Punchline... (M/L, M/A) A/N 01/20/08 [WIP]

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JBehr'sChica
Enthusiastic Roswellian
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Post by JBehr'sChica » Mon May 21, 2007 8:18 pm

A/N: Since y'all asked, how could I not deliver? I apologise, Alison had this chapter to me before the weekend, but I was having one of those crazy busy weeks, and am only posting it now.

cassie: I thought it would be easier to have Max and Michael's friendship pick up from where it left off 6 years ago for the pure reason of I had no idea what I could have written in regards to the two of them! :lol: Besides, I thought that as the story progressed, it might help to have a guy in the mix who knew both Liz and Max quite well and didn't care about Max's family connections etc.
mica: That's a great question! Yes, there is an obvious connection between Kyle and Ava, however, due to the fact that I don't like either of them in this story (not a big fan of Tess period, come to think of it. Actually, my view of Emilie de Ravin dropped after I saw her as Tess :lol:) I don't think I'm going to be exploring their past. Although, I'm sure that near the end, they'll pop up again...
Alien_Friend: The original story had double dates in it, but I thought that if I dragged out the M/A and L/K parts any longer, the frantic masses would revolt and boycott my story. So I changed it :) I hope you like the way the story progresses though.
begonia9508: I liked Kyle in the show from Season 2 through to the end, but he played the part of a jerk so well in the first season that I thought he would suit the role in this story. Ava is definitely a woman who, while extremely satisfied with Max (who wouldn't be) can't help but keep an eye on the 'scenery'.
:DreamerMaxBehrian: In hopes that you can keep up to date on the story, I'll try to email you the next chapters (as well as 10 & 11) so when you're able, you can leave your pages and pages of feedback on the site :) Hurry back soon!
Addicted2AmberEyes: Kyle is a control freak and while he's not as rich as Max or Ava, he prides himself on only mixing with the socially acceptable. In this case, those who frequent bars do not fit this category. I'd love to hear your ideas!!
thetvgeneral: Thanks for reading Steph!
FrenchDreamer: I tried writing Chapter Eleven a number of times, each one beginning with the continuation of the Kyle/Ava match up from Chapter Ten, but it just wouldn't flow. So I figure, who cares right? The story is about Max and Liz... let's 'kill' off the significant others and get to the good stuff! :P Although, I'm playing with the idea of some Kyle/Ava information in later chapters.
katydid: Tess changed her name after High School in a bid to sound more glamorous and sophisticated. Pity it didn't work :P
Queenie_Zan7: It's been my experience that guys act differently around different types of girls. I think this is a case of that with Kyle/Liz and Kyle/Ava.
BehrObsession: Who said that Kyle/Ava need to renew anything? ;)
Michelle in Yonkers: I'm glad you were able to catch up! Kyle running for public office. There's an idea with merit. Kyle didn't go to High School with Max, Liz, Maria, Michael and Tess/Ava, but has known Ava for the last few years. Let's just say that Ava has lots of mileage. Liz isn't saving herself either, she just isn't driven by sex. That's mainly because I'm not all that comfortable writing it :P But when the Max/Liz sex scene comes up (and it will :P) there will be no 'waiting until it can be picture perfect'. Besides, can you really see Kyle as a guy that anyone would want to voluntarily jump? :lol:
sunrise102: I have no idea if Max will go to any extraordinary lengths to make amends, although he'll definitely continue to show Liz that he's not usually such a meaniehead, that he's really quite charming and considerate :D
Natalie36
Natz
roswell4life
behralicious87
behrluv32
tinie38
rowedog: Yet again, BIG SHOUT OUT to you for your diligence as my beta. Also for the 'Where the hell are you?' email that I received as the proverbial 'kick up the butt' to post this update!

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

Chapter Eleven

Part One

"We're going to take a break, but we'll be back soon."

Unstrapping his guitar, Max carefully put it onto the stand near the speaker and rolled his shoulders. Taking a mouthful of water from a bottle near the speaker, he looked out over the audience. The lights had been brightened somewhat, taking the attention off the stage and the noise of people talking, laughing and the clinking of glasses could be heard quite clearly.

"So Max, where's Ava tonight?"

Giving a small smile, Max looked at Jake, the drummer, who'd asked the question.

"Um, she had a headache. Couldn't make it."

Shrugging at the smirk Jake aimed in his direction, Max couldn't help but feel angry at Ava's excuse. Every night he performed, she had a different excuse. She could at least have come up with something a little more believable. She had come to the first couple of shows, but hadn't been for months. If the guys in the band hadn't seen her the first couple of times, they would have thought that Ava was an imaginary person.

Jose, the bass guitarist, slapped Max on the shoulder as he walked past.

"Her loss buddy. At least it leaves you free to hit on some of the honeys. And man, are they out in force tonight!"

Max watched, smiling widely, as Jose headed to the bar where 3 girls who couldn't have been that far over the legal drinking age, sat. He wasn't a man to cheat on his fiancee, however, as he glanced at the booth where Liz, Maria and Michael sat, he couldn't help but feel pleased that Ava had begged out of tonight. Signalling Louis at the bar for a beer, he gestured at their booth before heading over to them.

"May I have a seat?"

Liz smiled up at him and gestured to the seat next to her, recently vacated by Kyle. Relaxing beside her, he sighed deeply and rested his head against the back of the booth. He loved being up there, seeing people singing along with his songs, enjoying the music they played, but it was nice to step out of the limelight, take a seat and relax.

"You sounded good up there Evans."

Accepting the beer he ordered, he smirked at Michael across the table.

"You sound surprised Guerin."

"Well, it's not like you were known for your musical talents in high school Maxwell."

Nodding in agreement, Max couldn't argue. He didn't 'discover' music until College, and found it to create a nice balance between the grueling studies of Law. Turning his attention to Liz, he raised an eyebrow in question.

"And you Liz? Did it sound better here than it did through the walls?"

Playing with the straw in her now empty glass, Liz glanced at Max, taking in his appearance before replying.

"I enjoyed it more than I thought I would."

Smiling widely, Max felt strangely pleased at her admission. Maybe it was because Ava hated it so much, or because he somehow, on a subconscious level, valued Liz's opinion, but nonetheless, he was glad to have her approval.

Moments passed in silence as Max relaxed and Maria noticed that Liz was trying not to pay too much attention to the man sitting beside her, smiling as she watched her yet again sneak a glance at Max. She had always wondered whether the tension between Max and Liz throughout high school was the result of something else, but Liz had been quite adamant that she felt nothing other than contempt for the rich, yet extremely attractive Max Evans.

Looks like things have changed.

Maria couldn't deny that she preferred Liz to be with a man like Max when compared to her current fiancé Kyle, but Liz had always been a girl who needed to make her own decisions. The more you pushed, the more she wouldn't budge. She had to come to her own conclusions in her own time. From what Liz had told her that afternoon, Maria thought that Liz was on the verge of ditching her no good fiancé, but she wasn't sure if her thoughts were leading towards Max, or just the realisation that she couldn't marry Kyle Valenti.

Thank God for small miracles!

Nudging her husband, Maria batted her eyelashes and smiled sweetly.

"Honey? Could you please get me another margarita?"

The Michael Guerin that Max remembered was fairly rough around the edges, spoke his mind and didn't display much, if any, emotion. Not even for Maria. But it seemed marriage had changed him.

"Sure."

Quickly dropping a kiss on Maria's lips, Michael got out of the booth and headed to the bar. Maria took the time to look at Max, long enough for him to feel somewhat uncomfortable.

"I hear you're engaged Max."

"Yeah."

"Who to?" Maria asked, knowing full well who he was engaged to, thanks to Liz's confession session that afternoon.

"Ava Harding. You might remember her as Tess in High School."

"Oh yes, Tess. How did you end up with her?"

"I'm sure you know that Mr Harding and my dad are partners in a law firm in town, and when I came back from College and started working there, they thought it would be nice if we dated. One thing lead to another and here we are."

Or should I say here I am. Max thought to himself, mentally making note of how over the time of their engagement, Ava was changing into someone he wasn't particularly fond of. But he had given her his word, and he was loathe to break it.

"Hmmm." Was the only thing that came out of Maria's mouth as Michael slipped in beside her. Handing her her drink, Michael took a mouthful of his beer before turning his attention to his old friend.

"So you move back to Roswell and you don't tell me?"

Rolling his beer bottle between his hands, Max shrugged.

"We kind of drifted apart Michael so I wasn't sure that you would really be all that interested that I was back."

"Max, we've been friends since forever. It's always been the Max and Michael show. Why would now be any different?'

Laughing out loud, Max felt the most relaxed he had in ages. He couldn't remember being as carefree and happy as he was right now. His never ending feud with Liz seemed to be giving way to an easy friendship and he was picking up his friendship with Michael, seemingly from where it left off. He knew that Ava wouldn't be happy about that, but as far as he was concerned, he couldn't give a shit. He was happy, and that was all that mattered.

"Liz, I thought you said your fiancé was here tonight."

Liz bit her bottom lip and frowned, replaying in her mind where he was now.

"He was. I think he might have left though just before you took a break."

She looked around the bar, trying to see whether he was still around somewhere, but knew that the chances of that were extremely slim.

"I think he's gone."

And I have yet another argument to look forward to later.

Maria looked at her best friend sympathetically, knowing that once Max returned to the stage, she needed to have a good talk with Liz about Kyle. A decision needed to be made. Listening to Max and Michael talk, Maria mentally thought about what she could do, if anything, to make Liz and Max realise that there was something growing between them, that had the potential to be something better than what they both currently had with someone else.

"It will be another hour before I leave after we finish, but I'm really glad you could make it tonight. And more importantly that you're enjoying it! Maria and Michael, it's been great catching up with you and Liz, thanks again for coming. I'll catch up with you later."

Getting up from the booth and heading towards the stage, Max was stopped by the sound of his voice and the feel of an arm wrapping around his waist.

"Hi sexy."

Ava. Forcing a smile on his face, he turned to her and dropped a kiss on her upturned lips.

"Ava, what are you doing here? I thought you had a headache."

Pressing herself up against him, she shrugged.

"I did, but I know how important tonight was to you. I didn't want to disappoint you."

The silence from Max was almost deafening and Ava knew that he was quite upset at her continual refusal to support him in his music.

"So, aren't you going to introduce me to your friends?"

Looking over her head, Max took a breath before answering. He didn't particularly want to, but she wasn't going to let it go. If he didn't introduce her, she would think something was up, and make a big deal of it.

Taking her hand, he took her to the booth he had just left.

"Excuse me guys, my fiancé, who just arrived, wanted to meet you."

Gesturing around the table, he made the introductions as quick as he possibly could, not wanting to subject them to the sharp tongue that Ava liked to use around those she felt were less fortunate than herself.

"Ava Harding, this is Michael Guerin and his wife Maria and her best friend Liz Parker."

Flipping her hair over her shoulder, she gave a fake smile in greeting.

"A pleasure I'm sure. It's so nice to see that my Maxie has a nice little bunch of groupies."

Plastering herself to the side of Max, she ran her hand over his chest and looked up into his face adoringly.

"I just hope he manages to get this out of his system by the time we're married. With his career and running of the firm, he won't have time to mingle with the people of Roswell's lower end of society. No offence."

Apologising to Michael, Maria and Liz with his eyes, Max dug his fingers into Ava's arm, and turned away from the group, walking her towards a darkened corner near the stage. Turning his back to the crowd in the bar, he backed Ava up against the wall. Remembering their frantic coupling at her apartment only a week ago in a similar fashion, Ava thought that Max would take her right there and felt herself get turned on more than she thought possible at his exhibitionism. Easing her arm around Max's neck and threading her fingers through his hair, she moved herself against him, planting her lips against his before being pulled roughly away and being held at arms length.

"Ava! I don't care what you think of places like these or the people who frequent them, but if you're rude to my friends again, we're through. Understand?"

Stunned at his actions and the fury vaguely hidden beneath his voice, Ava could only nod. She had never seen him angry, his laid back persona making it hard to believe he ever could be, but the man in front of her meant business, and she felt slightly worried that this time, she'd stepped over the line.

Letting her go, he walked to the stage and once again took his place.

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

Part Two

When Liz had returned to the store after her lunch with Max, Maria hadn't had to force any information out of her best friend. In fact, Liz had been a fountain of knowledge about everything that had happened with Max Evans. You couldn't deny that her eyes lit up with every mention of Max, something she had never seen when she spoke about Kyle, and that was enough for Maria to decide that Kyle needed to go, now more than ever.

Liz had told her of their talk on the balcony late last night, of the talk they exchanged about their fiancés as well as the kiss. Maria knew something had to have happened, the way Liz had arrived at work happier than she had ever seen her and with a smile that could have rivaled the Grand Canyon. But seeing Max with his fiancée, Maria couldn't help but feel the same stopping of her heart as she glanced at her best friend. To the others around them, there would be no noticeable difference in Liz's appearance or body language, but Maria could tell that Liz felt let down in some way.

Oh chica, I'm so sorry.

Covering Michael's hand on her thigh, she gripped it tightly as she tried to draw his attention to Liz's dilemma. She had told him everything when she got home, and while she didn't know what she wanted him to do about it, she knew that she needed to feel like he understood how she felt about it.

Which he did.

Maria watched with interest as Max refused to make proper eye contact with Liz after Ava arrived and while he looked like nothing was amiss with his relationship with Ava, to anyone else, she could see that the relaxed man she had seen earlier that night was suddenly behind a mask.

Watching Max leave the table with his fiancée, Liz suddenly felt riddled with guilt for her slowly growing attraction to him. Funnily enough, the guilt wasn't because of her own fiancé, but the fact of his. Until she met her, his fiancée was just a faceless name, but now, whether Liz liked her or not, Max Evans' fiancée was a real person, and one who seemed to be fixated on the man she was engaged to marry.

Sighing quietly, Liz excused herself from the booth and made her way to the bar. She would stay for the rest of Max's set, then she'd go home. Before then however, she wanted to enjoy the rest of her evening, spending time with Maria and Michael. The emotional assessment could come later.

She was engaged to Kyle. She knew it, she was happy about it, and most importantly Max knew it. They hadn't lied to each other about their relationship status and they hadn't really done anything inappropriate apart from that one kiss last night. So why did she feel so guilty and like she had just found out that the guy she had a massive crush on was taken?

Massive crush? When did severe dislike become a crush?

Smiling at Louis behind the bar, Liz reached for the offered Fruit Tingle and put the straw between her lips. How could this have happened? When could this have happened?

When he picked you up off the side of the road and carefully made sure your ankle was okay.

Liz realised that she needed to talk to Kyle. She needed to set a date for their wedding. She couldn't keep putting it off. She needed to take that final step and make a commitment. She would call him when she got home.

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

Part Three

As soon as Max and Tess left the side of their booth, Liz dropped her head onto the table and groaned.

“How could I be so stupid?” She muttered to herself, her mind working overtime.

Shooing Michael out of the booth, Maria quickly moved to Liz's side and wrapped her arms around her best friend. After a Long Island Iced Tea, a strawberry daiquiri and now a Fruit Tingle, her best friend wasn't having an easy time of reigning in her emotions. Especially those confusing ones she had realised she was having for Max Evans.

“Lizzie, you're not stupid honey. You're exceptionally smart. Things are just complicated right now.”

Lifting her head from the table, she enveloped herself in Maria and sobbed into her shirt.

“One kiss, and I'm thinking that it might mean something. That maybe I should break up with Kyle and see what happens with Max and I.”

Wiping her face, she looked at Michael.

“I know she told you what I told her at work today Michael, so I want an honest opinion from a man's point of view.”

“Okay.”

Elbows on the table, head resting in her hands, Liz looked at Michael for a few moments before asking her question.

“Should I marry Kyle Valenti?”

Glancing at Maria, Michael took a swig from his beer bottle and thought carefully before replying. His response determined whether he would be getting lucky later in the night.

“No.”

“Why not?”

Shifting uncomfortably on the seat, he leant forward to meet Liz halfway across the table.

“Because he doesn't make you happy Liz. If you're going to spend the rest of your life with someone, you should be with someone that gives you a reason for waking up in the morning. Kyle is the sort of guy who would only invoke fantasies of first degree murder. Or grievous bodily harm.”

Liz and Maria couldn't help but giggle at his comment. While Kyle wasn't fond of Michael, it wasn't particularly a secret that the feeling was mutual.

“And you don't think Kyle does that for me?”

Michael shook his head.

“Maybe when you first started dating, but since you've been engaged definitely not.”

Liz looked at Maria, question in her eyes.

“He's right chica. I've been telling you that he's not good for you for months. He's been a pain in the ass about the store, about you moving back to Roswell and he treats you like you're his servant or something. Tell me you don't think that's what love is supposed to be!”

Slipping down into her seat, Liz covered her eyes with her hands.

“I agree that it's not the best example of love, but it's what I have. I would give anything to have what you guys have, but Kyle's the only guy who's offering. It's not like I'm getting any younger.”

Rubbing Liz's arm in comfort, Maria nodded.

“Elizabeth Parker, while you may have not had the best of luck in the dating department, you do not need to settle for a guy like Kyle. You told me that the kiss you shared with Max last night was the most you have felt in a year. Am I wrong?”

“No.”

“Then, even though Max is seemingly happy being engaged to Ava, it means that you're looking for more than what Kyle can give you. And for that reason alone, you should break up with him.”

“He's not happy.” Came a quiet comment from across the table.

“Who's not happy?”

“Maxwell. I would say that he's not happy. The look that crossed his face when that blonde chick wrapped her arm around his waist was not one of a man deliriously in love. It's my experience that when you're engaged to the girl you want to spend the rest of your life with, you should be happy to see them.”

“Your point?”

“He wasn't.”

Shaking their head in confusion at Michael's streak of insight they looked at each other with clarity of understanding.

“So chica, what's the game plan with Kyle?”

Liz bit her bottom lip, holding her left hand in front of her, watching the light shine on the engagement ring that Kyle had given her. She remembered her grandmother's words of advice.

“Honeybear, if you're not 100% sure that he's the man for you, don't get married.'

“I'm going to end it. It wouldn't be fair to keep it going.”

Squealing in delight, Maria threw her arms around her best friend.

“Liz, this is the best decision. Really it is. Michael, get the bartender to give us some champagne. This is something that needs to be celebrated.”

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

Part Four

The first thing Liz noticed as her headlights swept across the driveway she shared with Max was the gray Lexus parked on his side.

Probably Ava's she thought as she put her car in park and turned off the ignition.

Reaching over to the passenger seat, she grabbed her bag and got out of the car, not locking it until she had unlocked her front door. Flicking on the lights, she closed the door before walking through to the kitchen and placing her bag and keys on the table, hitting the rewind button on her message machine.

Listening to the few messages that had been left for her, Liz went to her bedroom and got ready for bed before returning to the kitchen and making herself a hot chocolate. She made a note to call her grandmother in the morning about going to Albuquerque and spending some time with her as she took her drink and the cordless phone back into her room.

Settling herself on her bed, Liz took a few cautious sips of her hot chocolate before dialling Kyle's number. She knew that together with the still unresolved argument from last week together with him walking out of the bar tonight, this was not particularly a phone call she was looking forward to making. That was depending on whether he would actually take her call.

"Hello?" Surprisingly, his greeting sounded almost pleasant and gave her hope that whatever his problem was, was now gone.

"Hi sweetheart. It's me."

"Oh. Hello."

Liz's hopes were dashed when his tone got so cold, it was pretty much freezing.

"Are you calling to apologise Liz?"

This wasn't how she had planned the conversation going.

"Excuse me? Apologise for what?"

"For showing me disrespect at that bar tonight Liz. I've never felt so humiliated. I'm your fiance Liz. Not some random guy you're on some date with. I can only imagine what people must have thought."

"What people must have thought? Kyle Valenti, are you even listening to yourself? What happened to the sweet and gentle man that I met years ago? The one who was happy just to be able to spend time together?"

"Well, Liz, I guess that man got sick of playing second fiddle to his fiancée. It was time for him to step up and be a man, be THE man in the relationship."

"Kyle, you were never second fiddle--"

"Then you decide to move to Roswell, without my permission, while I'm out of town no less, and expect me to be Mr Supportive. How did you think I would react Liz? We're engaged to get married. As your husband, it's my job to provide for my family. How can I provide for my family, if my wife lives in a completely different town? With my work, travelling back and forth between Roswell and Albuquerque doesn't work for me."

"Kyle, would you let me speak?"

"No Liz. You always get to have your say. I think it's your turn to listen for a change. I have a standard to uphold. People expect certain things from me. My parents, my family, my workmates, my friends. When I first me you, I thought you would help make that future. You were smart, attractive, quiet natured, things that would make you the perfect wife. The perfect person to stand by my side as I made a way for myself. How does it look when you leave town while I'm away? What kind of impression does that make?"

"I didn't think that--"

"Exactly Liz. You didn't think. You never think. You just act. You're beginning to get impulsive and that's beginning to concern me. Is there something I should know? I feel like you've been distancing yourself from me in the last few months, and the move to Roswell only confirmed that. Last night made it even more clear."

"What do you mean is there something you should know? There was no reason other than the business opportunity with Maria for the reason why I moved back to Roswell. As for distancing myself from you, that's something I could ask you Kyle."

There was a pregnant pause on the other end of the phone before Kyle responded.

"I don't know what you're talking about Liz."

Liz gave a short, humorless laugh. This conversation was bordering on ridiculous.

"Fine."

"Good."

"Great."

Now they had been reduced to arguing teenagers.

"I'm going to ask this question for the last time Liz, and I need a definite answer."

"Okay."

"Have you decided on a date for our wedding?"

Liz traced the pattern on the duvet with her finger, her mind ticking over slowly.

"I guess that's my answer then."

The sound of the dial tone shook Liz out of her thoughts and she wordlessly touched the end button on the phone before placing it on her bed stand. She felt relieved that everything was over, but at the same time, she really did wonder what happened to the man she knew as Kyle Valenti. The man she had been talking on the phone with was not the man she became engaged to, and she refused to believe that the change in his personality in the last few months had anything to do with their relationship.

"I guess it's not my problem anymore."

Finishing her now cold hot chocolate, Liz got under the covers of her bed, turned off the lights and settled in to get some sleep. First thing in the morning, she would call Maria and ask her to come over. But for now, the pull of sleep was too much to ignore.

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

Part Five

An hour later, Max pulled into the driveway and saw both Liz's Jeep and Ava's Lexus. The lights were off in Liz's apartment, so she was probably asleep already, but he could see a faint light coming through the closed blinds of his living room window. After tonight, we wasn't looking forward to seeing Ava again so soon, but there was little he could do about it as he parked his car and made his way to the front door, guitar case in hand.

The front door was unlocked, and when he entered the living room, he saw a trail of clothes that lead down the corridor and he could only guess it went into his bedroom. Leaving his guitar next to the front door, he slowly walked to his bedroom, already knowing what he would find once he got there.

"I thought you'd never get home handsome."

Laying in the middle of his bed was one very naked Ava Harding with a bottle of champagne on ice next to the bed and a bowl of chocolate dipped strawberries on the bed stand.

"Aren't you going to join me?"

As Max began to respond, he watched as Ava seductively bit her index finger before running it down the valley between her breasts, across her ribs, down her flat stomach and up over her hip. Like any red blooded male, Max couldn't help but watch the journey of her fingers but instead of getting aroused like he usually did, he felt like he was watching some sort of cheap stripper in a private booth at a strip club.

"Get up Ava."

Smiling cheekily, Ava got up onto her hands and knees and began crawling towards the edge of the bed, where Max was standing.

"How do you want me Max?"

Rolling his eyes, Max turned away and reached for the closest piece of her clothing that he could find, which was her bra and panties. Skimpy as they were, he doubted that it would even make a difference to her current state of undress, but it would be 2 pieces of clothing closer to getting her out of his apartment. Throwing it at her, he left the room.

"Get dressed Ava and get out."

Confused, Ava put on her clothes and followed Max into the living room, where he thew her skirt and top at her before reaching for her bag which was lying on the sofa. Opening it, he took out her car keys and found the one for his apartment. Now fully dressed, Ava stood near the front door, watching Max as he took the key off her keychain before throwing her bag and keys at her.

"Max, what are you doing? Are you still mad at me for tonight?"

"I'm only going to say this once Tess. Get out of my apartment and don't come back. If I see you on my property again, I'll slap you with a restraining order."

"What is this about Max?"

"It's about realising that this engagement between us is a complete joke. I should have stuck to my original impression of you, and ignored the pressure our parents put on me to marry you."

Walking backwards out the front door, Ava tried to talk Max out of his decision.

"Look, it's been a long night Max. We had an argument, and you're still angry about that. There's no need to make any rash decisions right now. Let's just take a couple of days and let things calm down. Then you'll realise that we are meant to be together. You'll see."

"No Tess, I won't see. This isn't a spur of the moment decision. It's something that's been on my mind for a while now."

"But--"

Max rested his hands against the frame of the front door and sighed deeply.

"Just leave Tess."

Realising that Max was being completely serious, she could feel the last shreds of her sanity slipping away. No one did this to her.

"NO!" She screamed, throwing her hands into the air and stomping her feet on the cold pavement, her bag hitting her arm as it flew around.

"YOU CAN NOT BREAK UP WITH ME MAXWELL EVANS!"

The graceful airs she had about herself were completely gone, and the spoilt brat that she was showed her true colors. Screaming in anger, she stomped over to her car and threw her bag and shoes across into the passenger seat.

"YOU CANNOT DO THIS TO ME!" She screamed again, her anger flaring up even brighter as she reached into the garden alongside the driveway and picked up a stone.

Raising her arm, she threw the stone at the window of his living room, the sound of breaking glass only serving to fuel her anger even more. Still not satisfied, she reached for another, this time throwing it at his Corvette, smashing the front windscreen.

Somewhat calmer, Ava turned to face Max, taking the time to smooth her messed up hair.

"You're not as great as you think you are Max. You think you're this wonderful person, but you and I both know that you're no better than me. That's why we're so good together."

Getting into her car and starting the ignition, Ava put the window down and gave a parting comment.

"You'll be back."

Reversing too fast down the driveway, the wheels of the Lexus squealing as she took off. Running both hands through his hair, Max looked up into the night sky before rubbed his hands over his face and venturing to look at the damage Ava had done. The great thing about glass was that it could be repaired fairly easily. But he was still a little scared to look at his car. They could wait until the morning. He just wanted to get some sleep before he dealt with the aftermath of Ava's temper tantrum.
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JBehr'sChica
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Post by JBehr'sChica » Mon Jun 04, 2007 5:44 am

As always, I must start off my feedback thank yous with my Beta, Alison – rowedog. I know you’re super busy with exams and final submissions for classes, but she still managed to get this update back to me mere hours after I sent it through to her. I can safely say that when compared to studying for exams, even defrosting the freezer can seem like the preferable thing to do! J
thetvgeneral
Alien_Friend
behralicious87
Addicted2AmberEyes
sylvia37: I would love to have Ava show up in future chapters with the sole purpose of making Max miserable, or at the very least, coming back and acting like he was just having an off night and he didn’t mean it. At the moment, I haven’t planned for it, but that’s the beauty of writing these sort of stories. It might just work out that she can’t stay unwritten for long J
cassie I hope this short part will answer your point about Phillip Evans and Ed Harding getting involved. As far as Ava/Tess is concerned, it seems the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.
begonia9508: I hope you aren’t disappointed in this next part with Max talking with his parents. As for Liz hearing the commotion that is Ava, well, I’m going on the assumption that she got the best night’s sleep she has in a while, care of Kyle J
Natalie36 I probably would too, but I think Max would react like a gentleman. And make a voodoo doll :lol:
Emz80m
Nz_Roswell
Blink1lit
sunrise102
behrluv32
Natz
BehrObsession
Michelle in Yonkers
FrenchDreamer: I’m debating as to whether I’m basing Ava/Tess on my opinion of Paris Hilton :P (j/k)
Queen Fee: Welcome to the story! I’m glad that you’re loving it!
Angel Eyes
Shadowlynxbehr: I know you weren’t fond of the idea of bring the parents into it, but I felt that it needed to happen. I hope you aren’t disappointed in the characterization of the parents in this small part.
dmb Hola chica! We’ve been missing you!! While it seems your computer time is still stuck with whatever you can grab at the Library, it’s still great to get into my story and see that you’ve left a comment (or novel :grin: ) This chapter is really small compared to the last update, but I’m hoping that the ones to come will be full of interaction between Max/Liz and the usual suspects!
lockheart
kitten88
Smac
DreamerLaure

And without further ado….

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

Chapter Twelve

Part One


“Hi, this is Max. I can't get to the phone right now, so leave a message and I'll get back to when I can.”

You have 2 new messages.
BEEP!


“Max, I just got off the phone with an irate Ed Harding who is spouting something about the engagement between Ava and yourself being broken. He's furious! This is not the way I wanted to start my Sunday morning. Your mother and I expect you to be at our house for brunch, as usual, and you can expect serious question time.”

BEEP!

“In what way did you think you could decide to break the engagement to my daughter? There are a lot of things riding on this marriage Maxwell Evans, and don't think that just because you're ---”

BEEP!
Message deleted.


Dropping his head back onto the soft coolness of his pillows, Max groaned in frustration of the last message on his machine. When the phone had rung earlier in the morning, Max hadn't wanted to answer it on the off chance that it was Ava trying to talk him out of his decision from last night. Instead, he had gotten a glimpse of what was sure to be an interesting brunch with his parents and the promise of a good chewing out from Ed Harding after that. If he ever caught up with him.

Oh please God, if you're listening up there, please don't let him show up at Mom and Dad's..

He silently prayed as he pulled himself out of his bed and walked automatically to the adjoining bathroom. Dropping his white boxer briefs to the floor, he turned the shower on, making sure it was mainly hot water, before stepping in and allowing the water to wash away the tension in his body. It was 10am and he felt like someone had tied an anvil to his back.

Placing his hands on the wall of the shower, he stood with his head facing the floor as the water fell down his tanned, muscular body and finally ran down the drain. While it served to both wake him up and wash away his tension, Max couldn't help but feel like it was washing away any traces of Ava Harding as well. The mere thought bringing a smile to his sleepy face, Max grabbed the loofah from the small shelf on the side of the shower and squirted some shower gel onto it. It had been a Christmas present from Isabel, and while using it wasn't really something he was going to publicize, it wasn't all that bad.

Quickly washing his hair and finishing up in the shower, Max got out, wrapped a towel around his waist and stood in front of the bathroom mirror. Wiping the steam off the mirror, he gave his face a quick look over, wondering if he should worry about shaving today before brushing his teeth and going into his room. Hurriedly getting dressed, Max grabbed his wallet, sunglasses and keys as he walked out the front door only to come face to face with the shattered windscreen of his Corvette. Pausing only long enough to take in the extent of the damage, Max shook his head in slight disbelief.

Going back inside, Max grabbed the Yellow Pages from a drawer near the phone and quickly thumbed through the listings for someone who would be open on a Sunday. Taking the cordless phone with him, he carried the open phone book back outside with him and dialled the number of the first business he found. Explaining the damage to the person on the other end of the phone, he looked through the broken glass and found the offending rock laying between the gear stick and the driver’s seat.

Opening the car and picking up the rock, Max made arrangements with Al from Al's Quick Fix Glass Repairs before hanging up. Annoyed at the fact that he had to wait for Al to show up, then having to take a cab to his parents, Max glanced at the rock in his hand and with renewed frustration, threw it across the road. Running a hand through his still wet hair, Max sighed before calling for a cab.

Half an hour later, leaving his car in Al's supposed capable hands, Max climbed into the waiting cab and gave the address of his parents house. Leaning back on the leather seat, he closed his eyes and sighed in both annoyance and relief. Annoyance about the damage to his car and relief that it was finally over.

He knew his dad would give him the benefit of the doubt in regards to his decision to break his engagement to Ava, so spending the regular couple of hours for Sunday brunch with his parents didn't fill him with dread, but he knew that any meeting or confrontation with Ed Harding would become an elaborate display of furious fireworks until Max took Ava back.

While his parents had thought the idea of Max and Ava getting married was wonderful and something that would please both the Evans and Harding families, Max found it hard to believe that his marriage to Ava Harding and the merger of Evans & Harding was the sole driving force behind his parents hopes for his future. Fiddling with the ring on his right hand, a high school graduation present from his parents, Max thought over what to tell his parents as the cab made its way down the long driveway leading to his parents’ house.

Getting out of the cab and paying the driver, Max made his way to the front door only to be surprised as the door swung open and his twin sister threw her arms around him. Stunned, Max did the only thing he could and wrapped his arms around her as well.

"Isabel? What are you doing here?"

Stepping back from her brother, Isabel gave him the quick once over, taking in his longer hair, unshaved face and selected clothing before smiling in response.

"Surprise!"

Linking her arm through his, she ushered him inside the house and through to the kitchen where their Mom and Dad were moving around, preparing the fixings for their weekly brunch. Dropping Isabel's arm, Max walked up to his mom and dropped a kiss onto her cheek, while dodging her flour covered hands with a smile.

"Hi Mom."

"Hi Honey. Phillip, say hello to your son please."

Manning the stove, Phillip Evans gave a sheepish grin over his shoulder, as he tried to make sure the pancakes his wife had decided to make wouldn't burn.

"Hi Son, did you get my message?"

Nodding his head, he took a seat on one of the stools at the breakfast bar and leant his forearms on the counter, helping himself to a piece of toast.

"Yeah Dad. Yours and Ed's. I guess I was the only one who got a decent night's sleep last night."

Flipping the last of the pancakes, Phillip nodded, his back to Max.

"Ed woke me up at 2am in a rage about how Ava came to their house last night, a complete mess, saying something about you breaking their engagement and calling her horrible names."

Walking between Max and her Dad, Isabel scrunched her face up at the sound of Ava's name and made a gagging gesture at Max, causing him to smile at his sister's not-so-subtle opinion of his ex fiancee. It had never been a big secret that Isabel Evans and Tess/Ava Harding weren't exactly best friends.

"Isabel, don't think I don't know what you're doing behind my back!" Their dad said with a wide smile as he pulled the pan off the stove, placing the remaining pancakes onto the ready platter before taking the now empty pan over to the sink.

His children may no longer live under the same roof as them, there was no doubt that their childish behavior was still there under the somewhat mature exterior.

Kissing his wife on the cheek, Phillip gestured for Max to join him outside to set up the table. Grabbing the glasses and plates, Phillip walked outside, knowing Max would follow with the knives, forks and napkins. Placing them in their regular places, the two men worked together in silence until the final fork was placed next to a plate. Taking a seat, Phillip decided to start off the conversation.

"Since I know about your break up with Ava already, I'd like to hear what you have to say about it before I say anything."

Copying his dad, Max took a seat and crossed his legs.

"How much do you want me to say?"

Pouring himself a glass of orange juice from the carafe that Isabel had brought out, Phillip took a mouthful before shrugging.

"How ever much you're willing to tell son."

Putting both feet on the ground, Max leant forward, resting his forearms on his legs.

"I would probably say that I started feeling wrong about being engaged to Tess--Ava just before I asked for a leave of absence. Everyone thought it was because I wanted to use the time to help Ava organise the wedding plans, but in truth, I just wanted to get rid of one thing that was on my mind and use the time to figure out the other shit."

Phillip nodded in understanding. He knew that a lot of things were on his son's shoulders, not long out of law school, and suddenly at the forefront of the future of the firm he was partners in with Harding.

"Did you come to any conclusions?"

"Well, obviously, the decision that I won't marry Ava for one.”

“Of course.”

“Secondly, I love what I do. I love being a lawyer, going out there on behalf of a client and winning cases. I can't deny that. And while I had lots of great offers for firms in New York and Boston, I was happy to come home and work with you Dad. I hope you know that.”

“I do.”

“That's good.”

Max paused and poured himself a glass of juice, trying to figure out how to word his next comment without pissing his father off.

“The first few months of working at the firm were great. But then you guys started pushing me to date Ava, and things started closing in around me. At first, it wasn't so bad. I mean, it's not like she's ugly and between you and me, sleeping with her wasn't exactly a chore.”

One of the many things Phillip Evans prided himself on was the close relationship he shared with both of his children. Granted, his relationship was closer with Max, being man to man, but he had made a point of fostering a closeness with his children that he hoped would enable them to come to him with any problem or any topic. This current conversation being a perfect example.

“Call me romantic, or maybe Mom rubbed off on me too much when I was younger, but I've always thought that when it comes to the woman you're going to marry, sex was supposed to be more than just sex.”

Rolling his eyes at his own admission, Max felt his ears go red as he placed his head on the cold surface of the table. He sounded like such a girl. Phillip couldn't help but feel for Max. While he knew how Max felt in that exact moment, he also understood what he meant by his words.

“Okay Max. I'll let you off the hook. Not that I don't enjoy seeing you squirm from time to time.”

Giving a short, humorless laugh, Max nodded against the table.

“But I do have one thing to say. Max, look at me.”

Lifting his head, Max fixed his gaze with his fathers.

“I wish you had talked to me about this a lot sooner. It was never my intention to make you feel pressured into being with Ava. I would love for you to take over the firm when I retire, and even Ed Harding can't deny that you're a great lawyer. But most importantly, I want you to be happy. If marrying Ava wasn't what would make you happy, then I'm glad you made the decision before the wedding. Also, I want you to take as much time as you feel you need to decide whether you want to come back to work at the firm.”

Getting up and patting his son on the shoulder, Phillip smiled at him warmly before walking back into the kitchen. He was damn proud of the man his son had become. As far as Ed Harding was concerned, he would tell him to go to hell. Entering the kitchen, he wrapped his arms around his wife's waist, who had been standing near the kitchen window, watching the entire conversation. Leaning back into her husband’s chest, Diane turned her head sideways and smiled softly.

“Everything okay?”

Kissing his wife's cheek, Phillip nodded.

“He's a good man. I think we did a good job raising him Diane.”

“I know we did, honey.”


Part Two

Later that night, Phillip Evans was settled into the leather chair in his office, armed with a highlighter, a ball point pen and a legal pad, going over some last minute details for a couple of his cases that were due in court the following morning.

Brunch had gone well, his wife enjoying having both of their children back under their roof and both Max and Isabel had enough stories to keep everyone amused for a couple of hours. Smiling in recognition, Phillip twirled the pen in his hand and reclined in his chair. Thinking back to when his children were younger, his mind was filled with the infectious laughter that can only be made by little children whose lives were worry free. How he missed those days.

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT THIS?”

Jumping at the sudden intrusion into his study, Phillip looked into the red face of one Ed Harding. Getting out of his seat, he walked to the door and noticed his wife, standing quietly next to it. Nodding at her with a small smile, he closed the door. Keeping his back to Harding, Phillip walked back to his seat behind the desk, and sat down.

“About what Ed?”

Standing in front of the desk, Ed threw his hands into the air.

“About what? ABOUT WHAT?”

Sitting in one of the chairs, Ed crossed his legs and leant back. Calming himself down slightly, he closed his eyes slowly before looking straight at Phillip.

“Since we're going to talk about it, I may as well lay it all out. Firstly, your son takes time off from the firm, we assume to help Ava with the planning of their wedding. But instead, he's off playing his pathetic music in a bar on the lower end of town. Secondly, his personal presentation is leaving a lot to be desired—”

“Ed, are you going to be getting to the point any time soon, or are you just here to bitch about all the things you seem not to like about my son?”

“Obviously Max has decided to make some changes.”

Standing up once again, Ed made his way to the nearby bookshelf and took a few moments to look over the titles on the shelf before turning around and slamming his hand down on the mahogany desk.

“Changes he's not fucking allowed to make!”

Having heard enough, Phillip stood up from his chair and showing the restraint that made him a great court lawyer, calmly made his 'guest' know that enough was enough.

“Max is his own man, a man that I'm proud to call my son. His future is his own, and I feel ashamed in my part of this idea of forcing our children together under the belief that it's best for our firm. Jesus Ed, our children aren't pawns to be used for some business merger.”

Ed Harding leant across the table.

“You get that boy of yours back onto the reservation Evans, or our years of partnership will be over and I'll take every client with me.”

Keeping his angry gaze locked with Phillip's, Ed let the ultimatum sink in before turning his back on him and storming out of the house. Knowing that the threat wasn't empty, Phillip took a seat and started flicking through his work related referdex. Making a list of the clients, he picked up the phone and began making his own plans.
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JBehr'sChica
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Post by JBehr'sChica » Tue Jun 12, 2007 3:36 am

Chapter Thirteen

Part One

Slowly opening her eyes, Liz felt like she was seeing a whole new world as she gazed out the window at the brilliance of the morning sun.

