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Conclusion

Reply to Calla

Posted to the RoswellSlash mailing list April 14, 2002

TITLE: Conclusion
AUTHOR: Calla
E-MAIL: calla_s@hotmail.com
ARCHIVE: Yes, to list archive
PAIRING: Max/Michael
RATING: R
SPOILERS: Departure
SUMMARY: Post-Departure angst. "You nearly left, today".
NOTES: Australian spelling.
DISCLAIMER: None of these characters belong to me. Written for love, not profit.
FEEDBACK: Praise and/or critical feedback very welcome.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Girlie Jones, for utterly invaluable help.



        "How's Liz?", Michael asked, from the window sill.

        Max started - maybe Michael had climbed in more quietly than usual, or maybe he'd just been engrossed in whatever he was doing at his desk. Or maybe it was the question. Michael doubted that, though. Max should have been expecting it.

        "Uh, fine", said Max after a pause, with that tone of which-planet-are-you-from-again? that he seemed to use so often with Michael.

        "Good", said Michael, swinging his legs down to the floor. "Nice that you've been able to patch things up so quickly". Blandly, not sarcastically. He didn't want everything to go to hell just yet.

        "Yes", said Max, a bit abruptly, turning his chair completely to face Michael. "What's up?"

        "Oh, I don't know, Max", and now there was definitely an edge of sarcasm creeping into his voice. "We just, nearly ended up on different planets today, so I thought..."

        "Okay! I just thought... never mind". Max looked resigned, as if he'd been trapped somehow by Michael's deviousness.

        Michael lounged across the foot of Max's bed. One point to him. "So. What did Tess say?"

        Max definitely sighed. He seemed to crumple in a bit, and Michael noticed for the first time how tired he looked. When he spoke, his voice was flat. "She'd made a deal with Kivar. She was going to return home and deliver us to him".

        Michael raised his eyebrows, tilted his head. "Alex?"

        "She killed him. She didn't want me to find out what she'd done... that she'd used him to decipher the book. She said... it was an accident".

        Michael noticed the faint hesitation and asked, "Are you defending her, Maxwell?" A little more edge to his voice now.

        Max shot to his feet. "No! What's got you... what's going on, Michael?"

        Michael stood too, and walked the few steps right up to Max. "I don't know. What should be going on?"

        "Michael!", and Michael could see that he was getting there - under Max's skin, under his cold facade.

        Michael leaned forward a little, and now there was barely any space between them. "You nearly *left*, today, Max", he said quietly, cuttingly.

        "I did? You left us!" Max was really getting angry now, his breath coming quickly and his face hardening.

        Michael cut in. "Goodbye, Michael, I love you", he said mockingly. "By the way". The last words scornful, vicious. They seemed to hang, thick, in the air.

        Max shoved him backwards. "I *let* you go! That's what you wanted. You said your home was here! You left *me*".

        Michael took a step back; put out his hand as Max came forward. "You left years ago", Michael said. Max stopped, Michael's hand resting on his chest. Michael continued, "You never wanted me... needed me. And you proved that today, didn't you?"

        "What is this? That was some kind of... a test?" Michael saw Max's fists clench at his sides.

        "No! *I* told the truth. I belong here, not there. What were we going back to? Kivar? We already knew that, didn't we? What did you *think*?"

        "I do need you! I told you the truth. I *said* that I love you, Michael. What on earth could I..."

        Michael was getting angry himself now, as he'd known he would. "Yes, you did. And that was the truth, wasn't it? Well I lied to you, Max. I lied *for* you with my last words!" He realised that he had the front of Max's t-shirt clenched in his fist, and leaned in dangerously close to Max's face. He said more softly, "You're *not* a great brother, Max. You never were".

        Max grabbed Michael's upper arms, but didn't move to push him again. Not yet. "What?"

        Michael was merciless. "I told you what you wanted to hear. I did it for *you*. Like I do everything".

        "Like when you left us?", Max said, and it wasn't a question.

        "Yes! You made your decision. You chose Tess".

        "You chose Maria!"

        "You didn't leave me much choice!"

        Max's grip on Michael's arms tightened. "So what's all this about then? You came here to tell me that you don't give a damn?"

        Michael felt surprised in spite of himself; frustrated past the point of words. He didn't know what else to do but close the space between them, and press his lips against Max's. His free hand slid around the back of Max's neck, holding Max to him.

        He let go after a moment, pulled away from Max, and hissed, "That's what this is".

        At the look on Max's face he felt his temporary advantage wither. Max's eyes were so damn gentle, so pitying.

        So he hit Max, in the face. Desperate, he pulled out all the stops. "You decide, because of *Tess*, that suddenly we're going home. To our enemies. You blackmail Isabel into staying with you. You swap between Liz and Tess as it suits you..."

        Michael watched his words travel the short distance between them; saw Max's face, reddened from the blow, close and tighten. Max moved forward, grabbed Michael's arms again, and kissed him. Like the first kiss, this one was one-sided. Maybe Max was trying to be gentle, but Michael bit Max's tongue and twisted his own head to the side.

        "*No* fucking *way*, Max", he said, breathing hard. He tried to pull his arms free from Max's grasp but Max was holding on tightly. "You don't do this, Maxwell. Don't you..."

        "I know what's going on. You feel like you're not wanted..."

        "What do *you* know?"

        But Max continued, "You've always been that way - pretending not to need anyone..."

        "You *don't* know, Max. You don't know me! I've never let you. Well you know what?" Max's grip loosened and Michael jerked free. "I let Maria in. I let her see inside me; see things that *no-one's* ever seen before." Michael felt as though he was getting back some control over the situation. "And she didn't judge me, like you would have done."

        Max shut his eyes briefly. "Michael, I... Let me in".

        If Michael didn't know better, he'd almost believe from the sound of his voice that Max *cared*. He wasn't going to give in to that again. "No. No. No way are you going to do this because I..."

        "Because you want to".

        Michael sighed. He couldn't have expected to keep it a secret forever. "Yes! Fine. I want you, okay? Like everyone does, like we're all supposed to. Okay, so now you know".

        "Michael, I never, I didn't know, I..."

        "And yeah, that's why I was so pissed off at you... *Am* so pissed off at you."

        "I do love you, Michael", Max said, gently. He leaned forward and touched his lips to Michael's cheek. There was a pause, during which Michael felt everything tight inside him begin to shatter, then Max's lips brushed his own.

        Max drew back slightly, touched Michael's cheek carefully with his fingertips, and kissed him again. This time Michael felt it like an onslaught - the weight of Max's mind pressing against his. It was horrifying, terrifying, everything he didn't want with most of his soul.

        Most of his heart. Some part of him longed for closeness though, and weakened him. It weakened him now, letting the tendrils of Max's mind slither insidiously into Michael's own.

        There were memories of Max... of Max and him. A moment, a long drawn-out instant later and there were other images, ones that couldn't be from his own mind, that had to be from Max. The reality of what they were doing struck Michael, and he jerked back. "No, Max, you don't..."

        But Max moved in again, relentless as a sunrise, and Michael knew this Max, who'd made a decision and wasn't going to back down. He hurt Michael so much, but he didn't mean to. Michael closed his eyes and let Max in.

        There was an explosion of images, each pressing into his brain to be recovered later, even as he felt Max's body solid against him. They flicked past his eyelids, each one unbearable in its intensity. He thought that their rapid procession was the only thing saving him, even as it felt close to driving him mad.

        He felt Max's hands slide up his back.

        Michael thought for a moment of his own inner landscape, of what images Max must be dragging out from inside him. Then he closed down those thoughts savagely, determined not to give more away to Max than he had to.

        Even if it meant concentrating on Max; seeing inside Max's mind.

        He didn't just see the images, he felt how important they all were to Max. Isabel, himself, Liz. Both the love Max felt and the responsibility, intertwined. It was all so *much* that Michael felt his own heart, exposed, breaking under the weight. Someone else's burden; just a glimpse. But it wasn't *someone*, it was Max.

        He realised he was lying down. They both were.

        It was the second time in less than 24 hours; the second time in all of his life. It wasn't anything like opening up to Maria had been. That time he'd let his barriers collapse, let the images flow out - creeping at first, as if they had forgotten how over the years, and then coming faster, jerkier, until he'd almost been retching with it. It had been goodbye. He'd thought he'd never see her again.

        But then she'd been there, in his head, and he'd opened his eyes and she'd been there in front of him. And, unbelievably, kissed him. The look in her eyes...

        This time he could hardly feel anything leaving - all his attention was on the images shoving their way to the front of his eyes, one after the other. Max's arm was around him, Max's weight half on top of him. He saw himself, through Max's eyes, shouting. He saw himself walk away.

        Max's mouth was hot against his throat, and he shuddered - revulsion mixed with desire. He'd thought, sometimes, that he hated Max, but knew that wasn't really true. Max was the wrong target.

        His defences were down, now, curled around the touch of Max's hands on his skin, Max's lips on his neck... on his jaw. He shivered with the sensations. How could he maintain his walls in the face of this? Max had him. Had all of him, and there was nothing left. The centre of his soul, that had remained unviolated for all these years...

        It was just this once. How could he say no to it?

        How could he live afterwards? Seeing him with her. Being with Maria, who loved him... He thought that maybe he loved her too.

        The worst part wasn't Max's body, his hands claiming him; it was Max's mind, taking the things that were his. His legs tangled with Max's, and their bodies pressed together, and he knew that he was weak.

        It was some kind of perversion of the devotion he'd been programmed to feel for Max.

        He was *letting* Max see his weaknesses - Max, who'd always been so quick to assume weakness of him anyway. He'd already *told* Max, but for Max to have proof - how would he use this the next time they fought? And they would fight; nothing could stop that. This certainly wouldn't.

        Max was there like light shining into all the corners of his mind, exposing things he himself didn't want to see. There were things that Maria didn't know about him. And Max... Max knew where to look.

        There were sobs clutching at him, but he couldn't show it... not to Max of all people. Not to anyone. He held them back, feeling choked. It was as if he couldn't breathe. His heart so full of everything.

        Loneliness. Family.

        Michael concentrated on the physical world. It hurt less.

        Max's t-shirt was gone, and he threw himself against Max's skin. It was smooth, and human-warm. Michael closed his teeth on the skin just to feel that it was real, just to feel Max's shudder. He raised his head to meet Max's mouth again, desperate. Like he was burning away.

        His own darkness exposed, evaporating. He felt Max jerk; heard a soft gasp. Waited - tense - for Max to hit him. But Max's arms held him more tightly. He felt the tears burning at his eyes and turned his face away, holding himself together with thin brittle threads of self-control.

        Max wouldn't be content until he'd dragged all of Michael out into the light. Max's light. He felt as if he stood unshielded in the blistering presence of royalty - his king.

        Max thought he could *help*.

        Conflicted with himself, he let Max unbutton his shirt. Max's palms slid over his skin as if they belonged there. The most terrible lie.

        "You're valuable to me, Michael", Max said into his ear. "I wish I could make you see that".

        His Second. His soldier. His brother. Michael despised himself for wanting more. "I know."

        He opened his eyes and saw Max's eyes flickering over his face. He forced himself to speak again. "I know". The words came out steadily. He could do this.

        He could barely feel the pain any more.

        He closed his eyes, and did what Max wanted. Michael hated his own body, hated his mind, hated his DNA.

        Max said, "I love you, Michael". But Max's voice was high and tight, and Michael knew that Max was still angry.

        He felt the air shimmer across his over-sensitive skin. Felt Max's skin, incendiary against his own. He opened his eyes and saw Max - breathless underneath him - and shivered at the sight.

        Stars exploded in his head, and were gone forever. There was just darkness, now, inside Michael's mind.

        And Max was there. He was there too, in Max's mind. He wasn't the only one, but he was there.

        He let Max stroke his hair, and pretended that everything was all right.

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