TITLE: If You Would Be True, Love
AUTHOR: seraC
EMAIL: seraphcelene@yahoo.com
SPOILERS: Destiny, End of the World, Cry Your Name and Departure.
RATING: PG-13
ARCHIVING: Essential-Imperfect. Everyone else please ask first.
SUMMARY: In a shabby motel room in the middle of nowhere Liz realizes that some things are better left unsaid.
NOTES: Future fic. This is also a bit of a "what-if" fic. "What if" Max had other reasons for saving Liz in the Crashdown that fateful day. It's not benign as you may think. I'm a very staunch dreamer and I have no clue where this came from.
FEEDBACK: Always welcome. Heartily important. It's a bit like air, really. Necessary. Yea. Necessary.
DISCLAIMER: Roswell belongs to Melinda Metz, Jason Katims, Sandollar, UPN, et al. I'm just taking them out for a little exercise.


"The heart has its reasons that
reason cannot know."
-- Pascal


If You Would Be True, Love


Dying is a lost art. It isn't something that people do well anymore. She knows that she won't die gracefully, languid and beautifully tragic. She isn't Greta Garbo. Her death will be sad and maybe even a little pathetic. It's too clichéd to really be anything else. Unfortunate. Perhaps that is a better word. It doesn't carry the romantic ring of tragic, but it's much more promising than sad and kinder than pathetic. Unfortunate. When had they become so unfortunate?

She had thought about dying in a hospital, but that meant white walls. White walls mean pain. Her pain she can handle. Drown it out, bottle it up, pretend it doesn't exist. But his pain . . . His pain can block the sun.

Instead she lies in a dirty motel room in a nowhere town, the name of which she has already forgotten. Just one of many haphazard towns, dusty and sepia-toned. Tinier than a spot on anyone's map, sometimes just a collection of RV's and tin shacks scattered broken and rusted like jacks on the desert floor. She can never remember the names of these places and very few of the tired, dusty people. But, she always remembers the children. They still shine. Sometimes she remembers that she used to sparkle too.

She is going to die, and her death will be unfortunate and sad and pathetically clichéd, but it won't be something that she does alone. Max is there. He is always there. And now he is there watching her die. He watches from the window or from the rickety chair beside the bed. He holds her hand and strokes the veins beneath her parchment skin, tracing gentle patterns as if he can find the answer or rub away what is wrong between them.

Sometimes he lies beside her, curled around her wasted body. He lies almost as close as the lovers they once were; his head pressed against her fragile breast, just below her jutting collarbone, listening for the fragmented beat of her heart.

Max counts the shallow, hesitant thumps against his ear until they slow and skip. Then he holds his breath and waits for the next tentative sound. She just lies there, staring up at the water stains blossoming across the ceiling until she becomes weighted with tension. His worry makes her worry and she can't die that way; bow-string tight because she's lost the beat of her heart. She wants to die bonelessly. Free and easy, snuffed out like a candle. Gentle. But that's a cliché too.

Everything has become such an effort. Breathing is so immense it requires all of her concentration. Speaking is worse. But today, when she can feel the chill in her legs and hands, she worries that if she doesn't speak now she'll never get the chance again.

"Max."

She whispers his name on one of her more precious breaths. An exhalation so labored and vital that she fears the next one might not come. And then where would she be? Left with so many words unsaid and no more chances to say them. So she inhales as deeply as her bruised lungs will allow and on that tender, shallow breath she says his name.

For a moment, when he doesn't turn, she thinks he hasn't heard. He's always been so still. Solid. Deliberate. But now, when the world moves so much slower than before, he is just quiet.

"Max." She whispers again and this time his name is swallowed by a harsh racking cough. Max is beside her instantly, one hand reaching to sooth the shuddering in her chest, the other stilling her fluttering hands.

"Liz." He always says her name as if it's the answer to everything. A prayer for light and forever. Before Max no one ever said her name as if it meant so very much, Atlas bearing the weight of the world. Some days she's glad that speaking isn't always an option. Then she doesn't have to be the answer to his prayers or the center of the universe. On those days she doesn't even have to be Liz Parker.

"Liz. I'm so sorry."

"Max. No." Her voice is jagged from the cough and heavy with anger. "Don't . . . Just. Don't." If he apologized for any of it. Saving her life. Falling in love. Leaving Roswell with her. Any of it. If he apologized for her life . . .

"Liz." Her name hovers between them and she can see stars. "It's my fault. All of it. I'm so sorry."

Anger blossoms through the pain in her chest and she wonders if her eyes give her away, brittle and dark. Liz inhales deeply fighting the perpetual lethargy that anchors her limbs. "You can't. Take it back. Max. Can't."

"If I hadn't . . ." He keeps speaking as though he hasn't heard. The hand on her chest, stroking gently, opening and closing against the soft hollow at the base of her throat. An unconscious gesture that irritates her more than it comforts.

Liz's hands sink deep as she struggles to push herself up against the pillows. Those stupid, pristine pillows he'd driven 30 miles to buy. She never asked him where he got the money for them and he never volunteered the information. When he brought them to her he just smiled his quiet smile and made love to her, her hips propped against the innocent white cotton.

"Hadn't what? Max." She can feel the rasp and scratch of her voice in her throat. "Fallen in love? Saved my life?" She imagines newspapers stacked on the sidewalk. Local Waitress Shot And Killed In Roswell Tourist Trap.

"No!" The horror in his eyes almost stops her. Almost. But there are things that need to be said. That will always need to be said, no matter how much she loves him.

"What. Max? I love you. Always will."

She pauses for a labored breath. In through the nose and out through the mouth. It's almost a sigh. "Why can't you see . . . and just . . just accept it, Max. Like . . . like a gift." There is sadness in her eyes, burning behind the tears. Sadness that for the rest of his life, he would never understand just how much she loves him.

"I couldn't let you die. I couldn't. But .. Maybe .. If I hadn't panicked. You were so pale and there was blood." Closing his eyes doesn't block the memory. The images still play, like a movie reel, against the inner lid. Everything dressed in black and white except the blood, rust red, and the girl-pale blue of her uniform. "So much blood. Everywhere. I didn't mean . . ." His hands open and close, grasping for a way to explain how the heart can stop and start and break all in the same moment.

"I couldn't take the chance that you might . . ."

Suddenly Liz laughs. A harsh, broken, painfully bitter sound.

Earnest. Sometimes he's so damn earnest. And she hates him for it. Sometimes. She's tired. So very tired. Of fighting him and herself. Aliens, Michael, Isabel . . . everything that has ever distracted him. It's always been this way between them. Coming and going. Never very far and never for very long, but always a process. Then there was time to recover, regain the balance. But this time there is no second chance. This time means forever.

"The world does not revolve around you, Max. The skins . . . Tess . . . your son." Her voice shatters into a cough wet with tears. The ruined life of Max Evans, a tragedy in Cinemascope. "Max. I haven't seen my parents . . . in years. Maria. I wish . . . I wish I could say goodbye. I never . . . got to say goodbye."

She loves him, but he has to understand that there is more than just destiny. There are choices and not everything has to be his decision. He has to understand that their life together is her choice, too.

Tears are hopeless, useless, but she doesn't bother to stop them. "I'm afraid . . . you'll never understand how much I love you." The erratic sound of her breathing fills the room, a suffocating reminder of all that she has given up for him. "It's not your fault. Tess. Kyle . . . Alex. Me. We had choices. Max, it isn't your fault. I'm dying." She shifts her shoulders off the pillows, inches. "It's just biology."

He doesn't meet her eyes when he responds. Instead focusing on the pattern he is drawing on her collarbone. Feather light. A lovely, invisible brand.

"That isn't absolutely true." His glance shifts slightly to gauge her reaction. "I changed you." She can hear the hesitation in his voice. "When I healed you .. I changed you."

Her breath hitches, heart pausing for a question she isn't sure she wants to ask.

"I wanted .. I could see the differences. The way things were supposed to be." His shoulders shift, the muscles bunching beneath his gray T-shirt. She can remember all the times she watched the play of sinew and bone, imagining her hands gliding over the smooth surfaces of his back. "I just thought .. if you were more like me. Just .. I wanted someone . . . of my own. Someone .."

For just a moment, everything in the room seems to slide left, while she remains still. Frozen. This isn't the first time; Tess, Max fourteen years older and with hair graying at the temples. She can remember every moment like this one. A curious sensation, as if the world is spinning without her. "Max. What did you do?"

"Liz." There it is again. The sound of forever.

"Wh-Why would you . . .?"

"I don't know. It was just a thought. When I touched you, I could see everything and I wanted .. you." When he finally lifts his eyes, she can see truth. The shine. The gloss. But it's colored in regret. Greta Garbo and Robert Taylor. Marguerite and Armand at the end of Camille. Regret and Tragedy. Black and White. But they love each other so very much.

She shakes her head in denial. Dread forcing the beat of her irregular heart and it's getting harder to breathe. "But I thought . . . The powers . . . were a side effect . . . Residual . . . From healing."

"At first, I didn't think it would work. That it had worked," he shakes his head slightly in denial, shock, disbelief. "Then when you started exhibiting powers . . . I didn't think it would matter .. It didn't seem to matter. I thought .. If maybe, you were more like me .. I was afraid. I don't know. I mean .. not really. It was an impulse." His voice thickens and she can see the tears gathering in his eyes. His lovely, lying eyes.

"So you can't say it isn't my fault." Suddenly, he can't look at her and his voice breaks. "It is. All my fault. I chose. And I .. And I'm sorry. So sorry."

Sorry.
Sorry.
Sorry.
Only sorry really doesn't mean anything. She is still dying and sorry won't change that.

From a long way off Liz can just make out the sound of his voice. The world is sliding and she wonders if it will ever be right again. "Change me back," She whispers hoarsely. Max won't look at her and she can't stand to feel his fingers gentle on her collarbone.

"I can't." She feels the burn of a tear against her hand, burrowing deep to eat away at the remnants of her broken heart.

"I tried. It didn't work." He bites off the words. Jaw clenched, lips barely moving. "I can't fix it. I can't fix you."

Her heart skips and pauses, the beat a little more shallow than before and she remembers all the desperate attempts to heal her. In the beginning, every day for what felt like months. Heat and his sullen silence when there was no change. Every day the same. Simmering pain as her cells tried to readjust.

Liz lies there, bitter eyes devouring the stains on the ceiling. There was a quote she had once read somewhere or maybe it was something her father used to say: 'If wishes were horses …' How did the rest go? And did it really matter?

She thinks of all the words that should have been left unsaid and how she could have died unfortunately and maybe a little less pathetically. But it has and despite everything, she is still dying. Her body is betraying her just as her lover has. It was really too late, wasn't it? Anyway, 'If wishes were horses . . .' but they're not and you can't take things back. It just doesn't work that way.

She doesn't cry, just lies there imagining her useless arms scrubbing the stains on the ceiling as if they're all the words she ever wished unsaid. She'd put them in her pocket if she could and forget about them. Then she could die. Bonelessly. Free and easy. Maybe even languid and beautifully tragic. Her hands and hair graced with the lingering scent of camellias.

But that's not how it works. And even if she doesn't speak she's still Liz Parker. Re-created by Max Evans. Willfully molded and longingly recalled despite herself. But when has she ever really mattered. When indeed. Maybe she isn't even Liz Parker after all.

In the end, it doesn't matter. She's still dying and he doesn't need to know that there's a hole in her heart. It's going to be hard enough as it is. What would be the point of making it any more difficult? She lost her voice a long time ago and she won't be there to see him break.

Instead, she takes his hand, her cold fingers caressing his, tracing patterns as if she could find the words to say what would be better left alone. "I love you, Max." It's her voice, even if it doesn't sound quite right. Her eyes never turn from the ceiling.

"Liz. Please. I need you."

And she finally notices that he never said anything about love.




finis