|"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 sets the phone down slowly, not really wanting to say good night to Liz. Normally they would have stayed on the phone talking until they fell asleep, and then they would meet in their dreams. After the surprising connection they made earlier; as they joined in a mutual need for each other; they both knew that the phone would no longer be needed. They were connected, and nothing would ever be able to keep them from meeting in their dreams again. However now he wouldn't be able to enjoy listening to her voice as he drifts off to sleep.
He stood still, leaning against the wall remembering how beautiful she looked tonight, and how complete he felt when he was with her. He wishes he could have stayed with her tonight, but knows their parents would never allow it, because of their age. They will have to wait until they were both older. For now they will at least have the nights together in their dreams.
Max slowly walks to his room, pondering what this night would hold for them. Would it be a night of passion, as it had been earlier, or would it be a night of playfulness? As he drew closer to his room, he realized that the door was open. He knew he closed it. He always did. Not knowing what to expect he cautiously approached the opened door.
He is somewhat relieved to see his mother sitting on his bed, she appears to be waiting for him. His heart begins to beat more rapidly as he ponders why she would be waiting for him in his room; why not the Living room, or the Kitchen like she normally did? Thought flood in to him mind. Did those three guys trying a new tactic to draw out Teomner? Did they take Isabel or one of the other people Max cares most about. Do they plan to threaten them with harm if Teomner didn't show himself.
Max tries to calm himself, he has to find out what has happened that would make his mother appear distraught. As he quickly moves to her side he asks, "Mom, what's happened? Did something happen to Isabel?"
Diane reaches out taking her sons hand in her own and talked to him in a calming voice. "Max no, everyone is fine. I just felt that it was important for us to talk about something."
For the second time in less then five minutes, Max breathes a sigh of relief. Max sits down on the bed next to his mother and waits patiently for her to tell him what is on her mind.
"Dear, I'm sure you know by now. I paid a visit to Mrs. Parker today."
"Liz said something about it." Max uncomfortably waits for his mother to continue.
"I realize that it was presumptuous of me. I was hoping to find out something, anything about why there are all of these sudden changes in your life. I'm so used to you spending most of your time here, at home, and now I rarely see you. You never want to talk about what's going on, and I really want to know. I love you Max. I want to be included in what's happening in your life."
Diana knows that Max isn't one to talk about personal things, but she hopes that he will let her in at least a little. She loves Max as her own son, and wants to know what's happening in his life, and she wants to be included more in his life. She's feeling like he's been withdrawing from her. On one level she knows that it's normal for a son to move away from his mother, but on another she hopes that he will still want her to be a part of his life and not completely pull away.
"This relationship with Liz Parker, it's important to you, isn't it?" She asks trying to learn about this girl that has become so significant to him, without causing him to feel pressured into telling her anything that he doesn't feel comfortable with.
Max sees how important this is to his mother. For the first time he realizes that she is feeling like she is in the dark. He loves her, she's his mother, but there are so many things that he can't talk to her about. He promises not to spend quite so much time away. Maybe Liz could come over here to visit with him instead of him always going over to her house. He wants to show his mother that he appreciates her interest in his live. He knows he's lucky, there are so many parents that don't care what their children are doing or whom they are doing it with. "Yes it is. Liz is very important to me."
"She seems like a very sweet girl. Her mother seems very proud of her, and she only had nice things to say about you as well. Do you think that Liz would come to dinner here some night, that way both your father and I can get to know her?"
Max smiles in understanding. "I'll invite her. I'm sure that she would like that. When would be a good time?"
Diane smiles brightly and her eyes begin to tear. She stands up from the bed and places her hand gently on Max's shoulder. "Your father comes home on Friday, lets plan dinner for that night." She moves toward the door, and before she goes she says, "Thank you," then she leaves closing the door behind her.
Max smiles to himself. He knows that by simply agreeing to invite Liz over to dinner he's made his mother happy.
Maria sits in her room brushing her hair, while running over the plan for tomorrow in her head. She doesn't want anything to go wrong. She worries about confronting guys that obviously don't observe the law. She knows what Alisha told them, ‘They worked for Teomner, and now they are following her and her friends trying to find him.' It bothers her that they never noticed the men following them a month ago, and yet now they make themselves so visible that they can't miss them. Okay, Alisha said that they are trying to draw Teomner out, but why did they think by following them, that he would reappear? Did these guys know about Teomner's special abilities? Do they know about Michael, Max, and Isabel? Why don't they know Teomner is dead, they were following them, right? Or did Teomner give them that night off?
(Knock, knock, knock) "What mom?" Maria cries out, knowing that her mother and her are the only two people in the house.
Amy opens the door and leans against the door frame. "Maria, I've invited the Sheriff and Kyle over for dinner tomorrow night. I'd like you to be here."
Maria's eyes shift to the right, looking at her mother through the corner of her eye, as she raises her eye brows forming creases on her forehead. "Mom, I already have plans for tomorrow. Kyle and the rest of us have some things we have to take care of. Can this big dinner wait?"
"No, Maria, it can't wait. I'll expect to see you here no later than 6:00 sharp."
"But Mom," Amy glares at Maria. Maria knows that when her mother looks at her like that, there is no arguing with her. "Fine, What's so special about tomorrow night?"
"Just be here Maria, and PLEASE be on time." Amy leaves the doorway and heads back to her own room.
Maria begins to ramble out loud. "Oh great, what now? As if I don't have enough to worry about. How am I going to get out of this? I have to be there tomorrow. Ohhhh great!, she said Kyle too. We both have to get out of this or it's going to ruin everything. NO! We're just going to have to miss it." Maria grabs the bottle of cedar oil from her dresser, she opens it and inhales the fragrance several times. (Oh no! Complications).
Max and Liz aren't surprised to find that they are sharing a dream together for the first time without the use of the telephone, they were both hoping that it would happen. They are back on their beach, walking hand and hand, letting the waves wash over their bare feet.
Max worries about Liz, she's been uncharacteristically quiet since they entered their dream. Max accesses that she's worrying about either the conversation between his mother and hers, or the plan for tomorrow, and/or both. Even though he is unable to do anything to relieve her anxieties about their plan, he feels he can do something to relieve her anxieties over what their mothers talked about earlier in the day. He plans to distract her from her worries, even if just a little.
"I found out why my mother went to visit yours." Liz looks at Max questioningly. "She's feeling left out." Max stops walking and pulls Liz into an embrace and smiles innocently at her, and continues playfully. "It seems I'm never home anymore, and on the rare occasions that I am, I'm distracted. She's trying to find out more about what's keeping me away and distracting me." The amusement he reads on Liz's face, from this small bit of information, brings him satisfaction.
Liz has been plagued with thoughts of Max's mother mentioning to her mother how late Max had gotten home the night before, and she feared that they suspected the truth about the intimate nature of their relationship. She is now mildly surprised and greatly relieved that this was not the case. She realizes that all they were talking about was, "ME?, They were talking about me."
"Don't sound so surprised. You are a BIG distraction, and you know it." Max steps forward a little bit, bring his body in full contact with Liz's.
"But way did she go to my mother?"
"She must have been hoping your mother could shed some light on just how important you have become to me. I don't really talk about you to her. I'm not really comfortable telling her things like this. I'm still . . . "
"Shy and you keep things to yourself." Liz finishes for Max. "I know. How did she find out about me?"
"Isabel, she told her that I've been spending a lot of time with you. So, she probably wanted to find out more about the girl who has captured the heart of her son, namely me, and she wants to know if you would like to come to dinner on Friday."
"You can tell her . . . yes! If it means we can actually sit down to a real dinner together, I'm all for it. Just promise me no hamburgers or fries."
Max acts hurt, and surprised. "What! No Alien fingers or Will Smiths? I feel it already, WITHDRAWAL! The pain, the pain."
Liz pushes Max back, causing him to lose his balance falling backwards into the warm water. With his arms still around Liz, she goes down landing on top of him. They both laugh briefly, before the realization of their close proximity washes over them with the next wave; Max gently brings his hand to the side of Liz's face and breezes his hand across her check and jaw drawing his finger across her lips. Their lips meet for a passion-filled kiss. However they are shortly interrupted by an unexpected wave that washes over them. Rasping for air, they begin to laugh at how carried away they had gotten. They struggle to their feet, and as Max advances to take her back into his arms; Max facetiously says, "Told you your distraction."
Liz tries to back away from him before he is able to fully embrace her, and replies in jest. "Is that all I am to you Mr. Evans? A distraction."
"Only in the best way, Ms. Parker." Max's pushes his bottom lip forward and makes sad puppy dog eyes, because she continues to back away from him as he advances toward her, and in the voice of a scolded child utters, "I thought you liked being my distraction, but if you like . . . I could call you something else, how about ‘lover?' "
"I don't think that would be a good idea."
Still playing the part, "But I want everyone to know you're mine."
Liz fights back the impulse to burst into laughter, and instead takes this conversation into a new direction. She closes the gap between Max and her. "There are other ways to let people know we are together besides names, and I guarantee that people have already figured out that we are a couple. But I would rather they didn't know how close of a couple we are for now, unless you like the idea of our parents finding out." She smiles already knowing the answer to that one. "Do you want me to tell you or show you how everyone knows?"
"Show me, definitely show me."
Liz spends the rest of their night together showing Max how people can tell they are a couple, as well as doing things that no one will ever see that proves they are a couple in love.
Max is awakened by a loud clap of thunder. He glances over at the clock, 5:45 a.m. He climbs out of bed groggily from sleep, and slides a pair of jeans and his shoes on. He rushes outside to make sure the jeep is secure.
When he walks out, he sees a shadow moving around the jeep. He moves back into the shadows of the house and watches. Max is grateful that someone put the canopy on the jeep, but wonders who and when. As the figure moves around the jeep her is able to make out who it is. "Isabel?"
"Well I see sleeping beauty finally decided to wake from his beauty sleep." She answers sarcastically.
Max moves forward to help her finish fastening the cover on the jeep. "Why didn't you wake me up?"
"I tried, believe me I tried. Do you really think I wanted to do this by myself in the rain?"
Max is still feeling playful from his night with Liz asks, "Do you remember the first time we played in the rain?"
"I remember how you tried to stripe down to your birthday suit yelling that it was time for a shower." She laughs at the memory.
"Oh no! I forgot all about that time." Max ponders the memory. "Wait a second, if I remember right, you joined me."
"No, I didn't!"
"You did, and you succeeded in getting all of your clothes off, and mom had a really hard time catching you."
Isabel covers her face in embarrassment. "Oh no, your right! Max you have to promise me you'll never mention that to anyone, ever!"
"I don't know. Alex might get a kick out of that bit of information."
"You wouldn't!" She slaps him playfully on the shoulder when he gestures ‘maybe'. "Fine I know Liz would love hearing all about it as well."
"She already knows I like to play in the water."
"I so didn't need to hear that."
"That wasn't the time I was referring to anyway. It must have been the next time. We begged and begged to go out and play in the rain, and she finally gave in as long as we wore our swimsuits."
"We had so much fun in the puddles. We didn't want to come back in."
"Care to go puddle splashing with me?" Max reaches his hand out to Isabel, and the start to play in the puddles that have formed on the driveway and in the road.
Diane comes to investigate what all the noise from outside is about; her whole face smiles as she watches Max and Isabel playing in the rain. After a while she moves back into the house and into the kitchen. She makes three cups of hot cocoa, goes to grab two large towels, and returns to the front door. She watches her children for a few more minutes, enjoying their laughter as they continue to splash each other. After a few minutes pass, she calls them in.
They both looked surprised to see their mother watching them. They look at each other and break into hysterical bursts of laughter. They slowly move indoors and they are greeted by the warm dry towel and hot cocoa that their mother retrieved for them.
Diane still smiling brightly at her children, "You two haven't played like that in years. It was nice to see you having some real fun, instead of being so serious all of the time."
Maria's searching the hallways before school for Kyle, at the same time he's searching for her. They both spot each other at the same time.
"We have to talk." They both say in unison.
"Where?," asks Maria.
Kyle looks around and takes Maria by the arm pulling her into the band room. They both look around to make sure that they are alone.
"You know about this dinner to night?"
"Yeah, what are we going to do?"
"There's nothing we can do. We have to go through with the plan. If we don't make it to my mother's dinner party, then we don't make it."
"I have to agree, but you know our parents are going to raise cane if we don't make it, don't you?"
"Yeah, I'll probably be grounded for a month."
"If not longer, my dad stressed that I was to be there or else."
"What is the big deal about this dinner, my mother did the same thing? Do you have any clue as to why our parents want us at this dinner? I mean it's not part of my mother's normal dating pattern?"
Kyle is surprised by Maria. He's very sure he knows what it's about. "You mean you have no idea?"
"No, why? What's it all about?" Maria is completely baffled by the whole thing. By all of Maria's calculations Jim Valenti should be yesterdays' news, and her mother should be moving on to the next guy.
"All I know for sure, is that they have some big announcement for us. What I suspect, And believe me I'm not any happier about it than you will be, they're going to try to make us one big happy family."
"Not that I don't what my mother to be happy, and no offence to you, but why on earth would my mother pick your dad?"
"No offence taken, he isn't the nicest or most understanding guy around. No offence, but your mother has lousy taste in men."
"Don't I know it." They both start laughing. "Now the question is what are we going to do to stop this unhappy union."
"Maybe with a sister like you, it wouldn't be so bad after all." Kyle jests.
"Thank you Kyle, but no! I think that the first thing we do is . . . . not show up tonight. They can't give us bad news if we aren't there to hear it, right?"
"No, but if we aren't there, my father will have every one of his men out looking for us, and we don't want that tonight either."
"Why did they have to pick tonight to spring this on us?" Maria presses her palm to her forehead and starts drumming her fingers on the top of her head trying to think of a way out of this.
Michael opens the band room door and looks in. When he sees Kyle and Maria, he pulls the door open the rest of the way and enters. "Yeah Maria, Kyle what are you two doing in here. We've all been looking for you." Michael sees the frustrated look on Maria's face. "What's going on?"
"We have a problem with tonight. Out parents want us to be as some dinner with the two of them at 6:00. Kyle thinks that they have some big announcement to make."
"Yeah, unfortunately." Answers Kyle.
Michael can't believe that this is happening. He knows the two of them won't let him or the others down. "What's the plan, I know that you two didn't meet in here to talk about the rain?"
"Speaking of the rain, our plan is still on tonight, right? We're not postponing, because of the rain are we?" Maria asks almost hopefully. This would mean that everything would work itself out.
"That's why the others are looking for you as well. We have to decide what to do if this rain doesn't let up." Michael circles his arm around Maria's waist. "Come on, the others will meet us in the Library."
Max, Liz, Isabel, and Alex are sitting at a table in the back of the Library. "Where are they? Did anyone check the Eraser room?" ask Alex wanting to know what reaction he would get.
"Don't even think about it." Maria states as Michael, Kyle, and her join the others. "I'm a one man kind of woman, and his name is Michael not Kyle."
"Awe shucks, and I thought you pulled me to the Band room because you wanted me."
"As I recall, you pulled me in."
Michael is getting fed up listening to Kyle and Maria going at it. He's had to listen to the two of them all the way from the band room. "I think you two have this brother/sister think down pat. Are you sure your parents aren't already married?" He chuckles when they both glare at him.
"Married?" The rest of the group calls out in shock. Maria and Kyle explain about the dinner and what they suspect it is all about.
"Great something else to worry about." Isabel retorts in her infamous Ice Princess voice.
As the conversation continues, they decide not to make a decision until they see what the weather is going to do.
Lunch time the sky has cleared and they are able to sit out in the quad. The decision is made, the plan goes as originally planned. They signal each other with looks and nods. They are unable to talk about it because Sandie has joined them for lunch once again. They don't mind her being there. They only wish that they knew one way or the other if they could trust her.
Sandie sensed that something was wrong with the others. They were so quiet and throughout the lunch break they continued to flash each other knowing looks. At one point she tried to get the group to talk with her, but she shortly realized that all she was going to get were short responses, and gave up trying. She has a strong feeling that something is going on, and whatever it is, it's going to happen tonight, and decided that she is going to be there when it does.
Maria and Kyle met with the others after school in the parking lot. They had decided that being there with their friends was worth whatever trouble they got into with their parents. Quickly they decided that if 6:00 rolled around before this was all over they would call Maria's house with the excuse that they were detained by the creeps who have been following them. They figured that would give the Sheriff something to think about, as well as some explaining to do to Amy. In the back of their minds they both hope they are detained.
Kyle is the first to leave, he drives around town making sure that he's not being followed. Then he heads to the cave to see if he can find a file that mentions the use of any hired help.
Next Michael and Maria leave, they head to the Crashdown, grab some drinks to go, and then head out to the gas station on the outskirts of town, the one by 285 South, top off up Maria's gas tank, taking only as much the time as necessary. As they pull out, they verify that they are being followed, which is what they want.
They then travel to the same area that they used to lure out Teomner, parking approximately a half mile ahead of the access road. They see the car that followed them pulled over some ways back on the road. They climb out of the red Jetta, carrying their drinks, spread out a blanket in the shade of a boulder and commence talking mixed with a few kisses here and there.
They both find humor in the fact the guy that followed them parked in a place with little to no shade. Sure he could sit in his car and run the air conditioner, but then he wouldn't be able to see what they were doing clearly, and at the risk that they would slip off into the desert was a risk he couldn't take.
It isn't that it is a really hot day, but the rain over the night and earlier in the day made it a muggy, sticky day. Maria and Michael planned for the heat, but not the humidity. Michael can't take it anymore. He takes his shirt off to make himself more comfortable. Maria groans about unfair it is that he can do that. However, she soon takes full advantage of the fact that he is no longer wearing his shirt by getting closer to him.
Alex and Isabel were the next two to leave the parking lot, they too are being followed. They head to her house, where Isabel changes into some cooler clothes, grabbing two bags from her room that Max and she packed the day before. After loading the bags, they head to Alex's place. He too changes clothes, then loads one bag and Teomner's laptop, and they too head for 285 south, stopping briefly at the Crashdown where Max and Liz are waiting for them. Alex hands Max his bag, while Isabel gets two drinks to go.
Once back on the road Alex and Isabel head down 285 South they pass Michael and Maria still sitting on the side of the road. They both wonder if Michael and Maria are taking over where Max and Liz left off the night they lured out Teomner.
Michael has taken off his jean revealing his black boxer shorts. Maria has changed into a sleeveless light yellow T-shirt and a pair of royal blue shorts she luckily remembered having in her backpack from gym class. They were getting too hot, partly because of the humidity, and the other part, well do I really need to say.
Alex and Isabel pull off the road about one mile past Michael and Maria, Alex grabs a blanket, spreads it out, returns to the car grabbing his bag and the lap top.
Isabel picks up her bag, joins Alex on the blanket and goes about pulling out the items from her bag.
Meanwhile, back at the Crashdown, Max and Liz watch the clock. When it reads 3:45, they both pickup their things and head to the jeep and down 285 south in the direction of the Teomner's house. They pass Maria and Michael, who are now getting really getting carried away. Max can't resist the impulse to honk his horn.
Michael and Maria both jump apart as the horn bellows at them. Both are embarrassed that they let things get so out of hand. They look at each and laugh, they know that it will be their turn to get razed. Michael puts his clothes and shoes back on while Maria slowly gathers their things, trying to stall for some time. Yet stay far enough away from Michael that they don't end up back in each other's arms where they have no doubt they would lose all track of time.
Max and Liz pull onto the access road leading them to the same location they used the last time they pulled off on of these plans. They look around making sure that Kyle's car isn't visible, and proceed to pull their things from the Jeep.
Now that they have all three men in the same general area they are almost ready to move into the final stages of the plan. All they have to do is give Kyle the time he needs.
|Part 26 | Index | Part 28
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