Friends and Lovers

I paced in my room. I'd been crying for almost an hour. I couldn't believe it. Everything Michael and I were doing to protect Max, to help him, my being with him, and then he kissed Tess -

I bit down on my lip. Maybe that wasn't the only reason I was crying.

Every girl wants to hear the stuff that Max said to me. You're the only one. I could never be with anyone else. It's all magic when I'm with you, and when I'm not... I go crazy...

I felt the tears welling up again and pressed my hands up against my eyes. I don't love Max, I thought, bitterness and frustration rising up. I love Michael -

Maybe some part of me still just liked hearing what Max said to me.

Damnit, I thought, the tears running hot over my face. I loved Michael and I was with Max, Max loved me and he was kissing someone else, Michael thought Max was just lying, how could she make him feel anything, the alien hunter, Topolsky -

I took in a deep, sharp breath. Think, I thought, grinding the palms of my hands into my eyes, you can make sense of this, figure it out.

One thing at a time. Alright. I pushed the FBI, the alien hunter and Topolsky out of range, closing my eyes, tried to focus on just one thing. Max.

I took a deep breath and tried to relax. Look at things objectively.

-You're the only one for me -

I felt the instinct to react emotionally to the memory, wanting to cry again, to drown in the confusion of it. I struggled and pushed the emotion away. At least for now, I thought, just think, Liz, just until you figure it all out -

I could find the truth. I could. I just had to be calm -

- I look at you, and I know you're the person I'm supposed to be with -

I believed him. Every time he said it, I believed him.

Not that we were supposed to be together, but that he believed we were.

- What happened here that day, when you got shot, and how that brought us together - it's fate.

I felt the wave rising up inside me and bit my lip to push it back, the no, it's not choking me in my throat and cutting my concentration off and the flood of tears was overwhelming me and I was losing it, my control was crumbling around me -

I opened my eyes, standing up and climbing through my window to the cold air, pacing on the rooftop. I looked up at the sky, at the constellations flickering in the night air.

It didn't make sense.

Either Max was lying to me all that time and all those declarations of love were meaningless, exchangable, worthless -

Or he was telling the truth.

But then why did he kiss her -

I stared up at the sky, shaking my head. I didn't know what to believe. I wished Michael was here. Even if we disagreed on it, even if he thought Max was just lying to me, he'd listen to me, he'd hold me and tell me we'd think of something, that everything would be okay -

My vision blurred, darkening the night sky.

- I look at you, and I know you're the person I'm supposed to be with -

I heard the sob escape my throat and I sat down on the ledge, bunching my knees up and putting my hands on my face, my emotions tearing through me. I give up, I thought, I can't -

"Liz, are you okay?"

I let my hands drop from my face and looked at my window. Maria was leaning out, her face full of concern -

"No," I whispered, my throat tight. "No. Not really."

She climbed through my window, out to the rooftop. "Michael told me you wanted to talk to somebody," She said. "That you needed a friend."

Michael sent her. He wouldn't come because I asked him not to, but he sent her to take care of me.

Oh, God, I thought. I'd never felt this bad. I needed something, some kind of comfort - but I didn't deserve it from her. Especially not from her. But who else could he send?

The tears threatened to spill again.

"Max kissed Tess," I whispered.

"You're kidding!" She exclaimed, sitting back. "You're not kidding. No way, I cannot believe that."

I looked down.

"What a jerk. Liz, I'm sorry -"

"That's not even like him," I whispered. She kept talking.

"- you're right. That is so not like Max."

I thought about Michael, about kissing him out under the sky, Max kissing Tess in the rain -

How much longer could I keep this up?

"I'm so confused, Maria," I whispered. My throat was hoarse. I was tired of lying, and angry with Max for not telling me, and scared about the camera -

-This whole thing is about as complicated as it could's not surprising your feelings are intense and complex -

I choked back a sob.

Knowing I couldn't even follow my own advice didn't make me feel any better.

"What are you going to do?"

I looked up at the sky. "I don't know," I whispered, shaking my head.

"You know I've got your back, right," She said.

I looked at her. She was so good to me. I didn't deserve her, I shouldn't -

I shut the end of the sentence down fast. Michael and I had been over that before. I tried to focus on Max, on his kissing Tess. I know Michael didn't believe him, but -

"Maria, it's like everything I see with my eyes tells me that he's cheating on me," I whispered. "But everything I feel with my heart tells me that he's not."

"I don't know if he's lying, Liz, I just -" She shook her head. "I know that you usually go with your heart, so..."

I sighed deeply and stared up at the stars.

"When was the last time you ate something?" She asked.

I frowned and shrugged. "I don't know," I whispered. "Lunch, I guess -"

"Liz. You have to eat, girl," She said, standing up. "I'm gonna go downstairs and grab you something. Something with chocolate. Alright?" I smiled weakly and nodded.

"Vanilla coke?" She asked, backing up to the window.

I smiled. "Yeah," I said. "Thanks."

"Hey," She said, ducking back through my window. "What are friends for?"

My smile faded as I watched her leave through my bedroom door.

Some friend I was.

Stop it. I tried to shake the guilt off and looked back up at the night sky. I had to figure out the truth. And I had to do it now.

I was still staring at the stars when Maria burst into my room about ten minutes later.

"Come on," She blurted, ducking through the window and dragging me back toward my room. "I've got an idea."


Michael and Alex were in the kitchen toying with the camera.

I was shocked at how small it was. I wonder if it was there the night I was at his apartment, I thought, fear running through my body, I wonder if they saw us -

"Hey," Michael said, his eyes flashing over at Maria and me. "Maria, what're you -"

"There you go," She said proudly, pulling me next to her. "No need to thank me. It's a gift."

His eyes flickered over my face. He knew I'd been crying but I'm sure it was hard to see me that much of a wreck.

Alex's eyes widened. "Liz, what's wrong?" He asked.

He didn't know. They hadn't told him. He looked at Maria and Michael. They both looked away.

"What, I'm the last to know everything?" He demanded, walking closer to me. "Liz, what -"

"Max kissed Tess," I said.

Maria and Michael both looked over at me.

The more I said it, the easier it got.

"Liz," He said, shaking his head. "You're kidding me -"

"I think Liz should plant the camera," Maria announced.

All three of us stared at her.

"What?" Michael said. "Are you crazy?"

"Well, hello, that way it's not breaking and entering, Michael," She said, rolling her eyes. "Plus, I mean, Liz has a reason to be there..."

Michael stared at me closely. {Are you alright?}

{I'm okay, Michael. Really.}

", you know, she could go in and plant it and then we could see what they're really up to," Maria said, smiling. "Easy. Plus, Liz, you could tell her to back off of Max. That girl's got a pair coming in here and trying to steal people's boyfriends -"

"Are you nuts?" Michael snapped.

I knew it was coming. Maria didn't. Or Alex, for that matter. They both stared at him, mouths open.

"No," He snapped, staring at her, then me. "No way. Absolutely not."

"Michael -" I started.

He barreled right over me, turning to Maria. "What're you thinking? I just told you we think they're FBI -"

"That's why we need to be careful," Maria snapped back. "Liz doesn't have anything to hide from them -"

"Maria -"

"I can't believe you'd send your friend into a situation like that," Michael said, glaring at Maria.

"Michael, how else are we gonna do it? Break in? That's just gonna bring Valenti into it and you know he's just looking for an excuse -"

"I'll do it," I said quietly.

The bickering stopped. All three of them looked at me.

"You'll what," Michael said, his eyes flashing.

"I said I'll do it," I said, rubbing my face. "Alex, when can we set it up?"

"Uh - tomorrow," He said quickly. "I can set up the warehouse tonight and make sure the link is good -"

"Great," I said, turning back to Maria and Michael. Maria was grinning. "So I'll go tomorrow."

"Like hell," Michael growled.

"Michael -" Maria said, turning to him. "What is your damage? Look, it'll be fine -"

"I want to talk to Liz," He said, staring at me.

Maria's jaw dropped and her forehead crinkled up. "Michael -"

"It's okay," I said smoothly, taking her arm and walking with her toward the restaurant. I lowered my voice. "He's just worried I'll screw it up, Maria. I'll talk to him."

She stared at me for a second. "Alright," She said. "But -"

"It's okay," I said, letting go of her arm. "Really. It was a good idea, Maria."

She pursed her lips and turned to me. "Yeah," She said, glancing at Michael. "Maybe you could remind him of that."

I smiled. "I will."

She snorted and left the kitchen. The door swung shut behind her.

I turned around. Michael was glaring at me. I folded my arms and waited.

Alex looked at Michael, then me, then back at Michael.

"Alrighty then," He said, picking up the equipment. "I'm just gonna, uh, go to the, um - the warehouse, and I'll -"

"Great," Michael snapped.

"Okaybye," Alex said, stopping when he got next to me. "Liz - call me if you want to talk. About anything. Alright?"

I smiled at him. "Thanks, Alex," I whispered.

He glanced at Michael. "Good luck," He muttered, slipping past me.

The door swung in, then back, eventually coming to a stop. I stared at Michael, his arms folded over his chest, eyes narrowed and glaring at me.

"What. The hell. Are you thinking?"

I took a breath. "Michael, she's right. Someone does have to plant the camera -"

"Yeah," He said, unfolding his arms and walking towards me in full intimidation mode. He was so fast, I thought, fighting the instinct to back up.

"Someone," He hissed. "Not you."

"Michael -"

"It's insane," He snapped, pacing close to me, his fingers stabbing at the air. "It's dangerous, Liz, we don't know who they are -"

"Michael, please -"

"I'm not gonna risk your life like that, Parker. No way. You can forget it. I don't know what you're trying to prove -"

"I'm not trying to prove anything, Michael," I stressed. "I'm trying to help -"

"Help?" He snapped, turning on me. "You want to help. How about staying put. How about me not having to worry about you -"

I moved toward him, grabbing his arm, dragging him to the back. "Lower your voice, Michael, they can hear us," I whispered.

"Good!" He said loudly, twisting his arm out of my grasp and stopping in his tracks. "Fine. I don't care if they hear me. Max would tell you the same thing."

"Oh, is that who we're going to send in?" I asked, getting frustrated. "Max?"

His eyes flashed dangerously. "No. Me. I'll go -"

"Michael. If they are FBI, you can't -"

"Why not?" He snapped. "What, you think it's easier for me to think about you going in?"

"Michael," I said, lowering my voice to a whisper. "I'll be linked up to you the entire time. If anything goes wrong, I'll let you know and you can come and get me -"

He shook his head and threw his hands in the air. "This is insane. You're certifiable, Parker, did you know that? Get this. I'm going. Me. Get used to it."

"Michael, they'll never buy it -"

"Why not? You think I can't do a cover, Liz?" He leaned in to me, his eyes narrowing. "I've been Michael the human boy wonder my whole life. This is nothing."

"Michael, it's five minutes. I'm in, I'm out. That's it."

His eyes narrowed. "Why are you so intent on this?"

"I - I just think it'd be a good way to help," I said. "Plus I think Maria's right, I should confront her about what happened with her and Max -"

"I knew it!" He stormed into the back. "You still think he's telling you the truth -"

"Michael, what if he is telling the truth about her. What if she's doing something to him," I said quickly. He was shaking his head, pacing, his hands on his hips. "Michael, if it's true, if she's manipulating him somehow... maybe she'd be able to do the same thing to you."

He stopped and looked up. "What?"

"It makes sense, Michael," I said quickly. "If she's doing something to Max, making him do things he doesn't want to do - then maybe she'd be able to do the same thing to you, and you wouldn't be able to plant the camera."

He stared at me, his mouth open, his eyes narrowed.

"That's a hell of a risk to put on a what if," He snapped.

I crossed over to him, putting my hand on his arm. "But it's possible, Michael. He could be telling us the truth.

"And if he is, then -" I shrugged. "Then I'm right and you could be in worse danger than me."

His mouth closed and he pursed his lips. He looked out the window.

"Michael," I said gently after a few seconds. "You know I'm right."

He shook his head. We just stood there for a few minutes, both of us waiting for him to admit it. It was the only thing I could think of.

But if our positions were reversed, I'd be arguing, too.

"If anything happens in there," He said suddenly, still looking away from me. "I mean, anything -"

{I know, Michael.}

He looked down at me.

{No, Liz. You don't.}

Fair enough. My eyes flickered down and I took a deep breath. {Michael... I'll be careful. I promise.}

{We stay connected the entire time, Liz.}

I looked up at him. His jaw was clenched tight, his eyes locked on me. {If anything happens, anything, you tell me immediately.}

{Michael, we'll have the camera running, I'll be linked up with you. It'll be fine. Five minutes. Probably not even that.)

He shook his head stubbornly. {I still don't like it -}

"Michael, come on," I said softly, looking up at him. He looked down at me.

"What could go wrong?"


I walked out to the restaurant. Maria was sitting in a booth, a fork in her hand. She was stabbing at a piece of Men in Blackberry pie in front of her.

I slid into the seat across from her.

"Hey," I said, smiling. "How's the pie?"

"You know what really gets to me," She snapped, still stabbing at the pie. "He just - he thinks I'm stupid, you know? I mean, he's always running off on his own, like during that whole Topolsky thing, and - what would have happened if I didn't find him, Liz? If you and everybody else didn't all go after him?"

He might have found her. We might have the other orb.

I didn't say anything.

She was shaking her head. "I mean, he just -" She stabbed at the pie again. "I just wish he wouldn't give me such a hard time."

"It's a good idea, Maria," I said soothingly. "We're gonna do it."

"Yeah," She snorted. "Right."

"No - really, Maria," I said, putting my hand over hers. She looked up from the pie. "I'm gonna take it over. Tomorrow."

"Really?" She said, clearly surprised. I nodded. "But he was so - how did you -"

I shrugged. "I don't know," I said, rolling my eyes. "He just had to, you know, blow off some steam."

Her eyes narrowed. "Excuse me? 'Blow off some steam'?"

"Yeah," I said, leaning back. "What?"

"Well - nothing," She said, laughing a little. "Except that that's something Michael says that all the time. 'Blow off some steam.' Like he's a pressure cooker or something.

"You've never said that before."

"Oh. Right," I said quickly. "He, um - he said it. Just now. In the kitchen."

She stared at me for a second, and then rolled her eyes. "Well, no wonder," She snorted, picking at her pie with her fork. "Typical."

"I've heard that food is actually intended for consumption," I said, smiling. "Not so much for bludgeoning-torture purposes."

She rolled her eyes and picked a small piece of pie up with her fork, taking a bite. "Mmm."


She nodded, her mouth full, bringing another piece up on the fork and holding it out to me. "Here," She mumbled, swallowing. "'S good."

I smiled, leaning in to take the bite. "Mm," I mumbled, swallowing. "Yummy."

She smiled. "Thanks for talking to him. Michael, I mean," She said, rolling her eyes.

"Sure," I said, smiling.

"What are friends for?"


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