|posted on 3-Jan-2002 12:18:33 AM by Star2000monkey|
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters, they belong to the TPTB. I just borrowed them for a little while.Summary: Max on New Year’s Day !
Author’s Note: No spoilers at all. This is the companion piece to “Gift Exchange”, and you should read it first. It is a Christmas story for Roswell, and takes the events and people as I see them and know them at this minute. For those who are Max Apologists, you probably won’t like this one, even though I am not TOO mean to him. But for the rest of us, I hope you will like it!
Warning: It’s bittersweet. And while the other story is more sweet than bitter, this one is more bitter than sweet. Maybe a lot more.
It was New Year’s Day, 2002. Max Evans had come home late from his New Year’s festivities, tired, exhausted, ecstatic. Going to that party had been so exciting, an experience of a lifetime. He had crashed as soon as he had come into the apartment, sure of the quiet which would follow since Michael had to work that day. Max figured he would have a pretty miserable day, since Michael had gotten so drunk the night before. Max didn’t have too much sympathy for him, because he had known better than to drink. Hadn’t Max told him what happened when he, Max, had sipped just a thimbleful that one time? Hours of drunkenness. But wasn’t that Michael all over, doing things he knew he shouldn’t?
So Max closed all the curtains, turned off the phone so that the answering machine would pick up any calls without bothering Max, and he had gotten his blanket and pillow out and crashed. How long he slept he had no idea. Something - a presence - dragged him out of his sleep, bleary-eyed, fuzzy-headed. What he saw when he cracked his eyes caused him to shake his head, trying to clear it. Alex. Alex was sitting there, on a chair he had pulled up to sit opposite Max. He was watching him, arms crossed, legs stretched out. And when Max sat up, rubbing his eyes to try to wake up - he saw him still.
“Alex?” he breathed, sure he must still be asleep.
“Ah, Your Majesty, nice of you to join me.” His voice was mocking, just like the Alex of old, Max thought.
“Are you real?” A stupid question, of course. If he wasn’t, would he admit it?
Alex chuckled. “As real as you are, in my own way.” He looked at Max closely, seeing that he was fully awake now. “Tough night, huh?”
Max grinned in memory. “Not really. Maria and I found Enigma!”
“I know.” His voice, suddenly it sounded strange. And with that, Max realized that Alex shouldn’t be here. At all.
“Alex, why are you here?” Max looked at him closely for the first time. His eyes were clear blue, his hair the same ruffled cut Alex always had. Tall, lanky still. Of course, he was just guessing about that since Alex was sitting. But his long legs, the feet shod in the same tennis shoes that Alex favored - all looked right. But it couldn’t be, could it?
“Why can’t it be me, Max? If you believed everything you are taught, you shouldn’t be real either.”
Max acknowledged the truth of that with a grin. Then he sobered. Was this a trick? Nasedo... or Tess even, playing a trick on him?
Alex answered him, a question Max hadn’t even voiced. “I could be one of them, I suppose. But why would they come as me? If they wanted to fool you, they would come as... your mother, say? Or as Kal?”
“How do you know about Kal?” Max asked suspiciously. Alex wouldn’t know about that, would he?
“I know what I am allowed to know,” Alex said cryptically. He looked at Max for a few seconds, thinking. “I’m here to help you - to give you a gift.”
“A gift?” Max questioned. He couldn’t imagine it. “What gift?”
“I don’t know really,” the answer came. “Something you will pick for yourself. Eventually.”
Max got up, walking to the refrigerator. Opening it, he took out a pint of orange juice, shaking it thoroughly before opening it. Turning, he watched Alex watching him. He gestured to the frig. “Want one?”
Alex smiled. “No. I don’t feel hunger or thirst anymore.”
Max gulped, choking on that comment. He coughed, sputtering. He blinked to clear his eyes, watering. He shook his head. “Not nice to do that to me, Alex.” It was a joke, or meant to be one. It came out totally flat. “Well, if you don’t know what it is, when do I get it?” Max asked, trying to cover up for his gaffe. Funny, the courteous things to say to a dead man had never been taught to him.
“Maybe we should start the way I did last time,” Alex mused, not really sure. He hoped that as time went on, more guidance would be given to him. He hated being so at sea again. With Liz, it had seemed so much more natural. When Max crooked an eyebrow at him, he added, “Tell me how are things going for you, Max. Maybe that will lead us both in the right direction.”
“How are things going?” Max asked incredulously. How could he answer that?
“Well, you could start by telling me why you are living here, with Michael, instead of with your parents.”
“It’s hard to explain. I... Liz and I got into some trouble, and my Dad wouldn’t let it go. He wanted me to tell him everything, and I couldn’t. You understand Alex. I couldn’t tell him the truth. So, this was the only option.” Max felt the inadequacy of this explanation, but then, at least Alex knew all about the alien legacy.
“The only option? Other than telling him the truth, you mean.”
“Well, sure. It can be dangerous knowing the truth about us,” he said, and then realized what he had just said and to whom.
A shadow passed over Alex’s face. “Dangerous, yes. But it wasn’t knowing the truth that killed me, Max, was it?”
Max felt shamed, but he wasn’t sure why. What had happened to Alex hadn’t been his fault - had it? “No. I guess not.”
Alex looked puzzled. “You guess? But, you know all about it now, don’t you Max? What happened and why?”
“About Tess mindwarping you? Yeah, I know.” If only he had known at the time, Max thought. He could have stopped her.
“About all of it. You know all of it now, don’t you?” Alex seemed surprised, making Max wonder. His expression told Alex that. “About Leanna? About the others?” When Max still looked puzzled, he added. “Surely, you investigated it. Surely you wondered about all the rest? You know about Tess - haven’t you gone back to find out the entire truth yet? About Nasedo? About the others?”
“What others?” Max asked, frustrated. What was Alex talking about?
Alex stood up, placing his hands on the counter, leaning towards Max. “You have to know, don’t you? How can you not know?” Alex shook his head. “You can’t believe Tess did it all herself? How could she be here, living a life, going to school, sleeping, all that, and control me? How could she have set up the entire business at the school? Gotten me entree to the computer there? Why use me, anyway? Haven’t you wondered about any of that?”
“I... I just thought Tess did that,” Max muttered, suddenly feeling foolish. He realized now, it was ridiculous to think that Tess could have managed it all. Alex had been gone for months, hadn’t he?
“And what about the granilith? Have you figured that out yet either?” He tried not to show the disgust he felt, but he knew he was failing. He pushed back from the counter, walking around the room, circling the foozball table. Over and over he paced, trying to control himself. Wasn’t he supposed to be beyond these feelings? And yet, he found he wasn’t. Finally, he turned to Max. “Just tell me, what have you been doing all this time?”
“I’ve been looking for my son, of course,” Max said, justified. Surely Alex would know that came first. “And if I have a gift - that is what I want. I want my son back.”
“Your son?” Alex said faintly. He should have known, of course. He paused, waiting for guidance. And it came. “I can only be concerned with this world, this time, this place, Max. Those are the rules.”
Max felt anger flow through him. “A gift, but I am not allowed to ask for what I want, what I really need?” The only thing he wanted, he could have said.
“Everything in your life is so wonderful, then?” Alex asked. Alex looked around meaningfully. The bed on the couch. The pantry shelves sparsely occupied. Max’s clothes in a box in the corner.
Max flushed. “It’s not much - it’s not my parent’s house, but this is fine for now. And everything else is fine. Even my parent’s and I - we’re getting along better. Why, at Isabel’s wedding...” His voice trailed off as he wondered if he should have mentioned Isabel’s wedding.
“No, it didn’t take her long, did it?” Alex asked with more humor in his voice than Max had heard previously, surprising Max. “Don’t worry. Even when I was alive, I knew that it wouldn’t be more than a week or two before Isabel dumped me.”
Max protested. “That is so unfair, Alex. She really was upset when you were killed.” It was true. Max had seen her cry, known of her distress.
“Oh, I am sure she was,” Alex agreed. “For what? A couple of weeks? She started going with Jesse within the month, you know.” Max stared, shocked. He hadn’t known that. “Really, Max, you don’t know Isabel as well as I thought. Not as well as I did, evidently.” Amazing how he could say that and not sound bitter now.
He continued. “So, you are estranged from your parents. Living on the sofa at your friend’s house. Still in school? Some of the time, anyway. Working as always. Anything else?”
“I am doing all right in school.” Max thought for a moment. “Liz and I are back together now, Alex. That is good.”
“Oh, really,” Alex said, wondering how Max could be so blind.
Max flushed as he caught the sarcasm in his voice. “Liz ... she understood all I went through last year. She understood why I did what I did. She’s okay with it now.” Suddenly, he felt protective. “Liz... you know her, Alex. She can’t hold a grudge. And she has helped me this year, so much. Helped me get back to normal again. You’d be proud of her. And I ... I forgave her, too. We agreed to start all over again, and we did.” Didn’t Alex see? He had to! He knew how wonderful Liz was.
“I am proud of her,” Alex said slowly. “She understands what you went through. Yes, that sounds like Liz.” He looked closely at Max, his blue eyes blazing with an emotion that Max didn’t understand. “And you? Did you understand what she went through last year?”
Max opened his mouth to answer, closed it. “What do you mean? What she’s been through?” There was only one thing he could think of. “I told you, we are together now, happy, Alex.”
“Yeah, I guess you would think so,” Alex said dryly.
“Is this all you came here for? To tell me I haven’t done enough, not searched enough for answers? That I’ve been wrong for putting my son first?” Max asked him angrily. He didn’t have to defend himself to Alex! “If you think I’m so bad ... so beyond redemption, why did they send you anyway?”
“I asked them to send someone else. Anyone else.” Alex told him, enjoying the look that crossed Max’s face. It was true, too. Alex was quiet at that, thinking it through, ignoring Max as he flung himself down on the couch, looking at Alex defiantly. Alex went back to sit down, leaning forward, clasping his hands loosely as he rested his elbows on his knees. He had a thought. Maybe he did know what he should do. He smiled, surprising Max.
“I think a little Christmas Carol is in order,” he informed Max.
“You’re going to sing to me?” Max said, taken aback.
Alex couldn’t help it. He laughed. “Like the movie, Max” .
Relief crossed Max’ face. “Oh. It’s past Christmas, Alex.”
“Yeah, I know. But the idea is the same. I think you need a little bit of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.” Alex was really warming up to the idea, smiling broadly. Max just watched him skeptically.
“You think I am Scrooge?”
Alex laughed out loud, the first real humor he had felt since he had come here. “Let’s see, shall we? Self-absorbed, selfish, one-track mind. His was money - yours is ... well, you know what yours is.” Alex couldn’t even bring himself to use the word. It made him sick to think about it.
Max was indignant. “I am not selfish or self-centered!”
“Of course you wouldn’t think so. I’ll make you a bet, Max. I’ll bet that by the time I leave today, you will agree with me.”
“Sure I will,” Max scoffed.
“Let’s start with Christmas Past, okay?” Alex said. “It won’t really be Christmas, but the idea is the same, right?”
“What are you going to show me?” Max asked.
“You’ll see,” Alex told him, reaching out with one hand. And suddenly, they weren’t there anymore. They were standing in front the Crashdown, all decorated for New Year’s Eve. It was daytime. All of a sudden, Max realized he was still dressed in his boxer’s and nothing else. He looked around, embarrassed. “Alex!”
Alex laughed. “Don’t worry. You can’t be seen, remember? And you won’t be cold, either - because we are still sitting in the living room at Michael’s.”
“I don’t care where we really are, give me a chance to get dressed next time, would you?” Max grouched. And then the thought was he recognized the little boy walking down the street with his mother. It was himself, aged about 8, he thought. He watched as they went into the Crashdown, and suddenly, he and Alex were there too, watching from the corner by the door. And for Max, it was suddenly as if he were that little boy. He could see what he saw, felt what he felt. And yet he was standing watching it all too. It was a strange experience.
They were sitting in a booth, and Jeff Parker was taking their order. “I’m filling in for the regular waitress, he was telling Diane Evans. “What’ll you two have?”
“I think Max would like a banana split, Jeff. And I just want a cup of coffee.” Max could tell that his mother knew this man, liked him too. It made him feel better, a little bit anyway. Not enough to trust him, though.
“Got a big appetite, son?” Jeff asked him, smiling broadly. He was so young, Max thought. Not at all like the Jeff Parker he had seen in recent months. Reserved with Max, suspicious.
Max had just nodded his head, intimidated by the stranger. He hadn’t been with the Evans all that long, and he was still very shy with people he didn’t know. School had been a torture for him. Except for one thing. And suddenly, there she was. Liz Parker. Max hadn’t thought about her being here, hadn’t known that this was her family’s restaurant.
She walked up to her father. “Daddy? Mommy said I should ask you if I can go over to Maria’s house?” She was excited, almost bouncing in her enthusiasm. The grown up Max smiled, feeling a rush of affection for the girl Liz had been. And the younger Max felt his heart beat faster, as he stared at her.
“Now, Lizzie, you can see I am working. Wait a minute until I finish waiting on these people.”
Liz had turned to look at them, just then seeing Max. Her face had suddenly glowed with a smile so big, so bright. Her eyes dark, beautiful. And Max could do nothing but stare, drawn to her. He was too young to know why, or have any ideas about her. He just knew that he wanted to be close to her. Always. “Hi, Max,” she chirped at him brightly.
“Ah, you two know each other?” Jeff asked, putting his hand on his daughter’s shoulder.
“Sure, Daddy. Max is in my class at school. Aren’t you Max?” She smiled again, as if knowing he wouldn’t answer.
Jeff had looked at the star-struck look in the little boy’s eyes, and then at his mother. “He’s a good-looking boy, Diane. You adopted a daughter, too, didn’t you?”
Diane had beamed. “Thanks, his father and I think so. Yes, she’s with her Daddy right now. We’re having a Mother-son, father-daughter afternoon.”
Jeff had nodded. “Lizzie and I do that, sometimes, too. I’ll be right back.” He turned to go make the banana split and pour the coffee.
Liz stood, still looking at Max. As most children, staring and rudeness didn’t connect in her mind. Diane noticed the staring going on, and for a moment, felt the well of protectiveness that Max brought out in her well up. And then she noticed that he stared back. Mesmerized. She was lucky he wasn’t a teenager, she thought ruefully, or she might have something to worry about. But they were eight, so that wasn’t a problem. So she smiled, and invited Liz to join them instead. Forgotten was the request to go to Maria’s. Instead, she nodded. She sat down by Max. Diane smiled, and then told them she would be back in a minute. She left, stopping to talk to Jeff on her way to the restroom.
Liz looked at Max, who still hadn’t said a word to her. It didn’t bother her, because he never spoke to her. But she knew. She knew.
She reached out a hand, patting him lightly. “It’s okay. You’ll be all right now, Max.”
And Max had smiled at her sweetly, feeling inside as if it would all be okay now. Now that she was here.
Abruptly they were gone from that scene, darkness around them. Max turned to Alex. “Why did we leave?” Max felt frustrated. For a moment, he had felt something. Something different. “What did she mean?”
“Don’t you know?”
“No,” he answered frustrated. “At least.... But that doesn’t make any sense, does it?”
“It was as if she knew, somehow, who I was. What I was feeling.”
“Maybe she did,” Alex proffered calmly. “But you always knew that Liz was the one, didn’t you, Max? At least, you did at one time. Haven’t you ever wondered, tried to find out about that?” At the blank look on Max’s face, Alex snorted. “No, I guess not. I will give you five minutes to put some clothes on, Max, before we have to ‘leave’ again.”
Max did as he requested, his mind buzzing. He remembered so well that he had always felt attracted to Liz. He could even remember the first time he had seen her. And yet, he had never considered that there might be more to that attraction.
“Alex, tell me....”
“No, no more about that. We have places to go.” And seeing that Max had pulled on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, Alex touched him again.
It was dark, but Max recognized the same place again. The Crashdown. But it looked different this time. And then Max recognized the girl sitting on the balcony, staring at the Christmas tree, still blinking in the darkness. And then he saw them, tears on her face. He felt uncomfortable, not understanding. What was there to see, anyway? Liz, sad and lonely. He knew all about it now.
And then she started speaking. At times her voice was strong, at other times it was so soft, so shaky, he could barely hear it. Through it, he knew everything she was feeling.
“Grandma, I don’t know if you can hear me. I just ... I have to have someone to talk to. I wish you were here to talk to.” She paused for a minute, as if hearing an response - and maybe she did.
“I can’t write anymore, Grandma. I don’t know why. It’s as if Max - Future Max I mean, as if he took that away from me too. I told you about him, Grandma. About what he made me do. And then afterwards. It’s been so awful. For a long time, I couldn’t tell anyone. And when the rumors went around at school... oh, you don’t know how awful it was. What some of the boys said to me...” Her voice was almost a whisper now, trembling with tears. “And it made me so mad, Grandma, because you know it had to be Tess who told them. How unfair is that? I wanted to tell everyone the truth - shout it out so they would all know, but I couldn’t really tell anyone, could I? If I did, maybe the world would be destroyed as Max told me would happen, right?”
“But I did finally tell Maria. She was so mad, that I could be with Kyle and not even tell her. And I couldn’t stand for one more person to be mad at me. I just couldn’t. But now - well, Maria knows, but she acts like it is just ... a little obstacle that Max and I will overcome. And maybe we will... maybe. I find myself watching Max, hoping that he will forgive me. At first, he was so mean to me, but now ... I thought he had forgiven me. Last week, Christmas Eve, he sat with me at the midnight service. It really was like before. And then... I haven’t seen him since. So, maybe I was wrong. Maybe he does still hate me. I just keep waiting, waiting to see if he will turn to Tess.
She stopped to brush some tears from her eyes. “Is it so wrong of me to hope he won’t? I’ve thought and thought about what that other Max told me, and he never said that Max and Tess had to be... more, did he? I mean, Max always told me he didn’t feel anything for her, that I was the only one. Maybe he really meant it, Grandma. I just know - if he ever does turn to her - even once - it will ruin something between us. Something we won’t ever get back.”
And then, I think, how selfish am I? What if it really does lead to the end of the world? What if everyone will die because of what I do? So, what am I to do? Go on as before? Work, finish school, act like it doesn’t matter to me? I mean - what’s the sense of going to college if we are all going to die in a few years anyway?”
