FanFic - Other
"Out of the Woods"
Part 9
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
When the road gets dark
And you can no longer see
Let my light throw a spark
Have a little faith in me.

And when the tears you cried
are all you can believe
Give these loving arms a try,
And have a little faith in me...

Joe Cocker

Liz tossed and turned in her sleeping bag. Maria was curled up on one side of her in the tent, muttering in her sleep. Liz's dad was snoring softly on the other side.

She sighed, sat up, punched her pillow and flopped back down.

This is hopeless, she realized. Her mind was going a mile a minute, going over and over what she had said to Max, what HE had said to her...What could I have said that would have gotten through to him? She wondered for the thousandth time.

After Max had walked away from her, after their HIGHLY unsuccessful conversation, Liz had gone into her tent and had let the tears come. She had cried, feeling so sad and so guilty, she didn't know if she would be able to stop.

She didn't know how much time had passed, but suddenly Maria and Isabel - and even Tess - were there. Maria had pulled her head into her lap, stroking her head, had let her cry. When she had spoken, her tone had been so bitter it had snapped Liz out of her self-pity. "I promised myself that I would never let him make you cry like this again Lizzie."

Liz knew that Maria was thinking of the time Liz had seen him kissing Tess. She glanced at Tess, who suddenly looked uncomfortable. Liz could see that the other girl really wanted to help though. "It wasn't Max who did this Maria." Liz replied, sending Tess a reassuring smile. This was not time for pettiness. Liz knew that both she and Tess loved Max, which was what was important. "That is not Max." She continued.

Liz looked at Isabel. Max's sister had tears glistening in her beautiful dark eyes. "What are we going to do Liz?" She asked. "You were my last hope...I was so sure that he would listen to you...."Tess put a comforting arm around Isabel's shoulder. "He loved you so much."

"Don't worry Iz." Liz smiled at the blonde. "I haven't given up." She suddenly stood up, made her way to the tent door. "Now let's go show him that he didn't hurt me...he cannot know... it will only make things worse. He can't know that he still has that power over me..."

"Wait Liz!" Isabel crawled over to Liz, grabbed her hand, pulled her back down. Liz blinked as Isabel gently ran her hands across her face. "To wipe away the signs that you've been crying..." she explained. Liz smiled again.

"Thank you." Isabel shook her head ruefully.

"Unfortunately I've had a lot of practice doing that recently." Liz couldn't help herself. She started to laugh. Isabel stared at her for a moment, then laughed too. "This is just brutal isn't it?"

"It is the brutalist..."Liz agreed, "Even though I'm sure that's not a word." She and Isabel erupted into gales of laughter. Tess and Maria exchanged looks, turned back to look at them like they were crazy.

"I think they're hysterical..."Tess muttered under her breath to Maria. Maria just stared at them with wide eyes.

"We're not hysterical." Liz continued to laugh. "We're just laughing through the pain..." She was still giggling as she crawled out of the tent. She turned back, took all the other girls in with a glance. "Now we are going to have fun tonight despite Mr. Meanie..."Liz grinned at Maria as she used her best friend's new name for Max. "At least we have each other...I'll try again tomorrow when he's unprepared."

Isabel nodded. "I'm sure he thinks you'll give up now." Liz pressed her lips together in determination.

"I will never give up. He'll have to kill me if he wants me to give up."

They had left the tent.

The four of them, plus Alex and Kyle, played the roles of their lives that night...They had laughed, they had told stories, they had roasted marshmallows like their lives depended on it...Liz had even genuinely enjoyed herself at certain points, like when Alex had accidentally gotten marshmallow stuck in Isabel's hair. It had been fun to watch the two of them pretend to be just friends, but covertly try and touch each other when no one else was one point, Isabel had poked Alex in the side...he had swung around in surprise, getting the marshmallow he was roasting hopelessly caught in Isabel's blonde locks. The look of absolute horror on her face had been priceless...Maria and Liz had burst out laughing, Kyle had snorted and Tess had giggled...Alex had looked like he thought Isabel was going to murder him. And she had certainly looked like she was going to...until she started to laugh as well.

They had all laughed themselves silly, releasing all the pent-up misery and despair...but had all abruptly stopped when Max, seated near the Evans' tent with Pam and Michael had suddenly yelled, "Will you guys please shut the hell up?" Maria had hiccuped once, but after that, no one really felt like laughing anymore...they had all soon retired to bed...

Now as she lay awake at three in the morning, her resolve increased. Images of HER Max flowed through her mind, giving her strength:

Max gazing at her with love as she worked her shift at the Crashdown...

Max teasingly playing with her hair in biology...

Max staring at her with hot eyes on the night of the party at the soap factory - the night before they had shared their first kiss....

Max grabbing her, lifting her onto the table in the back room of the Crashdown, kissing her with abandon, like he couldn't stop, even if his life depended on it...

Max pleading with her to have faith in him - in them - after she had seen him kiss Tess...

Max staring at her through the glass in the House of Mirrors before he had been taken by the Special Unit, his only concern for her, his only wish to get to her...

Max telling her that he wanted to be with her, that his destiny was with her, that he LOVED her...

Max, with tears in his beautiful eyes, watching her walk away from him, down that cliff and out of his life....

Liz felt tears fill her eyes again. She couldn't breathe! She needed air...

She grabbed her pillow and sleeping bag, crawled to the entrance of the tent and stumbled out...

Liz stood, took deep, cleansing breaths...Her thoughts were screaming though. MAX! Where are you???

She blinked when she suddenly saw movement near the Evans' tent. Liz looked around frantically. He couldn't see her like this! It would ruin everything...

Liz dropped her sleeping bag and pillow and threw herself down on top of them. She slammed her eyes shut.

Relax Liz, she thought, look natural. She concentrated on gentling the expression on her face, on breathing deeply and evenly.

She knew it was Max, just as she had always known when he was near. She could hear him moving around quietly, clearly not wanting to wake anyone up. She heard him fiddle with something near the fire and then silence. Liz carefully opened her eyes, keeping them slitted, to see what he was doing.

Max had a stick in his hand and he was poking around in the fire. His face was in her direct line of vision, the flames creating dancing shadows across his familiar and beloved features. His expression was somber but it was not the anti-Max...she knew it. Liz felt her heart practically stop in her chest. He looked so much like the Max she knew and loved - his face was relaxed and open, not hard and cold like it had been everytime she had seen him since she had been back.

He sighed heavily. She made herself close her eyes again when she realized that he was looking in her direction. Calm down...calm down, she kept repeating to herself. He thinks you're asleep...if he knows you're awake he'll shut down again...

Liz could hear him quietly walking in her direction. Her body began to tingle...She could hear Max breathing...

He seemed to stop just a few feet away from her. She KNEW he was watching her. She couldn't help it - she shivered, not from the cold but from his proximity....

Her ears were straining to hear the smallest sound...Max said nothing, just continued to watch her. It took all her willpower not to open her eyes, not to look and see if was really HIM, her Max...

And then she knew it was...suddenly she felt a warm breeze brush her cheek, seem to settle over her like a blanket...she could almost envision Max gently waving his hand over her, keeping her image of him reaching his hand behind her in the jeep that night they had chased Michael and Maria to Marathon appeared unbidden..."Just wanted to keep you warm..." he had told her gently as he had fixed a hole in the roof of the car...

She thought she heard him speak suddenly..."Liz..." but it might have been the wind - or wishful thinking...

Her heart screamed as she heard him move away from her....Max! Liz slit open her eyes again, watched him return to the fire.

Max's head was lowered pensively when a noise from the woods caused him to snap it up. Liz's heart was in her throat as he turned and entered the forest, apparently looking for something...

Liz only waited until his back disappeared. She jumped to her feet, quickly pulled on her shoes, grabbed her flashlight and followed him.

Part 8 | Index | Part 10
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