|"Strong, Dangerous, and Undeniable"|
|Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine, but thanks to Ms. Metz, Mr. Katims, and the WB for letting us play.
Summary: This story begins with the scene in MITC when Liz does her astral projection thing. It follows along with everything in the show, except the final scene in MITC in Liz's room never takes place.
|Restlessly, Max pushed the last remaining morsels of his food around on the plate with his fork, practically bouncing in his seat with impatience. He kept casting glances over at Isabel, but she seemed completely oblivious as she lingered over the last of her meal. |
The plan had been for her to play the song on the jukebox that was to be the signal for them to dance because they'd thought it would look less contrived that way, but she was taking entirely too long to get to it. The dark-eyed looks of longing Liz kept sending his way wasn't doing anything to help curb his anxiety, and once again, he tried and failed to get Isabel's attention. What was she and Alex talking about that was so engrossing anyway, he wondered irritably.
Finally, he could wait no longer. Slipping off his stool, he told Liz softly, "Be right back."
Sliding his hands into his pockets, he wandered over to the jukebox as casually as possible. He stood there for a moment, pretending to look over the playlist, then went through the motions of selecting a song.
Liz's lips tipped up in a nostalgic smile as the strains of Third Eye Blind's 'Deep Inside of You' began to play. They'd played that song over and over the night of their date. The first time Max had played it she'd mentioned that she loved it, and he had plugged in enough quarters to play it at least a dozen times. She'd never been able to hear it after that without thinking of him and remembering the joy they'd taken in one another that night in the moments before things had gotten dark.
Isabel looked up in surprise at hearing her cue and her eyes automatically went to the jukebox to find Max standing there. She'd thought she was supposed to be the one to start the song, but apparently her dear brother was getting antsy. She suppressed a grin.
Going ahead with the next step of the plan, she asked, "Do you wanna dance, Alex?"
He looked at her doubtfully. "What, here?"
Isabel tilted her head in a shrug. "Sure. Why not? There's plenty of room and no one's here to see. Come on, please? I love this song."
He tightened the corner of his lips and looked at her from under his brows as if to say she knew he couldn't deny her anything. Standing, he offered her the crook of his elbow in invitation. She smiled and slipped her hand through, and they walked to an empty spot on the floor and began to dance.
Michael watched them go with a flicker of nervousness. It was his move now, but he was almost afraid to ask. Maria was acting pretty cool towards him tonight, but at least they'd managed to keep from fighting, and he didn't want to rock the boat.
Maria sat with her chin propped on her hand and watched Alex and Isabel with a faint smile. Go, Alex, she thought. She had to give him snaps for doing something so romantic, even if it had been at Isabel's behest. Why couldn't she have that? Was a little romance too much for a girl to ask? Not that she was in a particularly receptive mood for romance tonight, but maybe she wouldn't be feeling so ridiculously insecure about this whole connection thing if Michael could just throw her a small bone every now and then. She wasn't talking candy and flowers or anything, she knew better than to expect that much from him, but simply an occasional 'Hey, baby, you're swell' would be nice.
Michael rubbed at his eyebrow and looked at Maria hesitantly. "So, uh- d'you wanna" he left the sentence dangling and motioned vaguely toward the dancing couple on the floor.
It was exactly the romantic gesture she'd been wishing for only a second ago, but for some reason the words that came out of her mouth were, "I don't know, Michael. I mean- dancing," she made a clicking sound with her tongue, stretching out the corners of her lips, and gave a dire shake of her head, "That can be a pretty intimate thing to do. Are you sure it's me you wanna ask?"
Michael compressed his lips and sighed. "Just forget it. I was stupid for askin'."
His face set, he looked away, shaking his head, and Maria felt a stab of remorse. He was honestly trying to make an effort here, and she was just throwing it right back in his face.
