FanFic - Max/Liz
"A Step Back"
Part 1
by Courtney
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: Max reflects on his decision about finding some balance.
Category: Max/Liz
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Wow! I *loved* The Balance!! One of the best episodes yet IMO. And the M/L stuff was so heartbreaking! I could just cry. Anyway, the episode just went off and this was on my mind so I had to write it. This is for all of those people that complain about a lack of Max and Liz stories. Iím doing my part for the cause ;-).
I told Liz tonight that we needed some space. That I did, really. That I needed some time apart from her to figure out what our being together means for us both. How weird is that? We need to be separated in order to find each other? Iím the one that came up with it and it doesnít even make sense to *me*.

All of this, this whole thing with Michael, everything thatís been happening with me and Liz, all of it has my mind going in a million places. I canít think straight anymore. I donít even know what I want right now... so how can I be so sure that Liz Parker isnít the one thing I really and truly want?

She is, of course. Sheís all I want. When I close my eyes at night, I see her face. She fills my dreams, smiling and laughing and looking at me with those eyes that completely mesmerize me every time I catch a glimpse of them. Her face is all I can think about when I should be thinking of logarithms in math class or meatloaf at lunch or some such less occupying thought. But I canít think of those things. All that fills my mind is Liz... sheís all there is now.

Itís exhilarating to finally have someone in my life that I feel really gets me. I love Isabel and Michael, but itís not the same. They understand, but not the way that Liz does. Liz sees my soul, sees all the things I feel, and returns those feelings in kind. She looks at me and my heart stops. She touches my hand and I die. When sheís around, nothing else matters. Thereís only us... thereís only the way I feel about her and the way she feels about me and suddenly thatís enough to fill up the whole world. Itís more that I ever dreamed of.

But itís not enough, not in the real world. Not in the world that wouldnít trust me if they knew the real me. Not in the place where I have to hide in plain sight in order to keep myself safe. This place is a constant danger, and it wonít do for me to have my head in the clouds with Liz when I should be the grounded one. I should be the one keeping the otherís heads on straight. They need me. Theyíve always needed me.

Do they need me more than I need Liz?

I think about the look on her face as I left tonight and it makes me ache. Iíve never been sick in my life, never had a broken bone, never had a scratch that I couldnít fix myself... and yet the hurt that I feel at hurting Liz is something that even I canít repair. Itís something I deserve to have to feel. Itís something that Iíve brought on myself.

I can still feel her lips on mine in that last kiss tonight. God, how I wanted to return that kiss! All I wanted to do was climb back onto that roof and wrap my arms around her and let the rest of the world fade around us. That would have been perfect. That would have made it all okay again.

That would have been a huge mistake.

She excites me and captivates me and makes me see the world in a way I never did before her. She also terrifies me. Liz Parker, tiny, diminutive Liz Parker who would never hurt a living soul, scares me more than any alien autopsy video ever could. When Iím with her, Iím not myself. Iím not Max Evans, brooding loner who smiles from across the room but keeps his distance. Iím Max Evans, love-struck teenager who canít take his eyes off the goddess sitting beside him trying to master a set of chopsticks. Iím like any other red-blooded, American guy... and thatís whatís terrifying.

Liz makes me feel normal, makes me feel like I belong. But, the thing is, I donít. I donít belong and I never will. Iím not like everyone else and I canít let myself feel even for a second that I might be. I have to keep my distance. I have to stay back so I can stay safe; so that I can keep the others safe.

She doesnít understand. I can see it in her eyes that she doesnít understand my reasons for pulling away. She thinks I blame her because of what happened with Michael or because she was scared for me or because of something else all together. But thatís not it; thatís not it at all. I donít blame her for anything... well, anything but making me fall in love with her, that is.

Thatís the problem. Iím in love with Liz Parker. Iím in love with the way her face lights up when she laughs and with the way she sneaks little looks at me in math class when she thinks Iím not watching and with the way she knows that I like cherry cola with a little bit of Tabasco sauce. I love the way she knows me and I love the way she understands me. I love everything about her. And, again, thatís the problem.

The more I love Liz, the less I can focus on what I should really be focused on. The less I can concentrate on keeping myself and my sister and my best friend out of harms way and trying to find the answers we so desperately need to find. Liz causes everything else to seem less important and thatís just something that I canít allow to happen, not right now.

So, I have to do this. I have to hurt the both of us now in order to keep from hurting us later. I have to clear my head and try to find a way to love Liz a little less completely, a little less all-inclusively... But the thought of loving her less, of feeling anything but everything for Liz Parker, seems more alien than my reflection in the mirror ever has. Sheís the center of my close-knit little world now and itís hard to break away from that.

But I must. I must for the good of both of us. So, I take a step back... and I wait. I wait for the answers Iím hoping will come to me; wait for the one thing that will show me how to love Liz and still keep my focus. I hope I find it soon... so that I can take that step forward once again.

* * * * *

The End

December 16, 1999

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