I was in the front passenger seat of the Jeep. Isabel and Alex were holding each other in the backseat, and Max was driving.

I felt numb. I couldn't believe what I'd just witnessed. Valenti, the orb -

I flashed back to Max hitting Michael and bit my lip.

How could he do it? Why didn't I stop him?

Isabel was talking in the back.

"- can't believe it," She said. "What was Michael thinking?"

"He wasn't," Max snapped, contempt in his voice. "He never does. And now we've lost the orb."

He looked over at me and his face softened. "I'm sorry you had to see that," He said gently.

I stared at him.

Nice job, Michael.

As if it was Michael's fault the orb went flying when Max hit him. He's the one who hit Michael, who knocked it out of his hand in the first place -

I still couldn't believe it. He hit him. And he knew about Hank, he knew everything -

I don't know him, I thought. I don't know him at all.

"You're going to apologize to him," I whispered. "Right?"

There was a pause. He looked at me, shocked.


"How could you hit him," I whispered, trying to keep the edge out of my voice. My hands were shaking. "Max, you know about -"

"Liz, I - I didn't mean to upset you -"

"Upset me?" I said, my jaw dropping. "Me? Max -"

I couldn't finish the sentence. I didn't have the words. I could feel the tension in the car skyrocketing.

"Take me home," I whispered. The tears welled up in my eyes.

"Liz - I'm sorry -"

I clamped my mouth over the scream. He was sorry I was upset with him, but he wouldn't apologize to Michael.

How could I care for a person like that?

"Just Take. Me. Home," I said, turning and staring out the window. Being with Michael had taught me something about ending a discussion.

Nobody said anything after that.


I stared at her rooftop. It was later than I'd expected. Maria had been near hysterics. Maybe she wasn't up -

Be honest, Guerin. You're just afraid of what she's gonna say.

I shoved my hands in my pockets and looked down the street. I hadn't told Liz about talking to Whiteotter. I was sure there was a price to pay for that.

Yeah. No point in putting it off any longer.

Another five minutes passed before I climbed the ladder.


She was wrapped in a blanket, sitting on the lawnchair. She stood up and walked toward me when I jumped over the ledge.

"Hey," I mumbled. "Look, before you say anything -"

"Did he hurt you," She whispered.

I felt my lips moving, but no sound came out.

"Liz, it's - it's okay -"

"Michael. Did he hurt you."

I took a breath. "No," I said. "I'm fine."

She just stood there, staring at me. "I can't believe he did that," She whispered. "Why did he do that, Michael -"

I tried to say it was alright, it was fine, that it didn't bother me.

She was staring at me. "Here," She whispered, bringing something up in her hands.

A cloth. It was cool and wet in my hands. "You've got -"

I didn't get all the blood.

I turned away, swiping at the edge of my mouth. Idiot, why didn't you check -

"Michael, don't -" She was reaching for my arm. "Don't do it rough like that."

I sat down on the ledge and stared at the cloth in my hands. She took it away from me and sat down beside me, raising the cloth to my face slowly, touching the damp fabric to my face.

"It's okay," She whispered, the cloth touching the edge of my lip, my chin. "It's alright."

I didn't say anything. Nothing was alright.

But it was nice of her to say it, anyway.

She lowered the cloth. "It was so hard, sitting next to him all the way home -" She paused. When she spoke again her voice was trembling.

"He had no right to do that, Michael."

I laughed a little.

"Actually," I said, "He had every right."

I looked over at her. "Maybe not about the orb," I said quietly. "But..."

But he does about you.

She closed her mouth and bit her lip, shaking her head slowly. "That doesn't excuse it, Michael," She whispered. "I still can't believe he -"

"Liz," I said, standing up and reaching for her, "It's okay -"

"It's not," She whispered. "Michael, I've never seen him like that. I was so scared - "

I pulled her into a hug. Her arms wound around my body, clutching me tight to her.

"He's never been like that," I said.

Dark times are coming, and you're not taking them seriously -

We stayed that way for a while, our arms around each other. I waited for her to ask me why I went, why I didn't tell her.

After a while she stood up. "Come on," She said, her hand reaching for mine. She turned toward her room.


"I need some sleep," She said. "And you're not going home alone. Not with alien hunters and Max going ballistic. You're staying with me."

I stood up, but didn't move. "Aren't you going to ask me?"

She turned and looked at me. "Ask you what?"

"Why I went," I stressed. "Why I took the orb -"

"I'm sure you had your reasons," She said quietly. "And when you're ready to tell me, you will."

"You're not mad?"

She turned around. "Hell, yes," She said. "I'm mad. But I trust you, Michael. So you'll tell me when you're ready."

I didn't know what to say to that.

"You haven't said anything to me about bringing Max up there after you," She said quietly.

I just looked at her.

I hadn't even thought about that.

"You were just worried about me," I said simply. "I get that."

"So you're not mad?" She whispered. "That I brought him up there? That he..." Her voice trailed off.

I was confused for a second. Then I saw the tears in her eyes.

She thought it was her fault.

"No," I said quickly. "No. Liz, Max hitting me is Max's deal. Not yours."

"But -"

"No buts. You had nothing to do with that," I said, pulling her closer to me, touching her face.

"You don't feel guilty about that, Liz."

She nodded slowly. I think she was crying.

Damnit, Maxwell. I could deal with him taking it out on me, but did he have to hurt her -

I stopped.

- Liz doesn't get hurt by your going to meet Topolsky.

Not directly.

The problem with oracles is that they only show you a glimpse, a thin sliver or the picture. And you don't understand the whole image until you're in the thick of it -

And then it's too late.

"That's what she meant," I mumbled.

Liz looked up. "What who meant?"

"Whiteotter," I said.

I told her everything.


"So who's right?" I asked, the two of us lying together on her bed. "Was Topolsky telling the truth or that doctor?"

"I don't know," He muttered, running his hand through his hair. His ring glinted silver in the moonlight. "I don't trust Valenti."

That was no surprise.

"Whiteotter said we'd know she was telling the truth," I said, my hand stroking his fingertips. "Everything happened, Michael, the way she said it would."

"I know," He groaned, leaning back on the quilt. "I wish we knew who to trust."

"She was really drunk?"

"Blitzed out of her mind," He said, waving his hands. "Shot glasses everywhere."

"Maybe we should try and find her again -"

"No," He said, cutting me off and shaking his head. "I think it should be just the two of us making decisions for a while."

"Okay," I whispered. "Then here's one."

He looked over at me.

"I'm leaving Max unless he apologizes to you," I said.

"Liz, I don't think he -"

"I don't care what he thought," I said. "I mean it."

He pursed his lips and smiled a little. "Well," He laughed. "That'll teach him."

I smiled back. "I can't believe you got Maria shampoo," I said.

"Oh, please," He said, rolling his eyes. "Like bubble bath was a better choice."

"It seems to make him happy," I said, shaking my head.

He choked back a laugh and shook his head. "What?" I asked, shoving him a little.

"Oh, nothing," He said. "Just he's buying you stuff because he thinks you like it, and you're pretending to like it to make him happy..."

I kissed him on the cheek and curled around him, listening to the steady rythym of our hearts.

"How's Maria," I asked carefully.

He snorted. "She was chugging some exotic veterinarian elixir when I left," He said. "It seemed to make her feel better."

Grief relief. Of course.

"She kept rattling on about the two of us being in a relationship," He continued.

I smiled. That sounded like Maria.

"Maybe we could, you know, not talk about Maria," He muttered. "That would be a great idea, Michael."

"She is part of your life, Michael," I said, leaning up and looking at him. "It's not unreasonable for a girl to have expectations."

"Yeah, well, you can have all the expectations you want," He muttered. "So I'm all booked up."

I smiled and snuggled closer to him. "I'm glad you're okay, Michael," I whispered.

He kissed my forehead and I felt his hand stroking my hair.

I fell asleep in minutes.


I was at work the next day when Isabel came in. "Hey," She said.

"Hey," I said carefully, raising my order pad. "What can I get you?"

She sat down at the counter. "Listen, Liz, I wanted to tell you that - that Max really thought about what you said to him last night."

My pen hovered over the order pad. "Really," I said.

"Yeah, he, um -" She glanced toward the kitchen. "I think he's talking with Michael now."

I glanced toward the kitchen. I heard both their voices, low and calm.

"I don't suppose I'll have to call 911 because there's a fistfight," I said, setting the order pad down.

"Liz, I know Max shouldn't have hit him," Isabel said. "He's just really tense right now."

"I know," I said, turning to her. "But that's no excuse."

She looked down at the counter. "No," She said. "It's not."

"Thanks for stopping them," I said simply.

She looked up and smiled weakly. "Thanks," She said. "They've never done that before."

"I was really glad you stopped them," I said slowly. "I don't know what would have happened if you hadn't been there."

She shrugged, tossed her hair a little. "They would've worked it out," She said, her voice tight. "They always do."


"Liz told me I should talk to you," Max said, watching me work.

"Kinda busy at the moment, Maxwell."

"Michael, look, I -"

I put down the spatula and folded my arms over my chest. "What?"

"You're not making this easy for me, Michael."

"I don't make anything easy for you, Maxwell," I said, shaking my head. "Why should this time be any different?"

"You shouldn't have taken the orb -" He snapped.

"Sorry - what was it, exactly, that Liz wanted you to talk to me about?"

"Would you let me finish?"

I rolled my eyes. "Oh, please," I said. "Continue."

"You shouldn't have taken the orb, and I - I shouldn't have lost it like that."

I stared at him. An Apology, by Max Evans.

So it was backhanded. Still.

He did have it really bad for her.

"Yeah, well, don't sweat it," I said. "We'll get the orb back."

"So we're okay," He said carefully.

"Yeah, yeah," I said, picking up the spatula and waving it in the air. "We're fine. Great."

"Okay," He said, turning for the door. I shook my head. He couldn't wait to tell her.

"Hey, Max?" I called out. He turned around.

"Next time, it won't be this easy."

He blinked. "Yeah. Sorry, Michael."

I shrugged. "Whatever."

I watched the door close behind him.

Dark times are ahead -

Everybody had to be ready for them.

I felt Liz reaching out to me. {Michael? Did Max just -}

{Yeah, he did. Apologize, anyway. Of sorts.} I snorted. {We're fine.}

{You're sure -}

{Yes, Liz, I'm sure.}

I felt her relax and move over to the coffeemaker.

{Well, I guess I'll be nice, then.}

I grinned and flipped another burger.


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