|posted on 22-Sep-2001 6:36:12 PM|
So, yeah, after a couple month long hiatus...
I started writing this right after HOM, but then I never finished it. I realized now, upon reflection, that I could make it so that it is simply an episode tag. Not a happy story. It takes place after HOM still, but before Cry Your Name. So, yeah, I hope you get it. And maybe if you all like it I'll do a post-departure continuation. So, yeah, tell me what you think.
Title: Ironing out the Bugs (Remember Me)
Rating: R for violence and language.
Category: Zan/Ava|Max/Tess elements, M/L kinda.
Spoilers: All of season two, but it's post Heart of Mine; Off The Menu did take place.
Disclaimer: I don’t own anything; I’m just borrowing the characters for a little while.
I remember what it was to be Zan.
I remember the glory and the power; I remember having the world at my fingertips.
It feels good, and then when the memories stop, I ignore the feeling that something is wrong. I was a king; I can do whatever I want.
I remember Vilandra and Rath. Isabel and Michael tell me maybe I should stop with the memory retrieval, but I'm the king. I'm the man, and no one tells me what to do. I thought Vilandra and Rath were too nosy in my kingly affairs for their own good, so what do they know now? Nothing. I don't need to listen to them; all I need is my memories.
I remember the taste of Ava's skin, the smell of her in the morning, and the way she shuddered under me when I took control and wouldn't stop for anything. The power fills my veins and I realize that spending the last decade and more as Max Evans has been a total waste, when I should be a king. Tess' skin is sweet too, and I ignore that pesky human emotion I feel when I kiss her, and tangle my tongue to hers. She's reluctant, sometimes, but I don't let her stop. She's my bride, and she'll do what I say. After all, I'm the king.
I melted some of my CD's today. All the pesky ones, like Counting Crows and Gomez. My powers feel energetic lately, and I wanted to just use them. I wasn't satisfied, though, when they sat in a pile of goo in my trash can. I want more. The twitch of my eye that happened when the CD’s disintegrated bothered me.
That's why I'm walking the streets now, searching for something in the ominous dark that will quench my thirst for something I don’t understand. I want to swim in the jello I felt in my memories; I want to be lavished with whatever my heart desires. I’ve spent so much time mooning over a girl who doesn’t want me, which is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done since I let myself be killed by Kivar’s goddamn forces. That was an act of stupidity that I’ll never get over, and it landed me here. I’m over it, though, and now I can move on to more important things than lovesickness and human emotions.
Max strolled down Murphy Lane, his dark eyes gazing moodily at the moderate houses and green lawns. If a random stranger laid eyes on him at that moment, they would have seen the embodiment of arrogance, and a gleam in his eyes that spelled danger. His posture was straight, and his walk contained no trace of the shyness that once permeated through his every bone. Suddenly, a car caught his eye and he walked over to it, appraising it coolly.
“I’ve got the power,” he hummed carelessly, and reached a hand out to stroke the curve of the vehicle. It was deep blue with a hint of purple, and Max closed his eyes in remembrance of the jello sea, which matched the color of the car almost perfectly. He could almost feel the way it had surrounded him, as he kicked and swam with Ava. She hadn’t liked water, he recalled, but he’d thrown her in one day because he wanted a companion. He didn’t need Rath and Vilandra breathing down his backs when he wanted to relax, anyway.
“I’ve got the,” he repeated, and his hand traveled over the window. It vanished as the last traces of his fingertips passed over the edge. “Power.” He smiled smugly, and peered into the car, drinking in the leather interior with his eyes and smelling it. The memory of something similar teased his senses, and the frustration of not knowing what it was overwhelmed him. Violently, he kicked the side of the car, and stepped back to survey the sent that appeared.
“Shit,” he muttered, and leaned over to fix it with another wave of his hand. As he bent, though, his eyes were caught in the reflection of the rear-view mirror, and he froze. Max stood stupidly, fixated on the image of his face that stared back at him, and a flicker of emotion traveled through his eyes. He could almost hear someone calling him, like a voice from heaven. But he didn’t believe in god.
What am I doing?
The silence was broken by the sound of an approaching car, and Max jerked out of his trance. He shook his head quickly to clear his momentary lapse, and fixed the damage to the automobile. But, wasn’t there something he’d thought of a minute ago that was important? Max searched himself, came up with nothing, and shrugged. Getting all his real memories back and becoming Zan again must be screwing with his brain.
It wasn’t long before Max found his way to the center of town, Roswell’s pitiful excuse for shops and alien attractions. He had fleeting interest in heading over to the UFO center and creating some kind of havoc for the people to discover the next day, but realized he’d skipped work the past few days and didn’t want to risk being found.
Instead, he crossed the street to look into the flashing lights of the Crashdown Café, and wondered again why he’d wasted so much of his earthly life mooning over an ordinary girl.
With ears that had apparently become sharper with the invocation of memories from his previous life, Max cocked his head to the sound of feline whimpers. It sounded like there was a cat in the Crashdown alley, and Max, intrigued by the pitiful noise it made, crept closer. The feline came into view as he rounded the corner into the alley, and he watched it look pitifully around like someone was coming to rescue it.
He was mesmerized by the cat’s vulnerability, and the thought of how easy it would be to scoop it up and stop its life echoed sickeningly through his brain. A roll of nausea passed through him at the contemplation, and how helpless it left him feeling goaded the darkness inside the grab the kitten unflinchingly. He was fast, almost with the liquid grace of a feline himself when he did so, and he stood afterwards in the alley, cradling the kitty’s body with gentle steel.
“Callie,” a voice was calling, hardly penetrating Max through the dim fog of his consciousness. “Callie, baby, where are you?”
And Liz Parker exited the side door of her parent’s café, in search of her newfound pet, to come face to face with the person she’s avoided like the plague ever since the stolen moment she’d walked in on. “Callie, I can hear you out here, thank-” Liz stopped abruptly at the sight of Max. Something was wrong; she could tell in an instant, without even setting eyes on Max’s face (which she was purposely not doing, by the way). “Max,” she announced coolly. “I see you’ve met my new pet.” Her body automatically stiffened with tension with his proximity, and she turned toward the garbage under the pretense of throwing something away. “I’ll take her now; I have to go finish my homework, so I... have to go.”
No answer. Liz chanced looking up at Max and found him staring fixedly at her pet. Her blood ran cold at what she thought she saw in his stare, and she found herself filled with pain at how this Max was suddenly a stranger. Liz allowed herself to close her eyes for a second and imagined what it would be like in that other timeline. It was her guilty pleasure, but it was driving her insane.
No movement from Max. “Max, give me Callie, please. Please. Callie, Callie, baby, come here,” she coaxed nervously.
Everything seemed to move in slow motion as Callie tried to leave Max’s arms and go to Liz, but the boy holding her refused. Liz watched as her cat’s claws dug into Max’s arm, and the rage she saw flash into his eyes as he snarled and flung the cat away. Against the wall.
Oh, god. She heard the sickening thud as her one faithful companion, however short she’d had her, hit the brick, and Liz cried out.
She was paralyzed with shock- shock that Max would do something like that, and she felt the urge to fling herself at him and hit him until her arms were too sore to go on. Yet, she didn’t move.
“No,” she whispered. “No. Max,” her voice broke, and she couldn’t bear to look at him. Never in a million years would the Max Evans she loved hurt a defenseless animal like that.
What have I done?
The thought echoed through both of their heads.
And suddenly, Max’s head was filled with a blinding pain. It just hurt, everywhere, like it was never going to stop. Blurred eyes raised to see a figure, Liz, he realized, and she was crying.
Then he heard the almost inaudible whimper coming from a blob against the alley wall. It was a cat. Hadn’t he been holding a cat?
Yes, he had. The pain throbbed in his head as what he’d done traveled through him. “Oh, god,” he whispered, his legs almost giving out from under him.
And then, he was all motion, stumbling toward the cat, putting his hand out and healing it, the weak flashes animals giving off not even registering because of the pounding in his head. He was in the jello again, but this time it didn’t seem alluring. It was suffocating him, like he couldn’t breathe, like his limbs had gone limp and he was drowning. If he didn’t keep moving, it was going to win, and that couldn’t happen.
So he dropped the cat, who was now fully healed, and Max didn’t even notice how badly he was shaking. All he knew was that he had to run, get away, because it was wrong to want to be near Liz and he’d just hurt a defenseless creature and... he didn’t even know who he was anymore.
And Max tried to get away.
Liz, still frozen, had watched as Max seemed to fall apart. She saw him heal the cat, and she witnessed the look of desperation and confusion on his face as it registered what he’d done. At first, when he turned to run, she almost let him go.
And then she realized that everything bad always happened when you let people run away.
So she chased after him, and it penetrated her tear-filled eyes that he was staggering along, like he was dying.
It turned out she didn’t have to chase Max Evans long, because he collapsed halfway down the street.
The darkness outside was descending upon Liz’s mind, so she fought it as she ran to Max’s still form. Just keep breathing, she thought over and over. Sean had been right.
She was suffocating.
God, all she could think of before that night was how she and Max were growing apart, when they should be knowing each other... loving each other intimately. Now, he was sprawled out on the ground in front of her, a stranger except for his appearance, and she didn’t want to help him.
Of course she would help him, wanted to help him, needed to help him.
Correction. She didn’t want to have to help him. She couldn’t be sucked in the alien abyss when she was letting go.
He was on the pavement, not moving, but she saw when she kneeled next to him that he was breathing. The breaths were shallow, but she could see the faint rise and fall of his chest. Liz’s mind raced, trying to figure out what the most logical thing to do in this situation was, but logic flew out the window two years ago. It was obvious that logic was not apparent in this situation, because she knew Max would never do anything she’d witnessed him do in the past minutes.
So, Liz did something very illogical. She helped the then semiconscious Max to stand up, and with him leaning heavily on her, she took him into the Crashdown. He collapsed onto the couch in the break room and she stood stupidly for a minute, gaining back her breath and wanting desperately to hold him. Then, she picked up the phone and called the person who she, sickeningly, realized he would most want to have help him.
Tess, who he’d kissed. Tess, who was his wife. Not her.
Tess, who was helping him remember things that were driving him crazy. She felt a surge of anger at how Max’s supposed alien wife couldn’t even take care of him, so much that he’d had some meltdown.
Liz would never let anything like that happen to him. But, she reminded herself, she had. And then the phone was ringing in the Valenti house, so she had to stop beating herself up and concentrate on getting the one girl she hated to come save the man she still loved more than anyone in the world.
“Hello?” An unsuspecting Kyle answered the phone, and a depressed undertone wafted through the phone lines with his words.
“Tess. Phone. Now,” Liz managed to say, and she cut off Kyle’s question of ‘What’s wrong, Liz?’ by repeating, “Now, Kyle.”
“What’s going on, Liz?” Tess asked, a trace of annoyance in her voice. The truce that they had set between them during the crystal crisis was dissolved in the arcade room of a Vegas hotel.
“Max is over here, and he’s not in good condition,” she answered curtly. She bit back accusatory words and tried to pretend like it didn’t matter to her that she couldn’t be the one who was being called. No, it didn’t matter to her at all. Liz’s heart wasn’t breaking again as she saw Max’s pained face out of the corner of her eye. The tears weren’t resurfacing. They weren’t. “You should... come get him or help him, or whatever,” she choked.
“The Crashdown?” Tess demanded, sounding panicked. Well, at least she sounded like she cared.
“Yeah, the break room.”
“I’ll be right over.” Click
Give the girl a hand for not asking questions, for once.
Liz returned the phone slowly to the cradle, setting it down with minimal noise. She didn’t know whether to try and see if she could wake Max up fully, or if she even wanted to. The way he was with her cat, she was afraid he might do something crazy. Max would never hurt her, she knew, but what if he couldn’t help it?
She settled for pacing back and forth the proximity of the break room, until she couldn’t handle it anymore and knelt beside the dark-haired boy on the couch. A shiver ran through Liz as she noticed the bit of blood seeping through the denim on his knee, and it was reminiscent of another time and place, before she had to pretend she didn’t wish she could reach out and heal him.
Tess had healed him that night, too. She remembered how it had stabbed through her heart the way Tess could help him in ways she couldn’t.
Would it be so wrong if she touched him, just once, so she could remember?
Her fingers reached out to brush the wound gently, her insides aching to heal him, like his real wife could. A few tears involuntarily dripped down her noise and hovered of the top of her lips, so she could taste the salty-sweetness of them. Liz could no longer tell why she was crying. Everything was so muddled lately, as though Roswell was enveloped in a London fog, and there was no sign of the dawn coming to burn it away.
Maybe she was destined to live in the fog forever, because Max was her light, and she would never have him again. Maybe Liz had brought this upon herself, for defying destiny all the times she had, because now that Max and Tess were together she was alone.
Future Max had said she might not be alone. She wondered how he would feel if he saw the grief he’d put himself and her through.
Liz’s eyes closed and her hand unknowingly rested on his knee. She could see his face in her mind when it had looked at her with love, before she’d done everything in her power to change that. The connection formed before she knew what was happening, and then the montage began.
I’d never felt flashes like that before. When Max and I used to connect, the flashes were usually confusing as they shot at me into every crevice of my mind, but they were always discernible. I could always understand them and empathize with the emotions as some level, because everything I was seeing and feeling was pure Max.
This time, it was darkness and pain and foreign emotions that couldn’t register in the few seconds we were joined. I could feel the energy, though, something so powerful it was corrupting. There was a presence in his mind that had never been there before. And the jello. It was like I was swimming in a sea of jello, and I couldn’t reach the surface...
The swinging door leading to the restaurant opened abruptly and Tess raced in, which prompted Liz to jerk from Max abruptly. She avoided making eye contact with the blond girl, afraid if she did, the charade would end.
“What happened?” Tess shrilled, sliding over to Max and cradling his limp head in her hands. Liz flinched. As she’d predicted, Tess scanned Max’s body and found the cut, and she moved to heal it.
That was why Liz had to give Max up to Tess.
No matter how much she loved him, she couldn’t save him.
The next words out of Tess’ mouth almost made her blood run cold. “Why is there a hole in Max’s jeans with blood on it, but no wound?” Liz froze and allowed herself to focus back in on the pair. It wasn’t possible. It couldn’t be. She couldn’t heal. Tess was staring at her suspiciously, anger in her icy eyes.
“Ma-maybe he healed it when he fell. I- I don’t know. Why are you asking me?” she snapped, because her world had suddenly tilted on its axis. Max hadn’t healed his wound on the street, and it definitely existed when she’d touched it a minute ago.
“Calm down,” she muttered. “I was just asking. What happened?” she repeated. There was something in her voice that told Liz that Tess knew more than she was letting on, but she pushed those thoughts away. She had to get over her distrust of Tess; if the girl was out to get them, wouldn't she have already done it?
So Liz told her. She started with coming out to find Max with her cat and ended with bringing him into the room. “And then I called you, because I figured you’d know what was wrong with him. Your memory retrieval trick is screwing with his mind, Tess.”
“What do you know about that?” Liz might have taken that as a usual biting Tess comment, thrown at her because she was an inferior human, but she heard the nervous and protective edge to it.
Tess Harding was nervous. And scared. She was hiding something.
“You knew!” Liz shouted, unable to remain passive any longer. “Didn’t you? You knew it was doing something to him, and you did it anyway. You didn’t bother to tell anyone, either, did you? Of course not,” she babbled. “Who would you tell?”
“I didn’t know this was going to happen,” Tess hedged, but Liz saw right through her. She desperately tried to calm herself, but her fury was not easy to put a damper on. In her anger, she forgot momentarily that Tess was acting particularly suspicious, even for Liz's opinion of her.
“I can’t believe this!” she finally spat, infuriated. “I handed him over on a fucking silver plate for you, and you go and mess with his head!” Tess was shocked; she had never seen Liz lose her temper, but the girl raged on, forgetting that Max was even in the room. Her only intent was to, finally, give Tess a piece of her mind. It didn’t matter what she said, anyway, because she was no longer connected to Max. Tess would never leave because of Liz alone. “I could have fought for him last May, but did I? No, I walked away. And then, I made it so easy for you to have him, and you go and screw it up. I would never do something so careless, and if I did, if I noticed something was wrong with whoever, doesn’t even have to be Max, I’d stop and tell someone! I don’t care if you blast me to hell, but I hate you! I hate you.” Her voice became no more than a whisper. “I hate you.”
"I hate you too, you stupid bitch," Tess replied, her voice grating on Liz. Her rival was beginning to smirk in a way that made Liz's blood run cold. "Handed him to me on a plate?” she asked, voice dripping with sarcasm. “He came to me because he didn’t want to have Kyle’s sloppy seconds.”
That made Liz’s frantic anger cease and ebb, because she saw the taunt as what it was. Tess was trying to take control of the situation and she wouldn’t let her. The girl might get along with everyone else alright by now, but there was no love lost between the two of them. “Tess, you live with Kyle. Do you honestly think he would just have a roll in the sack with me, with anyone, and never mention it again, even if he is a guy? Because, you know, I don’t think he would chance getting blown up or something by the very guy who saved him for getting laid.”
"So, you didn't sleep with Kyle?" Tess grinned. Liz shook her head. "Good to know. Not that it matters now, when Max is mine and no one, especially you, is going to mess it up."
The tone of her voice made Liz's cold blood stop running and freeze instead. "What- what do you mean?" Liz asked. She was so wary of the evil glint that had appeared in Tess' eyes. She wanted to look away, but for some reason she was captivated by the sea blue, the coldness was somehow drawing her in against her will. The clarity of mind she's had just a minute ago was fading as she stared at Tess.
"Stupid humans," Tess whispered quietly. "You're all too trusting." And then her eyes closed in concentration, but Liz didn't notice as she stood in a stupor. The blond girl remained in her position for a few moments, her face screwed up enough to twist her features into something inhuman, more fitting to her cold soul. Then she opened her eyes and led the zombie-like Liz to the break couch and sat her down. Tess smiled cruelly and turned, her blue eyes lit with success. She grabbed an equally stupefied Max and directed him toward the door.
They left quietly, but before they could exit the alley, Tess caught sight of the cat crumpled against the wall. "That won't do," she muttered, realizing she'd erased all of the cat from Liz's memories. One couldn't be too careful about triggers. "Definitely won't do." So she picked up the cat gingerly and dumped it in the trash. The blood was gone with a wave of her hand.
Then they really left, and all traces of the past hour were gone.
Liz woke some minutes later with a pounding headache and the feeling of lead in all her limbs. She shook her head tiredly and wondered why she hadn't made it to her room without zonking out. She didn't recall being that tired. "Oh well," she muttered. "Gotta get some sleep before school."
"It may sound absurd...But don't be naive/ Even heroes have the right to bleed/ I may be disturbed/ But won't you concede/ Even heroes have the right to dream." (Superman, Five for Flying)