Fanfic - Max/Liz
"Strong, Dangerous, and Undeniable"
Part 46
by Destinee
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.
Category: Max/Liz
Rating: PG
It was a silent foursome that rode in the jeep over to Liz’s house from the old soap factory. Everyone seemed to need the time to themselves to process everything they’d just learned, but at the same time, they each felt the need to be connected to their significant other. As a result, Maria sat close against Michael’s side underneath the arm he had wrapped around her shoulders, and Max and Liz were once again holding hands tightly while he drove.

It was good not to have to worry about covering up their relationship at the moment, and Liz was really glad that Michael and Maria knew about them. It was also good to see that Maria wasn’t letting their discoveries about the depth of their connection destroy the tentative progress she and Michael had made in their relationship today. If anything, they seemed to be drawing closer together.

Liz knew Michael was still doing everything he knew to do to demonstrate his feelings to Maria, and she was sure Maria could really use the reassurance right now. And Liz didn’t have to be able to actually experience his feelings to know that the same held true for Max.

She glanced over at his darkened profile, lit by the greenish glow from the jeep’s instrument panel, and his drawn features gave her heart a pang. Tightening her hand around his, she covered the back of it with her free hand, and began to stroke it softly.

Max automatically returned the small squeeze, and feeling her gaze upon him, took his eyes off the road to look over at her. His expression cleared, and they shared a brief tender look.

Liz received as much comfort as she gave from the silent exchange. She’d thought getting some answers about this connection would make things better. Instead, it had only stirred more turmoil within her, and made her need to know the reason why the connection existed even stronger.

It just felt so wrong to be sharing these things with Michael. She wasn’t comfortable having all this intimate knowledge of him. And she was even less comfortable with the idea that he could invade her thoughts and emotions at any given time. She felt like she couldn’t even think about anything personal with him nearby for fear that he might be able to listen in, and she resented the fact that she had to monitor her own thoughts.

She couldn’t help but think again that she should be experiencing all these things with Max instead of Michael, and that some kind of mistake had been made. Or that Max had switched something around inside her by accident when he’d changed her.

But somehow, in some deep, obscure part of her being, this thing with Michael felt utterly right. Like something finally falling into place. And the thought made her want to run as far, and as fast as she could.

Max imagined that he could almost feel the turbulence of Liz’s emotions communicate themselves through their point of contact, and he brushed the back of her hand with his thumb in a slow soothing rhythm. Though his own emotions were far from calm at the moment.

He was glad to know that while the energy blast was still something of a wild card, it wasn’t necessarily deadly to Liz if they did do it. But that was about the only good thing they’d learned so far tonight as far as Max was concerned. All this stuff about them connecting without meaning to, even from across the room, and having the ability to feel each other’s emotions with a single touch was hard to have to watch, and Max was having to deal with it a little sooner than he’d been ready to. Of course, he probably never would’ve been truly ready, but right now, when he was already aggravated with Michael, all this was only adding to his resentment of him.

He’d known that when Liz and Michael both finally gave in to this connection, he was going to have a hard time with it, but the reality was even worse than he’d anticipated. He hated having to share Liz with Michael in this way. He felt like Michael was taking something from her that should only belong to him. And the fact that Michael could see even deeper within her than he, himself could, was really eating at him.

The only thing that was helping him stay calm was knowing how it would upset Liz if she knew how much all this was bothering him. He wanted to make this as easy for her to deal with as he could, and knowing how jealous he felt over it would only make things harder for her.

He just wished they could find out why they shared a connection like this. One that was so strong, and carried abilities with it that none of the rest of them had. It was crazy, and it made no sense. And it seemed the more they were finding out about it, the more perplexing it became.

They pulled up in front of the Crashdown, and Liz turned in her seat to direct a look at Maria.

“Would you come in with me? It might make it more convincing.”

Maria nodded her assent, and Liz turned back to say softly to Max, “Be right back.”

He gave her a slight smile and brief nod in return, and the two girls climbed from the jeep, leaving him and Michael alone.

As they sat waiting for Liz and Maria’s return, the silence in the car was thick and stifling, and the very air around the two boys seemed to churn with tension and hostility.

