FanFic - Unconventional Couples
"All In The Family III"
Part 1
by Karen
Disclaimer: Not mine
Summary: Isabel and Max clash over Max's decision about telling their parents the truth
Category: Unconventional Couples
Rating: R
Authors Note: The final installment of the All in the Family series. Feedback appreciated
She may never speak to me again. I've seen that look in her eyes, that determined set of her jaw before. She's pissed. Really pissed.

She doesn't agree with my decision. And she hates even more that she has to listen to me. I didn't go all "I'm the king" on her or anything. I told her like an adult what we had to do. She didn't like it. But I know she will obey me. Because I am right.

I go out to the dream plane every night and wait for her. She never shows. I lack the ability to enter her dreams, so I just sit in limbo, in blackness waiting for her to come and take me into the dream world. I wait all night. In the morning, I awaken feeling puzzled, but by the time I get dressed for school, she has already left the house. Her powers of avoidance are incredible.

I see her at school. Once she accidentally made eye contact with me and hurriedly looked the other way. I just wait for her to give in. She will, eventually.

I think about Dad, about both of my parents really. I didn't appreciate until much later in my life what a big deal it was for them to take us in. I didn't understand what it was to open your house and heart to two children you didn't know and couldn't possibly understand. The Evanses are incredibly generous, loving people. And that was part of what helped me make my decision.

But I think about Dad. He and I share a common personality trait - our quietness. He always listens to Mom, but does the grunt thing in response to most of her comments. I know he hears her, and I know he is not trying to be offensive, it's just his manner. As it is mine. I remember Mom laughing one time and telling me that I was just like my father. In some ways I am. In other ways I can never be like him. I will never have a wife, I will never have children. As long as the world knows my wife as my sister.

Dad taught me to shake hands when meeting someone for the first time, to rise when a lady entered a room, to pull out a woman's chair for her. Dad taught me to be a gentleman. He tried to tell me about intimacy, but I think those conversations were as uncomfortable for him as they were for me. I'm sure my distressed expression didn't do much to help the situation - of course, my distress was over my internal debate if all of the same methods applied to people like me. Aliens. I smile when I think about Dad's talks, and the thought that I learned more from Michael and his episodes with Hank and his sleazy girlfriends than I ever learned from my own father. My adoptive father, that is. I don't know my real father, and I assume if I was king in that other life, my real father is dead. My real mother may be dead by now, too.

My adoptive mother, the only mother I have ever known, sometimes seems too good to be true. She is the perfect mother. I watch her and Isabel and I see their closeness. I'm a little jealous, but I guess I could never have what they have. It's like Isabel once said - it's different between a mother and daughter. While Isabel is closed to the rest of the world, she is almost free within our family. She is more confident, more outgoing, because she is loved, I think. And I think Mom is to credit for that. I see a lot of Mom in Isabel and it makes me happy that Isabel has had such a positive influence in her life.

I never had that kind of relationship with our mother. From the beginning, I guess to them I was the enigmatic one. Mom tried to break through to me in the early days. She'd go out of her way, and she wasn't fooling me. It just made me more uncomfortable, more reclusive. Eventually, she learned to accept my silence. I never let her crack my shell. I don't know why. I envy Isabel's relationship with Mom, but I know it is my fault that I don't have the same thing.

I could never take Isabels' family away from her. I could never hurt Mom and Dad like that, either. I spent a week mulling over the possibilities, the ways that Isabel and I could be together and no one would get hurt. I couldn't find a solution. So, the only solution I came up with is that we would continue the way we are - sneaking around, lying to and hiding from the world. Not that I've had to deal with any of that lately. Isabel is pissed with me. She hasn't spoken to me in 3 days.

I leave school and see her walking toward the bus. Isabel hates the bus, and I find it somewhat hurtful that she'd rather degrade herself by talking the yellow submarine than get into the jeep with me. I pick up my pace and catch up to her. I reach out and take her by the arm.

Her reaction is one of pure anger. She jerks away from me and nearly drops her stack of books. If we could shoot daggers from our eyes, I'd be dead.

"Isabel," I say, trying to calm her. "Let me give you a ride."

"Fuck you," she spits and turns to leave. I let her.

I watch her get on the bus and heave a sigh. She has flipped back into Isabel the Goddess mode and is chatting up the jock behind her. She exaggerates everything - the toss of her hair, her laugh. She's doing all of this to hurt me. Because I have hurt her.

I drop my head and turn away. I can't take it. I start the slow walk back to the jeep and nearly knock Liz Parker to the ground. Note to self - don't stare at your feet when you walk, you may bump into an ex-girlfriend.

