|"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.
|"And you're sure that's what the flashes meant?" Michael asked.|
Only minutes after Max's alarming declaration at the quarry, Isabel had called on his cell phone to ask him to come pick her up at Michael's. Liz had come along with him, and now the four of them were in Michael's apartment, where Max and Liz had just told the others about the flashes they'd received from the stone.
"What else could they have meant?" Max asked. "We saw all six of us in some of them, so the flashes couldn't have come from one of us." He looked at Liz for confirmation, and she nodded to show that she'd seen the same thing. "And I think I saw the Jeep and the Jetta driving away in one of them. Whoever it was, they must have gone down to the spot where you and Liz were standing, and picked up the rock after we left."
"This is bad, Max," Isabel said shakily. "Someone saw us using our powers. It- it could've been anyone. What are we going to do about this?"
"They didn't actually see all of us using powers, Isabel," Liz interjected. "They really only saw m-me and Michael," she threw a glance up at Michael, and he met her gaze with an unreadable one of his own. She finished quietly, "You know, um- when we did the energy blast, that was the only time we were out in the open."
It was a fact that made Liz feel guilty. If it hadn't been for her, none of them would've even been out at the quarry today in the first place, much less exposing themselves by giving an amazing pyrotechnic display of alien powers out in the open where anyone could see.
Sensing that she was somehow feeling to blame, Max moved closer to her side, and closed his hand around her upper arm, his thumb brushing back and forth against her sleeve lightly. "That wasn't your fault, Liz. The four of us have been going out to the quarry since the beginning of last summer to practice our powers. We've always thought it was a safe enough spot, as long as someone kept watch." His hand slid away, and he turned to look at Michael and Isabel, saying, "And I still think that's true. Whoever it was watching us, I don't think it was someone who wandered up accidentally. If that had been the case, we would have seen them. I think it had to be someone who was deliberately hiding from us."
"Well, who would do that?" Michael demanded. "What would be the point of just watching us use our powers?"
At that, a sudden idea occurred to Liz, and she said, "Max, do you think it could've been Kyle? I mean, he knew we were out there. Maybe he was, like, curious or something, but he didn't want to actually be involved, you know?"
Max's eyes lit at the possibility, and he said, "Good thinking, Liz. That's a definite possibility. If that's who it was, then we're worrying for nothing."
"But what if it wasn't, Maxwell? What if it was an enemy? It could've been someone who was out there trying to learn our strengths and weaknesses."
"Michael, there's no reason to jump to conclusions," Max said. "Especially when there might be a perfectly innocent explanation." He looked at Liz and said, "Someone should talk to Kyle."
Liz nodded her agreement, but Michael said caustically, "Great idea. I'm sure he'll readily admit to cowering in his little hidie-hole and watching us like some perverted peeping-tom."
Both Max and Liz gave Michael a dark, quelling look, before looking back at each other, and Liz said, "I'll talk to him. And if he won't tell me, maybe he'll talk to Tess."
Max nodded approvingly.
"What if Michael's right, though, Max? What if it was some kind of enemy?" Isabel asked worriedly. "I mean, you did say that someone at the summit told you you'd made a lot of enemies because you wouldn't turn over the Granolith. If that's who it was, we can't wait until someone can get Kyle to admit whether it was him or not. We have to do something."
"What do you suggest we do, Is? I can't think of any way to find out who it was, can you?" Max paused, and when she didn't reply, he continued, "All we can do is try to be more careful. No more trips out to the quarry, and no using our powers where someone might see us. Everyone should try to keep a sharp eye out, in case this person is watching us all the time. If they are, then maybe they'll slip up, and we can catch them that way. I'll talk to Valenti and see if he'll keep a look out for anyone who looks suspicious. Just... everyone try and keep a cool head," he looked at Michael pointedly, "At least until we find out whether we really have a reason to worry or not."
"Typical Max response. Just wait and see," Michael said scathingly.
Max grit his teeth, then asked, "Well, what is it you want to do, Michael? Go out and blast anyone you think is looking at us funny?"
"I think we should go back out to the quarry and see if any of the rest of us can get any flashes that'll tell us something more."
"Michael, the quarry is the last place any of us should be right now. If someone is following us, you'd be leading them right back out there to show them more of what we're capable of. And besides, if it wasn't Kyle, then we don't know if this was even the first time this person has been out there watching us. Who knows how long they could've been following us, and even what their ultimate purpose is? They might have already learned everything they were trying to find out from us. We go out to the quarry again, and this time they might not just watch from a distance," Max said.
"What if one of us could see something you didn't, Max? Maybe we could find out once and for all who this person is," Michael argued stubbornly.
"And maybe you couldn't, and we would be taking a risk for nothing!" Max returned sharply.
Moving up behind Max, Liz placed her hand lightly on his shoulder blade, and lifted her eyes to his face. Max looked down at her slightly over his shoulder, and pulled in a calming breath.
"Michael," he said more evenly, "Can you just wait? Just until we can talk to Kyle? If he says it wasn't him, then.. we'll go out to the quarry, okay? All of us. We'll be safer if we all stick together."
For a long moment Michael didn't reply.
"Fine," he finally answered shortly.
Max gave him a long look, then sighed. "I'm supposed to have Liz home by dinner." He looked down at Liz and said, "We should probably go."
She nodded, and the three of them made ready to leave.
As Liz was passing beside Michael, he asked her, "So when are you gonna talk to Kyle?"
She stopped and turned to him, saying, "Um, I can ask him if he'll meet me at the Crashdown tomorrow after school?" She made the statement sound like a question, as if asking if that was okay with him, and Michael nodded.
Liz hesitated a beat, then asked softly, "A-are you okay? I mean, about everything that happened this morning. The, um- the energy blast and everything?"
"Sure," Michael said, shrugging one shoulder dismissively. "Why wouldn't I be?"
Catching her lower lip between her teeth, she threw a quick look over at Max, who was standing in front of the door talking quietly with Isabel, and said, "Well...Max said that he thought maybe- you might be feeling a little.. uh- guilty a-about what happened."
Michael threw a look of his own over at Max, and said in a hard voice, "He did, huh?" He didn't say anything else for a minute, then tilted his head in a shrugging motion and said, "Well, I wouldn't say I'm wracked with guilt over it, but it was mostly my fault."
Liz shook her head and said, "Michael, how can you even say that? Why would it be your fault? I was there, too, you know."
"Yeah, but out of the two of us, I was supposed to be the one who knew what I was doing. I should've been more careful, paid more attention."
"It was the first time we'd ever done the energy blast, Michael. Well," she amended, "it was the first time we'd done it knowingly. There wasn't any way you could've predicted what was going to happen when we connected. You couldn't have known what's happening inside of me."
Michael's gaze held hers, as he answered, "See, that's the thing Liz. I kind of do know what's going on inside of you."
Her eyes were wide as they remained glued to his. "What do you mean?"
Michael replied, "I don't mean I know what's going on with the whole.. change thing, and what happened with our energy. That's still a complete mystery." His voice lowered. "But...since we connected this morning- I know things about you, Liz."
Her heart skipped a beat. "W-what kind of things?"
"Things like.. what didn't really happen with Kyle, and how it made you feel to do that to Max. I know how scared you are of what will happen if Tess finds out that you and Max are just pretending to be only friends. And I know you're terrified of this alien change, but you're trying to be brave, so Max won't be disappointed in you."
Liz pulled in a shaky breath. She took a minute to process all that, then said hopefully, "Y-you saw flashes?"
Dashing her hopes completely, Michael replied, "No. I don't think so. There was too much going on for there to be any time for flashes. I just...know."
She nodded slowly and admitted quietly, "I know things about you, too."
"You do?" he asked sharply.
Nodding again she said, "I know how you felt after you killed Pierce, a-and how afraid you are that you'll fail your people in your mission here. And I know...how much you want to be with Maria, but you're too afraid you aren't what she needs."
Something flashed in Michael's eyes. She thought he must feel naked before her, because she felt much the same way. No one had ever seen her most intimate thoughts and emotions, but Max. With him, she was glad to share them. She liked the fact that Max knew everything there was to know about her, good and bad, and he still loved her anyway.
But knowing that Michael knew so much about her almost made her feel violated. He knew things she wouldn't have readily told him. He knew her secrets. About Kyle and Future Max. And he knew her private fears. Things she hadn't even admitted to herself. Like how she worried about disappointing Max.
But she could hardly object to his knowing about her, because she seemed to know things about him that he would have never told her in a million years. Things she knew he'd never told anyone.
Swallowing hard, she whispered, "How do we know those things, Michael?"
He shook his head slowly. "I don't know. You don't know stuff like that about Isabel and Tess since you connected?"
Liz shook her head in answer.
They looked at each other silently until Max cleared his throat, and asked, "Liz? Are you about ready?"
She pulled her gaze away from Michael's to look over at Max, and answered, "Um- yeah. I'm coming."
Liz looked back at Michael and hesitantly reached her hand out rest on his upper arm. " You know, you shouldn't feel guilty about the energy blast. What happened today- it was something that was beyond your control; we just weren't prepared for it. But, you have a really amazing gift, Michael. The four of you were made to be a complete unit, and you're gift- it kinda makes you like, the protector. And...maybe you don't know it, but- we all know we can trust you with that."
Michael didn't know what to say. His eyes dropped to the floor for a moment, then came up to meet hers briefly while he nodded, then they fell away again, uncomfortably.
The corner of her lip lifted, and she gave his arm a little squeeze, before moving toward Max and Isabel. "See you at school tomorrow."
"Yeah. See ya," he answered gruffly.
Max and Isabel said their goodbyes, and they left.
Once they'd reached the jeep, Max asked Liz quizzically, "Everything okay?"
"Yeah," she answered. "We, uh- we talked about the energy blast. I think he's going to be fine."
Max nodded, and they all climbed into the car.
Liz bit her lip as she considered what she'd left unsaid. For some reason she was reluctant to tell Max about her and Michael's exchange of knowledge about one another. She wasn't sure what was going on with them, but whatever it was, it made her feel almost...guilty. She felt as though she'd given away something of herself that only Max should have, even though she hadn't given it knowingly.
She hadn't thought anyone would ever know her the way that Max did. Their connection had always been something special and unique. They'd seen into each other's souls, in a way that she'd imagined no other two people on this planet could. But now, it seemed as though she could share the same thing with Michael. It almost felt like a betrayal of what she and Max had.
But as hesitant as she felt about discussing this with Max, she knew she couldn't keep it from him. Just yesterday, she'd told him she never wanted to lie to him again. That included lies of omission. She didn't want any more secrets between them.
Tucking her hair behind her ear, she asked timidly, "Um, Max?"
He looked away from the road to give her a brief inquisitive look. "Yeah?"
"Do you remember how you were asking earlier, about- about how I seemed to know so much about the inner workings of Michael's mind?"
He was aware that she was leading up to something, and her tone of voice made him unsure of whether he was going to like it or not. Cutting his eyes around at her, he drawled apprehensively, "Yeah?"
"Well...a-apparently, he knows an awful lot about the inner workings of my mind, too."
"What do you mean?" he asked frowningly.
"Since we connected this morning- we just.. we know things about each other. Um, you know, like, private things. Like- like feelings and stuff."
Max was silent for a moment, then he asked, "You mean, you saw flashes?"
Liz shook her head. "We don't remember seeing any flashes. There was too much going on at the time. A-and I think we may know a whole lot more than we would've learned just from a few flashes. Somehow- we just...know."
"So that's what he was talking about when he asked me if I knew things about you now," Isabel said musingly from the back seat. She met Max's eyes in the rearview mirror, and said, "I thought maybe he'd just seen flashes of- you know, the other you from the future, and all that stuff. But when I asked him what he meant, he told me to forget it, and changed the subject."
"Yeah, um- he does know about the Future Max stuff. But he says he didn't get it from flashes," Liz said.
Max pulled in a deep breath and said, "What exactly are you saying, Liz? That you and Michael connected once, and suddenly you know everything about each other?" Max asked, disturbed by the thought. He'd always been the only one who'd ever seen the things in Liz's innermost being. Now it seemed that she was saying Michael knew all the intimate details about her, too. He didn't like to think that she and Michael could share the same kind of connection he'd always shared with Liz. It made him feel cheated, somehow.
Liz bit her lip at his response. She could tell that this bothered Max, and it increased her own distress over the whole thing. "I didn't say- we don't know everything about each other, Max," she replied quietly.
He didn't reply, and after a short silence, Isabel said, "Well, Michael told us that your energy- bonded, somehow, Liz. It kinda sounds like..." she hesitated and threw a cautious look at Max before continuing, "Maybe your thoughts or your emotions or something bonded, too."
While Liz silently acknowledged that Isabel might be right, she didn't say anything aloud. Her eyes were on Max's profile as he moodily stared at the road ahead, and she just wanted to drop the whole subject. She hated being the source of more turmoil for him so soon after they'd finally gotten the whole Kyle thing cleared up. She just couldn't understand why all this was happening with Michael. She seemed to be sharing something with him that went beyond the scope of what she shared with Max, and she couldn't figure out a reason for that.
Max didn't know why she was experiencing this with Michael either. He had to admit that what Isabel had said sounded like a plausible explanation for what was going on between them, but he couldn't help but dislike the thought of Liz doing any kind of 'bonding' with anyone but himself. Michael didn't have a right to know Liz's private thoughts and emotions, he thought resentfully. And even though he knew it was irrational, Max felt extremely put out with Michael for this entire thing. Only the knowledge that this was completely involuntary, and that Michael would certainly never reveal his deepest feelings to anyone if given a choice, kept Max from truly getting angry, and he repeated those facts to himself in an attempt to keep this in perspective.
They pulled up in front of the Crashdown, and Max turned to find Liz watching him steadily with a troubled look on her face. A pang of guilt stabbed at him as he realized that his reaction was just giving her one more thing to worry over. He knew that it had to be difficult enough for her to deal with the uncertainty of whatever it was that was happening with her and Michael, without him acting all hurt and jealous over it. She needed his reassurance right now, and instead he was acting like a sulky little boy who didn't want to share his favorite toy.
His expression softening into one of silent apology, he said, "I'll walk you in, okay?"
Her heart lightening a little at his change in demeanor, she nodded her agreement, and he turned off the jeep's engine and got out to walk around to her side. She exchanged good-byes with Isabel, and Max assured his sister that he'd be back in a few minutes.
As they moved toward the Crashdown, Liz stopped and said, "Oh, you know, I think Maria's probably still working. Maybe you should just walk me to the back door."
He agreed, and they walked down the alley to the back entrance of the restaurant. When they had reached the door, she turned to face him, and he offered an immediate apology. "I'm sorry for the way I reacted, Liz. It just... kinda threw me for a minute, that's all."
"It's okay, Max" she replied softly. "I know exactly how you feel." He gave her a meaningful look that she interpreted immediately, and the corner of her lip quirked as she amended, "Okay, I'm like, 95 percent sure I know exactly how you feel. Because, I feel the same way, you know? Like- this is just.. wrong, somehow. Like- like we've lost something..."
"Special," he finished for her quietly. "Something we thought belonged to us alone."
Liz nodded sadly.
Max lifted his hands to curl around the sides of her neck, and he tilted her face up to his. "But this really doesn't take anything away from what we share, Liz," he told her, looking deeply into her eyes. "What we have.. it is special. Because we didn't have to make any kind of a connection for my soul to know yours. It knew you the minute I saw you, when I got off the bus that day in the third grade." Liz lowered her eyes and smiled softly, and he brushed his thumb in a feather-like stroke against her jaw as he continued, "You're my soulmate, the other part of me... and I found you even though I had to come across an entire galaxy to do it. If that's not special, I don't know what is." His lips tipped up slightly. "The connection, the flashes, those things are great, and I love that we can share them...but it's our love that's the real miracle, Liz. And that's not something we'll ever lose, no matter what happens."
She looked up at him adoringly. He always knew just exactly what to say to calm her fears and doubts, and she loved him for that.
They shared a long, intense look before his head slowly began to lower toward hers. Liz leaned into him and came slightly up on her toes, and somewhere in the middle, their lips met sweetly. Max's hand slid underneath the dark curtain of her hair to lightly cup the nape of her neck, as his lips moved against hers in gentle devotion, and Liz cradled the strong curve of his jaw with one hand and rested the other delicately against his bicep, while returning his kiss with loving intensity. Their tongues came softly into play, stroking lazily against one another, while moving from the warm haven of one mouth to the other, and everything else faded away, as they both lost themselves in the tender ardency of the soulful exchange.
Max wrapped one arm around her to pull her in closer to his body, and she slid her hand up his bicep and around his shoulders in collaboration, pressing herself against him. Banked passion simmered just below the surface, but the kiss remained an unhurried expression of the incredible feeling of love and closeness they were feeling at that moment. Max changed the angle of the kiss, and Liz tilted her head obligingly, molding her lips to fit the soft shape of his, as they brushed against hers languorously.
Suddenly, two sharp blasts of a horn from a nearby car startled them apart, and their heads jerked automatically toward the sound. There, at the entrance of the alley, Pam Troy and one of her gossipy friends were walking past. Max and Liz stood perfectly still, hoping to remain unnoticed. Fortunately, the two girls were so involved in their conversation they never even glanced toward the frozen couple.
Max and Liz waited at least a full minute after the girls had passed before looking at one another in relief at their narrow escape.
"That was close," Max admitted.
"Yeah," Liz agreed. "If they'd seen us, it would've been all over school tomorrow before the first bell had even rang."
Realizing who had given them the warning by sounding the jeep's horn, she said, "Thank goodness for Isabel,"
Max had come to the same conclusion. "Yeah. I guess it's a good thing she knows about us."
Liz looked up at him and said regretfully, "We can't keep going on like this, Max, or we're going to get caught. Look at how many close calls we've had today."
Max nodded and said morosely, "I guess we'll have to start following those rules you were talking about earlier. Keep our distance."
Smiling a little, she said consolingly, "It won't be so bad, Max. We just have to be a little more selective about where we do these things, you know?"
The jeep's horn sounded again, and she and Max looked toward the alley's entrance, once more. When no one made an appearance there after a long moment, he looked down at Liz and said ruefully, "I think that's Is warning that she's waited on me long enough. I guess I'd better go, or I may end up walking home."
She nodded reluctantly, suddenly hating to let him go. Sliding her arms around his waist underneath his jacket, she held on to him tightly, and rested her cheek against his heart. Sharing her unwillingness to part, Max wrapped her up in his arms, burying his face in her hair. They breathed in deeply of one another's scent, wanting to store up the things that they could keep with them while they were apart. Max memorized the way her body fit against him so perfectly, only further reinforcing his belief that she'd been made especially for him. Liz drank in the sound of his strong heartbeat in her ear as it seemed to tell her that it beat only for her. The warm shelter of his arms aroused in her the most incredible feelings of being cherished and protected, while Max felt that in her arms was the home he'd been searching for all his life.
"I love you, Liz" he murmured in her ear.
She tightened her arms around him and softly returned, "I love you, too, Max."
Easing away slightly, he said regretfully, "I have to go."
Taking her face in his hands, he pressed a kiss to her forehead, then to her temple, the opposite cheekbone, her jaw, and finally, a lingering kiss to her lips. Liz's fingers curled into the belt loops of his pants as her lips clung to his. He pulled back to look into her eyes, then swooped in for a final quick kiss.
His hands covered hers at his waist and gently disengaged them from his belt loops, and he kept hold of them as he slowly backed away. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?" he said.
"Okay," she nodded.
When their arms were extended fully, Max gave her hands a quick squeeze before letting them go. "Bye, Liz."
"Bye, Max," she said forlornly.
Liz watched as he walked away, and when he'd reached the end of the alley, he turned to give her a little wave.
She returned the gesture, then finally turned to go inside with a mournful sigh.
Tomorrow was simply way too far away.
|Part 17 | Index | Part 19|
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