Fanfic - Max/Liz
"Minutes Before the Fall"
Part 1
by Elise
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Don't sue, I'll cry. ;p
Summary: An 'End of the World' fiction. Liz, in the granolith chamber, looks back on the memories that will be erased from her seventeen year-old mind as Future Max is on his quest to save the world.
Category: Max/Liz
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: A big thank-you to Stacey for beta reading this for me. Quotes scattered throughout are taken from the episode 'The End of the World' -- all were said by Future Max. Also, the first scene is a recollection of the events that took place at the beginning of that episode. The actions and words spoken in that portion are not mine, only the way the scene is described. Another Note: I'm going to forewarn you... this is sad. Parts of it are upsetting - - it's the way I comprehend what would have happened had the world come to its end. I see it as something dark, something scary, something terrible. If you think that's going to upset you, I caution you to read on at your own risk. I don't want to ruin anyone's day.
Explosions sound from somewhere in the distance as Max and I stumble into the granolith chamber. The object of our desire stands waiting, as if expectant of the journey it's about to make possible. Max's voice cuts through my thoughts of dread. "I won't leave you."

"No, no, no - - Max, you have to!" I insist, holding him at arm's length and pushing on his chest as if to pump my strength into him.

"If I'm successful, if I can do this, you and I won't exist. Not as we do now."

My thoughts turn to Michael, to Isabel, and to so many others. "Max, if you don't do this, we're gonna die. Everyone will. Max you have to do this, you have to try it!"

"I'll never see you again." I can only stare as I realize that what he says is true. He pulls me to him, and together we cling to one another in a desperate hug. I can hear his heavy intakes of breath just as I can feel his warmth on the back of my neck.

"Thank you," he says.

My voice cracks. "For what?"

He pulls away to cup my face and I reach to cup his. I can feel the roughness of his unshaven skin beneath my hands. "For every kiss, every smile..."

"Max..." I interrupt, my face conveying the sincerity in my words, "I don't have any regrets." I don't, I don't. I don't regret the day he saved my life, I don't regret falling in love with him, I don't regret that the last minutes of life that I know will be filled with thoughts of him, only him.

The ground beneath our feet rumbles, and together we fall to the ground. Max retrieves the key to the granolith from within his vest pocket. Hastily he inserts it - - backwards, as Serena instructed him to. The platform lights up like a contained flash of lightning, sending the bulk of the machine whirring, its buzz calling to Max like a voice beckoning him home.

As we rise to a stand, my eyes travel upward to see swirled hues of purple and blue hovering in the opening at the top of the granolith. I turn to Max, afraid to look away from him for too long, and he gives me a subtle nod. He's ready to leave me.

In that moment, an overwhelming flash of light erupts and a sudden force sends me flying to the floor. As I look around me, Max is gone. My eyes find him as he appears inside of the granolith. And I want to cry as the realization washes over me: he's really leaving.

Scrambling to my feet, I look to him in a frightened way, my expression betraying how this sacrifice is single-handedly breaking my heart. From behind the surface of the glass, he stands encased, brave and strong, surrounded by the bits of dark color that bring out his eyes - - those beautiful eyes that he once said were made just to look at me. Like an animal caught by a skillful hunter, he stands trapped, separated from me.

The part of him that's captured a part of me brings him to reach a hand out toward me, his fingers spread apart like in the silver handprint that was so quick to fade from my skin so long ago. Already dying inside, I bite back tears and tentatively reach out my hand, hurting so badly when it's only the cold of the glass exterior that I feel beneath my fingertips, desperately longing to touch his skin one last time. Just once more, just once. But my prayers go unanswered as his gaze tears away from me and he turns his attention skyward. Before I can fathom that this is goodbye, his body shoots up and away, and my love for eternity is taken out of the world I stand in.

My voice is hoarse as I weakly call out for him. "Ma... Max?!"

He's gone. I'm alone. I want to stop breathing; I want my life ripped away before my mind can dwell on the emptiness of having to watch him disappear. As my will to live drains out of my body, legs that were strong minutes ago give out beneath me, and I sink to the ground.

The granolith stands still, dark, empty. It can only be used once, and its purpose has been served. Now it is dead, a mere shell of the magnificence and power it once possessed. Broken, just as I am, and therefore it's fitting that we share this chamber as I wait for what will come, and find solace only in my memories of Max.

[ The night of Gomez, I came to your room. That's the night that things between us were cemented. ]

I made myself believe that I didn't want him to show up that night. But a girl cannot force her heart to give in to a lie, and so despite the fact that I'd turned down Max's request for a date, a part of me anticipated his arrival, and wanted him to kiss my worries away.

The rational part of my mind that most often exists at the forefront caused me to close my eyes as I heard his careful footsteps from outside my open window. Softly, I whispered a prayer: "Go away, Max. Just go away..." He neither heard me nor adhered to my words. I found myself torn, unsure of whether to listen to my instincts that told me surrendering to Max's love was a betrayal to all that I believed to be true, or whether to listen to him, the boy that I loved, and trust that his words, though driven by the love that blinded him, were something that I could follow.

His face was hurt, the rich dark color of his eyes clouded over in uncertainty as he kneeled outside my window, peeking inside at where I lay on my bed. I knew I had caused him pain in my refusal to go to the concert with him, and though I knew he understood my reasoning for keeping myself at a distance, he held fast to what we once had, wanting it again so much that he had no sense of what could be dangerous, what could have terrible ramifications because he wasn't following a destiny that was mapped out so very long ago.

Despite my reservations, I felt my heartbeat quicken upon seeing him there, like my handsome Prince Charming coming to take me away from the prison I'd created for myself. I loved him still, and yearned for his touch as much as he yearned for mine. I didn't say this, because it was obvious that he knew. Wanting to take the pain from his eyes, I kept my tone soft and my expression sincere as I sat up and said simply, "You can come in."

His face brightened slightly and he ducked his way through my window frame. As the soles of his shoes landed on my thin carpet, my eyes fell upon the tickets he held in his hand. Still in pursuit of the date I had denied. Oh, Max, I thought in the tortured manner I'd come to adopt, don't do this to me - - I can't say no twice.

He noticed what I was staring at and swiftly he tossed the tickets onto my nearby desk. "I'm sorry," he immediately began, "I brought them just in case you'd changed your mind..." His voice lowered, his face so sad. "Have you?"

I felt like an ogre as I solemnly shook my head.

Max nodded, his eyes focused on me as they had been since he'd first looked in the window. "Okay."

As he turned to leave, my eyes began to water. "Max, please don't leave thinking that I want to hurt you. I don't want to do this, I feel terrible. But, don't you see? This is the way things are supposed to happen. You have to let go of me - - we have to let go of each other, for destiny's sake."

It was difficult talking to him with his back turned to me, though I understood why he didn't turn back around as I could hear the emotion in his voice. "I don't care about destiny, I care about you."

He couldn't see, but I nodded. "I know you do... I care about you, too, Max. God, I love you. You know I do. But we're not meant to be together, we never were."

"But we are, Liz!" Finally, he turned back to face me, but his face was so full of anguish that a small sob escaped me. It didn't go unnoticed by him. "There's something that exists between us. It's more than love, it's more than deeply caring for each other - - it's fate. We're soulmates. What we've found in each other is something most people go a lifetime searching for. Destiny means nothing to me, not when it means giving up you, and the happiness that I feel only when I'm with you. I don't mean sitting in the same room as you, talking as though I don't long to kiss you with every move of your lips. I mean holding you in my arms, having you as mine. It's what I've longed for since the first day of third grade, Liz, and now that I've experienced it and found it to be more amazing than I ever thought possible, I can't live without it."

My mind zeroed in on one portion of his words of devotion in particular: holding me in his arms. The phrase repeated itself inside of me, causing my arms to suddenly feel chill, causing my waist to feel empty without Max encircling it protectively. I missed it, as much as he did. The thought of surviving without it made me want to bound off the bed and fling myself into his arms that lay limp against his sides.

But I didn't. I wouldn't let myself. I COULDN'T let myself. If I let myself feel that same security again, that same overwhelming sense of love, if I allowed myself to cling to him as I used to, I'd never be able to let go.

The fixed stare I held him in was losing its strength. Soon enough, he'd break away from it, and leave. The fact that the concert tickets sat mere feet away was too tempting to deny, and if he left, only then would I be able to go back into sulk-mode and further distance myself from all that drew me to him like a magnet. But the thought of him leaving...

"Please don't go," I whispered.

"You want me to stay." Any other boy, and perhaps Max on any other day, would be confused. But he understood. It was clear in the way he stated the question rather than asked it, already knowing its validity.

"I do." What was I saying? Stop it, you're confusing him, I scolded in silence. You're confusing yourself.

"If I stay now, I don't know if I'll be able to leave."

"That's okay." WHAT are you saying? The internal slapping of self continued. Stop it! I ordered. The angel half of my conscience was shot down by cupid's arrow. Without much thought, I shifted on my bed, allowing him room to sit beside me. He took the invitation, keeping his eyes glued to my face, apparently waiting for me to decide what to do next.

The scent of faintly sprayed cologne took my senses into a whirlwind of fond memories, and of hurtful ones as well. Max's smell. My lungs felt pure, breathing in what was my heaven. Max reached up a hand to wipe away the tear I hadn't noticed had coursed down my cheek. My lips quivered as I fought back the urge to cry, tired of doing so after releasing an ocean over the summer. His thumb, wet with the salt from my tear, moved down to lightly brush over my lips, making their movement freeze. His skin was so warm, and suddenly I felt so cold.

My feet, covered in plain socks, dangled over the edge of my bed, seeming small in comparison to his clunky tenne shoes. When his hand left my face, I looked away from him to hide the agony that simple absence gave me. Gently, I lifted his leg nearest to me up onto the bed, and without a word, he bent his knee, placing his foot flat on the mattress. I closed the tips of my thumb and index finger around one end of the shoelace, pulling it toward me, unraveling the sloppily tied bow. Max stared down at my hands, as did I, as I loosened the laces, and then tenderly slipped his foot out of the shoe. When that was done, I set the leg back in its place and reached for the other one, doing the same thing.

Now he was in socks as I was, and I dropped both shoes to the floor, hardly noticing the "clunk" they made as they slapped the ground together. He merely watched with a look of torture on his face. I took my time, dragging the process out as slowly as possible. I wanted him to stay; I didn't want these moments to end. In this enclosed amount of time, words weren't there to add complication, and I neither had to contemplate the end result of these simple actions, nor did I have to explain why I wanted them to stay as they were, simple and somehow understood.

When the task was done, I let the silence envelope me, trying to slow my heart that beat louder from his mere presence. We sat side-by-side, no doubt thinking of the very same things, and wishing they weren't our worries to contemplate. The loss of contact with some part of him was like a forced withdrawal, and there was nothing I wanted more than to feel his touch again. Any touch.

My body screamed to be set on fire in the way that only he could provide. Damning destiny for all it was worth, I considered scooting closer, closing the space between our bodies. It turned out his need for more touch was as strong as mine was as he placed a hand on my lower back before I could move. His fingers found their way to my bare skin, slipping up beneath the thin material of my off-white top. The surface of my skin tingled as an overwhelming surge of electricity heated up the blood within my veins.

His hand traced along my spine, and instantly I was taken out of the world and into a black abyss where the single most thing that existed was his touch. His hands upon me, delicately following the length of my backbone to the small of my back, lingered there to caress my skin. My breathing slowed and then quickened, coming out as an involuntary shudder.

The world was gone, everything was gone; nothing existed but he and I, and the touch of his hands that worked magic. With the simplest of touches, the most innocent glances in my direction, he carries me away as if on an angel's wings, showing me the very depths of what love's unique connection can mean.

I could feel his eyes on me, weighing in my reaction, but as I sank into the intoxicating bliss that pulled me away from all else, my eyelids closed. His fingers continued their journey, tickling my flesh in a feather light way, and yet the impact stretched down to my very core. I was at a loss for all articulate thoughts, any sense of right or wrong, of responsibility. And I liked it.

I thought of our first kiss, and the way that he'd been so gentle, as if afraid that to hold onto me too tightly would break me. His lips had felt like they were made of satin as the smooth of his mouth met the smooth of mine in an uncanny rhythm that took my breath away. First times, of anything, rarely earn the term perfection, but that kiss held that title then, and it still does now. My lips burn at the mere mention of that night, our young bodies swept up in the heat of the air, generating a different kind of heat that was more bearable because it stemmed from one another.

I thought of Max's touches, and the way they sent me skyrocketing through the stars, my inner thoughts like a roller coaster of delight in discovering something so new and exciting. The sensations that were brought about from a subtle or even accidental touch thrilled me to no end, taking my soul and my body to new heights. By not being so obvious, the small touches meant so much more to me, and the fact that they could generate such descents into Max's subconscious set my heart in a constant pitter-patter whenever he came near me.

I can still see the fear that existed in his eyes as he reversed the connection for the first time, soon after the shooting. My face fit within his hands, and though at the time he was little more than a boy full of secrets to me, something about the way he saw me turned my feelings for him into something more within the span of a few heartbeats. And as we got closer over the next few months, the touches and the flashes became more comfortable, and more frequent.

In February, during our search for the orb buried near the knocked-over radio tower in the desert, the dynamic of our entire relationship soared to a new level. I'll never forget the ecstasy that was mine to feel like I'd never felt it before as Max's fingers brushed against the surface of my palm, making an otherwise forgettable biology class something that I'll always remember. As I saw myself being launched through space, flying somewhere amid the millions of stars in the universe, my body became so taken with the pleasure that had I not been interrupted by an aggravated teacher, I might have blacked out.

Though his destiny was revealed and I tried to let him go, to make it easier by initiating a clean break, the intensity remained between us, surviving somehow on the dim spark of hope that we might one day be reunited, that we might one day become one again. Mates of the soul, we are dependent on one another to breathe life into our lungs, to fill our hearts in the only way possible. And so, guarded as I was, Max managed to remind me that I could never become completely detached. Placing his hand on my arm the last day before school started, the intensity about what was ours to cherish together was displayed before my very eyes, and though I could've broken down then and there from the suffering I no longer wanted to bear, I didn't tell him about those flashes. I told him it was nothing, and I walked away.

He resented me for it, not understanding why I couldn't ignore destiny when he was willing to. But though I live in the moment when it comes, my better judgment always looks to the future, and the possibilities that I found there were enough to keep me from believing, as he did, that destiny didn't have to be such an ultimatum.

Max's hand stopped moving, his palm settling against my back, and with the loss of movement on my skin, I opened my eyes and was pulled back into the present. As I looked at him, I saw that he was still looking at me, and most likely hadn't let his stare waver since he sat down beside me. Within him, he simmered a desire that I could sense, and something inside of me snapped. I felt as though I'd plunge into an endless pit and fall to my death if I had to go another minute without touching him.

I placed a hand on his shoulder and inched closer to him. I found a sense of relief when he didn't tense up. I had to do this, for myself, for my sanity. Knowing what was coming, he anticipated my kiss, and immediately he responded when my lips closed on his. Lips so soft pulled at my invisible strings, begging to stay interlocked. As I forced myself to pull away, it was as though my life had been reduced to slow motion, my eyes paying special attention to every line and curve in his face. Unique marks that I'd memorized long ago.

I bit my lip, slowly letting it slide back out from inside my mouth, zeroing in on the movement in his neck as he swallowed. "I had to do that," I confessed. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry." This time he was the one to initiate the kiss. I knew that it was wrong and that it would only bring more pain to the both of us. But I couldn't stop, couldn't fathom ever stopping. The hand that was keeping my back warm was brought up to touch my face, his index finger tracing along my jaw line as my lips pulled and tugged at him, my body relishing the feelings that I couldn't deny when he was this close. I knew that I should stop it, but I couldn't, and I didn't.

His arms circled around my waist, and he pulled me so close that I found myself nearly in his lap. Our kisses slowed and he carefully separated his mouth from mine, sliding his hands toward my front, and resting them on the sides of my hips. So lost in the complex opposite forces in my mind, I couldn't find words. I clasped my hands together around his neck, drawing myself further toward him, closing the space between us completely. My chest pressed into his, my breathing the only sound that could be heard.

Max brought his lips to my face, planting slow kisses on my cheeks, my chin, and the closed lids of my eyes. I whimpered. "We can't do this. We can't lose ourselves in one another, it'll only hurt us more in the long run..."

His breath sent heat into my ear as he whispered to me, "It doesn't have to hurt. Nothing has to come between us. This has only built a wall because we've allowed it to. Please, Liz... give me back what you gave me once. I need you."

Tears stung my eyes and in stifling them, I clogged up my throat. "We can't, Max, we can't." My protests were undermined as I leaned forward to kiss him on the side of his neck. "But I don't know what to do..."

"We're pulled together by a force, Liz, I know we are. A previously determined destiny can't be fate's only plan, not when we've been lead to discover the rare connection that's only brought to life when we're together."

The tears were shed from my eyes; I could hold them in no longer. "Max, the things that you're saying... I wish I could believe them. And maybe it's all true - - that in the world that exists on Earth, our souls are a match. But Max, you're not even from here. You have another planet where you belong, and another girl that you belong to. I can't deny that - - I can't be selfish for the sake of myself and tear from you the one thing that could factor in whether or not your planet survives. I can't."

"But..." he stammered, now overcome with tears as well. "I saved you, I... we made a connection. Together we've found the best thing life can offer."

"This is killing us both, Max! We should just be able to remember what we once had, something so special that it's rarely found by anyone in the world. The memories aren't everything, but they could mean enough... they could exist as they are, and you could move on--"

"I've tried." His hands left their place at my hips to trace up to my shoulder blades. "I can't. Every time I've considered giving Tess a chance, I've seen your face. That has to mean something."

"And what if you change your mind? What if I become that attached to you again, and you decide that you have to follow your destiny?"

"I won't. I can't. I'm yours, Liz, only yours. It's all I'll ever want to be."

I thought of Grandma Claudia. Of the promise that I made to her, that I'd always follow my heart. But my heart was leading me down a treacherous path, and I was caught in a web of indecision. What now, Grandma, what now?

Max was watching me, staring into me, his fingers dancing along my upper arm. "If I could make you mine..." I hardly recognized my own voice.

"Then I'd always be yours, a permanent part of you," he finished for me. "And you'd be mine forever."

Forever. Could such a word exist in this situation? I wanted to believe it could. My body was tired of resisting when I was drawn to him. My lips were parched from the absence of his upon them. My seventeen year-old body cried out for his, and all of my heart did the same. And I was so tired of pretending it didn't matter...

I couldn't pretend anymore. Though my voice was weak, I meant what I said. "If we claim each other, then we can't be torn apart. Maybe we'll only be strong enough to survive if we're together. So let's claim each other, Max. Let me be yours, and I'll let you be mine."

Max drank in my words, taking long to reply. "I feel as though you're only saying these things to prove something to yourself."

"I'm not."

He shifted, leaning in close, his lips grazing my ear. "I love you." I felt my heartbeat slow. "Destiny isn't the strongest connection in this world, and it's not what I believe is meant to be. Love is. My love, your love; our love for each other, Liz. That's the strongest force on Earth, and as long as you're here, Earth is where I belong. Knowing that you love me is all that matters."

My movements were slow as I laid back, resting my head on the pillow, my eyes locked with his that looked on in anticipation. "Show me, Max. Show me why it's all that matters."

[ And at the end of the night, "I Shall Believe" came on the radio. Everyone else was exhausted, but not us. Oh, we danced, just the two of us. Ever since then... it's been our song. ]

"Married at nineteen," Max whispered in my ear. He stepped away to place his palms on mine and clasp both of my hands. My heart thumped madly beneath the satin material of my mother's wedding dress as I marveled that he'd expressed the very words I'd been thinking.

"Married," I repeated. "Together. You're mine."

Lyrics of a Sheryl Crow song wafted to my ears from the nearby portable stereo that was set on an isolated mound of dirt. Dry desert sand tickled the tops of my bare feet as Max and I swayed in our own shared rhythm, oblivious to anything but the power of what was ours to hold between one another, from this day forward until the end of eternity.

Max's face wore a look of absolute calm, his expression softer and more relaxed than I'd ever seen it before as he gazed at me gazing back at him. One hand let go of mine to slide down the side of my body, stopping when it reached my hip and circling to my back. As he stepped away and sent me twirling, I dredged up a small cloud of dust that landed in small, dusty particles to taint the pure white of my dress. And I laughed as I found my way back into his arms, because it didn't matter. I was Mrs. Evans, and my dream of marrying my only love was being unveiled before my eyes. It was all that I cared for and it was as if my heart were invincible to anything that might drag me down.

A soft red lighted up our makeshift dance floor in front of the motel whose only guests were us, and I looked past the dirt-paved parking lot to the lit-up sign, the first "a" burned out in the word "vacancy". I smiled at our friends who sat in four lawn chairs, their faces worn out but happiness for Max and me in their eyes. Maria sat slouched with her legs flung over one arm of the chair, her back resting against the other arm, and she smiled back as she caught me looking at her.

I recalled the words she'd said as soon as I told her over the phone that Max and I had eloped: "Your parents are going to kill you when they find out."

I'd giggled, feeling intoxicated in the bliss of Max's love for me. "I don't care. They'll learn to accept it, because this is what I want, what I've wanted ever since the day he healed me."

"I know." She'd sighed. "Your life is like a fairy tale sometimes, you know that?"

"One more dance," I mouthed to her now, and she nodded. Butterflies rose in my stomach as I turned my attention back to my lover, butterflies like the ones I used to get as a sixteen year-old, waiting for the first kiss between Max and me that I knew would come eventually. My feet ached and my arms felt tired from being wrapped around his neck for so many hours, but I didn't want the song to end, didn't want this night to ever have to be over.

Max's long lashes barely touched my skin, sending a blush to my cheeks as he lovingly nuzzled my nose. "I love you. I'll love you forever," he promised, the quiet resolution in his voice reminding me of the boy who'd healed me so long ago that he still resembled at times. And I promised him the same with a kiss as the last beats of our last wedding song faded away into silence.

[ Liz, twenty-five minutes before I came here, I held Michael in my arms... dead. Isabel died two weeks before that. Now you have to do this. You have to find a way. All of our lives depend on it. ]

Running. The hollow pounding of footsteps echoed off the blacktop of the deserted street at midnight. Max's left hand was sweaty, held firm in the grip of the adjoined hand that belonged to me. Running...

I pulled to a halt so suddenly that my stopping force reached out to yank Max backwards. Releasing the death grip he'd been holding on my hand, he cupped my face, his skin pale, and his eyes wild. "We can't stop, Liz! They're coming for us! We have to keep running - - now!"

"I can't, Max!" I screamed in defeat with the ferocity of all those fabled damsels in distress.

"You have to!"

My lungs burned like fire as I strained to catch the breath that left me long strides ago. "Go ahead without me. If they get to me, maybe they'll leave you alone long enough for you to get some distance. We can't run from them forever!"

Max's voice was loud and determined. "We can try!"

Sobs overtook me, and my whole body shook as if shivering. The tears coursing down my face felt sticky, drawing grimy trails along my cheeks, wetting my quivering lips. I could hardly hear my own words as I forced out the question I sensed he didn't have an answer to. "Where are we going to run to? Where will we go?"

"To Serena," Max explained. He placed his hands on my upper arms and pulled me close to him. "She'll know what to do... she has to know what to do."

I wanted to faint, to die right then and there. My legs felt as thin as straws, my every muscle aching from the torture of running tirelessly. I rested my cheek against the warmth of Max's chest, clinging to his back covered in cold leather as I willed my sobs to go away. What he was saying was true, we couldn't stop. We had to keep running. It was as if they could read my mind, for just as the thought appeared, we heard footsteps coming from somewhere not far away.

What I needed were deep, calming breaths, but what I found were quick and short, panicked cries that Max hurriedly hushed as he grabbed a hold of my hand. "We have to go, we have to go!" he insisted, dragging me along behind him. My feet slapped the ground with a force that shot pain up through my legs at every step, yet I continued because I had to, for both Max and myself.

With each pounding on the ground, I saw images of the scene we'd just run from, pieces of those minutes that tortured my brain as the unforgiving ground tortured my limbs. I saw Michael's unmoving face, streaked with blood as he lay still as the death that had claimed him, lying on the ground a defeated soldier that we couldn't save. Our footsteps beat out a frantic staccato rhythm as Max and I continued on through the empty streets, and I tried in vain to force thoughts of Michael from my mind.

Instead of finding something else to dwell on, my mind took me back to that recent scene once again. I wanted to cry again as I'd cried when Max sunk down to his knees, then threw himself on top of the boy he loved more than a brother. Max's cries rose up, muffled only slightly in Michael's chest, and I felt the world go into a spin as I shifted my weight from one foot to another continuously. More bodies lay slain all around us, and we alone still lived to make noise that could tear anyone's heart out. Michael was the last of our childhood group to leave Max and I. Beyond my free flowing tears of anguish I saw Isabel, Maria, Alex. I saw Sheriff Valenti and Kyle. I saw my parents. And for all that I was feeling, I could find no words to express it, and nothing I could say would console Max as he clung to Michael, and I stood back watching, feeling so helpless and so afraid.

The running was placing too much strain on my body. I felt as though my legs would snap into pieces if we didn't stop soon. I couldn't breathe, and my hand felt limp from the amount of pressure Max was placing on it, though I didn't want him to hold it with any less strength, for I feared if he did, he'd break away from me and I'd fall behind. It hurt to speak, felt as though my windpipe might collapse at any moment, but as the cold night air rushed by us, blaring noiselessly into my ears, I spoke. "Max, where are we going? We don't even know where Serena is!"

He looked over his shoulder at me, then hurriedly snapped his neck back around, yelling back assuringly, "I know where she'll be."

[ From now on, the future is to be determined. It's what I've always said to you, Liz: we create our own destiny. ]

My lover has gone to change what's taken place, to erase the memories we share that have made my life into the beautiful thing it's come to be. The sacrifice for the greater good of the world is ours to bear, but somehow I wonder if I'll be better for it. In the aftermath of the precious bond that will be taken from my life, taken from his, will I stand again on this very same day, broken and bleeding inside for a love that was stifled before it could flourish?

Perhaps the world will be saved from its end, but will I? Will I care to live a life when my days are spent in denial and my nights spent crying for the boy I gave up at the age of seventeen? Maybe this way we'll live, all of us, the world over. But in my heart, I fear that I won't want to.

I am so afraid. Fear has choked up my throat, making breathing so difficult that it will almost be a relief when I stop. Sobs and tears are things that have not left me for so many days, and still I find more to shed. The cold of the floor sends goosebumps all along my arms and my legs. Death is coming for me, and as I wait in anticipation, I fear it as much as I feared the dark as a child, the monsters in my closet. With my death will come pain, and I'll feel every second of it, they'll make sure of it.

A deafening boom startles me, and I whip my head over to the opening of the granolith chamber. They're just outside; they're coming in. They know that I'm here. There's nowhere to run to anymore, and no reason to hide, because everyone that's ever meant anything to me is gone.

My parents are slowly turning to dust in their week-old graves. Isabel, Alex and Maria lie with closed eyes that will never again see the sunlight. Michael lies alone amid other lifeless bodies in a cold, dark street. And my husband carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, transported somewhere between the past and what will come to be in a future that is as uncertain as what might have come had we been able to fight our enemies who have won, and destroyed us all.

In defeating all that is good, they have taken my love away from me. I blink back any remaining tears and, on shaky legs, I rise to a stand. They're going to kill me in a matter of seconds. The face that has haunted my dreams and rooted itself in my darkest fears appears before me, and I close my eyes. Take me, get it over with. A life without those you've taken from me is no life worth living at all. The end.

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