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Looking Back

Reply to Calla

Posted to the RoswellSlash mailing list March 3, 2002

TITLE: Looking Back
ARCHIVE: Yes, to list archive
PAIRING: Max/Michael
SPOILERS: Up to and including Destiny
SUMMARY: Michael, Max, angst. They've been fighting more, lately. Possibly classifiable as a Romance. Bear in mind I don't require a happy ending. Set in early Season 2.
NOTES: The beginning was inspired by Angel's "I'm sorry" speech to Lindsey in "Dead End". Australian spelling used throughout. My first post.
DISCLAIMER: None of these characters belong to me. Written for love, not profit.
FEEDBACK: Any and all feedback is very welcome.
DEDICATION/ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Unlimited thanks to Girlie Jones.

        "I'm sorry you're in love with Liz. I'm sorry she doesn't want to be with you. I'm sorry I'm with Maria. I'm sorry I'm supposed to be with Isabel. I'm sorry I disobey you. I'm sorry I make you hit me!"

        Max shouted, "Only once!", then snapped his mouth shut, ashamed. He looked away from Michael's face, bowing his head and closing his eyes, despising his anger.

        The room was silent for a long moment, then he felt Michael move. He felt breath on his ear, and Michael's voice, bitter-soft in the darkness behind his eyelids. "D'you think it was like this before, too?"

        He opens his eyes when Michael's gone.

        Michael used to come to him when things went wrong. He wonders where Michael goes when *he's* the problem. Michael seems coldly furious, and Max no longer knows how to deal with him. He wonders when everything changed so much.

* * *

        The next night Michael comes back, and starts immediately, "Were we like this then?" It feels as if they never stopped.

        He steps closer to Max, and keeps walking forward as Max backs away. "Do you remember? I don't".

        Max doesn't want to look into Michael's eyes, but can't seem to look away. His mind whispers at him; words just like the ones Michael is saying. "Why did I put up with it - what kind of 'great leader' were you? Did I love you then?" His knees hit the bed and he falls backwards, Michael's weight landing on top of him. "Were we like *this*, then?" There's so much anger in his eyes.

        Max wants to push Michael off him; thinks he probably could. "You're... we're *not*..." he says weakly.

        "Don't lie to yourself, Max. I'm not Isabel's brother. I'm not *your* brother. I never was!"

        "So that makes it okay? It's..."

        Michael's smile is triumphant, vicious. "You *do* feel it! You feel it too!"

        "I..." He struggles to deny it, then gives up. He supposes it's out in the open, now.

        "What am I, Maxwell? What am I to you?"

        Max shakes his head from side to side, feeling trapped, helpless, unable to speak.

        "Do you think the folks back home knew about us? The message didn't say".

        Max's mind finally registers something Michael has said. "Do you love me now?"

        Michael says, "You don't deserve it".

        Max feels a sudden burst of anger; grabs Michael's shoulder and shoves him sideways. Michael rolls, pulling Max with him, and they fall to the floor together. All the while Max is shouting, "What do *you* know, Michael? You don't know who I was! I don't know who I was! Stop passing judgement over me for every little mistake I make. Stop telling me what I do or don't *deserve*! Love me or don't love me, I don't care!"

        Michael is suddenly still beneath him. "No. You wouldn't", he says, quietly and vehemently. Max feels the words like a slap, and is shocked into silence.

        That's how they are when Isabel bursts into the room; Max kneeling over Michael and gripping the front of his shirt. She takes in the scene, watching as Max lets go and they both stand up. "What are you two fighting about?"

        Michael says, "The way Max always orders me - us - about".

        It's close enough to the truth.

        "I lead!", Max protests. "I'm meant to be the leader".

        "You just got done saying how you don't know who you used to be!"

        "Someone has to take charge! If I didn't where would we be?" Max is aware that they're starting right back into the argument, and he knows that they shouldn't do this in front of Isabel, but he can't seem to stop himself. Michael knows him too well; knows exactly how to get under his skin.

        "Maybe we'd be someplace better?", Michael retorts.

        "We talk about things, among the three of us, the six, seven of us. We all agree on the best thing to do!"

        "*That's* your problem, Max. That's it right there! We don't agree. We never agree". Michael is back in his face again, with Isabel trying in vain to pull them apart. "We. Don't. Discuss. Things. You tell us what to do! And you don't even notice! You don't care enough about us to even notice!" Michael shoves Max backwards as Max pushes Isabel away. Max hits the wall and slides down, watching stunned as Michael leaves, slamming the door behind him. He feels Isabel's arms wrap around him as he crouches on the floor, and becomes dimly aware of her voice, gentle in his ear. He tries to listen, but most of him is focused on clenching his eyes shut, keeping the tears back. He can't break down, not ever; he's supposed to be strong.

        He feels the words spilling out of him, repeating over and over, "I didn't realise, I didn't know...", willing her to believe him. Already he can't remember if it's true or not.

        He realises that if he didn't know that he was pushing them, then he's guilty of Michael's accusations, but it's so much worse if he had known and done it anyway. He's scared of who he becomes sometimes, when he takes charge and everything suddenly becomes so easy, so natural. Would *that* Max have cared what he was doing to them? Or was it more important to lead and make sure they followed no matter what? Maybe it should be; after all he's *not* just some teenager from Roswell, New Mexico.

        "Max", Isabel's saying. "Max, tell me what happened".

        He continues his last thought out loud, "How can I feel completely like I'm one person, and actually be someone different?"

        He feels Isabel's hair brush his face as she shakes her head. "I don't know, Max. I don't know".

        "I've just been this kid, all my life. My whole life, Isabel! It's everything I remember". He looks up into her face. She watches him, looking concerned, inches away from him. "If I was someone else, if I *did* something else..."

        "I know", she says, closing her eyes and resting her forehead on his.

        After a while she sits up, still holding him, and says carefully, "Max, please tell me why you were fighting". She pauses, and he doesn't reply. "You and Michael... you've been fighting a lot more, lately".

        "Yes", he says, "I know". He sort of understands why, now, and though he can't tell her that he needs to give her some explanation. "I think... I think he thinks I'm using him, that I only care about myself". He looks right at her. "I know it seems like that sometimes". He puts a finger across her lips as she starts to protest. "I know it does".

        He lets his hand drop away, and she says, "You've got so much to worry about... so much responsibility. I know that. Michael knows it too".

        "It's just", he sighs, and suddenly feels like crying again. "I don't know how to do it right. I want to, Isabel! I do. I... Michael gets mad at me when I take charge, but everyone always looks to *me* and expects me to have all the answers, even when I just don't *know*..." He stops because Isabel is shaking her head.

        "It's Tess", she says. It's all she needs to say, because at those words the world seems to contract in on him sickeningly, and he realises that she's right - it was always only Tess who did that. He's been wrong all this time about what Michael and Isabel want from him.

        "Why didn't you say something?" He feels like screaming, like pushing her away, but all his energy's gone, leaving him weak, and his heart isn't really in it.

        She shrugs awkwardly, with her arms still around him. "Tess thinks it's how things are meant to be".


        "It's okay. It'll be okay".

        He knows that she has to believe that. He wants to believe it too.

* * *

        He finds Michael's front door unlocked, and Michael sitting on the couch in the dark.

        "I'm sorry I hit you", he says.

        "Thank you", says Michael, not looking at him.

        "I'm going to try to listen to all of you more".


        "Michael", he says. Michael still won't look up. "I did notice", he confesses. Now Michael does look at him, but Max can't make out his expression.

        "What did you notice?" His voice is flat.

        "I think I knew... what you felt, and maybe what I felt as well. I knew I was hurting you. I just, I didn't know what else to do."

        "Okay", says Michael, shrugging and looking away from him again.

        "I care! I do care", says Max desperately, feeling as if he's somehow failing again and not knowing why.

        "About Liz and Isabel and me and the fate of the galaxy. Yeah, I know".

        "No, Michael!" He realises he's shouting, and kneels down in front of the couch. "I really do".

        Michael stands, grabbing Max and pulling him up with him. "Okay, I get it! Good for you. You can stop now."

        "I'm trying to apologise! What do you want from me?"

        "Maybe it's too late".

        "What?!", and he's angry again. He just can't seem to stop getting angry around Michael. "I thought you wanted... why did you have to, the other night?" Standing there face to face, with his hand gripping Michael's arm and Michael's hand on the back of his neck, they're so close. They've always been this close, now that he thinks about it; it's nothing new. It's just him and Michael, and it feels right. He wants this, wants this to make everything better.

        "I don't know", says Michael, his thumb absently stroking Max's cheekbone. "I was angry at you. I wanted to make you see. I'm sorry".

        "And all of a sudden you're not angry at me any more?"

        Michael shakes his head. "I'm tired". He closes his eyes, then mutters, "I don't want to be who we were, how we were. I want my own life".

        "I thought you wanted... you didn't want to be human", says Max, trying desperately to piece together what Michael's saying.

        Michael's eyes flick open again, and he looks straight at Max, their faces inches apart. "I don't. I'm not. I don't *know* where I belong. I don't know how things were, I don't know whether we're the same people! Even if we are, this time we can do things differently". He lowers his voice. "Maxwell, I don't like the way things have become between us. I want the future to be different".

        "Liz said that we can be who we choose. Be with who we choose to be with". He feels as though he's pleading with Michael.

        They look at each other.

        "I love Maria", Michael says, finally. "I'm going to try to make her happy". Michael pulls his arm out of Max's grasp and turns to go, leaving him again. It tears at him, just like it did with Liz. He'd thought he couldn't ever feel more pain than he did when she walked away from him, but he'd been wrong. Michael starts to walk away, then turns back and quickly, softly, says, "I do love you".

        Max takes a half-step forward involuntarily and Michael leans in and kisses him. It's the first time and the last time, and then Michael leaves, not looking back.

        Max remains in Michael's empty apartment and closes his eyes, and pretends that Michael hasn't gone.

* * *

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