See what happens when they air a good episode? All sorts of fic bunnies coming hopping down the road... *wink*

A little tag to Ch-Ch-Changes... Enjoy.

*happy*
Em

***********

Limbo
by EmilyluvsRoswell

Disclaimer: Me no own.
Category: Max POV.
Summary: Max’s thoughts after Liz leaves.
Spoilers: Through Ch-Ch-Changes, up to and including the promo for Panacea.
Rating: PG.
Feedback: Sure! Love it!
Distribution: Please ask.


***


His first instinct after reading Liz’s letter is to sit.

He drops where he stands, folding to the floor just outside Michael’s doorway, his knees releasing as if someone has suddenly unlocked them. The letter slips from his fingers and floats lightly away before landing soundlessly on the flagstones.

Standing suddenly seems an immense effort.

Liz is gone and all he can think is that, maybe, for all of these months, she was the only thing holding him upright.

No wonder she is hurting.


***


Michael finds him there, on the cold ground.

"She took the first bus out this morning," he says, stooping to pick up the letter. "I hear it’s snowing in Vermont."

Max stares at his hands where they rest on his knees, his palms covering patches of faded denim. "If I catch a flight today, I could beat her there." His voice lacks conviction.

Michael scowls. "It’s not a competition, Maxwell." He tosses the letter at him and goes inside, letting the door slam abruptly.


***


He thought he knew what it felt like to be utterly helpless.

A moment of sheer terror, watching blood ooze from her pale smooth stomach, unable to get her to open her eyes and look at him.

Michael unconscious, encased in a cocoon.

An alien hunter with a gun.

An FBI agent with a syringe.

Liz in bed with Kyle.

Alex in a body bag.

Tess pregnant.

Why did he sleep with her?

Because he felt abandoned, isolated. Helpless.

Because she wanted him more than he didn’t want her, and she was there, and no one else was on his side.

Because he was weak.

Now, he knows helpless.

Helpless is seeing hate in Liz’s eyes – if just for an instant – and knowing it is real. And that he can never take back what put it there.


***


Maria leaves for New York. Michael stops sitting home. He takes on extra shifts and goes bowling with the guys from work.

Max takes his place in front of the TV. He watches Oprah, and wonders if he ever had a spirit to remember.

He finds the book on college interview techniques, buried beneath a couch cushion. He recalls the expression on Liz’s face when he asked about her greatest regret, and is glad now that she never answered.

He realizes this makes him a coward.


***


He has lost the momentum of his life. Dead eyes peer at him from his reflection. They no longer recognize the man he has become.

Days run together. He shows up for class and realizes it is Saturday.

Liz has not called.


***


He runs into Kyle. The silence between them holds a new awkwardness. He fidgets. "Are you alright? You’re not—"

"Nothing short circuiting yet," Kyle assures him. Or perhaps he is reassuring himself. "You look like shit, though."

"Doesn’t Buddha have a saying for this?"

Kyle won’t be baited. "Better be careful," he warns. "She’ll come back and wonder what the hell she saw in you."


***


What did she see in him?

He knows, because she let him see – let him feel. With every kiss, every flash, he glimpsed her soul and counted himself lucky to enjoy the privilege.

And still he walked away. He let himself forget, allowed her to run, accepted when his eyes overruled his heart.

He feigned ignorance and wore responsibility like a badge, and dragged her through his pain so he would no longer be alone.

When did passive aggression become his stock and trade?

The flashes stopped a long time ago.


***


He memorizes plane schedules. On any given day, he wakes knowing he can see her before sundown, by way of Cincinnati.

Questions swirl through his head. Is she better? Is she still in pain? Does a woman run because she needs space or because she wants you to run after her?

He makes it halfway to the airport in Albuquerque before he turns back.

She has asked for distance and time. She asked by taking it. To ignore that would be selfish. And weak.

He is done with weakness. He is still alone – still helpless – but he can be strong. Because she is.


***


So, he waits. And he tries to remember what he used to do before he spent his days watching Liz Parker.

He suspects his memories do not stretch that far back.

He goes to lunch with Isabel. He apologizes for not letting her go to San Francisco, and for punching Jesse before their wedding. He tells her that he likes her husband.

Days still blur, but he goes back to school. Mr. Seligman eyes him without sympathy and makes him do his labs by himself. All of his results are slightly off.


***


Valenti takes a job working nights with Michael. He wears a security guard uniform, and Max struggles not to call him Sheriff.

He tries to apologize for getting him fired, but Jim won’t let him.


***


Sleep comes reluctantly. More often than not, he wakes in a heap on the floor, having rolled off Michael’s couch.

He dreams of the dead.

HubblePierceNasedoCourtneyAlex. They talk to him – tell him things.

He never remembers what they say come morning. But he can feel their words building up in his subconscious, layer upon layer. Like plaque.


***


He tries to write to Liz. He tries to answer her questions. To explain without excusing. To be honest but not hurtful.

Words seem inadequate.

The phone rings – Michael from work. "Maxwell, we’re in trouble," he says, without preamble.

He tries to listen past the buzzing in his ears. Only certain things slip through. "…blood sample…" "…lab tests…" The static fills his head and things start spinning. Is this what happened to Liz?

"Max? Maxwell? Are you hearing me?"

"I’m coming, Michael."

He trades his green shirt for a black sweater and his jacket. On the way out the door, he balls the half-written letter in one hand and tosses it into the garbage.

When he gets back, he’ll start over.


***

END