FanFic - Max/Liz
"From Another Place"
Part 1
by Danilise
Disclaimer: Roswell, the characters, and situations are owned by the WB. No infringement intended.
Summary: Max and Liz's little daughter Claudia gets sick.
Category: Max/Liz
Rating: PG
Authors Note: This story is part of an evolving storyline that currently includes (in order): "Decisions," "Looking In," "Christmas Envy," "From Another Place," "Husbands and Fathers," "Claudia and Nicole," and "Stars." More stories may be forthcoming.
“We’ll be fine. Stop worrying. Besides, if I play my cards right, by the end of the night Claudia just might give me her choo-choo pajamas.”

Max Evans laughed. It was such a typically Alex kind of thing to say. Max thanked the gods who had seen fit to match his sister Isabel with Alex Whitman. Alex’s wry humor and sensible realism balanced Izzy’s Izzy-ness perfectly. They were good together. And happily they were willing to baby-sit tonight. Max laughed again, feeling carefree and young for the first time in what felt like ages. School had been pretty backbreaking lately. But tonight, he and Liz were going out to celebrate that it was finally over. He was graduating. Of course, another backbreaking hospital residency waited for him after graduation, but he wouldn’t let the future cloud tonight in any way. He couldn’t stop smiling even as he tried to refocus on the conversation.

Alex was explaining to Isabel with a straight face the appeal of Claudia’s choo-choo pajamas. Max was amazed anew at the soft look in his sister’s eyes. Izzy was practically gentle around Alex. There wasn’t a hint of her old “Princess Isabel” act anywhere. “Yup,” Alex concluded, “I’m definitely holding out for the choo-choo pajamas.”

“You’re not holding out for the bunny-feet pajamas?” Max teased, jumping back into the conversation. “You’re selling yourself short, Whitman.”

“How did you two end up talking about Claudia’s pajamas?” Liz asked as she walked into the living room, clearly puzzled by the tail-end of their conversation.

Max couldn’t help staring at Liz, watching her as she finished fastening her earrings. He had loved her since the first time he had seen her in the third grade. They had been together essentially since their sophomore year in high school. They had lived together since moving to Boston for school four years ago. And they had been married for the past three years. Practically ever since he could remember, he had measured out his life in smiles from Liz and minutes spent with Liz.

She gave him the sweet smile she saved only for him. “So,” she said lightly, pirouetting. “How do I look?” The long black skirt of her dress belled outwards, showing off her shapely ankles. Max’s gaze slid up from her ankles, tracing her delicate curves, dwelling on her lovely face, stopping at the crown of her head. Her midnight-dark hair was caught up in a sparkly thing, with curls floating around her head like a halo. Her earrings, a gift from him from two Christmases ago, twinkled. Max thought that she was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. A star made flesh. The mother of his child.

Who was another star made flesh. Albeit a grumpy star at the moment. He winked down at Claudia, who was wrapped around his leg in the way she always liked, wearing the infamous bunny-feet pajamas. “What do you think, sweetie? Is Mommy beautiful?”

Two-and-a-half year old Claudia looked up at her father and nodded seriously. Her face fell when she registered the fact that her parents were dressed up to go out. She rubbed one eye with a tiny fist. Her lower lip trembled. “Wanna come,” she said plaintively.

Max detached her from his leg and crouched down to her level. “Sweetie. This is a special night for Daddy and Mommy only. We’ll go out the three of us another time.” He put his hands on her small shoulders and gently turned her to face Alex and Isabel. “Tonight you’re going to stay with your Aunt Izzy and your Uncle Alex. You’ll have fun.”

Claudia blinked her huge brown eyes and nodded, looking unconvinced.

“We’ll have fun,” Isabel assured her, crouching down beside Max. “We can play your favorite games.”

Claudia scrunched up her face and thought hard for a minute. “Can we play the star game?”

Isabel raised her eyebrows at Max. Catching the question implied by those raised eyebrows, he grinned at Isabel then at Claudia who was jumping up and down in excitement at the thought of playing the star game. “Should we explain to your Aunt Izzy?”

Claudia giggled and threw her arms around him. Max breathed in the sweet, little-girl smell of his daughter. Could life get any better? he wondered. Liz and Claudia. The love of his life and the daughter of his heart. Who could ask for more?

“We’re waiting, big brother.” Isabel stood up and tapped a fingernail on his shoulder. “What is the star game? If Alex, Claudia, and I are going to play it tonight, we need to know.”

“It’s simple.” Max exchanged a silly conspiratorial look with Claudia who promptly collapsed into a heap of giggles. “You pick a constellation, then pick a name to describe what it looks like,” he explained. “The sillier, the better. With extra points if you find constellations that look like radishes.” He paused when Isabel looked confused. “It’s like the cloud game.”

Isabel still looked confused. “She’s not even three, Max.”

Max tightened his arms around Claudia and picked her up. He studied Isabel over Claudia’s head, realizing that Isabel suspected but didn’t fully realize yet how special Claudia was. She would – if she and Alex ever got past the endless engagement phase they seemed to be stuck in, finally got married, and had children themselves.

“She’s like us, Iz,” he said quietly, shooting a half-apologetic look at Alex. “She’s not exactly following a normal human development pattern. Hers is accelerated. Like ours was.” Max smoothed a hand over Claudia’s soft, straight dark hair that was so much like her mother’s. When his fingers brushed her forehead, he frowned. “Liz?” His frown deepened when there was no answer.

“She went back into your bedroom, I think,” Alex said. “What’s wrong?”

Max wasn’t sure. Clutching Claudia close, he strode off rapidly in search of Liz. He found her in the bathroom, touching up her makeup. “Liz. Feel Claudia’s forehead.”

Instant concern creased Liz’s brow. She pressed the back of her hand against Claudia’s forehead. Fear crept into her eyes as they met his. “She’s warm, Max. She wasn’t warm before.” She brushed Claudia’s bangs off her forehead. “I don’t know, Max. Maybe we shouldn’t go. She’s even sniffling a little.”

Isabel and Alex had followed Max from the living room and stood in the bathroom doorway. Isabel shook her head at them. “Don’t even think about it. You guys are being typical over-protective parents. Don’t worry. She’ll be fine. Alex and I can take care of her. This isn’t anything more than a typical childhood thing. Really. She’ll be fine.”

“Yeah,” Alex agreed. “Go celebrate, for geez sake. It’s not like you graduate every day.”

Max looked carefully at Liz. He could see that she was worried. He could tell that she didn’t want to leave if Claudia were sick. He didn’t want to either. But, he reassured himself, he and Isabel and Michael didn’t get sick. Not really. Not unless something bizarre happened, like a car accident or a Native American ritual or something. And Claudia was like them, as he’d just explained to Isabel. It would be okay. Claudia would be okay. But he knew Liz needed to think it through for herself.

Still visibly wavering, Liz finally said, “Okay. But let me give you our cell phone number. Call us if she gets any worse. Or if anything changes. Anything at all.” She dug her cell phone out of her evening bag, scribbled the telephone number on a scrap of paper, and handed the paper to Isabel and Alex. “Iz. Alex. If anything changes, call us.”

Isabel smiled reassuringly. “Don’t worry, Liz. We’ll be fine.”

* * * * So Max and Liz went out to celebrate Max’s graduation from medical school at a Chinese restaurant Max had found. He had planned their evening to resemble their first date. Before dinner, they played pool. Grinning with a sense of déjà vu, Max watched his calm, sweetly serious wife play like a pool shark while he missed almost every shot. After their game of pool, they ate Chinese food and cracked open fortune cookies, making up their fortunes to suit their celebratory mood. Then they danced.

As he took her into his arms, Max felt Liz relax. Their intense connection was so much a part of how they were together. They touched, and they were lost in each other. The rest of the world and its worries faded away. Max gathered Liz closer, resting his chin on the top of her head. It had been so long since it had been just the two of them. Claudia was a joy and a blessing, but being graduate students and young parents all at once was hard. It was a rare pleasure to be alone together, even if it was only until they went back home to relieve Isabel and Alex’s babysitting duty.

Then just as had happened on their first date, a panicked call for help interrupted the evening. Liz’s cell phone rang. They listened to it ring for a second, knowing who it was. In an instant, they were thrust back into the worry they had temporarily forgotten in their magical little world. Liz unfroze first, leaping for her bag and the ringing phone. “Hello?” Her voice was frantic. Max watched her face cloud over with fear, his heart in his throat. Liz’s eyes met his as she snapped the phone shut. “Max. She’s worse. A lot worse. Isabel thinks we should come home.”

This was what Max had feared most. He hadn’t been able to name the fear before. But this was exactly it. When you’re from another place, any illness could mean life or death. Because she was only half-from-another-place, Max had hoped that Claudia would have inherited Liz’s environmental tolerances and immunities. Or if not that, that she would have inherited his invulnerabilities. But clearly she hadn’t. His daughter wasn’t normal. He wasn’t normal. He couldn’t pretend to be normal. He couldn’t protect Claudia and Liz from situations like this one. He shook his head to clear it and told himself to remain calm as he helped Liz into her evening wrap, and they left the restaurant to race home.

* * * * Isabel jumped up when the door to the apartment opened. “Thank god, you’re here. She has a fever. It got bad so quickly. Her fever is so high, the thermometer can’t read it.” She stared at Liz and Max, who stood frozen in the doorway. “Max. You’re a doctor. You must know what to do.”

Max knew that Liz was looking at him with the same plea in her eyes. He couldn’t look at her. If he did, he would lose whatever sanity he still possessed. He focused on his sister instead. “Isabel. I’m a doctor for humans.” Not hybrids. He didn’t say the words out loud. They were too harsh. But he thought them, and that was enough to make him feel ashamed. “Not my own daughter,” he finished, surprised to hear the crack in his voice.

Liz touched his arm. She understood what he hadn’t said, and she forgave him. He couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have her. “Max,” she said quietly, determinedly, back to being his practical and rational Liz. “We can take care of her.”

Max held her gaze for a minute. Then he nodded and took charge with all the skill and efficiency he had learned in four years of medical school. Over the next three hours, he and Liz were each other’s strength. They drew ice baths for Claudia, spooned liquids into her, fed her children’s acetaminophen, and sang lullabies while they rocked her back and forth. Finally, when they were ready to give up and take her to the hospital, damning the consequences, Claudia’s fever broke.

Giddy with relief, Max and Liz changed Claudia’s pajamas, replaced the sheets on her bed, and tucked her back under the covers. She snuggled her stuffed white-velvet rabbit and gave them a sleepy smile. “Happy now,” she murmured.

Liz kissed her forehead. “Go to sleep, baby.”

Once they had shut the bedroom door behind them softly, Liz buried her face in Max’s chest and shuddered. “Thank god, she’s going to be okay,” she said. Her words were muffled by his shirt.

Max just held her, running his hand through the silky hair at the back of her head that had fallen out of her sparkly clip sometime during the course of the night. “Thank god,” he agreed. It felt like the most profound prayer of thanks he’d ever said in his whole life. He pulled away a little and smiled down at Liz as a thought occurred to him. “So I guess this means that my decision to specialize in pediatrics was the right one?”

Liz looked up and nodded seriously, looking exactly like Claudia for a second. “Absolutely right.” She stepped out of his arms, still anxious even though Claudia’s fever had broken. “I’m going to check on her again.”

Max let her go, understanding how she felt. “I’ll tell Iz and Alex that everything is okay,” he said. In their panic, he and Liz had completely forgotten about Isabel and Alex.

He found them in the living room. After reassuring them that Claudia was fine, Max offered to pull out the sofa bed so they could stay the night. Isabel shook her head. She looked freaked out, as if the reality of getting married and having children had just hit home. Alex shared a speaking look with Max over Isabel’s head as he helped her into her jacket. In all honesty, Max wasn’t sorry they decided to say goodnight when he closed the door behind them. Alex and Isabel needed time to talk. And he needed to check on his girls.

He found Liz in Claudia’s bedroom. An early-spring-scented breeze from the open window drifted the white curtain into the room, fluttering a wisp of dark hair across Liz’s cheek. Liz had fallen asleep beside Claudia, who was still clutching her stuffed white rabbit and finally sleeping peacefully. Max leaned against the doorjamb and just watched them. Their two dark heads resting together, serene against the white pillow, was the sweetest sight he could think of.

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