Fanfic - Max/Liz
"Strong, Dangerous, and Undeniable"
Part 47
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
When Max had finished healing her headache, its tingling aftereffects lingered inside her head, while the warm current of their emotions continued to flow through their open connection. His reverent words to her still rang in her ears. And that, coupled with the outpouring of love and enamored appreciation Liz could feel inside him, made her own heart feel even fuller if that were possible.

Being connected to Max like this was better than anything she could imagine. His emotions always had the effect of buoying and swelling her own, as hers, in turn, did to his, and they sometimes pushed each other so high she wasn’t sure how they could contain the seeming overabundance of sensation. But the best part was the way their emotions intertwined together, creating an intricately woven tapestry of feeling between them that somehow seemed to bind them together, and when things got intense, it was almost impossible to tell which of them they originated from. It was as close to being one with a person she could conceive of, short of making love.

There was such a vast difference between their connection and the way it felt when she connected with Michael. With him, there was always this guarded sense of cautiousness, like they were connected, but they were trying not to really BE connected. But with Max, it was always an open exchange of emotion. He laid everything he was open to her, and she was more than willing to share all of herself with him. With them, it felt like they connected on every level possible.

As they stood there silently sharing the depth of their love for one another, their heads slowly began to tilt towards one another’s simultaneously, and finally came together in a perfect moment of breathless expectancy. Gently, Max brushed his lips across the petal-like softness of hers, then after a minute pause, angled his head to possess her mouth more completely, and Liz welcomed him in wholeheartedly.

A sweet feeling of peace from all the trauma of the day stole over them both with the pliant caress of lips, but as the moment wore on, the warm glow of tranquility was steadily replaced by a more restless kind of heat.

While their mouths moved against one another’s feelingly, Liz closed the distance between them, sliding her hands up his arms and stepping forward until she was up against his chest, and Max dropped one of his hands from her face to wrap his arm around her waist and hold her tightly to him. His other hand tunneled under the ebony fall of her hair to cup the back of her head, and without conscious thought, Liz tilted her head back further to fit her scalp more firmly into his palm.

The kiss gained momentum as Max took advantage of the sharper angle, urging her lips wider, and pressing inside with a heated glide of his tongue. He stroked the dark interior of her mouth with a studied thoroughness, as though he could drink in her very essence that way. And as he fed on her sweetness like a man starved for the taste of dessert, Liz met each tender lash of his tongue with an equally hungry thrust of her own.

Max pressed forward against her, doing his utmost to imprint her on his body, and the swaying motions of his head became a little less smooth, a little more urgent, as his lips twisted against hers and his tongue delved deep.

He wanted to absolutely immerse himself in her. To sink so deep inside her that his every inhale was filled with the scent of her, that every precious beat of her heart was the only sound he could hear, that she became the very air he breathed. But at the same time, he wished he could draw her tiny form deep inside himself. That he could enfold her within his depths until no harm could possibly reach her.

Thoughts of all the dangers that had seemed to come within touching distance of her that day had him tightening his hold on her, and hugging her close. This latest incident with Michael in her head had been only the last in a string of things that could’ve ended up seriously hurting her, or even worse.

As they pulled away from each other slightly to drag in desperately needed air, Max began to trail open-mouthed kisses towards her neck. Without taking his lips from her flesh, he rasped huskily, “You really scared me today, Liz.” Remembering where the most serious threat had come from, and that they couldn’t even be sure she was out of danger yet, his hands fisted around her shirt and hair as if to reassure himself she was really here, safe in his arms. Working his way back up from her neck, he lay a fierce kiss upon her lips, and in a tone of fearfulness he ground out, “If Nicholas ever got his hands on you...”

“Shhh,” she soothed softly, drawing his head down, and closing her lips over his to cut the thought off mid-sentence.

The connection allowed her to feel his utter fear for her safety, and the worry that if anything happened it would be entirely his fault for dragging her into all this, and her brows drew together in a slight frown of disturbance. Holding his face gently within her hands, she tried to chase away all his fears with the tender movements of her lips on his, and Max clutched her close and allowed himself to be pulled under the sensual spell she always wove over him with her kisses.

Her ardent stroking of his lips was a sweet paradox, momentarily easing his worries and bringing comfort, but also stirring a hot rush of desire within him. And though she’d offered it in an attempt to soothe, Max could feel the matching sensation of excitement the kiss was arousing in Liz.

Dragging her lips from his, Liz slid them across his jaw, and turned her face into his neck. Pressing occasional kisses there, and alternately brushing his skin with the softness of her cheek, she reassured him breathlessly. “We don’t know it really even was Nicholas, Max. And... if it was.. we know what to watch out for now.”

Just because they knew to watch out for him didn’t mean they’d be able to stop him if he tried to do something else to Liz, but Max didn’t voice the frightening thought aloud. Even the idea of that happening made his heart pound with terror instead of the excitement her lips were invoking. Nicholas was a powerful enemy. And if it ever came down to a fight between them, Max wasn’t sure they would be able to defeat him. But he knew he’d die trying if it meant keeping Liz safe.

Cupping her head in his hands, he eased her lips from his neck and looked into her eyes with an expression of sincere earnestness, his breath rushing heavily. “I just want you to know, Liz.. I’ll do everything in my power to make sure nothing ever happens to you.”

Liz looked up at him warmly. Though she didn’t like the idea of Max putting his own life in danger to keep her safe, she knew he was offering the only thing he could to try and make them both feel better about all this.

“I know,” she assured him lovingly, curling a hand around his neck to stroke his hair lightly. “You always have, Max. I always feel safe when I’m with you. And- if this really is Nicholas watching us...we’ll stop him somehow. I have faith in you.”

Emotion tightened Max’s throat. Her assurances were like a benediction that somehow managed to give him ease, and her confidence in him made him feel stronger and more capable of handling the situation.

Admiring appreciation swelled inside his chest, and a fierce determination to protect this strong, but delicate girl who held his entire world in her small hands overtook him.

“I love you, Liz,” he declared gruffly, enclosing her within the tight ring of his arms once more, and passionately taking her lips with his.

The emotional fervor of his kiss made Liz’s breath catch in her throat, and his ardency sent a spiral of heated pleasure unfurling low in her belly. A low sound of desire escaped her throat, and her fingers closed around the fringe of hair at the nape of his neck, as she crowded close against him and kissed him back with a quicksilver flash of need.

Her tongue swept inside his mouth with a fevered avariciousness that heated his blood, and Max responded immediately with an answering greed, his claim on her mouth growing hungrier as he shifted against her restively.

His small movements against her were producing a delicious friction between the front of their bodies, and as they continued to ply each other with fervid kisses, Liz found herself moving slightly in counterpoint. His arms, like steel bands around her waist, tightened still further, and at first, she thought he was trying to still her tiny movements. But he was only pulling her hips more snugly into his.

He swept her hair aside to hungrily mouth the delicate skin at the curve of her neck, and Liz gave a breathy little moan as her head fell back to give him access. The feel of his hardness pressing into her near the juncture of her thighs sent a lightning bolt of charged heat through her, and she clung to him as her legs grew weak at the dual stimulation of his mouth gently biting at her throat, and his obvious arousal teasing at her senses.

Max held her up as she sagged against him, and slowly began stepping her backwards toward the couch, his lips never pausing in their amorous activities, sliding up over her chin, and latching onto her mouth once more.

In only a matter of several steps they had crossed the expanse of the small living area, and when they had reached the couch, Max sank down upon it and pulled her with him. She ended up on her knees beside where he sat, and Max tipped his head back to continue to kiss her in a reaching manner, while placing a hand at the bend of her knee to urge her leg over his lap. Following his bidding willingly, Liz straddled his hips and allowed him to pull her in tight against his body, then wound her arms around his shoulders. She made a whimpering sound as the position pressed her even more intimately against him, and her thighs clenched around his, her pulse tripping chaotically.

Max gasped at her involuntary thrusting motion against him, and his fingertips dug into the flesh of her hips where he held her. All the blood seemed to rush from his head to pulse low in his body, leaving him dizzy and mindless to everything but the feel of her surrounding him, and the heat that was cradling him intimately.

Their kisses grew needy and desperate as the level of one another’s arousal communicated itself through their connection to drive their own even higher. Liz was vaguely aware that things were skittering dangerously out of control, but it was the stirring of energy at her center that finally raised a red flag of caution in her mind, and brought with it a sobering rush of awareness.

Still, it was hard to break away from the intensity of feeling that was keeping them linked and the drugging pleasure Max was evoking with his mouth and body.

Liz reluctantly pulled away from his kiss, but he didn’t let her go far, cupping the back of her head in his hand, and sliding his lips across her cheek to suck the lobe of her ear into his mouth.

Struggling to think clearly, Liz gasped out, “Max- we can’t... we can’t do this here.”

He made no indication that he’d heard, but continued worrying her tender flesh with his teeth.

Forcing out further words of caution, she said breathlessly, “Michael will... absolutely have a kitten if he- if he finds us here... doing this.”

That finally got a verbal response from him, but he didn’t remove his mouth from the sensitive hollow behind her ear as he muttered in unconcern, “Let him.”

She subsided momentarily, as he dragged his lips back over her face to close over hers with hungry insistence. But her energy was fully charged now, and the worry that it might somehow bring Michael bursting in on them kept her from responding as fully as she wanted to.

But even responding half-heartedly, the tide of desire threatened to pull her back under if only she would let it. Max’s hands slowly moved up and down her back, molding her against him, and making it difficult to remember why she’d been wanting to call a halt to this in the first place. She somehow managed to retain some small shred of cognizance, and with a tiny sound of reluctance, tore her lips away.

Max instantly buried his face in her neck, and she could feel the warm wetness of his tongue lapping at the base of her throat as she swallowed and said weakly, “Yeah, but... he’s still really um- really upset about the last time. This would... it would only make things worse.”

Max finally pulled away and looked up at her with a frown, his cheeks flushed with a hectic heat.

“Why are you so concerned about what Michael will think?” he rasped out a bit crossly.

Cupping the sides of his neck in her hands, Liz frowned too, and said protestingly, “Max, come on, you know that’s not what I’m saying. It’s just...things are already so- strained between everybody, I think we should just try and keep the peace, you know?”

Feeling frustrated, and resentful of the fact that Michael once again seemed to be at the root of his problems, Max said, “Well, that may be true, Liz. But it just seems kinda funny that only a few seconds ago we were all wrapped up in each other, and now all you seem to be thinking about is Michael.”

Liz was taken aback by what she could only see as an accusation from him, and she was filled with a stunned hurt. They’d been connected- were still connected even. He had to know as well as she did that the pulling together of her energy was the only reason for Michael being in her thoughts at all. What exactly was he accusing her of?

As soon as the words had left his mouth, Max wanted to call them back. How could he have said something like that to her? Besides being completely irrational, it had been insulting to Liz in its implications. Even though he was feeling really raw about the connection stuff tonight, Max never would have believed it of himself to take those feelings of resentment out on Liz.

“Max, that’s not true,” she denied in a small wounded voice that made his chest feel tight with guilt and self-reproach. And when he felt the stab of her hurt come at him through the connection, he felt doubly disgusted with himself.

His face drawn in lines of remorse, he framed her face with his hands and tried to retract what he’d said. “I know it’s not. I’m sorry, Liz, I don’t know why I said that. I didn’t mean it.” Gathering her against his chest, he said again, “I’m sorry.”

Upon feeling the genuine flood of regret that came pouring from him, Liz rested her mouth against his shoulder and allowed herself to be comforted, but the accusation still stung a little. She knew the connection with Michael could probably be cited as the motivation behind it. It couldn’t have been easy for Max to stand by and watch them tonight, she was sure. But she thought they’d laid all Max’s doubts and uncertainties over her and Michael to rest last night.

Now that her mind was no longer clouded with passionate emotion though, she suddenly became aware of the quiet feelings of jealousy and resentment that were seething deep inside him, and she realized just how hard a time he was having dealing with all of this.

Guilt over this connection reared its ugly head for the umpteenth time that night. Not only because it had been making Max feel like this and she hadn’t known, but also because the thing existed at all. Whether that was something she could help or not.

Pulling herself back from his embrace, she cupped her hands lightly over his ears and said with a small frown of distress, “Oh, Max, I’m sorry too. Why didn’t you tell me how much all this was bothering you?”

Chagrined that he hadn’t hidden it better, Max shrugged slightly, as his eyes fell away.

“I didn’t want you worrying about it. You’ve got enough to handle without worrying about my petty problems over this thing.”

Tilting his face up to hers, she gently chided, “They aren’t petty if they’re making you feel this way, Max.”

Liz had known he was feeling a little insecure because of it, and that it was creating tensions between him and Michael, but she hadn’t realized just how much it was eating at him. And he’d been trying to keep it all in for her sake.

She brushed a hand tenderly over his hair. “Tell me what I can do to make it better,” she urged, wanting to do whatever she could to take away his turmoil. “I thought exploring it was what was best for everyone, but maybe I was wrong. If you want us to stop we will.”

Lifting a hand to curl around her forearm, he said in assurance, “I don’t want you to stop. You’re right, we do need some answers about it. You aren’t doing anything wrong, Liz. This is... it’s my problem, and I’m just gonna have to get over it, that’s all.”

Looking at him unhappily, Liz said, “You know how much I love you, right? And that I’d give anything if this connection between me and Michael just wasn’t there. It’s been nothing but trouble since the day we found out about it, and I hate it. You know all that, right?”

Skimming his hand lightly up and down her arm, he looked into her eyes and said with gentle affirmation, “Yes, I know all that. I don’t think I really have an issue with any of that, Liz. It’s just...” he struggled with himself, then admitted with a grimace, “It’s just- sharing you I’m having a problem with. “

Her eyes dark and melancholy, she said with soft regret, “Max, I’m sorry.”

His hands came up to frame her face, and he shook his head as he insisted, “You don’t have anything to be sorry for. None of this is your fault, Liz. And I don’t want you to worry about it, okay? Just- keep on doing what you’re doing, and I’m gonna deal with this. And I promise, no more remarks like the one I made before,” he said apologetically. “I really am sorry for saying that to you,” he told her again remorsefully.

“It’s okay,” she said in easy forgiveness, stroking his cheek with her thumb.

Suddenly, a huge yawn overtook her. Smothering it with her hand, she said sheepishly, “Oh, excuse me.”

Max smiled affectionately and tucked her hair behind her ear.

“You must be worn out. You used a lot of energy tonight.”

Yeah, I am pretty tired,” she confessed. “But we aren’t done yet. We still have to try sharing a dream.”

Smoothing her hair down her back, he said, “Well, you have to be asleep to do that anyway. Why don’t you just get some rest before Michael gets back?”

As she yawned again, Liz thought that sounded like a pretty good idea.

Before getting off his lap, she leaned in to give him a soft lingering kiss, and Max’s lips moved under hers in a slow, sweet response.

When they broke away, she rested her forehead lightly against his.

After a moment of tranquil silence, she said with a quirk of her lips, “You know, I think the next thing I need to work on is getting my energy to behave when we do this kind of thing. You wanna help me practice?” she asked impishly.

Max grinned in answer. “Just tell me when and I’m there.”

*~~~~~~~~~~* *~~~~~~~~~~*

Michael entered his apartment to utter silence, and looked around quizzically, wondering if Max had just taken Liz home to his house after all. He wouldn’t blame Max if he had after the way he’d hurt her earlier, Michael thought with self-disgust.

But actually, they were still there. Michael found them cuddled together on the couch, both of them fast asleep. Max was slouched low on the cushions, his legs stretched out in front of him, with feet resting on the coffee table, and Liz was curled up at his side, her head lying on his shoulder, and legs tucked up to rest half-across his lap. Both were held fast in one another’s arms.

They were a peaceful sight there on his living room couch. A loving sight. A sight that bugged Michael to no end.

He’d felt the telltale surge of Liz’s energy not long after he’d left the apartment. It had been weak and somewhat vague, making Michael wonder just exactly how far this connection between them could reach, but the feeling had been unmistakable. He’d kinda been on the lookout for it.

He’d wanted to hurry and get Maria home as quickly as possible, so he could get back and police their actions, but Maria had been full of questions once he’d gotten her there and cut the noise of the bike’s engine. Not wanting her to feel shut out from all of this, he’d tried to curb his impatience, and had answered as many of them as he could. He’d managed to successfully dodge everything she’d asked about the incident that had ended their session, though.

Thankfully, the feeling of Liz’s upsurge in energy had disappeared almost immediately. But he’d been afraid that could just as well be because he’d finally gotten out of the connection’s range. Looking at them now, he thought darkly that either they’d stopped themselves before things had gotten out of control, or they were now in a sated state of blissful sleep. Considering the fact that they were both fully clothed, and he really hadn’t been gone all that long, he figured it was the former.

Slipping off his jacket and tossing it aside, Michael moved across the room and dropped down into the chair near the end of the couch. Mirroring Max’s pose, he slid down low in the seat, propping his feet on the table near Max’s, and steepled his hands in front of him. Resting his mouth against his clasped hands, he looked at their embracing forms broodingly and tried to figure out what it was that made him go so mental over their being together.

He’d felt like he had his head on more straight today than he had all week, and he knew for sure now that he didn’t harbor any romantic feelings toward Liz. He really never had. It was just that he’d allowed himself to be sucked in by all the possibilities of why this connection existed, and he guessed he’d just been trying to prepare himself for whatever they might find.

It was much the same kind of situation as the one last spring when he and Isabel had been having those dreams about being together, and she’d thought she might be pregnant. He’d had illusions then that that was the way things were supposed to be, and he’d let himself be pulled along in the flow of that as if it were fate. His feelings for Is hadn’t suddenly changed from brotherly to romantic, but once the possibility had been introduced, he’d deluded himself into thinking he just had to be open to their being together, and give it a chance. After all, if it was meant to be, who was he to fight it? And, too, the idea of having his own family with someone he loved had offered a really strong enticement.

But he couldn’t believe anymore that this connection with Liz meant they should be together. He’d really never been able to buy into it completely anyway, because something just wouldn’t let him see her that way. And besides that, there were other people involved. People they loved.

He cared about Maria more than anything in this or any other world, and there was no way he would turn away from her again like he almost had with the Isabel situation, and like he indisputably had after he’d killed Pierce. He still didn’t think it was a good idea for them to be together, for both their sakes, but he knew now that he needed her in his life. In any way he could get her there. He would never cut her out of it like he had before.

And Liz– He’d experienced her feelings for Max when he’d connected with her, and it was downright scary to him how much she loved him. Michael didn’t know how someone could so fully entrust their heart to someone else’s safekeeping. And her happiness was so bound up with Max’s, that he honestly couldn’t see how they could even live without each other.

It was a depth of feeling that aroused an unmistakable sense of jealousy within Michael. He couldn’t deny anymore that that was what it was he’d been feeling. And it was a fact that disturbed and utterly baffled him.

How could he possibly feel resentful of something that he could definitely say he wouldn’t want any part of? He would never want his heart’s well-being to be so entangled with someone else’s. And even if he did, he’d already established the fact that he wouldn’t want it to be with Liz. Sure, he’d come to care about her more this past week than he had in the entire year they’d been friends, and though he hated to admit it, he felt really close to her now. It was impossible not to when they knew such intimate facts about one another. And that was not to mention how protective he’d been feeling of her lately. But in spite of all that, he wouldn’t want to be with her. The idea felt all wrong somehow. And even if they were to find out some reason for the connection that intimated things were supposed to be that way, he would refuse to follow up on it. The same way he and Isabel revolted at the dictate that they be together.

So what was with these feelings of jealousy, he asked himself in consternation, as he studied Liz’s sleeping posture. It was ridiculous for him to feel that way, and he could see absolutely no reason for it, except...

Except... somehow, this insidious feeling of possessiveness had crept in to take up residence inside him without him quite being aware of when it had happened.

There it was. The reason for all his crazy behavior lately. He was surprised he hadn’t realized it before. But now that he did, he felt incredibly foolish in admitting it, even to himself. It really was stupid of him. Even if he hadn’t known that for himself, Max and Liz had certainly told him often enough that this connection didn’t give him any rights over her. And he agreed, in principle.

What did he think he even had to feel possessive of, anyway? He was nothing more to Liz than some random guy she shared this weird and unexplainable connection with. They were only friends. Friends who knew each other better than anyone else probably ever would, and who were capable of doing these pretty incredible things together, but friends nonetheless. Feelings of possessiveness implied there was way more to their relationship than that, and that simply wasn’t true.

He didn’t understand himself anymore. And he knew if Max, Liz, or Maria knew he felt like this, they wouldn’t understand either. Their reactions, if they found out, would probably range from outraged fury to hurt incomprehension. Even imagining what they would think made him feel guilty and angry at himself for feeling this way.

But that was nothing new. He’d felt guilt and self-reproach pressing in on him from all sides tonight. Guilt over the way all this connection stuff was affecting Maria and Max, and over the things Max had said when they’d argued earlier, and most especially over the way he’d physically hurt Liz before. He pretty much felt like an utter jerk all the way around.

Michael sighed dispiritedly and rubbed a hand tiredly over his face. He felt physically and emotionally exhausted, and he wanted nothing more than to just go fall into bed. But they still had this dream thing to get through.

Leaning his head back against the chair’s cushions, he looked sightlessly toward the ceiling and told himself he needed to get up and get things put into place for their experiment. But as he’d sat there, sleep had begun to reach out and draw him in, and it just felt like too much of an effort to get up at the moment.

He told himself he’d just sit there and rest for a few minutes, and then maybe he’d get his second wind.

That was his last thought before sleep claimed its victory over him.


Deep purple clouds hung low in an indigo sky, and the air was heavy and close with the expectancy of the meridiem dust storm. In the center of a large walled-in courtyard, two men were engaged in what appeared to be a fierce-looking battle, while two young women sat in a spot of sparse maize-colored grass several yards away.

One of the girls was filing her nails nonchalantly with a palm-sized wedge of something, and the other girl sat beside her with her eyes trained on the men worriedly.

The fair-headed one of the two was shooting sharp blasts of energy from his palm in bright bursts of light that made the air around them crackle with electricity, while the darker-haired man kept throwing up a green-tinted energy-shield just in time to stop each blast from reaching him, and bounced the flash of light off of it to volley it back at his opponent. Both men were sweating profusely in the humid atmosphere as they dodged each deadly blast, sometimes only escaping danger by mere seconds.

The blonde girl sitting on the ground flinched as the fair-headed man missed being hit with one particular bolt only by darting aside at the last minute.

“Maybe we should make them stop,” she said nervously to the other girl.

The girl lifted dark eyes from her task to give the men a cursory look, and said, “Would you relax, Drey? You’ve said that about a hundred times in the past ten killaseconds. They’re just practicing. They know what they’re doing.”

Drey gasped as the brown-haired man barely got his shield up in time to counter two quick successive blasts from his adversary, and the fairer man grinned wickedly in triumph before feinting to the side to avoid the deflected energy.

“What they’re doing is trying to kill each other,” Drey said grimly.

“Nonsense. They’re just letting off a little steam, that’s all.”

The darker man grunted at the impact of the next round of blasts against his shield, then violently threw them back to where they’d originated from.

“That is not all, Laannie,” Drey argued. “Put down that nail slate and just look at them for a second. Rath honestly looks like he’s out for blood.”

Laannie dropped her hands into her lap with a sigh and eyed Rath obediently.

“He does look a little intense,” she finally admitted. “But Zan is giving as good as he gets. He can take care of himself.”

Her eyes fixed on Zan, Drey said worriedly, “That was before. It hasn’t been that long since your transition. He hasn’t gained all his strength back yet.”

At that moment Rath sent a bolt of energy at the outer edge of Zan’s shield where it was the weakest, and it pierced through the green protective force, missing Zan’s vulnerable flesh by only a hair.

“That’s it,” Drey announced wrathfully, jumping to her feet. “You can sit here and file your nails if you want, but I’m putting a stop to this.”

She strode fearlessly toward the two battling men, and once she’d neared them, seemed to knock Rath’s latest burst of power aside with nothing more than a glance, then planted herself midway between them both.

“What do you think you’re doing?!” Rath exclaimed angrily. “You do something like that again and I will take you over my knee, you hear me?”

“That was really foolish, Shaan,” Zan added in concerned disapproval. “We could have easily hit you.”

Unfazed by their admonishments, she said stormily, “What, you think you could have killed me? Pity you don’t have that much concern for each other.”

Suddenly the scene shifted, and the same four people were huddled behind a large outcropping of granite in the middle of a red-gold desert landscape. There seemed to be nothing around them for miles.

Laannie was peering around the rock, seemingly studying the emptiness in front of them. And beside her, Drey leaned with her back against the granite wall, casting a look heavenward as if asking for deliverance, while the two men faced each other and spoke in a low, intense tone.

“I think we should get ready for them and prepare to set up a wall of defense there,” Rath was saying as the scene zoomed into focus.

Zan shook his head. “They aren’t going to come at us from the direction of the city, Rath. That would be too obvious. It’s predictable.”

“Well, they can’t come from any other direction, Zan. Look around us. There’s no cover. I’m telling you, if we try to defend ourselves against a vast open space of desert, we’re going to have our backs to them when they come from the direction of the city,” he pointed in front of them insistently.

“Would you two stop arguing for five killaseconds?” Drey asked exasperatedly. “While you bicker over the best course of action, they’re going to close in on us. Why don’t we just let Laannie seek them out and put an end to all this second-guessing.”

Laannie shook her head regretfully. “Dracaar got wise to that. This is a new troop he’s sending out, and they’ll be guarded against it. I don’t know if I could get in.”

With an impatient move of his head, Rath said, “We don’t have a need for Laannie’s psychic intel if you would just admit that I’m right. It’s asinine to think they would try to approach without the possibility of any stealth at all.”

“It’s not as asinine as thinking Dracaar would do anything so unchallenging as to follow us straight from the city,” Zan countered hotly.

Laannie heaved long-suffering sigh and said to Drey, “The moment any of this becomes real we’re doomed. You know that, don’t you?”

Suddenly, pandemonium erupted around them, as blasts began to come at them from a dozen different sources atop the bluff they were using as cover.

The four of them hurriedly reached out for one another’s hands as Zan threw his shield into place, but not before one of the flashing bursts of light caught Drey in the shoulder and spun her into the hard granite that had hidden their adversaries from them.


The shouted name seemed to echo hollowly as the three of them jerked awake in the apartment, and Michael was on his feet as if ready to attack before his eyes were even fully open.

They looked at each other disorientedly for a moment, their breath coming in harsh, unsteady gusts, as the vestiges of sleep slowly cleared from their heads.

Michael dropped back down into his seat shakily when awareness had finally returned, and Liz said with breathless uneasiness, “That was so real.” Looking up at Max from her position at his side, she asked, “Did you see it?”

“Yeah,” he answered with a significant look.

“Well, what did you see?” Michael asked them both. “Let’s go over it before we forget it.”

“I don’t think I’m gonna forget this one,” Liz refuted.

“Yeah, me either,” Max agreed. “You’re right, it seemed really- clear this time.”

“Because there were three of us?” she guessed.

Shrugging a little, he replied, “Maybe.”

“Whatever it is you’re doing, maybe you got something from me and Max both that time, and that made it stronger,” Michael suggested.

It sounded as good an explanation as any, and Liz accepted it with a nod.

“So you were both connected to me? That makes it sound like the dreams are coming from me. You think I’m somehow taking memories or something from you and just... turning them into dreams?”

“That’s what it seems like,” Max agreed.

“Like a dream-catcher or something,” Michael put in.

The corner of Liz’s lip tilted up. She kinda liked that. Their dream-catcher. She’d always tried to help Max and the others find out more about where they came from in whatever way she could. This might actually be the first thing she’d done with these new powers that she felt kinda good about. Aside from saving Max from the Dupes, of course.”

“So, you both saw all of it?” she asked them for confirmation. “Zan and Rath practicing their powers, and Laannie and... that other girl watching? And then, the four of them out in the desert when that girl got... shot?” she ended with a wince.

When they both asserted that they had, she said in confusion, “Who was she? I mean, obviously the four of you were fighting together. Where was Ava?”

Max stroked her upper arm absently as he thought back to this dream and the one he and Liz had shared the night before. “I don’t know. But this girl... didn’t Zan call her Shaan?”

Liz nodded upon reflection. “Yeah, I think so. But Laannie called her something different.”

“Doree?” Max suggested, trying to recall.

Frowning a little in contemplation, Liz shook her head. “Darah, maybe?”

Michael had been silent as their questions and recollections had seemed to rouse something inside him that had suddenly solidified into an unaccountable certainty that had turmoil churning in his gut.

“Drey,” he supplied with quiet surety. “Dreyah,” he added Rath’s nickname for her.

Looking at them with tumult in his eyes, he said softly, “She was my sister.”

Part 46 | Index | Part 48
Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours
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