Future Max looked so sad as he spoke.
"You've got to make me fall out of love… with you."
Liz stared at him, stunned by the idea. Max not love her? The idea was ludicrous, insane. That was his solution? No, there had to be something else. Her scientist's brain, conditioned to see past obstacles and think outside the box, kicked into high gear.
"What makes you think that's the only solution?" she asked.
It was Future Max's turn to look surprised.
"I just told you. We need Tess in order to win the war, and she leaves because you and I are together."
"No, she leaves because she's unhappy. And that's the real problem; not that we're in love but that Tess leaves."
"She leaves because of us!" Future Max was getting frustrated now. He raked a hand through his long hair, and Liz couldn't help but admire the disheveled look it created. "Don't you see? I have to change the past to fix the future!"
"But you are," argued Liz. "Just by being here, you've changed things. I know now. When the time comes, I can convince Tess to stay. She won't leave if she knows how much we need her. And you and I can be happy."
"You can't have your cake and eat it too, Liz," Future Max snapped. "I forgot how blindly optimistic you used to be."
"And I forgot how pessimistic you always were," Liz replied heatedly. "When did you become so jaded?"
"War does that to a person," Max said harshly, turning away from her. There was a hard edge to his voice that she had never heard before. Her heart broke for him, for what had made him like this. He may be years older, but he was still Max, the boy she loved.
"Max…" she said softly. She put her hands on his upper arms, and gently turned him so he was once again facing her. He didn't resist her touch, but let her guide him. "Don't you want us to be happy?" she asked.
Future Max made a strangled sound in the back of his throat, as if a bitter laugh had caught there and gotten stuck.
"Want us to be happy? Liz, that's all I want, all I've ever wanted," He took her hands and brought them to his lips, kissing them tenderly. "I want us to live long and happy lives by each others' sides. I want us never to be apart. You're a part of my soul, Liz. What I feel for you is beyond words. But this is about the fate of entire races. We can't be selfish and make it only about our happiness."
Liz looked up into Max's earnest eyes. There might be some crow's feet around the edges, and some gray hairs framing them, but they were still the dark eyes she loved so much, the ones she could drown in if she wasn't careful. She shook her head, her mahogany hair tumbling about her shoulders with the movement.
"I'm not saying we be selfish," said Liz. "I'm saying that maybe, just maybe, there are other solutions than just yours." She smiled up at him. "Besides, I have an idea."
Tess looked up from her book and raised a delicate eyebrow.
Liz slid herself onto the picnic bench beside the blonde.
"Can I talk to you for a sec?"
Tess put her book down, and gave Liz her full attention. Her unwavering gaze made Liz nervous.
"I, uh, noticed that, um, you and Kyle have been spending a lot of time together," she stuttered, "and, um…"
"And you've come to warn me away from him as well?" Tess asked, her voice tinged with bitterness. "Does every guy in this school belong to you?"
Liz shook her head emphatically.
"No! That's not it. Actually, it's just the opposite. I want to help you."
Tess raised an eyebrow.
"Why would you want to do that? You hate me."
"That's just it," said Liz. "I don't hate you. I just hate that you have some sort of claim over Max that I don't. I know you two have some sort of destiny, and I'm taking him away from you, but I've been thinking. Max feels trapped by this destiny, by this sense that he's not in control. But what I hadn't thought about before is you might too. You might have been someone a long time ago, but you're not that person any more. You're your own person, and you can make your own decisions, no destiny involved. So I'm offering you a way out. A way for all of us to coexist, to be happy."
"You want me to be with Kyle."
Liz ducked her head.
"I mean, only if you want to be. Everyone deserves to be happy," she offered Tess a hesitant smile. "Kyle's a great guy. I think you two would be really good together. You like him, don't you?"
Tess's smile was genuine this time.
"Yeah. I do."
Liz smiled back, relief filling her.
"Great. I know Kyle pretty well, so maybe I can help you."
Tess leaned her elbows on the picnic table.
"Ok," said Liz. "This is what you have to do."
"This is a bad idea," said Future Max, peering through the blinds of the Crash Down at the outdoor tables across the street.
"I like it better than your idea," said Liz, standing beside him. "Here, take these." She handed him the binoculars.
Future Max took them, squinted through them at Tess.
"She's wearing your black shirt," he said. "I love that shirt."
"Everyone loves that shirt. It was Kyle's favourite too," she leaned against the door, her attention shifting from Tess to Max. "So we get married, huh?"
Future Max started.
"How did you…?"
"You're wearing a wedding ring," said Liz with a shrug. "And you didn't exactly hide the fact that you're still in love with me."
Future Max was silent for a moment. Then, he put down the binoculars with a sigh.
"Since you already guessed. We elope. To Vegas. We get married in the Elvis chapel. Your mom is furious."
"We don't have a proper wedding?" Liz asked, trying not to let her disappointment show in her voice. After all, she had just been told she would someday marry the love of her life.
Max smiled one of his breathtaking smiles, the kind that always made Liz's heart stop, them start again at double the pace.
"We have a great wedding," he amended. "We call Alex, Isabel, Michael, and Maria, and they meet us half way. We spend the whole night singing and dancing in some dive outside of Phoenix. And at the end of the night I Shall Believe comes on the radio."
Liz smiled softly.
"I love that song."
Max smiled back at her.
"I know. Everyone else is exhausted, but not us. We dance, just the two of us. It's the happiest night of my life."
"How old are we?" Liz asked.
Max leaned his head against the door and looked down at her.
Liz laughed giddily.
"Nineteen! That's so young!"
"That's what I said, but you said. Romeo and Juliet were even younger than us." Future Max was looking at her with such intensity, his eyes burning holes into her. "We have no regrets. Seeing you, like this… at seventeen… it makes it all come flooding back to me. How my stomach used to rumble every time I saw you. How I could never take my eyes off you."
"But not any more?" Liz teased gently.
Future Max smiled.
Liz hugged herself.
"Nineteen. Two years. I can't wait."
"Liz, we don't even know…"
Max was stopped from arguing with her by the sound of footsteps. They both turned back to the face the window, peeking out from between the blinds. It was Kyle, walking up to Tess's table.
"Hey Tess," he said. "I got your call. What's up?"
Tess smiled at him.
"I just needed to get out of the house for a while. Wanna sit with me?"
"Heck, why not?"
Kyle sat down across from her.
"What're you doing?"
"Just reading," said Tess. "Trying to keep my mind off things. Listen, I'm really sorry I'm invading your life like this. I know how much it annoys you."
Kyle shrugged his broad shoulders.
"You keep life interesting," he reached across the table and laid his large hand on Tess's smaller one. "What's this all about, Tess?"
"I guess I... I'm just feeling out of place. I don't know where I belong in any of this."
"You have a place," said Kyle. "Your place is with us."
Tess smiled at him.
"You wanna take a walk?" she asked.
He stood up and gathered her books for her, shoving them into her bag and slinging it over his shoulder.
Tess slipped her hand into Kyle's, and led him down the street.
"Well, come on then, Buddha-boy," she said. As they walked down the street, Tess threw a smile over her shoulder to where Max and Liz were watching.
"I can't believe that worked," said Future Max incredulously.
"It was a great plan. Of course it worked. I know Kyle. It won't be hard for Tess to make him like her. And hey presto, she's happy, she stays in Roswell, no end of the world. Problem solved."
"You realize that if this works, Kyle Velenti will be responsible for saving the world, right?" Max said, shaking his head. "How did you ever date that oaf?"
"He wasn't so bad. Besides, I was just biding my time till you noticed me."
Max smiled at her, then glanced back out of the window, to Tess and Kyle's retreating backs.
"I hope you're right, Liz," he said. "I hope this works."
"It has to," said Liz. "Because frankly, your plan sucks."
Future Max leaned against Liz's bureau moodily.
"This isn't going to work, and we're running out of time," he said. "This is the night everything changes. "
Liz looked up from her basket of laundry she was folding.
"What do you mean?"
"After tonight, we become inseparable," said Max, his adam's apple bobbing against his throat "Tonight's the night of the Gomez concert. Instead of going, I come through your window. Tonight's the night things between us are cemented."
Liz swallowed convulsively
"When you say cemented, you mean…"
"We make love for the first time," Max's voice was gentle but frank.
"No, we don't!"
"I'm only seventeen! I have no intention of making love to you or anyone else!" Liz said, her voice rising with each word.
There was a slight smile on Future Max's face.
"I beg to differ. Second best night of my life. But Liz, you're right."
"Thank you!" said Liz, relaxing slightly. "Cuz I don't even have protection or anything."
"Tonight can't play out like it did before," Max continued, as if she hadn't spoken. "I'm still here, which means the future hasn't changed yet. You need to buy more time."
"Good, I'm glad you agree. Cuz I am so not ready for that," Liz repeated. "As an adult, shouldn't you be encouraging me to be safe, anyways?"
Max smiled slightly.
"I'm a little bias on the subject," he said. "Seeing as how the last time I saw you, you were my wife."
Liz looked thoughtful for a moment.
"Liz Evens. I could get used to that."
Kyle was watching Tess out of the corner of his eyes. She seemed on edge about something,
"Ok, spill," he instructed finally, breaking the silence that had settled over them since they left the UFO Centre. "You've been edging to say something for the past fifteen minutes, you might as well say it."
"You like me, don't you?" Tess burst out.
"Yeah. I like you. Tess, what's this about?"
Tess shoved her hands into her pockets.
"Maybe we could go out sometime. You know, like on a date."
Kyle stopped walking.
"Are you asking me out?" he asked.
Tess turned to face him.
"If I was, would you say yes?"
Kyle rubbed the back of his neck in a nervous gesture.
"Listen, Tess, you're a really nice girl, and you're really hot…"
"But isn't this going a little fast?" Kyle sighed. "Look, Tess. I like you. A lot. But I don't want to rush into anything with you and screw it up just cuz I didn't have the patience to do it properly. Happiness is the reward of patience."
"So what you're saying is in your Confucius- quoting way is, let's take it slow?"
"That's what I'm saying."
Tess slipped her hand into his, and smiled at him.
"Always liked that Confucius guy," she said.
"Buddha," Kyle corrected. "If you're going to be my girlfriend, let's get something straight. It's Buddha."
"Girlfriend. I like the sound of that."
Liz darted around her room in a flurry of activity, stuffing clothes into drawers and moving around books.
"I don't know why you're bothering to clean up," Future Max said. "You already told me I'm not getting any tonight."
Liz made a face at him.
"Very funny. I just want things to be tidy, you know. In case Max comes. Not that we're going to sleep together. Cuz we're totally not. But he doesn't need to see my laundry."
Max sighed, and shifted his weight.
Liz stopped her frantic tidying to look at him.
"Will you stop worrying?" she said.
"It's just that… I'm still here," he said, looking down at his hands. "That means it hasn't worked."
"Look," said Liz. "We're doing this my way. If it doesn't work, in fourteen years you'll go back in time and we'll do it your way, ok?" she put a comforting hand on his arm. "So cut it out with the worrying."
Max smiled at her, then moved towards the pile of clothes on her bed.
"I don't know why you're so worried about me seeing your clothes. It's not like I've never seen your laundry before" he reminded her. "I've done your laundry before."
"You have. He hasn't," Liz reminded him. "I just want everything to be perfect."
Future Max smiled and leaned down to pick up a discarded t-shirt for her. His hand passed right through it.
"Liz!" he said sharply.
Liz rushed over.
He passed his hand through the shirt again.
"Your plan must be working," he said. His figure began to waver, to go in and out of reality.
"You're fading," Liz gasped.
"I'm ceasing to exist," said Future Max. He looked into Liz's eyes. "Just remember, I'll always love you. No matter what. And if a certain husband forgets your birthday because there's a war on… go easy on him."
"I will. I can't wait to see you again."
Future Max raised a flickering hand and ghosted it over her cheek.
"I love you," he said.
There were tears in Liz's eyes.
"I love you too," she said.
He wavered once, and then was gone, erased from existence.
Liz stood stock still in the middle of her room, staring at the place where the older Max had vanished. Then, she took a deep breath and ran a hand through her dark hair.
"Guess that means my plan worked," she said to the empty room.
"What plan?" asked a voice from the window.
Liz jumped and spun around. It was Max, her Max, Max at seventeen, crouching by the window.
"When did you get here?" she asked him.
"Just now. Were you talking to yourself?"
Liz nodded, and then smiled.
"Max. What are you doing here?"
"I figured since you refused to go to the concert with me, I'd bring the concert to you." From behind his back, Max pulled out a CD player.
Liz felt butterflies in her stomach. She knew what was coming. And as much as she had insisted to Max's future self that she didn't want it, now that Max was standing in front of her, she did. She wanted it more than anything.
Liz stepped aside from the window, making room for him.
"Come in," she said.
They crashed through the wall of the Granilith, panting and holding on to each other for dear life. The walls shimmered with the light from the pillar in the middle of the room.
"I won't leave you," Max said.
"This may be our only chance," Liz reminded him, holding tightly to his arms. "You have to do this. You have to try it."
Max pulled her into his arms in a fierce hug.
"I don't want to lose you," he said.
Liz shook her head.
"You won't. You won't ever lose me. What we have… it's beyond time and space and words."
"Thank you," Max said, his hand on her cheek.
There were tears in Liz's eyes.
"For every kiss," he replied. "For every smile."
The tears were falling down Liz's cheeks now.
"I don't have any regrets," she reminded him, stroking back his shoulder- length hair.
The floor shook, and they were both knocked to the ground.
"This is it," said Max.
Liz looked into his eyes.
"I love you forever," she reminded him.
Max gave her one last kiss.
Then he plunged the crystal into the Granilith. It lit up like a Christmas tree, the glow spreading and widening till it filled the whole room. They both stood before the huge glowing pillar, their hands entwined as the world seemed to come crumbling down around them.
There was rumbling and shouting and screaming. Liz buried her head in Max's shoulder and squeezed her eyes shut tight.
A thump at the Granilith door made them both jump. Isabel burst through, brushing dust off her sweeping floor length gown.
"What are you two doing in here?" she demanded. "It's your own victory party, don't you two think you can stop acting like teenagers sneaking off in broom closets long enough for that?"
"It was the eraser room, remember? Not the broom closet. And there was just one more thing Liz and I needed to do."
"It's over now," Liz said, taking a deep breath. "It's really all over."
"What did you do?" Isabel asked.
Max's smile was wide.
"We sent a message home. They deserve to know the war is all over."
"Hurrah," said Isabel sarcastically. "Now can you two get out here? Michael is being an idiot again and I don't know how much more of it I can take before I smack him. Even Maria's having a hard time. Being a war hero really went to his head. "
"Give us a minute?" Max requested.
Isabel rolled her eyes.
"Fine. Whatever. Just don't be too long, ok?" but she left the room.
Max leaned his forehead against Liz's.
"We did it," he said. "We won."
"Yeah," said Liz. She glanced around the Granilith chamber, and then smiled. "Told you my plan would work fine."
Liz shook her head, and leaned up to kiss him.
"Nothing. Let's go."
She linked her hand with Max's, and together they walked out of the chamber, and towards their victory celebration.