Michael just knew words of chastisement were coming his way, the only question was, over which incident? The two of them hadn’t had a moment of privacy like this since the last time Max had chewed him out, two days ago.

That had been because of the way he’d been treating Liz all week, and Michael admitted, if only to himself, that the lecture had been deserved on that one. But he was just daring Max to say anything about what had happened at the club last night. Not when his own behavior was far more deserving of a lecture than Michael felt his had been. He knew he’d said some things he shouldn’t have, but if Max dared to try and call him on it, he had plenty he could say to him in return. And Michael was feeling just edgy enough over this connection business to welcome the fight.

He wasn’t too thrilled about the revelations they’d made about it tonight. He’d hoped he and Liz would be able to explore the thing without it getting all that personal, but the discoveries they’d made earlier proved that would be an impossibility. He didn’t want Liz seeing everything that was inside his head, and now it seemed he was going to have to be on constant guard against that whenever she was around. The infringement really irritated him

But as much as he hated feeling that he no longer had the privacy of his own thoughts, the urge to find out an explanation for this connection was riding him hard. There had to be a reason why they could do all this stuff, and he just knew if they dug deep enough they could find it. The resentment and objection to these mental abilities, and the need to explore it more deeply, were warring emotions within him, and the conflict was making him extremely ill-tempered. And the tension of waiting for Maxwell to get on his case was making him feel wound even more tightly.

Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore, and in an abrupt movement, he leaned up between the seats and said shortly, “Alright, let’s have it.”

Max threw a dark look over his shoulder, then went back to his scrutiny of the front of the Crashdown.

“Let’s have what?” he asked tonelessly.

Michael scowled and said, “Don’t play coy with me, Maxwell. Just say what you have to say and let’s get this over with.”

His brusqueness had the same affect as putting a match to tinder, and Max’s irritation with him immediately reached a flash point.

Twisting around in his seat, he said tightly, “Okay. You wanna know what I have to say? This whole attitude you have lately is unacceptable, and I’d better see it change, quick. One more crack like the one about me getting lucky, and I swear I won’t be held accountable for my actions, Michael,” he told him with a stormy-eyed look of warning. “I warned you last night about being more respectful of Liz than that, and I’m not gonna tell you again.”

“Hey, what I said had nothin’ to do with Liz,” Michael refuted. “It’s not her fault all you seem to be thinkin’ with is your energy source these days,” he said contemptuously.

“What?!” Max flushed a dull angry red at the accusation. Harshly, he said, “Look, I don’t know what your problem is about what happened between me and Liz last night- unless it’s these ‘feelings’ you suddenly think you have for her,” he charged scornfully, “But I do know that what happened at that club is none of your business. It’s between me and Liz. And I don’t care if you can see all the way down to the very bottom of her soul,” bitterness colored his words, “That does not give you a right to censor her actions, or mine, and you’d better just step back and stop giving me grief over this.”

“Is that an order from the king?” Michael challenged sneeringly.

Max’s expression hardened. “No. It’s a warning. From me, Max. The guy that used to be your best friend, remember?”

“Used to be is right,” Michael returned. “You sure haven’t been much of a friend lately.”

Max felt a flash of outrage. “ I haven’t been much of a friend?! What about you, Michael? Ever since that day at the cave when we found out who we are, all you’ve done is constantly criticize me and try to tick me off. I’m sorry, but it’s a little hard to be a friend to somebody who’s always at your throat,” he said accusingly.

“Well don’t kid yourself, Maxwell. It’s not any easier bein’ friends with someone who’s always on your back,” Michael shot back.

“I am not always on your back, Michael,” Max emphatically denied. “If anything, I think I’ve been pretty patient with you considering all the stunts you’ve pulled.”

“Yeah, that’s you all right. Patient ,” Michael agreed, his mouth turned down in disgust.

“That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” Max pounced on his words. “That right there. If you don’t think you aren’t always on my back about something, you’re sadly mistaken. You never have anything to say to me anymore unless it’s some kind of dig about the way I’m doing things. So forgive me for thinking our friendship isn’t exactly something you cared much about anymore.”

The words seemed to strike at the very heart of the matter.

At the abrupt cessation of their raised voices, the silence in the jeep felt profound, as they both realized their argument had somehow wound around to the crux of the problem between them.

Michael didn’t know what to say. While it was true he’d been feeling generally pissed off at Max since that day at the cave, never once had he ceased to think of him as a friend. He and Isabel were the closest thing to family he’d ever had, and he didn’t think he’d ever be able to get so mad that he’d want to break off their friendship.

Not that he even could if he’d wanted to. Now that they knew how important it was for them to stay together they were stuck with each other. But for Michael, it was a good kind of stuck. It offered a kind of stability he’d never had before, the assurance that someone would always be there, and he’d found that he liked having it.

It made him feel a little guilty to know that Max had been thinking he didn’t even want to be friends with him any more. Michael knew he’d been giving him a hard time lately, but he obviously needed to try and make an effort to cool it. It wouldn’t be easy, though. Everything Max did these days just seemed to irk him for no good reason.

Michael cleared his throat. “Listen, uh- Maxwell,” he started, but that was as far as he got before the opening of the jeep’s passenger door interrupted him.

Maria was in position to climb into the car ahead of Liz, but now she stood there awkwardly as she gained the impression they’d interrupted something important.

“Sorry,” she apologized uncertainly.

Michael glanced at Max, but the moment had been lost. He hadn’t really been sure what he was going to say anyway.

In dismissal of her apology, he shrugged and said, “For what?”

Max sighed with frustration. He didn’t know what Michael had been about to say, but he thought they’d been on the brink of having a discussion that was long overdue between them. Who knew when they might ever get back to this particular place in time again? But as let down as he felt, it wasn’t Maria’s fault, and Max took pity on her.

“Yeah, there’s no reason to apologize, Maria,” he assured her. “Get in.”

Maria hesitated, then stepped up into the jeep, and Michael put up a hand to steady her as she climbed between the front seats to join him in the back. Liz threw a quick look between Max and Michael before getting in behind her. Slipping her backpack from her shoulder to sit it on the floorboard at her feet, Liz looked at Max questioningly. She’d been so focused on making a persuasive argument to her parents, she hadn’t thought about it being a bad idea to leave him and Michael alone out here, but she knew they weren’t on the best of terms at the moment.

Max shook his head slightly to indicate that it was nothing, then glanced at her bag in the floor.

“So they said okay?”

“Yeah,” Liz answered. “They said it was fine.”

“Good. I guess now we should run by my house so I can get some things,” Max said to the car in general, then started the jeep and pulled out.

His hand wrapped around Maria’s in the back seat, Michael aimed a brooding look at Max and Liz. He didn’t much like this plan of the two of them spending the night together in his apartment. He was probably doomed to another sleepless night as he worried over what they were doing together, he thought with resignation. But he’d rather they were close enough for him to keep an eye on them than to be across town at Max’s place again. And he didn’t want Liz to be alone and unprotected tonight any more than Max did. There was no question of her spending the night in his apartment without Max there, Michael knew, so this was probably the best solution. But he still didn’t like it much.

After a quick stop at Max’s, the four of them returned to Michael’s apartment together, and filed in the door to the living area.

They stood in awkward uncertainty, exchanging glances with one another, until Maria finally said, “So, what are you guys gonna do now?”

She watched while Michael and Liz looked at each other in question, and wondered jealously if they were speaking with that language she couldn’t hear. She was really hating witnessing all this supernatural stuff they were able to do with each other. She’d thought about just telling Max to take her home after they’d gotten through at his house, but she figured it would make her even crazier to sit at home and wonder about everything they were finding out than it would to just be here and see for herself. Neither option particularly appealed though.

Actually, Liz and Michael weren’t speaking silently. They were just trying to guess at the other’s line of thinking. Liz was listening, but she got no sense of him trying to communicate with her. It made her wonder exactly how paranoid she was being in thinking he could hear her thoughts at any time.

After a moment of inquisitive silence, Liz said, “Um....I guess I kinda have the idea that you could tune into my thoughts just- whenever. It, uh- it’s making me a little paranoid,” she admitted.

“Tell me about it,” Michael said in agreement.

