Tomorrow's Mistake; Today's Miracle

A Dreamer One Shot

"I know that look."

Before she could protest, defend herself, Future Max continued. "It's the same now as it will be then, and, as I recall, it's just as dangerous... if not more so."

"Really," Liz defended herself. "I have no idea what you're..."

"You're about to ask me to do something that you know I won't like, that you know I won't want to do," he interrupted her. She was sitting on the edge of her lounge chair outside on the rooftop patio, and Future Max moved to kneel before her. "I'll deny you, but... Let's just say that you have your ways of making me do things that I know I shouldn't."

"Like what," she asked him, wanting examples, wanting to prolong their time together. If she couldn't have her Max here and now in the present, then she was going to enjoy as much time as she possibly could with the man he would have been without their interference. After what she had done to him that evening, Liz wasn't even sure if Max would ever talk to her again. If her actions had the consequences they were meant to, then she was probably experiencing the last pleasant moments she would ever have with the man she loved... maybe thirty one and with a few gray hairs but still undeniably Max.

"Like the day that you were shot in the Crashdown and I saved your life," he finally answered, his gaze locked so steadily upon hers that neither of them could blink.

"Max, I never asked you do that."

"Exactly," he responded with a small, crooked grin. "You don't even have to speak to me to get me to do things that I shouldn't. Your ways, just like I said. Hell, I'm not even sure if you were aware that I was even in the diner that day until I came up to you after you were shot."

This time, it was her turn to smile gently towards him. "I knew."

"The point is, though, that you want something from me, something that I shouldn't give you. I can see that amazing brain of yours firing away behind your eyes. I know you, Liz, maybe even better than you know yourself."

"Well, you do have fourteen years of extra knowledge on me," she pointed out teasingly.

Future Max ignored the humor though, took a deep, fortifying breath, and then braced himself. "Tell me what you want."

Matching his seriousness, she replied, "I want what I'll never have now." Speaking as gravely as she possibly could, she continued, "I want our wedding night."

"The others can't know about this," he responded warily.

"I know that."

"And we really can't get married... given that I won't even exist in a few more hours."

"I know that, too."

"Then...?"

Scooting forward, Liz placed her right hand over Future Max's heart. With just that mere touch, she felt his heartbeat grow stronger, heavier, more insistent. "I want you to dance with me. I want you to hold me in your arms so that I can close my eyes and pretend, just for a moment, that we really did get to get married."

Proving just how well that he knew her, he pressed, "and?"

"And I want you to make love to me, too... just the way you did that night when I became your wife."

Immediately, she felt him pull away – both physically and emotionally. It wasn't that he was adverse to the idea; it was the fact that her request obviously appealed to him a little too much. "Liz, we can't."

Stubbornly, she demanded to know, "why not?"

"There are so many reasons," he argued - "more than we have time to debate."

"Give me your top five, and I'll refute them all."

"For one," he immediately offered, "technically, you're only seventeen and I'm thirty-one. Secondly, I don't think either of us are prepared for such... an occasion."

"You mean, you forget to pack condoms before you went on your little time-space vacation?"

"Liz, please," he begged her desperately. "Just listen to what you're asking of me, and then listen to what I'm telling you in response."

"No, you listen," she countered. Refusing to allow him to retreat further, she moved so that her hands were cupping his jaw and tilted his face up to meet with hers. Snagging his gaze with her own, she said, "your first two points were valid... or, at least, they would be without our given situation, but none of your reasons – five or five hundred – will matter because the truth is this: whatever we do together tonight, it will not have actually happened come morning. Just as you know me, I know you, too... or, at least, I know my version of you. It might take my Max a few hours to process what he saw tonight, but he will, and, once he does, he won't be able to forgive me.

"As soon as that happens, you'll disappear, cease to exist, because, by making my Max believe that I slept with Kyle this evening, we did what you wanted and changed the future. Essentially, we erased you. So, if we do this, if you'll give me the wedding night that I'll never actually have, then it, too, and everything else we do together tonight will be erased as well in a few hours' time. It'll be like it never happened. Your actions will cease to have consequences, because you will cease being. I'll be the only one who will remember."

"Won't that hurt you, though," Future Max asked, still protesting, but she could tell that his resolve was weakening and rapidly so - "to be the only person with that memory weighing down upon your shoulders? You won't be able to tell anyone. Ever."

"It can't be any more painful than what I did tonight, than the idea of having to live the rest of my life without you and the knowledge of what we could have had. I'm not denying the fact that it will hurt when I wake up tomorrow morning and you're not there, but being with you tonight will be like those dreams that I still have of my grandmother. I know they're not real," Liz explained, "but, while I'm experiencing them, they feel real enough, and that's better than nothing. One night with you... even if it is a secret night that technically didn't actually happen," she clarified, "will be better than never being with you at all."

Mesmerized, she watched as he lifted his own hands to hers and pulled them from his face. Twining their fingers together, Future Max stood up and pulled her with him, immediately folding her into his embrace. And, as the first few notes of "I Shall Believe" started to play somewhere, somehow, Liz knew his answer to her request. Smiling away the sudden profusion of tears that flooded her dark eyes, she buried her face against his neck, savoring both the feeling of the man she loved wrapped around her and his unique, clean, atmospheric scent enfolding her. It wasn't a lifetime like they should have had, but, in that moment, it was enough.

!

There was something wrong with Liz.

He shouldn't care. Max knew that. They had both moved on. She had slept with Kyle - he had seen them together with his own two eyes, and he was spending more and more time with Tess, following his destiny. But it was one thing to tell himself that he no longer cared for her and a whole separate matter to actually stop worrying about her.

To stop loving her.

They barely talked. It was too awkward, too painful. When they did, most of the time any discussion, no matter how seemingly benign, would eventually lead to an argument. Despite the fact that he had been ready to flaunt his destiny to be with her and that she had been the one to end them for good, they were both hurt by the circumstances of their breakup, and that resulted in their incapability of getting along. Sure, they would still work together when it came down to the welfare of their group, but Max wouldn't – couldn't – call them friends. If such a platonic relationship was even plausible between them, it would be a long time before they would be ready to try such an arrangement.

However, dating or not, talking civilly or not, he knew Liz. He knew her better than he knew himself, and he knew that there was something off about her. She was distracted, often late for class, and, when she did show up, she'd many times leave again with a pass to the restroom or to the nurse. She was pale, withdrawn, and always looked like she was on the verge of tears. She was short tempered but then always apologetic afterwards. She was pulling away from everyone they cared about and secretive. While the hopeful part of Max believed her actions were due to the rekindling of her relationship with Kyle – after all, the guy wasn't his, Michael, or Isabel's biggest fan, the realistic part of him realized that, whether Liz and Kyle had slept together or not, they weren't dating... which led him to his second possible conclusion: Liz was sick.

For weeks, he had been surreptitiously observing her. If anyone, especially Liz, had picked up on his voyeuristic habits, there would have been hell to pay. Whether they understood what happened between them or not, their friends had tired of their on-again/off-again game of tug of war, voicing their opinion that, if it was finally over, then Max and Liz needed to stay away from each other as much as possible. They would have been furious with his attention towards her. With everything else they were up against and fighting, the last thing he needed was another reason for Michael and Isabel to resent and rebel against him. Plus, he didn't want to alarm anyone until he knew for sure that his suspicions regarding Liz's health were correct. He was tired of waiting and watching, though. That evening, he was going to get some answers one way or another.

Climbing up the side of Liz's building, he thought about the various shifts and changes he had witnessed about her body, too. Though to the average, casual observer, she might have looked relatively the same, there had never been anything casual about his fascination and attention to Liz Parker. That was why he knew that she was walking slightly differently, that she was losing weight, and that there were parts of her body – intimate parts – that were tender and sore. That was also why he knew that her scent, that unique flavor of strawberries, sunshine, and vanilla, was off. Though she still smelled the same, there was also a new element – one that was almost recognizable but that he couldn't quite place at the same time. And his obsession with watching her was also why he knew that her hair was a degree shinier and that her skin appeared to be just that much more kissed by the light.

Though he had seen and knew so much about her, her symptoms, in his mind, did not add up to an answer. That was why Max had been forced to resort to desperate measures. Since the night he had witnessed Liz in bed with Kyle, he had refused to come back to her room. Even when they performed the tried and true post-breakup exchange of goods, he had insisted that she either bring his things downstairs to the Crashdown or lug them with her to school. As if sensing his reasoning, Liz had never objected or asked for an explanation. Now, though, as he approached her bedroom window, his plan failed him. Up until that point, he had been determined to find out exactly what was wrong with Liz by doing whatever was necessary. That had translated to going to her home, but, now there, he was stuck. Should be just sit outside, observe her, and wait until she lowered her guard, believing that she was lone, or should he confront her – go inside and demand answers to all the questions distracting him from thinking about anything else?

As things often went between Max and Liz Parker, though, the decision was taken out of his hands. Silently kneeling down by her open window, he gasped out loud at the sight before him, nearly ruining his covert cover. Liz was standing before her full length mirror, dressed in nothing but a pair of red, cotton boy-shorts. Her hair was pulled back away from her face, and her skin was free of any signs of the artifice of makeup. As one hand hung limply, dejectedly at her side, the other curved around her lower abdomen. Oddly enough, it was slightly convex and heartbreakingly feminine, and Max was puzzled by how he had never before noticed such a fact about the woman he loved.

"I've really done it this time," Liz confessed to her own reflection in the mirror. Sniffling, she allowed a solitary tear to trail down her cheek, roll off her chin, and then pool in the indentation of her collar bone before swallowing down and pushing aside her overwhelming emotions. He wanted to shake her, yell at her, demand of her that she simply allow herself to feel whatever it was that she was feeling, but, if he did so, she'd know that he was there, and she'd immediately clam up once again.

"I've done stupid things in the past... like temporarily dying my hair blonde in eighth grade, like believing that Nasedo was really Max, like falling in love with an alien, but this, by far, surpasses any of my past mistakes."

With a breaking heart, Max watched as she bit her lip, drawing blood, before continuing. As the next words left Liz's mouth, he realized that she wasn't talking to her reflection but rather to a third presence in the room, one that he could suddenly now feel but could not see. "Your mother is a seventeen year old girl who shouldn't even be alive, and your father... he doesn't know that the possibility of you even exists. In fact, scientifically, you shouldn't even be a possibility." Finally unable to control her pain and confusion any longer, Liz sobbed, "don't get me wrong. I don't regret you. I don't resent you. You're only a few months old, and I already love you. You're something that I never thought I'd ever have, but that in and of itself is scary. And so is the idea of being a single mother, because, no matter what, your father... well, let's just say that he will never be in your life. From the moment that you were conceived, baby, it's just been you and me, and I'm sorry about that. I'm so sorry."

He had heard enough.

Creeping away from the window so that Liz wouldn't discover him trespassing, Max retraced his steps from what had only been minutes before but felt like an entire lifetime. After scaling down the brick wall, he took off at a run. His jeep might have been parked somewhere close by, but, if it was, he couldn't recall. In fact, he couldn't think about anything except the fact that the woman he loved was pregnant with another man's child, and that man – that lucky, selfish bastard – was refusing to do the right thing by her. Well, if Kyle thought he was going to allow him to go about his life while Liz raised a baby all on her own, he had another thing coming. While it might seem as though Max had no power over his own life, if it was the last thing he did, Max was determined to make sure that Liz and her child were happy and healthy... whether Kyle Valenti wanted to cooperate or not.

!

"Well, if it isn't ET and the giant chip upon his..."

Before Kyle could finish his snarky greeting, Max wound back his arm, fisted his hand, and slugged the arrogant prick as hard as he possibly could... which, star athlete of the month or not, was nothing to slouch about. As Kyle went sprawling, falling backwards and landing on his ass, Max advanced further towards him, kicking the door shut with his foot as he moved to inflict his next punch. Fisting his free hand in the human teen's shirt, he pulled him several inches up off the ground. Just as he was about to hit Kyle once again, the other man covered his face with his hands and began to protest.

"What the hell, man? I realize that we're not bosom buddies and that you never paid me back for when my friends beat you up last year, but... what the hell?"

"You know exactly why I'm here."

"Look, dude, I'm a Buddhist not a mind reader."

Snarling, he tightened his hand around the collar of Kyle's shirt, choking him slightly. "Or maybe I should say you know exactly who I'm here about."

"Would you let go of me already, Evans," the other teen demanded to no effect. "And, if this is about Liz, don't you think you're about three months too late?"

"Or maybe six months too early."

"Your words might be English, but all I'm hearing is alien gibberish. What the hell are you talking about?"

Pushing the other man away, Max stood to his full height, towering over the prone figure beneath him. "Three months ago, you slept with Liz, and, in six months, she's going to have a baby, one that she believes she's going to have to raise on her own. Do you want to tell me why she would think that when you're here, perfectly capable of helping her, Valenti?"

He watched as shock and confusion spread across Kyle's already bruising features. "Liz is pregnant? How...?"

Snapping, he took a menacing step forward, starting to kick the other teen in the ribs before Kyle managed to sit up and scoot away. "Don't pretend to be surprised. You know exactly how this happened."

"Well, unless Liz slept with someone else and didn't tell me about it, or she's suddenly decided to give some credence to that whole immaculate conception fable, then, seriously man, I have no idea what you're talking about."

Narrowing his gaze, Max said, "you know that no form of birth control is ever one hundred percent effective."

"Except for abstinence," Kyle finished for him, sounding, for all the world, entirely too annoyed and too bored for Max's taste. "I know. Dude, we had sex-ed together back in sixth grade, and I swear my dad has this same talk with me every single time I go out on a date."

Suddenly, he started to get the suspicion that he was either missing vital information or relying upon false evidence. "What exactly are you saying?"

Kyle stood up, dusted himself off, and tenderly probed his already swelling eye. "I'm saying that, if Liz is pregnant, I'm not the father. We never slept together, Max." When he went to protest, the human teen held up a halting hand. "Yeah, I know what it looked like, but you saw what we meant for you to see."

"I don't understand."

"And if you would give me a minute instead of jumping to conclusions, I'd explain everything to you."

"Go on," he demanded.

Rolling his eyes, Kyle replied, "I don't know all the details. Liz will have to fill in the missing information for you, but she came to me the day that you saw us together and asked for a favor. She wanted me to pretend that I slept with her, to make you believe that we had had sex together. Hell, I haven't even kissed Liz in almost a year, and, if you would have stopped to actually think and check the situation out, you would have found that we had our underwear on underneath the covers the whole time."

Clenching his jaw and taking a deep breath, Max asked, "so, you're telling me that it was all just one big, elaborate..."

"Hoax," Kyle finished. "Yep. She – we – totally hoodwinked you, man."

"So, you never had sex with Liz?"

"Not unless someone changed the rules so that a double now equals scoring a home run?"

Puzzled, Max responded, "what...?"

"Never mind," the other man remarked impatiently. "Dude, I know you're an alien and everything, but it's baseball! Catch up already. You've been on earth now for what – eleven years... that you can remember? It's time to assimilate already."

"I, uh, I have to go."

Already turning around and heading towards the Valenti's front door, he only paused when Kyle asked, "so, what are you going to do now? Knock on every door in Roswell and punch out every guy who answers until you find out who really is the father of Liz's baby?"

For a brief moment, he found it astounding that the human teen so readily believed him concerning his revelation regarding Liz's pregnancy, but his mind was too full of questions, doubts, and concerns to hold onto the bewilderment for more than just a few seconds. Worry immediately returned, surging back to eradicate all other thoughts and feelings. Shrugging his shoulders, Max admitted, "I don't know."

Slipping outside, he closed the door silently behind him and walked away, his next move – his next destination – unknown.

!

Despite the fact that she knew she needed to eat, if not for her own benefit than for that of her unborn child, Liz couldn't stomach the idea of swallowing even a single bite of dinner that evening. Pushing her food aimlessly around her plate, she sat slumped in her chair, face buried from her parents' sight, totally oblivious to anything and everything going on around her. She had no idea what to do, but she knew she needed to do something and soon. Just the week before while taking a shower, she had discovered the fact that she was ever so slightly starting to show. Considering how petite she was, it was astounding that her body hadn't traitorously revealed her condition even earlier. It wouldn't be long now until the whole world... or, at least, all of Roswell knew her secret, and maybe things would be better once she did confess. Although Liz wasn't naïve enough to believe that the truth, in her situation, would set her free, at least admitting that she was pregnant to her parents would be one less thing that she would have to worry about. No matter what, she had to put her unborn child first, and, to do so, she needed to regain control of her life, one step at a time.

"Mom, Dad," she started slowly, laying down her fork. Folding her hands in her lap, Liz observed her parents' curious faces. "There's something I need to tell you."

Her father laughed, taking another bite of his dinner. "Uh oh," he responded after chewing. "That's perhaps the most ominous thing a parent can hear from their daughter."

"Well, other than 'I'm pregnant,'" her mother added, using her own fork to emphasize her words.

Swallowing thickly, she said, "this is good – you guys telling me things like this. It's useful."

Both her parents froze, eyeing her closely. It was her mom who spoke up, though. "What are you trying to say to us, Elizabeth?"

She took a deep breath. "I'm saying that, if I have a girl, these are things that I'll need to know."

"Have a girl...," her father questioned dumbly, obviously not connecting the dots of their conversation. "Lizzie, I don't..."

"Oh my god," her mom exclaimed before she could respond. "You are pregnant!"

"What? No. Of course not," her dad protested, once more laughing... only this time the gesture held no humor but rather just a nervous, overwhelming sense of denial. "That's preposterous."

"No, dad, it's not. I'm three months pregnant. I've waited this long to tell you for many reasons. For one, I was scared, but mainly I wanted to wait until I knew for sure that a miscarriage would be unlikely and until the point where you'd no longer be able to pressure me into having an abortion. No matter what you say, I'm keeping this child."

As her father gasped, and struggled, and fidgeted under the pressure of her announcement, her mother, chin in palm, watched her closely. Finally, her mom said, "you've thought about this a lot. You've done research. You've already been to the doctor. You really are my smart, scientific, responsible daughter; you're just pregnant, too."

Liz didn't know what to say in response, so she said nothing at all.

"How did this happen," her dad finally managed to wrap his mind around his thoughts, exploding. Leaning back in his chair, he agitatedly shoved his hands through his already rumpled hair.

"I had sex."

"With who," he demanded to know.

Stiffening her back and squaring her shoulders, she sat up as straight as she possibly could. "That's none of your business."

"Oh, I beg to differ, young lady," her mother protested. "Pregnant or not, you're still our daughter. If you think that you're going to continue living in this house, you're going to tell us everything that we want to know starting with who the father of your child is."

Refusing to crack under the strain of her parents' disappointment and anger, Liz stifled her tears and met their demanding gazes with as much strength as she could possibly muster. "I can't do that."

"I can't deal with this," her dad exclaimed, rocketing up out of his chair to pace the small space of their dining room.

Although her mother remained seated, she was no less devastated. "I never thought I'd see the day where my daughter had had sex with so many men that she couldn't name who the father of her own child was, but, but, then again, I never thought that my daughter would come to me when she was seventeen and tell me that she was pregnant either."

"Who is he, Lizzie," her father rounded on her, stopping his frenetic movement. "Tell me this boy's name... or these boys' names right now, or I'll..."

"It's me," a fourth voice joined their fight. Although the two words were spoken softly, the room immediately stilled around her, and Liz found that she could no longer hold back her pent-up sobs of desperation, fear, sorrow, and even relief. "I'm the father of Liz's baby."

How had he gotten into her house? She didn't know. How did he know about her pregnancy? She had no idea. Why was he taking responsibility for a child he believed couldn't possibly be his? She couldn't answer that question either. All she knew in that moment was that, once again, Max Evans was rescuing her.

Unable to handle the situation, she stood up and ran from the room, dodging her way past her parents and the man she loved, running down the stairs as fast as her feet would take her, and through the back door of the diner below. She ran and ran until the tumultuous commotion of her mind was overshadowing by the screaming of her lungs and the muscles of her thighs. She ran until she was both mentally and physically nowhere. She ran until she knew that Max had, once more, just as always, found her. She ran until he caught her, collapsing into his arms.

!

He wasn't sure how long they had been sitting in the desert sand by the side of some old, abandoned highway; what he knew, though, was that he didn't care. They were alone, there was no one else there to tell them that they should be apart, and they were no longer fighting their connection to one another. In the silence of the dusk's setting sun, it didn't matter that she was pregnant with some other man's baby, and it didn't matter that the heat of the day was rapidly fading into the chill of a New Mexican night. Max would have done anything to remain in that static balance with Liz for the rest of their lives, but even such simple wishes didn't come true for him.

When he felt her start to pull away, he considered for a moment forcibly holding her against him, but the idea was dismissed just as quickly as he thought of it. If he had to make her stay, it wouldn't be the same as if she wanted to remain in his embrace voluntarily. However, before he could lament the distance between them emotionally yet again, he realized that Liz was just turning around in his embrace. She wasn't leaving him; she was just shifting their dynamic.

"Are you going to ask me?"

"Ask you what," he questioned.

"Who the father of my baby is," she answered.

Releasing his gaze from her own, Max looked off over her shoulder. "Well, I already know that it's not Kyle."

"And you would know this how exactly?"

Still avoiding her eyes, he looked down at his lap where their legs were tangled together. Instinctively, she reached for her hands, twining her fingers with his own. "I went to your house earlier."

"I know," Liz replied, laughing slightly. "I was there, too, remember. You made quite the entrance."

"No, before that," he corrected her. "I wanted to see you... or talk to you, I'm not sure. But I knew that there was something wrong with you, and I was determined to figure out what was going on. I saw you... talking to yourself, to the baby... in the mirror."

Looking up, he watched as she first blushed profusely and then blanched in realization. "Oh my god."

"I thought that it was Kyle... who you were talking about, so I went to see him."

"And?"

Sheepishly, he shrugged. "I might have punched him as soon as he opened the door."

"Max," she chastised and then surprised him by giggling slightly. "You didn't."

"I did, and I would have done a lot worse if he wouldn't have convinced me that the two of you had never slept together, that there was no possible way that he was the father of your child, and that he wasn't abandoning you and forcing you into being a single mother." Before she could respond, he nailed her eyes with his own and demanded to know, "why, Liz?"

"Why what? I don't understand what you're...?"

"Why did you plan for me to see you naked in bed with Kyle," he asked her, interrupting. "Why did you make me think that you slept with him?"

For several moments, he watched as she struggled to form a response. She would open her mouth to say something and then sigh, screwing up her face in frustration. Or she would start to form a word only to snap her mouth back shut again in despondency. When she finally did respond, he was baffled, both overwhelmed and overjoyed by her request. "Would you... kiss me, Max?"

Nodding his ascent, he licked his lips in anticipation. Closing his eyes, he lifted his hands towards her face in memory, caressing the silky smooth skin that he had only been able to feel at night in his dreams for the past few torturous months. Cupping her jaw, he tenderly lifted her mouth towards his own, slowly lowering his lips until they just barely whispered across hers. As soon as they touched, though, the connection between them flew open, and he saw everything that Liz recalled from the night her unborn child was conceived; he felt everything that she had experienced.

The simplest yet most pure joy of his entire life was watching the woman he loved smile. As he twirled her across the rooftop patio, Max smiled to himself, savoring the sheer innocence a seventeen year old Liz exuded. Though he loved her as a woman, as an adult, too, the sight of her before him, her hair cascading out around her shoulders in a rich blaze of mahogany glory, made his chest constrict tightly. And then, when she stopped and came oh so willingly back into his arms, his heart was near to bursting when he saw the twinkle lights reflected in her open and warm gaze, a gaze so full of life and adoration meant solely for him. It was a humbling moment, and briefly he regretted his decision to come to her, to ask her to give him and their future up in order to save both of their worlds. But then she smiled, and he recalled why he was there: to save her from himself.

As she came back further and further into his embrace, Max wrapped his arms around her, allowing them to drop down and rest just below the swell of her bottom. Lifting her while, at the same time, finding her mouth with his own, he walked them towards her lounge chair, never once breaking their kiss. He lowered her down so that she was laying on her back, only to follow so that he was kneeled over her. When he finally pulled their lips apart, opening his eyes, he paused only briefly enough to ask, "are you sure," just one more time.

Liz's silent response was more of an invitation. Bending her knees while simultaneously separating her legs so as to create a cradle from her thighs, her movements and her smiling eyes beckoned him closer, and he obliged only too willingly.

Just as he had the night of their wedding, he undressed her slowly, leisurely, savoring each and every precious reveal of her body. As one button would open, he would close his mouth upon the bared skin, tasting over and over again what in his opinion was the sweetest flavor in all the universe. As one article of clothing would disappear, his own flesh would appear in replacement, covering his wife's languidly displayed nude form. By the time she was completely undressed, though, his patience had long since expired, and Max ripped off his own clothes without thought or reason, uncaring whether or not they were destroyed in the process.

Finally, when they were both completely vulnerable and bare to the other's attentions, he clasped their hands together, webbing their fingers into two joint fists, as he gradually, haltingly, gently entered her aroused yet untried before body. Though she had not been a virgin on the wedding night they were trying to recreate, Max recalled the first time he had made love to Liz like it had just happened between them hours instead of more than decade before, and he used that memory to brace himself and his need, his passion, his desire, endeavoring to save her from as much pain as he possibly could. His presence in the past had already destroyed their future; he certainly didn't want to also ruin her only memory of a dream that would never actually come true.

They made love as though they had all the time in the world, as though that night wouldn't be their first and their last together intimately; they made love as though they really were newlyweds who believed they had the rest of their lives to spend together. The coupling was bittersweet. As he lost himself inside of her flesh, his own body, mind, and soul melting into hers momentarily as he released his pleasure inside her equally stimulated form, Max cried out in both relief and agony. Her own tears salting his already glistening, dewey skin told him that she understood and felt the exact same way. Picking her up, he cradled her in his naked embrace, moving them both back into her room. After tucking her into her childhood bed, he locked the door and turned off the lights before joining her, pulling her so tightly against him that he worried for a moment whether or not she'd be able to breath. But then she sighed in relief and snuggled even closer to him... if such a thing was even possible, and he relaxed as well.

Gasping, Max pulled away from Liz's mouth. Opening his eyes, he met her gaze and said, "and then you woke up alone the next morning afterwards."

"And even though I knew everything you just saw had really happened, it felt like it had been nothing more than this unbelievable, marvelous, terrible dream."

Lowering his forehead to rest against her own, he sobbed, "I'm so sorry, Liz; I'm so sorry."

"But you... this version of you... didn't do anything that you need to apologize for. It was the future you who came to me, the future you who made me do this to us, the future you who... left me, and, anyway, he was only doing what he believed to be right." He listened as she laughed self-deprecatingly. "It's really confusing, isn't it?"

"It is," he acknowledged, separating them enough so that he could look her in the eyes once more. "And it isn't, too." At her confused expression, he explained, "it's like loving you. I know that I shouldn't, that I'm not supposed to, but I just can't help myself. I wouldn't be me unless I was in love with you. It makes no sense, but, in its insanity, it's also the only thing that I truly understand." Max placed both of his hands low upon her barely burgeoning baby bump. With awe in his voice, he stated, "you're carrying our child."

"I am," Liz agreed, smiling and sobbing in sheer joy despite the rather odd set of circumstances surrounding them. "But what about the rest of the world; what about what the future you told me will occur if we're together?"

For several moments, he thought about her question. Finally, he responded, "he only knew what would happen if he did not prevent us from being together under the previous circumstances. He was sent here for a reason, and I have to think that this – you, me, and our child – was a part of that reason... whether he realized it or not. Why else would his actions have allowed this to have happened?"

"Max, I have no idea what you're trying to say to me."

"I'm telling you, Liz Parker, that you and our baby are my destiny. I traveled back through time to make sure that this happened to us."

"Are you sure," she asked. Though he could hear the hesitancy in her voice, he could also hear the hope.

Knowing that no words would reassure her the way that his touch, that their connection could, Max kissed her.

!

Overhead, a shooting star passed by, and the universe realigned itself once again, returning to what was right.