|posted on 24-Dec-2002 12:13:18 PM|
|Hey all! I'm breaking this up for loading purposes, but it's a one-part fic. Each post pics up right after the last one left off.|
Title: On Christmas Day
Summary: AU. It's Christmas time in Roswell and Maria's facing having to spend it alone with her memories.
Disclaimer: Not mine, not mine, not mine, and uh yeah...mine. heh
Author's Note: Wrote this for Belit since she's had to go through the torture of two of my angsty fics...and still hasn't given up on me. ;) The extra spaces in between paragraphs are to kind of help separate memories from the actual current timeline in the story. Read on...
Maria sighed, spying the clock that was ticking away slowly as it hung from the green wall in the break room of the Crashdown Café, a small, alien-themed restaurant situated in the middle of Roswell, New Mexico. Narrowing her eyes and sticking her tongue out at it in defiance, she dropped her head back onto the cushions.
It was mocking her. That horrible little clock with its big, black cat eyes and Cheshire grin was mocking her. She had half a mind to walk right over and rip it off of its pretty little wall. Teach it to stare at her...
Five more minutes. She just had to get through five more minutes of sitting there on the lumpy break room couch, staring up at the plain pea-green ceiling and she would be free.
It wasn't like her to actually want to be on her way home to enjoy yet another lonely evening of watching It's A Wonderful Life in the company of her two best friends, Ben and Jerry. Normally she would have hung around the Crashdown until closing time, helped Liz clean up for the night, and then strolled slowly down the sidewalk, detouring through the park, until she finally made her way back to her apartment. But not tonight.
Tonight was Christmas Eve.
It had all started nearly a year ago. Well, more like thirteen years ago if Maria really thought about it. The day Michael Guerin had walked into her first grade class.
She smiled a little, remembering that strange day so long ago.
It hadn't been that far into the new school year, but it was still long enough that any new student admitted would be cursed as being known as the new kid for the rest of the year. So, when Michael had walked into class with his head ducked down so that all you could see were the messy spikes on top of his head, and his fists shoved deep inside of his pockets, he automatically got deemed as the kid just about everyone picked on.
The moment the second recess of the day had finally rolled around, Maria was already off playing with her large group of friends. Okay, so it was just Liz and Alex, but together they still formed a group. In the corner of the playground, just minutes later, a fight had broken out between two students, while others gathered around to eagerly watch and cheer them on. By the time she had gotten over to join everyone, a couple of teachers had already pulled the two first graders off of each other and were dragging them inside of the building for a trip to the principal's office and an entire class period of detention.
Michael Guerin and Kyle Valenti. Even back then she should have known it would be them.
Kyle was pegged by everyone in their grade as the type of bully to taunt and tease the new kids. The year before he had even sent a girl home crying, much to the dismay of his father, who had just been given the position of the new sheriff of Roswell. It just seemed logical that the two of them would pick a fight with one another on Michael's first day. He didn't look like the type that could hold his temper in check...at least not unless he was forced to.
The strange thing about it all, though, wasn't the fight. It was the fact that when Kyle and Michael stepped out of detention they were both trying as hard as they could to cover up the smiles that were threatening to burst from their faces. Whatever had happened inside of that room had unintentionally made them both best friends for the rest of their lives...and a pain in her side for the rest of hers.
"If my dad asks me to help him in the diner again next year, and I agree...remind me to shoot myself," Liz groaned from the doorway leading into the dining area of the café, pulling Maria out of her thoughts and throwing her back into the present.
Present! She had nearly forgotten why she was here.
Jumping up quickly from the couch, she laughed, "If you get roped into this next year, I'll pull the trigger myself."
Liz sighed, pulling her best friend into a warm hug. "It's good to know I've still got friends as loyal as you."
Maria could hear the joking tone in her voice as she hugged her back. "Hey, anything to make you happy, girl." Grabbing Liz's hand and dragging her over to the couch, she plopped down and pulled a large wrapped basket off of the floor, next to her bag that she'd left there. "Merry Christmas."
Slowly taking the gift from her friend, Liz tried to keep the smile on her face. "So, I guess this means you're not coming over tomorrow?"
Maria knew it was more of a statement rather than a question, but she answered her anyway, "No." Taking a deep breath and releasing it, she hoped that her friend would understand and leave the questions for later.
Nodding her head a little, Liz looked back up at the woman she'd known practically her entire life. She looked tired, and Liz knew she didn't have to ask the reasons for it. So, she would leave it be. Maria needed her as a friend right now and that's exactly what she would do. She would be her friend. "I guess I should go and get your present too then. After all, if I don't give it to you soon I know you'll probably go up to my room and get it yourself," she said, laughing a little as she stood up and placed her gift on the couch, running upstairs.
The moment Liz was gone the smile on Maria's face fell. Until she finally knew what tomorrow would bring, she didn't think she could stand to be surrounded by crowds of people, even small ones, no matter how therapeutic her mother might think it was. Which just made the fact that Amy DeLuca was in Florida for the holidays that much more of a relief. The woman was a meddler...in the best possible sense of the word, of course.
She knew that was the main reason Liz had offered her a place to stay for the holidays. Because Maria wasn't sure if she really had anyone to share them with.
"Got it," Liz said cheerfully as she tromped back down the stairs, carrying a semi-large box wrapped up in blue and white snowflakes with a large white bow on top. "I hope you like it." Placing the box in Maria's hands, she fell into the cushions next to her after picking up her gift. "The store manager said it was the last one they had and it was the one they were using for their display, so..."
Pulling the wrapping off and opening the box in her lap, Maria's mouth fell open as she held up the gift in front of her. "This is the sweater I was looking at like two weeks ago! Liz, it must have cost you a small fortune! How could you possibly afford this?!"
It was no secret to either of them that she had been drooling over that particular piece of clothing while she was shopping at the mall for Christmas presents. The small green sweater with the high neckline and low waist, that hugged every one of her curves just perfectly, met the criteria for every one of her shopping fantasies. It was a knitted godsend!
"The manager said they usually don't sell the display items, but he made an exception for me since it was coming so close to Christmas and they weren't getting any more in stock until after the holidays. It was a really great deal too," she answered, shrugging. If anything, her best friend deserved a little bit of happiness after the last year she'd faced, and if it meant that she had to sell a kidney for just a fraction of the peace of mind Maria needed, so be it.
Giving Liz a genuine smile, Maria reached over hugging her tightly. "Thank you."
After a moment they both pulled back, wiping at the stray tears that had miraculously found their way onto their cheeks. Coughing lightly, Liz pointed to the wrapped basket still in her lap. "My turn, I guess."
"Yeah," Maria laughed, getting her emotions in check. She hated breaking down in front of people, especially when it was Liz. Her best friend just seemed to have a way to get her to spill everything, and right now she needed to deal with her problems on her own. If things weren't better by tomorrow, she knew she'd have a shoulder to cry on.
"Umm, I know you don't really get a lot of chances to relax, seeing as how you're a college bound student and all. So, I got you something to help relieve all of that tension you've been dealing with lately."
"I haven't been..." Liz began to say before catching the look on her all too insightful friends face. "Okay, maybe I have been just a little bit stressed. But I can't help it! I just took finals for this semester and I haven't gotten my grades back yet," she explained, pulling neatly at the paper in front of her.
Maria just looked at her out of the corner of her eyes, smirking. "Mmm hmm."
"Wow," Liz said, dropping the wrapping to the floor. "This is like having an entire spa at your fingertips!" Tugging at the string that held the colorful plastic wrap together at the top, she began looking through everything in the basket. There was anything from bath salts to candles to body wash inside!
"There's even some massage oil in there that I'm sure Kyle wouldn't mind assisting you with either," the blonde stated, wiggling her eyebrows up and down with a wide grin spread across her lips.
"What?" she asked innocently, although the look on her face was anything but. "I'm just saying that you can't massage your back all by yourself, so I'm sure you could call him over and..."
Jumping up quickly and pulling Maria to her feet, Liz began pushing her best friend through the back door. "Break time is over and I have to get back to work."
Biting her lips to keep from laughing, Maria nodded her head. "All right, I'm going. Oh, and Liz?" she asked, watching her embarrassed friend turn back to look at her. "Let me know how it goes with the body lotion too." With that said she ducked out, leaving a stuttering Liz in her wake.
Heading quickly to her car, Maria tried not to let herself get caught up in the shadows that had been plaguing her all day long. Memories seemed to be held in every place she went, every door she glanced at, every sound she heard. Even the alleyway behind the Crashdown drew her mind to the first horrible up close encounter she'd had with one Michael Guerin.
The first real job she'd ever had, besides working in her mom's gift shop, was at this poor excuse of an alien-themed tourist trap, back when she was sixteen years old and a sophomore in high school. For her it was a way to earn extra spending cash for the weekends as well as a hope that she might have something for college if and when that time came. For her mother, it was a way to keep her out of trouble while Amy was out of town on the weekends, attending those oh-so-important conventions. Either way, they both seemed decently pleased with the arrangement.
It was a boring Saturday, in the middle of the school year, when it happened and she had been running a little bit late that day. Well, later than usual anyway. Heading through the back alley, she was just about to go inside when the back door came flying open and a tall, scruffy looking boy came backing up into her, knocking her flat on her back.
Anger. That was the first and last thing she could remember feeling at that moment - pure, unleashed anger. Well, okay...so not really unleashed.
"Hey! Watch where you're going, buddy!" Maria yelled, hitting the pavement hard. "You stupid piece of..."
"Having a bad hair day DeLuca?"
Her head shot up at the sound of that voice. That annoying, never stops smirking, can't-use-a-comb-even-if-you-wrote-out-clear-instructions voice!
"Well, it's never a contest to your bad hair days, is it?" she snapped at him, pushing herself back up onto her feet and brushing herself off. If it weren't for the fact that she was so mad she could spit, she might have given in to the tears behind her eyes that were threatening to spill from the stinging of her palms. She must have really scraped them up good.
"Hey, at least I mean for my hair to look like this," Michael replied back, sneering. "Yours, however, looks like you tried to drag it through a blender, with no success."
"You think meaning your hair to look like someone just threw up on your head is a good thing?" Maria retorted, as she headed for the door. "Wait a second," she said, flipping around and pointing a long finger at him.
"What?" Her sudden change of demeanor had thrown him off, making him feel self-conscious and he didn't like it.
"What are you doing coming out of the back of the Parker's restaurant?" she asked, accusingly. "Were you trying to steal something?"
His eyes narrowed at her in disgust, before he lifted up the two garbage bags in his hands that she hadn't noticed before. "Yeah DeLuca, it just so happens that I like stealing people's trash."
It was at that moment that she realized just what it was he was wearing. A raggedy bandana that looked like it hadn't seen a washing machine in ages, and an apron with the Crashdown logo printed on the front. She thought he looked so...not Michael.
"No! Oh no! You are not working here!" she practically yelled, complete with a stomp of her foot. It was bad enough that she had to deal with him when he came in with Kyle, who in turn seemed to end up dragging the entire basketball team along. There was no humiliation like that of a girl being insulted in front of some of the cutest jocks in high school. Now he would be there to bother and mock her when he wasn't out with that short, stupid twerp.
"Sorry princess, but I don't think that's your decision," the big brute stated, rather sarcastically, before quickly brushing passed her back into the break room and slamming the door in her face.
Princess? Oh no he did not just...
She stopped before turning the handle on the door, rewinding the conversation in her mind.
Stupid! How could she be so stupid?! She had just flat out accused him of robbing the place blind, and now she was going to be stuck working with him for an entire eight hours. No wonder he'd just given her the glare of death. This was just fantastic!
Nearly yanking the door off of its hinges, she stocked inside, preparing herself for the inevitable.
That day had been the number one worst day in her skittish, adolescent life. On top of having to deal with a brooding, pigheaded jerk, she was positive Michael had intentionally messed up some of her food orders just to make her look stupid in front of her customers.
It had been one freakin' lousy tip day.
Smiling as she closed the door to her car, Maria listened to the engine come to life. It had a soothing hum that she needed right now, a hum that quieted her shaky nerves. From the moment she purchased the car she hadn't had any problems with it. She couldn't believe the thought made her miss the broken-down, unreliable Jetta that she used to drive around in.
Quickly putting her car into gear, she drove out of the back parking lot before the nostalgia could overtake her again. Driving home in the darkness of night wasn't the best place for her to relive her memories. Especially memories involving the one man that both made her feel and broke her heart in the same sentence. The man that...
"Agh! Get it together DeLuca."
She laughed bitterly at herself. At the emotional girl sitting where a strong woman should be. The woman that took two entire weeks to apologize to that prick, Michael, for what she had said on his first day of work because of the war that seemed to wage between them. If he'd only known how badly he had intimidated her back then sometimes. Of course, she knew he would have gotten a real chuckle out of it and she refused to give him the satisfaction.
The real war came though when Michael's best friend Kyle seemed to get it into his idiotic head that a certain quiet young girl by the name of Elizabeth Parker might make excellent girlfriend material for him. What was it with jocks in her school? Well, jocks and tall, grumpy Neanderthals.
Back in the first grade it hadn't mattered that he had become best friends with Kyle, but now...
Two weeks into January and there she was, sitting on Liz's bed as the dark haired girl begged her for the one favor that would point her life in a direction you couldn't have convinced her that it would ever take. After all, she was Maria DeLuca - mortal enemy of the boorish dolt. Michael was the biggest stitch she'd ever had forcefully shoved in her side, and there was no possible way she was going to go along with what her best friend was asking her to do.
"For the last time no!"
Liz looked at Maria with desperately pleading eyes, "The only way my dad will let me go is if it's a double date, and I've already told Kyle that I could find another girl if he found a guy to go with us."
Maria glared her friend. "You mean you told him that you could get me to go with you two on this date, don't you? I can't believe you've been going out with the guy for a month and you can't even date him alone."
"I'll give you my tips for the next two weeks..."
Pausing for a moment to glance at her best friend, Maria ran her tongue over the front of her teeth doing a quick calculation before facing her once again. "There isn't enough money on this planet that you could pay me to go on a double date with that pig."
