|posted on 30-Aug-2001 11:26:38 PM|
Disclaimer: Characters and situations belong to WB, Jason Katims, Melinda Metz. No infringement intended.
Rating: PG-NC-17 (Different Parts)
Category: M/L, M/T (Beware, although this is most definitely a dreamer story, there is a sex scene between m/t in first part)
Summary: What would happen if Tess did more than touch Max’s shoulder the night after he saw Liz and Kyle together? (I kind of worried that was going to happen on the show.)
Let me know what you think and if I should continue.
I’m presenting this as a series of vignettes of their relationship after the fateful night of EOTW. Time passes between each vignette unless otherwise specified.
Max Evans was a man lost that evening as he sat alone on a park bench. He had just witnessed something he thought he would never see, the love of his life in bed with another man. Not just another man, Kyle Valenti, her ex-boyfriend, and the one guy that Max had always secretly measured himself up against since he had learned of Kyle and Liz’s relationship before the Crashdown shooting ever happened. When he wished he could be that ‘normal’ guy on Liz’s arm walking through the hallways at school, or cuddling up with her after a football game, instead of always watching her from afar, unnoticed. But then one day the fates turned in his favor, and his fantasies became his reality. His dreamgirl was by his side, not Kyle’s. She didn’t care that he wasn’t normal. The real Liz was better than every daydream he had ever imagined. Her brilliant smile, those chocolate doe eyes that shined at him with such warmth, the silken strands of hair that he had longed to run his fingers through for years. And her love became a warm blanket that enveloped him and made him feel safe in a way that he never had before, as someone who had always felt the need to hide his true nature. She became the best part of him.
When she walked away from him in May, he knew she did it out of love for him, even though it broke both of their hearts. And he knew he would find a way to get her back. His Liz was strong, but their love was stronger. It would only be a matter of time before he broke through that cool façade. He could feel her pain radiating off her in waves and it matched his own. By October, he was hell bent on breaking down her walls. He didn’t think he could go on much longer without her touch, her laughter….her. When he saw her smiling face shining down on him from her balcony when he was serenading her, he knew that every embarrassing moment was worth it. He was getting to her. The love in her eyes was unmistakable.
That’s why tonight, sitting on this bench, going over the events of the last few days, Max Evans was completely and utterly lost. And devastated. These last few days, Liz had done things so completely inconsistent with what he thought he knew her to be. First, setting him up with Tess, then telling him she didn’t want to die for him. Thinking about that still brought tears to his eyes. And tonight, Kyle. He couldn’t even bear to think about that one, but the image of them in bed kept flashing through his mind, Liz’s bare leg peeking out from the covers. The two of them laughing, engaged in pillowtalk. Max covered his eyes as his body racked with sobs. He had lost the only thing that ever mattered to him. He was truly alone. He knew now that he would always be alone.
He lifted his head to see Tess standing a few feet away. She seemed uncomfortable to intrude on the emotional scene.
“May I sit down?”
“Sure.” Max said flatly.
When he didn’t say anything else, Tess asked, “Do you want me to leave?”
Tess seemed surprised by his answer. She tentatively reached out her hand and touched Max on the shoulder, attempting to be comforting. He turned to look at her.
“Thanks, Tess.” He gently laid his head on her shoulder and his crying increased. Tess wrapped her arms around him and held him close, whispering words of comfort and wondering to herself what could have happened. Max buried his head in the crook of her neck. They stayed in that position for several minutes until his sobs lessened. Tess tenderly kissed the top of his head and said. “Are you okay?”
“Umm.” He didn’t answer with words but started nuzzling her neck, kissing it softly and worked his way up to her lips. He seemed to start losing control and thrust his tongue in her mouth quickly, diving deeply to tangle with hers in a heated frenzy. His hands roamed down her back, under her shirt to feel the soft skin there. One quickly moved up to cup her breast through her bra, rubbing his thumb over her nipple and enjoying the resulting moan she made into his mouth as the nipple hardened under his hand. She reached her own hand down over her shirt and stopped him from going further.
“Not here, Max.” She said with a seductive smile. “Come on.” She grabbed his hand and they went to the Valenti’s house to finish what they’d started. He followed her looking like a lost little boy, the tears now had returned to his eyes.
When they closed the door to Kyle’s bedroom, Max started taking his own clothes off in a hurried haste. Tess seemed surprised at the lack of seduction, but did the same. Max shut the lights before reaching out to Tess.
“But I want to see you.” Tess said in a flirty tone as she started rubbing her hands on his chest.
“No lights, Tess.” His voice was firm and lifeless. He laid her down on the bed, following her down, and started kissing her again. His kisses were harsh and demanding, almost bruising. She would have somehow expected Max to be more gentle, like his personality, like she had always seen him act toward Liz. He quickly moved from her lips to her breasts, nipping and sucking. The preliminaries were few and, before she knew it, his fingers parted her and entered her wetness briefly, just enough to ensure she was ready for him. Then he positioned himself above her and entered her with one quick thrust. He thrust demandingly as well, his face buried in her shoulder, turned away from her toward the wall, his hands bracketing her hips. It was all over quickly. She could feel him nearing completion as his stroking seemed to become more shallow, and his breath became more ragged. As his body began to shudder, he breathlessly cried out “Lizzzzz…,” before collapsing on top of her.
Neither of them said any words aloud, although both had tears in their eyes. Tess, because Max had called out Liz’s name and she realized that he had probably been fantasizing about her all along. And Max, because he couldn’t believe what he had just done. Max silently got up and got dressed. As he was walking out the door to the bedroom where Tess still lay in bed, he whispered “I’m sorry” without turning around and then walked out the door.
Max felt someone grab his arm and before he knew it, he was slammed up against a wall of lockers.
“WHAT DID YOU DO TO HER?”
He looked up to see Kyle Valenti staring down at him, fury in his eyes.
“ME? You’re the one that took her from me.” He grabbed Kyle by his shirt collar.
“What’re you talking about, Evans?”
“I’m talking about Liz.”
“What does this have to do with Liz? I’m talking about Tess. She’s gone.”
“Gone. All her stuff too.” He pushed Max back a few feet. “Her note said she just couldn’t take being around YOU anymore. So, What did you do to her?”
“Leave me alone, Kyle. We haven’t got anything to say to each other.” Max walked off.
Everyone was sitting around Michael’s apartment for a group meeting. The air was thick with tension. Max and Liz had not seen each other since…that night. Liz was staring down at her hands. Max kept sneaking glances at her but she never met his eyes.
“Okay Maxwell. We’re here. You gonna tell us what’s so important that I had to take off work? Some of us have to pay rent you know.” Michael prodded him.
Max took his eyes off Liz to speak. “Yes. Tess is gone.”
Liz’s head snapped up with a start. Max couldn’t help but notice the sheer panic in her eyes, although it didn’t make any sense to him.
“Gone where?” Isabel asked.
“Kyle didn’t know.” Max sighed. “But she took all her stuff with her so I don’t know if she’s planning on coming back.” As he was speaking, Max could see Liz’s hands start to shake, and the tears forming in her eyes, although she had tried to quickly bow her head to hide them. It looked like she was about to have a nervous breakdown.
“Liz?” Max said softly. She didn’t respond, not even to make eye contact. But now all eyes in the room were focused on her trembling body.
Max got up and knelt in front of where Liz was sitting on the couch. He took her shaking hands in his and said her name again as gently as he could.
When she lifted her eyes he was struck by the fear and utter devastation he saw. She seemed overwhelmed, the tears were pooling in the corners of her eyes and even though she opened her mouth, no words came out.
“Uh guys, maybe I should talk to Liz alone.”
Everyone quickly agreed and fled the tense silence of the apartment.
“Just tell me what’s wrong.” Max said as he massaged her still trembling hands.
“M-Max, it’s not possible. You-you disappeared, while we were dancing. She couldn’t have left. That was the whole point of everything, to get Tess to stay. It’s just not possible.”
Max just looked at her curiously. She wasn’t making any sense. “Liz, you’re not making any sense. I’m right here. I never disappeared.”
“No Max.” She got up and started pacing. “YOU don’t understand.” She pointed at him. “You did disappear. Oh my God, this is it. The world is gonna end.” She collapsed into Michael’s armchair, her head in her hand’s. “Why didn’t it work? I did everything you asked me to.”
He crawled over to her on all fours and just ran his hands through her hair, which he knew calmed her, while she cried, waiting for her to be ready to explain herself. She finally lifted her head and met his gaze. “Max, you have no idea how serious this is.”
“Then tell me. Please.” He cupped her cheek.
“But I wasn’t supposed to tell you.” She looked down. “I promised you.”
She wasn’t making sense again. He was beginning to wonder if she was coherent, but he knew his Liz to be the most sensible, trustworthy, perhaps sanest person alive, so he had to trust that she knew what she was saying.
“How could you have promised me not to tell me something, Liz.”
Here it goes. It was now or never. Tess was gone. There was nothing to lose. “There were two of you, Max. You came back from the future, 2014, so that I would make you fall out of love with me.” She still felt like choking on those words just as she did the first time she heard them from Future Max.
Max looked stunned. He didn’t say anything for several moments. Then he choked out, “Why-why would I ever do something like that?”
Liz grabbed his hand again and stroked it reassuringly. “Max, you were really desperate. We were at war with the skins, and we were losing. Michael and Isabel had just been killed. Earth was about to fall. And the reason you were losing was because Tess had left Roswell.” She started crying because she realized that this was now a reality. “Tess left town because she was mad after we consummated our relationship the night of the Gomez concert.” She looked down and blushed slightly. “We apparently didn’t treat her well. You-you guys are a unit, a fighting unit, and without one of you, you weren’t as strong. So you lost the war.” A tear slipped down her cheek and Max reached up to wipe it away with his finger. “So you told me that I needed to make you fall out of love with me so you and Tess could be together.”
Max suddenly came to the realization that the scene between Liz and Kyle in her bedroom was part of the plan and the guilt slammed down on his conscience.
“You mean you didn’t sleep with-“
“No.” She cut him off and cupped his cheek lovingly. “I could never be with anybody that I didn’t love. Anybody but you.”
The guilt over what happened with Tess was now tearing him to pieces. “Oh God, Liz. I’m sorry-”
“You have nothing to be sorry about, Max. You didn’t know.”
She didn’t know what he was apologizing for.
“But Liz, you don’t understand. I think I DO know what went wrong with your plan and it’s my fault. Oh God. I’m sorry.” He clutched at her knees and buried his head in her lap and started crying uncontrollably, holding onto her for dear life.
She rubbed his back soothingly and waited for him to calm down, but her need to know got the best of her.
“What is it, Max?”
“Liz, I can’t. You’re never going to forgive me.” He said through his tears, still not picking his head up or letting go of his desperate hold on her.
“I can’t imagine something I wouldn’t forgive you for. I love you.”
“I know. I love you. Please remember that.” He sat up and swiped at his tears. “Liz, when did the future me disappear?”
“About a half hour after you came to the window.”
He knew it. Probably right after he and Tess connected on a friendship basis, or maybe more. But before he called out Liz’s name, and destroyed everything.
“Liz,” He couldn’t look her in the eyes. “I was so broken up that night after seeing you in bed with Kyle. I thought I had lost you. And you’re the only thing that ever really mattered to me.” He briefly looked up at her to see if she was understanding. “I was lost, confused. I don’t know. Tess found me crying in the park. She helped me and I think that must have been when the future version of me disappeared.”
“But I don’t understand, Max. What went wrong.”
He sighed. This was the hard part. “I felt so out of control. One thing led to another and Tess and I-” He didn’t want to finish that sentence. He looked briefly up at Liz and found her now staring at her hands crying softly.
“But Liz, it didn’t mean anything.”
“I gotta go, Max.” She ran to the door, never looking at him once along the way.
“NO, LIZ. PLEASE.” He added “I love you” as the door closed in his face. ‘Now I really have lost everything.’
“I’m so sorry, chica.” Maria said as she put her arms around Liz’s shoulders as they sat in the breakroom of the Crashdown. “You know I’ve got your back, right?”
Liz gave her a shaky smile. “Yeah, Ria. I’m glad I still have you.”
“So we’re all going down in fourteen years, huh?” Maria giggled trying to lighten the mood. “I think it’s time we did lose our virginity if we only have fourteen years to enjoy the wonders of sex.”
“Maria.” Liz whined. “I don’t think I want to talk about sex right now.”
“Okay. I guess that was a little insensitive of me. But there’s one thing I don’t understand.”
“What?” Liz looked up at her.
“If Max and Tess did the nasty, why did she leave anyway?”
Liz looked puzzled herself. “Yeah. I keep wondering about that too. It should have been exactly what Future Max planned. I don’t get it.”
“Chica, you should ask him.”
“I can’t, Maria. I can’t face him.” The tears pooled again in Liz’s big brown eyes.
“I know you don’t want to hear this Liz, but I’m your best friend so I’m gonna tell you anyway. Be mad at me if you want. But Max didn’t do anything that you didn’t lead him to believe you had already done with Kyle, you know?”
“I know.” Liz sighed. “But I didn’t really do it.”
Max was lying in bed in the dark listening to the Counting Crows, thinking what a mess he had made of his life, Liz’s life, and now the rest of the world’s as well. He had skipped school today. And yesterday. He was hugging a pillow to his head to try to ignore the insistent knocking at the door.
“I’m about to let myself in whether you like it or not. You better be decent!” Isabel’s shrill voice rang out.
A moment later, Michael and Isabel barged into Max’s bedroom.
“Look at you. When was the last time you showered? Or shaved? You stink! The world isn’t ending tomorrow you know.”
Max closed his eyes to try to block out Isabel’s tirade, only to feel a body come down next to his head on the bed. He opened his eyes.
“Michael.” He said lazily.
“So you are alive. The rumors have been greatly exaggerated.”
“All right. Get up.” Michael prodded Max til he lifted himself into a sitting position groaning all the way. “We need to talk to you.”
That got his attention. “Isabel reached her through the dreamwalking?” His voice sounded hopeful.
“Nope. She’s still blocking us. We wondered if the King had any other orders.” Michael spat out sarcastically.
Max lied back on his bed with a thud and covered his head with the pillow. “No” he groaned out. “Yes.” He changed his mind. “Leave. Now.”
“Geez, Maxwell. Like Isabel is ever gonna listen to you.”
As if on cue, Isabel came through the door with a tray of food and fresh clothes. “Okay, Max. If you don’t eat this, then shower, shave, change clothes and otherwise do everything I say right now, I swear I will dreamwalk you and Liz Parker every night for the rest of your lives, even if it bores me to tears.” She rolled her eyes. “And I don’t want to hear a word out of your mouth about invasion of privacy.”
Max groaned again and reluctantly sat up and started picking at the food.
“Now she’s the TLC-Nazi, Maxwell.” Michael laughed as he was leaving. “So I’ll see you in school tomorrow.”
“What?” Max hadn’t been paying attention.
“School? You remember. Big brick building, classes, staring at petite brunettes. School?”
“Right.” Like he needed a reminder.
Max walked into chemistry class warily the next day. It was the first class of the day that he shared with Liz and he had not seen her since she ran away from him after he had told her of his night with Tess. He stopped in the doorway and saw her shining chocolate hair hanging over her notes, hiding her face from view. He wondered for a moment if it was intentional, but passed it off. Liz seemed to sense his presence and lifted her face to meet his. The pain that was evident in her eyes cut straight to his heart. He wanted to run over there and wrap his arms around her to comfort her, but of course, he had no right to do that anymore. She quickly averted her eyes, but his heart remained in tattered shreds as he sat through class. He wondered if he would ever find a way to live with the pain of having broken the spirit of the only woman he would ever love. He hoped not, he didn’t deserve any reprieve.
He was completely taken aback when she turned around in her seat to face him at the end of the class period after the bell rang. She seemed to stare right at him and he couldn’t take his eyes off her nor move from his seat. He waited for her to make the first move. They were now alone in the room.
Then she abruptly turned around and walked to the door. His heart broke in disappointment. He would rather have her yell and scream at him than have no interaction at all. But just as quickly she spun around on her heel and strode over to him determinedly.
“I need to ask you something.” She blurted out.
“If you and Tess,” her voice broke, “you know.” She looked down at the floor.
Oh God. “Yes?”
She looked back at him with some fire in her eyes. “Then why would she leave? That’s exactly what Future Max wanted to happen. Although he never expected it to happen that fast.” She added under her breath with a sarcastic tone.
He looked appropriately guilty at her words.
“He loved me enough to marry me at 19 in that other timeline.” She spat out. “But for you, it was that easy to give me up, huh?” The anger quickly turned into tears and she swiped at her eyes, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of seeing her cry.
But in reality, it was killing Max to see her tears, as well as to hear what he had lost. Marriage to his dreamgirl, only the thing he wanted most in this world and thought he could never have. And now he wouldn’t. He almost couldn’t bear the thought that she didn’t think he loved her the way this damn future version of him did. Although the only person to blame for that was himself. He had to make her understand. His voice was gentle as he started. “I told you how broken up I was about what happened with you and Kyle that night, right? I was so lost, Liz, so confused. That night was really all about you, not Tess.” He tried to reach for her hand but she pulled it out of his reach.
“What are you trying to say, Max?” She looked irritated.
“Well, I kind of said your name at the wrong time, if you know what I mean.”
“Oh.” Realization dawned on her. “Oh.”
“And Tess got very upset.”
“Oh.” Liz nodded, her eyes staring off at some point behind Max, still never meeting his.
“Okay, Max. I gotta go.” She left quickly. She seemed to be doing that a lot lately.
Max put his head in his hands as his own tears started to fall.
Several days later…
“You know Max, it doesn’t matter how many days you sit in her section.” Maria said as she plopped down across from him in the booth with a weary sigh. “She is not going to wait on you.”
Instead of answering, his eyes followed Liz’s back intently as she served her other customers.
“Uh Max? Did you hear me?”
“I heard you, Maria.” He sighed. “I just need to be near her, you know?” He looked up at her like a lost little boy, tears gathering in his eyes.
She reached for his hand. “Yeah, Max.”
“How is she, Maria?”
Maria sighed and looked down at the table. “Devastated. Just like you.”
The tears now freely fell down his cheeks as the magnitude of his guilt bore down on him again. “I didn’t mean it, Maria, honest I didn’t. I was so broken up about seeing Liz and Kyle in bed. I think I just wanted to forget for a few minutes. I know that’s no excuse.” He looked into her eyes tentatively, looking for some absolution.
“Max, I think I do understand how it could have happened.” She tried to say it understandingly. “Not that I think it was right.” She quickly added. She then grabbed his hand again. “But I guess you’re just more human than we all thought.”
They were silent for a moment.
“Do you think she could ever forgive me?” His voice was almost a whisper as his eyes searched for Liz in the café again.
“I don’t know, Max. You have to understand some things. She had just been asked, by you no less, to sacrifice her future happiness to save you, your family, and the world. And she did it, no questions asked, out of love for you. She would have done anything for you. Do you understand the magnitude of that?”
He nodded grimly.
“And then to find out that on the same night of her sacrifice, you slept with the one person she has always considered her greatest rival for your affections.” Maria sighed as she started sliding out of the booth. “Forgiveness may be too much to ask of her.”
His head was bowed as she started walking away, but when he heard her start to speak again he lifted it to meet her gaze.
“But then again, who am I to say where Lizzie would draw the line at what she would do for you in the name of love? Sometimes it just blows me away. Give her some time, Max.”
Liz was lying in bed with a box of tissues and used ones crumpled all around her, sadness and anger both causing tears to trail down her cheeks. The nerve of Max to sit in the Crashdown day after day, his eyes boring holes into her back, as if nothing had gone wrong between them. As if she should accept him back with open arms and ease his conscience of the burden he was carrying. Uh-uh. Not when he had placed the burdens of the world on her shoulders, had the nerve to come back from the future to ask her to live her life alone and unhappy, while he gets to go off with his precious Tess to live happily ever after, never even knowing about her sacrifice. And she loved him enough to do it, too. Her sobs increased as she thought about the reality of what actually took place. What a fool she’d been. He probably had never loved her the way she loved him. To go off and screw Tess that same night. Frankly, that outcome had never even occurred to her as a possibility. Not when Future Max looked at her with such love in his eyes as they danced together. Not when he told her about their wedding. Not when he told her that she was the one he trusted, not Tess. Damn Max. Her head snapped up as she heard a noise out on her balcony. She ran to the window, opening it cautiously, then nearly growling at what she found.
“Damn it, Max. This could be considered stalking. I should call the Sheriff.”
He looked at her pleadingly with those beautiful eyes that she had so often lost herself in. Not anymore, she swore to herself. “I’m sorry, Liz. I just needed to see that you were okay.”
Her voice was cold as she answered him. “I’m not okay. Why would I be okay? Thanks to you.”
“Liz.” He started to approach her cautiously.
She held up her hand to stop him before he got any closer. “I do have a question for you.” Her voice suddenly got small. “Did you ever really love me, Max?”
He stared at her stunned that she could believe that he never loved her, his heart breaking at the reality that she doubted it as he observed the tears coursing down her cheeks and the defiant set to her jaw. “How could you think that? Of course I love you-”
She cut him off with a shriek. “How could I think that? Well, maybe you losing your virginity to the love of your previous life for starters, Max.” She started pacing in front of him as she ranted. “But you don’t seem to make too much of that, do you? Then again, you didn’t make very much of your relationship with me either. I don’t know why the future version of you thought it would be so difficult to get you to fall out of love with me.” She rolled her eyes. “He evidently didn’t remember his younger self very well. You sure move on fast, Max. Have you found someone new yet? To replace Tess, I mean?”
He stared at her incredulously, his jaw slack, his eyes wide. It took him a moment to recover while she stared at him through narrowed eyes. “Liz, you have it all wrong. You’re the only one for me. I told you before and I meant it, it will always be you.”
“Oh, and that sure meant a lot.” She smirked at him sarcastically. He started to say something else, but Liz just continued, this time in a soft, child-like voice, her eyes burning into his. “Because it wasn’t me, was it Max?” He could see her tears had returned before she turned away. “Just leave, Max. I can’t do this anymore.” She went back in through her window, her shoulders shaking with sobs, and then slammed it shut, this time drawing the curtains closed behind her. As he collapsed into her lounge chair, he had never felt so alone in his life.
Max sat on a bench watching Liz, Kyle, Maria and Alex all eat their lunches together. Liz’s smooth hair was blowing gently in the fall breeze and swaying as she swung her head with laughter. How he wished he was close enough to hear the sound of it. He missed that sound so much. But he couldn’t help but notice that no matter how much she seemed to be laughing, the smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. The sparkle that had always danced in her deep brown eyes that he cherished was missing. Big surprise there, genius. He, probably the person who celebrated her most, had been the one to crush her joyous spirit. He thought back to their conversation back in the biology lab during the heat wave last year, when he said that he couldn’t bear to hurt her. He had never imagined it would have turned out like this.
As he lifted his head to focus back on Liz, he saw Kyle wrap his arm around her shoulders. It seemed a brotherly gesture more than anything else, but Max couldn’t help but bristle as his old feelings of jealousy resurfaced. Kyle had no right to touch his Liz. No, not his Liz. Not anymore. He threw his sandwich down and ran out of the quad.
“Is he still out there?”
“This is ridiculous. I have customers. I can’t hide in the backroom all night, Maria.” She threw her tray clanging down to the floor in frustration. “And why should I let him chase me out of my home, my place of work, you know?”
“You shouldn’t, chica.”
“That’s right.” She squared her shoulders as she stood up from the couch, tucking her hair nervously behind her ear. “I’m going to face him head on.”
“You go, girl.”
“I will.” She said as the door swung closed behind her.
She strode directly over to the booth in which Max was sitting. He looked up at her with hope in his eyes but could quickly see by the set of her jaw that this wouldn’t be pleasant.
“Max, this has to stop.”
“Get off it, Max. You know what.”
He looked down at the table. “Liz, I’ve been coming here all my life-”
She quickly cut him off, bringing her face close to his in a harsh whisper so that the whole dining room didn’t overhear. “Don’t give me that shit, Maxwell Evans. You can’t sit here all day and night nursing cherry cokes and staring at me with your puppy dog eyes. It won’t work.”
“You can’t get me back after what you did.”
He sighed heavily. “I’m not trying to get you back, Liz. I just need to be around you.”
“But for the first time in this last year, I don’t need to be around you. As a matter of fact, I can’t be around you.” Her anger quickly turned into sadness and she started crying softly. “Don’t you get it, Max? Every time I see you, I see you and Tess-” Her voice started to break. “You know, together.” The tears were falling freely now and she swiped at them clumsily.
“But Liz, that’s not who I am. That was one night. How can that be all you see-”
She cut him off again. “You hurt me too much, Max. I can’t see past it right now.”
“But what about everything we had, everything the two of us are together. Doesn’t that count for anything any more?”
“I don’t know, Max. This is just too fresh, too raw. I need you to respect that. You can’t act like you didn’t do anything wrong.” She turned around to leave but he grabbed her wrist, not letting her go.
“Liz,” he started out softly. “I don’t want to act as if I didn’t do anything wrong, and I know this is mostly my fault.” He sighed and stared down at the table. “But to hear you talk about it, you seem to forget that while I was busy loving you with every fiber of my being, you and,” he beckoned her closer and started whispering harshly, “this future version of me did everything in your power to manipulate my feelings and destroy what was left of our relationship. And you know what? It worked.” He was using his other hand to punctuate his statements. “You can’t hold me responsible for his actions. I’m not him, as you like to remind me every chance you get.” He smirked at her. “The two of you did a damned good job of destroying both of us in the process too. Great job Liz.” He let go of her wrist and clapped his hands mockingly at her.
She stared down at him silently from above the table, tears still tracking down her face.
“So Liz, I won’t act like I didn’t do anything wrong if you won’t. O-kay?” This time it was Max who got up and walked away without looking back.
A few days later…
“Chica, don’t you think it’s time to talk to him?”
“I just don’t know if I’m ready, Maria.”
“Well, he’s certainly ready. I mean he’s everywhere you are. School, the café, you said he’s even on your balcony at night, right?”
Liz nodded slowly.
“Soon you’re gonna find him in the shower with you unless you do something.”
Maria sat next to her on Liz’s bed and put her arm around Liz’s shoulders. “How are you feeling about him these days? Other than crowded, I mean.”
“I just don’t know.”
“Do you still love him?”
“Of course I still love him. I can’t just stop loving him like that. But I hate him too.” Liz got up and started walking around while she was talking. “And I can’t forgive him, Maria. I won’t.”
“Who said anything about forgiving him? I just said talk. For your sake, not necessarily his.”
Liz just stood there looking at her.
Max was sitting on Liz’s balcony that night as he had been every night for the past week. She hadn’t called the Sheriff despite her threat to do so and he still couldn’t resist the impulse to be near her. The curtains were drawn, as always, so he sat on the lounge chair in the dark, with his eyes closed, the cool evening desert breezes making him pull his jacket tighter around him. But he had no plans to leave. This was the closest he was allowed to get to Liz and he planned on enjoying every precious moment of it. He sighed contentedly.
The sound of the window opening startled him, almost knocking him off the chair. The blood in his veins ran cold, as he prepared for another scathing attack from Liz, and for her to take away this one last pleasure in his life. As her form appeared at the window, he felt his posture stiffen, preparing for what was to come. She approached him without saying a word. He could not make out the expression on her face. He got up from the chair cautiously and started backing away.
“Uh Liz.” His voice was shaky. “I can leave.”
“No, Max. Actually, I wanted to talk to you.”
He looked at her incredulously to see if she were telling him the truth, thinking it was too good to be true that she actually WANTED to speak with him. Not that it was necessarily good news, he reminded himself.
“O-Okay.” He was overcome with emotion and sat back down. She remained standing but looked past his shoulder, not meeting his gaze.
“I just think that us not speaking to each other and you following me around is not right, you know?” She looked right at him now.
He nodded, swallowing past the lump in his throat.
“I suggest we talk some, but then you give me some space after that.” She tried to meet his eyes to see if she was making herself clear.
“I guess we need to talk about what happened.”
“Do we? Wouldn’t it only hurt you more?”
“I need to know, Max. I need to know why you would do something like that to me.”
He nodded and tried to compose himself. His voice started out shaky. “Liz, I guess I need you to understand it too. Because in my mind that night was about you and I and had nothing to do with Tess. Honestly, I don’t feel anything for her.” He glanced up at Liz to see if she believed him. “I really thought you slept with Kyle. Not that that’s an excuse.” He added quickly. “I know it doesn’t justify what I did. I’m just trying to explain my state of mind.”
She nodded with one quick nod of her head asking him to continue.
“Anyway, I was so broken up about it, I didn’t think I could go on without you in my life.” He lowered his voice and said more gently. “Liz, I don’t want to start laying blame again, but you and future Max really did a number on me. I’ve never felt like that before in my life.”
The tears pooled in her large brown eyes and she slowly, sluggishly started nodding her head absently, staring off past Max’s shoulder. “I thought about what you said the other day, Max, about my role in this whole mess. And while I can see your point, I don’t feel that justifies you sleeping with Tess.” She started sobbing as she said Tess’ name and put her head in her hands.
Max got up and started to approach her to comfort her, but she quickly held out her hand firmly to stop him.
“NO. I’m fine. Tell me the rest.”
“Are you sure? Liz, We can do this another-.”
“Tell me!” She ordered him.
“Okay.” He said slowly as he sat back down. “Well, Tess found me sitting on a park bench crying and she hugged me. I guess I was grateful for the warm body. And before I knew it,” He stared down to the brick of the floor. “I think I just wanted to forget about all my problems for a while, you know?” He took a peek at her and saw the tears tracking down her face. “It happened so fast. We didn’t make love. It was just sex.” His words had started coming out a mile a minute. He looked down again. “Not that that excuses it either.” He sighed. “There’s nothing I can ever say that will ever excuse my behavior that night. I was crazed over losing you.”
He could see she was still crying softly.
“You know when Future Max told me that we made love the night of the Gomez concert in his timeline, he mentioned that you had protection. I said ‘Saint Max, walking around with a condom in his back pocket?’.” She laughed bitterly, through her tears. “Maybe I’ve always expected too much from you.” She sighed. “Maybe.” He agreed quietly, then he looked down at the floor and played with the end of his shoelace. There was silence for a minute or so.
“I’m so sorry I let you down, Liz. I didn’t mean it. Honestly, I didn’t.” He said on a sob as he put his head into his hands and cried fiercely. “Oh God. What have I done?” His voice sounded muffled as he spoke through his hands, now sounding so broken.
They both cried silently for several moments, but neither moved toward the other and Liz offered no words of comfort for him. Finally, she looked back up at him, still crying. “What about after?”
“Liz.” He cautioned gently. He felt like he was hurting her all over again by going over the details of the situation.
“Tell me.” Her voice was cold and insistent despite her tears.
Max sighed. “Afterward, we both were crying. I couldn’t believe that I had let it happen and I think Tess was crying because I called out for you in the middle of it.” He looked up at her briefly. “So I left.”
He nodded, waiting with baited breath for her reaction.
“Okay, Max. Now you promised to give me time.” She said it clinically, distantly, not like the Liz he knew.
“Liz.” He said gently. “I can’t just stay away from you-”
“You have to, Max. You owe me that much.” She cut him off sharply. “You hurt me, whether you meant to or not, you did. I need space, time. Then we’ll see.”
“So there’s hope for us?”
“I don’t know, Max.” She said on a sigh. He looked like a little boy who didn’t get what he wanted for Christmas. She turned around and was about to climb through her window when she heard his voice.
“Do you still love me, Liz?” His voice was cracking as he spoke.
She didn’t turn around when she answered him. “Yeah, Max. I don’t want to, but I do. I guess I don’t fall out of love as fast as you do.” The window slammed shut behind her, effectively closing him back out of her life.
“I’m sorry, Liz.” He whispered to the closed window as he turned to go.
“I’m surprised he hasn’t gotten himself a whip and started beating himself up literally at this point.” Michael said as he poured the tabasco liberally all over his potato chips. “I mean, I know he made a mistake, but Geez-”
“Wait a minute, Spaceboy. He made a mistake, big time. Are you saying you would do that to me?” Maria glared at him as she dropped her sandwich.
“No. I did not say that. But he’s punishing himself enough for both of them. Isabel and I can’t get him out of his room anymore. He hardly says a word. I’m telling you if the evil aliens come at this point, we’re screwed. No Max. No Tess.”
“I’ll drop-kick ‘em for you.” Maria grinned as she did her best imitation of a karate chop.
“Great. Then the world will end a lot before 2014.”
“Hey!” She swatted him on the arm.
“Hi guys.” Liz sat down across from the pair at the lunch table.
“Speak of the devil.” Michael grumbled.
“What?” Liz looked at him.
Maria sighed. “We were just talking about you-know-who. No one has seen him around.”
Liz looked up at Michael. “How is he?” She asked softly.
“Do you really want to know?” He said in an irritated tone. She looked at him for a moment, then nodded slightly. “He stinks, literally and figuratively. He won’t leave his room, won’t shower, shave, or eat. Won’t talk. Forget school. Nothing since you cut him off again.” His head snapped up toward Maria as he felt her punch him in the arm, not softly this time. “WHAT?”
“You could be a little more sensitive, Michael. Remember, we’re on Earth. Humans have something called FEELINGS. Liz did have her reasons. Damn good reasons.”
“Sorry, Liz.” He mumbled without meeting her eyes as he stuffed more doused potato chips into his mouth.
“Sorry, I was supposed to teach him social skills before they let me take him out in public.” Maria attempted to lighten the tense atmosphere.
“I better go.” Liz grabbed her bookbag and left.
“Are you ever gonna learn, Spaceboy?” Maria sighed, gathering her books hastily and getting up to follow after Liz.
Liz stood by the corner of Murray Lane for half an hour, pacing back and forth, trying to decide whether she wanted to go through with her plan to go see Max. It had been nagging persistently at her since lunch with Michael and Maria today and she just couldn’t get the mental image of him suffering out of her mind. She hated herself for still loving him so much, but not loving him didn’t seem to be an option at this point. How she wished she could toss him aside the way she felt he had done to her. Sighing, she stopped pacing and decided to get it over with. It was unfair to everyone around him, including her, for Max to fall apart. She couldn’t take that. None of them could. Maybe it wasn’t fair to put that burden on his shoulders, but after everything he’d done, screw it. She spun on her heel and headed toward his house, taking the back route toward his window that was so familiar to her. As she approached, she realized that the last time she had been here was the night that she came to do the bidding of Future Max, to tell her Max she wouldn’t die for him. It brought tears to her eyes to remember his pained expression as she delivered her rehearsed speech. Romeo and Juliet, what a joke. Their lives in those few days when Future Max was there seemed to be an even more unfortunate series of choreographed mishaps that would result in an even greater tragedy than any Shakespeare had ever imagined. If only she knew how well she was carrying off her charade, her torture of her Max, and what the devastating outcome would be for them both. And for the world. She set the stage for him, practically handed him the hemlock. All but stayed to watch as he drank it, thinking his Juliet was already dead. She may as well have been, too. What a farce her life had become. Mr. Shakespeare, old Willie himself, would have given Liz Parker an A plus on the tragedy she had unwittingly written and now called her life. And to think she had to come up with something mundane for her creative writing assignment for class tomorrow. She shook her head to clear it of her morbid thoughts and tried to compose herself before she tapped on the window.
She heard rustling of the bed covers, but no footsteps.
She didn’t answer.
“Go away. I told you I don’t want to see you.”
She was surprised that he didn’t know that it was her through their connection, but they had been so closed off from each other lately.
She knocked again.
“MICHAEL!” She jumped back startled. She had never heard Max raise his voice before. She decided she had better let him know who it was.
“It’s me, Max.” She immediately heard heavy footsteps apparently running over toward the window and as the curtain abruptly opened, Max appeared in just his boxers. His hair was mussed from laying in bed, sticking up in all different directions, and his face had creases from the sheet. He looked like an overgrown little boy. It would have been adorable if she hadn’t been angry with him. His eyes were wide and his expression priceless, it was almost as if he didn’t believe she were real.
“Liz?” He rubbed his eyes, blinking repeatedly as if to clear them.
“It’s me.” He then just stared, immobilized, at her so she continued. “Can I come in?”
“Oh. Yeah.” He shook his head as if to clear it. “Of course.” He offered her a hand up and she accepted it this time, not wanting to start off on the wrong foot.
“You want to sit down?” He pointed at the bed and started to clear away the mess that was there to make a space for her, but she just sat at his desk chair, not trusting herself to sit that close to him. “So what’re you doing here, Liz.” He said softly, moving his eyes over her form, drinking in every nuance of her. “Not that I’m not happy to see you.” He quickly added.
“Michael mentioned how bad things were with you, Max.” She looked him directly in the eye.
“Why? What’d he say?”
“Just that you’ve been hiding out and that you’re not the same. I think everyone’s really worried about you, Max.”
He noticed that she didn’t say that she was worried about him. “They don’t have to worry about me.” He suddenly found his hands very interesting.
Liz came over and sat next to him on the bed. She took his hand gently in her own. “Max, you can’t do this. No matter what happens between the two of us, people count on you. And you falling apart like this, it’s putting pressure on me too. They blame me for what’s happening to you.”
“I’ll talk to them. They have no right to do that.” His voice quickly took on that quiet broken tone that had become so characteristic of late. “This is all my fault, Liz. I’m the one that screwed up our lives.” The guilt was already too much for him, his shoulders seemed to be sagging with the burden. It squeezed at her heart strings to see him like that.
“No. I don’t want you to talk with them. That’s not why I’m here. I’m here to ask you to stop doing this, for me. If you can’t do it for yourself, then do it for me. I’m worried too, Max.” She looked straight into his eyes again and he lost himself in her beautiful chocolate eyes for a minute before she blinked and looked down and broke the connection.
“Okay, Liz. Anything for you.”
“Okay, Max.” She squeezed his hand as she got up and headed toward the window.
She turned around.
“I can’t let you go without asking. Is there any hope for us?”
She sighed. “I still don’t know, Max. I’m not ready to say yes or no. But I guess that means there’s hope.” She gave him a shaky smile and turned back around to face the window.
“I love you, Liz.” He whispered to her retreating figure.
“I know.” She whispered back. She was silent for a moment standing very still and keeping her back to him. “But we can’t go back to what we were, Max. I’m not that same trusting naïve girl any more, expecting a fairy tale romance. You changed that.” She felt him come up behind her and press his front up against her back to whisper in her ear.
“I don’t want a fairy tale. I just want you.”
She escaped without turning around, fleeing quickly through the window, not accepting the hand he held out for her as she scooted down.
Liz walked into chemistry class the next day to find Max sitting in his seat, his eyes focused on the door as if waiting for her. Almost as if he expected a gold star for good behavior. She gave him a small smile and little nod of her head to acknowledge his presence as she walked to her seat. When she got there, she found a white rose and a note waiting for her on her lab table. She didn’t have to look to know who it was from. She opened the note and read it.
I know how difficult it must have been for you to come by yesterday. Thank you for still caring enough to do it.
I don’t want to pressure you, but I do mean it when I say you’re the only one for me. I will wait forever if that’s what it takes.
I love you.
She felt the tears spring to her eyes and quickly folded the note and lowered her head.
Max watched from the back of the room and realized from her bowed head and shaking shoulders that she was crying. While he hated to see her tears, part of him was glad that she was less closed off to him. That she was not so unaffected by him after all. That just maybe, there was still a chance…
Liz never turned around once during Chemistry. But she was aware of Max’s eyes on her the entire period. She tried to bolt from her seat as soon as the bell rang, not feeling ready for this confrontation.
But as she felt the familiar warmth of his hand grab her own, she felt the blood pounding through her body, readying for a struggle. She turned to face him.
“Uh-Uh, Max. This is not the way things are gonna be.” She leveled her eyes narrowly at his pleading gaze, trying to not let him affect her.
“No. You’re not playing fair.” The tears started to fall again. “I’m not ready to let you in like this. I said maybe. MAYBE. Get it? I don’t know if I’ll ever be.”
“Don’t ‘but Liz’ me.” Her voice rose sharply, drawing the attention of the other students. She grabbed his arm and dragged him over to the corner of the hallway. “You hurt me, Max. Let’s not forget that.” She whispered bitterly before she stormed off.
“God Maria, I don’t even know which way is up with him any more. What the hell am I doing?” Liz cried.
“It’s okay, chica.” She said as she rubbed her friend’s back while they sat in the eraser room. “It’s like that with me and my spaceboy all the time. You were just lucky before.”
“But one minute I’m angry with him and the next I want to apologize for it.” She looked Maria squarely in the eye. “Not that I will.”
“Certainly not.” Maria stuck out her jaw a bit defiantly as Liz had.
“Nope.” Liz reached into her bookbag and pulled out the note Max had given her earlier. “Read this.” She said softly.
Maria read silently and looked up at Liz. “Romeo sure knows how to string words together.”
Liz sighed. “I know.”
“Lizzie,” Maria cupped her hands around Liz’s cheeks. “You may not want to hear this, but I think the person you’re angry with at this point is yourself, because he’s winning.”
“Winning?” Liz looked confused.
“Winning you back. Slowly but surely. And you hate yourself for letting it happen.”
Liz just stared back at her incredulously.
Maria dropped her hands. “But you’re gonna lose, honey. You want to know why?”
Liz nodded absently.
“Cause you love him. And unless you can stop that, it’s over. It was over before you started.”
“Isn’t being in love a choice, Maria?” Liz said with tears in her eyes, already afraid she knew the answer.
“Maybe for some people. But for you and Max? Uh-Uh. If there were ever two people who were fated for each other, you’re it.”
“But the fates keep tearing us apart.” Liz laughed bitterly, despite her tears. “How can we be meant to be?”
“You’re right, they do. And yet, despite everything, I’ve never seen two people who love each other the way the two of you do. Never.”
Liz nodded through her tears.
“That’s gotta mean something, chica.”
“But I’ll never trust him again, Maria. What’s love without trust?”
“Never is a long time.” Maria sighed as she put her arm around Liz’s shoulders. “Just follow your heart, okay? That always worked for you before.” She squeezed her friend’s shoulder gently.
“Did it, Maria?” Liz looked at her friend pointedly. “Look where it got me so far.”
Liz found Max sitting alone outside on the bleachers, his head in his hands, crying softly. The drizzling rain had soaked through his clothing, which was plastered to his body, and his hair was matted down to his head, but he didn’t seem to notice. She felt her heart clench in her chest at the sight of him. She approached him slowly, not wanting to startle him. She stopped a few feet away.
“Max?” She said softly. His head snapped up toward her, causing a few droplets from his water-logged hair to fly in Liz’s face. Her words caught in her throat for a moment by the look of sheer agony on his face. The hair on his forehead was dripping in small rivulets down to his face and she couldn’t distinguish it from his tears. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” He nodded slightly, still mute. She climbed up and sat down next to him, lining up her upper arm with his so that they touched lightly along the sides. She reached around with her other hand and lightly swept the tendrils of wet hair off his forehead in a tender gesture before she started speaking. She took a deep breath before looking into his penetrating amber eyes. She found them focused right on her own.
“Max,” she paused for a second to clear her throat. “I came to apologize for this morning. I said some things to you that I regret. You did hurt me,” she sighed. “But I guess it doesn’t help us for me to keep reminding you of it at every turn.” She swallowed past the lump in her throat, and ducked her eyes nervously. “And your note was sweet.” She looked away from him out toward the football field. “I guess I got kind of scared of what I was feeling.” She took another deep breath and turned back to face him tentatively. “But, Max, that didn’t give me the right to lash out at you.”
He nodded through his tears. “What were you feeling, Liz?” He asked softly.
“Umm, I guess the note reminded me of us. What we once had. How I wish we could be again.” She said wistfully, still staring out at the football field, now out toward the opposite end zone, away from where Max was sitting. But if he had been able to see her face, he now would have seen tears pooling in her eyes.
He reached out to take her hand in his own. He felt her fingers stiffen at his touch, then recoil as if he’d burned her.
“No, Max.” She eyed him sharply. “I’m saying I’m not gonna keep throwing what you did with Tess back in your face, but I want to be clear, there is no more us.” She started out harshly, but soon she got her voice back under control. “We can’t ever go back. I told you. I’m not that little Lizzie Parker anymore, trusting and naive. You changed that and you can’t change it back.” She could see her words were difficult for him to hear by his pained expression, but they needed to be said.
“Then where do we go from here, Liz?”
“I don’t know.” She sighed. “Nowhere for now, I guess.”
“I don’t accept that.” His beautiful eyes pleaded with her. “Do you still love me?”
She looked up at him assessingly, gazing wordlessly into his eyes as if they held the answer to his question.
“I need to know if you still love me, Liz. I’ll give you all the time in the world to come back, I guess I just need some reassurance.”
“You need reassurance?” Her voice started rising with incredularity as she laughed bitterly. “What about reassurance for me?”
He looked at her curiously as she got up from her seat and stepped heavily down to the bleacher below him and started pacing back and forth, her shoes making slight squishing noises as they repeatedly hit the damp surface.
“Yeah, Max. I’m the one who needs to be reassured. Reassurance that something like what happened with Tess would never happen again.” She stood in front him with her arms wide. “Even if I do love you, how could I ever place my heart in your hands again?” She looked him in the eye pleadingly for some guarantee that she knew could never come.
He gaped at her helplessly for a moment before answering.
“I don’t know what assurance I could give you but my word that I’d be yours forever.”
“No offense there, Max, but your word doesn’t hold too much weight with me these days.” She stated sarcastically, shifting nervously from foot to foot.
He turned to face her fully and stopped her movements by grabbing both of her hands in his. “Liz,” he said seriously. “That set of circumstance was so bizarre. Think about it. Really think about it. I’m not just excusing my behavior. I know I was wrong, but how could something like that ever come up again?”
“It could happen every time you got mad at me, Max.”
“It’s different, Liz. I thought I had lost you. I was desperate.” How could he convince her? He sighed. “But I guess you would have to trust me.”
She plopped back down on the bleacher next to him and sat back with a weary sigh. “That’s just it, Max. I don’t know how to trust you any more.” She looked directly into his eyes, shaking her head in the negative. “I’m sorry.” She found herself tearing up at the impossible situation that they found themselves in.
He was thoughtful for a moment before he started speaking. He lifted her chin with one finger to meet his eyes. “Maybe we can start as friends again. Very slowly. I can earn your trust back over time.” She looked into his beautiful amber eyes for a long time before she reluctantly nodded. He pulled her to him in a bone-crushing embrace.
“Friends. Just friends, Max.” She cautioned him seriously as he squeezed her.
“I know. But I’ll earn back your trust.” He quickly added. “Oh God, Liz. I’m so sorry for everything. I never meant to hurt you. Please believe me.” He was clutching her so desperately, like she was his lifeline.
She could feel his warm tears mingling with her own on her face. “I know you’re sorry, Max. I do.” She whispered. She could not offer her forgiveness, because she had none to give to him. She didn’t think she ever really would. Not about this. They held onto each other tightly for several moments before pulling back to look into one another’s eyes. Their faces were just inches apart. He resisted the urge to kiss her knowing that he still did not have that right, and instead, tucked a strand of Liz’s wet hair behind her ear before giving her a tender kiss on the forehead, keeping his lips there for a few seconds to treasure the sensation.
Maybe we should go inside before it starts pouring.”
Whatever she wanted.
Max was sitting in his booth at the Crashdown, pretending to work on his chemistry problems and nursing his third cherry cola of the afternoon. He had basically resumed stalker-status. He looked up as he heard the familiar sound of the vinyl crunching, indicating someone was joining him.
“Fearless leader. What a surprise to find you out here.” Michael said sarcastically. He was wearing his apron and a bandana on his head.
“You on break?”
“Five minutes.” He grumbled, nodding, as he mopped the sweat off his brow. Michael looked back up at Max. “So what’s the deal with you two?” He cocked his head slightly in Liz’s direction. “You back together?”
Max’s eyes moved to follow Liz as she worked the café. She was standing over a table of jocks, Kyle Valenti included, Max noted with a small pang of jealousy. One of Kyle’s football buddies was eyeing Liz hungrily, his gaze moving up and down her body in such an obvious way, Max felt like pummeling the guy into the ground and burying him right next to Kyle. Max strained to make out their conversation.
“… That was a great game.” They high-fived each other.
“Did you make it to that one, Liz?”
She nibbled on the tip of her pen for a minute. It looked very sexy on his Liz, in that unintentional sort of way that characterized her understated sensuality. “Uh no. I didn’t get to too many games this season. Sounds like I missed a good one.” She said with forced cheeriness as she looked down at her order pad.
What’s-his-name touched her waist, to have her turn to him. To add to Max’s great frustration, he kept his hand resting there lightly while he spoke.
“Hey Liz, you still going out with Evans?”
Max froze in his seat.
She didn’t answer him right away. “No Chris.” She sighed. “We’re not together any more.”
Max shouldn’t have been surprised. It was the truth. But he hadn’t thought his heart could break any more than it already had. He was wrong.
“Then how about coming with me to the party after this Saturday’s game?” He looked hopeful.
“I can’t this weekend.” She smiled brightly at him. “Maybe some other time?” She excused herself to get their orders and quickly ducked away.
“Max, MAX?” Max found Michael’s hand waving irritatingly in front of his face, waiting for him to respond.
“What Michael?” Max snapped back at him.
“Geez, I asked if you and Liz were back together.”
“NO, Okay? No, we are definitely not back together.” Max snapped the spine of his chemistry book shut and ran out of the restaurant.
“So, what was it like, Max?”
“Liz.” He cautioned gently.
They had had a pretty good night so far. He had been in the Crashdown, as usual, while she worked, and then afterward, Michael had joined him as the girls cleaned up. Eventually, Michael and Maria’s constant bickering had brought Maria to the table as well. Initially, to punch Michael’s arm about something obnoxious he’d said, but she ended up staying. Max almost couldn’t believe it when his goddess sat down. The four of them. It was almost like old times. He could almost let himself forget. Almost.
After they said their good nights, he had climbed up to her balcony. It was such a haven for him these days. So many memories. Even her scent was there. Vanilla. He hadn’t meant to intrude on her. But she assured him that it was okay and they had started to chat more.
“I mean, I always thought I’d share my first time with you.” She got a far-off look in her eyes as if she were imagining a candlelit seduction on a bed of rose petals in her mind’s eye.
She focused back on him. “I’m not asking for the details, Max.” She shook her head. “Geez, like I need any more mental images of you and Tess.” She made a face. “I just want to understand what it felt like to give your virginity, what should have been ours by all rights.” Her voice started to crack slightly. “Away so casually.”
Max paused, not really sure how to answer her without getting himself into more trouble. He sighed. “Liz, it happened so fast and it was so different from what I would have wanted to share with you.”
She looked up at him, “How?”
“Do you really want to talk about this?”
She nodded slowly.
“It comes back to the discussion we had about why. It was all about forgetting, numbing myself for those few minutes. I feel like I wasn’t even me, although as we both know that unfortunately it was. Looking back at it, it feel like it was almost an out-of-body experience or something.” He looked to her to see if he was making himself understood before he continued. She still seemed to want for him to want to press on, although he felt like a sadistic bastard doing it. “I’m not very proud to say that it was kind of” he swallowed convulsively and stared at the ground. “A wham, bam, thank you ma’am sort of thing.”
“It wasn’t really fair to Tess or you.” Max added.
“Did Tess have a-,” she looked at him suggestively. “You know?”
“What?” Realization dawned on Max. “Oh.” He shook his head. “Honestly, I don’t know. I guess I was enough of a bastard not to care.” He watched Liz sitting Indian style on her lounge chair clearly lost in thought. “What’s this really about, Liz?”
“When we were together, Max, did you ever imagine our first time?”
He nodded slowly. “I guess. Fantasies mostly.”
“I used to think about it a lot.”
He could see that this was important to her, although she hadn’t said anything, tears were starting to swim in her dark eyes and silently course down her cheeks, dripping in a fine line down to her collarbone.
She continued, half speaking aloud, seemingly half to herself. “My favorite was the one where you would come in when I was in the bathtub.” She snapped out of her trance-like state to turn and face him as if she had just figured out again that he was there. “Just like my locker room fantasy, Max. You remember, right?” She looked up at him with wide eyes, still teared up.
“How could I forget?”
She sat back in her seat. “Right. So, it’s this beautiful scented bath full of rose petals, one of those old claw-footed tubs. Really huge and full of bubbles. And the bathroom’s all steamy, you can’t barely see two feet in front of you. And then all of the sudden, you come in to make sure I’m okay.” She scrunched up her nose. “I don’t really remember why I wouldn’t be. Doesn’t matter. You’re wearing your hair like you did last year, with the bangs.” She twisted in her seat again to look briefly at his face. “You know, the way I like it? And you have just a hint of five o’clock shadow.” She had turned back around and was again completely lost in her fantasy. “And you kneel down next to the tub and look at me with your beautiful eyes and show me a white rose you brought me.” She sighed. “And you tell me ‘Because it was you’ before we make love.” She dropped her head softly into her hands and cried as she stopped speaking.
Max walked over and sat cautiously on the edge of the lounge chair. He reached his hand over and touched her back to comfort her but she shook off his touch.
“No, Max.” She said sharply. “Now we’ll never have that night or any like it.”
“Liz, we can still-”
She cut him off and flashed him with blazing dark eyes. “Don’t even suggest it, Maxwell Evans.” She got off the lounger and away from him. “Even the night of the Gomez concert that Damn Future Max told me about, our first night together in his timeline, is gone forever now.” She walked right up to him and brought her face within inches of his. Her demeanor quickly became sad rather than angry, “You gave something to Tess that should have been mine, something you can never get back.” She swiped clumsily at the tears that were falling. “Why’d it have to be Tess, Max? Of all people?” She collapsed against him. He carefully folded his arms around her, at first unsure if she would accept his embrace. “Why her?” she cried in a small voice. He picked her up and sat them both back into the lounge chair, Liz curled up in his lap, whimpering like a small child, his broken angel, broken by him. The guilt seemed to be a living, breathing entity all around them as it slammed down on Max, threatening to choke him more and more as she revealed the scars he had left on her. He wondered if she really would have been damaged less by that bullet last September. His own tears seemed like a meager offering. After a few minutes of quiet tears she broke the silence.
“Do you think she’s pretty, Max?” Her voice was so small, he wasn’t sure he had really heard her.
He looked at her in alarm. “Liz, no-”
Liz looked down. “I mean she’s got those crystal clear blue eyes.” She laughed hauntingly. “Maria calls them Czechoslovakian eyes. You all have them. Piercing.” She looked into his eyes as she nodded absently. “They’re beautiful, though Tess’ eyes aren’t as warm as yours.”
He was sitting underneath her listening to this, frozen in place. His heart breaking, piece by piece, as he watch her doubt herself, knowing that he, the man who should have made her feel like the most beautiful woman in the world, which she was, was the criminal who had planted these seeds of insecurity.
He swallowed past the lump in his throat. “Liz, it didn’t have anything to do with Tess or the way she looked.” He said in a gravelly voice.
She went on as if he’d never said anything. “And she’s got a great body, Max.” Her faraway voice had started picking up a note of resentment. “I mean, in a way you got lucky, Max, no pun intended.” Her short laugh was bitter. “You definitely wouldn’t have had a first experience like that with me.” She gestured toward her not-so-ample bosom with her hands as she got up from his lap awkwardly. As she stood, he could see that rivers of tears were now tracking a steady path down her cheeks. For how long had she been crying again?
He had so much he wanted to say to her. To reassure her that she was the most beautiful girl in the world. That he only had eyes for her. That it was her body that called to his when he lay in bed at night. That even while touching Tess, he had pictured only her in his mind. That it would always be her. She was his star and his moon and his Venus. But he couldn’t formulate the words fast enough.
“You better go, Max.” She couldn’t seem to stop crying.
“But-” he moved toward her desperately looking for something to stop the sinking feeling in his stomach.
“Go, Max.” She said lifelessly, not meeting his eyes. “I don’t think I want to hear any more of what you have to say tonight. You gave up our dreams and had your first, and I have to go on with my life now and find my own.” It wasn’t a threat. It was said more in resignation.
“You don’t have to, Liz.” He pushed her.
“Goodbye, Max.” She turned away.
“Not Goodbye. Good night, Liz.” He corrected her, watching her walk away from him, again.
|posted on 30-Aug-2001 11:31:29 PM|
The next day…
Max sat alone at the lunch table in the quad, waiting for his friends to join him. He looked around quickly before pouring some tabasco surreptitiously into his cherry cola. He took a long quenching sip, closing his eyes as the cool liquid fire ran down his throat. He had hardly slept after his gut-wrenching talk with Liz the night before and he was feeling it in every fiber of his being. He hadn’t seen her yet today and he longed for at least a peek at her to see that she was all right. But of course, he knew that she wasn’t all right. She was far from all right. And he had never felt so helpless in his life. He was snapped from his thoughts from giggling nearby. He looked up to find Maria and, was that his Liz, coming towards him? He stared transfixed.
Liz was wearing a black halter top that bared her midriff and a matching mini-skirt that hung low on her small hips. The halter was high in the neck, held up by a string around her neck, much like a necklace. The fabric was triangular in shape, grazing the front of her breasts, but leaving open a very slight, but nevertheless, tantalizing sideview of her perky bosom. The creamy, olive skin of her slender shoulders and back was flawless. Her shapely legs were clad in knee-high boots. Her long, shiny hair was loose and swung softly behind her. The only other thing she wore was a radiant smile, resulting in catcalls and ‘Hey Parkers’ from the lunch crowd.
Max choked on the cola that was still in his throat. He wanted to run over there and throw his leather jacket over her shoulders to cover her up. Well, that wasn’t the only thing he wanted to do to her.
“Hey girlfriend.” Maria said. Liz didn’t say a word. They had a silent staring contest.
“Aren’t you gonna tell her how nice she looks today, Max?” Maria finally prompted him.
Max took his eyes off of Liz for the first time to turn and glare at Maria.
“O-kay.” Maria said.
“Can I talk to you?” Max whispered, already pulling Liz up by her arm and away from the table.
“Ow.” When they got to an area where they were alone, she shook off his arm angrily. “What?” She said irritably.
“What the hell is this?” He gestured to her outfit.
“You don’t like it, Max?” She twirled for him. “Everyone else seems to.”
“Liz, you don’t need to dress like this. You’re beautiful-”
She cut off his sentence. “I thought you like your women like this. Isn’t this how Tess dresses?” She spat out at him.
“I thought you said you’d stop throwing that back in my face.” He snapped back at her.
“Yeah. Well, that was before you decided to become the fashion police.” She kicked at the dirt with the toe of her boot. “Seriously, Max. I just need to feel like myself again.”
“This.” His voice strained at the words as he pointed at her outfit. “Is not you, Liz.”
“It is now.”
She started walking off angrily, then she turned back, finding him still standing there, dumbstruck.
“I told you, Max. We can’t go back. I can’t be that Liz Parker you know and loved. She’s gone. You killed her.”
She started to turn around again to go until she heard him behind her. “No. WE killed her, Liz. WE both killed her.”
Several days later…
Liz nodded at Max as she walked through the door with only the briefest of eye contact before she sat as far away from him as the small space in Michael’s apartment would allow.
These last few days had been characterized by Liz continuing to dress in a very un-Liz like manner. She had pierced about eight new holes in one ear in defining her new style, although Max hadn’t gotten quite close enough to count them. Yesterday, she had gone so far, Max had been sure she had borrowed the outfit from Maria, or maybe the old cast-offs of ‘The Partridge Family’. Let’s just say plaid had been very heavily featured. But he had noticed that her chin had been held high as she paraded around. And once he almost thought he saw that old sparkle in her eye that he had missed so much. A jock was flirting with her at the time, eyeing her appreciatively, and while he bristled at her innocently flirtatious smile in return, inwardly he celebrated the restoration of his love’s spirit. She was a fighter, with an inner strength of which he stood in awe. It was was drew him to her in the first place.
She had mostly ignored him since their squabble at lunch the other day. As Maria said, he continued his ‘love-sick alien-stalkerboy thing’ without interruption. He wasn’t doing it for Liz. He was doing it for himself. He just needed to be near her. Breathe her air. Smell her scent. Geez, maybe was a stalker. But this was the first time she had acknowledged him. It was a small step, he told himself.
Tonight was another group meeting to discuss the ‘Tess’ situation. There really wasn’t anything to discuss, but they kept the meetings up anyway because it seemed to make everyone feel a little better to feel like they were actively doing something to prevent the end of the world. In reality, they were all helpless and they knew it. And Max saw it as another opportunity to interact with Liz. Tonight she was wearing her Crashdown uniform, with just a cardigan tied around her shoulders. It was nice to see her looking like his Liz again. She had tucked herself away quietly in the corner, head down, knees to her chest, waiting for the meeting to start.
“Okay stalker-boy, let’s get started.” Maria piped in to interrupt Max’s study of Liz. “Liz and I have to get back to the Crashdown.” She came over to put her hand on Max’s shoulder. “And, we wouldn’t want you to lose out on your favorite booth.”
Max had the good grace to blush slightly. “Okay.” He said to the group as he held out his arm to signal Isabel to start. “Iz.”
Isabel sounded irritated. “She’s still blocking me.” She sighed. “I try to dream walk her, but she won’t let me in.” She sat back against the back of the couch in frustration.
“Does anyone have any other thoughts?” Max said.
The room was quiet for a long time. Everyone looked at the floor, everywhere but at Max. Suddenly, Maria started to giggle. It seemed so out of place, all eyes fell on her.
“I just thought that knowing that little bitch, she’d probably only come back on her own if she got pregnant.” Maria was saying it in jest.
A small gasp could be heard coming from the corner.
“Oh Lizzie, I didn’t mean-” But Maria’s words were too late, because Liz was up and out of her seat in a flash and was now standing in front of Max menacingly, as menacingly as her petite frame could manage. But she held a lot of power over the man.
Max just stared at Liz wide-eyed, swallowing convulsively.
She narrowed her eyes a bit. “I knew it! You didn’t use anything, did you?”
“Don’t you dare try to explain away this one, Maxwell Evans. So you couldn’t care less if there was gonna be one more little Czechoslovakian running around, huh?” She started pacing back and forth in front of him gesturing wildly. “It was bad enough to bring that one night with Tess into our lives for us to have to remember forever, but now you’re telling me that there could be a little miniature Tess with YOUR name on it!” She was screaming by this point.
“Um. Guys, we’re just gonna give you some time alone.” Maria said nervously. They were already closing the door behind them. No one could wait to flee the scene.
Max approached her cautiously, he had tears in his eyes. “Liz. I wasn’t thinking straight-”
She cut him off. “You weren’t thinking at all!” She yelled at him, “at least not with any part of your anatomy above the belt!” She turned her back to him as the tears flooded her eyes. Not turning around she added more softly. “And you certainly weren’t thinking of me and what your having a child with Tess would do to me, Max, were you?” She cried softly into her hands. “To think of her being the mother of your child instead of me.” Her sobbing increased.
After a minute or so, she felt Max’s gentle touch on her shoulder. “Liz, this is probably not going to happen. We don’t have to worry about this now.”
She turned to him, studying his face. “Max, this isn’t only about whether or not it actually happens.” Liz looked up at the ceiling and said under her breath. “God forbid.” She focused on Max again. “It’s about you not taking into account our future.”
“Liz, that night, I didn’t think we had a future.” He said in irritation.
“But Max, there’s a little piece of you in everything I do. Even when we’re not together.” She took his hand tenderly. “You’re a part of me. I would have thought that no matter what you thought you saw, somewhere deep down, that part of you that’s reserved only for me would have kicked in somewhere along the way and prevented all this from happening.” He could see her big brown eyes were beginning to swim again with unshed tears.
He pulled at the hand that he was holding to bring her into his arms. There was nothing he could say to that because she was right. He caressed her back lovingly and ran his fingers through her hair the way he knew calmed her down. Finally, he said. “Maybe, it’ll be okay.” He could feel her nod weakly against his shoulder. He wondered who he was convincing.
Max Evans was tossing and turning in his bed that night, sleepless, just as most of his nights had been since this whole fiasco began. But in every other way, this night was entirely different. He kept replaying Liz’s latest tirade over and over in his head, the one that had occurred only hours earlier in Michael’s apartment, about his thoughtlessness at not having used a condom. And his thoughtlessness in general. He couldn’t remember it word for word no matter how hard he tried. And he tried, again and again. Because he was almost certain she spoke about their future in the present tense, as if the two of them had a future, as a couple. In HER mind. It was the first ray of hope he had to grasp on to that Liz had not entirely given up on the idea of them together, despite the fact that she all too frequently said just the opposite. And words put forth in anger tend to speak the truth. And if there was one thing that Max Evans was sure of in this time of chaos, it was that anger seemed to be Liz’s emotion of choice concerning him these days.
He turned into his pillow, his lips curving into a small smile.
“So, what’s up, girlfriend?” Maria said as she came by his booth to take Max’s order. She answered his next question before he asked it. “She’s not here, Max. Took the day off.”
His expression immediately grew concerned. “Why?”
Maria looked down at her order pad. “Um. Everything that happened last night.” She met his gaze. “She was still upset.”
Max flew out of the booth toward the backstairs. He turned around at the sound of Maria’s voice.
“Hey, Max. You’re gonna lose girlfriend status if you don’t start looking happier to see me one of these days.” She smiled brightly at him.
He gave her a small smile and walked through the swinging doors and hurried up the stairs. He knocked on the Parker’s door. Mrs. Parker answered it.
“Max.” She said coolly. Max realized that he wasn’t sure what Liz had told her mother about recent events, but Mrs. Parker had never been his biggest fan, even when they were going out.
“Are you here to see Liz?”
He nodded, gulping slightly.
“She’s not feeling that well, but she’s in her room.” She let him pass, but he felt her eyes on him as he walked to Liz’s bedroom door. He knocked lightly.
“No. It’s me. Max.” He realized his voice sounded shaky.
It took a minute or two for the door to open, revealing Liz in her usual sleepwear, drawstring flannel pajama pants that hung low on her hips from not being tied too tightly, and a tank top. A smidgen of the curve of her stomach was visible where the tank ended. There was nothing inherently sexy about the outfit, but on his Liz, it was. She stood by the door, only opening it partway, not letting him in.
“What are you doing here?” Her tone was cool and matched her expression.
“Maria said you weren’t doing well after last night and I wanted to check on you.” He tried to plead with his eyes.
“I don’t need you to check on me, Max.”
“I wanted to.” He said earnestly.
“Just go, Max.” She started to close the door in his face, but he pushed it back open with his hand.
“No, Liz. I won’t just go. Enough is enough!” She started backing away from him as he entered her room. “I’ve listened to you go on endlessly and now you are damned well going to listen to me.”
Liz was a bit taken aback. She had never heard Max raise his voice to her before. She had backed herself all the way to her bed and sat down almost involuntarily when she reached the edge, preparing for whatever was coming, but Max suddenly stopped ranting and stared transfixed at the bed, immobilized.
Max realized with a start that the last image he’d seen of her bedroom was of a naked Liz and Kyle in bed together. The scene flashed before his eyes like a bad movie. Kyle’s bare chest, Liz’s slender leg, the sound of their laughter, the red duvet, Liz’s guilty eyes locked on his. The haunting images assaulted him, one by one. He stood frozen staring at Liz’s bed, the same red bedspread on it today, taunting him.
“Max?” She startled him. She was already sitting on her bed, now with one leg folded under her, concern evident in her eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“I just haven’t been in here since,” he paused, “that night.” He speared her with a look so that she knew exactly to which night he was referring. He was still standing right in front of her, frozen in place like a deer caught in headlights.
She eyed him curiously. “But Max, none of that was real.” She stated it as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
He felt his blood run cold in his veins. Is that how she felt? His eyes searched for some warmth in her familiar ones.
“Is that how you feel about it, Liz? Just that none of it was real?”
“What’re you talking about, Max?” She moved back on the bed and leaned back against her headboard, moving the journal and other items that had been spread out on top of the comforter. She no longer seemed to be paying any attention to him.
He strode over to her briskly, the volume of his voice once again rising in anger. “Because what happened in that bed, Liz,” he pointed to it as he spoke. “It was very real to me. You made it very real.”
Liz looked up at him sharply. She did not know how to deal with this angry side to Max. She took her hand and gently closed it around his outstretched index finger that remained in front of her face.
This time, Max cut Liz off before she could answer him. “You know, I’ve listened to you go on again and again about how you’ve been wronged here.” He pinned her with a piercing stare. “And you have.” He turned his back on her, walking to the door, finally leaning his forehead against the doorframe, and closing his eyes. He sighed. “But I’m getting tired of you acting like you’re the only victim here, Liz.” He felt his composure start to crumble. “You screwed me over too.” He whispered. His tears had started to fall. “As a matter of fact, you set me up to take the fall for both of us. And I’m sick of feeling guilty about it while you come out smelling like a rose.” His whisper had become harsher as he cried.
Meanwhile, Liz had come up quietly behind him. She had never seen Max like this. She pressed her body flush against the back of his as he stood there quietly crying, his forehead still pressed against the side of the doorframe.
“Shh.” She touched his arm gently with her own. “You’re right, Max. I haven’t been fair to you.” She said softly. She reached around his waist with her small hands and held him tightly while he cried. “Shh.” She leaned the side of her head against his back as she held him.
They stayed in that position for a long time, her front pressed up to his back, her arms around him soothingly, until his crying finally ebbed. Then she led him back into her room to sit with her on the bed.
“You know, Max. We’ve talked a lot about what you did, but I guess we haven’t talked too much about what I did.” She looked down and started playing with the fringe on one of the toss pillows on her bed. “Maybe we should.” She added, meeting his eyes again.
He nodded, swiping at the tears still falling from his eyes.
She reached over to her nightstand and handed him a tissue.
“Thanks.” He managed a shaky smile.
“I keep them handy lately.”
“I’ll bet.” Max said, laughing lightly.
“So, what do you want to know?” She sat back and waited.
Max hadn’t prepared for this little talk. He would probably think of a million and one questions later. Damn. He supposed he had the basic facts straight, or what mattered of them.
“I guess my biggest question is why didn’t you just come to me instead of lying and manipulating me like that?”
Liz sighed. She had asked herself that so many times as well. And now in retrospect, how she wished she had. “Max, your future self said I couldn’t tell you. I thought he knew best. He was older and he told me that if I told you the world could end.” She sunk lower in her seat as she sighed again. “And I guess I trusted him because he was you.” She looked deeply into his eyes as she told him that.
“But you liked him better than me.” Max stated it rather than asked it as a question.
She sat up straight. Was that a note of jealousy in his tone?
“No, Max.” She reassured him. “Not at all. Where would you get an idea like that?”
“I don’t know.” He dropped his eyes, embarrassed to have even brought it up. “I guess you mentioned him a few times when you were really mad at me.”
Liz nodded at him, recalling the events. “I liked the life he described to me, Max. Our life.” She sat back against the headboard again. “We would have eloped at 19 to Vegas and gotten married by an Elvis impersonator.” She giggled at the memory.
“Really?” He looked incredulous. That didn’t sound like something they would do.
“Yup.” She nodded eagerly. “All the gang came to meet us in Phoenix afterward to dance all night long.” She looked up at him brightly. “Oh, and ‘I Shall Believe’ was our song.”
“You love that song.” He smiled in remembrance.
“Yeah.” She said sadly. “I asked the future version of you for my wedding dance before he disappeared, since I was never gonna have the real thing.” She added quietly. “And we danced to ‘I Shall Believe’ right out there,” she pointed towards her balcony.
“And that’s when he disappeared?” Max asked.
Liz nodded, tears had appeared in her eyes as she recalled the memory of suddenly dancing alone on her balcony under the stars.
Max was still feeling a little jealous of the way Liz talked about his future self. It seemed ridiculous to be jealous of yourself, but there it was.
“But what was he like?” Max pushed her a bit.
Liz looked thoughtful for a second. “He was a lot like you.” They both burst out laughing at the ridiculous statement. “But different too. Rougher. Harder maybe.” She was struggling to find the right words, her brows furrowed in concentration. “He was certainly more irritable.”
“Really?” Max couldn’t really imagine himself hard and irritable.
“Oh, and he wore leather, all leather.” He stared back at her wide-eyed.
“What?” She laughed. “I’m not kidding. Long hair too.”
“You’re making this stuff up.”
“Are too.” He continued the playful banter.
“Am not. Really.” She gave him a long, hard look.
“Okay, so how did I look with long hair in leather?” He smirked at her.
Liz smirked right back at him. “Not half-bad.” They both laughed.
When the laughter died down, Max noticed that Liz stifled a yawn.
“It’s getting late. I’d better let you go.” He looked at Liz with all the love he felt for her shining in his eyes. “Liz, thanks for talking to me about this stuff. I know it probably wasn’t easy for you.”
“Sure, Max. I’m actually glad we did.”
As Max walked home that night, he thought back to his afternoon with Liz. They hadn’t laughed together in so long, he couldn’t remember the last time, but he suspected it was before May. Before she ran down that hill into the desert and out of his life. Little did he know at the time just how far away from him she would actually get. But after today, she seemed just a little bit closer.
Max and Liz tested the waters of their newfound friendship over the ensuing weeks, spending quite a bit of time together. Max still frequented the Crashdown, but could no longer be described as a stalker. Maria now just referred to him as their ‘best customer’ as she pinched his cheek patronizingly for progress made. Diane Evans had been pleased to see her son’s face back around the house and was only too happy to make up for lost time by preparing for him all the new recipes she had tried out in his absence, to Max’s great dismay and Isabel’s amusement. But even the horrible aftertaste that his mother’s Polynesian chicken left in his mouth couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. Things were going too well with Liz, and Max couldn’t be more pleased. Once, he almost did a happy dance, but he decided it really wasn’t his thing. Geez, he was definitely hanging around Maria too much. Was there anything he wouldn’t do for Liz?
Initially they had mostly just started hanging out again as part of the group of six. They sat together at lunch in the quad as they always had. Conversation between Max and Liz had fallen back into the natural ease that the two had always shared. The awkward silences and angry outbursts seemed to be a thing of the past. And the longing stares of days gone by were back. Were they ever! Although Liz’s eyes would always dart away when Max caught her at it. To an outside observer, they probably looked liked a couple of teens just trying to hook up for the first time.
When they went to the movies or out to eat, the gang seemed to naturally fall into couples. Michael and Maria were together, so of course they wanted to sit together, at least when they weren’t at each other’s throats. And Alex and Isabel were in their usual state of whatever it was that they were doing that kept them pinned to one another’s side. This, of course, left Max and Liz. By this time, Max and Liz sat together without a second thought, even before the other couples were seated. Always the gentleman, Max always pulled Liz’s chair out for her, then tucked it in close to his side. And Liz saved Max the seat next to her in the movie theater without a word needing to be spoken about it between them, twisting in her seat and waving to direct him to her side from the aisle. As if he needed her directions. She was like a beacon that called to him, a siren’s song calling him home.
He had taken to starting to walk her home from any evening activity away from the Crashdown. Max told himself it was to ensure that she got home safe. And he was sure that was part of it. But he had begun to really value these small kernels of time he got to spend with her alone. It was the only time he got her all to himself and he loved every second of it. Lately, she had even been inviting him up to her balcony to continue their talk before he had to go. Well, he thought of it as their balcony now. It was becoming a tradition for them. He was almost scared to admit it to himself, but it was beginning to feel almost like a………..date.
“I said NO butter, Spaceboy.” Maria turned around to the row in front of her where Liz was sitting quietly with Max. “Does he ever listen to a word I say? I give him one simple thing to do. Geez!” She complained.
“It hardly has any, Maria.” Michael grumbled and sunk lower in his seat.
Liz shared a knowing smile with Max as they listened to Michael and Maria continue to bicker behind them over the popcorn. They were sitting in a darkened theater waiting for the movie to start. Their arms were touching lightly along the side where they shared an armrest.
“Do you want a sip?” Max held out the soda.
“Not right now. Thanks.” She gave him a small smile, then her eyes lit up with excitement as she leaned in close to his side. “Oh Max. I forgot to tell you. I heard there’s gonna be a Lifehouse concert. We should go.”
Just then, the previews started.
“I’ll tell you later.” She whispered in his ear. Her warm breath hitting his skin gave him gooseflesh. He swallowed hard and nodded at her.
Liz sat low in her seat, reclining to put her knees up on the seat in front of her. As such, her head came very close to Max’s shoulder. A fact of which Max was very well aware. He was always conscious of every movement of her body and its effect on his.
A few minutes later, he felt her warm fingers brush his that were holding the soda. He looked down at her face, surprised.
“Can I have a sip?” She whispered, eyeing the cup.
He sighed and passed her the soda. He couldn’t help but watch mesmerized as she drew the liquid up through the straw slowly, then she seemed to play with the straw absently in her mouth for a minute while she went back to watching the movie intently. Was she trying to drive him crazy?
“Thanks.” She held out the soda to him, but he made a snap decision. As he took the cup from her, he grabbed onto her hand, enfolding it in his larger one and relishing in the warmth and softness of her skin as his fingers brushed over it tenderly. He couldn’t look at her. He knew he had taken a big risk. Well, maybe not. Friends hold hands, don’t they? He stared at the movie screen, unseeing. He could swear he could hear the blood rushing through his veins.
But nothing happened. She didn’t pull back. She didn’t throw a hissy fit. Lightning didn’t strike him down. He turned his head in Liz’s direction and found her looking at him with an odd expression on her face. He couldn’t quite place it. But when the corners of his lips curled into an endearing smile, she couldn’t help but smile back. He moved to intertwine his fingers with hers, bringing their joined hands down to rest on his leg just above his knee. He squeezed her hand once and turned to face front. Max Evans was a happy man. It didn’t last long.
He had walked her home from the movie theater, hand-in-hand. The peanut gallery, also known as their friends, had made several offhanded remarks, but were silenced by a glare from Max that made Alex mumble something about alien death-ray eyes under his breath. Maria speared Liz with a look that clearly said ‘you will call me later to tell me all about this’ in best friend language as Michael dragged her away.
They were standing on her balcony, candles lit all around, getting ready to say good night. And it had been a good night for Max. He felt it was a turning point in their relationship. Finally.
He reached for her hand, picking it up and caressing it tenderly.
“I had a really good time tonight, Liz. Thank you.” He looked deeply into her eyes to make sure she could see the love he held for her.
She looked down nervously, kicking at a loose tile on the floor. “Me too, Max.”
He reached out and pushed back a strand of hair that had fallen forward when she had looked down, tucking it behind her ear. He kept his hand on her cheek caressing it lovingly until she looked up into his warm amber eyes.
When their eyes met, time seemed to stand still for a moment. Max couldn’t resist. He leaned forward slowly, giving Liz time to back away if she wanted, and brought his mouth down to meet hers in a tender kiss. His tongue teased at the seam of her mouth until she opened, granting him entry. Their tongues caressed each other tenderly at first, but quickly built to a heated passion. Their bodies melting together as they clutched at each other desperately. There was so much love, so much need in that kiss, Max knew that he was finally home. They both were. But suddenly Liz pulled back, making Max almost stumble backwards.
“No, Max. I can’t do this. I’m sorry.” Her mournful words all came out in a second.
He caught his balance and struggled to catch his breath.
When he opened his eyes, Liz was already standing at the railing to her balcony, her back to him, her head was bent low, but it was clear from the subtle shaking of her shoulders that she was crying.
“Liz.” Max said gently, coming over to her slowly and touching her arm. When she didn’t respond, he said it again. “Liz?”
“I’m sorry, Max.” She looked up at him with bloodshot teary eyes. “I’m not ready for this.”
“Why not?” He looked at her with genuine concern.
“I’m just not ready to trust you yet.” She sobbed at him.
Max gave her a pointed look. “Not ready to trust me? What’s it gonna take, Liz?” His tone was beyond frustrated.
“I don’t know.” She said defeatedly, looking back down to her feet.
“You know Liz,” his voice was strong, challenging, “I don’t think this has anything to do with you not trusting me. I think it has everything to do with punishing me for what happened.” He speared her with a look that said he knew exactly what she was doing.
“I don’t want to punish you, Max.” Liz protested weakly.
“Are you sure about that?” He came up close to her face, their eyes met, searching deeply into one another’s for answers.
“Then how come you never told me that you forgave me for what happened with Tess?”
Liz glanced to the floor, unable to continue to meet Max’s penetrating gaze. “Is that important?” She said quietly.
He tilted her chin up so that she was forced to look him in the eye. “You tell me, Liz.”
“Just be my friend, Max.” Her eyes, swimming with unshed tears, pleaded with him to leave this alone.
“Liz,” he sighed as he took her hand tenderly in both of his larger ones, turning it over as he spoke earnestly. “I’m not your friend. I’m the man who loves you with all of his heart.” Tears started to pool in the corners of his own eyes. “I love you more than my own life. I live for you, Liz, and I would die for you. But I want you to understand, I am not your friend. I never was, from the very first day I got off that schoolbus in the third grade, I fell in love with you. You’re my heart.” His voice had started to crack as the tears crept down his cheeks.
“But we’ve been friends for the past month.” She pleaded with him in desperation.
“No, Liz.” He shook his head as his tears continued to fall. “Just like you told me that even when we’re not together, I’m a part of you and everything you do.” He took a shaky breath and continued, looking straight into her eyes to make his point. “Even though we haven’t been together, we’re lovers or soulmates, never friends. This always had to be leading back to us.” He dropped her hand and cupped her chin, lifting it. “I know you love me, Liz. Tell me this is leading somewhere.”
She didn’t respond, just continued crying, seeming overwhelmed.
He sighed, and dropped his hand from her chin. He walked to her ladder, pausing at the top to say his final words to her. “I can’t be your friend, Liz. I love you too much for that.” He looked down for a minute to collect himself. “And I always will. I’m not going anywhere, but you’re punishing both of us at this point. Throwing away the rest of our lives.” He was shaking his head as his tears fell, frustrated at not knowing how to convince her. “If Tess doesn’t come back, that may not be very long.”
She was standing there crying, not moving to say anything or stop him from leaving.
“You know where to find me.” He said in a gravelly voice.
She finally spoke. “Will you be here when I’m ready?” Her voice was so soft it almost sounded like a small child.
“I’ll always be here for you.” He looked at her longingly to let her know that he meant every word and stared at her to memorize her every feature, as if he wouldn’t be seeing her again. It was more symbolic than anything else. He sighed and slowly, rung by rung, climbed down the ladder and into the night.
“I’m sorry.” she whispered, not sure if he could still hear her.
Max hit the rewind button on the answering maching for the fourth time in as many minutes. He was listening to the last message that Liz had left him on the night of their kiss over and over. There was nothing special about it, just her casually arranging to meet him at the movie theater at seven o’clock, but it was the only tape of her angelic voice that he had, and right now he wanted, no needed, to hear it. It was like getting a fix for a drug addict. It soothed his soul.
The last couple of weeks had been hell for Max. Not that he regretted a word that he said, he didn’t. He was beginning to understand that if he hadn’t done anything about their situation, Liz could have gone on indefinitely with him by her side in the name of ‘friendship’. She had been so hurt by what happened with Tess, in a way, it was almost easier for her to keep the most important part of herself closed off from him. And while he’d been following her around like a puppy dog, she had no motivation to ever work past that pain and anger. So he felt no choice but to withdraw from her, plunging them both back into a lonely hell, ironically as the only hope for a future together. And Max Evans didn’t believe in many things. He wasn’t a religious man, an atheist if anything, but he had absolute faith that Liz Parker would find her way back to him. Whatever it was in the universe that would send an alien from some other galaxy to some small desert town in New Mexico just to find his other half wouldn’t be so cruel as to let him know what it is to love so completely only to lose it. No. It didn’t make any sense otherwise. He had to believe in it. It’s what got him through the days without her.
He punched the play button on the answering machine.
“That earring is gonna be perfect for your fourth hole.” Maria said excitedly.
Liz looked self-consciously into the mirror in the mall, craning her neck to see better. “I’m not sure it’s me, Maria.”
Maria wrapped her arm around her best friend’s shoulders, squeezing slightly.
“Chica, what happened to the new you? Remember?” Maria asked trying to pick her friend up from her sour mood.
Liz gave Maria a look that said in no uncertain terms ‘you should know better than to ask that’.
“Oh yeah. Max happened.” Maria said tiredly, with a small undercurrent of sarcasm. “Let’s go.” She added taking her friend’s arm, seeing that Liz wasn’t interested in the earrings, or anything else for that matter. Liz had become increasingly subdued since Max had withdrawn from her. The light that had always shone through her huge chocolate eyes seemed to almost literally flicker out. And yet, she had adamantly refused to talk about why she and Max were avoiding each other again.
“Liz,” Maria abruptly stopped walking to turn and look her friend pointedly. “Why don’t you just go back to him already?”
It took Liz a moment to compose herself to answer the question, which had taken her by surprise.
“I can’t, okay?” She sounded frustrated and turned her back on Maria to hide the tears that had sprung up. They always seemed to be hiding just under the surface lately.
“No. Not okay.” Maria took command of the situation as only she could. She grabbed Liz gently by the shoulders and spun her around to face her. “Why not?”
“Ma-ri-a.” Liz whined.
“Li-iz.” Maria parodied her.
Liz gave up. She could never win with Maria. “I just can’t trust him, o-kay?”
Maria’s face drew back with a puzzled frown. “Can’t trust him?” Her voice had risen with incredularity. “Is that what this is about? You have got to be kidding me.” Maria put her hands on her hips.
Liz pinned Maria with a glare that said that if she continued this, their friendship was at risk or some other equally ridiculous threat. Of course, that didn’t stop Hurricane Deluca, who knew better than to take Liz seriously.
“Liz, do you not see the way the man looks at you?” She paused for dramatic effect. “Sometimes I wonder if he’s gonna melt all the lockers in the school.” Her tone softened. “And it’s not lust either. That boy is in love.” She looked to Liz to see if any of this was making an impact.
Liz sighed. “Love has nothing to do with it, Maria.”
Maria stomped over to where Liz was standing. “Love has everything to do with it. Open your eyes, Liz. He made a mistake. It was a MISTAKE.”
“Don’t you think I know that?” Liz said in frustration as she let loose her angry tears. “Don’t you think I want to let it go?” She looked at the ground as her tears cascaded down her cheeks. “I don’t know how, Maria.”
Maria enveloped the shaking form of her tiny friend in her arms, allowing the throngs of people wandering the mall to walk past the two girls standing there, rocking gently.
Max ran in from the dining room as soon as he heard the phone ring, not even bothering to excuse himself from the table. In the past hour or so, he had developed an incredibly anxious feeling, like butterflies dancing in the pit of his stomach. He couldn’t place it. He had asked Isabel if she sensed anything odd, but she hadn’t, so it probably wasn’t an alien thing. Which is why he was panicking, because the only other time he remembered feeling even remotely like this was the day that Nasedo kidnapped Liz, one of the worst days in his life. He had already tried to call her, three times, but she wasn’t home, or at the Crashdown. He tried to soothe himself listening to her outgoing message on the answering machine and decided he had finally lost it. Gone crazy. It had to happen eventually with everything that had been going on. So he forced himself to act normal, failing miserably. All throughout dinner he hardly touched his food and his mother had commented on his trembling hands when they were causing his fork to ping annoyingly against the china. He laughed it off as too much coffee in preparation for a chemistry exam in the morning, but with his short, tight laugh, and the sheen of sweat marking his brow, he doubted anyone believed him. When the phone rang, he took off out of his seat like a bat out of hell.
“Liz?” His voice was breathless, desperate. He could only hear crying coming through the receiver.
“No, Max.” Sniffle. “It-It’s me. Maria.” Her shaky, sobbing voice only served to confirm Max’s worst fears. Something had happened to Liz. He felt himself fall bonelessly down to the bed, his knees refusing to keep him upright, still gripping the phone in his hand, his knuckles turning white with the effort.
“Max, you have to come down to the hospital.” Sniffle. His heart was beating wildly in his chest and he could swear that he could see pictures of Liz flashing before his eyes. He still had been unable to utter a word, his chest felt so constricted it was hard to breathe. “Liz and I were com-coming back from the mall and we had a ca-car accident.”
Max managed to gasp out. “Is she okay?” It came out as a hoarse whisper. His very life depended upon the answer to those three words.
Maria’s sobbing increased, causing the constriction on Max’s chest to tighten, like a belt slowly squeezing the very life from him. Maria finally managed to say. “I don’t know, Max. She’s unconscious.”
Max dropped the phone, not replacing it in its cradle, and ran furiously out of the house to the jeep, ignoring all the insistent questions from Isabel and his parents that the tears tracking down his face brought on.
Maria heard him before she saw him, his feet pounding the floor heavily at a dead run. Barely slowing down when an older nurse yelled at him, called him ‘Sonny’, and sternly told him that someone his age should know better. That it was inappropriate to run in an emergency room and that she ought to call security. She knew who it was before she lifted her head from her hands.
“Max.” She saw his head snap over toward her and she was struck by the look of desperation and utter terror haunting his usually beautiful eyes, the wetness on his cheeks, and the subtle shaking of his hands. He jogged over to her and grabbed her upper arms somewhat roughly.
“Where is she?” His voice came out hoarse.
“They have her in the back, Max.” Maria started sobbing again, looking down at the washed-out linoleum floor. “I don’t know if she’s gonna be okay.”
Max lightly shook her arms which he was still holding. “Maria. Not now.” He looked her seriously in the eye as she lifted her head. “You can’t fall apart now. Liz needs you.”
Maria looked at him, puzzled.
“Have they already done tests? A CAT scan? What?” He was firing questions at her a mile a minute.
Maria suddenly realized that he wanted to heal Liz. She launched herself at Max, flying into his arms. “You can help Lizzie.” She whispered, hope in her voice for the first time since the accident.
Max held Maria for just a moment, stroking her back with his open palm in big wide circles soothingly, then said. “Not if we keep wasting time.” She pulled back, still in the circle of his arms, just far enough to see his face. “Maria, I need you to distract them so I can get to her.”
“Agent Deluca at your service.” She said mockingly. Max gave her a look that said this was no time to joke. Maria rubbed his arm reassuringly. “Don’t worry. Michael and I do spy stuff all the time. I’m a master of deception.” She turned, just walking a few feet and turned back just long enough to whisper. “You’ll know when the coast is clear.”
He nodded grimly, hoping beyond hope they would get to Liz in time.
His heart clenched at the sight of her, lying on a stretcher in torn and bloody clothes, angry purple bruises covering the face of his dreams. But to see the rise and fall of her chest in a steady rhythm, nothing had ever looked more beautiful to Max in his entire life. He walked up to her slowly as if he might disturb her. It just looked like she was sleeping, and how he wished she was. He carefully brushed the hair off her face and placed a tender kiss on her forehead, resting his cheek against it for a moment and closing his eyes, breathing in her unique scent, and just enjoying the feel of the warmth of her skin to reassure himself that she was indeed alive and still with him.
He knew he didn’t have that much time, so he moved to cup his hands around her cheeks, trying to avoid the worst of the bruises, then threaded his fingers slightly through the hair at her temples as he had done so long before during their very first connection in the Crashdown. He knew it would be difficult with her being unconscious so he tried to focus on all he knew to be his Liz. Finally, he was in. He found a broken blood vessel putting pressure on her brain. He tried not to panic, a futile effort, but his desperate need to have her by his side allowed him to go about repairing the artery and the surrounding tissue damage. As he was about to pull out, he felt her. Her presence was weak, but it was definitely her. He would know her anywhere. The warm sensation of her presence was like the feeling of sunshine on one’s skin after a cold night. His relief was palpable, flooding through his body like a balm.
She could understand automatically what he was doing there through the connection.
Liz woke up in her bedroom safely esconced in two strong, familiar arms, with a firm chest for a pillow. She hadn’t slept so well in a long time. She vaguely remembered being discharged from the hospital, the physicians surprised by her quick recovery, but just calling it a concussion, and telling her to get plenty of rest, which Max assured them that she would. He had been so protective of her, she would never forget that look in his eyes. It was something like a cross between desperation and possessiveness. And love, most definitely love. He had insisted on carrying her out to his car and had not left her side since. Her parents were at a restaurant convention in Albuquerque, so there was no one to else to play nursemaid anyway, not that she would have chosen another. She had mostly been sleeping since she got home. The one time she had woken up, her main concern seemed to be looking for a silver handprint, to Max’s great amusement. She was actually more concerned about his welfare than her own, that the doctors could have become suspicious of something fishy.
She lifted her head and found two warm amber eyes focused directly on her, as she knew they would be.
“How are you feeling?” His voice was full of concern.
Liz smiled up at Max. “A little sore, but thanks to you, pretty good overall.”
Max reached out and traced some of the bruises on her cheeks softly with the backs of his knuckles. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t fix everything.” He said quietly. “The doctors, they had already seen you.”
“Max. No.” She couldn’t believe he was feeling guilty. Liz cupped his cheek as she spoke from her heart. “You saved my life.” She smiled. “Again.”
He leaned his face into her palm, nuzzling it against her warm skin and closing his eyes to bask in her closeness. Then put his hand over hers on his cheek, holding it in place. “Liz. I was so scared. I can’t lose you.” His voice was a whisper, full of undisguised need.
“You won’t lose me, Max.” She felt tears come to her eyes.
“I love you so much, Liz.” His voice broke as he said it, realizing he had come so close to losing the most precious thing in his life.
“I know.” She caressed his jaw, her fingertips gently running over the stubble that had grown in while he’d been tending to her. She inched up on the bed, closer to his face to continue. “Max, when you healed me, I could feel how much you love me and how frightened you were.” Her eyes, swimming with unshed tears, communicated to him how moved she was by the shared experience. “Max, remember in the locker room last year when you saw my fantasy and you told me how you never thought anyone could ever really feel that way about you?” She just went on, not waiting for him to respond, as the tears started falling from her eyes. “Before the shooting last year, I never thought someone like you could be interested in someone like me.” She laughed through her tears as she said her next words. “I know you don’t realize this, Max, but all the girls thought you were so hot, my very own Adonis.” She patted his cheek as he blushed at her to the tips of his ears. Then her voice got whisper soft, and she ducked her head down. “And I was just plain old Liz Parker, nothing special, you know?” She took a peek back up into his eyes to see if she was making herself understood.
“No-” Max started.
“Let me say it, Max.” She gentled her voice. “Please, before I lose my nerve.”
She gently rubbed one finger over his lips to silence the further protest she sensed he was about to make, smiling slightly when he kissed it sweetly. “And when you wanted to be with me, I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy, I never told you about how I had felt.” She looked down as more tears sprung up. “It might never have come up again except for what happened with Tess.” She took his hand in her own at seeing the pained expression that crossed his face at the mention of what he’d done. She didn’t want him to feel guilty, as a matter of fact, that was the last thing she wanted at this point, but she needed to make him understand. “Max, it just threw me right back into that mess all over again. And what you said on my roof that night. You were right, Max. But punishing you, that was just a small part of it.” She squeezed his hand and held it tight. “See, you had earned back my trust. It wasn’t you that I didn’t trust, it was me. I didn’t trust that someone like you, you know,” she looked down again for a second. “As amazing as you, could really love someone like me the way you did.”
“Liz-” Max croaked out.
“No, please, just let me finish.” She had taken her other hand and was playing absently with his hair, and as she continued speaking she focused on his hair instead of his eyes. “And add to that that you were the King of some alien planet and I’m just some girl from some nowhere town in New Mexico.” She shook her head. “It was all just too much.” She then looked straight into his eyes as her eyes lit up, shining with an almost blinding excitement. “But when I saw inside of you in the hospital.” She smiled in utter amazement. “Max, it was so” she sighed with a dreamy look on her face. “So beautiful. And the love you have for me just,” she struggled to find the right word, “I don’t know,” she shook her head in frustration, wanting so badly to tell him about it. Then figuring it out, she looked straight into his eyes, her own shining with undisguised love and unshed tears. “I guess I was awed by it. Max, you just love me so much.”
Max was so choked up, he could hardly pull his thoughts together, let alone speak. He drew in a deep breath before he started, reaching out with shaky fingers to graze Liz’s cheekbone.
“Liz.” His voice came out as a hoarse whisper, leading him to clear his throat before he continued. “I do love you so much, more than you’ll ever know. But you’ve got everything else all backwards, baby. All those years that I loved you from a distance, I never thought I would be lucky enough to really have you in my life.” She looked down as her tears spilled over at his sweet words and he moved his hand to gently lift her chin, bringing her eyes back up to meet his. He gently wiped her tears away with a shaky finger. “I consider every day that you’re with me a gift. The danger that being with me brings,” he shook his head, “it isn’t fair to expose you to that. It never was.” He looked down for a second to try to compose himself. He took her hand again, turning it over and rubbing the inside of her wrist with his thumb. “But Liz, I realized a long time ago that I love you too much to let you go.” His voice broke as his own tears fell. He met her eyes again. “I don’t deserve you in my life, but I can’t be without you. When I thought I might lose you-” He stopped midsentence because he started sobbing too much to continue.
She reached up and enfolded him in her arms, as he buried his face in the crook of her neck. “Shh. It’s okay, Max. You won’t lose me.” She whispered softly as she caressed his back. “Shh.”
“God Liz, I was so scared.” He cried into her neck, clutching her desperately.
“Me too.” She whispered, as her tears fell as well. “But mostly I was scared that I would never get a chance to tell you how much I love you, Max.” When Max’s crying finally slowed down, he pulled back, and to her surprise, finally settled himself back a couple of feet from her on the bed.
He saw her hurt face and quickly said with a small smile, the best he could manage through his tears. “I need to say something and I can’t think straight with you in my arms.” He relaxed when he saw her blush and reached for her hand, feeling like he’d lose his mind if he didn’t touch at least some part of her at that moment. “About the Tess thing, Liz, I can’t tell you enough times how sorry I am.” His expression darkened with his words.
“Max-” She tried to stop him.
“Let me get this out, okay?” Liz reluctantly nodded. “To think of how I hurt you, it kills me.” His voice cracked and the tears started spilling down his cheeks again.
“Max,” she squeezed his hand. “I know that.” She said gently. He looked at her, surprised. “The connection, remember?”
They locked tearful gazes for an intense moment. Then she slowly, deliberately pulled herself up on the bed, needing to be closer to him, never taking her eyes off his as she moved. Anticipation and need was growing in the air between them as their emotions ran so high. Before she knew it, his lips came crashing down on hers hungrily, drinking from her mouth like a man who had been parched in a desert. Their tongues dueled back and forth, slowing down at times to a sweet caress, or gentle sucking, and then escalating back to a heated frenzy. Suddenly, he flipped her over so he was lying on top of her on the bed, his body pressing insistently into her own. It was the only home he had ever known. Her arms wrapped around his neck and her hands started combing through his hair, one stopping to toy with the short hairs at the nape of his neck. His hands moved down from cradling her face to roam down her sides, familiarizing himself again with her curves. He pulled back from her for a second, his hands still on her hips, and spoke breathlessly as he stared down into her beautiful brown eyes that he loved so much.
“Liz, you have to know that I’ll never let you go again.”
She smiled sweetly up at him and traced her pinky lightly across his brow. “What is it you keep saying to me, Max?” Her expression grew serious so that he would know she meant every word. “I’ll always be here.” She reached her lips back up to meet his.
For the following ten days, Max and Liz became inseparable. They seemed to have eyes only for each other. Holding hands, sneaking kisses, spending virtually every waking hour together, and most sleeping ones too. Yes, Max would sneak up through Liz’s balcony after her parents had gone to sleep and crawl into bed with his love. They held each other all night long, his chin resting atop her head contentedly. They had decided to take the physical side of their relationship slowly, after everything that had happened between them. To say it was a strain to hold out was an understatement, cold showers had become a routine for Max each morning upon arriving home through his window. But nothing felt as right as holding Liz in his arms, and he knew the rest would follow soon. He could feel Liz opening up to him more each day like the petals of a flower in the warm sun, and just as beautiful. It was just a matter of time, and she was well worth the wait.
Their friends were having great fun at their expense. In truth, everyone was relieved to see Max and Liz finally work out their differences, but as always, the two of them were so sappy together, it was just too good an opportunity to pass up. Max got called ‘whipped’ on more than one occasion, and they were often told to get a room. They took the good-natured teasing in stride. It seemed nothing could bring them down from their cloud nine, but no relationship was a fairy tale and, as had happened so often in the past to Max and Liz, reality rudely reared its ugly head. As usual, it was blonde.
“M-Max” She moaned as he placed hot, wet kisses down her neck, sucking gently at the hollow of her throat before moving slowly across her collarbone. They were trying to keep from waking her parents, asleep in the next room. Liz was straddling his hips, wearing a white tank top held up by spaghetti straps, one now falling down her arm in a way that Max found incredibly sexy, and drawstring pajama pants. The white cotton fabric of her shirt was thin, virtually see-through, giving him just a hint of the treasure that lay under it. Her nipples were straining at the fabric, pulling it tight across her bust, the faint rosy color of her nipples that was visible through it arousing him beyond belief. Max was bare-chested, wearing only the sweatpants he planned to sleep in. His hands were on her back, enjoying the smooth skin he found under her tank and the gentle curve of her behind. Liz’s were fisted in his hair, clutching him to her.
She brought his lips back to hers, desperate for his kiss. Their mouths met hungrily. Max was fueled on by the small sounds Liz was making in the back of her throat. He removed his hand from her back and tentatively moved up over her shirt, up her side, past her rib cage to her breast, palming it softly. When he felt Liz increase the pressure of her kiss into his mouth, he dared to move the pad of his thumb to her nipple, instantly feeling it harden more under his touch, amazed at her responsiveness to him. He could feel himself getting hard. Damn. He knew she wanted to go slow and he didn’t want to scare her. All he wanted was to take her right then and there. But he loved her too much for that, so he tried to will his body under control. Liz wasn’t helping the situation any. She had started moaning into his mouth and arching her back, pressing her breast further into his hand. He could hear her ragged breathing and wondered if he should stop things. But then she kissed him across his jawline and started sucking on his earlobe, then sensuously licking the outer edge and he lost that train of thought entirely, instead moving down to kiss her breasts through her shirt.
She grabbed his shoulders and started rocking gently against his hardness. The sensation was almost too much. All thoughts of stopping flew out of his head. Liz buried her face in his neck, nipping and sucking her way down, marking him as she went. She worked her way down to his nipples, peeking her pink tongue out for a tiny taste before closing her mouth over one and suckling gently. Max, overwhelmed, had to close his eyes as she moved to the other side. He had started to thrust upward helplessly to meet her hips, and though almost fully clothed, the two became caught up in a delirious rhythm, his hands guiding her hips to him. As their breath became more ragged, their moans became louder. It’s amazing that Liz’s parents didn’t wake up. Soon, the pace of the rocking increased to a frenzy as they neared their completion.
“Liz, baby.” Max groaned out breathlessly. “Liz. I want to be able to see you.” She now had her head buried in the crook of his neck. She lifted it at his heartfelt request.
They stared into each other’s eyes, both blazing with passion, and shining with love, as they finally came apart in each other’s arms. Liz collapsed onto Max’s chest bonelessly. His arms were around her in a second as he placed a tender kiss to the top of her head.
“God Liz, I love you so much.” He whispered hoarsely.
She nodded against his chest.
He picked up his head, searching for her eyes, worrying that he had pushed her too fast. “Are you okay?”
She didn’t move, didn’t meet his gaze. He could feel her warm tears hitting his bare chest.
“Liz?” He moved his fingers through her hair softly. “I didn’t mean to push you into anything that you didn’t-”
“No, Max.” She interrupted him, her voice cracking with emotion, looking at him with eyes swimming with tears. “You don’t understand. Being with you, it was so beautiful.” She reached up to kiss him softly on the lips and then ran her finger softly over his bottom lip, sensuously, allowing him to suck it into his mouth.
“No, you’re beautiful, my Liz.” He reached his lips out to meet hers.
“Hey.” Liz walked up to the lunch table and gave Max a sweet kiss on the lips. “Is there room for me?”
“There’s always room for you.” Max patted his lap and Liz smiled shyly before taking him up on his offer. They started making out at the lunch table.
“Excuse me. Do you mind? Some people are eating here.” Michael spat out sarcastically until Maria punched his arm. “Hey. What’d you do that for?” He said in irritation.
“It’s romantic. Look it up in the dictionary, Spaceboy.”
“That’s not romantic, that’s nauseating.” Michael grumbled.
“Oh, and you’re Captain Romance, huh?” Maria said indignantly.
“I got you, didn’t I?” Michael smirked at her.
Meanwhile Max and Liz were ignoring the bickering, it was such constant background noise, and they had eyes only for each other, caught up in their own little world.
Max would slowly lean in for a soft, sensual kiss, barely brushing his lips over hers and teasing her for only a moment with his tongue. Just when she wanted more he would pull back quickly to gaze long and hard into her eyes. He would then whisper something, all as he cupped her chin gently, then start the whole process all over. It was incredibly erotic.
“I missed you.”
“Me too, Max.”
“Meet me later?”
“Um, Guys. Not that you care, but we’re leaving.” Maria laughed as she and Michael got up from the table.
They couldn’t get enough of each other. Physically, emotionally, in anyway, their appetites seemed only to be growing. Max was lying on top of Liz on the hard wooden plank of a bleacher, sighing as he buried his head in her hair and inhaled her sweet vanilla scent, hoping that it would tide him over until he could hold her again, touch her again, but knowing it would only be a poor substitute.
He kissed her hair, mumbling “I love you” and grabbed her hand to help her up. She looked beautifully ravaged, her hair tousled, her lips swollen from his kisses, her cheeks marked slightly with whisker burns. He wanted to burn this moment into his memory forever. Of course, it wouldn’t do for her to return to class in her present state, and he couldn’t tolerate any separation from her that a detention might bring, or worse, a call to her parents, so he reluctantly used his powers to erase any signs of what they had been up to.
She reached for his hand after he ran it over her face, kissing his palm tenderly. “I love you, Max.” She smiled up at him earnestly.
He traced her cheek with the backs of his knuckles gently. “And I love you.” He grabbed her hand, knowing they had to get back.
As they reached the entrance to the school hand-in-hand, they spotted a familiar face. They found themselves both stopping dead in their tracks, the name falling off their lips simultaneously as they felt their world tilt on its axis. Again.
|posted on 30-Aug-2001 11:34:11 PM|
She looked them up and down appraisingly, finally ending her cool stare on their joined hands. Liz attempted to drop her hand from Max’s, but he quickly found hers again and tugged it back into his own. Tess watched the struggle with an irritated expression on her face.
“Max.” She said, looking pointedly into his eyes, her own light blue eyes darkening in anger. “Liz.” She added with a quick dismissive glance. She attempted to walk right past them into the entrance of the school.
Max reached out to grab her arm.
She spun on her heel in fury. “DON’T TOUCH ME!” He backed up a few feet, holding his hands out in front of him, palms forward, as if to say he meant no harm.
“Tess-” Max started gently.
“No, Max. We have nothing to say to each other.” He could see tears were forming in her eyes.
“Tess, I’m sorry, but we have to talk.”
“No Max, it’s clear where your priorities are, just as it was the night I left.” She sneered as she cocked her head in Liz’s direction.
“Max. You two need to talk alone. I’ll just go.” Liz tried to pull her hand from Max’s again to start walking away. “Tess, I am so glad you’re back.” She plastered on her best fake smile. Tess seemed floored. Max still wouldn’t let go of Liz’s hand despite her pleading with her eyes for him to let her go.
“We are glad you came back, Tess. This is your home.” Max said. Tess was eyeing the struggle between the two with interest.
“Ma-ax” Liz whined in a whisper. “I really think you need to handle this on your own.” She pulled her hand forcibly from his, not giving him any further choice in the matter, and nervously looked him in the eye before she turned away.
“So, maybe I’ll just see you later?” Liz’s voice sounded unnaturally high-pitched, shaky. She had backed up a few feet, so he ran over to her, not willing to let her leave him that way, especially with Tess watching, now with a smug expression on her face.
He cupped her cheeks tenderly and brought his face only inches from her own before he whispered. “You’ll most definitely see me later. You can’t get rid of me that easily,” with an endearing smile on his face. When he saw the corners of her mouth relax into a smile, he kissed her tenderly before letting her go. He stood there to watch her enter the building, Liz glancing back only once, before he turned back to Tess.
“So I see nothing’s changed.” Tess said in irritation as soon as Max faced her. “You’re still ignoring our destiny. Not that I should have expected anything else.” She clucked her tongue sarcastically. “So what do you want, Max?” Her tone had grown bitter.
“Not here, let’s find somewhere private.” He looked pensive for a second. “The eraser room.”
“Your human might not like that.” She mock flirted with him.
“Tess.” He cautioned her in a grave tone.
“Fine.” She said in a clipped way and stalked off to lead the way.
“This is not how I imagined our first time in the eraser room, Max.” Tess said in a sarcastic flirty tone as she jumped up on a shelf to sit down. “And as the other woman too.” She giggled. Max glared at her from the doorway.
“Does she know? About us, I mean.” Tess raised her eyebrows suggestively.
“Yes, she knows everything, Tess. We love each other.” He looked at her in all seriousness. That seemed to take her by surprise, she quickly averted her eyes. As he came fully through the door and closed it behind him, he sighed, rubbing his hand tiredly over his eyes before finding the words to begin.
“Tess, I’ve learned about how important it is that you stay here in Roswell.”
“Little old me? Important?” Tess went back to her sarcasm.
“I’m serious, Tess.”
He explained about Future Max and the events of the last few weeks. Tess listened intently but didn’t say a word. When he was finished he waited for her reaction. He didn’t get one. As a matter of fact, she seemed to be intent on examining a chip in her nail polish.
“Um?” She didn’t lift her head.
“This is serious. Do you understand how important your role in this is?”
“I heard you, Max.” She sounded indifferent.
“So?” Max held his breath waiting for her answer.
She finally lifted her head and met his gaze, her own eyes suddenly blazing. “So? SO? So, doesn’t this tell YOU anything, Max?” She slowly, deliberately lifted herself off the counter and approached Max one step at a time. “Doesn’t this finally get it through your thick head once and for all that we’re meant to be?” She brought her face within an inch of his own. “For God’s sake, Max. If we’re not together, the whole goddamn world ends.”
“NO TESS.” He backed up a few paces almost involuntarily and shook his head frantically. “We don’t have to be together like THAT. Just together as a fighting unit.” He leveled a pointed look at her with his eyes. “It’s not going to happen. I love Liz.”
“Then why exactly did you sleep with me?”
God. If he could only take back that one night. It always came back to that. “It’s complicated, Tess.” He sighed and tried to soften his voice. “I don’t want to get into a struggle with you about this. It’s not going to happen again. Ever.” He walked over to her and touched her shoulder. “But I would like us to be friends. There are only the four of us on the whole planet. Please, Tess.”
She shook off his arm and looked up sharply at him. “I have enough friends. Besides, destiny didn’t plan for us to be friends, Max.”
She stormed to the door.
“So will you stay in Roswell?” He pleaded with her retreating figure.
She waited before responding. The air in the room was thick with tension. The fate of the world was hanging in the balance. “Yes, Max. I’ll stay. I’m not as selfish as you are. I’m going to fulfill my duty to our people.” She spun on her heel and faced him. “But that also means that I’m not giving up on us. It’s our duty, Max.” He could see that her eyes were swimming with unshed tears.
“I don’t believe that.” He said quietly. “Don’t waste your life waiting for me, Tess. You have too much to offer someone.”
The tears had started tracking down her cheeks, taking her mascara with them. She swiped at them with the back of her hand. Her voice suddenly got small. “If you believed that, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Would we?” She slipped out the door before he could respond.
Max leaned against the wall and slowly sunk down to the floor, tears pooling in his own eyes, as he couldn’t help but think about how many lives he had irreparably damaged, all in one fateful night.
“So. How’d it go?” Her big, brown eyes were searching his for the answers. In truth, she had been looking everywhere for him since she left Max and Tess alone for the “Talk”. She hadn’t been able to sit still in her creative writing class and had combed the hallways between periods, fruitlessly waiting by Max’s locker until after the bell rang. He never showed. She ended up being late for gym. Michael and Isabel hadn’t seen him either. To say she had been getting anxious was an understatement. Now they were sitting in the jeep after school. Max felt distant, not quite meeting her eyes. She had a feeling it didn’t go as they’d hoped.
“Fine.” His tone was clipped. He leaned in for a kiss.
She gave him a peck, and pushed him away. “Max.” She pleaded quietly. “I know something’s wrong.” He looked down. “Please.” She touched his arm gently. “No more secrets, remember?”
He nodded with his eyes closed and drew in a deep breath.
“Is she not going to stay?”
He was quick to reassure her, grabbing her hand in both of his. “No, no. That’s not it. She’s staying in Roswell.” He caressed her tiny hand between his own, enjoying the warmth of having her near him after this afternoon’s experience.
“Then what, Max?” Her eyes were wide as she took her other hand out and lightly cupped his cheek. She could feel his distress coming off of him in waves and wanted to soothe him. He leaned his face into her hand, closing his eyes for a moment.
He opened his eyes before he started. “It’s just-” He looked at her lovingly as he squeezed the hand he was still holding. “It’s just that she hasn’t given up on destiny, Liz.” He saw the look of panic that marred her beautiful features and started talking a mile a minute to reassure her. “But honey, it doesn’t matter. I told her that I love you and that nothing would ever happen. And that she shouldn’t waste her life waiting for me.” He grabbed Liz into a bear hug and started whispering his reassurances into her ear. “It’s going to be okay. We’re together and nothing can change that. Especially not Tess.” He kissed her earlobe tenderly and clutched onto her for dear life. When Liz didn’t say anything, he felt tears start to form in his eyes. “Please Liz, tell me it’s going to be okay.” He pulled back, holding her shoulders to look at her. Her eyes were swimming with tears.
She couldn’t speak, so she just nodded at him for a moment, her eyes crinkled, trying to hold back her tears and be strong for him.
“We-We’ll be o-okay, M-Max. I lo-love you to-too much to let anything ge-get in the wa-way of it. I’m just scared of wh-what she’ll do.” She reached up to cup his cheek.
Max pulled her back into his embrace, crushing her against him and the gear shift between them. “Don’t worry. Together, our love is stronger than her or anything else.” He felt her nod against his shoulder.
“Did you feel anything when you saw her?”
He pulled out of the hug to look her in the eye. “Anything like what?”
Liz ducked her head down shyly. “You know.”
He took his finger and gently lifted her chin to force her to meet his eyes straight on. “Liz.” His voice came out a hoarse whisper. “That could never happen. I thought you understood how much I love you.”
“I do.” She whispered back as her tears coursed down her cheeks. “I’m just being stupid. Forget it.” She shook her head.
He leaned in to lightly kiss the tears off of her eyelids, then her cheeks, and finally her nose. Staying very close to her face, he said. “No secrets, remember?” He smiled at her, trying to lighten her mood. “You have to promise to tell me when you feel that way.”
She reluctantly nodded and managed a weak smile as she said. “Have I told you how much I love you today?”
He smiled at her and shook his head. “I don’t think so. Another secret you’ve been keeping?” He then kissed her forehead, keeping his lips pressed there for a long time as he whispered back. “I love you too. Always.”
Max could feel Liz’s eyes on him as he sat through lunch. And it wasn’t the usual stare-into-my-eyes-soulmate-thing as Maria always liked to tease them either. How he wished it was. No, for the past couple of days she seemed to be watching him intently to see if he even glanced at Tess, who ironically seemed to spend almost the entire lunch period, and any other opportunity, to fix her heated stared on one Maxwell Evans. It had him squirming in his seat. The most difficult part about it was that any time he looked up, which was only natural given that Tess was practically eating him up alive, he could read the disappointment all over Liz’s face. It felt like a betrayal. And that’s the last thing it was.
Could he ever win?
Several days later…
“Liz?” His voice was soft, questioning. He had tears in his eyes as he wrapped his arms around her waist and put his chin on her shoulder, nuzzling his head slightly against her hair. “I know something’s wrong. Please tell me.”
They were standing on Liz’s balcony, the early evening desert breeze causing Liz’s full skirt to billow around both of their legs. Max had just climbed up the ladder to find Liz standing there, facing out over the streets of Roswell, though her eyes appeared glazed over, unseeing. He thought her slim silhouette against the setting sun looked beautiful, although there was something haunting about her pose. So far she hadn’t said a word.
“You know that I love you.” He didn’t know what else to say. He kissed her hair tenderly and tightened his grip around her waist, pressing his body flush against hers.
They stood like that for a long time, until Max heard her start speaking so quietly in a whisper that he had to strain to make out her words. He felt a slight chill go through him at the deadpan tone to her voice, it was almost lifeless, so unlike his Liz. He listened intently.
“She told me that you would never be mine, Max. Not really, anyway. She said that we were just playing house and you would eventually come to your senses and realize that you’re not human.” He could feel her shoulders start to shake against him as her composure started to crumble. He spun her around by her waist, pulling her against him in a desperate bone-crushing embrace.
“Liz.” Max could feel his own eyes filling with tears. He whispered hoarsely, desperately. “Why would you listen to anything she says?” He took his hand and smoothed her hair down from the top of her head to the ends soothingly. “You know how much I love you, don’t you?” He could feel her nod weakly against his shoulder. He grabbed her shoulders gently and held her back from him to look her in the eye.
“Then why, Liz?” He cried, his voice sounding unnaturally high-pitched.
She just shook her head, almost in apology for failing him, as more tears fell. She averted her eyes.
“Not good enough.” His voice got strong, demanding as he took a finger and, in contrast to his strong words, gently tilted her chin back up to force her to look at him. “I won’t let Tess or anyone else get between us ever again. Don’t you understand? I love you too much for that.”
She nodded, too overwhelmed to speak for a moment, then launched herself into Max’s arms, clutching him desperately. She whispered through her tears. “I love you so much. It’s not that. I swear.” She cried for a minute. “But it’s like she has a sixth sense or something, Max. Like she knows how to push my buttons.”
He held her tight and rubbed her back, happy to have her back in his arms and even to be sharing in her pain again. Anything was better than having her put up those walls that kept them apart. Nothing scared Max as much as that.
“She doesn’t know anything, baby. She’s just desperate.” He pulled out of the hug to kiss away her tears, first on her eyelids, then on her cheeks and finally on her nose, before he moved to her mouth for a sweet kiss that soon turned passionate and needy. When they finally came up for air, they rested their foreheads against one another’s.
“We’re stronger together, Liz. Please don’t shut me out. Please.” His whisper was a plea.
As she was walking down the hallway, Tess felt an arm snake out and grab her roughly, pulling her into the eraser room. She never saw her assailant’s face.
When the light switched on, Tess found herself facing a very pissed off Maxwell Evans, standing rigidly with his arms crossed over his chest, blocking her exit from the door.
“So, Max. Second visit to the eraser room with another woman. What will little Lizzie think?” Sarcasm seemed to be her modus operandi.
“Stay away from her, Tess.” It was a thinly-veiled threat.
“Or what?” She immediately grew angry. “You’re forgetting that you need me, Max.” She made a grand gesture. “The whole world needs me.”
He walked right up to her and grabbed her collar, drawing her to him. “Just because we need you doesn’t mean that you can get away with whatever the hell you want, Tess. Enough is enough.”
She shook him off and walked to the door. “I’m not the one who got away with anything, Max. YOU are. Besides, I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true.” She stormed out the door, Max hot on her heels.
“Max?” Liz’s eyes were wide and questioning, tears already beginning to form, as she saw Max follow Tess out of the eraser room, both of their faces flushed.
“LIZ!” He was chasing her retreating figure through the hallways. She had taken off not a second after breathing out his name in disbelief when she had misinterpreted seeing he and Tess walking out together from the eraser room. He had called out to her pleadingly, but to no avail. She had just dropped her bookbag where she stood and ran. And ran. And ran. Never looking back once. God, where the hell did she learn to run that fast? As Max passed the girls’ locker room, the bell rang, and suddenly the hallway filled with bodies, making his desperate search feel more like bumper cars than anything else. He could just barely make out the reflection off the top of her shiny chocolate hair about twenty feet ahead of him, exiting out of a pair of double doors toward the football field. The bleachers. He should have known. It was a haven for them. One of their favorite spots, full of memories. He set off right behind her.
He finally caught up to her, pinning her between his body and the side wall of the row of bleachers, the front of his body pressed tightly to her back, bringing his face down into her hair to breathe in her vanilla scent as both of them struggled to catch their breath, unable as yet to speak.
“Let me go.” She finally panted through her tears.
“Never.” His answer was a solemn promise as he nuzzled her head with his cheek. She only fought him slightly. His voice became soft, loving. “Liz, what you think you saw, you didn’t see. I was only telling Tess to stay away from you. That’s all. I swear.”
She didn’t say anything for a minute.
“Really?” She actually sounded a little hopeful.
“Really.” He loosened his hold on her slightly to free his hand to run his fingers through her hair. “You’re the only one for me.” He sighed. “You know that.”
She ducked her head down as her tears fell full force. “God, Max. What’s happening to me?”
He gently took her by her shoulders and turned her around to face him, reaching out with his index finger to lovingly wipe away her tears. “Liz, it’s not just you. I made most of this mess we’re in.” His voice got whisper soft. “But we have to trust each other.” He pleaded. “We have to.”
She nodded through her tears, still keeping her head down. He cupped her chin with his hand, lifting it gently. “If we remember how much we love each other, nothing Tess does can touch us.”
“I do love you, Max, so much.” She cried on a sob. She looked deep into his eyes and he leaned in for a kiss, barely brushing his lips over hers, before pulling back slightly and looking into her eyes again. He leaned in again and applied a little more pressure, teasing her with his tongue until she wrapped her arms around the back of his head, clutching his hair, demanding more from him. She didn’t feel any doubts when she was in his arms. She wished she could stay there forever.
“Hey you.” She looked up at Max, his hair all mussed from sleep, sticking up in about ten different directions. How did he still manage to look perfect to her? His amazing eyes twinkling down at her with such love. She caressed his bare chest, still warm from her head laying there just moments ago in slumber, and drew up onto her knees to bring her lips to his for a sweet kiss.
When they drew apart, he said lazily. “I could get used to waking up like this.”
“You’d better.” She laughed, swatting his arm lightly. She brought her face close to his teasingly. “’Cause I’m the only face you’re ever gonna see in your dreams or in your bed. You got that?” She smiled sultrily at him.
“Oh, I got it, all right.” He turned the tables on her, flipping her over so he was lying on top of her on the bed, Liz giggling all the way. His face over hers suddenly grew serious. “I got you and that’s all I ever want.”
“Max.” She breathed out.
His voice cracked with heartfelt emotion. “I mean it, Liz. You are my dreamgirl and here you are in my arms. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.”
She could see his eyes were swimming with unshed tears. How did she get so lucky to find this man? She cupped his cheek, running her hand over it lightly and then up and over his brow as if to memorize his face. “I’m the lucky one, Max. I never thought I’d have someone like you in my life.”
He reached his finger down to brush it over her lips and shook his head. “You really don’t know how wonderful you are, do you?”
She gazed long and hard into his eyes. “Being with you is making me realize it more each day.”
He met her lips in a soft kiss that soon became hungry, he sucked her tongue into his mouth, their tongues quickly dueling for supremacy. Liz’s hands became fisted in Max’s hair and his cradled her face.
Max kissed across her jawline, snaking his tongue out with warm, wet kisses to her ear and then sucking on her earlobe. This elicited a moan from Liz and caused her to pull Max’s chest down insistently onto her own, grinding slightly. The feel of her soft breasts pushed up against him was indescribable. He nibbled down her neck as she made helpless gurgling noises in the back of her throat that spurred him on.
“Max?” It was the last sound he expected to hear.
“Um.” He didn’t lift his head out of the crook of her neck.
“As much as I would like to continue this,” she giggled. “We’re going to be late for school.”
He hung his head, letting it drift for a moment while he caught his breath, thinking about the cold shower waiting for him when he got home.
Liz was standing at the mirror in the girls’ bathroom, re-applying her lip gloss, getting ready to meet Max for lunch. She was thinking about this morning, the beautiful words he’d said to her, and his tender touch. As such, she didn’t notice the door opening or the new presence in the room.
Tess was leaning against the wall, angrily watching the dreamy expression on Liz’s face.
“He doesn’t belong with you, you know?” Liz’s head snapped up with a start.
Liz quickly moved to gather her things, stuffing them clumsily into her bookbag in her hurry to escape. “Um, Tess, I don’t want to get into this with you.” Her voice was shaky as she tried to walk past Tess, but Tess blocked her exit.
Tess looked Liz in the eye. “I see him with you, you know. I watch the two of you together.” Tess smiled in what actually seemed like some version of sympathy. “He’s like a little lamb with you, Liz. Nothing like the tiger he was with me that night.” Liz averted her eyes as the tears started to flow. “He was so out of control. He couldn’t help himself around me.” Tess walked closer to where Liz was now cowering against the cool tile of the bathroom wall. “It must be a mating instinct in our species or something. I’m sorry but there’s no use denying it. He won’t be able to help himself. He’ll come back for more.” Tess turned and started walking towards the door of the girls’ room.
“Look,” she turned back for a moment from the doorway. “I’m not saying this to hurt you,” to Liz’s amazement, she actually looked sincere. “But you should just let him go now before you get in any deeper.” Tess let the door slam behind her as Liz’s knees buckled and she slid helplessly to the floor in a puddle of tears.
Max was pacing at the end of the line in the school cafeteria. Liz, who was widely known for her punctuality as one of her ‘perfect’ traits, was now twenty minutes late for their lunch date. And he had that sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach again. Michael and Maria had tried to get him to wait with them out at their usual table in the quad, but he had steadfastly refused, standing guard in the exact spot at which he and Liz had agreed to meet this morning when they parted with a lingering kiss that he could still taste on his lips.
Just then, Max caught sight of her familiar figure moving in his peripheral vision, stopping him in his tracks. He felt his heart stop beating in his chest for a second at her haggard appearance. Her glassy eyes were red-rimmed and puffy, tears still tracking down her cheeks. She was desperately running toward him at full speed with her silken hair flying behind her, ignoring all the curious stares from the other students lining the hallway, witnessing her unusual journey.
When she reached about five feet in front of him, she launched herself into his arms, wrapping herself around him and clutching him with a desperation he had never known. It seemed she would have climbed inside his skin if it were possible. Neither uttered a word as he held her tight against him and stroked her back lovingly, closing his own eyes to allow himself to drown in her presence for a while before he had to find out what it was that brought her to this state. As if he didn’t already know. Tess. He swore to himself at that moment that he was going to kill her. Damn the world.
It was long moments before Max lifted his face from the crook of Liz’s neck. He could tell her crying had lessened by the way her shoulders had stopped convulsing. He tried to pull back to see her face, but she kept it securely buried in his shoulder.
“Liz?” His voice couldn’t have gotten any softer. When she didn’t answer or show any sign of removing her face from where it was hidden in the fold of his shirt, he added in a whisper. “Liz, baby, you have to tell me what happened.”
He could feel her shake her head furiously against his shoulder as her sobbing started all over again. He cupped the back of her head, smoothing her hair down from the top to the ends, enjoying the silky texture of it under his hand. He bent his head down and placed a tender kiss on the crown of her head, lingering there for a moment before speaking gently into her tresses. “I can’t help if I don’t know what happened, Liz. Please.” He was on the verge of tears himself.
She lifted her face to his and he was struck by her pained expression, haunting those chocolate eyes that he could always lose himself in. He never wanted to see that look on his Liz’s face.
“What happened?” He whispered pleadingly when she still didn’t say anything.
She shook her head again, seeming too overwhelmed to speak, crinkling her eyes slightly to hold back her tears and suddenly reached out with both her arms to pull his lips down to meet hers. He was so surprised by her move, he resisted, misunderstanding her intentions. He pulled back and looked at her questioningly.
She pleaded with him with her eyes as more tears fell in frustration.
Realization dawned on him. “You want to show me?”
She furiously nodded her head. Max leaned in and kissed her softly at first, then with more passion, the images started coming at him immediately, her emotions were running so high.
Max broke off the kiss, stumbling backwards and gasping for air. He had let go of his desperate hold on Liz, allowing her feet to touch the floor again for the first time. When he regained his balance, he started pacing back and forth. “Oh God, Liz.” He stopped, looking so distraught, destroyed even. “Oh my God. I’m so sorry.”
“Ma-ax.” She breathed out, managing her first words in her need to reassure him.
He looked at her with all the love he felt shining through his eyes, now pooling with unshed tears. “I can’t believe you had to hear that.” His voice was hoarse.
“Max,” her own voice was a little shaky. “It shook me up, but the thing is, in my heart, I know that it’s not true.” She walked right up to him and wrapped her arms around his waist, sensuously kissing the hollow of his throat where his collar was open. “I believe in you, Max.” Her voice started cracking with raw emotion. “I believe in us.”
The tears started pouring down Max’s face at Liz’s simple words of faith in him, in them. This is what they had been working towards for so long. It was everything he had ever wanted, everything his dreams were made of and more. Everything he was afraid he had lost forever. He held her tighter and kissed her forehead, rubbing his nose against her hair. “Thank you.” He whispered, too overwhelmed to say anything else.
“You don’t have to thank me, Max. I love you.”
He sighed. Her words were like a healing tonic to his heart. “I love you too.” He sealed their words of love with a sweet kiss. “But enough is enough.” His voice had quickly grown determined, taken on strength in his anger, his need to protect their love. “I’m not going to let Tess do this to us anymore. Let’s go.” He grabbed her hand to start pulling her out to the quad.
“Um, Max. I don’t think I need to be there-” Liz said as she reluctantly trailed behind his determined figure.
He abruptly spun on his heel and faced her, softening the look on his face. He reached out with the hand that wasn’t grasping hers and grazed her cheekbone tenderly with the back of his knuckles. It’s amazing how his voice automatically softened whenever he spoke to Liz. “Liz, we’re in this together. All of it. It’s time to show that to Tess. Once and for all.”
She looked at him carefully for a moment before she hesitantly nodded. He gave her a radiant smile in return and kissed her forehead before they set off again in search of their prey.
“Ow.” Tess said as she felt someone roughly grab her arm, practically lifting her out of her seat at the picnic table.
“We need to talk. NOW.” Max said through gritted teeth.
“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING, EVANS?” Kyle shouted. He had been sitting across from Tess at lunch.
Max didn’t address Kyle as he answered him. He kept his cold glare focused on Tess. “Believe me, Kyle. I just need to talk with her. She’s all yours after that. ALL YOURS. Now get up, Tess.” He left no room for argument.
“Fine.” Her tone was clipped as she stalked off. Max grabbed Liz’s hand, squeezing it, and gave her a reassuring smile as they followed Tess into the school.
“What now?” Tess sat back tiredly against the wall, acting as if she couldn’t be bothered. She didn’t look Max or Liz in the eye.
Max felt his blood reaching the boiling point. What now? Is she for real? Let the whole goddamn world end for all he cared at that moment.
“WHERE THE HELL DO YOU GET OFF, TESS?”
She shook her head in annoyance, looking down for a second. “I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true, Max.” She then looked at him straight on, challenging him. “And you know it.”
“What the hell are you talking about? Are you delusional or just in denial?” He started pacing back and forth in front of her like a caged animal. Liz was just standing in the corner watching on with tears in her eyes, biting her bottom lip nervously.
“You’re the one in denial, Max.” Tess sighed. “Admit it. You WERE like an animal with me, Max, completely out of control, and you ARE like a little lamb with her. Face the music, what do YOU think it means?” She looked at him petulantly. “That pull you felt toward me is instinctive for us, for our species. It’s our destiny.”
Unbelievable. He couldn’t believe how she twisted everything around to suit her purpose. She turned everything inside out, upside down, and backwards until it fit neatly into ‘destiny’. The girl could be a contortionist. Or a lawyer. Was there no way to win with her? Did she actually believe this nonsense? He got right in her face, his voice escalating dangerously. “Tess, that wasn’t attraction OR instinct. What it was was absolute despair.” He leveled a glare at her. “God, Tess.” He said in frustration. “It was desperation. Plain and simple. Don’t you have any feelings? That was the worst night of my life. I thought I had lost everything that had ever mattered to me.” He glanced over at Liz meaningfully as he said that last part. Then he shook his head before he looked back up sharply at Tess. “Do you want to know what had happened that night? Why I was so out of control, as you put it?” His voice was edging up again with anger and disbelief. “I had just seen the love of my life, my Liz.” He pointed over to where Liz was standing. “The only girl I have ever, or will ever, love, in bed with another man. Which, by the way, she did out of love for me, not that you would understand THAT.” He pinned her with a piercing glare. He shook his head to clear it, pausing before speaking again. “And Tess, I’m gentle with Liz because I love her more than anything else in the world. More than my own life, Tess,” his voice became desperate, pleading. “Do you even understand that concept?” He sat down with a weary sigh and hung his head in his hands, crying softly in frustration as Liz came over, kneeled down next to him and wrapped an arm around his shoulders, caressing them gently. “I guess you don’t understand love, Tess.” He continued pleadingly, his voice cracking slightly. “Because if you did, we wouldn’t be in here fighting over some ridiculous idea you have about me, who you barely even know. If you did understand love, you would have noticed all those long looks Kyle keeps giving you.” His voice softened a bit. “That’s what love is, Tess, not THIS. Not this obsession.”
There was a long silence in the room as everyone contemplated the words that hung in the air around them. Finally, to everyone’s surprise, it was Liz’s voice that broke the tense silence. Tess’ glassy eyes grew wide. “You can’t break us up, Tess.” Max got up and stood behind Liz. He wrapped his arms around Liz’s waist and put his chin on her shoulder, kissing her hair softly in a show of support as she spoke. “Keep playing these games if you have to,” she shook her head slightly against Max’s hair as she closed her eyes for a second. “We can’t stop you. But, as they say, sticks and stones may break our bones and such, but you can’t break us. Never again.” She looked at Tess challengingly. “We love each other too much to ever let anything like the likes of you,” she smiled slightly, and squeezed Max’s hand. “Get between us. But for your sake, I hope that you stop and find something better for yourself. Like Kyle.” They stood there quietly for a minute waiting for Tess to say something. When she didn’t, Max just grabbed Liz’s hand, squeezing it in his own, and turned to leave, opening the door for her. He turned around from the doorway after Liz was safely out of earshot and added. “Oh, and Tess.” Tess looked up at him, tears now clearly pooling in her eyes. “I told you to stay the hell away from her and I meant it.” He speared her with a dark look so that she would know how serious he was. “And Tess, if I ever hear that word again from your lips, you know, destiny? I swear you’ll never live to say another word again.” There was no humor in his tone. He let the door slam behind him, hoping to close the door on that chapter of their life forever.
Five minutes later…
Max and Liz were hiding inside a janitor’s closet down the hall, holding each other and kissing after their intense confrontation with Tess. They finally came up for air, resting their foreheads together in their need to maintain contact.
“I should get you off to class.” Max whispered reluctantly though still not making any move to let go of Liz. He reached out to cup her cheek.
Liz tightened her grip on him. “No, Max.” Her voice was hoarse but firm. “We’re not going back to class.” She looked up at him pointedly. “I need you.”
He pulled back from her, surprised, and looked long and hard into her eyes to see if she was implying what he thought she was. “Liz.” He croaked out, stroking the warm skin of her cheek. “Maybe this isn’t the right time.” He almost couldn’t believe he was saying no. But he loved her too much to allow her to jump into something she wasn’t ready for because of a crisis. Even if it killed him to refuse.
“Max. I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life. I told you that I believe in you,” she looked down. “That I believe in us and I meant it.” She looked back up at him. “What more is there?”
God. She was making this hard on him. Looking up at him with those chocolate doe eyes shining with undisguised love. And now there was something new in her eyes. Need. There was nothing he wanted more in the world than to carry her off and make sweet passionate love to her. Except reassurance that she wouldn’t regret this decision.
He kissed her forehead tenderly and whispered to her with closed eyes that reflected his inner struggle. “I just don’t want you to regret this. That would kill me.”
She cupped his chin and tilted his face down to force him to look her in the eye. Her voice broke with her heartfelt words. “I could never regret being with you. Never. I love you, Max.” She moved her hand from his chin up across his cheek. “I always will.”
He grabbed her hand on his face to still it and brought it to his mouth to kiss her palm reverently. After a moment he said hoarsely, “God Liz, I love you so much,” as tears filled his eyes.
“Good.” She smiled the special smile she reserved only for him. “Then show me.” She tightened her hold around his hand and tugged him towards the door of the tiny space. He hesitated a moment, almost awestruck. “Come on, Max. It’s time.” She turned back and smiled sultrily at him. His lips slowly curled into a smile as he began to move his suddenly heavy feet to follow her obediently. He would have followed her to the ends of the Earth.
Max was standing off to the side of Liz’s bed near the window where they had just climbed in, watching Liz as she moved about the room with hunger in his eyes. Liz had collected most of her candles from out on her balcony, setting them about the bedroom, casting a warm glow even in the mild shadows of the midday sun, and filling the air with a rich vanilla scent that reminded Max so much of his Liz. As she lit the last flame, she turned around slowly from where she was standing at the dresser, a serious expression on her face. The way the candlelight danced across her beautiful features and sparkled in her luminous brown eyes caused him to take a deep indrawn breath. It was a look of pure need, desire. He was across the room in an instant, his lips crashing down to meet hers with a passion that had been building between the two for more than a year. Well, really for a lifetime.
Their tongues tangled in a heated frenzy, they couldn’t get enough of each other. It was difficult to tell where one person ended and the other began. When they finally came up for air, Max couldn’t quite let go, he sucked Liz’s bottom lip into his mouth sensuously. Liz started caressing his neck gently as she moved her hand down to his collar. She brought her other hand between their bodies and started fumbling with his buttons in her haste to undo them, her fingers shaky but determined in their task. Max, needing to touch some part of her, took hold of a lock of her hair, trailing the silky texture across his lips as he felt Liz start to kiss the newly exposed skin of his chest and stomach with each button she managed to open. He bit down gently but failed to withhold his moan as her kisses became warmer, wetter. Max finally lifted her up from her ministrations on his abdomen, his own shirt now hanging completely open, exposing his bare chest. He soundly kissed her on the lips, growling slightly in need as his hands roamed her shoulders and back. God, she was still wearing way too many clothes. He pulled back, his hands softly grazing her cheeks and running down her graceful neck and over the slope of her slim shoulders as they gazed lost in each other’s eyes. As his hands ran down her arms, they moved to the hem of her shirt. This time he looked hesitantly into her eyes, wanting to make sure she was certain. She moved her hands over his and together they lifted her shirt over her head, carelessly flinging it off to the floor. Max stared transfixed. They had never gone this far before. Sure he had touched her over her shirt, but to actually see her beautiful body, he was spellbound. She was wearing a light blue bra that set off her olive skin tone perfectly. Liz reached down boldly and unsnapped the front hook to the bra, allowing the straps to fall slightly down her arms. He must have been staring, gaping for a while because she moved her arms slightly as if to cover herself, almost unconsciously.
Max snapped his head up to her face.
“No.” He croaked out, gently moving her arms back to her sides. “You’re so,” he was so moved, he almost couldn’t get the words out, “beautiful. I just can’t believe that you’re mine.” He really had tears in his eyes when he looked up at her.
She pulled him in for a kiss, suddenly desperate for the feel of his lips on hers. Their bodies melted together, the feeling of their bare chests pressed against one another’s was a heaven in itself. Did it really get better than this? Max kissed across her jaw line, his hand moving down to cup her breast, enjoying the texture of the fine skin he found there. As he kissed down her neck, he moved the pad of his thumb to her nipple, moving slowly, sensuously around the outer edge before concentrating on the center. It hardened into a little bud under his touch, eliciting a throaty moan from Liz. Her responsiveness to him was incredible. It was like they were made for each other. He always thought they had been. Still kissing her hungrily, he slowly walked them over to the bed. Still locked together, Max fell down on top of Liz when they reached the edge, trying not to crush her under his weight.
He lifted his head out of her neck to scoot them up on the bed, taking the time to smile down at her as he went about removing her bra, kissing her shoulders all the way down her arms to the inside of her wrists as he finally peeled the garment off her. He hastily pulled off his own shirt, getting his arms caught behind his back in the sleeves for a second until he just ripped it off in frustration, the tiny buttons flying, as Liz pulled him back down giggling slightly at his hurry. Her laughter was quickly silenced by his mouth moving urgently over hers. He quickly moved down her body, licking over her collarbone as she stroked his bare back until he reached her breast. He kissed around the firm milky skin as he reverently stroked it, careful to avoid her nipple at first, staring down at it like a kid in a candy store for the first time. He moved his fingers over her nipple, rubbing it, then tweaking it gently between his thumb and forefinger, enjoying the helpless sounds Liz was producing from the back of her throat. His lips were over it in the next second, suckling greedily as Liz arched her back and clutched her fists into his hair to hold him to her. It seemed like forever before he moved on to the other side to repeat his delicious torture.
She pulled him back up to her mouth, their tongues tangling together, his body pressing hers insistently into the bed. She could feel his hardness through the rough denim of his jeans pressed up against her stomach and lifted her hips, grinding slightly to get closer to it. Her name was a moan off his lips.
“Liz, baby.” He croaked out, gasping for air.
She flipped them over until she was straddling him and looked down at him, her hair tousled from their play, passion darkening her eyes.
“Are you sure?” He whispered gently, reaching up to cradle her cheek, knowing that he was getting past the point of no return. Although, honestly, if she changed her mind at any time, even if it killed him, he knew, for Liz, he would always stop.
She leaned down to whisper in his ear. “I’m sure I love you.” Then licking the outer edge of his ear, she moved down his body, sucking on his neck and leaving a small mark. She found that he enjoyed her mouth on his cute little nipples almost as much as she had, she licked around each one with her tongue and blew gently on the wet spot she created, enjoying his indrawn breath that was the result. She licked down the ridges of his abdomen, looking up at him briefly before undoing the snap on his jeans. Before she pulled the zipper down, she pressed the palm of her hand against the bulge that was apparent under it, caressing the length of it exploringly and carefully watching the pained expression it produced on Max’s face. She squeezed once and then pulled down his zipper carefully, taking his jeans off, and his boxers with them, as he lifted his hips to help her. She stared down from where she was standing at the end of the bed at the beautiful man laying before her, looking back at her with nothing but love in his eyes.
“Ma-ax.” Her voice was breathy and there were tears pooling in her eyes.
He crawled on his hands and knees to the end of the bed, coming to kneel in front of her. He reached out gently for her upper arms.
“You okay?” He seemed concerned that she was scared or that she had changed her mind.
She was quick to reassure him. “No. It’s not that.” She cupped his cheek. “You’re beautiful.” She kissed him sweetly on the lips.
He mumbled against her lips. “And you’re wearing way too many clothes.” She giggled through her tears. He pulled back slightly and wiped away her tears with his index finger before kissing her eyelids, then slowly moving to her cheeks. As he moved to her mouth, his hands reached down to unbutton her jeans, his hands almost reverently grazing her sides as he shimmied them down to the floor. As he pulled back, she stood there smiling shyly at him in just her light blue panties. She looked like a goddess. As he always knew she would.
“God, Liz. I don’t know what to say.” He shook his head in wonder. He stared at her in awe for a minute. “You’re beautiful. More beautiful than I ever imagined.”
She ducked her head down only for a second before looking back up at him, her eyes shining with love, then taking his hand and leading him back over to the bed.
“Then show me, Max.” She repeated her words from earlier.
He lifted her into his arms and placed her onto the bed, following her down eagerly. He paused looking deeply into her eyes.
“I love you.” His voice was hoarse with raw emotion.
“And I love you.” She grazed his cheek with the back of her hand, then pulled him down for another kiss. Their movements quickly became urgent, hungry, hot; their bodies slick with sweat as they moved together. Liz’s panties were soon tossed to the side with rest of discarded clothes. Soon the condom was on, the final moment was here, the one they had waited for all of their lives.
Max positioned himself over Liz, sinking between her thighs as he stared down into the eyes of the girl he loved more than anything else in this world or any other. She lifted her hips slightly, cuddling his erection between them. He was holding his weight up by his elbows, he lifted one hand and brushed Liz’s sweaty hair tenderly off her forehead, coming back to gently sweep over her brow with the pads of his fingers.
“I love you, you know.” His voice was breaking as he whispered his words only a few inches from her face.
“I know.” She had tears in her eyes. “Almost as much as I love you.” She managed a weak smile back at him.
He smiled back through his own tears, reaching down the few inches to kiss her as he entered her slowly, inch by inch, giving her time to adjust to him. He pulled back slightly to watch her carefully for any pain, although her eyes were closed. When he felt resistance, he stopped.
She abruptly snapped open her eyes. “Max.” She pleaded. “You have to.”
“I can’t hurt you.” He sounded pained as he averted his eyes.
She gently cupped his chin and forced his face back to meet hers. She lifted her head and placed a sweet kiss on his lips, lingering slightly. “Max, you’re not hurting me. There’s nothing I want more in the world than to feel you inside me. For us to become one.”
He gazed into her eyes, she seemed so certain. He kissed her forehead and closed his eyes as he thrust forward, holding his breath against the pain he knew he would be causing her. He heard her take a sudden indrawn breath that stilled his movement.
“Liz?” His voice was gentle, he once again had tears in his eyes.
“Liz, baby? You okay?” He sounded like he was verging on panic, he was just about to pull out.
Her eyes were closed but at his need for reassurance she opened then and cupped his cheek lovingly. “I’m fine. It’s already better. Just give me a minute.”
It was killing him to feel her tight walls squeezing him and to stay still, but if it meant not hurting her, he would give her a lifetime. Maybe two. He leaned into her hand that held his cheek, nuzzling his face against it and closing his eyes. After a few moments of silence, he felt her start moving under him. He opened his eyes and looked searchingly into hers.
She nodded, now smiling back at him.
He gently started a rhythm, Liz started meeting him thrust for thrust. The sensation was overwhelming, being with his love was definitely losing his virginity in Max’s mind. It was a whole new world, completely uncharted territory. Their breath grew raspier and their moans grew louder as they neared their completion. Liz reached her orgasm first, the clenching down of her walls brought Max right with her, calling her name like a prayer off his lips. In a way, that’s what she always had been for him, the only thing he ever truly believed in. He collapsed right on top of her.
When he caught his breath, he tried to roll off to the side, afraid he would crush her.
“Not so fast.” She giggled. “You’re not going anywhere.” She held him tightly against her as she reached up to place a sweet kiss on his lips.
Max angled her head to deepen the kiss, amazed at what they had just experienced together. When he pulled back he had tears in his eyes. “God, Liz. I love you so much.”
She moved a sweat-soaked tendril of hair off his forehead as she returned his words of love. “Me too, Max. So much.”
He cupped her cheek and stared down into her eyes as the tears started raining down his face. “Liz, I never thought I would have this day.” He shook his head and looked down. “After everything that happened.” The pain and gratitude was clear in his eyes when he looked back up at her. “Thank you.”
“Max.” She breathed out, trying to stop him from continuing.
“No, Liz.” He went on as he stroked the skin of her cheek. “I made a terrible mistake. I almost destroyed the most important thing in my life. You.” He started to sob.
She pulled him into her embrace, stroking his back lovingly. “Shh, Max. You’re wrong.” She whispered in his ear. “We both made some terrible mistakes.” He pulled back to look at her incredulously, the tears tracking down his face. “But it doesn’t matter now.” She continued, gently wiping away his tears with the pad of her thumb. “Because we’re together, and maybe even stronger because of it.”
He stared down at her awestruck, thanking the lucky stars that brought him to this wonderful creature who was his salvation, his heart, and the other half of his soul.
What I'd give to run my fingers
through your hair,
Touch your lips, to hold you near,
When you say your prayers,
Try to understand,
I've made mistakes,
I'm just a man...
“God, Maria. Don’t you think they should have gotten back already?” Liz Evans stopped pacing to face her long time friend, biting her bottom lip anxiously. She had already worn a visible groove in her living room carpet.
“Chica. It hasn’t been that long.” She wrapped her arm around Liz’s shoulders. “Besides, it’s not like they haven’t gone to bat with the Skins before.”
“I know.” Liz sighed. “But this is the big one. This is the one he came back to tell me about, Maria.” Her voice broke in remembrance of that terrible time in their lives.
“Where are the kids?” Maria tried to lighten the tense atmosphere. “We could use a distraction about now.”
“I sent them off to my mother’s.” Liz speared Maria with a look. “Just in case.”
“Oh Liz.” Maria’s expression was pained.
“Well, what if they come back hurt,” Liz’s voice was unnaturally high-pitched in her anxiety. “Or worse.” The tears pooled in her eyes.
Maria walked over to Liz and wrapped her in her arms. “They’ll be okay.” She whispered. “You changed that future, Liz. You had to have.” Maria wasn’t sure which one of them she was convincing.
About two hours later, Liz was laying on the couch with her legs curled under her, her head in Maria’s lap. Maria was patting down Liz’s hair soothingly, trying to keep her calm in the absence of word from their husbands. The front door opened, causing both women to jump up from their seats.
“MAX!” She launched herself flying into his arms, barely seeing Maria hugging Michael out of the corner of her eye. Max’s hold on her was just as desperate, hiding his face in her blanket of hair, thankful to bask in her sweet scent again.
When she finally pulled her face back to get a good look at him, she could see he had some bruises and lacerations on his face. She grabbed each side of his face with her hands to face her fully. “You’re hurt!” Her voice held more than a note of panic.
He smiled endearingly at her and said in a gravelly voice. “I’ll fix it later.” He leaned in for a kiss, sighing with relief into her mouth. That morning when he had kissed her goodbye with tears in his eyes, he wasn’t sure whether he would ever know the joy of her lips on his again. He cupped her bottom more firmly against his body as he deepened the kiss fervently.
They were interrupted by a knock on the door. Their faces moved in unison to glare at the intruder on their private moment.
“Is Mrs. Tess Valenti in the house? You know, slayer of aliens extraordinaire?” Kyle smirked sarcastically at the embraced pair. He still loved to get on Max’s nerves.
“She’s in the kitchen, I think.” Michael answered for them, hugging Maria tightly to his side.
“Um, guys. We’re going upstairs to get some rest.” Max said, too busy eyeing Liz hungrily to bother with Kyle. He had already started towards the stairs as he lifted Liz’s bottom to bring her higher on his body and brought her legs up around his waist. She automatically tightened her hold around his neck where her face was now buried as she kissed down his throat.
“Sure you are.” Kyle smirked, eliciting a giggle from Michael, Maria, and now Tess too, who were all watching on, knowing exactly what the two were going upstairs to do. Fifteen years hadn’t changed the magic between them in the slightest. Liz buried her blushing face in Max’s shoulder as Max leveled a glare at their audience. “But good work today man.” Kyle offered as one last comment before the two disappeared. Max just kissed Liz atop the crown of her head as he continued steadily up the stairs, knowing he was carrying his greatest accomplishment in his arms.