"Liz," I say, wondering if my voice is just a little too chipper. She looks uncomfortable.

"Hi, Max," she says tentatively. She shields her eyes from the sun.

"How are you?" I ask. Stupid questions. Stupid, awkward silences. I hate this.

"Fine," she replies. She doesn't ask me how I am. She probably doesn't care anymore.

I need to find something to say. It occurs to me that the bus is still behind me and Isabel is watching all of this. A little part of me feels guilty for using Liz, but another part of me really wants to talk to her. To see if we can still be friends.

"Do you want a lift?" I ask Liz.

Liz looks confused for a moment. "Where's Isabel?" she asks bluntly.

"On the bus," I say simply.

She looks a little baffled, but finally nods her head. We walk to the jeep and she climbs into the passenger seat. I try not to smile as I imagine Isabel and her fury behind me. Then I look over at Liz and there is nothing to smile about. She looks so small, so uncertain in the seat beside me. I remember other times, when Liz was all that mattered to me, when she would sit in that seat and I couldn't keep my eyes off her. That Liz laughed and cried and sang with me. She kissed me, told me she loved me. This Liz is not the same person. She is fumbling with her seatbelt, and I think I can see her hands trembling.

I reach over and take the belt from her hands. "Let me help you," I offer softly. Her hands drop to her sides and she stares straight out the windshield. I think she is afraid I may touch her.

I clasp the belt, give her a little smile and start the jeep. We don't talk much on the way to the Crashdown. She kind of watches the world whiz past her side of the jeep, and I kind of watch her, wondering what she's thinking. Idle chitchat seems insulting at this point, so I just drive. The sun is warm and the motion of the jeep causes a nice breeze.

I pull up outside of her family's restaurant and wait for her to get out. She gathers her things, then hesitates. She looks at me, and I think it may be the first time she's made eye contact with me.

"Can you come in?" she asks, again sounding uncertain.

I don't really want to go in. But it seems important to her. I smile at her and nod. She climbs out of the jeep, then I whip it around the corner into the parking lot. Inside the Crashdown, I find my usual booth - well, what used to be my usual booth - and attempt to sit elsewhere. Liz has deposited her books in the back and she motions toward the usual booth. I give in.

"Want something to drink?" she asks as I sit.

"Sure. Coke?"

"With lime," she adds, then catches herself. She looks embarrassed, but I just laugh.

"Of course with lime," I joke and she is off to get the drink. Why am I here? I'm not really that uncomfortable, but I'm curious why Liz wants me here. Oh, well. At least she doesn't want me dead.

She returns with the drink and slides into the booth across from me. She folds her hands on the table, and I can see that she has started biting her nails. She never used to do that. Her fingertips are raw in spots. I want to heal them for her, but in order to heal her I'd have to make a connection and if I made a connection…no, I don't want to feel all of those things again. I shake the thought away. I'm only thinking those things because Isabel is being such a bitch to me.

"You're biting your fingernails," I observe.

Liz's head jerks up. "Um, yeah…"

I can't resist and I reach across the table and take her hand. She pulls the other one away and it disappears under the table. She sits back and stares at the tabletop.

"Liz?" I say so she'll look at me. She doesn't. "Liz," I say a little softer, "look at me." She looks up shyly and I can feel her fingers starting to tremble inside of my hand. "Are you okay?"

She nods nearly imperceptibly.

"Are you sure?" I've gotten good at this. While I've distracted her with my questions, I have formed a very low connection and healed her fingertips. She's not okay. Not entirely. Through the connection, I feel her grief, her concern for the future. I've quite simply rocked her world.

"Yeah, Max, I'm sure." She gives a little smile, weak at best.

I release her hand, then hold my own hand open. "Give me the other one," I command gently, smiling.

She looks incredulously at her healed fingers and reaches out with her other hand. "Wow," she breathes. "Thanks."

I laugh at her expression, then fall serious. "Stop hurting yourself," I tell her.

She looks at me and I think I see a tear in her eye. But it is gone as soon as I have the thought. She bites her lip and nods.

"Why did you ask me here?" I ask her.

"I just wanted to see you for a while," she says honestly and without any embarrassment. "I miss you."

"I miss you, too." I am also being honest. I do miss Liz. "And I want us to be friends."

She nods. "Yeah, so do I. I'd like that a lot."

On the drive home, I think about Liz. I know a part of me will always love her, will always be grateful to her. She helped make me the man I am. I truly want to be friends with her. I want to be able to talk with her, and laugh and share things with her. It will take time before the sting is gone, but Liz is a strong person. She will pull through this.

At home, I find the house quiet. Mom and Dad are golfing, I believe. I don't know where Isabel is. Probably off somewhere sticking pins in her Max voodoo doll. I walk back to my bedroom and start to change into some comfortable TV-watching clothes. I feel something brush past my brain, a whisper, a breath of air. It's my name. Zan.

I stop undressing. It has been years since Isabel spoke to me mentally. I didn't think we had the ability to do it any more, but she has done it. I try to respond, but I can't. I frown and head up to her bedroom. Her door is ajar and I push it open so I can see into the room. I don't see her at first. The setting sun shining through her windows temporarily blinds me as I step into the room. I hear her before I see her. I look toward the bed, but she is not on the bed. She is beside it, on the floor, her back against the wall, her knees drawn up to her chest, her face buried in her arms. From the shake of her shoulders, it looks like she is crying.

I feel my heart jerk in my chest as I round the bed and kneel on the floor before her. She doesn't appear to have noticed me. Maybe she is still waiting for that telepathic response I couldn't give. I reach out and touch her hair. Her head pops up and I feel my eyes start to sting from the sight before me. Her eyes are swollen and red from her crying, her face is contorted into a mask of agony. I touch the side of her face and she closes her eyes momentarily. She simply breaks my heart.

"You came back to me," she breathes, then shudders with another sob.

I caress her cheek with my thumb. "Of course I came back to you," I say gently. "I'll always come back to you."

"I saw you with Liz," she confesses.

Liz? She really is jealous of Liz. No, it's not jealousy. She's hurt, and worried that I may still have feelings for Liz. For the first time in my life, I believe Isabel is insecure.

"I gave Liz a ride home," I explain. I'll spare her the humiliation of being the bitchy wife and asking me where I've been. "She wanted to talk, that's all."

"Do you want to be with her?" Isabel's eyes are round, wet.

I think about that question. I could be very happy with Liz Parker. If Isabel didn't exist, if I didn't know what she meant to me in a former life, I could settle in and be very content with Liz. But I do know all of those things, and I could never settle for Liz. I need Isabel. I shake my head in response to her question.

Her face contorts again and I see a new wave of tears streak down her cheeks. "And you don't want to be with me either," she sobs.

I shake my head again. "You're wrong, Isabel," I tell her. "I want to be with you forever."

I know she is thinking about my decision to not tell our parents the truth. Isabel lives in a perfect world where we tell our parents that we are married aliens and they smile, say, "Oh, that's nice, dear," and hug us warmly. I'm the realist. That scenario will never happen. As much as I love mom and dad, they will never fully comprehend what we are, and I'm not sure they would accept it. And we can't depend on them to keep the secret. Their disbelief when we first tell them would probably lead them to confide in someone else - like a psychiatrist for both of us.

I take Isabel's hands in mine. "This is hard for me, too," I explain. "I don't like being separated from you. But maybe someday we will be able to be together. We don't know what our futures hold - we may not even be on this planet much longer. We just don't know. But I will wait for you. I will take what we have and make the most of it, but I will always be looking forward to that day when I can be with you and give you one hundred percent of my time."

Isabel sniffles, but the tears have stopped. I reach up to her nightstand and pull a tissue from the box. I wipe her cheeks, cleaning up her smudged make up. I've always thought she looks better without it anyway. I kiss her forehead.

"You don't have anything to worry about," I tell her. I swing around so that I am sitting beside her and put my arm around her shoulders. I kiss the side of her head. "You're the only one for me. Liz is a friend, and she will always be just that. I love you. Only you."

She lays her head on my shoulder and we sit in silence for a while. I tilt my head to look into her face and she glances up at the same time. Almost instantly our lips touch. I'm glad I am sitting because I feel my knees go weak. It has been so long since I've touched her and the sensation is overwhelming. I wrap my other arm around her and her arms encircle my body. Our kiss is desperate, longing. I know she is crying again.

I hear the front door slam and I know Mom and Dad are back from golfing. I pull breathlessly away from my wife and smooth her hair with my hands.

"Go take a shower," I tell her quietly. "Clean yourself up." I give her a smile and a kiss on the forehead.

She nods and pulls away. I watch her enter her bathroom and close the door behind her. I know it will look suspicious to suddenly bolt from Isabel's room, so I get up and sit at her desk and flip on her computer. I pray that it boots up before one of my parents appears at the door.

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