"Pleeease," Liz begged, dropping to her knees and grabbing hold of Maria's arm. "Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty..."
Rolling her eyes and looking down at the pitiful creature in front of her, Maria huffed. "I hate it when you use my methods against me." Giving a large sigh for dramatic affect, she relented. "Fine..."
"Really?! Oh, thank you!" Liz practically squealed, jumping up and pulling Maria into a tight hug.
"You realize that you owe me big though, right?"
Nodding her head quickly, Liz smiled the biggest smile that Maria had ever seen on her. It almost made her feel happy that she was doing this favor for the usually timid girl. Almost.
Looking up through the windshield of her car, Maria swore. She was already home and she had no idea how she had made it there in one piece. Telling herself that she'd just spaced out for a minute would be putting it mildly.
Carefully pulling into her assigned space and throwing her car into park, she sighed. This was what her entire night was going to consist of, torturing herself with the past until she found out whether or not the last three years of her life had been worth it.
Dragging herself through her front door, Maria dropped down onto her tiny couch after depositing her purse and keys on the small kitchen counter. Her arms felt like every muscle in them was tensed, waiting for a horrible blow and her legs didn't seem to be feeling any different. The tiny pit that had been lodged deeply in her stomach was slowly growing larger, and if she spent another sleepless night with a carton of ice cream in one hand and the VCR remote in the other, she knew her eyes would have big black circles under them by morning. She needed a thicker foundation.
Pulling the large throw off of the back of the couch, she draped it over her legs and hugged them to her, resting her chin on top. The clock was ticking away as slowly as ever, but it still managed to be reading 10:42 pm. How did time manage to escape her so quickly?
Maria dropped her head back and closed her eyes, sighing.
If it had been the night of her and Liz's double date, she would have gladly watched the minutes fly by. Sitting across a restaurant table and being forced to try and have a civil conversation with Michael Guerin was not her ideal way to spend an evening. She had given up hope of it being a decent night the minute Michael had walked in the door, stalking right passed them and plopping into one of the chairs at the table, set on ignoring her. It might have even been tolerable if it hadn't been for the fact that Liz and Kyle seemed to be off in their own little world, ignoring everyone else around them, including her.
The only thing that had kept her there for the last ten minutes was the fact that the utterly pure torture would all be over soon.
"Maria, do you think you could give Michael a ride home?" Liz asked in a quiet voice after turning to face her best friend.
The moment the words had escaped Liz's mouth, she glared at her. Give Michael a ride home?! What did she look like, a bus station for the strange and unkempt?
This night was just chocked full of humiliation, wasn't it? First she'd been forced into a double date with Kyle's best friend (why he couldn't have just asked one of his basketball buddies she would never know) and now she was being guilt tripped into giving the doofus a ride home. Couldn't they just leave the way they came, guys and girls in separate cars?
Looking into Liz's deep brown pleading eyes, she knew what her answer would turn out to be. "Yeah, okay." If she hadn't had an ounce of romance in her body, she would have turned the girl down. But who was she kidding? Liz deserved that final good night kiss just as much as she longed for it. Not on this date, of course.
Smiling at her friend after they had exited the restaurant, she watched as they drove off, leaving her to her silly romantic dreams.
"Hey Blondie, we gonna go or what?"
Stalking back to the car, she pulled out her keys and unlocked her door. Maybe she could just drive off without him. After all, she was sure he could make the walk in a few hours time, no worse for wear. Well, except the blisters he was sure to get on his feet.
She pinched her eyes shut, drawing in a deep breath before reaching over the seat and unlocking the passenger side door. The things she did for the people she cared about. If it had been anyone other than Liz, and Alex of course, she wouldn't have given a second thought to turning them down. Curse her sense of friendship.
"So, how much?"
Glancing sideways at Michael as she drove down the highway, Maria frowned. "How much what?"
The snort that flew out of his throat was certainly clear. "How much did she pay you to get you here?"
Maria squirmed a little in her seat, avoiding his gaze. "What makes you think that Liz paid me to come?"
"Oh, come on. You think Kyle didn't offer me a bribe? I know you wouldn't have come on your own accord, so fess up."
Slowing down and turning on her blinker, Maria shrugged. "Two weeks worth of tips," she told him. If he really wanted to know then fine, she had no reason to lie about it. "You?"
Folding his arms in front of his chest, Michael grunted. "Fifty and he'd cover dinner."
Hmm, so she was worth fifty bucks and the price of two meals. Not too bad, really.
As soon as they pulled up in front of his house she put the car in park, leaving the engine running. It was a pretty decent house. Especially if you compared it to the trailer that he had recently moved from. Small, but homey.
"Well?" Maria said, nodding her head towards his door.
"What," he asked, sarcastically, "no goodnight kiss?"
Smiling seductively at him and grabbing the front of his shirt, Maria pulled him close, bringing his lips mere inches from her own. She watched delightedly as his eyes dropped down to her mouth when her tongue snaked out to wet them.
"Not if you were the last man on earth."
It took him a moment to process what she had said before he pulled back, snarling at her and jumping out of the car without so much as a backward glance.
She took a deep breath, getting her racing pulse under control before pulling away from the curb. What had just happened? She had meant to do nothing more than taunt him, and instead had found herself having trouble breathing. This was not the affect Michael Guerin should be having on her. She hated the guy, for crying out loud!
That was the day everything started changing for them. He was no longer the undisciplined, unruly juvenile delinquent, and she was no longer the annoying, blabbermouth pixie. Now he was the undisciplined, drool worthy juvenile delinquent, and that seemed to have much more of an appeal to her.
She was sick.
Opening her eyes to tiny slits, Maria blinked them a few times to try and get them into focus. Looking over at the clock, she read it as it blinked 6:47 am. She must have fallen asleep without realizing how tired she really was.
[ edited 2 time(s), last at 24-Dec-2002 12:19:37 PM ]
|posted on 24-Dec-2002 12:15:37 PM|
|A painful tightening in her chest pulled her completely awake. It had finally come. Christmas.|
Groaning softly and resting her forehead in her hands, she forced the deep tremors that were fighting their way to the surface back down. She couldn't break now; she still had seventeen hours, twelve minutes and twenty-nine seconds of waiting. Of not knowing.
Forcing herself up from the sofa, she shuffled into the small kitchen of her apartment. Searching through the cupboards she found just what she needed. Coffee.
Pulling out the large container and turning on the coffee maker, she headed over to a stool behind the kitchen counter to wait for that life-giving cup of sludge that she needed to start her day. Man's small miracle.
That's what she had thought the day Liz had been shot in the Crashdown and the doctors had saved her life. It had been a small miracle, one she would forever be grateful for.
She could vaguely remember the quiet argument that had started between the two customers, quickly heating up into a yelling match between them. A streak of silver, a few shouts, one strangely enough coming from Michael who was watching it unfold through the cook's window, and then a loud ear-splitting crack.
She had glanced around for a moment, not realizing just what had happened. Michael was standing there with his hand stretched out in front of him, looking down at the floor next to her. Following his gaze she saw what had him frozen in place.
Liz was lying on the ground, a small pool of blood beginning to form on her stomach. Her best friend had been shot!
The next couple of hours had all jumbled up into a large blur, and she found herself sitting on a chair in the waiting room, along with the Parkers and a few of Liz's relatives. Oh, and Kyle. She had been sitting there with her legs pulled up to her chin for an undetermined amount of time, and she didn't think she'd moved since she had fallen into the chair.
Alex! Someone needed to call Alex! How could they just have forgotten him like that?!
Standing up quickly, she hurried towards the lobby where the phones were located, stopping abruptly when she caught sight of the one person she would have never expected to see there. Michael was standing there, frozen in place as he looked at her. He almost looked like he had been caught doing something he knew he shouldn't have.
Not really caring why he was there or even wondering what she was doing, Maria walked straight over to him and wrapped her arms around his middle, burying her head in is chest and letting go of all of the tears she had been holding in. She needed to cry, and for some reason she felt safe doing it if he was the only one there, holding her. Letting her just cry.
Michael didn't know what to do. He had come to the hospital to find answers to exactly what he'd done during the shooting and now he was standing there with Liz's best friend wrapped around him like he was a Kleenex. It felt wrong. It shouldn't feel this good. She shouldn't feel this good.
Bringing up a hand to awkwardly pat her on the back, he looked around. Well, as long as no one that knew him saw them together he should be okay.
After a moment Maria pulled away from him, wiping at her tears. "I'm sorry. It's just...Liz and..."
"Yeah," he said quietly, finally looking down at her. There were tear tracks running down her cheeks and her eyes were red and puffy from crying. She looked so small and vulnerable, and it touched something inside of him, something he didn't understand. "What happened?"
Maria couldn't believe that his voice could ever come out so softly. In all of the times she had ever heard him speak, soft and soothing was never a part of him. Swallowing, she tried to concentrate on her answer, "The doctors, they said that she's stable right now but that she's still in surgery. She lost a lot of blood waiting for the ambulance to arrive, so they think she'll have to stay here for a few days."
"What about the bullet?" Michael clenched his jaw, hoping that her answer was the one he wanted to hear.
"The bullet?" The bullet. What had they said about the bullet? "Oh, they said that it was strange. Only a piece of the bullet actually hit Liz. They think the rest of it is probably imbedded in the walls at the Crashdown," she told him, wrapping her arms around her waist. "A defective bullet, that's what they called it. It was almost like it exploded when it left the gun chamber, and without the gun they can't check it out."
Michael couldn't help his small sigh of relief. So they hadn't connected him to it. That was good. That was really good.
He knew why he'd done what he had. Maria had been standing there next to Liz, with the gun pointing straight in their direction. He thought the bullet was going to hit her. She might have been a royal pain, but he kind of enjoyed sparing with her. She was the only one who ever seemed to care much about what he said, good or bad.
Sitting down on a chair next to where they had been standing, Maria finally had a grip on her emotions. Oddly enough, she realized, it had come from breaking down in the arms of this boy. Will wonders never cease?
After feigning an interest in finding out how Kyle was holding up, Michael left the hospital. It had been the first time she had spoken to him without an ill word passing between them. Maybe she was changing. Maybe they were both changing.
She was right, that day had changed them both. In some strange way it had given them an appreciation for one another, an understanding that she knew they wouldn't have had otherwise.
Stirring a little bit more sugar into her fourth cup, she took a sip, letting the scalding coffee warm her body. She knew it was ludicrous for her to be drinking her weight in caffeine at...8:24 in the morning, but she couldn't help herself. It called to her just like water called to a man in the desert. She was positive it was slowly rotting away her stomach lining, but she couldn't find the strength to care. Well, at least not until it was already swimming around inside of her, doing its job and doing it well, she might add.
Reluctantly pulling herself away from the counter and her tasty black sewage nectar, Maria stood and headed towards the bathroom straight for the shower. If the coffee refused to wake her up, this would certainly do the trick. The feel of pure, clean water washing over her had always been able to clear her mind and prepare her for a new day. It was just what she needed right now.
An hour later she stepped out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her, running a brush through her hair. Heading into her bedroom she opened her closet door, staring inside at her vast wardrobe for a good thirty minutes before giving up and pulling out a pair of gray sweatpants and a short, white tank top. When had her choice in clothing gone from throwing together something quick and trendy to debating over what she thought would impress the ever-confusing Michael Guerin?
Right. That had to be the day that they went from being sort-of friends to something a little more. The day Michael had kissed her.
After that day in the hospital things had gone back to being as close to normal as it was before, with one little change. Somehow in all of the confusion that had happened between them they had formed a weird kind of friendship. It wasn't something they acknowledged openly, but the insults weren't as malicious and there was a mutual respect there that hadn't been before. She still got in as many shots as he did but it was almost as if his attention towards her was his strange way of showing that he cared, and that's how it had been between them since.
It was almost...romantic.
Shaking her head at herself in disgust and looking up for the one hundred and sixth time at the Crashdown clock, Maria began to pace.
Two hours. Liz was supposed to be back from her date two hours ago, and there she was, worrying like a whacked out best friend.
"What's wrong now?"
She didn't have to look up to know who that voice belonged to. It was the same voice that had been invading her dreams for the last eight months. Ever since the shooting.
"Liz isn't back yet. She told me she would be back by now, but is she? No! She could be out there lying in some random ditch, bleeding to death with no one there to help her, just waiting for someone to stumble over her broken body, without so much as a word..."
Her rambling had been cut short by a warm pair of lips pressed firmly against her own, sending slow tingles down her spine. If she hadn't believed that people could be so engrossed by one, single kiss...she certainly believed it now. She was forced to clutch onto his arms just to keep herself upright. He tasted like heaven.
Pulling back after a moment, she stared up at him through dazed eyes. She swallowed, trying to clear the jumbled from her mind. "What...wha..."
"You looked like you needed something to calm..."
She couldn't help it, she had leaned forward capturing his lips once again, this time wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him down closer to her. If he didn't want her to kiss him, he shouldn't have started it in the first place. After only a few seconds she felt his arms wrap themselves around her waist, pulling her tightly to him. She didn't know how she could have gone so long without this! It felt so...right.
It had been the sound of a door slamming shut and a loud gasp that had finally pulled them away from each other. Looking over, Maria saw Liz standing next to the door leading into the diner with a horror-stricken look on her face. Her eyes were as large as dinner plates and her mouth was opening and closing without so much as a sound coming out. Maria thought she resembled a large, gaping fish.
"Liz!" Okay, she hadn't meant for her voice to come out sounding so breathless. "Where have you been?! I have been waiting for the last two hours for you!"
When in doubt, make your friend feel guilty enough about what they did so that they don't ask questions.
"I lost track of time. What..."
Grabbing onto Liz's arm, Maria dragged her upstairs as quickly as she could, barely glancing back in time to see a smirk making its way up Michael's face. It was the only confirmation she needed.
He had enjoyed it too.
Sighing loudly and pinching her eyes tightly shut, Maria dropped down onto her bed and reached over to the nightstand, picking up the ringing phone.
Only Amy DeLuca would insist on calling to talk to her on a day she just wanted to shut out the world. She knew it wasn't her mom's fault. After all, Maria had been the one to keep the last year a mystery to her. But having to stay on the phone for three hours when all she wanted to do was hole herself up in her apartment wasn't helping matters any.