“I’d really like to find out if that’s true. Or, do we actually have to be connected first? And as far as connecting goes... I don’t understand how we can just do that even when we’re trying not to. I mean, the thing doesn’t have a life of its own, right? There has to be some way to control it, don’t you think?” She asked the question of Michael, but she looked at Max and Maria to see if they had any insight to offer. She certainly hoped they could learn to control it, otherwise she would be leery of ever even looking at Michael again for fear of forming a connection at some inopportune moment.

“Maybe there is. But the only way to find out is to practice with it,” Max reluctantly concluded. “Find out if maybe something triggers it, or if you’re unconsciously doing something that brings it to life.”

The last thing he wanted to do was encourage them to work on it and strengthen this bond between them, but he didn’t like the idea of Michael being in Liz’s head at any and all times either.

“Well, we definitely know that when one of us uses our powers it activates it,” Michael said ruefully.

“But only at a certain distance,” Liz put in.

“Right,” he agreed with a nod.

“Is that the only time, do you think?” she asked. If that was the case, it shouldn’t be that big a problem. But then there was that thing about feeling each other’s emotions. That hadn’t really felt the same as a connection though. At least, not at first.

Shrugging, Michael replied, “Like Maxwell said, I guess there’s only one way to find out.” He glanced over at Max, but he wasn’t exactly seeking his approval, he told himself. He was just checking on his reception of the idea.

To be honest, Michael really didn’t relish giving Liz another opportunity to get inside his head himself. But he needed to find out everything he could about this thing with an intensity that almost bordered on desperation.

Liz glanced at Max and Maria apologetically, then asked Michael, “So how should we do that?”

In lieu of a reply, Michael reached up to give Maria’s elbow a gentle squeeze before moving away towards the kitchen, and motioned Liz to follow.

She looked up at Max, and he gave her a slight smile of supportive understanding that tugged at her heart. He was being so great about this thing. Him and Maria both. She knew they had to be hating every minute of this, but they hadn’t spoken a word of protest about their experimenting all night. Liz briefly lay a hand over Max’s heart and tried to convey all her gratitude and appreciation with the simple touch, and Max covered it with his own to give it a light squeeze before sending her on her way.

She pulled herself away from him and moved across the room to join Michael, who sat sideways on one of the barstools at the counter that separated the tiny kitchen from the rest of the apartment.

“Have a seat,” he invited, indicating the twin to his stool.

Liz slipped off her jacket as Michael had done and laid it on top of the bar. Tucking her hair behind her ear as she sat, she said somewhat nervously, “What are we doing?”

Michael could feel her uneasiness with the whole situation. Or maybe he just heard it in her voice and felt deeply empathetic. He didn’t know whether he could be sure the emotions he felt were hers or his anymore.

“Relax,” he told her soothingly. “I just thought we could see if we connect without trying to when we’re this close.”

Liz nodded her comprehension and shifted on the hard seat. She didn’t seem to know what to do with her hands, and finally just clasped them loosely together in her lap. Hesitantly, she looked over at Michael, and waited tensely to see what would happen.

Michael let his eyes meet hers and braced himself for her entry. They gazed at each other for a few strained moments, but no connection formed.

Both of them breathed a sigh of relief, but then Liz said, “You know, this really doesn’t prove anything. We were braced against it. All those times before, it happened when we weren’t expecting it.”

Frowning at her logic, he replied, “Well, we can’t exactly sit here and be unsuspecting, Liz, so I don’t see how we can test that theory. Maybe it just takes more than looking at each other.” He pulled a face. “When we aren’t using our powers, that is. Let me just...” He lifted his hand to hover near her lap. “I wanna try something, okay?” He waited for her nod of assent before moving to lay his hand gingerly atop her forearm.

In only an instant, he was inundated with a wash of emotion that wasn’t his own. Curious dread, guilt, and apprehension all settled over him in a tangled coil. It didn’t feel exactly like they were connected, he couldn’t actually feel her inside him, it just seemed like some kind of instinctual knowing what she was feeling at the moment. But then she looked up at him with a slight frown of disquiet, and that was all it took to form a genuine connection between them.

When Liz was inexorably drawn into Michael’s subconscious, she let herself be pulled there and thought wryly, I guess that’s one of those triggers Max mentioned.

