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Summary: Post JTNY. Liz is getting sick, and her friendships are tested as the gang struggles to help her. No one is getting any sleep as Michael and Isabel start having strange dreams.
Authors Note: This was written before ARC, based on what Max said about not being able to just heal people in LN. As always, your feedback is much appreciated.
|Liz laid down, and pulled her shirt up as high as modesty permitted. The
pants Maria had brought her had an elastic waistband in it, and they were
easily pulled down to her hips. Four of the six of them stared in silent
shock at the silver handprint that was glowing brightly on the bare skin of
her abdomen. Alex and Maria had never seen one before, and the only one
Michael and Isabel had seen had been on a corpse whose flesh was stark white
and waxy looking. Seeing it for the first time on the vibrant living skin
of their friend kept them immobile for a few seconds.|
"Liz," Maria breathed.
"Oh my god," Alex joined in as he reached out his fingers. Stopping just short, he looked at his friend's calm brown eyes. "Does it hurt?" She shook her head. "Can I?" He let the question trail off, but she knew what he was asking. She nodded, and watched as he lightly touched the silvered skin. "Wow. It's warm."
"Liz, where'd you get that?" Maria asked stupidly.
"Max tried to heal me back in the hospital."
Predictably, the admission sent Maria off again. "Great. Just pumping you full of more Cadmium-X in case the first dose wasn't enough."
Max was startled at Maria's accusation as much as her bitter tone and looked at her. He was surprised at the anger he saw gathering on her face. He started to say something, but Liz beat him to it.
"You already think this lump was caused by him using his powers on you, and you let him use them again? Liz, where is your brain!?"
Liz sat up and confronted her friend. "Of course I did! Did you think I just woke up this morning looking for an excuse to have myself operated on? Wake up, Maria! If he could fix this-whatever it is-that simply, then we had to know. We had to try. The possibility of getting more Cadmium-X in my system was an acceptable risk."
"An acceptable risk?" Maria couldn't believe her ears.
Alex piped in, "Yeah, it's like peeing in the ocean. It's bad, yes, but with all the other pee out there already, does it really make a difference? No." He glanced up and saw Isabel staring at him in shock. "Did I just say that out loud?"
Liz hadn't taken her eyes off Maria. She knew her friend was still upset, but she didn't know what to do about it. "Maria..."
"Just forget it, Liz." Maria turned away, but stopped to tell Max, "If anything happens to her, I swear to God, you'll regret it."
She huffed away, unable to stay and watch as they all played doctor on her friend, a little miffed at the emptiness of her threat. If anything were to happen to Liz, Maria knew that Max would live in his guilt for the rest of his life. Talk about feeling useless. This whole thing just sucked.
Isabel came to stand at Liz's head. "Do you want to be awake or asleep?"
"Ok. I think I can connect with you to the point of being able to block the receptors in your brain that process sensation. You won't be able to feel anything. If it starts to not work, I'm putting you to sleep, ok?"
"Ok." Liz agreed.
"This shouldn't take long," Max assured them. "We'll be as fast as we can."
"Not too fast," Alex admonished nervously.
"We'll be careful," Max assured him. "Ready?" he asked Michael.
"Yeah," the other boy answered as he passed his hand over the few instruments they thought they might need, causing them to glow a deep red, instantly sterilized. "Let's do it."
Max looked back to Isabel. "Whenever you say you're ready..."
His sister nodded and took a deep breath. Closing her eyes, she focused all of her energy for a moment. Then, locking eyes with Liz, she laid her cool hands on either side of the other girl's face. "Just take deep breaths..." ...and try to let your mind blank out. Liz almost smiled at the memory the thought provoked, but this was no time to be distracted. Focusing on breathing, and relaxing her muscles and mind, Liz allowed herself to sink into Isabel's warm gaze. She was hypnotized by the power she could see swimming in them, causing them to burn and sparkle. Isabel's eyes were beautiful and so much like her brothers'...
*Thank you.* She felt the alien's thoughts brush against the back of her mind and wasn't surprised that she'd heard her unspoken compliment.
After the space of one breath then two, she felt a tingling begin in her toes that swiftly worked its way up her legs. Simultaneously, another tingling was in her fingers headed up her arms. Her muscles began to tense in reaction. *I've got you, Liz. Just let it go. Don't fight against it.*
Complying to Isabel's request was probably the hardest thing she'd ever done, but she'd put her trust in her friend, and knew that she was right. Another steadying breath, and her tense muscles slowly unclenched. The tingling was burning across her torso now and into her head until Liz thought she was going to go insane. Her need to move, to fight back the sensation was nearly overpowering, but the focus of Isabel's eyes into hers calmed her. Soon, the tingling was gone and in its place was... nothing.
*It's working, Isabel.* Liz told her.
*Ok, let's test it. Which one of your ankles is Alex touching?*
*I don't know. I can't feel anything in my ankles.*
*Where is Max's left hand?*
Liz didn't need to think before responding. *It's holding my hand. His thumb is stroking against mine.*
*You can feel it?* Isabel asked.
*Of course I can. He's putting his right hand on my stomach... No, it's not quite touching me. Wait...* Liz took a deeper breath, one that caused her diaphragm to extend outward slightly, completing the contact between her skin and Max's. *There.*
Isabel held back her amazement enough to ask, *Where are Michael's hands?*
Liz's answer came a little slower this time but not much. *His left hand is on my arm, near the elbow. He's got his right hand hooked on his belt loop. He's watching us. They both are.*
*But you can't tell where Alex is?* Isabel asked perplexed. What had turned into a simple test to see if Liz's nerve endings had been deadened had turned into something more. Liz was telling her things that had nothing to do with physical contact.
"Isabel? Are you ready?" Max's voice was soft in the silence.
Without breaking eye contact with Liz she replied, "I think so. Alex reach up and pinch her." Max stared to move his right hand but Isabel stopped him. "No, it has to be Alex."
The teenager was happy to comply. "See, I knew I'd come in handy." He said as he moved up and lightly tweaked the soft skin on Liz's belly.
*Did you feel that.*
"Do it again, harder this time."
Alex reluctantly followed her instructions. He knew they had to be sure that Isabel's powers were working. If Liz could still feel anything when they opened her up, she wouldn't thank him for his restraint now.
"Ok, Max. We're ready."
Taking a deep breath, Max sent up a quick prayer. This had to work. He slowly waved his hand across Liz abdomen and an incision appeared. It was completely clean, and there was very little bleeding. Another pass, and the tissues that hid the unknown lump parted so that he could get to it. There it was. Nearly the size of a large marble, it was dark in color. All in all, it looked intrusive there in her body. He was more than ready to get rid of the thing all together. But first things first. He glanced at Liz's face. She was showing no reaction at all, relaxed under Isabel's spell. He held out his hand and looked to Michael.
Michael's stomach was churning at the sight he couldn't seem to tear his eyes away from. Echoing Maria's sentiment from earlier, Michael was suddenly sick. Here they were, three aliens doing experiments on a human. What were they doing?
Max caught his attention. He looked up and found his friend's eyes. Max was waiting. For what? "Oh. Right. Sorry," he mumbled as he reached over for the hellishly sharp blade he'd sterilized earlier. He quickly handed it to Max. It was a good thing that Liz couldn't feel anything, Michael thought. He's been unknowingly squeezing Liz's arm tight enough to leave bruises.
Since the mass didn't respond to his powers, Max had anticipated the need for something to cut a sample off with. He quickly used the knife to slice off a pea-sized chunk of the blackish lump. As much as he wanted to get rid of the whole thing, if Liz was going back to the hospital to be treated, it would still need to be in there when she went.
He handed the knife back to Michael, who passed him a pair of tweezers in return and held out a Petrie dish. After placing the sample in the dish, he handed the tweezers back. Using his powers again, Max slowly, carefully closed the two incisions he'd made. As soon as it was done, he released the rigid hold he'd kept on himself, and laid his head against her. Closing his eyes, he let her heat soak into him. His legs were shaking so badly it was a wonder he could even stand. Her arm crept up to cradle his head against her stomach. She lightly stroked his hair.
Seeing that Isabel was still connected with Liz, Michael said quietly, his voice a little rougher than usual, "It's over. We're all done."
*Yeah. Go ahead.* Liz braced herself, but it still wasn't enough. The painful tingling rushed throughout her entire body as sensation returned to her deadened nerve endings. With a gasp, she arced her back off the table, her entire body going stiff.
"What's happening?!" Alex shouted.
"What's wrong?" Max and Michael's cries brought Maria back into the room.
"Oh my god! What's happening to her?!"
Liz couldn't bring herself to answer them. It was all she could do just to grit her teeth and ride it out. Isabel answered for her. "It's ok. She's just getting sensation back. You know like when your foot falls asleep. Or your hand, only it's her whole body."
The worst of it passed and Liz rasped out. "I'm fine. It's getting better. Just give me a minute here." After another minute, Liz was able to breathe easier. She sat up and pointing to the Petrie dish said, "Well, now that the hard part is done, let's see if we can't figure out what that thing is."
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