"No mom, I was just getting dressed. I...Well, Liz invited me to drop by but...No, I couldn't imagine not speaking with you on Christmas, so why don't..."
This was hopeless. Amy DeLuca had a mind and a mouth that never stopped!
Resigning herself to a very long conversation, Maria fell back onto her pillows. She might as well prepare herself now and rest her arms up. By the way her mother was talking, she was pretty certain she would need them.
Two and a half hours later she was finally hanging up the phone. If she still had both of her ears she would be amazed. That had to be some form of abuse, didn't it? Maybe they should require people to be registered and licensed for that sort of thing. Pass a law to restrict unsupervised phone use?
Dragging herself off of her bed she headed back into the kitchen to make herself lunch. Scratch that, 4:02 pm definitely fell into the dinner category of the day. Maybe she could handle a few more cups of java, although she had a feeling that the shaking in her body had nothing to do with the lack thereof.
The first time she had ever felt this jittery had been three weeks after he had kissed her. The night Michael had shown up at her bedroom window, tears streaming down his face as silent sobs wracked his body apart. She had opened up her window and pulled him inside, no questions asked. He came willingly, letting her direct him to her bed and lie him down as she joined him, hugging his body to her small frame as he rested his head on her stomach, his arms wrapped tightly around her.
Making soft, soothing noises in the back of her throat, she ran her hands gently through his hair, lulling him to sleep. Whatever had happened to him couldn't have been good and the only concern she had right then was as to whether or not he would be okay. She prayed that he would. He was too much a part of her life not to be.
When she woke up in the morning she was surprised to find him already awake, staring at a point far away in his mind. One of his arms was lying across his chest while the other had been pinned underneath her head. She wondered why he hadn't just up and left while she was still asleep. It was certainly what she had thought he would do.
The last thing Maria had expected was for him to speak, so she placed her hand over his that was hanging limply in between them, gently running her thumb over his fingers to let him know she was there. Let him know that he could tell her as much or as little as he wanted to.
"Valenti. The sheriff, he came over last night." His voice sounded so dead, so lifeless. It was almost as if he had flipped a switch and shut himself down so that he wouldn't have to feel. "Hank got in a car accident. He's dead."
Maria's body froze, staring down at their hands. Hank was dead? But...wouldn't that mean Michael would be property of the state again since he was still a good nine months or so from turning eighteen? She knew a lot about the situation with his foster father. Kyle was horrible at keeping secrets away from her...especially since she knew all of the effective pieces of skin on him to pinch and twist. He was a wuss.
She had no idea what to say to Michael. 'Sorry' just didn't seem to cut it at that moment, but she wanted him to know she was there for him.
"What are you going to do?" her voice came out in a whisper, afraid that if she spoke too loudly he would realize where he was and bolt. She had to know that he'd be okay.
His voice came out so matter-of-factly it scared her.
"Leave. I'll grab my stuff and leave. There's nothing to keep me here. No one will ever miss me." Pulling his arm out from under her, Michael began to stand up, stopping when he felt a small, delicate hand on his arm.
He didn't want to look at her but she made him. She placed one hand softly on his cheek and forced him to turn his head. Her eyes, there was so much pain in them. Pain and fear. But he couldn't understand why she would be afraid.
Searching his face for any kind of emotion, Maria spoke firmly, "I would miss you, Michael."
Maria watched nervously as the coldness in his eyes seemed to be replaced with a look of confusion and wonderment. He had no idea how much she cared for him, did he? How could the big dolt not know that she thought he was special?
Bringing her hand up to rest at the back of his neck, she gently urged him forward, touching her lips lightly to his. It wasn't about making him forget that his foster father had just died, or trying to ease the pain that she knew she couldn't. It was simply her way of letting him know that she would be there for him when he needed her. A way to let him know that he didn't have to be alone.
Pulling back slowly she met his eyes again, making certain that he knew how she felt. That he knew the affect his leaving would have on her. "I would miss you."
Michael fought the tears behind his eyes. He shouldn't cry. He'd never cried, not until last night. Not until he came to her window. He thought that it would keep him safe.
Burying his face in her neck, he wrapped his arms around her waist, hugging her tightly. He might not be anything like her, but he wasn't alone anymore. That was all that mattered.
Maria felt warm tears forming in the corners of her eyes as she relived the memory. That was the morning that had turned them into a couple, the morning that Michael had finally admitted that he could let someone else into his life without breaking.
Spicy mustard! That's what her sandwich needed, some hot and sweaty mustard.
Tossing her partially eaten sandwich onto her plate and heading over to the refrigerator, she pulled the door open, searching for her container of Grey Poupon. It had to be in there somewhere! She ate out too often for it to already be gone.
Finding her little yellow friend, she grinned. Heaven was still smiling down upon the condiment gods. Grabbing the small container and setting it down next to her plate, Maria delved into her utensil drawer for a butter knife. She knew she should have gotten the squeezable container at the store, but the glass jar had been twenty-three cents cheaper. The price tag companies put on convenience was atrocious!
After doctoring up her sandwich and putting away the mustard, Maria headed into the living room to finish her dinner. She didn't know why she had ever purchased the kitchen table that was sitting in her dining room. She hadn't once used it to eat at since the day it was delivered to her. At the moment it was cluttered with stacks of paperwork from her office. She didn't think it had seen the light of day for months.
Finding a comfortable seat in her favorite chair she settled in for a long, silent wait. If the television hadn't held some sort of sentimental value for her she might have considered watching it to pass the time. Oh well, there were probably only Christmas programs on anyway and she really didn't need another reminder of that.
A year ago you would have thought she was a completely different person when it came to the holidays. No one was left untouched by her Christmas spirit. Not even the stubborn Michael Guerin.
"Be right there!" Maria yelled down the stairs to the ringing of the front doorbell. How was it that she always managed to be late getting ready for everything? She would have just asked Jim or her mom to grab it, but she knew they were both in the kitchen, more than likely a little...preoccupied.
She stopped at the top of the stairs, involuntarily shuddering. It may have been one of the sweetest things in the world for the two of them to finally decide that they wanted a relationship together, but there were some things a daughter still didn't want to be walking in on.
It had seemed only natural that their relationship would progress to this point. They had been dealing with each other head to head ever since Maria and Michael got together, and Sheriff Valenti had petitioned for custody of his son's best friend. Being the two adults responsible for their kids seemed to put Amy and Jim in a position to interact with each other...a lot.
Hurrying down the stairs, Maria stopped to double check herself in the hall mirror, quickly smoothing down her skirt and flipping a few pieces of hair onto her shoulders. Decently pleased with what she saw, she made her way to the front door and smiled, opening it to her guest.
Michael was just about to ring the bell again when the door opened. Standing there in a short black skirt and sleeveless crimson top was the one girl that could make his heart race out of control. The warm smile on her lips that he knew she reserved for only two things, him and the holidays, wasn't helping to calm his quickening pulse. She looked...Oh man, she looked...
"You...You look...nice," he managed to croak out, unable to take his eyes away from her.
If it was possible for her smile to grow, Maria knew it did. She had learned over the last two years that any compliment from Michael was good, but a stuttered compliment meant so much more. He was never really one for vocalizing his emotions and it felt good to know she'd done something right while getting dressed this morning.
Grabbing his hand and pulling him inside of the house, she closed the door and wrapped her arms around his waist, underneath his leather jacket. He looked so good in his crisp, clean pair of blue jeans and his tight black t-shirt that she couldn't resist leaning up on her tiptoes to kiss him softly.
Pulling away after a moment she smiled up at him, letting her hands run lightly along his back. "So do you."
Unwrapping herself from him before he had a chance to object, Maria led them back to the kitchen, pushing him inside first. If someone had to get an eyeful of her mother with Jim Valenti, she'd rather it be her grumpier half.
Dinner had gone fairly smooth with most of the conversation staying light and being led by Amy and Maria. If Maria hadn't thought her mom could fill two hours of silence with just her voice and the crackle of a fire, she certainly believed it now.
"So Michael, Jim tells me that you got into the police training academy program they just organized at Roswell University," Amy said, the moment she came back into the dining room with four plates of apple pie that she was carrying on a glass serving tray.
Michael glanced over at Maria, noticing her shoulders stiffen. "Umm, I'm not really in yet. I still have tests to take and a physical exam and stuff before I'm admitted," he stated, picking up his fork and poking his pie with it. "It's why I haven't told anyone yet." He knew he probably should have mentioned it to Maria, but he wasn't even positive if he was going to go through with it yet. There was always the possibility of them wanting a blood test or something else, and since he really didn't know much of anything about his own physiology he wasn't sure if he could risk it.
"Oh come on now, you don't have to be modest," Jim said, reaching over and clapping him on the back. "With my recommendation and your stubborn attitude you're sure to get in."
Maria's jaw clenched as she pushed her plate slowly away from her. Michael was applying to the police academy and he hadn't even told her? She couldn't believe her mother knew before she did.
Excusing herself from the table she stood up, making her way into the kitchen. She needed to get away from everyone before she exploded!
It was the arm wrapping around her waist that startled her from her thoughts as she stared out of the window above the sink. She should have known Michael would follow her with some half-baked apology. It's what he always did when he made her angry. Only this time, his decision could affect both of their futures. Well, that is if he even believed that they had one.
Taking in a deep breath and slowly releasing it, Michael tried to gather up the strength to say what he needed to, but she beat him to it.
Why? Well, that had to be a fair enough question. Why did he apply to the academy? Why didn't he tell her? Why was he such a screw up? He couldn't really tell her 'I don't know' for all of them.
"I didn't..." Sighing, he rubbed a hand over his face. "I didn't want you to be disappointed in me."
Turning around in his arms, Maria looked up at him confused. "Why would I be disappointed in you for applying to the police academy?" Him being a cop may not have been her first choice, but it was a good job, protecting innocent people. That, and she really wouldn't mind seeing him in the uniform.
"Not disappointed if I applied. Disappointed if I didn't...make it." His gaze locked onto a point above her head. A point where he didn't have to look into her eyes and see his failure, see that he was a screw up.
So that's what this was about. Wrapping a hand around his neck and pulling his lips down to meet hers, Maria kissed him. "I wouldn't have been disappointed Michael. Even if you decided that you just didn't want to do it. I'm proud of you and that's not going to change." Running her free hand slowly up his chest, she smiled up at him with a wicked gleam in her eyes. "If you happen to decide it's not for you though," she whispered, moving mere centimeters away from his lips, "see if they'll still give you a uniform."
Michael gulped audibly as a fire flickered behind his eyes. It was his fault that she had been upset with him in the first place, and here she was comforting him without a second thought. She was perfect.
Crushing her to his body he leaned down, capturing her lips in a blinding kiss. He loved the way she always tasted like strawberries and honey, as if it were a flavor made just for him. He could spend the rest of his life like this without any complaints, just kissing her.
Pulling back after a couple of minutes, Maria drew in long, deep breaths of much needed oxygen. Her legs were barely supporting her and she was glad she had him to hold her steady. That boy could kiss!
"Come on," she said after catching her breath, pulling him toward the garage.
"Where are we going?" Michael asked, unable to stop his voice from coming out low and husky. It never failed that she could manage to take his breath away.
Smiling up at him, she grabbed the door handle leading out to the garage. "To give you your Christmas present."
Opening the door and leading him inside, she watched as his light brown eyes darkened at the sight in front of him. "Maria..."
His breathing became labored as he reached out a hand to gently caress the smooth black surface of the gigantic wide screen television that was sitting there with a large blue bow on top. Oh baby!
"I thought that since I helped to accidentally break your last television set that this would work as a fairly decent replacement," she said, walking up behind him and wrapping her arms around his stomach while she rested her forehead lightly against his shoulder.
"You put a shoe through it, Maria. That hardly constitutes an accident."
Slapping his stomach at the deep chuckle that escaped his lips, she turned Michael around to face her. "Well, I wasn't exactly aiming for the T.V. you know."
"Oh, I know," he told her, laughing at the look on her face. "But I'm not so sure I would have felt any better if it would have been my head."
Glaring playfully at him, she leaned in to rest her chin on his chest. "Well, Merry Christmas anyway."
Bending down to quickly peck her lips, Michael reached into his pants pocket, pulling out a small, clumsily wrapped box, handing it to her. "For you."
Smiling curiously up at him, Maria stepped out of his arms, pulling the wrapping off of the box and opening it. Her heart tightened in her chest as she carefully reached into the box and pulled out a delicate golden chain. Hanging from the middle of it was a small, perfectly cut emerald shaped like a teardrop.
It was beautiful.
"I know it's not much..." Michael didn't know if he'd ever been more nervous than he was right then. With the salary he was making at the gas station he really didn't have a lot of money to spend on Christmas gifts. But he wanted her to have something special, even if it was small. The moment he saw it lying there in the glass case it reminded him of her. Of her eyes. He just hoped she would like it.
Ignoring the tears that were forming on her cheeks, Maria pulled him roughly down to her lips, kissing the life out of him.
It was perfect. He was perfect.
Reaching down to lightly stroke the outline of the necklace underneath her shirt, Maria let the tears fall from her eyes. That Christmas had been more special to her than any other day in her life. The Christmas she spent with Michael.
|posted on 24-Dec-2002 12:17:31 PM|
|Drawing in a deep breath and standing up from the couch, Maria resisted the urge to flip the clock facedown. It was 8:46, and three hours, thirteen minutes and six seconds just didn't seem long enough. The questions that had lay waiting for an entire year were that much closer to being answered. It was coming too fast and too slow all at the same time.|
She had been resisting the urge to pace the span of her living room all day long, but she couldn't seem to control it anymore. The feet that were cooperating hours ago now dragged her back and forth, creating a small trail on her carpet that she found herself following over and over. Her eyes were pinched tightly shut and her arms lay crossed over her chest as she tried to desperately keep the one memory she'd been avoiding all year long at bay.
The day Michael left.
She had been on her way over to Michael's apartment a few days after Christmas to find out when he wanted Jim to swing by in his truck with Michael's new television set. It was pretty obvious that there wasn't any possible way for it to fit in her rundown red Jetta, or on the back of Michael's motorcycle. Although she might have gotten quite a laugh out of seeing him try to lug that thing home with him. She was almost positive he would be willing to try it too.
Walking up to the door and knocking a couple of times, she waited for him to open it. After just a few seconds the door flew open and she saw the color drain quickly from Michael's face. Something was wrong.
Ducking quickly under his arm and straight into his apartment, Maria froze. His things. All of his things were packed up in boxes and bags. Why were his belongings packed up like he was moving out?
"What is this?" she asked, flipping around to face him and gesturing wildly to the bags and boxes dropped everywhere. When she caught sight of his jaw clenching and the stony look forming in his eyes, she flipped. "What is this, Michael?!"
"I thought you were Kyle."
"Oh! You thought I was Kyle. So, if you had known it was me you might not have opened the door?" she asked, stepping up in front of him. "Where are you going?" she demanded, before he even had a chance to think about her last question.
"I can't talk to you about this right now," he told her, running a hand through his messy hair and beginning to pace.
He shouldn't be the one pacing. She should be the one pacing! He didn't have the right to pace when she wanted to pace!
"Why not? What's wrong with now?" she asked, folding her arms in front of her. "You're leaving now, aren't you? So why not answer me now?"
"Look," he snapped, turning towards her and waving a finger dangerously in her face, "this isn't the time or the place to be discussing this, so just drop it. I have to go away for a little while."
Throwing her hands up in the air, Maria began on her tirade. "Oh great! You're going away for a while. Couldn't tell me about the academy, can't tell me about moving! Well maybe..."
Her ranting was cut short as glass began shattering around her like a large explosion, from the lamp resting on the counter to the light fixtures on the ceiling. After throwing her hands instinctively to her head and waiting for the broken glass around her to settle, she looked up at Michael, fear and confusion evident in her eyes.
It was what he should have expected one day, wasn't it? To see her look at him and be afraid? It was the part of him that he hoped would never have to touch their relationship. He was wrong.
"What was that?" Maria asked in a quiet voice, slowly dropping her arms to her side. "Michael?"
Looking down at the ground, Michael refused to meet her gaze. He didn't care if other people thought of him as a freak, if other people didn't think he was normal. But his heart would break if he looked up and saw it in Maria's eyes.
"What was that?"
He could feel his blood boiling at her words. It didn't matter if it was in her eyes, he could hear it in her voice. Freak. Stain. Outsider. It was all the same.
"You want to know what that was?" he asked coldly as his voice raised. "Fine, I'll tell you what that was! That was my powers going screwy because of your mouth. Because of you making me mad enough that they'd go off. That's what that was!"
She didn't know why, but it never seemed to fail that every time Michael ended up being the one to go off on a rant, she was able to find her control and calm herself down. It was as though he carried both of their anger for them and it was her job to calm him down.
"Okay, you have powers," she said, trying to sort it all out in her mind. As ludicrous as it sounded, she knew Michael was deadly serious. "Why?"
"Because I'm an alien!"
Michael stopped, his tongue stuck in his throat. He had told her. He hadn't meant for the words to come out but there he was, saying the words he'd feared telling anyone all his life.
"I'm an alien," he whispered. Hating himself, cursing what he was and what he could never be. Human.
Maria closed her eyes, knowing that she needed time to sort through everything. She needed time to process what he was telling her was true.
"Why are you leaving?" It came out quiet and slightly detached. She hoped it didn't sound like she hadn't believed him or that she didn't trust him anymore, because she did. She would always trust him and the realization scared her.
Michael turned to face the other direction as he told her. He didn't think he could go through with it if he had to look at her.
"My family is out there looking for me," he said, folding his arms across his chest. "They've been trying to find me for years, and they finally contacted me last night. I don't know where they are, but I have to find them."
Picking up a bag off of the floor that he'd packed and pulling out a letter addressed to Kyle, leaving it on top of a box, Michael opened the door without turning around. He wasn't sure he could walk away if he saw her standing there, broken.
"If I can come back," he told Maria, feeling his eyes begin to burn, "I'll be back by Christmas."
As he closed the door softly behind him, Maria fell to her knees and cried.
10:57. One hour, two minutes and thirty-four seconds until she knew for certain whether or not he was coming back. Whether or not she would ever see Michael again.
Maria headed quickly into the kitchen, flipping on the coffee maker. Leaning back against the counter she ran both of her hands through her hair, holding her head between them.
Why hadn't he shown up already? Where was he? How could he do this to her?!
"A year Michael!" she yelled, grabbing her coffee mug and throwing it violently against the opposite wall. "An entire year!"
Letting her legs collapse beneath her Maria sunk down onto the floor, wrapping her arms around her knees and dropping her head back onto the cupboards behind her. She couldn't break now. Liz, Alex, Kyle...they had all worked so hard to get her through this day, to keep her from crumbling. She couldn't let them down.
She couldn't let herself down.
Forcing herself up from the floor, she defiantly flipped the coffee maker off. She was going to make it until midnight and nothing was going to stop her. Not her frustration, not her memories, and certainly not Michael Guerin!
Calming walking over to the broken ceramic mug on the floor, she bent down, cleaning it up and throwing it away into the garbage can.
Forty-seven minutes and eighteen seconds.
Making her way over to the couch, she picked up a stray magazine, opening it to scan the articles inside. There had to be something in there interesting enough to take her mind off of things. At least for a little while.
Twenty-nine minutes and forty-three seconds.
Jumping up from the couch, she walked over to her stereo system, flipping it on and changing the stations to find something worth listening to. Christmas music...Christmas music...Country...Christmas music. Maybe the newspaper?
Twenty-one minutes and seven seconds.
Hadn't she gotten a newspaper today? What, the paperboy figured he could have a day off? She snorted to herself, running a nervous hand up and down her arm. It figured.
Eighteen minutes and forty-three seconds.
Pacing. Pacing was good.
She could feel her lip begin to bleed as she bit into it, the taste of rust filling her mouth. "Agh!"
Heading into the bathroom and grabbing a tissue from the counter, she wet it down, pressing it to her swollen lip. It stung slightly as the water touched it, washing away the red stains.
How had she gotten to this? How had she allowed herself to endure the torture of wondering whether or not he was going to show up?
Well, she wasn't going to take it! She was going to go outside and wait on the porch until midnight and if he didn't show up...well...then he didn't show up and she had a clear invitation to Liz's window.
Nine minutes and twenty-one seconds.
Maria grabbed her coat, pulling her arms through the sleeves and wrapping her large pink scarf around her neck. If she had to wait outside there was no way she was going to wait out there in the cold unprepared. She'd spent enough nights outside to know that the freezing temperatures could chill you inside and out if you didn't have enough layers on, and she didn't want to end up with a cold just because she was stupid enough not to bundle up.
She laughed, wondering just how she would explain something like that to her boss. "Yes sir, I was outside waiting for my alien boyfriend to show up on my doorstep. No sir, I don't believe he has a pair of antennae. Yes sir, I'll ask if his mother is dating anyone."
It was a cruel office joke, knowing that Mr. Kelson had been dating nearly the entire population of single Roswell women in her mother's age bracket, trying to find himself a new wife. It was as if the man couldn't handle living alone.
Maria's smile dropped from her face as she wrapped her arms around herself. She didn't know if she could handle living alone.
Four minutes and twelve seconds.
Looking up at the sky, her chest tightened. What if he wasn't able to come because he wasn't on Earth anymore? The possibility hadn't even entered her mind until now, but it seemed so logical.
He was looking for his family...and he wasn't human.
One minute thirteen seconds.
Maria's head dropped down as she realized the probability of him actually showing up within sixty seconds. She'd spent the entire year believing that he would be here, that he would come, that she never took even a fraction of a moment to consider the fact that he might not show up.
She had believed that he would come.
Two seconds...One second...
But he wasn't coming.
Maria felt a tightening in her chest more painful than anything she had ever experienced. It was as if her whole body was trying to rip itself apart inside to punish her for believing that he would come back. That he wanted to come back.
The tears behind her eyes finally had no reason not to fall. She let them slip down her cheeks as her body began to wrack with sobs. Falling into the grass in front of her, she finally let herself cry, covering her face with one hand as the other rested on the ground barely holding her up.
It was over.
She didn't know how long she had been there, kneeling on the ground, but by the time her last tear fell she felt numb. There was no place left in her heart to feel anything but the coldness of the ground and the sorrow that had taken over her.
She was alone.
Standing up slowly from the ground, she made her way back inside to her empty apartment. Back to a life she no longer wanted, a life that no longer wanted her.
Closing the door behind her she fell against it, letting her head drop back as her eyes closed and a fresh set of tears began making a steady trail down her cheeks. She didn't want to open her eyes to the loneliness that was to become her life. It would be the last thing to break her.
"It took you long enough, DeLuca."
Maria could feel her heart fighting to stay in her chest at the sound of another voice in the room. She opened her eyes to watch as a blurry figure slowly pushed itself off of the kitchen doorframe and came to stand directly in front of her.
This was great. Just perfect! Her mind was coming up with fabrications of the twit just to make her feel better. Maybe she should call up her mother just so that he'd have at least someone to talk to that understood him!
Her hand reached up out of its own accord, lightly resting itself against his cheek, stroking the rough stubble there. It wasn't possible to actually touch something from your imagination, was it?
"Michael?" Her voice escaped her in a whisper as she blinked back the tears that had been clouding her vision. His hair had grown out a few inches and was now resting lightly on his shoulders. The normally shaven face that she'd been so use to seeing was now covered in a two-day beard from his travels, and his clothes looked old and worn as though he'd been wearing them for days.
Swallowing, he smiled down at her. "Yeah, it's me."
Throwing herself into his arms, she let herself cry, hugging him tightly around his neck as he wrapped his arms around her waist and buried his face in her hair. She ran her hands over his entire body as she held him close, making sure he was really there. In those few long minutes that she had been outside, alone on the porch, she had given up any hope of ever seeing him again. If she was dreaming it would kill her to wake up alone.
After what seemed like an eternity she finally pulled back, just far enough to bring her lips up to meet his in a bruising kiss. He tasted just like she had remember and the mere smell of him reminded her of just how much she missed being close to him. Running her hands through his hair, she held him close refusing to let him go ever again.
Starting to feel dizzy from the effects the simple sight of her had on him, Michael broke the kiss, resting his forehead against hers as his chest strained painfully for more oxygen. How could he have ever left her?
"Maria..." He couldn't seem to find his voice as he stood there, holding her in his arms. It was as though nothing, no words could possibly describe just how much he had missed her soft touch, the sound of her voice, the color of her eyes. Every little thing about her.
"I know," Maria told him quietly, nodding her head a little. "I missed you too."
Gently easing himself away from her but still keeping a firm hold on her hand, Michael led them both over to the couch and sat down, pulling her into his lap. Lacing his fingers through hers he swallowed, not quite sure where to start.
"So, I guess you found the note on my bedroom window," Maria said to him, noticing his silence. He didn't have to say anything as long as he promised to stay and never leave her again.
Chuckling at her, Michael nodded. "Yeah, I think it would have taken me a lot longer to find your new apartment if you hadn't left me a note at your mom's house."
Looking down at their hands she smiled, feeling tingles everywhere his thumb was tracing as they shot small jolts of electricity up her spine. "So, you would have kept looking for me?"
Tilting her head up so that she was looking into his eyes, he replied sincerely, "As long as it took to find you." Tucking a few loose strands of hair behind her ears he leaned over, kissing her softly.
There was so much for him to say to her, so much that he wanted to tell. He wasn't even sure he knew where to begin, but she deserved for him to at least try.
"I found them."
Resting her head down on his shoulder and snuggling into the crook of his neck, Maria sighed. "Found who?"
"Isabel and Max Evans." Michael laid his head down lazily on top of hers, wrapping his arms around her waist. "My family."
Running a hand along his shoulder and down his arm, feeling the firm muscle beneath her fingertips, she tried to concentrate on his words. "Where?"
"California," he told her, feeling the warmth from her hands spreading up his arm. "They've been living there since just a few months after they were adopted. They were here in Roswell at first, but their father got transferred to San Francisco for his job. I guess I just missed them by a few months."
Kissing his chin lightly, Maria smiled. "I'm glad you found your family, Michael. I know how much you've always wanted one."
"So, I know it's not technically Christmas anymore," he started, running his hand up and down her back to keep her warm.
Maria sat up, looking at him with a twinkle in her eyes. "Says who?"
Michael could feel his pulse quicken with just one look from her. "I umm...I..."
Licking her lips and barely feathering them over his, she breathed into his mouth, "Yes."
Forcing himself to concentrate on what he was saying, Michael pinched his eyes shut. Not a good idea. Her lips felt so much softer on his when his eyes were closed.
Leaning away from her and glaring at her in hopes that she would play nice, Michael took a few deep breaths, calming himself for the task at hand.
"I umm...I got you a Christmas present," he said, pulling a small black box out of his jeans pocket and lifting it up to where she could see.
Maria's eyes went wide, looking down at his hand. "Michael, that's..."
Reaching out carefully to lift the lid up, Maria's mouth went dry as she saw what was inside.
A small diamond ring with a delicate gold band was peaking out at her. She could feel her breathing labor as Michael bent forward to kiss her forehead, his lips lingering there for a moment.
"Maria, I've spent the last year looking for my family, the family that I've known I belonged to," he told her, licking his lips as he kept his eyes focused on the ring. "But I realized while I was gone that I wanted to be with the family I needed...and that family was you. I want to start a family with you Maria," he said, searching her eyes for the answer he hoped he would find there. "I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
At that moment Maria felt like her heart might leave her chest. She would wait another lifetime if it meant that she could feel this happy again. Nodding her head vigorously at him, she smiled. "Okay."
Pulling him closer to her, she kissed his lips and pressed their bodies together. Tomorrow she could ask him all of the questions she'd been wanting to find out the answers to. They could wait.
Tonight was Christmas.
So yeah, this was a kind of 'What if Max and Isabel hadn't ended up in Roswell' fic. I thought it would be interesting to think about how Michael's life might have been different.