|posted on 31-Aug-2001 8:01:56 PM|
|Title: The Conversation|
Author: Sylvia P.
Disclaimer: I don’t own them, but if Jason Behr would like to make me his Love slave for a while, I’ll consider it.
Synopsis: Set after “Departure”. Max and Liz have a discussion about the events that transpired.
Notes: I just could not get this out of my head, so I decided to write it down.
Conversation Part 1
“Where is she, Maria?” Max walked into the Crashdown, a determined look on his handsome face. Not seeing Liz, he immediately homed in on her best friend.
“Honestly, Max, I don’t know,” Maria said, shaking her head. She was sitting at the counter drinking a soda while she waited for Michael to get done with his shift.
Max ran his finger lightly over the edge of the counter as he asked hesitantly, “Is she avoiding me? I haven’t talked to her since yesterday and she isn’t returning my calls.”
Maria sighed and turned fully around to look at him. “Look, Max. She just found out, literally hours ago, that you slept with and impregnated the girl who killed one of her best friends. I think she has a right to be a little freaked out right now. We all do. If she needs some alone time to get it all worked out, then give it to her.”
Max ran his hand nervously through his hair. “ I need to talk to her. Explain…”
Maria tilted her head to the side, and looked directly into his dark eyes. “I don’t think what you need is important right now.” She didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but she felt like he needed a dose of reality.
Max looked down at his feet for a moment before saying, “Maria, I know you’re all angry with me, and you have a right to be. I screwed up big time.” He looked up again. “But if it’s taught me anything, it’s that I need Liz. I’m no good without her. She keeps my head on straight.” Leaning forward, he looked appealing into her sympathetic gaze. “Please, Maria. I lost her once because we didn’t have enough faith in each other. Please don’t let it happen again.”
She sighed again in resignation. “Max, Max, I understand, really I do, but I told you. I don’t know…oh, boy,” Maria looked behind him as the front door opened.
Max jerked around and saw Liz coming through the glass doors. He walked up and shoving his hands in his pockets said, “Liz, please. Can I talk to you?”
Liz had been hoping for a little more time before having to face Max again after the events from the day before, but she should have known that he would come looking for her when she didn’t answer her phone. “Umm sure, Max. Come up to my room.” She looked at Maria in panic as she passed by, and Maria just grimaced in sympathy.
They entered her room, and Liz walked to the bed and sat down. “What did you want to talk about?”
Now that he was facing her, Max didn’t know where to start. “Umm, I haven’t seen you since yesterday. I wanted to see if you were alright,” he said awkwardly.
“Oh, well I guess I’m in shock, you know? Everything happened so fast. I don’t think I’ve had time to process it all.” Liz looked down at her hands, her dark hair hiding her expression.
Max plunged in with both feet. “Were you avoiding me?”
Liz kept her gaze in her lap. “Avoiding you?”
“You didn’t return any of my phone calls. I tried all last night and this morning.”
Max walked over and grabbed the desk chair. He faced it toward her and sat down leaning forward. “Liz, we need to talk about what’s happened. I need to know what you’re feeling.”
She glanced up at his handsome face and said bluntly, “I don’t think I’m ready to have this conversation yet, Max.”
Max looked down at his own lap and said quietly, “Please Liz, don’t shut me out. I know you must be angry…”
“I’m not angry, Max,” Liz shook her head as she cut him off.
He looked at her in disbelief. “You don’t have to say that. I know I deserve it. I messed up so badly that I don’t know if it can ever be fixed, but I need to know if you’ll be able to forgive me.”
“Max…” she began hesitantly, not really sure how to continue.
“Please Liz. Please tell me what’s going on.” Max knew he had to get her to open up to him. Maybe she needed more time to adjust, but he felt like they had wasted so much time already, the last months looming over their lives like a thundercloud.
Liz sighed, got up from the bed and went to face the window. Never one to avoid a confrontation, she nevertheless, wasn’t looking forward to this discussion. She turned back to see him staring at her expectantly. “OK. You’re right. I wasn’t answering your calls, but it wasn’t because I’m angry. Well, I am angry, but not at you. I’m angry with Tess. I just needed to think. About everything.” She sighed before continuing, “ I was so busy, you know, trying to prove what happened to Alex, that I haven’t had time to think about anything else, and now that all of these other things have happened, I…just needed time.”
Max’s sexy mouth quirked up in the corner as he looked at her inquiringly. “I understand. So, what did you think about?”
Liz faced away from him again as she answered honestly. “I thought about Alex, and how much I’m going to miss him. I thought about how strange it’s going to be next year without him, especially at graduation.” She turned back to Max with a slight smile as she said, “We always had this big thing planned. Me and him and Maria. We were going to drive to Santa Fe and…” the smile faded as her solemn dark eyes looked into his own. “Well anyway, it’s going to be different now.” She stopped for a moment, and then continued. “I thought about Kyle, and how he must be feeling right now.” Liz’s expression grew angry. “She used him. I mean, she used all of us, but, God, she used Kyle to help her get rid of the body.” As she continued to express her outrage, her voice rose, “ That’s just so…. I can’t even think of a word. If you had seen his face when he realized…” Liz shook her head in disbelief and pity, her eyes shining with tears. Poor Kyle. She needed to go see him. He must feel so alone right now. At least she had Maria, but he couldn’t talk about this with anyone.
“Liz, I’m so sorry.” Max’s guilty expression and remorseful voice caused her heart to ache, but she just turned back to the window as she answered quietly, “Yeah, me too.”
He swallowed painfully, and asked hesitantly, “Did you think about us?”
“Actually, I spent most of the time thinking about us, and I realized something.” Liz turned back to face him once again, the expression on her face one that Max had seen many times before when she was expressing her views on a subject that she had spent time analyzing.
“In all the time that we’ve had this thing between us…. Since you healed me, we haven’t really been happy.” Max’s brow furrowed at this, but she continued as if she didn’t notice. “I mean, at first, you didn’t want us to be together because it was too dangerous.” She raised a finger and ticked it off with the other one as she counted. “Then, when we finally did get together, after we first kissed, it lasted what… a day?” She looked at him inquiringly, and ticked the next finger. “Then Michael got sick, and you decided you needed to take a step back.” Max’s expression grew guiltier as she went on. “We wasted months after that, until finally, the Orb brought us together again.” Liz smiled slightly as she thought about how the Orb had awakened the passion they had kept hidden for so long. But then it faded as she finished. “Then Tess showed up; it all went to hell from there.”
Max didn’t even know how to respond to this. As he watched, Liz closed her eyes resignedly and then turned back to the window where dusk was approaching. Raising it, she stepped outside on the balcony. “Liz…” Max got up and followed her.
She continued on as if she hadn’t heard him, lighting candles as she spoke. “Don’t get me wrong, Max. I’m not blaming you for all that. I mean, I’m the one that walked away after you got the message from your mother, and I was the one who used Kyle to push you toward Tess.” Liz looked at him sadly. “That’s another long story that we need to talk about, but not right now.” She took a deep breath and went on, “Let’s just say that I thought I was making the right decision at the time, but now I see how horrible it was for you. I mean, I knew that it hurt you, but I didn’t know how much until you told me that you and Tess spent the night together. It’s like having your heart ripped out of your chest, isn’t it,” Liz’s voice cracked as the tears that she had been suppressing sprang to the surface.
Max wanted to run and hide from the desolation on her face. That he had put that expression there was almost more than he could bear. His own voice thick with emotion, he pleaded, “Liz, please let me explain…”
“There’s nothing to explain, Max,” Liz wiped the moisture from her eyes as she cut him off again. “I understand why you turned to her. You thought that I had been with Kyle. She was helping you remember the past, and you remembered your feelings for her, although now I would question anything that she did. I mean, how do you know that what you remembered was real,” Liz looked up at him questioningly for a moment, and then made a dismissive gesture. “Anyway, we were all divided over what happened to Alex, and she was there for you.” She turned away, and Max almost didn’t hear her finish, “and now she’s having your baby.”
Liz turned to him once more, but Max could barely look her in the eye. “You know, Max, I used think about us together that way. I would think about what our first time would be like,” she smiled through her tears. “How it might be a little awkward, and clumsy because we were both inexperienced, but so wonderful because it was the two of us and perfect just because of that.” As Max finally managed to raise his eyes to look at her, he wished he hadn’t. The sadness in her expression made his chest ache. “ Now, it would just be me who’s awkward and clumsy,” she whispered.
Max felt sick as he watched her walk away. He had known this was going to be a difficult conversation, but until he heard the painful words coming out of her mouth, the reality of his actions had not hit home. How was he ever going to make up for the things he had done to hurt this caring person who meant everything to him. And how had they managed to get so far away from the boy and girl who fell in love that day in the Crashdown so long ago. Determined to make things right, Max began to speak.
“Liz, I know I’ve hurt you. I wish I could go back and change what’s happened, but I can’t. When I think about everything, that she did, I want to…” Max stopped for a moment and took a deep breath before admitting, “I almost killed Tess in the pod chamber.” Liz looked at him in surprise as he continued. “The only reason I didn’t was because of the baby.” Liz’s expression changed at the mention of their child, and he rushed on, “She planned it all, Liz. She said she didn’t mean to kill Alex, but the rest of it was planned right down to getting pregnant.” Max looked at her painfully for a moment before turning toward the stone wall that faced the UFO Center. As he leaned his hands on the edge, he continued.
“I was so stupid. I let her use me and manipulate me instead of following my heart and believing in you. I realize that now. I should never have believed that you slept with Kyle. I knew you were hiding something, but you kept telling me it was true, and I….” He paused to look up at her in desolation for a moment before continuing, “I guess I just gave up.”
Liz looked at his down bent head sorrowfully, realizing that she had a few things to apologize for herself, but she kept silent for now, choosing to let him continue exercising his demons.
“Why couldn’t I sense what she was doing to Alex,” Max brought his hand down hard on the wall with a smack, and Liz winced in reaction. Max didn’t seem to notice the pain as he went on, “I should have known something was wrong. I was married to her, for God’s sake. What good is it to have these powers if they don’t protect you from things like this,” he shook his head, and turned to face her.
“When she started helping me remember, I was just so excited about it, I let it blind me to everything else. I think you’re right about what you said. I don’t know if anything is true anymore. Most of what she showed me was about me and her, so how do I know it wasn’t just her trying to make me do what she wanted.”
Max walked away from her, making a slow circle around the lawn chairs before coming to a stop almost directly in front of her again. He looked down into her serious, dark eyes, and the expression on his face was profoundly apologetic. “When you told us your theory about Alex at the funeral, I just didn’t want to believe that it was our fault. I know that you didn’t really blame us, but I couldn’t face the fact that our being here caused his death. So I took it out on you. I can’t tell you how sorry I am for that.”
Liz nodded her head, and he continued on, his voice becoming more agitated as he tried to explain the things he had realized about his weird behavior over the last few weeks.
