FanFic - Crashdown After Hours
"The Forging of a Lifebond"
Part 2
by Tasyfa
Disclaimer: This story is not affiliated in any way with Roswell or the WB. No copyright infringement was intended.
Category: After Hours
Rating: NC-17
Authors Note: This takes place after RTM/ARCC, about mid-January after everyone's back in school. This story is dedicated to bluecornmoon for her support and encouragement in my writing endeavours.
The ride back to Roswell was silent, everyone lost in their own thoughts. Isabel dropped Alex off first, then stopped in front of the Crashdown. She wasn’t surprised when Max got out of the Jeep, too.

“Don’t stay out too late, Max,” she cautioned him. “Mom and Dad’ll be back around 11 o’clock from their bridge night.”

“Thanks, Izzy,” Max said, smiling at her. She winked and mouthed **good luck** while Liz was fitting her key into the door, her back turned to the two of them. Max flushed and waved Isabel on.

Liz opened the door to the café as the Jeep roared off down the street. Max followed her inside, and she locked the door behind him. By unspoken consent, they headed to a booth at the back of the café, near the door to the kitchen, and Liz paused for a moment to flick on some lights. They sat down, sliding onto opposite benches in the same booth.

“Do you want anything?” Liz asked. “Hot chocolate or something?”

“No, thanks, Liz,” Max smiled a little. “I’m fine.”

“OK,” Liz responded, then she fell silent. They sat in an awkward silence for a few minutes, neither knowing how to begin. Finally Max just plunged in.

“Liz, can I ask you kind of a personal question?” he queried

“Yeah, go ahead. I’ll try to answer it,” she replied, a little puzzled. He wasn’t going to bring up Kyle again, was he? After he said he wouldn’t? Liz didn’t think she could live through lying to him even one more time about that.

Max had no idea how to proceed. He stammered, “Liz, do you…I mean, have you, um.” He paused for breath, then rushed on, “Do you still think about me?”

Liz slanted a look at him that clearly said she thought he’d lost his marbles. “What are you talking about? Of course I still think about you—we’re friends, aren’t we?” she answered questioningly.

Max sighed. She didn’t get it; he was going to have to come right out and say it.

“I, uh, I should have worded that better, I guess. What I meant was, do you still think about me in, you know, that way? As in, like, fantasies?” he managed to get out.

Liz quickly scanned his face, then her eyes slid away. Her cheeks flushed in an automatic response to the question, a response that was really her answer.

Max plunged ahead. “What I need to know, specifically, is, um, if you’ve ever thought about me looking, well, differently.”

Liz was confused and still embarrassed, but she asked anyway, “What do you mean by differently? Different clothes or what?”

“Well, partly, yeah. I was actually wondering if you’ve, um, ever pictured me with long hair. Like, say, shoulder-length? And wearing, um, black leather?” Max asked.

Liz’s head snapped up and the colour drained from her face as she looked at Max. “I knew I shouldn’t have held hands with you, I knew it!” she railed, angry tears welling up and spilling onto her face. She got up from the booth and started pacing. Max got up too, but just stood beside the booth, waiting. He was completely baffled, but remained silent as Liz struggled to compose herself. Annoyed, she scrubbed away the fallen tears, taking deep, slow breaths. When she had regained some measure of calm, she turned to face Max.

“Why, exactly, do you want to know if I’ve, um, thought about you looking like that?” Liz asked, not quite meeting his eyes. Her cheeks were still pink.

Max answered, “Because I saw me, like that, when we linked hands tonight. That’s all I saw, only a glimpse of myself looking…very different.” His voice had taken on a wryly amused tone.

Liz’s gaze met his, and quickly slid away again. Her voice was a little unsteady as she lied, “I was just, you know, imagining how you would look that way. Like you were, um, in a—a revolution, or something.” Her cheeks grew even rosier as she spoke, hating the untruths coming out of her mouth.

Max stared at her for a long moment, too angry to speak. She was lying to him again! At last he found his voice.

“How could you, Liz? How could you LIE to me? After I’ve started trusting you again—after we’ve started rebuilding our friendship! Damn it, Liz, tell me the truth! I deserve at least that much!” he thundered.

Liz’s eyes flashed in fury. “You can’t have the truth, Max Evans! I can’t give it to you! I gave my word, Max. I shouldn’t even have said anything about the granolith to you, but,” she shrugged, pain in her eyes, “I thought you really needed to know before you went to the summit.” She paused, then looked into his eyes.

“I’m sorry, Max, but I’ve told you all that I can. I am asking you to go on faith here, to trust me. You said that you believed in me; I need you to keep doing that. Please,” she begged.

Max exhaled explosively and ran a hand through his hair. “All right, Liz. I do believe in you. I do trust you. You went on a lot of faith for me before, so I guess the least I can do is to return the favour,” he sighed. “I won’t push anymore.”

“Thank you,” Liz choked out, her tears falling freely now. She turned her face from Max so that he couldn’t see her crying.

Max grimaced, then paced forward and turned Liz to face him, sliding his arms around her and clasping her to him. “It’s OK, Liz. I don’t mind if you cry,” he stated softly, tears in his own eyes. Liz buried her face in his shoulder, sobbing in earnest now. Max simply held her, one hand stroking her hair soothingly, until her sobs quieted and at last, died away. Liz lifted her head and Max brushed her wet cheek with the back of his hand. “No more tears, Liz,” he said softly, his hand turning to cup her face. “You…”

Max’s voice stilled as their skin-to-skin contact, strengthened by Liz’s heightened emotions, sent a flurry of images flashing through his mind. He caught only snatches:

“…able to modify it to create an artificial tear in time/space…”

“…14 years from now we are taken over by our enemies…everyone…Earth…we need to change the future…no one can know I’m here…”

“…she left Roswell…because of me, and how I treated her. And it turned out Tess was critical to our survival…”

“…you want me to help you and Tess get together…yes…it’s you I trust. It’s you I have faith in. And because it’s not just about getting me close to Tess. I need you to help me fall out of love with you…”

“…did we get married?…we eloped; we were nineteen…”

“…I just said no to Gomez…I didn’t take no for an answer…we made love…I don’t even have protection…I did…here you are, Max the Saint, just walking around with a condom in your back pocket…you are not letting yourself change, and you have to do something, before it’s too late…”

“…do you know how hard it was for me to tell him that I didn’t want to die for him? He’s the only reason that I’m alive right now…I held Michael…dead…Isabel died…”

“…what can I do that’s going to make you turn away from me?…I don’t know…”

“…I need your help…”

“…we’re not going to…consummate. I understand…”

“…maybe it would be better for you to be with a human…don’t you realize what you are to me, what you’re always going to be? You’re the love of my life. Everyone else is going to be second best. There’ll never be another you…”

Liz pulled away, but she could read Max’s stunned look all too easily; she hadn’t been fast enough to stop the floodgates from opening. So much for keeping it to myself, she thought guiltily.

Max let her move away, not really aware of anything but what was playing out in his head. The words slowly sorted themselves out, matching up with the images that had flooded into him. As understanding dawned on him, he looked up to see Liz disappearing through the swinging door. He rushed after her, pushing through the door and seizing her arm.

“Liz, please wait,” he pleaded. Slowly she turned to face him, but kept her eyes fixed on a distant point, refusing to look at him. She looked absolutely miserable.

“Liz, you didn’t tell me anything. You didn’t break your word. I—it’s my fault. I forced it from you,” Max admitted. “But, Liz, I can’t be sorry. I can’t. It has been killing me, thinking that you…when I didn’t know how you could have, I couldn’t really believe it. But you kept telling me that you had,” Max said, his voice filled with understanding. “Even when I kept pushing, you held your ground…so that we could all live.” He shook his head. “Liz, that’s—you’re amazing, do you know that? I don’t think I could have been that strong.”

Drawn by the acceptance in his voice and in his words, Liz cautiously looked at Max. His face was shining, and she had to smile, in spite of everything.

“Oh, Max. I wanted to tell you so many times. And you kept asking me and asking me. When you came back from New York, and you said, well, what you did, and then you asked me point blank if I’d slept with Kyle…I couldn’t even form the word yes anymore,” she said quietly.

“I know,” Max said. “But when you nodded, it was like—like I’d been kicked in the stomach. I just kept thinking, third time’s the charm, you know? But I still, I couldn’t just let you go. Not after everything we’ve shared. I had to be at least your friend. I couldn’t bear not having you be part of my life, Liz.”

Max’s voice trembled as he continued, “Liz—I know this is a really awkward situation, to say the least. But…”

“Don’t,” Liz interrupted, placing her fingers over his lips. “Don’t say it, Max. Don’t ruin the friendship we have now with talk of what can never be.” Her hand fell away.

Max looked at her, willing her to meet his eyes. As the silence lengthened, Liz’s head slowly lifted till she met his gaze.

“Liz,” he breathed, her name a caress on his lips. “We can find a way to make this work. Tess—she and I are friends now. I know I didn’t, I mean, I know I was rotten to her, but it’s not like that anymore. I don’t feel uncomfortable around her now. Maybe it’s because of what she did to the Skins, saving our collective asses. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because she’s not throwing herself at me anymore, pushing me to accept her that way. She’s become a friend. And I think, actually,” Max continued with a half smile, “that she’s beginning to care for Kyle.”

Liz started. “Care for Kyle?” she echoed. “I knew they were, um, getting involved, she told me that much, but…”

“May I show you something?” Max interrupted. “It’ll be like another reverse connection. You—well, you might see more than what I’m trying to show you. I haven’t had a lot of practice at this,” he said, somewhat sheepishly.

Intrigued by his offer, Liz searched Max’s face. His slight smile told her that her knew what she was trying to see, if he was truly sincere. He was.

“All right,” she acquiesced. “But, let’s sit down, OK? Just in case.”

Max smiled. “Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.” He glanced at his watch; it was 10:35. “Should we maybe go upstairs? It’s getting kind of late, and I don’t think either of us wants me to get caught here.”

Liz glanced at her own watch. “Oh. Maybe…no, never mind,” she interrupted herself. “We need to finish this now.”

“Yes, we do,” Max agreed under his breath as she turned out the café lights. He followed her up the stairs and into her room. Liz sat on the end of her bed and hesitantly, Max sat beside her. He took a deep breath, and swiveled his body to face her.

“Are you ready?” he asked. Liz nodded, her nervousness evident as Max raised his hands to cradle her face. But she did not flinch away; she met his gaze head-on.

There was a soundless rush of air as images began to flow into Liz’s mind. She saw Max’s home constellation as it had appeared to the emissary, the 5 planets of his sun suspended in glory against the blackness of space. She felt his amazement at her apparition in the streets of New York, and his fear and gratitude as the platform narrowly missed killing him. She saw his forgiveness of his sister, and though she could not hear the words, she knew that Isabel had repeated Liz’s declaration of love to her brother.

Liz let out an incoherent cry as she slammed into the image of herself and Kyle in this very bed, feeling Max’s shock and rage, his unbelievable pain. She had no time to dwell on it, though, as the images continued to crowd into her mind, parading before her consciousness.

At last the stream slowed, and the desired scene swam slowly into focus. It was of Tess and Kyle at school, cuddled up together studying a textbook. Their pose reminded Liz poignantly of how she & Max used to sit last term, their easiness with each other, their casual intimacy. She watched as Kyle dropped a kiss onto Tess’s hair, eliciting a giggle and a look, which prompted another kiss—this one on her lips.

Liz knew that look; she’d seen it in the way Michael and Maria looked at each other. She’d worn it herself. Improbable as it seemed, Tess and Kyle were in love.

Gently, she reached up and removed Max’s hands from her face. Sense gradually returned to his eyes, and he asked, “Did you see it?”

Liz smiled. “Yes, I saw it. All of it,” she answered, her voice trembling a little. Max winced, knowing what she must have picked up. She caught it, and shook her head at him.

“No apologies, Max,” she said. She had tears in her eyes, but her smile didn’t waver as she continued, “I needed to know. How much I hurt you. Especially since you already knew what it was doing to me to keep lying to you. I—I won’t apologize, Max. I believed in what I was doing.”

Liz looked away, then said, nearly inaudibly, “I still do, Max. And I’d do it again if I had to.”

Max nodded, knowing she couldn’t see the motion. “It’s all right, Liz. I understand—completely. I do. And,” he paused, taking a deep breath before going on, “I only love you all the more for it.”

The words hung in the air between them, shimmering with promise. Liz could hardly believe that he’d said it. She licked suddenly dry lips and looked at him, finding his gaze already fixed on her face.

“Max…” she began, only to be cut short.

“Liz, I know what you’re going to say. It’s crazy. Suicidal, even, given what you were told. But things are different now, can’t you see that? I’m different. You’re different. The whole situation with Tess is completely different. She has someone now, someone other than me, and I,” he faltered, closing his eyes for a moment in shame, “I don’t treat her like—that, anymore. I treat her like the friend she’s become.”

Liz was shaking her head, tears sliding unheeded down her cheeks. She tried again to speak; Max didn’t let her.

“No buts, Liz. No excuses,” he declared softly. “No more lies—from either one of us.”

Liz kept shaking her head, splashing his arms with her wet salt. Max moved closer to her on the bed, till their legs were touching all along one side, and took her face in his hands again. He gently raised her head until she looked at him through eyes blurred with tears.

“Liz. Look into my eyes and tell me that you don’t love me anymore, if that’s the truth. Tell me you don’t love me the way that I love you,” Max insisted, his eyes never wavering from hers.

Lost in what Max’s face was telling her, Liz tried to speak. She stammered, “I—I don’t—I don’t,” but couldn’t finish the sentence. She let out a racking sob and collapsed against Max’s chest, her arms going around his torso. He held her closely, his face pressed against her hair, his tears falling into its softness. He murmured reassurances, the words incoherent but the love in his voice unmistakable.

Part 1 | Index | Part 3
Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours
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