posted on 18-Dec-2001 2:09:44 PM by Carol000
Title: Dreamer Holiday Series: Christmas

Author: Carol (spacemom)

Rating: PG

Setting: It's the Roswell you know EXCEPT Liz left Roswell in sixth grade, leaving a distraught Max behind. Now they're grown and destiny takes a hand.

Disclaimer: They aren't mine. Yadda yadda yadda.

Author's note: The holidays have dug deep into my Roswell time. I'm sorry this is out so late. I will try very hard to catch up on the stories I was following so faithfully until Thanksgiving. I have not abandoned you! In the meantime, I offer this little token of my affection to Dreamers who love the REAL Max and Liz. May they live forever in our hearts.
I am posting this one in two parts to avoid the "over 10-pages" ban, but they'll post one right after the other, so you don't have to wait. It's really meant to be a one-part story.

Part 1

Things would never be the same again.

Halloween night, his mother had passed away, the victim of a drunk driver. Now Max was filled with a deep melancholy that had a hold of his heart and was squeezing the very life out of him. It didn't matter that he hadn't lived home in years, that he had already published a best-selling sci-fi novel, or that representatives of Oprah, The Tonight Show, and Politically Incorrect had been trying to book him for appearances. All that mattered was that for the second time in his life, he'd lost his mother because of senseless violence in a world over which he had no control.

This had been the mother he knew and loved, and although he knew she loved him with all her heart, he also had to live with the fact that he'd never let her know him. He and Michael and Isabel had been so careful to keep their secret, so successful in blending into the society they had no choice but to embrace that no one had ever learned their secret. It had kept them safe . . . but alone. No amount of success, no circle of superficial friends, no family ties could wipe away the loneliness that kept them prisoners in their own secret world. What did it all mean? Why did they keep going through the motions? If he couldn't share himself with the woman who had kissed away the pain of a skinned knee, hugged him when the nightmares came, and cried when he'd left home for college, what was he doing on this planet? Suddenly, he was struck with the absurdity of it all. His life had no meaning.

In a desperate attempt to pull Max back from the dark place he had hidden himself, his father, Michael, and Isabel had chipped in to give him a Christmas cruise. Their love and support hadn't done the trick; Max needed to get outside himself, and a cruise seemed like the way to do it. So here he was, looking in awe at the mammoth ship that was supposed to represent his voyage to healing. The Infinity was perched high in the water, full of laughing people, luxurious appointments, and gleaming promise. Max dragged his unwilling legs forward. At least he could be alone here, away from well-meaning sympathy and empty solace. Here, he could hide.


********

Liz craned her neck to see the top of the enormous cruise ship Infinity. She had to admit, it was impressive. But she also knew this wasn't for her. Her proud parents had presented her with the cruise ticket at the small party they held when she received her doctorate, and she didn't have the heart to tell them it was just about the last thing she wanted to do.

Dr. Elizabeth Parker, at the top of her class in microbiology and headed for a tenure-track position at Cornell, was the product of the lavish but distant attention of her doting parents. When Liz's academic promise had emerged at an early age, they had devoted themselves to ensuring she had the best education money could buy, and they were certain it couldn't be found in little Roswell, New Mexico. So off she'd gone to the posh and pampered atmosphere of New England's Highcross School for Young Women, an academically demanding school where the brightest and richest girls in the country came to fulfill their parents' dreams. On partial scholarship, Liz had distinguished herself and was welcomed as an undergraduate at Boston College and a doctoral candidate at Yale. It had been a focused, if solitary, life, but she had never had room for fun or close friends . . . or love.

Liz had spent her whole life working single-mindedly toward this one goal. Now that she had accomplished it, she felt no satisfaction, no sense of purpose. Too late, she wondered why she had worked so hard to get here, when she wasn’t even sure “here” is where she wanted to be. There were times she had escaped to the ocean to watch the boats in the harbor bouncing and swaying with the waves, only to see herself, lost on a sea of uncertainty, no direction, no purpose, only going wherever she was pushed. She couldn’t put a name to the sense of emptiness she felt in her very soul, nor could she frame words to express it. So she kept it to herself.

Once or twice, in a half-hearted attempt to fill the void, she had pursued a relationship with one of the nondescript students who had crossed her path, but it had never gone anywhere. Her heart wasn't in it. Her thoughts always flashed back to a boy she knew as a child--a dark, mysterious boy who had always looked at her with such intensity, as if he were trying to tell her something desperately important and she was the only one he could tell–it always took her breath away. It did even now. Inexplicably, that boy still haunted her, and over the years, as the many boys and then men would look at her with interest and sometimes longing, she could feel nothing. She could only see that face.

