FanFic - Other
"Out of the Woods"
Part 31
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
Maria, Isabel and Alex watched the scene unfolding below them, their combined feelings of horror causing the small ledge they were huddled on to feel like it was drowning in tension. "Go find the others." They hear Tarsus order Michael.

Maria felt her heart skip a beat. She turned and grimaced at Alex. "Where are we going to go?" She mouthed.

Alex shrugged, his expression resigned.

It had seemed like a good idea at the time...Liz would go in first, try and get through to Max. The other three would hang back as reinforcements if things went awry - which they were almost positive they would.

Meanwhile Isabel would try to penetrate Michael's mind. They had climbed up to the ledge while it had still been covered in the dissipating steam from the hot spring.

They were still hidden slightly behind an overhanging rock, but it would likely only be moments until Michael found them...especially because Isabel had been unable to break her mental connection with him immediately. "He knows where we are." Isabel told them, as Alex had to physically pull her out of the dream-state she had been in.

And Michael was suddenly there. Maria felt like she was reliving a nightmare as his hand came up, began to glow...

Her last concious thought was of Alex grabbing her by the arm, trying to thrust her behind him...and then all went dark.


"You promised Max that you would change Michael back if he gave himself up to you. Are you going to keep that promise?" Liz demanded, sounding braver than she felt.

It seemed like forever before the shapeshifter gave Liz a reply. "Why should I change him back?" He finally asked. "Michael chose to be transformed. I would be going against his own free will if I made him become again that which he has always despised."

Liz was suddenly furious. "You didn't give him a free choice!" She told Tarsus, her tone disgusted. "You lied to him, led him to believe you were someone you were not...he thought that he was joining his family. All you made him do was give up his REAL family."

Tarsus' lip curled. He shook his head in annoyance, like Liz was some insect he was humouring. "You do not seem to understand that he is better off the way he is - he will be returning to his home. He is his true self."

"I thought you said he was insignificant and unimportant." Liz retorted. "Why bother bringing him with you?" She demanded.

"Because he knows that he needs Michael to control me." The voice was achingly familiar - and yet somehow totally foreign.

It was Max.

Liz whirled around, her eyes widening at the sight of her boyfriend standing near his pod, his arms folded across his chest. "Max?" She breathed. She didn't know if it was really him or not...had he been transformed?

But suddenly Liz knew that he had not - her Max had never given up on being human. He had tried unsuccessfully to break his bonds with those he loved - their bonds with him. They had proven stronger then Max's will, which was definitely not insignificant. There was no question in Liz's mind. Max had to be still Max.

Max was not looking at her, but his voice brooked no opposition as he said quietly. "Get behind me Liz."

Liz didn't even try to argue. She knew that he was still HER Max, but somehow he was something else entirely as well.

His dark eyes were intense and driven, glinting with an awareness of his own power that was almost frightening.

But Liz was unafraid as she hurried away from Tarsus. Her eyes met Max's briefly. The flash of love she saw there was the final proof she needed...but it was unecessary anyway. "Can you see if Izzy is okay?" Max asked her quietly as she passed him.

Liz knelt at Isabel's side, gently drew Max's sister's head onto her lap. Isabel was breathing evenly. Liz didn't even think that she was unconcious. It was almost as if she was sleeping. "Isabel..."She whispered. "Isabel, wake up." Liz felt her friend begin to stir.

Liz's eyes were drawn back to Max as though to a magnet. Something was different about him...she couldn't quite place her finger on it.

He was staring at Tarsus, his expression stern. "Well, it is done." Max told the other alien. "Is everything prepared for our departure?"

What??? Liz's mind screamed. She felt a sudden, light flash across her mind, calming reassuring...* Liz! It's alright...* She knew it was Max.

She immediately felt better.

Liz was astounded when Tarsus suddenly fell to his knees in front of Max. "Yes my lord." The shapeshifter motioned urgently to Michael who was watching the whole scene passively. "Prepare the transporter."

Michael looked momentarily nonplussed. "I told you that it is still malfunctioning master."

Tarsus rolled his eyes, gritted his teeth. "You are good-for-nothing Tristandor." Liz blinked at the strange name. Isabel was beginning to groan quietly. Liz saw that her eyelashes were beginning to flutter.

Tarsus pushed Michael aside, grabbed one of the orbs off the floor of the cave, the other out of Michael's hand. He bowed and scraped his way until he was standing directly in front of Max. "My lord?"

Max took the orbs, eyed them. As Liz watched amazed, Max closed his eyes. The blue orbs began to glow. It looked somewhat like how they had glowed when Max, Isabel, Michael and Tess had received the message from their mother the previous spring...but it was somehow different at the same time.

Isabel sat up abruptly, gasping. "Alex!" She clutched at her temples as though she had the world's worse headache. Liz threw her arm around the other girl reassuringly. Isabel calmed immediately. Her eyes widened as she took in the sight of her brother with the orbs.

"What's going on?" She whispered to Liz. "Is Max still Max?"

Liz nodded. "But I have no idea what he's doing Iz...we just have to trust him." She replied quietly.

Isabel grabbed Liz's hand. "What happened to Alex and Maria?" She whispered urgently as they both watched Max intently. Liz's glance slipped to Tarsus, who looked like he had suddenly been thrust into the presence of a god. Michael had also fallen to his knees. He was staring at the orbs with something approximating interest.

"I don't know." Liz told her, not as quietly this time. Max, Michael and Tarsus were ignoring them anyway.

All thought fled Liz's mind as Max suddenly thrust the orbs away from himself. They seemed to take on a life of their own. Isabel and Liz both ducked their heads as an intense flash of light burst from each orb.

The streams of light joined together, forming a column of such brilliance Liz could not even look at it. She briefly caught a glimpse of Michael and Max through the light.

And then she saw something that made the hair on the back of her neck stand up on end...


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