FanFic - Max/Liz
"Strong, Dangerous & Undeniable"
Part 20
by Destinee
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.
Category: Max/Liz
Rating: PG
Liz stood with her back deliberately turned to the power-blasted crater in the quarry wall, and watched anxiously with the others, as Isabel held the rock and tried to get flashes from it. She kept darting nervous glances up toward the rim of the canyon to search out hiding places, and wondered if someone was up there watching them right now. Max and Michael were keeping a sharp eye out, and the five of them had been handling the stone as unobtrusively as possible, so as not to blatantly announce what it was they were doing.

After several minutes Isabel opened her eyes and shook her head. "Nothing," she said.

She was the last one to try it, and none of them had been able to see anything. Max and Liz had even tried it while being connected, since that had seemed to work last time, but again, no luck.

They were all silent in their disappointment, until Michael erupted.

"There's gotta be somethin' else we can do!" Rubbing his hand across his mouth, he scanned the quarry as though looking for an answer.

Speculatively, Tess looked back and forth between Michael and Liz, and said, "What if you two connected, and tried to see together? I mean, something obviously happens when you join energy. Maybe it would work on this."

The minute they realized who Tess was referring to, Michael and Liz's eyes met, then immediately swung away.

"I think that's a good idea," Isabel agreed.

Liz did't think it sounded like a good plan at all. She'd hoped to avoid connecting with Michael again for a very long time. He knew way too much about her already.

Taking in the unwilling expressions on both their faces, Isabel said, "It might work, you guys. Shouldn't we try everything we know to do?"

There was silence for a moment, during which Liz and Michael studiously avoided looking at each other.

Finally, Max said reluctantly, "Isabel's right. This could be the one thing that might work. We really shouldn't ignore the possiblility." Looking down at Liz with an expression that clearly said he was hating this, he said, "Maybe you should try it."

"Max," she protested quietly. "There's no reason to believe that this...connection, or whatever it is, will help us see flashes." With a quick look at Michael, she said in a low voice, "I'm not completely comfortable with this, Max," reminding him that he'd told her just the day before yesterday that no one would make her do anything she wasn't comfortable with.

Despite her attempt to be quiet, Michael heard her protests, and said harshly, "Look. I'm not any happier with this thing than you are, alright? But if it'll help us find out something about who was watching us, then you need to just get over here, and let's do this."

Liz glared at him angrily. He'd been rude to her for the past two days, and she was about to get fed up with it. She knew he hated it that she knew things about him that he wasn't comfortable having anyone know, but she hated it just as much as he did. He had no right to take his displeasure out on her.

She had to admit, though, that there was some truth to what everyone was saying. If there was any possibility that this might work, she and Michael just needed to put aside their aversion and try it. It could put an end to this mystery of the unseen enemy, once and for all.

"Fine," she said grudgingly. "But I'm not gonna do it out here in the open. If something happens I don't want anyone to see."

"She's right, Michael," Max backed her up. "We should go down to the cove. It's more private there."

"But what if we need to be where the person was standing before we can see anything? This is where they picked up the rock, I think we have the best chance of getting something right here," Michael argued.

"Michael. We either do this down in the cove, or we don't do it at all," Liz said

Michael gave her a hard look, then spun around without a word and stormed away in the direction of the cove.

Liz exchanged a dark look with Max and said, "You know, I can totally get where you're coming from when you say you get so frustrated with him you can't see straight."

Max's lips quirked sympathetically, and he reminded her of her own words from the other day, "Anger is the only way he knows how to deal, remember?"

"Yeah, well- he needs to just get over it," she said aggravatedly.

Max grinned. "Try telling him that."

Half-sliding, half-climbing, Max, Liz and Isabel made their way down to the cove by the water's edge, while Tess stayed up on the top of the bank to keep a lookout. Michael was already waiting at the bottom, and he watched Liz with an unreadable expression as she slowly walked towards him, dragging her feet with reluctance.

She really didn't want to do this. In addition to the fact that it would give Michael another chance to find out things about her he had no business knowing, she was really afraid of a repeat of the other day when the energy blast had gone awry. They had absolutely no idea of what to expect when they connected. Anything could happen. It was a total unknown. And she knew she'd been talking big lately about wanting to know more about this power inside her, but right now, she would've really rather just run the other way.

When she finally reached Michael, she studied his impassive expression and said quietly, "You aren't mad, are you? Because if you are..." she dropped her eyes, "I reeaally don't want to do this if you're mad, Michael. You know, it- it's scary enough without worrying how anger might affect it."

He didn't answer immediately, then finally said, "I'm not mad, okay? I just think we would've had a better chance of this working up there. But you're right. We don't know what's gonna happen when we do this, and we really shouldn't take the chance of anyone seeing. Let's just...get this over with."

Heart pounding with dread, she took a deep breath and reluctantly slipped her hand into his. Michael held the stone on the open palm of his free hand, and Liz placed her own hand over the top of it.

"If any of my energy transfers, I'm gonna try to limit how much gets to you, okay?"

Her head moved in a quick, fearful nod.

Seeing her anxiety, Max came over to stand at her side supportively. He looked at Michael sternly and said, "This is just a simple connection, right? No energy'll be exchanged, no powers need to come into play, you're just connecting. Right?"

Michael gave him a look of annoyance and said, "Yes, Maxwell. It's just a connection. But, simple? I guess that remains to be seen, now doesn't it?"

Max looked at Liz with apprehension.

"I'm not sure if this is such a good idea, afterall," he told her worriedly.

His misgivings fed Liz's own, and she attempted to pull her hand free of Michael's, wanting to just call off the whole thing. Michael held her fast.

"Stop it, Max. In case you can't tell, she's scared enough already, and you're just adding to it."

Max narrowed his eyes. Michael's words of chastisement and the way he spoke, as if he were more aware of Liz's emotional state than Max, made him feel as if Michael was just rubbing his face in this connection.

Anger and jealousy erupting within him, he said tightly, "I can see how scared she is, Michael. I don't need you to tell me that."

Michael gave a sarcastic smile, and with a quick lift of his brow said, "Well, obviously you do, or you wouldn't be over here frettin' like an old woman, and makin' things worse for her."

Max's jaw tightened. The taunting smile on Michael's face infuriated him, and Max found himself taking a threatening step in his direction.

From her perch at the top of the bank, Tess rolled her eyes as she realized that Max and Michael were at it again. Their angry voices had drawn her attention, but they were too low for her to make out what they were saying. Whatever they had found to argue about this time probably had Liz Parker's name written all over it, she thought disgustedly.

Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully.

It hadn't even occurred to her, but of course Max wouldn't like it that his one true love suddenly had this strong connection with his best friend/semi-brother.

Her lips tipped up as she turned back to resume her post, her mind whirling with possibilities.

Isabel took an automatic step forward at the same time that Max did. She was so used to being the referee between those two, that the instinct to place herself in the middle as a buffer came naturally. But she stopped as she realized Liz had it under control.

Liz had thrown her hand up to land in the center of Max's chest as he and Michael faced off, and now she said, "Alright, just stop. Both of you." Looking back and forth between them, she said, "Michael, just...stop trying to push his buttons, okay? He's worried about me, that's all." She turned her head to look at Max. "And, Max-" she took a deep breath, "this is going to be fine. I- I trust Michael. He won't let anything happen if it can be helped." She looked back at Michael. "Right?" she asked, as though demanding that he put Max's mind at ease.

Michael looked down at her for a long moment, not quite sure how he felt about her being so authoritative. He finally looked over at Max and said, "I'll be careful, Maxwell. I'm gonna try to make sure nothing happens, alright?"

The anger in Max's expression dissolved in slow increments, and he nodded grudgingly.

His eyes softened with concern as he looked down at Liz and asked, "And you're okay with this?"

Nodding, she answered, "Yeah, um-" she dropped her eyes for a brief second before raising them again to his, "it's like you said, Max. It's just a connection. Maybe- maybe we'll see something that'll help."

Finally nodding his assent, Max backed a step away. "I'm going to be right here in case anything happens, okay?"

Her eyes clung to his for a moment as she nodded and said softly, "Okay."

"Let's do this," Michael said, pulling her attention back to the matter at hand.

Giving her no more time for second, or maybe it was third, thoughts, Michael resumed his previous position, and she followed his lead.

As the link was forming between them, Liz tried to push her thoughts into hiding. An effort she immediately knew was futile, because once they were connected, she could feel Michael attempting to do the same thing, but it wasn't working. She could feel his emotions anyway.

She felt his regret that he and Max couldn't get along anymore. A fact that he knew he was mostly responsible for, but he just couldn't seem to control the things that came out of his mouth. But, she knew he missed the way things used to be between them. He missed being able to confide in Max.

And he was actually feeling a little nervous about making this connection, too. He was afraid something would happen that he couldn't control, and he was... worried she might get hurt.

The realization surprised her.

She could almost imagine that she heard him say something caustic in response to her astonishment. Inwardly, she rolled her eyes. Even his emotions seemed to be capable of sarcasm.

Attempting to pull free of the flow of feelings all around her, she tried to narrow her focus on to the rock, and on picking up anything that had been left behind on its hard surface. Michael's fingers curled around hers as they pressed the stone more firmly between their palms.

She felt the heated simmer of Michael's energy as it moved on an inward course, pulling together inside him. And once again, there was a tug of recognition inside herself, as her own energy rushed to meet it.

She was so busy trying to contain her panic and bracing herself for the entrance of its mass into her own body, that she didn't realize until it was too late that it was her energy that was streaming outward, heading on a collision course inside Michael. She could actually feel a physical loss as it emptied itself into him. The moment she felt the two forces converge within him, she was hit with a sudden onslaught of images, and she and Michael both, staggered back a step under their impact.

Distorted, nightmarish images that didn't make any sense filled her head, and an undercurrent of whispers and mumblings seemed to narrate them as they flowed consecutively from one confusing scene to the next. A sense of overwhelming terror consumed her, crowding out everything else until she could barely breathe. Occasionally, a clear picture would flash before her, engendering a feeling of being chased, of running for her very life. And interspersed amongst all these terrifying visions, were the varying images of Max, Michael, Isabel, Alex, Maria, and herself.

Max watched the two of them with worried eyes. Faces drawn and eyes closed tightly, they were both breathing heavily, and Michael had broken out into a sweat. It had to have been at least several minutes since Max had seen them react to the impact of the flashes. He'd almost pulled them apart then, but then he'd realized that they were seeing something. He was beginning to be afraid that this was something more than mere flashes, though, and he was only prepared to let it go on for a few more seconds.

He could feel Isabel hovering anxiously at his back. "Should we--?" she began.

Simultaneously, Michael and Liz's eyes suddenly flew open.

The minute Liz felt the return of her own energy, they mindlessly broke the connection. It took several moments for their pupils to retract enough to allow them clear vision, during which all could be heard was their ragged breathing. When they'd finally regained their focus, they looked around disorientedly.

"Are you okay?" Max asked with urgent concern. "What happened?"

Swaying on her feet, Liz said faintly, "I think...need to sit..." She was dropping bonelessly to the ground, even as the words were leaving her mouth, and Max quickly caught her underneath the arms to ease her down.

Michael soon followed them, sitting beside Liz, and running a shaking hand over his face.

Cupping the back of Liz's head in his hand, Max looked from one to the other of them and asked again, "Are you okay?"

"I'-I'm alright," Liz said shakily. She lifted her hand to curl around Max's forearm to steady herself, and met the worry in his eyes with as much reassurance as she could muster at the moment. "I just...feel a little weak, that's all." Turning her head, she asked, "What about you, Michael? I felt my energy go into you. Are you okay?"

Nodding, he said, "Yeah, I'm fine." His lips turned up the slightest bit. "It wasn't super-energy this time. Just felt like plain old energy."

Isabel knelt in front of them, and put her hand on Michael's knee. "We were getting worried about you guys. Must've been some pretty intense visions. What were you seeing?"

Liz and Michael looked at one another questioningly.

"It was confusing," Michael finally said.

"Most of it just seemed like garbled nonsense." Looking at Michael, Liz asked, "Could you make out any words in all that muttering?"

He gave her a meaningful look and said, "Yeah. I heard our names."

Realizing suddenly that she'd heard them, too, she said, "Oh yeah, you're right."

"And there were all kinds of images of us," he told Max. "All of us. You, me, Isabel, and Liz, Maria, and Alex. Doin' stuff, you know, like at school, at the Crashdown, your house..."

"And I saw one of you at the trailer park, Michael," Liz put in.

"The trailer park!" Isabel exclaimed. "It's been almost a year since you lived there. They've been watching us that long?"

Tess had moved down to join them as soon as she'd seen Liz and Michael drop to the ground, and now she asked, "Why would anyone just watch us for almost a year?"

Everyone was silent as they tried to puzzle it all out, and Max and Liz hastily dropped their hands away from each other at the realization that Tess was in their midst.

"You don't think this is someone from the FBI again, do you?" Isabel asked fearfully.

Liz's eyes jumped to Max's to find an expression of pure dread there, and she knew he was thinking of Pierce and the White Room.

She touched his sleeve lightly and said, "I'm not sure it was." Looking at Michael to see if he shared her opinion, she said, "I mean, if it was, what was all that running about? They were afraid that if they got caught by whoever was chasing them, that they'd be killed. And they were really, really scared."

"Yeah," Michael agreed. "I've never felt fear like that before. Just completely..."

"Overwhelming," Liz finished for him.

Brows drawn in confusion, Tess said, "So we've got someone who's running for his life, but he's been hanging around here watching us for a year? That doesn't make sense."

Silently, everyone agreed with her.

"Did you see anything else?" Max asked them.

Liz thought for a minute before shaking her head regretfully. "I don't remember seeing anything else that made sense. Do you?" she asked Michael.

He paused for a long moment before answering frustradedly, "No. Everything was so crazy. It was like being trapped in a Fun House or something."

That was exactly what it had felt like, Liz agreed with a nod of her head. "And their thoughts were so completely illogical, you know? Like- worrying about waking up, in time to go to bed."

"Terrific," Isabel said in disgust. "As if Nicholas, the duplicates, and whatever other enemies we have out there wasn't enough, now we've got some total psycho stalking us."

'A crazed alien stalker'.

Somewhat hysterically, Liz recalled Kyle's words from yesterday, and thought that he might not have been too far off with his facetious comment.

She felt sick knowing that someone in such a frightening state of mind had been watching them. Could be watching them even now. She and Michael had seen nothing that would tell them what this person's purpose might be, and she couldn't even imagine what thoughts could be running through his head right now.

After a short silence, Max said, "If this person has been watching us this long without doing anything to hurt us, I'd like to think he's harmless. But if he really is...unstable, then we really have no way of predicting what he might do. We should be more careful than ever now, and try to stay alert. And I think it would be a good idea if no one goes anywhere alone for awhile." He looked at Liz with worry in his eyes. "Especially you, Maria, and Alex. This could be someone with powers for all we know, and you guys have no way of protecting yourselves from him," he said, regretful that they'd brought down trouble on the three of them once again.

His words made her fear for her friends, and Liz said, "We should get back now, Max. Maria and Alex need to know what's going on."

He nodded his assent, and the group dispersed to make their way to the jeep.

Michael had ridden out on his motorcycle and he made straight for the bike without a word to anyone. Liz hesitated before veering in his direction. He sat straddling the seat by the time Liz got to his side, and she said, "Um, are you sure you're okay to ride this thing, Michael?"

"Yes, Mother, I'm fine," he answered with mild sarcasm. Taking an exaggerated look down at her feet to point out the fact that she was in his way, he asked, "Can I go now?"

Rebuffed, she turned away without another word and walked over to the jeep.

Michael watched the retreat of her stiff back with slight regret, then angrily kick started the bike and peeled off in a spray of gravel. He made his way to the highway outside the quarry, then took off in a burst of speed, berating himself for his behavior all the while.

The picture of Liz's big brown eyes, filled with hurt, stayed in his head, making him feel like total scum. He would've much rather she had just laid into him for being such a jerk instead of simply looking up at him with that wounded look of silent accusation.

He knew she'd only been showing concern for him, but he didn't want her concern. He didn't want her caring about him, he didn't want to deal with this flood of soft emotions that weren't his own, and he most especially didn't want her inside his head and heart seeing things that he preferred to remain hidden.

Heaven only knew what the perfect Liz Parker would think if she ever saw any of the garbage he'd dealt with while growing up. He'd seen a lot of ugliness in his short life on this planet, and he knew he had things locked inside him that weren't fit for Liz's eyes. Things he'd never told Max and Isabel for the same reason. He didn't want them dirtied by it. The three of them were of the same cloth, with their perfect families, perfect grades, perfect lives, and they were all so friggin' naive it was laughable. But he didn't want to be the one to take that innocence away from them, and Liz would be in for a very rude awakening if she delved too deeply within his subconscious.

He didn't know what kind of cosmic alien joke this stupid connection between them was, but he knew he wasn't laughing. Knowing that Liz knew so much about him made him feel vulnerable and exposed, and he hated it. There was a reason he always kept to himself, and this was it. This out-on-a-limb, what-will-she-think-of-me, I-want-her-to-like-me feeling. Maria always managed to make him feel this way, even without a connection, and he hated how uncertain and almost needy it made him feel.

He was a warrior. A stone wall. And all these females with their girly-girl emotions and unexplainable connections needed to just keep out of his way. He had a job to do on this planet, and he didn't need them distracting him.

Even though the compassionate concern from the one did warm him from the inside out.

And the passion and fire of the other burned him alive.

Those insidious thoughts made him scowl, and with a savage twist of the the throttle, the motorcycle shot forward, leaving the insistent reminders far behind.

Part 19 | Index | Part 21
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