FanFic - Other
"Out of the Woods"
Part 36
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
Tess seemed to be the only one capable of speech. "What do you mean gone Maria?" She asked in a fairly even tone.

Liz stared at her former nemesis in amazement. How could she be so calm? Liz's entire being was screaming with tension and pain.

But she had to be strong.

She had promised Max.

Maria was still seated on the ground. She shivered suddenly. Liz realized that the long white gown that she was wearing was quite thin. She quickly started to take off her jacket, but Alex beat her too it, gently placing his coat around Maria's shoulders.

Michael and Maria were staring at each other again. It looked to Liz like they were having some sort of silent conversation. She frowned with concern.

What on Earth had happened to her friends?

Liz still wasn't quite sure what had occured when she and Isabel had opened the portal to Max's planet. She remembered the red light, so different from the gateway that had whisked Michael and Maria, and later Max, away from them. But everything after that was a blur. The next thing she remembered was Kyle gently turning her over, waking her up.

Max! She had to know.... "Please Maria!" Liz begged her best friend.

Maria managed to tear her gaze away from Michael. "What year is it Lizzie?"

Liz exchanged a quick look with Alex. He looked just as perplexed as she felt. "Ummmm it's exactly the same day it was when you left Maria. It's January 2001. You've only been gone for like an hour."

Liz saw Maria swallow convulsively. "Michael, how can that be?"

Michael just shook his head. "I have no idea." He turned back to the others. "We've been gone for at least a year."

Liz raised her hands to her temples. She had a sudden flash of Max, his face smiling, lit up by the fireworks he had unleashed from a parking meter. "What's so great about normal?"

Suddenly normal seemed like a luxury that Liz would kill for.

"Okay. Colour me confounded." Alex finally said. They had all been standing there in silence for several minutes as they all tried to come to grips with what was going on.

Liz felt like giggling hysterically. She saw Kyle look at her with concern, move to put his arm around her. This time she let him. Her knees felt like jello. "Where is Max?" She demanded for what felt like the millioneth time.

"He's on Illyria Liz." Maria told her softly.

"Is he coming back?" Liz asked quietly, already knowing the answer.

"I don't think so." Maria pulled her knees up to her chest. "I'm sorry Liz."

Liz could feel herself becoming detached from reality. She had never before fainted in her life and she was not about to begin now. She shook her head vigorously, trying to clear it, turned to Isabel desperately. "Isabel! What did we do?"

"Can you guys please stop being so cryptic?" Isabel berated Michael and Maria. "How did you get back? Why isn't Max with you?"

"We had to wait a year - until you reactivated the orbs from this end." Michael explained. "It turns out you're not so insignificant after all Izzy." He told her ruefully. "Max is the gate home. You're the gate to Earth."

"What the heck are you talking about?" Isabel replied. "I activated them almost right after Max left." She looked guiltily at Alex.

"Not in Illyrian time." Maria said. "It took Max six months to follow us and then it was another six months before you reactivated them from this side." She looked at them all, her expression suddenly all Maria. "I guess I don't need to explain that time moves differently there?"

"I think they've got that Maria." Michael rolled his eyes.

Liz did not care about any of this. "Please - just tell me why Max isn't with you."

A pained expression came over Michael's chiseled face. "He had to trade himself for me." He told her. Maria climbed to her feet, went to stand beside him, taking his hand in hers. "They wouldn't let me come back unless he stayed."

His eyes were haunted. They had been gone for a year. What had happened to Michael and Maria in that time?

"Can he ever come back?" Liz asked quietly.

"No." Michael nearly choked on the word.

"Why not?" Liz could feel herself fading away again.

"Because that was the deal he made for them to restore my humanity."

This was still something that Liz did not understand. "But Michael...why did you come back? This all started because you wanted to go got what you wanted. Why would you come back, let Max sacrifice himself like that?" She could feel herself becoming angry at Michael.

Anger was better then pain. If she was angry, she wouldn't cry. She would keep her promise to Max. She would be strong.

It was all Michael's fault! If he hadn't let Tarsus of Dernia get to him in the first place, Max would still be there. He would be safe.

Michael glanced guiltily at Maria. "Maria." He replied simply.

And Liz knew then that she would never see Max Evans again.

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