FanFic - Other
"Returning to Normal "
Part 2
by charliej
Disclaimer: Donít own any of the Roswell characters or situations. Nor do I own the songs used herein, which include "Riverwide" by Sheryl Crow and a whole bunch of stuff from Bushís "The Science of Things." I do, however, own Sonya and Jake (youíll just have to read it).
Summary: Liz, now in college, reflects on the last couple of years.
Category: Other
Rating: R
Authors Note: Any of you who know me know Iím a huge Kevin Smith fan, so the mention of him and his flicks should not come as a surprise. This fic is not meant as an advertisement for Spin Cycle laundromats, Caffettoís coffeehouse, or Perkins restaurants. Iím using them to give a local feel to my story. In the interest of full disclosure, I do work at a Perkins, a chain of 24-hour restaurants (akin to Dennyís but better food). And I will also mention, should you find yourself in Minneapolis, the raspberry mochas at Caffettoís are to die for. Also, those of you who have read the wonderful Roswell Elementary series will notice a few (very) subtle shout-outs here and there.
Iíve been staring at the phone for half an hour. Itís Thursday and in the four days since Alex suggested I call Max, Iíve spent a lot of time staring at the phone. A few times, I picked it up. Once, I even started to dial, but I made it to the fifth number and chickened out.

Iíve also spent quite a lot of time cursing Alex. Not only did he plant this completely stupid notion in my head, but when I came home from class on Monday, there was a note propped neatly on my pillow.

Liz -- You should call. Alex.

And the phone number.

I think I could kill Alex. He knows very well that I canít forget a phone number once Iíve seen it. Itís just this thing I have. I canít remember a phone number I hear to save my life, but let me see it once, just one time, and itíll be burned into my brain for the rest of my natural born life. Iím not kidding. I can recite the entire West Roswell High School Emergency Phone Tree.

I take a deep breath and pick up the phone. I hear the dial tone and hang it back up. God! I stand, frustrated with myself and pissed at Alex. I should just call him. If Iím not going to call him, then I should stop obsessing over the damn phone. But either way, I need to make a decision and act on it.

I stare at the phone. Itís mocking me.

This is fucking ridiculous. I grab my coat off the back of the chair and head outside for a smoke. Cold air and tobacco usually do wonders for me.

A blast of super-cold air hits me smack in the face as I exit my dorm, but itís warmer in the sun and not nearly as cold as itís been the last few days. I head over to the unofficial smoking area and as I turn the corner, I groan inwardly.

Jake Yi, the very sweet, but apparently clueless guy that Iím tutoring in Biology is standing there. Jake is a freshman majoring in Biology because thatís what his dad told him to do. Like I said, heís a nice guy -- and on my better days, I notice that heís not bad looking -- but heís been trying to get me to go out with him practically since the first time he laid eyes on me. Iíve said no a thousand times, but heís either the densest guy on the planet or the most stubborn.

I so didnít need this right now.

His face lights up when he sees me. I stifle a sigh and smile back at him.

"Hey Liz."

"Hey." I light my cigarette and try to focus on my reason for coming out here. Maybe if I donít say much heíll take the hint.

"So I heard your friendís band is playing at The Holly next Friday." No such luck.

I glance at him briefly. "Uh-huh."

"Are you gonna go?"

I shrug non-committally, wishing desperately that he would go away so I could sort out this whole calling Max issue. Triumph surges through me when Jake doesnít say anything else right away.

He stubs out his cigarette and turns to go. Iím about to breathe a sigh of relief when he turns back. Shit, foiled again.

"Because I was wondering if we could maybe go together."

I exhale slowly, trying to make my voice and face soft. I donít want to hurt him, I just want him to get a clue. "Look, Jake, youíre a really sweet guy, but Iím not interested, okay? Itís not you --" I cringe at the clichť that was about to escape my lips. "I just have sort of a bad history with men." Now thereís the understatement of the century.

I can see his face fall completely and my heart sinks. Liz Parker strikes again! Maybe I should go to a convent or something. I take a step towards him, but he moves away. "Jake, itís just --"

"No. No, itís cool. I get it. Iíll see you next week." He turns and walks away from me quickly. I sigh resignedly. What the hell is wrong with me? Do I have a sign painted on my forehead that says, "Come here so I can break your heart?"

I debate a second cigarette and decide Iíve earned it. Stomping on the heart of a defenseless freshman deserves a cigarette, doesnít it? I havenít even had a chance to think about Max yet. Now thereís a plus to the whole Jake fiasco: I managed to get through five whole minutes without thinking about Max. Maybe if I break enough peopleís hearts, Iíll forget about him entirely.

It would be so nice to be able to just talk to Max again, to just hear his voice. I wonder what he would say about my smoking? I mean I know he would hate it, but what would he say? Iíve yet to smoke in Roswell, though Iím aware that winter break is only a few weeks away and Iím smoking more than ever. Itís not going to be as easy to give them up this time around.

Another cold wind blows through me, making me shiver. I notice that itís getting darker out. I should go in before I freeze. I stub out my cigarette even though Iím only half finished. There, thatís a good start. I smile at my little triumph.

Before heading back upstairs, I check my schedule. I man the front desk of my dorm two nights a week. Itís not much money, but combined with weekends serving at T. G. I. Fridayís and my tutoring, Iíve managed to help my folks out with some of the expenses. The car was a joint graduation present from our parents, but Alex and I have to pay for gas and insurance. Cigarettes and raspberry mochas eat up most of the rest of my income quite nicely. Whateverís left over usually goes to non-essentials like food and laundry.

The real perk of the desk job, however, is that the building supervisor lets me and Alex get away with murder. She casually overlooks the fact that Alex has a key to my room and that there is a bunk bed where there should be a single.

When I get to the room, I glance at the pile of books and papers on my desk. I know I should get some work done before I fall hopelessly behind, but Iím not going to able to concentrate. Why even bother trying? I slip Bushís "The Science of Things" into the CD player and flop onto my bed.

Alex calls this my angry music. Am I angry? I think about it for a minute and decide I am. I want to be mad at Alex but I know itís not his fault. I brought this on myself because I wasnít strong enough.

I know youíre trying to figure out how breaking up with Max is any different from having to let him go later. Believe me, Iíve spent countless hours wondering exactly the same thing. You want to know what conclusion I finally came to? There isnít any difference. I was scared and confused so I did something I thought was good and right and rational. And it turned out to be the single biggest mistake of my life.

But itís too late to take it back now.

I close my eyes and breathe deeply, letting the smooth but raspy tones of Gavin Rossdaleís voice wash over me as the chords pound into my brain. The songs blend together, my mind picking out only the lyrics it wants to hear.

Tread slowly for I know Thereís a thousand miles to go Without blinking

What can I say What can I do I canít help myself I let the monster through

Yes, that lovely monster called fear. Somehow my fear -- of what Iíve never been able to fully figure out -- was so great that it overcame even my tremendous love for Max. I remember when it seemed nothing could ever do that. My love for Max and his love for me filled me so completely that sometimes I thought I would explode with happiness at the mere thought of him. It seeped into every pore of my being, coloring everything I saw and everything I did.

Every time he tried to pull away from me -- to protect me, he said -- I would always tell him that we were safer, stronger, together. And I really believed that too. There was nothing we couldnít beat if we stuck together.

I guess I wasnít looking inside my own heart when I said that.

I want you to remember A love so full it could send us all ways I want you to surrender All my feelings rose today And I want you to remain

I need to lose to make it right Iíll confront the stars tonight I will babble, I will bite Youíll never know how much you shine

And itís not even like I can say I never got a second chance. Because I did -- that morning after we made love for the last time. I could have just stayed in bed. I could have hugged him to me and never let go.

But I did get up. Even then, it wasnít too late. When he woke up and smiled at me, I could have just smiled back, told him I loved him. But I didnít. I couldnít. No matter how much I wanted it, I honestly believed that I was doing the right thing for him.

Do you know what I used to tell Max whenever he tried to do things in my best interest without my permission? "Thatís not your decision to make." Guess I should have taken my own advice, huh?

You in the dark, you in the pain, you on the run Living a hell, living your ghost, living your end Never seem to get in the place that I belong Donít want to lose the time, lose the time to come

Whatever you say itís alright Whatever you do itís all good Whatever you say itís alright Silence is not the way We need to talk about it If heaven is on the way

Alright, Parker, that is just about enough moping for one week. Get off your ass. I swing my feet onto the floor and stab the stop button on the CD player. Iím just going to fucking call him and get it over with.

I take a deep breath, wishing desperately for a cigarette, and pick up the phone. One. Five-one-zero. I can do this. Iíve dialed a phone before. I punch in the three digit exchange and pause, closing my eyes, willing myself to continue.

When I open my eyes again, I realize my hand is shaking. Get a grip, Parker! I dial the last four numbers and bring the phone to my ear slowly. Maybe it will be busy.

Ring.

Guess not. I try to breathe normally, but with each ring that task grows increasingly more difficult. Iím about to hang up after the fifth ring when I hear it connect. I inhale sharply.

