|"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.
|Giving up on the effort of changing the stone she was holding into any other form besides its present one, Liz tossed the rock
"It's no use. I can't do it," she said in exasperation.
They had sat down to take a break after she and Isabel had worked together for about half an hour, and after resting for awhile, Isabel had started playing around with molecular structures. She had encouraged Liz to try it, and after walking her through it several times, left her to try it on her own. Liz had been at it for a while now, and it had been an exercise in frustration. She'd been moderately successful at changing some things, but she wasn't very good at it.
The first thing she'd tried had been to change the colors of different things, everything from items of clothing to a lipstick Maria had in her purse. She could usually get them to change colors without any help from the others, but they always turned into a pale, washed-out version of the color she was actually trying for.
Next, Max had brought her a soda he had in the jeep, and she'd tried to change its contents into water. The resulting concoction had been something that even Max with his bland alien palate hadn't been able to swallow. She'd also tried to change the temperature of the liquid in the bottle, and had managed to make it pretty hot, but she'd been aiming for boiling. She'd attempted to melt the metal of Michael's ring with no success. And she'd been playing with that stupid rock for almost 15 minutes, first trying to dissolve it in the same way Max had the bullet she'd been shot with, and when that hadn't worked, she'd simply tried to change its form in some way. In any way. But it remained annoyingly unchanged.
Liz glared at the hapless stone in defeat.
"Wanna just blast it?" Michael teased.
She threw a small smile his way.
Max was sitting beside her, and he said soothingly, "Don't worry about it, Liz. It just takes practice, that's all. You are capable of doing it on your own, though. At least we learned that." He rubbed her back comfortingly, and bent his head to look into her eyes. "Why don't you take a break, and then try something else. I think we've pretty much covered everything today but the shield and the energy blast. Which one would you like to work on?"
Besides working with Isabel before they'd sat down for a break, Liz had tried to do the dreamwalk and the mind warp while connected to all the others. So far, it seemed as though she was only able to perform with each person's ability while she was connected with that person, and not with anyone else. Although that wasn't completely conclusive, since she hadn't experimented with Max's and Michael's gifts yet.
In response to Max's question, Liz sent an uneasy glance towards Michael, and said, "Um, yeah, could we not do the power blast thing today?"
The energy blast really made her nervous. It was scary to know that she had the power within her to literally blow up anyone or anything she raised her hand to. And it was terrifying to be unsure of how it worked and whether or not she could even control it. She could understand now how Michael must have felt after he'd killed Pierce. Maybe not the guilt part, but the fear of this destructive force that lived inside them... yeah, now she could completely relate.
Michael shrugged with indifference, and said, "Hey, it doesn't matter to me."
Despite the nonchalance of his words, she was dismayed to see a hint of vulnerability in his eyes. She knew Michael was sensitive about how dangerous his ability was, and how he'd used it to kill. She didn't want him to think she was afraid of him, because she wasn't. She was fairly confident in his ability to control his power now. Maria had told her how hard he had worked over the summer to master it, and Liz trusted him. It was her own control over it she was worried about.
Liz sighed as she admitted to herself that the only way she would ever be able to feel confident about it, was if she were to work on it, the same way Michael had. She forced herself to get up to go over to the spot where Michael was sitting.
Max caught her before she could move, and said quietly, "Liz, you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. No one here is going to pressure you. It's totally up to you what you do with this."
She hesitated at his words. He was giving her an easy out, but as much as she wanted to take it, she also wanted to somehow get a sense of control over this thing.
Smiling in appreciation, she said, "Thanks, Max. But I really think I need to do this."
Max nodded and let her go, his eyes shining with admiration. He knew how wary she was of all this, and he was so proud of her for facing up to it the way she was. He could only marvel at the incredible amount of strength and bravery contained within her tiny frame.
Liz walked over to stand in front of Michael. Shifting her weight from one foot to the other, she tucked her hair behind her ear, and said uncomfortably, "Um, Michael, it's just that...it scares me a little, you know? Because I don't know how to control it. Could you just...maybe- teach me?"
She saw understanding light his eyes before he climbed to his feet to face her. One corner of his lips turned up wryly as he said, "Well, I'm not exactly what you'd call the master of control, but I can teach you everything you ever wanted to know about crackin' rocks."
He walked across to the spot where she'd been sitting, and bent to pick up the rock she'd unsuccessfully tried to change. Walking back to her, he tossed the stone up in the air off the palm of his hand, and caught it deftly.
Grinning, he said, "What d'ya say we start with this one?"
Liz returned his grin and nodded, then turned to follow as he climbed the bank to move to a more open area. The others followed them up to keep watch, staying well back.
"Hey, not too close to my car, okay?" Maria called, as she chased after Michael and Liz. "All it would take is one stiff breeze to make my bumper give up the ghost," she said, referring to the fact that the bumper was only hanging on to the car by a thread.
When she caught up to them, Michael stopped, and demanded, "Where do you think you're going?"
"I thought I'd come along. Be Liz's cheerleader."
"Look, she doesn't need a cheerleader, alright? So, why don't you just take your pom-poms, and head back to the bleachers."
His tone suggested that she should be a good little girl and do as she was told, and it made Maria see red.
"You don't know what Liz needs, Michael. The fact of the matter is that she asked me to come today for moral support. So that's exactly what I'm going to give her whether you like it or not. That's called being a friend. You should try and get yourself one of those some day."
"Hey, I've got all the friends I need. Just because I don't sit around holding hands with them all the time does not mean I don't have friends."
"Yeah, more's the pity for them. With friends like you, who needs enemies?" Maria muttered.
"Come on, you guys! That's enough, alright?" Liz interjected looking at them both beseechingly.
Placing a gentle hand on Maria's upper arm, she turned to her best friend with an apologetic look and said, "Maria, I'm really sorry, but Michael's right. Although he could have been a lot nicer about it," she added, throwing a hard look in his direction.
He stood there with his arms crossed, staring off into the distance, as if letting them know he was no longer participating in this conversation.
Liz turned back to Maria, and rushed ahead with an explanation in an effort to erase the hurt she could see in her friend's eyes. "It's not that I don't appreciate you being here for me, Maria. I mean, you know I do, right? But the thing is, this thing- it's so unpredictable. I've only done it once before, and that time I wasn't even thinking about it. I don't know what's going to happen when I try to do it again. And if I'm not able to control it..." looking away, Liz stopped and swallowed hard. Her eyes traveled back to look directly into Maria's, and she said sincerely, "I would just die if I accidentally hurt you, Maria."
A small shifting movement beside them drew both girls' attention over to Michael. His look of disinterest hadn't altered, but Liz and Maria looked back at each other to exchange a knowing look. Michael would die if that happened, too, and that's exactly what he'd been saying in 'Stone-Wall' language.
Mollified, Maria's lips curved up slightly. "Okay. I guess I'll just cheer you on from the stands then."
She gave Liz an encouraging hug, and said, "Good luck, babe. And don't worry. Michael will be here to help."
Liz nodded, and tightly returned the hug, in desperate need of the reassurance.
She watched Maria walk back to the group, then took a deep breath, and turned to find Michael staring at Maria's retreating back. Liz thought she could see regret in his eyes before he noticed Liz watching him, then he hid it quickly.
He looked at her briefly, then promptly looked away. Clearing his throat, he said, "Hey- uh, listen. About yesterday. I'm sorry, okay? I mean, about that whole 'perfect Liz Parker' thing."
Liz lifted her brows and said, "Wow, Michael. That's the second apology you've given me in the past couple of months. Keep it up and I'll start to think you have a pretty sensitive guy hidden somewhere underneath that John Lennon hairdo."
He smiled sarcastically. "Nice. I go out of my way to apologize, and not only do I get mockery, I get yet another derogatory remark about my hair."
Liz laughed. "I'm sorry. I guess you could say we're even now," she said impishly.
He looked at her with narrowed eyes, then the corner of his lip lifted and he shook his head.
"C'mon, let's go do this," he said, and Liz nodded.
He turned and moved away to place Liz's rock on top of a boulder with a relatively flat surface, then backed away several yards. Liz went to stand beside him, and tucked her hair behind her ear nervously.
"Okay, there's two ways you can do this," Michael told her. "You can pool the energy inside you, gather all of it you can, and hit the rock with it, the way you did with the mirror. Or, you can concentrate on getting inside the molecules of the rock, and sorta let your energy pool there until the rock explodes from the pressure. Obviously, hitting it from the outside would be the easiest way to go, since this particular rock seems to have the ability to block you," he smirked when Liz made a face at him, then continued, "but if you do it that way, you have to make sure you hit what you're aiming at, and that rock isn't all that big a target. So it's up to you."
"Oh. Well, I guess that's the part I'm most afraid of. You know, making sure I only hit what I'm aiming at. Can you help me with that at all, do you think, or are you just like providing the energy, and the focus part is up to me?"
"I don't know," he said thoughtfully. "It happened so fast last time I hardly even had a chance to realize what was going on. Do you want to try and see?"
"No," she answered, giving a little laugh of apprehension, "but let's do it anyway."
They joined hands and went through the motions of forming a connection. Once it had been established, Liz could feel Michael's energy transferring itself to her. Since her emotions weren't heightened this time like they had been when they'd done this yesterday, she was able to register more about what was taking place.
The energy it took to perform with this ability felt different from the others'. It felt more aggressive somehow, as it came pouring inside to fill her. When the rushing flow of energy from Michael had slowed to a trickle, she felt something that left her feeling completely unnerved. Something inside her seemed to recognize his energy, sending her own leaping in response. That gave her pause, and she realized for the first time that in some strange way, it did feel oddly familiar. This entire experience was suddenly giving her the strongest sense of deja vu. The two forces eagerly collided within her, dramatically increasing the intensity level of the charged energy as it gathered in readiness.
She looked at Michael with wide eyes, and whispered, "Can you feel that?"
"Yeah," he answered quietly.
"I don't know," he said uncertainly.
Heat flowed over her in a liquid wave, and her skin started to tighten and prickle, the same as it had yesterday. Her heart raced out of control, and the concentration of power inside her was making her feel anxious and edgy.
"Michael, this is scaring me," Liz said unsteadily.
His hand tightened on hers, and he asked, "Do you want to stop?"
She shook her head fiercely. "I-I don't think we can. It's in-inside me now. I think I've gotta let it out. It- I have to get it out!"
Responding to her mounting urgency, he said tensely, "Let me take some of it back, then. It's getting too strong. You can't handle all of it."
"Okay, but hurry!" she urged.
Liz didn't want Max anywhere near the explosion of power that was certainly eminent, but she couldn't seem to stop herself from throwing a quick panicked look in his direction. She looked away almost immediately, and missed seeing that his gaze had already been trained on her and Michael uneasily, as if he could sense that something wasn't right. At Liz's look of fear, he jumped to his feet, and raced toward them, with the others close on his heels.
The intensity level of their combined energy continued to build inside her, seeming to fold over on itself again and again, increasing its strength. She was becoming terrified by the simmering turbulence of it. It felt like pure, undiluted violence as it seethed within her, and she was afraid of what it would do if she released it. But it was becoming more than she could contain, and she just wanted to get rid of it.
The power inside her had reached epic proportions. Michael had never felt anything like it before. He was a little afraid of what would happen if she unleashed all that, too, but he was worried that it was going to tear her apart if she didn't let it out soon. He tried to draw some of it back into himself, but it was like one solid mass of energy, and he couldn't break any of it free.
"I can't get any of it loose," he said with frustration. "Just let me take all of it."
"No! You can't, Michael."
"Come on, Liz. It's too much for you!"
"Michael, you can't, okay? I've got to do it!"
"Alright then, do it!" he exclaimed, wanting to question why she seemed so sure of that fact, but feeling there was no time to argue.
Liz looked at her target despairingly. There was just no way that little rock was going to be able to absorb all this energy, and she worried about where all the excess would go.
"No, that'll never work," Michael agreed. His gaze moved around them searchingly, and he pointed in front of them and over to the right. She had her gaze trained on his discovery before he even pointed it out.
"Just aim for that," he said, pointing at a solid wall of unmined rock. "It's good and solid, and it must be 30 yards away." She sized it up as a target, and he urged, "You won't hurt anything, Liz."
"What is it, Liz? What's happening?" Max asked anxiously, as he rushed up to them. The girls hurried up behind him.
Liz had raised her hand in readiness, but the presence of their friends so close-by made her stop and try once again to keep a reign on it. She was shaking violently now with the effort to control it, and spots began dancing before her eyes. She gave a distressed little moan.
Knowing the reason for her hesitation, Michael yelled, "Get back!"
"What's going on, Michael," Max demanded.
"Max, you have to get back! Our energy bonded somehow, and it's out of control. She can't hold it in, but she won't let it go when you're so close, so get back!"
Max looked at Liz's pale, shaking form with frightened eyes.
"Just break the connection!" Maria said frantically.
"She can't do the energy blast without me, and she has to expend this power somehow. Look, we don't have time for a discussion right now!" he said in exasperation. "Just get back!"
The girls obeyed and moved away quickly, but Max hesitated. It went against every instinct he had to leave Liz like this, but the sense of urgency wasn't lost on him, and there was no time to argue. If she wouldn't do this until he was gone, she was leaving him no choice. He knew for a fact that she would willingly sacrifice herself to protect them, so if he had to leave her now in order to protect her from herself, then he'd have to force himself to do that.
"I'm going to be by your side the minute you get this done, Liz. Okay?" Max said in reassurance. When she didn't respond, he reached out to touch her arm lightly, and was shocked to feel the immensity of the power seething inside her.
"Michael, get that out of her. Now!" he demanded tightly, as he reluctantly backed away.
"They're back, Liz. Do it," Michael urged as soon as Max was a safe distance away.
Liz hardly knew what was going on around her anymore as she stared blindly at the wall of rock Michael had pointed out. The power had grown until it seemed to fill every hollow space in her body. The ache to release it was an actual physical pain, but she could feel Max nearby, and she couldn't take the chance of hurting him if she unleashed it. She felt like she was in serious danger of passing out, and she was terrified at what would become of all this energy if she did.
The roaring in her ears drowned out all other sound, but she was still able to hear Michael somehow when he told her it was safe. She responded immediately, releasing her hold with a small cry.
The power ripped through her angrily, escaping through the palm of her hand in a blinding flash of blue. A violent wind was stirred up at its passing, and the force of it threatened to knock them all off their feet. The light crashed head-on with the quarry wall, cracking it wide open in a thunderous explosion of sound and erupting granite. Tremors rocked the ground underneath them, and shards of rock flew perilously close. Michael turned his back protectively to shield Liz's body with his own. She was swaying on her feet, and he quickly caught her by the upper arms to steady her.
"Are you okay?" he asked with concern.
She just looked at him dazedly for a minute before her eyes rolled back in her head, and she collapsed in a faint. He eased her fall the best he could with his awkward hold on her arms, and followed her down to the ground.
Max watched with awed horror as the energy blast savagely tore the rock wall apart. The violence of the action shook him. How had Liz held all that inside her? He saw her collapse immediately afterwards, and his heart stopped. His blood turned to ice water in his veins, and he wasn't even aware that he was moving until he heard Maria shout Liz's name, and realized she was running right behind him. He fell to his knees beside her motionless form, and Maria came down beside him. He reached out to frame Liz's face with shaking hands, and realized at that moment that she was still breathing. Dizzying relief overwhelmed him, and he hung his head and drug air into his heaving lungs in an attempt to steady himself. When he felt marginally calmer, he tried to concentrate enough to form a connection, so that he could get inside and make sure she hadn't been hurt in any way.
"Liz, can you hear me?" Maria asked, her voice trembling. She reached for Liz's hand and looked to Max for reassurance.
His eyes were closed, his expression solemn, but he didn't seem to be alarmed at anything he was finding, so she took that as a good sign.
Michael was kneeling at Liz's other side, and Maria looked over at him and asked quietly, "Are you okay, Michael?"
"Yeah," he answered dismissively. "Liz was the one channeling all of it."
Max's eyes opened and he gently brushed Liz's hair back from her face before removing his hands.
"Is she okay, Max?" Isabel asked, as she dropped to the ground and gently lifted Liz's head up to rest on her lap.
"Yeah," he croaked, then cleared his throat. "Everything seems fine. I guess she just passed out from the shock."
Reaching out to caress Liz's pale face, he caught sight of Tess on the ground next to Michael, and forced himself to drop his hand without touching her.
Catching Max's eyes on her, Tess asked, "Should we try to bring her to?"
"Maybe her body needs rest," Isabel suggested, brushing Liz's hair back from her forehead in Max's stead.
It was killing him to be unable to touch her. Even though he'd made certain she wasn't hurt, he wouldn't feel completely convinced she was whole and well until he could hold her solid warmth in his arms, and feel the reassurance of her steady heartbeat against him. He could have kissed Maria when she unwittingly gave him all the excuse he needed.
"We should at least make her more comfortable. Get her off this hard ground," she said.
Without wasting another second, Max immediately scooped Liz up against his chest. Standing with her in his arms, he held her tightly against him, and fretted at her slight weight. She felt so fragile and delicate. How had she managed to keep all that power from ripping her to shreds? He hugged her closer and said to Maria, "Let's take her to your car."
He carried Liz away in that direction and Maria scrambled up to follow him. Tess stared after them for a moment before moving to trail along behind.
Michael rose to his feet unsteadily, then staggered. Isabel threw out an arm to brace him.
"Are you okay?" she asked in concern.
"I'm fine. Just a little weak, I guess."
The huge out-surge of power from the blast had left him feeling drained and a little lightheaded. He couldn't imagine how Liz was going to feel when she woke up.
Isabel studied him with lowered brows. "You sure?"
"I'm fine, Is," he repeated. "Liz did most of it. I was practically an innocent bystander."
Taking him at his word, she finally nodded, then her eyes widened as they focused on something over his shoulder. He turned to see what she was looking at and whistled in awe. The craggy surface of the quarry wall had been flat and unbroken before Liz had blasted it. Now it was marred by a gaping hole big enough to park the Jetta in.
"How did she do that, Michael? Where did all that come from?" Isabel asked, her voice low and shaking.
Michael shook his head. "I'm not sure. Something happened when our energy came together." He hesitated, unsure whether to express this out loud or not. "It was the weirdest thing. When my energy met hers, it was like...it was- complete for the first time ever."
"What do you mean, complete?"
He paused as he searched for the right words to describe what he'd felt. "It was like- when you've been searching for something for a long time, you know, something that's been missing, and finally finding it. That's what it felt like when my energy touched hers. And when they found each other, they just like-fused together and became this one huge mass of power."
Isabel was looking at him in consternation. "Michael, do you know how bizarre that sounds? How could Liz have a power that you've been looking for for a long time? We didn't even know she had a power until a couple of days ago. And she didn't have a power at all until Max healed her."
"I know that, Isabel," he returned with confused frustration. "But that's what it felt like, okay?"
"Well," she said musingly, "did you feel that way yesterday, when you two did this?"
"No. At least, I don't think so. It was over almost as soon as it started yesterday. I didn't really have a chance to feel anything."
They looked at each other for a long minute, both trying to find an explanation for his feelings.
Finally Isabel shook her head. "I don't know, Michael. This whole thing seems really freaky."
"Tell me about it," he grimly agreed. He looked over to the Jetta where Max and Maria were laying Liz down across the back seat.
His brows creased, he asked, "Do you think she'll be okay?"
She followed his gaze briefly before looking back at him curiously. There'd been a note of something in his voice she couldn't interpret. "I think it was just a shock, like Max said. He'll make sure she's okay."
Michael was silent for a moment, then said quietly, "That energy...I've never felt anything like it before. I couldn't control it." After a short pause, he admitted, "I think it could have killed her, Isabel."
"But it didn't. She's going to be fine." She looked at him searchingly. Was he trying to take responsibility for this? "This wasn't your fault, Michael," she assured him.
"Yeah," came his unconvinced reply. "We should get over there. They'll want to leave as soon as she wakes up."
He walked away, leaving Isabel with the choice of talking to his back, or following him.
Watching him go, she heaved a troubled sigh. Almost unwillingly, her gaze was drawn back for one last look at the destruction Liz had wrought. The jagged edges of the newly created hollow made it look like the maw of a great beast that leered at her mockingly, and Isabel shivered uneasily. What kind of power were they dealing with here, she wondered with apprehension. The magnitude of it, Michael's weird feelings, all seemed to suggest that this was something more than just a mere 'change'.
"What is going on with you, Liz?" she mused softly to herself.
The yawning chasm in the quarry wall stood silent and menacing, giving her no answers. With another troubled sigh, Isabel slowly turned to join the others.
|Part 11 | Index | Part 13|
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