Relenting, she tilted her head and said as if she were doing him a favor, "Alright, fine. I'll dance with you. But only because this is a good song, and because-" she darted a glance at Tess and Kyle's table and lowered her voice, "we're supposed to team up whenever possible. I just wanna make sure it's clear that this is not a concession to you in any form."
Annoyed, Michael looked at her darkly and sighed. With a look of long-suffering, he stood and pulled her to her feet by her elbow, then led her out to the floor, thinking that the world really owed him big for the things he was willing to put up with in order to carry out this whole Kyle/Tess plan.
Tess watched the two couples step out onto the floor and begin to dance, then her eyes shifted eagerly over to Max as he moved from the jukebox toward their tables. He made no indications that he was going to ask her to dance, he wasn't even looking in her direction, but that didn't stop the foolish hope from growing in her breast. A hope that came crashing down as he passed her by to walk to Liz's side.
"Dance with me?" she heard him ask softly.
Liz's lips curved upward as she looked up at him, then she gracefully got to her feet.
Tess watched with envy as Max placed his hand lightly on Liz's back to guide her out to a spot near the others who were dancing. She really should've known better than to harbor even the slightest hope that Max would choose her to partner him in anything if Liz was in the room, she thought bitterly.
She scrutinized their every move as Liz turned to face him and he took one of her hands in his, bringing it up to shoulder level, while winding the other arm loosely around her waist. Tess could find nothing in their actions to object to. Max wasn't holding her particularly close, and their stance was rather old-fashioned compared to the others', where the girls had their arms around their partners' necks. They weren't even looking at each other. All these things should've served to make Tess feel better, but instead she found herself feeling irritated that they weren't doing anything she could protest.
When Max had told her last weekend that he and Liz were going to be friends, she hadn't believed they would be able to stick to it, but she hadn't seen anything to imply that there was something more than that between them. She'd barely even seen them together this past week except for during their lunch periods on a couple of days, and even then they'd been sitting about two feet apart.
So, if they were going to maintain this 'just friends' bit, why was it that Max had to set an unswerving course for Liz, as though it was a given that she would be the one he'd ask to dance? Just once, would it kill him to give her a little recognition even though Liz was in the room, Tess wondered acrimoniously
Kyle looked at Tess with sympathetic eyes as she watched Max and Liz dance. He'd seen the way her face had fallen for the briefest moment when Max had walked past her to ask Liz to dance, and he felt a flash of indignation on her behalf. He thought Evans was supposed to be this really sensitive guy, but if that was the case, why was he so oblivious to Tess' feelings? Kyle turned to look at the two of them dancing with their heads close together. Liz Parker was the obvious answer to that question. Put those two in a room together, and they seemed to find it difficult to focus on anyone or anything else. It was like they had some sort of tunnel vision or something.
He knew exactly how Tess was feeling right now. He'd been there, done that, and had the t-shirt that said 'Forgotten like a grungy pair of old shoes because the soul mate came along'.
"Tess?" He waited for her to look at him and asked, "Would you wanna dance with me? I mean, I know I'm no Evans, but-" he shrugged slightly, "I'm game if you are."
She gave him a strange look and said, "I wouldn't want you to be Max, Kyle. Why would you even say that?"
To protect her dignity, he said carefully, "You just looked like maybe you were wishin' it was you out there with him, that's all."
"Kyle. That is- so not true," she sputtered. Untruthfully, she said, "I was just watching them with concern, not...envy, or whatever. Because I know how easy it would be for Max to get sucked back into something with Liz, and I just think that would be an extremely unwise thing to do."
Unconvinced, he looked at her directly and said while shaking his head a little, "So...you don't care if they dance together."
"Of course not. Not as long as they're just friends," she answered.
"Right," he accepted that with a nod of his head, rolling his lips inward. He shrugged. "Well, for what it's worth, they look like just friends to me," he said while studying the two on the dance floor. Personally, he had his doubts as well about them maintaining that status, but he felt Tess needed the reassurance.
After a moment of quiet observation, he became tired of being the audience for the Max&Liz show, and questioned, "So, was that a yes or a no to my 'do you wanna dance' question?"
Max and Liz would be happy to know that their behavior was convincingly casual, but it was taking everything in them to make it seem so. Conscious of Tess' eyes on them, they studiously avoided looking at each other and tried to think of other things besides the tantalizing closeness of one another's bodies. It was like an exquisite form of torture to finally be in each other's arms after yearning for it since the minute Max had walked into the Crashdown tonight, yet still having to uphold a proper distance between them.
Liz stared at the dark fabric covering Max's shoulder and repeated their list of rules to herself, throwing in a few more that applied to the situation for good measure, and struggled to ignore the sensations that were attempting to seduce her every sense. The tangy male scent of him pervaded her sense of smell until she grew dizzy with it, while the heat of his body reached out to her, seeming to beckon her closer to bathe in its warmth. The song that was playing flooded her mind with memories of the last time they'd danced to it, and she remembered the incredible feelings of newness, excitement, and giddy delight she'd experienced that night. Thoughts of that dance inevitably led to their near-kiss. It would've been their second. But they'd been interrupted when they were bare millimeters away from each other's lips, and Liz fervently wished that they were alone right now so they could take that up where they'd left off.
Max let his eyes fall closed momentarily as he breathed in deeply of the alluring scent of Liz's hair. His fingers itched to slide up her back to tangle themselves in her glossy curls, and only sheer effort of will kept him from doing so. Every ounce of will-power that wasn't being used in that endeavor was being put to use in the struggle to keep himself from molding her against the front of his body, and his hand moved restlessly at the small of her back as he denied himself that contact. He felt a pause in the heaviness of Tess' gaze on them and glanced around to see her and Kyle walking out to join them, then move together to dance. No longer under such close scrutiny, Max summarily pulled Liz closer. But still not as close as he would've liked. She went willingly and felt his seductive warmth begin to close in around her, enticing her to come closer still. As she fought against its pull, her hand played agitatedly with the collar of his shirt.
Glancing furtively over at Tess, she found her laughing up at Kyle as he said something to her, and Liz felt safe in making eye contact with Max for the first time since they'd begun dancing. Tilting her head back slightly, she lifted her eyes to his, and immediately became ensnared in amber quicksand. Her heart stumbled as she witnessed the struggle he was engaged in that was a clear echo of her own, the fight to resist the call of one another's bodies. Knowing he was feeling the same things she was made it twice as hard to withstand that call.
Her eyes locked on his, she said faintly, "I didn't know it was going to be so hard." She swallowed. "You know, keeping up this pretense."
"Yeah, uh-" Max cleared the huskiness from his throat, "Me either."
Their eyes touched upon one another's faces as their lips unconsciously parted, allowing their breath to meet and mingle in an unsubstantial kiss that failed to satisfy their growing cravings.
As Liz fingered the brushed cotton of Max's shirt, her eyes dropped from his to admire the way the black material molded to the contour of his pec. Jealously, her hand slid down to cover his heart, shaping itself to the bulge of the surrounding muscles, and felt its heavy pounding fill her palm. Her eyes lifted in a sultry gaze, and she said raspingly, "You know, you really didn't make this any easier by wearing this shirt."
Drowning in the soft heat of her dark eyes, it took a moment for her words to sink in, and then he frowned in confusion. Looking down at himself, he asked, "What's wrong with my shirt?"
Eyeing the object in question, she asked, "Isn't it the same one you wore the night we found the orb?"
Max hadn't thought about it before, but now he realized she was right. He vividly remembered her fingers on these buttons as she'd slowly stripped the shirt from him at Michael's. It was one of the most erotic memories in his experience, and he couldn't believe it had escaped his notice until now that this was that self-same shirt.
"Yeah, I guess it is," he answered.
Her fingertips caressed the soft cotton as she confessed lowly, "It makes me remember things."
Liz's eyelids grew heavy and her breathing became raspy as she recalled the sensual memories from that night, and Max pulled in an unsteady breath as he watched her and began to remember things too.
The undeniable feelings that had drawn them together like magnets beginning that night at the Crashdown, the reckless urgency that had filled him every time she'd been near, and the incredible heat they'd generated between them whenever they'd so much as touched. If they'd gone forward with their intentions to make love that night in the desert, Max had no doubt that they would've burned each other alive.
His heart beat faster against her hand and his eyes, dark and glittering, roamed her face, as the memories of that heated passion raised his body temperature now, creating a keen thirst in him he felt nothing would quench except the taste of her lips.
Liz licked her lips as Max's eyes focused there, and she saw his gaze grow hotter at the sight. She was having trouble breathing as the pull of his heat grew insistent, luring her a tiny step closer. Suddenly, and without warning, the connection between them opened, and Liz was swamped with the intensity of his emotions.
With a soundless gasp her eyes latched onto his as she felt his desire eddy thickly within her, like the richest of warm, melted chocolate. Dark and sweet, it urged her to taste of it, and the temptation was becoming more than she could withstand. Their heads tilted a small degree closer.
"Max," she breathed yearningly.
His fingers stiffened on her back, the tips softly digging into her flesh, and he said hoarsely, "I know."
He'd been immersed in his own sea of outpouring emotions, and it seemed an impossible task to resist her longing when he fully understood the depth of it. Her craving for his kiss matched his in intensity and he couldn't fight himself and her both. He had to get them out of there. But, he still had enough presence of mind to realize that they couldn't just go off alone. Tess was watching them closely tonight, and it would look far too suspicious if they disappeared together.
He couldn't seem to tear his eyes away from Liz's for even glance in Tess' direction to find out if she was witnessing this charged moment between them, but he maneuvered around so that his back was facing the spot he'd last seen her and Kyle, in the hopes of shielding them from her view.
Liz felt his concern through the connection, and she had to admit he was right. It was way too risky to go somewhere alone right now. But, at that moment she began to be inundated with a series of flashes that swayed her dangerously close to the who cares, let's risk it point of view. The images were of her and Max locked passionately together at different locations. Alone at the Crashdown, his bedroom and hers, her balcony, the eraser room, the pod chamber, some of them had them in more intimate embraces than others, some in different states of undress, but all of them were scenes of events that had never taken place. She was momentarily confused until a familiar image flashed before her, and she caught her breath as she realized that these all must be fantasies Max had had about them.
The flash that clued her in was the fantasy she'd had of them in the shower of the girls' locker room at school. Apparently, Max had taken that one and made it his own, furthering it in a direction that was different from the way it had played out in her own head.
He moves toward her with focused intent, taking visual inventory of her dripping, naked form with a gaze that contains fascinated awe. Without protest, she allows him to look his fill.
"You're beautiful, Liz. I've never even imagined anything as beautiful as you." She smiles shyly, and lifts his hand to her flesh. "Touch me, Max."
Using the towel, his hands, his lips, he dries her with tender thoroughness, and her hands cradle the back of his head as he sits before her on his knees, the sounds coming from her throat driving him insane with lust.
"Make love to me, Max!" she cries, her head thrown back as his lips hungrily map her body. "I've waited forever and I don't want to wait anymore! I want to belong to you completely."
Liz gave a shuddering sigh, her surroundings slowly coming back into focus as the flashes came to a halt. Her heart slammed against her ribs, her breath rushed hotly, and when she raised her eyes to his, they were black with passion, making Max's breath catch in his throat. He was aware that she'd gotten flashes, he just wasn't sure what she'd seen, but whatever it had been had heightened the level of her desire to a seething roil that threatened to suck him completely under, Tess or no Tess.
Their clasped hands had tightened to a death-grip, and the hand that rested on Max's shoulder was actually exerting a steady force, as though the impetus was needed to keep them from coming together.
"We have to get out of here, Max," Liz said low and urgent. "If we don't...I-I'm afraid I'm gonna do something we'll regret. Please, get me out of here."
The desperation in her voice added to his own sense of urgency, and as he began to look wildly around for a quiet place for them to go, he noticed that the others had stopped dancing, and were turning to make their way back to the tables. He hadn't even heard the song come to an end.
He and Liz stood there for a brief moment in wavering indecision, loathe to let each other go, but knowing that they couldn't just keep standing there locked together.
"We'll have to make some kind of excuse," Max said thickly.
Liz nodded jerkily.
They pried their hands away from each other, and both moved on unsteady legs to join the group. Max tried desperately to get his brain to work amidst the fog of desire it was enveloped in as he searched for a ready excuse for him and Liz to leave.
But he didn't get a chance to say anything anyway, because they reached the table just in time to hear Isabel saying, "Did anybody really have their heart set on seeing this movie tonight?"
"Why? Did you have something else in mind?" Kyle asked.
Her eyes sparkling, Isabel answered, "Well, I've been hearing the kids at school talk about this new place that just opened in Dexter. It's like a club for teens. There's dancing, and a restaurant, and I think on weekends they have a live band. I thought you might like that Alex." She wagged her head side to side. "It would sorta give you a chance to check out the local competition. So. Anybody up for a road trip?" she grinned.
The girls all agreed that it sounded like fun, and Alex gave his assent mostly because he was interested in hearing whoever might be playing live, but also because he was always willing to fall in with whatever Isabel wanted to do. Michael and Kyle were vocal in their objections, saying that this one dance had been enough for one night, but Isabel told them persuasively that she thought she'd heard that they had a game room or some kind of sports bar or something, and that ought to be right up their alley. Plus, the girls all promised that they wouldn't insist on any more than four dances from them, tops.
"Slow dances," Kyle negotiated.
Tess looked at Isabel and Maria questioningly. "Deal," she said.
"Great!" Isabel exclaimed happily. "I've been wanting to check this place out. So, how many cars should we take?"
As they discussed road plans, no one noticed that Max and Liz hadn't spoken a word during the entire exchange. They stood there stiffly with hands tightened into fists as their plans seemed to be changed without their consent, and they saw their chance for a moment alone evaporating like so much mist.
When Max realized that the decision had been all but made, responsibility reared its head, breaking through the immobilizing arousal that had held him in its grip. Clearing his throat he said, "I'm not sure this is such a good idea, Isabel. I mean, going to an unfamiliar place crowded with strangers. It'll be too hard to keep an eye out in a situation like that."
Moving to stand in front of him she said, "Come on, Max. Just this once, why can't we act like normal teenagers for a change?"
Regretfully, he answered, "Because we're not normal teenagers, Is. We can't forget that someone might be following us."
"So what if they are. We'll be in a public place. What could possibly happen? As long as no one gets separated from the others, we should be fine. Right?"
Liz felt his hesitation as he took Isabel's words under consideration. The urgency to be alone with him had dissipated somewhat as she saw the chances of it happening dwindle down to nothing, and a dull ache now throbbed in its place. The idea of getting lost within a crowd of strangers held a certain appeal. If nothing else, they should be able to dance without Tess' eyes on them the whole time.
And maybe it would be possible to sneak away for a few minutes without anyone noticing.
"Let's go, Max," Liz said persuasively. When he looked down at her with mild surprise, she added, "It'll be fine. I mean, we'll be out on the open highway most of the way there. We ought to be able to tell if anyone's following us, right?"
He looked at her quizzically for a moment. She sure had fallen in with the change of plan quickly enough. Knowing that she must have something in mind, and seeing the sense of her words about noticing if someone followed them there, Max gave in.
So, it was three cars that left the restaurant and headed for the open road.
|Part 29 | Index | Part 31|
|Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours|