|"The Road Not Taken"|
Disclaimer: As if I own these characters! I'm just borrowing Max, Liz,
Isabel, Alex, Maria, Michael et al and I'll try to leave them the way I
Summary: Takes place after 'Destiny' - Liz steps back from Max - or does she?
Authors Note: This story is one of those alternate time line things (think Sliding Doors) so if you haven’t read Part One – I strongly suggest you do – or you’ll be completely lost!
~ The Past ~
Max held Liz’s hand as they made their way back to the mesa outside the cave. Back to the others. He felt Liz tighten her grip as they got closer to Tess, Isabel and Michael who were now all gathered on the mesa, watching, as together, they made their way up the embankment. Max gently squeezed her hand back, letting Liz know with a soft look, he understood her unease.
When Max & Liz finally reached the others, for a long moment there was absolute stillness as all five teenagers stared at each other. Tess was looking at Liz with open hostility, while Michael’s face was completely devoid of any emotion as he looked first at Max and then at Liz. Isabel, on the other hand, gave Max a look of understanding and he felt his mouth turn up in a half smile. He could feel her approval of his actions radiating from her.
Max knew it was up to him to dispel the tension he could feel rising among them. Taking a deep breathe and with a quick look at Liz, who smiled her support, he turned towards Tess and willed himself to look at her face. He blinked as he took in the animosity he saw there. With a sinking feeling, he realised she wasn’t going to make this easy for him.
"Tess!" Even after all she had done to him, to them, his voice was gentle as he tried to let her down as lightly as he could.
"Tess, I’m sorry things have turned out this way. You have to understand that you and I have no future together, my heart belongs to Liz..."
"No Max" Tess interrupted "You’re destiny is with me. You heard what your mother said! How can you say that your heart belongs to her, when you were married to me? We have a mission to fulfil and it should be together…or has this human made you forget what you owe to our people?"
Stunned silence greeted her tirade. Max coloured as he took in the implication of what she was saying – particularly with regard to Liz. He was still trying to work out what to say to her when out of the corner of his eye he saw Michael give himself a slight shake.
"TESS" Michael roared, making them all jump, "DON’T YOU EVER SPEAK ABOUT LIZ LIKE THAT AGAIN!"
Michael looked at though he was about to spontaneously combust, as he rapidly closed the distance between himself and Tess. Calm, unflappable Tess, actually flinched as he brought his face to within inches of hers and glared at her.
"You should know that NOBODY cares about their responsibilities more than Max. He will do whatever it takes to complete our mission. But know this – just because he was married to you before, does not mean he has to now. He loves Liz, she loves him and you WILL NOT try and guilt trip them into breaking up."
As quickly it had started, the explosion was over. With a disgusted shake of his head, Michael moved away from Tess, actually turning his back on her and walking towards Max and Liz.
Tears were again shinning in Liz’s eyes as she stared at Michael. Noticing her look, Michael dropped his eyes. He didn’t know where that had come from! But somehow, he just knew that losing Liz would kill Max – and Max didn’t deserve the pain. He also admitted to himself, that after everything Liz had done for Max, for them all, over the past few days, she didn’t either.
Michael was startled as he felt arms wrap around his waist. Liz looked up at him with those eyes, the ones Max had once told him he could lose himself in.
"Thank you Michael" Her words were barely audible, but they undid something that was wound tight in his chest. His thoughts turned, uncontrollably, to Maria and he felt a shiver go through him. Gruffly pulling away from Liz he mumbled something that nobody could make out and walked away from the group, stopping when he reached the edge of the mesa.
Still dazed from Michael’s onslaught, Tess could only watch Liz walk back to Max. And as she saw Liz smile up into Max’s eyes, she felt the anger that was building inside of her flash, knowing she was already forgotten. She heard Liz ask Max what they needed to do now and at that moment the full weight of her wrath focused itself on Liz. This was all her fault, Tess sneered inwardly. She was supposed to be the one standing beside Max. She should have known the stupid human wouldn’t actually go through with leaving Max to his destiny. THAT would have been too much to hope for. But just because Liz couldn’t see what was staring her in the face, didn’t mean SHE had to accept it.
Unable to stop the rage she was feeling from distorting her face, Tess turned away from the others. The only satisfaction Tess could salvage from the whole pathetic situation, was the fact that Max, Isabel and Michael had no idea how miserable she was going to make their lives from here on out. If her mission was ever in doubt, it was back on track now. Reaching out with her mind, Tess could feel the transmissions steadily humming from the orbs that were still in the cave. Smiling slightly to herself, she realised it was only a matter of time before the others made their way to Roswell. And it would be her pleasure to ensure a certain Liz Parker paid in full for the disruption she was causing to her plans.
Max had decided that the first order of business was to go home and face their parents. All five were subdued as Max drove the Jeep back to Roswell, each wrapped up in their own thoughts.
Liz and Max continued to hold hands, Liz sweetly helping Max with the gears anytime he needed to down shift. Max knew he should be thinking about what he was going to say to his parents, but the truth was all he could think about was how good it felt to just be with Liz like this.
Isabel, was distraught over the worry she knew her parents would be feeling. Before leaving the cave she had pleaded with Max to reconsider telling their Mom about themselves. She wasn’t surprised when he again told her that he didn’t think it was a good idea. With all that had happened to him over the past few days, she didn’t feel like she could force the issue, but it hurt her to think Max still doubted their Mom’s unconditional love for them.
Thinking about her Mom, made Isabel think about her Mother and the message she had left for them. She felt herself start to get upset again, and quickly changed the direction of her thoughts. Looking at Max and Liz holding hands in the front seat, she was heart glad that Max had stopped Liz from walking away from him. Catching Max’s eye as he looked in the rear vision mirror, Isabel gave him a smile. Noticing Max smiling, Liz turned to see what he was looking at. Even though it wasn’t her style, Isabel widened her smile as she looked at Liz, trying to convey to her how grateful she was for all she’d done for him – for them all. As Liz returned her smile, Isabel knew she understood how she was feeling, even though she couldn’t put it into words.
Thinking about Liz, naturally brought Isabel around to thinking about Tess and she couldn’t help but wonder why Tess was being so co-operative about going to Michael’s place, instead of home with them. After the scene she’d pulled at the cave, it seemed weird that she would just meekly accept that Max was trying to put as much distance between them as possible. Turning her head slightly, she looked at Tess, who was staring off into the desert, her eyes hazy and un-focused. Something just didn’t add up. Isabel made a mental note to keep an eye on her.
As the miles flew by, Michael let his thoughts wander as he watched the unchanging New Mexico desert flash by the Jeep. He had his purpose. After all this time, it was almost unbelievable that there really was something more out there for him than his life in Roswell. He should be happy – hell he should be feeling euphoric…but he wasn’t. And it was his own fault.
He had the answers he’d been looking for his entire life, and at this moment all he could think about was Maria’s face when he’d told her he couldn’t be with her. He was responsible for the pain that had darkened her expressive eyes. The moment he and Maria had talked in that motel room on the way to Marathon, he knew his stone wall was in trouble. He admitted to himself that she had not only gotten inside, but totally destroyed that wall.
He watched as, in the front seat, Max raised Liz’s hand to his lips and gently kissed it. With a bitter smile, Michael thought about the fact that after all his warnings to Max about letting people get too close, he’d done exactly that. Just a little nod from the gods of irony to let him know they were thinking of him.
Before they knew it that were at the outskirts of Roswell. After a little discussion, it was agreed that Max would drop off Michael and Tess first, then Liz before heading for home.
Within ten minutes they were parked in front of Michael’s apartment. Tess barely looked at them as she climbed out of the Jeep. Michael was also subdued. His instruction to Max to ring him and let him know how things went was curt. Without saying another word he strode into his building, Tess trailing behind him trying to keep up.
Max, Liz and Isabel all gave a collective sigh of relief as they watched Tess disappear into the building. Pulling out from the curb, Max drove the short distance to the Crashdown. Isabel was surprised when Max gave Liz only a quick kiss before again pulling out from the curb and guiding the Jeep towards home. He didn’t even wait to see her go inside. Max must have sensed her surprise.
"I don’t want her parents to think we were…you know…getting into trouble." He volunteered, colouring slightly.
Isabel felt the ghost of a giggle creep up her throat. God, even with everything that was going on he could be so…soppy! But she kept her face serious, she knew how much Max hated being teased. The truth was, the memory of him huddled in that white room terrified, was still too fresh in Isabel’s mind for her to even think about teasing him.
Too soon they were turning into their street, pulling up into their driveway. For a moment they just stared at each other. Max could tell Isabel was close to tears and he didn’t feel far behind her. He still didn’t know what he was going to say to his parents, but figured he would just have to wait until he got their reaction. With decision, Max jumped out the Jeep and waited for Isabel to do the same. There was no point delaying the inevitable. As they headed towards the front door, he felt Isabel slip her hand into his.
Michael grinned as he hung up the phone. He couldn’t help being amused that Max was grounded! Max, the leader of his people - grounded! Even funnier was the leader of his people whining over the fact he’d used his ‘one phone call’ to call Michael, so he’d have to go an entire week before he could speak directly to Liz – telephone privileges also having been revoked. Michael shook his head. He would have just called her. It was vintage Max to be taking this so seriously.
He was amused, but Michael was also deeply relieved that things seemed to have gone much better with the Evans' than either Max or Isabel had dared hope. Max insisted it was due to the Sheriff’s influence. Michael wasn’t prepared to comment at this point – but if it was because of something Sheriff Valenti had done, he would have to reconsider his opinion of the man.
He knew Tess had been listening to his conversation with Max, so he didn’t even bother relaying to her what the deal was. Still disgusted by her behaviour outside of the cave, he didn’t feel like having any sort of interaction with her at the moment – sister or no sister. Matching deed to thought, he stalked to his bedroom and banged the door closed behind him.
Tess waited until she could hear no noise from Michael’s room before she made the connection. She couldn’t afford to be interrupted. Closing her eyes, to aid her concentration, Tess reached out with her mind until she found the connection she was looking for.
She expected a harsh reception and she wasn’t disappointed, but was surprised at how hard she needed to work to keep her fear under control. When Tess realised all that saved her was the desired knowledge she alone possessed; she felt her resolve waiver for a second. In the next instant, she knew she had nothing to lose. As requested, she sent a mental image of the one they sought – long dark hair, dark eyes, petite frame. The exact image of Liz Parker. Tess opened her eyes. It had begun.
Liz was already dressed and eating breakfast when her flat-mate Dale staggered out of her room the next morning. Liz’s anxiety level was still high, but she didn’t want to let Dale see that there was anything wrong with her.
She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but there was something about Dale that made Liz feel like she couldn’t completely trust her. The feeling was vague. Sometimes Liz suspected it was caused by lack of sleep. In the three years they’d lived together, Liz had to admit Dale had been nothing but the perfect roomie. And they got on well together. Dale wasn’t Maria, but she was a good friend. But then other times Liz just felt – wary. ‘Maybe Maria’s right’, she thought, ‘maybe I’m just completely paranoid.’
Liz forced a smile as she watched Dale shuffle over to the kitchen bench and down the coffee she had left there for her in one go.
"Hey" Dale finally mumbled, turning towards Liz and giving her a slight smile.
"Hey, yourself’ Liz replied,
Flopping on the lounge Dale rubbed her eyes and looked up at Liz. The coffee did its thing and she felt a lot more alert. Noting the dark shadows under Liz’s eyes she frowned.
"What time did you come in last night?" Dale asked with concern.
"I don’t know – around 2 I guess. I wasn’t tired, you know? And I hate just lying in bed, so I thought I’d stay outside." Liz turned away trying to avoid the conversation she knew was coming.
"You should see a doctor Liz." It was an oft-repeated phrase and Dale didn’t even try to hide the frustration she felt. Every night Liz spent more time on the balcony than she did in her own bed.
"Dale, you worry too much – I’m fine. Maybe I just need to relax more, I’ve actually been thinking of asking Maria about getting some aromatherapy oils."
Dale couldn’t help but smile in disbelief. Maria had been trying to get Liz into aromatherapy since Dale met them and probably before that. Dale’s smile widened into a grin when a thought occurred to her. "Well you know, if you’re looking for some relaxation, you could always give Adrian a call. I know he’d love to hear from you!"
Dale heard Liz’s sharp intake of breath. "Oh I don’t think so Dale. I’ve been pretty busy at the lab, you know, I don’t really have time."
Dale looked at Liz and shook her head. She’d known Liz since sophomore year in college and been her flat-mate for 3 years. Guys went crazy over her and no wonder for she was so beautiful, with her long silky dark hair and those enormous brown eyes. And there was such kindness about Liz; it just drew people to her. Dale couldn’t figure out why in all the time she’d known Liz she’d never gotten even remotely serious with a guy. Casual dates sure, but Dale had watched again and again as Liz pulled back the moment things looked like getting serious.
Not for the first time, Dale wondered what the deal was. She’d gotten a clue when Liz had had the ‘flu last year. Liz had spent a few nights totally out of it with a fever, rambling and babbling pretty incoherently. Dale found it interesting that the only coherent thing Liz had said was that she wanted someone named Max. She never talked about him though, and Dale wondered what she needed to do to find the truth.
"Oh God, I’m so late – I’ll see you tonight?" Liz looked at her watch and it was obvious she was trying to avoid Dale’s eyes.
"Actually, no, I’ve got a meeting, which will probably end up going through till later tonight." Was it her imagination or did Liz look relieved as collected her coat and keys and hurried out the door?
As she patted down her unruly red hair, Dale sighed. This was turning out to be harder than she anticipated. She continued to stare vacantly and sometime later jumped as the shrill ring of the telephone jolted her back to reality. The frustration was really starting to get to her.
Liz looked up from her computer and glanced around the lab. It was just after 7pm and everyone else, even Dr Hampson, had called it a night. Liz had promised she was almost done and on her way herself. That was half an hour ago. The quiet of the lab, of the entire building really, was something Liz looked forward to. It somehow gave her comfort.
Although she hadn’t yet achieved her ‘dream, dream, dream job’ as head of Molecular Biology Research at Harvard, she was definitely on her way. Dr Hampson, the Molecular Biologist who was the head of Molecular Biology Research, was an amazingly gifted Scientist. Working with him was as fulfilling as naive 16-year-old Liz had imagined it would be. With all the things that had happened since then Liz was sometimes amazed that she was here at all.
Rousing herself out of her reverie, Liz decided it was time she too went home. Since Dale wouldn’t be in, Liz decided she would treat herself to some Chinese takeout and give Maria a call. She’d been putting it off, but Liz knew that she’d eventually have to tell Maria about Max. It wasn’t something she was looking forward to. In fact, just thinking about it was making the acid production in her stomach work overtime. Out of the three of them, Maria was the one who was the most bitter. Liz knew it was her way of dealing with the pain of Michael leaving her, but it didn’t make it any easier to take. Maybe she would just wait a while. Perhaps it would turn out to be nothing.
But as she walked down the hallway, out past the security guard at the front desk and into the car park, Liz wondered why, increasingly, she somehow knew this was important.
|Part 1 | Index | Part 3|
|Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours|