|"Strong, Dangerous & Undeniable"|
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.
|Liz had just gotten off the phone with Maria. They had talked for almost an hour about everything that had happened that day.
Maria was totally blown away and kept lamenting that she'd missed out on everything. |
Her mom had a date with Sheriff Valenti tonight, and Maria had gone with her to Carlsbad to shop for something to wear. Maria had complained, with amusement, that Amy was acting like a teenager with a date for the prom.
She was coming over tomorrow and had made Liz promise to give her a small demonstration of her powers. Liz had laughed and protested that it seemed as if she had to have a Czechoslovakian to connect to before she could do anything, and Maria had promised to drag Michael along if she had to.
"But I gotta tell ya," she had quipped, "it looks like you'd better be getting your citizenship papers ready, girlfriend. Seems as though you might have a little Czech blood yourself."
Liz wasn't quite sure how she felt about that anymore. She still shied away from thinking about it too much. It made her uneasy.
She was about to get up and find out what her mom was fixing for dinner, when she heard someone tapping on her window.
It was Max. She smiled a bit quizzically at him in welcome. He'd only left about an hour ago, she hoped nothing was wrong. As she crossed over to open the window for him, something in his posture and the set of his mouth set off warning bells in her head.
Throwing open the window, she said, "Max. Is everything okay?"
Climbing in silently, he gave her a look filled with intent.
"I don't know, Liz. Is it?"
Trepidation filled her, and she couldn't tear her eyes away from his. "W-what do you mean?"
"I know I said I wouldn't push this, and I'm sorry, but I need to know the truth. If you're in trouble, Liz, I can help you," he said earnestly.
"What are you talking about? I thought we already had all this settled."
"That was before Isabel told me someone was forcing you to do something you didn't want to do. Is that true, Liz?" he asked, his eyes shadowed with worry.
"What? No. Why would Isabel think that?"
He gave her a direct look. "She saw flashes. When you two connected with me in New York."
Liz's eyes widened. Why had that never occurred to her? And how could Isabel tell him?! Didn't she realize she was putting her own life at stake?
"So, w-why does she think I was being forced? Exactly what did she see?"
"She saw you trying to set me up with Tess, and she saw you practicing your speech before you came to my room. She saw you crying on your balcony and saying you didn't want to do this anymore," Max paused deliberately. "And she saw you set me up so I'd think you and Kyle had slept together."
He saw the truth in her eyes before she lowered them to the floor, and his own eyes slid shut briefly as relief flooded him. She didn't sleep with him, she didn't sleep with him. It played over and over in his head, and something seemed to shift, as his world righted itself again. Believing that lie about her had caused him to doubt everything; Liz, himself, the world and everything in it. Now everything made sense again.
He heaved a cleansing sigh, then opened his eyes to look at her, willing her to look up at him and tell him the truth.
"She also said the entire time you were doing those things, there was a man there who looked like me."
The silence after that statement was profound.
Liz refused to look up from her study of the floor. Her heart pounded heavily and a strange mixture of dread and relief churned sickeningly within her. He knew! He knew the truth. What was going to happen now? The future Max had warned her of loomed threateningly, and she almost expected the earth to tremble beneath her feet in a portent of disaster.
At her continued silence, Max struggled to put it all together himself. "Was it a shapeshifter, Liz? Did he-did he threaten you or something?"
Liz sighed with defeat. There was really no reason to hide this from him anymore. The only piece he was missing was the part his future self played in all this. She sent a silent apology to that future Max for failing him.
Liz shook her head. "He wasn't a shapeshifter, Max. And he didn't threaten me. Well, I mean, he did, but not the way you think."
When nothing more was forthcoming, he sighed. He was having to drag this out of her one word at a time, and his mind was racing to supply the missing details.
Suddenly, like tumblers falling into place, something clicked. A time-traveling alien. An older him. Someone she trusted. As the idea formed in his mind, he was horror-stricken.
"Was it--was it...me?" he choked, disbelievingly.
Her eyes, huge and solemn, locked on his. Slowly, she nodded.
Anguish exploded within him, and he sucked in a deep breath.
Shaking his head, he asked achingly, "Why? Why would I tell you to do something like that?"
Tears filled her eyes at the pain in his voice. She thought he must feel as if he'd been betrayed by his own self, and she hurried to give him the reason why.
"He said that enemies had taken over the earth, Max, and we needed to try and keep that from happening. He said that you and I-we made love, a-and after that, everything changed. Tess left Roswell because of us, and you needed her to fight. The four of you, you're like a complete unit, and without her you weren't as strong. So, he said we-we had to get you and Tess together. And we had to get you to fall out of love with me."
Max kept shaking his head in denial and she could see the sheen of tears in his eyes.
Her own tears overflowed.
"I'm so sorry, Max," she said in a throbbing voice. "I'm so sorry for hurting you like that. We just-we didn't know what else to do. Y-you just wouldn't give up." A breathless gust of tearful laughter escaped her. "You were making what we were trying to do so much harder, but..." her eyes glittered with emotion as they looked into his, "thank you, Max. Thank you for loving me that much."
"Liz," he said, his voice broken.
Then he rushed across the room to enfold her tightly within his arms.
"I do love you," he vowed tearfully. "And I'm the one who's sorry. He-I should never have asked that of you. It was too much to ask!" his voice cracked.
She tucked her face into his neck, and he cradled the back of her head. "A-and I must have made it so much worse for you. I treated you so badly," he choked, his hand fisting in her hair. "I'm so sorry, Liz. I-I never should have lost faith in you," he said, his voice guilt-ridden.
"No. It's okay, Max," she reassured him, rubbing his back gently. "I understand. I do. I don't know how I could have handled it, you know, if the situation had been reversed. And you already had so much other stuff going on; the Skins, the town disappearing, the summit. I'm so sorry to give you something else to deal with on top of all that."
"It wasn't your fault," he said, then laughed bitterly in acknowledgement. "It was my own."
He was silent for a contemplative moment, then shook his head. "I just don't understand what I could have been thinking. How could he put all that responsibility on your shoulders? He-I shouldn't have done that! What kind of person do I become that I could do that to you?" he asked tightly in anger.
"There was a lot at stake, Max. And...and I think he was just- desperate. He-you-he told me that Michael had died in his arms 30 minutes before he came here.
His hand clutched at the fabric of her sweater at the small of her back.
She continued hesitantly. "A-and he said Isabel died two weeks before that."
Max closed his eyes and dropped his forehead to her shoulder, and her fingers threaded through his hair to tenderly cup the nape of his neck.
"You see? There's so much at stake here, Max. In the face of all that, how much importance can we place on our feelings?"
He pulled back to look at her and shook his head, his eyes shining with admiration and love. "You've been so strong," he said wonderingly. "How could you be so strong, Liz?"
She swallowed. "It was really hard," she admitted in a whisper. "Lying to you-hurting you, it was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, Max. It- I think- it felt like something in me died, when I did that to you. And I don't ever want to lie to you again. Not ever." Her eyes clung to his, dark with pain and sincerity.
Pulling her close against him, he moved to rest his cheek against the side of her head and stroke the length of her hair. There was a healing comfort in the gentle embrace, and they soaked it in like the parched desert floor drinking thirstily of the rain. It was the first true peace they had both felt in over six months, and they relished the solace it brought to their bruised souls.
Hating to break the tranquility of the moment, Max spoke reluctantly. "When does all this happen? To Isabel and Michael."
"In fourteen years," she answered quietly.
After a moment, he asked, "And you're sure it was me? I mean, how do you know he wasn't a shapeshifter, Liz?" He pulled back to look at her. "You said he proved it to you. How?"
"He came right before you sang to me that night, and he told me you'd be here with the mariachi band. He told me he spent a week learning the lyrics from Mr. Delgado. And when you threw the roses up to me, when they changed color, he said you changed them because you remembered that I preferred white ones. He told me before it happened. And he just knew things. About you, and me...about us. I'm sure he was telling the truth, Max."
He nodded thoughtfully. "And he said things changed, Tess left, after we...made love?
Flushing a little, Liz nodded. "He said it happened the night of the Gomez concert."
As Liz watched while he silently processed everything, a look of amusement began to grow in her eyes.
"Did you really bring protection that night?" she asked, a smile hovering on her lips.
The expressions that flew in rapid succession across his usually serious face were priceless. Shocked surprise, comprehension, and chagrin, all painted in an interesting shade of red.
She burst into quiet laughter, and he smiled sheepishly in response.
"I can't believe he told you that," he muttered.
"You told me that," she corrected him, poking his chest gently for emphasis.
He caught her finger playfully, and enclosed it within his fist.
Shaking her head in mock astonishment, she teased, "Max, the saint. Walking around with a condom in his back pocket."
His face turned an even deeper red, and she laughed.
"It's not like-I don't just...carry one around with me all the time," he tried to explain himself. "It was just-that night-I was desperate, Liz. I was determined to make you admit that we belonged together, no matter- no matter what I had to do." He studied her closely to judge her reaction. "I wouldn't have forced you or anything," he hurried to assure her. "I just...was hoping you'd finally give in to your feelings and tell me that's what you wanted. I wanted that so much, I guess I wasn't really thinking straight."
There was silence for a moment before Liz admitted, wide-eyed, "I would have."
They stared at one another as what they'd lost fully hit home.
Liz had meant every word she'd said when she'd told Future Max that she wasn't ready for sex yet. But if a determined Max had come to her, bent on seduction, she could easily see herself giving in to him. And she had, in that other life, the one they'd changed.
As they realized what that Liz and Max had given up, sorrow overtook them both, and Max brought her captured finger to his lips to gently kiss the tip of it in regret.
Knowing that they were sharing the same thoughts, Liz said softly, "We would've gotten married, too. He said we eloped when we were 19."
It caused pain to stab at Max's heart to know what might have been. It must have been an uncharacteristically impulsive act for the two of them, and it made him sad to think that now they would always have to worry about making careful, responsible decisions that wouldn't bring about the future that they'd been warned about.
"I guess...we just rushed things too much," Max said quietly.
Liz nodded sadly in agreement.
"We'll have to be more careful this time. Take things slow," he said.
"What?" She pulled away from him. "Max. This doesn't mean--we can't be together."
Max frowned in alarm. "Of course we can. We just have to make sure everything is different this time, that's all."
"No, Max. We-we can't. You-the future you-said we couldn't be together. We had to get you together with Tess. It's the whole destiny thing all over again. We just...weren't meant to be," she said in quiet heartache.
Max shook his head firmly. "I don't believe that. You're the only one for me, Liz, and you always will be. If all we have to do is keep Tess from leaving, then I don't see why we have to be together romantically. Things have changed between her and me. We've become friends. If we told her about all this, once she knew how important it was, I think she'd stay."
"You don't know that. I mean, sure, she might even say that now, but who knows what she would do if she was forced to stand by and watch us together. If it were me, I couldn't bear it."
"I don't think it would bother her, Liz. She doesn't feel that way about me anymore. She's accepted what you mean to me, and I think she's given up on all that destiny stuff."
Liz chewed on her lip and looked at him in indecision. The only time she'd spent any length of time with Tess since the destiny message had been when she'd gone to her at Kyle's to try and help her get together with Max. Even though it had obviously been hard on her pride, she had listened intently to all of Liz's advice. The utter determination with which she'd attempted to follow everything Liz told her to the letter, said something to Liz about how much she still wanted to be with Max. If he thought all Tess wanted from him was friendship, Liz was afraid he was mistaken.
"No," Liz shook her head, unable to shake her fear of making the wrong choice and being responsible for the fall of Earth. "Future Max didn't want to risk going to Tess, and I don't think we should either."
"But, Liz, things were different between Tess and that Max. I mean, we've already changed that. Tess is becoming more a part of us. I realized I was treating her badly, we all were, and we've been working on changing that and making her feel included. Now that we know how much depends on it, we'll just work harder."
"We can't predict what she'll do, Max. It's just- it's impossible. And there's so much at stake. How can we possibly risk it?"
When he made no reply, she went on to say, "And it's not just that. What if that other Max was right? What if you do need to be a couple? Max, I-I don't see how we could just ignore all of this, and get together anyway. I couldn't be happy that way. Could you?"
Max couldn't accept what she was saying. There had to be a way to work this all out. Why wasn't she helping him to think of a solution instead of arguing against their being together? He realized suddenly that she hadn't actually said that she still loved him and he quietly began to panic.
"Don't you want to be together, Liz? Don't you...love me?"
The look in his eyes tore at her heart, and she threw her arms around him to pull him close and reassure him. "Of course I do! You're my reason for being alive."
He clutched at her desperately, unwilling to let her get away from him.
She went on, "Being without you, I've felt like the best part of me was missing. And ever since last month, when I thought you...hated me," his arms tightened around her, "I- sometimes, I just didn't know if I even had a reason for going on."
Max squeezed his eyes shut. He knew exactly how she'd felt. It had been an effort for him just to get up out of bed each day, knowing that it would be just as dark and empty as the last. Liz was his light. Without her, his life was simply a joyless stumbling from one meaningless moment to the next, and happiness was only a brief and colorful memory of something he'd held in his arms once, long ago. Knowing that he'd made Liz's darkness even more suffocating with his cold attitude toward her filled him with shame.
Cupping the back of her head, he pressed his lips tenderly to her forehead in atonement. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm so sorry. I could never hate you, Liz, and I should never have let you think I did."
She closed her eyes and sighed, and he leaned down to rest his forehead against hers.
"I love you, Max. I'll always love you. And I do want to be with you. I mean, of course I do. But I'm so afraid of what could happen. And it would be our fault."
"We won't let it happen," he said determinedly.
"What if we can't stop it? I mean, once we tell everybody, it won't even be up to us anymore."
"Well," he said slowly, as an idea formed in his mind, "what if we don't tell them?"
|Part 7 | Index | Part 9|
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