FanFic - Crashdown After Hours
"Growing Pains"
Part 6
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.
“What are you doing here, Isabel?”

“I’ve come to bring your daughter home,” Isabel said crisply. She didn’t wait for him to invite her in but scooted past him into the dimly lit foyer of her brother’s condo. Against her breast his sleeping daughter lay while Isabel carried her pink baby bag in her free hand. When she looked at her brother, however, her cool attitude quickly dissolved into pity. He appeared pale and bleak and he had to have lost at least ten pounds in the last two months. It didn’t appear that he had been getting much sleep either because there were dark smudges under his eyes. God, Isabel thought, he looks horrible. But Isabel fought against her pity otherwise it would weaken her resolve to do what she knew needed to be done. “Is there anywhere I can lay Claudia? She’s kinda heavy.”

“Just bring her into the living room,” Max said, turning in that direction. Isabel followed him in silence. Even in the darkness she could tell that the place was a wreck. As she got into the living room she realized that the sofa had been made into a bed and it looked as if Max had moved most of his clothing downstairs. Max wordlessly indicated for Isabel to lay Claudia on the sofa. Isabel laid her down gently then raised her questioning gaze to Max. “Liz didn’t want to be in the same room with me.”

“Why didn’t you just move your things to Claudia’s room?”

Max shrugged, running his fingers through his already tousled hair. “Just seemed easier, I guess. Can I get you something to drink, Is? Tea? Soda?”

“No. What you can do is tell me why the two weeks I agreed to keep Claudia with me has turned into two months,” Isabel demanded bluntly.

She could tell that her statement shamed Max because he hung his head, no longer able to meet her eyes. But despite being aware of his guilt, Isabel pressed on, without warning full of anger. “I put my marriage in jeopardy for you, Max. I went out on a limb. Alex had been telling me from the very beginning not to make it so easy for you and Liz to ignore Claudia because in your grief you’d take advantage. And I defended you, Max! My husband and I are barely on speaking terms now!”

“I’m sorry, Isabel,” was all Max could manage.

“Sorry isn’t going to cut it, dammit! You haven’t been to see Claudie in over a month, Max.”

Max couldn’t argue with her. Everything that she was saying was true. It seemed that ever since his son’s death his world had been slowly spinning out of control, further and further beyond his reach until he couldn’t recognize his life anymore. With a sense of desperate hope he had believed that after the funeral Liz would somehow get better. She’d done just the opposite. The more time passed the further she seemed to drift from him. She didn’t eat, she didn’t sleep. She was just there. Just existing.

After a month of her behavior Max thought he would go insane. He wanted so badly to reawaken that spirited, lively girl he had fallen in love with. Max had thought foolishly that if they made love, if they reestablished the close bond they had shared before then they both could start the road toward healing. But Liz had fought him off as if he had been trying to rape her. She had screamed at him to get out, that she never wanted him to touch her again. Since that night Max had kept his distance from her. He took her meals, checked on her to make sure she was okay, but he never took it any further than that because he knew it was the last thing she wanted.

And then he had thought about Claudia. How was he supposed to bring her back so a home so full of sadness and gloom? A place where her very of mother wouldn’t recognize her? He had been devastated to realize that Liz had so effectively shut him out. What the hell would that do to a four-year-old child? Max had thought that he was doing the right thing by leaving her with Alex and Isabel. He knew that while there she would receive love and attention and would be surrounded by happiness. He never dreamed, however, that his desire to give his daughter those things would put such a strain on his sister’s marriage.

He gazed at his sister now. She looked tired, worn to the bone. Nothing had been the same in any of their lives since the baby had died. Even Maria and Michael were no longer together. Two days after Jeffrey’s funeral Michael had left on an FBI assignment for South America. He had told Max that he was leaving because Maria had handed him an ultimatum and he refused to be “emotionally blackmailed” by her. However, Max had known the truth. Michael had left Maria because he was scared, scared to commit to her, scared to be the man she deserved. And so, in typical Michael fashion, he ran.

But Maria, of course, took his desertion with the stoicism of a general. Typical Maria. Instead of reflecting on her own disastrous life she set out to help Liz and Max pick up the shattered pieces of their own. Not that he or his wife made it easy for her to help, Max thought. Still he was grateful that she cared at all and that she was unwilling to give up on them.

Max realized that Isabel and Alex had been just as supportive of them and Max had done just what Alex said he would do; he had taken advantage. The burden of guilt was suddenly too much for Max and he collapsed into a nearby chair, sobs wracking his body.

Isabel went to her brother, wrapping her arms around his shaking shoulders, her own tears falling unchecked down her cheeks. “It’s okay, Max,” she whispered comfortingly, rubbing the length of his back, “It’s okay.”

“I…don’t know…what to do…Isabel,” he sobbed brokenly, “Liz…she won’t let me near her…she won’t let me in…God!….can’t she see I’m hurt…hurting, too?”

“Max, you can’t go on like this,” Isabel told him brokenly, “Somebody has to be there for Claudia.”

“But that’s why I left her with you and Alex,” he explained hoarsely, “I wanted her to have that.”

“I’m not her mother, Max,” she told him tearily. Isabel pulled back so that she could look him in the eyes when she said, “I’m not you. Max, you don’t know what it’s been like having that little girl ask for you,” she gestured towards Claudia, “and having to make up excuses as to why you aren’t there. But it was when she stopped asking for you period that I knew I had to bring her home.”

“I didn’t mean to take advantage of you, Is,” Max told her sadly.

“I know it.” Isabel supposed she had to take part of the blame for Max’s dependency. It had seemed all their lives Isabel had looked to Max for support and never the other way around. And now, for the first time in their whole lives, Max needed her. He needed her. The knowledge made Isabel feel fiercely protective toward her brother. She had only sought to ease Max’s pain and help him to cope with the death of his son. She had never imagined that she would be enabling him to remain sheltered in his grief, that she would become, in essence, his emotional crutch.

Alex had told her over and over, but she had refused to listen to him. Even knowing that, she couldn’t hold her anger against Max. She had been the one to side with him over her husband. That had been Isabel’s decision alone. She couldn’t blame the problems in her marriage on Max. She was the responsible for the damage done. She would have to be the one to fix her marriage.

“Max, you can’t expect anyone to raise your child for you, just like I can’t expect anyone to fix my problems with Alex.”

“I’m just so confused right now, Isabel. I just don’t know what to do.”

“Be a father to your daughter, Max. It’s the best thing you can do.”

Max looked towards his daughter, sleeping so soundly on the sofa, and he knew that Isabel was right. There was nothing more he could do for Liz until she was ready to accept his help. But Claudia, she needed a father now. She needed Max. Isabel was right. Being a father to Claudia was the best thing he could do, not only for her, Max realized gratefully, but for himself as well.

Part 5 | Index | Part 7
Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours
Crashdown is maintained by and . Design by Goldenboy.
Copyright © 1999-2004 Web Media Entertainment.
No infringement intended.