Handle With Care

Primary Characters: Michael, Max
Rating: K+
Spoilers: Yes (Season 1)
Description: Michael is having trouble dealing with his powers. Max tries to teach him to control them, and about healing.

The shock and disorientation after all the new revelations had all four young aliens reeling with the impact. Their task, their quest seemed far too much for a group of teenagers to be saddled with. How would they cope?

But worse than all that was the realization that they might never again experience the love and sense of belonging they had felt with their human friends. And for all of them except Tess, there was also someone who was far more than a mere friend.

Max’s sight was blurred by the tears he couldn’t shed in front of the people he had been sent to lead. But he felt more like a teenage boy than a leader right now. Liz had just walked away from him. Leaving him to cope all on his own.

Now it was really brought home to him how much he had come to depend on her help and support during the past months. Not even the feat he had performed just hours earlier, when he had brought Kyle back to life could dim the feeling of loss and trauma. And for once there was no help to be had from Isabel.

Max’s sister was struggling with her own sense of loss. Not until now had she realized what Alex had come to mean to her. He was far from the guy she had dreamed of in the past few years, but now she knew that her dreams had been wrong.

Alex was everything she could hope for. This strange infatuation she had begun to feel for Michael made her sick. Michael was her brother every bit as much as Max was, and no amount of mental tampering could change that simple fact.

And now her forceful personality reasserted itself. Why was Max their leader? Only she knew how much he had depended on her in the past to make any and all decisions. The only reason she had let him take the lead was the desperation he had shown at times. Wasn’t she as suited as Max to help them through this difficult time?

Her mind rebelled at the thought of having been created, not simply born, just to realize some strange people’s plans. People, or creatures, who lived far beyond everything she knew as home. Maybe their cause was right, but what gave them the right to steal human DNA and make these four children for their own selfish ends?

And who said they were more alien than human? Earth had provided more than half of their DNA, if they could believe Nasedo. So how did that make them the property of those aliens? She needed time to think it all through, and it was obvious that she would get no help from Tess. Actually, right now, she didn’t want to speak to the girl or look at her.

And Michael… What was Michael doing? Where was he? Not until now did it filter through to Isabel’s numb brain that Michael was no longer with them. Had he done as he always did when things became too much for him? Run out into the desert where they had been born? Inwardly, Isabel swore in a way that would have had her parents staring at her confusion.

Not that, on top of everything else. Michael really could be more than a girl should have to handle. But somehow the realization that something had to be done helped. Her mind was clear again. She would deal with the rest later. Alex, their new assignment, everything. Right now they needed to stay together.

For the first time since the situation had exploded right in their faces, Isabel regretted seeing the last of Liz. That girl was no friend of hers, but there was no denying that the cool scientific mind of Max’s girlfriend would have been needed now. And even Maria. She refused to let herself dwell on how much she needed Alex.

Would she go after Michael herself? She didn’t want to do that. Those weird dreams had been embarrassing enough. No, Max would have to snap out of his daze and help out. It would do him good to think about something other than himself.


She had to repeat the word three times before her brother turned all his attention on her.

“What is it, Isabel?”

“Michael’s gone. You have to go find him. We need to stick together.”

Without even looking at the blonde girl, Isabel knew that Tess was going to say something and she wouldn’t have it. Not now.

“No, Tess. Shut up. I don’t want to hear it. Not now. Max?”

“Alright, I’m going.”

“Good. Tess and I will wait here.”

“Why -“

“Just shut up, will you? All this is too confusing. I don’t need to listen to your propaganda right now.”

“It’s not propaganda. It’s -“

“I know. Don’t tell me, it’s our destiny. How do you know it is? Because Nasedo filled your head with all this from an early age? How can you know you can trust him? You’ve seen him kill people in cold blood, time after time. What does that make you?”

“That’s not fair.”

Reminding herself what a different upbringing Tess had had, Isabel forced herself not to be too hard on her. How could the girl know what it was like to be human when she had been raised by a cold-blooded shape-shifting alien?

“I know it isn’t. Sorry, Tess. But you have to see that we all have experiences, feelings that you know nothing about. And we can’t set all that aside because you and that alien show up and tell us we have a task to do for some faraway planet that might not even be there anymore. You can’t expect us to stop being human. Because that’s what we are. Even Nasedo said so. Our DNA is mostly human. And Max and I and even Michael were raised by humans.”

“You don’t have to tell me about that. Have you any idea how I wished I had the same sort of life other kids had? But this is too important -“

“So you say. I don’t know. But I guess we will have to deal with it. Typical. I always saw myself going off to college. Now I suppose I won’t even have a high school diploma.”

And Isabel silenced Tess with a gesture, the next time the girl opened her mouth. Maybe it was unfair, but right now Isabel had had about as much she could take from Tess.

Max was running blindly through the twilight. Why did Michael have to act up like this now? Didn’t he see that they were all shaken up by what had happened? But that alien-hunting madman had been about to kill them all. It was self-defense, and Max thought he might have been able to kill him himself, if he had known how. He knew Isabel would and most likely all of the others, except maybe Alex.

When he twisted his ankle and almost fell, Max realized he could end up seriously injured. If he did, it might be hours before one of the others could find him. Finally, his superior senses kicked in. Now he moved slower, more cautiously. But he could feel nothing, not a clue about where Michael could be hiding. In the end, Max stopped completely, and closing his eyes he let his senses probe the emptiness around him.

Finally, he had a glimpse of Michael’s closed and pained face. Now that he had stopped running, and was crouched on the ground like a wounded animal, he seemed to have given in to the tears that had been burning his eyes ever since he had killed that man. Michael’s body was shaking uncontrollably.

Quickly Max broke off the contact. Not because he was afraid that Michael would catch him spying on this intimate moment, but simply because he didn’t want to intrude. Not like this. When he reached that spot in person he would find a way of introducing his presence in time for Michael to hide his tears if he wanted to.

Michael seemed to have run very far in such a short time. Or maybe it wasn’t such a short time. When Liz had left them it had still been daylight outside, now it was rapidly getting pitch dark. In any case, Michael was further away than Max had thought. It was more than an hour before he finally reached the spot where Michael was hiding.

Max stopped to consider his next move. When Michael was in this kind of mood, only Isabel, and lately Maria had been able to reach him. But Max didn’t blame Isabel for not wanting to see Michael right now. If it had been him, experiencing those weird dreams about Michael, Max knew nothing in the world could have made him go to him.

In the end he decided that he would simply call out Michael’s name from where he was standing. That should give the boy time to compose himself. Max did so and waited. He tried again, and then again. He was beginning to think Michael wasn’t even going to reply. Now he was out of patience with his friend.

Hadn’t all this been hard on all of them? Who did Michael think he was anyway, throwing these tantrums all the time. Sure his life had been very different from Max’s and Isabel’s. But sooner or later he would have to face the fact that no matter what had happened to him, he would have to grow up one day and take responsibility for himself. No one else was going to it for him, especially now that he had pushed Maria away.

“What do you want?”

“Michael, you can’t do this anymore. We’re not kids anymore and you will have to do your part in all this. You think Isabel and I like it any more than you do? We didn’t ask to have all this landed on us. But we’ll manage somehow. If we all stick together -“

“You think I’m sulking out here, because the secret was something different than we’d imagined?”

“Then what is it?”

Max knew well enough what was bothering Michael, but thought it best to let the boy tell him in his own words. Then maybe he would find something that would console him enough to come back to the others.

“You know what it is. What if I can’t control it? What if I kill someone else?”

“You’ve never killed anyone before, so I know it won’t just happen. Your foster father -“

“I don’t want to talk about him.”

“He hit you, and you never did anything to hurt him back, did you?”


“There you see. It won’t just happen like that.”

“Then why am I the only one of us who has ever killed anyone? Not even Tess has, as far as I know.”

“Because of the situation we were in. He was trying to kill us all, and you saved our lives. I would have done the same thing. Isabel would. All of us. Liz, Maria -“

“Shut up. Don’t say her name.”


“And if all of you would have, then why didn’t you? I’ll tell you why. Because I’m the killer. I’m the hit man. The – “

“Now you shut up. You don’t know that. Just because you’re the one who has been treated the worst all your life -“


“What do you mean no?”

“That’s not it.”

“How do you know that?”

“Look at the fine Maxwell Evans. You’ve never hurt anyone in your life, have you? And you’ve even saved lives. Animals, Kyle. If you hadn’t been with Kyle he would have been -“

“I know. But you’ve never tried to heal anyone, right?”

“Of course not. And it’s a good thing I haven’t. I could have ended up frying someone or -“

“No you wouldn’t. It doesn’t work that way. Ok, maybe it wouldn’t have worked at all, but you wouldn’t have done any harm either.”

“What are you doing?”

Max had grabbed Michael’s hand and placed it on his lower arm.

“There. It’s a bruise. I got it today during all that trouble. Try to remove it.”

Michael snatched his hand away as if Max’s touch had burnt him.

“Are you out of your mind? I could end up breaking your arm or -“

“No. You won’t. Go ahead.”


“I mean it. Don’t make me pull rank on you.”

“Are you serious?”

Max would never try to pull rank on anyone, but if he could make Michael believe that, maybe he could help his friend through this crisis. Apparently Michael was seriously disturbed about his abilities. If he couldn’t get through this, how could any of them go on?

They needed each other, now more than ever. Besides, Max didn’t need any alien superpowers to sense how much Michael was hurting. Why hadn’t he ever thought about teaching Michael about healing? If he had none of this might have had to happen.

“Yes. Put your hand on my arm. Now. Here, that’s the spot. It doesn’t hurt much, but if you do it right it will be completely gone.”

Michael didn’t pull his hand away this time, but nothing happened. In a small voice that almost cracked, he pleaded with his friend.

“What do I do? How does it work? You’re absolutely sure I won’t hurt you?”

“Positive. Ok. How do I explain this? You’d better close your eyes, and concentrate. Wait. Relax a little. Now you’re really hurting me. You don’t have to grip me all that hard.”

While Max was calmly instructing Michael, he gently arranged Michael’s hand on his arm again.

“That’s better. But don’t worry about it. If you give me a new bruise instead of this one, I promise I’ll remove it myself.”

“Ok. I’m concentrating.”

Michael’s voice had lost its hard edge of panic and he appeared to be trying in earnest to follow Max’s instructions. The sense of relief was enormous. It was so difficult to deal with Michael’s outbursts. Isabel was so much better at this. Max’s only way to calm anyone down would have been to put his arms around him and hold him, and he knew Michael couldn’t bear to be touched. At least not by him.

Why was it so hard to show emotion around other guys? Alex probably didn’t have this problem. But Alex had nothing to do with this situation, so Max forced himself to go on with his instructions. It was so hard to break down the rush of power into its component parts. He hardly knew how it worked, so it must be largely down to instincts.

“Try to see the skin, with the bruise, inside your mind.”

“Ok. Then what?”

“Try to tell it to go away.”

“I can’t. I’m scared. What if I tell your arm to go away instead?”

Max experienced a moment of panic at that thought. What if he did? But he couldn’t let Michael know how scared he was, or he’d never get through to the boy again.

“You won’t. Honestly. Just make the skin normal again.”

Nothing seemed to be happening, and with a sigh, Max forced himself to face the possibility that Michael simply wasn’t cut out for this healing thing. Or maybe he was starting too late in life. But the truth might be even simpler than that, Max reminded himself. After all the emotional upheaval, Michael might not be in the right mood to learn anything.

They would have to do this later. He would just have to make Michael see that. But suddenly Max felt something. It wasn’t painful, but it startled him a little, all the same. Fortunately, he didn’t pull away. Michael, on the other hand, jumped a foot back from Max.

Probing the spot with his fingers, Max came to the conclusion that while the bruise wasn’t quite gone, it seemed to have healed amazingly fast. Was it that easy to teach someone after all? What a fool he was not to have tried this years ago.

“What happened, Max? Did I hurt you?”

“No. You did what I told you to do. Well, almost. The bruise is nearly gone. I’ll leave it the way it is now. What about you? Do you have any bruises or cuts that need healing?”

“I’m not going to turn this on myself. Please don’t try to make me.”

“No. That’s ok. I was just asking if you want me to do something about it.”

“It’s nothing major. Let’s not bother.”

So Michael was still not comfortable being touched. That was another thing that bothered Max. What had that man done to his foster son? But maybe it was just part of the attitude Michael liked to present to the world. Either way, this wasn’t the time or the place to try and heal Michael’s troubled mind. Maybe it wasn’t for Max to do it at all.

Again, Max thought about Maria, and wondered if the girl was too hurt to ever take Michael back. But on the other hand, if Tess and Nasedo were right, maybe they couldn’t allow themselves the luxury of ordinary human emotions. Such as love.

“Ok. If you say so. Do you think we could go back to the girls now? They’ll be worrying about us. You don’t need to practice again tonight, but we’ll work more on this later. Ok?”

“Ok. Sorry to make such a fuss.”

“I understand, Michael, believe me, I do. But you’ve got to trust me. You’re no Nasedo. You’re just like me and Isabel.”

“I wish I could believe that.”

“I could order you to believe that.”

There was a pause during which Max desperately hoped that Michael would take his statement for what it was. A joke, a feeble attempt at cheering his friend up a little. To his relief, he could hear that Michael seemed to be getting the joke. But the laughter didn’t sound very convincing and the boy’s next words seemed to confirm that.

“Maybe I wish you could.”

“Whatever happens, we’re in this together. Isabel and I will never let you deal with anything on your own. I hope you know that.”

“You know I do. But sometimes you have no idea how it is.”

“Michael, if there’s something going on that you think we can’t relate to, you have to tell us. Make us understand. And you’d be surprised how much we can understand. You don’t have to go through it alone. “

“Ok. I’ll try.”

“That’s good. Come on, let’s go. We have to figure out what to do next. And I think we’ll have to talk to Valenti.”


“Because no matter what we have to do, we’re still just kids. If we don’t come back home mom and dad are going to call the police. There will be a search out for us and – Anyway, if Valenti thinks it’s safe, we’ll have to go back for now. We’ll discuss it with the girls.”

“Ok, I’m coming. Do you think you can find your way back in the dark?”

“I hope so -“

“What? Do you think we’re lost?”

“No. I’m just winding you up. Concentrate on Isabel. You can do it. You know you can. Just because the last couple of days have been really rough, you can’t forget everything you do know.”

“I guess I deserved that. Ok, Max. You can count on me. Whatever it takes, we’re in this together. You’re right about that. Sorry to be such a pain.”

“You’re not a pain. Just think how I’d feel if it was just me forced to deal with all this.”

“Ok, I see her now. Can you pick up on Tess?”

“Well, I guess I could. But I just focused on Isabel.”

So Max still wasn’t entirely comfortable around the strange girl. Maybe all this talk about destiny wasn’t written in stone as Tess and Nasedo had tried to convince them. For the first time since killing that man, Michael allowed himself to think about Maria. Had he made a mistake about pushing her away? Was it fair of him to let his emotions run away with him? To tell the truth, he knew that there had never been any situation when he might have harmed the girl. Or was it for the best?

But he couldn’t forget the pain in Maria’s eyes. She was tough, in many ways tougher than Michael himself, no matter how he tried to act strong and self-reliant, but he knew she loved him and he could guess at what she must be going through right now. If circumstances allowed him to have a life of his own after this, would Maria even let him near her after treating her this way?

He didn’t have any answers and by now he was too tired to think about any of the difficult issues facing them. Max was right, they would have to stick together. Maybe together they would find some way of dealing with the new situation. Isabel always seemed to know what to do. Despite the embarrassment caused by the weird dreams they had been having about each other, Michael knew he could rely on Isabel’s judgment.


© Tonica

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