Title: Christmas: A Time for Forgiving
Disclaimer: The characters of "Roswell" belong to Jason Katims, Melinda Metz, WB, and UPN. They are not mine and no infringement is intended.
Summary: During A Roswell Christmas Carol, instead of being haunted by the ghost of the car crash victim and healing the children in the hospital in Phoenix, Max starts to get flashes of his life with Liz, the life that Future Max led. Confused by what he's seeing, he goes to Liz for some answers.
Author's Note: Although this fic will have a nice, fluffy Dreamer ending, there is some angst here - sorry . The title is taken from the Christmas song 'Mistletoe and Wine' and I have borrowed a few lines and ideas from the episodes End Of The World, Max in the City and A Roswell Christmas Carol.
"My life is only in danger if I am with you…"
"Max…I don't want to die for you."
Max shot up in bed, the words from his terrible dream…Liz's words…echoing in his mind. His breathing was erratic and he raised his hands to wipe the sweat from his brow.
He thought he'd been handling everything so well recently. But the last few nights, memories of Liz's betrayal had been haunting him. They had started just after he'd returned from New York a couple of weeks ago. At first he'd been amazed and so grateful to Liz for doing…whatever it was that she'd done to help him…to save his life and at the beginning of that conversation in his room afterwards, he'd been filled with this incredible hope that maybe they could finally put all of this behind them and start over, but the moment the question left his lips, he realised what a mistake it had been to even voice his thoughts in the first place.
"Did you…sleep with Kyle?"
He regretted saying those words immediately. Just the look on Liz's face when she heard them was etched on his brain and before she even replied, he knew with a sinking heart that he was not going to like her answer.
He never should have asked her; he should just have agreed straight off to start their friendship over again, no questions asked. Maybe that way, he could have just pushed everything that had happened the past few months to the back of his mind and pretend it hadn't happened.
The idea was a stupid one and logically, he knew it never would have worked; but right now, he would give just about anything to have Liz back in his life again. And not just as a friend; but as a girlfriend, a lover. He wanted what they'd had last year; back when things were simple and life was good; before Tess came to town, before all the trouble started.
With a troubled sigh, he sank back down to the mattress, his head flopping onto the pillow. A quick glance at the clock told him that it was five am and that in less than three hours, Isabel, the Christmas Nazi, would be knocking down his door, demanding he get to the Christmas Tree lot nice and early so that he could find her the perfect tree. She would even provide him with a sketch and dimensions.
Trying to get back to sleep now would be pointless. His dreams would just be haunted with memories of Liz. They all started out the same, he and Liz would be together and happy; laughing and kissing and generally enjoying each other's company, but then the dream would turn sour. Images of Liz with Kyle would invade his mind, and they were much more detailed and explicit than the scene he had stumbled upon that fateful night of the concert. He would see them kissing, groping, whispering sweet nothings in each other's ears. He would be forced to witness Liz writhing passionately beneath Kyle, before opening her eyes and staring right at him, a look of triumph in her beautiful features, her hurtful words resonating round the room; ringing in his ears; mocking him…
"…I can't go out with you ever again…"
"…I...I want to be in love with boys…normal boys…"
"…if you truly love me, you'll let me go…"
"…I may love you, but I don't want to die for you…"
He shook his head, trying to rid his mind of the remnants of his dreams.
No, he couldn't go back to sleep. Not now. He wouldn't allow himself to.
Tired and bleary-eyed, Max stumbled through the mass of Christmas trees at the lot. He'd managed to persuade Michael to join him on his hunt for the perfect tree in exchange for helping him pick a suitable present for Maria.
Hearing Michael talk about the chore of having to find a present for his girlfriend, caused Max's thoughts to drift to Liz and how only a few short months ago, he'd imagined spending Christmas with her by his side. Although they'd exchanged gifts last Christmas, and Liz had bought him that pocket knife with the words 'Max and Liz 4 ever' engraved on it (the one he'd unwillingly returned to her only a couple of weeks ago), they hadn't actually been together at the time and he had hoped that this Christmas would be different.
No such luck.
Back in early October, he had begun to think that perhaps they were making progress, but then she did the worst thing possible. She betrayed him; she'd ripped his heart out of his chest and stomped on it. At first, he hadn't wanted to believe what he'd seen. In fact, he was determined to get the truth out of her, to prove that she had not been unfaithful to him. But she had insisted over and over again that it was true, that she had given her virginity to Kyle Valenti. However, he hadn't truly believed it until he asked the question that one last time after New York, For a second, he had been so sure that she was on the verge of giving in, but her silent nod confirmed it once and for all. She had known that he was giving her this last chance to make things right, and she still gave him the same answer.
That's when he knew it was really over for them.
He'd told her that they could work at becoming friends again, but now, with the dreams he'd been having, he wasn't sure if even that was such a good idea.
"Hey, Maxwell. Are we done yet?"
Michael's voice snapped him out of his thoughts, bringing him back to the present.
"What? Oh, yeah. Almost. Just have to find the right one," he said, studying the sheet of specific instructions Isabel had given him.
"Oh, come on," snapped Michael, snatching the paper out of his hands. "I'll do it. It can't be that hard!"
Max barely noticed as Michael stalked off; diagram in hand, looking for a tree. No, his gaze was fixed on the corner of the lot, where a large, full tree was propped up against the fence.
Strange and unfamiliar images flashed through his mind. Images of a scene he didn't understand, of himself and Liz picking out a tree. Together.
She ran ahead of him eagerly, coming to stop in front of a tall, sturdy tree.
"Ooh! Let's get this one, Max. Isn't it just gorgeous?"
He couldn't help but smile at her exuberance, her energy and the way she got so excited over purchasing a simple Christmas tree, even if it was their first one. He came to stand behind her, his arms slipping round her waist and his chin coming to rest on her shoulder.
"It sure is," he murmured, his warm breath caressing her ear. "And I'm not just talking about the tree."
He grinned as the colour rose in her cheeks and she turned in the circle of his arms.
"Max…" she whispered softly, leaning in to place a tender kiss on his lips, which had turned cold from the air. "I love you," she whispered as they drew apart a few moments later.
"I love you too, Liz Parker," he returned, brushing his lips over her red, weather-chilled nose. "So how about that tree?"
"Max! Hey, Maxwell! What are you doing? Come help me with this," yelled Michael, once again returning him to the present.
What the hell had that been?
It was almost like a memory, but at the same time, not.
He took a deep breath, shaking his head to clear it. It was just his overactive imagination, playing tricks on him. That was all. After all, how many times had he imagined what a life with Liz might be like? Maybe the Christmas season was just getting to him.
He shoved the memory of the flash aside and turned to Michael, who was standing a few feet away, tapping his foot impatiently, his arm wrapped round a tree.
Shaking his head once more, he walked over to Michael, raking his eyes over the tree in appreciation.
"Wow, you found it!" he congratulated. "It usually takes me hours to find the perfect one. Isabel will be delighted."
Michael looked down self-consciously, avoiding his friend's eyes, "Yeah, well…"
Max's eyes narrowed suspiciously, "Michael, please tell me you didn't…"
Michael's head shot up and he tightened his grip on the tree defensively.
"So what if I did?" he demanded. "It's not like there's a single tree here that fits all of Isabel's requirements. Believe me, this way is much easier."
"Fine, but I'm blaming you if she realises that her beloved tree did not grow naturally," Max warned, but inside he was glad. This way they could get out of here much quicker.
Max sat at the kitchen table, watching as his mother prepared mince pies and cakes for Christmas dinner. Spending some time at home was the only way he could keep his mind off Liz. Today, it seemed that everywhere he went, something reminded him of Liz. Spending the rest of the morning with Michael, arguing about how to buy gifts for girls, had been just about bearable and he'd had no other strange visions of him and Liz together.
Now, listening to his Mom humming 'Let It Snow' and bustling round the warm kitchen, he could almost forget the mess that was his life, if only for a few moments. There was something about the Christmas season; something that allowed you to get lost in the festivities and the atmosphere and let you forget about the rest of the world.
Max had never been one to go to church, or even believe in God; which was not all that surprising considering who he was and where he came from, but neither the story nor the meaning of Christmas were lost on him and he had always understood the importance of it, even if he didn't completely accept the truth of it all.
"So, have you got any plans for New Year's, Max?" Diane asked her son, as she studied his sombre and thoughtful expression.
He looked up at her, slightly startled.
"Oh, um, not really," he said. "Just, you know, the usual."
'The usual' consisted of accompanying Isabel to the annual New Year's music concert, which she helped organise and more often than not, persuaded him to lend a hand as well, and then spending the rest of the evening at home with his parents, counting down to midnight. Most of the other kids would be out partying and having a good time, but Max had never really been one for parties and socialising, so he would opt for a quiet night in.
"Not doing something special with Liz then?"
"What? No, Mom," he sighed, his earlier bad mood returning suddenly. "Liz and I are not…we're not together anymore. I thought you knew that."
"Oh yes, of course, honey. I shouldn't have brought it up, I'm sorry," she apologised, a sympathetic expression on her face.
"It's okay, Mom," Max assured her, although he could feel his eyes stinging with tears that were threatening to fall.
She nodded and gave him another apologetic glance, before turning back to her cooking once again. Max stared at her back for a moment, but as he turned to face the table again, something caught his eye; he couldn't say what it was exactly, but it suddenly brought on another vision
"Hi honey, I'm home," he called teasingly, as the door slammed shut behind him. He shrugged off his winter coat, hanging it on the coat-rack as he walked through the hallway to the kitchen, the smell of roast potatoes and chicken making his mouth water.
He entered the room, stopping in the doorway at the vision in front of him. Liz, his wonderful, beautiful wife was hard at work over the stove. She was wearing a cute, frilly apron and was dancing and singing along to the radio. He smiled, watching mesmerised as she moved her hips to the music.
"Are you just going to stand there all day, or are you gonna come give me a hand here?" she asked good-naturedly, not even looking up from what she was doing.
His grin widening, he sauntered across the room, his hands encased in his pockets. As he reached her, he extended his arms, wrapping them around her middle, pulling her back against him.
"Good afternoon to you too, gorgeous," he murmured, placing a kiss on her cheek. "It smells wonderful in here. You're doing a great job," he praised.
"Yeah, well, I just want everything to be perfect. This is our first New Year's as a married couple and living on our own, I don't want to screw it up."
"Liz, you couldn't screw this up even if you tried," he told her and she relaxed slightly.
"Thank you, for saying that," she said. "So, did you have a good time shovelling snow with Michael and Alex this morning?"
"Well, if you can call freezing our asses off and getting into trouble with Mrs. from next door for throwing snowballs fun, then yeah, I did," he laughed. "Oh, Michael said that he and Maria would get here by two and Alex will be here as soon as he can get Isabel to stop worrying about tonight's concert."
Liz laughed as snuggled further back against his chest, "And my parents will be arriving at two-thirty. What about yours?"
"The same, as far as I know," he replied.
"Well, the food is basically all prepared now, so we have approximately two hours before everyone starts arriving," Liz murmured, turning to face him, a mischievous expression gracing her features. "Whatever shall we do until then, Mr. Evans?"
Max grinned down at her happily as her arms wound around her neck and his hands lowered so that they grazed her backside.
"Well, you know, I have one idea, Mrs. Evans," he mumbled as his lips captured hers in a passionate kiss. He lifted her into his arms and her legs clamped tightly around his waist. Stumbling slightly, he manoeuvred her to an empty spot on the counter top and his lips and hands began their fervent assault on her body.
Max gasped as the images ceased, his mind frantically running through all that he had just seen. What was going on here? Why was he suddenly getting visions of him and Liz being married? His first theory was that he was imagining things that he had desperately hoped for his entire life, but it was like he had no control over what he saw, like it hadn't come from his mind.
And why would this be happening now? It might be Christmas, but he wasn't exactly spending his days mooning over Liz Parker like he used to. In fact, apart from the fact that he had agreed to rekindle his friendship with Liz, his heart was still hurting from her betrayal; his dreams were proof of that, and the way they were going, he wasn't going to get over the whole situation any time soon.
Suddenly the warm, homely kitchen seemed suffocating and too small. He had to get out of there. He stood up from the table abruptly, startling his mother as the chair legs scraped across the floor.
"Max, what's wrong?" she asked worriedly.
"Nothing. Nothing's wrong," he assured her quickly. "Just need some air, that's all. I'm going for a walk. I won't be gone long."
With that, he left the house through the back door, leaving Diane staring after him, bewildered.