FanFic - Other
"New Circles"
Part 1
by Jenn
Disclaimer: I don't own Roswell.
Summary: Maria has cancer and everyone has to deal with it.
Category: Other
Rating: PG-13
Authors Note: I am not a doctor so all information may not be 100% accurate!
Maria awoke; her sweat soaked her sheets and her body, making her shiver. The pain in her head was becoming worse; she couldn't ignore it any longer. But she had to. She knew deep down that the headaches were not just migraines, but she tried to convince herself otherwise. She did not want to face the truth, the nightmare had returned.

Maria had dreaded this day since...well as long as she could remember. She understood the gravity and severity of what might happen if she didn't tell her mother.

But how could she do that to her mother. How could she tell Amy without reliving the memories from the past, from those years ago? How could she do it? Maria knew her mother thought about it, cried about it. She couldn't make her mother hurt even more. But Maria knew she wouldn't live it... It was too hard to say it, even in her mind. She knew she had to admit it, but she didn't want to, not even to herself, because that would make it all too real. It was real, deep inside of her she could feel something telling her this wasn't just her imagination, that she wasn't dreaming. She knew it had returned, a ghost from the past, a ghost that haunted her every minute of her existence, now had rematerialized. Maria De Luca had Cancer.

The word was a nightmare itself. It was a curse in her vocabulary and a curse on her life. If only...

Now she would have to go back to the doctor. She wasn't due to go back for another month. Why did this have to happen? She would have to go through all the tests, the therapy, the pain. She didn't know if she could. Maria wished

She could just shrivel up and die rather than go through it again. Her mother wouldn't be strong enough. Last time she had had daddy.

Maria started to cry, soft whimpers. It had been almost ten years ago she was diagnosed. She had thought she was out of the woods. Finally she had begun to relax and the memories were even fading. She had been almost six years old when she was first told she had the disease. She hadnít even understood what was happening to her.

The whole experience had been petrifying. She had had to undergo so many tests, so much medicine. Maria didnít even know if she had the strength to do it again. But she would have to. She would have to be strong for herself. She wanted to live; she had so much to live for. And she had to be strong for her mother. Her mother may act strong, but she wasnít. Maria knew that without her father there her mother would break down. Amy had given Maria everything she could, she had worked her ass off to keep them alive, now how was she repaying her.

Maria knew it was not her fault, that she couldnít help what was happening to her. But even thought she knew that in her mind, there was something in her that felt responsible for the cancer. Something that desperately felt that she was the one ruining her motherís life.

But thinking like that wouldnít help. It never helped.

ĎYouíve got to be strong. If you believe that the disease will go away, it will," Maria heard the voice of her therapist. It was so clear in her mind she swore the lady was sitting right across from her. Her therapist had helped her through the cancer, she had been her friend. Although she had had her mother and her father and Liz, no one understood like her therapist. Who would be there for her now? She knew she had friends, but cancer would scare them. People were scared of what they didnít understand, of what they couldnít control. She knew they would try but she didnít want pity or sympathy. Maybe they would surprise her.

What was she going to do? ĎNever give up,í she heard the voice again. ĎThere is always hope. No matter what you do Maria, I want you to remember that there will always be someone there. Maybe the person you least expect will turn out to be the one who helps you through, the one who keeps you all together.í

Maria didnít know who would be there for her. She knew she needed someone. Her mother would try, but she wasnít even strong enough to be there for herself. Liz would always be there, but LizÖwell she had gotten better with crisis but it wasnít really her thing. Alex, he would try his best, he would be sweet and caring, but he wouldnít understand. No one would understand. How could they? Unless they had gone through it themselves.

She was still crying. She hadnít even realized it. Now the front of her shirt, her covers and her cheeks were stained with tears. She had to go, she had to walk, do something. She couldnít just sit here and think about it anymore. The thoughts were overwhelming her, drowning her, they were suffocating her, squeezing all breath from her lungs. It was as if the cancer was not going to kill her but her thoughts alone.

Maria arose from her bed and quietly walked through her house. She let herself out the front door, careful not to wake her mother. The cool night air hit her like a brick wall, but it was inviting. The chilly air soaked through her giving her life and breath. She welcomed it into her lungs, gasping for it as if her life depended on that night.

Maria started to run. Her already racing heart going faster and faster until she could feel its rhythm vibrating through he entire body. She ran out of anger, out of fear, out of numbness, she just wanted to feel something, and not feel anything. She wanted to feel alive, but wanted to be dead, all at the same time.

Running through the streets of Roswell she let out a scream. Maria didnít care who she woke up. She needed to let it out. Her voice was strained; she sounded like a wild animal. She was blinded, stumbling along without seeing where she was going. But she knew where she was going; it was like she was autopilot to Michaelís apartment. Why did she have to go there? What was there? Michael. Michael was there. But what would she tell him.

Nothing, that was what she would tell him. She didnít have to tell him anything. He had come to her, just once but he knew that he was not so low that he wouldnít repay her that one kindness. ĎThere will always be someone there for you. Donít think. Thatís my advice. Maria I know youíre only a little girl, but you are smarter than most. I want you to remember what Iím telling you. This does not only apply to cancer, but to life in general.

ĎPeople are going to come in and out of your life. They will laugh with you, cry with you. Donít be afraid to cry. Donít be afraid to love. But donít think about things too much. I know many people will say otherwise, they will tell you to carefully consider everything you do. But Maria, you know whatís right for you. If it feels right, go for it. Life is short. I know that too well.í The voice haunted her. But she had never forgotten those wise words. She had lived everyday for what it was worth. Never thinking about the past or the present too much. Because thinking wasted her time.

Her therapist had had a son die of cancer when he was 13. She had learned that life is precious. Maria had known as a six-year-old things that some people never learned in an entire lifetime. She had grown up fast.

Now she was at Michaelís door. She knocked on it without hesitation, not fully understanding why this was so easy for her, why she trusted that he would want to let her in. But when he opened the door and she saw the surprise on his face turn to concern she remembered why she could go.

"MarÖ" he started but her tears began to fall faster and harder. She hadnít realized that she hadnít stopped crying when she left the house. Maria brought up her hand to wipe away her tears so that he wouldnít see them. But he stopped her. He grabbed her hands and for a second time held them, watching his fingers meld with hers.

Michael led her into his apartment, just as she had done for him almost a year ago. He held her and sat with her letting her cry. He did not press for reasons or any words at all. The silence was welcoming and she fell asleep in his arms, feeling safe, as if there was nothing in the world that could harm her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Maria awoke suddenly. The sun was just beginning to come through the window and warm the small room. Softly she lifted herself out from under his arm, not wanting to have to talk to him, trying not to make the whole experience more awkward than it had to be.

She quietly left the apartment and walked briskly back to her own house. The sun warmed her bare shoulders as she walked. When she reached home she opened the door only to find Sheriff Valenti trying to comfort a very distraught looking Amy De Luca.

"Maria," her mom exclaimed, jumping from her chair. "Where have you been young lady? You scared me half to death when I didnít find you in your bed this morning. You werenít with him were you?" Maria looked at her mother. She couldnít lie to her. Maria never could lie to her mother, it never worked. "You were. Maria, come on, after all that heís done to you. How could you?"

"Mom we need to talk." This was all Maria could manage to say without starting to cry all over. Her mother was right. Michael had been mean and cold; he was a bastard, but a lovable bastard. For some reason she loved him and she couldnít stop. Nothing would stop her from loving him. But how could she burden him with this fact. Especially with both of their pasts haunting their future and hanging over their heads. She just couldnít let him carry too many burdens.

She knew he loved her too. He had said he did. If she told him that she felt the same way, he would do something. Ever since his experience with the soldier he had changed. They had become friends again; it was really very sweet. But she couldnít bring it to the next level, not again. Not that she didnít want to but she couldnít tie him down to a possibly dead girl.

"Maria," Amy said, pulling her Maria out of her thoughts.

"Did you say something?"

"Yeah, I said you bet we do."

"Ok, but not with him here," she said nodding her head toward Valenti. The sheriff left quickly leaving Maria to stare at her angry mother.

"SoÖ" she tapped her fingers impatiently.

"Itís back." Maria knew it wasnít enough of an explanation but it was all she could manage. The puzzled look on her motherís face drove her on. "The cancer, itís back."

"Maria if this is a joke to get you out of trouble, itís not funny."

"Mom why do you think I would even make a joke out of this. Iím serious. I canít believe you think that low of me."

"How do you know? I meanÖthat itís back?"

"Cause I feel it. The headaches I was feeling were too familiar. Now I only have to go tot the doctor to confirm it." Amy De Lucaís face was stone. Maria thought time had frozen everything. Maybe everything had just been fake, nature was playing a cruel trick on her. But her motherís tears were real. She was shaking with sobs. Now it was Mariaís turn to play comforter.

"Mom," she started, getting up and wrapping her arms around the fail woman. Well she was more the child, Maria the woman. Maria could remember so many times when she had held her mother, helping her through another night. So many times she remembered being strong for her mom, only allowing herself to break down when Amy wasnít around, when she couldnít here how devastated she was. She didnít want her to know how much she hurt, she couldnít be a burden.

But who would be there for her? Maria thought of this again. She had to be strong for her mother and it would kill her. Why couldnít she just let herself go? Her mother could handle it. But thatís what Maria was afraid of, what if she couldnít?

Maria knew her mom tried and she didnít hold anything against her. She knew Amy loved her and that she would give up anything to take away all the hurt Maria had felt. She knew that her mother would go through this for her if she could. "Mom I would give anything not to make us have to go through this, not to make you go through this. Iím so sorry." Mariaís tears returned to her eyes, but she souldnít let htem fall. She choked them back not wanting her mother to see them. Her mother had enough to worry about. Like how to pay the bills, Mariaís cancer, she didnít need a depressed daughter too.

Besides, tears didnít help. They didnít make it better, didnít make the cancer go away. They didnít fix a thing. Tears didnít even make her feel better. What were tears anyway? Why did people cry? It made no sense. ĎScream, cry, let it all out,í she heard the voice again.

"Itís ok Maria. You can cry. Donít be sorry. There is nothing you could have done to prevent this from happening. This is just something that happens. Why it had to be you, our family, I canít explain that. But please, donít feel responsible for it. None of it. And donít feel responsible for me, I should be taking care of you now." Amy squirmed from Mariaís grip and turned to face her daughter. "Itís ok to cry," she repeated.

Maria shook her head. "No, it wonít help. It wonít change anything." She fell to the ground, her mother breaking her fall. Amy held her daughter and rocked her.

"Itís all right. Itís going to be all right honey." And as Amy stoked her hair Maria once again felt like there was peace in the world. Michael had been able to give that to her and so had her mother. Lifeís gifts were so simple, yet so precious. How come she had not realized this earlier?

"How are we going to manage? What about the bills, the doctors? How are you going to afford this?"

"Donít worry about money. It will all work out. It always has. I will not put a price on your life." Maria wiped her tears from her face and looked up at the clock.

"I better get going or Iím going to be late for school."

"Are you sure you wanna go?"

"Yes, I want things to be normal for as long as possible. I know what this is going to mean for me. I just want to be with my friends and be a student as long as I can." Maria had never wanted to go to school more than she did that moment. Not even on the good days with Michael when she knew there would be hot sessions in the eraser room. Never had she just wanted to be normal.

But when had her life ever been normal. When she was little she had had cancer and parents that couldnít get along. After the divorce she lived with an eccentric woman and had had to do everything for herself. Then came the most abnormal thing of all, aliens.

The aliens had shaken up her world, turned it upside down. More than even the divorce and the cancer put together. When Liz had told her she just couldnít believe it and when she had finally accepted the fact that there were other life forms on the earth. JesusÖit was just too much to handle. Especially when love got involved. Maria swore sheíd never love again. It hurt too much. Either you had some problem that separated you from them or they decided it was wrong to be with you.

"Yes, Iím gonna go to school. Could you make the doctors appointment for me?" Amy nodded her head as Maria got up to dress for school.

She picked the sexiest outfit she could find. She wanted to feel pretty today. She knew when the treatments started she wouldnít feel pretty for a long time. She had learned how to savour the little things like that. Maybe just maybe Michael would decide not to be a dick and would be nice to her. That would make a perfect day. She needed a perfect day after a night in hell.

Maria took one last look in the mirror before she left the house for the day. She lingered, staring at her features, soaking them in making sure her mind knew just how to reconstruct them. It was going to be a long road to travelÖ.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Maria unlocked the door to her house, Liz holding her books for her. It had been a good day after all but she had come home instead of working because of her appointment. Amy had called at lunchtime to tell her that she was scheduled for 4:00. Liz had come to be moral support since her mother still had work.

She had told Liz about the cancer right after her motherís call. She knew her friend would insist on coming to the hospital with her and that was what she wanted. Liz had taken the news better than Maria thought she would have. Maybe Liz was stronger than Maria gave her credit for. She had looked concerned and when Maria cried Liz gave her her shoulder. She was so thankful to have such a wonderful friend.

Liz and Maria chatted away in the kitchen, talking about anything in their lives to keep their minds off of what really was happening. They talked about school, about their no good alien boyfriends, anything but cancer. When 3:45 rolled around Maria jumped into the Jetta with Liz. She turned the radio up as loud as it would go. They drove in silence to the small hospital.

Maria knew that this wouldnít be where she was staying. She didnít know why she had to come here anyway. She didnít need any tests to know the truth. They were a waste of time. But doctors always wasted time.

Maybe she just had a bad attitude about this. Well, she definitely did. She understood they needed to know as much as possible about the growth of the tumor and how far she was along before they did anything. But there was no doubt something was there.

When they reached the hospital Maria shut off the engine and took a deep breath. It was so deep she shook as she let it out, but it felt good, cleansing. "You ok?" Liz asked.

"Not really. I canít believe I have to do this again. Wasnít once enough?"

"I canít believe it either. I remember the first time you got sick. I remember you telling me you wouldnít be able to play with ma anymore, that I should find a new best friend." Lizís eyes were filling with tears. Crying was all that they seemed to do lately.

"But you, you would hear none of it. You never gave up on me. Even when I was a complete, can we say Öbitch. You stuck by my side the whole time. You helped me live Liz. You kept me strong when I wanted to give up, sane when my parents fought, you gave me hope. Even when I was too sick to stay awake, or talk to me. You sat by my bed and told me silly stories, or simply just hold my hand." Memeories flooded over Maria. Her friend had done so much for her, given up so much. "I never realized how much you gave up as a child for me. You gave up all those afternoons of playtime for me. In essence you gave up your childhood." Maria half laughed through the tears that were forming in her throat.

"I gave up a lot, but you gave up more. We both grew up fast. But you were my best friend, are my best friend. I couldnít have fun knowing you were suffering. I donít know if I can bear to see you like that again."

"You donít have to. You can leave any time you want. I canít put your life on hold just because mine is."

"But I want to. I need to."

"Thank you Lizzie." Maria was glad she had a chance to talk to her friend. She knew she needed Liz and knew she would be there. And she was happy to know that. Maria handed Liz a tissue to wipe her eyes before they confronted the hospital.

"Thanks," she laughed.

"No problem. Man, Liz, we have got to get lives. I now have tissues in my car. Too much crying."

"Well thatís what happens when you have an alien for a boyfriend. Breaking up with them isnít easy."

"Yeah, even if they are lying cheating bastards, some force makes you love Ďum."

"You said it sister." Maria opened her door and Liz followed suit.

"All right. Time to face the music." Maria took a deep breath, pulled her chin up and walked toward the building. The hospital was uninviting. It spoke of danger and bad memories. This was where the aliens were almost discovered. But more importantly it was where she had first heard the word cancer.

It was here that her parents had brought her when she had collapsed that day. Here they had tested her and told her about the disease. But she braced herself and opened the glass double doors. She could feel the demons of the past surrounding her on every side. Maria shuttered and Liz grabbed her hand.

"Youíll be ok. Iím here. Iíll be waiting. Your mother said she was going to try to get here."

"Ok." Maria approached the front desk ready to start the real torture of the afternoon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Maria had endured the tests and now was waiting in the lobby, her mother on one side of her, Liz on the other. They were waiting for the verdict, the one that might determine the rest of Mariaís life, or at least the next year or so of it.

A doctor appeared from the back and approached the three women. Amy rose from her seat and shook his hand. "Doctor Wheaton," he introduced himself.

"Yes, yes. Iím Amy, Amy De Luca. Nice to meet you." Maria couldnít stand the formalities. ĎLetís just get on with it.í That was something her therapist used to say all the time.

Amy sat back down and the expression on the doctorís face changed. "Iím afraid I have some bad news for you."

*

"Spill," Maria practically spat at him. "How bad is it?"

"You sure youíre ready to hear this."

"Yes." Why were they all of a sudden treating her like a baby? The look of concern and pain on the doctorís face reminded her of those ten years ago when she had sat in the same hospital and heard the news for the first time.

*Flashback*

Maria fidgeted in her seat. Mommy was on one side of her and Daddy on the other side. They kept looking at each other with worried faces. Maria knew something was wrong, Mommy and Daddy werenít fighting like they always did and they were stuck in this crummy hospital. The scary men in the white robes had already poked her with lots of big needles and stuff. Now they were just waiting. She wanted to go home, wanted to run and play but Daddy had told her to sit still like a good girl, and thatís what she did.

"Mr. And Mrs. De Luca," she hard her doctor say. His voice wasnít as nice sounding as it had been before. It sounded like he was talking through a straw, it was unwelcoming and strained.

"Yes," Mr. De Luca said calmly. Maria was glad Daddy was there. She snuggled closer to him wanting to know it was going to be okay. Everything was always better when her dad was there. Nothing could harm her.

"Do you know whatís wrong with my daughter?" Maria looke at her mother. She was crying. Maria was confused about this whole thing.

The doctor nodded. "You daughter has a small malignant tumor growing at the base of her brain."

"WhaÖ" Mom said. She fell reached her hand behind me and grabbed Daddyís hand. He took it without hesitation, squeezing it tight. It was the first time she had seen Mommy and Daddy touch for as long as she could remember. But then Mommy started to gasp for air, she was breathing funny. Doctors were evil, Maria had already made her mind up about that.

*End Flashback*

Maria didnít even hear what the doctor said about her illness, she was enveloped in her own thoughts. She already knew what he was going to say. She knew the right responses to make. It was as if she were programmed, programmed for cancer. She felt the numbness of the night before settle upon her once more.

"What do we do now?" she said mechanically, as if every word was being told to her through one ear and then pulled out of her mouth. Kind of like a printer. "What are my options? Surgery, radiation again, all of the above, none of the above. Choose one."

Amy looked toward her daughter. She appeared as if she had something to say, she opened her mouth. But immediately she stopped when she saw the anger in Mariaís eyes. Maria wanted to handle this how she wanted to handle it. If being rude was the way to keep her from breaking down, she would be as damn rude as she felt. Actually all she wanted to do right now was tell the doctor to go fuck himself but the would be a little over the top.

"UmmmÖ.We are going to try radiation. Surgery would be too risky. The tumor is too risky, even for gamma ray surgery. You know where we use an intense amount of gamma rays to remove the growth. We are going to do all we can to help you."

"Iíve heard that one before," Maria said. She was not in the mood for this right now. But when would she ever be in the mood for cancer. "When do we start?"

"As soon as possible. You will not be at this hospital, but you know that already. I am letting you go on outpatient as long as you donít start getting worse," the doctor replied. He really did seem concerned for her and she was kind of disappointed he would not be the doctor following up on her case. But she knew that the hospital in the next town over had a better cancer research center, even thought it was almost a half an hour away from home.

"All right. How long is this going to take?" Maria was worried. She was in her junior year of high school. Cancer could take forever. She didnít wan to have to stay behind. Maria knew there would be time to do schoolwork, plenty of it in fact. But still it wasnít the same. She would miss out on so much. But not as much as she would if sheÖMaria stopped herself. She couldnít start thinking that way. It would only make everything worse.

"I donít know. You will go through a grueling ___ weeks of radiation and then we will see where to go from there. Iím sorry that I canít give you a better answer than that. But if you hadnít figured it our, cancer is a very tricky disease. It can stump even the best doctors. We hate to admit it but we donít really know that much about how cancer begins and how to kill it for good."

"Great. Why donít I just treat myself? I think I know enough. Probably more than you do."

"Maria," Amy spoke up. "Maria, thatís enough. Iíve tolerated your rudeness long enough. Now weíre going to go home, and youíre going to pack and tomorrow I am going to drive you to the hospital to begin treatment. You understand?" Maria just glared at her mother and rose from her seat. She stalked out of the hospital, Liz on her heels.

"Iím sorry," she heard her mother say to the doctor as she opened the door to the outside. The warm air hit her making her feel a thousand times better. She stood on the sidewalk just breathing in the sweet smells of the winter air. She was glad they lived in a warm place. Maria didnít like the cold, it killed things. She was cold enough inside anyway.

Maria turned to Liz. "Why does she have to do this to me? Why does she always treat me like Iím some dumb baby? Come on Iíve got cancer here, canít she cut me some slack?"

"Maybe she just doesnít want you to be reminded of it. Wouldnít she have yelled at you any time for something like that?"

"Well I guess so, but why are you taking her side? She still acts as if Iím a baby. And I have cancer. Face it." Maria looked at Lizís face. She had this look on it, like she understood Maria but was saddened by the understanding. She should have never dragged her friend into this all. She was just going to ruin more lives than she had to. "Iím sorry Liz. I never meant to get mad at you. Itís just this whole thing. I still canít believe itís happening again."

"I know. Itís going to be all right." Maria hugged her friend, strangely reassured by her words. Maria had been trying to tell herself that for the last few weeks but nothing had convinced her. Now her friendís simple words and caring hug were all she needed to feel strong again.

"It is going to be ok," Maria said, smiling. The sun was beginning to shine a little in her life. She didnít know how long it would be up before it set once again. But she welcomed it for the time being.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Maria awoke as her mother shut off the engine. "Come on, Maria, weíre here." It had been a long ride to the hospital and Maria had fallen asleep quickly. She felt bad that she couldnít keep her mother company but she was so worn out. Maria stretched and peered out the window, unhappy about what was to come.

Maria was brought to a small room where they showed her the equipment they would be using to fight the cancer and how it worked. She had seen the machines long ago. But then they had only been scary monsters that made horrible "whurring" sounds. Now she knew better. She could handle this.

They marked her head with the tiny "tattoos" they used to line up the machines. To do this they had to shave a little piece of her hair from the nape of her neck. When they were done she couldnít help but feel that the back of her neck was somewhat naked and that everyone could see the bald spot. The doctor assured her that it was not visible, but she was not sure.

They did not start radiation that day. It would begin tomorrow. She would have to drive to the hospital every afternoon after school to receive treatments. It was going to suck.

When she returned home it was going on 2:00. She had spent almost four hours at the hospital with those damn doctors. She saw through the window that Liz was waiting for her, Alex too. How typical. As she neared the door she saw Max and Isabel and Tess andÖMichael. Why the hell did they all have to come. Of course Liz had told them, but they didnít need to visit her like she was a dying person.

Before she could even speak Alex came and embraced her, practically sucking all the breath from her body. "Alex, IÖcanítÖbreath."

"Oh, sorry, sorry," he stammered backing away from her.

"You ok?" Max asked. Tess and Isabel both offered their looks of sympathy. She was glad they were all there for her. Glad that they cared.

But she was dying to know why Michael had to be there. She couldnít stop herself. Turning to Michael she spat, "What are you doing here?"

Index | Part 1a
Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours
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