While she had come home from the bar last night with the intention of finalizing the date of her wedding to Kyle, she wasn’t distraught that their late night conversation concluded with the end of their engagement. In fact, she felt like she was finally free. Stretching her arms over her head, she yawned as her body continued to wake up and wondered what to do with her first Kyle-free day.

“Lizzie? Are you here honey?”

Frowning slightly for only a moment, Liz recognised her Grandma’s voice and jumped out of bed, running down the corridor to the living room.

“Grandma!”

“Honeybear!”

The two women met in the middle of the living room and threw their arms around each other. Usually, Liz would go to Albuquerque to see her grandparents, and this was the first time they had come to visit her after she moved to Roswell.

“What about me? Don’t I get a hug?”

Smiling at her Grandpa who stood just outside the door, carrying his wife’s bags, Liz nodded and ran to wrap her arms around him as well.

“What are you guys doing here? Not that I’m not happy to see you, I’m just surprised that you’re actually here.”

Taking a seat on the sofa, Claudia patted the seat next to her.

“You always come to visit us honey, and it was time for us to visit you.”

Claudia took a moment to look her granddaughter over before pulling her close.

“What’s happened honeybear?”

Grinning at her Grandma’s ability to read her like a book, Liz shrugged and thought it would be better just to say it.

“Kyle broke up with me last night. We’re not getting married anymore.”

“And how do you feel about that?”

“I feel relieved. I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. And while I know I should feel somewhat guilty about it, I don’t.”

Leaving the two women alone to talk, Liz’s grandfather went back out to their car and to bring the remaining couple of bags through to the spare room.

“I have to admit that I’m glad you’re not marrying him Lizzie. Ever since you got engaged, his attitude towards you has been noticeably different, and I think you must have realized that, otherwise you wouldn’t have moved here to Roswell while he was out of town on business.”

Liz bit her lip and played with a piece of hair that had fallen over her face.

“Maybe. I don’t know what happened Grandma. He was so sweet when we started dating, then it was like he turned into someone completely different a year ago. It wasn't long after that that his business trips became more frequent.”

Claudia nodded, knowing that sometimes added stress at work could cause more tension in relationships. However, she doubted that this was the case with Kyle, but she didn’t want to say anything to Liz.

“Well, it doesn’t matter any more. You’re not engaged to him anymore, and you don’t have to worry about his mood swings. I, for one, am very glad for that.”

Liz couldn't help but laugh at her Grandma's comment. Laughing with her, Claudia shrugged unapologetically.

“You can't say he didn't have them.”

Before anything else could be said, there was a knock on the still open front door.

“Hello?”

Liz turned to see Maria standing just in front of the still open front door, carrying the best gifts Liz could have imagined.

“Maria, you brought me coffee and bagels!”

Getting up from the couch, Liz met her friend with a kiss on the cheek as she relieved her of one cup of the richly flavored brew, in which Liz could make out the seductive hint of vanilla, and the bag of still warm bagels.

“As you can see Grandma Claudia is here!”

With a wide smile, Maria, still holding the take away tray with 3 remaining cups in it, held her arms out wide.

“How is my favorite Grandma? Wait a second, does that mean my favorite Grandpa is around here somewhere?”

As if on cue, Paul Parker stepped into the living room.

“I thought I heard another voice out here. Good to see you again Maria. How's that husband of yours? Keeping him in line?”

Having taken a seat at the dining table next to Liz, who was happily spreading Phillie cream cheese on her bagel, Maria took the lid off a cup of coffee and added a teaspoon of sugar while grinning at Grandpa Parker.

“I'm doing my best, but he just won't bow down to me.”

Everyone in the room couldn't help but laugh at both the sincerity in here voice, and the faux innocence thinly disguised behind it.

“Maria, you know he adores you.”

Taking the piece of bagel that Liz was offering her, Maria nodded.

“That's true.”

Taking a bite, Maria closed her eyes as she enjoyed the taste of the still warm bagel. Taking a sip of her coffee, she winked at Grandma Claudia.

“In truth, I wouldn't have him any other way.”

Paul laughed and nodded. He was sure that would be the case, and from his memory of their wedding, he remembered the best man saying something similar in his speech at the reception. Looking at his wife, now sitting alongside their granddaughter, he was taken back to their own wedding day. When they took their own vows, promising to love one another and take care of each other for as long as the good Lord allowed them to. From the first moment he had laid eyes on her, he had known that she was a woman with her own mind. A woman who would always do what she wanted unapologetically. The last 40 years had been anything but boring.

“Well Mrs Parker, I do believe that we should leave these fine young ladies to enjoy their breakfast. Why don't we take a drive around town? I might even shout you a late breakfast.”

“With an offer like that, how can I refuse? Girls, we'll have to set aside a day where we can all go shopping and catch up. But right now, I have to defer to the suggestion of my darling husband.”

Waiting as Paul and Claudia Parker left the apartment, Maria turned to look at Liz, raising an eyebrow in question. Giving her attention to the remainder of her coffee, Liz avoided Maria's gaze.

“So, judging from the lack of eye contact apart from when I brought breakfast, I guess there has been a development in the scheme of things since last night.”

“You could say that.”

“So, don't leave me in the dark chica. Fill me in.”

“I came home last night and called Kyle, fully intending to finalise the date for the wedding.”

“And?”

"Are you calling to apologise Liz?"

"Excuse me? Apologise for what?"

"For showing me disrespect at that bar tonight Liz. I've never felt so humiliated. I'm your fiance Liz. Not some random guy you're on some date with. I can only imagine what people must have thought."

"What people must have thought? Kyle Valenti, are you even listening to yourself? What happened to the sweet and gentle man that I met years ago? The one who was happy just to be able to spend time together?"

"Well, Liz, I guess that man got sick of playing second fiddle to his fiance. It was time for him to step up and be a man, be THE man in the relationship."

"Kyle, you were never second fiddle--"

"Then you decide to move to Roswell, without my permission, while I'm out of town no less, and expect me to be Mr Supportive. How did you think I would react Liz? We're engaged to get married. As your husband, it's my job to provide for my family. How can I provide for my family, if my wife lives in a completely different town? With my work, travelling back and forth between Roswell and Albuquerque doesn't work for me."

"Kyle, would you let me speak?"

"No Liz. You always get to have your say. I think it's your turn to listen for a change. I have a standard to uphold. People expect certain things from me. My parents, my family, my workmates, my friends. When I first me you, I thought you would help make that future. You were smart, attractive, quiet natured, things that would make you the perfect wife. The perfect person to stand by my side as I made a way for myself. How does it look when you leave town while I'm away? What kind of impression does that make?"

"I didn't think that--"

"Exactly Liz. You didn't think. You never think. You just act. You're beginning to get impulsive and that's beginning to concern me. Is there something I should know? I feel like you've been distancing yourself from me in the last few months, and the move to Roswell only confirmed that. Last night made it even more clear."

"What do you mean is there something you should know? There was no reason other than the business opportunity with Maria for the reason why I moved back to Roswell. As for distancing myself from you, that's something I could ask you Kyle."

"I don't know what you're talking about Liz."

"Fine."

"Good."

"Great."

"I'm going to ask this question for the last time Liz, and I need a definite answer."

"Okay."

"Have you decided on a date for our wedding?"

"I guess that's my answer then."


Maria sat in shock, her mouth literally hanging open.

“What a jackass. I can't believe that he put all the blame on you. Like you're some stupid woman who needs to have a man in order to feel a sense of accomplishment.”

“Maria, it was just a way he was reacting to not getting his way.”

Maria stood up and moved into the seat next to Liz and took her hand.

“Liz, I know you were with him for what, 3, 4 years? And the entire time I've known him, I've always thought he was a complete weasel, nay, a total prick. But never have I ever thought that he was the best you could get. Never.”

“Maria, you're like the sister I never had and I love you dearly, but we both know that I'm never going to win any beauty competitions. I may have a respectable figure, but I'm never going to be a model. I'm a science geek, who's lucky enough to have a best friend who makes sure I'm not a completely lost cause. It's not like I have a wide variety of candidates for someone to spend the rest of my life with.”

“Elizabeth Parker. I'm only going to say this once, so you need to listen. You have the type of beauty that most of us can only get through extensive use of brand name facial creams, expensive cosmetics and dim lighting. You're smart. So what? You get extra bonus points for that sweetheart. You deserve the best guy ever. While I know it feels like it's never going to happen, you shouldn't settle for the bottom of the barrel while you wait for Prince Perfect.”

“You know, this talk sounds remarkably familiar to one you gave me 2 months after I met Kyle.”

“You know, you may be right. Doesn't mean that it's not as true now as it was back then.”

“I appreciate your vote of confidence in me Maria, but I think it's time that I take a look at what's real rather than my dreams, and accept the fact that some people are meant to be alone and it seems that I'm one of those people. Prince Perfect is some guy I dreamt up during high school so that I wouldn't feel so alone, and to prevent getting hurt. For the most part, it worked.”

“What about Max?”

“What about him Maria? He's engaged to Tess Harding.”

“Honey, I saw him last night, and his attention was one hundred percent on you. I've never seen someone so unhappy to see his fiancee than Max Evans last night.”

“He spent the better part of our childhood making my life hell. Teasing me about everything, pulling pranks ever other day--”

“You can't pretend that you're not attracted to him Liz. You told me everything remember? This is your best friend speaking here.”

“I'm not trying to pretend Maria. I'm just pointing out the facts. Whether I'm attracted to him or not doesn't negate the fact that he's not available.”

“Engagements can be broken. You're proof of that.”

“Maria, as much as I may have a crush on Max Evans, and as good as he is to look at, I can't sit around hoping that he breaks up with Tess. Especially on the off chance that we'll get together and live happily ever after.”

Maria could see that Liz had made up her mind, so she backed off. She knew there was more behind Max's apparent distraction with one Liz Parker, but she also knew, from Michael, that Max was as stubborn as Liz. If Max was single, she knew it would be cause a lot of headaches in order to get the two of them together.

The sound of the front door opening ended the conversation.

“Are you girls still sitting there?”

Claudia resumed her earlier seat at the table.

“It looks like the two of you have been having a serious conversation. Is there anything I can do or say?”

“I'm just telling Liz that she shouldn't settle for the scum on the bottom of the barrel. Meaning Kyle.”

“Maria!”

“Liz, I'm being serious. Max may not be 'available' available, but what if he was?”

The mention of Max's name peaked Claudia's curiosity.

“Who's Max?”

“Maxwell Alexander Evans. Pain in Liz's ass for the majority of her childhood and now her current next door neighbor.”

Puzzled, Claudia turned her attention to her granddaughter.

“Oh, I remember Max. You know, for all the things you told me about him Liz, I always had a soft spot in my heart for that boy. I always thought he just needed somebody who'd treat him special.”

Maria couldn't hide her grin and Liz just stared in shock. What a weird 24 hours it was turning out to be. She could only imagine what could happen next.

“So, that Corvette outside, the one the whose windscreen was being replaced, that would belong to Max?”

“Yeah. But what do you mean it's windscreen was being replaced?”

“We saw a repair man taking out the windscreen as we were leaving. It looked like there was a hole in it.”

Making a note to ask Max next time she saw him, Liz gathered the trash from their breakfast and put it in the bin.

“I'm going to have a shower and get dressed.”

Part Two

The next day...


Exiting the back office, Liz walked to the front counter and leant against it, next to Maria who was sorting out an arrangement of scarves.

“Anything exciting happening out here?”

“Not really. Got a phone call from the UPS delivery guy. He's making his rounds, but he's running a little behind schedule. He says he has a large delivery for us today.”

“It might be that order from New York, finally.”

“Maybe.”

Liz took some of the silk scarves and helped sort them out. Monday's were their quietest day, and today wasn't any different. A few minutes later, Liz looked at the clock on the wall and called lunch.

“I'm going to get some lunch. I have my cell if anything comes up.”

“Okay.”

Going back to the office, Liz grabbed her bag and keys and left out the back door, heading to a nearby restaurant. Minutes later, she was sitting at a table near the window, waiting for her order of tomato soup with crusty bread and a small caesar salad. Taking a sip of her Iced Tea, Liz looked around the restaurant, realising that she must have beaten the lunch crowd, when she noticed a familiar face heading her way.

Shaking her head in disbelief but with a smile on her face she watched as Max, carrying his own food, stopped next to her table.

“I was sitting at a table across the room when I saw you come in. Do you mind if I join you?”

“Not at all, have a seat.”

Placing his things on the table, Max took his jacket off and draped it over the back of another chair before taking a seat.

“We have to stop meeting like this Liz.”

Nodding, Liz smiled as the waiter placed her order in front of her. With a word of thanks, Liz turned her attention to Max, who was finishing up his order of chilli.

“That we do Max. What will people think?”

Laughing, Max finished his drink, and, in the manner his mother raised him, placed his cutlery on the plate, indicating that he was finished with his meal. Dabbing at his mouth with a napkin, he placed it on the plate as well before giving Liz his complete attention.

“I know I thanked you for coming the other night, but I want to thank you again. We don't exactly have the best history, but even so, you took a chance on me, and came to hear me play the other night. And while it might sound stupid, I really appreciate it.”

“You're welcome Max. I had a great time.”

“I'm glad.”

An awkward silence settled between them, Liz slowly eating her lunch, Max watching her every move. Max knew he needed to say it, but after so many years, he wasn't sure how to bring it up. After years of speaking the first thing that came in his mind to Liz Parker, usually all arrogant, condescending and plain mean, he suddenly found himself speechless.

“Liz.”

Looking up, Liz swallowed her mouthful of soup and nodded.

“I'm sorry.”

“About what Max?”

“About all those things I did to you when we were growing up.”

Liz didn't know how to respond to Max's apology.

“Max--”

“Liz, this is something I should have done a long time ago.”

While a part of Liz wanted to ask why he did it in the first place, she knew that she needed to get over it, and accept his apology.

“Thank you Max.”

Nodding, Max took a deep breath, and counted that as yet another thing that had gone in his favor for the last few days. Again, the awkwardness settled in, and Max remembered that he had a meeting he had with his father.

“I hate to gatecrash your lunch and run Liz, but I have a meeting I have to go to.”

“That's okay. I'm on a tight deadline myself. The last time we met up during lunch, I was an hour late getting back to work.”

“I seem to remember that Maria wasn't too happy with that arrangement.”

“It took an afternoon off to get her forgiveness.” Liz replied laughingly, leaving out the fact that Maria had demanded Liz divulge all the details of her lunch with Max.

“At least she gave it.” Max said as he stood up and put on his jacket. Resting his hand on Liz's free one, he squeezed it gently.

“I am really sorry about everything that I did back then Liz.”

Liz could only nod, her focus on the feel on his hand on hers, and watch as Max gave her a thankful smile for her own forgiveness of his actions before walking away. She was somewhat amazed that Max had apologised for his behavior when they were younger. She was enjoying her growing friendship with Max, she had never thought of holding their past against him, so the apology was a pleasant surprise.

As she pushed her now empty bowl aside and began on her salad, Liz compared the boy Max had been to the man he was now. Granted, her past reflections on Max were based on a biased opinion, but she thought that the version of Max she knew now, was a nice change.

I wonder whether that is the result of someone treating him special just as Grandma Claudia mentioned yesterday, or if the years after high school changed him.

Liz thought as she finished her salad and checked her watch. She had 5 minutes to return to the shop before Maria started thinking she had been deserted again.

Wait until I tell her about Max's apology. She's bound to make something of that.

Paying her bill on the way out, Liz walked out into the cool breeze and headed back to the store. Taking a deep breath of the fresh air, Liz stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and enjoyed the hint of changing seasons that floated in the air. It may have sounded strange to some, but Liz felt like she was relearning everything after spending years with Kyle telling her what she could and couldn't do. Funny, she hadn't even realised it until they broke up.

“Liz.”

Hearing her name, she opened her eyes and a few steps away stood Max, hands in his pockets, looking somewhat lost.

“Max? I thought you had a meeting you had to go to?”

Max took a few steps closer.

“I did. I mean, I do. But I just wanted to apologize again.”

Pushing a few strands of hair that had blown into her face aside, Liz grinned.

“Again? Is this a part of a twelve step program?”

Laughing slightly, Max looked at his feet and tried to figure out what he was going to say to Liz.

“No, no program that I know of. Anyway, inside I wasn't exactly articulate. I just blurted out my apology and I know that you probably want a proper explanation. But I can't give it to you. There was no excuse for my behavior apart from the normal mischief of a young boy.”

Stepping closer to Max, Liz laid her hand on his arm.

“It's okay Max, really. Apart from our first few conversations when we realised we were neighbors, you've been quite decent to me. I mean, you helped me with my ankle, even when I was really stubborn about it.”

Scratching his ear, Max grinned.

“That's true. I was quite the gentleman that night as I recall.”

Shoving him slightly, Liz laughed out loud.

“Oh, listen to you, Mr. Modest. I see some of your personal characteristics haven't completely disappeared. You can still be quite cocky at times.”

“Ah, but to borrow a line from Justin Timberlake, 'Is it really cocky if you know that it's true?'”

Liz couldn't help but roll her eyes at that, but she was happy that they could joke around with each other with such familiarity.

“Well, I'd better get to that meeting.”

“Yeah, Maria's probably staring out the window, waiting for me to return.”

They nodded at each other, but made no move to leave. After gazing at each other for a few moments, Liz cleared her throat and took a deep breath.

“I really should go.”

“Liz, wait.”

Having taken a step, Liz paused and turned to look sideways at Max, who's large hand now held her wrist lightly.

“You... uh... have something on your cheek.”

Liz's hand automatically reached up to check, but felt nothing out of the ordinary.

“Let me.”

Stepping closer, Max lightly touched the side of her cheek, his long fingers tracing the edge of her cheekbone before tucking her hair behind her ear and trailing lightly along the length of it. Bringing his other hand up to her face, he framed her face and lightly touched her lips with his thumb.

Liz stood mesmerized, unable to move, not altogether sure that she wanted to, as Max's eyes locked with hers as he lowered his lips to hers, causing her heart to stop for what felt like a brief eternity. As Max's lips brushed against hers, Liz held onto his arm, not sure that her legs would hold her up if she didn't have something to keep her grounded.

As Liz began to surrender to the range of emotions Max was causing in her, she felt Max begin to pull away. Mentally sighing in regret, Liz opened her eyes and looked into the once again apologetic eyes.

“I shouldn't have done that Liz. I'm sorry.”

Brushing his thumb against her soft lips, Max stepped back and walked away leaving Liz feeling completely confused.
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Post by JBehr'sChica » Wed Jun 20, 2007 8:15 am

A/N: UPDATE!! Yay!! I ended up writing this chapter a couple of different ways, and ended up choosing the one that I thought was most appropriate for their semi-relationship.

I hope y'all enjoy it :)

Taya


Chapter Fourteen

Part One


It had been a month since Max had kissed her, and Liz had barely seen Max at all, only hearing him drive away from the complex every morning. It had been her understanding that he didn't hold a regular job apart from his weekly gig at Bar Abduction. But she didn't allow herself to speculate on Max's everyday schedule, instead immersing herself in the new season collections that both she and Maria had seen at various shows they had attended in Miami a couple of weeks ago.

Their clientèle had expanded to include a number of important clients from Albuquerque and the surrounding counties, with a lot of tourists from other states being added to their mailing list for both online and mail orders. Something which neither Liz or Maria had thought would happen so soon, but exciting nonetheless.

“Seeing as it's our one rare day off tomorrow, I find that I'm in desperate need to go shopping. Wanna come with?”

Finalizing the count on an order from a New York supplier, Liz had to laugh at Maria's wording. One would think that they never got a day to themselves, when in fact, they always had Sunday off.

“Maria, you make it sound like your last day off was forever and a day ago.”

Grinning sheepishly, Maria shrugged.

“It's been a busy week Liz, I think it's okay to exaggerate a little.”

Nodding in agreement, Liz entered the total amount of their order on the form and signed it before walking over to the fax machine and placing the order in the machine. As it automatically dialed, Liz leant against the desk and looked back at her friend, who was begging her with her eyes to say yes.

“Okay Maria. I'll come. There are a couple of things I want to get for the apartment and Grandma Claudia's birthday is in a week as well. What did you need to get?”

A sparkle entered Maria's eyes as she smiled at her best friend.

“I had a doctors appointment yesterday during my lunch hour.”

A smile starting to spread across her own face, Liz walked up to Maria and took her hands in her own.

“Are you saying that you're--”

“I'm pregnant. We're pregnant. We're having a baby!”

Throwing her arms around her best friend, Liz felt tears well up in her eyes. She knew that her friends had wanted to start a family of their own, and she was also aware of Maria's deep seeded fear that she wouldn't be a good mother to a child. But now that they were expecting their first child, Liz knew that both Maria and Michael would do the best they could, despite the households in which they were raised, to be the best parents they could be.

“Oh Maria, I'm so happy for you. How's Michael taking it?”

“He's both scared to death, and completely ecstatic. He's already started drawing ideas for the walls in the room that will be the nursery. He's so determined that the baby is going to be a girl.”

Liz laughed. In the time Michael had been married to Maria, his previous persona of 'stonewall' have given way to a very content and pleasant man who was a joy to be around.

“What do you think?”

“I know it's a cliché, but as long as the baby is healthy, I don't mind whether it's a boy or a girl. I do know though, that if he or she came with a reset or undo switch, I would have a bit more peace of mind.” Maria said with a cheeky grin.

Laughing in understanding, Liz hugged her friend tightly before kissing her on the cheek.

“Maria, I know both you and Michael are worried about what type of parents you'll be, but I know you'll be fantastic.”

“Thanks Liz, it means a lot to hear that.”

“It's all true. Now, what do we need to go shopping for?”

Together, they sat down and made a list of things they could buy for the baby, only taking time away to close the store and complete the end of day paperwork.

Part Two

Grabbing a bottle of Perrier from the fridge, Liz bit back a yawn as she took the lid off and drank from the bottle. Maria's news had been the first real great thing that had happened since she had broken up with Kyle a month ago, and while she was happy for her best friend, she felt somewhat depressed that she may not get to have the same news to give her friend one day.

Swallowing her depression, Liz opened the sliding door and stepped outside into the cold night air, taking a seat on the chaise lounge, allowing her to see the cloud covered moon cast as much light onto the valley. Leaning back on the chair, she wrapped her robe around her tighter and closed her eyes, the silence of the evening quietening her overworked mind. Just as she felt herself start to drift to sleep, a voice broke the silence.

“Mind some company?”

Opening her eyes, she saw Max standing on the other side of the dividing wall, wearing a grey t shirt and black sweatpants.

“Sure.”

Throwing his long legs over the railing, Max took a seat across from Liz and reached for her bottle.

“Mind if I have a drink?”

“Help yourself.”

“Thanks.”

It had been a month since she had seen him long enough to even say a quick hello, so Liz couldn't help but watch as he raised the bottle to his lips and swallowed, the muscles in his neck working with each mouthful of water. Catching herself staring, Liz blinked hard and looked back out at the valley.

“I haven't really seen you around much in the last month Max.”

Replacing the bottle, Max nodded.

“Do you remember that meeting I had with my father the last time we had lunch?”

Liz nodded.

“I've decided to go back to working with my dad. There's been some problems between my father's ex-Partner that I'm helping him out with.”

“So you're back to working as a Lawyer then?”

“For the time being.”

“Do you think you'll stay there, or is it just a temporary thing?”

“I'm enjoying it a lot more than I did before, so it may turn out to be permanent.”

“What about your music?”

“I still play when I can. That's not something I want to give up. It's like my stress release when things get too tense.”

Liz could understand the reasoning behind that. Running was her release when she found herself getting too wound up. Which hadn't been as common since she broke up with Kyle.

“So, I haven't seen Mr Manners around lately. Still in the bad books?”

Looking down at her hands, Liz thought about lying but decided against it. There was no point in not telling him the truth.

“The night that I came to hear you play,” Liz began, not sure how much to tell him.

“If you remember, he left before your break and he wasn't in a good mood. When I got home, I called him to finalize the date of our wedding, and we had an argument. The conversation ended with him calling off the engagement.”

“I'm sorry Liz.”

While she knew he was sincere, Liz couldn't help but laugh.

“Max, it seems that our last conversations was made up of you apologizing. I think you've apologized enough. Besides, I've realized that I'm not so disappointed with how things worked out.”

Max nodded and lent back, crossing his legs at the ankles in front of him.

“It seems that night was the night for broken engagements.”

“What do you mean?”

“I broke it off with Ava that night as well.”

Shocked, Liz's eyes flew to meet Max's as they sat across from each other, the air between them suddenly clear.

“How did she take it?”

“At first, she thought I was playing a game. Then, when she realized that I was serious, she threw a tantrum, smashing my living room window and the windscreen of my car.”

“My grandmother saw your car. I meant to ask you about that.”

Max nodded and reached for her bottle again. Wordlessly asking for permission, which Liz gave, Max finished drinking the water inside.

“The next day I had brunch with my parents, and dad told me at that meeting that Ed, Ava's father and my dad's business partner, had threatened to take all of their clients if he didn't force me to get back together with Ava.”

“Can he do that?”

“Luckily, most of their clients are with their firm because of my dad, so he made a few phone calls as soon as Ed left his house, but now the hassle is in the paperwork. He's legally dividing the business with Ed, letting Ed have the clients he brought to the firm.”

“That's nice of him. I doubt I would do the same in his position.”

“Yeah, me too. But my dad has always been a fair man.”

The couple sat for a few minutes in complete silence, each lost in their own thoughts. While his face remained passive, inside, Max felt like smiling widely. The thought that he had kissed an engaged woman had caused Max to re-evaluate himself. He believed he wasn't a man who would cheat on his girlfriend, or as the case had been, his fiancée, and the thought that he may have caused Liz to cheat on her own fiancé, left a bitter taste in his mouth. What would his mom have said if she had known? But the knowledge that she was single and had been when they had kissed, eased his guilty conscience.

Liz, on the other hand, allowed herself the brief daydream that something could happen between Max Evans and her plain self. Glancing at his profile from the corner of her eye, she took in his relaxed state, even though the evening air had a cold bite to it, and the ease he showed as he reclined on her side of the balcony partition. When she had first found out that Max was her neighbor, she had been ready for a reenactment of the bullying from their childhood, and at the beginning, she hadn't been disappointed. She thought back of the night when he and Ava had decided to have sex up against their dividing wall. At the time, she had been suitably disgusted, but now, she wondered if he was as good as verbally advertised.

Feeling her cheeks heat up, she returned her gaze to her sock covered feet. Maria's words of memory came back to her as she once again looked in Max's directions.

“Hmm. Well, for some guys the whole, fallen out of bed, lack of civilization look can really work in their favor. I can just imagine what the five o’clock shadow would look like on Max Evans. He always had the tall, dark and handsome look working for him. I bet it makes him look dangerously sexy.”

As the moonlight felt across the balcony from behind a cloud, and fell onto the planes of Max's unshaved jawline, Liz had to concede Maria's point. Dangerously sexy seemed like a description that fit Max perfectly.

“Come on Liz, in High School he was so hot that I don’t know of any girl who didn’t have him in at least one of their fantasies at one time or another. Especially when he wasn’t wearing his shirt. Damn, he had a body you would kill to run your hands over, pecs you just wanted to tease with your tongue-”

As Max moved slightly to put her now empty water bottle on a nearby bench, Liz again gave her mental agreement to Maria's comment. Age had been exceptionally good to Max, and his physique was only better than the female population of West Roswell High could remember. As for the rest of it, well, she was only human right?

“How's work?”

Not realising she had been staring straight at Max, Liz tilted her head slightly to the side and gracefully replied with a “Huh?”

Grinning at her response, Max sat forward until his elbows rested on his knees which were only inches away from hers.

“I asked how everything was at work.”

Again feeling her face heat up, Liz tucked a piece of hair behind her ear, trying to hide her embarrassment.

“It's going well. We've been quite busy the last few weeks, especially after we got back from Miami.”

“I thought I hadn't seen your car around for a couple of days.”

“Yeah. We went for fashion week. It was more Maria's idea than mine because she's always wanted an excuse to go to something like that. I think she's trying to come up with a reason to go to New York next month.”

“Sounds like Maria.”

“Yeah.”

Again, silence fell over them, and once again Liz allowed herself her new guilty pleasure of pretending she had a chance with the man in front of her. Wouldn't everyone be shocked if that happened? They hadn't been anything other than hostile to each other during school, and most of the people in Roswell were stuck in the 'glory years' that made up High School.

Sighing deeply, Liz reached up to massage the side of her neck. She must have slept wrong a couple of nights ago, and ever since, she had felt a sharp pinch when she turned her head too fast.

“Michael told me that Maria's pregnant.”

Surprised that he knew, Liz could only nod in agreement.

“Yeah, she told me this afternoon. Does that mean that you and Michael are friends again?”

Nodding, Max stretched his arms over his head, unknowingly giving Liz a teasing view of his flat and muscular stomach, causing her breath to catch.

“After break-up night, Michael and I started meeting for lunch or a beer every couple of days. We caught up on what we had been up to since we last saw each other and everything pretty much fell back into the way things used to be.”

“That's good.”

“Yeah. He's a good man; a good friend.”

“He is.”

“Yeah.”

“Maria's freaked out that she's going to be a horrible mom.”

Max laughed. Michael had told him as much during lunch earlier in the day.

“If it's any consolation, Michael's just as worried about himself. But I think they'll be fine as long as they have each other.”

Nodding wordlessly, Liz chewed the inside of her bottom lip and found herself caught in Max's amber gaze. The dynamic between them had changed once they found out the other was single, and Liz suddenly found herself unsure of how to handle it.

Should she make a move? Should she wait for him to make a move? Was she reading too much into it? Was she over thinking everything?

While her face showed no signs of her internal conflict, her mind set about making a list of pros and cons that would help her in determining whether Max was interested in her.

She had been so focused on her list, which now had a number of instances in both columns, that she hadn't noticed Max move from his seat, to straddle her lounge chair, their gaze still intact. Unconsciously, Liz licked her lips as she replayed their last kiss on this very balcony and put it into the pro column, not realizing that Max's lips were once again about to touch hers.

At the touch of his warm lips, Liz gasped in surprise, allowing Max to lightly touch his tongue to her bottom lip, asking permission, before slipping it into her mouth to touch her own. Feeling a spark of electricity shoot through her entire body, Liz could only sigh in acceptance as Max's tongue made her feel the most alive she had ever felt from a kiss.

Kissing Kyle hadn't been completely terrible, but when it came to making her feel butterflies, Max seemed to have an innate ability to find where they were hiding. Feeling his hands lightly grasp her hips and pull her closer to him, Liz automatically wrapped her arms around his neck, her small hands tangling themselves in his long hair as she surrendered herself to the array of emotions that his mouth was creating.

Not fully aware of how she would react, Max found himself pleasantly surprised when Liz relaxed against him as their kiss deepened. What he hadn't told Liz a month ago, was that his teasing had only escalated during high school because he had realized that he hadn't despised her as much as he thought. In fact, it was quite the opposite. He had found himself noticing every little thing about her; caught himself memorizing her timetable and being around anywhere she would be. Making his friends hang out at the Crashdown after school, especially if she had the after school shift.

Knowing where Liz Parker was became second nature to Max. He didn't need to see her to know where she was when he walked into a room. The realization of his infatuation with her had been like being on the business end of a defibrillator. Shocking as hell. Hoping that none of his friends, much less his girlfriend of the day, had noticed his small but powerful obsession with the petite brunette, Max had decided that any way to shift suspicion was to treat her like complete scum. Not even worthy enough to breathe the same air as the rest of them.

As his body responded to the close proximity of hers, Max's hands moved from her hips, slowly up her sides before framing her face gently. Smoothing her hair away from her face, Max moved away slightly, the tips of their noses barely touching, as he waited for her to open her eyes. When she finally did, Max felt like he was born again.

“I really am sorry for how I was in high school Liz. I never meant to treat you like that.”

Laughing softly at his apology, the one he seemed hell bent on professing, Liz copied his actions and framed his face in her own. Her thumb lightly stroking the roughness of the five o'clock shadow, Liz took a moment to look deeply into his eyes, hoping that she could express how much she appreciated and accepted the apology.

“It doesn't matter any more Max. That was years ago, and we're not the same people we were back then.”

“You're wrong Liz. You're just as perfect now as you were then.”

Liz frowned. That wasn't what she had expected to hear.

“Then why did you--”

Taking her hands in his, Max lightly traced the lines on her palm.

“During the summer, between Junior High and High School, I realized that I didn't hate you as much as I thought I had. It was like everything you did, everything you said, went into slow motion. I became somewhat infatuated with you Liz Parker, and I didn't know how to deal with that revelation.”

Suddenly feeling shy, Liz threaded her fingers with Max's and pulled him even closer.

“Infatuated?”

“Isabel would probably even say obsessed.”

“Isabel? She knew?”

“She was the one who made me realize that it was true.”

“How?”

“I started making sure I was wherever you would be. If you had History, I would make sure that I was walking past when you class finished. If you had third period lunch, I would always make sure that my place on the football field had a view of the table that you always sat at. Your locker in Senior Year was 432D. It had been since the beginning of high school. Mine was originally 154B, on the other side of the school. I swapped with Isabel so I would have an excuse to see you before and after school and during the day if I was lucky enough.”

Suddenly feeling self conscious, Liz pulled her hands out of Max's and stood up, taking a few steps to the door that led into her apartment.

“Max, you don't have to tell me this.”

Standing up in front of her so she couldn't escape to the safety of her apartment, Max ran his hands down her arms, taking her hands in his again.

“Yes, I do Liz. It's not fair to let you think that there was something wrong with you that caused me to be so rude to you. It wasn't your fault at all, and I don't want those thoughts to make you think any less of yourself so many years afterward.”

Liz blinked back the tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks. She had spent years hating Max for how he had treated her. They had never been friends per se, but she had never been able to figure out why he would single her out amongst the hundreds of students they had gone to school with. She was so used to it, that she wasn't sure how to react to Max's openness.

“Hey.”

Raising her chin lightly, Max waited for her to make eye contact.

“I mean it. Everything. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you.”

Sniffling with a smile, Liz shrugged.

“I'm so used to you being awful to me, that this side of you is throwing me off.”

Smoothing his thumb under her eyes, wiping the couple of tears away, Max smiled into her eyes as he lowered his lips to hers again, this time apologizing with his kiss. Pulling her closer to him, his hands moved along familiar territory up her body before he wrapped one arm around her waist and pulled her tightly to his body. His other hand cupping the side of her face before disappearing in the soft tresses of her long hair and settling behind her head, ensuring she wouldn't back away again.

Sighing as his tongue traced her bottom lip, Liz opened her mouth and let herself go to the feelings he was bringing out in her. As his hands began to feel their way up and down her back under her shirt, Liz had never felt so alive, or so beautiful as Max was making her feel right now. As Max’s mouth left hers and began down her neck, stopping on her pulse point, Liz gasped as she felt his teeth lightly graze the skin.

Just like all the other girls in high school, Liz had found herself wondering what it would be like to be the center of Max Evan’s attention, although she would have denied it with her last breath had anyone asked. But as she felt her body’s temperature rise in response to Max’s ministrations, she found herself wondering about a lot more than a stolen kiss in the Eraser Room. Pulled so tightly to his body, Liz could feel the hard muscle beneath the t shirt he wore, and the effect she was having on him against her stomach. He truly was a thing of beauty.

“Liz?”

Opening her eyes and lowering her head, she gazed somewhat foggily into his heated amber gaze.

“Uh huh?”

Smooth Parker.

Smiling at the effect he had on her, Max lightly traced the side of her face with his hand, the other still holding her firmly against him. Her lips were slightly swollen, and her eyes were having trouble focusing on him. Every time he touched the side of her face, she turned her head into his palm, as if following it wherever he moved it.

“I think it’s time I said goodnight.”

“Huh?”

Touching his lips to hers in a soft and gentle kiss, Max’s body language told her that it wasn’t because he wasn’t interested, but more of a timing issue.

“I like you Elizabeth Parker. A lot more than I thought I did.”

“I like you too Max Evans.”

Max grinned at her upturned face.

“Well I’m glad. I hadn’t pegged you as a woman who would kiss just anybody.”

Grinning back in response at his flirting, she tried to think of a comeback, but felt her face flush in embarrassment.

“You’re not just anybody Max.”

Rubbing his nose gently against hers, Max fought the urge to drag her inside and have his way with her. He didn’t want to treat her like he had treated Ava. She was too important for that. She deserved better.

Releasing his hold on her, Max smoothed her hair away from her face, and dropped one more peck on her lips.

“While I still can, I’m going to make a graceful exit and remain the gentleman my mom raised me to be. Good night Liz Parker.” He said as he stepped around her and took the few steps that would bring him to the divider that separated his balcony from hers. Throwing one long leg over the edge, he turned to face Liz again.

“Have dinner with me tomorrow night?”

All Liz could do was nod. A smile splitting his handsome face, Max winked at her and disappeared into his apartment. On automatic pilot, Liz went into her own apartment and after closing and locking the door, leant against it and sighed, holding a hand to her chest. Her heart was still beating rapidly, and she swore that her head felt a little light.

She was in unchartered territory here, and even though she doubted that she would have minded spending the night with Max, she was glad that he had taken a step back first. After the amazing things he was doing to her mouth and neck with his mouth, she doubted that she would have had the strength to say no. It was too soon for them to take that step. A few months ago they hadn’t even been able to act civilized to each other. First thing in the morning, she would tell Maria everything and ask her for her advice.

Making her way back to her room, Liz climbed into bed and turned off the bedside light. Asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow, Liz’s dreams took her into a world where Max hadn’t said goodnight at the door and they ended up in her bed, their sweaty bodies tangled in the sheets of her bed.
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Post by JBehr'sChica » Thu Jul 26, 2007 2:47 am

This is not an Author's Note! IT'S AN UPDATE!!!

To all those who mentioned it, yes I did well on my assignments :)

I'm sorry that I didn't have this update ready and posted sooner, but thanks to a helpful discussion with Alison, my writer's block disappeared, and here is the result!

-------------------------------------

Chapter Fifteen

Part One


Maria had just turned the coffee machine on in the back office when Liz walked through the back door.

“Maria!”

Turning at the tone of her best friend's voice, Maria watched as Liz dropped her jacket, scarf and bag on the sofa and began pacing the length of the office. Taking in Liz's appearance, Maria absently thought that she had never seen Liz look better as she went to stand in front of her. Taking Liz's hands in her own, Maria stopped her in her tracks.

“Liz! Stop pacing, take a deep breath and tell me what's wrong.”

Raising her gaze from the floor to the worried eyes of her best friend, Liz nodded and took a seat on the sofa, pushing her things to the side. Biting her thumbnail, she frowned slightly as she looked at Maria, trying to think of a way to tell her everything that happened the previous night. Should she just say it or should she make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal? As she thought it over, her gaze kept flicking from the floor to Maria’s face while her thumbnail slowly got shorter and shorter.

“Just say it. You’ll feel better if you do.”

Sighing deeply, Liz nodded. Being straight up about it was always the best way to tell Maria.

“Max broke up with Ava the same night Kyle and I broke up.”

As Liz watched, a smile slowly began to spread across Maria’s face, her eyes lighting up at the possibilities.

“Please tell me there’s more to this story.”

Feeling her face blush, Liz nodded and thought back to the conversation she had with Max the previous night, her face only getting redder as she remembered the kisses they shared and how easily it would have been to take it further.

“He apologized for the way he treated me through high school.”

“That’s a good start. What did he say?”

“During the summer, between Junior High and High School, I realized that I didn't hate you as much as I thought I had. It was like everything you did, everything you said, went into slow motion. I became somewhat infatuated with you Liz Parker, and I didn't know how to deal with that revelation.”

“Infatuated?”

“Isabel would probably even say obsessed.”

“Isabel? She knew?”

“She was the one who made me realize that it was true.”

“How?”

“I started making sure I was wherever you would be. If you had History, I would make sure that I was walking past when you class finished. If you had third period lunch, I would always make sure that my place on the football field had a view of the table that you always sat at. Your locker in Senior Year was 432D. It had been since the beginning of high school. Mine was originally 154B, on the other side of the school. I swapped with Isabel so I would have an excuse to see you before and after school and during the day if I was lucky enough.”

“Max, you don't have to tell me this.”

“Yes, I do Liz. It's not fair to let you think that there was something wrong with you that caused me to be so rude to you. It wasn't your fault at all, and I don't want those thoughts to make you think any less of yourself so many years afterward.”


Grinning like an idiot, Maria fought desperately to keep back the giggles that threatened to overtake her. She had noticed Max’s increased attention to her best friend in High School, but didn’t make a big deal of it to anyone knowing that anything that happened between Max and Liz needed to be of their own volition. Although she often entertained the idea of setting them up.

“It’s good to have all of that cleared up then. Then what happened?”

Liz rolled her eyes, although she couldn’t help but smile back.

“What makes you think anything else happened?”

“Liz, you’re talking to your best friend. I know you too well to think for one second that nothing else happened last night. Besides, your face has been an interesting shade of red since you started telling me.”

“Fine. We kissed, he said goodnight and asked me to go out with him tonight.”

Still smiling, Maria threw her arms around Liz and hugged her tight.

“I knew it! I knew there would be something between you two! Ohmigosh! Liz, that means we have to find you something completely hot and amazing to wear tonight.”

Letting go of her best friend, Maria got up from the sofa and quickly disappeared through the door that lead into the main floor of their store. Flicking furiously through various hangers, every time Maria found something she thought might do the trick, she took it off the rack and threw it on to the counter. It didn't take long for the pile of clothes to grow.

Meanwhile, Liz was still sitting on the sofa, mentally replaying the events of the night before. During the years that Max had been the bane of her existence, Liz had always made it a point to voice her hatred of Max to Maria. Sure, she had always been seen as little miss Perfect Parker, but how many times was one person expected to 'turn the other cheek' when the cause of her pain was unrelenting? Grandma Claudia had always said that it was just a phase that Max was going through, and it wouldn't last long, but she had been wrong.

Well, not technically. He doesn't hate me anymore.

Quite the opposite in fact.


Shaking her head, Liz gave a short laugh. Talking to herself was a habit that she often attributed to being a Scientist, but when a voice spoke back, she found herself thinking that she had finally lost her mind. Funny, that hadn't happened since high school.

“Okay, here we go. Just a few things I thought you should try on for tonight.”

Turning in her seat, Liz draped her arms over the back of the sofa and her eyes widened at the arm full of clothing Maria had brought in with her.

“Maria, I'm not trying all of those on. We have a store to run so we don't have time for all of that.”

“Chica, I closed the store. There is nothing more important than finding you an outfit that will make Max Evans want to rip it off you the second he sees it.”

“Maria!”

“Liz! Don't argue with me,” Maria said as she handed Liz the first four outfits and shooed her off to the back dressing room. “Now be a good girl and try those on. Once they're on, you have to come out and show me.”

Giving in to her friend's demands, Liz took the offered hangers and headed off to get changed. In some ways, she was glad that Maria was helping her find something to wear because she hadn't even thought that far yet. Placing the hangers onto the hooks on the wall, Liz closed the door behind her and began getting out of her clothes. Looking at herself in the mirror, she found herself wondering what it was about her that would cause Max to ask her out in the first place.

Ava had been well built and blonde with a vibrant and outgoing personality, or so she had heard. Herself on the other hand was quite ordinary. Longish dark brown hair, decent complexion, brown eyes and definitely lacking in the 'well built' category. As she took the first dress off the hanger, Liz wondered whether Maria would be able to fix that problem as well.

“For God's sake Liz, hurry up! We've only got six hours!”

Smoothing the dress over her body, Liz glanced at herself in the mirror and shrugged. It didn't look too bad.

“Okay Maria, I'm coming out.”



Part Two

The heat of the day beat down upon the two men on the basketball court, the brightness of the sun causing their sweat covered bodies to shine as they continued to compete against one another. As the ball swished through the net, the two men stopped for a few minutes.

Picking up his water bottle which had been covered by his discarded shirt, Max opened it quickly and raised it to his lips. The cool water was refreshing as it flowed down his throat. Finishing his mouthful, he kept his face upturned to the warmth of the sun as he splashed some water over his face. It had been a long time since he had been able to exert himself like he had been for the last few hours, and the best thing about it was that it was with his once again best friend, Michael Guerin.

“So, old man, that makes it what? 25 – 22?”

Shaking his head like a dog that’d just been washed, Max ran a hand through his hair and grinned at Michael, who was standing only a few feet away, holding the ball in his hands.

“To me Mikey. 25 – 22 to me. You're behind.”

Taking his place in front of Michael, they continued their game. Holding his arms out slightly, Max kept his eyes locked with Michael's, noticing that he still made the mistake of giving away his moves by moving his eyes. It was an advantage that Max would never disclose to his friend. For the next 30 minutes, the two men continued to rebuild their friendship they way that had always worked out their problems in the past. First one to 50 had to buy the loser lunch, or now that they were older, a case of beer.

Wiping over his chest and back with his t-shirt, Michael looked over at his old friend and frowned. He knew that something was on his mind, but wasn't sure what.

“So, Maxwell, not that I don't enjoy kicking your ass in basketball, you wanna tell me what's really on your mind?”

Looking up from the bench he was sitting on, Max grinned. Tightening his shoe laces, he pulled his t-shirt over his head and stood up, pocketing his car keys and cell phone.

“I spoke with Liz last night.”

Putting his own t-shirt on before grabbing his own things, Michael quickly checked his own phone to see if anyone had called before putting it in his pocket.

“Did you tell her that you broke it off with that blonde chick?”

“Yeah. It turns out that she broke up with her fiancé that same night.”

Michael nodded. He had known that since the day after it happened, but Maria had sworn him to secrecy. She was a weird woman at the best of times, but he had figured out fairly quickly to just go with the flow when it came to his wife.

“Yeah, um, I knew that.”

Puzzled, Max frowned at Michael.

“What do you mean you knew that?”

“Well Maxwell, it's not a national secret, but my wife happens to be Liz's best friend.”

“Oh yeah. I forgot about that.”

As they walked to their cars, Michael gestured with his hands for Max to continue with whatever it was he was trying to get out. He was starving, and he had a feeling that whatever Max had to say would take a while.

“How about I wait until we're sitting down and eating before I get into it. I remember that you would be ravenous after a game of ball.”

Slapping Max on the shoulder, he laughed.

“Some things never changed, Max.”

Separating, the two men went to their cars with an agreement to meet at the Crashdown.



Part Three

“Isabel cornered me at home one afternoon and made me admit that I liked Liz Parker more than I wanted to admit.”

Laughing around a mouthful of food, Michael shook his head in humor as he quickly swallowed his food. Isabel Evans had always been a confrontational woman and it seemed that family members were not excluded from that personality trait.

“That's not a real surprise there Max. I always wondered if there was something else that made you go out of your way to piss her off.”

Glaring over the rim of his glass, Max drank some of the sweet iced tea and decided to give Michael the reader's digest version of events.

“Long story, short. I did like Liz. A lot. But that didn't stop me from making her life hell.”

“Then why did you do it man?”

“I don't know! I was a teenager. I did stupid things, made stupid decisions.”

Again, Michael nodded in agreement. Max wasn't Robinson Crusoe in bad decision making.

“I admit that when I first saw that Liz was my new next door neighbor, my immediate response was to continue being an ass. I didn't think that I would still be attracted to her, but damn if she didn't look amazing.”

Max smiled as he remembered their first meeting since high school and their meetings since.

“Anyway, last night we talked it over and that's when we both found out that we were single again. I apologized for my behavior, and by the end of the night, I asked her to dinner. Tonight.”

Having finished his burger, Michael wiped his fingers with a napkin before balling it up and leaving it on the empty plate. Quickly finishing off his drink, he rested one arm over the back of the booth and leant back against the seat.

“And she agreed I take it.”

“Yeah.”

“So what's the problem?”

Taking a deep breath, Max rested his forearms on the edge of the table and rested his chin on his templed hands. Pinching his bottom lip with his two index fingers, Max raised an eyebrow to Michael in both thought and question.

“The problem is that we both just got out of long term relationships.”

“So?”

“So I don't know whether this thing with Liz will just be casual or not.”

“Why are you worrying about this now? Why don't you just go out with her tonight, have a good time, and leave it to play out the way it will in the future?”

Sighing in resignation, Max sat up and mirrored Michael's posture. It was time for him to be honest with himself.

“Because Michael, I'm not sure if I can do casual with Liz Parker.”

“Oh.”

“Then again, I could just be buying into a problem that won't come up. We might go out tonight, have a good time and finish the evening with, 'it was nice, but...'”

“Damn Maxwell. I thought it was the females who were supposed to worry about things like this.”

Rolling his eyes, Max shrugged.

“I know, but Mike, I've liked her for so long, and I'm worried that it's gonna go all wrong. So I'm trying to figure out whether I can see a possible relationship with Liz working into long term -'til death do us part type of relationship. Or if I should just keep it really casual on the off chance that the more time we spend together, the more I realize that the idea of her and the reality are completely different.”

Scratching his forehead, Michael began to laugh. The look on Max's face together with the words coming out of his mouth were so over the top that he couldn't help but think Max was talking to the wrong Guerin.

“Max, all I can say is to go out with her tonight and have a great time. Don't worry about the future now. Let it worry about itself. When anyone goes out on a first date, very rarely do they think about the long term possibilities. I mean, hell, they're usually enough of a wreck just thinking about the first date itself. Yes, both you and Liz have just broken up with the people you were going to marry. But that doesn't mean that you can't just relax and enjoy the beginning of something new for its own sake.”

“I know. I'm just trying to plan for any eventuality.”

“Don't plan for anything apart from tonight Max. If things go fantastic but at the end of the evening you realize things aren't meant to be, then at least you will both have had a good time in each others company.”

“That's true.”

“And with any luck, got laid in the process.”

Shaking his head and laughing, Max threw his own scrunched up napkin at his friend before sliding out of the booth to pay their bill. It was good to have his friendship with Michael back.


Part Four

Sitting on a small stool in front of the bathroom mirror, Liz's eyes were closed as she felt Maria pulling and tugging at her hair. After trying everything Maria had selected, Liz had remembered the dress that had arrived months ago and that she had put to the side for herself. At the time, she didn't have anywhere to wear such a dress, and she had known that Kyle would have frowned at the amount of cleavage it showed. But once Maria had seen it, it was decided that this was, indeed, the dress of the hour.

Now, she was a prisoner in her own bathroom as Maria kept trying different hairstyles to match the dress. At first, Liz had thought about keeping her hair down as it would help her feel less on display, but Maria had decided 'in for a penny, in for a pound' and told Liz that tonight, she was to stop hiding herself under the disguise of the girl that had dated one Kyle Valenti.

“Honey, you're beautiful so don't hide it anymore.”

“So, any idea where you're going tonight?”

Opening her eyes, Liz looked into the mirror and met Maria's gaze.

“Haven't got a clue. He only told me what time to be ready.”

Maria nodded as she continued curling Liz's hair.

“How are you? About tonight I mean?”

“I'm okay. I mean, if I were to be honest, it still seems a little strange that in a couple of hours I'll be on a date with Max. The same guy who used to be so awful to me. But at the same time, it's exciting you know?”

“Who wouldn't? I mean look at the guy. He's hot! Definitely has those genes that age well.”

Laughing, the two girls fell into a comfortable silence as Maria finished doing Liz's hair. While Maria had opposed the idea of Liz keeping her hair down, she finally agreed that it looked better down, but needed something extra, thus the curling.

Turning the curling wand off, Maria took a seat next to Liz and moved the stool so that they were facing each other. Looking at Liz's face for a few moments, Maria thoughtfully chewed her bottom lip before reaching for the brushes on the counter. As she began applying make up to Liz's face, she could feel that there was something on Liz's mind.

“What's on your mind chica?”

Closing her eyes so Maria could keep doing her makeup, Liz tried to sort out her mixed feelings enough to put them into words.

“Nothing. Everything. I don't know.”

Putting the blush brush down on the counter, Maria took Liz's face into her hands and gave her a small smile.

“Honey, I know that you've always secretly had a thing for Max. Even when you couldn't stop telling me how much he pissed you off in school.”

Eyes widening in surprise, Liz gaped at her friend.

“How did you--”

“Babe, we've been best friend since conception.”

“Then I guess the thing that's on my mind the most is how I'm supposed to think of this date.”

Looking out of the bathroom at the dress that was hanging from the bedroom door, Maria once again selected one of the many make up brushes from the bathroom counter and resumed her work on Liz's face.

“Think of it how?”

“You know. Does Max only think of this date as an easy way for him to get some?”

“Liz, Max is a man. Of course he’s thinking about getting laid. Tonight, I think the only thing you should worry about is driving Max insane. Leave the other stuff for another time.”

Eyes closed as Maria applied eye shadow, Liz thought over what Maria said. She had just broken up with Kyle, okay a month ago. But she had been with him so long that she had forgotten what it was like to be her own person. Yes, she was attracted to Max and had been since high school but was she ready to get into another relationship?

Sighing deeply, Liz rebuked herself for over thinking every little thing about tonight's date and decided to go with Maria's plan. Drive Max insane and enjoy herself.

“I think I can do that.”

“Good. Now stop moving and let me finish your makeup.”

“Yes Ma'am.”


Part Five

Max glanced at the clock next to the bed and shook his head in frustration. He was supposed to 'pick Liz up' in 20 minutes, and he was having problems finding something to wear. Geez, he sounded like such a girl. How difficult was it to just pick some clothes to wear for date?

“But it isn't just a date Max, it's a date with Liz Parker.”

Max said to himself as he once again found himself standing in front of his closet trying to choose a shirt to wear with the black dress pants he was walking around in. After lunch with Michael, he'd gone in to the office to get a few hours worth of work done before going home and getting ready for tonight's date with Liz. Now, an hour later, he was walking around his bedroom in his trousers, unsure on what color shirt to wear. As he sighed in annoyance at his own indecision, the phone rang.

“Hello?”

“You sound a little tense Max. Having trouble picking something to wear?”

“Actually Isabel, a stupid as it sounds, that's exactly the problem.”

The sound of laughter filled the receiver as Max rolled his eyes.

“Are you finished?”

“I'm sorry, but I couldn’t help it.”

“Did you call for any other reason other than trying to make fun of me?”

“Well, I had a feeling that you might be a little indecisive, so I thought I might be able to help.”

“Okay.”

“How long until you have to pick her up?”

“20 minutes.”

“And so far, you're wearing?”

“Black dress pants.”

“That's it?”

“So far.”

“Well, it wouldn't be my first choice, but I'm sure both Liz and every other woman you see tonight will appreciate it.”

“Ha ha Isabel. I can't decide on a shirt. Should I wear a jacket or will that look like I'm trying too hard?”

“Well, that all depends. Where are you taking her?”

“Olive Garden.”

“That's the Italian place on Washington right?”

“Yep.”

“It's a classy place, so a jacket will look fine. Now, your shirt--”

“What color? I have light blue, dark blue, white, maroon--”

“White. You don't know what she'll be wearing so white would be best. Besides, with your tan, it will look great.”

“Tie?”

“No, leave the collar open.”

Changing the call to speaker phone, Max reached into the closet and pulled out a white shirt and quickly put it on. Standing in front of the mirror, he did the buttons up and tucked the shirt into his pants and quickly did up his belt.

“So?”

“Thanks Iz. I owe you one.”

“Just don't forget to send me an invitation to the wedding.”

Laughing, Max rolled his eyes as he took his shoes out of the closet and sat on the bed to put them on.

“Whatever. Thank you Isabel.”

“I expect a call tomorrow with details Max.”

“Goodnight.”

“I mean it Max! Tomorrow--”

Disconnecting the call, Max stood up and checked his appearance in the mirror. His hair was still a little wet from his earlier shower, but other than that, he was happy with how he looked. Taking the matching black jacket off its hanger, he put it on as he walked out of his room, grabbing his keys, wallet and phone on his way out the door.

Getting into his Corvette, Max reversed out of the driveway and headed off down the street. 5 minutes until he was due to pick Liz up. A couple of left turns later, he drove into the driveway, this time on Liz's side and parked the car. Getting out, he held the single white rose up to his nose and inhaled, the sweet perfume of the flower still quite noticeable, and before walking up to knock on the front door of Liz's apartment.
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JBehr'sChica
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Post by JBehr'sChica » Tue Aug 28, 2007 6:01 pm

A/N: Hey everyone. Sorry for the long delay! Mostly it was the busy-ness of work together with a whole heap of final assignments that are due in the next few weeks however, I wanted to make this date read well, and hopefully I've achieved that. It's short, it's sweet, but I'm sure y'all will enjoy it :)

Taya



Chapter Sixteen
Part One

Holding her chair, Max smiled as Liz sat down before taking his seat across the table from her. Since the moment she had opened the front door, he hadn't been able to take his eyes off her which had made the drive to the restaurant fairly interesting. Her hair fell across her shoulders and down her back in a cascade of gentle curls drawing attention to the deep v of her bodice, which had also captured his attention. The red, blue and rich purple colored dress fell softly to the ground, but hugged all the right places of Liz's petite figure. Her eyes were slightly smoky with a golden shimmer highlighting her cheekbones, the graceful column of her neck and finally, the gentle swell of the visible skin of her chest. Finally, her lips were covered in a light color, leaving the emphasis of her make up with her eyes.

She was, simply put, stunning.

“Can I take your drink order sir?”

Tearing his eyes from the vision in front of him, Max glanced quickly at the waiter before opening the wine list in front of him. While he wasn't much of a wine drinker himself, his mother had made sure that he knew the difference between a great wine and one of poor quality.

“A bottle of Verite 2003 La Joie thank you.”

“Very good sir.”

Closing the wine list, he handed it back to the waiter and with a smile, turned his attention back to Liz.

“One of the things my mom made sure of was that I knew what wine to order. I hope you don't mind.”

Returning his smile, Liz shook her head and clasped her hands together in her lap.

“I don't know much about wine, so I'll just have to take your word for it.”

Max's grin grew wider as he fiddled with his knife and fork, unsure of what to do with his hands for the time being.

“It's a nice wine, I promise.”

As they waited for the waiter to return with their wine, they both opened their menus and began looking at the selection.

“Would you like to have an entrée or go straight to the main meal?”

With a slight movement of her shoulders, Liz shrugged.

“I don't usually eat that much, so I think I'll stay with the main meal.”

“Okay.”

Silently they looked through the menu, both wondering how conversation flowed easily on their balcony, but now words were difficult to come by.

“Your wine sir.”

Expertly pouring the wine into the glasses in front of Max and Liz, the waiter paused at Max's side as he took a sip and went through the motions of a man trained in wine tasting. With a slight nod in approval, the waiter disappeared only to be replaced with another one.

“Are you ready to order sir?”

Looking over at Liz who nodded, Max gestured to her, turning the waiters attention from himself to the beautiful woman he was dining with. He watched as Liz talked to the waiter and found himself watching the movement with her hands, her fingers as they lightly held the menu, and her other hand as she lightly gestured her order to the waiter. She seemed to move with a grace that he hadn’t noticed in anyone before.

Closing his eyes to stop his staring, he briefly wondered whether he had been as aware of Ava during their time together, but quickly dismissed the idea. He wasn’t going to ruin his evening with Liz by thinking about Ava.

“Max?”

Opening his eyes, he saw that the waiter had finished with Liz and was quietly waiting to take his own order.

“Sorry.”

A small smile from the waiter let him know that his absence of attention was understood.

“Penné Carbonara with a Tuscan side salad.”

With another small nod, the waiter took the menus and quietly left, leaving Max and Liz with the uncomfortable silence that seemed to be par for their evening.

“So..”

“So…”

Laughing softly, Liz reached across the table and taking Max’s hand, drew it back across the table and covered it with both of hers. Resting his hand on hers, she met Max’s gaze as she lightly traced the edge of his fingers and over the muscles which flexed underneath the skin.

“Let’s just pretend that we’re sitting on our balcony, having dinner. Maybe conversation will be easier if we relax.”

Turning his hand over in hers, he mimicked her actions with his free hand.

“Who would have thought that this would be so difficult?”

“Yeah, well, I think the definition of ‘date’ is how to make someone completely uncomfortable with someone they like.”

“You could be right.”

The air around them now less tense, they were content to feel each other’s touch while they both mentally planned something to talk about.

“So…”

“So…”

“College. What’s your story?”

Releasing her hand only long enough to take a sip of wine, Max took a deep breath before starting.

“Well, after graduating from West Roswell, I headed off to Duke for my Undergraduate degree and from there, to Columbia for Grad school.”

“North Carolina to New York huh?”

“Duke was great, but it had always been the plan to go to the same grad school as my Dad.”

“He must be proud of you.”

“He is. Almost to the point of being embarrassing.”

Liz could only imagine how proud Mr. Evans was of his son, especially as he followed in his footsteps and now worked side by side in his law firm. While she knew that her grandparents were just as proud of her, she wished that her own parents were still alive to see the woman she had become.

Moments later their meals arrived, and they were forced to relinquish their hold on each others hands. After adding a small amount of Parmesan cheese to his pasta, Max inhaled the delicious aroma of the dish before raising the fork to his mouth. Closing his eyes briefly in culinary rapture, he looked across the table and saw Liz doing the same thing.

“So, Miss Parker, what’s your College story? I believe you were headed for Harvard.”

Chewing the food in her mouth, Liz nodded before swallowing and reaching for her glass of wine and taking a sip.

“I was, and I got there. I got the opportunity to study under the woman who I always say was solely responsible for my dream to work in Microbiology. She became my mentor in Junior year and really opened my mind to what working in the field was like. When I graduated, I had some amazing offers with renowned research labs and private companies. But, to be honest, I was a little overwhelmed at first.”

“I know what you mean. It’s a bit daunting when you graduate from College and have to enter the real world.”

“Yeah, it’s like there are all these expectations on what you make of your life. Being a Harvard alumnus, those expectations seem so high. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to live up to them.”

“Well, I can’t speak from the experience of a Harvard alumnus, but as a graduate of Columbia, in the Law community, the pressure to achieve great things is almost the same. If not in the professional community, then there are always the expectations of your family.”

Conversation flowed freely throughout the remainder of their meal and dessert was an exercise in heavy flirting as they fed each other spoonfuls of raspberry and chocolate soufflé and creme bruleé between laughter filled conversation. Just over 3 hours of arriving at the Olive Garden, Max and Liz left hand in hand in the direction of the park where their childhood rivalry began.

The evening air was slightly cool, but the closeness of Max’s body kept Liz warm as they walked slowly down the empty main street. Having moved from holding hands to walking with their arms linked, Max’s arm was warm and strong underneath her fingers, and Liz felt a sense of comfort and protection as she walked by his side. It was funny. In the entire time that she had known, dated and been engaged to Kyle Valenti, she had never felt as safe as she did now, with Max Evans.

“Do you have a curfew that I should know about Miss Parker?”

Laughing, Liz looked up to see Max’s smiling face before punching him lightly in the side.

“I think I can be late just this once.”

“Good. Because I think the swings are calling our names.”

Crossing the road, Max led them into the park and to the deserted swings that sat amongst the aging playground equipment. Releasing their hold on each other, they each sat on a swing, Max using his feet to get his swing into motion while Liz kicked off her heels and did likewise.

In a steady motion of his own, Max watched as Liz leant back as she soared into the air, her hair flying behind her, her dress billowing softly around her. In that very moment, everything went into slow motion. Having stopped moving, his attention focused solely on Liz, Max stood up and took position behind her swing, his large hands pressing lightly against her back when she next came towards him.

Surprised, Liz looked over her shoulder at him, the momentum of the swing causing her dark hair to fall across her face in such a way that made her look both innocent and sexy.

“Why are you pushing me?”

With a cheeky grin, Max shrugged.

“You were too distracting.”

The slight breeze made the sound of her soft laughter float through the air and before he consciously realised it, he was standing in front of her, his strong arms holding the swing still as he looked into her eyes, his head moving slowly towards hers. Just before his lips met hers, he flicked his tongue out to moisten his lips and saw that Liz caught the movement before she leant forward and captured his lips with her own. Her arms wrapped themselves around his neck and her fingers lightly tangled themselves in the hair at the nape of his neck as she shifted herself out of the swing and against Max's solid body. Max's arms circled her waist as he let go of the swing and held her close to his body as he took a few steps back.

Her lips were soft and she tasted like a mixture of chocolate and raspberry, a reminder of her chosen dessert. While Max wasn't really a big fan of chocolate, tasting it in this fashion, he could feel himself slowly becoming addicted. Liz, on the other hand, had been swept into a peppermint overload as her tongue met his and began tentatively exploring his mouth. His lips were soft but strong and confident as they moved against her own.

While the wind sweeping off the desert had become colder, all Liz could feel was the heat of Max's hands as they held onto her hips and moved along her bare back. She had always thought the idea of kissing on the first date to be extremely forward, but as Max increased his attack on her mouth, she figured that there was always one exception to the rule.

Getting lost in Liz was far easier than Max could have ever imagined. The need to breathe was strong, but he didn't want to surrender his possession of her lips until absolutely necessary. Pulling on her bottom lip as he drew away, he kept his face close to hers, their noses almost touching as he raised a hand to brush strands of hair from her face.

“You're so beautiful.” He whispered as his other hand brushed softly up and down the bare skin of her back.

Feeling her face heat up, Liz bit her bottom lip and grinned.

“Thank you.”

His eyes fixed on her mouth, his breath caught as he watched her bit her bottom lip. Bringing his lips to meet hers once again, their kiss was soft and gentle and lasted only a brief moment.

“Let's go home.”

Liking the way it sounded, Liz reluctantly left the comfort of Max's embrace and picked up her shoes and clutch handbag. While there was definitely something between them, both Liz and Max knew that while their 'relationship' hadn't followed the conventional methods, they didn't want to change the nature of it so quickly.

Part Two

Parking his car on her side of the driveway, Max quickly got out to open her door before escorting her to her front door. Opening her bag, Liz took out her keys and fiddled with them for a moment before Max framed the side of her face with his hand and brought their lips to meet once again. A few minutes later, he grinned impishly.

“You know Liz, you didn't have to play with your keys in order for me to kiss you. I had been planning on doing it anyway.”

Dropping a quick kiss on his smiling mouth, Liz grinned back.

“Well, I didn't want to assume anything.”

Pulling her close and covering her lips with his own, Max teased her lips, pulling away slightly and nipping at her lips before he took a step back.

“You can assume away Liz Parker. I think I can work with that.”

Letting her go, he watched as she opened the front door and stepped inside.

“I had a great time tonight.” They said at the same time.

With a wink and an accompanying smile, Max walked backwards to his car, his gaze never leaving hers before she closed the door. Getting into his car, he turned it on and reversed out into the street, heading down the road.

Closing the door, Liz leant back against the hard wood and sighed. Wow. Mindlessly putting her bag and keys on the table, she made her way into her bedroom and hit the rewind button on her answering machine. Falling back onto the bed, she replayed the evening while she waited for the machine to start. Licking her lips, she could still taste Max, which caused her to smile widely just as Maria's voice came out of the speaker.

“It's me. I'm impatient, and I don't know if I can wait until tomorrow to hear about the date! I want to know everything! DETAILS chica! I'm a pregnant, married woman now, so I need lots and lots of details!!! It's now 11pm and Michael is telling me that it's past my bedtime. DETAILS!!! Bye!”

Laughing at her message, Liz got up from the bed and looked at herself in the mirror. Her hair was wind blown and her face was flushed, but her eyes looked alive. She had started the night nervously waiting for Max to pick her up, and now, as she began to get undressed, she found herself wishing that the night hadn’t ended there.
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"Lighten up a little bit. It's only the end of the world."

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