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.
Alex rubbed his eyes with one hand as he jabbed at the ice cubes in the bowl, determined to transform them into small, bite-size chips. Liz’s small supply of cubes hadn’t lasted long, so Alex had borrowed Max’s car and found a convenience store and bought a bag of ice. Now there were more cubes that needed to be whittled down. Isabel had offered to use her powers to do it, but Alex had wanted – no, had needed – something to do. He felt useless, like the proverbial third wheel, in the small apartment.
He and Maria had no powers, but at least she and Liz had that whole female-bonding-over-pregnancy thing going. Then, much to his amazement, Isabel had joined them. Before long, the three of them were huddled together, whispering and giggling, only breaking apart to let Max join Liz in her contractions. It was like a bizarre slumber party.
Now it was late. The giggling and story telling had long since ceased. Liz’s labor had intensified and Max wouldn’t leave her side long enough to let anyone else near. Alex was thankful he had this small task. If he had to just sit in that room and watch, he would go crazy. Liz was better… much better… than she had been 14 hours ago, but they all knew she wasn’t out of the woods yet.
Alex picked up the bowl and headed toward the bedroom. The iceman cometh….
Maria glanced up at Alex as he entered the room and gave him a small smile. They were all doing what they could. Alex had his ice; Maria was busy giving Liz a back rub. Liz was lying on her side, moaning every so often as Maria massaged the tense muscles in her lower back. Max was lying next to her, stroking her hair, her face, her arm, any part of her body that wasn’t covered in clothes.
Liz smiled appreciatively at Alex when he set the bowl down on the nightstand. Her smile changed to a slight frown when she noticed the tense appearance of his face. Max turned to see what had caused her change of expression and then looked more closely at Maria and then at Michael and Isabel, who were sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall. He sat up on the bed and cleared his throat. Michael lifted his chin from his chest and Isabel groggily lifted her own head from Michael’s shoulder.
“You don’t all have to be in here, you know. Why don’t you go get some sleep? I’ll let you know if we need anything.”
The four exchanged glances, then Maria shrugged. “We could take turns. Two of us nap now and the other two later?”
Everyone nodded in agreement.
Michael stood up. “Maria and I get the couch for now. We’ve been up the longest.” He took her hand and led her from the room.
Liz struggled to sit up and Max quickly placed a hand against her back to help. “If the rest of you are going to sit in here and stare at me, then I’m going to put you to work,” she announced. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and placed her feet on the floor.
Max scooted across the bed to sit beside her. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“I’m getting up. I’m going to walk around the room for a while and you guys are going to take turns helping.”
Liz exhaled loudly and turned her head to face him. “Max, my contractions are still five minutes apart. I read that sometimes walking around will speed things up a bit. And I am all for anything that gets this baby out of me a little quicker.”
“That’s a good idea, Liz.” Isabel spoke up from where she was laying on the floor. “Max, Alex, help her.” Her eyes drifted shut.
“Breathe, Liz. You have to breathe.” Maria glanced at Max. “You, too.”
Max managed a nod, trying to suck air through his teeth as he held Liz’s hand in a death grip. Liz didn’t even bother to respond to Maria’s orders. The contractions were down to just under two minutes apart, barely giving them time to recover before the next one hit.
Max felt Liz relax as the pain eased and he grabbed the last ice chip out of the bowl and popped it in her mouth. “I’m gonna get us some more ice while I can.”
He stood up slowly, taking a second to stretch his tired muscles, and walked to the kitchen. He pulled the bucket of ice chips from the freezer and dumped some in the bowl. Liz had recovered remarkably once they were able to get her level of dehydration down and Max was going to see to it that she stayed that way. He turned to head back to the bedroom when a wave of dizziness hit him. He dropped his head to keep the room from spinning any more, but felt his knees buckling beneath him all the same. He grabbed for the counter, dropping the bowl to the floor. An arm went around his waist, holding him up.
“You okay?” It was Alex.
“Yeah,” Max nodded. “Just turned around too fast or something.”
Alex looked him over with a critical eye. “I’m leaning towards the ‘or something’. You haven’t taken a break for a while. Why don’t you step outside and get some air?”
Max shook his head. “No. Liz doesn’t get a break; neither do I.”
“You passing out isn’t going to help her any either. She’s going to need you more in the next hour or two than she does right now.”
“Alex, I can’t miss a contraction.”
Alex clapped him on the shoulder. “Max, news flash for you: women on this planet have been having babies all by themselves for… I don’t even know… a million years? Now, twenty-four hours ago I would agree that you couldn’t leave Liz, but she’s stronger. I think she can handle a few minutes on her own.”
Max wearily rubbed one hand across his face. “Maybe you’re right. After this next contraction.”
“Just squeeze my hand, Liz.” Michael held her small hand in his own. Maria sat on the other side, clasping Liz’s other hand. She was debating pulling Max back into the apartment, but Liz was adamant that he take as long a break as possible.
“I’m… squeezing,” she panted. Michael briefly met Maria’s eyes. If this was as hard as she could squeeze then she didn’t have the strength of a gnat.
The pain was nearly overwhelming without Max there to help her. The room was tilting and the last thing she needed was to get sick again. She closed her eyes, trying to escape the feeling of vertigo. Her eyes flew back open. The room spun even more with them closed. She tried to train her eyes on the water stain on one corner of the ceiling.
She wished Max were with her. She needed their connection. She could handle all of the pain if only she could hear his soothing, calm voice whispering in her head. She just needed to have him near her.
Max sat on the ground, leaning against the building, as he stared up at the night sky. He was going to be a father. His mind was still coming to grips with that fact. He had known, of course, but actually being with Liz, seeing her, feeling their child moving inside of her… it just made it… real.
Panic suddenly struck him. A father? He didn’t know anything about being a father. The only children he ever saw were teenagers. Now there were going to be diapers and feedings in the middle of the night and crying… how would he ever stop her from crying if she couldn’t tell him *why * she was crying?
Deeper fears forced their way into his thoughts. How would he keep them safe? Liz… their daughter…. If the wrong people found out… how could he ever keep them safe?
His jaw tightened. His eyes grew cold… hard. He would. He just would. No matter what it took.
Max cursed silently as he let himself back in the apartment. Nearly fifteen minutes. He hadn’t meant to be gone for so long. The sound of Liz’s high-pitched breathing greeted his ears as he stepped through the door. He moved quickly toward the bedroom just as Isabel hurried into the hall.
“I was just coming to get you.”
He rushed past her and nearly shoved Michael aside as he knelt next to the bed and reached for her hand.
Her mind… her body… the impact nearly sent him sprawling. Intense pain traveled through his abdomen and then hit his back. He gasped involuntarily.
“It feels like my spine is going to snap in two,” Liz ground out between her teeth.
Max nodded dumbly, still trying to regain his senses. Isabel moved quickly to Maria’s side and helped her adjust the sheet over Liz’s legs while Michael threw the rest of the blankets in a pile in the corner. Alex sat on a chair on the other side of Liz, nervously chewing his bottom lip. Liz pulled in a deep breath. “I… have to….” She tilted her chin toward her chest and pushed as hard as she could.
~About 20 minutes later~
The pressure on her body was intense.
Liz could hear Maria and Isabel telling her to push again. She had been pushing… and pushing… and it was getting her nowhere.
Liz summoned up her remaining energy as Alex tilted her forward, assisting her as much as he could. She bore down, willing the baby to move… for about three seconds… then her head dropped back on the pillow. “I can’t. Max, I can’t. I’m not going to make it. I just can’t—“
It was happening. Just like he had feared. He was going to lose her.
“No! Liz, don’t even say such a thing. You’re going to get through this – both of you.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “I won’t let you leave me again.”
Liz’s head rolled back and forth on the pillow. “But I’m so tired.” She looked at Max, pleading with her eyes. “Please, Max. Just let me go to sleep.”
Another wave was building. Her body instinctively tried to respond. She pushed down feebly, but her mind was telling her it was over. Her vision was fading… growing gray… her friends were shadows. The blood pounding in her ears drowned out their voices until their encouragement… their begging… was gone.
“No.” Max’s voice was a hoarse whisper. He shook his head, eyes widening with realization even as he continued to deny it. “No! Liz!” He gripped her hand tighter, trying to force their connection. Nothing.
He swung his head toward his sister. “I don’t care what you have to do, get that baby out of her NOW!”
He turned back to Liz and pressed one hand against the side of her face as he held her own limp hand against his cheek. She couldn’t be gone. Not yet. Max knew he had heard… somewhere… that there was still brain activity for a short while, even after the heart had stopped beating.
“I promised. I promised I wouldn’t let anything happen to you.” He slowed his breathing. Tuning out the frenzied movements… the panicked voices… surrounding him. Blocked out the sound of Maria crying for Michael to do something….
A faint light glowed between the fingers he pressed against her face. Moments later, that same glow could be seen lighting Max’s cheek beneath her hand.
She shivered. It was cold. She remembered being cold a long time ago. At least she thought it was a long time ago. The last thing she remembered was burning up. Her insides had been burning up and the sweat had rolled off of her.
