Disclaimer: Don't own anything. Wrote this before The End of the World, so
any resemblance is coincidental.
Summary: Liz cheats on Max.
Authors Note: All of the places in this fic are real, including that rickety, possessed elevator in the Terminal Tower. Liz and Max's apartment bares a strange resemblance to my own. Feedback always appreciated.
|"Here - you dropped this."|
Liz Parker took the book from the young man standing in front of her. "Thanks."
"I'm Jack," he said, extending his hand.
She took his hand, shaking it. "I'm Liz."
"Are you walking home?" Jack's eyes were bluer than anyone's she'd ever seen. He was an attractive young man, perhaps 22 years in age. He had on a bright blue stadium jacket, which only accentuated his eyes.
"Actually, I'm meeting my boyfriend for dinner," Liz lied. She was walking home - but she didn't want him to tag along.
"Okay, then. Maybe some other time."
Liz watched Jack leave the classroom, then began the process of bundling up for her walk home. First the scarf, then the heavy insulated jacket, then the hat, then the gloves. She hated how her feet sweat in her boots while she was in class, then how they were frozen by the time she got home. She wasn't sure she'd ever adjust to Cleveland weather.
Liz walked out of the building and away from the campus of Case Western Reserve University. She'd won a scholarship to the school's acclaimed biology program - when she was done, she'd be able to get a job just about wherever she wanted. Living through 4 years of sleet and snow and ice was going to be pure hell, though. She looked up to the sky at the big snowflakes that fell all around her. Beneath her feet, the snow that had fallen earlier in the day had turned into a muddy slush from all of the feet trampling back and forth from the school. She shivered and pulled her jacket tighter around her.
She and Max had taken an apartment in an ethnic Italian neighborhood about a mile from the campus. She'd enjoyed the walk in the fall, had liked watching the leaves change colors, but now that walk seemed torturously long. She felt the first drops of moisture seep through the toes of her boots and wet her socks. She gave a defeated sigh - once her feet were cold, her whole body soon followed.
Max loved it here - his adaptive abilities had allowed him to adjust quickly to the climate. He never complained about the damp cold of winter or the sultry heat of summer. Mostly, he liked the apathy he'd found in the Midwest - outside of a nosey landlord, he and Liz came and went as they pleased and no one cared. It was startlingly easy to disappear in this city.
Liz walked up the outside stairs that led to their second-floor apartment. She felt exhausted, almost like the flu was about to invade. She pushed open the door and saw Max sitting on the couch reading the newspaper. He was wearing a Jim Thome jersey and a Cleveland Indians baseball cap - the big city had also meant professional sports for Max, and he was hooked.
"Hey, honey," he chimed from the living room. "Only four more weeks until spring training."
And then I become a baseball widow, Liz mused. She felt a tickle in her throat and let out a sneeze in response.
Max immediately sprang from the couch and met her at the door. He took her backpack from her and tossed it into the corner. Then he removed her coat and hung that on the coat rack in the hallway. When he returned, he rubbed her arms, then pulled her in tight to his warm body.
"You okay?" he asked against the top of her head. He felt her shiver. "Come on. Let me run you a bath."
He led her down the hallway to the bathroom. She waited patiently while he began the water, squirting some moisturizer into the tub - another great side effect of the dry winters was the itchy way it dried out her skin. Max turned to her and undressed her. It was a ritual - he'd run the bath, she'd wait, he'd undress her, pick her up and place her in the tub. Same thing every night.
Oh stop it, she chided herself. You're acting like you're bored with him and you know that isn't true. She was just...depressed.
Max gingerly washed her, his face full of concern. At one point she turned her face away from him so he couldn't see the sadness in her eyes.
Liz turned to look at him.
"Tell me what's wrong," he pleaded gently. The look in his eyes made her heart lurch - he had this way of looking so devastated when she wasn't happy. As if he had ultimate control over that.
"Let me finish my bath," she said, implying she wanted some privacy. "I'll meet you in the bedroom."
Max reluctantly agreed and left her to herself. Liz sighed. At least the chills had gone away. Now she just felt so tired. She sat in the bath for maybe another fifteen minutes, then dried herself off and slipped into her robe.
In the bedroom, Max was leaning against the headboard, watching the TV that was at the foot of the bed. He had removed the hat and had an adorable mess of hat hair. Liz slid onto the bed and under his arm. He kissed the top of her head and pulled her in tight. She liked these quiet moments when she could just sit with him, when all of her school and work worries became secondary thoughts and all she had to think about was the gorgeous man holding her. She laid a wisp of a kiss on his chest as she watched it rise and fall with his breathing.
Max shifted so that Liz was lying on top of him. His eyes met hers for a long moment and she could see the concern there. He didn't ask - he wouldn't ask again; his question in the bathroom was the only invitation she'd get to tell him what was wrong. Max asked everything once, then left it up to her if she wanted to answer him, whenever. He gently pushed her head down to his chest and smoothed her back with his big hands. She could hear his heart thumping in his chest, hear each breath he took. The repetition made her sleepy.
"I miss home," she finally said against his chest.
Liz felt his muscles tightened beneath her as he replied. "I'm sorry, Liz."
"It isn't your fault. It was my idea to accept that scholarship." God, Roswell was 3200 miles away. "I miss Mom and Dad and Maria. Alex..." She lifted her head so she could look him in the eye again. "Don't you miss your family - Isabel?"
Max looked guilty. "Isabel visits me a couple times a week," he reminded her. He was referring to the times that Isabel dreamwalked him so she could keep in touch. It wasn't the same as her being there, but it was a visit nonetheless.
"What about your parents? And Michael?"
Max nodded. "Sometimes." Liz knew that Max had kept himself detached from the Evanses, that he'd never let them in as parents, that he was never as close to them as Liz was to the Parkers. And he and Michael had done nothing but argue in the few months before he and Liz had left Roswell. Michael was like the brother Max wanted to love, but had many hurdles to jump before he could.
Max studied Liz's face, then placed a kiss on her forehead. "I have to go to work." He'd taken a job bartending at a neighborhood bar. The hours were long, but the tips were decent and he could keep them living reasonably comfortably. When one of the patrons coerced him into having a shot with them, he'd pour his shot under the bar where no one could see - water. No one ever caught on that the bartender couldn't drink.
Max tucked Liz's hair behind her ear. She was warm again - it had been nonstop colds and flu for her since they'd come here. He could heal wounds, unfortunately infections were beyond his abilities. "Forget the homework tonight, Liz. You need some sleep."
"Max, I can't. I've got -"
"I'll help you later." He never had any homework. With his photographic memory, homework and tests were a breeze. He kissed her lightly on the lips and started to move for the door.
"You aren't going to work with that hat head, are you?" Liz quizzed.
Max shrugged. "Why not?" he replied and pulled the Indians cap over his head again.
A FEW WEEKS LATER
Liz sat on the bed, a book balanced in her lap. One more final to go, and then it was spring break. She hadn't quite decided what "spring" meant in the northeast. It certainly hadn't stopped snowing yet. She put down her books and walked out to the small kitchen to make a cup of hot chocolate. Out the back window, she saw a commuter train trundle by silently, kicking up a cloud of white snow in its wake. She had to admit she liked watching the trains go by.
Sighing, she popped a cup of milk into the microwave and watched it rotate on the turntable. Max had left abruptly that morning, saying he had an errand to run - that had been 2 hours ago. And he'd seemed excited. She smiled at the thought of his eager face. He tried so hard to keep her happy, and he never complained about whatever was going on in his life. Certainly he must be missing home, his friends. Certainly he must be concerned about their future, about life after college. But he never voiced any of it. He just smiled and comforted her, ran her baths and stroked her hair until she fell asleep. He was so perfect sometimes she ached.
Liz returned to the bedroom, placed the chocolate on the nightstand. She retrieved the book and started to study again. She was vaguely aware of the back door opening and closing, and footsteps in the hallway. The bedroom door opened quietly, and she looked up to see Max standing there, one hand behind his back.
"Am I interrupting?" he asked softly.
"No, come on in." She gave him a loving smile as she marked the page in her book with a pencil and closed it.
Max knelt by the bed, hand still behind his back. With the other hand, he reached out and stroked her hair. "I know you've been unhappy," he began.
"No, Max, it's okay."
"Shh," he said gently, silencing her. "I thought maybe you could use some company." He produced a small gray kitten from behind his back.
Liz's eyes brightened and she reached for the small bundle of fluff. She pulled it in to her body and it immediately began to purr.
"I got her at the pound," Max explained. "She came right to the cage door when I went in - she picked us, Liz."
Liz reached over and kissed him. "She's beautiful, Max."
"I figured she'd give you some company while I'm not here. She'll give you something to take care of."
Something to mother, is what he meant. Liz was a nurturer, and Max knew that her unsuccessful bouts with various houseplants had been an attempt to fill that need.
"What're we going to name her?" Liz asked, stroking its soft fur.
"You decide," Max said. "She's your kitty."
Liz bit her lip, thinking.
"While you're thinking it over," Max began, "I have another surprise for you."
Liz looked up, curious. Max had that look on his face again - excitement. He opened the door, and pulled Maria DeLuca through by the wrist. Liz squealed, barely remembering to put down the kitten before she leapt from the bed. Max got out of her way just in time to avoid being bowled over as she embraced her friend. Maria was laughing and Liz was crying. Liz held her out at arm's length.
"Let me look at you!" she shrieked. Maria's hair was longer, past her shoulders. She was wearing a black sweater and a short black denim skirt - definitely inappropriate for this climate. She would have to borrow some of Liz's heavier clothes. Liz pulled Maria to her again, sniffling, then she turned to Max. "How?"
Max shrugged nonchalantly, embarrassed. "Saved my tips. I couldn't afford to fly both of us home, but I could afford to fly Maria here."
"And what a flight it was," Maria laughed. "Nearly ralphed - about eight times."
"God, I can't believe you're here." Liz pulled Maria down on the bed with her. "Tell me everything - I want to hear everything. Where's Michael?"
"Oh, you know, fight of the week. By the time he realizes I left, he'll be ready to be all friendly again. But I'll be in Ohio - and that's okay because he can think about it for a while this time."
"Maria, I'm sorry."
"Don't be. If we didn't fight, we'd never communicate." There was no bitterness in her voice, just amused acceptance. "I did go out with Kyle Valenti once, though."
Maria rolled her blue eyes. "He's a deputy now. It must've been something with the uniform…and it made Michael jealous as hell."
Max smiled as he watched the two girls catch up. He backed out of the room and closed the door behind him - he could've been standing there buck naked and neither of them would have noticed. But Liz had shown an excitement that he hadn't seen in months, and it felt good. Max sat down on the couch and picked up the newspaper. He heard the bedroom door open, then quick steps in the hallway.
Liz appeared in front of him, all smiles. She threw her arms around him, kissing him hard. "Thank you, Max," she breathed. "God, I love you!" And she was gone again, back to the bedroom and her friend.
|Index | Part 2|
|Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours|