|"More Than This "|
Disclaimer: I don't own Roswell or any of its characters. They belong to Jason Katims, David Nutter, et al. Lyrics belong to The Cure and Robert Smith. All used without permission but no one is paying me so who cares? |
Summary: Liz wants more from Max. Maria wants more from Michael. Michael wants more from Isabel. And Isabel wants more out of life. Will any of them ever be able to have what they really want?
Authors Note: Distribution: Anywhere is fine as long as my headers stay put and you email me first.
|For a second of your life |
Tell me that it's true
Waiting for a sign
It's all I want of you
Your heart hides a secret
A promise of what is
Something more than this . . .
Another second of my life
Not knowing if it's true
Make believe in nothing
Is all I want of you
Whisper me a secret
Whisper me there is
Always something other
Something more than this
-More Than This by The Cure
* * * * *
Liz Parker readjusted herself on her narrow bed and looked back down at the book she held. It was her journal. She'd been keeping a journal for most of her life, but had stopped several years back when she was living in Roswell because she came to realize what a danger it was to have the goings on in her life down on paper for anyone to read. It was just too risky for it to even exist, so she'd destroyed her journal from the time she'd found out about Max, Isabel and Michael. It wasn't until now, five years later at the age of twenty-one, that Liz was finally starting to get past her fears enough to do something as ordinary as write about her day to day life for her own personal satisfaction. Writing in the journal helped her to sort out her problems. She was glad she could finally do it again.
She was no longer a resident of Roswell, New Mexico. That definitely helped to assuage her fears. She'd moved from there three years before to attend college at the University of California. Though she'd been frightened to make such a huge change at the time, things had ultimately worked out better than Liz had hoped. Just a month after Liz enrolled in the marine biology program at UC, Maria found a job in Los Angeles with a hypnotist and decided to move to the West Coast as well. They'd been roommates in a small off-campus apartment for the last five years. This wasn't much of a surprise. Liz and Maria had been best friends since they were in kindergarten. What was a surprise, though, was the third person they shared this apartment with.
Isabel Evans had moved in with them a little over four years earlier. She'd come to Los Angeles not for school, but to pursue a career in acting. She'd gotten a job that had prompted her move to California and, since she and Maria had been strangely close in high school and Isabel didn't know anyone else in the city, Maria was the first person she'd called. They'd actually been looking for a third roommate at the time. The girl who had originally moved in with them had gotten married and they'd been left with more bills than they could handle on their own. Still, Isabel was the last person that Liz ever expected to live with. She'd always sensed that Isabel didn't really like her very much. She wasn't quite sure if it was the attraction between herself and Isabel's brother, Max, or just the fact that Liz was the reason they'd spent most of high school dodging Sheriff Valenti. It was just a sense she got around Isabel. Still, they'd managed to get past that and become, if not friends, acquaintances.
As for Max, he'd ended up following Isabel to the West Coast. And, of course, Michael wasn't far behind. Max was actually a student at UC as well. He was a physics major. He and Michael lived together in a small apartment over a garage where they both worked. Strange, Liz had never pictured Max as a mechanic.
Things between them were really no better now than they had been in high school. Liz still felt an incredible attraction to Max Evans and she could tell that he felt the same way. But, he still insisted on keeping her at arm's length. As if one touch or a single kiss would destroy everything they'd managed to keep safe. She understood his fears, but felt that he was overly cautious about the consequences of their actions. The danger that existed for him and the others was real, but what he was or wasn't to Liz Parker did not make the severity of that danger any less great. The truth was, Liz felt like their avoidance was only making matters worse. At least together they had each other.
Still, she'd respected Max' wishes for all of these years. She'd stayed friends, just friends, as he felt was best. It was hard, seeing him every day and not being able to touch him; talking to him without really being able to tell him what she felt. The charade was a hard one to keep up.
Liz looked back at her journal and began to write again. "I've made a big decision. It's about Max, of course. I know this sounds like something impossible for me to do and I have debated on whether I could really go through with it, but I think it's finally time that I got on with my life.
"In the years since I've known Max Evans, I haven't done much of anything but pine for him. Even though there was no hope of us having a real relationship because of the way he felt about it, I still kept the faith that maybe someday Max would see things my way. Maybe someday we'd be able to pursue what I'd wanted for so long . . .
"But that is obviously not going to happen. Max has made that clear to me a thousand times. I'm finally ready to admit that I can't keep holding on. I have to let him go . . . for both of our sakes.
"So, I have a date on Friday. Yes, I, Liz Parker, have an actual date. I know, it's shocking. His name is Simon and he's in my chemistry lab. He's really cute, really smart, and seems like a pretty nice guy. Max would hate him . . . but this isn't about Max. This is about me. For once, it's going to have to be about me.
"I can't seem to get Max out of my head, which is not all that surprising. That's why I've decided that I have to stop hanging out with him. I mean, I know that sounds awful. He's my friend and regardless of where our relationship leads, we should still be able to be friends. But, I've spent five years telling myself that I could just be friends with Max Evans and still lead a normal life and so far where has that gotten me? Sharing an apartment with my kooky best friend and his sister, who still resents me for almost ruining her life. Not exactly the greatest measure of success, is it?
"Well, that's all going to change. I'm really going to do this. As much as it hurts, I have to go through with it. I have to get Max out of my life . . . before I don't have a life at all."
* * * * *
Michael Guerin pushed himself out from under the car he was working on and looked up in annoyance. His best friend stood over him, looking completely dazed. "Hello? Earth to Max?" he called out to him.
"Huh?" Max finally looked down. "Sorry, did you say something?"
"Yeah, I only asked you about fifteen times to hand me the socket wrench," Michael said as he sat up and grabbed a nearby rag to wipe some of the grease from his hands.
"Sorry, let me get it," Max said as he walked over to a table filled with various tools.
"Forget it, Max. I'm taking a break," he said as he got up from the floor and walked over to the sink that sat on one side of the garage.
"I didn't mean to space on you," Max assured him.
"All you do lately is stare off into oblivion," Michael said. "What's up with you, man? What's been going on that has your brain so scrambled?"
"Nothing, it's nothing," he insisted.
"It's Liz," Michael said with a knowing nod.
"It . . . no. No, it's not. Why . . . why would you say that?"
"When you say it's nothing, it's always about Liz," Michael assured him. Max started to shake his head again, but Michael turned and gave him a look as he dried his hands. "I've known you forever, Maximillian. I know you."
Max sighed as his friend walked away and into the office a few feet away. He quickly washed his own hands, then turned to follow. When he entered the garage office, Michael was sitting in one of the chairs drinking a grape soda.
"You've got it all wrong," Max said as he sat on the large wooden desk across from his friend.
"Do I now," Michael replied, his voice filled with sarcasm that told Max he didn't believe a word of this.
"Liz . . . well, we're friends. I mean, you *know* that there is nothing between me and her but, well, friendship. It's always been that way," he said.
"Oh really? So, when you look at Liz you feel the same way as, say, when you look at me?" Michael smirked as he watched the expression on his friend's face. "Nope, didn't think so," he said in a satisfied tone.
"Michael . . ." Max warned.
"What? Come on, Max. You mean to tell me that you spend all day with that blank look on your face thinking about how good of *friends* you are with Liz Parker? Come on, get off it." Michael stood up and crushed his empty soda can, tossing it into the trashcan. "You have it bad for her, Maxie. You always have, for as long as I've known you. I understood why you didn't pursue it when we were in Roswell. I even agreed with you. But Valenti isn't on our asses every second of the day anymore."
Max looked at him quizzically and Michael continued. "Look, I know I'm the king of paranoia, alright? And I still think we have to be careful. But, whether you keep avoiding what you feel for Liz or not, if you're in danger then so is she. You're not the only one who is hung up on something they don't think they can have."
He walked out, letting the door to the office close behind him. Max watched, wondering if maybe his best friend was right after all.
* * * * *
"Evans, Isabel?" the woman at the door said into the room filled with hopeful, young actors.
"That's me," Isabel said as she stood up and walked over, following the short, dark-haired woman into another room. They walked down a corridor and into a larger room where two men and another woman sat waiting.
"Evans, Isabel," the other woman said again and it suddenly occurred to Isabel that those were the only words she'd heard from her thus far. Turning around, the woman walked back out of the room.
"So, Ms. Evans," one of the men said, "Dazzle us."
She swallowed nervously, then took a deep breath and jumped into her audition.
* * * * *
"How much are the tarot cards?" a young girl asked. Maria looked up from the book she was reading to the face standing before her. The girl looked about thirteen if that.
"Tarot cards are very powerful and shouldn't be put into the wrong hands," she said.
"How much?" the girl persisted impatiently.
"Do you even know how to use them?" Maria asked.
"Look lady, are they for sale or not?"
Maria rolled her eyes and replied, "Ten fifty."
"I'll take them." The girl set down the cards and handed Maria a twenty-dollar bill. She took her change and left the store with her purchase. Maria shook her head in exasperation and went back to her book. She was sick of this job. She knew that it was her own fault. What kind of "mystical therapy" store did she expect to find on Melrose anyway? The description alone should have turned her away. Mystical therapy . . . please. But, her job with the hypnotist wasn't paying enough and she needed some way to make ends meet. It was this or the burger joint down the street so she knew that she should still consider herself lucky.
Maria had already begun reading again when she heard the chimes that sounded when the front door to the shop opened. She didn't bother looking up, just figured it was yet another silly kid coming to buy party favors for a slumber party, and kept reading her book on past lives regression.
"Excuse me, miss? Could you point me in the direction of the crystal balls?" she heard someone ask. Recognizing the voice, she looked up and smiled.
"Hi Michael," she greeted him.
"Hey, what's going on, Maria?"
She set the book down and sighed. "Very little. I hate this job."
"Yeah, tell me about it. You think I enjoy being a grease monkey?" he laughed.
"Actually, I thought it kind of suited you," she teased.
"Gee thanks," he replied sarcastically.
"So, to what do I owe this visit?" she asked.
"I was actually hoping you'd seen Izzy around," he said.
"Um, not today. She was gone when I left this morning. Why, what's up?"
"Nothing, I was just going to see if she wanted to catch a movie tonight or something. I haven't seen her in a while," he said.
Maria nodded but didn't reply. Michael was always asking her about Isabel. On the one hand, it was a good way to strike up a conversation between herself and the brooding young man she'd had a crush on forever, but it was also hard to see the look on his face when the subject of Isabel came up. It was easy to see that Michael thought of Maria as a pal, but of Isabel as a whole lot more.
"So, you don't know where she is then huh?" he asked.
"Nope, sorry," she replied.
"Well, what are you doing tonight?"
"Me? Um, nothing I guess," she responded.
"You up for a movie? I need to get away from the smell of motor oil for a while."
"Sure, that sounds good," she said with a slight grin.
"Great, I'll meet you at your place at about 7 o'clock then, okay?"
She nodded. "Yeah, okay," she said, then watched as he waved and left the shop. She picked up her book again, but could do nothing more than smile at the page. Maybe there was hope for her yet.
* * * * *
The sound of the doorbell broke Liz from her genetics homework. She got up off the couch and went to the door. Opening it, she was surprised to see who was on the other side. "Simon, hi," she smiled.
"Hi Liz. Um . . . can I come in?" asked the tall, blonde in her doorway.
"Sure, of course. Come on in," she smiled as she moved aside. They went into the living room and sat on opposite ends of the sofa. "So, Simon, what brings you by?" she asked casually.
"I came by to see you actually," he said. "I just wanted to see if you were busy tonight."
"Tonight? Well, I thought we were going out on Friday?"
"Yeah, I'd still like to do that. I just . . . well, I was wondering if you'd like to have dinner tonight. My treat, of course," he said.
She looked at him, silently sizing up the man before her. He was nothing like Max Evans at all. His hair and skin were fair instead of the intense, dark shades that hovered around Max. He seemed so easygoing and fun, not brooding and serious all the time. His eyes weren't constantly filled with a thousand emotions that she felt the need to dissect and categorize. He was just a nice, simple guy. And, most importantly, he was a nice, simple guy who wanted to date her. He wasn't afraid of anything because there was nothing to be afraid of with Simon. He was normal, just like she once was. She longed so much to just feel normal again.
With a smile that she wanted very much to be sincere, Liz replied, "I'd love to have dinner with you, Simon." If she was going to move on, she might as well start out right.
* * * * *
Max heard the door close as his roommate walked into the apartment. He looked up from his computer and nodded to Michael. "Where've you been?" he asked casually as he read over the sentence he'd just typed, then turned up his nose and deleted it.
"Uh, just out. I was looking for Izzy but I couldn't find her," he said as he took a carton of orange juice from the refrigerator and drank from it.
"She had an audition today," Max informed him.
"I dunno, some commercial. I think she said it was at 2 o'clock so she should be home pretty soon."
"Oh yeah? Okay, well maybe I'll go see how it went later then." He walked over and peered over Max' shoulder at the computer screen. "What are you working on?"
"A term paper about Newtonian mechanics and linear oscillations," he replied.
"Man, whatever you just said," Michael replied. "When is it due?"
"I was going to ask you if you wanted to catch a movie with me tonight," Michael explained.
"I'd like to, but I really need to get this done. What movie are you going to see anyway?"
"I'm not sure, I guess I'll see what Maria wants to see."
"Maria's going?" Max asked as he looked up from the computer to his friend.
"Yeah, I went by the shop looking for Iz and got to talking to Maria. I mentioned the movies so I thought I should ask her if she wanted to go."
"But you didn't plan on asking her before that?" Max asked.
"Well, not planned, no."
"Michael, do you like Maria?" he asked.
"Do I like her? Sure, I like her. I've known her for a long time. We get along pretty good. Why do you ask?"
"Nothing," Max shook his head. "It's just . . . do you think Maria likes you?"
Michael shrugged. "How should I know? I guess she does. She always seems okay with hanging out and stuff."
Max sighed to himself. His best friend was truly oblivious. Maria DeLuca had been head over heels for Michael since the eleventh grade, but Michael still had no clue. Max wondered if he'd ever manage to open his eyes to what was so blatantly obvious to the rest of the world.
"Well, I hope you guys have fun," Max said.
"Yeah, thanks. Look, I'm meeting Maria over at the girls' place at seven. If you change your mind just be ready by about a quarter till."
Max nodded, but replied, "Thanks, I just don't see myself getting this paper finished by then though."
"Okay, suit yourself. But you know, I bet Liz is home tonight. Maybe Maria can talk her into joining us." He smirked; he always knew how to push Max' buttons.
"I'll think about it," Max replied as he kept typing. Michael nodded, now sure that Max would be joining them tonight after all.
* * * * *
It was late afternoon by the time Liz finished her homework. Simon had stayed for a while and they'd talked. He really was a very nice guy. She didn't feel that *thing* with him that she felt with Max, of course, but she knew she needed to give it time.
By the time she'd put away her books, she heard the front door open and peeked out of her bedroom to see Maria bounding happily into the apartment.
"Hey there, good day?" Liz asked.
"It was okay," Maria replied, but couldn't suppress her infectious grin.
"Seems that way. Want to tell me why you're so happy?"
"No reason," Maria replied as she walked past Liz to set her things in her own room. Liz followed.
"Well, if you won't tell me about your good day, then I will tell you about mine. I have a date tonight," she announced.
Maria's eyes grew wide as she turned to her best friend again. "Liz, that's great! When will Max be here?" she asked excitedly.
"It's not with Max," Liz corrected her curtly.
"Oh, sorry," Maria said, her eyes now downcast.
"Don't you want to know who?" Liz prodded.
"Simon, the guy I told you about from chemistry. He's taking me to dinner tonight. And, we're going out again on Friday."
"That sounds like fun," Maria replied, but from her tone Liz could tell that her friend didn't really think so.
"There are other guys in the universe besides Max Evans," Liz said to her.
"I know that. What did I say? Did I say anything? I think it's great you're going out with Simon. I hope you two have a nice time tonight."
Liz rolled her eyes. Maria was impossible. If any person in the world wanted Liz with Max more than Liz herself, it was Maria. She'd been trying to convince the two of them that they were cosmically linked or something for years now.
"Oh, Liz, I have to tell you what I read today about past life regression," Maria said. "I think I figured out what we need to do to get it to work this time. Will you be my guinea pig this weekend, please?"
"Sure," Liz said as she walked over to Maria's dresser. Her friend had flopped down on the bed with her book and was thumbing through it, looking for the new morsel of information that she'd discovered. Liz studied the pictures on the dresser and saw a new one had been added to the mix. "Where'd you get this one?" she asked as she picked up the small, gold frame and held it up for Maria to see.
"It was from the party of the fourth of July," she replied. The picture was of Max and Michael. They were both smiling at the camera, a sight that still seemed odd. The two of them did seem more at ease here in California, but they still weren't the smiling type.
Liz set the picture back down and turned to Maria again. "So, what are you doing tonight?"
"Going to the movies," she said absently.
"With who?" Liz asked.
Maria looked up momentarily and replied in an offhanded way, "Just Michael."
"*Just* Michael? Maria, are you serious?" she asked.
"Yeah, he came by today while I was working and we got to talking. He just mentioned he was going to the movies and asked if I'd like to come. I said yes."
Liz smiled. "No wonder you're so happy."
"What?" Maria looked up. "It's only a movie."
"Only a movie, sure," Liz nodded with a smirk.
"It is," she insisted. "Look, if you can go on a date with some other guy tonight and totally ignore the whole Max thing, then I can go and see a movie with Michael without it being a federal case."
"Okay, alright," Liz said as she held up her hands in surrender. She started to inform Maria that there was no "Max thing" to speak of, but decided instead to leave well enough alone. "So, tell me about this breakthrough in hypnosis," she said as she walked over to the bed and looked down at the book.
Just then, the front door slammed shut. "Izzy's home," Maria said as she put aside her book and got up from the bed. She and Liz walked into the living room to find Isabel slumped down onto the sofa, her face in her hands.
"I don't guess we need to ask how it went," Maria said sympathetically as she sat down beside her friend.
"It was awful!" Isabel wailed. "I totally blew it!"
"I'm sure it wasn't so bad," Liz offered.
"There is no way I got the part," she lamented.
"Well, next time," Maria said as she rubbed Isabel's shoulder.
"There may not even be a next time," she said. "I'm thinking about giving up all together. What good is all this stuff anyway?"
"Oh, you're a great actress," Maria assured her. "You just need to find the right part."
Liz sat in a chair nearby and watched as Maria helped Isabel pull herself together. She wondered to herself when those two had gotten so close and when she herself had been relegated to the edge of this friendship. She knew it was her own fault. She'd spent so much time concentrating on school and Max that there wasn't a free minute left in the day for anything else it seemed. Well, she thought with a rush of determination, that will all change soon enough.
* * * * *
Maria was putting the finishing touches on her makeup when she heard the doorbell. Figuring it was probably Michael, she quickly examined her reflection one last time, then hurried out to get the door. She opened it to reveal the face of a stranger.
"Oh, hi," she said to the blonde-haired, blue-eyed man before her. "You must be Simon."
"Yes, is Liz here?" he asked.
"Yeah, I think she's almost ready," Maria told him. "Come on in." She moved aside and motioned to the couch where Simon had a seat. "I'll see what's keeping her," she told him and went quickly to Liz's door to knock.
"Come in," her friend's voice answered.
"Simon's here," she said as she peeked her head in.
"Okay, thanks," Liz replied. "Tell him I'll be out in five minutes."
Maria returned to the living room and relayed the message, then the doorbell sounded again. "Excuse me," she said to Simon before she turned back to the door. She opened it to see Michael and Max on the porch. "Max! Hi. Um . . . I didn't know you were coming," she smiled as she showed them in.
"Yeah, I hope that's okay," he said.
"Sure, of course," she said. "Um, Max, Michael, this is Simon. He's a, uh, a friend of Liz's from school. Um, would you all excuse me a moment?" They all nodded as the other two men took seats in the living room with Simon and Maria dashed back to Liz's room.
"Maria, what's going on?" Liz asked when her best friend came into her room and shut the door quickly behind her.
"We have a situation," Maria replied.
"What sort of situation?"
"Well, Max is here," she said.
Liz's breath caught for a moment, then she forced herself to act naturally. "So?"
"So?! So, Liz, he's out there right now with *Simon*! He's . . . well, he's going to know that you're going with him, that you have a date."
"And? Maria, I don't really see this as a problem," she lied. Of course, she *did* see this as a problem. She'd known that telling Max she was dating would have to be done eventually, but she hadn't been ready just yet. Even though they had not been together in all these years, neither had they been with anyone else. They'd just spent five years dancing around each other and waiting for someone to finally put an end to this stupid charade. Well, Liz was finally doing just that.
"Max doesn't think of me as anything but a friend," she said.
"You can't really believe that," Maria said.
"He's made it clear enough that that is all he wants from me, Maria," she replied.
"He loves you, you know he does. This is going to hurt him."
"Well, I'm sorry if he's hurt, but this is the only way either one of us can ever be happy," she said.
Maria looked at her friend and sighed. There was no changing her mind on this. She felt badly for Max and Liz. They belonged together, anyone could see that. But, they were both too damned stubborn to let that happen. He was too afraid of putting her in danger and she was constantly trying to work around the boundaries he had set. They were both just too impossible for words.
With a sigh, Maria turned and left, wondering what would happen next.
* * * * *
Max sat staring at the coffee table in front of him. He wondered who this *friend* of Liz's was and just what he was doing there. He knew it was wrong to be jealous, but he couldn't help it. It killed him to think that Liz was going to spend time with this . . . guy.
"So, guys, how's it going?" Maria asked as she walked back in and sat beside Max on the loveseat.
"Uh . . . good," Michael replied. "Say, is Isabel home?"
"Yeah, she's in her room," Maria replied. "I asked her to come with us, but her audition didn't go so hot so she's not up to it."
"Oh, well I think I'll go see how she's doing," Michael said. "Do you mind?"
"No, no," Maria replied. "Go on." She watched Michael walk down the hall towards Isabel's room and felt a pang of jealousy. He was always so concerned about Isabel. She wished for once that he'd show the same concern for her.
* * * * *
"Izzy? You in there?" Michael called softly as he rapped gently on the door.
"Yeah, come in," she sniffled from within the room. He opened the door and saw her curled up on the bed in a sitting position, her back to the headboard.
"Hey," he said with a small smile as he closed the door and walked over to the bed to sit beside her.
"Hey," she replied as she wiped at her eyes. "So, I guess you heard."
"About the audition? Yeah, Maria told me that you were upset about it," he said.
"I was awful, Michael!" she wailed as she leaned over towards him. His arms came quickly around her and she began to cry again on his broad shoulder.
"I'm sure it wasn't so bad," he said as he tried to comfort her.
"It was," she mumbled. "Even worse in fact."
"It'll be okay," he told her.
"I'm a horrible actress," she moaned.
"No, Isabel, you aren't. Things will get better. I promise you they will."
"I hope so, Michael. God, I hope you're right," she said. She leaned back and wiped at her eyes again. "Thanks, talking to you always makes me feel better."
He smiled. "I'm glad."
"Are you still going to the movies with Maria tonight?" she asked.
"Actually, I was thinking maybe we could stay here and keep you company instead," he told her.
She smiled, "I'd like that."
* * * * *
Liz came out of her bedroom and peered into the living room. Great, they were both still there. Well, it was now or never, she decided, so she took a deep breath and headed into the room.
"Hi Simon, sorry it took me so long," she said as she approached.
He turned and smiled at her. "Not a problem."
Turning to Max, she smiled. "Hey."
"Hey," he smiled in return.
"Did you guys meet and all?" she asked.
"Yeah, it was nice talking with you, Max," Simon said amiably.
Max plastered a smile across his face and replied, "Yeah, you too."
"Well, should we go?" Simon asked Liz.
She glanced quickly at Max. The look on his face was hard to read, but she could swear his eyes were pleading with her to stay. Turning back to Simon, she replied, "Yeah, let's go."
* * * * *
Maria slumped down onto the couch and sighed. Michael had just told her that he thought it best if they skip the movie. He wanted to stay and make sure that Isabel was okay. She understood him being concerned for their mutual friend, but in her heart she knew it was more than that. She'd be forever envious of the bond that Isabel and Michael shared, a bond that she could never be a part of.
"So, I guess I should head home then," Max said sadly as he started to get up. In all her self-pity, Maria had forgotten that he was still there.
"Wait, Max, don't leave yet," she said quickly. "We can still go see a movie if you want to?"
He started to shake his head no, but Maria interrupted him.
"I think we could both use an escape right about now."
He gave her a melancholy smile and nodded. She was right. He'd give anything at that moment to just escape from this life. They quickly grabbed their coats and left together.
* * * * *
It was ten o'clock when Michael opened his eyes. He awoke to find himself still in the same position as when he'd fallen asleep; lying on Isabel's bed with his arm wrapped tightly around her shoulder. They'd been watching a movie; he wasn't even sure which one. The last thing he remembered was the smell of her hair and the feel of her body shifting slightly against his as she laid there at ease and watched a movie with her friend.
Friend. Michael hated that word. He was glad that Isabel considered him a friend, but he wanted to be more than that. He had wanted more for quite some time now. Unfortunately, Isabel didn't seem to realize that. She thought of Michael almost like she thought of Max. He was a part of her family. In her eyes, he could never be more.
She was asleep now, her head resting on his shoulder and her breath coming out in a smooth, even rhythm. He sighed contentedly as he held onto her. Even if she didn't see him as anything but a friend right now, maybe someday that would change. For right now, though, he could enjoy this moment while it lasted.
* * * * *
Liz and Simon walked slowly, hand in hand, to her front door. She stopped and turned to her date with a smile. "Thanks for tonight, Simon. I had a nice time."
"I'm glad," he replied. "So did I."
She stared up at him and wondered if he kissed her, would she be able to go through with it? Could she kiss someone else? The only person she'd ever kissed was Max, and those few kisses had been the most magical moments of her life. Could kissing someone else ever live up to that?
He leaned in closer and Liz knew it was going to happen. He was going to kiss her. She decided quickly to close her eyes and let it happen.
When the kiss ended, Simon pulled away. "Thank you," he said softly.
"For what?" she asked.
"For letting me kiss you good night, since I have a feeling we won't be getting the chance on Friday night," he said.
"What makes you say that?" she asked in confusion.
"That guy that was here earlier, Max. Let's just say that every scientist has the ability to weigh the elements given to him and form a hypothesis. Mine is that you were some place else all evening, and this Max guy had a lot to do with that."
"I'm sorry, Simon," she told him.
"No, Liz, it's okay. I know you really wanted this to work out. So did I. But, can I give you some advice?" She nodded. "Don't give up on Max just yet."
She was very surprised to hear this from the guy that had just taken her on a date, but she found herself nodding anyway. Simon turned to go and Liz watched him leave. She looked up at the stars and thought that maybe she had been wrong. Maybe there was more to this thing with Max after all.
* * * * *
Max and Maria got back from the movie and walked into the apartment laughing together. They'd spent most of the evening bemoaning their sad lives and had come to discover that their mutual commiseration was actually quite comical. They'd decided that laughing at their situations was better than crying about them, so they'd been joking with each other the rest of the night.
As they walked into the apartment, Maria said to Max, "Thanks for going with me tonight. I had a nice time."
"Me too," he agreed.
"I wish things had turned out better for both of us tonight, though," she added.
"Yeah, my best friend can't seem to catch a hint to save his life," Max told her.
She smiled. "Mine either."
"Well, I guess I better get home. I still have a term paper to write," he said. She nodded and smiled at him. He bent down and kissed her forehead in a friendly gesture, then turned back to the door and left.
As Maria walked down the hallway, Liz came out of her room. "Hey, did Max leave yet?" she asked.
"Yeah, he just did," Maria told her. "How was your date?"
"Um, I'll tell you later," Liz said, then left her room and rushed down the hall and out the front door. Maria looked after her for a moment, then just shook her head and continued down the hall. She started to go into her own room, but her eyes moved to Isabel's door instead. She knew she should invade their privacy, but she had to have a look.
Easing the door open silently, Maria peered inside. What she saw made her heart drop. There were Michael and Isabel, sound asleep in each other's arms. They were both fully clothed and she was sure that everything was perfectly innocent, but the sight still made tears spring to Maria's eyes. She turned and left as quietly as she had entered.
* * * * *
Liz bolted out the front door of her apartment and looked frantically over the parking lot. She saw Max getting into his Jeep and called out to him. "Max! Wait!"
He stopped, hearing that voice that he couldn't mistake for anyone but her. He turned to see her running towards him.
"Liz, what is it?" he asked in concern. She seemed frantic.
"I . . . I need to talk to you," she said in a rush. He reached over and unlocked the passenger door and she climbed into the Jeep beside him. "I'm really sorry about tonight," she began.
"Liz, if that's what this is about then don't bother. It's okay, really," he assured her.
"No, Max, it's not. It's not okay." She sighed and looked down at her hands. "The truth is . . . well, I didn't really want to go out with Simon. I mean, I like him and all, but . . . well, he's not you. You're the one I want, Max." She looked up at him then. "You must know that by now."
"Liz, you know we can't . . ."
"Why? Why can't we? What is stopping us?" She moved closer to him and said softly, "I love you, Max Evans. I have for a long time now. And I know you love me, too. So, what is it that you're so afraid of?"
He looked into her deep brown eyes and almost lost himself. Looking away to gather his thoughts, Max replied, "It's not safe."
"You've been saying that for five years."
"And it's still true. It'll never be safe, Liz. Never."
"But I love you anyway," she replied. "You and no one else. And, safe or not, I'll always love you. I'm not giving that up. I'm not even sure that I could if I wanted to," she admitted.
He looked at the steering wheel, refusing to meet her eyes. "Look at me, Max," she said. She reached out and took his chin in her hands and turned him towards her. "Look me in the eyes and tell me that you don't feel the same way. Tell me that you don't love me and I promise that I'll walk away forever."
He stared into her beautiful and haunting eyes and suddenly nothing else existed but the two of them. "I can't lie to you, Liz," he said softly. "I never could. I do love you. I've loved you for as long as I can remember. Nothing in the world has ever scared me more than the way I feel about you . . . but nothing has ever felt so right either."
She smiled as she blinked back the tears in her eyes. "Kiss me, Max," she whispered. For once, he was beyond hesitation. He moved closer to her, pulling her into his arms and lowering his mouth slowly to hers. When their lips met, it was like an explosion. They could each feel the depth of their feelings for one another as they lost themselves in the kiss.
When they finally parted, Max looked down into her eyes once again. "I'm sorry, Liz," he said softly.
"There's nothing to be sorry for. We were both just scared," she told him.
"I should have let this happen a long time ago. I've been running away from you for too long. I was hiding behind the danger I was afraid this might put you in, but the truth is that I was just as afraid that things might not work out. I mean, I love you so much . . . I just don't know what I'd do if I had to go the rest of my life knowing that you didn't feel the same way," he admitted.
"You'll never have to, Max. I could never stop loving you," she said as she touched his cheek gently with her hand.
He kissed her again and smiled. "This is all I've ever wanted, Liz. This moment is the most perfect time of my entire life."
"I'm glad you feel that way, Max, but," she looked up at him and smiled seductively before adding, "I still want more." And, with that, they were lost in another kiss.
* * * * *
October 28, 1999
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