Fanfic - Max/Liz
"Strong, Dangerous, and Undeniable"
Part 50
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
Liz and the four aliens were all lying in various positions as they tried to share another one of Liz’s dreams. They had piled pillows and blankets on Michael’s living room floor, and now Liz lay at Max’s side with an arm stretched across him to make contact with Isabel, who was lying on his other side, and Tess was behind Liz with a hand on her upper arm to connect them. Michael was stretched out on the couch above them.

With a feeling of amusement, Liz recalled the way Isabel had complained that it was hardly fair that he got to enjoy the comfort of the couch while the rest of them had to lie on the hard floor. To which, his surprising reply had been, ‘Well, I guess maybe there’s a few merits to this connection after all.’ He’d darted a glance at Maria and Max after saying it, and Liz had chanced a peek at them as well to find them showing no visible reaction to his statement. She wasn’t sure if that was because what he’d said hadn’t bothered them, or because they just didn’t want to upset her. The three of them seemed as if they were trying to be really careful of her feelings. She might say they were almost treating her with kid gloves, ever since her outburst at the Crashdown.

Liz was still embarrassed about breaking down in front of them like that. It was ridiculous that after everything she’d managed to get through in recent months with a certain amount of stoicism, a small run-in with Nicholas that had really done no harm had made her lose it that way. Of course, physically it had done no harm, but emotionally, she’d been scared out of her mind. She’d honestly thought she and Maria were going to die in that alley. And though Nicholas had turned out not to be real, the whole incident had been enough to leave her and Maria pretty subdued tonight. They hadn’t really had a chance to talk to each other about it, but Liz knew that for her part, it was extremely disturbing to know that there was someone out there who could be secretly watching them at any time, and he had absolutely no compunction about terrifying them the way he had. Even scarier was the thought that he was only playing with them before he really did kill them. And he could strike at any moment.

Liz shifted restlessly with the disturbing thought, and after a moment, she heaved a sigh. This wasn’t working. They’d been lying here like this for a good 20 minutes, and she wasn’t the least bit drowsy. She opened her eyes to find Max looking over at her.

“Can’t sleep?” he asked with husky softness.

“No. You either?”

Max shook his head in answer, leaving unsaid that her fitful movements beside him had alerted him to the fact that she was having trouble sleeping, so he’d stayed awake too.

“Do you want to go talk or something?” he suggested.

Glancing at the sleeping Isabel while she considered, Liz said quietly, “Let’s just give it five more minutes.”

Max nodded in acceptance, and they both fell silent as she snuggled in against his side and closed her eyes once more. Necessity had dictated that she lie close beside him so she could reach Isabel at his other side, but it was an action Tess hadn’t seemed too thrilled over. She really hadn’t been able to argue with it though, seeing as how Isabel had quickly lay claim to the position next to him, and they thought they all needed to be in contact with Liz in some way. Liz didn’t know whether to be upset that Tess had seemed bothered by it at all, or encouraged over the fact that she’d fallen in with the sleeping arrangements quickly enough.

After her prescribed five minutes were up and she was still no closer to sleep, Liz sighed in defeat.

Almost before she’d fully gotten her eyes open, Max was quietly climbing to his feet. Reaching down for her hand to pull her up with him, he said softly, “Come on.”

When she was up, they wandered over to the kitchen where Maria, Alex, and Kyle were sitting around the bar engaged in quiet conversation.

They looked at Max and Liz in some surprise when they ambled up, and Kyle threw a quick glance at the still-sleeping aliens, before saying facetiously, “What’s the matter? Need a bedtime story?”

“Funny,” Liz said with a fake little smile. “I just can’t get to sleep. I have too much on my mind, I guess.”

“Well turn on the t.v. and watch half an hour of info-mercials,” Alex suggested. “That’s always worked for me. Especially that one for like that...” he gestured with his hand, “Miracle car wax or whatever? Fifteen minutes of watching that dude wax on, wax off, and put his poor car through torture, and I’m out like a light.”

“What’re you talkin’ about, man?” Kyle mildly protested, commandeering one of the bags of chips Michael had set out for them. “That’s like a top of the line car-care product. It really does everything they say it will, you know,” he informed them, munching on one of the chips he’d retrieved.

“What, you’ve tried it on the mustang?” Alex asked disbelievingly. At Kyle’s nod, he said skeptically, “You’ve actually tried setting your car on fire.”

“Well- not on fire,” Kyle admitted. “But I did hold the lighter very close. I’m sure it would’ve melted some cheap Car-Mart brand. But this stuff? It’s like...” he cast about for a descriptive equivalent, and when his eye fell on Max, he gestured toward him as if he’d hit upon the perfect description, “An alien force-field for your paint job.”

The corner of Max’s lip tipped up a little as he gave Kyle a dry look, then he shared a small smile with Liz, beside him. It was the first he’d seen from her since the incident with Nicholas earlier, and for some inexplicable reason, it made Max want to wrap her in his arms protectively.

Michael chose that moment to join their small group.

“You’re still awake, too?” Maria said, as he came to a stop next to the stool she was sitting on and slung an arm around her shoulders.

He shrugged as he reached for a handful of chips for himself. “No point in sleepin’ if Liz isn’t goin’ to. She’s kinda the star of the show,” he pointed out logically.

Alex glanced over at the two sleeping figures left on the floor. “Well should we wake up Isabel and Tess?” he asked.

“I still want to try this,” Liz assured them, in favor of letting the girls sleep. They might have trouble getting to sleep again themselves, if they woke them now. “I just need.. a distraction or something. You know? Something that’ll just tire out my brain so it’ll stop racing and let me get to sleep.”

“Which would be what, exactly?” Alex asked with lifted brows.

With a small shrugging motion, Liz paused for a moment to consider. The idea she came up with had her casting a slightly uncertain look between Max, Maria, and Michael. Almost as if she were asking for an endorsement from all three of them, she asked, “Do you- think maybe we could work on the connection a little? That really seemed to tire me out last night.”

Max and Maria seemed to develop a sudden interest in the counter top, neither of them putting up a word of objection. Of course, Max couldn’t really object even if he’d wanted to, Liz acknowledged with regret. Not with Kyle and Alex sitting right there. She would’ve liked nothing better in that moment than to offer him some small gesture that might reassure him, but their unwitting witnesses put the same kind of restraints on her. Liz felt a brief flash of resentment that they couldn’t just be open about the status of their relationship.

Michael sent the same kind of questioning look towards Maria and Michael as Liz had before saying in agreement, “Yeah, uh- we could work on figuring out how to block each other again if you want. I promise I won’t push you out the way I did last time,” he tacked on, looking at Max in assurance as he said it.

Max steadily returned his look, acceptance of Michael’s promise in he dark gaze, as well as a silent warning that he would hold him to his word.

Liz dared to brush Max’s hand with her own as she was leaving his side, and Max made an infinitesimal move of his arm to prolong the contact for as long as possible. They exchanged a gaze that spoke to one another when she moved around him to follow Michael into the living room, their eyes holding on to their lovers’ gaze until the last possible minute.

Once she and Michael had reached the main living area, he scooted the room’s only chair within reaching distance of the couch, nudging the corner of a blanket out of the way with his foot as he did so.

Alex and Kyle watched with interest as Liz sat down cross-legged on the end of the couch, and Michael took a seat in the chair in front of her. Reaching out, they linked hands, and stared at one another intently, then became utterly still and silent.

Kyle eyed them raptly, the bag of chips lying forgotten in his hand. “So what is it they’re doin’ exactly?” he asked, in a tone that said he was sure he knew the answer but somebody tell him again.

Glancing over at the frozen couple, Maria answered darkly, “They’re in each other’s heads.” When Kyle just looked at her in incomprehension, she reluctantly elaborated. “They can both hear everything the other one is thinking, and they’re trying to find out if there’s a way they can block their thoughts from each other.”

Kyle lifted a brow. “So they’re like, talking to each other inside their heads? Like telepathy or something?”

Maria nodded tightly.

“Freaky,” he commented leerily. “And they can hear each other like that all the time?” He couldn’t imagine what it would be like to always have an alien presence in your mind. Or a human presence, depending on whose point of view you looked at it, he supposed. But whichever way you looked at it, it didn’t sound very cool, and Kyle wondered worriedly if that was something he could expect to develop in the near future.

“Not all the time. Only when they’re connected,” Max finally answered when Maria failed to.

“So why not just stop connecting?” Alex asked in consternation. He’d heard most of this from Isabel, but he didn’t get that part. It looked like if this connection was causing so many problems for everybody, they would just stop using it.

“They think they can find out why the connection’s there if they explore it,” Max explained expressionlessly, as he sent a brooding glance at the two in question.

Alex made a face of comprehension, and the four of them watched the mysteriously connected twosome until their utter lack of action failed to hold their attention. Their conversation moved on to other topics, and every now and then, each of them glanced at Michael and Liz with differing expressions.

Kyle’s gaze especially, was drawn to them again and again with an almost morbid fascination. Here was Liz Parker, his one-time girlfriend, a girl he’d grown up with, and who was 100% human, sitting there engaging in an alien activity as if it were no big thing that she had audible brain waves. Audible to one other person, at least.

If it weren’t for an occasional change in their expressions, or even freakier, a slight move of their heads in a yes or no motion every so often, Kyle would’ve thought they were just having an incredibly intense staring contest. Knowing what they were really doing totally wigged him out.

He’d grown somewhat used to the fact that this kind of alien weirdness existed in the world, thanks to living with Tess these past few months. Although, he tended to forget about Tess’ other-worldly status a lot of the time he was with her, until she reminded him of it forcefully by doing something totally outrageous, like changing the clothes she was wearing right in front of him, with nothing more than a wave of her hand. Presto chango, Barbie’s wearin’ a new outfit.

Or creepier yet, she would do something like change his own clothes. While he was still in them. No matter how many times he flayed her for working her voo-doo on him, she continued to get a kick out of freaking him out by pulling her cute little alien stunts every once in awhile.

But that was Tess, who’d been born with a little green blood in her veins. This was Liz, who was only capable of doing this kind of stuff because of something Max Evans had done to her. And he’d done that same something to him.

Kyle had done his best not to really think about that too much. If he was somewhere that he was able to, he immediately threw himself into a session of meditation to rid himself of them whenever thoughts of alien changes crept in to haunt him.

But looking at Liz now, he couldn’t help but wonder if he might be capable of doing the same kinds of things she was.

He just didn’t see how she was taking this whole change thing in stride as well as she was. Kyle would never admit it to another living soul, but it terrified him to think he’d been changed into some alien-hybrid freakazoid. Because it that were true, it seemed like everything he’d ever known about himself would become null and void. He wouldn’t even know what he was anymore. Or what he might become. It was true that he hadn’t shown any signs at all of being different, but all this creepiness hadn’t shown up in Liz either, until now, over a year after the fact. The idea that he might have another year of appearing normal wasn’t really all that comforting. Waiting that long for the other shoe to drop did not sound like fun. The questions about it could drive him crazy before then, if he let them. He didn’t even know what being changed meant. Had Max actually changed something inside him physically? Kyle didn’t know how he would ever find out the answer to that unless he went to a doctor or something, and now he would be forever afraid to do that. If he were to ever have an accident like the one he’d had several months ago when he’d sprained his ankle playing basketball, it could easily turn into a nightmare. What would a doctor do if he found out Kyle was a little martianally inclined? Would he try to split him open right there on the examination table so he could discover just exactly what a human-turned- space-freak looked like on the inside?

Kyle didn’t know how Tess and the others had lived with the fear of someone finding out what they really were for almost 17 years. He would be a complete basket case if he’d lived with this all his life.

But Liz had been right about one thing the other day when they’d had that conversation in his car. Probably the biggest fear was just not knowing. If he just knew for sure what was going on inside him, and what to expect in the future, maybe he could find some way to move on from there and somehow learn to live with it.

Without quite knowing how he’d gotten there, Kyle found himself over in the living room, standing next to Liz and Michael. They didn’t seem to even realize he was there at first, but after a few minutes, they broke eye contact as if they were severing a physical link, and blinked a little disorientedly, before lifting their eyes to him in question.

Sliding his hands into his pockets, Kyle shifted self-consciously.

Glancing at the sleeping girls a few feet away, he said quietly, “So, uh... havin’ any luck?”

Michael and Liz exchanged a glance, before Liz nodded slowly and replied, “Yeah, maybe. But it was taking every ounce of concentration we had. If we connected to do something else, I don’t know if we could do both at the same time.”

“Maybe with practice we could,” Michael said optimistically.

Liz nodded and watched Kyle do the same, and when he continued to just stand there awkwardly, she asked quizzically, “Did you want something, Kyle?”

"No," he denied in an attempt at casualness. Realizing he probably should offer some reson for coming over and interrupting, he said, "I just wanted to see how things were goin'." He paused briefly, then asked offhandedly, "So, you guys can actually talk inside your heads, and you can hear each other just like you were talkin' out loud?"

"Um- yeah. Pretty much," Liz replied.

"And you can't do that with any of the others?" he asked Michael. "I mean, it's only Liz you can talk to like that, right? It's just something about her that lets you do that?"

A little tight-lipped at the resurrection of all the old questions, Michael nodded in answer.

Liz studied Kyle curiously, wondering what was on his mind, and with his next question she thought she understood.

"So it could be something Max did to her inside that makes you able to do that? Something he changed or whatever?"

Excitement lit Liz’s eyes at what he seemed to be hinting at. Was he finally ready to explore his own ‘change’? And could it be true that whatever linked her and Michael also lived in Kyle right now, simply because Max had changed him too? She looked at Michael and saw the same expression on his face that must be gracing her own features. A 'Do you think this is it? Can we find out here and now?' kind of look.

Trying to moderate her tone, Liz asked, "Kyle, are you thinking maybe you could do something like this?"

"Me? No," he back-pedaled quickly, no longer sure if he really wanted those answers when actually confronted with the prospect. "I mean, we don't know if I've really even been changed. I was just wondering what was goin' on with you two, that's all." His eyes roamed around restlessly, and after only a moment, he asked reluctantly, "Uh- how would I know if I could do it? This... telepathy, or whatever."

"Do you want to try it?" Liz asked, trying not to be too eager and be sensitive to Kyle's feelings in this.

Michael was having to curb his impatience too. He wanted to just sit the guy down and demand that he let them try this. This could settle a lot of the questions they had about the reason this connection existed.

Kyle hadn't answered for a long moment, but he finally asked cautiously, "What would I have to do?"

"Nothing. I'll do all the work," Michael quickly assured him.

"Here," Liz said, scooting over to vacate her spot in front of Michael's chair. "You can sit here." As he took her place on the couch, she asked, "Have you, uh... has Tess ever connected with you or anything?"

“Gotten inside my head, you mean? No, not that I know of,” he answered.

“Well... not that exactly,” Liz corrected. “If you two had connected, you’d definitely know about it. A connection isn’t just someone getting inside your head really, it’s more like...” she came to a halt as she searched for an apt description.

“Sharing who you are with each other,” Michael finished for her quietly.

Liz lifted slightly startled eyes to his, surprised at hearing something like that from him. “Yeah,” she agreed softly. “That’s exactly what it is.”

Kyle looked between them with lifted brows. Guerin ‘shared himself’ with her? Now that was interesting. He hadn’t been completely ignorant of all the bad vibes lately between these two, and Maria, and Evans. It all suddenly became a little clearer to him. Knowing Maria, she must be absolutely freaked over this, Kyle figured.

“So how do you go about doing that exactly?” Kyle asked leerily. “‘Sharing who you are’?” It didn’t particularly sound like something he’d care to do with Guerin, no matter how you went about it.

“You just... form this link between you,” Liz attempted to explain. “You may see, like flashes of memories from each other through it, and you can feel what they’re actually feeling, and sometimes you can get a sense of what they’re thinking about.”

Kyle was liking the sound of this less and less. It sounded like sharing who you were, alright. If he was being honest, it sounded like handing over way too much information. He couldn’t imagine why Michael would be any more eager to do this than he was.

“So we’ll both see that kind of stuff if we do this?” Kyle asked, wanting to be clear on it. “And you’re completely okay with that?”

“I just wanna see if we can do this, Kyle,” Michael answered, tired of all this talk, and wanting some action. It felt like possible answers were just within his reach. “If you’re right about this telepathy thing being something Max somehow created in you too... well it would just be good to finally have some definite answers, okay? We won’t connect for long. Just long enough to see if you can do it.”

Liz could feel his hesitation in his silence, and after a moment, he said, “I don’t know, guys...”

Kyle just felt uneasy about the whole deal. It seemed too... intimate. And too weird to be doing with another guy. Especially one he really didn’t even know all that well.

“Would you feel more comfortable doing it with me this first time, Kyle?” Liz asked gently. “We probably wouldn’t see a whole lot we didn’t already know about each other anyway.” She glanced at Michael to see if that was okay with him. “Do you think this is something I can do on my own?”

Michael shrugged and said, “You won’t know until you try, I guess. But if the telepathy thing doesn’t work, that could be the reason why.”

“Well, if that happens, maybe you’ll feel better trying it with Michael once you see what it’s like,” she suggested, looking at Kyle questioningly.

Kyle didn’t know about that, but it did seem a much friendlier prospect to do this with Liz. It still sounded pretty intense, though.

“I don’t know. Maybe,” he finally answered.

Liz nodded in understanding. “It’s okay. We’ll just take it one step at a time. If you feel weird at all, just break the connection, okay?”

At his nod, she turned around on the couch cushion so she was facing him, and tucked one leg up underneath her

Taking his cue from her, Kyle twisted around until he was mostly facing her, feeling unaccountably nervous about this step he was about to take. In a couple of minutes, he guessed he’d have the answer to whether he’d been changed or not. Or he’d have a better idea of whether it was true, anyway.

Liz held out her hand, palm up in invitation, allowing Kyle to make the next move whenever he was ready.

Slowly, he reached out to take it in his, and she gave it a small squeeze in reassurance. She knew how scared she’d been that night when she’d made that monumental leap in taking Isabel’s hand, and she’d had the strongest incentive she could imagine urging her on. But this was a deliberate decision made with plenty of time to think about it on Kyle’s part. She figured he must be feeling pretty tense about it.

Taking a deep breath, she warmly remembered the fateful words she’d heard so long ago, and repeated them softly. “Okay, just take deep breaths, and try and let your mind blank out.”

Max approached the trio on soundless feet and stopped next to Michael’s chair to ask quietly, “What’s going on?”

Michael glanced up at him and answered, “We’re gonna see if you changed Kyle the same way you did Liz. He kinda got the idea that if the whole connection thing with Liz is because of what you did, maybe he can do the same things.”

Liking the idea immediately, Max said with keen interest, “Oh yeah?”

Reading him like a book, and knowing they were on the same page, Michael grinned a little dryly, and replied, “Yeah.”

Kyle threw a quick glance over his shoulder that didn’t quite land on Max, uneasy with his presence here. He already felt uncertain and a little vulnerable in doing this, and having Max here really didn’t help. This was the guy who had possibly remade him into something not human. The guy who’d stolen his girlfriend and had the affection of someone he really cared for now. The guy who’d saved his life.

His feelings regarding Max had always been a dark confusing mix of emotion, never more so than they had been since the spring. Kyle could probably really like Max Evans if he just didn’t hate the guy so much. Owing him his life... well, frankly, it sucked. Irony was not a pretty thing.

Liz lifted sparkling eyes to Max’s, and his lips curved upward in response. “We don’t even know if I’ll be able to form a connection,” she told him, “But we’re just gonna try it this way first.”

He nodded encouragingly, and she turned her attention back to what she’d been doing before. “Ready?” she asked Kyle.

“Not really. But don’t let that stop you,” he said wryly.

“It won’t hurt a bit,” she teased. “Just relax.”

They locked eyes, and Liz concentrated on reaching out with her mind and touching upon his subconscious.

After a long discouraging moment of trying and being unable to, she redoubled her efforts. It was like she could feel its presence there, hovering nearby, but she just wasn’t sure how to get to it.

“Come on, Kyle, relax,” she murmured, thinking maybe his tension was keeping her from getting in.

“Use your energy to give it a push, Liz,” Michael told her. Judging by the quietness of his own energy, he knew she wasn’t really using her powers.

Instinctively, Liz knew that was what was missing, and she drew together her energy to send it out in a gentle wave towards Kyle’s subconscious, in effect, creating a pathway into his mind.

She suddenly found herself falling into his inner being, a stream of emotion rushing past her. Images of Tess- lots of them- flashed in front of her. Some laughing and playful, some serious and sober, and others sad and lost-looking. Liz could feel how he felt about Tess, and he really liked her a lot. He felt extremely protective of her, and Liz thought he might even love her. But he was afraid of being overlooked in favor of Max again, so he refused to even acknowledge the extent of his feelings for her.

Liz felt a pang of sympathy and regret. She’d had no idea she’d left him with such a wariness. She’d really hurt him last year, she realized remorsefully.

She saw flashes of him with his dad, a few hazy ones of his mom with him when he was very small, and there were even a few brief images of her, one of them in bed together where she felt his desire to help her weighing against a tangled mix of guilt and an almost triumphant vengefulness, then a later remorse. And she saw another flash of their first kiss in the Eraser Room at school, with all its attendant emotions. She’d always known, from that very day that she would only ever have casual feelings for Kyle, but she saw now that he’d believed differently. He’d honestly thought things might become serious between them. Yet another thing she’d been blind to, she realized guiltily.

But the flashes that took her most by surprise were the ones she saw of Max. And they were accompanied by a swarm of feeling so tangled and confused, she almost couldn’t decipher individual emotions. There was an image of Max laughing like she’d never seen him do before, and of him yelling something that sounded like, ‘I’m faster!’ as he raced ahead of Kyle towards a mailbox. There were brief pictures of the time Kyle had come after them when they’d been on their way to Atherton’s house in Marathon, Texas, the time he’d followed her and Max to Michael’s trailer park and had gotten a very wrong idea about what was going on while she’d been leaning over Max trying to fish her grandmother’s ring out of the floor board of the jeep, she saw a flash Max at her window when he’d seen them in bed together, the time the Skins had made everyone in town disappear and Max had told Kyle he wasn’t someone he trusted, and an image that produced a complex snarl of emotion in Kyle, even more so than the others, of the day Max had saved Kyle’s life.

Poor Kyle, Liz thought. It looked like he just couldn’t reconcile his feelings about Max. It must be hard to feel so grateful to someone you had always considered a rival. She wished Kyle didn’t look at Max in terms of an enemy like that. For Max’s sake as well as his own. She didn’t think Kyle would ever be able to feel like a legitimate part of their group as long as his feelings toward Max were so conflicted.

She wished he could see Max the way she did, as a gentle, caring, responsible person, who would never knowingly hurt anyone. She didn’t know if it would help or hinder things to let Kyle be inundated with the millions of images of Max she was sure she had filling her own mind. She knew she could probably block them from him if she chose to. She was already holding back thoughts that might tell him the true state of her and Max’s relationship. But she realized in that moment that there really wasn’t any need.

Kyle wasn’t in her head. In fact, she couldn’t feel him anywhere in her subconscious. For some reason, this connection was only going one way.

Had she done something wrong, Liz wondered, cocking her head in bewilderment. Michael had said Kyle wouldn’t have to do anything and he’d do all the work. Did the same not hold true for her?

Breaking the connection with a small shake of her head, she looked up into Max and Michael’s expectant faces apologetically.

“So what happened?” Kyle asked. “You couldn’t do it, or I couldn’t?”

“Um- I’m not sure,” Liz replied. Shifting her gaze to the two aliens again, she told them, “I connected with him, but he wasn’t connected with me. Did I do something wrong?”

Max and Michael looked at each other in question. They didn’t exactly have tons of experience with connections. There just really weren’t that many different people they’d connected with . But Michael knew in his experience with Maria he’d gotten flashes from her whey they kissed without her getting anything form him. And Max, too, thought that the first time he’d made a connection with Liz when he’d healed her, she hadn’t seen anything inside him even though he’d gotten flashes. Of course, that could have been due to the fact that she’d been completely out of it.

“It ever happen like that for you?” Michael asked.

“Yeah, maybe,” Max answered. “You?”

“Yeah, it’s like that with Maria all the time.”

“Maybe it’s a human thing,” Max concluded.

“Human?” Kyle asked, jumping on the words eagerly. “As in ‘not changed’?”

Liz gave his hand a quick squeeze before letting it go. “We probably shouldn’t jump to any conclusions, Kyle. Maybe it was just something I couldn’t do. One of you guys should try.” Knowing Kyle would probably balk at connecting with Max, she quickly suggested, “Michael, why don’t you do it? If it works, you can check out the telepathy thing.”

The idea that this might prove that he hadn’t been changed, rather than the other way around made Kyle less reluctant to try it with Michael this time, and he turned around to face the other boy in preparation.

“I’m not holdin’ your hand, though,” Kyle said emphatically. “You’re an okay guy and all, Guerin, but I just don’t think we’re ready to go that far yet,” he joked a little nervously.

Giving him a deadly look, Michael said, “Can it, Valenti.” Lips quirking wryly, he added, “We’ll take it easy on this first date, okay?”

Laying his hand on Kyle’s forearm in what was, to his mind, a casual, cool-guy kind of way, he instructed, “Try not to be completely passive this time. If you can feel me when I connect with you, try to reach out with your mind and grab on.”

Kyle looked at him as though he were speaking his native alien language, and said dubiously, “Grab on with my mind. Right.”

Seeing that he didn’t really understand, Max said, “Just give it a try, Kyle. If you’ve been changed like Liz has, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to do this. She hasn’t ever had any problems with it.”

His eyes drifted to hers, and they locked gazes, smiles playing across both their faces as they recalled different examples of the times she’d displayed the ease with which she could connect with him.

Sometimes the link between them came to life like a gentle unfurling, or sometimes blazing to life with electric intensity, but it had always happened with an effortlessness that almost seemed like an unconscious act on Liz’s part.

Of course, the activities they were engaged in when it took place could’ve had a lot to do with it.

“Different circumstances,” she murmured, her eyes glittering with heated memories.

“Yeah. I guess so,” Max agreed huskily.

With a look of disgusted exasperation, Michael nudged Liz’s foot with his own to break up the flirty little show the two ‘friends’ were putting on for Kyle. When Liz realized what he was warning her against, she threw a quick assessing look at Kyle, before dropping her eyes contritely.

Fortunately, Kyle was pretty focused on what they were about to do and what they might find out to catch the slip-up, and Michael further distracted him by saying quickly, “Alright, let’s do this.”

Kyle wasn’t nearly as comfortable staring into Michael Guerin’s eyes as he had been to look into the familiar brown gaze of his former girlfriend, but Kyle told himself to just grit his teeth and be a man here. It was possible they were only seconds away from finding out whether or not he could expect his future children to require pods to hatch from.

On the other end, this wasn’t exactly Michael’s idea of a good time either. He’d had lots of practice with Maria at keeping his inner self closed off, and he was determinedly doing the same thing now. No way was he gonna allow the Buddhist jock even the merest peek into his inner soul. And he didn’t particularly care to have any deep insights into the sheriff’s offspring either. Sure, they’d both turned out to be pretty stand-up guys and all, but how much did he really need to know about the inner workings of a person who lived in a completely different sphere of a completely different planet from his own?

As if she knew exactly what he was doing and why, Liz said quietly, “You have to be willing to let him in at least a little bit, Michael, or he’ll never be able to form a connection of his own.”

The connection between the two boys faltered slightly as Michael broke eye contact to shoot Liz an annoyed look. How did she keep reading his mind like that when they weren’t connected? Maria had done something like that at the Crashdown earlier, too. What, was he becoming completely transparent?

Begrudgingly, he allowed that Liz had a point, and he attempted to open himself up the slightest bit. But he was careful to keep a firm barrier in place to conceal his emotions, and guard against giving Kyle any flashes. If Kyle had the same abilities Liz did, it might become more difficult to hide these things from him, but Michael’s instinct was telling him Kyle wasn’t like Liz. Their connection didn’t feel anything like the one with Liz. Somehow, this seemed more similar to the way it felt when he connected with Maria. Without all the soft emotions, of course. And not anywhere near as fun.

And Kyle wasn’t getting inside him at all. Michael thought he could feel him trying, but it wasn’t working out. After several more minutes of letting him try, Michael cut the guy some slack, and opened to him completely, not really expecting it to make any difference.

And he was right.

A few moments later, Michael broke the connection and said, “Alright, enough, Valenti. It’s obviously not gonna happen.”

Kyle gave up his attempts with a sigh of exhaustion, but then his face was transformed into a picture of joyous relief.

“So that’s it. That means I’m normal, right? No unidentified alien objects floating around inside me, no cravings for barf-inducing tobasco concoctions, no Siamese brain linkage of any kind?”

Liz looked at Max and Michael, her brows drawn into a V of consternation. She was happy for Kyle if he didn’t have to go through any of this stuff, truly she was, but she also felt a bit disturbed by the possibility.

“But that can’t be possible, can it?” she asked. “I mean, look how much it’s changed me. It’s not possible that- it just left Kyle completely unaffected. Is it?”

Max’s expression was a mix between regret, guilt, and sympathy when he shrugged helplessly in response. “I don’t know, Liz. I told you the other night that healing Kyle didn’t exactly feel the same as when I healed you. I don’t really know why, but something was just different about it. I didn’t get any flashes, and the connection just wasn’t the same. I didn’t know if that would make a difference in whether he was changed or not, but maybe it did.”

Max was glad if it was true that he hadn’t totally wrecked another person’s life with an unwitting alien change, but he bitterly regretted the fact that Liz was the one who had to suffer the consequences of the one time he had done that.

From his quarter, Michael was disappointed that this hadn’t provided the answers they were looking for. He’d thought a definite explanation for the connection had been right at their fingertips, but apparently it was staying out of reach. And it made all the questions that much more confusing. He still wasn’t ready to give up on this idea completely, though.

“We can’t take this as proof-positive, though, right?” Michael asked. “I mean, Liz didn’t do the telepathy thing right off the bat either.”

“Yeah, but she could at least make a connection,” Max pointed out.

“Michael’s right, though, don’t you think?” Liz asked of Max and Kyle both. “We shouldn’t dismiss the possibility just because this one thing didn’t work. Would you be willing to try something else, Kyle?”

“Like what?” he asked warily.

Liz blinked. Yeah, like what, she wondered when she realized she didn’t have a ready answer. She hadn’t really had anything in mind when she’d asked, it just seemed like they needed more proof before they scratched this theory entirely. They needed to be sure for Kyle’s sake.

And besides that, what would it say about her own change if Kyle hadn’t been changed with Max’s healing too?

“Well...” she said slowly, looking to Max and Michael for any suggestions they might have.

“Well,” Max repeated, helping her out. “One power that’s common among all of us, even Liz, is the ability to manipulate molecular structure. Maybe we could see if you can do that,” he told Kyle.

Kyle gave a skeptical look. “Manipulate molecular structure,” he repeated tonelessly. “Sounds like nuclear fusion or something. You’re gonna have to give me a little more to gon on than that.”

“Hasn’t Tess ever explained her powers to you?” Liz asked, unable to believe the subject hadn’t come up in almost three months.

“We don’t talk about this stuff,” Kyle answered in short dismissal. Hesitating a beat, he amended, “I don’t talk about this stuff.”

Understanding compassion coloring his features, Max explained, “Molecular manipulation is just when you change the color or shape of an object into something else.”

When his meaning became clear to Kyle, he said ironically, “Like zapping yourself a new outfit.”

“Right,” Max agreed with a nod.

Inwardly, Kyle shook his head, and thought sarcastically, wouldn’t it just be nifty if he could do this trick too. Then he and Tess could have like a clothes-zapping war. The idea stopped his thoughts short, as the intriguing possibility of being able to make her clothes vaporize into nothingness came to mind.

Shaking himself from his inappropriate thoughts, he agreed to try it out.

Maria and Alex watched from across the room as the others explained the process to Kyle, and began to conduct experiments to see if he had the capabilities to do it.

“Has it occurred to you that we’re becoming vastly outnumbered?” Maria asked idly.

Alex lifted a brow questioningly.

“Well, like, you have the four aliens on one side, then you have you and me, in all our human glory, on the other, and now Liz and Kyle are somewhere in the middle, like a couple of pinch hitters for either side.”

Alex smiled. “I’d say Kyle’s position is still pretty much up in the air,” he commented. So far, they seen no evidence that the sheriff’s son possessed any alien abilities. “I think maybe we can still claim him as a member of the Human team.”

That did seem like a likely assumption, as Max, Michael, and Liz worked with Kyle for about fifteen minutes, and found him unable to do even the simplest manipulation, not even at the moderate success level Liz had in doing it.

Kyle was elated. The possibility of his being changed had been weighing heavily on his mind for weeks, looming like a dark threat ready to pounce at any moment. But with each additional failure he encountered with this, his sense of relief grew. I’m a totally human human being, he wanted to crow in triumph.

Liz was completely bewildered. How could this be true? This just wasn’t anything Kyle possessed the capabilities to do. He’d even allowed the three of them to try connecting with him and give him a boost with their energy, but nothing was working. Max had said that he could feel Kyle’s energy moving within him, but there was just no spark to it. It wasn’t charged into a heightened state that they could even help him use.

It had become pretty obvious that he was no different now than he was the day before Max had healed him.

Liz looked at Max, her heart pounding with uneasy distress. She tried to convince herself that maybe he’d been right. Maybe somehow, in some way, his healing of Kyle had just been different than when he’d saved her. But she was having trouble believing it. It was looking more and more like there had to be a completely different explanation for this connection between her and Michael, one that had nothing to do with Max’s healing. And it scared her so much to even contemplate what other reason there could possibly be.

“He can’t do it,” Liz said hoarsely, just wanting to end this farce, and give Kyle the peace he needed over this. She took the ink pen from his hand that he’d been attempting to turn a different color with Michael’s help, and repeated, “He can’t do this. He obviously hasn’t been changed at all. Just... just stop, and leave him alone.”

“Liz...” Max said, his tone sad and remorseful. He wanted so very much to go and enfold her in his arms to give her comfort. It was obvious she was upset over what this meant in terms of her own change.

Liz swallowed hard and looked away from him, his sympathetic face threatening to bring tears gushing once again. What was wrong with her tonight, she wondered in consternation. What was with all the waterworks all of a sudden?

Tucking her hair behind her ear, she shook her head a little, and sighed wearily. “Can we just go to sleep now? I- I feel really exhausted. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble falling asleep.” In point of fact, she welcomed sleep. She felt like crawling somewhere and pulling the covers over her head, actually.

Max looked at her in concern, and asked, “Are you sure you still want to do this, Liz? We don’t have to.”

Liz nodded faintly. “I just want some answers,” she said, sounding tired and defeated. “I’m tired of having all these questions. And all the answers just keep eluding us.”

Looking at her compassionately, Michael said with gentle irony, “Welcome to our world.”

The corner of her lip tilted up, but her expression remained as that of one with flagging spirits.

“Come on, let’s go get some sleep,” Max invited, moving around Michael’s chair to help her out of her seat.

Before she stood, she gave Kyle’s arm a squeeze, and said, “I’m glad everything turned out okay with you, Kyle.”

Kyle was feeling a little guilty to seemingly be getting off scot-free when he knew Liz’s life had been changed so drastically by this supposed change.

“Thanks,” he replied softly. “Uh- I feel like I should say sorry, or something.”

Smiling slightly, Liz asked, “Sorry for what? Being human?” She shook her head. “Don’t be sorry, Kyle. I’m not. I’m happy for you.”

Admiration glowing in his eyes, Kyle accepted that with a silent nod. She really was one of the most amazingly generous people he’d ever known. He was lucky to be able to count her as a friend.

Max stroked her back soothingly as they moved back to their places on the floor, uncaring if the gesture looked overly friendly or not. She needed the comfort right now, and there was no way he could just stand aside and not give it to her.

Liz huddled close against him as they lay down side-by-side, and once they’d gotten settled, Max tilted his head on his pillow just a little to rest it against her forehead. Liz gave him a brief squeeze as she stretched her arm across him to reach Isabel, and though the gestures weren’t nearly as much as they would have liked to offer one another in that moment, the small actions were effective in silently communicating love and support, and they brought a small measure of comfort to them both.

As Michael settled himself on the couch above them, they closed their eyes, and waited for sleep to come sweep them away on the journey toward more answers.

Part 49 | Index | Part 51
Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours
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