posted on 1-Nov-2002 5:35:33 PM
best_music

Sins of the Father

Author: Kath7

Category: M/L

Disclaimer: I own nothing. I am borrowing the characters from Roswell and the lyrics from Sarah McLachlan with thanks.

Summary: Post-Departure. Dealing with that damn baby (innocent/shminnocent - it’s the spawn of Tess…its just gotta be all bad) and that damn Sean Deluca.

Author’s Note: This story alternates POV from Liz to Max with each part. Each part is entitled for a Sarah McLachlan song, with whom I identify the good ‘ol days of Max and Liz. Banner by Angel Parker.


Sins-Of-The-Father

Part 1 - Black and White - Liz POV

Unravel me,
Distant cord.
On the outside is forgotten
Constant need to get along
And the animal awakens
And our love feels black and white.

The road is long and memory slides
To the whole of my undoing
I put aside
I put away
I push it back
To get through each day
And all I fell is black and white
And I’m wound up small and tight.

Everybody loves you when you’re easy,
Everybody hates you when you’re a bore,
Everybody is waiting for your entrance
Don’t disappoint them.

Unravel me
Untie this cord
The very centre of our union
It’s caving in.
I can endure
I am the archive of our failures
And all I feel is black and white
And I’m wound up
Small and tight
And I don’t know who I am.

Don’t disappoint them.

Sarah McLachlan


I am in my bedroom staring at myself in the mirror which hangs over my dresser.

I don’t look any different than I did yesterday. Shouldn’t I be able to see it? Shouldn’t I be able to see the shame written all over my face - shame that I gave in to Max Evans again, that I let him stomp all over my heart for weeks and then the minute he told me that he loved me, I fell right back into his arms?

I am so weak. I know it. All my friends know it. Everyone knows it.

And they all want me to be. They want me to let things return to normal, want Max and I to get back together - they want everything to go back to the way it used to be, before it all happened, want to pretend that none of it ever happened, that we didn’t almost let one devious, back-stabbing blonde witch destroy everything that we all used to share.

I know it’s what they all want.

I don’t know what the heck I want.

When I spoke to Maria on the phone last night, she sounded a little distracted. I could hear Michael talking to Mrs. Deluca in the background, so I didn’t really blame her, but I couldn’t help but feel that she was being a little dismissive of what I was feeling - which was like a complete failure.

After two weeks of having one thing to live for - finding Alex’s killer - now all I had left was the disaster that Max and I had allowed our relationship to become. And all I really wanted to do was to forgive him, to move on, to be with him. At least that’s what I thought I wanted.

I had also wanted Maria to talk me out of it. She had not been helpful.

"Liz, no one will blame you Chica," Maria told me. "You love Max. You know he loves you. If you had just told him that all those months ago…"

I interrupted her. "Are you trying to tell me that this is all my fault?"

Maria sighed heavily. "It’s not your fault Liz. It’s his fault. Future Max’s. He came back and caused all this chaos and left you to clean up the mess. Its her fault too, that little murderous tramp, but I won’t even go there, because you already know it!" I could almost see Maria’s chest heaving with indignation. I could hear her taking a deep breath and she sounded a little calmer when she said, "You have every right to be with Max, to explain it all to him. You have every right to forgive him. He has to be given a chance to try and fix this. Because you know that none of this was him. This is not how he was supposed to turn out. Don’t let her win by not giving him a second chance."

"This isn’t how I was supposed to turn out either," I muttered back. But I could tell that she wasn’t really listening to me. She had the mouthpiece half covered, but I could hear her whispering to Michael. "Bye Maria."

"Oh, bye Liz. Listen, I’ll talk to you about this tomorrow, okay?"

"Whatever." But she was already gone.

Well, it’s tomorrow and I still don’t know what to do. And I promised Max I would talk to him today.

When we had said good-bye yesterday, after getting back from watching Tess blast out of our lives, neither of us really knew what to say. We both knew that we had a lot of stuff to talk about, but it just seemed so exhausting at the time. We agreed that we would talk today, try and sort this all out.

But I’m not ready. I know that now. Because I have no idea what I want to do. I am completely torn in two directions…

And it’s all because of the baby.

The baby that exists out in the universe somewhere, the one that was supposed to be my baby, because Max is my soulmate, the one that Max is determined to find.

I think I could have forgiven him for the sex. Really. I mean, he thought I had done it with Kyle, he didn’t know that Tess was a manipulative weasel, thought that she was his destiny, had started to remember what he had shared with her in another lifetime (although that he could have ever loved her at all makes me wonder if him loving me is such a gift - but, I digress).

Max thought that we were completely finished. I had told him as much at the prom.

It’s not the sex. It’s the fact that I know that if he ever finds Tess’s child, I am never going to be able to accept it.

I know that it is completely irrational, that the baby is innocent, that a baby can’t be blamed for the sins of its parents, but I can’t help but hate it. I hate that it exists, hate that if I do get back together with Max and we ever have children, this other kid will be around, always reminding me that, for one brief period of time, Max did not love me anymore. I will have to explain to my children that their father once stopped loving me.

I hate myself for hating it. I do. And I hate Max because I hate myself for hating it.

It is just so ironic that the night that Max and I were supposed to have sex for the first time, he had protection. Future Max had told me as much. It meant that Max hoped that he would get the chance to use it, that he wanted to use it with me.

The fact that he didn’t have it with him when he slept with Tess just makes me more mad. Because it means that he had absolutely no intention of sleeping with her until the moment arose. It means that he was careless and it also means that he didn’t really love her because he didn’t even bother to protect her.

I have no love lost for Tess, but the fact that Max could do that with someone he didn’t really love…

How, if and when we ever do it, can I be sure that he loves me? Because to me, sex is the ultimate gift two people who love each other can give one another. It was why I screamed at Max that I was saving myself for him. Until that moment I hadn’t even realized it, but it was totally true.

I was still in love with Max Evans and I knew that I was never going to love anyone else the way I loved him. Which meant that I was never going to have sex. Ever.

And if Max could do that with Tess, on the spur of the moment, out of nowhere, it means that it just doesn’t mean as much to him.

Which also makes me wonder if I ever really knew him at all.

This is what that baby represents to me. All of this. And its why I will never be able to accept it.

And it also means that Max and I should never get back together. Because Max is determined to find his child - and if he wasn’t, I still wouldn’t be with him, because then I would know that he still wasn’t the Max that I fell in love with. The Max I know and love takes responsibility for his actions.

It’s, again, supremely ironic, that when my Max finally decides to show his face again, by being responsible and careful, it still means I can’t be with him.

We can’t ever be together. And somehow I have to tell him.

Someone is knocking at the window.

I close my eyes briefly, take a deep breath before turning around, expect to see Max poking his head through my window, like he has done so many times in the past.

But it’s not Max.

"Sean! What are you doing?" I demand, hurrying across the room and pulling him roughly through.

"Hey Parker! Watch the merchandise." Sean grins in that charming way of his, trying to get me to loosen up.

He is the last person on the face of the planet I want to deal with at the moment. Even after Max.

I am still embarrassed about throwing myself at him like I did two nights ago.

I had no intention of doing that when I had gone to the Delucas. I had every intention of sobbing in Maria’s arms, of both of us trying to get over the fact that the only boys we would ever love were leaving us, of mourning Alex.

I remember I was so scared. Max was leaving me alone and I didn’t know what I was going to do. We still didn’t know who had killed Alex. How could he leave me alone with a murderer out there?

But, even then, I knew that wasn’t what I was really scared of.

I was scared of being alone for the rest of my life.

Which is why, when Sean opened the door, and his eyes lit up in that way they tend to do when I’m around, I threw myself at him.

I wanted to forget. I wanted to forget everything, to forget that my soulmate was gone, that he belonged to someone else now, that he had broken my heart.

Above all I had wanted to get rid of my damn virginity. Sex had been what had driven Max and I apart in every way and I wanted it over with. In that instant, when I pulled Sean’s lips down to mine, I decided that sex wasn’t about love at all. It was about trying to fill the emptiness in your soul, even if just for a little while.

And, so, we had ended up on the pull-out couch and I had felt Sean’s hands on my body and, yet, all I could see in my mind was Max watching me, his dark eyes full of pain. I kept seeing the expression on his face when he had caught me in bed with Kyle and I had been unable to stop the tears from coming. Because the emptiness wasn’t going away.

This was the wrong person.

And he is still the wrong person, standing in front of me now, eyeing me with concern.

"I just came to see how you’re doing," Sean tells me now. "You know, after you and Maria ran out last night, I was worried about you."

I turn away, stare at myself in the mirror again. "I’m okay. Thanks though."

"Parker?" Sean’s tone is pleading. "I know that you said that you need time to get over that jerk, but we can still be friends in the meantime, can’t we?"

I bite my lip. I don’t want to hurt Sean anymore than I already have. I know that I am never going to be with him, especially with Max still around.

I’m weak. I know it. Everyone knows it.

"I can’t really…" I turn around. I need to look at him while I told him the truth - that I was going to try and make things work with Max.

Because that was the awful truth.

I couldn’t give him up.

And I was even going to help him find the baby.

That’s how weak I am. Seeing Sean, it just made me realize it even more.

He’s a juvenile delinquent, but even I knew he’s better for me than Max Evans.

And I am still going to deny him.

Because, even though Max has the ability to break my heart again and again and, even though I know he’s going to do it too, I am going back to him. Not because I want to, but because that’s what happens when you’re star-crossed, when you’d die for each other.

When you love each other.

Because if there’s one thing I do know, its that Max loves me. I, at least, believe that.

And it was the knowledge of the way that Max feels about me that made me fall in love with him in the first place, all the way back on that first day after I knew the truth about him. When he connected with me and let me see who he was, I knew.

I had seen into his soul and it had been beautiful and I had to believe that deep down that’s still who he is.

And so I love him.

Love sucks.

But I never get the chance to tell Sean any of this because there is movement out on the balcony and I know it’s Max.

"Liz, are you in there?" His voice sounds hopeful, nervous, even though he should know I’m here. We arranged to meet after all.

"Look Sean, you have to go." I grab him by the jacket and pull him out through my bedroom door.

But he has no intention of going anywhere. He is staring at me in shock. "That’s not him is it?"

I play dumb. "I don’t know what you’re talking about."

But it’s too late, because Max is at the window and he’s staring in at us. I see his eyes fall on Sean, see the open expression he was wearing turn instantly wary, shuttered.

Back in hiding. That quickly. That’s my Max.

"Oh. You have company." He turns away. "I can come back."

And I know what’s going through his mind. He’s remembering that night he stared in that same window at me and Kyle in bed together. Even though he knows now that it wasn’t real, I know that it still haunts him.

It is my only consolation in the Tess disaster. At least I didn’t see them together like that. Seeing him kissing her at the prom was bad enough. If I had actually seen them how Max saw Kyle and I…

I push the thought out of my head. I am beginning to feel a little sick.

I can see that Max feels the same way. He actually looks a little green.

"No! Max! Wait!" He pauses, turns around to stare in at us again. "Sean is just leaving." I say firmly, pushing him out fully.

Sean sighs heavily. "What is it with girls and guys who hurt them?" He demands, as he allows himself to be pushed through the living room and to the outside door.

"Never mind. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Just go please. I cannot deal with you right now."

Sean pauses at the door. "Liz, I never want to make your life more difficult. You know I think you’re making a mistake, so I won’t even say it."

"Thank you Sean." I say it sarcastically, but I sort of mean it.

Because I know I’m making a mistake too.


[ edited 3 time(s), last at 24-Nov-2002 10:58:22 PM ]
posted on 1-Nov-2002 5:39:56 PM
Part 2 - Sweet Surrender - Max POV

Doesn’t mean much,
Doesn’t mean anything at all.
The life I’ve left behind me
Is a cold room.
I’ve crossed the last line
From where I can return,
Where every step I took in faith
Betrayed me
And led me from my home.

Sweet surrender
Is all that I have to give.

Take me in
No questions asked.
You strip away the ugliness that surrounds me
Are you an angel?
Am I already that gone?
I only hope that I won’t disappoint you.
I’m down here on my knees…

Sweet surrender
Is all that I have to give.
Sweet surrender…
Is all that I have to give.

I don’t understand how the touch of your hand…
I would be the one to fall.
And its the little things,
I miss everything about you.
It doesn’t mean much,
It doesn’t mean anything at all.
The life I’ve left behind me
Is a cold room.

Sarah McLachlan


I had the weirdest dream last night. Well, weird is an understatement. Twisted and sick is a little more accurate.

I didn’t think I was going to sleep at all after getting back from the pod chamber. My mind was in about five hundred places at once, wondering how the hell my life had ended up such a colossal mess. I was even beginning to make a list of all the things I had to resolve when Isabel came into see me because the Sheriff still hadn’t given the tape we made to our parents (thank God) and we had to somehow come up with a way to explain what the hell had happened to the Jeep.

Isabel wanted to tell them the truth. She’s still mad at me that I said no, but telling Mom and Dad has to go at the bottom of the list. I’ve got other stuff to worry about right now.

So dealing with that was fun. Really. Yeah. Oh, I’m officially grounded from driving until my next birthday by the way.

Anyway, after Izzy left, I went back to my list.

Lists. Making one made me think of Liz of course. I still grin to myself when I think about that list of questions she had for me that day after she found about who I really was. Her scientific, logical mind is one of the things I love about her. She once told me not to think she was a dork because she knew so much about science, but I, of course, never thought that. It was just one of the many things that impressed me about her.

Anyway, I’m getting side-tracked here. Thinking about all the things I love about Liz Parker has the tendency to do that. It always has, except for a very short period of time which only ended two days ago.

I couldn’t think about what I loved about Liz in that period of time. Because, if I had, I know I wouldn’t have gotten through it. So, instead, I was an ass. It helped a little bit - helped me anyway. It certainly didn’t help anyone else.

It didn’t help Alex.

But, well, I think you know all about that.

I think about Alex all the time, about how my stupid life killed him. Because he wouldn’t have died if he hadn’t been brought into the disaster that follows me everywhere. Tess wouldn’t have had access to him if it wasn’t for me.

People on the outside of our group probably didn’t realize that Alex and I weren’t that close. Even after everything that’s happened in the past year, the secret the eight of us shared bonded us in a way that it made everyone on the outside think that we were all really great friends.

I wish I’d taken the time to get to know him better. I mean, I did know him, but I certainly didn’t appreciate him, appreciate what he was to Izzy, what he was to Liz…

It wasn’t until he died that I began to realize how important he was to Liz, really. I mean, I had sort of known it because of how bad things got between them when she was still shutting him out about our secret, but he was so much a part of everything that went down with the six of us after he did know, I think I forgot that he and Liz had a bond that extended beyond me and my problems. Can we say self-absorbed? I’ve often been that way, but you all know that too and if you don’t, well ask Michael and Isabel. They probably have archived records.

Anyway, Liz and Alex. She knew him, knew that he would never kill himself. I remember knowing it too when she first told me that the Sheriff had suggested it. And I remember also finally accepting it gratefully when the Sheriff told me it had to be true - because then it wasn’t my fault.

I’ve never been very good at accepting responsibility. I’m only beginning to see that now, after the way I completely bailed on Liz after Alex died. I’m tempted to make another list, but I think you all know what I’m talking about anyway.

Responsibility. No, It’s not my forte. I put on a good show though. Lots of people think I’m pretty responsible.

I’m responsible when its easy. Where Liz Parker is concerned, its never easy.

One thing I was good at was picking the right people to trust: Liz, Maria, Alex, Valenti…even Kyle to a certain degree.

Ummmm…we’ll get back to Tess in a minute.

I want to get back to my dream before I get totally sidetracked from the topic of Alex, because he was in it.

Like I said, it was weird. Because, in my dream, he wasn’t dead. Well, maybe he was. It was hard to tell. I told you it was twisted.

I was at the Crashdown, sitting in my usual booth. I even knew why I was there - to get Liz back of course.

But it was Alex who came out the swinging door leading into the break room. He marched right over to me and sat down. "Hey Max. I need to talk to you."

As is the case in dreams, this seemed perfectly normal, although in the dream I was aware that Alex was dead. "Okay." I even realized in the dream that I had not had a conversation alone with Alex since the time I was trying to convince him not to turn me in when he let Liz and Isabel use his blood to save me in the hospital.

"I need to know what you’re going to do about the baby." Dream Alex said.

I stared at him. "How do you know about the baby?" I asked, totally confused, since Alex had, of course, been killed before Tess and I had ever had sex.

"I knew a lot more than you think I did." Dream Alex told me calmly.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

But Dream Alex changed the subject. "If you won’t talk about the baby, then tell me what you’re going to do about Liz."

"Why?" I demanded, getting a little creeped out. If there was one thing Alex Whitman had not been, it was this calmly controlled, especially when it came to his friends. Michael had told me about the time Alex had come to punch his lights out about Maria when the whole Courtney thing was going on. My subconcious knew this and you would have thought that my dream would have reflected it.

But no. He seemed merely curious, like he was interested, but it didn’t really matter to him one way or the other.

"Never mind." Dream Alex stood up and started to walk towards the exit. "I knew it all anyway."

"Alex!" I yelled after him, but he ignored me, walking through the double doors outside. I tried to get up to go after him, but it was useless. I was stuck in my seat.

I suddenly became aware of Liz near the counter. She was dressed in her Crashdown uniform and she wasn’t alone.

Sean Deluca was sitting on one of the stools. Dream Liz was standing between his legs, way too close to him in my opinion, and I began to listen in horror to their conversation from where I was still stuck to my seat.

"What’s going on Sean?" Asked Dream Liz. As I watched, Dream Sean reached up and gently pulled Liz’s alien antenna headband off her hair and set it down on the counter.

"I just wanna talk Parker."

"About what?" Dream Liz asked flirtatiously, trying to kiss him. I attempted to look away but, like I said, I was frozen.

"About what I feel for you." And then Dream Sean turned and looked over Liz’s shoulder, right at me. "I look at you, and I know you’re the person I’m supposed to be with. I’ve always known it. It’s fate." He sneered in my direction and then looked back at Dream Liz.

Why did those words sound so familiar to me? And then I remembered. They were the words I had said to Liz when I had come to reassure her about Tess, right before she caught me kissing Tess out in the rain about three minutes later.

At least I had had an excuse that time. Tess mindwarped me.

As we have already discussed, I have a serious issue with taking responsibility, even in my dreams. Even my dream self was making excuses. I apparently can’t help it. Anyway, moving on.

Dream Sean told Dream Liz to look at him and said, "You’re the one Liz. The only one. I could never be with anyone else."

And then Liz kissed him.

I woke up in a cold sweat.

The weirdest part is that I remember every single detail of the dream. Usually my dreams are gone before I even wake up. Michael, Izzy and I have discussed this before. None of us ever remember our dreams. The only reason we even know that we do dream is because Iz has dreamwalked Michael and I.

We only remember them when something important happens in them - something that ends up applying directly to our lives.

So, there is only one answer. Someone is trying to tell me something.

At least I think that’s the answer. I’m sure you can understand that I am not the most self-assured person in the world at the moment.

I used to trust my judgment a little bit. I might not always take responsibility but I did used to make okay decisions. Like healing Liz was probably not the most responsible thing to do, but, all in all, it was positive. Trusting Liz is another example. Trusting Valenti too. Not killing Brody - I’m particularly proud of that one.

Which, again, brings us to Tess. My judgment has, clearly, been slightly impaired lately.

And then there’s the biggie. You’d think I would have realized before I let Tess blast off that sending my heir and the thing Khivar most wanted in the world, the granolith, straight into his waiting hands was not the wisest decision. Um. Yeah. Well, I admit it. I’m an idiot. I don’t think well under pressure. Did it or did it not take my almost three days to decide what to do about Brody? Anyway, it was dumb.

It’s only now too that I am beginning to doubt that my son was even dying in the first place. Tess flat out admitted that she was taking us back into Khivar’s clutches. She needed a way to get us back there. I was perfectly willing to take responsibility for she and the baby here.

She needed a plan to get me to agree to go and a dying baby was a great one, I have to admit.

But, then, I know she wasn’t lying. I connected with him. I know he existed and it sure felt like he was dying.

It’s why I had to let her go, even after all she had done. I really could have killed her that day. I had every intention of doing it, to avenge Alex, to show them all that I could take action. And she deserved it. I wouldn’t have even mourned her.

But he stopped me.

He’s my son.

I have failed every single person in my life and I am not going to fail him.

And now I have to make Liz understand. Because she is the other person I have no intention of ever failing again.

Because I was being perfectly honest when I told her that she is the only right thing I have done in my life in the last two years. The only one I really care about anyway.

I need her. And if it can’t be as more than friends, well, then I’ll accept it.

I cannot let her go again. I tried that once and it was a disaster.

But, then, we all know that - don’t we?

***

Liz and I had agreed that we would meet on her balcony early tonight. I had wanted to talk to her right away after Tess left, but I could see that she was still sort of spaced out about the whole thing, having gone from finding out that I had slept with Tess, to knowing that Tess was pregnant, and then thinking that I was leaving her behind with a murderer on the loose, and then, suddenly, I wasn’t going anywhere at all and we knew what had happened to Alex.

My biggest regret from the whole incident was that it was Michael who decided to stay behind. I wish it could have been me. It is supremely ironic that it was Michael, of all of us the one who most wanted to go back to our planet, who figured out most quickly that we belong here.

And I, although I knew that I was going to miss him, was happy that he wanted to do it. I knew it was for Maria, but I knew that he would take care of Liz too. I could feel a little more secure leaving her. I trusted Michael to look out for her.

Plus, I think, even then, I knew that something was seriously wrong with this whole thing. I was not a complete fool. It had dawned on me that we might be killed the minute we set foot on our planet, that we might not even be able to survive on there. If Michael staying meant that he would live, well, I was glad. Thinking back now, I almost wish that I had convinced Izzy to stay too.

But I was selfish. I didn’t want to be alone. Even then, I realize now, I didn’t totally trust Tess.

I had to go and I was relieved that Isabel wanted to go with me. For him, because I knew that she cared about him too. And I knew that no matter how hurt she was, Liz would never let me stay for her if it meant my child was going to die.

But then I let him go anyway. I think I was so shocked by the news that Tess was a traitor, I wasn’t thinking straight. It is really my only defense. All I knew is that my child needed to go back, that I would die for certain if I went too, and that I was caught between a rock and a hard place.

So I let them go, but knowing deep down that I would find him.

And I got a second chance with Liz. Or at least I hope I did. I’m still not quite sure.

By a second chance, I’m not talking about being a couple. I don’t know if we can ever go back to that, not after what I’ve done to her. Even though I do know that she still loves me.

How do I know?

I can’t really explain it. I just know she does.

It might be because for the first time in a long time - really since I caught her in bed with Kyle - I have opened myself up to her completely again.

I have shut off our connection for so long. It was too painful, because I was sure that someday, accidently I would get a flash of her and Kyle, together, doing what I had thought they did together.

I think some of you might suspect that I was really tempted to kiss Liz when we were in Las Vegas. I so nearly did. But then I stopped myself.

I was scared. If I let her in like that again…I knew I would not be able to handle seeing that. It had almost killed me the first time - just seeing them lying there. If I had actually seen them doing stuff…

Okay, so I know now it was all a big lie. But I still don’t know why she lied to me about it.

And, again, I am sure of one thing. It was not because she didn’t love me.

Finding out the hows and whys of that horrible night - at the top of my list.

Anyway, I am actually feeling pretty hopeful as I climb up the ladder to Liz’s balcony. I know that even if we don’ t work everything out tonight, at least by the end of it, it will all be out in the open.

And that’s when I see him.

I had called out to her. She didn’t answer, but I knew she was in there because I could just feel her presence.

I didn’t expect to find Sean Deluca there at all.

For one horrible moment I have a flash of the two of them together like in my dream which - very helpfully might I add - quickly changes to a flash of the two of them in Liz’s bed, just like I had seen she and Kyle.

Have I mentioned that I am still haunted by that night? Well, I am. Yes, I know it never happened, but I still don’t know why and I won’t be able to forget it until I do. Even then I don’t know if I’ll forget it. It was, hands down, the worst night of my life.

You know why? You know how I said that while my track record for taking responsibility isn’t that great - well, back then my judgment was still pretty good. I had never made a mistake up until then. And if Liz did what I thought she did with Kyle, then I totally misjudged her.

Even one minute of thinking that I had misjudged Liz, of all people…it was awful.

And then there’s the part that just hurts.

I know I have no reason to be upset. I actually had sex with Tess. But it still hurts. I may not be human, but I do have a heart and I do have a memory.

You know, my life would probably be a lot easier if I didn’t have any emotions. It would be very handy to be a Borg. Michael always says he wants to be whatever kind of alien Han Solo was because "Maxwell, he may look human, but he’s not from Earth, so he’s an alien too." Michael sort of likes the idea that he may be like Han Solo.

Not me. He used to tell me that if he was Han, I was Luke, and I thought that was cool. But that’s not good enough now. An emotionless Borg…yeah, that sounds about right to me.

Anyway, moving on. Liz sees me and gets this really panicked expression on her face. I can see that she is trying to push Sean out her bedroom door but he is resisting.

"Oh. You have company," I say, knowing that I sound totally weird. "I can come back." I turn around to leave, upset despite myself.

I have no right to be upset.

"No! Max! Wait!" Liz calls breathlessly after me. "Sean is just leaving," she says firmly, pushing him roughly out her door.

I look after her, unsure what to do.

Liz is really weird around Sean. Totally not the Liz I know, or thought I knew. She becomes really silly and girly around him. She acts seventeen, because that’s what she is.

He lets her have fun.

I frantically search my memory for any time that Liz and I just had fun, where we got to be kids.

There was the time we went on the date to Senor Chow’s and played pool. But then Michael got sick and I dumped her the next day, so I guess that doesn’t count.

There was the time we were making out at Buckley Point. That was pretty fun… Oh but that’s when Topolsky showed up again. Okay, forget that.

Las Vegas? Hmmmm…no.

I frown to myself. I know that there were only six perfect weeks when Liz and I were truly happy. It was in the time between when we found the orb and when Tess first came. Everything seemed really normal then. It was heaven.

Liz deserves that. She’s always asked why our relationship can’t be more normal. I know that’s what she wants.

I wish I could give it to her. Sean Deluca might be a delinquent, but at least he’s normal.

He can give her normal.

Maybe I should just leave…

I seriously consider doing this. But I don’t want to. Despite it all, I am still hoping.

Because deep down I know that Liz would never exchange a single minute of our perfect six weeks, or even our hellish two years, for a lifetime of normal with Sean Deluca.

I just know it. I know her.

I know that I should be the one to step aside, because I know that she will never leave me, even though she wants to.

And I know that she wants to. But she can’t.

I can’t either. I love her.

What the hell are we going to do?

Liz isn’t gone very long and she pokes her head out her window just as I’m settling down on one of the lawn chairs there.

"Hey. Sorry about that." She says, sounding guilty.

"Liz, you don’t need to apologize. You have a life apart from me. I know that," I say. It actually hurts to say it, because once upon a time she didn’t.

"He just showed up. I didn’t invite him here," she insists, upset.

"Okay," I say. "Sean has turned out to be a pretty nice guy…" I continue, telling her that its okay if she wants to be with him, that I don’t have any claim on her.

But of course its not okay. At all.

"I mean, he seems to have moved past all those petty crimes." Why am a babbling like this? Shut up!

Liz cuts me off. "Max." She says is urgently. "Stop it."

I slam my mouth shut obediently.

"I don’t want to talk about Sean," she says. "He has nothing to do with us."

Us. Its like music to my ears. I try not to let my hopes perk up too much, but they do anyway.

"Okay," I repeat. "We can talk about whatever you want to talk about."

"I want to talk about your son and what you’re going to do about him," she says abruptly, like it has been weighing on her mind. Which I’m sure it has.

I know that it is so hard for her. It’s hard for me too. I am only eighteen years old. I am not ready to be a father - at all. Have we not already discussed my issues with responsibility?

Well, anyway, I am not going to fail at this. It’s too important.

"I don’t know Liz," I say, being perfectly honest. "All I know is that I have to get him back."

She stares at me for a long minute, her dark eyes sad. "But Max, how? Really. How are you planning to do this?"

I shake my head, turn to stare off at the night sky. "I know it was really dumb to just let Tess go like that," I say finally. "I’m sorry that you never got to have justice for Alex."

Liz sighs. I turn back to look at her. She is sitting back in the her lawn chair, gazing off at the sky like I was. "I don’t think we could have anyway. What was Valenti going to do? If we turned her in, your secret would have been exposed." She smiles at me weakly. "Alex died because he was going to protect you all, turn her in. We can’t just turn around and expose you now."

"I’m sorry Liz." The naked pain on her face about Alex is what prompts me to say it, but I know that she knows that I mean it about everything.

"I know. I’m sorry too," she replies quietly.

"Why?" I demand. "You have nothing to be sorry about."

"Max." I know she is thinking about the Kyle thing.

"Oh," I say. "Well, but you didn’t really do anything," I insist.

"You thought I did."

"Yeah." I close my eyes briefly. "How could I have ever thought that?" I ask, not really directing it at her, but she answers anyway.

"You didn’t believe it at first." She’s defending me. Why is she so wonderful? How am I ever going to live with out her? Because I am getting the feeling from this conversation - not necessarily from the words, but from the undertones - that I was right. We are not getting back together - romantically at least.

"But I did believe it eventually, even though I knew you would never do that." And then I need to know why. "Why Liz? What happened? Were you really that desperate to get me to back off?"

"Yes." It’s like a slap to the face. I just stare at her, the pain from constantly being rejected by her last fall coming back full force. I thought I had moved past that, but apparently not. Liz obviously sees this because she adds hastily. "Max, there were very extenuating circumstances though. You don’t really understand."

"I wouldn’ t leave you alone," I tell her. "I understand. And you thought I had to be with Tess."

"I guess I was right," she says quietly. "Maybe this all happened because…"

"Because he was supposed to be born."

"Right," she says. I can hear the sadness in her voice.

"But it still doesn’t explain why you had to do that. How did you know that Tess and I needed to be together?" I pause, frowning. "The same way you knew about the granolith, right?"

"Yeah." She grimaces slightly. "I’m going to tell you Max, because keeping secrets is what brought us to this. It’s kind of hard to believe, so just bear with me."

And so she tells me. About the future version of me that came to tell her that we had "cemented", as Liz put it, on that night that I caught her in bed with Kyle (which of course never happened in the present time-line), had gotten married at nineteen in Vegas and then the world had ended fourteen years later because Tess had left.

I stare at her in disbelief. "Liz…"

"Max, it’s all true."

I shake my head. There is no way. "It must have been a mind-warp. There is no way that I would have ever put you in that position." I know myself that much, I hope. Even fourteen years from now, I know that I could never give Liz up. I know it.

She has moved her chair closer to me, is touching my hand lightly. "Max, it was you. I know it. I know you."

And I believe her.

I am furious. I jump to my feet, start pacing. "What a complete idiot! How could he, me, whoever the hell he was, have done that to you?"

"Max, Michael and Isabel had just died. Apparently future me made you do it."

Future Max. Future Liz. Future Michael and Future Isabel. All dead. It is insane.

I want so badly to blame it all on a mind warp, blame this all on Tess too.

But I know I can’t. Liz would not lie to me. She knew it had happened.

I turn to look at her. She is watching me anxiously, worried that I’m going to kill myself I think.

She knows me too well. Because what I have found out is that apparently I am an ass even fourteen years in the future.

"Liz, how could you have been so brave?" I ask finally. "I don’t understand." I sigh, because really I do understand. "He chose you to come to because he knew I would never give you up, didn’t he? He knew that he couldn’t tell me because I wouldn’t care."

Liz smiles softly. "He knew. But he also knew that you couldn’t face each other directly - you’d both cease to exist. Serena told him that."

"Who’s Serena?"

Liz shrugs. "Apparently someone we became really good friends with. She turned the granolith into a time machine."

"Weird."

"Yeah."

"Did we…" I pause. I probably don’t really want to know, but I have to ask, under the present circumstances. "Did we have kids?"

Liz flinches visibly and I could kick myself. "I don’t think so." She says finally. "I think it must have been too dangerous."

And then I realize something else. "The point of all this was to keep Tess around. We all died because she was gone. And now she’s gone again."

"Yeah." Liz says. "I thought of that. But I think maybe the most important thing is…" She swallows. "Is your son. He exists. It might be all right." She pauses again. "Which is why I am going to help you find him."


posted on 1-Nov-2002 5:42:34 PM
Part 3 - Do What You Have To Do - Liz POV

What ravages of spirit
Conjured this tempestuous rage?
Created you a monster
Broken by the rule of love.
And fate has led you through it
You do what you have to do.
And fate has led you through it
You do what you have to do.
But I had the sense to recognize
That I don’t know how to let you go.

Every moment marked
With apparitions of your soul.
However swiftly moving
I’m trying to escape this desire,
The yearning to be near you
I do what I have to do.
The yearning to be near you
I do what I have to do.
And I had the sense to recognize
That I don’t know how to let you go,
That I don’t know how to let you go.

A glowing ember burning hot, burning slow.
Deep within I’m shaken
By the violence of existing
For only you.
I know I can’t be with you,
I do what I have to do.
I know I can’t be with you
I do what I have to do.
And I had the sense to recognize
That I don’t know how to let you go,
Don’t know how to let you go,
Don’t know how to let you go.

I don’t know how to let you go.

Sarah McLachlan


Max is staring at me in disbelief. I don’t really blame him. I can’t for the life of me figure out how those words just came out of my mouth either.

I am going to help you find him.

It is the supreme irony. I am going to help him find the child that I will never be able to accept.

I really have no choice. I don’t know how to do anything else.

Because the cold, hard truth is, I can’t let him go. I can’t lose him again. I don’t want to let him go.

I try not to think of the tiny part of me that is imagining the world where we never find the baby, where Max has to give up, where we are together and there is no resentment because I did my best to help him and he knows it and loves me even more because of it.

And it is that tiny part of me that knows that I have to tell him the truth. Because, if I don’t, and if we don’t find his son, I am never going to be able to live with the guilt.

"Liz, I can’t ask you to do this," Max is saying, and I know he really means it. "It’s just too much. You’ve done enough."

"Max, you don’t get it," I say, before he can build me up into some big heroine. I can’t let him do that. It was one of the reasons we had so much trouble the first time. He puts me on this pedestal. I’m not that special. What I am is someone who just wants the hurt to stop. I want to stop loving him - I really do. And I really tried after the last break I made, at the prom. I tried with Sean. I really did.

It just doesn’t work. It’s Max and I can’t get what I have shared with him out of my head, out of my heart.

How can any regular boy compare to someone with a soul as beautiful as Max Evans’s? Because no matter the mistakes he has made - and he has made a lot - he is still that Max. She can’t have changed him that much.

The truth is though, I don’t know if he has changed. I don’t really know him at all anymore. But I think I owe it to myself to see if he is still my Max. I owe it to him too. Maria told me so, and I am beginning to see what she means. He was never supposed to turn into the monster he became after Alex died. Something was just wrong there. He was supposed to be my husband, my soul mate, my true love. It was what was fated from the moment he saved my life in the Crashdown that day.

We screwed with it - Future Max and I did that is. We had our reasons, but in the process we destroyed the wonderful person that Max Evans was, that he was meant to be. He has to have another chance to get it right.

Unfortunately, this means finding his son. Which means that I have to give him an ultimatum. And it’s an awful one but I know it’s the only way I will be able to do this because if there is one truth I know it is that I will never be able to accept the child.

How can I even tell him this? I feel like some evil stepmother, one who wants to send his kid off into the woods to get eaten by a witch. But I can’t help the way I feel. I don’t know how I’ll feel tomorrow, next week, next year, but I do have to tell Max how I feel now.

"You have to understand Max," I tell him. He is looking at me, a slightly befuddled expression on his face, like all of his dreams are coming true, but like he also has this feeling that a nightmare is about to begin. "I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get over what happened between you and Tess." His eyes are fully accepting. He knows this already. But I don’t think he understands the true meaning. "I’m going to help you find your son, but we can’t be together again. Not like before."

He closes his eyes briefly. I can see that he is upset, but that he is not surprised. "I know," he says finally. "I do want you to know Liz, that it was a mistake. It was the night you left for Sweden you know. Things were so bad between us and she…she was just there. The morning after it happened…"

I put up my hand. "Please stop. I really can’t know Max." He does stop immediately, but I can tell he’s frustrated - that he really needs to get some of this off of his chest. But I can’t listen to it. Not now, maybe not ever. I don’t want to know what a big mistake it was because, somehow, that makes it worse.

Of course, that was the excuse I used when he demanded an explanation about Kyle. "It was a mistake Max." No wonder he was so confused. The fact that nothing was going on between Kyle and I after must have made it hurt even more. He must have felt like he didn’t know me at all.

Sort of how I feel right about now. About Max. But also about me.

"Okay." Max looks sad for a moment, than he says, "Why are you doing this Liz? I don’t get it."

"I have to see it through to the end," I say and it’s the complete truth. I will not be able to let Max go until I know he is truly lost to me, that what Future Max and I did, changing everything so that this baby could be born, was the right thing to do. I will never be able to move on with someone else until I know for sure that he and I aren’t meant to be.

The thing is, I still don’t know it. Because, now, with Tess gone, it seems like maybe we have a second chance. But she’s still here, lurking in the shadows, her baby the winning trump card, the card that tells me that she will always have a piece of him that I can’t have.

I’m not just talking about his first time either. I’m talking about a piece of his soul - a part of Max Evans that I never knew and never understood. Because the Max I thought I knew would never have been capable of what he has done since I destroyed him by letting him catch me in bed with Kyle. Was that part of him always there? Or was it only born after I broke his heart?

I have to understand him. I have to know if I really knew him. I have to know if someone can really change that much.

"Do you even know where to start?" I ask him now. He is standing at the edge of my balcony, staring off into the sky, an unreadable expression on his face. "I mean, the granolith is gone. Its not like we can just hitchhike to the next galaxy to start looking for him." I pause. "Do you think there was a back-up? There were two sets of you all. Maybe there were two granoliths?"

"Maybe," Max says, sounding distracted. "But I don’t think so." He sighs. "Actually, technically, we don’t even know if the thing Tess took off in was the granolith. It doesn’t fit with what we were told about it in New York." By we, I know he means he and Tess. I sigh heavily.

"We don’t even know how much of what Tess told you was true," I add. "She apparently wasn’t the most reliable source."

Max laughs bitterly. "That’s an understatement." He turns to look at me. "She was working against us from the beginning you know. Nasedo made a deal with Khivar before we were ever even born." I can see the hurt on his face. I think Max has realized something - that, ironically, the people he most should have been able to trust completely betrayed him, while the people he was never supposed to be able to have faith in - me, Maria, Alex, Valenti - the ones he betrayed - were the only ones he should have trusted.

"What was the deal?" I ask quietly, although I can guess.

"Tess was supposed to get pregnant and then bring me, Michael and Izzy back with her and Nasedo. We would all die and Khivar would have my heir so that our people would let him rule in my son’s name. Tess and Nasedo would be spared of course." He shakes his head. "And I fell for it. She almost murdered my best friend and my sister. She did murder your best friend." Max collapses into the other chair. "I just don’t understand how I could have been so fooled. I mean, I knew her. I didn’t trust her when she first came. Why did I let her in?"

I want to comfort him, but I don’ t know how anymore. He’s right. He wasn’t the only one who ended up trusting her. I never liked her, but I did trust her, did believe that she only had Max’s best interests at heart, that she was only trying to reclaim the place that was rightfully hers.

"It was a mistake," I reply. "But you have to make sure that you don’t make any more like it. We can’t let Alex’s sacrifice be for nothing. We have to make sure that she doesn’t keep your son."

Max flinches at the mention of Alex. "I think he might be the place to start actually," he tells me. "I had a dream about him last night. He told me that he knew much more than we ever imagined."

At the mention of Alex, I feel tears fill my eyes. I shake my head. "I don’t get it. We know what Alex was doing. He was translating that book for Tess. It was a dream Max. I’ve had dreams about him too since he’s…since he’s been gone. It doesn’t mean anything."

Max frowns slightly. "It was so real." I see a flash of something else cross his face, like he’s not telling me everything, but he quickly shakes it off, continues. "But we don’t know everything he did during those months Liz. He was gone a long time." He pauses. "Like that…that girl." I can hear the guilt in his voice. "The one I almost killed. What about her?"

"Leanna?" I look at him, realization dawning. "You think she was more than just a decoy? That she might know something?"

"Isn’t it possible?"

I stand up, nodding. "It makes sense. So that’s where we start."

Max stands up too, moving towards the ladder. "We’ll go back to Las Cruces tomorrow," he says resolutely.

"What about the others?" I ask as Max moves to swing himself over the ledge and onto the ladder.

Max sighs. "Isabel has had enough to deal with lately. Michael - I’ll tell him eventually, but he’s wrapped up in Maria right now…" He trails off, looks at me sadly. Thinking about how close Michael and Maria are…it only drives home the point that it is unlikely that we will ever be that way again. "If you’re willing to help me, well, maybe we can keep them out of it for a while."

I nod. "Okay."

Max makes a move to leave, then pauses again. "Liz, I really appreciate this. I know it’s totally above and beyond the call of duty…after everything."

"We can’t change the past Max," I tell him, feeling a pang that, ironically, if there’s one thing I know thanks to Future Max, this isn’t true. But for us, in this time, now, it is. "We just have to do what we have to do and see where we end up."

"I wish that we weren’t here," Max tells me. "I wish we could go back…"

They were the exact words he had said to me when we were in that van, the FBI chasing us…the first time he told me he loved me. Then he had wanted to go back to a time before everything had gone crazy, before Tess. I had a feeling that now we would both give everything just to go back to that moment, because in spite of all the horrible things that had been happening, we had still had each other, had still known each other.

I can’t help myself. I reach out and touch his face - the face I have loved for so long. "I know. But we can’t. All we can do is go forward."

His eyes are shining. I can’t tell if it’s with unshed tears or if it’s just the candles on my deck. "Bye Liz." His voice cracks slightly. "I’ll see you tomorrow."

"Bye Max."

*********************************************

I have the early shift at the Crashdown.

Maria is on with me and she is clearly on Cloud 9. Michael is working too and I catch them making out in the break room. I can’t help but smile wryly. It is just so weird. It’s like Michael, Maria, Max and I have switched places. Just over a year ago, it would have been Max and I kissing all the time, Michael and Maria on the rocks, unsure of where they stood with each other.

I am serving a couple of tourists when Maria comes whirling out of the back, smoothing her hair down, her cheeks flushed. "Are you planning to do any work today?" I ask teasingly as she plops herself down on a stool and stares off dreamily into space.

Maria looks at me, smiles secretly to herself. "Liz, I have to tell you something."

I glance around the restaurant. All the customers seem happy for the moment so I drop down beside her. "Okay. What’s up?"

"Just wanted to let you know that Czechs don’t bite your head off. You know - for future reference." She grins at me, blushing slightly.

It takes me a moment to understand what she’s saying. "Maria! Did you and Michael…" Her hand jets out, slaps over my mouth.

"I got flashes Liz. I saw him as a little boy and I really saw him." She pauses. "He really loves me."

I feel a pang of grief so intense it almost knocks me off my stool. The unfairness of it all continues to amaze me.

I, of course, love Maria. I am thrilled that Michael has finally gotten his act together. I’ve never understood what his problem was anyway. He and Isabel never pursued their supposed destiny. I never understood what was so different about Max and Tess. While Michael broke Maria’s heart time after time and Isabel dated her weekly older sleaze (the thought of Grant still gives me the willies), Max and I were caught in this limbo, madly in love but unable to be together. And Max didn’t even know why. I did, but it still wasn’t fair.

How could something as wonderful as what we had shared have resulted in the end of the world? In this moment I hate Tess Harding more than I ever have. It’s all her fault. If she hadn’t been so selfish…

But, then, in that previous life, Max and I had been the selfish ones too, hadn’t we? We had had our fourteen wonderful years and then our entire world was destroyed.

And it is only now that I forgive Future Max. He didn’t know that Tess was evil. He only knew that without her the Royal Three were too weak to repel Khivar and his minions. How was he supposed to know that it wasn’t Tess at all that was needed - that it was her child?

I realize that Maria is still waiting for my response. "That’s so wonderful Maria." I reach out and hug her so that she can’t see my face. "I’m really happy for you."

She pulls back, stares at me knowingly. "What’s wrong Liz?" She pauses. "You saw Max last night, didn’t you?"

"Yeah. But it’s okay. We’re going to be friends for now." Maria’s face falls. "I can’t be anything more right now Maria. Not after all that’s happened."

"It’s because of her isn’t it? Because of what he did with her." Maria sounds furious. If there’s anyone who hates Tess it’s Maria. She disliked her all along, but now, after what she did to Alex, Maria would blame the end of the world on her. Not that she would be far off, but still…Tess wasn’t the only one to blame.

"It’s not just her fault Maria. Max did it too. And we - me and him - drove our relationship to the point where he would do that."

Maria tosses her head. "Whatever. She’s the one who wouldn’t leave him alone. She was so fake Liz. I was sure she and Kyle were…"

"Poor Kyle," I say, trying to change the subject. "And the poor Sheriff. They really loved her. They must be devastated."

"Kyle will be okay," Maria says confidently. "He knows that she didn’t deserve his love or his trust. She used him."

"Yeah, but the Sheriff considered her to be like his daughter," I remind her.

"I know. But he loved Alex too, won’t forgive her for that," Maria replies. "He’ll get over it." The doorbell over the entrance rings. Maria’s face becomes cold. "Oh great. Just who we need."

I turn. Sean is coming in, heading straight for me. He sees the daggers Maria is shooting him though and veers to the right, plopping himself down in a booth and picking up a menu. I know he wants to talk to me though. "Uh oh. He’s going to want an explanation."

"For what?" Maria demands. "Like he deserves one - for anything."

"Well, he was over when Max came last night…." I pause. Maria doesn’t know that I threw myself at her cousin the night I thought Max was leaving. "And -er - well, something sort of happened between us on the night we thought the Czechs were leaving."

Maria’s eyes widen in outrage. "He took advantage of you?" She stands up, looks ready to go over there and kill him.

" No! I mean…not really, Maria. He was just there for me." She seems to calm down a little bit, but still looks peeved.

See the thing is, Maria is really on Max’s side. She always has been. At least since the summer. I have no idea what voodoo hex he put on her while I was in Florida, but whatever it was, she will always want Max and I together.

But then Max is good at inspiring loyalty. It’s probably why he will make a great leader someday. Or would have if Future Max and I hadn’t screwed with him. He may still. It’s another reason I have to be there for him. He deserves that second chance to become the man he was supposed to be.

He worries me sometimes though. He is so dependent on others. The people he loves have so much control over him. What I did with Kyle…it almost destroyed him.

Deep down, I know its the reason I can’t desert him now. Because I feel like all the changes that I’ve seen in him are my fault.

What did I ever do to make him love me so much? I’m just a normal girl for God’s sake. The burden is really hard to carry sometimes.

"I’ll just go over and get it over with," I tell Maria now. "Can you watch my tables for a few minutes?"

She nods, still looking irritated. "Fine. But if you need me, just call. I’ll get Michael to throw him out."

I roll my eyes. "He isn’t Caligula Maria."

She scowls. "He ain’t Prince Charming either." She whirls away again in typical Maria fashion, goes to take an order. But I can see that her eyes are following me as I make my way to join Sean.

I smooth down my apron, sit across from him. "Hi."

"Hi." He is looking at me in that Sean way - like he is trying to understand me, but is finding it almost impossible.

I remember the way Max and I used to be in perfect sync - in the time before Tess - even before we were officially together. We just got each other. It’s why I know that Sean is never going to replace Max. Even if Max and I are never together again, I won’t settle for anyone less than someone who gets me.

I once told Max that I kept my journal so that if I ever met someone else who touched me in the way he did, I would remember what it was supposed to feel like. I realize now that I wasn’t just talking about physically.

Max touched my soul. I want that again. I don’t know if its going to be with Max, but if not, I want it with someone else. And it’s just not Sean Deluca. At least, not so far.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t care about him, that I want to hurt him.

"I’m sorry about yesterday," I say now.

"You don’t have to be sorry Parker," Sean tells me. "I’m just worried about you. I thought you had finally given up on that chump."

"Well, you don’t understand about me and Max…" I begin. I know that I’m making excuses, but what else can I do? There is no explanation that Sean will ever understand. He doesn’t get Max and I. Lots of people don’t. Our closest friends don’t really get it. They don’t get that the bond that was created when he saved my life, when I saw into his soul…you can’t just erase that. This is why its so hard to let him go.

"I understand that he makes you miserable," Sean says firmly. "Listen Parker, I know that I don’t deserve you either, but he definitely doesn’t. I have never once seen you smile in his company since I’ve been back."

"I don’t know what to say to you Sean," I say. "I can’t explain it to you. What Max and I have…"

"Yeah I know. Friends plus." Sean interrupts, sounding annoyed. "Don’t you think you deserve more than that?"

"It’s not "friends plus" anymore," I tell him. "We’re just friends. We’re always going to be friends." I swallow. "And anyone who wants to date me is just going to have to accept it."

Sean’s eyes darken. "And what if they can’t?" He demands. Because he knows what I’m telling him. I’m willing - maybe - to date Sean. But I am not willing to give up Max for him.

"They just will," I reply firmly.

Sean snorts, looks over my shoulder. "I don’t think you’re ever going to get any dates then Parker." He nods in the direction of the door. "Even if someone you date accepts him, that guy is never going to accept anyone else in your life."

I turn around, know already that Max has come in. He’s with Isabel but he’s staring at me and Sean. When my eye catches his, he smiles. I can tell that he is trying to pretend that he’s okay with the fact that I’m sitting with Sean, but I can tell he’s not. It makes my heart skip a beat. Because it’s the old Max smile. The one that he used to use when I was still dating Kyle and we were technically "just friends," but we so weren’t. The semi-shy one…the one that says he can’t quite believe that he can smile at me and that I might smile back.

And I do. I can’t help myself.

Max’s face lights up in a way I haven’t seen in weeks, months. It’s in a way I haven’t seen since before the whole thing with Kyle actually.

It’s in that instant that I know it. I am in real trouble. There is no way on this Earth that I am ever going to be just friends with Max Evans. Not when a simple smile from him can make me so breathless I feel like passing out.

This is going to be hell.

posted on 1-Nov-2002 5:43:35 PM
Part 4 - Witness - Max POV

Make me a witness
Take me up out of the darkness
Out of doubt
I won’t weigh you down
With good intentions
Won’t make fire out of clay
Or other inventions.

Will we burn in heaven,
Like we do down here?
Will a change come while we’re waiting
Everyone is waiting.

And when we’re done
Soul-searching
And we carry the weight
And die for a cause
Is misery made beautiful
Right before our eyes?
Mercy be revealed
Or blind us where we stand.

Will we burn in heaven
Like we do down here?
Will change come while we’re waiting
Everyone is waiting…

Sarah McLachlan


I try my hardest not to stare at Liz and Sean. I have the menu up in front of my face, but I am not reading it. I can practically recite the thing from memory I have used it so often to hide behind over the years. Isabel is in the middle of telling me about some college she wants to apply to, but I am barely listening to her.

It really sucks how much it hurts to see Liz with Sean, even though she did smile at me when I came in. Since my dream, every time I do, that part where Sean was kissing her and reciting words I once said to Liz comes racing back into my mind. There is something paralyzing about it. Something I don’t understand.

And it makes me ill, needless to say. I know I have no right to feel jealous and angry when Liz is with another guy. But right and wrong have nothing to do with it. Its just the way I feel.

Even now that I know the truth about Kyle and Liz, a tiny knot still exists in my stomach that clenches with fury and hurt whenever I think about it. It has haunted me for so long. And while I am not angry with Liz about it anymore, in some ways, I am. It was that one night that turned me into someone I didn’t even recognize. I know that Liz had no idea how badly things would go down after what she did, she didn’t know Tess was a murderous traitor, but it’s still there, this irrational fury. It burns deeply, not strong enough to mean anything, but it’s still there.

It doesn’t matter though. The love and respect and admiration I have for her is far stronger and will stay so.

Love and hate. The line between them runs very thin - especially with me and Liz. Loving someone as intensely as I love her means that hating her is so much easier too. The power she has over me is kind of scary.

Do you want to know a really, really bad thing? You’re not going to like it, but I have to tell you anyway.

Sometimes being with Tess, even though I never loved her, was just easier. Because I didn’t care so much.

I know it’s sick, but there it is.

"Max!" I lower my menu to look at my sister, who is scowling at me. "Are you even listening to me?"

"Yes," I say, lying of course.

"Well, what do you think?" Isabel gives me the look - the sister look. The one that says she knows I am lying and wants to make me feel like an even bigger moron before I have to admit it.

"Ummmm…"

She sighs heavily. "Never mind." Her expression is suddenly sympathetic and she turns around in her seat to look at Sean and Liz, who are still in deep conversation. Liz does not look pleased. "She doesn’t care about him Max."

"It doesn’t matter Iz. Liz and I are just friends," I say, glancing at the menu again.

Maria has come up at this point. She has her order pad in her hand and exchanges a look with Isabel, not even saying hi. She just launches into typical Maria opinionated statement mode right away. "Ha. Right. Friends. Friends don’t hold on to each other like the two of you did two days ago. I’m telling you Max. It was romance novel worthy."

Isabel snorts. "I wish that you and Liz would just get over yourselves and get back together. You know you both want to. This is boring." She waves her hand in the air dismissively and turns to Maria to order.

See Iz, that’s where you’re wrong. Liz doesn’ t want to get back together with me. But Isabel has no idea of all the stuff that lies between us. Sure, she knows about me and Tess, but she has no idea about the Kyle stuff. She never knew and she never will. She can’t know that it was her death - hers and Michael’s - that resulted in my future self coming back to fix things.

Oh, he fixed us good all right.

But Isabel can’t know. She will never forgive herself. Our relationship has been rocky over the last year, to say the least. If she knew that she was responsible for hurting me in any way, even so indirectly, she would be devastated. Under normal circumstances this would not be true - she would understand that it wasn’t her fault.

But since the whole Vilandra thing….

My sister is fragile, scared at every moment that she is going to betray me. Our huge fight over the whole college thing was part of that I think. She wanted to go so badly and was hurt that I wouldn’t let her. But I think, deep down, she was fighting against the part of her that was scared of hurting me. She wanted to leave because of it.

She thought that by getting away from me, she could protect me.

Isabel blames herself for a lot of stuff. I know she is still dealing with Alex’s death and for some reason she also blames herself for Grant Sorenson’s untimely demise, although she had nothing to do with it really.

I know my sister and I know how her mind works. Getting away from me after Alex died, she could protect me. And yet, since we learned about my son, all that has changed.

Because, suddenly, since Tess left, all the colleges Isabel talks about attending are in New Mexico.

"What’ll it be your highness?" Maria asks when I continue to stare at my menu in a stupor.

"Nothing," I say, noticing that Liz is standing and moving away from Sean. His eyes are following her as she comes towards me. "Liz looks like she’s done. We’re going for a drive."

Then it happens.

Sean’s gaze falls on me and for one split second we are staring right at each other.

And a shiver runs down my spine - one unlike anything I have ever felt before.

I break the eye contact first, clench my fists under the table.

That guy totally hates my guts.

"What?" Isabel is saying in annoyance. " Max! You always do this to me! You invite me here to eat and then you desert me. I hate eating alone and I am so not walking home."

But Maria is smiling at me, pleased, because she thinks that this means that Liz and I are getting back together, despite what I just said a few minutes ago. "Michael and I’ll drive you Isabel. Our shift is over in half an hour," she says, just as Liz arrives.

"I’m just going up to change Max. I’ll be down in five minutes," she says, her expression blank. She doesn’t meet my eyes. I frown slightly.

"Okay."

Liz is true to her word. We are on the road barely ten minutes later. She has changed into jeans and a red tank top that reminds me of the one she was wearing on the night of our first kiss, making my heart thump just thinking about that event. Her hair is loose and blowing in the breeze as I head out of town towards Las Cruces.

It still astounds me how beautiful she is. I’ve hung out with Liz long enough now that I sometimes forget because I know she is even more beautiful inside, but seeing her like this reminds me of the days when I didn’t know so much about her, before I healed her, when the closest I could get to her was exchanging pleasantries, passing lab equipment to her in Bio and staring at her in the Crashdown.

I can tell that she has something on her mind, so I don’t really talk to her. I concentrate on the road, trying to forget that the last time we took this road was the night I had to tell her about Tess. It was also the night I almost killed an innocent girl.

I wonder if that’s what Liz is thinking about.

But apparently not, as what she says next makes clear.

"Max, I just want you to know that there is nothing going on between me and Sean," Liz blurts out so abruptly, I take my eyes off the road by whipping my head around to stare at her.

"Liz, you have a right to date other people," I say the words automatically, because I know that I am supposed to. They sound ridiculous even to me. I hope she doesn’t catch the little note of pleasure that has crept into my voice. I am such a jerk.

Liz sighs. "I know Max. And I will, but not him."

Well so much for that moment of happiness. "Okay," I say. "Why are you telling me this?" I ask a moment later.

"Max, I saw the look on your face when you came in and saw me talking to him," Liz replies, sounding annoyed that she had seen that look. "We’re friends. I don’t want to hurt your feelings. So just know that, while I fully intend to date other people eventually, for the moment I am all yours."

I almost swerve off the highway.

"Er - to investigate," she adds quickly. I can feel the warmth traveling up my neck at having almost killed us both.

You see what I mean about Liz affecting me on every level all the time. It’s embarrassing.

"Right," I say, decide that changing the subject is a good idea. "So how are we going to go about this?" I ask, knowing that even when things are tense with Liz, when we have to work together on a problem, it always changes things - we are able to connect easily.

"Well, I was thinking about Leanna," Liz replies. "Or Jennifer Coleman I should say. That’s her real name," she adds when I look at her questioningly. "We never did just talk to her. I brought along a picture of Alex to see if she recognizes him."

"To see if she was working with Tess or if she was just some random girl that Tess used?"

"Yeah." Liz is quiet for a moment and then asks, "I wonder how Alex learned Swedish anyway? It was all a pretty elaborate ruse Tess had going on there."

"It does seem unlikely that she was working alone," I agree. "Maybe Jennifer can tell us something about that too. If she wasn’t working with Tess, then maybe she can at least give us an idea of who it might have been."

"Maybe."

We are both quiet again until I pull into the university about half an hour later, each lost in our thoughts about what we might uncover - and about what we’ll do if we don’t uncover anything.

As we reach Jennifer Coleman’s dorm-room, I flash back to the night I almost committed cold blooded murder in this exact building. I remember Liz’s words to me that night. "This isn’t you Max. It isn’t planned out."

But the scary thing is, it was me. Sure I was in Borg mode that night, but I don’t think Liz has any idea about the lengths I would go to protect those I love. There was no way I was leaving Earth that night with the thought that the murderer was still out there, threatening Liz and Maria and Kyle and even Valenti.

At least that’s what I was thinking when we were in Jennifer Coleman’s dorm. Once I knew that she wasn’t the killer, I was more than willing to leave Liz and the others with no idea who their enemy was. How she can forgive me for that, I’ll never know…I don’t even know if she has.

A little ironic though that, in the end, I was taking their enemy with me. So, in a way, leaving with Tess was protecting the others - the humans anyway.

I wonder if any of this would have happened if I had gotten together with Tess when I first knew about our destiny. Would she still have felt compelled to kill Alex, to continue Nasedo’s plan? Or could I have gotten through to her in those first important days of contact? Could she have tapped into her human side if I had been what she had expected me to be - her mate, her husband, her king?

Was Tess’s betrayal my fault?

"Max?" Liz is looking at me strangely, has her hand up to knock. "Are you okay? You look a little weird."

I blink, shake my head. Now isn’t the time to second guess myself. But I can’t help it. So many decisions I have made were wrong. So wrong. What if bringing Liz in to help me find my son is wrong too?

What if I’m putting her in more danger?

"Maybe you should wait in the car," I say suddenly. She just stares at me. "She might recognize you from that…that night."

"Who cares?" Liz asks logically. "She never knew what that was about. I was just some random weirdo to her."

She’s right of course. But how can I tell her that I beginning to think this is all a bad idea - that I am suddenly scared that we are going about this all wrong, that somehow I am going to hurt her again without even wanting to?

It is too late. Liz has turned away and is knocking on the door. A curly-haired blonde answers a few seconds later. She eyes Liz suspiciously. "It’s you. Jennifer says she never told anyone they could borrow her notes so don’t even think about coming in here."

Liz glances at me, looks a little embarrassed. "I came to apologize about that," she improvises quickly. She whips a sheet of paper out of her purse quickly. "And to return them," she adds triumphantly.

The blonde girl rolls her eyes. "Jenn! One of those girls from the other day is here!" She calls, heading away from the door and into the kitchenette.

And suddenly she is there. She looks exactly like the picture of her that Liz has in her purse - the one with Alex.

I have to admit I didn’t get much of a look at her the last time I’d seen her. It would have been too hard to do what I had intended to do if I had looked at her, seen her face. Even in Borg mode.

Don’t get me wrong. I would have done it, but it would have been harder. That cold side of me would have taken over though - the alien side - and I would have done it.

Jennifer is looking at Liz like she might recognize her but is unsure. "Yeah?" She asks, clearly not placing her.

"Hi," Liz replies in her friendly way. "I’m Liz. And this is Max. We need to talk to you about someone we think you might have known." Liz is pulling the picture of Leanna and Alex out of her bag and I move forward from where I am leaning against the wall beside the door, a little out of Jennifer’s eye-shot. I want to get a good look at her face when she sees herself in that picture.

She doesn’t look at the photo right away though. Her eyes shift to me and the colour totally drains from her face.

"It’s you," she whispers. "Zan."

And, I kid you not, she faints.



posted on 1-Nov-2002 5:45:04 PM
Part 5 - Trust - Liz POV

Somewhere deep inside me
I hold a picture of a time long gone
A time of ease and simple pleasures
And days in shadows not so long
Now with my mind I’m struggling
Holding on to what I believe
Listen to the fragments of my thoughts
That leave me broken and deceived
Cause I don’t know the way
He said "I can take you there,
I can show you places where time has no ware"
And as we walked the plains
The skies they opened wide
Revealing all the shame for what’s been lost inside us all.

It’s a day in the life
In my mind I’ve seen it all
Sometime soon for all to see
The walls are slowly breaking down
In my mind I’ve seen it all
And someday we’ll be free.

We’re searching for a message
Or so I thought but so it seems
The ignorance in the myths of others
Is easier to redeem
I’ve never questioned the answers given
To find the faith that’s been lost within
Cause where I lay my trust in others
Where it lies the ground is thin
Cause I don’ t know the way
He said "I can take you there,
I can show you places where time has no ware"
And as we walked the plains
The skies they opened wide
Revealing all the shame for what’s been lost inside us all.

I know you say you love me
If what you say is true
So show me something that’s not deceiving
Cause I wouldn’t lie to you.

It’s a day in the life
In my mind I’ve seen it all
Sometime soon for all to see
The walls are slowly breaking down
In my mind I’ve seen it all
And someday we’ll be free.

Sarah McLachlan


"Max! Catch her!" I shriek, but he is already moving, grabbing Jennifer Coleman before she melts to the floor.

Jennifer’s suite-mate comes running out of her room. "What did you do to her?" She demands, watching Max sweep the girl we know as Leanna up into his arms. She follows him as he moves into the room, depositing Jennifer gently on the couch. She is already coming around, her eyelashes beginning to flutter.

Max looks back at me, his expression terrified. I don’t blame him. Who the heck is this girl and how did she know Max’s real name? But we can’t say any of this in front of the suite-mate, who looks about ready to pick up the phone to call campus security.

"It’s all a terrible mistake. We gave her some bad news and she just collapsed." I know I am babbling, but we need to talk to Leanna alone and we need to get rid of the other girl. "I’m Liz, this is Max." I do the introductions quickly, hoping to put the other girl at ease. "We know Jennifer from back home."

The suite-mate does not look convinced. "From Phoenix?" She asks suspiciously.

"Right. From Phoenix," Max says, glancing at me and shrugging slightly. He is perched on a chair beside Jennifer, whose eyes are beginning to open.

"We’re friends of Ray," I improvise. The girl seems to recognize the name that Alex went by when he was staying here.

"Where is Ray?" The girl asks. "We haven’t seen him in months. He and Jenn spent all this time together last fall and then he just disappeared."

"We have bad news." I swallow hard. It is so hard to say it even though it’s true. I am never going to adjust to saying it. Alex! "Ray passed away. Its why we’re here. To tell Jennifer."

Max is eyeing me with concern. I think he can tell that talking about Alex’s death, even in the guise of an excuse, is putting me on edge.

The suite-mate’s eyes widen in horror. "Oh that’s so sad. I mean, he was kind of a weird guy, real quiet and stuff, but I am so sorry." She pauses, glances at Jennifer. "Is that why Jenn fainted?" She asks.

I can’t speak, emotion still clogging my throat.

"Yes," Max replies simply. "We’re sorry. We really need a few minutes alone with her. Can you excuse us…" He trails off, clearly hoping that she will give us her name.

"Melissa," she offers. "Are you sure you don’t want me to stay? She must be pretty upset if she fainted."

"It’s okay. We’ve known Jenn for a while," Max tells her. "But thanks."

I can tell that Melissa is beginning to warm up to him. His eyes - they are reflecting the gentleness that I always used to see in them, before it all happened. He is giving off that Max aura, the one that says that he can be trusted. It is wrapping itself around me like a warm blanket, even though I know that he is capable of being a monster too.

But Melissa doesn’t know this and she looks like she is falling under a spell.

It is making me supremely uncomfortable because I am beginning to realize how very easy it might be for me to fall under his spell again too. He put a force on me once. I know that it is only a matter of time until he does it again.

I am fighting it with every ounce of my being. I cannot let him in that way again. It almost killed me once and that was when I was still the most important person in his life.

Now I’m not. That spot has been taken by a baby that has not even been born yet.

I can’t give in.

I knew helping him was going to be a mistake because with every passing minute I spend with him, I want to give in.

I force my eyes away from his face.

I move back against the wall of the living room, need its hard reassurance to keep my back-bone in place. Max is looking at me again. He frowns slightly at the expression on my face, which is likely a cross between a scowl and a grimace.

"Well, okay," Melissa finally says. "I’ll be in my room. Call me if you need me." She backs into her room, shutting the door behind her.

"Liz, are you okay?" Max demands urgently. He is glancing between me and Jennifer, who is now beginning to sit up. She still seems slightly out of it. "You look…"

"I’m okay," I snap. He blinks at my harsh tone, but nods. I move closer, kneel on the floor beside him. We both turn to look at Leanna.

Her face seems to finally clear and she focuses on Max’s face immediately, gasps again, moving back against the couch in shock. "I thought I was dreaming. How can it really be you? How can you be real?" She starts muttering to herself. "Am I going crazy?"

"Max, you’d better leave for a minute." I say. I can tell that we are not going to get any sense out of this girl while he is in the room. She doesn’t seem to be scared of him, but I think she thinks she is crazy for some reason.

"Liz, I’m not leaving you alone," Max insists. I sigh. I can tell by that tone that I am not going to win this argument easily and I don’t want to get into a huge discussion about it in front of Jennifer.

She is still staring at him, her head slightly tilted. "You are real, aren’t you? Your name is Max?"

Max nods. "Why did you call me Zan?" He asks gently.

"Because he looks like you," she replies. "At least the pictures I’ve seen of him."

I barely suppress a gasp. She can’t be talking about the real Zan, Max’s dupe, who is supposed to be dead? Max looks just as shocked as I do.

"Pictures?" I press her.

"The drawings Ray showed me," Jennifer elaborates. "For the game."

Max and I exchange a confused glance. "The game?"

"The computer game Ray was writing," she continues. "But he told me it wasn’t real."

Um. Okay. This is getting a little too weird. We’ll get back to that in a moment. First things first…

I pull a picture of Alex and her out of my purse, show it to her. It obviously isn’t the one in which he had torn out his own face, but another one I found in his room after the funeral. "Is this Ray?" I ask quietly.

She nods, taking the picture from my hands, stares at it in confusion. "Where did you get this?" She is frowning. "I don’t remember having it taken."

"Ray gave it to me." I pause. "Did you hear what I said to Melissa? You heard that Ray is gone?"

Tears fill her eyes. "I’m not surprised. He told me when he left that he didn’t think that he would see me again. They didn’t want the game finished. That’s what he told me."

"Who didn’t?" Max inquires. "What is this game?"

"The Four Square game," Jennifer tells us. "The one about the Royal Four and Antar. He was creating the code and the story behind the game while he lived here." She sighs. "He needed my help with some of the computer work. I was interested in the whole concept. He told me all about Zan and Vilandra and the Royal Four." She eyes us for a minute. "You do know about this, don’t you? You’re the model for Zan." She nods towards Max. "He showed me a picture of you that he drew. You must be his friend."

"Maybe you should tell us everything," Max replies evenly, not wanting to give away too much. He is clearly just as confused as I am but it is beginning to sound like Jennifer thinks that everything Alex told her was all fiction, which is actually a big relief.

"Well, Zan is an alien king, stranded on Earth, trapped in a teenage human’s body," Jennifer explains. "He is in love with a human, but he can’t be with her. His destiny is to marry Ava, his queen from another life. But the whole game revolves around Zan trying to find a way to be with his human love and still save his people."

I don’t even dare to look at Max. I know that I might start laughing hysterically if I do. Told this way, it does all sound like a crazy, fantastic story.

But this is my life. It is Max’s life. No wonder neither of us know whether we are coming or going.

I only know one thing. This is the weirdest thing I have ever heard. Was this all an elaborate ruse that Alex had made up in order to get Leanna to help him without giving away Max and Michael and Isabel’s secret? Or is there more to it than that? And what did Tess have to do with it?

"Anyway, Ray got the concept from some guy he knew back in Roswell. Where he’s from," she adds. "He had this book that he needed to translate, which gave the basic outline of the concept. We worked on decoding it together. We rented some space in an old warehouse." She frowns. "I never understood why he was so paranoid that someone was going to try and take the game away from him, but he would work on it in his room and e-mail me the new parts in the warehouse. He was trying to keep it a secret. Finally he left the dorm altogether and went to stay in the warehouse. He said they were on to him." She tears up again. "I just thought he was a little bit crazy, like a lot of computer geeks." She pauses. "He was murdered, wasn’t he? He was right?"

"He died in a car accident," I tell her. Whether she notices that I don’t dispute the point about whether he was murdered or not, I don’t know.

"Why is a computer game so important?" Jennifer asks. "I never got it."

I glance at Max. "That’s what I’d like to know," he says. "Do you have any of the stuff Ray was working on?"

She swallows. I can tell she is still unsure whether to trust us. "I…"

I take her hand. She glances down, then looks up, stares right into my eyes. "Ray’s real name was Alex," I tell her. "He became my best friend in the fifth grade. You’re right. He was murdered. And we…" I indicate Max and myself. "We’re going to find out why."

I see Jennifer’s eyes widen. "I’ll tell you everything I know," she tells me quietly. "I owe him that much." She looks ashamed suddenly. "Because I think I might have led them right to him. They seemed so normal though…"

I feel Max beside me, listening just as intently as I am. "Who?" He asks urgently.

"There were two of them. A guy and a girl. She was kind of short, with blonde curly hair and way too much lip gloss." I press my lips together. That had to be Tess. "He was tall, blond too," Jennifer continues. "They didn’t look dangerous. She said she was Ray’s sister, that he had run away from home." Tears fill her eyes. She swallows heavily. "I believed her."

"You’re not the only one," I murmur to myself, not even looking at Max. He is crouched on the floor beside me. I can feel him tensing during the talk about Tess. Hearing the story of how she had used Alex, how she had been responsible for his death…it was hard on me and I hated her anyway. I can’t even imagine what it is doing to Max, who often has a guilt complex that could pave the route to his planet and back - twice.

No one had been closer to her than he had. It makes me sick, but there it is. Twice, in less than a year, girls that Max loved had seemingly betrayed him. He knew now that I hadn’t, but it still didn’t dull the pain of the last few months. He had committed to Tess even further than he ever had with me, despite all his protestations of regretting it immediately. Her betrayal was, of course, a million times worse because, not only had she murdered one of the people Max had trusted, the thing he most feared, she had put him in a position where he had had no choice but to abandon his own child.

She was pure evil. I wish now that I had had the chance to say all the things to her that I longed to, that I had done so long before any of this had happened. I had never trusted her. But I had been the martyr, walking away from Max, going along with Future Max’s plan, believing that my own gut instinct was only the result of jealousy, when "following my heart," as my grandmother had told me to do, had never failed me to that point.

My heart had told me to fight for Max, not to trust Tess, and I had ignored it.

It had killed Alex.

I close my eyes briefly before reaching into my purse and pulling out the picture of all of us that had been taken the night of the prom. I hand it to Jennifer, not even saying anything.

She stares at it, nodding. "That’s her," she acknowledges. Because there she is, in her ice blue prom dress, standing with all of us, right beside me as a matter of fact, smiling as though she cares about us, seemingly unconcerned by the fact that Max and I are there together, knowing that she has the upper hand, that it will only be a matter of hours before she manipulates all of us on the road to Alex’s destruction.

I pull myself up off the floor, sit down on the couch beside Jennifer, feel a lump in my throat as I look at the picture with her. I never saw Alex as happy as he was that night. Both he and Isabel are practically glowing in the photo, finally recognizing how much they mean to each other, and they never even got a chance to move forward with it.

It was completely unfair. If anyone deserved to be happy, it was Alex.

I miss him so much.

I can feel Max’s eyes on me. I know that he knows what is going through my mind. And even though I am not looking at him, I can almost feel his desire to do something to comfort me. But now is not the time.

I force myself to take the picture from Jennifer, place it gently back where it came from. "What about the guy?" I ask urgently, at this point only answers capable of keeping my tears at bay.

"She called him Lazar." Jennifer shrugs. "He didn’t say much. She did all the talking. I got the impression that he was in charge though."

"Is there anything else you can tell us?" Max asks, getting to his feet. He seems frustrated. I glance at him as he shoves his hands roughly into the pockets of his khakis, his entire body radiating tension.

"Just that I told them where his room was - actually I took them there," Jennifer replies. "They messed around on his computer. I knew I shouldn’t have let them, but they seemed to know their way around so well, I didn’t say anything. Anyway, the blonde girl took a disk out of the hard drive and then the guy pulled the whole computer out of the wall and took it with them." She pauses, closes her eyes briefly. "And then I told them how to find the warehouse where he was hiding." She begins to sob again. "I am so sorry."

I take her hand, squeeze it. "It wasn’t your fault," I tell her, meaning it. She had had no idea what she was really dealing with. I knew better than anyone what a great actress Tess Harding had turned out to be and I had known what she really was. "Thank you." I pull the picture of Alex and Leanna out of my purse again, glance at Max, who is watching me closely, and hand it to her. "He would want you to have this."

She takes it, smiles. "Thanks. He was a really great guy. I missed him when he was gone."

I impulsively reach out and hug her. "Trust me. I know how that feels." I feel a moment of close connection with this girl - one who had ended up in a situation that she couldn’t control and didn’t understand - one that had ended in tragedy.

Did I ever know how that felt.

After leaving Jennifer, Max and I are back in his parent’s car before either of us says anything.

I feel numb. I never realized how much looking into what had happened to Alex was going to hurt. When I had done it before, right after the funeral, it had helped, had made the pain less, because at least I had felt like I was doing something to show Alex how much I had loved him.

Now I just felt, more and more, with every single step forward we took, that his death was my fault.

I had known what Tess was and I had let her close to him - to all of us. How could I have been so stupid?

The ridiculous thing is that I know that Max, sitting right beside me, staring unseeing out the front windshield, is thinking exactly the same thing I am.

And, in that moment, I know I want him to. Because it is something that we have always shared, this complete feeling of responsibility for the safety of our friends. If guilt has to be the only thing bonding us now, it is better than nothing.

It’s sick, but I am willing to take what I can get. If I can’t have Max, then at least I can understand him, can still have that connection with him.

Finally, he speaks. "Liz, are you okay?"

"I will be," I reply, knowing that I sound cold. I wonder if he thinks that I am mad at him again. But I have to stay frozen or I won’t be able to move forward. All the grief and pain that I have felt over Alex’s death is threatening to come back in great waves if I let even one inch of my control go.

But Max knows this. He knows me. "Okay. Where to now?" He asks, sounding strangely upbeat, in that way that people do when they are trying to ignore what’s really going on under the surface. I, of course, basically just told him to, but I am still irritated.

"We need to find out who that guy was," I tell him evenly, although of course he knows this. I look over at him. "Have you been through any of Tess’s stuff yet?"

He grimaces. "No. I didn’t want to bug the Sheriff. He’s not doing so hot."

I feel a pang for the man who had done so much for us. Maria had been convinced that he would be all right, but I knew better. He had grown to love Tess like a daughter. That she had turned out to be one of those evil aliens he had so feared when he had been chasing Max - it was the supreme irony. The Sheriff was not a cold man. He would be hurt and angry and would feel stupid too.

Of course, he couldn’t feel any more stupid than the rest of us. Tess had done a number on all of us that is going to take a very long time to get over, if we ever even can. It is going to be virtually impossible to ever let anyone new into our small band of seven. We will always remember her, remember how we had let her in and how she had killed the best and brightest of us, how she had almost killed Michael and Isabel, how she had stolen Max’s innocence and had broken my heart in the process.

Not being able to trust anyone new means that we are irretrievably stuck with each other - for better and for worse. We no longer have any other options.

Max once told me that I would always be a part of the group. It had comforted me then. Now it was beginning to feel like a prison because the one person I most wanted to be stuck with, Max himself, was lost to me.

All because of Tess and the baby Max was driven to find.

"I don’t think she would have left anything incriminating around there anyway. Someone might have stumbled on it," I tell Max a few minutes later as he pulled out on to the highway. I pause, thinking. "The lease on that house Nasedo rented is still good, isn’t it?"

Max nods. "He told Tess that it was hers, in her name. He paid two years rent when he leased it."

I frown. "Ironic that she ended up in the Sheriff’s house because you thought she was in danger from the Skins there." I shake my head. "She wasn’t ever in any danger. I bet she used that place all the time."

"Let’s check it out," Max agrees. "I haven’t been anywhere near it since that night."

As we drive, I think about Tess and Nasedo and the deal they had made with Khivar. The more I think about it, the stranger it seems. If Nicholas was Khivar’s right hand man, his representative on Earth, then why had the Skins killed Nasedo, with whom Khivar had a deal? It doesn’t make any sense. I voice this to Max.

He just shakes his head. "I’ve thought about that Liz. I don’t get it either. I wonder if maybe Nasedo decided to renege on the deal once he found us, that he thought we would get him back there anyway and that he didn’t need to betray us, but that he never got a chance to tell Tess."

Tess. It all comes back to her. Why was she willing to betray the three she was supposed to be most loyal to? How could getting back to the planet be so important that she was willing to completely disregard her purpose of existence, which was to save her people as a member of the Royal Four? How could she have turned out so badly?

I remember Ava, remember how nice she was, how easily I got along with her. She would have fit in with Max and Isabel and Michael far better than Tess ever did. She was good. I know she was.

So what had gone so wrong with Tess?

But, deep down, I know what it was. It was me and the way Max felt about me. She hated me so much, for taking the place in his heart that she felt rightfully belonged to her, she was willing to kill him rather than let me have him.

Loving me had almost killed him.

And now she is gone, but the memory of her and the disaster she left behind is still with us. She is still winning.

I can feel myself beginning to seethe with rage. I am still letting her win, letting her come between us.

I know that Max wants to be with me, know that I am the only one standing in the way of it - me and my pride.

I wonder if pride is worth it. If my pride is worth letting her win.

I realize that Max and I have been driving in complete silence for quite a while. We are on the outskirts of Roswell already.

I glance over at him. He is staring straight ahead, his jaw clenched, clearly deep in thought. I can feel the barely harnessed combination of pain and guilt and anger that is lingering beneath the surface of the teenage guy who saved my life. The one I lied for, broke the law for, jumped off bridges for…the one I was willing to give up to save the world, to save his world.

The love I have for him is so mixed up with hate at this point, all I want to do is to end it, take the plunge back into the alien abyss once and for all and accept that I am never going to be able to let go of what we once had. I am never going to be able to let go of the sweet, loving, brave boy I fell in love with. The one she destroyed.

"Max." He glances over at me, blinking at the hard edge to my voice. "Pull over."

"Liz, what’s wrong?"

"Pull over," I repeat. "Now."

He slowly pulls the car off the highway and onto the shoulder. He is already turning in his seat to see what’s wrong before the car stops rolling.

"Liz…"

But he never gets a chance to say anything. I have my seat belt off and I am already moving towards him. I see one instant of complete astonishment on his face before I bring my lips down onto his.

The surprise of it does not stop him from responding eagerly. His hands plunge into my hair, bringing me closer. Through a haze of grief and hate and love I can hear him saying my name. "Liz! Oh God. I love you so much."

I don’t say anything, just continue to kiss him, to revel in the fact that he’s really there, that he isn’t off on some distant planet, on the verge of execution.

It is in that instant that the connection flares to life. And as the flashes begin, it is then that I remember why this is going to be the last time that I will ever kiss the love of my life.


posted on 1-Nov-2002 5:46:08 PM
Part 6 - Steaming - Max POV

You're always waiting on the tide
It's time you decide.
I've walked down long roads that seem to have no end at all.

You never wanted time to end,
To let my life offend.
It's time to realize what hides deep inside your holy eyes,
Hold on tight, hold on fast
This ain't the kind that always lasts.
If you want me to go just ask me to go, I'll go.

All the way my love, over the hills and right on through you.
Run away my love, over the hills and right on through you.
Over the hills and right on through you.

Lying awake in these restless dreams,
Life's never what it seems.
I've always tried to read your eyes,
To get inside that scornful mind.
Hold on tight, hold on fast
This ain't the kind that always lasts.
If you want me to go just ask me to go, I'll go.

All the way my love, over the hills and right on through you.
Run away my love, over the hills and right on through you.
Over the hills and right on through you.

I was with you on that pallet steaming,
Spinning 'round in circles dreaming.
I was with you on that pallet steaming
Running 'round in circles screaming...

All the way my love, over the hills and right on through you...
Run away my love, over the hills and right on through.
All the way my love, over the hills and right on through you...
Run away my love, over the hills and right on through.

Sarah McLachlan


I cannot believe that she is actually in my arms again. It has happened so suddenly, it’s like some sort of weird dream come to life.

Not that I’m complaining mind you. This entire afternoon has been one giant exercise of being hit in the face by the fact that Liz has absolutely no intention of being with me again. We are a unit, a team, yes, but for two reasons alone. To find out the truth behind Alex’s death and to save my son.

And I was accepting it. I was. I was worried about how brittle she was throughout the entire conversation with Leanna, but I had been happy simply being in her presence, working with her again.

And then she tells me to stop the car and suddenly she has jumped me and everything is suddenly up-ended again.

The firm lid I had put on my desire to touch her and be with her has been completely demolished. I am simply reveling in the feel of her silky hair under my hands, marveling over the fact that I am actually kissing her again when the flashes start.

The connection is so abrupt and so sudden, I hear Liz gasp before I can even begin to make any sense of them.

Flash*

Liz watching me kiss Tess at the prom, horror and pain and betrayal washing over her. And then anger and resolve.

Flash*

Liz and Sean at the bowling alley, the pain being replaced by acceptance and a desire to move forward.

Flash*

Liz, shocked and betrayed, as she listens to me tell the others that I believe Valenti - that Alex committed suicide. Anger, which results in words that she cannot take back, words she regrets but that will not turn her away from her purpose.

Flash*

Liz in tears, poring over a stack of pictures of Alex. A serene feeling settles over her as some guy shows up at the door of the Crashdown with a story that tells her she is on the right track.

Flash*

Liz, Maria and Michael in some sort of broken down warehouse. Triumph as they find the translated book - and, yet, there are still more answers to be sought.

Flash*

Liz in the Jeep as I tell her that Tess is pregnant with my child. The wave of pain and betrayal that washes over her is so intense, I momentarily lose my connection to her.

Flash*

Liz in Sean Deluca’s arms. Her grief over my departure is so sharp, I can barely comprehend why she is with Sean. And then she is turning away from him…


The connection ends as abruptly as it began.

I realize that Liz is no longer on my lap, having wrenched herself away from me, but is back on her side of the car, fumbling with the handle to the door. She is stumbling out and I can hear her retching.

Oh good Lord. The flashes…

I don’t want to even begin to contemplate what she saw from me, but it was clearly all bad - enough to actually make her physically sick.

I am out of the car and around to her side in an instant. She is on her hands and knees, taking deep gulps of air. I drop to my knees beside her, reach over to pull her hair back as she retches again. I can hear the sobs beginning to intermingle with the sounds of sickness.

"Liz?"

She is beginning to breathe more evenly again. "Please Max. Don’t touch me." I drop my hands instantly. There is a long moment of silence and then. "I saw you…with her."

I have absolutely no idea what to say. "Oh." And then, "Liz, I’m sorry."

She is sitting back on her heels now, her gaze trained out across the desert. "I thought…I thought maybe I could move past it. I really thought maybe…" She pauses. "I didn’t want her to win, but she’s going to because… Max, I felt how you felt when you were with her." Her voice hitches slightly.

"Liz…"

"Max, ever since the first time that we connected, I’ve been able to feel how you feel about me. Why is she there? Why?" Her hands are covering her eyes. She is not crying, but I can hear her voice failing as the tears try to take over. I want so desperately to pull her into my arms to comfort her, but I know that it will only make things worse.

"Liz, I wasn’t myself." I fumble with the words. I just want to convince her that the way I felt about Tess…yes, it had been real at the time, but…

But there is no excuse. I had felt something for Tess when we had been together. I had told Liz on the night before we were supposed to leave that I didn’t love Tess the way I loved her, and I hadn’t, but I couldn’t deny it. She had wormed her way into my heart.

It had been so easy to be with her. She didn’t expect anything of me. Not like Liz, not like Isabel, not like Michael. She just wanted me, wanted to make me happy. Or at least that’s what I thought.

Of course, I only found out later why she wanted me. But when we had consummated our relationship, I had been giving in because I was so tired of constantly having to live up to what the others expected me to be. Tess had let me give into every selfish impulse I had ever had.

And I had reveled in it.

Yup, I’m one sick bastard all right. I know it. And now Liz knows it too.

"You hated me when you did that with her." I snap my head around to stare at her. She is whispering, but it resounds like a gunshot through my brain.

"What??"

"You did Max. I felt it. You were trying to get back at me. You were thinking about me when you were with her." I can hear the horror in her voice, the realization of what this means.

It isn’t true. I know it isn’t. "Liz, no. I swear…"

"Max, you did." She looks at me, her expression suddenly fierce. "How could you have hated me so much that you would deliberately set out to hurt me that way?" She swallows harshly. "I never knew you at all, did I? The person I fell in love with - he never even existed at all, did he?"

I just stare at her. I literally feel like I have been punched in the solar plexus. She is meeting my gaze steadily, but I can see the rage beginning to build in her eyes. "You actually hated me." There is another long moment of silence. She closes her eyes, as though to shut out my face. "I need you to take me home," Liz finally says, climbing to her feet. "This is the end Max. We can’t ever be together after this. I cannot ever see that again. I don’t want to ever feel that way again - ever."

I am completely numb. I know it’s not true, but I have no idea how to make her see it. What I had done with Tess had had nothing to do with her. It had had everything to do with me and how much I had just wanted to give up. I was positive that I had not thought of Liz at all. Now, I know that’s not necessarily a good thing, but she had not been involved in my decision at all.

It hadn’t really been much of a decision actually. Tess had just been there - like she was always there when I was at my worst, and, finally, I had just given in.

But Liz had seen it. She had looked into my soul and she had seen it. Had she seen some part of me that I don’t even know exists?

Because, although I had been angry and hurt and completely out of control at that time, I had never hated Liz - at least not so that I was aware of it.

We are driving again. I pull up in front of the Crashdown after what seems like moments, but has really been another fifteen minutes. I realize that this might truly be it. I may never actually speak to Liz Parker again.

I have to try and convince her. At least once more. "Liz, please…I don’t know what you saw, but I’m telling you, I never felt that way. I swear it."

Liz is staring out the front windshield of my parent’s car, her expression completely shuttered. She doesn’t even look at me. "Max, I saw it."

"Liz, it can’t just end like this. Please." And then I just throw all caution to the wind. I will never forgive myself if I don’t say what my entire soul is screaming. "I love you."

Finally, she turns to look at me. "I know you do. But this thing between us Max…it’s destructive. I can’t ever be with you. Spending time with you only makes it worse. Sean…" She stops abruptly.

I feel a flash of rage. Sean. Sean Deluca. He said something to her, something that made her decide this is the only way. "What about Sean?" I demand, unable to control the snarl in my tone despite myself. I instantly regret it because she tenses up and glares at me.

"Sean was right. I will never be able to move forward as long as you are in my life," she says it coldly, cutting right to my heart. "I’m tired of looking back Max. Whoever it was I fell in love with, you are no longer him."

I can’t even speak because I know it’s not true. I am still him - I am still the same person.

The only difference is that I am completely lost, adrift, and now I am never going to find my way back home.

I can’t do it without her.

"I just want to say it once more." Liz’s eyes are beginning to fill with tears, but her tone is still controlled and frigid as she says, "Thank you for saving my life. I swear it won’t be for nothing. I’m going to make something of it."
She says it with utter certainty and I know its true. And she’s going to do it without me.

"Goodbye Max. I hope you find your son. I guess I’ll see you at school."

She is gone. And she doesn’t look back.

***

I am lying on my bed, staring up at the ceiling, willing myself to fall asleep.

All I want to do is to let myself tumble into oblivion.

But I doubt it will even help. I’ll probably just dream about Alex again - and Sean and Liz together. More dreams where my guilt and fear and jealousy and hate start to suffocate me.

I wonder if maybe I should get up and go over to Tess’s. At least I can look around there, see if there’s anything that gives me some kind of clue as to what the hell Tess did to Alex, exactly how her plan went forward…and who the mysterious Lazar is.

It is the only thing I can do right now. I have no idea where to even start looking for my son. It is all completely hopeless. I am never going to find him and the one person who was determined to make sure I did is now gone.

But I can try and help Alex. Because that dream is still haunting me. It has to mean something. It has to!

There is no way my parents are going to let me out this late with the car - not after the Jeep fiasco, so I just open my bedroom window and climb right out.

It’s a warm evening. It is late May after all. I thrust my hands into my pockets, kicking at a rock on the sidewalk. My mind is a complete void. I am refusing to think about anything, because if I do, all I will think about is Liz.

As of this moment, my emotions are on complete lockdown. I refuse to think about that scene this afternoon. If I don’t think about it, it never happened. There is still hope.

I am concentrating so hard on not thinking, I almost smash into Michael before I realize that he’s there.

"Jeez! Maxwell! Watch where you’re going!" My best friend is glaring at me, but he’s not really mad. "Where the hell are you off to? I was just coming to talk to you!"

Trust Michael to sound annoyed that I might potentially have something better to do than to sit on my bed waiting for him to show up to talk to me. I just roll my eyes. I am so not in the mood to deal with him. "What?"

Michael eyes me for a moment. "What’s wrong?" He demands.

"Nothing’s wrong," I reply. "I’m just going over to the Harding house to check out some stuff."

"Max, you better not be keeping something from me," Michael growls, falling into step beside me. "I’m coming with you. There is absolutely no reason for you to go to the Harding house unless you’re looking for something. And since I know you, I know that whatever it is, I should know about it. I also know that you won’t tell me unless I find out for myself and so I’m coming."

I just stare at Michael. "Are you quite finished?" He scowls, nods curtly. "Fine, you can come. I really don’t care."

This stops Michael in his steps. "Okay, something is really wrong. What’s going on? Tell me Maxwell. Now." And, then, just because he does know me, "It’s Liz, isn’t it?"

I scrub my hand across my face wearily. "There is no more Liz Michael. We’re through. For good."

"That’s bull. What happened?"

"I don’t want to talk about it."

"Maxwell…" Michael trails off warningly. For God’s sake! Can’t a guy even brood in peace!

"She kissed me and she got flashes of me and Tess together," I yell. "There! Are you satisfied? She says that I slept with Tess to get back at her - that I hated her when I did it. And I don’t even know what she’s talking about. I know it had nothing to do with her! I was a selfish bastard, yes, but I know that I did not deliberately sleep with Tess to hurt Liz."

Michael just stares at me. "She saw all that from a few flashes?" He demands after a moment. "Jeez. Maria and I have a lot of catching up to do," he mutters. But he is now looking thoughtful, as though the pieces of a puzzle are starting to fall into place.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" I snap. Of course he’s not taking this at all seriously. To Michael, likely to Maria and to Isabel too, Liz and I just need to get over ourselves, need to admit we want to be together.

I can just hear Maria now: "Sure, you made some mistakes Max and Liz, but you’re soulmates, you belong together."

Screw that.

"It means that I don’t know what the hell you and Tess did, but you must have been doing something completely weird, because there was no hour long culmination for me buddy." He sounds annoyed. "You’re like the flashes/orgasmo king! What the hell? How is any guy supposed to compete with that?"

Okay, now I have no clue what the hell he’s talking about. "Pardon me?"

"Maria and me. We did it. And while it was certainly awesome, I don’t know how the hell you managed to keep that up for an hour. And what, do you and Liz like have some sort of psycho link to each other’s worst nightmares? What is with you man? Why do you insist on always taking everything to extremes?"

I am staring at him, unable to even form coherent thought. "You and Maria? When?" It is the most inane of questions, but I am currently unable to think of another.

"The night before we were supposed to leave." He clears his throat, actually looks embarrassed suddenly. "And last night. But don’t tell anyone I told you. She’ll kill me."

"And are you saying that Maria got flashes?" I ask.

"Yeah, but nothing like you and Liz. It was all good."

I am suddenly so jealous, all I want to do is punch him. I clench my fists at my sides. "I so cannot hear this right now."

I am getting ready to storm away when Michael puts a heavy hand on my shoulder, stopping me. "Max, I need you to listen to me. I think I might have thought of something."

"What?" I snarl. He, being Michael, isn’t the least bit intimidated.

"Do you think it was real?" He asks, right to the point as always.

"Was what real?"

"What you did with Tess? Don’t you think its all a little too good to be true? I mean the girl proved herself to be the mindwarping queen. Maybe she just made you think that you had one for an hour." He smirks at me. " ‘Cause being the expert and all…"

"Would you shut up," I mutter. But he has started something whirling through my mind. A thin slice of hope. "You think that nothing happened at all?"

"I don’t mean that. I mean the chick was pregnant." Michael sounds actually sorry that he has to say it. "But maybe that whole hour long thing was just something to make sure that she truly kept you in line. I mean, you’re a guy. I’m a guy. I know how we think. I know how girls think we think. Hour-long culmination. To a girl, she’d probably think it was manna from heaven for us. I mean, not that it wouldn’t be, but what there is ain’t so bad either." He smirks again. "Hell, if she was mindwarping you, maybe you didn’t have sex with her at all. Maybe she just made you think you did."

Why is Michael doing this to me? Doesn’t he know that I would kill for this to be true? And, yet, I know it was real. What Liz saw when we connected only reinforces it.

"I think…maybe because Maria’s human?" I am playing devil’s advocate. "Rath and Lonnie told Tess and I in New York that there was nothing like alien sex. Maybe with humans, it’s just different?"

Michael looks at me completely seriously. "Maxwell, I’m telling you. When you love the girl, there is no way that there can be anything better, alien or otherwise."

Okay, when did Michael Guerin suddenly become Dr. Love again?

"But the baby…" I trail off. This can’t be true. How could she possibly have made me believe it so thoroughly? And Liz had seen it.

"Dude, it might not have been yours," Michael says logically. He starts to walk away. "I think I’ll let you go to the Hardings by yourself. But think about it."

Like it won’t be the only thing I’ll think about for the rest of the night.

It is too good to be true. There is no way that this whole dilemma could be resolved as simply as that. And if I was mindwarped, shouldn’t it have started to wear off by now? Was Tess really so strong that she could maintain an illusion of such a magnitude, even from the home planet?

And it is then that I remember Amy Deluca.

Because Tess’s gift was not just mind-warping.

Tess also had the power to change memories.

And maybe not just mine.


posted on 1-Nov-2002 5:47:18 PM
Part 7 - Plenty - Liz POV

I looked into your eyes
They told me plenty
I already knew.
You never felt a thing
So soon forgotten all that you do
In more than words
I tried to tell you
The more I tried I failed.
I would not let myself believe that you might stray
And I would stand by you
No matter what they’d say.
I thought I’d be with you until my dying day
Until my dying day.

I used to think my life
Was often empty
A lonely space to fill.
You hurt me more than I ever could have imagined
You made my world stand still.
And in that stillness
There was a freedom
I never felt before.
I would not let myself believe that you might stray
And I would stand by you no matter what they’d say.
I would.
I thought I would be with you until my dying day…
Until my dying day.

Sarah McLachlan


You know, you would have thought that should have been harder, ripping my own heart out like that.

It was surprisingly easy though. Almost as easy as it was to storm out of the school at the prom when I caught Max with Tess. It felt freeing, liberating, strong.

It wasn’t like when I walked away from Max at the pod chamber at all. I had felt every single ounce of pain in every bone of my body that day. And this is certainly as final as that was, at least in my mind.

When I told Max that we could never be together again a few hours ago, it was the easiest thing I have ever done. Of course, I am ignoring the expression that was on Max’s face when I last saw him, the one that told me that every single one of his worst nightmares was coming true. It is currently, indelibly branded on my brain. It’s there, but I’m not seeing it, at least not right now.

Right now I am rolling my eyes at Sean Deluca as he makes a fool of himself.

The Crashdown was still open when I got back and Sean was there, harassing Maria, who had returned to help my dad clean up.

His face lit up when he saw me and it was then that I knew that he was waiting for me. I feel bad because I can’t be more excited. Sure, I’m not feeling any pain, but making a complete break from your soul mate does not inspire you to want to hang out with other guys who have the hots for you. At least not right away. I feel like I am entitled to a little wallowing time. I think maybe that’s why I couldn’t let go of Max last time. I didn’t grieve for what we had let slip away from us.

Maria takes one look at my face and says, "Get out of here Sean. Now." She grabs him by the nape of his neck and pulls him off the stool, thrusting him towards the door. Of course he is ten times bigger than she is and would not be going anywhere if he didn’t want to be, but he is currently being amenable. Actually, he’s just ignoring her.

"Hey Parker. I see you finally ditched the baggage," he teases, breaking away from Maria and approaching me.

"His name is Max you dweeb," Maria flares, smacking him, harder than is really necessary. "And if anyone’s baggage around here, its you dork."

"So, what are you doing tonight?" Sean asks, grabbing Maria by the arm and gently subjecting her to a head-lock, in that typical big-brother, older cousin way. He is ignoring her screeches for my help.

And so this is the point when I roll my eyes. "Sean, let her go."

"Only if you’ll go out with me," Sean replies. "She’s my hostage."

"Blackmailing me didn’t work last time. Not in the long term anyway," I retort, as he lets Maria go because she bites him on the hand. She starts to smack him again.

"You’re just lucky Michael isn’t here," Maria says. Her face is all red and I can tell she is actually really mad. "Get lost and I may not tell him."

Sean snorts. "Like I’m scared of your weenie boyfriend." But he saunters towards the door. "Call me Parker. I think we have some stuff to discuss."

"AAAARRRGGGHHHH!" Maria screeches in annoyance, throwing a glass at her cousin’s retreating form. "I really do not understand why you give that idiot the time of day Lizzie. You know, sometimes I would give anything to let Michael blast him. He is driving me crazy!" The plastic glass has hit the door, fortunately missing the window by about a millimeter.

"Was that really necessary Maria?" I ask as I go to pick it up.

But she has already forgotten about Sean, the Deluca wind changing direction so quickly, as usual, my head is suddenly spinning. "Liz, what’s wrong?"

"Nothing’s wrong Maria." I don’t even know why I am bothering to deny it. While I am currently numb, it would appear that the fact that Max and I are totally over is reflected on my face for the entire world to see - or at least for my best friend to see.

"Puh-lease. Where’s Max?"

"At home I think." I shrug.

"Liz…" Maria says warningly. "Things looked like they were going so well this morning. What happened?"

I close my eyes briefly, and then decide to just tell her. She’s not going to leave me alone until I do anyway. "We kissed."

" What???" I can hear the joy in her voice. Why is it that this is the first thing that starts to penetrate the armour I have built around my heart since I shut down after those flashes? I feel a catch in my throat, swallow hard to control it. Maria grabs me by the arm, turns me around so that I am facing her. "This is so great! So are you back together?"

"Not exactly," I manage to choke out. The light dies out of Maria’s eyes instantly.

"What happened?" She demands, more quietly, but urgently, like she knows that it is going to be terrible and she just wants to get it over with.

"Remember how I used to see stars when Max and I kissed?" I ask, knowing that my voice suddenly sounds bitter and hard. "Well, I saw a lot more than stars this time."

Maria’s hands come up to cover her mouth in horror. "Oh my God. You didn’t see…?"

"Max and Tess?" I ask, raising my eyebrows. "Yup. And it was lovely let me tell you."

"Oh Lizzie. I am so sorry." Maria reaches out, pulls me into an embrace. "But, I mean, you didn’t see everything?"

"I really don’t want to remember what I did see," I tell her, pulling away. Already the horrible flashes are starting to circulate in my mind again.

"God, I don’t blame you." Maria plops down onto one of the stools, an absolutely shell-shocked look on her face. "And to think that I used to envy you those. Especially now that I know what it’s like." I glance at her, surprised. "Yeah. Michael showed me some stuff. But he had some control over it. Holy Mary…" She trails off. "Liz, I am so sorry."

"It’s over Maria. If today taught me anything, its that I can’t be around Max without wanting to be with him. And its now clear. I can’t be. Ever again. He belongs to her now. Even though he doesn’t want to, he does."

Maria looks so sad, I suddenly want to comfort her. It is, of course, ridiculous, but I know that this is going to be hard on everyone. Max is miserable, I’ll be miserable as soon as this weird numbness wears off, and our poor friends are going to have to bear the brunt of it, not to mention be torn between us.

Because even though I presently never want to see him again, I know it’s not going to last. He is my soul mate, my love. I am never going to stop wanting to be with him, even if I live to be a hundred, get married twelve times and have twenty kids with other guys.

I lied to Max when I told him that he wasn’t the same person he used to be - that I had seen it in the flashes. The worst part of this whole thing is that I could tell he was. That was my Max who had been with Tess. That he could do what he had done with Tess, while hating me, even for a little while…

And suddenly I don’t want to think about it anymore. "Listen Maria, something good did come from today." Maria stares at me with glazed eyes. "Its about Alex." She perks up. "We did find out something important before the great flash tragedy of 2001." I know that I sound flippant, but I have no choice. Because this is a tragedy, of Shakespearean proportions. I am beginning to wonder why I didn’t listen to my own little speech - the one I gave to poor Max way back when I was trying to get him to fall out of love with me, about Romeo and Juliet being a tragedy and not romantic at all.

"What?" Maria asks.

"He fought her. Alex wasn’t working with Tess at all and he tried to get away from her before the mind-warp started to really destroy his mind." I pause. "And that’s not all. She was working with someone else. Leanna told me and Max that Tess came to find Alex and she was with a guy - someone named Lazar."

Maria is frowning. "I don’t know if this is better Liz. I hate knowing that Alex knew what was happening to him. At least if he was mindwarped the whole time…"

I reach out, put my arm around her comfortingly. "I know. But he fought her Maria. That’s a lot more than the rest of us ever did. It just shows that he really was the bravest and strongest of all of us."

"Like we didn’t already know that." Maria smiles sadly. "God Liz. I miss him so much. Is this ever going to stop hurting?"

"I hope not," I reply. "Because that would mean we forgot him. I’ll never forget him. Ever." I squeeze her shoulder, then stand up. "Anyway, I’m going there - to Tess’s." I clarify when Maria looks at me questioningly.

"Why?" Maria asks. "She’s gone Liz. What good can it do?"

"I can find out who was working with her and at least he can be brought to justice for what they did to Alex."

Maria nods. "I’m coming with you. But do you really think Tess left that information lying around?" She asks as we turn off the lights and lock up the restaurant.

"I don’t think Tess was nearly as smart as we’ve all given her credit for," I reply. "Her cards were always visible. We just stopped looking for them."

We are in the Jetta before Maria tries again, gently. "Liz, do you think maybe you’re just reading too much into this…you know…to forget what happened with you and Max?"

"Maybe," I answer honestly. "But this Lazar guy exists Maria. And I’m going to find him."

Maria still looks worried, but she doesn’t argue anymore.

***

It only takes about ten minutes to drive to the housing development where Tess’s old house is. I feel a shiver descend my spine as we pull up, remembering how creepy both Tess and Nasedo were that night I had gone to plant the camera in the house.

I had done it because I had seen Max and Tess kissing, but I had known in my heart that Max was telling me the truth - that she was doing something to him. And so I had tried to prove it, because my faith in him was so strong.

I briefly wish that everything I had seen in those flashes from Max was a hoax, a mind-warp, just like the last time. But it was impossible. Tess was gone, on another planet. She was strong, but not that strong. That had been all Max in those flashes.

Maria is out of the car and on the lawn, skulking near the front picture window before I can even formulate a plan. Now that she is in, she’s really in, in typical Maria fashion.

"Maria! Wait!" I hiss, hurrying after her.

"Liz, I think there’s someone in there!" Maria whispers back. "The shadows are moving."

I feel my heart beginning to beat a mile a minute. Can we have found the mysterious Lazar so easily? Has he really been under our noses the whole time?

But if it is he, we can’t face him alone. He’s dangerous. I’m going to have to call Max.

So much for keeping my distance. And, yet, my heart is strangely excited at the prospect.

See, I told you I’m hopeless.

But, for the moment, we need confirmation.

I press my nose up against the bottom of the window, beside my best friend’s. "Who is it? Is it a guy?"

"Definitely male," Maria affirms.

"And you two are definitely females…nosy ones at that." The voice comes from behind us, causing me to whirl, my heart lodged in my throat, and Maria to shriek.

It’s Michael of course. Maria is already slapping him for scaring the living daylights out of us.

I hear someone bump into something inside the house, then swear quietly. Suddenly a light comes on, but not an electric one. It is all alien and a familiar face is illuminated, bathed in the glow shining up from his palm.

Max.

So maybe I haven’t devastated him as much as I thought. He’s out playing detective too. But I know that it is not true. His face is a mask as he stares down on all of us.

"Michael, I thought you weren’t coming." He doesn’t even acknowledge my or Maria’s presence, at least verbally. His eyes are on my face, unreadable in the semi-dark, shadowed by the faint bluish light.

"Changed my mind," Michael replies. "And apparently Frick and Frack here had the same idea as we did." He glares at Maria. "Didn’t I tell you that it was dangerous to go around alone after dark?"

"I’m not alone," Maria retorts, linking her arm with mine. "I’m with Liz. Besides, Tess is gone. Where’s the danger?"

"Hello? Khivar? Random Skins? Nicholas?" Michael begins counting off on this fingers.

Maria rolls her eyes. "Its not us they want you moron."

"Right. You’re disposable." Michael replies. "Do you think any of them would think twice about hurting you two? To get to us." He looks at Max. "Am I not right here Maxwell?"

I scowl at both of them because I don’t want to hear Max’s answer to that question. "We have just as much right to be here as you do," I snap. "Alex was ourbest friend."

Michael eyes me with annoyance. "Do I have to remind you Parker about that device that almost blew up in your face a few days ago?"

" What????" This is Max of course. Ooops. I forgot he didn’t know about that. I can see from Michael’s face that he forgot too. But like Max has any right to get mad. He was the one off sleeping with his once and future bride when I was in that danger. He could have been with me. I had asked him to help me.

"Never mind," Michael mutters. "Anyway, my point is made."

"Well, we’re not alone now…are we?" Maria asks, batting her eyelashes at Michael. She has moved away from me and is snaking her arms around his waist. "C’mon Spaceboy. Let us stay."

My eyes momentarily meet Max’s in embarrassment at witnessing the way Michael melts, right in front of us. Suddenly I know what it must have been like to be around Max and I at the height of our relationship. I can’t help but smile to myself at the thought of it.

And dammit, he sees me do it and, being Max, he knows what I am thinking. His own face softens and his eyes are staring at me in that way again. I force myself to look away.

I hear the sigh in Max’s voice as he says, "You can all stay of course. Just stop making so much noise and get in here." He reaches out his hand and eyes me through the window. I can tell he is daring me to take it.

Jerk.

I thrust my own hand into his and try to ignore the warmth that snakes through me as he closes his around mine.

I don’t allow myself to hold onto him a minute longer than necessary. The minute I am inside, I let go, move away from him. I can feel his eyes following me, until he turns to help Maria through.

It is then that everything begins to move in slow motion.

"So what are we looking for?" Maria asks as the four of us begin to move across the darkened living room. I close my eyes briefly, shake my head, trying to clear it. Everything is really fuzzy all of a sudden.

I avoid the piano, which still has that statue sitting on top of it - the one I broke and we all saw Tess fix, the one that told us that there was much more to Tess Harding than met the eye.

"Anything weird," Max replies. "Anything that might tell us more about the deal Nasedo made with the Skins or about this Lazar guy." I swallow hard. His voice is fading in and out, like when your ears get plugged as a plane takes off.

I am moving away from the rest of them, towards the stairs. I’m not sure why, but I feel like I’m being drawn towards the second floor. The minute Max let go of me, it started, this need to be up there.

I see Maria beginning to rummage through the kitchen cupboards as I climb the stairs. Michael and Max are arguing about something in the dining room, but I ignore them.

I feel my heart stop in my chest as a faint glow appears suddenly under one of the doors at the end of the upstairs hallway. It is gone as quickly as it came, but I know I saw it. The thunder must have been my imagination though because it is perfectly clear when I look out the window at the end of the hallway.

And yet…

I can feel a presence. I know that there is someone in there.

I pause, wonder if I should call for one of the others, for all of the others…for Max.

But I know that whatever is in there is meant for me alone.

Of course, even though I am in this weird sort of trance, I know that this is not a good thing - that I am in Tess Harding’s house and likely anything behind that door is not going to be particularly healthy for Liz Parker. But I have no control over myself as I reach up and turn the doorknob.

And, suddenly, I am face to face with my greatest enemy.


posted on 1-Nov-2002 5:49:19 PM
Part 8 - Strange World - Max POV

We walk without a sound
Across a barren landscape.
Your eyes are twisted down
To a dew entrailed ground.
We watch the stars as they slowly fade away
And in the clearing sky
I see the cold stone face of morning setting in on me.
It’s a strange world.
It’s a very strange world
That leaves me holding on to nothing
When there’s nothing left to lose.

Your touch is cold and damp,
The devil’s in your eyes.
I wonder why I always let you lead me on this way.
Cause you see only what you want to see.
You feel only what you want to
And I am on the outside of your strange world.
It’s a strange world.
It’s a very strange world
That leaves me holding on to nothing
When there’s nothing left to lose.

We’re walking hand in hand,
We’ll walk this way forever
Our eyes have risen to the water’s edge
Watching with the tides.
The stars have fallen to another day
And the sun warms out path
To find the reasons leave us far behind in our strange world.
It’s a strange world.
It’s a very strange world that leaves me holding onto nothing
When there’s nothing left to lose.

Sarah McLachlan


I feel Liz’s panic before I actually hear her scream.

I am sorting my way through a filing cabinet in the den off the back of the kitchen, mildly annoyed and getting impatient with the complete lack of anything that even resembles a clue, when the wave of fear and horror washes over me.

"Liz!"

I almost knock Michael over, pushing past him. He is on his way to the staircase too because Liz’s scream has echoed through the entire house. "Keep Maria down here," I order him. For once, he listens to me, but I can already hear Maria arguing with him to let her past.

I take the stairs two at a time. "Liz! Liz? Where are you?"

There is no answer. Only dead silence.

I am frantically searching every room on the second floor. There is no sign of Liz anywhere. It is like she has disappeared off the face of the planet.

"Maxwell! What’s going on up there?" Michael bellows from the first floor.

"Michael! She’s gone! Liz is gone!" I can hear the panic in my own voice.

"Michael, let go of me!" Maria is shrieking at him and I can hear her moving up the stairs now. "Max! Max, where is she?"

I am standing in one of the bedrooms, staring around, stupidly hoping that Liz is going to suddenly materialize in front of my eyes, but it is no good.

She is completely gone.

I collapse onto the bed, stare at Maria as she bursts into the room, Michael on her heels. "Max?’

"She’s gone."

"Gone? Where?" Maria is at the window, staring out. It is closed of course. She didn’t go out that way. "Where is she Max? She couldn’t have just disappeared!" Her voice is beginning to rise hysterically. Michael grabs her, pulls her against him, in a totally ludicrous effort to comfort her.

"We need to find her," he says, stating the obvious.

"Starting where?" I ask dumbly, willing him to take control, to find her.

The three of us just stare at each other in silence.

Because there is nowhere to start.

She is gone and there is no way to explain it.

And it is in that instant that I see Michael’s fingers beginning to tap against Maria’s back. I stare at those tapping fingers, my heart suddenly in my throat.

I let my face fall into my hands. "Oh my God. No."

"Maxwell! What’s wrong?"

"Tess." I manage to say it. My hands are clenched at my sides, although my entire body is screaming for me to smash something - anything. My rage is that great. "Tess has Liz."

***

Lost - Liz POV

By the shadows of the night I go.
I move away from the crowded room,
That sea of shallow faces
Masked in warm regret.
They don’t know how to feel,
They don’t know what is lost.

Lost in the darkness of a land
Where all the hope that’s offered
Is memories of being taken by the hand
And we are led into the sun.
But I don’t have a hold on what is real
Though we can only try.
What is there to give or to believe?

I want it all to go away,
I want to be alone.
Sympathy’s wasted on my hollow shell.
I feel there’s nothing left to fight for
No reason for a cause.
And I can’t hear your voice,
And I can’t feel you near.

Lost in the darkness of a land
Where all the hope that’s offered
Is memories of being taken by the hand
And we are led into the sun
But I don’t have a hold on what is real
And we can only try.
What is there to give or to believe?

I wanted a change,
Knowing all I could do was try
I was looking for someone.

Sarah McLachlan


I see Max come storming into the room, see Michael and Maria in a blur as we pass them on the staircase, see it all but cannot make them see me. And believe me, I’m trying. My heart is thundering in complete terror. I have never been this scared in my entire life - not even when Max was in the White Room, not when we faced down the Skins, not when I realized that there was a murderous alien on the loose after Alex was killed.

Because I now know who that murderous alien was and here she is, back again, and she is mindwarping them all and she is kidnapping me from right under their noses.

And she hates me. She didn’t hate Alex and she killed him mercilessly anyway.

You also have to understand that I am not only afraid for myself. I am afraid that she might drop the mindwarp, that Max and Maria and Michael might become her targets too.

This is one reason for why I am not fighting her. Because I bet you’re thinking that I could take her. This is Tess after all. We are pretty much the same size and with the force of my hatred and outrage I could probably fight her pretty easily.

But, you have to understand, that while this is Tess, it’s not too.

Just like Future Max was Max but wasn’t Max at the same time.

Because it has not taken me long to figure out that this is not the same Tess Max sent off in the granolith only three days ago.

This is another Tess. A stronger Tess - and I don’t just mean physically.

Because, somehow, she is mindwarping me into doing what she wants me to do. I wasn’t imagining things when I felt myself being pulled towards that room. She wanted me there - and now she’s making me leave.

I can’t even turn my head to look at her. I am just walking quietly beside her, although every ounce of my being is screaming in fear and anger and frustration.

But I don’t need to look at her to know that this is not the same Tess. This is another Tess. An older Tess. Her hair is long, half-way down her back, but it is streaked with grey beneath the bright blonde that still gleams under the street lamps. Her face is lined, no longer young, is twisted with bitterness and from years of shattered dreams.

And from hate. Let’s not forget hate.

She’s wearing leather, in a style not dissimilar to what Future Max was wearing when he came for his destructive visit a few months ago. I inanely wonder why leather has become the fashion of choice in the future.

Because this is Future Tess and she is one pissed off alien queen and so reflections on leather seem a little inappropriate at this time.

"Get in," she snarls, pushing me hard from behind, so that I sprawl on the back seat of the Jetta. She climbs into the front, sweeps her hand across the ignition and the engine roars to life.

I am still frozen. I desperately want to scream, want to struggle, but I am incapable of moving.

I see her cold blue eyes in the rear-view mirror. "Stop fighting it. You’re only going to tire yourself out. I need you strong and healthy for what I have planned for you." Her eyes are gleaming with disdain and annoyance.

The tone of her voice sends a sharp stab of petrifying fear down my spine. We are headed out of town, are soon on the highway.

She is muttering to herself. "…knew I should have taken care of this myself from the beginning….don’t understand why every guy in the universe falls in love with her but I’ll put a stop to this nonsense once and for all…running out of time."

She is distracting herself with her own rage. I feel the mind-warp or mind control or whatever it is she is doing to me begin to slip.

I manage to croak her name. "Tess!"

Her eyes snap back to the mirror. "Shut up! I don’t want to hear your simpering voice! If I could do this without you, I would!" She turns the wheel sharply, sends the car careening off the highway and into the desert. It is dark, but I recognize the route well, having only driven it a couple of days before.

The pod chamber.

She stops the car so abruptly, I go tumbling of the seat and onto the floor. She has hauled me out of the car by my hair before I can even begin to process what has happened.

My entire being is screaming out for Max, hoping against hope, that by some tiny miracle, he will hear me. He heard me once after all - that time in New York. But that time Isabel was helping me. I have no idea if I am capable of connecting with him on my own.

Future Tess is staring down at me, her face contorted with hatred. "God, you’re just as insipid as I remember." She grabs at my hair again. "I can't believe he's mourned you all these years."

I can’t speak again. I am pleading with her with my eyes to release me, to at least let me talk. She notices. "What? You have something to say Miss Smarty?" She sneers, but waves her hand in the air. I feel my vocal cords come back under my own control.

"What…why are you here?"

She pauses, her entire face changing. Suddenly she does not look at all threatening, just annoyed. "You don’t seem surprised to see me Lizzie dearest. I never knew for sure, but now I do. You’ve had visitors from the future before. Max won't talk about it."

I am a little confused by what she is saying, but I can see no reason to lie to her. "Yes. Max came. He told me to try and get the two of you together."

Tess rolls her eyes. "Well I’m guessing from the way my life turned out that it was a big success. Let me guess - was this right around the time you all went to Copper Summit?" When I nod, she snorts. "Somehow you haven't fixed that whole mess yet! God, you screwed us really well Parker."

I feel a stab of anger, which momentarily overshadows my terror. "You’re the one who ended up pregnant with his child and back on Antar, where you wanted to be all along," I retort. "Thanks to me."

Tess eyes me for a long moment, a bewildered expression gradually taking over her face. "So you really don’t know - yet anyway."

"Know what?"

She no longer looks at all angry. In fact, she looks suddenly hopeful. "He didn’t tell you."

"Who tell me what?" I am beginning to think that she is completely loony. She is jumping from one topic to another, none of it making any logical sense.

"Max of course. About Serena."

I start at the familiar name. "He mentioned her. He told me that she was my friend. She’s the one who fixed the granolith so he could come back in time through it."

Tess narrows her eyes. I can see the wheels spinning inside her head as she tries to put the pieces of some puzzle I can’t even see together. "When did he come back from?"

I don’t know what else to do besides answer her. "Fourteen years in the future."

"Fourteen years. She was only thirteen years old then. That was the year Khivar killed Isabel and Michael…." She trails off. "Oh my God. He started the whole thing in motion. It wasn’t supposed to be this way."

I am openly gaping at her now. "Tess, what the hell are you talking about?"

Tess tilts her head, smiles again. She flicks her wrist again and I feel the control she has been exerting over my body disappear completely. It is so sudden, I stumble, falling to the ground, hard.

"I’m talking about your daughter Liz. Your daughter - Serena. The one who has not been conceived yet, but is supposed to be, right around this time. Fool. He tried to save Isabel and Michael and only made everything worse." She sounds sad and proud and disgusted all at the same time. I don’t understand how I notice this, because I am sure that I am gaping at her like some sort of fish out of water. She pauses and proceeds to shock me even further. "Oh, and just so that you stop calling me by that traitor’s name….I’m not Tess. I’m Ava, and we have a lot of work to do."

posted on 1-Nov-2002 5:51:01 PM
Part 9 - Circle - Max POV

There are two of talking in circles
And one of us who wants to leave
In a world created for only us
An empty cage that has no key.
Don’t you know that we’re working with flesh and blood
Carving out of jealousy,
Crawling into each other
It’s smothering every little part of me.

What kind of love is this that keeps me hanging on
Despite everything its doing to me?
What is this love that keeps me coming back for more
When it will only end in misery?

I know too many people unhappy
In a life from which they’d love to flee.
Watching others get everything offered
They’re wanton for discovery.
Oh my brother, my sister, my mother
You’re losing your identity.
Can’t you see that it’s you in the window
Shining with intensity?

What kind of love is this that keeps me hanging on
Despite everything its doing to me?
What is this love that keeps me coming back for more
When it will only end in misery?

Sarah McLachlan


We go to pick up Isabel and call the Sheriff once I finally manage to pull myself together. I am still in a state of complete disbelief that Tess could have gotten the best of us again so completely. She is supposed to be gone! We saw her blast off ourselves.

As usual, none of this makes any sense. Why is she back? And what does this mean for my son? Has he been born already?

Or is Michael right after all - did he ever even exist?

The Sheriff and Kyle are both out driving the streets of Roswell, just as we are, searching for any sign of my lunatic former wife or Liz. Maria is with the Sheriff and Michael with Kyle. It seems wisest that no one confront Tess alone, if they should stumble across her. She is strong - even stronger than I realized when I finally found out the truth about her betrayal. That she could have so easily mindwarped Michael, Maria and I and taken Liz without even any semblance of a struggle - it is damn frightening.

It is scaring the hell out of me actually. Liz is in great danger and we have absolutely no idea where to even start to look for her.

Izzy is in the back-seat of my parent’s car, I am at the wheel. She has a picture of Liz on her lap, is trying to dreamwalk her as I drive around town in circles. She is having absolutely no luck.

"Where would she take her? Why would she take her? Why is she even here? Hasn’t she done enough?" These were Maria’s words once she and Michael had gotten over the first shock of my accusation that it was Tess who was responsible.

The words are now winding their way through my brain as I listen to the soft sound of my sister’s breathing from the back-seat. She is in a deep trance now. I know that she will not give up, but it seems hopeless.

I have no answers. Only a deep, bone-chilling awareness that we are at a turning point - again. That if I take the wrong path this time, there will be no going back, there will be no last minute reprieve like there was when we found out the truth about Tess.

This knowledge stems from one fact.

I can’t feel Liz at all anymore. There is like a deep void in my consciousness where she has always existed, even when we were apart. Ever since I saved her in the Crashdown that day, I have always felt her, know when she is safe and when she isn’t, know when she is hurting and when she is happy. It has become such a part of my own make-up, that it wasn’t until it was gone that I even realized it was there - her presence - like a flame, drawing me to her, burning brightly, keeping us connected.

Even over the past few weeks when things were so bad between us, she had burned within me.

Now she is just gone. Completely. Like a candle snuffed out.

And so it is an even greater shock when she is suddenly there again, like a match being lit. No, that’s too small. More like a small nuclear explosion ripping through my mind.

" Max! Help me! MAAAAAXXXX!" Liz’s voice is panicked, desperate, terrified. And then it is gone, like it was never there at all.

I jerk the wheel to the left, sending the car careening for the sidewalk on the main drag of Roswell. I half hear Isabel shriek as she is physically thrown onto the floor in the back-seat. I slam on the brakes, breathing heavily as the car rolls to an abrupt halt.

"Max! What the hell are you doing?" Isabel screams, opening the back door and tumbling out onto the pavement.

I ignore her. I just continue to sit behind the wheel, staring out the windshield, calling for her with every fibre of my being.

LIZ!!!! Liz, where are you? Help me to find you! LIZ!?

There is nothing but the void.

Isabel is shaking me now. "Max! What is it? What’s wrong?"

"Liz…she’s calling for me." I bring my face down into my hands. The emptiness - I can’t bear it. I know right now that she’s still alive, but without the connection, will I even know if Tess hurts her, if Tess snuffs out the flame permanently?

"Like when you were in New York?" Isabel asks, sounding excited.

"Sort of," I reply, looking up at her, still feeling totally bereft. "That time I saw her, this time I heard her."

Isabel is frowning slightly. "And you can’t answer her?"

"She’s gone again."

"Try again. This time with me helping you," Isabel says, her eyes bright with hope. "She needed me last time. Her fear might have given her the strength to reach you once, but that was it. She needs help."

A tiny flicker of hope…It is enough.

I take my sister’s hand. She is kneeling on the pavement outside the driver’s side door, the picture of Liz smoothed out in front of her. She has one hand on Liz’s face, one in mine. As Isabel closes her eyes, she instructs me. "Call to her. Don’t let any doubt come into it Max. You need to believe that you can do this."

I close my eyes, reaching out with all my senses. I connect almost instantly with my sister, who is linked physically to me through our hands. I can feel her waiting to join her strength to mine, waiting to use her gift to help me enter Liz’s mind.

It seems to take forever. I can feel my will fading, can feel my belief that this will work wilting, when suddenly it feels like I am falling…

And I am in.

She is sitting right in front of me, staring at something - or someone - unseen beyond me. Her eyes are looking right through me for a split second before I see them dilate and focus on my face.

The first thing I notice is that while Liz is still afraid, she is no longer petrified with fear. I can feel her natural curiosity overtaking the fright that is within her. I can also feel her shock. She is deeply troubled and confused by something.

"Max," she says, not at all surprised to see me. "You found me. Come and get me my love. It is not too late for us."

"Liz, where are you?" All I can see around her is sky - dark and starry and cold. The V constellation is behind her, pointing down, as though to lead me to her.

"I am in the usual place," she replies. "Where the pieces are dropped and picked up again. The place of answers - wrong and right. The place where paths are chosen and discarded."

And with that cryptic statement, she is gone.

I open my eyes, see Isabel staring at me, back from the dream plain. "Where is she Max?" My sister knows that the connection was made but didn’t see any of it it seems.

I frown slightly, wonder why Liz was speaking in riddles. But her meaning was clear. The minute she spoke, I recognized the rock formation that was appearing out of the dark behind her.

"She’s at the pod chamber," I reply. "Why though? There’s nothing there anymore. The granolith destroyed the entire thing when it took off. Why would Tess take her there?"

Isabel looks as confused as I feel. "I have no idea. Do you think its a trap Max?"

"It could be," I reply pensively. "But I don’t think so. We’ll call the others, have them meet us there."

I watch Isabel hurry around the car to get in beside me, am about to shut my door and put the car back into gear when the headlights pick up a pair of legs further down the sidewalk. They are walking towards us, until the figure melts into the recognizable form of Sean Deluca.

Great. Just what I need. Liz’s knight in tarnished armour.

He saunters over to my side of the car, sneering down at me. "Evans. I hope you’re not here to harass Parker again. Because if you are…" He trails off, his tone threatening.

It brings my back up. I admit it. Mainly because I know that he has gotten to Liz, has interested her, has connected with her on a level unlike any other guy since…well, since me.

"Do you see Liz?" I snap back, annoyed despite all attempts not to be. This guy doesn’t know the first thing about my relationship with Liz, but every time I encounter him, I feel like he is weighing me, judging me, waiting for me to do…I don’t know what he’s waiting for actually. Probably for me to screw up, which even I admit I am very good at.

And, yet, it is beginning to drive me crazy. Because while I definitely am not good enough for Liz, this guy isn’t either.

The fact that he is the complete opposite of me, personality-wise, should make me feel better - like Liz couldn’t even try and replace me. But, actually, it makes it worse - more like she has been trying to get as far away as possible from anything that reminds her of me, including other guys.

"I know that you did something to her again," Sean replies. "And I’m telling you, stay away from her. For your own good." I watch in amazement as he puts his hand down on my fore-arm, which is resting on the open window frame of the car door.

A strange energy seems to be building between us. It is intoxicating, yet frightening. And not only that - it also reminds me of something that I have experienced before…

"Max, let’s just go," Isabel says impatiently. She seems unaware that anything is wrong. But I am totally aware that everything is wrong. It’s like I am suddenly tuned into everything around me, and yet like I am being ripped away at the same time.

It is the last thought of which I am aware before I pass out.


posted on 1-Nov-2002 5:53:20 PM
Part 10 - The Path of Thorns (Terms) - Liz POV

I knew you wanted to tell me.
In your voice there was something wrong.
But if you would turn your face away from me
You cannot tell me you’re so strong.
Just let me ask of you one small thing
As we have shared so many tears.
With fervor our dreams we planned a whole lifelong
Now are scattered on the wind.

In the terms of endearment.
In the terms of the life that you love.
In the terms of the years that you pass you by.
In the terms of the reasons why.

Through the years I’ve grown to love you,
Though your commitment to most would offend.
But I stuck by you holding on with my foolish pride,
Waiting for you to give in.
You never really tried or it seems now
I’ve had much more myself to blame.
I’ve had enough of trying everything
And this time it is the end.

In the terms of endearment.
In the terms of the life you love.
In the terms of the years that pass you by.
In the terms of the reasons why.

There’s no more coming back this way
The path is overgrown and strewn with thorns.
They’ve torn the lifeblood from your naked eyes
Cast aside to be forlorn.

In the terms of endearment.
In the terms of the life that you love.
In the terms of the years that pass you by.
In the terms of the reasons why.

Funny how it seems
That all I’ve tried to do,
Seemed to make no difference to you
At all.

Sarah McLachlan


I am still staring at the woman before me in complete shock, but I am no longer scared.

It’s because I believe her. I am even beginning to see the small differences that existed between Ava and Tess in her face as I continue to stare at her.

The pierced lip is gone, as is the funky hairdo, but she still has about twelve earrings in her ear. And its not just physically that I begin to recognize her. There is something in those blue eyes - something innocent, even despite the fact that she is almost a middle-aged woman - that reassures me that she is telling me the truth.

This is Ava, the girl who, for a very short time, was my friend. This is not Tess, my greatest enemy, the murderer of my best friend.

What this means is only beginning to dawn on me. She has just told me that the infamous Serena, the one who I have half been looking for every time I meet someone new, ever since Future Max told me about her, is my daughter.

I had half begun to assume and accept that because I had changed the timeline so drastically by getting Max and Tess together, I was never destined to meet Serena in this life. I realize now that I was disappointed by this fact. Just the sound of her name on Future Max’s lips in that brief comment had intrigued me.

And now I know why. She is my child. My child with Max. Which means that something had to seriously change in the next few days if she is ever going to be born, because as things stand between Max and I now, there is little to no chance that she ever will be.

"Ava." I say it tentatively, try it out. "You’re really Ava."

She is eyeing me closely too. We are still standing on the desert floor, below the cliff where the granolith had been sheltered. "It’s me." She pauses, suddenly smiles shyly. "I guess I don’t blame you for mistaking me for her. I’ve changed a lot."

"A lot," I repeat. And she has. It’s not just in the way she looks. It’s in the way she carries herself. Ava had had a basic street sense to her when I had known her, but underneath she had been a scared young girl, uneducated and completely dependent on her fellow dupes. She had been devastated by Zan’s murder, had only managed to finally take a stand against Lonnie and Rath when they no longer needed her, when they had Tess and Max in their power.

This Ava’s bearing screams confidence in who she is. She also gives off a keen sense of desperation, one that I am determined I am going to get to the bottom of. This time, I am going to be the one in control. I had let Future Max run the show when he had shown up last fall. That had ended in complete disaster. I am not going to let anyone from the future tell me what to do this time.

"Why are you here?" I ask quietly.

"Something has gone horribly wrong," Ava tells me, just as quietly. It’s like we’re both suddenly aware of the complete wrongness of this whole situation. She is not supposed to be here - just like Future Max was not supposed to have come. Just by her being here, we are fooling around with forces completely beyond our comprehension. We are changing the entire future - again. "She’s dying."

I feel my stomach clench, because I know exactly who she means. "Serena?"

Ava swallows, nods. "Our future is dying. Liz, we can’t win without her. Something has clearly gone wrong between you and Max that wasn’t supposed to. She hasn’t been conceived. She is fading from our timeline. The only thing that is holding her there at all is the granolith."

I feel my knees getting weak. The complete meaning of all this is beginning to weigh down upon me. I am supposed to have a child with Max - which means that Max and I…somehow we were supposed to be at the point where we would be close enough to create a new life.

Ha. It is not the least bit funny, and yet I find it strangely the most ludicrously hysterical idea I have ever heard.

"How? How did this happen?" Ava is asking me gently. "You need to tell me. What is going on with you two?"

"Alex is dead," I blurt, not wanting to tell her the real reason, that Max and Tess were the ones with a child on the way in this timeline.

"Yes." She looks sad. "He died in our timeline too. It was why Max took Tess away, why they found me, to complete the Four Square."

My throat is closing up with grief again. I try to speak, try to tell her, but I cannot get the words out. "Tess…is gone here too. She and Max…"

It is then that I collapse completely. My knees do give out on me and I am sprawling on the desert floor, my arms wrapped around my middle, trying to hold in the pain, trying to ignore that all my dreams, all my love for Max has been wasted. He is not mine, never can be again. He belongs to her.

I have not cried once since I found out the truth of the matter between Max and Tess. I remember feeling complete shock when he told me, but that part of me that had to accept that she was having my child, had not really processed it. Maybe I had known deep down that it was all wrong, all mixed up, that I was the one supposed to have the baby.

My daughter would never be born because of her.

I realize that Ava is kneeling beside me, that she is pulling me into her arms, is stroking my hair. "Liz, I am so sorry. I didn’t know that you don’t know yet."

She is gradually soothing me. I can feel my heartbeat slowing down as I allow myself to be comforted. Her words are not really penetrating my brain, but I am seemingly entering a state of semi-detachment.

Nothing matters anymore. It is all messed up and there is no way to fix it.

It is in that instant that I see Max. I can see him right in front of me, his dark eyes loving, but sad. "I’m coming for you Liz. I swear I’ll be back with you soon." And he fades away right in front of my eyes.

I pull back from Ava, stare at the spot where Max just stood. It had been like a vision of the future, or maybe even an echo from the past, like when Max had seen a vision of he and I getting married in Las Vegas. I remember the day in the Crashdown when Max had told me the exact same thing.

I’m coming for you Liz.

I had believed him then and I believe him now.

Maybe we can fix this after all.

Ava is here and she has information about what is supposed to be. Clearly, somewhere, the future had gone off the rails. We just needed to figure out where and why.

I grasp her hand. I feel the calluses from all the years of war she has endured. "Tell me. Tell me what I need to know."

She pushes a strand of hair away from my face, an entirely motherly gesture. "Are you sure you want to know?"

"I need to know," I reply firmly. "She cannot win."

Ava smiles. "That’s why I’m here. So she won’t."

And she tells me what I need to do.

***

Another Time, Another Life - January 2001

Liz Parker set the order down in front of the couple. "Okay, um, we have Saturn Rings and a Galaxy Sub, hold the Max."

She gasped with embarrassment as she realized what she had just said. Liz’s best friend Maria, standing nearby, stared at Liz, then smirked in amusement. She tilted her head, indicating that she wanted to talk to Liz.

Liz sighed heavily. "Okay, I’ll be right back with the Cokes." She felt Maria grab her by the arm, hauling her over to the counter.

"Okay, what just happened?" Maria demanded, still sounding like she was about to burst into giggles.

Liz could feel her heart still beating at about a mile a minute. "I need help! I’m sick!" Maria just raised her eyebrows. "Okay, I am obsessed!"

Maria just looked knowing. "Okay, is this a general freak out or should I be concerned?" She didn’t sound the least bit concerned however, just pleased.

"No, I have Max on my brain twenty-four hours a day. I dream about him, I think about him, and now I’m saying his frigging name without even realizing it! What am I going to do?" Liz knew that she sounded totally panicked, but it was how she felt. Like she was gradually losing all control of her life, of her sanity.

She knew that she couldn’t be with Max - had known it ever since she had heard that message from his mother in the pod chamber last May. This fact had only been confirmed by Future Max’s visit in October, when he had told her that she had to get Max to fall out of love with her or the world would end, that he was destined to be with Tess, his once and future bride, because if she left Roswell, the entire world would end.

And so she had done everything in her power to turn him away from her. She had pretended to sleep with Kyle, she had let him go on believing that she had, had hurt him so much that he had almost completely shut her out of his life, even going so far as to tell her that he no longer trusted her.

It had hurt like hell, all of it, but she had done it.

But everything had completely reversed itself again since Isabel had helped her to connect with Max when he was in New York. She had saved his life then and since it had happened, they had started to become friends again. She had helped him deal with all that stuff at Christmas, which had resulted in him telling her on Christmas Eve that he believed in her.

He believed in her, whatever the heck that meant. That simple statement had started her dreams again, had made her wonder if maybe they could have a second chance.

Tess didn’t seem to be going anywhere after all. In fact, Liz had seen her in the Crashdown just that morning with Kyle, looking entirely unlike someone who cared one way or another if she and Max ever got together. True, Kyle had been flipping out about something, but they were so comfortable around each other, some spark existing without question…something was going on there. Something beyond friends.

So if Tess wasn’t going anywhere…

Didn’t that mean that maybe she could finally tell Max the truth?

Liz realized that Maria was still talking to her. "You’re in love - that’s all!"

Liz sighed again. "I know. But its not getting me anywhere." And it wasn’t. Max could believe in her all he wanted, but he still thought she had slept with Kyle, still thought that she had betrayed him in the worst way possible.

"Okay, relax. Relax Liz," Maria replied. "Its not that bad! I promise."

Liz snorted. "Not that bad? Really. Why don’t you look at this?" Liz pulled the two pictures she kept in her apron pocket out and thrust them towards her best friend. They were both of Max of course. "See! Obsession, obsession, obsession, obsession!"

Maria laughed. "Okay, okay! You’re a Maxaholic! I’m here for you. What can I do?"

Liz just rolled her eyes. She knew that all this pining was never going to get her anywhere. She had to move on. "Get me a life," she muttered.

The bell over the door behind them rang, alerting the two girls to the fact that someone had just entered the restaurant. Liz didn’t turn immediately. Maria had grabbed her by the arm when the bell had rung.

"Ow! Maria, what are you doing?" Liz exclaimed.

"Liz, I know you believe in fate. I know it. Well, fate has just walked through that door." Liz blinked, started to turn around. " No!" Maria grabbed her again, this time by the shoulders. Liz felt the pictures she still held in her hands fall to the floor. "Do not turn around unless you are actually going to do what you should have done a long time ago."

Liz just stared at her. "Maria, what on Earth are you talking about?"

"It’s Max. He is standing in the doorway right now and I can tell that he wants to come over here. You are going to tell him the truth. Tess is not going anywhere. You saw her and Kyle this morning. Tell him Liz. Put the poor guy out of his misery. Put yourself out of your misery. You belong together." Liz gasped in horror as Maria suddenly yelled over her shoulder. "Max! Come here, we need to talk to you!"

"Maria!"

"Liz, just do it!"

Liz could already feel the hairs on the back of her neck beginning to stand on end, completely aware of Max’s presence as he came up behind her. The sound of his voice actually made her go weak in the knees. "Hi guys. What’s going on?"

Liz whirled, realized that Maria was already walking away from them, muttering something about customers. She’s deserting me! Liz thought frantically. How can she start this and then just desert me??

Liz’s eyes met Max’s. He was smiling at her in that way that always made her heart want to burst out of her chest. It was half-shy, half-loving. It was the smile she had not seen since before he had seen her with Kyle.

It was a smile that told her that he had forgiven her, even though he still thought she had betrayed him.

Telling him now wouldn’t hurt anything. But she had been keeping this a secret for so long. How could she be sure that it still couldn’t totally screw everything up?

It was in that instant that she saw Max’s eyes lower. He frowned slightly, bent down and picked up one of the pictures that had fallen to the floor. He stared at it for a full minute before he raised his eyes to look at her again. "Liz?"

Liz felt the blood rushing to her face. "Oh." She grabbed the picture out of his hand, stuffed it back into her apron. "Maria and I…we’re making something for your birthday," she improvised lamely. She tried to ignore the hope that was appearing blatantly on his beloved face.

"Liz, my birthday is in March," Max told her, although of course she knew that. "What’s going on?" He asked again.

"What are you doing here?" Liz blurted out instead of answering him.

She was surprised when she saw colour beginning to rise in Max’s face too. She loved how his ears always turned slightly pink when he was embarrassed. "Er, well, it’s kind of a long story," he replied. "Um, Isabel was bored last night…" He coughed. "She…well, she dreamwalked you."

Liz blinked. "She did?" She felt panic rising within her as Max’s words absorbed. What had Isabel seen? Did Max know the truth? Did he know about Future Max and that what had happened with Kyle wasn’t real?

"Yeah." Max grabbed her by the hand. Liz felt her heartbeat beginning to slow. Just touching him was enough to calm her down. Well, if not calm her, at least make her heart beat in an entirely different way, she amended silently to herself. "Don’t be mad. I swear I told her not to Liz." He paused. "I need to talk to you." He looked around the busy restaurant uncomfortably. "Alone," he added, unnecessarily.

Liz closed her eyes briefly. It looked like Maria had been right. Fate was stepping in. She was no longer going to fight it. She and Max had been on a collision course back towards each other for weeks. It was time to deal with it head on.

She was going to tell him.

The feeling of relief that flooded through her as she accepted it caused her to stumble slightly. Max caught her. She was staring at his chest as he held her tightly. Glancing up, her eyes met his.

The naked love she saw there only solidified her resolve. It was the shadows that still slightly existed there that made her take his hand, lead him through the back of the restaurant and up the stairs to her room.

She didn’t say a thing. Neither did he. It was a silence ripe with expectation, with hope.

She and Future Max had failed anyway. Max still loved her, in spite of it all.

She had to take those shadows out of his eyes.

"What’s going on Liz?" Max asked once they had reached her room and she had shut the door firmly. She wasn’t looking at him. She was looking out the window at the balcony, at where he had appeared and totally screwed up her entire life.

And yet, she had loved him. He had been Max. He had just been wrong. They belonged together. Whether or not Tess left, it could not be enough to keep she and her Max apart.

It was meant to be.

"Maybe you should tell me what Isabel saw," Liz suggested, turning back to look at him. "So I know how much you already know."

"Just…" Max cleared his throat, sounding embarrassed again. "You were dreaming about me - about us - together." He gazed at her hopefully. "I mean, I know it might not mean anything, but, when she told me, I couldn’t help but think that…" He trailed off, glanced away. Liz saw his eyes light on the picture of the two of them that still sat on her bed-side table. He walked over to it, picking it up.

"That was a great weekend," Liz said unnecessarily, still stalling, still trying to work up the nerve to change everything again.

Maria had taken it without their knowledge during the six weeks between the time that they had found the first orb and when Tess had arrived, the only time that they had truly been happy together. They had all gone out into the desert for a camp-out during Spring Break. The picture was of she and Max sitting on a rock together, she between his legs, his arms wrapped around her. They were both gazing off towards the horizon. Liz remembered the sunset that day, how beautiful it had been, how much more she had appreciated it, simply because she was with Max.

When Maria had given her the picture, Liz had known that she would treasure it forever. It had become even more precious to her since Tess had come and everything had been screwed up. She had put it away for a while after that. It had been too painful to look at it. And, yet, she had taken it out again very recently.

Maybe she had known even then that it was time to fix things between them.

"Yeah," Max agreed, setting the frame down again. He looked at her. "I guess it’ll never be that way again?" But the way he raised his voice, like it was a question, it told Liz he hoped that it could be.

He had forgiven her. He had forgiven her without even really knowing the truth.

"What did you want to tell me?" Max asked expectantly, although he sounded a little disappointed that she had not answered his unasked question.

Why couldn’t she just say it? Liz wondered as she licked her lips, continued to stare at him. Why was it so hard?

"Liz?"

"I never slept with Kyle," She blurted it so quickly, he blinked.

Liz swallowed, hard, waiting for his reaction. She expected either utter joy or surprised anger. She didn’t expect at all what came next.

It looked to her like Max let out a long breath and then he said quietly. "I know." He sat down on the bed, not taking his eyes off of her. "I’ve known ever since I got back from New York." He smiled slightly. "You’re a really good liar Liz, but that time…something was just off. And you couldn’t actually say it again. It just felt wrong."

Liz stared at him in shock. "But if you knew…why didn’t you say anything?" She asked in astonishment,

"I realized after what happened in New York - when you saved me - that the bond between us was never broken," Max replied. "And when you lied to me again…" He paused. "Well, I knew you had to have a really good reason and I knew that you’d tell me eventually." He looked down. "Even if the reason was that you had fallen out of love with me and just couldn’t tell me that."

Liz collapsed on the bed beside him, her hands clenched in her lap. She had hurt him so much. She had to make him see that it had had nothing to do with not wanting to be with him. "I’ve wanted to tell you the truth for so long," she whispered.

Max turned slightly, reached out and gently tucked a strand of hair that had fallen out of her ponytail behind her ear. "Why? Why did you have to do that Liz?" He looked sad. "Were you really that desperate to get rid of me?"

"Of course not!" Liz exclaimed. "I did it to save you!"

"Save me? From what?" Max asked, confused.

"From me! Max, our relationship was going to drive Tess away from Roswell. We would have been responsible for that and it would have been disastrous. You need her!" She relaxed her hands when she realized that they were clutching at her apron. "You’re not going to believe how I know this, but I do."

Max’s eyes narrowed. "But you told me now. What’s changed?"

"Well, she and Kyle…they seem close. And the Sheriff too. She has a family now. And you and she - you’re friends. I don’t think she could just walk away as easily," Liz admitted. "And I just couldn’t do it anymore. I miss you." She realized that she was about to cry.

"You don’t have to miss me," Max told her, his voice cracking as he brought his hands up to cup her face. "I’m right here. All I want is to be with you Liz. It’s all I’ve ever wanted."

Liz threw her arms around his neck. "It’s all I’ve ever wanted too."

"Then what’s standing in our way?" Max asked, smiling again. "Only you. We’re meant to be together Liz. I know it."

Liz could feel a smile breaking out across her own face through her tears. "I know it too Max." And yet, the fear was still there, still pressing against her belly. "But we have to be sure about Tess. I want to be with you, but we can’t let anyone know. Not yet. We can’t give her any reason to leave - not until we’re sure she won’t."

"I don’t care if anyone knows," Max replied. "As long as we’re together, I’ll sneak around behind their backs for the rest of my life." He ran his hands through her hair. "Can I kiss you now?" He asked, his lips only a breath away from hers.

"But don’t you want to know why I lied?" Liz asked breathlessly, her eyes already beginning to flutter shut in anticipation of the one thing she had dreamed of for months.

"Yes, but not right now," Max told her, his own breath hitching.

"Okay," Liz sighed. "But you do need to know one thing," she whispered as he placed feather light kisses on her closed eyes, her cheek bones, her chin.

"What?" He sounded highly distracted, but Liz knew he was listening to her.

"I didn’t just lie about Kyle. I lied when I told you I didn’t want to die for you. I would die for you Max. Since I hurt you, I’ve been dead inside," Liz admitted. She felt Max still. He pulled back slightly, his eyes darkening with love.

"Then it’s time to come back to life Liz." With that, he brought his lips down on hers and she did just that.

Part 11 - Another Time, Another Life - Section B

Late February - Las Vegas, Nevada

"Oh my God! Max! Someone’s coming!" Liz gasped against his lips, turning her head so abruptly, she heard him sputter when he got a mouthful of hair. She tried not to laugh when he tickled her lightly on the ribs in punishment. This resulted in a muffled scream, half-snort.

But she was right. She could hear voices, knew that if they didn’t stop it immediately, they were going to be caught and the jig would be up. Everyone would know, which meant that Tess would know and it was still unclear what that would mean.

"Shhhhhhh!" Liz felt Max bring his forehead down to rest against hers. She could still hear him breathing heavily, could feel his heart beating rapidly against her chest. They were so close, she actually felt her own slow down, starting to beat in time with his. Liz pinched him, since he was the one who had almost made her shriek. She felt him trying desperately not to laugh.

They were both so tense, it almost made Liz start to giggle hysterically too. As though he could feel it, Max cupped her head gently and rested her cheek against his chest, stroking her hair in an attempt to calm her down.

Liz had known it had been a mistake when she had allowed Max to pull her into the bathroom of the hotel room they were sharing with all their friends, but it had been too hard to say no. Everyone had been down in the casino anyway. Besides, since they had arrived in Las Vegas to spend the money Michael had inherited, he had been all she had been thinking of.

Totally alone. No parents anywhere. There was no question that "cementing," as Future Max had dubbed it, was definitely on her mind.

It had been so long since they had had a moment alone. The entire Laurie Dupree affair, which had almost resulted in the end of the world, had made it so that there was barely a minute to spare, let alone time to revel in the fact that they were back together and more deliriously happy than either of them had ever been in their entire life.

They had actually been discussing whether maybe it was time to tell everyone the truth when they had been distracted by their close proximity to each other in such a small space. After all, Tess and Kyle were closer than ever. Liz had even begun to bond with the other girl a little during the time they had been trying to dig Alex and Kyle out of the ground. Both Max and Liz were almost positive that she had no intention of leaving Roswell, and since she had been anything but aggressive with Max since their return from New York, Liz had even begun to hope that perhaps she had given up - that maybe she was falling love with Kyle and had no intention of being with Max, ever.

Yet, they were still waiting, stealing moments together here and there, both craving more, but knowing that caution was the better part of valour. The chance to actually be together was too precious to jeopardize by revealing it too soon.

This was why Liz was currently straining her ears to hear who had come into their suite. If it was Maria, Alex or even Michael or Isabel, the danger was not great. They might be able to brazen out the fact that they were up here alone together. Liz was almost positive that Maria knew they were back together anyway - she had practically orchestrated it herself after all. Liz didn’t doubt that she had maybe spilled some information to Michael or Alex too. She knew her best friend. She could keep a secret when it really counted, like the Future Max one, but she was likely too happy contemplating the possibility that Max and Liz had reunited not to at least speculate about it with either her boyfriend or her other best friend.

But if it was Tess or Kyle…Well, that didn’t bear thinking about. The proverbial cat would be out of the proverbial bag in that instance. And they still weren’t sure that Tess was ready for it. Keeping her in Roswell at all costs - it was what Liz had given Max up for in the first place, it was the reason she had been willing to hurt him so badly. They could not risk it.

"I think it’s Tess," Liz heard Max whisper against her hair. "I can feel her presence." That comment sent a shiver down Liz’s spine. Max felt it, tightened his arms around her. "Through the Four Square," he added, trying to reassure her.

But Liz did not have time to reflect on why this upset her so. She had recognized the other voice. It was Alex.

"Why are Alex and Tess up here together?" Liz murmured. She felt Max shrug.

"I don’t care, as long as they leave." Liz heard a door shut, the voices disappearing.

"I think they went into one of the rooms." Liz frowned slightly. "What’s going on?"

"I’m sure it’s nothing," Max replied. Liz felt him moving away from her, towards the door. The bathroom was in complete darkness, no lights having been necessary for what they had been up to in here. Liz watched as light filtered into the small room when Max opened the door, poking his head out. "No one." He turned back, shutting the door again.

Liz frowned to herself. "Max, we need to get out of here," she whispered urgently, moving towards the door.

"Liz, I want to tell her the truth," he told her firmly, refusing to move out of the way. "She has to accept this someday. I want it to start now." Liz could tell by the tone of his voice that he no longer found this scenario amusing. In fact, she could hear an underlying frustration that had been building between them for a couple of weeks now.

Liz sighed heavily. "We can’t. Not yet. Not until I feel sure." The panic she had felt at the though of being caught - it had only reinforced to her that it was not yet time.

"Liz…"

"Max, you promised me that we would do this when I felt ready. You don’t know what Future Max told me would happen." She regretted the words as soon as they came out of her mouth.

There was a long pause. Liz wished that they had turned the lights on. She didn’t like the fact that she couldn’t see his face. She knew that he was still angry about the fact that the future version of himself had come back in time, telling her that she needed to make him fall out of love with her. She hadn’t told him the whole story though. He had been so angry at himself over the whole situation, even though he, of course, had had nothing to do with it, she had only told him that they needed to keep Tess in Roswell at all costs -even at the cost of their own happiness.

"Are you ever going to tell me?" He finally asked quietly.

"I can’t. Max, he almost couldn’t tell me. It screws up the timeline too much to know. The only reason he finally told me was because I wasn’t going to help him." She felt herself tensing up when he didn’t reply for a long time again.

"This is coming between us Liz," Max said. "I don’t want anything to come between us."

"I don’t either," Liz replied. "You know that. But I can’t tell you!"

"You might not want it to," Max told her. "But you’re letting it." There was another long pause. "I haven’t had one single flash from you since we’ve been back together."

The night they had gotten back together, she had told him only half the truth. After she had thought about it, it had seemed like the wisest course of action. Future Max had warned her that this was a "different world," but he had also told her that telling too much could seriously affect future events. The fact that she had gotten back together with Max at all was a big enough risk.

And, still, Liz felt like she had been punched in the gut. Max sounded so hurt, all she wanted to do was throw her arms around him and comfort him. Because she knew it was true. She had not allowed him to see into her soul at all, afraid that he would find out the truth about Future Max. And he couldn’t know. He couldn’t know that they had been responsible for Michael and Isabel’s deaths and for the end of the world.

She was afraid of how he might react, afraid how he would feel. She knew him. His guilt might cause him to do the one thing she dreaded more than any other. He might actually decide that he had to pursue his destiny with Tess.

She knew it was selfish, knew that it was completely against everything her nature was telling her to do, but she couldn’t give him up again. She just could not do it.

And so she kept it from him, tried to determine Tess’s state of mind on her own, tried to figure out if the right moment had come.

The irony was, she was losing Max anyway.

She knew this as she watched him open the bathroom door. He had been waiting for her to say something, anything, to fix the rift that was beginning to open between them. When she didn’t, he left, without another word.

Liz knew that he would be back. He couldn’t stay away from her after all. But this time, something had irrevocably changed.

A shiver descended her backbone. She wondered why she felt like she had just made the second biggest mistake of her life.


posted on 1-Nov-2002 5:54:50 PM
Part 12 - Mercy - Max POV

Mercy…
Pure and simple.
Longing…
Cold and hollow.
With sweet breath you’d come to warm me.
But I held on too hard to only a memory.

You lie there on the swollen ground.
Deserted in your heart.
Still longing for what yesterday’s lost,
And for all that tomorrow might bring,
And for all that tomorrow might bring.

The passion lost,
Taken, stolen.
The dreams we had and shared,
Shattered, broken.
With kind words you’d come to soothe me,
But I was so blind,
Would send you away from me.

There’s no hope in regretting now
All the pain that we could not see.
We both knew what we wanted,
And we took it believing it free,
And we took it believing it free.

Sarah McLachlan


"Max! Snap out of it! Max, what’s wrong?"

I can hear my sister screaming right in my ear, but my eyes seem completely incapable of opening. I hear someone groan, realize it is me.

"Stop yelling Isabel!" I practically have to physically pry open my eyes. I lift my hands up near my temples, try to massage away the massive headache that is presently pounding away. I feel for the tension in my head, gradually heal it so that I can converse without feeling like I did when Nicholas tried to get the location of the granolith out of me last fall.

"What the hell happened?" I manage to focus on my sister’s face. She has gone completely white.

And suddenly it all comes flooding back. Sean Deluca! He had done something to me, had used some sort of alien power to knock me out. Which means that Sean Deluca is not at all who we thought he was.

"Sean," I say, feeling the rage beginning to build within me. "Where did he go?"

Isabel blinks, looks at me like I am insane. "Max, what are you talking about? Sean? I haven’t seen Sean for days." She says this, obviously forgetting she had seen him just this morning at the Crashdown. Not that it matters. The point is, she didn’t see him now

I stare at her. "Isabel, he was just here. He knocked me out!"

"Max, there was no one here. One minute you were staring out the front windshield with this weird look on your face, the next you had completely passed out!" Isabel insists. "There was no one here."

What the hell is going on around here?

"Are you sure?" I demand, although I know she is. She simply nods.

Sean Deluca was never here. But I know he was.

I suddenly have a very sinking suspicion that I have managed to uncover the mysterious Lazar - and without even trying too.

And the one thing this fact is telling me is that Liz is in even more danger than I even could have possibly comprehended five minutes ago. "Get in," I order my sister. "We need to get to the pod chamber. Now."

Isabel doesn’t argue, although she is clearly still totally freaked out. "I should drive," she insists, grabbing the keys out of my hand.

I don’t argue.

***

We call the others on the drive. I tell Michael and the Sheriff to avoid Sean Deluca at all costs, to meet us at the pod chamber as soon as possible. I tell Michael why when he demands to know, hear Isabel gasping in the seat beside me as she listens to the story.

"How the hell can Maria’s cousin be an alien?" Michael yells. He sounds absolutely terrified. I don’t blame him. I am frantically trying to figure out if Sean has possibly hurt Liz in any way in all the time he has spent with her. Sean lived in Maria’s house for God’s sake. I think Michael has the right to freak out.

"I don’t think he’s Maria’s cousin," I reply tersely.

"Mind-warp?" Michael demands incredulously. "Maxwell, how the hell can Tess be doing this? There is no way that chick can be this powerful."

"I don’t think it’s Tess. I think he’s doing it."

"Is he Khivar?" Michael asks. I can hear the fear in his voice.

"Maybe," I say. "We’ll discuss it when we’re all together."

Isabel and I drive in silence for several more minutes after Michael has hung up. I can practically feel my sister’s terror, not only in the air, but through the bond that we share through the Four Square.

"What’s wrong Iz?" I finally ask.

She doesn’t reply for a long time and then whispers, "Is he Khivar?"

"I don’t know." Because I don’t, but I am beginning to suspect that he probably is. The way I felt when he touched me… He had done that to me before.

Because the memories are starting to pour back, have been ever since I regained consciousness. "Isabel…" I trail off, don’t know if I should tell her this. I still haven’t fully accepted it myself, but I think maybe she needs to know - needs to prepare herself for what might be coming. "I think I remember dying."

There is another long silence. "Tell me." She sounds like she really doesn’t want to know, but needs to.

Sort of like I need to get to Liz. Every fibre of my being is screaming, won’t stop screaming until I have found her. I know it, embrace it. It is giving me the strength to deal with what I saw.

"His power…" I pause, searching my mind, trying to get a grasp on what I saw when Sean Deluca had done what he had done to me. I am trying to stay unemotional, detached from the memory, but it is difficult. It is not a pleasant experience to relive your own death after all. I don’t think you can blame me for it. "I think he burned me up from inside. I remember flames."

"Oh my God." I can feel the car slowing down.

"Isabel! Go!" I insist. "Drive. We need to get there."

"Max," she pays no attention to me, pulls off the highway and turns to stare at me. "Did you see me?"

And I know exactly what she is thinking. Was she there when he killed me? Did she actually watch her lover murder her own brother, her king?

I consider not telling her, but I don’t think lies are any sort of help, ever. Lies were what brought us to this point after all. Lies about who we were, are. Lies about who we were supposed to be, would have been, if the future version of myself hadn’t interfered.

"You were there."

"Oh my God," she moans. Her face is in her hands. "Then it’s true. I betrayed you. I let him kill you!"

I am still detached, but I do want to comfort her. "Not you Iz. Her. Vilandra. She’s not you." I reach out, squeeze her shoulder lightly. "Isabel, I need you to be strong."

She looks up at me, her face drenched with tears. "Max, I am so sorry."

"Don’t be sorry," I snap. "Be Isabel. I need my sister. You have to help me fix whatever it is he’s trying to do. You need to help me save Liz."

Isabel’s eyes are gazing past me. I wonder if she is trying to remember a life that no longer exists, a person she once was. But I know that she can’t. I know that I don’t want her to.

Memories of what came before have only ever caused us grief after all. Memories of Tess led me to make the biggest mistake of my life, led me to betray Liz, led me to almost lead my sister and my best friend to their destruction.

But the memory of what Khivar did to me… It is a good thing I realize. It has made me cold, determined, absolutely convinced that he is not going to win again. He is not going to hurt Liz.

Because he knows that all he has to do to defeat me this time is hurt her.

"Isabel." She looks at me again, her eyes pleading with me to say something to make her feel better. "You need to help me. You are possibly the only person he might listen to." I place my hands on both of her shoulders, shake her a bit. "I need my sister."

I feel her spine straighten under my hands. "I won’t fail you this time Max. I promise."

"Then he has already lost," I tell her with certainty. And I know I’m right. Now we just need to prove it.

***

The others are waiting at the pod chamber when we pull up. Kyle is leaning against his Mustang, trying not to look like he’s scared. The Sheriff is on his phone, talking to Maria’s mom I realize. I can hear him asking questions about Sean.

Michael is standing with Maria, his arm around her. She looks like she’s been crying, but her eyes are dry now.

Maria shrugs away from Michael, walks over to me as I climb out of my parent’s car. "Max, I don’t have a cousin Sean." She swallows. "When Michael told me what happened…" She trails off, glances at Isabel who has come up behind me. "I suddenly just knew that he wasn’t my cousin."

"I know." I shake my head, guilty that someone that she loved, even in the hostile way she loved Sean, was a figment of her imagination and it is a consequence of the fact that she knows us. "I’m sorry."

Maria narrows her eyes. "I am going to kick his ass when I get my hands on him," she replies, sounding more like the Maria we all know and love.

"There’s no sign of Liz or Tess anywhere Maxwell." Michael speaks up. He gestures up towards where the pod chamber used to be. "There’s no way they’re up there. Are you sure this is the right place?"

I stare up at the hole in the side of the cliff. "I’m sure," I say. "She’s here." But the fact that I still can’t feel her… Maybe I misread what Liz was trying to tell me in the vision.

And it’s then that I see it. "Oh my God."

I pass Maria as she wrenches around to look at what I’m staring at.

"Max, what is it?" Isabel demands, following close behind me.

But I am already scaling the side of the cliff, half-way up before I can even attempt to reach for it.

Then it’s in my hand. I hold it away from me, stare at it, catch the moonlight in one of its facets.

And, finally, I understand the mistake we have made, understand that maybe I didn’t make as big a mess as I thought I did when I sent Tess off a couple of days ago.

Because, in my hand, I have the crystal that I used to start the ship that carried her off with my son. It is still on Earth. And I know why too.

So maybe memories aren’t such a bad thing after all.

Because I know with absolute certainty that, in my hand, I am holding the granolith.


posted on 1-Nov-2002 5:56:03 PM
Part 13 - Another Time, Another Life - Section C

April 2001 - Roswell, New Mexico

Liz glanced at the clock, wondered where Max had gotten to. They had agreed quietly right before Max had resolved that whole business with Brody at the UFO Museum that Max would meet her on her balcony at the usual time. The whole hostage incident had reinforced to Liz, and she assumed to Max, how fragile Max’s secret was, how careful they still had to be. All she wanted to do was see him, hold him, wrap herself up in his presence, remind herself that they were both still alive and safe now that Tess had erased Brody’s memory.

But Max was late. Really late actually.

Things had mostly gone back to normal since they had had the fight in Las Vegas about telling Tess the truth. This had been after Max had gone gambling with Michael and they had both ended up behind bars of course. After Maria had bailed them both out of jail, Max had decided to go home on the next plane. No one else had known it wasn’t only because of the fight he had had with Michael, but also because he was still absolutely furious with Liz. When he had found her in the games room playing pinball with Tess - strange enough in itself Liz acknowledged, but Liz’s attempt to see if maybe she could tell Tess the truth - she had been able to tell that it had taken all of his willpower not to drag both girls somewhere private to get everything out into the open. He had refrained though and had simply left, leaving Liz sure that things were going steadily downhill between them.

And, so, she had been shocked and relieved when Max had come back. Maria had arranged for a dinner for the whole group at a private club and Liz had been sitting alone at the table, watching Kyle and Tess dance together, smiling and laughing, wondering if maybe Max was right - if maybe they were safe, that Tess would not leave, that they could tell everyone the truth - when he had suddenly been there and had pulled her out onto the dance floor. He had still been in a very strange mood though, had told her about a flash he had had on his way to the airport - of the two of them getting married in Vegas. Liz had felt her heart drop to her stomach, had been on the verge of telling him that he had seen a vision of what was supposed to be, but the moment had passed when he had pulled her closer, whispered an apology into her hair, told her that he loved her and that he trusted her.

So, things had returned to normal - if you could call sneaking around normal. Max had not brought up the subject of telling Tess the truth again since. In fact, he and Tess had been hanging out more often lately. He had told Liz that he was doing his best to get a read on her, to figure out what was going on with she and Kyle. Liz had guessed that this was why Tess had been caught up in Brody’s hostage situation - she had been visiting Max at work when the whole thing had gone down.

Liz was doing her best not to be jealous about the time her boyfriend was spending with his past-life wife. She knew, without reservation, that it was she Max loved. Even if she was resisting giving him flashes, he had been as open with her as always. She knew from seeing into his soul that he had no doubts about who he loved. But that horrible feeling that she had experienced in Las Vegas - that he was slipping slowly beyond her reach with each passing day, with each day she kept the truth of the Future Max situation hidden from him - would not go away.

Which was why she was freaking out that he was late for their rendezvous. It was completely unlike him.

And so it was a great relief to hear Max’s familiar voice calling up from the alley below her balcony. Better late than never! "Liz? Are you there?"

She tried to control the beaming smile that broke out across her face, but then gave up. If she couldn’t show him with flashes how much she adored him, then she would show him in every other way possible. She looked over into the alley. "Hey! Come on up!"

It wasn’t until Max spoke again that she realized how tense he looked down there, staring up at her. "Um, I can’t. My parents are freaking out about what happened at the Museum." He looked down. "I just came to tell you that I have to go home."

Liz felt her heart drop in disappointment. "Oh. Okay." She smiled again. "You can’t even come up for a minute?" She asked flirtatiously.

"I better not." Liz frowned. Max sounded distinctly weird to her.

"Is everything okay Max?"

"Fine." He said it so abruptly, she knew he was lying.

"Max?"

"Really Liz," he said more calmly. "Everything’s fine. I’m just really tired." He paused. "Listen, can I make this up to you?" Liz could see him relaxing slightly. He was moving towards the ladder, as though he had decided to climb up after all. He stopped before he reached it, forcing himself to tilt his head all the way back to stare up at her. Now that he was closer, Liz could see the shuttered expression on his face.

"You don’t have to," Liz said, a feeling of dread beginning to come over her. Something was really wrong here. "I understand."

"I want to," Max insisted emphatically. For the first time since he had arrived, he smiled up at her. "You do know what Saturday is, do you not Miss Parker?"

Liz shrugged. "I have no idea," she replied, mystified.

"Liz, I’m shocked," Max teased. "Where are your priorities? You’re the girl. You’re supposed to know these things, not me. It’s our prom of course."

Liz blinked. She had totally forgotten about the prom. Since she had no intention of going with anyone but Max, and since it seemed unlikely that they would be able to go together due to the continued quest to keep their renewed relationship a secret, it hadn’t even occurred to her to consider going anyway. "Oh. Yeah. I’d forgotten."

"Well, I happen to be the bearer of the news that one Tess Harding has a date for the big event," Max told her. He had started to climb the ladder now after all, was only two rungs below her. He was smiling, but as Liz gazed down at him, instead of feeling pleased, she felt a shiver descend her backbone. Because she was looking directly into Max’s eyes, and the tension there in no way matched the playful tone of his voice.

His eyes - there was something dark in there, hidden. And if Liz was not mistaken - it was fear.

Something hadhappened and it was completely apparent that he had no intention of telling her what it was.

And she suddenly understood how it felt to be Max, how it felt to have her shutting him out from a part of her life. Not for the first time, all she wanted to do was blurt out the whole story immediately.

But it was too late. He was still talking, still pretending nothing was wrong. "Kyle asked her apparently." Liz did not miss the raised eyebrow that seemed to be saying See? We’re safe. We can tell her the truth.

"Oh?" Liz replied, just as casually, pretending that this was nothing more than flirtatious banter prior to the question she knew was coming.

She saw Max’s expression darken slightly, but so quickly, she wondered if she imagined it. "So?" He asked, the undertones betraying that he was asking about much more than the prom.

"Yes," Liz whispered, reaching down and running her hand down his face. She felt it tighten under her touch.

Max swallowed, forced another smile. "Great. I think we should lay low until then though Liz," he said as he backed his way down the ladder again. "Just in case. That way she’ll think we’re going just as friends."

"Okay."

"I’ll see you at school tomorrow."

He was walking away before Liz realized that he hadn’t kissed her good-bye.

***

The day of the prom dawned bright and sunny, which in no way matched Liz’s mood. Maria was still sound asleep on the pillow beside Liz. She had slept over the night before because they were going to the hairdresser and to get their nails done early and it had just seemed easier.

Of course, it had also been because it had been time for an emergency gab session. Maria had flat out admitted to Liz on Wednesday, after she found out that Liz and Max were going to the prom together, that everyone knew they were back together.

Liz had stared at her best friend in horror, her heart beating a terrible tattoo of doom against her rib-cage. "Everyone?" She had whispered, feeling like she was about to pass out. Despite all the attempts she had made to be honest with Max, to accept that Tess was ready for the truth, the idea that Tess might actually know already… The terror she was suddenly experiencing more than confirmed to her that it was not yet time.

Tess could not know.

"Well, everyone that matters." Maria had been waving her hand in the air dismissively. "Me, Michael, Isabel and Alex. Who cares about anyone else?"

"Does Tess know?" Liz had demanded, wanting to shake Maria for treating the whole thing so cavalierly.

"I swear she doesn’t Lizzie," Maria had insisted. "Michael and Isabel have been keeping a close eye on the situation. I told them enough to make them understand that she has to stay in Roswell."

"How long has everyone known?" Liz has asked, trying to decide what this meant for the weird way Max was behaving. Were Michael and Isabel trying to convince him that he had to break it off with her, that keeping Tess around was more important than any earthly girlfriend? Is that why he had looked so scared on Monday? Because he had begun to realize that they were right, that he was going to have to break up with her?

But then why would he have invited her to the prom? It didn’t make any sense. No, something else was going on with Max and she still had no idea what. She had not really spoken to him since the night at her balcony, although she had seen him at school of course. Even that had been weird though. He had made absolutely no attempt to touch her or talk to her privately, as he had all the time since January.

The fear that she was losing him…It was growing stronger with every passing day. And, yet, she still knew that she could not tell him the truth. She didn’t know where this irrational terror came from, but she knew it went far beyond the fear that she was going to lose Max if he knew that their relationship had resulted in Michael and Isabel’s deaths.

No this was something different. Like there was an outside force controlling her.

But it was ridiculous of course. No one knew the whole story except Maria and she was the person Liz trusted most in the world, after Max. Not that Max was making it easy to trust him lately.

So she and Maria had stayed up late the night before, dissecting the whole situation. And it was an argument Maria had made that had finally convinced Liz that it was time to tell Max the whole truth.

"Liz, you love him. You can’t stay away from him, but this isn’t you. You know it isn’t. Not telling Max the truth, because you’re scared you’re going to lose him?" Maria had sounded absolutely flabbergasted. "He’ll never leave you Liz. You have to see that. If you tell him, you can come up with a solution together, even if its full-time bodyguards for Spaceboy and Queen Amidala fourteen years from now."

Liz had been shocked by what had appeared to be Maria’s callous attitude towards Michael and Isabel’s impending doom. "Maria, I would have though that you of all people would have wanted me to do anything to protect Michael!" She had exclaimed.

Maria had rolled her eyes. "I’m bound to kill him myself long before then Liz." When Liz had gasped, Maria had taken her by the hand and had said seriously, "Liz, of course I’m scared. But we can’t live our lives in fear. Future Max told you the truth. This is a new world. There is absolutely no way we can be sure that Michael and Isabel aren’t still going to die, even in a different way." Maria sighed heavily. "Someone else might die. We can’t know." She squeezed Liz’s hand lightly. "You have to tell Max so that he can be as prepared as possible. It’s not fair to him Liz. You’re not trusting in his love for you. How can you, of all people, not know that he’ll never leave you? If he didn’t after the whole destiny thing, he won’t - ever."

And Liz had known that Maria was right. Which was why, tonight, she was going to tell Max everything.

She had asked Max to pick her up early. She knew that he had planned a romantic dinner at Chez Pierre, although secretly she would have preferred Senor Chow’s which had so many wonderful memories, but she wanted to go somewhere private with him first, to tell him everything so that there would be nothing standing between them anymore.

And if he left her - well, so be it. She was tired of being a coward.

Of course, this was easier said than done. When she got her first glimpse of Max in his tux, hours later, when he came to pick her up, she questioned her decision. How could she risk losing him?

He was walking towards her, his eyes glowing as he gazed at her in her wine-coloured dress, which she had accentuated with a necklace that had belonged to her grandmother. She felt like he was practically worshipping her with his eyes. It had sent a shiver of desire coursing down her spine, one that was not helped by the fact that she had actually never seen him looking as gorgeous, and that was, of course, saying a lot.

For a long, charged moment, as their eyes met, the world was devoid of everyone else but the two of them. Liz knew that she could no longer lie to him. And she knew from the expression on his face that he felt the same way. Whatever was bothering him…She had a feeling she was going to know all about it before the night was through.

"Can we go somewhere?" Liz whispered, not taking her eyes from his. Max simply nodded, took her by the hand and led her out the door.

They sat in comfortable silence on the drive. Liz knew exactly where he was taking her - the radio tower near the crash site. She didn’t know how she knew. She just did. It was like this whole night had played out a million times before, like she had lived it all. Perhaps she had, in another life. Was this timeline beginning to meld with the timeline Future Max had erased when he had arrived? Were she and Max simply rebuilding the horrible future that was to come - the one where Michael and Isabel were dead and the world ended?

Liz felt a frisson of fear, tried to ignore it. She had to tell him. There was no turning back now, no time for doubts. Maria was right. She couldn’t live her life based on fears of what might happen. Not any more.

As they pulled up to the place where they had found the orb that had first brought Tess Harding into their lives, Liz sat quietly for a moment after Max turned off the ignition, stared at the scene spread out before her.

The sun was just beginning to set on the horizon, but it didn’t matter. There were several torches lighting up the area, throwing shadows across the blanket that was spread out on the ground, an elaborate picnic just sitting there waiting for them. Liz turned to look at Max. He was watching her, he eyes glowing. "Are you ready for the best night of your life Miss Parker?" He asked, raising an eyebrow at her and picking up her hand at the same time, bringing the palm to his lips.

"Do you have any idea how much I love you?" Liz blurted out, unable to stop herself. Max’s eyes narrowed slightly, almost smoldering.

"Probably about as much as I love you," he replied. "Which is why I’ve decided that tonight marks a new beginning for us."

"You have?" Liz asked breathlessly. "Max, I’m so glad you feel that way, because I think it’s time…"

"Liz, I have a confession to make." Max cut her off, apparently not even having heard her. "I’ve wanted to tell you since it happened, but I didn’t quite know what to say. I thought you might take it the wrong way and so I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out a way to say it without it all coming out wrong and screwing everything up between us." He was staring at her, his tone pleading. "Do you know what I mean?"

"I think I have an idea," Liz replied wryly. "Okay. Just tell me. I promise that it won’t screw everything up." She smiled despite the nerves that his statement had caused to start jumping in her stomach. As though she hadn’t been nervous enough!

"I remember Tess." He said it abruptly, like if he didn’t say it quickly, he wouldn’t be able to get it out. "From before I mean. I remember loving her."

For a moment Liz felt as though she had been slapped. All of her fears, since the first moment Tess had arrived on the scene, came flooding back. She was going to lose him! Not because of any of her own actions after all, but because of an alien destiny over which they had absolutely no control.

But when she looked up into Max’s anxious face, all her fear dissolved so suddenly, it was as though they had never existed. She knew he loved her. She had always known it. This would not come between them. She would not allow it to and she knew with utter certainty that neither would he.

"Liz? Are you okay? Say something! Please." She realized that she had been sitting in what had likely seemed like stunned silence for close to two minutes. "I don’t care! Really! It doesn’t mean anything. I’m actually surprised by how little it means. I mean, it’s nice - but it’s sort of like feelings for an ex-girlfriend, you know? Like maybe how you feel about Kyle? An old affection that used to matter, that you still sort of hold onto, but don’t really care about." Max snapped his mouth shut suddenly. "I’m babbling. I’m sorry." He was still staring at her in concern. "Are you okay?" He repeated again, bemused.

"Yes," she smiled affectionately at him. "I’m glad you told me. I understand."

"I just want you to understand that this is what’s been on my mind all week," Max continued, his breath having come out in a great woosh of relief. "It’s why I didn’t kiss you on Monday. I didn’t want you getting flashes before I could tell you myself." He paused. "Unlike you, I can’t control myself around you. I can’t just shut them off." Liz could tell that he was trying to mask the underlying tone of bitterness that accompanied that last statement. He was still very much doing his best not to pressure her into telling him the truth.

Liz brought her hands up to cup his beloved face. "Thank you for that. And I know exactly what you were going through." She closed her eyes briefly, taking a deep breath. "And I am so sorry that I’ve shut you out. I was scared Max, but you’re not the only one who wants a fresh start tonight."

And with that, she pulled his face down to hers, pressed a light kiss to his lips. "See me Max." She opened her mouth for him, felt his hands come up to cradle her skull. She threw all of her love for him into the kiss, concentrated on opening her whole soul to him, concentrated on showing him everything that had been standing between them for so long.

The flashes she received from him emphasized the fear he had been living with all week - the fear that she would not understand, that she would leave him because of Tess. She saw the memory of his love for Tess, embraced it, because immediately following it came a calm acceptance that it was over, was nothing compared to what he felt for her, Liz. His love for her, under any circumstances, blazed through his entire being, everything that was Max, settling peacefully over her, reinforcing to her that she was doing the right thing.

It seemed like far too soon when Max broke the kiss with a gasp, bringing his forehead down to rest against hers. "Liz!"

"I’m so sorry Max." Liz felt tears of regret filling her eyes. "I’m so sorry I didn’t trust you with the truth."

"How could you think that I would ever leave you?" Max demanded, lightly rubbing his thumbs across her cheeks to catch her tears. "I will never leave you for her. Never." He drew her deeper into his embrace, pressed her cheek against his neck. "And we will make sure that everyone stays safe, I promise."

"I know it. I trust you Max," Liz replied, almost choking on a sob of relief.

"Liz, don’t trust me," Max said seriously, still only a breath away from her lips. "Trust in us. Because together we are strong. I can’t be strong without you."

Liz smiled through her tears. "I love you Max." And, suddenly, she knew with utter certainty that it was time to finally show him just how much she loved him. "I want to be with you Max."

Max blinked, pulled back slightly. "Liz, that’s not why I brought you out here!" He exclaimed, sounding horrified that she might think it was.

She kissed him lightly. "I know. But it’s time." She felt her heart lightening with the complete rightness of the moment. She glanced at her watch jokingly. "I know that, traditionally, we’re supposed to wait until after the prom, but, by my calculations we’re already about seven months behind schedule…"

Max’s eyelids were lowering though. He was clearly no longer listening to her. She could see that his eyes were glued to her mouth. She couldn’t help herself. She darted her tongue out, licked her lips to wet them. His eyes practically bugged out of his head.

She could see that he had tensed up considerably, waited impatiently for him to kiss her. She didn’t want to make the first move now. She had flat-out told him what she wanted. If he didn’t, well then he was going to have to tell her. The next move was his.

Liz felt her heart drop to her toes as Max suddenly let go of her, climbed out of the Jeep. Was he going to turn her down? She felt her cheeks beginning to flame with embarrassment, but it was nothing next to the deep disappointment that was building within her.

But she should have know better. Max was simply walking around the Jeep. In fact, he had not taken his eyes off of her. She turned, watching him through the windshield as he moved around to her side. He took her by the hand and pulled her to her feet beside him. "Are you sure about this Liz?" He asked, his eyes practically burning a hole in her, they were so hot with desire.

"As sure as I am that I will love you until my dying day," she replied quietly.

He groaned, swept her up in his arms and carried to the blanket near the spot where they had first spent the night sleeping in each other’s arms.

That morning, more than a year before, when Liz had woken up in Max’s arms, she had known that this was how she wanted to wake up every morning, wrapped in his love for her.

But, as they were swept away in a tidal wave of pent up love and lust, Liz’s last coherent thought was that what happened before they went to sleep was a million times better.


posted on 1-Nov-2002 5:57:16 PM
Part 14 - I Will Remember You - Liz POV

I will remember you.
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by,
Weep not for the memory.

Remember the good times that we had,
Let them slip away from us when things got bad.
Clearly I first saw you, smiling in the sun,
Want to feel your warmth upon me
I wanna be the one.

I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by,
Weep not for the memory.

I'm so tired, I can't sleep.
Standing on the edge of something much too deep.
It's funny how we feel so much
But cannot say the words
We are screaming inside but we can't be heard.

I will remember you.
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by,
Weep not for the memory.

So afraid to love you.
More afraid to lose.
Clinging to a past that doesn't let me choose.
Where once there was a darkness,
A deep and endless night,
You gave me everything you had,
Oh, you gave me life.

I will remember you.
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by,
Weep not for the memory.

Weep not for the memory.

Sarah McLachlan


I realize that I am crying as I become aware of my surroundings again. "How did you do that?" I ask Ava, still feeling Max’s hands on my body, his lips, his love still wrapping its warmth around me…

"The granolith did it," Ava replies, smiling sadly. She glances around. "We’re still in it you know."

I can see that she is right. We are gone from the desert, seem to be standing in a field of stars. She is the only thing, other than me that has any substance, any form.

"Why did we come back?" I ask, still with tears in my eyes, my voice cracking. All I want is to return to that moment - the moment that Max and I had cemented our relationship and, I was guessing here but it seemed logical, conceived our daughter. Serena. "How was I…there?"

Because I had been there. Living that other life - one where Max knew the truth so much earlier, where we were together, where he had never been with Tess.

And now I was back - back in the cold of my own reality. Back where Max and I could never be together. Because he belonged to her here.

"It’s the granolith," Ava explains. "The crystal. It has many uses - like when your Future Max came through a time portal for example." She pauses, frowning. "We just used it to place you into another you. So that you could know what went wrong."

I am so confused by what she is telling me, I just shake my head. "But…were you there too?"

"Not really," Ava replies. "I was here. To make sure that you didn’t get lost there."

I close my eyes briefly. "But I still don’t know what happened - how your timeline got messed up. I need to go back. Why did you bring me back before I knew?"

"I had to make sure that you weren’t getting too wrapped up in that life. It’s not your life Liz. You were only there to learn - not to live it," Ava tells me quietly, reaching out and putting her hand on my arm, as though in comfort.

Because she knows. She knows that I would give anything to have lived that life. I had been getting lost.

"It was so wonderful," I say sadly. "Why couldn’t it have happened that way in my life?"

Ava looks at me seriously. "Liz, there was something different. Something that you lived in your life that the Liz in that life didn’t. You must remember what it was."

But I don’t. I am too caught up in the memory of Max - of knowing without any compunction that he loved me, that we were meant to be together…

So many experiences had been similar, close to the same, but all had had a different vibe to them because Max and I had been together. What had been scary in this life, had been muted in that life. As long as we were together, we could do anything.

I see that Ava has tensed, looks frustrated. "You see why I had to pull you back Liz. You were getting sidetracked, losing your focus. You weren’t learning what you needed to learn."

"Then I have to go back," I reply firmly. "I’ll find out this time. I swear."

But she does not look convinced. "Liz, it gets bad in that life too you know," Ava tells me. "You need to get past all that romantic nonsense and think here. What - who - was different?"

"Well, Tess was definitely different." I shrug.

"No she wasn’t." Ava sighs. "Liz, everything that happened in your life, Tess was still doing behind the scenes in that life. It still turned out the same. Alex died. Don’t forget its why I joined up with Max and Michael and Isabel in the first place - why I was sent back to fix things."

I frown, a horrible thought suddenly coming to me. "Does she still get pregnant?" I hold my breath, knowing that she is going to say no, because there is no way that she and Max could ever have been together that way in that life. He had promised me that he would never leave me for her.

"Yes." She says it brutally, so hard that it makes my knees weaken.

"No," I whisper. "It can’t have happened."

It could not be. There was no way. I had lived what had happened between Max and I there. He would not have betrayed me that way.

"All I’ll say is that it happened exactly the same way in that life as it did in yours," Ava says, sounding more gentle now, like she regrets having to hurt me.

"But you said that something was different," I press. "What?"

"Not what. Who. Someone exists in your present life who did not exist there." Ava rolls her eyes. "Liz! Think! Are you so completely gaga over Max again that you can’t even remember?"

And it hits me so suddenly, I feel like a total fool. "Sean!" I exclaim.

"Yes, Sean." Ava shakes her head. "God. That must have been some mind-blowing sex you just had because I’ve never known you to be so dense, in this life or that one."

I can feel my face reddening, but she is right. The feelings, the images of making love with Max…my soulmate, my other half. It was the first time I had ever felt complete in my entire life.

And it hadn’t really been me. I was never going to have that.

"Okay, what about Sean?" I bring my hands to my temples, trying to focus. "What difference did he really make, other than serving as a distraction?"

Ava shrugs. "He was enough of a distraction to make sure that you didn’t tell Max the truth soon enough."

"But…" I swallow, hard, force myself to say the words. "If Max and Tess still had a baby in that life, how can he have made that big a difference?"

"Did I say that Tess and Max had a baby?" She demands. "I said that Tess still got pregnant. I never said it was Max’s."

I am so stunned, I just stare at her for a moment. "But you said that everything that happened in this life, happened in that one too." She just raises an eyebrow, waiting for me to connect the dots. "Are you…" I feel my heart beginning to pound, hope beginning to build within me that there were still opportunities for miracles.

Maybe this life wasn’t so bleak after all.

"Are you saying that Max is not the father of Tess’s baby?" I blurt, still unable to comprehend that this could really be true.

"Bingo."

"Well, then who is?" I demand, my mind racing with the possibilities. "And how does everything get so screwed up in that life?"

Ava frowns. "I don’t know if I can tell you that Liz. I think maybe you were right. You need to go see it for yourself. Because it wasn’t all sunshine and roses in that life you know."

But suddenly, I don’t want to go back. All I want to do is get out of the granolith (and I’m still unsure what being in the granolith really means…Are we inside the crystal, or did it help us to get inside somewhere else…or…)Oh, who the hell knows? And who cares?

I want out. I want to find Max and I want to tell him the truth. I want to run into his arms and tell him that there is absolutely nothing standing between us being together, that he has no son, that the baby belongs to someone else.

But then it all comes crashing down again. I remember the flashes. I know that he had sex with her in our timeline at least. And I can’t get past it. I cannot relive those flashes every time I kiss him.

We still can’t be together.

And, so, if we can’t be together in this life, I will go back to where we can be.

I grasp Ava by the hand, squeeze pleadingly.

"Send me back."

***

Another Time, Another Life - Section D

"Liz! I need to talk to you!"

Liz smiled to herself as Maria practically attacked her as she and Max entered the gym a few hours later. It had taken all of their will-power to actually get there. Neither had really wanted to leave the desert, to end the most significant event of either of their lives by returning to the real world, but they had known that the others had been waiting for them, would be worried if they didn’t show up at the prom.

And, technically, they were still supposed to be pretending that they were "just friends." It was highly likely that Tess would get suspicious if they didn’t arrive, wondering why they had disappeared together.

Not that Liz was at all sure that she wouldn’t see that there was something distinctly different about them anyway. Max could not keep a silly grin off of his face, no matter how hard he tried, and it was so unlike him, there was no way Tess wouldn’t notice. Liz knew that she was practically glowing too.

Liz shared a secret smile with Max before allowing Maria to sweep her away towards the girl’s washroom. "I didn’t think you were ever going to get here!" Maria exclaimed. "Liz, it’s a complete disaster, I’m telling you!"

"Calm down! Tell me what it is," she ordered. Liz couldn’t help glancing in the mirror as they passed it, wondering if she looked any different on the outside. She knew that her hair was still a little tousled, but that was the style these days after all. She tried to control the smile that was threatening to break out across her face. It was highly inappropriate, based on the tone of Maria’s voice, and if it happened, she was going to have to explain to her best friend what was going on with her.

She would tell Maria eventually, of course, if only to reassure her best friend that it was fine to move ahead with Michael, that they were safe.

That it was wonderful in every way if it was your soulmate and you knew that you were giving everything of yourself to the one person you were meant to be with, and that he was giving everything of himself right back.

But, for right now, she wanted to keep the wonder of it all to herself, revel in the secret she and Max shared.

"Liz, did you hear what I said?" Maria demanded, waving her hand in front of Liz’s face. "I am guessing by the lack of reaction that you didn’t." She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "What’s going on?"

Liz shook her head, tried to concentrate. "Nothing," she responded quickly. "Sorry. What did you say? I’m a little out of it, that’s all. Max and I are so late and I feel like I’m just managing to recover from how long dinner took."

Maria rolled her eyes. "Whatever. Liz, Alex and Isabel are back together."

Liz stared at Maria. "Really? That’s great!"

Maria shook her head impatiently. "Liz, it is so not great! She’s going to hurt him again! I just know it! I can feel it in my bones!"

Liz smiled. "Maria, Alex isn’t the same person anymore. I think he’s learned how to handle himself around Isabel. He wouldn’t be pursuing anything with her again if he didn’t think it would work out." She felt a warm glow spreading through her at the thought of her best friend finally getting another chance with his dreamgirl.

Everything was finally falling into place for all of them.

"I still think we should put a stop to it," Maria retorted. "I will seriously kill that girl if she treats him like dirt again. I mean, c’mon. Grant Sorenson? Over Alex? I didn’t think he was ever going to recover from that!"

"But he did," Liz replied soothingly. "And Isabel has seen the light. We should be happy for them."

Maria narrowed her eyes speculatively. "Liz, you’re a little too chipper tonight. Something’s different…" She trailed off, staring at her. Liz felt a blush beginning to creep up her neck and onto her cheeks. " Oh my God! Liz!" Maria exclaimed, dawning understanding on her face. "Did you and Max…?"

Liz clapped her hand over Maria’s mouth. "Shhhh!" She glanced around nervously. No one could over hear. If anything leaked back to Tess….and this was the sort of rumour that would be all around the school in ten seconds. Especially since, in the eyes of all their classmates, she and Max were not together. Even now Liz could see Pam Troy and a friend of hers watching she and Maria in the mirror, interest on their faces. "Yes. Okay. Yes. But no one can know. Seriously Maria!"

Maria reached out and hugged Liz. "I could just kill you Liz! We still didn’t know if it was safe after all!" She pulled back and smiled. "But I’m so happy for you!"

Liz couldn’t help the smile that burst across her face. "It was…I mean, Maria, you have no idea."

"And likely won’t for a long time if Michael doesn’t get his act together," Maria replied darkly, but with a twinkle in her eye. She threw her arm across Liz’s shoulder. "I say we go out into that gym and celebrate. I’m feeling really jumpy right about now," she added wryly. "Let’s dance!"

Liz grinned, let Maria lead her out of the washroom. Her eyes immediately began to scan the room for Max as they returned to the gym, still planning to dance with Maria, but wanting to make sure that Max was surviving on his own for the moment. Not that she could even kiss him here - not where Tess might see - but she couldn’t help it.

She couldn’t see him anywhere though. Michael was standing with Kyle near the punch bowl. They both looked bored. Kyle even glanced at his watch once and stared off towards the gym doors, a scowl on his face.

Liz smiled to herself when she caught sight of Isabel and Alex slow-dancing nearby. The fact that the band was playing a fast song didn’t seem to be bothering them at all. They were completely oblivious to the world around them, completely wrapped up in each other.

But where was Max? As she and Maria joined a group of their school friends on the dance floor, Liz’s gaze continued to drift through the crowd. There was no sign of him.

A shiver of apprehension descended her spine, out of nowhere. She shook it off. She was being completely ridiculous. He had probably just gone to the washroom or outside for a breath of fresh air. It was like a sauna in here.

When the song finished, Liz squeezed Maria’s hand as her friend left her to go rejoin Michael. She noticed Kyle still watching the gym doors, the ones that led out into the school proper. Liz realized that he seemed upset. As Liz watched, he seemed to come to some sort of decision, started towards the doors, the tension in his body evident to Liz even from where she stood.

She moved towards him, met up with him right as he was about to go out into the hallway.

"Hi Kyle!" Liz said, a slightly questioning look on her face. She hoped that he would tell her what was wrong, because clearly something was.

"Oh, Liz! Hi." Kyle was distracted though, seemed to desperately want to go through those doors.

"Where’s Tess?" Liz asked.

"That’s what I’m wondering," Kyle replied.

"Have you seen Max?" Liz continued, feeling another chill for some reason that she didn’t understand.

"Nah." Kyle shrugged. "Hey, listen. Do you want to go outside and get some fresh air?" He asked, seeming to have come to some sort of decision. He turned his back deliberately on the doors he had seemed so eager to go through only moments before. He placed a finger between his collar and his neck, pulled on his bow-tie as though it was strangling him.

Liz didn’t really. She wanted to find Max, wanted to dance with him, but she could see that Kyle was really upset about something. He was her friend after all. If he didn’t want to be alone, the least she could do was spend a few minutes outside with him.

"Okay."

Liz linked her arm through his, let him lead her back across the gym and out onto the patio beyond.

"So, we haven’t had much of a chance to talk lately," Liz said quietly, as she and Kyle sat down at one of the picnic tables that graced the patio. "How are things?"

"Good, good." Kyle still seemed tense. He stood up abruptly. "Let’s walk," he suggested. "I have all this excess energy. I need to get rid of it."

Liz frowned slightly, but stood up. "Kyle, is everything okay?"

"Not really," he muttered. His head was lowered as they walked and he had shoved his hands into his pockets, pausing as Liz reached down to take off her sandals because they weren’t really meant for walking on grass, which was what they were currently doing. He glanced up at her suddenly, asked, "Liz, have you ever had the feeling that someone was drifting away from you and you had absolutely no idea why?"

Liz smiled wryly, thinking of the trouble she and Max had recently gone through simply because they hadn’t communicated. "I think I have," she replied. "Is something wrong between you and Tess?"

"I just don’t know." Kyle sounded upset. "She’s been so great lately, but tonight…something was just off. I got the distinct impression that she didn’t want to be here with me."

Liz reached out, took his hand, squeezed. "I’m sure you’re just imagining things," she tried to comfort him. "Anyone with eyes can see that Tess is crazy about you."

It was true. It was the reason Liz had come so close so many times to letting Max tell Tess the truth - that he and Liz were back together. And yet…Something had always held her back. Some small certainty that telling Tess the truth would be disastrous.

"Last week, I would have agreed, but lately…She’s just been different. Ever since the hostage thing at the Museum actually…." He trailed off, shaking his head uncertainly.

They were both quiet for a moment, Liz reflecting on the fact that it had been at the UFO Museum that Max had somehow managed to remember Tess from their past life. Could the same thing have happened to Tess? Was that why she was drifting away from Kyle? And how had Max remembered anyway? He had never explained that.

Suddenly a chill descended Liz’s spine. She needed to find Max - immediately. She knew she was being ridiculous, but she just had to see him. Now.

Liz realized that she and Kyle had wandered about half way around the school grounds, were actually closer to the front doors of the school now than they were to the gym. "Let’s go back to the gym," Liz suggested, trying to sound calm. "We can have a dance."

Kyle sighed heavily. "Okay." He shoved his hands into his pockets again, followed Liz closely, although she had picked up her pace. By the time they rounded the corner to the hallway that led to the gym, she was almost running.

When she reflected on it later, Liz realized that, somehow, she had known what she was going to see when she found Max. She didn’t know how she knew, but she did.

She skidded to a stop, still barefoot, her sandals swinging from her hand. She dropped them instinctively as the sight in front of her came into focus.

Her vision blurred, she stumbled, felt bile rising in her throat, turned on her heel and ran back the way she had come. She passed Kyle, who called after her, worry in his voice. He cut himself off abruptly when he saw what she had just seen.

Liz thrust the doors to the school open, took great gulping breaths of air. She brought her hands up to her temples, pushed against them as though she could crush away the memory of it.

Max kissing Tess. Not just kissing her - practically inhaling her, his hands up cupping her face, kissing Tess the way he had always kissed Liz…hungrily, lovingly, like he never wanted to stop.

She was on her knees in the grass, swaying gently, rocking herself, trying to understand what she had just seen, how everything could have gone so horrifically wrong.

She felt a light touch on her back, realized that it was Kyle almost immediately. "Liz?"

"I slept with him. Tonight." She didn’t understand why she told him, but the horror of the entire situation was such that she had no control over herself. She just needed to purge everything.

There was complete silence for what seemed like forever. "That bastard." Kyle sounded so livid, Liz looked up at him despite herself. His face was a mask of rage. "I’m going to kill him."

"No Kyle. Please. I need you." He was down on his knees beside her in an instant. She threw herself against him, felt great, wracking sobs beginning to erupt from within her. She had never felt pain like this before - not when she had had to leave Max at the pod chamber, not when she had seen the look on his face when he had caught her in bed with Kyle…It felt as though it was going to destroy her, that she literally would be unable to survive under the weight of her grief.

"I’m taking you home." Kyle said evenly, helping her up. When she stumbled, he simply swept her up against his chest and carried her to his car. Liz sensed all this at a great distance. She could feel herself slipping into some nether world where the pain dulled slightly, where she knew what had happened, but where she could bear it.

She stayed there through Kyle dropping her off, through him asking if she wanted him to stay, through telling her parents that she had had a wonderful time.

The nether world only shattered when she was wrapped in a blanket on her balcony, staring up at the cold stars, up at the stars that had sent her destroyer disguised as her true love.

All that was left was rage.

She hated him. With every fiber of her being. He had lied to her, had promised her things that he had no intention of ever giving her.

She had given herself to him and he had betrayed her the exact same day.

Liz’s head came up in disbelief as his voice suddenly penetrated through the miasma of rage and grief. "Liz? Are you up there?"

Did he really have the gall to come and see her after what he had done?

She didn’t move, could not budge. The last thing she wanted to do was talk to him. She never wanted to see him again.

And, yet she was not surprised when his dark head appeared over the edge of the balcony, complete confusion and dismay on his face. "Liz? Are you okay? Are you sick? You left. What happened?"

She turned away, let her hair fall across her face as a barrier between them. "Go away," she ordered. "I have absolutely no desire to talk to you."

The silence that followed was so complete that Liz actually wondered if he had left. But she knew he hadn’t. "Liz, what’s wrong?"

He actually sounded hurt, confused. That he could so coldly betray her and then pretend that nothing was wrong…He was worse than a bastard. He was evil.

" Go away![/I[" Liz almost screamed. "If you don’t, I’m going to get my dad…or…or call the Sheriff." She glanced over at him. He was staring at her, the expression on his face completely blank, like he didn’t know to feel.

Because he had no feelings.

"Liz?" He almost whispered it, his voice cracking slightly. "Please tell me what’s wrong."

She scowled at him. "I saw you. I saw you Max! Again! With her."

He looked truly bewildered. "With who?"

"With Tess!"

"What? I don’t know what you’re talking about Liz." He took a step towards her, raised his hand pleadingly.

"Kyle and I both saw you Max. You were kissing her. Right outside the gym."

Max stared at her. "Liz, are you okay?" She wrenched away as he reached out to touch her.

" Go away! I mean it Max. I never want to see you again."

"Liz, this is insane!" Max yelled back, clearly on the verge of almost losing it. "I didn’t kiss Tess. I swear I didn’t!"

She almost believed him. He sounded so sincere. But then that was Max. He always did.

"I saw you," she repeated mutinously.

"Liz, it’s has to have been a mind-warp." Max’s voice was back to a normal pitch. "Please. Think about it. I have no idea why she’s doing this, but she’s trying to split us up!"

Liz glared at him. "Max, she doesn’t even know we’re together! Why would she even think she has to split us up?"

Max blinked, looked perplexed again. "I don’t know. Maybe she does know?"

Liz shook her head. "No. I saw you."

"Liz, please!" He sounded like he was about to burst into tears. She turned her face away.

"Go away."

There was another long pause. And then, he did.

It was only when he was gone that her irrational rage drained out of her, so quickly that she knew that it had not been her, just as it had not been Max kissing Tess.

She knew it with every fiber of her being.

Suddenly, her panic was absolute.

She had to find Max before he did something they would both regret for the rest of their lives. Because neither of them was in any sort of control of their actions. She had completely devastated him - had watched herself do it - had known that someone was controlling her the entire time, but had been unable to stop it.

He wasn’t at home. Liz climbed through his window, sat down on his bed to wait. She wasn’t going anywhere until she spoke to him again.

He was gone so long that Liz actually fell asleep, waking only when she felt his touch on her hair.

She opened her eyes, prepared herself to apologize, to throw her arms around him, to kiss the hurt away…

But one look at his face, at the guilt and horror etched there and she knew.

Liz knew that Tess had won. She didn’t know how or why. But she had won.


posted on 1-Nov-2002 5:58:32 PM
Part 15 - Another Time, Another Life - Section E

He told her slowly, haltingly what had happened. About half-way through the story she moved away from him despite herself. She wanted to comfort him - after all, it had not been his fault, what had happened, but hers, as she had been the one who had let it happen - and yet, she could not touch him any longer.

"When I left you, I couldn’t even think straight. I just drove around." His voice was low, desperate. "I ended up at that old observatory - the one we went to on that field trip last year. I knew that Tess had mindwarped you somehow and I had no idea how to prove it to you. You were so angry Liz. I’ve never seen you like that."

"I’m sorry." She said it, not really meaning it, because she knew that it had not been her. Someone, something had played on her emotions, had made her over-react to what she had seen, had made her forget what she knew about Max in the deepest part of her soul.

She had known that he would never make love with her and then turn around and kiss another girl two hours later - even it if was Tess. And she had allowed herself to believe it anyway. Even his words when he had come to see her had only confirmed what she already knew - that it had not been him.

And yet, she had still allowed herself to believe it. Her eyes would not lie to her after all. She had allowed it, even though she had known about Tess’s gift, had seen the true evidence of its power more than once, recently even, at the UFO Museum.

She suddenly understood perfectly what Max had been going through in the first days after he had "caught" her in bed with Kyle. She had never really comprehended what it must have felt like to know in your heart that something was a lie, and yet to have to believe it because you had seen it with your own two eyes.

The mind-warp was the most evil of all the aliens’ powers - even more that Michael’s detested ability to kill without even touching. How could they have not realized that Tess’s gift had displayed exactly what kind of monster she really was?

"Don’t apologize. Please." Max closed his eyes. His elbows were on his knees and he brought his face down into his hands. "Liz, you came to me at the observatory."

"What?" Liz felt her heart in her throat. Could this be even worse than she had ever possibly imagined? "What do you mean?"

"I…I was there, just looking through the telescope, wondering how I could prove that Tess was evil…and you came." Max looked up at her, his dark eyes shining with unshed tears. "I was just about to leave…I was going to go to the Sheriff’s, confront Tess, make her admit the truth to you, when suddenly you were there." He paused, a grimace of self-disgust passing over his face. "I didn’t even question how you knew where I was. You kissed me, apologized, and I believed it was you. But, it was her…I didn’t know, until…after."

It was at this point that Liz moved away from him, wrapping her arms around her middle, her entire body suddenly overcome with such cold, she felt like she was freezing to death from the inside out. "After what?"

She knew of course. But she was going to make him say it. Until he said it, it would not be real. This complete and utter disaster would not be real. "Liz, I slept with her."

He said it quickly, as though the words made him want to be sick, which she was pretty sure they did. "I woke up afterward." He was speaking mechanically now, just trying to get it all out. "It was morning." Liz looked out his bedroom window, saw that it was indeed after dawn, the sun shining weakly in the morning sky. "And she was there." His voice cracked. "You weren’t anywhere. And she told me what had happened. I came home and you were here and I knew that she was telling me the truth."

Liz tilted her head back, let herself fall back onto his bed, stared up at the ceiling. "Why?" She whispered. "Why did she do this?"

"She knew," Max replied. "She knew that we were back together. She said that she found out the night of the hostage thing at the Museum." He paused. "I never told you, but I went to see her that night. I had gotten some flashes from Brody when I had healed him, flashes that had made me remember some stuff. I had to go to see her that night…"

"To see if they were real," Liz finished. Max had allowed himself to flop back on the bed too. They were not touching, but she could still feel the bond between them, could feel it pulling her towards him. It made her want to lay her hands on him, comfort him. She sat up abruptly.

"Yeah. And we connected that night. Like you and I did, right after I healed you…and I saw things and I knew that my memories were real." She turned to look down at him. He was now the one staring sightlessly up at the ceiling as he continued, "She told me that she had seen it then, when we connected."

"Kyle said she was acting weird all week," Liz told him. "She must have been biding her time," she added, suddenly furious because Tess had used Kyle all along, making Max believe that she wasn’t interested in him. She had just been using the oldest trick in the book though. She had been trying to make him jealous.

And it hadn’t worked because he had been with Liz. And so she had had to resort to outright deception. She had pretended to be Liz and she had seduced him.

"Liz…" Max sat up again, tentatively reached out, but stopped short of touching her. "I can’t even say I’m sorry. It is just totally not enough. I…I don’t even know where to start to make this up to you." He looked away, down at the floor. "I…I would totally understand if you wanted…" He paused, swallowed, hard. "Wanted to break up with me."

"NO!" Max’s head jerked up. Liz threw herself at him desperately. "NO! That’s what she wants. No. No. No."

And she knew it was true. Tess had done this to break them up. The last thing Liz was going to do was let her win that way. "No Max. No. It wasn’t your fault."

And she knew it wasn’t. Liz could still feel the devastation in the pit of her stomach that this had happened, but Max had not been to blame. He had been tricked, in fact, in some horrible way, he had almost been raped by Tess.

He needed her.

Max’s hands came up, wrapped themselves in her hair. "But Liz, how can you forgive this? I almost couldn’t get past the Kyle thing and that wasn’t even true. I can’t let you do this." He was actually crying. She could hear the pain, the guilt in his voice even though she could not see his face. Liz hugged him against her, willing him to take comfort from her.

"I don’t care! Max, I don’t care. She can’t win! No. You are mine." She sobbed it into his neck, winding her arms around him, plastering her body against his.

He didn’t reply, just let her cling to him. She felt him shivering under her, felt it gradually stop as they continued to sit on his bed, neither wanting to let go.

The cold was closing in. But, as long as they were together, they could stay warm. Liz’s mind was not working coherently anymore, the combination of her grief and horror and pain, as well as heavy fatigue finally settling into her bones, all joining together to cloud her mind.

But this she knew. Only as long as they were together could they keep the cold away.

***

It only got worse.

At first it looked like it was going to work. That they could pretend that nothing had happened. Because that’s what they did for almost an entire week after the prom.

Max and Liz were openly back together. After all, there was no need to hide anything anymore. Maria and Alex and Isabel and Michael were ecstatic (although Michael refused to admit it, Maria told Liz it was true). Everything was going back to normal, back to the way they were supposed to be, the way they had been before the whole destiny/Future Max disaster.

But things were not all right. They were affectionate in public, both pretending that everything was perfect. It was only when they were alone that the distance that was springing up between them became clear.

Max could not get past his guilt. Liz had forgiven him. She knew she had, but he could not believe it because he could not forgive himself. And so, when they were alone, they sat in silence and said nothing and let the cold continue to settle in.

No one knew what had become of Tess. She had completely disappeared. Liz had broken the news to Kyle a day after it had happened, only because she felt that he had the right to know the truth about Tess, so that she wouldn’t be able to worm her way back into his good graces. They told no one else. No one else needed to know.

And, then, Tess showed up in the Crashdown a week later and told Max she was pregnant.

None of them wanted to believe it at first. They were all there when she said it, sitting at the counter or at a booth in Liz’s parents restaurant, looking over pictures from the prom. Maria was sitting on Michael’s lap, Isabel had her head on Alex’s shoulder as she giggled over some joke he had told her.

Max and Liz were sitting at opposite ends of the counter. Liz was looking at a picture of Alex and Isabel and Michael and Maria and Kyle and…Tess, that Mrs. Deluca had taken before the prom.

She and Max should have been there, but they had been in the desert making love under torch light, knowing that nothing could ever split them up again.

Kyle, who was sitting beside her, grabbed the picture out of her hand and turned it upside down, looking back at her, his eyes burning with pity and rage.

She should not have told Kyle the truth. Because he hated Max now. Even though none of it was Max’s fault.

It was in that instant that the bell over the door leading into the Crashdown rang, making them all turn their heads as one.

Tess stood in the doorway, her hands clasped in front of her, her expression unreadable. Liz felt Kyle tense beside her. For her part, she could not move. She could not even look at Max, who she was sure was dying inside at the sight of her.

Either dying or getting ready to kill her with his bare hands. Because he had told Liz last night, as they had sat on her balcony, not touching, that he wanted to. He wanted to kill her and if he had the chance, he would.

It was the first time any of them had seen her since the prom. And since she did not know the truth, Maria stood up, welcomed her, beckoned her to join them; Maria, who had always despised Tess because she stood between Max and Liz, but now that Max and Liz could be together, there was no need to hate Tess anymore, was there?

Tess shook her blonde head. Liz wondered when it had started raining, because when Tess’s hair moved across her shoulders it sent water raining around her small body.

"I need to talk to Max. Alone," she said quietly. Liz felt a lump rising in her throat, forced herself to look at Max.
He was staring at Tess, his face completely blank. But his eyes were burning with hate so strongly, for a moment, Liz feared for him.

Hate of that magnitude was not an inherent part of Max Evans’s make-up. It was just not him. He was destroying himself over this.

"Ah! No secrets!" Alex joked from the booth where he sat with Isabel. "We’re all friends here."

Liz looked in their direction, could see that Isabel was frowning slightly, like she was becoming aware that something was suddenly distinctly wrong. She saw Max’s sister glance at her brother, worry beginning to appear on her pretty face. She pinched Alex lightly, as though to quiet him.

Because when Liz turned back to Tess, she could see Tess openly glaring at Alex, like she hated him.

But Liz had no time to reflect on this because in the next instant Tess laughed bitterly and said, "Okay then. Everyone’s going to know soon anyway. Surprise Max!" Tess’s face was a mask of triumph so abruptly, it made Liz freeze. She felt Kyle reach out, grab her by the arm, as though in support for what they both knew was coming. "You’re going to be a daddy."

The silence that followed this statement was so complete, Liz wondered inanely if anyone was actually breathing anymore. She knew she wasn’t. In fact, her heart had stopped beating the minute Tess had walked through the door. She had known, even then, that her entire world was about to end.

It was Michael who finally said what they were all thinking. He turned to look at Max. "Maxwell, what the hell is she talking about?" It was as though his words suddenly woke everyone else up.

Maria slid off Michael’s lap, came to stand beside Liz. Alex stood up, near the booth, the shock on his face only enhanced on that of his girlfriend, who stayed seated and simply said, "Max?"

"It’s true." Tess smirked at Liz. "You two can pretend all you want, but this baby is real and it’s coming and it is Max’s."

"Get out." Two simple words from Max. He was no longer looking at her, but down at the counter, his entire frame rigid with the effort to control himself. Liz wanted to go to him, to support him, but she could not move.

She was frozen inside and out.

"But that’s not all Daddy," Tess continued, as though she had heard nothing. It was almost like she was on a death mission Liz reflected later, like she wanted Max to kill her, like it would be the final triumph. Game. Set. Match. "The baby’s dying. I connected with it this morning. It can’t survive here."

Liz watched a tremor pass through Max’s body.

"Max, can this be true?" It was Isabel asking, but they were all looking at him, waiting for him to acknowledge that he had slept with Tess, that she was not lying. Liz knew what they were really waiting for. They were waiting for him to take responsibility, to help Tess.

Because they didn’t know. The did not know what Tess had done. Only Kyle knew.

And now there was a baby and it was innocent and it was dying.

Liz could feel Maria’s eyes on her, like she didn’t understand why Liz was not breaking down, freaking out. But it was too late for that.

"You’re lying," Max said simply. Liz watched Tess’s eyes widen, like she couldn’t quite believe he was actually saying the words, that he was truly going to leave her alone and pregnant.

But Tess did not understand. She did not understand that she had destroyed Max Evans when she had tricked him into sleeping with her. Because the Max Evans she wanted was the Max Evans who never would have slept with her, who never would have betrayed Liz Parker.

This Max Evans was lost, did not understand himself any more, did not know how he could have done what he had done. Liz had known it for a week, ever since the day he had told her what had happened, when they had clung together, trying to shut the world out.

But the world insisted on getting in. The guilt insisted on claiming him.

Tess tried again. "Max, it is your child. I know you hate me, but you have to love this baby. It is yours. It is your heir. I’m your wife."

Liz became aware of a tapping sound down the length of the long corridor from which she seemed to be watching this entire farce play out. She glanced over at Kyle. He was tapping his fingers against the counter, almost impatiently. He didn’t seem to be listening to the conversation at all anymore, had completely tuned out, to protect himself from the fact that everything Liz had told him was true - that his Tess had really tricked Max Evans into sleeping with her, that she was truly lost to him.

"It is not mine. I refuse it."

Liz heard Isabel gasp. She understood why. Max sounded like some sort of medieval king with those words. Because in those words, what they all heard was "It is mine and I refuse to take responsibility for what I have done."

Liz was not shocked. He was no longer Max. Tess had killed what Max had been. He was not the same.

But she loved him anyway.

And so Tess turned and left. But before she left, she said, "I know you’ll change your mind. I’ll be at the Valentis’."

Kyle flinched at that, stopped tapping.

"Okay, what the hell just happened here?" Michael demanded. "Max, has that chick gone psycho? We know that you and Liz have been back together for ages." Max blinked at that, but did not answer. "What is she talking about?"

"Leave it alone Michael." Max sighed wearily, turned and dropped his elbows onto the counter, his face into his hands.

And still Liz could not move.

"Valenti?" Michael turned to Kyle, the only other person who might feasibly understand what was happening.

But Kyle stood up and walked out of the Crashdown, without another word to anyone, although he squeezed Liz’s shoulder as he left.

Liz managed to stand up too. Because she was becoming increasingly aware that there was only one way to save her Max from the distant, guilt-ridden person he was becoming. She was going to have to be the strong one - again.

"Max, come with me," she ordered. He did not protest, followed her through the swinging door to the kitchen. She heard their four friends all start talking at once as soon as the door swung shut behind them.

"I am so sorry Liz," he said mechanically. She turned to him, wrapped her arms around him, really touching him for the first time since the morning after the disaster.

She realized now that the reason they had both been distancing themselves from each other was because they had been waiting for the other shoe to drop. They had both known that Tess would not stop at what she had done, that there had to be a greater purpose.

It had happened. And, to save Max, there was only one route to take. "You know that you are going to have to find a way home," Liz whispered to him. "You’re going to have to find a way to make sure she’s telling the truth and then you are going to have to help her."

"No." He said it mutinously, but she could tell by the tone of his voice and by the way that his hands stilled against her that he knew it was true. That he would do it for her. He would save himself - for her.

And so Liz said the words that they knew she would. "It’s your child Max. It doesn’t deserve her as a mother. And if it can’t survive here, then you have to take her away."

"I can’t leave you."

"You have to." She pulled back, reached up and stroked his face. "But you’ll come back to me."

The real Max would come back if he took responsibility and did what had to be done. The shell that he was now - the guilt-ridden shell that could not forgive himself - she did not want it. She wanted the real Max back.

***

Within hours they knew the truth.

Liz went with Max to the Valentis’. Kyle was there too, watching from the shadows of the living room, as Max connected with Tess, touching her as though he was touching a snake. Liz wasn’t sure where the Sheriff was.

Liz knew that Max had connected with his child when he pulled back, an amazed expression on his face. Tess looked triumphant, although her expression wavered slightly when Liz did not even flinch. "It’s a boy," he told Liz, a smile breaking out over his face despite himself.

Liz smiled sadly at him. The healing of Max’s soul was beginning already. Because she knew from the expression on his face, that he accepted the child. That he loved it.

That he would go.

But, at the very least, he would still be hers.

"And he’s dying," Max acknowledged, standing up, taking Liz by the hand and ignoring Tess completely. He looked back at her only once before they left. "I’ll find a way back there. He will live."

Tess just stared at him, expressionless, seemingly unable to believe that he was just going to leave her sitting there.

Kyle seemed to understand though. "I’ll make sure she doesn’t do anything to herself," he promised quietly as he followed them out onto the porch. Liz knew he was saying it more for her benefit than Max’s, but he understood what was going on.

Tess was a vessel for Max’s son, but Liz was it’s mother. Plain and simple. All three of them knew it and all three of them accepted it.

Except fate did not accept it.

The next blow came out of nowhere, was so unexpected, the trio could not have been aware that within twenty-four hours, everything would have changed again.

Because, the very next day, Alex Whitman died.


posted on 1-Nov-2002 6:00:55 PM
Part 16 - Into the Fire - Max POV

Mother teach me to walk again.
Milk and honey so intoxicating.

I’m reunited.
Into the fire,
I am the spark.
Into the night,
I yearn for comfort.

Open the doors that lead on into Eden.
Don’t want no cheap disguise.
I follow the signs marked back to the beginning,
No more compromise.

And into the fire,
I’m reunited.
Into the fire,
I am the spark.
Into the night,
I yearn for comfort.

Fuel the water that carries me to the sea.
You I see as my security.

Into the fire,
I'm reunited.
Into the fire,
I am the spark.
Into the night,
I yearn for comfort.

I will stare at the sun until its light doesn't blind me.
I will walk unto the fire until its heat doesn't burn me.
And I will feed the fire.

Into the fire,
I'm reunited.
Into the fire,
I am the spark.
Into the night,
I yearn for comfort.

Into the fire.

Sarah McLachlan


I know that, in my hand, I am holding the key to everything.

I hear Isabel gasp behind me. "Max! Why is that still here?"

"It’s the granolith," I say, sure I am right, amazed that I know it.

"What?" This comes from Michael, who reaches around and grabs it from me. "That thing we sent Tess off in was the granolith."

"I thought we agreed to call her the murderess from now on," I hear Maria mutter from nearby, but she isn’t really talking to anyone. I notice Kyle flinch at it though.

I stare at the crystal sitting in Michael’s hand. We are all staring at it.

"I think Max is right," Isabel whispers finally. "I remember it."

I begin to shake my head. "How could we have been so stupid?" I ask Isabel. "Lonnie told me in New York that the granolith was some sort of religious icon - like the holy grail. Why on Earth would our planet worship a spaceship? This has to be it."

"Wait! Wait." Michael holds his hands up, almost dropping the crystal in the process. Isabel takes it away from him, glares. "If this is the granolith, what the hell does it do?"

"I think…" I pause, searching my mind frantically. When I had first touched it, I had known instantly what it did, but the memories from that other life have already begun to fade. "I think it has something to do with time. Timelines," I add when everyone just looks at me like they have no idea what I’m talking about.

I don’t blame them. I don’t think I know what I’m talking about either. But I do know that this crystal is here because it has something to do with Liz’s disappearance.

Isabel and Michael are looking at each other, both with frowns on their faces, like they too are trying to remember exactly what it is we know about this relic. I almost can’t believe that we didn’t try this before - to actually remember. Although the one time I had remembered, with Tess, had led to disaster, it still was the easiest way to actually get answers.

But, then, we have never been in the habit of taking the easy road - or the logical road for that matter. Leapers - that’s what we all are.

Supremely ironic, but true. Always thinking we’re cautious, but really impulsive and head-strong. All three of us. The evidence of it stretches back in my memory like a long line of uninterrupted stupidity.

Me healing Liz. I would never regret it, but there was no question it had not been the safest course. And then there were all those kids from Christmas. Oh yeah, and going off to New York with Lonnie and Rath. Real smart, that move.

I choose to not even address the subject of Tess. You know it, I know it. Let’s just move on.

Then there’s Michael. Shall we list his offenses? There was the time he kidnapped Maria and took her to Marathon, not to mention his various and sundry other illegal maneuvers. You’d think that for someone who was trying to keep a secret, the least he could have done over the last two years was try and stay out of jail. But, apparently not.

Even Isabel, the one out of all of us who most wanted to be human and thus wanted to keep our secret, has the weird tendency to put herself in ludicrous positions. Grant Sorenson for example. What the hell had that been about? Both Michael and I had known that he was bad news from the get-go, but Isabel had dated him anyway.

I am beginning to wonder if this character trait that we all share - impulsiveness - but which is strongest in me, might not have been why I lost my throne in my last life. I remember what Larek told me at the summit in New York - that I was always impatient, never willing to wait to change things.

I have been making all the same mistakes over again. I try to mold my life into what I want it be, rather than waiting for it to unfold as it is meant to, and I have screwed it up every time.

It has only ever been Liz who looks before she leaps. It is why we compliment each other so well. Balance. It has always been about that with us.

But even Liz had been known to do stupid things in the name of love. She had literally jumped off a bridge for me after all. Which only reinforces how strong she is - because jumping off a bridge was only a last resort for Liz.

For me, it would have been the first choice.

I realize now, more than ever, that I can never be the king my planet needs without her by my side.

Which is why, I am guessing, Tess has taken her. To stop that. It is also probably why Khivar made a deal with Nasedo in the first place. Somehow he knew that making me human was going to help me to find exactly what I needed to take back my throne.

Liz. She’s all I’ll ever need.

"But what does it have to do with Liz?" Maria speaks up now. "Because I can tell that’s what you’re thinking Max."

It is what I am thinking of course, but I don’t know why. Try as I might, I can’t remember exactly how the damn thing works.

"Future Max used it to come back here," I am muttering to myself, trying to work it out. I see Isabel and Michael exchange a confused look, because, of course, they still don’t know about that whole fiasco. "It activated the spaceship…" I look up. "And it was in Las Cruces. Alex had it when he was translating the book."

"So back to Leanna?" Michael demands.

"Back to the mysterious Lazar," I reply. "Or, as we know him better, Sean Deluca. We need to find him."

"Find Khivar?" Isabel whispers. "Max, do you think we’re ready?"

"We don’t know for sure that he’s Khivar," I tell her. "And the more I think about it, the more I’m sure he’s not." I pause. "There is something familiar about him, but it’s not that."

"Okay, clearly it’s time to split up again." The Sheriff steps forward. He has been off the phone with Amy Deluca for several minutes and has just been listening quietly. "Amy doesn’t remember Sean at all anymore," he informs us. "It’s like he never existed."

"Maybe Tess is too preoccupied with Liz to keep up the mindwarp." I shrug.

"I still don’t understand how that chick can be this powerful Maxwell," Michael speaks up again. "Wouldn’t we have known? And, if she is, does it mean we are too?"

"I’m not sure that it’s all her Michael. But, I think we might be."

I know that I am right too. Even being in the presence of the crystal again…Now that I am aware of what it really is, I feel stronger in some way. Like I have taken the first step back to who I used to be.

Zan.

But not just Zan. Zan plus something more.

And I know exactly what that something more is. Because, as I take the granolith back from my sister, I feel her.

Liz.

This crystal will explain what happened to her. We just need to figure out how the hell it works. And what specifically it does. I know I am right that it can affect time somehow, but I don’t exactly understand how or why…And I need to know.

"Splitting up sounds like a good plan," I tell the Sheriff, because everyone is waiting for me to make a decision. "We need to find Sean. I don’t want anyone confronting him," I add. "We just need to find him."

I carefully place the granolith in the inside pocket of my jacket.

"What about Liz Max?" Maria asks worriedly as we move towards the cars again.

"She’s okay." I know I am right. The granolith, sitting right next to my heart, is telling me so. "But we have stuff to do before she can come back to us."

"Stuff?" Maria asks perplexed.

"Yeah." I smile sadly. "We need to find out exactly what the hell happened to Alex before she can - and we need to find my son."

I know it’s true. It’s what my weird dream about Alex and Sean and Liz had been trying to tell me. The pieces are finally coming together.

"How do you know this Max?" Maria is climbing into my parents’ car with me. I’m not really sure why - maybe being with me makes her feel closer to Liz or something. No one seems to want to argue about it though. I see that Michael and Isabel are together in Maria’s Jetta and Kyle and the Sheriff are in the Mustang.

"Alex told me."

She stops talking after this, like she’s not surprised.


posted on 1-Nov-2002 6:03:01 PM
Part 17 - Another Time, Another Life - Section F

"God Liz. How can you bear it?" Maria asked quietly, breaking the silence that had sprung up in Alex’s room after Liz had told Maria and Alex what was going on.

It was the Saturday morning after Liz and Max had found out the truth about Tess's baby. She knew that Max was with Michael and Isabel somewhere, explaining to them about Tess. They had agreed that splitting up, humans and Czechs, might be the best idea, mainly because they really weren't in the mood for a giant blow-up, which was always entirely too likely when the six of them were together.

And so, Maria lay with her head on Liz’s shoulder. Liz had her own cheek pressed against Alex’s chest, her eyes staring blankly at the television screen where Spaceballs played, Alex’s vain attempt to take Liz’s mind off of her problems, if only for a little while, although he hadn’t been quite sure what those problems were when he had started it.

But when Liz had finally told them exactly what had happened, that Max had slept with Tess, even if only by accident, that the baby was his, and that he was desperately searching for a way to get his former life bride back to their home planet to save the child, they had both just sat in stunned silence for close to fifteen minutes, the silly antics of the movie seeming even more ludicrous playing into the horrible stillness.

"I am so sorry Lizzie." This was from Alex, whose breath was still coming in short puffs, even after his shock had begun to fade. Liz could feel how tense he was under her cheek. He was barely managing to keep his rage in check.
Liz remembered the story Maria had told her about the time Alex had punched Michael for hurting her. It made Liz worry that he was going to blame Max for all of this, even if it wasn’t his fault. In Alex’s mind, hurting either Liz or Maria, whether by accident or not, was unacceptable.

Alex’s first loyalty was to Liz and Maria, always had been, always would be. Even his relationship with Isabel was too new and fragile to change that fact. Liz knew, with certainty, that if Alex had to choose between his two "girls" and any of the Czechs, even Isabel, he would choose Liz and Maria.

Which made Liz feel even worse. Because she knew that she could not say the same. Ever since Max had healed her that day in the Crashdown, she had always chosen him, even over Alex and Maria. She had almost lost Alex over it in fact. She still sighed with relief knowing that their friendship had survived the whole secret that had almost torn them apart. But she knew, deep down, that she would do it all over again if she had to.

Max was her entire world. And keeping Alex aware of this fact was essential. Because Liz knew that Alex was presently right on the precipice. If he couldn’t deal with it, with the fact that Max had technically cheated on her, it was going to tear their group apart.

He might never forgive Max for it but he was going to have to deal with it. Even the thought of a rift between her boyfriend and her best friend made Liz feel weak. They could not turn on each other now, not when they most needed each other. All of them.

But Liz knew that Alex would make the right choice. He always did.

It had been a long time since Liz had just spent an evening alone with her two best friends. It was cathartic, comforting, reinvigorating. For once, she didn’t have to be the strong one. She was allowed to wallow, allowed to cry, allowed to voice her fear with Alex and Maria.

She needed this more than she needed anything at the moment.

"I love him," Liz replied simply. "And it wasn’t his fault. He needs me."

There was another long silence, and then Alex spoke urgently, in a low voice. "But Liz, what about what you need? A baby? It’s going to be around forever."

"And I’ll be his mother."

Maria sat up with a gasp. "Liz! You’re only eighteen years old! And were you not the one who told me that I wasn’t ready to be a mother when I wanted to marry Brody for Sydney’s sake?"

"Maria, there is a difference," Liz retorted patiently. "You weren’t in love with Sydney’s father. I love Max. And I’ll love anything that is a part of him too. It’s not the baby’s fault that Tess is a lying skank."

Maria brought her hands up around her mouth, clearly trying to hold in hysterical giggles. "Liz, I can’t believe you just said that!" She paused, then added. "Well, I can actually. Because it’s what I’ve always said."

"Well, it’s true and you were right." Liz smiled weakly. Calling Tess names was not making her feel better though.

"I still don’t like this - not a bit." Liz could feel Alex tapping his fingers lightly against her back. She frowned slightly, wondered why he seemed so impatient. Was he planning to go confront Max about this? Because Max had enough to deal with. He and Michael were presently attempting to translate the book that Tess had found in the Roswell Library the year before, in a vain attempt to figure out if they could get home.

If all else failed, Max was ready to go to Larek, through Brody. But that was only going to be as a last resort. Liz knew that Max still had not forgiven himself for all Brody had had to go through because of him.

But if he had to, Max would do it. Now that he knew that Liz was behind him, now that he had accepted his son, he was not going to stop until he found a way to save him.

"Alex, please. I need your support in this," Liz pleaded quietly. "I need you guys. I have to be strong for Max, but I can’t do it alone."

Liz felt Maria take her hand, accepting her role readily. But then Maria was much more bonded to the whole situation than Alex was, even now, with the Isabel. Maria’s relationship with Michael was solid now, gave her what she needed. It was different for Alex though. Alex had managed to build something of a life for himself outside of the alien abyss, what with Sweden and his brief interlude with Leanna. He had shown that it was possible - at least for him.

Liz knew it was impossible for her. She had been without Max, had seen how wrong it was on every level, and she was unwilling to let anything stand between them again.

But Alex could still save himself.

And, yet, Liz knew that Alex’s hesitation had nothing to do with himself. It was all about her and what he was willing to watch her do, watch her give up.

Liz could almost hear the wheels of indecision turning in his brain as he wrestled with his anger about the whole thing, wrestled with the question of whether he could continue to support something that he clearly thought was so dangerous and hurtful to Liz.

Finally, he ju