Disclaimer: Don’t own ‘em, wish I did. Yada, yada. Don’t own the song either.
Summary: 10 years later… (There are a couple of possible spoilers.)
Authors Note: To Phil, who will probably never read this but without whom there would be no writing. To this website’s very own Elizabeth, whose exemplary writing forced me to try (and who beta-read this for me). To Kevin Smith, who makes everything seem possible. To Alanis Morissette, whose voice touches me. And lastly to Kat, who’s always there when I need her. Even if she’s only a figment of my imagination. Feedback: Be gentle. It’s my first time since high school.
|I went to your house.
I walked up the stairs.
I opened your door without ringing the bell.
I walked down the hall,
Into your room,
Where I could smell you.
And I shouldn’t be here.
Would you forgive me love, if I danced in your shower?
I took off my clothes, put on your robe.
And I shouldn’t stay long.
Would you forgive me love, if I danced in your shower?
I burned your incense.
And no! It wasn’t my writing.
So forgive me love, if I cry in your shower.
-"Your House," by Alanis Morissette. Title also borrowed from Alanis.
Her hands are still so gentle. Even from across the busy Manhattan street he can see that. Her long hair is pulled into a loose French braid. His eyes follow the soft curve of her neck. He can see the tip of her shoulder before it is hidden from his lustful gaze by the line of her shirt. He marvels that she can’t feel the intensity of his stare. But he thanks God that she doesn’t and continues his fierce scrutiny of her skin.
When he closes his eyes, he can feel her skin next to his, warm and smooth. Inviting. He can see her dark, silky hair spilled out around her face. Her soft lips, waiting for his to meet them. But it’s her eyes that get him. He could lose himself forever in the love she has for him there.
But not today. It’s bright and Liz is wearing sunglasses. His own eyes fly open. She’s come uptown to meet a friend for lunch. Her friend likes to eat outside, so he’s lucky today. He can watch her from a safe distance.
The way the sun makes her skin glow. He imagines he can see every individual ray of sunlight as it plays on the smooth lines of her body.
The way she smiles so easily at her friend. He imagines that he is her friend. That she is smiling for him, as she once did.
What would it take for them to be friends again, he wonders. He always wonders this. It’s futile to even think about. He knows it. But he wonders anyway. If he walked up to her, what would she say? Would she hate him for what he’s done, for what he’s become? Would she smile hazily, trying to place his face? Would he still see his soul in her eyes?
Stop this, Max. Please, you can’t keep torturing yourself like this.
It’s the Isabel part of him. He touches the pendant around his neck and fights back the urge to start sobbing right there on the street.
I’m sorry, Izzy. I’ll stop, I swear. I’m sorry.
But he won’t stop. He’ll break this promise, just like all the others. He promised her that everything would be okay. He promised they’d always be together. He promised he’d protect her.
What good is a promise to a ghost, anyway?
He’s been trailing her for three weeks now. It’s never been more than a week at a time before. He thinks he could follow her forever. She has a fiancé now. They live together. A loft in the Village. His name is Sean. He’s nice. He treats Liz well. She seems happy now.
Happy with Sean.
He stares into the window of their darkened bedroom. They’ve forgotten to close the blinds again. He can see past the bars of the fire escape to the bed, where Sean holds her. His arms wrapped protectively around her even in sleep. Her lovely face snuggled against his shoulder.
Max’s eyes burn, but he can’t turn away. His thoughts wander to the last few weeks, everything he’s seen. Everything he’s done. He hasn’t just been following her this time. When she was working nights, he started following Sean while she slept. Normally he would have been content to watch her sleep, but the blinds were always closed to shut out the light. To shut out his eyes.
He doesn’t have to be as careful with Sean. He doesn’t know Max, wouldn’t recognize him. He doesn’t have to worry that Sean will somehow feel his presence. How could he?
Max thinks back to the first day he realized he could follow Sean into the hospital. With Liz, it was too dangerous. He’d spent the entire day in the Emergency Room. It was glorious. She’s a resident in emergency medicine and he marveled at being in the place where she worked. He’d lurked there all day, burning every detail into his memory. No one had noticed him. It was much too chaotic for anyone to bother with one more lonely stranger wandering around.
He sat in the waiting area and watched patients roll in from the ambulance bay. He imagined Liz in her white coat, hair pulled back, absorbing the quickly shouted information from the paramedics. Her mind working fast on what to do next, how best to save the pour soul in front of her. He was familiar with the analytical quality of her mind, the way everything made more sense to her if she could attach a scientific principal to it.
While the staff dealt with some kind of major traffic accident, Max had wandered into the lounge. He didn’t have to read the name tags to know which locker was Liz’s. He went to it immediately, placed his hand over the lock. It came open easily.
His eyes close now as he remembers the contents. A lab coat, change of clothes, extra shoes. The door is covered with pictures. Of Sean. Of Liz and Sean. Her parents. Alex. Maria. His thoughts had turned to Michael then and he’d slammed the locker closed. He tried never to wonder about Michael, about where he was or what he was doing. It hurt too much. Michael’s face the last time he’d seen him was burned into Max’s brain. It had been years, but the rage, the nearly psychopathic frenzy in Michael’s eyes could still stop Max’s heart.
He’d nearly run out of the hospital then, the pain threatening to overwhelm him. But somehow he’d been distracted by Sean. He was in the ER now, helping out with the big trauma that had come in earlier and Max was overcome with a desire to know everything about him. The man who had taken his place, whose hands did things only Max should have been able to, whose lips kissed places that belonged only to Max.
He needed to know this man and so he’d stayed, and become absorbed in Sean’s life. Max trailed him through his days. Lurked behind as he joined the other doctors on rounds, strained to hear what they were saying. He wondered how smart Sean was, what had attracted Liz to him. He clung to the notion that Sean would turn out to be somehow defective. Maybe he didn’t really love her. Maybe he was cheating on her. Maybe he wasn’t everything he seemed.
But Max had known it wasn’t true. Even as he prayed for it, he’d known. Sean was a good, kind man. A couple years older than Liz, studying to be a pediatric surgeon. Max watched him with his young patients. He was so gentle, so responsive to their every need. He watched him with their parents, his voice and eyes sincere as he explained what needed to be done. Answering endless questions with patience and honesty.
He followed him to a store down the street from the hospital, watched as he picked out a single perfect flower. A stargazer lily. Liz’s favorite. That night, Max watched through the window as Liz put it in a vase on her desk. Every so often, she would glance up from her reference books and smile.
Another night, Max hid in the shadows as Sean pulled her out of the Emergency Room. It had been a long shift. She was clearly exhausted. He brought her out into the cool night air and made her stop, take a breath. Sean wrapped his arms around her, her head falling against his shoulder easily.
Max knew what she saw in Sean, knew that she loved him; and it made his heart ache. He was crushed by the aloneness he’d felt at the realization. He’d wanted to leave then, leave her to her life. But he hadn’t been able to go. Somewhere deep inside of him, he could still feel the connection between them and he held onto it as if his life depended on it. Maybe it did. If the connection was still there, then didn’t that have to mean she still loved him, still longed for him? The thought burned in his brain, in his soul. Somewhere she still loved him and knowing that, he couldn’t leave her.
He dreaded the moments when Sean’s skin would touch hers, when Sean’s lips dared to come in contact with his Liz. He swore he would turn away as Sean’s mouth moved down her neck, her arms around his back, pulling him closer. His hands roving underneath the green scrubs she’d had to wear home yet again.
But he could never turn away. It’s all he has left of her. Watching through a window as she makes love to another man.
No attachments, Maxwell.
He smiles, bitterly. Yeah, because that worked so well for you, Michael.
Max opens his eyes. The sun is starting to pull itself over the horizon. There are lights on in the apartment. He watches Liz remove an overnight bag from the closet and start to fold clothes into it. His heart races. Is she going somewhere? What if he can’t follow her? Where could she be going?
Sean comes back into the bedroom, hair dripping, a towel wrapped around his waist. She holds a sweater up for his inspection and Max realizes that she is only packing his things into the bag. His heart begins to slow and he breathes a little bit easier.
He’s watched their morning routine a dozen times. A thousand times more in his mind. The ease they have with each other. The way they know each other’s patterns and habits. The dull aching returns to his heart. Why can’t that be him? Why can’t he have that ease and comfort with her? But it can never be. Except in his dreams. Sometimes his dreams burn with his passion for her. But other times, they’re calm, filled with images of happiness. Marriage. Children. All the normal things that he can never give her.
They’re getting ready to leave now. Liz is searching for her keys. Sean smiles. She can never seem to find them. He finds them on her desk, holds them out for her. She snatches them away playfully. Max follows them into the subway tunnel. He loves the subway. He can hide in plain sight, watch her from so close. She never sees him. He’s just another one of the freaks. No one looks at anyone else on a New York City subway train. But this isn’t their normal station. Where are they going?
Forty minutes later, they arrive at the airport. Into the terminal and up to the ticket counter. Where is he going, Max wonders again. He follows them to the gate. Boston. Sean must be going away for a few days. Max thinks absently of buying a ticket. What is he going up there for? Why isn’t he taking her with him? How could he leave her alone? And then it hits him. Liz will be alone. He’ll be able to watch her in peace, at least for a few days. Without Sean’s hands on her, without Sean’s mouth on her.
He watches from the other side of the gate area as she kisses him goodbye. Sean lingers a moment, looking into her face. He whispers something in her ear and she laughs. Max can hear her laughter. The sound haunts him. He remembers when she laughed for him. It seems so long ago. Before Tess. Before everything. Before he’d known that it wasn’t possible for him and laughter to exist in the same place, in the same space, in the same time. God, how he wants her. To feel her against him again. To smell her. To feel her hair brush his cheek. To see her smile. To hear that beautiful laugh.
She waits for the plane to take off. Max waits with her. Of course he does. Where else would he be? On the ride back into the city, he imagines the next few days with her. What will she be doing with Sean away? He knows she’s not scheduled to work after today. Maybe she’ll relax at home, reading.
Maybe he can try to talk to her.
He shakes his head, that bitter smile creasing his face again.
Don’t fool yourself, Maxwell.
He follows her home. Imagines he can see through the walls and into the bathroom. Imagines he can see her changing into her work clothes. Pulling up her hair. But as she comes back out onto the street, something urges him not to follow her. He looks up at the window, looks at her, down the street, going into the subway. He has to go or he’ll lose her. But he can’t move. He wants to go in.
If he can just smell her one more time. If he can just touch something of hers, he can be connected to her again. It’s all he wants. Maybe that will be enough. Maybe he’d be able to stop then.
He’s on the fire escape outside her window. How did he get here? He doesn’t remember climbing up. He looks around, self-conscious, worried. Someone could see him, anyone could see him. It’s broad daylight. The alley’s deserted. He can’t be seen from the street. But still he worries. What if someone sees?
He puts his hand to the lock. Don’t do this, his mind screams at him again. Without a thought, the lock is open. He won’t go near her. He just wants to be near something of hers. Just to be in the place where she lives. That’s all he wants, he tells himself. He knows it’s a lie. If that was all he wanted, he could have had it a thousand times over.
He slides the window open. And the sense of her overwhelms him. He knows it’s wrong. So wrong. Then why does it feel so right - so good - to be close to her again? Everything about her is right. The way she makes him feel. The way he loves her. It’s all right.
He steps into the bedroom, looks around. She won’t be home for hours. He tells himself he won’t be there that long. He won’t risk getting caught. The bed is neatly made. How much like Liz. He lays his hand on the comforter. Jerks his hand away as images flood his mind. Of Sean. And Liz. The things he does to her. The things she does to him.
Her brush is on the dresser. A few stray hairs are tangled in it. He holds the brush to his face, inhales her scent. Pulls one long, raven hair out. Holds it to his cheek. He imagines there are more. Closes his eyes and she’s there with him, her hair brushing against his face. So light, so beautiful.
He opens the closet, runs his fingers across each piece of her clothing. Marvels at how they all still smell of her, feel of her. Images of her life come to him then. Her long hours at the hospital. The lives she’s saved. The ones she’s lost. She cares for all of them. He can feel it.
He moans her name softly. She has such an infinite capacity to care for people. How could he have ever let her go? How could he have ever left her? What was he thinking? He closes the closet silently, leans against the door. His eyelids slip closed as he imagines… Imagines what might have been if he’d told her. Would she have come with him when he said he was going?
No attachments, Maxwell. Michael’s voice in his ears again.
Yes, but I love her. I need her. Max hears the pleading in his own voice.
He’s in the bathroom now. He imagines Liz in the shower. Water rolling down her body, over her breasts, down her legs.
He lays his hand on the sink and another vision plays out. She’s taking a bubble bath. He can feel the weariness in her. Another long day.
The door opens. It’s Sean. All the exhaustion drains out of her, replaced by her delight in seeing him. Max can feel the joy, the relief, the exquisite contentment that washes over her. How did he know this was just what she wanted? He sits on the edge of the tub, tangles his fingers in her wet hair. He smiles down at her. One small, soap-covered arm rises out of the water, reaching for him. She pulls him in, fully dressed.
Max jerks his hand away from the cool porcelain as if it had burned him. He doesn’t want to see anymore. He’s seen it too many times. Tears are rolling down his cheeks. He thought he’d cried them all. How could there possibly be more? He brushes at them angrily. They defy him, continuing to fall. Silently. Hopelessly.
His heart aches at the possibility that it could have been him. He could have been the one to make her feel that way. Such relief, such comfort, such love. But he knows it never could have been. The only emotion he brings to the world is pain. Desperate stabbing pain. It trails after him, destroying everything he touches. He couldn’t bear to destroy Liz. It’s why he’d left, why he hadn’t asked her to come with him. Why he’d stayed away all those years in high school. All those months, all those days, all those minutes. Stayed away because the most he could possibly offer was just to not hurt her again. His need for her pounded in his heart, in his ears, reverberating through his body. He thought he might explode with it.
He finds himself in the kitchen, opens the refrigerator. Something akin to a smile passes across his lips as he glances at the full refrigerator. It must be Sean. He must make her eat, make her take care of herself.
She runs now, he’d discovered in the last few weeks. Through Washington Square and SoHo. He’d followed her several times. He often wondered what she thought about while she jogged. He remembered when he saw her in college, in Chicago. How skinny she’d looked. How tired. How withdrawn. And his whole body knew: It was Sean. Sean was the difference in her life. He made her happy, safe. He protected and loved her. He did all of the things that Max never could, but that he had so desperately wanted to be able to.
He closes the refrigerator, wanders into the living room. The furniture is mostly old, second-hand. He knows they don’t have much money. Both of them still paying off school loans, probably. But Liz had made the best of it. A soft, colorful quilt covers the couch. Placed just so. To detract from the rattiness around the legs. It looks nice, he thinks. It looks like her, like something she would do.
The television is covered with dust. He knows they rarely use it. The desk catches his attention out of the corner of his eye. It’s a mess. He smiles to himself. It is her desk. Sean does most of his work at the hospital. This is Liz’s mess. She’d always been so orderly before. He wonders if that means she’s relaxing. He wonders if that’s a good thing, decides it is. He examines the books and papers. Tries to get a sense of what she’s been working on. He glances at the vase, the lily slowly dying. He touches it and without even trying, restores it to life. He knows shouldn’t. But he wants her to have just a little more time. Just a little more beauty in her life. Maybe he can give her that. He can’t give her anything else.
I should go, his mind tells him. He doesn’t want to leave. He wants to just be wrapped up in her. In her life. In the sense of her, the feel of her. More tears now. He doesn’t understand where they’re coming from. He takes his hand from the desk, hesitates and then goes back in the bedroom. He is going to leave.
He has to leave. It’s time. He’s been there long enough. But he can’t go. He needs something of hers. Something to have. To have with him. Maybe if he just had one thing then that would be enough. He could just hold onto that one thing and it would get him through. He wouldn’t have to follow her anymore. Maybe then he could move on. Get on with his life. Do something for a change. Besides love her.
There is a t-shirt on the floor. It’s hers. He holds it to him, hugs it. It smells like her, so much like her. He can imagine her in it. He can feel where it had touched her skin. It burns him.
God, what he wouldn’t give to touch her again. Just one more time. To feel her skin on his. Her hands on his face. Her lips on his. He clutches the t-shirt, sits on the bed.
Fatigue washes over him then. How long has it been since he’d slept? The bed is so soft. I’ll just lay down for a few minutes, he tells himself. Just a few minutes. I’ll just close my eyes and then I’ll go. It’ll just be a few minutes. Just a few… more… minutes.
Liz’s hand fumbles absently for the keys in her pocket. She’s not sure how much longer she’ll be able to keep her eyes open. She sighs, trying to count the hours she spent at the hospital today, but her mind fails her. She knows it’s past two in the morning. The knowledge that Sean is not waiting for her inside only makes her more tired.
Why won’t the damn key work?
At least she’ll get to see Alex tomorrow. Two whole days without the hospital. She closes her eyes, imagines the pulse of Alex’s hot tub on her neck. Four hours on the train and she’ll be there. Another sigh and she refocuses her attention on getting the right key in the lock. She is pleasantly surprised when it works.
As she steps in the door, she is smacked in the face by the feeling of him Max! and she is fully, violently awake. Wave after wave of conflicting emotions wash over her. Pain. Love. Anger. Desire. Fear.
The fear shakes her. How could she ever be afraid of Max? And then another start as it dawns on her the fear is not of him but for him.
Panic now. She drops her bag and swings the door closed in one motion. Is he hurt? Is that why he’s come to her now? She is choked by her terror for him. She can’t breathe. But she has to. She has to find him, help him somehow.
She races into the bedroom and stops dead in her tracks, her heart breaking at what she finds there. He’s sound asleep, curled into a fetal position in the middle of the bed. Light is spilling in from the hallway and she can see that he is clutching her shirt.
Silent tears slip down her cheeks. He’s so thin. His face, his beautiful face, is a mask of pain now. What could have happened, she wonders, to make it hurt even to sleep? What happened to the Max of her dreams, the one she’d known so well. Has it been that long? Has life been that cruel to him?
Her heart reaches out to him, pulling her reluctant body along. She sits on the bed. She doesn’t want to wake him. She stares at him, all coherent thought gone from her brain. Max is here, in her house, in her bed. The tears continue to fall and she closes her eyes, remembering the last time she saw him. It had only been a second. Less. But she’d known it was him.
How many years ago is it now? Four maybe. Her second year in Med School. It seems longer. So much has happened since then. She’d felt not quite right for a few days, but hadn’t been able to put her finger on it. And then she caught a glimpse of him, a reflection in the glass of the IDS Tower as she’d wandered around downtown Minneapolis. It was freezing that day but the sight of him the feel of him had instantly filled her with a burning rage. And passion. A white hot intensity as if her insides had suddenly been lit on fire. The desire to go to him had almost consumed her.
But her anger and pain were too much.
That night she’d felt him watching her as she slept. Felt the touch of his mind to hers. Did he watch her in her dreams, she’d wondered, drifting off. The next morning, he was gone. She’d cried for days at the loss of him.
But now he was here again. Returned to her. What does he want? Has he finally come to take her away? Does she want to go? The questions swirl in her brain until it hurts to think. She is so tired.
His face is calmer when she opens her eyes and she realizes that her hand is on his. She wants to hold him, make his pain go away. He doesn’t deserve any pain. He’d hurt people, yes. Hurt her. But he never meant to. He was the most gentle of people. She should know. She’d seen inside his soul.
Her lips brush his forehead. He moans softly, still sleeping. Her body aches with need for him. It’s not passion now. It’s concern. Love. She pulls his head onto her chest, wraps her arms around his skinny frame. She can feel his ribs through his shirt and another tear falls down her still wet cheeks.
In his dream, she is with him. He feels her body pressed against his. His love returned through the connection they share. He clings to her. He can never let her go. Everything is better now, here, where he can hold onto her.
|Email Author | Back to FanFic Page
|Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours