FanFic - Other
"Out of the Woods"
Part 24
by Kath7
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters. I am just borrowing them. 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
"Who are you?" I demanded, now positive that whoever this guy was, he WAS NOT Michael's father. And then I knew...

He was one of THEM. They had found us. "It's me you want, isn't it?" I asked quietly. I was amazed that I sounded so calm. I had just seen my best friend literally become a pod person. Shouldn't I be a little more upset?

"Of course." The Michael clone looked over his shoulder at the real Michael, who was floating peacefully in his pod. There was disdain in his voice when he continued, "He has always been unimportant. He could not save you in your past life and now with his insipid human desire for a family he has doomed you in this one."

I felt red-hot rage. "Don't talk about him like don't know him at all."

"Oh, I know him." The shapeshifter replied arrogantly. "Michael has always been weak - and completely unable to see past his own desires. Why they sent him with you, I'll never know...but it made my mission easier." He sounded pleased.

"Who the hell are you?" I demanded again. I needed as much information as he could provide. It was becoming more and more clear that he liked to talk about himself and how brilliant he was. The more I kept him talking, the better. "And why are you Michael?"

The shapeshifter eyed me, a slight smirk on his Michael-face. " I am Michael because I choose to be - it is but a form. My true role is that of your destroyer Jaxon Falconer - and the facilitator of your rebirth." I blinked.

"Pardon me?"

"That is your true name you know - Jaxon Falconer, Blue Prince, King of Illyria." It had the ring of truth to it. But the name did not sound at all familiar.

I was Max Evans - and that's who I intended to remain.

"What do you want with me - us..." I indicated Michael, but I really meant ALL of us, Isabel and Tess included.

"I don't want them at all." The Michael clone sneered. "They are insignificant. Especially the curly-haired blonde one. They will remain on this puny planet and hopefully rot. They are only important so far as they help me control YOU."

He waved his hand in the air. An image began to form - it was Liz. "Now this one...her importance is only just becoming clear. At least to you." He smirked at me. "I believe that she has recently gone on a little trip." I stiffened. "Well, no matter. She will be back."

I felt the intense fear and panic that had engulfed me the last time Liz, Isabel and my friends had been threatened. Pierce had been bad enough, but at least he had been human. This guy was certainly NOT, and was also clearly insane.

I forced myself to remain calm. My tone of voice was ingratiating when I finally managed to say, "Tell me everything. Maybe I will choose to go with you in spite of them."

He snorted. "You cannot fool me my lord. They are the key to controlling you. Bringing you back to Illyria, completely powerless, then bringing you to our side...I will be as a god on our world."

I was getting seriously confused now...and worried. How could I possibly defeat this guy if he wouldn't tell me what he intended to do? "What is your name?" I asked, trying anything to keep him talking. I glanced quickly at Michael in the pod, wondered how long until his transformation was complete - could he be turned back?

"I am Tarsus of Dernia. I am the right-hand of the one who defeated you the first time Jaxon Falconer...and I am here to bring you back so that he can finish the job."

" me Max." I replied. This Jaxon Falconer stuff was not what I wanted to hear about at the moment. It seemed wrong somehow. "What do you want me to do - you already know that I will do anything to save my friends..." There was no point in lying to him, he knew it already. "Just get to the point."

"It is not so easy as that...Max." He accepted my request to call me by my familiar name. "With that one," He indicated Michael, "He had already given up on humanity. He was willing to do so eagerly in order to find his true self. He loved as a human, but he loved his other side more. He was an easy pawn to play."

He stared at me intently. "You, however, will not allow the transformation so easily. Your bonds to this world are too have accepted your humanity - in fact you revel in it...and it is all because of this girl." He waved his hand through the image of Liz, which was still floating in the air. It disapeared suddenly. "You must step back from them, make them hate you. Break their bonds to you and you will break YOUR bond to them."

"But I cannot choose to go with you?" I asked desperately. I would do anything to protect them - even leave them.

"No. The human heart is a strong force. Michael was able to give up his human heart for the chance at a family, not realizing that once he loses it he will no longer care about family anyway. We do not love on our planet in the way the pitiful humans do. It is weak. You will never willingly give up your human heart, no matter how long you pickle in that pod. And as long as they love you in return, you can never be changed."

Tarsus of Dernia's expression was blank. I realized that the only emotion he had displayed up to this point had been arrogance. This had been very similarily the case with Nasedo, although I had seen glimmerings of a heart when he dealt with Tess...

If I gave up my humanity, I would lose all emotion. It was a scary thought. I turned to stare at Michael - would he be that way when he came out? Had he really, willfully broken all his human ties? I just could not believe it somehow. I KNEW that he had loved Maria...and me and Isabel and maybe even Liz and Alex... how could he have thrown it all away so easily?

And I felt anger at my friend.

But I would not desert him. "Can you please not look like him?" I demanded, suddenly not wanting the bastard in front of me to lay claim to my best friend's face any longer.

Tarsus complied, shapeshifted back to River Dog's form. I suddenly had a thought.

"How did you find us?" I asked.

"The communicators of course." He replied. He had moved slightly away and was fiddling with something on the wall. I could see that it was an organic control panel of some sort.

"So then you were not the one who healed Michael here last winter?" It was a formality. I knew now that the real River Dog had probably been murdered by this maniac.

"Of course not." He snorted. "I would have let him die. That old man did not know what hit him." I felt a pang for that kind, wise man. Michael had cared about him, and though he had not seemed to like me much, he had always been there, someone who knew who we were and accepted us anyway.

Tarsus stopped whatever he was doing. As I watched sadly, Michael began to emerge from his pod. His expression was blank and he stared at me without recognition.

"Get dressed Michael." Tarsus told him abruptly. He watched Michael carefully as he dressed, clearly trying to see if the transformation had been a success. I was staring at my best friend, my "pitiful" human heart breaking for him.

"Can he shapeshift now?" I asked.

"No." Tarsus replied. "It is unecessary for him to have that ability. The pods only program what is required." He turned back to me. "You have the power to turn him back Max Evans."

I knew what he wanted from me before he even said it. "You'll make him human again if I do what you want?"

"I am glad that you are as intelligent in this life Jaxon Falconer as you were in the last." Tarsus said smugly. "It makes life much easier." He gave me my instructions, knowing me too well. I would do anything to save my friend - and he knew that I considered returning him to humanity to be saving him, although he could not understand it himself. "Return to your little human life and break your ties. Make them hate you and return to me. Then the ritual to cleanse you of your humaness will be possible and the return to Illyria will follow swiftly."

I swallowed, could not peel my eyes from Michael, who still looked exactly like Michael, but was NOT him. "Fine."

"And do not try any funny business my lord." Tarsus of Dernia warned me. "Michael is my pawn now. I can see through his eyes and I can ACT through his body...I will hurt them if I must. Not ALL of them - some must be there to reject you - but some of them are expendable."

I glared at him. "Fine." I said again.

I led the way out of the chamber, Michael following close behind. He still had not spoken a word.

I had been a lonely person in the past, always "behind the tree" as Ms. Topolsky had told me once, but at least I had had Isabel and my parents and Michael...and then I had Liz and Maria and Alex...but that was over.

For the first time I truly knew what it was to be alone.

Part 23 | Index | Part 25
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