FanFic - Crashdown After Hours
"Growing Pains"
Part 21
by Dee
Disclaimer: I don't own Roswell, I know it and you know it so why don't I save the mantra?
Summary: This is a sequel to my story Growing Up...
Category: After Hours
Rating: NC-17
Authors Note: Feedback: Is necessary for my existence.
Maria pulled up into the driveway of Max’s two-story apartment with a heavy sigh. After she cut the engine she sat there for a moment, her mind wandering. In the backseat Mickey and Adrienne were asleep. Mickey lay curled up against her baby sister’s car seat, clutching her sister’s small hand in her own. Maria smiled wistfully at the picture they made. Seeing them helped ease some of the tension she felt over her impending confrontation with Max. However, despite the relaxing effect her daughter’s had on her emotions Maria continued to be a nervous wreck.

It didn’t help matters that Mickey had spent the entire plane ride back to New York hounding Maria with questions about Claudia and “Uncle” Max. They had been endless. Was Uncle Max going to pick them up from the airport? Would Uncle Max help her and Claudia make a snowman? Could she ask Uncle Max to read her Ten Apples Up On Top one more time? On and on until Maria thought her head was going to split in two. And yet upon landing in New York and retrieving her car from parking services where had Maria headed? Straight for Uncle Max.

Okay, she’d missed him, pure and simple. She had missed laughing with him, missed the irritating way he had of analyzing every little detail…had missed what great friends they had been. And that was why she had come. To save that friendship between them the only way she knew how. She would have to leave New York indefinitely…but no before she spoke to Max. She couldn’t leave things between them as they were.

The last time she and Max had spoken it had not been a very pleasant conversation. She had cried after he had gone, but she made herself not pick up the phone and call him. That very next evening she left on a plane for Roswell, New Mexico. Maria hadn’t even called him to say good-bye. She regretted that now. In fact, she regretted a lot of things. But what Maria regretted most was not telling Max how she felt about him. And that was that she was in love with him.

There she admitted it to herself. Although, technically, she had done that two weeks earlier the realization still packed enough power to shock her into speechless immobility. Maria DeLuca was in love with Max Evans. And more than anything Maria needed to tell him that. It wasn’t that Maria wanted to make the admission because she thought that it would change things romantically between her and Max. She knew better. Max, whether he realized it or not, was still in love with Liz. He always had and always would be. And beyond that Maria knew that once she told Max about visiting Liz at Cedar Ridge no force on earth would keep Max from getting to Liz. He would go running back to her on winged feet. No, Maria didn’t expect any big payoff from her admission other than getting it off her chest. She also wanted Max to fully understand why she was leaving town. Maria didn’t want him to become bitter over it.

The irony of her situation struck Maria as laughable. In all the time that Max and Liz had been together, Maria had never thought of him as anything beyond a brother to her. She had been too blinded by Michael Guerin to notice anyone else. Max Evans had been her best friend’s considerate, albeit shy and methodical boyfriend. And now, after all these years, it was as if Maria were seeing him for the first time, recognizing him for the truly amazing man that he was. And that was exactly why she needed to leave.

There was no way that she could remain in New York and watch the man she loved fall back in love with his wife. Even the thought of it was agony. What was especially hard was that Maria had come to think of Max and Claudia as her family.

But Maria realized with a disheartening sigh that what she and Max shared in the last five months had not been real, at least not for Max. She had actually known it long before that moment, that she was only a substitute for the woman Max really wanted, but she hadn’t allowed the idea to penetrate her heart. She was quick to dismiss her misgivings because she had wanted so much, whether right or wrong, for Max Evans to love her…

A chill began to settle in the interior of the car and Maria knew she had been sitting outside too long. She could put the confrontation off no longer. Swinging around in her seat, she nudged Mickey awake. When the three year old realized where she was she came instantly alert. “Yay! We’re going to see Claudia and Uncle Max!”

Her childish enthusiasm made Maria smile. “Yeah, baby, we’re going to see Uncle Max…but just for a little while.”

With a crushing sense of dread Maria bundled up her daughters and hustled them out of the car. After strapping a sleeping Adrienne against her in a carry satchel Maria trudged through the snow towards Max’s front door. Exhaling deeply, she unlocked it with her key.

The apartment was quite and dim. Maria led Mickey inside and crept in behind her, shutting the door firmly. What she saw inside the apartment made her blood chill. The living room looked as if a tornado had gone through it. Clothes were flung all across the floor and furniture. The cushions on the sofa were lopsided and dirty dishes cluttered the coffee table from corner to corner. In addition to that it was nearly 10:00 in the morning and the place was eerily silent. Max never slept a minute past eight o’clock unless something was wrong. “Oh, no,” Maria groaned, fearing the worst.

“Is Uncle Max here, Mom?” Mickey asked, looking around the apartment owl-eyed.

“His car is out front so I guess so,” Maria answered absently, her mind working at a frantic pace. The last time she’d seen Max’s apartment in such a disaster had been right after Liz had lost the baby… A feeling of panic set in Maria’s chest making it difficult for her to breathe. She turned back to Mickey, stooping down so that they stood eye to eye. “I’m going to go upstairs and find Uncle Max, okay. I want you to stay down here and watch Nickelodeon while I do.” Mickey gave her mother an obedient nod. “Michelle Guerin, do not touch anything,” Maria admonished sternly, “I will be back in a few minutes.”

After turning on the TV for Mickey, thankfully Blue’s Clues was on to keep her occupied, Maria began to climb the stairs up to Max’s bedroom, her heart thumping with dread. In the darkened hallway she came to Claudia’s door first. Maria opened the door and peered inside. She smiled in relief when she saw Claudia snuggled beneath her giant Elmo doll, only one small foot visible. She closed the door with a soft click.

When she reached Max’s door she hesitated for a brief second before raising her fist to knock lightly. Maria waited a few moments for an answer and when she didn’t receive one she called his name softly, twisting the doorknob as she did. As she opened the door fully she came into full view of Max…and Liz. He was propped up on his side, idly stroking Liz’s shoulder while she slept soundly beside him, however, when he heard the door open he looked up in surprise, a surprise that quickly turned to dismay.

Maria was stunned speechless, her mind racing with a million things at once. But one thought was prominent: she had to get out of that house and get out NOW! “I didn’t know you had company,” she said quickly, shutting the door and spinning for the staircase.

Inside his bedroom Max scrambled out of bed and began frantically pulling on his pajama bottoms. His abrupt movement jarred Liz awake. She lifted her rumpled head and asked sleepily, “What’s going on?”

“Someone’s at the door,” Max said, hoping he sounded calmer than he felt, “Go back to sleep.” Liz didn’t need any coercion; she laid her head back against the pillow without hesitation, asleep again in seconds.

Max had just skidded down the stairs as Maria was heading out the door with Mickey. “Maria, wait!” he cried. At the sound of his voice Mickey came running back, catapulting herself into his arms. “Uncle Max!” she exclaimed happily as he lifted her in his arms, “Guess what?”

“What?” Max asked, smiling but his eyes were on Maria.

“I went to Roswell to see my Grammy,” Mickey told him, bursting with pride, “Have you ever been to Roswell?”

“I was born in Roswell, Mickey,” Max told her in a laugh.

“Like my daddy?”

“Yeah…like your dad.”

“Where’s Claudia?” she questioned quickly.

“Not now,” Maria interrupted in a steely tone, “We have to go, Michelle. Get down.”

“You can stay for a little while can’t you?” Max asked as he set Mickey to the ground, “Mickey, why don’t you go in the kitchen and have some Nilla wafers. You know where they are.”

Maria glared at him as Mickey skipped off in the direction of the kitchen. “I was leaving, Max,” she snapped out. Max didn’t reply. Maria decided to dive right on into the main event. “So I see Liz is home again.”

“Yeah…last week,” Max said hoarsely. “Maria, about what happened between us…”

“Nothing happened between us, Max. And even if it did it’s irrelevant now. It’s already like old times between you two,” Maria quipped bitterly. It was impossible to mistake the hurt he heard in her voice.

“Maria, I’m sorry…”

“For what?” she bit out, “This was what you wanted…I mean we both wanted it. You belong with Liz.”

“Maria, believe me, you are the last person on this earth that I would ever want to hurt.”

“Yeah and why is that, Max?” Maria croaked, shattered because she couldn’t keep her tears from spilling down her cheeks.

“Maria, you’re my friend. I l-,”

“Don’t say it! Don’t you dare say it! Because you don’t have any idea, Max!”

“Maria, what are you talking about,” Max asked as gently as he could.

“I’m in love with you, damn it!”

The admission stunned Max so much that he could do nothing other than stand aside as Maria called Mickey and headed out the door. He drifted to the door after her in stunned silence, watching as she skidded out the driveway and down the road.

He never noticed a devastated Liz standing at the top of the stairs.

Part 20 | Index | Part 22
Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours
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