Never In Doubt (AU, M/L, Teen) [COMPLETE]

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Re: Never In Doubt (AU, M/L, Teen) Pt 30, 11th August

Post by Rowedog » Mon Sep 08, 2008 5:40 pm

The whole board kafuffle rid me of some of my feedback, but I saved all of it (I hope) so I’ll name everyone this week. Thank you for your feedback!
This is a long one, I had three things I wanted to put in this update, but when I did the three separately, they were all longer than I anticipated, so super long update for you!
Oh, and in the deleted scenes of Knocked up there’s this tiny part that I took and adapted because I just couldn’t resist. It’s only slightly the same.

Novy- I love it when I update as well! It makes me feel slightly less useless. I love She’s The Man as well, if only for the character Eunice. She rocks my world. Plus, Channing Tatum...
Eve
MIY-
I think the main thing that I was trying to portray with Maria was confusion and emotional distress, not that she was being an ungrateful bitch. I guess my writing fell short in that respect.
Nibbles2- Not quite coming to end, I just feel that I’ve sort of... gone over the hump, so to speak. After a few more things happen, I think I can skip forward in time a bit.
Zanity-
Can you really blame me for wanting to get some entertainment value out of it??
Not without being a hypocrite… I’ve done it too… :oops:
Synera
Twilight
Laira-
You know it’s funny. You know you laughed. My grandpa rocked your world.
Tequathisy
Sunrise102-
Before the great server crash of ’08 as it shall be called hereafter, you mentioned that you were afraid of my avatar. Prepare to fall in love with Old Gregg! If you don’t like this, you do not deserve life, in my humble opinion.
Pijeechinadoll- Thanks and welcome to the story!
Steph- Thanks for beta'ing my part despite the fact that you were sick. You rule!
Part Thirty One: It’s All In The Delivery
Amy dug her spoon into the tub of ice cream that lay between them as she and Maria watched the opening credits of The Hills. Sean having declared that nothing in the world could induce him to watch “self indulgent filth” as he had called it, and was by Maria’s estimation, probably out stealing rims off of car wheels.

“So, have you decided what you’re going to do about your father?”

Maria smirked, rolling her eyes. “Nice segue, Mom. Real casual.”

“Pfft, I don’t want to beat around the bush, I’d rather know what you were thinking and feeling.”

Maria smiled, touched by her mother’s concern, and then groaned as Spencer and Heidi came on the screen. In a simultaneous move, both mother and daughter picked up a cushion each and chucked it at the screen.

Shrugging, Maria licked the ice cream off her laden spoon. “I don’t know, part of me wants to know him better, but another part wants me to tell him to fuck off back to wherever he came from.”

Amy narrowed her eyes, then dryly stated with a hint of warning in her tone, “I’m going to overlook that profanity. Just like I overlooked your staying over at your boyfriend’s apartment, because I trust you and I know nothing happened and I know you needed to just have one fun night being a kid before dealing with all this heavy crap.”

“Your trust was entirely warranted,” replied Maria lightly, before scowling at the screen when Spencer said something to point out what a massive douche he was.

“I know.” Amy did trust her daughter, but the relief was evident in her voice when her daughter reassured her that trusting her had been the right thing to do.

There was a moment of silence before Amy brought up the one thing that had been weighing on her mind ever since Maria had come home after meeting Amos. “You understand why I didn’t tell you about his drinking and gambling problem, don’t you?”

Maria nodded, understanding it a bit better after having time to reflect upon it. “Yeah, I get it. You were trying to protect me. It just kinda sucked thinking that he left because he didn’t love me.”

Amy sighed, trying her best to explain as best she could why she had hid it from Maria. “It’s just that you had looked up to him so much when you were younger, I didn’t want to ruin that image you had of him, not when you were that young.”

“I think his leaving was going to ruin it either way,” Maria pointed out dryly.

“You were so young, Maria. So young. I just thought that if he cleaned himself up and came back after a year or two that it’d be easier for you two to reconnect if you didn’t know.”

“Except he didn’t come back in a year or two,” Maria remarked sadly, unable to silence the tiny part of her that mourned the loss of her father.

Amy sighed, wishing life wasn’t so complicated. “Maybe I went about it the wrong way, but-”

“Mom! It’s fine, honestly. You did the best that you could.” Once the initial pain had ebbed, Maria could honestly say that she understood her mother’s reasoning. “And it’s not like I would ever let you talk to me about it, so let’s just blame Amos and be done with it.”

Amy let out a laugh, feeling enormously relieved that Maria had adjusted enough to the situation to be at a place where she could joke about it. “Deal.”

“What would you do? If you were in my situation, I mean? Would you meet him?”

Amy stiffened on the couch, her eyes widening in fear. “Oh no, don’t go putting this decision on my head. I can’t be the one that chooses for you Maria, this has to be your decision alone.”

Maria groaned, her head rolling back to hit the couch. “But I don’t wanna decide! You choose!”

Amy was adamant. “No.”

“You know him better! Is it, in your opinion, worthwhile getting to know him?”

Amy softened to Maria’s earnest appeal. “Honestly?” Amy paused, considering the question as Maria waited impatiently. “Yes. From what I remember, Amos before drinking and gambling took hold was a really great guy. So if he’s like that again, maybe... maybe it would be ok to get to know him,” she finished softly.

Maria’s eyebrows drew together in a confused frown. “So what happened to him? Why’d he decide to drink and gamble?”

Amy sighed, trying to dredge up memories she’d long since repressed in an attempt to move on with her life. “I don’t think he consciously chose to do it, it’s just that back when I found out I was pregnant, Amos and I were so scared. Amos more than me. He was terrified of the responsibility. Then you were born and we both loved you so much, Amos got even more scared. He was so frightened that he was going to fail you as a father and as a provider. So in the end he turned to alcohol to forget his worries and then gambled trying to make up the money he spent on drinking.”

Maria mulled that information over in her head, frowning as she tried to figure out the logic behind his actions. “Wasn’t the smartest plan was it?”

Amy let out a little laugh at the irony of what she had just said. “No. I think it was a lot of self sabotage. In the end he realised that he’d become the thing he feared, so he felt he had to get away to sort himself out.”

Maria nodded and they both fell into a comfortable silence, each of them pleased with how they had cleared the air between them.

After a moment, Maria spoke. “Just one question?”

“Mmmm?”

Maria struggled to keep her straight countenance. “You do realise that you were dating a man named Amos and that your name is Amy, right?”

Amy glowered at her daughter. “It was commented upon.”

Maria continued on, ignoring her mother’s dirty looks. “I mean, your names are practically the same.”

“I’m aware of this,” Amy ground out.

“When Alex was drunk at the party he made the comment of how easy it would be to call out your own name accidently during sex.”

“I’m going to push aside the inappropriateness of that previous comment and focus on the fact that someone gave Alex alcohol. Did they not see the potential danger in letting him get drunk? I fear for the world with an even more uninhibited Alex in it.”

Maria laughed loudly and then smiled at the normalcy of this conversation; it was nice to have something in her life settle down. Now if she could only get through her issues with her father. She reasoned that it might take more than a conversation over an episode of The Hills to work through all their issues. It wasn’t something she was looking forward to.
***
It was moments like these that reaffirmed for Isabel just how much she loved Alex Whitman. When he looked at her while she was talking like he was totally engrossed in what she was saying, like everything she had to say was interesting, she knew she had lucked out.

Going out with a whole string of guys before Alex, who had only been interested in getting in her pants had taught her the value of a boyfriend who actually enjoyed your company, rather than put up with it in an effort to get laid. Yes, Alex appreciated her looks physically, he wasn’t blind, but he appreciated her sense of humour, her kindness and her loyalty more.

She loved that when she was talking he was focussed on her and his normal crazy demeanour melted away, letting her see the real Alex beneath the laughter. It made her feel so privileged to see who he was underneath everything. She had never imagined she would have such a close bond with someone. And she now knew she wanted to take that bond even further.

“So... my parents aren’t going to be home for a couple of hours and Max is out with Liz on a date...”

Alex smiled. “Cool. Wanna turn up the music really loud and dance around in the living room?”

Isabel let out a nervous laugh, not knowing how to bring up the subject with him. “Not quite what I had in mind.” Taking Alex’s hand in hers, she led him towards the stairs. “Let’s go up to my bedroom.”

Alex gave her a knowing smile. “O-oh, you wanted to make out? All you had to do was say so, God knows I’d even race you there.”

Isabel laughed, closing the door behind them and sighing into Alex’s mouth as they both fell in a tangled heap on the bed. With practiced ease, they kissed each other, knowing exactly what the other wanted and how to achieve it.

It didn’t even register to Alex that something had changed between them until Isabel’s hands fell to his belt buckle. Feeling the unfamiliar tug on his buckle, Alex’s eyes snapped open and he wrenched his mouth from hers. “Isabel... what-”

“Alex,” she interrupted, her hand still lingering on his buckle. “I wanna... go all the way with you.”

Isabel could have winced at how inane she sounded. Go all the way? So Junior High.

Alex’s eyeballs would have fallen out of his sockets had they not been firmly attached, his eyes were that wide. “Are- are you s-sure?”

Isabel smiled at his stutter, feeling immensely relieved that she wasn’t the only one nervous about this. “I’m sure.”

“This isn’t the part where you laugh and say “just kidding” and then I go and cry in the bathroom is it?”

Isabel laughed heartily at that, despite the nerves in her stomach twisting and coiling like ropes. “Alex, I love you. I want to be with you.”

“I love you too,” Alex whispered, his face nearly torn in half by his grin before he pressed his lips to hers and lowered her back onto the bed.

Their hands roamed, exploring each new piece of flesh they could find as clothes slowly came off. Despite a few fumbles, they were doing fairly well in Alex’s opinion, until they got to the point where a condom was required.

“Shit!” Alex swore forcefully, his mind had been all too wrapped up in Isabel that he’d forgotten that he needed protection. And he wasn’t the type of guy to carry it around. He never thought he’d actually need it. So this was an entirely new conundrum for him. A devastating one at that. There was no way that Isabel was just going to wait around in bed for him while he ran to the nearest convenience store. She’d have time to think about it and that would spell disaster for him if she took time to really think about what she was doing.

“What?” Isabel panted, her dazed mind trying to grapple with the reason why Alex had stopped. Stopping was bad. Isabel didn’t like stopping.

“I don’t have protection,” muttered Alex, feeling like shedding a few tears. Why did shit like this always happen to him?

“Oh, here.” Isabel reached into her bedside table into her underwear drawer and pulled out a foil wrapper.

Alex stared at the condom like it was a godsend. “How...?”

“Maria gave me one at the party the other night, she said that we’d need it sooner or later.” Alex continued to stare at the condom until Isabel burst out in exasperation. “Alex! Hurry up!”

“Remind me to worship at Maria’s feet next time I see her,” muttered Alex, before tearing the packet open and fumbling as he put it on.

Alex let out one silent prayer before he began, praying to every deity he could think of.
Please, don’t let this end as soon as it begins.
***
Isabel lay curled up next to Alex, reviewing what had just occurred between her and Alex, loving the little things she was noticing. Their breathing occurring at the same pace, almost as if they were in total sync with each other, body and mind. And the silence was anything but awkward, there were no words needed, they knew exactly how the other was feeling.

“I like sex,” commented Alex, his mind still fuzzy from not only the mind numbing pleasure he’d just received, but also from the all empowering knowledge that he had just made love to Isabel Evans. And that had been something he was fairly certain would never happen because she was far too good for him. So he planned to thank every single deity he could remember when he got home.

Isabel shut her eyes and nearly groaned in disbelief. In the end, she gave in and let out a laugh. Only her boyfriend could be so basic and silly at a moment like this.

“Oh God...” moaned Isabel. “My parents will be home in half an hour. We should probably get up.”

“I suppose they’d notice me lying naked and sated in your bed.”

“You suppose correctly,” she replied dryly, sitting up in bed as she searched for her bra.

“What if I told you that I don’t think I can move?” Alex smiled as Isabel laughed, but couldn’t help but feel that there was a large element of truth to his statement. He was numb all over and his limbs felt very heavy, Isabel’s bed was far too inviting. Especially considering the great memories he now had in here...

Alex’s grin was smacked off his face as his pair of jeans whizzed through the air and smacked him in the face.

“Get up, or I’ll never make love to you again.”

Alex groaned and sat up, pulling his jeans over his legs. The things he did for her...
***
Maria placed her lunch on the table, continuing their discussion from the previous period as the rest of the gang sat down. “Did anybody else find it ironic that it was based on a short story? I was in that cinema so long that my ass moulded to the chair.”

“Was it really that long?” enquired Michael as he scarfed down the soggy French fries he had bought from the cafeteria.

“You didn’t see it?”

“I thought to myself, ‘Michael, you can either sit at home and watch the hockey game, or you can go to the cinema and pay fifteen bucks to watch two guys make out and have butt sex up in the mountains.’ I stand by my decision.”

“Did any of you see it?” Liz asked, looking around at Max and Alex who both gave answers in the negative. “You’re such homophobes.”

Michael snapped a soggy French fry in half, pursing his lips thoughtfully. “It’s not that I’m a homophobe, I just would rather not watch it on a large screen with surround sound. The idea of someone sticking their wang in my butt offends my delicate sensibilities, but I don’t really care if other people are doing it. I would be friends with a gay person, be totally ok with them holding hands and kissing in front of me, but I don’t want to see or hear about them doing the deed. Besides, who’d want to stick their special friend in a place that shit comes out of? For me, the butt is exit only.”

Max and Alex both nodded their heads in complete concurrence with Michael’s statement.

“I don’t know how you manage to come off like a backwards retard when you’re actually being as open-minded as you can expect a young, straight teenage boy to be. I think it’s all in the delivery,” mused Maria.

“One of the reasons I didn’t see it was because it sounded like over-budgeted gay porn,” interjected Alex before a fight broke out between Maria and Michael.

Isabel bristled, and stared at Alex with challenging eyes that dared him to defend himself. “Why, because two men had sex in it? Heterosexual sex is overrepresented in the media, but the minute a film with a bit of man loving comes out it suddenly comes under the gay porn umbrella?”

Alex waved his hand dismissively at her, his eyes twinkling with mischief. “Oh come on, that movie had gay porn cliché written all over it. Two cowboys stuck up in the mountains with only each other for company? I’m certain there’s been a gay porno like that before and it sure as shit wouldn’t have cost millions to make, nor would have won an Oscar.”

“Probably would have had more blowjobs as well,” added Isabel, unable to stop herself from laughing at Alex.

Maria frowned, remembering her original gripe with the movie. “I felt ripped off, I didn’t see a penis, but I saw Anne Hathaway’s tits. There were too many scenic mountain shots and not enough man loving scenes.”

“Yes, I think we’re all greatly saddened by this,” snickered Michael.

“Well I was! I happen to think two guys kissing is hot.”

“I agree,” said Liz, causing both Max and Michael’s eyes to snap to her. An exclamation like that wasn’t odd coming from Maria, but from Liz? It boggled the mind. Especially considering her previous reputation of being an ice vagina. “Especially if it’s Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall. Poor Heath...”

“So you wouldn’t mind if Max and I made out?” queried Michael, unable to connect the Liz he knew with this new startling piece of information.

Liz snickered at him. “Get your own boyfriend, Michael.”

Michael wondered just how he had managed to have that turned around on him so quickly.

Isabel unwrapped the second half of her sandwich as Michael sat puzzled and slightly put out. “You know, throughout the entire film, every time someone said Heath’s character’s name, I whispered ‘rhymes with’ under my breath.”

“What was his name?” asked Michael as both Liz and Maria laughed.

“Ennis.”

Alex laughed. “Well that’s a very unfortunate choice of name for that character, especially in that film.”

“What are we laughing about ladies?” asked Tommy as he slid in besides Maria, effectively halting all conversation and killing the good mood as he leered at all three girls in turn.

“How much we don’t like you,” responded Isabel dully. “How about you head back to your table and let the grownups talk?”

“Can’t do that,” he replied, placing his arm around Maria’s shoulders. “Sugar here would miss me too much.”

Michael threw his napkin on the table and stood up as Maria shoved Tommy’s arm off from around her. “Ok, that’s it. There’s no way I’m overlooking you touching my girlfriend.”

“Wait... what are you doing?” asked Tommy, feeling the first stirrings of fear. He rose slowly and turned to face Michael who was standing behind him.

“Well first I’m going to punch you in the face, so you might want to watch out for that, then I’m going to give you a series of kicks and hits until you fall to the ground unconscious. And should you try to fight back, my friends here will be only too happy to hold you back. Then hopefully once I’ve administered the beating you so sorely deserve, you’ll think twice before you sexually harass someone in the future.”

Both Alex and Max rose to circle Tommy who was now past stirrings and well into fully fledged fear. What was worse was that his friends were way over the other side of the school and he couldn’t see anyone who would be willing to help him.

“Come on guys, be reasonable... I was just kidding...” Tommy was now just beginning to realise how stupid coming over to their table and hitting on their girlfriends in front of them was.

Michael grabbed a fistful of Tommy’s shirt and brought his face close to his. “Tell you what Tommy. Seeing as I’m so charitable, I’ll overlook it for today, but if you ever so much as breathe in Liz, Maria or Isabel’s direction again, I will find you alone and I will follow through on this threat. And believe me, I’ll do it with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.”

Tommy didn’t doubt the threat, he could see the effort Michael was putting in restraining himself.

Tommy stumbled back as Michael pushed him away from him. He was just about to flee when Max’s voice halted him. “Oh, and Tommy? If you try and do something stupid, like say, ganging up on us with your douche friends, let me just warn you that if you even think of trying it, I’ll inform Coach Grayson that you’ve been taking steroids.”

Tommy’s mouth dropped open. “How did you know about that?”

Max’s face remained impassive, but internally he was reeling in shock. He had just threatened to tell the coach so that he’d be forced to put him on probation while he investigated the claims, he never thought that there’d be any truth behind them. He just thought that he’d force him to sit out a few games and taint his name while he was at it. What a stroke of good luck this was. “I have evidence. Photographic evidence. You should really have been more careful.”

Tommy’s heart heaved in his chest. He couldn’t handle the shame of being caught out as a drug cheat and he definitely couldn’t handle not being able to play football anymore. He loved the prestige and power of being a jock, he couldn’t afford to lose that. Besides, there were plenty more chicks in the sea, those three weren’t that great. Though he’d regret Liz’s petite frame, Maria’s enormous lips and Isabel’s gargantuan boobs he knew that he valued his status over those particular attributes. Besides, they appeared to be frigid. Tommy knew it was better to cut his losses.

“Ok, you got it man. I’ll leave them alone. Just don’t tell anyone.”

Max could hear the fear in Tommy’s voice and it satisfied him. “Deal.”

As Tommy scurried off, Max sat down in a daze.

“How long have you known he was taking steroids for?” asked Liz, a little hurt that Max had kept that information from her.

“I didn’t, I just knew that the coach hated him and would jump at the chance to throw him off the team, whether the claims were real or not.”

The look of amazement on Liz’s face said it all. “So that was just... luck?”

“Yep.”

“Were you really going to beat him up?” asked Maria, looking at her boyfriend.

“Probably not. I can’t get suspended, so I would have just scared him a little. But had this been out of school hours, his ass would have been grass.”

Maria nodded, pleased with that explanation. She normally didn’t advocate violence, but if it was against Tommy and Courtney, whose intelligence rivalled a goldfish’s, then she could see the merit in using it.

“Do you think we should tell someone that he’s taking steroids? Or do you think he’ll just retaliate?” Liz asked the gang, not feeling quite right about blackmailing him into leaving her and her friends alone, especially considering that what Tommy was doing could not only hurt him, it could get someone else hurt too if he went into a violent rage as a side effect of the drug.

“Maybe we should talk to his parents,” suggested Alex. “They can be real militant. They sent Tommy’s older brother away to military school for smoking pot, maybe they’d send Tommy away as well.”

“That’d be nice. Then we wouldn’t have to deal with him,” mused Isabel, seeing the merits of that plan.

“Let’s just think it through first. We’ll sleep on it tonight, then discuss it tomorrow,” suggested Max. “I’ll also talk to my dad about legality issues and things like that. We’ll need to know how illegal steroids are and the complete side effects if we’re going to make an informed decision.”

General murmurs of agreement resounded, all of them falling into silent contemplation for a minute, until Alex broke the silence. “Man, he’s such a deadshit.”

“Great job, Captain Obvious,” snickered Maria, as Alex just grinned at her. Come to think of it, Maria hadn’t seen that smile come off Alex’s face for more than a minute all day. “Alex, you are looking very... glowy today.”

Alex faltered for a moment, then smiled wickedly. “I’m pregnant.”

“Who’s the father?” asked Liz, looking at Alex with interest and noticing the matching grin that both Isabel and Alex sported. She knew that since she and Max were out on a date the previous night and Isabel’s parents were out as well that Isabel and Alex had had the house to themselves. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what they were smiling about. Not that Max had noticed, but Liz figured he could stay in ignorant bliss. She was sure that his sister’s sex life was none of his concern and she was going to help keep it that way. Not that she wasn’t going to do some snooping of her own, she had to know if Isabel’s grin was warranted.

Alex shrugged nonchalantly. “Dunno, could be Michael, could be Max. Could even be the school janitor.”

“He’s a hottie, that Mr. Rodriguez,” commented Max. “But if I’d known you were such a slut, Alex, I might have used protection.”

“What can I say? I’m allergic to latex. Besides, everyone knows that unprotected sex feels better.”

Isabel pinched the bridge of her nose. “Ok, now that I have a fairly revolting image of my brother and my boyfriend together, can we please stop?”

Luckily for Isabel, the bell rang, stopping any other disturbing comment that Alex may have made. But despite her disgust, Isabel couldn’t help but feel a little proud of her boyfriend for keeping their sex life private. He hadn’t even told his best friends, despite ample opportunity all day. Isabel grinned to herself knowing that it must be killing Alex not to be able to shout it from the rooftops. She knew that out of respect for her that he wasn’t saying anything and it was such a change from the rest of the guys she knew whose exploits were known about around the school the morning after. She truly had found one of the good guys. Although she was going to have to rectify Maria and Liz’s lack of knowledge on what had happened between her and her boyfriend. She wasn’t sure she could keep this to herself and for the first time she had girlfriends that she could confide in. She was definitely going to have to host another girls’ night.
***
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Re: Never In Doubt (AU, M/L, Teen) Pt 31, 9th September

Post by Rowedog » Thu Oct 02, 2008 12:17 am

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Thank you all so much to whoever voted! Yay!

Steph- Don’t you just love it when teachers let you out early?
Twilight
Natalie36
Roswell4life
Confusedfool
Novy
Tequathisy-
Alright! Sheesh! Anything but the seal! I cave again!
Caro- Yes, probably best that you overlook that. And no need to bump, I'm right here.
BB
Guelbebek-
well, I guess if you count the one in Dead and Buried, then yeah, I have 3 WIPs. Glad to see you back here!
Eve
Raemac-
Alex and Isabel have been going out for way longer than the other two couples though.
Katydid
Synera
Emz
Elci
Dziumka

Part Thirty Two: I Wish To Sperminate You
Max jumped out of his jeep and happily jogged to the back alley of the Crashdown, enjoying the knowledge that he was now one of the lucky few who could use the back entrance of the cafe. He was there to take Liz out. Having not had a date minus parents or friends for a while, they felt it was about time.

He raised his fist and knocked and smiled when he heard a distinctly familiar voice yell out, “I’m coming! Just a sec!”

The door flew open to reveal a harried and rushed Liz. Max smiled at her as she puffed a little, having obviously run to the door.

“Hey, do you mind waiting a couple of minutes? Mom imposed a new ‘you can’t go out unless your room is clean’ rule. I’m almost done; I just need to stuff a few more things under my bed.”

“Sure.” Max didn’t mind waiting, so long as he got to hang around with her while she cleaned. He went out on dates with her to hang out with her, not for the arbitrary activity that they were going to involve themselves in. He could have fun with her while locked in a bare room. Probably even more fun if he really thought about it...

“Come upstairs, you can wait in my room.”

Max smiled at the invitation and quickly intertwined his fingers with Liz’s and made his way upstairs with her.

“So this is your room...” Max glanced around, taking everything he could in, he wanted to savour this moment.

“You’ve been in my room before, Max,” reminded Liz as she hastily scooped clothes off of the floor and dumped them in her clothes basket.

Max nodded absently, his eyes tracing the line of the bed. “I know, but there were other people in here that time. Now we’re all alone...”

Max swallowed at the look in her eye. Liz crossed over to him, running her hands up his chest and smiling cheekily at him. “Are you going to try to take advantage of me, Max?”

“Uh... I... no...? Only if you want me to...?” Max was clearly out of his element and Liz relished in the feeling of power.

“I’ll keep you posted,” she murmured, standing up on her tiptoes to kiss him, nearly melting when he wrapped his arms around her waist. There was nothing better than being securely wrapped in Max’s embrace, she decided then and there.

“Liz? Can you come here for a second?” Max and Liz jumped apart guiltily when they heard Nancy call out from down the hallway.

“Uh... yeah! S-sure Mom.” Liz winced when she heard the stutter in her voice. Could she be any more obvious about it? She wondered why she didn’t just hold up a sign above her head that said, “I’m engaging in sexual activity, Mom!”

“What’s up?” she asked once she reached her mother, leaving Max alone in her room.

“What time will you be home tomorrow? If you don’t have plans could you come home straight after school? I’ve got something special planned.”

Liz resisted the urge to roll her eyes. The last time her mother had something special planned, it involved a trip to an earth science museum. While Liz obviously liked science, she was pretty certain that rocks and dirt weren’t really her thing. “Ooh! Something special? Is it a picnic?”

“Uh, no?”

“A barbecue?”

“No...”

“A picnic?”

Nancy frowned at her daughter who was grinning cheekily at her. “I don’t think so, Liz.”

“Well, I’m all out of ideas then.”

Letting out half a laugh, Nancy grasped Liz by the shoulders and turned her back in the direction of her bedroom, giving her a gentle push. “Go on your date, you stupid child.”

“That’s no way to talk to your husband, Mom.”

Nancy frowned again, wondering who had corrupted her daughter with such stupidity. She had one guess. “You really need to stop hanging out with Alex.”

Liz considered that point. “Yeah, you’re probably right.”
***
Walking hand in hand, Max and Liz strolled down the main street with no real destination in mind. They were more interested in being together than where they were headed.

“Did Maria really say that?” laughed Max, still not quite being able to grasp the depth of Maria’s insanity on occasions.

“I’m amazed you would even ask that, this is the same girl that-” Liz came to an abrupt halt as they were confronted with some of Max’s nicer teammates, Freddie, Cody and Todd.

“Hey guys! How’s it going?” asked Max, dropping Liz’s hand to slap hands with them in friendly greeting.

“Not bad... not bad. Yourself?” enquired Freddie, a genuine smile on his face. He liked Max Evans and they had hung out on occasion during bus rides to neighbouring towns to play football.

“Pretty good, just out on a date with...” Max turned to gesture to Liz, but found her standing as far as she could away from them while still being on the sidewalk with her arms clamped protectively around her body, staring out across the road. To anyone who didn’t know her, it would seem as if she were cold and unapproachable, but Max could see the self preservation in the move. He’d merely gotten used to her being so open and comfortable in his presence that he’d almost forgotten just what she used to be like around him. “...with Liz.”

Cody coughed uncomfortably, his hands coming up to play with his hair. A nervous habit he’d acquired in recent years. “Well, you know, have fun.” Cody look wholly unconvinced that anyone could have fun with someone who looked so forbidding.

Max recognised the look, just like he recognised the one that passed between the three boys, it clearly spoke of surprise that Max could be happy with someone like her. And before he could explain or excuse her actions, they had uttered their goodbyes and were off.

It was only once they had passed earshot that Liz let out a sigh of relief and let the rigidity fall from her stance. By no means did she want Max to miss out on talking to his friends, but that didn’t mean she would put herself through the pain and humiliation of attempting a conversation with them.

Grabbing her hand, Max pulled her down a nearby empty alleyway, needing to talk to her privately.

“Liz,” Max began, not really knowing where to start. “I know you’re shy but you have to make an effort, you could have at least said hi.”

Liz stared at Max like he’d gone slightly insane; she thought he understood what it was like for her. “I don’t know them,” she stated, as if it was self-explanatory and for her it was. The nausea, the dread that accompanied meeting someone new or making small talk with acquaintances was almost crippling for her and it just brought home the fact that as much as she might wish it, Max would never understand this huge part of her life.

“Liz, you’re going to have to go out into the big world eventually, and this tactic you’ve got going to deal with it? Not going to cut it. Would it kill you to tell people that you’re shy? People are more willing to make exceptions for shy people; they’re less willing to do it for people who act like they’re better than them.”

“I would get eaten alive at that school if people knew that I was shy!” Liz cried vehemently, wondering how Max couldn’t get it. This tactic worked for her, had always worked for her and she hated that he’d brought up the inescapable inevitability that one day she would soon need to find herself a new tactic to cope.

Max gestured down the street, frustration fuelling his actions and words. “Do you know what they’re talking about right now? They’re talking about how cold you are and wondering what I see in you. And I hate that people think you’re a bitch. I absolutely hate it.” Liz turned away, biting back tears. Max gently caught her face between his hands and turned her to face him. “I hate it because you’re not. You’re sweet, kind, caring and a wonderful person once you get past all those walls you put up. I hate that people think that about you.”

Liz swiped angrily at the tears rolling down her face, wishing that this conversation wasn’t happening. “What do you care what people think?”

“I wouldn’t care if that’s how you really were. If you really were like that all the time and I wanted to be with you, then I would have no problem with people thinking that about you, because it would be true. And I don’t want it for me, I want it for you. I want you to just be yourself, not have to hide and protect who you are.”

“You... you don’t understand what it’s like for me.”

Max pulled her into his arms, holding her, wishing that things didn’t have to be this way. That his girlfriend could show a little weakness instead of this act she had perfected. “You’re right, but I want to know. I want to understand. I want to help you.”

He did want to help her. He just didn’t know how.
***
Liz stiffened when she spotted Tess heading their way; she was in no mood for a confrontation. However, her apprehension and defensiveness soon turned to confusion as Tess walked past, her eyes reddened and unseeing, seemingly not even noticing that Max and Liz were around. In fact, now that Liz thought about it, apart from the initial response from Tess, they really had any interaction or response from her at all.

But what struck Liz the most was the tense and saddened expression on her face. Tess did not look good.

“I wonder what’s up with her?” Liz muttered quietly as she watched Tess’s out of character retreat down the hall.

“I thought you didn’t care?” asked Maria, snapping Liz out of her pensiveness.

“Well, obviously I don’t. I just think that that was weird. I’m just a little bit curious, she really didn’t look happy.” Liz couldn’t help the frown that crossed her face. She didn’t want to care about what was wrong with Tess, especially considering that Tess was or had been after her boyfriend, but it didn’t stop the fact that Liz hated seeing anyone in distress.
***
“Yo, yo, yo my bitches! Maria in the house!” Striking a pose in the doorway, Maria received strange looks from both Isabel and Liz.

Turning to Isabel, Liz murmured, “When I have kids and teach them about drugs, I’m going to use her as an example as to why they shouldn’t use them.”

Isabel snickered as Maria scowled at them both. “Ditto.”

Waving a dismissive hand, Maria threw herself onto Isabel’s bed. “Ah, up yours. You know I’m awesome. You know you want me to be the mother of your children.”

Nodding her head and keeping her face as straight as she could manage, Liz replied, “This is true. I wish to sperminate you.”

“Who doesn’t?” joined in Isabel.

“Nobody that I know.” Rolling over to face Isabel, Maria’s smile grew wicked. “So, who wants to talk about Alex and Isabel getting it on?”

“Oh! I do!” called out Liz, loving the look of surprise on Isabel’s face. She’d obviously thought she’d been so secretive. “What, you thought we didn’t know?”

“Did Alex tell you?”

“Nope, but you should be really thankful that Max isn’t as perceptive as me,” said Liz with a wink.

“So... what was it like?” enquired Maria, always ready to hear about other people’s business, but never one to spread it around.

Considering her words carefully, Isabel decided to be extremely honest. “It was... weird at first. A little painful, a lot uncomfortable and then it all got better. A lot better.”

Noting Isabel’s suggestive smile, Liz asked, “So that means that you...”

She nodded slowly and definitely. “Oh yeah...”

Standing up on Isabel’s bed, Maria cupped her hands to her mouth like a megaphone, though she made sure that her voice didn’t carry. “Ladies and gents, Alex pleasured a girl on his first attempt. Though it was probably mainly luck, I think we should congratulate him in absentia. Who knew he had it in him?”

“I always knew he’d be a total Don Juan once he had his cherry popped,” mused Liz. “Always knew it.”

“I think we should stop talking about it now before Maria asks about his penis size.”

Leaning in, Maria stage whispered to Liz, “She’s psychic.”

They laughed together, Isabel enjoying the camaraderie that existed between them, they then moved on to safer topics, gossiping about some of the dumber things that had been said in class in the previous week.

Taking a sip of her coke and letting out a loud burp, Maria then turned to Isabel. “You did that.”

Isabel laughed. “Yes, I’m just your mouthpiece.”

“You want my mouth on your piece. Zing!” Pumping her arm in the air in victory, Maria then toppled off the bed from her precarious position, falling with a loud thud. “Ow.”

Popping her head over the end of the bed, Liz stared at her fallen friend who was groaning in pain on the floor. “Well, that was stupid, wasn’t it?”

“I regret nothing.”

Grabbing the hands of both Liz and Isabel, she allowed herself to be hauled back up onto the bed.

“By the way, Maria, thank you for giving Alex a condom, otherwise we’d never have actually...” Isabel trailed off suggestively, certain that they would understand her meaning..

Maria’s eyebrows flew upwards with surprise. “Really? You actually used it? Guess I shouldn’t have poked holes in it then.”

What?!” Isabel looked as if she was going to be sick, she certainly felt like she was.

Unable to keep a straight face any longer, Maria let out the laughter that she had been containing. “Kidding.”

“You bitch,” seizing one of her history text books, Isabel began to hit her wherever she could reach, only causing Maria to laugh harder. “You don’t fucking joke about things like that!”

Throwing the book down, Isabel lay back on the bed, her head in her hands, trying to steady her breathing. “Oh God, that made me feel so sick.”

“So neither of you had protection?”

Sitting up to answer Liz’s question, Isabel gestured to her bedside table, patting her underwear drawer that now contained a nice, big carton. “Well, I do now. But at the time no, I think Alex was about to cry when he realised he didn’t have anything.”

The girls all laughed at that. “What did he say when you gave him the one I gave you?”

Isabel let out a chuckle. “He muttered something like, ‘remind me to worship at Maria’s feet next time I see her’.”

“Ha,” Maria let out a chuckle, and then her smile slid off her face rapidly. “Alex thought about me right before he went to have sex. Is there some sort of support group I can join?”
***
“HA! Suck it!” exulted Alex, throwing down the controller onto the couch before doing a stylish and coordinated victory dance that ended up with him falling over the coffee table.

“Whip it out and I will,” countered Michael, crossing his arms, his face grim. There was nothing worse than a sore winner, unless it was actually him, then it was ok.

Alex extracted his face from the floor while both boys laughed at his klutziness. Brushing himself off, Alex sighed and reached for the button of his pants. “Alright Michael, but just this once. Don’t tell Isabel either.”

Max grimaced as Alex’s top button popped open on his jeans. “Put your junk away, man. No one wants to see your limp, hairless tootsie roll.”

“I dunno about that. I reckon your sister must be pretty hot for his-”

Max began to talk over the top of Michael. “Finish that sentence, Michael and I will hurt you in a very tender area.”

Rolling his eyes, Michael picked up the discarded controller that Alex had thrown down in his victory and handed it to Max, starting up a new game. “Stop being such a little bitch, Max. They’ve been going out for ages. By my calculation he should have at least gotten a blow job by now.”

Max grimaced as Alex scowled at Michael, deciding to take the high path in this conversation. “Real men don’t kiss and tell, Michael.”

Michael didn’t even bother to look away from the screen, his thumb flying as he tried to kick the crap out of Max’s character. “Real men have pubic hairs, Alex.”

Alex rolled his eyes as both Michael and Max laughed at his expense. “Well, at least I don’t look like my Mom humped a gorilla.”

Michael stopped and stared in awe at Alex, giving Max a chance to finish Michael off while he wasn’t watching. “Touché, my friend.”

Snorting a little, Alex rolled his eyes. “Tootsie roll my ass...”

“You want a tootsie roll in your ass, Alex?” enquired Michael, purposefully mishearing him. “That’s a little kinky, but I’m sure that we can accommodate that.”

Alex sighed as Max and Michael laughed at his expense. “Remind me again why I hang out with you guys?”

“Because we make you feel like a valid part of the male gender,” replied Max dryly.

Alex cocked his head to the side as he mused upon that thought. “Fair enough.”

“Shitty poo balls,” sighed Michael as he lost once again. Being beaten in his own home, on his own gaming system... how degrading. He tossed Alex the controller as he stood up and stretched. “Your turn.”

As Alex and Max battled for supremacy, Michael made his way to the kitchen to dig around in his pantry for a packet of chips. He knew he had some leftover Doritos in there...

He jumped a little as a cell phone buzzed on the bench with a new message, and forgetting that he and Alex had the exact same brand of phone, Michael opened it up.

“That’s odd. Isabel just sent me a message,” Michael informed the two other boys who were only half paying attention as they battled for supremacy.

“What does it say?” asked Alex idly, his attention more focussed on trying to rip Max’s head off.

Michael squinted at the screen, speaking the words as he read them without really processing their meaning. “It says, hey baby, I can’t wait till we have the house to ourselves again. I can’t wait to make love to you again...”

There was a moment of silence after Michael trailed off with realisation, snapping the flip phone shut with one hand. “Well... that wasn’t my phone, obviously.”

Max stared at Alex who sat frozen with fear, not knowing the repercussions that might follow from Max finding out about him deflowering his sister.

After a moment of pure terror and apprehension, Alex relaxed when Max blinked, then shook his head as if to try and remove all the disturbing images he received from hearing that message.

“Next time, Michael, check to make sure that it is your phone,” Max hissed out between gritted teeth. Jesus, he did not need these mental images he was having. He would have been fine without ever knowing that his sister had... done the deed, so to speak.

“While I don’t exactly enjoy the thought of picking up broken pieces of furniture from a smack down between you and Alex, Max, I guess I have to say that you’re taking this particularly well.”

Max shrugged, trying not to think about the startling new information he’d just heard. “I’m not her keeper and frankly, Alex is far better than all of the guys she’s previously been out with. I just really wish I hadn’t heard that.”

Alex smiled a little at the seal of approval he’d just received from Max and held out his hand for Michael to hand him his cell phone. He had a very tricky message to word.
***
Maria fidgeted nervously on the couch as she surveyed the man who had given her half of her genetic code. He seemed nervous too. Amy seemed to be the only one who had any sort of calm within her. As it was, she was holding a very one sided conversation with Amos and Maria about pleasantries, in a vain attempt to try and spark some sort of conversational interchange between the two. It appeared that she was failing miserably.

“I was just commenting to Maria the other day that you liked to play guitar, Amos. It’s funny, because Maria plays guitar too, don’t you Maria?”

Maria glanced at her mother, nodded quickly, and then went back to studying her interlaced hands, paying particular attention to her thumbs. Anything to ensure that she wasn’t looking at Amos. She didn’t feel ready for this. She had no idea why she’d even agreed to it when her mother had suggested it. It wasn’t even as if Amy had pushed her to do it. It had seemed a good idea at the time and now that it was an actuality it was horrendous.

“I’ll just go and make some tea, shall I?” Amy excused herself, and then hid behind the door to listen in, hoping that her absence would spark either of them to talk.

“So, you... like school?” Amos nearly cringed at the inanity of that question, but it was better than the silence.

“Does anyone?” asked Maria, sarcasm becoming her natural defence. “You know, besides geeks.”

“I always hated school,” murmured Amos in agreement.

Maria nodded her head. “It’s pretty dull.”

Amos could have cried, he had nothing to talk about with his daughter. He knew that ten years would definitely have changed her, but he now realised the full extent of his dilemma. He was trying to get to know a stranger. A stranger that he’d hurt in unfathomable ways. Her guard was up and he now knew that there was no longer a place in her life for him as her father. She was past the stage where she needed one, but he hoped that there was still a place in her life for him as a friend. She had experienced life while he had been away, she hadn’t just been in stasis, a seven year old girl waiting for him to come back and pick up where he left off. She had experienced school, cuts, bumps, broken bones, first crushes, first kisses and from the looks of the boy she was with when he saw her again at the small apartment he was renting, first love. He had missed too much, been gone too long. But he vowed that if she let him back into her life, he wouldn’t miss another milestone.

He coughed, breaking the silence and prepared himself for the hardest thing he’d ever have to say. “So, I know you probably don’t need or want another parenting figure,” admitted Amos, the fact stinging him a little as he admitted it. “But could we... maybe... I dunno... work at being friends?”

Amos held his breath after that tentative suggestion, his heart beating out of control as he waited upon her answer.

Exhaling loudly, Maria considered his proposal. It seemed a lot easier than letting him back into his role as her father, an idea that was sure to end in confusion and resentment from both parties. Finally, after a lifetime of agony for Amos, Maria extended her hand to shake with a small smile. “Friends.”
***
She sat on the park bench, her eyes watering a little as a cool gust of wind whipped itself around her face. She snorted a little. This was Roswell, New Mexico; they weren’t supposed to have cool gusts of wind, just hot endless desert and lifeless plains. She hated this place. Hated it so much. But where would she go? She’d never been anywhere else, known anything else. She’d spent her entire life in that god-awful house, with its memories, with that monster. Would getting out of Roswell rid her of her demons? Or New Mexico? America? She thought of Canada. Vermont sounded nice. But for now, she would be content just to get out of that goddamn house.

“Now, you see, a pretty girl sitting all alone, looking all sad just pulls at my heart strings.”

Looking towards the voice, she was taken aback by the owner. Her heart seized in her chest and her mouth refused to work. So this was what it was supposed to feel like.

His heart going bananas in his chest, he took her silence as not a full rejection like he’d expected and took heart. A girl as pretty as her had to have a boyfriend, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t hope against hope.

“Do you mind if I sit down?”

Finally managing to get her brain to work, she offered him a small shy smile and shifted across, indicating that she didn’t mind at all. Oh no, she didn’t mind at all.

“So, you did know that it’s against the law to be sad in my presence?”

“Is it?” Her voice sounded strange to her own ears, like it wasn’t her own and she couldn’t get rid of the damned butterflies in her stomach.

“Seriously. I should know, my dad’s a sheriff. But I’ll be prepared to overlook it this one time if you’d be prepared to laugh at all my bad jokes.”

She let out a laugh and he had never heard a more wonderful sound. “I’ll certainly do my best.”

“That’s all I ask. Although I’m not sure that your boyfriend would appreciate finding you in the presence of such a fine specimen of male such as me.” Flexing an arm, he grinned when he heard her answering laugh. A girl like her had no business being sad. It was his duty to fix such an atrocity.

She had to laugh; she found herself drawn in by his boyish charm and was unable even to call him on his fake arrogance. “What boyfriend?”

He let out a silent thank you. For once, life seemed to be on his side.

“So, perhaps we should be formally introduced?” He couldn’t wait any longer without knowing her name. He just couldn’t.

Accepting his hand, she nearly gasped at the unexpected current that seemed to run up her arm at his touch. “Tess Harding.”

He smiled back at her. “Kyle Valenti.”
***
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Re: Never In Doubt (AU, M/L, Teen) A/N, 12th November

Post by Rowedog » Mon Nov 24, 2008 4:31 pm

Yay, we hit page two hundred! Although, with thirty three parts under my belt, you’d think it’d be more...
Oh, and don’t look up what a donkey punch is. Honestly, you don’t want to know…
Thank you all so much for the awards! I was so stoked, you have no idea!
And I wrote some of this over a year ago, so if you get to a part and think “gee, Alison’s writing has suddenly taken a swift turn for the worse” that’s the part.

Steph- my ever fantabulous beta, where would I be without you? Making stupid mistakes, no doubt.
Novy- Thanks Novy!
Tequathisy- I was wondering if anyone would remember that Kyle was Liz’s cousin. Good job.
Eve
BB- Liz is very good at dealing with rude people because she doesn’t want their good opinion, but the rest are a different story.
Natalie36
Synera
Caro-
Here’s a babysitter’s club mystery for you: Bethany-Ann and the mystery of Clarb! (You can be Bethany-Ann if you wish)
RiceKrispy- Glad to have you here!
Destinyc- Thanks! And welcome!
Maxandlizforever
Ashleyt-
I like that there's an actual story going on
There is? When did that happen? Honestly, when I started this I didn’t have a plot, I still sort of don’t. I’m just thinking up stuff as I go along and saying to myself, ‘Alison, that sort of doesn’t suck, put it in!’
Glad to know that I made you squee. Ok, that so didn’t sound as pornographic and suggestive in my head. :| :oops:
Lauren- Funny face? Take that back right now! I am offended good sir! :lol:
Chanks_girl
Janetfl-
Thank you! That’s so sweet of you.
Part Thirty Three: Make It Nice And Veiny
Kyle took a deep breath and prayed to Buddha that his voice wouldn’t squeak uncontrollably when he spoke next. “So Tess, what’s fun to do around here?”

Tess shrugged, looking around at the sparse surroundings. “Unless you really like tumbleweeds, not much.”

“Where do all the young whippersnappers hang out, then?”

“Whippersnappers?”

It took all of Kyle’s manly security not to blush under her questioning stare. “I think I just channelled my dad...”

Tess sent him an indulging, bemused smile. “Do you do that often?”

Kyle held his hands up defensively. “No... a one off. I swear.”

Laughing awkwardly, Tess stared down at her shoes, her knuckles pushing into the wooden slats of the park bench as she leant forward, her arms close by her sides. She’d never been this awkward in front of a guy before. She kinda liked it, in a masochistic way. By feeling this way, Tess knew that he was different from any other guy she’d supposedly had a crush on, because it had never felt like this before.

“That’s good to know, what does your dad do?”

“He’s a sheriff. We’re in town visiting my cousin and my aunt and uncle, actually.”

Tess felt the bottom drop out of her stomach and struggled to maintain her carefree expression. “Oh, so you won’t be staying long then?”

Kyle nearly crowed in triumph when he saw her crestfallen expression that she was trying so hard to hide. “Well, my dad’s considering taking the position of Sheriff here, so we may be here for the long term. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Tess bit back a relieved smile, glancing away as once more an awkward silence fell over them.

“So listen,” Kyle began, his voice breaking the charged silence surrounding them. “I know you’re probably wishing that I would just piss off and leave you alone, but I can’t help but hope that you’ve somehow taken a shine to me and my boyish good looks.”

Tess couldn’t contain her laugh. He was something else, she wasn’t sure what he was exactly, but she couldn’t wait to find out.

“I guess what I’m hoping for is a phone number, with maybe an indication of hope for a date in the future?” Kyle wiped his sweaty palms against his jeans, cursing them silently. He never got sweaty palms, ever and the one time he really didn’t need them was the one time he got them. Friggin’ figured.

Unable to try and hide her brilliant smile, Tess nodded. “I’d like that. A lot.”

Kyle grinned at her for a moment before shaking himself slightly and handing her his phone so that she could enter her digits in there. Their hands brushed over the exchange and Kyle couldn’t control the excited feeling he had that something amazing was going to come of this meeting. He could just feel it.
***
Max and Liz entered the front doors of the school, hand in hand as people talked loudly and animatedly about what seemed to be the latest piece of gossip.

“Have you heard?” called Pam Troy as she rushed over to the group entering the hall. Her mouth was practically salivating as she reached them. Pam Troy loved to gossip and considered it a privilege to spread new information whenever it passed her way. “Tommy’s been sent to military school, for –get this- steroids. His dad caught him injecting himself last night, went totally nutso and shipped him off this morning.”

The gang all exchanged looks before Pam Troy scurried off to tell people behind them, obviously upset at the lack of reaction she had received.

“Well,” declared Michael with an easy smile. “That takes care of that problem.”

“I guess so,” nodded Isabel. “It feels a little anticlimactic, though.”

Maria sniggered, muttering under her breath, “Would have thought you’ve had enough climaxes recently.”

Both Alex and Isabel pinned her with a glare, luckily Max was too focused on Liz to notice that comment. “What’s wrong?”

Liz frowned, letting out a sigh. “It’s just... we were going to discuss what to do about him today. I made charts and everything.”

The rest of the gang could only hold their countenance for so long. It was Michael who broke them by quoting Liz in a high falsetto, “I made charts.”

Liz rolled her eyes as they burst into laughter around her. “You guys suck.”

“Come here,” said Max, holding out his arms and encircling her in them as he shook from restrained laughter. “You’re one of a kind, you know that?”

Yawning, Liz covered her mouth and sunk her head into Max’s chest having had a late night the night before. “Shh, it’s quiet time.”

“Late night?” enquired Max, dropping a kiss on top of her head.

Mumbling incoherently instead of answering, Liz leant even further into Max.

“I’ll take that as a yes?”

“I couldn’t sleep and ended up on Youtube and Wikipedia watching random shit and looking up weird topics. I think I’ve had about three hours sleep.”

“Why didn’t you just stay home?” asked Michael, his arms slung possessively around Maria.

“I have these things called parents and they demand that I go to school if I’m not sick. And I’m a terrible actor, I just can’t lie to them.”

“Sucks to be you,” Isabel commented idly, sending her a wink.

Sweeping her arms and gesturing to the surrounding halls, Liz commented, “Besides, who’d want to miss out on all of this excitement?”

“Oh yeah, I’m so excited I’ve got a boner,” commented Maria dryly, before glancing around at the rest of the group who were staring at her oddly. “What? Too graphic?”

Michael sighed rubbing his palms in his eyes. “Well I’ve now got a disturbing image in my head of my girlfriend with a penis. My day is now complete. I may as well just go home now.”

“I think you’re just upset because Maria’s penis is bigger than yours,” commented Alex, subtly placing himself behind his girlfriend in case Michael came after him for making a slight against his manhood.

Luckily for Alex, Michael seemed more amused by the concept. “You know what? In the image I had in my head, she totally did. She had like a three foot monster shlong. Mine was tiny in comparison.”

“Did I use it to open doors?” Queried Maria thoughtfully, her mind taking her to bizarre places that few ventured to go.

“This conversation right here? This is why I didn’t want to miss school today. School is awesome. School for the win!” exclaimed Liz, clenching her fist in a move reminiscent of a backstreet boys dance move.

Isabel blinked, her mind grateful for the reprieve from Maria’s imaginary penis. “For the win?”

Liz gave a nervous chuckle. “I also went on a bunch of forums and learnt some online lingo. I’m learning leet speak!”

“And your slide into geekdom gets steeper and steeper...” sighed Maria, shaking her head in sadness.

Liz cried out in affront. “Hey! I learned other not so geeky stuff. I went on urbandictionary and found out what a donkey punch is.”

Choking momentarily in shock, Michael then burst into hysterical laughter causing everyone around to stare at him strangely.

Maria looked between Michael and Liz, curious as to what they were talking about. “What is it?”

Michael shook his head and coughed, trying to clear the spit from his airways that he’d sucked in accidentally from shock. “You don’t want to know.”

“If it’s dirty I think I have a right to know,” huffed Maria as Michael sighed and leant in close to whisper it in her ear.

“I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know,” exclaimed Isabel, her hunch validated by Maria’s reaction after Michael had told her.

“That’s awful! You ever do that to me and I’ll hack off your balls!” Cried Maria, both amused and offended by the definition.

“I wasn’t planning on it, believe me,” replied Michael with a roll of his eyes.

Just then, the bell rang and the couples began to drift their separate ways to go off to class.

“I know what I’ll be doing in History today; drawing Maria with a penis!” called Alex down the hall to Michael’s retreating back, garnering more than a few disturbed stares his way from passersby.

Turning around as she walked with Michael, Maria gave him a thumbs up, calling back down the hallway, “Make it nice and veiny!”

Laughing, Liz headed off to French with Max, amused by her friends’ antics. Grasping Liz’s hand in his, Max imitated his mother in a high falsetto. “So Max, what did you do in school today?” Dropping back to his normal tenor, Max answered his own question. “Oh you know, I discussed Maria’s penis size and learnt what a donkey punch is from my girlfriend. Just the usual.”

Liz laughed. “You know you still haven’t been told what it is.”

“You know what? I’ll waive that right. I’m good. I’m sure Michael will tell me later anyway. Whether I want to know or not.”

Liz was almost positive that he was correct in his assessment. She almost felt sorry for him.
***
Liz dumped her bag at the front door with a groan, thinking that she’d pick it up later after she’d had a nap. She’d stayed up half the night surfing the net looking at stupid pointless shit because she couldn’t sleep and now she was feeling the effects of it.

“In here sweetie!” called her Mom with barely unconcealed excitement. Liz let out a groan, having forgotten about her Mom’s surprise. Knowing her, it was probably a new pet goldfish or something equally crap, but she’d try her hardest to show enthusiasm.

“Yo yo, momma,” said Liz with as much fake enthusiasm as she could muster as she entered the room. However, it only took one glance at the occupants of the room for her enthusiasm to become genuine and out of control.

“KYLE!” Running towards him, she took a flying leap, latching her arms around his neck in a suffocating hug as he caught her.

Returning the hug briefly, Kyle then set her down on her feet and grasped her by her shoulders. “Friggin’ Lizbian! How the hell are you, you dirty mung bean?”

Punching him on the arm, she grinned at him. “Forget me, what the hell are you doing here, you stupid goon?”

“You know, anyone listening might think that you don’t want me here,” pouted Kyle, his eyes taking on a puppy dog expression.

Punching him on the arm, Liz rolled her eyes. “You really are a noob, how long have you been here for?”

Looking at his watch Kyle screwed up his face, a comical picture of concentration. “Since about ten this morning.”

“What have you been doing all this time?”

Kyle shrugged. “Wandering around, acquainting myself with your little town. It’s cute.”

“A little less condescension, please,” grated Liz, trying not to smile.

A gravelly voice sounded from the other side of the room. “You know Beetle, I’m beginning to feel a little unloved...”

Liz span on her heel and noticed her uncle standing off to the side. “Uncle J!”

“How’s my favourite squeakabeetle?”

“I can’t believe you still call me that!” cried Liz in forced consternation. “I’m too old for nicknames!”

Bestowing upon her a fond smile, he ruffled her hair. “You’ll always be Beetle to me.”

Ignoring her uncle’s last comment, she addressed them both. “What are you both doing here?”

“Well, I’ve been offered the position of Sheriff in this fine old town and I was looking for something a little less hectic than Albuquerque. So here we are.”

“Oh my God!” Jumping up and down in excitement, Liz hugged Kyle first then Jim and let out a very girly squeal. “This is great! You have to come to my school! You can meet all my friends and join the football team here! Oh! One of the guys just got kicked out so there’ll be a place for you in the team and... aargh! I’m just so excited! Have you got a house yet?”

“Nope,” replied Jim, thinking that his nickname for her was particularly apt in this particular moment in time. “Hope you don’t mind us crashing here for a few weeks till we get sorted out.”

Liz clapped her hands together. “That’d be great!”

Throwing Kyle his car keys, Nancy gestured to the door. “Liz, why don’t you show your cousin around town while we get dinner ready? You can show him all the spots he missed.”

Grabbing Kyle by the hand, Liz had already half towed him out the door before her mother had finished speaking.

“Be back by seven!” she called to their backs as they raced out the door. Sharing an amused eye roll with her brother, Nancy laughed at their eagerness. “Crazy kids.”
***
“Hey Max,” called Malamud unnecessarily loudly over the back of his Crashdown booth seat to where Max was sitting only a foot away.

“Yes Malamud?” answered Max with a long suffering sigh. Why did he have to sit in the booth that backed theirs? It seemed that with Tommy gone, that Malamud had slid into his spot, filling it with ease. Needless to say, the gang was not overly impressed by this.

“So I saw Liz today.”

Max rolled his eyes at the inanity of that comment. “So did I, Malamud. We did all go to school together.”

Malamud didn’t notice the condescending tone Max employed and continued anyway. “I so knew she wasn’t really in to you. She’s already moving on to another guy.”

Despite Max’s best attempts at ignoring what Malamud had to say, his attention was piqued when he heard that last comment.

“What are you talking about?” he asked, trying to keep his tone bored and disbelieving when in actuality he was slightly worried by Malamud’s words. He couldn’t be telling the truth. Could he?

“When I saw Liz she was getting into another guy’s Mustang. He was wearing a football jacket too. I knew she had a thing for jocks, and now that you’re out of the way, it’ll only be a short amount of time before she decides to step on up and test drive the Malamud-mobile.”

“Anyone ever tell you you’re a fuckwit, Malamud? Turn around, your face is putting me off my food.”

Max wanted to feel grateful for Michael’s interruption, but he really wanted Malamud to answer his numerous questions. He knew Malamud probably wasn’t making it up because he didn’t have the imagination and it could be too easily disproved if it were false. Plus he was far too smug to be lying. Which meant that right now, Liz was out there in some jock’s car. And he was in here with no way of knowing what was happening.

He could call her or text her but that would be letting Malamud know that he didn’t trust Liz. And he did trust her. He did. He just wanted to know where she was. And who she was with. That was all. But showing that type of weakness in front of Malamud’s gang was a no no. He couldn’t let them see that he’d got to him.

He couldn’t even go to the bathroom for fear of Malamud calling him out on what he was going to do. Leaving wasn’t an option for that reason either because he hadn’t finished his meal and it would look suspicious. So he had to sit it out in agony wondering where the heck she was.

He forced what he could down, feeling slightly nauseous as he waited. Could Malamud actually be correct? Could she have moved on from him? His heart immediately dismissed the idea, but that didn’t stop his head from running through all the possibilities.

“Max, you ok?” asked Isabel, worrying over her brother’s silence that had overtaken him ever since Malamud’s comment five minutes ago.

“Yeah. I’m ok. Why wouldn’t I be ok? Do I not look ok to you? Because I feel ok,” rambled Max while stabbing the fries on his plate with a viciousness that contradicted his words.

“Um… ok. That’s, uh… good,” replied Isabel uneasily as she watched Max stacking on more fries onto his fork than constituted a mouthful.

Michael reached over and halted Max mid-stab and shook his head at him, silently conveying with his eyes that thirteen fries was more than enough.

Max sighed then whipped his head around, dropping his fork as he heard the bell of the Crashdown door ring, followed by Liz’s laugh.

Max’s heart stopped once more when he noticed that she wasn’t alone.

Oh… fuck.

“Told you,” whispered Malamud over the back of the bench seat as Liz and her… friend approached Max’s booth. Alex and Maria strolled in behind, unnoticed by Max whose attention was focused on more pressing issues.

“Hey Max,” said Liz enthusiastically as she bent down to kiss him on the cheek. Max’s heart loosened from its tight ache as he considered that her greeting was neither guilty nor forced. She couldn’t have been doing anything wrong if she could show such joy in seeing him. Could she?

“I have someone I’d like you to meet.”

She gestured to the smiling jock beside her and Max waited with baited breath to hear what she had to say. His heart clenched in his chest again when she slung an arm around his shoulders in a familiar way.

“This is my favourite cousin, Kyle. Kyle, this is my boyfriend, Max.”

The relief Max felt washed through him and he slumped into his seat. He closed his eyes and exhaled before reaching out and shaking the boy’s extended hand with a wide smile.

“Nice to meet you Kyle.”

“Same here Max, Lizzy here has told me all about you.”

Max smiled goofily at her, still not quite used to the fact that Liz might talk about him when he wasn’t around. Only a couple of months ago he was certain he was never more than a passing thought in her mind and now, here she was, telling one of the most important people in her life about him; Maxwell Evans. Life sure was great.

“Really?” Max asked, trying not to smile too goofily or let the awe shine through in his voice.

Kyle rolled his eyes dramatically and scruffed Liz’s hair affectionately. “Had to forcibly gag her to get her to shut up.”

Liz scowled at Kyle as she tried to rearrange her hair back into normalcy. “No you didn’t! Stop exaggerating Kyle!”

“Me? Exaggerating? I think you’ve gotten me confused with your good self. I’ve been looking at ole Maxie’s eyes for at least a minute now and I don’t feel like I’m ‘drowning in his soul’.”

As the rest of the people in the vicinity laughed, Liz punched Kyle in the arm and exclaimed angrily, “You know, I won’t tell you things if you’re going to use them against me!”

Max couldn’t keep the shit-eating grin off of his face when he heard that.

“I only speak the truth, cousin dear,” replied Kyle with a long suffering sigh.

“Whatever,” replied Liz, placing herself on Max’s lap as Alex slid in beside Michael and Maria and Kyle pulled up chairs to the end of the booth.

Liz gestured to her right and then across the table. “Kyle, this is Isabel, Alex’s girlfriend. And Michael, Maria’s boyfriend.”

“Nice to meet you both and I have to say Michael, you look relatively normal for a boyfriend of Maria’s.”

While her boyfriend guffawed, Maria flipped Kyle the bird. “Lick my hairy ass crack, Kyle.”

Pausing for a moment as if considering it, Kyle eventually replied, “I’ll pass, but thank you for the offer.”

Gesturing to Kyle, Michael controlled his laughter long enough to say, “I love this guy.”

“Me too,” agreed Liz, enormously pleased that Kyle seemed to have already made a friend.

“Right back at you, Beetle.”

Isabel sent an amused smirk over Liz’s way. “Beetle?”

“Apparently when I was little I had a very high pitched voice, so he and Uncle J used to call me squeakabeetle. And he still calls me beetle even though my voice isn’t that high anymore.”

Liz huffed in indignation as the occupants of the table all let out simultaneous snorts. “What? Guys! It’s totally not!”

With a fake pitying look plastered on her face, Maria reached over and grasped Liz’s hand in hers. “Liz, sometimes you say something and only dogs can hear you.”

“Stuff you!” cried Liz over the top of their laughter. “Guys! Come on! That’s so mean...”

With an idle glance at his watch, Kyle’s eyes widened. “Hate to be a party pooper, but I’m going to have to point out the time. Liz?”

“Shit,” cried Liz, clambering off of Max’s lap in a hurry after looking at her own watch. “It’s ten past seven. Maria, you’ll catch a ride with Alex?” At Maria’s nod, both Kyle and Liz hurried off towards the back room.

“I liked him,” commented Max.

Maria snorted. “You’d have liked him if he was the biggest asshole on the planet, just because he’s Liz’s cousin and she loves him.”

Max nodded, not denying her claim. “Well yeah, but luckily he seems like a really cool guy.”

“I suppose we’ll have to expand our friendship group again,” sighed Alex. “I really hate doing that. I mean, you guys are such dicks but I put up with you for Isabel’s sake.”

“You’re such a martyr,” snorted Max as everyone around him shook their heads in disbelief.

Alex nodded his head. “I’m a giver. Take of me.” Spreading his arms wide to prove his point, he missed all the shared glances.

Pushing Alex’s hand away from his face, Michael grimaced. “I’ll pass, thanks. I have no desire to “take” you.”

“Best to leave that up to Isabel,” commented Maria snidely watching the disgust grow on Max’s face with unconcealed delight. There were times when she desperately loved that Max and Isabel were her friends. This was one of those times.
***
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Re: Never In Doubt (AU, M/L, Teen) Pt 33, 25th November

Post by Rowedog » Tue Dec 30, 2008 1:41 am

Good news! I’m not as slack as I appear! I’ve almost finished the next part! Hooray! I’m posting and running because my internet bill is very high. Eeek… So, sorry if I miss anyone!

Natalie36
Nibbles2
Destinyc
Ashley
Novy

Eve- I actually have a million nicknames from my childhood, but only one that I still get called, not that I’d ever reveal that one… embarrassment…
Tequathisy- Actually I just get more bold. I keep pushing the limit of what’s acceptable.
Caro
Emz
Steph-
I don’t care anymore. I’ve decided it’s ok and I’ll post as is. When did I get so lazy?
Jan
Bella_svetlana
Ashleyt
Tamashii
Lauren-
Well, I stay up late looking up weird stuff anyway, so I thought I’d just put it in there.
MetallicaGeek

Part Thirty Four: Is There Anything Maria’s Penis Can’t Do?


“Ok, so this is our school,” said Liz as she pulled up out front in her car. She had offered to drive Kyle to school until he knew his way around town. He had accepted under the one condition that he could install air-conditioning into her car for her because he wasn’t driving around in her cruddy little shit-box getting sweaty pits. Liz saw it as a win-win situation.

“No! Really?” asked Kyle sarcastically as he looked at the large red brick building.

“Shutup,” she grated as she linked arms with him. “Here is where the learning happens.”

“No way,” Kyle breathed.

“For serious, dearest Cuz.” Stopping him momentarily, Liz pointed to a nearby bin. “Suppose you had some trash in your hand, in that bin is where you would deposit it.”

“This place has everything,” exclaimed Kyle with a mock amazed stare at his surroundings.

“I know!” Liz smiled as her Michael, Isabel, Max and Alex came into view. “And there is your new group of friends. You try and make any others and I’ll permanently disable you.”

Kyle grimaced, slightly amused at the thought of tiny Liz trying to take him down. “Ouch.”

Liz shook her head, pinning him with the most serious stare she could muster. “I’m serious. You have to be friends with my friends. It’s just the way it is. I won’t accept anything else.”

Kyle took his orders calmly. “I guess I’ll have to be.”

“Hey guys!” greeted Liz as she reached the group with Kyle in tow. She greeted Max with a kiss and tuned in to hear what Michael was complaining about now.

“And they were doing it all night, they just wouldn’t stop. He was all “Say my name!” and she was all “Morty! Morty!” and I was all “Shut up!” because their bed squeaked like a horde of rats having an orgy and it was right above my head. Plus, they’re ugly. Like seriously ugly. I wouldn’t mind if she was hot and he was sticking it to her. I’d understand sacrificing my sleep so he could bone a hot chick, but she’s gross! And she’s a bitch. She lets her stupid dog take a dump in front of my front door every morning so that I step in it. So this morning I picked it up in a tissue and smeared it all over her door. That’ll teach her.”

“That is the best story I’ve ever heard,” said Isabel, shaking her head sadly. “No lie.”

Liz turned slightly to Kyle. “As you can tell, Michael’s a real morning person.”

“I’m feeling the good vibes flowing from him,” admitted Kyle.

“Poor Mikey. I think he needs a big kiss,” commented Max. “I nominate Alex to do the honours. Don’t be afraid to use tongue, Whitman.”

Alex groaned. “Hold on, I’ve still got some of my breakfast stuck in my teeth and I haven’t done my tongue exercises today.” He sighed dramatically and shrugged. “I suppose he’ll have to just make do.”

Heading towards Michael with his tongue already stuck out in anticipation, Alex was stopped by a palm to the head.

“You do it Alex and I’ll...” Michael struggled to come up with an adequate threat.

“You’ll come into his room in the middle of the night and touch him while he’s sleeping,” suggested Kyle, eager to help out a new friend in need.

“That’s right!” yelled Michael adamantly before he thought about Kyle’s words. “Wait, no...”

Michael hung his head as the rest of them laughed. He’d somehow walked right into that one. He assumed that it was because he was as tired as fuck. Friggin’ Morty humping his ugly wife all night.

Alex clasped his hands together and grinned at him. “Oh Michael, I had no idea you felt that way about me!”

“Neither did I,” remarked Maria dryly, her arms crossed as she stared at her boyfriend.

Michael groaned and desperately tried to think up another topic. “Remember that time we talked about Maria’s penis? Let’s do that again.”

“Hey! I saw Maria’s penis,” said Kyle excitedly. “Alex showed it to me.”

“Did my boyfriend hold it while you inspected it?” asked Isabel, not quite understanding Alex’s role in this whole escapade.

“No, he showed me the drawing that he did. Gotta hand it to you Mar, that’s a magnificent specimen of manhood you’ve got tucked in your pants.”

Maria bowed. “Thanks. I feed it raw meat every night to keep up its bulk.”

“And now it has mouth, teeth and a digestive system,” remarked Liz. “Is there anything Maria’s penis can’t do?”

“Help me pass Spanish. Seriously, I’m floundering like Alex in the deep end of the public swimming pool.”

“Hey!” cried Alex indignantly. “Some of us just weren’t made to be swimmers.”

The bell rang before Alex could defend his lack of swimming prowess further and Liz took Kyle in the direction of the front office.
***
Kyle smiled as he spotted Tess out of the corner of his eye. So she went to his school, this day was certainly picking up. Life was about to get a whole lot more interesting.

He could tell the exact moment that she spotted him, her entire body stiffened and a slow, amazed smile slid across her lips. She made her way slowly towards him.

“Kyle Valenti, going to be a comet, I see?”

Kyle shook his head in confusion at her words. “Huh?”

She pointed towards the sign that hung above their heads that heralded a big game for the West Roswell Comets.

Kyle pulled at his letterman jacket and let out a laugh. “I guess so. I barely even had to audition. The coach was just so relieved to have an experienced running back; apparently one of them got shipped off to military school or something and left them in the lurch.”

Tess nodded. “Steroids. Militant father.”

Kyle tapped the side of his nose. “Say no more. Say, is it cool that we’re seen together? I wouldn’t want to endanger your squeaky clean reputation with my ass kicking bad boy persona.”

Tess’s smile dropped at his teasing question and her tone became flat and dull. “I haven’t got a squeaky clean reputation for you to endanger. I don’t have the best history.”

Kyle sensed that there was a deep underlying sense of shame in that confession and attempted to lighten the mood or at least comfort her. He wasn’t sure what he was trying to do. “Does anyone?”

“I guess not,” she murmured, not looking entirely convinced.

“Killed a guy?” he speculated.

She let out a laugh. “No.”

Kyle guessed again. “Gone on a baby killing spree?”

Another laugh. “Not lately.”

“Got pregnant by your stepfather to spite your mother who is a born again Christian and so controlling she’s sucking the life right out of you?”

Tess then realised that Kyle’s imagination was a thing to be feared. “Not yet.”

“Sodomized a puppy?”

Tess gagged and gaped at Kyle who stared innocently back. “Eww! That’s just gross!”

Kyle shrugged. “Well, you’ve got me. I can’t imagine what’s so bad that you can’t be forgiven for it.”

“It’s not extremely bad, it’s certainly not sodomising a puppy.” Tess made a face as she said that last part. “It’s just not something that I’m proud of.”

“Well, whatever it is, I hope you can learn to forgive yourself. You’re too cute to pull that sad, melancholy face.”

“Really?”

“Oh, I never lie. Except for the times when I do lie. But that’s not right now. Those are times when dad asks me if I’ve taken the garbage out or if I’ve done my homework, but I’d never lie to a beautiful girl.”

Tess bit her lip shyly. She had had many compliments from guys, most of them trying to get in her pants, but never had she been given one so simply delivered, so blunt in its honesty, so... unique in content.

Kyle snapped his fingers as a thought came to him suddenly. “Hey, I haven’t asked you if you know my cousin yet. She goes here too. Liz Parker, you know her?”

Kyle watched as Tess’s face grew pale, her mouth dropped open slightly and a look of shock, despair and disbelief appeared across her cute features. This was obviously not good news for her.

“Liz? Yeah, I know her. I have to go.”

Kyle stood still in his spot and watched her retreat, a little too stunned by the abrupt change in her attitude to chase after her. She had completely closed herself off from him in a matter of seconds.

He felt a punch to his arm and looked down to see his cousin staring at him. “Please don’t tell me that you were talking to Tess Harding.”

“What’s the deal with you and her?” he asked bluntly, wondering how he’d reconcile his cousin to his dating someone she didn’t like, because there was no way in hell he was giving her up.

Liz rolled her eyes and opened her locker. “She hit on Max when we first started dating and tried to steal him away even though she knew he was taken. It was really rude.”

Kyle watched as Tess collected her books from her locker and then beat a hasty retreat down the hall. Well at least now he knew what she was so ashamed about.

“Has she done it lately?”

Liz stopped pulling her books out of her locker and mused upon his question. “No, to her credit she hasn’t done it lately.”

“So if she apologised and offered an explanation you’d probably accept it and move on, right?”

Liz snorted a little. “I don’t ever need to consider that because that would never happen. It’s not Tess’s style to apologise. Besides, what do you care?”

Kyle shrugged and followed Liz to English Lit. So his dreamgirl and his favourite cousin were at odds with each other. This was something he’d have to fix.
***
“We hanging out after school tonight?” asked Michael as he and Maria sat at the lunch table waiting for the rest of the group to arrive.

“Can’t. I’ve arranged for me and Amos to watch a movie tonight. I’m going to rent out the biggest, sappiest chick flick I can find just to test his endurance.”

Michael smiled at his girlfriend’s evil plotting. “Sounds like a plan. Though I have no idea how I’m going to fill in my time after school now. I don’t even have to work tonight.”

“Hang out with Alex,” suggested Maria. “Isabel is having a maths tutoring session from Liz tonight, so you Alex and Max –and maybe even Kyle- could probably hang out.”

“What are you volunteering me for?” enquired Alex as he sat down, followed by his girlfriend, Max, Liz and Kyle. “Last time I got volunteered to do something, Michael said he’d sexually assault me in the middle of the night.”

Michael rolled his eyes. “Well in that case you probably don’t want to hang out with me after school tonight.”

“Never said I didn’t want to be sexually assaulted,” rebutted Alex. “What are we doing?”

Shrugging, Michael picked up his sandwich and took a bite. “Dunno. Let’s make it up as we go along. Max, you in?”

“Sure. I’ve got nothing better to do.”

“Kyle? How about you?”

Kyle looked up, surprised and flattered to be included. “Yeah, sure.”

“What’s Amy doing while you’re hanging with Amos tonight?” enquired Liz, picking up their conversation that had been abruptly ended in Spanish.

“She said she’d go out prowling for teenage boys to seduce, but I think she was just joking.” Maria frowned. “I hope she was just joking.”

Liz nodded, impressed. “Cougar! And what’s Sean doing?”

Maria snorted. “Sean will probably come home drunk at around one in the morning and tell Mom that he’s got an inner ear infection and that’s why he’s dizzy. Then she’ll stare at him dully and tell him that excuse has never worked before so she doesn’t even know why he bothers. Then the next morning she’ll get two pans and bash them together outside his door just to piss him off and aggravate his hangover. Then they’ll repeat the process the next night.”

“Sounds like fun,” commented Liz.