"Hey. This is Max and Iím not here right now. Leave a message after the beep."

My heart swells at the sound of his voice, low and warm just like in my dreams. I used to think it was a shame that he was so quiet because he has a such a wonderfulÖ Oh God! The realization that the machine beeped several seconds ago and Iíve just been sitting here hits me suddenly. Somehow in my preoccupation on whether to call or not, I completely neglected to consider what I would actually say. The words fly out of my mouth with absolutely no thought attached whatsoever.

"Hi, um, Max. This is LizÖ Parker. And I was just calling toÖ Well, I donít know exactly why I called, exactly. But Alex sort of mentioned that I might want to call you, you know, because Iíd kind of beenÖ Well, Iíve sort of missed you and IÖ Well, okay, so I hope everything is going good for you and everything. You can call me, you know, if you want. Okay. Bye."

I hang up the phone quickly and my body becomes completely immobilized by embarrassment. Did I really just say all that? Please someone tell me that this is some terrible nightmare and I didnít really just babble incoherently into Max Evansí answering machine.

My hand is shaking again as I finally remove it from the phone. I try to lay down on the bed but I canít sit still. My heart is beating a million miles a minute and it feels like every cell in my body is racing around as if thereís no tomorrow.

I jump up and start to pace, replaying the message in my head. How bad could it really have been? Iím probably just exaggerating because Iím so nervous from having heard Maxís voice.

This is LizÖ Parker.

No, it really was that bad. What the hell was I thinking? An image of Max, Michael, and Isabel sitting around Maxís answering machine laughing hysterically fills my mind and I realize I can never go home again. I collapse into the chair, dropping my head onto the desk with a thud. When Max hears that message, heís going to think Iím a complete bumbling moron.

The knowledge that I am in fact a complete bumbling moron is somehow not very comforting right now.

I look up when I hear Alexís key in the door, but I return my head to the desk before he comes in. Heís going to ask me what happened and I donít particularly relish the idea of telling him. Itís all just too humiliating.

"Hey." I hear him drop his bag and sit on my bed.

"Hey," I mumble, not moving. He doesnít say anything for a few minutes and Iím hoping maybe heís too tired to bother.

"You gonna tell me whatís going on or am I going to have to tickle it out of you?"

"Itís too embarrassing." He hooks his feet on the chair and pulls it toward the bed. Then he spins me around to face him. The look on his face is almost smug.

"Liz, Iíve seen all the home movies, okay? So just spill it already. Nothing can be more embarrassing than that."

I smile at him gratefully and thank my lucky stars once again for his presence in my life. Unable to look him in the eye, I drop my head onto his chest. "I called him."

"Who -- Oh, Max?"

I nod into Alexís chest. Iím not crying, Iím just too embarrassed to speak.

"What did he say?"

I still canít bring myself to look at Alex. How do I even begin to explain what a complete and total idiot Iíve made of myself? But I have to tell him. I need Alex to tell me itís not as bad as I think it is. The story tumbles out of me in a rush of words. When Iím finished, I look up at him and anger floods through me. Heís trying to hold back a grin and not doing a very good job. His eyes go wide as I glare at him. I jerk away from him, hitting my head on the bunk bed as I stand.

"Oh, Liz, Iím sorry. Itís justÖ You have to admit itís a little funny."

"It is not!" Heís smiling uncontrollably now and my glare only intensifies. He comes over to me and I try to fight him, but heís bigger than I am. He wraps me up in a bear hug, his chin resting on the top of my head. I finally give in and sag against him.

"Iím never going to be able to show my face in Roswell again."

I can almost hear the smile on his face. "Itís not as bad as all that. The stigma will pass in a year or two."

I pinch him below his ribs, where I know heís the most ticklish. He moves his body away from me, his eyes playfully menacing.

"Donít start something you know you canít win, Parker."

I cock my head, hands on hips. "Donít be so confident, Whitman." He lunges for me but I jerk away, scrambling past him to the chair. I use it to vault myself onto the top bunk with the intention of crawling off the other side, but he corners me. He immediately goes for the horribly ticklish place behind my knee. I try to distract him by attacking his ribs again, but he pins my arms above my head. Itís not fair that heís so tall!

"Okay, okay!" I choke out, not wanting to give in but needing to catch my breath. He stops tickling me but his body is still pining mine to the bed.

"So you admit Iím the champion?" I glare at him defiantly.

"Yes, you Alex Whitman, are the champion ticklemaster." My voice is a complete monotone and he attacks my knee again.

"Say it like you mean it," he warns.

"You win!" I scream as he twists my body under his, trying to go for both knees at once. "YouíreÖ theÖ championÖ ticklemaster," I finally manage to get out in between gasps of laughter. He releases my wrists and collapses back next to me, both of us breathing heavily. I turn to watch him. His eyes are closed but thereís a smile on his face.

Iíve never had any romantic feelings toward Alex and as far as I know, heís never had any for me. He was always just Alex -- sweet, lovable, goofy, male friend guy. Itís why weíve always been able to sleep in the same bed with no problems.

Even since we had sex, we havenít had any problems.

It was the end of June, about three weeks after graduation. Iíd been apart from Max for three months and Alex was in the process of breaking up with Isabel. They both knew it had to end but somehow that didnít make it any easier. Theyíd been through a lot together and I think both of them were scared of losing someone theyíd come to depend on so much.

I was sitting on the balcony writing in my journal. More accurately, I should say that I was trying to write in my journal. Max had been in to the Crashdown that night. He didnít say anything, just watched me for the whole shift. He didnít move until the last customer was gone. Then he came up to pay. In the weeks weíd been apart, Iíd gotten better at dealing, but when I looked at him that night, my heart skipped a beat. His face was blank, but his eyes were burning. My hand brushed his when I gave him his change.

The connection was instantaneous. I felt every ounce of his love and passion for me. And every drop of pain. Pain that I had caused him. For just that instant, my whole world stopped.

It started up again just as suddenly and for a moment, I thought I had imagined the whole thing. But Max turned to look at me as he was leaving and his eyes locked on mine. You can not begin to imagine the depths of the sadness that I saw there.

I finished closing the Cafť and dragged myself upstairs. I didnít even have the energy to change out of my uniform. I felt drained. It was taking everything I had in me to stay away from Max and that little episode had sapped the last of my strength. I was too tired to be surprised when Alexís head appeared over the ledge of the balcony. I knew something was wrong right away, because Alex always came in through the house.

He looked about as bad as I felt. I immediately put my journal down and he curled up in my lap and started to cry. He didnít need to say anything, I knew he and Isabel had had a fight. We stayed that way for a long time, just holding each other. After a while, I told him he should just stay at my place. I didnít really want to be alone and I didnít think he did either. He nodded meekly and we climbed in the window to my room.

I went into the bathroom to wash my face and change. When I came back, Alex was already asleep on the bed. He was laying on his side and I remember thinking he looked so young and innocent at that moment. The way he used to look before some idiot pulled out a gun and Max saved me and all of our lives got turned upside down.

I laid down next to him, not wanting to wake him but needing to be near him, to drink in a little of the peace I felt from him. He stirred slightly, reaching an arm across my body and pulling me closer.

Iíve never understood exactly why I kissed Alex that night, but I did, touching my lips to his softly. Maybe it was because I was lonely and depressed. Maybe it was because my life had been nothing but emptiness and coldness without Max and I wanted to feel warm again. Or maybe it was just because I didnít have the energy to care about the consequences.

When I pulled away, he was looking at me. Our eyes locked together, both of us searching the other. I think he was looking for permission and I must have given it to him because he kissed me then, long and hard.

Maria and I were in sixth grade when we first overheard some of the older girls talking about french kissing boys and "how far" to let your boyfriend go on the first date. Most of the conversation was over our heads, but we both immediately knew that we needed to practice this kissing thing. We wanted to be experienced because we both had a crush on Brad Anders, a seventh grader. We rushed over to Alexís house and immediately forced him to let us practice on him.

This kiss was nothing like that. It was full of passion and longing and loneliness. He pushed his tongue inside my mouth and I let him because I just didnít care anymore. He rolled on top of me and we started to tear at our clothes. It didnít matter that I was thinking about Max as Alex made love to me because I knew he was thinking of Isabel.

After it was over, he realized what weíd just done. It hit him hard. He got up and started fumbling for his clothes and his words. He was trying to apologize. I sat up and looked at him.

"Alex, come back to bed." He stared at me, total confusion on his face.

"But, Liz, I -- "

"Just come back to bed. I asked you to stay because I didnít want to be alone and I still donít." I sighed and looked down at my hands for a moment, trying to collect my thoughts. He hadnít moved a muscle when I looked back up at him. "It just happened, Alex. You were lonely and so was I andÖ it just happened. Weíre still friends in love with other people and it wonít happen again." I searched his eyes for the second time that night, this time finding understanding. He came back to bed and we held each other, both of us feeling just a little less cold than we had earlier.

As he turns to look at me now, a smile turning up the corners of his mouth, I wonder what it would be like if I felt differently about him. I wouldnít change anything about my relationship with Alex -- not even that night -- but sometimes I wonder anywayÖ

And it hasnít happened again, in case you were wondering. Not that there havenít been opportunities. Especially since our friend Casey introduced Alex to the lovely concept of semi-casual sex and he discovered his inner-sex-fiend. Somehow, itís just never felt right to me. But I donít begrudge Alex his freedom. He spent a long time pining over Isabel, so I figure heís just making up for lost time.

He sits up, jumping off the bed to the floor. Then he turns to lift me down. "Come on," he says. "Iíll buy you dinner."

I look at him skeptically as I collect my jacket. He holds up his meal card triumphantly. "I heard itís taco night." He drapes his arm over my shoulders as we leave the room. I turn to lock the door and he leans against the doorframe casually.

"And donít worry, if you get too flustered from the sound of the dining hall guyís voice, Iíll order for you." Heís halfway down the hall before the last words leave his mouth, with me in hot pursuit.

********

Iím home for winter break now, sitting in the Cafť after close, writing in my journal. Somehow I got talked into covering a shift tonight despite the fact that I havenít worked here since I started college. Perks of being the ownersí daughter, I guess.

Itís been five weeks since that disastrous phone call and Iím down to thinking about it only every other day. Alex says this is a huge improvement. Half the time I wish Max had been there. The other half of the time, Iím glad he wasnít. I always wish he didnít have an answering machine.

I hear the door open and silently chide myself for forgetting to lock it. Some things never change. "Weíre closed," I say, without looking up.

"Even for a really good customer?" I freeze at the sound of Maxís voice, my pen in midair. My mouth drops open and I can feel the heat rising in my cheeks. Slowly, I raise my eyes to meet his, all the while hoping it was just my imagination. No such luck.

"Hi," he says.

"Hi," I choke out. I swear he looks exactly the same as the night I broke both our hearts. Same hair, same jacket, same incredibly soulful eyes.

He smiles at me -- that warm, wonderful smile that I was sure Iíd never see aimed in my direction ever again -- and I think I can feel my heart breaking all over again. "You cut your hair."

What? My hair? Cut it? Oh yes, yes I did. I remember now. I chopped it off to my shoulders in October. I nod dully, still staring at him. What is it about him that makes me unable to speak in his presence? Oh yes, Iíd almost forgotten. Iím madly, desperately, completely, totally in love with him. That must be it.

"It looks nice." He smiles at me again, more hesitantly this time. I can tell heís wondering if he stepped over some invisible line.

I want to run over and wrap my arms around him and tell him I love him and that I didnít know what I was talking about when I said we couldnít be together. I want to kiss him and never let go. "Thanks," I say instead.

His smile fades and he looks down at the floor, then back up at me. His expression is unreadable and I brace myself for whateverís coming. Whatever it is, Iím sure I deserve it. His words catch me completely off guard, however. "I, umÖ I got your message."

Every blood cell in my entire body rushes into my face at once. Oh, God, the message! How could I have possibly forgotten about that horrendous message? He heard it. I have got to get out of here! "Oh," I say, gathering my things. "Yeah, Iím really sorry about that. Why donít you forget I ever called? I, ah, I have to go." I turn to run into the back, praying with everything I am that Iíll make it to my bedroom before I either explode with embarrassment or burst into tears.

"Liz, wait."

I stop dead in my tracks. Damnit, I almost got away! I donít turn around because I canít bear to look at him.

"Itís just IÖ Iíve missed you too. I was hopingÖ Could we be friends?"

The sudden need to burst out laughing hits me as I recall the last time he asked me that. My hand flies to my mouth and I try desperately to suppress the giggle thatís bubbling up inside of me. But when I notice where Iím standing, I canít control it anymore. I turn around, wanting to explain that Iím not laughing at him. But then I see that heís smiling too and I realize he must have been thinking about the same thing.

"I promise not to give you make-out induced visions this time," he says.

"Okay, who are you and what have you done with the sullen, brooding Max Evans I used to know?"

"Oh, that. Well, see, they offer this class at Berkeley called ĎHow to have a sense of humor and stop being such a control freak.í Itís a good class. I learned a lot." I canít help myself, I laugh harder. Heís laughing too. It feels good to laugh with Max again. Really good.

After a few more minutes of levity, we both sigh. The awkwardness should be returning but for some reason, itís not. He looks at me intently, but his eyes are still bright.

"So what do you think? Friends?" I think about it for a minute, wanting desperately to say yes but wondering if itís a good idea. Could Max and I actually be just friends? I think of Isabel and Alex and Michael and Maria. They all seem to have done it.

"Sure," I say. "Iíd like that."

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