She was slightly startled to hear an answering echo say dryly, Yeah. Definitely something we should avoid in the future.

Liz couldn’t get used to hearing him talk inside her head like that. It was such an odd feeling. It wasn’t like hearing spoken words, but it was more vocal than if she were just hearing herself think. It was more like a subtle vibration of tones inside her head that somehow managed to convey all the inflections that his voice would have if he spoke aloud. Sitting this close, she had no trouble hearing him perfectly.

Responding to his last statement, she thought back to him, Maybe we should make it a rule. No touching, not even accidentally, when we’re in public.

She could feel his amusement as he made the comment, Looks like you’re following a lot of rules these days.

She knew then that he’d ‘seen’ her list of rules for her and Max and felt a distinct sense of encroachment. Her indignation increased when she heard him silently ask with a frown, What’s this about rule # 23?

Hey! That is something that’s just between me and Max, Michael. Get out!

Giving him a dark look, she thought, Obviously, we are gonna have to have some rules about invading each other’s private thoughts.

Hey, I couldn’t help it, he protested. It was right there.

Well, your little makeout session with Maria before we interrupted is right there too, but you don’t see me delving into it and making personal comments about it, now do you?

Feeling a mild sense of outrage, Michael hastily tried to pull his thoughts into hiding, resenting her intrusion into what had been a very personal moment.

Grimly, he asked, What were you saying about some rules?

She could feel him trying to tuck his thoughts away, but it wasn’t working. She could still clearly hear the flirty comments Maria had made earlier to encourage Michael to kiss her, and Liz felt the surge of lust and love Michael had felt when he’d complied.

Appalled, Liz desperately tried to block all that out, and she returned in a thought every bit as grim as his had been, I don’t think rules are gonna do any good. Maybe we should just break the connection.

Michael’s first instinct was to agree. Everything in him objected to the idea of her seeing things he was determined would remain hidden. But at the last minute, he shook his head in dissent.

“We need to figure out a way to block this kind of thing, Liz. I want to find out everything we can about this connection, but we can’t do that if we’re constantly worrying about what the other one is gonna see.”

“But what if we can’t do that, Michael? I don’t want you horning in on all my private thoughts. Y’know, they call them private for a reason.”

He gave her a look of exasperation. “Look, I probably have a lot more thoughts I wanna keep private than you do, but you want to find out the reason for this thing, right?” he asked, already knowing the answer. “And I know the answer’s in there somewhere. We just have to look.”

“And how exactly are you planning to go about doing that, Michael?” Max asked with displeasure, as he and Maria joined them at the bar.

Michael looked at them in surprise. Neither he, nor Liz had been aware that they’d started speaking aloud, allowing Max and Maria to hear the latter part of their conversation. The two of them had listened to Liz’s protests about Michael’s entry into her private thoughts with grim dismay. It was one thing to think Michael and Liz had the ability to know everything there was to know about each other, but to hear them voice an actual confirmation of it made it really hit home.

Fighting back the jealousy that threatened to consume him, Max asked with dark skepticism, “How do you think you’re going to find the answers about this connection inside each other?”

Michael’s brows drew down in frustration as he grappled for an answer. He couldn’t explain why he thought the answers were hidden somewhere inside the connection itself, and he wasn’t really even sure what to do to get at them, he just somehow knew they were there.

“I don’t know how, okay? I just know they’re there. I feel it,” he finally replied feelingly. “We just have to... keep connecting, and- I don’t know...explore it.” Looking at Maria and Max, he said in acknowledgement, “Look, I know none of us are crazy about this whole thing, but I think we all need to get some answers about it, and this is the only way I know how to get them. But I’m up for suggestions if anyone else thinks there’s a better way.” He looked at each of them in turn, and waited for an answer.

Max looked at Liz unhappily, wishing there was some other way to do this. He’d known the whole purpose for tonight was to find some answers about the thing, and he agreed with the plan in theory. It was just that watching them go about it now was stirring up all kinds of objections in him. He wanted them to stop, but at the same time, he wanted to know more about it.

Reluctantly, he shook his head in answer to Michael’s question, and abjectly prepared himself to have to watch his girlfriend share her innermost being with his ‘used to be’ best friend.

