FanFic - Max/Liz
"Strong, Dangerous & Undeniable"
Part 14
by Destinee
Disclaimer: The characters belong to M. Metz, J. Katims, and The WB. I'm only gently leading them where I'd like them to go.
Summary: This story begins with the scene in MITC when Liz does her astral projection thing. It follows along with everything in the show up to that point, and goes on to explore Liz's powers, and to resolve the obstacles in the path of her being together with Max.
Category: Max/Liz
Rating: PG
No one in the jeep said anything for the first couple of miles as they headed back into town.

Max's eyes kept shifting to the rearview mirror to make sure the Jetta was still close behind. He was anxious to get everyone home so he could go check on Liz. He knew she was fine physically, he'd at least been able to see to that, but her emotions had to be all over the board. He knew his certainly were.

He couldn't get the picture of her with that power ripping through her out of his mind. She had almost seemed to be pulsating with it before she had let it out, and he couldn't help but wonder what it would have done to her if she hadn't released it when she did. Although most of his attention had been focused on making sure Liz was alright, he had taken a cursory look at the damage it had done to the quarry wall.

He just didn't see how such a vicious blast of energy could have kept from damaging her in some way, and he felt sick with guilt knowing that something he'd done to her had created that deadly force within her. It tore him up to know that it was a permanent part of her now, and there was nothing he could do to take it away. He couldn't even protect her from the danger of it, because the peril was within her own body.

But there was something he could have done to minimize the danger. He never should have allowed her to experiment with Michael's gift. He didn't know what he'd been thinking. Michael's power was the most dangerous any of them possessed, and Michael was the least disciplined of them all. How could he have so carelessly turned Liz over to Michael when they knew so little about her abilities? They weren't even that knowledgeable about their own abilities, and yet here they were playing with Liz's life! Max was disgusted with himself for not putting a stop their experiments with the energy blast when he'd seen that she was afraid of it. And he was angry at Michael for not being more careful with her.

Oh yeah. His emotions were pretty much all over the board.

The heavy silence in the jeep was broken by the sound of Tess' voice as she cautiously broached the subject that was preying upon everyone's minds.

"Michael? What happened back there? Where did all that energy come from?"

Michael sighed, as once again he had to say, "I don't know what happened. One minute we're connecting and I'm feeding her my energy, and the next minute our energy has fused or something and it's out of control.

His face grim, Max asked, "What do you mean 'it fused'?" His voice was low and tense, but rose steadily as his words continued. "I wanna know exactly what happened out there today, Michael. You were supposed to be just showing her how to bust up some rocks! Explain to me why you gave her more power than she could handle, and why you didn't just take some of it back when you saw that it was too much."

Michael grew defensive at the accusing tone and said harshly, "I did try to take some of it back, okay? But it was like a solid block inside her and I couldn't get it apart. And it didn't all come from me, Max. It was both of us. Her energy, it, like, grabbed on to mine, and it just kept growing stronger. We weren't doing anything, it did it on its own."

"Why would it be like that only with you?" Max said skeptically. "The rest of us worked with her all day and everything went fine. Yet the minute you get hold of her all h--- breaks loose. Why is that, Michael?" he demanded.

Feeling guilty and frustrated, Michael shouted, "Look, I don't know why! I don't have any explanations for it. It's just another mystery to add to the list of unexplained facts about who we are and where we come from. And I'm sorry, alright? I know it could have really- hurt her. We just...shouldn't try to do it again. That's all I know to say."

"Max, you're making this sound like it was Michael's fault and that's not true," Isabel protested. "There wasn't anything he could've done to make this turn out any differently."

"Forget it, Is. It doesn't matter," Michael said shortly, then turned away to look out the passenger window, propping an elbow on its ledge, and resting his mouth against his closed fist.

At hearing Michael's apology, Max's anger had died a sudden death. Michael was aware of how disastrously this could have turned out, and if what he said was true, then Isabel was right. He couldn't have changed anything if he'd had no control over it. Max realized that he was mostly just taking his own guilt and fear out on Michael, and that wasn't being fair.

With a wince of concession, Max said quietly, "I'm sorry, Michael. It just...scared me, that's all. I know you didn't mean for it to happen. I shouldn't have implied that."

"No, Maxwell, you're right. All this power does is hurt everyone who comes into contact with it. I've been struggling to control it all my life, you know? And when I think I've finally got a handle on it," his mouth turned down at the corners and he shook his head briefly, "doesn't matter. It still just hurts people. As far as I can see, my only purpose here is to be used as a weapon. There's nothing else my power is good for."

Hearing the self-contempt in Michael's voice made Max feel even guiltier. He thought Michael had finally come to terms with his ability after killing Pierce, and now this whole thing had him questioning himself again. And Max had only made things worse.

"Michael, your gift is our best defense. It's saved our lives more than once. What happened today, it was just because there's still so much we don't know about our powers, and especially about Liz's."

"Max is right," Tess said, sorry she had ever even brought this subject up. "Don't blame yourself, Michael."

He didn't respond, and everyone fell silent once again, remaining that way until they reached Michael's apartment. He was out the door the minute the jeep came to a stop, with only a short, "See ya."

Isabel sadly watched him go. "He really feels bad about this, Max. He thinks this could have killed Liz and it would have been all his fault." She suddenly jumped into motion, climbing out of the jeep. "He shouldn't be alone. I think I'll just hang out here for awhile. Can I call you for a ride home?"

Max nodded. "Call me on the cell. And.. tell Michael I'll talk to him later. I shouldn't have said anything until I was more calm," he said remorsefully.

Isabel nodded and took off after Michael.

Tess got out to move up to the front seat of the jeep, and with a final regretful look at Michael's apartment building, Max pulled away.

Studying his face, Tess tried to comfort him. "He'll be alright, Max. He just needs some time."

Max nodded wordlessly.

Tess continued to watch him and chewed on her lip. She finally had him all to herself, but she wasn't quite sure what to say to him. She didn't seem to know where they stood anymore. Liz was back in his life now, and Tess didn't know where that left her.

Max had barely spoken a word to her all day. He'd been so intent on Liz and her needs that he hadn't spared Tess a second glance. She wanted to resent him for that, but she placed most of the blame for it on Liz Parker's doorstep. That-that...human kept Max so tied up in knots he hardly knew which way was up. Even when Liz hadn't been present in his life these past months, he'd still been consumed with her.

Tess had been on the verge of giving up on having a life here with him and the others. She'd been ready to just pack her things and leave Roswell, New Mexico far behind. She had other options open to her now. But then Liz had committed her little indiscretion with Kyle, leaving the door wide open for Tess to walk into Max's heart. She really couldn't have asked for a better scenario if one had been planned for her.

She'd known it was selfish of her to enjoy the way things were, because Max hadn't really been happy, but for the first time in her life she had a real friend. No one had ever shown her such genuine consideration as Max had this past month. Sure, guys had been friendly to her before, but they'd always wanted something from her in return. Max wasn't like that. He had a way of making her feel special. He confided in her, and he listened to her as if what she said really mattered.

When he'd taken her to New York with him, it had been one of the best experiences of her life. Even including the brief kidnapping thing at the end. He had even managed to turn that into something she could almost be glad for, because he'd been so solicitous of her on the trip home. For those few days in New York she had felt like it had been her and Max against the world. Against several worlds, actually. It hadn't been hard to imagine that they truly were the king and queen of their own world, and it had been exhilerating. It had felt like the way things were meant to be.

And now Liz was trying to take all that away from her.

Although, if she were perfectly honest with herself, Tess knew that Liz didn't have to put any effort into it. All she had to do was breathe in Max's direction and he was a complete goner. Whenever Liz was around, Tess might just as well cease to exist and he would never even notice her absence.

The sad acknowledgement actually brought tears to her eyes, and Tess grew angry with herself when she realized what a silent pity party she was sitting here indulging herself in. Nacedo would be appalled if he could see what a sniveling baby she was turning into.

If she wanted to know where things stood with Max, then she was just going to have to ask him. As she was trying to figure out the best way to go about doing that, they turned onto the street where the Valentis lived.

In last minute desperation, she finally just blurted, "So! You and Liz. I guess you guys got everything worked out, huh?"

Max came to sudden attention at the topic of conversation Tess had chosen.

"Uh, yeah. We-we're friends again."

Tess pressed her lips together and nodded exaggeratedly. "That's great. I'm...happy for you. I know how upset you've been, ever since she and Kyle..." she trailed off deliberately.

She watched closely for his response, but he gave no outward reaction. He really didn't seem to care anymore that Liz had slept with Kyle.

"Yeah, well, I've decided to just put all that behind me."

"That's good. That you can do that. It- I guess it really didn't do you any good to dwell on it."

"Yeah, that's kinda what I thought."

They had pulled up in front of the Valenti house, and sat with the engine idling. Max looked over at Tess, trying to guess at her thoughts. It was hard to tell anything from her expression. She was playing it pretty cool. He could only imagine what she must be thinking about the way he'd acted with her today.

He just felt so awkward with her now. He felt like he had to guard every move he made and every word out of his mouth whenever she was around. Even more so when Liz was within touching distance. He hated having to regard Tess as a threat to his happiness. She'd become a good friend, one who was beginning to form her own place amongst those in their group. But she held the fate of his and Liz's relationship in her small hands, not to mention the fate of the entire world, and being unsure of what she would do with the power she unknowingly held over them had him questioning whether he even knew her at all.

He'd become convinced over the past month that she was content with only friendship from him, but Liz's fears had planted doubts in his mind. Could Tess really have changed so much? It didn't seem that long ago when she'd been utterly determined that they were destined to be together. Was she really happy now to be nothing more than his friend, or had she merely been biding her time in the hopes that he would come around eventually?

What would she do if he told her right now that he and Liz were back together?

Only yesterday he had said that she wouldn't care. But now, having held Liz in his arms once again, he was afraid to take the chance of being wrong.

For now, he thought he should just stick to the plan of feeling Tess out about his and Liz's relationship. She was so hard to read, though, that probably the only way he was ever going to find out anything from her was to just ask her. Straight out.

"So, h-how do you feel about that? About Liz and I being- friends?"

She looked at him oddly. "Why would it matter how I felt?"

In his haste to keep from revealing anything he shouldn't, he stumbled over his words. "Well, because. I mean, I know you and Liz got off to a bad start, aren't exactly what you'd call friends. But...I was hoping you could be. Friends, that is. Now that you and I are friends, and Liz and I are-are.. friends- again. I was just hoping that we all could be, you know...friends," he ended lamely.

Flushing a little, he snapped his mouth shut. With an inward grimace he thought, great, Max. Babble much? He really had been spending way too much time with Maria lately.

Tess just gave him a direct look and asked seriously, "What if she and I can't be friends, Max? What then?"

Max's heart began to pound. "I-I don't know. What do you think...would happen then?"

Her mouth twisted bitterly and she said, "Honestly? I think you'd say, 'So long, Tess. Been nice knowin' ya', and you and Liz would live happily ever after."

"I don't want it to be that way, Tess," he said emphatically. "Why does it have to be a matter of either/or? I don't want to have to choose between you, and I won't, unless you make me."

Tess snorted and muttered, "As if."

He ignored her and continued, "I care about both of you, and I want both of you to be a part of my life. Are you saying you think that's an impossibility? Because, this morning, at one time, I thought it felt like the three of us were getting along great. Was I wrong, Tess?"

He would have to remind her of that, Tess thought irritably. Yes, she wanted to hate Liz, for everything she had that Tess felt should have been hers. But Liz made it really hard to hate her. She'd always been civil, and even friendly to Tess, even though Tess knew that she had wreaked havoc on Liz's life by showing up here. And she couldn't help but feel sorry for Liz for the way her life was suddenly being turned upside down by this alien change. But at the same time she was jealous and resentful of it.

The truth was, Tess' feelings were so confused right now she wasn't sure of anything, except that she didn't want to lose Max. Especially not now. She needed him. And if that meant being friends with Liz Parker, she guessed she could grit her teeth and do that. She might not even have to grit them very hard.

She looked down at her lap and admitted, "No, Max. You weren't wrong." She paused, then said, "Can I just ask you one thing, though?" She looked up and waited for his nod, then continued, "Do you honestly believe you and Liz are just going to be friends?"

He looked at her with trepidation. "Do you think that's important? That we're no more than friends?"

She caught his stare and held it. "Yes, Max. I do. Because if you're anything more than that I think you'll lose sight of everything else. Our people, our purpose for being here...our destiny."

He swallowed sickly at hearing that word fall from her lips.

She continued without addressing it any further. "You may lose sight of it even if all you are is friends. If you want my opinion, I'm not sure you two are capable of being only friends. But I guess I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt."

His face was a study in earnestness, as he said, "Tess, I know how important our cause is. I may not have fully realized it until we went to the summit, but I do know that now. And Liz and I- we understand that we aren't the only two people involved here. No matter what kind of relationship she and I have, we know we have to take the others in the group into consideration. That's true for all of you, too, and it'll probably always be that way. Because we all have to stay together. That's really important, Tess. And if Liz and I are doing something that's going to jeopardize that...well, let's just say we're willing to do whatever we have to do to make sure that doesn't happen."

He made it sound like he and Liz were giving everyone in the group, including herself, the power to decide what kind of relationship they were going to have. It was hard to believe that they would do that, but just the thought of being able to put a stop to their being together by merely stating her disapproval had Tess gloating with satisfied glee. But their willingness to hand that kind of control over to her filled her with the deepest humility.

Could they make this any harder for her to deal with, she wondered in aggravation. Human emotions really sucked!

Tess sighed in defeat. So how was this friendship thing going to work?

"Well," she said slowly, "I-I guess if we're all going to be friends...someone should probably go over to Liz's to check on her. I mean, that's what a friend would do, right? She did have a pretty rough day today. Seeing as how she and I aren't exactly friends.. y-yet, I mean, maybe- maybe you should go." Even as the words were leaving her mouth, she was calling herself an idiot. Why on earth was she pushing them together? Friendship didn't have to mean cutting her own throat, did it? She was really going to have to learn all the rules to this thing before she opened her big mouth again.

Max's eyes lit up in appreciation of her acceptance and generosity, and he reached across to give her hand a brief squeeze.

"Thanks, Tess."

Swallowing the lump in her throat, Tess nodded and clutched at his hand, then forced herself to release it when he pulled away.

She avoided his eyes as she gathered her things together and climbed out of the jeep.

"I'll see you tomorrow," Max told her.

Still unable to look at him, she forced a small smile and said, "Yeah. See ya."

Max watched her hurry to the house with a compassionate gaze. She obviously wasn't thrilled with the situation, but she'd just conceded more than he'd dared to hope for. He felt as though any immediate threat from Tess had just been removed, and he was elated.

He couldn't wait to tell Liz.

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