|"Taking A Step Back"
by Mary N.
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, but I wish I did! But the ideas for
this story are mine.
Summary: What happens in the lives of Max Evans and Liz Parker and their friends after Max tells Liz that they need to ‘Take a Step Back'. What twists and turns await them as they try to discover the truth about who they are, were they come from, and the truth about what binds them together.
Category: After Hours
Authors Note: My story starts off when Max tells Liz they have to take a step back at the end of Balance.
|Max and Michael walk into the Crashdown followed by Alex and Isabel. They see Kyle and Sandie sitting at the booth and join them. Both Maria and Liz walk over to the table. Both planting a short kiss on their respective guy. "Together again. How many times are we going to run into each other today?" asks Maria as she sets down the two drinks.
"If you'd like I could leave, I'm sure Max or Alex would drive you home." Michael starts to get up from his seat. Maria pushes him playfully back down.
Maria waving her finger at Michael says, "Don't you move!" Michael raises two open hands in a gesture of surrender. "I was talking about everyone together again. How many times have we done this today? Five, maybe ten." Maria exaggerates.
"I don't know about Kyle and Sandie, but Isabel and I thought that you would like to know that we heard from an old friend today."
"Old friend Alex? Who?" asks Kyle. He still hasn't heard what took place at the racket ball court after he left.
Alex figures this, and plays it off. "You remember our friend Kathleen. Well it seems she's coming back to visit with her father next weekend. She is hoping to see us for a little while before she has to leave again.
Maria plays along with the news, she still doesn't trust Sandie completely, and doesn't want her to suspect anything funny is going on. "Wow, Kathleen's coming back to town, that's so cool!"
"Yeah, I can't wait to see her, we have so much to tell her." comments Liz. She too wants to conceal the true nature of the meeting.
Is she the one that helped out in the counselor's office sometimes? Kyle thinks he knows who they are talking about but he's not sure. He feels badly keeping this from Sandie, but figures that the others have their reasons and he'll respect their wishes. He can't help wondering if they know something about Sandie and her family that he doesn't. He hates being the one always used to distract Sandie. He likes her, and doesn't want to hurt her, but what he really hates is being left out of what's going on because of her.
Liz looks at Sandie and smiles slightly and her thoughts start to drift.
[ Liz's Voice over: I wondering why it is that I felt more at ease with Sandie before she knew our secret, than I do now. It's not like she's acting any differently. She's still seems like the same sweet girl; maybe it's because everything that Sandie knows, so will her mother. Alisha's the one I have strange feelings about. The way she intruded into their thoughts so easily and completely, extracting information from my mind. Just the thought of it gives me the creeps. I wonder if that was one of the skills that people she worked with encouraged her to develop. If so, how many times have they used her to extract information for other people. I think what bothers me the most is She didn't even think twice about doing to the guy outside. Yeah, we wanted to know what she found out, but it still feels wrong. It's like they say, ‘Two wrongs don't make it right' or ‘The methods don't always justify the means.'
I know Max agreed to connect with her, to have the whole group do so, but I can't help wondering if this could be a bad thing. Teomner did things to me in Max's and my shared dream that he couldn't have done any other way. What if Alisha is misleading us? What if by connecting with her she can somehow make us do things, or learn information that she couldn't any other way?](End )
Liz snaps out back to reality when she hears Maria yelling at Michael."
"That's not funny Michael Guerin!" She says as she playfully hits him on the arm. "I'll make you pay for that one buddy."
Liz looks at her watch and realizes that it's time to close up for the night. She looks around the room surveying how many people are left. There are three groups other than her group of friends. "Maria, we better get cleaning up if we plan to get out of here any time soon."
"You're sticking around, right?" She asks Max. She suspected that he would, but wanted to make sure. She really feels it's important to talk to him about her feelings on the Alisha matter before he brings it up with Isabel, Alex and, Kyle. That is if he hasn't already.
"I'm not going anywhere." Max lovingly watches Liz's lip curl into a simple smile, and he continues to watch her as she goes about cleaning up for the night.
Liz feels his eyes watching her. She looks up and their eyes meet. Her smile grows and she forces her herself to look away. She knows far to well that they could stare at each other forever, but she wants to do more than just stare at him.
As the last table of customers leave, Maria is right behind them locking the door. "Finally, they're all gone. I don't think that I could handle that for one more minute ." She walks to the counter, sits down on a stool, and helps Liz finish refilling the condiments.
Besides themselves Max and Michael are the only two that remain. Maria and Liz both look in the direction of the guys, and notice how involved they are in their conversation.
*********** "Max, we have do to something, every day that these guys follow us, the chances increase that they either find out something about us, or they try a new approach. I'm worried that these guys will do anything to get what they want. Alisha told us that Teomner used them before. How come we didn't notice them before, and we're noticing them now. And the guy at the park he wasn't even trying to hide. He just stood out in plain sight. I think they're trying to draw attention. Maybe making sure that Teomner knows they're following us, to scare him or something."
"Michael we don't know that for sure."
"Then you explain it to me Max, because I can't see any other explanation."
"I don't have all the answers, I wish I did. All I know is we have to figure this out together. If we go off and do something rash we'll end up regretting it. We don't even know what these guys know or don't know about us."
The girls can't make out what the guys are saying, but they both know it must be serious. They exchange looks of concern and puzzlement. "Okay guys, it's time to spill, what have you been talking about while Liz and I have been slaving our lives away?"
Looking at Maria, Liz raises her brows, "Our lives away? That's a bit much don't you think?"
"Fine, the last few hours." Maria smugly admits. "Well!"
Michael figures that the Maria and Liz have had enough to worry about for the last few days. Them knowing what Max and him were talking about isn't going to help. It's not like they can come up with a solution to their current problem. Michael chooses to avoid that conversation and to distract Maria from her current line of questioning. "Max and I were discussing some of the more crazy dreams we've shared with you two."
Maria's face turns flush. "Don't you believe a word he says Max Evans. He's the one that comes up with these crazy dreams. He had this one were we....."
"Don't you dare Maria DeLuca." Michael warned. He accomplished his goal, he distracted Maria from the real subject Max and he were discussing, but now he has to deal with the fallout. .
"What you can tell, and I can't. I don't think so buddy."
"Liz, unless you want to hear the details of your dreams; I would suggest you let me take her home. Now!"
"Oh no you don't Michael, if your going to share, then so am I. The strangest dream was when...."
Michael jump out of his seat and quickly covers Maria's mouth with his hand stopping her from telling the story. Maria squirms trying to get away from Michael's grip. In Maria's ear he whispers, "You're not telling them, or I make sure that Liz knows all about your dream at the Circus." Maria freezes and looks at him in disbelief. When she feels Michael's grip on her loosen, she tries again to escape from his grasp. After strengthening his grip slightly he whispers, "I mean it Maria, don't you dare." He turns back to Liz, who has been watching Michael's and Maria's comical display. "Liz?"
"Go ahead you two get out of here, just remember Michael, and Max this doesn't mean Maria and I can't talk about this later."
Max's eyes grow big with worry. The idea of Liz and Maria swapping stories about their dreams has him bothered him.. "Thanks Michael, look at what you've started."
"Don't worry so much Max, it won't happen, guaranteed. Maria won't be swapping stories with Liz or anyone else. There are too many stories I haven't told you about, and I know that she wouldn't want me to. But, if she dares to open her mouth; I swear that I will tell all." Michael slowly removes his hand from Maria's mouth. Checking to see what she'll do, he then releases his grip from around her waist. To Maria he says, "We're leaving now." Taking her by the hand he leads her to the door and unlocks it. "Later Maxwell, Liz." They step out the door and disappear into the night.
Liz carries a tray with all of the condiments on it. Stopping at each table, she arranges the condiments on the tables in their proper order. As she moves around the room she asks, "What were you and Michael really talking about?"
Max was caught off guard. He had assumed that Liz believed Michael's story, "What?"
"Max I saw the look on your face when you and Michael were talking, I know that you weren't exchanging stories about our dreams. So, what where you and Michael really talking about?"
"I think you know me to well, if that's possible. We were talking about everything that's happened in the last few months. I think Michael lied because he didn't want Maria to worry. Being followed is freaking him out. What about you? Earlier you looked really distracted."
Liz places the last set of condiments on the last table. She then sat down. "Max, I have a bad feeling about Alisha."
Max joins her at the table. "What do you mean Liz, a bad feeling?"
"The way she tapped into our memories without us realizing it for one. Then she did the same to that guy. She didn't even see anything wrong with what she was doing. Granted Max, we wanted the information that she got, but I don't like the attitude she has about it, it's to casual."
"I don't know Liz, it may be because she been doing it for years."
I'm concerned about us connecting with her. What if she's able to control us, or make us believe things that aren't true, like Teomner did. Everything she's told us could be a series of lies, we don't know. I'm concerned that you're wanting to trust her so much that your not thinking straight. That's not like you Max, Typically I would expect this from Michael not you."
"Aren't you exaggerating here. I'm not jumping into this blindly."
"Are you sure about that? You've already agreed to connect with her, for all of us to connect with her. What if I'm right?"
"We could try a test run, the seven of us and see what will happens."
"Thank you Max, that would make me feel a little better."
Max still sees the worry in her eyes. He stands to his feet and pulls Liz into his arms. He strokes her long dark brown hair "Anything it takes to keep you safe, Liz."
After leaving the Crashdown, Michael rode in the passenger seat of Maria ‘s mom's car. He refused to let her leave without him. He insisted that he went along to made sure she arrived home safely. He knew as soon as he told her that Max and he were talking about their crazy dreams, it was a mistake. The look in her eyes, was without question one of hurt and anger mixed with embarrassment.
Now she sat in the car looking straight at the road refusing to even look at him. He had intended to save her grief and worry, but it back fired. He caused her more pain by lying than if he had simply told her the truth. Yes, they'd had fights before, a lot of them, but this was different, she really believed that he had divulged private information about their relationship to Max. He hadn't meant to make it sound that way. He meant to lead her to believe that they were exchanging ideas of places to go and things to do in their dreams. To his horror it didn't go that way. Her uncharacteristic quietness was more than he could handle, but to tell her the truth now, seem cruel some how.
Maria is furious that Michael had exchanged such personal information with Max. When she heard his words, and how nonchalant he was about it; she'd swear she saw flames. This was something that you just didn't discuss in detail. Sure Liz and her had talked about what it was like to kiss a Czechoslovakian, but they never gave details, and they sure hadn't discussed what intimate fantasies they had acted out in their dreams. Maria didn't even know if in fact Max and Liz were acting out anything. From what she knows of Max and how well she knows Liz, she really doubted that they did. So for Michael to divulge that they did was just to much for her to take. As she grew closer to the park she decided that she wasn't going to be quiet about this; she was going to give him a piece of her mind. She pulled into the park parking lot and climbed out of her car. She waited for Michael to climb and walk around to stand in front of her. She still refused to look at him. She feared that if she did, somehow he would pull her into those gorgeous brown eyes and she would forget why so was so upset. Why did he have the power to make her love and hate so deeply, she wondered.
Michael couldn't stand the silence any longer. He was sure that she wanted to talk, he supposed that she didn't know where to start or that she was waiting for him to make the first move, otherwise why would she have pulled into the park instead of going the rest of the way home. He wished that she would look at him, why wouldn't she look at him. "Maria, I sorry." He said sincerely, he was sorry for lying, if he could only turn back time he would be honest with her. "I didn't..."
Maria didn't want to hear him saying he was sorry, she wanted him to take it all back, to undo what he had done. She refused to stand there and listen to what ever explanation he would come up with. She broke off his words, she is angry and she was going to make him hurt the way he had hurt her. "I can't believe that you would actually tell Max about our dreams." Maria yells. "Maria if you would give me a chance to explain."
"Yeah right, as if explaining is going to take care of this."
"It would if you'd give me a chance."
"Chance? You want a chance? What for, to try to explain to me why you thought it was O. K. to tell Max about our most intimate moments. It's not going to happen mister. There is no acceptable explanation for this. I can't believe you Michael, how could you possible think that this was acceptable, that it would be okay with me, or that you could just explain it away. I would think that you would understand that some things are private and personal. You don't go around talking to other people about them, not even to your best of best friends, they're just to personal." For the first time Maria looked into Michael's eyes, what a mistake, she sees how much this is hurting him. Her heart starts to melt when she see the tears gathering there. Had he really not known how this would effect her? She refused to give into his sad puppy dog eyes. He blew it and she was going to make sure he knew it. She tried to muster all the furry she still had within her to give him and other piece of her mind, but when she saw on tear fall from his right eye she couldn't do it. Instead she blurted out. "Fine, you've got one minute and I'm out of here."
Michael couldn't feel like a bigger heal than he already did. He hurt her, he had really hurt her. He debates whether he should tell the truth or cover this up. Would she be more angry now if he told her the truth; would she even believe? What could he say to calm her down?
"The clock is ticking Michael, you know tick-tock, tick-tock.".
He gives up, gives in whatever you want to call it, and decides to continue lying like a dog, because he's sure that she would never believe him now if he tried to tell her the truth. "Maria it wasn't like that. Max and I weren't talking specifics. We were simply exchanging ideas of where to go in the dreams. Places to make you and Liz laugh, to relax a little. With all the stress we've been under lately, we both thought that it would help if we could take you girls somewhere fun, somewhere that would help us all to relax and ease the stress. That's all there was to it. I didn't mean to make it sound like anything more than it was."
Maria was still so quiet, was she going to believe him, call him a liar and start yelling again, or was there another possibility that he couldn't think of right now?
Maria stood there for a moment trying to decide if he was telling the truth or not. "Honestly?"
"Maria, I would never intentionally hurt you. I promise that I never told Max about detail of our shared dreams, and I never will."
She realized that she would never know, but that she wanted to believe him, she needed to believe that he was telling the truth. That he is the deep, loving, soulful guy she fell for and not some jerks that like to kiss and tell. This is the guy that she was married to in all ways that mattered.
Maria flung her arms around Michael's neck, " I'm sorry Michael, I should have known that you wouldn't.... embarrass me like that. It's just when you said you were talking about our crazy dreams, I thought that you meant you were really telling him about our dreams."
"That's my fault, I should been more careful about what I was saying." Michael knows that he got off easy, especially considering the fact that he was still lying. He believes without a shadow of a doubt, that if he had told her the truth, Maria would still be angry with him. He is grateful that this is over. He wraps his arms around Maria's waist and shoulders, pulling her tighter into him kissing her with all the love that he has for this woman that has been able to break through his walls. That had the ability to make him feel like he could do anything as long as they were together, and that his life wouldn't be worth living without her.
He loves the way she feels in his arms, the smell of her hair, taste of her mouth, her skin, and the warmth of her body next to his own. Michael had to fight off the urges to let this go farther. He realized his grip and stepped back from her, hoping that she doesn't notice his physical reaction to their embrace, and the thoughts that were going through his mind. "Maria we can't"
"Michael, yes we can, remember I went to the doctor and...
"Maria no!" Maria looks hurt she doesn't understand why they can't. "Maria, not here not like this. I want it to be special for both of us, not a way to make up from a fight. Not the first time."
Maria reaches out and places her hand on Michael's check and jaw and with a shy smile she lets him know that she understands.
As they continue the drive to Maria's house, they are so wrapped in thoughts of each other that they fail to notice that they are still being followed.
********************* When Liz and Max came up from the cafe, Liz went into her bathroom and changed into an oversized the shirt she plans to sleep in for the night. It's already late and she figures that it covers enough of her that her parents wouldn't be upset if they did happen to come in and check on her.
Max while waiting for her to return from changing; locks her door so that if her parents were to come it would give him a moment to escape out the window, so that Liz won't get into trouble for him being there. He turns on her radio, kicks off his shoes, and lays down on her bed getting comfortable.
Upon leaving the bathroom Liz lays down next to Max. They hold each other affectionately, and listen to some soft music coming over the radio. Even though Max doesn't want to, he knows that he needs to get going. It's already late and they both have an early morning, but he can't bring himself to pull away. He tells himself one more minute then he'll go. Five minutes, ten minutes, finally fifteen minutes pass and he still remains unwilling to give up the warmth of her body snuggled firmly against his own.
He places his thumb under her chin and traces her lips with his index finger, he watches as her lips part at the sensation of his touch, he can't resist kissing her. He tilts her face upward, closes the distance between their lips and passionately devours her mouth the way he's been wanting to devour her body. Max hears Liz moan at the touch of his hand under her shirt on the small of her back. This edges him on, his heart begins to pound harder and faster. He can feel her heart pounding just as fast, as if trying to keep up with his own. "Liz?" He wonders if she could really be thinking what he is, as he speaks her name, he knows that she understands what he is asking.
They both know that this is the time they've been waiting for so long. The time that they would finally share themselves completely, both body and soul.
Max tenderly helps Liz remove the night shirt that Liz put on earlier.
Liz closes her eyes afraid that as he looks upon the real her, she wouldn't live up to her dream version. She tremors and opens her eyes at the first touch of Max's gentle strong hand on her bare skin. His hands gliding over her flesh, taking in every inch of her, as if he were blind and trying to see her through them, leaving behind a tingling sensation. She looks down to where his half mast gaze is resting on her stomach. He runs his hand to her stomach where he healed her, what seems so long ago. Max in a gesture of gratitude lowers his lips kissing her flat stomach. While thinking, *If it hadn't been for that horrifying day, when you were shot, I don't think I could have ever found the strength to risking telling you the truth about me. I would have continued to watch you from a distance, never getting too close, never showing you how I feel, and never knowing the love that we share.*
Liz runs her fingers through his soft dark hair, enjoying Max's warm soft lips leaving a trail of kisses up her stomach to her lips. Where he tenderly kisses her lips in a kiss of pure passion.
Liz feel the need to be closer to Max, to be able to look upon the man of her dreams. To feel his warm flesh pressing against her own. She unbuttons his shirt never taking her eyes from his desire filled gaze. She eases his shirt off of his shoulders, revealing his strong arm and chest. Delicately running her fingers down his chest she kisses the hollow of his chest.
He places his finger tips under her chin tilting her head back, so that she is looking up at him. He lowers his lips to hers and once again kisses her deeply.
Before they realize it, there is a pile of clothes on the floor.
"Liz, are you sure, we don't have to do this if you don't want. The dreams are enough."
"Max, I want this, we both do."
He nods his head realizing that what she says is true, they both do want this. "I'll be gentle, I don't want to hurt you."
"It seems a little strange Max, we've been having sex in our dreams of sometime now, and yet this is my first time to really know you. Everything thus far feels so much more real, you know."
"Yeah, it does, but then we knew that it would." Referring to the night they lured Teomner out.
Max, while supporting the majority of his weight on his arm, kisses Liz. He encouraging her to open her mouth wide for him, as she does so, allowing him better access to the recesses of mouth, he begins to explore her mouth as had explored her body just moments before. Inch by inch, not wanting to miss any part of her. She greets his tongue with her own. Their tongues dancing between his mouth and her's.
She is so lost in their kiss that she completely relaxes under him, feeling this he tells her, "Look at me Liz," has her eyes meet his, he makes a connection. In sex-ed at school Max learned that the girl often experiences pain her first time, and he feels that if she is has to endure it, then he will endure it with her.
After the burning sensation stops he tells her, "I'm sorry that..."
Liz quiets him by placing her finger across his lips, "I'm not, Max. It's worth it to be able to share myself with you." They share a deep loving kiss.
To their amazement, every movement, every sensation was more intense than they have ever experienced in their dreams. It was even better that they ever thought it would be.
Max is laying on his back in Liz's bed, while Liz rests her head on his chest. They are both happy and content after their first true union of body and soul. He runs his fingers slowly up and down her back, while she runs her fingers over his chest in front of where her head rests. Neither wanting to speak in fear that this moment will come to end; both savoring the memory of being joined together as one.
When finally the silence is broken, Max reluctantly tells her he must go. That it wouldn't be good for her parents to find him in her bed. She understands, but longs for him to stay by her side. He kisses her to show he understands what she wants; he wants it too, but stands and dresses anyway. He hadn't meant to stay as long as he did, and knows that it has to be this way.
Before he leaves he moves to the side of the bed, drawing Liz up on her knees, kissing for one long moment, then pulling away. "I love you Liz Parker. I have from the first day I saw you, and I will till the day I die. There is nothing in existence that can compare to the way I feel about you."
Before releasing her hold from around his neck, Liz replies, "I love you too, Max Evans. No matter what happens, know this, I'll love you through eternity, for you own my heart, mind, and soul." With one more sweet kiss they say their farewell. Liz watches Max climb out through her window and over the ledge of her balcony where Max descends to the alley below.
|Part 23 | Index | Part 25
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