Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with the WB, Jason
Katims or Melinda Metz.|
Authors Note: This was written during season 1, so there are no references to Tess or other aliens.
|“Oh my god,” Maria whispered hoarsely.|
Liz tried to focus on her friend, to tell her that she was all right, but Maria wouldn’t sit still. She kept moving, swimming in and out of focus. Liz shivered against the coldness spreading through her body. She gasped, trying to draw air into her lungs. She could hear them speaking, their voices fusing into one jumble of noise that was growing louder each second. She had to say something, to let them know she was okay.
Heat. In her right hand. The cool plastic of the bucket was replaced with a pulsing heat, spreading up her arm, traveling through her body. Her lungs inflated and then the air was exhaled in a smooth motion. Another even breath was pulled in… She opened her eyes and blinked furiously. Maria. She was bent over her, her face mere inches from her own, one hand smoothing the hair from her forehead.
Her right hand was beginning to ache. She made herself turn her head. Max. He was holding onto her like a life preserver, crushing her hand. She could feel the bones grinding against each other.
“Max?” she whispered.
His eyes cleared at the sound of her voice. He eased his grip on her hand, but didn’t release it.
“You’re okay.” His eyes roamed her face. “You’re okay,” he repeated.
Liz tried to swallow, but winced at the dryness of her throat. “What happened?” She managed to croak.
“You threw up,” Maria spoke. “Blood. You threw up blood, Liz. And then… I don’t know… your eyes rolled up in your head and you started shaking and –“
“You were going into shock,” Alex finished.
Michael turned away, running a hand restlessly through his hair as he stared out the window.
“Liz, how long has this been going on?” Alex stared down at her from the end of the bed.
She raised her head and took in her friends, one by one. “Not long,” she murmured, her voice unsteady. “Just a couple of days.” She sighed and dropped her eyes to the rumpled bedspread. “I’ve been vomiting a lot for the past few months, but it’s gotten worse in the last week or so. It started out with just spots of blood.”
“And now there’s a lot of it. Internal bleeding.” Isabel shifted restlessly from one foot to the other while she studied the ceiling.
Michael whirled from his spot at the window. “Why didn’t you call us sooner?” Anger bubbled just under the surface. “What were you waiting for? Were you just being stubborn again?”
Max rose. “Michael.” There was a hint of warning in his voice.
It boiled over. “Or were you hoping that you and the kid would die? That would really punish Max, wouldn’t it?”
Max dropped Liz’s hand and advanced on Michael. “That’s enough.”
Alex stepped between them. “This isn’t helping—“
“Martyr Liz. Look at how brave she is having an alien baby all alone. She didn’t have to be alone, Max. She chose to be.”
Max clenched one fist as he used the other hand to shove Alex aside.
“Liz, just hang onto me,” Maria cried out.
Max dropped the arm that had been reaching toward Michael’s collar and spun toward the bed. Liz was in the throes of another contraction. She was clutching Maria’s hand as her eyes squeezed shut against the pain.
Maria glared at the two men, eyes narrowed. “Max, get your ass over here and help her. Michael, if you don’t shut the hell up I will pitch you out that window myself. This is neither the time, nor the place.”
“It’s okay,” Liz panted. “It’s okay. It’s over.” She gradually relaxed her hold on Maria’s hand. Her gaze wandered around the room, resting on Michael for just a moment, then moving on to her husband. “Max? Can you heal me?” She paused for a breath. “Stop the bleeding?”
“Yes. I’ll do whatever I have to. Liz, I won’t let anything else happen to you. I promise.”
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Max,” Isabel spoke up. She motioned for Maria to move aside and looked at her brother. “You’re already weak from the stress and pulling her out of the shock. You need to save what strength you have left to get her through the labor.” She knelt next to the bed. “I’ll do it.”
“Iz—“ Max began.
Isabel waved a hand in the air. “I know I’m not as good at healing as you, but there’s not much choice. Let me try.”
Maria grabbed Michael and Alex’s hands and led them toward the door. “We’ll just leave you alone so you can concentrate.”
No one noticed them leave. They filed into the tiny living room and Michael collapsed on the couch, dropping his head back against the worn cushion. No one spoke. The silence finally penetrated the fog he was in and he lifted his head. Alex and Maria stared down at him.
“What were you thinking with that little outburst in there, Michael?” Michael swore he could literally see the steam pouring from Maria’s ears.
Maria blew out a puff of air in complete bewilderment. “What? What?” She flailed her arms in frustration.
Alex stepped in. “You know what. How dare you come down on Liz at a time like this.”
Michael dropped his face into his hands and swiped them upwards, as he exhaled heavily. “Can either of you honestly say you haven’t thought the same things over the last few months?” He looked up at them then, daring them to deny it. “I know you and Iz tried to talk her into telling Max where she was. And, Maria, I seem to recall you inviting her to stay with us more than once. And I offered to fly out here and bring her back to Seattle myself so she wouldn’t have to travel alone.”
“Maybe she just wanted to be close to Max. Did you ever think about that? We know they didn’t split up because they didn’t want to be together.” Alex rubbed his forehead. “Look—“
“Alex,” Maria spoke softly.
He saw the concern… and the determination… on her face and took a step back. “I’ll just go see if there’s anything worth eating in the refrigerator.”
Maria didn’t hesitate. She knew Michael would never open up unless she forced him. She sat next to him, as close as she could get, treasuring the physical contact as much as she knew he did. She took his hand between her own, smiling at the sight of the deep blue paint edging two of his fingernails.
“Don’t make me drag it out of you.”
He sighed and shook his head slightly.
“Michael, I know how much you care about Max and Liz, even if you don’t want to admit it. And I know you would have done anything to help them these past months. And, you’re right, Liz didn’t have to be alone. That was her choice. But I also know that you’re not really angry with Liz. Now, are you going to tell me what is really bothering you or do I have to start pulling out arm hairs?”
She was speaking quietly, but there was steel in her tone and Michael knew she was not going to let up. The corner of his mouth turned up in a grin. “Pull them out of my left arm, will ya? My right is still bald from when you made me go to that party last week.”
She returned the smile and arched one eyebrow, waiting.
“Okay,” Michael cast a nervous glance around the room. “I guess… well… I see Liz like… she is… and I’m afraid of that happening to you. They didn’t plan to have a baby, Maria, it just happened. And we could end up facing those same choices and… I just don’t want to make the same mistakes they have. And if Max and Liz could screw things up so badly, imagine what we could do.”
Maria nodded slowly. Michael had always lived under the shadow of Max’s seeming perfection. To see Max fail at something, especially in his relationship with Liz, really made Michael doubt himself again.
“So… what if I did get pregnant? What would you want to do?”
He gave her a look of sheer disbelief. “You have to ask what I would want to do? Do you remember that your best friend almost died? Could still die? There is only one answer to that, Maria. There would be no choice.”
“There are always choices, Michael.”
“Not when it comes to your life.”
“Hey,” the sudden sharpness of her tone startled him. “I’m not Liz. What affects her may not affect me the same way. And if it does, we’ll deal with it.”
He started to rise from the couch and Maria grabbed a belt loop and pulled him back down. She threw one leg over his lap, straddling him, and forced him to look her in the eye. “You said it yourself, Liz chose to do this on her own. Well, did you ever stop to think that maybe those two wouldn’t be in this mess if they had trusted each other? Had faith in each other? Faced their problems together? They’re both so damn honorable they’re willing to sacrifice their relationship and their own happiness, thinking it’s best for the other. Well guess what, buddy, I’m not that honorable. We are in this for the long haul – no matter what happens.”
She sat back on his lap. “Now,” she began again, her voice quieter, “I’m not saying I want to get pregnant and find out if this theory holds water. But, if it happens, then we make the decisions together and we don’t let what’s happened with Max and Liz influence us.”
She cradled his face in her hands, bringing her own close enough to brush his skin with her lashes. “Liz is going to make it. She has all of us here and the six of us can get through anything if we stick together. And I’m looking forward to hearing that kid scream whenever Aunt Maria and Uncle Michael leave after a visit – cuz we are going to spoil it rotten.”
Alex tapped softly on the door and opened it a crack. Max clung to Liz’s hand as they both breathed through another contraction. Isabel sat flat on the floor next to the bed, looking exhausted.
The three entered the room as the contraction started to let up. “How long in between?” Alex looked from Max to Liz.
“Fourteen minutes,” Max replied, brushing one hand along Liz’s cheek.
Alex nodded. “Well, I’d say Liz is much better now that she has someone to take on half the panting duties.” He smiled down at Isabel. “So how would this work for us? You’re not going to, like, bend my fingernails back or something if I can’t feel your labor pains?”
Liz started to chuckle, happy to just have her friends with her and appreciating Alex’s attempt at lightening the mood. The laugh caught in her throat and she started to cough. Max tilted her up a bit, but her throat constricted and it took a few moments to regain control. She pulled her hand away from her mouth, already feeling the moisture on her fingers. More blood.
Alex turned to Isabel. “I thought—“
She shook her head. “I couldn’t. I couldn’t get past the baby to connect with Liz. Max was just about to try when the contraction hit.”
Max placed one hand over Liz’s chest and one on her abdomen. “I’m going to take care of it right now.” He stopped as a hand squeezed his shoulder. He looked up at Michael in surprise.
“Liz needs you.” Michael knelt on the floor and held out his hand to Isabel. “Maybe between the two of us.” She grasped it with a quick smile. Then both placed an open palm against Liz’s stomach and were immediately pulled in.
Swirling movements… a steady thumping… the feeling of being sucked under water…. Michael fought against the pull, but then his soul was flooded with love… contentment…. He could almost ignore the ear-blasting bass of that steady beat.
Realization slammed him upside the head and he smiled. He was hearing the baby’s heartbeat.
Isabel. He could feel her presence, poking at the corner of his brain.
“Michael, we need to pull away from the baby. Focus on Liz.”
He concentrated, pouring all his energy into matching the distant sound of Liz’s heartbeat.
|Part 11 | Index | Part 13|
|Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours|