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I See You, Part Five

Reply to AK-77

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Title: I SEE YOU 5
Author: AK-77
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Kyle Valenti/Max Evans
Disclaimer: the characters don't belong to me; no money for me by this
Note: not my native language + not beta'd = spelling- and grammar mistakes
Feedback: absolutely
Contact: Wesker77@web.de
Distribute: fine with me as long as I get to know first
Summary: no



        "Now look at that!"

        Michael put down his tray on the table and sat down beside Isabel.

        "Look at what?"

        But she knew.

        "Since when are Max and the dickhead buddies?" She didn't need to look at Michael to know that the expression on his face matched the indignant sound of his voice. "Delete 'when'. *Why* are Max and the dickhead buddies?"

        Isabel didn't answer but watched as Max was filling his tray, turning with a container of vanilla milk in his hand and lifting it questioningly. Her gaze wandered over to Kyle, who was sitting on one of the tables, already eating. He answered Max's unspoken question with grimacing and shaking his head. She saw his eyes widen when Max decided throwing the item nevertheless at the other, unimpressed by the ten or so tables and half of a room filled with people in between.

        "It's almost frightening." Michael said, sounding indeed as if the scene he was witnessing gave him the creeps. "I mean, if we are able to get friendly with Kyle Valenti, what else might we be capable of?"

        It was a hard, carelessly aimed shot, and Kyle nearly tipped over along with the chair he was sitting on in his attempt to catch the container, but grabbed the edge of the table with his other hand in time. He looked at the caught milk with a slightly disgusted expression, while Max was grinning gloatingly.

        Isabel heard Michael snort beside her, realizing all of a sudden that the both of them were behaving like spectators watching a tennis game, turning t heir heads in a strange fascination synchronously from one of the boys to the other. Neither of them had touched their food.

        She inhaled deeply, trying to focus her attention on the food in front of her, but stopped the attempt to provoke some appetite soon.

        Eventually Michael began to eat, but continued to observe the two boys suspiciously, as if waiting for something that would give him a reason to interfere.

        "Did I miss here anything?"

        Again Isabel didn't answer, but Michael didn't seem to wait for one anyway.

        She was angry at Max.

        There were things happening she'd thought as impossible, but they were happening nevertheless, and they were happening right in front of her eyes.

        Max hitting Kyle had been the first sign, and Isabel had sensed that there was something wrong going on rightaway. She'd tried to convince herself that there wasn't anything strange about it, that Max had the right to behave once like every normal boy of his age was allowed to. After all, that was what he was raised as. But the weird feeling had served her correctly.

        Max was changing.

        And Isabel didn't really know if she liked the kind of boy her brother was turning into.

        She was surprised as hell.

        And a little scared.

        It was not only saying goodbye to the previous picture of Max, showing him as a Liz-obsessed, reflective loner. Now she had to question his ability to act without being influenced by any whims, his ability to *control* his whims.

        His responsibility.

        Who was that boy, who seemed so uninterested about his former love's obvious suffering? What would come next?

        Who would suffer next?

        And would he care at all?

        A sudden feeling of guilt made Isabel wonder if it was on her to judge her brother's choices, judge them that severely.

        Looking at Max again who'd joined Kyle at the table by now, Isabel had to admit that she hadn't seen her brother that relaxed in a long time.

        She smiled as Kyle was punched hard in the side for snitching a candy bar from Max's tray, repaying by slapping Max audibly on the head.

        Still, a conversation was inevitable.


+++

        Liz asked herself honestly how it hadn't gotten to her all the years that she was...stupid. Well, but somehow that was logical in itself, wasn't it?

        She'd tried to take apart the pieces in order to be able to analyze them eventually, since the whole picture didn't seem to give away anything that made sense to her.

        But looking at the bits had only increased her confusion.

        Maybe all she needed was another point of view.

        Maybe then she'd realize that there was no reason for the bad feeling in her stomach to exist any longer.

        She grabbed the receiver and dialed Maria's number.

        "De Luca."

        "Hi Maria, it's me."

        "Hey, what's up?"

        "Uh...can you come over tonight?"

        "Did anything happen? You sound so-"

        "I just want to talk. About Max."

        "Ok, I'll be right there in...let's say fifteen minutes."

        "Thank you."

        "Hey, no problem. See ya."

        She put down the receiver and felt a little better, knowing that in a few minutes she wouldn't have to think about what was going on alone anymore.

        Though Maria used to have a kind of chaotic relationship with her own problems (to put it mildly), there was nobody having a better eye for what to do when it came to those of others.

        That big portion of distrust Maria carried around with her since her father's departure never failed to make Liz look at things in another way. Considering Maria's - sometimes a bit too pessimistic - opinions often helped Liz opening her eyes.

        And apart from that Maria's presence had a soothing effect on her she needed right now.


+++

        "Ok, Maxwell. Text in clear. What's this all about?"

        Somehow Isabel wished she had the opportunity to talk to Max alone, but trying once more to bring him to open his mouth was pointless.

        He seemed to be immune to any tactic, blocking her attempts with an astonishing stubbornness, looking down at her from the emotional heights he called home these days, as if having decided that trying to make her understand was a waste of time.

        Maybe Michael would bring her brother to explain himself.

        Of course, Michael didn't *know*, but that was to their advantage. It increased the pressure on Max and would propably help making him crack a little.

        Max had turned his back to them, and was now standing erect on the precipice, hands sticking in the pockets of his dark grey cargos.

        A posture that spoke volumes.

        They would have a hard time.

        "No answer?"

        Michael wasn't about to lose control yet, but one could easily make out the tension he was dealing with in those few words.

        Isabel couldn't help but be impressed by the boy's amazing instincts. All he'd seen was his friend fooling around with a boy he'd always despised, and still he sensed that there was something important at stake. That single picture had been enough for Michael to realize it was about changes that were able to influence everyone of them.

        "What, Michael?" Max asked back, finally facing his challengers. "Hitting is right, but being friends not?" His smile was a grim one, but he seemed honestly amused as well. "Is that causing your little world to cave in? Your little world with it's hollow believes?"

        "At least I have believes!" Michael was yelling now. "I don't ally with idiots that-"

        "No insults." Max said in a voice that sounded totally unaffected. But the flashing eyes were giving away his real anger.

        They looked almost yellow, Isabel noticed.

        "Wait! I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that!" Michael retorted, acting all scared, making Isabel bite her lip in concern. "I forgot you use to punch people that call your girlfriend names."

        She held her breath.

        In pretending to provoke Max, Michael had stumbled into the truth somehow without even noticing. She was almost afraid for him.

        She didn't have the faintest idea how Max would react.

        But Max didn't do anything.

        She guessed it was her turn then.

        "There's danger everywhere, Max. We need you. Stop thinking with your dick!"

        She felt almost a little sorry for Michael, who was looking at Max with a shocked expression, mouth opened in disbelief.

        Had she ever seen him speechless before?

        Max turned his eyes alternately from one of them to the other, apparently trying to decide witch kind of action would be the smartest considering Michael's possible oncoming reactions and Isabel's possible oncoming offenses.

        He tried the defensive variation.

        Bad choice.

        "I don't-"

        "Yes, you do!" she cut him off. He wouldn't get away like this. "We watch you change. Liz is suffering, and you don't care. Worse: I think you didn't even notice."

        Max seemed to get what she meant straightaway, that her worries weren't really concerning Liz namely. Or Kyle.

        "They got me once." he said, eventually resigning himself to his siblings. "And you know something? I think if they wanted, they would get me again. And again."

        Obviously talking about the time he had been kept and tested on was still an effort to him.

        "You can go on searching for were we come from and whom we are descended from, but honestly, I don't care."

        Isabel knew of course that Max had always wanted to be a normal boy, nothing else.

        But it shocked her somehow to hear those words. It meant Max was willing to ignore what they had gone through, and what they'd found out through it.

        What they were.

        "I can't believe you said that!" Michael was fighting for composure.

        But Max continued staring at them.

        All anger was gone by now, leaving his features soft and his eyes filled with tears that would never be allowed fall.

        "What *are* we, Michael? Tell me, cause I don't know."

        He looked at the other, radiating a terrifying desperation that made Isabel's heart ache.

        Michael only clenched his jaw, so Max carried on throwing the fears and sorrows he'd hidden from his siblings all the time into their open faces. Apparently he didn't want to deal with them alone anymore.

        Isabel didn't know if they were able to bear them already.

        Or if she wanted to hear them at all.

        "When we go there, when we find them - do they want us? What if we are nothing but silly humans to them? Humans with a little more power than others have?"

        "We're important to them! We're the ones they are waiting for, the ones to free them!" Michael threw back, but it sounded as if the boy was trying to convince not only the other, but himself as well.

        And Max wasn't even finished.

        "We'll never belong to them. We're not alien. And we aren't human either. One side in us impedes the other, we're two halfs that don't fit!"

        Isabel couldn't deny the truth in what Max was saying, but hearing those words from the one who was supposed to be their leader scared her immensely.

        Max's uncertainty was legitimated, but uncertainty wasn't what was scaring her right now.

        Scaring was the realization that Max didn't want to find any certainty.

        He feared it.

        He feared losing the little permission he had to feel like a human boy.

        She understood completely.

        "And why him, Max?" she asked then, because it sprang into her head.

        He laughed at that, a dry sound that made fun of her, made her feel stupid without knowing why.

        "You think I have a choice?" His eyes drilled into her's. "Ah, I understand. I'm sorry it makes no sense to you."

        Isabel had no clue what her brother was talking about, and a quick glance at Michael's confused face told her that the other had long since given up any effort to follow.

        "I don't understand."

        "You wonder about why I'm not with Liz, since she represents 'everything I ever wanted'." The last words had been spoken with a voice dripping with sarcasm.

        Still he was right.

        "Well-" Max passed them with a few steps towards the road, all the while holding Isabel's gaze. Walking backwards then, he finished his sentence: "-think about it. I'm sure you'll find out."

        With that he turned and walked away.

        When they got into the car she could almost see the wheels in Michael's head rotate, but the boy remained silent.

        Max didn't look up when they drove past him, and Isabel refused to stop the jeep to pick her brother up.


+++

        Liz changed into her uniform, damning the new waitress who had rung in sick again.

        She entered the restaurant, wondering why Maria had phoned her for support, since there were only few customers to wait on.

        Then she spotted Max at one of the tables. Kyle and Tess were with him, so was Maria who had another hour or so until her shift would be over.

        She didn't quite know what to think about Max's presence.

        He knew her shifts.

        But maybe his presence was the reason why she was here.

        Maria had convinced Liz that she had to talk to Max. And since Max obviously was avoiding any confrontation, it was on her to take action if she wanted any clarity.

        But she didn't feel ready yet. It was not the right time, and definitely not the right place.

        But wherever and whenever would never be right enough, would it?

        Maria waved when she saw Liz approach the table and gave her a reassuring nod.

        Max turned, and for the fracture of a second there was an alarmed look on his face as he noticed her, a look that was quickly replaced by a familiar blank mask. Too often had she seen this mask the last days.

        She wondered who it was.

        Her gaze wandered over to Tess, who smiled briefly at her. It was a sympathetic smile that caused her stomach to clench in fear.

        No, that couldn't be, she thought. Not Tess!

        She smiled back, trying to calm herself down by doing so.

        Kyle murmured a 'hi', not looking at her at all.

        How could it be that everyone seemed to know what was going on with her relationship, everyone except Liz herself?

        She took a deep breath and turned to Max.

        "Could I talk to you for a minute?"

        He hesitated a moment, changing some strange glances with Kyle, but nodded then and rose automatically.

        They sat down on the sofa in the back room, him with lowered head, rubbing his half-folded hands together and avoiding her eyes.

        He seemed so distant.

        "Why are you avoiding me?" she asked eventually.

        "I'm not-"

        "Max! Be honest, please."

        Something about her words seemed to annoy him, or maybe the way they had been spoken. She could tell it by the movement of his head that had turned away from her slightly.

        But one question had to be asked, had to be asked *him* and not herself anymore, again and again, while she was lying on her bed at night, unable to find any sleep.

        "Are you with someone else?"

        "No."

        It was not more than a whisper, and both of them knew he could have called 'yes' loud and clear, and it would have meant the same.

        Tears began to dwell in her eyes, but she had not the power to stop them.

        Through their haze she noticed a flash of silver on Max's left wrist and blinked a few times to clear her sight. It was a bracelet, formed like a chain that looked kind of expensive.

        She knew that bracelet.

        "That's Kyle's!" she said, her high voice unsteady from crying, but with a sound that gave away her indignation.

        Kyle had shown it to her once. It was a present he'd gotten from his mother for his fourth birthday. He'd looked at the bracelet almost reverentially, and when she'd wanted to take it into her hand for a closer look he hadn't allowed it.

        Though that had been nearly two years ago, Liz remembered the scene exactly.

        She'd felt hurt back then. But not nearly as hurt as she felt in this moment.

        There was a small silver plate with the words 'In Love' engraved.

        "Yeah, so we are friends!" Max retorted angrily, looking her in the eyes for the first time since they'd entered this room. "Have I to justify myself? If I'd known, I would have asked you for permission."

        The words were stabs to her heart, but more than that she was confused. And scared.

        Some silent minutes passed.

        "Max."

        "Hm?" He'd calmed down so far and was now giving the impression of being tired more than anything else, rubbing his head with one hand, eyes closed.

        "I don't want to talk about Kyle right now. Let's forget that." All of a sudden Max seemed tense again, eyes opened in awareness, making her wonder if she'd said anything wrong.

        Still she continued. "Whatever it is, Max, that occupies your mind, it-"

        "What?" There was it again, the anger.

        "-it does you no good." she finished, determined to bring it up.

        "Liz."

        She swallowed. "Yes, Max."

        He took her hand, still looking at the ground as if fighting for composure, but when he spoke the half whispered words came out steady.

        "I don't want to say anything I could regret later, so listen: I'm fine. Just leave me alone. All of you." Slowly. Matter of factly. "Everyone is questioning my actions. I don't mind. Carry on, if you want to, but leave me out of it, ok?"

        He rose sluggishly, turned to brush one hand over her hair once, tenderly but with an absentminded expression on his face.

        When he'd left, Liz buried her face in her hands and started to cry softly.


+++

        "That was a joke, right? What you said to Max earlier on."

        Isabel laughed humorlessly.

        "I'm sorry, Michael."

        She couldn't say more to that, and she didn't want to right now. It was peaceful here, sitting in the grass, enjoying the mild sun on her back.

        *She* was peaceful.

        "No way."

        "Just look at him, Michael."

        Silence, only the sound of fingers brushing through hair forcefully.

        Isabel did not really have a problem with her brother's sexuality, and she thought that Michael wouldn't either, as soon as he got over the first shock.

        They would get there soon.

        And maybe that was the place, the place where she and Michael would find the key to Max's strength.

        "What... what are we supposed to be like?"

        It sounded so helpless.

        "We mustn't push him."

        "But we need him."

        "He needs us, too." she said, smiling reasuringly. "He will remember."


+++

        "You know Max for a long time now, don't ya?" Maria asked, while stroking Liz's brown hair gently.

        Liz sniffed and shifted her head in Maria's lap, looking up at her friend's thoughtful face to make her go on.

        "Do you think that there's the possibilty of Max being gay?"

        Liz straightened up. How could Maria say something like that?

        But she didn't answer.

        "You know, I watched Max, and since he's mostly with Kyle lately I watched them together, and there's something about-"

        "Stop!" She couldn't believe what Maria was obviously refering to. "Are you saying you believe that Max and *Kyle* have some thing going? You talk about Max!"

        "Yeah, I talk about Max. Max who treats you like shit, Max who's at daggers drawn with Michael and Isabel, Max who always gets that *strange* look when Kyle's around. I mean that idiotic, beaming look."

        "That's impossible." she said weakly, remembering the silver bracelet on Max's wrist.

        Maria gave her an sceptic look, but didn't say anything more.

        She was glad at that.

        She'd found out today that she didn't really know her former boyfriend.

        But Max being gay? He'd been with her! Well, not totally, but enough to turn Maria's dreadful speculations to nonsense.

        No way, she thought, lowering herself down till her head rested in Maria's lap again.

Continue to Part Six

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