FanFic - Max/Liz
"Midwest Max"
Part 3
by Karen
Disclaimer: Don't own anything. Wrote this before The End of the World, so any resemblance is coincidental.
Summary: Liz cheats on Max.
Category: Max/Liz
Rating: PG-13
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.
"So, why doesn't he just wave his hand and melt all of that ice?" Maria was watching Max shovel the walk behind their apartment.

Liz shrugged. "Too suspicious, I guess. Besides, Max likes the cold."


Liz snorted. "Yeah, go figure." She smiled as she thought of the way he would stay out longer than he should, his ears and cheeks turning crimson in the crisp air. He'd tried all of the winter sports since he'd moved to the north coast - skiing, skating, snow boarding, snowmobile riding, and hockey. He was hooked. "He's turned into this sports nut. It's kind of funny. He actually watched that Ken Burns baseball documentary straight through - like all 19 hours of it."

Maria giggled. "No kidding."

"No kidding." Liz thought of waking that morning in Max's arms - they'd fallen asleep together on the couch, him holding her tight. She'd awaken when he'd moved to get up - there was no good morning kiss, no smile, just a mumbled "Good morning" as he'd retreated to the shower. He was serious about her needing to get her priorities straight. "What do you want to do today, Maria?"

Maria turned from the window. "Isn't Max off today? Shouldn't we do something with him? I've barely seen him since I've been here. I feel kind of guilty - he did spring for my ticket and all."

"Maria, I don't know if Max will be doing anything with us."

Maria could read the sorrow in her friend's voice and expression. "Liz, what happened?"

Liz forced a weak smile. "Nothing. We're just...kind of apart right now."

"You split up?" Maria's blue eyes were wide.

"No, not really." She sighed, gesturing for Maria to sit by her on the couch. Outside, she could hear the metal-on-concrete scrape of the snow shovel as Max cleared the walk. "He's really hurt and upset. At first I couldn't even get him to talk to me. And when he did speak, he told me I needed to make a decision about what I wanted, and if I thought some time in the future I wouldn't want him, I needed to leave now."

Maria put an arm around her friend. "Liz, I am so sorry."

"God, I am never drinking again, Maria. I can't believe the way I behaved. I'm so ashamed..."

"What are you going to do?"

"I don't know. Give it some time, I guess."

"Well, avoiding him isn't going to do much good. Let's ask him to do something with us. I'll be there as a buffer so it's not so tense."

"Oh, Maria, I don't think - "

"I do. Let's do lunch. Then let's do something he would enjoy."

Liz heaved another sigh. "I just don't know..."

The back door slammed and the girls looked up to see Max stamping the snow off his boots. His ears were red, and he wiped his nose with the back of his gloved hand. He was breathing heavily from the cold and the exertion of shoveling the snow.

Maria's face lit up. "Morning, Max."

He looked up as he pulled off his gloves and smiled at her. "Morning, Maria." He shook the snow from his dark hair. "It's a cold one today."

"Looks like it. I've never seen those cheeks so rosy."

He laughed lightly, then turned when the phone rang. "Hello?" he said into the receiver. His face broke into a grin. "Hey, Michael, how's it going?"

Maria exchanged a quick glance with Liz. "Oh, God, he found me," she gasped, feigning horror.

Liz laughed.

"It's early there, Michael," Max was saying, an amused look on his face. "What are you doing up? Huh? Well, yeah, actually she is." There was a pause and he started to laugh. "Okay, okay. Hang on. No, I had nothing to do with it. Honest." He held the phone out to Maria. "It's Michael, if you hadn't guessed."

Maria rolled her eyes, then stood to take the phone from Max. She sighed, then spoke into the receiver. "Yes? Oh, hello." She sounded bored. "Yup - Ohio. No, it's snowing. Yes, it's cold. Did you call to ask about the weather? An airplane, how do you think?"

Max's smiled faded as he left the kitchen and entered the living room. "Hi," he said cautiously to Liz.

She stood and took his wet coat and gloves from him, tossing the gloves on top of the radiator to dry. "Thanks for, uh, clearing the walk."

"A man's work is never done," he joked weakly.

"Max..." Liz inhaled deeply. "Maria leaves in a couple of days."

"I know."

"She wants to spend some time with you." She tried to read his expression, but couldn't. "Do you want to do lunch with us today? You're off today, right? Then maybe we could go downtown, show her around a bit..." Her voice trailed off and she suddenly felt self-conscious, like she was standing there naked.

"Okay," he said finally. "I need to get some dry clothes, then we can go."

Liz allowed herself a small smile. "Good."

Max walked down the hall to the bedroom, and Liz heard Maria's shriek of laughter from the kitchen. Evidently she and Michael had made up.


They ate lunch at the Hard Rock. The conversation was light with Maria being the center of attention - Max and Liz spoke to her but rarely to each other. There was a prevailing sense of sadness, but it hadn't overcome their outing.

After lunch, Max led them out to the lobby of the mall, which was in the heart of downtown Cleveland. "I want to show you guys something." He went to the information desk, passed over some money and received some tickets,

"What's this all about?" Maria whispered to Liz.

Liz shrugged. "Got me."

Max returned, smiling, then lead them to the elevators. "Afraid of elevators?" he asked Maria.


"Good thing."

He pushed the "up" button and the trio waited patiently for the elevator. The doors slid open and they stepped inside. Liz looked around the inside of the car - the thing looked as old as Cleveland itself, and she only had a moment to wonder about its safety before the elevator shot into action. She grabbed for the handrail as the car rocketed upward - she was vaguely aware of Maria's startled scream. As the elevator shook from side to side, they could see the floors whizzing by through the partially cracked doors. Liz had a thought that she might smack the ceiling when it came to a stop.

It came to stop at the 35th floor, and she didn't hit the ceiling. Max was smiling as Maria smacked him on the arm.

"What was that?" she screeched.

"The fastest elevator ride in the east," Max laughed. "Hate to break it to you - but we're not done. We've still got 10 floors to go."

Maria whined as they got off the elevator and rounded a corner to the next one. She clutched Liz's hand, but the final 10 floors were smooth - it was obviously a newer elevator. When they got off on the 45th floor, Max handed the tickets to an attendant, who opened the door for them.

"What is this place?" Maria asked, looking toward the sculpted ceiling.

"You'll see," Max said, smiling at her.

They rounded a corner and both of the girls drew in a breath. They were inside the Terminal Tower, 45 stories above the ground, and all of Cleveland was below them. To the north, the icy expanse of Lake Erie stretched as far as the eye could see. On the horizon, Maria could see a black speck - a freighter braving the icy spring waters. As they walked the circle of the round room, different parts of the city came into view - the football stadium, the baseball park, the office buildings, the highways. The twisting and turning Cuyahoga river with its banks dotted with boats docked for the winter, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the people moving like ants below them, and all covered in the new snow.

After an initial group narrative on what they were seeing, the three of them ended up going their own ways.

Maria leaned against the window watching the cars on the intertwining highways. She thought of Michael and how much she did love him in spite of his resistance to her. Were they ever going to figure this one out?

Max stood peering down at the ballpark, remembering a warm July day last summer when he and Liz had sat in the sun watching the Indians mow down the Yankees. He knew Liz didn't share his passion for the game, but she'd donned her Chief Wahoo hat and had cheered as loud as anyone. Because she loved him, he believed.

Liz crawled onto the window ledge, her head against the glass as she stared into the vastness of the lake. Canada was across those frozen waters. How far could the naked eye see before the earth curved - 11 miles? Was Canada more than 11 miles away? She couldn't tell - she couldn't see, but she knew it was there. Just like she couldn't see what the future with Max would hold, even though she knew it was there. Their life together wasn't just going to drop off at some point like ancient Mariners feared the earth would - she could see no end it sight. And that meant something. It meant she wanted to be with Max forever, but they had their problems and they needed to work through them. No one ever said, "Hey, we're perfect" and lived their lives without conflict. She felt a new determination to make it work - she just needed to mend the hurt first.

Liz felt a presence beside her and looked up to see Maria slide onto the ledge with her. "You look lost in thought," she said gently.

Liz nodded.


She could see Max a few yards away, looking out west over the city, his hands pushed deep into his pockets. His back was to her, and she had the sudden urge to walk over to him and slide her arm through his. The need to touch him was almost unbearable.

"Him," she said softly.

Maria smiled. "And?"

"I think I love him." Liz joked.

Maria laughed. "Yeah, I think I love someone, too." She rubbed her eyes, smiling. "What pathetic losers we are."

Liz laughed with her. "Yeah, we are."

Max turned and approached them. "Ready?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.

Liz felt her stomach flip at the sound of his voice. She nodded and the girls rose to their feet. As they waited for the elevator, Max noticed Maria's anxiousness.

"Don't worry," he said softly, soothingly. "The return trip only takes half as long." ____________________________________________________________________

Liz stood before the stove, stirring spaghetti sauce. The elderly Italian woman who lived downstairs had taught her to make awesome sauce and it had become a weekly ritual for Max and Liz. She could hear Maria on the phone, telling Michael all about her wonderful afternoon. Liz knew Maria was ready to go home and that Michael would be waiting for her. She smiled at the thought of Michael waiting at the airport, shifting his weight anxiously.

Max entered the kitchen and took some plates from the cupboard. "Smiling?" he asked as he put the dishes on the table.

Liz looked up, surprised she'd been addressed. "Oh, yeah. I was just thinking about Michael."


"Yeah. I bet he can't wait for Maria to get home."

Max nodded, agreeing with her. He silently set the table while Liz finished dinner. Maria eventually got off the phone and came out to help even though the work was already done.

"What smells so good?" she asked as she came through the kitchen door.

"Ancient Italian recipe," Liz explained, lifting noodles onto the plates. She put the pot back onto the stove and retrieved some Tabasco from the refrigerator for Max.

Maria took one bite of the pasta and rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. "Oh, God," she exclaimed orgasmically. "I changed my mind - I'm staying here."

"Well," Liz replied, "I'd hate to be the one to tell Michael he'd been thrown over for a plate of pasta."


Liz and Max returned Maria to the airport two days later, kissing her on the cheek and wishing her well. At home, classes started again and Max resumed his exile on the couch leaving Liz in a cold bed with her kitten. They spoke amicably, but no more so than they would with a distant neighbor.

One night, a week after Maria left, Liz lay staring at the clock. She could hear the muffled TV through the bedroom door. Heaving a sigh, she made a decision. She couldn't take this anymore.

In the living room, Max was flipping through a textbook in his lap.

"Max," Liz said softly. He looked up at her, expressionless.

"Can we talk?"

Max nodded, picked up his binder and the rest of books to make room for her on the couch. Liz sat down cautiously, eyeing him.

"I've been doing a lot of thinking," she began. "About us." He didn't respond, so she continued. "I don't know how to make up to you what I did. I hurt you, I know that. And it's all my fault. I just don't know how to make it right, Max. I don't know how to convince you that I love you and I want to spend my life with you."

Max looked silently to the floor.

"I need you to help me," Liz said, placing her hand on his. She picked up his hand and placed it over her heart. He looked up at her. "You're here. You will always be. I don't have a choice any more, Max. I love you."

He swallowed hard.

Liz then picked up his other hand and brought both of them to the sides of her head. "Connect with me, Max."

"Liz, I - "

"I want you to. I want you to see everything I did and feel what I was feeling at the time. It's the only way I can think of to make you understand."

Max hesitated, then relented. He drew in a deep breath, fixed his eyes on hers, and he was in. The shame and anger Liz felt toward herself nearly knocked him backward. Then he saw her in the club, dancing with Maria, feeling free and young. He saw Jack as his perception became clouded by the amount of alcohol Liz had consumed. He felt Liz's confusion over a hand on her knee, a stranger's lips on her neck, then the reckless abandon the alcohol had brought accompanied with the little voice in the back of her head that kept reminding her of Max at home. Then the guilt, the shame, the hurt she saw in his own eyes. He felt her devastation that she'd lost him, her frustration over how to prove she was sorry. And then the love, the love she felt for him as she watched him looked down from the Tower at the ballpark far below him; her need to touch him and the frustration of not being able to do so.

Max removed his hands from her head. Liz swallowed hard.

"Now do you see?" she asked.

Max nodded silently, never breaking their eye contact.

Liz stood and held out her hand. "Come to bed, Max," she requested softly. He took her hand and followed her down the hallway.

In the bedroom, Liz touched his hair, his cheek, then stood on her tiptoes to place a soft kiss on his lips. She felt that familiar twinge in her stomach when they touched, felt her knees go weak. He felt it, too. He reached down and pulled her nightshirt over her head, leaving her standing before him in only her panties. When he reached to remove them, Liz felt his fingers trembling - he was as nervous about this as she was. She obediently stepped out of her underwear, then cautiously began to remove his shirt. He let her.

Afterward, they lay on the bed together, watching the room gradually lighten with the rising of the sun. Max had his arms around her, his head on her chest. Max could feel her chest rising and falling with each breath she took. Liz loved the feel of his dark hair against her bare skin, loved the smell of him - a mixture of cologne, soap and a smell that was Max's own. She ran a hand through his mass of hair and he raised his head to look at her.

She smiled at him, then her expression fell serious. "I love you, Max," she said quietly.

He smiled in return. "I know," he replied, then also became serious. "I love you, Liz. We're going to be okay," he reassured her.

Liz gently pushed his head back down to her chest, and she knew in her heart that he was right. They'd weathered a rough storm - and they were going to be okay.

The End

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