|"A Stitch in Time - Revised"|
Disclaimer: Dear Ms. Metz and Mr. Katims, can Max and the others come to
my house to play? I'll try to have them back in time for dinner. Thanks, loon.|
Summary: AU Fic. No spoilers. Max had thought just being an alien would fulfil the 'weirdness quotient' for his whole life, but now he had to cope with the concept of aliens from the future. And not just 'good' aliens from the future. There was a whole organization of 'bad' aliens from the future and he, Isabel and Michael had been recruited to help stop them.
Authors Note: Dedication: to Addison, my first fan.
|Max awoke to sunlight pouring in the window. He heard the shower running
and smelled coffee. Grabbing the robe, he put it on and walked to the
window. It was a tall crank-out type window and the sill was low enough
that he easily stepped through and limped out on the deck. He was
greeted with a glorious sight. The sun was illuminating majestic peaks
that rose from the forest surrounding the meadow Liz's house was
centered in. Not far down the meadow was a mirror-smooth mountain lake.
Max soaked in the morning beauty and felt it restoring him. |
After a time he climbed back in the window and noticed a piece of paper stuck under his door. He limped over and picked it up. "There are some clean clothes outside your door— don't trip over them. Remember to scoot downstairs. Don't try to walk down. Crutches and stairs don't mix. Coffee and rolls downstairs on the kitchen counter. Help yourself."
Max put the note on the bed and retrieved the clothes. There was underwear, sweatpants and a t-shirt. He put them on and opened the bedroom door. The bathroom door was open, exposing steamed up mirrors. The door directly across from his was closed and he could hear movement inside. Max looked at the closed door for a minute then sat down and obediently scooted down the stairs.
He was sitting at the table, sipping his second cup of coffee when Liz came down. Her long dark hair was clean, shining and freshly braided; she wore baggy jeans and a t-shirt. Smiling shyly, she greeted him, "Good Morning." Then she mock frowned and pointed at his ankle. She grabbed a couch pillow, put in on a nearby chair and sternly instructed him to elevate his ankle.
"Bossy." Max teased. It felt so natural to be around Liz; it was like he had known her forever.
"If you had the sense God gave a goose I wouldn't have to tell you such basic things," she teased back, all evidence of last night's emotion gone without a trace.
\\Yep, named her right the first time: Mystery Woman.\\ "Thanks for the clothes." Max courteously followed her lead and kept the conversation light. "You have a beautiful view from the deck upstairs. I climbed out the window this morning."
"When we put the front porch on the house we added that upper deck. The existing windows were large so we didn't make them into doors. Somehow it's more fun to climb out a window, like you're going on an adventure."
"We?" Max couldn't help but ask but then felt immediately sorry when her aura flashed grief strong enough to blind him.
"Would you like a tour or do you want to get right down to business or we can do both at the same time," Liz changed the subject adroitly.
"Let's do both."
"Yeah, I always think better when I'm on the move. Come on, gimpy." Liz stood in the dining room and pointed down the hall. "Bathroom and office down that way. Hall door goes down to the basement; the laundry is there. I'll wash your clothes later."
"I can do that," Max insisted.
"Stairs," Liz shook her head and said as an explanation. She turned and pointed out the back door. "Garage and barn out back. I'll show you when you're more mobile." Then she began walking toward the front door. Max followed obediently. Liz held the door open for Max and his crutches then pointed to one of the rocking chairs on the porch. When they were both seated, Liz pointed "Mountains, trees, lake." She smiled guiltily. "I forgot about your gimp status when I offered the walking tour. Also, we're above 10,000 feet here and you should take it easy until you get used to it."
They sat in companionable silence for awhile, both needing the time to gather their thoughts.
"So, down to business," Max began. "Do you have any questions before we start?"
"Yes, is there any way we can rescue Isabel and those other women the terrorists have?" Liz asked.
Max sighed mightily. "Wish I could tell you differently, but we can't reach them. We'll have to depend on Michael completing the mission and getting the location beacon started. It's totally out of our hands at the moment."
"I'm so sorry, Max. There's nothing else we can do? Do you need to contact your group leader or whoever is in charge?" Liz's voice was soft and comforting.
Max told her the truth, "I can't contact the group until next week at the earliest. We have prearranged contact times to help avoid detection."
"Can you go home to your family?" Liz asked.
Max shook his head. "It wouldn't be safe for me to be popping in and out. It's best if I stay away until we get those terrorists stopped."
"I was serious when I offered to help, Max. You're welcome to stay here." She looked at him. "Will you tell me about your family?"
Max smiled at her and looked back out at the lake. "Nothing really exciting to tell." He smiled a private little smile. "We grew up in a small town. After college my sister Isabel married Alex, her childhood sweetheart. Alex is a serious computer whiz. Isabel and Maria— she's Michael's girlfriend— run a counseling center. Michael became a private detective and I joined our dad's law firm right out of college but now I work with Michael. Our mother passed away several years ago. That's the short version."
"Sorry to hear about your mom. Mine died when I was 22. I don't think we're ever ready to lose our mothers." She sat, lost in thought for a few minutes, then continued. "So how did you small town people get involved in this group or whatever it is that is trying to stop the terrorists?"
"I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you." Max gave her a mock serious look. He couldn't help teasing her. She laughed at him and quit asking questions he obviously didn't want to answer.
They sat there and looked at the peaceful mountain vista in silence. It was a comfortable silence, as each became lost in their own thoughts. But Max watched her aura gradually darken, as her thoughts apparently became sadder and sadder. Finally Max was unable to keep his questions to himself. "May I ask you some questions, Liz?"
"You can ask… I may not always answer, but I promise not to lie." She gave him an odd smile. "Let's trade questions. Fair's fair. It's your turn."
Max looked at Liz searchingly for a moment. "Are you okay? You've had a rough couple of days, thanks to me."
Liz looked up, startled. Clearly, this was not the question she was expecting. She thought for a moment then replied, "I'm doing as well as can be expected." She looked at him. "My turn. Do you always take responsibility for events beyond your control?"
Max laughed ruefully. "I'm oldest, so I guess I just never got out of the habit. Do you have siblings?"
"No, I was an only. I was adopted when I was about 6 years old. My turn." Liz looked at Max thoughtfully. She started to ask him a question \\Who are you and why do I feel as though I have known you all my life?\\ but changed her mind and said instead, "I realize you can't tell me some things, but what can you tell me about this group of yours?"
Max scratched his head as he gave her question serious thought. "Well, our detective agency was asked to locate certain individuals. This led to other investigations and we were contacted by the group and asked to help. Michael, Isabel, Maria, Alex and I discussed it and we decided to get involved. Does that answer your question or is it too vague?"
"Yeah, that was pretty general, but that's all right, I understand about secrets. My turn…"
"Hey! That last one wasn't a real question!" They laughed together. Max sat there for a few minutes, processing the questions that kept coming to him. Finally, he looked at Liz and said as gently as possible, "Who is Dave?"
Liz froze and seemed to quit breathing. Her aura displayed such grief that Max instantly regretted his question. \\My god, what have I done?\\ Max could have kicked himself. As Liz suddenly stood up he began, "I'm sorry, you don't ha…"
Liz broke in, "I'm going for a walk." She turned and headed off the porch, but stopped and looked back. "There is plenty of food in the refrigerator and freezer. Help yourself." And with that she took off running and was quickly lost to sight.
Max sat there in stunned silence. How could he have inflicted such pain on this undeserving person? He sat there until mid afternoon when his body forced him inside to feed it. His massive energy expenditures seriously depleted him. His body required food and rest to replenish itself.
After he finished eating, Max cleaned up after himself and went upstairs and lay down on what had obviously been Dave's bed. His active brain would not let his tired body rest; he limped over to the desk and sat down. His eyes traveled down the titles of schoolbooks stacked there: Calculus II, Statics, Mechanical Engineering… these were college books he realized with a shock. Liz wasn't old enough to have a college age son, Max thought. She said she was an only child so he couldn't be a brother. Max groaned and got to his feet. He hated mysteries and questions; he'd had more than enough of them during his life.
He went back downstairs and limped around, too restless to sit down. His ankle was really bothering him; he sat down and decided to have another go at healing it. He knew he couldn't have a sudden 'miracle cure' or Liz would ask questions he wasn't ready to answer, but if he worked on it a little each day, he could appear to just be a fast healer.
After his partial healing, it was much easier to pace which was good because Max was too upset to sit quietly with the stupid thing elevated. Max found himself in front of the photos that were displayed on the living room wall.
They showed the same boy at various stages of his life. Some of the photos had another person in them; a distinguished looking older gentleman with a white goatee and a sparkle in his eye. Maybe this Dave was his son…. no, his book said Dave Parker. Only one of the photos showed Liz. She was being hugged by Dave as a smiling teenager. They looked so happy together.
Liz came in the front door unnoticed as Max was studying the photos. She watched him and realized that her reaction to his innocent question was causing him some serious distress. She said quietly, "That's my son Dave in most of those pictures." She moved into the living room and continued, "That's Dennis there with Dave. He was our friend."
Max looked at her in surprise. She took a ragged breath and said, "They died not long ago."
Her aura was almost solid purple. Could that much grief kill a person, Max wondered. He looked at her with so much compassion in his eyes that she had to look away. She walked into the kitchen and began to gather the ingredients for dinner. Max just stood there in front of the photos. After a while, he wiped the tears from his eyes and limped out to sit on the front porch.
"Dinner's ready. Do you want to eat outside?" Liz's voice drifted out through the door.
"I'll come in there, Liz." How could her voice sound so normal? Her heart had obviously been ripped out, torn in tiny pieces and stuffed back into the gaping hole in her chest. Max knew he would be hard pressed to survive the level of grief Liz's aura clearly displayed. Right there and then he vowed to himself that he would do whatever he could to protect his mystery woman. His unanswered questions buzzed around inside his head, but he made himself follow Liz's lead and act 'normal.' He walked into the dining room and said, "That smells delicious, what is it?"
"Good old corn-fed Missouri whitetail."
"Deer?" Max asked, startled.
"Have you ever eaten venison before? I'm sorry, I guess I should have asked about your food preferences…"
"Liz, don't worry about it. I usually eat what ever doesn't eat me first and like I said, that smells delicious."
Liz looked directly at him and said, "Dave and Dennis got this deer last season. They went back to Missouri where Denny's family lives. He said Colorado deer taste like sagebrush." Liz smiled in memory.
"Need any help carrying things to the table," Max asked.
Liz looked at Max who wasn't using crutches and commented, "Thanks. You're not limping as much. How is your ankle?"
"Oh, I've always been a quick healer. It's getting better fast. Keeping it elevated has really helped." \\Yeah, right. Tell her another one.\\
"There are condiments in the refrigerator door. I usually use barbecue sauce but Dave liked Tobasco Sauce," Liz instructed as she moved about the kitchen with the last minute preparations that kept her from seeing the shocked look on Max's face.
"A boy after my own heart," Max said. "I've always had a taste for the stuff myself." He grabbed the two sauce bottles and headed for the table. Liz had the rest of the meal waiting for him. "You're spoiling me, you know."
Liz smiled crookedly. "I like to cook for people. Dave called it hugging from the inside." She looked down at her plate. \\Shouldn't have said that. Why did I say that?\\
Max watched her as he made inroads on the delicious meal she had prepared. He was not going to ask questions; he would wait and see what she told him.
After a while Liz sighed and looked back at Max. "I'm sorry I ran out on you like that. Your question was… it just… well, I didn't want to… I was upset and needed to be by myself." She paused, looking sad. "Dave was my whole world. I miss him constantly, but he would definitely come back and haunt me if I didn't get on with my life." She smiled sadly. "My son loved life." \\And he didn't get to do all the wondrous things he had planned.\\ She paused again, lost in her memories.
"You don't have to tell me anything you don't want to, but if talking would help…" Max said softly and gently. His expressive eyes were filled with compassion.
"Dave had the most unique way of looking at the world. He had a truly warped sense of humor…" She smiled that crooked smile again. "I probably won't be able to help talking about him," she said with some amusement. "But not right now."
She got up and carried her plate to the sink. "You want some pie? I have a freezer pie— it's chocolate peanut butter ice cream in a chocolate graham cracker crust. Did I mention that it comes with hot fudge for a topping?" Liz looked back at Max. "Serious comfort food."
"Sounds like I'll be adding it to my list of favorites," Max said.
They finished their dessert in silence then began to clear the table and clean up the cooking mess without talking. They worked together like they had done this all their lives, comfortable with each other and not needing to say anything.
Their jobs completed, they walked into the living room. Liz asked hopefully, "Do you want to pretend nothing out of the ordinary has happened and just spend the evening reading and watching TV?"
"Sounds like denial to me. My mom used to say "Denial is not just a river in Egypt." Max sounded amused.
"Just call me Cleopatra, Queen of Denial," Liz returned, just as amused. "Seriously, though, we can get back to the question trading if you want. I'm a tough old bird, I can handle it."
"You don't look like a tough old bird to me. How old are you, anyway?" \\Thought you weren't going to ask any more personal questions, Max.\\
"Age is a matter of the mind; it only matters if you mind." She looked at him. The cliché obviously didn't satisfy him; he still looked expectant. So she added, "Thirty one."
"Same age as me, but I must say, you could have fooled me. You look incredibly well preserved for your advanced age." \\I'm not flirting, am I?\\
"Well, I have this portrait hidden away in the attic that does my aging for me…"
Max laughed as he caught her Dorian Gray reference. "Okay, then if you're up for it, I would rest better tonight if we could continue. And I think I owe you a big question or two." \\I wish I could tell you everything, Liz. I have this overwhelming urge to confide in you.\\
Liz grabbed two quilts from a basket by the couch and headed out the front door. "Let's sit outside."
Max followed and accepted one of the quilts. She wrapped herself in a quilt and made herself comfortable in one of the rockers. When Max just stood there looking at her, she said, "It gets chilly when the sun goes down."
\\She has such an unselfconscious attractiveness Even her bruised face doesn't mar it. Wish I could wrap up in that quilt with her and indulge in some serious cuddling…\\ "Sorry. My mind wandered."
She smiled her crooked smile and said, "If I find it, I'll send it back to you." She scooted a footstool over toward his rocker and looked pointedly at his ankle. Then she moved her long braid over one shoulder, snuggled down in her quilt and gazed out at the mountains.
Max sat down and propped his ankle up and draped the quilt over his legs. He leaned back and began to rock. "Your turn, I believe."
Liz took a deep breath and was reminded of the curious fact that her ribs didn't hurt. "Tell me what happened up on that ridge. I remember Isabel telling me to run but things are fuzzy after that." \\Come on, Max. Tell me the whole truth. I want to trust you with my brain, not just because my intuition tells me I can.\\
"Well, you remember we tied your wrists then tied the other end of the rope to the woman in front of you?" He looked to see her reaction. He definitely remembered how Liz had reacted to that episode. His conscience still jabbed him when he thought about it. "I tied Isabel's wrists loosely so she could release them herself. When we were on the trail I pretended to stumble and that was her signal to break and run. She was supposed to take you with her, but stupid Leon grabbed her."
"I remember that. She screamed for me to run and when I turned around to do it I saw Spike blocking my way."
"Spike?" Max was confused. Michael had been in her way.
"You know, the one with the hair." She made hand motions, describing his hair.
Max burst out with a hearty laugh. He looked at her and said, "That was Michael, my friend. Gotta admit 'Spike' is a better name. I'll have to remember to call him that and see his reaction…"
"Isabel laughed too, but she didn't tell me he was one of the good guys. We were amusing ourselves making up descriptive names for the terrorists. On with the story, please."
"Well, there I was, sprawled in the dirt after my 'stumble' and I saw you dive toward the ravine." He shuddered in memory and looked sternly at Liz. "Don't you ever do that again!" He got no comment from her so he continued. "I tried to stop you and ended up following you down. A nice sturdy tree stopped your fall but all I could grab was a wimpy little bush."
Max stopped his narration at this point and studied Liz intently. She gazed back at him, her expression unreadable. Her aura gave nothing away either. "You threw me the rope and I climbed away from the edge to your tree. The terrorists had gone by then. I got you back up to the path, splinted my ankle and carried you down to that clearing." \\And the twenty thousand dollar question is 'why did you throw me that rope and did I imagine that you 'pathed me.'\\
Liz looked at Max. \\Well, that's true as far as it goes. Max, I've seen things and heard things that I cannot explain. You skirt around them just like Isabel did. I know you're not lying to me. You just aren't telling me the whole truth.\\
Max studied Liz's expression. Not good. \\I get the impression you are talking to me, Liz. I just can't hear you.\\ Then he remembered something else and his face brightened. "Okay, this is potentially good news. Remember that terrorist who was hitting you in the hall?" Liz nodded. "Well, after you fell down the ravine he tried to go down and get you. He lost his footing and fell all the way down. No helpful tree or bush for him."
Liz perked up. "I know there is a blot on my soul for this but I can't generate much regret. But, Max, it is really good news because he was the one giving Isabel so much trouble."
Max's face darkened, "Trouble? What kind of trouble?" His big brother vibes were working.
"The kind of trouble he won't be giving her anymore. Quit worrying, Max. Is there anything you can do about it at this moment? You'll only wear yourself out."
Max sighed and said, "Well, with Leon out of the way, Michael can 'claim' her and look after her."
"I've lost track. Whose question is it now." Liz was sounding tired.
"Mine," Max said. "You know, Liz, sometimes I look at you and get the distinct feeling you are talking to me, but I can't hear you."
"Maybe you're not listening on the correct frequency," Liz said facetiously. "My turn." She leaned back in her chair and rocked for a while. Coming to a decision, she sat up and looked at Max. "Max, I have to say this. I'm usually a pretty good judge of character and I trust you, even if I don't quite know why. I know what you have been telling me is the truth.
"But I can read between the lines and there are lots of secrets there. Both you and Isabel have done this when you 'explained' things to me. And Max? I've seen things and heard things that I can't explain. I think you know the answers but don't trust me enough to tell me."
She stopped and heaved a big sigh. "Keep your secrets if you need to, Max, it's okay. It doesn't change what I said about helping you. (pause) It's been a rough day. I'm going to bed. Remember to scoot up the stairs. If you fall and break something I don't think I'm strong enough to carry you up." With that, Liz went inside, leaving a very thoughtful Max.
Max went upstairs to the bedroom. He saw a neatly folded stack of clothes on the bed. When did she have time to do laundry? He finished getting ready for bed and lay there for a long time, contemplating the nature of secrets, before finally falling asleep.
|Part 6 | Index | Part 8|
|Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours|