With or Without You

Author: Debbie
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Jason Katims and Melinda Metz own everything. I'm just playing.
Feedback: Yes, please. I accept both positive and constructive feedback.

As soon as Max grasped the implications, most of his obsessive anger started to drain away.

He knew he could have lost Liz permanently in the multiple-time-dimension warp, and it made him realize that he would rather see her with Kyle than not see her at all. Even from a distance, even when they were no longer together, she still brought him joy, just by being there. And how had he repaid that joy? By practically stalking her, yelling at her, and demanding explanations. He mentally shook his head. He suddenly understood what he'd been doing and knew that if he kept it up, Liz would disappear permanently from his life, as surely as if she had gotten lost in time.

No matter what she said about Kyle, he still felt an undercurrent, a connection, running between Liz and himself. He remembered the moment in her bedroom: he had tried to take the blame for her missing parents, but she wouldn't let him. She just tried to stay positive and she continued to work side-by-side with him to help the group survive. He felt like they were working as a team again then, and it brought him some peace in the midst of all their troubles.

Max found he couldn't even stay too angry at Kyle, especially not after Kyle took the initiative for saving Liz. Well, ok, Kyle's goal was to save all the humans, but he made a point of telling Max he'd take care of Liz, and that was really all that mattered to Max. Maybe he and Kyle were more alike than they knew.

Still, Max's heart spasmed at the memory of Liz and Kyle in bed together, and he wondered just how well he'd cope with seeing them as a couple around town. He realized it was *much* better to be "just friends" with Liz than to freak her out and scare her away entirely, but it was going to take some effort to learn to smile over his pain.

It was only late afternoon, but Max was exhausted by the day's events. He fell asleep on his bed, letting the breeze from his open window play over him. He dreamed of Liz....

They were walking hand in hand in the woods. It was a beautiful Fall day and the colored leaves drifted down all around them. After exploring the paths and admiring some cabins they found along the way, Max took Liz's hand again and led her down to a protected knoll. There they made love, the bright fallen leaves forming a cushion underneath them. The sun shone down through the thinning branches to warm their skin. As they lay contentedly in each other's arms afterwards, Liz placed her small hand on his chest and turned to whisper his name. "Max ... "

"Max. Max?"

Max opened his eyes to find Liz standing over him. She had one hand on his chest and was shaking him slightly as she called his name, trying to wake him. She must have climbed in through his open window. He sat up, shaking his head to clear the last of the sleep-fog from his brain. He looked again. Nope - he wasn't dreaming now. She was still there, looking at him with an undecipherable expression on her face.

"What are you doing here, Liz?" he asked in confusion.

"I'm sorry I woke you. It's just that I ... after today, I realized that there's something I should have told you a long time ago, and I didn't want to wait any longer. I couldn't live with myself if anything else happened to either of us and you never found out the truth "

"The truth?" he echoed. He hardly dared hope. "The truth about what?"

Her response baffled him. Instead of speaking, she merely held out her hand to him. He looked at her hand, then back at her face, confused again.

Liz looked slightly abashed. "I thought that if you touched me, you might see inside my head. That way you would know what was real, what the truth was. If I told you in words, you might not believe me."

Max didn't argue, although he doubted that would be the case. She was so forthright now, all deception gone. Not like earlier, when he could tell she was hiding something. Silently he took her hand, twining his fingers with hers. Immediately, he saw what she had concealed - an older version of himself begging Liz to push him away, her reasons for her harsh words, and her desperate decision to create the fake scene with Kyle.

Coming back to himself, Max could only gaze at Liz in astonishment. Of all the explanations he had come up with, none of them had come close to the truth. He didn't know where to start. "What ...? How ...? How did I come back from the fut-"

Liz silenced him by placing a finger to his lips. "I don't really know. It's not important right now. All that's important is that we stay together. All of us. Together we can do anything." Her composure suddenly deserted her and tears filled her eyes. "Oh, Max. I missed you so much. It's been awful trying to keep away from you. Can you ever forgive me for what I did? I swear I didn't mean any of those horrible things I said before. I love you. I really do."

Max had the sudden urge to share his dream with her, but he thought it might be a bit premature. He'd had enough of overreacting lately. This time he would be more careful and not take Liz for granted. Who knew what their enemies would throw at them next? He should just treasure every day he got to spend with her. Instead, he simply gathered Liz into his arms and replied, "I love you too."


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