FanFic - Crashdown After Hours
"Growing Pains"
Part 22
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.
Alex took one look at Liz’s pale, agitated face and knew something was wrong. He also noticed immediately that she wouldn’t meet his gaze. Unwilling to show the concern that was quickly rising within him and risk Liz bolting in the opposite direction, Alex pasted on a bright smile. “Well, this is an unexpected surprise,” he said.

“Hey, Alex, can I come inside?” Liz asked softly, offering him a half-hearted smile. Alex stepped aside to let her in, noting with concern that she looked more than upset. She looked shattered. He peered around her, expecting to see Max and Claudia close behind. “Max isn’t with you?”

“No,” she said with a funny little smile, “not this time.”

“So dare I hope the visit is for my benefit?” Alex hinted, wiggling his eyebrows. He hoped to illicit a laugh from her, at the very least a genuine smile, but she her face remained expressionless.

“Actually, I was wondering if you had seen Maria,” Liz told him, “I went by her apartment and she wasn’t there.”

Alex looked at her incredulously. “What do you guys have, radar? She’s in the den. Come on.” He started off in the direction of the den with Liz close behind him. When they neared the doorway Liz asked quickly, “Alex, do you think I could talk to her alone?”

Her question stopped Alex in his tracks. He looked at her for a long, intense moment before coming to his own conclusion about why Liz wanted to see Maria alone. Now the look on her face made perfect sense. Alex hoped his pity didn’t manifest itself in his expression. “Don’t get any blood on the carpet,” he warned Liz half teasing, half serious, “And just try to work it out, ok?”

“I’ll try,” Liz reassured him with a small smile. When Alex turned to leave she grabbed his shirtsleeve, detaining him. “Thanks, Alex.”

Alex leaned forward and kissed Liz’s forehead tenderly. “That’s what friends are for, Liz.”

After he was gone, Liz took several deep breaths before walking into the den. Maria was ensconced in the sofa, her feet propped against the coffee table, flipping through the television channels. At Liz’s entrance she said, “Alex, you know, for a rich guy you’d think you could afford some decent finger sandwiches. These suck.”

“As irreverent as ever, huh, Maria?”

Maria spun around quickly in her seat, her face draining completely of color when she saw Liz standing less than two feet away. She got a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach suddenly. The memories of that morning, which she had successfully blocked all day, assailed her with the force of a hurricane. Her knees actually began to tremble with trepidation. Maria knew the time had come for her to face the consequences of her actions earlier that day. Maria was determined that, before Liz left, she would know the entire truth. “Liz,” she said lamely as she rubbed her suddenly damp palms against her thighs, “hi.” She stood awkwardly, obviously about to attempt an uneasy hug, but Liz took a step back.

“I came here to talk about you and Max, Maria,” Liz announced in a flat tone.

Maria didn’t bother to pretend that she didn’t know what Liz was talking about. They had been friends for too long for Maria to play that game with her. “You weren’t asleep this morning?”

Liz shook her head. “No…I wasn’t.”

At her admission Maria immediately dissolved into sobs. She attempted to stifle them with her hand but she was unsuccessful. “Liz…god…I am so sorry…”

“Are you sleeping with him, Maria?” Liz asked directly, emotion choking her own voice.

“No! God, Liz, of course not!” Maria began anxiously pacing the floor, raking her fingers through her hair. “Is that what you think?” Maria threw her an injured glance, her face mottled with anguish.

“I don’t know what to think,” Liz stated implacably, licking at her own tears, “I just found out this morning that my best friend is in love with my husband.”

Liz hadn’t let the knowledge sink into her brain earlier that morning. She had just been too numbed by what happened, too disbelieving of what she’d heard. But now it hit her full force, weakening her knees. Blindly, she stumbled over into a chair and collapsed into it.

She hadn’t been able to face Max, had been too afraid of what he would say to confront him. Liz hadn’t been ready to know the truth this morning. She hadn’t wanted to know the truth. But after spending the majority of her day avoiding Max and running out of excuses as to why she was doing it Liz knew she had to find out the truth or the not knowing would send her over the edge. Liz felt lost, not being completely sure of who she could trust to tell her the truth, but her instincts had told her to go to Maria. And so Liz had lied to Max, telling him that she was running to the supermarket for groceries. She had gone searching for Maria instead.

Maria moved to kneel before Liz, tentatively placing her hands over Liz’s. “Liz, you know I would never, ever hurt you deliberately, but Max was in so much pain…we both were in so much pain…he had so much to deal with after the baby died and… I just meant to help him…I just wanted to help him, that’s all, and it just became more…he needed someone, Liz, they both did…they needed you…I was just trying to help him…I never meant for this to happen…”

“Why did you come this morning?” Liz moaned aloud, not really expecting an answer, “Why?”

“You know why, Liz,” Maria sobbed, laying her head in Liz’s lap.

“Because you love him,” Liz whispered painfully. Liz’s hand hovered over Maria’s head in indecision before finally settling into her hair. She fingered Maria’s hair gingerly, her tears dropping into Maria’s golden curls. “I can’t even be mad at you, Maria. And I want to be,” she sobbed, “I really want to hate you right now.”

And as Liz stared down at Maria’s bent head she knew exactly why she couldn’t. Because she knew that Maria had spoken the truth. And that is what tormented Liz most of all, that she had played a large part in the events that had unfolded in her apartment that very morning, that a big portion of her hurt had been her on doing. Liz knew that she couldn’t hold Maria and Max accountable for what they had done, whatever it was, without first acknowledging the part she had played in it all. How could she blame Maria for stepping into her life when she had all but thrown it away? How could she be angry when she knew full well that Maria had been the one to keep her family together all these months? Maria was the reason that Liz’s daughter didn’t hate her, that Max hadn’t turned his back on her. Liz didn’t believe for a moment that Maria had deliberately gone after Max. She had not expected to love him, just like Liz hadn’t expected to. And Liz could tell just by looking that Maria was just as devastated by the knowledge as she was.

“I don’t want to ruin your marriage, Liz, that wasn’t my intention this morning,” Maria moaned in misery, lifting her tear-stained face to Liz, “I don’t want to come between you and Max.”

“You couldn’t even if you did,” Liz said without heat or censure. Her tone was more of fact-stating. “Maria, I have no intention of losing my husband…to you or anyone else for that matter.”

Unbelievably, the implacable calmness with which she made that statement startled a smile from Maria. “It makes me happy and sad all at the same time to hear you say that.”

“I can understand why you love him, Maria…even though I wish you didn’t…”

“So do I,” Maria whispered, brushing the tears from her cheeks, “I want you to know, Liz, that nothing happened between us, nothing-,”

“Don’t say that,” Liz cut in sharply, “Everything happened…everything changed, Maria…whether you slept with him or not.”

“Does that mean we won’t be friends anymore?” Maria asked her fearfully.

“Of course not,” Liz assured her in a tender sigh, “Not being friends with you would be like losing a vital part of myself, Maria. We’ve been friends over twenty years and I…can’t just trash that. But I don’t know if it will ever be the same.”

“It will,” Maria promised, smiling through her tears, “I’ll win back your trust, Liz.”

“Maria,” Liz said, squeezing Maria’s hands tightly in her own, “I owe you a debt of gratitude that I will never, never be able to repay. You gave me back my family when you didn’t have to. You sacrificed your happiness for me. When it came down to your love for Max and your love for me, you…chose…me,” Liz choked, feeling her sobs begin to vibrate in her chest, “and I will never forget that.”

“Liz, you been like a sister to me my whole life…” Maria confided tearily, painfully touched by Liz’s words.

“Maria, it’s not an issue of trust for me so much as it is that you shared something with Max that I never will…because I threw it away. That’s something that’s going to bond the two of you for the rest of your lives…and whether either of you admit it, there’s always going to be a part of him that loves you because of it. And that hurts…so much.”

“Liz, I just want us to be friends again,” Maria told her fiercely, “That is the only thing I want right now, the only that’s important to me. Just tell me that we can still be friends.”

Liz looked down into her tear-streaked face, knowing she meant every word. And she couldn’t say no, and honestly, she didn’t want to. “Yeah, Maria…” she conceded, reaching forward to enfold Maria in a forgiving hug, “yeah, we can.”

Part 21 | Index | Part 23
Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours
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