So...hey, you want to leave school and go get something to eat?"

Liz frowned, then shrugged. "Why not? Besides, what's one more missed class?"

"I see you like to live dangerously," Isabel teased, reaching for the handle. She froze, however, when Liz's voice grew grave.

"No, I'm just living every day as if it were my last."

*****

"Hi," Maria said quietly as she came face to face with Michael. She kept her eyes even with his, despite the temptation to look away. She really wanted to get this over with.

"Hey."

He didn't say anything else and an uncomfortable silence settled between them, making Maria laugh inside at the irony. She and Michael speechless in each other's company? What a joke. The world must have stopped turning.

"So." She broke the silence. "You wanted to talk?"

Michael nodded and pointed down the hall. "Let's go somewhere more private."

Maria followed him as he led her to the eraser room.

Once inside, she took a seat on the table against the far wall and waited.

"So Maria, what's up?" he sighed. "Why have you been avoiding everyone?"

Maria held his eyes. "You know why."

"I guess so. But that doesn't make it right. I'm disappointed in you."

That's not what she expected. "What?"

"Why? Let's see, because your best friend almost died and even when you find out that she didn't betray you in any way, you avoided her as if you didn't care. I always knew that you were stubborn, but avoiding us all like that because of your pride? That's just cruel."
Maria felt her temper spark. "You have no right to be so damn condescending. You're no angel. Oh, and I'm cruel you say?" she asked through gritted teeth. "Can you get any more ironic without making me want to puke?"

His eyes widened in disbelief and then narrowed to tiny, hostile slits. "I beg your pardon?"

"You are forced to sleep with Liz, which you don't have the balls to tell me about, and then treat me like shit when I jump to the wrong conclusion. You didn't even care that we were hurting, that I was hurting. When I saw you two on the screen, I felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest and stomped on. I know you didn't have a choice but keeping it from us and letting us find out that way, and then acting like we were overreacting, was altogether callous."

"Wake up, Maria! I kept it from you because I knew how you'd react. I'm not stupid, I know you well enough to know that you would freak out instead of listening to reason!"

"I would have been hurt, yes, but that still doesn't excuse keeping it from us! The way I see it is that you are nothing but a...a recreant! Any way you look at it, you deceived me!"

"You saw the tape! I didn't deceive you!"

"I'm not talking about the tape! I'm talking about keeping things from me. We had this discussion before. I told you when we first got together that I didn't want you to keep anything from me, that if you wanted to be with me there could be no secrets and that to do so would be the biggest deception of all - and you did it anyway! Why? Couldn't be bothered? You should have told me no matter what the repercussions. But no, you had to rationalize not telling me by saying that you didn't want me to freak out! Not telling me only
proves one thing."

"What's that?" he snapped, his temper boiling.

"That you're nothing but a fucking coward!" she shouted and pushed past him to leave.

"Wait! You don't get to just run out on me," Michael growled, clutching her arm.

"I'll do what I damn well please, so let me alone!" she exclaimed indignantly, attempting to yank her arm out of his grasp. When he didn't let her go, she turned and landed a foot in his shin. Michael released her and yelped in pain. "Stay the hell away from me, Michael Guerin or I will make you regret it!" She warned and then fled from the room with a cry on her lips.

"Maria! Wait!" he called out for her, his voice thick with anger and pain. But she didn't come back. He sighed and hung his head in sorrow. He hadn't meant for things to go this way. How had everything gone so terribly wrong?

Part 33

Maria ran through the halls of West Roswell High blindly. It left her breathless and gasping and she angrily wiped away her tears as she replayed the scene between she and Michael over and over in her head. Why couldn't it have been easier between them? As it had been with Liz? She had gone into this wanting to heal the dispute between them, but instead their discussion had transpired into an argument. As always.

She ran faster as she rounded the corner that led to the hall of the exit wanting more than anything to escape the confines of the school so she could be alone but in her hastiness, she caught up too much momentum. One minute she was running and the next she was flying, having tripped over herself when she tried to slow down. She fell forward, bluntly landing on her wrists. The impact with the ground sent electrifying jolts of pain shooting up her arms. She cried out in agonizing pain and her tears fell faster and harder. Despair washed over her. What next? she wondered. Do I find out I'm dying from some horrendous disease?

"Maria?" a timid voice sounded. She groaned and raised her face.

"What?" she demanded too harshly as her eyes fell on Kyle Valenti.

"Sorry," he said, glancing down at the ground. He looked so sad and confused, so un-Kyle-like. Suddenly she felt guilty for taking her anger out on him.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

Maria raised one of her throbbing wrists to her face and gently wiped one of her tears away so as not to hurt her wrist. "Not really, but I'll be okay," she replied, fighting to subside her sobs. She suddenly remembered the way he had reacted on Tuesday when they told him about the aliens and she softened her tone. "Are you okay?"

Kyle shrugged, slowly approaching her. "Yeah, I'm okay, just..."

"Confused?"

"Yeah." He offered her a hand to help her up but she shook her head.

"I can't. I fell on my wrists and..." she shrugged helplessly.

Kyle nodded and walked behind her, lacing his arms around her chest, and pulling her up as if she weighed nothing at all.

"Thanks."

"No problem." He put his hands in the pockets of his letterman's jacket and began to scuff his foot on the ground, avoiding her eyes. "So, I wanted to tell you that I'm sorry about the way I acted the other day; freaking out and all."

Maria smiled sympathetically, grateful that her tears had stopped. "No really. It's okay. You should have seen me when I found out."

Kyle nodded. "What happened?"

"When I found out?"

"No, I mean, why were you on the ground?"

"Oh," Maria exhaled, rolling her eyes. "Uh...fight...with Michael. I ran away and tripped."

"Do...you want to talk about it?" he offered, looking up into her eyes.

"Not really." She smiled apologetically. "It's just, I don't know. Would you like to talk about...?" She deliberately let her sentence trail off and searched his face for understanding.

"I don't know. I mean, is there anything else to talk about really? You told me everything, didn't you?"

"Well yeah but that's not what I meant. Do you have any questions or anything like that? I've known them for a while now so I could possibly answer those."

Kyle didn't respond right away, he was spending his time debating whether he should take her up on her offer. He wanted to understand. And he really would like to have someone to talk to that would actually listen to what he had to say and not be concerned if he was going to tell someone more than anything else. That settled it. "Fine. Yes, that would be nice."

Maria smiled and then raised her wrist to look at her watch. "Lunch starts in twenty-minutes. We could cut out early and go to the food-court at the strip mall," she suggested.

"Well...sure that sounds good, but I think we should get it to go and come back here to eat it. Since I cut school the other day to help, I can't really miss any more class. I'm the sheriff's son so if I walk the wrong way, everyone runs to tell my dad."

"What are you doing out of class right now if you know you can't skip?"

An amused smile crossed his lips. "I should be asking you the same thing, but really," he sighed. "I was excused from class for a football thing."

Maria's forehead wrinkled in confusion. "But football has been over for like, five months. Since November, hasn't it?"

"Officially, yeah. But as far as Coach Davidson and Coach Sheridan are concerned, the season never ends. Practice for next years team starts in two weeks and since I'm a junior now, I'm eligible to be captain. That's what we were talking about."

"Oh, neat," She offered him a laconic grin before pointing towards the double doors down the hall. "Shall we?"

*****

"How did things go?" Liz asked Michael as they all convened at their usual table during lunch. She and Isabel had decided to order enough food for everyone from Munchies, the best sub shop in town, and then bring it back so they could all eat together. She handed him a sub and a napkin as he sat down and watched him anxiously.

"Thanks," he muttered. Then sighed in frustration. "Things did not go well at all. We got into a huge fight and she told me that she wants me to stay away from her."

"And whose fault was it that you got into a fight?" Isabel asked, her eyes meeting with Liz's as they both remembered Maria's comment about how they always argued and that she would leave if he started yelling.

Michael winced. "That all depends. I was suffering from temporary foot-in-the-mouth disease. Said some things I shouldn't have and she got defensive. Instead of trying to make things better, I made her feel worse."

"Well, I'm sure it was just a temporary thing," Liz reassured him, speaking confidently. "You guys will make up, I'm sure of it."

"Of course you will buddy," Alex said, slapping him on the back. "You two can't resist each other."

Michael attempted to glare at Alex but it didn't come out as fierce as he wanted it to. He was just too exhausted to turn on the full power of his steely gaze.

Alex smirked, taking it all in stride. He didn't expect anything more from Michael.

"Besides, I'm sure she'll eat with us now that she and Liz had made up," Max added, pouring a generous amount of Tabasco on his sub. He looked up at Michael to see if that helped, but Michael wasn't paying attention to him. His eyes were locked somewhere directly over Max's shoulder and Max could see a muscle clenching and un-clenching in his jaw. That meant...

He turned around and nodded to himself. Yep, Maria was behind him taking a seat at a table with Kyle Valenti. He turned back to Michael. "Michael, calm down," he warned. "They're just talking."

"Yeah, whatever," Michael grumbled and stood up. "Thanks for lunch girls," he said to Isabel and Liz. "But suddenly I'm not that hungry." He turned and walked away in the opposite direction towards the student parking lot.

"At least he didn't run over there and make a scene," Isabel provided as everyone watched him go.

"That's because he's respecting her wishes," Liz said knowingly. "She told him to stay away from her - so he is."

"Somehow, I don't think so," Isabel retorted. "That's just not Michael."

"Yes it is," Liz argued, her voice rising in his defense. "He loves her so much that he would do anything for her, even leave her alone if that is what she wishes."

"Michael and love?" Alex smirked. "I just can't imagine those two words in the same sentence together."

"Eight months ago, I would have said it was impossible," Max stated. "But now, it's different. Things have changed. He's changed. He loves her enough to let her go if that's what she needs."

"But it's not what she needs," Liz protested. "Despite all the arguments between them, she needs him. He makes her happy, and that's what she needs."

"I totally agree, but we can't push them together," Isabel said sternly. "They have to come together on their own terms; otherwise their relationship will be doomed."

Max glanced back over his shoulder at Maria and Kyle and then looked back at the group. "Unless..."

"Unless what?" Liz asked, resting her head on his shoulder.

Max cleared his throat. "Unless she's completely given up on Michael for once and all and is moving on," he said dryly.

"You mean Maria and Kyle?" Isabel blurted out loudly, looking appalled.

Max shrugged. "I don't know. I hope not, for both their sakes. They need each other more than they'd like to admit. I'm just saying that it's possible."

Liz nodded, reluctantly agreeing with him.

*****

"Maria?" Liz said as they began to do their daily work in math later that day.

Maria looked up and smiled. "Yeah, babe?"

Liz glanced around the room uneasily and then sighed. "I heard about what happened with Michael."

Maria's smile faded, but she feigned nonchalance. "Oh?"

"Yeah. I'm sorry that you guys got into an argument but I really think that you should give him another chance to talk to you."

Maria shook her head. "Not a chance!" She said loudly, causing several classmates to turn her way. "What did he tell you anyway? That I started it?"

"No," Liz replied quickly. "He said he was to blame and Maria, he feels really bad about the way things went."

"That's nice."

Liz sighed. "That's all you have to say?"

"What do you want me to say Liz? I wanted to make up with him but you know what one of the first things he said to me was?"

"What?"

"That he was disappointed in me. He scolded me. He wanted me to feel terrible and I couldn't handle it. I was already emotionally drained from our discussion."

"So that's it then? It's over?"

"Yes."

"Okay, " Liz sighed, shaking her head softly. She knew not to press Maria any more on the subject. It would only make things worse. "How's Kyle doing?"
"Kyle?"

"Yeah, we saw you two sitting together at lunch. He okay?"

"Yeah, he's okay; just confused. He had some questions and I did my best to help him out. I think he finally believes..." she trailed off, glancing cautiously around the classroom. "I think he believes what we told him, but it's going to take him a while to get used to it. We're going to talk more later tonight."

"Okay. So, there..." she stopped and smiled slightly. "There isn't anything going on with you two. Is
there?"

Maria shrugged, smiling slyly. "Would that be a bad thing?"

Liz's mouth fell open before she could stop it but she quickly recovered. "No, of course not. I just..."

Maria rolled her eyes in amusement. "No Liz, there is nothing going on between us. We're just talking and I'm helping him understand what we told him. It's not like that between us at all."

"I was just wondering."

Maria snorted, not fooled and then glanced back down at her paper. "So, back to this math thing. How do you do number 5?"

*****

"Just five more minutes? Please?"

Liz smiled, rolling her eyes as she leaned in for another kiss. She was saying good-bye before her shift. "Really, Max, I can't stay. I have to go, I'm already late and Maria is going to kill me if I don't get in there soon. Besides, it's a Friday, which means the rush-hour crowd is already there. I have to go."

"But..." Max gave her puppy dog eyes and she tried pulling back and she laughed.

"No buts. Besides, we'll see each other in three hours."

"I know," he grumbled, pulling her back closer. "I just don't want to let you go yet."

Liz grinned and once again gave him a sweet kiss. "I don't either but really, I don't have a choice. Three hours."

"No, come on, I'll make it worth your while?" he offered, his eyes shining mischievously.

"I'm sure you would, but I can't. How about this? If you can wait three hours, I'll make it worth your while?" she offered, smiling suggestively at him.

"Ooh, I'm intrigued," he smiled and then sighed as he released her, slumping back into the driver's seat. "Three hours, then."

She jumped over and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "Three hours," she confirmed.

He grabbed her hand and softly kissed it. "Until then, my love."

Liz smiled, touched by the small gesture and then waved good-bye before running across the street to go to work. Eight o' clock couldn't get there quick enough.



Visit the roswell fan fic lover's message board: http://pub24.ezboard.com/broswellfanficlovers

posted on 20-Sep-2001 10:08:21 PM
Part 34

"Order's up!" Jose, the cook called from the back and Maria shoved her order book in her apron. Her day hadn't gotten much better, but she was getting the hang of shoving it all aside until she could have proper time to herself; which unfortunately wouldn't be any time soon. Or maybe she was fortunate because it hurt too much to think about it all. As it was, she had to work until closing which meant that she wasn't going to get out of there until almost eleven tonight and then after that, she had told Kyle she would meet him for coffee at the 24 hour diner just out of town.

Kyle, she mused, shaking her head as she began to load up her try. She had found a
surprising ally in Kyle, which made her doubt all the preconceived notions she'd had concerning him. She had always written him off as just the typical all American jock boy, who had everything in the world but deep down, he was as tormented and disconcerted, and basically as fucked up as the remainder of the world's teenage population. Not only had he poured out his soul to her earlier that day but he had made her feel comfortable enough that she actually begin to discuss her Michael issues. Raptly attentive, he appeared engrossed in everything she had to say on the subject, his concern seemingly genuine. And on top of that, he didn't feel the need to render judgment or offer advice unless she asked for it. That was a rare and admirable quality to find in a person, and Kyle Valenti is the last person she expected to possess those qualities.

Now that she though of it, she wasn't even sure if Alex or Liz possessed those qualities. But then again, she reminded herself, it was different between them because they were best friends and valued each other’s opinions. Even if they didn't like what one another had to say, they knew that the other person's comment or advice was derived out of concern. On the other hand, Kyle was practically a stranger. Actually, more of a casual acquaintance, she rectified, and talking to him gave her a new perspective; allowed her to step outside of herself and see the situation from another person's eyes. It was, for lack of a better term, refreshing.

Maria flexed her wrists before picking up the tray, wincing at the minor pain that came. Taking a deep breath, forcing herself to withstand the pain, she rushed over to table three, and as quickly as possible, unloaded the tray. Only then did she finally exhale. She didn't know how much more of this she was going to be handle.

A bell tolled from directly behind her and she turned to see Liz entering with a broad grin on her lips. Maria rolled her eyes and shook her head, following her friend to the back.

"Hi," Liz called happily when she saw her.

"You're late," Maria grumbled in response.

Liz cringed. "Yeah, I'm sorry about that. Max and I were...."

"No," Maria said holding her hands up. "Spare me, I don't want to hear it. Just get your booty in your uniform and help me out there because the animals are extremely restless tonight."

"Serves you right," Liz smiled innocently.

"Huh?"

"I said it serves you right. You did, after all, leave me alone last Friday when you called in sick. With Agnes, no less. I did it for seven hours, so I didn't think you'd have any problem swinging it on your own for fifteen minutes."

Maria huffed. "Just hurry up Liz, the customers are waiting for their exotic alien delights."

"Yeah, yeah, I'll be there in a sec."

*****

Liz walked up to the order window where Maria was waiting, and spoke impatiently. "Jose? Where are those Saturn rings?"

"They're coming," the Hispanic cook sounded annoyed.

Liz sighed again and then looked over at Maria, who was holding a towel filled with ice to her left wrist. "What's wrong?" she asked, nodding to the towel.

"Oh, I fell," Maria said, throwing the towel into the sink and then twirling her wrist around cautiously.
"When?"

Maria shrugged. "Earlier today. I'm fine, don't worry about it."

"Saturn rings up!" Jose called, placing them in the window. Liz let it go.

"Finally," she muttered under her breath, grabbing the basket and turning to serve it when the over-powering smell of grease and the ranch dressing hit her nose. Her nostrils flared in distaste and a wave of nausea washed over her. "Oh God," she breathed, taking a deep breath.

"Liz?" Maria's concerned voice called. "Are you okay?"

Finally the queasiness began to fade and Liz raised a shaky hand to her forehead. Beads of sweat pebbled her skin. "Yeah," she breathed, swallowing back the acrid bile in her throat. "I'm fine, just felt a little ill for a second there."

"You're okay now?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." She gave Maria a weak smile and moved to deliver the rings. That was bizarre, she thought. Must be dehydration, she decided and walked over to the drink machine to pour herself a tall glass of water. She gulped it down at once. "Ahh," she exhaled in satisfaction. "Much better. That should take care of that."

Only, it appeared to get worse as the night went on. She was able to deliver her food but it was difficult to keep that bright shiny smile on her face when she was two second's from running to the bathroom every time she held food in her hands.

What was wrong with her?

She grasped for an explanation to her illness but couldn't come up with anything. Unless...

Panic engulfed her and she stopped dead in her tracks. No, it wasn't possible! Was it?

She had stopped so abruptly that Maria ran into her, dropping her tray to the floor, the sound of shattering glass reverberating throughout the room. "Liz? What the hell?" she grumbled as she bent to pick up the mess.

Dazed, Liz slowly turned to where Maria was muttering to herself on the ground and tried to apologize but her throat felt tight and raw and no words would escape her lips.

"Liz!" Maria's impetuous voice cried. "What is up with you tonight?"

Liz shrugged mutely and then shook her head and bolted for the break room. Once there she doubled over and gasped for breath. Get a grip, Liz! she berated herself. You're jumping to conclusions. But, then again, these are different circumstances and you ...

Angrily, Maria shoved the door open and stepped through. "What is your problem?" she requested.

Liz swallowed thickly and closed her eyes. This time she was able to find her voice. "I'm fine. I just..." she didn't know what to say. How could she tell Maria that it was possible she might be pregnant with Michael's child?

Part 35

The answer was simple. She couldn't. Instead, she gave Maria a reassuring smile. "I'm okay, really. I think it's just cramps or something like that. Upset stomach, you know?"

"Oh. Well, go take something and then get back in there because were approaching the 8 o' clock rush and we can't be short."

"Actually, I'm leaving at eight tonight."

"What? Oh no you're not. There is no way in hell you are leaving me alone her tonight to deal with all of these customers."

"No Maria, I'm only scheduled until eight. Kassie should be here in about fifteen minutes," she reassured her. And I'm supposed to be going out with Max, she added silently and more panic engulfed her. Oh, God! What am I going to do? I can't go out with him tonight! If things get too intense, he'll be able to see what I'm thinking, that can't happen. Not yet. Not until I know for sure.

"Hel-lo?" Maria waved her hands over Liz's face impatiently.

"Oh sorry," Liz said, giving Maria a tight smile, extricating the thoughts of what she was going to do about Max from her head. "What did you say?"

"I said that if you're really feeling that bad, then go ahead and take off early. I'll handle the animals until Kassie gets here."

"Thank you," Liz cried in a fevered rush.

"Just go upstairs and take some Midol. I'll see you later." She leaned over and gave Liz a quick kiss on the cheek. Then she was gone.

Liz sat down on the break couch and rested her head between her knees, forcing herself to calm down.

That's when she knew what she had to do.

Despite the possible consequences, she had to tell Max of her suspicions. She couldn't keep this from him and she didn't want to. She had already learned that it only made it worse to withhold information from her friends. She should have told Maria right away, and even though he wouldn't be the father, she wanted to tell Max first. So she sat back into the plush cushions and waited for him to arrive.

*****

"Arg!" Michael groaned as he chucked the stone into the ravine.

He had walked to the ravine immediately after lunch and even though it was a long walk, it gave him time to reflect on the entire situation and come to some much-needed conclusions.

And he had. He knew what he had to do in regards to Maria.

Earlier, when he had left the school, he thought that he could let her go, if that's what she wanted. But the more he thought about it, the less rational the belief came. He needed her, pure and simple. And he wasn't going to let her go. He was ready to do anything for her to get her back.

It was a big risk for him. It had been a hard lesson to learn, but he needed people. Even if it meant getting attached, he needed people in his life. And those three humans: Liz, Alex and Maria, all of them, had somehow found a special place in his heart. He couldn't imagine his life without them. Without her.

Michael sighed and plopped down on the ground, wrapping his legs to his chest. His gaze traveled to the horizon, so far away. It made the darkening sky feel oppressive, as though it were pushing down on him. He could feel the weight of it on his chest. Does she even know how much I love her?

Did you ever really know? a mocking voice in his head returned.

*****

"Hey, beautiful," Max said as he walked into the break-room of the Crashdown, carrying a handful of daisies and looking concerned. "Maria said you weren't feeling too well."

Liz nodded and patted the couch next to her. "Sit down," she told him.

Max joined her. He handed her the daisies. These are for you. Do you like them?"

Liz smiled and raised them to her nose, inhaling the sweet fragrance. "Yes, they're lovely. Thank you."

He shrugged and took her hand. "You look like you want to say something."

"Yes," Liz answered steadily, placing the daisies on the couch next to her. "I have something to tell you."

"Oh?" Max asked thickly, not sure what to think. "Is everything okay?"

"Yes...no...I don't know. But I think you should know, even though I am not even sure yet."

Max shook his head as if to clear it. "Huh? Liz, you're not making sense."

"Yes I am. I think I might be pregnant." Her heart skipped a beat as she said the last word and she kept her eyes fastened on Max, waiting for his reaction.

He didn't speak immediately but he didn't look away either. Liz didn't know if she was to take that as a good sign or not.

"You think? You mean, you're not sure?" he said finally.

"No, I'm not, but...I don't know. There have been some signs, and I may be jumping to conclusions but it's a possibility and I just wanted to let you know why we can't go out tonight instead of giving you some stupid excuse."

"Thank you," Max replied, surprising her. "For being honest with me," he elaborated at her questioning glance.

"You're welcome," she said awkwardly.

"Does anyone else know about this?"

"No." Liz shook her head. "Not yet. I wanted to tell you first."

"Okay, well let's not tell them yet."

"No," she protested quickly. "You know as well as I do that withholding information from people only results in chaos."

"Yes, but if you don't know, let's just wait until you find out. I'll go to the store and get you one of those tests. After you take it, then we can tell everyone. I just don't think that there is any reason to alert them until we know for sure."

Reluctantly, Liz nodded. "I guess. But I just don't want this to backfire. I mean, if I am pregnant with...Michael's child," she swallowed thickly on the word. "Then he should know."

"If you are, we will tell him first thing. I promise."

Liz looked away and cleared her throat. "And if I am, what about us?"

"If you are Liz, we'll take care of it. It changes nothing in regards to you and I. I love you Liz and I'm not letting you go ever again. You're stuck with me," he teased, winking at her as she looked back up.

Liz choked on a sob and threw herself into his arms. "Max," she whimpered as his arms encased her.

"Shh, it's okay," Max whispered, rocking her in his arms for a while longer until her sobs had subsided and then he released her and looked in her eyes. "Come on," he whispered, standing up and pulling her with him.

"Where are we going?" she sniffed.

"Upstairs."

A minute later they were in her bedroom. Max released her hand and disappeared in the bathroom. The sound of running water came next, and she followed him inside to see what he was doing. He was bent over the tub, plugging it with one hand, and pouring some bubble bath in with the other.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm getting a bath ready for you. You are going to take a bath to help you relax, and I am going to go get a pregnancy test. When I come back, you'll be relaxed, and then you can take the test. Come here," he held his hand out for her again as he walked over to the sink and grabbed her brush.

Liz smirked. "What are you doing?"

Max grinned sheepishly and shrugged. "Isabel says it always relaxes her when she brushes her hair. I was going to brush your hair for you. Unless you think that's stupid."

"No, please do," she told him, smiling in pleasure and moving to stand in front of him.

Max nodded and raised the brush to the crown of her head and passed it several times down to her ends. Liz closed her eyes and lost herself fin the endearing action. And it helped, too. She was incredibly touched by the gesture and it made her feel loved to be pampered in such a way.

With expert hands, he continued to run the brush through her hair for some time before he suddenly stopped and Liz heard him sigh in satisfaction. "Don't move," he whispered in her ear. "And don't open your eyes."

Liz nodded, an uncontrollable smile settling on her face. She waited while she heard him turn off the water in the tub. The warmth of his body returned a moment later and he wrapped his arms around her from behind, letting his capable hands rest over her flat tummy. "Open your eyes," he told her.

Liz did and sighed at the site that greeted her in the mirror. It wasn't anything big but still the best thing she'd ever seen. It was them, together. Her body fitting back against his perfectly. She could see the love in his eyes. Unconditional love for her. She leaned back into him more, realizing that no matter what, everything would be all right.

Max snuggled against her head and whispered, "Liz, this is where you belong," he said as if he was reading her thoughts. "In my arms. We belong together and nothing will change that. Through thick and thin, I'll always be here for you."

"Thank you," she said, and turned to face him.

He leaned in and kissed her tenderly on the lips. "Go take your bath. I'll be back ASAP."

Liz pouted, wanting another kiss, but complied. "Hurry back," she told him, staring into his eyes, eyes so dark that she could lose herself in them.

Max reached out for her hand and kissed it gently. "I will," he promised and then smiled teasingly. "Watch your words, Elizabeth Parker, or you'll never get rid of me. Bye." He let her hand go and then closed the door behind him as he left.

"That's what I'm counting on," Liz whispered solemnly as she removed her clothes and sank into the fruity scented water.

Part 36

"What the hell are you doing here?" Maria said accusingly as she walked up to the table Michael had just sat at. She had pleaded with Kassie to take the table, but Kassie was too busy with her own.

Pain flashed in Michael's face briefly, so brief that Maria was almost convinced she'd imagined it, and then he sighed. "Coffee please," was his only answer and she frowned at the dead tone of his voice. She had never heard him sound so defeated.

"Sure thing," she softened her tone in confusion and immediately walked over to pour him a cup of coffee, returning with it a moment later. How could she be mad at him when he was being so quiet and reserved?

"Thank you, Maria," he said looking forward instead of at her. Still that same defeated tone. He brought it to his lips immediately, taking a big drink.

"Watch it, it's really hot," Maria warned a moment too late.

Michael just shrugged and exhaled to cool his mouth. "It's not too bad," he replied and took another drink, finishing it off.

Maria could only watch him as he continued to stare forward. "Do...you want more?" she
asked.

Finally he looked up into her eyes and nodded. "Yes please, if it wouldn't be too much trouble."

"No, no trouble at all," she murmured and returned with the pot of coffee a second later. "So," she asked as she filled his cup. "Did you want anything else?"

"Yeah, but I doubt I'm going to get it," he muttered under his breath.

"What was that?" she asked, leaning in closer even though she had heard what he had said.

"No thanks, just the bill," he took another sip of his coffee and then reached into his pocket.

"No, it's on the house," Maria said quickly and then she grinned tightly. "Well, I better get back to work," she stated.

"Yeah, you better. You're looking busy."

"Yeah, I'll see you later," she breathed and then turned.

Michael only waited a second before he cringed and called after her. "Maria, please wait."

Maria's forehead wrinkled and she slowly turned. This time she heard emotion in his voice. "Yes?"

"Can we talk later after you get out of work?" he asked, looking her straight in the eye. "I really need to talk to you."

"Um...no, sorry but I have plans."

"With Kyle?" he asked, his face stony.

Maria nodded. Michael sighed and stood. "Okay, maybe another time. Bye," he muttered, pushed past to leave.

Maria stared after him, able to tell by the way he stalked out of the place that her meeting Kyle angered him but he was also trying to not let her see it. Why was he trying to pretend that it didn't bother him? Why was keeping his anger in check?

"Maria? Can you give me a help here?" Kassie called and Maria glanced back at her.

"Coming," she called back, looking back at Michael's retreating figure with conflicting emotions.

*****

Max was in distress. He had been staring at row after row of pregnancy tests for the last half hour. There were so many to choose from and they were all different. He wanted the best one but they all looked so complicated; lines, plus signs, pinks, blues, dots. Why couldn't they all be the same?

"Hey Max, what are you doing here?" he heard a jovial voice call out and his body froze as he turned to see Alex and Isabel, who were holding hands and looking extremely happy coming towards him.

Isabel glanced at the row of tests behind him. The smile faded slowly from her face. "Pregnancy tests? W-why are you looking at those?"

Max glanced at the tests. "Yeah."

"Liz?" Alex asked.

Max nodded. "It's only a possibility, but..." he trailed off.

"Who all knows about this?" Isabel asked. Max heard what she was really asking, though: Did Michael know he might be a father?

"Only Liz and I, and now you. We're waiting until we know for sure."

His sister’s lips tightened in disapproval, but she didn't chastise him for keeping it from Michael. "What test are you going to get?" she asked instead.

He sighed, tossed up his hands. "I don't know. I have no clue what the difference is between them."

"Go with the fact plus," Alex advised, and then "What?" when they looked at him in surprise.

"How do you know what test to go with?" Isabel asked in mock suspicion.

"That's what they use at the hospital before they administer blood tests," he said, glaring at her playfully.

"Okay," Max said. He picked the box up from the shelf and read the back. Then he grabbed a second. "It says at least 14 days should have passed. This one's just in case. I should go."

"Would you like us to come with you?" Isabel offered, watching him carefully.

"No. Thanks, though. And I'll let you know the results tomorrow, I promise."

"Okay," Isabel replied. "Make sure to send her our love," she added. "And we'll be there for her either way."

"I will," Max said, smiling faintly. "That'll mean a lot to her."

Max paid for the test and drove back to the Crashdown. When he arrived, he grabbed the bag with the tests in them and jogged towards the entrance of the restaurant.

Once in, he walked straight for the break room. So consumed by his own concerns, he wasn't watching where he was going and he slammed into someone. He stumbled back, both of his arms shooting out to prevent him from falling and then looked up sharply with wide eyes. "Oh I'm sorry, Maria," he said quickly, and then looked down to see that he had dropped the bag.

"It's okay," Maria said, sounding distracted. "Is Liz feeling any better?"

"Uh, yeah, I think so," Max said as he bent down to retrieve the bag, pushing the corner of one of the tests back inside before she could see it. "She's waiting for me," he told her, excusing himself.

"Bye." Maria shrugged, thinking that everyone was acting entirely too weird tonight. She began to walk again when she caught sight of something under her feet. She tiredly kneeled to retrieve it, calling over her shoulder. "Max, wait! You forgot your..." - she froze, mind and body benumbed - "...pregnancy test?"

Part 37

Maria looked to Max for answers, but he had disappeared through the back. What was he doing with a pregnancy test? No, she was sure she knew the answer to that, but she couldn't face the reality of the situation. Because if Liz was pregnant, it meant....

The shock of discovery hit her full force. A flash of wild grief ripped through her. No, no, no, no, no! I will not complete that thought.

No wonder Michael had been so nice to her! How could she have been so gullible as to think he was being polite because he wanted to repair their relationship? That's why he was so upset. He'd just been trying to break it to her gently that when he and Liz had been together, they'd conceived a child! God, to think she'd spent the better part of the last hour feeling sorry for him, thinking that perhaps she'd been too hasty in telling him to leave her alone! His coming had nothing to do with them!

She marched to the phone and inhaled a deep, calming breath before dialing. "Hey Kyle, it's Maria," she belted into the phone after he'd picked up.

"Maria, hey what's up? I was just getting ready to go meet you. We are still on for tonight, aren't we?"

"Well...I'm going to have to reschedule actually," she stated, trying to sound apologetic and keep the harshness out of her voice. He didn't deserve any of her anger; she was reserving that for Michael. "Something important has come up and I need to take care of it immediately."

A pause. "Is everything okay?"

"Yes...no...not really, but look, the point is, I can't make it tonight. Can we meet tomorrow night?"

"Sure," Kyle said quickly. "I hope everything is okay."

"Yeah, me too. I'll talk to you later," she finished, clicking the phone long enough to get a fresh dial tone. Than she rang Alex's house.

"Hello?" a familiar voice chimed.

"Isabel?"

"Who is this?"

"It's Maria, I need to talk to Alex."

"Is everything okay?"

"NO!" Maria snapped impatiently. She winced. "Sorry. Can I please just talk to Alex?"

"Yeah. One second."

Alex was on the phone in less than five seconds. "Maria?"

"Alex, look, no time to make with the pleasantries. Is Michael still staying with you?"

"Yes, how did you know he was staying here?"

"Never mind that. Is he there right now?"

She detected an underlying hurt in his voice when he answered. "I think he's upstairs. Let me go check."

The phone clanged loudly as Alex put it down and she waited for what seemed like an eternity. Then Michael was answering her question himself. Damn! She hadn't wanted to talk to him yet, just to know if he was there.

"Maria?" he questioned, sounding happy, albeit suspicious, that she would be calling.

"Yeah, it's me," she spat out the words contemptuously. "Look, plans have changed. I'm not meeting Kyle anymore. I want you to get your ass down here right now! We need to talk!"

"Whoa, why are you yelling at me? What did I do now?"

"Like you don't know," she retorted tartly. "Just get down here before I come after you, and
believe me, buddy, you don't want that to happen." With that, she slammed down the phone and glanced up at the clock.

15 minutes until closing. Good, she thought as she began to rush around and start her closing duties. She wouldn't have to worry about keeping her voice down.

*****

"Now, we just have to wait five minutes," Liz told Max as she emerged from the bathroom. Fear, stark and vivid, glittered in her eyes.

Despite the small panic attack she'd had downstairs, she had spent every free minute thinking about everyone but herself, wondering if it would cause more problems for her group. But now that she had just taken the test, she could only think of herself, and how much she really didn't want to know just yet, because once she had the results, it would make it too real. She didn't know if she was ready to deal with that yet.

"Come here," Max said encouragingly, holding his hand out to her.

Liz attempted a smile as she joined him by the window. He wrapped his arms around her from behind and they both stared out in silence. Some of the tension drained from her body as his strong arms held her. Max was being so great about the entire situation. Just knowing that he was there for her, that he would be there for her despite the results, was enough to calm her nerves.

"Liz? What's wrong?" Max's alarmed voice asked sometime later and it was then she realized she was crying. She raised a hand to her face to wipe the tears away and then turned around, bursting into an even greater wave of tears. "Liz, please? Talk to me."

Liz hiccupped and sobbed for a few more seconds, before finally raising her eyes to his. "Max, it's just... thank you," she finished emotionally, not sure exactly how to express her appreciation. There was so many things she was thanking him for but she wasn't sure how to put it into words.

"For what?"

Well, she was going to have to try. "Thank you for being so supportive and for not leaving me alone. I don't think I would be able to handle all of this without you at my side. It means so much that you are here right now and...."

"Shhh," he whispered, placing a finger on her lips and shaking his head. "Liz, I know what you're saying. Don't worry, I know how you feel. Like I said earlier, I will always be here for you. And, it has nothing to do with goodness, Liz. I am here because I couldn't bear the thought of you going through this alone. I love you and will never leave you for any reason. I..."

Max's voice trailed off as a distinct ringing could be heard throughout the room, coming from the direction of the bathroom. Panic like she'd never known before welled in her throat. "I can't look!" she protested shrilly. She attempted to pull out of his arms, wanting to bolt for the door, but he wouldn't let her go.

"No you don't," Max said gently, holding her steady in his arms. She tried to protest but his voice demanded attention. "Liz, you don't have to look, I'll do it."

Liz hesitated, torn by conflicting emotions. This was her problem. It wasn't fair to lay such a difficult task on Max's shoulders. What was she thinking, that running away would help matters? Either way, her future was already predetermined; nothing could change that now. "No, I have to do this," she stated firmly. She looked up into his eyes, pleadingly. "But...can we do it together? It's just, I might need you."

"Together," he murmured. "I wouldn't have it any other way." His strong hands gently smoothed away her tears and then, leaning in closer to her, he placed a soft kiss on her trembling lips. He didn't let the kiss last too long but his lips fluttered against hers as he whispered, "Remember, no matter what happens, nothing changes in regards to you and me."

Liz swallowed, choking on her fear. He stepped back and lowered his arms, causing her to shudder at the loss of his warmth. He laced the fingers of one hand with hers and tipped his head in the direction of the bathroom. Then, inhaling simultaneously, they took their first look at the future.




Visit the roswell fan fic lover's message board: http://pub24.ezboard.com/broswellfanficlovers

posted on 20-Sep-2001 10:11:49 PM
Part 38

Warning: NC17

Fifteen minutes came and passed with no sign of Michael. "That bastard better not think he's getting out of this," she growled, vigorously scrubbing the surface off one of the tables.

"What was that, Maria?" Kassie called.

"Nothing," she called over her shoulder with false cheerfulness. "Just talking to myself."

"Oh, well that's fine as long as you don't start answering yourself," Kassie teased and Maria looked over at her shoulder, laughed, and turned back to the table with a haughty roll of her eyes.

"Ha-ha, you're so fucking funny," she grumbled. Placing her flat palms against the table, she pushed up, propelling herself from the flat surface. She was turning to the next table when a knock sounded from the door.

A twisted smile formed on her face before she even looked. "Here we go," she muttered and walked over to the door. Haphazardly, she turned the lock and threw the door open, looking up into Michael's face. Oh no, you're not playing innocent with me, you bastard, Maria thought at seeing his baffled statement.

His hands were shoved deep in the pockets of his jeans. He kept shifting his weight from one foot to another, looking like a guilty child. "Maria? What's this all about?"

Maria rolled her eyes and cocked her head to the side. "You going to come in or, stand there looking like a fucking idiot all night?"

Sudden anger lit his mahogany eyes. "Why are you so mad?"

"Get in here!"

"Happy? I'm in. So are you going to tell me why you demanded that I come here, or are you just going to continue yelling at me without telling me why?"

"Both in fact," she said, sneering. "But not here."

Maria turned to Kassie who was noticeably watching them with interest. God, she was nosy! "Kassie? Can you finish up in here while we go talk?"

"Sure. "We're almost finished in here anyway."

"Thanks," Maria said, then turned icy eyes on Michael. "You, come with me!"

"I don't take orders, Maria." He looked at her with a sudden arrogant smirk that sent her temper soaring. "You're just going to have to ask me nicely."

"Oh," she replied, clutching her chest is mock horror. "I'm sorry, what was I thinking? How about this? If you don't get in that back room now, I'll drag you by your fucking spikes!" she blinked several times, a sugary smile on her lips. "Please?"

His face was a glowering mask of rage, but she refused to whither under his murderous glare. Looking him up and down in distaste, she turned, having no doubt in her mind that he would follow.

*****

"Wait!" Liz squeaked as they reached the door. "I...I need a second."

"Okay," Max replied in understanding. He needed one himself.

They stood in the doorway for another moment, both avoiding the flat square of a pregnancy test that was lying only two feet away on the sink. Liz squeezed his hand. "All right, I'm ready."

Max nodded and their eyes locked as they both slowly pushed one foot out, taking a step inside. That one step was enough. They were there. Now, all they needed to do was look down.

A nervous giggle passed Liz's lips. "You look."

Max grinned tightly and swallowed. "No, you."

"Wait, we're supposed to do this together," she reminded him, trying to sweep the smile off her face. "Okay, how about on three."

"Sounds good."

"Okay; one...two...three. Hey! You didn't look!"

"Neither did you."

"Well, I was hoping I wouldn't have to," she admitted. "Okay, let's try this again. Do you promise you will look?"

"Only if you promise you will."

"I promise," she said seriously, fighting the nausea that was now curling her stomach. "Oh God, my heart is beating so fast," she said suddenly. "No, I'm okay," she assured him. "Okay again; one...two...three." And this time, they stayed true to their promise.

*****

Once in the back room, Maria crossed her arms over her chest and whirled on Michael. "Well? Don't you have something you should tell me?"

"What?"

Maria's teeth clenched. "You were here earlier and you said you wanted to talk to me," she prodded. "What did you want to talk about?"

"Oh, that," he shrugged. "I wanted to talk about you and me."

"Argh! Give it up Michael! Don't lie to me! That's not what you wanted to talk about and you know it! Tell me!"

"Tell you what?" he cried, throwing up his hands.

"TELL ME!" she shrieked, getting up in his face.

"I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT!"

"Liar!" Maria swore and slapped him hard across the face, the crisp sound of skin crashing into skin reverberating throughout the room.

Michael's head barely budged an inch, but his eyes flashed dangerously and his face reflected cold fury. Immediately, he clutched her wrists and jerked her body closer to his. "What the hell is wrong with you???"

"Let me go!" Maria screeched, thrashing in his grasp and kicking her legs out.

Michael barely registered the kicks to his shins, only taking notice when one of her knees flew up to his groin area. He was barely able to block it, and when he did, he shook her firmly. "Shit, Maria! I am not letting you go. Not until you tell me what the hell has got you acting like a raving lunatic?"

Maria stopped struggles. "If you don't release me right now, I will kill you!"

Michael smirked and tugged on her again. "I'd like to see you try."

Maria screamed in frustration and began to struggle. Michael chuckled low in his throat and then released her. The sudden move caught her by such surprise that she stumbled backwards and fell flat on her ass.

"I hate you!" Maria raged, crawling to her feet and rubbing her tush.

Michael frowned and shook his head softly. "That's really too bad," he commented softly, his tone mournful.

Maria scowled, affected by his tone but not about to let her anger go just yet. Keeping the defensiveness in her voice, she snapped, "What's that supposed to mean?"

He paused and spoke so softly that she had to strain to hear him. "I guess you'll never know."

*****

"Oh, my god!" Liz cried and then erupted into a fresh wave of tears, throwing herself into Max's arms.

*****

Maria felt her inner fire cooling and she had to mentally shrug herself. Oh no you don't,
she warned. You are not letting him do this again. This has nothing to do with you and
Michael. He's still trying to soften you before he breaks drops the bomb. Don't let your defenses down
now!

"You know," she said to Michael. "You're a real piece of work! Do you really think that I don't see right through you?"

Michael's eyes widened for a split second. He buried his head in his palms. "I give up."

Maria watched him through narrowed eyes, sticking to her resolve.

When he looked up he shrugged. "Fine, I'm transparent or whatever, but I'm exhausted and really sick of being yelled at tonight, so you have twenty seconds to tell me what you're so mad about, then I'm going home."

Maria couldn't believe his nerve! Why was he being so calm and pretending that nothing was wrong? Why was he so dead set on keeping this from her?

"Fine, you're twenty seconds is up." He touched his forehead slightly in mock salute. "I'm gone."

"That's just great!" Maria seethed. She fumbled in her apron with adrenaline filled hands for the pregnancy test and chucked it at him. It bounced off his back and landed on the floor with a hollow thud.

Michael swung around, his eyes burning. "What is it with you?" he cried, his eyes falling on the red and white box on the floor. He kneeled. "What is this?"

"Can't you read?" she barked, wanting to spit in his face.

Michael groaned and then looked at the box. "A pregnancy test?" His eyes flashed again and he looked up at her quickly. "You're pregnant?" He cried, stalking up to her. "Whose is it! Tell me!"

"I'm not pregnant, you imbecile. Will you quit pretending? Slash the knife through my guts harder, why don't you?"

Michael jerked away from her and let out a righteous cry of frustration. "You are the most infuriating girl! Will you just be straight with me? For once. I have no clue what you're talking about and like I said, I'm getting real tired of all this bull shit!"

