|"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.
|Max lay on his back with an arm curled around Liz to tuck her in close to his side. Absently stroking her arm with the opposite hand, he listened quietly as she told him all about dreamwalking Maria earlier.|
She faltered a little in the telling of Maria’s dream, and Max was a little uncomfortable as well when he heard it. The image of Michael making out with Liz was definitely not something he wanted in his head, and his insecurities bedeviled him, making it far too easy to picture. Poor Maria, he thought. She’d been trapped in a dream, forced to watch, as it played out in a scene that had been important in her relationship with Michael.
Max’s heart went out to Maria. It seemed as though she just didn’t know what to think about all this. He had to admit that he’d had more than a few faltering moments of misgiving over the strength of Liz’s connection with Michael, himself. It was hard not to question whether there might be some fateful reason for its existence. But at least he knew Liz loved him. He knew how much she loved him, because he’d felt it through their connection. And he was relatively certain that she wasn’t confused about what she felt for Michael. Maria didn’t have the luxury of knowing any of that where Michael was concerned.
She must be feeling so insecure, Max thought sympathetically.
Liz ended by telling him about the discussion she and Isabel had had about the reasons why Maria might have dreamed what she had.
“She’s just so confused,” Liz said woefully. “I wish I could reassure her that this thing isn’t going to change anything between her and Michael. I know she needs to hear that from me and Michael both, but how can we do that if she won’t even talk to us?” she finished with frustrated sorrow.
“Well, maybe I should talk to her,” Max offered.
He felt bad that he’d neglected his friendship with Maria lately. They rarely ever hung out together now the way they’d fallen into the habit of doing over the summer. It sounded like she could really use a sympathetic shoulder to cry on over all this. She’d offered her own shoulder to him often enough when Liz had been away in Florida, and it was only fair that he be there for her now. Maybe they could cry on each other’s shoulders.
“I might be able to understand how she feels a little bit better than you and Michael, anyway,” Max suggested hesitantly.
Liz lifted her eyes to his face and looked at him searchingly for a long moment, a small crease between her brows.
“You haven’t been thinking the same kinds of things Maria has...have you, Max?” she asked worriedly.
Max twisted his head around on the pillow to look at her, and debated how to answer. He didn’t want Liz to think he doubted the rightness of their being together, but he didn’t want to lie to her either.
Softly, he confessed, “I have to admit, I’ve kinda been worrying about this a lot, Liz. Trying to figure out why you’re connected to Michael the way you are. A lot of crazy thoughts have crossed my mind. I- I guess they’ve probably crossed all our minds. Michael’s too. I mean, look what he said at the club tonight a-about his feelings, and who you two are supposed to be to each other,” he said uncertainly.
“Yeah, but, Max, he’s just confused,” Liz promised. “Michael doesn’t have any feelings for me. He loves Maria. I’m sure of it.”
“And you?” The words came out of their own volition. Max knew he was being pathetically needy in asking them. He’d just assured himself that he knew exactly what lay in Liz’s heart. But something in him needed to hear her say the words.
Liz pushed herself up to her elbow at his side, and looked at him with concern. The fact that he would even ask that spoke volumes to her. It gave her heart a pang to realize that he must need reassuring almost as much as Maria did.
She brushed his bangs off his forehead tenderly, then rested her palm lightly against his cheek. “I’m not confused about my feelings at all,” she told him assuredly. “I care about Michael, the same way I care about Alex...or- or Kyle.” Looking deeply into his eyes, she said feelingly, “But you own my soul, Max. I’m- bound to you. With a connection so deep, it- it’s like a part of my being. And whatever the reason turns out to be for this connection with Michael, it really doesn’t matter. Because, what you and I have... nothing can touch it,”
His eyes glowing with emotion, Max said huskily, “I love you, Liz.”
“I love you, too, Max. More than my life,” she returned with soft sincerity.
Max wrapped a gentle hand around the back of her neck to pull her down to him, and Liz went willingly. Her body lay partially atop his as their lips melded together in a kiss that took her breath away. Fervent and deep, it managed to warm her heart and arouse her at the same time. The air around them seemed to turn sultry and warm as their tongues tangled intimately together, silently exchanging heated messages of love and desire. For long moments, they became completely lost in the emotions they were kindling in one another with the hungry movements of their mouths.
When their lips finally parted, they were both flushed and breathing heavily. One of Liz’s legs had somehow found its way in between the both of his, and his arms were wrapped around her tightly, holding her close against him. Max suddenly became keenly aware that she had nothing on beneath her shirt, as their embrace flattened the soft globes of her breasts against his chest.
Little else registered beyond that fact in that moment of acute awareness, and Max swallowed hard at the feel of the tiny points that were digging into his flesh. His hand fisted in the material of her shirt between her shoulder blades as he tried to will his unruly body back under control. The move inadvertently tugged the small tee up at the bottom, and his other hand moved as if it had a will of its own, sliding caressingly across the smooth expanse of flesh that had been bared at the small of her back.
Dropping her head to rest in the crook of Max’s neck, Liz took a shuddering breath and waited for her pulse to return to normal. Were they utterly incapable of having a conversation anymore without it turning into something physical and intense, she wondered ruefully. She felt Max’s hand on her hair, and then he placed a lingering kiss on the top of her head.
“You okay?” he asked gently.
Liz nodded, her face still buried in his neck.
“Funny, I don’t remember talking being quite this hard,” Max said humorously.
Liz laughed softly and finally moved a little ways away from him, moving back down to his side, and leaving her head on his shoulder.
“Yeah, I know,” she agreed. “I was thinking almost the same thing.”
They were silent for a moment, then Max said in reiteration, “So. I’m gonna talk to Maria tomorrow.”
“Yeah. You probably are the best one to talk to her right now,” Liz conceded. She hesitated before moving to the next topic of conversation, suddenly very nervous about bringing it up. “And, um...you can tell her- we’re gonna find out why the connection is there,” she said, tentatively looking up at him to gauge his reaction.
Max’s brow furrowed. “What do you mean? How are we gonna do that?”
“Well...Michael wants to do some experimenting with it. Kind of... explore it- see where it takes us. He said the answers might be there waiting for us, you know if- if we just go in and look for them.”
Max was shaking his head before she’d even finished speaking. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Liz. This thing is too strong. It’s too unpredictable. You don’t know what might end up happening. I mean, look what happened with the energy blast. It could’ve ended up killing you! You can’t just...blithely wander around inside each other and see what you can do with this thing. It’s too dangerous,” he exclaimed roughly, disturbed by the very idea.
He didn’t like the thought of Liz and Michael working on this thing and possibly strengthening the connection between them, but his main concern was for Liz’s safety. He could still remember with frightening clarity the way she’d collapsed after doing the energy blast at the quarry, and he didn’t want anything like that happening to her again. It might not turn out okay the next time. Sure, it would be great to have answers to all their questions about this, but not if it ended up being at Liz’s expense.
Liz looked up at him and bit her lip. He was already upset, and she hadn’t even gotten to the part about how Michael had spent the night in her room last night. This was not an auspicious beginning to this conversation at all.
“We’ll be really careful, Max,” she assured him quietly. “And we won’t do the energy blast. I think we’ll mostly just try to do stuff with our minds. There can’t be any danger in that, right?”
His lips tightened as he struggled with himself over the answer to that. He was really averse to the entire idea, but part of him said that was only jealousy talking. Another part of him said he had a legitimate concern. Even if the two of them didn’t do anything that could immediately be deemed dangerous, they were just so clueless about what might happen whenever they joined their energy together. It was impossible to try and be prepared for any trouble they might encounter when they had no idea what form that trouble might take, or how it might harm Liz. And possibly even Michael.
“I don’t like it, Liz,” he said gruffly. He looked down at her and continued earnestly, “It’s too uncertain. I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
Liz looked at him in distress, feeling conflicted. She was none too enthusiastic about this idea herself, and she needed Max behind her in this. His qualms about it were making it hard for her to stick by her conviction that this was what was best for everyone.
“Max, we need answers about this thing. It’s tearing us all apart. And maybe there’s some way to control it, you know? Don’t you want to find out if there is?” Lowering her lashes, she bit her lip, then confessed, “I’m just as apprehensive of it as you are, but... I think this is the only way to make things better.” She looked at him pleadingly. “Please, Max. I really need your support in this.”
Their eyes locked in a moment of contention. Max clearly wanted to respond to her need, but just as clearly, still didn’t like the idea.
“I want to be there,” he finally said in reluctant concession. “And if anything you do gets weird in any way, promise me you’ll back off and leave it alone.”
Liz nodded quickly, relieved that they’d come to an agreement.
Squeezing him lightly around the middle, she said, “Thank you, Max. I’m really glad you’re going to be there.”
Max silently returned the hug and continued to hold her tightly, feeling a sense of dread over the entire prospect of these ‘experiments’. Being present when they did them was mostly just for his own peace of mind. He’d been virtually helpless to do anything to stop it the day the energy blast had gotten away from them. But at least he’d be there in case the worst happened, he thought grimly. And if it would make Liz feel better to have him there, so much the better.
“So... what kind of ‘mind stuff’ are you gonna try? Telepathy?” he asked with an expression of disgruntlement.
Now that the moment was upon her, she was really dreading telling him this part. She didn’t know why she hadn’t considered before now how upset he was likely to be with her. Not only because she’d let Michael spend the night, but because she hadn’t told him about her feelings of being watched.
“Um, yeah. There is that,” she answered hesitantly. Taking a deep breath, she continued, “But... I think Michael wants to try a-another dreamwalk.”
“ Another dreamwalk?” he asked frowningly.
“Well Isabel said she didn’t think it could really be a dreamwalk since both of us were asleep so I don’t know if you could really actually call it a dreamwalk but-“
“Liz, what are you talking about?” Max interrupted, her sudden nervous chatter making him uneasy. And as another thought occurred to him, he asked with confusion, “And when did you and Michael even talk about all this anyway? I thought you said you two hadn’t talked to each other all day because Maria was acting so suspicious of you. And last night Maria said you went upstairs to bed as soon as you left me at the UFO Center.”
“Yeah, I... I-I did” she admitted, “but, um... I woke up- in the middle of the night, and Michael was- was on my balcony.”
Max stiffened. “What was he doing on your balcony?”
Liz looked up at him in trepidation. “He was... keeping watch.”
“Why would he be keeping watch on your balcony, Liz?” he asked darkly, suddenly suspicious of the way she seemed to be stalling. It was becoming increasingly clear that she had something she hadn’t been telling him.
Lowering her eyes, she confessed, “Because yesterday, when we connected to- to heal the burn on Michael’s hand, he found out I- I’ve been feeling like someone... might have been watching me this week.”
“What? Why didn’t you tell me?” Max quietly exclaimed, sitting up abruptly. He couldn’t believe she could have thought herself in danger and hadn’t told him. His heart was suddenly pounding with the fear that the watcher might have singled her out, and he didn’t know whether to be angry or hurt that she hadn’t come to him with this.
Liz sat up as well and looked at him beseechingly. “I didn’t want to worry you,” she tried to explain. “I thought I was probably just being paranoid. I never actually saw anybody, it was just a feeling I got sometimes.”
Max shook his head in displeasure. “Liz, you can’t keep doing this. You can’t just not tell me things because you’re afraid they might worry me. What if something had happened to you? Something that could’ve been prevented if you’d only told me about your suspicions.”
Sighing shortly, she argued, “They weren’t suspicions, Max. They were probably nothing more than delusional feelings of paranoia. I didn’t want to make everyone all upset over nothing. And I knew if I told you, you’d think you needed to try and keep an eye on me 24 hours a day, and there’s just no way you could do that.”
“But Michael could?” he asked resentfully. “Did you let him stay on your balcony?”
Liz swallowed anxiously.
In a small voice she admitted, “I did let him stay, but... n-not on the balcony.”
Max drew back and looked at her with hurt disbelief, and she rushed to defend herself. “Well it was really cold last night, Max! He’d been sitting out there shivering for hours before I found him, and I couldn’t get him to go home. What was I supposed to do?”
“You could’ve called me. I bet I could’ve made him leave,” Max said grimly.
Exasperatedly, she said, “And how exactly would it have helped the situation to have you two fighting on my balcony? At least this way my parents were none the wiser, Michael was satisfied that he was ‘doing his duty’ by being the protector, and I got to sleep the rest of the night through without worrying that he was sitting out there contracting the first known case of alien pneumonia.”
“Right. Everybody’s happy,” Max said with a mild sarcasm that he was immediately sorry for when she bit her lip and looked away, her expression guilty and unhappy.
He couldn’t be mad at Liz for trying to make the best of a sticky situation. But he couldn’t help but feel excluded and resentful that he hadn’t known something potentially dangerous had been going on with her, while Michael had. It felt like a confirmation of his earlier suspicion that the two of them had secrets he didn’t know about.
Quietly, Liz said, “He slept on the floor in a sleeping bag. The same way he’s done here thousands of times. It didn’t mean anything, Max. He was just a friend who was borrowing some floor space.” She unconsciously used the same words Michael had used last night to reassure himself that nothing untoward was going on, and she winced slightly when she realized she’d done so.
Max sat there in grim silence as he battled his feelings of jealous pique. Liz mistook his silence for anger at her and was dismayed to feel sudden tears stinging her eyes.
Her best friend was already so mad at her she refused to speak to her, what would she do if Max shut her out too?
“Max, I-I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I thought I was being followed. I honestly just didn’t want to worry you.” Remembering his earlier chastisement, she swallowed against the tightness in her throat and said, “I know that’s really no excuse, not...not when I promised you I’d never lie to you or- or keep things from you again. You have every right to be mad, but...” her words choked to a halt and she dropped her eyes to her lap, fighting back tears.
Relenting with a sigh, Max pulled her into his arms, and her own arms wrapped thankfully around his back.
He couldn’t hold on to any resentment in the face of her distress. He knew she didn’t need this right now. She’d been through enough today.
Smoothing a hand over her hair, he told her, “I’m not mad, Liz. I’m just-“ he grimaced and forced himself to be honest, gruffly admitting, “I’m mostly just...jealous I guess. I just really wish it had been me there last night.”
Liz felt a stab of guilty remorse at his words. She could tell by the tone of his voice that he wasn’t only jealous, but he was hurt that she’d left him out of this. The fact that Michael had been let in on it instead was probably a bitter pill to swallow. Never mind that Michael had found out without her telling him. That probably only made it worse. Chalk another one up to the connection, she thought bitterly.
Pulling back from his embrace, she looked up at him with apology and regret. “I’m so sorry for not telling you, Max. If I’d had any idea it would end up hurting you, I promise I would have.”
His expression softened and he brushed her hair away from her face. “I know you would’ve. Let’s just let it go, alright? Just- please tell me if anything ever has you scared or worried, Liz. If it turns out to be nothing, that’s great. But I still want to know about it, okay?”
Chastened, she nodded with downcast eyes. “I promise.”
“Good,” he said, satisfied for the moment. “Now, c’mere.” He pulled her down with him and they both lay back down in their former positions.
She looked miserable, he was still feeling a little raw, and he needed her in his arms.
Holding her tightly in reassurance for them both, he said, “So. Tell me about this dreamwalk that wasn’t really a dreamwalk...”
Light, tinkling music, laughter, and conversation filled the large room with the sounds of festivity. In the center of a gleaming black floor, a striking couple moved gracefully amidst the dancing bodies that filled the room. The young woman looked up at her partner in smiling affection.
“How are you doing?” she asked.
He made a face of mild disgust and answered, “These feet are clumsy.” A smile lit his eyes and he asked boyishly, “Forgive me if I crush your toes?”
The girl laughed softly. “I don’t care how many times you step on my toes, just as long as you keep holding me in your arms.”
His arms wrapped around her more firmly, and he lowered his head nearer to hers. “You may count on that,” he promised huskily.
Another dancing couple moved in alongside of them.
“Zan,” the young man said with a note of quiet warning in his voice, pulling the first man’s attention away from his captivating dance partner. “Khivar just came in with some of his men.”
Zan maneuvered around until he was facing the door, then stopped dancing altogether as he eyed the entryway grimly. Four men, rough in appearance, stood near the entrance of the hall, arrogantly surveying the room as if they owned it. One of the men threw out an arm to grab a young girl who had been skirting their small group, and the others laughed at her distress as she struggled against her captor’s embrace.
Authoritatively, Zan said, “Rath, take Shaan and Vilondra to the dining hall, then come watch my back. It looks as though our friends have come looking for trouble.”
Liz’s eyes snapped open in wakefulness to find herself looking directly into Max’s as they lay on their sides facing each other in his bed. Her heart thundering, she swallowed, then asked in a hushed tone, “Was I- was I having another nightmare?”
He shook his head a little, his mind still slightly clouded by the mists of sleep. “I don’t know. I just woke up. Why? Do you think you were?”
Liz struggled to remember what had woken her up with pulses pounding.
It seemed like her dream had had something to do with.. dancing. She frowned in confused annoyance. Why did she always wake feeling as if she’d been having a nightmare, but there never seemed to be anything fearful in what she remembered about it?
“I don’t... I can’t really remember,” she answered. “Were you dreaming?” she asked with curious anxiousness, wondering if she’d gone dream-sharing, or whatever it was, again.
Max nodded slowly, and tried to recall what he’d been dreaming about. Suddenly, his eyes widened. “I- I think it had something to do with Zan,” he quietly exclaimed.
Liz’s heart renewed its hammering pace, his words bringing some of the details of her own dream rushing back to her. “I think mine did, too,” she confessed in a portentous whisper.
Outside, parked directly across the street from the Evans’ house, a dark gray sedan sat in the lifting darkness of pre-dawn. Its driver sat with an unswerving gaze fixed upon the house. One grim thought circled repeatedly among a confused din of thought pattern.
It was time to make a move.
|Part 40 | Index | Part 42|
|Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours|