|"Strong, Dangerous & Undeniable"|
Disclaimer: The characters belong to M. Metz, J. Katims, and The WB. I'm only gently leading them where I'd like them to go.|
Summary: This story begins with the scene in MITC when Liz does her astral projection thing. It follows along with everything in the show up to that point, and goes on to explore Liz's powers, and to resolve the obstacles in the path of her being together with Max.
|Liz was not looking forward to doing this. She was still very leery of this whole alien powers thing to begin with, and she
especially dreaded the thought of connecting with Tess. She really didn't want the other girl in her head. And the mind warp kind
of creeped her out. It just seemed so deceitful. She thought maybe she just perceived it that way because of the way Tess had
used it last year to manipulate Max. Liz decided then and there that if she did have this ability, she wouldn't use it unless it
somehow became an absolute necessity.|
Tess had her own reasons for not wanting to do this. She didn't want to find out that Liz had alien abilities. Tess felt that her only value to the group lay in the fact that she was able to do things the others couldn't do. They had finally started to make her feel included within their ranks, but she was afraid they still didn't have any particular fondness for her. Liz was an established member of their group, and if they found out that she was capable of the same powers that Tess, herself was, then what would they even need with her?
Tess looked over at Max, trying not to let her longing show in her eyes. He had just begun to warm up to her, and she'd thought they were finally beginning to get somewhere. She was afraid that their fragile relationship was doomed if he found out that the love of his life had the abilities she would need to stand by his side and help him fight their enemies. The thing with Kyle had been one of only two things that was keeping the two of them apart, and Max had told them that he had forgiven Liz for that. Tess had felt secure in the knowledge that the second thing that stood in their way was something that only she, herself could provide for Max. And that was her power. As a human, Liz would never be able to offer Max what he would need in the fight for their people. Now it looked as if that would no longer be an obstacle either.
As she watched Liz walk across the cove towards her, Tess thought that she could only hope that Liz would be unable to do this without her. Then they would still need her around.
Tess made a small sound of disgust at herself. When did I become so pathetic, she wondered.
Liz forced herself to move toward Tess by telling herself that connecting with her would be a good opportunity to find out how she really felt about Max. She cast a glance over at Maria to find her returning the look with one of sympathy. Maria grimaced and rolled her eyes, and Liz smiled, knowing her best friend knew exactly how she felt.
When she reached Tess' side, she pushed her hair behind her ear, and asked uncertainly, "So, um, what should I do?"
Tess glanced at Max, before looking back at Liz and shrugging. "I guess we should try and form a connection first."
She held out her hand and Liz hesitated a beat before reaching for it. She looked around nervously to find everyone focused on her and Tess like they were the main event at a boxing match. She threw Max a pleading look, and he interpreted it immediately.
"Why don't we give them a little time, and go practice on our own for a while," he suggested. "Someone should go up top and keep watch, too."
Everyone nodded and moved away.
When Max turned to go, Liz called desperately, "Um, Max? Would you mind--Could you stay?"
He gave her a soft look of understanding. "Sure," he said, and touched her back briefly in reassurance. "You'll need someone to do this on, anyway."
She smiled at him in gratitude, then looked quickly over at Tess to check her reaction. Earlier at the Crashdown, she'd almost completely forgotten that they were supposed to be feeling Tess out, so Liz tried to read the other girl now. She didn't know whether to feel relieved or disappointed that Tess seemed to readily accept Max's excuse for staying.
She simply pursed her lips, then asked, "You ready?"
Liz nodded reluctantly.
The two girls looked into each other's eyes and concentrated on forming a connection. Tess considered blocking Liz's attempts to connect with her, but thought it might look suspicious, since Liz had had no problem connecting with the rest of them. Besides, as much as she disliked the idea, she really needed to find out what Liz's capabilities were. Nacedo had always taught her that it was best to know your enemies. While 'enemy' might be too strong a word in regards to Liz, she felt that the sentiment still applied.
It took several minutes before anything happened, and Liz took that time to push her thoughts firmly into hiding. Suddenly she was pulled inside Tess' head forcibly. Flashes flew in such rapid succession before her, that Liz wasn't able to comprehend them, but only get impressions of who they involved. Images of Max, Kyle, Nacedo, and Sheriff Valenti blended together in a confusing cacophony of sight and sound.
While watching the images flash past, Liz found that she was standing on a surface that felt extremely unstable. She stepped back in alarm, and the sudden movement made it abruptly give way beneath her, giving her the sinking sensation of falling. She came to a plunging halt only to become submerged in a liquid maelstrom of emotion. She tried to stay afloat, as feelings of confusion, conflict, loneliness, and desperate hope pulled her along in their undercurrents to a place where she became mired in an emotion that was thicker than the others. Liz knew instinctively that this was what Tess was feeling in the present moment, and the feel of it made her heart pound in a rhythm that perfectly matched Tess'. Because Tess was feeling threatened. By Liz.
Liz's fear made her falter, and her head went under the surface of the bubbling emotions. The suffocating feeling of drowning had Liz breaking the connection abruptly with a gasp.
Breathing heavily, Liz looked at Tess searchingly. Tess returned her look with one of confusion.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
Liz shook her head as if clearing it, and answered, "N-nothing. Sorry. I guess I just lost my concentration."
She took in Tess' cool blonde looks as if she'd never seen them before. She'd always thought that Tess was too much like Nacedo, who had shown no human emotion whatsoever. Who could have ever guessed at all that seethed underneath Tess' emotionless facade? And it was hard to believe that she felt uncertain of her position here. Tess had always seemed completely self-assured and confident. Liz suddenly recalled the comment Tess had made to her at Kyle's house about knowing how everyone hated her. Did she still feel that way, Liz worried. Max had said they'd been making her feel included, but her emotions seemed to suggest that she still didn't feel as if she belonged. Everything depended on them making her feel secure here.
Liz got even more nervous about doing this, knowing how it was adding to Tess' feelings of insecurity. So, should she refuse to do this, Liz wondered uncertainly.
She glanced up at Max, and he read the uneasiness in her gaze. "Are you okay?" he asked, his forehead wrinkled in concern.
"Yeah, um, I'm fine. I just..don't know if I'm ready for this," Liz replied.
"No one is going to push you, Liz. You don't have to do this," he said softly.
Liz hesitated, and was surprised to hear Tess say reassuringly, "Don't be scared, Liz. We'll both be right here. Let's just see if you can do this."
She looked at Tess curiously, knowing that her words were in a direct contrast to what she was thinking. Liz tried to figure out her motives, but came up with nothing. Trying to second guess her, Liz finally decided that the best way to reassure Tess would be to show her that she couldn't do this without her. She could only hope that that was truly the case, or the decision could backfire on her. Then again, she could be worrying for nothing. She might not be able to do this at all.
Finally, Liz nodded her assent.
She and Tess looked at each other and focused on opening the connection once more. When they had connected, Liz tried to go no further than the surface of Tess' emotions this time, and to just focus on what the other girl was telling her to do.
She had to do this by getting into someone's head and making them think they were seeing something that wasn't really there. Since Max was the only one whose presence she could sense mentally, he was really the only one she could try the mind warp on. Liz was hesitant to do this to him, though. It just seemed so wrong.
Sensing her reluctance, Max reassured her softly, "It's okay, Liz. I trust you."
His words caused Tess to look at him sharply, and Liz tried once again to read what she was thinking. She thought she saw surprise and maybe even sadness in the other girl's light blue eyes, but Tess quickly masked her reaction. She looked back at Liz, expressionless, and Liz sighed, then turned her attention toward the task before her.
She took a moment to decide what kind of illusion to create, then reached out to find Max's mind, entering into it easily once she'd found it. Her eyes slid shut in concentration, and after studying her for a moment, Tess followed suit.
Max watched the two frozen figures before him, and waited in curiosity to see if Liz would be capable of this ability. When nothing had happened after several minutes, he began to wonder if she couldn't do it, and he looked around searchingly to see if something was happening that he hadn't noticed. His search was interrupted when he heard someone walking up behind him, and he turned to see Michael approaching.
When Michael had reached him he said, "I need to talk to you for a second, Maxwell."
"Michael, can't this wait? We're kind of in the middle of something," Max said in slight exasperation.
"This is important, okay," Michael replied. "I've been wanting to say something to you since you got back from New York, but we haven't had a chance to talk privately. I'm sure Tess and Liz can get along without you for 3 minutes," he ended sarcastically.
When Max didn't respond immediately, he said, "Please, Max."
Max looked at him in surprise. For Michael to say please, it really must be important, he thought.
He glanced at the girls, and Liz opened her eyes to look up at him, and said, "You might as well go ahead, Max. Even if I can do this, it may take me awhile. It seems kind of hard. Maybe Tess can give me some pointers while you're gone."
"Okay. Yell when you get ready."
He and Michael walked away a few feet and turned to face each other.
"What is it, Michael?" he asked.
Michael took a deep breath as if gearing up for something. "This is hard for me to say," he said, and squinted a bit as he rubbed at his eyebrow. Clearing his throat nervously, he said, "Okay, here goes. I want to...apologize. For, you know, always giving you such a hard time."
Max's eyes widened. He certainly hadn't expected to hear anything like that come out of Michael's lips.
Michael's eyes darted away uncomfortably, and he continued haltingly. "I know things haven't been easy. For you I mean, since we found out you're the leader of our planet. And I guess I probably haven't made things any easier- with all my Fearless Leader crap. Anyway, I just wanted to say...I'm sorry."
Max just couldn't believe what he was hearing. His close call in New York must have really affected Michael. Who knew that all it would take was one little near-death experience to bring Michael around?
"And, uh, I'm not going to fight you- every step of the way anymore. I'm not promising anything, but I am gonna try to listen whenever you make a decision. And- I want you to know, from now on..." Michael dropped to one knee before Max, and crossed his forearm across his chest, his closed fist resting over his heart.
Max's jaw dropped in astonishment.
"I will be your humble servant," Michael continued, bowing his head low. "Your Majesty."
Max stood gaping in disbelief, waiting for Michael to deliver the punch line...then sudden comprehension dawned. He looked to the spot where Tess and Liz stood to find them in the same position he'd seen them in before Michael appeared. Smiles played across their lips. Suddenly they opened their eyes to look at each other, and both collapsed into giggles. The image of Michael in front of him vanished.
Max couldn't help but chuckle, himself. Shaking his head, he looked across the way to see Michael sitting next to Maria at the water's edge. He looked back to the spot where the illusion of Michael had bowed before him, and said wistfully, "Isn't there any way to make that happen for real? I mean, what's the use of even having powers if the three of us together can't manage to pull off a minor miracle like that?"
Laughingly, Liz asked, "Well, have you ever just asked Michael to call you 'Your Majesty', Max?"
"Yeah, Max," Tess took up the joke readily, "Michael's not completely unreasonable. I'm sure if you just asked him politely, he wouldn't have a problem with it."
"I can't imagine why I never thought of that," Max said dryly.
"What's going on over here? I thought we were supposed to be working," Michael complained, as he and Maria came over to join them.
Their laughter came to an abrupt halt, and they tried to hide their smiles as Liz replied innocently, "Nothing's going on, Michael."
His brows lowered, and he asked, "So what's the joke?"
"Oh, Liz and Tess were just giving me pointers on leadership etiquette," Max said facetiously.
Liz nodded her head once. With features drawn in seriousness, she said, "Right. Like, 'always remember to be polite'."
"Yeah," Tess added, "and 'never be afraid to ask for what you want. You might be surprised at the results'."
Michael looked suspiciously from one to the other as a few snickers escaped.
Looking at them curiously, Maria drawled, "Riiiight."
Max cleared his throat and shrugged. "Guess you had to be there," he said.
Giving them one last look that said he was aware he wasn't being let in on the joke, Michael let the matter drop. "So did she do it? Could she do the mind warp?" he asked.
"Yeah. She did it," Max replied with a small smile at Liz.
Tess watched Liz return Max's smile and said grudgingly, "She did well for her first try."
A budding feeling of companionship had sprung up between them in the aftermath of their shared laughter. For once, Tess had been in on the joke, rather than being the one who was left out to look on in confusion. As much as she hated to admit it, she felt a warmth toward Liz for making her feel included, and reluctant appreciation shone in her eyes. Liz saw it and smiled tentatively at her.
Isabel had come down from the bank top in time to hear Max tell them that Liz had been successful at the mind warp, and now she asked, "So, what next?"
Liz looked at Max questioningly and said, "Well, I could try and do a crossover like you said before. You know, like I could try and do the mind warp while connected to someone besides Tess."
"Why don't you try it with me," Isabel suggested. "We could also see if you can do the dreamwalk, or whatever it was, again. Max said you couldn't do it yesterday with him or Michael. We should make sure the only reason you couldn't do it was because you have to be connected with me."
"Yeah," Liz agreed. "We should find out whether I can reach anyone besides Max, too."
"Why don't we go over here and give it a little distance," Isabel said, inclining her head towards a spot across the clearing.
Liz followed willingly, and when they were several yards away from the group, Isabel turned to face her with an uncharacteristically nervous expression.
"It wasn't really necessary to move away from the others, but I wanted to talk to you for a second," she began.
"Isabel, I know what you're going to say, and it's okay," Liz interrupted. "Max explained everything to me, and I understand. Don't worry about it, okay?"
Unwilling to just let it go, Isabel said sincerely, "I really am sorry, Liz. I didn't mean to break a trust. I just figured you had already told him. I assumed that's what you meant you were going to do when you said we had to make everything okay."
"Well, I wanted to tell him. I was just afraid, you know? It's funny, but now that he knows, I mostly just feel relieved."
"I know exactly what you mean. I was keeping something from Max, too, and when Lonnie told him about it, I felt the same way."
"Yeah, the Vilondra thing?"
Isabel looked at her in surprise, her eyes questioning.
"Oh, I got flashes. Mostly from Max, but one from Michael, and vague impressions from you," Liz explained apologetically. "I'm sure I don't know the whole story, but I think I've got the gist. Sorry," she added with a wince and a half-shrug.
"Hey, who am I to object?" Isabel asked with amusement. "You know, we'd better not make a habit out of all this connection stuff, or none of us will have any secrets left."
Liz smiled sadly and said, "Yeah, well, secrets aren't really such a great thing to have."
"Yeah," Isabel agreed, sobering quickly. "Max told me everything. About why that other Max came back and what happened in the future. I hope that's alright. I kind of wouldn't leave him alone until he told me all of it."
"It's okay. I mean, you practically knew everything anyway. I knew he was going to have to tell you something. So, um, what do you think Tess would do if Max and I got back together?"
Isabel shrugged uncertainly, and she and Liz glanced over at the girl in question.
"Tess is pretty hard to read sometimes. She doesn't push the destiny thing anymore, but she does kind of stick close to Max's side. I honestly don't know how she would react, Liz, but I want you to know that I'll do whatever I can to help you and Max. There has to be a way to make her want to stay here without being together with him."
"Do you really think so, Isabel?" Liz asked, wanting to hear the words from someone who could be objective.
Sensing her need for reassurance, Isabel touched her arm briefly, and said, "Of course I do. You and Max belong together, Liz. I really believe that now. Tess would never be able to make him happy. But seeing you two together today, it's like having the old Max back. He needs you. And when you're lucky enough to find what you guys have...you just have to believe it was meant to be, you know?"
"I really want to believe that, Isabel, but...what about his destiny?" Liz asked unsurely.
"I don't see why he would have to be with Tess to fulfill his destiny. I mean, Michael and I certainly aren't going down that road, so I don't see why Max should have to. If we were made to be this- fighting unit or whatever, I don't know why we would have to be romantically involved in order to fight together. Maybe we were together in our past, but we're completely different people now. Our people, our family- they just can't expect it to be that way now. It- it isn't fair to expect that from us on top of everything else."
Liz could hear the agitated frustration in Isabel's voice, and for the first time she realized how confusing and unsettling all this must be for Isabel. It would be hard enough to find out after living her own life for 18 years that she wasn't who she'd always assumed herself to be, but was someone who'd been engineered from the remains of a person who'd once been a traitor. But it must've been really disquieting to learn that she was expected to give up everything in the life she'd built for herself here to re-live the life of that traitor, become some kind of warrior, and fulfill the lofty goals that her mother had set before her. Not to mention the fact that those who'd recreated her had intended for her to marry someone she'd always believed was her brother. Liz could only imagine how insecure and powerless all that would leave Isabel feeling. This whole alien change of her own certainly had her freaking out, and Isabel's discovery went way beyond that.
Liz reached out and squeezed Isabel's forearm sympathetically.
"I'm sorry, Isabel. I guess I never thought about all this from your point of view before."
Isabel shrugged with dismissal.
Forgetting her own worries for a moment Liz wanted only to reassure the other girl. "Don't worry. I'm sure everything will work out." She smiled nostalgically. "Someone very wise once told me we just have to follow our hearts, you know, to just trust them. If we follow wherever they take us, everything will turn out the way it should."
The mention of Grandma Claudia's words brought Liz a sense of comfort. Everything would turn out the way it should. She could rely on her heart to tell her which way to go in this thing with her and Max and Tess.
Isabel smiled softly. "That makes it sound so easy."
The sentimental moment was broken abruptly with Michael's shouted complaint.
"Would you two stop blabbin' over there and get on with it!" he yelled across the cove.
Isabel shot him a look of annoyance and turned back to Liz.
"Listen, Liz, I just had one more thing I wanted to say."
Liz looked at her inquisitively.
Isabel looked down at the ground in hesitation, before looking up at Liz with eyes full of emotion. "I wanted to say thank you. I can't believe what you were willing to do for me and Michael, and for Max, for everybody. I think you may be the most selfless person I've ever met. And I didn't realize that- well, that you were such a good friend. I'm sorry that I haven't really been very appreciative of that. But, I-I will from now on."
The shy sincerity of her words was so unlike her typical aloofness, and Liz was touched. She hesitated briefly, then stepped forward to give Isabel a friendly hug. The gesture left Isabel moved as well, and she warmly returned the embrace.
"Hey!" Michael yelled impatiently. "Are we doin' this or what?"
Isabel backed away from Liz and turned to glare at Michael. "Maybe the first thing you should try and master on your own is one of Michael's energy blasts," she suggested.
Liz grinned. "Alien Power Blast," she corrected, recalling Michael's words from yesterday.
"That's what Michael calls it," Liz informed her.
Isabel rolled her eyes. "Only Michael would name his gift like something out of a Spiderman comic."
Isabel whipped her head around and cut Michael off before he could get out another word.
"Yell at us one more time, Michael, and I can promise you you'll be having nightmares for a month!" she shouted.
Only mildly subdued, Michael replied irritably, "Well, get on with it already!"
Hoping to forestall any further angry retorts, Liz interjected placatingly, "We should probably just get this done. Maria has to be at work by 1:00, and we really haven't gotten that much accomplished today."
Aiming one last death glare in Michael's direction, Isabel conceded, and she and Liz reached out to link hands and get to work.
|Part 10 | Index | Part 12|
|Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours|