Title Lean On Me

Author: Heavenli24
Pairings/Couples/Category: M/L
Rating: TEEN
Disclaimer: The characters of "Roswell" belong to Jason Katims, Melinda Metz, WB, and UPN. They are not mine and no infringement is intended.
Summary: The end of Cry Your Name, when Liz is in the Crashdown. Instead of the Thai food delivery guy turning up at the door with Alex's rejected credit card receipt, it's Max

Author's Note: This was my first ever fic... written in July 2005

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain

We all have sorrow

But if we are wise

We know that there's always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you're not strong

And I'll be your friend

I'll help you carry on

For it won't be long

'Til I'm gonna need

Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride

If I have things you need to borrow

For no one can fill those of your needs

That you don't let show

Lean on me, when you're not strong

And I'll be your friend

I'll help you carry on

For it won't be long

'Til I'm gonna need

Somebody to lean on

If there is a load you have to bear

That you can't carry

I'm right up the road

I'll share your load

If you just call me

So just call on me brother, when you need a hand

We all need somebody to lean on

I just might have a problem that you'd understand

We all need somebody to lean on

Lean on me when you're not strong

And I'll be your friend

I'll help you carry on

For it won't be long

Till I'm gonna need

Somebody to lean on

Lean on me...

Bill Withers – Lean On Me

Liz practically collapsed into the booth in the empty Crashdown. Photographs were scattered across the table to her left, they were pictures of her closest friends having a good time at Prom. Images of Alex smiling and laughing with his friends filled the table and it made Liz's heart ache to see him so happy. In her hands she held a photograph of the whole group, taken before they left the café to head for the school. They had all been so happy then. Liz remembered the awful, nagging feeling she'd had when they were posing for that picture. It was the feeling that somehow it was the last time that they would all be standing together.

She couldn't believe how their lives had been completely turned upside down in such a short space of time. Just a couple of weeks ago, they had been living it up in Las Vegas. Michael and Maria had become closer than ever, Alex had finally been making some headway with Isabel and she and Max had been on their way to becoming tentative friends again. But then the awful fiasco that was The Prom happened, and everything had just gone downhill from there.

Now, barely a fortnight later, Alex was gone. He was [i]dead[/i]. Liz just could not get her head around it. Only two days ago she and Maria had been sitting with Alex in his bedroom, teasing him about his budding relationship with Isabel and now he was gone forever. She would never get to see him again, to talk and joke around with him, to tell him how much he meant to her.

She looked back down at the picture in her hands; that was all it took. Suddenly something inside of her snapped and she broke down. Tears ran down her face and her breath came in hitching sobs. Cradling her head in her hands, Liz almost crumbled to the table and all the emotion she'd been holding in for the past two days came pouring out. Just when she thought she couldn't take it anymore, she felt two strong arms come around her and she found her head being gently cradled against a warm, solid chest.

Max approached the Crashdown apprehensively. He could see that the lights were still on in the Café, indicating that someone was up and about downstairs. He hoped that it was Liz. He desperately needed to apologise for the way he'd spoken to her at the wake earlier that afternoon. He may not have agreed with her theory regarding Alex's death, but his harsh words to her had been unnecessary and uncalled for. They were all still in shock, their pain causing them to lash out at each other, consequences be damned.

He reached the door of the café; through the window he could see a handful of photographs scattered about one of the restaurant's small tables. Liz was seated with her back to him in the booth next to the table of photographs. He raised one hand, ready to knock on the door to get her attention, but hesitated when Liz's head dropped into her hands.

He remained standing at the door, unsure of what to do. However, his decision was made when he realized that Liz's shoulders had begun shaking uncontrollably. She was crying. From what Max could tell, Liz had not yet cried for Alex. She had gone directly from shock and disbelief to anger and determination.

Seeing her so broken, he couldn't just stand there and let her bear the pain alone. Without further hesitation he waved his hand over the door using his powers to unlock it. Wrenching it open, he swiftly made his way to her side and pulled her into his arms. He guided her head gently to his chest, stroking her hair tenderly as she wept.

"Shh Liz, it's okay. Let it out, it's okay," he whispered soothingly.

"Max?" she queried, her voice distorted by her tears. He was really here, holding her, despite the dreadful words that they had exchanged earlier.

"I'm here Liz, I'm here," he soothed as he continued to caress her soft hair with one hand whilst the other supported her back.

Liz knew that there was still anger and resentment between them that needed to be settled, but for a few moments she allowed herself to revel in the comfort of his warm embrace.

When she had gathered enough strength to talk, she straightened slightly and pulled back from him, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. She took a few deep breaths to calm herself before she spoke.

"What are you doing here, Max?" she sounded tired and so incredibly vulnerable that Max just wanted to protect her; to take her in his arms again and never let go.

"I needed to apologise to you for the way I spoke to you this afternoon. We were all on edge and it was completely uncalled for. I'm sorry," he paused before continuing. "We'll get to the bottom of this, Liz. We'll find out what really happened to Alex."

"Look Max," she sniffled, halting briefly to take another breath.

She peered up at him. "I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have just brought it up like that. I wasn't thinking clearly and I know that today was not the time nor the place to be making judgements."

He nodded, apology accepted. "Actually Liz, apologizing to you wasn't my only reason for coming by," he hesitated.

"It wasn't?" her expression was hopeful, childlike.

"No, it wasn't. I wanted to see if you were okay. This has all been difficult for everybody, but I know how much Alex meant to [i]you[/i]. I don't think I can even imagine what you must be going through right now." His hands had taken to soothingly rubbing up and down her arms as he was speaking.

Her face began to crumple once again as she heard his words.

"Max…" he cut her off with a gentle finger to her lips.

"Shh," his expression was tender. "I just want to be here for you, to lend you a shoulder to cry on. Will you let me do that for you?"

She could only nod, his finger still resting lightly against her lips. Her eyes locked with his and he smiled tenderly at her, pulling her fully out of the booth and back into his arms. This time Liz wound her arms around his neck and clung to him like he was her lifeline. Heaving sobs overtook her once again as they held each other, causing silent tears to make their way down Max's face. His eyes closed and his brow furrowed as he too broke down. Holding Liz even closer, he brought his head down to rest on her shoulder and his hand cupped the back of her neck as they sobbed together.

It was almost twenty minutes before they were able to compose themselves enough to talk properly and calmly. After gathering up the photographs, relocking the front door and turning out the lights in the café, Max took Liz's hand and led her up the stairs to her bedroom. She clicked the door closed behind them as he gazed around the room. It had been a while since he'd been there, a few months, he realized as Liz turned back round to face him.

"Look Liz, I'm going to help you find out the truth about what really happened to Alex."

Her expression turned to one of apprehension.

"But Max, what you said earlier …"

"I know what I said earlier," he cut her off tersely, but not harshly. Then more softly he added, "But I've had some time to think."

He made eye contact with her, to ensure that he had her attention.

"You were right before, I didn't want to believe that what happened wasn't an accident; that there was even a small possibility that Alex's death might have been alien related," he ran a hand over his tired face. "It scares me to death to think that he could have died because of me, because of what I am." He sighed dejectedly, "Knowing me, knowing us, puts all of you in danger."

Max sighed wearily and dropped onto the end of Liz's bed, his head in his hands. Liz took an uncertain step towards him.

"Max, this afternoon…I wasn't accusing you of anything, I know that neither you, or Isabel, or Michael are even capable of doing something as terrible that."

By now she was kneeling in front of him and he lifted his head to look at her, his hands now clasped at his knees.

"What frustrated me today was the fact that you wouldn't even consider the possibility that what happened might not have been alien related," she continued. "But Max you have to admit that there is a chance, even if it's only a small one, that aliens could be involved here."

Max opened his mouth to reply, but she continued before he could speak.

"I mean, look at what's happened in our lives over the past few months. There will always be danger in our lives, and you won't always be able protect us. I understand why you got angry, I really do, but you have to know that I could never think that any of this was your fault. The only person to blame here is whoever did this to Alex, and I owe it to him to find out who that was."

"[i]We[/i] owe it to him, Liz," he corrected forcefully. A look of surprise crossed her face. He continued, "I told you I going to help you. We'll get to the bottom of this. Together," he stressed and then sighed. "Logically, I know that I'm not directly to blame for what happened, but I can't help but feel guilty…" he trailed off, his gaze dropping to his hands, still clasped tightly in his lap.

A wave of concern passed through Liz, and she reached out, lifting his chin with her hand until their eyes met.

"Oh Max," she whispered, a soft smile gracing her lips. "That's your incredible, but totally irritating protective side talking." She gave him small smirk before turning serious once more. "You've got to stop putting everything on your own shoulders all the time. You can't bear all of this on your own. Let us help you; that's what we're here for; remember, we're all in this together."

Max gazed at Liz warmly. He felt the prick of tears forming in his eyes.

"Liz…" he whispered.

"You told me last night that you would always be my friend," She continued. "Well I'm telling you now that I will always be your friend too," she paused for a second, letting that sink in. "So, you'll really help me find out the truth?"

"Of course I will. I promise," he smiled down at her.

"Thank you," she breathed, relief flooding her voice; She wouldn't have to do this alone. Without thinking, she leaned up and gave him a quick peck on the lips before standing once again. She headed towards her bathroom, turning back to him for a second before reaching the door.

"I'm just going to wash up and change. I'll be back in a second."

Max could only nod as she disappeared through the door. He felt a tingling sensation where her soft lips had made contact with his. He allowed himself a small half-smile; everything was going to be all right, he would make sure of it.

He was still sitting in the same position on the end of her bed, his head down, hands held together in his lap, when Liz re-entered the room. She smiled sadly at the picture he made. She had spent the time in her bathroom mentally berating herself for her slip up, for kissing him, but in the end she couldn't regret it. It had given her a small, if only fleeting, sense of normality.

She cleared her throat and he looked up. "Max, do you think…I mean, would you…" she fumbled self-consciously.

"What is it Liz?" he asked, his voice soft.

"Will you stay here with me tonight?" she blurted out. "I mean, I just…I really don't want to be alone…and I just don't know if I'll be able sleep if I'm on my own."

She looked so lost and defenceless standing there in her sleepwear: a tank top and shorts; that it almost broke Max's heart. He got up from the bed and walked over to her, pulling her into a reassuring hug. She buried her head in his chest once again.

"Of course I will Liz, whatever you need."

"Thank you," she said, her voice muffled by his shirt.

"Come on," Max whispered, taking her hand and leading her towards the bed.

They settled into the soft mattress and Liz placed her head on Max's chest. His arm came around her and she felt him place a light kiss on the top of her head. Closing her eyes, she snuggled closer to him. It felt like home - she found a comfort in Max's embrace that she hadn't thought she would ever feel again. There were still obstacles in their way, still a lot that hadn't been said or explained but maybe they could get past that and perhaps become good friends again.

They would find out the truth about Alex. Together. A tiny smile graced her features at that thought and she hugged Max closer; she was unable to imagine her life without him in it in some shape or form.

Maybe everything would be okay after all.