|"Stumbling Closer to You"|
by Anne Baker
|Disclaimer: They’re not mine. As much as in my wildest
dreams I would love to dictate every move that Max and
Liz make on the painfully slow path back to one
another…it is nothing but a dream. Max and Liz belong
to Fox, WB, UPN whoever owns them, not to mention
Melinda Metz who we all adore, and of course the
almighty wonderful Jason Katims. The song Fool is by
Lifehouse…it belongs to them.
Summary: After the events in Departure, Max and Liz REALLY need to talk!
Author's Note: Fool is an unpublished Lifehouse song and I could not find the lyrics to it ANYWHERE. I want to thank Addison for helping me with the lyrics. They may not be exactly correct, but they’re my interpretation of the song. Also major thanks goes to RosDeidre for helping me with my writing and giving me inspiration to be a better writer than I settle to be…here is attempt number one at me growing in my writing…I hope! And thanks to Carol for beta reading…*hugs to my soon to be LA roomie*
Seems my own arrogance
‘Cause I am reaching for you
‘Cause I am clumsily dancing away this fear
What are you thinking
‘Cause I am reaching for you
‘Cause I'm clumsily dancing away this fear
And I’m clumsily dancing away this fear,
The warm spring desert wind came whirling and flying through the dark alley, rushing past where Max Evans stood, his back pressed up against the brick wall behind him. The brick was still warm from the scorching heat of that May afternoon, but the breeze was cooler, offering a strange contrast to each other, as Max leaned back, staring up to the balcony above.
It felt strange, standing below her window in the dead of night like this…it had been so long, and so much had changed between them. A year before this would have seemed natural…to him, to Liz, to any of their friends or family…but now, Max felt almost out of place so close to her. It made his heart ache with pain, to know that he had let things get so out of control.
Staring up into the night, Max studied the wall edging around her window, blocking his view, and all the while he could help wondering what she was doing. Was she sitting outside, writing in her diary like she used to a year before? Was she waiting for him, expecting him? Or did she not want to see him at all…
Max sighed, swallowing nervously, as he tried not to linger on the butterflies that had invaded his stomach. He knew he had hurt her…more than he had ever imagined that he would ever be capable of hurting her. Everything that had happened between him and Tess these past few weeks were like Liz’s worst nightmare come to life and beyond…just like his had been the thought of Liz and Kyle. The only difference was his was real, while Liz’s had just been a setup.
Max’s heart ached at the thought of all of the lies, all of the betrayals that they had suffered through over the last year. What made it all the harder, was that they had both suffered silently, alone, never willing to turn back to the one person that they needed the most…each other.
Was anything ever just as it seemed?
Max answered his own question instantly, without a second thought, the answer screaming loud and clear straight from the depths of his heart and soul. The only thing that was ever real, that was ever completely trustworthy, was his and Liz’s love for one another. They had both made so many mistakes, wasted so much time, but through it all their feelings had never faded.
Max just hoped that it was enough…that their love was enough…because he knew that otherwise his actions would be unforgivable, especially considering the other feelings consuming his heart right now…the feelings that remained for his son.
Sighing, Max pushed those thoughts out of his head. There was plenty of time to focus on that later. Right now he needed to fix things with Liz…because without her, he was lost. The last year proved that if nothing else.
Mustering up the courage within him, Max stepped away from the alley wall, crossing the space between him and Liz’s ladder in two long strides, as he gripped the cool metal and began to pull himself upward. He needed to have this talk with Liz…he wouldn’t be able to rest until he knew where they stood with one another.
As he climbed closer and closer to her window, Max smiled wistfully, remembering all of the times in his life that he had climbed this same ladder, preparing himself for some important, mind blowing moment…many of which succeeded in changing his life. Every single time he prepared himself to make a move with Liz, he climbed the ladder, his stomach tumbling with nervous energy at the same time as his mind focused on her, on how important she was to him, on how special she was.
Their first kiss was on this balcony, their first break up, their first time sneaking out together. This was where Max’s heart was broken for the first time, and where he in turn deeply hurt Liz, by walking away from her so completely, as he ran as far from her as possible…all the way to New York City. It hadn’t been far enough to escape his pain, to escape her. She had still found him there…and saved his life, from three thousand miles away.
And now it was time to change things between them once again, permanently this time, establishing where they stood with one another, where they would always stand for the rest of time. Max knew for certain, without any doubt in his mind now, how important Liz Parker was to him, and he intended to prove it to her, and do everything in his power to make up for all the pain he had caused her…assuming she would let him.
Peeking his head up over the edge of the brick wall, Max gasped to see Liz sitting on the edge of her lawn chair, her hands folded in her lap, as she stared directly at him, their eyes locking for an instant.
“I was wondering how long you were going to just stand down there.” Liz commented softly.
Pulling himself the rest of the way onto her balcony, Max quickly tried to compose himself, surprised that she knew he was there, before taking a few steps towards her.
“Well…I wasn’t sure if you wanted to see me or not.” Max replied, his eyes dropping as he studied his feet awkwardly.
“I wasn’t sure either.” Liz admitted carefully. “But I don’t think that really matters at this point, Max. We really need to talk about this.”
Max nodded in agreement. “I know…that’s what finally got me up here.” Max paused, trying to gather the courage to say everything that he needed to say, taking a deep breath before he finally began to speak.
“Listen…Liz. I know how much I hurt you. I understand completely, believe me, I do. I really can’t ask you to just take me back after all this time, after all that has happened. But here’s the thing, Liz. I love you. I love you so much that it hurts. And I need you. If anything, all that has happened this past year has taught me just how important, how critical, you are to me.”
Max paused, taking a deep breath, as he finally raised his eyes to meet hers.
“I’ll do anything you want, Liz, anything you need.” He continued quickly. “If you want a break, I’ll give you a break. You won’t have to see me at all if you want. If you need space, it’s yours. I’ll stay away as much as you want, or be here whenever you need me. And if you want more, then I swear to you, Liz Parker, that I will love you and honor you until the end of time.”
The air grew silent, still, as Max waited, watching the emotions fly through Liz’s features…shock, fear, overwhelming joy, deep sadness. It was one of the things he had always loved about her…the way he could read her. He had lost that over the last year…her face always said one thing, while her voice said another, and it confused him beyond understanding, leaving him miserable and filled with doubt…doubt in himself and his love, and doubt in her, that maybe things had changed with her, that maybe the Liz Parker he knew had died along with his heart back on the rocks, the day that she had run away from him.
Now though, her eyes had sprung to life once again, leaving Max amazed at the depths of her emotions…and once again Max was filled with overwhelming love and amazement in the woman standing before him.
“Max…” Liz finally started carefully, breaking the silence. “This isn’t right.”
Max’s eyes widened in shock…he couldn’t let it end like that, he couldn’t let her think that they still didn’t belong together, when she was all he wanted in life anymore. Quickly, he interrupted her, needing to find a way to convince her that things are now right between them.
“Liz…” Max instantly argued. “Don’t…”
“Max, let me finish.” Liz demanded, making Max halt instantly, staring into her strong, determined eyes in amazement.
“You misunderstood me.” She continued. “It’s not right that you should hold all of the blame for all of this on your own shoulders. That’s always been your greatest weakness, Max. The belief that you have to be responsible for everything and everyone. This whole situation…all that has happened…it’s all more my fault than yours…even down to your…” Liz hesitated, uncertain if she could say the words. Desperately trying to ignore the sick feeling in her stomach, she choked out the words she hated saying, knowing that they were real. “Even down to your night with Tess.”
“That’s not true.” Max cried, his voice cracking as his heart ached, seeing the raw pain openly pouring from Liz’s beautiful, dark eyes.
“Yes it is!” Liz exploded. “It’s entirely my fault Max! I’m the one who pushed you and Tess together, Max. You wanted me, all you could think of was me, and I purposefully broke your heart to get the two of you together. At the time I thought I was doing the right thing, but how could we have ever known that she was truly the enemy? I practically forced her on you, Max.”
“You didn’t force us into bed.” Max softly reminded her, studying her eyes carefully, as he tried to emphasize his point. “I did that one on my own. And it was the second biggest mistake of my life.”
“Only the second?” Liz’s eyes dropped awkwardly. Max noted her reaction, and mentally slapped himself, knowing that she misunderstood him.
“Yes…only the second.” Max confirmed, closing the distance between them, as he knelt in front of her, tilting her face upward so that he could look into her eyes. He wanted, no, he needed her to understand.
“Liz…the biggest mistake of my life was to let you get away from me.” Max whispered, his voice weighted down with all the regret that he had felt as he suffered through the whole year alone. “I will never, ever forgive myself for that…for letting you walk away in the desert last year…for believing that you slept with Kyle…for giving up on us.”
Tears filled Liz’s eyes, even as she beamed up at him, making Max’s heart ache with happiness.
It thrilled him to know that she was finally forgiving him, even as for the first time he began to show her the conflict within him. He was struggling within, caught between his shame and regret for the current state of their relationship, and his need to take responsibility for the consequences of his own actions.
Soon, though…much too soon for Max, the light in her eyes faded into fear and doubt, as she shook her head wildly in denial.
“No…no…this isn’t right, Max. I don’t deserve this.” Liz insisted, her eyes wild with emotion. “I don’t deserve your faith. You have no doubts, but I do, Max. I have so many doubts that it’s driving me crazy with fear.”
“Liz...” Max interrupted, as the cold hand of fear gripped his heart. He hated seeing her in so much pain. It especially tore him up to know that he was the cause of that pain. He desperately wanted to ease her fears, but she didn’t give him an opportunity to try.
“Do you know why I pretended to sleep with Kyle, Max?” Liz rushed on. “Do you? You have no idea do you? You don’t know because I never allowed anyone to ever find out…except Maria because I couldn’t stand lying to her. Even Alex I never trusted to know this, Max…I had to make sure that you would never, ever find out why.”
“You don’t need to do that anymore, Liz. You can tell me. It’s tearing you apart, Liz…I can tell just by looking at you. Tell me.” Max pleaded.
Raising her teary eyes to focus on him, Liz let the whole story pour out.
“I had a…visitor…from the future. Not just any visitor…it was you. Max Evans straight from the year 2014.”
Max’s eyes widened in surprise. The things she was saying sounded impossible…but if he learned anything over the course of his life, it was that sometimes, even the impossible became reality.
Remaining silent, he urged her on with his eyes, curious to see where her story lead…besides to pain and heartache for them both.
“He used the granolith to come back in time and convince me to break your heart…because in his future the world was about to end…all because of us…and how we dealt with Tess. That was why I kept pushing you to Tess…because if I didn’t, we were all going to die.” Pain filled Liz’s eyes, and Max took a step forward, desperate to do whatever he could to ease her suffering. She stilled him with a quick gesture, and Max paused, waiting for her to continue.
“Instead, we lost Alex.” Liz mumbled in an even, emotionless voice. “In that world, he lived, Max. Alex lived, and you and I were married and happy…and it caused the end of the world. Here we’re both miserable, and Alex is dead, and now we know that Tess is the enemy.”
Liz’s voice began to trail off, as a distant look filled her eyes.
“And now, as we’re standing here in this new world, with all of this newfound knowledge, I can’t help wondering if it was all worth it. I pushed you two together to keep her here, so that she would be there to fight with us down to the end…to keep us strong, but it seems like it was pointless now, because either way, she was always the enemy.”
“Even now, Max, after it’s all over, I can’t help consuming myself with the fear that somehow, by being with you, it will make things even worse.” Liz sighed. “I’m terrified that it will come down to the same ending…to the end of the world. All because of you and I loving each other. No good can ever come from this, Max.”
“Don’t say that.” Max insisted, cupping Liz’s face in his hands. “Don’t ever say that, love. We don’t know that. We don’t know if our love could cause it all over again. This is a different world. Maybe things are different now.”
Max paused for a moment, his mind whirling, as he just let all of the possibilities pour from his lips.
“The skins want the granolith, and we don’t have it anymore. They’re weak, and it won’t be long before they’re gone…permanently. Khivar is still out there somewhere, and my people still need me, but we can’t rely on Tess. She is the enemy, Liz.” Max agreed, emphasizing Liz’s point. “She always has been. Maybe we’ve lost the strengths she brought to the group, but we also have new strengths, Liz. We have each other. We have passion. We have love.”
Max met her eyes and offered her a half-grin. It was strange, that it had taken exploring his alien side to discover that his human traits were his biggest strength. Even as he spoke though, other, new possibilities occurred to him, as the ideas just kept flowing right out of him.
“We have you, Liz.” Max reminded her gently. “You and Kyle are capable of things that other humans aren’t, all because of me. Maybe with enough work, you two can add more to the fight. And even if we aren’t together, Liz, I know you. I know you can never walk away from this fight. I know you will be there until the end.”
Smiling sadly, Max continued on, desperately trying to justify their love.
“It won’t matter if we’re not together, Liz. Either way, things will still be just as they are today…and at least if we’re together we have that extra bond, that lack of tension. Our strength is each other, Liz… you still haven’t given me a good reason to stay apart. You still haven’t expressed any doubts in your love for me, or my love for you…just on the world around us. Our relationship shouldn’t be based on anything besides our feelings for each other. Please, Liz…don’t let this keep us apart.”
“I know…” Liz gasped out. “I know I shouldn’t…I’m just so scared…”
“It’s okay to be scared, Liz…I’m scared too.” Max admitted, as his own eyes began to sting from the intense emotions within him. “I’m so scared…of so many things. I try so hard to hide it, but sometimes I just can’t hide it anymore. I can’t hold it all back.”
“You shouldn’t have to hide it, Max.” Liz cried out, her eyes pleading desperately with him. “Please, don’t ever hide it from me. I want you to be able to be real with me…always real, Max.”
Max nodded, trying to blink back the tears that were shining brightly in his eyes, yet he remained silent, unable to say the words that were consuming his mind, afraid that expressing his own fears could completely destroy her.
“Talk to me, Max.” She suggested softly. “You haven’t talked to anyone yet, have you? About everything that happened this afternoon at the cave? It had to have been harder on you than anyone else, Max…you need to do it…just let it all out.”
“I don’t want to hurt you.” Max cried.
“Max…I need to learn to deal with it. Our relationship isn’t going to go anywhere if we can’t be open and honest with each other about everything. I’ve told you my deepest darkest fears, Max…now it’s your turn. Talk to me.”
Max met her eyes hopefully. “Our relationship?” He asked in amazement.
Smiling softly, Liz pressed on. “Talk to me, Max.”
Max nodded, and twisted around to sit more comfortably, his back to Liz, as he leaned back against the chair just to the side of her. Max slowly began to speak, his voice drifting off in a sad, wistful tone.
“I’m worried, Liz…about him.”
“Him?” Liz asked gently.
“My…my son.” Max admitted carefully, still having difficulty saying the words. He could barely comprehend the fact that he was going to be a father…and Liz was the hardest person to admit it to. Especially since she wasn’t the mother.
“I know there was no other choice” Max continued quickly. “He needed to get off of this planet, but now he’s out there somewhere, and there’s no way for me to protect him.”
“I’m so scared about what’s going to happen to him.” Max cried softly. “He’s on the other side of the galaxy, growing up with Tess as a mother and Khivar right there. She’s a known murderer, and Khivar will be completely able to control him, to control his thoughts, his actions.”
“How can I be sure that he’ll turn out okay?” Max moaned fearfully. “He’s a part of me…an unexpected part, but he’s still my responsibility, my flesh and blood. I never knew my father, and I don’t want him to have to grow up the same way. I want to be able to be a part of his life. But it’s impossible. I’m stuck here and he’s stuck there.”
“Max…” Liz started hesitantly. “The way you’re feeling…it’s totally natural, because of who you are. You’re a good person, you always take responsibility for your own actions, and you always are there to support and protect the people you love…and for the first time in your life you can’t. I don’t blame you for feeling that way, as much as it hurts me…as much as I wish that it was all just a horrible nightmare, or a mind warp or something.”
“That’s the thing, Liz.” Max whispered, voicing the fear that haunted his mind and consumed his soul with guilt. “I can’t help wishing that it was all a mind warp too…and that desire is tearing me apart…like I don’t love my son enough, because a part of me wishes that he didn’t exist.”
“Max…” Liz sighed, but he didn’t listen, just rambling on, as his fears continued to pour from within him.
“Part of it is just natural fear, though.” Max argued. “I mean, logically speaking, she didn’t hesitate to mind warp half the group to get what she wanted, which was me, so how do we know she didn’t try it on me too? I mean, it could have all been her control, and I wouldn’t even know, because that’s how a mind warp works, after all. It feels like it’s coming naturally from inside of you, when in reality, she’s controlling your mind, your feelings, your actions.”
“It is possible.” Liz agreed.
“But on the other hand, it could be wishful thinking on my part.” Max sighed in frustration. “I mean, the whole idea of this all is terrifying to me, Liz. I don’t want to be a father yet. And if I did want to be a father, I wouldn’t want Tess to be the mother…ever. She would be a horrible mother…she’s a murderer, a liar…what kind of morals would that teach our child? Plus…I don’t love her, and a family has to come from love. There’s only one person I have ever wanted that with, and it’s not her…never her.”
Turning to face Liz, he studied her compassion filled eyes, and smiled gently at her. “Thank you…for listening. You’re right…I did need that. I feel a little better, just saying it.”
“It’s the least I can do.” Liz replied softly.
“I would feel even better if I knew where we stand with each other.”
Max could see Liz hesitating as his plea, and he didn’t blame her for being so uncertain. Things had been so complicated for so long, that a part of him wondered if things would ever be right again. It seemed though, it was finally time for he and Liz to return home to each other’s embrace.
“I love you.” Liz responded simply. “I’ve never denied that, Max. I love you. But we can’t ever go back, Max. We can start over though, and I think that’s what I need, is for us to start over, from scratch, take small steps, slowly, on the path back to each other.”
“Whatever you need.” Max agreed. “Slow would probably be best…we need to reacquaint ourselves with each other, slowly learn to trust each other again. We took some pretty big steps tonight, Liz…but I think we’re both far from being completely ready. We need to erase all doubts…learn each other’s hearts all over again.”
Liz nodded silently in agreement.
Max’s lips suddenly curled up in an playful half-grin.
“So…a guy just can’t help, but ask. Is it okay…can I…can I…” Max’s voice trailed off, as he couldn’t even get the question out. He slid up to sit beside Liz, and turned to face her, only to find her staring back at her through eyes glazed with tears, even as her eyes shined with happiness.
“Yes.” She whispered passionately.
His eyes dropped to her lips, as his eyes fell to half lids, and his hand slid up to cup her cheek, the tips of his fingers tangling with the silky trestles of her dark, shining hair. His thumb slid back and forth over her cheek in a feather light caress, as their heads slowly inched closer together.
The first touch of their lips, a light brush against each other, caused a shock wave of electricity to spark through them both, as Max instantly pulled back, staring down into Liz’s eyes, in amazement, as the first tears began to trail down her cheeks. Max felt his heart aching at the sight. Unable to do anything else, Max did the one thing he could think of to ease her fears. He leaned in and captured her lips again, this time with fire, possession, love pouring straight from his soul, as he instantly reminded her how a simple kiss could take her breath away, not from the action, but from the emotion that came with it.
In an instant, Max felt completely at peace, like he had finally come home. Kissing Liz like this, with complete and total unbridled passion, had always been the moments where he felt as if his human and alien side were in complete balance with one another, as the human action of the kiss melded together with the alien act of the connection, and flashes poured between their minds mixed with the powerful, undeniable sensations of their love for one another, inside their minds as they were one.
Sucking her lower lip into his mouth, Max lingered there for a moment, reluctant to end the moment, even as he knew he had to let her go.
“I love you too.” Max whispered against her lips as he finally released her from his kiss, letting his hand slip from her face, to wrap around her shoulder, as he pulled her close to him, her head resting on his shoulder, as his chin settled on the crown of her head.
He sat there silently for a long while, just holding Liz close, as his fingers traveled their way through her silky hair. No more words were spoken between them. They both had just what they needed, the comfort of each other’s embrace. Max could have sat there for hours, just reveling in the feel of Liz in his arms once again, but he knew that he needed to go home. Reluctantly, Max extracted himself from Liz’s arms.
“I should go.” He sighed. “I don’t want to, but I haven’t been home yet…I don’t really know what happened with Mom and Dad yet.”
“Go.” Liz agreed. “We’ll see each other later.”
Max nodded in agreement, as he stood and made his way back to the ladder, crawling over the edge.
“Max?” Liz called, standing and turning to stop his departure. He paused, holding on to the metal rails as he returned his attention to her. “I just want you to know that you can count on me…to do whatever you need to help your son.”
Smiling gently at her, Max couldn’t disguise just how much he loved her at that exact moment, as it shined from his eyes with an intensity that took her breath away.
“Thank you.” He replied simply, before climbing down and starting on the short walk home.
I’m clumsily dancing away this fear,
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