I just want to thank everyone for taking the time to leave a review. It really does keeping me writing.
As for who Seth is, it will be answered.
As for Brian=Max, you are correct. For a time, Max was using Brian's body like Larek was using Brody's.
I just want to thank you all for your responses. It keeps me writing. I also want to warn you that there is an implied but not explicit loyalist afterglow scene. Please don't hate me. It does exist for a purpose. I can promise you that the next love scene is a) going to feature everyone's favorite dark haired mystery man from an exotic location and ain't going to be so pg rated either.
For me, the first part about this story is about how Liz discovers who she used to be and part of that is her reflection on how she became who she is now. Kyle did contribute a lot to that so please don't lose faith in me. Can you tell I'm a little nervous about this chapter's reception?
Chapter Title taken from Kermit who I believe is owned by Jim Henson.
Chapter Thirty Two: It's Not Easy Being Green
John Donne once wrote "No man is an island."
His quote ceased to be applicable on September 4, 2001 for that was the date that Liz Parker became a species of one and a law onto herself.
When the first signs of my new alien powers made themselves known, my id kicked my super ego out of the driver's seat. In layman's terms, I freaked the hell out.
It was if my cool and collective demeanor had died with Alex or had hopped the Granolith Express with my former high school sweetheart and his baby mama.
Yes, that was a rather interesting year in the life of one Liz Parker. It was the year that horrible moniker Perfect Parker ceased and rumors that I had lost my mind over Alex and Max's deaths began their rotation, but theirs was not the only death I was grieving.
With shaking hands, I place my blood sample beneath the microscope's platform.
Wetting my lips, I place my eye to the lens.
I was dead, gone, not me, was the message my blood cells related and the spontaneous combustion of my microscope served as the exclamation point.
Afterwards, I became restless, pushing things to the limit while telling myself that this was the most humanist of human responses to waking up one day finding that I had acquired otherworldly powers.
There was reason after all that every culture had their own myths about people forgetting themselves in the euphoria of power.
My powers made me stronger by making the impossible possible.
My powers made me weaker by making the impossible possible.
It was only in the dead of night, locked safely away from the human world, that I would ponder a more disturbing alternative that my outbursts had nothing to do with being human and everything to do with something new, foreign, and alien growing inside of me.
Set adrift from anyone who could possibly understand or let alone teach me, I began to picture myself as some feral child stumbling around and acting out when the situation arose, and during that first year, it arose a lot.
"Smile Liz, it isn't like we're going to the Spanish Inquisition." Kyle answers easing his Mustang into the parking place.
"No, it's just high school." I snort staring at the brick building and half dead trees clinging bravely to life in the face of one of the worst droughts ever.
"Come on, it's the first day of our senior year."
I flip my attention back to his face. "Ra, Ra." I half- heartedly chant.
"Well, I guess that's going to have to do."
"It's all you're getting out of me.," I answer sliding out of his car.
"You're feeling okay, really?" He asks, his blue eyes now serious, appraise me over the top of his car.
I purse my lips together. "So this is why you offered to drive me today? So you can quiz me on my mental health?" I struggle to keep the tremor out of my voice before taking off across the parking lot.
Kyle easily catches me up. "Liz," he grabs me by the arm and pulls me around the side of the building. "Something is not right with you, and it has a lot more to do than Max."
"Do not say his name." I warn.
From across the lot, a series of car alarms go off despite no one being near the parked cars.
"You can talk to me."
Talk to him, tell him that his body is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off that in the very near future that he could possibly be joining my merry little band of one. No, he would not spend his last months like that if I could help it ."Why are you making a shit fit out of me being drunk and making out with Sean?"
"It looked like you were doing a little more than just making out."
"What business of it is yours?"
Kyle takes a long cleansing breath. "When my mom left my dad he self imploded. I just don't want to see that happen to you."
"I care about what happens to you." He says simply.
"Okay," I nod shakily ,remembering just how dependable and loyal Kyle could be if you let him. My cheeks color in embarrassment. "I'm sorry for being such a colossal bitch. I just feel so empty."
He glances over my head for a second before coming back to me. "I feel the same way sometimes. It's like someone has sucked all the air out of my lungs."
My eyes widen, surprised that he has just described perfectly the way I feel knowing that Max and I will never be anything to each other ever again. "I didn't realize that you and," I pause to let a deep gulp of air into my lungs, "Tess were so close."
"She was like a sister to me."
"A sister?" I'm about to tell him that what he's describing seems a little more intense, but decide better of it. If thinking of Tess as a sister helps Kyle get through things, who am I to take that away from him?
"Um, Liz, you have some fuzz in your," he points to my hair.
I reach up to try and pull the offending piece of fuzz out.
"No to the left, can I?"
Very gently, his fingers slide down the strand of my hair. I watch haunted as he deposits the fuzz on the ground.
"What is it?"
"I was just remembering," another time, another place with another boy. I bite down on my bottom lip.
"I got to go. Coach has us running laps this morning. Don't be pissed at me Liz?"
"I'm not Kyle." I say, playing with my necklace's chain.
"Cool," he answers. It is only after he walks away that I notice my jewelry selection for the day. "Hell," I mutter, wondering how I could be so out of it as to have put on Max's necklace. I finger the design lost in my own thoughts.
"I just wanted to make sure you were okay." I look up to find none other than Pam Troy invading my personal space, "with Max being dead, but it seems that Kyle has that covered." She smirks.
"Get. Away. From. Me."
"God, you're such a psycho." She says absurdly aloud so the rest of the students mulling around can hear her. "I was just trying to be a friend. I can't help it if Max left you for someone who actually did not have a body like a twelve year old boy."
I do not turn around, instead heading for the library. Browsing the stacks, I settle on a Call of the Wild. I open the book up and begin to read while waiting for the first bell to ring.
"Miss. Parker, I don't think starting your first day off by skipping class is the best way to go." Mrs. Trayler, the librarian voice says rousing me from the first page.
"I'm not skipping. There's still forty five minutes until school starts," my voice trails off as I eye the clock.
"Miss. Parker, is something wrong?"
I wet my dry lips. "Time just got away from me. Please don't report me. I've just been distracted lately."
Her face turns suddenly sympathetic. "I'll write you a pass. There's a grief counselor here today if you want to talk about Mr. Evans."
I fight the urge to shout 'no' from the rooftops. "I'm fine." I answer taking the pass from her and somehow make it to my lunch period without incident.
Sitting down next to Kyle and Maria, I look through windows to see the red and blue lights of a police car and an ambulance.
"Did you hear that karma made a visit to the bitch today?" Maria asks.
I tear my attention from the window. "What?"
"Pam Troy fell down on the quad this morning." Kyle translates. "Apparently, she tripped over her own feet or something."
"Is she okay?"
"According to Laura, she sprained her ankle, and it's really bad." Maria stabs at her salad. "She's devastated, because she won't be able to cheer. Blah, blah, blah. She got into such hysterics over the entire thing they had to call the EMT's. Plus, her pricey little sports car that daddy got her is toast."
"It's like acid rain fell on the hood and back of her car. It's the strangest thing. Pauley and John are outside taking pictures with it right now." Kyle adds.
I sit back in my chair. "Oh."
"I tell you that the Wicked Witch of West Roswell High just had the worst day ever and all you have to say is 'oh.' Liz, you really are a saint."
"Hardly," I answer grimly.
Was it coincidence or was it my powers at work somehow?
When Kyle finally came into the fold, he rallied against any idea of me being an evil human alien hybrid bent on world domination.
"You don't remember doing it, so it means it wasn't you."
"Not remembering, doesn't let me off the hook?"
"It doesn't give you an excuse to torture yourself either. She fell and sprained her ankle. She missed like half the season."
"But she didn't fall."
"You didn't beat Pam Troy up Liz."
"How can you be so sure?"
I would love to say that Kyle struggled as much as I did with his new found abilities, but that was not the case. Where my energy burned and seethed from within, his was of far more calmer variety. Naturally enough, he became the leader of our two member tribe.
"Maria's poor face, she has to stop looking for Michael in these unstable artist types.
Something has to be done about that bastard." I throw my purse down angrily on to the floor.
"The cops are handling it." Kyle's eyes fall on my sparkling hands "Liz, breathe."
"I don't want to breathe. Why can't we handle this?"
"Because we're college students ,not vigilantes."
"He broke her nose."
"I know," he grinds out.
"He's just going to cop a plea or daddy will get him off."
"Liz," he warns.
"It could be so easy to send him a warning. No one could ever link us to it."
"That's not even funny."
"Who says I was trying to be funny?"
"Why don't you go and take a bath? You know how that calms you down."
I eye the door.
"Don't even think about it, you know I'm faster."
"But I blast harder. You can't keep me in here if I don't want to be."
"Then I just need to make sure that you want to be in here then." Without warning, he seizes me in his arms. His mouth comes crashing down on my own as the need to off Maria's boyfriend is replaced by an entirely different one.
Sometime later when we are both naked, sweaty and sated, I find myself staring up at the ceiling finding all of my aggression spent. "I feel like a pervert. I was ready to kill Maria's boyfriend and now I'm not."
"What can I say? I'm just that good."
He mock frowns. "You mean I'm not that good?"
I smack him playfully on the shoulder before snuggling up to his side.
"Nothing is wrong with you Liz."
"I don't see you losing it all the time."
He shrugs his shoulders. "Experience has taught us that there are different people and different Antarian hybrids. So why not should there be differences in whatever we are?"
"I guess, but that still makes me the more psychotic."
"You're merely the more powerful one."
I lift my head. "How can you say that when you can do so many more things than I can do?"
"It's not the quantity but the quality. It's just something I feel. You sizzle with power. It's all around you. It just keeps building and building. It's like it's waiting for something or someone."
"Well, feel free to indulge anytime you want."
"I can't hold onto it, which makes me think it's not mine for the holding." He slides a strand of hair behind my ear. "I just wish that you could see yourself truly. See how magnificently regal you are, you have power, and I'm not talking about the blasting things to Kingdom Come variety either. Sometimes when you look at me, shit. You can bring people to their knees with that look."
"That's just your love for me." I answer in my best saccharine tone.
"We being different make sense when you think about it. I was just some sorry putz to Max but you…. Hey, where are you going?"
I look up from where both my hands are pressed into the small bump of someone's stomach. My eyes move up over a pair of breasts until they rest on Hannah's face.
In my ears, the strong beat of her baby's heart plays.
I have no clue as to how I got here, which means only one thing.
I've done something big and probably very bad with my powers.
Hannah is on her knees beside me now. Her pretty brow is knitted into a frown while her lips form words that don't compute. Her small dainty hand is poised just above my shoulder seemingly torn as to what is the proper decorum.
We are not friends.
"Tell me, she's fat, ugly and stupid."
"She's fat, ugly, and stupid." Maria's voice sounds over my cell phone.
"What does she really look like?" I sigh.
"Maria," I counter.
"I want you to pinky promise that a, you won't blow anything up. B, you won't start macking on Sean, and C, you won't go generally ape shit again."
"I've grown up Maria. I'm different. It's like that song says. The first time is always the deepest."
"I didn't hear the words pinky or promise." She sing songs.
"I pinky promise." I roll my eyes.
"She's a pre law major. She's blonde and blue eyed."
"Of course, she is." A flash of lightening spurts out of my hands and collides into the wall.
"You better not be destroying anything." Maria hollers from across the line.
"It's lightening." I huff. " I bet the Sheriff is just heads over heels about the whole thing."
"It isn't like the Sheriff doesn't like you. He just thinks," Maria pauses.
"That Max is going to come back someday, and you'd end up giving Kyle the boot." She says very quickly in one breath. "Liz?" She calls, after I fail to respond in the proper tone.
"I guess senility has finally caught up to him then." I answer, studying the perfect handprints that I've burned into my dorm's wall.
"I know, like you would ever take that ass back."
I bank my head lightly against the wall. "Kyle's happy, right?"
"From what I saw, yes."
With the wave of my hand, my prints disappear. "Good."
I moan, propping my head against the back of the wall. My entire body feels
like I've been hit by a Mack truck.
It's then it hits me. This only happens when I've done something incredibly bad, but to whom have I done it to?
The palm of Hannah's hand comes down over my shoulder at the same time that I notice there is blood on both her shirt and mine.
My response is immediate.
My body lurches back away from her with so much power that it smacks the wall.
From the corner of the room, I see Miranda push herself off the wall. Her long dark hair is now wrapped up in a bright blue cloth with the eye of medallion on it.
Something about that image sets my brain off on double time.
I am simultaneously aware that my hands still twinge with unused power, that I can no longer hear the baby's heartbeats, that beneath this very room Maria is demanding to know why Hannah of all people can be with me and not her, "Michael, they've had like two conversations together and both times she was an uber harpy toward Liz."
Still further away, I hear Seth's quiet whisperings in Antarian with the occasional English words " of daddy, Liz, sister and so sorry." I'm so caught up in my ease dropping that I'm startled when Miranda grabs me roughly by the arms.
A second later she finds herself on the floor subdued beneath me. "You" is all I get out as I am unable to understand how I could allow myself to be duped yet again by another Antarian bitch. She pushed and pushed me and finally set me over the edge with that stunt with Max and let me loose on Hannah and her baby. I vow to end her, but don't get very far in that endeavor in that one second after that I find myself beneath her with a knife to my throat.
"Calm, the hell down." She demands.
"Liz, what's wrong?" Hannah asks.
Tears are falling down my cheeks. "There is blood on your shirt. I was connecting to your baby."
Hannah looks utterly confused on how my two sentences fit together but Miranda finds the connection disturbingly fast. "There was a disagreement. You tried to stop it, but got hurt in the process. Hannah was helping you, and your blood got on her clothes. I fixed your injuries."
"I was connecting to her baby." I insist.
"Connections do not damage offspring. Without the intent," she adds as if somewhat as an afterthought.
I take her doubletalk to mean that had I been behaving like a psycho Alien bitch that she would have run me through with her very large knife. I give a shaky nod, and Miranda releases her knife from my neck.
I study my shoes deciding that this might in fact be some metaphorical version of hell being in the same room with my ex's new girlfriend and with a women who is just a tad bit possessive of Max for a mere casual acquaintance.
I smile grimly thinking things could be infinitely more worse.
Tess could be here.
I snicker and am aware of both women's concerned eyes on me. "What?" I arch my eyebrows at Hannah.
She releases her bottom lip from between her teeth. "You seem to be having rather strong mood swings."
"So, now you are concerned about my moods?" I snap voicing my anger over her past transgressions. I clinch my fist and watch as band after band of red energy circles around it. Can I really blame Hannah for protecting what was hers? My gaze falls on Miranda before turning back to her. "I'm sorry. I am not myself right now."
She shakes her head. "You're angry. I did things. I'm not proud of them. I pushed him to end your friendship." She trails off no doubt catching my icy glare.
I turn to Miranda to see if I can pull some information regarding how the hell I got here when little Ms. Lawyer opens her big stupid mouth.
"I was scared."
My neck literally snaps back to her. "You were scared?" I answer incredulously inching closer to her. "How about you try being the only one of two humans on the planet that you know of that has powers that you can't control? How about you try living with the knowledge that with one misstep you could end up as a science experiment in a government lab? Kyle was the onlyone that could understand that. You had him ignore me for a year, because you were scared." I'm nearly on top of her now and to her credit she doesn't cower when confronted with my rage.
"I didn't understand until it was too late. He wasn't himself the entire time. I thought about calling you to try and fix things, but I was too much of a coward, so I let him suffer. I almost threw up when he first came up to you at the wake. I was so nervous that you were going to reject his overture. It would have killed him."
"I had just lost my parents and nearly died. It kind of puts things into prospective. Life is too precious to spend it being pissed or insecure." I answer pointedly, realizing for the first time that it was more than just that at work that day.
Despite losing everything, there was peace to me that day that I had never felt.
I curl my hands remembering how I had held Brian's hand in a death grip the entire day.
He had never once complained about me treating him like an extra sized security blanket.
When everyone's condolences of ' " sorry" ' left me feeling empty and hollow, he found the words that I needed to hear by just being. Brian had found them, because he was Max. As Kyle had observed all those years ago, Max just knew when things came to me.
Yet, he isn't here now when I need him to tell me that there is still some sliver of hope for us.
I spear my fingers through my hair and tug on the strands trying to guess what is going through his head. The fact that I haven't been in his head in nearly a decade, coupled with our general lack of communication when it comes to anything tough makes it a challenge.
"I was so scared. Your abilities allow yourself to understand him in a way I will never be able to." Her voice is so quiet that had my cells not been little and green there would have been no way for me to hear her.
A potted plant on the windowsill takes the brunt of my anger.
I suck my lips together like a dying fish trying desperately to hold onto air, because her words are so heartbreakingly similar to the feelings that graced the pages of my journal, but I'll be damned if I am going to acknowledge that or where listening to those feelings got me aloud.
Hannah never did me any favors.
I get to the door and study it for a beat before realizing I'm not Tess Harding or even Future Max. People's insecurities aren't something to be manipulated no matter if the purpose is to save the world or satisfy vengeance.
"You're wrong about Kyle and me." I grind out through teeth that still have not been exactly won over to my new course of action. "What he felt for me pales in comparison to what he feels for you. Kyle loves you with everything that he is, because you love him with everything that you are. We weren't ever that intimate with each other, because he was waiting for you. I was just," I cover my eyes with my hands. "I was just waiting." I say softly.
The heat from my medallion shakes from the tendrils of sadness threatening to encircle my heart. I turn around to finally face her.
She is scrubbing her eyes wiping away her tears. "I would give anything for that to be true, but it isn't. He doesn't want me. He kissed her."
I shake my head against the memory of watching a boy and a girl kiss in the rain.
"Why did you not divulge this to Max in your debriefing?" Miranda demands.
Hannah's blue eyes turn to ice in response. "Because I don't really feel like telling the entire world that the father of my child has run off with someone who he has always claimed was just a sister to him."
"Hannah," I say. "Tess has an ability to put memories in people's head," choosing to argue the entire thing was a mind warp. "She likes to push people with it. Tess has the kind of personality that if you give her an inch she will take a mile. You have to be careful how you react to her."
"No, it was real." She is adamant. "For three days, they did nothing but ask him questions. He didn't give them anything then suddenly he's spilling his guts. She couldn't have fabricated his answers. Afterwards, when he had given them everything, that's when they kissed and were all over each other. God, I feel like such an idiot." Her bottom lips quivers.
I crouch down so that I'm eye level with her. "I know that things look really bad right now, but you are going to have to believe. Believe, like you've never believed in anything your entire life. Believe, even though your heart, your eyes, and your brain tell you that you won't win. Believe, because if you stop, you've lost, and finding your way back to where you once were a second time around might prove impossible. There are just too many permutations to take anything for granted."
The slight breeze that rustles my hair is the only harbinger before Miranda makes like the Antarian roadrunner and crosses the room to be at my side. "Ask her what they got from Kyle," she says in a low tone that must be beneath human hearing from Hannah's lack of reaction. "You've gotten her to indentify with you. She isn't going to tell anyone else. We need this." She presses, when I fail to act on her first command. "Tess could be making a play to retake Seth." She adds seemingly waving a red flag in my face.
I glare realizing that I might have vowed to be above using people's insecurities, but the people around me are certainty not.
"Hannah," I stumble over my words trying to find a coherent string of thought. "It's important that we figure out what they want from Kyle."
"I already told you. Tess couldn't keep her hands off of him, and he let her." She answers heatedly. "I'm sorry." She rubs her temples. "You're trying to help. Kyle always said that you had the biggest heart of anyone he ever knew." Her eyes begin to water with tears. "Anyone else would have been running for the hills when they found out aliens really do exist."
"Hannah," I say with a slight force trying to get her back on topic. "Do you remember anything about the questions they asked? It's okay if you don't."
She shrugs her shoulders. "Khivar was curious about your powers, how you controlled them, and how Kyle was able to use them for himself." She rattles off in a monotone. "When Kyle said that he couldn't, Khivar became enraged. He grabbed Kyle by the neck and started yelling that couldn't be true, because Kyle had fucked you. Those were his words not mine. They gave him another injection and another. His eyes turned white and lips turned upwards into a scowl. He lunged at me once." She covers her mouth with her hand.
From the corner of my eye, I watch as a spasm cross Miranda's usually stoic features. My newly attuned hearing picks up a sudden rise in her heartbeat while the sheen of sweat breaks out on her brow.
Though my time with Max was relatively short, I had picked up certain key tidbits about Antarian biology. One being that he was imperious to temperature change. It mattered very little if it was 36 degrees outside or 97 degrees. There was no need for the contraction of blood vessels to maintain warmth or sweat to regulate body temperature. Sweat was only something he did in the throes of his illness or when running from a patrol of government agents.
"I thought he was going to kill me." She says just above a hoarse whisper. "He actually wants me dead." She shakes her head.
Miranda takes hold of Hannah's hand tenderly in an uncharacteristic human gesture and beats me in my defense of Kyle. "Whatever Kyle may have done, you need to remember that it wasn't him. It was the drugs and Tess. He is as much a victim in this as you are."
"He's a victim." Hannah nods. "I understand completely. It makes so much more sense now that it has been explained to me."
Could someone please tell me what I've been doing for the last ten minutes?
"Good." Miranda turns to me. "Get her back on topic."
Suddenly, it dawns on me. "You're screwing with her mind. "
"On topic Liz."
"Stop screwing with her mind Miranda if that's even your real name."
"You don't even like her."
"That's irrelevant. Get out of her head."
"We need this information. They're going to be sending Kyle after you. His anger toward her was just a warm up of what he will become."
I study for her a second unsure whether she is serious or not. "How do you know this?"
"Because I know how Khivar works. Seventy-five years ago, he was somewhat honorable then he wasn't. He doesn't understand what happened and thinks if he can observe the actual decline in practice he'll get closer to an answer. He developed a serum that strips higher level thinking from sentient beings and leaves only the baser instincts in tact. He's begun that treatment with Kyle."
"You can fix it, right?"
Her black eyes shift to the right as if remembering a memory. "No one has ever been successful in isolating a research subject away from Khivar. I do know that the end of the procedure culminates in the subject trying to eliminate the person most important to him or her. Khivar miscalculated with Kyle and believed that person was you.
"We aren't even together."
"It doesn't matter. He was the only male of Antarian origin that you were ever…" she trails off.
"Great, is there anything else you don't know about me?" My cheeks redden.
"Privacy is not an Antarian concept." She answers before returning to Khivar. "He is a scientist not a romantic, to him sex equals commitment and cementation. He believed Kyle was the one. They would send him to you. You would dispatch him. It would drive the Antarian parts within you insane then you would be more pliable to Khivar's wishes."
"What will he do now?"
"I prefer not to engage in mindless speculation."
"Engage in it," I challenge.
"Kyle can still be used to lure you out. I am worried about what his reaction will be to you. It sounds as if Khivar has created a lackey that he has minimal control over at best. This could result in you having to dispatch him."
"I'm not killing him."
"Would you rather he kill you and Max go insane? We can accept when things beyond our control take our mates, but by the hands of others, no. Vengeance is very much one of our beliefs. Max held himself back when they attacked you, because you lived. If you were to die," she trails off ominously.
"He would hold himself to the rule of law that he has established."
"If you prefer to think of him to be the lamb over the lion so be it, but your belief has no basis in reality."
"I'm just supposed to believe you, because you know him so well." I answer hotly drumming my fingers against the floor.
She regards my fingers for a moment. "You would do well to hide your insecurity better. It could be used against you."
"I am not insecure. You can't get any more secure than I am. I'm like the Pentagon in my security."
"Then the sudden source of your ire is jealousy, perhaps?" She asks without missing a beat.
I don't flinch.
I don't blow anything up.
I just stare at her coldly. "For someone who was raised by a human, you are an extremely unkind individual. Maybe, you were with him, and maybe you weren't, but it's irrelevant.
He wants me. He's chosen me."
"Exactly," she answers with an expression that could be deemed almost hopeful. "I'm glad that when push comes to shove you are able to see that for yourself. The fewer distractions you have the better." She tears her vision away from me and back to Hannah.
Her comments confuse me, because they are not of the jilted romantic rival but of the advisory sort, but Tess was also all about the advise in the beginning.
"With your permission, I would like to return to the interview?" she presses, causing me both to remember Hannah and what started this conversation in the first place. Briefly, I wonder if I could possibly be under her influence as well.
"Right," I press my lips together before releasing them. "Get out of Hannah's head then," opting this time for an explanation to my request. "This mind stuff all of you do makes me nervous. So for once could you just do what I ask?"
"Fine," Miranda says before treating me to a bitchy sigh that sounds quite reminiscent of Isabel.
Hannah starts. "What were we talking about again?"
"About Kyle and the questions that Khivar asked him."
"Yes," she nods. "They wanted to know who helped you get better after your parents' death."
"Whose names did he give?"
"It's not like he was able to give him much, because you guys weren't…"
"The names," I interrupt.
"Maria, Sean, and the two French sisters from the wake.
"Elle and Sherrie," I swallow.
"Yes, and Brian."
I see nothing but blackness for a moment.
"He was much more interested in the men than the women."
I watch as my hands begin to blur in front of me. Suddenly, I'm moving. My legs are unaccustomed to the energy pulsating through them feeling as if they are amped up on PCP. Scraps of color wiz pass my eyes too quickly for me to process.
Then just as quickly as whatever this is begins, it ends with my knees giving away.
I flinch, preparing myself for an impact that never comes thanks to a pair of arms that catch me around my waist.
"Whoa, Nelly." Brian answers letting go of my waist. "I don't want you to bruise those lovely knees of yours."
"Sorry," I mumble embarrassed.
"That's some pretty fast moving you got going there. We definitely need to wrangle up a cheetah next time we're in Africa. You could really give it a run for its money."
"I must be starting to move like an Antarian. I just haven't figured out how exactly to stop." I reach in my pocket for some Antacids anticipating another bout of indigestion. "We need to talk." I grimace realizing too late how cliché my choice of words sound.
"Peachy," he mumbles motioning me to join him at the table.
I take a seat and pick up an iodine stain of the virus. "This doesn't look like the virus."
"It isn't. Miranda gave it to me as a side project until whatever happens with the virus starts happening. Apparently, the infection is cyclical. She has a friend who is infected with a different strain and thought some new eyes could prove beneficial."
"And did it?"
"Of course, not." I throw the picture down violently not particularly interested in looking at what is slowly killing Max.
"I just started Parker. I don't exactly have their stamina." He studies me, fuming for a moment. "Why do I get the idea that Miranda's friend is your friend as well?" His eyes light up in realization following his words.
I am out of my seat and crouching next to him in half a second. "Please, you can't tell anyone. If the general public were to find out."
"There would be anarchy." Brian adds.
"He's very good at what he does. There's stability on his planet for the first time in years. Please, Brian."
"And you believe this, because Max says it so?"
"Well, yeah." I answer confused.
"Without seeing it with your own eyes," He grimaces. "You're still in love with him."
My mouth forms a perfect "o" shape momentarily surprised in the turn of this conversation before I answer with a nod.
"Oh, Parker," he closes the distance between us to the point that mere inches separate our face. "From what Miranda gave me, it's not good."
"I don't care. I'm sorry that I told you that we could be something and then take it back. Up until two weeks ago, I thought he was in my past, but he won't ever be. I am physically unable to love anyone like I love him. I didn't understand that before, but I understand it now."
"Are you sure that it isn't just, because he's the one that got away?"
"It's not that. If I was to try and explain it all, you would think I was crazy."
He smiles sadly. "No, I think that would be you being in love."
"I'm so sorry." I cup his cheek.
"I think we really could have fun together."
I'm enough of a realist to acknowledge that loving Max is more uncertain than it ever was between Zan and all the history between us that hasn't yet become water under the bridge.
Loving Brian would definitely be the day to that night. I imagine that our life would be much like it is now. We would circle the globe fighting against disease and playing poker with the locals while getting drunk off some very bad moonshine. He would occasionally throw in a pitch about me getting my PhD.
Holidays would be spent at his parents' home on the Vineyard. There would be caroling, jokes and most of all family. When we would leave, his parents would give me the biggest hugs and just for one second I would pretend that my own parents were holding me.
One day, he would take me to my favorite Italian restaurant two blocks away from my apartment. Somewhere between lasagna and gelato he would get down on one knee and pull out a small velveteen box from his hand and say something corny like "Parker, will you merge your element with mine and form a compound," and open the box forcing me to say 'no.'
I would say 'no' to everyone but one.
"Fun maybe, but permanent no," I answer remembering Seth's prediction of Brian, me and the lipstick collar.
"Perhaps," he lets out a rush of air like a deflating balloon. "So now that you've told me why you felt compelled to break the barriers of speed and sound," he pauses no doubting catching the look on my face. "That wasn't it?" He asks incredulous.
"No. You see," I begin telling him of Khivar, the danger, my heartfelt apology while carefully glossing over the part where Max high-jacked his body.
I omit it, because I'm a manipulative and desperate coward and wonder if Brian would continue to look at Max's file if he was to find out.
It's hard to believe so many things have changed, but one thing has not.
I will screw everyone over to keep Max safe.
I wonder if that is still one more thing to chalk up to what being in love means.
The ring of Brian's cell provides the excuse for my escape.
Once outside, I close my eyes against the sudden breeze and just let my thoughts go.
When I finally open them again, Max is standing before me like a vision of my own private heaven and hell.
"We need to talk." He tells me.
"Peachy," I answer repeating Brian's words of before.