Perhaps sensing this very problem, her parents had suddenly undertaken to thrust their beautiful and brilliant daughter into the world. It was time to come out from behind that tree and grab a slice of life. She had the degree, the secure job–now she needed a man. And what better place to meet one than a Christmas cruise!

Liz wasn't so enthused. Besides, she had no experience with men and no interest in leaving the safe haven of academia. But to refuse their offer would have created more problems than it solved, so she acquiesced, as she always did. She had no intention of meeting a man, though. She only wanted space between her and the anxious, hopeful faces of her parents as they saw her off.

Liz sighed and bent to grab the handle of her luggage. Trudging toward the massive ship, she almost welcomed the sense of disappearing into its great hollow shell. At least she could hide here for a while. She knew no one, and ten days of peace, lost in her own thoughts, would be a welcome refuge.

********

Liz would have opted for dinner in her cabin, had that service been available the first night, but guests were informed as they boarded that dinner was informal and only in the dining room this evening. Slipping quietly into the noisy but elegant room, she spied a table for two against the far wall, and when the maitre d’ had turned away to seat a shaky elderly couple, she seized her chance and headed for what looked like guaranteed privacy.

Moments later, Max appeared in the doorway.

“Monsieur? Are you waiting for your dinner companion?” The maitre d’ looked down the hall behind the striking young man, confident that he awaited an equally striking young woman.

“I’m alone, thank you,” Max answered stiffly. “And I’d prefer to eat alone, if that’s possible.”

The maitre d’ frowned. Alone? That was simply unnatural. He scanned the landscape with a practiced eye and straightened with surprise when he spotted a beautiful young woman alone at a table for two.

“This way, please,” he nodded, smiling smugly to himself.

To Max’s chagrin, the maitre d’ stopped at an out-of-the-way table and held out the chair. Max looked reluctantly at the woman sitting in the opposite seat, already forming his excuses for a quick getaway when his eyes met hers. His breath hitched in his throat as he fell headlong into the largest, most beautiful chocolate eyes he had ever seen. Memories of eyes just like that slammed through him, flooding him with images of a tiny, delicate girl from his childhood—a girl who had spoken volumes to him during the timid, painful years of elementary school. No, they had never had so much as a conversation, but he had always felt her soul deep within him whenever he looked at her, had felt that he had finally found someone to trust, to care for. And then she had left, forever. But that face, that soul had lived in him ever since.

Liz’s reaction was no less dramatic. Behind the handsome, brooding face of the dark stranger loomed traces of the boy who still haunted her dreams. She had been looking for that face again her whole life, all the while knowing she would never find it. Now he stood before her, an inexplicable reminder of what she didn’t have, could never have. She felt powerfully drawn to him and yet terrified by him at the same time. Frozen by images of childhood ghosts, she could only gape.

Max saw her uncertainty. It decided his struggle between his unthinkable impulse to know her—intimately—and the familiar instinct to retreat.

“I . . . I’m not really hungry.”

He turned to leave, and in an instant Liz felt relief turn to panic. He was leaving! Before she could speak, the irrepressible maitre d’ imposed his will.

“Oh, Monsieur, no! We have such delicacies to offer, and surely you would not leave this beautiful young woman to eat here alone. Who knows who might insinuate himself against her wishes. You must stay and see she is treated properly, yes?”

Max fixed his eyes on hers again, the question obvious.

Liz smiled shakily. “Please, join me,” she heard herself say.

Max visibly relaxed and took his seat. The happy maitre d’ snapped his fingers and a waiter appeared.

“These are my special guests, Miguel. Take good care of them.” Smiling broadly at the stunning couple, he gave them a formal nod and hurried away to attend to the next guests.

“I’m sorry,” Max began awkwardly. “I think you wanted to be alone.”

“So did you,” Liz responded, knowing it was true.

Max’s eyes flashed guilt for having been so transparent. “I, uh, I guess I’m more readable than I thought. I’m just here for some peace and quiet.”

At Liz’s raised eyebrows, Max cursed himself for being so rude. “I mean, not that I’m not glad to be here . . . eating with you. I just meant . . .”

A musical sound floated across the table and Max realized Liz was laughing. At him. At what he’d said. What had he said? Suddenly, all he could do was focus on those heavenly lips and wonder at the lyrical sound coming from just behind them. He wanted to touch those lips. He wanted to make her make that sound again.

The lips were forming words.

“What?” He felt stupider by the minute.

“I said, my name is Liz. Liz Parker.”

“Max Evans. As soon as I take my foot out of my mouth, I’m sure I can manage some actual conversation. All evidence to the contrary, I do speak English.”

It worked! There was that sound again! And then he smiled, and it was Liz’s turn to lose focus. She thought she had never seen anything so perfect. Full lips, straight white teeth, a dimple just off to one side. His tongue snaked out to moisten nervous, dry lips, and her mouth when dry at the sight.

What was happening to her? She had never reacted to anyone this way before. Maybe it was the resemblance to that little boy who had become her symbol for the perfect man, the man she knew couldn’t really exist. But here he was, licking his lips and asking a question. A question.

“What?”

Max laughed. He’d never had so much trouble talking to anyone, and yet he felt completely comfortable.

“Maybe we should start over,” he teased. “My name’s Max, I write books, and I’m on this cruise to just get away for a while.”

“Hi, Max. I’m Liz. I’ve just finished a lifetime of schooling, and I’m on this cruise to avoid starting an actual job.”

They laughed together, both at peace with the lack of any concrete information. Neither wanted to share too much right now. They just wanted to enjoy the magic that had sparked between them—a momentary mystery they didn’t want to solve.

They shared inconsequential chatter through their delectable meal, making it last as long as they possibly could. Finally, they couldn’t postpone the inevitable any longer. The dishes had been cleared away and they rose to leave. Liz felt like Cinderella hearing the bells chime midnight. Her handsome prince would soon be a precious memory.

The veil fell over her features, and Max ached to see it. She was closed to him again, and he had learned nothing important about her. Nothing except he wanted to be with her again. He felt his soul and his body stir in a way it had never done before, and the sense of recognition tugged at his mind. There was something about her.

“Liz?” he began.

“Thank you, Max, for a lovely dinner. Good night.”

She turned and walked away, biting her lip as the feeling of emptiness pushed aside the warm, welcome feeling that had filled her for the last two hours. But this was make believe. He was a writer from the western part of the U.S. She was an assistant professor of microbiology in the northeast. They shared a meal on a glamorous ship in a vast ocean under a romantic moon. It was a fairytale. Nothing more.

Under that moon, two lonely souls stared from tiny balconies into the distant stars—one wishing she could escape into them, one cursing that he had ever been there.

********

"Madame Natasha" fought off the malaise that had settled over her during the last few months. Doing "shows" for the carefree patrons of a cruise line was never how she foresaw using her gifts, but there had been bills to pay and it was more money than she had ever earned before, so she determinedly ignored the self-imposed cries of "Fraud!" that tortured her thoughts and gave the people what they wanted. Most of it was mindless showmanship. Only rarely did she actually feel something real and vibrant during these sessions. She lived for those moments.

In her real life as Gloria Matinkas, she had long ago accepted her abilities to sense others’ feelings, to read their auras, and to know before anyone else what was about to happen. Her mother had had that gift, and she saw signs of it in her own young daughter. But in a world fraught with charlatans and free 5-minute readings, her gifts had remained largely unrecognized. She knew she had to either take a regular job in the local grocery store or jump on the psychic bandwagon. Welcome to the Infinity.

She surveyed the passengers as they drifted into the room, most talking animatedly, some eyeing her skeptically. Her eyes fell on a young brunette woman who entered tentatively and hid herself at a rear table. She wore her gray, troubled aura like a shroud, and Gloria could sense how lost she was. An emptiness pervaded her whole being, a hopelessness that no one that young should feel.

Madame Natasha rose to begin her greeting when a latecomer appeared in the doorway. His aura was the most unusual she had ever seen–almost electrical, magnetic–and there was an unrecognizable element to the vibrations he sent out. He was different in a way she couldn't really explain. He wasn't frightening, though. She felt good in him, and great sadness. Her senses were on high alert, her curiosity piqued.

She watched him scan the room as if searching for someone. His eyes lit on the young woman Gloria had been watching, and she gasped at the electricity the sparked between them. They held that gaze for an eternity, and Gloria realized she was holding her breath. This was the strongest connection she had ever felt, including the many couples she had watched come together back in the old neighborhood.

To her surprise, the young man made his way slowly to a separate table and sat down, keeping constant eye contact with the beautiful woman. Mesmerized, Gloria just watched until a restlessness in the crowd drew her attention away. No matter. Audiences expected her to be spacey. It added to her mystique.

With one eye on the highly charged couple in the back of the room, Gloria began to weave her spell over the crowd, setting a mood of romance and intrigue. She told them how she felt two strong and distinct vibrations in the room this night, and that she could feel them trying to find each other. As she adjusted to the startling intensity that had swept through her as soon as they looked at each other, more detail about them filtered into her mind.

"Is there a woman here who comes from quite a distance?–New England, I believe. You are well educated and successful. But . . . you've been separated from your family. Who here recognizes this?"

They waited in silence. No one responded. Madame Natasha smiled.

"Apparently, we can add shy to the list, too." She began to stroll slowly through the maze of tables, following a seemingly random path. As she neared Liz, she stopped and stared at her.

"It is you, isn't it?"

Liz was a deer caught in the headlights. She shook her head unconvincingly.

"What is your name?"

"Liz."

"Where do you live, my dear?"

"Uh, Connecticut."

"And you have a college degree? Perhaps a masters?"

"Doctorate," she whispered.

Madame Natasha beamed. "It is you, just as I said. Now to find him–the heart that beats in time with yours."

She resumed her meandering. "There is a man in this room whose heart belongs with this young woman. I've rarely felt such a strong connection between two people. But something is getting in the way—perhaps they themselves are fighting it. He is a man with secrets, but a good man. He has been searching for his destined mate. He wonders if perhaps he's found her.”

She peered expectantly at another young man, knowing how to keep an audience engaged. She raised her eyebrows at him and he squirmed uncomfortably.

“I’m married,” he choked, taking his wife’s hand. The last thing he needed was for his wife to think he’d been fantasizing about another passenger! "And I don't have secrets!" He glanced at his wife nervously.

“It is not you,” Madame Natasha agreed. “But you are hoping to share some romance with her later, are you not?”

The man blushed and the audience chuckled.

Gloria was struggling to maintain her performance persona; the powerful force between the two people she’d been watching was threatening her equilibrium; it was hard to focus on anything else. As casually as possible, she made her way toward the handsome young man. She could tell he was at war with himself: he didn’t want to be singled out, but he was fascinated by her recognition of the strange magnetism between Liz Parker and himself.

He could feel his heart racing when she stopped in front of him. She gave him a long, lingering look.

“What is your name?”

Hesitation. “Max.”

“Max, do you know Liz?”

“We just met yesterday.”

“But you feel you already know her, don’t you? You feel a kinship, an old recognition, yes?”

Max froze. What should he say? He didn’t want to scare Liz, but maybe if she knew he felt something . . . old . . . between them . . . “Yes, I do.”

An undercurrent of whispering welled up in the room, then ebbed as the onlookers watched for what would happen next. All eyes fell on Liz.

She sat still as stone for several seconds, eyes riveted on Max. Then suddenly, she rose and bolted from the room. Max’s face drained of color.

“Damn it!” he muttered under his breath and ran after her.

Madame Natasha smiled. “The road is often bumpy,” she crooned knowingly. “Now, who here has recently lost a loved one?”

********

Max found Liz braced against the railing, her hands gripping the cool metal like a lifeline.

“Liz?” Max approached her slowly, cautiously, as he used to do with the rabbits in his yard at home, convinced that at any minute, she would run from him. She looked at him with such sadness, he longed to hold her and tell her that it would be all right.

“Liz, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have put you in that position.” She didn’t run. She just stood there, looking at him with questions in her eyes.

“It’s true, though, what Madame Natasha said. I do feel like I know you. I know it sounds crazy, but you remind me of someone—someone I knew as a child who meant a great deal to me. When I look at you, I see her . . .” He faltered. Her face had turned darker, almost afraid.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, and turned to leave her alone. Why hadn’t that damn maitre d’ just seated him alone as he’d asked?

“Max, wait!” He barely heard her above the whoosh of ocean as the huge ship plowed through its depths. He turned back to see her eyes pleading with him, and took a step back to the railing.

“I’m sorry, too, Max. I’ve been terribly rude. Believe it or not, you remind me of someone from my youth as well.” She smiled wistfully. “When I was very young, a boy at my school used to watch me every day. We never spoke, but he would look at me with these beautiful, intense eyes, as if he had something so important to tell me.” She smiled up at him shyly. “Eyes like yours, actually. And it made me feel special—not loved, exactly, we were only 9, but . . . needed. Somehow in my mind, I came to feel a connection to him, like he was going to be important in my life, and when I look at you, I see his face, and . . .” She shook her head in embarrassment and chuckled nervously. “I must sound like an idiot.”

When Max didn’t answer, Liz wished a hole would open up in the ship’s deck and swallow her. How could she have said those things?! Berating herself, she looked up with another apology on her lips. His expression silenced her. He was staring at her in utter disbelief.

“Liz, where did you grow up?”

“Roswell. That’s in New Mexico.”

His face transformed from shock to excitement. “Liz, I’m from Roswell. How old are you?”

“Twenty-seven.”

“I'm twenty-eight, but I started school a year late,” he whispered.

They looked at each other for an eternity, each wondering if it were possible that the image that they had kept safe from the world since childhood had materialized before their eyes. The intensity they had shared as children sprang to life between them once more, a silent, certain communication that told them all they needed to know—for now. There was no awkwardness or hesitation as Max reached up to cradle Liz’s amazed face in his hands. There was no question in Max’s heart as Liz closed her eyes in silent invitation. He leaned forward and almost reverently touched his lips to hers. He could feel her respond, and they knew. They were home.

Part two posting momentarily!


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 21-Dec-2001 2:28:12 AM ]
posted on 18-Dec-2001 2:10:54 PM by Carol000
Part 2

There were no advice columns on a courtship like this. It was just plain strange. On the one hand, they’d known each other their whole lives—in a way. Their souls certainly knew each other, and they finally felt a peace that had escaped them for all these years. On the other hand, they hadn’t seen each other in 16 years, and so knew very little practical detail about the other’s life. And then, of course, there was the matter of Max’s secret. That was an obstacle he didn't dare face yet. As things were, they couldn’t bear to part, and yet they weren’t quite ready to share a cabin either.

So it was that the ship’s Captain, taking his usual late-night stroll around the top deck of the ship, found the two wedged into a deck chair, covered in pool towels, sound asleep. He stopped for a moment and gazed at them, wondering what story had brought them here. If they’d come on board together, they’d be in their cabin. Yet they’d only been at sea for 24 hours—a very short time for a love affair to blossom. He looked at their faces. They were extraordinarily attractive people, but what struck him was the look of supreme contentment on their faces. He smiled happily. He enjoyed seeing the effects of a cruise on his passengers. He would enjoy keeping an eye on this couple.

The chilly breeze brought his mind to more practical matters. He could see the goose bumps on the woman’s arms. He touched her lightly and she started, rousing Max at the same time.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, sir, but it’s getting quite cool out here. I imagine you’d be more comfortable in your cabin . . . er, cabins.”

Liz sat up, embarrassed. “Yes, of course. I’m sorry, Captain.” Max sat up beside her, then stood quickly, helping Liz to her feet. The Captain took note of the protective way he slid his sport coat around her shoulders and then pulled her to him.

“Not at all,” the Captain said reassuringly. “I just don’t want you to get sick and miss out on all the fun we have planned this week. Christmas in just two days, you know!” He gave them a quick wave and hurried off.

“Liz, I’m sorry,” Max apologized. “You must be freezing.” He pulled her closer and rubbed his hand up and down her arm.

“Don’t apologize, Max. I’m a big girl. I could have left anytime. I . . . I just didn’t want to.” She smiled at him, and he took in the vision before him. The bright moon reflected in her eyes, her hair, her skin. She was glowing, and he gave in easily to his impulse. Sliding his fingers through her hair, he drew her to him, indulging in a long, lingering kiss. He was careful not to demand too much too quickly, and he broke it off as soon as he felt himself falling too deeply into her. He could get carried away so easily.

Buoyed by her slight whimper when he released her mouth, he smiled and slipped his arm around her. “Let me walk you home,” he offered. “What’s your cabin number?”

“947.”

“Really? I’m 931. We’re not too far apart.” He grinned at her. “Isn’t that nice?”

“Very,” she smiled back.

It was hard to watch her disappear into her room, but Max felt better than he’d felt in years, and definitely better that he’d felt since his mother’s death. A sense of hope began to sprout in his barren heart, and it put a bounce in his step.

Liz, too, hated to close the door on Max. She had never felt so comfortable with anyone, or so close—especially with a man. She whistled as she got ready for bed, and drifted off happily.

That’s when the dreams started.

********

She was playing on the playground after school and saw the boy watching her from the blacktop near the parking lot. They exchanged a long look, but as usual, made no move toward each other. It comforted her to see him there; she had grown to expect it, and for some reason, it gave her a sense of security.

“Liz!” her friend Maria called. “Come hold one end of the jump rope!”

Liz had looked back briefly at the boy and turned to walk toward her friend. Someone had told her his name was Max, but they never seemed to be in the same class, and she knew very little about him. She wondered why he showed such an interest in her, but never doubted that it was a good thing.

She looked over again and was startled to see he was gone. Her eyes searched the schoolyard but there was no sign of him.

“Jennifer, take over,” she mumbled, handing off the jump rope to a friend. Wandering toward the school, a movement caught her eye. There he was, under a tree on the edge of the school property, squatting over something on the ground. She came up behind him, curious about what was holding his rapt attention. Over his shoulder, she saw him touching a wounded bird. His hand began to glow and, seconds later, the bird took flight. He rose, watching the bird soar with a satisfied smile on his face—until he turned around to find Liz staring at him in something akin to horror.

She opened her mouth to scream but nothing came out.


Liz sat bolt upright in bed, panting heavily. Pushing her hair back from her face, she felt her hand trembling. That was no dream. It was a memory. Or was it? Confused, Liz reached for her robe and stepped onto her small balcony. She had seen that as a child, hadn’t she? It felt like a memory, but it couldn’t be. It was too wild. And she had spent the whole evening with Max and hadn’t felt anything strange or dangerous about him. Even Madame Natasha had said they’d been searching for each other.

Get a grip, Liz! she scolded herself. Since when do you believe in psychics?

Feeling the chill, in spite of her robe, Liz eased back into her stateroom. Eventually, she drifted back into a restless sleep.

********

The next morning, Max awoke in a wonderful mood. Christmas Eve! He dressed carefully and half jogged down to Liz’s stateroom, knocking confidently. No answer. He tried again with the same result. Thinking she was in the shower, he leaned self-consciously against the wall for several minutes, nodding to the couples and families headed out for breakfast. Trying again, he reluctantly concluded she was an early riser and was already out and about on the ship.

He cruised quickly through the two most popular breakfast restaurants with no luck. Soon he was striding purposefully around the pool deck, the top deck with the walking/jogging track, and the main lobby. Nothing.

Growing worried he began to peek in the quieter, more private areas. As he passed the glass-enclosed computer room, he saw the top of a brown-haired head. He knew instantly it was Liz. Coming around the edge of the carrel, he saw her taking a disk from the computer.

“Liz?”

She looked up, startled. “Max! Hi, I was just . . . I . . . You’re up early.”

Max frowned. What had happened between last night and this morning to change everything?

“I hoped we could have breakfast together.”

“Breakfast? Oh, you know, I . . . uh, I guess I’m not used to the sea yet. I’m just not feeling well enough to eat. In fact, I think I’ll lie down for a while. Maybe I’ll see you later.”

With that, she grabbed her belongings and hurried from the room, leaving Max confused and more than a little upset.

Not again, he vowed. I’m not losing her again.

With uncharacteristic boldness, Max went after her, racing the length of the ship to reach her cabin before she did. Waiting in a small recessed doorway, he popped out to meet her as she arrived at her door.

“Liz, we need to talk.”

“Max, really, I’m not feeling well . . .”

“You’re feeling fine, Liz. Something happened since we said goodnight last night that changed how you feel. I’d like to know what that is.” He touched her arm as she turned away. “Please.”

Just his touch did things to Liz. In spite of her resolve, she looked up into his anxious face and dissolved. There it was, the feeling of being home, the sense of rightness about being with him, the certainty about all she had felt last night. She sighed heavily.

“Let’s talk.”

She led him into the small room, and he followed her to the loveseat by the balcony door. She began without preamble.

“Max, last night I had a dream. Only I think it was more of a memory than a dream. We were back on the school playground after school, and I was playing with my friends and you were watching, as you so often did.” She smiled at the memory, in spite of what was coming. Max shifted uncomfortably. “I looked over once and you weren’t there. I was surprised and came looking for you. I think I was ready to actually talk to you. But when I found you, I saw you touch a wounded bird with a glowing hand, and then it flew off.”

She stopped, but he didn’t respond.

“Was that a memory or a dream, Max, because it really feels like a memory. I think I was scared of you after that, and we never talked again before I went away to school. But the memory of you has been with me every day since then, and somehow, the memory of you was good, very good. Help me understand, Max. What happened that day?”

Max sat immobile, searching her eyes as if looking for the answer to her question there. Liz’s heart almost broke when she saw a tear form in the corner of his eye and spill onto his cheek. Without thinking, she reached to wipe it away, only to gasp when he reached up suddenly and grabbed her wrist. Finally he spoke. He said the last thing she expected to hear.

“I think I love you, Liz.”

Speechless at first, Liz could only stare, wondering why it was that his declaration didn’t shock or upset her. Then it filtered through on a practical level, and all she could say was, “What?”

Max heaved a heartrending sigh, and reached for Liz’s other hand. Even in the midst of her confusion, the electricity of his touch caused her to shudder. It felt so right. Liz looked into the eyes of this man who she trusted so easily, cared for after so little time. It wasn’t really a decision. Her heart wanted to know.

“Tell me, Max,” she coaxed. “I’m sorry about before. I was scared, but I’m ready now. Tell me.”

“Liz, your dream was a memory—a memory I thought I had buried long ago. That day at school, I did heal a bird, and you were frightened, and I saw a look on your face I never wanted to see in my life. You weren’t just scared, you were horrified. You looked at me like I was a freak. It was my worst nightmare come true. The next night, I climbed your fire escape and snuck into your room while you were sleeping, and I took that memory away. I knew then that I could never tell you about me, but I could at least keep you from hating me. When you went away to school, I cried myself to sleep for weeks, but I finally realized it was for the best. I guess meeting me again just brought it all back.”

Liz stared, trying to process all that he’d told her. “But how, Max? How did you heal the bird? How did you make a memory go away? I still don't understand.”

Max knew his decision had been made the minute he realized who she was. It was only a matter of time. He couldn’t help but trust the soul he felt when he touched her; he had to believe the caring he found in those eyes.

“I want you to know everything, Liz. I want you to see it. Will you let me show it to you?”

She nodded mutely.

“I have to touch you.”

Another nod.

Gently, Max took her wide-eyed face into his hands, letting his fingers slide through her silken hair as his thumbs traced the delicate cheekbones. “Look into my eyes and just let your mind blank out.”

Instantly, Liz was transported through the unbelievable highlights of Max’s life—pods, Michael, Isabel, discovering powers, the fear, the secrecy, the joy in his heart whenever he was in the vicinity of Liz Parker, the sense of loss when she left, the anguish of his mother’s death, the loneliness.

Max lowered his hands and waited. He could see the whole reel replaying in Liz’s mind, leaving her almost in a trance. Her eyes were huge, her lips were parted, her breathing irregular. Finally, Max stood. “I’ve given you a lot to think about, Liz. Whatever you decide about us, I’ll respect it. But Liz . . .”

Her eyes finally rose to meet his. “There are those who would kill to know about me. My life is in your hands.”

He turned and left, leaving Liz gaping at the closed door.

********

It was the worst day of Max’s life. Worse than the day Liz left Roswell in sixth grade. Worse than the day Max found out the FBI alien-hunting unit was in town. Even worse than the day his mother died. He had no control over those events. This time, he’d brought it on himself, and his future happiness, maybe even his future existence depended on what Liz was thinking.

She was nowhere to be found at lunch, not that he could eat any food. She didn’t come up to take a swim. She wasn’t in the observation lounge when the helicopter came to take a sick passenger off. And she wasn’t walking on the upper deck. Even the Captain noticed; the nervous young man he’d found in the lounge chair late one night was without his companion and obviously in a bad way.

The turbulent aura was a dead giveaway to Madame Natasha, too. On Max's seventh lap around the deck, Gloria couldn’t stand it anymore.

“Max, isn’t it?” she asked, falling into step with him.

“Yes,” Max answered absently. “Do I know you?”

She laughed. “I’m ‘Madame Natasha,’ only without the wild get-up and the two pounds of make-up. Please call me Gloria."

Max made an attempt at a smile.

"Your aura tells me you're in turmoil, Max. I won't pry, but I couldn't stand by and watch you suffer." She stopped and turned toward him, willing him to believe her. "Max, you two have something special. Trust it. It will turn out all right."

"How?"

"I don't know. It's a mystery. I guess that's what faith is all about."

"Mama!" A little dark-haired girl ran toward them, and Max watched as Gloria turned to sweep her into a big hug. Suddenly, Max was picturing Liz sweeping their little dark-haired girl into her arms, smiling that beautiful smile and laughing. A sense of calm came over him.

"Thanks, Gloria. I hope you're right." She winked at him and walked off with her little girl.

Max changed into a swimsuit instead of going down to dinner. He needed to work off some nervous energy. Besides, the jazz band that played softly at one end of the pool deck and the brilliant sunset to the west set a calming mood. Pulling off his t-shirt, he stretched like a cat, anxious to relieve the tension that bunched every muscle in his body. Muscles flexed in his shoulders, stomach, and thighs, each sinewy fiber defined. Every pair of eyes on deck stopped to admire him, but he was oblivious. All he could see was Liz's face looming in front of him, sometimes smiling, sometimes closed and fearful. Which face would she turn to him when he saw her next?

Slicing through the water with barely a ripple, Max dove into the pool and began to swim laps. His rapt audience could only stare appreciatively. Powerful arms pulled him through the water like he was born to it; muscular legs worked fluidly to propel him forward. After several laps, he pulled his dripping body from the pool and reached for a towel, covering his face. The darkness welcomed him, and he stood motionless like that for several moments.

Sighing, he lowered the towel, blinking against the last bright rays of the sunset. As his eyes adjusted, he saw Liz standing in front of him. Almost afraid to believe she was really there, he reached for her tentatively.

"Liz?"

"I should have expected science fiction. Now I want to know if it's autobiographical science fiction."

He looked down to see her holding a copy of his first book, Hiding in the Open.

"Where did you get that?" he stuttered.

"Our ship's library is surprisingly large," she smiled. "I've been reading all day. I decided I would learn a lot about you by reading one of your books. And I think I did. Now answer my question."

Max looked deep into her eyes, still unsure of how this was going. Then he thought back to that first book that all but documented his arrival on the planet with Michael and Isabel, and the dangerous lives they had lived ever since.

"It's almost entirely autobiographical, Liz."

He held his breath, anticipating her next words. He watched every flicker of her eyes, every muscle in her face until she spoke.

"You're amazing," she sighed, tenderly stroking his cheek. He let his breath out with a moan and swept her into his arms, lifting her right out of her sandals. His lips were on hers, burning with a sudden flood of love, desire, passion. The collective sigh from around the pool was lost on both of them; as far as they were concerned, they were alone on this fragile island of happiness.

Max realized he was shaking, and it wasn't just because the sun had disappeared beyond the horizon. It was shock and relief and elation that all his hopes and dreams were coming true right in front of him. But maybe he had presumed too much. Acceptance isn't love, he reminded himself.

Setting Liz down, he examined her flushed face. "You must have questions."

She laughed out loud. "About a million. But they can wait . . . for a while, at least."

This time she launched herself at him, taking him completely by surprise. Losing his balance, they both fell with a giant splash into the pool, emerging amidst sputters and laughter. Groping their way out of the water, the passengers who had been enjoying this wonderful scene broke into enthused applause. The Captain paused on his way to the bridge, looking down toward the pool to see what the laughter and applause was all about. Seeing the happy couple in a soggy embrace, he winked at Gloria Matinkas. He'd heard about the performance she'd given the night before, and he could see that her pleased smile was heartfelt.

"Our first success of the voyage," he chuckled.

"Indeed," she nodded, watching the glorious aura that now surrounded the happy couple. "And it's only the beginning."

********

Later that night, having celebrated with an intimate dinner together in Max's cabin, Max and Liz strolled under a star-studded sky.

"Look, Mommy!" they heard a little boy say. "It's the Christmas star!"

They all looked up at the bright, twinkling star that dominated the sky.

"Actually, that's home," Max whispered into Liz's ear. Just the vibration of his voice and the warmth of his breath on her cool skin filled Liz with erotic ideas.

"No, Max. I'll show you where home really is." She began to tug at his hand, turning them toward the elevators. The surprise on his face made her giggle. She sighed, pulling him toward her. The moment her lips met his, she felt the electricity filling her, making her whole body tremble. She was falling headlong into Max Evans, and there was nothing in the world she wanted more.

"Merry Christmas, Max," Liz panted softly.

"And a lifetime of Happy New Years," he whispered.


[ edited 2 time(s), last at 21-Dec-2001 2:24:50 AM ]
posted on 21-Dec-2001 2:22:54 AM by Carol000
Hi everyone! Thanks for the great feedback. I soooo appreciate it.

I wanted to tell you that we're leaving for Christmas and my in-laws don't have a computer. Many of you asked about a New Year's installment, but I'm afraid I just can't get one up in time. If you want, I'll post it late, but there's no way I can do it this week. I'm going cyber-free for the next two weeks!

Your support has been a blessing, and I promise I'll try to catch up on YOUR fics in January!

Merry Christmas, dear ones.