“Oh yeah, a riot.”
***
“Hey Michael, I can see your crack!” exclaimed Alex as Michael tried to fix the connection between the DVD and the TV player. It had been working fine last night, but the moment that Michael had people over it decided to crack the shits and die. Friggin’ figured.

“Getting a boner, Alex?” Michael grunted as he fiddled with the cord. Why wouldn’t the stupid cord just do its frickin’ job? He hated trying to get to the back of the TV. The cabinet that held the DVD player was tiny and he was nearly wedged in there just so he could get a good idea of what was going on.

“You know it,” replied Alex casually, before a wicked smile grew on his lips. His eyes travelled from his glass of soda to Michael’s partially exposed ass and back again. This was going to be good.

Fishing into his lemonade, Alex withdrew the largest ice block floating in there and crept up behind Michael who was too engrossed in his job to see what was coming.

It was only when Michael felt the slimy, freezing cold ice cube slide down his crack into his boxers that he realised what Alex had done. Jumping up in shock he smacked his head on the wooden cabinet above him that held the TV and nearly put his elbow through the DVD player in his haste to get at the rapidly melting ice cube that was perilously close to his nads. It didn’t help his bad mood that the other three guys were laughing hysterically, either.

“Ugh! You dirty... fuck hole!” Michael exclaimed angrily as he finally fished what was left of the melted ice cube out of his boxers.

“I wonder, what does a dirty fuck hole consist of exactly?” pondered Kyle seriously.

Max pondered Kyle’s question as well. “I’d imagine that it would be a hole made expressly for fucking, covered in dirt or some other substance to make it filthy.”

Michael glared frostily at Alex. “You’re dead, Whitman, you’re so dead. When you least expect it, I’ll be there.”

“I know, I know,” yawned Alex with a lack of concern. “You’ll touch me in the middle of the night while I’m sleeping. I get it.”

Michael groaned as they all laughed again. Why had he felt compelled to invite them over? He should have just watched reruns of Jerry Springer in his underwear while scarfing down chips, that would have been far less hazardous to his health.
***
Jim Valenti surveyed his office with an immense sense of satisfaction. This was just what he and Kyle needed, a change. Things in Albuquerque had become a bit too boring and predictable. He had a good feeling that something life changing was about to occur here.

Heading down to the cells, Valenti looked at the only young man they were holding at that moment. He was currently holding his head from what seemed to be a splitting hangover. “Sean DeLuca... drunk and disorderly last night?”

“Yeah,” winced the young man as the sheriff handed him a glass of water and two aspirin through the bars. “Aunt Amy said she’d bust me out in the morning. Something about a night in jail doing me good. All it’s done is give me a cricked neck.”

As if to illustrate his point, Sean began stretching his neck and grimacing in pain, his water and aspirin having disappeared quickly down his throat. Sean was never one to look a gift horse in the mouth and this sheriff seemed pretty cool, usually the old sheriff would be giving him some speech about his immortal soul being in peril and aggravate his hangover to the point of bursting. This wasn’t the first time Amy had tried the tough love approach with him, but Juvie had hardened him to a lot of things and a night in a quiet jail cell wasn’t exactly what nightmares were made of.

Valenti let a smile slip through before turning to greet the person he could hear coming through the door.

His greeting died in his throat as he caught sight of the amazingly beautiful woman powering through the doorway, her face like a thunderclap.

“You’re the new sheriff?” she asked looking around, a little taken aback by the fact that he was so handsome.

Jim blinked a couple of times before his brain caught back up with him. “I... yeah! Uh... Jim Valenti.”

He threw Sean a death glare when he heard him snigger at his ineptitude. It wasn’t his fault! He had never said that his Aunt was a complete hottie.

“Valenti... where have I heard that name before...?” Amy bowed her head in thought and then suddenly it came to her. “Ah! Maria went to stay with some Valentis up in Albuquerque one summer. That’s it!”

“Maria DeLuca? You’re her Mom?” asked Jim, not believing the connection he already had with this beauty. Not that he’d thought she was much of a beauty when he spoke with her the first time.

“Yes, she’s my daughter, so you must be the guy I talked with on the phone,” Amy surmised, remembering that conversation with perfect clarity.

“Talked with? I distinctly remember being threatened,” Jim replied, half serious and half teasing. “I believe you said that if one hair was out of place when she got back that you would hold me solely responsible and would kick my ass to kingdom come.”

Amy smiled unabashedly and unrepentedly. “Well, a Mom’s gotta do what a Mom’s gotta do.”

“I suppose you’ll be wanting your nephew back?” Jim smiled, gesturing to the bored young man behind bars.

Amy shrugged. “Not particularly. You wouldn’t want to keep him would you?”

Jim gave her what he hoped was a charming smile. “I think I’d rather keep you.”

“I don’t know that I’d be that useful to have around,” smiled Amy. Usually when men found out about her teenage daughter they quit flirting quick smart and fled for their lives, but this guy was something else.

“I’m sure I could think of something, Ms. DeLuca.”

Amy’s blush grew even hotter and brighter, he was so brazen, but there was something so appealingly boyish about his general air that made her laugh instead of groan at his suggestiveness.

Sean could have cried at the disgusting display taking place in front of him. “Ugh, can you please stop flirting? You’re old, it’s gross and I have a hangover.”

Knocking her heavy bag into the bars with a loud clang, Amy smiled gleefully as Sean held his head between his hands with renewed pain from the loud noise. Jim took the opportunity to unlock the cell so that Sean could leave.

“Here you go, son. I’d better let you get home so that she can aggravate that hangover even more.”

Sean shuffled out with Amy trailing behind him, turning as she left through the door she’d just come through, she called out Jim, “I’m sure I’ll see you around, sheriff.”

“Count on it,” he replied. He smiled to himself as he locked the empty cell back up. Yep, Roswell was definitely looking to be life changing.
***
“So, Alex isn’t on the football team?” enquired Kyle as he, Max and Michael made their way onto the field.

“Oh no, he is! We use him as a goal post,” commented Michael snarkily, still pissed at the prank that Alex had pulled on him the night before.

“Alex doesn’t really see the point in organised sport. He doesn’t actually see the point in unorganised sport either. Plus he knows he’d get his ass handed to him out here.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” gloated Michael, imagining it with a twisted sort of glee.

“I wouldn’t rule Alex out completely,” said Kyle. “We used to play down in Albuquerque when he, Maria and Liz came down to visit and he wasn’t bad.”

“Whatever,” Michael rammed on his helmet and headed out to start laps, leaving Kyle and Max behind. Kyle’s grin grew as he noticed Tess on the other side of the field practicing with the cheerleaders. This could work out in his favour. He’d noticed that she’d been avoiding him all day and he was grateful for the opportunity to speak to her.

Finishing his training, Kyle jogged over to the bench and grabbed his water bottle. He smiled at his good fortune when he noticed Tess stretching in her cheerleader’s outfit right near him. He walked slowly over to her and smiled at her when she looked up.

“So, have you been cheering for me?” he asked cheekily while unabashedly checking out her legs and taking a swig of water.

“I don’t think your cousin would like that we’re talking,” said Tess pointedly, turning her head back to focus on her stretches, not wanting to look at him.

Kyle snorted, his eyes wandering down the smooth expanse of leg he had an excellent view of as he snapped the cap back on his drink bottle. “You always do what she tells you to do?”

Tess’s head snapped back up to stare at him. “You don’t care that she hates me?”

Kyle winced a little and amended his speech. “I wouldn’t say that... I just think that the rift can be patched up, that’s all.”

This time it was Tess who snorted, her incredulity written upon her face. “I think she’d prefer it not patched up. Besides, just looking at her reminds me of how I used to be and it’s not a pleasant memory. I’m not sure I would want to be around her.”

“So you’ve changed?”

Tess nodded, lost in her own contemplation as she retraced her journey to where she was now. While she was proud of how far she’d come, this pride was mixed with a bitter regret that she had once been like that. Her memories were not pleasant ones. So desperate for any affection, she had let any pretty guy who lied to her and told her that they loved her into her bed and had tried to steal what wasn’t hers through jealousy and loneliness. She had caused other people pain and had sacrificed her own self respect at the same time. Self destruction seemed to be her M.O. “Yeah. Took me a while but I got there.”

“So you’re not going to hit on Max anymore?” Kyle had no idea why he suddenly decided that he liked the taste of feet, but he felt that he needed her to clarify, it only for his own sanity.

“I have better things to do with my time,” she replied haughtily. She may have improved out of sight, but Tess still wasn’t perfect. There was no way she would let that one slide.

“Better people to hit on,” Kyle suggested, gesturing to himself with a broad sweep of his hand.

Tess sneered as best she could while the corner of her mouth twitched as she repressed a smile. There was something so endearing about him, even when he was being a bit of an ass. “Arrogant.”

“Beautiful.”

Tess couldn’t help but blush at his unabashed surmisal of her. It completely caught her off guard and as such couldn’t remember to pretend to be mad at him.

“How’s tomorrow night for you?” asked Kyle, admiring the pretty pink staining her cheeks. She blushed. How adorable.

Tess blinked, not following him. “What about tomorrow night?”

“For our date, you promised me one, remember?”

“Uh yeah...” Tess did remember, but she didn’t want to come between Liz and her cousin who she was obviously very fond of. She’d already caused her enough trouble.

“Great, then I’ll pick you up at six. Dress casual.”

Kyle sauntered off leaving Tess staring at his back in half anticipatory glee and half horror. Just what had she let herself in for?
***
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Re: Never In Doubt (AU, M/L, Teen) Pt 34, 30th December

Post by Rowedog » Fri Jan 02, 2009 8:54 pm

Look at this! It hasn’t even been a week!

Crazedearthgirl
Novy-
I actually hate New Years, it takes focus away from my birthday :P , and they’re called lamptrimmers.
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Steph
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Alysluv
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Laira-
quiet you!
Eve
Lauren

Part Thirty Five: Silent But Deadly
“Should I be worried that Kyle could potentially be my stepbrother?” enquired Maria as she sat down at the booth with a large sigh. Her mother was out, once again, with Jim Valenti. Now Maria didn’t begrudge her Mother her happiness, but she was used to not having to share her. Adjusting at this late stage in the game to a change in situations was not an idea that she relished, but she would deal if it came to that. But that didn’t mean that she wouldn’t feel sad about it now. She thought it best to get it out of her system now.

“I’m terrified,” remarked Kyle glibly, rubbing Maria’s shoulder. “Though if I was going to have a stepsister, I’m pretty sure that you’d be my first choice.”

Maria smiled, her bad mood instantaneously lifted. Maybe having new additions in her family wouldn’t be so bad after all. But she was jumping the gun; they’d only been dating for a short while, although she’d never seen her Mom so smitten before.

“If I were you, I’d be terrified that my Dad’s getting more play than me,” quipped Alex.

“Speaking of, Kyle you’ve been here a month, anyone caught your eye?” enquired Michael as he heaped ketchup on his fries. He had just finished his shift over the grill and the smell of the fries had been driving him insane, so he’d grabbed himself a plate as he left and joined the rest of the gang around the booth that they frequented.

Kyle stiffened slightly, an action that didn’t go unnoticed by Liz. “Ooh! Somebody has! Look at that guilty face!”

Swallowing, Kyle motioned to Liz to leave the booth and prepared himself to bite the bullet. She followed him, her excitement turning into apprehension. He didn’t seem to be relishing the idea of telling her and his face seemed more pained than slightly embarrassed like she would have expected from Michael’s teasing question.

“Listen, while I’ve been here, I’ve been out on a couple of dates...”

Liz’s eyes widened with surprise then narrowed slightly from hurt. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Kyle licked his lips. “Because I knew you wouldn’t approve. I wanted to make sure that what I was pursuing was worth it and now that I know it... I thought I should just... do it.”

He ended his speech with a sigh, as if he were about face a firing squad rather than his favourite cousin.

“Who is she? I’m sure she can’t be that bad...” Liz’s voice trailed off as her mind came up with one suspicion... surely he couldn’t possibly...

“Tess Harding.”

“You WHAT??”

Kyle winced as everybody in the cafe paused to look at them. “Lower your voice, Liz.”

Liz gaped at him, fury blazing in her eyes. “I’m sorry, I thought I just heard my cousin tell me that he asked out Tess Harding! The one chick I can’t stand!”

“She’s not that bad,” defended Kyle, with a small reflective smile.

“Not that bad?! She hit on my boyfriend!”

Kyle’s smile dropped, and he huffed in exasperation. “Look, I’m not saying that she’s all perfect and wonderful or whatever, but I am going to say that there are reasons for why she is the way she is and if you knew half of what went on in her life, you wouldn’t be saying all the shit you are now.”

Liz’s eyes narrowed as she brushed aside everything Kyle had just alluded to, focussing on the one thing that made her blood boil. “So you think it’s acceptable that she has no respect for other people’s relationships? That it’s ok that she try to break Max and I up because she has “stuff” going on in her life?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying.” Kyle ran a hand down his face and glanced around at all the curious eyes that were watching their interaction. He gestured to the back room of the cafe. “Listen, let’s talk about this upstairs. There’s some stuff you need to know that shouldn’t be public knowledge.”

Liz sighed and followed him up the stairs to her room, scowling at his back the entire way.

Reaching Liz’s room she sat huffily on the bed and stared at Kyle expectantly. “Ok, so what’s this big secret?”

He sighed and ran his hand through his hair. He needed Liz to approve and he knew that this was the only way he could get it. He just hoped Tess would forgive him for spilling her darkest shame. “Her life hasn’t exactly been peachy keen, Liz. Her Mom died when she was five. Which is horrific enough as it is, but it’s how she died that really takes the fucking cake.” Letting out a humourless laugh, Kyle sat himself on Liz’s bed next to her. “Her dad was a wife beater, used to knock her around a bit, sometimes in front of Tess. She used to drink as well, get really juiced and just sleep all day. At least, from what Tess can remember of her, that’s what she did. Her Mom never really did anything about the beatings, that is until he started in on Tess. I guess her latent mothering instincts kick started or something. Or maybe she was just drunk enough to not care anymore.”

Liz’s hands flew to her mouth. She really didn’t like where this story seemed to be heading.

“One day he started hitting Tess for leaving her toys on the floor and Mrs. Harding just snapped. She started swinging at him, screaming, telling him that she was leaving him and taking Tess with her too. So he pushed her down the stairs. She broke her neck and died on the way to the hospital. And Tess saw it all. And to make matters worse, Ed told them that she tripped on one of Tess’s toys and they believed him.”

Her mouth wide open in horror, Liz’s eyes filled with sympathetic tears.

“And that’s who she grew up with, a cold monster who killed his own wife and hits his child in places that nobody will see the bruising. Tess said that after he pushed her down the stairs he calmly went and grabbed her pink toy car and placed it upside down on the stairs before walking over and phoning the police so that his story would check out.”

“Oh my God...” Liz felt physically sick as Kyle emotionlessly retold Tess’s story.

“And to cap it all off, he’s leaving her. He’s moved to another city and he wants her to stay here and take care of herself. He’s left her money and a car and taken off to another city. Every two weeks she’ll get a payment so that she can take care of the bills and buy necessities. So, that’s Tess’s life, Liz. Up until a month ago, she was being physically abused by the man who killed her mother and she has never ever known love. She mistakes kindness for love. And as far as I can tell, Max is a very decent guy. It’s no wonder she was desperate for his attention.”

Liz swiped at the tears that rolled down her face and felt like dirt for the way she had treated Tess in the past. But how could she have known? Tess had never even hinted at being unhappy and her actions at the time had been what she considered unforgivable.

“She’s not even seventeen yet, Liz. She’s sixteen and she’s all alone.”

“I...” Liz struggled for words to express how she was feeling and came up blank. She was conflicted, mentally she rationalised that she hadn’t known about Tess’s problems so she couldn’t feel guilty over the way she’d reacted to Tess’s flirting with Max, but internally the guilt wouldn’t go away. She had just accepted Tess’s actions at face value and had never thought about what was going on underneath the surface, about what had caused her to act that way. She had labelled her a slut and a bitch and had forgotten about it.

“Look, I’m not blaming you for how you reacted to her. It’s fair enough given that you didn’t know, but now that you do can you cut her a little slack? I know what she did was wrong, and nobody feels worse about it than she does now. She’s really changed, so I’m hoping you could give her a chance?”

Liz nodded wordlessly and Kyle shifted over closer to her and pulled her into a hug. “Thank you. By the way, you can’t tell anyone what I’ve just told you. I shouldn’t have even told you, but...”

“Kyle, I won’t tell anyone. I wouldn’t. I couldn’t.”

Kyle nodded and gave her one last hug before exiting her room, leaving Liz all alone with her thoughts.
***
“You’re shitting me!” shrieked Maria. “No way! How could he like that whore?”

“Don’t call her that, Maria,” Liz sighed, wishing that she’d just stayed upstairs. Now she knew why Kyle was so hesitant to tell her. This was in no way fun. “He likes her, she likes him and I’m ok with that.”

Maria became only more confused. “Are you on crack? You’re seriously ok with your cousin dating the skank that hit on your boyfriend while you were dating him?”

Liz shrugged, and tried to make it look nonchalant. “She hasn’t done it for a really long time, besides, if she’s dating Kyle then she can’t hit on Max.”

“What if this is all part of her plan? To make you think that she likes Kyle so you drop your guard and then, boom! She steals Max from under your feet!”

“And you accused me of being on drugs.” Liz shook her head sadly, avoiding eye contact with everyone, knowing the incredulous stares she’d meet. “Max can only be stolen if he wants to be stolen.”

“But what if she drugs him and then strips him and makes you walk in on a compromising situation that makes it look like he cheated on you?”

Liz didn’t know who had encouraged Maria’s imagination, but she felt certain that they should be punished. “So now you’re accusing her of being a rapist too? My word, for someone that only flirted with my boyfriend a couple of times a few months ago; she certainly has gone downhill since then.”

“Why are you being so calm about this?” demanded Maria, not understanding her best friend’s reaction.

“Why are you freaking out so much?” Liz rebutted, wishing that this interrogation would end. It would be so easy to tell them all the truth, to have them sit there and sympathise and not question her anymore, but she had made a promise. “Kyle really likes her. And if he’s happy, then so am I. Besides, they might break up.”

Maria threw her hands in the air dismissively. “I give up, Alex, you talk to her.”

Shrugging, Alex turned to Isabel. “I got nothing. Isabel, would you like to talk some sense into our deluded friend?”

Isabel leant across the table to speak directly to Liz. “I don’t trust her, Liz. Just watch your back. I’ve seen her steal other girls’ boyfriends and show no remorse.”

Max interrupted at this point. “I’d just like to point out that I’m not as weak as you all seem to think I am. Seriously, you guys think that even if she did try something that all my strength and determination would just crumble and I’d give in? I’m not even attracted to her! At least I know that my girlfriend has faith in me.”

Liz flashed him a grateful smile. “Good, can we stop talking about this now?”

“You’re on edge,” commented Maria, pursing her lips thoughtfully as she stared at Liz. Liz suddenly felt as if she were under a microscope. “Just what are you hiding from me?”

“Nothing, you crack pot,” she scowled, having had more than enough talk about Kyle and Tess. She was so over it.

“I’m going to find out, mark my words.”

“Mark my words,” said Michael, extending his hand, index finger extended, to Alex. “Pull my finger.”

As Alex reached across the table to fulfil his request, Michael dropped his hand, much to the table’s relief.

“Too late,” Michael smiled wickedly, his glee reaching epic proportions as half a second later the entire table coughed, groaned, gagged, fanned the rank air under their nose or laughed. Alex was the only person doing the latter.

“Silent but deadly!” crowed Michael triumphantly.

“What the hell do you eat, Michael?” cried Maria, her nose pinched as she fanned the air furiously with her hand. “I am seriously taking a look at your pantry when we get back to your place. That is so unnatural!”

Liz had never felt so grateful to a fart before. In fact, she’d never felt grateful to a fart before in her life, but today marked a milestone. Michael had effectively changed the topic, swiftly and efficiently and allowed Liz to breathe easy. Once his vile stench had drifted away, that was.
***
Tess paced in front of Kyle, who was sitting easily on a stool at the Crashdown bench, watching her.

“How could you tell her? I thought we were going to give it some more time!” she cried, her hands running through her hair.

“Enough time has passed,” Kyle grunted, rising to stand in front of her, grabbing her by the arms so that she would look at him. “And I’m sick of sneaking around behind everyone’s back like I’m ashamed of you. Because I’m not. I want people to know. And besides, Liz is cool with it.”

Tess stopped her nervous foot tapping abruptly and stared hard at Kyle. “She’s cool with it?”

Kyle tried to look as innocent as possible. “Yeah, she’s cool with it.”

She just laughed and said, “Awesome, let’s all go on a double date sometime! You, me, Max and the slut who tried to hit on my boyfriend! I’m not buying it Kyle.”

“Don’t call yourself a slut.” Kyle swallowed nervously. “Well, of course she had her reservations, but I talked her around.”

“How?” she demanded, not believing him.

“With my boyish charm and tenacious enthusiasm?” Kyle suggested, his voice getting a bit higher from the stress of lying.

Tess hung her head, a look of horror and disappointment crossing it. “You told her, didn’t you? After I told you in complete faith, you went and told her.” Tess took a shuddering breath in, feeling sick as she held her shaking hands across her face. “It’s going to be around the school tomorrow. Especially once Big Mouth Maria gets a hold of it.”

Kyle grabbed her chin in his hand and forced her to look at him, the tears in her eyes unnerving him. “I am sorry that I broke your confidence, but I’m not sorry that I told Liz. I don’t like keeping stuff from her and it was the only way I could think of to get her to accept you and me. And by the way, Big Mouth Maria is my friend and has more capacity for empathy than you realise. If she knew -and she doesn’t- then she wouldn’t tell anyone. And even though she and Liz are close, Liz would never tell her. I made her promise to keep it a secret.”

“Just like I made you promise to keep it a secret?” Tess replied snarkily.

“Look, I deserved that, but I promise, nothing bad will come from Liz knowing, only good.”

Tess shook her head, unbelievably mad at him. “I thought I could trust you, Kyle. I thought that-”

“Hi.”

Tess stopped abruptly, her heart beating triple time in her chest as the Liz’s soft voice reached her ears. She turned slowly to face the girl who held her fate in her hands. The girl that knew her deepest, darkest secret and could crush her with as much ease as one could crush a bug.

“I’m not interrupting am I?” she asked politely, a hint of nervousness in her tone. She had no idea how to react to Tess now that she knew about her, but it helped knowing that Tess must be in a much more uncomfortable position than she was.

Kyle had never been more thankful to see his cousin before in his life. “Not at all.”

Stepping forward, Liz decided to break the ice herself, even though it terrified her. “Look, I know that we’ve never really been friends, but I’m willing to put all that behind me if you are. I know how much you mean to Kyle and I’d like the chance to get to know you.”

Tess stared, dumbstruck as Liz slowly extended her hand for her to shake. Only when Kyle nudged her and whispered, “This is the part where you shake her hand,” did she extend hers as well.

As their palms met a smile crossed Liz’s face. “I’m Liz Parker, it’s nice to meet you.”

Tess let out a relieved laugh. “Tess Harding, likewise.”

Kyle watched the exchange with a wide smile, but was under no disillusionment that he had been forgiven; in fact he was sure that once Liz had left that he was really in for it.

“So, how did Maria respond to the news?” enquired Kyle as he ushered the girls over to a booth. So far, so good.

“You’re an asshole,” replied Liz with a scowl in his direction. “I can’t believe you made me break the news and left me alone with her. She was like a bloodhound. She wouldn’t let it go.”

Kyle rolled his eyes. “I expected nothing less from her. Was it the fact that I was dating her or that you had accepted it?”

Liz bit her lip, watching Tess growing more and more uncomfortable as the conversation continued. Sometimes she wondered how insensitive her cousin could be, callously discussing the fact that his friends didn’t approve of his relationship in front of his girlfriend.

She aimed a kick at his shins and tilted her head in Tess’s direction. “She’ll get over it soon enough. So tell me, how did you two meet?”

Tess, though grateful for the reprieve, needed to get something off of her chest. “Listen, Liz, I know that Kyle told you about my...”

“Childhood?” suggested Liz when Tess seemed stuck for suitable words.

“Yeah,” she breathed, hating that she had to do this. “I just need to know if you’ll-”

Liz interrupted her hastily. “I won’t tell anyone. You have my word. Kyle shouldn’t even have told me, but I’m glad I know. It makes you seem more human, somehow.” Liz’s mouth twitched up at the corners. “Less like Pam Troy.”

Tess let out a strained laugh, her stress affecting her in the worst way. “I’m glad, Pam isn’t someone I aspire to emulate.”

Liz’s eyes widened at the sophisticated vocabulary Tess just seemingly pulled out of nowhere. She had expected a typical blonde, but instead had received something entirely different. It pleased her to know that she had been so wrong about Tess, if only for Kyle’s sake. She couldn’t stand it if there was nothing beneath the big boobs and blonde hair for Kyle to appreciate.

Taking a deep breath, Tess broke the momentary silence. “Liz, do you think that Maria would try and break Kyle and I up? Because I don’t want to get in the way of any of his friendships and I’d hate it if I was your group’s Yoko. I can understand why they might-”

Liz smiled, her mind rapidly easing it’s worry as Tess showed her in increments that she was worthy of Kyle. To worry about something like that indicated to Liz that she had been very wrong about Tess in her first surmisal of her. It was the only time she could remember being glad to be wrong. She interrupted her. “Tess... it’s ok. I wasn’t lying when I said she’ll get over it. And frankly, the only person who has the right to cause a fuss is me... and maybe Max, but he won’t care. Seriously, don’t worry about things like that; it’ll all take care of itself.”

“I just hate that I’m causing problems for him,” she muttered, toying with the edge of a napkin.

Tilting her chin, Kyle forced her to look at him, to read the sincerity in his eyes. “You’re worth it.”

She sat for a moment, pulled in by the force of his eyes until her memory hit her. She pushed his hand away and forced a scowl. “I still haven’t forgiven you, no matter how well things worked out.”

“I will be your personal slave until you’re satisfied that I’ve learnt my lesson,” exclaimed Kyle, watching Tess’s smile come back slowly. He loved that he had the power to make her smile.

“I could get used to that.” She smirked wickedly, her thoughts on Kyle wearing a dress and cleaning out her wardrobe.

Liz smiled at the exchange, glad to see the joy that they brought each other. Kyle had risked a lot to bring Tess into his life, so she was glad to see that it was worthwhile. “So, back to my original question, how did you guys meet?”

Tess brightened and began retelling the story, while Kyle interjected when he disagreed on a detail or wanted to exaggerate his irresistibility and Liz watched with amused eyes. The amusement she gained from watching the two of them interact totally made up for her afternoon of Maria’s interrogation. She had never been so glad to see her best friend leave before. But it was worth it to see how happy Kyle was now. There wasn’t much she wouldn’t do for her cousin and she was glad that this request was becoming so easy to fulfil.
***
“Hey, hey, hey,” greeted Maria as she sat down at the lunch table that Liz, Max, Alex, Isabel and Michael were occupying. “What’s up mother lickers?”

“Stuff,” replied Michael, not put out by his girlfriend’s peculiar greeting. Liz, Max and Isabel mumbled a reply back, a little disturbed by the mental image that accompanied Maria’s statement.

“I licked your Mom and I liked it! The taste of her hairy-”

“Alex!” yelled Isabel, interrupting him before he could finish his disturbing song. “Could you pretend to have some decorum?”

Alex’s brows drew together in confusion. “Um... no?”

“Well, we’re an exuberant bunch today,” Maria commented sarcastically as she sat down. They looked about as enthused as a ninety year old at a rock concert. “What’s caused this level of excitement?”

“I saw Kyle and Tess making out,” said Alex, his lip curling up and his nose crinkling like he’d just smelt something disgusting. “Such a black, black day.”

“Oh come on, Alex,” moaned Liz, having had enough of their attitudes towards that relationship. “She’s fine. I’ve spoken to her and she’s nicer, smarter and funnier than I previously thought. And she apologised for her previous behaviour.”

“Doesn’t mean she won’t do it again,” warned Isabel, not at all convinced by Tess’s sudden turn around. “I can’t understand why you’re not more worried by this.”

“She makes Kyle happy,” sighed Liz. “And he makes her happy. I don’t think she’s going to jeopardise that.”

“If fucking a goat made Kyle happy would you encourage him in that too?” asked Maria, exasperated by Liz’s casual acceptance of this abomination of a relationship.

Liz stared at Maria, her mouth open wide. “Did you really just compare Tess to bestiality?”

“Hey, if the collar fits,” snickered Maria, enjoying her own wit. “Woof, woof.”

Liz stared at her friends, disappointed by their attitudes as they laughed with Maria. “I expected better of you Maria. She’s really nervous about you guys not accepting her and now I can see that she has every reason to be. She hasn’t even done anything personally to you. I am the only one who she’s ever done wrong by and I can forgive her, so why can’t you? Just give her a chance.”

Maria’s smile faded, feeling thoroughly chastised by Liz. “Ok... ok, I’m not making any promises, but I will attempt to be nice. But if she starts some shit, I’m gonna beat her down.”

Liz shook her head, but reasoned that this was the best she could hope for, especially coming from Maria.

Max frowned, his mind still mulling over what Liz had said. “You know, you’re not the only one she personally affected, Liz. She hit on me.”

Liz groaned, not needing this opposition from her boyfriend as well. “Get over it!”

Max blanched at the loud order, but quickly followed her instructions. It seemed she was hell bent on giving Tess a fair go and he truly didn’t care about Tess’s previous actions, except that they had hurt Liz at the time. But seeing her apathy about it now, he supposed it was ok to forget about it.

Liz quickly ducked her head and spoke in hushed urgent tones when she spotted both Kyle and Tess heading over to them hesitantly. “Ok guys, they’re heading this way.”

“Whoopee,” said Maria sarcastically, only to be treated to a death glare by Liz.

“Be. Nice. I won’t tell you again.”

Liz’s tone abruptly changed when they both reached the table. “Hey guys! How were your classes?”

Kyle rolled his eyes and took a seat next to Liz, pulling Tess down beside him when she made no move to sit down. Maria had been staring at her expressionlessly ever since she had walked up and Tess was intimidated beyond all reason. She knew this was a bad idea from the get go.

Kyle and Liz exchanged glances and each set about rectifying the situation. Liz gave Maria a swift kick under the table, forcing her to look away from Tess and Kyle grabbed his girlfriend’s hand, giving her a supportive squeeze.

“Pretty god-awful,” replied Kyle, answering Liz’s question. “I swear, that art lady has it in for me.”

“You probably shouldn’t have asked her if you’d be doing any painting of naked women,” commented Max, attempting to help along the awkward conversation.

Liz smiled gratefully at her boyfriend. “I think it was either his offer to pose naked or his request that she pose for him that pushed her over the edge.”

Kyle shrugged nonchalantly. “Hey, I just wanted to share the love. I happen to look fabulous naked. Everyone should get to experience that. I know Michael has.”

Michael groaned as Kyle winked at him. “Can we have one conversation where my sexual orientation doesn’t come into question? Please?”

“Where’s the fun in that?” asked Alex, allowing Liz to relax slightly as their conversation became more free flowing and less stilted.

“And then, after Art, the stupid biology-teacher-dude gave me a detention,” continued Kyle angrily.

“What for?” enquired Liz as Kyle squirmed uneasily in his seat.

“For blowing Alex kisses in class,” said Tess with a hesitant smile when Kyle was strangely silent.

Liz’s mouth dropped open. “You’re kidding me! Why?

“I was dared to,” muttered Kyle sulkily.

“Who by?”

Kyle’s gaze turned mutinous as he looked at his girlfriend. “Tess.”

The table was silent for a second before they all burst into raucous laughter. Tess’s heart sped up as they all looked at her with what seemed to be approval. Maybe she could actually fit in with this tight knit bunch. Her heart plummeted when she saw Maria turn and whisper something in Isabel’s ear, causing both girls to look at her quickly then turn and face the opposite direction and giggle. Who was she kidding? She’d never fit in here. Never.

“I thought it was just my manly appeal,” sighed Alex with fake mournful tones.

“Afraid not,” replied Kyle caustically. “And if I did bat for the other team I’d hope that I’d have better taste than to pick you.”

Maria opened her mouth to point out that rather recently Kyle’s taste had become questionable, but glancing over at Tess she noticed the fear in the other girl’s eyes and thought better of it. She decided to be the bigger person.

“You want me, they all do,” Alex replied smugly.

“How was your morning, Tess?” enquired Liz, hoping to include her more.

Tess swallowed, feeling all eyes turn to her. She knew that Liz was trying to help her, but she had been quite content to sit in relative silence.

“It was ok,” she said softly after a moment. “Although Mrs. Klein waved her arms in the air while she standing next to me.”

The entire table let out groans of disgust at the thought of the aged French teacher raising her arms in the air. She was an elderly French lady who liked to wear tight, sleeveless tops but didn’t believe in shaving or wearing a bra.

Alex leant in to whisper conspiratorially, “Did you know that one day she put a student in hospital? It’s very hush hush, but I know the full scoop.”

They all leaned in closer to hear Alex’s tale, Tess was delighted by both the attention switch and the feeling of inclusion she felt. She was far more content to fade into the background and pretend that she was a permanent member of this group than to take centre stage.

“One day, she was standing at the black board and this student, Melvin Merkis was his name-”

Michael snorted at this. “Totally made up. You couldn’t have picked a more fake name.”

“Shhh...” whispered Alex. “It’s totally true. Anyway, Kelvin came-”

“You just said his name was Melvin,” interrupted Maria.

“I think I know what his name was,” Alex said huffily, rolling his eyes. “Anyway, Marvin came up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder to speak to her about his homework. And as she turned around, her boobs swung out and took out his eye and he has to wear an eye patch because of his empty socket. And ever since then, she’s been known in some circles as the boobinator.”

The entire table groaned while Alex laughed heartily at his own joke.

“I’m surprised you didn’t call him Pirate Pete,” commented Maria with a snort. “An eye patch. You really are a bizarre individual.”

Adopting his best Arnold Schwarzenegger impression, Alex replied, “Asta la vista, booby.”

Alex let his head rest on the table as he continued laughing, his visual of the incident far more entertaining than anything else.

Tess watched in amazement as the entire group seamlessly interacted with each other, the friendship and affection between them almost palpable. It caused a low ache in her chest, only further serving to remind her of what she’d never and could never have. Close friendships just didn’t seem to be something destined for her.
***
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Re: Never In Doubt (AU, M/L, Teen) Pt 35, 3rd January

Post by Rowedog » Mon Feb 09, 2009 6:01 pm

Who else is fucking stoked that I’m finished? The end is so close I can almost taste it. It tastes like sunshine, just so you know. I’m so excited. Seriously, part forty will be my last. I’m so ready for NID to be done so I can stop reading the first lines of it when I open up Microsoft Word and wait for all 200 and something pages to load. I have the first page memorized by now and it’s not something I like to review. I hate reading a lot of my old writing. Anyway, just one more part of the Tess drama and we’re done.

Yay! Nearly done! You have no idea how excited I am. Seriously, no idea. Haven't I been an updating machine lately?

Destinyc- Go with it, it’ll be better for you karmically.
Novy- Did you quote everything I wrote? Ha, just kidding. I love the effort you put in.
I did enjoy my birthday, thanks for asking. Got a bit drunk, had some food, watched pretty in pink and a walk to remember with my friend. Good times.
Emz
Natalie36
BB
Steph
Eve
Ginger
Tamashii
Crazedearthgirl
Tequathisy-
Nah, I only redeem one character per story. Courtney was one of my least favourite characters so she can stay an irredeemable slutty bitch.
So I heard a rumour that you had finished this fic. In which case, where's that darn upate?
Getting beta’ed? Poor Steph, she’s going get with four parts in a row.
Sunrise102- Liz is just a little bit too enthusiastic in her attempts to bring them around. Knowing Tess’s back story makes her a little frustrated because she’s not allowed to tell them and that’s coming through when she speaks to them. And Tess... I think there’s a lot to be said for early experiences shaping who you become. Tess has changed, and is still changing, but she’s still not quite there yet. Nobody’s perfect and I’m not suggesting that her past excuses her, but it does make it easier to understand her. I can’t imagine how I’d turn out if I didn’t have the unconditional love and support of my parents.
You always make me laugh and feel warm fuzzies when I read your stories.
I aim to please. :D
Ashleyt- I hope I’ve satisfied your shipper needs with this part. Is there even a ship name for Alex and Michael? Maybe I could give them one... like... icecracks. Based on Alex putting an ice cube in Michael’s crack. I like it. We could all be icecrackers. Like dreamers and stargazers, but awesomer. Oh, apparently they're called knockouts. :( I still prefer mine.
Jan
Part Thirty Six: You Can’t Fight Fate
“So...” began Liz as she looked at both Isabel and Maria while they walked to their next class. “She’s better than you thought, right?”

It had been a week since Tess had tentatively started eating lunch with their group she barely spoke, only when asked a direct question and only gave her opinion on a topic when forced to by either Kyle and Liz who were desperately trying to include her more.

Isabel sighed. “Liz, I never had any issue with her. I just hated the way she was with guys, especially my brother.”

“She seems different,” admitted Maria begrudgingly. “Doesn’t mean that she is though. I still don’t trust her, but I hope for your sake that I’m wrong.”

Liz nodded, not knowing how to get them to see Tess without prejudice. Telling them her history was out of the question and Liz hoped that they would, with time, come to accept her.

“I still don’t get why you’re so adamant that she’s changed,” huffed Maria. This 180 from Liz was doing her head in. She just couldn’t grasp it.

Liz bit her lip and decided that it was best to allude. “Look, I know some stuff about her past and I can tell you that it’s not particularly nice and it explains her past attitude and behaviours. So can you just take my word for it that there is more than meets the eye to her?”

“What stuff?” demanded Maria.

“I can’t tell you,” replied Liz, wishing that she’d never said anything.

“Liz, you can’t just allude to it and then leave us wondering,” groaned Isabel.

“It’s not my story to tell. Just let it go.” Maria opened her mouth to argue, but Liz cut her off. “Uh uh. I would never tell you without her permission and I don’t have it, so just let it go.”

Isabel narrowed her eyes at Liz. “That’s really mean, you know.”

Liz rolled her eyes. “I know, but just take my word for it; she’s more fragile than she looks. I know I’m asking you a lot to just go on faith, but don’t you believe in second chances? Where would any of us be if we weren’t forgiven for our mistakes? Forgiveness is divine.”

Maria huffed at Liz’s wheedling look and thought back to Amos. “Well, it wouldn’t be the first time this year that I’ve given someone a second chance.”

Liz clapped her arms around Maria’s shoulder and squeezed her in a tight hug. “See, don’t you feel all noble and giving?”

Maria ruffled Liz’s hair affectionately. “You’re such a spaz. And I reserve the right to say ‘I told you so’ if she cocks up.”

“Duly noted. Isabel?”

“Huh?” Isabel had been contemplating her new cheer routine and had been lost in her own thoughts. She quickly reviewed the last words she’d heard but not listened to. “Oh, I forgive her. She was always one of the better girls on the cheer squad, I just didn’t like her man hungry ways. But if that’s gone then I really have no beef with her.”

“Kyle’s going to be so pleased when I tell him,” Liz sighed, feeling particularly happy with what had just happened.

“Liz.”

Liz’s head snapped towards the sound of her cousin’s voice. All previous thoughts of how happy her cousin would be fell to wayside at the sight of his very unhappy face.

“Can I talk to you?”

Liz nodded, not caring that she’d be late to History. Kyle seemed very distressed and that was far more important to her than whatever they would be learning that day. Heading off down the nearly empty corridor, he pulled her into an empty classroom.

“Kyle, what’s wrong?”

He took a deep breath, one that spoke of deep anxiety and tension. “Tess’s dad is coming back tonight.”

Liz’s breath caught in her throat and her voice came out in a squeak when she finally spoke. “For good?”

He shook his head grimly. “Apparently he has a meeting in town and is just staying the one night. I’m still shit scared of what he’ll do to her while he’s there though.”

Liz nodded, her heart not feeling quite steady either. “How’s Tess coping with this? If she needs somewhere to stay, she’s welcome in my house.”

Kyle smiled tightly at her, feeling an overwhelming love and gratitude towards his cousin. She was so kind, so forgiving, completely prepared to welcome in the girl who had previously hit on her boyfriend because she was concerned for her welfare. “Tess is... difficult to explain. She knows her dad’s bad news, she’s seen and experienced the worst he’s inflicted, but yet... he’s still her dad. She wants him to love her so badly and I don’t know that she’ll ever stop wanting that. She’s so hopeful that he’s just using the meeting as an excuse to come back. She thinks that he’s missed her and has changed this time.”

Kyle snorted at the idea. There was one leopard that would never change its spots.

Liz sighed sadly, her heart clenching in pain at the thought of Tess’s hopes being shattered by Ed for the what must be the millionth time. “That’s so tragic. I suppose we never stop wanting love and acceptance from our parents.”

Kyle shook his head, wanting to kick the shit out of Ed Harding more than he wanted to take his next breath. “The way she explained it is that he’s all the family she’s got. She said, “Who have I got if I don’t have him? I don’t want to be alone, Kyle.” And Tess is terrified of being alone. She hates it.”

Liz sighed, wishing the acidic feeling in her stomach would dissipate. “So there’s nothing we can do?”

Kyle rubbed his eyes wearily, wrestling with a decision in his mind. “One word to my dad and I could fix this.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “But she’d never forgive me.”

Liz bit her lip, wrestling with the knowledge and feeling lower than low for what she was about to say. “It’s just one night, right?”

“But the physical damage he could do and the emotional damage he’ll no doubt do are just not worth it. I don’t know if I could live with myself if he...” Kyle couldn’t even say the word. “If he did to Tess what he did to her Mom.”

“He lived with her for years after that didn’t he?” asked Liz. “He probably was a lot more careful after that. It would look suspicious to anyone if both his daughter and wife died while he was in the house. I don’t think he’ll kill her.”

“Just because he won’t kill her doesn’t mean that what he’ll do instead is ok,” Kyle growled. “The idea of him using her as his very own punching bag kills me. I can’t stand it.”

“It’s your call, Kyle,” Liz offered, glad that this wasn’t her decision to make. “Have you asked Tess about turning him in?”

His drawn face grew more and more haggard as he replayed the countless arguments they’d had over it. “Of course I have. She won’t hear a word of it. She seems to think that it’s ok that he gets away with it, that it’s fine he’ll go unpunished for his crimes.”

“She’s lived with it so long that she probably doesn’t think it is wrong,” Liz murmured. “I mean, of course on an intellectual level she probably knows it’s wrong, but he’s warped her so much that it probably feels normal to her.”

Kyle choked a little, horrified by the thought. “What kind of world do we live in were a young girl feels that getting beaten is normal?”

They both fell silent and after a moment, Kyle spoke again, so softly that Liz almost couldn’t hear it. “She doesn’t deserve this. Whatever she’s done...” Kyle shot a quick glance at Liz. “She doesn’t deserve this.”

“I know.”
***
Both Liz and Kyle sat tensely at lunch, their conversation still fresh in their minds; Tess however seemed oblivious to it. Liz could understand now more than ever why Kyle was so upset about Tess’s dad coming back. It wasn’t just the physical harm that was likely to occur; it was the emotional damage that she was sure to endure. Her hopes were rampant; Liz could see it in her eyes. Her smile was bright and excited and it killed Liz to know that all of her hopes were going to be smashed. Ed Harding would never change who he was and how he dealt with his daughter. That much, Liz was sure.

“Hey ho sluts,” called Maria from across the quad as she approached their usual table. In her hand she brandished an aluminium pie plate. “So, my mom has had an overflow of pies this week, and as a result I get some of the excess to share with you all. Don’t worry it’s been in a portable cooler in my locker so it’s still cold.”

She placed it down on the centre of the round table and both Alex and Michael leaned forward, greedy joy lighting their eyes as they took in the sliced up coconut pie.

“One piece each,” she dictated, wagging her finger at the two boys, knowing what was in their minds.

“Liz, you’re watching your figure, right?” asked Alex, hoping to score an extra bit.

Liz narrowed her eyes at him, wondering what length he wouldn’t go to, just to get more pie. “No.”

Alex scowled, slumping a little. “Well, don’t blame me when you get love handles, I’m just looking out for your welfare.”

“Bullshit, Alex,” scoffed Isabel. “You’re looking out for your stomach.”

“Whatever.” Alex dismissed her, picking up what looked to be the biggest piece and placing it on the paper bag that had held his sandwich.

Michael immediately reached for the second biggest piece while the rest of them took the nearest piece.

Just as Maria was about to take a bite, she noticed that there was one piece left, one that had been left. Her eyes flicked around the table, coming to rest on Tess who was looking away uncomfortably. Despite her best efforts, Maria felt sorry for her. She could understand what Tess was feeling and could easily see what it was like for her, though she really didn’t want to. It must be hard for her, always being on the outer edge of the group, never truly fitting in and never feeling that you deserved to, that it was ok for the people around her to dislike her because her actions hadn’t been up to par. Maria felt sorry for her, but she didn’t want to. It would have been easier for her to continue her dislike of her. But Maria wasn’t a cruel person, her emotions were easily touched and she couldn’t hate when she could see that the person was in pain. It wasn’t in her to hold a grudge.

She may still have her doubts about Tess’s trustworthiness, but that didn’t mean that she would go out of her way to exclude her from the group. In that moment, when she could see that Tess didn’t feel worthy enough to take the last piece of pie, didn’t feel a part of the group enough to take what she had offered, Tess became human to Maria. Not just some bitch who had hit on Liz’s boyfriend months ago, but a real person with hopes, dreams, frailties and insecurities.

“Hey Tess,” she called out, feeling guilty when Tess’s head snapped up, her eyes wary and fearful. Jesus, had she been that awful to her? She hadn’t been malicious, but she sure as shit hadn’t been welcoming. Maria strove to keep her tone light and playful as she spoke. “You better eat your piece of pie before Alex or Michael appropriates it.”

Tess stuttered as she spoke, “M-my piece of pie?”

Maria almost winced. “Well, I certainly didn’t cut it into eighths so that Mr. and Mrs. Fatso could have a second piece.”

Michael groaned as Maria gestured to him and Alex. “Why am I always romantically linked to Alex?”

“Destiny, baby,” Said Alex with a smile and a wink. “You can’t fight fate.”

Maria glanced back over to Tess while her boyfriend defended his sexuality for not the first time that day. She blanched when she spotted the tears in Tess’s eyes. Guilt slashed through her once more before she thrust it away. She hadn’t known that she’d been hurting Tess’s feelings; she hadn’t known she’d had feelings to hurt. She had passed her off as just another bitchy cheerleader. Another Pam or Courtney. She had seen her actions and never questioned why she was doing what she was doing. But now, the thirst to know burned inside her. Why was Tess the way she was? Why was she so starved of affection that an offered piece of pie brought tears to her eyes?

She wagered that Liz knew and that was what had brought about this change of heart that had so confused her.

And now she was determined to find out.

She looked away from Tess, letting her get her emotions back under control in privacy and turned slightly to see both Kyle and Liz smiling at her. Maria felt the guilt flow through her once more; she didn’t feel that she deserved gratitude for her one act of kindness towards Tess.

She let her attention drift back to the argument between her boyfriend and her best friend.

Alex shook his head to what Michael had said while Maria was lost in her own thoughts. “I don’t care that you’re more manly than me, I get to be Mr. Fatso. You can be my lovely wife; I can just imagine you in a dress.”

Michael scowled. “I bet you can, fucking sicko.”

Alex howled with laughter and all the while Michael wished that Mr. and Mrs. Whitman had used a condom the night Alex had been conceived.
***
The next morning Kyle and Liz met up at school, both having had little to no sleep the night before.

“I think I gained an ulcer,” Liz muttered.

“I sent her text messages all night, think I drove her mad,” he laughed with no real humour behind it.

“She coming to school today?”

He nodded tersely. “Yeah.”

His tenseness dropped slightly at the sight of her car pulling up into the car park. He had been so worried, but seeing her unharmed – physically at least – was balm to his worry.

“Hey guys,” greeted Tess chirpily, but both Liz and Kyle could see the hurt beneath her facade. Her smile was too bright, too cheery, too forced. And the tears threatening to break through were too noticeable. Kyle felt his heart break for Tess who was trying so hard to be strong.

“Hey you,” Kyle said sadly pulling her into a hug. She melted into him far too eagerly for her night to have gone well and Liz wondered just how much damage Ed could have caused in those few short hours.

Kyle pulled her in tighter, his arms pressing against her back but Tess recoiled, wrenching out of his arms.

“I’ll see you guys in class, ok? I have an early morning cheer meeting just before class.”

Both Liz and Kyle could see through the lie, but neither wanted to force the issue. Tess seemed so brittle and neither of them wanted her to snap. Kyle would bide his time until after school, when there was no one around to see how fragile this girl truly was.
***
Isabel bit her lip and prepared herself to just do it. She’d made a promise to Liz and was determined to keep it. Operation Tess was about to commence. They had just had soccer in P.E. and were all now heading back in to the Gym for a shower in the locker rooms.

“Good game today, huh?”

Tess turned and looked at Isabel and swallowed a little nervously. “Yeah, listen, I left something out on the field, I’ll be back in a minute.”

Isabel watched her leave and frowned. Operation Tess had just died before it had begun. She shook it off knowing that she’d have other opportunities and headed to the showers. She found it odd that in the entire time it took for her to shower, change and get ready to leave, Tess had yet to return.

Isabel waited until the last person was out and then hesitantly headed off to lunch. Maybe Tess had forgone the shower this time and was sitting out at their usual table waiting for her.

She quickly hurried off to ease her suspicions. She knew that it was unlikely that Tess wouldn’t shower, but she was running out of other alternatives. She could clearly see their table from across the quad. Kyle, Michael, Maria, Max and Liz were already seated their talking. And Tess definitely wasn’t there.

She headed back to the locker room, hoping that she had returned, but if not, she was prepared to go search the field. Isabel felt uneasy, but reassured herself that they were at school, what could possibly go wrong here?

Her pace quickened slightly as her mind supplied a few not so pleasant answers to her rhetorical question. She knew she was probably overreacting, but it didn’t ease her worries.

She swung open the door to the locker rooms and breathed a sigh of relief as she recognised the back of Tess’s head as she went to take off her top. Her breath quickly caught in her throat at what she saw next.

Isabel gasped at the myriad of bruises that covered Tess’s back, the sound echoing through the deserted locker room and alerting Tess to Isabel’s presence. Grabbing her towel quickly, Tess whipped it around her bare skin and turned a look of horror on her pretty features.

Silence hung between them, both of the girls staring at each other, identical looks of horror and disbelief etched on their faces. Tess’s at her secret being discovered and Isabel about the existence of the secret.

Isabel was the one to break the silence. “Tess... what happened to you?”

Tess tried not to let herself get sucked in by the concern in Isabel’s voice. She didn’t really care about her, it was just her curiosity that was driving her to ask. “Nothing. I fell on my back on some rocks. I’m fine.”

“Did you fall twenty times?” Isabel asked, her mind unable to believe that a simple slip had done that.

“I said it was nothing,” she snapped, desperately hoping that Isabel would leave it alone.

Isabel wouldn’t leave it alone. “Who did this to you, Tess?”

“I said I fell.” She began to gather up her clothes, trying to put them on as quickly and discretely as she could with Isabel still standing there.

Isabel ran through what she knew about Tess and could only come up with one suspect. “It’s your father, isn’t it?”

Tess stiffened and Isabel knew instantly that she was correct in her assumption.

“Tess, I can help you, I can make him stop. Make him go away. You just have to let me.”

Tess scowled at her, trying to stop the tears that were brimming in her eyes. “What do you care?” she bit out. “You hate me.”

“I don’t hate you, Tess, and you definitely don’t deserve to be hurt like this.”

The appeal in Isabel’s voice and the softness in her eyes were Tess’s undoing. After the first tear fell, there was no stopping the rest. She covered her face in her hands and wept. Any sort of kindness from people was unbearable in her situation and yet Tess craved it. She wanted to be cared for, wanted to be protected, wanted it more than anything in the world. The idea that Isabel, practically a stranger, could care more for her than her own father was just too much for her to cope with. And the feeling of Isabel’s arms coming around her softly in a warm hug was even worse.

Isabel felt tears well in her eyes as Tess shook in her arms. Clearly, Liz had been right, there was far more going on under the surface of Tess than any of them realised.
***
“Liz!”

Liz’s head snapped up from the drinking fountain and her eyebrows creased with worry as Isabel sped towards her.

“I need you,” she breathed, her speech hampered by her panting. Grasping Liz’s hand, she towed her along wordlessly in the direction of the school gym.

“Isabel? What’s going on?”

“She keeps asking for you and-” Isabel stopped mid sentence, not knowing what to do. “Just hurry.”

Both girls sped towards the gym, Liz having an idea about what Isabel was so upset about and she suspected it had a lot to do with Tess’s absence from lunch.

Both girls burst into the locker room and Liz sighed sadly when her eyes spotted Tess huddled on one of the wooden benches.

“What happened?” she asked as she sat next to Tess, her arm automatically going around Tess’s shoulders.

Isabel answered the question for Tess. “I came in here and she has bruises all over her back. I’m pretty sure it’s her dad that-”

“It is,” Liz interrupted, pulling Tess’s head onto her shoulder.

Isabel stared at Liz, aghast. “You knew about it? Why didn’t you do anything?”

“He’s been away. He left her on her own, but he came back just for one night. Tess begged us not to do anything. She thought he’d changed,” Liz whispered back, not that she had to, Tess seemed to be far off in her own thoughts, her own grief.

“This is awful,” Isabel cried, “She’s lived with this all of her life?”

“Yes,” Liz replied, stroking Tess’s hair as she sobbed into her Liz’s shoulder. “Once Kyle hears about it, I’m not sure that there’s a force on Earth that’ll stop him from reporting him to Jim.”

“My Dad would definitely help out with any legal stuff,” Isabel offered.

Liz smiled gratefully at Isabel. “Thanks Izzy.”

“So, when you said he’s been away, what does that mean?”

Liz put her other arm around Tess as she began to cry even harder, careful not to put pressure on her back, if that’s where the injuries only were. “He left her and moved to a new town. He’s paying for utilities and giving her an allowance, but...”

“He left her all alone?” Isabel knew that it was probably better for Tess’s wellbeing that he leave, but for a parent to just abandon their child was just mindboggling to her.

Liz nodded sadly, unable to understand it either. “Could you go get Kyle? I’ll see if I can move her to under the bleachers because he can’t come in here.”

Isabel hastily agreed but reluctantly stood up. “You’ll be ok in here with her?”

“I’m sure I’ll be fine. She’ll be better once Kyle gets to her.”
***
Kyle stalked the halls of the hospital, angrily muttering under his breath as doctors inspected Tess’s injuries and the police photographed them as evidence. Liz was in there with her because Tess hadn’t wanted him to see the damage that her father had done, but needed support. Kyle thought it was so unfair that Tess, the one who had suffered the most, was the one trying to protect everyone. She was trying to protect him by shielding the violence of her father’s attack from his eyes and she was trying to protect her father as much as she could by downplaying his actions. But he was sure that the bruises would speak for themselves. You couldn’t hide brutality.

Meanwhile, Jim had apprehended Ed who certainly hadn’t been as brave as he’d been with Tess the night before. Turns out that in a fair fight he was a complete coward and had given himself up quickly. Friggin’ figured. Kyle would give his right arm to have five minutes alone with that monster, to exact some of the same treatment his daughter had been subjected to.

Isabel glanced at her cell phone which had about five missed calls and seven unread messages on there from Alex. She knew that the gang were probably all wondering where they’d gone, but she didn’t have answers, not ones that she could give readily.

“Why would she hide something like this?” asked Isabel as they waited somewhat impatiently.

Kyle’s scowl deepened. “I think on some level she believes she deserves it. She thinks that she’s unlovable. And she wants her father to be good, so she hides what he does in the vain hope that he’ll stop without being forced to.”

Isabel slumped in her chair and held her head in her hands, her reply somewhat muffled. “That’s horrible.”

“No, what’s horrible is that I could have prevented this. I should have turned him in to my father when I had the chance. This is my fault.”

“No, it’s mine,” countered a soft voice from the doorway of the hospital room. “I should have said something long ago.”

“Tess,” protested Kyle, as he whirled to face her. “You can’t take the blame for this. You’ve been taking the blame for what he did to you your whole life.”

Tess sighed, “I’m not defending his actions, I’m angry at own lack of action. I could have stopped this years ago.”

Liz placed a comforting hand on her shoulder as they stood together in the doorway of the room. “Tess, you were a child. He should have been protecting you, it wasn’t your job. He was all you knew and even now I know that you’re going to miss him, despite all that he’s done.”

Tess shook her head softly, her voice a whisper, “No, not him. I won’t miss him. I’ll miss the possibility of what he could have been. You only get one biological father, right?”

Liz didn’t have an answer for that, instead she ushered her through the door. “Come on, Tess. Let’s go home.”

Tess stiffened at the mention of home. She didn’t want to go back to an empty house that held so many dark memories. Liz noticed the sudden change in her and nudged her shoulder softly with a bit of a smile. “My home, silly. You’ll be staying with me for a while; we do have a spare room.”

Tess bit her lip to keep her tears from falling. She had cried too much today.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“What are friends for?” Liz replied flippantly as she steered her through the hospital with Kyle and Isabel following closely behind.

Tess smiled a watery smile at the idea of being friends with Liz. She knew that Liz made an effort for Kyle’s sake, but she had never thought that Liz would genuinely like her. She found that she liked the prospect very much. Very, very much.
***
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Re: Never In Doubt (AU, M/L, Teen) Pt 36, 10th Feb

Post by Rowedog » Wed Feb 11, 2009 8:16 pm

Woo! Only three more parts after this! It’s a countdown! Now, usually I wouldn't update within a week, but seeing as I've previously left you hanging for months for an update and I actually have the parts, I think you can have them. You've earned it.

Eve
BB-
love how you can go from hysterically funny to really sad and moving
Thank you, I think it’s just a sign that I’m bi-polar, but ok.
Novy- I’m excited for it. Seriously, I love finishing things, makes me feel like I’m actually achieving something.
Tamashii- Yeah, I always like to explore things like odd friendships in fics and those two characters just seemed to fit well together.
Tequathisy-
I'm so sad this fic is ending because I heart it big time
You know, I never thought that being so self indulgent and writing stupid banter and shit that makes me laugh would ever strike a chord in other people, so I’m glad that you like it too.
Especially Alex and Michael's flirting, they make the cutest couple
Don’t they just? Apparently the ship name is the knockouts, but I prefer icecracks. I think it works better.
Emz
Steph-
You’ve been the best beta ever, reading ten page updates and getting them back to me quickly, I’ve really appreciated it.
Sunrise102
Part Thirty Seven: Damn You To Hades
Liz blanched as she took in the headline of the local newspaper that sat pride of place in the centre of the kitchen table. This was so not good. She didn’t even have time to dispose of it before Tess caught sight of it, having followed her into the kitchen for breakfast.
‘Local Father Arrested After Beating Teenage Daughter; Police Reopening Investigation Into Mother’s Suspicious Death’
Tess’s face went even more pale and Liz barely had time to direct her to a chair before her legs gave way.

“Tess? Are you ok?” Liz could have murdered her father for leaving that out in the open like that, but in the end she reasoned that Tess needed to know that her deep, dark secret was no longer secret.

Her breathing was fast and irregular as her brain tried to process what this meant for her. “Oh my God. Oh my God.”

Placing a hand on each of Tess’s shoulders, Liz tried to calm her down. “Deep breaths, it’s ok. I swear it’s going to be fine.”

“How did they...”

Liz shrugged. “Some reporters hang around the police station, like flies, picking up whatever they can for a story. I’m sorry that it came out this way, Tess. You’re not having a great couple of days.”

Tess laughed humourlessly at Liz’s stating of the obvious. “No.”

“Did you want to stay home today? It’d be totally fine with my parents, they’d understand if you wanted to just hang around here and wait till things died down.”

Tess took a deep breath to steady herself and shook her head. “No, I need to stop running away or ignoring my problems. I need to stand up for myself. I need to face this head on. Besides, if I don’t do it today I’ll never go back.”

“Fair enough,” said Liz giving her a hand up from her chair. “Let’s do this thing.”
***
Tess couldn’t help but notice all the stares that were being thrown her way, or the whispers that were circulating around her, but she did her best to hold her head up high. Until she noticed Pam Troy heading her way. Great, just what she needed.

“Hey Tess.”

She tried to not outwardly show her fear and wished like hell that she’d escorted Liz to the bathroom instead of just standing around at her locker like a target.

“Pam.”

“Really brave of you to come to school today, you know, if it was me and my daddy was beating the crap out of me I’d have stayed home today. I mean, you should hear what they’re saying about you...” Pam trailed off with a laugh.

“Well, I’m not you, Pam,” Tess spat out, trying not to let the anger show in her stance or her voice. She failed miserably.

Pam looked her up and down. “Obviously. I mean, my dad doesn’t sock it to me like yours does to you. But then again, who can blame him? I bet you were a total pain in the ass to live with. No wonder your mother threw herself down the stairs.”

Tess felt tears sting her eyes, ones that she had fought so valiantly to keep in and she wanted nothing more than to run away and hide. And as such, she completely missed Maria’s advance on the two of them.

“Isn’t it just so ironic Pam, that the ones that truly deserve to have crap beaten out of them – i.e. you – don’t, but good people like Tess have to suffer? I mean, if we didn’t know the world was fucked up before...” Maria trailed off, letting Pam’s thought process catch up with what she’d just said.

Maria could spot the moment the words sunk in. “You little-”

Maria slung an unaffected arm around Tess’s shoulders and smiled at the vitriolic girl who was almost seething with rage. “You know what the difference is between you a piece of shit? Nothing. There is absolutely nothing in you that makes you redeemable as a human being. You’re crude, vile and repulsive, always ready to kick a person when she’s down and if you died tomorrow, I think the world would be a better place for it. Now, how about you run along before I let Isabel, Max and Michael in on what you’ve been up to today? How’d you like to be bottom of the food chain at this school, Pam?”

Pam turned shakily, her rage almost overpowering her, but her desperate need to be popular overtook her need for revenge. The combined weight of those three people could crush her and she couldn’t afford to lose her popularity. How would she make friends then?

Tess felt the sting of her tears even more powerfully this time as Maria rubbed her shoulders softly whilst watching Pam’s retreat with a bit of smugness.

Maria let out a breath once Pam turned the corner out of sight. “Stupid bitch. Don’t worry about what she’s saying Tess. She’s nothing but a gossiping, snide, malicious sperm bank.”

“I...” Tess could barely speak as her emotions threatened to overcome her. Maria was being so kind. So unbelievably kind to her and she had never expected that. She was saved from answering by Liz’s arrival.

“Hey guys, what I miss?” asked Liz warily, noticing the protective stance of Maria and the tears swimming in Tess’s clear blue eyes.

“Just Slutty McDevil from Whorestown,” spat Maria, still pissed at the nerve of that girl.

“Pam?” guessed Liz, breaking through the Maria code.

“You guessed it.”

It warmed Liz’s heart to see that Maria had yet to remove her arm from around Tess’s shoulders. She’d never been more proud to call Maria her best friend.

“Tess!”

Tess looked up to spot Kyle running towards them, completely oblivious to the stares he was attracting. Without stopping to think, Tess threw her arms around him, needing to feel him hold her. She always felt safe when he was around.

Kyle was short of breath as he spoke, having run through the school trying to find her. “Dad has no idea how the paper’s got a hold of it. He told me to apologise to you, that he never thought it would get out.”

Tess shook her head a little, still buried in his chest. “It’s ok. I’ll deal with it.”

Kyle exhaled loudly and ran a hand down her hair. “So brave.”

“You sure you’re ok to come to school today?” asked Maria, her respect growing for the petite blonde in front of her. “Seriously, you didn’t have to.”

“I’m tired of being a victim,” Tess replied softly. “And I’m tired of hiding. I’ve been hiding my whole life and it never got me anywhere.”

“Atta girl,” cheered Maria. She smiled as she caught sight of the rest of the gang heading their way, Michael doing his best to scare off all the onlookers with his pretty impressive glare.

“Hey guys,” greeted Alex, the only one in the group who wasn’t blindingly aware of the tension in the group. Everyone was horrified by what they’d heard and no one really knew what to say to Tess. Except for Alex who noted how horrible Tess’s circumstances were, but believed that Tess deserved to have everyone treat her normally. But perhaps a bit better than normally seeing as they all weren’t particularly welcoming before. “Did you see Sharon McCormack today? She’s got a pimple the size of a bowling ball right in the middle of her forehead. I swear, if that thing popped, we’d all drown.”

And just like that, the tension broke. Tess couldn’t have been more grateful to Alex for at least pretending that today was just another day.

Isabel shook her head sadly and pretended to be horrified at her boyfriend’s comment. “Alex, you’re a disgrace.”

Alex held up his hands in defence. “Hey, I just calls ‘em like I sees ‘em.”

The bell rang at that moment and Alex glared at the speaker, shaking his fist at it. “Damn you to Hades, you infernal invention of death!”

Michael shot Alex a knowing look. “History class?”

Alex’s glare grew even darker. “I hate it so much. It’s so boring. One time I was concentrating on hating it so hard that I actually pooed my pants. Crapped myself right in the middle of class.”

Max turned to Isabel, his face bewildered. “He’s making that up right? I can never tell with him.”

Isabel frowned slightly and thought for a moment. “I’m 90 percent sure that he made that up.”

Alex was gratified by Michael’s howling laughter, but not so much by his next comment. “And that’s the man you date, Isabel. He’s a keeper.”

Shaking her head, Isabel, Maria and Liz turned to head off to Spanish, allowing them some time to talk as Tess went off to English.

“You knew, didn’t you?” asked Maria once they were out of earshot.

Liz nodded, knowing exactly what she was talking about. “Yeah.”

Isabel’s voice dropped to a whisper, noticing all the intrigued stares that were coming their way. “Do you know if her Dad really did kill her Mom?”

Liz paused and then reasoned that it would all come out in the court case anyway. Tess would be asked to testify and it would be headline news. Again. “Yeah, he pushed her down the stairs. In front of Tess.”

Maria and Isabel’s hands flew to their mouths in sympathetic horror. To have lived with that... what would that turn you into?

“I feel really bad about how I’ve treated her,” muttered Maria, shame lacing her voice.

Liz shook her head. “Don’t be. You couldn’t have known and Tess made her own decisions. You had no reason to believe that Tess wasn’t just another Pam or Courtney.”

“I’m just grateful that Dad can help her out. He’s helping her apply for emancipation just like he did with Michael.”

Maria’s brow furrowed. “Where’s she going to live?”

“She told me last night that the house is hers, it’s from her Mom’s side of the family and Ed signed a prenup so Tess inherited it on her Mom’s death and Ed took charge of it until she turned twenty one, but if she gets emancipated she should get control of the house. I think she’ll rent it out and get a small apartment though. Too many memories in that house.” Liz shuddered as she thought of the memories Tess would have, it was too much for almost anyone.

The girls headed inside the classroom, all lost in their own contemplation.
***
“Hey, Tess!” called Malamud from across the hall were Tess was walking, trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible. “I heard your dad beat you up. You want me to kiss it better for you? I’m sure I could think of a couple more things we could do to make you feel better. And from what I hear from most of the football team, you’d really like what I have in mind.”

Tess felt dirty just at hearing his words, mostly because he was right. She was a slut, she had been with most of the guys on the team. Why was it that with one reference to her past, Malamud had made her feel like all her progress and self improvement had disappeared?

“Hey man, what’s your deal?” cried Malamud as Michael shoved him across the hallway. Tess felt gratitude and the strange unsettling feeling that she had whenever one of Kyle’s friends did something nice for her. She hadn’t even noticed that Michael had been in the hallway, but suddenly he was there. Protecting her. Not because he felt he had to but because what Malamud had said had made him angry for some reason. Tess could see that much. It was almost too much to bear.

“Fuck off. If I see you ever so much as look at her again, you’re dead. You hear me? Fucking gooch,” spat Michael, his natural urge to protect those smaller than him kicking in. He had been in Tess’s shoes, just not as publically. He knew what it was like to suffer in silence through the kicks and the punches, the broken bones and the bruises. He knew what it was like to take it all because you believed that you deserved it and that it was all you had.

“What’s a gooch?” queried Isabel from beside Michael once Malamud had turned to leave.

“A part of the male anatomy,” replied Michael absently watching the boy walk away from them through narrowed eyes.

Isabel sucked in a breath. “Ok. Don’t want to know.”

“Thought you might say that.”

Isabel hurried over to Tess and quickly led her through the halls towards their usual table. “Come on.”

Tess could feel the longing rise up within her and she tried vainly to squash it. Every time one of Kyle’s friends protected her or made a friendly gesture, Tess couldn’t help the desperate need that stirred within her. How much she craved to have someone be her friend not because they felt sorry for her, but because they truly liked her. She had never had a true friend and she knew that she would desperately miss it when she no longer needed their protection and they would all disappear. She knew that she’d still be allowed to sit at their table and eat with them, but this inclusion and warmth she was feeling from them couldn’t last. Once her ordeal with her father was done with and her life had settled to normal, none of them would show her the same kindness. So she was preparing for it now before it took her by surprise and she ended up even more devastated. She would miss it. She knew just how strongly she’d miss it.
***
Tess stiffened as a shadow fell over her during her free period. She had been enjoying the silence in the library and the relative emptiness. There was practically nobody in there and it had suited her just fine. Why couldn’t people just leave her alone?

The seat next to her scraped against the linoleum as Michael sat down next to her. “Hey Tess.”

She breathed a sigh of relief when she heard Michael’s voice, but the tension didn’t dissipate. She had no way of knowing what he wanted. She had thought that with the protective act in the hallway that she could trust him not to say anything hurtful to her, but Tess knew too well about the duplicitous nature of people. They often said one thing and did the other. None more so than her father.

Michael scratched his ear nervously before he began. “Look, I know that the last thing you want to do right now is talk, but I just wanted to let you know that I understand what you’re going through. My foster father used to...” Michael trailed off as he found difficulty with voicing the words, even after all this time. Instead he rolled up his sleeve and showed her a round circular patch of scar tissue. “It’s a cigarette burn.” He then gestured to the thin scar on his right eyebrow. “Left hook.”

Tess gaped at him in amazement, she’d never have picked him for a victim of domestic abuse. He seemed so strong, so together, so... normal.

“So, just know that I’m here if you ever want to talk. Any time, day or night. I understand what it’s like to feel that you’re the human equivalent of dog shit and half as likable. To keep holding onto hope that one day they’ll stop and love you like you crave them to. To protect them because you feel that they’re all you’ve got.”

“Michael... I...” Tess was lost for words. She’d felt so alone, so completely disconnected from everyone and to have Michael, big, gruff Michael show startling insight into her unspoken feelings was such a weight off her shoulders. He knew. He understood. And for the first time since she’d made the decision to turn her father in, she felt hope. If Michael could make it, then maybe she could too. “Thank you.”

Michael shrugged uncomfortably. “No probs. I’ll see you later.” He left just as quickly as he’d come in, but the difference he’d left in Tess was enormous.
***
Liz swallowed nervously as she watched her boyfriend converse with the three boys that she’d snubbed on the street a while back. She knew it wasn’t a snub on her part, but it must have looked that way to the three boys.

Taking a deep breath, Liz pulled in every ounce of courage she had and decided to approach them. If Tess could do something as terrifying as turning her father in to the police, then she could talk to three perfectly nice boys with her boyfriend there as support.

It didn’t matter that she was sweating bullets, was about to be sick and felt like she would faint. This was something she had to do.

“Hey Max,” she said softly, hoping the tremble in her voice wouldn’t register in the other boy’s minds.

Max turned, shocked to see his girlfriend approaching him when he was with people she didn’t know. His smile quickly broadened as he realised what that meant. She was making an effort and far be it from him to leave her hanging. He’d help her as much as he could, so long as she were willing to try.

“Hey, Liz!” he pulled her into his side and she huddled in close to him as they turned together to face his friends. “Have you met these guys?”

Liz shook her head a little and swallowed, trying to get some spit back into her dry mouth. She was kicking herself internally for doing this. She couldn’t. She knew she couldn’t. She had no idea what had possessed her to do this. They were going to laugh at her. Hate her. She knew it. “N-not formally, no.”

Cody’s eyebrows lifted as he heard the stutter and he exchanged looks with the other two boys. “I’m Cody.”

Liz tried to surreptitiously wipe her hands on her pants before she shook his hand. They were sweaty and disgusting and she knew that he’d notice.

Max would have laughed at the expression on her face if he didn’t know how much she was hating every second of this. She looked like she was facing a firing squad rather than three normal, average teenage boys.

“And I’m Freddie and this is Todd,” said the tallest one, gesturing to his friend beside him. Liz shook both their hands before shrinking back into Max’s side. Far, far safer there.

“It’s nice to meet you,” she said

“Same here,” replied Cody. “You going to the big game Friday to cheer Max on?”

Liz nodded, trying to smile at them. This had to be the worst thing she’d ever experienced.

“It’s ok, Liz, you can tell them,” said Freddie with a friendly smile, trying to ease her nerves. “I know you’re only going to cheer me on. It’s only natural. I am super hot, after all.”

Liz laughed weakly along with the rest of them, feeling relief that they’d slipped into banter. Things couldn’t be going so badly if they were able to banter, could they?

“So, what do you say, Liz? You going to run away with Freddie?” teased Todd, finding her vulnerable side much more appealing and human than her ice princess facade.

Liz swallowed before she spoke. “I don’t know, Max has a jeep...”

She could have bathed in the relief that flooded her when they laughed at her rather weak attempt at a joke. And she could have kissed Maria when she interrupted them.

“Hey babes, I need your help with some Biology work that I don’t get, you think I could borrow you?”

Liz nodded a little bit too eagerly and then turned back to the boys. “I’ll catch you all later, it was nice meeting you.” Liz could hear her voice returning to normal as her stress levels lowered. That hadn’t been too bad.

“You too, Liz. I’ll catch you at the game, you better be blowing me kisses from the sidelines,” Freddie called out as she retreated back to safety.

Liz turned and smiled at him. “Promise.”

She soon disappeared out of sight behind the corner and Max watched their faces show the shock they’d been hiding while Liz had been in their presence.

“Huh,” laughed Freddy. “She’s shy. Who’da thunk it?”

Max nodded as the guys stood a little stunned. “Yeah. Extremely shy, actually.”

“Is that why she wouldn’t talk to us that day on the street?” Cody asked, surprised by Max’s affirmative answer. “But we’re nice people! We’d never be mean to her.”

Max shrugged at Cody’s objection. “It doesn’t really matter who the person is or how nice they are, she’s still terrified.”

“Poor chick,” muttered Todd. “Must suck to go through life like that, fearing everyone. And on top of that, giving everyone the wrong impression.”

Max nodded, thankful for his insight into Liz’s dilemma. It was gratifying for him to prove people wrong about his girlfriend, people that mattered anyway. He’d never felt as proud of anyone than he did in that moment about Liz. She had faced her fears, head on and kicked ass. She was a champ.

“I think she was quite taken with me,” smirked Freddie, watching Max glare at him with glee.

“You wish, Freddie,” Max laughed. “Anyway, I had better get going, I’ll see you at practice.”

He had a girlfriend to go congratulate, he needed to find her.
***
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Re: Never In Doubt (AU, M/L, Teen) Pt 37, 12th Feb

Post by Rowedog » Fri Feb 13, 2009 11:32 pm

I am so sorry for this part. Seriously. Remember that after you read it. :oops: I’ll post the next one soon.

BB-
Why couldn’t they have been the ones that Tess ran into instead of the fragrant Pam Troy?
How else would I have been able to demonstrate Maria’s compassion for Tess so that she could witness it? I’m too lazy for subtle.
Natalie36
Destinyc
Emz
Tequathisy
Eve
Sunrise102-
Mr. Sensitive, who'da thunk?
Next he’ll be crying over Steel Magnolias and talking about his feelings :lol:
Tamashii
Mary
Novy-
You're super good at this.
:oops: You make me blush, Novy.
Part Thirty Eight: You’ve Been A Vewy Bad Wabbit
Liz was glad when the drama over Tess and her father had died down. It had taken the good part of a month, but it had finally gotten to the point that people were no longer interested, being more wrapped up in their own dramas to worry about Tess’s problems, which suited them all just fine. Tess was obviously still dealing with her issues and her father’s pending court case, but her emancipation had come through and made it all a little easier to bear.

Maria had stuck by her previous promise to get to know Tess better and was pleasantly surprised to find that she liked a lot of what she found. And she knew that Kyle was too. Kyle was extremely glad that they had all taken to Tess so well, and Max had taken Tess’s apology about her previous actions with grace, which was to be expected. Max wasn’t a person to hold a grudge, another reason why Liz loved him.

Yes, she loved him. It had come upon her so slowly that she barely noticed it until it was completely encompassing, but she had no idea how he felt. Clearly he liked her enough to continue dating her, but there seemed to be no indication of anything deeper. He was attentive, sweet and an ardent kisser but she still had no idea how deeply his feelings went. Sometimes she could swear that he felt something deeper, but she needed verbal validation.

The idea that her feelings might be deeper than his scared the crap out of her. She wanted to know that they were in this together, not that it would hurt her more if they broke up. Even just the thought of them breaking up made her feel physically sick. She didn’t want to think about how she’d handle that.

“What are you thinking about?” Max asked, sweeping the dark curtain of her hair away from her face so he could get a better look at her expression. She looked unhappy and Max hated seeing that look on her face.

“Nothing,” she muttered, unwrapping her sandwich.

“Tell me,” he implored.

She shook her head attempting to laugh it off. “It’s nothing.”

“It’s not nothing, you looked sad. Tell me,” Max cajoled, not believing her denial.

“Let it go, Max,”

Max sighed dramatically. “I’m sorry it’s come to this Liz, but you’ve left me no choice.”

“What?”

“It’s time for tickle therapy.”

Liz barely had time to process what he said before his fingers dug into her sides wriggling into her most ticklish areas. She squealed and tried to get away from his questing fingers, but to no avail. Her hysterical laughter didn’t help matters either.

Eventually his fingers stilled and Max pinned her with an intense look. “Do I have to give you round two or are you willing to talk? Dr. Evans’s techniques will make you talk; it’s just a matter of time.”

Liz decided that the best defence was a good offence and pressed herself up against him, looking up at him with big puppy dog eyes. She was going to flirt her way out of this one. “Oh please Dr. Evans, I’m throwing myself on your mercy. Do whatever you want to me, but please, just stop the tickling.”

Max’s grin grew diabolical. “Whatever I want, eh?”

“Ugh, please. People are trying to eat here,” interrupted Kyle, disgusted by their PDA.

“Then you should have some common courtesy and put a paper bag over your head,” retorted Liz, angered by his hypocritical comment, but not willing to attack his public shows of affection for Tess. Liz knew that Tess needed as much physical affection and reassurance she could get.

Kyle waggled his eyebrows at her. “Touche cuz-bags. Tell me, you tutoring Isabel tonight?”

“Yeah, why?”

“I need help with Biology and you seem to be the go to girl for both science and tutoring. Can you help me tomorrow night? I’m not opposed to emotionally blackmailing you. Watch. You owe me; I put air conditioning in your crappy little rust bucket of a car.”

Liz nodded, happy to help Kyle out. “My shitmobile thanks you. Of course I’ll help you, which part of Bio are you having trouble with?”

Kyle seemed confused by the question. “All of it?”

Liz’s eyes widened. “Oh dear, this may be an uphill struggle.”

“If anyone can help you, it’s my Lizzy,” Max stated proudly, causing Liz’s heart to soar in her chest. Maybe he did love her. He’d called her his, and while she realised that in terms of feminism it probably wasn’t great, but in real terms it could be an indication of his true feelings. Plus he sounded really proud of her. He wouldn’t feel proud of some girl he only liked, would he? Liz nearly groaned. This was too hard, second guessing everything he did and trying to find some hidden meaning behind it. She knew she could just tell him her feelings, but she would be mortified if he didn’t return them. It was too risky; she’d have to give it more time.

“There’s that look again,” said Max. “What’s troubling you?”

She wanted to tell him, but there was a larger part of her that needed to self preserve and she couldn’t handle it if he didn’t feel the same way. She knew she was a coward, but she didn’t really care. There was no way she was putting herself out there.

“It’s just this problem I’m working on. Don’t worry, it’s nothing major. I’ll have it sorted out soon.” Lies. She hated lying to him, but she could see no other alternative. It was that or possible heart break. She chose to lie.

She just hoped he’d figure it out sooner rather than later, because until he told her that he loved her she was going to be on pins and needles.

“You know what I wonder?” asked Alex as chewed on the straw of his juice box thoughtfully. “Is there any cartoon porn out there on the internet of Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny?”

Kyle laughed loudly. “I hope so. I can just imagine it” He stood up and thrust his hips back and forth, putting on a fake Elmer voice. “You’ve been a vewy bad wabbit.”

Michael huffed in disgust. “How is it that both Kyle and Alex have managed to have sex, but yet Max and I remain virgins?”

“You’re the Big V Guerin?” asked Kyle in surprise, he certainly hadn’t seen that coming.

“Despite Alex’s best attempts, yes,” snorted Michael dryly.

Maria smiled. “My mom would be pleased to hear that.” And secretly she was too. She’d never asked about Michael’s sexual experience because she’d been afraid to ask, but she’d always wondered. It was nice to have that curiosity satisfied and nicer still to know that she still had a chance to be his first.

“You’re dying for a piece of these buns,” smirked Alex, pointing to his seated backside. “And you know it.”

“How many times did you get dropped on your head?”

Max watched Liz carefully as she laughed along at Michael and Alex’s argument, but he could tell that something was bothering her. He had to find out what that was.
***
Later that day, Isabel inhaled as she walked through the front door of her house, smelling sweet, fresh flowers and freshly baked pie. She followed her nose into the kitchen and came across her mother doing the last of the dishes. Isabel and Max exchanged looks. Her mom wasn’t prone to fits of Suzy Homemakerness so there had to be a huge reason why she’d suddenly bought a bouquet of rose and taken up baking pies.

Isabel decided to venture a question. “Hey Mom, what’s happening? What’s with the Betty Crocker thing you’ve got going on here?”

“It’s great news! Your Grandma and Grandpa are coming down this Friday! I’m just getting prepared.”

Diane turned back to her dishes and completely missed the horrified look on both her children’s faces.

“How long are they staying?” asked Max, all thoughts of Liz’s weird behaviour slammed out of his head by the horrific idea of his grandparents coming to stay. It wasn’t like he didn’t love them, he just preferred to love them from a distance, preferably thousands of miles away. His grandmother was fine, a bit meek, but that was to be expected of someone who lived with a man like their grandfather. Max couldn’t wait until his father heard the news. It would definitely be a sight to behold.
***
Rubbing in the moisturiser on her legs as she sat on her bed in her towel, Liz nearly jumped out of her skin when her cell rang loudly, shattering the silence. She made a grab for it, her heart pounding in her chest.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Liz.”

Her heart fluttered in her chest, a familiar feeling every time she saw his face or heard his voice. She supposed she’d have to get used to it.

“Hey Max, what can I do for you?” she asked, holding her phone to her ear with her shoulder as she rubbed the last of the cream in.

“I didn’t wake you did I?”

“No, I’m just moisturising my legs before I go to bed.” Liz heard an audible swallow and smiled. “What’s up?”

“Well, I was wondering if there was something wrong? You’ve been kinda down lately.”

Liz stiffened, her vain hope that he’d forget about it having been squashed. Sometimes having a perceptive boyfriend sucked ass. “And you waited until 11:30 at night to ask me about it?”

“I couldn’t sleep, I just kept thinking about it. I needed to know if it was me. Did I do something wrong?”

Liz bit her lip and ran through the answers she wanted to give, but knew she wouldn’t. No Max, it’s what you haven’t done that’s the problem. Tell me how you feel and I’ll be fine. “Max! No! Why would you think that?”

She heard him sigh over the phone. “You’ve just been kinda distant.”

“Believe me, this is not your fault, I’ve just been too caught up in my own crap. Don’t worry about me, the problem should be fixed by tonight.” In a way it was true, Liz was never going to give him cause for suspicion again. She would learn to wait patiently. “It’s nothing big, so please do me a favour and completely forget about it. I feel really bad that you were worried about me.” That at least was the truth. “Now go and get some beauty sleep, you need it.”

They both chuckled at her sly dig at him. “Alright. I’ll go. I-”

Max caught himself and Liz felt her heart speed up. What had he been about to say? “You what, Max?

“I...” Max hesitated again. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Liz did her utmost to keep her voice from revealing the disappointment she felt. It had sounded like he was about to tell her that he loved her. “Yeah, see you then.”

Across town Max hung up his phone and lambasted himself for being such a coward. Why couldn’t he just tell her that he loved her, surely it wasn’t that hard?
***
Slamming a flier down on their regular lunch table where six of her friends were gathered, Maria smiled brilliantly at them. “’Kay, so James is throwing a massive party this Saturday in his house out of town, who’s with me?”

“Can’t,” grunted Kyle over a mouthful of sandwich. “Big Jim insists that once a month we spend some quality time and it’s this Saturday. And the papa is not going to be inclined to let me off the hook so I can go to a party with underage drinking.”

“Michael?”

He shrugged apologetically. “I’m rostered on to work.”

“Max?”

“Isabel and I will be having the dinner from hell with our grandparents who have flown in from Connecticut for the week.”

“Alex?”

“Computer specialist who works in video games has deigned to visit Roswell and is giving a lecture. I’d be stupid to miss it.”

Skipping past Isabel who she knew was already previously engaged, Maria stared pleadingly at Tess. “Tess?”

Feeling the rumbling of butterflies in her stomach at the thought that Maria would go to a party with her, Tess was elated and deeply saddened at the same time. Elated that Maria seemingly thought of her as a friend and would ask her to go with her to a party and deeply saddened that she’d have to say no. She desperately didn’t want to let her down.

“I’m really sorry... I’m working that night.”

With a sigh and pout, Maria sat down, the wind knocked out of her sails. She had really wanted to go to that party too.

“What I miss?” asked Liz as she sat down, having been detained by her Biology teacher who wanted to know if she’d go to a specialised Bio lecture in Clovis in a couple of weeks.

Maria instantly brightened. “There’s a party this Saturday. You in?”

“Sure,” shrugged Liz. “Who else is going?”

“Just you and me.”

Liz’s smile faded at the prospect of a party full of strangers. “I don’t know... where is it?”

“James’s place, about half an hour out of town in the middle of nowhere.”

“How are we going to get back?”

“One of us will drive. The other will drink. It starts at seven.”

“I’m working till nine and I’m sure that you’ll want to get there fairly early, so we’d have to take different cars.”

“So we won’t drink,” shrugged Maria, still intent on going.

Liz hesitated, her eyes flicking to Max. “I don’t know. I’m not sure I want to go to a party where I know no one. I mean, Max won’t even be there...”

Maria groaned. “Please don’t tell me that you’re turning into one of those girls who can’t do anything without their boyfriends.”

Liz bit her lip. It wasn’t that, not at all. She just felt safer with Max watching out for her. He made it easier for her to meet new people; he eased her into conversations without pressure and ensured she was never left hanging. Plus, his size was a deterrent to those who would try to hit on her. She never had to worry about her personal safety when she was with him. “Maria, I just don’t know if it’s such a good idea.”

“Listen, we’ll go, we’ll dance and have a good time. If, after an hour you’re not having loads of fun, we’ll get the cluck out of there.”

Liz laughed, despite her reservations. “Cluck?”

“This is what happens when you hang out with Sean too often. Save me, Liz. Save me.”

Liz sighed and nodded, much to Maria’s delight, but Liz couldn’t rid herself of the ominous feeling that something bad was going to happen at this party. She could just feel it.
***
Max sat idly, picking at his food on his plate, glancing at the clock every five minutes. He wondered what Liz was doing right now and whether she was having fun at the party without him. It sucked that he was here while she was at the biggest party of the year, probably having a great time, talking, dancing and laughing. Probably getting hit on by other guys he added darkly, his scowl intensifying as he pictured the scene. Some guy approaching Liz, scouting her as an easy target and then going in for the kill…

Isabel kicked him under the table, breaking him from his reverie. He glanced at Isabel, who shot him a warning look that clearly said “do not ruin this for Mom.” Max sighed and put on a false smile and attempted to tune back into the conversation even though his mind was several miles away at a raging party.

“So, Max, I hear you have a girlfriend.”

Max blinked and then nodded his head and replied politely to his grandfather’s rather abrupt question, “I do, sir.”

“Well, don’t just sit there like a damned mute, boy! What’s her name? What’s she like?” barked Max’s grandfather in a fit of customary rudeness that typified his personality.

Max wisely resisted the temptation to roll his eyes, and instead answered his grandfather’s questions as best he could.

“Her name is Liz Parker and she’s uh… wonderful,” replied Max going into his fantasy world that he seemed to delve into whenever Liz’s name was mentioned.

“Wonderful? What kind of an answer is that? What are her skills, boy? What are her ambitions? What’s her personality like?” demanded his grandfather roughly, drawing the attention of the surrounding diners. Phillip muffled a mortified groan as his father in law made a spectacle of himself, but Diane merely smiled on, oblivious to anything apart from the fact that her parents were here visiting her. Her joy knew no bounds.

“Um, well… she’s really smart and good at school. She really enjoys science and wants to be a microbiologist someday. We’re actually biology partners, which is very lucky for me because I hate science. And her personality… well, she can come off a bit cold and brusque at first, but it’s just because she’s shy. She’s actually really sweet,” Max glanced up to meet his grandfather’s disbelieving gaze and turned to Izzy for help, “right, Isabel?”

Isabel nodded and rushed to back her brother up as her grandfather’s disapproval grew.

“I originally didn’t like her because I thought she was cold, but after having spent time with her, I have to agree with Max. She’s extremely sweet and funny once you get to know her. I really like her,” stated Isabel truthfully.

Graham snorted and turned to give his grandson some sage advice, “That’s all well and good Max, but she sounds frigid. You need a woman that’ll put out. I tell you what, when I met your grandmother, I knew I had met the woman I wanted to marry. Let me tell you, she was insatiable-”

“Dessert!” cried Phillip over the top of Graham’s loud and inappropriate story that was turning more than a few heads in the crowded restaurant. “Is it time for dessert yet?”

“Don’t be stupid Phillip! We haven’t even finished our main meals yet!” sniped Graham with ill-concealed disdain. “Don’t know what you see in him Diane, the man’s a moron.”

Max flashed his father a grateful look as Isabel sat holding her head in her hands in mortification. And she shared DNA with that man… it was enough to make you ill.

Max almost sighed in relief as his phone began to ring in his pocket. He answered, oblivious to the glares he received from the nearby patrons. He knew it was rude, but it was either this or converse with his grandfather. Max chose the former.

“Hello?”

“M-max,” stuttered a tiny voice on the other end of the line. It was so weak Max could barely hear it.

“Hello? Who is this?” asked Max in a weird state of anticipation.

“It’s Nancy, Nancy Parker,” Max felt dread climb into his stomach as he heard her words, which were almost garbled beyond recognition from the tears she had been trying to keep at bay.

“Mrs. Parker? Why… is something wrong? Did something happen to Liz?” Max could barely communicate what he wanted to say, the fear was clawing at his chest and making his breath shorten as he heard her suppressed sob. He stood up, trying to get more air into his lungs and ran a hand through his hair. He knew that this was not going to be good at all.

“Max… she’s- Liz-” Nancy paused to collect herself and started again as Max’s mind ran through horrors that might have befallen Liz, “Max, there’s been an accident…”

Max’s breathing stopped altogether. Liz was hurt. Liz was in the hospital, broken and bleeding because he hadn’t been there to take care of her. Oxygen escaped his lungs and he tried to focus back onto his phone as his parents exchanged worried looks.

“Max…” Nancy’s voice broke into a sob before she added in a tremulous whisper, “Liz is dead.”
***
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Re: Never In Doubt (AU, M/L, Teen) Pt 38, 14th Feb

Post by Rowedog » Sat Feb 14, 2009 7:18 am

I said I was sorry! I wrote that bit ages ago and it was always my intention to do it. I completely forgot that it was Valentines day and because I feel very bad about that, I’ll break my own rule of not waiting around 24 hours before I post the next part, but I feel slightly consoled because I am posting it on the next day. Oh and I hate this part, but I couldn’t fix it. I suck it seems.

On a happier note! Yay! The next part is the last! I like that one better, aside from the last paragraph or so.

Tessa1982
Novy-
I have gross friends, that’s how I came up with that.
DayDreamer23
BB-
WTF, indeed.
Emz
Tamashii
Natalie36-
This soon enough for you?
Part Thirty Nine: Here’s To The Shitmobile

Two Hours Earlier
Liz groaned as she got out of the car, Britney Spears greeting her ears from the house. “I am so not in the mood for a party.”

Maria grinned at her from the top of the steps, waving wildly. “Lizzy, Lizzy, Flizzy! I looooooove tequila!”

Liz took a deep breath in, muttering to herself, “And this night just got even worse.” She raised her voice, speaking out loud to Maria. “I thought you weren’t drinking tonight?”

“Someone...” Maria stopped to hiccup into her sleeve. “Someone spiked the punch. So I figured... seeing as I’m already wasted, what’s a little bit more?”

“What indeed?” Liz agreed idly, feeling a little self conscious as three guys walked past openly checking her out. “I guess I’ll be driving us home tonight.”

Maria’s face grew serious for a moment. “By the way, people’s wallets have been going missing, so keep an eye on your pocket or whatever.”

Liz sighed again and unlocked her car, placing her wallet and her cell phone safely inside the glove box.

“That’s a good idea, Lizzy, now come dance with me!” Maria flounced over to her as best she could in her drunken state and dragged her up the stairs, to the front porch and over the threshold into the seething mass of bodies dancing in what appeared to be the living room.

“Isn’t this great?” cried Maria, barely discernible over the thumping bass.

“It’s what dreams are made of,” Liz grunted sarcastically in reply as a large muscular guy tried to grind up against her.

“What?” yelled Maria as Liz manoeuvred herself away from the persistent guy.

“Never mind!” Liz yelled, thankful to be away from Sir-Rubs-A-Lot who quickly turned to a more inebriated girl as soon as she was out of the way.

Dancing was not an endeavour that Liz could get into at this party. She knew no one besides Maria, the music was up way too loud and she was far too self conscious to let loose.

She should have just stayed home.

Thankfully for her, Maria’s woozy head became too much for her to walk straight, let alone dance, so she and Liz wobbled over to the kitchen to get her a drink of water. She glanced around nervously at the three guys standing in the kitchen watching her approach.

Forcing a cup of water down Maria’s throat while she steadied her with an arm around her waist, Liz tried not to let paranoia overtake her. Those three guys were probably really nice; she was just overreacting because she was out of her comfort zone. They were probably harmless and just came here to have a good time. But the uneasy tension in her stomach would not go away.

“Your friend looks a little bit wasted,” commented one of the guys with a look that Liz couldn’t convince herself was harmless.

“She’ll be fine,” she muttered in reply wishing that Maria would hurry up and finish her water.

“Why don’t you let us take care of her?” suggested another, a deviant smirk playing across his face. “You could go back in and have a good time.”

Grabbing the cup from Maria’s hands, she slammed it down onto the kitchen sink and then dragged her out of the kitchen. “No.”

Forcing Maria to walk faster than she was probably capable of, Liz hurried down the hall till she found a lockable bathroom and pushed Maria inside, aware that she was being followed. She closed the door hurriedly and locked it just in time for the closest guy to twist the knob. She ignored the knocks on the door.

Liz blocked her ears to the filthy suggestions and pleas for them to come back out, and busied herself by taking care of Maria. Liz groaned when she got a good look at Maria’s eyes. Her pupils were massive. When she had said that someone had spiked the punch, Liz had just assumed that she meant alcohol. Now she couldn’t be sure.

Biting back tears of frustration, Liz tried to look at her situation objectively. She was locked in a bathroom with her drugged friend -who could be suffering an overdose for all she knew about drugs- with three guys who wanted to rape her best friend and more than likely herself, there was no way out other than the front door, she didn’t have her cell phone on her and she knew no one at this party.

Liz’s review of the situation didn’t help her bad mood. What in the world was she going to do? Maria’s cell phone didn’t work either because she had dropped it in a mug of beer an hour earlier. Liz supposed she’d have to wait out the night, though the idea was terrifying to her. She thought about possible weapons should the three guys bust down the door and decided upon her keys, but upon inspection found that her keys had been lifted from her pocket. Curling her knees up into her chest as she leant against the bath tub, Liz finally allowed her tears to fall as she carefully watched her best friend doze on the floor on her side. This was turning out to be the worst night out ever. Luckily for her, Maria had been luckier in the pickpocket stakes, her keys forming a lumped shape in her pocket. Liz supposed that it was better that she had at least one working car in which to escape in, but that didn’t stop the grief she felt over her stolen car. It had been a little crusty and a little bit tough to navigate without power steering, but it had been hers and she had loved it regardless.

Half an hour later, the comments and the knocking stopped, but Liz wasn’t game enough to check to see if they were still there. There was no way she was opening this door till morning, barring a miracle occurring. However, what was heartening for Liz to see was Maria was slowly regaining consciousness and coherency, if not the use of her limbs. It seemed to Liz that whatever she had inadvertently taken was wearing off, something she was extremely thankful for.

Luckily for Liz, her prayers were shortly answered, the sound of sirens reached her ears and she pulled Maria up and opened the door, nearly being trampled in the stampede out to the front door of the house. Dragging Maria was a slow process, but she made it to Maria’s car in relatively quick time. Having buckled in a half coherent Maria, Liz then raced to the other side of the car and sped off quickly, her relief at escaping that nightmare party from hell, causing her to shed more tears. She had really feared for her safety. And there was nothing she hated more than feeling helpless.

As she drove, she looked out her window noticing that the police hadn’t even been near the house, they had been down the road tending to what looked like a fire down a steep ravine.

Liz had never been more grateful to get home in her life.
***
Max raced through the police station, his mind a cacophonous jumble of denial, wild hope and shattered dreams. Liz was dead. His Liz. Elizabeth Parker. Dead.

He couldn’t believe it. He wouldn’t. It didn’t make sense. She was alive the last time he saw her. She was so alive.

Max felt hot tears burn the back of his eyelids and stubbornly blinked them away. He wouldn’t cry because she wasn’t dead. There had to be some mistake. There just had to be. Elizabeth Parker couldn’t be dead because he needed her. He needed her alive and with him.

“Max,” greeted a red eyed Sheriff who had up until that point been trying to console his grieving son. Kyle stood with his back towards them, his hands against the wall as he leant against it, fighting back hacking sobs.

It was that picture of grief that brought it all home for Max. She was dead. She was really gone. His girl. Liz.

“Liz’s parents are in the next room if you’d...” Valenti stopped, unable to speak anymore.

“Can... can I see her?” asked Max hesitantly. He needed to say goodbye, he needed to see for himself that she was truly gone.

Valenti swallowed back the reflex to gag as he thought of his niece’s body as he’d last seen it. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Max. When the car crashed... the engine blew up. There was a lot of fire...”

Max’s mind immediately substituted what Jim wasn’t telling him. Liz had been burnt. She had been burnt beyond recognition. And with that sickening realisation, Max fell to his knees in the corridor of the police station and vomited.
***
Jeff shuddered and entered the Crashdown, biting back tears as memories of Liz assailed him. There were just too many memories here, too many of her.

The bell tinkled as the door shut closed and Jeff froze as he heard footsteps come from the back of the store. What now? Did they have a burglar to deal with? That would just top off a stellar day.

“Where the hell have you guys been?” cried Liz as she burst through the back door into the restaurant.

“I have had possibly the worst day of my life! The party was crap, Maria’s drink was spiked and then the cops came so I had to drag Maria’s sorry ass out to the car, AND someone stole my car which contained my cell phone and my wallet! And Maria dropped her cell phone into a mug of beer, so I-” Liz was stopped in surprise as her parents gripped her in a bone crushing hug. She noticed that her mother’s shoulders were shaking and was taken aback.

“It’s ok Mom, I have insurance and besides, the car was a little on the crusty side,” said Liz hesitantly, unable to account for her parents’ dramatic display of emotion.

“Liz, you’re alive!” croaked Liz’s father over his tears as he clutched his baby girl tightly. She was alive and well and he wasn’t certain if he’d ever be able to let her go after this.

“Uh… yeah, Dad. It’s a common theme for me,” replied Liz slowly, looking at her parents warily as they pulled back releasing her from her bone crushing hug.

“Oh, honey! We thought you were dead!” cried Nancy, her legs shaking and weak as she hiccupped and cried simultaneously.

“Dead?” repeated Liz incredulously. “Well… that’s a development…”

“The person who crashed your car… she was… burnt beyond recognition when the engine exploded and… and she had your ID and everything… so Jim called us and we thought…” Nancy trailed off and broke into a fresh round of sobs as she thought of the close call that they had had. No parent should have to bury their own child.

“My car exploded? Ugh, I just had air conditioning installed…Wait! So everyone thinks that I’m… dead?” asked Liz in horror, that was not a very attractive prospect.

“No, not everyone, just the people at the police station and…” Jeff stopped, realisation dawning on his face.

“And…?” prompted Liz, a cold lump of apprehension beginning to form in her stomach. She had a pre-emptory feeling of dread send shivers down her spine.

“Oh, honey… Max, he was so distraught. Your death it really… it really crushed him,” whispered Nancy, watching her daughter’s face pale and her eyes widen.

“Max… thinks that I’m dead?” asked Liz horror unfurling in her stomach making her feel nauseous and horrified. She couldn’t imagine what it would be like if she thought Max was dead. He must be going through hell right now.

“I… I have to go see him,” she whispered, scrabbling in her pocket for Maria’s keys. She pulled them out with a flourish and turned to race towards the door.

“Liz, wait! Maybe you should call first?” Nancy was desperate to hold, to touch her little girl for just a moment longer, to reassure herself that she was alive.

“No time Mom, I have to go see him now!” called Liz over her shoulder nearly colliding with Amy DeLuca as she exited the Crashdown.

“Hi Amy! Maria’s upstairs, oh, and I didn’t die! Sorry, can’t stop, gotta go!” called Liz over her shoulder towards a bewildered Amy DeLuca.

Liz rammed the keys into the ignition and started the engine with a frantic energy, she had to go see Max; he didn’t need to be in anymore pain.
***
Max sat in the living room of his house while his parents sat either side of him worried out of their minds and hurting for their little boy who had lost his first love. He sat silently, barely aware of either parent’s presence beside him. The silence that filled the room dominated it. It was thick and unyielding and both Diane and Phillip were at a loss as to how to break it. What do you say to your child when something like this happens? ‘Tough break son, but that’s the way life goes sometimes’? Obviously not, everything they thought of to say seemed trite and obvious. ‘I know how you must feel’ was wrong, neither Phillip or Diane had any idea what Max was going through and even, ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ seemed inadequate. All they could do was sit there and be there for him.

Diane’s eyes welled as she watched a lone tear roll down Max’s face; he barely seemed to notice its existence and didn’t bother to brush it off. She watched it make its way down the curve of his jaw, down the column of his neck, down his chest to absorb into his shirt. It was easier to not focus on what was happening to her boy than to feel the pain that he was feeling. She ached for him, she ached for the Parkers who had been so destroyed by the news, and she ached for Isabel who was sitting in her locked room right now, probably crying her eyes out, and most of all she ached for Liz. All this pain was just too much and Diane had to be strong for her little boy, who needed her now more than ever. He just looked so lost and overwhelmed, and more than that, he looked numb, like he couldn’t let himself feel anything or he’d fall apart.

The urgent ringing of the doorbell broke the silence and caused both Phillip and Diane to jump as it suddenly sounded, breaking the heavy silence. Max sat on oblivious, barely aware of where he was.

Phillip rose, grateful for the interruption and said softly, “I’ll get it.”

Phillip walked slowly to the door and ran his hand through his hair as the doorbell rang a few more times. Didn’t this person know they were in mourning? They could have just a little respect and let up on the doorbell a little. Once was sufficient.

Phillip opened the door with a weary sigh and nearly had a heart attack upon seeing who was on the doorstep.

Liz Parker. And she was very much alive.

“Where’s Max? I have to see him, there’s been a terrible misunderstanding,” she rushed on, oblivious to Phillip’s amazed stare and gaping mouth.

“L-living room,” he stuttered as Liz pushed past him. He stood in the doorway and watched her hurry towards the living room, his mind blank, trying desperately to connect what he was seeing with what he had thought. For Liz to be alive was impossible, not that he didn’t want her to be, but the confusion remained. How on earth had it happened?

Liz stopped on the threshold of the living room, her words dying on her lips as she caught sight of Max’s face. He looked… utterly devastated. Tears of sympathy and awe welled in her eyes. Her heart swelled with love as she stood silently viewing the damage her supposed death had caused.

“Phillip? Who was at the-” Diane stopped mid sentence and gasped as her eyes fell on the figure standing in the doorway. It couldn’t possibly be…

“Liz.” The word fell from Max’s lips with an awed reverence as he stood shakily. He had sensed her eyes on him even before Diane had spoken. “Are you real?”

Liz crossed the room slowly halting in front of him, tears falling silently down her cheeks from the pained whisper that seemed to clutch at her heart.

“I’m real,” she whispered back as she stood there without touching him. She wanted to give him time to absorb the shock of seeing her alive before she held him to her.

“How…?”

“My car was stolen. It wasn’t me, Max, I didn’t die.”

Max inhaled noisily and raised his hand, hesitantly reaching for her, afraid to touch her in case she was a mirage, or an unsubstantial dream that his grief stricken mind had conjured up. His fingers shook as they neared her cheek and he almost pulled back a couple of times, before accidentally grazing his finger against the softness of her smooth, satiny skin. At the initial contact, Max exhaled the breath he’d been holding in and flattened his palm gently to the side of her face, scarcely able to believe that he was touching the love of his life again.

As realisation that Liz was really here and not lying cold in a mortuary hit him, Max crushed Liz to him with a muffled sob. As he felt her warm body pressed to his and felt her arms clasp him to her, a rush of crippling relief and grief brought him to his knees. Liz, who had been pulled down with him when he had collapsed, held him as he shook trying vainly to keep her tears at bay.

Phillip tore his eyes away from the touching scene and headed upstairs. There was no need to prolong Izzy’s pain as well.

He knocked twice on her door only to be greeted by her muffled sobs that she was no doubt stifling with her pillow.

“Isabel, there’s something important I need to tell you.”

“Please, just leave me alone.”

Phillip’s heart broke at the devastated plea from his daughter, but he had a mission to fulfil.

He gently opened the door and realised he had no idea what to say. “Isabel, you’re not going to believe this, but Liz’s car got stolen tonight.”

Isabel paused in the middle of her crying and looked up at her father, wiping away the tears that were rolling down her face. “What?”

“Her car got stolen so she wasn’t the one that died tonight. She’s downstairs if you’d like to see her.”

Isabel slowly got off her bed, her emotions warring over her face. She was caught between exuberant joy, relief and disbelief.

“Are you joking?”

Phillip shook his head very seriously. “Honey, I would never joke about something like that.”

Isabel strode purposefully out of the room and hurried down the stairs and came to a dead halt in the doorway of the den. She gave out a pained cry and clapped her hand over her mouth to stop the outpouring of grief as she took in the sight of Liz Parker on her knees, holding her brother as he cried. Liz was alive. She was alive.

Holding out her arm that was closest to Izzy, Liz gestured for her to join them. Isabel didn’t need to be asked twice, she crossed the room quickly, threw herself onto her knees and embraced as much of Liz as she could with Max still gripping tightly onto her.

Diane and Phillip brushed away their own tears as their children clung tightly to the young girl who had won a special spot in their hearts. It would have been a comical sight on a normal day, with both Isabel and Max towering over Liz, but in that moment, Diane and Phillip couldn’t have imagined a sweeter scene.
***
“I’m very glad you’re not dead, Liz,” said Michael seriously the next morning in the Crashdown, conjuring an amused snort from Liz.

“Thanks,” she replied with a dry smile. “Though I think we should have a moment’s silence for my car.”

Kyle placed his hand over his heart raised his Crashdown glass and began a eulogy. “To the shitmobile, it was like the batmobile, except considerably shittier. So it didn’t have power steering, or central locking, the fan belt squealed and it frequently broke down, but...” Kyle turned slightly to Liz and stage whispered across to her, “What were its good points again?”

“It had character,” supplied Liz, hard pressed to find anything else good to say about it.

“It had character and the paint job wasn’t too chipped. Here’s to the shitmobile. May it rest in rusty pieces.”

“Hear, hear,” muttered Liz hanging her head as Max clutched onto her. He had barely been able to let her go since the accident, something that filled Liz with joy and made her hope that maybe the accident had made him realise that the depth of his feelings, that maybe he did love her. After a moment, her head snapped up. “Ok, well Max and I are going on a date so we gotta go, but I will catch up with you all later.”

Liz put up with the tight hugs with good grace knowing that she had scared half of them to death when her car had killed the thief inside it.

The girl who had stolen her car was a nineteen year old fresh out of juvie who had decided to skip town, hitchhiked her way to Roswell and had decided to crash the party. Seeing Liz lock her rusty car with her wallet and phone inside and taking an instant dislike to the girl, she had had no qualms about stealing her car. Unfortunately for her, it would be her last action, the alcohol in her system and the car’s unsteady tires had caused her to be unable to prevent the car from slamming through the side railing and crashing down the ravine, killing her almost instantly.

The night of the party, after about ten minutes at the Evans’s house, Liz had had to hurry back to the Crashdown to reassure a hysterical Kyle that she really wasn’t dead. Max and Isabel had refused to let her leave their sights so they had all journeyed back there, allowing a tearful Kyle to be consoled. Liz had appreciated their concern, but after two days their overprotective tendencies were getting a bit smothering. The rest of them had only heard the shock that it could have been Liz, but it didn’t stop them from going overboard.

Liz sat down on her bed with a sigh. “I’m so glad we’re alone. I love our friends, but they’re a touch overly sentimental right now.”

“They thought they’d lost you, Liz,” explained Max, taking her hands in his and kneeling down before her. “I thought I’d lost you.”

Liz’s breath caught at his whispered, pained comment. This may be exactly what she’d been hoping for. She placed her hand against his cheek and he nestled into her, relishing the feel of her warm palm against his skin.

“You have no idea how it felt to think that you were dead. That I’d never be able to feel your lips against mine again, that I’d never hear your laugh again, that I’d never be able to tell you...”

Liz’s voice came out a little breathless, but she didn’t care. “Tell me what, Max?”

He took a deep breath. “That I love you. It was one of the only things I could think about; I thought you had died not knowing how I really felt about you.”

A lone tear of relief trickled down Liz’s face. “I love you too, so much.”

The response to his declaration was more than Max had hoped for and joy exploded inside him, he hadn’t known it was possible to be this happy before. Capturing her face in his hands he kissed her urgently, tasting the salt of her tears as they trailed steadily down her face.

“I can’t believe I waited so long to tell you that,” he breathed as he finally released her.

She half laughed and half sobbed, her emotions careening out of control. “What took you so long?”

Max shook his head and they laughed together, Max still on his knees before her, her hand still pressed to his cheek. “I don’t know. I just know that I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to tell you.”

Liz pressed her forehead into Max’s and decided that it was now or never. “I don’t want to wait any longer either Max.”

His head raised to look at her, not understanding what she meant. “What do you mean?”

“I’m ready, Max... I want to...” She couldn’t speak anymore so she gestured to the bed behind her.

The moment that her words began to make sense to him was easily visible. His face froze into an expression of shock. It was a moment before he could trust himself to speak. “Are you sure?”

“One hundred percent.”

Max let her guide him up to the bed and after that, he let instinct take control but ensured that he was extremely gentle with her. She was precious, fragile and pure; he needed to make sure that he treated her with the care that she deserved.

The care with which he treated her made her feel like the most beautiful thing on the planet, which to him, she was. And as he lost himself within her, Max Evans knew that he could never love another girl. Liz Parker was it for him, for the rest of his life.
***
A/N: Pffts… ye of little faith, as if I’d ever kill off a main character in this story. Remember, this is NID we’re talking about. Remember, Alex + Michael 4 EVA, warm touchy feely moments and stupid conversations? I wouldn’t leave you on a down note.

But, ha! Didn’t expect that, did you? Not even Nibbles, with all her powers of perception saw that one coming. I am strangely smug.
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Re: Never In Doubt (AU, M/L, Teen) Pt 39, 15th Feb

Post by Rowedog » Mon Feb 16, 2009 7:05 pm

Holy shit... I can’t believe it. Seriously. I never have to update or – more importantly – I never have to write another update for NID. I don’t really like the last couple of paragraphs, but they’ll have to do, I’ve never really liked conclusions.
I can’t believe it took me this long to finish it. 276 pages later...
A huge thank you must go to Steph (thetvgeneral) for putting up with my crappy punctuation and neuroses when I sent her parts. She’s awesome and I’m glad to have her as my beta.
Thanks to Lauren (DreamerLaure) for reading over my crappy earlier work and picking NID as her favourite and for convincing me to post it. You’re an awesome person, Lauren and I can’t believe we’ve been chatting for over two years now. How insane.
Thank you to anyone who stuck with me over the past *cough*yearandelevenmonths*cough* with some parts having months between them, you’re all awesome.
I feel like I’m accepting an Oscar... bear with me, I’m feeling all emotional and shit.
And thank you to anyone who left feedback at all or read my story, it’s been a labour of love and occasional annoyance. Sometimes I got so blocked that I had to drag my arse over to my laptop and sit there for half an hour before anything came. Can’t say I’ll miss that bit.
Anwho, here’s the last, short part. See you around.

Lauren- Oh sweets, you know I love you. I’m glad it touched you, I love knowing that I’ve touched people on an emotional level. It’s the best thing to feel as a writer.
Destinyc- Of course I wouldn’t do that to you... I’m a nice person. I swear.
Natalie36- Shh, now everyone will know of our secret affair...
BB- Ah, Michael and Alex. Their love is epic.
Actually, as a candy I'm kind of hoping for a Michael and Maria declaration of love
Why must you constantly pre-empt me or see through my plot twists?
But what a dramatic ploy to get somebody to say they love you, seriously.
I know, but it worked... Natalie36 finally confessed her love for me... Wait, were you talking about Max and Liz? Shit.
So sad that there's one last part to this fic as it's one of my favourites of all time.
Aww shucks... :oops: Thanks for your support and feedback, it has been muchly appreciated.
Katydid- Was it the whole dying thing that confused you? Sorry about that...
Eve-
People are always thinking or talking about sex but when it's grandpa, it's pervert or what ever reaction!....Hey!! don't forget he was once young too!!!
Yes, but I don’t know that talking loudly about your sex life to your family in public should ever be acceptable, no matter how young or hot you are. :lol: Thank you for your very consistent feedback.
Emz- Thank you, and thanks for sticking with this story over the months.
Novy-
You scared the crap out of me
Sorry about that. Really. I had this image of myself getting stoned to death or lynched for Part 38. That’s why I posted so quickly afterwards. I was scared for my life.
I really loved this story
That means a lot to me. I’ve loved your feedback, you always put so much thought and effort into it and I’ve always appreciated it. Thank you for reading!
Tamashii- Thank you for all of your feedback, I’m glad that you liked this story.
Steph- Thanks for all your hard work missy, I’ve totally appreciated it!
Part Forty: Unfortunate Droolage
“End of a year, Lizzy, next year we’ll be seniors,” said Alex as the eight of them sat around the extremely crowded booth at the Crashdown. Jeff had closed the Crashdown for the afternoon so that Liz and her friend could celebrate in peace. And while they had the rest of the Crashdown to spread out in, they preferred the coziness and intimacy of the tiny booth.

“Here’s to a less eventful year than this one has been,” remarked Liz dryly as she sipped her milkshake, Max’s arm firmly anchored around her middle.

“I’d like to make a toast,” remarked Michael as he stood awkwardly at the booth, a little bit inebriated.

“I want some toast,” said Alex thoughtfully as the rest of the group groaned.

“This year as brought us all together, and I think we’re all the more richer for it. We’ve all found someone special,” Michael smiled in Maria’s direction while Alex let out a loud fake sniffle. “But more than that, we’ve found friendship in places we probably never would have expected it.” Michael turned and winked at Liz, Alex and Tess in turn. “Some of us have changed for the better,” he nodded at Tess who rolled her eyes good naturedly. “And some of us have changed for the worse,” Alex scowled as Michael looked his way. “But I think that we can all agree that this year has kicked ass and with a group like this, I say, bring on senior year!”

Michael drained the rest of his milkshake, while the others followed suit.

“Here’s to us,” cried Isabel, raising her glass.

“Here’s to another awesome year,” agreed Maria, raising her glass with Isabel.

“Here’s to friends,” said Tess, her smile wide and genuine.

“Here’s to change,” said Kyle with a wink in Tess’s direction.

“Here’s to Michael,” said Alex salaciously with a wink.

“Here’s to Alex... dying,” bit back Michael.

“Here’s to not dying,” chimed in Liz.

“Here’s to Liz not dying,” said Max pulling her in even closer.

“Here’s to Courtney Banks getting pregnant,” laughed Maria, loving that Courtney was finally facing some consequences for her actions.

"Here's to Maria's penis," added Kyle with a wide smile.

“And here’s to sex!” yelled Alex, having imbibed a bit too much in Maria’s liqueur milkshake.

“Yeah!” cried Michael, raising his newly filled glass and then taking a swig.

Maria rolled her eyes at Michael. “What would you know about it?”

“Your mom taught me all about it last night,” Michael countered as Alex guffawed with him while Maria sputtered.

“Whose smart idea was it to add alcohol to our milkshakes?” asked Tess, her head feeling a tad fuzzy.

“Mine!” crowed Maria gleefully. “I stole a couple of bottles from Sean’s car. He’ll never know. Plus he owes me after telling Mom that I had a boyfriend.”

“And here’s to Maria, our resident alcoholic!” cried Alex raising his glass again, to which Maria good-naturedly followed suit.

“Oh my God! I got drunk three times this year! Call Betty Ford! Besides, my Dad is a very good cautionary tale.”

“I’ll still love you even when you’re strung out on crack in rehab,” Michael told her, kissing her temple.

Maria gaped at him, her mouth dropping. Michael blinked, feeling self conscious and wondered what he could have possibly said to make her look at him like that. All he’d said was that he’d still lo-

Michael’s face grew very pale and his brain slammed to a stop. He’d just told Maria that he loved her. Oh shit. And she was still staring at him with that amazed look on her face that he couldn’t decipher, was it awe or horror that was on her face?

“You love me?” she squeaked, the entire booth falling silent as they watched with interest.

He swallowed nervously. This was not at all how he planned to tell her. He had hoped it would be over a romantic dinner and far, far off in the future. He had wanted them to have been together for at least a couple of years so that he could be more sure that she actually returned his feelings. This was his worst nightmare come true. Michael cursed himself. Why the hell did he have the tendency to blurt out whatever he was thinking?

“Well... yeah,” he muttered his gaze flicking all over the place, looking for a safe place to land. But everywhere he looked there were a pair of eyes, watching him.

After a tense moment, Maria laughed. “Only you, Mikey G, would cock up telling your girlfriend that you loved them for the first time.” He grimaced and hung his head low, wishing that time travel was a viable thing. “But don’t worry, I still love you.”

The slow grin that grew on Michael’s face soon matched Maria’s smug one and the other couples quickly had to look away out of common courtesy as they threw themselves into an intense kiss.

After a couple of minutes, Alex couldn’t take anymore. “You know what? It’s great that you two love each other, but could you not do it on me?”

Dazed, Maria looked up to see what Alex was talking about and noticed that she had somehow been pressed back into Alex who was cringing as far away as possible into Isabel.

“Seriously, I don’t ever want to be involved in a DeLuca/Guerin make out session ever again. A Whitman/Guerin make out session however...” Alex suffered Isabel’s slap upside the head with good grace.

“I dunno, I think you could be well suited for that Alex,” mused Kyle. “You could supply them with water bottles when they’re dehydrated. Massage their lips when they get sore from strenuous usage.”

“Hand out tissues for any unfortunate droolage,” suggested Tess.

“I do not drool,” protested Michael loudly.

“I didn’t say anything about you,” replied Tess with a pointed look in Maria’s direction.

Maria raked a hand through the air like a claw, but ruined it by laughing. “Hiss, hiss Tess.”

“Ladies,” began Alex sternly, “If you’re going to fight, I must insist you do it in jello.”

“And in your underwear,” added Michael, for once on Alex’s side.

Alex held his hands up in a placating gesture as the girls turned on him. “Hey, if you’re uncomfortable about wrestling in your underwear, you always have the option of taking them off.”

While Maria and Tess exchanged glances, Kyle piped in. “Now see, usually I could get into that, but I get the feeling that I’m eventually going to have to call Maria my sister so I’d better start thinking of her as one now.”

Maria liked Kyle’s answer and it brought up a question of her own. “Alex, I thought I was like a sister to you, what’s with the sudden urge to see me in my underwear?”

“You forget,” said Alex, pausing to burp loudly. “I’ve already seen you in your underwear.”

Alex didn’t have a chance to say anymore, he was suddenly feeling very threatened as Michael loomed over him. “You what?”

Alex gulped. “And it was the least sexual moment of my life. She and Liz seem to see me as their surrogate sister and get changed in front of me all the time.”

Max pinned Liz with a stare at that comment. “You get changed in front of Alex?”

Liz shrugged. “He’s like a hideous older sister with an Adam’s apple. It’s not a big deal.”

“New rule,” cried Max, horrified by Liz’s nonchalance over Alex seeing what he had thought was for his eyes only. “No one is allowed to get undressed in front of Alex ever again.”

“You make it sound like I’m some kind of rapist,” griped Alex.

Isabel raised her hand as if to ask a question. “Clearly I would the exception to this rule, right? Or am I going to have to go all Yentl from now on?”

Max groaned and hung his head in hands, not wanting to think about his sister’s sex life. He began to chant to drown out all the nasty images in his head. “Happy thoughts, happy thoughts.”

Picking up one of the metal milkshake containers, Michael topped up Max’s drink which was half empty.

“Drink up.”

Max frowned when he looked down into his glass. “Michael, that was chocolate, I was drinking strawberry.”

Michael shrugged. “Strawberry’s for girls.”

“Your mom’s a girl.” Max hesitated after that, realising that the regular ‘your mom’ joke didn’t exactly cut it in this scenario. He needed to act quickly. “Which I found out for sure last night.”

Stunned silence followed Max’s proclamation. Letting out a huff, Max gestured to the other three guys at the table. “Oh, what? They can do it but I can’t?”

Alex exhaled slowly. “I don’t know why, but that was possibly the most disturbing thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”

Michael nodded, in total agreement with Alex for the second time that day. “Don’t ever do that again, Max.”

Kyle shook his head. “Leave the ‘your mom’ jokes up to the professionals. It’s so wrong coming out of your mouth.”

Alex grinned wickedly. “You’d rather come in his mouth, right Kyle?”

Isabel groaned as the three boys guffawed. “Seems like they recovered from that pretty quickly.”

Max grumbled slightly, not knowing what their problem was. “Why can’t I make your mom jokes?”

Liz sighed and rubbed Max’s arm. “You’re too serious. It seems unnatural. Let it go, honey. Let it go.”

Liz gazed at Max and drew his head down for a kiss, loving the slow smile that crossed his face. She doubted that anyone could make her feel as cherished and loved as he did. Settling her head against his shoulder, she took the opportunity to take stock of her group. If someone had told her a year ago that this is what she would be doing, she would have laughed it off and called them insane. But as she gazed at the scene with contentment, laughing as Alex and Michael made yet another crack about each other’s sexual orientation, Liz knew that she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

She had taken many steps out of her comfort zone, had taken risks and let new people see who she really was and it had all worked out. Liz knew that while she had a long way to go, she was well on her way to overcoming her shyness.

And with friends like hers... Liz knew she’d always have help.
The End

***
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