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

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max and liz believer
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Post by max and liz believer » Thu Jul 20, 2006 4:02 am

First of all, Poison Ivy, frenchkiss70, Eve, Kristen, Ellie, Tanya, sunrise102, Alien614, dreamerbabylioness, aussietrueblue and BehrObsession - Thank you, my dearest, for the feedback!

Secondly, for those of you that might still be reading "Solar Eclipse", I've updated it (for the first time in like forever) and it's the last chapter before the epilogue (which has already been written). I'm finally completing one of my stories :roll:

And thirdly, please don't kill me after reading this chapter... :roll:


Chapter 49

Two weeks later

“I have an appointment with the doctor tomorrow,” Liz mentioned softly.
Max looked up at her, fear flashing over his face. “Is something wrong?”
Liz smiled warmly at him, knowing that he had thought she had been referring to the cardiologist. “It’s with the obstetrician.”
Max relaxed, but Liz was surprised to still see worry on his face. Pretending like she had not just caught him off guard, Liz continued, “Do you want to come?”
Max reached over the table and entwined his fingers with hers. “Of course.”
Liz was observing him closely. He was acting like he had done something wrong, guiltily averting his eyes, trying to smooth it over with soft touches.
“When is it?” Max asked, casually picking up his glass of wine with his free hand and bringing it to his lips.
Liz followed his every move. She wanted to ask him what was wrong, but at the same time she was afraid that his answer would confirm what she feared the most. That he had changed his mind. That he didn’t want her to have the baby anymore. She was afraid because she knew that she had gotten pretty good at reading him and Max pretty much wore his heart on his sleeve. She was afraid because she had held him throughout the nights and knew how the nightmares scared him. The nightmares of her dying as a result of her pregnancy. Why would he not want her to terminate her pregnancy?

But maybe, as long as the subject wasn’t breached, she could pretend that her pregnancy was really not the reason to him acting strange. She could pretend that she couldn’t read him and that she was just being paranoid. Still, she wanted them to have the conversation. She wanted him to speak to her, to tell her what was bothering him so that they could deal with it together. She had promised herself that she would be as honest with him as possible. Her thumb was absent-mindedly stroking his thumb, when she answered his question. “Ten a.m.”
“Okay,” Max said, smiling at her weakly.
Liz took a deep breath. She was itching to talk to him. She wanted to confront him on this. There was a chance that she could convince him that they were fine. That the baby was fine and that she was fine. There was a big chance that she wouldn’t be able to argue with him though, because they were both aware of the risks involved in her pregnancy.

Taking another look at him, she made up her mind. She would wait to talk to him until after they had been at the hospital tomorrow.

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

“Elizabeth,” Dr. Reynolds said, shaking Liz’s hand, “nice to see you again.”
Liz smiled. “Dr. Reynolds, this is Max Evans.”
Max shook Dr. Reynolds hand firmly. “Hi.”
“Ah, the father I presume,” Dr. Reynolds smiled.
Liz nodded, pure adoration in her eyes as she looked up at Max. She blushed and averted her eyes when he looked down at her.
“Yes, that’s me,” Max said, a chill he couldn’t quite identify the origin of running through him.
Dr. Reynolds patted the examination table behind him. “Elizabeth, jump up on the bed and we will take a look.”
Max swallowed. He was surprised that he was so nervous. He had done this before, with Tess. Back then he had been so happy. Becoming a dad had been one of his most wanted dreams coming true. He could still remember the feelings of anticipation and excitement. That first appointment with Tess was forever imprinted in his mind as one of the happiest days of his life.
“Max?”
Her tentative touch pushed him out of his memories and he focused on her. He swallowed. Her dark, large eyes glistering with nervousness and concern were trained on his face, begging him to not abandon her right now. Her expression squeezed his heart. Biting back the tears, he swallowed again and softly cradled her face in his hands. “You are so beautiful.” He meant every word with an honesty that could not be truly translated into simple words.

A fresh tint of red crept up her cheeks, her almost timid smile making her eyes shine with internal glow. It made Max’s heart beat that much faster and he could literally feel himself falling for her even harder, which merely served to frighten him. He loved her so much. He couldn’t lose her. Forgetting where he was, the world blurring out around him, he bent down and tenderly kissed her lips.
“I love you so much,” he whispered against her lips, words reserved for her ears.

Dr. Reynolds watched the couple with a mixture of fascination and amazement. There was something about how the man treated Miss Parker that touched him. It made him think of when his wife used to watch old romantic movies from the 50’s and be moved to tears. He had asked her why it was that women cried when a man was a real softie to a woman. Her reply was always; ‘Simon, there is so much evil in the world that when a man shows such tenderness towards a woman, as if he would sacrifice his life to save her, it is one of the most beautiful things. It moves me.’ He had never been the man that would cry when watching movies. To be honest, he did not cry very easily at all. But for some reason, the scene in front of him almost made him tear up. Maybe he shouldn’t tell his wife about this. She would be so pleased to hear that something finally had made him teary. Much too pleased.

Suspecting that he had ceased to exist in their world, Dr. Reynolds pointedly cleared his throat. Hearing the doctor’s subtle interruption, Liz gently stroke Max’s cheek. “It will be fine. Everything is okay.”
Max nodded, not hearing anything but Liz. Liz gave him a smile of encouragement, before looking up at the doctor, giving him the green light in the form of a nod.
“Okay,” Dr. Reynolds spoke up, pulling the ultrasound machine up to the bed, forcing Max to move away from the close proximity with Liz. His hold on her hand tightened.
“Let’s see how we are doing,” Dr. Reynolds continued, exposing Liz’s stomach and fetching a plastic bottle behind him. “This will just feel a bit cold, Elizabeth.”
Liz nodded with a look of anticipation on her face. Gel was squirted on her stomach and Dr. Reynolds pressed the apparatus against her stomach, eliciting a picture on the screen. Max felt a tremor go through him and the squeeze he received from Liz told him that she had felt it too. He could see it. It was not bigger than a peanut, but it was there. Their baby. Their baby. He had studied the first ultrasound pictures of Joshua enough to know exactly what it looked like. He watched as Dr. Reynolds pointed out the embryo, feeling the world turn silent around him, his eyes transfixed on the black shape on the ultrasound. He didn’t hear Liz’s laugh of surprise over the smallness of the baby and he missed the smile lightening up her face.

It was not until Liz swung her legs over the edge of the bed, minutes after the ultrasound machine had been moved to the side and Liz’s stomach had been wiped clean, that Max returned to reality.
“Max, is everything okay?” Liz wondered and the tears he had been holding back during the examination threatened to escape his eyes when he saw the worry on her face.
“We made a baby, Liz,” Max said softly.
Liz smiled, the concern replaced by radiating happiness. “Yes, Max. We did.”
“I can’t believe we made a baby,” Max said, kissing her forehead.
Liz wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close. “I know that you are afraid, Max. But please don’t give up on this baby.”
Her quiet plea in his ear made his heartstrings tighten. Why couldn’t this be easy?

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

It was with a sinking heart that Liz walked down the hallway towards where she knew she would find Max. Joshua’s room. It was never a good sign to find him there. Usually he didn’t go there, as if he didn’t want to disturb the presence of Joshua that might still be lingering. It was when he had a lot on his mind and when he was shaken up that he went there. Considering the concern and distance she had felt from Max the last couple of days it was with fear infecting her body that she opened the door.

He was sitting on the floor, a blue teddy bear in his arms. Without looking in her direction, he voiced softly, “Hey.”
She walked up to him, her concerned presence enveloping him as she brushed around him and sat down next to him. “Hey.”
There was a long silence before Max broke it, “Sometimes I tell myself that I can still feel his presence in here.”
Liz looked at him, squeezing his hand tighter. “Josh will always be a part of you, Max. No one can ever take him away from you.”
Max looked down at the teddy bear and slowly shook his head. “No, that’s not what I mean. I know that he will always be there, in my mind, but sometimes I told myself that I could actually feel him in this room. It was so strong that I could almost see him run around and play hide and seek…” Max shook his head again, a bittersweet smile forming on his lips as his eyes stared off into a world that had been, “He always wanted to play hide and seek. He never grew tired at it. When he couldn’t play it with Tess or me, he played it with this teddy bear.” He looked down at the teddy bear again, unconsciously squeezing it closer to his chest.

She looked at him, her eyes tracing over his features, recording every flicker of emotions transpiring, without knowing what to say. Feeling that there wasn’t anything she could say in this situation. No words were needed. So they just sat there. Max with a faraway expression on his face and Liz clinging to his hand to prevent him from going to far into the past.
“I think we should move.”
Liz frowned, looking at him in bewilderment. “What?”
Max met her eyes and repeated, “I think we should move.”
“As in move to another house?” Liz asked.
Max nodded slowly, an unreadable expression on his face. “There’s nothing left for me here. This house,” he paused and looked around the room, “This house is haunting me. There are too many memories. I can’t move on.”
”Max…” Liz said slowly, softly. She could sense the anguish of making one of the hardest decisions of his life radiating off of him in waves.

“This is not your home, Liz. There are too many rooms where you feel that you are not allowed to go. You moved in here… I want us to move in somewhere else – together – and start our own life.”
She couldn’t help it but a smile began to form on her lips. A smile of relief and tentative happiness.
“Max, are you serious?” she asked, not completely daring to be hopeful.
Max turned more fully towards her and took a hold of her other hand. “I’m serious,” his eyes held her soul in captive anticipation. “I’ve been thinking about it for a while now and I really need to put physical distance between my memories and me. I need to let go and I think I can only do that if I’m somewhere new. With you.”
She smiled and slowly leaned into him, gently kissing his lips. “I would love to move. But only if you are absolutely sure. I don’t want you to feel forced to do this.”
“I want to do this,” Max emphasized. “I need to do this.”
Liz nodded. “Okay.”

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

Three weeks later

“What about this one?” Liz asked around a mouthful of ice cream, pointing at a small brick house in the catalogue in front of her with the back of her spoon.
“Liz, you need to get ready,” came the reply from behind her.
“I’m ready,” Liz said, grabbing the tub of ice cream to take another scoop. But before she had the chance to do so the tub was pulled out of her grip and with a pout she looked up at the man who had appeared in front of her. She put the spoon back in her mouth, trying to catch any remaining ice cream, while her eyes wandered up his black pressed pants and the white shirt which was still to be button up. Smiling around the spoon, she jumped up and took a hold of his shirt.
“Are you telling me that you are going to go to dinner in my worn out T-shirt and twenty year old soft pants?”
“Hey!” Liz burst out, the scold distorted by the spoon that was still in her mouth. “The pants are only two years old and I happen to like this T-shirt.” Her small fingers moved with a feathery touch along his bare warm chest as she buttoned every button with a twinge of regret. Something so gorgeous should not be hidden behind a shirt. “Besides, it’s just Isabel.”
Max reached down and pulled the spoon out of her mouth, putting that pout on her lips again. Looking up at him, she shrugged, “What’s the big deal anyway? It’s just Isabel.”
“No,” Max said firmly. “It’s not just Isabel. This is Isabel’s birthday party.”

“But… It’s only going to be me, you, Michael, Alex, Michelle and Maria there… and your parents. We all know each other already. I’m sure they won’t mind that I’m not dressed up.”
She finished the last button on his shirt and before she could lower her arms he took a hold of her wrists. “I don’t think you fully understand what I’m talking about.” His voice was dead serious, which elicited a laugh from her.
She frowned at him in disbelief. “Are you serious? It’s that much of a deal?”
Max nodded slowly, his features grave. “It is that much of a deal.”
Rolling her eyes, Liz reached for the tub that makes had placed on the TV table behind him. “Okay, I guess I should-“ her voice came to a halt when Max grabbed the tub before she could. “Max! Give it to me.”
“You shouldn’t eat ice cream before dinner either,” Max scolded her, looking at her like she was a five-year-old, “It will spoil your appetite.”
“No,” It was now Liz’s turn to be serious, “Believe me. Nothing can spoil my appetite.”
“And Isabel knows that, so she’s expecting you to eat a lot. If you don’t, she will most likely get offended.”

Liz sighed in resignation. “Fine, just rob me of what I love the most.”
“Tough love,” Max said casually, and took the spoon he had taken from her, dug a scoop out of the tub and put it in his mouth. “Mmm… cookies and cream.”
Liz’s eyes narrowed. “You are so pushing it.”
Max smiled at her sweetly. “I’m dressed. Now I have a lot of time waiting for you to get ready. Hmm….” He looked down at her, his smile growing as he started forming another scoop in the tub. “I wonder what I should do with all that spare time.”
Not knowing the territorial instinct Liz had developed about ice cream over the last week, Max was completely taken off guard when the tub was ripped from his hands. He couldn’t help but smile when Liz ran off, giggling, with the tub in her hands. He shook his head. She was so not going to win this one.

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

There was a gentle knock on the bathroom door and she slowly leaned away from the toilet bowl, the acid burning her taste buds.
“Honey, are you okay?”
She grabbed a hold of the toilet roll and ripped off a large piece, wiping her mouth.
“Just nauseous,” she answered.
“Do you want us to cancel?” the voice asked.
She shook her head, even though he couldn’t see her. No, nothing was getting in the way of this party.
“It’s too late to cancel now, Alex,” she answered.
She slowly stood up and walked over to the sink. Looking up at her reflection, she put some tresses of hair back in the right place and grabbed a glass and put it under the tap. Looking back up at her reflection, she put the glass to her red-painted lips and let the water roll into her mouth and with movement she tried to remove the taste. Spitting the water out, she repeated the procedure five times before grabbing a lipstick and touched up her make up.
When she opened the door, she gave a start, not anticipating Alex to still be standing there.
“Are you sure?” he wondered, worried.
“Alex,” she said firmly, and letting him see the determination in her eyes. “We’ve done this before. It’s just morning sickness. I’ll be fine.”
He nodded. “I know. I just don’t want you to wear yourself out. You know how much energy you put into these party preparations.”
“I’m fine, Alex,” Isabel repeated and brushed past him. “Is the chicken done yet?”
Alex sighed in resignation and turned around to follow Isabel, who had already covered a large distance with her hurried steps. “Yes, honey. I took it out a couple of minutes ago.”

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

“I taaake iit!!”
Liz smiled at Max when Michelle’s voice drifted through the closed front door. He matched her smile, once again moved by how stunning she looked. It was not the make up (she hardly wore any anyway), or the dark green dress that gave her an aura of otherworldly beauty, or the smile that could thaw even the most stubborn ice. She was glowing. He could literally see the happiness radiating off her and it made him squeeze her hand a little tighter.
The door opened and before he knew what hit him, Max was slightly pushed off balance by the small blonde fervently hugging his knees. He laughed and picked her up.
“Hey rascal,” he said and lovingly ruffled her hair, knowing that it would upset both Michelle and Isabel.
“Uuuncle Maaax,” Michelle cried.
Grinning, he kissed her forehead lovingly. “Love you too.”
“Max, how about you leave my daughter’s hair alone? For once?”
Max shifted Michelle over to his hip so that he could see his big sister. “What can I say? I love her hair.”

“But you messing it ub!” Michelle said looking at him with a pout very similar to the one he had seen on Liz’s face two hours earlier when he had removed the ice cream from her. With his free hand, he enveloped Isabel’s waist and pulled her close, placing a kiss on her cheek.
“Happy birthday, sis,” he whispered in her ear.
She couldn’t help but smile. “Thank you.”
“Happy birthday, Isabel,” Liz said.
Max looked between Isabel and Liz, knowing that things were still strained between them since Isabel had been very vocal about the need for Liz to terminate her pregnancy. To Max’s – and Liz’s – surprise, Isabel stepped up to Liz and gave her a hug.
“Thank you, Liz. I’m glad you could come.”
Stepping away, leaving a baffled Liz in her wake, Isabel looked up at Max preparing to scold him.
“Why are you so late anyway? I said 7 not 8.30.”
Max rolled his eyes at her. “Do you want your present or not?”
Isabel sighed, deciding that she could let her brother get away with his lack of punctuality. This time.

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

Michelle had been staring at Liz’s stomach inquisitively for about ten minutes, something that Liz was very aware of but was trying her best to ignore. If Michelle wanted to know something, she would probably ask sooner or later anyway.
“…but come on, Spiderman?”
Liz joined in with the laughter at Michael’s last comment about the birthday present Maria had given him.
“I mean, she could at least have given me Batman. Batman is so much cooler-“
“Is there a baby in there?”
Liz looked down at Michelle, the conversation of the adults at the dining table fading into the background.
“Yes, Shelly.”
“My mom says that I was in her belly once too,” Michelle explained.
Liz nodded. “Uh-huh.”
“How do you get in there?”
Liz bit her lip to prevent the smile from forming. “The baby is actually…uhm… built in there.” She sighed at her own lack of ability to explain, but her attention was quickly captured by the innocence in Michelle’s ever growing eyes.
“Like lego?”
Liz laughed softly. “Something like that.”
“And when you have finished bwelding, the baby comes out?”
Liz nodded, “Exactly.”
Forehead furrowed deep in thought, Michelle put a finger in her mouth and absent-mindedly started chewing on it. “Are you bwelding a girl or a bwoy?”
“I don’t know.”

Michelle looked up at her and Liz could practically see her brain working hard. “But… if you are bwelding, why doesn’t you know?”
Liz looked out over the table for help, but realized that the low conversation between her and the three-year-old was only between them. Without knowing it, Liz twisted the ring around her pinkie. “It’s kinda like… My body is building the baby, without me knowing. It’s like… Well, my body wants to surprise me and doesn’t want me to know what it is doing.”
God, she absolutely truly sucked at this. But after confusion had narrowed Michelle’s eyes for a couple of seconds, her face lit up in the most radiant smile. “Ohh… okay. So you are gwetting a pesent?”
Liz replied to her smile with a smile of her own. “Yes, a present. We are getting a present.”
Michelle nodded, satisfied with the information, and then looked up at her tentatively. “Liz?”
“Yes, sweetheart?”
“Can me pway with the baby when it is finished?”
Liz felt warmth spread throughout her body. “Of course, sweetie.” Feeling his eyes, she looked up and saw Max smiling at her across the table. His smile made her grow still. The last couple of weeks, she’d had the feeling that Max didn’t want her to have the baby. That he was afraid that she would die. They had yet to speak about it, but to her it was no mystery; she could read him like an open book. But there was something in that smile that told her that he had started to accept the pregnancy. That he actually wanted the pregnancy now. She felt a heavy stone being lifted from her chest, but her smile froze halfway through when she felt a tightening in her lower abdomen. Perplexed, she looked down as if there would be any outwards signs to tell her what that had been.

She looked up again, to look at Max, but found him leaning towards Maria as she explained something with grand hand gestures. Liz couldn’t hear them. All noises were tuned out around her and she could hear her breathing very loudly in her ears. She waited with fear for the sensation in her abdomen to come back, but it didn’t and the rational part of her mind started telling her that it had been her intestines. Gas or something. Nothing was wrong with the baby. Nothing could be wrong with the baby.

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

“Max, could I talk to you?”
Max looked up at his sister, who had appeared next to him. Seeing the nervous seriousness on her face, he rose from the chair. “Sure.”
Following Isabel into the kitchen, Max felt a falling feeling at the pit of his stomach. He couldn’t help but wonder that something was wrong. At entering the kitchen, Isabel started to dish out the dessert into small plates. Max looked on in silence, waiting for her to speak. When she didn’t, he enquired softly, “Isabel, what did you want to talk to me about?”
“Uhm…” Isabel said and if Max wasn’t mistaking her voice had a slight tremble to it. “Uhm… Considering the circumstances, I thought that I should tell you…”
Max’s chest tightened when she grew silent again. “Tell me what, Isabel?”
Following Isabel’s gaze, he found the reason to her silence.

Liz was standing in the doorway, her facial expression hidden in the shadows.
“Liz, I need to talk to Isabel for a sec,” Max said, when Liz didn’t move. There was something different about her, something that unnerved him. But he brushed it off, knowing that Isabel needed to speak to him about something.
“Max,” Liz whispered.
“Something’s wrong, Max,” Isabel said in a low voice behind him.
Walking closer to Liz, feeling the room closing in on him with every approaching step, Max was met with Liz’s face. And her expression of utter fear.
“What is it, Liz?”
A tear fell down her cheek and her bottom lip was trembling with restrained crying as she answered, “I’m bleeding.”


TBC...

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

I will write the next chapter ASAP to not leave you hanging for too long.
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Post by max and liz believer » Sun Jul 30, 2006 11:52 pm

Hi guys,

I didn't intend for it to take so long before the next update, but school started again and suddenly time was slipping through my fingers again. On top of that, I was in a bus accident and has been in a lot of pain the last couple of days (which is probably gonna continue like that until I can get to the chiropractor on Wednesday). I'm generally fine, but I have a newfound respect for people with whiplash.

Thank you so much everyone who has taken the time to leave feedback;

Morning Dreamgirl (Ashley), behrluv32, guelbebek, Emz80m, Earth2Mama (Ellie), dreamerbabylioness, Behrsgirl77 (Tanya), Poison Ivy, BehrObsession, Jason's Lover (Crystal), begonia9508 (Eve), shadowlynxbehr, hazz, and 83 AlienAngel

Elizabeth *mwuah* - Thank you!!


And a big wave to possible lurkers!



Chapter 50

Max watched the tear run down Liz’s cheek, her voice echoing in his head.

I’m bleeding

“You what?” Max’s voice barely rasped out, his throat tightening.
“Oh my God,” Isabel whispered behind him.
Liz broke down in front of him, her sobs violently shaking her small frame. Without being completely aware of the physical reality, Max took a hold of Liz and pulled her close, grabbing onto her as if he could redo whatever was happening by holding her tighter.
“You have to get her to the hospital, Max,” Isabel voiced and then she put sound to his frightening thoughts. “She might be losing the baby.”
Without a word, Max loosened his grip on Liz, only to bend down, hook an arm at the back of her knees and lift her off the ground. She wrapped her arms tightly around his neck, her tears quickly wetting the collar of his shirt.
“Should I call an ambulance?” Isabel asked.
Max shook his head. The hospital was close and by the time the ambulance had made its way here, he could have gotten her to the hospital on his own.
“I’ll take her.”
“What’s wrong?”
Max hardly noticed Maria’s presence as he walked briskly through the living room, with Liz cradled in his arms. The sound of rushing of blood in his ears drowned out the explanation Isabel gave to Maria and the tears forming in his eyes made him miss the fear on Maria’s face as she caught up with them at the front door.
“I’m coming with you,” Maria said and suspecting that Max hadn’t heard her, she put more force and determination in her voice and repeated, “I’m coming with you.”
“Okay,” Max said quietly, feeling like the past was catching up with him. Quickly.

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

The physician removed the speculum she had used to examine Liz and straightened up. She looked at the young couple; the worry on the man’s face and the woman’s red fearful eyes. For their sake, she was relieved that she had some kind of positive news.
“Well, Miss Parker, your cervix is not open, which is a really good sign.” The couple was still looking at her with big eyes, so she added, “If the cervix would have been open, you would have lost the baby.”
“So what about the bleeding?” Max asked, confused. He had been certain that Liz had suffered a miscarriage, something that had, to his surprise, scared him. He thought that he had been sure that it would’ve been for the better if Liz lost the baby, but being faced with the actual situation had scared him to death. In the last hour he had realized that it was not only Liz that wanted this baby. He wanted it too.
“Well, this is what we would call a threatened miscarriage,” the physician explained. “The body is threatening to remove the baby.”
”There’s something wrong with the baby?” Liz asked, squeezing Max’s hand harder. If the body wanted to get rid of the baby, something must be wrong with the baby.
“We are going to let you have an ultrasound to see if there’s anything wrong with your baby,” the physician answered.
“Okay,” Liz nodded, still shocked.

“Have you had intercourse recently?” the physician asked, flipping through Liz’s medical journal.
Liz looked up, worried, at Max. Had they done this? “Uhm…yes, well. Yesterday.”
“I thought it was okay to have… uhm…intercourse when you were pregnant,” Max stumbled over the words, trying to remember what the doctors had been telling him when Tess had been pregnant. There had never been any problems with Tess’ pregnancy and they hadn’t really exercised celibacy.
The physician looked up from Liz’s very extensive medical history. “Sex is only one of the reasons to vaginal bleeding during pregnancy. It happens in around 30% of pregnancies and can be caused by hormones, an infection, but in your case, Miss Parker, it can be related to the immunosuppressive drugs you are taking for your heart.”
Liz’s eyes closed, shutting the new tears in. She had known this could happen. To be honest, everyone had more or less been screaming the risks in her face, but she had always been hopeful that maybe it would be okay. She felt Max’s warm lips against her forehead and the tears overflowed and ran down her cheeks.
“It can still be alright, Miss Parker,” the physician said, her voice warm and consoling. “Let us take a look at the ultrasound first before we jump to any conclusions.”
Liz opened her eyes and nodded, wiping the tears away with the back of her hand.
“Here you go,” the physician said, handing her some tissues.

The ultrasound was rolled into the examination room and the procedure which had filled Liz with anticipation and hope just a couple of weeks earlier was now connected to dread and hopelessness in her mind. The cold gel was applied to her stomach and almost immediately the room filled with the rapid lub-dub sounds of the baby’s beating heart. Max felt his knees go weak and he sank down on the chair positioned next to him. The baby was alive.
The physician smiled, confirming what Max already knew, “The baby seem to be doing okay. Its heart sounds okay.”
Liz nodded, knowing that she should be relieved, but she knew that she was still bleeding and that was preventing her from being able to fully relax.
“What happens now?” she heard Max ask.
“Since Liz’s bleeding is still heavy, we are going to keep her here overnight, just as a precaution.”
“But the bleeding will stop, right?” Liz whispered.
“Hopefully, it will stop. It might come back. Some women experience recurrent bleedings over a couple of weeks.”
”Oh no,” Liz whispered, the prospect of continuing going through this anxiety making her nauseous.
“But she won’t miscarry?” Max asked.

“It’s not for certain,” the physician said grimly. “Around half of pregnancies with threatened miscarriage go through the pregnancy without any further problems while the other half will lose the baby.”
Liz shook her head in a sign of hopelessness and devastation at this and turned her head away from Max and the physician.
“A nurse will come in shortly and help you get installed in a room,” the physician said. “Do you want me to tell your friend to come in?”
She was referring to Maria, who was waiting outside. Max glanced at Liz and shook his head. It was probably for the best right now to handle things without Maria’s involvement. This was between Liz and him. “I think we need some time alone first,” Max said.
“That’s fine,” the physician said, giving him an understanding half-smile.
“Thank you, doctor,” Max said, releasing Liz’s hand to shake the doctor’s hand.
The physician gave a short nod and left Max and Liz alone.
Max sat down on the edge of the examination table, stroking Liz’s hair. His hand froze when she spoke, “This is what you wanted, isn’t it?”
For a second he was at lost of words, because he really hadn’t expected her to say anything like that at this moment.
“No, of course I didn’t,” he said forcefully.
“If the child would die, at least you wouldn’t lose me,” Liz continued.
Max swallowed when she touched on the truth with such rawness. “Yes, that’s true.”
Liz made herself smaller, very subtly inching away from him.
“I couldn’t bear losing you, Liz. And this whole thing… I was not sure if the baby was worth it. I’m still not sure.”
“The baby is part of us, Max,” Liz sobbed, her voice small and lonely.
“What if I lose both of you? The stakes are too high.”
“So you want me to terminate the pregnancy?” Liz whispered fearfully.

There was a long pause before he answered. “No. I thought I did, but after what just happened… I want this child just as much as you do, Liz.”
He looked up at the ceiling, feeling the weight of the reality pushing down on his shoulders. He was being honest, but his recent feelings of love towards their unborn child had grown into guilt for being willing to risk her life. Even if Liz was more than willing to do that herself, Max had felt like he should be the one responsible and see the catastrophe before it arrived and stop it.
“What are we going to do?” Liz said quietly.
“We have to take every day as it comes I guess,” Max said weakly. What was he supposed to say? He knew as little as she did. In this situation that had become their current life, they were lost.

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

Maria rushed up to Liz when she walked through the examination doors and enveloped her in a tight hug.
“Babe, how are you feeling? Is everything okay? How is the baby? What are you going to do now?”
“Uhm…” Liz said, not really sure what question to answer first.
“She has to stay in the hospital overnight,” Max replied, wrapping a protective arm around Liz’s waist.
Maria’s eyes grew bigger, a combination of fear and sorrow lacing her features. “Did you lose the baby?”
Liz glanced at Max before answering. “The baby is fine.”
Maria frowned, relieved at Liz’s statement but still puzzled. “So why were you bleeding?”
Unconsciously leaning into Max, Liz decided to fill Maria in on what the doctor had told them.
“Oh my God,” Maria whispered when Liz finished and pulled Liz into another hug. “Are you okay?”
Liz gave her a weak smile, trying not only to comfort Maria but also herself. “I’m… I’m scared.”

Her voice trembled at the last word and she felt Max arm around her waist tighten in its hold. She blinked to prevent the hot tears from rolling down her cheeks. She watched Maria’s eyes tear up and tried to swallow the fear to protect her best friend.
“Oh, sweetie,” Maria murmured, protectively brushing a strand of Liz’s hair behind her ear. “You are going to get through this, okay? Your baby is going to make this. I know the baby is a fighter, just look at her mommy.”
A teary laugh tumbled over Liz’s lips, wanting to believe Maria’s every word so badly.
Maria caringly stroke Liz’s cheek, removing the silent tears that were wetting the skin. “This is just a minor setback. You will get through this; I have no doubt in my mind.”
“Okay,” Liz whispered, somewhat broken. She longed for the confidence she could see in Maria’s eyes, but her fears were still too strong, too dominate.
“Okay?”
Liz nodded, brushing the tears away with the back of her hand. “Okay.”

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

One day later

“What do you think you’re doing?”
Liz bit her lower lip, knowing that she had been caught, and slowly lowered the cup she had been washing to the bottom of the sink. “I’m just washing my cup.”
His hand pressed against the small of her back as he stepped closer to her, “I’ll do that, Liz. You should be in bed.”
She rolled her eyes. “The doctor said that it wouldn’t really make a difference if I was resting or not, as long as I’m not like exercising or something.”
She could feel the heat of his strong body as he stepped closer, his arm snaking around her waist to protectively rest against the slight swell of her stomach. “I still think you should rest.”
She turned the tap back on and rinsed the cup. “Max, my hands are itching. I needed to do something.”
“Yes, Max. She’s not handicapped.”
Max and Liz jumped at the presence of another voice, turning around in the direction of the sound. Isabel smiled when she saw the perplexity on their faces. “The front door was open.”
“What are you doing here, Isabel?” Max asked, stepping up to his sister.
“Gee, you can really make a girl feel special,” Isabel said sarcastically and pulled Max into a hug. “How are you holding up, little brother?”
“Uhm,” was Max reply as he was released from his sister’s overprotective embrace.
Isabel offered him a hint of a smile, before turning her attention to Liz, while her voice answered his initial question. “I came to visit Liz.”
Liz frowned. “Me?”

Granted, Liz and Isabel had had some discussion about getting along, but things had continued to be strained between the two and Liz had thought that this would only fuel Isabel’s argument about Liz being bad for Max further.
“Yes, you,” Isabel emphasized; her facial features letting everyone know how ridiculous Liz was being. “How are you feeling?”
“Uhm…”
“You certainly are a match made in heaven… Do you have any other information to give me but ‘uhm’? I heard from Maria that you didn’t lose the baby.”
Liz nodded, quickly catching up with the present. “The baby is fine. I had something called threatened miscarriage.”
Isabel shot a worried glance in Max’s direction, before granting Liz’s face a closer look in an attempt to read if this was good or bad. “That doesn’t sound good.”
Liz shook her head. “I could be fine… but,” Liz swallowed, meeting Max’s eyes, “I could also lose the baby.”
“Oh Liz,” Isabel said sympathetically and surprised Liz by pulling her into a hug.
Max watched the scene with confusion and decided to be painfully blunt. “I thought you didn’t like Liz being pregnant to start with.”
“Max,” Liz warned as Isabel pulled away. Isabel turned to her brother, hurt shining in her eyes. Max was right, she had felt that way, but it was painful to hear him more or less accuse her of wanting their child dead.
“How can you say that?”
Max took a mental step back, realizing that he might’ve been too harsh. “All I’m saying is that Liz would be better off not being pregnant, right?”
Liz looked at him, wondering if he was only saying the words he thought Isabel was thinking or if it was also the words in his mind.

Isabel opened her mouth to defend herself with some defensive words, but at the last second decided against it. Instead she turned towards Liz. “I… I’m sorry for the way I treated you and for how I talked to you before.” Liz’s eyes widened in surprise and Isabel hurried to continue. ”I mean, if I were pregnant and someone disrespected me and my baby like that, I would... I would be really hurt. I’m sorry, Liz.”
The hint of an insecure smile fluttered across Liz’s lips. “That’s okay, Isabel. I completely understand your reaction.”
“But that doesn’t make my reaction right,” Isabel said, shame over how she had treated Liz trembling over her beautiful facial features.
“Thank you, Isabel. Let’s just put this behind us, okay?”
Isabel visibly relaxed and her face brightened with a warm smile. “Yes, okay.” Her smile grew when her brother’s arms encircled her waist from the back. Giving her cheek a peck, he whispered. “Thanks, sis.”
Isabel blushed, getting uncomfortable with the sudden overwhelming gratitude and with a smooth step out of Max’s arms; she brushed the strong feelings off and redirected her attention to Liz. “Now, how about you and I go for a little trip?”
“Isabel-“
Isabel silenced Max’s protest with a warning glare and with a determined tone she said, “Max, Liz obviously needs to get out of the house. Don’t worry. I won’t let her do anything. She is going to be so pampered.”

Max looked at Liz desperately. If he couldn’t work with Isabel, maybe he could convince Liz not to go. Liz saw the honest worry in his eyes and stepped up to him, unconsciously taking a hold of his hand. “Isabel, where are we going?”
“Manicure, pedicure, facials, you name it,” Isabel said with a proud smile, confident that no woman would reject an offer like that, Elizabeth Parker included.
Liz smiled warmly. Where had this Isabel come from? She looked up at Max, squeezing his hand in a comforting gesture.
“I’ll be fine, Max.”
Max met her eyes, and she could see how he was struggling to push the worry out of the way and his attempt to put on a smile was pathetic if not completely catastrophic. “Okay.” His eyes still on Liz’s face, his voice rose slightly in volume as he directed it in Isabel’s direction. “Look after her, Isabel.”
“Don’t worry, brother, I will take care of her.”


TBC...
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Post by max and liz believer » Sun Aug 06, 2006 7:23 pm

Thank you so much for the feedback!

I think we all deserve this chapter...


Chapter 51

“Max, where are we going?”
Max glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, a smile warming his face. He was amazed every time she did or said something that made him fall so much harder. How was it possible to fall more in love with someone with every passing second?

She had asked him the same question four times now, but he wouldn’t give her a definite answer, which was obviously driving her inquisitive mind insane.
“If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise, now would it?”
He didn’t have to look at her to know the pout that was already shaping those beautiful soft lips of hers.
“I hate surprises,” she mumbled.
“You’ll love this one,” Max answered and reached across the gear stick to grab her hand. His hand brushed against her stomach in the process, causing a familiar flutter in his heart. Two months had passed since he had rushed her to the hospital because she was bleeding. She had been bleeding for three days after she had come home from the hospital, but the bleeding had not returned since. Max felt like he was constantly holding his breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop. He wouldn’t allow himself to relax, to get his hopes up, but as more time passed he couldn’t help but get more optimistic. Feeling the warmth seep from her hand into his, he wondered, for not the first time, what was going on in that beautiful head of hers. He knew that she was worried, because she had told him so. But how worried? He knew that some nights failed to grant her sleep as she turned from side to side next to him. He knew that she didn’t want to make any plans for the future or buy any baby clothes out of fear that it would jinx the baby. He knew that the fear of jinxing the baby stemmed from an irrational idea that her looking at baby clothes with Maria just days before she had started bleeding and the connection made between the two events.

“Why won’t you tell me?”
Her question interrupted his train of thoughts and he cast her a look, alternating his attention between the road and her demanding gaze.
Then there were the hormones. During the time that had passed since he was last in close proximity with a pregnant woman, he had happily repressed what a rollercoaster it could be. From months of practice at reading her signals, he knew that he was now threading dangerous ground and he needed to choose his words carefully to avert a possible emotional overload.
“Sweetie, just humor me, okay? We’ll be there any minute now.”
“Fine,” Liz said indifferently, turning her head to gaze out the window, suddenly feeling mellow. She didn’t like surprises. He knew that. Why was he insisting on forcing her to do something she didn’t like? Her mood was instantaneously transformed in the next second, when her interest was piqued as Max turned off the main road they’ve been traveling down the last fifteen minutes. Out of his peripheral vision, Max saw Liz straighten in her seat and he smiled inwardly. He was positive that she was going to like what he had to show her. As the house came into view, he felt a chill of anticipation run down his spine and he maneuvered the car into the driveway. Liz turned to him with a mixture of wonderment and confusion written all over her face when he turned off the engine.

“What’s this?” she asked, her voice tentative, wanting to believe her suspicions but not really daring to.
“I think you know,” Max said, leaning over to brush his lips over hers. She sighed in his mouth, already leaning into him and her sigh turned from contentment into disappointment as he pulled away far too soon. She missed him so much. After the doctor had told them that sex could’ve been a contributing factor to her bleeding, they had decided to stay away from each other. According to the doctor, it was most probably the immunosuppressive drugs Liz was taking that were causing the bleeding, but she didn’t want to risk it. She could practice abstinence. Looking up at his tanned face as he opened the car door for her, the shadows created by the tree looming over him playing over his face and bringing out his sharp chiseled masculine features, she had to inhale deeply. Abstinence had seemed an easy task in the beginning – the first three hours. After that, the ache had started. It wasn’t only sex for her. Being with him in that most intimate way made her feel safe and loved. Falling apart in his arms and seeing her pleasure mirrored on his face made her feel like she belonged somewhere. How he looked at her when he gently stroked her naked skin with his fingers, his tongue, his body, made her feel cherished and worshipped.
“You okay?”
His eyes, shifting into a color of rich honey with concern, took in her sudden lack of movement. She swallowed, feeling tears burn her eyes at the gentleness in his voice. Dropping her eyes to regain control over her emotions, she cursed the hormones.
His finger under her chin tenderly forced her to look at him. “Baby?”
She swallowed, nodding as she mustered up a smile. “I’m fine.”

”Is it because I didn’t tell you?” he wondered, and when his barely contained guilt flooded his eyes she felt like crying all over again.
“No,” she said quickly and cradled his cheek against her palm. With a soft smile she continued, “Surprise me.”
Taking a hold of her hand and turning his head to place a kiss against her palm, he smiled in relief before helping her out of the car. He brought her hand up between them and she looked down with curiosity when she felt cold metal against her skin.
“Lead the way, Ms. Parker,” Max whispered, the warm timbre of his voice causing shivers to roll down her spine with an intensity that would’ve forced her to her knees if he hadn’t still been holding onto her hand. She closed her eyes, already scolding herself for her weak self-control. She looked up at the Victorian house in front of her, her eyes devouring the eggshell whiteness of the walls, the dark shimmering ebony of the roof, the small tower raising from the second floor, just above the veranda that was leading up to the front door. With trembling legs, Liz took her first steps towards what she already knew was going to be her new home. She was already falling in love with the large windows facing the street, which she knew were hiding a roomy and bright kitchen, and the chimney on the side of the house which told her that there was a large old-fashioned fireplace on that side of the house.

Max was looking at her with nervous anticipation. Michael had tipped him off about the house two weeks ago and since Liz and Maria had been on a weekend trip in New York at the time, he had decided to check out the house on his own. He had taken one look at it and had known that it was their house. Everything had felt right. He’d had this weird moment when he felt like he was watching a movie, where he could see Liz and he lying together in the wooden hammock on the veranda, where their children would play hide and seek among the bushes and where Liz and he would grow old together. The days following his tour of the house, he had been waiting anxiously to see if his bid would be the highest. He had found out two days ago that he was the new owner of the small Victorian house in a very nice neighborhood where he could see perfect childhoods being formed.

Her hand was shaking when she put the key into the keyhole and turned. This was one of those defining moments of your life, she realized as the door opened before her, revealing a large open area, the wooden floor spreading out all around her as she slowly took a step over the threshold.

“Max…” she breathed, not believing her eyes. Voicing her disbelief, she whispered, “How did you find this?”
“Let’s just say this; we are indebted to Michael for a lifetime,” Max answered behind her.
“Michael? Michael did this?” Liz wondered quietly, her eyes scanning the area, her mind already furnishing the room.
“The person living here before is one of his work colleagues and Michael knew that the house was going to be put up for sale before it was made official to the public.”
“Why would anyone want to move away from here?” Liz questioned, her eyes large as she slowly continued into the next room.
“So that we could move in,” Max replied.
Liz shook her head slowly, falling in love with the old staircase in front of her.
“Are you saying…?”
She couldn’t believe it. Had he really bought it? Was it theirs?
“They are waiting for my final confirmation…” He looked at her in expectancy, letting her know that she had the final say in this.

Her hand brushed against the wooden railing as she walked up the stairs. She didn’t feel the pain in the small of her back from the pregnancy as her complete focus was on the second floor. Turning her head into the direction of the round room first, which from the outside had looked like a tower, her eyes started glistering with tears of happiness. It was perfect. And she was about to tell him just that when a movement in her uterus stopped her.
“Max,” she gasped and she realized how close he was standing when he was by her side in nanoseconds. The tone of her voice alerted him to that she wasn’t concentrating on the house any longer; something that alarmed him. But before he had the chance of opening his mouth, she grabbed his hand, pressing it against her stomach.
“The baby… it kicked,” she whispered.
Max eyes traveled from her face to her stomach, staring at it in silent awe. Just as he was about to ask her if she was sure, he felt the movement himself. His cry of surprise mingled with her words, “There it is again!”

Excitement enveloped them, making Max stepped even closer. They made an enchanting image, their foreheads resting against each other, their hands covering her stomach, and the bright smiles on their faces. The light shone in from the windows lining the rounded wall, illuminating their bodies, being enhanced by the intensity of the happiness, relief and hope radiating off them.
“This is her room,” Liz murmured.
“Her?” Max question, his eyes drifting to hers.
“I have a feeling it’s a girl,” Liz answered, meeting his eyes.
He looked down at her lips, feeling the sudden urge to taste her. To show her how much she meant to him. How she had saved him from a life of eternal darkness. Grasping her lower lip between his, his eyes drifted close when he felt her respond to him. His fingers fluttered across her check, to nestle in her dark hair.
“It’s perfect, Max,” Liz mumbled against his lips, causing his eyes to open and he slightly pulled back to look at her.
“Really? I did good?”
She smiled brightly at his imitation of a little boy who had done something well, pulling him closer again and before fusing their lips together, she answered, “Yes, you did really good.”

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

Liz’s hand tightened around Max’s as her smile grew bigger, her thoughts still on the conversation in the examination room they just left behind them.

Everything seems really good. The baby’s heart rate is normal and sounds perfect.

Liz looked up at Max, feeling his responding squeeze around her hand. She wanted to cry out in ecstasy, jump around with joy, run up and down the hallway laughing loudly, but it was strange how foreign she was to the emotion. What was she supposed to do? She knew what her giddy heart was telling her, but at the same time she didn’t want to get her hopes up to later have them crushed. Meeting Max’s eyes, she knew that it was inevitable. They already had their hopes up. Their steps slowed down and came to a halt simultaneously as they in unison turned to face each other. She could see the nuances of different degrees of happiness play over his face, as he tried to contain the enormous smile on the inside by squeezing his lips together. She was biting her lower lip, her eyes sparkling as she watched his face. Then, as if their seconds had been counting down to that exact moment, they cried out, a sound of euphoria, and he picked her up, swirling her around as they laughed. They felt invincible. Immersed in giddy happiness.

Elizabeth. Max. I haven’t dared to say this before, and there are still risks, but if you have gotten this far I think most of the potential risks are behind you. I would suggest you go home and celebrate. Makes some plans for the future. Relax. The baby seems perfectly healthy.

They had taken the doctor’s tentative and sober tone seriously, knowing that anything could still happen. But at least they were through the rough times. They had reached the other side and the baby was still healthy. Feeling her hair billow around her, the air playing with the dark tresses, Liz felt like the luckiest woman on earth. They came to a stop and she buried her face in his chest, his unique smell enveloped her and suddenly she could only think of one way they should celebrate this. Feeling the familiar tingles spread over her body, she looked up at him, but was taken aback to see him staring over her shoulder, his brows furrowed in confusion. She frowned as well, turning in his arms to see what had captured his attention.
Her eyes landed on the tall blonde woman in the same second as the woman spotted them. The woman’s pace slowed down, the look of a reindeer caught in the headlights on her face.
“Isabel?” Liz voiced in confusion. What was she doing here? At the hospital?
Max’s hands slid over Liz’s stomach as she turned more fully in his arms, her back now pressing up against his broad chest. “Is everything okay, Is? What are you doing here?”
Isabel stepped up to the couple, cautiously, tucking a strand of hair nervously behind her ear.
“I’m…uhm… Michelle wasn’t feeling too well so I just wanted to consult with a pediatrician,” she answered, somewhat evasively, avoiding her brother’s eyes by keeping her gaze on Liz’s pregnant shape. Her features softened some; her gaze sliding from Liz’s stomach to Liz’s questioning face. “How’s the baby?”
Liz could almost feel Max’s heartbeat picking up where she was pressed with her head against his chest and she was hit with the same wave of unexplainable happiness. “The baby is fine.”
Isabel couldn’t help but smile at them, knowing from the energy she could nearly see radiating off them that it was really good news.

“What are you doing in the obstetrician section?”
Liz’s smile fell at Max’s question, realizing why Isabel’s answer to why being there had irked her. The pediatrician section of the hospital was on another floor.
“Oh… I… I got lost,” Isabel answered fleetingly.
“Isabel,” and Liz could easily pick out the warning in Max’s voice.
Isabel took a deep breath, her eyes resting on Liz’s protruding stomach for a couple of seconds, before she straightened her shoulders, pulling herself back together; transforming into the confident woman they were used to see.
“I was going to tell you later. It felt like I would be rubbing it in if something happened to your baby.”
“You’re pregnant.” It was more of a statement than a question as Liz voiced what Max already suspected. She felt Max’s arms loosen around her and she watched with a new smile as Max pulled his sister into a tight hug.
“You should have told me,” Max whispered in Isabel’s ear.
Isabel felt tears well up in her eyes, relieved and happy to be able to tell him; to tell someone. Only Alex knew. They hadn’t even told Michelle, knowing that she would without a doubt tell Max.
“Oh, Isabel, congratulations,” Liz smiled, hugging Isabel as Max took a step back. The two women gave a teary giggle as their stomachs bumped into each other.
“You’re okay with this?” Isabel asked, and Liz realized that it was the first time she had seen the fear of rejection in Isabel’s eyes.
“Are you kidding me?” Liz implored, her eyes growing bigger with excitement. “This is the best day of my life! Just imagine, they are going to grow up together!”
Isabel laughed, relieved, and just had to hug Liz again.


TBC...
Last edited by max and liz believer on Thu Sep 28, 2006 6:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by max and liz believer » Fri Aug 18, 2006 9:31 pm

Hi!
frenchkiss70 wrote:Finally an angstfree part :wink: Please let everything be ok, they both deserve it after averything they already went through. Don't you think they should be happy? :wink:
Of course I want them to be happy, but I have a tendency to pull towards the angsty side :roll:... I can't help it :wink: I'm gonna try my very best to stay on the happy side from now on though.

Thank you so much for the feedback!! I adore you all!

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- Your feedback truly made me blush! Thank you so much for coming out of lurkdom to tell me that.
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- Thanks again for editing, sweetie. You are the best at keeping me on my toes!


Chapter 52

“…the dreams, that you dare to dream, really do come true…”

Her soft singing voice was carried up the stairs by the silence of the house, billowed down the hallway, tentatively crept around the corner of the doorway, sifted across the wooden floor of the bedroom and flowed around him as he put another pile of shirts into the cardboard box on the floor. They were moving into their new house in a week and Max was in the process of packing whatever he wouldn’t need in the next couple of days. His head turned in the direction of the sound and the smile started on the inside, in the core of his soul, before brushing against his lips, turning his gaze into one of longing.

How was it that even with her this close, it wasn’t close enough? The clothes rapidly forgotten, he started to walk in the direction of the sound, her voice pulling him, enchanting him, like the song of the Sirens. His feet barely made a sound as he carefully walked down the stairs, not wanting her to know that he was there. One of his favorite occupations was to watch her without her knowing that she was being watched. He loved to see what she did when she felt free to do whatever she wanted. Sometimes he could crave the fleeting smile that would pass over her lips when a memory or a thought passed through her head, unaware of that she had an observer. He loved how she would bite the end of the pencil as she, in deep thought, was planning a plot line for a story she was writing. He loved how she would bite her nails when she was watching a horror movie, and his steps slowed down to a halt when his eyes took in the present scene in front of him.

His ears became aware of the soft instrumental music accompanied by Eva Cassidy’s gentle voice, softly mingling with Liz’s voice. She was dancing, in the middle of the living room, her body slowly swaying from side to side, her hands caressing her stomach, and her eyes trained on where her baby was resting, safely tucked away under her beating heart.
“Someday I'll wish upon a star, and wake up, where the clouds are far behind me. Where troubles melt like lemon drops, away above the chimney tops, that's where you'll find me…”
She was singing to the baby, an unexplainable glow on her face. He had never heard her sing before and he knew in that moment, feeling a deep sense of calmness settle over him, that he should force her to sing more often. Her voice was light, easily following the keys of the professional singer.
“Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams...that you dare to dream, really do come true. If happy little bluebirds fly above the rainbow, why, oh, why can't I?”

She didn’t notice him walk up to her. His sudden interruption to her communication with the baby gave her a slight startle as his arms crept around her waist, hugging her back to his chest.
“Sorry,” he whispered against her ear and her eyes drifted close as the warmth of his breath drifted over the skin of her neck. “What are you doing?” Even though he knew the answer to the question, he wanted to hear her answer it. He wanted to hear her words describe the magic he had just witnessed, the pureness that was still enclosing her, gradually including him.
“Nothing,” she answered softly, feeling very self-conscious all of the sudden. She had never sung in front of anyone before and especially not to an unborn baby. Did he think she was ridiculous?
He pressed his lips softly against the side of her neck, something he did a lot but which always ignited the same strong reaction in her. A need. A need for him.
“You have a beautiful voice,” he murmured.
She felt herself blush and was grateful that he couldn’t see her face, even though she suspected he knew exactly how she was reacting. Somehow, he could read her every expression by now. Sometimes she was convinced that he knew her better than she did.
“I love this song,” she answered, trying to divert the attention away from her. Her own reference to the song made her realize that she was still dancing, and so was he, together slowly swaying to the music, their bodies close together.
“How’s she doing?”

Liz smiled, looking down at her hands that were still caressing her stomach and her smile widened as she watched his fingers lace with hers. Max had taken her belief of the baby to be a girl for a fact since she had mentioned it at their future house and he had referred to the baby as ‘her’ ever since. Liz was still somewhat tentative, afraid to get too attached to the baby. Just in case something were to happen.
“Wide awake and alert,” Liz answered.
“She’s being rough on you?” His lips traveled up the slope of her neck, placing a small kiss on her earlobe.
Liz held back a giggle. Max knew that her ears were ticklish and she was sure he was doing it intentionally, so she wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he was right.
“Nothing I can’t handle,” Liz answered, the smile on her lips flattering her voice.
Max moved their entwined hands under her shirt, the desire to touch her skin becoming too great for him to resist.
“I miss you.” Her soft confession arrested the movement of his lips against the slope of her shoulder. The realization of what he was doing, how he must be teasing her, hit him. They made the decision, together, to not be intimate since it could be a risk factor to the baby. But he couldn’t help it. Whenever her smile enveloped him, he became blinded with want, with the need for her. He was addicted to her. To her smell, the warmth and softness of her skin, the soft moans floating over those red inviting lips. There were still things they could do, but they had intentionally stayed away from that as well since once they had started something the craving to reach that final state of completion was too much for them to defy.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly, guiltily, and started to pull his hands away. But she stopped him, tightening her fingers around his.
“Please, Max. Stay. Can we just stay like this?”
He hesitated, not trusting his self-control when he was around her. But being around her always won over not being around her, so he lowered his forehead to her shoulder, pulling her closer to him. He had just come up with another reason to why he couldn’t wait for the baby to be born.

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

“Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy…”
Isabel stepped out of the kitchen, a grin on her face as the voice of her excited daughter came closer to the house, increasing acutely in volume as the front door opened.
Wiping her hands on a towel, she said loudly, “In the kitchen, sweetie.”
She could hear the voice that had been gradually diminishing in volume grow stronger again as Michelle turned and ran back towards the kitchen. Alex appeared in the doorway before his daughter, looking at Isabel with a look of… Isabel frowned. Apprehension?
Before she could decipher her husband’s look any further, their three-year-old rushed into the room and Isabel blinked.
“Mommy, mommy! Look! I’m a cat!!”
Isabel blinked again, looking at her daughter who didn’t look at all like she did when she left the house this morning. The tip of her little nose was colored black, lines transforming into whiskers were drawn on her cheeks, red had been painted in the centre of her lips, distorting her very human mouth into something feline. To top it off, her face was divided up into different sized triangles, changing from white to light brown to darker brown.
“Yes, yes,” Isabel stammered, “I can see that.”
Isabel looked up at Alex, needing an explanation, a response, anything. What she got was apprehension, guilt and…amusement?

Answering his wife’s silent question, Alex scratched his eyebrow and said, “There was this face painter in the supermarket.”
“Uh-huh,” Isabel answered, not sure yet how she should respond and looking from Alex’s and her daughter’s expectant faces she was aware of that they were awaiting an answer as well. Alex knew very well Isabel’s opinion about putting money into unnecessary things and not being able to say ‘no’ to a three-year-old, but when it came to his daughter Alex was weak. How could anyone refuse that cutie? Those long dark eye-lashes and large puppy eyes?
Shaking her head in resignation, Isabel transferred her gaze from Alex to Michelle, wanting to sit down on her heels so that she could look Michelle properly in the eyes, but her current condition prevented her from doing just that. Which reminded her of what was on the agenda today.
“You are without a doubt the prettiest cat I’ve ever seen!” Isabel exclaimed and while Michelle started jumping up and down clapping her small hands together in excitement, Isabel noticed Alex relax out of the corner of her eye. Smiling, Isabel did her best to calm the bubbly Michelle down and glancing in Alex’s direction, she took Michelle’s hand.
“Come here sweetie. Mommy has something to tell you.”
Michelle’s eyes went wide with anticipation. “What is it? Is it a seeec…secret?”
Isabel smiled at Michelle’s efforts to correctly pronounce the last word, and tugged on her hand to move them out of the kitchen to the living room couch.

“Let’s sit on the couch, okay?”
“K,” Michelle giggled, jumping up on the couch, bouncing up and down until the stern look from her mother informed her that not even on special occasion like this seemed to be was it alright to jump on the couch.
Isabel sat down slowly, the more months that passed making her increasingly aware of the child growing inside of her.
Alex took a seat on the other side of Michelle, looking at his wife expectantly. Sometimes it would be nice to know what kind of revelations his wife would offer beforehand.
“Shelley, you know that Uncle Max and Liz are going to have a baby soon,” Isabel started and a light went on in Alex’s head. She was going to tell Michelle about the pregnancy?
Isabel caught Alex’s soft smile and pulled Michelle closer to her, for some reason feeling as if this moment was monumental. Michelle responded by curling up next to her mom, catching a hold of a few blonde strands of Isabel’s hair, something she usually did when she was getting tired and wanted to cuddle.
“Uh-huh,” Michelle nodded, looking up at her mommy expectantly.
“Well, uhm… actually, you will not only have one playmate soon, but two.”
Michelle frowned, looking utterly confused and her father chuckled next to her. Isabel was trying to be cryptic with a three-year-old, Alex thought.
“Huh?”
Isabel ignored Alex’s chuckle and stroke an errant strand of hair away from her daughter’s face. “Not too long after Uncle Max and Liz’s baby has been born, you will get a little brother or sister.”
“Uncle Max’s baby is my bwother?”

This caused Alex to chuckle even more, causing Isabel too look at him threateningly.
Isabel pulled on the hem of her shirt, pulling it upwards to reveal the small bulge of her stomach. “Here, sweetie. In here is your brother or sister.”
Michelle stared at her mother’s stomach, her mouth hanging open and her eyes big as saucers. Experimentally, she poked the stomach, wanting to see if the brother or sister her mother was referring to would come out or maybe even give a response poke.
“The baby will be in mommy’s stomach for a while, then the baby will come out and you will be a big sister.”
Michelle looked up at her mother, her mouth still hanging open, blinked a couple of times and said, “Sweet!”
The word she had picked up from one of the neighbor’s kids was followed by her jumping off the couch. “I’s gonna pway now.” With that she was gone.
Alex took one look at Isabel’s crestfallen expression and burst out laughing. At her obvious offense with his reaction, he scooted closer to her and pulled her into a hug.
“She’s three, Is. She has the attention span of a fly.” Still laughing, he added. “Don’t take it personally.”

She pushed out of his arms, looking at him maliciously. “It’s not funny!”
“Yes, it is,” Alex exclaimed.
Stubbornly, she crossed her arms in front of her. “I thought she would be excited, she was so excited about Max and Liz’s baby.”
“You’re so cute when you’re frustrated, you know that?”
Isabel sighed loudly, exasperated.
Alex put his arms around his wife, using force to pull her towards him again. “Come here.”
Against her own principles, she found herself relaxing in his arms and found his fingers moving through her hair and his fingertips massaging her scalp extremely soothing.
“Michelle is going to love the baby, I’m sure of it,” Alex whispered into her hair, pressing a kiss on her forehead.
“I know, I know. I’m being silly.”
“That’s why I love you.”
“Alex!”
Alex chuckled. “Hey, you said it, not me.”
“Fine,” Isabel murmured, wanting to show her irritation with him by pulling away, but his embrace was too warm. Too secure.
“I love you, Isabel,” Alex said quietly, his words spreading warmth all over her body. How did he always know the right thing to say?
She smiled, feeling for the first time in months like things were finally looking up.


TBC...
Last edited by max and liz believer on Sat Aug 19, 2006 8:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by max and liz believer » Sat Aug 26, 2006 10:15 am

Hellooo

Thank you so much for taking the time to leave feedback!

Jason's Lover (Crystal)
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- So nice to see you back!!
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Gigo (Elizabeth)
- You're the best, doll! And thanks for introducing me to Veronica Mars!


Without further ado... (and I want to rush off to read the update on "Just a Criminal")


Chapter 53

Max finished work early on Thursdays and that gave him the opportunity to cook dinner for Liz. She was home most of the days, but she usually spent Thursdays with Maria and didn’t return home until dinner time. It was Maria’s day off work so Liz and Maria were always up to something to celebrate their “femalehood” as Maria liked to call it. Something Max had yet to completely figure out, but the giddy happy state Liz was in when she came home was enough to convince him that this femalehood was a good thing. There was something different about this Thursday though. Just like on all other Thursdays, Max collected the mail from the mailbox, sifting through the different sized and colored envelopes while simultaneously trying to balance the grocery bags on the crooks of his arms. His walk slowed some as his eyes landed on a dark brown C5 envelope and he read the sender stamp in the top corner. Feeling his heart picking up in speed, a smile teased the corners of his mouth and the dinner that same night took on a higher level of importance.

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

As Maria opened the door to her apartment, yelling in a general direction that she was home, Liz had never anticipated the little furry animal that came running towards them. Laughing, Maria kneeled down to embrace the small over-excited creature.
“Who’s this?” Liz asked, wondering how long this small addition to Maria and Michael’s home had been around.
Maria scooped the small Labrador puppy into her arms and stood up.
“Elizabeth Parker, meet Dog. Dog, this is my best friend in the whole wide world.”
“His name is Dog?” Liz asked incredulously, grabbing the small paw that Maria offered.
Maria rolled her eyes, remembering her own reaction when Michael had informed her of the dog’s name. “The workers at the shelter called it Dog and while Michael kept him hidden from me he kept calling it Dog and now I can’t rename it. It kinda stuck.” Maria had been away for business for a week and this was obviously when Michael had decided to get this little cutie for Maria.
“Michael got you a dog?” Liz knew that her mouth was hanging open, but she couldn’t help it.
“Yes, can you believe it?” Maria said with a bright smile.

Liz stared at the pup, thinking that she really couldn’t believe it. For as long as she had known Michael, he had gone to great measures to inform everyone of how annoying he considered dogs to be. Liz had heard numerous times, from Maria, how Michael would sigh and fuss every time he saw a dog out on the street. She watched with a mixture of amusement and disgust as Dog licked Maria’s face ferociously. It was one of those moments when time seemed to slow down around her and she found herself watching her best friend with new eyes. She saw the happiness on Maria’s face, heard the tinkle of her laughter while the black energy fur ball attempted to lick Maria to death.
“Why?” Liz wondered.
“Sorry?” Maria giggled and Liz had difficulty seeing her friend through the fur.
“Why did Michael get you a puppy?”

“I thought it was appropriate since all of the girls around her kept getting knocked up and Maria was kinda left out,” Michael’s voice announced behind them. Liz turned around and smiled at Michael’s blunt statement, reading between the lines of what he was saying. He was afraid that Maria would ask him for a baby and he had thought that the easiest way to get out of that possibly happening was to get Maria a substitute.
“Hi Liz,” Michael said, awkwardly giving Liz a hug.
“Hey Michael,” Liz answered, trying to maneuver her stomach out of the way the best she could. When had such a simple thing as greetings become an act of acrobatics?
“Speaking of which,” Michael looked pointedly at Liz’s stomach, “when are you scheduled to pop?”
Maria might still be getting attacked by the pup, but she was not too immobilized to smack Michael on the arm for his choice of words.

Liz smiled. She liked Michael, she really did. His honesty was really refreshing at times. But she would always be impressed with how Maria put up with it 24/7. Considering that thought, Liz realized that most of the time Maria didn’t put up with it.
“The caesarean is scheduled for the 2nd of March,” Liz said.
“Ohh,” was Maria’s excited input, “Only another month to go.”
Michael frowned in confusion. “C-section?”
Liz nodded. “Yeah, they don’t want me to do it the natural way, you know, because of my heart.”
Michael’s face brightened with understanding. “Ahh.”
Shuffling Dog into Michael’s arms, Maria flung an arm around Liz’s shoulders, pulling her into a sisterly embrace. “Who would want to do it naturally anyway, right Liz?”
Liz smiled weakly, letting herself be lead into the living room. She might be crazy, but she was probably the only one that actually wanted to give birth to her child the normal way. Shaking her head clear of the thoughts, she smiled to herself thinking that you always wanted what you couldn’t have. The human being was truly never satisfied.

“How’s the moving going? Have you unpacked everything yet?”
Liz sighed tiredly at Maria’s question.
“I take that as a ‘no’”, Maria smiled, helping Liz to sit down despite Liz’s protests in a futile attempt at trying to preserve some of her dignity and independence.
Shuffling around, trying to make herself comfortable, Liz spoke, “It’s taking forever. We still have so many boxes that are waiting to be unpacked.”
”How is that possible? You must’ve been there for…what? Like almost two months now?”
Liz brushed some hair away from her face, thinking that she was in a desperate need for a hair cut. “Well, since Max is refusing to let me help out-“
Maria frowned. “I get that you shouldn’t be lifting stuff, but you can at least unpack small things, right?”
Liz smiled humorlessly. “Try telling Max that. I unpacked all my clothes and the other day he noticed that I had started to unpack some of the china and cutlery while he had been away at work and… Well, he wasn’t very happy.”
Maria snickered. “Are you fighting over china?”
Liz rolled her eyes. “We’re not fighting.” She sighed, to Maria embodying the perfect replica of the three-year-old Michelle. “It’s more like Max scolding me and I’m trying to argue my point. We won’t agree and then we won’t say anything to each other for like ten minutes. Then he will kiss me and we’re back to normal.”

Maria shook her head. God, her friends were really a cheesy couple. “You guys are unbelievable. If Michael were to forbid me from doing anything – anything at all - I would kick his sorry ass out of here.”
Liz smirked. “I know you would. Have you seen me lately, Ria? And have you ever taken a good look at Max?” Maria raised her eyebrows silently communicating that of course she had checked Max out. Ignoring her, Liz continued, “It would be extremely difficult for me to kick him out, even if I weren’t the size of a whale.”
“Oh come on! You’re not a whale!”
”You don’t have to be nice, Maria. I might not be a whale, but I’m getting there.”
“So, do you want ice cream?”
Liz stared at her friend incredulously. “Did you just hear what I said?”
“I heard you,” Maria said matter-of-factly. “We have Rocky Road, Cookie Dough, Chocolate Chip, Strawberry Delight-“
“How many people are you feeding?”
“Michael has a big appetite,” Maria answered and smoothly pecked Michael on the cheek as passed him on her way to the freezer.
“Right, it’s me who eats all the ice cream,” Michael said to Liz. Wiping his hands on a towel, he sat down opposite Liz. Puzzled, looked at him.

“So, I couldn’t help but overhear, but do you need some help with those boxes?”
With surprise and disbelief coursing through her system, Liz was momentarily speechless. Michael never ceased to surprise her. “No… Michael, thanks, but you don’t-“
“Liz,” Michael said, “You don’t want all those boxes hanging around when that little offspring of yours comes into the world, do you?” Liz laughed insecurely, not sure what to believe. “Besides, Max might need my help to move some of the furniture. I’ve been meaning to talk to Max about it, but he’s been kinda busy.”
Liz nodded. “Yeah, school’s ending soon, so he has a lot of assignments to grade and exams to prepare.”
“Which is why you need my help,” Michael emphasized.
“Are you sure?”
“Liz, I’m just glad I can help.”
Liz looked at him and said warmly, “Thank you, Michael.”
“Don’t sweat it,” Michael said casually, quickly standing up as he saw Maria approaching from the kitchen, two tubs of ice cream in her hands. “Is tomorrow okay?”
Liz nodded, still slightly flabbergasted by what Michael had just proposed.
Maria plopped down on the couch next to Liz and looked at Michael’s retreating back curiously. “What was that about?”
“I don’t think I’ve told you this before, Ria, but Michael is a really good guy. Hold on to him.”
Maria looked at Liz suspiciously and then shrugged offhandedly. “Yeah, he’s alright.”
But there was bright happiness in her eyes as she handed one of the tubs to Liz.

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

Liz sat down on one of the boxes in the hallway, letting the tempting smells from whatever Max was cooking fill her senses. If she had known what a good cook he was, she would’ve searched him out sooner. She flexed her neck to the side in an attempt to remove some of the tension. She was exhausted and her lower back was killing her. Her feet probably needed a good massage as well. Another one of Max’s hidden qualities was his expertise in massaging. Looking up at him as he approached, she was once again reminded about how lucky she was to have him in her life. He leaned down to gently kiss her lips and his fingers lightly caressed hers as he transferred the wine glass from his hand to hers.
“Thank you,” she said, their faces still close together as she looked into his eyes.
“My pleasure,” Max winked and stole another kiss before he straightened. Liz put the glass to her lips and tasted the cool apple juice, her eyes trained on the dark-haired man in front of her.
“How’s your back?”
“It’s okay,” Liz said, not wanting to interrupt his cooking with complaints about back pain.

Max grimaced in dislike as his eyes swept over her homemade chair. “Honey, why don’t you sit on the couch? It’s going to be at least ten more minutes.”
“I can’t see you from the couch,” Liz said, feeling as if she was stating the obvious.
Max smiled, taking her free hand and gently placing a kiss on its back. “I can assure you, I’m not doing anything overly exciting. Later, you can watch me as much as you want to.”
“I haven’t seen you all day,” Liz said, ignoring the tingle running down her arm from his gentle grip on her hand.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he assured her.
“Just humor me, okay?” Liz tried, knowing that when it came to her health and her comfort, Max was unyielding.
Max sighed, looking at the stubborn woman in front of him. Today, he was willing to compromise. Without a word, he disappeared into the living room to return, much to Liz’s dismay, dragging one of the armchairs. It was amazing to her how he could lift that huge armchair on his own and she immediately stood up, unable to passively watch him struggle without her helping.

“Max, what are you doing?” she admonished, taking a hold of the free end of the armchair.
Echoing her question, Max looked up at Liz. “Liz, what do you think you’re doing?”
“Helping you out, what does it look like I’m doing?”
“Liz,” Max warned. “Sit down.”
She seriously considered objecting, but the look in his eyes firmly told her to not continue helping him out. She sat down on the box again, watching guiltily as Max pulled the armchair up against the wall in a spot where she would have a clear vision of the kitchen.
“Max…”
His breathing slightly labored, he walked over to her, offered his hand, while placing the other hand around her waist and pulled her to her feet. Unconsciously caressing the small of her back, knowing that she was in pain even though she wouldn’t admit it, he guided her over to the armchair and helped her to sit down.
“I’m not handicapped, Max,” Liz protested weakly.
“Let me know if you enjoyed the show,” Max teased, ignoring her statement, and placed a kiss on her forehead. Whoever did she have to thank to have this man in her life?

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

“Mmmm,” Liz sighed, licking the dessert fork. “Will you marry me?”
Max’s fork stopped mid-air and he looked at Liz. From her semi-closed eyes and the expression of utter contentment on her face as she enjoyed every gram of the mud cake, he quickly came to the conclusion that her statement hadn’t been a serious one.
“I thought that was my question to ask,” Max said lightly.
“I’m just making sure that you will never get away from me,” Liz said, looking at him intently. Max’s mind was working hard trying to decide if she was still playing with him or if the message he got from her eyes was telling him something. Of course he was planning on marrying her, but up until today he hadn’t been sure how to pop the question, how to make it special. Because she deserved nothing less than perfect. Today, another event that had transpired had presented him with an idea. But if he were to use that idea, his proposal to Liz would be far in the future. Besides, he was worried that an engagement on top of the pregnancy and the move they were still in the middle of might be a little bit too much for Liz and he didn’t want to place unnecessary stress on her.
When Max didn’t respond, Liz continued, “Because, you know, I’m sure a lot of women are just waiting to take my place.”
He grabbed her hand, lacing their fingers together. “No one is taking your place, not if I can help it.”

She smiled at him, but her smile faltered as a dark thought entered her mind; a thought concerning what he would do when she wasn’t around anymore. She would most likely die before him, due to the transplant. Feeling nauseous, she pulled her hand away from him, mustering up a smile as she reached for the juice container.
“Really, Max. This was gorgeous. Thank you.”
Somewhat taken aback by the change in her behavior, Max couldn’t help but scrutinize her. “I’m glad you liked it.”
“You’re spoiling me,” Liz said.
“Try to stop me,” Max challenged, still keeping an eye on her through the fluttering of the warm hue from the candles.
“Now, why would I?” Taking another scoop of the homemade cake, Liz train of thought changed direction. “Oh, by the way, Michael offered to help with the unpacking.”
“Really?” Max looked as surprised as she had felt when Michael had offered.
“Yeah, we could use the help.”
Max nodded, gratefully. “Definitely.” He sliced another piece of the cake and balanced it on the knife to carry it to his plate.
“Impressive,” Liz said.
“I am a man of many talents,” Max said.
“That you are,” Liz agreed. When the words had left her mouth, Max dropped the fork on the floor.
Liz laughed as he ducked under the table to retrieve it. “Obviously, handling cutlery is not one of them.”

Looking up from under the table, Max was not only carrying the dropped fork but also a brown envelope. “What’s this?”
Liz frowned, taking the envelope that Max held out for her. “I don’t know. You found it on the floor?”
“Yeah,” Max said, concealing the fact that he had placed that envelope on the floor earlier that same night. “Maybe one of the moving guys left it.”
”Maybe,” Liz murmured, but she was speaking without realizing what she was saying, because she had spotted the sender on the envelope and had seen that it was addressed to her. She didn’t even notice how Max was watching her intently, as her trembling fingers severed the top of the envelope. Her heart was hammering away in her chest, the sound of blood loud in her ears as it rushed to fuel her cheeks, draping an anticipated and nervous flush over her face.
“What is it?” Max wondered, unable to contain himself any longer.
“It’s…” Liz tried to work her jaw, tried to get her tongue to cooperate to form words but for some reason she had forgotten how to speak.
Slightly worried that it might be a rejection letter, Max rose from his chair and went to stand behind Liz, his arms enveloping her across the shoulders and collarbone as he read the letter over her shoulder.
“Ms. Elizabeth Parker. We are pleased to inform you that we want to publish Heartbeat. We will contact you on a later date with more information. Congratulations.”

“It’s my book,” Liz whispered. “They’re going to publish my book.”
Max smiled broadly and tightened his arms around her as he kissed her cheek. “I knew they would.”
“Max,” Liz said, shocked. “They are going to publish my book.”
Max chuckled. “Uh-huh.”
“Oh my God,” Liz said, emitting a trembling exhale.
“It’s an extraordinary book, Liz,” Max said.
“Oh my God,” Liz repeated, still staring at the piece of paper in her shaking hands.
Max released his grip on Liz and walked around her, kneeling in front of her. Tears were flowing down her cheeks and his smile broadened. It was happy tears. She looked from the paper to him, back to the paper, to return to him.
“I don’t understand.”
Max caressed her thigh, anxiously waiting for the news to really sink in. “They liked your book, Liz. Soon everyone will be able to read it. Soon everyone will know what an incredible writer you are.”

She thought about the pile of rejection slips that she had saved, still packed away in one of the numerous moving boxes. She had never stopped writing. She had never given up. But she had gotten so used to getting rejection notices that she had forgotten how it felt like to anticipate an acceptance letter. After she had submitted her latest novel, after Max had read through it, her busy every day life had taken over and she had almost forgotten about the reply she was awaiting. She had been accepted? They were going to publish her book?
A smile spread over her face, which was quickly covered behind her hand as if it was too big to be let out. “They are going to publish my novel.”
“Yes,” Max said.
Barely containing the squeal of joy, Liz flung herself into Max’s arms, her stomach pushing Max off balance so that they ended up flat on the floor.
“They want my book!” Liz exclaimed, her excited hands taking a firm grip on his cheeks and kissing him elatedly.
“Yes, they do,” Max laughed.
Liz sat back, her thighs straddling his waist and looked off into the air, a big smile on her lips. “I can’t believe it.” Looking down at him, the intensity of the bliss in her eyes, almost took his breath away. “Can you believe it, Max?”

Before he had a chance to respond, she was kissing him again. At first she was raining small kisses all over his face, but as his hands moved into her hair, she felt the change in the air and her lips automatically sought his out. Later, thinking back on the whole incident, she couldn’t remember how they maneuvered around her stomach, but neither of them was aware of the third person between them at that point. A need strong enough to ignite a fire was boiling between them, their kisses growing increasingly demanding. As her mouth tasted him, felt him, was adored by his mouth, her hands were on a mission of their own, unbuttoning his shirt. She moaned into his mouth as her hands came into contact with his taut, hairless skin. Assaulted by the sudden need to taste his skin, she slid her lips down his throat, leaving a wet trail of kisses in her wake. His hands adored the few inches of naked skin he could find, until that wasn’t enough and he took a hold of her sweater and tugged on it. Sliding over the bulge of her stomach, his actions separated her from her exploration of his skin as he pulled it over her head. Not bothering to remove her bra, he pushed the material upwards to capture one of her dark nipples in his mouth. Liz inhaled sharply at the touch. She couldn’t remember ever being this sensitive. She could feel his loving radiate out from her breast as tingles throughout her entire body.
“Max…” she moaned, her head rolling backwards as she arched her back.
Finding it too much of a hassle to navigate around her bra, Max reached behind her to unclasp it.

“God, Liz,” he sighed as she sat naked across his chest, merely clad in denim jeans. The reason why they should not continue this was staring him straight in the face and he halted. Liz, noticing his lack of response, met his eyes.
“What’s wrong?” she panted.
“We can’t do this,” Max said, regretting every word.
“What? Why?” Her mind was dazed, but the cold air of the living room made her acutely aware of her unclothed state. Following Max’s eyes to her stomach, she sighed, cursing her own stupidity for almost letting things get out of hand. “Oh…”
Leaning forward, Max pressed a kiss against the stomach, simultaneously taking the moment to will himself to calm down.
Feeling the goosebumps form on her skin under his lips, he pulled back and collected her sweater from the floor next to them. Giving her a loving half-smile, he helped her pull the sweater back on. He gently stroked her hair back from her face, reveling in the feeling of her soft skin against his thumb. He could never get enough of her. Liz reciprocated a more radiant smile as her thoughts returned to the cause of them almost losing their control.
“They’re going to publish my book!”
Her giddy giggles were partially drowned out by his kisses and their laughter filled the house as Liz lost her balance and fell off of Max’s lap.


TBC...
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Post by max and liz believer » Thu Aug 31, 2006 7:45 pm

Big hug and THANK YOU to everyone who has left feedback. Here you are;

out of this world (Carol) - Thank you for paying a visit from Lurkdom!
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- I love your analytic mind!
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- You know you're the greatest!
BehrObsession wrote:So far, you're doing a fine job at keeping the happiness going. Please find a way to stay away from the angst through until the end of this wonderful story.
Uhm... Sweetie, you've read enough of my stories by now to know my way of writing, right...? :roll:


Chapter 54

The feathery touch to the skin of her stomach woke her up. Her mind still groggy from sleep, she slightly opened her eyes to find Max with his head resting on her belly. He looked at her, startled, as her hand crept into the mass of dark hair on his head.
“Hey,” he whispered, his eyes dark in the humble lightning of the early morning. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Max,” Liz mumbled. “What are you doing?”
He had pushed her nightgown upwards to expose her naked skin and she could feel the warmth of his fingers softly pressing against her stomach.
“Nothing,” Max whispered and granted her with a small self-conscious smile before moving up beside her, aligning his strong body with hers.
“You know, you’re going to make our poor child sleep-deprived if you keep talking to her that much,” Liz said.
Resting his weight on his elbows, he stretched out and smothered the hair away from her forehead before adorning it with a kiss. Complimenting her cheeks and the tip of her nose with kisses as well, he came to rest his forehead against hers, looking into her eyes, feeling the presence of her lips less than an inch away.
“You’re going to make me sleep-deprived,” Liz continued, very aware of the proximity to Max’s body.
“I needed to tell her something,” Max answered, his lips teasingly brushing against hers with every word.
“Really?” Liz moaned, his traitorous fingers moving further up her body, under the nightgown. “What’s that?”
“That, my love,” his hand brushed against her breast and he captured her gasp with his lips, sensually slowly touching her lips, “is a secret between her and me.”

“Hey,” Liz protested, and she had to struggle, in more ways than one, to be able to push him away from her and onto his back. As she hovered over him she was unaware of the opposite effect her attempt at putting him in his place was having on him. “If your discussions disturb me as well, I think I have the right to know what those discussions…” His hands, cradling her cheeks ever so gently, halted her sentence, causing the last words to weakly whisper through the air, “…are about.”
“I love you.”
The honesty she could hear in his voice and the love she could see in his eyes heightened his statement until it was rolling down her spine in rivulets of goosebumps. Leaning down to kiss him, she responded softly, “I love you too.”
His fingers were threading through her hair, his eyes looking up at her longingly. “I’ve been thinking.”
“Good for you, Max,” Liz smiled.
In a quick sweep, Liz unexpectedly found herself on her back and before she even had the chance to voice her surprise, Max was kissing her neck.
“Besides,” Liz said breathlessly, angling her head to grant Max better access, “what are you doing thinking at six in the morning? And do you know what day it is?”
“Sunday,” Max answered, his voice creating vibrations against her skin and her leg unconsciously draped over the back of his thigh.
“And what do people normally do on Sundays?”
“Some go to church… actually, if I remember correctly it’s the day God rested and I’m sure there was complete silence on Earth on that day of rest.”
Liz pulled back to look at him through narrowed eyes. “What are you implying? That I talk too much?”
“At the moment,” he kissed down her neck, pushing the strap of her nightgown out of way to trace her collarbone, “yes.”
“You started it,” Liz countered.
Kissing down between the valley of her breasts, eliciting another moan from her lips, Max smiled against her skin. His lips lingered there before looking up at her while resting his chin on her chest.

“I think it’s time to discuss names,” he said. They had avoided the subject out of fear that a name would increase the attachment value to the baby; something they weren’t willing to do while there was still a large risk that the baby might die. But Max thought it was about time to plan for the future. “Any suggestions?”
Liz looked at him incredulously. “Are you telling me that you woke me up to talk about names?”
“You’re so cute when you’re cranky,” Max said.
Liz resisted the urge to smack him. “Max, it’s-“ she glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand, “6.20 a.m.. Anyone would be cranky at this time.”
Her voice took on a softer tone and she kissed him on the forehead. “Actually, I have thought of a name.”
Noticing her sudden shyness, Max slid further up her body, burying his face in the crook of her neck. The heat from his body encased her as his naked chest pressed up against the exposed skin at the top of her gown and she could feel the rhythmic beating of his heart against her breast.
“Tell me.” His voice was distorted, coming from the warmth and security of her neck. There were a couple of seconds of silence before she responded, the breath she held as she voiced the name exposing how highly she felt in her heart that the baby she was carrying was supposed to carry the name on her mind for the rest of its life.
“Miranda.”

Silence and immobility followed, seconds stretching far too long for Liz’s comfort, but after what was in reality only five seconds, Max lifted his head and met her eyes. She briefly saw his joy and contentment sparkle in the brown color before he turned his head away from her, directing his eyes to her stomach. Kicking the sheets slightly out of his way, Max eased himself down the length of the bed, brushing against Liz’s body unknowingly but ever so enticingly. He rose to his knees next to her stomach and positioned his hands against the protrusion, his hands dark in contrast to her milky skin. His entire attention on the baby resting on the other side of the protective integument, Max spoke in a voice that made Liz tear up. “Hello sweetie. Mommy and I have talked, and you know what? You are now Miranda. How about that?”
“Do you like it?” Liz asked and swallowed when she heard the teary quality of her voice.
Max looked at her and took a hold of her hand, lacing their fingers together. “It’s perfect. Just like you.” Turning back to her belly, he tenderly kissed it, sealing the bond between a father and a daughter with a kiss. “And you.”
“Any suggestions for a boy’s name?” Liz asked, wiping a runaway tear off her cheek.
“Now, why would we need that? We already know it’s a girl, right?”
They didn’t really. They hadn’t medically confirmed it.
“Just in case?”
“Liz, this is Miranda. There’s no doubt in my mind that you are carrying a Miranda.”
Liz smiled, nodding while tears silently rolled down her cheeks. “Okay.”

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

“Thank you, again, for doing this, Michael,” Liz said as Michael picked up another box off the floor.
“If you don’t stop thanking me already, I might just hurt you,” Michael said. Liz laughed at his gruff tone of voice. Glancing over at her over his shoulder, he shrugged. “I don’t mind.”
Smiling to herself, Liz picked up a photo frame from the box Michael had positioned on the dining table and her movements slightly halted as she saw the small boy staring back at her. Joshua. Unconsciously stroking her pregnant stomach, she slowly placed the frame on the table. A thought occurred to her then. An idea.
“Michael?”
She assumed that the huff she got in reply meant that Michael was listening and continued, “Do you know anyone that are good at making photo collages? You know, digital art?”
Michael turned towards her, looking at her with a blank expression. “Uhm… yes, I know someone. He’s rather good. What did you have in mind?”
Liz lifted the frame off the table surface and gave it to him. Michael got a wistful expression on a face, an emotion that passed quickly before he looked up from the photo. “You want to make a collage of Josh?”
Suddenly not so sure that it was a good idea, Liz nodded insecurely. “Do you think Max would like that?”
Michael looked down at the photo again, contemplating her question. His eyes remained trained on the photo as he answered. “Yes, I think he would like that.”
With a rush of excitement over this new project, Liz bit her lower lip to prevent her smile from exploding. “Uhm… I think he has some more photos upstairs. I’ll go and look.”
“Okay,” Michael said absent-mindedly and returned to what he had been doing.

Liz had fallen in love with their new house from the second Max had put the house keys in her hand, but climbing the beautiful stairs had proved to be an ever increasing challenge. Feeling the weight of her abdomen pulling downwards by the force of gravity, Liz was tired after merely seven steps. She pressed her hand against the belly and tightened her hold on the rail, and ignored her sharp breathing in her ears. Her forehead was glistering with sweat when she reached the top step and she had to stop for a few seconds to get her breathing back under control. While she stood there, making herself take deeper and slower breaths, she felt something wet spread through her panties. Frowning, she looked down at herself, seeing a darkening of her pants spread along the side of one of the legs and she frowned. Did she just wet herself? She hadn’t even felt the need to go to the toilet. As she straightened up to walk into the direction of the bathroom, it hit her.
“Oh no…” she whispered.
It was too early. It was a month too early.
“Stay calm, stay calm,” she told herself, while her heart was racing away. Getting herself worked up would only make the situation worse. Get Michael. She needed to get to Michael. She turned around and looked down the long stairs, putting one foot on the first step with the intention of going down when she felt a sharp pain in her stomach. She doubled over, her hand gripping the rail tightly. It lasted only for a few seconds, but it was enough to knock the wind out of her.
Fearfully, she looked down the stairs. “Stay calm, stay calm.”
Not seeing Michael where she had left him, she could feel the panic build up inside. “Michael!!

She was taken aback by the strength of her voice, and apparently, so was Michael who appeared around the doorway, looking up at her with an unreadable expression. “What?”
Stay calm. Stay calm.
“I need you to call Max.”
“Max’s at work,” Michael answered.
Liz closed her eyes, focusing on her breathing. Thank you, Michael, for stating the obvious. “Yes, Michael, I know that. But you need to call him. Tell him to call Dr. Reynolds and let them know that they need to prepare for the caesarean today.”
Michael gaped at her. “What?”
“My water just broke, and I’m having contractions.”
“I thought you said you were not going to have the C-section until a month from now.”
Liz closed her eyes again. Out of all people, why was she with Michael when her water broke?
“I guess the baby didn’t get the memo. You might want to call an ambulance as well…” Her hand tightened around the rail, “…I’m not feeling too well.”
Michael took a step towards the stairs, seeing her sway. “Liz?”
“I’m fine. I’m fine. Please, Michael. You need to call Max.”
Michael looked at her for a long second, before running up the stairs, taking two steps at the time.
Liz stared up at him as he towered protectively over her. “Michael, what…? I just told you-“
“Look, Max is going to kill me if he finds out that I just left you like this.” Before she had a chance to react, Michael had scooped her up in his arms and was carrying her towards the bedroom. “And I don’t think he would’ve been too happy if you had fainted and fallen down the stairs and broken your neck.”

He laid her down on the bed cover, as if she was made out of glass, a tenderness Liz never knew Michael possessed. Before she had the chance to ponder that fact any further, another contraction hit her and its suddenness tricked a cry over her lips. When the pain disappeared, she noticed Michael’s hand caressing her forehead and looking at her worriedly.
“Michael, what are you still doing here?”
“You okay?”
“Yes, yes, I’m fine. Just get Max, okay?” If she hadn’t been panicking she might’ve felt guilty about the harshness of her voice, but Michael didn’t seem to notice as he nodded and disappeared. For the next ten minutes, she was lying on the bed, staring at the ceiling, only partly aware of how Michael was hovering around the bed. It was the longest ten minutes of her life and it did nothing to lessen her worry about the baby.
“Liz?”
“Yes,” she said.
“The ambulance is here. Do you want to wait for Max?”
Liz looked up at Michael and shook her head. “I need to get to the hospital. Tell Max to go to the hospital.”
She had suspected that Max wouldn’t make it in time. The school where he worked was a twenty minutes drive from where they lived.
“I’ve got her,” Michael told the ambulance men as they walked into the room and before Liz had the chance to protest, Michael had lifted her up again and was carrying her out of the room and down the stairs.

Michael lowered her on the stretcher and she managed to catch his hand before he jumped out of the ambulance. “Thank you, Michael.”
He just nodded, a perfect model of shock, and then he was gone.
“Don’t worry, Ms. Parker, it will be fine,” one of the ambulance men assured her. She nodded inattentively, her eyes focusing on the backdoors as they were closing. Before the doors closed completely, something stopped the ambulance man on the other side and Liz could hear voices. His voice. Relief washed over her. She started crying when she saw him jump into the ambulance. Seeing her tears, lying there on that stretcher in the ambulance, his heart almost stopped.
“Baby,” he said, his hands in her hair, caressing her cheeks, his mouth kissing her tears and his arms pulling her into his arms.
“It’s too early,” she cried into his shirt.
“It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.”
“She’s not ready to come out.”
His arms tightened around her as he mumbled soothing words into her hair. When she bent forward as another contraction hit, he, almost instinctively, rubbed the small of her back without loosening his hold on her. He remembered how nervous and panicked he had been when Tess had gone into labor with Josh, but all of those feelings were not present at this moment. He knew how important it was that Liz remained as calm as possible and he was going to do everything in his power to remove her fears.

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

“How are you feeling, Liz?”
Liz smiled weakly at the nurse, squeezing Max’s hand tighter. “Okay.”
“That’s good. Everything is going okay. You just relax.”
Liz’s eyes wandered to the mint green colored sheet blocking her vision from the operation, before she looked up at Max who, clad in matching mint green, was alternating between watching the procedure on the other side of the sheet and watching over her. Their eyes met and she could see the reassuring smile in his eyes even though the facial mask prevented her from seeing it on his lips.
“What’s going on?”
Max glanced over the sheet, still trying to get past the sight of all the blood as the doctor cut through the layers of skin and mesentery. “They haven’t gotten into the uterus yet.”
Liz nodded, worry prominent in her eyes. At her expression, Max kneeled next to her, so that his face ended up level with her shoulder. She turned her head to look at him and he squeezed her hand. “You’re doing fine.”
She nodded, strange conflicting feelings tearing inside of her. She wanted the child to come out so that she wouldn’t be exposed to Liz’s immunosuppressive drugs any longer, but at the same time she wanted the child to remain in her womb and not come out until she was fully equipped to handle the harsh outside world.
“Hey,” Max said, demanding her attention, “remember all those baby books we’ve read? We know better than anyone that a baby born in week 35 is usually just as well developed as a full-term baby.”
“I know,” Liz agreed. She knew all of that. Still, she was afraid that her case would be different. Her case was different. Even though the baby was only one month premature, she might still have a low birth weight and that would affect her chances of survival.

Her train of thought was interrupted by a loud cry. A baby’s cry. Her baby’s cry. She looked up at Max, desperate to hear his confirmation to what she was hearing, but his head was turned into the direction of the sound. She knew that the baby would be rushed off directly, to be supplied with oxygen and to prevent it from getting cold, but she was hoping that maybe she would see her before.
“It’s a girl, Mr. Evans,” the doctor told Max and he barely noticed the tears flowing down his cheeks as he followed the very small baby’s trip towards the back of the room, until he couldn’t see her anymore.
“It’s a girl, Liz,” he said, turning to Liz. She was smiling at him, but as the increasing distance between him and his newborn daughter diminished the screams, his ears picked up on the beeping of the ECG that was hooked up to Liz. It was telling him that her heart was beating, but even though he was not a doctor, it was also telling him that her heart was not beating regularly. Before he had a chance to ask the question, a nurse leaned over Liz.
“Liz? How are you feeling?”
“Is the baby okay?” Her voice was weak and Max felt the ice-cold hand of dread squeeze his heart.
“It’s a very healthy baby girl,” the nurse answered. “But you have to focus on you now, Liz.”
“I’m kinda dizzy,” Liz mumbled, her words becoming more incoherent. Max watched in horror as her eyes drifted close and he heard his own voice scream ‘no’, blending with the incessant high-pitched flatline signal from the ECG. Hands were pushing at him, trying to separate his hand from hers. Voices were yelling around him, words he understood but didn’t want to hear. Heart has stopped. Losing blood.
“Mr. Evans. You need to step outside.”
With his life collapsing before his very eyes, he was led out of the room. Through the plastic window in the green door closing in front of him, he watched Liz’s body jolt as electricity was sent through her unresponsive body. Again and again…


TBC...

----

Okay, even my b-reader is more or less ready to kill me for leaving it there, so I'm writing the next chapter as we speak...
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Post by max and liz believer » Sun Sep 03, 2006 6:15 pm

Because I value my life, I'm back with the next chapter. Thank you, Elizabeth, for editing so quickly!

Thank you for that overwhelming (albeit slightly scary) response;

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Chapter 55

“Max?”
He turned around and mustered up a smile as he saw his sister. “Hey.”
She pulled him into her arms, her protruding stomach being slightly compressed between their bodies. “How’re you holding up?”
“I’m okay,” Max answered, unconsciously squeezing his sister harder.
“Have you seen the baby?”
Max nodded, a true smile lingering in his eyes. “She so tiny.”
“But she’s okay?”
“Yeah.”
“That’s really good, Max.”
“It’s too soon to tell if the immunosuppressive drugs have caused any damage, but the doctors are optimistic.”
Isabel smiled. “That’s really good news, Max.”
He nodded, distractedly, while staring into the wall with unseeing eyes.

Max grabbed a nurse that rushed out of the room, his grip tight and demanding her attention. “What’s happening?”
“Mr. Evans?”
Tears threatening to spill over, he ignored her question, “Is she dying?”
The nurse turned more fully towards him, seeing the worry in his eyes. “Mr. Evans, there were complications, her heart stopped-“
“I know that god damnit!!”
His loud outburst didn’t affect the nurse a bit. Having seen numerous of worried fathers, husbands, brothers, uncles, and so on during her 27 years of residency she recognized his anger for what it truly was. Fear.
Speaking calmly, the nurse tried to catch his eyes which were routinely fluttering to the plastic window in the door, trying to see what was going on. “She’s bleeding a lot, so the doctors are trying to stitch up the caesarean and they are trying to restart her heart. Mr. Evans, considering your wife’s medical history, we were fully prepared for that something like this could’ve happen. We have the best doctors in there working on her right now.”


“How is she?”
Max jumped out of the reverie and looked at the red-eyed Maria who was running down the corridor, with Michael chasing her heels. But before he had a chance to answer, Liz’s parents appeared through the swinging doors behind Maria and Michael. With determined strides and an aura of familiarity that someone who have visited a hospital more times than should be allowed, Nancy and Jeff Parker overtook Maria and Michael. Jeff granted Max a look, the father’s eyes fearful, while his wife was staring straight ahead, her destination several doors down the corridor.
“Is she okay?”
Max turned to look at Maria and recognized the fear on her face as his own.

He could see the medical staff clearing out of the room, something that didn’t make him relieved, but only further heightened his fear. There were two reasons to why they would be clearing out the room. Either they had succeeded and she was okay, or she was dead. He caught the first doctor walking out of the room.
“What’s going on?”
“Mr. Evans?” Max sighed internally, but gave the obligatory nod.
“Has anyone informed you of what is going on?”
“I was hoping you would do that,” Max said, feeling the sudden need to hit the man in front of him. Could they stop with the politeness already and get to the point?
“Elizabeth’s heart reacted to the anesthetics and she had an arrhythmia. The development was fast and her heart stopped.”
Max was unaware that he was tightening his fists so much that his nails digging into his skin caused his skin to break. He would look down at his palms two days later and wonder where the wounds came from.
“We were able to resuscitate her. She’s stable.”
Max’s body collapsed against the wall in a trembling sigh. His voice weak, and tears of repressed fear mixing with relief flooding down his cheeks, he whispered, “Can I see her?”
“We have to move her and after that a nurse will let you know when it is okay to visit her.”
Max nodded, his eyes reverted back to the window. As his eyes tried to pick up every glance of Liz possible through the nurses milling around, he missed the small sympathetic smile on the doctor’s face.


“They say that she is stable at the moment, but that they still need to monitor her closely,” Max said.
A trembling, well-manicured hand covered an ‘Oh God’ and Maria turned into Michael’s waiting arms, the built up fear that had been holding her up, keeping her going, diminishing and making her legs weak.
Isabel hugged Max again, thinking that she was doing it for Max without realizing that she was the one needing the comfort more than her brother. It was different for Isabel than it was for Maria. If she had known Liz better she might have formed a stronger bond, a bond that would make her fear Liz’s death. But at the moment, all Isabel could think of was her brother and what Liz’s possible death would do to her brother. It was the fear of losing him again that made her hug him tightly and the two tears falling on his shoulder were tears of deep-rooted worry - for Max.
Max caught Michael’s eyes. “Thank you for looking after Liz.”
“Don’t mention it,” Michael answered, feeling slightly uncomfortable with the heavy gratitude in Max’s voice. Michael was happy he had been able to help and to hear that there was a good reason to believe that Liz would be okay caused relief to drown his heart, something that was not visible on his face.

Max looked over in the direction Liz’s parents had disappeared to and the suffocating feeling of guilt and inadequacy flooded back up to the surface. He felt torn between Liz and his newborn daughter. Both were floating between life and death and he didn’t know who he should visit. Even though the feelings were not completely eradicated, the nurses had made the decision easier for him.

”Mr. Evans?”
Max tore himself away from the plastic window, ignorant to the fact that the image of hospital beds, cables, machines, and scrubs would be forever imprinted on his retina, and looked at the red-haired nurse in front of him.
“Yes.”
She extended a slender hand, accompanied by a soft smile, and he took it, needing the physical contact more than he was aware of.
“My name is Anna. I’m the head nurse for your daughter.”
“Oh,” Max said, feeling as if she was talking to someone else. Talking about someone else’s life. It still did not feel real. His daughter’s birth did not feel real. How could something that was supposed to be a moment of joy and celebration be transformed into something he wished was a nightmare he would wake up from? Even though it had been difficult to fathom that he was a father when Joshua had entered the world, that situation had been vastly different from the current. Josh had been born the natural way; there had been no complications whatsoever, and Josh, still wet from amniotic fluid, had been placed on top of Tess’ chest soon after birth. They had been able to look at the baby, contemplate his smallness and wonder over the fact that they were parents. They’d had time to let everything sink in.

With Liz, it hadn’t sunk in. He had been amazed and elated the moment they picked the very small girl out of Liz’s womb, but that feeling had quickly disintegrated as Liz’s condition had worsened. He was only a father for a few seconds, but Liz had owned his heart for more than a year, and the feelings of fatherhood had quickly dissipated when Liz’s heart had stopped, and an indescribable fear of losing her forever had mercilessly put its claws into him. Hearing the tall nurse refer to his daughter frightened him. He had forgotten about his daughter and worse yet, when this nurse had presented herself he feared that she would take him away from Liz. Guilt followed quickly thereafter. It was his daughter, for Christ’s sake! He should be elated to hear about her. But all he could think about was Liz. Liz was all that mattered.
“Does your daughter have a name?”
Max blinked, glancing through the window again to see if they were about to move Liz yet. The sooner they would move Liz, the sooner he would be able to see her.
“Miranda.”
“Miranda,” Anna mused. “That’s a beautiful name. Would you like to meet her?”
Her inquire caused him to look at her with mixed feelings of fear and excitement. Fear of leaving Liz. Excitement about seeing his daughter.

Noticing how the man’s gaze kept flickering to the plastic window, nurse Anna said, “I’m sorry about your wife.”
“We’re not married,” Max answered thickly, wishing desperately that he had actually proposed to Liz.
“Oh,” Anna said. “Has anyone informed you on what’s going on?”
Max offered Anna a sideway look. “She’s stable, but they are going to move her.”
“Yes,” Anna said, “They are probably going to keep her sedated for awhile and I’m pretty sure they won’t allow visitors during the first hour.”
He knew that she was only trying to help, trying to let him know what was going on, but her statement made him want to cry.
“It’s up to you, Mr. Evans, but I could take you to Miranda and you could see her, before going back to Elizabeth.”
Max looked back at the window, feeling like he wanted to split himself in two. Nurse Anna’s message was coming through loud and clear. Since he wouldn’t be able to see Liz anyway, he might as well visit Miranda. But something was holding him back, letting the decision sustain its difficulty.


“Will the baby stay in the hospital for long?”
Isabel pulled him back from his memories, forcing him to focus on the present. “Uhm…according to the nurse, premature babies usually stay in the hospital for the remaining time that they were supposed to have spent in the womb. But it really depends on if she is putting on enough weight.”
“God, this whole thing feels surreal.”
Under other circumstances, Max might try to offer some reassurance by repeating what the nurse had told him, but since the words he had been given had not sound particularly reassuring to him, he decided not to.

As they walked towards the neonatal intensive care unit, Anna informed him of Miranda’s condition. She told him that even though Miranda was more or less considered full-term in terms of number of weeks, Miranda, with her 5 pounds and 4 ounces was considered a low-weight baby, and her length of 15 inches was very small. Max wouldn’t realize how small until he later laid his eyes on little Miranda. The neonatal intensive care area was intimidating with its buzzing activity. At the beginning, all he could see, and hear, were the machines. Heaters, ventilators, and blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and oxygen monitors. He was attacked by a myriad of beeping sounds, all different alarms for when a value was not right somewhere.
“It can be a bit daunting the first time,” Anna said, smiling at him reassuringly, “but you’ll learn to ignore it after a while.”
Max nodded, his eyes taking in the numerous nurses moving around and next he looked at the small plastic containers, enclosed on all sides, except for the round holes on the long sides, two on each side. He could see how the nurses would put their hands through the holes to touch the small babies inside. His heart lurched at the sight of the babies. He remembered how terrified he had been of possibly hurting Joshua, because he had seemed so small. But this was something else entirely. Some of the smallest ones were the length of his underarm and their faces were hidden behind thick tubes.

Seeing the evident distress on his face, Anna said, “The really small ones have undeveloped lungs and need a tube to help them breathe.”
”Miranda?” was all Max was able to say. The sight of the small babies, some not looking quite human in their undeveloped state, was making him nauseous.
“Her lungs are much more developed, Mr. Evans,” Anna answered. “She needs some extra oxygen because at this stage her lungs can’t get as much oxygen out of the air as her body needs, but that’s only through small plastic tubes attached to her nostrils.”
Max nodded mutely and almost walked into nurse Anna when she suddenly came to a halt next to one of the plastic incubators. He looked at the incubator, looked through the two sheets of hard plastic at the small baby on the other side.
“Max, meet your daughter.”


“Max? Max?”
He turned to look at Isabel, realizing that he had zoned out again. His sister narrowed her eyes, scrutinizing his weary expression and the gray tone of his skin.
“Have you slept at all?”
Max shook his head and opened his mouth to answer, when Maria walked up to them. In the time Max had spent staring at the wall, remembering what had happened the last couple of hours, Maria had gone off to talk to Liz’s parents.
“She’s awake.”
He whipped his head around to look at Liz’s best friend and he tried to say something, but Maria beat him to it.
“She’s asking for you.”


TBC...

----

For those of you who are not used to the US system;
5 pounds 4 ounces = app. 2380 grams
15 inches = about 38 cm
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Post by Jason's Lover » Sun Sep 03, 2006 8:58 pm

Oh, thank God she made it! Great part!

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Post by max and liz believer » Fri Sep 15, 2006 4:24 am

So my cousin just left to go back to Sweden after sharing my small single room with me for four weeks. Since I ended up with some homework during this time, she ended up having close to nothing to do. After she had read all of the very few Swedish books on my shelf (she refused to read the English ones) I told her that it would be good for her to read in English so that she could practice. She agreed to reading this story. I printed it out and gave it to her, and I got to see first hand how "annoying" the endings to my chapters are. She was partly cursing me for the angst I was putting her through and partly applauding me for my writing... Weird...

Anyhoo, the point I wanted to make with this ramble was that I now (on another level) understand the impact of the cliffhangers I sometimes throw at you. It's somehow more real when the person reading it actually knows where I am and can come after me in case I don't update. She has promised to make sure that I keep updating - or else... :roll:

That doesn't mean I can contain that tendency to write cliffhangers though... It's a curse, I'm telling you.


Enough of that. My dear readers, thank you so much for all the beautiful feedback!

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- Welcome, Isabelle, to this fic! Of course you can call me Jo (everyone else does). I'm so glad you're liking this story and thank you so much for the comments :D
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Chapter 56

The rain was falling heavily outside the window and she automatically pulled her knees closer to her chest. How typical for it to be raining on a day like this. Oddly enough, she had been looking forward to this day, wanting to meet the miniature Liz so badly, but right now she was wishing that Liz had never gotten pregnant. She practically jumped when someone’s hand touched the top of her head.
“God,” she sighed when she realized who it was. “Stop sneaking up on people, Michael!”
“I brought you coffee,” Michael answered, sidestepping around her remark. There were many sentences he could retort with, but considering Maria’s current emotional state he decided to try and be civil. It was a challenge, but he was confident that he could do it.
“I don’t feel like coffee,” Maria murmured.
Michael shrugged. If she didn’t want his coffee, fine with him. Putting the paper cups on the floor next to the window he plopped down opposite her on the windowsill.
“So, when are we going home?”
Maria glared at him, which made him narrow his eyes. “What?”

Sighing exasperatedly, she turned to look out the window again, completely ignoring him.
“Look, visiting hours ended like one hour ago, there’s no need to stick around. You won’t be able to see her until tomorrow anyway.”
He was tired, worn-down by recent events, having gone through the shock of his life while trying, to his best knowledge, to take care of Liz, and he just wanted to go home and get a nice night’s sleep.
“So leave,” Maria said.
Staring at her profile, Michael struggled to keep his temper in check. But the hours had been too long; the dramas had stretched him too thin. “Fine.”
Standing up, he ripped his jacket off the back of a nearby plastic chair and stormed off.
With his departure, her tears started to fall, her crying face soon matching the wet surface of the windowpane.

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

Three hours earlier

He could feel the penetrating gaze of Mr. Parker when he stepped into the room. For some reason, the gaze made him feel like seventeen again, when he had been caught trying to sneak into the house during the early morning hours. But Liz’s parents were quickly forgotten when he caught sight of her. More now than before, he was struck by how small she looked in that hospital bed. Vulnerable and tired. Her eyes were closed and he walked up to the bed, slowly, as if afraid of disturbing the sleep the circles under her eyes told that she was in dire need of. He soundlessly pulled up one of the wooden chairs to the bed, and carefully took her hand in his. At that moment, it was only him and her. No nurses. No doctors. No parents. No child. Just Max and Liz. Warm tears floated down the surface of the back of her hand when he tenderly kissed it, mistrusting the hope inside of him, making him tremble slightly.
“Max…”
He smiled at her as she whispered his name and then slowly blinked her eyes open.
“Hey beautiful.”
She returned a weak reflection of his smile.
“How are you feeling?”
“Tired,” she answered, her smile lingering while her eyes were already drifting closed again.
“You get some sleep then,” Max said.
She gave a miniscule nod in agreement and her head rolled slightly to the side as the medication and lack of energy from the ordeal pulled her back to a state of unconsciousness.

Max looked up at Jeff and Nancy, feeling as if they were blaming him for putting their daughter in that hospital bed. In a way, he couldn’t blame them. He was partly to be held responsible. If he hadn’t gotten Liz pregnant, they wouldn’t have been here today.
“How’s the baby?”
Max only partly managed to hide his surprise at Nancy’s soft question. He had recognized their list of priorities from when they had rushed into the hospital, with only their daughter on their mind. He had recognized that list because his list had looked similar. His initial need to watch over Liz had smothered the urgency to visit his newborn baby girl.
He offered them a trying smile. “She’s beautiful. Looks just like Liz.”
Tears started to flow down Nancy’s cheeks and she smiled through the wet curtain. “Is everything okay with her?”
Max nodded. “She’s slightly small for her age, but her organs seem well developed.”
“I’m sorry.”
The teary, desperate apology made all three adults turn their heads towards Liz, who was now looking at them with wide-open eyes. But her flickering gaze eventually landed on Max, repeating her plea for absolution. “I’m sorry, Max.”

Max hushed her, squeezing her hand tighter while his other hand brushed the hair away from her forehead. “What are you talking about, Liz? You have nothing to be sorry about.”
“I failed her. I was meant to take care of her and protect her and I failed her.” Max was shaking his head in disagreement, but Liz continued. “If I hadn’t been so stubborn about helping to unpack. If I had only listened to you, she wouldn’t have been born this early.”
“Liz,” Max said sharply. Her words trailed off and her red-brimmed eyes looked up at him. “We were aware of the risks when we decided to keep the baby. We did everything we could to help the pregnancy. There was nothing more we could do. According to the doctors, it’s more common in your situation that babies are born much earlier. You did everything right, Lizzie.”
“I let you down,” Liz whispered.
“No, no,” he kissed her forehead, fighting his own tears. “You could never let me down. You amaze me every day, Liz Parker. After everything you’ve been through, you still have the energy to do this. I was so scared that you…that you would die.” Tears now flowing freely down his cheeks, Max cradled her cheek in his hand. “Don’t scare me like that again.”
She smiled weakly, kissing the skin of his palm.
“Is she… is she…”
Max smiled reassuringly at her. “She’s beautiful, Liz. She’s a miracle.”
Liz nodded, her smile making her tears shine brightly in her eyes. “Looks just like me, huh?”
“Yep, just like you.”

”Max, meet your daughter.”
Max looked through the plastic walls of the incubator, his breath caught in apprehension. Miranda was tiny, the small diaper they had put on her seemed almost ridiculously small. She had her eyes closed, her arms aligned along her bare body. Plastic tubes were attached to her nostrils and running across her pink cheeks to supply her with extra oxygen. Electrodes were attached to her chest to monitor her heart rate and blood pressure, and tubes were coming out of her miniscule arms to facilitate blood sampling. But Max saw past all medical equipment and took a close look at his daughter. And he smiled. For the first time since Michael had called him to tell him that Liz was in labor and that he better hurry back, he felt somewhat relieved. Their daughter, the child they had been certain would most probably not survive, was right in front of him; breathing and alive.
“Would you like to touch her?”
Max tore his eyes away from Miranda and looked at the nurse, nodding with dumbfounded excitement. Nurse Anna smiled at him and pointed towards a sink. “You need to wash your hands thoroughly first so that you don’t bring any bacteria or viruses into the incubator. Her immune system is not that strong yet.”

It was with trembling hands and tears blurring his vision that, two minutes later, he pushed his hands through the round holes. Seeing his hesitation and the way his hands were trembling, Anna smiled softly, a smile completely lost on Max as his complete attention was on the little girl.
“It’s okay. You can touch her.”
The interior of the incubator was warm, helping Miranda to sustain a normal body temperature. Tentatively, Max brushed his fingers against the calf of Miranda’s right leg. The mixed sensations of her very soft skin and the realization that her calf was about the same size as his index finger caused his accumulating tears to overflow and venture down his cheeks.
“Hey honey, it’s daddy.”
Anna’s smile broadened as she watched the young man lean over the incubator and talk to his baby girl.
“You sure made a dramatic entrance.”


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

She woke up from something brushing against her arm and she instantaneously became aware of the numbed state of her legs.
“God,” she murmured and stretched her legs, letting the blood flood back into her limbs, causing her to wince in pain at the prickling sensation.
“Hey,” a soft voice said above her head and she looked up at the person who was responsible for disrupting her weak slumber. He was the most disheveled she’d ever seen him. His hair was pointing in various directions, his clothes were wrinkled, several of the buttons at the top of his shirt unbuttoned, and his face held a ghostly pallor.
“Hey yourself,” Maria mumbled, straightening her legs some more, trying to rouse herself from the heavy weight of sleep.
“Coffee?”
She looked at the paper cup he was offering, the tendrils of warm coffee smell teasing her nose. What’s up with hospitals and coffee? she wondered silently.
Accepting the cup, she gave him a weak smile. “Thanks.”
He sat down on the edge of the armchair opposite hers, rubbing his eyes tiredly. His actions drew Maria’s attention to the dark purple circles under his eyes.
“You should get some sleep.”
Max shrugged. “I’m not tired.”
Maria nodded, her eyebrows raised. “Ah.” Carefully, she tasted the hot liquid. Scrunching her nose in mild distaste, she put the cup to the side on the small wooden table.
“Did you come from Liz’s room?”
What a stupid question, she realized as soon as she had uttered the words. It was very likely that he came from Liz’s room.

His answer surprised her. “No, Miranda.”
“Oh.” Licking her dry lips, she pulled her legs under her body, causing her to sit up straighter. “How is she?”
“Do you want to meet her?”
She stared at him with something akin to fear. “No…no… I couldn’t.”
“It’s okay. As long as I give my approval, and you wash your hands and such, you’re allowed in.”
Maria smiled at him, the shock ebbing off. “Max, really. That’s really sweet. But… I can’t. It would just be weird, you know. I don’t want to see Liz’s baby before she has even seen her.”
Max nodded. “Okay.”
“But let me know when Liz has seen her, okay? I’m dying to meet Miranda.”
Max offered a weak smile.
“How’s Liz?”
The question had been burning on her tongue ever since Max woke her up. For some reason, she was afraid to ask, afraid to get bad news, but she couldn’t hold herself back any longer.
“She’s tired. Plus the medication they are giving her has a sedative in it.”
“Okay…” Her heart was beating hard. She wanted so badly to visit Liz. Normally, by now she would have been in there, along with Liz’s parents. That’s how it had always been whenever Liz had been in the hospital during their whole friendship. But now was different. Max was here. She hadn’t let her feelings of being pushed out of the way take a hold of her though, because she knew how important it was that Max was by Liz’s side right now. Even though it slightly hurt, Liz had asked for Max when she had woken up, not Maria. That didn’t stop her from desperately wanting to see Liz.

As if reading her mind, Max said, “She just fell asleep, but you can go in there if you want to. She wants to see you.”
She didn’t realize how much she actually cared about Liz needing her until Max uttered those words. Feeling her heart clench, she whispered. “Really?”
Max smiled at her, seeing the fearful hope in her eyes. “She loves you, Maria, and she misses you. She needs you as well. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, some things she just won’t discuss with me.”
Maria laughed softly. “You just wouldn’t understand anyway. No offense, Max, but you are after all just a man.”
Max almost rolled his eyes at this, but decided against it. “Whatever.”


TBC...
Last edited by max and liz believer on Fri Sep 15, 2006 8:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by max and liz believer » Fri Sep 29, 2006 3:41 am

I'm so sorry for the delay.

Everyone who has left feedback, THANK YOU;

vampyrax
Alien614
- I'm glad you found your way back! :D
begonia9508 (Eve)
flyawayraven (Jess)
BehrObsession
Jason's Lover (Crystal)
Earth2Mama (Ellie)
SmileeUK
- Thank you for telling me exactly what you liked about the chapter. I really appreciate that :D
frenchkiss70
aussietrueblue
Emz80m
hazz
Isabelle
DreamerMaxBehrian
- You raised some really good points in your fb and I've decided to approach some of them. You were a bit annoyed with Michael's behaviour at the beginning of the previous chapter. I'm threading a fine line, trying to make Micheal (and the others) realistic in their feelings and behaviour, but also keep them somewhat true to the characters in the show. Sure, maybe Michael should've been nicer to Maria, but he's tired and he sees the situation in a different light. If he is not needed he will go home, get some sleep and he'll be fit for fight the next day. He knows that he won't be of any help without his sleep.

The other thing was;
DreamerMaxBehrian wrote:And she looks just like Liz? Nothing about her looks like Max? I don’t know why, but that kind of makes me sad. Maybe her eyes will be like his, since we don’t know yet what they look like since Miranda’s eyes remained closed the whole time he was visiting with her.
Maybe she doesn't look at all like Max, but maybe she does. But just because Max finds Miranda a replica of Liz only tells us Max's subjective opinion. Sometimes - as a parent - you have difficulties seeing yourself in your children. Instead you'll see your partner - the person you love - in them. I guess it's just how the human mind works sometimes.
DreamerMaxBehrian wrote:I was wondering if you might consider continuing on with “Lethal Whispers” once you’ve finished this. That was another of your masterpieces that I have really been missing and hoping you’ll decide to finish one day. It’s just too good not to be completed. So if you haven’t given any thought to doing so, please do. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d love to see this fic wrapped up as well. If you feel inspired to, that is. :D
Thank you for your beautiful words on LW. LW was one of my personal favourites to write. Saddly, I don't have much inspiration for it at the moment, but I'm certainly planning on finishing it. I think I just have to sit down and start writing and it will all come to me. However, I want to finish this story first...

Gigo (Elizabeth) - Thanks, darling!
Lurkers, thanks for reading!


Without further ado...

Chapter 57


“Hey Maria.”
The drowsy voice made Maria look up from the magazine. She hadn’t been reading; her mind unable to accept that simple distraction. The smile on her childhood friend’s face caused Maria’s whole body to relax with a sigh of relief.
“Hey, how are you feeling?”
Liz’s smile was lingering, while desperately trying to keep her eyes open. “Fine,” and seeing Maria’s disbelief she corrected herself, “Better.”
“And they call me the ‘drama queen’,” Maria said, seemingly out of the blue. The odd look from Liz prompted her to elaborate. “I mean, couldn’t you for once have done something without adding so much drama to it?”
Liz clasped Maria’s hand, which was resting on the edge of the bed. “Sorry, Maria. I didn’t mean to steal your thunder.”
Her voice was soft and coated with understanding. Maria shook her head, still amazed by how well they knew each other and how easily they could read the underlying meanings. Even before Maria had understood why she had said what she had just said, Liz had heard the hidden fear.
“Don’t do it again,” Maria mumbled and Liz squeezed her hand.
“I won’t.”
Silence lowered itself over them as Maria unconsciously let her thoughts wander, and Liz fell into a semi-slumber.
“You know, he’s really a great guy.”
Liz forced her eyes open and scanned Maria’s face. “Who?”
“Max.”
Warmth spread itself throughout Liz’s body, adoring her cheeks with a blush. “Yeah...”
“I always knew there was someone better out there waiting for you. I mean, come on, Kevin?”
Liz laughed softly. “Yeah, I never believed Kevin was the one either.”

Maria stroked some hair away from Liz’s forehead, looking at her with motherly protectiveness. “You look pale. Are you sure you feel okay?”
“I’m just tired.”
Maria nodded, wanting desperately to believe her. As Maria’s concern grew thicker, weighing down on her, Liz decided to change the topic. “Maria, how is Max?”
Maria debated if she should tell Liz the truth or not. She didn’t want to, unnecessarily, put an extra burden on Liz’s already weakened shoulders.
“Maria, please…”
Maria mustered up a smile and stood up to tuck the blanket closer around Liz’s body. “It’s so typical you, Liz, to worry about someone else when you are the one that just had a run in with death.”
Liz managed to grab Maria’s restless hand, demanding Maria’s attention with her tight hold. However, it was the trepidation in Liz’s eyes that forced Maria to capitulate. “He’s doing fine, Liz.”
“You’re lying,” Liz said without hesitation. “I’ve seen Max. He’s not doing fine.”
“Then why are you asking me?”
“I want to hear it from your perspective. He’s putting up a good front when he’s with me, but I know that something’s up.”
“Liz,” Maria sat down again. “You almost died. Of course he’s not doing well.”
Liz turned her face to the side, but not before Maria saw the tear slide down her cheek and she immediately regretted her wording. “It’s not your fault, Lizzie. You couldn’t prevent it.”
“That’s what Max said,” Liz said bitterly.
“He’s right. He doesn’t blame you. No one blames you, Liz, so stop feeling guilty. Liz? Look at me!” Reluctantly, Liz looked into Maria’s green eyes. “It. Was. Not. Your. Fault.”

“I know that,” Liz whispered and Maria almost huffed, not the slightest convinced.
“Knowing you, you will continue to blame yourself, so there’s not much I can do about that. But know this, no one else thinks this was your fault. It was completely out of your hands, Liz. You can’t affect nature. You should be happy that Miranda is alive. According to Max, she’s doing really well.”
“I know, I know,” Liz said weakly. “I am happy. It’s just…”
“What Liz?” Maria asked as Liz sighed.
“I just feel so hopeless…”
The tiredness combined with the trauma she had been through caused her emotions to run into overdrive and Liz was incapable of preventing the tears from running down her cheeks.
“Liz…” Maria said softly.
“I can’t do anything. I just lay here.”
She was sobbing now, not even having the strength to wipe the tears off her face.
Maria opened her purse and hauled up a package of tissues, pulling out three that she handed to Liz. But seeing the total weariness in the Liz’s movements, Maria decided to wipe Liz’s cheeks herself.
“You’re here to get well so that you can take care of your baby.”
Your baby. Those two simple words caused Liz’s sobs to intensify and it was at this point, as Maria was dabbing Liz’s face with tissues, that Max entered the room.
“Liz?”

Cursing softly under her breath, Maria turned her head and looked up at Max standing behind her. This was really nothing Max needed to witness at this point. Maria might not know Max very well, but she could recognize a person on the edge of a nervous breakdown when she saw it. She took a deep breath as she realized that she was the only collected person at that moment, maybe even the only sane person however weird that might sound, and she was the one that would have to divert the situation away from a possible catastrophe.
Keeping her voice light and casual, Maria addressed Max. “She’s fine. She just needed to get something off her chest.”
“Are you feeling worse?” Max asked, leaning over Liz.
Max’s alarm was so tangible Maria could feel it physically weighing down on her. If she felt it, what was it then doing to Liz, who was already close to a breakdown? Maria decided she needed to stop this right now. Standing up, she took a hold of Max’s upper arms and, with more force than she had anticipated, pulled Max away from Liz separating their hands.
“Maria, what…” But before Max had a chance to finish his protest, Maria cut in.
“I know that you are worried about Liz, but I was actually talking to my best friend here. We can handle it without you, Max. We were talking and she just got a little upset. But she will be fine. She just needs to cry it out. Right, Liz?”
Maria gave Liz a pointed look and Liz sniffle out a consensus. “Yes, Max. I’ll be okay.”
Max looked back and forth between the most important woman in his life and her childhood friend, finding it very difficult to listen to either when every fiber of his being was telling him to stay with Liz. Taking a closer look at Liz, he made up his mind and pulled out of Maria’s grip. He cradled Liz’s cheek, his thumb brushing against the dampness of her cheek and he was too engrossed in his concern for Liz to hear Maria’s exasperated sigh behind him.

“Why are you crying?”
Liz leaned into his hand feeling comforted but simultaneously oddly agitated by his presence. Liz looked up at him and saw the dark circles under his eyes, the haunted look in his eyes and the ashen color of his skin. She swallowed, tormented by the dilemma of wanting him close and wanting to protect him. She realized that at the moment, having him close and simultaneously protecting him was not possible.
“I just need a few more minutes with Maria.”
He blinked, surprise washing over his face. “Are you sure?”
She nodded bravely, fighting against the need to have him put his arms around her and pull her against his chest, where she felt safe.
He offered her a small encouraging smile. “Don’t cry, okay?”
She nodded again, not trusting her voice enough to speak any longer. He leaned closer and brushed his lips against hers, tasting the saltiness of her tears on the soft skin. Before she had the chance to fall into his kiss he was gone, giving her a lingering look when he reached the doorway.
Maria decided to break the staring contest. “Okay, Max. Enough. Leave already.”
The air changed around Liz and he was gone.

Determination quickly replaced the sobs as Liz turned towards Maria. “Maria, I need a favor.”
“Anything, babe.”
“Take care of Max for me, would you?”
It was not so much her request, but the way she said it that unnerved Maria. “Are you sure you want to leave that responsibility to me? I’m not really known for my expertise in looking after people.”
“Maria, I know you better than anyone. And if there’s anyone that would make sure that Max is sleeping and eating, it would be you. You’re the smartest and kindest person I know.”
Maria smiled softly at her words, a blush spreading over her fair skin.
“If you don’t, I know where you live,” Liz added.
Maria laughed, rolling her eyes. “You’re such a dork. But that’s why I love you. Of course, Liz. I’ll look after your man for you. I think this is the best assignment I’ve ever received. He’s not exactly hard on the eyes.”
“Okay, don’t get too excited now,” Liz warned. “I still want Max back un-traumatized after being in your care.”
“Dork,” Maria repeated, but her being was tingling with happiness. The person in the bed in front of her was not just a pale, weak patient any longer. She was steadily materializing into Liz, and Maria couldn’t have been happier.

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

“Hello smelly!”
Max looked up at Maria as she sat down next to him on the fairly comfortable blue couch.
“Uhm…hi?”
“No, but seriously,” Maria continued, scrunching her nose, “You smell pretty bad, Max.”
“I don’t,” Max protested weakly, gazing over Maria’s head towards Liz’s room, his thoughts constantly on the person on the other side of that sky blue door.
Maria snapped her fingers in front of his face, causing him to divert his eyes to her face. “Hey, focus!”
Sighing tiredly, Max rubbed his hands over his face. His voice came out muffled hidden behind his hands. “What do you want, Maria?”
“When was the last time you took a shower?”
Max’s rubbing movements stopped and he peered at the blonde pixie through his fingers. “Maria, what the hell are you talking about?”
Maria looked at him with understanding patience and repeated slowly. “You. Smelly. Shower.”
“Is Liz still awake? Is she feeling better?”
“Nah-uh, don’t think you can just change the topic. I think that we should get up, walk out to my car, drive to your place and you can take a shower, maybe even a nap. And maybe, just maybe, we can get you back into looking like a respectable young man again. Because, Max sweetie, this is starting to get embarrassing.”
“I’m fine, Maria. I don’t need to go home.”
“My nose says differently.”

Max stood up and Maria looked up at him expectantly. Was it really going to be that easy? But before she had a chance to stand up herself, Max had turned and was walking into the direction of Liz’s room.
“Where are you going?” Maria whined. Why couldn’t Max for once listen to what she was saying?
“To see Liz,” Max answered simply.
“She’s asleep,” Maria said to his back in a futile attempt to make him turn around. But if she knew Max correctly, he would want to see for himself that Liz was really asleep. Sure enough, Max continued to walk as if Maria hadn’t even opened her mouth. She was just about to start running to catch up with Max, when she saw the door open and a nurse come out. The nurse stopped Max in the doorway, shaking her head sympathetically.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Evans, but visiting hours are over.”
“Oh…”
Maria couldn’t help but feel bad for Max when she saw his body slump as hope of seeing Liz one more time tonight left him. She put her hand on his shoulder, lending him whatever support she could.
“How is she? She’s alright?”
The nurse nodded. “Yes, she’s getting much better. She’s asleep now.” The nurse took in Max’s tired appearance and gave him an encouraging smile. “You should get some sleep too.”
They watched the nurse walk off.
“Come on, Max, let’s get you home.”
“I can stay here,” Max answered. The hospital had some visiting rooms where Max had been spending the last days.
“Max, you heard the nurse. Liz is doing better. There’s nothing more you can do here tonight. You should go home, get something to eat, take a shower and get some sleep. Okay?”
Max considered it for a minute, before reluctantly nodding.

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

Maria switched off the engine and looked over at Max. He was asleep, snoring with his head resting against the car window. Maria shook her head to herself.
“Not tired, huh?” she said quietly with a smile before grabbing a hold of Max’s shirt-clad bicep and giving it a shake. “Max?”
She hadn’t fully realized how tired he was until she had to wake him up. He wouldn’t respond at all so she shook him harder, saying his name louder. It was not until she was basically yelling at him to wake up that his eyes sprung open, looking at Maria with such horror that she immediately regretted having woken him up.
“What’s wrong?” he gasped.
“Nothing, nothing,” Maria assured, her voice soft in order to try and calm him down. “We’re home.”
“Oh,” Max said, blinking as he looked out the windscreen at the house. It was his house with Liz. Sadness captured him and he swallowed. She’s not dead. She’s not dead.
“Max?”
He closed his eyes, fighting the demons from his past and future. He took a deep breath. “Okay.”
“Okay,” Maria said. She watched him unfasten his seatbelt and open the car door, and the determination, close to desperation, in Liz’s request took on a new meaning. As Max made his way out of the car, Maria could see what Liz saw. She could see the fear Max was harboring. The fear that Liz would die, just like his former wife had. She tore her eyes away from Max and opened her own door to get out.

As they were walking up the driveway, Maria remembered that she had forgotten her purse in the car.
“Uhm, I forgot something in the car. I’ll catch up with you.”
Max nodded and pulled out the house keys from his pocket. As he inserted the key into the lock and turned, he realized that it was already unlocked. He stared at the door, his breathing growing shallower as he tried to remember if he had forgotten to lock the door. Just as he had reconciled with the thought that he had probably forgotten to lock, a noise from inside the house echoed down the stairs, reaching his tired ears and sudden fear caused adrenaline to pump out in his veins. Someone was in the house.


TBC...
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