Liz drives over to Max's place. She remembers thinking they'd live together in this house once she brought him back, but that feels like a lifetime ago. Everything's fractured now.
She hesitantly knocks on the door.
Max seems surprised to see Liz and offers a flustered, "Liz. Hi. Come in."
Liz stands by the door, wringing her hands, seemingly debating whether this was the right decision.
After a couple minutes of silence, Max finally says, "You've been back for a few weeks and I haven't seen much of you… I assume that's intentional. What did you want to see me about?"
Liz stands silently for another moment before she finally responds, "I, uh, I want to learn self defense."
Max is confused now. "I doubt I'm the best teacher for that. Hell, Cameron's decided to stay in Roswell and she's probably better as a teacher than I am. And I don't know if we should be spending that much time together. Things are still… raw."
"Max, there's an alien who looks like you wandering around Roswell and I don't trust him. I want to be prepared if I ever find myself alone with him. And what better prep than to learn how to defend myself from you."
Max sighs. He can't argue with that logic. He wishes he could because the prospect of training with Liz sounds like emotional torture, but he can't fault her for being scared of his doppleganger.
Max relents, "Okay, you make some valid points."
His eyes drop to the floor, unable to meet her gaze. "I can be your self defense teacher."
Liz is practically beaming. "Thank you! Thank you so much, Max."
It's a couple days later and they're standing in the field behind Max's house.
They're both trying to hide their discomfort, but they can sense each other's unease. Currently an unfortunate side effect of their long history.
"Are you sure you want to do this, Liz? I can help you find someone more qualified that you feel comfortable with."
Liz is stubborn as always. "Max, if I'm in a situation where I have to fight Mr. Jones, it's gonna be uncomfortable regardless. You've always made me feel secure, something that man does not make me feel, but that doesn't erase your likeness. It doesn't make the thought of hurting him in self defense any easier to stomach."
Max nods. "Okay."
He sighs, still a little dismayed he didn’t manage to find a way out of this. “So, if an attacker comes at you from the front you should aim for the face or the throat. That’ll momentarily stop him. But you’ll likely want to also use a groin kick to ensure he stays down and doesn’t follow you.”
Max slowly takes a few steps closer. “So, the heel palm strike technique. You want to use your dominant hand and aim for the nose or the throat.”
He gently grasps Liz’s wrist. She’s startled by the contact, but does her best to hide that she’s flustered, and Max doesn’t make any acknowledgement of noticing. He slowly guides her arm in the motion of the technique. “Like this. You have to go fast and pull away quickly for maximum damage.”
He releases her. “If the attacker is too close to use the heel palm strike, an elbow strike is also effective. Again, you want to aim for the face or neck, and you have to shift your weight forward to insure the full impact.”
He takes a few steps back. “Ok, ready to practice those two techniques?”
Liz nods. Max starts to approach and once he’s at the appropriate distance, Liz cautiously and slowly repeats the heel palm strike. He smiles. “Good.”
Liz can’t help but smile back at him. He takes a few steps back. “Okay, now the elbow strike. I’m going to get closer this time. And make sure you have a secure stance, or this technique won’t work very well.”
Max again starts to approach her, and once he’s only a couple feet away, Liz follows Max’s advice, pivoting and shifting her weight as her elbow slowly moves towards his face.
“Good! You’re picking this up fast.”
Max takes some steps back, putting distance between them. “Now, you should also know what to do if an attacker tries to grab you from behind. If he manages to have his arms around you, but your hands are free, you have more motion than you probably realize. You want to bend forward at the waist, which will make it harder for the attacker to do much of anything, and will also give you enough room to use the elbow strike, which you just proved you can do. You want to continue to alternate strikes until the attacker loosens his grip and you can get enough distance for a groin kick.”
Liz nods. “Okay, sounds simple enough.”
“Ready to try it?”
Liz chuckles. “Might as well.”
Liz turns around. Max slowly closes the distance between them and wraps his arms around her waist. Liz knew this was coming, but she still manages to be unprepared, and her breathing stalls. Her mind goes blank, forgetting everything Max had told her. All she can think about is how she feels his breath on her neck and how safe she feels with his arms around her and the rush of regret for ever letting him go.
Max is concerned that Liz isn't following any of the steps he'd just demonstrated, and he loosens his grip on her, turning so now they're face to face. His voice is soft and full of worry, "Liz? Liz, are you okay?"
Before either of them has a chance to fully process what's happening, Liz cups Max's face and pulls him into a kiss.
Max kisses her back deeply and pulls her closer so Liz's body is flush against him. It feels right, as if they're supposed to be like this.
When they finally pull away to breathe, Max's brain catches up with their actions and he quickly releases Liz and turns, taking a handful of steps away from her.
"No, Liz, what are we doing? I can't go through this again. It was devastating when you left this summer, but… it was the right decision. I can't survive you leaving again. And you will because you want more than what Roswell can offer you."
It feels like a punch to the gut. The belief that she can't find long term satisfaction in Roswell. Max's expectation that she'll break his heart again.
Liz can't fault him for these thoughts though. She cautiously takes a few steps in his direction.
"Max, you were right. Between Rosa's newfound powers and my science, we were able to save you. It was amazing. And my fascination with your DNA and all the things it might be able to do blinded me to the harm I was causing you."
She takes a deep breath. "When you decided to trust me with your secret, you told me your biggest fear was becoming an experiment. And that's exactly how I was treating you."
Max turns around and he can see the tears in Liz's eyes. "I don't know why I didn't listen. I never should have done any of my testing on your DNA, especially without your permission. And I can't claim I didn't know it was wrong, because I would have been open about what I was doing if I thought it was okay. You were right to destroy it all. I'm so sorry for being so reckless, for putting you in danger like that."
Max feels that familiar pull between them at this confession, and he can't deny how badly he wants to go back to the way things were.
He takes a few steps towards her and they take a moment to stare into each other's eyes before he kisses her again. Liz eagerly kisses him back, sliding her tongue in his mouth. Max does his best to steer them back towards the house, overcome with his desire to continue and sensing that Liz feels the same.
They finally make their way inside, and while both of them would normally force themselves to wait until they're reached the bedroom, Liz is too impatient, and she starts pulling his shirt off. Max is happy to oblige and starts to help Liz out of her clothes as well. They continue to kiss as they discard more clothing. Once their clothes are scattered around the living room, Liz takes a couple steps away from him.
She wants him right now, but her brain overrides her desires. She needs to give Max a proper apology first. "I've missed you so much. Once the anger dissipated, all I felt was regret. And I didn't know how to talk to you because I felt so ashamed of letting myself make decisions based on my ego. There's no possible excuse for me working behind your back and brushing off your concerns."
Max takes a couple steps closer, noticing that Liz is tearful again.
"After the impact of my actions hit me, I got a taste of what you felt that decade while I was gone. I thought about you all the time, wishing I'd come clean to you about everything before you started having suspicions about my work."
After being able to feel Liz's feelings for him through the bond, Max isn't surprised, he knows the way she feels about him matches the way he feels about her. But anytime she vocalizes her love for him still makes his breath catch. He may not know everything about her past, and he doesn't need to, but he knows being emotionally vulnerable like this is still hard for her.
Max starts to close the distance between them so he's only a few inches away, and cups Liz's face with his hands. They gaze into each other's eyes, and she leans into his touch.
"I'm so sorry, Max."
He cuts her off with a quick kiss. His hands drop from her face and find hers, Liz lacing their fingers together. "It's ok, Liz. I mean, it's not okay, an apology doesn't immediately fix everything, but you don't need to continue apologizing. I forgave you a long time ago, or I wouldn't have agreed to train you."
Max laughs and Liz smiles. He continues, "The only thing that can truly fix this is time and a promise to be completely honest with each other from now on. But I suspect you're not in the mood to talk right now, and to be honest, I'm not really interested in talking right now either."
He leans in closer and smiles as he whispers,"I've missed you, too."
They kiss passionately again. Through heavy breaths, Liz says, “I love you.”
Max smiles and laughs. "I know. I never said it, but I've known since the first time you kissed me. I know how hurt you were about Rosa and, no matter how impulsive you can be, there's no other logical explanation that would've motivated you to overlook that pain."
She laughs. "You know everything I want to tell you before I get the chance to verbalize it?"
Max smiles. "Maybe."
They kiss again and quickly stumble through the hallway to reach Max's bedroom.