“I know you told me to follow my heart. But, Grandma, I don’t know what that is anymore. Sometimes, all I feel is pain. But most of the time I’m so numb, I just don’t care about anything. All the joy I used to feel is gone. And I don’t know how to get it back. And I hate it. I hate living like this.” And then she started sobbing, burying her face in hands, breaking his heart. Max couldn’t stand it. Couldn’t stand to hear her cry like that.
“That’s enough now,” he told Alex, his voice hoarse, turning away from the sight of her. But he could hear her crying still. He didn’t want to hear her cry anymore.
“You’ve forgiven her for it, Max. You told me that. So you should be able to see her like this without it bothering you too much.” Alex was moved too, by her plight. But Max needed to see, to understand.
“Forgiven her?” Max was horrified at the thought. Yes, he had said that. But he hadn’t known, he really hadn’t. “I didn’t think....”
To be continued in next post...
[ edited 1 time(s), last at 3-Jan-2002 8:01:27 PM ]
|posted on 3-Jan-2002 12:20:18 AM by Star2000monkey|
|“I know,” Alex told him abruptly, not looking at Max at all. When Max looked again, they were in yet another time, another place. The Crashdown again. The Parker’s kitchen table. It was spread with papers, forms. Liz was diligently filling out forms. And he recognized something.|
“This was last night!” He exclaimed, recognizing the way Liz’ hair was done. He glanced at the kitchen clock. Midnight. New Year’s. “What is she doing?”
“Filling out scholarship forms, applications to schools.”
Max was shocked. “I thought she was going to Las Cruces so that we could be together.”
“Did you? When did you ask her?” Alex knew the answer, of course.
Max thought back. “I know we’ve talked about it, I just can’t remember when.”
“Maybe ... before Tess came to town?” Alex proffered.
“Maybe it was.” Had he really assumed so much? Just assumed that Liz would stay here for him?
“She’s late getting started. She probably won’t get into one of the better colleges now.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Max asked him bitterly.
“It’s not supposed to make you feel one way or another. But just think, Max! You will have all sorts of time for your search when she is gone. Not that she has been much of a consideration anyway.”
“Liz does NOT feel that way,” Max insisted. “She doesn’t.”
Alex smiled. “Would you like to know how she feels? Really feels?”
“How would you know, Alex?”
“She told me. And showed me.” Seeing the surprise on Max’s face, he smirked knowingly. “Yeah, somehow I am not surprised that she didn’t tell you. But you know ... I think there are things you should know.”
And with a swirl, as if plugged into a TV set, Max saw Liz and Alex talking. Just snippets, not the whole thing. But some things.
Liz, her voice insistent. If I hadn’t done what Max insisted, Tess would have left. You would still be alive. Here with us.
When I tried to investigate what happened? You wouldn’t believe the fights - the nastiness, the way he attacked me...” And with it, Max suddenly saw visions of those times as if from her eyes, what he had said to Liz, his face when he had said them. He flinched inside. He could hardly believe that was him, so...so cruel.
Her voice sad now. The night he and I were on our first date in months - at the Prom. I left him for ten minutes - just to help Maria, and Max - he knew where I was. In fact, he insisted I go! We had finally been talking about us, and so I went back, to find him with Tess.” Pain dripping like tears with her words, touching him. Never once could Max remember even thinking about what Liz had seen that night.
“When Max left for LA? He knew I was worried about him, scared for him. But suddenly, he didn’t call. He never even called me back.” Her voice, the way she sounded. What did it mean? Max couldn’t ever remember Liz sounding like that. Defeated maybe. You know what I realized? The minute he thought he had a way off of earth - he stopped taking my calls. He intended to leave - would have left if the ship hadn’t broken - without even telling me that he was leaving or anything. I wasn’t even worth a goodbye!” Max wanted to tell she was wrong. He wanted to, but he couldn’t. He had intended to leave without contacting her again. At the time, he remembered thinking it would be easier. Easier for whom? he wondered now.
“But it isn’t that, Alex. It’s Max.... and Tess. I start remember that he was with her, that he left me for her, and I can’t... I just can’t. I think his ‘apology’ went something like “I was attracted to someone like me. I admit it. But it’s over now. I can’t leave Earth anymore, so I want to be with you.” Max cringed at the inadequacy - no, the crudeness of that apology. At the time, he had felt so awkward, just trying to get through the conversation, to reach her. He had, but not as he intended.
“Do you realize what that means? It means he lied to me, Alex. All those times he swore he felt nothing for Tess, no interest in her at all? That there would never be anyone for him but me? He lied. All lies. I can’t trust him anymore, Alex. Not what he says, not what he does.”
“The real Max Evans died on October 31, 2000 on my balcony. Our relationship - our love - that perfect soulmate love - it died then, too, didn’t it? It won’t come back. All I know is that it won’t ever be what it might have been. It makes me so sad I can hardly bear it - but I know it is true.”
