FanFic - Other
"Out of the Woods"
Part 14
by Kath7
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters. I am just borrowing them with thanks to Melinda Metz and Jason Katims and the WB. Lyrics to songs by Joe Cocker and Amanda Marshall.
Summary: This story is derived from a challenge from Actrez. The gang heads back to Fraser Woods (from Into the Woods) during their junior year. Tess and Michael join the Evans, while Maria goes with the Parkers. This story is post-Destiny. Liz had just returned from a lengthy stay in England. She returns to find a completely different Max and Michael.
Category: Other
Rating: PG-13
Max was alone.

It had happened quite by accident actually. Mr. Evans, Mr. Troy and Pam had decided to go for a hike and had insisted that Isabel join them. Max had thought at first that Izzy was behind trying to get Pam away from him again - so Liz would have another chance at getting him alone. But Izzy had been so annoyed by the idea in general, he didn't think she had anything to do with it...she had only agreed when Alex and Mr. Whitman decided to join them. Max had been surprised to see Alex and Isabel holding hands when they left. Deep down he was pleased that they had apparently found their way back to each other. Max knew how lonely Isabel had been since he and Michael had changed. She needed Alex.

He had been surprised when Liz hadn't even come near him after the six had left. She had stayed with Kyle, Maria and Tess near the campfire, laughing and fooling around. Max had wanted to join them so badly it had hurt - but he knew that he couldn't....not only was Michael still there, Liz already had a good idea that he was faking his new personality. He couldn't risk being near her...he had to keep her safe.

Finally Mr. Parker and Sheriff Valenti had hauled the remaining four kids off into the bush, on a scavenger hunt they had been working on all morning. Max had been shocked when Michael had actually gone with them. He still didn't understand why, but he was pleased that it meant he could have some solitude.

Now he was sitting on a log near the Evans' tent, his head in his hands. It was extremely rare for him to have any time to himself these days. Pam was always there and when she wasn't Michael was, watching him suspiciously.

It was one of the reasons he had decided to go out with Pam in the first place - to try and get away from Michael for a while. He didn't like Pam at all, in fact disliked her intensely for the way she had treated Liz all last year, but, as was the case with most of his life these days, when the opportunity to date her had arisen, Max had had no choice...

Pam had approached him about six weeks into the school year. The gossip surrounding Liz and Max's break-up and Liz's decision to stay away from school for the first semester of junior year had been fierce. Liz's good name had been dragged through the mud actually. Someone had remembered the time that the two of them had been caught in the Eraser Room by the principal and soon the talk was that Liz was pregnant and that she had gone off to have the baby in secret and to then put it up for adoption - and that Max had dumped her when he found out.

Max reflected now that he really hoped that Liz knew nothing about all that. She would be devastated and humiliated. That what they had gone through could become so easily trivialized by their made him sick. He had wanted to go on the PA, announce to the world that he loved Liz Parker in a way that few of them would ever understand, that SHE had broken up with him, that he would love her forever - but he hadn't...he had gone completely against everything his gut was telling him to do and he had used the gossip to try and keep Liz keep all his friends safe.

Max had already begun his campaign to be perceived as someone who had done a 180 personality-wise. He had started to flunk tests, skip classes, lip off to his teachers and his parents... he ignored Isabel and treated Alex and Maria like dirt. Michael was always there, watching, waiting for him to screw up...Max had been relieved when Liz had not returned after the summer. To try and be as mean to her as he was being to everyone else...he just knew that it would be impossible.

Then Pam had approached him.

Max knew that Liz despised Pam had been so unlike Liz to hate anyone, Max had wondered at it sometimes. He had asked Maria about it one day. Liz's best friend had told him about how Pam had always been jealous of Liz, how Pam knew that Liz was prettier, smarter, more popular...but that the kicker had been when Kyle Valenti had asked Liz out - after Pam had practically thrown herself at the star of the football and basketball teams all freshman year. That was when Pam had truly begun her campaign of terror against Liz...

It had started small - a rumor here and there...that Liz and Kyle were sleeping together, that Liz's dad was going bankrupt, stupid things like that...

But then Pam had had her big chance...Liz and Max broke up.

Max knew that Pam had started the rumors about the reason for their break-up. His hatred for her knew no bounds. When she had first approached him, asked him out, he had rebuffed her had been the first time that his jack-ass act had been a benefit.

But then Michael had stepped in. "I think you should go out with Pam."

Max had been so shocked, he had been incapable of speech for several moments. "Why?" He had finally managed to croak.

Michael had just stared at him coldly. "I don't trust you've been behaving yourself up until now, but I KNOW're going to be putty in Liz Parker's hands when she gets back. You need to do something that will keep her away from you, that will really make her hate you."

Max had wanted to resist with every fibre of his being, but he knew he had no choice."Fine." He had finally muttered. He had asked Pam out the next day at school. She had been ecstatic and had been all over him ever since.

That he finally had a few moments to himself now - it was like a gift. He could sit and brood in peace - daydream about the days when he knew what it was like to love and be loved...

Liz...God, he loved her. He had been amazed at how much he still loved her when he had seen her at the bus, how much he just enjoyed watching her, how beautiful she was to him...he had known all his life that she was the only one for him. Seeing her again after so long only reinforced it.

Max not only missed her - he missed himself, the person he was when she was around... He had never been overly confident in the person he was before Liz - but that she had loved had made him LIKE who he was in a way that he never had before. He hated that he had to hide his true nature, that he couldn't be the Max that Liz loved.

He wondered if he could ever fix things so that they could go back to normal. He knew that Maria hated him now, that Alex almost did too, that even Isabel was beginning to give up on him...Tess seemed to have given up too to a certain degree...he was so isolated. That Liz was ignoring him now too...

Well, at least I know I'll always have Michael, he thought bitterly.

Max was abruptly thrust from his reverie by someone calling his name. "MAX! Max, where are you??"

It was Tess - and she sounded frantic. Max jumped to his feet, fought to keep his face bland. While he was not Tess' biggest fan, she WAS one of them...he had started to care about her despite himself.

Tess came stumbling out of the bush, her blonde hair in complete disarray, her expression panicked. Max stepped forward, grabbed her by the arms.

"Tess?" He asked, concern evident in his voice despite himself. Tess stared up at him, her blue eyes wide, beginning to glisten with tears...

"Max, there's been an accident." She managed to say, still breathing hard. Max could tell that she had sprinted all the way back to the camp.

One name shot through Max's mind...LIZ! He knew without asking that it was her.

"Show me!" He commanded Tess.

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