posted on 17-Sep-2001 5:05:49 PM
Title: Own Me
Author: Jasper711
Disclaimer: I own nada.
Category: M/L
Rating: PG (R/NC-17 parts will be labeled accordingly.)
Summary: Max is a teenaged father. His parents decide to move the family to Roswell for a new beginning.
Spoilers: None

Part 1

******************

Max gently lifted his 14 month old son up in the air, while making faces at him.

“How’s daddy’s little man?”

Noah Evans looked down into his fathers face a gave a childish giggle. Max couldn’t wipe the goofy grin off of his face.

“Wanna play airplane?”

As Max asked the question, he started twisting in circles. Laughs filled the air as Max continued to play with his son.

Outside the door, Isabel Evans watched as her brother played with her nephew. It was amazing to see the two of them together. It was as if Max was a different person. He was so alive, so carefree. He wasn’t always like this. Noah brought out the best in him.

After giving them a few more minutes, Isabel made her presence known by knocking on the frame of the door.

“Hey Max. Are you guys done packing?”

Max turned to the sound of his sister’s voice. He stopped turning and gently placed Noah on his left hip.

“Just about. I just have to pack the last of Noah’s stuff.”

Isabel walked into the room and sat on his unmade bed.

“Do you need any help? I’m already done packing.”

Max gently bounced Noah on his hip and gestured towards the open box on the floor.

“If you insist. Could you just put all of that stuff into the box?”

Isabel walked towards the box and started packing it. As she grabbed a handful of Noah’s things, a picture frame fell. She stooped down next to it and picked up.

It was a picture of Tess Harding. Isabel looked into her smiling face and sadness overcame her.

“So Iz, I was thinking, you know, maybe I could get Noah one of those toy cars that he could sit in and pretend he was driving-

Max stopped in mid-sentence when he saw Isabel sitting next to the box, a picture in her hand. He walked towards her to see what she was looking at.

He froze when he realized what she was looking at. When he came back to his senses, he grabbed the photo from her hands.

“Thanks for all of your help, but I think I’ve got it from here.”

Isabel sat up and wiped the tears that had fallen onto her cheeks.

“Max, you know, it’s ok to talk about it. You don’t have to keep all of this inside.”

Max turned to his sister with an icy glare.

“Just stop it Iz. I don’t want to hear it.”

Isabel tried to suppress the sobs that threatened to wrack her body.

“Max, it’s been over a year. You can’t keep this bottled up inside.”

“I said I don’t want to hear it. I get it enough from mom and dad. Besides, I already have a therapist for this, I don’t need another one.”

Isabel opened her mouth to say something, but nothing would come out.

Max chose to look anywhere but her. He knew that he was being harsh, but he just couldn’t talk about it. Not now.

Noah started whimpering against Max’s chest. Max cradled his son’s body closer to his own, and began cooing reassuring words to his son.

Without taking his eye’s off of Noah, Max started speaking again.

“You better go. I have to get Noah ready for bed.”

Isabel only nodded before exiting. She closed the door behind her and captured her sobs into her hand. She had no idea what to do. She wanted to help Max, but how were you supposed to help someone that refused to be helped?

She walked away when she heard Max sing softly to Noah.

Inside his room, Max sat on his bed. He held his son in his arms and began to sing him his favorite song.

When Noah seemed to finally settle down, Max sat him on his lap so that they were looking at each other.

“Hey buddy. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to get you upset back there. It’s just, daddy has some stuff to deal with right now, and he’s confused.”

He gently ran his fingers through his son’s soft hair.

“We’re moving tomorrow. To Roswell, New Mexico. Can you believe it? Gramma and Grampa say they want to move us to a small town so you could grow up in a nice environment. But I know that’s not true. We’re moving because of me. They can’t take it anymore. All the whispering, the staring. I guess it’s a good thing. It wouldn’t be a healthy environment for you to grow up in. I don’t want to take you away from here, but I have to. I have no choice. I mean what’s a seventeen year old guy supposed to do? How am I supposed to raise you all by myself?”

Max watched as his son looked at him with great interest. At times like these, Max felt like he could really understand him.

“I love you pal, nothing’s going to change that. Ever.”

Max held Noah up so that their noses were touching. He stared into Noah’s piercing blue eyes. a single tear slipped down Max’s cheek.

“Did I ever tell you that you and mommy have the same eyes?”

Noah’s head bobbed against Max’s. Max wiped the lone tear from his cheek then placed Noah in his crib. He leaned down and gave him a kiss on his forehead.

“Goodnight little man. We have a big day tomorrow.”



Part 2

*******************

The sun filtered into the room, casting warm hues across the furniture.

Max tossed in his bed. Throwing an arm over his eyes, he groaned.

The alarm clock beside his bed started beeping. Dropping a heavy hand against it, it turned off. Max sat up and looked around his room. It was practically empty, save the furniture that had yet to be packed. Boxes were scattered across the room along with miscellaneous items.

He rubbed his palm over his face and threw the covers off. He bent down to pick up some of Noah’s toys and threw them into an empty box. Turning around to look for the masking tape, Max stopped to the sound of childish gibberish coming from Noah’s crib.

With a smile on his face, Max stopped beside his son’s crib and watched as Noah sat there having a conversation with his toes.

Max gave a slight chuckle before picking up his son.

“Mornin’ pal. Who you talkin’ to? Are you talkin’ to your toes?”

Max gently tweaked each one of Noah’s tiny toes as he cooed his questions. Noah began giggling uncontrollably as his father tickled the pads of his feet.

Max plastered Noah with kisses. He sat him down on the bed as he continued tickling him.

When it seemed like Noah had had enough, Max began to smooth down his soft blonde curls.

“You ready to move today? Huh, pal?”

Noah rolled onto his stomach and grabbed onto the tip of Max’s pillow. He placed the tip of the pillow into his mouth and began to suck.

Upon seeing this, Max gently pulled the pillow away from his son.

“No. No putting that in your mouth ok?”

Max propped Noah against his pillows as he started a conversation with him.

“Ok, so we have lots to do today. We gotta finish packing and then later this afternoon, we’re gonna fly to Roswell. You like the sound of that big guy? You’ll actually get to ride in a real plane. It’ll be just as fun as when we play. First, we have stop by your grandparents’ place. Let them say goodbye to you before we leave. But before we do any of those things, we have to get you out of that dirty diaper.”

Max lifted Noah into the air and pretended that he was smelling his bottom.

“Pee-yoo! You’re a stinky little boy aren’t you?”

As Max went about changing Noah’s diaper, a knock came from the door. Turning around slightly, Max yelled out.

“Come in!”

Diane Evans peeked into her son’s bedroom, or what was left of it. The place he grew up in was no more. Diane’s eyes landed on Max and Noah. Seeing Max with him made her heart swell. Knowing that her son was taking responsibility for his actions made her feel proud, but sometimes she couldn’t help but be disappointed. It wasn’t that she didn’t love Noah, because she did. She just wished Max would have waited. As if being a teenager wasn’t tough enough, he was a single father too. She hoped that the move to Roswell would do the whole family good. But especially Max. She hated the way people would look at him and talk about him. It broke her heart to see her son in pain.

Quietly shuffling into his room, Diane stood next to Max and watched as he continued to change Noah.

“Morning son.” Diane stood on her tip-toes and gave Max a small kiss on his temple.

Max returned the favor.

“Mornin’ mom.”

Diane looked around the room.

“Well, it looks like you’re all set. Say, why don’t we spend the day together, you know, the whole family. One last time before we take off tonight?”

Max picked up Noah and turned to his mom.

“That sounds great mom, but I have some stuff to care of before we leave.”

Diane took Noah into her arms and began rocking him.

“Ok, then. You go and do what you have to do and I’ll keep an eye on Noah.”

Max gave his mom a look before reaching for his son again.

“As much as I appreciate that mom, I kinda have to take Noah with me.”

Max went about getting his clothes out, along with Noah’s.

“I’m taking him to see the Hardings before we leave.”

Max continued to move around the room, afraid to stop and have to look into his mother’s eyes.

Diane saw right through him and placed her hand on his arm to stop him from moving.

“The Hardings?” Diane practically had to choke out the words. If there were people in this town that she wanted to get away from Max and Noah, the Hardings were definitely on top of that list.

“Honey, are you sure that’s such a good idea?”

Max took a deep breath before finally locking gazes with his mother.

“I have to do this mom. They............. they haven’t seen him since he was born. I thought it would be polite to say goodbye before we left.”

Max turned away from his mother.

“Max, you don’t have to do this. If they wanted to say goodbye they would have. Don’t put yourself through this unnecessary pain.”

Max shrugged his shoulders.

“I have to at least try mom. I don’t want to be the reason why Noah doesn’t know his m-mother’s side of the family.”

Diane noticed how Max had stuttered the word mother. Her heart broke that much more, hearing her son’s dejected tone.

“Ok, you do what you have to do. But our flight is at 7.”

Diane ruffled Max’s hair before leaving.

Max took in a deep breath before attempting to get ready.

***********************

Max stood outside the Harding’s door, carrying Noah in one arm and a diaper bag slung over the other.

He turned to his son. “Here goes nothing pal.” He raised his hand to knock, but before his fist could come into contact with the wood door, it opened to reveal a very menacing looking Ed Harding.

“What are you doing here Max?”

Max shifted Noah against his hip.

“Uh, my family and I are leaving today. I thought that maybe you and Mrs. Harding would like to say goodbye to Noah.”

Ed Harding took on a tone of indifference.

“So you’re finally leaving? All I can say is good riddance. Stay away from us Max. You’ve taken so much from us already. Don’t you think you should leave us in peace?”

Max felt the bile rise up in his throat, and the tears burn his eyes. As much as he wanted to run and take Noah as far away as he could, he couldn’t. He felt responsible for everything that happened. He had to at least try.

“Look Mr. Harding, I know you and Mrs. Harding don’t like me. In fact, I know you hate me. I know you hold me to blame for a lot of things. But I don’t think this is fair to Noah. Hate me as much as you want, but Noah is your family. He needs-

Ed cut him off before he could continue. “Is this about money? Do you need money?”

Max stood there shocked, unable to move. Did Ed Harding honestly believe that he was here for money?

Ed started to turn back to the house. “I’ll go get my check book. It’s a small price to pay to get you out of our lives.”

Max’s voice stopped Ed in his tracks.

“Stop! This isn’t about money, and you know it. I came here today in good faith-

Ed turned to Max with a sarcastic smile on his face.

“Good faith? GOOD FAITH? Is that what you call this?”

Max hugged Noah closer to his chest.

“I’m here to make amends, but you obviously don’t want that.”

Max turned to leave but stopped to whisper something.

“You can’t even look at him because he reminds you of her.”

He turned to face him, tears welling up in his eyes.

“I know. I know because I see her in him everyday.”

Max turned towards his jeep. He drove away without a second look.

It was better this way, right? Noah didn’t need all of this negativity. Before returning home, he made one last stop to make one last goodbye.



Part 3

******************

Max sat in his jeep, hands still gripping the steering wheel. He had been sitting that way for half an hour.

“Buh buh?”

Max turned to look at his son still strapped to his car seat in the back. Max expelled a heavy sigh before unbuckling his seat belt.

He held Noah and walked through the heavy iron gates of Pine Crest Cemetery.

Walking slowly, he stopped at one particular headstone.

Teresa Harding

Beloved daughter of Edward and McKenzie Harding.

June 1983 - May 2000


Max knelt down on the soft grass and gently traced the engraving on the headstone.

“Hi Tess. It’s been a while. I’ve come with someone.”

He perched Noah on his knee and faced him toward the headstone.

“It’s Noah. I brought him to........to say goodbye.”

The tears slowly began to trickle down his cheeks.

“I know it’s sudden, but it’s for the best. I don’t want to take him away from you, but I have to.”

“I stopped by to see your parents. But they didn’t want to see him, or me. They still blame me. I do too. I think the reason why they don’t want to see him is because he looks exactly like you. He has your eyes, and your hair. Everyday I look at him................I see you.”

Max gave Noah a kiss on the crown of his head.

“Another reason why I came was to apologize. I’m sorry that you’re not here with us now, or that you never even got a chance to see our son. I know how much you wanted to. I’m sorry that we have to go away, and I’m sorry that Noah will never know you. But I promise, I’ll tell him about you when he’s old enough to understand.”

Max gave a little laugh. “You should see him Tess. Every time I talk to him, I swear, it’s like he can understand me.”

Max’s watch began beeping. He twisted his wrist to get a look at the time. 4:00pm. Max sighed heavily. He didn’t want to leave. Not yet when he had so much to say. The drive home would take at least another hour and a half, then he had to make sure all of his things were ready before their flight.

Max stood up and rubbed remnants of grass off of his jeans.

“I don’t wanna leave you.”

He gently kissed his fingers before placing them across her engraved name.

“I love you Tess. Goodbye.”

**********************

Roswell, New Mexico.

They had arrived in Roswell without a hitch. Max sat in the back seat with Noah and Isabel. He looked out of the window and watched as the houses zoomed past them.

Diane turned from her seat in the front.

“We’re almost there kids. You kids are going love it.”

The car slowed in front of a house. It was a modest house, but certainly larger than their old house.

“We’re here!”

Max turned to Isabel. The two of them shared a look before they piled out of the car.

“What do you think kids? Isn’t wonderful?” Diane ushered everyone into the house.

Phillip stood back and watched his family before following.

“....... and there’s plenty of room for Noah to play, and there’s a huge yard. Your dad and I were thinking we could set up a swing set-

Max interrupted his mom. “That sounds great mom, but you really don’t have to. Noah’s my son. I’m doing my best to provide for him. You don’t have to feel like you have to do this. You’ve already done enough as it is. Letting us live with you, and watching Noah while I’m in school and at work.”

Phillip placed his hand on his son’s shoulder.

“Max, stop right there. Your mother and I aren’t doing anything we don’t want to. You’re doing a great job of being a father. We’re only being grandparents Max. It’s our job to spoil our grandchild.”

Phillip leaned in closer to Noah and grabbed his tiny nose. “Got your nose.”

Max allowed himself to laugh a little. He was glad to have his family‘s support.



Part 4

********************

It had been a few days since they had arrived in Roswell. All of their things had come via trucks. The house was still a mess, but at least everything had arrived.

Max sat in the kitchen feeding Noah some bananas.

It was a week before school officially started. Max and Isabel would be starting their senior year.

Isabel stumbled into the kitchen and headed straight for the fridge to grab a glass of orange juice.

She sank down beside Noah. Giving him a kiss on his cheek, Isabel went about reading the want ads.

“So, how you holding up Iz? You liking this place?”

Isabel lifted her eyes from the paper in her hands.

“I don’t know, it’s certainly not California, but it seems ok.”

She took a sip of her juice before continuing.

“How about you? How do you like it?”

Max just shrugged his shoulders. He grabbed his dirty dishes and began washing them.

“I’m not really sure. It seems like a nice place. It’s great for Noah. He’s definitely enjoying the yard. And I definitely love the bigger room. That way me and Noah aren’t so cramped with all of his things.”

Isabel smiled. “I know what you mean. Gotta love that extra closet space.”

Max just laughed and threw the dish rag at her.

“So you comin’? I’m going job hunting.”

“Sure, just let me grab a bagel and I’ll be set.”

************

Max and Isabel began to drive around the local establishments looking for part time jobs. They had just about given up when they drove down Main Street.

On one side was a cafe called the Crashdown Cafe. On the other was a UFO Center.

Max pulled up into a parking space.

“Ok, so I’m gonna head into the UFO Center. You go to the Crashdown and I’ll meet you there.”

Max was about to open his door before Isabel grabbed his arm.

“Excuse me, what makes you think I’m going to apply at a fast food service? Why don’t you go in there and I’ll apply at the UFO Center.”

Max sat in his seat and tried to hide the smirk on his lips.

“Ok, if you think you can handle being around plastic alien dolls all day. You know, with their big heads and those black beady eyes and those elongated fingers-

Max was about to go on but Isabel slapped him across the shoulder.

“Just stop. I don’t want to hear anymore.” Isabel visibly shivered at the thought of being in an environment like that for hours on end. She had always been creeped out at stuff like that.

Isabel tugged on her seatbelt. “Fine, you win. But know this Max Evans, I know where you live.”

Max just laughed as he watched his sister make his way towards the cafe. He got out of the jeep and crossed the street to the UFO Center.

****************

Isabel entered the Cafe and looked around her. Wasn’t there anything in this city that wasn’t alien themed? Before she could contemplate her thoughts any further, she was greeted by a pixie-ish blonde wearing a turquiose uniform and silver antennaes.

Isabel bit back the laugh that wanted to come out. Instead, she listened as the blonde introduced herself.

“Hi, welcome to the Crashdown. I’m Maria, I’ll be your server. Would you like to take a seat?” Maria motioned to the empty tables around her.

“Actually, I was hoping to speak to the manager.”

Maria eyed her for a moment before yelling out to Liz in the back room.

“Liz, there’s someone who wants to talk to you.”

Liz walked through the swinging doors, her hair in a lose ponytail. She was also wearing the same uniform, minus the antenna.

She walked towards them with a smile on her face.

Reaching out her hand, she introduced herself.

“Hi, I’m Liz.”

Isabel gladly shook her hand.

“Isabel. It’s nice to meet you.”

Liz gave her a genuine smile.

“So, Isabel, what can I do for you today?”

Isabel’s brow knotted in confusion.

“Are you the manager?”

Liz gave a little laugh.

“Just part-time, that is, when my parents aren’t here.”

Isabel nodded.

“You see, I’ve been driving around all morning looking for a part time job. Something to keep me busy when I’m not in school.”

Liz studied her for a moment before offering her a seat in one of the booths.

“Well, we could use a part-timer. Have you ever had any experience waitressing?”

Isabel shook her head. “No, but I have had other jobs. I’m willing to learn and I’m a really hard worker.”

Liz’s smile got wider. “Well, you’ve convinced me. How about you stop by tomorrow so you can meet my dad and we can train you?”

“That sounds great. You have no idea how grateful I am for this job.“

“You should remember that when we start training you.”

The two girls continued to laugh before they were joined by Maria.

“Is this a private laughing party, or can anyone join?”

Liz looked up at her best friend and pulled her down into the seat next to her.

“Isabel, this is my best friend Maria.”

Isabel held out her hand.

“It’s nice to meet you.”

Liz motioned to Isabel. “She’s our newest waitress.”

Maria gave her a smile.

“Nice to have you on board. Although, I have to warn you about two of our busboys. They can be a little obnoxious at times, but it’d do you best if you just ignored them.”

Liz playfully hit Maria on the arm. “Come on Maria, Alex and Kyle aren’t that bad. Besides, Alex is our best friend, and Kyle happens to be your brother.”

“That’s step brother, but you’re right, they’re not that bad. The person you really have to watch for is Michael. He’s the cook. He can gets cranky very easily, but what can I say? He’s my boyfriend and I love him.”

Isabel enjoyed the exchange between the two girls. She missed having a best friend of her own.

Liz interrupted Maria and began asking Isabel some questions.

“So Isabel, I have to say, I haven’t seen you around before. Are you new in town?”

“Yeah, my family and I just moved here from California.”

Maria sat up in her seat.

“That’s right. You’re the Evans’ right?”

Isabel gave her a weird look.

“Yeah, how did you know?”

Maria threw her hands up in the air.

“It’s a small time, news travels fast.”

Isabel felt her throat tightening. If news traveled that fast, how would they react when they found out about Max and Noah, that is if they already didn’t know.

“So, are you going to West Roswell?” Liz decided to change the subject. Isabel had seemed a little uncomfortable. Liz wanted her to feel welcome. There was something about her that just screamed they were going to be good friends.

Isabel cleared her throat. “Yeah, my brother and I are starting our senior year.”

Maria’s eyes got wide. “Brother? So you guys are like twins?”

Isabel just nodded.

Maria kept smiling but gently nudged Liz with her elbow. Liz turned to Maria and gave her a smile before kicking her under the table.

Liz cleared her throat. “We’re gonna be seniors too. Maybe we’ll have some classes together.”

“Yeah, that would be nice.”

The jingling of the front door signaled a customer.

Everyone turned to see who it was.

Max strode in, eyes searching for his sister. He stopped when his eyes landed on a brunette sitting in a booth.

She had long dark hair and these piercing brown eyes. It was as if the world had faded away. He was mesmerized by her.

Liz sat in the booth and stared at the guy that had walked through the door. He was tall, dark, and handsome. It sounded like a cliche, but that was the best way to describe him. He had these amazing amber colored eyes that made her feel like she was drowning.

They continued to stare at each other until Isabel broke the spell.

“Max!”

Max’s eyes lingered on Liz’s a moment longer before he reluctantly walked towards Isabel.

He stood next to her and jammed his hands into his pockets.

Isabel noticed the difference in Max. He was usually a very quiet person, but he was even quieter than usual. It was as if he nervous.

She cleared her throat to get everyone’s attention.

“Max, this is Liz and Maria.”

Max gave a little wave. “Hi.”

Liz felt a shiver run down her spine at his deep velvety voice.

Isabel turned to the girls.

“Maria and Liz, this is my brother Max.”

Before either one of them could respond, Max’s pager went off.

He reached around his waist and unclipped it from his waist.

His home phone number flashed across the tiny screen along with the numbers 911. His mother only ever used 911 when it was an emergency. He felt his heart drop to the pit of his stomach.

Isabel watched as the color drained from her brother’s face.

“Max? Is everything ok? What’s wrong?”

Max clipped his pager back onto his belt.

“Uh, we have to get out of here. Mom just paged.”

Isabel heard the slight tremor in his voice. She slid out of the booth and stood next to her brother.

“Let’s go then.”

Max nodded and fished his keys from his pocket. He was about to walk towards the door when Liz’s voice stopped him.

“I hope everything’s ok.”

He turned to look into her angelic face. His stomach did a flip flop, but it confused him as to why it did.

“Thanks. I’m sure it is.”

Liz graced him with a beautiful smile that showed her perfect white teeth.

“It was nice meeting you.”

Max stumbled through the double doors with a half smile on his lips.



Part 5

********************

Max pulled the jeep into the drive way and jumped out. He ran into the house and searched for his mother.

“Mom? Noah?”

Isabel ran in behind Max.

Diane Evans walked into the room carrying a fitful Noah, who refused to stop crying.

“Max, thank God you’re here. He’s been crying for the past half hour and he won’t stop. I’ve tried everything.”

Max took Noah from his mother’s arms and gave him a gentle kiss.

“Hey little man. What’s the matter? Why won’t you stop crying for gramma?”

Noah looked into his father’s eyes and immediately calmed down. It was as if by being in his father’s arms, solved all of his little problems.

Max gently rocked him back and forth.

“Let’s take you upstairs and give gramma a break.”

Max stopped beside his mother and placed a hand on her cheek.

“Thanks ma, I appreciate you watching him. I’m sorry if he was a handful.”

Diane brushed the hair off of Max’s forehead.

“It’s ok honey. I think he just missed you, being in a new place and all.”

Max just nodded and headed up the stairs to his and Noah’s bedroom.

Once he got there, he kicked the door closed behind him.

He sat down on his bed and watched his son.

“What’s wrong little man? Why wouldn’t you stop crying for gramma?”

Noah just hiccupped before turning his attention to Max’s shirt button.

Max sighed and stroked his little back.

“You can’t make this a habit. I wish I could spend every waking moment with you, but I can’t. You have to start getting used to this. I start school in a couple of days and I have to go back to work. I can’t be with you all of the time. You have to be a good little boy.”

Noah continued to tug on Max’s shirt button.

“What am I going to do with you?”

*********************

Crashdown Cafe

Liz continued to wipe down the counter, unaware that she had a dreamy smile on her face, or the fact that she was humming.

Alex stood across the room and watched his best friend, oblivious to the whole world.

He walked up to her and tapped her on the shoulder.

“Spill it Parker. What’s up with all of the smiling and the humming?”

Liz gave him a confused look as she wiped her hands on her apron.

“Alex, what are you talking about?”

Alex placed a hand on his chin and studied his friend.

“Don’t play that game with me. I’ve known you for too long.” He paused for effect. “You’ve got that look.”

“What look?”

“The look that makes you look like you swallowed a light bulb.”

Liz didn’t know how to respond.

Maria made her way over to her two best friends. She linked her arm with Alex’s while giving Liz a ribald grin.

“That’s cos she’s finally in love, Alex.”

“What?!?” Both Liz and Alex yelled at the same time.

Maria just laughed.

When Liz finally composed herself, she stepped closer to Maria.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about Maria. And besides, what would give you an idea like that?”

Maria rocked back and forth on her heels.

“Oh I don’t know, maybe a certain tall, dark, and handsome guy who goes by the name Max Evans.”

Liz’s jaw dropped to the floor. She tried to give her most menacing glare, but failed miserably.

“Whatever, Maria.”

“Oh come on Lizzie. I saw the way you were looking at him. Doesn’t take a scientist to see all of the sparks flying.”

Before Maria could further taunt Liz, Alex turned to her with a questioning glance.

“Ok, maybe I missed something on the Deluca express, but who the hell is Max Evans?”

Maria gave him an exasperated look.

“You know, the Evans family that moved into the Delanie’s old place?”

Maria gave a dramatic sigh.

“You know, the family from California?”

Alex’s eyes grew wide with coherence.

“That’s right. So you’re saying our little Lizzie has a crush on this guy?”

Maria flashed him her patented Deluca smirk.

“Yep. She definitely wants him.”

Liz looked at her two friends incredulously.

“You guys, I do not!”

Maria and Alex looked at each other before bursting into laughter. They held their stomachs as they headed toward the break room.

“I told you so Alex.”

As the swinging door closed behind them, Liz’s voice permeated through.

“You guys, I don’t! Guys?”

All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 17-Sep-2001 5:09:12 PM
Part 6

*******************

The week before school started passed by quickly. Isabel started working at the Crashdown and Max at the UFO Center.

Before anyone realized it, the first day of school was upon them.

Max was running around his room trying to get ready.

On her way down the stairs, Isabel stopped by Max’s room and took a peek. It was a total mess. Max was running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off and Noah was sitting on the floor in the middle of the room chewing one of his toy blocks.

Isabel stepped into the room and picked up Noah. He smiled and offered her his toy block covered in his saliva. Isabel scrunched up her nose and shook her head causing Noah to giggle. She hiked him higher up on her hip before addressing her brother.

“You almost ready Max?”

Max looked up from his search of his other sneaker.

“Just about. If only I could find my other shoe........”

Isabel picked it up by the laces from it’s place on the side of his bed. She held it out to him.

“This it?”

Max took it from her and placed it on his foot. He took Noah from Isabel as he attempted to slip his other arm into the strap of his back pack.

“Thanks Iz. You’re a life saver.”

Max jogged down the stairs and into the kitchen. He took a sip of orange juice, then placed Noah in his booster seat.

Diane handed him a plate of eggs and bacon, but Max declined.

“No thanks mom. I don’t have time.”

Diane pushed the plate into her son’s hands.

“You have to eat something Max.”

Max grabbed the bacon pieces and started eating. She wiped the side of his mouth and smiled.

“That’s better.”

Isabel flew past her brother and grabbed a piece of fruit.

“Come on Max, we’re going to be late. I promised Maria and Liz that I would meet them before classes started.”

Max’s ears perked up at the sound of Liz’s name. He chugged the rest of his juice then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He gave Noah a chaste kiss on his head before giving him some instructions.

“I’m heading of to school now. You be good for gramma while I’m gone.”

He kneeled down so that he and Noah were eye to eye.

“Remember what I said, you’re the man of the house today.”

Noah gave him a grin that was reminiscent of his own. Max smiled back before ruffling his son’s hair.

He turned to his mom and gave her a kiss.

“I won’t be home till after six. Brody wants me to work a couple of hours after school.”

“That’s fine Max.”

He pulled his back pack over his shoulder more securely.

“And if Noah gives you any trouble, or anything happens, just-

“Page you. Max, just take a deep breath and relax. I remember the routine. Noah can keep me company while I work on some of my new client’s files.”

Max was reluctant to leave, but Isabel had started dragging him out the front door.

“Bye Noah! I love you.”

Diane smiled, hearing her son‘s voice call out to her grandson.

“Have a good first day of school kids!”

*******************

Liz shifted from foot to foot while hooking her thumbs through the straps of her back pack.

“Looks like someone’s got ants in their pants.”

Liz turned to the sound of Kyle’s voice. She had turned just in time to see Maria punch him in the shoulder.

“Oww! What’d you do that for?”

Maria placed her hands on her hips and raised her eyebrows.

“Why do you have to be such an ass all the time?”

Kyle turned to Liz and urged her to see the sincerity in his eyes.

“I’m sorry Liz. I was only kidding.”

Liz waved her hand to dismiss his apology.

“Don’t worry about it Kyle. No harm, no foul.”

Kyle gave her a hug before turning angry eyes on Maria.

“See Maria, Liz gets that it was a joke. You gotta loosen up sis. It’s only the first day of school and it’s only gonna get worse from here.”

Maria was fuming. Kyle straightened his shoulders and puffed out his chest.

“I better go. Promised Guerin and Whitman I’d meet them outside the gym.”

He gave Maria a mock salute on his way to the gym.

Maria yelled at his retreating form.

“Tell Michael to comb his hair!”

Kyle waved to signal his understanding.

Maria turned to Liz to begin a tirade on how unreliable guys were when she noticed how anxious Liz looked.

“Liz, you ok?”

Liz looked up from staring at her toes.

“Fine, never better. You know how much I love the first day of school. Homework, new teachers, old friends, lunch in the quad-

Maria grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her a little.

“Liz, you’re babbling right now. You like never babble.”

Liz just stared at Maria.

“What’s going on Liz?”

Maria tried to make eye contact with Liz, but her gaze was fixated on a particular car in the parking lot. Maria followed suit to see what had captured her friend’s attention.

A black jeep cherokee pulled up into a parking space. A jeep that looked a lot like the one Max and Isabel Evans owned.

The doors opened and out came the Evans twins.

Maria turned to see Liz frantically combing her fingers through her hair and straightening out her clothes. Yeah right Lizzie wasn’t interested!

Isabel immediately spotted Liz and Maria. She gave them a smile and a big wave. Max followed his sister’s gaze and his heart just about stopped.

Liz Parker was wearing low rider jeans and a v-neck top that hugged her curves in all the right places.

Max felt himself being dragged forward. He glanced at Isabel who was leading them straight towards Liz.

“Come on Max. Hurry up!”

Max felt a protest form in his mind, but he couldn’t bring himself to say it.

Once they reached them, Isabel greeted her new friends with hellos. She turned to Max and gave him a pointed look.

“You guys remember my brother Max, right?”

Maria gave him a smile.

“Hey Max.”

Max wanted to say hi back, but his voice wasn’t cooperating.

“It’s nice to see you again.”

Max watched as the words formed on Liz’s ruby red lips. He wondered if they felt as soft as they looked.

He suddenly jerked his head up when he felt Isabel elbow him in the ribs.

“Huh?”

Max cringed when he heard the way his voice cracked. He cleared his throat a few times before attempting to speak again.

“Wh-what did you say?”

“They said hello. Are you just gonna stand there all day and stare?”

Max felt himself blush at Isabel’s words. Had he really been staring? He caught Maria’s eye and saw the knowing look in them. He had been caught.

Completely flustered, Max stood there awkwardly.

“Uh, hi.”

Liz smiled at him and he was lost. It felt like they were the only two people on earth.

“Max!”

He smiled in return. He felt warm and fuzzy inside. Something he had never felt before.

“Max!”

Isabel yelled in her brother’s ear to get his attention.

Slightly annoyed, Max turned to his sister.

“What?”

Isabel flipped her hair over her shoulder.

“The bell just rang. It’s time to get to class.”

He simply nodded and followed as they made their way inside.


Part 7

***************

Classes went ok for the most part. Isabel had been lucky enough to have at least someone from the group in each of her classes.

The bell signaled lunch and the students of West Roswell were only happy to get outside.

Isabel walked beside Maria as they made their way through the quad. They had all agreed to meet up for lunch.

“So Isabel, I’ve been meaning to ask you about your brother.”

“My brother? What about him?”

Isabel silently prayed this had nothing to do with Noah. It wasn’t that she was ashamed to talk about him, quite the contrary actually. On any other occasion, Isabel loved to gush about her nephew. She just didn’t feel right talking about him without Max bringing it up first.

Maria tried to act nonchalant.

“Oh nothing, I was just wondering if he was involved, you know, if he has a girlfriend.”

Isabel’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

“But I thought you and Michael.........

Maria put her hand against her chest and started laughing.

“Not for me silly. I was asking for Liz.”

They found a table and sat down.

“Did Liz get you to ask?”

“Not exactly. I can see your brother is just perfect for Liz, even though she’s too shy to admit it.”

Isabel didn’t really know what to say. She had thought about it herself. She had seen the way the two of them were looking at each other, but she couldn’t see them together without it getting messy. Max definitely seemed drawn to Liz and Liz to Max. But how would she react once she found out about Noah? Another thing that stopped her from saying anything to Max was......Tess. She couldn’t see Max making an effort to move on. He hadn’t before. What could possibly change that now? And besides, Noah was a full time job. Was Liz willing to accept that?

Isabel’s thoughts were interrupted by Liz’s arrival.

Pretty soon everyone had made their way over.

They had all waited for Max, but he was a no show. Isabel was getting worried.

When the bell rang, everyone got their things and went their separate ways.

Walking down the halls, Isabel caught sight of her brother. She walked beside him and began her interrogation.

“Max! Where have you been? We were waiting for you.”

He pulled her to the row of lockers on their left so that they weren’t in the way of traffic.

“I called home and talked to Noah.”

Isabel gave him a look.

“So you’re telling me that you spent all of lunch on the phone. With Noah?”

“Yeah.”

“What could you possibly have talked about for 35 minutes? Noah can’t even talk yet.”

Max stood up a little straighter.

“Yes he can.”

Isabel sighed.

“Max, gibberish doesn’t count.”

Max knew he was being ridiculous, but he didn’t want to admit the real reason why he didn’t show up at lunch. He didn’t show up because he knew that Liz would be there. He wasn’t purposely trying to avoid her. Ok, scratch that. He was. He had a sinking feeling that he was avoiding her because seeing her made him feel things. Things he had never felt before. Things he had never felt when he was with Tess. He didn’t want to admit that he was drawn to Liz. He somehow felt that he was being unfaithful to Tess’ memory by doing so. Wasn’t what he and Tess shared true love? They had believed it for so long. If that was true, then why was he feeling these things for Liz?

The late bell had rung and only a handful of students were left wandering the halls.

“We better get to class. It wouldn’t do to be tardy on your first day.”

Max was glad that Isabel didn’t push the issue. Frankly, he had no idea if he could tell her about Liz. He couldn’t even talk to her about Tess, and she had been her best friend.

At end of the hall they both went in opposite directions.

He wandered down the long corridor and found his AP Chem class. He chose the most inconspicious seat in the room. He placed his book bag on the other side of the lab table, hoping to ward off any unwanted people.

He felt a presence beside him, causing him to look up.

“Is that seat taken?”

Max swallowed convulsively, hoping to lubricate his parched throat. He opted to shake his head instead, knowing full well that his voice would betray him as it did this morning. He pulled his book bag to the floor and motioned to the seat beside him.

Liz sat down and smiled.

“Thanks Max. I thought for sure I was going to get stuck sitting by myself.”

Max took a deep breath, thinking it would calm his frazzled nerves, but instead, he was met by her sweet scent. She smelled like strawberries with a hint of vanilla. Max felt like he was in heaven.

He was so engrossed in being in her presence, that he completely missed what she said.

Liz sat beside Max and waited for him to respond. He just sat there looking at her, not saying anything. Had she made a mistake by coming over here? Was she being too forward?

Liz suddenly became uncomfortable. It seemed pretty obvious that he preferred to be alone, otherwise why would he have put his book bag in the other seat and pretend it was occupied? And he hadn’t shown up for lunch either. Maybe he didn’t want be around her. Of course he didn’t want to be around her. Why would somebody as amazing as Max Evans want to be around her, mousy Liz Parker? Liz couldn’t believe how she terribly she had misread the situation.

She suddenly felt sick. Gathering her things quickly, she stood up.

Alarmed at her sudden movement, Max grabbed her elbow, halting her attempt of leaving.

“Where are you going?”

Liz shifted her bag on her shoulder, refusing to meet his eyes.

“I’m just gonna sit somewhere else.”

Max felt his heart sinking. She was going to sit somewhere else? His mind couldn’t fathom her being away from him. Max began to panic, trying desperately to find a reason to make her stay.

“Don’t go.”

Liz finally looked into his eyes to see if he had meant it. She was blown away by what she saw. His amber eyes were sparkling in the dim light of the classroom. There was a hidden sadness there, but she also saw his sincerity. She was about to protest when her thoughts returned to what she had been thinking about earlier, but her movements were stopped by the teacher walking in.

“Take a seat everyone.”

She turned to Liz expectantly and waited until she sat down.

Liz lowered her head in embarrassment. She could feel the blush tinting her cheeks. She raised her arm to help cover her face but she realized that Max was still holding her elbow.

Their eyes met in an electric stare. This was definitely gonna get her into trouble. If he could make her feel all of these wonderful things with just a look.

Max could hear the blood pounding in his ears. His pulse was racing and he could feel his palms sweating. She was definitely going to get him in trouble.

The spell between the was broken when the teacher began speaking.

Max gently grazed her arm before letting go. He had no idea what possessed him to do it, but he was glad he did. Her skin was even softer than he thought it would be.

Liz gasped when his hand had gently grazed her arm before letting go. Where his fingers had touched, it caused electric currents to pulse through her body. She held herself still, afraid that he would see the effect he had on her.

“Ok, if you people still don’t know, my name is Ms. Hardy. I will be your teacher for the rest of the school year.” She walked around behind her desk again began getting papers together. “I won’t lie to you people, this is a hard course, AP Chemistry isn’t something to be taken lightly.” Papers in hand, she walked to stand in front of the room. “I have made a seating chart that I expect you all to follow. I don’t want to hear any complaints. If you have any problems see me after class. Otherwise, it would do you good to get to know your lab partner well because for the next two semesters, you will be working with them very closely.”

She began naming of the names of the people to sit at the different lab stations.

Max felt his heart beating wildly. They had a seating chart? After he had just convinced Liz to stay she was gonna leave?

“Parker,-

Max sank lower in his seat, afraid to watch her leave and sit next to someone else.

“Evans, the two of you, up here.”

Max’s head flew up. Had she really called out his name? His heart was beating double time. Liz gathered her things and moved toward the middle of the class. Max picked up his stuff and followed. Once they were seated, Max leaned in a little closer to Liz so that he could whisper in her ear.

“I guess it really was meant to be.”

Liz tried not to shiver when she felt his breath on her ear.

“What is?”

“You and me.”

She turned to look into his eyes and fought not to have a heart attack. He had no idea what saying that did to her. Or how she wished it to mean something else.

Max froze a little. Had he really said that out loud? He hoped she didn’t take it the wrong way. He didn’t want her to think he was hitting on her. Even though a little part of him wished she would see past it and find the hidden meaning, he knew it could never happen. Why would she be attracted to him? He was a teenaged father that had nothing to offer her.

“Ok class, get out your books and turn to page 34 in your text books.”

Max and Liz went about getting their books, hoping that it would help them get their minds off of what they were just thinking about.



Part 8

**********************

AP Chemistry had been uneventful. Ms. Hardy had lectured all hour leaving Max and Liz no chance to even speak. Although they did sneak a few glances here and there. When either one was caught looking, they would look away embarrassed.

The class ended and everyone rushed to get out. Max was done putting his stuff away, but he stood to the side waiting for Liz. He bent down pretending to tie his shoe laces, wasting time so he could walk out with Liz.

He hadn’t realized that she moved to stand in front of him. He stood and was surprised to be standing face to face with her.

She gave him a smile.

“I’m glad that we’re lab partners.”

He returned her smile.

“Me too.”

Students for the next class had begun filing in. Max turned to look towards the door.

“Uh, maybe we should get out of here?”

Liz looked around and realized for the first time that other people had come in.

“Yeah, sure.”

Max waited and let her walk in front of him. Going through the door, he gently placed his hand on the small of her back. He didn’t even think about it. It was instinctual, natural. It felt like something he should be doing.

Liz bit back the small smile that played on her lips. Being near Max Evans made her feel giddy. It felt so right.

They came to the end of the hall, standing there, unsure of what to do next.

Max looked down and saw the top of her dark head.

“Uh, I have Econ, so maybe I’ll see you later?”

Liz looked up.

“Yeah, that would be nice.” Liz tried not to gag at what she had said. Yeah, that would be nice. When had she become such a sap?

Max graced her with a beautiful smile, revealing his pearly whites.

“I’ll see you around.”

Liz bobbed her head and watched as Max walked in the opposite direction. When he disappeared around the corner, she fell back against the lockers.

Oh, yeah. She was definitely a goner.

*************

Liz walked into her creative writing class. She did a quick scan of the room to see if she knew anyone. Her eyes landed on Isabel Evans who was sitting in the back looking lost. She quickly made her way over. Max had had that same look in chemistry. She shook her head figuring it was a twin thing.

“Hey Isabel.”

Isabel looked up to see Liz situating herself beside her. Relief flooded through her.

“Liz, I’m so glad you have this class with me. I almost put my bag there so no one would sit next to me.”

Liz fought to keep from laughing. Definitely a twin thing.

Isabel noticed the smile that Liz was trying to hide.

“What’s wrong?”

Liz turned to Isabel and burst out laughing.

“I’m sorry, it’s just Max did the exact same thing in chemistry.”

Isabel raised her eyebrow.

“You and Max have AP Chem together?”

“Yeah, we ended up being lab partners.”

Isabel just nodded, but turned to the front when the teacher began speaking.

*****************

The class had been given a writing assignment for the first part of class. During the second part, the teacher got up in front of the class.

“Ok class. I’d like you to put your pens down. For the next part of class, I’d like each of you to chose a partner.”

Liz and Isabel just smiled at each other, having an agreement without words that they would be partners.

“Once you’ve done that, I’m going to be passing around a work sheet with some questions on it. Read them carefully with your partner. After you’re done doing that, I’d like you to work on the assignment. I’ll give you the next two class periods to work on it with your partner, but after that you’ll have to do the rest in your own time.”

Liz and Isabel looked at the questions on the sheet that had been handed to them. It wasn’t too bad, but it was going to require some time outside of class to get it done.

“Maybe we should get together after school to get this done?”

Isabel nodded as her eyes read through the questions again.

“That would be a good idea.”

“How about tonight? Would that be ok for you?”

“That’s fine. Oh, but wait, I told my mom I would baby sit for her.”

Liz gave her a smile. “That’s ok, do you think your mom would mind if we did this at your house?”

Isabel just shook her head.

“Great. How about I stop by after my shift? A little after six?”

Isabel didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t say no, now that Liz assumed everything was ok. What was she supposed to say? Sorry Liz, but you can’t come over tonight. I’m babysitting for my brother’s baby while he’s at work. Somehow, she didn’t see that going over well. And add to that how much Liz really knew. Had Max already told her about Noah? The way she was talking about him earlier made it seem like they had become chummy.

The bell rang and the noise of students leaving worked it’s way through Isabel’s mind.

“So I’ll just see you later.”

Isabel just watched as Liz left. What was she going to do now?



Part 9

**********************

Isabel arrived home, throwing her book bag on the couch.

“Mom?”

Diane walked into the room with her finger to her lips.

“Not so loud Isabel. I just got Noah to fall asleep. I tell you, he’s just like Max when he was younger. Always looking for his daddy.”

Isabel’s lips quirked up at the corners.

“Ok, I’ve got a casserole on the stove. The number is on the fridge if you need to get a hold of me.”

“Sure mom.”

“Your father and I will try to get home early, but don’t wait up. I don’t know how long it’s going to take to finish up the paper work at your dad’s office.”

Diane gave her a daughter a kiss before going through the front door.

Isabel walked into the kitchen and stuck her head in the fridge looking for something to snack on. She grabbed a tub of yogurt and shut the door with a swing of her hips.

Getting a spoon, she headed upstairs to Max’s room.

Noah lay peacefully asleep, oblivious to everything around him. Isabel gently stroked his cheek before marveling at how handsome he was. He was going to be a heart breaker some day.

She took a seat in Max’s desk chair to finish her yogurt.

She heard some shuffling coming from Noah’s crib. She placed her yogurt on the table and walked to the crib.

“Hey Noah. Awake already?”

Isabel gently lifted him up and held him against her chest.

Noah looked around the room with heavy eyes before turning his attention to Isabel. He cocked his to the side while tugging on her long blonde hair.

Isabel gently bounced him up and down.

“So what are we gonna do now?”

She glanced at the clock on Max’s bedside table.

4:00.

“Well, we’ve got two hours before trouble starts brewing. What do you have in mind?”

******************

An hour had passed. Isabel and Noah were sprawled on the carpet in the living room.

Covering her eyes, Isabel suddenly opened them again before yelling, “Peekaboo!”

Noah’s little body shook from the laughs that escaped him. He was having the time of his life. Their game was interrupted by the ringing of the phone. Isabel reached for it from it’s place on the couch.

“Hello?”

“Hey Iz. How’s it going?”

