Disclaimer: Sadly, I do not own any of the characters of Roswell, the honor is held by Jason
Katims, Melinda Metz, the WB and anyone else who has their hands on a copyright. And as I
always, I profit nada for the following story.
Summary: 2-3 weeks post “destiny” – everything that has happened up to then happened – everything afterward does not. Michael and Isabel disclose their true feelings for each other.
Category: Unconventional Couples
Authors Note: this is the 1st installment in the “Take My Hand” series. It is followed by “Dreams Shattered”
|"Isabel phone!" Her mother's voice startled her and as she grabbed the cordless off her dresser
she wondered who could be calling her. The phone hadn't rang in weeks. "Hello."
It was Michael. She smiled as she replied, "Hey, I couldn't figure out who would be calling me. I'm glad it's you. So, to what do I owe the honor of this phone call?"
"I wanted to see if you could stop by my place this evening some time so we could talk. You know, finish our conversation from last night."
"Umm, I think that we definitely need to talk, but I don't know how feasible my going out again tonight would be, with Max I mean. I think that he is curious as to why we were together last night as it is. Even though I told him we were just talking."
"I told him the same thing, and I couldn't read his reaction to it. I see your point about you leaving but I don't want this to wait until Max is no longer curious. What if I come over there later on. I'll sneak in your window and we can talk without anybody wondering where you are. Just leave your radio or TV on tonight when everyone is asleep that way if they hear voices in your room they won't be suspicious."
"Okay, we'll do that. What time do you think you'll come over?"
"Late. Preferably after everyone is asleep. How about around one?"
"Sounds fine except Max hardly ever sleeps so just be as quiet as possible getting in here. I'll leave my window open once it gets dark just in case you're early. Hey, I just heard a car pull up. I think that Max is home, I have to go Michael. I'll see you tonight."
"Sure. See you soon Iz."
Isabel quickly hung up the phone and prayed that Max wouldn't come talk to her. She wanted to avoid talking to him before she and Michael had decided what they were going to do because she hated the thought of having to lie to him. For once since that day in the pod chamber she silently prayed that he would continue avoiding her. She could hear the front door open and close and heard muffled voices downstairs. She listened intently as the voices died down and Max started up the stairs. She held her breath as he passed her room and went into his. When she heard his door close she relaxed and decided that it might actually be a good idea to take a nap. She didn't get much sleep last night and she didn't think that Michael would appreciate her yawning and nodding off during his visit tonight. She changed into her pyjamas, curled up under the covers and drifted off into a sound sleep, so soundly that she did not notice the knock at her door a few minutes later.
"Isabel." Max received no answer so he lightly knocked at her door again and cracked it a bit. It looked like she was asleep but he needed to talk to her. He wanted to talk to her. It seemed like ages since he'd really talked to Isabel about anything. He was about to go ahead and wake her when he thought better of it and decided to let her get some rest. He'd try later this evening. He didn't feel like staying in his room all afternoon so he headed back downstairs and out the door, yelling to his parents that he was going out and would probably be at the Crashdown later on if they needed him.
After Michael hung up with Isabel, he busied himself cleaning up his apartment. He couldn't remember it ever actually being clean, except for when he had just moved in and Max and Isabel helped him with his stuff. Isabel had been obsessed with getting everything wiped down at least once. The cleaning was over soon and he quickly ran out of things to do and still couldn't bring himself to stay stationary for more than a moment. Time was passing too slowly. He focused all his effort on trying to sleep but couldn’t relax. He was starting to feel stir crazy so he decided to try and pass the time in town. He grabbed a jacket for later on and left. He didn’t have any destination in mind but figured he would find something to do.
As Max left his street the only place he wanted to be was with Liz, but since she had left town he had to settle for second best: the Crashdown. He kept going back even though it hurt him every time he walked through those doors, each time bringing to mind the memories of that day. The day that Liz was shot. The day he forgot about everything but her and the fact that her life was ending with every breath as she lay bleeding in front of him. Michael had tried to stop him then too, but he didn’t let him. Not then, not like he did in the desert when he should have gone after Liz. Max sighed as he headed toward the café. He could have driven there with his eyes closed but he made a conscious effort to concentrate on every motion, forcing himself to feel even the routine tasks associated with driving just to keep him from dwelling on Liz. It seemed like his entire life he had been drawn to her: when they were kids, in the Crashdown, in the desert. He had always worried that their worlds would keep them apart but now she was the one pushing him away, and he couldn’t take it. He parked out front and walked in. It was busy as it usually was on Saturdays. He didn’t think that Maria would be there, she usually worked the evening shift on the weekends, but wasn’t too surprised when she met him at the counter. She looked terrible, and he knew she’d been working extra shifts not only to fill in for Liz but also to avoid having time to think. As he looked at her he realized that he probably looked worse, but the thought left him as she spoke, “I didn’t expect to see you today. What’s up?”
“Nothing. Just didn’t want to spend another day in the house.”
“I know the feeling, I find myself actually wanting to come to work and have even stopped completely loathing all customers, although I still have a word or two for the ‘Miss? Oh Miss. Yoo hoo Miss’ people.”
Max smiled at her frustration and couldn’t help but laugh at the deadpan way she imitated just about every tourist to grace the tables of the restaurant. Max’s laughter caught Maria off-guard and she smiled in spite of herself. Max looked back up at her and she knew exactly what he would say even before he opened his mouth. It was the same thing he started every one of their conversations with these days, and her answer was always the same, but not by any choice on her part.
“So, have you heard from Liz yet?”
Maria sighed and thought ‘He’s hopeless, utterly hopeless’ before shaking her head in response and having to watch as he tried to hide the pain in his face from her. Max struggled to regain some composure.
“So how have you been doing? Any better.” He tried to listen intently but felt his mind wandering even as she started in on the new list of reasons why Michael is the world’s worst everything all rolled into one and her new resolve to rid herself of everything Michael in her life. Maria continued speaking without noticing that Max was not with her. It didn’t matter – to either of them.
As Maria continued to speak in Max’s general direction, Michael arrived at the Crashdown. On his quest to find something to do he’d realized that he was starving. He’d been far too nervous to really eat this morning and besides that was hours ago. He figured the Crashdown would be a safe bet as he wouldn’t have to deal with Maria at this time of day. He knew she didn’t work the mid-shift on the weekend. He entered the diner and sat down at the booth in the corner by the door before he noticed her at the counter talking to Max. The sight of them together startled him at first and had it been any other time, Michael would have used Maria as an excuse to start a confrontation with Max, but not now. Things were different now. He looked at Maria. She looked terrible, pale and skinny with dark circles under her eyes and Michael suddenly felt guilty. He’d never really had that feeling before, but it hit him now. He felt bad that he had been the one that started everything between them. The irony of it all hit him as he watched her and realized that this was the very place where it had begun. That night. The heat wave. It seemed like ages ago. When he had just showed up here after-hours and they had made out like crazy on the floor behind the counter. He hadn’t planned it. There was just something about her that got to him, under his skin, and he was drawn to her that night. He was still staring at them when Maria noticed him and gasped. Her eyes widened and Max looked over his shoulder at him. Max didn’t react as Maria had. Instead he turned back to her and touched her hand before he started over to where Michael was seated.
Michael looked down at the table as Max lowered himself into the booth across from him and he could feel Maria eyeing them intensely.
Max wasn’t sure if Michael would even stay if he started a conversation with him, but he had nothing to lose by trying. Michael was silent and avoiding Max’s gaze, so Max spoke first, “Hey Michael.”
"Hey Maxwell, what's up?" Michael replied, purposely playing with the silverware on the table so that he wouldn't have to look Max in the eyes.
"Nothing. Care if I sit here for a while?"
"Nah man, help yourself."
"Are you going to eat? I am starving, I'm not used to eating so early especially these days." Max looked over at Michael who was still looking down but glanced up at him and smiled as he said "I know what you mean."
They ordered some food (Maria did not want to be their server and had to bribe another waitress to do it for her because they were in her section) and while they waited they actually talked. Not the strained me against the world conversations that had been the norm of late but an actual conversation. It had happened inadvertently. Michael had intended to sit in silence reading the menu or shredding napkins and reassembling them while they waited. The change came when Michael answered Max by saying 'I know what you mean,' with a look that they both knew had deeper implications than just food and amazingly enough it produced a brief instant of mutual understanding between them, like back when they were all kids and they had discovered that they were "different" and it had reinforced the bond that had always been there between them. It was the first time since that day in the desert that they each actually acknowledged that they understood the problems the other was facing (Michael more so than Max knew at that moment) and it allowed them to look past all the times that they had butted heads recently and much to Max's surprise, Michael started the conversation.
"So how have you been Max?”
“Fine, you know.”
“No, I mean it really. How have you been? With the Liz and the whole…you know, everything?”
Max was unprepared for Michael’s question but decided not to waste the moment hedging the answer.
“Not good Michael. Honestly for a while there, after she left, I really thought I was losing it. Everything hurt, you know? I couldn’t sleep because she was in my dreams, always leaving me. Always running. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t even think because the pain was too much to endure. Then finally I realized that I needed to show her how I felt. That I didn’t want Tess. That I needed her. So I forced myself to come here. It was hard. I sat in the jeep for 15 minutes, forcing myself to come inside. But she wasn’t here. I had come and she was gone. Maria had to take me into the back and tell me that she left for Florida. I think that was the lowest point in my life. I felt like Liz had betrayed me. Maria was the only reason I kept my sanity. She told me how hard it was for Liz to leave, but that she had to go. She made me see that if I didn’t try and pull myself together that Liz would have no reason to come back to me when she came home. So from then on, whenever I start to lose my grip on reality, I usually wind up here with Maria.”
Max hesitated before continuing. He didn’t know how Michael would handle his newly found friendship with Maria and wanted to give him a chance to respond, to gauge his feelings before saying any more. Max had been playing with his fork as he spoke and not watching Michael. When he stopped and looked up he saw Michael looking over at Maria but he couldn’t tell what the look meant. He waited for some kind of acknowledgement from Michael before speaking again.
“I never meant to hurt her.”
Max was shocked to hear Michael admit something personal so freely. “I know.”
“No, I mean it Maxwell.” Michael said purposefully and looked Max straight in the eyes. “I don’t know why I started things with her. I didn’t plan it, I just couldn’t stay away. It was like I was drawn to her that night. I knew it wasn’t right but I let it continue, let her get involved and it was wrong. I should’ve stopped it that night but I didn’t and now look at her.”
They both glanced over at Maria who quickly looked away as she was caught staring at them.
Max was startled at Michael’s revelations regarding Maria. Maria was the last thing he’d ever expected Michael to start a conversation about. He tried to sympathize and said, “I know how you feel Michael. Believe me. I know how badly it feels to have no control over something that hurts the person you love.” Max hoped that his comment would allow he and Michael to discuss their “destinies” and find away around them, and was completely unprepared for how Michael responded.
“No, you don’t get it Max!,” Michael raised his voice, his emotions coming to the surface for once, “I don’t love her. That is the problem. I feel bad that I hurt her, that I ever got involved with her, and I do care about her but I don’t love her. I never have. I never will.”
Max sat there in silence. He was completely in shock. He knew that Michael had a hard time opening up to people but it seemed that he had let Maria in. He knew that Maria loved him and he had always just assumed that Michael felt the same way, at least on some level.
“She loves you Michael.”
“I know that! Which just makes everything that much more difficult. I never told her that I loved her but I never said that I didn’t. I just let her assume because it was easier than facing the truth. I didn’t want to hurt her but I could never be what she wanted. I didn’t want to be who she wanted, and every time that I see her it just makes it worse. I can see what I did to her just by telling her that I needed to be alone. Look at her Max. She’s a wreck and I did that. Michael Guerin ‘world’s worst boyfriend’ Can you imagine what it would do to her if she knew that I didn’t love her? That I wasn’t just pushing her away to be the lone soldier? There’s nothing that I can ever to do to make up for what I have already done to her. And anything that I do from here on out is just going to make it worse for her. Maybe it would be better if she could just hate me. She could just hate me and move on and keep hating me indefinitely. But she doesn’t hate me does she?”
Max hesitated a second before answering, “Not really. She’s hurt and confused and she’s upset but she’s still holding on.” He waited for Michael to respond before continuing. “Are you sure that you never had feelings for her? Maybe you’re just scared to let her in and admit it…”
“Dammit Maxwell!! Don’t patronize me, I’m not a child! I know how I feel and I know what love is and I didn’t nor will I love her. I used her, okay? That’s what it comes down to. Plain and simple. Michael the slime ball okay? Just because you and Liz have this soul mate connection doesn’t mean that everyone else did. So stop trying to talk me into feeling something that I don’t just because it would make things easier for you. Next you’re going to be telling me that Alex and Isabel were in love too!”
Isabel. Shit. Michael had not meant to bring her up at all. He was watching Max’s face to see if anything registered there and he hoped that his emotional outburst had kept him occupied on Maria and not on Isabel. Max wasn’t saying anything and Michael felt bad about how he had reacted.
“Hey, I’m sorry Max. I didn’t mean to get so upset. Things have just been so screwed up between everyone lately I think that at least the four of us need to get together to work some of this out. We need to at least be able to work together if something does happen this summer and the way things are going at present we can’t even all be in the same room together without fighting. Truce, okay?”
“The four of us Michael? I know who three of us are, but the four of us?”
“I’m including Tess. Just because you don’t want to marry her doesn’t meant that you can shut her out of the group. She is one of us Max. If we are in danger then so is she. And don’t forget that she is the only one of us who really knows how to use her powers. I’m not saying that you have to kiss and make up. I’m not even suggesting that you have to like her, just think about it Max. We need to stop the fighting and focus. Nasedo may be in Washington helping with the Special Unit, but we have other enemies out there. I know you haven’t forgotten. Look at how worried you were about Isabel this morning. I know the thought crossed your mind. Look at us we have got to at least be civil enough to each other to be able to work together in case something does happen to one of us. Please think about it Max. I’m not suggesting that you forget about Liz, but I am saying that you should at least try and get things back on track as best as you can while she is gone. Take Maria’s advice and give her something to come back to. Be the leader Maxwell. We need you. Okay?”
Max sat silent as Michael spoke. Tess. He didn’t want to be in the same room with her. Those feelings that he had had for her when she first arrived always seemed to come to mind when she was around. She was always giving him that look. That ‘how can you give me up?’ look. But he knew that Michael was right, at least on some level. In their current state, they were vulnerable to attack if they were identified. He always knew that he’d have to face Tess, he just wanted to do it with Liz by his side.
“Alright Michael. We’ll have a meeting, just the four of us. But you have to give me some time, at least a day or two, to prepare myself for the conversation ahead, okay? I’ll let you know when I decide where and when to meet.”
“And you can tell Tess. You owe at least that much to her.”
Max cringed. He had hoped that Michael would be the one to let Tess know about the meeting, but he knew that Michael was right. He would have to face her. He was the leader.
Their food had arrived while they were talking, and both of them were glad to have something else to focus on. They ate in silence, both relieved to at least be on speaking terms again but neither of them looking forward to what was ahead.
Michael stood up to go after he was finished and said, “So, what are you going to tell Maria?”
“Nothing that she doesn’t already know. Anything else will have to come from you.”
Michael smiled as he realized that Max was paying him back for forcing him to have to speak to Tess, “Touché, Maxwell. Touché.” Michael turned to go and saw Maria quickly look down at the counter where she had been watching him. He wondered how much she had heard of their conversation, but given how crowded it was he didn’t think it would have been much. He knew that Max would tell him if she had heard anything crucial. He quickly left without looking back at Maria. That was one conversation that he wished he would never have to have.
Max watched as Michael hurried out of the café and looked over his shoulder to find Maria looking over at him expectantly. He ate the last of his fries before heading over to her. He only wished he knew what he was going to say.
|Part 3 | Index | Part 5
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