Rathier suddenly felt a sliver of cold steel against his belly

Title: The Difference (pt 3 – alternate ending)

Takes Place: Immediately after "Baby, it's you" (spoilers up through this episode only)

Plot: When the aliens return from their home world, the impact of the sacrifice Liz made 13 years earlier could mean the difference between Earth's salvation….and it's destruction.

Written: 09. 09. 01

Feedback: Don't make me beg ; )

Obligatory Disclaimer: I don't own 'em…and I don't even want Max anymore, after what they've done to him. Bah!!

Note: This fic is in NO way, shape, or form related to my other Roswell fic, "Sacrifices". That one will eventually be a trilogy, but this one's totally separate.

  • author's note * : okay, remember how I said I had two different versions to the end of this fic, and I couldn't decide which one I wanted to do? Well...I still can't decide. I went ahead and wrote the original ending to finish the fanfic; what follows is the alternate ending idea that popped into my head before finishing this story (and took me forever to get around to writing!) I've placed a " ////*\\\\" where it starts to deviate from the original version for your reference. Lemme know which ending you like better ;)
  • "The Difference"

    ~ alternate pt. 3 … 2014 ~


    ~ The Starship S 'R ia ~

    As the doors hissed shut behind him, Rathier drew up short at the view that awaited him.

    The king's chambers had what no other cabin aboard the S'Ria did...wide windows that ran the full length of the room, from ceiling to floor. Having approved the specs for this and all other warships built for the past ten years, Rathier knew that there was extra shielding in this area to make up for the vulnerability of reinforced glass, instead of steel. He'd tried numerous times to talk Zanav out of the luxury, but the kind was dead set on being able to see what was ahead of them, and refused to allow for the more practical nature of small ports. And at this moment, Rathier envied him the view.

    Taking up the whole of the view afforded through the windows was Earth. Blue and green and white, it filled the room with its enormity. Framed at the center of the globe was Zanav. He stood facing the planet, his back to Rathier, and contemplated his objective. Hearing Rathier enter, Zanav turned and his lips curved into a cruel smile. It was a smile, yes, but there was no warmth in it, and it didn't reach his eyes. Rathier felt the chill in the greeting, but nodded a greeting at the king, and Zanav turned back to gaze once more at Earth.

    "There it is," Zanav said musingly. "The source of everything. The planet we've worked for years to get to." He raised one hand up to the window in front of him, and touched it lightly, as if he could almost feel Earth within his grasp. Almost as an afterthought he said "Hard to believe that by the end of the day it will be rubble."

    Rathier took a deep breath as he realized this was it. For the first time in thirteen years he was going to go against what he knew his king wanted. Readying himself for the confrontation, he gathered his wits and at last spoke. "And will it be done, then?" he asked. "Will it be over?"

    Zanav turned back to his general in surprise, and a hint of anger. His tone was warning when he spoke. "What's that supposed to mean?"

    "This war," Rathier replied. "This vendetta. If you destroy Earth, will it destroy the hate inside you? Will you finally be able to rest, then?"

    Zanav's expression was cold as he turned his back on Rathier and gazed again at the planet almost within his reach. He would feel only relief, not remorse, at its destruction. "It's never over." he said to himself.


    ~ Earth: The Granilith ~


    Liz entered the granilith chamber and stepped carefully around the rubble on the floor, making her way to the console at the center of the room. She wondered again about the specifics of the aliens' departure…about how they'd been transported to their world. What had they left in? She could detect no parts missing from the structure. Perhaps there had been more to the granilith than that which could be seen by the naked eye? Something deeper than the chamber she stood in…some sort of sub-structure? Or beyond it…on the other side of the hill?

    In any case, they were gone. That much was fact. And from looking around, she could tell that no one but she had visited this room in at least a decade. A thick layer of dust covered the floor and the instrumentation in front of her. Stirred up from her passage, it thickened the air around her.

    From the console rose the vertical column that was the center of the granilith. It extended up from the floor and met the ceiling in a snarl of cables and wires; thick piping snaking out around it, reaching back further into the hidden depths of the machine. As with every one of her treks here, she noted the lack of use apparent in the machinery. The darkened and disused displays. The sense of abandonment that filled the chamber.

    Liz shrugged off her jacket and draped it gently over a corner of the console, her fingers staying to play lightly over the surface. She started to bring her hand back to her lips to blow away the dust, but a faint tremble in the metal beneath her fingertips gave her pause, and she placed her hand fully against it. Yes…there was a sensation…a hum, almost. The same feeling she would get from placing her hand on the running modem of a computer.

    With a jolt, Liz realized that that's just what this was. The granilith was a machine…a computer, albeit a highly advanced one. And it was running.

    A sudden clanging noise made Liz gasp and snatch her hand back as the chamber abruptly came to life around her. The overhead lights blazed on, suddenly, and long darkened displays lit up in greens and blues. The walls around her thrummed as the machinery behind them began to work again, and even the relatively quiet hum that permeated the chamber was loud in her ears after the dead silence only a moment before.

    Trying to force her heart to stop racing, Liz's eyes narrowed as she a faint glow originating from the column that rose from the console. Within, something swirled and began to take form.

    She stepped closer for a better look.


    ~ The Starship S 'R ia ~


    Rathier tensely watched as Zanav activated the granilith. Each moment drew the king closer to arming the explosive device within it, but Rathier had thus far been unable to force himself to speak further against the process. A sense of dread was building inside him…mounting with each switch Zanav threw; each system he readied. Over the king's shoulder, Rathier could see the readouts on the granilith's power source flash green along the oversized view screen along one wall. All systems were go. The time was nearing.

    This planet Zanav wasn't even going to try to capture. This was out and out destruction. He wanted it obliterated. And the first step in the war would leave a crater in the place where New Mexico used to be.

    Rathier knew that that pleased Zanav. That the granilith, left inert for so long in the depths of that mountain, would be the device he'd use to carry out his plan. That the first step in destroying Earth would first destroy the very place they'd grown up. Roswell would be gone in a moment, and from there the end would be swift. Earth had nothing in the way of defense. They still didn't even know there was extra terrestrial life. They would be helpless to defend themselves.

    Suddenly all Rathier could think about was Liz. He imagined her in a lab somewhere, looking through a microscope. Trying to learn more about the world in order to help it. As she'd always tried to understand and help them. And this was the fruit of her labor. For saving them, saving their lives even, Zanav would destroy her, and her whole world. And abruptly Rathier knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he couldn't let this happen. Earth didn't deserve this…no one did. He had to stop this.

    He stepped closer to Zanav, who was still working at the console. The king checked the view screen on the wall occasionally to make certain the readouts were normal before he continued. Rathier saw that there were only a few more sequences to go before the explosive was armed. Coming around the console, he broke every custom and law of their planet and grasped Zanav around the arm. "Stop this." he said in English.

    Zanav looked up, shocked at the breach of protocol. "Take your hand off me!"

    Rathier did so, but didn't move away. "Stop this, Zanav. You don't have to do it. It's not too late." He hovered next to the king, hoping against hope that Zanav would listen to reason, but knowing in his heart that it wasn't likely.

    Zanav finally overcame his shock and his eyes narrowed as Rathier's words – and his use of English – finally registered. "How dare you?" he hissed, anger quickly overtaking his features.

    Rathier pressed on. "Come on, man…use English. You're gonna destroy their planet, you should at least be able to speak their language. It's half our language too, you know…or have you finally managed to make yourself forget that part?"

    "Stand down, General," Zanav ordered coldy, deadly warning in his voice. "Stand down now, or I will put you down."

    Rathier realized the threat in that sentence, but knew he had no real choice, now. He had to go on. "Yeah," he said quietly. "You're gonna have to kill me, Maxwell…because if you let me live I'm not gonna let you do this."

    Zanav had started forward, but the sound of his former name stopped him cold. He was shaken, Rathier could tell. Interpreting it as a good sign, he tried to press his case. "Come on, Max," he said, stepping closer to the console, and the little green button on it that would delete the whole process. "It's not too late. Just…step away from the console."

    Zanav made no move to step away. His voice was low and conniving, and he spoke in English for the first time in over a decade The strange syllables rolled around in his mouth like stones. "Why would you do this? Why would you throw everything away for this one planet?" he said. "The deaths of millions of people have never stopped you before."

    Rathier winced at the truth of that statement. "I know," he said, "and I regret every one. And it's time to stop it. You are my King, and I have followed you…but I can't let you do this, Max. I can't let you destroy her…destroy this planet, just to stop the pain inside you. They don't deserve this. And I have nothing to lose."

    Zanav was incredulous. "Your career means nothing? Your people mean nothing? Your wife – "

    "Isabel wants this to end too." Rathier interrupted. He watched as Zanav absorbed this information, and could almost see his thought process as he filed it away for future reference before turning back to the problem at hand. Afraid suddenly that he would fail, and Zanav would return to Antar to punish Vilandra, Rathier took another step toward the king. He had to get him off guard. "Do you think I don't know what this is really about?" he asked. "Do you think I don't realize that this is all a way to get back at Liz? To get back at fate in general for screwing you over?"

    Rathier could not have imagined how much of an impact her name would be on Zanav. The king's eyes widened in rage, and his lips curled back in a snarl. His whole face was a rictus of fury. With a wordless cry, he leapt at Rathier, pulling from his uniform a dagger that the general hadn't known he carried. He suddenly realized that Zanav hadn't been listening, he'd merely been waiting until he came close enough to spring.

    He was on him in a moment, and Rathier barely got his hand up in time to block a fatal thrust of the blade. They wrestled for a moment at the console before Zanav managed to shove him away hard enough that the general landed on the deck, sliding several feet before fetching up against the bulkhead. Whirling quickly to the console, Zanav committed the final sequence, and a large yellow light above the view screen behind him flashed. The device was armed.


    Rathier had immediately shot to his feet, but before he'd closed the distance to Zanav he saw the light…knew what it meant. They had ten minutes until the granilith self-destructed, and there was nothing he could do from here; he had to get down to the granilith itself to stop the detonation sequence. But first…he had to get past Zanav.

    As the console emitted a steady countdown beep, he warily stepped toward Zanav. The king watched him come, grinning maniacally, and waving his dagger in a "bring it on" gesture. As Rathier approached, however, all of the expression suddenly leeched out of Zanav's face, and he stared with disbelief over Rathier's shoulder at the view screen.

    Rathier turned his head slightly to the side and caught the screen in the corner of his eye. There was someone on it…not a readout, but an image. Of a person. A familiar person. Rathier turned more fully and finally realized who it was. Liz.

    Older, as they both were, but it was her; no doubt. She stood in the granilith chamber, and Rathier absently noted the dust and rubble and other debris around her.

    Liz's startled brown eyes stared back at them through the view screen, widening with shock as she realized who she was seeing, and Rathier blanched. God, what was she doing there? When the granilith went she'd be wiped out in an instant. There was no way she'd clear the blast radius in time. He had to stop it…he had to get down there and stop the timer.

    Turning on his heel he sprinted back toward the console. Zanav was still fixated on the image on the view screen, and was taken off guard as Rathier slammed into him. They both hit the console and flipped over it, landing on the deck on the other side. As they hit the floor Rathier grappled for the upper hand, but he had no leverage. The dagger, where was the dagger? He elbowed Zanav in the face, and then crawled out from around the console, but the king got up and ran after him, tackling him to the floor again.

    Zanav managed to pin him to the deck for a moment, and delivered a couple of powerful punches to his face. Rathier summoned all of the training he'd received over the past thirteen years, and abandoned his attempts to protect his face. Instead he re-focused his energy into getting out from under Zanav. He whipped his head up from the floor, striking his forehead into the king's nose.

    Zanav recoiled in pain, and Rathier knocked him backward. In a moment, their positions were reversed, and Rathier held Zanav down against the deck. The king writhed dangerously beneath him. He was berserk in his fury. Rathier punched him, hard, in the face, and the king's head dropped to the deck. Succeeding in pinning him for a moment, Rathier panted and tried to think of what to do. How he could get there fast enough…how he could stop it. His mind worked furiously.

    "Why?!" Zanav hissed beneath him. "Why do you care so much? You were always the one who wanted to leave the most. Why do you fight so hard to save them now?!"

    Rathier looked down into the eyes of the man he'd once thought of as a brother, and answered honestly. "I just can't let you do it, Max. I can't let you destroy them…destroy her, to try to kill the hate inside you."

    "And I," Zanav replied coldly, "can't let you stop me."

    Rathier suddenly felt a sliver of cold steel against his belly. His wild eyes sought out Zanav's, but the king's were merciless as the blade cut into him. Rathier cried out in pain as his one-time friend jerked the dagger across his abdomen, spilling his guts out over Zanav, beneath him, and onto the deck.

    Rathier screamed from the pain, and tumbled off of the king onto his back on the deck. For a moment there was no sound other than the heavy breathing from both men, and the beeping, which was steadily increasing in frequency as the counter neared its mark. How much time left? Rathier wondered…not enough time…not enough time…

    Rathier gasped, feeling warm all of the sudden and realizing that it was because he was lying in a spreading pool of his own blood. His breath was erratic. His eyes seemed to wander of their own volition around the spacious room, settling on the view screen; on Liz's horrified face, her screams unheard over the image-only transmission…and then back to Zanav. He looked at the king helplessly, and was startled at the expression he saw there.

    Zanav looked shocked. His eyes were wide and his mouth gaped…the bloody dagger forgotten in his hand as he gazed upon the dying form of his general. Rathier coughed, and felt the hold in his abdomen tear wider, as his blood bubbled up from his throat, making him choke. A pained cry escaped him, as it suddenly became a battle just to breathe. He gagged, and the harsh sound spurred Zanav into action. He half-crawled, half slipped over to Rathier's side and put his hands over the wound; pressing down. Rathier cried out in agony, then realized that Zanav was trying to stop the bleeding. He looked up at him in pained confusion, and was taken aback at the look on the king's face.

    He looked desperate, and horrified, and….sorry. Sorry for having killed his general? Sorry for arming the granilith? Sorry that Rathier had failed against him?

    Rathier was stunned. It had been ages since the last time he'd seen Zanav exhibit any form of regret. Suddenly he was seized with another fit of coughing, and waves of agony assaulted him as he half-turned onto his side and vomited blood. He felt Zanav's hands on him through it, and when it was over he fell again onto his back and gasped for air; tasting copper.

    Wheezing, Rathier looked up at Zanav. "I guess…I guess I was just destined to die this year, huh Maxwell?" he said in between tortured breaths. "Kind of ironic, isn't it?" Breathe. "You go back in time to stop my death, and Isabel's, and prevent the destruction of Earth…." Breathe. "In the new timeline you become so embittered with your life that you go on to kill me, and annihilate Earth to stop the pain your choice brought you."

    Zanav's face was stricken; he still looked as if he were in shock. The reality of everything was hitting him all at once. "Michael," he whispered, "I'm sorry…I…I didn't mean for this…"

    Hope blazoned at the sound of his name. Maybe it wasn't too late? Rathier seized Zanav's arm with a sudden urgency, feeling time slipping through their fingers. "This doesn't have to be the end, Max. You can still stop this."

    The shock was still evident in Zanav's voice. "Michael…I never meant for any of this to happen."

    Rathier was finding it harder to breathe, and therefore speak. He struggled to make himself understood as the lights in the room seemed to dim all around him. "It's not too late, Max. Stop this." Zanav looked at him blankly, and he said again "This doesn't have to be the end."

    As Zanav watched, his one-time best friend, and general of his forces for the past ten years, slipped away into the waiting embrace of death. The urgent light in his eyes faded, and his head rested back upon the deck. The grip on the king's arm loosened, and his hand fell away. "There's a way," he whispered. And then Zanav was alone.

    He stared at the body of the man he'd once called brother, and there was a whirlwind in his mind. The hatred and bitterness of the past thirteen years swirled around in his head, battling the newfound confusion and angst over having killed Rathier.

    Michael, he corrected himself. He looked down at his old friend and saw his own hands…wet and stained red from Michael's life's blood. And the dagger…he still held the dagger.

    With a disgusted cry he flung it away from him, watching as it hurled beyond the console and struck the wall beside the view screen, clattering to the floor. The view screen…

    Liz's tear-stained face stared back at him accusingly from the view screen. She was still inside the granilith; she'd seen their struggle and Michael's death at his hands. In her eyes was pain, fear, and guilt. Fear at what was to happen…pain and guilt over the choices she had helped to make that ultimately led to this moment. For the first time in thirteen years, Max saw the reflection of himself again in Liz's eyes. And just as it had then, it showed him now the truth about himself that he'd been unwilling to face. For the first time in thirteen years, he was able to see himself through another person's eyes. To view his own actions from another perspective. And he was horrified at what he saw.

    He'd been truthful to Michael…this was not what he had intended. What had happened to the young man who'd risked his own safety to save the life of a girl who'd barely ever spoken to him? What had happened to the stars in his eyes, and the love in his heart? When had he become so embittered, and hateful? Like scales dropping from his eyes, he finally saw clearly. Everything that he'd done…all of it, was a baleful reaction to finding out that he'd had another life. One in which everything was perfect, and it had been taken away from him. In anyone else…it would have hurt, but that would have been the end of it. But he went on to be a king. The rest was lost in power. And in the power came retribution through the deaths of his peoples' enemies.

    In the space of a breath, he saw all of this reflected back to him through Liz's eyes, and he knew what had to be done. He had to get down there. If he had any hope of making this right, he had to stop the granilith from exploding.


    ~ Earth: The Granilith ~


    Fresh tears coursed down Liz's face as she watched Max pull away from Michael's body. He stood, unbalanced for a moment, and looked down at the blood coating his tunic. He seemed to falter for a moment, and then straightened with renewed purpose. He headed out of the view of the screen. All that was left was Michael, lying dead in a pool of his own blood on the floor, and the flashing yellow light on the console that continued to increase in sequence.

    Liz sobbed and turned away from the view screen, her desperate gaze falling to the console before her. This could all only mean one thing. Max was here to destroy Earth. He was going to use the granilith to do it, and it had already been armed. Michael had tried to stop him, but failed.

    Why? Why did Max hate them so much? She knew things had been strained between them in the past few months before they'd left, but she never would have thought it would lead to this. Liz tried to push down the thousands of screaming questions in her mind, and looked for a way to stop the countdown.

    The odds were slim to none that there would be a mechanical override…probably there was a panel somewhere that needed a code inputted before the sequence would deactivate. She had no idea what the code might be…but she couldn't just stand there and do nothing to stop it. She frantically ran her hands over the dusty console, clearing it of debris and looking for anything out of the ordinary.

    Looking for what?, she asked herself, a big red arrow that says "Disarm bomb here"? Finding nothing on the surface of the console, she knelt down and felt along the underside of it. In the midst of her search, she heard a sound behind her…a scuffling. One hand bracing herself on the console, she pivoted a bit on her heel and peered behind her, searching the gloom with her eyes…

    Meeting another pair, gazing back at her. A stranger's eyes…yet infinitely familiar to her. Max stood looking at her from an alcove in the wall across from the console.

    Liz gasped and jumped to her feet, pressing back against the console, her heart pounding loudly in her chest. Even in her surprise, her observational nature noted the blood caking his tunic; his hair pushed back into sweaty spikes. Even as she trembled in fear, the scientist in her wondered how he'd been transported from the ship to the granilith. She stared at him in silence, unsure of his intentions. Stunned at seeing him there in front of her, after all this time. Afraid he'd come to kill her, as he'd killed Michael.

    He looked at her silently, drinking her in with his eyes. It surprised him, how much just being in the same room with her affected him after all this time. He'd always wondered to himself what would happen if he were ever alone with her in a room again. Wondered what that first timeline had been like…the one he'd never had a chance to experience. He never imagined he'd feel anything other than hate; other than bitterness. But now all he felt was urgency and hope.

    He stepped toward her and saw her cringe back in fear from him. Belatedly realizing how it must look to her, he hastened to explain. "Liz," he said, trying to speak softly. "I'm not here to hurt you. But I need to get to the console to stop the countdown."

    Liz glared back at him. How did he expect her to trust him now? She'd just seen him murder Michael in cold blood. How did she know he didn't just need to get to the console to program in some final-needed bit of information for the blast? She didn't move, and her expression was one of hardened betrayal and guarded fear.

    Max tried to let his sincerity show on his face, but his anxiousness radiated from him in waves. There was so little time left… "Listen to me, Liz. I know what you're thinking. And up until five minutes ago, you'd have been right. But you've got to trust me…you have to let me at that console, or everything will have been for nothing. Michael will have died for nothing."

    Liz wavered, but her suspicion remained. "How do I know he won't have died for nothing if I let you mess with these controls?" she bit out.

    "You don't," he answered, his voice full of desperation. "But I need you to trust me right now." Seeing the unfaded resolve in her eyes, Max crossed quickly to her, and grabbed her face between his hands, their bodies close. For the first time in over a decade he focused on the bond between them. He threw all of his hope, all of his despair into it. In his desperation, he bared his soul to her once again, and his entire manner was thick with emotion as he let her see everything…everything, as he stared into her eyes.

    Eyes fixed on Max's, Liz nonetheless almost buckled under the rush of images that assaulted her. Too fast, too violent, Liz caught only flashes; bits and pieces. Ships, great ships in space. An alien planet with red skies, red water. There was Michael, Isabel, in some building…palace? Tess…crying, far away. Wars…campaigns against hundreds of star systems, falling before the juggernaut. Violence, anger, hatred, bitterness…remorse. Regret. Realization. Hope.

    With a cry she flung herself away from Max, allowing him access to the console. She panted, breathless, trying to recover, as he moved beside her. She watched his quick movements as he touched a panel, and from within the depths of the console a keypad arose. Max's fingers flew deftly over the alien symbols, and he held his breath as the flashing light sped up alarmingly.

    The final sequence entered, Max stepped back, eyes shooting to the display. His heart stopped for a moment as the yellow light sped up to constant, then finally was able to breathe when it went out. It was disarmed.

    He stood staring at it for a few moments, before daring to look at Liz. She stood, chest heaving, still trying to recover from everything she'd seen and felt over the past half hour. Biting her lip, she met his gaze. They stared at each other; uncertain in the next move.

    Liz tried to piece through everything she'd seen in their flash. She couldn't keep the revulsion off her face as she recalled the millions of lives lost in the advancement of Zanav's armies. The pain, the death, the suffering. All because of this one person, who'd once saved her life. Suddenly she realized what Max intended to do. Why he was hopeful. "You're going back again, aren't you?" she asked, but it was more of a statement than a question.

    "This doesn't have to be the end… There's a way…"

    Max nodded slowly. "I can't let it stay this way," he said. "I have to change it."

    "And then what?!" Liz exploded. "What happens when that timeline goes wrong? Do you come back again? Is this all there's ever going to be? An endless cycle of history repeating itself, as you try and try to fix it?"

    Max's reasoning was the direct opposite of Liz's rage. "I don't know," he said quietly. "But I've got to try, Liz. If not for you, and for me, and for…Michael. For all of those people who suffered because of me."

    Liz calmed. "If you're successful, if you can do this…you and I won't exist. Not as we do now."

    Max swallowed. "If I don't do this…everyone will die. I have to do this. I have to try it." He saw the truth of it reflected back at him through her eyes, and knew that this was the right…the only decision. He reached out a hand as if to touch her face, caressing the air above her skin…so close that she could feel the heat from his hand. Then he drew away, and began programming the console to do what he needed.

    Liz took a deep breath, and watched as he finished typing in his commands. He turned toward her; his back to the granilith chamber, which had started to glow purple. She saw sadness in his eyes.

    "It wasn't supposed to be like this, Liz," he said. "Maybe we should never have changed it to begin with."

    "It's too late for maybes," she answered, steeling herself for the end of the only existence she'd ever known. "If you'd known everything…." She trailed off, watching the granilith light up behind him. "Tell him everything, Max." she said urgently. "He has to know everything this time."

    Max nodded, then everything warped, and he was inside the granilith. The world swirled around him, and through the haze he could make out Liz…her slim figure waiting there, by the console. The woman who'd made a difference in his life just by existing, in every timeline. We'll get it right this time, Liz…I swear. He reached out a hand, as if to touch her.

    Moved, Liz reached up, as if to touch him…but there was a flash, and suddenly there was nothing.


    ~ Earth: 2000 ~


    From the shadows, Zanav, ruler of nations, watched as Tess stood to leave, and his younger self remained on the bench, melancholy. He hadn't been able to hear their words…but he remembered them well enough.

    Can I sit down?


    Are you all right?

    Not really.

    Do you want me to leave?


    Here was where it had to change, he thought. He had to stop this deception…now, tonight. But it couldn't be allowed to go on as it had in the first timeline, either. He had to tell him everything.

    As he stepped from the shadows, the man who had once been Max Evans, from Roswell, New Mexico felt the first moment of true hope he'd experienced since long before he could remember. Liz was wrong. This wasn't going to be an endless cycle of mistakes, and going back to correct them. This time things could be right. This time he would know the truth. All of it.

    He came to a halt before the bench, and Max heaved a disconsolate sigh and looked up. At first the confusion was plain upon his face, as he almost, but not quite recognized the man who stood before him. A question began to form on his lips, but then he saw the man's eyes. Deep pools of agony and pain, and heavily weighed burdens. Eyes that he looked into every morning in the mirror. Shock robbed him of his words, and he gaped soundlessly as the man sat on the bench next to him.

    "I have a story to tell you," he said to himself, "But I can only tell you the beginning. The end is up to you."

    ~ FIN ~

    author's note: * so whatcha think? which version is better? Thanks for reading!! : ) *