“Ok.”

“What has the little man been up to?”

Isabel watched her nephew as he occupied himself with the plush toys scattered across the floor.

“He’s been pretty busy. He took a nap, had a snack, and we’ve been playing peekaboo for the last half hour.”

Max just laughed on the other end of the phone. “Put him on the phone.”

Isabel scooted over and sat Noah on her lap. She looked down into his face trying to tear his attention away from the plush pooh bear in his hands.

“Noah, daddy’s on the phone. You wanna talk to daddy?”

Noah continued to shake the bear in his hands not paying attention to Isabel. Isabel brought the phone back to her ear.

“He’s a little busy right now. Would you like to leave a message?”

“Why? What’s he doing?”

Isabel pulled Noah in her lap more securely.

“Well apparently, he’d much rather play with pooh bear than talk to his dear old dad.”

Max chuckled at the image of his son playing with the stuffed toy.

“Just hold the phone next to his ear. I wanna say some thing to him.”

“Ok, just a sec.”

She held the phone against Noah’s ear and tried to keep him still.

The sound of his soft gurgling alerted Max that he was on the other end.

“Hey buddy. How are ya? You being good to your aunt Isabel? Well, I’ll be home soon. Then we’ll spend some time together ok? I love you.”

Isabel placed the phone back against her ear and began talking.

“Max, we have to talk. I have to-

“Isabel, could we do it later? My break is just about up. If I get my work done early, I’ll get home earlier. We’ll talk then.”

Isabel was set to protest, but was met with a click on the other end.

What was she supposed to do now?

****************

Isabel paced the length of the living room floor, watching as the clock ticked by. She bit her lip in anticipation.

Max and Liz were set to show up any minute now. She just prayed that it would be Max that arrived first.

The chimes of the door bell averted Isabel’s attention to the door. Her heart was thumping wildly against her chest.

This was it. Liz was going to find out about Noah.

She hurried to the door and opened it.

“Hey Isabel.”

“Liz.”

They stood there staring at each other.

Liz cleared her throat and shuffled her feet.

“Oh, how rude of me, please, come in.”

Isabel moved to the side to allow Liz through the door.

“Thanks.”

“Sure. Do you want to work in the living room?”

“That’s fine.”

They walked in to find Noah playing with the phone. He was attempting to suck on the plastic antenna.

Isabel ran forward and pulled it from his grasp.

“No! Don’t put that into your mouth sweetie.”

She picked him up. Liz walked closer and smiled at Noah.

“Aren’t you precious? What’s your name sweetie?”

Isabel tried to speak to Liz while holding a squirming bundle in her arms.

“He’s name is Noah.”

Liz stood closer and ran her fingers through his soft curls.

“You’re a handsome little fella.”

Noah turned to look at Liz before reaching out his arms to her indicating that he wanted her to carry him.

“Can I hold him?”

Isabel was a little reluctant knowing that Noah wasn‘t very good with strangers. In fact, he always cried around them which is why she was surprised that he wanted to be held by Liz. Isabel handed him to Liz and waited for the water works to start.

Liz pulled him up higher against her chest. He was a lot heavier than she anticipated. She watched as he looked at her curiously before reaching out to touch her face.

Noah gave her a toothless grin as he gently tugged on her hair.

“So who in the family has blue eyes?”

Isabel’s head jerked up.

“What?”

“Is it your mom or your dad?”

“Neither? Why are you asking?”

“Oh, I was just wondering who Noah got his blue eyes from. They’re absolutely breath taking.”

Isabel shook her head, trying to find a way to explain to Liz that Noah was not her baby brother.

“Liz, Noah, he’s not........he’s not my brother.”

“But I can totally see a resemblance.”

Liz watched as Isabel paled. Why was she so nervous about saying Noah wasn‘t her brother? She knew they were related. That part was obvious. Unless, unless Noah was hers. Liz tried to find her voice to ask the question, but didn’t know how to go about asking. She just decided to take the plunge, hoping to reassure Isabel that it wouldn’t make a difference if he was hers.

“Is he, is he.........yours?”

Just then a male voice came from the front of the house.

“He’s my son.”

All eyes turned to see Max standing by the door, keys in hand.

He walked into the living room past an upset Isabel. She gave him an apologetic look. He gently touched her hand and gave her a small smile.

He walked towards Liz and took Noah from her arms.

A huge smile plastered itself on his face.

“Hey little man.”

Noah enthusiastically clapped his hands together before laying his head against Max’s shoulder. Max held him a little tighter to reassure himself that everything was going to be ok.

He summoned up enough courage to look into Liz’s eyes. He suddenly wished he hadn’t. She looked absolutely torn. The light that had been dancing in her eyes earlier had all but died. He knew now that what he had been thinking about earlier was right. There could be no him and Liz.

He shifted Noah into his other arm before leaving the room.

Isabel watched her brother leave. It broke her heart to see the look on his face. Her suspicions were right. He was attracted to Liz, but any hope he had just died. It wasn’t Liz’s fault, she had no idea that Noah was Max’s.

Liz wiped the tears from her eyes.

“Isabel, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to assume, anything or....... I’m just sorry.”

Isabel’s heart broke once again, hearing Liz’s dejected tone.

“It’s ok Liz. Don’t worry about it.”

Liz nodded her head.

“Um, maybe we could just work on this thing another day. I just remembered that I promised Maria that I would help her close tonight.”

Isabel knew she was lying. Liz Parker was definitely not a good liar.

“Sure, that‘s fine.”

Liz grabbed her bag and bolted out of there.

Inside her car she let her tears flow freely. Max had a son. He had a son. Those words flew around in her head until she thought it would consume her. She had her answer now. There would be no Max and her. He had a son. Having a father and a son usually meant there was a mother in the wings. Liz put the car in gear and drove away. She had to find someone to talk to.



Part 10

**********************

Isabel ran up the stairs to her brother’s room. She sometimes wished her brother wasn’t so stubborn. If she knew her brother at all, he would be sitting in his room pretending everything was alright when it wasn’t. After Tess’ death, he was so quick to give up on everything. He barely spoke to anyone then. If it hadn’t been for Noah, they might have lost him completely. He blamed himself for circumstances he couldn’t control. She just wished there was a way to get through to him.

**********

Inside his room, Max was sitting in his desk chair looking out the window. He had put Noah in his play pen hoping to keep him occupied while he figured out what was going on with him. Why was he feeling this way? His heart felt like somebody had pulled it from his chest and stomped all over it. He didn’t remember ever feeling this bad. The pain inside his heart seemed worse than it had when he had lost Tess.

Why?

The question ran through his mind in many forms. Why was he feeling like this? Why did he care so much about Liz’s feelings? Why did it seem like his life was spinning out of control? Why did it feel like he had forgotten about Tess?

When he had been with Tess, it had been simple. He knew he cared for her, and eventually he had come to love her. Or that’s what he thought. If he had felt love for Tess, then what was he feeling towards Liz? It certainly couldn’t be love right? They had just met. It wasn’t possible to be this drawn to someone. Right?

Being around Liz made him feel things he never dreamed were possible. He thought that being with Tess was the best thing in the world. But in the short span of time he had spent with Liz proved otherwise. A smile from Liz made him feel like he was on top of the world. Was it wrong for him to feel this way? Was he was being unfaithful?

He had seen the look of utter confusion and hurt in her eyes. He hated knowing that he was the cause of that. He wished he could find a way to make things right, if he could go back and change the past-

He immediately changed his train of thought. No matter how torn and hurt he was feeling right now, there was no way he would go back to the past and change things. Doing that would mean that Noah wouldn’t be a part of his life, and that was just unacceptable. It didn’t matter that he and Tess had made the wrong choices, but having Noah was the best thing in his life. He wouldn’t trade that for anything.

***************

Isabel halted at her brother’s door. The door was wide open. To any other eye, the room would have looked like any average teenage boy’s room, minus all of the baby furniture and toys.

Just as she had predicted, Max was sitting in his desk chair looking out the window. Noah was in his play pen quietly playing with the toys around him. She admired Noah. If only life could be as simple as his was. His biggest problem was not having Max around all of the time. While she wished that life was that simple, she also realized how much he was missing. He had missed out on having a mother. At this point in his life, he didn’t seem to mind. Max had tried to overcompensate by being Noah’s mother and father. But would that be enough when he grew older?

She had seen the look of anguish on her brother’s face. She prayed that he wouldn’t go back into the protective cocoon he had put himself in last year. He had built a wall around himself and refused to let anyone in. That had hurt. Max and her shared almost everything with each other. She used to think how great it was that they were close, but he had just thrown that all away. He acted like he was the only one who got cheated. He had completely forgotten that she had lost her best friend, and in the process lost her brother too.

But Noah had changed all of that. By being brought into the world, Noah had made the Evans family closer than they had ever been. He had made them realize how important family was. She only hoped Max would open up to her now.


She gently knocked on the wooden frame that encased the door.

Max slowly turned around from his seat. It took a while for his eyes to focus. He blinked back the tears that had formed in his eyes. He hadn’t even realized that he was on the verge of tears.

“Can I come in?”

Max just shrugged his shoulders.

Isabel walked in and sat on the bed so that she and Max were sitting face to face.

“Max, I just wanted to apologize. I didn’t expect that to happen. I’m sorry-

Max gave her a stiff smile.

“Thanks Iz, but I don’t need your apology. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

Isabel shook her head, trying to make Max see that she had her share of faults in this mess.

“No Max, I should have, I don’t know........I should have warned you sooner or something. I should have done something to prevent that.”

“Isabel, there was nothing you could do. And besides, I kinda got the feeling you were trying to warn me earlier when I called, right?”

The bobbing of Isabel’s head indicated that his suspicions were true.

“It’s not your fault Iz. I know you think you played a big part in that.......... in that thing out there, but it was bound to happen sooner or later. Everyone was going to find out about Noah anyway. I’m just surprised it took this long for someone to find out.”

“But it should have never happened that way. You shouldn’t have to feel like, like-

“Like an outcast? I’ve sort of come to expect it, you know?”

He rested his elbows against his knees.

“I really don’t think why mom and dad thought that it would be any different out here. I can feel it Iz. Everything in California is just going to happen all over again.”

“No Max. Liz isn’t like that. And neither is Maria, Alex, Kyle, or even Michael. Once they get to know you and Noah, they’re, you’ll see what it’s like to really have friends.”

A sad laugh escaped his lips.

“I wish I could believe that. I saw the way she looked at me Iz. She, she’s going to look at me different now. Everyone is. There’s no way around it. I just have to suck it up and deal. Just like I did in California.”

“Are you saying you’re shutting yourself off from us again?”

Max gave her a curious look before asking his question.

“What are you talking about?”

Isabel stood up and began to pace. She couldn’t do that again. It was too painful the first time, she couldn’t lose her brother a second time. Not again.

“You can’t do that again Max. It almost killed mom and dad, and me, Max. It almost killed me. I can’t go through that again. Do you know what that’s like? It’s like losing a part of yourself. And no matter what you do, or what you try, there isn’t a damn thing you can do.”

She looked into her twin’s eyes to plead with him to understand.

“Please Max, don’t turn us away. We’re hurting too. We’re stronger together than we are apart. Don’t shut us out!”

Max took the few steps forward and brought his sister in his embrace.

“I’m sorry Iz. I had no idea. I was selfish and just, I was just....... You don’t have to worry. I won’t turn you guys away. Not this time.”

All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 17-Sep-2001 5:12:23 PM
Part 11

*********************

Liz drove to the Crashdown in complete and utter shock.

What the hell just happened out there? She bit back a sob and instead gave a bitter laugh. She knew what happened out there. Her heart was just broken. But how could that be? She had only met Max. Surely it wasn’t love. But if it wasn’t, then why did it hurt so damn much?

She felt her head spinning. She got out of the car, suddenly feeling nauseas.

She ran through the front doors of the Crashdown causing the doors to jingle like crazy.

Kyle and Alex were wiping down the rest of the tables.

Without looking up, Alex called out.

“I’m sorry, but were closed. We’ll be open again tomorrow at 8:00.”

When they didn’t hear the jingling of the doors, both guys looked up to explain that they were no longer in service.

Kyle threw his dish rag onto the counter before untying his apron.

“Look buddy, we said we were closed.”

He stopped short when he saw Liz standing at the entrance, tears streaming down her beautiful face.

“Liz?!?”

Both boys ran to her and pulled her into the nearest seat.

Alex gently ran his fingers through her dark hair.

“Liz? What’s wrong? Are you ok?”

Liz rocked back and forth in her seat.

“No...”

Alex turned his head to face the kitchen.

“Michael, Maria, get in here!”

Maria came through the swinging doors, antennas in hand.

“This better be good Alex or-

Her sentence hung in the air when she caught sight of her best friend.

“Lizzie? Sweetie? What’s wrong hun?”

Liz just wrapped her arms around herself and shut her eyes tight. She figured if she did it long enough, it would help her calm down.

Maria turned to look at Alex.

“What happened?”

Alex began pacing across the linoleum floor.

“I don’t know, she just burst through the doors looking like that.”

Maria called out to the back.

“Michael, get in here! Now!”

Michael threw the bandana off of his head.

“What is it now Maria?”

All four friends gathered around Liz trying to find out what had gotten her so upset.

“Geez, what happened to Liz?”

Kyle got up.

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

Maria tried to tune out all of the voices around her and instead chose to focus on getting Liz to respond to her.

“Lizzie, what happened? Did someone do something to you?”

Liz couldn’t think straight let alone try to answer Maria’s questions. The only thing running through her mind was Max. Max.

“Max.”

Maria grabbed Liz by the shoulders.

“Max? He did this to you?”

Alex pushed his way back into the semi-circle that was formed around Liz.

“What did that bastard do to you? I’ll kill him!”

Both Kyle and Michael stood up straighter, ready to attack at any moment. No one hurt their friends and got away with it.

Upon hearing Alex’s threat, Liz finally snapped out of her trance.

“No, he didn’t, he didn’t do anything.”

“Are you sure Lizzie?”

Maria gently stroked her friend’s arm in an effort to calm her.

“Yes! He didn’t do anything to me. It’s just, it’s just..............”

Alex knelt down in front of her and placed his hands on her knees.

“It’s just what Liz? If Max did something to you, you can tell us. You don’t have to be afraid.”

Liz got up from her chair and threw her hands up in the air.

“How many times do I have to say it? Max didn’t do anything to me ok?”

Maria followed her and stood beside her.

“Then what’s wrong?”

Liz covered her eyes and took a deep breath.

“Me...”

The other four friends looked at each other confused. What had she meant by that?

“What do you mean you?”

Liz peeled her fingers from her eyes to look at each one of her friends.

“I, I’m the problem.”

Alex shook his head in an attempt to clear it.

“Look Liz, I don’t want to pressure you or anything, but you’re not making a whole lot of sense here. What do you mean you’re the problem?”

Liz sank back onto a stool and covered her face.

“I’m just, I actually fooled myself into thinking something stupid.”

Alex sat beside her and placed his arm around her.

“What did you fool yourself into thinking?”

Heaving a sigh, Liz sat up. She looked around at her friends faces who watched her carefully. They had always been there for her and there wasn’t anything that she didn’t tell them. She could tell them about this, and they would understand.

“Max. I fooled myself into thinking that he and I could actually be something.......... Be together.”

Speaking softly, Alex gave her shoulder a soft squeeze.

“What makes you think that you can‘t be together?”

Liz opened her mouth to tell them all about Noah and Max when it hit her. As confused as she was, it wasn’t her place to tell them. If and when Max chose to tell them about Noah, then that was his decision. She wasn’t going to bring it upon herself to make it common knowledge to a town where nothing was a secret for too long.

Even if she was upset, she couldn’t, no, she wouldn’t do that to Max, or to Noah. However shattered her heart was right now, she still felt something for Max. That wasn’t just going to go away.

Her mind replayed the ugly scene in her mind over again. She remembered the look of utter happiness on Max’s face when he held his son. It was a sight to behold. The two of them together made her feel things. Happiness, confusion, envy, there were too many emotions to name, but they had all been present. As the scene played over, she remembered the way he had looked at her. Inside his amber eyes held a plea for acceptance. In that one look he gave her, he was asking her for her acceptance, but in return she had practically kicked him in the gut.

She hadn’t meant to do it. With her emotions running around like crazy, she hadn’t known what to do. Liz remembered the way the sadness had rolled into his eyes, how the light that had been flickering there earlier had become a dull glow.

Liz felt like kicking herself for being such a fool. She had to get over there and tell him that she still wanted to be friends regardless of his situation. She had been ready to accept Isabel when she thought that Noah was her son. There was no difference now that she knew that Noah was Max’s.

Liz stood up and wiped her face to rid herself of the tears that had adorned her cheeks.

“I have to go.”

She walked towards the front doors of the Crashdown when she felt someone grab a hold of her arm. She looked up to see who was keeping her from leaving.

Alex gently tugged on Liz’s arm to keep her from leaving.

“Where are you going Liz?”

“I have to go to Max. I have to make him understand something.”

“Make him understand, what?”

Liz pulled her arm from Alex’s grasp.

“We had a misunderstanding, and now I have to go and fix things before they get out of hand.”

She pushed the doors opened, but stopped and turned around.

“Thanks guys. I really appreciate you guys being here for me.”

She turned around again and headed to her car.

She had to get back to the Evans’ house. She wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep knowing that all of this was still hanging in the air.



Part 12

**********************

After Isabel’s talk with Max, she decided to give him some time alone with Noah. If she was going to get Max to trust her and open up to her, she would give him space and allow him to come to her.

She walked back into the living room to pick up the toys littering the carpet.

Isabel stopped when she heard the door bell ring. Placing the rest of the toys in a plastic bin, she brushed her knees and went to the door.

***********

Liz stood outside the Evans’ front door. Now that she was finally here, her heart began pounding. What was she going to say to Max?

She didn’t have much time to dwell on it for the door opened revealing Isabel.

“Liz?”

“Uh, hi Isabel.”

The two of them stood there as they had an hour ago.

“What can I do for you Liz?”

“Uh, I was, um, I was wondering if I could talk to Max?”

Isabel gave her a curious look before stepping aside to let her in.

“Thanks.”

“He’s up in his room.”

Liz walked towards the stairs but stopped short when she realized that she had no idea which room was his.

“Which? Uh, which........”

“It’s the second door on your right.”

Liz gave her a slight nod of her head before making her way up.

Isabel’s voice stopped her in mid-step.

“Liz, don’t hurt him. He, Max has been through enough. He doesn’t need anymore grief.”

Liz turned to hear Isabel’s plea. She shook her head.

“I would never hurt Max, Isabel. Or Noah.”

Isabel gave her a sad smile before returning to the living room.

*********

Liz walked up the stairs hurriedly. She didn’t want to waste another minute having Max think that she didn’t accept him or his son.

She came to a halt when she reached his bedroom.

The door was wide open and the scene inside just melted her heart.

**********

After Max’s talk with Isabel, he had decided to push all of his negative feelings aside. If he had learned one thing from his experience from California, it was that wallowing in your own self pity got you nowhere.

He picked up Noah and the two of them began playing. He had responsibilities. He was a father and that was what he needed to concentrate on.

Max had began spinning Noah around the room as the two of them played their favorite game.

“Zoom. Zoom.......... Airplane Noah coming through........”

Max had twisted him around till his hearts content. After a few minutes, Max stopped in the middle of the room and pulled up Noah’s little shirt to give him raspberrys on his stomach.

Childish laughter filled the room as Max continued to tickle his son.

“You like that little man?”

Noah just clapped his little hands together.

“buh boo!”

Max laughed at the sound of his son’s little voice.

“Me too little man. “

Max hoisted Noah higher against his chest before giving his son a soft kiss on his nose.

Max gave a little groan. “You’re getting a little heavy for your old man.”

He tweaked Noah’s nose before talking again.

“When are you gonna learn to walk little man? Daddy’s back won’t be able to hold out forever.”

Father and son smiled at each other before hearing the sound of someone clearing their throat.

***********

Seeing Max with Noah made Liz feel giddy. They were just absolutely adorable together. She hated to intrude on their moment, but she had to do this now before she lost her nerve.

She began clearing her throat to get their attention.

**********

Max turned to see who was at the door when he heard them clear their throat. He almost had a heart attack when he saw Liz standing in his doorway with a smile on her face.

This couldn’t be real, he had to be dreaming.

Liz took a tentative step into the room.

“Max?”

The minute she said his name, he knew it wasn’t a dream. He swallowed past the lump in his throat.

“Wh-what are you doing here Liz?”

Liz took in the sight of his room, their room. Baby toys were strewn everywhere, and pictures of Max with Noah adorned the walls. Liz couldn’t help but smile wider at seeing them. They really were a sight to behold.

“Um, I was wondering if we could talk?”

Max nodded and stepped aside to let her further into his room. He could feel his palms start to sweat and his heart beat wildly. Why did he do that every time she was around? He shook his head to rid them of any unwanted thoughts and instead offered her a seat.

“Why don’t you sit down.”

Liz took a seat in his desk chair and waited for him to take a seat on his bed.

Liz tried to keep the grin off of her face when he started struggling with Noah.

Noah began to squirm in Max’s arms and refused to sit still.

“buh boo.”

Max sat him down so that he was facing Liz.

“C’mon buddy. Sit still.”

When Noah’s eyes landed on Liz, he gave her a smile. Just as he had done earlier that night, he held out his arms to her, wanting to be held.

Liz reached forward to take him in her arms, when Max’s voice stopped her.

“Uh, you don’t have to do that. He kinda gets weird around people he doesn’t know.”

Max wasn’t saying it to be cruel, but he had been witness to other people holding Noah, and it had not been pretty.

Liz gave him another smile before taking Noah in her arms.

“It’s ok. We’re old friends.” She looked into his handsome little face. “Isn’t that right, Noah?”

Noah gave Liz an excited giggle before leaning his head against her shoulder.

Max sat back and watched in awe as Liz held his son in her delicate arms. It was enough that Noah wasn’t crying with Liz, but for him to actually reach out and request to be held by her, that, he had never done that before.

Max continued to watch as Liz gave Noah a soft kiss on the crown of his head.

Liz hadn’t thought about it. It just seemed natural.

Max felt his heart constrict at seeing Liz with Noah in her arms. There were too many emotions to name. But if he were to choose a word to describe how the two of them looked, they looked absolutely breathtaking. Liz’s soft voice broke Max from his reverie.

“I just, I wanted to apologize to you Max.”

Apologize? What could she possibly have to apologize for?

“Apologize for what?”

The scene played over again in Liz’s mind and she felt guilty all over again.

“I wanted to apologize for acting like a jerk earlier. It was wrong of me. And I apologize for that.”

Max couldn’t believe his ears. She was apologizing to him. She came all the way back to apologize to him, when it should be him apologizing for leaving.

“Liz, you don’t have to apologize. You didn’t do anything wrong. If anyone should be apologizing, it should be me. I drop a bomb on you like that, and leave without an explanation.”

Liz looked into his eyes and urged him to understand.

“You owe me no explanations Max. What you choose to tell me is your business. I came here to apologize to you and tell you that I still want to be your friend, that is if you want to be friends with me. And I can totally understand if you don’t want to be my friend, because........

Max watched with barely contained amusement as Liz continued to ramble on. He gently placed his hand on her knee to get her to stop.

Liz’s eyes flew up when she felt Max gently touch her knee.

She groaned inwardly. Here she was begging to be his friend, and all she could think about was his hand on her knee. She was brought out of her thoughts by his deep voice.

“Liz, it’s ok. I want to be your friend too.”

Liz gave him a shy smile.

“I’d like that.”

Liz stood up to leave.

“Well, yeah, um, yeah, well, I should get going. I just wanted to stop by and you know, get everything straightened out.”

Max stood up and gave her a half smile.

“Right.”

Liz started to walk to the door.

“Right, well I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Right, tomorrow.”

Liz continued to walk through the door.

“Uh Liz?”

Liz turned back to the sound of Max’s voice.

“Yeah, Max?”

Max tried to hide the grin from his face. She had completely forgotten that Noah was still tucked safely in her arms. He made a small gesture with hands.

“Uh, Noah........”

Liz blushed furiously when she realized that she still had Noah in her arms and was about to walk out the door with him.

Slowly handing him back to Max, Liz started apologizing.

“I’m sorry, I have no idea what’s wrong with me today.”

Max just smiled.

“Don’t worry about it.”

As he cradled Noah in his arms, he began squirming.

“no no no.”

Noah turned to Liz and reached his arms out to her.

Max pulled him up higher against his chest.

“Not tonight buddy. Liz has to go home.”

Noah began kicking his legs, his eyes pleading with Liz to take him back in her arms.

Liz walked up to him and smoothed down his curls.

“I’ll see you again soon Noah. I promise.”

She gave him a soft kiss on his chubby cheek.

“You be good to your dad ok?”

With one last wave, she headed down the stairs and out the door.

Max leaned back against the wall for support.

What was it that had both Evans men drawn to Liz Parker? Max looked down into the squirming bundle in his arms before retiring to his room.

Friends. She wanted to be friends. He just prayed that he could stick to that.



Part 13

*********************

The first week of school passed by in a blur.

Max walked into his house, taking off his work vest.

“Mom?”

Diane flew into the hall carrying a stack of papers in one hand and her briefcase in the other.

“Max, good, you’re here. Your dad just called, we have to go to Carlsbad for the weekend. It’s this big convention and I have to help your dad. Are you kids going to be ok alone this weekend?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Great. Numbers on the fridge. Noah is in his play pen...” Diane looked around to see if she was forgetting anything. “Oh, and I didn’t have time to make anything to eat, so you’ll have to make yourself something. Izzy is still at work.” Diane took another look around before locking gazes with her son. “And I think that just about covers it.”

She leaned forward and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Ok, you kids be good.” With a wave of her hand, she was out the door and in her car.

Max dropped his keys on the table and walked into the living room to find Noah in his play pen. Max leaned down and gently ran his fingers through his son’s curly hair.

“Hey little man. It looks like it’s just the two of us tonight.” Max lifted him up and brought him into the kitchen. He sat him down in his booster seat before sticking his head in the fridge.

“No, no, no, gross, pass, no.........” Max pulled his head out and shut the door to the fridge. “Looks like there’s nothing to eat. What do you say we go out and get something?”

Noah just sat in his seat curiously poking his tummy and giggling when he hit a ticklish spot. Max shook his head and picked up his son.

“How about we go to the Crashdown? It’s fast, it’s food, and I hear the service is good. Besides, I’m hoping Aunt Iz can give me a discount.”

Who was he kidding? The only reason he wanted to go to the Crashdown was for one thing, well actually one person, and her name happened to be Liz Parker.

***********

As they continued to drive down the streets of Roswell, Max continued to talk to Noah as if he could understand him.

“You know, I’m not going there because I wanna see her. I mean I’m going there for the food. And it’s about time that I got to meet Isabel’s new friends.”

He parked the jeep and turned to his son.

“We’re only here for the food.”

Max got out and carried Noah towards the Crashdown.

“I didn’t come here to see her. I mean I see her at school and then she’ll give me that smile, and, and........” Max shook his head in an effort to clear it. “No, I’m not here because of her. I’m here to eat. No food in the house, and I have to eat, so that’s why we’re here.” He looked into Noah’s eyes and asked him one last question. “You believe me right?” With a small grin on his lips, Noah shook his head as if he knew what Max was talking about.

With a smirk Max poked Noah’s tummy. “You do realize that you’re no help right?”

The two of them walked through the double doors of the Crashdown. The place was bustling with people and teenagers getting ready to start their weekends. As they walked in, Max tried to ignore the whispering and staring coming from some of the kids he remembered from school. It didn’t matter what they thought. He wasn’t ashamed of his son or who he was.

He straightened his shoulders and stood up straighter. His eyes scanned the room and finally landed on Liz. She was tending to one of the customers with a beautiful smile on her face. She was wearing that turquoise uniform and cute silver antennas on her head. He couldn’t stop the smile from forming.

He stopped and felt like a deer caught in head lights when she looked up at him. Her eyes lit up and she gave him that smile that she always gave him. The one that made him feel like he was the only person on earth.

She made her way over to him.

“Max. What are you doing here?”

Max bit his tongue and resisted the urge to tell her that he was there to see her, instead, he told her the elaborate excuse he had told Noah.

“Um, there was no food at home and I was uh, I was hungry. So, uh, I came here for food. Food. That’s all, nothing else.”

Max wanted to kick himself. Why didn’t he just stick a neon sign on his forehead saying “I Want Liz Parker!”? Why did he always act like an idiot around her? He felt like he was in junior high all over again.

Liz just nodded her head. “Ok, um so, why don’t guys have a seat?”

Liz lead them to the back booth that just happened to be in her section. She told herself that it was the only seat available, but she knew that wasn’t true. So much for wanting to be friends. She gave a little snort at her thought.

Max tried to look into her eyes.

“Did you say something?”

Liz’s eyes bugged out of her head.

“No, uh I didn’t say anything.”

She offered him the back booth but realized that Noah was going to need a booster seat.

“Just a sec, let me get Noah a booster seat.”

She ran through the swinging doors that lead to the kitchen. Upon entering, she ran into Alex.

“Where’s the fire?”

Liz gave him a playful shove.

“Ha ha, very funny Alex.”

Alex gave her a smile before pulling her into his side.

“C’mon Parker, you know you love all of my lame jokes. You wouldn’t have stayed friends with me this long if you didn’t.”

Before Liz could respond, she and Alex were pushed to the side.

“Coming through people.”

Kyle pushed his way through the door carrying a tub of dirty dishes.

“Ok, what is going on with everybody? Is it something in the water?”

“What are you talking about Alex?”

Alex gave Liz a look before continuing.

“What am I talking about? First, you’re running around with that goofy grin on your face again. Kyle is actually doing work, I have not heard a single complaint come from the cook, yet, and Deluca has not come in here yet with one of her crazy stories....”

Alex stopped when the doors flew open revealing a flustered Isabel Evans.

Isabel brushed the hair out of her eyes and adjusted the antenna on her head.

Liz watched as Alex shut up and followed Isabel’s every move. Liz let the smirk form on her lips as she elbowed Alex.

“Drool much?”

Alex turned to Liz, a little disoriented.

“Wh-what?”

Liz gave Alex a wicked grin.

“Looks like someone’s got a crush.”

Alex shook his head.

“I, I don’t know, what, what you’re talking about.”

Liz tapped her finger against her chin.

“Hhmmmm, maybe Isabel would be interested in hearing she has an admirer.”

Alex’s eyes grew wide.

“Don’t even think about it Parker!”

She gave him one last smile before heading off towards Isabel.

Alex just about died when Liz walked to Isabel.

Liz walked up to Isabel and whispered in her ear while giving Alex the occasional glance.

Isabel turned to face Alex and gave Liz a nod of her head before walking to Alex.

Alex stood rooted to the spot as Isabel walked toward him. It was as if she was moving in slow motion.

“Hey Alex.”

“Isabel.”

“Uh, Liz told me to ask you if you could bring out one of the booster chairs from the storage room.”

“Boo-booster chair?”

Isabel graced him with a smile.

“Yeah. She said to bring it into the dining room.”

With that she walked back to the dining room.

Alex felt himself getting dizzy. Isabel Evans had just talked to him. Granted, they had sort of hung out as a group, she had never really said anything to just him. He walked back to the storage room to get the booster seat, a smile plastered to his lips.

*****************

Out in the dining area, Max had sat down in the booth with Noah in his lap. He was waiting for Liz to return when he felt someone tap him on the shoulder.

He turned to see Maria.

She gave him a smile.

“Hey, Max.”

“Hi Maria.”

Maria, reached out and gently stroked Noah’s little fist.

“And who are you little one?”

Max looked at Maria with confusion in his eyes. She acted as if she didn’t know who Noah was. He was sure Liz would have mentioned something to her by now.

“Uh, his name is Noah.”

Maria looked up at Max as she held onto Noah’s little hand.

“So you got stuck babysitting the baby bro?”

Now Max was really confused. Maria thought that Noah was his baby brother?

“He’s not-

He was cut off by someone sticking his head through the drop off window.

“Order’s up Maria!”

Maria turned to the window and waved her hand. She turned back to Max and Noah.

“Well, duty calls. Are you sticking around till closing? We’re all gonna hang out afterwards, if you and Isabel want to stay.”

“Yeah, sure.”

Maria walked away leaving a very puzzled Max Evans.

Liz pushed her way through the double doors. She was going to help someone at the register when someone grabbed her arm.

“We gotta talk Liz.”



Part 14

*****************

To say that Liz was shocked was an understatement. She looked up to see Max holding her arm in one hand, and carrying Noah in his other arm. Liz looked unsure of what to do when she caught sight of Isabel from the corner of her eye.

“I’ll be right back.”

She pulled free from his grasp and made her way to Isabel.

“Isabel!”

Isabel looked up from wiping down a table.

“Liz. Is everything ok?”

“Yeah, could you just help out those people by the register? I was going to take my break and-

Isabel gave her a smile before waving her off.

“Sure, no problem. Go ahead, I’ll take care of it.”

Smiling, Liz made her way towards Max and pulled him to the back room.

“Come on, let’s talk upstairs.”

Before Max had anytime to register what she had said, they were upstairs in her room.

He stood by the door, not wanting to go in any further.

Liz pulled off her antennas and noticed that Max was still standing by the door.

“Aren’t you going to come in?”

Max opened his mouth, but words failed him. He was a few steps from her room. The room where she slept, did homework, and various other things. Why it seemed like such a big deal to him he didn’t know, but he knew he was nervous.

“I thought you said you wanted to talk?”

“I, I did.”

Giving him a smile, Liz led him inside.

“Well then, come in.”

He watched as she moved around the room picking up various things, trying to make her already tidy room even tidier.

“So, what did you want to talk about?”

“Uh, Maria.”

Liz froze for a second before turning around to search his face for any indication of where this conversation was going.

“What about Maria?”

Max looked around the room in an attempt to find the right words to say. In all honesty, he had no idea how to bring it up, but he had to know. He had to know why she hadn’t said anything to Maria about Noah. It had been almost a week since she had found out. He would have figure that it would have already been a topic of conversation. In fact he had sort of expected it, not that he thought that Liz was some sort of gossiper, but things like that just didn’t stay a secret for too long. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, he had a deep seeded fear that maybe the reason that Liz hadn’t said anything to her friends was because she was ashamed of him. He felt absolutely terrible for thinking that of her when she had already proved to him that him being a father didn’t matter. But he just couldn’t help himself.

“I was, uh, why haven’t you told her about Noah?”

Liz was a little surprised by his question.

“Why would I tell her, or anyone else?”

Max began pacing.

“She’s your best friend. I mean, don’t best friends tell each other everything?”

Liz studied him for a moment, then tried to find the right words to say.

“Sure, but there’s just some things that need to be kept a secret.”

Max’s face drained of it’s color.

“A secret?”

Liz immediately regretted her choice of words.

“No, that’s not what I meant. I mean the reason why I haven’t told Maria, or anyone else about Noah is because it isn’t my place to do so. I told you before Max, what you chose to tell me is your business, and that goes for everyone else too. I didn’t want to betray your confidence. I want us to be friends, good friends. I just thought that maybe you’d prefer it if you were the one that told everybody.”

Max could barely think straight. Once again, Liz proved to be the loyal friend that Isabel said she was. How amazing could one person get? Max felt his heart thump wildly against his chest. He knew without a doubt that he had fallen for her. How far, he wasn’t sure. But he knew at that moment in time that he couldn’t love her anymore than he did.

Love? Had he just said love? As much as he was willing to protest and lie to himself about it, he had fallen in love with Liz Parker in the short week that he knew her. As crazy as it sounded, it was true. Was there such thing as love at first sight? Is that what he had for Liz?

Although Max was having some revelations of sorts, he knew he couldn’t act upon his feelings. Just a second ago she had stressed that she wanted to be friends. And how could he expect her to get involved with him when he hadn’t even told her the whole story yet? Well, if she wanted to be friends, he was going to be the best damned friend he could be.

Liz looked up from the spot she had been staring at on the floor.

He walked towards her and stopped just in front of her. He lifted up her chin and gently tucked her hair behind her ear. He leaned down and tenderly placed his lips against her forehead.

“Thank you Liz.”

Liz looked into the soft amber pools of his eyes that continuously drew her in.

“For what?”

He gave her a sweet smile.

“For being you.”

They shared a moment of silence. Saying so much with their eyes that they were too afraid to say with words.

“Lizzzzzzzzzzzzz!”

Stunned, both of them turned to the baby in Max’s arms. Had he just said Liz?

Noah turned towards Liz and reached out to her.

“Lizzzzzz! Lizzzzzzz!”

Liz pulled Noah into her arms.

“Yea, Noah, that’s right. I’m Liz. You’re such a smart little boy.”

Max stood there shocked beyond belief. Noah had said Liz’s name.

He gently ran his finger down Noah’s cheek.

“The first word you say, and it’s Liz? How about da da? You know, the guy that helped bring you into this world?”

Liz looked up into Max’s smiling eyes. Was it true? Had Noah’s first word been her name? She was too overwhelmed to speak. Although it may have not seemed like a big deal to anyone else, it meant the world to her. She was falling in love with Max Evans and his son, and there wasn’t a thing she could do to stop it.



Part 15

**********************

As the last of the customers dwindled out, the staff at the Crashdown worked at a furious rate to get things cleaned up.

“Come on everyone, the faster we get cleaned up, the faster the fun begins!” Maria came down from the chair she had been standing on.

Max grabbed Liz’s arm as she came by.

“What can I do?”

“It’s ok Max. We’ve got everything under control.”

She turned to leave but Max held firm.

“You have to let me do something. I can’t just sit here, while all of you work.”

Liz turned to Noah who was pounding his plastic spoon against the table.

“Looks like you already have your hands full.”

She gestured to Noah and Max followed her gaze.

“He’ll be fine. He’s going to be at it for a while so you might as well give me something to do, or I’ll have to go ask Maria, or Izzy and they don’t seem like they would turn down the help.”

Liz gave him a little giggle. “Izzy?”

Returning her infectious laugh, Max let go of her arm. “Childhood nickname.”

“Right. Well, since you insist on helping, how about grabbing the mop in the kitchen?”

Max smiled before heading towards the swinging doors.

Liz turned around only to bump into Maria.

“So, you already have him whipped?”

“Maria! That’s not nice.”

With a wicked smile, Maria looked over her shoulder to see Max with a mop and bucket, working the linoleum floors of the dining are.

“Ok, then what’s the deal with that?”

Maria pointed to Max as he continued to swipe the floor with long strokes of the mop.

Liz turned to follow her gaze and couldn’t keep the small smile from playing against her lips at watching Max’s shoulder and arm muscles move with his each swipe of the mop.

“He just wanted to help, that’s all.”

Maria slowly nodded her head.

“Uh huh. I bet the only reason you have him working, is to see him working those jeans and t-shirt.”

Liz pulled Maria to the other side of the room and turned wide eyes on her.

“Maria!”

Maria tried to contain her laughter just long enough to speak.

“Hun, relax. I don’t think Max heard me. I was only kidding ok. I’m sorry.”

Maria followed Liz’s gaze and laughed harder when she saw the way she was looking at Max.

“Maybe I should retract my comments.”

Liz looked up from her exploration of Max’s upper body working hard.

“What?”

Maria just playfully slapped her shoulder.

“Never mind chica. Just get back to work.”

************

45 minutes later, the Crashdown was clean and the staff was exhausted.

Making her way through the kitchen into the dining area, Maria came out with a tray of food. She set it down on a table where they had placed seven seats surrounding it.

Michael went to grab a french fry, only to have Maria slap his hand away.

“Ow!”

“Don’t be so rude Michael.”

She turned to face everyone and gave them a sugary sweet smile.

“First of, I want to thank Max for helping out when he didn’t have to.”

Max looked down shyly.

“It’s no problem, really.”

“And secondly, I think that some introductions are in order.”

She turned to each person she was introducing.

“Max, this is Michael, my boyfriend. Alex over there, and that is my step brother Kyle.”

A chorus of hi’s were said.

“It’s nice to meet you guys.”

He looked around nervously and took a deep breath. This was it. The moment of truth.

“Since we’re all making some introductions, uh, I’d like to introduce you guys to my son. Everyone, this is Noah.”

He lifted Noah into his arms and waited with baited breath to see everyone’s reactions.

The silence that he was met with was overwhelming. He didn’t dare look up to see the expressions on their faces. Suddenly, he felt a warm hand touch his arm and another at his shoulder. He turned to his right and saw Isabel giving her silent support. He turned to his left where he saw Liz standing by him giving him a smile of encouragement.

It was Maria that had ventured into the silence first.

“He’s your son?”

“Yeah.”

“So that would have made you what? About 15, 16 when you had him?”

Maria elbowed Michael in the gut.

“Geez, Michael, ever heard of the word tact?”

Rubbing his stomach Michael gave Maria a frown.

“As a matter of a fact, I have. I was just curious.”

Seeing the tension around him, Max spoke up.

“It’s ok. Uhm, I was 16 when I had him.”

With his arms crossed, Alex came to stand beside Michael.

“So you have him for the weekend?”

“Not, exactly. I have him forever. He lives with me and my family.”

Joining the round of questions being asked, Kyle asked one of his own.

“What about his mom? Where does she come in all of this?”

Having had enough of the interrogations, Liz started speaking.

“Ok, I think that’s enough you guys. Stop giving Max the third degree.”

As much as Liz loved her friends, the guys were a little tactless at times. She didn’t want Max to feel like he was being ganged up on, and she certainly didn’t want him to feel pressured to tell them anything he didn’t feel comfortable saying.

“It’s ok. She, uh, she’s not around anymore.”

The three guys seemed unhappy with the answer and wanted to continue to ask questions, but Maria stepped in.

“Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I am absolutely famished. Let’s dig in!”

Liz moved towards the counter.

“I’ll get the sodas.”

Handing Noah to Isabel, Max followed Liz.

“Let me help you with that.”

Behind the counter, Liz began filling up the tall glasses.

“You don’t have to help Max.”

Seeming somewhat detached, Max helped her.

“I know. I actually just wanted to say something to you.”

“Oh? What is it Max?”

Looking back at Noah and Isabel, Max shoved his hands in his pockets.

“I think I’m just going to head home. Noah’s had a long day, and, I should just get going.”

Afraid that he would leave, Liz stood in his way.

“Don’t leave!”

Max looked into her pleading eyes and was tempted to give in.

“I wish I could, but I really have to go. I still have to read over my Chem notes-

“Then we can study together.”

Liz blushed at her boldness. She wasn’t usually so pushy, but she didn’t want Max to leave.

“That is, if you want to.”

Smiling at her, he reached for her hand.

“I’d like that. But wouldn’t your friends mind if you just bailed?”

Liz looked towards her friends who were engrossed in eating and chatting up a storm.

“Nah, I think they’ll be fine without us.”

Walking back to the group, Liz and Max grabbed their things.

“Uh, guys, Max and I are going over to his house to study, so we’ll see you guys later.”

Max took Noah from Isabel’s arms and gently shifted him so that his head was resting against his shoulder.

Isabel got up and started getting her stuff together.

“I guess that means me too.”

Max noticed her reluctance to leave. He stopped her.

“You can stay Iz. I’ll just come back and pick you up when you’re ready.”

Shaking her head, Isabel began spouting out protests.

“Max, it’s ok. I’ll just go home now. It’s no big deal.”

Alex stood up from his seat and spoke up.

“I’ll give you a ride, that is, if it’s ok with you.”

Turning to give him a smile, Isabel put her stuff down again.

“I‘d like that. Thank you.”

Isabel sat down and returned Alex’s shy smile.

“Well, we’re gonna get going.”

Liz brushed the hair out of her eyes.

“Liiiizzzzz!”

Noah caught a glimpse of Liz and gave her a little wave.

Smiling back, Liz gave his cheek a soft squeeze before they headed out the door.

The others just watched as the three of them left. The exchange between the three of them had not gone unoticed. They had certainly become chummy in the past week and Liz seemed unsurprised that Max had a son. They were going to need to have a talk with Liz to make sure she didn’t get in too deep and get hurt.

All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 17-Sep-2001 5:21:33 PM
Part 16

***********************

Liz watched with great interest as Max drove. He wasn’t doing anything special, but there was just something about they way he moved. Slow and graceful. She wouldn’t have caught on to the tension in his body, but she observed how quiet he had been since they had left.

“Is everything ok, Max? You’ve been really quiet since we left the Crashdown.”

Max turned his head slightly so that he could see Liz’s face. He saw the concern in her eyes, and it melted his heart.

“Uh, everything’s fine. Just a little overwhelming. You know, school, work, being in a new town. It’s just taking a while to adjust, I guess.”

Liz looked to the back seat and watched as Noah sat back with sleepy eyes. He was fighting the sleep that was threatening to claim him, but like every other child, he refused to give in so easily. Liz reached back and gently rubbed his leg.

“He’s so sweet. It must be amazing to have him around, day in and day out.”

Giving a slight chuckle, Max turned to Liz.

“I don’t think you’d be saying that if you had him 24/7. He isn’t always so, so, he isn’t always so...... sweet. Although he’s good most of the time, there’s always times when, well, when he’s just being a kid.”

They pulled into the Evans’ driveway and got out. Max gently held Noah in his arms while attempting to unlock the front door.

