Disclaimer: Me no own. You no sue. Belongs to that guy with the napkin and his buddies. Unfortunately. Sigh.
A/N: One down, four to go. I might even have to give you guys extra chapters with this post, because I think I promised everybody these chapters for Valentine's Day. hangs head in shame I suck. I don't deserve such loyal readers. revels in kind reviews and other praise despite undeservingness
Jeff Parker had come into the breakroom the night before and gently reminded Liz that she was over curfew, before Michael could ask her any questions. So, feeling useless, he'd swung by Max's house and picked up the translation of the Destiny Book, wanting to read through it again to see if there was anything in it about them being able to 'infect' humans with their powers. He remembered what Ava had said-that Max healing Liz had made her different-and wished he could talk to the girl.
The Destiny Book was about as useful as the Granolith had turned out to be. It talked about the healing stones, a little, but those were for healing a sick alien. Then it mentioned that the King could use the healing stones to amplify his own natural abilities. Michael had a suspicion that if Max healing Liz was what had caused the problem in the first place, him 'healing' her again wouldn't do anything but make it worse. Besides, she wasn't sick-at least, not in the typical sense.
He'd been reading all night when Liz opened his apartment door just before dawn. "Michael?"
"What is it?"
In answer, she raised one of her hands. The long sleeve of the baggy sweater she was wearing fell back, showing her hands crackling with green lightning. "I think you'd better call the others."
"I will, just…come here a minute." He pulled her into his lap, keeping her close as he tried to tamp down the panic.
"It hurts," she hissed.
"Am I hurting you?"
"No, just the lightning…it feels like I'm being electrocuted." She fought back tears. "Michael, am I going to die?"
"No." He had a sinking feeling that, even though he'd promised that he'd never lie to her, he might be breaking it. "I won't let you," he added, and that part was true. "Did you get any sleep last night?"
"Not really," she admitted, the words a little shaky.
"Why don't you go lie down? We're gonna have to go through some of the old papers Nacedo left, maybe call Langley. It'll take time. And when my powers are out of whack, not sleeping always makes it worse."
"Okay. I could lie down for a bit."
"Are you hungry?"
He opened the refrigerator. "I have…um. The rest of the pizza you brought over Monday night."
"Hot sauce and jellybeans, Liz?"
"Mmhm," she agreed, already reaching for a slice and taking a bite.
"I don't know if I should be more worried, or less."
"Shtut up," she suggested around another mouthful. "Ish delishush."
"Yes, ma'am." He watched as she leaned against the counter and ate two slices of pizza dripping in liquid fire without so much as a wince, then started poking around in his kitchen.
"Michael…when was the last time you cleaned your fridge?"
"Uh…Iz cleaned it when I moved in," he admitted.
"That was two years ago!"
"Liz…maybe this is not the best time to worry about my refrigerator."
"Probably not, but I need something else to concentrate on. Go call the others, okay? I'll try to tire myself out, and then maybe I can get some sleep."
By the time Michael had called-and woken up-Max, Kyle, Valenti, and Isabel, and explained the situation, Liz had wiped down the inside of the fridge with soap and bleach, scraped the rotted goo out of the vegetable trays, and was busy defrosting his freezer.
"You know," she said, "The more often you do this, the less disgusting it is."
"I'll take that under advisement."
"Yeah, I'm sure you will."
"Nope, probably not," he agreed. "Feeling any better?"
"Lightning stopped," she replied, her head inside the freezer compartment as she chipped ice with a plastic spatula. "You know, if you do this every once in a while-" she chipped a particularly large chunk to emphasize her point- "you can fit more than a single tray of ice cubes in the freezer. Like maybe some pistachio ice cream?"
"Uh-huh." Michael sat on one of the barstools at the counter and started paging through the destiny book translation again.
"You know." There was an exceptionally long pause. "You haven't told me that you love me yet."
Michael thought about that for a second. "No. I guess I haven't," he realized. "God, Liz, I'm an idiot. You know I love you!" he added, a little desperately, because all of a sudden he wasn't sure that she did.
"Of course I do," she assured him matter-of-factly. "But especially when stuff like this is going on, it's nice to hear."
"I love you a lot," he said simply, then frowned because it sounded kind of lame and unconvincing. "I love you more than my bike," he added, and it was a little corny and a little ridiculous. And true. Definitely true. And he knew that he could say that to her, and she would take it as it was meant.
She giggled. "That much? Wow," she observed, with only a hint of sarcasm. She lifted her face for a kiss, then sighed. "I think I can sleep now. I'm going to lie down, okay?"
"Sure, honey. You can change into one of my shirts if you want."
"For being what I needed." She said it like it was simple; like he had any idea what he was doing when it came to the man-woman thing. And it made him feel like maybe he did. If he kept getting things right consistently, how long could he really consider it a fluke?
Liz was pretty sure that she wouldn't be able to sleep, never mind what she'd said to Michael. But she changed into one of his button-down shirts and rolled up the sleeves, and when she climbed into his bed, the pillows smelled like him, oranges and spice and the desert, and she was asleep before her next breath.
She was woken by Michael's hand on her shoulder. "You need to wake up, Liz."
"Mmm. What is it?"
"Max called Langley. He says we have to come to LA, he's sending his plane. We leave in an hour."
"An hour? Michael, what…?" She rubbed one hand over her eyes.
"He said if you have Cadmium X poisoning we don't have a whole lot of time."
"The stuff that was on Pierce's bones?"
"Yes. Apparently its' a residue that we leave behind whenever we use our powers, and it takes a lot of energy to bring someone back from the dead, which equals high exposure."
"So I've been exposed to a heavy metal on the molecular level, and it's altering me the same way. Poison, or maybe cancer, and any of you using your powers to try and fix it will only make it worse."
"Yeah," Michael said. He knew it was blunt, and a lot to dump on her in the space of a minute, but they didn't have time for a lot of coddling, and she always dealt with a crisis better when she had a handle on all the details.
"But Cal thinks he can fix it?"
"Good." She sat up. "Let's go."
The jet that waited had a fully stocked wet bar and two perky flight attendants, even at half past yawn. They were going with Max. This won't be awkward at all, Michael mused sarcastically. Max was giving him weird looks, either because Liz was wearing his shirt over her clothes and sleeping on his shoulder, or because he'd come along at all, Michael couldn't tell.
There was a limo waiting at the airport, and it took them directly to Langley's mansion. The man himself answered the door. "Well, if it isn't King Nothing," he sneered.
Michael snorted with laughter. "On your throne, all alone," he muttered.
Langley shot him an appreciative glance. "Since you're here, you might as well come in."
"Thank you for doing this," Max was saying, awkwardly. "After what happened last time…"
"Shove the gratitude, kid," was his gruff reply. "I hate you. I'd kill you if I could. I'm only cleaning up your mistake because you ordered me to, and I'm kind of curious to see the girl worth going to the White Room for. So far, I'm not impressed."
Liz looked him up and down, rather insolently, considering he was a movie mogul and a shapeshifter who could kill her in a fingersnap. "So far, neither am I."
He barked a laugh. "You've got moxie, I'll give you that. Give me your hand and I'll have a look." He took her offered hand and held it, closing his eyes briefly. His eyelids fluttered, and he frowned. Finally he let go. "Well. That was unexpected."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Max demanded.
"All in my own good time, your Majesty." He smirked. "Why don't you and your second take a walk. I need to talk to the queen, here."
Very reluctantly, Max and Michael both crossed the enormous entryway and headed for the patio. Langley guestured for her to follow him into the living room, and she did. He sat down and started laughing. He laughed until tears rolled down his face. "It's too perfect," he howled. "He couldn't take his eyes off you, and you're doing Soldier-boy! It's like a plot out of one of my movies! I'll help you just for that."
"Okay. That's half the deal."
"What more do you want than your life?"
"I want you to use your influence to get Michael an interview with the Bay Academy of the Arts in San Francisco."
"That's a long way from Harvard, kid."
"Not from Berkeley," Liz returned.
"And why should I help you? The only one who can order me around isn't going to lift a finger to help your boyfriend once he finds out what's going on."
"Because you're not the only one who saw things. And I saved a Gandarium sample, not to mention I have some of Laurie Dupree's blood."
"No, no, no," he said, wagging his finger, scolding her. "Don't try to play a player, little girl. The Gandarium's useless with the queen of the hive dead."
Liz shook her head. "I'm close to being able to activate it chemically. If what we had before was the strength of a virus, this will be like a vaccine. I wouldn't be able to create a hybrid embryo with your essence, but with compatible genetic material I should be able to…infect you with humanity. Enough to give you some sensation. Isn't that what you want more than anything?"
He raised one eyebrow. "And you think you can do that, hmm?"
"No promises, but I'm going to major in molecular biology. I already know what you are, and I won't expose you. In San Francisco, I'll be able to come down here on weekends every time I need to run a trial. I'm your best chance, and you know it. Unless, of course, you'd like to wait another thirty years to be able to smell chlorine."
"All you want is an interview?"
"And a word of recommendation. And a scholarship."
"For him or for you?"
"For him. I've already been offered a scholarship. Early acceptance."
He raised one eyebrow. "You're smart, ruthless and devious. You would have made a good queen."
Liz blinked a couple of times. "I'm not sure that's a compliment."
"It's the best one you're going to get from me. Now. As for the small matter of your life. I suddenly find myself quite interested in assuring your survival."
"I was more or less counting on that," Liz observed dryly. "So how bad is it?"
"The only thing you're in danger of dying from is old age."
That was so far from what she'd expected to hear that her brain couldn't process it. "Excuse me?"
"No Cadmium X poisoning. No cancer. The residue has altered your genes, but you're not going to die from it."
"You're developing Antarian cells. Think of it as an intra-species bone marrow transplant."
"I'm developing Antarian cells," she repeated incredulously.
"Is there an echo in here? Yes. As in, congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Parker-" he spread his hands and smiled- "it's an alien."
She was going to be like Max, Michael and Isabel. She definitely hadn't expected that one. "What are my powers going to be?" she asked at last, feeling overwhelmed.
"What am I, a fortune cookie? You'll know when you get 'em." He pulled out a Treo, and started consulting the screen. When she stayed seated, he said without looking up, "That's it. Go home. Don't call me, I'll call you."
"All right." Liz stood up. "Thanks for nothing, I guess."
That earned her one sharp look through lilac-tinted shades. "Hey, more flies with honey, kid. You still want a favor out of me for something you might or might not be able to do, so watch your mouth."
"I'll think about it," Liz shot back.
He laughed. "You've got guts, I'll give you that. Limo's waiting. Get your lapdogs and get out of my sight. I have things to do."
Shaking her head, Liz wandered out of the room and in the same direction Max and Michael had gone.
Max's brooding silence was so loud, it was giving Michael a headache. "For the millionth time, Maxwell, if whatever is wrong with Liz was caused by you healing her, you healing her again will only make it worse. Stop thinking about it."
"But what if Langley can't do anything?"
"Then we look for Ava. Contact Larek. Take her to a witch doctor. I'm not letting her die, so don't worry about it."
"How can I not?"
Because she's mine now! Back off. But that probably would not be smart. So Michael didn't say it. "Let's not burn that bridge until we get to it."
"You two can stop moping," Liz said from the doorway. "I'm okay."
"What do you mean, you're okay?" Max demanded.
"I'm okay. Not dying. I'm just growing some little green cells."
"I was praying it was something like that." Michael felt his whole body slump with relief. "So you're getting powers, like us?"
"Uh-huh. And I'm guessing they're going to be a little wacky until I learn how to control them. Yours were like that, weren't they?"
"Everything but spewing pea soup," Michael confirmed. "Especially when I was…agitated." And what he meant by that was, No kissing around anything flammable.
"Okay. Well. I don't know about you, but I've definitely had enough of L.A."
"You have no idea," Michael agreed with feeling. "Let's get the hell out of here."
Kyle wasn't sure if anyone had thought to call Maria in New York. He was pretty sure not. But he knew that just because she'd moved away, that didn't mean she wouldn't want to know that her best friend was possibly dying. So he picked up a calling card on his way home from work and called her.
"Hello, Maria Deluca here. Sorry to miss your call, I'm recording my first album right now! If this is ET calling for an exclusive, leave me a name and number, and I'll call you back!"
"Maria, it's Kyle. Liz collapsed a couple of days ago. She almost died, and now she's setting things on fire and getting green lightning under her skin. Max and Michael took her to see Cal Langley. We don't know what's wrong, but it's really…it's bad, and I thought you should know. Call back when you get this, or…come home if you can. God, of course you can't. I don't know why I called. Screw it. Bye."
I like Langley. Well, really, I love the character actor who plays him, but tomato, to-mah-to. Either way, you'll be seeing more of him.