|posted on 15-Sep-2001 12:58:54 PM|
Stories to be archived here in (hopeful) due time are:
Afraid to Sleep
In Love & War
|posted on 15-Sep-2001 1:11:01 PM|
|Afraid to Sleep 1-5|
Title: Afraid to Sleep
Disclaimer: Roswell owned by WB, UPN, Jason Katims, Melinda Metz, etc. "Afraid to Sleep" is a song by Dido.
Rating: Probably R. It gets icky toward the end.
Summary: Nikolas breaks into the CrashDown. Takes place after Destiny, EotW and ARCC.
We slept in this room together, but now you're gone
And it's so quiet I turn the tv on
We lived in this room together, we painted the walls
Now time doesn't stand still, it crawls
And I'm afraid to sleep
Cause if I do I dream of you
And dreams are always deep
On the pillow where I weep
I never realized how much I was in love with you
Until you started sleeping with someone new
Last night I dreamed again and you were there
You kissed my face, you touched my hair
And I'm afraid to sleep
Cause if I do I dream of you
And dreams are always deep
On the pillow where I weep
Lying alone in the darkness, with the memory in my head
There's a big hole where my heart is
And a lonely feeling rolling 'round my bed
And I'm afraid to sleep
Cause if I do I dream of you
I'm afraid to sleep
Cause if I do I dream of you
Dreams are always deep
On the pillow where I weep
On the pillow where I weep
I'm afraid to sleep
Afraid to Sleep *Part 1*
Liz paced around her bedroom. It was closing in around three o’ clock in the morning, and she still wasn’t asleep. Almost every night this was happening. In school her grades had begun to slip because the only time she managed to drift off was during class.
She sighed, and her eyes wandered to her desk, across her school books and her journal, and lingered on a strip of photos of herself and Max. They had gone to the mall together one day last year and had taken pictures from one of those instant photo booths.
She smiled at the memory, picking up the pictures and studying them closely.
They had been happy then. The pictures were before Tess, before destiny, before the end of the world. Before her life had completely shattered. It was in so many pieces right now she wasn’t sure if she could glue it back together. It was tempting to just dump it in the trash.
She balled up her fist, unconsciously crushing the pictures inside. Those days were gone. The pictures were meaningless now.
He sat in his room with the lights shut off, hoping he would trick his parents and his sister into thinking he was sleeping. But he couldn’t sleep. He kept thinking of her. The memory of seeing her like that with *him* stuck in his mind constantly and he couldn’t remove it. That look of guilt on her face tore him apart every time. He had even asked her straightly if she had slept with him. She didn’t deny it. He kept thinking she had to be lying, because there wasn’t a logical reason of why she would do that to him. He could never come up with a reason why she would lie. It couldn’t be just because of destiny. He told her constantly it’s not what he wanted. He closed his eyes, hoping to drift off, but there she was, smiling beneath his eyelids in that way he couldn’t stand not to be with her. He hated her. But he loved her. And it was tearing him apart.
He was the reason she couldn’t sleep anyway. Every time her eyelids closed, he was there behind them. It didn’t matter whether he was smiling or glaring. Either she would start wondering why she couldn’t give in and be with him again, or she would start crying because Max hated her for what she’d done. It depressed her all the same.
Liz stared at the photos numbly, then allowed them to flutter to the floor as she stumbled into the bathroom. She turned on the sink faucet and splashed her face with cold water, hoping it would somehow wake her up. But she was too drowsy and her mind was too foggy for it to do much help. She stared at her reflection in the mirror. She didn’t look good, and she wondered how long it was going to be until her friends started asking about it. Liz could tell Maria had noticed, but so far had kept her nose out of things. Alex probably knew something was up but was doing the same thing.
She had a shift at the CrashDown in the morning, since it was Saturday. If she didn’t sleep, Maria would definitely bring it up.
Liz sighed and reached to the bathtub to plug the drain and then turned on the water.
As the tub filled, she made her way down the stairs to the cafe. In the kitchen she rummaged through the cabinets for the relaxation tea Maria had left her. It was one of Maria’s subtle hints that she had started recognizing Liz’s downward spiral. Once she had it, she set a tea kettle to boil. It would take awhile until the tea was ready and she wanted to get a hot bath before.
This had become some sort of nightly ritual. Always when she was having her little case of insomnia she took a bath and then carried tea up to her bedroom. Sometimes it helped, sometimes it didn’t. She was desperately hoping this time it would help.
Liz turned to go back up the stairs when a noise coming from outside distracted her. She stared across the room at the glass windows and doors, trying to get a glimpse of anything strange.
She progressed toward the stairs again when she heard an explosion that completely knocked her off her feet and onto the floor. Behind the counter, she tried to protect her head and face from the glass shards that were raining down.
She paused and listened, squeezing her back against the counter as she faced the kitchen. She recognized the sound of crunching glass.
Someone’s here, she thought in shock and panic, her mind racing. Almost everyone in town knew her parents were away. But whoever it was had to know she would still be here...
Liz shivered and a chill ran down her back.
She strained to hear again. The intruder was coming closer. Liz’s heart was pounding. Slowly she slid her body down the counter and around the side as the invader approached the area she had been on. She faced the entrance to the CrashDown and saw that the glass door and windows had been entirely blown through. Glass littered the floor everywhere, and a few of the chairs and tables had toppled from the blast.
She heard the trespasser enter the kitchen and tried to think clearly. She had to come up with some type of plan.
The tea kettle whistled. Liz bit her lip and grimaced. She was definitely found out now.
Go upstairs, she pleaded silently. She stopped and waited. Nothing.
This was her last chance. Without any other hesitations, she jumped up and ran towards the door, wincing as the glass cut her bare feet. She reached the door and grasped the edge, ignoring a fragment of glass that wedged itself into her right palm. As soon as she had one foot out the frame, something slammed into her from behind so hard she hit the ground within seconds, banging the side of her face so hard she felt the blood immediately and her vision started to blur. She caught ahold of herself and realized someone was still on top of her, a hand pressed firmly on the side of her face to keep her head down against the pavement.
“You thought you had made it, didn’t you?” Nikolas whispered into her ear. She could almost feel him grinning. “Not quite.”
He flipped her around on her back, so they were face to face. He kept his hand cupped on the side of her face. His fingers sifted through her hair.
“I think I just found the key to everything I need.”
Max shifted, trying to fall asleep. Every time he closed his eyes she was there, smiling at him. He couldn’t help thinking about her, it was beyond his control. Finally, he gave up and crawled out his window to go to the CrashDown.
Isabel was in her room, playing soft music so not to disturb the rest of the household. She held a pair of high heels in her hands, trying to figure out whether she should put them between the matching blue ones and a pair of platforms, or with some of her dressier shoes like her strappy sandals. At the sound of the Jeep pulling out of the driveway, Isabel stood up and gazed out the window to see which direction Max was heading. Instantly she realized he was heading towards the CrashDown. She couldn’t figure out why he was going there at all, and at this hour nonetheless. She shrugged, placing the heels between her sandals and the blue heels. There were more important things to do. She’d ask him in the morning.
Liz had one last chance. Quickly she lifted her knee to her face and kicked at Nikolas as hard as she could, hitting him directly on his chin. He flew backwards, and she scrambled to her feet again, rushing for the door. She felt his hand grasp around her ankle and immediately she was down on the ground again as he pulled her feet out from under. Swinging her around by her foot, he slammed her into one of the tables.
He was on top of her again almost immediately, lifting her up so she was eye to eye with him again.
“I won’t let something so valuable to me slip away to easily,” he told her.
She gasped, breathing heavily and trying to keep ahold of her consciousness and her vision. He continued talking, but the pounding of her heart blocked out all the other noises and she could only see his mouth move.
She slid her hand over the table behind her and felt the cool metal of the napkin dispensers. Grasping it in her hand, she managed to swing it around and knock it on the side of his head. With a shaky hand she dropped the dispenser on the floor, after noting the small steak of blood spread across the shiny silver. Nikolas crumpled to the floor and she ran, past the counter and pushing through the door towards the stairs. She grabbed the knob of the back door, twisting it furiously. It was locked. She pounded on it in frustration.
Liz stopped when she realized Nikolas wasn’t after her.
She reentered the cafe, walking slowly and saw Nikolas still on the floor. She thought she saw some blood around his head. She sighed, leaning on the counter and putting a hand to her chest, breathing harshly. She glanced at the doorway, wondering if she could slip by and get outside. She would have to step over him to do it, and she had a growing fear he would wake up and find her trying to get past him.
Trying to come to her senses, she dumped out the contents of the tips cup on the counter. Coins scattered everywhere, dropping on the floor. She grabbed a handful and shoved them inside the pay phone which hung by the bathroom door. She dialed the number by heart, hoping someone would answer.
Isabel heard the phone ring in Max’s room, wondering who would be calling so late. She slid out into the hall and into his room to get it. She didn’t want her parents waking up and answering it, realizing Max wasn’t in his room. It might even be Max himself, but he had more sense to call in the middle of the night.
“Isabel?” It was Liz, she sounded frightened.
“Liz, what are you doing? Is everything okay?”
She could hear Liz’s harsh breathing on the other end of the line.
“I don’t know what to do,” she said quickly, “he just showed up and--” Her voice was cut off, sounding muffled. Moments later she heard a sickening thud and a crash.
“Liz? Liz!” Isabel was practically screaming into the phone.
She strained to hear something, but then she recognized steady breathing as someone picked up the phone again. The voice sent chills down her spine.
Max climbed up to Liz’s deck, expecting to see her sleeping inside her bed. He knew this was stupid, and he knew he had promised never to ask her again. Maybe if he saw her, it would all come together and he would know just why she felt she had to hurt him so badly.
But she wasn’t sleeping. He peeked through the window and tapped the glass, double checking to make sure he hadn’t missed her. The bathroom light was on, but she didn’t come out. He turned around to leave, but another urge made him press his hand against the window. He heard the lock click open on the other side of the glass and he threw it open, crawling inside cautiously.
The first thing he noticed was that the bed was still made. The bedspread was rumpled, as if someone had been laying on it, but the sheets weren’t pulled apart. Why wouldn’t she have slept at all? It was so late...
The radio was on, humming softly. From the bathroom he could hear water running. The rug outside Liz’s bathroom was drenched and soaked through. The water was pouring into the bathtub, streaming over the edge. The entire bathroom floor was flooded. He felt a pang of fear in his stomach. Something was completely wrong. He turned the knobs on the faucet and shut off the water. He’d clean up the mess later, after he found out what was happening.
He turned to go out the door to the hallway but something caught his eye. Bending down to pick it up, he tried to smooth it out. Immediately he recognized the strip of pictures he and Liz had taken together. They were crushed, just like he was.
A crash from downstairs jolted him quickly from his thoughts. He dropped the pictures, racing towards the hall to go downstairs.
Max pushed open the kitchen door, peeking his head inside looking for the cause of the clatter. A tea kettle had been tossed carelessly to the floor, the contents spilling out over the ground. There was no way it could have made so much noise. He burst into the cafe and stopped in his tracks. He surveyed the room, absorbing the wreck. Glass, tables and chairs scattered around the cafe. His breath caught in his throat when he spotted the blood.
Max crossed the cafe and bent down to look at it closely. He dipped his fingers into the small red pool, smoothing it out across his fingertips. One of the napkin dispensers lying across from him had a dried stain across it.
He whirled around at the sound of Isabel’s voice. She stood in the doorway, a look of fear crossing her face. Behind her Maria, Micheal and Alex stood waiting anxiously.
“Where’s Liz?” Maria asked abruptly, barging into the cafe.
Max’s expression dropped. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “What’s going on?”
“I don’t know,” Isabel stammered. “She called the house, sounding frightened. I think Nikolas was here.”
“Nikolas?” Max repeated, hearing the alarm in his voice.
“I called Valenti before getting over here with them,” Isabel replied, referring to Maria, Micheal and Alex. She didn’t have much time to finish her sentence before three more rushed in. Kyle, Tess, and the sheriff.
“What happened here?” Valenti asked immediately.
“Nikolas. Liz is missing,” Micheal filled in quickly.
Max avoided his gaze from Kyle’s. “This isn’t her blood,” he announced, staring down at his fingers.
“What? How can you tell?” Micheal questioned.
“It’s different. Not like before,” he swallowed, “when she was shot.”
“Nikolas’ then?” Tess proposed.
“Okay, so then our best hope is that Liz got away from him and is currently looking for one of us,” Alex piped up.
“And if not?” Valenti said, hating to bring up the bad side. “Where would he take her?”
“Copper Summit? Back to Arizona?“ Tess suggested. Maria gave a little squeak.
Max sighed, turning over one of the chairs and collapsing into it. The rest followed his example, shifting into chairs of their own.
“Well, if he’s on the roads, he can’t be very far,” Valenti pointed out, grasping his keys. “I’ll get out onto the route.”
Max nodded numbly.
“I’ll come with you,” Micheal volunteered, “incase we find something.”
Liz woke up slowly to the sound of voices, trying to shake the grogginess out of her mind. She was sitting in one of the CrashDown booths, propped up against the wall. The confusion welled in her mind as she spotted her friends sitting in the background. Maria was near tears.
She was about to call out to them when Nikolas appeared, sliding into the booth right against her. She pressed herself against the wall, switching her gaze from Nikolas to her friends. They were oblivious to her existence.
“Mind warp,” Nikolas stated in a simple explanation, raising his glass of cherry coke.
Liz’s thoughts went straight to Tess. Wasn’t that one of her powers, to make someone see something that was there...or wasn’t there?
She let out a shaky breath.
“Don’t try anything,” Nikolas warned her. “I could kill you in an instant if I chose to.”
Liz finally found her voice, staring directly into his eyes. “There’s a reason you’re here,” she stammered, “and it’s not to kill me.”
He shrugged, then nodded. “Not yet, anyway.” He stared back into her face with interest. An amused smile played across his face. Suddenly he jumped towards her, seizing her arm and dragging her closer. He grabbed the top of her head with his other hand. “I want to find out your secrets first,” he divulged. “If I can find the location of the granilith now, I won’t have do bother with the rest of them.” He nodded off towards the others.
“I don’t have any secrets,” she whispered. “I don’t know what it is, I’ve never seen it,” she insisted. She was painfully aware of Max sitting so close, ignorant of her current situation.
He entered her mind immediately, and the pain was so intense it was numbing. She gasped, trying with all her strength to resist, to push him out. Images started flashing by so fast she couldn’t recognize most of them. The ones she managed to catch were all from her childhood, before she had met Max.
The images slowed when Liz recognized an image of Max watching her as she worked at the cafe. The day at the CrashDown replayed in her head, right before her eyes. Liz could feel and see everything just as if it was happening all over again. She could feel the bullet, hear Maria scream...She felt Max’s hand on her stomach, feeling the pressure he put on it, risking his own life to save hers...After that she saw the scene of herself examining the silver handprint on her stomach.
“So you do have a secret,” Nikolas murmured in her ear. He loosened his grip on her and she slipped away from his grasp. The pain in her head was almost blinding, and the agony was growing in her side. The bullet wasn’t there, but she could feel it. It was just like before, when she was really shot. But this time, she thought, there wasn’t anyone to help her.
“Max, we have to do something,” Isabel insisted. “Liz’s life is at stake here.”
He looked up at his sister. Wasn’t that obvious? That was the one thought that had been racing through his mind this whole time.
"We don’t know,” Tess began. “She might already be dead.”
“Oh, you would like that, wouldn’t you?” Maria suddenly screamed. “Liz is the one thing that stands in the way of you and ---”
“Hey!” Max yelled, standing up so quickly the chair knocked over. He held a hand up towards Maria, silencing her. “Tess isn’t the enemy here,” he declared, making it known to everyone.
Maria nodded slowly, tears welling in her eyes. Alex drew her back, his hand remaining on her shoulder for comfort.
“It’s okay,” Tess replied, the hurt reflecting in her voice. She pushed her hair behind her ear and shifted her eyes away. “She’s upset.”
“We can’t just sit around waiting for Micheal and my dad to come back,” Kyle stated, finally speaking.
Max shot him a look that could kill. He still hated the guy, whether the rumor was true or not.
Isabel caught the exchange. “He’s right, Max.”
Liz leaned back against the booth gently as the pain in her side began to dull.
Nikolas looked over at her, tearing his gaze away from the group. “They’re arguing,” he informed her, slamming his glass on the table. “I love the chaos.”
Liz turned away, shoving her fingers through her hair while she closed her eyes. What could she do? Dreamwalk. The idea flashed in her head. She had done it before, when Max was in New York. Except she had Isabel’s help then. But this time he was so much closer. Her only problem was penetrating Nikolas’ warp to get into Max’s mind. She wasn’t sure if she could do that. If Nikolas was strong enough to keep their presences blocked by all her friends, would the distortion even be possible to break? It was worth a try, at least.
She concentrated, trying to block out everything. The pain, the blood, and the fear - and focused her thoughts on Max Evans, who stood only a few feet away. She knew he would be welcoming any message from her, and she desperately hoped she could reach him.
Max straightened immediately. Liz was standing right next to him. Her body looked thin, transparent. Her image kept flickering before him.
“Max,” she breathed. “You have to help me, please.” Her shaky voice was echoing in and out. He could only catch snippets of her sentence.
“Liz...where are you?” he asked frantically, before she had a chance to fade out entirely.
“Here,” she replied, reaching up and placing her hands on either side of his face. “I’m here, at the CrashDown.”
Nikolas turned his gaze back to Liz, frowning as she watched the sudden change in Max. Angrily he snatched a handful of her hair and jerked back her head. She gasped, sucking in her breath as he slammed her forehead back down into the table. Hard.
“I told you not to try anything,” he scowled.
“Here?” Max asked anxiously as Liz’s image moaned in pain. “That’s impossible.”
“Nikolas is here. He’s made ... a...a mind warp, distorting reality. Like Tess. He’s making you think we’re not really here.”
Max looked around frantically, finding nothing.
“Please,” Liz begged, right before she let out another long cry.
Nikolas dragged her out of the booth, throwing her against the counter. She tried desperately to grasp her focus with Max. If she could keep her contact with him then maybe...
She braced herself for another blow from Nikolas. Again and again, she could hardly feel anything her body was so numb. She wiped at her eyes, trying to see something, anything, but all she could see was red. Then, slowly, dizziness overcame her and it felt like she was spinning. The red swirled in front of her eyes, growing blacker until the darkness came and over took it. Silence.
Max cried out, calling after Liz as she began to fade out with terrified screams of her own. Then she was gone. Disappeared, just like that.
He snapped his head up, facing the troubled looks of Maria, Alex, Kyle and Isabel and Tess.
“Max,” Isabel said quickly, “There’s blood on your face.”
He reached up, wiping his fingers across his cheek. Liz had touched him, put her hands on his face. She was bleeding.
“Max?” Tess ventured, full of concern.
“She’s here,” he announced to them. “Nikolas too.”
He whirled to face Tess.“He can do mind warps...like you. It’s what he’s done. We have to break it.”
“We have to hurry,” he replied grimly.
Without any other words from the rest, he closed his eyes and concentrated, searching for the energy that restrained him from Liz. He focused on Liz, on Nikolas. Anything.
At last he broke Nikolas’ mind warp. He felt the energy that had been built up shatter. It was like a click in the back of his head, snapping him back to reality. And to Liz. He saw her lying on the floor by the counter and he knew he had succeeded.
Max was by her side in an instant. He pulled her hair out of her face, searching for any bad injuries. The right side of her face was all right aside from a few tiny scrapes and one minor bruise. Carefully he titled her head to see the left side of her face.
He gasped and almost pulled back at the sight. He heard another gulp from Maria behind him. “Oh god,” she choked.
There was too much blood. He couldn’t even tell where it was coming from. Regaining his composure, Max waved his hand over her face, clearing away all the red, revealing the entire left side of her face to be swollen and bruised. The blood was rushing from a deep gash on her forehead and one cut along her cheek.
“Back up,” he told the others, motioning with his hand for them to get out of his way. He slid his arms under her back in an attempt to pick her up. He could feel the blood under his arms. Max pulled one of his hands away and saw it was covered in red.
Suddenly he felt himself being lifted up. Within seconds he was in the air and in another instant he slammed into the wall.
“Max!” Isabel and Tess cried in unison.
Across the room, Nikolas stood in front of Liz, sneering at them.
“Nice to see you all again,” he exclaimed.
Max stood up painfully, eyeing Liz and then Nikolas.
“Max,” Isabel called, moving towards him.
“Tsk, tsk, Vilandra,” Nikolas warned as he threw up one of his hands. Immediately a shield appeared, separating Max, Nikolas and Liz from the others.
“It’s just you and me, Max,” he proclaimed.
From the corner of his eye, Max saw Tess and Isabel working against the shield. Their combined power didn’t even compare to the strength it held.
Nikolas reached down and grabbed Liz’s arm, pulling her up.
“Leave her alone,” Max said cautiously. “She has nothing to do with this. She’s innocent.”
Nikolas smirked and began mockingly, “On the contrary, Max. She has everything in the world to do with this. And guess who dragged her into it? You did. You cemented her destiny that day when you saved her life. If you had let her die, she wouldn’t be hanging from a thread right now. Besides, everyone knows the innocent die in war. You didn’t seem to mind before.”
He fixed his hand on top of Liz’s head, invading her memories instantaneously. Her eyes flew open, Nikolas’ intrusion jolting her out of her unconsciousness.
The scenes rushed past, and she tried to hold her ground in front of the others, in front of Max, but she couldn’t hold back the screams. The images settled, and she saw herself sitting in her bedroom, with Future Max facing her.
Oh God, she thought wildly. He can’t find out what the granilith can really do.
“You expect me to believe that the...the granilith is some sort of time machine?”
“It wasn’t intended to be, but it does have an enormous amount of power, and we were able to modify it to artificially create a tear in time space.”
Nikolas smiled and roughly pushed Liz to the ground. “Interesting,” he remarked.
Max stepped forward carefully. “What do you want?”
“Among numerous other things...the granilith,” Nikolas replied with composure. “Just now I’ve learned something rather intriguing about it you don’t even know. Apparently your girlfriend has been keeping secrets from you, Max.”
Max stared down at Liz, then switched quickly back to Nikolas.
“Anyway,” Nikolas shrugged, “I see I’m not getting anywhere with this tonight. But this isn’t the end,” he warned. Within seconds Nikolas had vanished, but Max wasn’t really worried about how he had left.
With Nikolas gone, the shield was disabled. Maria was the first one to realize it, rushing forward to kneel down beside Liz.
“Max,” Isabel called, “are you all right?”
He stopped, looking behind his shoulder at his sister. “Yeah,” he responded dully, “I’m fine.”
Max watched Alex and Kyle join Maria on the floor, all of them trying desperately to wake Liz up.
“So what do we do now, Max?” Tess asked him. He didn’t reply. Why was everyone always asking him that? Usually those words came from Tess. He didn’t want to think about leading right now, the only thing he wanted to do was make sure Liz was going to be okay...
“Oh god,” he heard Maria gasp in horror again. She whirled to face him. “Max!” she cried, her voice wavering.
He hurried towards her, bending down to examine Liz.
Maria tilted Liz’s head so he could see the shard of glass that was stabbed into her neck.
He heard Isabel take in a sharp breath behind him. “It must have happened when she fell...”
“Max, do something,” Maria pleaded.
He didn’t say a word but bent down next to Liz while Alex supported her head.
Carefully he pulled delicately at the glass, holding his breath. Once that glass was removed, he placed his palm across the gash on her neck, willing a connection with her. He strained his mind and breathed a sigh of relief when he felt her energy form with his. Her memories flashed in his head and he saw the image of Liz and Kyle in bed together. He struggled against the image, trying to push farther. As quickly as he was in, he was out. Liz had shut him out, like a big brick wall crashing down in front of him. He didn’t know what to do.
Suddenly Liz’s body lurched forward and her eyes opened into slits.
“Max?” she asked in a daze.
“It’s me,” he answered reasuringly, the tears choking his voice. If Liz wouldn’t let him make a connection with her, he was going to lose her.
