|Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Don't sue, I'll cry. ;p|
Summary: Sequel to 'Beer Bad'. The questions you ignore are always there in the morning.
Author's Note: For Aurora, whose thoughts gave me the inspiration to continue this story. :)
Four angry faces looked on from their place around the Evans' dining room table at the two teenagers that sat in hard-back chairs in opposite corners at the other side of the room. Diane Evans spoke first, her tone as serious as her eyes: "Care to explain yourselves?"|
Liz Parker slowly turned her head, meeting the eyes of Max that expressed his loss for words. Seeing the concerned faces of her parents, she brought a hand to her mouth to stifle a laugh. Her muffled giggles reached the ears of everyone else nonetheless.
Nancy Parker looked alarmed. "Why is this funny?"
"It's not, it's not--" Liz said, trying in vain to get the laughter out of her system. She pointed a finger lazily in Max's direction. "I was just... we were just... hanging out."
Philip Parker prepared to cut in, but stopped as Max's laughter joined in to add to his daughter's. And now they had two laughing teens who apparantly didn't care about the seriousness of their actions.
Diane was now not only angry, but also confused. "Hanging out. In the middle of the night. What was so important that it had to be done last night?"
Max's eyes widened, sending Liz's laughter soaring. She was so overcome by the very thought of telling her parents EXACTLY what she had been up to that all she could do to keep from turning red with embarassment was to laugh it off. And once started, she couldn't stop.
Max's father thought back on a morning not too long ago when his son had walked into The Crashdown, hand-in-hand with the very same brunette, after being unaccounted for all night long, worrying his mother without a second thought. He rested his chin in his hand, frowning at his son until the laughter in the room died down. Risking Diane's wrath, he voiced, "...At least they stayed inside this time."
- - -
Madonna sang out from the small stereo on the dresser as Isabel perched at her vanity, pulling the golden strands of her hair this way and that, frowning and smiling at each style that came forth. When her decision was made, she waved a hand over her head, coming away with a glamorous ponytail complete with tightly-spiraled curls.
Carefully surveying her reflection first to ensure every strand of hair was in place, every swipe of eyeshadow evenly distributed - - after all, alien or not, a girl's got to look her best, Isabel stood and headed out of her room. Intent on finding Max to settle her curiosity about what was going on with Liz and Tess last night, she made her way down the hall, frowning as she found her brother's door closed. It was never closed.
Isabel hesitated for a moment, worried that she might find a certain disturbing scene behind the door. Giving her stomach time to settle, she finally turned the knob and thrust open the door.
She let out an agitated sigh when there was no one there. The bedsheets were thoughrally ruffled, but other than that, nothing out of the ordinary. "Max," she whined, not up to searching all over the house for a brother that should be sleeping in during summer vacation.
Heading down the stairs, she paused when she heard voices. Following their trail to the dining room, she stopped short when she glimpsed her brother with a strange sort of smile on his face, slouching in a chair that was a good five feet away from where Liz sat, looking tired, her hair and clothes disheveled.
Isabel raised her eyebrows when her mother turned around to find her standing there. "Getting to know your future in-laws?" she guessed half-heartedly.
Max chuckled, bringing about the only noise in the entire room. "Honey..." Mrs. Evans began, ignoring her son as she looked to Isabel for a moment, "Liz was here last night. Did you know anything about this?"
Isabel shot a look of disgust to Max. "All night?" When Max nodded in confirmation, she brought a hand to her forehead. "Oh God, I think I'm going to be sick..." Her voice trailed off as she made her way out the front door.
- - -
As if the day weren't already going badly enough, what with the usual poor tips and rude customers, Maria threw her hands up when Isabel Evans walked into The Crashdown. "Aliens everywhere you turn..." she grumbled, not at all surprised when Isabel slid into her usual booth, which just happened to be in Maria's section. "Of course!"
Immediately she headed over, plopping her hands on the table and staring Isabel down. "Welcome to the Crashdown, don't you people ever eat at home?" she rushed out in a monotone.
