Love By Any Other Name (AU,M/L,MATURE) (Complete)

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max and liz believer
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Postby max and liz believer » Sun Sep 14, 2003 5:20 am

Hi everyone!

I hope you're having a great Sunday! I'm here with a new part...:D

Thank you so much for the feedback!!! I highly appreciate your words, and it means especially much to me when something I write touch you personally and evokes thoughts. That's what writing is all about.

Okay, it might seem as if you have missed a chapter when you start reading this one, but alas you have not :wink:. You will soon understand what's going on. :D




Chapter 11

Highway 25, 5 miles south of Santa Fe
1:13 a.m.


The large raindrops struck her the second she left the safe haven of the warm and dry car. Keeping her head slightly downcast to prevent the raindrops from running into her eyes, she quickly scurried over the drenched ground, where water was flowing in wide rivulets in the cracks of the asphalt.
“Are you okay?!“ she yelled, trying to be heard over the loud sound of the howling and clattering of the wind and the rain.
His wet face turned towards hers, his face contorted in pain. His hand was rubbing his head, where it had hit the hood.
“Yes,“ he answered, his voice cracking from the pain.
“You’re not,“ she argued, stepping closer to him. The water was already sinking through the protective layers of clothing. Goosebumps were spreading over her skin and shivers were coursing through her body.
“You should get back inside. You are getting all wet.“
“What’s wrong?“ she asked, nodding towards the hood, skillfully ignoring his statement.
“It looks like a tube to the radiator is busted.“
“Oh,“ Liz said slowly and he gave her a soft smile for her confusion.
“Basically, the radiator was put out of order and the car was unable to cool off and became overheated. We need to call for a tow truck.“

He took her hand and led her back to the car, as the words floated over his lips, “You really shouldn’t be out here. You could catch a cold.“
His words transported her back to another world. Where caution and fear was an integrated part of everyday life. Where just a simple cold could lead to a serious infection, which could mean a risk to the heart beating inside of her. Pushing the fear back, she let herself be led to the passenger’s side of the car. He opened the door and with a grateful smile she jumped inside. Closing the door, he hurried back to the driver’s seat. She followed his movements with her eyes all the way. He barely got the door closed behind him before he turned in his seat towards her with a worried expression on his face that erased the shivers in her body.
“Are you cold?“ he asked.
“A little,“ she whispered, watching the soft light that the headlights of the car created dance over his face. Her breath caught in her throat as he leaned closer. So close that she could smell his unique scent. She swallowed and closed her eyes at the sensations rumbling through her body.
“Here,“ he said softly and she opened her eyes to see him pull out a blanket from the back seat. Feeling a bit ridiculous for thinking what she had, she dropped her eyes and smiled, a faint blush rising on her wet cheeks.

“Thanks,“ she mumbled. She took the blanket from him, feeling his intense eyes on her the entire time.
“Maybe you should take your jacket off,“ he said.
She nodded and pulled off her wet jacket. It felt good to wrap the dry warm blanket around her.
“Better?“ he asked.
She nodded. “Much.“ The word barely left her lips, before her attention tuned in on him again. “What about your head?“
“Oh, it’s nothing,“ he answered, absent-mindedly running his hand lightly over the top of his dark head.
“Let me see,“ she said.
His eyes trapped hers and seemed to pull her in. Sounds around them were modified, shifting in their role. The loud clattering of the raindrops against the car roof diminished to a soft tapping. The wind whisking outside turned into a whisper as her senses zoomed in on him. The water glittering in his dark hair, clinging to the boyish layout of his bangs against his forehead, which her fingers were itching to touch and brush away from his forehead. Their breathing echoed in the confines of the car, bumping off the walls and softening between them, heating up the air around them. Hearts beating faster. Inhalation and exhalation getting more energetic. Cheeks growing hotter. Hands trembling. And in compliance to her request, he bowed his head and leaned in closer.

She took a deep breath, letting the scent of him and the smell of fresh summer rain fill her before hesitantly moving her fingers to his wet hair.
“Here?“ she asked, wondrous that she sounded so calm with the loud thumping of her heart in her ears. Her fingers softly threaded through the wet black strands, the water clinging to her fingers. She slightly jumped as his fingers touched hers. Lightly, like the soft touch of the wing of a butterfly. His head rose and he looked up at her from under his bangs, the dark pools captivating her. Holding her gaze, she felt his fingers capture her hand and move it across his head and gently put it down.
“Here,“ he said.
Dazed, she nodded and her fingers almost tentatively touched his scalp.
“Does it hurt?“ she asked.
He shook his head, but by the shifting in his dark eyes, she could see that it was pride talking. Her fingers moved over the slight bump already forming on his head.

“You’re gonna have a bump,“ she said. Taking a deep breath, she pulled her fingers away and thoughtfully bit her lower lip as she leaned back in her seat, pulling the blanket around her again. She could see him nod from the corner of her eye, but didn’t turn around. She could feel his eyes on her. Watching her. Observing her. Traveling over her curled up body.
“So, what do we do now?“ she asked.
He took a deep breath, as if he had forgotten to breathe and his body just hit him with the painful reminder of the importance of oxygen. He leaned back in his seat, his fingers absent-mindedly tapping against the steering wheel.
“We have to call for a tow truck. But until then, I guess we’re stuck,“ he answered.
She nodded and silence lowered itself over them. But it wasn’t heavy or clogged. It was comfortable. Peaceful even.

Some time later, a giggle escaped her and he turned his head towards her with curiosity and a smile on his face.
“What?“ he asked amused.
“I was just thinking... Maria’s gonna freak,“ she said, smiling at the mental image of her friend as she told her what had happened.

“Really?“
“Yeah,“ she answered, smiling broadly, “I think she had this whole plan about... getting us together.“
“I think so too,“ he said, to her surprise. She turned to face him, with surprise written all over her face.
“You do?“
“She didn’t really make a secret out of it,“ he said, his eyes twinkling with laughter.
She rolled her eyes and laughed lightly. “She really didn’t... And you don’t mind?“
“What? Being paired up with a beautiful woman,“ she felt her cheeks grow warm and her eyes dropped shyly to her hands clutching the blanket to her body, “No, I really didn’t have too much of a problem with that.“
She smiled which caused a half-smile to touch his lips too.
“Maybe it’s fortunate that you don’t know Maria like I do, then you would be afraid right now. When she gets something in her mind, she’ll do it - at all costs.“
“Sounds dangerous.“
“It is. Very. Especially when it comes to matchmaking. Since she isn’t that good at it. She’s pretty bad. She sucks, actually.“

He laughed softly and she turned to look at him. Amazed by him and what he stirred inside of her. How a simple laugh could begin something so amazing inside of her. Pull at strings that had been tightened too hard. Painfully hard.
“When Maria invited me on this trip, I never would’ve believed I would end up in a broken down vehicle in pouring rain out in the middle of nowhere with a complete stranger.“ And even as she said it, her tone was light and causal. Without any trace of fear or mistrust. Maybe she should be concerned about being so isolated with a man she barely knew. But she had seen a side of him that had made her trust him from the beginning. She was certain that there was no one she would be any safer with than him.
“Ditto,“ he answered, “Well, except for the Maria part.“
She grinned and he grinned back. Time stopped again and she wasn’t sure how long they stayed like that. Gazing into each other’s eyes. Unaware of everything around them. But after that eternal time period he broke the contact and hauled up his cell phone.
“Let’s call that tow truck then.“

<center>-----------------------------------------------</center>

Seven hours earlier
6.05 p.m.


After some incessant knocking on the door, Maria decided to let herself in.
“Hello? Anybody home?“
She peaked inside the house behind the slightly ajar door, before pushing it open and stepping inside as she heard a muffled reply from the direction of the bedroom. Something that sounded something akin to “I’ll be right there.“
“Maria’s here, Liz!“
Maria grinned as she mentally pictured Liz’s groan as Kevin, once again, pointed out the obvious. His ashen blonde hair poked out from the kitchen, smiling at Maria.
“Hi, Maria. How are you?“
“Just wonderful,“ Maria glowed.
Kevin stepped out into the hallway, raising an eyebrow in interest at Maria. “I would say,“ he remarked, “So, what’s his name?“

“Whose?“ Maria asked innocently.
“The new man in your life,“ Kevin said.
“Oooh, him,“ Maria said, as if Michael wasn’t the person who had put that glow in her face, “Michael.“
“Michael, huh?“ Kevin asked, tapping his finger against his chin.
Maria had to bit her lower lip to stop herself from laughing out loud. Sometimes Kevin reminded her so much of her dad that he appeared funny. However, when her mood wasn’t as cheerful the resemblance was actually a little creepy, because that would in some twisted way mean that Liz was with someone - romantically - who was like Maria’s dad...
Maria grimaced and quickly shook her head to clear it from such thoughts. The grin on her face broadened when Liz stumbled out in the hallway, trying to put one shoe on while walking. Simultaneously, she was trying to put a hairpin in her hair.

“Babe,“ Maria laughed, quickly walking up to her friend, “You seem a little stressed.“
Liz audibly sighed and finally succeeded in putting on the shoe and started to try to pull back her very lively dark curls with the hairpins.
“Dwoes dis wook okway, Mwaia?“ Liz asked with one hairpin between her teeth.
“You need some help?“ Maria asked.
Liz let her arms drop down her sides and sank down on the nearest chair, the hairpin still between her teeth. Maria couldn’t help but laugh at the image of complete resignation she made.
“Pwease,“ Liz begged.
“First thing; no hairpins in your mouth,“ Maria instructed and Liz obediently removed the hairpin.
“Secondly,“ Maria continued, moving up behind Liz, “I don’t really think this is a hairpin occasion.“

“What kind of occasion is this?“ Liz asked tiredly. “You haven’t really told me anything about this ‘dinner’. I didn’t really know if I was dressing up for something casual, something more evening gown-ish, or for a meeting with a queen.“
“You look perfect,“ Maria said, with a secret smile. She wouldn’t be the only one who would think that tonight. Her hopes were on a certain dark-haired man.
Liz buried her face in her hands and moaned, “I look horrible.“
“Keep your head up, or you want me to mess up your hair completely?“
Liz grumpily straightened her head again.
“Maybe I shouldn’t come,“ Liz murmured.
“What are you talking about?“ Maria asked indignantly. “Of course you are gonna come!“
“I’ll just be in the way,“ Liz said.
“Now you are going to that dinner with me, end of conversation!“ Maria said, her voice leaving no room for any objections. “There, your hair’s done. Let’s go.“

“Do you have your pills with you?“ Kevin asked from the kitchen.
Liz moaned and stood up.
“What did you say, honey?“ Kevin voice asked.
“Nothing,“ Liz said cheerily. Suspiciously cheerily, Maria noted.
“You have the pills?“ Kevin asked again, since he hadn’t gotten an answer to his question.
Liz snapped her coat from the wardrobe by the front door and took a hold of Maria’s arm, more or less dragging her towards the door.
“Get me out of here,“ Liz whispered, before yelling over her shoulder, “I’ll be late. Don’t stay up.“
“Liz, your cell ph-“
Liz closed the door behind her, cutting off her boyfriend’s annoying voice.
“What was that all about?“ Maria asked, amused. Liz was rarely this cranky, but Maria actually found it pretty refreshing and entertaining when she was.
Liz tensed her fingers in front of her as if she was strangling an invisible person in front of her. She took a deep breath and then jerkily pulled the lose strands of her hair behind her ears. Maria observed this whole spectacle with a mixture of amusement and trepidation.
“Liz? Are you okay?“
Liz took a deep breath. “Let’s just go.“
“Oh-kay,“ Maria breathed, unlocking the car.

<center>---------------------------------------------------------</center>

The Whitman’s residence
7:32 p.m. - five hours prior to car breakdown


Max suspiciously eyed the crystal glasses Isabel was putting on the table.
“Uhm, Iz?“
“Yes?“ Isabel asked breathlessly. Her hands moved swiftly with the task of setting the table. There was a nervousness in the air, which didn’t go Max unnoticed. Neither did the fact that suddenly his sister’s meticulous streak shone through very strongly. And the fact that Isabel was making room for two more people around the table only strengthen Max’s suspicions that something was definitely different with this Friday night.
“Who’s coming tonight?“ Max asked slowly.
Spending dinner at his sister on Fridays had become something of a tradition. It had happened on occasion when Tess had been alive, but it had become more regular after her death. Isabel had been very adamant on having Max over on every Friday. In the beginning, when the grieving was the most suffocating, Max had fought her with everything he had not to go and socialize when all he really wanted to do was lie down and just sleep for the rest of his life. Now he was grateful that Isabel hadn’t given up. That she had fought for this small thing, which in the end had meant so much. It had become a sort of security to Max. A relief. One evening of the week that he felt normal and could joke around, and spend time with his niece. It had always only been Isabel, Alex, Michelle, with some occasional visits from Michael and the Evans.

“Maria,“ Isabel answered, “You know, Michael’s new girlfriend.“
But last week the pattern had changed with Michael inviting his new girlfriend. At first it had disturbed Max. This was his sanctuary, where he didn’t need to act and pretend to be something he wasn’t. Here people knew who he was and he could just be himself and relax. But having Maria over hadn’t been so bad. She was really easy-going and made him feel very comfortable.
“I remember,“ Max answered, and nodded towards the seventh seat, “But that only makes six persons. Is mom coming?“
“No,“ Isabel answered evasively and disappeared into the kitchen.
Max frowned and followed her into the kitchen.
Throwing a nod over her shoulder, Isabel asked, “Could you cut the lettuce, Max?“
“Sure.“
Max picked up the knife, his mind swirling with questions and apprehension growing in his chest.
“Then who?“ he asked.
“Huh?“ Isabel asked, taking out the warm dish from the oven.
“Who’s coming beside Maria?“ Max clarified, even though he was pretty certain Isabel knew exactly whom he was talking about.
Isabel put the hot dish on the counter and pulled the potholders off her hands. With a light shrug, she answered casually, “Uhm... A friend of Maria’s, I think.“
“A friend?“ Max asked.

“Yes,“ Isabel answered, checking the timer, before turning towards him. “Maybe I should’ve asked you first...“
“No, no, it’s okay,“ Max answered quickly. It was still a bit tentative around them since the event at the mall. Isabel was feeling guilty for her outburst and Max was feeling guilty about losing Michelle. They were still tiptoeing around each other very carefully.
“I’m sure she’s okay,“ Isabel said, “Maria said that she had a friend that needed to get out of the house. Since it sounded like somebody else I know,“ Isabel gave her brother a pointed look, “I couldn’t refuse.“
“Sure, Iz. It’s okay. Really.“ Max gave her a light smile, pretending to concentrate on chopping the lettuce.
Isabel insecurely bit her lower lip and then nodded to herself. “Okay then.“ She really hoped that she hadn’t started something that would lead to a disaster by inviting yet another person. Max needed to meet new people and start living again. But she didn’t want to push him too hard and too fast either. Taking the basket with bread in her hands, she almost tripped over her daughter as she suddenly appeared in the doorway.

“Mommy, mommy, when is Mawia gonna come?“ she asked, her eyes shining with excitement.
Isabel smiled. She was glad that Michelle seemed to like Maria. If she had been reading the vibes between Michael and Maria correctly, Maria was here to stay for some time.
“She will co-“
Her voice was interrupted by the doorbell. Michelle’s face shone up like a child opening her present on Christmas Day and discovering that it was the doll she had always wanted.
“I guess that’s them. Go and open the door, Michelle,“ Isabel said.
“Yay!!“ Michelle cried, bouncing out towards the front door. Isabel put down the bread on the table and shot Max a look. He was standing by the kitchen window, a far-away expression on his face, which Isabel had seen far too many times. There was only one person he was thinking about then. With a sigh, she turned to greet her guests, whose cheerful voices could be heard into the kitchen.


Liz stared at the little girl running towards her. Was it her? Was it the little girl from the mall?
“Liz!!“ the little girl cried and before Liz knew what had happened she had a pair of small arms wrapped tightly around her waist and a head buried into her stomach.
“Eh...hi,“ Liz stuttered, completely at a loss of words.
She heard a chuckle and the girl was removed. She looked up to see a tall, dark-haired man with an easy smile. “I’m going to have to teach my daughter to not attack helpless women,“ he said.
Liz gave him a weak smile, her mind still tilting with questions. Unconsciously, she was already scanning her surroundings. Looking. For him. Was he here? He must be.

Wait. Daughter?

“This is Michelle,“ the man introduced, lifting up the girl in his arms, who was energetically fighting to get back down on the ground.
“Daddy, daddy,“ she said breathlessly, squirming in his arms, “Dis is Liz. I know her.“
The man laughed again and looked at his daughter. “You know her?“ He gave Liz an apologetic smile.
“You have a beautiful daughter,“ Liz said with a smile, finding her tongue. “And we have actually already met.“
The man looked at her in surprise. “Really?“
“Daddy? You know when I’s lost,“ Michelle asked her father, talking to him with very matter-of-factly, “Liz finded me.“

The man’s head snapped up from his daughter’s face to Liz’s.
Liz smiled and offered her hand, “I’m Elizabeth, but you can call me Liz. I helped to look for Michelle at the mall.“
Michelle finally succeeded in getting out of her father’s arms and slid down his leg. When her feet reached the floor, her sweater was all the way up to her ears.
“Michelle,“ a tall blonde woman scolded gently, kneeling in front of Michelle and pulling down her sweater before raising and looking at Liz.

“Alex,“ Michelle’s father said and took Liz’s hand. “Thank you so much. I don’t know how I can ever...Thank you.“
Liz blushed and ducked her head shyly at his open compliments.
“Hi,“ the blonde woman said, looking at the exchange interested, “I’m Isabel.“
Liz took her hand, “Liz.“
“Honey, did you know that our daughter already know Liz?“ Alex asked.
“She does?“ Isabel asked with surprise.
“She helped to search for Michelle that day at the mall.“
Isabel’s eyes quickly turned to Liz, widening with surprise. “Are you serious? You helped to find my little girl?“
Liz nodded mutely.
“He never told me that,“ Isabel said slowly, mostly to herself.

Him.

“Thank you! Thank you so much,“ Isabel said warmly. “I’ll always be in debt to you.“
“Really, it was no problem. I was happy to help,“ Liz said.
Isabel shook her head. “No, thank you!“
Liz smiled.
“Then you have probably already met my brother,“ Isabel said.
Brother. So that was the connection to Michelle. The man she had met hadn’t been Michelle’s father, but her uncle.
Isabel took Liz’s hand, a gesture that made Liz feel like she had been friends with this woman for eternity. It was a very comfortable feeling and she let herself be lead out of the hallway into a big room where a large table was set. She was met with a mixture of wonderful smells and she realized how hungry she was. But her stomach wasn’t reacting just to the smells of newly-made food, but was churning with nervousness. Was she going to see him again?
“Max, I want you to meet someone,“ she heard Isabel say in front of her. She took a deep breath and stepped into the doorway. She saw his back the fraction of a second before he turned around.

Something moved within her and she was hit with a warm wave. All she could see was his eyes flashing in recognition.
“Liz, this is my brother Max. Max, meet Liz.“
Max... That was his name.


And it's TBC... :roll:

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max and liz believer
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Postby max and liz believer » Fri Oct 24, 2003 2:07 pm

Hello! :D

Geez, I couldn't access the Roswellfanatics for an entire day, and my whole day was turned upside down..hehe... :roll: I'm so addicted to this place....

And... finally - here's a new chapter... I'm sorry it took so long! Hopefully I will find more time to write on this one around Xmas - lol. That's like two months... Naw, I'll get a new part out before that, I promise :D


Thank you so much for reading (and listening to my babble...)

And just because it has been a while between the updates, I'll post the last part of chapter 11 first...


End of Chapter 11


“Then you have probably already met my brother,“ Isabel said.
Brother. So that was the connection to Michelle. The man she had met hadn’t been Michelle’s father, but her uncle.
Isabel took Liz’s hand, a gesture that made Liz feel like she had been friends with this woman for eternity. It was a very comfortable feeling and she let herself be lead out of the hallway into a big room where a large table was set. She was met with a mixture of wonderful smells and she realized how hungry she was. But her stomach wasn’t reacting just to the smells of newly-made food, but was churning with nervousness. Was she going to see him again?
“Max, I want you to meet someone,“ she heard Isabel say in front of her. She took a deep breath and stepped into the doorway. She saw his back the fraction of a second before he turned around.

Something moved within her and she was hit with a warm wave. All she could see was his eyes flashing in recognition.
“Liz, this is my brother Max. Max, meet Liz.“
Max... That was his name.




Chapter 12


“Max, I want you to meet someone.“
Isabel’s voice pulled him out of his reverie and he shook the image of Tess’ face out of his mind. Taking a deep breath, he turned around.

And the air got caught in his airways.

“Liz, this is my brother Max. Max, meet Liz.“

It was her, the woman who he had met just briefly, but who had left an eternal impression on him. The woman he had been unable to forget since the day at the mall, which was both a good and bad thing.
“Hi,“ she said softly as he became entranced with her face.
God, she was beautiful. How could he have missed that the last time? But then, he had been more or less panicking about his missing niece.
“Max.“

She was wearing her hair down, with some strands pulled up at the back of her head. The soft light in the kitchen made her hair appear almost black and her big dark-brown eyes take on an enchanting glow. And her lips were-
“Hey, Max!“
He forced himself to tear his eyes away from her face to his sister’s glaring eyes. She gave him a look of warning, but it didn’t have any effect on him. His eyes automatically traveled back to Liz’s face and he noticed the reddish blush coloring her cheeks and realized that he had probably embarrassed her. Nice work there, Evans. Stare at her like a psycho.
“Hi,“ he answered softly.

Isabel looked back and forth between Liz and Max, trying to figure out what she was witnessing. They weren’t saying a word, but Isabel couldn’t decide if she should help them talk with each other or if they were comfortable continuing what they were doing. Whatever it was...
“So, Liz. If I understood my daughter correctly, you have already met?“ Isabel asked.

Liz was biting her lower lip in contemplation, trying to read the emotions in his eyes. He really had beautiful eyes. But even though he seemed genuine happy to meet her, there was this sadness still lingering in the background. She had noticed the same sadness when she had met him at the mall, but under the circumstances she hadn’t really thought about it. But if the sadness had only been correlated to having lost his niece, why was it still there? What had happened to cause him to harbor that aura of loss?
“Liz?“
Liz turned her head towards Isabel. “Excuse me?“
“You two,“ Isabel clarified, gesturing between Liz and Max, “have you met before?“
“Yes,“ Liz said, capturing Max’s eyes again, “Max was looking for Michelle and... I helped him.“

Isabel nodded. Of course Max had met her. He had probably asked her to help him search for Michelle. Isabel frowned as she once again felt like she was merely a bystander. Like she was just a passive observer. Isabel watched as Max gave a start, as if he was awoken from a deep sleep and he stepped up to Liz, offering her his hand.
“It’s nice meeting you again,“ he said.
She smiled warmly and took his hand. Max jerked slightly at the contact and his eyes automatically snapped up to meet hers where he saw the amazement he was feeling reflected in her eyes.
“Likewise,“ she said.
Next to them, Isabel cleared her throat. “Well, dinner’s ready. We should eat.“
Liz slowly let go of Max’s hand and then forced herself to return to reality. “It smells just wonderful,“ she said, turning towards Isabel, “What is it?“
Isabel smiled and moved to take the dish from the counter. “It’s one of my specialties,“ she said proudly, walking into the dining room.

Liz followed, all the time very much aware of Max’s eyes on her.
“I hope everyone is hungry,“ Isabel said to her guests, putting the dish in the center of the table.
“I’m starving,“ Alex announced, plopping down on one of the chairs.
“I could eat a whole cow,“ Michael said, “and some camels.“
Everybody laughed and sat down around the table.

<center>---------------------------------------------------</center>

Five hours later

Liz felt the familiar tingle in her nose and she sharply inhaled, before sneezing.
“Bless you,“ Max said.
“Thank you,“ Liz smiled, pulling the blanket higher up.
Max watched her with a twinge of worry. “You sure you’re not cold?“
She smiled at him reassuringly. “I’m perfectly fine.“
And she was. Her clothes were still wet under the blanket, the cool fabric sticking to her skin. But she had never been better. She had never felt more free. More at ease.
“You want me to turn up the heater?“ Max asked, moving his hand towards the controls.
Without thinking, Liz reached out with her hand and took Max’s hand, with the purpose of removing it. They both paused in their movements as skin touched skin. Liz stared at their hands. She could feel a tingle in her stomach and an indescribable feeling of not wanting to let go. She let her eyes travel to his. Her breath caught in her throat as she was floored with the emotion in his eyes. She quickly looked away and removed her hand from his.

“That’s-that’s really not necessary,“ she stuttered, “The temperature is just right.“
There was a pause before he answered.
“Okay,“ he said softly.
Silence wrapped itself around them again, only the soft clattering of the rain against the ceiling broke through the silence.
“You know,“ Max said after a while, “this actually happened to me once before.“
She turned to look at him. “Getting trapped in a car out in the rain with a woman?“
He chuckled. “I wish!“
She smiled. “No rain?“
“No beautiful woman,“ he corrected.
“Ah,“ she said playfully.
“I think I was about...nine and my parents decided that we should go on this camping trip.“
He turned in his seat so that he was more fully facing her. “Believe me, the Evans family was not made to go camping.“

Liz giggled. “No?“
Max winced. “Definitely not. My mom is really...homey. And she is great - at home.“
Liz bit her lip in amusement.
“Isabel’s...well, she’s not really into sleeping in tents and she can get really cranky without running water.“
“Your dad?“ Liz asked hopefully.
Max grimaced. “Not that much better. I mean, he tried, but unfortunately that wasn’t enough.“
Liz laughed softly at Max’s expression.
“The plan was to start off early. Mom had prepared sandwiches to eat during the ride the night before and all we had to do was wake up and get dressed. Well, Isabel spent about one hour in the bathroom. The other family members had no chance to get in there. She guarded that bathroom better than the National Guard.“
Liz laughed softly and turned in her seat, so that she was now sitting with her side leaning into the seat and her legs tucked in under her.

“When the next person was supposed to take a shower - which happened to be me, the unknowing participant – they discovered that my big sister had taken all the hot water. Not a pleasant experience.“
Liz laughed. “Poor Max.“
Max grinned at her, despite himself, and continued, “Well, we were supposed to leave the house at five in the morning. We were out of the house at nine. And not only did we forget the sandwiches, but also one of the tents.“
“Sounds like a good start,“ Liz said, a twinkle in her eyes.
“To make a long story short, we ended up in a motel. Believe me, we tried to put up that one tent, but my dad kept blaming the producers for not sending along a more elaborate manual and we ended up in the motel, after eating at MacDonalds.“
“Sounds like a regular camping trip,“ Liz mused.
“At least Isabel was satisfied.“
“I guess she was.“

“So, after two nights in that hotel, we were to return home. The plan was to start off early, to avoid the morning rush.“
“Of course,“ Liz agreed, already knowing where this was going.
“We checked out at 2 p.m.,“ Max rolled his eyes as if saying ‘surprise’, “and halfway home the car broke down. It was a very old car. And it was raining. Stuck out in nowhere with Isabel. I wouldn’t wish that even on my worst enemy.“
Liz laughed. “She’s really that bad?“
Max nodded with a tortured grimace, as if just the thought of that memory caused him pain. “The first hour she went on about this guy she had a crush on. The next hour she talked about what her friend Karen had done when she had dyed her hair green instead of blonde and what a catastrophe that was. The subsequent two hours she was whining about how the moisture in the air was going to make her hair all frizzy.“
Liz looked at him with sympathy. “How long were you out there?“
Max face took on a contemplative expression. “Uhm... four hours... yeah... four hours. But that was enough.“
“I can imagine,“ Liz smiled. “They are really great though. Isabel, Alex, Michelle and Michael. They really made me feel welcome. It was a wonderful dinner.“

“It was nice to have you there,“ Max said. Liz looked at him. It seemed as if he wanted to say something else, but he remained silent.
“What were the chances that we would meet again, huh?“ Liz asked casually, silently thanking the stars for having them meet again.
“Yeah, that was weird,“ Max said, giving her a half-smile.
“I never would have imagined in a million years that we would meet again.“
“I guess someone wanted it otherwise,“ Max said slowly.
Liz smiled softly and nodded, “Yeah.“
Max looked forward again, but still looked at Liz out of the corner of his eye.
“Do you have any siblings?“ Max asked.
A hint of something passed over Liz’s face, something that didn’t go Max unnoticed, and he turned to look at her again. She ducked her head and began fingering with the edge of the blanket.
“No,“ she answered.
“You’ve probably not missed out on so much,“ Max said, trying to put her at ease. Something about his question had made her uncomfortable.

She gave him a weak smile, but kept her eyes on her hands in her lap. Max watched her.
“Liz, I’m sorry. If I- I didn’t mean to...“
Liz shook her head at his apologizes, “No, Max. It’s okay. I just... I...“
Why couldn’t she just tell him? That her parents didn’t have any more children because she had been sick. For some reason she didn’t want Max to know that. She didn’t want him to know that she felt responsible for her parents not getting a normal healthy child. She didn’t want Max to know those things. This whole night had been so relaxed and so much fun. And much of that was probably because he didn’t know about her condition.
“It’s okay,“ Max said.
“My parents wanted other children, but they were unable to,“ Liz said. That wasn’t the whole truth, but it wasn’t a lie either.
Max nodded, silently wondering about the seemingly strong reaction she seemed to have towards the subject.
“You wanted siblings?“ Max asked.
Liz smiled softly. “I always wanted to have siblings. Once, when I was five, I asked for a sister for my Christmas present.“
“You did?“ Max grinned.
Liz nodded. “But then, after hearing about Isabel, maybe I should be grateful that I’m an only child.“
Max chuckled. “Uh-huh.“

“Oh no!“ Liz exclaimed.
Max frowned at her sudden change of mood. “What’s wrong?“
Liz bent forward and hauled up her purse. “I can’t believe I forgot...“
Max watched her hasty search through her purse. She looked up at him with an expression of annoyance. Annoyance with herself.
“I can’t find my phone. Could I borrow yours?“
“Sure,“ Max answered and gave her his cell.
“Thank you,“ Liz smiled and pressed in the number. The silence lowered itself over the car again as Liz waited for someone on the other end of the line to pick up the phone.
“No answer?“ Max asked as Liz pressed the disconnect button.
Liz shook her head in negative.
“Do you think it will take long before the truck gets here?“
“It should be here any minute,“ Max said.
“It’s just... No one knows where I am,“ Liz tried to explain. It wasn’t that she wasn’t enjoying Max’s company, but she knew that Kevin would freak if she wasn’t home.
Max nodded. “I understand. Maybe you should try to call Maria.“
“Yeah...“ Liz dialed Maria’s number. But she only got a busy tone.
“Busy,“ she said as she disconnected the call.
Max looked up in the rearview mirror as lights reflected into the car. “I think that’s the tow truck now.“
“Okay,“ Liz said with a deep breath. She really didn’t want to go home, but she didn’t want to worry Kevin any more. Because he would be worried by now, that was for sure.

<center>---------------------------------------------</center>

2.30 a.m.
In the backseat of a cab


Max glanced over at the sleeping form beside him. She was still wrapped up in the blanket Max had given her earlier. His eyes traced her face. When she was asleep like this he could revel in her beauty without restraint. Not for the first time this evening, he was struck by how different she was from Tess. They were each other’s polar opposites. Tess had been fair with her light curly hair and sparkling blue eyes. Liz was dark, like an Egyptian queen, with her dark and warm eyes and dark straight hair. Yet Tess and Liz had so much in common. He barely knew Liz and he had known Tess for years, but there was something about Liz that was familiar. Something that made him compare her with Tess. No one had ever made him think these thoughts since Tess’ death. No woman had ever interested him. No woman since Tess had attracted him. Until now.

And that frightened him. The small petite woman sleeping beside him had managed to awaken feelings within him that he thought he had buried two years ago, and she had done it without even lifting a finger.

He tore his eyes away from her curled up body, trying to force the image of her head resting against the door out of his mind. He squeezed his eyes shut tight and tried to take deep breaths to force her presence out of that part of his mind and heart that belonged to Tess. He had made a promise to Tess to never forget her. He was not interested in letting anyone in. He was not interested in loving anyone else.

The guilt was eating him up. He felt like he was cheating on his wife by feeling things for another woman. Feelings that he had reserved for her. Maybe he was being irrational, but he couldn’t get rid of the feelings of betrayal. He shouldn’t think these things about someone else.

He glanced over at her again. God, she was beautiful. In the last couple of hours he had spent in her company, he had felt more alive than he had in two years. Something about her made him want to continue living. Because truth was, lately life hadn’t been that enjoyable.

A large shudder went through here body and he worriedly let his eyes move over the blanket to see if it was tucked properly around her. Noticing that the blanket had begun to slip off, he reached over with the purpose of correcting it. Something made him pause in his movements. Maybe it was the soft and feminine scent surrounding her. Maybe it was how peaceful her face looked when she slept. Maybe it was the sight of the dark lashes resting on her slightly flushed cheeks or her full, red lips. He took a deep shuddering breath and brought his focus back to the mission at hand. Taking a hold of the blanket, he brought it further up her body, gently tucking it around her the best he could.

With another deep breath he pulled away and rubbed his hands over his face in frustration. His mind felt torn into pieces. The guilt was eating him up, but he couldn’t deny everything Liz’s presence had stirred in him. He couldn’t put a finger on any of those feelings yet. He only knew that for the first time in a long time he felt alive.

<center>-----------------------------------------------------</center>

40 minutes later

Max opened the passenger door for Liz.
“Thank you so much for the ride,“ Liz said.
Max scratched behind his ear with his hand, with a guilty expression on his face. “Well, sorry about the...“
Liz laughed. “It was fun. It was an experience.“
Max grinned. “I hope I didn’t ruin your night.“
Liz glanced at the house in the background. “No, no. Of course not. I had a great time. Thank you.“

“Thank you,“ Max said, looking intently into her eyes. Liz felt herself being pulled in by his flaming eyes and the world stopped spinning for a enchanting moment. With a deep breath she reluctantly pulled herself free.
“I have to go,“ she said apologetically and gestured towards the house in the background.
“Yeah, okay,“ Max said.
“See you another time?“ Liz asked, before she could stop herself.
“I’d like that,“ Max said honestly.
“Well, I should go then,“ Liz said.
“Yeah,“ Max said.
“Oh,“ Liz said, pulling off the blanket that was still wrapped around her shoulders. “Maybe you want...“ Max held up his hand when he saw what she was doing, stopping her in her movements.

“That’s okay, you can return it the next time we meet,“ Max said. There was something in his eyes that made Liz’s cheeks turn hot and she ducked her head shyly.
“Yeah,“ she agreed with a nod.
“You should probably...“ Max said, pointing at the house.
“Yeah,“ Liz answered. And then she laughed. Max let her laughter wash over her, her happiness filling him with happiness and a half smile formed on his face.
“What?“ he asked smiling.
“We could keep doing this all night,“ Liz said.
Max looked at her slightly confused, wondering about the hidden meanings of her sentence.
“I mean, saying goodnight,“ Liz clarified.
Max chuckled. “Yes, well goodnight, Liz Parker.“
Liz smiled. “Goodnight, Max Evans.“

She had to take a deep breath to make herself stop falling into his eyes and turned towards the house. She could feel him watching her as she walked across the lawn. The thought that he made sure she was safely inside before leaving made her feel immensely secure, but it couldn’t guard against the feeling of unease that had suddenly fallen over her.

She barely had the chance to put the key in the lock when the door was ripped open and she was crushed against a hard chest.
“Thank God you’re okay!“
The next second she was abruptly pushed away from her boyfriend’s body and her eyes met his aggravated ones.
“Where the hell have you been? Do you know how worried I’ve been?“
Liz felt the guilt crash over her.
“I’m sorry,“ she said regretfully. But he wasn’t hearing her.
“I called the police and all hospitals. Why didn’t you have your cell phone with you?“
“I must’ve forgotten-“ Liz tried to interject, but Kevin cut her off.
“Haven’t you learned by now that you should always have your cell with you?“
“I tried calling you, but there was no answ-“

“I’ve called your parents...“
Liz stared at him with disbelief. “You called my parents?!““
“And Maria had no clue to where you were, even though you were supposed to be with her!“
She could feel the irritation grow and she snapped, “She isn’t my keeper-“
“I didn’t know if you had forgotten your pills or...“ Kevin interrupted. She could just as well not be there.
Her whole body sighed with frustration and fatigue. “I always remember my pills, Kevin.“
Kevin opened his mouth to continue his questions, when he noticed the disheveled state of her hair. It was wet, having begun to dry. His eyes traveled down the length of her body, for the first time noticing that she was wrapped in a blanket and that her clothes were wet underneath. His eyes shifted back to her face, his temper being fueled with her obvious carelessness to her own health. “Why are you wet? You might catch a cold. Do you know how dangerous a cold is to you?“
That was it. “Damnit Kevin! Would you just listen to me?!“ Liz cried.
Kevin grew quiet, looking at her, his look demanding an explanation. Liz hated that look. It made her feel like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar.
“Kevin, I’m really sorry. I forgot the cell phone and I was given a ride home, but the car broke down. I tried to reach you, but there was no answer. I tried to call Maria, but all I got was a busy tone.“

Kevin’s mouth was pulled into a thin bitter line. “I thought you had a heart attack. I was afraid that you were dead!“
“I’m sorry,“ Liz said, guilt evident in her voice.
Kevin shook his head. “No, that’s not good enough.“
Liz frowned. “Excuse me?“
“How am I supposed to watch out for you, Elizabeth, if you are not meeting me half-way?“
Liz stared at him. “I don’t need you to watch out for me.“
“Do you really think that I could’ve gone through every hospital visit with you, that heart attack and you almost dying without looking out for you?!“ Kevin asked indignantly.
“You’re smothering me, Kevin!“ Liz accused, regretting it the same moment the words left her lips.
“What?! I care about you, Elizabeth!“
“You’re treating me like a child!“
Kevin raised his eyebrows and looked at her like she had just announced to the world that she had discovered the solution to world starvation. “I am not treating you like a child. If I am, it’s only because you’ve brought it on yourself by acting so irresponsibly, as you did today.“

Liz bit her lower lip to prevent herself from saying what she really wanted to say. “I’m sorry, Kevin.“ She sighed resignedly. “What more can I say?“
“Why are you wet?“
“It’s raining outside,“ her voice was filled with acid now. She really didn’t have the energy for this. It was in the middle of the night and she could feel the protest her heart was making at her ever increasing upset condition.
“Whose the blanket?“ Kevin continued.
“I got a ride and he was kind enough to offer me a blanket,“ Liz answered.
He?“ Unmistakable jealousy flashed in his eyes and Liz immediately knew where this was going.

“Yes, he. Maria wanted to stay with Michael and he offered me a ride home.“
“How long have you known him?“ Kevin asked, his eyes dark with suspicion.
“I’m not having this conversation!“
“I think I have the right to know if you are catching rides with complete strangers!“
Liz’s hand unconsciously moved up to press against her painfully pounding heart. “Why can’t you trust me?“
“This isn’t about trust, Elizabeth.“
“Yes, it is. When you can’t have enough faith in me that I’m capable of making my own decisions, it is about trust.“
Liz felt exhaustion course through her body so strongly that she swayed on her feet.
“What’s wrong?“ Kevin asked concerned, but still with a tinge to his voice.
Liz fumbled behind her with her hand to find a chair or something to sit on.
“I just... I just need to sit down for a second.“
Her heart was beating erratically in her chest, missing some beats and adding others.
But she never got to the point of actually sitting down before her legs gave out under her. The last thing she heard before darkness devoured her was Kevin frantically calling out her name.


TBC...

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

I'm starting to realize that all my stories are ending in suspense right now (usually with Liz getting hurt in some way) :mrgreen:. It was not my intention at all for it to get like that. It's just a big mysterious coincidence :roll:

Hugs,

Jo

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Postby max and liz believer » Fri Dec 12, 2003 11:01 am

Ahem...

Well...ehm.. hi.. :roll: I'm so hoping that I still have some readers left. :oops: :oops: I'm so sorry for leaving you like this. Just know that I would never abandon a story completely, I couldn't do that. So the story will be finished eventually. The problem is having the time.

I must have the greatest readers in the world, since you are faithfully returning to this story even when I suffer my leapses of absence. I hope that you will continue doing that. Your feedback is so wonderful. It makes me feel really special :) Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Michelle (Pegleg) and Cherie - Hiii!! Welcome to this fic!! I'm so happy that you chose my story and even more happy that you let me know :D by leaving feedback. Thank you!

Clari - Sorry, since they started pruning the boards I don't have the same ability to see who my new readers are. But you seem new :roll: So, if you are a new reader to this story - or if it's just your first time posting - Welcome! If you have left feedback before, thank you for posting again lol. Sorry about the confusion... :wink:



So... Here it is - finally :oops: - chapter 13...


Atrial fibrillation/flutter is a disorder of heart rhythm (arrthymia) usually with rapid heart rate in which the upper heart chambers (atria) are stimulated to contract in a very disorganized and abnormal manner.


Chapter 13


The birds were just beginning to leave their nests after a night’s sleep as the first rays of the red morning sun slowly crept up over the horizon. The light stubbornly tried to squeeze itself through the blinds, causing thin beams of light to play over the wooden floor. A drowsy fly made a random flight about three inches above the floor. It came to a halt above one of the cardboard boxes on the floor, the cold smell from a once newly baked pizza tempting it to investigate the box further.

The shrill sound of a telephone cut through the peaceful silence, putting a momentary stop to the birds’ happy morning song and the fly’s investigation. When nothing further happened, the fly undisturbed continued its way inside the box. The second ring didn’t disturb him much either. Food was close and nothing was going to stop him. Well, except maybe the sudden movement of the box on which he was currently treading.


Her hand flew up from the ground at the sudden intrusive noise, hitting the pizza box in the process. Groaning, she moved her stiff neck, slowly becoming familiar with her surroundings. The phone rang again.
”Michael...” she murmured tiredly.
”What?” another tired voice, if not even more tired, answered.
”Phone...phone’s ringing.” She tried to change position, but slowly it dawned on her that she was on lying on a sofa, with Michael’s body weighing down on her. And she couldn’t move one millimeter even if she wanted to.
”Michael...” She started to push him away and, barely awake, he rose into a seated position. Maria flung her arm over her face as the phone rang again. Michael reached out and grabbed the phone on the small table next to the couch.
”Hello?” he murmured into the receiver, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand, trying to wake himself up.

The telephone kept on ringing though, and it took the dumbfounded Michael a couple of seconds to realize that he had answered the wrong phone.
”Maria,” he groaned.
Maria peeked out from under her arm and yawned. ”What..?”
”It’s your phone.” Michael took a hold of her arm and moved it so that he could have eye contact.
Maria squinted in the sudden bright morning light. ”What? Why aren’t you answering the phone?”
Michael bent forward and picked a cell phone up from the floor.
”Phone,” he said gruffly and put the phone in her hand before closing his eyes and heavily leaning his head back against the sofa.
Maria sighed and placed the phone to her ear.
”Hello... Yes... Aha... What?” Maria bolted up from the sofa, rousing Michael from his newly found slumber. He looked at her, confused, when she suddenly started pacing the floor, threading her fingers through her morning hair with absent and agitated movements.
”Oh my God... Is she okay? What was she... Yeah, okay... No, no... Yes... I’m on my way... I’ll be there as soon as possible... Yes... Tell her I love her, okay? I’ll be right there... Bye.”

Michael was staring at her as she turned around, his frown of irritation over being awakened gradually being replaced with one of concerned apprehension as he had watched his girlfriend visibly pale during the conversation.
”Who was that?”
Maria didn’t answer him. She was staring straight ahead, her eyes unseeing. Michael rose up and reached out to gentle touch her arm to get her attention. She actually jumped at the contact, which served only to confirm Michael’s suspicions further that something bad had happened.
”Maria? Who was that?”
Her eyes were shining with unshed tears when she turned to meet his questioning eyes.
”Kevin,” she answered hoarsely. ”Liz is... Liz... I need to go to Liz.”
”What’s wrong with her?” Michael asked, afraid of what her agitated, yet numbed behavior meant.

”She’s... She’s suffering from a heart condition,” Maria said, her voice seemingly detached as if she weren’t really concentrating on what she was saying. Her mind was miles away with her best friend. ”She... Yesterday she suffered from atrial fibrillation.” Maria turned to look at him, the blank look replaced with fear, and whispered, ”I thought this was over. I thought everything would be okay now.”
Michael was still trying to figure out what atrial fibrillation was, but it was obvious that Maria was not up to dealing with his limited knowledge of medical terms right now.
”What happened?”
Maria’s eyes started to tear up. ”She fainted, but Kevin got her to the hospital very quickly. They live close to the hospital.” Maria sniffed, ”It’s a good thing that they live close to the hospital. She is stable... I just never thought...” Her last words ended in a hoarse whimper as the first of many tears started fell down her cheeks.
”Shh,” Michael pulled Maria into his arms and tried to soothe her the best he could. This was the first time Maria had told him that Liz had a heart condition. He didn’t have all the facts to be able to say the right things without upsetting her even more, but if she needed him to be there for her right now, he would be.

<center>----------------------------------------------------------</center>

Max pushed the door open, exhaustion fueling his tired mind like he wanted it to.
”One day that’s gonna kill you.”
He nearly jumped out of his skin at her voice. His head jerked towards the kitchen where he found Isabel perched on a stool, regarding him with somber eyes.
”Isabel! You scared me half to death. What are you doing here?”
”How far are you running?” Isabel asked, ignoring his question.
”I don’t know,” Max answered and brushed past her into the kitchen.
Isabel followed Max’s movements as he retrieved a glass from the cabinet. ”Max, I’ve been here for forty minutes. So you must’ve been running for at least forty minutes.”
”I just want to stay in shape,” Max answered. He moved the glass under the tap to fill it with some much-needed water.

”God Max, you’re trembling,” Isabel exclaimed horrified as she noticed the violent tremors shaking Max’s hand and thus the glass he was holding.
Isabel took the glass from his hand as she ordered, ”Sit down!”
”Iz, I’m fine. I just need to have something to drink...”
”Now you sit down, Max!” Isabel said firmly. There was really no use in arguing with her when she used that tone, so Max sank down on one of the chairs, his exhausted body thanking him. By the jerky movements Isabel had going about filling his glass with water, Max had a feeling that she was pretty angry with him.
Isabel slammed the glass down in front of him.
”Drink!” she snapped and sat down across from him. Max more than willingly did as she asked, but his hand was still trembling violently and Isabel’s glares grew even hotter with anger. When he had emptied the glass and sat it down on the table, Isabel planked something on to the table.

”You want to explain what these are?” she asked, daring him to do otherwise.
”Are you going through my drawers?” Max asked incredulously.
”What are they?” Isabel demanded.
”You know what they are,” Max answered.
”How long have you been taking them?”
”What is this? The third degree?”
”I’m not kidding, Max.”
”Neither am I.”
”Why are you trying to destroy yourself, Max?”
”I just have a hard time sleeping. A lot of people take sleeping pills.”
”What about this?” Isabel slammed another bottle up on the table. One that was empty.

Isabel had had a key to Max’s house for as long as they’d own the house. Tess had given it to Isabel so that she could use it if she was too early to drop Josh off or bringing Michelle over. She had always been welcome to let herself in.

But she had never over-stated her welcome like this. Now she had violated his privacy. Going into his bedroom. Going through his drawers and his trash. Checking up on him. She really didn’t have a valid excuse to justify doing that.

Anger flared to life in Max and he stood up, pointing at the front door. ”Get out!”
“What?!” Isabel burst out, the shock on her face betraying that she wasn’t used to this side of Max. But she quickly recuperated.
“You can’t run away from me, Max. I won’t let you.”
“Isabel, I want you to leave me alone!”
“Why can’t you sleep?” Isabel asked.
“Get out,” Max said, his voice low and more detached than she had ever heard it before.
“What’s going on, Max?” she asked in a close whisper. “You’re scaring me.”
Max tiredly rubbed his hands over his face, trying to calm himself down. “Nothing’s going on, Iz. I just want to take a shower and…”
Isabel worriedly watched him. Her brother was falling apart in front of her eyes. She didn’t know what to do, but she had to do something. The only thing she did know was that she had to keep him in reality. She had to continue giving him reasons to want to keep on living.

“What are you doing today?” Isabel interrupted.
“I can’t, Isabel, whatever it is, I can’t, “ Max said.
“Michelle wants to be here so badly,” Isabel said.
Max met her eyes with a challenging glare. “And you want me to watch her even though you consider me a liability?”
“She has so much fun here,” Isabel said, avoiding his statement.
Max rose from the table, tiredly raking his hand through his hair. He had done that a lot lately, Isabel reflected.
“I’m serious, Iz. I need to be alone today. I have some work to do.”
“She won’t disturb you,” Isabel said. “She can play silently.”
She could be very quiet when she was playing, and Isabel knew that Max was aware of that.
“But that isn’t the problem, is it?” Isabel asked when Max didn’t answer her.
“I’m not unemployed, you know,” Max said, his voice turning harder. “I do have a work. A job that requires me to work on the weekends.”
“Come on, Max. Please?” Isabel pleaded.

It was about more than just finding a babysitter for her daughter. This was about saving Max’s sanity. Michelle’s presence did things to Max. After a visit from her daughter, Max was more like himself. More like the Max before Tess’ death. And now he seemed to need it even more than before. Something seemed to have happened to make him lose control over himself again, more now than ever.
“What about the pills? You want your child to be watched by a drug addict?” Max asked, turning around to meet her eyes.
He had hit home with his statement and she knew that he could see it on her face.
“You would never do that to Michelle…”
“An addict can’t control his needs and just behave properly for a moment just because it’s appropriate,” Max said coldly.

“Why are you like this?” Isabel whispered.
“I’m no addict, Isabel,” Max said calmly. “And I want to have Michelle here. But I don’t know if I can take care of her…”
“What are you talking about?” Isabel stared at him in disbelief. “Why wouldn’t you be able to take care of her? You are so good with children, Max. That’s not something that changes overnight. I don’t want anyone else but you to watch Michelle. She is safest with you.”
Max stared at her. Isabel could see gratitude in his eyes. “Even after what happened?”
“I’ll admit. I haven’t completely forgiven you about that, but I still entrust you with my daughter.”

Max swallowed and ducked his head.
“Iz…”
“Yes?”
Max lifted his head and looked at her. “Thank you.”
Isabel felt relief squeeze her heart. There was an emotion in his eyes that she hadn’t seen in a long time. She didn’t know what it was, but it lessened the death grip worry had on her heart.
“Just don’t take her to any malls,” Isabel said with a teasing smile.
Max gave her a hint of a smile. “I won’t.”

<center>-------------------------------------------</center>

Maria stumbled into the room, all out of breath. Her abrupt opening of the door made Kevin look up. Relief spread over his face when he saw her.
”Maria...” he breathed.
Maria took a deep breath, her eyes transfixed on the person confined to the hospital bed.
”How is she?” she whispered, her worried eyes speaking volumes of what the last hours had been like for her.
Kevin averted his eyes back to Liz, his hand holding Liz’s tightly. ”Better. Much better.”
Maria let out a breath of relief she hadn’t even been aware that she had been holding.
”The doctor says that she can go home in a day or two.”
Maria nodded, mostly to herself because all of Kevin’s attention was on Liz. She stepped up to Kevin and put a hand on his shoulder.
”You look tired, Kevin. Go and take a break. I’ll stay here with Liz.”
Kevin looked hesitantly at Liz.
”Just go and get some coffee or something.”
Kevin took a last look at Liz, before reluctantly letting go off her hand. ”Okay.”

Maria waited until Kevin had left the room, before sitting down in the chair and taking Liz’s hand in hers. The restraint she had been using to hold back her tears dissipated and hot tears started to roll down her cheeks.
”Lizzie...?”
She knew that she probably shouldn’t try to wake Liz up, because she needed the sleep. But Maria needed to see for herself that her best friend was okay. The machines monitoring her heart next to the hospital bed didn’t tell Maria anything she really wanted to know. It only told her that the heart Liz had been given was beating.
”I love you, girlfriend,” Maria sobbed. With her free hand she brushed the tears off her face. ”Please don’t scare me like that. You have to take care of yourself, Liz. I mean...” Maria took a deep breath to still her turbulent emotions, ”The good things are to come. You just met some new people. Michelle, Isabel, Alex... Max. You remember Max, right? There was this connection between you two. Something just seemed right from the start. And I’m only an observer... You must’ve felt something, Liz.” Maria rolled her eyes at herself. ”I don’t know why I’m saying this. You can’t hear me anyway. You are sleeping. I should just stop talking all together and not disturb you. Just don’t... Don’t ever forget that there are people here who love you...”
”I’m not dead yet.”

The weak whisper snapped Maria out of her teary monolog and she stared at Liz, who was looking at her with a weak smile lingering at the corners of her mouth.
”Liz... How are you feeling?”
”Like I’ve been run over by a truck. Otherwise I feel perfect.” Her tone of voice was light, but her face told the truth of what she was really feeling. Dark circles haunted the skin under her watery eyes. The skin was pale, almost transparent.
”Liz! I’m being very worried here. Could you just at least act the role of the sick patient for once?”
That was just how it had always been during all the years Liz had been sick. Even how sick she had been, she had always handled it with an optimism and lightness. Always trying to muster up a smile. Not just once had it crossed Maria’s mind that it might all been an act from Liz’s side, an attempt to put the worried people around her at ease. Liz had never liked it when they worried about her, even though that was all she knew. She had always been sick, they had always been worried about her. Always being so careful around her. Tiptoeing.

Liz had started to change during the last year, since she had gotten the transplant. At first it had been a positive change. Maria had seen how excited Liz was about life. To be able to do everything she had longed to do for so long. But her excitement had cooled off, and it wasn’t hard for Maria to see that Liz was pulling further and further inside herself. Things hadn’t turned out the way Liz had wanted them to. It was the worry that was the problem. Had always been the problem. Liz had told Maria so on several occasions. Everyone worrying about her all the time was suffocating her. She had hoped that it would disappear after the transplant, but a life-long pattern doesn’t break that easily.

”Maria,” Liz whispered, turning serious, ”Please don’t cry. Don’t cry for me.”
Maria’s mouth fell open in disbelief. ”Don’t cr... Don’t cry for you?!”
”I’m fine, Maria. You don’t have to worry. It was just some minor set back.”
”Some minor set back?!” Maria repeated incredulously. ”You could’ve had a heart attack. You could’ve died!”
With her eyes downcast, Liz answered quietly, ”I know. I was just... I was cold and it was very emotional-”
”Emotional? What could’ve been so emotional that you suffered artial fibrillation?”
”Nothing,” Liz answered evasively.
”You really don’t think that I’m gonna let you off the hook just because you try to pretend like it’s raining, do you?”
”Maria...”
”Is it Max?”
Liz looked at Maria questioningly. ”Max?”

”Did he do something? Oh my God,” Maria said, her eyes going wide as a thought occurred to her, ”I shouldn’t have let him give you a ride...”
”Maria...”
”We don’t know him well enough. We don’t know him at all actually.”
”Maria...”
”I only know what Michael has told me and there might be a lot that Michael doesn’t know about Max.”
”Maria...”
”Granted, they’ve known each other their entire lives, but Max could be keeping things-”
”Maria!”
Liz’s attempt at silencing Maria sent her into a fit of coughing.
”I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Maria apologized regretfully, reaching for the glass of water on the bedside table.
Liz was trying to wave her excuses off, simultaneously fighting the coughs. Gratefully, she accepted the glass from Maria.

”If I had driven home with you last night, nothing of this would ever had happened...”
”Don’t do that, Maria,” Liz said, her voice sounding stronger after the soothing effect the water had had on her throat.
”It’s no one’s fault but my own.”
”Yours?” Maria shook her head, ”Liz, no...”
”I just have to learn to control my emotions.” Maria’s throat constricted at the sadness illuminating Liz’s face.
”What happened, Liz?” Maria asked quietly.
Liz inconspicuously shook her head. ”Everything just happened at once. I don’t know what... I came home a little late. The car broke down and-”
Maria’s eyebrows rose in surprise. ”The car broke down?”
Liz nodded.
”Max’s car?”
Another nod.
”Um…okay...”
”Yeah, well. So we were stuck out in the middle of nowhere. Since it was raining and everything, it was almost impossible to do anything else but sit in the car and wait.”

”Aha,” Maria said, watching her friend closely. Now Maria was dying to know what Max and Liz had occupied themselves with while alone together in a car. But she could already see the fatigue on Liz’s face. This wasn’t the time for that discussion, but she was going to press Liz for some information later, she thought with an inward smile.
”I came home really late and Kevin had been worrying to death...”
The pieces were falling into place. That’s what had happened. ”You guys had a fight, right? And you fainted.”
”No, Maria. It wasn’t like that...” Maria gave Liz a pointed look that very specifically said ‘Don’t even try pulling that crap on me’.
Liz sighed. ”All right. Yeah, that’s probably why I fainted.”
Maria bit her lower lip to control the rising anger. Kevin, who was always so concerned about Liz’s health, had sent her directly to the hospital bed.
”Don’t blame him,” Liz said when she saw Maria’s expression. ”It’s not his fault. He had every right to be angry with me. I should’ve call-”
”But you did, didn’t you?” Maria asked. Knowing Liz, she had tried to reach Kevin. ”But you couldn’t get through?”

”He was calling the police, every hospital... I got the busy signal...”
”Figures,” Maria mumbled.
”Stop that, Maria. It’s not his fault, you hear me? Don’t you go and tell him that. He’s already beating himself up about this. Don’t make it any worse.”
Liz’s stubbornness to defend Kevin was annoying Maria even more.
”Please,” Liz begged, her eye lids heavy as her body wanted her to go back to sleep, ”I can’t handle any more... Everyone’s so worried...”
Maria felt the anger she had felt a second ago simmer down and she squeezed Liz’s hand.
”I won’t accuse him of anything.”
With her eyes closed, already drifting off to sleep, Liz worded hopefully, ”Promise?”
”Cross my heart and hope to die,” Maria answered with a smile.
”I love you,” Liz whispered.
”I love you too, chica,” Maria said, her eyes tearing up.

”Don’t tell Max...”
Maria frowned. ”What did you say?” But Liz was asleep. ”Lizzie? What should I not tell Max?”
No answer.
Maria leaned back in the chair. Why had Liz mentioned Max? It was completely out of the blue.

Don’t tell Max.

About her heart condition? Was that it? Liz didn’t want Max to know what had happened. What had really happened between Max and Liz the few hours they’d spent together? Why was Liz suddenly so concerned about what Max knew and didn’t know about her?

Interesting, Maria thought.
”You owe me some ice-cream, hun,” Maria whispered to the sleeping Liz.



TBC...

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Postby max and liz believer » Thu Jan 01, 2004 8:21 pm

Hi everyone!

I'm so happy to see some old faces here!! Even though I crave feedback :roll:, I know that many don't leave feedback after each and every chapter, for different reasons (I don't do that on every chapter on the fics I read :oops:). And I'll just have to accept that (even though it's hard :wink:). But if you have these lurker tendencies I just love it when you check in once in a while so that I know that you are still reading and still enjoying my story - which many of you did after the last chapter.

So thank you!!

And to all the new readers... There were pretty many here... Welcome!!! Some I recognize from fics I read and some from the other fics I write. I'm so immensly happy to see you here and see that you are reading and liking what you read! Thank you so much!!

And to my faithful readers and feedbackers, who close to always leave feedback... Thank you!!! :D :D :D


Every word from each and every one of all of you means so much to me, so thank you so much for every post, you guys!!

There is some piece of positive news as well. Since I've been free from work during the holidays I've managed to catch a cold :wink:, but also write six chapters of this story. So now I only need to get them edited and I won't have to leave you hanging like I have the last couple of months :roll:


Thank you for your support and encouragement!! And may you all have a happy new year!!

*hugs*




Chapter 14


”Oh my God! Did you feel that?”
She smiled and nodded, watching with warmth as his eyes danced with joy. His hand jerked and he laughed. ”There. Did you feel that?”
”Yes, Max,” she laughed. ”Believe me, I can feel that.”
”That’s amazing,” Max whispered, mostly to himself. His hand lightly traced around her bellybutton, when her stomach once again moved under his fingers.
”He’s gonna be something, isn’t he?” Max said.
She raised an amused eyebrow. ”He?”
He put his ear on her stomach to listen and her smile widened.
”Why do you think it’s a boy?” she asked.
Max raised his head slightly from her stomach and looked at her, a look of awe and confusion on his face. ”Huh?”
She rolled her eyes at his complete inability to focus on anything else but the child growing inside of her.
”You are so cute, you know that?”
She smiled warmly as his ears turned a slight hint of red, and reached out with her hand to sift her hand through his dark hair.
”You are going to be such a great dad.”

”Uncle Max! Uncle Max! Uncle Max! Uncle Maaaaax!”
Tess’ face dimmed in front of him, its form disintegrating into nothingness. He looked down into the brown eyes of his niece, slowly trying to return to reality.
”Was you sleepin’?” Michelle asked, looking at him with the type of excited curiosity only a child could muster.
”No, Michelle,” Max answered, taking a deep breath to clear his mind.
Michelle pulled her lips together in a thoughtful expression and her forehead furrowed as she squinted with her eyes. ”But Uncle Max, can you sleep with your eyes open?”
Max looked at Michelle, feeling the void and coldness in his heart slowly warming up. He reached out and picked her up, placing her in his lap.
”No, you can’t sleep with your eyes open, but sometimes you think so hard that it’s almost like you are asleep.”
Michelle looked at him seriously, biting her bottom lip. ”I’s don’t understand.”
”Okay,” Max said, ”Then let’s do it like this. Think about your favorite thing.”
”My favowit fing?”

”Yep,” Max smiled at her excited facial expression.
”‘Kay,” Michelle agreed and the small frown on her forehead reappeared. She started chewing on her upper lip as she stared off into the distance.
”‘Kay,” she said then.
”What are you thinking about?” Max asked.
”Lucy,” Michelle answered with a big smile stretching from ear to ear. Lucy was Michelle’s beloved doll. It had been with her since she was one year old.
”Okay, think really hard about Lucy now.”
Michelle giggled and nodded. Her face scrunched up into a thoughtful expression again. Then a puzzled frown fell over her. ”What is she doing?”
”Whatever you want,” Max said.
”‘Kay,” Michelle said and started to think again, now looking very determined. Max waited a couple of minutes, giving Michelle’s livid imagination a chance to come to life.
“Michelle…” he said gently.
After a few seconds delay, she glanced up with him with a big smile on her face. “I’s was sleepin’! Wif my eyes cwosed.”
Max grinned. “You sure were.”

“Uncle Max…” Michelle looked up at him expectantly.
Max absently pushed a few of Michelle’s blonde hair behind her ear. “What is it, honey?”
“Will you tell me a stwory?”
“Sure,” Max smiled. “What do you want to hear?”
Michelle cuddled closer to him, her small fingers fingering on the buttons of his shirt. “Cindella.”
“Cinderella it is.”
The thoughtful expression on Michelle’s face returned and she bit her lip in deep concentration. “Can I’s change Cindella’s name?”
Max looked at her surprised. “You want to change Cinderella’s name?”
Michelle turned serious. “Can I’s do that?”
Max looked at her and felt himself melt. A slow smile started to form on his lips and he leaned forward and placed a kiss on her forehead. “This is your story, pumpkin. You can do whatever you want with it.”
Michelle’s face lightened up like a child on Christmas morning. “I’s can?!”
Max nodded seriously. “Absolutely.”
“Yay!!”
“What do you want to call your Cinderella?” Max asked, wondering just what Michelle had in mind for this story time.
“Liz.”

Max hand froze in the unconscious sifting through her hair and it took him a couple of seconds before he recuperated. “Liz?”
“She was dis bootiful lady saving me in the big shopping store,” Michelle explained, giving him a very explicit ‘duh’ look. “Don’t you ‘member?”
Max’s heart was beating faster and suddenly his mouth had gone dry. “The woman at the mall…” His eyes involuntarily drifted to the small note on the kitchen table. He had found it earlier in his pocket. Someone had slipped it to him, without him noticing. His best guess was Maria.
“She come to my house,” Michelle continued to explain, “She knowed my name! She liked Lucy!”
“I remember,” Max said quietly. “Why do you want your Cinderella to be called Liz instead?”
“’Cause all pwincesses is bootiful and Liz is bootiful…” Max’s face took on a distant expression as his thoughts turned to the one person he had tried so hard not to think about. The dark-haired petite woman, who had captured him and held him captive ever since he had first laid eyes on her. “And…and… Liz saved me and dat’s what pwincesses do.”
Max did his best to turn back his focus to his niece. Smiling, he playfully rumbled her hair. “I thought that was the princes’ job.”

Michelle thought about that for a couple of second before answering. “Pwincesses can save someone too. Someone’s gotta save the pwince sometime, wight?”
Max shook his head in wonder at the intelligent little girl in his arms. “You’re right, sweetheart. Sometimes the prince needs to be saved too.”

<center>--------------------------------------------------</center>

Liz fingers finally found what they were looking for and she pressed the connection button.
“Hello?” Her voice was quite breathless, having had to find the cell phone in the enormous bag Maria had packed for her, before it stopped ringing.
“Liz?”
The voice sounded familiar, but her mind was too fuzzy to put all the pieces together. “Yes?”
“This is Max.”
Joy spread in her chest and she smiled. “Max…”
“Yeah, you know, from the party and the-“
Liz’s smile deepened. “I remember you.”
”Oh…” came the somewhat embarrassed reply.
Scooting further up against the head of the bed, she pulled the comforter closer around her and waited to hear his voice again. She hadn’t realized it before, most obviously because too much had happened to her since Max had dropped her off at her house the night before, for her to have a clear thought, but she had missed his voice. She hadn’t really thought about it before, but hearing it now, it was almost ridiculous that she hadn’t noticed before the softness of his voice. The warmth in which he uttered every syllable. How he spoke her name.
“How did you get my number?” Her answer was underlined with the smile on her lips and the amused surprise at having him call her.
“I don’t know actually,” Max answered and Liz could easily picture his embarrassed lost boy expression.
She raised an eyebrow. “You don’t know?”
“I found your number in my pocket. I guess someone gave it to me without me noticing. My first guess would be Mar-“
“Maria.”
The shared a soft laugh as they simultaneously blurted out the name of the obvious organizer of the situation.

“So, what are you up to?” Liz asked. She was dying to talk about something normal. Hear inane details about someone’s normal life. She had been craving to talk to someone who didn’t fuss about her health and consequently barely talked about anything else than what she should and shouldn’t do.
“I’m sitting in this big black armchair right now, protected by an angel,” Max answered cryptically. She could hear the smile in his voice and the special softness with which she had already recognized he used when he talked about the person who meant most to him.
“You need protection?”
“There was this big dragon outside, but she promised me that she would keep me safe.”
Liz bit her lower lip, the gentleness in his voice bringing tears to her eyes. “What’s the angel’s name?”
“Liz…”
The one-word syllable caused goose bumps to break out on her skin. She swallowed. “Liz?”
“Yes,” Max answered, “Liz is this really beautiful princess, who knows all the right tricks to lure a dragon away. She saves princes, too.”
Liz laughed softly. “She does?”
“Uh-huh. Princes can need protection. Princes get scared, too, sometimes.”
She sobered at the hidden meanings behind his words. “But she saved her prince?”
“She is doing a great job so far,” Max answered.

Liz closed her eyes, and there was a few seconds of silence, before Max spoke. “Liz? Are you there?”
Liz nodded, before realizing that he couldn’t see that. “Yes.” Her voice was breaking. This was all too much for her. The things that she was feeling… She didn’t know what to do. What she was feeling. What it meant… “Yes, I’m here.”
A breathless moment and then her eyes closed with guilt as his voice changed to worried. “Are you okay?”
She didn’t want this. She didn’t want to pull another person into her misery. She didn’t want to be pampered by one more. She wanted to be treated like a person. Not a patient. She ignored the fact that Max’s concern didn’t at all feel as wrong as Kevin’s did. Max’s concern made her want to cry. Made her want to confide in him, talk to him about everything between heaven and earth. She brushed some traitorous tears off her cheeks and answered stoically, “I’m fine, Max.”
“I hope that you didn’t catch a cold,” Max said and she could hear the guilt in his voice. Something she instinctively wanted to remove.
“I’m perfectly fine, Max,” Liz tried to assure him.
There was some more seconds of silence and Liz spent the seconds wondering what was going through Max’s head at the moment. Did he doubt her? Was he feeling guilty for giving her the best day in her life? Was he worried about her? Was he regretting that he called?
“Okay,” Max said, his voice much lighter. “I just wanted to…” He hesitated and Liz clung to the phone desperately, wondering what he was going to say. Would he cross the invisible line between them?
“I just wanted to… to see how you were doing,” Max said and somehow Liz knew that wasn’t what he had intended to say. Not at all.

“Thank you, Max,” Liz said warmly. “Thank you for calling.” She meant it even more than she could tell him. To hear his voice had lifted her spirits, given her new strength.
“Liz…”
“Yes?”
“You wouldn’t want to… um… Could I… Could I call you some other time?”
Liz closed her eyes at the tears welling up in her eyes and immediately admonished herself for being so emotional. But she realized that Max wasn’t really asking if he could call her some other time. There was so much more he was really asking, and they both knew it.
“I’d love that,” Liz whispered.
“Okay,” Max said softly. “We’ll talk later then.”
“Yes,” Liz agreed. “Yes, we’ll do that.”
“Bye.”
Liz swallowed back the grief of hanging up and whispered a broken, “Bye.”
She didn’t hang up immediately and she could still hear his presence at the other end of the line. It took a few seconds before he hung up and the call disconnected.

<center>---------------------------------------------------</center>

Michael opened the door to find his girlfriend on the other side, looking up at him with a small smile. He immediately pulled her into a hug.
“Hey.”
“Hey,” she murmured against his chest.
“Are you okay?”
She nodded.
“And Liz? How is she doing?”
Maria took a deep breath and stepped out of his arms, absently fixing her hair. “She’s doing fine. She will be going home today.”
Michael smiled. “That’s great.”
Maria nodded and walked past him. Michael furrowed his forehead at her distant behavior. “Maria, is there something else?”

She looked at him innocently. “Something else?”
“Yeah, it seems like your mind is somewhere else.”
“Nah,” she shook her head in denial and pulled out a glass from the cabinet in the kitchen, “This whole thing just scared me, you know? We had been lulled into this false sense of security. I guess I wasn’t the only one who was surprised that Liz had a relapse.” Maria sat down on one of the high stools at the counter, her fingers tracing the still empty glass. “When she had the transplant-“
Michael stopped short. “She had a heart transplant?”
Maria met his eyes. “She would’ve died without one.”
“Okay,” Michael said and slowly lowered himself on the other stool beside her. He wasn’t sure why he had such a strong reaction to that. It might be that it all sounded so serious, or it might just be that Tess’ heart had been given to someone in the need of a new heart. It was just too close to home.
“The doctors told us that she would be as healthy as anyone else after the transplant. As long as she took her pills to lessen the risk of her body rejecting the new heart.”
“Right,” Michael nodded, “So what went wrong?”

“Any infection is particularly dangerous to her. She got a cold, a very dangerous cold. According to the doctor, she was close to getting pneumonia. And she was upset right as the infection was beginning to root inside of her. It just became too much for her heart. But that’s not the point. The point is that she is still acting as if everything is okay, and it’s pissing me off.”
“Why?” Michael asked honestly.
Maria frustrated threw her hands up in the air. “Because…because… I’m not sure that she is taking care of herself. It’s like she doesn’t care. She just laughs and tells everyone that she’s okay, when I can clearly see that she isn’t.”
“It’s her life you are talking about,” Michael said. “I’m sure she wouldn’t be careless with her own life.”

His thoughts wandered to the woman he had met two days ago, at Isabel’s. The picture he was getting from Maria now, a really sick woman, did not fit the picture he had built up at dinner. The woman he had met there had been independent, albeit a little shy. But she had been happy in a way that he never had seen anyone before. Her happiness hadn’t been of the exuberant kind, but more of the calm kind. Still, it hadn’t taken a scientist to understand that she wasn’t only going through the motions of life, she was cherishing every breath, devouring every second. Now he knew why. She had been handed another chance in life and she was doing everything she had ever wanted to do. Maybe that was why Max had taken such an instant liking in her. She was the total opposite of what he had become. While Liz probably woke up with a smile every day because she was so excited about what the new day was going to bring her, Max woke up wanting to go back to sleep and never wake up again. Liz exhibited the qualities that Max craved.

“I don’t know…” Maria murmured. “I mean, of course she wouldn’t be careless about her life. She has waited for this life for too long. I just… Something is wrong.”
”As I’ve understood it,” Michael mused, “She was basically given a second chance to live. It’s only natural that she would change.”
“But it’s only lately that she has changed,” Maria said.
Michael looked at her for a few seconds in contemplation, before he decided to be very honest with her. “Maybe what irks you is that she has changed and you haven’t.”
Maria stared at him and then snorted to show how ridiculous she thought that was. “What are you saying?”
Michael took a deep breath, knowing that he might be threading thin ice, and raked his hand through his hair. “All I’m saying is… Do you treat Liz as the new Liz, or as the old Liz?”
“What are you talking about?” Michael could hear the irritation in her voice and knew that he had stepped on some toes.
“She still needs you to care for her and support her, but she doesn’t really need you to take care of her any longer. She doesn’t need your help to the same degree any longer.”
Maria’s mouth thinned out in anger. Michael’s eyes glanced at the finger quickly tapping against the surface of the counter. “She’s in the hospital, Michael. As far as I can see it, she still needs our help.”

“Why was she upset?”
“What?”
“That night when she had that…um…that artial fabril-thingy,” Michael scratched his head. Medical terms had never been his strong side. “Why was she upset?”
Maria hopped off the stool. “You know what, don’t bother. Liz is my problem-“
Michael grabbed a hold of her wrist, putting a stop to her escape. Looking her firmly in the eyes, he said gently, “Maria, I’m not trying to insult you or butt into a friendship you truly know more about than I. I just wanted to give you a new perspective-“
“Whatever,” Maria said and looked away.
“Look at me,” Michael said. With a sigh, Maria turned to look at him, “I want to be here for you, Maria. I want to listen to you. And I also want to be honest with you. When I think something, I want to be able to tell you that and I want you to feel that you can do the same.”
Maria swallowed at his honest admission. That had to be the most beautiful thing someone has ever said to her. But pride stopped her from admitting that to him.
“To be honest,” she looked at him surly, “You’re pissing me off right now.”
He grinned at that, which made her snatch her arm out of his grip.
“I’m leaving,” she said curtly.
“Maria,” Michael begged, silent laughter in his voice. He hadn’t meant to upset her like that. “Can we just…”

Maria stopped by the door and whipped around to face him. “No, Michael. I need some fresh air.” Before he was given the opportunity to protest, she had opened the door and slammed it shut behind her. He stared at the door in disbelief, wondering what just had happened. It didn’t take many seconds until the door opened again and Maria poked her head in. “Thank you for, you know, for listening.”
It was obvious that it was hard for her to admit that she had appreciated him. Her expression was fighting to remain cool and nonchalant.
“You’re welcome,” Michael smiled.
“Okay,” she said, “But I’m still angry with you.”
“Okay,” Michael said calmly.
“Okay.”
“Okay.”
“Okay, then I’m just gonna…” And with that she slammed the door again, leaving Michael behind with a big grin on his face.


TBC...

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Postby max and liz believer » Sun Jan 18, 2004 7:53 am

Helloooo! :mrgreen:

Thank you everyone for the feedback!!!!!!!!

And a huge hug to Elizabeth (you know why :D).

Here's the next chapter... Enjoy :roll:



Chapter 15


“I’ll get that,” Max said and Isabel watched him disappear into the bedroom.
“Okay…” she said slowly. She continued to pick up Michelle’s toys from the floor, her mind miles away.
“Here,” Max put down the Lucy doll on the kitchen table, “Something else?”
Isabel’s eyes narrowed as she took in Max fidgeting behavior, how he was practically jumping with restlessness.
Isabel put the doll in the bag and zipped it up.
“I’ll get Michelle,” Max volunteered.
“Hang on for a sec,” Isabel said.
Max stopped and judging from his expression he knew that he had been caught.
Isabel looked at him seriously. “What’s going on?”
Max’s eyebrows rose in innocence. “Nothing’s going on, Isabel. What makes you think that?”
“Eh… Well, I guess that smile is a total give away,” Isabel answered, watching the nervous half-smile that had formed on Max’s lips slowly disappearing again. “Has something happened?”
Max shook his head. “No, nothing has happened.”
“Everything went okay with Michelle?”
“Yes, she was an angel. As always.”
“Okay,” Isabel said slowly, looking at him more closely. There was something different about him.

“You should get home. Michelle should be put to bed.”
Max was already turning towards the living room again to get the sleeping Michelle from the couch, when Isabel’s question stopped him.
“Why are you so eager to get us out of here? What are you going to do?”
Max turned around slowly. “I’m not trying to get you out of here.”
Isabel’s eyebrows rose in disbelief. “Really?”
“Michelle should really go home to her own bed,” Max tried.
Isabel shook her head with a smile on her lips. They both knew that it didn’t harm Michelle to sleep on a couch. Isabel tried another tactic. “What were you two up to today?”
“Hide and seek, which is totally useless, because she is so small that she can hide anywhere,” Max murmured.
Isabel chuckled. Knowing her brother, he didn’t like that game because he would get so worried every time he couldn’t find Michelle.
“Then she played on her own for a while and I told her a story.”
“Sounds like you had a great time,” Isabel said, sitting down on the end of the couch, gently removing a blond strand of hair away from her daughter’s cheek. “You know, she names all her princesses and Barbie dolls Liz now.”
Max froze. When he didn’t say anything, Isabel looked up and saw the mixed emotions on her brother’s face. Bingo.

“Have you talked to her lately?” Isabel asked.
“Who?” Max asked evasively.
“Liz Parker,” Isabel answered.
“I just met her two days ago,” Max answered.
Isabel raised her eyebrow in question. As if Max meeting Liz two days ago was going to stop him from calling her again in that short time if he had the chance. Another woman wouldn’t have interested him much, but there was something different about Liz. They had all seen it. How Max looked at her and the way Liz looked back.
“Do you have her number?”
“Maria gave it to me,” Max answered.
Isabel smiled. “Right, Maria. I knew that I could count on her.”
Max frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Oh, nothing,” Isabel answered with an innocent smile. She stroke a few strands away from Michelle’s forehead, before leaning forward and placing a kiss there. She could feel Max’s eyes on her. She could feel the questions hanging in the air. She knew that he wanted to talk to her about something. She just had to wait him out. She wasn’t disappointed.
“I called her this afternoon.”
Isabel looked at him, hiding her surprise. “You did?”
Max sighed and sat down on the armrest of the armchair. “Yeah.”
Isabel was confused by his weary sigh. He didn’t sound that happy at the memory. “So, what did she say?”

The soft smile that she had expected on his face earlier started to take form. “Everything she said was great…”
“But…?”
“It’s what she didn’t say that concerns me.”
Isabel frowned. “What do you mean?”
“When the car broke down, it was raining and she got wet-“
Isabel held up her hands in a typical stopping motion. “Wait, wait. Your car broke down?”
“Yeah,” Max answered, “When I was driving her home the other night.”
Isabel nodded, but didn’t say anything.
“She tried to help me and she stepped out of the car, getting all wet. When we were in the taxi to her house, she fell asleep and I just… I just…”
“You got worried," Isabel filled in for him.
Max dropped his eyes. “I had this feeling…” He met Isabel’s eyes. “It scared me. Just the thought of her getting something as small as a cold scared me.”
Isabel nodded in understanding, while she was both awed and frightened with what she was reading between the lines of what Max what telling her. The obvious attachment Max had already formed to Liz was so real in everything Max did when he talked about her.
“I’m sure she’s just fine,” Isabel assured him.
“That’s what she told me,” Max said.
“Then there’s nothing to-“
“But it sounded like she had a cold. Her voice sounded different. She sounded tired.”
Isabel rose from her position on the couch and stepped up to Max, looking down at him with worry in her eyes and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Max, I’m sure it was nothing. She probably just had a rough day.”
Max looked up at his sister, his eyes not really seeing her as his thoughts wandered aimlessly in his head. He shook his head to clear the cobwebs from his mind and took a deep breath. “You’re right. I’m being ridiculous. I shouldn’t worry that much.”
Isabel smiled. “No, you shouldn’t. But it’s who you are, Max, and you can’t run away from that.”
Max looked at Michelle’s sleeping form on the couch and nodded absently. “Maybe we should get that little lady in bed.”
Isabel’s gaze lingered on him a moment before turning to look at her daughter. “Yes.”
But Isabel’s thoughts would stay with Max for a long time afterwards.

<center>-----------------------------------------</center>

Three days later

“I get it! I get it!”
Michelle’s voice was gradually hushed as she disappeared into the kitchen to answer the phone. Isabel straightened the bed cover and turned to walk into the kitchen, wondering who was on the phone. “Who is it, baby?”
Blonde pigtails twirled in the air as Michelle turned her head towards her mother’s voice. “It’s Michwael.”
Michelle handed over the receiver to Isabel. “Michael, hi.”
“Oh, hi Iz,” came the surprised answer. “Where did Michelle go?”
Isabel smiled and ruffled her daughter’s hair lightly, careful not to destroy the hairdo. “She probably just forgot to say goodbye.”
She could hear the mutual smile in his voice as he answered, “Okay. Isabel, I need to talk to you about something.”
Isabel frowned at the sudden shift in tone in Michael’s voice and sensing that it was something serious she turned to Michelle and told her to go to her room and play.
“Michael, what is it? Is everything okay?”
Michael laughed lightly. “You know, Iz, you always say that Max is worrying too much, but you are pretty good at it yourself.”
“Michael,” Isabel warned, “I can hear that something is wrong. Has something happened? Is it Maria? Did you guys have a fight?”
“Everything’s okay,” Michael assured.
“How are things between you and Maria by the way?” It just struck her that she hadn’t had the time to investigate further on the newly blossoming relationship between Michael and Maria. There had been so many other things happening. Max being at the top of that list. Him taking pills, becoming more like a stranger to her. Meeting Liz. It had been a rough couple of days.
“Good, good,” Michael said quickly. “But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about.”
Isabel suppressed a smile. It was so typical Michael not to give any details about his love life. He never had, and she wondered if he ever would.
“What is it?”
“Max.”
That one syllable caused her spine to straighten and her hand to tighten around the receiver. “What about Max?”
“Well…”


”To be more precise, it’s about Liz…”

“Liz? Is that you?”
“Max? Hi!”
Liz’s face lightened up as she looked into those amber eyes, which had been visiting her nightly dreams.

”What’s going on, Michael? Talk to me.”
“I’m not so sure I should tell you this, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot and I have to talk to someone about it…”
“Michael, what is it?”


“What are you doing here?” they spoke in unison. A fresh tint of red spread over their cheeks and Liz ducked her head slightly, a smile teasing the corners of her mouth.
“You go first.”
Her eyes lifted at his soft offer and got trapped in his eyes. The tingle in her chest intensified, she could feel her cheeks getting hotter, but her eyes never left his. She didn’t want to.

”Liz has a heart condition.”

“I…I…” And then reality sneaked back into her mind, making her look over her shoulder at the building towering up behind her. The hospital. The happiness at seeing him again was quickly being replaced with fear. Fear that he would realize why she was standing outside a hospital. Her mind was immediately put into high gear. She never analyzed about why she decided to lie to him. She just did.
“I just got some pills for my mother. She has…uhm…migraine.”

”What…”
“She had a heart transplant, Izzie. She was really sick. According to Maria, she nearly died.”
“Oh my God…”


“That’s too bad.” The concern flashed in his eyes and the truth about what it meant hit Liz hard. If he had the ability to be concerned about someone he hadn’t even met, what would he feel if he found out the truth about her? It made her even more determined not to let him know. She didn’t want to burden him with it. Rigidly, she denied the sting of pain she felt in her heart to have to lie to him about such a big part of her life. Something that had formed her into the person she was today.
“Yeah,” Liz nodded, feeling nausea rising in her throat. She forced herself to smile in an effort to suppress her bad conscious. “What are you doing here?”
He was looking at her so intently that she could feel the heat rise in her cheeks. She throat was dry and she tried to swallow.

”It’s just so bizarre. Tess’ heart is in someone like Liz. Liz is a living proof of what Tess’ heart meant for someone.”
“Michael, stop that please.”
“And now Max is seeing someone like-“
“He isn’t seeing her, Michael.”
“Didn’t you see how they were acting around each other? If they aren’t seeing each other yet, they will be soon.”


“Max?”
He jumped and his eyes regained focus. “Oh, so-sorry. What did you say?”
She couldn’t help but laugh at this. “What are you doing here?”
“Teacher’s conference,” he gave her a goofy grin and she shook her head, the smile on her face getting wider and the bad feelings were pushed further away from her mind.
She raised an eye-brow. “Really? Where’s the rest of the group?”
“Oh, they are in there,” Max pointed at the café further down the street.
“Shouldn’t you be with them too?”
Max answered her with a guilty half-smile. “I needed a break.”

”We have to do something.”
“That’s what I thought. What should we do?”
“I don’t know… We just… This isn’t going to work out well, Michael. He can’t be with someone unhealthy. What if she… God, Michael, what if she dies?”
“No… I don’t think so. After the transplant she is supposed to be able to lead the same life as a healthy person. At least that’s what Maria told me.”
“He’s gonna worry…”
“But then there was on the other hand this thing with the…uhm…”
“What thing?”


“Aha,” Liz nodded in understanding, a twinkle of laughter in her eyes.
She watched the sun play in the dark curls of his hair, casting playful shadows over his beautiful face, and watched the way he shifted restlessly from one foot to the other. As if he were nervous.
“I was actually planning on getting something to eat,” Max said, his eyes moving from a place over her head to a tree on his right. “You wanna…” He cleared his throat. “You want to join me?”
Liz felt her heart jolt at this and she smiled. Her voice was soft, warmed by subdued joy, when she answered, “I’d like that.”
He looked surprised and she was transfixed by his eyes as they twinkled with something new, making his eyes shift into different shades of amber and dark gold. “Yeah?”
“Yes,” she confirmed.

”Atrial fib…”
“Atrial fibrillation?”
“That’s it. She was in the hospital.”
“Oh my…When was this?”
“Uhm… The day after she joined us at dinner.”
“Max was right.”
“What?”
“He talked to Liz on the phone and he thought that she sounded tired. That something was off. Michael, we have to stop this. This will kill Max. He cannot survive this again. He is too weak.”
“Wait, Iz. Maybe…maybe we shouldn’t butt in-“
“Michael, you remember how he was the first months after Tess’ death. He still hasn’t recuperated. He is still suffering. I think he’s even getting worse. He’s taking pills, Michael.”
“What kind of pills?”
“Sleeping pills.”
“A lot of people take sleeping pills.”
“He’s taking too many.”
“Okay… So what you’re saying is that we have to stop Max from ever meeting Liz again?”
“Yes.”
“Preventing him from ever falling in love again?”
“That’s not what I’m saying. I want him to fall in love again. He shouldn’t be doomed to spend the rest of his life alone.”
“Then what are you saying?”
“I just don’t want him to fall in love with Liz.”
“What if Liz is what he needs?”
“Michael, I’m not doing this to be mean. I’m doing this for him. I miss my brother. I can’t stand by and watch him die. He can still fall in love. Liz doesn’t have to be his big love.”
There was hesitation in the silence before Michael spoke. Because he had seen Max and Liz together and what he had seen spoke a different truth than what Isabel was saying. He was certain that Isabel had seen it too. But it all came down to the sanity of his best friend. And complications were probably the last thing Max needed right now. It was, however, with some reluctance that Michael replied, “Okay.



The young woman basked in the feeling of the warm sun on her face as she walked along the sidewalk. It was a beautiful day and her mind was already swimming with thoughts about how she should spend the day. Her eyes moved between the shopping windows, absent-mindedly drifting over the products being displayed. Her steps faltered when her eyes fell onto the couple at the other side of a window, sitting in the café she was just passing. A warm smile spread over her face and the feeling of joyful freedom deepened. She watched the woman laugh and fumble with the napkin on the table, her dark long hair spilling down her tanned shoulders. Her eyes fell on the handsome man sitting opposite the woman. Her pace slowed another degree when she watched how he was looking at her. With awe. She had never seen a man look at a woman like that before. Like he was feeling blessed just to be in her presence.

The young woman pushed a red strand of hair out of her eye and smiled to herself as her pace quickened again. But the couple remained in her thoughts for some while. Ah, to be in love on a day like this.


TBC...

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

Elizabeth, my dear b-reader, has edited the next chapter, so I'll post that soon. I'm just giving you all the chance to read this first :wink:

Take care!!

*hugs*

Jo

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Postby max and liz believer » Tue Jan 20, 2004 4:37 pm

Hi! :D

Since I'll be flying to Australia in *counting on fingers* 20 days to commence my veterinarian studies, my mission right now is to post some chapters for you to read in my absence :roll:

Elizabeth has been terrific at editing several chapters for me. So I have some chapters to post for you now. I will leave a couple of days in between though, but at least there won't be months between new updates :roll:

Thank you, from the deepest parts of my heart, for just the act of leaving feedback and most importantly for what you say. I can never thank you enough...


Without further ado, here's the next chapter...



Chapter 16


“I promise you, that’s what I think about.”
Liz laughed in response. “I say flower and you think about bread?”
“Yes. I thought there was free speech in this game.”
Liz held up her hands in front of her in resignation. “Okay. Alright. Bread it is. Then I say cookies.”
“Milk.”
“Is there a story to why you think about bread when you hear flower?”
This caused Max’s face to break into a big grin and he answered with mock sternness, “No, there isn’t.”
Liz pouted playfully, “You must be a stern teacher.”
“I try.”
“Okay… you said milk, then I say cow.”
“You know what? Your replies are so predictable.”
“I don’t know if I should be offended or not,” Liz said, traces of laughter still lighting parts of her face.
“No, no, you shouldn’t be offended,” Max hurried to apologize. In his hurry he automatically placed his hand over Liz’s, which was resting on the table. They both froze as his palm made contact with the back of her hand. Liz’s breath caught in her throat and her whole body tensed, unable to do anything else as the sparks of attraction raced through her body. Max stared at their hands, feeling the warmth of her hand seep into his cold bones, thaw his frozen blood and put his heart into marathon. Afraid of what he was feeling, he pulled the hand away from hers.

“Uhm…”
Liz couldn’t help but feel disappointed that he had pulled away. She thought that the insecurity thudding inside of her was the worst, until she saw the fear in his eyes.
“Max?”
She was quickly reminded of the day at the mall, of their first turbulent meeting. She had seen the same fear in his eyes then, only a thousand times more intense.
“Wh-what I mean is… you say what is expected of you.” Max forced himself to remain calm, feeling the beads of cold sweat on his forehead. He had to face his demons later. He could feel Liz’s eyes searching his face. Her confusion and insecurity were so thick around him that he could have touched them. He kept his eyes cast downwards, intently watching the tablecloth. He could feel that she was fighting with herself. Should she investigate further why he had reacted the way he had or should she just pretend like nothing had happened?
“What do you mean?”
Relief flooded Max. She would let it pass. She wouldn’t probe him, interrogate him like Isabel. He looked up and met her eyes. She was looking at him with earnest interest and it gave him the strength he needed to not get up and run away.
“Have you ever lived outside the bounds of what is predictable?”
“Well, sometimes I wear black instead of red,” she teased.
“Really?” Max asked, leaning forward with an exaggerated expression of surprise.
“Yep,” Liz answered proudly. She leaned back in the chair, never once breaking eye contact. “What about you? How unpredictable are you?”
“Not very,” Max confessed with a sheepish smile.

“I figured.”
“But wouldn’t it be fun to just not think sometime? Not plan ahead.”
Liz frowned and bit her lip in a general expression of disagreement. “Nah… I don’t know. I like to have a plan.”
“How often can you say that you stick to your plan? Plans work with grocery shopping, but too much planning in real life never works.”
“Then tell me, Max Evans,” Liz leaned forward in her chair, resting her chin in her hands as she challenged him with her eyes, “What is so bad about predictability? Isn’t that what creates a feeling of safety? That you know what’s going to happen.”
“But you can never really know that. The real world doesn’t follow your planned list. You might want to control it through the list, but you can’t.”
“You have to have a plan,” Liz said, frowning at the resistance he was putting up.
“Why?”
“Because…because…” The subject was starting to unnerve her. It was the planning, the predictability that she based her whole existence on. It was planning about the future that had kept her alive all those years in the hospital bed. She had always associated unpredictability with something negative. Her heart disease was unpredictable. She never knew when it was going to stop beating. In an effort to win over her heart disease, win over the unpredictability, she had constructed a world where everything could be foreseen, where she could follow her plans and her routines. It was something she had longed for in the hospitals. It was something she correlated with a normal life.
“How did we get away from the game?”

He could see that the subject made her feel uneasy. He couldn’t help but wonder why. Why did a subject of unpredictability make her fidget with her fingers and put a frown on the forehead of that beautiful face of hers?
“Let’s change the rules then,” Max suggested.
He could see the relief smooth out the frown and he relaxed.
Liz picked up her cup of hot chocolate and took a sip. “What do you suggest?”
“That you try very hard to be unpredictable in your answers.”
Liz rolled her eyes. “But that will destroy the whole purpose of the game. The funny thing about this game is that you say the first thing that comes to mind.”
“I don’t think you are doing that anyway,” Max said, his voice bearing a hint of tentativeness of maybe hurting her feelings. But she just put the cup down and looked at him, a fascinated smile playing at the corners of her mouth.
“You don’t?”

Maria always said that. They had spent an endless amount of hours playing that game and Maria always accused Liz for censuring what came out of her mouth. But Maria had known Liz since they were small. To hear the same words that often came out of her long-time friend be spoken by someone she hardly knew caught her interest.
“I think that you are too afraid to let people know what you really think.” He didn’t know why he was being so brutally honest with her. He never talked to someone like this. But there was something about her that made him want to get under those socially acceptable layers and get to know the real Liz Parker.
She took a deep breath and made a decision. For once, she was going to try and remove the constant restrains she had on herself.
“Okay, let’s try it.”
The surprise on his face almost made her laugh. He hadn’t predicted her to say that. “You want me to…?” She nodded and watched his eyes warm. “Okay. Uhm… Sunshine.”
“Life.”
“Death.”
“Hospitals.”
“Surgery.”
“Pain.”
“We are getting really dark here,” Max teased, memorizing her every word.
“You wanted honesty,” Liz smiled. “It’s your turn.”
“Sleep.”

<center>-----------------------------------------------------------</center>

Max held the door open while he glanced at his watch.
“Do you have to leave?”
He turned to look at her, once again feeling blessed to be in her beauty. “Another ten minutes…”
She smiled and he thought that it was genuine happiness in her eyes. “You want to go for a walk? The park is really beautiful.”
How could he resist? “Sure.”

They started walking down the street, immersed in a comfortable silence. It was Liz who decided to break it. “So…”
“So…”
“Which day of the week is your favorite?”
He looked at her sideways. “Is this another game?”
She ducked her head, a cute blush rising on her cheeks. “Sort of.” She looked up at him, seeing the amused twinkle in his eyes. “Maria and I had a lot of time to kill when we were young.”
He thought that was an odd thing to say. “Why’s that?”
She paled slightly at his question as the magnitude of what she had implied had her hurling back to the reality she had so easily forgot in his presence. “Well, you know. Relatives coming over to visit and bad weather and stuff. You have to find something to do.”
“Right.” He searched her profile. Why did he get the feeling that she was lying to him? But more importantly, why did that bother him? He barely knew her anyway.
“It’s Friday.”
She looked up at him. “Why?”
“I don’t know… Maybe it’s because I’m at my sister’s then…”
“Michelle,” Liz said knowingly.
“Yes.”
“She really means a lot to you, doesn’t she?”
“She means the world to me,” Max answered. There was a brutal honesty in his statement that made her eyes linger on his face. But he turned it to the other side, hiding his face from her. She swallowed and decided to let it drop.

“It’s Sundays for me.”
He turned to look at her again. “Why?”
“Silence. No one else is home. It’s only me and my cat and a good book.”
For not the first time, Max was reminded of how different she was from him. He hated to be alone. He hated the silence. The silence spoke of too many things that he didn’t want to hear. But there were times when he needed to be alone too, times when he couldn’t escape himself.
“What’s so great about silence?”
“I don’t know,” she contemplated his question, “I’ve never really thought about it. I just… I don’t have to…” listen to the beeping of heart machines, listen to an endless line of questions about her wellbeing, assure everyone that she was fine, “There is just so much noise in the world. Cell phones. Cars. Air conditioning. It’s just nice to hear the silence sometimes.”
“Maybe…”
“What’s your worst day?”
“Tuesdays.”
“Why?”
“Because I’m alone.”
Liz looked at him, embarrassed that she had just preached about the holiness of being alone and it was what he hated the most. He gave her a lopsided smile, which eased away the sharp edges of the embarrassment.
“Why don’t you like it?”
The answer to that question was easy. He didn’t like himself.
But he couldn’t tell her that. “I guess I’m just a people person. I like being around people.”
Somehow, Liz had difficulty believing that. He didn’t strike her as a people-oriented person at all. At dinner at his sister’s, in a large group of people, he was quiet and introverted. He had talked a lot with her, but when they had gathered around the table he didn’t often take part in the conversations. He was an observer. Just like her.

“What’s your worst day?” he asked, feeling that he needed to put a stop to something. Feeling like he had been caught.
“Mondays.”
“Predictable,” he teased.
“Yeah, I know,” Liz giggled. “But that’s the truth. It’s the first day after the weekends. It’s just boring, you know.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Liz was thinking about all the questions she was being bombarded with on Monday morning. If she had eaten too much, eaten too little, exercised too much, exercised too little, slept too much, slept too little, taken her pills when she had been alone, what she had been doing… Max was thinking about what a relief Mondays were. When he was able to go back to work and escape his own thoughts. It was then that he could immerse himself into the children’s questions and correcting their homework. The day he could hide from himself.
“What is your favorite date?” Liz question broke him out of his reverie, but not far enough for him to collect himself before he answered.
“The 20th of June.”
“Why?”
“That’s the day my son was born.”

Even though they didn’t have any physical contact, they weren’t touching in any way, he could feel her tense beside her. It was like the air molecules between them froze, creating an ice between them. He didn’t dare to look at her. He didn’t want to see the shock he knew he would find on her face.
“I…I didn’t know you had a son,” she said, her voice barely a whisper.
“He…” Max swallowed. “He died. He was killed in a car accident two years ago.”
He could feel the familiar tightness in his chest, the tears pricking the back of his throat and he was already fighting to regain control over himself. He didn’t know why he had told her that. He didn’t tell any strangers a thing like that. But Liz wasn’t a stranger, not anymore.

He jumped when he felt her hand brush against his. He turned his blurry vision to look down at his hand and felt, more than saw, her hand lace with his.
“Max, I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
Her heart ached when she watched him fight to control his feelings and she squeezed his hand harder. She desperately wanted to remove that agony from his posture, and she was already kicking herself for starting this stupid game.
He nodded and took a deep breath, his whole body shaking from the magnitude of it. He needed to get himself together. He couldn’t break down here. He hadn’t cried over Tess and his son since their funeral and he wasn’t going to start now. Unconsciously, he squeezed Liz’s hand harder to get the strength he needed to straighten his back and push the memories back to the hidden caverns of his mind.
“This was a stupid game,” Liz said.

“No…” His voice sounded throaty to his ears and he cleared his throat. “You would’ve found out sooner or later…”
Even though he could barely think beyond the pain the memories of his child’s death had brought, he was glad that she knew. For some reason, he wanted her to know.
“Are you okay?” she asked worriedly.
He forced himself to smile. “I will be.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a child…”
“Can we please not talk about it?” he asked softly, his voice breaking with the emotions which were yet to be hushed inside of him.
She bit her lip. “Of course.”
They started walking again, now in silence, but Max’s grip on her hand didn’t lessen and their fingers remained entwined. She didn’t want to let go either.


TBC...

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Postby max and liz believer » Sat Jan 24, 2004 1:56 pm

Hi!

It’s Saturday, and I only had to work a few hours today. Yay! So, I decided to post another chapter for you. :D


Lys Hi Lys! Thank you so much for the feedback. Well, Michel and Isabel working together to keep Liz and Max apart does sound dangerous, but I just wanted to point out that Michael became somewhat hesitant there at the end when Isabel was spilling all her plans over him. And I have a feeling that the powers working between Max and Liz are stronger than the ones Isabel is trying to gather to separate them… :wink:

Rebecca Hi Rebecca! I’m so happy to see you here again :D I think your “babble”, as you called it :wink:, is filled with very wise things. Liz should tell Max about her life and her condition, but fear is a powerful thing. And just the thought of losing him is scaring her. She thinks he will walk away if he knew. So, she’s more or less digging herself a hole. A really deep hole. Because the more she lies, the more likely it is that Max indeed will walk away, but she can’t stop herself from lying out of fear that he will walk away. I think you know what I’m getting at…

RebeccaBehr wrote: Good luck with your studies :wink:... how long will you be gone? if you don't mind me asking of course :lol: (just want to know if we'll have to wait long to have new chapters if you can't post once there :D)


In answer to your question, I’m gonna be gone for five years lol. But don’t worry, I’ll fix an internet connection in Australia, I just don’t know how much time that will elapse before I get it and also, I will probably be busy with settling in the first time there… So... But I will update – eventually :wink: - and it will definitely not take five years before you see me again… :D

Eve Eve, I think that you are the only one to see Isabel’s point of view and I thank you for that. I take that as if I’m able to make Isabel not only into a credible person, but a person who has realistic reasons to act the way she does. She’s only trying to protect her brother and she is determined to do more or less anything to reached that “goal”. I don’t know if Max would be able to survive something happening to Liz either, but the forces of love is often not something we can control… :)

Alien614 He is starting to trust her, even though he might not be conscious of it yet… Thank you so much for the fb!! :D

Courtney Courtney, hi! Are you new? *Josephin desperately tries to remember if she has seen “Ellie Adair” before* If you are, welcome to this fic!! And thank you so much for the fb!! :D Yes, it would be so much easier if everything could get out into the open fast, wouldn’t it? But then the fic would be over really quickly as well… :wink:

Elizabeth Yep, the trip to Australia is soon not only a distant dream, but reality. I’m really nervous and I’m worrying about all sorts of things. That my bag will get lost on the airport and that I won’t know where to go in the airport. Up till now my main worries are with the travel in itself. I haven’t had the time to think about (or worrying about :wink:) what will happen when I actually get to Australia lol. But that’s just fine with me. I hate being nervous and worrying :D. Thank you so much for editing, hun!! :D

Lelle Max is in a lot of pain. He still hasn’t let go of his past, so his life is pretty dark. There are instances when I really want to take away his pain too (since I’m the author I have the power to do so), but his character would sort of lose its credibility then, wouldn’t it? And we like it angsty, right? :wink:

frenchkiss70 You are so incredibly right. Max and Liz both crave for normalcy. But since Liz’s problem is a problem that will always be there, she can’t make it go away, she is more adamant to keep it a secret. Because she wants to be normal. And Max, well Max… We know how Max gets around Liz. He just can’t help himself :D. He wants Liz to know about him and he doesn’t want to be in the darkness that has been his life the last years any longer. His drive is to live again, and that means that he has to share his past even though it hurts. Liz has just recently been granted a new chance at life and her drive is to not reveal her old life so that she can start all over again with her new heart. And be normal. So they are working with different goals in mind… Unconsciously that is. Everything happens on the unconscious level. Josephin loves the unconscious :lol:

Em Hi girlfriend! So happy to have you stop by :D Last chapter was your favorite one? Wow, thank you so much. :D :D

AngelOhana Hi! Are you new here on this fic? Because I’m trying (fruitlessly) to remember you, but I can’t. But if you’re new; welcome!! I’m truly happy that you’re here and honored that you chose to read my update instead of writing your Spanish paper lol. I’m really sorry to hear that your brother died. That must’ve been really hard for your family and for you. It really touches me that you thought of that conversation with your dad when you read the last chapter, because that means that just maybe I wrote a realistic chapter :). Thank you!!

Nicole Hi Nicole!! :D :D I’m so happy to see you here again!! Thank you soo much for the feedback! I’ve missed your fb! :D :D

mareli Wow… :oops: You are making me blush. Thank you so much for the fb!! :D

cherie Thank you so much for the feedback. I’m glad that the part touched you. Thank you!

Melysa Thank you!!! :D :D



Okay, all happy people! The show must go on…



Chapter 17


Kevin heard the front door open and turned down the sound on the TV. “Hi honey, how did the-" His question came to a screeching halt as he turned his head and his eyes landed on the distraught face of his girlfriend. “What happened?”
He had already risen from the couch and was now practically running towards her. Liz held up her hands in front of him in tired resignation. “Please Kevin. I just need to be alone.”
“What did the doctor say?”
“Everything’s fine.”
Kevin took in her upset appearance, her red eyes and ruffled hair. “Everything is not fine. What did he say?”
Liz tried to step around him, but his body stopped her and her irritation flared to life. “Everything does not revolve around my heart condition, Kevin. Now, could you please leave me alone?!”
“I can see that something is wrong.”
“Yes, Kevin,” Liz snapped. “Something is wrong. You are standing in my way.”
“Is your body rejecting your hear-“
Liz let out a cry of frustration and pushed pass Kevin to the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind her and locking it.

“Liz…?” There was a rustle as Kevin tried to open the door. When he was met with resistance his voice raised. “Liz! Why have you locked the door?!” He pulled in the door, trying to get it to open, as Liz lowered herself on the bed, burying her face in her hands.
“Open the door!!”
She picked up the phone on the nightstand and dialed Maria’s number.
“Hi, this is Maria,” Maria answered.
“Hi Maria,” Liz whispered.
“Liz, what’s wrong?” came the immediate worried response.
“Open the door!!”
“No!!” Liz cried.
“What’s going on? Was that Kevin?”
“I really need to talk to you,” Liz said, the first tear sliding down her cheek.
“Babe, what is it? Has this something to do with the meeting with the doctor today?”
“I need Max’s phone number. Do you have it?”
“What? Max Evans?”
“Yes,” Liz brushed a couple of tears of her cheek. “He’s not listed in the phone book. Can you ask Michael for it?”

“Liz, you are not making much sense. What happened?”
The banging on the door ended and Kevin’s voice eased into a coaxing tone. “Liz, honey. Please open the door. You are scaring me. Please open the door.”
“I met Max today.”
“You did?”
“He was on a teachers’ conference in Albuquerque. We had lunch together and then we-“
”Whoa, whoa, wait. You met Max?”
“Yes.”
“Okay, okay. So you had lunch together, then what?”
“We were playing these stupid games-“
“Liz!! Open the door!!”
“God, that man just can’t take a hint,” Maria murmured.
Liz closed her eyes and willed her frustration to remain in control.
“You know when I say one word and the other person says the first thing that comes to mind and then I say-“
“Yeah yeah, I know what game you mean,” Maria said impatiently. “So what happened?”
“Well, we had a really good time. I love talking to him. He is so interesting.”
“Uh huh,” Maria said, trying to hide her impatience. Something had happened and Liz was dangerously close to sidestepping the most important detail.

“It was like he could see straight through me. It was like he could tell that I was lying-“
“Wait. You were lying? Why were you lying?”
“But I had a sense he wasn’t being completely honest either,” Liz continued, not hearing a word of what Maria was saying.
“What were you lying about?”
“Liz!! Open this door! Now!!”
“God, he is starting to freak me out,” Maria cried out.
“Try living with him,” Liz said, tired sarcasm dripping from her voice.
“Liz?” Maria had never heard Liz talk about Kevin like that. Talking about Kevin like that was Maria’s job. Liz’s role was to defend him. When did they change roles?
“I just really need to talk to him. I blew it, Maria.”
“Who? Max? Liz, you are really confusing me here.”
“Sorry, I’m sorry,” Liz sobbed, brushing the now freely flowing tears away from her cheeks.
“Liz… please, calm down.” Maria didn’t want a repeat of what had happened the last time Liz had got upset.

“He had a son, Maria,” Liz sobbed.
“He had…what?!” Maria exclaimed.
“And he died. In a car accident. Two years ago.”
“He had a son?”
“Everything just fell into place. Why he has this sadness around him. The despair I could see in his eyes…”
“There was despair in his eyes?”
“Even when he smiles, he isn’t truly happy. And he was married. When I held his hand-“
“You held his hand?!”
“I could feel his wedding band. Where is his wife, Maria? Is she still alive? Have you met her? Have Michael said anything about it?”
“Wife… No, no, Michael hasn’t said a word. But I’m going to make him talk, I promise you, Liz.”
“What if she died in the same accident as his son? How does somebody survive that? He lost his wife and son at the same time…”
“Maybe they just couldn’t get over the death of their son. A thing like that can tear any relationship up. Maybe they just divorced.”
”Why is he still wearing his wedding ring?”

“I don’t know…”
“He hasn’t let go of her yet.”
“She might just be away on a business trip or something, that’s why we haven’t heard anything about her.”
“Shouldn’t someone have mentioned her? Don’t you find that a little odd?”
“Liz!!”
“Kevin, I’m fine! Leave me alone!!”
“Maybe you should go out there and assure him that you are okay,” Maria said.
“I’m crying, Maria. He’ll never leave me alone if he sees me like this.”
“No, no, you’re right.”
“He was really upset, Ria. His son’s death is still so raw to him.”
“And now you need to call him and make sure he’s okay.”
“Yes.”
“Are you sure that’s so wise? He probably wants to be left alone right now.”
“But I-“
“It will only ease your mind to call. It will not help him-“
“He needs to know that he’s not alone.”
“Liz, calm down and think about this logically. Think about the man you have shut out of your bedroom. Max probably wants to be left alone right now, just like you want to stay away from questions from Kevin.”

Liz knew that Maria was right. Max needed to be alone right now. She really didn’t want to make matters worse by calling him. But at the same time she needed to know that he was okay. She needed to know if there was something she could do. After all, it had been she who had brought the memories back to life again.
“Could you get me his number anyway?”
“Sure,” Maria said, “Just don’t call him right away.”
“I won’t.”
“Have you told Kevin?”
Liz frowned. “Told him what?”
“About Max.”
”It’s not like I’m cheating on him.”
”It isn’t?”
”What are you saying, Maria?”
“I think you should think about this, Liz. Think about what Kevin really means to you. Isn’t it more merciful to tell him the truth?”

“What is the truth?” Liz didn’t understand what Maria was hinting at.
“That you don’t love him anymore. You shouldn’t be together with someone you don’t love. Have you told Max about Kevin?”
“I don’t-“
“Liz, I really think you should sort this out. This could get complicated quickly. You’re playing with fire here. You know how jealous Kevin gets. After everything he’s done for you it’s only fair that he is told the truth.”
“I have to go,” Liz said, her voice distant.
“Okay,” Maria said softly, “Take care of yourself.”
“I will,” Liz replied. “Thanks Maria.”
“I’ll call you later. Bye, hun.”
“Bye.”

Liz hung up the phone and curled up on the bed, pulling her knees up to her chest, and she let her tears have free reign. She was crying for him and everything he had lost. Her sobs echoed in the room and Kevin’s worried voice drifted through the wooden door occasionally. But she didn’t hear. She was lost in her own thoughts. She was so confused. So utterly confused. Wasn’t life supposed to be easier after the transplant?

<center>----------------------------------------------------------</center>

”He is over here...”
His legs felt loaded with lead as he followed after the man. Voices echoed around him, melting into each other, filling his eardrums with suggestions, news, and information.
“I need you to identify him.”

“Your son is dead. He didn’t suffer, he died immediately.”
”Did you know that your wife has signed papers stating that she didn’t want to be kept on life support?”
”You’re gonna be a daddy, Max. I’m pregnant.”
”Your son is dead.”
”Your wife is...brain dead.”
”There are many people waiting for heart transplants...”
”She will never wake up, Max.”
”We’ll get through this. They’re gonna be okay.”
“During operation, she suffered cardiac arrest, and she was...dead for eleven minutes.”
“She will never wake up.”
“Are you going to cut my wife open and take away her heart?”
“Pregnant.”
“Your son is dead.”
“She will never wake up.”
“Never wake up.”
“Dead.”
“Brain dead.”
“Pregnant.”
“Dead.”
”Never wake up.”
“Never.”
“Never.”


The man pulled away the cover. Max could feel the nausea rise in his throat.

“Never wake up.”
“Dead.”
“Dead.”


“Is it your son?”

It wasn’t his son. It was, but still wasn’t. It was only a body. A tarnished body, cleaned up, freed from blood at best ability. He reached out with his hand, wanting to touch him, but still hesitating.

Then blue eyes stared into his and the breath froze in his throat. “Daddy…”


Max bolted upwards in the bed, violently wrenched out of the dream. His heart was racing in his chest as he looked around himself frantically, trying to remove the image of his dead son’s accusing eyes. His hand fumbled beside him on the night table to find the switch to the lamp.

The light blinded him. His breathing was coming in short gasps and his T-shirt was clinging to his sweaty body. Tears were running down his cheeks as he reached for the phone. His first instinct was to call somebody. To talk to someone. He didn’t think about the fact that it was three in the morning. He didn’t think much about why he didn’t dial the number to his sister that he knew by heart, but instead dialed the number on the piece of paper laying by the phone. Maybe his unconscious knew that what he needed right now was not to talk about what he had dreamt, but to forget it by talking about other things.
“Hello?”

He jumped at the foreign voice at the other end of the line, the voice catapulting him into a complete waking state.
“Liz…” was all his voice managed to say. He could feel the dull thudding of a headache behind his skull bone. His hand, holding the receiver, was shaking violently.
“Who are you?” The voice was hostile, but the need to speak to her won over the fear of hanging up.
“Liz… is Liz there?”
“Kevin, who is it?”
“Liz…” he breathed at the sound of her voice in the background.
“Listen. I don’t know who you are, but it’s three in the morning and some people are actually sleeping.”
“Please… It’s Max. I need to speak to Liz.”
“Max. I know that name-“
“Is it Max? Kevin, give me the phone.”
“What is he doing, calling you in the middle of the night?”
“We’ll talk about this later. I need to speak to him.”
“It’s in the middle of the night, Liz.”
“I need to speak to him.”
There was a rustle and suddenly her voice was in his ear. Warm and concerned, but real and alive.

“Max…”
“Liz, I’m- I’m sorry to be calling you this late…”
“No no, that’s okay. Has something happened?”
“I just needed to talk to someone. Can we talk?”
“Of course. Hang on. I’m just gonna go into another room.”
“Thank you.” He could already feel himself calming down, but the guilt his son’s face had roused alive was still as raw as an open wound.
“Okay, I’m out of the room.”
“I’m so sorry, Liz. I know that we don’t know each other that well-“
“Max, really, it’s alright. You need someone to talk to. I’m glad you chose me.”
He closed his eyes and laid his head back on the pillow. “You are?”
“Yes.”
“You wanna talk about it?”
Her voice was so warm, so inviting and comforting. “I’m having troubles sleeping. Nightmares.”
“About your son?”

He swallowed back the taste of bile in his mouth and nodded. She took his silence as an answer and continued.
“Could you tell me about him?”
“My son?”
“Yes, what was his name?”
“Joshua.”
“Joshua. That’s beautiful. What was he like?”
Max’s hand relaxed around the receiver and his breathing began to return to normal as his thoughts started to turn from the dark place they had visited to bright memories.
“He was a little shy, but you could see his mind working. He observed everything around him. Took it all in. He could be a real rug rat when he was at home, but he was an angel among others. He was two when Michelle was born. He was so excited to get a new playmate and he was a little disappointed when all she did was eat, sleep and cry. But he took care of her. He would protect her against anything.”

“What was his favorite thing to do?”
“I don’t know if it was his favorite thing, but I know that he loved it. On Sunday mornings we all had the day off. Josh always woke up early, and he would come into our bedroom and crawl down under the covers between Tess and me. We would lay there until noon. Just talking, reading stories, having breakfast in the bed.”
“That sounds perfect.”
“Yeah…”
He could feel her hesitation at the other end of the line. “Liz…”
“Yes?”
“Could you tell me something? About you?”

He could hear the smile in her voice when she answered, but he could also hear the nervousness. “Okay. There isn’t really anything interesting to know about my life.”
“I don’t believe that… Please, Liz. I need to hear something. I want to know more about you.”
“Well… When I was about five my mom and dad took Maria and I to Disney World in Florida. I had dreamt about it since I saw my first Disney movie at the age of three. It was like a dream come true. I was a very sick child, so I couldn’t do everything there, but what I couldn’t do, Maria did for me and then she told me about it. I made her describe every little detail, every feeling. It was the best day of my life.”
“I always wanted to go to Disney world when I was little. I never had the opportunity though.”
“Well, Max. Let’s make a deal.”
A small smile tugged at his mouth at this. “What?”
“Sometime I’ll take you to Disney World. We’ll go there together. Deal?”
Max felt his heart fill with something. Something that had been missing for a long time. “Deal.”

“Great,” she said softly and before she could stop herself she yawned.
“I’m keeping you up,” Max said.
“That’s okay,” Liz said, but was instantly assailed with another yawn.
“You should go back to sleep. Tell…uhm…Kevin that I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, about Kevin. He’s…”
”Don’t say anything,” Max said. “Let’s take that another time.”
There was a pause filled with hesitation.
“Okay.”
“Thank you, Liz.”
The words were filled with such meaning and emphasis that Liz’s heart swelled and Max could hear the tears in her voice when she spoke, “I’m glad you called me.”
“So am I.”
“I hope you can go back to sleep.”
“I’ll try…”
“Good night, Max.”
“Good night, Liz.”

When Max hung up the phone he realized what that new feeling filling him was. Hope. Even though they had only talked about something as simple as Disney World, he believed that she was going to fulfill her promise. It gave him hope. But more importantly, it gave him a reason to wake up the next day. So, it wasn’t with sleeping pills Max went to sleep that night. It was with Liz Parker’s soft warm voice floating in his mind.


TBC... (soon, I promise :roll:)


Take care everyone!!

*hugs*

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Postby max and liz believer » Wed Jan 28, 2004 4:58 pm

Hi you beautiful people!!

I have another update for you, and I wanted to thank you personally, but I'm just so tired. I'm sorry. It was either update without personal thank yous today or (maybe) update tomorrow with personal thank yous. :roll:

I chose to update today :wink:

Just know that your every word means so much to me. I'm so happy that you take the time to leave me feedback! And I'm so excited to see old readers returning (Pegleg! Tea! Itzstacie! Hiii!!) and to read the words of the readers who are always here.

I love you guys!! Thank you so much for the feedback!! Now, let's move on to the story, shall we?



Chapter 18


The first thing on her mind when she woke up was Max. Languidly, she stretched her tense limps and glanced at the clock on the nightstand. Ten a.m. She felt a weight on her legs and knew that she needed to get up. Kitty stretched her paws out in front of her and simultaneously yawned.
“Morning Kitty. You hungry?”
She smiled as she got a meow in response. Liz stifled a yawn and sat up in the bed. Looking to her right she noticed that Kevin’s side of the bed was unmade. She frowned. That was unusual. Kevin was a habit-person. He had some very strict routines about everything and he close to never changed them. He always made his side of the bed, even if she was still sleeping at the other side.

Liz left the warmth of the bed and stood up, pulling a robe over her body.
“Come here, honey, let’s find you something to eat.”
The cat was already out of the bedroom, strutting into the kitchen.
Liz followed slowly, her mind filled with thoughts. Kevin must’ve been pretty upset about Max calling her in the middle of the night. She was already mentally preparing herself for hearing about it when he got back from work. But her main concern was about Max. She felt guilty, because it was probably because of her stupid question yesterday that he’d had that terrible nightmare about his son. She was still a little surprised that he had actually called her. There were so many else he could call. His sister, Michael, his parents… He probably had some other friends as well, or relatives. Why he had called her, someone he had only known for a couple of days, was beyond her.

She took out a can of cat food from the refrigerator and lifted up Kitty’s plate on the counter. She was just about to get a spoon when the phone rang. Kitty meowed in protest when Liz moved away to answer the phone.
“Hang on just a sec, Kitty,” Liz murmured, lifting the phone. “Hello?”
“Hi, this is Isabel Whitman. Liz, is that you?”
“Isabel, hi,” Liz smiled. “This is a surprise.”
“How are you, Liz?”
“I’m fine, thank you.”
“Good, good,” Isabel said absently. “Liz, I need to talk to you about something.”
“Okay.”
”It’s about my brother.”
Liz breath caught in her throat and she slowly lowered herself on one of the bar stools. “Has something happened?”
“No, no, everything’s fine,” Isabel hurried to reassure. “It’s just… There are some things you don’t know about Max and his life.”
“You mean his son?”

There was a pause and Liz realized that she had taken Isabel by surprise. “Yes… How did you… Has he told you?”
“He told me about his son getting killed in a car accident two years ago.”
”He did?” The surprise in her voice couldn’t be mistaken.
“What happened to his wife, Isabel?”
“She died in the same accident.”
“Oh my God,” Liz closed her eyes at the sudden pang of pain in her heart for everything Max had gone through.
“This is why I need you to stay away from him.”
Liz stopped breathing. Had Isabel just said what she thought she had? “What did you say?”
“Michael told me about your heart condition.”
“He…How did he know that?”
“I’m guessing from Maria. That’s not the point. The point is that Max can’t afford getting hurt again. He won’t survive it.”
”Why do you think I will hurt him?”
“Maybe not you personally, but you being sick will-“
”I’m not sick anymore, Isabel. I had a transplant and now I’m fine…”
“Michael told me you suffered artial fibrillation. That doesn’t sound completely healthy to me.”
“I think you should let Max make his own decisions. He’s a grown man. He can decide for himself if he wants to see me or not.”

“Have you told him? About your heart?”
“There was never the right-“
”You haven’t.”
Liz swallowed. “No.”
“Then how do you expect him to make decisions on his own if he is not given all the information?”
Liz sighed. “It’s complicated…”
”And Max really doesn’t need any complications right now. He has a lot of problems. Problems he’s not telling you about. He doesn’t need someone to worry about right now. He needs to focus on getting himself better.”
“I’m gonna talk to him-“
”No, Liz. I’ll talk to him. If you really like my brother, then you leave him alone. I’m not saying that you should never see him again or that something isn’t possible in the future, just not right now. Please, Liz. Stay away.”
”If I hadn’t suffered from a bad heart, would you still have asked me to do this?” Liz asked.
There was a pause and then came Isabel’s honest answer, which pushed the knife inserted in Liz’s heart even further in. “No, I probably wouldn’t have.”
Liz closed her eyes and whispered, forcing the inner torture to stay out of her voice, “Okay. I’ll stay away. But if he comes to me, I can’t shut him out. I won’t contact him, but I will not stop him from contacting me.”
”Liz…”
Liz didn’t want to hurt Max, that was the last thing she ever wanted to do, but she couldn’t deny Max the right to contact her. Isabel might be able to make that decision for her brother, but Liz couldn’t take that right away from him. She knew far too well how horrible it was to be taken away the ability to make your own decisions and she didn’t wish that on even her worse enemy.

Her voice was firm when she interrupted Isabel’s plea. “Isabel, I understand that you only want to protect your brother, but this is as far as I will go. Maybe he needs someone who doesn’t know his past to talk to when things get rough and I want to be there if he wants to talk.”
”You didn’t see him when they died, Liz!” Isabel’s voice rose with desperate frustration. “You didn’t see what happened to him! I see it everyday. How he is slowly dying. His soul is deteriorating. I don’t recognize my brother anymore. Since you have this condition, you are more likely to have something happening to you, and if he gets attached to you, I don’t think he’ll get through it again. He won’t be able to go through a thing like that again.”
“I will meet you half-way, Isabel. But I can’t just abandon him. I couldn’t do that to him.”
There was a frustrated silence, which stretched so long that Liz began to wonder if Isabel had hung up.
“Just don’t contact him,” Isabel finally said.
“Okay,” Liz agreed.
“I’m sorry about this, Liz. I’m just looking out for my brother.”
Liz could feel tears stinging her eyes. “I know, Isabel. Goodbye.”
There was a hint of guilt in her voice when Isabel answered, “Goodbye.”
Liz hung up the phone and took a deep breath, trying to deny what she was feeling. She stroked Kitty’s back and got a purr in response. Wiping a stray tear from her cheek, Liz rose and took the spoon with the intention to give Kitty some food.

The spoon clattered against the counter as her hand dropped it and she sank down to her knees, sobs shaking her body.

<center>--------------------------------------------------------</center>

Kevin unlocked the door and stepped inside. He frowned when he found all the lights turned off. “Liz?”
His voice floated without response into the seemingly empty house. “Liz? Are you home?”
The cat walked out of the room and he was close to trip over her. “Damn it, Kitty. Get out of the way!” He pushed the cat out of the way with his foot and switched on the light in the living room. “Liz?”
Leaving the living room behind, he walked into the bedroom. Liz was sitting on the bed, the only light coming from the laptop perched on her lap.
“Why don’t you answer when I call for you?” Kevin asked. “And why are you sitting here in the dark? Is everything okay?”
Liz turned to look at him for a few seconds, before returning her attention to the computer screen. “I like the darkness.”
”What kind of answer is that?” Kevin snorted and turned on the lamp. Liz bit her lower lip, to stop herself from saying anything and returned her attention to what she was writing.
“I need to talk to you.”
Her eyes still focused on the screen, she asked, “What about?”
“Max.”

She lifted her head and stared into the darkness. “I’m sorry about that, Kevin. He needed someone to talk to.”
”Doesn’t he have any other ‘friends’?” Kevin asked sarcastically.
“He wanted to talk to me,” Liz said evenly. “You don’t have to bother about him anymore anyway.”
Kevin raised his eyebrows. “Really? Why’s that?”
Liz turned to look at him. “I guess we just don’t fit together.”
“What does that mean?” Kevin looked at her angrily. “Did you kiss him?”
Liz sighed. “No, Kevin. We didn’t kiss. Do you really think I would cheat on you?”
The silence that followed hurt more than any word ever could do. He raked his hand through his hair and walked up to the bed. When he spoke, Liz could hear that he wasn’t completely sincere. “It’s not that I don’t trust you, Liz. It’s him I don’t trust.”
Liz pressed the save-button on the computer and met his eyes. “You don’t know him, Kevin. You haven’t even met him. How can you just make an assumption about him like that? Besides, don’t you trust me enough to keep him away? Don’t you trust my judge of character? Do you really think that I would let him drive me home if I hadn’t thought he was a good man? If I had suspected that he would in some way hurt me?”
“That’s not what I said,” Kevin objected.
“No, that’s not what you said, Kevin. But that’s what you meant.”
“Don’t put words in my mouth, Liz.”
Liz sighed, closed the computer screen and put it away. “I’m so tired of this.”
”Of what, Liz?”
“All we do is fight. All the time.”

“Maybe, if you wouldn’t snap at me every time I ask you how you’re feeling, we wouldn’t always end up in a fight.”
“Oh, and you are just Mr. Perfect?”
“You take everything so damn personally.”
“What?”
“I’m trying to take care of you-“
“That’s the problem right there,” Liz said through clenched teeth. “I don’t need you to take care of me, Kevin. I have my parents for that. I’m so sick and tired of you trying to tell me what’s best for me. I’m so tired of having to answer the question ‘How are you?’ three times a day. I’m tired of you telling me to take my pills. I don’t want you to keep track of how much I eat or if I eat at all. Sometime, I just want to eat a bag of chips, without being scolded about it like a child. I’m fine, Kevin. I’ve been healthy for two years now. How many times do I have to tell you that?”
“You can’t blame me for wanting the best for you.”
”It’s the same discussion all over again,” Liz sighed. “I ask you not to fuss about me and you just tell me that you want to look out for me and you don’t even try to change. I’ve changed, Kevin, and you can’t understand that. I’m not the same person as I was before. I can do more things now. I don’t need your help any longer. I need you to be there for me with your support and your presence. I don’t need you to follow me around acting like a policeman and telling me every time I do something wrong. Do you know how exhausting that is?”

Kevin looked at her sourly. “So, what are you saying?”
Liz met his eyes, and without blinking she told him the truth. The truth she had denied him for several years, a truth she had even denied herself. “I don’t love you anymore, Kevin. The person who once loved you is gone. I’ve changed and so have you. We have grown apart. I cannot go on living like this. I need space.”
Kevin looked at her in disbelief. “Are you breaking up with me?”
Liz paused and reached out to take his hand. “Yes, Kev. I am. I don’t care how we’ll do this. We bought this house together, but if you want to live here, I’ll leave. If you want to leave, I’ll stay. It doesn’t matter.”
“You can’t be serious…”
“I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, Kevin. It just isn’t working.”
“You can’t live alone,” Kevin protested. “What if something happens-“
”God!” Liz exclaimed and bolted up from the bed. “Kevin, I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. But if it would give you some sense of peace, I’ll ask Maria if I can move in with her-“
”She has a new boyfriend, what if she wants to move in with hi-“
”Kevin,” Liz interrupted him. “That isn’t your problem. I’ll work it out.”
“You can’t do this…”

“Please don’t make this any harder. This is the right thing to do. You might not see it now, but it is, Kevin. I don’t love you. I don’t want to continue with this pretend game any longer.”
“I love you, Liz. Please don’t do this,” Kevin pleaded. “I’ll change. I promise.”
Liz closed her eyes, shaking her head slightly. “I know, Kevin. I just don’t think it would make any difference. I want to continue to be your friend. I love you like a friend, Kevin, I’m just not in love with you anymore. And I don’t think I’ll ever fall in love with you again.”
“Did you have an affair with him?” Kevin asked, his eyes darkening with jealousy.
“With Max? You got to be kidding me,” Liz said tiredly. “This is just…” Liz lifted her hands in resignation and walked pass him.
His hand on her arm stopped her. “Answer me, Liz!”
Liz twirled around, irritation flaring in her eyes. “Of course I didn’t have an affair with Max. This has nothing to do with Max. Don’t try to push our problems over on someone I just met.”
“I want to meet him.”
“You’re acting like a maniac, did you know that?”
“I want to meet the man who talked you into doing this. He’s gonna leave you, Liz. Your disease will scare him away. He can’t take care of you.”
“I don’t want him to,” Liz said, wrenching open the door to the wardrobe and starting to pull out clothes.

“No man wants a sick woman. He’s gonna leave, mark my words!”
”You don’t know the first thing about him, and why do you assume that I will get together with him?”
”It doesn’t matter if it’s him or someone else. Only I can take care of you the way you need to be taken care of.”
“Oh really,” Liz said sarcastically. “Have you heard a word of what I’ve been saying?”
“I… What are you doing?” Kevin watched Liz as she pulled out a suitcase and started to throw her clothes in it.
“I’m staying over at Maria’s tonight.”
“Liz, listen. This is ridiculous. Think about what you’re doing. We have been together for five years. Doesn’t that count for anything?”
Liz snapped the locks closed on the suitcase and straightened up, meeting his eyes. “Of course it counts for something. You have helped me a lot, Kevin and you have meant a lot to me. You still do. This isn’t the end, Kevin. I still want to be your friend. We just don’t work as lovers anymore.”
“But Liz…” Kevin stared at her with a mixture of fear and confusion. Fear of losing her, confusion of what was happening right in front of him.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Kevin.” Liz put her arms around him and gave him a hug. “Goodbye.”
“Liz…”
“We’ll talk tomorrow,” Liz promised and she was out of the door, leaving a stunned and confused ex-boyfriend behind.


TBC...

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Postby max and liz believer » Mon Feb 02, 2004 1:43 pm

Hellooo! :D

How are you? Here it's cold and the weather has decision problems. One minute it rains, the next it snows, then the sun shines and so on. So, I'm staying inside :roll:

I hope you're doing great! :D


LttlMrmade – I’m so happy every time you stop by :D And yeah, Isabel might not know that this is a happy ending (I don’t let her in on a lot of things :wink:), but this certainly is a happy ending story. I couldn’t write anything but. Thank you so much for the feedback!!! :D :D

Elizabeth – I can understand if the previous chapter left you with mixed feelings. That seems to be the general consensus in the feedback as well. Liz is, finally, breaking free from Kevin and she might not have done that if she hadn’t met Max. Max was sort of the catapult that made her spring into action. Then we have Isabel… :wink: Well... Thank you so much for editing!! I know I probably say that a lot, but I can’t thank you enough :D *hugs*

Rebecca – Let’s say that Kevin really was a pain in the @ss. His problem, though, was that he couldn’t see outside of his own head. He couldn’t see that he was making mistakes too. So he goes for the classical when he slowly realizes that Liz is going to leave him. He tries to hurt her, so that – using some whacky logic – she’ll come crawling back to him. Or something. I don’t know, I don’t understand him lol. Thank you so much for the feedback!! :D :D

Alien614 – “I hope max contacts liz”, you said. Hmmm… Is the other way around okay too? :lol: Thank you!! :D :D

marteloise – Hi! You don’t know how happy it makes me to see that you are still reading. I understand the lurking tendencies, but it’s always such a relief almost when a reader stops by with a comment to let the author know that they are still reading. So thank you!! :D You asked a question, “But does he have the phone number of her and Kevin's house or her cell?” Max has the phone number to Liz’s and Kevin’s house, where only Kevin is at the moment. But don’t worry, things are taking a turn in a completely other direction so that isn’t really going to be a problem…

cherie – No, I don’t think Max will be all that pleased with what Isabel has done either. I’ve not written about that particular confrontation yet, but it’s inevitable and will come… It might not be pretty… :? Thank you so much for the feedback!!! :D :D

roswelluver – Yep :D Thank you!! :D

Courtney – I can at least comfort you with that Isabel won’t be getting in the way any time soon. Read on to find out :wink: Thank you so much for the feedback!!! :D :D

Eve

Eve wrote: That's not what I want for Liz, to have a boyfriend bc she has the heart of
his beloved wife: just sounds wrong to me!!!!


That sounds very wrong to me too. I cringe just at the thought of it. So I won’t put either you or myself through that. I might scratch the surface, because I have a tendency to go angsty, but the happy ending is still there – in the horizon. Thank you so much for your insightful feedback!! :D :D

Kendra - Halloj! I’m so ecstatic :lol: that you liked Liz in the previous chapter. The goal is to make the “healthy” Liz independent and strong, in comparison with the “unhealthy” Liz who was forced to be dependent upon others. So I’m so happy that you feel that way, because then maybe I’m doing what I’m intending to do :wink: Thank you, girlfriend!! :D

Tea – “If Liz and Max would just talk…” They might do that sooner than you think :D Thank you so much for the feedback!! :D :D

Nicole – Hi Nicole! You’re probably the only one here feeling sorry for Kevin. Of course, you’re right. It’s not like he’s evil or something. He’s just not Liz’s…soulmate. Thank you so much for the feedback!! :D :D

frenchkiss70 – You are so right in your feedback. What Isabel is doing is double standard. She tells Liz to be honest with Max, when she herself goes behind his back. And don’t worry, Liz will not suffer much from the separation from Kevin. She has been separated from him a long time – in her heart. This final thing was merely for the record. Thank you so much for the feedback!!! :D :D :D

Michelle

Michelle wrote: Can she possibly understand what it would mean to Liz that Isabel doesn't accept her for her brother because of her heart condition? I mean, it's terrible. It's like saying "you're not good enough, you have a defect." I know that's not what she's saying and that's not her reasons behind her actions, but in the long run it's the same thing.


Have you been looking through my papers? Lol. You read my mind. That’s exactly what Isabel is saying. I’ve actually written about that. But it’s somewhere in chapter 23 or sth, so it’s a long way to that. But you are a very perceptive reader :D Thank you so much for the feedback!!! :D :D

mareli – Liz certainly needs a friend now, or more importantly a place to stay. But things might not work out the way you’ve imagined. Read on to find out :roll: Thank you so much for the feedback!!! :D :D

emma1126 – Yes, in some way you can say that it really wasn’t Liz’s day. But at least she stood up for what she’s feeling and stopped pretending and lying to Kevin. Thank you so much for the feedback!!! :D :D

Scottie

Scottie wrote: I should get out more! I had no idea that this little gem of a fic was waiting here to be read!


Yes, where have you been, Scottie? Lol. I cannot thank you enough for your beautiful feedback! You don’t know how happy it makes me that this story has been able to touch you like that. It’s quite amazing to see you describe my story like that, and to know that it reflects what I want to say. Which means I’ve succeeded in telling you this story realistically enough. I’m touched, honored and feel so special by your feedback. Thank you!!! And welcome! :D

snoopie13 – I just love your avatar. Can we say A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E. So cute. :D I’m glad Liz left Kevin too :roll:, he was only holding her back… Even if he never intended to. Thank you so much for the feedback!! :D :D



Many hugs and kisses to you all. Love you guys!!

Here's the next part.




Chapter 19


Liz knocked on the door again, even though she by now had realized that there was nobody at home. She hauled up her cell phone from her pocket and dialed Maria’s cell phone number. After a few signals, she heard Maria’s voice. “Hi. This is Maria. I’m unable to take your call right now. Please leave a message after the beep and I’ll get back to you.”
“Maria, this is Liz. I’m standing outside of your apartment right now. Where are you? Please call me when you get this message.”
Liz pressed the disconnect button and looked up at dark clouds. “Great,” she mumbled to herself. She dialed the number to her parents. Two minutes later she hung up. No answer there either.
“It’s just typical that tonight when I need somewhere to stay, everybody has gone missing…”
The cold wind got caught in her clothes and she shivered. If it was going to rain, it wouldn’t be nice to be outside. Taking up her wallet and counting the humble amount of money, she only had one option. She wouldn’t return to Kevin and she couldn’t afford to rent a room. On top of that it just hit her that her parents were away on a second honeymoon. Her parents had been close to canceling the trip just because Liz had ended up in the hospital, but Liz had talked them out of it. They had planned that trip for too long.

Seeing that she really didn’t have any friends other than Maria, there was only one thing she could do. Call a taxi and go to Max and hope that he was home and would help her. She knew that she had promised Isabel not to contact Max in any way, but looking up at the menacing clouds, she didn’t exactly want to stay out here when the rain drops started to fall. She still didn’t have Max’s number so she just had to take the chance that he was home. She waited another couple of minutes for Maria to call, but when she felt the first cold raindrops hit her forehead she called for a taxi.

<center>------------------------------------------------</center>

Max was in the middle of correcting the last homework, when there was a knock at the door. He looked up at the clock on the wall. Noticing the late hour, he frowned. Who could that be? He put the pen down and rose from his chair, feeling the tension in his shoulders from the many hours spent sitting in the same position. He walked through the poorly lit house and looked out the window in the kitchen when he passed, where he could usually see when a person was standing on the doorstep. But it was too dark and the rain was pouring down, obscuring his vision.
“Who is it?” he asked through the door.
“It’s Liz.”
To say that he was surprised would be an understatement. He quickly turned the key and opened the door. The rain was gushing down on her, her hair hanging in stripes around her pale face. “Liz?”
“Hi...” she smiled in embarrassment. “I’m so sorry to come here like this at this hour-“
“Come on inside,” he interrupted. “You are all wet.”
She hesitated. “I don’t know how to ask you this, but I got here in a taxi and I don’t have enough money to pay for it. Could you…?”

Max looked at her in confusion, wondering what had brought her here at ten p.m., without any money. “Of course. Come inside and I’ll go and pay him.”
Max took his wallet and ran out into the rain. He was gone for a couple of seconds before he came running back.
“We got to stop meeting like this,” he said breathlessly, his hair already wet from the short trip.
“Like what?” she wondered.
Max looked up at the rain and raised a hinting eyebrow.
Liz ducked her head in embarrassment and smiled softly. “Right. It hardly rains in New Mexico, but we really manage to meet the times it does…”
“Let me get you a towel, you’re freezing.”
“It’s okay,” Liz protested. She really didn’t want to be of any trouble.
“Maybe you want to change your clothes,” Max glanced at her suitcase. It surely looked like she had planned on staying away for some time. What was she doing here? “Let me show you the bathroom.”
“Thanks. I’m really sorry for barging in here like this…”
“That’s okay,” Max smiled. Even though her showing up was a little out of the blue, he was glad that she had shown up.
Max stopped in front of one of the doors and pushed it open, switching on the lamp. “There you go.”
“Thank you,” Liz said with gratitude, thanking him for so much more than just showing her the way to the bathroom.
“You’re welcome,” Max smiled.
Liz returned his smile and stepped into the bathroom, closing the door behind her.


Five minutes later Liz stepped out of the bathroom. She followed the only light in the house into the kitchen. Max was standing by the oven. When he heard her steps behind him he turned around.
“I hope you like hot chocolate.”
“You really didn’t have to,” Liz said, sitting down on a chair. She was exhausted. Max put down a cup in front of her with steaming hot chocolate and reading the fatigue on her face he said, “You look tired.”
She took up the cup with both her hands, letting the warmth warm her cold fingers.
“It’s been a long day,” she answered.
“What happened?” Max searched her face. She truly was beautiful. Even with her hair damp and tangled from the rain and her eyes slightly red, she was the most beautiful person he’d ever seen.
She took a deep breath. “I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I was at Maria’s, but she wasn’t there and she isn’t answering her phone. My parents are out of town and… I’m really sorry for disturbing you; I just didn’t know where to go. I had no money to rent a-“
“Hey,” Max said softly, putting his hand on her shaking arm. “It’s okay. I don’t mind having you here.”
She looked up at him hopefully, feeling the warmth of his hand spread up her arm. “It’s stupid really. I broke up with my boyfriend.”
Max nodded understandingly, not quite comprehending the silent explosions of joy going off inside of him.

“We had this fight and I didn’t want to stay with him tonight. I was so angry with him that I didn’t call Maria to see if she was home before I stormed out of the house. I had nowhere else to turn. I could go and stay at a hotel if you want, if you could…could lend me some money?” She looked utterly ashamed to ask him of such a thing and she hurried to add, “I will pay you back as soon as I can, I promise.”
Max shook his head. “No, please stay here. I have a guestroom you can borrow. You shouldn’t have to go out in that rain anymore. If it’s okay with you it’s fine with me to have you here.”
“Are you sure?” There was disbelief written all over her face.
“If you trust me enough to come to me in the middle of the night, someone you hardly know, I’d be honored to have you staying over,” Max said, with a hint of tease in his voice.
“I don’t know how to thank you-“
Max held up his hand to silence her. His soft, gentle and caring eyes made her warm inside. “Don’t think about it.” He rose from his place opposite her. “You want something to eat?”
“I don’t-“
”Liz,” Max admonished, “Are you hungry?”
“Yes,” she confessed.
“Are sandwiches okay?”
“Perfect,” she smiled.
“Sandwiches coming up,” Max said and started to rummage around in the kitchen.
Liz tucked her legs under her and sipped from her hot chocolate, occasionally asking if he wanted her to help. But her help was refused every time.

Twenty minutes later Liz had eaten three sandwiches and was very contented. She couldn’t believe what a great time she had with Max. They were talking and laughing with such ease as if they had known each other their whole lives. It was nearly midnight when they finally decided to go to bed. Max made the bed in the guestroom and took her on a quick tour of the second floor.

“Here’s a blanket if you get cold,” Max said, pulling down a blanket from the top of the wardrobe.
“Thanks,” Liz smiled.
“I’m just down the hall if you need anything.” Max nervously shifted from one foot to the next and Liz just found him so cute standing there. Watching the soft light from the lamp on the night stand dance over his face, she was convinced that she had never seen a more beautiful man. His face was beautifully crafted, like a detailed sculpture. His features were strong and masculine, but the long, thick and dark lashes and the warm beautiful eyes gave softness to his face which caused butterflies to flutter in her stomach.
“Thank you, Max,” Liz said softly.
“Good night, Liz,” Max whispered.
“Good night, Max,” Liz answered and watched him soundlessly close the door behind him.

She looked around the room and took a deep contented breath. What had looked like a catastrophe just a couple of hours ago had certainly turned out wonderfully. She looked around the room, finding it very hospitable. Old simple wooden furniture and white walls and curtains, and she couldn’t help but wonder if it had been Max’s wife who had decorated. It felt a little weird to be in Max’s house. Not because it was Max’s, but because he had lived here with his wife and child. They had been a family. Now the house was dark and there was a feeling of abandonment over it. Even though the guestroom was clean and there weren’t layers and layers of dust everywhere, the atmosphere spoke of things unspoken. Max probably never walked in these rooms, except for cleaning. They were just there, not functional rooms, but just existing. A reminder of his old life, his old home. Liz found that horribly sad. It was like time was standing still here. Like it was neither moving forward or backwards, but not really waiting for something either. It had just stopped. And it felt like she was intruding.

She pulled the comforter aside and curled down beneath the cold sheets. She thought about what Isabel had talked to her about. She wondered if Isabel had already told Max about her heart condition. Somehow, she didn’t think so, because Max hadn’t acted any different from how he used to act. She knew that she needed to tell him. Not because Isabel had told her so, but because she couldn’t continue lying to Max. She had only known him a couple of days, but it felt like he was already a big part of her life. As if he would come to mean a lot to her in the future. She didn’t know in which way yet, but she couldn’t deny the attraction she felt towards him. She couldn’t deny how her legs felt weak every time he looked at her with those amber eyes. She couldn’t deny the flutters of her heart or the butterflies in her stomach. She had been in love with Kevin at the beginning, but it had never felt anything like this. With Kevin it had been more of a comforting feeling, more predictable. It was like the feeling had grown on her. She had been attracted to Kevin too, but she had certainly not felt like there had been stars exploding inside of her every time he just happened to touch her. She hadn’t had any real feelings for Kevin until they had known each other a couple of months. She knew that he’d had feelings for her from the beginning, but that hadn’t been the case for her. It was like she had grown into the role of being a girlfriend and then decided that she was in love. Not the other way around.

Not like with Max.

She felt free now. She had told Kevin the truth about what she felt and if he was just given some time to think about it, she hoped that he would come to the same conclusion that she had. They were better off apart. Today was really the first day of her new life and some part of her didn’t want to start her new life by getting involved with someone new, but another part of her craved for real feelings. For true feelings. The ones she was sure Max could offer her if they just allowed it.

What made her insecure was Max. What was he feeling? Maybe he didn’t have the same feelings at all. He probably enjoyed her company, but it was a pretty vast distance from enjoying someone’s company and being in love. Feeling the presence of his late wife and son around her, it was even clearer to her that she was intruding, and that Max wasn’t ready to let go of the past just yet.

And how would he react when she told him about her heart?

<center>------------------------------------------------------------</center>

Agonized cries woke her up.

It took her a couple of seconds to orient herself in the darkness, but gradually her memory returned to her and she remembered where she was. Suddenly awake she sat up in the bed, listening to hear if the cries had only been a part of her dream world or of the real world. Then she heard it again. Lonely, hollow, eerie screams of despair. She only hesitated the fraction of a second before swinging her legs over the side of the bed and crossing the floor to the door. Quietly, she opened the door and looked down the dark hall.

His room was at the other end of the hall, but the door was left slightly ajar, letting the sounds of his tortured sleep drift out. She started to walk down the hall, coming to a stop outside his door. His cries had been reduced to whimpers, which felt like daggers through her heart. She hesitated, wondering if she should intrude and try to comfort him or just go back to her room and block him out. The decision was easy.

Soundlessly, she slowly pushed the door open and walked inside. The light from a full moon cast its white light over the floor, illuminating his figure in the bed. She noticed the bottle on the night stand and two pills lying outside and she briefly wondered what medication he was on.
“Max?” she whispered.
There was no response. As she got closer she could see him shivering in the darkness. The comforter had been thrown to the side, revealing his bare chest. His head was thrown to the side and he was clutching a pillow with a tightly clenched fist. Quietly, she rounded the bed.
“Max?” she repeated, a little louder.
“No, no… dead, isn’t dead,” Max murmured.
Liz bit her lip and her heart throbbed with sympathy. Her whole soul ached for the horrors he had been forced to go through. Carefully, she climbed onto the bed on her knees to get closer to him and tentatively reached out to touch him. When her hand contacted with his forehead, his upper body bolted upwards, almost knocking her over. She almost cried out in fright, but her cry was drowned when she met the haunted look in his eyes. He was staring straight at her for a second before his hands moved to cradle her face.
“Tess,” he whispered. His eyes were boring into hers. “Don’t die. Please don’t leave me.”
With tears streaming down her face, Liz fought to get any words out, “Max, it’s me. Liz.”
There was a flash of recognition in his eyes, before they darkened with confusion. “Liz?”
“Yes,” she whispered.

He took a deep shaky breath, his hands sliding down her cheeks, loosening their desperate hold. His unconscious touch sent shivers down her spine and caused goose bumps to spread over her skin. She pushed the feelings aside to concentrate on him.
“Max…”
He was taking deep breath with his head hanging low and his hands coming to a rest on her shoulders.
He spoke as if he was trying to convince himself of something that was too unbelievable to comprehend. “She’s dead… She’s dead…”
“Is there anything I can do?” Liz asked. She didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know what was happening. She wanted to help him, but she didn’t know what would help and what would hurt.
He looked up at her, with fresh tears rolling down his cheeks. Her breath hitched in her throat and she raised her hand to his face. There was a pause before her hand contacted with his cheek and she gently brushed his tears away with her thumb.
“It’s okay. I’m here,” she whispered.
He nodded, his eyes refusing to let go of hers, while the tears continued to fall down his cheeks.

“I don’t know what’s happening,” his voice broke and his head fell forward against her chest. She put her arms around him and cradled him close. Her hand ran soothingly through his hair, while his tears fell against the bare skin above the cleavage of her tank top. She whispered comforting words of nothing and everything, while his grip tightened around her waist and the damp surface of his cheek pressed against her collarbone. Holding him close, she rocked him, until he fell asleep. With her cheeks feeling dry and inelastic from her own tears she laid back on the bed, Max not loosening his grip on her even in his sleep. And with his head resting on her chest and his arm around her waist, Liz fell asleep.


TBC...

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Postby max and liz believer » Sat Feb 07, 2004 3:57 pm

Hiya!

I’m stopping by one last time before I leave for Australia, to give you chapter 20. But once I’ve established an internet connection in Australia, there’ll be no difference for you, only for me. I’ll still be updating and everything. It might be a little longer between the updates though, since I’ll be commencing my studies, but I’ll still be here, that’s for sure :D


mareli – Yes, well… Isabel wouldn’t be happy if she found out – probably not. Things might get more complicated between Max and Liz now. But they might as well get easier. Who knows? :wink: Thank you so much for the feedback!!! :D :D :D

frenchkiss70 – Reading your feedback, I realize that I’ve managed to convey the feelings I wanted to convey in the previous chapter. It was suppose to be a quiet moment. The calm before the storm, I guess. Even though it wasn’t really a transition chapter when it comes to what happened, it was a transition chapter when it comes to feelings. They were both “landing”. Existing in some transition-stage, just calmly talking to each other about ordinary things. And Liz decided to tell Max the truth, but you’ll have to wait for that. It comes first in chapter 21… :roll: Thank you so much for the feedback!!! :D :D :D

LttleMrmade – You’re right. The longer Liz waits to tell Max the truth about her heart condition, the harder it’s gonna get to actually tell him. She’s already having difficulties, because she already cares so much for him and is afraid to lose him. Thank you so much for the feedback!!! :D :D :D

snoopie13 - Thank you!!! :D :D

Eve – Yep, this encounter probably will bring Liz more problems. When it comes to Isabel. She isn’t exactly improving her already weak relationship to Isabel. But when it comes to Liz’s relationship to Max (whatever that might be :wink:), it might just be a good thing that Liz paid him a visit :roll: Thank you so much for the feedback!!! :D :D :D

FloridaGirl – Hi! Oh, I think you have left feedback before. Or maybe that was on one of my other fics. But anyway, I’m happy that you left feedback now. I’m so happy that you’re enjoying my fic. :D :D I understand your lurker tendencies, but you don’t know how happy it makes me when you defies those tendencies and leaves feedback :D Thank you so much!!! :D :D

Michelle – Lol! Yes, you certainly are everywhere! :D Thank you so much for the feedback!!! :D :D :D

roswelluver – Thank you!!! :D :D :D

Tea – Yes, this night certainly brought Max and Liz’s relationship to another dimension. But if it’s a positive dimension or not, that’s to be seen… :wink: Thank you so much for your feedback!!! :D :D

Em – Yes, maybe we should fear what Isabel will do. But then, Isabel doesn’t really has anyone else on her side. And when Max finds out what Isabel did (namely calling Liz and preventing her from seeing Max), he won’t be too happy with her either… Thank you so much for your feedback, hun!! :D :D

AnnMore – Hi!! Welcome!! I’m so happy that you are reading and enjoying my fics. Thank you so much for the feedback!! And don’t worry about any mistakes, I got the message loud and clear :D :D Thank you!! :D :D

Alien614 – Yes, I guess we are all more or less hoping that Liz will tell Max about her condition. But she’s scared. Now she has at least decided to tell Max. That’s some progress :roll: Thank you sooo much for the feedback!! :D :D

Elle – Hi!! Welcome to this fic!! And thank you sooo incredibly much for the feedback!! :D :D :D

Nicole – Hi girlfriend! You already see dark clouds hovering above them? Yeah… I guess in some ways you should trust that intuition. Thank you so much for the feedaback!! :D :D :D

Stef – Hi Stef! How’s life? Have you celebrated a lot now since you got in? Just take your time reading and don’t stress :) *hugs*

cherie – Thank you so much for the feedback!!! :D :D :D

Behrsgirl77 – Hi! Welcome to this fic, and since you are new to the board too, welcome to this board as well!!! I’m sure you’ll have a great time here! Thank you sooo much for the feedback!! I’m so happy that you’re enjoying my story!! :D :D

Lelle – Hiya! Lelle, it’s perfectly okay if you forget to leave feedback. Of course, I want you to leave feedback :wink:, but I understand those lurker tendencies and sometimes you just forgets to post feedback because something else comes in between or something… :wink: I know what you mean about being surprised that Liz went to Max, even though she doesn’t know him that well. You said that you were a private person and couldn’t do that yourself, and I probably wouldn’t do it either. But Liz was in a precarious situation, so to speak, and she didn’t have anywhere else to go. And there’s a very subtle and stable trust between Max and Liz…already. Thank you so much for the feedback, Lelle. To be honest, I missed it last time :)

Nan – You’re right. It’s actually a bit strange that Max is dreaming about Tess and Liz is right there, comforting him about it. We never saw that one coming during the show, did we? Lol. Thank you so much for the feedback, girl!!! :D :D :D

Scottie – You’re going to the Zeke Lerner Bowlathon? Well, you are already there right now. Oh, I so envy you. You just have to tell us about it when you return!! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave feedback before you left. Thank you!!! :D :D :D



Thank you so much everyone for the support and encouragement, and your beautiful words!!! :D :D :D


Chapter 20


Liz awoke to the sound of her cell phone ringing.
Still groggy from sleep, she reached out to answer the phone. But instead of finding the familiar nightstand under her hand, her hand only contacted with softness. Slowly opening her eyes, she lifted her head slightly to look at the unfamiliar room. The cell rang again and she turned around to search for it. It was in her purse right by the bed, where she had put it last night. Her hand froze when it wrapped around the hard plastic.

She was back in the guestroom. How did she end up here? She quite vividly remembered falling asleep in Max’s bedroom, the experience of him breaking apart in her arms was hard too forget. She fumbled to find the connect button and put it to her ear. “Hello?”
“Liz! Where are you? I called you the second I got your message, but I only get the busy tone on your home phone.”
”I’m…uhm…I’m at Max’s.”
”You’re what?!”
Liz had to put some distance between the phone and her ear otherwise Maria would’ve caused some serious damage to her ear drum.
“Maria-“
”Did you spend the night there?”
“Yes, but it’s not what-“
”Oh my God! Girl, when I said that you would break up with Kevin and just mildly insinuated that you would see some more of Max, I didn’t mean that you would jump in the sack with-“
”Maria, that’s not what hap-“
”What about Kevin, Liz? Are you really Liz? Because this doesn’t sound at all like the Liz I know. She’s should be at home right now, where she has been the last couple of years, just writing on her laptop, cuddling with Kitty the cat-“

”Listen to me,” Liz begged.
“No Liz, you listen to me. This is serious. Are you having an affair with him? You are! You must be, since you can’t have-“
“I broke up with Kevin.”
”You did what?! Okay…” there was the sound of a loud exhalation “Okay, I think I need to sit down. This is all so… I can’t believe this… What’s happening to you, Liz? You know, I talked to Michael about this and he thought that you had changed. At first I didn’t want to believe him. I was like, you don’t even know what you’re talking about, I’ve known this girl for ages and you’ve known her for like five minutes, but now…now he’s actually starting to make some sense to me. And I’m not so sure that I like this change.”
Liz rubbed her forehead tiredly. She loved Maria of all her heart, but sometimes she was just too much. Especially this early in the morning. “You wanted me to break up with Kevin.”
“Yes, I did. But I didn’t ask you to go and sleep with the first next thing that came along-“
”Maria!” Liz cried, her upset tone putting an end to Maria’s babble. Maria could rant all she wanted, but now she was going too far. “Don’t you know me at all? I would never ever do a thing like that.”
”I’m sorry, Liz. But if that’s the case, what are you doing at Max’s place? You barely know the guy.”
”I know enough to trust him.”

Maria sighed. “Yeah, yeah, whatever. Could you just tell me what you are doing there?”
”I could’ve told you that ages ago if you just hadn’t jumped to so many conclusions.”
”Well, you can’t blame a girl for flipping out.”
Liz frowned. “Uhm…What?”
“Yeah well, uhm, it doesn’t matter anyway. So spill!”
”Like I said, I broke up with Kevin, but he didn’t get it-“
”Typical,” Maria murmured.
Ignoring her comment, Liz continued, “So I wanted to give him some time alone to think. I thought it would be convenient to stay over at your place-“
”But I wasn’t home,” Maria filled in, the mystery becoming clearer by the second.
“I was already outside your door and it was starting to rain…”
”And your parents are away this weekend.”
”Right.”

There was a rustle outside the door and Liz turned to see Max leaning against the doorframe. His was wearing soft pants and a T-shirt and his hair was wet.
“Maria, hang on a second.”
”Is he there?”
“Just hang on a sec.” Liz put her hand over the speaker and smiled at Max.
“Good morning,” she said.
“Good morning,” he answered and nodded towards the cell phone. “Maria?”
He looked really relaxed, Liz noted. Like he didn’t have a worry in the world. As if he hadn’t woken up screaming in the middle of the night. The light floated in from the bedroom window, outlining the contours of his upper body through the white thin shirt. The image from last night of his naked chest, the smooth skin and the well-defined muscles flashed through her mind and she blushed. He looked at her with amused confusion and she realized that he had asked her something. She looked at the phone in her hand like she had never seen it before and stuttered, “Yes. Yes.”
“There is some breakfast downstairs when you have…”
“Thanks,” Liz smiled and just as silently as he had appeared, he was gone.
She stared at the empty doorway, her mind filling with unanswered questions, when the irritated voice of her best friend trying to re-establish contact reached her. She quickly put the phone to the ear, “Sorry Maria.”

“What happened? Did you just have a serious make-out session or something?”
Liz sighed and rolled her eyes. “For the last time, Maria, there is nothing going on between Max and me.”
Maria snorted. “I’ll believe that when I see it.”
Liz smiled despite herself.
“So,” Maria began, “That’s how you ended up at Max’s. And he just welcomed you with open arms?”
“Pretty much,” Liz said, not being able to stop herself from teasing Maria.
“This is completely unbelievable. This is like so un-Liz like behavior it’s scary. Has anything special happened? Didn’t he wonder what you were doing there?”
”He was a little surprised, you can say that.”
”I bet. What did you guys talk about? What happened? Tell me everything.”
“You don’t want to hear anything about me breaking up with Kevin?” Liz mocked, even though she knew that Kevin was the furthest thing from Maria’s brain right now.
“Puhlease Liz,” Maria said, “Don’t get me wrong, I love Kevin like my brother, but he was starting to get on my nerves. I’m glad you dumped him. Now, ‘nough said about that. Max. What happened?”
Liz stifled a laugh. “We just talked.”
”Aha, aha,” Maria said in her best I-know-that-you-are-really-insinuating-something-here tone. “What else, what else?”

“Nothing, Maria,” Liz said, exaggerating the innocence. It was fun to hear Maria squirm.
“It was more than just ‘nothing’. I can hear it in your voice, Liz!”
”I’m getting really hungry,” Liz said lightly, “I think I’ll have to go and eat some breakfast.”
”What? No, Liz. You can’t hang up now! You haven’t told me all the details yet!”
“There’s nothing to tell,” Liz smiled.
“Don’t do this to me!” Maria cried. “There’s finally some drama in my best friend’s love life and you are going to withhold the information?! That is just so mean!!”
“Bye Maria.”
”No no no no,” Maria begged.
“I really have to go, Ria. But I promise that I’ll call you the first thing something monumental happens.”
”Liz, as your best friend I’m entitled to hear about everything-“
”I’ll talk to you later.”
”Okay okay,” Maria hurried. “Just call me later.”
”I promise,” Liz said. “Bye.”
”Bye,” Maria whined. “But Liz-“
Liz laughed. “I’m hanging up. Thank you for calling.”
”Thank you for calling, what’s that? Am I some kind of business acquaintance to you now?”
“Bye,” Liz said quickly and pressed the disconnect button before Maria could say another word.


Liz pulled out a robe from her bag and put it on before heading down the stairs. Max was sitting at the table, writing on a piece of paper. Hearing her entrance, he looked up and their eyes met. Liz felt her cheeks get hot under his intense look and her legs grew weak.
“Do you like pancakes?” Max asked, putting his pen down.
“Sure,” Liz smiled and shakily sat down on one of the chairs, wondering what was happening to her. What was Max doing to her with his mere presence?
“You really don’t have to do this,” Liz said when he put a stack of pancakes on her plate.
“I want to,” he answered. “You are now my guest, Liz, and I always take care of my guests.”
This made her duck her head, focusing her gaze on cutting the pancakes with the side of her fork. They proceeded to eat in silence, until Liz couldn’t stop herself from asking what had been on her mind since she had woken up.
“Do you have them often? The nightmares?”
Max looked up from his writing and when she saw his face pale, the guilt came crushing down and she hurried to undo the question, “No, forget it. You really don’t have to answer. I have no right to pry-“
“That’s okay,” Max said quietly. “After last night…”
He looked away, staring out the window and Liz got a feeling that she had done something really wrong by bringing it up. Like it was something that should’ve been left unsaid and hidden in the darkness of the night.
“Max, you really don’t have to answer. Let’s talk about something else...”
Max looked back at her and she swallowed when the loneliness and sadness in his eyes hit her, causing the words to get stuck in her throat.

“Every night,” he whispered, his eyes not leaving hers. “Every night since they died.”
“Max…” she whispered, her voice breaking with the anguish of what her question had brought forward and the hell he had lived through, and still was going through. She reached across the table and her hand came to rest on top of his. His eyes moved from hers to their hands and he turned his hand so that their palms met, and slowly he laced their fingers together.
He took a deep breath before looking up at her again. “I’m sorry about last night-“
She silenced him by squeezing his hand. “Don’t apologize, Max. You have nothing to apologize for.”
He nodded, but she could see the disbelief in his eyes. He didn’t believe her. He saw himself as a burden, whilst Liz was wishing that there was something else she could do for him. If there were anything she could do to ease his pain.
“How are you really feeling?”

Max looked up at her at her question. Her eyes were pleading with him to tell the truth, pleading with him to let her see his pain so that she could help him. But he didn’t want to put that load on her. He didn’t want her too see the death inside of him. He didn’t want her to see the darkness of his soul.
“I’m getting by,” he answered.
Her grasp on his hand tightened and her eyes looked into his, so intently that he couldn’t tear his eyes away. Her unspoken request for him to tell her hung heavily in the air.
“I have to go,” Max whispered.
“Max…”
Max vaguely gestured with his head towards the clock on the wall. “I have class. I have to go.”
His eyes landed on their entwined hands and with deep reluctance he started to pull his hand away from hers, feeling the warmth of her life power leave him. “I left some money for you on the living room table if you need money to get home…”
“Max, I…”
Slowly he looked up and saw the conflict in her eyes. She didn’t know what to say.
“I hope we’ll meet again, Liz Parker,” Max said, with a sad smile.
Liz felt something tear in her heart and a dark feeling passed through her. She got the feeling that if she didn’t say something right now, he would leave. Not just to go to work. He would disappear from her, mentally. His hand left her and with that something else left her. Her hand reached out and grasped his hand again. He looked down at her in surprise, stopping in the movement of rising from the chair.

“No, Max.”
His expression of surprise changed into concern when he saw the veil of unshed tears shining in her eyes. “Liz?”
“Could I… Could I stay here? Just for today. I need to speak to you.”
He turned his face away from her, afraid that what she wanted to talk to him about his dreams and his past. He didn’t think he could do that.
Liz saw the fear in his eyes before he turned away and her hand left his, her fingertips brushing electrically against the back of his hand before leaving it completely. “There’s something I need to tell you.”
He looked at her, trying desperately to refuse her. Feeling that this was the last time he could refuse her. If he didn’t do it now, she would break his resolve and that was something he feared. That would make him vulnerable and she would see what he really was: a withered, ugly shell covering a dead, dark soul.

He swallowed. His mind was trying to form the negative response he knew he had to give her, but that wasn’t what his lips formed. That wasn’t what was voiced from his mouth. “Okay.”
She looked at him with hopeful eyes. “You sure?”
He nodded and tried to swallow. “I’ll be back around four. There is some food in the refrigerator and you can use the money I left for you if you want to. There is a spare key in the wardrobe beside the front door which you can use if you want to go outside.”
“Thank you,” Liz spoke softly.
He nodded, too emotional to speak and then he left the kitchen to go and change. Liz closed her eyes and let her head fall into her hands. What had she done? What had she done?


TBC...
Last edited by max and liz believer on Sat Feb 07, 2004 6:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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