Max, Liz and Tess were taken to the Sheriffs’ station to give their statements.
Sheriff Valenti called Liz’s parents, who met them there, hugging and kissing their daughter. They blamed themselves for letting her go to the Halloween carnival, but the Sheriff assured them there was no way they could have known the real killer was still on the loose.
Nancy Parker hugged Max, and Jeff shook his hand, thanking him for saving Liz.
Max’s parents were there as well, proud that their son had been able to help Liz and catch the killer, but Diane Evans cried a little, thinking of what could have happened.
Rath was already there, locked in a room being interviewed by the State Police, and even through the thick walls they could hear him shouting.
“Fucking, son-of-a-bitch Zan, I mean Max, is a fucking alien king, and he fucking made me human! So now what am I supposed to do? I can never go back to our planet! He planned this whole thing. Zan has always hated me. I want to screw that fucker like he screwed me. You test him!” he demanded. “You’ll see Zan’s not human!”
Valenti took Max aside, speaking to him softly. “It looks like being turned human has broken his mind,” he said. “Rath won’t stop talking. He’s confessing to everything and it’s all mixed up with rantings about aliens and conspiracies.”
Max nodded, his eyes sliding to the room where Rath was being held. “I’m sure most of what he’s saying is true.”
Valenti shrugged. “No one will believe him. They already think he’s nuts. He keeps talking about alien planets and calling you Zan. He’ll be written off as insane and locked up for the rest of his life. You’ll have to give your statements, but I doubt there will even be a trial. The FBI will take him away to answer for the murders in New York and that will be the end of it.”
Nodding again, Max was sure he was right. Rath would be out of their lives for good.
Eventually Rath mostly quieted, and Max, Liz and Tess were put in separate rooms for questioning. It seemed to take forever as the State Police went over and over every detail they could remember.
Liz and Max’s parents paced in the waiting room, and every-so-often the relative silence of the Sheriff’s Station was shattered by Rath’s continuing bellows.
It made Liz jump in her chair each time. Max knew it because he could feel her surges of anxiety through their connection. The bond between them seemed to be getting stronger and stronger, and to him it was just more proof that they belonged together.
He looked toward the wall. She was in the next room. He could feel her even though he couldn’t see her, and tried to send his reassurance through the link between them.
Maybe he was imagining it, but he thought he could feel her acknowledging the comfort he was offering.
It was frustrating that all of this was happening around them when all he wanted was to be with Liz. They needed to talk everything out, and he couldn’t wait until they were alone so they could.
A huge obstacle had been taken out of their way when Tess revealed she had mindwarped Liz to see ‘Future Max’, but the basic problem still remained.
Liz walked away from him originally when she heard his true identity and supposed destiny, and those things hadn’t changed. But he didn’t think it was insurmountable. He and Liz had been getting closer again before Tess’ dirty trick, and he was determined to do whatever it took to get Liz to come back to him.
He needed her. She was everything to him.
A rush of fury surged through him again, thinking about Rath touching her. He kept having to remind himself that it was over, and Rath would never get near her again. For all the dupe’s yelling and threats, he was now basically powerless. Sure, he still had physical strength, but he was human and would have to learn to live like one.
Like Valenti said, Rath would be locked up for the rest of his life, just like he deserved, and maybe now the families of his victims would finally get some answers.
Eventually the interviews ended for the night and Rath was taken to a cell. Tess, Max and Liz were released from the rooms at the same time and he was led past them.
When Rath saw Liz, he smiled. “Lollipop,” he purred, motioning to her with his handcuffed hands, “come and give me some sugar.”
Instantly Max was there, putting himself between Rath and Liz. “Shut up, Rath,” he ordered.
Rath cocked his head, grinning. “Ooooh, the big king, defending his woman,” he mocked. “But she’s not yours yet. I’ll have her first!”
Suddenly he surged forward, getting away from the two Deputies holding him.
Max blocked him from Liz, pushing him back, and the Deputies grabbed him again. They tried to lead him away but Rath laughed and wouldn’t move, and they started dragging him
Leaning so he could see her around Max, Rath kept his gaze on Liz, waggling his tongue at her. “Mmmmm, so sweet, Lollipop.” He winked. “I’ll taste you later.”
They pulled him away, out of sight, and his crazed laugh echoed down the hallway.
Max turned to Liz. “Are you okay?”
She nodded, looking up, and as soon as their eyes met, they moved into each others’ arms.
Max held Liz tightly, stroking her hair. He couldn’t believe how close she’d come to something awful happening. And what had happened was bad enough. He didn’t know if he’d ever stop thinking about it. “I love you so much,” he breathed. “I’m so glad you’re safe now.”
Liz pressed into him, feeling like she couldn’t get close enough. “I’m always safe with you.”