She lifted one hand to her hair. It didn’t *feel * sweaty. It felt soft and smooth. She smiled.
She shivered again. The ground underneath her was cold and hard. Like a bed of ice. Was she in bed? She strained her memory.
She tried to open her eyes. Weights. Someone had put weights over her eyes. Maybe they were pennies. So her eyes wouldn’t fly open during the funeral. Didn’t they used to do that?
But I’m not dead!
She forced her eyes open a crack. Blinding white light. It hurt. She closed her eyes. She would only open them a little. Just a little to a time until she got used to it. How could she be so close to the sun and still be so cold? She opened them again. Just a bit. Squeezing tight against the light.
It was better now. She closed her eyes briefly and then braced herself as she opened them again. A little more this time. They watered. A trickle from each eye, running down the side of her face and into her ears. It was too cold. Her skin would chap.
The doors stretched out on both sides of him. Max didn’t hesitate. He closed his eyes and started down the hall.
He reversed his direction and broke into a run. He skidded to a halt.
He looked up and down the hall. He couldn’t feel her anywhere.
She lay perfectly still. Her eyes moved from side to side. There was nothing to see. She struggled to sit up, bracing herself with her elbows.
It was familiar. Like she had been here before. A barren white landscape surrounded her as far as she could see. Which, she granted, wasn’t very far because the light was still blinding and her eyes were still watering. She looked down, trying to escape the light. Ice. She *was * lying on ice.
She lay back down. There wasn’t anything to see. She would just go back to sleep. She was sure that the next time she woke up, she would be somewhere else. Somewhere… warm. She frowned slightly. It seemed… it seemed like she was always looking for someplace warm.
She shrugged her shoulders a bit and closed her eyes.
“Don’t panic! Don’t panic!” Max stopped pacing and leaned against a wall, frantically looking up and down the hallway. He banged one fist down against the wall. “Focus!” he commanded.
He closed his eyes. “It’s her subconscious, but it’s organized… orderly.” He visualized all of the doors and despair started to creep back in to his mind.
It was no use. He would just have to start opening doors. He opened his eyes and turned to his left.
A moment ago there had been doors stretching on endlessly. Now it was growing dark. Like some unseen person was turning a dimmer switch. And the doors were fading… disappearing. Far down the hall it was already dark and the darkness was traveling toward him.
He swiveled his head to the right. It was still lit. He started jogging down the hallway, looking at each door as he passed, still hoping to feel her essence. He sensed the darkness coming up behind him and chanced a quick look over his shoulder. It was catching up. The light around him was fading. Her brain was shutting down.
“Caesarian,” offered Alex in between puffs of air. He was desperately trying to fill Liz’s lungs with his own.
Isabel shook her head as she paced. “I don’t know how it’s done.” She froze mid-step as she looked at Michael hopefully. The look in his eyes told her. “Then that’s out.” She resumed pacing.
“Wait,” Maria countered. “What difference does it make if you know *how * to do it? Can’t you just… do it?”
Michael shook his head. “No. We have to know what we’re looking for or have an idea of how to fix it.”
Isabel continued. “A caesarian involves cutting through muscle and tissue. There’d be a lot of bleeding to try and control… we could damage an organ or hurt the baby. I just don’t know enough about the procedure or anatomy… I’d be afraid of killing one or both of them.”
“But they’re already dying,” Maria exploded. “We have to do something.”
Max broke into a run. She had to be here. The room she was in would be the last to go dark.
He almost missed it. He was racing down the hall and he shot past the door even as his mind screamed at him to stop.
There was light shining through the crack at the bottom.
He rammed his shoulder against it as he turned the knob and fell into the room. He scrambled to his knees and slammed the door shut. He feared it was pointless, but he didn’t want to leave the door open to that utter blackness. If he could just shut it out for a few moments….
He could feel her here. It was faint, but it was Liz.
It was the same room. The same room she had almost died in before. He should have known. He looked to the overhang, but she wasn’t there.
He took a few steps away from the door, further out onto the glacier, as his eyes roamed over the unending blanket of ice and snow.
He saw her. She was lying out in the open… flat on her back, arms at her side… unprotected.
He rushed forward; eyes trained on her still form…
… and almost went headlong into a chasm.
His arms pinwheeled as he fought to regain his balance, then took two steps back. It was about twenty feet across. He carefully peered over the edge. He couldn’t see the bottom. He looked right and left. There didn’t seem to be an end to it or even a narrower spot where he could get across.
Time was running out.
|Part 14 | Index | Part 16|
|Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours|