HOW IT SHOULD HAVE ENDED

Maria looked up and saw Liz coming through the Crashdown doors. "Oh, God, here we go!" she thought. "There sits Max with Tess. I hope he heard me when I said ,'Tell her, Max.Tell her today.' I've never seen two more miserable, confused people."

Liz walked into the cafe, looked for Maria, saw Tess sitting across from...Max !!! "God, I hate her. I hate what she's done," she cried to herself as she strode purposefully past their booth, her eyes averted. She felt like a vice was clamped to her heart. "This has to stop," she thought. "I can't keep this pretense up much longer. I love him so much. I feel like I'm drying up and breaking apart inside."

She made it past the booth and was almost to Maria when she felt him grab her arm. She turned. She couldn't help herself, even though she knew that looking in his eyes was dangerous. In his eyes, she could see a mirror of what she was feeling, thinking, trying to hide. She kept her eyes away...away from those golden liquid ones that she loved.

"I've gotta talk to you," Max spoke.

She said the first thing that came into her head. "Max, I need to talk to Maria."

He held her with his voice. "You've gotta hear this." She couldn't move. She was so unsure.

"Maria tried to explain about you and Tess the other night, okay? But I....." she started but he wouldn't let her escape.

"This isn't about Tess. This is about you and me. You think I'm gonna forget about you and get over it or something. But I'm not ! I don't care about my destiny or my planet or anything else," he spoke in sure and careful voice.

She raised her eyes and she was lost. His eyes caught hers and all she could do was try to breathe.

"All I care about is you. So, just know this - I'm coming for you, Liz!" he said in a very gentle yet no nonsense way. His eyes spoke to her. She couldn't look away. He held her gaze for a moment, then turned and walked away.

She stood very still. If she moved, the spell would be broken. Maria came up and said something about a 'real man' or something. Liz didn't hear. In a daze, she stumbled through the kitchen door.

Max walked back to the table and sat down by Isabel. He could feel three pairs of eyes watching him. He knew they didn't approve but he actually didn't give a damn anymore. This was more than he could take. He was at his limits with the Skins, the Brody mess, and Michael acting like a jackass. He was supposed to lead them...where? How? To what? And he knew that he couldn't do this without Liz. She cleared his mind. She lent him her strength. She was his heart. He had to make her see this. He had to have Liz !!

A voice interrupted his thoughts. "You realize our problems aren't over, don't you Max?" Tess whined. Suddenly, he was sick to death of her.....her whining, her touching him, just all the whole "destiny" crap. He didn't remember her. He didn't remember another life. And he didn't want to. He wanted this life....with Liz. That's all he'd ever wanted.

"Shut up,Tess," he growled. "Once and for all, I don't love you. I'll never love you. Don't ever touch me again. Don't ever insinuate in any way that we belong together. I only want Liz. She belongs with me and she belongs to me. I love her. Do you understand? If I'm the leader, then...Hell... I command you to SHUT UP !!" He felt silly saying that last part but when he looked at the three faces watching him, he saw that they all understood. That they finally understood.

He got up slowly, looked up and saw Maria listening. She grinned, gave him a 'thumbs up' and he had to hide a smile. He turned and left the Crashdown.

************************* That night, Liz couldn't sleep. She had wanted to turn around and go to him, love his neck and tell him she loved him and she understood. It had taken all her willpower not to go back through that door. She had peeked out the little window in the door and seen Max talking to the others. Then he got up and walked out. Maria had run in to repeat 'word for word' what he had said to the others.

"Girl, you've gotta make the next move. He has laid the cards on the table. Are you gonna pick 'um up?" she asked.

Liz had wanted to find him...to get it out but she suddenly felt shy. Shy with Max? That was ridiculous, but there it was. She didn't know what to say, what to do. So she tossed and turned, no longer pretending to sleep. Finally, she jerked back the sheet, opened the window and crawled out onto the balcony. A breeze was blowing, moving her hair, reminding her of the time Max had been here, telling her that he had to touch her hair 'cause it was so soft. She felt such an ache...such a longing for him...for his voice..for his body...for Max! Tears fell and she didn't even bother to wipe them away. Just let them fall..........

. "Liz," he called softly. "Liz?"

She ran over to the ledge and looked down to see him, as she had seen him so many times before, looking up at her with those hungry eyes.

"Hey...Max," she whispered.

"Hey. Can I come up?" he asked as he had asked before.

"Yeah, sure." She tried to quiet her heart but she knew he could probably hear it all the way down in the street. She watched him climb quickly up the fire escape and leap over the ledge. It always amazed her just how strong he was.

He landed with a soft thud and moved over to her. "I just...I just wanted to see how you were. I couldn't sleep and now I see that you couldn't either," he said gently, his eyes asking why she couldn't sleep.

It was up to her now. Liz knew what needed to be said. She just had to find the right words...the words to make him understand. "Max, I was thinking about what you said to me today at the Crashdown. Did you mean it? All you care about is me? Tell me truth, Max. I need to hear it again," she asked quietly.

Max took a deep breath, slid his fingers into her beautiful hair and felt his heart begin to pound. "Liz, I didn't ask for any of this. You know that. I just want to be in love with you. I don't want any of the rest. I want you, Liz......only you, for always."

She looked up at him and he saw the tears in her eyes. He wiped them away with his thumb. "Don't ever cry over me," he whispered. "I would never hurt you. I only want to love you."

"Max, I walked away to let you find what was important to you. I didn't want you to be torn between your destiny and your love for me. I know you love me...I love you too. More than you'll ever know. I can't pretend that I don't. While I was in Florida, I kept a journal. I wrote in it every day, all my thoughts and all my dreams. I want you to read it, Max. And then tell me what you want after you do," she said gently. She turned away and reached for a little black book that was lying on a table. She handed it to him, lit some of the candles and waited. He sat down on the floor and began to read.

He read the journal from cover to cover. He never looked up. He never stopped reading. When he came to the last page, He lifted his eyes, those beautiful eyes and she saw the tears. He held out his arms and she fell into them.

It was her turn to wipe away the tears. He just sat, holding her close, listening to her heart beat against his. The words weren't as important as what lay between the lines. He knew what it meant to feel loved, to feel cherished. He had never thought anyone would feel this way about him.......but Liz did. His Liz...the love he wanted and the love he now knew he had. Their worlds might collide, but they would be together.

"Liz, don't ever leave me. Don't ever walk away again. I couldn't behr it. I have to be strong for whatever the hell this is that is coming, but I need you beside me. Promise me you'll never doubt us again," he pleaded.

She let all her love shine through her eyes. "Max, I think we've tortured each other long enough. I never stopped loving you. I never will." She reached up and gently took his wonderful face in her hands, leaned in and kissed him, caressing his lips and feeling the warmth of his skin. Her Max.........she had missed him so much. She had him back and she'd never let him go again.

And, for just a moment, the world stopped, the stars twinkled innocently, and there was just love, shining in their eyes.