“There’s no excuse for the way I treated you, except to say that I realize now that Tess was somehow manipulating my thoughts. When I think about it, it’s like a dream that I was having. I was watching myself do things, but it wasn’t really me. But, at the same time, it was. I know that doesn’t make any sense,” he said shaking his head in exasperation. “The bottom line is that I think she was taking whatever feelings I had, and magnifying them out of proportion, so all of my reactions were over the top. The way I treated you about Alex, Isabel about college, and then that night you left to go to Sweden.”
He had been pacing as he spoke, but now he came to a stop. Turning to face her once more, he took a ragged breath and his luminous eyes pleaded with her to understand. “I was so confused and angry and alone, and she showed up and told me that she would always be there. I could feel the feelings that I used to…” he paused painfully, “ or thought I used to have for her, and I just didn’t want to think anymore.” Lowering his gaze, he said quietly, “It’s no excuse for what I did, though.” He looked up again to find her looking at him solemnly. “When I look back on it, it’s like the rational part of my brain was asleep or something.”
Unable to face her or himself, Max walked over and sat heavily on one of the lawn chairs. Looking down at his hands, he said, “What kind of leader does that make me? How can I be in charge of a whole race of people, if I can’t even control my own life? It’s no wonder our planet was taken over by our enemies.”
Liz’s heart twisted painfully in her chest at the despair in his voice. She walked slowly over and knelt in front of him. “Max, don’t say that. You’re 18 years old. You were raised a normal, human boy. Tess was raised by Nasado. You said she had this planned, didn’t you?”
“She told me he made a deal with Khivar 40 years ago,” he answered her without looking up.
“You see? He probably taught her from the beginning how to manipulate people. She’s had years to practice.” Liz put her finger under Max’s chin to make him look at her. “You can’t blame yourself for being taken in by her,” she said, the sincerity in her face trying to convince him. Her expression turned fierce as she continued, “And how can you blame yourself for what happened to your planet? You have no idea what circumstances lead up to Khivar taking over. It may have had nothing to do with what kind of leader you were.” She brought her hand up and caressed his cheek briefly as she said, “Just be grateful that we found out about her before she got you back there.”
Max looked at her in amazement. Even after everything, she still tried to comfort him and keep him from taking the blame for things he couldn’t control. He didn’t deserve her. Liz caught her breath as he looked at her with those unbelievably soft, brown eyes. It was the look he used to reserve just for her. The one that said she was the only person in the world at that moment. “Only because you wouldn’t give up,” he said softly. “The only reason we’re safe is because of you. We would have walked right into her and Khivar’s trap.”
Max stood, and taking her hands, brought her up with him. He let go, and as Liz sat down on the chair he had vacated, wandered over to the telescope and absentmindedly ran his fingers over the top of it as he gazed out over the wall. “She still has my son,” he said suddenly, picking up where he had left off. “I don’t even know how to feel about that.” He turned around to look at her as he spoke, his distress evident. “I didn’t want to be a father, but I can’t just forget about him. I feel so conflicted about the whole thing. On the one hand, I’m grateful that she’s gone and she can’t hurt us anymore. But on the other hand, she’s having my child, and we know what kind of person she is, not to mention that fact that she’s in league with our enemies.”
Max’s voice shook with suppressed tears as he suddenly slid down the wall and sat on the ground with his head resting on his upraised knees. “What are they going to do to him? Are they going to corrupt him and make him believe that I didn’t want to be with him and that we are the enemy?” Max paused for minute to swallow the lump in his throat. “In a way, he would be right, wouldn’t he? I didn’t really want him. I wouldn’t have chosen to have any child with Tess under normal circumstances. What kind of person does that make me?” He looked up to see Liz still sitting on the lawn chair, her dark head bent so that he couldn’t see her expression.
Max got up and, wiping his face with the back of his hand, apologized, “I’m sorry, Liz. I’m being selfish. You probably don’t want to listen to me talk about this, and I don’t blame you. It’s my mistake, and I have to deal with it.” He turned back to look out at the dark sky, seeing the stars but not really noticing them.
He heard her sigh and the lawn chair creaked as she rose. A moment later Liz’s hand came into view on the wall as she leaned beside him to stare out at the night. “I admit that I’m jealous of Tess,” she began. “ I have to be honest. I hate that she knows you in ways that I don’t, and I’m resentful that she’s having your child.” Max turned his regretful gaze on her, and she looked down as she traced a pattern in a crack on the wall. “I used to dream about that for us,” she said sadly, glancing up at him through her lashes. “ I knew it might be impossible because of our differences, but it didn’t stop me from wishing that we could be together and have a family.” Max nodded, silently acknowledging that he had also dared to wish for the same thing. “But it doesn’t mean that you can’t talk about it, or that you have to hide your feelings. Hiding our feelings is what got us into this. I just have to find a way to deal with it and move on,” Liz said resolutely, looking up into his suddenly hopeful eyes.
“Does that mean that you forgive me,” Max said anxiously.
“It’s not a question of forgiveness, Max. I think you have to learn to forgive yourself,” she told him earnestly. “For me, it’s about acceptance. Acceptance that you have a child with someone else and a duty to protect that child.” Liz looked down at the wall as she paused, then looked back up at him with resignation, “Acceptance that one day, you are probably going to have to leave and find a way to go home and save him.” She went on warningly, “It’s going to take a while. As much as I want to, I can’t just jump back into this relationship as though nothing has happened.”
Max answered her eagerly, “ I don’t expect that. If you want to wait, we’ll wait. If you tell me you don’t want to see me for a while, I’ll respect that. Just don’t say that it’s over, Liz. I know I have a lot to make up for, but I swear I’ll do anything to have you in my life.”
Max leaned down to look sincerely into her beautiful dark eyes. “I do have a responsibility to the child I created, but you are just as important. If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it is just how much I need you. Before the shooting that day in the Crashdown, I was just existing, afraid to be human, afraid to be alien, afraid in general. Afterward, I couldn’t believe that you would be my friend, much less feel the same way about me as I felt about you. I’ll always be grateful for that no matter what you decide.” Liz smiled as he continued. “I want to be with you more than anything, but I know that may be too much to ask. I wish I could lie and say that I’ll never leave but I don’t know what’s going to happen, so if you decide that you can’t live with the uncertainty…I’ll…’ he swallowed painfully, “I’ll accept that. I’m willing to take whatever you’ll give me as long as you at least let me be part of your life.”
“I’ll always want you in my life, Max. I can’t imagine it without you. I think we should just take it slow, and see what happens,” Liz finished hesitantly. She still had to tell him about Future Max. How was he going to react when she told him about why she deceived him? And now that Tess was gone, what were they going to do about the events that were supposed to have transpired? Obviously, things had changed, but would they be able to defeat their enemies without her? Oh, God, this had gotten even more complicated, if that was even possible.
“Thank you,” Max’s soft words brought her out of her reverie. She looked up to find him gazing at her so lovingly that it momentarily took her breath away.
“For what,” Liz said bemusedly.
“For everything,” Max answered softly. “For being you. For saving my life, and for giving me another chance, even though I don’t deserve it.” He stopped for a moment before reaching down to take her hand in his. The feel of his warm skin suddenly made Liz’s throat ache with tears as she realized how long it had been since they had touched like this.
“Liz, there’s one more thing I have to say,” he said looking down at her gravely. “ What you said about me and Tess and our first time. I would give anything to go back and undo that night, but I just want you to know that it didn’t compare with what you and I had. What Tess and I did was just sex. It didn’t have anything to do with love. If…” he stopped, then plunged ahead bravely. “When…you and I are finally together, it will be all about making love.” The look on his face sent a little sizzle of electricity straight through her and she lowered her gaze to keep him from seeing how his words effected her. “I know that doesn’t make up for it, but I don’t ever want you to think that I would rather be with her because of that.”
Schooling her expression, Liz raised her eyes and nodded slightly, “Thank you for saying that.”
“I’m not just saying it,” he said, giving her the look that she had always thought of as the “Max” look. A combination of sincerity and boyishness that never failed to move her. “It’s the truth,” he continued. Hesitating briefly, he leaned down and gently put his lips on hers. It was a sweet, undemanding kiss, yet it spoke volumes about what was in his heart. Hope passion, and above all, love. Raising his head, he smiled down at her, then turning, he pulled her toward the window. “We’d better get back downstairs before Maria comes looking for us.”
Liz moved forward happily, then stopped suddenly her heart plummeting, as she remembered what she still hadn’t told him. Max turned back, and looked at her inquiringly. “Max, we still have some things to talk about,” she said hesitantly. “I need to explain what happened with Kyle. There are some things you need to know… well actually, everybody needs to know them.”
Max looked at her quizzically, “Why does everyone need to know?”
“Oh….umm…. I just need to explain some things.” Liz knew she was being vague, but she didn’t want to burst the bubble of happiness just yet. “Let’s just try to get everyone together tonight, OK? We can meet at the Crashdown and I’ll explain”
Max looked as though he wanted to argue, then said, “OK, we’ll go down and talk to Maria and Michael right now. We can call Isabel and Kyle later.”
Liz nodded, and waited while Max climbed through the window. He turned back and helped her through holding onto her hand tightly. He didn’t let go as they moved to the door and Liz felt a little lightening of her heart at his reassurance. Maybe everything was going to be OK after all. If their love had survived all of this time, through all the misconceptions and lies, it could survive the coming trials. After all, they were going to be together. Although she knew they still had things to work through, Liz felt hopeful for the first time in almost a year. She followed Max out the door.
Conversation Part 2
The Conversation - Part 2
“You mean you haven’t told him yet,” Maria and Liz were sitting in their usual booth at the Crash Down sharing a plate of Space Fries, but she looked up in surprise at Liz’s admission
“Only that I didn’t sleep with Kyle,” Liz answered, toying with her fries but not eating them. “We were talking about Tess and the baby… and I..I just didn’t want to bring it up right then.” She stopped when she saw Maria’s look of disbelief and then went on defensively. “We had a lot to discuss. I told him that I needed to explain what happened to everyone, you know, since it involved their deaths and their enemies.”
“But Liz, think of how he’s going to feel when he hears about how it was him who started the whole mess.” Maria shook her head. “You really need to tell him in private before you tell everybody.” She looked at her best friend who just sat there fingering her fries and not looking her in the eye. “OK, out with it,” she said with determination. “What’s the real reason you don’t want to tell him alone?”
Liz sighed resignedly and said, “I’m afraid, Maria.” She finally lifted her gaze and Maria saw that her dark eyes were filled with worry. “What if he hates me because I didn’t come to him with such important information.” Her eyes grew luminous with tears as she went on, “And look what not telling him caused. Alex was alive in the other reality. Max didn’t have a killer wife running around and child in danger.” The tears fell and she looked down at the table as she watched one on them splash on her plate. “I caused all of that, Maria. He feels so guilty about everything that’s happened and I couldn’t even admit to him that I caused it. I just let him think it was all his fault,” she finished brokenly.
“Whoa, whoa whoa. Back up,” Maria said forcefully. She bent her head and made Liz look at her. “You did not cause Alex’s death. That bitch from another planet did that all on her own.” Maria waved her hand in the air. “And as for their child, Max was the one who couldn’t keep his hands off the little slut.” At Liz’s look of despair, Maria suddenly realized what she had said. “ Oh, look, I’m sorry. Really, I am.”
“It’s OK,” Liz said with a half hearted attempt at a smile. “ That’s kind of what we were talking about upstairs.”
Maria continued little more quietly. “Anyway, I still think you need to talk to him first. I agree that everyone needs to know about the end of the world thing, but Max does not need to be hit with all of that in front of the group. I mean, I may be mad at him, but I still love him.” She smiled and said sincerely, “He won’t hate you.”
“You’re right, you’re right,” Liz wiped the tears from her cheeks with a napkin as she shook her head. “I don’t know what I was thinking. But what am I going to do,” she said suddenly looking up at Maria in panic. “I told him to ask everyone to come here tonight so I could speak to them. Kyle’s on his way over.”
At that moment, Max walked up to the table and slid in beside Liz. He took one of her fries and she automatically handed him the hot sauce. Smiling at her in thanks, he shook some out on her plate. As he doused the fry in the sauce, he looked at Liz and Maria and informed them, “Isabel’s not going to be able to make it for a while. She’s helping Mom with some recipe.” He grimaced in fear of what the two of them could do to decent food, but he wasn’t really upset. Isabel had been so happy that they didn’t have to leave their parents that she wouldn’t let their mother out of her sight all day. He was surprised she agreed to come to the Crash Down even for a little while. “She said give her an hour or so.”
Maria kicked Liz under the table and she jumped in surprise causing Max to look at her in question. Frowning at Maria she said, “Um, Max, I need to talk to you. Can we go somewhere?”
He looked at her quizzically for a moment then said, “Yeah, sure. Um, why don’t we go to my house? I have to pick up Isabel anyway because I have her car.” Wiping his hands on a napkin, he stood up.
“OK. Bye Maria,” Liz said turning her head away from Max to look at her in resignation. “Tell Michael and Kyle we’ll be back in about an hour to talk.”
“You got it, babe,” Maria paused after Max said goodbye, waiting for him to turn away before mouthing “ Good luck” to Liz. Liz wrinkled her nose and mouthed “Thanks” back. She followed Max out the door.
Max and Liz exchanged pleasantries with his mom and Isabel when they arrived at the house before heading upstairs to his room. Liz was still smiling from the comments that Max had made to them regarding their culinary expertise causing Isabel to fling a sauce-covered torpedo at his chest. He’d caught it easily, but it was all over him and he excused himself to go clean up in the bathroom and change his shirt.
Liz wandered around his room looking at his things her smile fading. Oh God. How do I do this, she thought. He poured his heart out this afternoon about how horrible he felt and I just let him go on without saying a word about what I did to cause it.
She was staring blindly at his CD collection when Max entered the room and shut the door. He crossed to the bed and sat down, inviting her to do the same. “So, Liz. Is this about what you were going to tell the group tonight,” he asked calmly after she refused the seat. In reality, his stomach was churning at what she might tell him. He had waited so long to hear the truth.
“Yeah. Maria sort of convinced me that I needed to tell you first because….well just because.” Liz paused and then turned to stare at him in resolutely. “She was right.” Looking down to hide her expression she said “ I was just afraid.”
“Afraid,” Max said, his stomach dropping. “Of me?”
“No,” Liz said quickly. “ No, I couldn’t ever be afraid of you, Max.” She stopped and looked at him in apprehension. “I was afraid that when I tell you what happened, you’ll….you’ll hate me.”
“What!” Max stood up and walked to where she was standing by the window. Gently laying his hands on her arms, he looked down into her anxious gaze willing her to believe him. “Liz, nothing you could ever do could make me hate you. Even when I thought you had been with Kyle, I still loved you. I couldn’t help myself. I was angry for a while, but then I realized that I had to have you in my life, even if it was only as a friend. I couldn’t go back to the way it was before you got shot.” Liz was mesmerized by his amber gaze. For the thousandth time, she wondered how such a beautiful person could look at her this way.
“I feel that way too, Max,” she said softly. “I just want you to know that I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to make you believe I slept with Kyle. I just didn’t feel like I had a choice.”
“What do you mean?”
Liz could here the frustration in his voice and it caused her own frustration with the situation to surface. “This is so hard,” she said pulling away from him to pace around the room. “I’ve wanted to tell you so many times, and now that you’re here, I don’t know where to start.” She turned to him with wide apologetic eyes. “When we were talking in my room, you were feeling so guilty about everything that’s happened when the truth is…. it’s really my fault. Indirectly, anyway.”
“Your fault. How can it be your fault?” The feeling of apprehension returned. Her trepidation with telling him the whole story was clear and it was making him nervous. She had gone to the other side of the room and was rocking back and forth from one foot to the other. What could be so terrible?
“Do you remember the night you came and sang to me with the Maruichi band?”
Max was thrown for a loop by the question. Of course he remembered that night. It was one of the most embarrassing moments of his life, but he had been desperate. He could still see her smiling face as he declared his devotion for the whole neighborhood to hear. Sheepishly he dropped his head, and nodded.
“Well, that night….I had a visitor before you got there, and he was with me on the balcony while you were singing.” Liz’s stomach was flip-flopping so much she thought she was going to be sick.
“A visitor?” Oh God, someone had been on her balcony while he was singing. He wanted to crawl in a hole.
Liz took a deep breath “He, um, used the Granolith to come back in time from the year 2014. I know it sounds crazy but it’s the truth,” she said in a rush before her fear could get the better of her.
Max’s head flew up from where he had been contemplating a spot on his carpet as he looked at her in shock. He crossed the room and grabbed her arms. “God, Liz! Was it a Skin? Did he try to hurt you or threaten you?”
“No! No Max. He didn’t do anything like that,” Liz said shaking her head as she looked up at him. “You see, well…. um…… it was you.”
“Me,” Max said uncomprehendingly letting go of her arms and stepping back.
“It was you from the future,” she said unconsciously rubbing her arms where he had touched her. “You had long hair, and you wore these really cool leather clothes.” Oh God, Liz thought. I’m babbling like Maria. “I didn’t believe it at first but then you convinced me.”
Max couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “How did I convince you? Are you sure it wasn’t a shape shifter?”
Liz was shaking her head again. “It was you, Max. He arrived just before you came, and he told me exactly what was about to happen right when it actually happened. And besides, when I finally calmed down, I could just tell it was you. I mean, it wasn’t you like you are now, but it was YOU,” she said pointing at his chest.
Max walked as if in a daze back over to the bed and sat heavily.
Liz finally sat at his computer desk turning to face him. “Anyway, you told me that we had to change the future. That things between us were about to change.” She hesitated, but decided not to say what had happened between them the night of the Gomez concert. This was hard enough without bringing sex into the picture. “We became inseparable and eventually got married. We eloped when we were 19 to Vegas.” Liz smiled slightly looking at him through her lashes. “ To the Elvis Chapel.”
Max was once again thrown into shock. He wasn’t sure how much more his system could take. “My vision. It was real,” he said in dawning comprehension. His eyes burned into hers as he remembered the feelings of happiness radiating from the two of them. It was real!
“Yeah.” Her expression became serious as she looked at him regretfully. “ I wanted to tell you so badly that night, Max. I almost did, and then…. well, I just couldn’t. I thought the future of the world was at stake.”
“What do you mean?” Max said hoarsely and he swallowed, afraid of what she was going to say but needing her to tell him before he exploded from the tension.
Liz got up from the chair, once again unable to keep still from the adrenaline rushing through her system. She paced in front of the window as she continued. “You….the future you, told me that because you and I got together, things with Tess got bad. She left Roswell.” She turned to face Max, and seeing his anxiety, her voice broke as she said, “Oh, God Max, I don’t even know how to say this. Your enemies came to earth and you discovered that the four of you were a complete unit with each of you having special gifts. Without Tess, you weren’t strong enough to defeat them and….and….they killed everyone.” Watching the devastation of her words transform his features, she could only finish in a whisper, “When you got here, Michael had just died, and Isabel had been gone for two weeks.”
Max was silent so long she thought he had gone into a trance. His face was deathly pale and his eyes were black with desolation. Suddenly he said, “Were you dead too?” It was the only thing his sluggish brain could come up with.
Liz’s brow wrinkled at his question. “I don’t know,” she said quizzically. “ You said that you couldn’t tell me too much information. You just said that we needed to change things so that it wouldn’t happen.” She hesitated a moment and then said gently, “You said that I needed to find a way to help you fall out of love with me so Tess wouldn’t leave.”
“Oh, my God.” Max was sure that he was going to die. His chest hurt, his head hurt, and his eyes were burning. Is this what a heart attack feels like, he thought distractedly. He came back to reality as he realized that Liz was still talking to him.
“You were so stubborn, Max. You wouldn’t let me go, even after those horrible things I said to you in your room.” Liz looked at his desolate figure as she said urgently, “ I swear, Max. I didn’t mean any of them. It was so hard to stand there, facing you and say that I didn’t want to die for you. When I got back home, we thought it had worked for a minute, but when we realized it hadn’t, you told me I had to come up with something else. So,” she swallowed painfully, “….I asked Kyle to help me. I didn’t tell him why, I just told him what I wanted and he said OK. When you saw us, we were just lying there talking. We had clothes on.,” she said despondently, sure he was going to tell her to get out any minute. He wouldn’t look at her and she had never seen him so distressed.
“After you left, we… the future you and me… were sitting on my balcony talking, and….he just disappeared.” Liz left out the dancing. She didn’t want him to think she had been happy after what she had done, and besides, it was a private memory between her and her would-have-been husband. Max was not that man, nor would he become him in the future.
“I don’t understand. Why didn’t he come to me and just tell me all of this?” Max’s brain was finally beginning to clear as he struggled to get his churning feelings in some sort of order. He had actually put two sentences together.
“He said that it had something to do with Quantum mechanics, but that the two of you couldn’t be in the space together or you would both be destroyed.” Liz was staring at him desperately, but he still would not return her gaze. “I wanted to tell you, Max. I wanted to so much. He just seemed so sure that this was the way it had to be done, and I couldn’t risk doing anything that would destroy the world or cause Michael and Isabel to die. Please, please say you understand why I did it. I know you must be angry with me…”
“I’m not sure how I feel,” Max said interrupting her. It was true. His emotions were in a jumble and he couldn’t latch on to any one of them.
Liz was devastated by his comment. That’s it, she thought. It’s over. It’s over before it even had a chance to begin. She turned to face the window, and said resignedly, “I thought that it was the right thing at the time, but now, look at what happened. Alex is dead. He wasn’t in the other reality. The future you said that he, Maria, Michael and Isabel met us in a bar outside of Phoenix after our wedding. You said we danced all night.” She leaned her forehead against the glass where she could see the reflection of the tears in her eyes.
Max finally looked up to see Liz’s dejected figure standing by the window. Her words penetrated the last of the fog and he realized that she thought he was blaming her. “Liz…..”
“Oh God, I did this,” she said turning to slide down the wall, her guilt over everything she had endured and done over the last few weeks finally catching up with her. “I let you take the blame, but I did this. Alex is dead, and you have a child in danger because of what I did.” Her body was shuddering with the effort to suppress her emotions. She brought her hands to her face and rocking back and forth, she said in a strangled voice, “ I should have come to you. I should have told you what was happening instead of doing it on my own. I’m so sorry, Max.”
Max knelt down in front of Liz and took her trembling hands into his warm ones. “No Liz, listen to me. I’m the one who’s sorry.” He raised her chin gently in his hand, looking deeply into her disconsolate eyes. “It wasn’t your fault. Alex is dead because Tess killed him.” His voice deepened with regret. “ I have a child because of my own irresponsibility. You only did what you did because I told you too.” He came to his feet, pulling her up with him. Leading her to the bed, he sat down pulling her smaller figure down next to him. Leaning forward with his hands in between his knees, he hung his head as he said miserably, “I can’t believe that I would ask you to do that; to take the burden for the fate of the world all by yourself. What kind of person did I become that I could do that to you?”
Liz put her hand lightly on his back. “Max, if you had seen the desperation, and grief. You had been through battles. Michael had just died in your arms…. Isabel….”
Max lifted his head and looked at her. “Will you let me see?”
“Will you let me connect so I can see what happened?” He knelt in front of her on the floor. He hadn’t done this since that first time in the Crash Down, but he needed to see and feel what was in her heart so he could fully understand what she had been through. “Please Liz. I want to know.”
Liz was couldn’t look away from his compelling gaze. “OK.”
Max took a deep breath and gently put his hands on either side of her face, sliding his fingers under her hair. “Just let the memories come, Liz,” he said softly staring deeply into her dark eyes.
She allowed her thoughts to drift, remembering every detail of her and Future Max’s time together. The feelings washed over her: fear, amazement, sadness, joy, love, guilt, and despair at her final act of desperation. When Max finally broke the connection, tears were running down both of their cheeks and he laid his forehead against hers.
“Oh, God Liz. I’m so sorry. How have you been able to keep this inside for so long? I wanted that life too. I wanted it so much. How could I have asked you to give up our lives together? There had to be other ways to keep Tess here without sacrificing our happiness.” His voice shook with the depths of his emotion.
“I don’t know, Max,” Liz pulled back to look at him. “You…the future you… said that she left because of the way you treated her after we got back together. Maybe guilt combined with losing Isabel and Michael made you believe that you needed to give me up to make up for it.” Liz got up from the bed and moved toward the window, wiping her cheeks with the back of her hand. She turned back to him. “I mean, look at our track record. Every time something happens, one of us has tried to let the other go, as if our being together is what keeps causing the trouble. You tried to let me go when Michael got sick, I tried when we got the message from you mother, and you even came back from the future to do it again.” She shook her head in disgust and pacing, went on. “But it never works. Things don’t get better. Life doesn’t become perfect because we’re apart. Whatever bad things that were going to happen, still happen, and we’re miserable on top of it.”
Max got up from the floor and went to stand in front of her. “Your're right.” He touched her arm to stop her agitated pacing. “Look Liz, we have to make a pact right here. We have to agree never to keep secrets from each other again. The whole group does. We can’t function like this. Now more then ever, we have to rely on each other because other wise, our enemies are going to destroy us.” He took her hand and led her to the bed again. They sat down facing each other and Max kept her hand in his. Looking at her earnestly, he asked, “Will you promise me that no matter how painful it is, or what circumstances there are, that you will always tell me the truth? That you’ll trust me?”
“I promise,” Liz said solemnly with a nod. “Do you promise the same thing,” she asked with a small smile.
“I promise,” Max’s lip curled slightly in response. “I trust you with my life,” he said sincerely. “ Now, one more thing.” He stopped and took a breath before continuing determinedly. “We have to stop blaming ourselves for what happened to Alex. We both made poor choices, especially my future self.” Liz opened her mouth to protest, but he cut her off with an apologetic shake of his head for breaking the rule he just set. “I know, I know, I’m sorry. It’s going to be hard,” he said ruefully. “But we have to get past it or we won’t be able to go on with our lives, personally or with the others.”
“How do you think they’ll react when I tell them?” Liz was dreading having to go through the whole story again. Just explaining it this one time had taken years off her life.
“I don’t know,” Max answered truthfully, “ but whatever they do, we are not going to blame ourselves anymore.” He leaned forward to look directly into her eyes. “Agreed?”
“OK,” she said softly. How could she resist when he looked at her that way? She’d have to be dead. “I guess we’d better see if Isabel is ready to go. Maria is going to have a fit if we leave her there to entertain Michael and Kyle much longer.”
They rose from the bed, there hands firmly together as they went out the door.
Conversation Part 3
“What! You mean someone from OUR planet used OUR technology to come back in time and you kept it to yourself?” Michael jumped off the stool he was sitting on and was facing Liz with an angry, disbelieving expression on his face.
They were sitting in the Crash Down, and Liz had barely begun her story. When she, Max and Isabel arrived, Maria informed her that Kyle called back to say he wouldn’t be coming. In Maria’s words, he came up with some lame excuse about helping his Dad. He’d sounded despondent and avoided her when she tried to question him about it so Liz vowed to herself that she would see him tomorrow to try and help him work it out. He didn’t deserve what happened. None of them did.
Max barely had time to react to Michael’s outburst when Maria grabbed his arm. “Michael!” she said sharply. “ Michael, sit down and let the girl finish.”
Michael turned to look at her with a frown, but upon seeing her expression, made a sound of frustration and sat back down next to her. She took his hand and patted it comfortingly.
Max’s eyes were shooting daggers at Michael, but when Liz glanced at him uncertainly, he gave her a small, rueful smile of reassurance and she managed to continue. “Um anyway, Max… uh the other Max, said that we had to change the future.” She went on to describe the events that occurred, leaving out the personal parts. When she was finished, she left the shell-shocked aliens to ponder what she said, and quietly slipped into a booth. She was exhausted. The emotional highs and lows of the past two days were finally catching up with her and she wanted nothing more than to walk up the stairs and go to sleep.
Max sat quietly for a moment letting his sister and Michael absorb the news. He’d watched in sympathy during Liz’s explanation as they realized with dawning horror, that the whole human race was destroyed because of them. Now, Michael was leaning over the counter with his hands over his eyes, and Maria was rubbing his back soothingly. Isabel, on the other hand had her back turned to them and he couldn’t tell what she was thinking.
He rose and slowly crossed to her side. Laying a hand on her shoulder, he silently offered his support. Her distraught voice came quietly as she addressed Liz. “Was Alex alive in this other time line?”
“Isabel,” Max knew where this was headed and he tried to cut her off before she went down that destructive path. But she whipped around and sidestepped him to confront a weary Liz who could only look at her sadly and nod.
“Oh my God,” Isabel cried desperately, tears streaming down her face. “Alex would still be alive. Alex is dead because of you.”
Max spun her around intending to berate her for attacking Liz, but the sight of her ravaged face stopped him. He bit back his anger and said as gently as he could, “Isabel, listen to me. Alex is not dead because of Liz. Alex is dead because of Tess. Liz did what she did because I told her to, so if you want to blame someone, blame me.” Putting his arms around her, Max let her cry out her sorrow on his shoulder.
“She should have told us what was going on, Maxwell,” Michael said forcefully. Max looked up as Michael spoke and saw Maria sitting in the booth next to Liz. Her head was on Maria’s shoulder, and her eyes were closed while Maria silently stroked her hair. “Are you saying that you think she did the right thing here,” Michael’s agitated question brought his head around.
Max gently let go of Isabel. Cutting his eyes to Michael he said sharply, “No, I’m not saying that.” He stopped abruptly, sighing as he reigned in his temper. “Liz knows that I think she should have told us,” he continued more calmly. “What I’m saying is that there’s no right or wrong. Liz doesn’t deserve this from us. She’s the victim here, and you two are just not getting it.” He looked at the now subdued pair and said pointedly. “I came back in time and told her that she had to change fate, or earth would be destroyed. I put all of that on her shoulders. And what she didn’t tell you…what she’s too kind to tell you is that she saved the both of you in the process.”
Michael’s face mirrored the confusion on Isabel’s as they looked over at Liz in the booth. “When my future self got here, you were both already dead. Isabel, two weeks before….and Michael a few minutes before.” Saying the words out loud to his two siblings made Max realize again how close he came to losing them. The severity of his expression softened and he continued more gently, “ I was grief stricken and desperate, and I made her do it. So we both made the decision. But,” Max paused to look back at Liz, “as hard as it is for us to accept, neither one of us is to blame.”
As he waited for the truth of his words to penetrate, Max continued to look at Liz who smiled slightly into his concerned gaze. He wanted to go to her, but felt he still needed to deal with Michael and Isabel. They were his family, and he understood their feelings, but blaming Liz was not an option.
Michael finally nodded reluctantly and went back to the counter. Maria rose from the booth and followed as Isabel wiped her cheeks with a napkin.
“So now what,” said Michael giving voice to everyone’s next concern. “Without Tess we’re screwed, right? I mean, supposedly we can’t function as a unit without her.”
Max answered him gravely. “I think it’s safe to say that even if she were here, Tess would not be helping us. She’s our enemy now and we’re just going to have to figure out a way to help ourselves.” Max looked around the room and said with conviction, “We have to promise that we’ll stick together and not keep secrets from each other. Our lives depend on it. Does everyone agree?” They all nodded in turn. “ OK,” he said tiredly rubbing his finger on his forehead. “It’s late and we’ve all had a long two days. We can meet again in a few days when everyone’s had time to rest.”
Isabel stood and walked over to Max. “I want to go home,” she said, her voice still thick with tears.
Max looked compassionately into her pain-filled eyes. “Wait for me in the car?” At her nod of ascent, he said, ‘I’ll be there in a minute.”
As Isabel made her way to the door, Liz intercepted her. “Isabel, I’m sorry,” her voice reflecting her own sorrow.
The beautiful girl looked at Liz with regret. “Me too,” she said miserably. “ I just……Alex and I….we were just beginning to….I’m sorry,” she said again, her face crumpling. She leaned over and gave Liz a quick hug, and walked out the door.
Liz wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, and turned to find Michael and Maria waiting for her. Michael, looking decidedly uncomfortable, spoke first. “Liz. I, uh…I just want to say that I’m sorry too. You did what you thought was right and it was wrong of me come down on you like that.” He gave his version of a smile. “Thanks…..for everything.”
“Your welcome.” Liz couldn’t help but smile back. Maria hugged her and whispered, “Is the security camera rolling, cause I think we just got some rare, one of a kind footage.” Liz laughed and hugged her back fiercely.
Maria grabbed Michael’s arm. “Come on, Spaceboy. We’ve got an early shift tomorrow and I, for one, need my beauty sleep.” They waved goodbye to Max and left.
Max came to stand in front of her taking in her drained appearance with concern. “You OK?”
“Yeah,” she smiled slightly. “Just tired.”
“Look, Liz. I’m sorry about Michael and Isabel. They’re just….”
“It’s OK,” she cut him off shaking her head. “I don’t blame them for being upset. And Isabel’s right. I…” she was stopped by a warm finger on her lips.
“We promised. Remember?” Max’s own lips curved as he looked at her in gentle reproach.
Liz fought the urge to press her lips more firmly onto his finger, and dropped her gaze guiltily instead.
Max lifted her chin to stare into her eyes. “ Look at me, Liz. It’s no ones fault. Especially not yours, OK?”
The familiar touch made Liz’s chest ache with longing, and as he dropped his hand, they continued to stare at each other, neither one willing to go just yet. Oh God, she wanted to touch him. She wanted to crawl into his arms and beg him to hold her forever. Liz fought her traitorous feelings, her weary body trembling with the effort. Turning away, she wrapped her arms around her waist and willed herself to resist the temptation to give in. She couldn’t allow herself the comfort of his arms, as much as she wanted it. The reasons were too numerous and too complicated and she was too tired to analyze them right now.
Max saw the emotional battle being waged in her eyes before she turned her back, and he couldn’t help but be a little happy that she was struggling with her feelings. But he chose to ignore it for now, because her exhaustion was evident. Instead he gestured reluctantly to where Isabel waited. “I want to stay, but I think Isabel needs me right now.”
Liz faced him and shook her head in understanding. “I know. You need to be with her too.” She smiled reassuringly. “I’m fine. Really.”
“OK.” They moved toward the door, but Max turned once more as he opened it. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Get some sleep, OK?” Liz nodded, and he leaned forward to kissed her forehead softly. “ Bye, Liz.”
“Bye, Max.” Liz watched him as he strode to the car, and closing the door, she turned the key and climbed the stairs to her lonely room.
Natures first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaf's a flower
But only so an hour
Then leaf subsides to leaf
So Eden sank to grief
So Dawn goes down to day
Nothing Gold can stay
|posted on 31-Aug-2001 8:27:42 PM|
|Conversation Part 4|
Liz knocked on the door of the Valenti residence and nervously pushed her hair back from her cheek. After the meeting last night, she’d slept like the dead and had woken up determined to see Kyle and help him with whatever he was going through because of Tess. The lock turned and she looked up to see a weary looking Kyle opening the door. “Hi Kyle.”
Standing there uncomfortably for a moment while he just stared at her, Liz finally asked, “Um.. Can I come in?”
He looked like he wanted to say no, but opened the door with a sigh and stepped back to let her through. Liz moved into the living room and looked around in dismay. The place was a wreck. Clothes hung from the backs of chairs and littered the floor. The coffee table was covered with the remnants of leftover takeout, and the couch was covered with tangled sheets and a blanket. Liz looked back to find him staring at her sardonically. She lifted her hand hesitantly and said, “I brought pie.”
Something like a smile touched his lips as he gestured to her hand. “”Yeah, I see that.”
Liz moved forward. “I’ll just put it here….” she stopped when she got to the kitchen as she realized there was not an inch of space between the dirty dishes to put anything.
Kyle watched as she hesitated, and walked back over to sit heavily on the couch amid the mess that served as his bed. “Pie solves everything,” he murmured to himself thinking back to the last time she’d shown up this way at his house.
“What?” Liz said stepping back into the room after finally deciding to set the pie down on the dining room table. She looked for a place to sit, decided to bring a dining chair over nearer the couch.
“Nothing.” Kyle leaned back and crossed his arms. “So....Evans figure out what he’s going to do about his kid? That is what that little pow-wow was about last night, wasn’t it?”
“Um, no actually.” Liz ignored the familiar hollow feeling in her stomach at the mention of their child and looked at him curiously. “Is that why you didn’t want to come? Because you thought we were going to be talking about Max and Tess’s child?”
Avoiding her inquiring stare, Kyle shook his head. “I told Maria why I didn’t come. My Dad and I had something…”
“Look Liz it doesn’t matter, OK?” Kyle cut her off. “Tess is gone, and there’s no reason for me to be involved in the whole alien thing anymore. You can tell them for me that I won’t say anything. Who’d believe me anyway, right? I know that’s what you’re all worried about.” The bitterness in his tone saddened her.
Liz got up to sit next to him on the couch. Looking directly into his eyes, she hoped he would see the truth of her words. “That’s not true, Kyle. I came here today, to make sure you were OK. We were worried about you. All of us.”
Unable to face her sincere regard, he jumped up from the couch and turned away pretending to fold a shirt that hung off the arm. “Yeah, well, you can tell them I’m fine. It’s great,” he continued gesturing toward the hallway. “I’ve got my room back, no more girl crap hogging the bathroom sink. I can even sit out here and watch wrestling in my boxers so….”, he looked up to see Liz staring at him in sympathy, “you know…. tell them…” he stopped as his voice cracked and looked down to hide his expression.
“Kyle.” Liz rose from the couch to stand in front of him. Maybe she’d finally gotten through the wall he built to protect himself. “ Kyle.” She bent her head to try and make him look at her. “I know it’s hard. She used you to hurt Alex.” She swallowed as the familiar tears threatened to fall at the mention of what happened to Alex. Would it ever get any easier?
“It’s not just that,” he said thickly, still not looking at her. “I mean, not that that isn’t enough, but …” he stopped, afraid to voice his thoughts out loud.
“What is it?” Liz inquired at his continued silence. Touching his arm softly, she said, “You can tell me Kyle. We used to be able to talk about anything.”
This finally brought his head up where he stared at her before saying bluntly, “Yeah, we used to be a lot of things.” The wall was back. Liz looked down in embarrassment and removed her hand. Kyle instantly regretted his harsh words. “Look, Liz, I’m sorry. I’m not very good company today. You should go, OK? I’m fine.” Kyle said finally, attempting to look like he meant it.
Liz realized she wasn’t getting anywhere at the moment trying to get him to open up to her so she changed the subject. Look, there’s another reason I came over here. I….need to tell you something.” She sighed, dreading the telling of this story again. “You were wrong when you said there’s no reason for you to be involved anymore. We’re going to need all the help we can get now.”
“What are you talking about?” Kyle looked at her skeptically. “Evans doesn’t need me to help him find his kid. He’s got the alien posse and you and Maria to keep the home fires burning.” His voice was sharp with sarcasm.
“No, Kyle it isn’t about that. It’s… about the reason I asked you to help me with Max,” Liz said hesitantly, looking up at him through her lashes. “You know… the night you pretended to…..um…” she stopped gesturing lamely.
“What? You mean you finally told him the truth?” Kyle wasn’t the least bit surprised. “Congratulations. So you two are back together now. Well it’s a good thing he had a backup after shooting the mother of his child off the planet.”
“Kyle, listen to me.” Liz was getting slightly irritated with his smart comments. She knew him well enough to know that he hid his real feelings with sarcastic humor, but his attitude reminded her of the days when he first found out about her and Max and it was getting on her nerves. “It’s not like that, OK. Max and I are not back together. I mean, we’re talking ….but .. that’s not important right now,” she said in exasperation. “The reason I asked you to …help me trick Max was because of something that happened a few nights before that.” She went on to explain the events in as few words as possible, turning to pace in agitation.
Now Kyle was staring at her in disbelief. “So what you’re saying is that it’s not over. Since we…, basically you and I, changed the future, we have no idea what’s going to happen now. Their enemies may come to earth and without Tess, they can’t win. We’re all screwed. That’s great.” He laughed without humor. “This just gets better and better. Tell me again how this isn’t their fault because I think I lost sight of that after the whole evil aliens destroying the earth part.”
“Look Kyle, I know this is overwhelming.” Liz said, trying to hold on to her patience. “That’s why we need your help. We’re the only ones who know and we can’t tell anybody else. I’m not asking you to feel sorry for them, OK. I’m just asking you to think about how it must feel for them to be the only ones who can stop this and they don’t know how.” Liz felt tears rise as the situation threatened to catch up with her. “And now with Tess on the other side….God, when I think about the things she did….Alex….and you… and even Max….I…just hate her.” The tears spilled silently down her cheeks as she confessed her feelings. “ I can’t help it.” She looked up regretfully, aware that he had the most reason to be upset, but he’d turned his back to her. “I’m sorry, Kyle. I know you must feel the same way.”
There was a moment of silence, then his voice came softly. “That’s just it. I don’t… hate her.” Kyle turned around, his handsome face tight with suppressed emotion. “I mean, I do, but I…..” He gazed down at his feet. “At first, you know,… when she just showed up out of the blue to live here, I was mad. But then, she just seemed like she needed a friend and ….we had fun. It was like having a sister.” Kyle finally looked up and Liz was torn by the sadness in his eyes. “I miss her,” he whispered, hating himself for feeling that way after all the things she’d done.
He walked to the couch and sat, hiding his face in his hands. Liz followed with a heavy heart and put a gentle arm around his trembling shoulders. “Kyle, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for what she did to you.” Her own voice shook as she tried to comfort him. He nodded, his face still hidden, and allowed her to continue her slight embrace while he pulled himself together. Finally, after wiping his face with the back of his hand, he looked over at her and said, “Thanks.” Liz nodded, letting go of his shoulders, and moved over to a more comfortable position on the couch, pushing the sheet and blanket as she went. As if by mutual consent, they changed the subject, both of them relaxing against the back of the couch.
“So now what. Do they have any idea what to do?” Kyle still couldn’t believe what she’d told him.
"We hadn’t really gotten that far, yet. Everyone was sort of overwhelmed by the news, you know.” Liz shook her head. “Isabel was really upset about Alex.”
“You mean she blamed you?” His voice rose in anger. “ Did they all blame you? Evans…?”
“No! No.” Liz quickly cut him off before he made some harsh comment. “Max didn’t blame me. He defended me to them. He thinks it’s his fault,” she said thinking back to their conversation the night before. They’d promised not to torture themselves with the guilt of Alex’s death but it was easier said than done.
“Well, can’t argue with him there. What?” he said as she looked at him in reproach. “Are you telling me you aren’t mad that he and Tess did the w…., he stopped as her eyes widened in outrage, “um, anyway… you just blew it off?”
“No, I’m not saying that.” Liz paused in irritation. “ Look, Max and I have a lot of things to work out, OK. He knows how I feel about what happened with Tess and believe it or not, she was manipulating him too.”
“Man, have you got it bad.” Kyle laughed in disbelief. “The man comes back from the future to make you break up with him, then sleeps with his ex-wife and makes an alien baby, and you’re still defending him. What is the deal with that?” He looked at her in genuine curiosity. “Is it the whole alien voodoo thing?”
Liz laughed at his comment and he smiled in return. “I’m not going to discuss my relationship with Max with you,” she said with finality, effectively ending the discussion
They sat in companionable silence for a moment, both lost in their own thoughts before Kyle said softly, “I thought I was in love with you, you know.” At her look of surprised disbelief, he smiled slightly in embarrassment. “I did. I know I didn’t show it really, even though we were dating.” He picked up her hand and idly played with her fingers as he continued. “You were the first girl I really felt that way about, and I didn’t know how to act so I just….didn’t. Then when Evans came along, I knew. Almost right away, I knew I’d waited too long. That’s why I was such a jerk.”
Liz had been watching him in sympathy as he spoke. As he let go of her hand, she said, “Kyle, I’m sorry. For everything. I can’t explain about Max and me, it’s just…I don’t know what it is. I only know I can’t let it go.” She sighed in resignation. “I just wish you hadn’t gotten caught in the middle. In the beginning and with the whole Tess thing. I want you to know I’ll always be your friend. Me and Maria.” She couldn’t speak for Max and the others. They needed to make peace with Kyle and his father on their own. She glanced sideways at him and smiled. “I mean, we’ve seen each other naked, right?”
Kyle laughed in genuine amusement this time.“It doesn’t count when your only six.” He turned to leer at her wickedly. “Now, if you really want to make it up to me, you could strip right here and…OW!” he said in mock pain as she swatted him on the arm. “Hey, I was just trying to ease your conscience.”
“Thanks, but I think I’ll keep my clothes on.” Liz bounced off the couch and turned to look down at him. “So what do you say we have some pie, and I help you clean up this mess a little. Even two tough guys like you and your Dad eventually have to have clean underwear, right?” She laughed again at the look on his face.
“Yeah, I guess.” Kyle rose from the couch and grabbed her arm as she turned toward the kitchen. “Hey Liz.” She turned back to find him looking at her with eyes clear of shadows for the first time since she got there.
“Your welcome,” Liz answered before he could finish. He smiled and they headed toward the kitchen to tackle the mess.
Conversation Part 5
Michael hit the bell for the second time. “Hey, Liz. Order up for seven.” When she didn’t turn around, he finally yelled, “Liz!”
Looking up in response to her name being called, Liz made her way to the pick up window, where Michael waited impatiently. “ Thanks, Michael.”
He just stared at her for a moment before shaking his head. “What’s up with you today? I called you three times.”
Liz looked at him in surprise, then grimaced in embarrassment. “Oh… sorry, I’m just…distracted.” Michael shook his head again and turned back to the grill.
“Distracted, yeah. More like a friggin’ basketcase,” Liz thought as she balanced the plates on her arms. “I need to stop thinking about this. ” She delivered the food to table seven, barely paying attention to the thank you’s from the people there.
Grabbing a tub, she started bussing table 11. It had been a month and a half since the day Tess left earth, and the group had gone on with their normal lives. If normal meant practicing alien powers and having meetings to discuss strategy. For the three aliens, going to the quarry to try and discover what made them a unit had become a daily activity. So far, they’d failed, but it didn’t stop them. The threat of an evil alien invasion was good motivation.
After wiping down the highchair and stacking it in the corner with the others, Liz went to the back to grab the Roller Sweeper thingy (Maria’s word) to get rid of the cracker crumbs littering the floor under the table. As she swept, she thought back over the last several weeks. The group met almost everyday, but had yet to come up with anything to help them figure out what to do, either about the alien threat or about Max’s son. Their first meeting was a couple of days after her discussion with Kyle, and she was relieved to see him show up at the appointed time. It was then that she learned from Maria, that Max, Michael and Isabel had gone to see the two Valenti men, apologizing for bringing Tess into their lives and for all the chaos that that had caused. Liz was glad they’d taken the initiative and Kyle had seemed much more relaxed then during their own conversation. Although he barely spoke to Max, he’d at least added constructively to the meeting. Liz made the suggestion that they write down everything that had happened since the shooting in the Crash down. Maybe by charting the events, they could come up with a pattern or something that would help them with a plan. With everyone contributing, the list of events was quite extensive, and after that last disastrous day was recorded, the teenagers sat in silence, contemplating everything they’d been through. The mood was somber as they left Michael’s apartment that night.
Putting the sweeper back, Liz made the rounds of her tables, making sure everyone had filled glasses and dirty dishes were cleared. It was not quite 5:00 yet, so the lag time between the lunch and dinner rush was still in effect and there weren’t many tables to check. That was a good thing because she’d been pretty much out of it most of the day. It was all because she and Max were going on their first, official date since the whole Tess thing started. Not that Liz hadn’t seen Max almost everyday since she left. Whether by himself or with the group, he always managed to make sure that he had some sort of contact with her. He’d stop by for a quick conversation before work at the UFO Center, or casually drop in to eat lunch on his days off. On the days she didn’t see him, she knew he would call, even for just a minute, to ask her how she was or to tell her how the practicing was going. He was always sweet and attentive and so much like the Max that she fell in love with, it made her decision to give them time difficult in the extreme. It was obvious to everyone the change in his behavior since Tess left, giving credence to the fact that she was messing with his mind.
And to make matters worse, he took every opportunity to touch her. Nothing overly obvious, just light gestures of affection. A hand on her arm as they walked, a light touch on her back as he went by, a kiss on her forehead or lips as he left. She was having a hard time resisting his campaign to win her back, and when he’d finally asked her out, she couldn’t think of a reason to say no. Besides, he looked like he could use some relaxation, the toll of the last few weeks showing in his tired eyes.
It wasn’t until after she’d agreed to the date that her fears surfaced. As she wiped down the counter, Liz thought about her conversation with Maria yesterday.
“Liz, you’ve lost me here. What’s the big deal about…..Oh. Oh no. You don’t think…. No.
“Maria, how do you know? I couldn’t bear it.” Liz was sitting on the bed in her room looking miserable.
“Look Liz,” Maria sat on the bed next to her, “ I don’t think its going to happen, but either way, you’ve got to tell Max the truth.”
Liz looked at her in disbelief “Yeah, right. What am I going to say? Oh sorry, Max. I can’t kiss you because I’m afraid I’ll see you and your ex-wife having sex. But feel free to keep dating me.” Liz shook her head. ”Not gonna happen.”
Looking at her in determination, Maria tried to make her see reason. “Liz, didn’t you and Max make a pact to always be honest with each other?” At Liz’s reluctant nod, she continued. “ Well, then you’ve got to tell him. You won’t be able to get on with your relationship until you do. What?” she said as Liz looked at her strangely. “ So, I’ve been watching a lot of “The View”. The point is, you can’t just not kiss him. He’ll figure out something’s wrong. And besides, you could always ask him to block them. I told you how Michael was blocking me in the beginning.”
“Oh God, I couldn’t do that. How embarrassing.”
“I think it’s clean, Liz.”
Liz’ s head jerked up to find Maria standing directly in front of her. “Oh, hey Maria. I didn’t see you there.”
“Obviously. Where were you just now?” Maria looked at her inquiringly, noticing the nervous way she straightened condiments on the table that weren’t out of place.
“Nowhere.” Liz evaded her perceptive gaze. “Uh, when did you get here?”
“A few minutes ago. You were so busy trying to scrub a hole in the counter, you didn’t notice. Still worried about tonight?”
Liz looked at her in panic. “Oh my God, a few minutes ago? Max will be her any minute!” Liz dropped the cloth she’d been using and took off for the back. As she threw her apron and antennae in her locker she heard Maria’s voice trailing after her. “Remember, open and honest.”
Right, open and honest. Open and honest. It was like a mantra in her head as she tore off her uniform and threw on a T-shirt, Capri pants and sandals. She contemplated taking her hair down, but decided against it because they were going to be going in the new jeep. Liz smiled in spite of her nervousness as she thought of Max’s new car.
Car shopping with Max was one of the highlights of the last few weeks. Max and Isabel told their parents the old jeep had been stolen while they were at the movies, using the cover story Sheriff Valenti had helped them devise. He called the Evan’s a few days later to tell them it showed up at the bottom of a ravine. No bodies were reported, but he didn’t think they’d ever fine who did it. So, Max’s dad said he could look for a new used car, and he’d immediately invited Liz to accompany him. She’d tried her best to steer him toward other, more safe vehicles, but he’d stubbornly refused to be swayed from getting a new jeep. And when they’d come across the one he had now, he’d smiled triumphantly and told her it was fate. She couldn’t help but laugh at his enthusiasm.
Heading down stairs, she spotted Max immediately, sitting at the counter talking to Maria. He was wearing a pair of faded jeans and an older, almost threadbare white-t-shirt and Liz paused momentarily to get her breath back from where it had fled her body. As she continued to stare, the swinging door smacked her in the back, and two pairs of eyes turned her way, as she stumbled into the room.
Max immediately jumped up from his stool “Are you alright?”
Liz could see Maria laughing at her behind Max’s back, and staring pointedly at Max’s blue-jean clad body, she fanned herself as though suddenly too hot. Liz narrowed her eyes in warning before answering his inquiry. “Yeah. I just tripped.”
As she gazed up at him, she noticed that he, once again, looked tired and strained. Before she had a chance to question him, he was taking her hand. “Bye Maria,” he said as he led her out the glass doors.
Maria smiled in encouragement at Liz, and waved, “You two have fun.”
Max handed Liz into the new jeep then went around to the driver’s side. A few minutes later they were flying down the old highway and Liz was reminded of the last time they’d tried to take this trip. Max had ended up in the hospital and she’d almost lost Alex as her friend. The thought saddened her. Maybe if she’d just let him remain ignorant of the aliens, he wouldn’t be dead now. He still wouldn’t be in her life, but at least he’d be alive. She shook the thought away as it threatened to overwhelm her. She couldn’t change the past, and it didn’t do any good dwell over “ifs” and “might have beens”. Kyle had told her and Maria about his and Alex’s discussion in the cave with the blue crystals, and it made her feel marginally better that Alex wouldn’t have wanted to be kept in the dark, even at the expense of his life.
Liz looked at Max’s beautiful profile as she pushed a stray piece of hair behind her ear. They weren’t talking much because of the noise of the open jeep, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable silence. She closed her eyes and decided to relax and let the wind and music sooth her. That’s what this outing was about, after all. When Max had asked her to come with him on this evening picnic, he’d said he wanted to spend time with her without thinking about the threat that loomed over their heads. Just a chance to be two normal teenagers, going out on a date. They both needed it.
Coming to the turn off, Max drove another mile or so, then turned again onto a dirt road. A couple of minutes later, he pulled over and stopped the car. He came around to her side to help her out, and grabbing a blanket and picnic basket out of the back seat, motioned her to follow him. They climbed down a slope and she saw that they came to a little copse of trees. Moving forward, she suddenly stopped in looked around. There in the middle of it, was a creek. Small rocks lined the bed, and it looked clear and wonderfully fresh after driving through the desert. Turning to Max in delight, she found him contemplating her reaction with a small smile of his own.
“Max, this is so beautiful. How did you know it was here?”
“My dad used to bring us here when we were little. The land is owned by a friend of his at the law firm and he said we could come whenever we wanted. Isabel and I used to play for hours in the water.”
Setting the blanket and basket down, he said, “Why don’t you put the blanket out near the water. I’ll be right back.” He turned and she watched as he climbed back up toward the car. Liz spread the blanket, then moved the basket on top of it and sat down to wait for Max. She was enjoying the soothing sound of the water running over the rocks, when he appeared by her side, carrying a portable CD player and several CD’s. Setting them down, he sat beside her. Liz chose a CD and turned to find Max looking at her in inquiry. “So, do you want to eat, or would you rather play for a while?”
Liz smiled at him. “Let’s eat, then we can work it off afterward.” Max nodded and pulled picnic basket over. They emptied it onto the blanket and took their time eating. Max’s mom had helped him put a simple dinner together, and even provided apple pie for desert, one of the few things she could cook without a problem. They talked as they ate, enjoying each other’s company and relaxing for the first time in over a month. Everything had been such strain, it felt good just to do something as normal as having a picnic. Well, as normal as you could get when one of you is dousing apple pie with Tobasco sauce.
After finishing their meal, Max leaned over, untied his shoes, pulled off his socks and rolled up his jeans, as Liz slipped off her sandals. Allowing Max to help her to her feet, they made their way into the water and proceeded to play. Laughing and splashing, they ran and explored and generally had fun, a rare occurrence in their complicated lives. When they finally returned to the blanket, it was two wetter, but much happier people that looked at each other as they dried their feet and legs and put their shoes back on.
“Thank you, Max for bringing me here. It’s been fun.” Liz smiled as she watched him try to roll his wet blue jeans down. Finally, she couldn’t stand it anymore. She reached over and started helping him.
Max looked at the top of her shiny brown head, and answered, “You’re welcome. I just wanted us to stop worrying for a while, you know. Just be us, and not two people trying to save the world. Before we go, I have one more request.”
Liz had finished unrolling his jeans and looked up to see him staring at her hopefully. “Dance with me?”
Liz felt a small fizzle of unease, but couldn’t find the heart to say no. “OK.”
Max changed the CD, then lifted her to her feet. Taking her left hand in his right, he put his other arm around her waist and started swaying gently to the music. Liz rested her head on his broad chest and tried to relax. This was heaven. She’d almost forgotten what it was like to be held in his arms, and the feeling was enough to bring tears to her eyes. How had she lived so long without this? They stayed that way for a while, content to hold one another, when Max gently pulled her away so he could look at her. Dusk was approaching and she was surprised to find herself able to see his shimmering eyes clearly. Speaking softly, he said, “Thanks, Liz. Thanks for coming with me today. I really needed this. I really need you.” Before Liz could reply, his hands came slowly to either side of her face, and he stared at her lovingly.
Liz felt a stab of panic. Oh, God, he’s going to kiss me, she thought wildly, every muscle in her body tensing. She’d been so happy just to be in his arms that she’d forgotten to be afraid, and now it all came rushing back to her in a wave. She looked down trying to regain her composure, but the change in her demeanor communicated itself to him and Max hesitated for a moment waiting to see if she would say anything or pull away. When she didn’t, he started to lower his lips toward hers.
“I can do this, I can do this,” she’d been chanting to herself, but when the moment arrived, she lost her nerve. Turning her head so his lips grazed her cheek, Liz dropped her gaze in embarrassment and pulled out of his arms. Unable to face him, she lowered herself to blanket and quickly began to re-pack the picnic basket. “We…uh…. really should be getting back, you know. You said you had an early shift, right? And…I…” Liz couldn’t shut up. It was as though her mouth had disconnected from her brain. She kept going as she continued to gather their things until Max finally stopped her. Pulling her gently to her feet, he said, “Liz. Liz, stop. It’s OK.” He looked down at her, but she wouldn’t meet his gaze. “I understand.”
Managing to get a grip on her rocketing emotions, Liz finally lifted her eyes to his. The look in them was a conflicting mixture of understanding, disappointment, resignation and love. “I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I know it’s too soon. I just….miss you.”
Liz felt horrible. He’d been so wonderful, so happy about sharing this special place with her and she’d freaked out on him. As he let go of her arms and leaned over to grab the CD player, Liz could hear Maria’s voice in her head and she realized she was going to have to tell him the truth, no matter how hard it was. They’d promised to be honest and she couldn’t be the one to break that promise. “No, Max,” she said, causing him to stand upright and look at her. Liz’s expression was contrite as she continued. “I’m the one who’s sorry. I shouldn’t have pulled away like that. It’s just….I mean, I wanted you to kiss me….but,” Liz hesitated, unable to find the words to tell him her fears. As he waited patiently, Liz turned away, wrestling with her emotions, until she finally made herself speak. “I was….afraid. Afraid of having flashes.” She turned back to find him staring at her in confusion. “Why?” Max felt his own sense of panic as he asked the question. The thought that she might not want to have that connection with him hadn’t occurred to him.
Liz wanted the ground to open up and swallow her, as she saw his trepidation. God, how was she supposed to tell him this? Lowering her eyes, she finally blurted out, “Because I was afraid of what I might see.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “I was afraid I might see you…and Tess…you know…together.” Liz forced herself to look in his eyes as she finished, but wished she hadn’t. He looked like someone had punched him in the gut. As she watched, he looked down at the ground, but not before she saw the tears gathering in his eyes. Liz’s heart twisted and she stepped forward to touch his arm, but he quickly stepped back and reached down to gather the blanket, basket and CD player in his hands. “I…we need to get going.” His voice was hollow and strained. “It’s late.”
Liz watched as he walked away, her heart in a million pieces at her feet. She’d done it. It was exactly what she was afraid of. Liz felt her own tears forming, but she ruthless forced them back. Trudging after him, she found him waiting to help her up the hill, a flashlight in his hand. He must have had it in the basket, she thought. Liz looked at him, but he wouldn’t return her gaze, waiting for her to precede him as he shown the flashlight ahead of her. When they reached the jeep, he threw everything in the back and took a moment to raise the top. As Liz fastened her seat belt, he climbed in and started the engine. Making a quick U-turn, they took off down the highway.
The drive back was the antithesis of the drive there. No words were spoken, and the music seemed out of place in the mournful atmosphere. Liz stared out the window, willing herself not to cry. She was not going to break down until she was in her own room. Then, she would cry until she drowned. She just had to hold out a little longer.
When Max finally pulled up in front of the Crash Down, Liz turned to face him, but he was staring straight ahead, just as he’d done the whole trip back. “Max, I….” Liz trailed off as he refused to meet her gaze. The tears she’d been fighting sprang to the surface, and she turned away to climb out of the jeep, hoping he’d drive away before she lost it completely. She was shutting the door, when his voice stopped her. “Liz.”
Turning hesitantly to face him, she saw that he still wouldn’t meet her eyes. Staring out the windshield, he spoke softly, his voice thick with emotion. “When we kissed, the things you saw…and felt, came from my heart.” His head turned her way, but he still refused to look at her. “And Tess was never in my heart. Not really. There was only room for one.” Turning back to the windshield, he put the jeep in gear, and as Liz stepped back, he pulled away. She watched with a heavy heart until he turned the corner, then slowly made her way inside.
Conversation Part 6
“Liz. Liz honey. It’s going to be OK.” Maria handed her a tissue, as she lay on her side in bed staring at nothing. Maria had arrived fifteen minutes ago after a distraught Liz called her at Michael’s to tell her what happened on the date.
“How’s it going to be OK, Maria,” Liz’s voice was hoarse from crying. “You didn’t see his face. I hurt him so much.”
“I know. But, you had to tell him.”
“How am I ever going to face him, again.” Liz rolled her eyes hopelessly. “What am I saying? He’ll probably never want to see me again.”
“Whoa, Liz.” Maria pulled on her arm until she turned to face her. “You’re losing your grip on reality here,” she said bluntly. “This is Max we’re talking about. The guy whose loved you since third grade. The guy who still loved you, even when he thought you slept with someone else. Isn’t that what he said?”
Liz nodded reluctantly sitting up in the bed. “Yeah.”
“Well then, as I see it, you have two choices. You can lie here and wallow in self-pity, or you can go over to his house and work this out.” Maria looked at her and said gently, “ The question is…is that what you want?”
Liz stared back, her mind a jumble of indecision. Was it what she wanted? She wasn’t sure any more. She’d been burned by this fire so many times, but as a picture of Max the way he’d looked when he left flashed in her mind, she suddenly knew she had to find a way to breach the gap. The unbelievable sadness she’d seen in his eyes compelled her. “You’re right. I need to talk to him.” Reaching out to hug her best friend, Liz said, “Thanks, Maria. You always seem to know just what to say. How did you get so smart?”
“Please! I have an emotionally repressed alien boyfriend and my best friend’s alien boyfriend slept with his alien ex-wife! I should have my own talk show.” She smiled as Liz finally laughed.
“Can I borrow your car?” Liz asked as she hopped off the bed and began searching for her shoes. “I’ll bring it back later.”
“Yeah, just drop me off at Michael’s and we’ll pick it up in the morning.” Maria finally found them under the bed.
“Thanks.” Liz slipped the sandals on, checked her face in the mirror, and they climbed out the window.
As Liz approached Max’s bedroom window, she tried to breathe more slowly. She was so nervous, she was practically hyperventilating. Driving over in Maria’s car, she’d practiced what she was going to say over and over, but as she finally stopped outside the window, she couldn’t remember a word of it. Cautiously looking through the glass where the curtain was slightly pulled back, she saw that Max was awake. He was dressed in a pair of long cotton pajama boxers and was sitting on the edge of his bed, his hands over his face, elbows on his knees. As she watched, she saw that his shoulders were trembling and he was breathing heavily. Concern replaced trepidation as she realized that something other than their conversation must have caused this. Liz tapped on the glass to get his attention, but he didn’t respond. He seemed caught up in whatever had upset him, and she began to worry in earnest. Hoping she wouldn’t wake up his parents or Isabel, Liz knocked harder, and was relieved when his head turned toward the window. Sighing and rubbing his hands over his face, Max walked toward the window, ready to tell Michael to get lost. He stopped short when he saw Liz standing there, then slowly reached out and undid the lock.
“Liz, what are you doing here?” He stepped back after he opened the window.
Liz’s heart dropped when he made no move to help her in. She climbed onto the sill and hopped down into his bedroom. Looking up at him, she was disturbed by the look in his eyes. Max’s face was completely devoid of emotion, and to anyone else he would seem fine. But Liz knew every nuance of his expression and she could see the underlying tension and fatigue. Something was going on. “I came to talk to you. Are you all right?” she asked in concern.
Max turned away from her perceptive gaze and automatically reached for the shirt hanging on his computer chair. “Yeah,” he said still not looking at her. “Is this about earlier, because there’s nothing to talk about. I asked you to be honest, and you were.” His voice was dull and lifeless and Liz started to feel sick to her stomach at his indifference.
Swallowing nervously, Liz answered, “It was about earlier, but it doesn’t matter right now.” Trying to get him to look at her, she moved forward, “Tell me what happened.”
“Nothing.” He toyed with a stack of CD’s on his desk. “Nothing happened. You shouldn’t be here. It’s late.”
The sick feeling in the pit of her stomach intensified. He was starting to scare her. Whatever had happened was causing him to shut down. It reminded her of the night he came to tell her he wanted to take a step back from their relationship when Michael got sick. He was so remote that night, only his voice betraying his emotion. But she knew he was just as upset as she was. It was one way he dealt with pain. “Max, please tell me what’s wrong. I can see how upset you are.” She touched his arm and felt him tremble before he moved away.
“I….I just had a bad dream. That’s all.” He finally turned to face her and Liz could see that the façade was beginning to crack. His eyes were hollow and there was a strained look to his mouth.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Liz said, feeling somewhat relieved that it wasn’t a more alien-related crisis.
Max shook his head. “No. You should go,” he said again, obviously wanting her to leave so he could deal with the dream on his own, but Liz was determined to make him tell her. After what happened on their date, she couldn’t just leave without trying to help.
“Max, I’m not leaving. Was it about Michael or Isabel?” She looked up at him with determination.
Max, realizing that she meant what she said, turned away from her with a sigh, and crossing to the other side of the room, sat down on the edge of the bed, hands between his knees as he stared blindly at the floor. “I started having them a few weeks ago. The night I realized the baby was probably born.” Liz felt a stab of shock go through her. Oh, God, she hadn’t even remembered…..
“I have it every night….or every night that I sleep. It always starts out the same. We’re all sitting in the Crash Down. Me and you, Maria and Michael, Isabel, and for some reason, our parents, and Maria’s mom. Oh and Kyle and his Dad are all there.” Max glanced at her briefly, then looked down again. “We’re sitting around eating and talking. It’s just an ordinary day.” He stopped, shaking his head in disbelief. “Then….there’s this big flash and…suddenly I’m outside.” Max ‘s voice started to tremble. “ Me and Michael and Isabel are surrounded by these….I don’t know what they are. They’re from our planet and…they’re like people… but not. Sort of like energy…I don’t know how to describe it,,” he said, running rough hands through his hair in frustration. “Anyway….we’re outside and we’re fighting. They’re our enemies…and they’re killing everyone. People are dead all around us, and we’re trying to fight them off but….they’re too strong.” His voice was hoarse now with emotion, and he was caught up in the horror of the visions inside his head.
“Isabel always dies first. It isn’t always the same. Sometimes, it’s a blast that puts a hole through her. Sometimes she just disintegrates…right in front of me. Then Michael. The same thing.” Closing his eyes against the image, Max took a shaky breath and continued. “Eventually, I’m by myself, and everyone is dead. There’s no one left on earth alive but me…..and I’m surrounded…..by bodies. The bodies of my family…..Maria….Michael and Isabel….and you.” Staring down at the carpet again, his eyes remained dry as the tears he suppressed for so long began to choke him. “You’re always right in front of me. I kneel over you and there’s blood running down….your face.” He turned his hands palms up, and looked at them as though seeing her blood. “I’m crying and….I look up…..and……someone is walking toward me. He’s got on some kind of uniform, and a helmet and he stops in front of me….I know he’s the leader because…..I just know… and I can feel his hate for me.” Max shuddered and closed his eyes again briefly, before saying in resignation. “I kneel there waiting for him to kill me, and he finally lifts his hands up to take off his helmet…..and it’s my face” Leaning over to cover his face with his hands, Max whispered in a strangled voice, “ It’s …my son.”
The silence was deafening. Liz had been standing quietly by the window while he spoke. As the dream unfolded, she’d listened in shock, her hands eventually coming up to cover her mouth. But she couldn’t stop her gasp of horror as that last painful sentence left his mouth. His son. He’d called it a dream, but it was a nightmare. Liz felt sick as she looked at his distraught figure. He’d been having this dream for weeks. And he’d never said a word. She saw him practically every day, and she never knew he was in such torment. She’d noticed he seemed tired, but had attributed it to the strain of all of the chaos of practicing powers, and meetings and work and…everything.
As she stood there, Liz suddenly had a flash of insight of what had been truly happening since Tess left. While she held onto pain and hurt of what she thought Max had done to her, she never saw what he was doing to himself. He’d never once mentioned his son in her presence, she realized. Even though she’d told him in her room that day that he didn’t have to hide his feelings, he’d known she didn’t really mean it. He knew her so well. She hadn’t even thought about when his son was supposed to be born. Hadn’t wanted to acknowledge it. And he’d let her. He’d kept all the pain and guilt and suffering to himself and only shown her his love. Liz looked at the carpet, the guilt nearly overwhelming as she realized what she’d been doing to them. Instead of moving forward and letting go of the pain of the last year, she’d been letting it fester, holding at arm’s length, the only man she would ever truly love. The only man on this planet or any other who knew her soul and loved her anyway. He had hurt her, had asked her forgiveness and she’d lied to him. Had said she didn’t blame him. But deep in her heart, she had…and he knew.
Liz realized she had a choice. She still didn’t know what the future held but she knew she was at a crossroads. She could choose to allow the tragedy of the last year to rule the rest of her life….or she could choose Max. Choose love over fear. Choose unknown joy over loneliness. There really was no choice.
Liz stepped forward toward the bed. She felt truly free for the first time in…so long she couldn’t remember. Now she had to free Max. Free him so they could have the life they’d given up. The life they were meant to have.
Moving to kneel in front of him, Liz put her hands on either side of his face, and gently lifted it up. The blankness of his stare spoke volumes about the torment he was going through, and her heart ached that he had been going through it alone. Willing him to see her faith in him, she said “Max. It’s OK. We won’t let it happen. We’re going to save him. We’re going to save your son.” She leaned forward and finally put her lips on his whispering, “I promise.” He sat there for a moment, not responding, not breathing, and then suddenly, he was clutching her to him. Liz lifted her head and, looking at him, saw the blankness had finally been replaced by despair. She stood up, and he laid his head against her stomach as she caressed his trembling shoulders, feeling the wetness seeping into her shirt. Laying her head on top of his own, she whispered words of comfort and love, until the shaking lessened and then ceased altogether. Max finally lifted his head, wiping his face with the back of his hand. Pulling gently, he parted his legs and brought her down on his knee looking her in the eyes. “I’m sorry, Liz.”
Looking at him regretfully, she said, “I’m the one who’s sorry. Sorry, that you felt you had to go through this alone. It’s my fault.” Max opened his mouth to protest, but Liz stopped him. “Let me finish. I’ve been pushing you away because of my fear. I was afraid to let you in again, because I didn’t want to get hurt.” Max looked down guiltily, but she lifted his face with her finger. “ I realize now that I wasn’t letting it go. I was holding on to the pain and punishing you at the same time.” She leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the lips. “And you’ve been punishing yourself.” Getting up from his lap, she sat down next to him and took his hands in hers. Max looked at their locked fingers, as she said, “We have to stop it.” He lifted his head, and her eyes traced his beautiful face. “I love you.” She smiled slightly as his eyes widened. “I love you and I’ll do everything in my power to help find your son.”
Max looked at her with a myriad of emotions playing across his expressive features, not the least of which was hope. “Liz, are you sure, because…”
Liz cut him off with a brief kiss. Looking deeply into his luminous eyes, she said, “I’m sure Max. No doubts.” Then she put her lips to his, hoping to show him what was in her soul so he could see that she meant every word. He seemed hesitant at first, only lightly returning her kisses, but as she deepened them, he responded in kind, bringing his hands up to cup her face in a familiar gesture.
As they continued to kiss, Liz slowly realized that something wasn’t right. Something was missing, but the feel of his lips and hands were distracting her. When they paused for a breath, she suddenly knew what it was. Pulling back slightly, she looked at him. Max saw her expression and his own grew worried. “What’s wrong?” he inquired in a slightly breathless voice.
“You’re blocking me.” Liz’s eyes shimmered with tears as she stared at him. Max looked down and dropped his hands self-consciously. “I thought that’s what you wanted,” he said quietly.
Liz looked at his bent head, remorse making her chest ache. The pain they’d suffered had them so wary of each other’s feelings, it made her sad to realize just how far they’d strayed from the innocence of their first love. At the same time, it made them stronger, and she had to make him see that she had truly let go of the past. Lifting his face, she looked at him with her heart wide open, her eyes shining with the depth of her love. “No Max. I need you. I need to see all of you. Please….” Leaning forward, she kissed him again, this time pouring into it all of the passion and love she’d kept locked in her heart since she deceived him that night so long ago.
Time stood still for a second, then she felt his arm come tightly around her waist, and his other hand came up to cup the back of her head under her hair. His lips took over, their kisses slowly building in intensity. She almost moaned in relief when she felt their connection come to life, all of his emotions pouring through healing the last of her wounds. Passion, guilt, remorse, gratitude, and so much love, she thought her heart would burst with it. When the flashes came, she welcomed them, each one a testament of their commitment to each other. As they faded, Liz realized that they were lying on his bed. Awareness of her environment came slowly, as she felt his lips spreading hot kisses over the exposed skin of her neck and collar bone, and she found her own hands moving over the bare skin under his tee shirt. His mind drugging kisses had momentarily made her forget where they were. She wanted to stay here forever, safe in his arms, but she knew they couldn’t continue on this path just yet. For one thing, they were in his parent’s house, and for another, she didn’t think they were quite ready to take that final step. Their emotions were still new and fragile after the hell they’d endured, and plunging into a sexual relationship would only complicate things. They had their whole lives ahead of them now. She knew that without a doubt. Nothing would ever come between them again.
Max lifted his head to stare down at her flushed face. Trying to control his accelerated breathing, he gently pushed a stray hair from her forehead, and let his eyes roam her beautiful features. He was so thankful that she was giving him another chance, his heart felt whole for the first time in almost a year. He’d been half a person, lost and miserable, and she’d given him back his soul. He vowed to himself that he’d do everything in his power to remain worthy of the gift. Gazing into her dark eyes he said softly, “I love you.”
Liz smiled. “I know,” she answered dreamily, blissfully happy to be able to feel him again after being denied for so long. Max’s mouth turned up at the corner at her answer, completely aware of what she meant. Sitting up, and bringing her up with him, he asked, “Will you stay for a while? I just want to hold you a little longer.” Liz nodded, unable to resist his plea. “ But you can’t let me fall asleep, OK. I don’t want our parents to freak out on us.”
“I might be able to think of something to keep you awake.” He said it with such a straight face, Liz had to laugh. Scooting up on the bed, they lay down, Max with his head on a pillow, Liz lying on his chest. They stayed that way for a while, content to just be in the other’s presence, thankful for a quiet moment before the storm. Just as she was drifting toward sleep, Max’s voice came softly. “Liz Parker, will you marry me when we turn 19?” Liz’s eyes flew open, and she looked up, resting her chin on her hand, expecting to see him smiling. Instead, she saw that he was totally serious. Laying her head back down, she smiled giddily into his chest. “Yes.” She felt his smile even though she wasn’t looking at him. “At the Elvis Chapel?” Liz laughed and kissed the hand that lay near her on his chest. “Yes.” This time she felt his arms tighten around her briefly before his lips kissed the top of her head. “OK.” Liz tightened her own arms around him sighed with happiness as she closed her eyes. They still had obstacles to face, but they were together, and that was the way it was meant to be. It was destiny.
Natures first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaf's a flower
But only so an hour
Then leaf subsides to leaf
So Eden sank to grief
So Dawn goes down to day
Nothing Gold can stay