Maria looked between Liz and Michael broodingly and asked, “Well, do you think you can at least block each other from seeing everything?”

Liz reached out to touch her on the arm and replied emphatically, “Believe me, Maria. We’re going to do everything possible.”

Slowly, Maria sighed in acceptance. She knew none of this could be very easy for them either, but it just seemed so much worse to have to stand on the sidelines and watch it all unfold in front of her.

She and Michael exchanged a look much the same as the one Max and Liz were sharing at the moment, as each of them tried to silently bolster and reassure one another.

Finally, Max and Maria retreated to the living area with unwilling footsteps, and settled themselves side-by-side on the couch.

Michael and Liz watched them go, feeling conflicted about doing this because of what it was putting them through. But they both felt that the sooner they found the reason for this thing, the better off they would all be. Hopefully.

They looked at one another uncertainly, and Liz said, “, how did you want to do this? You know, I could feel you trying to hide your thoughts before, but I could still see them.”

Michael thought for a moment, then said, “Let’s just connect, and focus all our concentration on keeping each other blocked out. Maybe if that’s the only thing we focus on we can figure out what works and what doesn’t.”

It sounded as good a plan as any to Liz, and she nodded her head in agreement.

He watched her take a deep breath, and asked, “Ready?”

Nodding, she lifted her gaze to his, and he reached out to grasp her forearm, the same as he had before.

In the next breath they were connected.

Again, Liz felt a twinge of disconcertment at how easily that happened between them. They really were going to have to be careful about making contact when they were in public from now on.

Michael’s energy and emotions flowed all around her. The first thing she became aware of was his conflict regarding this whole thing, and his need to know why the connection was there felt even more urgent than her own. What was it that was pushing them in this, she wondered uneasily. She could feel Michael’s worry and remorse over Maria and her feelings, and there was a sense of regret that seemed to be attached to Max somehow.

At the same time that she felt a slight resistance go up in him, she heard him tell her, Focus, Liz.

Turning her attention towards the matter at hand, Liz focused all her concentration on forming some kind of wall around her thoughts to keep Michael out. She could feel the brushing of his mind against hers, and she did everything she could think of to block him, pulling her thoughts back into the deepest corner she could find, and trying to exert an actual force against him to push him away. At the same time that she was doing all that, she could feel a pushing sensation, as Michael tried to do the same to her.

But in spite of their best efforts, he was still there in her mind, a presence she couldn’t seem to expel, and though his thoughts were somewhat muted, she could still hear the whirling of his mind.

After several minutes of the struggle, Liz thought, This isn’t working, Michael. She felt, more than heard his concession, and suggested, What if, instead of me trying to keep you out, I just, like, try to keep myself from seeing your thoughts, and you do the same with me?

Michael nodded. It’s worth a try.

Going at it with a different approach, Liz began to reign in her subconscious mind and try to separate it from his, so his thoughts would no longer be audible to her. She pulled with all the power her mind could summon, but she was perturbed to find there seemed to be just no getting them apart.

She could tell Michael was having no more success than she was, and after a few moments, she heard him explode with frustration. What is this thing that binds us together like this?! It’s the same as with our energy. Once they come together, it’s like they fuse or something.

Trying to ignore the heated wave of emotion he’d set off inside her with his spurt of temper, Liz sent calming thoughts his way, and said mentally, Let’s just try something else, okay?

Sighing shortly, he rubbed a hand over his mouth and tried to calm down. What? he asked for her idea.

Well, maybe each of us could just try to focus on one thing, you know? Like, you just concentrate on getting inside my thoughts, and I’ll focus on keeping you out. Maybe if I don’t let myself be distracted by what’s going on in your head, I can figure out a way to anticipate you, and keep you from getting in.

Michael nodded in favor of the strategy. Sorta, you be defensive, I’ll be offensive, he clarified.

Right, she agreed.

Okay, let’s try it.

He gave her a moment to shore up her defenses, and Liz tried to gather her thoughts and pull them back into what felt like the deepest reaches of her mind. When she felt Michael advance upon them, she attempted to get a sense of where he would make his entry. Since he wasn’t focusing on restricting her access to his thoughts at all, it wasn’t hard to read his intentions, and she put everything she had into throwing up a defensive block and push him back. She thought she’d been successful when she felt him pull away and come at them from another angle, but she became distracted by a sudden series of flashes that came from Michael’s unguarded mind.

** Flash**

Darkness all around, heart pounding with fear as a small, trembling figure huddles close.

** Flash**

A man, waving a belt around wildly, his face contorted with fury, as he screams, “I’ll have her taken away! Is that what you want, you little snot?! Don’t think I won’t!”

** Flash**

A middle-aged woman, dragging a struggling little girl towards a dark sedan, the girl squirming desperately within her grasp, and wailing Michael’s name.

** Flash**

The car, pulling away, a tiny, pale face pressed against the back window as a small boy chases behind screaming, “Wait! Take me too! I’m her brother! Sara! I’m sorry, Sara! I’m sorry!”

The heartrending emotion that was left in the wake of the flashes made Liz gasp, and tears choked her throat. Her guard against Michael’s intrusion into her thoughts was all but forgotten as the troubling images took root in her mind, allowing Michael an unchallenged entrance with his next approach. Once inside, he became aware of what she’d seen almost immediately.

Liz felt a sudden withdrawal as he swiftly turned his attention to his own thoughts, and he desperately tried to push her away, while at the same time doing his utmost to shield them.

Get out, Liz! he ordered her fiercely.

Still trying to assimilate what she’d just seen, Liz was unconsciously searching his memories for answers to some of the questions the flashes had wrought. Michael, what...?

Realizing what she was doing, he pushed at her harder and thought harshly, I mean it, Liz! Get out! NOW!

Liz hardly even heard him. Her mind was whirling a mile a minute as she tried to fill in all the blanks of the story that had just played out.

Michael had a sister? How was that even possible? What had happened to her? And how was it that he’d gone through an obviously traumatising situation like that, and nobody knew? She was almost positive Max didn’t know about it. Or Maria either.

Not until she felt him forcibly pushing at her mind, did she realize that she was still intruding on his thoughts, and it was more than apparent that he wanted her out. But she was unwilling to just let this go. Why hadn’t he ever told anybody?

Michael, who was that? Was she...?

I’m not gonna tell you again, Liz,” he interrupted, infuriated by this invasion, and even more incensed that she wasn’t listening to him, and wouldn’t back off. He was terrified of what else she might see if he didn’t get her out immediately, and he shouted insistently into her head, GET OUT!! With that, he gave her a forceful mental shove that hit her with the impact of a physical blow, and she recoiled violently, her hands flying to her head as if she really had been hit.

Pain bloomed inside her skull, and she groaned softly while she pressed her palms against the sides of her head as if she could hold it at bay that way.

Instantly remorseful, Michael jumped from his stool, and grabbed hold of her upper arms. “I’m so sorry, Liz. I didn’t mean...”

Max elbowed him aside as he rushed to Liz’s aid, and he asked Michael furiously, “What did you do?!”

Michael looked at Max guiltily before turning his gaze back to Liz , whose head was now cradled in Max’s hands.

“I don’t know,” he answered. “I just...pushed her out of my head. Hard,” he admitted regretfully.

Knowing the two boys didn’t need another bone of contention between them, Liz forced herself to ignore the pain that had now faded to a throbbing ache, and pulled Max’s hands from her scalp to hold them in hers.

“I’m alright, Max. Michael didn’t mean to,” she glanced at Michael with a silent assurance of forgiveness, then lifted her eyes to Max’s to see the expression of worry there. She gave his hands a reassuring squeeze, and said, “Really, I’m fine. We were just trying to figure out a way to block each other from our thoughts. I think we found it,” she ended dryly.

“Yeah, but I won’t ever do that again, Liz,” Michael promised. “If I’d had any idea it would hurt you like that I swear I never would’ve done it in the first place.”

“I know, Michael. It’s okay. Really,” she assured him. “You know, I think maybe what we were doing before that might have been working.”

Grateful that she was willing to forgive and forget, and that she hadn’t said anything to the others about the flashes, he fell in with her attempt to move on, and said quietly, “Yeah. You may be right.”