“Look at me,” he demanded softly “Open your eyes. You have to let me in, you have to let me make the connection.”
“I love you,” she whispered, laying her head back into Alex’s hands. She closed her eyes.
“Tess!” he screamed, the coldness running over him. His hands were shaking. He couldn’t lose her, he couldn’t let her die... “Tess!” he called again. “You have to help me...You’ve healed me before, help me save Liz.”
Tess stepped forward slowly. “Max...that was just a little scrape...”
“Please,” he breathed “You have to try. She’s going to die.”
Tess laid a hand hesitantly on the side of Liz’s neck, grimacing as the blood flowed over her palm. She pushed her thoughts past the slight wave of nausia she felt, trying to think about Liz. She focused on the night Liz came to the Valenti’s, trying to conivce Tess into helping her with Max. Any mutual memory would help making the connection.
Seconds later, she was in. The pictures flashed by rapidly, filling Tess’s mind with images of Max, one much older than now, sitting in Liz’s bedroom talking to her. The same Max spying on her through the congresswoman’s office while she talked to the real Max outside. Dancing with Liz on her deck.
Tess broke the connection, backing away as the pictures continued slashing through her brain and numbing her mind. She couldn’t stop them.
“Tess, are you okay?” Isabel asked with concern.
“Yeah,” she muttered, as she held her hand against her forehead. “How’s Liz?”
“She’s coming around,” Kyle called.
“Let’s get her up,” Alex suggested. While both he and Kyle worked on getting Liz to her feet, Maria snatched a few dish towels from the kitchen.
“Here,” she said, thrusting on into Liz’s palm, closing her fingers around that. “Squeeze that as tightly as you can, okay?” Liz nodded slowly, wrapping her hand around the cloth, blocking the blood flow. Maria was pretty sure if she said anything further it wouldn’t be coherent to Liz, so she set another towel across her head.
“Max, this isn’t working,” she announced as the cloth began to soak with red. “We’ve got to get her to a hospital. She’s lost way too much blood already. She’s going to pass out again any minute.”
“Are you sure that’s safe?” Isabel asked quickly. “I mean, we don’t really know what Nikolas did...and this whole thing about Liz being “changed” now. Can we risk the hospital? They might find something...”
“If we don’t take her she might not get through this,” Alex replied seriously, slipping one of Liz’s arms around his neck to support her better. Her head rolled a little then rested on his shoulder.
“Max, it’s your call,” Tess declared. He didn’t reply.
“His call? What are you talking about?” Kyle demanded, staring Max straight in the eye. “Look, you may have saved my life, and you may have been some great king back where you came from, but you sure as hell aren’t my leader. This isn’t your decision. We’re taking her to the hospital.” Both he and Alex started for the door with Liz while Maria tagged along behind, digging her car keys out from her pocket.
Alex and Kyle hauled Liz into the backseat of the Jetta. Maria crawled in beside her, handing the keys over to Kyle, for once not mentioning her life and death bond with her mother’s car. Within minutes they were racing down the road.
“Can’t you go any faster than that?” Alex asked.
“Hey, I’m going as fast as I can,” Kyle replied calmly. “Try to keep her conscious,” Kyle called back over his shoulder to Maria.
“Okay,” she breathed, nodding her head.
Kyle glanced into the rearview mirror to see the Jeep piled with Max, Isabel and Tess pull up right behind them.
“Max, slow down!” Isabel demanded as Max pulled the Jeep up even closer to the Jetta. They were almost bumper to bumper.
“Liz isn’t getting to the hospital any faster than we are,” Isabel said, trying to get some sense into her brother’s mind. He didn’t answer, gripping the steering wheel even tighter so his knuckles turned white. She sat back against the seat, giving up. Instead, she turned to Tess, who was sitting in the back by herself. Quiet.
“You all right?”
“Yeah,” Tess muttered. “Just...thinking.” She could hardly believe what she discovered. It was mind blowing to think that fourteen years from now, the earth would be involved in a chaotic, historic war, mostly because of her. Who knew when it would even begin. Ten years? Five? Two? It was unbelievable that one person’s actions could influence the deaths of so many, including her friends’. It really would be the end of the world.
Max slammed on the brakes in front of the hospital just in time to avoid any contact with the back of the Jetta and everyone lurched forward. He was out of the Jeep before Isabel had even reached for her seatbelt, flinging open one of the car doors and pulling Liz out. He carried her into the hospital doors and seemed to have people surrounding him seconds upon entering.
A nurse wheeled a gurney by and he set Liz down on it, grasping her hand.
“I’m sorry, sir, but you’re going to have to wait here,” a nurse insisted.
“No, please,” he begged. “You don’t --” Liz’s fingers slipped from his hand as they pushed her forward, rushing through a set of double doors.
Max was left stranded, standing alone watching the corridor Liz had just disappeared into even when he couldn’t see her any longer. He wasn’t sure if he had ever been more afraid in his life.
The funeral took place on a cloudy, rainy, miserable morning. It fit the mood. Not that too many people were focused on the weather. They were in shock that, in the quiet town of Roswell, New Mexico, a teenage girl had been attacked and beaten during a cafe robbery and died the same night after being rushed to the hospital. Of course, they thought that was what happened. Only eight of them knew the truth.
Max refrained from looking at the rest of the group. He didn’t even look at the profusion of flower arrangements. And he most definitely was not going to look into that deep, dark hole... So he stared at his shoes. They were brand new. He’d bought them just for this, and he was positive he would never wear them again.
He held a bouquet of roses in his hands waiting for the right moment to give them up. White roses. Those had been her favorite. He heard Maria sobbing loudly next to him. He could’ve reached out to her, tried to comfort her at least a little bit. But he didn’t. He was too numb to move. Besides, she had Micheal right beside her, supporting her as well as a big black umbrella. He was consoling Maria, whispering in her ear, but of course it wasn’t going to help. Alex was on the other side of Maria, with vacant eyes. Isabel’s face was wet, her tears mingling with the rain. She was hurting too, but being quiet about it. Kyle and Valenti stood by as well. Tess had come, and Max knew she was upset, but she lingered back from the others watching them nervously as the emotion showed in her face.
Max couldn’t bring himself to look at her parents, or the coffin. He wanted to, so badly, to look at her one last time. But he couldn’t. He was too ashamed of himself. He wasn’t sure why, though. Maybe it was because he wasn’t showing any feeling. He couldn’t. Or maybe it was because the last three words she said to him were, ‘I love you’ and he hadn’t said anything in return. And he could have saved her, maybe if he had tried just a little harder she would be standing next to him and this wouldn’t be happening.
But he wasn’t God. She had been the one to tell him that. And he hated God then, even if he didn’t believe in Him, because God has Liz and he didn’t. God had taken her away, ripped her from his grasp. If only he had more time, he could have done something...
But the least he could have done was to tell her just how much he loved her. He could have given her that one comforting thought to ease her pain so she wouldn’t feel so lonely in the dark. Quickly he jerked his head up, to see her face one last time.
The coffin lid slammed shut. It was too late. He was always too late.
Max woke with a start, jumping up from his chair. His sudden movement drew in some looks, but he didn’t care. He had to find Liz and realize she was all right. His nightmare couldn’t become a reality. He didn’t want to miss his chance again
He glanced around quickly, checking to make sure everyone was okay. Maria was asleep, her head lolling against Alex’s shoulder. Alex was staring blindly at a magazine Max noticed was an upside-down copy of ‘Cosmo Girl.’ Isabel was resting on his other shoulder, and Tess had dozed off as well. Only Kyle seemed to be conscious. His foot was tapping impatiently on the floor as if it was some type of involuntary reaction. His hand was up at his mouth and he looked like her was in some deep concentration about something important.
Valenti and Micheal were probably still at the Crashdown clearing up suspicious the police might find and write off as ‘unhuman.’
Max left to attempt to locate someone to help him. He had to see Liz and get this awful image of her funeral out of his head.
Max turned back around at the sound of someone calling his name.
Kyle stood before him, his hands together under his chin. He looked serious.
“Max, I know I’m not your favorite guy right now, but I think you need to know this. I guess I kind of owe it to you, since you saved my life and all. Liz too, I guess, so I think I owe it to her as well...incase she doesn’t make it.”
Max stood there staring at him, waiting for a coherent explanation.
“What you saw that night, Max, it didn’t happen. We didn’t do anything.”
“What?” Max questioned incredulously “What do you mean?”
“I didn’t sleep with Liz,” Kyle stated simply. “She came to me and asked for my help. She didn’t tell me why she needed it when I asked, but she was so desperate I didn’t push it any further.”
“So you just went along?” Max asked, his jaw practically hanging open.
“Well, yeah,” Kyle said. “I don’t really understand why I acted on it, but...I just did. And I know that if something happens, she’d want you to know the truth. She went off all panicky about it during the wipeout, right before she disappeared.”
“And you don’t have any idea why she would do something like this?”
Kyle shrugged. “I’m telling you what I know. I just figured you’d done something to really piss her off. Tell me when you know something about her condition, okay?”
Max nodded and resumed his search of hospital staff after Kyle returned to his chair. He sighed, approaching the hospital desk. He couldn’t believe she would do something like that, so desperate, just because she was angry with him. Or, because of destiny. However, she had tried before to get him involved with Tess. He’d found out about that, though, when he saw her peeking through Congresswoman Whitaker’s office.
“Can I have the room number for Liz Parker, please?” Max asked the receptionist tiredly. His head was swarming. It was hard to believe what Kyle just told him, yet he knew it was true. But, why would she lie to him? Why would she do something so awful? He knew she still loved him, she had told him so less than two hours before. He stopped. Had it only been two hours since then? It seemed like days had passed.
The receptionist starting tapping on her keyboard to fill the request he had asked, but every time one of her long fingernails it a letter, it sounded like he had an explosion of fireworks erupting inside his brain. The receptionist cleared her throat.
“Ms. Parker is in room 202, but she’s not being allowed any visitors just yet. If you would please return to your seat, someone will inform you when the patient is ready for company,” she rehearsed. “May I inquire your relation to the patient?”
He paused, trying to decide what to tell her. What was he to Liz Parker? Certainly not a boyfriend -- anymore -- and probably more than just a friend. He considered to tell this woman that he was family, a brother maybe. It might get him in faster to see Liz.
Max sighed, running his fingers through his hair, then shook his head at her and walked off. Just then, a scream rang out through the hospital corridors. Max recognized it immediately and took off racing down the hallway with the receptionist and a few nurses calling after him. The screaming grew louder as he continued down the hall, frantically checking every room number until he found 202. He was about to push through the door when someone caught his arm from behind.
“Excuse me, sir, but you’re going to have to wait outside,” a nurse told him firmly.
A few more nurses brushed past him into the room. “What’s going on?” he asked, the panic filling his mind. He peered through the window trying to get at least one glimpse of her. He saw her then and his heart skipped once and then fell as he saw two nurses holding her down on the bed while another slid a needle into her forearm.
The nurse pulled him back away from the window and stood in front of him, blocking the view. “We’re administering a mild sedative. Hopefully it will dull the pain she’s experiencing, and help her fall asleep Ms. Parker appears to be having some type of migraine. We’re checking prescriptions for it, but so far nothing matches with her condition.”
“How is she?” he asked, trying to get a peek past the nurse and through the window. At least the screaming from inside had stopped.
“Well, she’s very lucky,” the nurse replied. “She seems to have been severely beaten. There’s been no need for any surgery, of course, but we had to stitch up a head wound to stop the bleeding, and another in her right palm. Her right forearm has a small fracture, and she has various cuts and bruises along her back and side. I understand you’re the one that found her?”
He nodded solemnly and swallowed, a huge pit growing deep in his stomach. Max was starting to feel sick. The nurses inside Liz’s room opened the door and he finally saw inside. She looked like she was sleeping. He smiled a little.
“She’ll be fine. She’ll probably end up with a few scars, but all in all she’ll be all right.”
“When can she come home?” Max asked quickly before the nurse could leave.
“The doctor is thinking of sending her home by the end of tomorrow. After we have a prescription made up, there’s really no reason she stays here.”
The nurse turned and stepped down the hall, obviously allowing him to enter the room.
He stood by her bed, not really sure what to do. For now, though, he was content just staring at her. But it was difficult trying to convince himself she was all right.
She looked so small lying in the bed. They had her hooked up to an IV, and dressed in one of those flimsy paper gowns. The back of it hung open and exposed her back and torn flesh. The deep red marks trailed all the way down to her lower back, under the sheets where he couldn’t see.
Gauze had been taped over the stitches he knew were in her forehead, but a little blood still soaked through. The left side of her face, covered in bruises still, had swollen a little, and part of her lower lip had puffed out. The cuts along her face had closed up, but were still visibly there, and he was certain they would leave scars unless she let him fix it. He wasn’t too sure she would. Her right arm was wrapped in bandages, and her palm had been securely bound.
He lowered himself into a chair, trying to figure out why she would deserve all this. The answer was simple. She didn’t.
She woke up and instantly saw him next to her, sitting by the bed. He was asleep, one elbow resting on the small table next to the cot, his head against his hand.
She smiled to herself and stared up into his face. This is how it should be, she thought hopefully.
Liz shifted to sit upright and a small moan escaped from her mouth when she felt a sharp, intense ache in her arm.
He woke up instantly and she straightened, but immediately there was concern all over his expression. He had seen it her discomfort. “Are you all right?” he asked quickly, lifting his hands as if to help her.
“Yes,” she lied, easing down into the hospital and shrugging off his hands.
Max gave her a small, reassuring smile but she could still see the worry behind his eyes. He laid a hand over hers, and she quickly pulled it away trying to hide her reaction by smoothing out her hair. He saw through her coverup and frowned, his face dulling.
She turned away and sucked in her breath feeling guilty. She hardy felt any emotion except that nowadays. She was by far used to the feeling, and loathed it by the second. Not a day went by that she didn’t see the pain she constantly, repeatedly caused him. And it was tearing her apart. That must have been the one thing he couldn’t see.
She wished her shades were open, so she could watch something to occupy herself with. To make her mind numb to the enormous amounts of pain that shocked through her entire body every time she moved. And to make her consciousness unaware that Max Evans was sitting next to her. She was sure that would never happen. If he was in the same building, Liz would know. She would feel it, intensely, and immediately realize that he was near her. But lately, that feeling wasn’t so intense anymore.
“Liz,” Max said, drawing her out of her thoughts. She turned back to face him, yet tried to avoid his eyes. She couldn’t look at him up so close anymore, not without the guilt.
“Yeah?” she responded, holding her breath.
“You said you didn’t want to die for me.”
Her head shot up, and her eyes met his within a second. The conversation they had echoed in her ears. Liz nodded slowly, then swallowed. She didn’t say anything as the fear creeped up into her stomach.
“That’s exactly what you were going to do for me last night.”
She examined the sheets so he didn’t see the wild panic reflecting in her eyes. They were blue. With stripes. She lifted her arm and cringed at the sudden, unexpected agony.
“Liz,” he said again. “I talked to Kyle.”
She whirled to face him and he saw the terror in her huge, brown eyes. Her head was ringing, like a sounding alarm, and her heart was beating so loudly she was sure Max could hear it.
He stood up, staring down at her. No, he was glaring....
“Why did you lie to me?” he demanded, the confusion and pain clouding all over his expressions.
She looked down at the sheets again, then at the floor frantically as if the words she needed were there, written on the ground. She looked up at him wildly, and the tears in her eyes pleaded with him. He saw how scared and confused she was. Yet somehow, he wasn’t sure if he cared...
Her jaw was moving slowly, but nothing was coming out. “I...I didn’t,” she stammered, wondering exactly what Kyle had told Max.
“God, Liz,” he sighed, the exasperation filling his voice. “I know the truth and you’re still trying to lie to me!”
“Max, I --”
“Liz, I know you didn’t sleep with Kyle.”
He was furious. Liz had never seen him so angry or upset before.
“And that’s not everything,” he said quickly, beginning to pace around the room. “You have more secrets, and you’re keeping them from me.”
She couldn’t watch him anymore. All of his sudden movements were making her dizzy. The shock and astonishment was buzzing all through her body and she couldn’t focus.
“Max, please --” she begged.
“Like the granilith,” he continued. “You’ve never even seen it, yet you seem to know more things about than the rest of us do. And now, whatever that is, Nikolas knows. The more he knows about it, the more he’ll do to get it. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do with this thing, let alone protect it. He almost killed you last night, Liz. And I couldn’t do anything because whatever your secrets are, you’d rather die than let me find out.”
“Max,” she breathed, “you have to trust me, please. I know you don’t know what to think right now, but please.”
“Give me a reason, Liz,” Max said firmly, his eyes fixed on her.
“A reason?” she whispered, staring up at him.
“Give me a reason, Liz, as to why I should trust you again. How can I trust you if everything you’ve told me lately has been a lie?”
She stopped breathing. Her air was caught in her throat, and she felt cold all over. The ache in her chest was growing stronger and the sickness in her stomach was rising.
“Dammit, Max!” she screamed. It was probably one of the few times she had ever cursed in her life, much less at Max. It shut him up.
“You said you believed in me!” she shouted, the tears welling up in her eyes and sliding down her face. The salty drops stung every cut. “So if that was a lie then everything we’ve had is, too!”
“Everything else already is,” he said softly, avoiding her eyes.
“Look Max,” she said, taking slow breaths. “There’s a right thing and a wrong thing happening here, and I’m trying to prevent the wrong thing.” It was the best explanation she could give, and she desperately hoped he would accept it.
“And what’s the right thing?” he asked calmly.
Liz swallowed. “You and Tess.”
He sighed. “God, Liz, we’ve been over this so many times before. I’ve told you again and again... I don’t love Tess, I love you.”
“The four of you are stronger together, Max,” she continued, pretending she hadn’t heard those last three words he said. Those three words, coming from Max Evans, she loved hopelessly and at the same time utterly despised. “You proved that last night. You know what happened. When you couldn’t make a connection with me, you asked Tess for help.”
“For you, Liz, to save you.”
“But what happens when it’s not me, Max? What happens when it’s Micheal or Isabel, and Tess isn’t there to help you... and they die?” She paused, talking a little slower, quieter. “Last night you could barely stand up against Nikolas, and he had the others trapped so they couldn’t do anything for you.” She paused, letting him think this through. Slowly, she began again. “This isn’t about you and me anymore, Max,” she whispered.
“And what is it, then, Liz?” His tone was low. She knew she was hurting him again, but she knew her words were making sense.
“I don’t know,” she replied finally. “But if the two of us apart means preventing deaths...then I’ve already let go.”
“You’ve already made your choice?”
Liz nodded. “Yes. Why won’t you trust me?”
“Why won’t you let me love you?” he retorted sombrely. He was halfway to the door. “God, Liz...I gave you everything.”
“I guess that just wasn’t enough,” she replied coldly, the anger swelling inside her.
He nodded, silently accepting her answer and laid his hand on the doorknob.
“Max, wait!” Liz called from the bed. She couldn’t let him leave angry. She didn’t want him to hate her. She shifted to stand up, ignoring the pain that ricocheted through her every limb. She took a step toward him but jerked back as the IV pulled at her arm. Frowning, she ripped it out and continued.
“Max, please,” she gasped, reaching for his arm. “Don’t be angry.”
He took one look at her face. Looking past all the bruises and the scars, she was still Liz. She was beautiful. The love of his life standing before him, asking hiim silently to forgive her. Begging, pleading with her eyes for him to take her back and forget everything.
He took one look at her face.
And slammed the door in it.
Liz stood in shock. Her legs started to shake, and every ounce of suffering she had ignored was starting to catch up to her. She gasped, leaning forward and grasped the doorknob with her good arm for support. Slowly she turned her body around so her back was against the door and using the pressure against her body she slid to the floor. Her legs curled under her and she rested her head against the wall.
She started sobbing almost immediately afterwards. Why did she do that? Why did she tell him that? She had been so close to mending their relationship, and she had completely destroyed it again. God, she was such an idiot...
Liz sniffed once, and tried to relax so she could gain the energy to move back to the bed before some nurse found her like that. It was at that moment he returned.
He didn’t look back. He walked quickly away, fishing the keys to the Jeep out of his pocket as he went. He passed the rest of the group, but didn’t inform them that he was leaving. Maria saw him and jumped up from her chair.
“Max, where are you going?” He looked very upset, with anger flushing his face. Maria figured some nurse wouldn’t let him into Liz’s room and it had ticked him off.
“CrashDown,” he muttered. “I’ll go see how things are clearing up,” he explained at her questioning glance. “Maybe I’ll send Micheal back here.”
“Okay,” she said. “Did you get in to see Liz?”
“Yeah,” he replied dully. “You can probably go talk to her, she’s awake now.”
Maria nodded, agreeing with his suggestion, but she was still confused as she watched him walk down the hallway and leave.
Liz wasn’t sure how exactly he had gotten into her room, or how long he had been there. She shivered.
He approached her slowly, then crouched down so he was eye level with her on the floor.
She squeezed her eyes shut. He wasn’t really there, he couldn’t be. She inched further into the door, wishing she could dissolve into it.
Liz felt his hand on her face and she flinched. “I’m not going to kill you yet,” he promised.
“Why not?” she mumbled, still refusing to look at him, still keeping her eyes shut tightly, hoping he would disappear if she refused to acknowledge his prescence. “Why don’t you just kill me?”
She could feel Nikolas’s smile. “Because I’m not done with you,” he hissed. He was right by her ear, she could feel his breath. “And besides, you’re doing such a fine job of that yourself.”
He clutched the top of her hospital gown and her eyes flew open. His face was so close the only she could see was his eyes.
“I know that you have the secret that can destroy the royal four,” he whispered. “I was so close last night to getting it...I will this time,” he said.
Suddenly, Nikolas ripped apart her hospital gown so violently her whole body jerked. She gasped in shock, trying to pull the pieces of the gown back together to cover herself, to protect herself.
He pressed a hand to her side and instantly she felt the heat inside it. She cried out and he slapped his other hand across her mouth so quickly and so tightly she almost choked on her own screams. He pressed her head back against the door as she tried to pull away. His hand on her stomach grew hotter and hotter until she felt like it was on fire. She looked down and saw steam under his hand.
Oh God, her mind screamed. The smell reached her nose and she wanted to vomit at the stench of her own skin burning.
Her head snapped back and her body lurched into an arc as the images started flashing by her eyes. Nikolas kept searching, scanning her memories until he could find the right one. She struggled against him, trying to push him out so frantically she caught glances of her stomach. She gasped. Her skin was bubbling. All of her senses were screaming at her to make it stop, but she couldn’t keep her mind to herself long enough to think. Within seconds he was back into her head again and she saw herself with Future Max, on the balcony. Max, her Max, was down below with a sombrero and a mariachi band...
“Fourteen years from now, we are taken over by our enemies.”
“Uh...Who’s taken over?” she heard herself ask.
The scene skipped, and they were in her bedroom, with Future Max explaining the situation to her.
“The closer you and I grew, the worse it got with Tess and she eventually left Roswell....Because of me, and the way I treated her. As it turns out, Tess was critical to our survival. The four of us - Micheal, Isabel, Tess and I - we made a complete unit. We all had different gifts, and with one of missing we weren’t as strong and everything fell apart.”
The last words echoed in her mind, “It’s you I trust, it’s you I have faith in...”
Suddenly, all the pain in her mind was gone and the flashes stopped. She opened her eyes. Nikolas was gone. She gazed down and saw a hand print on her stomach. It wasn’t silver, like Max’s had been. It was red, and brown...and black. This one was painful, her skin was scorched. He had burned his hand right into her.
Shakily she stood up, wrapping the pieces of the hospital gown around herself and stumbled back into her bed. Just then Maria and Alex burst into the room. Liz jumped.
“Liz! What happened?” Maria asked instantly. “We heard you yell.”
Liz blinked, and gave them a small smile. “I slipped,” she lied.
“Are you okay?” Maria replied, rushing forward.
Liz nodded. “I’m fine.”
Alex just looked at her oddly, obviously disbelieving her explanation.
He stood in silence for a few moments, then perked up. “So, where’s the jello?”
Max entered the Crashdown and found that the broken glass had been removed and the windows and door replaced.
“How’s everything coming along here?” he asked as Micheal came out of the kitchen. Valenti looked up from the papers he was reading at the counter.
“It’s looking good, Maxwell,” Micheal replied. “We didn’t find anything unusual the cops might find strange, just a few dead skins which we took care of before they arrived.”
“I’ve got a police report written up on the ‘robbery,’” Valenti said casually, indicating to papers he had been writing.
“What about missing money?” Max asked. “Won’t that be an issue when the Parkers get back?”
Micheal grinned and began wiping the counter down with a rag. “Taken care of.”
“How’s Ms. Parker?” Valenti wondered.
Max nodded. “Good,” he muttered. “She’s probably coming home tomorrow.” Valenti nodded and Micheal finished wiping down the counter.
“Well, if everything’s under control here, then why don’t the two of you head down to the hospital or something?” He tossed Micheal the Jeep keys. “There must be some things you have to check with Liz about for the report, Sheriff, so she can keep her story. And Micheal, I think Maria’s waiting for you. I’ll stay around a little longer and check things out, see if there’s anything you missed.”
Valenti glanced at Micheal and Micheal nodded. “All right, Maxwell.”
After the two left, Max wandered aimlessly around the cafe hoping to find something Micheal or the sheriff had missed or bypassed.
The pay phone was off the hook, swinging slowly on its cord. He reached for it to hang it up. As soon as his fingers touched the receiver, an image of Liz frantically dialing his house flashed through his mind. Isabel picked up on the other end, and Liz tried explaining to her what was going on. Nikolas came up from behind and snatched the phone from her, taking a moment to smack the receiver across the side of Liz’s face before talking to Isabel. It sent her flying into the kitchen.
Max slammed the phone back on its hook quickly, hesitantly staring at it for a moment before he turned to head up the stairs to Liz’s bedroom.
As he had expected, no one had been up there. The bathroom floor and rug were still soaked through, and the window was opened from his entrance the night before.
Max began cleaning up the mess, unplugging the bathtub and waved his had over the flood on the floor as it drained. The water dried up instantly.
Max moved on into her bedroom. He picked up the strip of crumpled photos and focused on uncreasing the wrinkles. Within seconds the pictures were perfectly flat and straight.
He tossed the photos on her desk, next to a stack of school books. He started to turn away when he recognized the top book in the pile. Her journal.
|posted on 15-Sep-2001 1:13:55 PM|
|Afraid to Sleep 6-10|
Liz sighed in relief as Maria and Alex stood up to leave. Maria turned to give her one last smile and Alex flashed a quick wave before the door closed behind them. She sat back and grimaced, reaching for the glass she’d saved from the breakfast tray. Grasping some ice cubes in her fingers, she felt under her gown and held her hand over the handprint, hoping the ice would sooth the burning sensation she was feeling.
A sudden rap on the door made her jump and she struggled to sit up, calming the expression on her face so she wouldn’t seem suspicious or guilty.
The door opened and a mass of blonde curls appeared. “Hi,” Tess said nervously as she peered into the room.
“Hey,” Liz replied in surprise. Tess was the last person she expected to see in her room, especially after Max had stormed out.
“I want to ask you something.” Tess approached the bed, trying to get right to the point.
“Okay.” Liz shrugged.
“I made a connection with you last night, when Max asked me for my help. Remember?”
“Yeah...vaguely,” Liz answered solemnly.
Tess paused. “I know what happened,” she tried to say. “I mean, I know why you tried to get Max and me together that night, and then why you pretended to...be with Kyle...and, last night too, why you wouldn’t let Max connect with you.”
“You know?” Liz asked, her throat going dry.
“Yeah,” Tess replied. “The end of the world.”
“Oh.” It’s all she could manage to say. Finally she blurted, “Does Max know?”
“No. I’m not going to tell him,” Tess promised. “I know what it means to you that he doesn’t find out...and what might happen if he did.”
“No one should know their future,” Liz repeated Future Max’s words. “Thank you.” She nodded sincerely.
Tess came forward and sat down next to the bed. “I thought you should know I’ve found out. And...I guess I’m not leaving Roswell.”
Liz smiled and nodded again. “Thank you.” Relief.
They both shifted uncomfortably.
Liz swallowed. “Can...can I ask you something?”
Tess nodded, “Sure.”
Liz pulled her hair back with her hand, looking a little embarassed. “What was he like, um...when he was...your husband?”
Tess gave a small shrug. “I don’t really know,” she admitted. “I don’t have the visual memory, but I can remember the feeling. It’s like... waking up in the morning and knowing, without opening your eyes ...that the one person you truly love is lying next to you. And now,” she whispered sadly, “I open my eyes and he’s gone. He’s slipped right through the sheets when I was asleep. I don’t want to wake up alone anymore.”
“I’m sorry,” she swallowed, “if I’ve caused any of that.”
Tess shook her head. “It wasn’t you, not really,” she replied slowly. “And it wasn’t him either. I just had...too many expectations. I always thought that when we saw each other again, I’d fall into his arms and we’d be in love, just like that. But he doesn’t love me, not this time. He didn’t even remember me.”
“But it’s my fault,” Liz insisted, “that he doesn’t love you.”
“You didn’t know,” Tess said. “And he didn’t either. He fell in love with you long before he knew I even existed.” Tess shrugged.
Liz shook her head firmly. “His past is with you...his destiny is with you...and once he regains those memories, maybe he’ll come around.”
“Why are you saying this? Don’t you still love him?”
“Of course I do,” she sighed. “ But I realize he can’t be with me. It isn’t logical, really. His best future is with you, and I can’t stand in the way of that any longer. Like I said, I’m doing this for Max, whether he realizes it or not.”
“I was willing to give up my destiny with him so he could be with you, so he could be happy. And now, you’re giving up your own happiness, so he can find love for someone else?”
Liz nodded, and looked at Tess sadly. “I guess so.”
“You were willing to die for that.”
She nodded again. Tess sighed. “Do you think he could...ever love me like he loves you?”
Liz smiled. “I don’t know. But you said you knew what it felt like, and to feel that being taken away... I know that must be the most terrible feeling in the world, because I’m feeling it right now. But...I think it can only get better for you.”
Tess smiled. “Well, we share one thing in common.”
“Yeah. I guess we do.”
Liz stepped slowly out of the hospital room, with Alex by her side to help. A nurse slid a wheelchair beside her and she slowly eased herself into with Alex’s support.
“They’re letting me go home now,” Liz breathed in obvious announcement. She flashed a quick, small smile to everyone. It was the biggest she could manage after realizing Max wasn’t there for her homecoming. Maria said he had left immediately after visiting her room. Liz wasn’t surprised.
“Are you sure you’re okay to leave?” Isabel asked worriedly. Liz had been through hell and looked like it.
“Yes,” she replied quickly. There was no way she was staying in this hospital another second. The doctors had finally found a prescription for her ‘migraines’ and as they promised were allowing her to leave, even if it was a day early. If she had to admit it, Liz would have rather stayed at the hospital, but she couldn’t let them discover the handprint on her abdomen. She would have a hard time explaining that one, and twice already different nurses had come in trying to convince her into letting them change some of her bandages. She had refused vehemently, and finally they gave up and bustled out in a huff. The doctor had advised she stay another day, but she denied.
Liz clutched the presciption bottle in her hand. They had told her to return if the pain of her headaches didn’t reduce by the time the pills were out. She had smiled and sweetly abliged, but she wasn’t coming back.
After a long, wary trip down the hospital corridors, Liz shifted herself into Maria’s little red Jetta, exhausted. Alex gave her a quick kiss on her forehead. “I’ll come by later,” he promised.
Liz nodded. “Okay,” she replied, not really sure if she wanted the company.
Maria hopped inside the driver’s seat. She started the car without saying anything but kept throwing Liz quick, concerned looks on the way to the Crashdown.
“You’re upset Max wasn’t there, huh?” Maria said.
Liz shrugged. “He was probably doing something...important.”
“Yeah, right Liz. Like what? Ice fishing?”
“He just didn’t know, that’s all. Isabel called and told him to get back to the hospital since I was leaving, but he wasn’t home.” Liz shrugged again. It was too late to change things anyway. There was an awkward silence, and Liz couldn’t take all the prying looks Maria kept flashing towards her.
“God, I was so scared,” Liz said finally.
“Nikolas?” Maria questioned. “I can’t believe you handled things so well. Let me tell you, next time that guy shows up, Max is going to give him a beat down.” Maria had a silly little grin plastered on her face.
Liz had to smile, but shook her head. “No. When Max found out I lied to him. He knows I didn’t sleep with Kyle.”
“Oh.” Maria grew serious. “I overheard Kyle mention something about it in the hospital to Max. He said he owed it to both of you or something. He thought Max should know the truth incase somthing happened to you. That was probably around the time when nobody knew you were going to pull through.”
Liz groaned and closed her eyes. “Couldn’t he have waited until I was dead?” She pulled down the mirror to examine her face. She traced the scars and bruises with her fingertips. “I look like hell,” she muttered, slamming the mirror back up and falling back in the carseat. The shift sent a pang of shock up her back. She grimaced.
“Are you okay? Should I pull over?” Maria asked quickly.
“No,” Liz replied firmly. “It was a stupid move.” She glanced in the rearview mirror. Micheal, Isabel and Alex were following in the Jeep. Behind them, in the sheriff’s car, were Valenti, Kyle and Tess. She didn’t want them stopping if Maria pulled over.
“Okay,” Maria replied, guessing Liz’s thoughts. “Let’s just go home.”
“What am I going to do?” Liz asked. “He knows, and now I have to come up with something else to keep him away from me. That is, unless he doesn’t already hate me for lying to him. He was so upset, Maria. I’ve never seen him that way before.” She sat her elbow up by the window and rested her head on her hand, staring out at the passing scenery. “I just can’t deal with this anymore, and I have to tell him something about the granilith.”
“Why don’t you just tell him the truth? This is obviously costing you,” Maria suggested, “and now with the Nikolas thing? You’re already way too stressed.”
“He can’t know the whole truth,” Liz replied. “I just don’t know what I can say to him without blowing the entire cover. And you cannot tell him either.”
“Okay,” Maria agreed.
“You swear? This is something I really need to trust you for.”
“I promise,” Maria swore.
They spent the rest of the ride back to the CrashDown in silence.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay by yourself, Liz?” Maria asked quickly as Liz started to climb the stairs up to her bedroom.
“Yeah,” Liz replied. “I think I want to sit alone for awhile, and just...digest things.”
“Max?” Maria guessed.
Liz nodded. “I promise to call you if I need anything.”
“You’d better. Did you call your parents yet?”
Liz shook her head. “I...think they’ll just have to find out when they come home. It’s only a few more days, and I want them to enjoy it while they can. I can manage. I’ve got you, right?”
“Definitely.” Maria smiled and turned away to leave. “I’ll come around tomorrow morning, okay.” There was no use resisting, of course. Maria had made up her mind, and it was obviously not a question, it was an invitation.
Liz grasped the banister as she slowly climbed the stairs. She didn’t want to notify her parents just yet. They would come home and pile her with even more stress just being there, worrying about her. And she would have to worry about them. Despite what happened at the hospital, she wasn’t sure if this was over just yet. She heard Maria’s car start up in the alley and watched it drive away, suddenly feeling very alone in the dark.
Liz stared down blankly at the book in front of her, flipping through it blindly. The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, the perfect romance. If only people knew. She wasn’t even sure why she was looking at it, it was depressing. It made her think of lying to him, and the possibility of having to lie to him yet again. She couldn’t do it again. It was too painful.
A small box on her desk caught Liz’s eye. Lazily she stretched out her hand for it, staring at it cautiously trying to decide if opening it would bring back too many memories. She tossed the lid aside and picked up the object inside. A pocketknife. She traced her finger along the inscription, and the silver plate glinted in the light. “Max & Liz 4-Ever.” It had seemed to be an appropriate gift at the time.
“Merry Christmas, Max,” she’d whispered in his ear, leaning over his shoulder with the box. He’d opened it slowly and afterwards stared at it for such a long time without speaking Liz started to get worried.
“Do you like it?” she ventured carefully.
He had turned to face her and, pulling her into his lap, replied with a kiss.
“You said...you wanted to be friends...and I thought about it. And...I realized that...that I can’t be friends with you because...I’m still hanging on...to you. To what we had. So...I decided to make a clean break. Here.”
As Max said those words, Liz felt herself being smashed into pieces. She couldn’t think straight, and her knees started to feel weak. She couldn’t show him what she was thinking, though...this was probably for the best anyway. She opened the box curiously, and felt her heart drop as she saw the pocketknife sitting inside. Finally, she found her voice.
“Max, this is yours. I gave it to you last Christmas.”
“I’m giving it back.”
Angrily she brushed a tear away with her hand and swiped her arms across the desk. Both the knife and the book scattered to the floor. She dropped her head into her arms, turning to stare at the phone. Liz snatched the reciever and stood up, dialing the number she had dialed so many times before.
She heard the tone ring three times and finally an answering machine picked up. Damn. She didn’t want to talk to a recording!
“Hi, Max,” she spoke softly. “I need to talk to you. It’s really important. Could you, um, come by as soon as you get this? Thanks. Bye.”
Max entered his room just in time to heard the ending beep on his answering machine. He saw the flashing red light on out of the corner of his eye and was about to press the button when Isabel peeked her head inside the door.
“Max,” she said. “Are you almost ready?”
“Yeah,” he replied. “Just give me a couple seconds. Call Micheal and tell him we’re leaving. Tess, too.”
Isabel nodded and left.
Max took another look at his answering machine but ignored the red light. Instead, he began searching through his bottom desk drawer. Once he had the book in his hand, he hurried out the door.
Tess walked quickly down the street towards the UFO museum, trying to shake her uneasy feeling. Max called everyone for some urgent meeting at the center. Obviously it had something to do with Nikolas’ attack on Liz, but somehow she felt it had to be more than just that. She shrugged off her feelings and continued down the sidewalk, unaware of the eyes that followed her.
Liz held the compact in her hand and stood in front of the mirror in her bathroom, applying layers of concealer. She had already caked about half the container of makeup onto her face, and she couldn’t see much improvement in covering her bruises. She sighed and continued thickening the power around her eyes, wincing as she pressed too hard.
Frusterated, she flung the compact across the floor and watched as the plastic lid shattered against the wall. She kicked it away with her foot and sighed. She bent over and plugged the bathtub drain before she turned on the faucet, splashing her hand through the water to check the temperature.
With one last thought she closed the bathroom door and locked it before she stripped off her clothes and climbed into the bath.
Slowly and carefully she eased herself down into the tub, trying to not flinch as the water stung at every cut.
She hung her hair over the edge of the bathtub to keep it dry. Her bad arm was draped along the tub’s side, out of the water as well.
Liz sighed again, taking a deep, relaxed breath and let the heat of the water envelope her body.
“So, why’d you call us all here, Maxwell?” Micheal asked, sounding somewhat annoyed, but still cooperative.
“We’ve got to do something about Nikolas,” Max answered, lowering his eyes. “He’s gone too far.”
Isabel sighed. “We all know that, Max, but what can we do now? We don’t know where he is, or what he can do. He knows almost everyone about us, because...”
“Of Liz.” Max glumly finished the sentence Isabel had willingly stopped.
“Max, you know I didn’t mean it that way. It’s not her fault.”
Max shook his head. “I know.”
“Look,” Micheal began after a moment of silence. “She knows things. She has the answers. Liz is the one person who’s actually experienced the extent of Nikolas’ abilities.” Max flinched. “The point is,” he continued, eyeing Max cautiously, “is that we’ve got to be getting our information from her.”
Max paused. “I know one way.”
“What?” Isabel asked.
Avoiding everyone’s expressions, Max brought out a leather-bound book and placed it on the table.
A smile played on Liz’s lips as she watched the mirror fog up, vaguely wondering how much time had passed but not really caring.
It feels so nice not to care, she thought as she lifted one hand out of the water to inspect her wrinkled fingers. It feels nice not to have to worry, or feel the pain, or to be afraid.
She caught a glimpse through the water of the burned mark on her stomach and frowned. She wondered when it would go away, or if it ever would.
“Liz’s journal,” Tess breathed, speaking for the first time.
“Max, where’d you get that?” Isabel asked in surprised.
“She writes everything in that,” Max said, ignoring Isabel’s question.
“So if Liz Parker has any answers they’re in that,” Micheal replied.
“Have you read it?” Tess asked, gaping. She knew what was contained in that book, and Max shouldn’t be reading the majority of it.
“No,” Max responded.
“So, what are we waiting for?” Micheal asked urgently, reaching for the journal.
“It’s private, Micheal!” Isabel snapped. “What if there’s nothing there? We can’t read that.”
“There’s something in there,” Max confirmed. “I just don’t know what.”
Tess surprised them all by snatching the book from the table and begin to flip through the pages.
Max held his breath.
“Anything?” Micheal wondered aloud.
Tess ignored him and skimmed the lines, keeping a trace with her fingers. She wasn’t really paying attention to the words, but noted the many pages filled with tear stained ink. Liz obviously had been crying.
“No,” she finally lied.
“Are you sure?” Isabel asked, contradicting her strong feelings of privacy.
“Yes...Just something about a Gomez concert...Christmas Day..nothing.”
“Gomez?” Max sat up. “What about it?”
Tess shrugged. “You invited her and she said no.”
Micheal scowled. Max slammed his fist down on the table in anger and everyone looked at him, startled.
“How am I supposed to protect her if I don’t know anything?” he cried in frusteration.
“There has to be something, Tess. Anything. Why she tried to set me up with you...why she made it seem like she was with Kyle...” He stopped, clenching his jaw in frusteration and confusion.
“Destiny,” Tess answered, recalling the conversation with Liz at the hospital.
“Destiny,” Tess repeated, staring at the journal. “Everything. The lies...she made it all up so you would go for your destiny. She believes in it more than you do, Max.” In a way, it wasn’t a lie.
“That doesn’t help our current situation,” Isabel sighed.
“What about the granilith?” Micheal stated.
“That’s right,” Isabel answered, seeming a little brighter. “When Nikolas was at the CrashDown he told Max that Liz was keeping a secret from him.”
“Well?” Micheal asked, directing his gaze to Tess and book.
“She keeps lots of secrets from me lately,” Max replied solemnly.
“That doesn’t explain why she would keep critical information about the granilith from you,” Micheal answered irritably. “Let me see the journal.”
The water was starting to get cold. She didn’t want to get out. Outside, behind that locked door, was a place of fear she never wanted to visit again.
I hate feeling afraid in my own home, she thought, cringing inside the tub. I have to stop scaring myself before I never leave and end up turning my whole body into wrinkles, she scoulded herself firmly. Maria will come here tomorrow morning and find me freezing from hours in a bathtub filled with cold water.
She eyed the door cautiously then inspected her fingers again. All those creases in her skin seemed much safer than the door. Finally she focused her strength on her left arm and hoisted herself out of the tub.
When she thought she had a satisfactory balance to step out of the bath, somthing slammed into her from the front with such force she was knocked back into it, the back of her head cracking against the porcelain at the bottom of the tub. She cried out in the sudden pain but sucked down water. She was choking, gasping for air.
Although it was killing her right arm, Liz had both hands gripping the sides of the bathtub trying to heft herself out. There was an enormous amount of pressure focused on her neck and shoulders and she waved her arms and kicked her legs frantically but nothing was there. Her fingers slipped from their grip on the tub.
She tried holding her breath, but she had lost much of it when she opened her mouth. Her lungs were about to burst, causing her body uncontrollable spasms to force her to breathe. But she couldn’t.
The thought stuck her within moments after that.
I am going to die in my own bathtub.
And the most chilling part of it all was that someone answered.
“We don’t really have much time left,” Max said. “I can’t risk Liz alone by herself.”
“And you’re just now coming to this conclusion?” Micheal asked curiously.
“Well, she’ll be all right for awhile, as long as Maria is with her.”
“Maria?” Isabel replied, creasing her eyebrows. “Maria isn’t with her. I passed her on the road a few hours ago.”
“What?” Max questioned with a sudden panic flooding his eyes. “Didn’t Maria drive her home?”
“Well, yeah,” Isabel answered, taken aback by her brother’s sudden outburst, “but she must have left.”
Max swore. “I’ve got to get over there.”
Liz woke up gasping and choking, her breaths coming in short, quick gasps that slowly drew into deep relaxing ones. She sighed, closing her eyes and dropping her head against her pillow. She could breathe again, it was only a dream.
Suddenly her eyes flew open in terror. Was it a dream? The back of her head throbbed where she had hit it on the tub. She threw back her sheets and pulled up her tank top to reveal her scorched skin. It was practically glowing.
The fear was back in an instant when she turned a trembling hand over and saw that her fingers were still wrinkled. Her hands flew up to her hair, dragging her fingers through it and she realized her hair was damp.
She shot out of bed immediately, the sobs coming from her throat in choking gasps. Quickly she locked her bedroom door and barricaded the bathroom as best she could with her desk chair.
Liz stood in the middle of her room with her hand in her hair staring at both doors, waiting for one of them to move. She wondered if that was enough to keep Nikolas out of her room, if he was even there. Probably not. Unless, of course, she had just trapped herself in the room with him...
Her gaze fell to the stack of books on her desk and she realized her journal was missing.
A sharp rapping on the window tore a scream out of her throat as she jumped and whirled around.
She almost collapsed out of relief. Max. Just Max. She crossed the room to the window to unlock it for him. She struggled against lifting it up with only one arm, but once she had made a crack Max slid his fingers under and threw it up all the way so he could climb through.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
She nodded slowly. “Yeah. I’m okay. I just...can’t sleep.”
He surveyed the room and motioned to the chair against the bathroom door. “What’s that?”
Liz looked away, embarrassed. She didn’t know how to explain it to him. She shrugged. He stared at her curiously.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
She nodded again.
“Your hair’s wet,” he remarked.
“I just got out of the tub,” she muttered, not really sure if that was the truth or not. “Um, you got my message?”
“Yeah,” he answered, a glint in his eye. He reached up and pushed a strand of wet hair away from her face and behind her ear. She shifted away somewhat uncomfortably.
Quickly she scolded herself for it. It’s just Max, she thought. Don’t be so nervous.
“What did you want to talk to me about?”
Liz swallowed. “I’m not really sure how to tell you this, but...” She stopped as she noticed him starting at her with, intense, unwavering eyes.
She stood up and turned her back to him, trying to collect her senses again. She had to explain what she knew to him without coming off like a total lunatic, and it wasn’t helping that he kept staring at her like that. Liz had no idea why she was feeling so anxious, it was just Max. But somehow she couldn’t be near him. She whirled around towards him again and found his face inches from hers.
She gasped and took one step back in surprise, glancing up into his eyes. His eyes...there was something wrong with his eyes...
He narrowed his gaze and suddenly reached out and grabbed her wrist tightly. Liz opened her mouth to protest, but Max pulled her in close and crushed his lips against hers. Immediately she felt an overwhelming power consume her body and her mind. Her knees weakened as Liz felt herself falling, swallowed up by a deep black void, comsumed into a mass of darkness. Her eyes flew open and she saw Max’s face shift into that of Nikolas’ and back again to Max. Her mind gasped and she struggled to pull away but Nikolas held her tighter, flooding her with images.
She saw Tess, Isabel and Micheal involved in a war. One by one they were shot down in the gruesome battle, falling to their deaths until Max was the only one left. And then he, too, was killed at the hands of Nikolas.
She watched, through Nikolas' eyes as Tess quickly walked down the sidewalk to the UFO museum earlier that night.
Finally Nikolas broke their kiss and snapped their connection, forcing her away. He grasped her shoulders and Liz watched as the elaborate illusion melted and Max faded into Nikolas.
“I need you to come with me,” he whispered.
Liz struggled against him again and he shoved her back, slamming her into the wall. He smiled as her legs gave way and she slid to the floor.
“They really need to stop leaving you alone like this,” he sneered, his voice thick with sarcasm. “You’re only human, after all.”
Liz took a deep breath and watched him carefully. He lunged at her again suddenly, and she turned her away and squeezed her eyes shut, throwing up her hand in protection.
Nikolas cried out in surprise and stopped in shock as he watched Liz Parker’s hand begin to glow.
Nikolas cried out in surprise and stopped in shock as he watched Liz Parker’s hand begin to glow.
Liz opened her eyes just in time to see a brilliant flash of white explode from her palm. Nikolas was sent flying backwards, crashing face first into her full length mirror. She heard the glass shatter and a thump as Nikolas landed on the floor. Her eyes slowly adjusted from the bursting light, and the sight of Nikolas lying motionless, drenched with his own blood, was enough to make her sick with horror.
She struggled to her feet, feeling a wave of fatigue rush over her. She stared at Nikolas' body cautiously, honestly not knowing whether he was dead or not. She desperately wished for the first one, even if she was the cause of his demise. There was no way she was going over there to check, either. He had tricked her so many times before, she couldn't be too sure if this was also some fatal illusion. But somehow she knew it was reality.
Dizzily she rushed out the doorway, down the stairs and through the backdoor and into the alley, into the street. She ran as fast as humanly possible, down the sidewalk towards the UFO museum racing away from her fears with only one thought etched in her mind: She had to find Max and end everything.
Max snatched the journal out of Micheal's prying hands and reached for his Jeep keys.
"Max? What are you doing?" Isabel called after him.
"I have to find Liz. She can't be alone."
Within seconds he was out the door and in his Jeep down the street towards the CrashDown. He was going ten over the speed limit, but no one was out the roads and if the Sheriff happened to be on duty, he would let it slide given the current situation.
A moving shape caught his attention from the corner of his eye and he swerved the Jeep and slammed on his brakes to avoid hitting it.
His breath caught in his throat as he climbed from the Jeep and saw Liz lying on the ground, struggling to pick herself up from where she had tripped and fallen.
"Oh god," he muttered in horror as he hurried to her side.
"Liz. Liz! Are you all right?"
He laid a hand across her shoulder and she jerked away at his touch. He winced but tried to move again to help her up. She pushed him away from her and screamed, "Don't touch me!"
God, what had he done? He'd left her alone for a little while and she had completely lost her composure. She was broken.
"Liz." He spoke her name softly. "Are you all right?" he repeated. Of course she wasn't. Anyone who took one quick glance could tell she wasn't the Liz Parker that she had been a day ago. Even compared to last year, it was clear she wasn't the same, and ever since that day she walked away from him out in the desert she hadn't ever been the same towards him. But what chilled him the most was that one night when he wandered to her deck and saw her through the window in bed with Kyle Valenti...The Liz Parker he had known died that night, and he was scared to death every single moment of his life that he wasn't going to get her back.
Suddenly she threw her head up as if she had just snapped out of a daze. His face seemed to register in her mind and she realized who he was. "Max!" she said quickly. "Nikolas...He was in my room." Max felt like he hand just been punched in the gut. So he had been right. Nikolas was after her again. He swallowed, trying to absorb his guilt.
"I don't know what I did, Max, but something...something happened. I...I did something to him."
"It's okay. We'll figure something out," he promised. "Let's go to the museum, the others are waiting there." He desperately wanted to get back to the CrashDown and find Nikolas, but there was no way he was going to take a chance on Liz being there with him. He guided her back to the Jeep and sat her inside the passenger seat and he took the wheel. As soon as the engine started up again, the radio tuned on and Sheryl Crow's voice blasted out of the speakers.
Liz gasped at the sound and immediately he saw the tears streaming down her face and looked back at her in a mix of confusion and pain. "Liz...what is it?"
She shook her head, refusing to answer his question. He knew this was her favorite song, but somehow it had to be much more than that.
Liz opened her mouth to say something, anything, but all that everything she could have said caught in her throat as her eyes wandered over the dashboard and saw her journal lying there. He knew.
Max made an illegal U turn towards the museum and turned back to watch the road, completely oblivious to Liz's sudden realization that he was the one who had her journal. He clenched his hands tighter around the wheel and focused his attention on the passing pavement of the street.
Isabel called out his name as soon as they entered.
"Liz!" Tess cried, "You're okay." She smiled brightly.
Liz nodded and smiled a little. "Yeah."
"What's going on? What happened?" Micheal asked, his eyes growing dark as he looked at Liz. "Why don't you start answering some questions?"
"Leave her alone, Micheal," Max barked quickly. "Nikolas came back tonight."
Isabel gasped. "Is everything all right?"
Liz shook her head. "I don't know what happened." She turned to face Max. "I have to explain," she said. If he had her journal, he had to have things clarified. "I need to tell you -- " Her words were cut short as she cried out suddenly, her knees going weak as she bent over. "He's not dead...he's not dead..." she whispered through clenched teeth.
"Liz!" Max shouted her name and reached for her as she clasped both hands around her head and collapsed on the floor, writhing in pain. He placed his hands over hers, calling her name repeatedly to get through to her. The connection sparked instantly and he saw the images flashing by.
Liz in her room, reading over Romeo and Juliet.
Liz tracing her fingers over the inscription "Max & Liz 4Ever."
Liz being held underwater by Nikolas.
Liz being kissed by Nikolas.
Liz holding up her hand, sending Nikolas crashing into her mirror.
"Max!" Isabel yelled, "What's wrong?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "The doctors mentioned something about migraines...A side effect from Nikolas' mind warp?"
"Move over," Tess instructed, pushing Max out of her way. She laid her hand across Liz's forehead in attempt to push a connection and reduce any pain.
Moments later, the door burst opened and an electic light flew past all of them, crashing into the table. Sparks flew and the overhead lights flickered out.
Through the darkness, they all heard Liz's soft, terrified whisper.
A small light lit up a small portion of the room, and they all turned to see Isabel supporting a small ball of bright yellow in her hand which illuminated all their faces. It was hardly professional lighting, but it was enough. Max smiled at her gratefully.
“Tess,” he said quickly, “get Liz out of here.”
She nodded, slinging one of Liz’s arms around her neck and struggled to
support her body.
“Max, no,” Liz protested. “Wait.”
“What is it, Liz?” he asked.
“Promise me something,” she whispered weakly.
“The granilith...don’t give it up, no matter what happens. No matter what. Please.”
“Liz, I...” Max stammered, not really sure what to say.
“Promise me!” she pleaded, her voice rising.
He nodded. “Okay. I promise. I swear.”
She sighed gratefully, and allowed Tess to help her up the stairs. Liz contributed with what little walking she could manage, but Max could tell she was losing strength quickly.
“Where’s Nikolas?” Isabel breathed as Tess was finally able to haul Liz up the steps and out the door.
Neither Max nor Micheal replied. They were clueless. They just had to wait.
“Isabel,” Max hissed after a few minutes of silence, except for all of their breathing. “Put out the light.”
“What?” Micheal asked.
“He can find us easily if we have a light. Right now he’s probably watching us. He knows where we are. Put out the light.”
Isabel nodded, “Okay, Max.” Her voice carried traces of fear.
The light diminished and they were left in the dark.
“Get to the exit,” he instructed, his voice barely above a whisper. “It’s straight ahead.”
He grasped Isabel’s arm and knew she had a grasp on Micheal on her other side. “Try to stay together.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, a flash of light gleamed through the blackness, creating a trail through the dark and sped right by him, exploding in front of Isabel as it made contact. In the brief brilliance from the eruption he saw
Isabel as she cried out and fell backwards.
“Isabel!” Micheal yelled.
The museum went pitch black again, and Max cursed. He couldn’t find Isabel in the dark.
The lights flickered, one by one turning on and brightening the museum.
Isabel was sprawled on her back, groaning as she moved to stand up. Micheal was by her side, helping her to sit.
Max couldn’t move. He seemed to be the only one who saw Nikolas, standing above them at the top of the stairs. His face was completely slathered in blood, deep gashes sliced through his forehead and cheeks. Tess was wrapped in his arms, a gun to her head.
“Max!” Tess called to him, fright etched in her tone. Isabel and Micheal turned to look and gasped.
Max approached the stairs slowly, scanning around for Liz. He didn’t see her anywhere.
“What do you want?” Max demanded.
Nikolas didn’t reply with an answer to his question. Instead, he said hoarsely, “I’ve been waiting a long time for this. Almost fifty years.” Casually he brought Liz’s journal out from behind him and threw it forward. It landed only a few
feet from Isabel.
A slight movement in the shadows caught his eye. “Liz!” he called, relief in his voice as he rushed to help her.
He saw Nikolas pull the trigger on the gun, but it was too late. He flew backwards as the force of the bullet hit is shoulder.
“Max!” Both Isabel and Tess shrieked his name at the same time. Micheal left Isabel’s side momentarily to make sure Max was all right.
Max nodded slowly, struggling to sit up. He winced and focused his energy on healing the wound. The blood ran over his hand as he held his palm over the hole in his flesh and healed it.
Nikolas stood on top of the steps with the gun outstretched in his hand, smirking. Micheal saw his chance and held up his own hand. His fingers began to glow and a yellow beam shot out towards Nikolas, knocking the gun from his grasp. It slammed into the wall beside them, falling inches from Liz’s body.
Nikolas didn’t seem phased. “Not bad, Micheal.” Instead, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a blade, running it once down Tess’ cheek drawing a line
of red. “But no more games, okay?”
Damn. This guy just didn’t stop.
While Nikolas was busy flashing the knife around, Tess pulled back her elbow and brought it back slamming into his bottom jaw. The pocketknife slipped from his hand and Tess kicked it away with her foot, sending it flying next Micheal. While Nikolas continued to wrestle Tess’ arms behind her back, Micheal reached down to pick it up, wincing a little as the blade sliced his fingertips. Isabel wiped a hand across a bloody scratch on her face before taking it from Micheal and handing it over to Max.
Max clutched the knife in his palm and noticed Liz’s fingers twitch slightly as the rest of her body stirred.
“Fine,” Nikolas growled once he had defeated Tess and gotten her under his grasp again, “we’ll just have to do it the old fashioned way.” Out of his hand he produced a tiny, white ball of energy. “Works just as well as any bullet,” Nikolas
commented. “Now, getting on with it. I’m going to give you a choice.”
“I am going to give you a choice on who you would like to die.”
“I’ve got Tess right here,” he continued, “or, I could make an exception for Liz Parker over there. You have about two minutes to decide.”
Max stared incredulously at Nikolas holding Tess, trying to figure out how he could make such a critical decision.
"It's your turn to play God, Max. Life and death..."
This was all happening too soon. He tried to think quickly. Liz wasn’t fully conscious. She would never know what happened if he...
No. He didn’t even allow himself to finish that thought, and felt guilty immediately for it. He couldn't let Liz die. He loved her. But he couldn't let Tess die just because he didn't. There was only one choice, another hidden option Nikolas
wanted more than anything, one he knew Max would be willing to give up for the life of the others.
"So, what's it going to be, Max?" Nikolas asked wickedly. "Your love or your destiny?"
Max opened his mouth to reply, to make a new deal. But before he could, Liz spoke. He turned to face her as she strived to stand, the gun wrapped around her fingers.
“No, Max. You can’t. You promised me.”
“I don’t have any other choice, Liz,” he replied, vaguely wondering how she knew what he was thinking.
“Yes you do,” she argued. “You have to let me die.”
“Look at your hand, Max.”
He glanced down, and saw the pocketknife, suddenly knowing exactly what it was. Realization struck him and he cried out, dropping the blade to the floor. Max &
Liz 4Ever. Covered in blood. Micheal’s, Isabel’s, Tess’ and his own. Finally it struck him what she had been trying to tell him all along.
“I thought you knew,” she whispered in surprise at his shocked reaction.“The end of the world.”
He turned wildly to the journal lying on the floor, breaking it open and flipping through the pages. Liz watched, tears sliding down her face as his hands began to tremble while he read. His eyes scanned the pages containing her
handwriting, and she saw the moisture well up in his own eyes. One tear fell and splattered on the page.
“Liz,” he breathed. The guilt washed over him, for everything he had ever done. The realization hit him again and again, the pain and anguish overwhelming him beyond belief. The cruelty of everything contained in the pages was too much to bear.
He turned to Tess wildly. "And you knew about this?" Strange how he could push blame on someone who currently was hanging on the balance between life and death.
"It's not her fault, Max."
Everyone turned to face Liz, standing dully with the gun in her hand.
"It's not her fault," she repeated. "I asked her not to tell you." She turned to face Nikolas slowly. "I'll go with you," she said quietly, "if you let Tess go."
"Liz? No!" Max cried.
She ignored him completely and watched grimly as Nikolas grinned and pushed Tess roughly to the floor.
"Liz!" Max stepped forward and she took action immediately, grasping the gun firmly in two hands and raised it towards him. He stopped dead in his tracks.
"Liz," he whispered in disbelief. "What are you doing?"
"The truth is more painful than the lies, Max," she said, her voice shaky. "But it was only to protect you. I lied to you so you wouldn't love me anymore. So that when something like this came up, you wouldn't have to chose between your
destiny and love. So I am going to make the sacrifice, not you."
She smiled a little, despite herself. "Because you did the same thing for me, Max. And I will love you for every moment of my life...even if it's not that much longer." He looked away, the pain reflecting in every crease in his face. "And I also
lied, when I said in the hospital that I had already let go because if we were apart, we were saving lives. What I really meant was that if we were apart, you would be spared. It was never for me, never for the world. It was for you, Max, always for you. I would die for you, I would."
He stepped forward and she backed up. He heard the click as she set the gun. "Don't come near me," she warned. "The only reason I would pull this trigger is because I know it couldn't hurt you. Not really. Not compared to what pain I have caused, and inevitably what else I could do. Don't you see? My existence is what will ultimately destroy everything we have ever known. So even if we get through
this, it won't matter because you and I can never be together." She stressed the last few words.
"I love you, Liz. Nothing will ever change that."
"That might be true, Max. I don't doubt it. But I influence your decisions, and your authority. I can't do that, Max. I can't get in your way. Not in the future. So this is it for me, Max.”
He froze completely at the next five words she said as she raised the gun to
“We create our own destinies.”
“We create our own destinies.”
“Liz.” He spoke her name so softly he could barely hear it himself. “Don’t do this, please.” He was begging, pleading, like she had done in the hospital. She flashed him a grim, almost apologetic, smile as her finger closed around the trigger and pulled it.
Liz winced as she slipped out the museum door, ignoring Max’s painful scream and the intense urge to run back and assure him she wasn’t really dead. It would only take them a few minutes to realize she was still alive and she needed those few extra moments to get a head start. The bus station wasn’t too far from the museum. She could make it if only she had enough time.
Max didn’t even remember crying out, but he heard the scream ringing in his own ears after Liz crumpled to the ground, the bright red blood pouring from her head. The sounds of Isabel’s sobbing, Tess’ scream or Micheal’s astonishment were deaf to him as he raced forward clumsily to kneel beside her body. He couldn’t comprehend anything except the fact that Liz was lying next to him dead.
He couldn’t believe she had killed herself. It wasn’t possible that the love of his life was gone. Max snatched the gun from Liz’s cold fingertips. No bullets. Just as well or he would have used one on himself. Slowly he reached out and dragged his fingers through her bloodied hair and turning them over to gaze at the bright red. It vanished before his eyes. He blinked twice, to make sure he had actually seen it correctly. The blood had disappeared right before him.
“She’s not dead,” he whispered in astonishment. “This isn’t real...she’s not dead.”
“What are you saying Maxwell?” Micheal asked. Isabel wiped her eyes as Max turned to face them.
“Tess,” he cried angrily. “What did you do? Where is she?”
Tess stepped back in shock. “Max, I...I didn’t --”
“What did you do?” he yelled in fury.
“Max, I swear I didn’t do anything,” Tess replied softly as the tears streamed down her face.
“Leave her alone, Max!” Micheal shouted, taking a little command.
“Oh god...Where’s Nikolas?” Isabel breathed, and the four finally took notice of their enemy’s absence.
The lights flickered again, flashing twice before shutting off completely. Micheal swore.
Max strained his ears, trying to hear anything to let him know where Nikolas was. He could feel him in the room, close by.
Abruptly Isabel let out a piercing scream of agony.
He raced through the dark, waving his arms frantically in the direction her cries were coming from. Finally his arm struck against Isabel’s. He gripped her shoulders. “What happened? Are you okay?” The only reply from his sister came in the form of a soft whimper.
Nikolas’ words pierced through the darkness.
“See you in fourteen years.”
Liz came to a stop at an intersection. Damn. She couldn’t remember which way to go...she was getting so tired. This was insane. She didn’t even have any
money, how could she buy a bus ticket? She had some of Tess’ power now...surely she could create some type of illusion of money. But what about after that? Where
would she go? What was she going to do? At this point, she’d never see Roswell again.
Suddenly felt an arm wrap around her neck and a hand press against her abdomen. She struggled to get away, but the arms tightened.
“I can find you anywhere,” Nikolas hissed into her ear. “We’re connected.”
His hand roamed her stomach until he matched his fingers with the burn. He pushed in firmly and Liz gasped.
“If you try to run away I’ll find you and bring you back,” he warned. “You can’t get away.”
Angrily Liz shoved her arm back and sent Nikolas flying down to the street.
“Stay the hell away from me,” she replied, her tone thick with rage.
Nikolas smirked, wiping a drop of blood from his lip as he stood up.
Immediately Liz threw her hand up and a small beam of energy burst from it, colliding with Nikolas.
“Shit!” he yelled in pain. As the light diminished, Liz could see that her attack had left a hole through Nikolas’ right shoulder. She could see straight through it to the other side of the street. A puff of dust floated through the air around them.
Nikolas was gone before she could blink again, the image of his growling eyes imprinted in her memory. She sighed, her chest heaving with heavy breaths. She leaned her hand against a brick wall for support. Headlights emerged from down that road and Liz recognized the Jeep. She stumbled into the alley in attempt to hide. Liz shook her head and grimaced as dizziness and fatigue enveloped her mind. She collapsed on the ground, her entire body tingling with exhaustion and weariness. As she felt Max’s arms around her, the last thought that entered her mind before she blacked out was the she should have actually pulled the trigger.
|posted on 22-Sep-2001 2:03:00 PM|
|Afraid to Sleep Parts 11-15|
Liz pushed herself through the hazy feeling of her mind, grasping ahold of her consciousness. She didn’t open her eyes because, even through her sluggish comprehension, she could feel him next to her. As her consciousness expanded she grew to realize that not only was he nearby, but he was holding her close in his arms. She felt a cold cloth dragging across her forehead. A drop of water splashed onto her eyelid and no sooner than the feeling had registered in her mind did she feel Max’s lips kissing it away.
She couldn’t take it anymore. Her eyes flew open and she was staring up into his smiling face.
“How are you feeling?”
Her throat went dry and she couldn’t answer, suddenly feeling awkward cradled in Max’s arms as he sat on her bed. The very place that she could feel safe was right where she was, and suddenly she found herself shifting painfully to crawl out of his grip because she wasn’t too afraid to look at him.
“Liz? Can we talk?”
She swallowed hard and nodded. “Okay. About what?” Stupid answer. Of course he’s going to want to know about the end of the world, and why she felt the need to kill herself...
“I saw you die.” Right on the mark. “It was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.”
She shrugged. “You’ve seen me get shot before, Max.” What a way to break into the conversation.
“Liz!” he cried in disbelief. “You tried to kill yourself!”
“And look where it got me,” she retorted bitterly. “I can’t even do that right.”
“Because without me you would have a different life, one where you were safe. As much as I love you and our life together, you should have let me die that day. If I had known, I never would have looked into your eyes like you told me to, because when I did I got lost in them. So much that I couldn’t even see what was happening until now. Until it was too late.”
“Don’t ever say that. I wouldn’t last a day without you, Liz. I would do it all over again even if it leads me right back here. Right here, with you.”
“Max, you can’t stay here. You have to...” Her voice began struggling as she tried to choke out the words through her sobs and anguish. “Fall out of love with me. You have to forget why it is that you love me...”
“How can I sit here with you and not?”
“Max..you’re just making this harder!” she cried in frustration.
“How am I supposed to stop loving you when everything you do is incredible? God, Liz, I think I love even more now than I did before, if that’s even possible. My life is nothing without you.”
“That’s not true...You have your other planet, your destiny, everything! Our relationship is killing people, Max. And what’s Liz Parker against the rest of the world? Nothing. A microscopic casualty,” she muttered bitterly. “Even compared to the four of you...I am nothing.”
“You’re something because I love you.”
“Exactly!” she cried in despair. “If you didn’t love me, it wouldn’t matter if I was dead.” She paused. “Nikolas is connected to me. He can find me anywhere, and you can’t protect me all the time, especially if I’m willing to die. It’s only a matter of time, Max.”
“Connected?” he repeated, ignoring her death wish for the time being.
She nodded slowly, lifting the bottom of her tank top to reveal an ugly, charred mark in the shape of a hand on her stomach.
He sucked in his breath. “When did that happen?”
“Hospital. After you left,” she whispered, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear as she spoke.
“Oh, God, Liz, I am so sorry. I shouldn’t have left you alone like that. I never should have been so angry with you,” he said quietly, absorbing the guilt into is heart.
“It’s okay, Max,” she replied with a grim expression. “It’s not your fault. You didn’t know.”
“No, wait.” He stretched out his hand as she began to pull the shirt back down.
The second she felt his hand on her stomach he was pushing a connection so quickly she couldn’t even try to stop it.
There were so many images flashing through Max’s mind he couldn’t keep all of his attention on healing Liz. Every time he gained control he saw Nikolas’ threatening face through Liz’s eyes. He saw how she received every cut and every bruise as he healed it. He couldn’t shut out the brutal images of Nikolas constantly hurting her through physical or emotional pain. The visions filled his head of Liz briefly trying to fight before she was shot down with a slap to the face or another bleeding cut.
Her voice, sounding breathless, was too far away for him to answer.
“Max!” she cried again. “This is taking too much out of you. Please stop.”
The connection weakened for a short moment when he stared into her eyes and shook his head fiercely.
Her voice was drowned out by pieces of dialogue he picked up from the new flashes. Liz and his future self talking, while below, he sang the line “No se que hacer”...‘Your love will kill me.’ Max then watched as the older version of himself twirled Liz once on the balcony. As she stopped, she realized he was gone and everything was changed. He felt her wave of sadness hit him hard in the gut, mixing with the vulnerability, fear and despair she felt at his sudden disappearance. She slipped to the floor and sobbed, knowing nothing would ever be the same.
Liz’s crying changed abruptly to an image of Liz with tears streaming down her face as she stood at the altar of the Elvis Chapel in Las Vegas on their wedding day. His heart caught in his throat as they kissed, cementing their new marriage into an everlasting and eternal one. Soon afterwards they were dancing together while the other watched and smiled. Everyone’s attention was locked on them, but even so they were oblivious to everything except each other.
Liz felt a pang of fear as she watched the struggle on Max’s face increase. She begged him to stop but he just shook his head. When he finally pulled away, the emotion and the physical drain was written all over if face. If there was anything he had managed to miss from her journal, he knew now, and maybe even more.
She could choose to be happy about this. Max knew. No more secrets or lies. The truth was out and she didn’t have to constantly think up new lies to keep him away from her, because every new wall she built he could break through it with a single glance.
But she couldn’t be happy, no matter how much she tried. The one thing she had wished for months to happen had come true and she couldn’t even break a smile. It was a curse. She was cursed.
“Thank you,” she mumbled, running her finger over her smooth cheek that had only minutes ago been battered and bruised.
Max nodded, pulling his hand away from her stomach to unveil a shining silver handprint where the hideous blackened scar had once been. She bit her lip to keep the smile from bursting across her face. She head to scold herself firmly to keep from touching it.
“You're welcome.” He smiled at the happiness she was trying so hard to hide. After all she’d been through to protect all of them, he couldn’t bring himself to tell her that, despite her attempts, Nikolas had mind raped Isabel in the museum and now could pinpoint the exact location of the granilith.
He slid his eyes over to her, sitting on the bed across from him, silent as she stared, transfixed, at the silver handprint. He had to say something.
She stiffened at his voice. How could she even look at him again? After everything she had done, and everything he knew? The end of the world was upon them, bearing down on her shoulders and she couldn’t be happy that Max knew because now he was cursed to share the grief with her.
“Liz. I’m glad I know,” he said, reading her mind. “But we can fix this. Tess knows. She understands. We can be together as long as she doesn’t leave Roswell...I’m just sorry I was the one who put you through all of this in the first place. And for being...such an idiot about it.”
“You were an asshole,” she choked, turning her face away.
Max didn’t say anything but she could feel him nod in agreement. “I’m so sorry for doing that to you. Please forgive me. Give me another chance. Let me love you again.”
She stiffened. “No.”
“What are you trying to do to me, Liz? Why are you doing this?”
“For you,” was the only answer she could think to give.
“If you want to do anything for me then just...love me. We’ll have our wedding day,” he promised.
She shook her head in defiance. “No we won’t. We will never have that day, Max. No matter how many times you read it, Romeo and Juliet always ends in tragedy.”
“That’s not us, Liz! This is us, here, now, not some story!”
“As much as I want you to prove me wrong about everything, Max, I don’t know how this will ever work. There’s too much against us. Destiny, the past...the future.”
“One more chance, Liz. Give us one more chance. Everything is out in the open and we can work it out. Please.”
She stared at him for a long moment. “I’m tired, Max,” she declared finally.
He turned towards the window. She was kicking him out. Well, he wasn’t leaving her alone again. He’d sit outside on her balcony if that’s what it was going to take.
He nodded silently, one arm out the window. He had one foot outside before she called him back.
“Max.” One word. Somehow, when he heard his name coming from Liz Parker’s lips it was the most beautiful thing he could ever receive.
“I’m afraid to sleep,” she confessed. “Will you stay with me until I fall asleep?”
He smiled, and she did too. It must have been weeks since he had seen that gorgeous smile of hers.
“I’ll stay all night.”
He waited patiently in the dark, rolling a bullet between two fingers in calm anticipation. He licked his lips. He could almost taste her fear, feel her blood on his hands. He smiled as he felt her approach the door he sat facing on the couch. She was alone. He loaded the bullet into his gun and stood up, kicking a body out of his way with his foot.
The soft click of the doorknob was heard through the silence and he raised the gun just as the door swung open. She barely had one foot inside the house before he pulled the trigger.
He heard a soft, strangled gasp of surprise and pure pain after the ringing echo of the gunshot died away. His mind gave a cry of satisfied triumph. The bullet had hit its target.
He watched contently as a set of keys slipped from the shaky hand she brought to her chest, dabbing at the blood pouring from her torn flesh. The physical pain wasn’t enough for her mind to register that she had been shot. She needed the tangible evidence she could see. The bullet lodged between her ribs didn’t count.
He stepped out from the shadows so she could see him. His fingers grazed her chin as he titled her face up. Her tight, blonde curls sprang and bounced around the frame of her face as her head snapped up. Her eyes clouded over with recognition, confusion and fear at his appearance. He couldn’t help but smile as her body lurched forward and a little gurgling sound from her throat produced a thin line of blood that trickled from the corner of her mouth.
He traced the scar on her cheek with his thumb as her eyelids fluttered slowly to close, as if he was drawing them shut. All of her body weight shifted heavily onto his fingers and he stepped back, pulling his hand away carefully so her body fell gently to the floor. As she slumped to the ground, he could feel his power gaining at her death and his victory only inches away. He walked past her, dropping the weapon by her body as he left the house, entering the streets of Roswell to wait until morning.
Kyle rolled over, groaning as a sharp pain throbbed in the back of his head. He squinted as the morning light strewn into his face. He grabbed at the couch to help pull himself into a sitting position, trying to figure out why he was on the floor in the first place.
From his horizontal position he glanced across the room. He stared in shock and complete horror at the body crumpled in the doorway.
Kyle swallowed hard, using the corner of the coffee table to haul himself up. He stumbled as the leg of the table caught his foot. As he hit the floor again he found himself face to face with Tess’ body. Now on his knees he reached out with both hands to grasp her head between them.
His mind was racing. He couldn’t think of anything sensible to do. He didn’t even know if she fully dead. He prayed she wasn’t, the blue tint on her lips proved him otherwise. One thing. Only one thing he could do.
Max stayed awake a long while after Liz fell asleep. He lay and watched as she slept, pulling back her hair with his fingers and tucking it behind her ear so he could see her face. He was happy just listening to her breathe next to him. She had fallen asleep almost immediately, her hand laid across the silver mark beneath her shirt. He nestled his face into her hair and closed his eyes, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. He had Liz again, and he wasn’t about to let anything ruin it.
Liz woke with a start, horrible images of her nightmares dissolving into the back of her mind as she realized they had only been awful dreams. She paused, trying to remember what they had been. The nightmares that had been fresh in her mind only moments before were now only foggy fragments of her memory. She sighed, snuggling her face into Max’s neck, grateful she hadn’t woken him. She wasn’t about to explain her dreams to him if she couldn’t even remember what they were. All she knew as she drifted back to sleep was that they left a thick feeling of dread in the very pit of her stomach, buried beneath the remains of lies and panic.
The sound of a phone ringing dragged both Liz and Max out of sleep. Groggily Liz forced herself off the bed to answer it, noting the time on the clock was just a little past eight am. She would have ignored it like Max had suggested after giving her a light kiss, but the incessant ringing was drilling a headache into her mind.
Liz turned to Max, holding out the phone to him. “It’s for you,” she explained in a light whisper. “It’s the sheriff.” She flashed him a concerned and worried look, but left him to the phone call privately as she went into the bathroom to change clothes, leaving the door cracked open for her own security reasons.
She shivered, noting the bathtub still filled with water from the night before and the makeup compact shattered in the corner. So it was real after all. Liz had been hoping it was no more than a mere nightmare.
Nightmares. She still could not remember what those dreams had been.
Quickly she plunged her arm into the tub to pull the plug. The water swirled down the drain, ridding herself of the memory. Seemingly satisfied, Liz emerged from the bathroom in a pair of dark jeans and a red sweater just as Max hung up the phone.
“What is it?” she asked as he turned to look her way.
Max shrugged. “Not really sure, but we’ve got to get over to Valenti’s.”
“You go,” Liz replied. “I’ll stay. The CrashDown’s open and both Maria and I were supposed to work shifts this morning...”
Max shook his head deftly. “No. There’s no way I’m leaving you alone. You’re coming with me. Besides, I don’t think anyone was planning on you showing up for work today anyway.”
Liz nodded slowly in acceptance and they both climbed down the stairs to find themselves greeted by Maria. She almost dropped her tray at the sight of the two of them.
Quickly she passed her trays off to another waitress to give her friend a hug.
She raised an eyebrow at Liz and Max, hand in hand. Her eyes widened.
“What the hell did I miss?”
Liz opened her mouth to reply, but Micheal popped his head out from the kitchen to see what all the commotion was about.
“What going on out here?” he asked, giving Max and Liz a double take.
“They’re back together!” Maria squealed happily. “Isn’t that great?”
“Fabulous.” Maria scowled, but it wasn’t really the answer he had been looking for. Something was up. Nikolas. The granilith. Anything.
“Something happened at Valenti’s last night, apparently after you dropped Tess off. We’re going over there now to check it out.”
“I’ll come with you,” Micheal offered, wiping his hands on a dish rag.
“No, it’s okay,” Max answered immediately. “We’ll take care of it and get back to you.”
Micheal shrugged, rolling his eyes and disappeared back into the kitchen.
Kyle couldn’t focus on the fact that Tess was really dead. Max was going to be too late. Hell, he was past a couple hours late. She’d been lying in the floor cold for god knows how long. It shouldn’t have taken both he and his father to bring the body inside, but it did. Jim shut the door, to spare the neighbors. But sparing the neighbors the sight of an alien murder was the last thing on Jim’s mind.
Kyle protested that they couldn’t just leave the body on the floor. He couldn’t even think of it as Tess. It was just ‘the body.’ He couldn’t believe Tess was dead. Stage One: Denial. Even if the evidence was staring him right in the face.
They proceeded to carry her to the couch where once they set her down, one arm slid to the floor with a thump. Kyle grasped her cold hand and folded it over her stomach. That wasn’t right. She didn’t look right, and it was bothering him to no end. Pale. Cold. Blue. Eyes closed. Dead. Her eyes should be open.
Kyle was staring at the body so intently he didn’t even hear as a knock came on the door.
As soon as Max laid eyes on the inside of the house, he wished had agreed to let Liz stay at the CrashDown and work her shift. Without a second look he knew Tess was dead. The dried blood on the floor in front of him indicated that’s where it had happened.
He swallowed. “Wha...what happened?” he whispered, a soft trace of sadness overwhelming his voice and eyes.
Jim let out a shaky breath and replied solemnly, “Gunshot wound.”
“When?” Max couldn’t take his eyes off of Tess. “This morning?”
“Sometimes last night, after she returned home from being with you.”
Liz let out a small gasp and Max turned to see as she blanched immediately, her hand flying to her mouth and tears springing into her eyes. He knew exactly what she was thinking.
“Liz, no,” he scolded emphatically, grasping her wrist and pulling her towards him. He held her face firmly between his hands. “Liz, this isn’t your fault. Don’t think that. It wasn’t you!”
Liz stared at Tess’ body from the corner of her eye. “Four square,” she whispered shakily. “One night. One night is all it took and someone’s already dead!” she yelled, becoming hysterical. “You left her alone to find me! You should have been with her!”
“No,” Max replied. “You can’t think that! It’s not your fault, Liz!”
“But it is...it is,” she moaned in despair. “She’s dead, Max.”
Max shook his head. “Listen to me, please.” She shifted her eyes into his, away from the body. “You didn’t kill her. You had no control over this. Nothing, okay? We need you even more now. Tess is gone and we need your help. Do you understand?”
A moment slipped by and Liz slowly nodded to show her acceptance. Max let go but kept a tight, reassuring grip to her hand.
Jim watched vaguely at the scene that played before him. He always dealt with this kind of thing, but never in his home. Never with his family. “We found this,” he said, holding out a gun to Max.
Max reached out to take it but Liz stopped him, laying a hand over his and accepting the weapon herself. As soon as she touched it she gasped, clenching her fingers around the handle.
“What? What is it?”
Liz swallowed. “It wasn’t Nikolas.”
“What? How can you tell?”
“I..I know what he feels like.” Max cringed. “It wasn’t him, it didn’t feel like him...”
“Who was it?” Jim asked quickly.
“Not human,” Liz replied, staring down at the tiny layer of skin attached to the trigger.
Kyle wasn’t paying attention at all. He didn’t even move, but continued to stare at the body on the couch as the realization slowly sunk numbly in. He kept thinking about tomorrow, Monday, at school and what it would be like without her.
Tess was dead. And as far as Kyle was concerned, he was too.
It had taken Liz a lot of convincing before Max finally allowed her to go back to the CrashDown alone. After all the stress she’d been under she definitely did not need to be a witness to death or the desposing of a body, but he really didn’t like the idea of her walking alone.
“Max,” she stated softly after he’d pulled her into the kitchen to calm down. “We can call the cafe, let Maria and Micheal know I’m on my way. If I don’t show up, then you can start a panic, okay?”
Her suggestion seemed logical and he finally relented. “Here, take the Jeep.” He held the keys out to her.
Liz shook her head firmly, sliding her gaze out to the living room where she could see Tess’ hand hanging by the side of the couch. “You might need it, incase...”
Max nodded. “Okay.” He set a light kiss on the side of her cheek.
Liz gave him a grim smile, quickly sidestepping the sheriff and out the door.
Max turned to face Kyle and his father, running his fingers through his dark hair. “We need a cover.”
Kyle snorted. A cover. Tess was dead and all Max would think to do was cover his own ass.
Jim swept Kyle a concerned glance and spoke up, a calm sadness behind his eyes. “Since we’re assuming the killer is a skin, the police aren’t going to be a help in this matter. Tess came into town pretty unnoticably, so this shouldn’t be too hard to write off as a runaway case and take the body out to the desert.”
Kyle was furious. “What? The desert? She was a part of our family, Dad! We can’t just dump her in some hole out in the middle of nowhere!”
Max shifted his eyes carefully from father to son before preaching his own idea, the words coming off his tongue with difficulty. “The pod chamber. It’s where we were born...it might be kind of fitting. There has always been a chance that one of us could die - especially when Micheal was sick last year - but we never really discussed what to do when it actually happened.”
Jim gazed at Kyle to make sure this suggestion seemed all right. When he had nothing to say, the sheriff nodded. “Okay. Let’s go.”
Liz collapsed on the couch in the backroom of the CrashDown. Before she could even focus, both Micheal and Maria were right on top of her.
“So? What happened?” Maria asked quickly.
Liz looked up, pulling her hair back revealing red and watery eyes. She couldn’t stop herself from crying during her long walk back. For Tess.
“Oh god, what is it Liz? It’s bad, isn’t it?”
Liz nodded and sniffled. “Tess is dead,” she replied dully, staring intently at Micheal. Maria gasped.
“Tess is dead,” she repeated.
Micheal’s forehead creased in confusion. “Are you sure?”
“Well, gee, Micheal, the bullet wound was just my first explanation. Maybe we should go back and check her heat rate and make sure I’m not hallucinating,” she mumbled sarcastically, running her fingertips along her eyes and smearing mascara across her eyelids.
Micheal just stared at her, either unable to digest the information or just disbelieving it.
“Nikolas?” he asked finally.
Liz shook her head. “It wasn’t him.”
“How do you know? Did you see him?”
“No,” she admitted. “It couldn’t have been...Last night he confronted me on the street, and I felt this energy in my hand and I just...let it out. It hit him, and...” She faltered with the rest of her sentence, letting it dangle in the air. Both Micheal and Maria’s eyes widened.
“So what are you saying? You killed him?” Micheal replied.
“No...I don’t know. I hit his shoulder, and I know I damaged it at least...but I don’t think it killed him...He just...disappeared.” She sighed, stumbling through her words and at last just giving up on her explanation.
“I’ve got to get over there.” Micheal started for the door.
“Wait, Micheal,” Maria cried. “We can’t run the cafe without you. I mean, you can’t leave us. And we have to stay with Liz.”
“It’s okay, Maria,” Liz answered, wiping her eyes some more. “We’ll close for the day. Could you maybe tell the customers?”
Maria nodded. “Sure, babe. Micheal, go tell the waitresses.”
“Just do it.”
Moments later Maria’s voice was heard announcing to the full cafe that they were experiencing kitchen trouble and would shut down for the day. There were a few complaints the Liz could hear through the doorway, but she didn’t really care. They didn’t have to deal with alien murders.
She had Tess had been close to becoming friends. They had been civil towards one another, and of course the minor connections had helped open up conversational topics.
Now she was dead. Gone with the movement of someone’s finger.
Liz shivered. She had been close to being in Tess’ current, permanent position last night. And, if it wasn’t for Tess’ help from the beginning Liz wouldn’t be there now.
Tess’ death had been so unexpected. Nikolas had been after her all this time, and suddenly to switch gears to quickly like that. One night with Max was all it took to get someone killed. Either way, it looked like the world was doomed. But wait...it hadn’t been Nikolas. He wasn’t the murderer...so now they had a fresh adversary?
Maria’s voice shook Liz out of her thoughts and she took a deep breath. “Everyone’s gone. Micheal kicked out the rest of the staff.”
“Good.” A sudden light went on in her mind. “Isabel.”
“Isabel. She has absolutely know idea any of this has even happened. She needs to know. Where is she?”
“Sleeping,” came Micheal’s blunt reply from the doorway.
“Still? It’s almost noon.”
“She’s not feeling well. We had to skip going out to check on the granilith last night because she had a headache. We wanted to make sure that Nikolas hadn’t touched it yet. We’d better get out there this afternoon.”
“What?” Liz cried almost immediately. “Nikolas knows where the granilith is? How?”
Micheal blinked, not realizing he had said something he shouldn’t have. “Nikolas caught Isabel by surprise in the museum last night and mind-raped her.”
“I have to talk to her...” Liz whispered in a daze, standing up shakily. “We have to get over there right away. He can’t have it Micheal, he can’t even touch it...”
“Liz, sit down,” Maria said forcefully, pressing down on Liz’s shoulders and pushing her back to the couch. “We’re not going anywhere without the others. What about Kyle and the sheriff? Are they okay?”
Liz nodded. “Yeah...the skin - whoever it is - didn’t touch them. Kyle said he woke up on the floor, the sheriff too. They just got knocked out. Whoever it was had been in the house before Tess - waiting for her to come home. They found her lying in the doorway. She hadn’t even fully gotten in the house. It was right after you dropped her off, Micheal.”
“Shit,” Micheal hissed.
“Maria, please,” Liz said, standing up again. “Let me call Isabel, and Alex. They don’t even know about this. I want them to come wait with us.”
Maria nodded slowly, taking Liz’s place on the couch and Micheal joined her. Liz sighed, pushing out the room and into the cafe, noting the tables full of dirty dishes and half empty plates. She reached for the phone by the kitchen counter and dialed the familiar number. She cursed as the other line rang three times and no one answered. Answering machine. Why wasn’t anyone ever home when she needed them?
“Hey Isabel. It’s Liz. Look, um, something happened.” She wasn’t really comfortable leaving a death notice on a person’s answering machine. What if her parents heard? “I don’t know if Max has already talked to you, but he’s with the sheriff and Kyle right now. Micheal, Maria and I are at the CrashDown. Alex should be coming soon. Please come as soon as you can.” Liz took a breath, wondering if Isabel would notice that Tess’ name was the only one omitted from their list of allies.
She picked up the phone again and waited for the dial tone to call Alex’s number, hoping that there would be a small chance that she would reach Isabel with him too.
A loud shriek tore Liz out of her thoughts and she jumped, whirling to face the backroom where she had heard it coming from. The scream was followed by a loud crash and another yell.
Liz raced across the cafe and pushed against the door that lead into the break room. She hadn’t one foot inside the door when it suddenly flew back at her, sending her flying back into the cafe. She landed hard on her back, sprawled across the floor. She stared, frozen in horror as a splash of red blood splattered across the window, blocking any view of the inside. Liz was up again, wobbling on her shaking limbs and banged on the door again. It wouldn’t budge, like it had been sealed shut. She pounded desperately on the door with the heel of her palm, shouting over the cries and clatter. “Maria!”
Pressing her ear to the door, she heard a Micheal exclaim something incoherent. The floor shook underneath her feet and she looked down to see a bright glow from under the door, hoping that the blast had come from Micheal. Liz heard another crash and abandoned the door and ran towards the kitchen window and crawled through.
The other door wouldn’t move either.
“Maria!” she screamed again, after hearing the louder sounds dying away. She strained her ears and listened carefully and picked up the sounds of faint sobbing. “Micheal!” she cried, her voice coming out with a strangled tone. She could feel the ground tremble again and sensed another energy blast. She squeezed her eyes shut, resisting the urge to scream as she heard the crying on the other side of the door come to an abrupt end.
Liz took a few steps back and charged, throwing herself at the door and felt a small shift in the movement. After two more painful tries the door flung open and she collapsed onto the floor.
She groaned, rolling over to pick herself up. Her hand slid into something slippery and wet and when she lifted it to her face to inspect it she discovered her fingers were covered in bright red blood. The entire floor was slathered in red.
A pair of brown boots appeared in front of her eyes. Slowly she lifted her head, afraid to discover who was standing before her. She found Nikolas grinning down at her. Terror shocked through her entire body when she realized there was something terribly wrong with his appearance.
Max noticed both the sheriff’s and Kyle’s nervous appearances as the three entered the pod chamber, equipped with shovels. It came to him a few minutes later that neither had ever been there before, noting the way the sheriff carefully examined the four pods, absorbing every detail. He didn’t say a word, but the expression of awe and wonder painted on his face was enough.
Soundlessly they all began digging, precisely mapping a rectangular plot in the dirt. Again no one spoke, but Kyle’s face was filled with his struggling emotions and trying to keep them inside.
Max understood. Tess was their family. She had managed to swoop in and pick up the pieces to make the Valentis a real family again, substituting the usual frozen tv dinners and football with home cooked meals and conversation during the football commercials. She made the biggest difference while living with them for such a short time, and neither of them wanted it to go back to the way it was. He didn’t either.
Max understood. Tess was their family. She was supposed to be his.
Max stopped, leaning on his shovel and wiped beads of sweat of his forehead, staring at the dark hole that was going to serve as Tess’ grave for eternity.
He couldn’t help but think of destiny. It wasn’t going to exist.
They put their shovels down, and went to the Jeep to retrieve the body. Kyle was the one who had sat in the back with her on the while they drove out to the desert, but he wasn’t one to mind. At one point Max had checked the rearview mirror and saw Tess’ hand pulled from the blanket they had wrapped her in, clasped inside Kyle’s. Max wasn’t quite sure how he felt about that.
Hauling the body into the chamber, they lowered the bundle into the pit they had dug and dropped it heavily. The sheriff reached for his shovel again, and Kyle gripped his reluctantly. This was it.
“Wait,” Max demanded suddenly, breaking the tortured silence at last. Kyle breathed a sigh of relief.
Jim froze, then nodded and gestured to Kyle to follow him out of the cave. He was unwilling to comply but did anyway and stepped outside, leaving Max alone. With Tess.
It took him a long time to kneel next to the grave, and even longer to reach out and pull the blanket away, revealing her face. He let out a shaky breath, regarding her parted blue lips and paper white skin.
“Tess,” he hissed, regret in his tone. Moments passed, and he paused, not knowing what to say.
He knew Kyle and Valenti were just outside, probably listening and hearing every syllable he was about to say. It didn’t matter. He had to say these things. He hadn’t been decent enough or brave enough to say them to her face when she was alive, he should at least have enough curtsey to them if she was dead.
“Tess,” he whispered again, and then even more softly, “I’m sorry.” He faltered again immediately. How could he go through with this?
“I’m sorry,” he stressed, trying again, “that I wasn’t there for you. You...you were always there for me if I needed someone, no questions asked. But...I never did anything like that for you. I had my back turned, I never returned the favor, and I should have. We weren’t...lovers, in this life,” Max continued, stumbling over the word, “but I could have tried to be at least your friend. I could have known you, but never once even tried. I’m sorry. I should have been there last night. If I was, then maybe...maybe you wouldn’t be here now. I wish you weren’t. I ran out on you, and the others, and if I had another chance, I’d promise never to do it again.”
He stared wistfully towards the granilith for a minute, wishing to know how he could make it work, but he hadn’t even a clue.
“And Kyle,” he began again, staring back at Tess’ face. “I think he’s in love with you. You must know, don’t you? He’s going to break apart without you, they both will. You did so much for them, just being there. They need you.” He paused. “I need you.”
He snatched up one of her hands, willing a connection, trying to make it work. Nothing happened, and after a few moments of emptiness he gave up, defeated.
“I just want you to know... you are one of us. Four square. Nothing’s going to be the same without you now. We will remember you.”
From behind he could hear Valenti and Kyle shuffling back in. Quickly he pulled his jacket off, laying it gently over her face before snatching his shovel again.
They began scooping up dirt, tossing it into the hole, hearing the plop as it landed on the body.
Max swallowed, hoping to diminish the unsettling fear in his stomach that this wasn’t the last time he would be doing this.
This wasn’t over. Not yet.
Max couldn’t help but think there would be at least one funeral he wouldn’t have to suffer through.
Liz felt Nikolas grab her arm, pulling her gently to her feet. She had looked away, staring past him to the bodies of Micheal and Maria, slumped against the wall, bloodied, pale, hands entwined.
She swallowed hard, tearing her eyes away from the gaping hole in Micheal’s stomach, noting how his body was draped across Maria’s, attempting protection. It hadn’t worked.
“Why?” was all she could managed, stumbling through the syllable. “Why Maria?”
She heard Nikolas sigh, then his shoulders shrugged. “She was in the way,” he replied finally, and Liz recognized a hole similar to Micheal’s in Maria’s torso. The blood had washed from their bodies, spreading across the CrashDown floor in massive red puddles.
Liz was drenched in it, the blood absorbed in her clothes, seeping through the material and sticking to her skin.
Nikolas raised his hand, lying it across her cheek, and Liz could feel the blood smearing on her face, too, and tangling through her hair as Nikolas ran her fingers through it.
His mouth was moving, but she couldn’t hear the words. The humming in her ears was just too loud. He continued caressing her cheek, but she couldn’t move. She was paralyzed.
“...it’s just, seeing you at seventeen again.”
Liz tore her head up at those familiar phrase coming from Nikolas’ mouth. She had been right. He was from the future.
“I was able to use the granilith to alter my appearance, make me look older, even more respectable. However, it couldn’t fix these,” he explained, drawing lines down his face along the many battle scars. “You gave me this, in the future. And this.” Liz noted how his left shoulder slumped a little more than his right, the same shoulder that she had damaged last night.
“And to think,” he continued, “less than a week ago I killed you myself.” He extended one finger, licking the blood off it for emphasis, seemingly enjoying the flavor.
“You’re sick,” she seethed, staring at him directly. “You’re not going to win like this.”
He laughed. “You’re wrong. I’ve already won. My victory came as soon as I pulled the trigger on the blonde. The rest,” he replied, motioning towards Maria and Micheal, then back towards Liz, “is merely a game.”
“You killed Tess,” she whispered, understanding in her tone. That’s why she couldn’t recognize the presence as being Nikolas’. It was him, but a future version.
Nikolas nodded. “But don’t you worry. I’m not going to kill you just yet. I made the mistake of killing you too soon last time, in my future. It wasn’t that hard to get ahold of you, in your wheelchair. You could barely defend yourself.”
Liz listened intently, eyes wide.
“After your accident, Max never left your side. But sooner or later, he had to leave you, and when he did, I was right there. You were pitiful, really. It took me less than an hour to dispose of you, even with the prolonged torture. Honestly, I would have expected more from Evans’ wife, but you just didn’t have the strength anymore to endure it long enough to survive. I wished it could have lasted longer, for my sake, anyway.
“However, that’s where I made my mistake. I killed you too soon. We misjudged Max, hoping your death would send him into a depression, easy to overcome. It was just the opposite. Unintentionally we corrupted him into an enraged killing machine. In less than two days he had managed to destroy over half our armies, mine being one of the few left, and we were losing fast. He wouldn’t stop until every last one of our skins were dead.
“Lucky for me, I remember the tricks I had learned from my younger self, from you. The time machine, four square. I’m changing the future. I’ve already won. Your four square is destroyed. Only two left for me to kill. I’m not going to make the same mistake as last time. This time, Max dies first.”
The minute Max stepped inside the Crashdown it was obvious something was wrong. For one, there were no customers, and the cafe was littered with half consumed plates, glasses and dirty napkins. The one thing that unnerved him the most was the silence. It was quiet. Too quiet.
Kyle was the first to pick up on the blood splattered across the glass window and the little that had seeped under the door. He let the others aware of it by his low, murmured swear and they turned to look in the direction he was facing.
Max was through the door first, bursting it open and trying to prepare him for the worst.
He froze in the doorway, staring at the scene before him. He was acting too slowly! If he could only move forward, towards the bodies, he could help them. But the back of his mind was screaming at him that he was too late. No amount of healing was going to save Micheal and Maria.
His vision started to blur with unshed tears and he grabbed at the doorframe for support as both the sheriff and Kyle brushed past him, kneeling beside the bodies.
Max watched as the sheriff’s hand hovered about Micheal’s limp one, and just as his lingering fingers were about to touch Maria’s cold flesh, someone spoke.
Recognizing the voice immediately, Max’s head jerked up towards the kitchen door, seeing for the first time Liz, huddled and hidden behind the door, her knees pulled to her chest and her head buried in her arms. Without missing a beat, he was by her side and she pulled her face up to look at him.
The sight of her caked in all that blood was making him queasy.
“Where are you hurt?” he finally managed, holding his hands up around her.
Liz shook her head, speaking in a quiet voice. “No. It’s not mine. I’m fine. It’s...theirs.”
Max nodded. “Come on, let’s get you out of here.”
Liz nodded, clinging to him to help her stand, but they were both too shaky to gain balance on their feet. “No, wait...” she said quickly, pulling on him and heavily sitting back down into the red pools on the floor.
“What? What is it?”
“Nikolas. He killed them,” she whispered, burying a sob deep into her throat.
“Okay,” he replied, trying to get her to stand again.
“It wasn’t him!” she continued, struggling against him until he finally consented, allowing her to stay still. He stared directly into her eyes, waiting for her to continue.
“He came from the future, this one. He killed them, and Tess too.”
Max frowned. “The future?”
“Just like you did,” she said, and he flinched. “He told me... he told me he was going to kill you next.” She stared up at him, her brown eyes coated with fright that she was going to lose him again.
He sighed, gathering her into his arms. “What else did he say?” he murmured into hair, hating to force the question, but needing to know.
“Four square.” She tightened her grip around his neck. “It’s broken now. Only two left.” He could hear the crack in her voice, and pulled away. He didn’t want her to cry. If she did, he just might break down too. It wasn’t something he didn’t want to do in front of her. He was determined to stay strong for her, no matter what.
He hauled her to her feet finally, kissing her once on top of her head despite the dried blood in her hair.
“Go upstairs,” he commanded hoarsely. “I’ll be up in a minute if you need me.”
She nodded and he stood by her side, blocking the view of the death and watch as she began her trembling climb up the stairs to her bedroom.
Finally she disappeared from his vision and turned to face the father and son who had been standing silently by. Now, staring down at the bodies of his friends, he was lost. He no longer knew what to do. He looked to the sheriff for help.
Jim Valenti saw the confusion and misery clouded in Max’s eyes, knowing somehow he had to find a way to erase the haunted look in those eyes, along with Liz’s, his son’s, and his own.
He let out a long sigh, rubbing his fingers across his forehead. There was no simple solution. Normally he would put a call into the station, but Micheal’s case wouldn’t allow it. He opened his mouth to say something, until he heard the sharp scream echo from upstairs.
The three never hesitated a moment and were bounding up the stairs two at a time to reach Liz’s room just in time to her stumble backwards out of the bathroom.
“Max,” she breathed, catching sight of him, her eyes wide with panic. “Don’t go in there, please.”
“What, what’s wrong?”
“Max, please, just don’t go in there,” she begged. “You don’t... it’s something you shouldn’t see.”
“Liz,” he said, “I don’t understand. Just tell me.” He shifted to the side, but she stepped quickly in front of him.
“It’s bad Max. I don’t want you to see. It’s too... it’s too awful.”
“Liz,” he repeated, gripping her shoulders. “Let me take care of it, okay?”
She looked up at him, her eyes pleading not too enter. She opened her mouth, wanting to give him some type of warning or explanation, but she couldn’t force the words past her throat. Anything she thought of came out sounding terrifying. When she gave him no reply, he moved her to the side and pushed past, leaving her dazed and bracing herself for his reaction.
His startled cry sent shivers down her spine and sent gashes through her heart. She squeezed her eyes shut, wishing it were all an awful nightmare and wondering why she had no tears to shed for the death of her friends.
Now she let out a shaky breath and staggered to the bathroom, slowly lowering herself to where Max had dropped to his knees.
“Max,” she whispered, lightly touching his arm.
He turned to look at her, his face twisted in anguish and guilt, remorse, despair, sorrow and grief, tears shining in his eyes.
“It’s not your fault,” she said, shaking her head and holding her arms out to him.
Max nodded, leaning forward to her embrace where she wrapped her arms around his neck and laid his head against her shoulder. She could feel his hot breath against her neck and his tears soaking her bloody sweater.
It scared her that he was crying like this. She needed him to be okay, to hold her, but it was selfish and inconsiderate. But now her heart was bearing her own grief and aching for his. she didn’t know how long she could last.
Staring past Max’s shoulder, she could still see the arm slung across the bathtub edge, one of the feet dangling over the side.
Liz stared up at the bathtub, knowing the image of Isabel’s body carelessly tossed there would haunt her for the rest of her life. Isabel, her body half naked and shredded, mangled and mutilated to so terribly she would not have been recognizable if her face and not been left intact. Her eyes wide open and staring, and the distinct expression of surprise laced across her beautiful features. The only comfort this gave Liz was the possibility that she might have been already dead when her body was distorted. What kind of sick pleasure did this murderer take from doing such things?
“Liz.” Her name spoken, Liz didn’t say a word in reply, only waited until he continued.
Neither moved from their place clinging to each other, only held tighter.
“He said the four square was broken. That there were only two left.”
Liz nodded ever so slightly. He swallowed. “Isabel must have been dead before that. He didn’t mean Isabel and me. He meant...”
Liz finished the phrase for him in a hushed whisper, hugging him tighter still. “...you and me...”
Edited by - gummibehrs on 09/23/2001 14:05:20
|posted on 22-Sep-2001 2:19:28 PM|
|Afraid to Sleep Parts 16-18|
They must have been a sight to see, cradling each other on the floor, one wet with tears, the other drenched head to toe with red, while a dead body bathed in its own blood in the tub beside them.
“I got a call,” the sheriff said finally, taking a look at Isabel’s slaughtered form and sending Kyle out of the room before he could lay eyes on it. “Something’s happened at the Whitmans’.”
Max pulled away first, standing and helping Liz to her feet. “We should go.” He swallowed. “Are you okay?”
“We’ll have to take care of this when we get back.”
“Okay.” Her voice was light, soft. She moved towards the door, but Max held her back. He most definitely did not want her to see the bodies again, and he didn’t want her seeing them either.
“Let’s go down the fire escape,” he urged. She didn’t respond, but didn’t resist when he lead her to the balcony. He climbed through the window and her along, then went down the fire escape first, staying only a few steps under her, making sure she got down all right. When he reached the end, he jumped to the ground the last few steps and held Liz’s waist securely until he was certain she was balanced safely on the ground. Even then he didn’t want to let go and slipped his hand around hers. Moments later Kyle came clamoring down the rungs and they hurried to join Valenti in the front where the sheriff was waiting with the squad car.
Max watched as Valenti flipped the ‘open’ sign over on the CrashDown doors, and Max waved his hand over the knob and clicked the locks, hoping it wouldn’t stay permanently closed.
The sheriff and Kyle climbed into the front of the car, and Max stared at them through the guard rail in the back. Liz sighed, closing her eyes and resting her head against Max’s shoulder. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and in minutes he could hear her steady breathing, indicating she was asleep.
Had it only been last night that she had told him she was afraid to? He tightened his grip on her protectively, swearing silently on his life that he wouldn’t let her go.
They reached the Whitmans’ sooner than any of them wanted. As they got closer to the house, the streets were blocked with police cars and ambulances, even a few fire engines. Neighbors spilled from their houses and flocked onto the roads, eager to get a glimpse of the newest piece of gossip that was soon to circulate their pathetic tourist trap of a town.
The sheriff slid onto a curb a few houses down from the Whitmans’ and parked, opening the door, slipping his keys into his pocket and stepped out into the crowd of people, impatient to intrude and start asking questions. Kyle was right behind him in seconds and Max reluctantly decided against waking Liz, only shifting her weight to the side so he could slip his arm out from underneath her and open the door to follow the Valentis, making sure the door was carefully locked.
They reached the scene just in time to see two paramedics wheeling a stretcher out of the house, a sheet hiding the human lump underneath from the public eye. Max swallowed, quickly deciding he was glad Liz had stayed in the car.
“What happened here?” the sheriff asked immediately, setting his hat on his head.
“Eighteen year old white male, gunshot wound to the head,” Max heard one of the paramedics respond. “Identified as an Alex Whitman.” The sheriff nodded and continued interrogations, but Max blocked them out and started to make his way back to the car. It was all he needed and wanted to know.
It was definite. Four of them were left now, and it was only a matter of time to determine who would be next.
From behind suddenly Max heard a gunshots ring out from the street. He whirled around just in time to see the sheriff jerk violently a few times as bullets tore at his flesh and then slumped lifelessly to the ground, the gunman unseen by everyone. It only took him a moment to regain his composure and then he bolted back into the crowd just as Kyle saw is father fall and let out a fearful shout.
There were too many people swarming around the sheriff and Max couldn’t get through between the neighbors. He saw how even Kyle was failing to get through, desperately shoving people out of the way, calling out to his father.
Another shot was heard and instinctively people ducked, a few frightened screams echoing in the air.
Max had no doubt in his mind who the killer was. Nikolas. He just didn’t know which one.
Max reached Kyle, pushing him away from the audience and towards the car.
“Get your hands off me,” Kyle cried angrily. The two fought against he each other while Kyle struggled to get back to his dead father and Max tried to force him back to the car.
One more shot was fired, this time the bullet chipping the sidewalk by their feet.
“Go!” Max yelled, and Kyle obliged. They both took off for the car and Kyle grabbed the door handle to the driver’s seat but it wouldn’t budge.
“My dad has the keys,” he realized, and Max joined Kyle by the driver’s side, waving his hand over the locks and jerking open the door while Kyle slid into the passenger’s seat. Max didn’t even buckle his belt before running the engine with his powers and taking off with a burst of speed.
It wasn’t until they were safely on the road that Max drew in a deep breath and peered through his rearview mirror to Liz, still sleeping soundly, through the guard rail.
Kyle immediately closed his eyes, slipping into a steady concentration, and Max had to remind himself that Kyle had taken up his Buddhist faith after learning aliens existed.
Max’s eyes shifted back to Liz through the mirror. He felt a little twinge pull at the corners of his mouth. Despite everything, she was still his. The one thing he could never lose, no matter what.
He glanced back at the street, then back to Liz. Street. Liz. Street. Liz.
For the fifth time in the last minute, Max looked back to her again, his heart immediately seizing in panic as he slammed hard on the brakes and the car came screeching to a halt.
Kyle was yanked roughly back into reality. “What the hell did you do that for, Evans?” he cried angrily, but then followed Max’s gaze and quickly shut up. “Shit.”
“Let her go,” Max demanded lowly to Nikolas’ reflection as he peered through the mirror.
Nikolas smiled, tightening his grip around Liz’s shoulders, just as she stirred in his arms and buried her face into his neck.
He prayed she wouldn’t wake up, not now. Nikolas’ eyes gleamed in response, and Max analyzed his appearance. Although he had never seen Nikolas’ future dupe, he assumed this had to be his present version. Was he the one that killed Valenti?
Realization struck Max like a slap in the face as he figured Nikolas must have been in the car the whole time, from the point in which he, Kyle and Valenti had left. Mind warps again. It also meant he couldn’t have been the sheriff’s murderer. If he could hide himself so easily among them, he could have been anywhere...
“Take your hands off her now, you bastard,” Kyle seethed.
Nikolas looked amused.
“Seems like somebody’s been busy, getting rid of all of you before I make the move,” he said finally.
Max’s mind raced. Nikolas had no clue it was his own, older self taking part in this massacre.
“As much as I’m pleased there’s only three of you left alive and squirming, I haven’t had one ounce of fun this whole time,” Nikoas continued. He ran one hand down Liz’s hair, over her face. “I’m not going to miss this opportunity. This one’s priceless.”
Liz stirred again, mumbling Max’s name. She tried to urge herself back to sleep, unwilling to wake up. Reality, her life, was too harsh. Reality, where the real nightmares lie. She sighed, leaning heavily into Max’s shoulder as she opened her eyes.
She froze, the haziness of her tiredness gone within the instant she saw Max’s stricken face through the guard rail.
He was not the one holding her.
She pulled away instantly, shying to the corner of the car, feeling trapped in the small space.
Nikolas snatched her arm at the wrist, strengthening his grip when she tried to struggle. This present, younger form of Nikolas seemed more frightening than his older version did.
“It’s payback, bitch,” he hissed, “You’ve made a fool out of me one too many times. I’ve had plenty of chances to tear your throat out. One too many times.”
“Tonight,” he said, continuing before anyone else had a chance. “Tonight, at the museum. This is it, this is the end. The two of you. You try to bring anyone else” - he paused momentarily to glare at Kyle - “they won’t make it past the main doors. You don’t show, I won’t even give you a chance next time. You’ll be dead before you even know what hit. I will hunt you down. You can count on it.”
Nikolas released her wrist, and she pulled even farther away. Max raised his hand in warning, but Nikolas just laughed.
“Do you honestly think you could do anything?” he taunted, tapping the guard rails separating them. “More than likely you’ll end up killing someone else in such close quarters. Is that something you want to risk?” He glanced at Liz, and Max’s hand wavered, finally lowering.
Nikolas acknowledged the gesture with a smirk. “You’ve got too much to lose, Max. That’s why you’re never going to beat me.” He pushed the door open and turned back to them. “See you tonight.” He stepped out and slammed the door so hard it made the car shake, sauntering off down the street.
Everyone let out a deep sigh of relief. Max stared in the rearview mirror, where he could see Nikolas still in the middle of the road, in perfect alignment with the car.
Without any second thought or hesitation, Max shifted the car into reverse and thrust on the acceleration, speeding backwards towards his target.
“Max!” Liz cried in surprise, her fingers laced through the rails and her face close, eyes wide.
Max silently urged the car faster as they gained on Nikolas, inches from his back. At the last minute, seconds before they would have collided, Nikolas’ image vanished completely in another mind warp. Max pressed on the brakes and sat defeated, his hands tightly on the wheel, turning his knuckles white, as his head bent down, staring into his lap.
He looked up, clearing his throat and set his eyes on the road. Liz could see the fixed determination in them. Slowly he started the car up again and pulled back into the street. With the final decision made, he spoke.
“We’re leaving Roswell.”
“We’re leaving Roswell.”
Liz blinked, letting Max’s words sink in. It took awhile for the meaning to register, and when it did, her mind was still too fuzzy and her tongue too swollen to push out the words she wanted to say.
“What?” Kyle exploded, “We can’t leave!”
Max kept his concentration solely on the road as he pulled into the Valenti’s driveway.
“We can’t leave,” Kyle insisted.
Max stopped the car, turning to face Kyle, almost glaring. “Get your stuff. We’ve leaving,” he spoke evenly.
Without another word, Max pushed his way out of the car and rounded the side to help Liz.
She crawled out a little shakily, but he had her balanced on her feet in a few moments and the three made their way into the house.
Once inside, Liz’s mind was swarming with memories. Tess’ body draped just inside the doorway where they were now standing. Tess greeting her at the door when she made the trip to talk to her after Max’s future visit. Everything in the room seemed to provoke some memory. Just down the hall there was a bed where she wasn’t going to sleep in again. The couch, where they had hauled Tess’ body, was screaming out to her like a bright beacon and she squeezed her eyes shut, wishing all the signs to go away and leave her be.
Max’s voice was drawing her from her thoughts. She snapped her eyes open and momentarily her vision blurred before clearing.
“We can go back to the CrashDown and pick up some of your things,” he told her.
Liz shook her head violently. “No,” she spoke. “I don’t want...” She stopped, pausing, shaking her head before starting over again. “I can’t go back there.”
Max studied her closely for a minute and then nodded. “Okay. You can stay here with Kyle. Just tell me what you want and I’ll go get it,” he offered.
“No,” she responded. “There isn’t anything I want.”
“Liz, there’s got to be something.”
“I said no, Max!” she cried angrily, and instantly he dropped the subject. She sighed.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized exasperatedly. “I’m just... so tired.”
“Lay down,” he told her, smoothing her hair and indicating to the couch. “Go to sleep and rest some.”
Liz shook her head again, her eyes wide at the thought of even remotely touching the sofa. “I can’t.”
“I’ll be right here,” he promised.
“I can’t. He’ll be there. Every time I close my eyes.”
Max frowned, but decided against pushing the matter. It was upsetting him she wasn’t sleeping, but there wasn’t really anything he could do without making her even more agitated.
“All right. Let’s go find Kyle, okay?”
She nodded in acceptance and carefully he took her down the hallway.
If they did come out of this alive, he knew the healing process would last a lot longer.
Kyle was rummaging through his father’s gun collection picking through the cabinet at the various types.
They approached him just as he finished loading one of them.
“We can’t leave Roswell,” he said upon seeing them.
Max ignored the comment. “I’ve made up my mind,” he insisted.
“You’re an idiot, Evans,” Kyle spat. “How long do you think it’s going to take before he catches up to us? Do you think we can just disappear of the planet and hope he doesn’t follow and forgets about finding us?”
“What’s left to stay for?” Max demanded to know. “Death? Murder? More blood? We leave and we have a chance for survival.”
“We leave and never come back!” Kyle answered. “I’ve got nothing left, Max, and I couldn’t care less about this shit town but I’m not going to run just so they can chase us down for the rest of our lives, however long that may actually be.”
“We stay here and die or go and live.”
“Some life,” Kyle muttered. “Remember those surveys we had to do last year? The ones for Topolsky?”
Max nodded vaguely, wondering why Kyle would bring up such an insignificant matter at a time like this. Liz gave a little nod of her own, blissfully reminiscing to a time where her life had not been so awful.
“Question sixteen: What are you afraid of?” Kyle recalled. “What was my answer?”
Max blinked, pausing to remember the response. They had been sitting at one of the CrashDown tables, and he had been watching Liz for a majority of the time with his sister, until finally she had come to see if they needed more ketchup.
The memory flashed through his brain and suddenly he remembered the answer.
He looked up, staring Kyle straight into his eyes. “Death.”
Kyle nodded. “That’s right. My biggest fear is death. Well guess what? It’s staring me right in the face and I am not the type to run away. I don’t care what kind of freak this guy is, I am not backing down.”
Max sighed, turned to Liz.
“What do you want?” he asked her, knowing it was unfair to lay this upon her, but at the same time pleading to know her preference.
Liz opened her mouth, searching for the answer she wanted, finally giving up when she found nothing coherent to say. “Nikolas said he was coming for you first, Max,” she reminded him finally, as if that would make all the difference.
Kyle shook his head. “Future Nikolas is after Max,” he clarified. “As far as we know, this other one has never switched gears from you, Liz.”
“So one version is set out to kill me first,” Max began.
“And the other one is after me,” Liz finished.
Max sighed. “Whatever you want to do, Liz. It’s your decision.”
He stared intently down at her, as was Kyle.
Kyle took the gun he had been holding the whole time and held it out to her.
She just stared at it, not really knowing what to do.
“I...god,” she began, then looked down at her hands at the blood that still covered them, as if seeing it again for the first time. Suddenly it was all too hot, the blood coating her body turning sticky and wet.
“I...I have to...get this off me,” she stammered, unable to peel her eyes away from the scarlet the caked her skin and clothes. “God, I can’t...I need to get it off!”
“Okay, it’s okay,” Max said quickly, trying to calm her down and ushering her into the bathroom as quickly as he could get her there.
She stood warily inside the doorframe as she stared into the bathroom, unable to make her legs move and carry her into the room.
Max brushed past her, surveying the room and making sure everything was in order, shoving the shower curtain open and even checking through the cabinets and drawers.
“It’s okay,” he assured her. “Everything’s fine.”
Liz unsteadily entered, peeking into the bathtub half expecting to see a dead body or a message scrawled across the wall in blood.
Those things only happen in the movies, she patronized.
“You going to be okay?” Max asked, and she nodded.
He was about to close the door when she called him back.
He peeked his head through the door and waited for her to continue.
“Will you stay right outside the door?”
He nodded. “Okay.”
She gave him a timid smile and he closed the door, leaving her alone in the room. She locked it quickly and turned to face her reflection in the mirror.
She sighed, leaning forward and resting her forehead on the cool glass.
Liz took a deep breath, fogging the mirror and stared into the image of her eyes.
Just think, she told her reflection, in a few hours I’ll be dead.
Max closed the door and heard as Liz clicked the locks behind him. He waited in silence for a few minutes, pressing his ear against the door until water began to run in the bathroom. Quickly he hurried down the hall back to find Kyle, a little guilt rushing in his stomach, had he only seconds ago promised her he would stay right outside.
“I need you to do me a favor,” Max began without pause, and Kyle abruptly turned to face him.
“Yeah, what?” he replied somewhat irritably.
“I want you to stay with Liz. Keep her here, don’t let her leave. I don’t know how long she’s going to be in there, so I’ve got to go while I still can.” Kyle’s face changed from irascible to outraged in a matter of seconds, but Max pushed on before he could interrupt.
“I’m going to the museum by myself. I’m going to end this -”
“What?” Kyle exploded. “What the freaking hell is your problem? Do you think this is actually going to help Liz if you sneak away when her back is turned?”
“I want to end this without her getting hurt.”
“Hurt? What the hell do you think she’s going to feel when she finds out you abandoned her? And then what happens when you get yourself splattered across the museum walls, huh? That’s going to help? He’ll just come right back here and kill her, too. Is that what you want?” Kyle snapped bitterly.
“I’m trying to prevent that! I’m trying to get the rest of us from getting killed!” Max cried authoritatively, his voice rising as he made the movement to stand over Kyle.
“Well you’re doing a damn lousy job!” Kyle retorted evenly, unintimidated by Max’s attempted domination. “Listen, you’ve made some really shitty decisions lately, but this one takes the cake. If you think you can just -”
“If Liz comes, she might die,” Max interrupted quietly, softening his tone as he said the thought out loud that he had been worrying about ever since this whole ordeal began. All he wanted was for her to be safe.
“Might,” Kyle stressed, his own voice lowering, but still rimmed with his harsh implications. “She might die. Let her make her own damn decisions. It’s her life.”
“What happens when the fight comes, and I can’t protect her?” Max whispered, more to himself than to Kyle.
“Then I’ll be there,” Kyle responded assuredly.
Max shook his head. “Nikolas made it clear that if anyone else shows up, he’ll be killed. You’d barely have a chance.”
“Then I don’t live through the night. I’ve already kind of accepted that fact,” Kyle shrugged, as if their conversation consisted of a much more lighter subject than life and death.
“Kyle, you don’t need to be involved. You can stay here and -”
“That bastard got me involved when he murdered my father,” Kyle said bluntly. “He killed Tess, Maria, Alex, Isabel and Micheal - they’re all dead, all to get to the two of you. And guess who’s the only one left standing in the way? Me. I’m next in line, and I am not going down without a fight. I am involved,” he finished, almost defiantly. “I deserve all I can get out of him.”
Max nodded his head vaguely as he listened intently to Kyle, but his gaze wandered down the hallway to where he knew Liz was still washing up in the bathroom, alone. Kyle saw this and spoke up again after their short pause.
“Let me tell you something, Evans,” Kyle commenced, and Max could here the passion beginning to emerge in his tone. “I am going to protect her with my life. I loved her once, you know. I really did. I still do, in fact, but in a different way. You, hell Evans, I couldn’t care less about you.” Kyle gave a light laugh, and a bit of a smile. Then his expression turned to grim seriousness. “But I swear - I won’t breathe my last breath until I can ensure that she will live to see another day.”
Max was at a loss for words. He swallowed a few times, then managed to croak out, “Why?”
Kyle paused, shifting his balance on his feet. “Because she’s all we have left,” he answered finally, simply.
It was over at that, and Max spun on his heels back down the hall to Liz. He listened carefully at the door again, hoping she hadn’t realized that he was gone for the few minutes. All her could hear was the repeated strumming of the shower water pounding on the floor. Still. Nothing stirred, even with the water running.
Everything was quiet.
Liz pulled her gaze away from her mirrored reflection and turned the faucet of the shower and the water streamed down. She peeled off her filthy cardigan and stripped away the rest of her clothing, tossing them absently to the floor and stepped into the shower. Liz sighed, the warm water comforting her tense body and soothing her senses. She ran the dial up on the faucet and increased the heat, building up the water pressure until any farther the hard pelting drops would sting painfully.
She snatched a bar of scented lavender soap of the ledge and scrubbed lightly at her arm, wishing the blood to wipe away, slide down the drain and become only a memory. A frown infected her raspberry lips once she saw the soapy lather rinse away, yet the dark red splotches staining her skin remained. Liz rubbed the soap against her skin harder, a slight panic rising in her stomach when still the gore refused to be cleansed. She scrubbed furiously at the blood, so forcefully until she was sure her own skin was turning raw and tender, until the scent of the soap was so strong it was stinging her nose and unshed tears welled up in her eyes.
Suddenly the thought entered her mind that this was Tess’ soap. She was in Valenti’s home, using Tess’ soap to wash away Micheal and Maria’s blood.
Liz ignored the idea, scouring even more vigorously to banish the conception to the back of her mind, rubbing as fast and furiously as she could until the bar snapped in her hands. Liz cried out with a moan of dismay as the pieces clattered to the floor.
She covered her mouth with the back of her hand as tears leaked involuntarily out of her eyes and quiet sobs sent quivers down her body. Her legs began trembling fiercely, her knees buckled and she slid to the floor, curling into the fetal position for feeble protection.
She mourned silently while wet tears, colder than ice, streamed down her face, huddled in the corner of the shower, watching as pink stained water drifted and swirled down the drain.
Max strained his ears for any sound. Her rapped on the door with his fist.
There was no response. He knocked again.
Worry took him over and he reached for the knob, jiggling it and finding it still locked. With one swipe of his hand the door clicked open and he pushed it wider, stepping inside and closing the door softly behind him.
“Liz?” he called, desperately trying to see through the thick fog. “Liz?”
He stepped further into the room, passing by her clothes on the floor, splattered and blotted with vibrant red splotches.
Max swallowed hard and continued until he was standing right outside the shower. The strong lavender scent filled his nose. “Liz?” he called loudly and waited for the response. she had to hear him at this close of a proximity. She would answer - unless she wasn’t there.
“Liz?” he cried one last time, feeling panicked when again there was only silence as an answer.
With one swift movement he tore the curtain aside and breathed a deep sigh of relief when he saw her covered and nestled on the floor.
“It won’t come off,” she told him sullenly, her eyes fixed on the drain.
Quickly Max searched the room and found a towel, securely wrapping her in it before picking her up and sitting her carefully on the closed toilet seat, kneeling in front of her.
Liz dried her eyes, clutching the towel to her front. “I keep thinking,” she began, slowly, her voice still clogged with pain, “that even if we survive, they’ll still be gone. How can we live, everyday, knowing that they didn’t?”
Max clasped her hand in his, kissed her palm. “We’ll be together,” he promised. “We’ll survive together.” Guilt quickly consumed him for even thinking earlier that her would leave her alone. “I’m sorry,” he muttered.
“For what?” she asked mildly, squeezing his hand.
He shook his head, dismissing the response. Instead, he lightly ran his fingers over a red spot on the back of her hand.
“I keep looking at that,” she whispered, and paused for such a long time Max was beginning to wonder if she was going to finish. Finally, she swallowed hard and continued. “I know it’s theirs, Maria’s and Micheal’s. All it does is remind me that they’re not here.” Her voice cracked at the end, her eyes shimmering again, but she pushed further. “And I think it’s never going to come off, that it’s never going to wipe away because it’s a memory that means I’m alive and they’re not.” A tear fell down her cheek. “And then I think... that I have their blood on me... because it’s my fault.”
“No,” Max said firmly, shaking his head and gripping her hand. “No. This is not your fault.”
Liz wiped uselessly at her eyes, but the tears kept coming. “That’s what part of me says. And the other half can’t help but think what might have happened if I never asked you to stay last night, if I hadn’t given in and wanted to be with you so badly.”
“Liz...you had no control over that. What happened happened and you can’t change that. All you have left is what happens to you. You can control that. What happens to us, because we’ll together.”
Liz sniffed, and took a deep breath. “Okay,” she replied finally, “okay.”
Before another word could be spoken, Max’s lips were on hers, kissing the corner of her mouth. His hand moved to caress the side of her face and he kissed her again. Liz opened her mouth, deepening their exchange and their tongues met for only a moment until she pulled away, flashing him a reassuring smile.
Max stood up, plugging the bathtub and turning the faucet so one steady stream of water poured out and filled to the rim. He turned his back to it as Liz shed the towel and stepped in, drawing her knees to her chest. He spun around again, washcloth in hand and slowly began massaging it across her back and shoulders, his gentle strokes disintegrating the blood splotches and the smell of lavender soap rose to his nose.
Max glanced down into the water, noticing with slight queasiness in his stomach, that the water was no longer clear, but rapidly tinting pink. The darker the red hue became, the more nausea he felt. Max swallowed hard and tried to ignore it. Liz’s eyes were squeezed tightly shut, her head resting sideways on her crossed arms perched on her knees, lips pursued in a slight smile.
It struck him suddenly, a thought entering his tired mind, and wondered if washing away this blood was actually a worthwhile thing after all. Would it only be a few hours before she was covered in it again, only this time it would be hers?
Max froze and immediately shoved the idea out of his mind.
“Max?” Liz spoke quietly, her eyes still closed. “What’s wrong?”
Max shook his head, trying to ease his tense muscles that she had easily sensed. “Nothing,” he replied a moment later, moving the washcloth to her neck.
“I don’t want to lie to each other anymore, Max,” she responded tiredly.
He paused. He didn’t know what to say. He moved his hands into her hair, rubbing away the dried clots of blood that clumped the long dark strands into tangles.
“I was just thinking,” he said thoughtfully, a smile playing across his mouth. “how beautiful you are.”
A small smile in return spread her lips and she hummed softly in a quiet, contented sigh.
Max leaned in and gently kissed the skin at the base of her neck. She stirred in surprise. “You’re beautiful,” he murmured again, kissing the side of her throat, craving her taste.
“Max...” Liz’s eyes flew open as she felt his arm wrap around her neck and one around her waist, his fingers grazing the silver tattoo on her skin.
She tensed immediately, as his touch released a rush of images.
“I can find you anywhere,” she remember Nikolas hissing into her ear. “We’re connected.”
His hand roamed her stomach until he matched his fingers with the burned handprint. He pushed in firmly and Liz gasped.
“If you try to run I’ll find you and bring you back,” he warned. “You can’t get away.”
Liz cried out, drawing herself out of the memory. She had no doubt that Max had seen it, too, for he stiffened and pulled immediately away.
“He touched you,” Max whispered, the anger bubbling venomously in his voice. “He touched you like I touched you.”
“Max,” she breathed. “I’m sorry... I didn’t mean to -”
“No, don’t apologize,” he insisted, thrusting the washcloth and soap into her palm. “I’ll be outside.”
She watched him go sadly, but brushed every thought, burying them into the back of her mind and scrubbed again at the blood on her face and body until every speck was gone.
She turned to her clothes, still stained. Liz sighed, closing her eyes and concentrated. This is going to be really stupid if it doesn’t work, she thought. With a wave of her hand she opened her eyes again. She bit her lip, smiling a little when she saw that the blood was gone.
Max joined Kyle in the living room.
“She should be out in a minute,” he offered.
Kyle glanced at Max. “I don’t even want to know what the hell you did in there.”
Max just stared at him incredulously for a moment, and opened his mouth to say something. Before he could, Liz was back at his side.
“Let’s go,” she said quietly.
The other two nodded, and Kyle held out his hand, the gun lying flat in his palm as he offered it to her once again.
Liz took a deep breath and closed her fingers around the handle.
“Funny,” she whispered lightly, “I don’t even remember how to use it.” And just last night she had threatened to kill herself with one.
Kyle stared at her for a long moment, then replied in all seriousness, “Point at the nearest asshole and shoot.”
Max pulled up to the museum entrance and glanced out of the corner of his eye to Liz and Kyle beside him. When they had gone out to get in the sheriff’s squad car, they had all gazed cautiously at the backseat, then quickly piled into the front, squeezing Liz in the middle.
Max waved his hand over the ignition and immediately the humming of the engine ceased.
They sat in silence for a long while. Kyle stared straight ahead, Liz stared at the gun in her fingers, and Max stared at his hand still clutching the steering wheel tightly. No one wanted to acknowledge what was inevitably going to happen next.
Kyle made the first move. Abruptly he flung the door open and jumped out.
“Let’s get this thing over with,” he said bluntly, holding his hand out to Liz in an offering to help her out of the car.
She accepted his hand, grasping it fiercely, grateful that at least one of them had the courage to take the next step.
Suddenly, Liz’s eyes widened in fear as a figure, out of nowhere, flashed behind Kyle and quickly disappeared again.
“Kyle!” she cried in warning as his grip was violently torn away and he stumbled backward, falling to the ground. “Kyle!” she shouted a second time, as she hung halfway out of the car, watching as he tried to pick himself up from the street.
Liz felt Max’s hand on her shoulder and yank her back into the car just as the door slammed shut by some invisible force. Instantly the locks activated, the clicking sound echoing throughout the small interior.
Frantically Liz searched for the handle and tugged at it repeatedly in a frenzied state, hoping to God it would open.
“It won’t work,” she heard Max mumbled as he fumbled with his own door. “He’s locked us in from the outside.”
“Can’t you do anything?” she asked desperately, dismayed when he dismally shook his head.
Liz whirled around, her eyes looking for both Kyle and Future Nikolas who had vanished from her range of vision. She spotted her friend still on the ground as he stood and dusted himself off.
Nikolas reappeared directly behind him, throwing Liz a smile.
“Oh god,” Liz gasped, dazed and feeling sick. “Kyle can’t see him. He can’t see him...” She pounded on the window with the heel of her palm. “Kyle!” she screamed, hopelessly trying to win his attention and warn him. Before she could, Nikolas raised his arm and whacked Kyle on the back of the head, sending him flying forward.
Liz grimaced and tore her gaze away. “Max, he can’t see him! He doesn’t know! We have to get out of here!”
“Calm down,” Max instructed rationally, grasping her flailing fists as she began to beat on the glass again. “Calm down.”
“Max, we have to do something!” Liz insisted as Kyle flashed in the corner of her eye, blood already staining his clothes.
“Get down,” Max commanded and she did, crouching as low as she could in the seat while Max leaned over, covering her body with his.
Liz squeezed her eyes shut as Max raised his hand, charging a blast and sending it straight through the windshield. “There,” he said, satisfied, as Liz sat up again.
She was about to climb through Max’s make-shift exit when suddenly the hole created by the blast contracted and filled, shrinking until it was no longer noticeable and even the cracks diminished, leaving the windshield looking perfect and brand new, no evidence trailing the even the slightest damage had been done.
“Shit!” Liz gasped, “shit!”
Max was looking equally shocked, by both the trick and Liz’s outburst of language.
A flash of light blazed from somewhere behind them and Liz couldn’t bring herself to look in the direction. She shuddered, remembering the light under the door that had so easily taken the lives of Micheal and Maria.
“The locks,” Liz hissed. “The locks in the back aren’t on.” She stuck her fingers through the guardrail and pulled at the metal but it refused to move. “Max, help me!”
“Liz...” he whispered sadly as he witnessed Nikolas send another beam Kyle’s way, while he was oblivious to the act and was inspecting the entirely different direction cautiously.
“Max, help me, dammit! I am not going to sit around and watched Kyle get killed!” she shouted through clenched teeth as she leaned back, pulling her knee to her chin and sending her foot crashing into the metal. It sent a shooting pain up her leg, but she ignored it and gave the metal another, much harder, kick. It took another three until the rail was damaged enough that she began prying at the metal to tear it away from its attachment.
“Max, help me,” she begged when he was still unmoving, and they both tugged at it until there was a hole big enough for Liz to wriggle through.
She climbed into the backseat, past the rail, and threw the back door open as quickly as she could and jumped out, the gun wrapped tightly still in her fingers.
She searched the street for Nikolas and Kyle and to where they had disappeared to. Nikolas was currently oblivious to the fact that she was out of the car, and she spotted the two immediately. Her heart clenched in her throat when she saw Kyle, sprawled flat on the ground, bleeding, and Nikolas raised his hand to throw another shot.
Ignoring Max’s shouts, with a burst of speed Liz bolted from her stationary position, heading straight for Nikolas. She collided with him head on and they both tumbled to the pavement. Liz came out on top and before Nikolas could move, she pressed the barrel of the gun firmly against his forehead.
“Don’t move,” she ordered toward Nikolas and caught sight of Kyle as he staggered to his feet, limping slightly with a hand clutching his bloody shoulder.
“You okay?” she breathed, never taking her gaze from Nikolas.
“Yeah,” Kyle grimaced. “I’ll live... for now.” He examined the current situation. “Just remind me never to get you pissed, okay?”
Future Nikolas smiled. “Do you think you could actually pull that trigger?” he asked. “Are you capable of knowing you took a life? How on earth would you sleep at night?”
“You took the lives of six of my friends,” she replied evenly. “I’ll manage.”
Almost instantly prior to her answer, Nikolas’ face melted into that of Kyle’s.
“Liz,” he gasped, “what are you doing? Put the gun down.”
She was caught of guard for only a moment, then clenched her teeth and shook her head, pressing the gun even harder. “No,” she said. “No. I’m not falling for your games, Nikolas.” She turned her head, expecting to see Kyle standing next to her, but instead it was Nikolas, watching on with an amused expression.
Her head was swimming, her mind screaming at her that her eyes were betraying her senses.
“No,” she repeated, much more softly, the fire leaving her tone. “You’re Nikoals,” she told Kyle’s face. “I know it.”
“How can you be sure?” Nikolas-Kyle asked. “How can you be sure if you decide to pull that trigger? There will always be that little bit of doubt.”
The Nikolas standing beside her shifted back into Kyle, and now she had two pairs of the same eyes staring back at her.
“Liz,” they both said. “Liz, put the gun down. What are you doing?”
Where’s Max? she screamed silently. Where the hell is Max?!
“Liz,” the duplicates repeated.
She gasped, drawing back and loosening her grip on the gun. She didn’t know, she honestly didn’t know. She had lost control. The second she did, Kyle’s image under her flickered back to Nikolas and she felt all the breath leave her lungs as his elbow collided with her ribs and his fist with her mouth, throwing her off of him.
Kyle, the real Kyle, scrambled after the gun that scattered out of her reach as she landed painfully on the solid cement. Nikolas, still on the ground, saw his opportunity and seized it, sending a ray straight toward Kyle. Liz screamed a warning, too late, as she saw it strike him directly in the chest and he staggered backward and toppled. Nikolas’ image flickered and vanished without hesitation, as if he’d never been there at all.
Liz rolled over, trying to push herself up, forcing herself to be by Kyle’s side. She breathed a sigh of relief as Max appeared finally and crouched beside Kyle. He’ll be okay, she assured herself, sucking in a gulp of air. Max will heal him and he’ll be okay.
She knew she should not have surrendered to her good thoughts so soon, for Max was suddenly struck from the front so forcefully he was tossed clear on the other side of the street.
“Max!” Liz cried in shock, but saw as his crumpled form stir and she sighed again. He’s all right... he’s all right...
She forced herself to her feet and propelled forward, dropping on her knees when she finally reached his body.
“Hey,” she whispered softly, thrusting a reassuring smile on her face as she slipped her hand under his head, off of the dirty ground. His lips pursed in a faint smile of his own, and her eyes drifted to the hole torn open in his chest. Quickly, she ripped her cardigan off and shifted his hand, placing the sweater over the gash he had been covering, watching the wad of tan fabric rapidly dye red.
“It’s okay,” she lied softly, ignoring the crack in her voice that came unintentionally with the overwhelming flow of tears. “See... you’re going to be okay...”
Like a dream, Liz inhaled sharply, tossing the useless clothing aside and placed her shaky hand flatly over the wound, ignoring the steady liquid that burst through her fingers and the trembles in Kyle’s tense body as he tried desperately to hang on to life.
Max does it all the time, she told herself. He does it all the time. It’s simple. I just have to... I have to... breathe...
She felt as Kyle grasped her hand tightly, holding on as if she was his last lifeline.
I can do this. I can do this. I have to do this.
Kyle’s voice broke her concentration and she snapped her eyes toward his as she watched with growing fear as life’s light dimmed from his eyes slowly. She urged her own energy into him, but the harder she tried the faster the light vanished.
“I swore...” he choked, “I promised... I wouldn’t die... until...I knew...”
She shook her head, cutting him off and refusing to let him say another word. “It’s okay,” she assured, “it’s okay.” His eyes fluttered shut, and slowly his grip loosened. His breathing slowed, then stopped.
Liz stared on, distressed and grievous, until Max’s hand clamped down heavily on her shoulder.
“I tried...” she sobbed. “I tried... I really did... and...” She shook her head, unable to continue as she clenched her fist and Kyle’s hand slid completely from her palm. “I couldn’t do anything.”
Max helped her to her feet, struggling himself against the pains in his body. “It’s all right.”
Together they stared at the entrance of the museum, and Max slipped her hand into his, strengthening his grip and she did the same.
“Are you ready?”
As they entered, dismissing all faith, neither one caught the faint glimmer of hope that existed in the dark, one that came with the flicker of Kyle’s eyelids and twitch of his fingers.
|posted on 22-Sep-2001 3:05:20 PM|
|Afraid to Sleep Parts 19-20 *Conclusion*|
They entered, slowly, hand in hand, barely breathing, each bracing themselves for the worst and preparing for death.
Max gave Liz’s hand reassuring squeeze, and they descended the stairs, making their way fully into the museum.
“Never let go of my hand,” Max whispered. “As long as we don’t let go, we’ll be okay. We’ll be together,” he assured her.
Liz nodded in understanding, her eyes drifting around their surroundings, the events of last night flashing through her mind. She was surprisingly calm, even through sighting the blood stains that already littered the carpet, and knew they would have added more by the night’s end. This was not going to be easy, and she was not about to fool herself into thinking it would be.
She stood, waiting, her heart pounding with the prolonged suspense, expecting something to happen.
But what? she asked herself. What was he supposed to expect within the last few moments of her life? Was Nikolas going to gallop in riding on his high horse for a grand entrance, or make some kind of surprise attack? She would put it past him to try either tactic.
Next to her she felt Max charging his power, the hair on the back of her neck pricking at the thick static sensation that filled the air. Liz knew that Nikolas would be able to recognize their presence if he did that, but she shrugged that through away. It didn’t matter much, after all. Nikolas knew where they were.
She sighed, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. she knew she had some abilities of her own embedded inside her mind, ones she had used in spontaneous defense and desperation. They had come so quickly, so easily, the times before, but lasted only a short period of time and left her tired and worn.
She couldn’t even help Kyle when he needed it.
If she could surface them now, have just a little time to prepare herself as was, maybe she could put them to more use.
They sure as hell were going to need it.
She concentrated, feeling the light connection Max was forging and moved past it, poking through her emotions and sifting through her dreams and nightmares.
She searched every memory she had since the past two years. Getting shot, finding out the truth, falling in love. Hiding from the FBI, exposing Topolsky.... Finally seeking help from Valenti, uncovering Destiny, leaving Max. She swallowed hard. Discovering the skins, working for one, the future revealed, meeting the Dupes... Tess’ murder, Maria and Michael’s deaths, the revelation of Future Nikolas’ existence...
Liz took a deep breath as everything came flooding back to her in one massive burst of energy.
“Liz...” Max whispered in reverence, sensing the force she was slowing building. She knew he was seeing everything too. If there was even the smallest secret she had never told him, he knew now.
She opened her mouth to reply, but she was interrupted immediately.
“If you think that feeble power source of yours is supposed to even compare to mine you’ll be painfully disappointed,” Nikolas announced, the trademark smirk layered on his lips. Slowly he descended the stairs, but kept his distance. “Shall we get on with it?”
Liz quickly turned to Max. “Promise me something,” she urged.
“Promise me that if anything happens, that you won’t care what happens to me. Take care of yourself first.”
“Please, Max,” she begged. “I couldn’t live with myself knowing I caused your death.
“No one’s going to be living much longer, anyway,” Nikolas called, obviously bored. “It doesn’t really matter, does it?”
“Max?” Liz questioned, raising her eyes to his.
He nodded reluctantly, but knowing he wanted the same thing for her. “Okay,” he whispered solemnly. “You too.”
She tightened her grip on his hand in acceptance of his terms. “Don’t let go.”
Nikolas rolled his eyes. “Oh for crying out loud,” he sighed, raising his hand in annoyance. A harsh yellow glow flickered around it.
Instantly both Max and Liz threw up their hands up at the same time and together shot a bright beam right at Nikolas, knocking him off his feet.
He sat up from the floor, coughing a little into his fist. “Well, that was surprising,” he muttered as he stood up. “That all you got?”
“Not even,” Max replied.
Nikolas tossed a blast at them, but Max’s green shield surrounded them instantly, despite the trouble he had strengthening it against Nikolas’ repeated blasts.
Tentatively Liz set her free hand against the inside of the shield, immediately feeling all her energy being sucked into it. Her knees buckled in the effort it was drawing, but she refused to give up and only pushed harder.
“You can’t hold out forever,” Nikolas cried over the noise.
“Neither can you,” Max called out, knowing it was true and he’d probably run out long before Nikolas ever would.
“Need any help?” an entirely new voice cried. Nikolas ceased his endless stream of shots and stared up to find the newcomer.
“What the hell?” he gasped in shock of seeing the spitting image of himself perched atop the stairs.
“Odds seem a little unfair,” Future Nikolas announced. “Two against one doesn’t quite seem like a good match.”
“Who the hell are you?” Nikolas demanded.
“I’m you,” the older version replied curtly, “from the future.”
Nikolas furrowed his brow in confusion for a few moments, then remembered the granilith’s capabilites. “Well that’s interesting,” he said. “You been here long?” he asked casually, as if catching up on the whereabouts of an old friend.
“Dead body outside curtesy of me,” Future Nikolas replied proudly.
Liz was starting to feel a little sick. How could they - he - talk about Kyle that way? And the others?
Nikolas grinned. “Well I haven’t changed a bit.” He scrutinized the many scars on his counterpart’s face. “Where’d those come from?”
“Those,” Future Nikolas answered, “curtesy of that bitch.” He motioned toward Liz, reminding the other of their current situation.
“Really?” Nikolas turned back to Liz, still guarded behind Max’s shield, with an amused glint in his eye. “Well, Lizzie, ready to play?”
Liz wasn’t able to strike up a witty comment like Isabel or Maria surely could in her position, but even if she could she wouldn’t have had the chance to spit it out because before she could do anything, Future Nikolas launched a shot their way. It collided with the shield, shattering it like glass, and hit Max square in the chest. He flew backward, taking Liz with him.
“This is just getting more and more fun,” Nikolas proclaimed, practically giddy with excitement.
Enraged, Liz flung her hand up and fired as much energy as she could muster. Quickly she turned back to Max and helped him to his feet. She looked up, pleased to see the blood leaking through Future Nikolas’s shirt.
But so did he.
A sudden wave of dizziness attacked her brain, and she knew he was trying to access her mind. She fought it, but to avail, because they were suddenly surrounded by ten duplicates of Future Nikolas, all smug with satisfaction.
“Max....” Liz hissed, drawing closer to him.
“I see them too,” he whispered back.
She paused, glancing around nervously at all the different mindwarped versions that stared mockingly at her. “Which one’s the real one?”
Max shook his head. “I don’t know.”
All ten facsimiles simultaneously pitched an explosion of force that automatically destroyed the shied once again. She felt the shock coursing through her body and had to choke back the screams that threatened to tear her throat. She would not give him the satisfaction. She concentrated solely on Max’s hand covering hers, crushing it almost, but only squeezed back harder with the same force that she clenched on her jaw.
The pain ricocheted through her every limb and she could do nothing to stop it. It was ripping her apart into tiny shreds. Is this what happened to Isabel? she vaguely wondered. No. she decided a moment later. This is happening from the inside.
Faintly she heard someone screaming, only dimly recognizing the voice of her own. The agony only continued, intensifying and she wished only for herself to drift into unconsciousness so she wouldn’t have to feel it anymore.
At last it ceased, and she slumped to the floor. She could hear Max’s light breathing next to her, his heart pumping under her ear. She closed her eyes, wanting to stay just like this.
Something shoved them apart, and she landed hard on the cold ground. She felt a rough kick against her hand that was still firmly clasped in Max’s.
“Well that was easy enough,” she heard Nikolas say, but he seemed far away. “You’re going to have to teach me how to do that.”
“They’re not dead,” the future version said. “It’s not that simple.”
There was a short pause. “So, do we finish it now, or wait until they’re conscious again? I kind of prefer the latter. It’s more fun that way.”
“It would be easier if they were apart. Otherwise, they stay connected and it’s difficult to break.”
“It’s that strong?”
“Probably the strongest thing they have.”
“That’s a crock of shit,” the younger duplicate replied, stomping on their linked hands.
Liz thought she heard a slight moan reach her ears, coming from Max.
“Look, I think he’s coming out of it.”
“Then so’s she. They’re still joined.”
Cold fingers were placed on her wrist, trying to pull her palm away from Max.
“You’re going to need the friggin’ jaws of life to do that,” Future Nikolas said.
Liz felt a warmth flow through her hand, knowing it was Max trying to reach her.
“What the hell?” Nikolas cried out, standing up and stumbling away from their bodies.
A soft glow sparked from their joined grip, growing brighter and bigger until it detonated, sending shots fired in all directions.
Her eyes flew opened and she turned her head to see Max, staring at her. The ache started leaving her body, but still she felt worn and pained. They both struggled to their feet, sighting both doubles on the floor. It took them a few moments to pick themselves up.
“Damn,” Nikolas muttered, rubbing the heel of his hand against his forehead.
Liz straightened, lifting her head and trying her best to look intimidating as she glared at the both of them. She was pissed.
A shot surprised her from the side, propelling toward her so quickly there was no chance of her to move out of the way. Unexpectedly, Max’s figure appeared in front of her, blocking the way. The force pounded into him, tearing their grip apart as he was tossed clear on the other side of the museum and crumpled in a heap at the foot of the stairs.
“Max!” Liz screamed, starting a rush toward him, but stopped dead in her tracks when she saw a glinting object in Future Nikolas’s hands.
Max saw it too.
He didn’t see that it was being pointed at him.
Liz dashed forward, but was stopped as she slammed into a shimmering green object in front of her. She looked toward Max, knowing he had put it up around her.
“Max!” she cried, pounding on the shield, trying to break it down.
She couldn’t even look away as the gun went off numerous times and each bullet tore at his flesh.
She cried out, instantly knowing that this was worse than any other physical pain. This was pure torture. The icy hot tears fell as quickly as the red soaked in Max’s shirt. She repeatedly screamed his name, pounding uselessly on the shield in vain.
“What do you know,” she heard Future Nikolas say, “empty... Good thing I have extras.”
He loaded the gun with fresh bullets and tossed it to his counterpart.
Frantically Liz placed her palms flat against the shield, like she had done before. This time, she shot her energy into it as hard as she could, enjoying the spring of satisfaction and hope it brought as it crumbled away.
She ran as fast as she could, ignoring another ringing shot as it echoed through the museum. She only really noticed it until it tore away at the small of her back. The force shoved her forward and she hit the floor hard, oddly not feeling any pain. She tried to move her legs to stand, only finding that they didn’t work.
Panic seized her heart for a moment as she remembered Nikolas’s words.
I’m not going to kill you just yet. I made the mistake of killing you too soon last time, in my future. It wasn’t that hard to get ahold of you, in your wheelchair. You could barely defend yourself.
Liz ignored it. Max was only inches away. She could still see the rise and fall of his chest. He was alive. It didn’t matter what happened to her.
With difficulty she stretched out her arm, digging her fingernails into the carpet and dragged herself tediously forward. With painstakingly slowness she continued hauling her limp body forward, until her face was only inches from Max’s.
“Max,” she whispered. “Max.”
She set a hand on the first step, pushing herself up until she hovered over him and placed her palm across his face. Tears poured off her face, falling on his like rain. Two splashed on his eyelids, and instantly they fluttered open.
She smiled down at him, but the pain and sadness in his eyes was too much for her to bear and it crumbled. Instead, she looped her right hand in his tightly, curling her fingers around his.
“See?” she told him, her voice cracking. “We’re together. It’s okay.”
His arm wrapped around her waist and he set his hand on her back, pulling her closer. His eyes widening and she knew he felt the blood that must have been there.
“Don’t,” she told him instantly, knowing he would try to do something. “Help yourself first, please Max.”
He shook his head, knowing he only had enough energy for one of them.
“You promised,” she insisted. “Please don’t lie to me, Max.”
He reached up with a shaky hand and set it across her face, stroking her thumb underneath her eye, wiping away tears but leaving a behind of smear of red.
The tears continued to fall, sliding down her face, mingling with the blood until it too left streaks down her cheeks. She shifted as best she could, slumping over him and casting a light kiss over his lips. Liz slung her arm around his neck and sank her head into his shoulder, her face against his.
“I love you, Max Evans.”
His uneven breath drifted over her throat as he struggled for air.
“I love you too.”
She sighed, her own weariness catching up with her as the blood from her wound seeped away. She closed her eyes, listening to Max’s breathing and his heartbeat as it slowed and became fainter. The rhythm echoed in her mind as her tears continued to squeeze from under her eyelids, mingling with Max’s. She strained to hear it as it faded away, struggling to hear it even after it was gone.
A fistful of her hair was caught and roughly yanked and she was pulled only to see Nikolas’ face inches from hers, and the barrel of the gun pressed into her forehead.
“Time to deliver the coup de grace,” he sneered.
She closed her eyes. She didn’t care anymore.
Suddenly Nikolas yelped in pain and Liz’s eyes flew open to see a gaping hole in his shoulder as he continued to curse.
Liz looked up the stairs, only to see none other than Kyle towering over them, his hand raised, trails of light still encompassing it.
“I had a promise to keep,” Kyle told her wearily, as the expression of complete surprise overwhelmed her face. Almost immediately afterward, he collapsed on top of the stairs. She knew he was dead this time.
Behind them, Future Nikolas was swearing as well, and Liz turned to see an identical gash in his arm that was of the other Nikolas. Her eyes widened, an idea forming in her thoughts.
Nikolas turned back to her, even angrier than before. Instantly she placed her palm flat on his chest.
“You should have killed me when you had the chance,” she spat, right before unleashing the rest of her power. Nikolas shot back, exactly like he did in her bedroom only last night, and slammed with extreme force into his duplicate from the future.
The explosive blast erupted instantly at their touch. Thousands of shimmering lights gleamed, illuminating the room so brightly she squeezed her eyes shut. A powerful wind whipped around her face as the energy around what used to be her enemy rippled in waves like water in a pond. The cascading rings whirled like a hurricane and she felt herself being lifted, then smashed down hard on her back as it died down.
Liz smiled softly to herself as her limp body slipped down the stairs and sank onto Max’s. She squeezed his lifeless hand, and closed her eyes, descending into the dark.
Part 20 *Conclusion*
The light streamed through the window, casting a bright glow in the room and across his eyes.
He knew without even opening his eyes that she was next to him. Their hands were still clasped tightly behind her neck, her arms wrapped around her shoulders and his palm flat on her back. He smiled, gazing down at her face buried at the base of his throat. He shifted slightly, careful not to disturb her, freeing his hand and tickling her eyelashes with his finger.
"Liz," he whispered, dragging his finger lightly down to her lips and leaned in, grazing her mouth with his.
Still she didn't stir, cemented in whatever dream was causing the slight half smile on her face. Despite his gratitude that she was finally getting the sleep he knew she had needed for so long, he was eager to gaze into her eyes, hear her voice, make her laugh.
For awhile he was just content to lie and stare at her pale features. He shook his hand out of hers and gently slid her to the floor, propping his head up and leaned on his elbow. Carefully he tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. He set a hand on the side of her face, delicately setting a kiss on each eyelid, not disregarding the coolness of her skin, in hopes that it would wake her.
He started to worry when it didn’t.
“Liz,” he called again, giving her shoulder a slight shake. “Liz.”
Panic seized his entire body when there was still no sign of her moving. Quickly he cradled her head preciously in his hands, seconds away from forging a connection when a tiny moan escaped from her throat.
A wave of relief washed over him and he sighed deeply as she snuggled her face into his shoulder, fighting the desire to fall back asleep.
He tapped her nose. “Time to wake up,” he urged softly.
At the sound of his voice she seemed to spring awake, gasping as her eyes flew open to see if she wasn’t just hearing things.
“Max,” she cried, trying not to hold her hopes too high as she struggled to push herself up. Noticing her troubles, he helped her into a sitting position. As soon as she was up, she snatched the bottom of his shirt and pulled it up, running her palm of his skin. Smooth, free from blood or holes or bullets. It was perfect, he was whole.
She gasped, pressing her ear against his chest in one last test, sighing as she heard the steady rhythm of his beating heart, the most beautiful sound in the world. She smiled.
“Uh… Liz?” Max questioned, pulling her back to stare down at her quizzically.
She pushed herself away, staring down at the familiar carpet of the museum, a little embarrassed. She really didn’t care, though. “Sorry,” she muttered quietly. “Just checking.”
“You’re really alive,” she sighed, wrapping her arms around him. She didn’t care how it happened, all that mattered was that it did.
“Yeah,” he agreed, confusion lacing his voice. “So are you.”
She shook her head. “You weren’t last night,” she mumbled against his shirt, so quietly he barely heard her.
“Of course I was,” he replied, puzzled. “What’s this all about?”
Liz tilted her head to gaze up at him, perplexity creasing her brow. “Max… you died.”
He shook his head, kissing her forehead. “You must have been dreaming,” he assured her.
“No, Max, I wasn’t…” Liz paused. Had it all been just a dream? But it had been all too real. There was no way it could have been as simple as just a nightmare. She looked around. “Then… why are we here?” she pressed, gesturing around the museum. Then, as if memory struck her, she whipped her head up to the stairs, expecting to see Kyle. Nothing.
“Nikolas,” she heard Max say. “We came here because of him. Just the two of us.”
“What happened?” she persisted.
He hesitated, as if trying to remember. “I guess… he never showed up.”
Liz shook her head fiercely. “Max… why don’t you remember last night?”
“Liz, you were just dreaming,” he insisted.
“It wasn’t a dream!” she cried.
“It must have been…” he began, but paused as if something was starting to doubt him.
“I wasn’t a dream.” She stared at him intently, hoping that at least some of last night’s memories were returning to him. “It was real.”
Max faltered for a long moment, then said finally, “How do you know?”
“Because,” she whispered, casting her eyes down as the revelation dawned on her, “I can’t move my legs.”
Three Weeks Later
Max sighed wearily as he stared at the equally worn faces of his six friends as they crowded around one booth at the CrashDown. Alex, Isabel and Michael piled in across from him, Maria perching herself in Michael’s lap. Kyle slid in beside him and Tess stood at the end of the table with a hot pot of coffee as she and Maria were taking a short break.
Max still remembered the exact look on Liz’s face when she had seen Tess for the first time since her “death.” It had been an expression of pure joy when she realized that if Tess, the first to have died, was alive and walking, then the others must be, too. Liz had pulled Tess into a tight hug, much to the confusion and surprise of the other girl. The same had gone for Michael, Maria, Isabel, Alex and Kyle, even Sheriff Valenti, leaving every single one of them with at least a little shock. Michael was the least appreciative of the sentiment.
“So,” Michael began, breaking the ice. “Did you figure anything out yet?”
Max cleared his throat. “Some. Not everything.”
When it was evident he wasn’t going to continue without further provoking, Maria took charge. “How come we don’t remember anything?”
He sighed. “I’m not positive. I hardly remember anything myself. I’ve taken most of my memories from Liz when we’ve connected – they’re pretty much all hers. If they do return, it will probably just be with time.” He glanced down at Liz next to him, huddled in the corner with her head resting in her arms, sleeping.
“Can we find a way for everyone to borrow Liz’s?” Michael wondered aloud, circling an arm around Maria’s waist.
“Not any time soon,” Max replied firmly, leaving no room for exceptions. She was still so tired all the time. There were so many things she had to do now, and painstakingly slow as she learned, but she insisted on helping decode their confusion.
“Okay,” Tess began again, “so why is Liz the only one who remembers?”
Max took a deep breath. “We think that’s the one who caused it. Whatever happened to the events on that Sunday – whatever erasure took place – she’s the one who experienced it. She was the only one… still alive. And she still has a piece of that day with her.”
Isabel shook her head. “Why were they erased, anyway?” She lowered her voice. “Every single one of us should be dead right now.”
“There were two versions of Nikolas, present and future. When they touched, according to the rules of quantum physics or something, they were destroyed,” Max explained.
Isabel nodded. “Right.”
“Which means,” Max continued, “the present version was killed. So, since he was killed in this time-“
“-Future Nikolas never existed,” Alex concluded in understanding. “He couldn’t have. There won’t be a future for him if he’s dead. And Future Nikolas killed all of us.”
“And Liz?” Kyle asked, a little regretfully. “Why does she get the rotten end of the deal?”
Max paused. He hated this. He hated this so much. He glanced back at her again, taking the time to brush away more stray hairs. “It’s because of the way Nikolas – both of them – coordinated things.”
He was about to elaborate, but suddenly a sharp, piercing scream filled his ears, echoing in the CrashDown. Liz had bolted upright, her own cry jolting her awake. She gasped, wide eyed with fright, as the entire café turned to stare solely at her. He clutched her hand in his, noticing how shaky it felt. She pushed him away, ignoring everyone’s questioning glances.
“I want to… I just…” She stopped, just wanting to get away from everyone. She pushed her trembling hands up on the table, almost as if to stand, but faltered immediately. “Max,” she whispered between ragged breaths, “I can’t …”
Urging her to say no more, he quickly stood up and Tess moved out of the way. He leaned in, allowing her to fold her arms around his neck before he gathered her up tightly. He refused to acknowledge any of the whispers or stares that trailed them into the backroom, grateful that they had been sitting close to the kitchen.
Immediately Alex, Kyle and Michael proceeded to disassembled and fold up the wheelchair, carrying it up the stairs after them. It didn’t take all three to do the task, but no one questioned it. They set it inside Liz’s bedroom door and quietly shuffled back down the stairs.
Max gently set her on the bed, resting her carefully against a stash of pillows. “Are you okay?” he asked softly.
Liz nodded, looking away. “Yeah,” she replied. “I just… wanted to get out of there.” She turned away, wistfully staring at her balcony window.
“Do you want to go sit outside?” he asked immediately.
She shook her head fiercely. “No. I’m… tired. I think I just want to go to sleep.” She tore her eyes away from the window, and Max had to wonder briefly if she was lying. She knew getting herself out onto the balcony would be a hassle, and she hated being a burden all the time. She also knew he didn’t mind doing a thing for her, but she loathed it just the same.
He brought her a new change of clothes, knowing that she must be really worn if tonight she didn’t put up a fight of doing things for herself. She must have had a rough day at physical therapy. Her schedule was so packed lately he regretted not being able to be with her all the time. Following school she had an appointment with the physical therapist, and immediately prior to that she had another meeting with the doctors. They wanted to see if there was anything improvements or changes. Of course there hadn’t been.
Liz stripped of her shirt, tossing it to the floor and pulled on the tank top he had given her. “Leave it,” she told him instantly when he bent to pick up the abandoned clothing. “I’ll get it in the morning.”
He left it there for now, trying to decide whether or not to retrieve it later himself or let her handle it on her own. He knew he had to stop doing things for her, but he couldn't help himself. He hated seeing her struggle.
She leaned back, unbuttoning her jeans and tugging over her hips slowly. He turned away, busying himself with closing her curtains rather than continue to watch her labor with something as simple as removing a pair of pants. She was never one to fail, no matter how hard things became, and even now when all the pressure and work was doubled.
He sat at the end of her bed, grasping her ankle and began massaging her useless muscles with care. She sank back into her sheets, oblivious to his actions, and closed her eyes.
“Max, do you think I’m going to be like this forever?” she mused thoughtfully, any emotion blank from her voice. She’d been nothing but strong about this whole thing since it began. He hated to say that he was more upset over it than she was.
He tried to come up with a reasonable answer. “I don’t know,” he replied finally, switching his massage to her other leg, despising the response.
“Does it matter?” she asked, more quietly.
“What?” he answered, needing clarification for her question. He stopped his makeshift therapy completely and moved to lie next to her.
“Does it matter if I’m like this?”
He paused, still confused. Finally the realization sank into his head and he sighed. “Liz, god no,” he replied. “My love for you hasn’t changed even if you have. How could you ever think it could?”
She opened her eyes, but turned her head away. She shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said finally. “I just… can’t help but think that maybe…” She paused. “Well, what if I couldn’t move just my legs? What if it was worse? What if I was completely paralyzed, Max? It does make a difference.”
He shook his head. “Not to me,” he said firmly. “Because you’re still you, and nothing will ever change the way I feel about you.”
She seemed satisfied with his answer, but still the thought snuck into her mind that he had already stopped loving her once before. She pushed it away, wanting to forget that such a thing had ever happened, wanting to forget that at one time she had been forced to live without him.
He moved his hand under her, lying if flat on the small of her back.
“Not tonight, Max,” she sighed. “Please don’t, I’m too tired.”
“Okay,” he consented, trying to decide if she wasn’t just talking about forgetting about a connection tonight. Had she given up hope completely? He stared into her eyes, and despite the smile she forced to show him, he knew she had.
Destiny had planned this for her.
And he couldn’t do a thing to stop it.
That was the worst part of this entire thing. His own powers had betrayed him, refusing to allow him to heal her, make everything go away. You can’t heal her if there’s nothing to heal, his mind retorted, but he knew it was still his fault. Even the doctors, having rushed her to the hospital soon after finding he could do nothing, didn’t find anything. They were just as puzzled as the average person. Their x-rays showed everything in her structure was perfect, healthy. Nothing was causing this paralysis to happen, it just was.
Nikolas made it happen, he thought angrily. And of course there wasn’t anything wrong. There wasn’t a bullet anymore. Future Nikolas had loaded the gun, the one that the present version had shot. The bullet had ceased to exist.
So why the injury? “Probably just some time overlap or something,” Liz had muttered emotionlessly. “Nikolas still shot the gun, didn’t he? There’s still damage, you just can’t see it.”
“Must be some kind of temporary situation,” the doctors had said eventually. “Hopefully it will wear off.”
That was the explanation they gave to a teenager who fell off a ladder helping her boyfriend with his part time job by setting up a display in the museum. It wasn’t the explanation they would have given to someone who had lived through experiencing all of her friends’ bloody deaths one by one, only to be shot down later herself.
They probably would have been more considerate knowing the latter story.
Maybe she had given up hope, but he hadn’t.
“Okay,” he repeated, embracing her tightly. “Maybe tomorrow,” he suggested.
“Maybe.” Both of them knew it wasn’t going to happen. She wasn’t going to let him try to heal her again, only to be disappointed time after time.
He pulled the sheet up over her bare legs and she shifted closer to him. “Are you sure you don’t want a space for your things in my drawer?” she asked. “You always have to sleep in your clothes.”
Max smiled. They hadn’t spent a night apart since the day, even after he had rushed her to the hospital that morning and they insisted on keeping her there for days. He hardly went home, only leaving when someone else was with her. Isabel nearly had to drag him to the Jeep and force him home, but he’d only stayed for an hour or so before hurrying back to the hospital.
“I don’t have to sleep in anything,” he replied.
She laughed. “I don’t think my parents would like that very much.”
Her parents didn’t really approve of the arrangement they had going on, anyway. Neither did his. But they were slowly beginning to accept it, realizing that it wasn’t going to change.
This time it was her who caught him gazing toward the balcony window.
“We’ll go out there again sometime,” she assured him.
“Yeah. I promise.”
“Sounds good to me.”
They both stayed in a comfortable silence and Liz closed her eyes, snuggling herself closer to Max.
“Liz?” he asked softly after awhile.
“Mmhmm?” she replied, already half asleep.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
Liz didn’t answer. She only let the steady rise and fall of his chest guide her to sleep, the beat that she was now so familiar with acting as a lullaby.
She would be okay.
She listened to the flow of his pulse. She listened to the stable sound of his breath and the thumping of his heart.
She would be okay.
As long as her lullaby never stopped.
Edited by - gummibehrs on 09/23/2001 15:09:45