Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, no infringement intended.|
Summary: Based on the End of the World, from Future Maxís point of view.
Authors Note: This story has been haunting me since I saw The End of the World, which is now my favorite Roswell episode. The story is really long and for that I apologize. Thank you, my excellent muses, you know who you are, for your invaluable feedback, and for being better writers than I am. My goal in life, it seems, is to make you cry. December 2000
|My feet land on solid ground and the shock of it goes up my legs. I flex my hands. I donít need to look around; I know where I am.|
She knocked several things over when she tipped her mirror in surprise. I said her name, and now her eyes are huge, staring at me in shock, and I find I canít say anything.
All I can do is stare back at the girl, and wonder how the hell I am going to survive this.
Sheís arguing with me, and in my head thereís another sound, another voice, older, more familiar. Itís distracting, and suddenly Iím holding her arms and sheís panicking and trying to push me away and I canít seem to get her to believe who I am, to focus on the problem at hand. I let go of her slowly, aware of her panting breaths, her shoulders hunched up under my hands. I pause awkwardly and look at her face, unlined, so young. It's her, but she looks so different.
You will grow even more beautiful, I want to tell her. I moved too fast, I know that now, I saw her and she was so familiar. How could she not know me? Hadnít I just let her go?
And Iím trying so hard not to imagine what is happening this very moment in another world. The seconds tick by, and I force myself away from wondering when the pain will start, and when it will end. I count the seconds for her and hope that when Iím done, it will be over and she will be at rest. I can hear her voice again, telling me she didnít have any regrets.
But I do.
I hear the music start, but the lyrics were already in my head, and I had almost forgotten where I was, and that she was there. I sing along softly, and feel the coolness of the wall behind me as I back away and let her go and see for herself what a fool I was, so long ago.
I just climbed through the window and suddenly I canít think; my heart is tearing out of my body, because I can feel, suddenly, abruptly, what is happening to her, in the future I just left. I stop and stare blindly at this young girl, and feel her dying at the same time, somewhere far away.
I can feel it all, every moment, every sensation.
I carefully take it and put it aside for later. I have to answer a question now, and I focus on each word, to take me away, far away, from what just happened.
ďWe need to change the future. What we do here must be precise, and surgical.Ē
Like the way you just died, dearest.
I talk to her. I tell myself Iím trying to keep her attention focused, but Iím also trying to distract her from what is happening below. I can hear my own voice, and it sounds strange to my ears, like an unexpected recording of yourself that you didnít know had been taken.
Iím also keeping time again. Three, two, one. Her father is coming.
I move in choreographed precision to the alcove by the window and wait for him to pass, and then I slip inside her bedroom and hide. When she comes in again, she gives me a long look, and then leaves without a word.
I wander around her room, touching things. I remember this place but the memories are faded, and itís comforting and disconcerting at the same time to see everything the way it was, so long ago. It seems smaller than I remembered, and more cluttered. I touch her clothes hanging in the tiny closet, and notice a scarf draped over the lamp. I look at the photographs of us on her dresser. I look so young.
My hair is so short in the pictures and self-consciously I reach up and feel the heavy weight of it now, and smile. I like it long, she said once. It gives me something to hold onto when we make love.
I still canít believe she said that. But I feel the same reaction in my body now that I had then.
She picked a great time to walk in.
Private? What is she talking about? Oh.
I hide my reaction. She has apparently accepted that I am who I say I am, but it hasnít occurred to her yet what that really means. I can give her time, but not much.
She has some questions. Of course. I understand. Again I have to hide a smile. She has gone into scientist mode, gathering facts and data and trying to create a coherent theory to test against them. Itís her way of trying to remain calm when she is scared inside. I know it well. It served us in times ahead and I came to love her even more for it.
But then I realize something is different, and it takes me a second to realize what it is.
Relief floods through me. Already sheís different, different than she was. And I guess it was a change that I needed to see, any kind of change. I wasnít sure until this moment that anything could be different. My Liz didnít get angry at me, really angry, until nearly five years after we met, almost two years after we were married, and the war started in earnest. We were twenty one years old.
Max, stop putting me on a goddamned pedestal. Iím not perfect and I can take care of myself. You need to stop thinking that Iím the only thing that matters to you. And see? I bleed, just like everyone else. This was completely my fault, I wasnít paying attention. So just leave me alone and let it hurt for a while, so I donít do anything that stupid again.
I remember that day so clearly. I left her alone. I stopped living in a fantasy world then, though I didnít realize until many years later that it was already far too late.
And I never stopped thinking that she was the only thing that mattered to me. I didnít tell her that.
But this girl is angry and I want to believe that itís a good sign. I talk to her more gently now; I donít want her to lose the fragile hold she has on this new reality Iíve brought to her private room.
I tell her what I think she can handle. But I still tell her the truth.
At least as much of it as I can handle.
ďThings between us are about to change . . . grow deeper.Ē
I canít tell you more than that. You donít need to know more than that.
ďThe closer that you and I grew, the worse it got with Tess, and she eventually left Roswell.Ē
I wince inside, because I know that she will ask the next question, the question I donít want to answer. But I have to. Itís the truth, and now my Liz is gone and I have nothing left but the truth about why.
ďBecause of me, and how I treated her.Ē
It sounds impossible as I say the words, and I feel ashamed. The despair I have kept at bay surges up in me, constricts my throat, aches behind my eyes as I force myself to hold her gaze and tell her why I have come here, what she needs to do.
ďI need you to help me fall out of love with you.Ē
Because Iím the reason you died.
If only I could go to my own self and . . . what? What would I do?
If I could give myself a few swift kicks, that might be a good start. It would be a hell of a lot easier than this.
Sheís sleeping, and Iím out here on the roof. Itís a good thing I got used to sleeping on the ground. She did too; in fact, she seemed to like it, seemed to like the rugged life after a while, despite the danger and fear and bloodshed. She was so strong.
I havenít been able to sleep since I came here, though. I donít want to. I keep thinking that itís only a matter of time. That I have to do this thing, and when I do, it will all be over.
But there is something I need to do now. Slowly, I let myself remember what I saw, and felt, a few hours ago. I take the memory and handle it carefully, like itís a precious, fragile thing. I hold it up to the light behind my eyes, and itís the color of blood.
She stood, oh brave girl, she stood and faced them and waited. She was so strong. She faced them and didnít close her eyes when the light struck her body and they didnít close when her flesh parted cleanly and the blood started to flow, they didnít close as she stared into the eyes of her killer and stopped breathing. They didnít close, but I felt her focus shift away, and saw what she saw. Me. Somehow she saw me, watching her, my soul in my eyes.
Liz, I would have died for you. I wish I could have been there with you. I would have held you and we could have died together.
My vision blurs, and I close my eyes against the darkness. I feel the tears, and I hear them fall.
The night is so long. I had forgotten how long the hours are. I just sit here, shivering, but the cold feels good, and the hard surface of the roof feels good. It reminds me that Iím alive, at least for a little while longer. I donít want to sleep. I want to do what I came to do, and then I will disappear, or something, and all I can hope is that it will not be long. I want to be awake for the last few hours of my life. I stretch my arms out, shoulders straining, and then lace my fingers together, drop them into my lap, and look up at the stars.
What will disappearing be like? Will it be like dying? I try to stop myself from wondering these things. I donít want to feel afraid. But the thoughts creep in sometimes, the questions flash across my mind and I canít stop them. I hum a Mexican song, softly, under my breath, and look up at the stars.
But my thoughts wonít be still. I try not to think about what might happen. I canít even think about the possibility that this will not work. But I do, and then I feel the adrenalin rise in my body, the panic set in, that sick feeling of fear on an empty stomach.
What would I do? I couldnít go back. Iím certain that the chamber was destroyed soon after I left. And even if I could go back, there would be nothing there but death waiting for me. I could only pray that it would be short.
But not painless. I wouldnít want it to hurt me any less than it did her.
My focus turns to the window. I can see her shadowy form under the covers. She is restless. I can hear her now, fighting dreams.
I have to tell myself that she's not Liz. I mean, she is Liz, but she knows so little. There is so little time, and what I have to do is change what happens. If I do that then thereís a chance that everything will be alright. Thatís what I tell myself.
I shiver, and pray that it will be enough to save her.
If I were a different version of myself, I might laugh.
I watch myself, spying on Tess as she tries to capture me in her buxom web. It is funny, I guess. I look at the girl next to me. She notices, and I tell her what I was thinking, and then I look away again.
ďUm, did we get married?Ē
Her question is unexpected and painful and catches me off guard. I react without thinking. She accepts what I say without question, though, and turns back to the window.
I guess Iím not surprised. If she only knew what an irrelevant and pointless question that was.
Dammit. Silly romantic girl with silly romantic dreams.
But I remember.
I turn to look at her, and when I speak, the memories speak through me.
ďWe eloped. We were 19.Ē
ďWe were 19? That is so young. That is too young.Ē She says, her voice soft, surprised.
ďThatís what I said, but you said that Romeo and Juliet were even younger than us.Ē
She looks at me in surprise and again the pain sharpens, because in her eyes is just a glimmer of the woman who stands clear and strong in my mind, her eyes velvety and deep, her hands open and beckoning. I move away from her. I have to. The girl in my head is calling to me and I have to go to her for a while.
I hear my voice from a distance and just let it go and give her the memories she is asking for. I remember. I even do my best Elvis impression. It helps. In my head, she laughs out loud and I remember, I remember, and then the pain gets worse and I canít stay still, I canít look at her anymore, and I go back to the window and stare out into the darkness.
ďIf this works . . . Iím not gonna have that day.Ē She says, and thereís a thread of pleading in her voice.
ďNo, you wonít.Ē
The words sound cold and hollow but I canít help it, I can barely control the pain now. All I can hear in my head is: No, you wonít have that day. But youíll live. Youíll live.
Iím so angry, so angry with myself I could scream. I was so stupid then, so selfish. So blind. I press my lips together, remembering the kiss, hating myself for it.
ďYouíre supposed to be breaking up with him, not kissing him.Ē
I canít even hear what Iím saying.
I didnít really tell her the truth, before, about why everything went wrong, why she ended up dying alone and terrified, why I was here, trying to change the history of the world. I mean, I said it, but I didnít really say it. She doesnít know that this was really all my fault, that my cruelty toward Tess, and my selfishness toward her, is really what caused all of this. All of it.
She answers, and her voice breaks, but she is defiant. The pain lashes at me as I hear the tears in her voice, the resistance, the fear. Why didnít I see it all then? What possessed me to treat Tess that way, so lightly, as though she werenít really one of us? As though she didnít deserve the respect that I gave to Michael and Isabel, and even Nasedo? God, I was so stupid.
ďYouíre only making me love you more!Ē
I suddenly realize Iím shouting at her. Apparently I am just as stupid now as I was then, because Iím yelling at her, as though itís her fault.
Damn. I swear softly under my breath. Okay, get it together. You have to tell her what happened that night. You have to tell her.
How? She wonít believe it.
ďYou said no the last time, too. I didnít take no for an answer.Ē
Whoa, that didnít sound good. But itís true. Sheís looking at me like Iíve lost my mind.
She knows already what Iím about to say, but she doesnít want to believe it, so she sets me up, she asks the obvious.
I didnít want to tell her any more than I had to, but sheís refusing to understand. So I give up, and before I can think about it or change my mind, I tell her, and the shock of the words reverberates through my still body, and I watch it strike hers, and shatter her illusions like glass.
ďWe made love.Ē
It comes out more gently than I thought it could. I tried to hide the pain in my voice but it was still there, and I wonder if she hears it too. My heart tightens in my chest as I say the words and remember that night.
Iím not prepared for her answer.
ďNo. No, we didnít.Ē
Unbelievable. She looks at me with absolute conviction in her eyes and now I am angry with her, I want to laugh but Iím too angry to laugh.
I know your body better than anyone ever will.
If we donít change this, in less than twenty four hours I will be telling her what she means to me, how I donít care about anyone or anything except her, and I will touch her until her eyes darken and she gives in. In less than twenty four hours we will be together in her bed and it will be sweet and fumbling and awkward, and I will pull out my wallet with the condom in it and she will be thankful, so thankful that I had it with me. And we will stay awake until nearly dawn, exploring each other, and she will have her very first orgasm and I will be so awed by the power of it, and we will be inseparable from that night on.
Until the end. The images rise unbidden and once again I feel the pain slicing through her before I quickly stifle it, stifle the scream that was her voice just before she died, the scream that rises in my heart.
What does she think Iím trying to do here? Ruin her life? Iím trying to save her. Not Michael or Isabel, though Iíll use the information about their deaths if I have to. Not even me. No one else matters.
I havenít changed. Maybe thatís why Iím here.
That thought tears through me and I react savagely. The force of my anger drives her back a step.
ďLiz, I am telling you what happened, and we have to change that.Ē A note of desperation creeps into my voice, but I canít stop it. ďWe have to. And so far, weíve failed.Ē
Iíve failed. But what else can I do?
Liz, help me understand. Please. She is there in my mind, in the shadows, and she looks at me, and I love her all over again, and then suddenly I realize the truth. I realize what really needs to happen, and I curse myself for being so blind, for so long.
Itís not the future that needs to change, like itís something independent of ourselves, something outside of us. Itís in us. It is us.
I try to say it in a way she will understand, but Iím barely coherent, searching for words. ďLiz, itís not just Max thatís the problem here. You are. You are not letting yourself change. Now you have to do something. Before itís too late.Ē
I watch her carefully, and see the despair in her eyes, see the tears that filled them start to fall. I sigh, and my gaze drops to the floor.
Sheís not there yet. But maybe sheís closer. I just watch her as she turns and walks out. I know where she is going. I sit down on her bed to wait.
My Liz would never deny the truth. She stopped doing that long ago. She grew honest and fearless and never let me hide from what was real. She was my strength. If only it had been enough to make up for my weakness.
I always felt that there were secrets locked inside her that neither of us knew. I wish weíd had the chance to discover them. I wonder if they will come out, if the future changes. I hope that they will.
And I let myself hope that I will be there to see them.
She has to change so that she will not be the Liz she became anyway, the Liz I have loved for so long. She has to change, so that I will change too.
She will change, and maybe I wonít love her anymore.
But there's a voice that whispers in my head that somehow, I will still love her. And even if I disappear, I think my love for her will remain, will leave its trace in what happens here.
It has to, because Iím doing this for her. She is all that matters.
A doomed man should get a last request. Mine is a hot shower. Iíve been wearing leather for three days without one.
I stand still, lost in the steamy sound of the water for an endless time, the heat easing the weary tension in my shoulders. But then my memories stir and shift slightly and I realize that she is talking to him, in his room. I stand and quietly watch my memories change.
ďJust donít say anything.Ē
The steely authority in her voice stops me. Itís different. I watch as my growing shock sharpens the memory, brings it into focus.
ďI just re-read ĎRomeo and Julietí, and you know, the first thing that I realized is that isnít even the title. Itís called ĎThe Tragedy of Romeo and Julietí. They die.Ē
Oh, clever girl. I feel the pain, new and yet old, at the memory of her words.
ďYou know Max, if . . . if you truly love me, youíll let me go. I may love you, but I . . . I donít want to die for you.Ē
The me that I was knows that sheís lying. Tears rose in my eyes because I knew she was lying and I didnít understand why.
But I also feel confusion, and the beginnings of doubt, as they creep into my mind and begin to unravel the knotted truths that tied me to this reality. I start to feel just a little lighter, and hope rises in my heart.
Clever girl. Maybe it was enough. I let myself hope that I donít disappear before she comes back to her room.
She cries, soft, broken crying, and I try to ignore it, but Iím as good at it now as I was during all the years we were together. I reach for the tissues.
And my hand goes right through them.
I am paralyzed for a split second, realizing that the next moment, or the next, or the next, might be my last. I look at her and donít look away.
ďYouíre just . . . youíre going back to where you came from?Ē She sounds vaguely hopeful.
I smile. She still doesnít get it. But thatís ok; I would rather shoulder this burden alone. She deserves that much after what sheís been through. I sigh and answer her very, very gently.
ďNo. Thereís nowhere to go back to.Ē
I sit still and look at her, drinking in the sight of her, that I hope will be the last thing on earth I see.
And I wait.
And nothing happens.
I feel the memories shift slightly and I hear Mariaís voice. I search inside for a change, the feeling of disappearing, of fading, and it is gone.
I donít think I can take much more of this.
I fight the wave of weariness that washes over me, rub my eyes, focus on her, and tell her what needs to be done.
But this girl is fighting again, sheís fighting me, and I canít seem to get her to understand whatís at stake. And I canít tell her why Iím really doing this. So I tell her why she made me do this, why she forced me to leave her.
ďLiz, 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 our lives depend on it.Ē
Your life depends on it, love. Iím so tired. I sit helplessly and watch her cry. And I harden my heart.
Iím out on the roof, alone with my thoughts. I wonder what will happen tomorrow. I hope it will be my last day on earth.
I think about Liz and let the tears come, because Iím tired and cold and I canít help it. I remember her face, her beautiful, sad eyes, as we said goodbye.
We have to keep trying. We have to.
I donít want to think about it, but the thoughts rise anyway, and the tears, and I canít stop either of them.
ďI donít think this is such a good idea.Ē
ďWhat are you talking about?Ē
ďDo you really think this is going to work? I could never be jealous of Kyle.Ē
I canít help it, I say it out loud and curse myself silently. Something is different about her and suddenly I feel out of my element. What changed? I tell myself itís nothing, itís just because Iím tired. Iím so tired.
No, something is different.
I watch her begin to undress, as she talks to Kyle through the bathroom door. She asks me to turn around.
Liz, we were married, remember? Iíve seen you naked a thousand times. She continues to look at me in the mirror, arms poised with the edges of her shirt in hand, her eyes bigger than I have ever seen them, waiting. I exhale resignedly, nod, and turn away. I look at the shower tiles and suddenly remember her standing there once, long ago, blushing in surprise when she saw me waiting, towel ready, to dry her off and carry her to bed.
I listen to Kyle talk about Buddhism, and suddenly I canít believe what Iím feeling, what is surging up inside me, bitter and sickening.
Iím jealous. Of Kyle.
I swear under my breath and say the first words that come to mind, and then I feel ashamed. Iím helpless, and feeling a slowly growing sense of something approaching, something on its way, something awful.
I start to panic. What if Kyle doesnít understand whatís happening? What if he thinks this is an opportunity to get something that he couldnít get from her before?
ďIf he tries anythingóď
But she stops me with a look.
Who is she now? I donít know, and suddenly I feel completely powerless, and all I can do is watch.
ďIíve got it under control. Please stay out of earshot.Ē
And she left without looking back.
I stood, helpless, and stared at myself in the mirror, and felt the gathering storm come.
A slow pulse began in me like measured steps, I felt it approach, I saw her window and the soft glow of the light from her room. I heard her voice, soft words, and I remembered that all I wanted to do that night was touch her, lose myself in her eyes and drown in her kiss.
And then I heard Kyle. And I stopped.
I heard him say words that made no sense and I heard her murmur softly in response and then
I saw her
dark eyes wide
oh god no
And I saw her face, in that moment, cursed with having both his memories and mine and knowing what she was doing, what her eyes were really saying, knowing the truth, and the pain of both realities almost brought me to my knees.
I slowly closed my eyes, and lowered my head, and felt the pain and didnít fight it, didnít fight it at all. I just let it take its time, and do its work.
Steel is tempered with fire.
We live our lives trying to avoid pain, which is silly. Pain shapes us, teaches us. Pain is life.
I saw people, countless people, in the years ahead, who died just to avoid the pain of living. Who would rather die than change.
We sit together out on the roof, and I listen to her voice and let it soothe my heart. There is a new sadness in her eyes, and a new strength. She has changed.
She has become the girl who would make me take no for an answer.
ďItís a different world now.Ē My voice is barely a whisper. I donít know anything anymore. But I know it will be over soon.
She can still surprise me, though. I smile a little at her request, and then I take her gently in my arms and we begin to dance, and I allow her to slowly warm me. I can feel the memories spinning faster and faster, but I ignore them, because at this moment, I donít want to be anywhere else in time, or space, but here.
She loved to dance.
She whirls, and whirls again, and the soft touch of her fingertips circling against mine makes my heart ache.
Maybe she didnít really become a different person. Maybe she has just become herself sooner.
And I gently lift my hand away, and leave her slowly whirling on her own.
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