FanFic - Other
Part 47
by Kath7
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the story. The characters and concept belong to Jason Katims and Melinda Metz. Tarsus of Dernia and all Illyrian characters belong to me. Lyrics by Sarah McLachlan, Phil Collins, Amanda Marshall, Garth Brooks.
Summary: Sequel to "Out of the Woods." I highly recommend reading it before trying this one. It is archived at the Crashdown. Basically, Max is gone, and the others have no idea whether they will ever see him again.
Category: Other
Rating: PG-13
Max paused briefly outside the doors of the school, surprised to see that Tess hadnít run very far. She was sitting on a bench on the front lawn, staring off into space, a sad look on her pretty face.

He knew that whatever was upsetting her was not about he and Liz. Liz had told him that Tess had accepted that he would not be with her long ago. It was why Liz had somehow known during the whole time that it looked like Tess was betraying them that she was not. All the stuff with Danala had been a momentary back-stepÖsomething Tess had not been able to resist for a time, that feeling of being importantÖof being needed.

Tess had not had that feeling for a long while - had not had it since it had become clear that Max was never going to fall in love with her, that she was never going to be the "bride", that all that she had ever been raised to be was not going to come about. Danala had given it back to her briefly, but she had managed, in the end, to see it for the lie it was.

Max knew that Tess had never been in love with him - and that now SHE knew it too.

And so this had to be about Kyle.

He didnít know what to make of Kyle half the time. He didnít know what had gone down between Kyle and Tess on the day Danala had been destroyed, but whatever it was, it had not been good. He knew that Kyle was trust-worthy and loyal, but Max also knew that it was not to HIM. Kyle cared about Liz and Maria and Alex - even Michael and Isabel, having bonded with them during the period when Max had been on Illyria - but he only tolerated Max.

Max knew that Kyle was grateful that he had once saved his life, but that didnít mean that they would EVER be friends. Kyle had some gripe with him that it was unlikely would ever disappear. And Max couldnít blame him. If he had been dating someone like Liz, only to find out that she had a soulmate about to enter her life - well, hell, he would have been pissed too.

And yet, somehow Max knew that none of this was about Liz either. It was about Tess.

It was Tess that Kyle loved - or so Liz had told him anyway. From the way Max had seen Kyle behave around Tess since he had had his memory back, he had trouble believing it.

He had even told Liz so. She had just smiled affectionately at him, clearly thinking he was an idiot.

"Max, how did you behave around me before I knew the truth about you?" She had asked, raising a delicate eyebrow at him,

Max had felt confused. "I donít know. I guess I sort of stayed away from you." He had finally replied, having no idea what she was talking about. Of course that was not entirely true. He hadnít approached her anyway, well, except in Bio lab, but he had certainly not stayed away. Michael used to joke that they should have a reserved table at the Crashdown because Max always wanted to go there to ogle the waitresses.

"But you loved me?" Liz asked.

"Of course. You know that."

They had been on Lizís balcony, curled up together on the chaise lounge. She had sat up as soon as they had begun this conversation though and was staring down at him incredulously.

"So then why did you stay away from me?" Liz had inquired mischievously.

"To keep you safe." Max had replied instantly, sure that was the right answer.

Liz just grinned. "Sorry. Wrong." She leaned down and planted a gentle kiss on his lips to make him feel better, and although he was slightly distracted, he felt a twinge of annoyance.

Max had frowned at her. "I am NOT wrong. I think I know what was going through my own mind!" He had replied, knowing he sounded miffed.

Liz had just continued to smile tolerantly. "But no one knew anything about your Czech status then Max. And you and I were barely friendsÖwe were just school buddies. Why would you have to keep me safe?"

Max had opened his mouth to reply, but then frowned, remembering suddenly exactly WHY he used to stay away from Liz.

"I didnít think that someone like you could ever be interested in someone like me." He finally said quietly, looking up at Liz. He and Liz had gone through so much together since then, he had almost forgotten what it had been like to be that boy - madly in love with someone he was sure he was never going to have in his life. Liz had been smart and popular and so breathtakingly beautiful AND dating the captain of the football and basketball teams - he had been a nobody. That wasnít even bringing into account his other-worldly origins, which should have been the biggest obstacle of all. "And so I didnít even try - I just wanted to keep the dream alive by not doing anything about it." He continued, feeling a little sad for that boy he had been.

It had sucked.

Lizís eyes were shining down at him. "You were so dumb." She had gently touched his face. His heart had swelled at the love he had seen in her gaze as she leaned down again, her silky, dark hair falling around them like a curtain. "I was born to be yours and you were born to be mine." She had whispered, kissing him nearly senseless.

But that conversation had come back to him later and he knew now exactly what Liz had been getting at. Kyle was distancing himself from Tess because he loved her and he was sure that she would never feel the same way. The hurt was too much to deal with and so he stayed away.

And yet the look on Tessí face told him that Kyle had nothing to worry about.

Max had glanced into the classroom Tess had been staring into as he had chased after her. It didnít take a rocket scientist to figure out what had upset her.

It was a study hall. The teacher was busy marking at her desk and was virtually ignoring what the students were doing.

But of course the teacher had not interested Tess. Kyle was in there, surrounded by three cheerleaders, all giggling, one of them actually on his lap.

And yet, although Kyle had been laughing, Max had seen the distance on his face. He was not happy.

Max realized that Tess had become aware of his presence. She did not try to flee though. She was just gazing at him, her expression blank.

Max walked over slowly, indicated the seat beside her. "Mind if I join you?"

Tess pursed her lips momentarily, but nodded. "No." She looked away. "I take it Liz sent you." She paused. "I donít know why that girl is so nice to me. I almost killed her."

Max touched her shoulder lightly. She turned to look at him, her face still unreadable. "But you didnít. And she didnít send me."

A flash of surprise crossed Tessí face before she managed to suppress it. Max didnít blame her. He and Tess were not on bad terms, but it had taken him a while to get over the rage he had felt at her when he had thought that she had murdered Liz.

He would have killed her then - and painfully too.

And so he had left her alone and she had kept her distance from him. She and Michael were extremely close now and she and Isabel were getting back to the friendship they had shared when they had first met. Maria was preoccupied with other things, but Tess and Alex had developed a fairly close friendship as well. Max thought it was because Alex remembered how it had felt to be an outsider, way back when they had all been lying to him at the beginning of their sophomore year.

That had affected Alex far more deeply than he let on, Max knew. He was the most loyal of them all, would die for any of them, and that was probably what had hurt him the most. That he had not been trusted. So now that Alex knew that Tess was not out to hurt Liz or claim Max, he identified with her and had befriended her.

Everyone could see that Tess was no longer interested in Max. Max wondered why Kyle couldnít.

"Tell me how I can help you Tess." Max said now, feeling for all the world like he would do anything to make her happy. He didnít like to see anyone as miserable as Tess currently was. They still had a bond through the Four Square and he could feel her emotions quite clearly, even though she was trying to mask them.

"I donít know what youíre talking about." She snapped suddenly, getting to her feet.

"I saw Kyle with those girls." Max interjected smoothly. She halted in mid-step. She had been about to run away but she collapsed back on the bench instead. Her mask fell away and her misery was suddenly plain.

Max remained quiet, waiting for her to open up.

Tess bit her lip, trying to control her tears. "He hates me." She finally said quietly.

Max wondered why it was always the two people most closely involved in a situation that could not see what was directly in front of their faces. "I donít think so Tess." He replied gently.

But she didnít answer, just kept staring off into space. "Do you know what I said to him the first time he told me that he loved me Max?" Max just shook his head. Tess turned to eye him. "I told him I didnít care. I told him that to his face, as cruelly as I possibly could. I WANTED to hurt him Max." Tears were falling in earnest now. She was not sobbing, just silently crying. "I wanted to hurt him even though I felt the same way. Heís the only person who has EVER accepted me exactly as I am. But I was so scared and so stupid that I trusted Danala and I chose to hurt him rather than face the way I felt about him." She paused, shaking her head. "I wanted to hurt the one person I loved more than anyone Max. What kind of person does that make ME?"

"I think it makes you human Tess." Max replied quietly. She jerked in surprise. "I know that you have always wanted to go home, that you never wanted to accept what we wereÖbut itís the truth Tess. No matter where we come from Tess, the fact that we can love the way we do, it makes us human." Tess was staring at him, a strange expression on her face. "I once told Liz that loving her made me human. I think we both know that you NEVER loved meÖit was loving Kyle that made YOU human. And thereís one part of being in love that really sucks TessÖ" Max smiled sympathetically at her. "Sometimes it really, REALLY hurts."

Tess rolled her eyes, a bit of her spirit coming back. "That I know." She said. She sobered again very quickly, looking sad again. "But Iíve heard that old phrase Max: thereís a thin line between love and hate. I think Kyle has crossed it." She shook her head again. "I know that he thinks that Iím in love with you and I donít know how to show him that Iím not. I always run away Max. But Iím sick of runningÖ"

Max put his arm around her comfortingly. "While I disagree with you, IF Kyle HAS crossed that line, well, then youíll just have to pull him back over to the other side."

Tess was stiff in his embrace for a moment, but relaxed suddenly, sighing. Max had a flash of the affection he had had for her when she had been Sabrya and he had been Jaxon. He had never been IN love with her, but he HAD loved her, more like brother and sister than anything else. Their marriage had been meant to end the disastrous conflict that divided their planet. It had been meant for good and it HAD been good. It just had not been meant to be.

"Tess, I once gave up on love." Max told her after they had sat in companionable silence for a while. "I didnít tell Liz or anyone what was going on with Tarsus and it led to all that weíve gone through since. If I had trusted people who loved me, maybe we could have stopped it all before it started." He squeezed her gently. "Weíve already figured out that you, me, Izzy and Michael are stronger as a unit. I KNOW that Iím stronger with Liz by my side. I think that if you love Kyle youíre going to have to tell himÖbut not just thatÖyouíre going to have to let him inÖyou canít keep any part of yourself separate or it will never work."

Tess was gazing up at him, looking amused. "Max, you do realize that youíre a guy donít you?" She giggled. "You sound exactly like a girl. Guy arenít supposed to WANT to let people in."

Max felt himself reddening, but he grinned. "Well, if weíre a matched pair, I guess youíre the guy then, since youíre the one who has trouble expressing her emotions."

Tess stared at him in open-mouthed shock for a moment, but suddenly burst into peals of laughter. She threw her arms around him, hugging him affectionately. "I know that Liz knows how lucky she is." Tess told him, still laughing. "But Iím going to make sure that she never forgets it."

Max had been laughing too, but he pulled back and stared at Tess hard. "Youíre lucky too Tess. Kyle is a good guy. I think we all take him for granted a bit. He deserves to be happy and you need to talk to him - sooner rather than later."

Tess sobered again, nodded. "I know. Itís just scary Max."

Max raised an eyebrow at her. "Whatís scarier Tess, talking to him or losing him?"

"The second." Tess replied seriously. She smiled at him again. "Thank you Jaxon."

"Thank YOU Sabrya." Tess hugged him again.

Neither of them noticed that the bell had rung or that Kyle Valenti was standing at the entrance to the school, a girl on each arm. He had been standing there for quite a while, had witnessed at least TWO hugs between Tess Harding and Max Evans.

He didnít react. He just shook off the cheerleaders and stalked to his Mustang, pulling out of the parking lot with a squeal of tires.

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