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know but had to do it. :-)|
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.
|For the second time in as many days, Michael found himself sneaking into
Max's window in the middle of the night. Stepping over Liz's small form
that was curled up in his sleeping bag on the floor, he reached out and
shook Max's shoulder.|
The other boy sat up in a rush, preparing to use his powers if need be.
Michael jumped back, holding his hands up. "It's just me," he whispered.
"Yeah. I had another dream." He felt the weight of the world on his shoulders as he said, "It's almost time. One more day. Two at most."
"So much for the warning," Max whispered as he quietly got out of bed. "Let's go outside to talk." In the shorts and t-shirt he'd worn to sleep in for Liz's modesty as much as for his, he padded across the room to his dresser.
At the sound of the drawer opening, Liz made a small sound and rolled over onto her back, drawing both their eyes to her.
"God, would you look at that?" Michael barely breathed the words out, but they carried clearly across the room to Max. Max walked over to look at her, afraid of what he might see. Was she worse? They'd left the school just after twelve. Liz had been literally falling asleep over her beakers. They still hadn't pinpointed the origin of the lump, but she couldn't work anymore, so they'd all agreed to meet back there first thing in the morning.
Looking at her now, Max's breath caught in his lungs. The sleeping bag had apparently gotten too warm for her because she'd pushed it down so that it only covered her from her hips down. She was wearing the same thin t-shirt she'd been in earlier, and the silver handprint was glowing brightly underneath the fabric. This time, as they looked at the mark, it was brighter, actually illuminating the room around her. The edges of the handprint had become blurred, indistinct. Most of her stomach was glowing softly now. "It looks like its spreading."
"Probably from earlier. When I used my powers in the biolab, my hand wasn't on just one spot, but on the whole area."
"I hope so, Maxwell. If that spreads to the rest of her, we're going to have trouble hiding it."
"Cave living is looking better and better all the time."
In minutes, Max was dressed, and the two of them were sneaking back out of the window.
They walked in silence toward the front of the house. Each one of them was preoccupied with the impending problems. After a minute, Max said, "Let's go for a drive."
"So," Michael asked once they were on their way, "how is it that Liz was the one who wound up on the floor?"
Max rolled his eyes. "Don't ask."
"No really. I gotta hear this. If it were Maria and I and we had your nice big, comfortable bed, you can bet your ass neither one of us would be on the floor."
"Sharing wasn't an option, and Liz figured it would be safer if I was in my bed, in case anyone came barging in looking for her."
"Great plan. Unless, of course, someone happens to look down. So, what, she's going to suddenly become invisible down there on the floor?"
"Something like that."
Max's wry assessment caught Michael's attention. "What do you mean?"
Max told him about how Liz had hidden herself from the sheriff earlier using her powers.
"Wow. So, she can do that thing that Tess can do?"
"Yeah, I guess."
A moment passed, and Max asked, "Speaking of you and Maria, how are things between you?"
Michael sighed wearily. "Better. I think. The girl is so prickly, half the time I don't know whether I'm coming or going with her, you know?"
"So, the two of you haven't had a chance to be... close, you know, since the whole Courtney thing?"
"I haven't kissed Maria, I mean really kissed her since Nasedo came to town."
"Do you want to?" Max asked tentatively. He didn't like what he was thinking, but as long as it was inevitable...
"Hell yes. I miss her like crazy. I didn't know it was possible to see someone everyday and still miss her this much."
"Yeah." Max agreed. He missed Liz like that, too. "Uh, Michael. What's keeping you from getting back together with her?"
"Her right hook? I don't know, Maxwell. She was so mad over me kissing Courtney, and the whole scene at her apartment isn't anything I want to go through again."
Michael reluctantly explained the circumstances that led him to being caught with a nearly naked Courtney at her apartment. "Maria was already pissed that I had kissed Courtney, but then she came out of the bathroom wearing that towel and... Maria just got this look on her face. She wouldn't even listen to any explanation. Just announced that we were through and walked away."
"Can you blame her?"
"She could have at least listened," Michael defended himself. "I wasn't there because I was attracted to Courtney. I went there because I was suspicious of her and wanted to check her out. Maria knows that."
"Yeah but look at it from her perspective for a minute. You pushed her away all summer. She's repeatedly tried to get you to come back to her, but you just keep pushing. She has no idea where she stands with you. I mean, have you ever once told her how you feel about her?"
"Yeah," Michael firmly stated. Max glanced at him knowingly out of the corner of his eye, causing him to amend it to: "Sort of. I guess."
"Michael, telling someone that you love them while breaking up with them doesn't count."
Michael let out a frustrated sigh.
"So here she is, you've told her repeatedly to leave you alone, and suddenly, you're caught kissing another woman who happens to be completely undressed. What was she supposed to think? Can you imagine what she was feeling?"
"I guess you've got a point. I suppose I can't even blame Alex for trying to kick my ass."
Max was amused at the thought of Alex picking a fight with anyone, let alone an alien who was bigger and stronger than he was. "Alex?"
"Yeah. He came to my apartment to lecture me on having hurt Maria, as if I wasn't already feeling bad enough. And Courtney just happened to walk in right in the middle of his tirade. The next thing I knew, I was sitting on my ass on the floor with a stinging jaw." Max was chuckling at the absurdity of Alex taking on Michael and winning. Michael defended himself by saying, "Well, he caught me by surprise, and he packs a pretty good punch."
"What did Liz do to you?" Max asked, still chuckling. He knew that Liz would also rally around her friend. Michael wouldn't have stood a chance against her.
"Actually nothing. She was pretty scarce back then. That was back when she was still working for Whitaker, just before you guys went to Copper Summit. Afterward, when she was back to working at the CrashDown, she didn't have much to say to anyone... What the HELL! Max! What are you doing?" Michael was holding on for dear life as Max suddenly slammed on the brakes and pulled off the side of the road. "What the hell is wrong with you?" Michael asked angrily as soon as the Jeep had come to a standstill.
Ignoring him, Max asked urgently, "Michael, when did this happen? The night the Maria caught you and Courtney at her apartment. When was it?"
Michael gave him the date, and clarified it by adding, "I figured out that Courtney was a Skin the next day, and the day after that was when we heard about Copper Summit and the Skins covering up Whittaker's death."
His explanation was unnecessary. Max knew exactly what time frame it fit into. It was the day before the Gomez concert in Santa Fe. "Jesus," he whispered as events fell into place like dominoes. Liz had been trying to push him away from her and toward Tess for two days, first with the set-up outside the CrashDown, then with the 'Let-me-go' speech she'd passionately delivered in his bedroom the following night. No wonder Maria had been so down when he'd gone to her for advice that night. He'd been so wrapped up in his own misery that he hadn't even noticed hers. (Some friend he was.) But Alex had, and Liz would have, too.
Max knew without a doubt that Maria had related to her best friend what she'd seen that night. Liz would have empathized with her. It might have even involved ice cream...
Well, now he knew where Liz had gotten the idea of having him catch her in a compromising position with someone else. Getting Kyle to help her had probably been easy. And he'd bought it: hook, line and sinker. Well, almost.
Max didn't know whether to laugh or hit something. As far as he was concerned, this clinched it. He now knew beyond any doubt that he'd been right about her all along. Liz hadn't betrayed him. She hadn't slept with Kyle. Hell, now that he thought about it, they hadn't even been touching each other when he'd spied them through the windows. At all. Not fingers, not toes, and nothing in between. Not exactly the actions of new lovers.
But why? The question haunted him. Why had she done it? There had to be more than a simple desire to push him away. And, plus, there was the whole thing about the granilith. How did it fit into this picture? Had it been controlling her somehow? Had she gotten flashes from it like she had the orb? Had it forced her to do what she did?
"Maxwell, why the hell are we stopped here?" Michael's worried voice suddenly interrupted his train of thought. "Are you ok?"
"Yeah," Max answered as he restarted the Jeep.
"Nothing. I just had a thought, is all." He pulled out on the road, and headed back toward his house.
After a minute, in order to distract himself from the endless unanswerable questions he had about Liz, he asked, "What did you dream about tonight?"
Michael filled him in on what little he knew about the coming meeting. There would only one emissary this time, someone that Max had met before in New York.
"What does he want?"
"I don't know. Just to talk to you. The dream wasn't that specific." He fidgeted a little. Finally, he said, "Look, I know we agreed that meeting with anyone was a bad idea, but I think we should go. Hear what he has to say. Maybe get some answers for a change."
Max nodded thoughtfully. "I was thinking the same thing. If he really wants to talk that badly, then turning him down could be dangerous. He could possess anyone and catch us off guard at any time. At least now, we're prepared. And besides, I'm looking for a few answers myself."
As they were pulling into the driveway, Max asked, "Can I ask you a personal question?" Curious, Michael agreed, so Max asked, "When you were with Maria, did you ever get flashes from her?"
"Yeah, sometimes. It's been a while, like I said." They climbed out of the Jeep and began walking toward Max's bedroom.
"Remember how it was with me when Liz was getting the flashes that led us to finding the orb?"
"I remember how you couldn't keep your hands off each other for thirty seconds at a time," he smirked, using humor to mask how uncomfortable he was with this topic.
"No, I meant, remember how I was afraid that she would think I was using her? How I didn't want to push her into something neither one of us was ready for?"
"Is there a point here, Maxwell?"
"Well, with the emissary coming, I'd like to be as prepared as possible. There's a piece of information I don't have that I should, and I want to ask your help in getting it, if possible."
"Are you talking about the granilith?" Michael asked. Max nodded. "Have you officially lost it?! I'm in the doghouse with Maria as it is over kissing Courtney, and now you want me to kiss Liz? Are you trying to get me killed?"
"WHAT?!? No! Michael, I'm not asking you to kiss Liz. In fact, if I ever find out that your lips have been anywhere her, I will personally drop you in the middle of the next alien infested town we find and leave you there."
"Then what are we talking about here?"
"Maria. I want you to kiss Maria, not Liz."
"But you said that Liz is the one who knows something about the granilith. What good could kissing Maria do? Why don't you go kiss Liz?"
"I'm betting that Maria knows at least part of what Liz knows about the granilith. You know how close those two are. And the way she knew right away today at lunch what I was talking about with protecting the granilith. She knows something, I'm sure of it."
Taking a step closer, Max said, "Look, Michael, I'm not asking you to do anything you don't want to do. For what it's worth, I think you're crazy for not trying to get her back. You should be making the most of every moment you have, not wasting it over some stupid misunderstanding."
"You're a fine one to talk. What about you and Liz?"
"I'm not the one keeping us apart. I've done everything and said everything I could think of to get her to come back to me. I didn't give up until the night I caught her with Kyle. Even now, if she were to come to me tomorrow and say she wanted to be with me again, I'd take her back, no questions asked, and just be grateful for the chance to hold her in my arms again, however long it lasts. But for some reason that just isn't going to happen." Max sighed. "I don't want to hurt either you or Maria. If being close to her again isn't something you want to do, than don't do it. You guys are more important to me than getting some stupid piece of information on the granilith.
"Liz has already told me that it's powerful, and that we should protect it from our enemies. That's all I need to know. She would have told me if her secret is a danger to us, so I don't think that whatever the girls know is vital. On the other hand, I can't stop being curious about it."
They were approaching his window as he said, "Just... think about it Michael. If you decide to wise up and take advantage of your time here with the woman you love, then I'll be happy for both of you. And if you happen to discover whatever it is that Liz is keeping from me, I'd appreciate it if you'd tell me."
"Of course," Michael agreed. By tacit agreement, they dropped the subject as they climbed back into Max's bedroom. Liz was still laying right where they'd left her, undisturbed by their coming and going. That alone spoke volumes about how exhausted she was. Of how much the illness was taking from her, and both boys were aware of it.
The handprint was still glowing brightly against her shirt. Michael stood over her and marveled briefly at how much she trusted them. Her courage continued to amaze him. He knew the worst was yet to come, and he wondered how long she would hold out before it broke her. He found himself cheering for her. He couldn't think of any other human who would react as she had to everything she'd been through during the last several hours. "She's pretty incredible, isn't she?" he asked.
Max, who was sitting on the edge of his bed, also watching her, answered hoarsely, "Yeah."
"You sure got lucky when you fell for her."
"Keep your lips to yourself, Guerin."
Michael just smirked at his friend's jealousy. Sobering, he asked, "What are we going to do? I mean if it is the Cadmium-X doing this to her?"
"I don't know. You don't need to worry, though. She won't go to any doctor. She's already told me that she won't do anything to bring suspicion back on us again."
"I know. I figured she would have said something like that, but what can we do? We can't just let her die from this." Michael sat on the floor next to her and said, "She must be so scared."
"That's the weirdest thing of all," Max said. "She not."
"Why not?" Michael was perplexed.
"I wish I knew." Max rubbed the back of his neck to try and relieve the tension that was gathering there. "I've thought of going to the sheriff, but decided we should hold off telling him for a while."
Michael looked up sharply, a sudden thought occurring to him. "Kyle."
Max nodded. "If this was brought on from me healing her, then Kyle could possibly be getting sick, too. I figured we should wait until we know for sure before saying anything."
"Good idea." Michael shuddered, imagining the other boy's reaction to this. Their secret would be on the nine o'clock news and all over America when the papers hit the following morning. Michael gulped, "Max, we are so screwed."
"Maybe. Let's not panic until we know for sure. Kyle is not high on my list of things to worry about right now. Between Liz, the emissary and Isabel's dreams, I've got my hands full."
Back in his apartment, Michael lay staring up at the ceiling, thinking about Maria. The talk he'd had with Max had made him finally admit that he was being stupid. What had been keeping the two of them apart? he wondered. Was it because he'd been afraid Maria would reject him again or was it because he'd been unable to form an apology like a normal person? Max was right. Here he'd been wasting all this time that he could have been spending with Maria because they were both too stubborn for their own good. Starting tomorrow, he was going to put an end to this nonsense once and for all. He just hoped it wasn't too late.
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