Max felt a rush of relief and hope. She still loved him, even if she hadn’t said it, maybe Liz wouldn’t fight him any more. Maybe she would finally realize that he was better with her, and they could face the future together.
He didn’t want to let her go, but he felt the need to look into her eyes. Keeping her in the circle of his arms, he drew back just enough to see her.
Their eyes locked, and it was like they had gone back to the beginning of their relationship and nothing in the world existed but the two of them.
The connection between them seemed to open wide and he could feel her overwhelming love for him as he saw it shining brightly in her eyes.
“We belong together,” he whispered. “I won’t let anything keep us apart.”
Liz nodded, her eyes never leaving his. “I know.”
He smiled. It was the first time in months she hadn’t tired to pull away from him, and she was practically admitting that he was right. He felt like if he reached out to her now, she would say yes.
A movement to the side drew their attention, and they both turned to see Tess.
She was fidgeting just down the hall, her head down as she tried not to be obvious about watching them. When she saw them look at her, she nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
“Um, sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt,” she stated. She looked down at her hands and bit her lip briefly before continuing. “I just wanted to say again that I’m sorry, for everything.” She nodded at Max, “You told me from the first about your feelings, but I just didn’t listen.”
Again Tess glanced at them briefly, noting the way they were holding each other. She’d already accepted that she would never be with Max, and seeing them together didn’t hurt the way she thought it should. She took a deep breath. “I already talked to Valenti and he said he needs me to stay in town for a while, for the case, but I’ll stay away from you, I promise,” she hurried to assure them, “and I’ll leave as soon as he says I can.”
“Tess,” Liz started, but the blonde cut her off.
“I know what you’re going to say,” she told Liz, with a defeated sigh, “that you all tried to be nice to me, and this is all my fault, and I deserve to be alone for what I did.”
“Tess,” Max started, “you did hurt us. You nearly caused both of us to die from broken hearts.” He stroked Liz’s arm. “But you saw how much we were hurting and you confessed. And you helped us. You helped me save Liz.” He shook his head, pulling Liz closer, and his voice was tight as he spoke. “If you hadn’t been there to tell me how to find her I don’t know what would have happened.”
Gently he kissed the side of Liz’s head, before turning back to Tess. “You made a big mistake,” he continued, “but you are still part of our group. I can’t love you like you want me to, but I can be your friend and your family.”
He and Liz hadn’t discussed it, but Max was sure he knew Liz’s feelings and was speaking for both of them. “We don’t want you to leave, Tess. Families should stay together.”
Tess couldn’t believe her ears, and her eyes darted to Liz, who nodded. “You belong here,” Liz said, confirming everything Max had said.
Tears started in Tess’ eyes and she felt grateful for maybe the first time in her life. Max and Liz were accepting her for who she was, even after the horrible things she had done, and offering to let her be a part of their family. “Thank you,” she said.
Wiping at her eyes a soft smile curved her lips. “I won’t let you down,” she assured them.
As Tess walked away from them toward the entrance, she felt as if a burden was lifting from inside her. Maybe it was possible for her to find happiness after all.
She hadn’t felt bad about losing Max, but when she thought she was going to leave town the one thing she did regret was that she’d never had a relationship with Kyle. The thought of leaving him had caused her the most pain, and for the first time she realized that she had feelings for him. Strong feelings. And now, maybe they had a chance.
Reaching the door, her smile widened as Kyle came rushing in. His eyes locked on her and he crossed the few steps between them, instantly wrapping her in an embrace.
He held her for the first time, and she could feel his strength and his heart racing as her arms slid around him. His hand tangled into her hair as he whispered into her ear. “Don’t ever scare me like that again,” he ordered.
Tess relaxed against his chest, tightening her arms around him. “I promise.”
Max wanted to talk to Liz more but at that moment their parents came around the corner from the waiting room. He was aware of them looking at them, still in the embrace, but he was reluctant to let Liz go.
“Will you be okay?” he asked her softly.
She nodded. “Yeah. I think so.”
“I can stay over again,” he offered, “if it will make you feel safe.”
Smiling she said, “I think I just need to work it out on my own.”
Max nodded, feeling disappointed. Was Liz trying to push him away already?
She continued, “But you could come over tomorrow.
Instantly he agreed. “Sure.”
Their parents reached them and Max finally let Liz go.
“Max,” Nancy said approaching them, “we’d like to invite you to come over for dinner next week, so we can get to know you.”
“Thank you,” he said.
Liz smiled at her parents. It was the first time her mother had really even spoken to Max, or acknowledged he was a part of her life. Maybe her mother would finally accept him.
(Sunday, October 29th)
Liz wasn’t working. Her parents had given her the day off, but she was in the Crashdown anyway. She couldn’t just stay in her room. Max was coming by any minute, and she couldn’t wait to see him. She’d been up most of the night, not scared but thinking about her relationship with Max, and she’d come to some decisions.
Sitting at the counter, she talked to Maria between her trips to check on her customers. She’d already told her best friend the whole story about last night, but they were still talking about it.
Maria kept her voice low. “I can’t believe Rath was around that much,” she practically whispered. “Skulking around here and at school, pretending to be Michael.” She shivered perceptibly as a chill went through her. “I mean what if he’d come to me as Michael? Would I have been able to tell?”
Liz nodded. “Yeah, I think you could tell,” she said softly. “He was…” she trailed off, remembering his warped reality and shook herself. “Um, you could just tell.”
Maria saw her friend’s distress and put her arm around Liz’s shoulders, hugging her. “Well it’s all over now,” she said. “And thanks to Max, he’s just a regular guy instead of … um…” She didn’t finish the sentence when she realized what she was about to say.
“You mean,” Liz continued, “he is a regular rapist serial killer instead of an alien super-powered rapist serial killer.”
“Yeah,” Maria said uncomfortably. “Sorry.”
Liz shook her head, smiling softly. “It’s okay. Like you said it’s over, and we’ll never see him again.”
Michael hit the bell with the spatula, bellowing. Maria! Order up!
Liz jumped in her chair, wondering if she would ever feel normal again. Maria squeezed her hand and went to the window, picking up the food and taking it to the table.
Theresa, their co-worker, came up behind Liz as she headed to the employee room to change for her shift. Stopping next to her, she held out a small, plastic pumpkin. “I know it’s early, but happy Halloween.”
Liz took a glance inside at the candy and shivered. “No thanks,” she said. “Happy Halloween.”
Maria returned to Liz. “You on a diet, Liz?” she asked, with a smile. “I never saw you turn down candy before.”
Theresa offered the pumpkin to Maria who reached inside without looking and pulled out a handful of small plastic-wrapped suckers. She swallowed hard but smiled. “Thanks.”
After Theresa disappeared into the back room, Maria dropped the suckers into the trash without comment.
Liz nodded. “Yeah, if I never see another lollipop again it will be too soon.”
Suddenly Liz was filled with a feeling of warmth and love, and she knew even before she turned that Max was there. With a smile she swiveled on her stool as he pushed through the door.
His eyes quickly drifted over the people in the café, almost immediately landing on her, as if he was drawn to her. A smile lifted his lips as he crossed the room.
Liz slid off her stool, going to meet him, and they stopped within inches of each other.
“Hey,” they both said at the same time, and smiled.
“Hey,” Max said again. “How are you?”
“Good,” Liz nodded, glancing up shyly to meet his eyes. “How are you?”
“Good,” he answered.
Max was unsure about what to do. He knew Liz meant everything she’d said last night, but he didn’t want to take things too fast. She agreed to see him today, and that was amazing to him. It might take time to get back to where they were, but he will willing to wait.
“So what do you want to do?” he asked.
“Let’s go somewhere we can talk,” she said.
He nodded. Talking was good. He had a lot he wanted to say to her; reasons they were perfect for each other, what she meant to him, how much he missed being with her, how much he loved her.
They got into the Jeep and Max drove them toward the quarry. They were mostly silent on the journey, simply listening to the radio, and that was fine with Max. He was glad they felt comfortable enough together to just be.
He kept stealing glances at Liz, and smiled each time their eyes met. It really felt like old times.
After a few minutes, they reached the quarry, driving down the winding dirt road. They had just pulled in to the parking area on the ledge above the lake when suddenly a familiar song came on the radio.
Oh lolli lolli lolli
Practically diving for the radio control, Max turned it off. “Sorry,” he said, immediately pulling over and looking at Liz. “Are you okay?”
She had to admit that a shiver of fear ripped through her when she heard the music. “I don’t think I will ever hear that song, or see a lollipop without remembering,” she admitted, “but I’m okay.”
Max reached out, stroking her face. “You don’t have to do it all alone. I’ll always be there for you.”
Liz took his hand, squeezing it. “I know.”
Max was practically holding his breath, wondering what Liz wanted to discuss. “So,” he said, “what do you want to talk about?”
Liz could sense his hesitation and smiled, leaning in closer. “Us.”
She held his eyes. “I love you, Max, and this whole horrible experience has made me realize that we shouldn’t waste any more time. I want to be with you.”
He smiled and felt a rush of love through their connection a split second before Liz pressed her lips to his.
Max was surprised but he responded instantly, cupping her head, deepening the kiss. Everything was going to be okay.
Before he was lost in the incredible sensations, a fleeting thought echoed through his mind. Rath had been completely wrong about Liz. Her soft lips were the sweetest thing he’d ever tasted. No candy or lollipop could even compare.
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