posted on 24-Jun-2002 11:34:13 PM by JaneJane
Title: Mother Dearest
Disclaimer- Me? Own Roswell? What planet do you live on?
Rating: R-NC17 (in some parts)
Summary: Maria goes to Michael after a brutal confrontation with her...mother.
Maria DeLuca shuddered violently as the door shut behind her. Tired, so tired, the Crashdown had been bustling with the usual Friday night crowd. Her head hurt, her feet hurt, her calf muscles ached. Too many hours on your feet carrying orders to too many impatient customers can do that to a person. All she wanted to do was go to bed. Sighing in disgust, she locked the door behind her and headed up to her room. The house was cold, dark, and empty, not that she minded, her mother, not her favorite person, was off at an alien convention somewhere. Her teenage daughter was undoubtedly the last thing on her mind right now. She left no note, no goodbye, just left. Maria didn't care, she realized that her mother forgot that she had a daughter most of the time. Since her father had left when Maria was five, her mother had changed. She stayed out late at night drinking, came home in the dark hours of the morning, moaning and wretching with hangovers. She was used to helping her mother into bed, and dodging her when her hangovers made her angry and physically harmful.
Maria's relief that her mother was not at home was overshadowed by her exhaustion. Too tired to do anything but change out of her Crashdown uniform and into an old gym uniform that she slept in, Maria collapsed on the bed and pulled the sheets up around her shoulders. She felt some of the tension leave her muscles. Slowly, she willed herself into a fitful sleep.

'BAM!' Maria's eyes flew open, the noise having disturbed her less than peaceful slumber. 'Mom's home' she thought reflexively. 'Please, just go to your room, throw up, and recover, please.' Sharp, definite heel clicks could be heard on the linoleum floor in the kitchen. They thudded up the stairs and down the hall towards her room, she tensed and prayed, but apparently, God wasn't listening just then. The door flew open and banged against the wall with no doorstop to prevent it from going straight through.
"Get...up...Maria," her mother slurred from her alcohol induced mind. Maria didn't move. "GET UP MARIA, GOD DAMNIT I KNOW YOU'RE AWAKE!" Unable to ignore that sudden outburst, Maria slowly sat up, unwilling to show her mother how her yelling had unnerved her.
"Mom?" She figured her best bet was to feign sleep induced cluelessness until her mother came around.
"Don't 'Mom' me young lady! Amy DeLuca moved closer to the bed and stared down into her daughter's terrified face. Maria could smell the bourbon on her breath. "Do you know what I found out tonight?" Maria was afraid to inquire and afraid not to. In the end, she shook her head. "I found your father sleeping with another woman!" she hissed. "He's a bastard!...Know what that makes you Maria?" Again, Maria shook her head, not really wanting to hear the answer this time. "You're the child of a bastard-a bastard-child!" Amy found this insanely funny, she threw her head back and cackled almost evilly. Maria shrank back in horror. "Oh no you don't, you little bitch," Mrs. DeLuca suddenly grabbed Maria's wrist and yanked her out from under the covers. The next thing Maria saw was a flash of bright white, it took her a second to comprehend that her mother had slapped her across the face. She let out one helpless shriek as she felt the palm come in contact again with her already tender skin. She could feel her cheeks start to swell as she was hit again and again and again. She felt something hot and wet running down her face and she realized that her nose was bleeding. Dizzy and disoriented, she struggled to get away, but there was nowhere to go. Maria felt tears running down her face and realized that she was crying.
"Mom, please, please, don't do this," Maria whispered. She was afraid of making her mom angrier if she fought back or cried out.
"Shut the hell up Maria! Don't be such a disrespectful little idiot. Your father taught you that, didn't he?" Maria closed her eyes, confused as hell, and defeated. She realized that there was no way out. She had not seen her father in twelve years. If her mother was this far out of it, the situation was hopeless. She moaned in pain as the blows to her face momentarily subsided, she cracked her bruised eyes open.
Amy whirled around and grabbed Maria's hairbrush off of her dresser. Maria could see her eyes flash with intentions as she whirled back around to face her. Her arms flew to her face in defense, but she wasn't fast enough. The hard wooden back of the brush cracked up the side of her skull, sending her reeling against the wall on the other side of the room. Through blurred vision, she saw her mother come at her again and she tried to roll out of the way, but Amy grabbed a handful of Maria's long blond hair, making her howl in pain. At the same time, the brush connected with her stomach. She doubled over as much as her mother's grip on her hair would allow and howled in agony, tears mixing with fresh blood ran down her face.
Maria was on her stomach now, and she shuddered as she realized that Amy wasn't stopping. The hairbrush assaulted her backside. With every blow, Maria arched off of the ground a little and moaned, unable to hide it completely. Her rear end, she was sure, was black and blue, her back stung, and her thighs were on fire. She cried silently into the scratchy wool of the carpet, dirtying it with her tears and blood.
"Bastard-child!" Amy shouted again as she grabbed another handful of hair, effectively yanking Maria's head off of the floor. Maria winced as she heard her neck snap in protest. "You are no longer welcome in this house!" With that, Amy grabbed yet another handful of hair. The agonizing pain and pressure were too much- Maria howled in protest again, her instincts not registering that her mother might punish her for it. Mrs. DeLuca was preoccupied at the moment and did not seem to hear her. Maria felt herself moving and realized that she was being dragged across the carpet towards the door. Her scalp was on fire, but thankfully, parts of her body had begun to go numb, she supposed it was her body's natural defenses kicking in.
She tensed as she realized that Amy had reached the top of the stairs and she wasn't stopping. Her head and oversensitive back made contact with the first step, then the second, then the third, the rest of her body flailing uselessly out behind her, she screamed, not having the ability to do anything else. She felt every bruise already inflicted come into contact with the hard, jutting wood of the staircase. Tears riveted down her face in floods as her mother continued to drag her by the hair, down the staircase, into the foyer, and out onto the front porch. Her scalp stung, she didn't think she had any hair left. Her face numb and swollen, and her whole backside, swollen and tender, she let out a momentary sigh of some relief when she felt the pressure on her scalp diminish. Through bloodied, blurry vision, she saw her mother's drunk face staring hatefully into her own.
"Can't have anyone knowing that I slept with a bastard now, can I?” Maria was blinded by a flash of skin, a final momentary stinging sensation, then everything went black.

Seconds? Minutes? Hours? later, Maria slowly opened her eyes...and immediately wished that she hadn't. It hurt too much, her face hurt, her head hurt, her entire backside hurt, and her stomach was rebelling against the one blow from the hairbrush it had received. A wave of nausea swept over her, and without thinking, she rolled from her back onto her stomach and hoisted herself up on her hands and knees, which were surprisingly sturdy. Encouraged by her new position, the nausea returned, and without warning, she vomited into the grass. After a few more seconds, her head had cleared enough and she was able to think coherently. 'OK,ok....I have to go somewhere, can't stay here....don't think I can make it too far.' She tested her theory by attempting to stand. At first, the pain and nausea was too much to handle and she collapsed not two feet from where she had been. 'OK, have to get out of here' she coached herself. 'You can do this.' 'But where are you going to go?' The logical side of her fuzzy brain broke through. 'Can't go to Liz's...she's out of town. Alex...too far...I'd never make it. Max and Isabel? Yeah...right.' 'Well, that leaves only one person...he'll understand, he has to understand.'
In a haze of terrified pain, Maria limped her way slowly from one tree to the next, not consciously going in any one direction. Several times, the pain overtook her and she had to sit down on the grass. Nausea overtook her once about a block away from her house and she vomited again. She was tired, so tired, and in so much pain, she wanted nothing more than to lay down on the ground and not wake up again for a while. Instinctually, though, her body knew that she couldn't do that and stay alive too. She came to a clearing and saw his apartment building in the distance. She allowed herself a momentary sigh of relief. Unfortunately, the residential developers had arbitrarily decided to stop planting trees every ten feet, so she had nothing to lean against. Humiliation overtook her, as she realized that the only way she was going to make it was to crawl the rest of the way to his front doorstep. In a sudden panic, she darted a few feet forward without assistance. Pain flared through every muscle and bone in her body, and she crumpled painfully to the asphalt on her hands and knees.
Vaguely, she counted herself lucky that it was the middle of the night. Here she was, crawling through the streets of Roswell on her hands and knees. At any other time, she would have been dead by now, hit by a car. The lose gravel bit into her palms, knees, and shins, but the pain was unnoticeable in comparison to the agony of the rest of her body. Glancing up, she saw that she was only a few feet from the door of his apartment. Thank God. Exhausted by her inhuman efforts, and weakened by excruciating pain, Maria dragged herself up the small concrete step to the landing. She rested her head against the door for a full minute before raising her fist and tentatively knocking on the lower part of the door. She could barely stand, let alone ring the doorbell. 'Please, God, help,' her mind formed the only thought it could through her delirious state.

Michael Guerin was not a deep sleeper. He rarely went to bed before midnight, and when he did, he usually fell asleep on the couch, watching TV or listening to music. Not that it mattered, no one was around to force him to go to bed, and he liked it that way. Since gaining his independence from Hank a few months earlier, Michael had learned the joys and trials of living on one's own, and for the most part, he was thoroughly enjoying it. He was learning how to feel safe in his own skin again, a sensation he could not remember ever having before. It was a learned behavior however, and he had not been free of Hank's abuse long enough to really enjoy it. Every noise in the night still woke him, his body instinctively protecting itself from intruders.
Michael's eyes snapped open and he jumped as he heard a light knocking on the door. Or at least, he thought he heard it. He waited tensely for a few minutes, waiting for confirmation, nothing happened. He was beginning to chalk it up to his overactive imagination when a loud 'THUMP' and a low moan suddenly came from the direction of the front porch. More curious than intimidated, Michael rose slowly from the couch and made his way around the living room to the small entranceway. He looked through the peephole. Nothing there. 'Guerin, get it together, you're losing it,' he scolded himself mentally. He started to turn around to reclaim his lost sleep, when a soft whimpering reached his ears. It was low and pitiful, and made his heart clench in his chest. He knew it was not his imagination. 'OK, some lost puppy has found it's way onto my doorstep,' he thought. Slowly, he turned and opened the door. And gasped in shock as he saw the shivering, shuddering form of Maria DeLuca huddled in a fetal position on his doorstep.
"What the hell?...Maria!!" he gasped, blinking several times, thinking that maybe this was a nightmare. He willed himself to wake up, nothing happened. He kneeled down on the concrete over her battered form and tentatively reached out and touched her.
" mmme."
"OK, ok Maria, it's ok." He could see in the faint glow of the moonlight, that her face and shoulders were black and blue. He had no idea what the rest of her looked like. He didn't want to think about it, just looking at what he could see made him sick to his stomach. Not wanting to cause her any more pain, he slid his arms gently between her and the concrete and lifted, surprised at how easy it was. She weighed nothing, but even Michael's gentle touch was too much for Maria's sensitive skin. She screamed in pain. " Shhh....I'm sorry Maria, just hang on." With her last bit of strength, Maria wrapped her arms around Michael's neck and rested her face in his chest. Michael turned slowly, careful to not hit any of her bruised body on the door frame. He kicked the door shut with his foot and stared at the deadbolt on the door, willing it to turn. To his relief and amazement, it did. He looked down quickly to examine Maria, shaking and miserable in his arms. He still wasn't entirely convinced that it wasn't all a dream, a really horrible dream. Her pained moan snapped him back to reality.
'Concentrate Guerin,' he commanded himself mentally. Michael's panic instinct was quickly rising to the surface. He couldn't stand to see Maria in this state. Seeing her had brought back all of the literally painful memories of his days with Hank. He didn't even want to begin to think about how she had gotten this way. He could feel anger beginning to mix with the panic. Michael thought clearest when he was angry. With new purpose, he shifted Maria gently in his arms and moved towards the bedroom.
"Uuuhhh...." she whimpered as he eased her gently onto the bed.
"I'm sorry Maria, shhh, it's gonna be OK," he whispered, as he turned on his overhead reading lamp. She winced and squeezed her eyes tightly shut to block out the brightness. He gasped, stumbled backward, and almost yelled in anger at what he saw. "Holy shit." Maria's entire face was red, puffy, and swollen. There was a bloody gash on the side of her head. He glanced at her exposed upper chest and shoulders and saw the beginnings of what looked to be serious bruises. Tentatively, he moved her gym shirt to expose her stomach, and was not surprised by similar bruising he saw there. Every inch of exposed skin on her legs was slowly bruising as well. Michael silently cursed to himself as he ran from the room toward the kitchen to find the ice pack and make a phone call.
Michael had been working with his powers since he had been emancipated. He was improving, but he wasn't nearly as advanced as Max. And he wasn't willing to test out his half-ass powers on Maria. She didn't need to be more injured than she already was.
"Come on Maxwell, pick up," he pleaded with the ringing line. Finally, after the seventh ring, a very groggy Max Evans answered the phone.
"This had better be good Michael."
"Maxwell, get your ass over here, Maria's hurt."
"Huh? What happened Michael?" Max snapped fully into consciousness.
"I have no fucking clue Max, just get over here."
"Be there in a sec." Michael hung up and grabbed two icepacks from the freezer, then sprinted down the hall to the bedroom. He sucked in a breath as he saw Maria again in the full light. More bruises were beginning to form. Michael wanted to believe that maybe Maria had been hit by a car, a truck, a bus even, but the all-over, precise blow like marks on her body told another tale, one that Michael was all too familiar with. As if he had been punched in the gut, he suddenly knew what had happened. He turned and ran into the adjoining bathroom, grabbed a washcloth, and turned the knob on the sink all the way to the right. He soaked the cloth and wrung it out before returning to Maria.
She whimpered and twisted away a tiny bit as the pressure of the cloth on her face irritated the bruises. "Hold still, you're ok, let me help you." Michael gently wiped the blood clean from the gash on her forehead and folded the cloth before wiping the rest of her face slowly and gently, hoping that the cold would bring down the swelling. "Who did this to you Maria?" he whispered as he placed the icepack on her forehead, not really expecting an answer. He silently fumed at the unknown culprit. She moaned again, as if in response to his question. This time, her eyes flickered open when he touched her face.
"Michael?" she whispered, new tears forming in her eyes.
"Yeah, Maria, yeah, it's me." Subconsciously, he stroked her cheek in a soothing manner as he spoke.
"I hurt." She spoke two syllables before the tears threatened to spill onto her swollen cheeks.
"Shhh, it's OK baby, you're gonna be ok."
"How do you know?" Michael could sense the fear and anxiety in her voice as she looked up at him with her huge green eyes.
"Max will be here soon, we'll help you."
"M-max?" Her eyes got larger, and Michael prayed that she wouldn't hate him after all this was over.
"Yeah, he's stronger than me in the healing department," he explained carefully. "I don't want to mess up, I can't take that chance with you Maria." Maria could see that the confession was painful to make. She smiled encouragingly and nodded to show that she understood his reasoning. He allowed himself to relax a little.
"Michael?" The noise came from the door, and Maria and Michael turned to see a slightly disheveled, but alert Max Evans standing in the doorway. "I let myself in," he said by way of explanation. Michael nodded and turned his attention back to Maria. Max took that as an invitation and in two long strides, was standing over her, absorbing the sight of her battered body with concern and sympathy evident in his golden-brown eyes. "Hey Maria," he said quietly, not wanting to add to the apprehension he saw etched in her features.
"Max?" She sounded so lost, so scared, so alone, that Max's heart broke for his girlfriend's best friend. He looked her in the eyes as he spoke.
"No worries," he smiled at her. She attempted to smile back, but only managed a half-grimace because her face was swollen and sore. Max shrugged out of his leather jacket and hung it on Michael's desk chair before returning to the bedside to kneel beside Michael, who held Maria's hand firmly in his own.
"Relax," Michael reminded her, giving the hand he was holding a reassuring squeeze, "We're going to help you. I'm right here."
"I'm not gonna hurt you Maria," Max said reassuringly, "can you trust me on that?"
"Liz would kill you," she joked weakly. She smiled slightly
"Damn straight," he grimaced at the thought. "Michael and I are not going to let anything happen to you."
"I know Max," Maria smiled, and then thought of the one thing that Max probably needed to hear. "I trust you." Max thanked her with his eyes, smiling slightly at the compliment.
"Can I?" he asked respectfully. Maria took a deep breath and gripped Michael's hand once before nodding her consent. Gently, Max touched her face with his fingertips, closing his eyes and searching out the bruised skin and broken blood vessels. They were not hard to find. "Look at me Maria," Max insisted gently. Obediently, Maria opened her eyes and tried to focus on his face, remembering what Liz had said about deep, soulful brown pools that she could drown in. And any girl had to say that Liz was right.
Maria felt the pain in her face diminish and then vanish all together. She was aware of Max's hands moving towards her neck, searching out bruises, and the tingling sensation that accompanied the healing process. She felt Michael's hands too, as he had moved to cup hers in both of his larger ones. She squeezed tenderly to let him know that she was alright. Slowly, she felt her trepidation melting away. Max was respectful and gentle with her. With him and Michael, she felt safer than she had in a long time. She felt his hand move up to the side of her head to heal the angry gash. She reveled in the increased energy that Max used to mend tissue, blood vessels and skin. The tingling increased and she felt her skin close beneath his fingers. When he removed his hand and placed it again on her neck, searching for any remaining bruises, she saw that there was no blood on his fingertips. She was so lost in these comforting sensations, that she almost didn't feel Max's concentration break. She realized he had stopped above her neckline. He was studying her face with a mixture of understanding and reassurance. She sensed tears beginning to burn behind her eyelids as she realized what he was asking.
"It's ok, I won't let anything happen to you," Michael whispered in her ear, gripping her hand slightly harder than he had been. She looked up and saw the sincerity and compassion in Max's eyes, and knew that she had to trust them. She gripped Michael's hand in response and nodded minutely.
Michael slid his arm underneath her shoulder and gently boosted her to a sitting position, trying not to notice when she gasped in pain. Max watched respectfully as Michael helped her remove her shirt. She eased herself back on the bed and closed her eyes, unable to look at Max's face. Michael and Max exchanged worried glances before Michael folded the shirt lengthwise and covered Maria's upper body, leaving only her stomach and ribs exposed. Maria opened her eyes ever so slowly and half smiled in appreciation. Michael smiled back, but grimaced inwardly.
They had both seen the bruises and welts covering Maria's breasts. Michael felt like he was going to throw up. Max's mind was spinning, he felt so bad for Maria. She had already been violated once tonight. He didn't want to be responsible for compounding her problems. He had no intention of hurting her in any way, but he could understand how she didn't like the idea of her best friend's boyfriend's hands all over her body. He sighed, dropping his shoulders back, he motioned for Michael to follow him out into the hallway. Michael stood and kissed Maria's forehead tenderly before turning to follow Max out of the room. He had a pretty good idea what he was going to say.
"Where are you going?" Maria asked, an edge of fear in her voice.
"We'll be right back, Maxwell needs a word or two with me. You're gonna be fine." Michael flashed her an encouraging, slightly quirky smile. He followed Max into the hall and shut the door behind him.
"You're gonna have to get rid of the bruises on her breasts Michael, I am not gonna make her more uncomfortable than she already is."
"I can't," Michael said apologetically. "I would do it all myself, but I didn't want to hurt her."
"You won't hurt her Michael, just do your best."
"I don't have the practice I need to do the rest though," Michael pointed out.
"I'll do the rest, I just know that she wants you to do this part." Michael nodded in agreement.
"Coach me, ok?"
"Sure, but you won't need it." Michael took a deep breath, trying to regain some composure. They turned and reentered the room, where a very nervous Maria lay on the bed, her eyes wide with anticipation. "It's ok Maria," Max assured her. "Michael is gonna do this for you while I heal the bruises on your legs, good?" Her features visibly relaxed as she considered this, finally nodding ever so slightly before sinking further down into the mattress.
Michael approached slowly, bending down to kiss Maria tenderly on the forehead before kneeling so that his eyes were level with hers.
"Ok?" he inquired cautiously, trying to calm her with his voice. He waited until she nodded before reaching towards her, slowly pushing her folded shirt up and placing his palm gently onto her sensitive skin. She gasped, not so much from shock as from pain. "Relax," Michael reminded her, stopping momentarily, but not breaking contact. "I'm not going to hurt you Maria." She nodded and smiled tentatively, making eye contact with him and holding him there, trying to tell him that she knew he would never hurt her.
Maria felt the tingling begin again, this time it was slower, interrupted by periods of heat, as Michael struggled to form the connection. His eyes never left her face. Even the heat diminished the pain before the tingling took it away completely. His breathing became labored and sweat trickled down his forehead. Maria moved her hand to cover the one that lay idle on the bed next to her. Most of the physical pain was gone, and Maria enjoyed the after effects, the warmth had not yet diminished and Michael's hand still lay on her right breast. Michael smiled at her comfortingly before taking his hands away, but Maria grabbed his wrist, firmly placing a kiss on his fingertips.
"Thank you Michael," she whispered.
"You're welcome Maria," Michael smiled and stepped back, allowing Max to take his place, while still keeping a firm hold on her hand. Max glanced down at Maria's legs and grimaced involuntarily. Not a square inch of flesh was left unharmed. Unfortunately, Maria saw his reaction. She cried out, not from pain, but humiliation. Max tore his eyes away from her lower body and tried to comfort her.
"It's ok Maria, feel better now, questions later, all right?" Maria nodded minutely and tried to breathe, letting Max's words put her mind at ease. Michael's right hand trailed gently up and down the side of her face, his left still held in hers by a vice-like grip. She closed her eyes and let herself get lost in Michael's touch, while Max formed the connection to heal her remaining bruises. His fingers moved cautiously over her thighs, purposely avoiding the most sensitive area. For his compassion and good judgement Maria was truly thankful.
Finally, the front of Maria’s body was completely healed and Max stepped back, surveying her critically to convince himself that there was no more to be done.
“Is there anywhere else?” Max asked, silently praying for Maria’s sake that there was nothing else. Almost imperceptibly, Maria nodded, her eyes downcast.
“My back,” she whispered, so softly that Max and Michael almost didn’t hear it. They nodded understandingly, but she continued without any encouragement. “When she pulled me out of bed she forced me onto my stomach and I couldn’t get up. Next thing I know, she’s beating the hell out of my backside.” Fresh tears formed unbidden in her eyes and spilled freely down her cheeks as she relived the memory. Michael held her upper body against his, stroking away her tears with his fingertips while exchanging meaningful looks with Max. ‘She.’
“Shhh…you’re ok, safe with me,” Michael soothed her. He felt her shudder in exhaustion against his chest and her entire body went limp in his arms, entrusting her body to him. She whimpered only slightly as Michael and Max eased her gently onto her stomach, exposing her back. Max’s breath caught in his throat as he looked at her. Sickening shades of blacks, browns, blues, greens, and dark yellows met his eye. He glanced over at Michael, who looked like he was either going to kill someone, or throw up all over the floor again.
Maria was humiliated, and angry, and tired, and scared, angry with her mother for doing this to her, angry with herself for letting it happen. She was humiliated, embarrassed that anyone, especially Michael and Max, should have to see her like this- bruised and broken, shaking like a leaf. They were being really nice about it, she had to give them credit, Max, so concerned, and gentle, and respectful, and Michael, God bless him, if it wasn’t for him, she’d be dead by now. The combination of these new and somewhat terrifying emotions suddenly overwhelmed her overtaxed mind, and she subconsciously made the decision not to think anymore. She let herself go limp in Michael’s arms, trusting him, knowing that he would take care of her. That was why she had come to him in the first place, right? So she did it, without any further thought, she wordlessly gave herself up to two of the few people in the world she trusted with her life.
Michael cursed silently as he realized what his next obstacle was. He didn't want to humiliate her anymore than she already was. He took a deep breath.
"I have to take your shorts off Maria." She shuddered violently as she realized that he was right, but that didn't mean she could hold back the sobs that came automatically with a fresh sense of helplessness. She nodded her head into the pillow, but continued to sob with abandon. She expected to feel his hands at her waist but instead felt the bed tilt slightly as he sat on the edge next to her. He lightly trailed his fingertips up and down her spine, avoiding the bruises, but causing a pleasant, soothing tingle to go through Maria's body that had nothing to do with alien powers. Michael looked from Maria's prone and humiliated form to Max's concerned face as he stood leaning on the desk. The two men shared an understanding glance. They were there to help Maria. "Shhh, it's gonna be okay baby. Trust me, please? We're not going to do anything you don't want to do." She turned her tear stained face to look at them.
"I know... you have to... it's ok," she got out between gasps of air.
"You sure?"
"Yeah...just careful."
"You know we won't hurt you." She nodded again, her body still shaking slightly.
"I know."
"Just breathe", he reminded her gently, his voice whispered in her ear as he leaned down. "You're with me now, nothing bad's gonna happen." He felt her relax slightly. "Trust me?"
"Yes," she assured him, her face still hidden in the pillow. He stroked the back of her head soothingly as he looked across the bed to Max.
"Do you want me to go, Maria?" Max asked cautiously, realizing how beyond humiliated she was and not wanting to add to her discomfort. She turned her head to look into the eyes of a very concerned very sympathetic Max, and shook her head.
"No Max," she whispered. "I know I'm safe with you." He approached the bed cautiously and squatted down near her head, grasping her cold shaking hand in his large, warm, and steady one. She squeezed it gratefully, half in reassurance for him, half in comfort for herself, and he squeezed back. Max sought and held her eyes with his, willing her mind off of the matter at hand. She felt Michael's hands slide gently to her waistband as he began removing the shorts and she tensed, her eyes wide. Michael felt her tense suddenly and stopped, but Max didn't flinch, only held her hand tighter.
"It's ok," he reminded her and nodded for Michael to continue. Maria didn't take her eyes of off Max as she felt Michael slide his hands gently under her hips, then slide the fabric down and completely off of her body. He found himself cursing silently again for the millionth time that night as he looked at the revealed bruises. 'God Maria, what did she do to you?' He steeled his resolve and took the white sheet bunched up at the foot of the bed to cover her lower body. She let out the breath she didn't know she'd been holding and relaxed her grip on Max, but he didn't take his hand from hers. Michael finally found his voice and spoke, trying as best he could to comfort her.
"How 'bout Max heals your legs, and I'll do the rest?" he asked soothingly. She nodded against the pillow, too tired to argue with him, and really not caring. As Michael's hands touched her shoulder blades and began soothing circular strokes in combination with his flow of energy, Maria willingly lost all touch with reality. She hadn't realized anything could feel this good.
Michael's hands gently massaged her abused flesh as his powers healed the damage. It felt incredible, the warm tingling sensations grew in intensity. Max moved to the foot of the bed and gripped her calves gently while Michael worked on her back, letting his powers flow into her and heal her. Michael's hands drifted gently over her buttocks and she didn't flinch, only relaxed more as she felt him kneading and soothing her skin. He then moved his hands up to her shoulder blades and neck again. He flinched as he felt the misplaced discs in her neck coming back together; he suddenly got images of her being dragged down a long flight of wooden stairs, her head and shoulders violently hitting each hard edge. He wanted to curse out loud but it would have broken his concentration. He tried to refocus his energy on healing her.
He could tell Maria was relaxing. He raised his eyes to the ceiling and thanked whatever god existed that she had come to him that night. He hated to think of what would have happened if she had stayed wherever she had come from, or had attempted to make it to Liz's- five miles away. Her breathing had slowed and become more even. Michael looked up and exchanged glances with Max as they took their hands away. Michael knelt down beside the bed so that his eyes were level with hers. She cracked her eyes open briefly, and he saw the relief, mixed with some embarrassment there. He reached up and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear as he caressed her cheek briefly.
"All done," he whispered, "you OK?" She nodded slightly against the pillow. "You'll probably feel light headed and tired, but just relax, you've been through a lot." She bit her lip and attempted a half smile. She discovered that it didn't hurt anymore, but her eyelids felt heavy, her body didn't hurt, but she was so tired that she felt like her limbs were made of lead. Michael realized that she was beyond the point of voluntary movement. He covered her with the sheet and the comforter, bringing both up to her shoulders. Max helped her to roll her over onto her back again. He looked away, but Maria took his hand from her position on the bed and smiled encouragingly when he looked at her. "Max, help me," Michael asked. Max came forward tentatively, Maria didn't allow him to release the grip on her hand. "Help her sit up so she can put this shirt on." He produced a large gray t shirt from a drawer in his dresser. Maria had to smile slightly when she realized that the shirt was folded and ironed. Even her own mother didn't iron her t shirts! Still holding her hand, Max sat next to her on the bed and slipped his strong arm around her bare shoulders. Maria breathed in his scent, leather, and light cologne. She smiled. Liz knew how to pick 'em! She relaxed against him and allowed him to boost her to a semi-vertical position. Michael slipped the shirt over her head, and then there was the distinct, unmistakable scent of Michael surrounding her nostrils. The perfect mixture of fabric softener and Michael-scent. He gently guided her arms into the sleeves and pulled the shirt down around her stomach. It almost reached her knees. She smiled up at him gratefully before turning to Max who was beginning to move away. She pulled him back down and threw her arms around his neck, holding back the beginnings of fresh tears.
"Thank you Max, thank you for everything."
"You're welcome Maria," he said softly as his strong arms embraced her, holding her protectively, "you just lay back and relax, Michael will take good care of you." She turned her head on Max's shoulder to look at Michael and smiled.
"I know." She gave him a final squeeze and a friendly peck on the cheek before releasing him. He kissed her tenderly on the forehead and stepped towards the door, taking his jacket from the back of Michael's chair.
"See you guys, we'll talk later Michael."
"Right Maxwell, thanks for getting over here so fast."

OK, I'm just a tad cruel, huh? Let me know what you think, I'm gonna post more so this thread doesn't end up on page 10000 in less than 3 seconds!


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 24-Jun-2002 11:54:15 PM ]
posted on 25-Jun-2002 12:01:32 AM by JaneJane
I did it, I did it!!

Part 2

"No problem." Max turned and left. Michael waited until he heard the sound of the door closing before turning to face Maria.
"You ok?" he whispered gently, studying her tired face to convince himself that she was healed. She nodded, but when Michael studied her eyes closely, he saw the pain that lingered there. It wasn't physical, he and Max had done their job well. But he realized that no alien medicine, or human medicine for that matter, could heal Maria's internal wounds.
He held her gaze for a second longer than Maria had been prepared for. She hid her face in the pillow, realizing that in those few seconds, he had learned everything he needed to know, and everything she had tried to keep from him.
Her bottom lip quivered slightly before she hid her face in the pillow. Michael saw it and caught the drained, exhausted look on her face and his heart broke for her. Instinctively, he moved to sit next to her on the bed and pulled her upper body into his arms. She whimpered slightly and struggled half-heartedly to get away, but her weakened body was no match for his strong arms, and the warmth of his body combined with the strength and security of his embrace was too hard to resist.
Michael relaxed his hold slightly when he felt her go limp in his arms. She had her face pressed into his chest, and he bent his head slightly to kiss the top of her head. With her still pressed firmly against him, he leaned down on to the bed next to her and pulled her down with him. She went willingly, too weak and tired and in need of his comfort to resist, even if she had wanted to. He pulled her closer into him. She responded by burying her face deeper into his chest, so that all that was visible to him now was long blond curls. He could hear her breathing deeply, inhaling his scent with each breath, and he sensed the hitching in her throat that told him she was trying not to cry.
"Shhh," he soothed gently, stroking her hair from the top of her head down to her shoulder blades. "Let go, it's ok, let it out baby." She had no idea that he was speaking from experience, that he had discovered this himself after fighting off tears so many nights after one of Hank's rampages. One night, he had let himself cry- he couldn't stop it no matter how hard he tried. And in a strange way, it had felt better. Michael knew she had listened to him when the quick breaths in her throat became moans, and then full out sobs. "Shhh," he whispered again, holding her tightly to him, stroking her head in faster strokes.
"I was so...scared scared, she was drunk and...oh god...she said I was a...a bastard child...and dad was a....a bastard...and....that she never wanted to again...I'm not welcome in her house and..."
"Shhh, Maria,'s ok now, you're here now, you're safe, I promise. I won't let anyone hurt you." She nodded briefly before continuing to sob into his chest. He moved his hands in soothing strokes up and down her back. "Nothing to be scared of anymore." She shook her head, grasped his shirt in her fists and continued to sob quietly with her head against his chest.
Michael knew there was nothing else he could do, and the thought made his heart break into a million pieces. He wanted to get her some water, knew she must be dehydrated, but she wouldn't let go of him long enough to allow him to do that, and he didn't have the heart to move away. So he continued to stroke her back and kiss her head as they lay against the pillows.
Finally, Maria's sobs seemed to subside. Her shoulders weren't shaking and Michael could tell she was asleep by her even breathing. He pulled gently away, attempting to disentangle himself from Maria's arms. He went to the connecting bathroom and filled his sink cup with water. The moment he had left the bed, however, he could feel Maria stir and knew she was waking up.
"Michael!" she shrieked before he had a chance to show himself.
"I'm here Maria," he said soothingly, hurrying over to the bed with the cup of water. Rather than handing it to her, he put it on the nightstand and looped his arms around her shoulders that had begun to shake again.
"I thought...I thought you had left me...I thought this was all a crazy dream, I wish it was. "I'm sorry Michael, I shouldn't have bothered you like this. You shouldn't have seen that and I'm sorry. I'll go now if you want." She started to throw the covers back and swing her legs to the floor.
"No Maria," Michael almost shouted, though she could tell it was concern more than anger that fueled his outburst. He took her ankles in one large hand and moved them back to the bed, pushing her down with the other hand as he spoke. "You're not going anywhere. You came to me for help, and now you have to play by my rules. And my rules are I don't let people who are recovering from being beaten to hell stand up and walk out less than two hours after they came here. And I don't take any of that "sorry for bothering you with my problems" bullshit. You already have, and I can't just let you walk out of here and pretend everything's ok. You taught me that Maria. You taught me not to walk away from my problems, so there's no way in hell I'm letting you do it." Maria opened her mouth to protest, but Michael placed two fingers over her lips and continued. "You don't have to tell me anything, now or ever, but if you want to, you know I'll listen." His heartfelt words brought tears to Maria's eyes. Michael whisked it away gently with his index finger and gently kissed the spot where the tear had been. Maria took a deep breath, followed by an even deeper sigh and nodded her consent. She had long ago realized that it was useless to argue with Michael when he had his mind set on something, she should know, she was exactly like him. She also realized that she was too tired to protest too much, and had she attempted to leave, she might have made it as far as the front door without collapsing. And to tell the truth, she was thankful that he was being so kind and concerned, she needed at least one person to care about her in her life. Her mother certainly didn't. Thoughts of her mother brought tension and tears back to her eyes. Michael wiped the tear away with his hand again and handed her the glass of water before reaching up to smooth her hair away from her forehead. The tears began to fall again and Michael took the empty glass from her and crawled into bed beside her, holding her firmly against him, he suddenly realized she was wearing his shirt...and no underwear. He almost jumped back out of the bed, but she held him tightly. "I...uh...just wanted to get you some...uh...clothes."
"No Michael, no, it's ok, please don't leave, I don't wanna be alone!" How could he refuse her? Sighing in semi-defeat, he pulled his shirt over his head, leaving only his boxers. He slipped in beside her and opened his arms.
"Come here." She smiled gratefully and moved as close as she could, curling into him, molding her body to his so that there was no airspace between them. He put his arms around her, bringing her closer if it was possible. "Sleep Maria, I'll be right here, I won't leave again, promise." Maria smiled slightly against him and kissed the hollow of his neck before letting herself relax in his embrace. She breathed in the scent of Michael and let her mind go blank except for the feeling of warmth and care surrounding her and his arms protecting her from all of her demons. Michael rested his chin on her head and tried in vain to think about anything other than physical fact of the very beautiful, tiny pixie girl lying in his arms, wearing his shirt. He reminded himself that he should do nothing but comfort and protect her right now, and as much as his brain thought that was a very good idea, his body had other ideas. It was going to be a very long night.

Max tiptoed through his doorway, stepping softly, trying not to wake up Isabel or his parents. He glanced at the clock on the kitchen wall that was softly illuminated by pre-dawn sunlight. It was 5:30, and Max was exhausted. All the way home, he had tried to make sense of the events that had taken place earlier that morning. He still felt sick every time he thought of Maria as he had first seen her in Michael's bed, bruised, bleeding, helpless, and scared to death. How the hell had she gotten that way in the first place? He knew he needed to talk to Liz, but something in the back of his mind wouldn't let him. He knew she would understand why he had helped, and she would support him, that wasn't the problem. The problem was Maria. He wanted to talk to her to get her permission before spilling it to the whole world. 'But you're not spilling it to the world' he reminded himself, you're telling her best friend. Liz has a right to know.' His mind made up, he walked quietly to his room to use the phone. He knew she was out of town, but he had her cell phone number and he knew she would be angry if he waited to tell her until she got back. Hell, he would be angry with himself for waiting that long! Knowing it would be impossible to sleep in his current state of mind, Max dialed Liz's cell phone and waited, praying that her parents would not pick up.
"Ello?" said a very sleepy voice on the other end of the line.
"Liz, it's me."
"Max! What's wrong? Why are you calling me at... quarter to six in the morning, is everything ok?" Max smiled in spite of himself. Liz could read him like book, and if he was calling her in the dark hours of the morning, it meant that something was very wrong.
"I didn't want to wait until you got back to tell you this," he took a deep breath. She waited nervously, giving him time to collect his thoughts. "I was at Michael's this morning, he called me over at like 3 in the's Maria, she's been beaten Liz...." He heard Liz gasp in shock on the other end of the line.
"Max! Oh god! What happened, is she all right? Do you think I should be there? Who would have done that to her?"
"I don't know Liz, I don't know. It was pretty bad, her entire body, and I mean every inch of it, was covered in bruises. But she's gonna be ok, Michael and I healed her, she'll be fine. She went to Michael's around 2 am and when he called me it was about 2:30. When I left she was just really tired, but we took care of all of her physical injuries. Her emotional scars are another story. She has Michael, he'll take good care of her. I just thought you should know, and I'll leave it up to you if you want to come home or not. If you want my opinion though, I think you should, I think Maria would be glad to see you, she only has one friend in the world right now, well make that two...Michael and me. Isabel and Alex don't know yet."
"Of course I'll come Max, I can't stay here and continue to have a good time with her back there in that condition! I'd worry myself into a frenzy. I know you and Michael will keep her safe. Tell him thank you...on my behalf and Maria's. I have my own car here so I'll tell my parents what happened and be there by 3 this afternoon. Thanks for calling Max, I love you."
"Love you too Liz, don't worry about Maria, she'll be fine, we'll take care of her. See you at 3." Feeling better about the whole situation, Max smiled slightly to himself and stripped down to his boxers before crawling into bed.

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 25-Jun-2002 5:35:01 AM ]
posted on 25-Jun-2002 5:38:14 AM by JaneJane
Part 3
Michael held Maria against his chest in the early morning sunlight, the time when the sky starts to light up, but for all intents and purposes, it's still dark. He had held her all night, not daring to move, knowing that his presence brought her peace. He smiled at the thought, but while she had slept peacefully, for probably the first time in weeks, he stayed up, watching her, holding her, and soothing her gently when dreams ravaged her mind. He stared down at her sleeping form and smiled slightly, enjoying the feeling of waking up with her next to him. The seriousness of the situation had not escaped him however, and he felt a coil of anger rising in his stomach when he considered the possibilities. Who would have done this to Maria? She didn't have any enemies as far as he knew. Who dared to hurt this sweet, innocent, beautiful girl lying next to him? She certainly was beautiful, Michael had no trouble admitting that. So beautiful, that he counted himself lucky to be in her presence, here, with her in her most vulnerable state. Piecing these thoughts together in his mind, an idea occurred to him that made him sick to his stomach.
Maria was beautiful, and innocent, and vulnerable, what if these traits, the ones that he loved about her, were the ones that had gotten her into trouble? He needed to find out. Slowly, so as not to disturb her much deserved sleep, he pulled the sheets and comforter down below her hips and lifted his t shirt slightly to place a warm hand directly over her womb. He prayed as he searched the sensitive tissue, dipping slightly lower to search out all of the internal areas, and thanked God again when he didn't find anything. Relieved, he pulled the t shirt down again and pulled the blanket up over his shoulders, tucking Maria in with him, securing them both in a cocoon of warmth and safety. Maria snuggled closer to him in her sleep and Michael smiled as he wrapped his arms around her underneath the blankets. With all of his worries put to rest at the moment, Michael closed his eyes and breathed in Maria's unique scent of apples and mint. Finally, he allowed his body to relax next to her and slept.
Maria pried her eyes open, distinctly aware of the sun streaming into the bedroom window, blinding her light sensitive eyes. She also became aware of a body next to her and of an arm draped over her stomach. She felt warm and protected and didn't want to move, she moved her eyes to the side, and saw nothing but light brown spikes. 'Michael.' Comforted, she rolled back onto her side, nuzzling her face in the hollow of his neck. She wanted to stay here forever and not think about what she was going to do now that she had no place to live and nowhere to go. She was still tired, awake, but not enough to want to get out of bed, and Michael's arms were too comfortable, so she closed her eyes and tried to push all negative thoughts out of her head. It didn't work, every time she closed her eyes, an image of her mother saying "Bastard child! You are no longer welcome in this house!" floated underneath her eyelids. Maria automatically tensed and shook her head, trying to clear the image. Nothing doing. The tension in her body awoke Michael, and before she knew what was happening, he was up on his elbows above her, staring down into her eyes, concerned and inquisitive. He kissed her forehead.
"What's wrong baby?"
"Nothing," Maria lied and tried to look away from him, but he would have none of it.
"Uh uh, Blondie, you can't lie to me, remember? Don't even try it." He took her chin gently in his hand and forced her to look into his eyes. He saw the pain there, and knew where it had come from, but there was something else there that he hadn't seen last night, he couldn't put his finger on it. Maria realized that what he was saying was true, her eyes swam with unshed tears as he looked at her. She couldn't hide it from him. She sighed resolutely and took a deep breath.
"I don't have a home anymore. I don't have a family. I don't...have anywhere to go! What am I gonna do Michael? I'm all alone. My father left when I was five, I haven't seen him since, and my mother..."
"Shhh...Maria," Michael put his fingers on her lips to silence her. She sounded so lost, so desperate, he wanted nothing more than to hold her forever and help her through all the shit she was going through. And suddenly, he decided that that was exactly what he was going to do. He searched her face and finally rested on her eyes, so full of desperation and emotional pain, as he spoke. "You're not alone Maria, you have me. My home is your home. You can stay here with me, and as for family, you have tons! Liz, Max, Alex, and Isabel, we're your family." Maria nodded her agreement, smiling through unshed tears.
"I can stay here with you?" she finally spoke in disbelief.
"Yes, I want you to."
"Won't I be an inconvenience?"
"Are you kidding me? Maria DeLuca, you are the smartest, bravest, strongest person I know, and you are anything but an inconvenience." She smiled at the compliment, but shook her head.
"I can't Michael."
"Give me one good reason why not."
"Uh huh, that's what I thought, I'm not taking no for an answer Maria." Overwhelmed, she placed her hands on either side of his head and studied him as if to figure out if he were playing a joke on her. "I will not let you get hurt again, I promise that." He kissed both of her cheeks and then her forehead as if to seal his promise. She grasped his chin in her hands again and pulled his head down to rest on her chest. Stroking his spikes softly, she made up her mind.
"Ok Spaceboy, I'll stay," she whispered, unable to figure out if she was laughing or crying. Michael said nothing, only gathered her in his arms and hugged her tightly, stroking her back with his forearms.
"We'll work it out with Valenti and the others later today. Sleep sweet." He bent his head to look at her and realized she'd already fallen asleep again.

Michael knew that Maria needed her sleep, and he had told her that he wouldn't leave her; so he laid awake in bed, stretched out next to her, trying no to think about anything but her presence, not analyzing the reason for her being there. He glanced at the clock. It was almost noon. To pass the time until she awoke, Michael decided to think about the fact that she had come to him for help. It still baffled him every time he thought about it. She felt safe enough with him to ask for his help, and she knew she would receive it. She trusted him. As Michael lay contemplating this idea, the phone rang, startling him out of his thoughts. He leaned over to answer it, silently hoping that it hadn't woken her.
"Hey Michael, it's me." Michael breathed a sigh of relief at the familiar voice on the other end.
"Hey Maxwell, listen, thanks for everything last night, I really appreciate it and I'm sure Maria does too."
"No problem man, how is she?"
"She's ok, it took her a long time to get to sleep last night, but physically she's fine. She doesn't like to be left alone though, so she's sleeping here next to me right now."
"Good Michael, just be there for her right now, I know she needs you."
"Yeah, Max, I know...I feel so damn helpless though. It's her mother who did this to her!" After he had said it out loud, Michael realized what that meant, it made him sick. He kept his voice to a whisper so that he wouldn't disturb Maria. "Her own damn mother! Holy shit, it's times like these I'm glad I got away from Hank- and he wasn't even my real father. I can't imagine how I'd be taking it if Hank had been related to me!"
"Yeah, she must be going through hell right now. Michael, I told Liz." Max had been waiting for a chance to tell him, but he realized that it wouldn't come, so he decided to just say it.
"I figured you would," Michael nodded. "That's ok Max, she needs Liz right now. Do you think I should tell her?"
"Well, I felt kinda bad about telling anyone without her permission, but I felt like Liz had a right to know. She's gonna drive back today, she should be here around 3 or so."
"Wow, well, maybe I won't tell her, and you should just send Liz over to my place when she gets here."
"Sounds good, Liz is anxious to see her, though I assured her that she's fine."
"Yeah well, in a manner of speaking..." Michael let his voice trail off, not exactly sure how to tell Max that he didn't think Maria would be 'fine' again for a long time.
"I know Michael, I know, but there's nothing you can do about it right now except be there for her."
"And it infuriates me," Michael added between clenched teeth.
"I know."
"Maxwell, thanks for all your help. Send Liz over here as soon as you can, though I know you guys will probably have some business to attend to."
"Ha ha...very funny Michael, will do. Talk to you later."
Michael hung up the phone and glanced over his shoulder at Maria. She had one eye cracked open and was smiling up at him sleepily.
"Hey Blondie," he whispered, noticing that some of the pain he had seen in her eyes earlier was gone.
"Morning Spaceboy." She smiled as he ran his fingers up her cheek tenderly.
"Feel like breakfast?"
"Sure, but can I take a shower first? I feel nasty."
"No problem."
Maria threw the sheets back and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Almost immediately, a wave of dizziness overcame her as the blood rushed from her head and she had to put her head between her knees.
"Ok?" Michael asked as he rubbed her back. She nodded.
"Yeah, just got up too fast."
"Let me know when it passes and I'll help you up."
After a few minutes, she decided to try her legs, and with Michael's help, made it to the bathroom. "Are you sure you can stand in the shower?" Michael asked, concerned with the fact that she could barely walk to the bathroom, let alone stand up by herself.
"I'm fine," she assured him. "Can you, I don't have any clothes here..." Michael laughed.
"I'll find something." He left her sitting on the toilet seat and shut the door behind him. "Call if you need me, I'll be here," he shouted. Maria slumped back on the toilet seat and prepared herself for the task of standing long enough to take a shower. When she felt confident that her legs would not come out from under her, she leaned over to turn on the hot spray of water and stepped over the tub, ignoring the slight wave of dizziness that assaulted her. Within seconds it was gone. Exhausted, but still adamant that she would do this on her own, Maria made herself relax. She felt the hot water run over her body, soothing her fatigued muscles. Soon, the queasy feelings passed altogether, and she was able to concentrate on washing herself and enjoying the effect of the heated water on her body.
Fifteen minutes later, Maria emerged from the bathroom, feeling still tired, but clean and relaxed. Michael had left another t shirt and a pair of gym shorts on the bed for her. Gratefully, she slipped the shirt on, luxuriating again in the scent of Michael. Her stomach growled suddenly, reminding her that she was hungry. Tentatively, she made her way down the short hall to the kitchen. Michael stood with his back to her, scrambling eggs in a frying pan. He turned as he felt her approach him.
"Hey, feeling better?"
"Yeah, that hot shower felt wonderful." Michael bit his lip to keep from betraying exactly what the thought of her in the shower did to him. He felt her arms come up around his waist, and turned around to face her; running his fingers up and down her arms. "Thank you for being there Michael," she whispered hesitantly. "I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't come here."
"We'll make it right Maria, I swear on all that is holy; I won't let anything like that happen to you ever again."
"I'm scared."
"I know you are." He held her tighter. "Eat now Maria, you need food in your system." Maria nodded against his chest and stepped away. She couldn't remember the last time she had eaten, and whatever she had eaten had ended up on the grass in front of her house anyway. She devoured the eggs and drank the orange juice Michael poured for her, all the while staring at him with awe. What had she done to deserve this wonderful person in her life? She thought about it for a split second before deciding that it didn't matter. He was here, now, and she thanked God. Michael leaned into the refrigerator looking for more food. "Damnit, we're out of milk." Maria smiled in spite of herself.
"Go to the store Spaceboy."
"I don't want to leave you alone."
"I'm a big girl, I'll be fine." She laughed, waving her hand in front of her face.
"I know you are, but humor me. I'd shoot myself if anything happened while I was gone. Let me call Max to come stay with you."
"I don't need a babysitter Michael."
"Wouldn't you feel better having someone here with you? Your mother's bound to figure out where you are and come looking for you."
"She won't come looking for me, she never wants to see me again, remember?" At this statement, Maria's eyes teared and Michael reached for her hand, rubbing his thumb over her knuckles.
"She was drunk, Maria, she's not gonna remember half of what she did last night," he said softly. "If someone comes looking for you, I just want you to have back up."
Maria relented. Once again, she realized that Michael wouldn't budge on the subject of her safety, and some small part of her felt truly cherished by his insistence on the topic. "OK, ok, I guess you're right. Call Max."
"I know you can take care of yourself- you did it last night, just by coming here. I would just feel better if I knew someone was with you." Michael reached for the phone and dialed Max's number.
Max, being the Max they all knew and loved, and almost as protective of Maria as Michael was, readily agreed to stay with Maria while Michael went to the store. Within minutes he was knocking at the door.
Michael grabbed his cell phone as he left. "If anything weird happens, you guys have my number. I don't want you to wait one minute to call." He retraced his steps briefly to give Maria a gentle kiss on the forehead, and peg Max with a "take care of her" look, which he readily accepted and nodded in agreement. The door shut and locked behind Michael, and Max and Maria were alone.
Max had noticed that Maria had scooted herself into the farthest corner of the couch- as far away from him as she could possibly get; and she wouldn't look him in the eye.
"Maria, you OK?" Max asked, renewed concern evident in his voice.
"Geez Max, I don't know," she said haltingly. "Everything is weird now." Max picked up on her meaning instantly. It was obvious in the way she refused to look at him.
"You mean between you and me." It was a statement. She nodded almost imperceptibly.
"Thank you for healing me," she whispered, her face turning ten different shades of red.
"Hey, it's OK Maria," he said reassuringly. He crossed the room slowly, his eyes intent on her reaction to him. When she didn't move away, he sat next to her, gently taking her hand in his. "I'd do it again any time." She looked up at him, shocked. He laughed before continuing. "You're my girlfriend's best friend and my best friend's girlfriend, which makes you pretty important in my life." He continued, "I am also your best friend's boyfriend and your boyfriend's best friend... and I care about you like a sister. I'd never let anyone or anything hurt you. Just like you and I both know that Michael would never let anything happen to Liz." She finally looked up and smiled and Max felt a weight the size of the Empire State Building being lifted off of his chest.

"God, that sounds a lot more complicated than it is." She laughed. Max rewarded her with a rare chuckle and a smile. Maria privately felt elated that she was one of only two girls in history that she knew who could make Max Evans smile.
They were interrupted by an obnoxious knocking at the door. They exchanged worried glances before Max rose slowly, his eyes intent on Maria the whole time.
"Stay here," Max commanded her gently. She nodded and watched with apprehension as Max opened the door. The couch was thankfully placed out of the direct line of sight of a person standing in the doorway. Maria stiffened and began to shake when she heard an all too familiar voice.
"Hello, you're Michael's friend?"
"Yes, hello Mrs. Deluca." Max's voice sounded strained, like he was trying really hard not to hit her.
"Have you seen Maria? She and I had a fight last night and she left, I figured she might come here to Michael, though I can't really understand what she sees in him." Maria stiffened at her mother's condescending tone and listened to Max as he apparently did the same.
"No, I haven't seen her," Max replied curtly, obviously trying to keep his rising anger in check.
"Fine, well, I guess I'll check back later." Maria heard her mother's sharp heels turn on the front step before she turned to stare at Max. "I know somebody here knows something, it's just a matter of time, I'll be back when Michael's home." Max didn't bother to reply. It was obvious that Mrs. Deluca was trying to scare him, and she didn't really expect an answer. Maria heard the door slam and lock. She let out a breath she didn't realize she'd been holding and she began to shake uncontrollably. Max found her huddled in the corner of the couch, her teeth chattering, shaking so hard that her edges blurred.
"It's OK, she's gone," Max soothed her, kneeling down to pull her stiff body into his arms. She toppled against him, unable to keep herself upright due to her sudden complete lack of muscle control. "You're OK, you're OK, it's all right," Max continued to speak gently, moving his hands in broad, soothing circles on her back in an attempt to calm her down. "Come on." He gathered the trembling girl in his arms, lifted, and moved slowly towards the bedroom. She had her arms around his neck in a vice like grip and her face turned into his chest. "I'm going to call Michael, I'll be right back," Max promised as he untangled himself from her death grip and lay her gently on the bed, pulling the sheets up to her shoulders. He tucked them in around her and found another blanket in the closet which he put over her for extra warmth to try to lessen her shivering. Maria nodded slightly, then shut her eyes in an attempt to brace herself against the tremors. Max squeezed her hand gently and ran down the hall to call Michael's cell.
Max had to struggle to keep his raging anger under control as he waited one...two...three...four...finally on the fifth ring, Michael picked up.
"That bitch came Michael, she needs you."
"I'm on my way."
Max rushed back to the bedroom where Maria lay, shaking sporadically. She was trying hard to keep her facial expression and her body under control.
"Michael's on his way," Max assured her as he came to sit near her on the bed. Tentatively, he held out his arms, and she went to him gratefully, and clung to hm, finding security in his presence and warmth.
"I'm s-sorry Max, I'm acting like such a wuss," Maria scolded herself.
"No, stop that Maria, you're handling this so damn well- besides, how are people in your position supposed to act? Is there a set of rules?" She appeared to consider it before she shook her head. "Do you need anything? Water, tea, coffee? Something to make you feel better?" She shook her head but he ignored her. "I'll make you some tea." She smiled, thankful for his intuition.
Maria suddenly had another thought that made her grab his shirt before he could move away. "Max, you can't tell anyone about this-about what happened...I mean, I just can't deal with this right now, I'm trying so hard, but I just can't." She was trying valiantly to hold in tears she felt threatening to spill over her eyes again.
"I told Liz," he admitted, waiting to see if she would castrate him right then and there.
"Yeah, I guess I should have figured." She glanced up at him. " What did she say?"
"She was scared for you, she said she would come home today to see you."
"Oh, no! I don't want her to cut her vacation short because of me."
"Come on, think rationally," Max reminded her. "Do you really think that anything short of Armageddon could keep Liz from coming to see you?" She grinned in spite of herself. "You're right."

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 25-Jun-2002 6:29:41 AM ]
posted on 3-Jul-2002 1:07:53 AM by JaneJane


Michael saw red. Not just the red you see when you close your eyes after staring at the sun, but dark red, angry red, blood red, the color of the gash on Maria's forehead that he had to so carefully clean out last night while she jerked and moaned in pain. When his cell phone rang, he had known. His stomach clenched in anticipation as he answered. And simultaneously made a U-turn that had pissed off drivers honking and flipping the bird at him for miles. He floored the accelerator, racing towards his apartment at breakneck speed. Horns honked at him from all directions but he didn't consciously hear them. And if he had, he wouldn't have paid much attention anyway. And then suddenly, instead of turning left to go to his apartment, he turned right towards Maria's house. He parked haphazardly in the driveway and ran to the front door. Before he could fully think about what he was doing, he rammed his fist into the wood, BAM, BAM, BAM. Almost instantaneously, the door opened, revealing one very hung over, very pissed off version of Amy Deluca.
"What the hell do you want?" she snarled, her eyes sunken and menacing.
"You will not. touch. her. ever. again." Michael snarled back.
"Oh, you're Michael, yes, I remember you. Cleaned up your act a bit, have you? Well, that's good to see. I guess your stint in juvy hall won't last as long as we originally thought."
"You ever lay a finger on her again, and I swear, I will fucking kill you."
"Ha! You and what army, she's my daughter, I'll do what ever I damn well please."
"You set foot on my property again and I'll have you arrested for trespassing."
"Oh, that's classic! You're the one who should be arrested! You've probably raped and sodomized a thousand women- including my daughter!" Michael realized that she was trying to get to him. She wanted him to explode and do something drastic so that she would have something against him. He decided he wasn't going to give her the satisfaction. He clenched his fists at his sides and looked her dead in the eye with his patented glare. She visibly stiffened, her mouth forming a hard thin line, as it suddenly dawned on her that Michael Guerin was perhaps not the best person to mess with. "I would never hurt Maria," he growled. He stuffed his hands into his leather jacket and turned on his heel, leaving Amy gaping at his retreating back from her hangover slump in the doorway.
Michael didn't know how well his little scene with Mrs. Deluca had worked. He hoped it kept her out of the way long enough for him to work something out with Valenti and get Maria back on her feet. As he approached his apartment building, he shoved all thoughts of Amy Deluca out of his head, Maria was his priority. As he entered the apartment, he heard hushed voices coming from the bedroom and sprinted down the hallway. The sight before him warmed his heart. Max sat on the edge of the bed, offering a pale Maria a mug of hot tea.
"Michael!" Maria squeaked in relief when she saw him standing in the doorway.
"I'm here baby," Michael strode quickly across the room and enveloped her in his arms. She clung to him, choking on sobs and breathing erratically. Michael buried his face in her hair, inhaling her unique scent and silently thanking God that Max had been with her. If anything had happened to her, he knew he would not have been able to forgive himself. He looked over her shoulder to where Max stood silently in the corner of the room, watching the scene with respect and concern. 'Thank you,' he mouthed silently, and Max nodded and slipped quietly out of the room to wait for Liz.
"She was here, Michael, she wanted me, she came to get me, I know she did. What am I gonna do? I can't go back there, you can't let her have me."
"'re not going anywhere. You're staying right here with Max and me. I promise, I won't let her near you." Maria's cries gradually quieted. She snuggled into Michael's embrace and he pulled her down beside him on the bed. He kicked off his shoes and was immediately assaulted with a feeling of deja vu. Had he and Maria been in a similar situation not 12 hours before? The thought made his chest ache. He knew she loathed having to depend on others. He knew how fiercely independent she was and what a leap of faith it must have been for her to come to him and put all of her worries on his shoulders. She was still tense against him, and every once in a while, her eyes would flutter open and glance around warily before she saw him and closed them again. He could see that she wasn't anywhere near sleep.
Intent on helping her relax, he pushed himself into a semi-sitting position against the head board and cradled her head in his hands, against his thigh. She moaned in protest at the slight change in position and her eyes fluttered open in confusion.
"What are you doing?"
"Shhh, I'm gonna help you relax. You need to sleep."
"Michael, I just got up, I don't ne..."
"Yes, you do OK? Just trust me." Maria realized that she really was too exhausted to argue with him. The fear of earlier incidents had taken their toll on her nervous system. She scowled at him to save face before consciously relaxing her upper body so that it molded against his lap. He grinned down at her in a mixture of reassurance and mischief- a smile that only Michael Guerin could pull off, as he slid his hands underneath her head to support her neck, and began to gently but firmly knead and sooth the tense and aching muscles there.
He rubbed in slow, pressurized strokes and circles until Maria thought her neck had turned to Jell-O. He moved from the base of her neck up to her head before working back down to her shoulder blades, his hands never leaving her skin. Somehow, he managed to work the same magic on her shoulders that he had on her neck even though she lay on her back with her head in his lap. His fingertips worked gentle firm circles over her shoulders and below her collarbone, just above her breasts. He gently soothed the sides of her neck simultaneously with long sweeping strokes, and then he worked in circles again as he found the tense muscles at the hinges of her jaw.
Maria's eyes had fallen shut somewhere early in Michael's ministrations and she breathed deeply as his hands tenderly tricked her aching body into letting down its guard. She had been too anxious and wary to allow herself the luxury of sleep before, but now Michael was telling her with his soothing words and tender touches that he would protect her while she slept, and she couldn't say no. His hands wandered along her jaw line up to her ears and gently massaged her temples. The fingers of his right hand brushed lightly over the place on her forehead where the gash had been before joining the other hand in swooping down to trace her eyelids and cheekbones. If Maria had opened her eyes, she would have seen Michael's brown ones staring down at her intently in admiration and concern...and something else that she wouldn't have believed if she had seen it. He himself only knew on the subconscious level of the feelings he expressed so easily through his eyes, the feelings that he could not express in words. Maria didn't open her eyes, but she did feel him tenderly press his lips to her lips and then her forehead, before she slipped off into peaceful oblivion.
Michael continued to massage Maria even after he knew she had fallen asleep. He sat, unmoving, gently stroking her hair back from her forehead, watching her eyes flutter sporadically beneath her eyelids. She looked so peaceful when she slept. He vowed to himself that he would do whatever he could to give her that peace all the time. Gently, he moved her head from his lap and placed it on the pillow beside him, drawing the covers up over her shoulders. He kissed her softly on the temple and rolled off the bed. He watched her for a few more minutes to be sure that she slept OK without him. She unconsciously rolled to the side, in search of his body, and seemed to be satisfied when she found his pillow and buried her face in it, inhaling the lingering scent of him. Michael would have been happy to lay in bed with her all day, but he wanted to talk to Max- there was lots to discuss. He glanced at the digital alarm clock, it was 2:04. Liz would be here soon. He headed down the hallway toward the living area and found Max with his head rolled to one side on the couch, his eyes at half mast.
"Maxwell," Max jerked awake, his eyes fluttering several times before he figured out where he was and what he was doing there.
"Sorry, didn't get much sleep last night I guess."
"Me neither."
"Yeah, how is she?"
"Asleep, finally."
"Damn, that's got to be rough on her. I felt so useless."
"Multiply that by a thousand and you get what I'm thinking."
"What are you gonna do?"
"Talk to Valenti, I'm eighteen and independent, and Maria's eighteenth birthday is in a month. Hopefully, he'll see it our way and rule on her side...I'm hoping she'll stay with me."
"Stay with you, Michael, are you sure that's a good idea?"
"Yeah, I'm sure," Michael said without any hesitation.
"And you're not worried about...I don't know...stuff...between the two of you?"
"You mean sex." Max nodded and looked away, not sure if he wanted to know the details of his best friend's sex life.
"I wish I was, sort of, but I'm not. I respect Maria, she respects me. I don't know...seeing her on my front porch all beat to hell like that, it made me realize...that none of the alien crap matters. If I can't kill her with my powers, thank God, then I can't kill her with my sperm. You think that's logical?" Max nodded, amazed at Michael's powers of deductive reasoning when it really mattered. "I know it's damn selfish of me, but it actually felt good that she needed me, you know? And I think..." he paused, wondering if he was going too deep for Max's taste, and his for that matter. Oh what the hell, he'd already gone this far. Might as well wrap up this little psycho therapy for dummies session. He said the next words in a flourish, not sure if he actually got them out..."Iloveher." Max looked up, startled.
"Say that again?" Michael took a deep breath before confirming his friend's suspicions.
"I love her Maxwell, I love Maria, and I know it's stupid and rash and weird, but I do, I can't help it. And I'd throw myself in front of a whole brigade of Amy Delucas if it would keep her safe," and as an afterthought..."and if we have sex, then we have sex...if not, then we don't, I'm not saying I don't want it, but if she doesn't want it then I'll respect that."
"Whoa Michael, OK, I believe you. I get it. It's not stupid either. I feel that way about Liz. God help the guy who ever tries to touch her, I'd slaughter them with my bare hands."
"OK then."
"OK." The two of them sat in silence for endless minutes, Max staring at the blank reflection on the television screen, Michael, deep in thought, standing behind the couch.
"I'd do it for her too you know." Max looked up from his position on the couch.
"Liz, I'd do what you did for Maria...I'd do it for Liz."
"I know...thanks man."
"Yeah, well... speaking of which, she's coming right?"
"You know Liz, she'll be here," he glanced at his watch, "soon." As if on cue, the buzzer outside Michael's apartment sounded. They both tensed involuntarily, remembering in some way, the last time someone had been at the door. Michael relaxed visibly when he looked through the peephole and saw Liz's anxious face. He set his jaw and opened the door, not sure of how he and Max would explain the whole thing now that she was actually standing there in front of them. Oh well, might as well find out.
"Hi Liz."
"Michael," Liz managed before she launched herself into his arms. Momentarily stunned, Michael cautiously put his arms around her.
"She's OK?"
"She's fine, sleeping."
"Thank you for taking care of her."
"No problem Liz, thanks for coming, I know she wants to see you." She finally released him and stood back.
"What happened?"
"It's a long story. Why don't you go in the living room and say hello to Moondoggie, and we'll explain."
"Max is here?"
"Yeah, he's been a big help." Max chose this moment to saunter into the foyer area, his eyes so intent on Liz that Michael thought momentarily that she had somehow hypnotized him. She ran without hesitation directly into his outstretched arms. Max was surprised at Liz's public display of affection, but he certainly didn't discourage her.
"Hey baby, where you been all my life?"
"I love you Max." He smiled over Liz's shoulder and winked at Michael.
"I love you too Liz."
"Thank you for healing Maria, I know that had to be weird."
"Yeah, it definitely was," he agreed, but Michael did a lot too." Liz glanced over at Michael in surprise.
"Michael?" He grinned. "I thought you didn't use that part of your powers too well."
"I guess desperate times call for desperate measures. It was Maria, I think the protective part of me went into overdrive, and I just did what I had to do."
"That's amazing, I'm glad you could do that for her."
"Yeah, me too."
"Let's sit," Max suggested. He took Liz's hands and led her to the couch. Michael took the chair across the room from them. He took a deep breath, not sure how he was going to sit across the room and recount what had happened without breaking something, or himself.
"What happened Michael?" At Liz's gentle but anxious question, he reminded himself to breathe again and started.
"I woke up about 2 this morning 'cause I heard someone at my door. Maria was curled up on the steps..." He shut his eyes tightly as the images of the previous night came flooding back to his head. "Every inch of her was bruised and bleeding, I'm not kidding Liz, God...every visible part of her body...and everything that wasn't visible too. She had a long gash on her forehead. The worst part though was her back- her calves, thighs, and the back of her neck and everything in between. God...she screamed when I picked her up, she was in so much pain...So I took her back to the bedroom, got her an ice pack, cleaned up the gash, and called Max." Max took this as his cue and continued where Michael had left off.
"I got here as fast as I could. She was such a good sport Liz, I could tell how much pain she was in, and it was obvious that she didn't want me to touch her. I felt so bad for her, I mean, she's your best friend! And she's my best friend's girlfriend! But she let me, and I tried to be as discreet about it as I possibly could." Liz interjected, picking up on the guys' discomfort.
"You're so good Max, and it's OK- this isn't about me, this is about Maria...whatever you had to do is what you had to do, but it's over, and the important thing is that Maria is OK now, right?" They nodded in agreement, both looking relieved that she had taken it so well. A thought occurred to her, and her face suddenly paled. Her eyes darted between the two of them. "She wasn't...she wasn't...raped...was she?"
"NO, no Liz," Michael was quick to reassure her. "I checked her over, sort of a scanning thing, anyway, no, I didn't find anything other than the external bruising, but some of that was pretty bad. She wasn't raped though."
"Oh, thank God...then...who did this to her Michael?" He met her troubled gaze, trying to keep his voice steady as he answered.
"Her mother."
"WHAT?" Max thought Liz had looked pale before, now she looked like paper. In her shock, she had jumped off of the couch, and had almost made it to Michael before Max reached out, encircling her waist to pull her down beside him. She collapsed into his side and he put a comforting arm around her. "Are you sure?" Michael had tears in his eyes.
"She told me."
"Oh God...oh Michael...I can't believe it. Mrs. Deluca was always so nice, and so protective of Maria...I don't get it."
"That's when she wasn't drunk, apparently."
"Oh my God...Mrs. Deluca? Drinking? I've known Maria my whole life, and I never knew that! Some best friend I am, huh?"
"It's not your fault Liz, none of us knew," Max reminded her.
"So she got drunk and beat Maria within an inch of her life?"
"What are we gonna do? We've got to get her out of there."
"There's more," Max continued. Liz looked at him, horrified.
"Do I want to know how this could get worse?"
"Mrs. Deluca showed up here this morning. Michael had gone to get milk, and he called me to come stay with Maria." Michael interjected.
"I just had this hunch that I couldn't leave her alone."
"Maria hid from her, and I just said that I didn't know where she was, and that Michael wasn't home. She seemed OK with it, then she turned on me and started saying how she knew someone here knew something and she'd be back. I shut the door in her face."
"Oh Max, I'm glad you were here."
"Me too," Michael agreed.
"Maria was pretty hysterical. I took her back to bed and called Michael."
"I got back here so fast, I'm pretty sure there are cops everywhere looking for my license plate." He left out the part about his confrontation with Mrs. Deluca, he wasn't sure if it had been a wise move, but it definitely made him feel better. He figured he'd tell them separately. Liz grinned slightly at the mental picture of Michael breaking every traffic law in existence to get to Maria. "It took a while, but I got her to relax, and she's sleeping. She didn't sleep too well last night, kept waking up. She panicked if I moved away at all."
"She trusts you Michael." He looked up at Liz, shocked at actually hearing the words coming from someone else's mouth.
"Yeah, well that makes one person in the world." Liz left Max's side to go to him.
"That's not true, I trust you." If Michael had looked shocked before, he now looked astounded. She put her arms around him again, and this time, Michael returned the hug in full force "Thanks Liz." They stood locked in a comfortable embrace for a few moments while Max looked on adoringly at his sweet, understanding, and incredibly selfless Liz. When Michael finally released her, she sat back on the couch next to Max.
"So she's asleep."
"So what are we going to do?"
"Well..." Michael inhaled sharply before he continued. "I want Maria to come live with me." Liz sat stunned for a beat, studying him carefully. She was glad to see that he looked her in the eye when he spoke, and in his eyes she saw honesty, concern, respect, conviction, and something else, was Yes, she may be naive in some things, but her heart leapt for joy when she saw the look of pure adoration in Michael's eyes when he thought of or discussed Maria. And in Liz's mind, it was settled. Stonewall Michael Guerin had officially fallen head over heels in love with her best friend. And she knew from countless sleepovers and girl-chats that the feelings were mutual.
"You love her don't you?" Michael looked at her again.
"Very much," he whispered, but his eyes didn't waiver from hers.
"Have you talked about this?"
"What?!" Liz grinned at his obvious discomfort.
"Living with you. Although I'm sure she wouldn't mind hearing the other part too."
"Oh," his heartbeat returned to normal. "Yeah, we've talked about...wait, did you just say she wouldn't mind...?" By this time, Max and Liz were trying very hard not to embarrass Michael further by bursting out laughing at his cluelessness. Max bit his lip. Liz had to hold a hand over her mouth before she confirmed his theory.
"Take it from a girl who has known her since sperm. She's been in love with you for years. Do you know how many times I've had to listen to her rant and rave about "that asshole pigheaded alien creep?" Michael winced, knowing that in part at least, Maria's feelings were warranted.
"Yeah, that sounds like true love to me," he quipped.
"Of course, the next day she runs into the Crashdown telling me how your kisses made her weak in the knees." Michael had lowered his head like a beaten puppy, but slowly, he looked up at her and grinned.
"They do, huh?"
"Yeah, they do!"
"So she loves me."
"I think she'd like to tell you that herself."
Michael raised his eyes past Liz to Max, who nodded in agreement. He was unaware of the beaming expression he wore on his face as Liz continued.
"So what did she say?"
"Well, it was kinda hard to get her to agree at first, you know her, she hates to be helped in any way." Liz nodded knowingly.
"So do you."
"Good point. Anyway, she was all freaked out about not having anyone or anywhere to go. I just told her that we're all here, you know? You and me, Max, Isabel and Alex, we're her family, right?" Liz nodded, smiling. So I told her, if she wanted, she could stay here with me. And of course, she goes all defensive, and says stuff like "won't it inconvenience you and stuff." Well, you know the answer to that question- no, it won't. And if Valenti gives us the green light, she said she'd do it."
"Well, if it's all right with her, then it's all right with me. Just be careful Michael."
"You know I will." Max, who had been silent for a few minutes, finally spoke up.
"I wonder what Mrs. Deluca will say about all this." Michael decided it was time to come clean.
"She almost killed her Maxwell. If this country's justice system is worth its salt- which is still debatable as far as I'm concerned, then she won't have a damn thing to say about it."
"I hope you're right."
"I saw her this morning. I drove to Maria's house and knocked on the door and told her in plain English that if she ever laid a finger on Maria again, I would personally see to her slow, painful death." Max and Liz looked at him, stunned into silence. Finally, Liz spoke.
"You didn't!"
"Oh, yes I did Liz, and I'm not ashamed of it either. That bitch deserves what she gets. I warned her to stay away from us or I'd call the cops. You have no idea how hard it was for me to stand there and remain non-violent while she methodically reminded me of all my past indiscretions, and then accused me of some that weren't even mine. I'm not sure how well it worked, but I'm fairly certain that it got to her on some level. She was obviously still hung over. She looked slightly intimidated by the time I left." Max smiled slightly.
"I should be ranting and raving about how irresponsible and impulsive that was, but we all know it wouldn't do any good. And after I saw Maria's reaction to her mother this morning, I'm not altogether sorry you did it."
"Thanks...I think."
"MIIICHAAAEL!!!" He was on his feet and sprinting toward the bedroom before Max or Liz had completely registered what they were hearing. "NOOOOO! PLEASE, MICHAEL, MICHAEL, MICHAEL ." He ran to the side of the bed, sitting on the edge and drawing her sweating, convulsing body towards him in a tight embrace. He held her head to his chest and kissed it, rocking back and forth. She sobbed openly, but was still very much asleep.
"Shhh, it's OK, it's OK, I'm right here baby, it's OK, it's OK, it's all right." She struggled to get away from him, but he held her tighter, realizing that she thought the person holding her back was going to hurt her. "No, no, no, no, no, no."
"I'm right here, it's me, it's me, you're OK." She stopped struggling, but he wasn't sure if she was awake or asleep. She nuzzled his chest, still sobbing, but the sound of his voice seemed to have gotten through to her. Michael reclined on the bed, gently coaxing her down with him. Her eyes remained closed. He held her trembling frame against his chest.
Max and Liz had followed him as fast as they could, and now stood outside of the doorway, watching with concern.
"Oh my God," Liz said finally, putting her hand to her mouth. "Is that how she was last night?"
"Yeah, basically. She's been asleep for about an hour now. I guess she still is." Michael bent his head to look at her face. Her head rested on his chest. Her eyes were completely closed and she was now breathing deeply. He stroked her soothingly as he looked up at them. "I'm gonna stay till she wakes up." They nodded in agreement. Liz moved into the room to look at Maria more closely, it was the first time she'd seen her friend in two weeks.
"She looks so pale," she whispered.
"She's been through a lot."
"Yeah, I guess that explains it, we'll have to get her eating more. I know she gets all stressed and forgets to eat. Are you going to see Valenti?"
"Yeah, in a little bit, I want her to come with me."
"Good idea."
"I'm just hoping Amy doesn't decide to hang around waiting for us to show up."
"Well, if Valenti has any common sense in him whatsoever, he won't let Amy anywhere near Maria after you tell him the story."
"I hope you're right."
"I know I am." She squeezed Maria's limp hand comfortingly and surprised Michael by planting a gentle, friendly kiss on his cheek. "Tell us when she wakes up."
"OK." He watched Liz leave, pulling the door closed behind her.

He directed his attention back to the sleeping girl in his arms. He pulled her closer, if that was possible, and breathed in her scent, reminding himself that she was there, she was ok, and he vowed to himself that he would do everything in his power to keep her from getting hurt again.
"You're gonna be just fine Maria, I swear," he whispered to her, more for his benefit than for hers, but it seemed to reach her anyway because she snuggled closer into his chest.
Liz crept slowly down the hall towards Michael's room. She and Max had spent hours cuddling on the couch, but Max had sent her to be sure that Michael and Maria were still breathing. She cracked open the door a tiny bit, not wanting to invade their privacy- and what she saw almost brought her to tears. Maria had her back to the door, her face in Michael's chest, Michael held her as close as humanly possible, his arms practically swallowing the fragile girl in his embrace. Both were sleeping soundly. She smiled and shut the door, grinning at the ceiling, thanking whomever was responsible for bringing Michael and Maria together.

"They're still sleeping," she told Max as she walked back to the living room.
"We should probably get them something for dinner, they're going to be starving when they wake up."
"Good idea," Liz walked past him into the kitchen and started opening cabinets on the off chance that Michael had gone grocery shopping recently. No such luck. She looked back at Max and grinned, realizing that they both knew that it was futile to look for healthy food in Michael's apartment. "Take out," she said, and he nodded. Surprisingly, Michael did have a phone book, however beaten and ragged it was, it did have current numbers in it. She found a rotisserie chicken place close by and quickly ordered enough food to feed an army, figuring that Michael and Maria could use the food if they were both going to be living there, it would keep in the refrigerator for a while. She and Max wrote them a quick note and left to pick up dinner.
Maria woke up to the sound of the front door slamming. Her traumatized body instantly tensed, remembering what had happened the last time a front door had slammed. But almost instantaneously, she realized something was different. Strong, comforting arms were wrapped around her, holding her against a hard but comforting body. She opened her eyes. Michael. She breathed a sigh of relief, once again letting her body relax into his. Michael must not have been a very sound sleeper, the next thing she knew, his hazel eyes were above hers, his weight supported on either side of her petite form by his arms, effectively trapping her beneath him.
"Hey Blondie," he breathed against her forehead, "how'd you sleep?"
"Good," she whispered against the smooth column of his neck. He slid down so that his eyes were level with hers. And was completely shocked by the unshed tears he saw slowly pooling in her eyes.
"Ria, what's wrong?" He searched his mind frantically to figure out why she was crying for the umpteenth time in twenty-four hours. He couldn't stand to see her cry, he knew that if she kept this up, he wouldn't be able to take it. Every tear she shed was like salt in a wound for him. He brushed a stray hair away from her forehead with his fingertips as he studied her face with confusion.
"Thank you Michael."
"For what?"
"For know... saved me."
"Oh, Maria," he feigned exasperation, but he smiled tenderly at her and kissed her soundly on the lips before replying. "And it had nothing to do with your quick thinking, amazing stamina, and bravery?" She took a moment to recover from his thorough kiss before she had enough breath to answer.
"I guess that had a little to do with it." She grinned sheepishly.
"Duh. Now, I think I smell chicken. Max and Liz must have done take out. God bless 'em. Get your butt out of bed and join me?"
"Absolutely." She giggled and threw back the covers. "Liz is here?" she questioned, a little apprehensive. Michael offered his hand and she took it willingly as he pulled her up from the bed.
"Yeah, she got here around three. Don't worry, Max and I told her what she needed to know, she's behind us on this one 'Ria." She smiled up at him and he tugged on her hand, reminding her that there was food to be eaten and friends to meet. Her stomach growled in response, and she let herself be led down the hall to the kitchen area. Max and Liz stood at the counter taking containers out of carry out bags. She hung back a little nervously as she saw Liz, but Michael gave her hand a reassuring squeeze and pulled her through the door.
"Lizzie," Maria whispered. Liz whirled around to face her.
"Maria," she ran across the room and flung her arms around Maria's neck. Finally feeling like she could stand alone, Maria let go of Michael's hand and returned her friend's hug full force. The two girls stood there embracing each other for a long time before Liz finally spoke with tears in her voice.
"Thank God you're OK!"
"I'm fine Liz," Maria reassured her. But that didn't stop Liz from practically suffocating poor Maria in her frantic embrace.
"Liz...chica...Maria needs to breathe!" Maria gasped out between laughing and sobbing for joy.
"Sorry Maria," Liz loosened her grip a bit, and stood back slightly, smiling through her tears.
"Don't cry Liz!" Maria whisked away one of her own newly forming tears before she reached up to catch Liz's. "I'm ok! Michael and Max took good care of me, I'm fine!" Liz nodded and wiped away more tears as she hugged Maria fiercely again. She pulled away to look at her.
"You're really and truly ok?" Maria bit her lip and nodded.
"Really and truly ok-physically, I guess mentally I've got a lot of issues." Liz didn't want to push Maria, but she had to know.
"Maria, what...what happened?"

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 3-Jul-2002 1:09:15 AM ]