“But you aren’t gonna work on it anymore tonight, right?” Maria said imploringly to them both as she looked at Liz with concern. “I mean, you could’ve given her a concussion or something for pete’s sake,” she declared, lifting a hand to lightly place it on the back of Liz’s head. She hated to see her keep getting hurt from this thing. As far as she could see, this stupid connection had absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

“Maria, no. I really am okay,” Liz insisted, hoping the throb above her right eyebrow couldn’t be seen pounding underneath her skin the way it felt like it was doing.

Max studied her carefully, and said, “Just the same, I think Maria’s right. Why don’t you guys just take a break from it tonight? You should probably rest if you’re still gonna do the dream thing later on,” he told Liz, gently pulling one of his hands free to stroke her upper arm in a quest for a more substantial physical contact.

After everything she’d undergone today, he needed to reassure himself that she was okay. He didn’t think he could hate this connection any more passionately than he did. Not only because of the facets of it that aroused him to jealousy, but because every time they did anything with it, Liz ended up suffering for it. He wished he could just forbid them from ever messing with the thing again, but he knew he couldn’t do that. Ultimately, it was Liz’s decision as to how they dealt with it.

“Well, if we’re basically through here, why don’t I take you home, Maria,” Michael suggested.

Frowning slightly, Maria agreed. “Yeah, alright.”

She hated to miss out on their attempts to learn more of the aliens’ past tonight, but she had to go home and cover for Liz in case her parents happened to call.

Pushing Liz’s hair behind her shoulder, Maria asked gently, “You’ll be okay?”

Liz caught her forearm in a light grip and looked up at her, feeling immensely grateful to have her best friend back. “I’ll be fine, Maria,” she assured her warmly. “Thanks.”

“Okay,” Maria replied, giving her shoulder a squeeze. “Talk to you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, I promise I’ll tell you everything we find out.”

Forcing herself to be content with that, she let Michael lead her out after he’d said a subdued, “Be back later.”

When the door closed behind them, Liz looked up at Max solemnly, and he pulled her up from the stool and into his arms. She hugged him back tightly and thought that this was all she needed to deliver peace after all the turmoil of this day. His loving arms enfolding her close against his heart.

After a long moment, Max lowered his lips to kiss her forehead and said softly, “ Now will you let me heal your head?”

Her lips curved slightly in affectionate amusement, not terribly surprised that she’d been unable to hide her pain from him. Though it might seem that this connection with Michael overshadowed what she had with Max, she knew that could never possibly be true. She and Max had a heart’s intuition of one another, and a language of the soul that needed no words, not even silent ones, to communicate that which lay at the innermost part of their beings. Overly poetic, maybe, but true nonetheless.

As she allowed him to place his hands on either side of her head, the stance reminded her poignantly of the one from so long ago when he’d reversed their connection to let her ‘see’ him. She’d known that day that her life would never be the same. And she’d never been more right about anything in her life.

Not only had Max revealed the existence of far-away worlds that day when he’d risked saving her life, but he’d awakened her to a love so deep and pure and encompassing, she’d never even imagined anything like it existed. And he did it all with a single touch of these gentle, healing hands. She realized suddenly that all these changes went hand-in-hand with everything she’d known with Max since that day, and the trade-off was more than worth it.

Curling her fingers around his wrists, she looked deeply into his eyes while her own glowed with emotion, and breathed softly, “Heal me, Max.”

Everything she was feeling flowed into him through their connection, and Max sighed as the warmth of it flooded his heart. Nothing she could’ve said would’ve made him feel more favorable towards her connection with Michael than the sentiment she was sending him now. And nothing could’ve made him feel more like a vital part of her happiness than the feeling that she’d never known what true happiness was until that day he’d healed her.

Max’s hands gently tightened around her hair reflexively as he thought to himself, she might not possess the alien power of healing, but still, she held the ability to heal all the dark places in his heart, and his chest swelled with an overwhelming feeling of loving gratitude.

“No, Liz,” he gently refuted, as he gazed into her eyes with a soft look of adoration. “ You heal me,” he quietly avowed.

Part 45 | Index | Part 47
Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours
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