"Oh give it up! I'm not as stupid as you think! I know! I know that Liz is upstairs taking a pregnancy test right now because she thinks she is pregnant with your child!"

Michael blinked and shook his head, as if he hadn't heard her correctly. "Come again?"

*****

Liz sobbed into Max's chest for a few more moments before she let out a rush of air and looked up into his eyes. "I've never been so relieved in my entire life!" she gasped. "Not even when I saw you, Maria and Isabel come to our rescue the first time we were in the compound. Oh my God, can I breathe now?"

Max cupped her cheek. "I think you are breathing but go right ahead," he teased and then pulled her tighter into his arms. "Thank you, Lord," he whispered, nodding skyward. "I have to admit now Liz, I was really terrified there for a moment."

"Me, too. But you, you were so calm. You didn't seem that terrified."

"Yeah," he rocked her in his arms. "I was, but you have to remember, I'm good at keeping my emotions hidden. After all, I've been in love with you for ten years, and I never showed it. You never even knew until the day after you were shot. God, when you were shot, I didn't think, I reacted. I didn't think it was possible for there to be anything between us but I knew that the world couldn't lose a precious jewel like you."

"Yeah, I know what it's like. That saying is really true."

Max pulled back and looked into her eyes. "What saying is that?"

"Desperate times call for desperate measures."

Max nodded and snuggled into her neck.

They both fell silence as they held on to each other, each reflecting over the events of the last eight months. Liz snorted.

"What's so funny?" Max's lips fluttered against the side of his neck. He wasn't ready to release her yet, wasn't ready to remove himself from her lovely scent of peach bubble bath and the cascade of dark hair he had his head buried in.

"Hmm? Oh, nothing. I was just thinking, if I'm not pregnant, then why have I been sick all night?"

"Are you still feeling ill?" Max asked, reluctantly pulling back in concern.

"Well, a little but I think it's just my nerves unwinding."

"Well, maybe it was something you ate?" he suggested.

"Maybe that chicken salad sandwich that I had for lunch didn't agree with me too much," she agreed, shrugging. "But wait, if that's so, I could have salmonella poisoning or if it was the mayo, I could get..."

"Shhh," Max said, laughing softly. "Just relax. You don't need to be worrying yourself over another thing already. If you're still sick in the morning, we'll take you to the doctor. That is, if you're not feeling too sick right now?"

"No, I think I'm fine," she said. Then she cocked her head to the side? "Back to what you just said, if I am sick in the morning, how would you even know? Unless I'm having an unexpected over-night guest I wasn't aware of," she added, grinning mischievously.

Max blushed. "I...that...that's not what I meant." He groaned.

Liz giggled and stepped up on her tip-toes, pulling him closer, "I was just teasing."

"Oh, you're so smug, Liz Parker. Well, let's go back to something I just said. About this whole, hiding my feelings for you. How do I know that you really love me, or if you're with me out of gratitude for saving your life? Hmm?"

Liz's smile faded and she pulled back. "Is that really what you think?" she said slowly, her voice tinged with hurt.

He shook his head quickly, realizing his mistake. "Liz. That's not what I meant. I'm sorry. I know how you really feel. Please don't be hurt."

Liz hesitated. "No, I'm the one who is sorry. I know you didn't mean anything by that, it's just...come on into my room. I want to tell you something."

Together they went back to her room and sat beside one another on her bed.

"What is it?"

"I just, I wanted to let you know that the reason I freaked out by that wasn't because I was hurt, but feeling kind of...guilty."

Max's eyes widened. "You mean, it is only gratitude?"

"NO!" she said quickly. "Look, I didn't think of this until now but I thought that I should let you know that after you came over the other night, before we made up, I started to develop feelings for Michael." The statement hung in the air between them. She searched his face for some indication of his feelings about that, but could find nothing.

When he opened his mouth to speak, she stopped him, continuing in a rush. "Wait, I want you to know that he made me see that my feelings for him were only out of gratitude. That they weren't real, like they are with you. He's the one who made me realize I couldn't hold anything against you because you only did what you did out of your own hurt and pain. I do have to admit, I have feelings for him still, but they are the feelings of a sister. He's like a brother to me and nothing more."

"Are you done?" Max asked, his expression revealing nothing.

"Yes," Liz said meekly.

"Now, if you had let me finish," he said, his lips turning up a little on the sides. "You would
have heard me say that I understand. That's what I feared most after I realized my mistake." His expression turned grim. "That I had driven you into the arms of Michael because of my absurd blindness. He did so much for you, protecting you and taking care of you, and I see why you would develop feelings for him. I've seen how comfortable you are with each other, and I think it's a good thing. For both of you. I do have to admit, though, that I'm glad he made you see reason. It would have killed me to really lose you to him."

"You didn't lose me, Max. I'm right here, as long as you want me to be at least. I love you and that's why I told you; so there would be no secrets between us. Not that I intended it to be a secret, but you know. I hope this doesn't change anything."

"Yes it does," he said. "I don't want you to ever talk to Michael again."

"What?" Liz blurted. It was the last thing she expected him to say.

Max looked her in the eye, his expression serious and then he cracked a smile. "Kidding," he grinned, extremely amused. "No, really, it doesn't change anything. If anything, it only makes me love you more that you would tell me all this even though you didn't have to. I sort of expected it after the way you were looking at him last night, but thought I must have just been paranoid when you appeared at my window this morning. I just had to get you back."

"Get me back?" Liz asked appalled. "For what?"

"For insinuating that I was making plans for tonight without consulting you."

Liz glared playfully and then grabbed her pillow, smashing it into his face. "You're such a jerk!" she cried.

Max chuckled as she kept pounding him with the pillow. When she wouldn't relent, he reached out for her sides and began to tickle her. She squirmed to get away, dropping the pillow in the process. Finally, he pinned her to the bed and smiled triumphantly. "I may be a jerk but you love me anyway. Don't you? Admit it!"

"I claim no such thing," Liz giggled, holding her head high; well, as high as she could considering she was laying flat down.

"Admit it!" he demanded, removing one hand from her wrist and squirming his fingers around, going for her rib cage.

"Okay! Okay! I admit it," she said, thrashing to escape the wrath of his hands. "Now, let me go."

"Not until you say it," he said, stubbornly.

Liz sighed and then gazed up into his eyes, the smile fading from her lips as she stared into his rich, soulful eyes. In a serious voice, she said, "I love you, Max Evans."

Max continued to grin in triumph, not noticing the longing look in Liz's eyes until she threw her arms around his neck and pulled him completely down on top of her. She pressed his lips to her own. The kiss didn't last nearly long enough before they both pulled back and gazed into each others eyes.

"What was that for?" Max asked in surprise, now noticing the change in Liz's mood.

"I love you, Max," she repeated. "And," she sucked in a breath. "I want to love you completely.

"What do you mean by that?"

"You know what I mean," she whispered. "I want you to make love to me."

Max was momentarily speechless in surprise. Her voice sounded as beautiful as he had always imagined it to sound when she said those words in his dreams. It was like a dream come true and it took his breath away. Liz Parker wanted to make love to him! It was all he had ever dreamed of but now that the chance was here, he didn't know what to do.

When he found his voice again, he said, "Liz, I don't know if that is such a good idea. It's just that with all that you went through tonight, I'm not sure that you've thought this through completely."

"But I have," she smiled, not swayed by his objection. "It's the only thing in my entire screwed up life that I am sure of right now. I want to make love to you, Max, pure and simple. I have protection," she added.

"You make it sound like such a simple thing, but really, it's more complicated that you think. Sex is a big deal, Liz."

Liz tilted her head in annoyance. "Don't you think I know that?"

Max winced at the reminder. "Yeah, I guess you do. But still, I'm not sure if we should, especially with you not feeling very well."

Liz's face reflected hurt and she looked away, swallowing thickly. "Don't you want me?" she choked.

"Of course I do!" he said quickly, appalled by the notion that she would actually believe that he didn't want her. "Liz, I want you more than you could ever know, but I want to make sure that everything is perfect and after the day you've had, I don't know if it's such a good idea. But please, never, for a minute, think that I don't want you."

"But I know that it's a good idea, Max. I want to make love to you. Here and now. I can't think of a more perfect time. Despite all the terrors of today, I can't think of a time I've wanted you more. And it isn't just about hormones, Max. We've shared so much tonight already and now, I want to share everything. Please, allow me to share myself with you completely."

"Do you really think it's what you want?" he questioned, his last bit of restraint wearing thin.

"Yes," she nodded. Her hands dropped from his neck and down his broad shoulders until they came to the buttons of his shirt. Keeping her eyes on his, she unbuttoned the top few buttons on his shirt and leaned forward to place her soft open mouth on his chest. As their eye contact broke, Max's eyes closed as his skin began to tingle under the soft pressure of her delicate lips. When she pulled back, he opened his eyes and gazed down into her pleading eyes.

She seemed so sure about this and even though he still had his doubts, he couldn't resist her. "Okay," he whispered softly, and dropped his mouth to hers.

*****

"Don't deny it! Just stop lying to me. Please, can't you do just that one little thing?" Maria cried.

Michael's darted between Maria and the stairs. "Wait! Liz thinks she's pregnant? How do you know? You talked to her?"

Maria paused and glanced down. "No, I didn't. I ran into Max and he dropped that test. You all think you're so sneaky but I'm not stupid. I know that if she has a test, she thinks she's pregnant, and it have to would be yours. Why do you all find it necessary to keep this from me? Do you think I can't handle it?"

Michael frowned at her, utterly baffled. Was she saying that she thought he came to her earlier this evening because Liz might be pregnant? "Hate to tell you, but you're not the only one being held out on. I had no idea."

"Yeah right," she snorted and then sighed, slumping down onto the couch and hanging her head in defeat. "Fine, whatever you say."

Michael groaned. Why was she such a hothead? "Maria, I'm serious. She never told me! I...I should go check on her," he said suddenly.

"Yeah, I guess you better," Maria agreed, the fight gone from her voice. Michael glanced at her as he made his way up the stairs, and as soon as she disappeared from his view, he heard her burst into tears. Michael halted, shocked, and listened as she began to mutter to herself.

"You would never do that for me," she sobbed in misery. There was so much pain and bitterness in her voice His chest felt like it was caving in. He continued to listen, catching little scraps of what she was saying. He couldn't catch much, but what he did caused the true base of her problem to dawn on him. "If Liz broke a fingernail, you'd go running to her, but if it was me, you'd say I was being a baby. You wouldn't care if it was me."

"Is that what you think?" he asked, utterly shocked and appalled that she actually believed
that. He didn't want her to know that he had been listening, - it would only anger her more - but her misery was his and he couldn't passively watch while she was hurting. He stepped down the stairs and looked her in the face.

"You were listening?" she accused angrily.

Michael ignored the question. "Is that what you really think?" he repeated, kneeling down in front of her so that their eyes were level. "That I don't care for you?"

"Please just leave me alone," Maria moaned, refusing to meet his eyes. "Go check on Liz. She might need support if..." She stopped as if saying the words was too hard on her.

"No." Michael spoke gently, but firmly. "I'm sure that Max is taking good care of her. You and I, on the other hand, have some things to discuss."

"You and I don't discuss things, we fight," she pointed out. "Or did you forget?"

Michael reached up with unsure hands to pull Maria's palms back from her face. She gave him an annoyed glower and he shook his head lightly. "Not this time," he promised. "We have a lot of stuff to figure out between the two of us and we're not leaving until everything is settled." He finished with an authoritative tone that made Maria see no other choice but to listen. "So?"

"So what?"

"Why do you think I don't care about you?"

"It doesn't take a genius to figure out that I mean nothing to you," she whispered, looking away. That statement made his heart skip a beat. It wasn't so much what she said, but how she said it; like she honestly believed it.

"I've spent the last six months doing everything I could to get closer to you, to be there for you but, as always, your walls were too high for me to scale. You didn't want to let me in. Even after we officially got together, you were still so reserved, so...secret. I didn't know what I would have to do for you to see that you could let me in. And then," she choked with resentment, fighting the tears that were crawling up her throat, "you and Liz were kidnapped and I see you two together now and it makes me want to scream."


"You are completely at ease with her, you've let her in so much farther than you ever let me. I never knew you could be so gentle and protective, but now I see that deep down inside, you are that kind of person. But not with me; with Liz. You have no idea how much that stings. I'll be goddamned if I waste the rest of my life doing everything I can to prove myself to you only to realize my efforts are in vain."

"So that's what all this is about?" Michael sputtered. "You're jealous of my friendship with Liz?"

Maria scowled, feeling her temper start to boil. "Oh don't you dare! Don't make me sound stupid because I'm expressing how I feel."

"That's not what I'm trying to do, Maria," he said quickly, grabbing on to her hands and squeezing them to prevent the frenzy she was whipping herself into. "I'm only trying to clarify what the problem is. Understand?"

Maria huffed stubbornly. "I guess," she muttered, trying to pull her hands back.

"Just calm down," he said evenly, trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice. "I said no fights. Now, so you think I don't let you in enough and maybe you're right, I have been guarded in the past, but after all that has happened recently, I see that withdrawing from everyone is no way to go through life. I can't spend the rest of my life waiting for something that will never happen. I know now that I need people, that I need you, Maria."

"Yeah, but Liz is the one who...."

"This has nothing to do with Liz!" he cried, shaking her lightly and she could tell that he meant it. "This has to do with you and me. Why can't you understand that?"

"Because you've never done anything to prove that you needed me. Even when things were going good
with us, I always had this fear, deep down in here," she clutched her trembling hands over her heart "that one day you would just decide that you didn't want me anymore and would be able to dump me with no problem at all. You don't know how horrible it is to feel that expendable. You've always kept your distance, not even allowing the people closest to you get within arms reach in fear that you might allow yourself to feel something for them or get attached! Well, I can't keep trying, when I know that in the end, the only result is going to be my inevitable heartbreak."

Michael nodded, knowing that what she was saying was true; or had been in the past. He had never really let her get too close. He hadn't even wanted to start anything with her in the first place because he knew that he couldn't be the kind of boyfriend that she deserved. But now, he was ready to step up to that challenge Hell, he'd be damned if he'd let her be with anyone else just as he discovered how much he loved and needed her. But how could he convince her of that?

"Maria," he shook his head helplessly. "I'm...sorry, but...."

"No, I'm sorry, I can't do this anymore. I have to tell you the truth," she cut him off. "I'm sorry that I didn't believe you and Liz about what happened in the compound and I'm sorry that I avoided you all after the truth came out, but I didn't do it because of my pride like you all thought."

Michael blinked and released her. Where was she saying?

"This is all going to sound horrible, but I suspected the truth from the beginning. I didn't really believe that you and Liz betrayed us. I only pretended I did because I had come to the conclusion that if I allowed myself to be mad for you because of all of this, it would make it easier to pull away from you before you ultimately broke my heart."

The air rushed from Michael's lungs as she continued, and something in regards to his feelings for her died forever.

"I know it was selfish and very wrong of me to condemn the both of you when deep down I believed that you were innocent, but I thought it was the only way to try and get you out of my life. I'm a horrible person Michael, I know. I think that Max was ready to listen in the first place, but I was so weak, I didn't think I could do this by myself. I did what I could to fuel his anger. I only realized how wrong I was when I found out that you went to the compound to get proof. That's why I really couldn't face Liz when I found out she was okay. I almost got her killed because of my stupid strategy to get you out of my life."

"You're saying that...all of this..." he was too furious to continue right away. He stood and began pacing. "You're saying that you made this all happen?"

Maria looked down in shame and nodded, wiping the tears away from her cheeks. "Yes," she choked out.

"Your best friend almost died because you were such a fucking coward that you couldn't talk to me about this like a normal person?"

"Yes," she replied, still not looking him in the face.

"I can't believe this!" he roared, turning his back on her and landing a fist in the wall behind him. "I have been beating my brains out to figure out what I had to do to get you to talk to me but you didn't even want things to get better between us!"

Maria stood up and walked over to him. "Michael, I'm so sorry," she whined. "I know it was wrong, but I need you to understand that I didn't intend for it to all go like this. It was never my intention to get anyone hurt or to destroy our group. I didn't think it would go this far."

"Yeah, well it did!"

"Yeah, but everyone is okay. In the end, we are all fine. Please, forgive me, Michael. I was wrong and I don't to lose you."

"Yeah, everyone is okay now, no thanks to you!"

"No thanks to me? I made Max come and help rescue you guys when you were in the compound. You would all probably be dead if it weren't for us!"

"And we would have died because of you in the first place!"

"I came because I was trying to rectify my mistakes! I knew I was wrong but you were the ones who decided to go back to the compound in the first place. I didn't know you were going to do that, and if you had gotten killed, it would have been your own fault! You didn't even try talking to us again after that day, you just jumped into action without thinking, as always!"

"Don't even try to push this all on me!"

"I'M NOT! I'm a big enough person that I can own up to my mistakes, but when it comes down to it, we're both at fault here. You are just too goddamn cold to even realize your mistakes. I was wrong, yes but so were you!"

"I can't believe this horseshit! You're going to blame this on me?"

"No, I'm not. I'm just saying that if you had given me a chance in the first place, if you had used some of the brains that I know you have, it would never have gone this far."

Something snapped in Michael and he grabbed her hard, jerking her tightly to him. "How can you be such an unbelievable bitch?" he growled.

"Owe, you're hurting me!" she cried but he wouldn't release her. "Fine big man, do you want to hit me? Go ahead and hit me, take out all your anger on me now, you coward."

"Do you really think I would ever hit you?" he snarled in her face. "I may be a bastard but I'm not a fucking asshole, and I would never hit anyone I love."

"What are you talking about?"

Michael released her. "Don't be stupid, Maria. You're not an idiot, so don't act like one. Do you really think I came here tonight because you told me to? Well I hate to tell you but it just isn't so. I admit, I was curious about why you were so mad, but I really came to tell you that I loved you and that no matter what, I would prove that to you to get you back. But when I got here, all you wanted to do was fight and now I found out that it was because you were feeling guilty because of this huge mess you created? I don't know what to think now."

"I know it's low but I did it all because I didn't want to love you anymore. It only caused me pain to love you and I was sick of feeling inadequate."

Michael slumped his shoulders in exhaustion. He didn't know what to do. As angry as he was at Maria for doing something so irrational, he couldn't help feeling somewhat guilty. He had pushed her away for so long, keeping her at a safe distance and he hadn't even realized how much he was hurting her. He hated to admit it but he was even delighted to hear her say that she loved him. But was that enough? Could he forgive her and try to start over with her? Would it even be worth it?

"You know," he sighed. "I have no idea what to do. What you did is inexcusable, but I'm no saint either. Fuck, I have no clue what I should do. Should I forgive you and give you another chance? Should I just walk out that door and try to forget about you? What do you think?"

"Well, that's your choice, Michael. I can't make it for you."

"But what do you think I should do? What would you do if the situation was reversed?"

Maria didn't know how to answer, because she knew that if the situation were reversed, she would probably walk right out that door and never look back, no matter how much it killed her. She didn't want him to do that, so she wasn't going to say it. "I don't know what I would do," she said instead.

"Well, I don't know what to do, either," Michael said and turned to walk up the stairs. He wanted to go check on Liz and see what she had to say on the subject.

*****

As Max's head slowly lowered, he captured Liz's supple lower lip between his teeth, tugging gently. He pulled back and looked into her eyes, which we're so warm and full of desire. He shook his head in wonder. "God Liz, you're so beautiful," he whispered and leaned back down, their lips slowly joining.

This kiss started slowly and gently, lips brushing lips. Liz parted her mouth in welcome and Max did the same but didn't intensify the kiss, yet. He wanted to take his time. So instead, their mouths continued to brush each other’s for some time before Liz's tongue peeked out.

He returned the favor, gently prodding his way into her welcoming mouth. Their tongues danced together, initially slow before they grew more heated. Liz's hands slowly inched down to his chest again and leisurely removed the remaining buttons on his shirt. Once they were all undone, she dipped her hands inside the opening and ran her hands over his bare skin, savoring his muscular physique, before running up to his shoulders and peeling the shirt back.

Reluctant to release her mouth, Max put all his weight on one elbow and then the other to remove the shirt, the contact of their mouths never breaking. With the shirt completely gone, Liz's tiny warm hands explore the rippled skin on his back freely.

Max concentrated completely on her mouth, savoring the taste of her sweetness. Not a single area of her mouth was left unexplored, not a single crevice neglected. His heart was beating so loud in his ears and he was fighting to ebb his nervousness as it finally hit him that he was going to make love to Liz, his dream-girl.

His hands reached up to her face, smoothing back the hair from her face and he pulled back to gaze upon her again. God, how he loved to look at her. He had spent years admiring her from a distance, but now, here she was, in his arms, pleading for him to make love to her. It was a dream come true.

"Max," she whispered, "Sit up for a second."

Max pushed himself off of her, moving so that he was sitting on the side of the bed, his legs falling off the sides. He kept his eyes on Liz the entire time and brought a palm up to cup her cheek. Her eyes closed at his touch and she sighed before sitting up and getting off the bed. He watched as she walked to the bathroom, disappeared inside for a moment, and then returned.

Their eyes locked. Liz smiled slightly and walked back over to him. "Stand," she ordered, extending a hand to help him.

Max stood and brought his hands up to her face, cupping her cheeks as he kissed her again. He couldn't help himself. Liz sighed and lightly kissed him several times before she pulled back. Keeping her eyes steady on his, she dropped her hands to her waist and with deft hands, untied the knot of the baby blue, terry-cloth robe she had put on after her bath. With the knot undone, she raised her hands up to her neckline and pushed the robe back from her shoulders where it fell to a heap on the ground.

Max's eyes continued to caress her face a few more moments before he swallowed and looked down to appraise the wide expanse of exposed flesh. His breath caught in his throat as his eyes fell on her heaving chest. She was so exquisite! It made tears rise in his throat but he pushed them back down. "Liz," he breathed in awe as he looked back up into her eyes, unable to say anything else.

Liz began to nibble on her lip shyly, then stepped forward until her body was mere inches from his. Reaching for his hand, she placed something into it, and his fingers over it. A condom. Her hands went back up to his shoulders, her touch so light as she ran them down to her waistline. Max was frozen in place as the blood rushing in his ears relocated itself to another part of his body. He wanted to do something, but he didn't know what to do. So he just stood there as she touched him and began to remove his pants.

Soon, they were both wearing nothing but the skin God gave them and staring at each other. Liz leaned forward after a while and kissed him. "Put it on," she murmured against his lips. And when he had, "Come." She took his hand, leading him to the bed.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down with her as she sat back on the bed. She positioned herself so she was lying on her back and he stayed with her, sinking down into her warm body with a sigh, careful not to crush her.

"Touch me, Max. Put your hands on me," she pleaded. He wanted to, but he didn't know where to start. So she helped him. She grabbed one of his hands and kissed the back of it before leading it between their lower bodies. Max's eyes widened as he was greeted with the profuse dampness of her arousal. Liz moaned. Her eyes had closed and her head fell back as he began to stroke her.

Her sweet breath tickled his face as it came more rapidly and his own response was immediate. He felt his already embarrassingly stiff erection harden and he groaned; nervous that this was all going to be over before they even started.

He raised his hand a little higher, encountering the patch of curls at the juncture of her legs. They felt like silk as he ran his hands through them. A small gasp of breath escaped her lips as he ran over the hard knot near the lower area of her curls. She arched up into him.

She was so responsive, he marveled, continuing to massage that little knot until she was quivering under him and her gasps had become constant. His name presented itself in her gasps, sweeping him away with a wave of desire and love. It pushed his inhibitions aside and he began to relax.

He lowered his body some until his head was resting in front of one of her pale creamy breasts. He took her pouting nipple in his mouth and teased it with his tongue; swirling and then nibbling, then more swirling. Still she continued to writhe under him. Her nails began to dig into the hard flesh of his arms. He smiled and then moved its twin, continuing the same teasing pattern. Swirl and nibble. Swirl and nibble. He only stopped when her hands finally wove into his hair and clutched his head, pulling him up to her face.

She was panting like she was dying of thirst, her eyes so clouded with wantonness. She licked her lips and her head fell back as Max's mouth trailed kisses over her neck.

*****

Max's massaging tongue sent currents of fiery desire through her. His lips teased one taut, dusty pink nipple with slow brushes, making her head spin. Her hand drifted down his chest, lower over his stomach, and even lower until she cupped him in her hand. The sound of his groaning was gratification to her ears. She wanted to know that she was pleasing him - as much as he was pleasing her.

His hand dropped to her lower lips and began to run up and down her heat. He teased her a little bit longer, taking her by surprise when he slowly pushed a finger up into her.

She bit down on his shoulder to stop from crying out and then tossed her head back again with a gasp. Her entire body was on fire. His hands wove into her hair and pulled her mouth back to his, his tongue exploring her mouth. His slid in and out of her, each soft thrust clouding her vision. She had never felt so alive.

She tugged on his arousal again and slowly began to ran her hands over him. A strangled groan sounded in his throat, causing her to smile. Then, she led him towards her center and began to rub her lower lips over him. He pulled back and cupped his erection in his hands and once again placed them up against her lips. Then, he began to very slowly inch into her. There was no pain this time as there had been with...well,
better not think about that.

He hesitated a moment more and then finally continued his path inside until she was fully sheathing him. She sucked in a deep breath of pleasure and looked up into his eyes. "I love you," she whispered, never feeling so close to him. He smiled and whispered that he loved her as well before threading his hands in her hair once again and taking her lips. She squeezed her insides around him and moaned. She felt so full.

Their initial pace as they moved together was so slow, so gentle. She wanted to relish the slowness, moved beyond words that he was taking his time with her, but it wasn't enough. It was driving her mad. She needed more. She bucked her hips up against him insistently and their eyes met. Understanding flashed in his eyes and he began to move over her a little faster. At first, he was just keeping her need under control, soothing her inner ache, but, eventually, she was feeling things come undone inside of her and she bucked her hips up against him at a desperate needy pace until she stopped breathing and exploded with a delirious cry on her lips.

She felt his warmth spread into. A low, shaky, and exhausted groan escaped his lips. She continued to thrust up into him until he had gone limp inside of her. His lips had touched hers again and they continued to devour each others mouths until their tiredness caught up with them and he collapsed on her. They exchanged soft kisses for what seemed like eternity, both choked up with the beauty of their first experience at lovemaking.

Tears sprang to her eyes when she opened her eyes. It really was Max. Not some illusion she'd created to cope with the horror of being forced to share something so intimate with someone she didn't love.

"Oh God," she sobbed, overcome by emotions. "I...I love you." What else could she say after what they had just shared?

"I love you."

*****

No one answered when he knocked, so Michael let himself in.

"Liz?" he called. Did he really want to know if it was true? If she was, in fact, pregnant? He wasn't sure but he refused to turn around. He had to know.

He continued to walk until he reached the top of the stairs, and then stepped up to her bedroom door. He raised his hand to knock, ready to call out her name but something made him stop. He heard noises coming from the room, moaning. An amused smile broke out on his face and he stepped back, assuming that the test was negative. As he reached the stairway, Liz's voice carried to his ears as she told Max how much she loved him. Michael grinned warily in the dark. Things were just as they should be with those two.

He was actually kind of jealous. He wished that his relationship with Maria could be like theirs. But it wasn't, because as couples, Max and Liz's relationship was like day to his and Maria's night. The only thing his relationship with Maria had in common to Max and Liz's was the love they had for each other.

No matter how angry he was with Maria, he still loved and wanted her so much that it caused him pain to be away from her. And honestly, he didn't want to lose that feeling. What Maria did was wrong, but was it really as bad as he was making it out to be? She had a lot of guts for owning up to her guilt. She had told him and faced up to it, knowing that it could mean that he would never speak to her again. Even if it did disgust him, he found her strength admirable.

But could he forgive her?

You already know the answer to that, don't you? that same mocking voice in his head from earlier taunted.

And the voice was right. He did. He knew the answer, and he knew what he was going to have to do.

*****

As Michael descended the stairs that led to the staircase, he went over his words in his mind. He knew what he wanted to say, and although he'd decided to forgive her, he wasn't going to make it clear to her. Not yet.

Quietly as possible, he turned the knob and inched it forward, pausing as it squeaked in protest. He didn't want her to know that he was there yet.

He peeked his head out through the very top corner of the opening of the staircase. At first, he didn't see Maria. He poked a little farther and finally caught sight of her stripping back her work uniform from her shoulders, letting it fall to the ground. He smiled slowly. All she'd been wearing under that outfit was a red satin bra and matching thong. He cleared his throat as he began to walk down the stairs.

"You know you're scum, don't you?" he asked, suppressing the grin on his face. He reached the bottom step and turned to look at her.

She was holding her hands over her bra, her face turning deathly pale. "You scared me half to death," she accused. She turned back to her locker to reach for her shirt.

"Not only are you scum, but you're selfish, capricious, negligent, the list goes on and on. You do know this, don't you?"

Maria muttered something that he couldn't decipher and he stepped up behind her. "What was that? I didn't hear what you said, Blondie," he hissed in her ear, so close that the fluffy down of her hair tickled his nose.

Maria shot her hand back as though she were swatting a fly, and then turned to face him, rolling her eyes. "Just quit it! Yes, I know I'm the lowest of the low, but you don't have to make it worse! I am exhausted and would just like to get home, so leave me alone! Please?!" She turned back to her locker and recklessly grabbed her jeans from inside, bending down to put them on, but her bottom encountered Michael and she
whirled around in surprise. "Must you stand over me?"