It was overload, too much for him to think about all at once. All the things he was so sure she felt, he had been wrong. He thought she had forgiven him. Forgotten it all. Adopted his search for his son as her own. That they were together as they were before. Better even. But that wasn’t what Liz thought. That last bit that she had spoken - that it was all ruined for them, came back to him again. Surely she couldn’t believe that. She couldn’t be right! He turned to Alex, angry, defiant.
“She can’t know that! It .. lots of couples break up and get back together again later. We’ve grown. It’s part of life.”
“I wonder if you would have felt that way if you still believed she slept with Kyle?” Alex mused. He knew the answer. So did Max. “After all, you two hadn’t been together in five months when that happened. It isn’t like you were on a date and came back to discover her with him, is it?” His voice was soft with innuendo, mocking even.
Max couldn’t say anything, just stared at him as the realization ran through him. He had betrayed Liz. He had wanted to believe he hadn’t, that he had been justified somehow in what he had done. That, except for his son, all was now right with his world. And he was all wrong.
Alex, suddenly all business, turned to him again. “Time to go. One more stop before we are done.”
“What is left?” Max asked dully. Any illusion that his life was on track was gone now.
“Well, we’ve done the past and the present. What is left?” Alex asked rhetorically. And then they were again in a different time, and place.
At his house - his parent’s house. His bedroom. A single light - the one over his desk - was on. All else was dark... quiet... except for the movements, sighs, groans. A couple was making love on the bed, he thought before realizing that it was himself and Liz. As before, it was as if he were in both places at once, standing here watching with Alex, in that bed with Liz. The feelings there overwhelmed him. Sexual excitement, oh yes. He could feel her with him, surrounding him, smell her, taste her. But more. All through him, he was aware of her, of how she felt. They were connected, Max realized. Not just physically, but mentally. He felt the pleasure in her, knew she felt it in him. And love, oh, he felt the love.
Max turned away, feeling like an intruder, embarrassed because Alex was there too. But Alex was gone, leaving him alone. Alone in those moments, witnessing an intimacy that he never had before.
It was sometime later, when he was truly aware again. Feeling Liz caressing him soothingly, her head on his shoulder. Sated. Secure. So in love he didn’t think he could bear it.
“That was wonderful, Max,” he heard her say softly.
“I’ve missed you. It’s been too long.” He felt her nod her head. “If only my parents would go out of town more often.”
“Me too. Oh, Max, sometimes I could die for you. I hate not being able to be together every night.”
“Me, too.” He glanced over at the clock. “Hmmm... I think we missed it. Happy New Year’s, sweetheart.” He leaned over to kiss her, his mouth lingering on hers. He felt his body respond again. It had been too long.
“Hmmm... Maybe you would have rather gone to the Rave party with Maria.” Liz teased him.
“No way. Why would I want to be with Maria when I could be with you?” He really meant that.
“Well, washing dishes can’t exactly compare to Enigma.” She had offered to let him go, not really meaning it.
“No, it can’t. But it wasn’t really the dish washing part I am thinking about.” Max teased her back. He turned to lean over her, brushing a kiss on her mouth. “I think I would be worried if you really did want me to go without you.”
“Well, I thought I should offer to let you. But I’ll admit - if you had, I would have been upset.”
“I wouldn’t have gone. Being with you - even busing at the Crashdown - is better than being at some party without you.”
“What about when I go to school next year?” Liz asked quietly. She had been worrying lately.
“Are you worried that I’ll find someone else?” he asked, surprised.
“I don’t think you will.”
“Liz, if I ever even looked at someone, you would know it. When we connect - well, you can’t hide something like that. Being faithful is mandatory here. And... I wouldn’t want to mess us up. Not ever.”
“You think I would know, Max?”
“Yes.” He leaned down to kiss her again, using just a little push of his mind, he found the connection that was always just beneath the surface with them. Everything about him, she could see. If anything else was there, she would know it, feel it. Flashes came. Flashes that he couldn’t control; he had no idea what she saw. Whatever it was, it convinced her. And the flashes from her overwhelmed him. He could see clear through to her soul, her innermost feelings were laid bare. The way she loved him.... he didn’t know how he could ever live without that love again.
Her voice was breathless when she finally could talk. “I love the way you love me, Max. And I know we will find a way to be together next year.” She smiled at him, confident.
The vision faded, Max finding himself staring into Alex’ blue eyes. The wrenching of his heart had not faded yet, however. And didn’t for a long, long time.
“When was the last time you or Liz got flashes from each other, Max?”
Max stilled, thinking, realizing. “We haven’t. Not one. Not that I know about, anyway.” He hadn’t noticed that. He wondered if Liz had. If so, she had not mentioned it to him. Suddenly, he felt like crying.
“That wasn’t the future, was it? It was what would have happened last night, if... if things had been different.” His voice was strangled with emotion. Alex just watched him struggle through his awakening.
He thought about what he had felt in that vision. The total love, acceptance. It had been missing, hadn’t it? And for the first time he realized just how sad it was that Liz had wanted him to go to that party without her. If she really loved him, knew that he loved her - she wouldn’t have urged him to go, would she? And would he have gone?
And the other things, all those things about her that he had learned tonight. Somehow, he had missed completely what last year had done to Liz. He had always thought in terms of what it had done to him. And what he had done because of it - the effects of that. Never once had he thought back to those long months, to what Liz had gone through. To her fear of everyone dying because of choices she would make. And when he thought of it, he realized. Liz hadn’t had a date in all that time. Not once that he knew about. Just thinking about his classmates making comments to her, hurting her, made the ire rise in him. And who had she had to turn to during that time? No one. She had born it all herself.
Suddenly, it all came back to him. Snide comments he had made to her, times he had walked off when she had tried to be nice. When he had let Tess be all over him just to show Liz. Yeah, he had showed her.
And later, he had forgiven her for it.
Thinking about Tess brought back the rest. For the first time, he asked himself honestly. What would he have done if Liz had been pregnant by Kyle? Would he have been there, supported her as if it hadn’t killed something inside him to know what she had done? He wanted to think so, but he knew it wasn’t true. He wouldn’t even talk to her when he thought they had one time “made a mistake” as Liz had told him. Pregnant? He wouldn’t have been able to even look at her.
And he had destroyed it. The ease with which she had taken him back had let him off the hook. He hadn’t had to ask himself any of the difficult questions. No difficult explanations. No apologies. No true acceptance of his own responsibility in the disaster that had happened to them. He thought back to that night on the wharf now. His pathetic apology which hadn’t been an apology at all.
“You hurt me,” she had said. As if that even touched the tiniest bit of the pain she must have been feeling. And what she had done for him... why had she done it? The thought of her in jail - and still telling him to do his thing, to let her pay the penalty for him. And he had been willing to let her. Since then? Well, maybe her father’s ban hadn’t bothered him as much as it might have. And it was true, what she had said to Alex. He had been going to leave her without even telling her goodbye. Now, now, knowing what she was thinking, feeling, he felt so low.
Looking back, he now realized what he should have known if he had been paying any attention at all. Liz hadn’t been the same with him since his return. Just last week, when he had broken a rare date with her to spend time with that little boy - use that little boy, he should say.... and she had turned and walked away. Saying it was fine. He had known better, hadn’t he? But he hadn’t cared, sure he was in the right of it. He had a responsibility, he had told himself. Liz had to understand.
But now, he wondered. Why should she understand? She had no obligation to do so. He had just assumed she would, that she should know that his son had to come first. But... it hadn’t been his son channeling that child, just as Liz had tried to tell him all along. And while he had been partying with Maria last night, she had been filling out applications. So she could get away from Roswell. Away from him, he realized.
He was losing her. Had lost her already. A despair sank into his heart, his soul.
“So that’s it? We can never get it back, can we? Is that what you wanted me to know? That I am a selfish prick? That I have been fooling myself, thinking we were okay now? What kind of gift was that?” Max asked him bitterly.
“Do you want the truth or the lies we tell children? The truth is that some things you do - they make it impossible to go back. You can’t always just say “sorry” and everything will be back to the way it was before.”
The look on his face, the defeated slump of his body as he stood looking out of the window to the parking lot in the front of the apartments reminded Alex strongly of something, but it took him a moment to remember the occasion. Then it came to him. Max, when they had rescued him from the Special Unit. Beaten down, having been through a terrible ordeal, leaning against the Jetta for a brief second, too weak to get into the car. For the first time, Alex felt a touch of sympathy for Max Evans.
Silence for long, long moments. Alex found himself seeing things, knowing things that he had almost forgotten. The fear of those days when they were afraid of the Special Unit, the fear when Liz had been taken by Nasedo, how Max would have done anything to get her back. And then last year, after he and Liz had been broken up. Alex had not known the truth of what happened in those days, but he knew now. And with that knowledge came compassion, and something else. Since his talk with Liz he had almost forgotten. At one time, he had really liked Max. Admired him even. Some of those feelings returned. Not entirely, of course, because - as he had told Max, you can’t just wipe the record clean. But with it, he felt an overwhelming urge to want to help Max. He hadn’t chosen to hurt Max, even though he had been angry and disgusted with him. Alex didn’t have the ability to change the gift but perhaps he could help Max to accept it.
Max turned to him, almost dreading whatever might be coming next.
“All your life, you have known you were here for a purpose. That you needed to be ready for it, prepare for it. In the last year, you have gotten off track from all that is important to you. Your gift was a lesson, Max.”
Max was thinking, feeling lost for the first time in a long time. “And what was I supposed to learn here, Alex? That I have screwed everything up? I already knew that.”
“No, although knowing it and facing it are different things, evidently. No, Max, I think your gift was to learn that you were focusing on all the wrong things. ‘Never your mind on where you are, on what you are doing’ Alex mimicked Yoda’s remonstration of Luke Skywalker.
Max couldn’t help it. He grinned. He remembered so many times when Alex would do things like that, cracking them all up.
“Max, you believe that you have important things to do, responsibilities, right Max? What have you done to get ready for them? You need to start paying attention to them, to the things that keep your life on track, in this world. Haven’t you ever wondered about any of this? Why were you put on earth? Why Roswell, New Mexico? Why Liz? What is your connection? What was going on last year with Nasedo and Tess? About.... what happened to me. What is the truth about Kal? There are so many things you should have been trying to find out, Max, and you haven’t done any of them. Things to prepare yourself for - and knowledge is the key. You really know nothing, do you? The only things you think you know were told to you by Nasedo or Tess or Kal. How do you know that any of it is true? Don’t you think you need to find out?”
Max shook his head. Was that really true? It must be, if Alex said it. More sand under his feet, he thought. He remembered the Bible story about the men who built their houses on sand instead of a true foundation. What was his true foundation?
Alex answered him, as if he could hear his thoughts. And maybe he could. “The things that are most important to you on earth - Liz, your parents. You have been letting them slip through your fingers. Losing them. You need to ask yourself - what would happen to you without them? Surely you have noticed that the further you have gotten away from your loved ones, the more... disconnected you have become. Isolated. Immune to their pain.”
Max’s head jerked back at that hit. At the unbearable truth of it. Again, he thought of turning off the phone when Liz’ call came through, intending to leave her without even telling her. Had he once cared about her feelings if he had done so? He shivered. All he had to do was think of his vision of what might have been, the total immersion in Liz. The happiness he had felt. The love. Liz and his feelings for her had always been the best part of him, Max knew. Somehow he had forgotten that. Alex was right. He had a choice to make, and only now did he realize that he had been making it without realizing it. Suddenly, resolution ran through him, lending him strength. As if lending steel to his spine, he stood ramrod straight, turning once again to face Alex. He wouldn’t let that happen. He couldn’t.
“You said I had a chance. Does that mean....can Liz and I....can we??” He didn’t know how to say it exactly, but perhaps Alex understood.
“I don’t know, Max. I can’t tell you. I do know this. Until you really face the ramifications of what you did, of what happened to you both, you don’t have a chance. Now, I think you know. You see what is really there. Try dealing with that. And start putting your life back to where it should have been.” It wouldn’t be the same, they both knew that. But who knew what could be, what might be now that Max saw what was real and who was real?
Alex stood up, and Max realized he was leaving. “Alex? Thank you.” He meant it. It was true that he was distraught, upset. But he now realized that it was if he had been standing in the street, not knowing a truck was about to hit him. And Alex had blown the horn, scaring him, upsetting him, but saving his life.
Alex turned, smiling, a smile that was pure Alex Whitman. Max felt warmth, longing hit him. He missed Alex. “I miss all of you, too, Max. And ... you know, I got something out of this too.”
At the puzzled look on Max’s face, he explained. “When I was with Liz, I found myself very angry with you. I don’t think I am supposed to feel that way, you know. It isn’t healthy.” He chuckled at his own joke. “Seriously, I needed to see you again. The real you. And to stop seeing you that way.” He had somehow rediscovered his old liking for Max Evans. His love of his friend. A gift he had needed, a gift he was thankful for.
“Will I see you again?” Max asked. He hoped so. He really did.
“Perhaps.” And then Alex was gone, leaving Max to feel the loss of his friend, once again.
The door opening behind Max had him turning in surprise.
“Hey. You just getting up?” Michael asked grouchily. He had felt like hell, and worked all day. And Max had slept.
“No, not really.” Max said. He glanced at the clock, and determined that he should just have enough time to take a shower and clean up, before catching Liz getting off of work. He picked up the phone, punching in the number to the diner. It took several rings for it to be answered, and then more as Liz was called to the phone.
From the bedroom, stripping off his clothes, preparing to crash, Michael could just hear the words Max spoke, the pauses as Liz evidently said something.
“Liz, how about dinner tonight? I’ll be over as soon as you get off work, okay?” He listened. “I just thought ... maybe it would be nice just to spend the night talking. What about? About everything.” A long pause. “And Liz? I love you.”
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