Dark Nights



I'd been waiting in the kitchen for a few minutes when I heard the key in the door, and the latch turned. Michael walked in and locked the door behind him.

"Michael, what's going on -"

He pulled me close quickly, his mouth on mine, his kiss warm, insistent. His hands were on my face, pulling me closer to him, sliding down my neck, my shoulders, crushing my body against him.

He stopped way too soon.

"Sorry," He whispered, weaving his fingers through my hair. "I just had to do that."

"I sent Maria home early," I whispered.

He nodded. "Good."

"Michael, why wouldn't you talk to me earlier?"

"Something's going on with Max, Liz. He's talking to Valenti, something weird is happening with Tess -"

"With Tess?"

"He's having fantasies about her, Liz. "

My mouth dropped.

"What?"

He rolled his eyes. "I know. I don't get it either. I don't think he knows what's going on -"

"Tess?"

"Yeah," He said. He looked at me, his gaze sharpening. "You okay?"

"Well, yeah - it's just -"

I didn't know what to say. I'd gotten so used to Max being in love with me that I'd never considered him falling for someone else -

This is good news, Liz.

Right?

"But - but then maybe he can be with her," I said, looking up at Michael. "Maybe he'll want to be with her, and we won't have to do this anymore -"

"That would be great," Michael said. "Except I think she's FBI."

My blood ran cold. "Michael, you're not serious -"

"I went to her house today, Liz. After he talked to me about her. "

"What did he say?"

Michael shrugged, shook his head. "That he couldn't control these - daydreams he was having. That it seemed like she knew something about him."

"So what was at her house," I whispered.

"Nothing," He said, his hands on his face, his hair. He only did that when he was nervous. "Nothing but military guys. Camouflage and M-16s, Liz. The whole works."

I couldn't say anything.

"She's not who she says she is," He said, shaking his head. "And neither Max or Is wanted to believe me. Isabel told me flat out that I was wrong. She's going to follow up on it."

"Michael, that could be dangerous -"

"She's the only one that has a reason to be there," He said. "She'll be alright."

"So what - what do we do about Max, Michael?"

He looked down at me. "Nothing," He whispered. "For right now, we do nothing."

I bit my lip. Whiteotter didn't mention any of this -

Not that you gave her a chance, Liz.

"Yeah," He said. "I'm thinking the same thing. Not to mention the fact that Max is having deep, meaningful discussions with Valenti..." His voice trailed off. "Liz, Topolsky was telling the truth."

I could feel my hands shaking. My heart hurt.

He looked over at me. "Whoa," He said, putting his hands on me. "What is it -"

"It's true," I whispered. "Everything's true, everything Whiteotter said -"

"Calm down," He said, pulling me into a hug. "Liz, it's okay -"

"Maybe this is it," I said breathlessly. "Maybe this was what she was talking about. Michael, if he wants to be with her that much, maybe he'll break up with me. Maybe we can -"

He was shaking his head. "I don't see it happening, Liz. I'm sorry, you know I want that, but I don't think that's what's going to happen. I think he believes she's -" He stopped, waving his hands. "I don't know, that she's doing something to him. Messing with his head somehow."

But that's -

The word impossible floated on my tongue.

Nothing is impossible anymore.

I almost cried. I just wanted to be with him. That was all I wanted.

Why couldn't things be normal?

"I have to go," I whispered. "I have to finish locking up."

"Liz, come on -"

"Michael - I'm fine. Just - I just need a little time to think about all this."

He looked at me. "Okay," He said slowly. "If you're sure."

I nodded. "I'm okay."

"Okay," He said, taking a step away from me. "Tell me if anything weird happens. Alright?"

I nodded. "I will."

He reached for the door and opened it. "Michael -"

"What?"

{I love you.}

He smiled, his face worried and anxious, leaning in to kiss me. "I love you," He whispered, his lips warm against my face.

"I'm sorry I'm so upset," I whispered. "I just need some time to think -"

"It's okay," He said, kissing my forehead. "Let me know if you need anything."

I nodded, feeling a little better. He smiled broader and then he was out the door, slipping through the rain and the darkness into the alley and the door drifted closed with a click.

I stepped out into the restaurant, trying to catch my breath. There was a lightning flash outside and I saw a shape at the door.

Max.

{Michael -} He was already turning the corner. {Max is here.}

He stopped. {Michael -}

{-I'm here, Liz. What are you gonna do?}

{I - I'll talk to him.}

He nodded. {Okay. Let's stay connected, though.}

I nodded slightly, moving to the door. I hesitated a second before opening it. He stepped in as soon as I opened the door.

"What's going on, Max?

"I wanna talk," He whispered. He looked worried. Anxious.

"About what -"

"Liz, about what Michael said before, about Tess, I just...I want you to know that I don't feel anything for her."

My heart sank.

"I look at you, and I know you're the person I'm supposed to be with. I've always known it. What happened here that day, when you got shot, and how that brought us together... it's fate.

"Look at me," He whispered. "You're the one, Liz. The only one.

"I could never be with anyone else."

He pulled me into a hug, smoothing down my hair. I nearly cried.

{Michael?}

I could feel him, out in the rain, the water running down his hair, over his shoulders. He didn't say anything for a second.

{-I'm sorry, Liz.}

I was going to cry.

Max let me go and turned to leave. I shook my head. He turns my life upside down and then disappears. It was becoming a pattern with him -

The door shut, and I was alone.

{Liz - are you okay?}

I shook my head. {No. I'm not, Michael.} I glanced outside. {I -}

Max was talking with someone. A blonde, by her car.

{Michael, it's her. It's Tess.}

{What?}

{Outside. Look -}

I felt his powers surging through my body, intensifying my senses, and knew he could see it too. The way Max shook his head, eyes wide and scared. Insisting that he loved me, that there was no one else, there could never be anyone else -

And then he was kissing her, in the rain and lightning.

I felt nothing. I was numb. Michael was right.

She was doing something to him.

{Michael, he's in trouble -}

He was opening the door to his apartment. {He's coming here, Liz. I know he is.} He glanced around, shoving some sketchpads under the couch.

{Michael - you're soaked -}

He glanced down at his clothes, the material clinging to his body. He made a brusque motion with his hand and the moisture just evaporated.

{I'll come over when he's gone, Liz.}

{Are you sure -}

{Yes. Don't worry.}

I felt the push from his mind, gentle but deliberate, and the connection was gone.

I climbed the stairs to my room and tried not to worry.


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