Michael picked up the nearly empty bottle of tobasco sauce and sprinkled it liberally over the rest of his Men-in-Blackberry pie as he continued his argument. "All I'm saying is there's no point in any of us getting attached to any…uh…permanent fixtures of this planet, Tess, when it's obvious we're not gonna be here forever. It's a bad idea getting involved with Kyle."
"Um hello? Did I say I was getting involved with Kyle? I think not. Besides, not like you're one to talk…what with you and Maria."
"Maria and I are not together", Michael retorted firmly. "She's just…confused."
Isabel took the tobasco bottle from Michael and used the last of it to drown her dessert. "Hm, and I wonder why?" Isabel said, laying the sarcasm on as thick as the sauce on her strawberries.
"Oh, and what's that supposed to mean?"
"Okay," Isabel spread her hands, "normally I would totally agree with you. It's not a good idea for us to get involved with humans. But the point is, you already got involved with her. You let her get attached, and now you're acting like a jerk."
Michael got indignant. "I am not acting like a jerk!"
"Oh please," Isabel retorted, "you so are." Max and Tess shared a grin over the table as Isabel took up the banner and paraded it all over Michael's puny defense. "This is someone you fell for…went out with, and got close to. But the second she got too close, and became inconvenient to you, you dropped her like a hot potato. Now you hardly even talk to her, even when she's obviously trying to go out of her way to be nice to you."
"Well, who the hell asked her to be all nice to me? Why doesn't she get it through her head, already?"
As Michael tried to defend himself, Max chuckled a bit to himself. If there was anyone who could get the best of Michael, it was Isabel. And it was true…Michael's on-again, off-again relationship with Maria wasn't really fair to her. She obviously cared about him, but it seemed as if he couldn't make up his mind to whether or not he wanted anyone to care about him. Max knew that it was really Michael's fear to trust…a fear they all four shared. Michael merely felt it the most strongly…due largely in part to the different life he'd had in comparison to Max and Isabel. After emerging from the pods, Michael had gotten separated from Max and Isabel, and spent three years on his own before finding them again. And while Max and Isabel had been adopted by a loving family, the Evan's, Michael had bounced from foster home to foster home, each one worse than the last. It only made sense that he would be the most fearful of letting anyone get close to him. To Michael, the closer you let someone get to you, the more chances you give them to hurt you. Which, Max thought as his gaze came to rest on the girl working the register at the counter, isn't really all that far from the truth.
Case in point…Liz Parker. The only girl he'd ever loved…and let into his heart. Other than Isabel and Michael, she was the only person in the world that he'd ever trusted with his life…with their secret. And in that area, she'd never let him down. His heart, however, knew the pain of a trust betrayed. Liz set several white-handled bags down on the counter in front of an elderly customer and rang his bill up on the register. It was almost closing time at the Crashdown on a Thursday night, and the man was the last customer in the diner other than the four aliens sharing a booth by the window. Max tried not to watch Liz too obviously as she absentmindedly pushed a stray lock of dark hair back behind her ear, and he remembered all too well how silky her hair had felt beneath his fingers when he'd done the very same thing once. But that seemed like lifetimes ago. Years since he was that young…that naïve.
At the sudden downward turn of his mood, Max tried to re-focus himself. He looked over at the blonde across from him, and reflected on the destiny they were supposed to have fulfilled together. As strange as it still sounded to him, in another lifetime she had been his bride. Somewhere, somehow…in another time and place that he couldn't remember.
Tess, involved in the banter between Isabel and Michael, glanced over at Max and smiled at him briefly before turning her attention back to them. Max smiled back. Tess had never hurt him. True, she had caused an upheaval just by arriving in Roswell…they'd originally not known a fourth alien existed. And learning about their past lives, and their past relationship, had at one point driven a wedge between him and Liz. But he had to admit that through everything, Tess had never been less than supportive of him, and proven herself to be a friend and someone he could trust. Which appears, he thought wryly, to be a big deal to me right now.
As he looked at her, Max admitted to himself that Tess was beautiful. But he knew in his heart that he didn't love her. Maybe, someday, if he ever remembered that other life, he could come to…but not now. He did, after all, know what love really felt like.
The thought made him look at Liz again, and he couldn't stop the flutter in his stomach when he did. With annoyance and no small amount of pain, he tried to squash his physical reaction to her. It bothered him that he had so little control over his emotions…that even after what she'd done, he couldn't stop his feelings for her. It certainly wasn't public knowledge…and it wasn't exactly as if anything was ever going to come of it but pain…but the truth of it was that Max Evans was still in love with Liz Parker.
Max sighed. It was crazy, he knew it. But he couldn't stop it. Even after everything, he couldn't stop thinking about her.
It's because I can't let go, he thought. I can't forget how real it was….how deep. And it had been. Kissing Liz was amazing. Not only because she was beautiful, and everything he'd ever wanted in a woman, but because he could feel how she felt about him. Even now, Max could remember how wondrous it was to touch her and realize that the feelings of love and desire he sensed were her feelings for him. And that was one of the reasons this whole situation was so difficult…because he didn't understand. He knew she'd loved him. He didn't understand how in one moment, everything he felt…knew about her, could be proven wrong…by finding her in bed with her ex boyfriend, Kyle Valenti. He'd been coming to see her, to try to convince her in his sincerity that he loved her. Her, and no one else. That he didn't give a damn about Tess or his 'destiny', or what he was supposed to do, and that he would do whatever it took to prove it to her. And he'd climbed up to her patio and seen them there, in her bed, though the window.
It had hurt. It had hurt more than anything he'd ever imagined anything could hurt. In that one moment, everything changed. His world had come crashing down around him, and the one thing he'd always thought he could hold onto was ripped away from him. The pain had been excruciating.
And it didn't even make any sense. Especially considering that Tess had been telling them only tonight how it seemed like Kyle was interested in her. And there was no indication whatsoever that Liz and Kyle were going out….so why? Why did she do it? A part of him, deep inside, thought that he knew. The 'destiny' that had been revealed to the aliens had affected Liz deeply…for there was no room for her in it. Max had a purpose, and what place did she have in his life when worlds hung in the balance? She felt that she couldn't stand in the way of what he was meant to do. But why would that drive her to sleep with Kyle? Had she done it so he would shun her? So she'd have no choice but to move on? Still, he couldn't understand the drastic measures. What could push her so far? What could possibly have made her go to such extremes that she would be willing to devastate him so completely?
Deep in his heart…in his most private thoughts, Max held out the dim hope that all of this wasn't what it seemed. He tried not to let himself think that way…she'd made it perfectly clear to him that they were over, and there was no chance of ever going back…but he couldn't stop from hoping that it was all a ruse. That she hadn't really done it, hadn't really slept with Kyle. In his heart, he believed that this scenario was more like Liz…to try to help him accept his destiny by making him get over her…but he couldn't dare to believe it completely. How could he, when the very tension between them now underscored all that had happened?
Afterward, all he'd wanted to do was to shut himself off completely from everything. Just….never allow himself to care and consequently get hurt again. But he found that he couldn't…because he still cared about her. He'd expected it to just, go away after having been hurt so deeply, but it hadn't. He still cared. Nor had he expected to ever be able to come to trust her again, but he did. She'd proven that by saving his life when he'd gone to the summit in New York with Michael and Isabel's duplicates, Rath and Lonnie. They'd tried to kill him, as they'd killed Max's own duplicate, Zan, but Liz was able to combine her will with Isabel's powers and appear to Max and warn him of their treachery just in time. It proved that, despite the distance he wanted to feel, he could still trust her with his life. And afterward, he'd found himself allowing her back into his heart a little, as a friend.
And it felt good, in a way…having her back in his life again. But it hurt, too. Because he couldn't forget that night in the desert, after he'd escaped from the White Room. He couldn't forget the way they'd held each other, and finally confessed how much they meant to each other. He couldn't forget the way things had been.
And he wanted to forget…he had to forget if he was going to stay sane. Max flinched with the effort of self control, and tried very hard not to watch Liz.
Maria made her way over to the booth, balancing a tray in one hand, and the checkbook in the other. "You guys ready for the check?" she asked.
"Yes, please," Isabel said, picking up her purse.
Maria hesitated, then smiled. "Eh, take off. It's on the house." Her smile froze, however, when Michael flippantly held out a large bill.
"Take it elsewhere," he said, and didn't even look at her. The others grew still, as they could see that Maria was battling herself to not snap out a retort that would take Michael's head off. Taking a deep breath, she snatched the money from his hand and stalked off to the register. In the back of Max's mind, he heard Maria's voice from another time. None of us belong with any of you…
As Isabel hurried up to the counter to get change, Tess excused herself to go to the restroom. "Go ahead, you guys," she said…grabbing her own purse and walking toward the back of the diner. "I'll catch up with you later."
Michael drew Max aside as they put on their jackets. "All right Maxwell, let's get out of here before she bores a hole through my head with her evil, death-ray eyes, okay?"
Max glanced over at Maria, who was indeed glaring daggers at Michael, and stifled a laugh. "You go ahead," he said, "I'll wait for Tess." Max watched as Michael quickly bustled Isabel out of the diner. A moment later Maria stormed by him like a whirlwind, angrily pulling her jacket on and heading for the door, and Max belatedly realized his mistake. Max was left alone. With Tess in the bathroom, and Liz in the back room. Bad, he thought…bad bad idea… In mere seconds he decided the best thing to do was just leave…Tess had said she'd catch up to them later, after all. And he'd be able to leave before Liz even came out and saw him...
He'd gone two strides before the jingle of keys behind him caught his attention, and he turned around to see Liz heading out from the back of the diner with her jacket on. Curiosity got the better of him. "Not closing up tonight?" he asked.
"Oh, I am," Liz said as she shut off the breakers, "but I've got plans, so I'll just finish up later."
Max tried not to let his expression reveal his dismay. "Oh plans," he said neutrally. with Kyle?, his mind finished for him. He couldn't seem to stop himself from drawing the pain out. Even though they didn't act like they were together after…that night…Max still couldn't quell the jealousy and hurt that arose in him when he thought of Kyle with Liz.
"Yeah," Liz replied, perfunctorily wiping off the counter, "I'm supposed to be helping Alex study for our chem test next week."
"Ah," Max said, trying to hide his relief. "The Chem test." He stood there for a moment longer, unwilling to acknowledge the tension between them. True, they'd begun to be friends again…but he just couldn't find his balance around her anymore. They obviously couldn't be together, but it was too hard to be around her and try not to remember how happy he was when they were together. He started backing toward the door again…intent only on leaving before he did something stupid. Like breaking down and asking her again why she slept with Kyle when she loved me. Like begging her to come back to me. Like kissing….okay, that's enough of that. Leaving…I am leaving! "Okay then, I guess I'm gonna take off. I'll see you in school tomorrow."
"Sure, okay." Liz said nonchalantly, and was careful to keep her head down until after she'd heard the bell jingle at the top of the door. She looked up sadly at the closing door, and waited for a moment before she headed to it herself. God, this is never going to get any easier. she thought. Why can't I just let him go?
Liz opened the door and saw Max walking across the street to his jeep, parked on the other side. And then she saw the car accelerating…..on a collision course with Max.
"Max, look out!" she screamed.