Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with the WB, Jason
Katims or Melinda Metz.|
Authors Note: This was written during season 1, so there are no references to Tess or other aliens.
|Isabel’s head jerked up and she met Michael’s eyes
across the bed. Michael pushed himself up and crossed
to Maria, pulling her into his arms and planting a
kiss on the top of her head. Isabel smiled in relief
at Liz and Max as she fumbled behind her back for
“I think everything is okay. We found a tear, a huge tear, which was bleeding. I think it was the esophagus?” She looked up at Michael.
He shrugged. “What do I look like? The Surgeon General?”
Isabel rolled her eyes. “Anyway, we fixed it.”
“Thank you.” Liz smiled tremulously.
She cast a sideways glance at Max. He was staring, unseeing, at the blood on her hands. She reached for the washcloth and removed all traces of the blood, watching as Alex stroked Isabel’s hair and Maria and Michael whispered and cuddled in the corner. She dropped her gaze to Max’s hands where they rested idly on the bed, not touching any part of her. She longed to take hold of one of them. She needed to feel his strength, but she was afraid to reach for him. He had retreated from her while Isabel and Michael had healed her. Now he looked… closed off. Like he had all those months ago in Chicago.
“Could you guys leave us alone for a minute?”
The request was met by silence. Finally Alex spoke up. “Sure, Liz. We’ll be right outside if you need us.” He gave each of the others a pointed look and headed for the bedroom door. Maria crossed to the bed and gave her hand a warm squeeze, then trailed after the others.
Max heard them leave. He knew Liz was waiting for him to say something. What could he say? Everything was… everything was wrong. And it was his fault. He had driven her away. Had seemingly rejected her when she needed him the most… when *they * needed him the most. Liz had been alone and afraid, not knowing what might happen, for six months. Now he was sitting here, watching helplessly while she vomited blood, watching while others healed her. And last night… god… last night he had almost…. An image of Maggie’s face as she pulled him into her apartment filled his mind.
Liz was afraid to look at Max. Afraid of what she would find… or not find… in his expression. Now that the immediate threat to her life was gone the past lay heavily between them. Michael’s accusations had only widened the gulf.
He stared at the tips of his shoes, wondering for the thousandth time how they had reached this point. He and Liz had always been so much a part of one another, had always been able to share so much with simply a touch… a glance. How was it possible that they were sitting next to each other for the first time in six months and he couldn’t think of a thing to say to her?
He cleared his throat. “I see you’ve been packing. What are your plans?”
Liz felt a cold lump forming in the pit of her stomach. “Maria and Michael invited me to come stay with them for a while after the baby is born.”
Max nodded, still not looking at her.
Liz waited, hoping… no… praying… that he would ask her to come home. He had said in her dream-- She shook her head. That was just a dream. Even if he had truly been there it was only because he had been afraid for her. He would have said anything. And Max was here now because she was having his child. He was honorable… responsible. But once their daughter was born…
Silence settled around them again.
Liz pulled in a deep breath. This was getting ridiculous. “Max, about what Michael said—“
“He had no right to say anything,” Max interrupted, heat flaring his voice just a little. “I plan to discuss it with him later.”
“No. He wasn’t… entirely wrong.”
Max blinked, his brow furrowed in a scowl. He finally turned to look at her. “What?”
Liz fixed him with a level gaze. “I did choose to be alone, Max.” She swallowed, forcing herself to keep her eyes on his, to not look away, to not look down. “I could have…” she struggled with the words, “… done what you wanted and then, maybe we could have been together.”
He opened his mouth to speak, but she shook her head violently. “Don’t,” she said. “Just… let me finish.”
He nodded silently.
“But that was never really an option for me, you see. I understood your fears, but… this baby is a part of you, Max, and… I was scared, too, but… but I was willing to take the risks. That meant… that meant you and I couldn’t be together, but it didn’t mean I had to be alone. Maria and Michael asked me to come to Seattle every time I spoke to them. I could have stayed with Alex and Isabel, too.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “But I didn’t.
“I… oh, I don’t even know what I was thinking exactly. It was like I had to prove that I could do this alone. That I didn’t need anyone. That I didn’t need you. I wanted to prove to you that you were wrong. But I missed you and I was so scared and alone and all I wanted was to come home. I thought about it every day. I’d reach for the phone to call you…and then… then I’d remember what you said… how you felt… and I couldn’t. I was afraid you wouldn’t want me anymore. That you’d tell me you didn’t want me to come home.”
Max shook his head. How could he have done this? How could he have been such a selfish bastard? He had sensed how afraid she was their last night together. She had been trembling from the moment she had walked in the door, her eyes rimmed with red from crying. He had waited for her to tell him what was bothering her, planning to comfort her, reassure her that, no matter what it was, everything would work out. But what had he done when she finally worked up the courage to tell him the truth? Gotten angry. He winced at the memory of his harsh tone when she informed him that she was already three months pregnant. And she was afraid that he didn’t want her back? He was the one who should be afraid. And he was.
“Never. Liz, never, ever think that I don’t want you in my life.” His heart nearly broke again at how vulnerable she looked.
“But Max… Michael is right. Whenever he or Maria told me that you asked about me, told me how you tried to convince them to tell you where I was… whenever they told me how afraid or depressed you were… there was… there was this part of me… that was glad. I *wanted * to hurt you. I wanted to be the strong one and hurt you like--”
“Like I hurt you,” Max finished quietly.
Liz nodded, eyes lightly closed. One tear fell from her eye and landed on the blanket clutched in her hands. “I’m sorry, Max.”
He bent over her, gathering her into his arms. “No,” he whispered against her hair, rocking them back and forth. “Don’t be. You have nothing to be sorry for. It was my fault. All of it.” He pulled back slightly, looking down into her somber eyes. “There was *never * a time when I didn’t want this baby, Liz. I was just so afraid of losing you. And… of losing the normal life we’d worked so hard for. And I did,” his voice hitched as he gently stroked her cheeks. “I lost you… I lost my life.”
Liz pulled in a sharp breath and pressed her forehead into Max’s chest.
Max wrapped his arms around her, holding her close. His jaw tensed as his abdominal muscles clenched painfully. Max was worried. He was sharing Liz’s contractions and he was thankful for that, but he didn’t seem to be easing her pain at all. Somehow he knew that wasn’t right. He should be taking on at least half of her pain, making it easier for her, but if this was only half the pain he couldn’t imagine what she would be feeling if he wasn’t there. He must be doing something wrong. Isabel had wanted to speak with him earlier. Maybe there was something else he needed to know, needed to do.
The pain rolled back and he felt Liz begin to relax in his arms. He tilted her chin up and studied her face. “You okay?”
She nodded. “Max, I just wanted you to know… about what we were talking about before we were…interrupted,” she smiled ruefully and her hand drifted lightly across her stomach. “I… Max… you never lost me.”
The intense fear that had gripped him over the past twelve hours started to slip away and a new resoluteness took its place. They would get through this. He would make sure of it. He cupped her face between his hands and looked deep into her eyes. “Let’s settle this now.”
She smiled and nodded her assent.
It had been years since he had tried to form a connection with anyone, but their minds slid together effortlessly. The images and thoughts they each carried were different, but the emotions they had experienced over the past months were the same: love, pain, devotion, helplessness and a fierce determination to protect each other and their unborn child.
Max released her face and slowly lowered his hands to his sides. They regarded each other quietly. There was no more need for words… or doubts. They were completely exposed and open to one another. The connection had lessened when Max pulled away, but it did not break.
This is how it is supposed to be. This is what was missing. Max’s thoughts met Liz’s and they smiled at the same time.
“You should try and get some rest while the contractions are still a few minutes apart. It’s going to be a long day.”
“You should, too,” Liz retorted. “You look like hell.”
He grinned down at her. “Now that sounds like the pot calling the kettle black.”
“Such flattery.” Her eyes widened in pretended offense.
He chuckled and settled her against the headboard. “Do you want a drink of water?”
She shook her head. “It wouldn’t stay down.”
Max bit his lip thoughtfully and then brightened. “How about ice? I remember reading that you’re supposed to chew ice chips when you’re in labor.” He frowned at the look of doubt on her face. “You need something, Liz. You have to be as strong as possible for this.”
“I know and… ice sounds great. I have cubes in the freezer. But later. After the next contraction. Right now, I just want to spend the next few minutes wrapped in my husband’s arms.”
Max helped her scootch down until she was laying on the bed, then stretched out next to her. She nestled her head contentedly against his shoulder as he draped his other arm carefully over the top of her and pulled her close. “You mean like this?”
“Well, it was less awkward in my imagination. This bloated stomach of mine keeps getting in the way, but yeah, this is good.”
They both closed their eyes and listened to the soft sounds of each other’s breathing.
“Can you hear anything?” Isabel asked around the fingernail she was rapidly chewing to bits.
Alex waved a hand for her to be quiet, one ear pressed against the bedroom door. He straightened, shaking his head. “All quiet. Do you suppose they’re sleeping?”
Maria ceased her pacing and looked to the others. “Maybe we should check on them.”
Alex shook his head. “What if they’re *not * sleeping?”
“Alex,” Isabel sighed. “She’s in labor. I seriously doubt we’re going to walk in on a porno video.”
“And I don’t think even Max and Liz’s love can transcend barf-breath.”
Alex burst into laughter as Maria whacked Michael on one arm and Isabel hit him on the other.
“OW!” He complained.
Max smiled sleepily at the sound of Alex’s laughter and Michael’s shout. He had no idea what was going on out there, but it seemed that things were back to normal on all fronts. He placed a kiss on Liz’s temple and snuggled himself deeper into the bed.
|Part 12 | Index | Part 14|
|Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours|