by Teri Leigh
Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with the WB, Melinda or Jason.
Basically I own nothing and no infringement is intended.
Summary: My version of what takes place after Destiny. Max is in a bad place.
Category: After Hours
Authors Note: There may be a short 4 part sequel to this one if anyone wants it to continue. The Point of View changes in each section between Max and Liz.
Max sat on his bed, pulling on his socks. Though the light coming through his now open blinds was the dull oranges of sunset, he was still unused to anything other than the harsh fluorescent bulbs in his bathroom, and he squinted against the brightness of the sun.
He wasn't sure exactly how long he had sobbed after…asking Tess to leave, but he was sure it had been a while. All of the stresses of the last sixteen years had come out with his tears. When his breakdown was finished, he realized that he had hit rock bottom. Skulking about his room wasn't going to accomplish anything. He could either bitch and bemoan his circumstances, or get up off his ass and do something about them.
For the second time that day, he took a steaming hot shower. Not only did the water erase the memory of Tess' touch from his body, but he let it wash away the agony of the last weeks. It was like a baptism, the water making him pure again. This time when he stepped from the shower, he was ready to face the world. If not the world, then at least his family and friends.
After quickly tying his shoes, he grabbed a jacket to protect him from the chill in the night desert air, and headed for his door. Tonight he was going to see Liz. He would make things right between them once again. However, as he walked down the hall, he realized there was more than one woman in his life he had to make things right with.
He knocked gently on Isabel's door, trying to think of the best way to ask forgiveness of his sister. He was hoping seeing him up and dressed might shock her into excepting an apology for his recently abominable behavior. Upon hearing her muffled "Come in", he pushed the door open and peeked his head around it. "Do you have a moment for your jerk of a brother?"
"I didn't realize I had a jerk brother." Her voice was cautious, as if waiting for him to leave or blow up at her again.
"No. Only one going through a really rough time, who won't let any of the people who love him help him out." She looked up at him, weighing her words carefully to prevent him from bolting.
"Hmm, sounds like an arrogant jerk to me." His smile was meant to reassure her that he wasn't going anywhere. Opening the door fully, he entered her room and closed the door behind him. He walked over to the bed and sat down beside her. "So this brother, the one going through the tough time, think he'll ever snap out of it and get his act together?"
"I think he's starting to." She threw her arms around his neck, hugging him to her tightly, burying her face in his neck. "Oh, Max. I was so worried about you! I didn't know what to do and there was no way I could make things better for you."
His arms wrapped around her and he stroked her back comfortingly, hoping to avoid the tears he knew she was about to succumb to. "I'd say something affectionate, but I can hardly breathe."
Though there was laughter in his voice, she pulled away quickly with a sheepish grin. "Sorry about that." After looking at him for a long second, her smile faded and her arm shot out to punch him in the bicep.
"Ow! What the hell was that for? I thought we were having a tender moment?"
"Yeah, well it passed. Don't you ever do that to me again! I was so worried about you. Big jerk."
"Told ya I was." He continued to rub his sore arm, realizing if that was all the punishment he was going to get, that he got off lucky. "I'm sorry that I upset you. I just…I guess I needed to bottom out before I could start over. I think today was the day I finally realized the meaning behind that saying 'Shit or get off the pot'."
"OK, ew. That's the most disgusting thing I've ever heard."
"Sorry." They shared a smirk before a silence settled over them. Though not uncomfortable, there was tension as each waited for the other to say something. Max once again cursed his behavior. Despite arguments he and Isabel had in the past, they had always been able to talk freely and openly to one another about anything. Now, due to his recent actions, that was strained. Realizing that his intent in coming here was to apologize, he decided to begin. This was his sister, if he couldn't talk to her, who he'd known all his life, how was he ever going to talk to Liz?
"Look, Isabel, about what I said earlier, about you and Michael…"
She cut him off quickly as he stumbled for the right words. "Max, it's not…"
"No, Iz, just let me say this, please. What I said, it was completely out of line. I guess seeing the two of you together just took me by surprise. It's just…I've been so shaken by everything that we were told that day and I couldn't deal with it. Knowing that you and Michael were able to accept what I wasn't…something in me just snapped and I took it out on the two of you. I'm really sorry, Izzy."
"Max, you're completely misreading the situation. There's nothing going on between Michael and I."
He shook his head, refusing to take her words at face value. "Isabel, you don't have to lie to me. As long as you're happy, that's all that really matters. And if Michael can make you happy, then that's great. That way you can be happy and do the whole destiny thing. I know I handled it badly, seeing you two together, but you have to…"
"Max!" He was cut off once more by Isabel's voice. "You are completely misreading the situation." She gently placed her hands on either side of his face and, leaning forward, pressed her closed lips to his briefly before pulling away to look at him. It was nothing new between them, their whole family was affectionate and thought nothing of the loving gesture.
"OK and that was for?" Max was slightly stunned. Not by her action, she had kissed him before as had his parents, but more because it had come out of nowhere.
"That is what you saw between me and Michael. The same kiss I give you and Mom and Dad and Aunt Laura. To me Michael is family and thinking of him as anything else is just…gross. He's like another brother to me, Max. You may think you have it tough with this whole destiny bit, and I'm not trying to say you don't," she added quickly. "But it could have been a lot worse. I know you don't love Tess, but at least you don't think of her as a family member. Just think for a second about how revolting it is for Michael and I. It's almost like saying I'm supposed to sleep with you and we won't go into how vulgar that is. No offense, but Max, you're my brother."
"None taken and trust me when I say the feeling is mutual. I guess I really hadn't considered your side of things. I've been so selfish lately." For just a moment he contemplated all Isabel had said. He's been so out of it for the last few weeks. He had no idea what was going on with his sister and his closest friends. How was Michael handling all this? What about Alex and Maria? Was Liz really happy with Kyle or did she miss him as much as he missed her? There was so much he didn't know. He had been so wrapped up in his misery, he hadn't realized that those around him might be just as miserable, although handling it somewhat better.
"Izzy, I can't tell you how sorry I am for how I've been acting," he held up his hand to keep her quiet before she had the chance to interrupt him. "I know I've already said it, but I feel like I can't tell you that enough. I let myself wallow in my grief when what I should have done was come to my family and friends and try to sort things out. Liz once told me that I needed to have some faith in the people around me, that I shouldn't try to keep everything on my shoulders. Apparently I still need to work on that. The worst part of it is, as much as it would have helped me to handle all of this, I realize now that instead of being there to help the rest of the group deal, I just caused one more thing for all of you to worry about."
"Max, don't think about all that." Reaching out, she took his hand in hers and gave it a squeeze. "You've rejoined the land of the living now and that's all we really wanted. So was your first official coming out of seclusion duty to apologize to me?"
"I guess it was. Have I accomplished my mission?"
"Yes, oh great leader, mission accomplished." She smiled and gave him a mock salute before realizing her blunder. A look of horror spread across her face as she quickly tried to correct her mistake. "Oh my God, Max I'm sorry. I didn't mean…I was only teasing, I wasn't trying to remind you of…"
"It's OK," he told her, forcing himself to smile. "It's something I really do have to deal with. What do you say to me, you, and Michael getting together in a few days? Discuss our options and all that?"
"What about Tess? Shouldn't she be there too?"
Max flinched at her name, recalling exactly what he had done to her. That was definitely going to be one of the most difficult apologies he'd ever have to make. Honestly, he didn't expect her forgiveness. He couldn't forgive himself for what he'd done to her. "Umm," his voice was eerily soft as he spoke again. "I need to talk to Tess in private before we drag her into this. Another on my list of people to beg mercy from."
"Why? What happened with Tess?" The look on Isabel's face convinced him that she knew nothing of Tess' visit today. Hopefully it would stay that way.
"Let's just say when I do the cold, unfeeling bastard routine, I really get into the role."
Fortunately for Max, Isabel sensed his discomfort and changed the subject. "So what do you do next?"
"I go talk to Liz."
"Max," her voice suggested that she thought this to be a bad idea. "Maybe you shouldn't do that just yet. I mean, there are things you don't know."
"Like the fact that she's dating Kyle Valenti?" He had managed to shock his sister yet again.
"How did you know that?"
"When you and Michael talk outside my door, you forget to whisper. I was locked away, not deaf."
She nodded, looking down at her hands. Silence stretched between them for several long moments before she voiced her concerns. "Are you sure seeing Liz is a good idea? I mean, Max, what if she rejects you again? Can you deal with that or am I going to lose you to depression and your room? Because, honestly, I don't think I can deal with you withdrawing from me a second time. This whole things is too hard to deal with without you."
He could hear the tears in her voice and quickly embraced her, trying to prevent those tears from falling. "Please don't cry, Izzy. I promise you that I won't desert you again. But you have to understand, I need to fix things with Liz. It's like a part of me is missing when she's not with me. Like there's this huge hole in my heart that nothing can fill except her. I could deal with knowing that she didn't want to be with me if that's what I thought she truly wanted, if it had nothing to do with destiny or any of that crap. What I can't deal with is knowing that there might have been a chance for us and I didn't fight hard enough for her love."
Isabel nodded, wiping away the lone tear that had slipped from her eye. "Then you had better get going." She offered him a small grin before continuing. "She loves you, Max. You have to know that. Don't let her sense of responsibility come between the two of you."
Max shook his head, blinking rapidly a few times before narrowing his eyes. "OK, what have you done with the real Isabel? The one who was always against Liz and I being together."
The grin on her face was replaced by a sad, wistful expression before she added in a tiny voice, "She knows what it's like to fall for someone only to be told you can't have them. She finally realized just how awful that truly is and she wants more than anything for someone to come through this whole mess with their relationship unscathed."
He reached out and tilted her chin up so he was looking in her deep brown eyes. "Alex will come around, Izzy. He absolutely adores you. Don't lose hope, OK?"
Sniffling loudly, she gave him a sharp nod and then a tight hug. When she pulled back she shoved him from the bed, pushing him towards her door. "Go now, Romeo, fight for your true love, hopefully with better outcome. Perhaps if the two of you get back together, the rest of us can follow suit." Giving him another quick kiss she uttered a rushed "Good luck," before he was thrust out of her room and the door shut behind him.
|Part 4 | Index | Part 6a
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