"Actually," he replied smugly, "I wasn't standing over you. I was standing behind you."

"Oh, you...know what I mean," she cried, flustered, pushing past him and moving over to the couch. She sat down on the edge of the cushion and began to pull her jeans up over one shapely leg and then the other.

Michael bit down on a smirk before following her. He was having fun now. He liked Maria like this. He liked to ruffle her feathers and see her get angry. Oh yeah, he was definitely enjoying himself. He didn't know exactly when his anger had faded, but at this moment, he was feeling feisty and he wanted to play.

He leaned over in her face and spoke louder than necessarily. "Maria! Am I making you uncomfortable? You seem in such a rush to get dressed and get out of here."

She placed her flat palm on his chest pushing him away. "Get out of my face!" she yelled, standing up to button her pants.

"But, where's the fun in that?"

"Why can't you just leave me alone?" she whined, stalking back to her locker. "Is this fun for you? Do you like tormenting me?"

"Yeah, I'm having a lot of fun," he said. "As for the tormenting, after all you've done you deserve it. You deserve even worse than that, really, but you know that, don't you? That's why you're in such a hurry to get out of here, after all."

Maria ignored him, shoving her waitress uniform inside the metal locker and pulling her purse out. She slammed the door closed and inhaled deeply. Then, holding her head high, she marched right past him so she could leave.

But he had other plans. He rushed up to her and grabbed her arm, swinging her around. "Just where do you think you're going?"

"LET ME GO! I already told you, I'm getting out of here. Besides, I'm not about to hang around here with you while you do everything you can to piss me off. This fish isn't biting!" She shrugged out of his grasp and shoved him away.

She was three seconds from leaving the room and he knew he had to stop her. So, he said the only thing he could think of. "Yeah Maria, fish is a good word for you."

She stopped. "What's that supposed to mean?" she asked over her shoulder.

"Geez, where do I start? Let's see, not only do you look like a fish with those lips, but you're cold-blooded as well. I'd actually prefer cuddle with a fish because I'm sure a fish would be warmer than you."

Maria turned completely, her mouth gaping in shock. "How dare you!" she shrieked and stalked up to him. "You have no room to talk! You're lips could set off a trip wire! And...and you've never complained before!" She huffed in anger and turned to leave again. But obviously, she couldn't let it go either. "How could you say that about my lips?" she cried, the hurt obvious in her voice. "You may be mad at me but you don't have to attack me about my appearances! I know I'm not the prettiest girl in the world but what I lack for in looks, I make up for in other areas!"

That's when Michael realized he had gone too far. Did she really believe what he had just said? Didn't she know that he thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world, both inside and out? Sure, she was far from faultless, but the same could be said for him. They were, for lack of a better term, perfect for each other. "Look Maria, I didn't mean that. I'm sorry and I honestly think you're beautiful."

"If you didn't mean it, you shouldn't have said it! You can waste your flattery on someone else. I'm done with you!"

For the millionth time that night, she turned to go, and for the millionth time, Michael moved to stop her. He ran after her and grabbed her hand. "I said I was sorry, Maria."

"Well...sorry is not good enough!" She shoved him away and this time he let her go, but the Gods must have been smiling down on him, because, a moment later, he heard her scream. "Damnit, Kassie! I've told you a million times not to leave without putting these in the storage room!" Two seconds later, she was back in the room, carrying a mop and broom in one hand. She ignored him completely as she rushed to the entrance of the kitchen.

Michael followed all the way to the storage room. It was a small room with only one entrance. He blocked it before she could get out.

"Get out of my way!"

"No, Deluca, you're stuck in here until you talk to me."

"Haven't we tried that like fifty times today? Newsflash, we didn't settle anything!"

"Sure we did," he stated. "We came to the conclusion that we were both wrong and that I needed time to think. Well I've thought about it and I came to a conclusion."

"Oh yeah, I forgot. You're conclusion is that I'm scum and I'm colder than a fish, right?"

He nodded. "Pretty much, but that's not all."

Maria propped her hands on her hips and glared. "Fine, what else did you come up with then? Just tell me so I can get the hell out of here."

"Well, I came to the conclusion that you are..." he purposely paused, pretending to think it over before he shrugged and muttered, "Oh screw it, talk is overrated." In the flash of an eye, he jumped over to her and grabbed her face, grinding his mouth into hers in an angry kiss.

At first, Maria kissed him back but then she realized what was happening and she struggled to get away from him, kicking her foot out and connecting it with his shin. As soon as he pulled back, she drew her hand back and smacked him again. "You son of a bitch!" Rage boiled through Michael but he wasn't swayed. He moved in, planning to kiss her again but Maria beat him to it. She threw herself on him, and began to kiss him just as hard with unrelenting pressure.

The action took him by total surprise and his eyes widened for a split second before he returned the kiss. There was nothing gentle about it. They both fought for dominance in the passionate, hungry dance their mouths were engaged in. Desire raged throughout Michael's body. He was angry, but he also wanted her more than ever before, the rock-hard bulge in his jeans proving it beyond a doubt.

Her nails dug hard into his arms but he barely registered the pain, as he was too swept up in the raging passion between them. His hands pressed into the flesh of her back and then swiftly dropped to cup her ass, picking her up so that her legs were wrapped in a clenching grip around his hips. It wasn't enough. He swung around in the other direction and walked forward until he slammed Maria's back into the wall on the opposite side of the room.

Maria whimpered but didn't release her aggressive hold on his mouth. He ground his hips into hers, trying to alleviate the flaming ache in his groin and relinquished the hold on her mouth to go for her neck. Maria's head fell back with a gasping cry of pleasure and her legs tightened around him, grinding so hard into his erection that it was almost painful. Almost.

Like a famished vampire, he attacked. Teeth and lips ravaged the tight, tender flesh of her creamy neck, while his hands reached up to the neckline of her shirt. Without a moment's hesitation, he pulled the collar of her shirt into opposing directions, ripping it down the middle so that once again, her only covering was that sexy red bra.

Maria looked down at him, her breath cooling his damn face. "Was that really necessary?" she growled, her eyes flashing with annoyance. But the annoyance was gone as he captured the small globe of one breast in his hand.

Michael pinched her nipples through her bra and smirked. "Damn right it was," he grunted. "And so is this." He tweaked her firm nipples again and then reached up and ripped the bra in half in the same reckless manner.

"Hey!"

"Oh shut up," he snarled, reaching for her pebble-like nipples and pressing into them with his thumbs. He went back to her neck, biting, sucking, and chewing on the hot flesh with angry relish. Maria's hips bucked and she cried out, her chest vaulting towards him with a domineering insistence.

He dropped his hands to her slight waist and propped her up higher so that he could taste her supple mounds. He took one of the pink pebbles into his mouth, grazed it with his teeth, before lashing and swirling it with his tongue, finishing the task by sucking off all the moisture his mouth had left.

Maria's tiny hands clutched on to his head and she tried to pull him in closer but he pulled back farther, not ready to give her the satisfaction. Smoky with craving, Maria's hazel eyes narrowed to tiny slits and she released her hold on his head, bringing them down to his chest and pushing him away.

Michael smirked and let her go as she began to pull her legs off of him. "So that's the way you want it?" he breathed but he never gave her a chance to answer. Instead, he whipped her around so that his body was pressed into her back and he took her delicate ear lobe in his mouth, suckling the flesh before hissing, "I asked you a question." At the same moment, he jerked her hips back towards him and ground his painful erection into the nimble swell of her ass.

In response, Maria arched back towards him and groaned as he cupped her breasts again, massaging them in his callused hands. "I didn't think so," he murmured into her ear with satisfaction and then moved in for the taut skin at her shoulder. Her own hands snaked up and around his neck, her nails lightly scratching his scalp as her body heaved with want.

"I hate you," she rasped, a contrast to the way her body arched back against him.

"No, you don't."

He released his hold on her perky breasts and once again dropped them to her waist, just long enough to touch her sides with his nails and slowly rake them up her waist, the sides of her breasts and then all the way up the soft underside of her arms until they reached her wrists, where, with one hand, he clamped them together tightly, holding them in place. With the other hand, he slid back to the waist of her pants, dipping his hand inside.

Maria jerked with a strangled cry and then arched as he ran his hand over her lower curls, tightly cupping her womanly mound. She moaned his name and ground into his hand. He continued to go farther until his hand was encountered her lower lips, which were saturated with wetness. A groan escaped his own lips at realizing how turned on she was and he felt his arousal twitch with desire, begging for release. His carnal lust for Maria was driving him crazy. He knew he would die if he didn't have her soon, but he forced himself to hold out a little longer. And besides, he wouldn't force her to do anything she didn't want to do, anyway. It had to be her choice. No matter how rough he was being now.

"Michael," she pleaded with a breathless whine, tearing him from his muddled thoughts and he continued his exploration of her lower region, outlining her nether lips with one finger before plunging a finger into her slick cavern. "Oh God!" she cried, her body going erect for a moment and then slumping in weakness.

"Do you like that?" he whispered in her ear and she nodded in response, crossing her legs over his hand to keep him in place. Michael chuckled low in his throat and then began to slide his finger in and out of her while pressing his hips into her again. He only gave her that tiny pleasure for a minute or so before he pulled his hands out and released her wrists so that he could undo the button on her pants. He didn't ask her for permission, verbally, but he lingered for a while at the button to see if she would protest. She didn't. Instead, she lowered his hands and helped him. That was good enough for him. Those jeans couldn't come off fast enough for either of them as they both struggled with shaky, adrenaline filled hands to undo them.

Finally, they were completely off and Michael pulled her around to face him, once again lifting her by her thong-clad bottom so that she was wrapped around him. Their mouths reunited in a punishing, demanding kiss. Michael blindly stumbled out of the kitchen until they had reached the break room.

He leaned her up against the wall of the staircase and continued to pillage her mouth mercilessly, while once again searching out her hot core. Her own hands dropped to his waist and she proceeded to release the pressure of his jeans , pushing them down off his hips with her feet until his pants had fallen to a heap at his ankles. Her hot hand gripped him tightly and a wave of dizziness passes over him so sharp that he almost dropped her.

She half moaned, half giggled in his mouth and began to stroke him fiercely.
"No," he pulled back and moaned reluctantly, knowing that if she continued, he would be unable to go on. "No...no...no... you have to stop or...Oh God. Maria stop now!"

But she wouldn't and he had to actually pull her hand away to stop her. She glared at him and then once again took his mouth while releasing the hold her legs had on him.

"What are you doing?" he gasped in surprise but she didn't answer him, at least not verbally. Instead she leaned down and removed her panties and then stood back up with a challenging look in her eyes.

"What?" he asked, frustrated.

"Well, are you going to stand there looking like an idiot or are you going to take me?"

Michael groaned in spite of himself and stepped forward to take that challenge. Maria hopped back on his hips and then gripped him in his hands, leading him towards her core. Unlike with...well before, he easily inched into Maria's hot walls, each inch causing his body to twitch. He only stopped when he reached that thin barrier of skin that proved her innocence.

Maria dug her head into his shoulder and then pulled back and plunged herself on to him, tearing that skin without mercy. Then her mouth was back on his in a lip-crushing kiss. He wanted to take it slow as she adjusted but she never gave him the chance. Instantly, she was grinding into him, constant cries of delirious pleasure filling his mouth.

His legs trembled so badly, that he knew he couldn't support her weight for much longer. He led her to the couch where they both fell onto it. Maria's hips continued to rise towards his in insistence and Michael placed his hands on her hips to stop her.

She looked up at him both angrily and questioningly and he smirked in response. "I'm the one who is in charge here," he growled and pulled out of her no matter how much he wanted to stay buried deep inside.

Maria groaned and sat up, rubbing her legs together to alleviate the pain of his loss. "Take charge then and fast," she demanded. And so he did.

He reached out for her wrist and rolled her over, taking her from behind. Maria looked at him in horror, but then groaned in pleasure as he entered her cavern again, pounding into her with all his might. He watched the muscles on her back spasm as he took her, her delicious cries echoing off the walls as she met him, thrust for thrust.
His release was coming on too fast and he wanted this to be an experience she never forgot, so he reached down over her tummy in search of her clit, and began to massage it with his fingers at a rapid pace until her cries grew louder, and her insides began to contract. That combined with her already clenching tightness was enough to bring him over the edge, and he surged into her with a groan of ecstasy on his lips.

Maria's own cry as orgasm washed over her was enough to leave him permanently deaf, but he didn't mind. He knew he had accomplished what he wanted, so that just fine.

He hadn't realized how exhausted his arms were until they gave out on him and he collapsed on top of her tiny form. The air released from her lungs in surprise and he propped himself on his elbows so that he wouldn't squish her.

They laid in silence for a few more moments, catching their much needed breath before Maria giggled and said, "Wow, that was pretty...."

Michael cleared his throat, suddenly embarrassed at how out of control things had gotten. What had been wrong with him. "Uh, yeah. Are you okay?"

Maria nodded and giggled again. "Better than okay, if you really have to know. So, does this mean I'm forgiven?"

Michael smirked and then pushed himself off of her to help her turn over, once again collapsing on her body and looking into her eyes. "I would say so," he replied, still breathless from their little excursion. He smiled and then leaned in for a soft kiss.

Maria looked at him like he was crazy. "Oh, so now you're going to be gentle?"

"Oh...shut up," he replied, repeating his words from earlier and then took her lips in a tender, kiss.

"Well," Maria said when he was done, smiling up into his face. " That was nice."

Michael nodded slowly, took her lips once again and then scooted down, letting his head fall on her chest. She began to lazily scratch his head and tug onto his hair.

"Hey Maria! I'm sorry, I forgot to put the mop and broom a....oh my God!"

Michael and Maria looked up quickly to see Kassie standing behind them with a shocked expression.

"Don't worry," Maria said, too exhausted to be freaked. "I put them away. See you tomorrow, Kassie."
"Uh...yeah." The girl swallowed and then turned and left.

Maria looked down at Michael, who was in turn, looked at her questioningly. She laughed. "Did you see her face? For the first time in her life, I think she was speechless."



Visit the roswell fan fic lover's message board: http://pub24.ezboard.com/broswellfanficlovers


Edited by - Fehrbaby on 09/21/2001 22:19:30
posted on 20-Sep-2001 10:15:31 PM
Part 39

Liz's eyes opened to complete darkness. It took her many moments to remember where she was, and after that, why she wasn't alone. Max! She was in Max's arms, and they had made love for the first time, not..., she paused to look over at the red glow from her clock radio, three hours ago. Oh what a night! What a life.

Max's arms were holding her securely and she snuggled in closer to him. His arms tightened around her and he muttered something in his sleep, but did not wake. That was just fine with Liz; she didn't want to wake him just yet. She did have one small problem thought; she had to pee badly, so she slowly began to disentangle herself from him and now that her eyes had adjusted to the dark, she could see that Max's eyes had opened.

"Where are you going, Liz?" he mumbled, his voice thick with sleep.

Liz smiled and gave him a soft peck on the lips. "I just have to go to the bathroom. Go back to sleep."

Max nodded and mumbled something else unintelligible, but he released her and immediately, he was back asleep. Liz swung her legs to the side of the bed and stood, fumbling around in the darkness for the lamp on her nightstand. A soft and pale light flooded the room seconds later and she grimaced, hoping it wasn't too bright for Max. She looked over at him and watched as he turned the other way and threw the pillow over his face. The image made her smile.

She turned the other way and stretched her muscles, before making her way over to the bathroom. Once she was done relieving herself, she moved over to the mirror and began to brush her hair as she marveled at how the last day had been probably one of the top ten worst of her life, but not really, because in the end, her best dream had come true.

She put the brush down before looking in the mirror. Her own reflection couldn't betray her happiness. Her skin was glowing, and her eyes had that dreamy look she had only ever heard of. She shook her head and then turned from the mirror to leave the bathroom.

Back in the bedroom, she reached for the lamp to turn it off, but stopped and frowned when she realized she was kind of thirsty. So, instead, she retrieved her robe from the floor and pulled it over her body, securing the belt around her waist. It was only then that she turned off the light and used the wall as a guide in the darkness to reach the door.

Once in the kitchen, she searched the refrigerator for something to drink but she couldn't find what she really wanted - cranberry juice. She frowned at the refrigerator and then closed the door, her shoulders slumping. This happened to her sometimes. Haft the time she didn't like cranberry juice, but once in a while, she would start to crave it and nothing else would do. This was totally one of those times. She left the kitchen, pulled on her father's slippers by the door, and made her way down the stairs.

She got halfway down when she realized that the lights were still on in the restaurant. Strange, the lights were never left on overnight. She cautiously continued down the stairs and poked her head out into the break room.

Wide eyed, her mouth gaped. Naked was the first thing she thought. Second was, naked Michael and Maria, lying on the break room couch. She tried to make herself look away but she couldn't. It was like seeing a car wreck; you don't want to look, but you can't help it. And speaking of car wrecks....

There were nasty looking scratches all over Michael's back, and she could see bruises on Maria's arms, teeth marks on her neck. It was obvious that they had made up but she couldn't help but wonder what happened that would leave them in such a condition? Did they do that to each other? Duh, Liz! Of course they did, but why?

She shook her head to clear it and turned back to go upstairs. Milk would have to do. There
was no way she was going down there. But she couldn't really leave them there like that for someone to find in the morning, either. She stood at the door and wondered how she was going to wake them up without being obvious about it? Damnit! Why do I have to be the one to find them?

Finally, she came up with an idea and stepped back into her home, slamming the door as loud as she could and praying that it would be enough. Then she ran upstairs and picked up her phone, dialing the number to the Crashdown and letting it ring until someone finally picked it up. Maria's sleepy voice greeted her ears and she put the receiver down without saying anything. Good, now they were up.
"What are you doing?" Max asked her as she put the phone back on the nightstand.

Liz stood and removed her robe before crawling back in bed with him. "Nothing, Michael and Maria made up," she told him.

Max yawned, "Oh yeah? That's good. Did you just talk to her?"

Liz smirked. "Uh, not really. Never mind, I'll tell you in the morning."

Max shrugged, yawned again and then draped his arms around her and pulled her in close. After that, they both fell back into a peaceful sleep.

*****

When they woke up again, it was six hours later, and it was to the sound of the phone ringing. Liz jumped at the sound and then groaned as she opened her eyes to the bright daylight shining in her window. She glanced at the clock. 9:30 am. She shook her head and stretched her arm out to retrieve the phone. "Hello?"

"Liz?" Alex's voice.

"Hey, Alex," Liz yawned into the phone and fell back on the pillow. "What's up?"

"Is...everything okay?"

Liz frowned. "Yeah, everything is fine. Why do you ask?"

"So you mean you're not....you know?"

Liz glanced over at Max and looked at him questioningly. Was Alex saying that he knew about the whole pregnancy thing? "You know about that?"

"Yeah, Izzy and I ran into Max last night at the store last night. Didn't he tell you?"

"No, no he didn't. But to answer your question, everything is fine."

"Good," Alex said in relief. "So, on to my next question, have you seen Michael? He didn't come home last night and my mom said that when she went to call him for breakfast, his bed hadn't been slept in."

Liz grinned. "Don't worry, he's fine. I think he's with Maria."

"Maria? Really? That's interesting...She did call here last night, but she was pissed. I could hear her yelling at him from ten feet across the room. He went to go talk to her, but judging way he was acting, I didn't think it was going to be a friendly talk."

"Interesting. Well, last time I saw him, he was with Maria and they weren't fighting. They were sleeping."

"With or without their clothes on?" Alex remarked. He had meant it as a joke but when Liz didn't answer right away he almost choked. "Oh my God! You're kidding me!"

"I didn't say a word," Liz said innocently.

"You didn't have to, I know you well enough."

"Yeah, I guess you do," Liz agreed. "So what are you doing today?"

"Nothing so far, except avoiding a history paper that's due on Monday. Why?"

I don't have to work ,and I don't think Maria does, either, so maybe we should all get together and do something, like we used to. Just the six of us."

"I think that's a great idea," Alex said enthusiastically. "I'll give the others a call and see if they'd like to do that? Did you want me to call Max or did you want to do it?"

"Oh, uh, you don't have to worry about that." She looked over at Max inquiringly and he nodded. "He says yes."

"He's there?"

Liz giggled in response and Alex groaned. "You and Maria are very bad girls."

"Yeah but what would you do without us?"

"Good question. Well, I better go and call the others and then I'll call you back, okay?"

"Good deal. Bye." She hung up the phone and turned to Max.

"So what's this about Michael and Maria?"

"Oh, that. I found them...together downstairs earlier today."

Max looked impressed. "You mean they were...?"

"No, not actually. They were sleeping but they were...let's just say that I'm a hundred percent sure that more than sleeping occurred last night between them." She smiled and then her face went serious. "So Max, you told Alex and Isabel about me?"

"Oh, yeah. I didn't have a choice. I ran into them at the store and they kind of caught me in front of the tests. They helped me out, thought, telling me which ones to get. And, they told me to send you their love. Are you mad?"

"No, I'm not mad. I just wish you would have told me."

"I'm sorry. Can I make it up to you?" Max asked, wiggling his eyebrows and grinning mischievously.

Liz giggled in spite of herself. "Maybe."

"Okay," he shrugged and rolled on his back, "you just let me know."

Liz grabbed the pillow from under his head and bopped him with it once again. "You're such a brat!"

"I know, that's why you love me so much, isn't it? But you better watch yourself. Remember
where hitting me with a pillow got you last night?"

Liz crawled on top of him and put her face up to his. "That's what I'm counting on," she teased.

"Well, if I must," Max sighed playfully and then wrapped his arms around her and gave her first kiss of the morning.

"LIZ?"

Both Max and Liz looked over at the door and then Liz pushed Max off the side of the bed right before her mother walked in. "Morning mom," she said a little too quickly.

"Morning, honey," her mother said and then frowned. "Is there any particular reason why you're naked?"

Liz looked down and then quickly pulled a sheet over her body, absolutely mortified. "Oh...hot. I was hot last night."

"Hmmm. Breakfast is in ten minutes." With that her mother looked around the room suspiciously, then left. Liz let out her, breath which she hadn't realized that she'd been holding.

"Close call," Max whispered, peeking his head over the side of the bed.

"Sorry I tossed you like a sack of potatoes, but..."

"No, it's okay. I think I should probably go," Max said and stood up to go get his clothes. He got dressed and then reached for Liz's hand. They walked over to the window and shared a soft kiss. "When did you want to meet up?"

"Give Alex a call and tell him that we should all meet at noon downstairs, okay?"

"Okay," he said gently and kissed her softly again. "I love you, Liz," he whispered when he was done.

"I love you too," she replied and gave him a huge hug.

"Okay, see you later then?"

Liz grinned. "You better or there will be serious repercussions."

"Sounds intriguing, but I don't know if I can even go two and a half hours without seeing you." He kissed her again, this time more passionately and then reached for her hand and brought it to his lips. "Bye."

*****

When Liz arrived down stairs at a quarter to noon, the others hadn't arrived yet. She walked over to the soda fountain and got herself a drink and then picked up a copy of the Roswell Times on her way to their usual booth.

She figured that while she was waiting, she would look through it to see if there was anything of interest going on in town that day, that maybe she could find something they'd all like to do today. She flipped to the arts and entertainment section and was reading the ads for that day's happenings when she heard the door open. She looked up in hopes that it was Max, she was aching to see him, but no such luck. It was just a couple of tourists.

She looked back down at the paper and started to read it when she felt a strong hand sweep her hair aside and a warm mouth on her neck.

"Guess who?" he murmured against the nape of her neck and she could feel the smile on his lips.

She bit her lip on a laugh and said, "Oh, this is going to be tough, but I'm going to say...Max?"

"Bingo, tell the girl what she's won," he said as he pulled away and moved around to her side, taking a seat next to her in the booth. He gave her a quick kiss and winked. "Hey there."

Not satisfied with the short kiss, she pouted. "What kind of kiss was that? Who am I? Your sister?"

"Oh, pardon me," he chuckled. "How about this?" He leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers in a lingering kiss that left her dizzy and breathless. "Was that better?"

"Mmm, much."

"What are you doing?"

Liz looked down at the paper in front of her and shrugged. "I was looking to see if there was anything cool happening that we could do today."

"And?"

She made a face. "It doesn't look like it unless we're in the mood for the local 4-H show or a new class for polka dancing."

"Sounds intriguing, but I think we'll have to pass. Let's just wait until the others get here and see what they want to do."

"Is everyone coming them?"

Max shrugged and placed his arm snug around her shoulder. "That's what Alex said. Speak of the devil..." He nodded towards the door and Liz looked over to see Isabel and Alex entering.

"Hey guys!" Liz said enthusiastically as they took a seat across from them.

"Hello."

"Where are Michael and Maria?" She asked. "They're coming, right?"

Alex shrugged absently. "That's what Michael said."

"Oh, he finally came home?"

"No, he was the one who answered the phone at Maria's."

Liz giggled. "See, I told you he was probably there. While we wait for them to get here, do you have any idea of what you'd like to do today?"

"How about a movie?" Isabel suggested.

Liz shrugged. "Well, let's see what's playing then." She began to flip through the pages again and came to a stop on the movie adds. "Well, there is some good stuff playing out of town, but here, we're stuck with the foreign film festival which is essentially a bunch of movies I can't even pronounce. So, I'm saying nix on the movie idea."

Isabel made a face and then nodded. "Definitely not. That's not my kind of thing."

"Hey, I like foreign films," Alex protested.

Isabel turned to him and grinned. "Yeah but as we've already established, you're a big, adorable geek."

Alex rolled his eyes playfully and then looked back at Liz. "Well, we could..."

"Whoa," Max breathed, leaning in closer to the paper and studying it intently.

"What is it?" Liz asked in concern at the way his hand had clenched on hers. She looked down at the paper and frowned. "The obituaries?"

"Pretty morbid, Max," Isabel sighed.

"Wait, let me see this." He said to Liz and picked up the paper, flipping to the second page where the state and world news was reported. He cleared his throat and read the headline in a grim voice.

"21 Die In Explosion

"On April twenty third, emergency crews were called to a Government facility just forty miles outside of Roswell, New Mexico. The building was used as a weapon storage site facility and was manned by approximately 23 men and women of both the armed forces and other independent corporations. Accounts from the two survivors and supported by local law enforcement allege that faulty wiring in the electrical system is responsible for the fire. Law enforcement officials held a press conference yesterday afternoon, saying that
the fire was small and under normal circumstances, could have been contained but due to the massive stock-piles of weapons in the single floor building, the building burst into flames that were several feet high killing 13 officers, 2 weapon specialists, 4 civilians, the commanding sergeant of the facility and career officer, Brent Heitz and his fiancé, local guidance counselor Kathleen Topolsky." He sat back in his seat and sighed. "There's more but I think you get the gist. Then if you look at the obituaries, you'll see that there is an obituary for both Brent and Topolsky."

Silence fell over the table as they all looked at each other with blank stares. Liz was the first to speak. "I know that this may make me sound like a horrible, heartless person, but I'm kind of relieved."

"How so?" Max asked but his tone wasn't appalled or condemning.

"I can only think of how this is a good thing because it means that they won't get a chance to come after us again."

"Me, too," Isabel admitted and Alex nodded.

Max nodded as well. "Yeah, I think we were all thinking the same thing."

"Hey everyone," a girls cheery voice said suddenly and everyone looked up to see Maria approaching the table with a slight limp with Michael directly behind her. She looked at their faces and her brow furrowed. "Whoa, who died?"

Part 40 - Conclusion

Maria's confusion only deepened as she saw Liz's eyes widen. Alex's sudden indrawn breath came next. Isabel cleared her throat and Max's brows drew together in consternation. "Oh, my God! Who died?"

"Funny you should say that," Max said quietly. He scooted closer to Liz to make room for them. Michael, however, grabbed a chair from an adjourning table and pulled Maria onto his lap after cautiously lowering himself on it.

"Don't be cryptic Max," Michael said dryly, looking only slightly alert. "What's going on?"

Max picked up the paper from the table and moved it so that Michael and Maria both had a lucid view of it. They looked down at it and began to read.

When they were finished, Maria looked up with a blank stare and Michael whistled and then grunted. "Huh."

Isabel's brow furrowed at his response. "Huh? That's all you have to say?"

He shrugged. "What do you want me to say Izzy? It's too bad that it happened but really, I can't think of two people who deserved it more."

Liz nodded. "It is true, as terrible as it is, they got what they deserved. And at least they won't be coming after us anymore."

"But that doesn't mean that they won't be replaced by someone else," Max stated quietly. "There's always the risk that it could happen all over again."

"You're right," Michael agreed. "But let's not freak out until there is something to freak out about. Our worst nightmare has already happened. We'll just have to be cautious as always but there is no reason to start packing our bags just yet. As for Brent and Topolsky, may God have mercy on their souls."

Max and Isabel exchanged amused glances at how cavalier Michael was being about all this.

"And since when are you a religious man?" Maria asked, just as amused.

Michael leaned in close to her ear and murmured something in her ear. He wrapped his arms tighter around her waist and Maria melted, turning her head towards him and giving him a soft kiss on the lips.

The exchange didn't go unnoticed by the others and a mischievous smile flashed on Liz's face before she could conceal it. She cleared her throat and then looked over at Maria innocently. "So, Maria. Since when are you two back together?"

"Oh, since last night," Maria said cheerfully, reluctantly tearing her attention away from Michael.

Liz smiled. "Last night? Really? That's great. So what changed your mind?"

Maria glanced at Michael, a slight blush creeping up on her cheeks. "Uh...we just...talked and decided that...we just made up."

"Cool," Alex commented, fighting his own secret smile. "I'm glad you made up. So, what happened? I mean, why are you limping?"

Maria's blush grew a little more in intensity. "Oh, yeah, uh, I...fell."

"That's really too bad," Isabel said with sugary sympathy. "I hope you're okay."

"Yeah, I'm fine," Maria said slowly, glancing around the table, her smile faltering as she suddenly got the idea that everyone knew more than they were letting on.

"I'm glad," Liz replied, exhaling. "So, that explains the limping, but what about those?" she asked, pointing to the nasty bite marks on her neck and collarbone.

Max sat up straighter and cleared his own throat. "Yeah, did you get attacked by a dog or something?"

"And how exactly did you two make up?" Liz baited.

Michael smirked, not one bit fooled. "She told you Liz, we made up. Let's just leave it at that."

"No," Liz said, shaking her head. "Let's leave it at this. We already knew you two made up. On the break- room couch no less." She muttered the last part under her breath but just loud enough that everyone could hear it.

Maria flushed crimson, full of outrage as the others around the table began to grin and snicker. "What?! How..."

Liz shrugged and took a sip of her drink. "I came downstairs in the middle of the night," she said, holding up her hands in defense from Hurricane Deluca. She glanced at Michael, who was being calm and seemed to get a kick out of the entire thing.
Maria on the other hand was ready to explode. "So you just had to tell everyone?" She snapped, her eyes blazing with fire.

Liz smiled innocently. "Hey, I didn't tell anyone."

"No she didn't," Alex jumped in. "All she said was that I might want to check your house for Michael this morning and from there, I guessed."

"Whatever," Maria grumbled, turning back to Michael. She saw the amused smirk on his face and her mouth fell open. "I can't believe you!" she cried, slapping him on the arm.

Michael frowned, then winced. "Hey, I give up," he stated. "Just be careful on the arms. Don't you think you beat me up enough last night?"

Everyone burst into surprised laughter and Maria stood up in anger. "I'll show you a beating!" she swore, growing angrier by the moment. She pulled her hands back, ready to let loose on him, but he caught her wrists in mid-swing and pulled her down to him, giving her a hard kiss.

The others grinned and laughed as Maria's resolve broke, her fury dissolving as she kissed him back.

Liz turned to Max and smiled. "Look at them," she mused quietly. "Some things never change."

"I heard that, Liz," Michael said as he pulled back from Maria and pulled her back onto his lap. "And I think you're wrong. Everything has changed. But we've faced the worst and come out stronger. Everything has changed," he repeated. "I would just have to say that they've changed for the better."

Max glanced at Michael and smirked. "I can't agree more," he said and turned his head towards Liz, giving her a soft kiss.

Liz sighed happily as he pulled back and leaned her head on his shoulder. She couldn't agree more herself. After all that had happened, things had turned out even better in the end.

"Liz, can I talk to you alone for a second?" Michael asked, breaking her reverie.

"Uh, sure."

"I'll be back in a second," Michael told Maria, and together they went to the break room.

Michael motioned her to the couch, but Liz shook her head, raising an amused eyebrow. "I think I'll pass."

He rolled his eyes, then laughed.

"So, what did you want to talk about?" she asked. His expression was pensive, and she realized he was nervous. "What is it?"

"Is everything okay?" he asked.

"Fine."

He glanced to her stomach. "Everything?"

She glanced down in turn, understanding now what he was referring to. "How'd you know?"

"Max dropped a test in front of Maria last night. That's why she called me. She was upset about it. " He paused. "So, everything is okay, right?"

She smiled. "I'm not pregnant, if that's what you’re asking."

Michael visibly relaxed, even though it looked like he'd suspected as much.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you," she said. "But I didn't want to say anything until I know for sure."

"I understand," he said, nodding his head. "Although I was a little hurt. We are supposed to be friends, right?"

Liz laughed softly and wrapped her arms around him for a brief hug. "The best of," she said, then kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you."

He raised an eyebrow. "For everything?"

"What else?"

*****

A short while later, Isabel looked at Michael and Maria who where holding each other silently. "So, can you two think of anything you'd like to do today?"

Maria's expression turned thoughtful. "Um, well...is there anything going on in town?"

Liz shook her head. "Not really."

"We were thinking of maybe seeing a movie but there isn't anything playing that we would all be able to agree on unless we leave Roswell," Alex sighed, wrapping his arm around Isabel shoulders and giving her a playful glare, remembering her prior comment about him being a foreign film nerd.

Isabel wrinkled her nose and grinned before placing a kiss on the tip of his own nose.
"Well, I can't really think of anything," Maria shrugged. She turned to Michael. "Can you?"

Michael looked up at her in surprise. "What?"

Maria rolled her eyes. "I asked if you could think of anything you'd like to do today?"

Michael's forehead wrinkled in deep concentration.

Glances of amusement were exchanged around the table and Alex grinned. "It really isn't that hard of a question, Michael."

Michael rolled his eyes and scowled. "You think?" He shook his head in annoyance and then turned to Max. "I know what I want to do today," he told him.

"What?" several voices inquired but Michael remained secretive. He grabbed Maria's keys from out of her purse and cleared his throat. "Come on everyone, I'm driving."

*****

"Where are we going?"

Michael sighed and glanced over at Maria in the seat next to him. "Patience. You'll see when we get there."

She crossed her arms over her chest and grumbled quietly to herself.

Michael hid a smirk as he turned his attention back to the road. He wasn't telling any of them where they were going for two reasons; the first being that he wanted it to be a surprise but the second was a little more complicated. It was something he needed to do for himself, but deep down he was a little fearful that the others wouldn't understand what he was saying by taking them to this place. He may not be able to express himself in words all the time but he prayed that this would be enough to show them all how important they were to him. All of them.

After all, they're my family.

He was so deep in thought that he almost missed his turn. "Shit! Hold on," he warned as he took a sharp right in the middle of the desert. The others cried out in surprise and held on as the car tilted unsteadily for a brief second and then steadied itself. "Sorry," he called out, glancing in the rearview mirror.

His eyes stopped on Max who was looking back at him questioningly. It was obvious that Max figured out where he was going. He looked a little bewildered, but there was approval showing deep in his dark eyes as well. Michael nodded at him once and then focused back on the desert path.

The car grew completely quiet as the humans studied their unfamiliar surroundings. The aliens, on the other hand, counted off the landmarks as they always did when they came here. First there was a rock that Isabel said resembled Donald Duck. That signaled that they had to take a sharp left turn until they came to a group of Saguaro cacti. From there they continued going forward until they came to an outgrowth of pointed rocks that resembled arrowheads. That's where they took their next left turn and went straight until they reached the large, scorched remains of a cactus that had once been hit by lightening. That was their stop. They would have to walk the rest of the way from there.

Michael pulled the car to a stop and stepped out, holding the door open for the others. "This is it," he announced.

"Where are we?" Liz asked as she closed the door behind her and surveyed the desert landscape.

Isabel answered for him with a simple, "You'll see." She looked at Michael for a second with complete understanding and then grabbed Alex's hand and began to lead the way. Max and Liz followed them, and Michael and Maria took the rear.

Michael reached out for Maria's hand as they hiked and she looked at him questioningly. "Where are we?" she asked quietly.

"Just wait."

Maria pouted, then sucked in a breath as she stumbled over a rock. "You know," she said sharply. "I'm not really in the physical shape to be hiking in the middle of the desert."

He glanced at her askance and then sighed. She was right. With all the limping she was doing and how sore they both were, hiking wasn't really the ideal way to recuperate. "Come here," he muttered, pulling her in closer.

She walked closer to him and then watched in bewilderment as he stopped. "What are you doing?"

Impatiently, he looked at her and shook his head. "Quit being so....just climb on my back. I'll carry you."

She smirked in amusement. "You're kidding, right?"

"Fine, look, you either stumble through the desert or you jump on my back. But hurry up because we're falling behind."

Maria glanced forward to see that the others had a good 50 yards on them already. "Okay," she shrugged and hopped on.

Michael groaned as he stood erect and began to walk to catch up with the others. She really was as light as a feather, so the added weight didn't bother him one bit. He didn't want her hurting herself anymore than he had already hurt her last night, so this would have to do.

They walked for another ten or so minutes before they came to their final stop. The others were already waiting for them by the time Michael and Maria caught up. Michael lowered Maria from his back and then stretched.

"So, you've taken us to a big rock wall," Maria said, clueless to their location. "Neat."

Michael looked at her warily and then walked over to the wall. "It's more than a big rock, Maria. I promise."

"So, what is it then?" Alex asked, just as curious as the others.

Michael glanced at Max and Isabel and then turned to the wall, placing his hand over a sharp groove. Almost immediately, a portion of the wall opened up with a splitting noise and Michael looked back at the others. "Are you coming?"

Maria frowned, then sighed and they all filed inside. Slightly nervous, she clutched in the darkness for his hand and followed him into a cave like walkway. The others followed single file behind them as they continued to walk the path. Suddenly, Michael stopped.

"Are we here?" Maria asked, unable to see his face in the darkness.

"Yeah," Michael replied. "We're here."

"And where exactly is here?" Liz's unsure voice asked from somewhere behind them.

Michael reached for another groove on the wall and a bright light flooded the area. "This is where we were born," he answered a moment later and glanced sideways at Maria. "See for yourselves."

He motioned inside the cavern and stepped aside for the humans to enter.

"Oh, my God," Liz breathed a moment later. "These...these are the pods, right?"

Max nodded and watched as Liz leaned closer to study the one she was standing right in front of.

Maria studied the pods in wonder and then limped over to Michael. "So, which one was yours?" she whispered, leaning in close to him.

"I'll show you," he replied, taking her hand and lacing his fingers with her smaller ones as he led her to his pod.

"Typical," Maria smirked and Michael looked at her sharply.

"Typical?"

"Yeah. It's typical that your pod would be separated from the others. Max and Isabel's pods are over there," she pointed off to the side, "but yours is here. Some things really never do change."

"Oh," Michael said, relaxing a little. "Yeah."

Maria squeezed his hand and began to massage one of his cuticles with her soft fingers as she leaned in closer and studied the pod. Shaped like a giant, shiny metal egg, it hung steadily as though it were half suspended in the air. In the middle, there was a small, transparent, oval-shaped glass covering and a pad of shiny buttons directly to the side of it. Michael leaned down and pushed one of the buttons, causing the disk of glass to hiss and open. Maria glanced up at him and swallowed before looking back down. "You...you were inside here?"

Michael nodded and leaned down next to her, his sore legs protesting. He must be sorer than he realized.

Maria studied the inside of the pod for a moment later and then looked at him with a big smile.

"What?" Michael asked quickly, slightly defensive.

"Oh nothing, just...thank you."

His brow furrowed and he blinked. "For what?"

"For bringing me here. For bringing us here. I...it's just that I know it must have been hard to show this to us. Thank you for trusting us with this."

Michael exhaled and felt his lips turn up. "You're welcome," he whispered and leaned in to give her a kiss on the forehead.

"Yes Michael, thank you," Liz said, having overheard Maria. "I'm glad that you wanted to share this with us."

Michael met her eyes and tipped his head. She held his gaze, and they both smiled.

"This is better than any movie," Alex agreed, looking slightly dazed. "I just...wow."

Isabel raised an eyebrow. "Wow?"

"Yeah it's just...I...well, it's just so amazing to see the pods. They're just as you described them."

"Well, of course they," Isabel replied. "Did you think I was lying?"

Alex shook his head. "No, not at all. It's just that I feel kind of like I knew what they looked like before you even showed them to me."

"Huh," Liz grunted quietly as her eyes focused in on something ahead of her.

"What is it?" Max asked.

"Huh? Oh, nothing. I was just wondering, why yours and Isabel's pods are right next to each others and Michael's is farther apart."

"You noticed that, too." Maria grinned.

"That's the way it has always been," Max nodded. "When we came out ten years ago, they were just like this."

"And there were no others?" Alex asked. "Just your three pods?"

"That's all we ever saw," Michael answered. "But who knows? There could be others."

"It's possible," Max agreed. "It does seem slightly unlikely that we are the only three aliens on earth."

Isabel nodded. "As far as we know, it's just the three of us."

"Six," Michael amended and everyone looked at him questioningly. Michael frowned and stood up straight. "Well, you three might not be alien but you're the only people that I trust." Becoming slightly flustered, he blinked several times and then swallowed the uncomfortable lump in his throat. You're...I feel like you're all my family. I always thought that all I ever needed was Max and Isabel, because they were like me but now I know that isn't so. I...need all of you. So, it's the six of us."

"The six of us against the world," Maria whispered and stood up, locking her eyes with his. She wrapped her arms around his middle. "I need you, too," she whispered, and Michael returned the embrace, resting his head atop her own.
He wondered why he ever doubted any of them? Of course they would understand how important this was to him. They were the only people who could truly appreciate the significance of this outing. It made him realize that, for the first time, they truly understood him. Up until now, he hadn't even been sure if he actually understood himself. But now? He saw it more clearly now than ever before.

When the six of them were together, he was complete.

No running or hiding or searching for a family he would never find was necessary, as long as he had all of them.

He only hoped that he would never forget that.

*****

"What time is it?" Michael asked.

Maria glanced down at her pink wristwatch and squinted to read the digital face. "It's a quarter after six."

Michael grinned and then nodded towards the exit. "Come on."

"Are we leaving?" Liz asked.

"Not yet," Michael replied and they all followed him out of the cave. Max closed the entrance behind him and Michael took a seat on the outcrop of rock a few feet away from the now hidden entrance.

Maria took a seat next to him and Michael readjusted himself so that her back was leaning into his chest. "What are we doing?" she murmured contentedly as he wrapped his arms around her from behind.

"Sit," he instructed the others and then lightly kissed the base of her cheekbone right next to her ear. "We're watching the sun set. Shh."

Maria smiled.

The others all took their seats on either side of them and they all sat in silence as they watched the glorious sun lower in the sky, then disappear behind the horizon. Not a word was said the entire time. No words were needed in a weld as unique as theirs.

*****

Liz watched the sun set exactly one week later, after a long shift at work. It wasn't the same as it had been a week before, but then again, the others weren't around her, and nothing seemed as special when she wasn't with them.

She shook her head and then glanced down to her lap at the new journal she had purchased the day before. With one hand, she ran her palm over the new, smooth surface and smiled. It wasn't as nice as her old journal but that one was gone forever.

She smirked as she opened up to the first page, the crisp binding groaned and tried to close again but she held the cover open, and sighed. Clicking her new ballpoint pen, she shook her head and began to write.

May 1st. I'm Liz Parker, and this is the first entry in the next chapter of my life....

THE END


NOTE: Whoo, that was long wasn't it? Well, I'm currently working on
a polarist version of the story for those who have been interested,
and I plan to have that out pretty soon.

Also, the suspension chamber earlier on in the story was adapted from
LJ Smith's Dark Visions Trilogy, Book 3: The Power. Read the book,
you'll love it!

Hope you enjoyed!


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