Fanfic - Michael/Maria
"Can't Find a Better Man"
Part 2
by Ariana
Disclaimer: I don't own anything
Summary: Sequel to "Just Like Me"
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Maria was tempted to call Tess as she pulled up to Michael's apartment building because Maria had been so busy with her job and her friends that she hasn't been home that often. For the longest time Tess was all that Maria had, but ever since Nasedo passed down the role as protector Maria had begun to spread her wings.

Maria had hoped that Tess would do the same, but she resisted the transition. In fact Tess was the one that was helping Michael control his powers in preparation for war. She made no effort to reach out to her human allies and Maria found this discouraging. She stared at her cell phone for a moment, but then put it back in her purse. "If Tess wants to be a hermit, so be it," Maria thought to herself as she got out of her Explorer.

As Maria walked towards Michael's front door she noticed that no lights were on and the place was completely dark. "Michael," Maria knocked on the door but there was no answer. She knocked harder this time, "Michael, open up it's Maria."

Maria had an empty feeling in her stomach and a lump formed in her throat. She used her powers to force open the door, but his apartment was dark and silent. "Michael, are you in here?" Maria slowly walked further into the dark apartment.

She was standing in the middle of the room breathing heavily when she heard a noise. She could feel the little hairs on the back of her neck prickle up as she took a couple steps backward. Her blood ran cold as she saw a figure move in the corner of her eye. It was now coming towards her and she was going to send out a power blast to send it flying, but the figure became visible.

"God Michael I almost blasted you," Maria put her hand down and the power began to die away.

"I found the front door wide open and I forgot you were coming," Michael was acting jittery and for some reason he couldn't stop pacing.

Maria said, "You forgot I was coming. Michael my car is only in front of your apartment."

"Oh," Michael seemed more distracted. "It is."

"Michael, what the hell is going on?" Maria put her hand on her hips. "Where were you?"

Michael closed the front door and sat down on the couch, "The Sheriff's office had an excavation team set up in the desert where that guy found Pierce's bones. I was hiding in the brush a ways away."

"Don't tell me they saw you," Maria jumped to a conclusion.

He shook his head; "No it's worse."

"OK, Michael you're scaring me now, what do you mean it is worse?" Maria had a look of panic on her face as she sank into the couch.

Michael protectively took her hands in his, "When I was leaving I tripped and fell and on the ground there was a piece of skin. It disintegrated when I picked it up, because it wasn't human."

"You mean," Maria didn't want to finish the sentence. "They're here."

Michael was silent for a moment, "I don't know." Michael didn't know what to say so he did the one thing he could do which was take her in his arms and hold her.

* * * Maria woke up feeling a little groggy because she spent most of the night tossing and turning. Maria came to the conclusion that she was never going to have a normal life because when one enemy disappears another one is there to take it's place.

She lay in bed for a few more minutes but then she heard movement in the kitchen. Maria slipped on her robe after she scrambled out of bed.

Tess was making enough racket to wake the whole neighborhood when Maria entered the kitchen. "What are you doing?" she asked as Tess opened every cupboard.

Tess didn't bother looking at Maria, "Where the hell are all the damn bowls?"

Maria casually walked over to the dishwasher and pulled out a clean bowl, "Good morning to you.

Tess took the bowl from her without saying thank you, "So I assume you've heard that some geologist found Pierce's bones."

"Yeah, Michael told me last night," Maria took another bowl out of the dishwasher for herself.

Tess chose her cereal selection, "He didn't exactly take it very well. I mean he has been disagreeing with everything Max has been saying all summer."

"You just don't understand where Michael is coming from," Maria explained. "He thinks that they will find out that he killed Pierce and that he'll be spending the rest of his life in lockdown."

"Nasedo will come back and fix everything, so I don't know why Michael's trippin'," Tess shoved a spoonful of cereal into her mouth.

Maria poured some cereal into her bowl, "We don't know if Nasedo is ever coming back. It's been three months and no one has heard from him. I mean, hello, we learned that the Special Unit was closing down on TV instead of from the person who is supposedly protecting us."

"That would be you," Tess reminded.

Maria rolled her eyes, "Oh, you know what I mean."

* * * "Nasedo, it's Michael," Michael said into the payphone across the street from the police station. Valenti had called him earlier and told him that his pocketknife had been found at the crime scene. His deputy was suspicious so Michael came in peacefully for questioning, but Valenti filed a false police report placing Michael at the crime scene, but instead of getting caught burying Pierce in the desert he was joyriding and drinking beer with two buddies he didn't even have.

"Does Max know you're calling?" Nasedo demanded steely in Pierce's voice.

Michael continued, "No, but we got a code red. Get the hell out here."

"Don't ever contact me again unless Max knows," Nasedo hung up before Michael could get a word in.

"Great people skills," Michael really hated being second-in-command sometimes. He fished out two more quarters from his pants pockets and dropped them in the slot. "Hello," a voice answered after Michael dialed a number.

Michael replied in a hurried tone, "Hey Tess I need to talk to Maria."

"Hold on," Tess dropped the phone with a loud thud and a second later Maria picked it up.

"Michael," Maria said at the other end. "Where were you earlier? I called and there was no answer."

Michael prepared for her reaction; "I was at the police station for questioning."

"What?!" Maria exploded. "You were where?"

"During the excavation last night one of the deputies found my pocket knife. I must have dropped it last spring," Michael explained.

"So what happened?" Maria asked eagerly.

Michael continued, "Valenti saved my ass again and filed a fake police report."

"So everything is okay? You are no longer a suspect," Maria continued to feel a little worried.

"As far as I know, but it looks like Nasedo is not going to be much help. I called him just now and he completely dismissed me," Michael relayed the details to her. "He won't do anything unless our fearless leader gives him the okay."

"We are playing with new rules Michael," Maria said. "We are no longer fighting the FBI, I mean, we don't even know what we are fighting."

"So you want me to play it safe?" Michael concluded.

Maria whispered into the phone, "Please, I don't want anything to happen to you."

"I know," Michael lowered his voice. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be, you're just being yourself and that is nothing to be sorry for," Maria said to him. "I just want you to be careful."

"I hate it when you worry about me, but I promise if I plan on breaking into any more government facilities I'll let you know beforehand," Michael reassured her jokingly. "I have to go I have to get to the Crashdown."

"I'll be over there later I'm closing tonight," Maria pointed out. "But until then don't get into anymore trouble."

"I'll try not to babe," Michael said before hanging up.

Maria laughed, "Bye."

"What was that all about?" Tess asked from the doorway of the kitchen.

Maria placed the phone receiver back on its cradle; "Michael was taken in for questioning."

"Did they arrest him?" Tess asked casually.

Maria began to walk away, "No, Valenti got him off the hook." The phone rang just then and Maria walked back and answered it. "Hello."

"Maria, it's Liz," the voice at the other end said.

"Liz, hey what's up," Maria saw Tess roll her eyes before she left.

Liz said, "I got the job, you know the one with Congresswoman Whitaker. I had my interview today and guess who I saw taking a little afternoon stroll down Main street."

Maria jumped on top of the counter, "Oh my God, no you didn't. You really saw Max."

"Not just saw I talked to him, or more like he talked to me," Liz went on. "It was so completely awkward we were speaking as if were strangers."

"So what did you guys talk about?" Maria asked, very intrigued.

Liz continued, "He was really surprised I was already back, so he knows you have been lying to him. He said nothing has been happening and that Tess understands why Max doesn't want to be with her."

"Yeah she understands, but she's not happy about it. When we first arrived Tess kind of developed a little crush on your boy, but I promise you she hasn't acted on it when you weren't here," Maria reassured her making sure Tess couldn't hear her.

Liz told her, "I told him I wanted a fresh start, because I can't just jump in to the whole 'being chased by the FBI' lifestyle again. Things have changed I'm no longer the Liz Parker I once was."

Maria agreed with her on the latter, "I don't think any one of us are the same anymore."

* * * Michael spent the rest of the afternoon at the Crashdown flipping burgers and rolling his eyes every time Courtney tried to flirt with him. The only good moment of the day was when Maria came in for the closing shift. Mr. Parker rarely scheduled them together because they would always get caught making out in the storage closet.

They worked together for about two hours, but then Michael's shift ended and Maria was stuck there for another three hours. Before going home Michael stopped to get some parts for his motorbike and then a bite to eat. He turned in early and was having a dreamless sleep when there was a loud pounding on the door.

"Open the door! Police!" a loud voice boomed.

Michael recognized the Sheriff's voice, "Valenti, I figured you'd have to come over here and give me grief about leaving the knife out there." Michael stumbled out of bed. "Man, what's the big deal?"

Michael opened the door and he found Sheriff Valenti standing there along with a handful of deputies. "Mr. Guerin, you're under arrest. You have the right to remain silent." Valenti pinned Michael to the wall and began to pull out his handcuffs; "You have the right to an attorney, if you can't afford an attorney one will be appointed for you by the court."

Michael was hauled out of his apartment like a common criminal and pushed into the backseat of the Sheriff's car. "What the hell I going on?" Michael demanded when the Sheriff got into the front seat.

Valenti apologized, "I'm sorry Michael I really am, but the Congresswoman Whitaker wanted you brought in. They are looking at a homicide."

Michael sat back in his seat, "So I guess I'm screwed then."

* * * Maria awoke with a start at the sound of her phone ringing. "Hello," she said glancing at the clock on her nightstand.

"Maria, it's me," Michael said.

"Michael, don't you know what time it is?" Maria grumbled. "Wait a minute, where are you?"

"I'm in jail and this is my one phone call," Michael told her hoping she won't be mad and hang up on him. "Whitaker had Valenti bring me in about an hour ago and I just got done being interrogated by Barney Fife."

"God it must be horrible, how can I get you out of there?" Maria was completely awake now and worried like crazy.

Michael knew that Maria was about to start panicking, "I don't know if you can."

* * * Maria didn't want to hang up with Michael, but his time was up. She didn't know what to do she didn't have enough money to bail him out and she didn't want him to spend the night in jail.

She quickly changed out of her pajamas and into some regular clothes. She was tempted to wake up Tess, but time was precious and she figured that she could always call her from her cell phone.

Maria was always a careful driver but if a cop saw her right then she would probably be sharing a cell with Michael, which wouldn't have been half-bad. She parked her car as fast as she could, and jumped out. She ran up a nice manicured lawn and around the side of the Evans' house.

"Max!" Maria pounded her fist on the cool glass of the window. "Max! Open up!"

Max's disheveled figure appeared on the other side, "What's going on?"

"Michael was arrested," Maria blurted out as Max helped her through the window. "Whitaker had Valenti take him in."

"Congresswoman Whitaker?" Max was in a state of disbelief.

Maria nodded looking tired and distraught, "They must have found something unusual on Pierce's bones. What are we going to do Max? We can't exactly break him out of jail."

"I know what to do," Max reassured her. He picked up the phone and carefully dialed Nasedo's emergency number.

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