FanFic - Other
"New Circles"
Part 1b
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!
It had been three weeks since her diagnosis. Maria went to her treatment and to her group meetings. Her and Joshís friendship grew, although she wasnít sure if he had alternate intentions. They had managed to keep it platonic so far. She didnít want more. She wanted Michael. But she wouldnít let herself have him. She still felt that he didnít need a sick girl hanging around him. He needed a normal life, well as normal as an alienís life could be.

Maria was getting changed in the back room of the Crashdown, getting ready for her shift. She heard a noise behind her. Turning on her heel she was faced with an angry looking Michael.

Puling together her unbuttoned uniform she spoke, "Michael, what the hell? Donít scare me like that."

"Sorry," quickly. "But we need to talk."

"Michael Iím already late for work, weíll talk later."

"Man, now I know how you felt." Maria couldnít believe what she was doing to Michael. It was something beyond her control and she was dying seeing the pain she was putting him through. "Weíre gonna talk now. Youíve been avoiding me for like three weeks, since this whole thing started. Why?" Maria just stared at him.

"Is it this Josh guy?" Michael pried.

"No," she said quietly but firmly. "How do you know about him anyway?"

"Liz told me. Donít get mad at her. I made her tell me. I had to know if she could figure out why you wouldnít come near me. She was just trying to help. But she said youíve been avoiding her too. Maria, you canít keep pushing us away." Maria looked at him and then she started to cry. ĎNot now, she told herself. ĎDonít cry now.í

Michael walked towards Maria and embraced her. He held her tight for a moment and then took her hand in his. He led her to the couch. Michael sat down and patted the seat next to him. Maria sunk into the cushion, welcoming its comfort. He reached over and gently wiped the tears from her cheeks. Maria smiled.

"Thatís more like it. Donít cry. Iím not mad. I understand you need space, but Iíve given you three weeks. I miss you," Michaelís eyes pleaded with hers. "Liz said you did this last time, we donít want history to repeat itself, bad history that is."

"But it already has. Cancer was history, but it repeated itself."

"But we can help you through it. Why do you keep ignoring me?"

"I donít know why, Michael. I donít know. I canít explain it."

"Donít you know that we care for you, that I care for you. I canít bear to see you like this. You canít go through this alone."

"When did you get so smart?" Maria laughed, trying to lighten the mood.

"Maria this is no joke," Michael replied, his face as serious as stone.

"Sorry. I know you care for me but this is hard. You donít know how it is to look at people everyday, healthy people, and feel jealous, to feel sorry for yourself every minute. You donít know how it is to just want to know you will be breathing tomorrow. I live in another world now, one separate from yours. No matter how hard I try I feel different." Maria looked down at her hands. "I feel like I donít belong anymore. I canít explain. But that little thing growing inside has changed my world and I donít know how to cope. I just donít fit in with you anymore."

Michael pulled her chin up but she avoided his eyes. His fingers shot sparks through her body. "Maria," he whispered. Her name sounded like a prayer he was saying. How did she ever het so lucky to have such a wonderful person care about her. She didnít deserve it. Not after how she had treated him.

"Maria, donít you think I know that it has all changed. Iím not going to pretend I know exactly how you feel. But think about it. Iím an alien, a real live alien. I look like you, I talk like you, but I have these cells in my body that make me different. I will never be like everyone."

Maria looked at him. Thatís when it hit her. he knew exactly what was going on. It had been that way for him all his life, since he emerged from those pods. He had always been different. And now she could identify with him, on every level. The cells in her body didnít give her super powers or anything, but they separated her from everyone. The cancer was a secret that she didnít want to tell for fear of what might happen. But it wasnít nearly as big of a burden as the one Michael carried.

"Michael, Iím sorry. I never meant to hurt you. But itís hard to waked up everyday not knowing how long I will be alive."

"All the more reason to not get disconnected. Itís hardÖ"

"I know Michael. Just let me finish." She took Michaelís hands in hers. "But itís always been that way for you. You, Isabel, and Max, you have always been different. Now we have something in common."

"We have a lot in common. But this is one thing I wish we didnít share."

"Well we do. And now I can understand all those times you pushed me away."

"It had nothing to do with you." Maria dropped his hands and stood up.

"But it had nothing to do with your destiny either. It had to do with differences. Differences we should be able to overcome."

Maria saw Liz come to the door but turn around and leave when she saw Michael. Maria was glad her friend let her have the time. But she would have to face Liz sometime, Alex, Isabel and Max too. But that was later.

"And we have. Well, weíre trying. But it takes two. Neither of us can do it alone, no matter how much we try. I need you. I love you." Maria sat back on the couch and laid her head on Michaelís shoulder, curling up next to him.

"I love you, too, spaceboy." He laughed and rested his head on hers. They sat in silence for a long time, simply enjoying each otherís company. Maria smiled, all was right with the world. Michael tipped his head and brushed her hair with his lips.

"You know it."

*

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

"Maria, can you take table three?" Liz yelled from behind the counter. Maria hurried to take the peopleís order but stopped in her tracks when she saw who was seated there.

"Josh," she said trying to hide her surprise with a smile. They were good friends now, but why did he have to come here? He reminded her of cancer, of hospitals and medicine. She didnít want that. Everything was going well, her friends and her were getting along better than ever, Liz, Max, Tess, Isabel, Alex, even Kyle. They were a great group. And then there was Michael. Michael who never let her feel sorry for herself, Michael who kissed her and held her when she cried, Michael who loved her. She couldnít help but feel angry with Josh. He didnít belong in Roswell.

ĎStop,í she yelled at herself. ĎHe canít help being sick, and neither can you.í She felt like such a two-faced liar. She was the best of friends with him but only when it was convenient to her. ĎYouíre better than that," she told herself. She hated those kind of people, now she was one.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

"I stopped by to see what your life is really like."

"Oh, what do you want?"

"Sorry, I guessÖ"

"Food wise, I meant," Maria laughed. Josh ordered and Maria ran back to the kitchen. Suddenly a wave of nausea took her over. ĎDamn that mdicine,í she thought. Maria grabbed the counter to steady herself.

"Are you ok?" she heard a voice from behind her. Slowly she turned her head to see who it was.

"Josh, you shouldnít be back here."

"I saw you clutch the counter. I was just concerned."

"Sorry, itís justÖ"

"I understand, the medicine can be pretty wicked." Josh gave her a small smile. Just then Liz rushed over.

"Maria, you ok?"

"Yeah, I just need to sit down." She started to walk towards the back room, but stumbled. Maria felt strong hands grab her waist. "Thank you," she whispered to Josh. He wrapped his hand around her back and steadied her till she reached the couch.

Maria looked behind her to see a stunned Liz. "Whoís that?" she mouthed.

"Josh," Maria mouthed back. Maria sat down on the couch and motioned for Josh to sit next to her. He sat at the other end facing her.

"Iím sorry Liz." Maria felt terrible. She hated putting her life on hold for cancer, and she hated having to apologize for it.

"Itís ok. You rest. Itís been so busy today I wasnít thinking that it might be too much. Iíll find someone else to cover your shift."

As if on cue Tess and Izzy strolled into the room, "Hey guys," they said together.

"Whoís the hunk?" Tess asked. Maria laughed as Joshís face turned five different shades of red. Tess and Izzy laughed too.

"Whatís all this giggling for, girlies?" Kyle sauntered in, Michael not far behind. Maria looked at Michael and immediately felt guilty for, well for nothing really, she just felt guilty. THe look on his face told her he didnít like what he saw.

"Maria you ok?" he asked. She nodded her head. How did he always know how she was feeling? And how did he always know when to be there? Michael walked over and gave her a kiss. Michael eyed Josh, his eyes intense and almost hateful.

"Who are you?" he spat, standing up to get a better look.

"Iím Josh," he said extending his hand. "And who might you be?"

"Iím Michael, Mariaís boyfriend." Maria could see the challenge Michael was presenting to this boy and Maria gave Josh her admiration for not backing down.

"Nice to meet you. Maria talks about you all the time." The others in the group were watching this display closely. It was quite entertaining actually, although Maria was sure Michael was dead serious by the look on his face.

Liz broke the tension by asking Izzy to waitress with you. Isabel immediately shook her head. "Please," Liz begged. "Youíve done it before."

"Yeah, and I vowed never to do it again."

"Will you do it if I do, Iz?" Tess chimed in.

"Fine she sighed. But I didnít do this willingly." She gave everyone in the room the Ice Queenís "stare of death." Liz threw each girl a uniform.

Moments later Isabel emerged from the bathroom decked out in Crashdown attire, antennas and all. "Why do I bother?" she rolled her eyes. Someone whistled from the doorway. All heads turned to see Alex staring at Isabel in total admiration.

"Oh shut up boy," she laughed. "What took you so long?"

"Nothing," he sighed. Everyone knew it was not nothing but they didnít press for answers. "so whoís the new guy?" he asked.

"Josh," Michael cut in.

"Sorry I asked," Alex said moving towards a chair. Tess came out of the bathroom just them. Maria saw Kyleís eyes bulge out of his head. God he had it bad.

Liz peeked her head around the door frame, "Come on," she called.

"Go on sexy mamas," Max joked. Alex and Kyle eyesí followed them from the room, and Max stared longingly at the place Liz had just occupied. Maria suppressed a giggle and saw a slight smile on Michaelís face too.

***

About an hour later Tess came into the room sighing. "How do you guys do this every day? My feet are killing me."

Kyle moved in his seat and motioned for her to come sit by him. Maria laughed. "Iím super woman and Liz is my sister."

"Must be."

ĎIf only it were true,í Maria thought dreamily. If she was superwoman she wouldnít have to worry about cancer. But maybe she was superwoman, and cancer was just her kryptonite. Well she would overcome that. With the help of the radiation, the doctors, and her friends and family she would make it through, she would live. She was determined to.

"Maria," Josh said. "Maria."

"Oh sorry," she replied shaking the thoughts from her head. "Just thinking. What did you want?"

"I think Iím gonna head home. I just didnít want you wondering where I was."

"Ok," she smiled. All her bad thoughts about him had left her from earlier. He had been nothing but sweet to her friends, like she knew he would be. He was a wonderful guy, and she hated that he had no one special in his life. They had talked about that before.

*flashback*

"Anyone special in your life?" Josh had asked her. Maria avoided his gaze and looked at her hands. "I guess thatís a yes. Donít be embarrassed, itís ok."

"His nameís Michael. It was an off and on relationship until I got cancer. When he heard the news he flipped out and now wonít let me go."

Josh smiled, sort of, she could see sadness reflecting in his eyes. There had been a girl, a girl who hurt him. "You had someone too, didnít you."

"Yeah she had the same reaction, but her solution was the opposite. She thought she would catch the cancer or something."

"People can be so dumb." Maria pitied him, but even more she related to him. She knew what her friends might have done, itís not easy living with the posibility that someone youíre close to might die. But itís harder to live with the fact you might die, not a normal death, everyone dies, but that you might die young.

"Youíre lucky that your friends care about you so much. Cancer is not easy. You know that, I know that, but the healthy people donít. They donít understand, they only understand that itís not easy for them." Maria couldnít help but feel his every emotion as if it were her own, maybe because they were.

"Itís death. People are afraid of death. Are you?" she questioned Josh.

"I used to be. And I used to think everything meant death. When I look back, I used to think a fallen hair was the end of the world. Boy was I wrong."

"I know. Iím still afraid to die. I want to live with every ounce left in my body, I want to fight until the end. Never give up ever, but some days that seems impossible. But then I look at all I have around me, and I am reminded of why I both to struggle, why I am going through the torturous medicine."

"You have such a passion for life that I wish I shared. I still want to fight, but not as hard. The cancer is wearing away at my mind. Itís not just a physical disease. Sometimes I just want to give up."

"Donít, Josh, never give up. If just for me, never lose hope. You will live, you will make it through five years of remission. You will beat the odds."

"No, I wonít," Joshís tone of voice and expression told her he wasnít joking. Her mouth dropped open slightly and she didnít know what to say. "The doctors told me this morning that my last tests came back negative. A bone marrow transplant is my only hope."

Maria couldnít believe she was staring death in the face. She knew what bone marrow transplants were, she knew the odds. Josh had a fifty fifty percent chance of living with it, without he would most likely die.

"I had no idea," she breathed, her voice barely audible. Now she understood why people didnít want to hang around cancer patients. But she had no choice.

"You couldnít have. I had no clue either. I thought I was doing fine, until I saw the doctorís face. I knew something was wrong immediately. Now I have this decision to make, I just donít know if Iíll make the right one. Either way I might die." His face was filled with desolation, she could see him desperately crying out for an answer, and a friend. She couldnít be the first but the latter wasnít beyond her. Maria slipped her arm around his shoulders.

"I canít tell you what to do. But without it you have less of a chance than with."

"Yes but if I do get it, everyday I will be waiting for rejection. Everyday I will wonder whether my body will except life, or choose death. At least without it I know the answer."

"But are you going to accept death as the final answer?" she looked at him.

*end flashback*

No one in the room knew the secret. None of them probably cared. But Maria cared, she couldnít bear to see her friend going through something so difficult. If it were she going through this the decision would have crushed her. And he had no one who understood, except her.

"He seems nice," Tess commented. Michael grunted, displeasure still sketched on his face. Maria looked at her watch, 5:00. When was this day going to end? She just wanted to curl up and sleep. Her head felt like it was filled with lead and spinning in fifteen different directions.

"Yeah, he is," she said absentmindedly. She was still looking at Michael and when he shot her a dirty glance that was it. "Michael, grow up. Heís just a friend."

"Sure," Michael groaned. Maria didnít know why he was acting so childish. He knew she loved him. Why did she have to prove it?

"Michael, I love you," she whispered and leaned forward to kiss him lightly on the lips.

"I know. Iím sorry. Itís just hard to let such a beautiful girl out."

"Michael, you canít keep me in a cage. Iím not going to leave you. No one is leaving you." Maria knew what he was worried about. It wasnít Josh, or any other guy. It was abandonment. And because of that, Maria couldnít die. She couldnít let Michael down.

"None of us are leaving you," Max said.

"Nope," Tess added. "Not a chance."

Michael just looked from one to the other. "Ok, enough of the mushy sappy stuff," he said, breaking the mood. He was such a guy. But silently he slipped his hand into Mariaís and squeezed it tightly.

"Take me home," Maria said to Michael. "Iím tired."

"Yes maíam." Maria said goodbye to her friends and walked slowly to her car. They drove in silence the whole way, a peaceful silence. When they reached the driveway Michael reached for his handle.

"No," Maria said to him. "I just wanted to tell you something."

"What is it? Is something wrong?" his voice was high with panic.

"No," I just wanted to make sure everything was right between us. Josh is nothing more than a friend. He understands me."

"I understand you."

"I know, I know. But there is a special bond between cancer patients. A bond that ties together even total strangers. It is a friendship that you can count on when no one is there." Michael opened him mouth but realized Maria was going to go on. "I have you and everyone else. You are a great support group and I donít know what I would do without you. But Josh, Josh has no one, no friends. They werenít understanding like you."

"Thatís stupid."

"But itís true. Heís going through a very tough decision right now, it will determine whether he lives or dies. Please, let me be there for him."

"If thatís what you want I canít stop you. I only want you to be happy."

*

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

"Itís going to be ok, youíll be out in no time," Maria had said to Josh as he disappeared down the hall. He had gone for his bone marrow transplant three days before her last day of radiation. She had gone to his window her last day. That had been the last time she saw him.

*flashback*

Josh smiled at her from his bed. Maria couldnít go in to see him, only the doctors and his immediate family were allowed into isolation. He looked so weak and small enclosed in the immaculate room. They had to suppress his immune system before he received the new marrow. Knowing what he was susceptible to just made him look weaker.

"How you doing?" she mouthed through the glass. Josh raised one of his thumbs but she could tell he was tired. He pointed to the phone next to his bed and then put his pinkie and thumb up to his face, signaling her to call him. She spotted a pay phone close to his room.

Josh held up fingers telling her the number and she jotted them down on her palm. She dialed the phone number and heard it ring through the reciever and through the glass.

"Hey," Josh said, his voice a little scratchy.

"Hey, big boy," she joked. "Howís it going in there?"

"Lonely, but better since you came." She glanced over at him through the glass. There was a look of wishfullness on his face and hope in his eyes. "Howís it going for you?"

"Last day of radiation for me. Thank god! They took lots of tests and theyíll call me in a few days to tell me the results." Maria shifted feet. She felt bad that she had such great news while he was stuck in the hospital.

"And what does it mean if they are good?"

"That I get my operation and Iím cancer free for the rest of my living days!"

"Thatís great!! Iíll be pulling for you."

"Itís you I should be pulling for." Maria knew there was a possibility his bone marrow could reject, but she chose not to think about it. There was also a possibility that she would not get the operation, but she chose to forget that too. "I better let you get some rest."

"Resting is all I do," Josh sighed. "But I understand. You probably have better things to do than hang out in a hospital all day."

"Itís justÖ"

"Donít worry, I understand. Youíll come see me again, wonít you?"

"Yes, definitely. I couldnít let you be bored ALL the time." Maria hung up the phone and walked back to the window. She waved to Josh and he waved back.

*End flashback*

But she hadnít gotten back to the hospital. Maria had planned on visiting but a trip to the mall with the gang had been much more appealing, much more normal. How selfish she had been. Now she sat frozen on her bed, waiting for the tears to flow.

She heard the phone beeping in her hand. Only moments before Mrs. Harkís voice had filled the line. Her words had been quick and thick with emotion. Maria felt like time had stopped, time should stop, Josh was dead.

Now she was alone. Alone in her world of cancer. Alone with the doctors and nurses, IVís and blood tests. She never wanted to see them again. They hadnít been able to cure Josh, they had killed him. How could she be so sure that they would save her? She just wanted to curl up and die. But she knew she had to keep fighting. She had to win this never-ending battle against her unseen enemy. Not just for herself, or her mother, or her friends, or Michael, she had to win for Josh. She had to make sure his life wasnít meaningless.

If she could pull through she would do something with her life. She vowed to make a difference in the world. Nothing was more important than living. She had to live, for all those who couldnít. But could she?

The tears finally came, flowing freely down her cheeks. She rocked slowly, back and forth, back and forth. Maria just let herself cry. There was no use holding it back anymore.

"Maria," Amy called from the kitchen. "Maria are you home?" Maria saw the light in the hallway go on and squinted as her mother let it flow into her room. "Maria whatís wrong?" her mother asked when she saw her sitting in the dark bedroom.

Amy walked to the bed. "Maria, baby, whatís wrong? Are you ok?"

"No," she cried, continuing to rock. "No, Iím not ok."

"Whatís wrong?"

"Josh is dead. Dead, gone." The words sounded so flat to her, so unreal. Amy hugged Maria to her close, moving with her rhythm. Maria let her, finally wanting to be comforted. She wanted to have people in her life. This whole ordeal must have been hard on her mother, not just her. And she had pushed her mother away. Everyone else to. No matter how friendly she tried to be to them she still kept them at an armís length, just outside of her real feelings. The only one she had let inch closer was Josh, and Michael might have taken a step, but Josh was closest.

Josh had understood, he had known what it was all like. And now no one would understand as much as him. No one would be able to help her like he had.

That night Maria couldnít sleep. She laid in bed staring out her window through those cheap plastic beads. Pictures of Josh kept painting themselves inside her brain. She heard the beads rattle. She hadnít remembered opening her window. Fear replaced her pain, but when she saw Michaelís face peering at her from the window she realized it had only been a cover up. Nothing would replace the pain, nothing would rid her of the feeling, it could only be covered up.

Michael walked tentatively to her bedside, she saw fear in his eyes, fear of rejection. He thought she would send him away. How could she? She would have been too weak to do it even if she wanted to. But she wouldnít want to, she needed him. Maybe, just maybe, he really did understand. She understood his fear though, last time she had heard bad news she had pushed everyone away.

"You ok?" he whispered.

"No," she said quietly. She had no clue what her mother would do if she found Michael there. She had a feeling it wouldnít be too bad, but she didnít wanna risk it.

"I heard about your friend," he said, looking very uncomfortable.

"Jeez, we live in a small town."

"Yeah." She looked at him. Suddenly she just wanted to be in his arms. She wanted him to hold her and protect her, tell her everything would be all right. Because deep down she knew it wouldnít. No matter what cancer would always be there, death would always be there. But Michael would be too, and that made it easier.

Michael sat on the bed and took Maria in his arms, just like she wanted him to. His arms were warm and strong and she felt safe. "Oh, Michael. Why did this have to happen? What did I do to deserve this? What did he do?"

"Nothing," he said stroking her hair. He sat back against her headboard and, pushing off his shoes, swung his legs onto the bed. He pulled Maria against his chest. "You never deserved this, neither did Josh, nor anyone else."

"Itís just not fair. Why did he have to die? Why now? Why after I finally found a friend?"

"Maria I donít know how to answer your questions. There is no reason. No reason you should have to go through any of this."

Maria took a deep breath. The room was silent except for their breathing and the sound of Michaelís heart in his chest. In a calmer tone Maria questioned, "Are you happy heís gone?"

Michael inhaled sharply. "No. I could never be happy someone died. Yes, I was jealous of Josh, I never tried to hide it from you. But how could I be happy knowing it caused you so much pain."

Maria started to cry again and Michael reached up to dry her tears. "I wish I could take this all away for you, all of it. I wish I could have this cancer, not you. You donít deserve this. Iím the screw up the miss fit. Iím the one who should have gotten sick."

"Michael, no. You are perfect. Perfect in my eyes at least. No one else could take your place in my life, no one ever will. But I could never wish this upon you, or anyone, not even my worst enemy. Michael, Iím sick. No amount of wishing will change that."

"I know. But stillÖ" Michael leaned down and kissed her eyelids. "Still, I canít help it."

"Neither can I." Maria yawned.

"You need sleep." Michael shifted so he was laying down with her back against him. He hugged her tightly and again she felt comforted and at peace. But she also still felt the pain.

"Michael."

"Yes," he whispered in his ear.

"Will this pain ever go away?"

*

Maria sat in the doctorís office waiting for the results of her final tests. If these came out well she would have her operation and this cancer thing would once again be a thing of the past. She squeezed Michaelís hand and looked at him. She felt her motherís eyes on them and when she looked over Amy had a smile spread across her face. She hadnít seen her mother smile in a long time, it had been too long.

"What are you so happy about?í Maria asked her mother.

"I was remembering your father. Even after all that happened with him, the memories I have still make me happy. Looking at you and Michael, well, I donít knowÖ" Maria had always thought her mother a flighty person, eccentric, different, weak. But now she held respect for her mother. Her mother was a very strong woman, she had to be to be who she was.

Amy De Luca had been through it all, marriage, divorce, children. She had raised Maria all alone for nine out of her sixteen years. She had gone through Mariaís two fights with cancer and still she held on. She had passion for life, a passion Maria shared with her. Maria locked eyes with her mother trying to show her this without words. Amyís eyes told Maria she understood.

Just then a doctor walked into the room shuffling through a folder. Maria stood in anticipation. Amy rose from her seat also and shook the gentlemanís hand.

"Have a seat," the doctor said. Maria couldnít tell from his expression whether it was going to be good news or bad. She saw the doctor look at Michael. He studied him, his eyes seeming to question his presence. "How are you feeling?"

Horrible, she wanted to scream. How did he expect her to feel? It had only been two days since Josh had died, two days since she had felt like she would die too. Now she was waiting for the jury to decide how this would go. This jury had a big responsibility, her life. "Fine," she simply replied.

"Thatís good." How could he be so cheery?

"Doctor, how am I? Am I going to be ok?"

"Well, you can have the surgery. But we need to discuss its risks before you decide on anything." The doctor leaned against his desk and took a deep breath. "Your tumor has shrunk significantly, enough for us to perform gamma knife surgery. That is using strong rays to cut out the remaining pieces of the tumor."

"Letís do it," Maria said, she was excited about the news, her mother just looked nervous.

"There are certain risks."

"What kinds?" Amy De Luca spoke up. She looked to the doctor for reassurance, but he couldnít offer it.

"We are working close to her nervous system. There is a chance that she could be paralyzed, orÖkilled. We wouldnít suggest this unless we thought it possible, but before patents make the decision we need to tell them the risks."

"What happens if I donít gave the surgery?" Maria asked, knowing it was what everyone was thinking. She could feel Michaelís discomfort, but knew she shouldnít ask him if he wanted to go. He wouldnít like that.

"Your tumor is dormant at the moment, meaning it is not growing. The radiation stopped it, as well as shrunk it. But it could start growing again. Then, if that should happen, there is nothing we can do."

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