Part 67

"I won't leave you!"

Liz heard the desperation in Max's words. She shook her head. "No, no, no. Max, you have to."

His eyes glittered slightly, as he stared down at her, his hands clutching her upper arms firmly. "If I'm successful, if I can do this, you and I won't exist. Not as we do now."

"Max, if you don't do this, we're going to die." She didn't stop to reflect on the fact that she was going to die either way. It was too late to stop that now. "Everyone will. Max, you have to do this. You have to try it."

There was a long pause. Their eyes met, sending a shiver down Liz's spine, just as their staring contests always had. God! How could this have happened to them?

"I'll never see you again," he said softly, her own pain reflected in his every word. And, so, his next words surprised her. "Thank you."

"For what?" Liz asked, struggling against her own tears.

"For every kiss, every smile…" he trailed off sadly.

"Max, I don't have any regrets," she said firmly. And she didn't. Not as they shared one last, desperate kiss. Not as she watched him disappear out of her life forever, sucked up into the granolith's cone. Not as she called after Max one last time, willing him to succeed.

Not as she fell to her knees, waiting for him to arrive.

The ground shook beneath her. She started to shiver, but she kept her gaze focused on the spot where Max had last been. She knew it was going to be bad. But if she kept Max in mind - if she remembered that he would not fail her - she knew that this would not be the end. It would be an ending, but not their final one.

She would see Max again. Not in this life, but in a better one.

And, so, when he came into the pod chamber moments later, pulling his gloves off one at a time, then slapping them against his hands, Liz was ready for him.

"Will." She acknowledged him quietly, climbing to her feet.

Will stared at her, his gaze piercing down to her toes. For one long moment, she allowed herself to remember what he had been like as a boy, when she had first met him. But it did not last. It could not. The boy she remembered was completely gone.

"Khivar," Will snapped eventually. "My name is Khivar."

"No, it's not," Liz said softly. "Kate didn't call you Khivar. Jack didn't."

Will didn't respond to this. He didn't even flinch. He merely advanced on her. Liz took one step back, but then stopped. She wasn't afraid. Not anymore. He had done his worst. He had earned his final revenge. But it would not be forever. Max would fix this.

"Where is he?" Will growled, no affection left in those blue depths for her. Not any more.

"Gone," she replied simply. "He isn't coming back."

"He deserted you in your most desperate hour, did he?" Will said, sounding smug. "And it's for this coward that you allowed me to destroy an entire planet, Rowena?"

Liz said nothing. She just watched him, which seemed to unsettle him.

"What?" he yelled, his blue eyes blazing. "What? Are you trying to make me feel guilty, Rowena? Are you trying to pretend that this isn't all your fault?"

"I'm not trying to do anything," Liz told him. "I'm just waiting for you to put me out of my misery."

He frowned slightly, advancing on her again. "Do you really think it would be as simple as that, Ro? That I would just kill you, and be done with it? You will not die this day."

Liz closed her eyes briefly, sighing. She had hoped, but she had hoped in vain. Will was completely gone, completely eaten up by his bitterness. She had known, but she had not accepted it until this moment. He was going to keep her alive, to torture her. She could bear it, for a little while. She could bear anything for a little while, as long as she knew that she and Max would eventually be together.

When he changed things, he would come for her. He would save them all.

He tried once before, a small voice in the back of her mind taunted her. He tried once before, and it didn't work.

Liz quashed the voice ruthlessly. She would not give up on Max. She could not let go of her hope completely, or she would never survive this.

"You are mine," Will was saying. "You have always been mine, and you will always be." He was now so close to her, she had to lean her head back to see his face. She didn't protest when he reached a hand out to touch her face.

"What did you do to your hair?" he asked inanely. "I hate it. You will let it grow back."

Again, she said nothing, merely glared at him.

"You'll learn to appreciate me," he said. "When we go back to Antar, and we claim what is rightfully ours, you will forget all about him."

"I will never forget," Liz said. She barely refrained from spitting in his face. "I will never forget. You'd be best to just kill me now."

"You will," Will assured her. "You will."

"I won't," Liz replied firmly.

Will grabbed her by the arms, pulling her against him. "You will!" he yelled. "I will make you." With that, he crushed his lips down on hers. Liz was tempted to bite him, but, instead, she chose to do the one thing that would entirely make him lose control.

She was ready to go now. She knew it. She could not wait for Max. She was so tired. It was time to end this life, and trust in the one that Max was rebuilding for them.

"Max…" she whispered against Will's lips. "Max!"

It was enough. She felt the red hot rage streak through him, knew that she had pushed him just far enough. She felt his intention pierce through her. He was going to break her neck…

Max! she sighed again, to herself, wanting her beloved on her mind when she died.

The world was extinguished before she took her next breath.

One moment Kate was standing nervously waiting for Liz to return with Will, trying not to look at Max pace, and ignoring the constant bickering between Isabel, Tess, and Michael. The next everything went blurry. She found herself staring at a silver wall that had not been in front of her before. The silence was deafening.

What had happened?

Blinking, Kate realized abruptly that she was back in the granolith chamber where they had started their adventure. Which meant that they were back on Earth. Which meant that Liz must have managed to get through to Will somehow.

She felt the return of the dull ache for her brother. He must have finally given up on any idea of a future with Liz, but Kate knew that it would not be easy for him to adjust. The entire center of his being had shifted. It would take time - and support from her - for him to be able to get over it.

However, in spite of this, Kate's relief was great. Finally they could move on. Finally they knew who they had been, and who they were meant to be now. Finally they knew their destiny, which was to simply live the new lives with which they had been gifted.

They all had a second chance. Kate didn't plan to waste one moment of hers.

For the first time since she had learned about how she had died, she felt a pang of hope. They were back on Earth. None of them needed to go back to Antar. Maybe…

Alex. His face flashed in front of her. She felt as though she could reach out and touch him. Because, suddenly, soon she'd again be able to.

Kate closed her eyes, the thought of Isabel passing through her mind. What had she done? She'd basically told the other girl that she had given up any claim to Alex! What had she been thinking?

"Don't you think you should both let Alex decide what's best for him?"

Michael's comment from within the granolith fluttered through her memory. Kate bit her lip, turning her head slightly, taking in Isabel, who stood next to her. The tall blonde's forehead was resting lightly against the silver wall in front of her, as she attempted to get her bearings.

"Isabel," Kate said softly.

Isabel turned her head, opening her eyes and meeting Kate's gaze. "What happened?" she asked, her expression dazed.

"We're back," Kate replied.

"Oh," Isabel said blankly.

"I just wanted to say, before we…." Kate trailed off uncertainly.

Isabel's face cleared rapidly. "Alex," she said.

"I never expected to be back here," Kate admitted. "I thought…I guess I was wrong about what it meant that I saw you all as aliens."

"I guess so," Isabel replied, her tone flat.

They stared at each other silently for a long moment.

"Michael was right," Kate finally said.

Isabel raised an eyebrow warily, waiting for her to continue.

"We'll let him decide," Kate clarified.

Isabel's gaze dropped. "He already has," she whispered. With that, she turned away. All thoughts of Alex fled Kate's mind when Isabel exclaimed abruptly, "Liz!"

Kate snapped to attention. She glanced around the room. Everyone was stirring, attempting to understand what had happened to them. They were all standing, leaning against the various walls where their hand-prints could be found. All but Liz. The small dark-haired girl was seated on the floor, her legs up at her chest, her face buried in her knees. She was rocking back and forth, keening.

"Oh my God! Liz!" Max was suddenly on his knees at her side. His hands were everywhere at once, as he tried to determine what was wrong with his girlfriend. "Liz!"

"What's wrong with her?"

Kate's head whipped around at the sound of the voice.

Alex was standing on one of the stairs leading up to the pod chamber. Kate felt her heart start to thunder in her chest at the sight of him. She barely noticed Maria and Kyle huddled behind him, or the sheriff and Serena on the step below them.

However, Alex didn't look at Kate at all, all his attention focused on Liz.

"Max! What happened in there?" Alex demanded, his tone angry.

Max ignored him, pulling Liz gently into his arms. He lifted her against his chest, carrying her past the others on the stairs. Everyone followed closely behind, with the exception of Will. For the first time, Kate looked at her brother. He was standing near his hand-print, his eyes wide with horror.

"Will?" Kate asked. "Will, what happened?"

"It's my fault," Will said dully. "I did that to her."

"What?" Kate demanded, rushing at him. She reached up, grabbing his face between her hands, and forcing him to meet her eyes. "Will, what did you do?"

"I showed her the end of the world," he replied. "I did that, Katie. She saw what's going to happen, fourteen years from now. She saw what I am. I saw what I am."

"What are you talking about?" Kate exclaimed, fear streaking down her spine.

"I killed her, Kate. I killed her."

With that, Will crumpled to the floor, his head in his hands, and started to cry.

"Liz! Liz, please!" Max was desperate. He had carried Liz right out onto the cliff outside the pod chamber. For some reason he thought that the fresh air of Earth might snap her out of whatever was wrong with her.

It wasn't working though. Although she had stopped making noise, the silence that accompanied her trembling was even more disturbing than the pained cries had been.

All Max could do was sit down, still holding Liz in his arms. He held her as tightly as he could, stroking her hair, her back, any part of her he could reach. "It's all right," he whispered soothingly. "I'm here. Liz, it's going to be all right."

"Max, what's wrong with her?" Max turned his head, meeting Maria and Alex's concerned faces. He was surprised to see them. He hadn't been aware that anyone had followed him and Liz out, having been entirely focused on his girlfriend.

"I don't know," Max admitted. "She went to try to convince Will to let us come back and…"

He never got a chance to finish. Alex interrupted fiercely, "Will did this?"

The next thing Max knew, Alex had turned on his heel, storming back into the pod chamber.

"Uh oh," Maria said, hurrying after him.

All Max could do was watch them go. He had no intention of leaving Liz, whatever Alex intended to do to Will. And whatever it was Alex intended to do, Max intended to do anyway, later on, if necessary.

Because Max was still stewing about wanting to rip Will apart with his bare hands, he jumped slightly when he heard Liz's voice. "Max, you have to stop him."

"Liz?" Max pulled back slightly, pushing her long, dark hair off her face. "Liz!"

Liz met his gaze, the terror she had been lost in still lurking in the depths of her beautiful brown eyes. "Max, he needs to be stopped."

"Who?" Max asked, not understanding. "Will? He will be, Liz. Whatever he did to you, he's going to pay for it."

"No!" Liz exclaimed, frustrated. "Not Will! Alex. It's not Will's fault. He didn't do anything to me. Not really." She pulled away from him, climbing unsteadily to her feet.

Max jumped to his own feet, holding her gently by the upper arms. "Liz, be careful!"

"You don't understand," Liz said, pulling away again. "No one does."

"Understand what?" Max demanded, grabbing Liz by the hand and stopping her. "Liz, please just tell me what's going on."

"I have to go in there," Liz insisted. "Max, he needs me."

Max couldn't help it. He felt a flash of jealousy, so hot and so sudden, it momentarily made him see red. "Will? Will needs you? After what he did to you? Liz, you were practically catatonic two minutes ago because of him!"

Liz scowled at him. "Max, do you trust me?"

"Of course," Max snapped. "But that's not the issue."

"It is the issue," Liz replied firmly. "I promise that this will all make sense soon, but you need to let me do this. And it has to be now." Max continued to frown, but he felt himself calming down. After all, he did trust Liz, and he didn't want her to think otherwise. It wasn't like he could forbid her from going to talk to Will anyway - nor did he ever want to forbid her to do anything. He did trust her, and, in the end, it was all that mattered.

He sighed heavily. "Fine," he finally said, shaking his head. "I don't like it, though."

Liz smiled slightly. Max stared at her, disbelieving that this was the same person he had brought outside moments before. But, then, it wasn't that big a surprise. This was Liz, and someone she cared about needed her. Her own concerns had always been secondary whenever that was the case.

"You don't have to like it," she replied, reaching up to kiss him lightly on the lips. "The fact that you're doing it anyway is why I love you."

With those reassuring words ringing in his ears, Max followed Liz back into the pod chamber.