Disclaimer: I don't own Roswell, I know it and you know it so why don't I save
Summary: This is a sequel to my story Growing Up...
Category: After Hours
Authors Note: Feedback: Is necessary for my existence.
|Liz stumbled through the front door at half past six. She was exhausted. The
last thirty-six hours of her life had been the most emotionally draining hours
she had ever experienced. She had discovered that her best friend was “in love”
with her husband, confronted her, confronted Max and reconciled with them both
all within a few hours. Liz shuddered to think at how Maria, who had
experienced similar chaos, must feel at that moment. She had to be feeling
everything Liz was feeling…squared. As she dragged herself into the living room
she was only mildly surprised to find Michael Guerin asleep on her sofa. She
shuffled past his prone form into the kitchen, where she found Max making
coffee. She moved up behind him silently, wrapping her arms around his waist,
and laid her cheek against his naked back.
Max smiled and turned in her arms. “How’s Maria?” he asked, pulling her close and nuzzling her temple.
“Not good…” Liz sighed tiredly, “She thinks she should get a lawyer.”
“What?” Max burst out in disbelief.
“She’s taken this notion in her head that Michael is going to try and take the girls away from her,” Liz explained with a sad shake of her head.
“Ridiculous, I know…I tried to tell her the same thing, but you know how she is when she’s upset.”
Max nodded in complete understanding. “In one ear and out the other…” he said, voicing aloud what both he and Liz were thinking.
“How about things on your end?” Liz asked, looking up into his tired face, which she suspected, mirrored her own.
“Well, he’s willing to tolerate me and he wants me to help him win Maria back.” Max’s expression revealed that he was obviously not pleased with the idea. “Of all the people Michael could have asked for help, I should have been the last…”
“Maybe not,” Liz countered thoughtfully, “Maria loves you…trusts you. She might be willing to listen.”
“No,” Max refused flatly, already knowing where Liz’s mind was headed, “Things are already sticky enough with Maria without me going over there trying to talk to her, Liz. Besides that, I think I’m the last person she wants to speak to right now.”
“No, that would be Michael.” They both shared a comforting laugh in her little joke, easing the tension between them. “Max, please, try and talk to her. I couldn’t get through, but maybe you could.”
“Liz, have you forgotten already what happened here just yesterday morning?” Max asked in a furious underbreath.
“No, I haven’t,” Liz responded moderately, “But I’m not thinking about myself right now…or you…or Michael…I’m thinking about Maria. And there are some things going on with her right now that she’s not dealing with…and that’s dangerous. I know what happens when you lock your emotions away inside of you, Max,” Liz continued earnestly, “It destroys you inch by inch. I don’t want to have what happened to me to happen to Maria. She needs someone she can open up to, Max.”
“What’s the matter with you? Why can’t she open up to you?” Max asked almost petulantly.
“She needs you, Max…go to her.”
“Going somewhere?” Max asked when he entered Maria’s bedroom and found her hurriedly throwing clothes into a suitcase. At the sound of his voice she jumped, her would-be scream choking off in her throat. “I didn’t mean to scare you.” Max said quickly, “I just came to return your key.” He held it out to her.
Maria eyed him with a degree of suspicion as she folded her hand around the brass key. “Why didn’t you just send it by Liz?”
“I thought maybe we should talk…face to face,” Max explained evenly, “You know, about everything that’s going on.”
Maria tossed him a look of pure disinterest before turning to pack more clothes into her suitcase. “Does Liz know you’re here?” she asked suddenly as she snapped closed her bag and set it on the floor beside several others like it.
“Actually, she’s the one that sent me,” Max admitted.
“Figures.” Her tone was dry, but devoid of her usual wit. As Max looked at her he noted that she hadn’t likely gotten any sleep the night before. Her eyes were slightly puffy from crying and smudged underneath with dark circles. He watched her ponytail flop over her shoulder as she threw clothes into a suitcase with jerky resolve. Max cleared a space for himself on the bed and sat down. He ignored Maria’s look of obvious annoyance at his determination to stay. “Liz thought maybe I’d have more success talking to you,” he explained mildly, “She said you weren’t too talkative when she was here.”
Because she knew he would not relent, especially in light of the fact Liz had sent him over, Maria heaved an exasperated sigh and sat down beside him on the bed. Her movement upset the mountain of clothes on her bed, causing them to teeter on the edge before falling in a clump on the floor. She and Max looked at the pile of clothes in bland disinterest before looking at each other again. “Liz just doesn’t know when to quit, does she?”
“She loves you…we both do.” Maria lifted her eyes to him. They were sparkling with tears. As they dropped from her eyes Max felt compelled to wipe them away, but he checked the impulse. Though he badly wanted to comfort Maria he didn’t know if it was the wisest thing considering…
“You’re thinking of yesterday morning,” Maria guessed, noting the change in his expression.
Max didn’t attempt to deny it. “Did you mean what you said?”
“You mean about being in love with you?” Max flinched, averting his head in discomfort, and nodded. “I thought I did.” Her soft admission caused Max to jerk his head back around sharply. Maria, however, wasn’t looking at him anymore but staring down at her hands. “Now with Michael showing up…I’m just so confused.”
Before last night, Maria had been so sure that her feelings for Max had nothing to do with Michael’s rejection. And then Michael had come home and shot that belief straight to hell. Maria now realized that she had turned to Max, not out of love, but in seeking something from him she had never been able to get from Michael. Friendship. She and Michael had been many things to each other…lovers, allies, acquaintances, even enemies, but never had they been friends. Michael had never let her close enough. Two children and nearly five years later Maria DeLuca still had no idea what made up Michael Guerin emotionally. And what little she did know was based on her own speculation and not some emotional revelation from him. Max, on the other hand, had opened himself to her. He had treated and trusted Maria as his friend and had given her his friendship in return. It was something she had always yearned to be given…only she had wanted it from Michael Guerin. Maria recognized now that the very thing she of which she’d accused Max, of using her as a substitute for Liz, was the very thing Maria herself was guilty of. She had used Max as well.
While Maria was mulling over her inner turmoil, however, Max had to suppress a smile of relief. Suddenly, Maria snapped her gaze back to his. “How could he do that, Max? How could he, in one day, confuse everything I thought was true of myself?”
“Maybe that’s a good thing, Maria,” Max told her cautiously.
Maria leaned back her head, rapidly blinking against her tears to keep them from falling. “God! My life is such a mess,” she uttered in misery, “Things were simpler when I thought I was in love with you.”
“Speak for yourself,” Max wisecracked, half teasing, half serious.
Maria choked out a teary giggle before becoming serious once again. “I never meant to complicate your life, Max.”
Max reached forward and gave her hand a firm squeeze. “You didn’t complicate my life,” he disclosed sincerely, “if anything you made it easier.”
“Liz understands what happened between us, Maria. She doesn’t hold it against you.”
“She should,” Maria croaked wearily, “I was a lousy friend to her. I’ve made a mess of all our lives, including Michael’s.” Oh god, Michael, she thought, how in the world was she ever going to sort that entire thing out? Last night after some of her anger had subsided and she’d talked with Liz Maria found herself understanding the motivations behind Michael’s actions. He realized he had made a mistake when he left her all those months ago. But when he came back to make amends it was only to find that Maria had “taken up” with Max, his best friend no less, and apparently forgotten him. Maria believed that had she been in Michael’s place she would have done the exact same thing. He’d probably felt lost and alone, not knowing what to do or where to go.
However, while Maria felt sympathy for Michael, she couldn’t help but feel resentment as well. The facts remained that Michael had abandoned her, deserted her when she was pregnant and needed him most. Maria found that hard to forgive. Maria found it especially hard in light of the fact that had it not been for Michael’s selfishness she would have never had to find comfort in Max, thereby causing the humongous mess they were facing now. And it seemed, from her conversation with him last night that he was unwilling to take any of the blame upon himself. He was wrong for leaving, yes, and for that he had apologized. But as far as taking responsibility for Maria’s resulting relationship with Max and admitting his part in creating it, Michael was not about to do it. Instead he laid responsibility for the entire mess at Max’s door, holding Max to blame for his thoughtless mistakes. But then again what was new? Michael had always blamed Max for his mistakes.
Now that was a serious problem for Maria. In fact, Michael’s failure to take responsibility for his actions had been a major obstacle in their relationship before. That and the fact that Michael was emotionally shut down. Those two factors usually spelled death for a relationship and those were the very two things that had sent Michael skittering off to South America in the first place. Number one, he had been unwilling to take responsibility for Adrienne’s conception, preferring to blame the pregnancy completely on Maria. Number two, instead of talking out his feelings with Maria he had merely blown her off, not bothering work things out. No, that wasn’t true, Maria mentally amended, Michael had been willing to work out their relationship…but only on his terms and to Maria that had been unacceptable.
After all, she hadn’t asked for the moon. All she had wanted was his wretched hand in marriage. Which was why it had made her so angry that, after breaking her heart into a million pieces, Michael Guerin had the nerve to waltz back into her life after an eight-month separation and propose to her. As if she could be won back so easily, Maria thought scornfully. She had suffered too much to make it so simple for him. Not to mention that she was still confused over her feelings for Max, although she was pretty sure that she wasn’t in love with him. All the emotions that had come surging back to the surface when she saw Michael again had confirmed that. Maria admitted to herself now that she was still in love with Michael Guerin. Even as angry as she’d been, despite her devastation, underneath her blinding hatred, she had never really stopped loving him. She had never stopped hoping he would come home.
“So what are you going to do now,” Max asked tentatively, “about Michael, I mean?”
“I hadn’t thought past leaving town.”
“Do you really think that’s a solution?”
Maria shook her head. “But I don’t see any other alternative. I know Michael…he’s going to be impossible to reason with. He already believes that you and I are sleeping together… I just don’t want him to drag Mickey and Adrienne into this.”
“Well, I spoke to Michael last night and the only thing he is concerned with is you, Maria. He says he doesn’t want to lose you.”
Maria rolled her eyes in fatigued disbelief. “I don’t believe that for a second. I know Michael. He only wants me because he thinks you have me. I represent a prize for him…one-upmanship on you. He’s been in competition with you since the two of you were kids.”
“That’s not true…” Max denied.
“Isn’t it? Where was the first place he headed after he left here last night?”
“Maria, he only came to confront-,”
“He came to stake his claim and you know it,” Maria broke in with a dismissive wave of her hand, “This is all a contest for Michael…to prove to himself that he’s better than you. He’s not concerned with me…he never was.”
“Well, if you feel that strongly about it…why not tell Michael instead of running away.”
“We have nothing to talk about, Max. Besides that I’m not into wasting my breath or talking to walls, for that matter.”
“You do have things to talk about,” Max insisted, “Maria, you and Michael have children together…that’s reason enough. At least try and work it out for their sakes.”
Maria scowled at Max in hurt betrayal. “That’s a low blow…to bring them into this…”
“I just want to see you happy.”
“And what makes you so damned sure Michael Guerin will make me happy?” Maria snapped out in dubious affront.
“Maria, you’re not being fair,” Max cut in patiently.
“No, you’re not being fair!” She jumped up from the bed and stabbed her finger at Max only inches from his nose, “You can’t come in here and use my kids against me as leverage to get me to forgive Michael. It’s underhanded, Max, and I expected more from you!”
“Whether you want to admit it or not, Maria, Mickey and Adrienne are an issue here!” Max responded with equal heat, “They deserve their father!”
“Well, I guess he should have thought of that before he left me!”
Max mouth snapped shut on his retort. He mentally counted to ten before attempting another approach. “Okay, so it’s over between you and Michael…I get that. You’re leaving town…yada, yada, yada… But, do you think it might be possible for Michael to at least see his children before you do?”
Maria heaved a disgusted sigh, throwing up her hands in aggravated surrender. “Fine! Anything to shut you the hell up.”
Her scornful reply only made Max smile.
|Part 26 | Index | Part 28
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