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.
|Maria was looking out the kitchen window at a pink neon sign in the distance.
Her arms were crossed over her chest, her attempt to hold in as much body
heat as possible. Liz was readying dinner.|
"What's that pink sign over there?" Maria asked.
Liz stopped long enough to peak out the window. "Bar."
"Ever been over there?"
"No. A lot of kids from school go there, though. It's a blues bar. Kind of an older crowd."
"Want to go tonight?"
Liz shrugged. "I don't know..."
"Oh, come on. Max said he has to work. We're both legal now. Let's have a little fun."
Liz smiled at her friend. "You're right. But just for a little while, okay?"
After dinner, Liz and Maria raided Liz's closet, picking out outfits for the bar. Liz put on a black leather skirt Max had bought her for Christmas and topped it with one of his white shirts knotted at her waist. Maria did Liz's hair, something that gave Liz a little thrill because it had been so long since they'd done these things for each other. Liz did Maria's make up. Then they headed out to the club.
The bar was small, smoky, cramped and very loud. But, much to its reputation, the music - provided by a local blues band - was incredible. Maria's eyes lit up as soon as she walked through the door - this was her kind of place. Grabbing Liz by the wrist, she drug her to the bar and ordered some drinks. Liz wasn't much of a drinker, but she'd promised Maria she would let loose for a while.
Maria then pulled Liz out onto the crowded dance floor and started moving with the mass of people. At first Liz felt uncomfortable, but the more she drank, the more at home she felt. Somewhere around drink number three, she felt someone brush against her back. She turned and saw the boy from class who had returned her book.
"Liz, right?" he yelled over the music.
Liz nodded her head, giving a tipsy giggle. "John!"
Maria twirled her way over to them, noticed a handsome, brooding man behind Jack. She needed to know this guy.
"I'm Maria," she volunteered. "Who's your friend?"
Jack glanced over his shoulder. "Pete." He turned and said something to Pete that neither of the girls could hear, then looked back to Maria. Pete was smiling at her. "Listen, we have a table in the corner. Wanna sit? Get some drinks?"
Liz thought about it for the briefest of seconds - her feet were killing her. They followed the guys back to the table where it was a little quieter, but still cramped and smoky. Liz slid into the booth by Jack, barely noticing through her alcoholic haze that their legs were touching.
"What are you drinking?" Jack asked.
"Gin and tonic for me," Maria said, "Princess Liz is having whiskey sours."
Jack laughed. "Why do you call her Princess Liz?"
"Because that's how Max treats her."
Liz thought briefly of Max - - he was probably thinking of new wonderful ways to be perfect to her at that very moment. He'd never be in a place like this. He'd never like to see her so drunk and uninhibited - he was so in control she was amazed he didn't get all twisted around himself. A little frown creased her forehead and she came to a decision - this was her night to let down her hair and act like a kid for once. They'd been so responsible and careful for so long, she was feeling suffocated - and bored.
"How about that drink?" was her response.
Liz woke to a steady pounding in her head. It was several minutes before she realized her head pounded every time her heart pounded. The room felt like it was rocking back and forth and she had a rancid taste in her mouth. Slowly, she opened her eyes, quickly closed them again when the light sent daggers through her head. Daring to move, she rolled over onto her back.
"Shh, don't speak," she whispered, touching her head.
"Are you okay?"
No, she wasn't okay. The sudden clenching of her stomach caused her to move quicker than she'd intended as she raced for the bathroom. After she'd thrown up most of what she'd drank the night before, Liz collapsed on the cool tile of the bathroom floor. How ironic that this was where she seemed most comfortable. When she dared to look, she noticed she was still in her clothes. She didn't remember coming home, didn't remember climbing into bed with Max. For all she knew, she could have been home before Max and he'd climbed into bed with her.
Shaking, she got to her feet and ran some cold water into the sink. She could feel her knees knocking together as she bent to dip a wash cloth into the water. The shock of the cold cleared her senses a bit and she wiped her nose on a tissue. The events of the night started to come back to her - Maria buying her drinks, dancing, meeting Jack and his friend, the back seat of a car...
Liz's eyes widened and she bent to vomit again. She'd cheated on Max. Irrationally, she felt under the waistband of her skirt - she was still in possession of her underwear. She hadn't had sex with Jack, but she'd kissed him and let him touch her.
She'd cheated on Max.
Max was kneeling in front of her. She couldn't bring herself to look at him.
"Go back to bed, Max," she said, perhaps a little more stern than she'd intended.
"What can I do?" He reached for a towel.
"Nothing. Just go away, please."
Max didn't go away. He reached for her arms and helped her to her feet, then he toweled off her face. The look of love and caring on his face drove daggers into Liz's heart. She didn't deserve him - she'd taken all that he was for granted and spit it back out. He leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead - and recoiled.
Liz thought she saw something like shock in his dark eyes, then extreme sadness. God, there was no way he could have known, was there?
"Let me get you back to bed," he said, trying to keep his voice steady. He slipped an arm beneath her knees and picked her up like she weighed nothing. In the bedroom, he stripped her clothes from her body but his actions were methodical, not the same as when he tenderly ran a bath for her. He slipped one of his T-shirts over her head, then helped her into the bed, pulling the covers over her. He didn't speak, just left the room and shut the door quietly behind him.
Liz felt the tears slip from the corners of her eyes. She glanced at the clock - it was 6 a.m. Max didn't have anywhere to be that early on a Sunday - he'd gone to sleep on the couch. ____________________________________________________________________
Maria sat at the kitchen table, her sunglasses covering her blood shot eyes and a cup of coffee in her hand. It was past noon. When she heard the shuffling of feet in the hallway, she looked up to see Liz standing in the doorway. Maria wordlessly motioned to the coffeepot. Liz poured herself a cup, then sat down with a thud onto one of the chairs.
"Ralph?" Maria asked.
"Oh, yeah. You?"
"You better believe it."
They sat in silence for a while, sipping their coffee. Liz looked into the living room.
Maria shrugged. "Figured he was still sleeping."
Liz pulled herself to her feet and went into the living room. There was a note on the coffee table. It read: WENT RUNNING. HELPING SOMEONE FROM WORK MOVE. DON'T WAIT UP. MAX. At the bottom was a P.S. - I HOPE YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU.
Liz felt the tears well up in her eyes and she sank onto the couch. She squeezed her hand around the note and crumpled it into a ball. Maria came in and sat by her, rubbing her back.
"Liz, you okay?"
"No, God what did I do?"
"Really wanna know?"
Liz nodded. She didn't want to know, but she had to know so she knew how to deal with it.
"You had a good time, Liz. You partied. You drank. You danced."
"Did I kiss another guy?"
Maria thought about it for a minute. "I know I did. Some guy named Pete." She grimaced. "Amateur."
"But what about me?"
"I don't know. You were with that Jack guy. Maybe." Maria studied her friend. "Liz, you made a mistake. Max doesn't have to know."
"I think he already knows."
"How can that be?"
Liz shrugged, wiping her tears, then pointed to the ceiling. "He's not one of us, remember?"
Maria's expression softened and she reached for Liz, pulling her into her body and smoothing her hair. "So, you'll talk to him about it. We'll go visit him at work tonight."
Liz thought about going to the bar to see Max and she suddenly felt sick again. Without a word, she rose and returned to her bed.
Max was standing behind the bar when Maria and Liz entered. He was talking amicably with a patron about the upcoming baseball season. Max could talk baseball for hours, and it appeared he'd found a fellow worshipper. He glanced at the girls as they sat at the other end of the bar. He poured something under the counter, then wordlessly sat it in front of Liz and returned to the baseball fan.
Liz exchanged a stunned glanced with Maria, then sniffed the drink - whiskey sour. She felt the bile rise to her throat, met Max's gaze for a split second, then ran from the bar.
Liz awoke in the middle of the night. A glance at the clock told her that it was well after three. Sliding on her slippers and her robe, she walked sleepily out to the living room. Max was slouched on the couch, watching the TV with the sound off, the cat curled up in his lap.
"Max," she said softly.
He didn't turn to look at her.
"Can we talk?"
When he didn't respond, she slipped into the chair beside the couch.
He turned to meet her gaze, and she could see the trace of tears in his eyes. He'd been sitting in the dark crying.
"Why are you with me Liz?" he asked. "When I bore you, when you think our life is dull, when you'd rather kiss some frat boy?"
Liz looked at the floor. "Max - "
"Did you have a good time?"
Liz looked up at him. "I'm sorry."
"Yeah, me, too." He turned back to the TV, his jaw set. But Liz could see the tears glistening in his eyes once again.
"Max - "
"Just go back to bed, Liz."
She stood and reached out her hand. "Come with me," she requested. Please, she thought. Just take my hand.
He glanced at her and shook his head.
"No. Good night."
Liz stood there for a moment, then withdrew her hand. "Okay, then I will stay here with you." She deliberately sat beside him on the couch. She felt his body tense. "I can't apologize unless you let me, Max. I understand that you are hurt, and I would never, never want to hurt you."
"Then you shouldn't have done what you did."
"I know that. But it happened and now we have to deal with it."
There was a long silence, then Liz touched his arm. Max wanted to pull away from her, but instead felt the first tear roll down his cheek. She reached up and wiped it away, then pulled him in close to her body. He clutched her back as the tears silently fell.
"I'm so sorry," she whispered against his ear. "I will never do anything like that again. I promise you, Max. I love you."
Max pushed himself away gently. "Do you, Liz? 'Cause, God, if you have doubts about us, you need to let me know now." He swallowed hard before he continued. "I can't keep going on like this, thinking I know you and you love me, then getting disappointed in the future."
"Max, I - "
"No, Liz. You think about it. I think you need to re-evaluate what you want out of your life." He studied her pretty face. "And if you decide you want me, then I will be here. If you decide you don't want me, then I will leave. It's as simple as that."
Liz was speechless, her eyes round with the realization of what Max had just said. His bottom lip quivered and he reached for her, pulling her in to his embrace. He planted a kiss on the side of her head, and when he inhaled shakily, Liz knew he was crying silently.
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