From Within

Rating: R
Summary: Michael finds the answers he has been searching for and travels through time to contact Maria, only to find a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, her spirit, separating them from within.
Author's Notes: I shouldn't even dare to start this but when you get an idea… sometimes it just needs to come out. I expect it to be a long one, so if you're game, hop on for the ride (I can't promise it won't get bumpy).

Part 1

"Max, come on, look at me Max.  Max!"

Michael cast a quick glance over his shoulder at the opposition he expected to see bursting in at any moment.  They only had precious seconds left before this prison they called their world collapsed, taking them and everyone in it into a fiery oblivion.

And Max was NOT cooperating

He shook the shoulders of his leader again, his King.  "Max," he shouted, this time with a firmness in his voice that he never dared use without expecting one of those 'I'm-your-King-act-like-it' glares from Max.  "We have got to go, NOW."

Max's head lolled about his shoulders, the energy it required even to raise his eyes to Michael's beyond his grasp at the present moment.  "She's gone," he whispered raggedly, his voice broken as it rasped over his tortured vocal chords.  "Is she gone?" he asked, his head never lifting to meet Michael's demanding face.

"Yes," Michael responded coldly.  "She's gone.  They're all gone.  We have to move now, we can go but it's got to be NOW!"

"Tell her I loved her."

"Max, NO!" Michael shouted, gripping the shoulders of his brother as his head finally lifted up to make eye contact.

"Promise me you'll tell her," Max whispered, the life fading from his eyes without any visible cause of death evident on his body.

"Jesus, no," Michael muttered, pushing the rapidly decaying body away from his own as he stood up.  The decay wasn't unexpected, it had been the same with all of them; a previously unrealized method of self-protection upon death.  First had been Kyle, never being able to properly learn how to control his newfound alien powers, attempting vainly to fight back and imploding upon himself when he sent a punch flying towards an officer's face.  The pile of dust that was left in his place had at once been shocking and relieving, their only comfort that he had found an escape from the agony they had long endured.

A year later it had been Isabel, the countless ravages of her body as they tried, always unsuccessfully, to impregnate her alien body, finally causing her brain to shut itself down forever.  Her body had faded within weeks of that occurrence, no longer able to heal itself and Max's own powers too drained from fighting to keep Liz alive at the same time.

Michael had been able to point out the very moment she had stopped fighting, her eyes glazing over just as Max's had done only seconds before.  Her bones were dust within minutes, just as her brother's were now fast becoming on the floor at Michael's feet.

Max's own end had started months ago, his body cursedly too strong to let itself die after Liz had found her own relief.  Michael supposed that she had been the strongest of all of them, choosing when her own end would be.  She had done it at night, when Max was asleep, and Michael had awoken to the pitiful sobs only a lover can emit.  They never knew how, only why, but even her courage wasn't enough to pull Max along with her.  He chose to stay with Michael, fighting until the very end.

Michael glanced over his shoulder one last time and then closed his eyes tightly.  The very end had arrived suddenly but not without warning.  For six years he had searched for the answers to explain it, the key to the enigma that shrouded their very existence.  They had all searched, but no one had ever match Michael's persistence in their previous life, and so he supposed it was only natural that no one could match it now.

And the answer had come, suddenly to his mind this morning like the clear ray from a prism, piercing the darkness of his universe.  It had been inside of him all along, the solution discovered from within.  Now all he had left to do was jump; take the final leap of faith that he had possessed but once before, and pray that the choice was right.

Pray.  It might have been reassuring if he believed in a God.