Isabel folded her hands calmly, lightly resting her chin on them as she propped her arms up on her elbows. She took but a few seconds to gather her response. "*Michael* dumped you, Maria, not me. Don't take it out on me just because you let yourself fall for him."
Maria faltered, opening her mouth as if to retaliate, but closing it just as quickly. She slid into the booth on the opposite side, ignoring the nearby customer who was beckoning her over. "Look, I..."
"You don't have to explain, I'm not here to talk about anything to do with Michael," Isabel cut in, needing to share her unsettling news with someone. "I'm here about Max and Liz."
"What about Max and Liz?" Maria asked in a tired voice, obviously just as sick of discussing their relationship as her conversation partner.
"They spent the night together." Maria's eyes bulged, prompting Isabel to continue. "They're at my house, being lectured by my parents, and I assume her parents. Don't ask me what's going on, I don't know," she said, sensing the question that would've come next, "I just needed to tell someone."
"...But Liz walked away from Max," said Maria, more for her own benefit than anything else. "She was ready to stay away from him, she wanted to get away from here this summer to get him off her mind."
"Well I'd say the chances of that have been eliminated."
Maria inhaled and exhaled slowly. "I need some cyprus oil," she said, bolting from the booth and heading back toward the break room.
- - -
From his place on the opposite side of the street, Michael watched as a car pulled up to the front of The Crashdown, stopping only for a moment to allow Liz to exit from the back, then hurrying away as soon as she slammed the door. Frowning, his eyes followed her as she yanked open the glass door at the front of the restaurant, stalking in with quick footsteps.
Though his curiosity was peaked, he was hesitant to follow. Maria was in there. He'd made it his priority to stay clear of her, of Liz, and of Alex since the day destiny was revealed. To see any of them was to feel guilty for pulling them into the alien mess, and in particular to see Maria, looking at him with those sad eyes that kept asking why, was something he doubted he could handle.
Beyond the glass doors, he could see the petite blonde rush up from somewhere in the back to yank Liz away from the customers, her mouth no doubt running a mile a minute. A car whizzed by to block them from Michael's sight, and with a silent command to stay strong and indifferent, he crossed the street, and slipped into the restaurant, thankful to spot Isabel already there.
The constant drumming of her fingers stopped when Michael sat across from her, looking at her in a questioning way. "What's with Liz?" he asked, his voice hushed.
"Good morning to you, too," Isabel answered, tilting her head curiously. "Maria's here, you know."
"I know. What's with Liz?"
Isabel sighed. "Michael, I'm not your personal spy. If you think there's something wrong with Liz, then go ask her what's going on."
"Why can't you just tell me?"
"What makes you think I know?"
"What else would you be doing here?"
Again, Isabel sighed. "It's a restaurant, I was hungry. Put the two concepts together and see what springs to mind." Michael slumped down in his seat, knowing she was there for a reason, and refusing to give up until said reason was explained. Knowing him, knowing how he hated to be left in the dark, Isabel gave in, "Max and Liz are back together. I came to let Maria know."
Michael's face was incredulous. "Why didn't you let me know?"
"Michael," Isabel complained impatiently.
"Fine. So you told Maria. Whatever. Since when are Max and Liz back together?"
"Since she spent the night at our house."
Michael was ready to push for more information, but his train of thought came to a halt as a familiar voice reached his ears. It was as if his mind went into overload at the mere sound of it, and he was unable to differentiate actual words from the smooth stream of soothing sound that was Maria.
- - -
As soon as she entered The Crashdown, Liz was yanked into the back room by Maria, whose only explanation was a quick: "We need to talk."
Once alone in the break room, Liz caught her breath and began her excuse for being late for work. "Look, I'm sorry you had to cover me for awhile, but my parents just dropped me off--"
"From Max's house," interrupted Maria.
"...Yes," Liz confirmed, confused and waiting for her friend to continue, which she didn't. "And I would have called, but I'm not really allowed to use the phone for like the rest of my life, and they took away the cell phone that I keep in my backpack. So I'm sorry. Was there a breakfast rush?"
Maria was frowning. "What is wrong with you? I don't care about covering for you, I want the details - - spill! What were you doing at Max's house all night? You two didn't... you know..."
"Maria! No! Of course not!"
"Liz, we talked about this. We were going to shun those alien boys, together, me and you, remember? They have a destiny, which we're not a part of... so we were making it easy and trying to stay away..."
"Oh, but Maria..." Liz's eyes were seeing something far away, something in the past as she gave her friend a sweet smile. "It was the most amazing thing. It was like I finally felt whole again. And all the pain, Maria, it just melted away because I convinced myself that it didn't matter. It doesn't have to, Maria. Can't we just all go back to the way things were? You know, before destiny was like this all-or-nothing ultimatum?"
"Liz, are you alright? Did you fall? Did you hit your head?" Maria unscrewed the cap to her cyprus oil, sniffing in the aroma to calm her nerves which were on edge. "Did Max like zap your brain away?"
"Maria, come on! Just think about it for a minute--"
"No, no - - you do not get to tell me to think, because I am the only one here who IS thinking. No, Liz. You were on the right track when you walked away from Max, and you were doing so good in staying away from him. Not letting the temptation get to you, you know? But this... whatever happened to you last night, whatever little world you've wandered into, you've got to snap out of it, because you and Max? That can never work. Nothing's changed. Destiny is destiny, and you are not a part of it."
Liz opened her mouth to protest. "No!" Maria said, putting her hand over her suddenly irrational friend's mouth. "You've got these stars in your eyes that you can't see past, you need to lie down and clear your head." She steered Liz over to the couch set against the wall and pushed her down on it.
"Maria, I don't need to rest, I don't need to snap out of anything, I am FINALLY seeing clearly. We're stronger together, me and Max, you and Michael. We're weak when we're apart. Come on, Maria, what is destiny anyway? You know, maybe the worst possible thing they can do is follow it, and repeat the past. Isn't that how things fell under in the first place? Maybe they can only change things for the better if they do something different this time."
"Sniff," Maria ordered, shoving the container of cyprus oil at Liz. "I don't know what Max did to you last night, but nothing has changed. You're grasping at straws here."
"Don't you want to be with Michael?" Liz set the oil down on the floor and rose to a stand. "Why can't we just love who we want and be with who we want, without worrying about tomorrow? Maybe things don't have to be so cut-and-dry."
At the mention of Michael's name, Maria's thoughts flew out of her head. She was losing her will to protest this. "This isn't about Michael, Liz, this is about you and Max."
"No. It's about all of us."
Shaking her head, Maria headed out of the break room, mumbling something about all of this giving her a headache. Liz followed, wanting so badly to make her friend see things from her newfound perspective, to go along with her in this free-for-all attitude. "I can't live without Max, Maria. I can't. Is it my fault that he says he could never love Tess?"
"Liz, stop it. Stop it right now. I can't deal with this." Maria stopped by a messy table and began clearing away the dishes as Liz sighed and headed into the back room to change. As Maria happened to glance up, she caught Michael staring at her, though he was quick to look away. The dishes in her hands slipped back to the table, creating a crashing sound of glass upon glass. When had he gotten here? How long had he been here?
She was saved from having to ask when he hurriedly exited the restaurant.
- - -
He knew where she'd be. At The Crashdown, late for her shift. He'd memorized her work schedule long ago, allowing him to find her whenever he felt the need to be near her. It was a convenience he often took advantage of.
Knowing that Maria no doubt had been informed by now, he chose to enter through the back doors, eliminating the chance of being investigated before speaking with Liz. They needed to get their stories straight, needed to decide where things would go from here. Mostly, he just needed to be near her.
Easing through the door into the break room, he paused when he saw her back turned to him, her arms buttoning up the front of her waitress uniform. As she whirled around, she gasped in surprise to find that she wasn't alone. The expression on her face reminded him of the way she'd looked hours earlier when she'd been awakened from sleep.
He'd awakened first, and smiled when he found her in his arms. This girl that he loved, this girl that he'd saved, this girl that represented all he'd ever wanted and all that never could be. Though the feeling of her weight pressed close to him was something he didn't want to take away, his sense of reality nagged from the back of his mind, urging him to do something before they were discovered in all their intimate glory.
He kissed the tip of her nose, and quietly laughed when she didn't even stir. "Liz," he whispered. "Liz." He blew on her face, which brought her eyes fluttering open. His thoughts stewed into worries as he contemplated what she would and wouldn't remember about the night before. He almost expected her to be outraged, or depressed, or upset.
But she wasn't any of those things. She was silent, and there was no expression on her face to reveal anything that he was looking for. Tentatively he smiled, and said, "Hi."
"Hi," she said back, her voice thin.
Pausing, Max took the time to let her speak if she had something to say. But she didn't, and so he asked, "Are you okay?"
"I have such a headache," she revealed with a slight frown. Max brought a hand to her forehead and closed his eyes, concentrating on taking the pain away. He'd never healed a headache before, though when he took his hand away, she was smiling. "Thanks."
Nodding, he started to sit up, regretting slipping away from her warmth when the chill morning air closed in around his bare chest. He looked down at the sheets, then at his hands, at the headboard, but finally back at her. The question begged to be answered, and so despite what might be said, he had to ask. "Liz... what do you remember... about last night?"
She sat up and inched closer toward him, pursing her lips as she sorted out a response in her head. But before she could speak, the bedroom door swung open, and an immediate "Oh my goodness," followed. Swiftly, Max whipped his head around, and seeing his mother, he panicked and lost his balance, falling right off the bed. Liz sat with her eyes wide and her mouth agape, and after receiving a look of disbelief from Diane Evans, the two were told to be downstairs in five minutes before the door was slammed shut.
Now, some time later that seemed longer than any morning could because they'd been so quickly separated, he finally found himself alone with Liz again. Alone in the back of a crowded restaurant, with considerably less privacy, but alone nonetheless. Her lips parted, and for a moment she didn't speak, but finally she said, "Max..."
He shook his head, advancing toward her. "Just don't talk for a minute," he pleaded before cupping her face and bringing her lips to his. She felt her knees go weak as a flash invaded her mind, taking away her every hesitant thought, and leaving her wanting nothing more than to never be deprived of this again.
When the kiss ended, still she didn't speak, merely pulled Max to her, burying her face in the warmth of his chest, holding onto him as if for dear life. He lowered his face into her hair, breathing in her scent that he'd missed. "I'm sorry, I just had to come, I had to," he said and for long minutes they just held each other, a couple fused together by an aching need to never be apart.
Liz's conscience was on the attack, serving as a constant reminder that she needed to get out into the restaurant and do her job - - after all, Maria had already covered for her long enough, and the lunch crowd would be swarming in soon enough. But she didn't want to be thinking about it, didn't want to know that she had responsibilities to tend to. She wanted to stay close to Max until the world came to an end, until there was nothing left to tear them apart. And if she let go of him, what then? Would things go back to what they were the day before, when the message was that destiny prevails, and love dies away?
From above her head, she heard his voice. "I'll go now."
"Okay." No movement followed, no letting go. She wouldn't let him go; he didn't want her to.
Max strengthened his resolve. He couldn't do this to her. Gently he released his hold on her and found her hands that were clasped behind his back, pulling them away as he put distance between them. Not more than a few inches, and yet he was dying to rush back into the space he'd just abandoned. Desire was there; reality was here.
Tears sprang to Liz's eyes as he edged toward the door that he'd only recently come in through. "Max, I remember," she said desperately, causing him to turn around. "I remember last night, I remember what happened." The strength in her voice disintegrated slowly, and by the end of the sentence, it was but a whisper.
"Liz, I'm so sorry I didn't stop you..."
"No, Max." Shaking her head, Liz stepped closer to him, the urgency in her tone begging him to listen. "I knew what I was doing. And I wouldn't take it back, Max. Ever since the day that I walked away from you, I've been hurting so badly I hardly wanted to breathe."
Max's face softened as he watched the first tear fall down Liz's cheek. "Last night, Max, was the first time that anything felt right again. The first time that I felt like things were falling back into place, that I was stumbling back to where I belong. Yes, I was drunk, Max. But it only gave me the extra push I needed to let you know how much it still hurts, and how much I still miss you.
"And now the thought of taking all of this away again, of walking away so that a destiny that I don't believe in anymore can take place... it's like leaving behind all that will ever make me happy. All that makes anything worthwhile. Am I supposed to just walk away again, Max? Let you suffer alone while I suffer alone, when the only thing that can make it right is to take the suffering away by being together?"
Max looked tormented, his eyes revealing to her his inner turmoil that was a match for hers. "I don't know what to say," he stammered when it seemed the silence would stretch on forever.
Liz nodded as more tears streaked her tired face. "I know."
- - -
There was one girl on her mind as Tess entered the restaurant she'd come to detest. Liz. Dark hair, dark eyes, queen-of-all-things as far as Max will always be concerned. After a quick survey of the various tourists shoveling food into their mouths, Tess found her target slowly slipping out from the back room.
Without pause, Tess headed in that direction, happening to glimpse Isabel on the way. It wasn't surprising - - she expected that the other three would continue to associate with the humans for at least awhile yet. Finally stopping in front of Liz, Tess placed a hand in the pocket of her low-cut jeans. "Bad day?" she asked, noticing the grimy streaks on the girl's pained face, which Liz was quick to swipe away.
"Kind of.... What are you doing here?"
"Look, I don't remember much about last night," Tess began, the mention of what Liz had been agonizing over immediately sending her nerves into an uproar. "But I woke up this morning, and all I could recall was that you were there..."
Liz blinked, not having anything to say.
"I just..." Tess stalled to collect her thoughts. "Well, I just wanted to say I'm sorry if I said some things that maybe I shouldn't have... or anything like that..."
"Um..." Liz interrupted, "You're apologizing to me?"
Tess looked annoyed. "I'm not clued into the whole range of emotions thing, so don't make this more than it is. Whatever I said, forget it, alright?"
Slightly dumfounded, Liz nodded. "I can do that."
"Okay," Tess said. She looked all around her, seemingly at a loss for what to do next. "Well, I'm going to go then." Spinning on her heel, she prepared to leave.
"Tess, wait," Liz called after her just before she reached the door. Craning her neck around, Tess raised her eyebrows in anticipation, and Liz hurried toward her. "Thank you... for apologizing. You didn't have to, and I just... I appreciate it."
She could sense that she was making Tess uncomfortable, and so she walked away to let the other girl leave.
- - -
Michael peeled off the wall like a poster to take stride with Isabel as she exited The Crashdown Cafe. He shoved his hands down into his pockets, eyeing her suspiciously. "So? Did you hear anything?"
She shrugged. "I was eating lunch, Michael, I wasn't really listening."
"You know, if you were in the FBI, you'd be fired," Michael said with an annoyed roll of his eyes.
"Well considering that they want us caught, tortured, and then killed, I think it's safe to say I'll never explore that option."
"So you know nothing. You didn't hear a thing about what's going on with Max and Liz? I mean, are they together or not?"
"I don't know, Michael," Isabel snapped. "I don't think it's a decision they're going to come to overnight. We can't all sever the ties that bind us as quickly as you."
Michael sucked in his breath as if he'd been punched in the stomach. The two walked along the busy sidewalk together, though where they were headed neither was certain. Finally, Michael turned to look at her again. "Do you think they'll get back together?"
"We're talking about my brother here, and in his own way, he'll always be connected to her. It's what they do, what they are to each other."
"I know," Michael acknowledged, his voice calmer now in the effort to understand. "But would he disregard his destiny to be with her?"
Isabel stopped and looked at the boy that was supposed to be for her what Tess was supposed to be for Max, and she sighed deeply. "I don't think he can answer that question any more than we can." The end.
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