He carried him into his room and placed him inside his crib. He brushed the soft curls from his face and gave him a soft kiss.

“Sleep tight little man. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Max turned on the baby monitor and shut off the light, leaving the door slightly ajar.

He came down the stairs with the hand held monitor in one hand and his book bag in the other. He walked in the living room and came upon Liz sitting silently on the couch, her hands clasped neatly in her lap. She was beautiful and he had a feeling she was unaware of just how beautiful she was.

Clearing his throat, he stepped into the room.

She looked up and smiled.

“Is he asleep?”

“Yeah. He was worn out.”

He placed his things on the coffee table and took a seat beside Liz. He made sure he was close enough that he could he smell her, but far enough away so that she didn’t feel like he was smothering her.

“So, uh, do you want something to drink?”

Liz shook her head, causing her hair to fly around.

“No thanks. I’m fine.”

“Ok, so, about chemistry.....”

“Right, um, how about we go through your notes. I sort of forgot to bring mine.”

Smiling, he dug his stuff out. Liz looked over his shoulder causing her long hair to cascade over his arm. Her hair felt like the softest silk against his skin. It kept him momentarily immobile.

“Well, we’ve already covered chapter one and two. Did you have any trouble with that?”

“No. It was ok.”

Liz tried to think of something to say. In all honesty, she had gone through the text book and her notes already. She had so much as already read up to chapter four, but she wasn’t going to tell him that. Her excuse for coming over was to study, so that’s what she was going to do, even if she already was familiar with the material.

Max stared dumbly at his book. He had already read ahead and studied in the library during lunch, but he had given Liz the excuse that he had to study so that he could leave the Crashdown. He couldn’t tell her that he was lying.

“Um, well it seems like you’ve got everything under control. Maybe I should just go. You must be wanting to go to bed.”

Liz gathered her things. She had decided to leave since Max seemed to be making no effort to study with her.

Max grabbed her purse from her and put it back down.

“Why don’t you stay? I mean, it looks like we’ve got everything under control with chemistry. Why don’t you just stay and hang out with me. Noah’s already asleep, and well, I have nothing to do.”

Max realized that he was sounding a little desperate, and he also didn’t want Liz to think that he was insinuating anything.

“But I could take you back home, if you want.”

Liz sat back down on the couch.

“I’d love to hang out.”

Max sat back down beside her and waited for her to start the conversation.

“So how are you finding everything here in Roswell?”

“Not too bad. Everyone seems nice enough.”

Liz remembered how her friends had acted towards him earlier, and she wanted to reassure him that they were good people. They were just curious. Much like herself, but unlike her, she didn’t want to ask questions. If and when he was ready, he was going to tell her.

“Max, about earlier, with everyone. I’m sorry about how they acted. They were just curious. Sometimes they forget-

“It’s ok Liz. No apologies necessary. I totally understand them wanting to know. I mean if the situations had been reversed, I would want to know too.”

Max watched as Liz nodded with understanding. He saw the questions in her eyes, but he also noted how she kept herself from asking. She was staying to true to her word about giving him his privacy. The funny thing was, he was finding himself wanting to tell her everything. He felt partly guilty for wanting to tell her when he couldn’t even tell his own twin. But there was just something about Liz. Somehow he knew that if he told her, she wouldn’t pass any judgments. She would be his friend and give him the support that he needed.

“But still, I don’t want you to feel like they’re pressuring you. Don’t tell them anything you aren’t comfortable telling them.”

“Thank you Liz. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone quite as wonderful and amazing as you are.”

Max didn’t try to hide the admiration from his voice. That was exactly how he felt and he wanted her to know that.

Blushing, Liz tried to fend of his comments. It was certainly nice to hear them coming from his lips, but she was never really good with compliments.

“Please, I’m just being a friend. I know we haven’t known each other that long, but I want you to be able to come to me if you ever need anything.”

He gave her a smile that expressed everything he was feeling at that moment.

“You have no idea what that means to me. I don’t think I’ve really known what it was like to have a real friend, other than Izzy.”

“How is that possible? You’re such a great guy.”

“Yeah, well once Noah was born, I realized fairly quickly who my real friends were, and it turns out that I had none.”

She placed her hand against his and gave it a gentle squeeze.

“That must have been awful. I can’t even begin to imagine what that must feel like.”

“Well, you learn to deal pretty quick. I mean you realize that there is this little person who depends on you for everything. You end up having to grow up faster than you’d like, but when you hold your baby in your arms and you grasp what it’s like to be them, you finally get it that the whole universe doesn’t revolve around you. That you have responsibilities that you can’t turn your back on. But then you also figure out that you helped create something amazing, and no matter how hard you think everything is, everything is worth it in the end.”

Liz tried to hide the tears in her eyes. She hadn’t fully grasped how hard it was to be a teenage parent, but hearing Max’s words helped her understand. Sure, she wouldn’t ever really understand the magnitude of being a teenage parent, but now she had a clear idea of how hard it really was. It wasn’t just some statistic anymore. It finally hit home for her.

“Noah is lucky to have you for his father.”

Max hadn’t meant to say all of that, but it just came out.

“Thank you. I hope that I make a good father for him. He’s the most important thing in my life and I would do anything to take care of him.”

Hearing his words ignited Liz’s desire to find out about Noah’s mother. If Noah lived with him, did that mean that she was back in California? And why was that the case? Didn’t the babies usually live with the mother? Max had also mentioned that she wasn’t around anymore. What did that mean?

As much as she wanted to give him his privacy and not barge into his personal life, Liz found herself asking him the question that had been plaguing her the moment she had found out that he had a son.

“Can I ask you a question? I mean if you totally think it’s out of line, just say so, and I won’t ask it again.”

Max was interested in what she wanted to ask.

“Sure, ask away. I’ll try and answer you as best as I can.”

Taking a deep breath Liz turned to look into his eyes.

“Where is Noah’s mom?”

There, she had said it. Max could chose to answer her or not.

Max sat back a little stunned. He knew that the question was eventually going to be asked, but he didn’t think that was the question she was going to ask.

Seeing Max’s expression made Liz want to retract her question. It was totally inappropriate of her to ask.

“I’m sorry. You don’t have to answer that. It’s none of my business.”

Max grabbed onto her hand and held it a little tighter.

“No Liz, it’s ok. I mean you were going to find out sooner or later.”

Liz waited for him to speak, but saw him struggling to say whatever it was he was going to say.

“Look, Max, you don’t have to tell me. I understand-

Max cut her off.

“No, I want to tell you. It’s just I haven’t really talked about this, since it happened, and well, I guess I’m just trying to find the right words to say.”

Liz shook her head in understanding.

“Sure, go ahead. Take your time. There’s no rush.”

Max looked towards the hall, and started talking. It was as if he was reliving the moment, like it was happening all over again.

“Noah’s mom, her name, her name was Tess. We knew each other since grade school. Her and Isabel were best friends. We’d hung out as kids, but when we got to junior high, I guess you could say that our feelings for each other developed. She became my girlfriend, but it wasn’t anything serious. We were your run of the mill junior high couple. But when we got to high school, well, things changed. We started getting serious. More serious than I think we were really ready for.”

Liz listened as he remembered what was happened. She grasped his hand tighter and let him continue.

“We, uh, we started having sex when we were 16. I know we weren’t ready, but we did it anyway. We had only done it a few times, then we realized that she was pregnant. We were so scared to tell our parents. I mean, we didn’t know what were going to do. We were sixteen. We could barely take care of ourselves. How were we supposed to take care of a baby? We both decided to tell Isabel first. I mean, I guess she took it pretty well, I mean as well as anyone could.”

Max took a deep breath before continuing.

“I remember when we told our parents. They were absolutely furious. They forbid us to see each other. Each parent blaming the other. My parents were saying that Tess tried to trap me and her parents were saying that I pressured her. It was awful.”

“Her parents took her out of school and refused to let me see her. I snuck out to see her every opportunity that I could. But it was never really enough. Her parents finally let me see her when she was having the baby. She was calling for me. She was so scared. She kept saying something didn’t feel right, like she knew something bad was going to happen. I kept trying to reassure her that everything was going to be ok. But deep in my heart, I felt her fear, because I felt it too.”

“They delivered Noah and they let me hold him. I turned to show him to Tess, but the doctor and nurses had already surrounded her. They were yelling all of this medical jargon that I didn’t understand and before I knew it, they had thrown me out of the room.”

“Later, the doctor came out and talked to her parents. Tess’ mom was hysterical, her dad burst into tears. I had no idea what was going on. Eventually, the doctor came to me, speaking in that sympathetic tone that all doctors use, saying that she didn’t make it. He tried to explain the cause, but my mind couldn’t get past the words that she didn’t make it. At that point, the only thing I could think about was she didn’t even get to see our son. She would never get to hold him, or, or........”

Max broke down into tears. It was the first time that he had told anyone what had really happened and it hit him like a ton of bricks.

Liz pulled Max into a fierce hug. She could feel her own tears slide down her cheeks. She had no idea that Max had gone through all of that. She felt him bury his face in her neck and pull her closer. She had a hard time breathing, but she didn’t care. She was going to hold Max for however long he needed her. She only hoped that her arms could bring him some sort of peace.



Part 17

******************

Isabel sat and watched as the four friends exchanged jokes and stories. As much as she had wanted to stay, right now, she was feeling alone. It wasn’t anyone’s fault really. She just somehow felt out of place with all of the inside jokes and talk of things she knew nothing about. And on top of everything else, she felt a little uneasy about what had happened a little while ago.

Max’s revalation of being a teenage father surprised everyone. She was glad that he had been honest, but at the same time she knew how hard it was for him to put himself out there like that. She had felt the uncomfortable tension in the room and she knew that’s why he had decided to leave. It was better that way, she guessed. One step at a time. At least Liz had gone with him. She hoped that he would eventually open up to Liz, if he couldn’t do so with her.

Isabel was slowly broken from her thoughts with a soft tapping on her shoulder.

“Everything ok? We aren’t boring you to death are we?”

Isabel turned to the four sets of eyes that were watching her with concern.

“Yeah. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to space out on you guys.”

Giving her a warm smile, Maria reached over and gave her hand a soft pat.

“It’s ok. I know how overwhelming things must seem for you. A new school, new friends, it’s a hard adjustment for anybody.”

Isabel faked a yawn and stretched her arms.

“I’m sorry you guys, but I think I’m going to just gonna go home. I’m beat.”

She stood up and gathered her things. Alex tried not to trip over himself in his haste to get to Isabel.

“Ready when you are.”

Isabel smiled as she took in Alex’s appearance. He was tall, and certainly handsome. And he seemed like a great guy. She linked her arm with his and waved to everyone.

“I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”

A chorus of goodbyes were said as Alex and Isabel made their way outside.

Once inside the car, Isabel turned so that she could look at Alex.

“You know, you don’t have to do this.”

He stopped tugging at his seatbelt long enough so that he could speak to her.

“Do what?”

Isabel began softly brushing away the invisible wrinkles on her shirt.

“You know, take me home. I could just call Max and have him pick me up. It’s no big deal.”

Alex leaned forward and lifted her chin.

“Look, it’s no problem. In fact, it’s my pleasure. Besides, I think your brother has enough on his plate right now.”

She gave him a smile and they were on their way.

******************

“Does it bother you?”

Alex stopped at a light and watched Isabel carefully.

“Does what bother me?”

“My brother.”

“What about your brother?”

Isabel finally looked up into his eyes.

“Does, it bother you that he’s a father?”

The light turned green and Alex turned. He stopped the car by the local park. He turned so he could talk to Isabel properly.

“To be honest with you, I don’t really know. I don’t really know your brother.”

“Are you sure?”

Alex tried to find the words to express what he was thinking. It wasn’t so much that Max was a teenaged father that bothered him too much. What bothered him was that he and Liz seemed to be attracted to one another and he was worried about Liz’s welfare. How was all of this going to play out? Where was the baby’s mother? All he knew was he didn’t want Liz to experience any unnecessary heartache. Regardless of who Max was, that was his main concern.

“I don’t really know.”

Isabel sat up and watched the various emotions pass through Alex’s face.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I saw the way your brother and Liz acted around each other. And honestly, I don’t know how to react to that.”

“Why?”

Alex reached forward and held Isabel’s hand in his own. He wanted her to feel reassured that he wasn’t out to pick a fight with Max, but he just wanted to get a few things straight.

“Liz has been my best friend since I can remember. And I know for a fact that she is falling for your brother. I just don’t want her to get hurt when Noah’s mom comes back into the picture.”

Isabel felt the warm tears slowly fall down her cheeks.

“Well, you don’t have to worry about that happening.”

Alex watched Isabel cry. He ached to hold her in his arms and take away all of her pain.

“Why?”

Isabel practically choked on the words. She never realized how much it still hurt to just say it.

“Because, because Noah’s mom, she uh, she’s........... she passed away a little over a year ago.”

Alex felt like kicking himself in the gut. Here he was worried about Liz being caught in a stupid love triangle when it turns out, things were a lot more serious than he could have ever imagined.

He leaned over in his seat and pulled Isabel in a hug. He felt the tremors wrack her body. He held her a little tighter and softy combed his fingers through her hair.

“I’m sorry, I had no idea.”

He continued to hold her and waited till she was ok. For once in his life, he was in no rush.



Part 18

************************

After everyone had left the Crashdown, Michael, Maria and Kyle went about closing the place down.

“So, what do you guys think about the whole Max situation?”

Maria studied Kyle carefully before answering.

“Frankly, I don’t care one way or another. I mean just as long as he’s not leading Liz on, them I‘m fine with it.”

Michael stopped stacking the chairs up on the tables.

“Me too. I mean I think it was pretty cool of him to tell us straight out, you know? At least he didn’t pull that he’s my baby brother crap on us.”

Kyle leaned his head against the wall and took a deep breath.

“Good. I thought I was the only one. You know, come to think of it, I feel kinda of bad with the way we reacted. I mean he probably thought we were ganging up on him.”

Michael caught Kyle’s eye.

“You too?”

Maria looked at them and wiped her palms against the front of her jeans.

“Look, we all reacted a little immature. We just have to find a way to make him realize that we want to be his friend regardless. I mean I have no idea how he must feel right now after the way we acted, asking all of those questions........”

Michael walked up to Maria and wrapped his arms around her. He placed a soft kiss on her head.

“Yeah, we’ll have to work on that.”

*****************

It had been a while before Max finally realized where he was. His head was buried in Liz’s neck. His tears had soaked through her shirt, and it appeared as if he was holding on to her for dear life. He took a few more moments before gently disentangling himself from her warm embrace.

Without her warm arms holding him, he suddenly felt cold. He would have felt alone had he not looked into her eyes. Her eyes held so much compassion for him that it blew him away. There was no pity there, just pure unadultared love. He wasn’t up to denying what he saw right now. All he wanted to do was find a way to thank her for being there for him. For not casting any judgments, for just being there to listen.

He brushed away the tears that still continued to fall.

“Thank you Liz.”

Liz gave him a warm smile before running her fingers along the contours of his face. She helped wipe away the tears that adorned his handsome face.

“You don’t have to thank me Max. I meant what I said before. I want you to be able to come to me for anything. I mean anything.”

He looked at her face and noticed the tear tracks on her face. Had she been crying too?

With his thumb, he delicately traced her cheekbone, lingering a little longer than necessary beside her lips.

“I still want to thank you. For being here for me, for listening. You know, you’re the first person I’ve ever really told the whole story to. Until now, I can’t say I’ve ever felt comfortable telling anyone.”

Liz felt her heart beating faster against her chest. She was the first one he talked to about this? She didn’t really know how to react. A part of her felt special that he had opened up to her, but the other part felt terrible that he even had to deal with any of this at all.

She opened her mouth to speak when Noah’s crying came through the baby monitor.

They both turned to look at it.

“You should go get him.”

Max reluctantly stood up from his spot on the coach and headed up the stairs. He stopped by the foot of the stairs to take another long look at Liz.

How was he going to thank her, he had no idea. He just hoped that he could repay her being a wonderful friend.

**************

After Isabel had quieted down, she pulled away from Alex’s embrace.

Embarrassed, she tried unsuccessfully to wipe away the wetness from his shirt.

“I’m so sorry. I don’t, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

Alex took a hold of her hands and realized that they were trembling.

“Isabel, it’s ok.”

She shook her head and fought to free her hands from his grasp.

“No, no it isn’t.”

He gently tugged on her hands to get her to look up at him.

“Isabel, it’s ok. Really. Look, I want you to know, that you can come to me, you know, if you ever need anyone to talk to, about anything. I know we’ve only known each other for a week, but I really want us to be friends. Really good friends.”

Isabel smiled at his genuine attempt of becoming friends with her. Alex Whitman was one hell of a guy. He hardly knew her and he was there for her. He had already proved that he was a really loyal friend. She didn’t know what she did to have him in her life, but she was glad to have him.

“Thank you.”

He gave her a smile that made her toes tingle.

“Not another word miss Evans. I refuse to hear anything of the sort.”

He grinned when Isabel gave a soft laugh.

“Now that’s what I like to hear. Where to now miss Evans?”

She gave his hand a squeeze and returned his grin.

“I don’t know Mr. Whitman. Suddenly, I’m not really in the mood to go home just yet.”

Giving her another dashing smile, Alex put the car in gear and set of down the street.



Part 19

*********************

Max carried Noah down the stairs. He had calmed down when Max had picked him up and rocked him in his arms.

Liz looked up when the two of them came down. A smile claimed her lips as she saw the two of them together. She didn’t think that anything could be sweeter than seeing the two of them together. She would never get tired at the sight of them.

“Hey Noah.”

Liz walked towards the two of them. She stood beside Max and gently stroked his cheek.

“Is everything ok?”

Max turned his head so he could look directly at Liz.

“Yeah, everything’s fine. Isn’t that right little man?”

Max turned to his son and cooed his question as he began to rock him.

Noah looked at Liz and gave her a little smile. He turned his head to face Max before tiredly rubbing his tiny fist across his sleep filled eyes.

The three of them sat on the couch.

“God he’s beautiful. He must have had a beautiful mother.”

Max found himself smiling as he remembered.

“Yeah, she was.”

He found himself feeling a little less scared talking about Tess. Granted he wasn’t ready to share his story with the whole world just yet, he felt a little at ease at being able to open up to Liz. She had let him talk and he felt better because of it. Maybe in time, by continuing to talk about it, the pain would subside a little.

********************

Alex pulled onto the rough terrain of the desert road.

Isabel’s curiosity was definitely piqued.

“Where are we going?”

Alex turned his head slightly and gave her a smile.

“That’s for me to know, and for you to find out.”

Isabel gave him a mock glare before she burst out laughing.

Hearing the soft sounds of her laughter warmed Alex’s heart. It made him feel good knowing that he had caused that reaction from her. It had hurt him when she had cried on his shoulder earlier. He knew there was a little more to Max’s situation that she had not yet revealed. He had a feeling that she wasn’t ready to talk about it just yet. But he knew that when she was, he would be at her side.

The truth of the matter was, Alex was absolutely frightened beyond belief. Isabel Evans wasn’t just any regular teenage girl. She was a goddess. He had been drawn to her the moment he had laid eyes on her. It wasn’t the fact that she was beautiful, not that that facet didn’t help. No, what had sealed the deal was when she had graced him with that beautiful smile of hers. She had him hook, line, and sinker then.

What had stunned him the most was the fact that she was nice to him. Most of the popular girls at school would laugh at his attempts of making any sort of conversation with them. With Isabel, it was different. She had treated him like he was a real person, with real feelings. She had listened to his incessant babbling and actually seemed like she enjoyed herself. And to top it all of, she was real. She wasn’t being fake.

Another thing that startled him was the vulnerability he saw in her. It was as if she hadn’t realized how beautiful she was, or how wonderful of a person she was. It wasn’t that she was insecure, more like she was afraid of showing her true self to most people.

He wished that eventually that they would become close enough that she would trust him like Maria and Liz did. For the most part he didn’t care if this turned into a romantic relationship. He would be content to just be her friend.

He came to a halt by a few rock formations. He gave Isabel a grin, his eyes twinkling. He went around to the other side of the car and opened her door. He reached out for her hand and lead her outside.

“Alex, not that I don’t trust you, because I do. But what are we doing out here in the middle of the desert?”

He linked her arm through his as he lead her to the rocks nearby.

“Ah, patience my dear.”

He sat down on a rock and helped Isabel ease down beside him.

“Wh-

He cut her off, by putting his index finger against her lips.

“Shhh. Just look.”

He pointed to the sky above them.

The sky was pitch black and it glistened with the stars.

Isabel let out a gasp as she looked up at the stars. She had never seen anything that beautiful before. She was afraid that if she spoke too loud, that it would somehow ruin the atmosphere.

“Wow, Alex, this is, this is absolutely gorgeous.”

She turned towards him.

“How do you know about this place?”

He shoved his hands in his pockets.

“When we were kids, our parents would take us camping out here. Liz’s dad saw me staring at the stars and he pointed out the various constellations to me. I guess that’s what sparked my interest in star gazing.”

Alex hung his head down. He felt stupid saying all of that out loud. She probably thought he was a geek.

Isabel placed her long delicate fingers under his chin and gently lifted it up so that she could look into his eyes.

“I think that’s so cool. I’ve never been star gazing before.”

Alex gave her a quizzical look.

“You haven’t?”

Isabel shook her head.

“Nope. Could you do me the honor of showing me a few constellations?”

Alex’s smile grew wider as his head bobbed in agreement. His smile elicited a smile from Isabel as she once again linked her arm through his and laid her head against his shoulder.

“Well, you see right there, well, that’s Orion’s belt.............”

********************

Maria and Michael sat in his pick up in front of her house.

“So what do you really think?”

Michael cocked his head before answering Maria.

“What do I really think about what?”

Maria gave an exaggerated role of her eyes.

“About Max, I mean you and Kyle seemed ready to send him to the lynch mob when he first admitted that he was a father, then a couple of hours later you’re just ready to forgive and forget.”

Michael placed his hands on the steering wheel and gripped it.

“I don’t know, I mean I’m just thinking maybe we should cut him some slack.”

Maria turned her head on an angle so she could take a better look at his face.

“I don’t know Michael, somehow I’m not buying the whole let’s just him some slack. When have you ever been the one to give someone slack?”

Michael ran a frustrated hand through his hair.

“Yeah, well I have the right to change my mind don’t I?”

Maria placed a hand on his shoulder and felt the tension in his body.

“Relax, I was just asking. You have every right to change your mind. I was just curious.”

Michael closed his eyes and fought to remain calm.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. It’s just, I mean I got to thinking, what if we were in that position Maria? I mean what if I had gotten you pregnant and we had a child? I mean I know we haven’t crossed that boundary yet, but what if? I sure as hell know that I wouldn’t want people to think I was somewhat of a lesser being just because I loved you, and it resulted into consequences we have to deal with for the rest of our lives.”

Maria was taken back by Michael’s response. Somehow that was the last thing she thought he would be thinking about.

“You really thought about that stuff?”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“Yeah, I mean I do. I’m feeling bad for Max. I know that if the roles had been reversed, I would have lost it when people asked their questions. I don’t think I could have kept my cool like he did. And the fact that he was honest with us, I mean you’re the one always saying that honesty counts for a lot. Don’t you think we should give him a chance?”

Maria leaned across her seat and pulled Michael into a hug.

“You’re absolutely right.”

************

Max and Liz had been silent for the most part save the few giggles that escaped them as they played with Noah.

The three of them were sprawled across the plush carpet of the living room floor. Max was lying on his stomach watching as Noah enthusiastically piled his toy blocks on top of one another. Liz sat with her legs crossed as she helped Noah build a tower of blocks.

Noah held a toy block in a chubby fist and placed it on top of the growing tower. The three of them watched with baited breath as the tower swayed side to side. A second later, the tower of blocks settled down.

Max and Liz both released the breaths that they had been holding in. Just then, Noah’s little fist came into contact with the tower, effectively knocking it over. His childish laughter filled the air as he clapped his little hands together.

With their jaws hanging down, Max and Liz looked at each other before turning their attention on Noah. Max turned onto his back and placed Noah in his chest as he started tickling his son.

“You think that’s funny little man? You think that was funny?”

Laughter filled the air as Max continued to tickle Noah. Max turned his head and noticed how Liz just sat to the side laughing at the two of them.

Suddenly, a mischievous glint passed through Max’s eyes as he settled Noah back on the carpet. With the speed of lightning, Max had tackled Liz and her pinned down. He turned his head towards Noah.

“Hey buddy, you think it’s time for Liz to get some tickling?”

Noah just rocked back and forth on his bottom, clapping his hands.

“Liiiiizzzzzzzz!!!”

Max turned back to Liz with a devilish grin.

Liz immediately shook her head and began to protest.

“Max, no. Come on Max.”

His skilled fingers ran up and down her sides trying to find her ticklish spot. Apparently, he didn’t have to try too hard for Liz seemed to be ticklish everywhere. His smile grew wider as he realized how much power he had over her. He was merciless, tickling her everywhere, barely giving her time to catch her breath.

“Max.........please, stop, Max!”

As much as Liz protested, she didn’t want to relinquish the position she was in. This moment was definitely a moment that was forever going to be etched into her memory.

*************

Outside the Evans’ house, Isabel and Alex sat in his VW rabbit.

Isabel began fidgeting with her fingers.

“I had a really great time tonight Alex. Thank you.”

He waved his hand in an effort to ward off her comments.

“It was nothing.”

Isabel finally looked up at him.

“Will you take me star gazing again?”

“Sure, whenever you want. Alex Charles Whitman at your service.”

Isabel gave him another shy smile.

“I should go inside.”

“Right. Well when you get in there, send Parker out here. I’ll give her a ride home.”

“Ok.”

Isabel opened the car door, but turned abruptly. She leaned over and gave Alex a soft peck on his cheek.

“Thank you, Alex.”

With that she ran to the house, leaving a stunned Alex with a goofy grin on his lips.

**********

Isabel’s keys jingled in the lock before finally opening the door.

The sight that met her eyes stopped her dead in her tracks.

Max was laying on the carpet with Noah on his chest laughing while Liz tickled him on the sides. Max tried to contain his laughter long enough to yell out his protestations for them to stop.

Isabel felt a smile claim her lips seeing the three of them being happy in each other’s company. It was beautiful.

She hated to rain on their fun, but Alex was waiting outside.

She cleared her throat.

Max and Liz looked up to see who it was. The two of them sprang apart and stood up. Liz tugged on her clothing and tried to look presentable. She didn’t want Isabel to get the wrong idea.

“Isabel-

Isabel gave her a smile.

“Alex is outside waiting to give you a ride home.”

Liz nodded her head.

“Right.”

She picked up her purse and nervously tucked her hair behind her ears.

“Thanks. Well, I should get going.”

She walked past Max who gently placed his hand on her shoulder.

“Thanks for all of your help in chemistry. I appreciate it.”

Liz turned and gave him a smile.

“Anytime.”

She leaned forward and gave Noah a soft kiss on his soft cheeks.

“Bye bye Noah!”

His head was perched against Max’s shoulder. He gave her a small wave before burying his face into Max’s neck.

Liz gave a soft chuckle and walked to the door. She gave Isabel a hesitant smile who in return gave her a smile that spoke volumes of thanks.

“I’ll see you tomorrow Liz.”

“Right, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

With a small wave, Liz was out the door, leaving Max and Isabel with Noah.



Part 20

*********************

Saturday morning at the Evans home was absolute chaos. Isabel was running around the house trying to get ready, as was Max.

Max ran into the kitchen attempting to put on his vest while carrying Noah in the other.

“Look, Iz, I won’t be home till after four. Brody might ask me to stay till closing so I may not be home till after seven.”

Isabel stood, holding her hands up.

“Wait a minute, I can’t baby sit today Max. I have to go to work. I’m working the early shift today and Mr. Parker asked me to work the lunch hour as well.”

“Can’t you like call in sick?”

“Max, I can’t do that. I’ve only been on the job for a week. Besides, Mr. Parker just saw me yesterday, there’s no he’s going to believe I’m sick.”

“Damn!”

Max threw his hnds up in frustration. He had completely forgotten that his parents were away for the weekend and that Isabel had a life of her own. What was he supposed to do now?

Isabel placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Can’t you call in sick? Or at least ask Brody for the day off?”

Max sighed loudly.

“I can’t do that. I already had to promise Brody I wouldn’t take any sick days just so he would give me the job. And besides, I need to work the hours. I have bills to pay. I can’t just keep hitting mom and dad up for the money. It’s wrong.”

Isabel looked thoughtful for a moment.

“Hey, why don’t you ask Liz to baby sit? She has the day off. I’m sure she won’t mind. I mean she and Noah seem to get along ok.”

Max looked up at her, contemplating her suggestion. No! He couldn’t ask her to do that. They were just at the beginning of their friendship, he didn’t want to dump all of his problems on her.

“No, I can’t ask her to do that. It’s way too big of a favor to ask when you’re just getting to know someone.”

“Come on Max, when are you gonna find a baby sitter at this hour?”

Max weighed his options and felt like pounding against the wall. If he were to call in sick, he was risking losing his job and the just above minimum wage salary he was getting. If he were to call Liz, she might think that he was just out to use her.

What choice did he have?

“Fine, give me her number.”

With a little smile, Isabel dialed the number before handing the phone to Max.

Max waited nervously as he waited for someone to pick on the other line. His palms were once again sweaty and his heart was beating a million miles a minute. Geez, what the heck was wrong with him? He was just calling her on the phone, how was he going to react when she was face to face with him? His thoughts were interrupted by someone answering the phone.

“Hello?”

“Uh, hi, I was wondering if it would be possible if I could speak with Liz?”

Liz smiled on the other end of the line. She wondered who it was on the other end of the line. None of her friends ever asked that nicely.

“This is Liz. Who’s this?”

Max cleared his throat a few times.

“Uh, Liz, this is Max.”

Liz felt her stomach fluttering. Max was on the phone wanting to speak to her. She resisted the urge to jump around and scream. Instead, she opted to twirl the phone cord around her finger. Trying her best to sound casual, Liz began speaking.

“Oh, hey Max. What’s up?”

Max shuffled his feet and looked at his son. He felt guilty for asking her this humongous favor, but what other choice did he have?

“Look, I know I shouldn’t ask you this, and you don’t have to feel like you have to say yes.”

Liz became curious. What did he want to ask her?

“What is it Max?”

Heaving a heavy sigh, Max started speaking.

“I have to ask you for a big favor, and I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t really need it.”

“It’s ok Max. Just tell me what it is.”

“I was wondering if you could baby sit Noah today while I’m at work. My mom was going to, but she and my dad are in Carlsbad for the weekend, and Isabel has work, and well, I can’t get a sitter this late, and-

Liz cut him off with a little laugh.

“I’ll do it Max.”

Max set off to tell her some other things, but her voice stopped him.

“What?”

“I’ll be over in like ten minutes ok?”

With that, Liz hung up the phone.

Max stood there in the kitchen looking dumbly at the phone in his hand.

“Well? What did she say?”

Max looked up.

“She said she would be here in ten minutes.”

Isabel gave him a pat on the shoulder.

“See, what did I tell you?”

She leaned over and tweaked Noah’s nose.

“You are just going to have so much fun with Liz today. Aren’t you Noah?”

Noah gave her hand a gentle swat.

“Lizzzzz!”

Isabel’s eyes flew up at Max.

“Did he just say what I think he just said?”

Before Max could answer, Noah jumped up and down in his arms.

“Lizzzzzz!”




All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 17-Sep-2001 5:26:03 PM
Part 21

********************

Max tried hard to keep Noah still in his arms.

“Max, when did he learn to say that?”

Max busied himself with putting Noah in his chair.

“Max? Did you hear me? When did he learn how to say Liz?”

Max went to the fridge to start making Noah’s breakfast.

“Uh, yesterday.”

Max tried to play it off like it was no big deal, but if he knew his sister at all, she wasn’t buying it.

“Ok, so, he speaks his first word and you just forgot to mention it to me. To me Max. His Aunt.”

Max looked at anywhere but her. He didn’t want to get into this right now. His nerves were already shot thinking about Liz arriving any second now. He walked past Isabel towards the cabinet that held their plates. Looking up at the glass, he noticed his reflection in it. He couldn’t help but smooth down his hair and attempt to look a little better.

Isabel stood by Noah and watched her brother check his reflection in the glass. She kept herself in check, not wanting to laugh out loud. She didn’t want to embarrass him, but he just looked so darn adorable. She was glad she had given him the idea to call Liz. If last night was an indication of what the future had in store for Max, Liz, and Noah, then she couldn’t wait for their relationships to blossom. Seeing the three of them together was absolutely enchanting.

The shrill ring of the doorbell surprised Max and Isabel.

Max turned to Isabel with a worried glance. Somehow, he couldn’t make his feet move. He looked to Isabel with pleading eyes to help him.

Isabel just shook her head and pulled him towards the door.

Outside stood Liz wearing a bright smile on her face.

“Hi Liz!”

“Hey Isabel. Max.”

Isabel turned to her brother and gave him a little nudge. When he just stood there, Isabel rolled her eyes. She turned back to Liz and gave her a grin.

“Nice seeing you Liz. I’m just going to wait in the jeep.”

Isabel squeezed through the door, past Liz to the driveway.

Max bit back a curse as Isabel made her way out. He didn’t know why he was acting the way he was. He and Liz had talked last night and he had shared his inner most feelings with her. And now he was finding it hard to look into her eyes. What the heck was wrong with him? He hadn’t felt awkward last night when he had tackled her and tickled her.......STOP! He mentally shouted at himself. He couldn’t start thinking about that now. He tried to think of something to say. Anything at all.

It was then that he noticed that she was still standing outside.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Please, come in.”

Liz gave him a smile as she entered.

“Thanks. So where’s Noah?”

Max lead her into the kitchen.

As soon as Liz’s eyes landed on him, she ran to him and kneeled down in front of him so that they could see each other.

“Hey, Noah. Ready to have some fun today?”

Noah smiled and clapped his hands.

“Lizzzz!”

Liz looked up at Max, giving him a heartfelt smile.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing him say that.”

Max found himself laughing a little.

“Yeah, well try having him say it all night long, while you’re trying to sleep.”

Liz’s smile fell from her face.

“I’m sorry Max, I didn’t-

Max gently took her hand in his.

“It was a joke Liz. I was only kidding. It was actually kind of nice hearing him say your name over and over again. But I’ll be glad when he can tone it down and just say Liz, instead of Lizzzzz!”

Liz found herself laughing along with him.

“I really am sorry Max. I don’t even know why he chose my name as his first word.”

Max gave her a half smile.

“I think it’s cos he likes you. And I have to say that he couldn’t have chosen a better first word to say.”

Liz could feel herself melting into a Liz puddle.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Their gazes faltered when they heard Noah banging his plastic spoon against the little tray attached to his chair.

Max turned to his son with a wry smile.

“Looks like the boss is hungry.”

Max went to get the rest of Noah’s breakfast ready.

“Ok, um his food is in the fridge. He has a few bottles in there that should last for the day. He usually takes a nap at 11, all of his toys are in my room. Just go on ahead and make yourself at home. Eat anything you want, uh, if he gives you any trouble, my pager number is on the fridge. I’ll call later to check on him. Uh, -

Liz placed her hand on his shoulder.

“Max, it’s ok. I have baby sat before. I’m sure I can handle it.”

Max gave a nod of his head.

“Right.”

He walked to Noah and gave him a kiss on the crown of his head.

“You be good little man. Be nice to Liz!”

He gave his son’s cheek a soft squeeze before turning his attention back to Liz.

“Are you sure you’re going to be alright?”

Liz playfully shoved him to the front door.

“Yes, now get to work!”

With a smile Max gave her a wave and went out through the door.

“Bye, Noah! Daddy loves you!”

Liz watched from the door as Isabel and Max drove away.

She made her way back into the kitchen and pulled a seat up in front of Noah so she could feed him.

“Well, Noah, it looks like it’s just the two of us now.”



Part 22

********************

After feeding Noah his breakfast, Liz washed the dishes and tidied up the kitchen. She sat in her seat in front of Noah and started talking.

“So, what do want to do? Do you want to play with some toys?”

When Noah just smiled at her, she picked him up and carried him up the stairs.

“Playing with toys, it is then.”

She halted in front of Max’s room, just standing outside the door. Max had told her to make herself feel at home, but somehow she felt like she was intruding. She looked at Noah in her arms and just shrugged her shoulders.

Even if she felt like she was intruding, there wasn’t anything she could do about it. Most of Noah’s things were in there.

She pushed the door open and looked around.

The room was slightly untidy, which was understandable, but it was still pretty neat for a teenage guy who had a baby living with him.

Liz put Noah in his play pen.

“So, what do you want to play with?”

Liz looked around to the various toys around the room. She picked up a stuffed toy and one of those toys that made music when you touched certain buttons. She held them out in front of Noah.

“How about these? You wanna play with these?”

Just then the phone rang. Liz placed the toys beside Noah and picked up the phone.

“Evans residence.”

“Liz?”

Liz couldn’t keep the smile from her lips.

“Max?”

“Uh, yeah. I was just calling to see how you were doing. You know, making sure that you and Noah were ok.”

Liz fought the keep her giggles from escaping.

“Well, considering it’s only been about a half hour since you left, I think we’re ok.”

Max felt himself blush on the other line. He felt like an idiot calling to check up on her, but he couldn’t help himself. He would have called the minute he got to work, but he had to clock in and when Brody caught sight of him, he had put him to work on one of the displays. He had sneaked away for a few minutes to check on how things were going on at home.

He knew that Liz and Noah were probably having a good time. They seemed so comfortable with each other. He just wished that he could be there himself to witness the two of them together.

“Well, uh, ok. I just wanted to check in. I’ll call again later and speak to Noah on my break.”

Liz smiled against the phone.

“Ok, I think he’d like that.”

Max was about to say something when he heard Brody yelling for him.

“Look, I gotta go. Tell Noah I love him.”

Max hung up the phone and ran towards Brody. He had no idea how he was going to concentrate at work, knowing that he would rather be home right now.

**********

Liz shook her head and put the phone back down.

She leaned down to see Noah pressing all of the little buttons on one of the toys and burst out laughing when a different sound would come out.

Liz picked him up and sat him on the floor. She sat beside him and started playing with him.

She couldn’t help but admire his childish innocence, and the way he easily amused with things.

“Well, Noah, you’re daddy just called and said he loves you.”

Noah looked up at Liz.

“Lizzzzz!”

Liz just laughed and leaned forward. He held out one of the stuffed toys for her so the two of them could play together.

“Ok, I guess I get to be Tigger, and you’re Pooh bear.”

Liz tried to change her voice to make it sound like Tigger’s.

“Hiya, there Pooh.”

Noah giggled and the two of them set out to play.

***************

Just as Max had said, Noah would be ready to take his nap at 11. Liz had tried to put him in his crib, but he kicked and fussed. She had seen the way his little head would fall forward from sleep trying to claim him, but he still refused to take a nap.

Liz had decided to play along and picked him out of his crib.

“I’m sorry, Noah. I guess you relly aren’t tired.”

She sat on the bed and held him in her lap.

“So, since you’re not sleepy, what do you suggest we do?”

Noah rubbed at his eyes and tiredly leaned his head against Liz’s shoulder.

Liz gave him a soft kiss on his head.

“Ok, how about I sing you a little song? Would you like that Noah?”

Liz looked to the baby in her arms. He had his head cradled in one hand against her shoulder and he proceeded to suck the thumb on his other hand. Liz felt the tears behind her eyes. Noah was just the most precious thing she had ever laid eyes on. She quickly thought of a song she could sing to him.

“Hush, little baby, don't say a word,
Mama's going to buy you a mockingbird.

And if that mockingbird don't sing,
Mama's going to buy you a diamond ring.

And if that diamond ring turns brass,
Mama's going to buy you a looking glass.

And if that looking glass gets broke,
Mama's going to buy you a billy goat.

And if that billy goat won't pull,
Mama's going to buy you a cart and bull.

And if that cart and bull turn over,
Mama's going to buy you a dog named Rover.

And if that dog named Rover won't bark,
Mama's going to buy you a horse and cart.

And if that horse and cart fall down,
You'll still be the sweetest little baby in town.”

As Liz finished the song, she looked down at Noah. His breathing had evened out, indicating that he had fallen asleep.

Liz gently stood up, trying her best not to wake him. She placed him in his crib and turned on the baby monitor. She ran her finger down his cheek before giving him a kiss.

“Sleep tight precious.”

Just as she stood back up, the phone rang. She ran to get it, hoping it wouldn’t wake Noah after he had just fallen asleep.

Somewhat out of breath, Liz spoke into the phone.

“Hello?”

Max felt his heart rate rise at the sound of Liz’s voice.

“What’s the matter Liz? Is everything ok?”

Liz gave a little laugh.

“Everything’s fine Max. I had just put Noah to sleep and I ran to get the phone so he wouldn’t wake up.”

Max felt a little stupid for worrying. He should’ve known that Noah was going to be safe with Liz. He just couldn’t stop himself from worrying too much.

“So I guess, asking to speak with him would be out of the question.”

“Yeah, sorry about that.”

“It’s not your fault. Uh, Liz?”

“Yeah, Max?”

“I just, I just wanted to say thank you for doing this.”

“You don’t need to thank me. I’m just glad I found an excuse to spend the day with Noah. He is the most amazing little boy. He’s just so alert.”

Max found himself laughing at the image of his son showing off to Liz. Noah had been known to show off a little when other people were around. He would smile and play, and do all sorts of little things to get people’s attention. Max wished he could have been there to see it.

“Yeah, he is pretty clever.”

Max looked down at his watch and saw that his break was about to be over in a little while.

“Uh, I should go. My break is over and I was just calling to see how everything was going.”

Liz smiled against the phone.

“Well, I’m glad you called.”

“Me too. I’ll see you later Liz.”

“Bye, Max.”

Liz hung up the phone and looked around the room. She picked up the baby monitor and took it down stairs with her. She sat in front of the tv and flipped the channels.

Liz flipped through every single channel, but couldn’t find anything appealing. She decided to turn it onto the TV Guide channel, hoping to catch what was coming up next.

After sitting for five minutes, waiting for the shows to scroll down the tv, Liz sighed in disgust. Somehow, watching tv seemed so boring after spending the whole morning with Noah. Their whole time together, they had not been idle. Noah was constantly wanting to play and share his toys with her. He had even just sat down with her and told her stories.

Ok, so maybe she was stretching that a little far. He had sat down on her lap and talked nonsense. He wasn’t really using real words, but Liz still enjoyed his company, just the same.

Liz tried to figure out what to do. She looked up and saw that the mantle over the fireplace was decorated with pictures of the family.

Curious, she walked over to get a better look. There were five pictures all together. There was a picture of Max and Isabel with their parents. She could definitely see where they got their looks from. The picture looked a couple of years old, but it still looked adorable. It was one of those family portraits you get done at the mall. The picture beside it, was from the same time, only this time, it was just Max and Isabel. The middle picture was a baby picture of Noah. It looked as if it had been taken a few weeks after his birth. The one beside it was a picture of Max and Noah. It was another studio photo with Max holding Noah in his arms. The difference in this picture was obvious. The smile that twinkled in Max’s eyes in the previous pictures were gone. He wasn’t even smiling. He seemed stiff, and standoff-ish. She had never really seen him like that before, and she hoped she never would. She moved on to the last picture which seemed to be newer than the rest of them. It was a picture of the Evans family with Noah. Every single one of them looked so happy. Liz wondered what had changed that.

Noah’s soft cry came in through the monitor.

Liz walked back up the stairs.

Once, inside, she leaned over Noah’s crib and gently rocked him and forth.

“It’s ok, baby. I’m here.”



Part 23

******************

Liz glanced at the clock that hang above the kitchen window. It was just a little after four. Liz found herself wondering where Max was. He had said that he would be home a little after four. Well, it was a little after four and he still wasn’t back. Liz chided herself for sounding so desperate. If she knew Brody at all, he would have kept Max back to work some overtime for the museum. She had heard that he bought some new equipment this past month, he was probably getting Max to help him with it.

The sound of the microwave alerted Liz to what she was heating up. She pulled the little door open and took out the bottle of milk. She dropped some of it onto her arm to feel the temperature.

Not bad.

She wiped her arm and took it upstairs to Max’s room, where Noah was laying down in his crib.

************

After he had woken from his nap, it had taken Liz a little while to calm him down. Apparently, Noah seemed to want Max when he woke up. Liz had tried different ways to try and calm him down, but nothing seemed to work. It wasn’t that Noah was hysterical, he was just a little upset. Liz could hear him whimpering and hiccupping against her chest. For a while she was tempted to call Max, but she didn’t want him to think she was completely incompetent. She had assured him that she could handle things.

She tried to show Noah pictures of Max, telling him that his daddy would be home soon. He seemed a little calmer, but he was still a little upset.

Liz walked him around the room, bouncing him gently against her chest. She had walked past Max’s open closet door and stopped. She took a step closer and she found herself surrounded by his scent. Just, then, an idea popped into her head.

She placed Noah back in his crib and walked up to Max’s dresser. She pulled open a drawer and grabbed one of his many t-shirts. She laid it on the bed and gingerly lay Noah on top of it. Carefully, she tucked it around him and lifted him in her arms.

She hoped that Max’s smell would help calm Noah down. She continued to coo soothing words in his ear and hugged him tighter to her chest. She immediately noticed the change in him. He had stopped whimpering. He still had the occasional hiccup, but other than that, he seemed fine.

Liz thanked her lucky stars that he was ok.

After that, she had just held him in her arms and read stories to him. Every time she paused, he would look up at her and smile that smile she knew belonged to Max. The more she looked at him, the more she saw Max in him.

****************

As she entered the room, she leaned over his crib and carried him out. She sat on Max’s bed and leaned against the headboard, as she cradled Noah in her arms. She sat there and watched as he held onto his bottle, gently suckling.

Liz smiled as she stroked his little arm, his cheek, his leg. She just couldn’t stop touching him. He had the softest, smoothest skin, that was warm to the touch. Liz found herself thinking that it was if he had just popped out of the oven. She loved the sweet baby scent of him. There was just something about babies and the way they smelled. They always seemed to smell so good, minus the dirty diapers of course.

***************

Max dropped his keys on the table by the front door.

He would have been home earlier, but he had stopped by earlier at the Crashdown to see if Isabel had needed a ride. She told him to go on without her, for she was waiting for Alex to finish his shift.

He stuck his head in the living room, expecting to see Liz and Noah caught up in some sort of game.

“Huh, I wonder where they are.”

Max noticed that the house was unusually quiet. His eyes flew to the stairs.

Taking the steps two at a time, Max was outside his room in no time.

He didn’t know what he was expecting to see on the other side of the door, but once his eyes focused on Liz with Noah tucked safely in her arms, on his bed, he felt his heart stop beating for a few seconds.

It was the most beautiful thing he had laid his eyes on. Liz’s long tresses fell across her shoulder, partially shielding her face from his view. She sat cross legged on his bed, as she bent forward looking at his son. Her delicate hands gently stroked Noah’s little arms as she placed feather light kisses on his cheeks.

Max couldn’t bring himself to break the moment. He felt as if he were intruding.

Suddenly, Liz looked up and her eyes locked with his.

“Max......”



Part 24

*********************

“Max.......”

Liz had been so caught up in holding Noah in her arms that she almost missed seeing Max by the door.

As she locked eyes with him, she tried to get up. He probably thought that she had taken the words, “make yourself at home” a little too seriously. Who knows what he was thinking, seeing her on his bed, with his baby.

Max had moved forward then and gently placed a hand on her shoulder.

“No, don’t get up. It’s ok.”

Max sat on the edge of the bed and stroked his son’s soft head.

Liz looked up at him with questions in her eyes.

“Are you sure?”

Max gave her a smile.

“Yeah.”

The two of them sat there in silence for a moment.

“So, uh, I thought you were going to be working overtime for Brody?”

“Business was slow so he let me go at four. I would have been home earlier, but I stopped by to see if Isabel needed a ride.”

Liz looked towards the door.

“Speaking of, where is Isabel?”

“She decided to wait for Alex to finish his shift. Said something about them doing something after work.”

“Oh.”

Max looked up at her then and gave her a soft smile.

“So how was he? Not any trouble, I hope.”

Liz gave him the brightest smile she could, hoping to make him see what a delight it was to spend the entire day with Noah.

“He was an absolute doll, although he was a little fitful after his nap. I guess he just missed you.”

Max had began to look a little worried then.

“Why didn’t you call me? I could have, I don’t know, just done something. I’m sorry if he was any trouble. I’ve never really left him alone with anyone other than my family.”

Liz reached out and gave his hand a little squeeze.

“Max, really, he wasn’t any trouble. I’m actually sort of sad now. My life just seems so boring, so ordinary, you know? I mean, I know I only spent one day with Noah and I haven’t fully grasped what it’s like to be a single parent, but to know how wonderful it is to spend time with him...... I just wanted to thank you Max.”

Max gave her a questioning half smile.

“What are you thanking me for? If anyone should be thanking anyone, it should be me to you.”

Noah finally turned and caught a glimpse of his father. He stuck his little arms out, trying to reach for Max.

Max gently lifted Noah from Liz’s arms and gave him a soft kiss.

“Hey buddy. I hear you and Liz had a great time today.”

Max stood up and walked towards his son’s crib.

“Tell you what. Why don’t you take a short nap, and when you wake up, you can tell me all about it.”

Max gave him a gentle kiss and placed him in his crib. He leaned over and ran his finger down Noah’s cheek.

“Sweet dreams pal. I’ll see you when you wake up.”

Max turned around and held out his hand to Liz.

“Shall we?”

Liz reached out for his hand and the two of them made their way downstairs.

She made a quick swipe of her eyes as they got into the living room. She didn’t want Max to see her tears and get the wrong idea. Her tears were a result of seeing Max be so gentle with his son. Liz could see how much he loved him. The way his eyes would light up, they way his lips would curl slightly when he spoke, and she especially loved the way his voice would soften that much more when he spoke to his son. The way he acted towards Noah spoke volumes of what a wonderful person he was. Liz knew that he wasn’t just putting on a show. This was the real deal. If only most people could be just as lucky.

Max led her to the couch where the two of them sat down.

“Do you have to go home?”

Liz noticed the way his voice cracked a little as he asked the question. She felt heart flutter at the way he sounded so unsure of himself. It was endearing seeing a man be vulnerable and show his true feelings.

“Not unless you want me to.”

Max shook his head.

“Stay. Noah’s asleep and I have no idea what to with myself.”

Liz gave him a playful smile.

“Well, what do you suggest we do?”

Max smiled back and shrugged his shoulders.

“I don’t know. How about we talk? You know, you could tell me more about yourself. I mean you already know more about me than you’d probably like. I want to know more about you. If we’re going to be friends, I only think it’s fair that I know a little more about my new friend.”

Liz caught the playfulness in his voice and it made her a little happier.

“Well, I don’t there really is much to say. I’ve lived in Roswell all of my life and I’m about as interesting as watching paint dry.”

Max shook his head and lightly scratched his chin.

“Nah, I don’t believe that for a second. I know there’s more to you than growing up in Roswell all of your life and working at the Crashdown. I mean, you must have some interests. What do you like to do for fun? Who’s your favorite band? Anything about yourself, I’d love to hear it.”

Liz looked into his eyes and saw his genuine interest. She didn’t know why he would think she was interesting.

“Um, ok. Uh, I like to hang with my friends. You know, do normal teenage girl stuff. Talk about clothes, movies, things like that. I really like the Dave Matthews Band, um, eventually I’d like to get out of Roswell. You know, some big city where nobody knows me.”

“Why?”

Liz shrugged her shoulders as she hugged one of the pillows on the couch.

“I don’t know. I mean I’ve never really been outside of Roswell. I’ve always wanted to see the world, experience new things, get lost in new surroundings.”

Liz glanced up at Max and she noticed the way he was watching her intently. She felt her cheeks get warm from the blush that spread across them.

“I know, that sounds geeky-

Max stopped her.

“No, no it doesn’t. In fact, it sounds like a pretty good idea to me. Are you going away to college?”

Liz looked thoughtful for a moment.

“I don’t really know. I mean I’ve always had this dream where I would go to Harvard and study Molecular Biology.”

“Then why not go for it? If it’s your dream, then you should pursue it.”

“It’s easy to say all of that, but I sort of have to put things into perspective. I mean going to college alone is going to set my parents back, but then you add wanting to go to Harvard, I mean my parents own a cafe that serves greasy food, we aren’t exactly made of money.”

“How about a loan? I’m sure you could qualify for some sort of scholarship too.”

Liz gave him a look and a little smile.

“You sound like you can’t wait to get rid of me.”

Max found himself trying to explain himself. Shaking his head, he began speaking.

“No, that’s not, that’s not what I meant. It just sounded like you really want this dream to happen, but it’s like holding yourself back. It just seems like a waste for someone as bright as you to sacrifice their dream just because of a few set backs.”

Liz tried to steer the subject away from her a little.

“How about you? Have you thought about college?”

Max leaned back against the cushions.

“Yeah, but I’ll only be able to go part time. I can’t expect my mom to just always be there, and I’ll probably have to find another job.”

“Well, what school did you have in mind?”

Max fingered the fringe of the pillow in his lap.

“I’ll probably start out at a junior college and then transfer out to a state college.”

Liz was a little shocked.

“Junior college? But you’re grades are really good.”

“It’s like you said. Money doesn’t exactly grow on trees and I have a baby to support.”

Liz felt like kicking herself. She had forgotten just how much responsibility Max had to deal with. He didn’t just have to worry about himself, but there was this little person who depended solely on him. She found herself admiring him even more. She had no idea what it was like to sacrifice your dreams for someone else. The difference with Max was that he didn’t seem to mind any of it. Sure, it may have seemed like he missed out on a lot of things, but he didn’t seem bitter. The more she thought about it, the more she couldn’t stop herself from falling deeper. Her feelings for him were developing by the second and she found herself not wanting the feeling to stop.

Max looked at Liz curiously. He wondered what was going on in that beautiful head of hers.

“What are you thinking about?”

“How amazing you are. I don’t know how you do it Max.”

“Do what?”

“Be you. I don’t know how you can raise a child, support him, and still be this great, wonderful person, and at the same time still be a teenager.”

Max sat back and watched the admiration flash through Liz’s eyes. He didn’t know why she seemed so amazed with him.

“I’m not doing anything special. Like you said, I’m just being me. I’ve made some mistakes in my life that have had life altering consequences, and I’m just doing what’s right. There’s nothing special about that.”

Liz pulled herself a little closer to him and placed one of his hands in between both of hers.

“That’s where you’re wrong. Any other guy in your position probably would have given up when things got tough. But you, you just shoulder all of these obstacles and you have no complaints. You accept your responsibilities, but at the same time you don’t see them that way. You look at your son as a gift, the way you’re supposed to look at him. And for that, for everything, that’s why I think you’re special.”

Liz leaned forward and placed her lips against his cheek. She let her lips linger a little longer than necessary, but neither of them seemed to mind.

She pulled back, and the two of them sat there, not knowing what to say next.



Part 25

*******************

Isabel sat resting her elbows against the counter. She was waiting for Alex to finish his shift so they could do something together.

The jingling of the front doors caused Isabel to turn her head. She smiled when she saw Maria, Michael, and Kyle come through.

Maria quickly ran up to her and sat beside her.

“I thought your shift ended a while ago.”

Isabel sat up straighter as she twisted the swivel seat, to face the others.

“It did. I was just waiting for Alex to finish up so we could hang out.”

Kyle gave her a little grin.

“So, what did Whitman have in mind?”

Alex came through the swinging doors, pulling his arms through his jacket.

“Actually, nothing. How about you guys? Got any plans?”

Maria looked towards Michael who just shrugged his shoulders.

“Nope.”

Maria gave a fake smile as she turned back around.

“Another one of the perks of living in Roswell, New Mexico. It’s Saturday night, and we have nothing to do.”

Kyle jammed his hands in his pocket.

“Tell me something new.”

Alex spoke up, sensing all of the sarcasm among his friends.

“How about we just hang out together. Rent some movies that no one really wants to watch and grub on some munchies.”

Michael leaned forward and gave Alex a slap on his shoulder.

“I like the way you think Whitman.” He rubbed his palms against each other and turned to Maria. “So, your place?”

Maria and Kyle both looked down at the same time and shook their heads.

“Uh, can’t. Mom and Jim want some alone time tonight.”

Michael looked up.

“My place is out. They’re still remodeling the rest of the house. How ‘bout you, Alex?”

Alex shook his head.

“No can do. Brothers are home from the army. Unless you guys want my dad talking to you guys about the importance of joining the army, then my place is definitely out.”

“Hey, how about Liz? I’m sure, Mr. and Mrs. P won’t mind if hang out at there place.” Maria was about to go through the swinging doors to get to the Parkers apartment when Isabel’s voice stopped her.

“Uh, she’s not home.”

Maria turned back around.

“Well, do you know where she is?”

Isabel sat back against her seat.

“My guess? Probably still at my place. If you guys want, we could just hang out at my place.”

Maria just shrugged her shoulders, choosing not to ask why Liz was at the Evans place right now. She’d just have to corner Liz later and find out what was up.

“Well, if you’re sure it’s cool, let’s head over to Spacey’s and rent some bad movies.”

The group made their way out of the cafe and headed off to their cars.

***************

Max didn’t know how long they sat beside each other, without saying anything. The moment her lips had come into contact with his skin, he felt his whole body warm up. He could feel his breath quicken, and his heart beat race.

He didn’t know what he was getting himself so worked up about. It was just a kiss. A friendly kiss on the cheek. He shouldn’t mistake it for anything more than that. Heck, he had kissed her on the forehead yesterday, and she certainly didn’t make a big deal about it.

But still, he couldn’t stop himself from wondering.

Did she want to kiss him, like he knew he wanted to kiss her? What would she do, if he casually leaned forward right now and gave her a kiss on the lips? Would she push him away, or would she welcome his kiss?

Max shook his head in an effort to steer his mind away from dangerous thoughts. As much as he would like to have a relationship with Liz, they had just known each other for a short time. She was still getting used to the fact that he was a father. He didn’t want to pressure her. And besides, she had more than once insisted that she wanted to be good friends, nothing more.

**************

Liz sat back and watched the various emotions pass through Max’s eyes. She wondered what he was thinking about. Was he thinking about the kiss she just gave him? Because she definitely was. She wanted nothing more than to lean over right now and plant a kiss on his lips, but she didn’t think that was right. She didn’t want to risk their new friendship.

So she just sat back and waited.

*****************

Spacey’s Video Store

The five teenagers stood in one corner of the video store, each holding videos.

It had become a battle of what was going to be rented.

“Michael, we are not watching Braveheart again just so you can get an accurate body count.” Maria placed her hand on her hip and watched as Michael tried to make a retaliation.

“Fine, if we can’t watch Brave Heart, then we are definitely not watching Bring It On. I am not watching a movie about some dumb cheerleaders.”

Kyle pulled Michael’s shoulder so he could whisper into it. “Uh, Guerin, maybe be you should rethink that. A movie with cheerleaders? Need I say more?”

Michael glanced at Kyle from the corner of his eye. “Fine, you can rent that. But no more chick flicks. We should just rent something that we can all watch.”

Alex held up the video in his hand. “How about What Lies Beneath? It has that kinda scary, but not too scary thing going on. And Michelle Pfeiffer is in it.” Alex didn’t even bother to try and hide the dopey grin from his face.

Kyle grabbed the videos from Alex and Maria. “Since I don’t hear any complaints, I guess that settles it.”

He walked towards the counter to pay for the videos as the others slowly made their way over to him.

*************

Max and Liz would have continued to sit in silence had it not been for Noah waking up from his nap. Max excused himself and swiftly made his way up the stairs.

He carried Noah down with him and once again sat beside Liz.

“How is he?”

Liz sat closer and gently stroked Noah’s soft skin.

Max looked up at her and gave her a little smile.

“He’s a little cranky right now. He gets that way sometimes after he wakes up from his nap.”

Noah began to fuss and refused to sit still on Max’s lap. Max rubbed his little back.

“Come on buddy. Settle down.”

Liz leaned over and placed a soft kiss on his head.

“Yeah, Noah. Be good for your daddy. You’ve been waiting all day to see him.”

Max gave Liz a grateful smile for trying to encourage Noah to sit still.

Their moment was broken, when the front door opened revealing five teenagers arguing over which movie to watch first.

“I say we watch Bring It On. It’s comedy. Everybody loves comedy.”

Alex clapped Kyle on the back and gave him a grin.

“You don’t have to say that Kyle. Everyone knows you want to watch it because of all of those chicks in the cheerleader outfits.”

Maria pulled the videos from Kyle’s hands. “I say we watch What Lies Beneath. I saw it at the movies and it was really scary.”

Alex wrapped his arm around Maria. “I’m with Maria. What Lies Beneath is a really good movie.”

Michael sighed in disgust. “Give it up Alex. We know the only reason you want to watch is because of your Michelle Pfeiffer fixation. I’m with Kyle. I say we watch Bring It On.”

Maria cocked her eyebrow at him. “Why don’t we take a vote. So far it’s two on two. Isabel?”

All eyes turned on Isabel as she suddenly found herself in the middle of a friendly battle. As much as she enjoyed watching Bring It On in the theaters, she would much rather watch What Lies Beneath. “Uh, I guess my vote goes to What Lies Beneath.”

Maria gave a smug grin. “Hah! We win. We get to watch What Lies Beneath.”

Michael grabbed her arm as she attempted to walk into the living room. “Not so fast blondie. If I’m not mistaken, Max and Liz are sitting right over there. If we are going through the majority rules route, I think it’s only fair that they get their votes in.”

Five sets of eyes turned to the Max and Liz who were on the couch.

Maria placed her hands on her hips. “So, what’ll it be, you two?”

Liz sat up a little confused. “Ok, before we go on, maybe you can enlighten me and tell what’s going on first.”

Isabel stepped up and gave Liz an explanation. “Uh, we couldn’t find anything to do, so we decided to just rent some videos and just hang out. And since everyone’s houses seemed out of commission tonight, I offered to have everyone over.”

Maria tapped her foot against the carpeted floor. “Well, what are your votes?”

Liz turned to Max who just shrugged his shoulders. Liz wasn’t really in the mood to watch a scary movie. As much snuggling potential, a scary movie had, Liz didn’t feel comfortable doing anything like that with everyone around. “I guess I vote for Bring It On. I could use a laugh.”

Kyle smiled and stood next to Maria. “Well, sis, that’s three on three. There’s still hope yet.”

Maria gave him a smile before turning her attention back to Max. “Well, we’ve still got Max’s vote that we’re still waiting for.”

Once again, all eyes turned to Max, making him squirm a little. As appealing as What Lies Beneath sounded, he didn’t want to have to deal with the affects the movie would have on Noah. Not that Noah would understand the movie, but he was really sensitive to people’s feelings. If he caught on to the scared feelings everyone was having, there was no way Max would be able to calm him down at all for the rest of the night. Maybe they could just watch that movie after Noah had fallen asleep for the night. “I guess I vote for Bring It On as well.”

Kyle and Michael gave each other high fives before making their way into the living room. Kyle took a seat on the recliner beside Max and held out his hand for Max to slap it. “Good choice, Max. I have a feeling we’ll get along great.” Max couldn’t help his lips from curling into a smile. He found himself overjoyed that he could participate in something like this. It seemed like forever since he had done something remotely like a teenager.

“He’s right you know. You won’t regret your choice Max.” Michael moved to the tv and popped the tape into the vcr. He moved to sit by the tv and motioned for Maria to join him.

Isabel walked towards the kitchen. “I’ll just go order a pizza and start on some popcorn.” Alex followed. “I’ll help with the popcorn.”

Liz sat back and watched Max. His face was lit up by a beautiful smile that he didn’t wear often enough. She was glad that her friends had come over. Maybe tonight could prove to be a start of some new friendships. She wanted Max, Isabel, and Noah to experience what it was like to have friends who really cared.

All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 17-Sep-2001 5:35:24 PM
Part 26

*****************

Alex came back carrying cans of soda and bags of chips, while Isabel carried in bowls of popcorn. “Who wants some food?” a round of hollers were heard from the guys. Alex carefully tossed Michael and Kyle sodas, as he tried to find a place to sit.

Max moved to the edge of the couch, and Liz did the same, making room for another person. Alex offered Isabel the seat and he sat by her feet. “So, what’d we miss?”

Maria turned around as she opened a bag of chips. “Nothing. The previews just started a little while ago.” She turned back around, and offered Michael the open bag of chips.

Liz turned so she was facing Max. “Are you ok?” Max just smiled back. It touched him that Liz was concerned about how he was doing. “I’m good.” Noah twisted in his lap so that he was facing Liz. He caught sight of Isabel and started crawling towards her. He passed over Liz and then made his way onto Isabel’s lap. He gave Isabel a brief smile before sitting in her lap.

Isabel just smiled and gave him a kiss. Max looked towards Isabel to see if she was ok with Noah being with her. Isabel just gave him a nod of her head as she placed her arm around Noah’s waist to pull him more securely in her lap.

The previews continued and a round of laughs erupted when the preview for Meet The Parents came on. “That is like the funniest movie ever!” Kyle held his stomach while he laughed at the scenes from the preview. Alex turned to him. “Yeah, it was even funnier than There’s Something About Mary.” He leaned back against Isabel’s legs as his body continued to shake from laughter. Just then he felt something touch his head lightly. He didn’t think anything of it, but he looked up when he felt pressure on his head. “What the-?” He looked up to see Noah with his little hands planted on his head. Noah gave him a grin. Isabel’s face suddenly came into view as she pulled Noah back.

“I’m so sorry Alex.” Isabel felt her cheeks burn up. She struggled to keep Noah still in her arms as he kept trying to touch Alex. Alex just gave her a self-conscious smile. “No it’s ok.” He turned back around to face the tv, when he felt something heavy on his neck.

“Noah! Stop it!” Alex turned his head and saw a little leg hanging over his shoulder. He turned his head the other way, and sure enough, the other leg was there. He looked up again and saw Noah’s smiling face. Alex couldn’t help but smile at his adorable little face. Alex, reached up to tug on Noah’s little foot. “Hey there, little guy! Enjoying the view?” Noah just reached down to touch Alex’s nose curiously. Alex closed one eye and cocked his other eyebrow. “Having fun?”

Just then, Alex felt Noah being lifted off of his shoulders. He turned to see Max lift his son up with ease. Max gave him an apologetic look. “I’m sorry about that. He’s just not used to seeing so many people together at one time. He’s just a little curious.” Alex was sort of sad to see Max take Noah. He was sort of enjoying himself. “It’s not a problem. He can feel free to search out my imperfections any day.” Alex gave Max a reassuring smile.

Max smiled back and sat down. He whispered into his son’s ear and gave his son a kiss on the nose before turning his attention back to the tv. What he didn’t notice was that everyone had tuned in to the little exchange. Everyone had seen the way he had stepped in and acted like the parent that he was. They also noticed how tender he was with his son.

Everyone was surprised with the grace in which he carried himself. They had all known he would have done something, but what had surprised them was the way in which he had approached the situation. He didn’t lose his temper. He had acted cool, calm, and collected. He took control of the situation and solved the problem.

Alex, Michael, Maria, and Kyle were witnessing first hand what kind of guy Max Evans was. They could feel themselves warming up to Max and Noah. It probably wouldn’t be long before they all became good friends.

Part 27

***************

About halfway through the movie, the phone rang startling everyone.

Max reached behind him and answered it.

“Hello?”

Max tucked the phone between his ear and shoulder as he handed Noah to Liz.

“Evans, you ordered a pizza?”

“That would be us.” Max looked at his watch to see the time. “Hey, isn’t the pizza supposed to be here by now?”

“See, that’s what we’re calling about. We’re backed up in our orders, it’s going to take about another half hour till the pizza gets there.”

“A half hour?”

“We’ll throw in free breadsticks for the trouble.”

Max glanced around at everyone. They didn’t seem to be too worried about the food getting there, so he agreed.

“That’ll be fine.”

He placed the phone back and reached for Noah.

“The pizza’s gonna take another half hour. I hope you guys don’t mind.”

Maria turned around and waved her hand.

“That’s fine. I don’t think I can eat anything right now.”

She looked around her to see the empty junk food packages. She shook her head in disgust and continued to watch the movie.

************

As the credits rolled, the door bell rang. Isabel ran to get it, while everyone straightened out the living room.

“Pizza’s here! You guys wanna eat in here or in the kitchen?” Isabel stood there holding the pizza box in her hands with the free breadsticks on top.

Michael held up his hand. “I vote for the kitchen. I need a movie break.”

One by one, they each filed into the kitchen.

Paper plates were passed around as everyone took a seat around the table.

“Man, that was the best movie.” Kyle took a bite out of his pizza, with a smile on his lips. “What I wouldn’t give to have been one of those guy cheerleaders.”

Maria threw a napkin at him. “So, are you considering joining the squad?”

Alex threw his hands up in the air and clapped his hands together, while winking. “Go Comets!”

Michael had decided to play along. “Yeah Valenti. You have to be aggressive, be be aggressive!” Michael clapped his hands together and gave a sugary sweet smile.

Laughs could be heard from everyone, as Alex and Michael did their imitations of the cheerleaders.

Maria turned to Michael and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Aww! Maybe you should join too.”

Michael gave Maria a scowl which only caused everyone to laugh harder.

Maria turned around and saw Max struggling with Noah.

For the most part, Noah had been quiet during the movie. Other than his little introduction with Alex, they hadn’t heard a peep out of him.

Maria stood up and walked towards Max. “Do you want me to hold him so you can eat?”

Max looked up to see Maria’s sweet smile. “No, no it’s ok. I’ve got it covered.”

Maria just shook her head and picked up Noah from his arms. “Max, it’s ok. I’ve already had my daily fill of junk food.”

“How about you? Aren’t you going to eat?”

Maria stuck out her tongue and shook her. “I can’t eat another thing.” Noah looked up at Maria and started giggling when she stuck out her tongue.

“You’re sure?”

Maria just playfully slapped Max against the shoulder. “Yes! Now you better eat or else I’m never going to give back your baby.”

Max smiled a small smile, and allowed himself to laugh.

Maria felt herself melting. Max Evans really needed to smile more often. She was glad that she had caused him to do that.

She took her seat beside Michael. Noah twisted in Maria’s arms so that he was facing her. He gave her a little grin as he tugged on her blonde curls. Maria couldn’t wipe the smile off of her face. “Aren’t you just the cutest little thing.”

**********

Once every last piece of pizza was devoured, everyone took there share of garbage and helped clean up in the kitchen.

Maria saw Isabel struggling with some trash.

“Here, let me help you with that.” Maria placed Noah in Michael’s lap and went to help Isabel.

Michael’s eyes grew wide when Maria put Noah on his lap. “Maria!”

Maria turned to Michael and gave him a look. “What?”

Michael looked at Noah then looked towards Maria. He pointed at Noah as he spoke. “What am I supposed to do?”

Maria just shrugged her shoulders. “Nothing. Just make sure he doesn’t fall.”

Maria turned back around to help Isabel.

“Do nothing. Just make sure he doesn’t fall.” Michael muttered the words to himself. He gently placed his hand against Noah’s back to make sure he didn’t fall. He turned his head to the side to try and get a look at Noah. “Hey, whatcha doin’?”

Noah sat facing Michael, tugging on his buttons. Michael turned his head to look for someone that could possibly help him. Everyone was busy except for Kyle who was going to take a seat across from him. He grabbed his shirt sleeve and pulled him down next him.

“Kyle, you gotta help me. I don’t what the kid’s doing.” Michael gestured to Noah, who was alternating tugging on his buttons and touching his ring on his finger.

Kyle threw up his hands. “How am I supposed to help you? I haven’t been around kids, since, well, since, since I was a kid. I don’t know what to do.”

Michael turned his attention back to Noah was now smiling up at him. “What do I do? What do I do?”

“I don’t know!”

**************

As soon as everything was cleaned up Maria returned to the kitchen to find Michael and Kyle with their noses on top of Noah’s head.

Maria held back her laughter as she watched the two guys. “What are you guys doing?”

Michael and Kyle’s heads flew up at the sound of Maria’s voice.

“Nothing!”

Maria placed her hands on her hips as she got closer to the two of them. “Uh huh. Sure, I believe you. If you guys don’t tell me what you were doing, then I’ll just have to sit here and share every embarrassing story I know about the two of you until you guys tell me.”

Michael hit Kyle’s shoulder.

“Ow! What’d you do that for?”

“You tell her, it was your idea.”

Now Maria was really curious. What were these two up to?

Grumbling to himself, Kyle stood up. “Fine!” He turned to Maria. “I’ll tell you, but you better not tell another living soul, so help me Deluca.....”

“Fine, yes, I won’t tell anybody.”

“We were, we were smelling his head.”

Maria didn’t bother to keep the laughter from her voice. “Ok, I’ll bite. Why were you guys smelling his head?”

Kyle felt himself blush as Maria continued to question him. “Well, I’ve always, people are always saying you should smell a baby’s head, you know.....”

Maria shook her head as the laughter came and hit her full force. “Actually I don’t know. Where would you get an idea like that?”

Kyle threw his hands up in the air. “I don’t know. I just heard it somewhere and we just decided to do it.”

Maria turned her tear filled eyes to Michael. “So, uh, what does his head smell like?”

“A baby?”

Maria got down on her knees in front of Michael. “A baby?”

Frustrated, Michael tried to think of a way to explain how Noah’s head had smelt. When Kyle suggested they do it, he had looked at him weird. What was the point of smelling a baby’s head? Kyle had insisted that he had heard people say it before and that they should just try it.

So, they had. Noah didn’t really smell like anything you could describe. There was a hint of baby powder and just something else. Something, sweet? Was it even possible for something to smell sweet?

“I don’t know.”

Just then, Max walked back into the room and headed towards Michael. He picked up Noah in his arms and turned to Michael.

“Thanks for watching him.” Max gave Noah a pat on the back. “I’m just going to put him to bed, then we can watch the other movie.”

Liz walked beside Max. “I’ll help you.” Max smiled at her and walked through the open walkway.

With his chin resting on Max’s shoulder, Noah gave Michael and Kyle a little wave.

Michael and Kyle both found themselves waving back, both of them with silly smiles on their faces.

***********

Max placed Noah down and placed a blanket over him.

“G’nite big guy. I’ll see you in the morning.” Max leaned forward and gave him a kiss. Before he stood back up, he whispered in his ear. “And thanks for being good to Liz today.”

He pulled back up just as Liz leaned forward. “Sleep tight sweet thing. And thanks for a wonderful day.” Liz gave him a kiss and waved.

Max switched on the monitor and pulled the blanket tighter against Noah. “Nite, nite, little man.”

Max pulled the door open so that he and Liz could go back downstairs, when something stopped him.

“Da da.”

Max’s head whipped around to face Liz. “Did you hear that?”

Liz bobbed her head in agreement when the voice spoke again. “Da da.”

Max and Liz both peered into the crib to see a sleepy Noah with his arm curled around pooh bear. “Da da.”

Max turned Liz to face him. “He just said, da da.”

“Omigod, Liz, he just said da da!”

Liz gave him the biggest smile she could muster. She remembered what it felt like, when Noah had said her name. She could only imagine how wonderful, Max felt right now.

“He just said da da!” With that, Max picked Liz up into his arms and spun her in circles, while repeating the same words over and over.

He had to be the happiest man on earth right now. To hear your child calling out to you, it had to be the best feeling in the world. It was euphoric.

It was only when he heard Liz’s soft laughter that he realized what he was doing. Slowly he stopped spinning and let Liz slide down his body, without relinquishing his hold on her body. They looked into each others eyes.

"Max...."

Part 28

*************

“Max........”

Max felt himself leaning forward. Her face was getting closer and closer. Was he the one moving forward, or was she?

Liz felt her hands trembling against Max’s shoulders. The way he was looking at her....... Was she the one leaning in closer, or was he? She could feel his breath come out in warm little puffs against her face. She stared at his full lips as they came closer. She tilted her head to the side and let her eyes drift close.

As soon as Max saw Liz close her eyes, he felt his own shut. He felt himself shiver as her breath mingled with his. Was this really happening?

Their lips touched tentatively, slowly, unsure. It was the lightest of touches, feather like.

Max gently gathered Liz closer to his body, enjoying the way she was surrounding him. She had the softest lips, the sweetest taste.

Liz gripped Max’s shoulder. This was really happening. She and Max were kissing.

A voice yelling from downstairs broke the two of them apart.

“Max, Liz, the movie’s ready! Get your butts down here!” Maria’s voice had broken the moment.

Max looked around the room, trying to get his bearings. He had just kissed Liz on the lips. The thought, played through his mind a few more times before realizing that he was still holding her body against his.

“Sorry.” Max mumbled his apology and moved away from Liz.

Liz felt her smile drop from her lips. Sorry? He was sorry that he had kissed her? She valiantly tried to swallow past the lump in her throat. “We should go downstairs.” She walked past him and made her way down the stairs.

Max pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes. “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” He kicked the bedside table. “Damn it!” He ran his hand across his face before going down the stairs.

**********

All of the lights, had been shut off.

“Max, pull up a seat.”

Max followed Alex’s voice to where he was seated on the couch, with Isabel beside him, and Kyle beside her.

Michael was seated on the recliner with Maria on his lap. “Yeah Max, you don’t want to miss the previews, they’re the best part.”

Max’s eyes scanned the room for Liz. As another preview came on, the room was illuminated by light. His eyes finally landed on her. He quickly made his way towards her.

As he sat down beside her, he felt her move away from him. She pulled her knees up against her chest and refused to acknowledge that he was there. If she did, she knew she would break down and cry, and there was no way she was going to do that. She had to think about this rationally.

********

Max felt a pang in his heart when she moved away from him. This was not how he had pictured their first kiss to be like. He had wanted to kiss her so bad all day, that he just couldn’t control himself when his emotions were just flying high.

It had felt so right, like nothing else in the world had. He had to find a way to make her understand that he wasn’t sorry for kissing her. Or maybe she was the one that was sorry. Had he been too bold? Had he stepped over the friendship boundary that they had laid out for themselves?

He heaved a sigh and tried to pay attention to the movie, although he knew that it was a lost cause.

*********

As the movie ended, the whole gang stood up and began stretching.

Alex moved to the wall to switch the light on. The room was flooded with light.

“Well, I’d love to thank you guys for a wonderful evening, but I’m on curfew.” Alex stretched his arms and turned to Liz. “Parker, you need a ride?” Liz just shook her head, tucking her hair behind her ears. “Thanks, but I have my car.”

They all made their way towards the door, each bidding goodnight. “This was great, we have to do this more often.” Maria smiled her thanks as she pulled on her coat.

Liz was the last to pull her coat on. She walked through the door when she felt someone holding her arm. “I’ll walk you to your car.” She looked up to see Max. She couldn’t read the expression on his face. “That’s ok. You don’t have to do that.” She pulled her arm away from his grasp and tried to leave. Max stepped in her way. “But I want to.” Liz just shrugged her shoulders and walked past him.

“Liz. Liz, wait.” Max ran to catch up to her. He stopped her from pulling the car door open. Liz turned to face him, but refused to meet his eyes. “What is it, Max?” She didn’t mean for it to sound snippy, but she was confused. She didn’t know how to react to what happened.

“I just wanted to apologize.” Liz wiped the tears that had fallen down her face. “You don’t have to do that Max. I know how this story goes, so let’s just leave it at that. That way, I’ll still have a little dignity left.” She went to pull the door open, only to have Max slam the door closed.

“No, I don’t think you know how the story goes.” Liz pushed him back, hoping to get him away from the car. “Max, please.......” Max shook his head. “I can’t let you leave without telling you what you need to know.” He paused for a second. “I’m not sorry that I kissed you. I am sorry that I took advantage of you.”

Liz looked up at him. Now she was confused. “You took advantage of me?” Where would he get an idea like that?

Now it was Max who was having a hard time trying to look her in the eye. “I kissed you when I shouldn’t have. I guess you could say that I was caught up in the moment, but that shouldn’t be an excuse. I’m sorry that I’ve probably ruined our friendship. I know you said that you wanted to just be friends, but with what I just did, well, I can understand if you’d prefer we weren’t friends.” He stepped away from her then. “I just wanted to thank you, for today. I don’t remember being this happy.” He turned to his house and took long strides towards it, finally breaking out into a run.

He slammed the door behind him. What had possessed him to kiss her? Was that kiss worth risking their friendship over? He had a sinking feeling that it was. If he had a choice of knowing what it was like to kiss her or not knowing, he would choose kissing her.

***********

Liz had driven home in a daze. She had greeted her parents briefly before retiring to her room. It was 2 o’clock in the morning, but sleep was nowhere near her vicinity. She couldn’t stop thinking about what happened with Max.

He said he wasn’t sorry that he kissed her. Did that mean he liked her? He said he was sorry for taking advantage of her. Why would he think that? Ultimately, he thought he had crossed the thin line between friendship, and a possible romantic relationship. And she hadn’t done anything to reassure him otherwise.

She kicked the sheets off, and grabbed the phone.

**********

A sleepy Maria slammed her hand against the bedside table, trying to find the phone.

She placed the phone against her ear. “Whoever this is, it had better be good!”

“Maria,” Liz whined into the phone.

Maria sat up and looked at her alarm clock. “Liz, babe, you know I love you, but it’s 2 in the morning. What’s so important that you had to wake me up?”

“Maria, please, I need to talk to someone.” Liz lay back against her bed.

“Ok, chica, what’s this about?”

“Max. It’s important, Maria.”

Maria threw her legs over the side of the side of the bed. “I’m there.”

Part 29

****************

Maria climbed up each metal rung of the fire escape ladder, trying her best to keep quiet.

She jumped over the ledge, wiping her palms against her flannel pajamas. She cupped her hands around her mouth. “Liz! Liz!”

Liz stuck her head out the window, a finger against her lips. “Shh! I don’t want my parents coming out here.” Liz swung her body out of the window. She got on her knees and reached back inside her room for her blanket.

She sat down on her lawn chair, wrapping the blanket securely around her. She opened up her arms, beckoning Maria to join her.

Maria snuggled up under the blanket. “So, what happened with Max, that you had to wake me up at 2 in the morning for?”

“Maria, we kissed.”

Maria opened her mouth to reveal a squeal, only to have Liz cover her mouth with her hand. “Maria!”

Maria’s eyes grew wide when she realized how noisy she was being. “Sorry. So, this about dishing the goods. And here I thought, something bad happened.” She stopped her babbling, seeing the sad look in Liz’s eyes. “Honey, what’s wrong?”

Liz’s lower lip trembled as she tried to hold back the tears. Maria stroked her chocolate brown hair. “But I thought kissing Max would be a good thing. Right?” Liz nodded her head, wiping her nose with a tissue. “It is. I mean, it was the best kiss I’ve ever had.” Maria eyed Liz carefully. “Ever? I mean, you’re saying he was the best kiss you’ve ever had, compared to anyone else?”

Liz’s hair flew around her face as she bobbed her head in agreement.

“Then what’s the problem? I would think that it’s a step in the right direction for the two of you.”

Sniffing, Liz looked up. “I messed up, Maria. He thinks I didn’t want it to happen. Everything’s so screwed up.”

Maria held up her hands. “Hold up, you gotta back track a little. You’ve totally lost me.”

Sighing, Liz stood up and paced the length of the balcony. “You see, we were upstairs putting Noah to bed, and when we were leaving, we hear him say da da. Of course the two of us are excited. He picks me up and twirls me around the room. All of a sudden, he stops and we just look at each other, then we kissed. We only stopped, when we heard your voice. Then he pulled away saying he was sorry. I thought he was saying that he was sorry that he kissed me, so I left, not wanting him to see me cry. I started acting like a jerk to him, because I was hurt. Then he walked me to his car saying that he wasn’t sorry that he kissed me, but that he was sorry for taking advantage of me. He thinks that I don’t want to be his friend anymore.”

Maria slowly nodded her head, taking in everything Liz had said. “Well, chica, it seems to me that you guys just need to talk.”

Liz stopped her pacing long enough to pin Maria with a look. “You make it sound like it’s so easy.”

Maria stood up, letting the blanket fall to the floor. “That’s because it is. I don’t know what you thought calling me was going to accomplish. You already know what you need to do. Deep down, you know that you have to talk to him.”

Liz stood watching Maria, knowing that every word that she was saying was true. The only way to fix this was to be honest with Max, and tell him what was going on. She walked to Maria and gave her a hug.

“Thank you, Maria. I don’t know what I would do without you. Thank you for listening.” Liz’s voice was muffled against Maria’s coat. “Not a problem, babe. You know I’m always here for you.”

************

Max tossed and turned in his bed. He glanced at the clock.

2:00 am

Groaning, he pulled himself out of bed. He walked towards Noah and watched as he slept peacefully. He stroked the softness of his cheek, remembering how he had said da da. Max felt himself smiling. As he thought about it, his thoughts drifted to Liz.

He really screwed that one up. How was it possible to be so happy in one minute, and be completely miserable the next?

Max walked down stairs, hoping to drown his sorrows in something sweet.

“Iz?”

Isabel looked up from the carton of ice cream in her hands.

“Couldn’t sleep?”

Isabel shrugged her shoulders. “Just a little too much excitement for one night I guess.”

Max pulled up a seat beside her, grabbing a spoon on the way.

“How about you, big brother? What has you up at 2 in the morning?”

Max stuffed a spoonful of ice cream into his mouth. “Nothing.”

Isabel gave him a knowing look. “I thought we were through the whole keeping things from each other.”

Max dumped his spoon in the carton, releasing a heavy sigh. “It’s Liz. I totally screwed up.”

Isabel’s eyebrows knotted in confusion as she tried to picture what Max was telling her. “I don’t get it. How did you screw up?”

Max refused to meet her eyes, and instead chose to make invisible drawings on the kitchen counter with his finger. “I kissed her.”

Isabel pushed the carton away from her. “You kissed her?”

Nodding, Max covered his face with his hand. “Yeah, and I’ve just ruined our friendship.”

“Why would you say that?”

Max looked at Isabel. “I kissed her. I don’t think she wanted me to do it. I tried to explain to her how I felt, but she left anyway.”

Isabel watched Max closely. “And how do you feel?”

Max was caught off guard. He hadn’t expected that. “How do I feel?”

“Yeah, Max. How do you feel about Liz?”

Max pushed the seat away from the table and started pacing. “I don’t know.”

“How can you not know? How can you sit there and tell me that you tried to tell her how you felt, when you can’t even tell me about it.”

“I don’t know, alright! I’m just, I’m so confused Isabel. I don’t know what to do.” He looked up at her with tears in his eyes.

Isabel walked up to him, engulfing him in a hug. “Max, it’s ok. Whatever’s going, you can tell me. I’m here, I’ll listen.” She pulled away from him, trying to give him a reassuring look.

“Is this because you think you feel something for Liz?”

Max shook his head sadly. “That’s the problem, Iz. It’s not that I think, I feel something for her. It’s that I do feel something for her.”

Isabel gave him a little smile. “Then I don’t see what the problem is Max. From what I’ve seen, Liz seems to be pretty smitten with you. I’m sure the two of you just had a misunderstanding that you can’t fix with a little talking.” She saw the different emotions cloud his eyes. “Unless, that’s not what either of you want.”

Max shook his head. “That’s the thing. I don’t know how she feels. And while I know how I feel, I can’t help but feel guilty.”

“Guilty? Why would you feel guilty?”

He sank down on a chair and stared at his bare feet. “Do you still think about Tess?”

From all of the reasons Max could have felt guilty about having feelings for Liz, she hadn’t expected to hear this question. “Of course I do, Max. There really isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t remember.”

“See, that’s the thing. I think about her too. I think about what it was like being with her, and just having her in our lives. I think about what it would be like if she were still alive. I think about what would be different if she didn’t die during childbirth. What would our lives have been like?”

Isabel sat beside him, placing her hand on his shoulder. “What does this have to do with Liz?”

Max looked up at her, his eyes, over flowing with tears. “Everything. I feel like I shouldn’t have these feelings for Liz, when Tess and I.........”

Isabel cradled his face in between her hands. “Max, you shouldn’t feel guilty. What you and Tess had, that was special. The two of you, created a beautiful baby boy together. But what you and Liz may have is different. You can’t compare the two of them together.”

“But I can’t. I can’t help thinking about it. I can’t help but feel guilty. I always said that I was going to love Tess forever-

“Max, just because you’re developing feelings for Liz, it doesn’t mean that you’ll just automatically forget about Tess and stop loving her. The truth is, you’ll probably never stop loving her, but that love is different from any other love you might experience in your lifetime. You’re still young, Max. Just because Tess isn’t here with us anymore, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop living. I’m sure Tess is looking down on you, wanting you to be happy.”

Max took a swipe of his nose. “Well, even if I do figure out my feelings, I don’t think Liz feels the same way. I moved too fast. I’ve probably scared her off.”

“I don’t believe that. I just think that she’s confused, just like you are. Give her time.”

The phone in Max’s room started ringing.

“Are you gonna get that?”

Max shook his head. “I’ll let the machine get it.”

**************

Liz picked up the phone and dialed the number.

“This is Max. I’m not here right now, so please leave a message.”

Heaving a soft sigh, Liz sat against her pillows. “Hi, Max. It’s Liz. I’m sorry for calling so late, but I just, I wanted to say I’m sorry for being a jerk. I want to say a lot of other things too, but I think it would be better if I said it in person. So, uh, if you want to get together tomorrow, and you know, talk, just give me a call.”

Liz put the phone back against the receiver, her heart was racing. All she had to do now was wait for Max to make the next move.

*************

Max and Isabel both went up the stairs. Max sat on his bed, knowing that there was no possible way he would get any sleep that night. He turned to his bedside table and caught sight of his answering machine, with the number one flashing across it.

Sitting up, he pressed the button.

“Hi, Max. It’s Liz. I’m sorry for calling so late, but I just, I wanted to say I’m sorry for being a jerk. I want to say a lot of other things too, but I think it would be better if I said it in person. So, uh, if you want to get together tomorrow, and you know, talk, just give me a call.”

Part 30

”.............So, uh, if you want to get together tomorrow, and you know, talk, just give me a call.”

Max had replayed the message five times since he had first listened to it. When he had first heard her voice, his heart had almost stopped beating. He had pulled himself closer to the answering machine, choosing not to turn up the volume and risk waking up Noah. He had played it over and over again, just to hear her soft voice.

He had glanced at his clock then, tempted to call her and get everything settled right now, for he knew that sleep was virtually impossible now.

As much he wanted to make things right at that very moment, it was really late. He couldn’t just call her house and possibly wake up her parents. No, he had too much respect to do that. No, he would wait until it was morning, and then he would call her.

*************

Morning couldn’t come soon enough for Max.

He had dialed her number, but as soon as the phone had started ringing, he had put the phone back down. Last night, he could barely contain himself, dying to talk to her, but now that the moment of truth was there, he was scared out of his mind.

He had started rehearsing what he was going to say to her, but right now he couldn’t remember a word of what he had practiced. He grabbed the phone again and started dialing again. His eyes danced around the room, when his eyes landed on Noah playing with a plastic bag that was on the floor.

Saying a curse under his breath, Max hung up the phone and picked up his son.

He threw away the plastic bag and gave his son a serious look. “Look, buddy, you gotta behave for daddy while he makes a phone call, ok?” He placed Noah in his play pen, and started searching for where he dropped the phone. “Where’d I put it? I had it just a minute ago.”

****************

Liz ran from her bathroom, trying to keep the towel on her head, and the other towel secure around her body. She had just gotten out of the shower when she heard the phone ringing.

She tried her best to keep from tripping over her own feet and slipping on the wet trail she was making. “Hold on, hold on. I’m coming.” She rounded the corner of her bed, only to stub her big toe on the chest that lay at the bottom of her bed. “Ouch!” She hopped on one foot, while the towel fell from her head.

She kicked the towel out of the way and made a dive for the phone. “Hello?” She cradled the phone against her shoulder as she tightened the towel around her. “Hello? Hello?”
Hanging up the phone, she went to pick her discarded towel, wiping the wet trail she had made.

As she was dressing, she began muttering to herself about people calling at the absolute worst time. She held her hair brush in mid air, and her eyes grew wide when she realized that it could have been Max on the phone.

Dropping her brush, she grabbed the caller id beside the phone and pressed the button to see who had made the call.

Evans, Max.

505-823-8887

Taking a few deep breaths, Liz picked up the phone with trembling hands.

*********

Max stood in the middle of his room, scratching the side of his head. He remembered dropping the phone on the bed, but now he couldn’t seem to find it. He pulled the sheets to one side. “Come on, you’ve got to be here somewhere.” He had pulled the pillows off of the bed when he heard a soft ringing.

He proceeded to rip the sheets off of the bed. He grabbed the phone, a grin on his lips. “Aha, I found you.”

“H-hello?”

Max’s eyes bugged out of his head when he heard a voice coming through the other end of the line. He hadn’t realized that he had pressed the talk button when he had picked up the phone.

Embarrassed, he put the phone against his ear. “Hello?”

Liz found herself unable to keep still. “Ma-max?”

He felt himself stop moving at the sound of Liz’s unsure voice. “Liz?”

Liz smiled against the phone, happy that Max had recognized her voice. “It’s me. I was just-

“I was-

They both laughed together when they had spoken at the same time.

Liz gathered her composure. “You first.”

Max sat down in his desk chair and started twiddling his thumbs. “I was just, I was trying to call you.”

“I know.”

Max quirked his eyebrow at her statement. “How did you know?”

Liz gave another little laugh. “Uh, caller id.”

Max nodded his head. “Ah, the wonders of technology.” The two of them were silent for a moment before Max spoke up again. “Liz, about your phone call yesterday, do you think you can come over? So we could talk?”

Liz nodded her head, even though she knew Max couldn’t see her. “Sure. When do you-

“Can you come over now?” Max bit on his tongue. He had to shut up for a second. He didn’t want to scare her off, by sounding too eager.

“I’ll be over in a few minutes.”

They both hung up the phone.

Liz grabbed her keys, and made her way through her family’s apartment.

****************

Max had brought Noah downstairs while he was waiting for Liz.

“Da da.” Noah grinned at his father and turned his attention back to his stuffed toys. Max sat down beside him, running his fingers through his curly hair. “I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing you say that.” He leaned forward and gave Noah a kiss on his head. Noah looked up at him, handing him Tigger. “Liz.”

Max nodded his head. “That’s right, pal. Liz is going to be here soon, so you have to be on your best behavior so we can talk, ok.” Noah continued to push the stuffed toy towards Max. “Liz.”

Max was about to say something when the door bell rang. He stood up and walked to the door. This was it.

He pulled back the door and was greeted by the sight of Liz on the other side. He stepped aside to let her in. “Thanks.”

He lead her to the living room. “Could, I, do you want something to drink?” Liz shook her head, tendrils of her wet hair, flying across her face. “No, thanks. I’m fine. Could we just talk?”

“Sure.” The two of them sat beside each other.

Liz cleared her throat. “Max, I wanted to apologize. I find myself apologizing to you all the time, for being such a jerk. I don’t even know how you can put up with me.” Her gaze faltered, her eyes looking at the ground.

Max placed his fingers under her chin, tilting it upwards so that he could tell her with his eyes and his voice, what he had been dying to tell her since the night before. “And, I keep telling you, that you have nothing to apologize for. I’m the one who’s at fault here.”

Liz shook her head. “I don’t think you are, but I don’t think I can convince you of that.”

Max gave her a smile. “Just like I don’t think I can convince you that you’re not at fault either.”

“Right.” Liz turned her head to the side, allowing herself a small grin. “How about, this? We skip the apologies, and just talk about what we really need to talk about?”

Max leaned back against the couch. “Ok.” He gestured towards her. “Do you want to go first?”

“Unless you want to?”

“No, it’s ok, you can go ahead.”

Liz swallowed a few times, looking into Max’s eyes, wanting him to see that she meant every word she was saying. “Well, I have to say that what we shared yesterday, our first kiss, I......... I don’t want it to be our last kiss.”

Max looked stunned. He had imagined this conversation a million and one different ways, but he had not expected that to come from her mouth.

“I was so happy when you kissed me. I had wanted to do it all day, but I’m not that courageous. So when you did kiss me, I, it was everything I had imagined it would be and more. But when you pulled away and apologized, I just, well basically, I freaked out. I thought that I had over stepped our friendship.”

Max tentatively touched her hand to make her understand. “That’s not what I meant, when I said that.”

Liz covered his hand with her own. “I know. And when you explained to me later about it, I just, I was still hurt, and my stupid pride kinda just got in the way.”

“Hey, having pride isn’t stupid. It’s an admirable thing.” Liz tilted her head to the side and gave him a crooked grin. “Yeah, well sometimes it gets in the way of what’s important. And what‘s important is that we tell each other the truth.”

“You’re right. And since you brought it up, I want you to know, that I don’t want our first kiss to be our last either. The truth is, I really like you Liz. I’ve never felt this way about anyone before. You make me feel things, that I never knew existed. I don’t want to scare you away, but that’s how I feel. And I just wanted you to know that.” He looked down, feeling somewhat embarrassed for having shared so much.

Liz leaned forward. “It doesn’t scare me, because I feel the same way.”

They shared a heated stare. “So what do we do now, Max? I know what I want-

“What do you want?”

Liz felt her face warm up, but she wasn’t going to keep her from telling the truth. “I want you. I want more than just a friendship with you, but I can understand if you don’t-

Max interrupted her. “That’s what I want too. I want to be with you, but.......”

Liz felt her heart sink when she heard him say but. “But?”

“I don’t want you to think, that I’m pressuring you into anything. The truth of the matter is, I would be content to just be your friend, even though I want to be so much more than that. But we’ve only known each other for a short time. I don’t-

Liz gave him a full blown smile. “How about, we take things slow? Go out on a few dates, and see how things turn out. Let’s make a pact that we shouldn’t feel pressured to move too fast, and that we promise to tell each other if something is bothering us. Because frankly, I don’t think I can go another sleepless night, having a misunderstanding between the two of us.”

He returned her smile with one his own. “That sounds like an idea.” He gave a little chuckle. “So, should we shake on it, or something?”

Liz shook her head, a twinkle in her eyes. “Nah, I say we just kiss on it.” The look on his face was priceless.

“Th-that, could work too.” He saw Liz moving closer towards him. He met her halfway and let their lips touch. It was as if an electric current was passing between their lips, causing their bodies to warm up. Max sat up, wrapping his arms around Liz. He pulled his right hand up to her face, cradling it. He angled her head so that he could gain deeper access to her mouth, only to stop when he heard a voice.

“Liz.” The two of them broke apart and looked at Noah who was standing by Liz, gently tugging on her pants leg. Liz leaned forward, smoothing back his curls. “Hey, there, Noah.”

Max glanced at his son, then glanced at his toys on the other side of the room. He did a double take when he realized that Noah was standing. His eyes grew wide with excitement.

Liz turned to Max, wondering what was going on with him. “Max, is everything ok?”

Max picked up Noah and walked to the other side of the room. Noah started kicking his arms and legs, trying to get back to Liz. “Hold on, I just want to try something. Could you just stand up for a second?”

Liz did as she was asked and stood up. “Ok, now what?”

Max kneeled down on the floor, holding Noah around his waist to keep him from running. “Call Noah to you. I want to see what he does.”

Liz got on her knees and held out her arms in Noah’s directions. “Come here Noah. C’mon baby.”

Max let go of his son, and watched as he slowly took a shaky step forward. One foot after another, Noah slowly made his way towards Liz, on his chubby little legs.

Liz’s smile grew wider as she realized what was going on. She clapped her hands together, wanting to encourage him. “C’mon Noah. Only a few more steps.”

Noah looked up at her, giving her that grin that was identical to Max’s before stumbling towards Liz, finally landing in her arms. Liz picked him up and twirled him around the room. “Yay, Noah.”

She plastered him with kisses, stopping only to hand him to his proud papa. Max eagerly took him into his arms, planting noisy kisses all over his face. “You’re such a smart little man.” He gave him one last kiss, then turned to Liz. “Daddy loves you, pal.”



All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 17-Sep-2001 5:41:49 PM
Part 31

***************

Liz grabbed her keys, and shyly stood by the front door. “Well, I have to go. My shift starts in fifteen minutes.”

Max nodded, shifting Noah in his other arm. “Ok, well, uh, how about Noah and I stop by later to say hi?” Liz gave him a broad smile. “I’d like that. Besides, I think everyone is going to be working later, you can say hi to everyone.”

“Sounds good.” The two of them stood there awkwardly for a minute, unsure of what to do next. They both leaned in tentatively. Max touched his lips to hers, then pulled back, only to kiss her again. They shared a sweet kiss before pulling back.

With a shy grin, Max rubbed his bottom lip with his thumb and forefinger. “Uh, sorry, I wasn’t, I-

Liz gave a soft chuckle. “Yeah, me too. I guess this whole,” she made a gesture with her hands, “relationship thing takes a little practice.” Max caught the twinkle in her eyes, glad to see her so happy.

“Yeah.” Max turned to Noah, angling him so that he was facing Liz. “You wanna say buhbye to Liz?” Noah gave her a little wave, a grin on his lips. “Liz!”

Kissing him on the crown of his head, Liz smiled. “Bye, bye Noah.” She turned to Max. “I’ll see you guys later.” Max waved as she walked closer to the door, moving forward only to have Liz run into him, planting a quick kiss on his lips.

With their foreheads, touching, she said goodbye again. “I should go, I don’t want to be late.”

“Uh huh.” He nodded, his forehead, rubbing against hers. “Later.”

“Yeah, later.” Reluctantly, Liz pulled away and made her way outside. It was only when she was in her car that she looked back at Max and Noah, fearing that she might have turned around and run back towards them.

Later couldn’t come soon enough.

*****************

Max grabbed his jacket and his car keys. He carried Noah down the stairs, getting ready to go to the Crashdown for lunch. “You ready, Noah? We’re going to the Crashdown for lunch.” Noah just lay his head against Max’s shoulder as he opened the door.

Diane Evans stood at the doorway, with her keys in hand. “Max, honey.” She leaned forward to give him and Noah a kiss.

“Mom.” He stepped aside to let her inside with Phillip following close behind. “Max.”

“Hey dad.” Phillip dropped his bags and reached out to take Noah from Max. “Hey there little guy. Grampa missed you.” Phillip gave Noah a few kisses before turning to Max. “So, what have you guys been up to this weekend?”

Max shifted his weight from foot to foot, wanting so much to spend some time with his parents, but wanting more than anything to go to the Crashdown. “Uh, not much actually.”

Diane watched the way Max couldn’t keep still. “What’s the matter, Max? Do you have somewhere to go?”

Max looked towards the open door and then at his parents. “Actually, Noah and I were just headed out.” He pointed to the open door, emphasizing his intent.

Phillip hoisted Noah higher against his hip. “C’mon Max. Can’t it wait a little? I’ve been home for like two seconds and now you and Noah are just going to leave?” Phillip turned his eyes to that of his smiling grandson’s. “A few minutes is all I’m asking.”

Max felt guilty for attempting to ditch his parents. On any normal day, he would have been glad to stay and talk about events that had happened over the weekend, but since he and Liz had gotten through all of the misunderstandings and were working towards a romantic relationship, he found himself dying to go to the Crashdown to reassure himself that it was for real. That someone as amazing as Liz Parker was giving him the time of day, and she had admitted to feeling the same way he did.

Max closed the front door and followed his parents into the living room.

Phillip sat in the recliner perching Noah on his knee. “So, what’s gotten you in such a rush to leave? Where were the two of you headed?”

Max rubbed his hands against the sides of his jeans. “We were just going to get some lunch at the Crashdown, you know, and say hi to Izzy.”

Noah bounced up and down on Phillip’s knee, clapping his hands together. “Liz! Liz!” Both Diane and Phillip whipped their heads around to the sound of Noah’s voice.

“Did he just?” Diane picked up Noah, holding him under his arms so that they were eye to eye. “Hi baby. Did you just say something? Huh? Did you? Will you say it again for gramma?” Diane bounced him up and down against her hip. Noah cocked his head to the side, a smile on his lips. “Liz.”

Phillip turned to Max, who had suddenly become very quiet. “Who’s Liz?”

“She’s.......Liz is my gir-,” Max bit his tongue. As much as he wanted to tell them that he and Liz were together, he didn’t know how his parents would take the news. Surely they wouldn’t think it was a good decision considering they’d only known each other for a short amount of time. They wouldn’t understand. “uh, she’s a friend. She works with Isabel.”

He felt like a heel for lying, and not telling the truth, but he couldn’t see a way around it. He wanted his parents to meet Liz and fall in love with her, just as he and Noah had. But he had to give them time. Springing this on them now would be unfair to both Liz and his parents.

Phillip watched Max’s eye color darken, signaling the inner struggle he was having. Phillip wondered what was going on. He decided that he would just have to talk to him later, to make sure everything was ok. There was no need to make Diane worry over nothing.

Diane turned sad eyes to Max. “Why didn’t you call us honey?” She ran a finger down Noah’s little nose. “Did he learn to say anything else?” Diane watched as a grin broke out on Max’s face. She hadn’t seen him smile like that in a long time.

Max sat up a little straighter. “He did actually. He learned how to say da da.”

Diane and Phillip found themselves smiling along with him. They were so happy.

Turning to look into Noah’s face, Diane started talking. “I can’t believe we’ve missed so much this past weekend. You’re growing up so fast.” She turned her eyes to Max. “Next you’ll be telling me that he started walking by himself.”

Diane watched the sheepish grin appear on Max’s face. “You’re kidding me right?”

Max shook his head slowly. “He just did it this morning.”

Diane grabbed her purse and turned to Phillip. “C’mon honey. I think we should go to the Crashdown with Max. We haven’t gotten a chance to eat yet, and I want to hear more about what happened this weekend.” She gave Max a soft smile. “You don’t mind if we join you, do you?”

Max felt the color drain from his face. He could only nod his response.

“Great, we’ll get in the car.” Diane carried Noah to the car.

Max followed, somewhat in a daze. Phillip clapped him on the shoulder. “Everything ok, son?”

Max forced a smile. “Everything’s fine dad. Just fine.”

Phillip went through the front door, leaving Max behind.

Max closed his hand over his eyes.

Part 32

***************

When the Evans family arrived at the Crashdown, Max had steered the family towards the back booths.

“Wow! Isn’t this a neat little restaurant?” Diane marveled at the quaint cafe. Phillip slid in beside her, letting his eyes roam the place. “It is interesting.” He found himself chuckling at the image of his daughter dressed in the turquoise uniform accompanied by silver antennas.

“Izzy, over here!” Phillip waved his hand in the air, a smile on his lips.

Isabel turned to see her family seated at one of the booths. She excused herself from her customers, and made her way over.

“Hey guys, what’s up?”

Phillip smiled at his baby girl. “We just got back home, and your brother said he was going to stop by to get something to eat, so we joined him.”

“Well that’s great.” Isabel turned her head to see a customer trying to get her attention. Placing a hand on her dad’s shoulder, she excused herself. “Guys, it’s really nice seeing you, but I have to get back to work. I’ll get Liz to take your orders.”

Isabel stopped by the swinging doors and pulled Liz out and thrust her towards her family before attending to the patrons at the front of the cafe.

“Welcome to the Crashdown. My name is Liz, I’ll be your server for today. Can I start you of with something to drink?” Liz reached down to grab her order pad from her apron pocket, only to look up to the sound of Max’s voice.

“Noah!”

Surprised, Liz looked up to see that Noah had crawled across Max to sit on the edge of the table, grinning at her.

“Lizzz!” He held out his arms to her, pleading to be held.

Max reached across to pull Noah back to sit beside him. “Sit still little man.” Noah kicked and fussed. “No, no, no! Lizzzzz!” He reached out his arms again, his eyes begging for Liz to take him from Max’s arms.

Liz leaned forward and took Noah in her arms. “Hey there, Noah. How ya doin’?”

Noah leaned forward so that his forehead was touching hers. “Liz!” He wrapped his little arms around her neck and leaned his head against her shoulder.

Diane and Phillip watched in amazement as their grandson had made a bee-line for Liz as soon as he had laid eyes on her. And what was even more amazing, was the way they were so at ease with one another. There was just something in the way Liz gently stroked Noah’s hair away from his face, that seemed to take their breath away.

Phillip cleared his throat and held out his hand. “Phillip Evans.” He gestured to his wife. “And this is my wife, Diane. It’s nice to finally meet you Liz.”

Liz reached out her hand, and gave Max’s dad a firm handshake. “It’s nice to meet you both.”

Max had stood up then and gently extricated Noah from Liz’s soft arms. “Sorry, about that. I have to teach the little man some self control.”

Liz chuckled softly, placing her hand against Max’s forearm. “Really, it’s ok.”

Max looked down to where her hand was touching his arm. Her touch caused a tingling sensation in his body, igniting his desire to plant a kiss on her soft lips. He bit the corner of his bottom lip, restraining himself from doing so. Somehow, he didn’t think that would be the best way to introduce Liz to his parents.

He quietly slid back into the booth struggling to keep Noah still. He glanced at Liz, giving her a shy smile.

Liz returned his smile with one of her own. What she wouldn’t do to be able to place a kiss on his luscious lips. She had been dying to see him since she had started her shift. She had been glancing at the clock every few minutes, which only succeeded in her friends teasing her.

She nervously tucked her hair behind her ears and chose not to look at Max. He was making it very hard for her not to lean over and just plant one on him. Instead she turned to his parents with a shy smile.

“So, could I get you guys something to drink?”

Phillip watched with great interest, in how the three of them were acting around each other. He had a pretty good idea that Liz was the reason Max was acting strange back at the house. He really needed to sit down with Max and have a talk to him.

“How about a round of cokes for everyone.” Phillip waited to hear any disagreements. When he didn’t hear any, he gave Liz a nod.

“Ok, 3 cokes coming right up.” Liz stuck her order book back into her pocket, turning to look towards Noah. “Anything for Noah?”

“Just some juice. Thanks.” Max graced her with one his smiles that made her feel like she was melting into a puddle.

“Sure, I’ll be right back to get your orders.”

Max couldn’t help the way his eyes followed her every move. It was like she was floating on air.

Diane exchanged a look with her husband, who in return just shrugged his shoulders. As happy as she was that Max was beginning to lighten up, she wasn’t sure how she should react to what she had just witnessed. It wasn’t that she wanted Max to miss out on happiness, but she didn’t want him to get hurt. The truth was, they didn’t know much about Liz. Who knows how this was going to turn out?

*************

Lunch had gone on without a hitch. Noah had behaved for the most part, although he would call out Liz’s name every time she walked past.

Max hardly touched his food, his attention focused on a certain dark haired waitress. His actions did not go unnoticed by his parents.

Phillip balled up his napkin and threw it onto his plate. “Well, I’m stuffed. Anyone want dessert?”

Diane shook her head. “Max?”

“Max!”

Startled, Max looked to his parents, a blush burning his cheeks. What were they saying?

At the blank look on his face, Diane repeated the question. “You’re dad wants to know if you’d like dessert?”

“No, thanks. I’m stuffed.”

Diane eyed his practically untouched plate of food. She had seen the way Max couldn’t tear his eyes away from Liz, and vice versa. She didn’t like where this was heading.

“Ok, I think it’s time we got home. You’re dad and I have had a long weekend.” Diane gathered her purse and began pushing Phillip out of the booth.

Max took a quick glance at Liz, then back to his parents. “Uh, is it ok if I stay?”

Diane opened her mouth to disagree, but Phillip spoke up. “No problem. Do you want us to take Noah home with us?”

Max looked at his son, who had effectively covered himself in juice. Max reached for a napkin to clean him up. “It’s ok, dad. I’ve got him.”

Phillip leaned forward and took Noah into his arms. “Nonsense. He needs a change of clothes anyway. Besides, Noah and I have a lot of catching up to do. Don’t we little guy?” Phillip gave Noah’s tummy a little tickle.

Max stood up. “Are you sure?”

Phillip gave Max a pat on the shoulder. “Have fun Max. We’ll see you and Izzy at home.”

Max gave a little wave as his parents made their way towards the front of the cafe to pay their bill.

After they had left, Max scanned the cafe for Liz.

Spotting her at the counter, Max made his way over. “Excuse me, miss?”

Liz looked up to see Max sitting on one of the stools, his elbows resting against the counter.

“Where’s your family?”

“Went home.”

“And Noah?”

“They took him home.”

Liz stopped wiping the counter and pulled off her antennas. “So, does this mean you’re free for the afternoon?”

“It looks like it.” He tapped his finger against his chin. “If only I could find something to do. Hmmm.”

Liz threw the dish rag at him. “Funny. Well, my shift finished a few minutes ago, so I’ll see ya.”

She untied her apron and made her way around to the back, only to be pulled back against Max’s chest.

“Not so fast. Where do you think you’re going?”

Liz bit the corner of her bottom lip, trying to keep the smile from her lips. “I was going to get dressed and find something to do. Since my boyfriend would rather find something else to do, I can’t just sit here twiddling my thumbs, now can I?”

She looked up to see Max staring at her, his amber eyes sparkling. Her breath hitched in her throat at the sight of him like that.

“I’m, I’m your boyfriend?”

Liz pulled away from him a little when she felt the blood flush her cheeks. Had she assumed too much?

“Uh, I’m sorry-

Max leaned forward and placed his lips over hers, effectively shutting her up. He pulled her a little closer, before ending the kiss. He bent his head so that he could whisper in her ear. “I like the sound of that. But you know what I think sounds better?”

Liz found herself unable to speak, so she opted to just shake her head in the negative.

Max pulled back, so that he could look into her eyes. “That you’re my girlfriend.”

Liz felt goose bumps creep across her arm at the sound of his soft baritone voice. She closed her eyes as she felt him place a kiss on her forehead. “So, how about we go on that first date?”

***************

Phillip watched the way his wife sulking in their room. After they had put Noah down for his nap, she had remained silent, not saying a word.

He waited another second before saying anything.

“What’s wrong, Di?”

Diane looked up from where she was folding and re-folding their laundry. “Nothing’s wrong. Why would you say that?”

Phillip watched as she shook out the t-shirt she had just folded, only to fold it again. He dropped the paper that he was reading and walked towards her. He gently stopped the movements of her hands.

“C’mon Di. We’ve been married for twenty years. Not once have we kept anything from each other. Tell me what’s wrong. I don’t like seeing you like this.”

Heaving a sigh, Diane pulled her hand away from his and sat down on the bed. “It’s Max. I think that maybe you and I should talk to him.”

Phillip took a seat beside her, draping his arm around her shoulders. “Talk to him about what?”

Diane pulled away from his embrace and stood so that she was facing him. “You know what I’m talking about. I know you saw what was going on in that cafe, Phillip. I think maybe we should tell him to slow down. Because if I know Max at all, I think he‘s fallen hard for Liz.”

Phillip stood up, scratching the side of his eyebrow. “Are you sure we should do that? I mean Max is a responsible young man. I think he can take care of himself.”

“Just to be on the safe side. I don’t want him rushing into a relationship with a girl that he’s just met.”

Phillip reached out to rub her shoulders. “If it’ll make you happy, I’ll talk to him.”

He pulled her towards him, giving her a hug. “I don’t think we have anything to worry about Diane. Max is the most responsible you can get out of a teenage guy.”

Diane just kept quiet and let Phillip take her into his arms. The truth was, she wasn’t worried about Max being irresponsible and moving too fast. She was worried about that Liz girl. Sure, she seemed nice enough, but how was she going to feel about Max when reality set in. Would she accept him, or would she just move on?

Her main priority was Max and Noah. She didn’t want to see them get hurt.

Part 33

**************

Max walked beside Liz, her small hand encased in his much larger one. He looked down to see the top of her dark shiny hair. Unable to resist, he leaned down and placed a kiss on her head, pulling her closer to his side.

A small smile was playing against Liz’s lips. She looked up at him, her doe eyes twinkling.

"What was that for?"

His lips quirked up at the sides as he responded.

"Are you saying I need an excuse to kiss you?"

Liz’s long hair swung across her shoulders.

"No, of course not. It just makes me wonder what I did to receive such pleasure."

Max felt the tips of his ears warm up slightly. He shook his head and stopped walking.

"You."

Liz gave Max a questioning look.

"Me?"

Max moved forward, his forehead resting against hers.

"Yeah, you. Just being you." He pressed his lips to hers in a feather light kiss. Pulling back, he gazed into her eyes, he tucked a stray strand of her hair behind her ear. "So, are we almost there?"

Liz felt herself sway just a little bit. Max Evans definitely had a dangerous effect on her. She tried to concentrate on what he was saying. What was it again? Something about being almost there?

"Almost where?"

Max smiled a broad smile at the dazed look in her eyes. He was glad that he wasn’t the only affected by their kisses. He started walking again, gently bumping his side against hers. "To the coffee shop you said you wanted to take me to."

Liz’s dark head, bobbed in understanding. "As a matter of fact, it’s just across the street." She pointed ahead them towards a little coffee shop on the other side of the road, right across from the street from the local park.

As they came to the cross walk, Max gripped her hand a little tighter, as they made their way across to La Tazza Cafe.

Liz led Max to one of the tables that was outside right beside the entrance.

Max held out Liz’s seat for her before sitting across from her.

"So, you’re telling me this place serves the best hot chocolate?"

Liz nodded her head enthusiastically. "Yep, and they have the best chocolate cake here too."

Max smiled at the excitement that Liz displayed. He enjoyed being able to be in her presence like this. He didn’t know what he did to deserve this, but he wasn’t going to complain.

A waitress came out and took their orders.

Max watched as people started setting up some music equipment just inside the cafe. They opened the front doors wide.

He turned to Liz, curiosity dancing in his eyes. "What’s going on?"

"They usually have a local band play here, every now and then. Some of them are actually pretty good."

The waitress came back with two mugs of hot chocolate and a slice of chocolate cake.

Liz waited for Max to take a sip of his hot chocolate.

Max obliged her and took a sip. He felt the warm liquid warm his throat. Liz was right. This was the best hot chocolate he had ever tasted. Not even his mom’s could come close. He pulled the mug away from his lips to tell Liz, but frowned instead.

He watched as Liz tried to hold in her laughter. "What’s so funny?"

Liz put her hand over her mouth to keep her laughter inside. She didn’t mean to laugh, but Max just looked so adorable with whipped cream on the tip of his nose. When she had regained some of her composure, she leaned forward and wiped the whipped cream off his nose with a napkin.

"You kinda had a little, uh......."

Max let his eyes drop to the table as embarrassment consumed him. Liz lifted his chin so that they were looking at each other. "You have nothing to worry about. You still looked absolutely handsome without even trying. Even if you did have a smidgen of whipped cream on your nose."

Liz felt her knees wobble slightly in her seat at the sight of the smile he gave her.

Deciding to keep herself from sinking further into the depths of being a pathetic dork, she took her fork and took a piece of cake. She held it out to him and watched as he opened his mouth to taste the chocolate cake.

She almost dropped the fork once he had started chewing on the moist cake. His lips turned up at the corners and then he reached for the fork in her hand. He let his hand graze hers for a little longer than necessary, wanting an excuse to touch her soft skin.

He took a piece of the cake and held it out to her. When she opened her lips to receive the cake, he felt his own mouth open slightly. She chewed the cake in her mouth. When she finished, her tongue sneaked out past her lips to lick off the frosting that didn’t quite make it into her mouth.

Max would have sat there like an idiot, had it not been for the music floating outside of the cafe. His eyes darted to the sky above them which had turned into a slew of fiery hues.

His lips curled into a smile as an idea came to him.

Max took one of the flowers from the vase that sat in the center of the table. He threaded his fingers through Liz's hair, pushing it behind her ear.

He placed the flower behind her ear, causing Liz to smile at him.

He pulled out his seat and stood up. He held out his hand for Liz.

She gave him a weary look, but trusted him nonetheless.

He lead her to the front of the cafe which was unoccupied by tables. He pulled Liz into an embrace and gently swayed their bodies to the music.

"What are you doing Max?" Liz asked the question, a smile lighting her voice.

Max rested his chin on her head, gathering her body closer to his if possible.

"I’m dancing with you," he replied as if that answered everything.

Liz buried her face against his neck, inhaling the scent that was just him.

"I see that. But no one else is dancing."

Max moved his lips closer to her ear.

"So? Do I need an excuse to want to dance with my girlfriend?"

Liz smiled against his chest and shook her head.

"No, you certainly don’t."

She lifted her head to look into his eyes.

His eyes danced with happiness. The warm colors from the sunset caused his amber eyes to sparkle. She hadn’t realized it before, but his eyes were laced with specs of gold.

She continued to stare into his eyes, but let her eyes drift close when he kissed her.

His lips gently massaged hers, slowly getting acquainted with them. His knees grew weak when he felt her tongue trace his bottom lip, silently asking him permission to deepen the kiss.

Taking a deep breath, he opened his mouth wider, allowing her tongue to dance with his.

His hands, snaked up her body to cradle her face, holding her steady.

The world seemed to fade away as they continued to kiss. The only thing registering was the music that floated in their ears.

Several of the people in the cafe had stopped and watched as Max and Liz had started to dance. They had thought it was cute to see a young couple obviously very smitten with each other. But what had captured their attention was the way in which the dark haired young man gently held the young woman in his arms.

He held her close, touching her with such tenderness. It was rare, actually close to impossible to witness something like that between two young people. There was no doubt that they were in love.

As soon as they kissed the people in the cafe smiled, clapping their hands and cheered for the young couple.

Max and Liz pulled away from each other, startled at the applause and cheering that they heard. They turned their heads to see that everyone was watching them, a smile on all of their lips.

Liz buried her face in the crook of Max’s neck, feeling the blush start from her neck.

"I can’t believe we just did that in front of all of these people."

Max began apologizing for having embarrassed Liz.

"I didn’t-

Liz looked up at him, silencing him with her finger against his lips.

She pulled her finger away and replaced it with her lips.

Without pulling her lips away from his, she expressed her gratitude to him.

"Thank you."

Max smiled as her lips brushed against his when she spoke. Not pulling away, he spoke to her, letting his lips do the same as hers had.

"You’re welcome."

He wrapped his arms firmly around her waist, gliding it up across her back, before gently running his fingers through her hair.

"Thank you, Liz."

Part 34

***************

After their first official date, Max walked Liz back to her apartment above the Crashdown.

Liz swung their linked hands up and down, not wanting this beautiful day to end. It was too perfect, too amazing for her to want it to end. But as much as she would have loved to stay out all hours of the night with Max, they both had responsibilities that they just couldn’t ignore.

“So, I had a great time tonight Max. I want to thank you for making it perfect.” She leaned up and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

When she pulled back, Max straightened the flower that he had put behind her ear earlier.

“No, thank you for a perfect day Liz. You have no idea how much all of this means to me, how much you mean to me.” He traced the soft lines of her face before hovering over her lips, not touching, just feeling her presence.

Liz found it hard to breathe with Max just mere inches away from her lips. She was tempted to take his hand and run away where they could spend a few precious hours together, but an image of Noah flashed in her mind.

She placed a quick peck on his lips and smiled up at him.

“You should go. Noah’s probably waiting for you.”

Max nodded his head and reluctantly moved away from Liz.

“You’re probably right. I’ll just call you later.”

Bobbing her head up and down, Liz replied.

“I’d like that.”

When he started to pull further away from her, she made one last request.

“Give Noah a kiss for me?”

Max turned around, a smile on his lips and in his eyes. It touched him that Liz seemed to care so much for Noah, and apparently for him too.

He made a quick dash back to her, pulling her into a sweet kiss.

“I will. Bye Liz.”

“Bye, Max.”

******************

Max dropped his keys on the table.

“Anyone, home?”

“In here.”

Max made his way into the living room towards the sound of Isabel’s voice. He gave her a slight nod of his head as he picked up his son who was playing on the carpet.

He gave him a kiss on the cheek and a smile.

“Hey little man. What have you been up to while I was gone?”

Isabel gave Max a curious look and wondered where he had been all afternoon. From the looks of his good mood, she wouldn’t need more than one guess. She couldn’t help the smile from forming. She was glad that Max and Liz seemed to work out their differences. It was good to see Max so happy.

Max looked towards where Isabel was sitting and gave her an odd look.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

Isabel just stood up from her spot on the couch and walked to Max and gave him a hug.

Max stumbled back a bit, surprised by her hug.

“What’s going on Iz?”

She pulled away from him, giving a smile that could light up a Christmas tree.

“I’m just so happy to see how happy you are. It’s been so long that I almost thought it was impossible.”

Max’s lips quirked up at the corners as he remembered why he was in such a good mood.

“Yeah, well for a while I sort of thought that it was impossible too. Liz has given me so much in the short time that I’ve known her.” Max looked at his son, then at Isabel. “I take that back. She’s given the three of us something we’ve never really experienced, and I only hope that I can show her how much she means to me.”

Isabel felt her eyes tear up at her brother’s revelation of his budding relationship with Liz. Liz was definitely something the three of them needed in their lives right now. Who knows what would have happened to them had she not stepped into their lives like an angel and bringing her wonderful friends for the ride.

************

Diane Evans stood in the shadows and watched her twins and her grandson. Her heart hurt at seeing how fast time flew. They were growing faster than she would have liked, but she couldn’t complain. They were turning into the most responsible young people. She couldn’t be more proud if she tried.

She had been waiting for Max to arrive home so that she and Phillip could have a word with him about what she suspected was going on between Liz and her son. But she didn’t need to ask Max whether her suspicions were correct, for he already admitted his feelings for Liz.

Diane tried to be optimistic and be glad that her son was happy. But she couldn’t help but worry. Max was her first born, her only son. She had already seen how easily they had broken him when people had blamed him for Tess’ untimely death. She didn’t want a repeat of that. She would do everything in her power to save her family from that kind of heartache again.

It wasn’t so much that she disliked Liz. On the contrary, from what she had seen about the young woman, Diane would have wished Max would have ended up with someone who was as kind and genuine as Liz was. But they had unique circumstances. She just wanted to make sure that Liz was worthy of her son’s love and the obvious affection of her grandson.

Clearing her throat, Diane made her presence to her children.

“Mom.”

Diane stepped into the room.

“Isabel, would you get your father. He and I need to have a little word with Max.”

Isabel’s glance darted from her mother, whose expression she couldn’t read, to that of her brother’s who seemed a little worried.

She gave Max’s arm a little squeeze before heading out of the living room in search of her dad.

Max gave his mom a nervous look before taking a seat on the couch, with Noah in his lap.

Diane watched the way Max was giving her nervous looks here and there. She could feel the tension coming off of him in waves. There was nothing more than she wanted to do than take him in her arms and assure him that everything was ok and that he wasn’t in any trouble, but she decided not to say anything until Phillip was there.

Phillip strode into the living room after Isabel had called him.

Diane looked up to see Phillip and motioned for him to stand beside her. Together, the two of them walked towards Max.

Max held Noah a little tighter in his arms and began speaking.

“If this about me just coming home right now, I’m sorry. It was wrong of me to assume that I could just leave Noah with you like that.”

Phillip pushed his hands into his pockets and studied the guilty look in his son’s eyes. As much as he didn’t agree with Diane with telling Max to slow down, and instead allowing Max to dictate his own life, he had hoped that this talk would get things out in the open and maybe help Diane see that Max was a fine young man. And that it wouldn’t be so bad if they gave Liz a chance.

If Max thought she deserved his affection then they should at least try, for his sake.

“Max, this isn’t about that. You don’t have to apologize.” Phillip took a seat on the coffee table so that he was facing Max.

Diane stood beside him, her hand on his shoulder. “Your father’s right. We actually wanted to talk to you about something else. Actually, more like someone else.”

Max felt his stomach twist in knots. Somehow those words just sent little alarms in his head, like this talk was some sort of ambush.

“Talk to me about who?” Max found it hard to talk with all sorts of bad scenarios running in his head.

Phillip watched the way Max’s eyes danced wildly with fear. He didn’t enjoy seeing that fear in his son’s eyes and therefore decided to nip this thing in the bud.

“We wanted to talk to you about Liz.” He watched the fear grow in Max’s eyes making his heart ache.

“We saw the way the two of you were with each other at the Crashdown. And we can only assume that she was the reason why you only just got home. Am I right?”

Max swallowed past the lump in his throat. This was like something out of a bad dream.

“It wasn’t her fault. I was the one who-

Phillip held up his hand, and stopped Max. “It’s ok, Max. We’re not mad.”

Max gave his parents cautious looks. If they weren’t mad, then why were they having this conversation?

“Then, then what is this about?”

Phillip turned to Diane and indicated that he wanted her to answer that question. After all, she was the one who had problems with this in the first place.

Diane sat beside Phillip, and placed her hands on Max’s knees.

“I’d like to know where this, this relationship is going. If this is serious, or if it’s just a friendship.”

Max looked at Noah before answering his mom.

“Mom, at the risk of sounding like a jerk, or ungrateful even, I don’t see why it would be something I should tell you. Whatever my relationship with Liz, romantic or otherwise, it’s between her and me. No one else.”

Diane turned her eyes to Phillip who merely shrugged his shoulders.

“I see where you’re coming from Max, and believe me, I understand. If this was just any other relationship, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but this isn’t just any normal relationship. You have a son to factor in.”

Max turned angry eyes on his mother for even insinuating anything of the sort.

“I realize that mom. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t realize that I have responsibilities that people my age probably won’t have to deal with until they’re married. But I’ve made some bad decisions in my life that I will have to pay for, and will continue to pay for. I can’t regret any of the choices I’ve made in the past because that would be like saying I regret having Noah, and that............, Noah is my son. I don’t know who I would be if I didn’t have him in my life, keeping me grounded. Keeping my eyes open to the realities that surround me.” Max took a breath, before he continued. “I know you’re worried about Liz, you’re worried if she’s going to leave when the novelty wears off and she realizes that this is my life. That I’m just another statistic.”

“The truth is, all of that doesn’t matter to Liz. Liz accepts me for who I am and she doesn’t cast any judgments. She’s my friend first and foremost. In the short time that I’ve known her, she’s proved to me over and over again, that she’s someone I can trust my life with, and my son’s. That’s something I never thought I would be able to say about anyone else, other than my family. Liz has shown me that just because I’ve made some blunders along the way, that I don’t have to stop living my life.”

Max turned teary eyes to his parents. “And if this doesn’t end up working out in the end, it won’t matter. Everything will be worth it in the end for me.”

Diane watched quietly as her usually soft spoken son spilled his heart out to her. She watched as he talked about Liz, passion dancing in his eyes.

If anything, Diane had to give credit to Liz. It was obvious that she had a lot to do with getting Max to open up and be happy for once. She had always thought Max was a good judge of character. And if he thought Liz was worth it, then she could at least give her a chance.

And as far as she could see, Liz was liked by the whole family. Especially Noah. If Noah was giving Liz a chance then she would too. She would have thought that Noah was the toughest critic to please.

Diane reached over and took one of Max’s hands and placed it between both of hers.

“If she means that much to you, I’d like to get to know her better. Maybe you could invite her over for dinner or something.”

Max felt his mom’s hands squeeze his hand tight. He could tell that he had gotten through to her and that she didn’t say those things to be mean. She was just looking out for him like she always was.

He leaned forward and gave her a hug.

“Thank you mom, for understanding.” His voice was muffled by her hair.

Diane took him in her arms, rubbing his back.

“I’m sorry Max. I hope you know that I only said those things because I worry about you and Noah. I don’t want anything happening to you guys. You mean the world to me.”

Noah had started to squirm between Max and Diane. Apparently, he didn’t enjoy being squished.

Max and Diane both pulled away, half laughing, half crying.

Diane gave Max and Noah kisses on their foreheads before leaving.

“And I’m serious, Max. I want you to bring Liz over for dinner. That way I can find out what makes her so special.” Diane gave him a wink and then headed for her bedroom.

Phillip took a look at Max and gave him a smile.

“I’m glad you’re happy son. It’s good to see you smile again.” He stood up and gently ruffled Max’s hair. He knew that Max had out grown that a long time ago, but Max would always be his son. He would always see him as the shy and quiet little boy he was.

Phillip leaned and gave Noah a kiss before leaving.

Max sat back on the couch, feeling like some much weight had been lifted off of his shoulders. He was glad that his parents knew how much Liz meant to him. He wanted them to see just how special she really was.

With that thought in mind, he rushed up to his room to give her a call.

Part 35

After putting Noah to bed, Max stripped down to his boxers and jumped into bed himself.

He grabbed the phone from his bedside table and dialed Liz’s number.

“Hey, Max.”

Startled, Max sat up a little in bed.

“Liz? How did you, how did you know it was me?”

Liz’s soft laughter filtered through the phone line, eliciting a smile from Max on the other end.

“Caller id, remember?”

“Right, so, um, what are you up to?”

“Actually, I was just getting ready for bed? You?” Liz fluffed up her pillows so that she could lay against them.

“Same here. I just finished putting Noah to bed.”

Liz smiled at the image of Noah asleep and it warmed her heart.

“I know I just saw him this afternoon, but I miss him already.”

Max glanced to where his sleeping son lay. “Yeah, well I think he missed you to. He wouldn’t stop calling for you when I put him down.”

There was a few moments of sweet silence between the two of them. Of just knowing that the other was on the other end of the line, sent them a comforting feeling.

“So, I talked to my mom today, and she wants you to come over for dinner some time.”

Liz felt her heart speed up just a little bit.

“Have you....... did you tell your mom about us?”

Now it was Max’s turn to be a little nervous.

“I.......well, yeah.”

When he didn’t hear a response from her, he started to panic.

“I’m sorry, Liz. I shouldn’t, I shouldn’t have said anything without asking you first.”

The fog in Liz’s brain seemed to have cleared at Max’s apology.

“Max, please don’t apologize. I’m not mad at you for having told your mom.”

Max felt his heart calm down a little at Liz’s reassurance. He just wasn’t used this relationship stuff. He had only ever been with one girl in his whole entire life, he didn’t want to ruin what he and Liz had.

“Are, are you sure?”

Liz gave a soft laugh as she started talking. “Yes, as a matter of fact, I couldn’t be happier. I just........ well I thought that you might be reluctant to tell them, you know, since you’ve only met me........”

Max shook his head against the receiver even though he knew that Liz couldn’t see him.

“Never. I know we’ve only known each other for a little while, but sometimes I get the feeling that I’ve known you my whole life, or maybe in other lifetime. Does that sound stupid?”

Now it was Liz’s turn to shake her head. “No, it doesn’t. I........I get that feeling too.”

Max sat up, allowing the sheet to fall to his waist.

“I already miss you.”

“Me too.”

“Look, I know it’s late, but I just wanted to hear your voice before I went to bed.” Max’s voice grew a notch deeper. “So, uh, goodnight, Liz. I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”

Liz’s voice grew to a whisper. “Goodnight, Max. And thanks again for today. I had a wonderful time.”

Both of them waited a moment longer before hanging up and trying to sleep.

****************

Max and Liz had tried to squeeze in as much time as they could together, but with school and part time jobs, it was almost impossible. They both lived for lunch where they could sit together and be with their friends. In AP Chem, they were reduced to little smiles and glances. Sometimes, Liz would just reach out under their lab table and hold Max’s hand, it made her feel at peace that he wasn’t too far away.

The budding relationship between Max and Liz had not gone unnoticed by the student body. Especially since Max was considered the new hottie in town.

Whispers and stares continued around them, but Max and Liz were too oblivious to notice. Whenever they were around each other, they were in their own little world. Everything and everyone else ceased to exist.

“I don’t get it. How did mousy Liz Parker land a fox like Max Evans?” Pam Troy swung her long blonde her over her shoulder as she talked to the girls that were gathered around her.

“Well, maybe it’s because she has some class. Something you obviously know nothing about.” Maria gave Pam a pointed look before walking the other way. What Maria wouldn’t do to just give Pam Troy a left hook. She wasn’t one to condone violence, but that girl was just looking for trouble.

Pam gave a little huff as she watched Maria walk away. “Whatever, I’m going to find out what little miss goody two shoes has done to fool Max Evans. And when I do, he’ll be free for my taking.”

***************

Max walked hand in hand with Liz to the parking lot.

“So, do you need me to come pick you up?”

Liz shook her head and tucked her hair behind her ears.

“It’s ok. I’ll just drive down myself.”

Max paused by his jeep where he let Liz lean against it.

“Do you need a ride home?”

Liz playfully smacked him across the chest.

“I already told you that Alex was giving me a ride home. And besides, what is it with you and wanting to give me a ride?”

Max gave her his half smile and leaned in to kiss her.

“Nothing, it’s just we haven’t been spending a whole lot of time together, and......”

He let his voice drift off as he ran his fingers through her dark tresses.

“I know. I feel exactly the same way. But think about it this way, I’ll be over at your house for dinner later, and then we can spend some time together.”

Max gave a little chuckle. “Yeah, that is assuming I can even get near you. My mom will probably corner you and ask you questions.........”

Liz’s face paled a little bit, which stopped Max from continuing to joke. “I’m sorry, Liz. I was only joking. My mom is really the greatest. The only thing you’ll really have to worry about is her cooking. But I’ve already told Isabel to keep an eye on her and not let her out of her sight.”

Liz gave Max a mock frown, but she couldn’t keep herself from smiling. “C’mon, Max. I’m sure your mother is a delightful cook.”

Max just nodded his head slowly. “Well, that’s because you’ve never tasted her cooking.”

Liz reached over and started tickling his sides. “Max Evans, that’s not a very nice thing to say!”

Just then, Isabel and Alex showed up. “Let’s go, Parker, before Max decides he doesn’t want to let you go.”

Liz looked at Alex and held up her hand, indicating that she needed a few more minutes with Max.

Isabel smiled at the sight that her brother and Liz made.

She looked towards Alex. “I really wish you could come over for dinner.”

Alex looked down into her eyes and smiled. “Me too, but it’s Friday night. It’s impossible to find someone to cover my shift. Maybe another time.”

“Yeah, I’d like that.”

Alex hooked his thumbs into the straps of his back pack. “Yeah, well tell your mom thanks for the invite. And sorry that I won’t be there.”

Isabel just nodded her head and the two of them just smiled at each other.

Max leaned in closer to Liz. “As soon as you’re ready, just come on over. Noah’s been dying to see you all week, and that way, you and I could spend more time together.”

Liz leaned in closer to his lips. “Yeah, that sounds nice.” Liz finally closed the distance between them and allowed herself to feast on Max’s lips. Before she could deepen the kiss, she heard someone clearing their throat.

Liz pulled back and put some distance between her and Max. “I’ll just see you later.”

With a dazed look in his eyes, Max responded. “Yeah, later.”

Alex gave Max and Isabel a little wave before dragging Liz off towards his car.

Isabel jumped into the drivers seat. “Let’s go Max.”

Max gave one last look in the direction that Alex had taken Liz before jumping into the jeep.

Later.

Max couldn’t wait.




All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 17-Sep-2001 5:48:52 PM
Part 36

***************

Liz straightened out her cardigan as she waited for someone to answer the door.

It was still really early, but Max had insisted that she come early, and she could deny him nothing when he gave her that smile that made her toes curl.

She let herself rock back and forth on her heels as she waited.

The longer she waited, the more anxious she got. What if his parents didn’t like her? What if they didn’t think she was good enough for Max, or Noah?

She decided to ring the bell again to keep herself from going insane, when the door opened.

Diane Evans opened the door with a smile on her face.

“Oh, Liz, you’re early.”

Liz found herself stumbling over her words. “Uh, Max said, well if it’s-

Diane cut her off and pulled her inside the house.

“This is even better. It gives us more time to get to know one another.” Diane led Liz to the kitchen where she had started chopping up some vegetables. “Phillip won’t be home for another hour, so why don’t you go out back. Max and Izzy are outside playing with Noah.”

“Do you need any help in here? Cos, I could-

Diane waved off Liz’s offer. “Nonsense. You’re a guest. Go on out there. I think Max is expecting you.”

When Liz still seemed a little unsure, Diane gave her a friendly push towards the back door.

Liz stopped for a second and smiled at Diane. “Thank you Mrs. Evans, for having me over.”

Diane just smiled in return as she watched Liz make her way outside.

As if he had some sort of sixth sense or Liz radar, Max looked up and smiled as he saw Liz making her way over. He wiped the grass off of his jeans and walked halfway to meet her.

They stood in front of each other, just grinning.

“Hey.”

“I’m glad you got here early.” Max let his eyes wander over her body. “Wow, you look, you look great.”

Liz flushed at Max’s obvious delight in seeing her. “Well, you don’t look so bad yourself.”

Liz leaned in and gave him a soft peck on his lips.

“Liz! Liz!”

Liz looked behind Max to see Isabel pushing Noah on a swing.

As he was pushed up into the air, he would wave at her and call out her name.

Liz took Max’s hand in hers and made their way over to them.

“Hi, Noah!” Liz gave him a little wave, as the swing swung back and forth.

Liz turned to Isabel and gave her a smile. “Hey, Isabel.”

“Hey, Liz.” Isabel let the swing run out of steam and grabbed a hold of it so that it would stop completely.

“Da da.” Noah reached out his arms for Max.

Max lifted Noah from the swing and carried him closer to Liz. “Having fun, little man?” He threw him up in the air, catching him on his way down. The laughter of father and son carried through the yard, causing the rest of the spectators to join the laughter.

Isabel placed her hand on Liz’s arm. “I’ll leave you guys to it. I’m gonna go in and see if mom needs some help.”

“Do you guys need some help?”

Isabel just shook her head. “Thanks, but I think we’ve got it covered. I’m just basically making sure mom doesn’t try out any of her knew recipes.” With a wave of her hand, Isabel was back inside the house, leaving Max, Liz, and Noah alone.

Max stopped, playing with Noah and turned to Liz. “Thank you.”

Liz walked closer to him, running her hand down his arm. “For what?”

Max took a quick glance towards the kitchen to where he could see his mom, preparing dinner. “For coming tonight.” He looked into Liz’s eyes. “It means a lot to me.”

Max gave her a kiss on her forehead, and pulled her close to wrap her in his arms.

*******************

Diane was at the kitchen sink, under the guise of rinsing out the vegetables.

She looked out the window, watching Max and Liz with Noah.

“So, Izzy, you work with Liz. What’s she like?” Diane turned to Isabel who was chomping on some carrots.

Isabel looked thoughtful for a moment. “Well, she’s really sweet, very friendly. I guess you could say she’s the typical girl next door. But then again that’s not really the best way to describe her.” Isabel turned to her mom. “I guess you’ll just half to talk to her. I mean I could sit here and sing her praises all day, but in order for you to find out what she’s really like, you’ll just have to talk to her and spend some time with her.”

Diane just nodded her head and looked out the window again.

She watched as her son gave Liz a kiss on the forehead, and pulled her into his arms for an embrace.

Diane suddenly found herself looking away because she somehow felt like she was intruding.

Seeing the way her son was so gentle about Liz, made her proud that she had brought up a son that had so much love to give.

***************

Max returned to the house with Liz following closely behind.

He walked to his mom and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Hey, mom.”

Diane wrinkled her nose and took Noah from Max’s arms.

“I don’t know how you do it, Max.”

Max’s eyebrows knotted in confusion.

“Do what?”

“I don’t know how you manage to smell like you’ve been playing out in the sun all day, while Noah still smells so sweet.” Diane tweaked Noah’s little nose. “Is daddy stinky?”

Noah just giggled, at his grandmother, while his father blushed with embarrassment.

Diane looked to Max, then Isabel. “Why don’t you two go on ahead and get freshened up for dinner.”

Max glanced to where Liz was standing in the corner.

Diane, watched and just smiled. “Besides, it will give Liz and I some time to get to know each other.” She looked towards Liz. “Isn’t that right Liz?”

Liz just nodded, and gave Max a reassuring smile.

Max walked to the stairs slowly, not taking his eyes away from Liz.

Once he was out of the room, Liz walked closer to Diane.

“Is there anything I can help you with Mrs. Evans?”

Diane looked at Noah and her arms then at Liz.

“Well, if you wouldn’t mind. Do you think you can take Noah for a little bit? That way I can get everything ready for dinner.”

Liz gladly came forth and took Noah into her own arms. She gave him a little kiss on his temple and gently bounced him against her hip.

Diane just watched with great interest how Liz and Noah interacted. She had already seen how fond Noah seemed of Liz at the Crashdown last weekend, but it still amazed her that the two of them seemed so comfortable in each other’s presence. Like they had always known each other.

She continued to chop some more vegetables and began to make small talk with Liz.

“So, Liz. I hear you’re the manager at the Crashdown.”

Liz quickly looked up at Diane and gave a little shake of her head.

“That’s a little bit of a stretch.” She gave Diane a sheepish grin. “I act as manager when my folks are out of town.”

“And does that happen a lot?”

“Not really. Usually they’re only out of town because of something related to the Crashdown.”

“Has your family always owned the Crashdown?”

Liz hiked Noah higher up against her hip.

“More or less. We’ve had the Crashdown for as long as I can remember.”

Liz walked towards one of the stools and sat down with Noah in her lap.

“Are you sure that I can’t help you with anything, Mrs. Evans? Help with the salad, set the table, anything?”

Diane stopped chopping vegetables long enough to look at Liz. She had to smile at Liz’s obvious desire to help out.

She wiped her hands against her apron and pointed to the cabinets that held the plates and silverware.

“Well if you insist. You wouldn’t mind setting the table, would you?”

Liz placed Noah in his booster seat and gladly walked to the cabinets. She was relived that she could finally do something instead of just sitting.

“Thank you, Liz.”

“Really, it’s not a problem. I’m glad to help. I just hope I’m not putting you out with being over here for dinner.”

“That’s ridiculous. You’re not putting us out. It’s a pleasure to have you over.”

Liz flushed a little as she continued setting the table.

Diane hated the way she sounded asking all of these questions. It reminded her of when she and Phillip had just started dating and he had brought her home to meet his parents. Phillip’s mother was continually asking her questions, making her feel uncomfortable. She was sure that Liz was feeling ill at ease with her little interrogation, but she couldn’t help herself. Maybe it was something that all mothers went through, when their sons got involved in romantic relationships.

When Max and Tess had started dating in junior high, she had thought it was cute. They had hung out together since they were kids considering Tess and Isabel were practically glued to the hip.

She didn’t think it would last longer than a month at most. But she had been wrong. The one month turned into a year, and then into another year. She didn’t think that it was healthy that the two of them were so exclusive at such a young age.

She and Phillip had given Max the talk when he had entered high school. They knew that the kids had participated in the sex ed classes that they gave during health science class, but they wanted to talk to him anyway. It wasn’t that they didn’t trust Max, but it was always better to be safe than sorry.

So when the news broke out that Max and Tess had conceived a child at such a young age, it boggled her mind. Hadn’t they been listening when they were told about abstinence and safe sex during class? Hadn’t they listened to a word their parents had said?

Apparently not.

She looked to where Liz had kneeled down in front of Noah’s booster seat, playing with him.

If she thought long and hard about why she was so adamant about Max not getting serious with Liz right now, it probably didn’t have a lot to do with her fear of Liz leaving Max and hurting him. From what she had witnessed, it seemed like they had a solid bond that would last a really long time.

What she was most frightened of was Max making the same mistake again. She knew that Max had learned his lesson and was making up for having made bad decisions in the past. But if he and Liz were as close as they appeared to be, then a physical relationship might be just around the corner.

Diane knew that it was none of her business if Max and Liz were to become intimate. She just hoped that they would wait.

Another thing that was plaguing her was Liz’s parents. She had no idea if they knew about Max already. And if they did, she certainly couldn’t see them welcoming him as their daughter’s boyfriend. The truth of it was, they would see Max as a man with a past. They would probably think that he was no good and was only out to corrupt their daughter.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Max bounding into the kitchen, freshly showered and a smile on his lips.

It was plain to see that he was eager to get back to Liz. He quickly joined her beside Noah and the two of them exchanged sweet smiles before turning their attention to Noah.

Diane grabbed the bread and the salad and placed it at the center of the table.

“What smells, so good?” Phillip loosened his tie and poked his head into the kitchen.

“Honey, you’re right on time. Dinner’s ready.” Diane walked to her husband and placed a soft kiss on his lips.

Liz stood up and straightened out her skirt.

Max walked to his dad and gave him a hug. “Hey, dad.”

Phillip gave Max an extra squeeze before letting go.

When Max moved to the side, Phillip’s eyes landed on Liz.

He walked up to her and extended his hand. “Liz. I’m so glad you could join us for dinner tonight.”

“Thank you for having me.” Liz gave Phillip a firm handshake and gave him a smile.

Just then, Isabel came down the stairs. “Dinner ready, yet?”

“Yes, so c’mon everybody, let’s start eating.” Diane ushered everyone to the table to take their seats.

The salad was passed around, and small talk began.

“How was work today, dad?” Isabel looked from her plateful of salad.

Phillip took the bowl from Max and answered her question. “Ok, nothing to exciting. I got a new case to work on, but nothing all that interesting. Anything interesting happen to anyone this week?” He returned the salad bowl to the center of the table and looked expectantly around the table.

When no one seemed to want to volunteer an answer, he turned to Liz, hoping to break the ice.

“How about you, Liz? Anything worth sharing?”

Liz looked up at Phillip who was giving her an encouraging smile.

“Nothing really. I’m usually so busy with school and work that nothing interesting has really popped up.” That wasn’t entirely true. The truth was she had so many interesting things that had happened to her this past week. She and Max were progressing really well in their relationship, and the seven of them were beginning to form a bond that was bound to last a lifetime. But she didn’t feel like it was something she wanted to really share with Max’s parents considering this was the first time they were really meeting her.

Phillip gave a little chuckle. “All work and no play, huh? I would’ve thought that most seniors would take easy classes and just coast through the rest of the year.”

Max turned his eyes to his dad. “Not if they want to be valedictorian.”

Phillip and Diane exchanged glances before turning their eyes to Liz.

“Valedictorian? Wow, that’s really impressive Liz. I bet the colleges are throwing scholarships at you from left to right.”

Liz found herself blushing. “I think Max is exaggerating a little. I just want to keep my gpa up.”

Isabel joined in the discussion. “Don’t believe a word she says. Liz is just being modest. She’s a shoe in for valedictorian. And personally, I don’t think anyone deserves it more than she does.”

Diane noticed the way Liz was getting embarrassed with all of the compliments, so she decided to steer the subject away. “Well, it’s very nice to hear that you’re so dedicated to your education. It’s refreshing to see when young people have their priorities intact.”

Liz gave Diane a grateful smile, to which Diane returned with a wink.

Max caught the exchange between Liz and his mom. His lips quirked up at the sides, seeing that his mother and Liz were getting along.

*************

Dinner was pretty much a success. Diane hadn’t tried out any of her new recipes and just stuck with what her family enjoyed eating.

After the dinner plates were cleared, Diane and Isabel returned to the table with coffee and coconut creme pie.

Everyone devoured the slice they had been given and they all sat back with contented smiles on their faces.

“Mrs. Evans. Dinner was absolutely delicious.” Liz smiled her gratitude to Diane who merely blushed at Liz’s sincere, comment.

“Why, thank you, Liz. I’m glad you enjoyed dinner. We’ d love for you to join us more often.” Diane stood up to gather the used utensils and plates to bring them to the sink.

Liz stood up and began helping.

Phillip stood up and stopped Liz. “That’s alright, Liz. Mrs. Evans and I have it covered. Why don’t you kids, go into the living room and watch some tv, or something. Mom and I have everything under control.”

Liz looked to Max and Isabel who quickly placed their napkins on the table. They didn’t need to be asked twice to retire to the living room and not help clear up dishes. The two of them made a bee line to the living room.

When Liz looked reluctant to leave the dishes to just the older Evans’, Max grabbed Liz’s arm with his right hand, while holding Noah in his left. He leaned in close to her ear and whispered. “Let’s go before they change their minds and make us wash all of the dishes.” He pulled back and laughed at the look Liz was giving him.

Ultimately the three of them made their way to the living room where Isabel was slumped back against the couch, holding her stomach.

Concerned, Liz sat next to Isabel. “Everything ok?”

Isabel looked at Liz, smiling and nodding her head. “Oh, don’t mind me. I just ate too much. Mom hasn’t cooked like that in a long time, so I figured I might as well take advantage of the good cooking before she returns to trying out new recipes.”

Max placed Noah on the carpet and joined him. “You and me both. I was worried that she was going to try something funky from that Martha Stewart magazine that she gets.” Max gave his sister a mock glare. “I warned you about getting her a subscription to that magazine.”

Isabel laughed and held up her hand to her brother.

The phone rang and Isabel reached over to answer it. “Hello?”

A smile formed on her lips and she stood up to go up to her room. “Oh, hey Alex....................”

Max shook his head and scooted closer to Liz and he began to gently run his fingertips across her bare calves. She had the smoothest skin, almost like that of a baby’s. He continued his gentl caress until he heard Noah crying.

Max pulled his son into his lap and tried to soothe him. “What’s the matter, little man? Huh? Why are you so upset?”

Noah just started crying more, banging his little fists against Max’s chest. Max rubbed his little back and tried cooing in Noah’s ear. That usually worked, but for some reason, it just wasn’t working now.

Max finally stood up and carried Noah around the room, bouncing him up and down. “C’mon, buddy. Tell daddy what’s wrong.” He tried to make eye contact with Noah, but Noah just buried his face against his neck.

Liz stood up from her spot on the couch and walked to Max and Noah. She gently ran her hand through his soft curls. “What’s the matter, hun?” Noah turned his little face towards Liz. He twisted his body so that his arms could reach out to her.

Liz gave Max a look. “Do you mind?”

Max shook his head, and offered Noah to Liz.

He watched as she took Noah into her arms and gently sing a soft song into his ear. She bounced him against her small frame, gently placing soft kisses on his cheeks. After what seemed like a few short minutes, Noah had stopped crying, only hiccupping once and a while.

To say that Max was astonished was an understatement. It used to be that when Noah was upset, that Max was the only one to calm him down. He watched as Noah’s little fists curled around Liz’s sweater. He snuggled up closer to her as if he couldn't get close enough.

Now it seemed as if Liz was becoming an important part of both of their lives. Like somehow, now that they knew what it was like to be in Liz’s arms, nothing else could compare.

************************

Diane rinsed the dirty dishes and handed them to Phillip to place in the dish washer.

“So, what do you think of Liz?” Phillip watched his wife’s reaction to his question.

Diane looked up from the pile of dirty dishes and gave her husband a faint smile. “I think I’m beginning to like her more by the second. She’s a young woman who has a good head on her shoulders. I think she’s a good influence on Max and Izzy.”

Phillip gave his wife a skeptical glance. “What made you change your mind?”

Diane pulled the big yellow gloves from her hands and hung them over the sink. “Did you see Max and Izzy tonight?” Diane gave him a bright smile. “I haven’t seen the two of them smile like that in a long time. They were so happy, Phillip.”

“What does that have anything to do with Liz?”

“Everything. She’s given them something they’ve been missing. Liz has breathed new life into our kids. I have her to thank for that.”

Phillip placed his arm around Diane and led her to the living room.

But the two of them stopped short of entering.

What they saw stunned both of them.

They both observed the scene between Max, Liz, and Noah. And judging from the looks of things, Max was pretty surprised himself.

Liz had merely taken Noah into her arms, singing him a soft tune that caused him to settle down in no time.

Liz was something else. Someone who was completely incredible.

She was definitely an asset to the Evans family.

Part 37

**************

Phillip and Diane bid the children goodnight and retired to their bedroom for the night.

Noah had yet to vacate Liz’s arms, but it was quite obvious that he had fallen asleep a little while ago.

Max gently ran his finger across Liz’s chin. “You’re amazing, you know that?” His fingers, continued to caress her face, eventually cupping it.

Liz leaned into his hand, enjoying the way his hand felt, caressing her skin. “Amazing? How am I amazing?”

Max grinned as his thumb, rubbed her cheekbone. “You were absolutely great tonight. My parents were really impressed.” He leaned forward to give her a kiss on her temple. “And me too.”

Liz leaned back a little to study Max’s face. “What does that mean?”

His hands flanked both sides of her face. “It means that I thought that it wouldn’t be possible for me to be any more amazed by you, but you make it possible. You make it possible for me to admire you more and more, each second of the day.”

He leaned in then and placed his lips against hers. His lips applied a little pressure to hers, but not enough to sate both of their needs. He pulled back and leaned in a little closer. This time, his lips sought hers out, with a passion that he had never shown before.

His tongue snaked out, tracing her lips, as a form of permission to allow him to deepen the kiss. Liz gladly opened her mouth to let Max in. His velvety tongue sought hers out, gently massaging it. His tongue made sweeping motions in her mouth, trying to reach the deepest recesses of her mouth.

He angled her head back to taste her better, but stopped short when Noah shifted in Liz’s arms. He pulled back, his lips swollen and his eyes dazed. His vision took a little while to focus and his breathing was erratic.

His eyes landed on Liz, who looked about as dazed as he felt. Her breathing was heavy, and her cheeks were flushed.

Her eyes focused on his, and she gave him a big smile. They had gotten so carried away that they almost forgot that Noah was still in her arms.

Max gently extricated Noah from Liz’s arms. Noah whimpered a little but he continued to sleep.

“Do you want to help me put him to bed?” Max whispered so as not to wake Noah.

Liz just nodded and followed Max up the stairs.

When they were inside, Max placed Noah on his bed and reached into a drawer to grab his jammies.

He gently changed Noah’s clothes and then placed him in his crib.

Max stood back up, with Liz at his side, holding his hand.

“I can’t believe how fast he’s growing. It seemed just like yesterday that I was cradling him in my arms, and now he’s talking, and walking......” Sighing, Max pulled Liz to stand in front of him and placed his arms around her waist. He took a sniff of her strawberry scented hair, then placed his chin a top her head.

Liz rubbed his arm, running her hand along it till it was wrapped around his neck. “It was bound to happen sooner or later. You should just count your lucky stars that you’ve been there for his every first.”

Max looked down into Liz’s eyes, his amber eyes sparkling. “I have, haven’t I?”

Liz just nodded, then brushed her lips against his nose.

“As much as I’d love to stay longer, it’s getting late. I should get going.”

Max nodded, his cheek rubbing against her silky hair, but he had yet to pull back. He wrapped his arms tighter around her waist and nuzzled her neck.

Liz chuckled a little, then pulled out of his reach. “I’m serious, Max. I really should go. I promise, we’ll do something together. I don’t have to work, and I know you don’t either. You, Noah, and I should do something together.”

“Sure, what did you have in mind?” Max watched as Liz’s eyes danced with mischief.

“It’s a surprise!”

Max scrunched up his nose, crossing his arms across his chest. “I don’t know, Liz. I’m not real big on surprises.”

Liz smiled like a Cheshire cat. “I promise, Max. You’ll love it. I’ll pick you and Noah up at 11:30 so be ready.”

Liz reached out her hand to Max. “Walk me to my car?”

Max reached out and let their fingers entwine.

Liz stopped to reach into Noah’s crib to give him a kiss. “Goodnight, Noah. I’ll see you tomorrow, sweetie.”

Max and Liz walked hand in hand to her car.

Liz leaned back against the car, with Max facing her.

“So, I’ll just see you and Noah tomorrow.”

“Right, tomorrow.” Max watched as Liz leaned in closer to him. Her lips softly brushed against his, before her tongue found it’s way into his mouth.

His hands cupped her face, trying to bring her as close as possible to his lips.

Liz found herself standing on her toes, her hands on Max’s shoulders, trying to get as close to him as possible. His lips felt so soft against her own, she couldn’t control the moan that escaped past her lips.

Max groaned at the sound of her moan.

With much effort, Max pulled away, letting his lips, tug gently on her bottom lip. He leaned his forehead against hers, trying to catch his breath.

“Sweet dreams, Liz. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Liz had yet to open her eyes, and just nodded her head. A smile formed on her lips as Max’s bangs tickled her forehead.

“Yeah, tomorrow.” She finally opened her eyes and slightly pulled away from Max so that she could look into his eyes.

“Sweet dreams to you as well.” She leaned forward, planting a lingering kiss on Max’s lips.

“Goodnight, Max.” Liz pulled free from his touch and got inside the car. She backed out of the driveway and waved as she drove away.

Max stood in the cold night air, hoping to cool his over heated body, down. After that kiss, there was no way he was getting any sleep tonight.

He walked to the front porch and sat on the front steps.

A smile crossed his lips. Life was just getting better and better.

Part 38

**************

Max ran around the room, putting stuff together in a bag, for himself and Noah. He had talked to Liz earlier this morning and she had told him to pack some swim trunks and sun block. He had once again tried to ask her where they were headed, but she had refused, saying that it was a surprise.

He grabbed Noah’s little baseball cap and placed it on his little head. Max picked him up in one arm and grabbed his back pack in another, finally heading down the stairs.

Diane looked up from the morning paper and chuckled at the sight of her son and her grandson. They made an adorable pair, both wearing matching baseball hats. She put her paper down and grabbed Max’s attention.

"Well, you two look like you’re headed off somewhere fun. Where are you guys headed?"

Max sat down with Noah in his lap. He gently scratched his head, behind his ear, giving his mom a sheepish grin. "I’m not really sure, actually. Liz said it was a surprise. I kept trying to get it out of her and she just won’t budge."

Diane laughed softly and stood up to stand in front of Max. "Well, I guess Liz really is a woman of her word."

The door bell rang and Max’s eyes darted to the front door.

Diane pulled onto the bill of his cap, straightening it slightly. "All of you have fun. Tell Liz I said hi." Diane gave Noah a kiss and headed out to the backyard where Phillip was tending to their garden.

Max stood up with Noah and his back pack in tow.

He opened the door, his lips forming a smile.

Liz stood there in a fisherman’s hat, sunglasses, a tank top, and cut offs. Max couldn’t help the way his eyes lingered on certain parts of her body longer than others. He blushed a crimson red when he heard her voice.

"You guys ready to go?"

Max just pulled his hat so that it covered the guilty look in his eyes. "Sure. Uh, do you mind taking Noah? I still have to get his car seat out of the jeep."

Liz happily took Noah into her arms and led him towards her car. She placed a sweet kiss on his cheeks. "Hey, Noah. I’ve missed you little guy." She leaned in again to kiss him, unable to keep herself from touching his soft skin.

Max looked up from strapping the car seat into Liz’s car, a teasing smile on his lips. "Hey, that’s not fair. How come the little guy gets all the kisses?" He stood a little closer to Liz, wrapping his arms around her. He gave her a little pout, batting his long eyelashes. "Didn’t you miss me?"

Liz pulled the sunglasses away from her eyes, and placed them on top of her head. She gave and exaggerated role of her eyes. "Well, I guess I missed you too."

Max’s eyebrows raised. He looked at her, his head cocked to the side. "You guess?"

Liz refused to meet his eyes, knowing the minute that she looked into them, she would crumble. So instead, she busied herself with strapping Noah securely in his seat. "Yeah, that’s what I said."

She closed the passenger door and made like she was walking to the driver’s side, but Max grabbed her by the wrist, efficiently twirling her into his waiting arms. He gave her a devilish grin and leaned in close to her face like he was going to kiss her.

His warm breath, made her skin tingle. Her lips parted, letting her tongue sneak out so she could wet her suddenly very dry lips. His eyes roamed her face, a smile lighting them.

He kissed her nose, pulling back with a full blown grin on his lips. "Ok, just making sure I heard you right." He let go of her and opened the door and sat inside. He tugged on the seat belt and snapped it into place.

Liz stood there dumbfounded, her mouth agape. What had just happened here?

Max bit the inside of his cheek, trying his best not to laugh. He could see Liz from the corner of his eye, standing outside the car, looking absolutely shocked. He had completely turned the tables on her and he felt pretty proud of himself.

While he was mentally congratulating himself, Liz pulled the car door open and situated herself in his lap. She pulled his face towards her and placed a mind blowing kiss on his lips.

Max’s eyes grew wide. To say that he was shocked, would definitely be an understatement. Just as he was about to respond to the kiss, Liz pulled back and jumped out of his lap. She closed his door and made her way to her side.

She strapped on her seat belt, acting like nothing had happened. She could hear the harsh sounds of his breathing. She looked at him. His hands were curled up into fists, and his eyes were shut tightly. Liz felt a pang in her heart, suddenly feeling very guilty. She stroked his cheek, and placed a soft kiss on his cheek. She pulled his chin so that he was facing her.

This time, she placed her lips against his slowly. She took her time in getting reacquainted with his soft lips.

After a few seconds, they pulled away from each other.

Liz had a small smile on her lips. "Was that better?"

Max gripped her hand in his. He gave her one of his patented half smiles, nodding his head slowly. "Yeah. Much." He squeezed her hand one more time before he let it go. "Ok, miss Parker. Let’s hurry up and do this surprise."

Liz pulled out onto the road. She gave Max a side ways glance, a smile tinting her lips. "I thought you said you didn’t like surprises?"

"I don’t. I’m just curious about where you’re taking us."

Liz laughed a little. "I’ll keep that in mind."

*******************

An hour and twenty minutes later.

"Are we there, yet?" Max asked the question for the umpteenth time that hour. Normally, he would have been calm, but he was just getting anxious. It was driving him nuts that Liz refused to divulge anything pertaining to her surprise.

Liz laughed as she made a turn. "We’re here."

Max looked around to the beautiful scenery around him. "And where is here, exactly." He couldn’t quite keep the awe out of his voice.

Liz put the car into park, and unlatched her seat belt. She turned to Max. "Sitting Bulls Falls." She gave him a grin. "Come on. Let’s go."

She threw a towel over her shoulder and grabbed the picnic basket that she had packed. Max grabbed Noah and his back pack, and struggled to keep in stride with Liz. "Why don’t you let me help you with that."

Liz gave Max a little giggle. "I know that I look fragile, but looks are very deceiving." She gave him a wink and ran the rest of the way.

By the time Max had caught up to her, she had spread out a blanket and set out lunch. They were right beside a clear pool of water. The sun was bright, and there was a slight breeze.

Liz sat with her legs crossed. "Aren’t you going to sit down?"

Max just kicked off his sandals and sat beside Liz. "I can’t believe you did all of this." He looked around to the beauty that surrounded him.

Liz shyly looked down at his comment. "It’s nothing, really. I just made a few sandwiches and drove out to this beautiful place. It’s nothing special."

Max tilted her chin, making her look into his eyes. "But it is. This is special. No one has ever done anything like this for me before." He kissed her lightly on the cheek. He stroked her jaw, smiling lovingly at her. "Thank you, Liz."

She returned his smile and took Noah from his arms. "You’re welcome. Now let’s dig in. I’m starving."

************

After lunch, Max and Liz decided to take a dip in the inviting water.

Liz pulled off her tank top, revealing her golden skin. She stripped off her shorts, and kicked them to the side.

Max sat there with his mouth hanging open. His heart had stopped beating the moment Liz had pulled her tank over her head. She had the smoothest looking skin. He couldn’t help the way his eyes were bugging out of his head at the sight of Liz in her bikini.

Liz bent down to place the floaties around Noah’s little arms. She picked him up and headed towards the water.

As soon as they entered the water, Noah started flapping his arms like a bird, splashing water all over the place. Liz laughed and shook her hair away from her face.

Max watched as Liz’s long dark hair, swung from side to side. He almost had a heart attack when she turned back to him and called out.

"You, getting in?"

Noah looked at his dad and waved. "Da da! Da da!"

Max had to swallow a few times before nodding his head. He grabbed his t-shirt from the neck, and pulled it up and over his head, without turning the t-shirt inside, out. He walked to the water, and slowly sank towards Noah and Liz.

Liz felt her knees wobble at the sight of Max pulling off his shirt. There was just something about the way he took it off that made her smile. She felt like fainting when she saw his beautifully sculpted chest. Shouldn’t it be a crime to be that gorgeous? She would have never have guessed that he was that cut. Sure, she had caught glimpses of his bulging biceps, bursting the seams of some of his shirts, but she was still caught off guard.

She felt her face flame up when he moved closer to them. She was sure, he had caught her oogling his goodies.

Max took Noah from Liz, and sat him up on his shoulders. His eyes took on a devilish glint as he walked closer to Liz.

Liz backed away, her hands held out in front of her. "Don’t even think about it, Max. What ever you’re thinking, stop it!"

Max smiled, revealing all of his perfect white teeth. "Oh, c’mon Liz. I’m not going to hurt you." He looked up at his son. "Isn’t that right Noah?"

Noah clapped his hands together, kicking his little legs against Max’s chest. "Liz!"

Liz smiled up at Noah, temporarily forgetting that she was trying to keep as much distance as possible between her and Max. She was about to say something, when a splash of water hit her face.

She pushed the hair out of her eyes, and listened to the sound of Max’s laughter. He thought this was funny, huh? Well two could play this game.

A smile graced her lips as she moved closer to Max.

Max found himself walking backwards, as he saw the twinkle in her eyes. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to splash her? When she got closer, he turned around and broke out into a run. He had thought it was a good idea to run, but now he was rethinking that decision. Running in water was hard enough, but with the added weight of Noah on his shoulders, he was a lost cause.

Liz caught up to him. She wrapped her arms around his waist and walked around till she was facing him. "Where do you think you’re going?"

Max gave her an embarrassed grin. "Nowhere."

"Uh huh." Liz reached up and took Noah in her arms. She held him against her waist, and gave Max an innocent smile.

Max paled a little. "Liz, you know that was only a joke. You know, hee hee, something to laugh about?" He walked back a few steps as Liz walked closer.

"I’ll give you something to laugh about." Liz used her free hand and splashed water in Max’s direction. "C’mon, Noah. Splash, daddy." Noah splashed his floatie covered arms, splashing water in every direction.

His little laughs floated in the air, causing Max and Liz to join him.

The day was only half over and the fun was still going strong.

**************

Having had enough of playing in the water, the three of them trudged back to the blanket where they dried off.

Liz held a bundled up Noah in her arms, as his eyes started to drift close.

She rocked him in her arms and sang him a lullaby.

Max ran the towel through his hair, but stopped to watch Liz sing to Noah. It warmed his heart to see that Liz really got along with Noah, and that she enjoyed being in his company as much as Noah seemed to enjoy being in hers.

He had never thought that it would have been possible for him to fall for someone else, but to have that someone else fall for him too, and for them to accept him and his son. Max thanked whatever Gods that allowed him a second chance. He never thought he was worthy of it, but he was certainly glad that he was given one.

Liz had stopped singing and placed Noah on the blanket.

She sat down and looked at Max, who was just watching her. She began feeling a little self-conscious. "What?"

Max dropped the towel, and plopped down beside her. He ran his fingers through her wet hair, running the wet tendrils across the pads of his fingers. "Nothing. I just think you’re beautiful."

Heat flooded Liz’s face, all the way to her neck. No one had ever really called her beautiful before. Sure, her family and friends had called her beautiful numerous times, but there was just something different when the person you cared about so much said it to you.

She kept her eyes down. She was never really good at taking compliments. Contrary to popular belief, Liz Parker was a pretty shy girl. She had no idea how to react to what Max had just said. Was she supposed to say thank you?

Liz felt Max scoot closer to her. She felt the warmth of his body. Droplets of water made its way on her arm. She felt him stroke her arm gently, urging her to look at him.

"What’s wrong, Liz? Was it something I said, or did?" Max was getting a little worried. Liz refused to meet his eyes. Had he done something to upset her?

Liz heard the plea in his voice, causing her to look into his warm amber eyes that were etched with concern. She shook her head slowly, still not able to bring herself to speak.

"Then what is it? Liz, please? Talk to me. I can’t.........please Liz. I want to know if I did something wrong." Max’s voice cracked a little.

Liz’s heart constricted a little at the crack of Max’s voice. She took his hand in between hers. She looked into his eyes again, and showed him a smile. "It’s nothing, Max. You did nothing wrong." She squeezed his hand a little to make him see that she meant it.

He watched her every move. "Then what is it?"

When Liz still looked reluctant to say anything, he lifted her chin. "I thought we had a deal. That we wouldn’t keep things from each other."

Liz swallowed hard, forcing herself to smile. "I know, but you’re going to think it’s stupid."

Max shook his head, his fingers running down the side of her face. "Nothing that you say could ever sound stupid to me."

Liz tilted her head to the side, carefully gauging Max’s reaction. "I don’t know about that, but well........ the reason why........" Liz pulled her hands away from Max’s. She ran a frustrated hand through her hair, and heaved a heavy sigh.

"Noone’s ever called me beautiful before." She mumbled the words past her lips. She kept her head down, afraid to look at how Max would react to what she just said.

Liz felt Max’s strong arms wrap around her body, gathering her closer to him. He placed a kiss on top of her head, before whispering in her ear. "I have a hard time believing that."

Liz pulled away a little, so she could look into his eyes. "Well, no one special has said that me before." (No one I’ve loved.) She said the last part in her mind, wanting so much to say it out loud, but scared to do so.

Max leaned his forehead against hers, his finger tucking her hair behind her ears. "You should be told that you’re beautiful and intelligent everyday........." His lips brushed against hers softly, lightly, before she opened her mouth on a breath. His tongue gingerly met up with hers, causing a fire to build up between, so hot it would have burned their skins on contact.

Max reached out and cupped her face in both hands, trying to bring her as close to him as possible. A moan escaped his lips at the feel of her delicate fingers, running across the expanse of his naked back. He found himself leaning forward.

Liz leaned back, lying down on the blanket. She grabbed Max by the shoulders, wanting to touch his skin everywhere. Max shifted his hips so that his upper body was laying against Liz. He rest most of his weight against his forearms, not wanting to crush Liz.

He dragged his lips down her chin, to her long delicate neck. He moved to the other side, gently nibbling on her earlobe. He only stopped kissing her, when his name passed her lips, sounding like a moan.

He gave her collar bone a chaste kiss before laying down beside her. He gathered her close to his side, her head lying on his chest.

At that moment, he wanted nothing more than to tell her that he loved her, but he didn’t want her to think it was a ploy to get into her pants. That wasn’t his intention at all. In fact, he wasn’t even sure if he was ready to be in a sexual relationship at this stage in his life.

Right now, he was just content to be in a loving relationship. He would gladly wait for Liz, forever. Being around her was enough. He didn’t need anymore than that.

*****************

It was nearing five o’clock, so Max and Liz had packed up their stuff to head back home.

As Liz was pulling out onto the road, Max stopped her. He gave her a sweet kiss. "I know I already thanked you, but I just wanted to say it again. Liz Parker, you’re making everyday of my life worth living, and I want to thank you for making Noah and my life a little brighter each day."

He kissed her on the tip of her nose.

**********

As they drove back into town, they never noticed the car that followed them. In fact, they never noticed that the same car had followed them to Sitting Bulls Falls. They never knew that had been watched all day, by prying eyes.

**********

Pam Troy, floored the gas pedal of her car, back to Roswell.

She had hit pay dirt by following Liz Parker and Max Evans to Sitting Bulls Falls.

A sinister smile plastered itself on her collagen infested lips. "Little Liz Parker won’t know what hit her, when I’m done with her." She laughed like a mad woman. Nothing was going to get in her way of having Max Evans to herself. Not even that little brat son of his.

Part 39

Rated: PG-13


*****************

Monday Morning.

West Roswell High School


Alex pulled up into a parking space, cutting the engine before turning to Liz.

“So, you took Max and Noah to the falls.” Alex watched as the light in Liz’s eyes sparkled. The smile on her lips had been permanently attached to her face ever since she had come home on Saturday.

Alex couldn’t keep the slight twitch from his lips. He was so happy for Liz. In the lifetime that he had known her, he had never seen her this happy. There was a glow about her, that made her even more beautiful than usual.

Liz grabbed Alex’s hand. “Oh, Alex, it was absolutely perfect. We had the best time. And Noah, he had so much fun. I think we wore him out.” Liz’s soft chuckle was contagious, causing Alex to join her.

“So, how is the little guy?”

Liz’s eyes danced around with excitement as she remembered. “Oh, he’s great. I’m going to see him this afternoon. You wanna come?”

Alex nodded. “Since you’re going over there this afternoon, I think it’s safe to assume that dinner went well on Friday?”

“A lot better than I thought it would. Max’s parents are so supportive. I can see where Max and Isabel get their personalities from.”

Alex cleared his throat. There was something he had been wanted to ask Liz, but he didn’t want to stick his nose where it wasn’t wanted.

“Speaking of which, have you told your parents about Max?” Alex watched as Liz hung her head low. She began fidgeting, refusing to meet his eyes.

“No, I haven’t told them yet.” Liz felt the guilt gnawing at her stomach. She was such a coward. The main reason she hadn’t told her parents about Max, was because she wanted them to get to know him first before just dropping this on them like a bomb. She didn’t want her parents to judge Max, before they really knew who he was. And besides, with her burgeoning relationship with Max, she had forgotten everything else. But she knew that wasn’t an excuse.

“You haven’t?” Alex paused for a second, before continuing. “Look, Liz, I know this is really none of my business, but don’t you think it’s time to tell them, before they find out from somebody else? I mean nothing against Max, because I really like the guy, but I don’t think Jeff and Nancy are gonna roll out the welcome wagon when they find out.”

Liz pushed her hair behind her ears. “Look, I know that. I just need to find the right time, ok?”

Alex swallowed back a snort. “Well when were you planning on telling them Liz? After the wedding?”

Liz’s eyes stung with tears at Alex’s words, making him instantly regret what he had just said. “I’m sorry Liz. That didn’t come out right.” He reached over and grabbed her hand in his. “I’m just saying that maybe you should be upfront with your parents about Max. You and I both know they aren’t just going to welcome him into the family. I mean your parents are great, but when it comes to you, they get a little over protective. I don’t want some stupid thing to get between you and Max.”

Liz swallowed back the salty tears, understanding where Alex was coming from. “I know. You’re absolutely right.” She grabbed a tissue from her bag and wiped her nose. She gave Alex a curious look.

“What?”

“Why do you even care? I mean, why are you worried about my relationship with Max?” Liz watched as different emotions passed through Alex’s eyes.

Alex shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. Max is a really good guy, and from what I’ve seen, he’s a devoted father too. I’ve seen the way he looks at you, and the way you look at him. It isn’t just your average teenage hormones there.”

He tilted his head to the side. “I’ve seen the way he tucks the hair behind your ear, and the way his hand just automatically finds yours. If I knew what love was, I’d say that was it. And I know for a fact that this isn’t just any other relationship for you either.”

“In the short time that we’ve known Max, I’d like to say that he’s become my friend. I don’t want either of you to get hurt over something that can’t be taken care of.” Alex finished his little speech, a slight blush tinting his cheeks.

Liz leaned across the middle console, giving Alex a hug. “Thank you, Alex. I love you.”

Alex ran his hand down Liz’s hair. “Love you too, Parker.” He pulled back and gave her a mock frown. “No don’t you go telling people that we had this little talk. I don’t want my bad boy reputation ruined.” He shook his finger in her face to emphasize his point.

Liz’s small frame shook with laughter. She crossed her finger across her heart. “Cross my heart and hope to die.”

Alex shook his head and got out of the car. He went around the other side, linking his arm through Liz’s.

As the two of them made their way down the halls, whispers and stares were directed their way.

As discreetly as he could, Alex whispered into Liz’s ear. “Parker, is it just me, or are people staring at us?”

Liz’s eyes danced around the halls to the people who were obviously staring at them. When her eyes locked with someone else, they started snickering. Her heart sped up a little. “It’s not just you.”

They walked to her locker in silence. She pulled it open, sticking her head inside. “Why do you think everyone is staring?”

Alex leaned back against the locker next to hers. He noticed as a couple of guys walked by checking out Liz’s behind. He stood up a little straighter. “Hey, where the hell do you think you’re looking?”

The guys just looked at each other and snickered before walking off. Alex followed them a little. “If I catch you guys looking where you’re not supposed to, I’ll give you a reason that’ll make sure you can’t look anywhere, but up!”

Liz grabbed Alex’s arm. “Alex! What do you think, you’re doing?” she hissed.

Alex gave her a frown, making her walk in front of him. “Hey, those guys had wandering eyes.” He pulled of his jacket and wrapped it around her.

“What are you doing now?” Liz struggled to walk as Alex hugged her with his heavy jacket. She tried to take it off, but he stopped her from doing so.

“I don’t know what the hell is going on, but every guy in this school seems to have developed some sort of interest in you. They keep checking you out from every possible angle they can.”

As they rounded the corner, a screech was heard. “Liz! Alex! Wait up!”

They turned around to see Maria with Kyle and Michael running towards them.

Maria threw her arms around Liz and hugged her. “Lizzie, I just heard. I’m so sorry. But I promise you, we’ll find out who’s spreading those nasty rumors and we’ll make them pay.”

Liz pulled away from Maria, her eyebrows knotted in confusion. “Hold on. What’s going on? What rumors?”

Maria looked to Alex and Liz. “You mean, you haven’t heard yet?”

“Haven’t heard what?”

Maria exchanged glances with Kyle and Michael.

Alex moved forward. “Does this have anything to do with every freakin’ guy checking out Liz this morning?”

Maria covered her eyes. “Oh, my God! I didn’t think it had gotten that far.”

Paulie and Tommy, who were known to be the biggest jerks at West Roswell, made their way over to the group.

Tommy stood close to Liz, touching her hair. “So, Liz, I hear you’ve been getting busy with that Evans guy. I say you ditch him and get with me. I’ll show you what it’s like to be a real man.” Liz flinched at his touch.

Paulie came up beside them. “Aw, what’s the matter, Lizzie? We all know that sweet and innocent crap is bullshit, so cut the crap already. Like Tommy said, ditch the loser with the kid.”

Before they knew what happened, both Tommy and Paulie felt themselves being pushed to the row of lockers on the other side of the wall.

“What the hell?”

When the two of them had straightened up, they came to face to face with a very angry Max Evans. Behind him stood Kyle, Alex, and Michael, who were all spoiling for a fight.

“Don’t ever touch her again! You hear me? If I see you so much as look at her, or breath the same air as her, I’ll make you wish you guys wish you were never born.” Max gritted the words past his clenched jaw. His hands were balled up into fists, his back straight. The cords in his neck were bulging from anger.

When he had walked down the hall and saw the way the two of them were all over Liz, he just about lost it. She looked so scared. He would have pounded their heads in, had it not been for Kyle and Michael throwing them against the lockers.

Paulie dusted imaginary dust off of his shirt, laughing. “Well, well, if it isn’t big man on campus. Why don’t you just spread the wealth, or are you gonna knock her up like you did your last girlfriend.” Paulie turned to Tommy to laugh at his pathetic joke, when an iron like fist came into contact with his jaw. Blood, was spewed all over his shirt, falling to the floor. He touched his jaw with his hand, turning angry eyes on Max.

“You bastard! I’ll make you pay for that.”

Anger flashed through Max’s eyes, causing the amber glow to light up like a fire. “Bring it on!”

Both Tommy and Paulie threw themselves at Max, trying to get as many hits as they could. Michael grabbed Paulie, making sure he couldn’t move. Kyle did the same to Tommy, making sure he couldn’t get anymore shots at Max.

Alex held onto Max as he started throwing phantom punches at his enemies, but with the vice that Alex had him in, he could only kick and shout. “Let me go, Alex!”

Alex held on tighter. “Max, you gotta relax, buddy. It won’t do, if you’re suspended at the beginning of your senior year. Let it go. They’ll get what’s coming to them.”

Michael and Kyle made their way to the double doors that led to the quad, both of them struggling with Tommy and Paulie. Both of them let go and pushed them down the steps. “Stay away from Liz! Because if we catch you anywhere near her, we’ll give you guys more than just a fat lip and a black eye.”

Tommy was set to lunge forward, but Paulie stopped him. Max had thrown them some pretty good punches, and they weren’t in the best shape right now. If they decided to take this further, Kyle and Michael would be sure to cream them. He pulled Tommy towards the parking lot, choosing not to get hurt any further.

********

Back in the hall, Alex had finally let go of a struggling Max. The first thing he did was run to Liz, running his hands through her hair and down her sides to make sure she wasn’t hurt in any way.

“Are you ok? They didn’t hurt you, did they?” Max watched Liz with concern, his heart thumping against his chest. If they had done anything to hurt her, he would.....

His train of thought was broken by the sound of her soft voice.

“Max, I’m ok.”

He took another glance at her, running his hands down her arms. “Are you sure?”

Liz was going to say yes, but her attention was drawn to the cut right beside Max’s eyebrow. It was starting to bleed. She looked at his face and noticed that right beside his chin, a fairly nasty bruise was making a home for itself.

She gently touched his cheek. “Max, you’re hurt.”

Max took a second to realize what Liz was saying. After a second he started feeling the pain from where Tommy and Paulie had hit him. He was so concerned about Liz that his pain hadn’t even registered until Liz had mentioned it to him.

She grabbed his hand and led him into the girl’s bathroom. A few shrieks and squeals were heard when they entered. Liz wasn’t in the best of moods right now. When one girl just stood there and gawked at them, she pretty much lost her temper. “What’s the matter? Never seen a guy before?”

The girl blushed and made her way to the door, leaving Max and Liz alone.

Liz pushed Max against the counter and told him to sit down. She grabbed a few paper towels and wet them. She held them against his cuts, trying to clean them up a little.

Max, flinched, moving away from her touch.

Liz felt tears sting her eyes. She grabbed his hand to soothe him a little, but he pulled away as if she had burned him. She gave him a questioning look, but she noticed how red his knuckles were. They were still raw from when he had punched Paulie.

Liz threw the paper towels in the trash and threw her arms around Max. “Oh, Max.” Her warm tears, trickled down her cheeks, landing on his neck.

Max felt his heart constrict, at her tears. He ran his hand down her hair, burying his face in her neck. “I’m so sorry, Liz.”

Liz rubbed his back, trying to calm his jangled nerves. “What do you have to be sorry for?”

Max gripped Liz in his arms, not wanting to let her go. “For putting you in that position. If it wasn’t for me, these rumors about you wouldn’t be going around the school.”

Liz pulled away from Max a little so she could look into his solemn eyes. Her hands flanked the sides of his head, bringing him close to her. “Did you spread those rumors?”

Max was a little taken back with her question. He couldn’t find his voice at the moment, so he just shook his head.

Liz gave him a sad smile. “Then it’s not your fault Max. Don’t blame yourself for the stupidity of others. The truth is, I don’t care what people think. What matters is that, I love you.”

Max froze for a second. Did she just say that she loved him?

“You........you love me?” he asked in a small voice.

Liz felt her face burn, at his question. She hadn’t meant to say it out loud, but she was a little caught up in the moment. Her eyes darted to the floor. If she had taken a longer look at Max, she would have seen the slight curl in his lips.

He pulled her body to his again, whispering in her ear. “I love you too.”

The tears started up again, as Liz realized that Max felt the same way about her. In any of the feew relationships she had had over the years, not once had she said the L word, nor had she heard it. But with Max, it just felt so natural, so right.

She wiped the tears from her eyes and laughed a little.

Max pulled away, smiling when he saw her laugh. “What’s so funny?”

Liz looked at their surroundings and shook her head. “Somehow, I never picturesd the girl’s bathroom to be the place I would say I love you, to you for the first time.”

Max looked around him as well, and found himself chuckling, right along with her. “Me, either. But it doesn’t make it any less special, or beautiful to me.”

Liz stopped to look into his soulful eyes. “Me too.” She leaned in and brushed her lips against his, as if to seal their love. As she tried to deepen the kiss, Max cringed away from her touch. Liz looked at him in confusion, but her eyes grew wide when she realized he still had a fat lip.

She covered her mouth with her hand. “Max, I’m so sorry. I completely forgot.”

Max just shook his head and laughed. He stuck his tongue out to nurse his bruise. “Don’t worry about it. I’m fine. I’m more worried about how you are.”

Liz sank back on her heels. “What about me?”

His fingers played, across her chin. “About the rumors. Are you-

Liz put her finger against his lips, effectively silencing him. “It doesn’t bother me. I just, I mean, are you, are you ok with it?”

Max shrugged his shoulders. “I mean I wished it would have never have happened, but I’m used to people whispering and staring.”

Liz’s eyes clouded with sadness. She brushed the hair away from Max’s forehead. “You shouldn’t have to feel that way, Max. No one should ever have to get used to that.”

She placed soft kisses around his wounds. “Better?”

He smiled at her, a small dimple forming in his cheek. “Yeah. Thanks.”

Liz tugged on his hand, pulling him to the door. He tugged back and stopped her. “Liz?”

“Yes?”

“Are we, can we make it through this?”

Liz flashed him a bright smile. “Yes. We can get through anything, as long as we stick together.”






All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP






Edited by - jasper711 on 09/19/2001 14:54:31
posted on 17-Sep-2001 5:55:05 PM
Part 40A

***************

Liz sat beside Max in the jeep.

He gripped her hand tighter, not wanting to let her go. "You know, I could go up there with you. We can tell them together if you want."

She squeezed his hand back, offering him a small smile.

Throughout the school day, Max had barely left her side. During lunch, she had told him about talking to her parents about their relationship. She apologized for not having told them sooner, but she figured this afternoon was the best time to tell them, considering the rumors had already spread like wild fire, throughout campus.

Liz had half expected Max to be upset with her for not telling her parents right away, but he wasn’t. He even so much as offered to go with her to speak to her parents. She had refused then, and she was refusing now.

"I really appreciate that you want to be here for me, but this is something I have to do by myself." She leaned over and placed a soft kiss on his cheek.

When he still looked reluctant to leave her, she ran her fingers down the side of his face. "Max, really, it’s ok. I’ll be fine." She unlatched her seat belt and opened her door slightly. "Give Noah a kiss for me?"

Max just nodded.

When Liz turned to leave, he put his hand on her shoulder. "Call me later?"

She turned around, a smile on her lips. "Of course."

She hopped out of the car and watched as Max drove away.

She walked through the back entrance of the Crashdown.

She hesitated by the stairs, wiping her suddenly very sweaty palms against her pants.

Taking a deep breath, she took the steps two at a time. She placed her key in the lock, turning the knob slowly.

She was about to call to her parents, when she noticed them both sitting on the couch, obviously waiting for her.

"Elizabeth, you’re home. We need to have a little talk." Nancy sat up from her seat, addressing her daughter.

Liz cringed inside. Elizabeth? Her parents only called her that when she was in trouble.

She nodded her head and stepped into the room, closing the door behind her.

****************

Max practically ran into the house to get his son.

He knew that Liz said she wanted to talk to her parents by herself, but it wouldn’t hurt if he was just waiting at the Crashdown, just in case she needed his support, right?

He dropped his back pack on the floor and walked into the kitchen where he could here his mother playing with Noah.

Diane looked up with a smile on her face, expecting to see Max arrive home with Liz. But the moment her eyes landed on Max’s bruised features, her smile instantly disintegrated. She stood up from where she was crouched before Noah.

"Max, what happened?" She gently traced the path of his cut above his eye, and his fat lip. Her hand shook a little.

Max resisted to shake off his mother’s touch. He loved his mother for caring so much, but right now, the only place he wanted to be was at the Crashdown, where he could be by Liz’s side if she needed him in anyway. It was killing him to be away from her, knowing that the talk she was about to have with her parents would not go smoothly.

Max took his mother’s hand in between both of his and gently squeezed. "Mom, it’s ok. I’m fine. You have nothing to worry about." He side stepped her to lift Noah into his arms. He was about to walk past his mom, when she stopped him with a firm hand against his chest.

"You can’t just tell me something like that and just leave. I want to know what happened, Max. And I want to know right now." Her tone was demanding, her left eyebrow raised.

Max heaved a sigh, and sat on one of the stools. He knew that his mother meant business when she gave him that look. And he loved his mother way too much to blow her off like that.

Diane watched the weary look in her son’s eyes and her heart just broke. She took a seat across from him and gave his hand a pat. "Max, honey, you know you can tell me anything. Please, just tell me what happened."

"I sort of got into a fight this morning."

"Sort of? What does that mean? You either got into a fight or you didn’t. And from the looks of you, I’m guessing that you did. The real question is, why you were in fighting in the first place." Diane observed as Max’s jaw clenched, anger flaring up in his eyes. In all of the years he spent growing up, not once had he gotten into a fight. Not even when the kids at his old school treated him like a pariah. She had never seen him this angry before, and it frightened her.

Max thought about his words carefully. He didn’t want to say something that he would regret later. Just because the memory of this morning still boiled his blood, he didn’t need to take out that anger and frustration out now. "I.........There were these two guys harassing Liz this morning. They wouldn’t leave her alone. And they were, they were........." Max closed his eyes and fought to remain calm. He clasped and un clasped his fist against his side to release all the pent up energy inside him, but every time he saw those two jerks all over Liz, he just wanted to........

He opened his eyes again to the feel of his mother’s hand in his. She gave him a teary smile.

"So, you got into a fight because you were protecting Liz."

Max just nodded, knowing that if he spoke right now, that his voice would give out on him.

Diane stood up from her chair and hugged Max to her chest. She gave his dark head a soft kiss before she pulled back. "Max, what you did, honey, that was sweet of you to watch out for Liz like that, but violence isn’t the answer. You can’t just go getting into fights. It’s dangerous. I don’t want you getting hurt."

Max looked up at his mother. "I know, mom. I just," his thoughts returned to Liz, not that they had really strayed away from her. He stood up and collected Noah in his arms. "Mom, I really have to go. I need to be there for Liz. I, can we talk about this when we get home?" Max gave Diane a pleading look.

Diane let out a heavy sigh. She hated when Max gave her that look. She nodded her head and let him walk by, but not before saying something. "You can go now, but this conversation isn’t over, Max. We’ll continue it when your father gets home."

Max gave his mom a brief nod of his head and went out the door.

As he strapped Noah into his car seat, Noah reached over to touch the cut beside Max’s eyebrow.

"Boo boo?" Noah’s little voice asked.

Max managed a small smile, for his son. "Yeah, pal. Daddy, got a boo boo today."

Noah reached forward and placed a kiss on his dad’s cut, a smile on his lips when he pulled back.

Max’s eyes grew wide with shock as he realized what just happened. Noah had given his cut a kiss to make it better. Max always did that to Noah’s bumps and bruises.

"Da da!"

Max felt tears sting his eyes at his son’s simple action. Noah probably didn’t understand how significant that little gesture was, that’s why it made it more special for Max.

Max brushed a soft kiss against Noah’s soft baby hair. "I love you, Noah."

Part 40B

**************

Liz sat across from her parents, waiting for them to say something.

Nancy exchanged a look with Jeff before speaking. “Well, you must be wondering why we wanted to talk to you.”

Liz nodded her head slowly, trying to gauge her parents’ facial expressions, but they were giving nothing away. Liz’s mind frantically thought of why they wanted to talk to her. Surely the rumors hadn’t reached them yet, right?

Jeff moved to sit on the coffee table in front of his daughter. “We know, Liz.”

Liz gave him a blank look. “You guys know what?”

Nancy stood up, heaving a frustrated sigh. “Don’t play dumb with us young lady. We know about you and that Evans boy who has a kid.”

Liz tried to swallow a few times. It had hurt the way her mother referred to Max and Noah as the Evans boy with the kid.

“Who told you?” Liz tried to remain calm and keep her emotions in check.

Jeff gave his daughter a forced smile. “A friend of yours, from school. I believe her name was Pamela? Pamela Troy. She stopped by and said that she was a little worried about you getting involved with this young man, him having had a past and all.”

Liz closed her eyes and fought to remain in control.

So it had been Pam who had spread the rumors. The nerve of that girl, and to go as far as to talk to her parents and feed them some lame story.........

Liz never really understood why Pam was always picking on her. Ever since they were little, Pam went out of her way to make sure that Liz was humiliated in some way. She had never done anything to Pam Troy.

Liz rubbed her eyes. “Look, he has a name. His name is Max. And I’d appreciate it if you called him that.”

Nancy walked closer to Liz, her hands on her hips. “That’s beside the point Elizabeth. I want you to put a stop to this.”

Liz turned wide eyes to her mom. She found herself standing, facing against her mom. “Put a stop to this? You haven’t even given me a chance to explain, and you’re demanding that I put a stop to this? No, mother. I won’t.”

“How dare you take that tone with me?” Nancy flashed angry eyes at her daughter, then turned to Jeff for support.

Jeff was torn. He wanted to listen to what Liz had to say, and at the same time, he understood where his wife was coming from. Nancy only wanted to protect Liz from getting hurt and making mistakes that she might regret later.

Liz was about to retort, when Jeff stood in between the two of them.

“Alright, now both of you just stop!”

When both Liz and Nancy opened their mouths to speak again, Jeff raised his hands.

“I don’t want to hear about it. We’re all adults here, and I think we can talk about this rationally, without having to raise our voices.” He raised his eyebrows, challenging both women to disagree.

Liz huffed and returned to her seat.

Nancy remained standing, her arms crossed in front of her.

Jeff nodded his head, breathing a silent sigh of relief. There nothing that hurt more than watching the people he loved most in the world fighting.

He returned to sit in front of Liz. He placed a hand on her knee and gave her an encouraging smile. “Liz, why don’t you tell us what’s going on?”

“I don’t think she should be able to say anything at this point. She’s too young to be getting involved in a relationship like this-

Jeff gave Nancy a stern look. “Nancy, please. Let Liz have her chance to talk.”

Skulking, Nancy sat on the couch, opposite them.

Jeff looked back to Liz. “Go, on. We’re listening.”

Liz took a deep breath, preparing herself to tell her parents everything.

*********

Max took the back booth at the Crashdown, with Noah in tow.

Maria stopped by, sitting across from him.

“Hey, Max.”

Max gave her a small smile.

Maria motioned to his eyebrow. “How’s the cut?”

Max’s smile broadened as he remembered Noah kissing his cut better. “Good. I can hardly feel it.”

Maria just nodded. “Can I get you guys something?”

“Just a cherry coke for me, and a glass of milk for the little guy.”

Smiling, Maria stood up, walking towards the counter, but stopped. She turned back around, planting a friendly kiss on Max’s cheek. “Thank you for taking care of Liz.” With that, she went to retrieve their orders.

Max sat there a little stunned. He hadn’t expected that. It made him happy to know that Liz had such wonderful friends that cared so much for her.

As Max busied himself helping Noah drink his milk, someone made themselves comfortable across from him.

He looked up, a little startled to see a girl he recognized from school.

Flashing him a fake smile, Pam reached forward under the ruse of shaking Max’s hand, but with the intention of giving Max an eyeful of her low cut shirt.

“Hi, Max!” she said in a fake sugary sweet voice.

Max had to fight to keep himself from visibly cringing at the sound of her voice. He didn’t know what it was about her, but she gave him the creeps.

“Do I-do I know you?” Max tried to be polite, but it was getting to be very difficult. His mind was elsewhere, thinking about Liz, and Noah was just being a handful. He began fussing, kicking his little legs.

“Pam. Pam Troy. We have fifth period English together.”

***************

“Max and I, we’ve, we’re dating.” Liz decided to be as straight forward with her parents as she could. And she couldn’t be more blunt than that.

Jeff waited for Liz to continue, but it seemed as if she wasn’t going to share anything else.

“Is that....... there’s nothing else you’d like to tell us about Max?”

Liz shrugged her shoulders. “Well, what do you want to know? His family is from California. They moved into the old Delanie house. His parents are both lawyers. His twin sister is Isabel-

Liz would have rambled on with insignificant facts about Max, but her mother stopped her.

“Just stop it Liz!” Nancy stood back up and began pacing the length of the living room rug.

“Don’t you see what she’s doing, Jeff? She’s making a joke out of this.”

Her angry eyes flashed with a fire that was just roaring to life. “I’m saying this, I’m only going to say it once Elizabeth. You are not to see that boy. I don’t care what you say, you will have no say in this. You may think you’re all grown up, and can make your own decisions, but I will not have you ruin your life with this, this-

Liz jumped of the couch, tears streaming down her face. “You can’t tell me what to do! You can’t make assumptions based on some pathetic lie Pam Troy has fed you. She’s not even my friend. She’s just doing this to hurt me.”

“This has nothing to do with what this Pam Troy has said, or hasn’t said. But this has everything to do with Max.” Nancy’s eyes flickered with sadness. “He’s a teenager with a son, Liz. Do you even have any idea how difficult it is to raise a child as an adult, but to have to do that when you’re a child yourself....” Nancy took a deep breath, walking to stand in front of Liz. “I’m not saying these things to be mean, Liz. I just want you to open your eyes and look at the reality, face on. How can you even consider a serious relationship with a boy who has nothing in common with you.”

Liz angrily wiped away her tears. “You don’t even know Max, and you’re ready to lump him as just another statistic.”

Nancy reached out to run her hand down Liz’s hair to comfort her, but Liz shrugged her mother’s touch away.

“That’s not true, Liz. I’m just looking out for you. I want what’s best for you.”

Stifling back a sob, Liz turned her sad doe eyes to her mother. “If you really wanted what was best for me, you’d know that Max is what’s best for me. In the short time that he’s known me, he’s given me more reasons to be happy. He’s been the one encouraging me to pursue my dreams. He’s the one that’s believed in me.”

Nancy was speechless for a second. All she could do was exchange looks with her husband.

“If you knew Max at all, you’d know that he was the kindest, most gentlest person. He’s the most devoted father to his little boy. He cares about me so much, that he defended me against these two guys who were giving me a hard time because my good friend Pam started spreading these nasty rumors about me. Max was willing to risk suspension to protect me.” Liz couldn’t hold back the sobs that made it’s way past her lips. Her shoulders shook, with all of the pent up emotion she was holding in.

“I don’t care what you guys think. I’m in love with Max. I’m not going to stop seeing him just because you guys don’t think he’s good for me.” Liz walked past her parents and quickly made her way down the back steps of the apartment that led to the Crashdown.

“Liz! Liz!”

When she didn’t turn around, Nancy faced her husband.

“What are we going to do, Jeff?”

Jeff stood up, shrugging his shoulders. “I don’t know what to tell you, Nan. But Lizzie’s a big girl. Maybe we should trust her to make her own decisions.”

The tears flowed down Nancy’s cheeks. “How can you say that? She’s your little girl, Jeff. How can you be so ready to let her grow up, with a teenaged father no less.”

Jeff bit down on his frustration, his teeth grinding against each other. “I can’t say I’m happy that Liz is involved with Max. Hell, I’ll probably start learning how to use a shot gun if this relationship continues, but I trust Liz. I trust that she’s smart enough to know what’s she getting herself into.”

He wiped away the tears from his wife’s eyes. “She’s never given us a reason to make her doubt her decisions before. I don’t think now is the time to start doubting her.”

*********

Max had stood up, gently bouncing Noah in his arms.

After Pam had gone on to talk about nonsense, Noah had started to cry. Max had done everything he could to calm him down, but nothing would work.

Pam stood up beside Max.

She reached forward to take Noah in her arms. “Aw, why don’t you let me. I’m great with kids.”

Max shook his head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Pam. He’s not real good with strangers.”

Pam refused to listen to Max’s request. She reached forward, pulling Noah from Max’s embrace.

Noah just cried harder, turning to look back at his father, pleading with him to take him from Pam.

“Aren’t you, sweet?” Pam had no idea what she was doing. She had never been around kids too much, but she was doing her best to impress Max.

She tried to remember what it was that Max was doing to try and calm the baby down. A smile touched her lips and she began bouncing him against her.

Max reached forward to take back his son, but Pam pulled away. “Stop worrying, Max. I’ve got everything under control.” She put her face in Noah’s line of vision, and smiled. “Isn’t that right?”

All of a sudden, warm liquid with chunks hit her in the face.

Disgusted, Pam held Noah out to Max. “Ugh, get that little brat away from me!”

She reached for a napkin to wipe off the mess that Noah had made.

Max frowned at her. “He’s not a brat. And would you relax, he’s just a baby. He can’t control everything he does.”

Max started cleaning up Noah, kissing the side of his temple.

Pam flashed angry eyes at Max. “What? That’s it? You’re just going to give him a kiss and forget that he spit up all over me?”

Max glared at Pam. “Well I’m not going to yell at him if that’s what you’d like me to do. It’s not his fault that he spit up on you! You should have listened to me when I told you he wasn’t good with strangers.”

Max couldn’t keep himself from being angry. He was already tense with what was going with Liz and her parents at that moment, but to have the added stress of Pam calling his son a brat, he was just about ready to explode.

Pam threw up her hands in frustration. “This is so, not worth it!” She absently tied up her hair, mumbling to herself. “At least that rumor put Liz in her place. That’s good enough for me.”

She tried to walk out the front door, to escape any more humiliation that might come her way, but was stopped by Max’s hand gripping her arm tightly.

“What did you just say?”

Pam tried to weasel herself away from Max’s grip. “I-I didn’t say anything.”

Max got in her face. “I heard you. You were the one that started those rumors about Liz.”

Pam shook her head. “No, it wasn’t, it wasn’t me.”

Max looked at her, disgust showing in his every feature. “I want you to stay away from Liz. If I hear that you even say so much as a little lie about her, you’ll have to answer to me.”

He dropped her arm, causing her to stumble back a little.

“She really must be a good lay for you to be wanting to stay with her.” Pam walked backwards, a smirk on her lips. After the humiliation she received right now, she was going to have the last laugh.

“That’s it!” Maria ran forward from where she was watching the exchange between Pam and Max.

Her fist came up, coming into contact with Pam’s jaw.

Pam fell back with the force of Maria’s right hook. Touching her lip and seeing the blood, Pam gave Maria a deathly stare. “You little, bitch!”

She was ready to get up and start a fight with Maria, but Kyle picked her up off of the floor and lead her to the front door.

“Stay away from here, Pam. You’re not welcome here.”

She looked over his shoulder, shouting at Maria. “You’re not going to get away with this De Luca!”

Maria was going to run forward, but Michael held her back. “Easy there, spitfire.”

Maria tried to give Michael an annoyed look, but with the smile he was giving her, she found it impossible. She turned around, shouting back at Pam. “Anytime, Pam!”

Pam was going to say something else, but Kyle pushed her out the door. “Nobody, calls my sister a bitch, you got that?” Pam opened her mouth to say something else, but Kyle pulled the door closed.

He turned back around to assess the damage in the cafe and noticed that a majority of students from school were there. He smiled to himself, glad that so many people had witnessed Pam’s downfall.

He clapped his dish rag across his palm. “Back to work, everyone!” He made sure to give Maria a pointed look.

She just laughed and hit him with her order pad. “Thanks, Kyle.”

Kyle blushed and waved off Maria’s thanks. “It’s, not, no problem.”

He hurried away and began clearing tables. He’d had enough mushiness for today.

Maria just laughed and went to Max to make sure he was ok.

“You guys ok?”

Max hoisted Noah higher against his chest. “Yeah, I just wished that I could see Liz. I’m worried about her.”

Maria looked over his shoulder, a smile lighting her lips. “Well, you can go ahead and see for yourself. She’s right behind you.”

Max turned to see that Liz was standing by the open doorway that led to the kitchen.

He ran to her, running his hands down the side of her face. “You, didn’t happen to see that, did you?”

Liz offered him a sad smile, her head bobbing in response.

“I wish you didn’t have to see that,” Max was running his fingers through her hair, about to continue, when he noticed how quiet Liz was.

“Liz, what’s wrong?”

When she refused to meet his eyes, Max placed his fingers under her chin, tilting it up so he could look into her eyes.

“Have you been crying?” Max’ heart broke at the stricken look on Liz’s face. He hugged her close to his body, trying to find some way to comfort her.

Liz let her tears fall again, snuggling closer into Max’s chest. “Take me away Max. Just take me away from here.”

With his chin sitting on the top of his head, Max nodded. He kissed the top of her dark shiny head. “Sure. I’ll take you anywhere you wanna go.”

His hand reached down, his fingers entwining with hers.

Max led the three of them out of the Crashdown, their destination yet unknown.

*********

Nancy watched quietly as the scene had unfolded in front of her eyes. She had gripped Jeff’s hand as she witnessed first hand how gentle and caring Max was towards his son, and to her daughter.

Turning around to look at Jeff who was standing one step above her, she sighed. “How am I supposed to convince myself that Max isn’t what Liz needs?”

Jeff leaned down and brushed a kiss on her forehead. “I don’t know.”

Part 40C

***************

Max sat in his jeep with Liz at his side, and Noah in the back seat outside of the Evans’ home.

Max turned slightly, grasping Liz’s hand in his. “Why did you want to come here?”

Liz looked up at Max, her sad eyes twinkling with unshed tears. “Because I feel safe here.”

Max reached over and kissed her hand before the three of them went inside.

Diane rushed to the front door as soon as she heard it open. “Max, is that you?”

Diane stilled at the sight of a very distraught Liz in her son’s arms. “Liz, dear, are you alright?”

Liz gave Diane Evans here most convincing smile. “I’m fine, Mrs. Evans.”

Diane looked to Max for some sort of confirmation of what Liz was telling her, but he just shook his head.

“If you don’t mind mom, Liz and I were just going up to my room to study.” Max implored his mother to let him handle the situation in private.

Diane gave a slight nod of her head, stepping aside reluctantly.

Once they reached his room, Max closed the door behind him, and placed Noah in his crib.

He took a seat beside Liz, wrapping his arms around her fragile form. He gave her temple a soft kiss, as his hand ran down the side of her arm. “Liz, please tell me what’s wrong. I can’t stand seeing you this way.”

Liz buried her face deeper in the crook of Max’s neck, her tears leaving a wet trail. “I’m sorry, Max.”

Max found himself smiling despite the situation. It amazed him how Liz could think about him at this moment, when she was the one that was hurting. “Why are you apologizing to me for?”

She pulled away, wiping her tear stained cheeks. “My parents.”

Max just nodded, as realization hit him.

“I’m assuming that your parents aren’t too keen on you and I as a couple?”

Liz shook her head sadly. She saw the look of sadness in Max’s eyes and it brought all of the pain she had felt when she was talking to her parents back to the surface. “I tried to make them understand..............”

“Shh........” Max placed his index finger against her lips. “It’s ok, Liz. I already had a feeling that they wouldn’t understand, right away. Lord knows if I had a daughter like you, I wouldn’t be too eager to let her date a single father either.”

“But that’s the thing. They can’t tell me what to do. I won’t let them.” The determination was set on Liz’s face.

Max leaned his forehead against hers, breathing deeply. “Are you sure I’m worth all of this?”

Liz heard the vulnerability in Max’s voice, making her heart hurt that much more. “Of course, you are. Why would you say something like that?”

He pulled back, his eyes downcast. “I just........I want to make sure that I’m really what you want. I don’t want you to feel like I’m tying you down, or that I’m pressuring you into something you’re not ready for.” He finally looked up into her eyes, “I want you to know that I love you, Liz. And if you’re not ready for a relationship right now, I’d understand. I would wait forever for you.”

Liz silenced him with her lips on his. She gave everything she had into the kiss, wanting Max to understand how much she needed him in her life, how important he was.

Pulling back, she brushed her lips against his forehead. “I love you, Max. I meant what I said, before. We can get through anything as long as we stick together.”

He gave her a small smile. “I know. I’m sorry for doubting what we have, I just........sometimes, I just wonder what I did to deserve someone like you.” Max threaded his fingers through her hair, enjoying the silkiness of it.

Liz returned his smile, leaning into the touch of his hand. “I think you’ve got that the other way around.”

Max gave a small chuckle, pulling Liz into his embrace. He scooted back towards the headboard, leaning up against it with Liz by his side.

“Liz!” Noah called to her from his crib, reaching out his arms.

Liz hopped off the bed and grabbed him, bringing him to Max’s bed. She gave him a soft kiss. “Hey, precious. I’ve missed you.” She gave him one last squeeze before she let him crawl onto Max’s chest. He lay his head down, his eyes slowly drifting closed.

Max looked down at his son laying on his chest, and softly ran his fingers through Noah’s hair.

“So what should we do now?” Liz snuggled up closer to Max, enjoying the warmth of his body.

“I don’t know. What did you have in mind?”

“Hmmm, I don’t really care. I’m too exhausted to move right now.”

Max laughed, tightening his arms around Liz. “Then we’ll stay right here.”

“Sounds good.” Liz’s voice was muffled by Max’s sweater. He looked down to say something to her, when he saw her eyes were closed. Her breathing had evened out, letting Max know that she had fallen asleep. He kissed her forehead, then closed his own eyes.

***********

Diane walked up the stairs to call Max and Liz down for dinner.

She gave the door a little knock, but no one answered.

The door was slightly ajar, so she peaked her head in. “Max...............

Her voice drifted off when her caught sight of Max, Liz, and Noah asleep together on the bed. Max was laying flat on his back, with Noah sprawled against his chest. His arm draped over his son, while his other arm was wrapped tightly around Liz, who was curled up on his side.

Diane placed her hand over her mouth, at the sight that three of them made. They looked just like a family.

Phillip walked up the stairs, standing beside his wife. “Di? What’s taking so long?”

When she didn’t answer, he looked to where her eyes were focused. A small smile touched his lips, as he steered Diane towards the stairs. “Why don’t we give them a few more minutes?” Diane just nodded her head, sharing Phillip’s smile.

As she made her way down the stairs, Phillip stepped into the room, gently shaking Max’s shoulder. “Max.”

Max’s eyes fluttered open, but shut them again when the light hit his eyes. “Dad?”

“Yea. Dinner’s ready. When the three of you are ready, come on down.” Phillip sat back up, closing the door behind him as he left.

Max’s eyes finally came back into focus. Noah shifted on his chest, causing Max to look at him. He had his thumb in his mouth, and his other hand was curled around Liz’s hand.

Liz!

Max’s heart beat tripled when he realized that Liz was still asleep beside him. His eyes shot to the door when he realized that his father had seen them. He hoped that his dad didn’t get the wrong idea, but upon remembering what his father had said, his heart slowed down a little. It didn’t seem like he was mad.

As he continued to contemplate his thoughts, Liz began to stir beside him.

Her long lashes fluttered against her rosy cheeks, her lips slightly parted. Max couldn’t resist leaning down and placing a kiss on her lips.

Liz smiled against his lips, her eyes coming into focus. “What was that for?”

Max ran his finger down the tip of her nose. “Because I could. And because you look absolutely breath taking right now.”

Liz gave him a smirk, her eyes disbelieving. “I don’t think so. How can I be breath taking when I have bed hair?”

Max just laughed. “You always look beautiful. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you more beautiful than the way you look right now.”

Liz’s face flushed at his sincere comment.

“C’mon. We gotta go downstairs. It’s time for dinner.”

Liz shot up in bed, straightening out her clothes. “Your parents saw me asleep? Here?”

Max just nodded, his eyes a little confused. “Yea, why?”

Liz ran her fingers through her hair, trying to make herself a little more presentable. “I just, I don’t want your parents to get the wrong idea.”

Max sat up, cradling Noah in his arms. “They didn’t. And besides, we did nothing wrong. We just fell asleep.”

Liz nodded, placing her hand in Max’s outstretched one.

The two of them walked into the dining room hand in hand.

Diane, Phillip, and Isabel looked up.

“It’s about time you two got down here. I thought I was going to have to start gnawing on my arm.” Isabel smiled as she saw the two of them blush at her playful teasing.

Max pulled out Liz’s seat for her, before taking his seat beside her.

“Ok, let’s dig in everyone!” Diane passed the dinner rolls to Liz. She gave her hand a soft squeeze, causing Liz to look at her in shock. Diane just smiled at her and mouthed the word thank you to her, Liz returned her smile, feeling better already.

Even if her own mother couldn’t understand her relationship with Max, she was glad that Max’s mother did.

Part 41

**************

It was Wednesday morning at West Roswell High School.

Max had come to school early, hoping to catch Maria before he met up with Liz. Spotting her at her locker, he walked towards her purposefully.

“Hey, Maria.”

Maria looked up from the jungle that was her locker. She blew a piece of hair away from her eyes, smiling when she saw Max. “Oh, hey Max. What’s up?”

He leaned up against the locker beside hers, thinking of a way to ask her what he had to ask.

“Well, I was wondering, you know, I would never put you in a position like this, but I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t need the help. And I’m only asking cos I don’t have any other choice. I was wondering if you could do me a favor. But I don’t want you to feel like you have to, you can feel free to say no.........”

Maria watched in amusement as Max rambled on and on. She thought it was kinda quite how he was stumbling all over his words.

She slammed her locker closed, giving him her biggest smile. “Sure, I’ll do it.”

Max stopped long enough to give Maria a questioning look. He had been in the middle of his speech when she had spoken. “What?”

Maria leaned on her locker, giving Max a sideways glance. “I said, I’d do that favor for you.”

Max got a little wrinkle in between his eyebrows. “But you don’t even know what I’m asking you to do.”

She pushed herself up from the locker, to stand up in front of Max. “That’s really beside the point. But you might as well tell me what it is, so I know what it is I’m going to be doing.”

Max just nodded his head slowly. He hadn’t really expected to have Maria say yes. In fact, he had a whole speech prepared. He just took a deep breath, hoping that she was still willing to do him that favor, after he told her what it was. “You see, Liz has kinda been having a tough week, and well, she and I have work all week and I’ve been wanting to do something special for her, you know, to make her forget her problems for a little while. Anyways, the only day off we have together is Saturday, and well, I kinda wanted it just to be us. I mean I would ask Isabel to do it, but she has work, and my mom does too. I guess I could just leave Noah with a babysitter, but I’ve never really done that before, and since you’ve already met him and you two seem to get along ok, I was wondering if you could watch him on Saturday.”

Maria’s eyes were glowing with excitement. She clapped her hands together, jumping up and down. “Are you asking me if I can babysit Noah on Saturday, while you do something special for Liz?”

Max’s head bobbed up and down slowly, trying to gauge what Maria’s reaction was going to be.

He was caught off guard when she threw her arms around his neck, giving him a big squeeze.

“Of course, I’ll do it!” She pulled back with an enormous smile on her face. She was more than happy to help out Max. In reality, she would have babysat for Max, regardless of the situation, but after hearing the reason why he wanted her to babysit, she was even more excited. Liz sure was lucky.

Max found himself smiling down into the eyes of Maria. “Thanks, I totally appreciate it.”

“No problem. Just make sure you bring Noah to my house bright and early. I wanna make the most of spending the day with him.”

Max felt like his heart was about to burst. Never in a million years would he have thought he would make friends that would support him. Maria was such a great friend. It seemed as if she was always there when one of her friends needed her.

He placed a hand on her shoulder, his eyes becoming serious. “And about Monday afternoon, with Pam.......I just wanted to say thanks. I probably would have hit her myself, but my mom‘s always taught me not to hit a lady.......”

Maria’s nose scrunched up, showing her distaste of the topic of conversation. “Max, Pam Troy is a lot of things, but she sure as hell ain’t a lady.”

The two of them laughed at what Maria was saying.

Suddenly, Michael and Kyle made their way towards them.

Kyle clapped Max on his back. “Max, my house, Saturday. We’re watching the game.”

Michael wrapped his arms around Maria’s waist, leaning his chin on her shoulder. “Yeah, Max. Whitman’s gonna be there too. We’ll make a day of it.”

Alex came down the hall, his wallet chain dragging. “We’ll make a day of what?”

“Game on Saturday, my house.” Kyle, shifted his book bag onto his other shoulder, grinning at the guys.

“So, how about it, Max? Can we expect you there?”

Maria, shook her head. “No can do guys. Max has other plans.”

Michael quirked his eyebrow at Maria. “What do you know about it?”

Max finally spoke up. “Actually, I kinda have plans with Liz.........” He let his voice trail off, a little sad that he was declining their offer. It sounded like it was going to be fun, and he never really done any hanging out with just the guys, but he couldn’t say yes. As tempted as he was to say yes, his main concern was Liz. He wanted to take her out for the day, and make the world fade away even for just a little bit.

“Oh, well that’s cool. If you want, stop by after. I’m pretty sure we’ll be hanging out all day.”

Max gave a little smile. “I might just do that.”

“Might just do what?” Liz and Isabel made their way to the group that had now congregated by Maria’s locker.

Liz slipped her arm around Max’s waist, giving him a smile. “What were you saying?”

“I just told the guys I’d stop by later on Saturday to hang out.”

Liz frowned at him. “Why not stop by in the morning? Isn’t there some sort of game on or something?”

He slipped his arm around her shoulders, bringing her closer to him. “Yeah, but we have plans for the whole day.”

“We do?”

Max nodded slowly. He had heard the surprise in her voice, and he wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. “Yeah, I kinda made, plans, but if you don’t want to-

Liz’s face lit up with a smile. “I want to. But what are we doing?”

Max’s eyes began twinkling. “It’s a surprise.”

Liz rolled her eyes, slapping him across the chest.

Max’s jovial laughter filled the hall, their friends joining in.

The bell rang, causing the students to heave a simultaneous groan.

Everybody said their goodbyes, going their separate ways.

Max held Liz’s hand as he walked her to class.

They stopped outside the door where Max placed a kiss on Liz’s forehead. “I’ll see you at lunch.”

Before he could leave, Liz tugged him back towards her. “What have you got planned for us this weekend?”

Max’s smile took on a devilish quality. “I told you, it’s a surprise.”

Liz gently pinched his side, causing Max to yelp. “Max Evans, what have you got up your sleeve?”

“That’s for me to know and for you to find out!” He placed a quick peck on her lips, then pulled back quickly heading for the other direction. “I’ll see you at lunch!”

He found himself laughing at the sight of Liz standing outside of her classroom, her hands on her hips, giving him a mock glare.

He was going to enjoy Saturday. He was going to go out of his way to make it a special day for Liz. He knew she was bottling up her feelings concerning her parents decision about their relationship. He had tried to get her to open up to him, but she always said she didn’t want to talk about it. He didn’t want to push her, but he knew holding all of that in wasn’t healthy. He had been persistent, and at least got her to tell him something. She had said that she and her parents were no longer on speaking terms and had left it at that.

He knew how much this was hurting her. That’s why he had come up with this idea. He would make her forget her problems even for just a couple of hours, and then together, they would face their problems hand in hand.

Part 42

************

Max trudged up the walkway of the Valenti/Deluca household.

In one arm, he carried Noah, and the other held Noah’s things.

As he reached the front door, he dropped the bag and rang the bell.

The door opened with Kyle wearing gym shorts and a t-shirt, scratching his head. “Hey, Max.”

He pulled the screen door open, stepping aside to let Max through. He noticed Max struggling a little with the bag, so he reached forward and took it from him. “I got.”

Max gave Kyle a grateful look, and made his way inside.

Kyle turned his head towards the hall and yelled at Maria. “Hey, Maria! Max and Noah are here.”

Kyle turned back around and smiled at Noah who was smiling back at him. “Hey, little guy. Give me a high-five?” Kyle held out his hand for Noah to hit it, but Noah just giggled into his father’s shoulder.

Max looked at his son, sharing his infectious laughter. “Are you shy, little man? Kyle only wants to play.” Max turned back to Kyle. “He’s just a little shy right now, but give him an hour and you’ll wish he would have just kept ignoring you.”

Kyle laughed, tugging on Noah’s little hat. “It’s ok. We’ve got plenty of time. By the time you pick him up, he’ll be running and jumping faster than all the other little kids.”

It was then that Maria burst into the living room. “Morning, all.” She headed straight for Max and Noah. She took Noah from Max, pinching his chubby cheeks. “Hi, Noah.”

Noah smiled back up at Maria. “Hi.”

Maria turned to Max, an excited gleam in her eyes. “Did he just say hi?”

Max shared her excitement. “Yeah, I think he just did.” He turned to his son, giving him his most encouraging look. “Hi, Noah.”

“Hi.”

Maria and Max exchanged smiles, both looking ready to jump up and down.

As the phone rang, Kyle just shook his head and answered it. “Hello? Oh, hey dad.......Yeah, just Michael and Alex, and Max a little later on.........yes.......yes.......I said I was sorry about that........I promise............You don’t have to worry..........Maria’s going to be here all day.........Ok, I already said I promise.........FINE!........Michael, Alex, and I, are not professional wrestlers. The living room is not a fighting ring, and we will not pretend like it is........Are you happy, now?...........”

Maria just shook her head at the conversation Kyle was having with his father. He was no doubt getting the lecture about being adults. She found herself chuckling as she heard Kyle repeat the litany that his father had come up with.

She returned her attention back to Max, lowering her voice conspiratorially. “So, did you do it?”

Max gave her a grin, while bobbing his head in response. “Yeah, I did. Noah even helped.”

Maria looked at the bundle in her arms and smiled. “Aw, that is just so sweet. What I wouldn’t do to be able to see that.”

Giving a small chuckle, Max tried to speak again. “Yeah, well you may be able to. Izzy couldn’t resist and bust out the camcorder.”

They laughed together for a little while before max sobered up again. “Did you get Liz to do it?”

“Yeah, but she has been nagging me constantly to try and figure out where you’re taking her.”

Max gave Maria a worried glance. “You didn’t tell her, did you?”

Maria shook her hair wildly, her blonde curls bouncing. “No, of course not. Just a warning. She’ll do her best to get it out of you, but don’t give in.”

“Don’t give in?” Max swallowed, tugging on his shirt collar.

“Uh huh. She’ll try to wear you down, do all sorts of tricks. Don’t fall for it. But she’ll save the best for last. She’ll look at you with those doe eyes and her long eyelashes, and I know you’ll give in. So don’t look into her eyes!”

Max jumped back a little at the change of pitch of Maria’s voice. “I-I won’t.”

“Good. Now, do you need directions, or.......”

“No, I know how to get there. I’ve practically burned into my memory.”

“Great, so I guess I’ll see you later.” Maria turned Noah so he was facing Max. “Say buh-bye to daddy?”

Noah waved to his father, then placed his hand back on Maria’s shoulder.

Max leaned forward and gave Noah a kiss on his cheek. “Bye, Noah. You be good for Maria while I’m gone.”


Max gave one last goodbye, as he headed towards his jeep.

On his way out, he came across Michael and Alex.

“Hey, Max.”

“Hey, guys.”

“So, there’s no possible way we can persuade you to stay?” Michael grinned at Max, as he asked his question.

Max shook his head. “Not a chance. But I’ll be back later.”

Alex gave Max a wave as he continued down the walkway. “Ok, later, Max.”

Max turned back around, giving one last wave. “Yeah, later.”

**********

As Max arrived outside the Crashdown, he saw Liz sitting outside on the curb, with a floppy hat and sunglasses. She had a bag slung over one shoulder as she waited.

Max pulled up beside her, jumping out of the jeep.

He reached out his hand to help her up. “Been waiting long?”

“No.”

She let him take her bag and place it in the back seat. He opened the passenger door, helping her into her seat.

As she turned to put her seat belt on, Max brushed his lips against hers for a sweet kiss.

He made his way around to his side, jumping in to start the engine. “You ready to go?”

Liz graced him with a smile that lit up her entire face. “With you? I’m always ready.”

Max shifted gears and headed out of Roswell.

**********

As the three guys settled themselves with junk food in the living room, Maria ran to get the phone with Noah in her arms.

“Hello?”

“Maria, is that you?”

Maria shifted Noah into her other arm as she cradled the phone against her shoulder. “Isabel? Is that you?”

“Omigod! Thank goodness you’re there. I need you to come over to the Crashdown. Agnes just called in sick and I can’t find anyone to cover for her. I’m the only one here and the place is starting to fill up. Please, Maria. You gotta come down here and help me.” Isabel rushed the words past her lips.

Maria looked at Noah in her arms, then looked to the phone in her hand.

Having made her decision, she placed the phone back against her ear. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

Maria put the phone back down and headed back to the living room.

She deposited Noah on Alex’s lap, giving Noah a kiss on his head. “Look, I gotta go down to the Crashdown and help Isabel for a couple of hours. Agnes bailed on her so she’s the only one there. You guys watch Noah while I’m gone.”

Maria walked down the hall to her room to retrieve her purse.

She came back with keys in hand, heading towards the front door.

On her way, Kyle came to stand in front of her.

“Is this some kind of joke?”

She pushed Kyle out of the way. “No it isn’t. I can’t leave Isabel alone all by herself. It’s Saturday and the place is going to be packed.” She pulled the screen door open, but Kyle grabbed it before she could get out.

“You can’t just leave Noah here with us.”

Maria rolled her eyes. “Why not? There’s three of you guys here. It’s nothing you guys can’t handle. And besides, he’s just a little baby.”

Michael called out from his position on the couch, where Noah had crawled into his lap. “Uh, have you forgotten that we’re three teenage guys that have no babysitting experience?”

Maria looked to see a very uncomfortable Michael, in the presence of a very curious Noah. “You guys have nothing to worry about. He’s exactly like you guys, except for the fact that he’s less than two feet tall.”

Maria pushed the door open again and headed for the jetta.

As she sped out of the driveway, she pulled her window down to yell. “I’ll call later on to check up on you guys.” She gave a wave and a smile as she headed to the direction of Main Street.

Kyle shut the door and walked back into the living room. He stood there and watched as Noah climbed off of Michael’s lap, walking towards him.

Noah tugged on Kyle’s pants leg, a grin on his lips. “Hi.”

Kyle looked to the Michael and Alex, who both just shrugged their shoulders.

They could do this, right? I mean how hard was it to take care of a little baby?

When Kyle didn’t pay attention to Noah tugging on his leg, Noah turned his attention to the hallway that led to the bedrooms. He covered his mouth with his hand as a giggle escaped his lips.

He ran towards the bedrooms, leaving a very stunned Kyle in his wake.

Kyle’s eyes grew wide. He turned to his friends and pointed to where Noah had run. “Go! Go catch him!”

The three boys practically tripped over themselves as they tried to reach Noah.

They didn’t understand how Noah had run away from them so quickly, when he had such short legs.

The three of them quieted down and listened for Noah’s childish giggles, to lead them to his location.

“Noah, come out, come out, where ever you are.”

At the sound of Alex’s voice, Noah appeared from Kyle’s room, running towards the living room again.

He was to quick for Alex to catch. Kyle tried to grab him, but Noah had side stepped him, running between Michael’s long legs.

The three of them shook their heads, as Noah once again managed to escape the three of them.

This was going to be a long day.






All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP




Edited by - jasper711 on 09/19/2001 15:02:26
posted on 18-Sep-2001 3:09:00 PM
Part 43A

***************

Liz turned so that she was facing Max as he drove.

Max caught her looking at him from the corner of his eye. “What?” He turned to look at her for a quick second before turning his eyes back to the road.

Sighing, Liz lifted up her leg so that she could sit on it. “Nothing. I’m just admiring the view.”

Chuckling, Max pointed to the scenery outside the window. “I think you’ve got that mixed up. The view is towards that way.”

Liz shook her head. She pulled off her hat, causing her chocolate colored tresses to flow around her shoulders like a waterfall.

Max had to do a quick double take, as he was suddenly mesmerized by the sight beside him. Gripping the wheel a little tighter, he forced his eyes back to the road before they got into an accident.

“Nope. I didn’t get that mixed up. I’m enjoying the view right here.”

Max turned again to see the way Liz’s eyes shone in the sunlight that filtered through the windshield.

NO!

He shook his head. Maria was right. He couldn’t look into her eyes without wanting to spill everything about his surprise.

Liz bit her bottom lip to keep from smiling at the sight of Max so flustered. Placing a hand on his arm, she spoke softly. “Max-

She was surprised at the way he jumped back at her touch. She pulled her hand away. “Is everything ok?”

His eyes were dancing wildly. “Tricks.”

Liz stifled the laugh that wanted to come out. “Tricks?”

Max nodded his head slowly. “Yeah, no tricks.”

Indulging him, Liz nodded as if she was understanding what he was talking about. “No tricks?”

“Uh huh.” Max refused to turn to Liz anymore as he continued to speak. It was too dangerous. She had that beautiful smile of hers that showed her perfect white teeth. That smile that made his knees weak, and his toes curl.

Liz finally let the laughter inside her bubble forth. Max was just absolutely adorable. She had no idea what he was talking about, but she couldn’t care less right now. Seeing the way he was fighting himself for some sort of control endeared him to her.

Max threw a glance at Liz. She was laughing, her head tilted back, exposing her elegant neck.

Gulping, Max tried to think of anything but the beauty that was seated beside him.

This was going to be the longest ride of his life, but he couldn’t really complain. He wouldn’t change a thing.

He was the luckiest man alive.

****************

Michael, Alex, and Kyle ran into the living room to find Noah climbing onto the couch. The three of them watched as Noah struggled a little, but eventually situated himself in the middle of the couch.

All heaving a sigh of relief, the three boys sat down. Kyle on the end of the couch, Michael on the other, with Noah in the middle. Alex took the recliner that was beside Michael.

Kyle pushed Noah back against the cushions of the couch, making sure that his little legs weren’t dangling off of the side. With his hand on Noah’s tummy, he started talking. “Ok, pal, we gotta lay some ground rules here. No more running around til the game is over. Ok? After that we can play all you want.”

Noah just covered his eyes with his hands, laughing.

Kyle nodded then turned his attention to the tv. He flipped the channels just in time to see Hannah Storm, talking about today’s game. “Come on. Let‘s get to the good stuff.”

Michael leaned forward to grab a bag of lays chips. He ripped the package open, grabbing a handful. He handed it to Kyle who dug right in, passing it towards Alex.

When Alex received the bag, he studied the label, reading it carefully.

With a teasing grin, Kyle hit Michael across the shoulder, pointing towards Alex. “What’s the matter, Alex? Checking to see how many calories there are?”

Alex gave a mock laugh. “Ha ha. I was checking to see if they made this with that Olean crap.”

Michael looked up from the mountain of chips in his hands. He popped one into his mouth, throwing a look to Alex. “So, what if they did? What’s the big deal?”

“Didn’t you hear? That Olean stuff doesn’t digest in people’s systems, that it just leaks straight through to their underwear. You know, kinda like track marks.”

Kyle looked at Alex horrified. “Dude, that’s so gross! I so did not need to hear that.”

Alex just shrugged his shoulders, and dipped his hand into the bag.

The three of them returned their attention to the television screen. Tip off was about to begin when a stench started to permeate through the room.

Kyle was in the process of putting a chip into his mouth, when he had the sudden urge to drop it. “What is that smell?”

Michael looked up, holding up his hands. “It’s not me. That’s just foul.”

Michael and Kyle both turned their heads sharply to Alex who was grubbing on some chips.

“What?”

When they both gave him a knowing look, Alex shook his head vigorously. “Well don’t look at me. Just because I said something about track marks.........” His voice trailed off as his eyes landed on Noah.

Kyle and Michael followed his gaze.

Kyle leaned forward to get a sniff of Noah when he suddenly jumped out of his seat. “Geez!”

Alex tried not to laugh at his friend, but it was hard not to. “I guess it’s safe to assume that it’s our little buddy?”

Kyle nodded, a look of disgust on his face. “Oh, yeah. It’s definitely him.”

The three boys gathered around Noah, watching him curiously.

“What are we going to do?” Michael tilted his head to the side, studying Noah’s every move.

“I don’t know about you guys, but I’m calling Maria.” Kyle ran to the phone and dialed the number to the Crashdown.

“Crashdown, Maria speaking.”

“Good, it’s you.”

“Kyle?”

“Yeah, it’s me. We’ve got a problem.” His eyes returned to Noah. “A very big problem.”

“Well, what is it? Is something wrong with Noah? Is he hurt?”

“Calm down, Maria. He’s not hurt.”

“Then what is it?”

“Noah, he kinda needs a diaper change. Like really bad.”

Maria blew out a breath. She turned her head to listen to the voice that was calling her.

“Maria, order’s up.”

She turned her attention back to the phone. “I don’t see what the problem is, Kyle. Just change him. I gotta go.”

Before Kyle could get another word in, he heard the click of the phone.

Slowly putting the phone down, he turned to his friends with a defeated look on his face.

“What did she say?”

“We’ve gotta change him.”

Michael’s eyes grew wide. “Hold on. What do you mean we’ve gotta change him.”

“Well I’m not doing it by myself, besides, we can’t just leave him like that.”

Alex stepped forward. “Ok, everyone just relax.” He looked his two friends in the eyes. “We’re in this together.”

**************

Liz sat back in her seat. “How longer til we get there?”

“No way. I’m no telling you anything.”

“Oh c’mon, Max. Can’t you give me a clue? Anything?”

Max shook his head in the negative. “Nope. I’m not telling you anything.”

Liz crossed her arms in front of her, her lips forming a pout.

Max chuckled at the sight of Liz pouting. She was so cute when she did that. He reached over and gently touched her shoulder. “Oh, don’t be like that. I promise. It won‘t be much longer.”

Liz couldn’t keep up the act anymore. She uncrossed her arms, reaching up to twine her fingers with Max’s. “Ok. I promise I’ll stop trying to get information from you.”

Max gave her a smile, then returned his eyes to the road in front of him.

Liz pulled his hand up to her lips, giving it a soft kiss.

She didn’t know what it was that she did to deserve Max Evans, but she wasn’t about to complain.

Part 43B

****************

Valenti/Deluca House

After having decided that the three of them were stuck in the situation together, Michael, Alex, and Kyle went about trying to change Noah’s dirty diaper.

They had paced for a little bit, trying to come up with a game plan, when Kyle’s head shot up.

Rubbing his hands together, he looked to his friends. “Ok, Operation dinky diaper is now in session.”

Michael’s eyebrows knotted in confusion. “Operation dinky diaper?”

Biting his fingernails, Kyle shot Michael a look. “I don’t see any ideas coming from you.”

Michael just shrugged his shoulders. Alex came between his friends, resting his arms on their shoulders. “Operation dinky diaper it is.” He turned his head to Kyle expectantly. “Ok, so what do we do first?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t really thought past the code name.”

Alex nodded his head slowly. They were absolutely hopeless. He glanced at Noah who looked about ready to cry. It was bad enough that they were going to have to change his diaper, but changing a crying baby’s diaper, that they didn’t need.

Taking matters into his own hands, Alex moved to the coffee table where he swiped his arm across it, leaving it clear. “Kyle, go grab his diaper bag. Michael, bring Noah over here.”

Scowling, Michael crossed his arms in front of him. “Why do I have to get him?”

“It’s either that, or wiping. Which would you prefer?”

Having quickly made his decision, Michael grabbed Noah under his arms, making sure that there was space between them. He handed him to Alex, his head turned to the side. “Here you go.”

Alex lay Noah on his back on the table. He tilted his head to the side, studying Noah’s overalls.
Finally reaching over, he tried unclipping the buckles. “Hey, Kyle! You gonna get here with that bag or what?”

“I’m coming!”

Alex and Michael had to do a double take when Kyle returned from the direction of the kitchen.

There he stood with a diaper bag slung over his left shoulder, a helmet on his head, wearing oven mitts on his hands. In his hands, he held a pair of yellow dish washing gloves and a baseball glove.

Michael didn’t even bother hiding his laughter. Holding on to his stomach, he attempted to speak as he continued to laugh. “What the heck happened to you? You look about ready to play football and bake cookies at the same time.”

Kyle came into the room, dropping everything on the floor. “That’s real funny Guerin.”

Alex scratched the side of his head, trying to understand things from Kyle’s point of view. “Ok, help me out here, Kyle, cos I really wanna understand. What’s the deal with the helmet and oven mitts?”

Kyle rolled his eyes. Sometimes his friends could be so dense. “The helmet is for when Noah unexpectedly shoots things, and the oven mitts are for protection against the dirty diaper.”

“Ah, I see. I think.”

Kyle kneeled down next to Alex, handing him the yellow gloves. “For you.”

He grabbed the baseball glove and threw it Michael. “And you.”

Alex took the gloves gladly, but had to laugh. It was the ones with the painted on nails and ring on it. He put them on, and returned to the task of getting Noah out of his overalls.

“Phew! That’s out of the way.” He turned to his friends. “You guys ready?”

************

Max continued down the road, every once in a while glancing at Liz who was absently making invisible patterns on his hand.

They were almost at their destination, and he wanted her to be totally surprised. After she had promised that she wouldn’t get anymore information out of him, she had lazily held his hand in hers and drifted off to sleep.

She had just woken up.

He pulled up into a parking space, taking off his seat belt. “We’re here.”

Liz reluctantly let go of his hand, getting out of the jeep. She looked at her surroundings, and smiled when she realized that Max had brought her back to Sitting Bulls Falls.

He came around to her side, carrying a picnic basket and his back pack slung over his shoulder. He held out his arm to her so that she could link it with his. “Ready?”

“Yep.”

As they walked to a picnic area, Liz struck up a conversation. “Not that I’m not glad that you brought me here again, but I was kind of wondering why you chose this place again.”

Max had already thrown the blanket on the floor and was getting lunch set up. He looked up at Liz and reached out his hand to help her sit down. “This place is so beautiful, and the last time we were here, we didn’t get a chance to check out the falls. And plus, I.......I don’t know. I kinda started thinking of this place as ours, you know? We’re far enough away from everyone, but not too far away that we can’t go back when we need to. This place.......it’s just, every time I think of it, I remember you, I remember Noah. I remember how much fun we had here, and how for a few hours we could just forget about everything, and just be ourselves.”

When Liz didn’t say anything back, Max hung his head down. “I know, that was stupid. I guess I’m just not real good with surprises.”

Max was suddenly pushed back when Liz threw her arms around his neck, sitting on his lap. She placed kisses all over his face. Anywhere she could touch him. His eyes, his nose, his forehead. His lips. She held his face in between her hands. “This isn’t stupid. I love it. And I love you for doing this. Thank you.”

Max looked up to see Liz’s eyes dancing with happiness. His fingers reached forwards, diving through her thick hair. He pulled her face closer to his, so that their lips were almost touching. “Your welcome. I just want to make you happy, Liz. I love you.”

He closed his eyes, and let his lips touch hers. He nibbled on her lips, gently teasing her. He kept it light and playful.

They had plenty of time to do this later.

He pulled his lips away, nuzzling her nose with his. “C’mon, we should eat.”

Liz nodded, her forehead rubbing against his. “Uh huh. I’m absolutely famished.” She leaned over, taking Max’s ear lobe between her lips. She gently sucked for a few seconds, before making a descent down to his neck.

God she loved the feel of his skin. It was so warm and smooth. As she continued down, she switched sides, giving the other side of his neck to the same treatment.

Max leaned his head back, allowing Liz more access to where ever it was that she wanted to go. Her lips did incredible things to him. He placed his hand behind her head, egging her on.

A groan of satisfaction escaped his lips when she sucked his earlobe into her mouth.

His eyes flew open when he heard himself groan. This was not what he had in mind when he brought her out here. Sure, he had expected to make out a little while they were here, but if they didn’t stop now, he wasn’t so sure he could control himself.

This was the first time that they were really alone. Where they didn’t have anything or anyone to interrupt them.

“Liz?” When she didn’t respond, he tried again, pulling away from her soft caress. “Liz? Liz? We have to stop.”

Liz stopped kissing him, and lay her head on his shoulder. “I know, I’m sorry. I guess I just got a little carried away.”

He stroked her hair, and placed a chaste kiss on her temple. “There’s no need to apologize. We both got a little carried away.” He pulled back enough so that they could look into each other’s eyes. “What do you say we get started on lunch?”

She gave him her special smile, the smile she reserved only for him. “Sure.”

*****************

Alex took a deep breath as he pulled at the sticky tabs that held the diaper together. The tearing away sound that it made, did nothing to calm his frazzled nerves. He swallowed before pulling the diaper down. “Dude, wow!”

He had to turn away at the first sight of Noah’s dirty diaper. “You know, for such a little guy, I didn’t think he was capable of such damage.”

Alex faced Kyle who had quietly organized everything they needed.

“So, what’ll it be? Wipes or diapers?”

Alex looked thoughtful for a minute. “The wipes. Let me get him cleaned up first.”

Kyle handed Alex the wipes, pulling the lid of as he did.

Alex grabbed a couple of wipes, gently lifting Noah’s little legs in the air. “Here goes nothing.” He dutifully cleaned up Noah, then dropped the used wipes in the dirty diaper. He turned to Kyle, handing him Noah’s legs. “Here, hold him up until I get rid of this.” Alex rolled the diaper into a ball and threw it towards Michael. “Heads, up!”

Michael was caught off guard, but he held out his baseball glove clad hand. As he caught it, he gave Alex a menacing glare. “You’re lucky I caught that Whitman.”

Alex laughed with barely contained control. “Hey, you gotta do your share. Besides, I’m guessing that’s why Kyle gave you the glove in the first place.”

Michael was about to say something, when Kyle’s voice came out sounding muffled from his helmet. “You guys, as much fun as I’m having seeing you guys argue, I’m thinking this isn’t the most comfortable position for Noah.”

Alex’s eyes widened, as he grabbed Noah’s legs from Kyle. “Here, go get me a diaper.”

Kyle laid out an open diaper, smoothing it out so Alex could drop Noah’s little tush on it.

Alex smiled. “Almost there, little guy.” He pulled at the sticky tabs, sticking them in the front so that they would stick.

“Woo hoo!” Kyle held his hand out to Alex for a hi-five. “Oh yeah!”

Michael returned from disposing of the diaper. “What happened? What did I miss?”

Alex gave hima self-satisfied grin. “This is what happened?” He grabbed Noah from under his little arms, letting his legs hang in the air. “Tada!” When held Noah up, the diaper fell from his little waist.

This time, it was Michael’s turn to laugh. “Good job!”

Alex gave him a dirty look. He put Noah back down, and scratched his head. “I don’t get it. Why won’t these stupid things stick.” He looked down into Noah’s smiling face. He started laughing. “You think that’s funny, little guy?” He shook his head, turning to his friends. “Any ideas on helping the diaper stay on?”

Kyle jumped up and headed towards the garage. “I’ve got it!”

*********

Liz licked her fingers clean, as she ate the last of her lunch. “Mmmm, Max, that was absolutely delicious.” She held her hand to her stomach. “I think I’m about to explode.”

Max gave her his half smile. “I’m glad you enjoyed lunch, but you have to eat dessert.”

Liz shook her head from side to side. “I can’t. I’m stuffed.”

Max gave her a little pout. “You’re not even going to taste it? Noah’s gonna be upset if don’t at least try it.”

Liz was definitely intrigued, now. “Why would Noah be upset if I didn’t have dessert?”

“Because, he helped make it.”

Smiling, Liz sat back up. “Ok. Since Noah helped make it, I guess it wouldn’t hurt if I tried some.”

Max playfully raised an eyebrow at her. “Oh, I see how it is. Always doing things for the little guy.”

Liz chuckled. “Well, what can I say, he’s a real charmer.”

Max just nodded, a smile playing on his lips. He reached into the picnic basket, and carefully took out the cake that he had baked last night. He placed it between Liz and himself, and watched as Liz’s eyes lit up with excitement.

“Is that?”

His head bobbed in response to her question. “Yep. It’s your favorite. Chocolate cake with strawberries on top.”

“How did you know?” She watched in amazement as Max cut her a slice.

“Maria. She sort of mentioned it, and well, I wanted to do something special for you, so I asked Izzy to help me out with the recipe. Other than that, I did everything myself.” He handed her a plastic fork and her slice.

Before digging in, she looked up into his eyes. “Then what did Noah do?”

Max let out a hearty laugh. “He pretty much got covered in frosting. You see while I was frosting the cake, I let Noah have a little lick here and there. I was so busy making sure that I had covered the whole cake, that I didn’t notice that Noah had helped himself to some frosting. I guess he was trying to lean forward to stick his finger in, but he leaned over a little too much. He got the frosting all over the place, and he eventually put the plastic bowl over his head.” When Max finished telling his story, he head tears in his eyes.

Laughing along with him, Liz reached over to stroke his hand. “Sounds like you guys had a good time.”

“Yeah, we did. But the clean up, that was another story.”

“I’m sure it was.”

Max grabbed his own fork, to put a piece in his mouth. “Go ahead, try it.”

Liz couldn’t keep the excitement from her eyes. She took a bite, and closed her eyes in satisfaction. This was the best cake ever. And the fact that Max had made it for, made it even better.

She leaned forward, giving Max a chocolate flavored kiss. “Thank you.”

His lips brushed against hers as he spoke. “Welcome.” He couldn’t form coherent sentences right now. Liz and chocolate. Could there be anything better?

***************

Kyle came running back from the garage, holding up a roll of duct tape.

“That’s your solution? Duct tape?” Michael had reverted to crossing his arms again.

Kyle threw the roll to Alex. “What can I say? When in doubt, use duct tape.”

“Whatever. I’ll hold him up, Michael, hold the diaper in place,” Alex looked towards Kyle, “and you, duct tape man, are going to tape the diaper in place.”

Everyone took their positions.

Michael looked down at Alex. “Are you sure this is a good idea?”

“Nope, but I’m all out of ideas. And we can’t have Noah running around half nekkid.”

Michael nodded his head thoughtfully. “You’re right.”

Kyle pulled off the tape from the roll. “There! All done.” He took off his oven mitts, letting them land to the floor. He smiled at his friends, “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

Michael gave Kyle a smirk. “This coming from the guy that freaked out when he smelled the dirty diaper.”

“Well I didn’t see you doing much, Guerin.”

Their little argument was broken by the scream from the tv. “He shoots, he scores. Beautiful shot by Jason Kidd.”

The guys quickly turned their attention back to tv, watching the instant replay.

“That was awesome!”

They gave each other a round of hi-fives and body slams, as they cheered on their teams. None of them noticed when Noah had rolled himself off of the table and made his way into the bedrooms again.

Part 43C

Rated: R


*************

Liz sat back on the blanket and watched as Max emerged from the water, his swim trunks hanging off of his slender hips. She continued to spy on him through her sunglasses, as he threw his head to the side, splashing water everywhere. He looked up at her and grinned. His hand came up to brush his wet locks out of his face, slowly making his way out of the water.

The sun was hanging high, casting a beautiful light across the water.

As Max trekked his way across the water, Liz watched as droplets of water cascaded down his muscular form. She watched as each step he took, caused the water to ripple around him.

God, he was beautiful...

Her breath caught in her throat as he stood above her, drops of water falling on her.

She curved her hand around her eyes, shielding the sun from her view. “Hey, watch it! You’re getting water all over me.” She pulled her sunglasses to the tip of her nose, raising an eyebrow at him.

Max gave a smirk, shaking his wet head mercilessly over her.

Liz ducked under her arms, rolling herself into a ball. Squealing, she peered up at Max. “Max...Max...STOP IT!!!”

Max laughed a deep belly laugh. He grabbed his towel and bent down, wrapping her up in it. He kissed the tip of her ear, then whispered to her. “I’m sorry, babe. I didn’t mean to get you all wet.”

Liz scrunched up her nose, at him. “Babe?”

Fumbling with his words, Max gave her a sheepish grin. “I mean, um, uh, sweetie?”

She crinkled her nose, reminding Max of Samantha from the old television show Bewitched. She was absolutely gorgeous.

“Um, I mean, uh, my intelligent girlfriend?”

Liz couldn’t keep the charade up any longer. She threw her arms around him, placing kisses all over his face. “I was only kidding, Max. You can call me whatever you want.” She paused looking thoughtful for a moment, tapping her index finger against her chin. “I take that back. You can call me anything you want, unless it’s pookie, or any other cheesy, funky, nickname.”

Being playful, Max hugged Liz closer to his body so that she was sitting in between his legs. “Ok, I’ll keep that in mind.” He nipped the skin right below her ear, causing her body to shiver slightly. “Are you sure you don’t want me to call you pookie?”

Liz tried to forget that she was sitting right in between Max’s muscular thighs. She was going to have to get him back for that one.

Slowly turning around, she pushed her hand against his chest, resulting in Max laying sprawled against his back. Liz leaned forward, hovering just above him. Touching, but not touching. Her chocolate covered tresses, cascaded over them, like a Hershey waterfall. She threw her sunglasses to the side, not caring where they landed.

Her eyes took on a fiendish tinge. She reached her slender fingers over, gently tracing his well contoured chest.

Max shut his eyes tightly, when he saw Liz’s pink tongue peek from between her rosy lips. She had to know what she was doing to him.

Liz bit her bottom lip to keep from laughing.

This was going to sweet.

*************

After another round of whooping and hollering at the television, Alex turned around a smile on his face. “So what’d you think about that little buddy?” His eyes practically bugged out of his head when he realized that Noah was nowhere to been seen. He grabbed Michael and Kyle by their sleeves.

“Omigod!! You guys, Noah’s gone!!”

The three boys looked to each other, frightened out of their minds.

Before they went crazy wondering where Noah had wandered off to, the three of them heard a childish giggle come from the hallway.

All three boys jumped over the ottoman, and ran into the hallway, where they were greeted to the sight of Noah wearing a diaper held together by duct tape, Kyle’s cowboy boots, and the sheriff’s Stetson hanging over his eyes. The grin on his lips couldn’t be mistaken.

Kyle rushed forward, tipping the hat so he could look into Noah’s eyes. “Hey, little buddy. This isn’t a toy. This is the sheriff’s Stetson. No playing, with it, ok?” He grabbed the brim of the hat, proceeding to take it away from Noah.

As soon as Kyle had the hat in his possession, Noah’s bottom lip quivered. He grabbed onto the edge of his little t-shirt, balling his hands up into little fists. Silent tears, trickled down his chubby cheeks.

Michael covered his eyes. “Oh man, just give it back to him. I can’t stand to see him cry.”

Alex joined the chorus. “Yeah, Kyle. I mean we’ll put it back before your dad gets home. He’ll never know.”

Kyle looked from his friends, then back to a sniffling Noah.

Leaning down so that he was at eye level with Noah, he crinkled his eyebrows. “Oh, don’t cry.” Noah’s tears subsided, but his bottom lip still stuck out, quivering faintly. Kyle covered his eyes with his hands. “Don’t do that to me little buddy.”

Kyle didn’t know why he even cared that Noah was crying. He was supposed to be a guy. Guys didn’t break down at the sight of an upset baby, right?

Sighing, Kyle placed the Stetson atop, Noah’s little head. He tipped the front so that Noah’s face was visible. He picked up Noah, holding him against his chest.

Looking down into his smiling face, Kyle gave Noah a little lecture. “Now, you better not make me regret this decision. Even if the sheriff of Roswell is my dad, he still has no mercy.”

Noah leaned his forehead against Kyle’s planting a wet kiss on the tip of his nose.

Kyle tried to keep the grin from his lips. He shook his head, making his way back to the living room. “Alright, I think the game’s back on.”

Before heading back into the living room, Alex and Michael exchanged knowing smiles. It was kind of funny how the three of them were so affected by Noah. Never in a million years would they have imagined themselves crumbling, under the sad gaze of a long lashed little boy.

They could only imagine how the rest of the day was going to play out.

************

Liz lay her body flush against Max’s. With an impish grin, Liz traced the outline of Max’s lips with the tip of her tongue.

Fighting back a groan, Max’s hand flew up, gently gripping Liz’s hips.

Even as he fought to gain some sort of control, Max couldn’t resist running his fingers down her sides. She had the softest, smoothest skin.

Liz smiled against his ear. That was exactly the reaction she was looking for, but she wanted more. She snaked her tongue out, tracing the outer shell of his ear, while her hands were softly kneading his shoulders.

Max tilted his head back, unknowingly exposing his neck to Liz.

Taking advantage of his position, Liz brushed her lips across the expanse of Max’s neck, lingering slightly longer at his jugular. When she felt him shift beneath her, she sucked harder.

Max held the back of her head, muttering her name. “Liz.........Liz......” As she continued her assault on his senses, all thought left his mind. All he could do was feel.

Liz nuzzled the cleft on his chin with her nose, before closing the gap between their lips. Max had opened his mouth to let a moan escape, only to have Liz slide her tongue in his mouth, allowing their tongues to dance together. Max grabbed Liz by her elbows, pulling her up higher against her chest. She let out a surprised squeak and sat up.

She continued to sit in his lap, wiggling her bottom to find a more comfortable position.

Max felt like he was going to die. His body was on fire. Liz was so soft and responsive in his arms. He about lost it when she had started squirming in his lap. If he didn’t stop this soon, she was bound to come across the bulge in his swim trunks.

Gasping for breath, he pulled his lips away from hers to tell her to stop, but she cupped his face in between her hands, bringing her lips to his once again.

Moving forward, Liz scooted as close as she could possibly get to Max, without having to actually fuse her body to his. Her eyes flew open when she felt Max’s erection in between her legs. She found her hips grinding into his.

Max ran his fingers through her hair, finally putting a little distance between their lips. “Liz?...............What are we doing?” Max was going to keep speaking, but Liz had wrapped her arms around his neck, her fingers playing with his hair. He placed his large hands on her hips to stop their movement. Max froze when he felt her breath at his ear.

“Make love to me, Max.”

He reached around his neck and deftly unwrapped her arms from around his neck. He grabbed her by the waist, sitting her beside him on the blanket.

Liz looked up at him from her long lashes, her eyes tinged with tears. “Max?”

Max pressed the heels of his hands against his closed eyes, taking deep breaths to regulate his heart rate.

“Max, what’s wrong?” Liz’s voice shook as she spoke.

With the amount of frustration building up inside him, Max threw his hands up, cursing under his breath. “We can’t do this.”

Liz pulled her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around herself protectively. “You mean you don’t want to have sex with me.” It wasn’t a question, more like a statement. Liz waited with baited breath for Max to disagree with her, for Max to prove her statement wrong.

“Yes!” His voice was hoarse from all of the emotions running through him.

“Oh.....” Liz hugged her knees closer to her body. She was beyond humiliated right now. She couldn’t believe how badly things turned out.

Max opened his eyes, and felt like kicking himself.

Liz had tucked herself into a tight ball, her long hair shielding her face from his view. He saw her shoulders quivering, making him hate himself even more.

He got up on his knees and crawled to her, tentatively touching her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Liz. That’s not what I meant.”

Liz looked up at him, her eyes red from tears.” If that’s how you feel, you don’t need to apologize. I should be saying sorry, for assuming-

Max cut her of. He tucked her hair behind her ears. His fingers, gently caressed her jaw, letting his thumb brush he full lips. “Liz, that’s not want I meant. You have to know that I love you. I would die before I willingly hurt you. And honestly, I think you know how much I want you....” He gave her a sheepish grin from under his lowered lashes.

Liz found herself exchanging smiles with Max. It was true that she had felt how much Max had wanted her, but it still didn’t change the fact that he had said that he didn’t want to have sex with her.

The smile disappeared from her face, her mind sobering up. “Then why did you say it? Why did you say that you didn’t want to have sex with me?”

“Liz, the thing is, I don’t want to have sex with you...” His hand came up to stroke her cheek, only to have her pull away from his touch.

Max couldn’t deny how much that hurt, to have her pull away from him....... “But I do want to make love to you, soo much. But, the truth is, I’m not ready. My body may be, but my mind isn’t. I’m not emotionally ready to start a sexual relationship.” He looked at his hands that were sitting in his lap. “There’s nothing more than I want, than to take you in my arms, and make love to you. To make both of us forget the real world for a little while........But that wouldn’t be fair to you. I’ve only ever been with one girl in my whole life, and the two of us took a humongous step in our relationship that we weren’t ready for. We made life altering mistakes that affected so many people.....I don’t want our relationship to be like that.....When we make love for the first time, I want it to be special. I want it to be about us, and not because we’re trying to hide from something....” He finally looked back into her eyes, his own eyes glistening with tears. “If and when we do decide to take that step together, I want us to both be ready. It’ll be because we love each other so much, that we can’t think of anything else, but each other.” He took a breath, holding up his palm to her. “Do you understand where I’m coming from?”

Liz eyed his palm carefully, right before she placed her hand in his. She scooted closer to him, laying her head on his shoulder. “I do, and I’m sorry for putting you in that position, Max. I guess you know me better than I know myself, sometimes.”

He leaned his head against her, rubbing her arm aimlessly. “There’s no need for apologies.” He kissed the top of her head. “Like I’ve said before, I’d wait for you forever.”

She wrapped her arm around his waist. “I’d wait forever for you, too.”

Part 43D

****************

The three boys were in the kitchen, rummaging through cabinets, and the refrigerator looking for food.

Michael looked up from where his head was deep inside the fridge. “You guys have spaghetti.”

Kyle’s ears perked up, jumping off the counter. “Go ahead and nuke it.”

He pulled open a cabinet door that held the plates, grabbing three. He pulled another door open and reached for a plastic bowl. “Hey, you guys? You think we can feed this stuff to Noah?”

Alex looked thoughtful for a moment, rubbing the nonexistent stubble on his chin. “Why not? I guess it can’t hurt to try.”

*******

Max and Liz loaded their things into the jeep.

As Liz heaved the blanket into the back seat, she felt a tapping on her shoulder. She turned, a bright smile on her face.

There was Max holding up a flower he had picked up along the way. “For you.”

Liz took the flower in her hand, grinning from ear to ear. “What’s this for?”

Max scratched the side of his head, the beginning of a smile forming on his lips. “Well, I was planning on buying you some flowers, but I forgot to ask Maria what kind you liked, and well, I just thought I’d get you something anyway....” He gave her a sheepish grin, shaking his head slightly. “I honestly don’t know how you put up with me though. I’m such a cornball.”

Liz wrapped her arms around his neck, turning his face so that they were looking into each other’s eyes. “Hey, I think it’s sweet. And I don’t think you’re a cornball.” She placed a kiss right above his eyebrow, making a trail all over his face. “Don’t ever change, Max. I like you just the way you are.” She placed one last kiss on his nose. "And besides, even if you were, which you're not, you'd my incredibly handsome cornball."

Max felt his face flaming. He returned the favor by kissing the tip of her nose. "Gee, thanks."

Liz grinned up at him. "Welcome."

Their lips touched in an innocent kiss. “We better get back. I shouldn’t leave Maria alone with Noah for too much longer. It’s just about time for his nap, and well, you know how he gets.”

Liz nodded her agreement as the two of them climbed into the jeep.

Max reached for the gear shift, but noticed his pager bouncing up and down. He picked it up, pressing the button. “Hmm, I must’ve forgotten to take this with me.”

He reached for his cell phone in his back pack. It was a voice message, so he waited for the message to start. “Hey, Max. It’s Maria. Sorry to do this to you, but Isabel just called me a few minutes ago because she needs help at the Crashdown. I had to leave Noah with Kyle, Michael, and Alex. I hope you don’t mind. They’re just a little slow, but they’ll get the job done-

BEEP!

“Ugh! Sorry, I got cut off, um anyway, please don’t be mad at me. The guys will take care of Noah, and I’ll be there as soon as the Crashdown settles down somewhat, k? Talk to you later, Max. Oh, and if you have a problem with this situation, just call me and I’ll haul ass back home.”

BEEP!


Max hung up the cell phone, a chuckle escaping his lips.

“What’s so funny?”

Max turned to look at Liz. “That was Maria. Apparently, she was called into work, so she had to leave Noah with Michael, Kyle, and Alex.”

Liz’s eyes grew wide. “Oh, my gosh! What was that girl thinking?” She joined Max’s laughter at the image of three boys trying to babysit.

Max pulled out onto the highway, wiping at the tears in his eyes. “Man, I feel sorry for those guys. Noah’s gonna put them through the wringer.”

********

Alex sat at the table with his hands covering his eyes. “Tell me again why we thought eating spaghetti was a good idea?” Alex peeked from behind his fingers to look at the mess that they were sitting in.

The kitchen table was covered in spaghetti sauce, plates and forks everywhere.

Michael laughed from where he was sitting. “Dude, I think Noah actually got some in his mouth that time.”

Alex turned to see Noah perched on a seat, spaghetti sauce all over his face, his hands, his t-shirt. Everywhere, but his mouth. He was holding a piece of spaghetti in his hand, valiantly trying to get it into his mouth. When he did, a chorus of cheers and hi-fives erupted from the boys.

“Oh, yeah!”

Just then, a loud bang, and a shout, rang through the living room. “KYLE!”

All three boys looked at each other, wide eyed. That was the sheriff, and he didn’t sound the least bit pleased.

His cowboy boots, made a loud stomping noise as he walked into the kitchen. The sheriff’s eyes just about bugged out of his eyes. “What is going on here?”

When no one spoke up, Jim pointed his finger at the three boys, ready to hand out a lecture, when Amy walked in behind him. “Jim, honey, what’s-

Here voice suddenly caught in her throat when she caught sight of her kitchen. Her hands flew to her head, holding it, while assessing the damage. “What happened to my kitchen?”

Jim gave his son a pointed look.

Kyle tugged on his shirt collar. Somehow the air in the room had suddenly become thicker. “Dad, Amy, I didn’t think you guys were going to be home until tomorrow.”

Amy looked towards Kyle. “We weren’t, but your dad forgot his Stetson, and you know how he can’t go anywhere without it.”

Kyle was about to start talking again, to explain why the house was in shambles, but he was stopped short when Noah’s little voice rang out.

“Hi.”

All eyes turned to the little boy who was covered in spaghetti sauce, still wearing the sheriff’s Stetson, Kyle’s boots, and his funny looking diaper. He gave a little wave to where Jim and Amy were standing.

Amy covered her mouth, walking to where Noah was sitting. She kneeled beside him, stroking his chubby arm. She turned her attention back to the three boys who were all looking at the ground, shuffling their feet. “Where did you boys get him?”

Alex’s head shot up, his hands frantically making some sort of movement, as if to aid his speech. “We, uh, he’s, um....

Jim closed his eyes, his hand coming up to cover them. He mumbled a few words to himself, waiting for the boys to offer him a plausible explanation.

“We’re babysitting.”

Jim shot Michael a look. He was the only one who hadn’t said a word yet. “Babysitting?” He raised his eyebrow, indicating his suspicion.

Michael crossed his arms in front of him, kind of like a defense mechanism. “Yeah. Maria was babysitting him, and she got called in to work, so she left him with us.”

Jim opened his mouth to speak again, when he heard the delight in Amy’s voice. “Jim, come and take a look.” She had picked up Noah in her arms, unable to stop from pinching his cheeks. “Isn’t he precious?”

Jim took a closer look at Noah, but suddenly, his eyebrows turned into a frown. “Hey, that’s my Stetson!”

Amy walked closer to Jim, handing Noah to him. “Oh, come on. Doesn’t he look adorable in it?”

Jim was about to say no. That Stetson was his absolute favorite, and it was the only reason why they had come home in the first place. But Noah gave him a toothy grin, reaching out to touch his nose. “Hi.”

Jim couldn’t keep the smile from his face. The little boy reminded him of Kyle when he was that age. Kyle was always getting into his clothes, wanting to wear anything but his own clothes.

“Hey, little fella. Got a name?”

“His name is Noah.” Kyle shoved his hands into his pockets, but nearly had an aneurysm when Noah’s sauce covered hand came into contact with his dad’s Stetson. “Oh God, dad, I am so sorry. I’ll, I’ll get you a new one.”

Jim shifted Noah into his other arm, handing him over to Kyle. He bent down, his hands resting against his knees. “It’s ok.” He turned his attention back to Noah, a smile on his lips. “And since you seem to like my Stetson so much, I’ll let you keep it.” He tweaked Noah’s nose, eliciting a giggle from the small boy.

Jim stood back up, wrapping his arm around his wife, leading her towards the door.

As they kept walking, Jim called out over his shoulder. “I expect this mess to be cleaned up by the time we get home!”

“Yes, sir!” Kyle threw a mock salute to his dad.

Michael and Alex slumped against their seats, both sighing in relief.

“Man, I thought we were goners.”

Alex looked to Michael who had sweat dripping down the side of his face. “Yeah, but little buddy over there saved the day.”

Kyle turned Noah in his arms so that he could look in his face. Noah’s eyes were drifting shut, his body becoming restless. “Hey guys, I think he’s falling asleep. I think we should put him down for a nap.”

After the words left his mouth, Noah promptly began crying.

Alex and Michael turned angry eyes on Kyle.

“Look what you had to go and do.”

Kyle shrugged his shoulders. “What? What did I do?”

******

Amy looked at her husband from the corner of her eye.

"What?" Jim had begun to feel antsy with Amy giving him looks every few minutes.

Amy shook her head, leaning back against her seat. "Nothing, I'm just surprised that you gave Noah your Stetson. I know how much you love that thing."

Jim tried to keep the smile from his lips. "Yeah, well, it's just a hat. I can always get a new one. Besides, the little fella seemed to like it so much..

Amy scooted over in her seat, placing a kiss on her husband's cheek. "Why, Jim. Are you getting soft in your old age?"

Jim gave Amy a mock glare. "Hey, I'm not old!"

Amy sat back, laughing at her husband. It was good to see him be Jim Valenti instead of just the sheriff of Roswell.

Part 43E

***************

Kyle, Alex, and Michael had each taken turns, gently bouncing Noah up and down, hoping he would calm down. But ever since Kyle had uttered the word, nap, Noah had been inconsolable.

Michael paced the length of the living room, rug, running his hands through his hair. He would throw a glance to Kyle, who was holding Noah, then he would return to his pacing. He stopped suddenly, biting his nails. “Maybe, we should call Maria. I mean he’s been at it, for a good 15 minutes, now. We can’t just let him keep crying.”

Kyle held Noah’s head against his shoulder, using his other hand to rub the little guy’s back. “We can do this. I mean, we’ve come this far, haven’t we?”

Alex looked up from where he was making a makeshift bed on the couch. “You know, I don’t say this very often, but I think Kyle maybe right. We’ve pretty much gone the whole day without asking anybody for help....”

Alex stood up, moving aside to let Kyle have enough room to lay Noah down on the couch.

Kyle placed Noah on the couch, pushing the Stetson aside. He pulled off his boots, placing a blanket over Noah’s squirming body. Kyle let his fingers run softly through Noah’s hair, sitting back on his heels. “Maybe if we sing to him?” Kyle looked up at his best friends, hope in his eyes.

Michael looked skeptical, but when Alex placed his arm around his shoulder, he had no choice but to nod his head. “Ok, so what song are we gonna sing?”

Alex clapped his hands together, and started singing. “Rock a bye, baby, on a tree top...” He looked to Kyle and Michael who were both just standing there. He kept singing, but urged the others to join him. “When the wind blows, the cradle will rock, When the bow breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all.”

When Alex finished the song, Noah only kicked off the blanket, still continuing to cry.

Michael ran a hand down his face. “Dude, I don’t think that was the best song you could’ve picked to sing to a crying baby.”

Crossing his arms, Alex gave Michael a pointed stare. “I don’t work well under pressure, ok?”

Michael was going to say something sarcastic, when all of a sudden, Kyle started singing.

“I’m a little teapot, short and stout. Here is my handle and here is my spout. When my water boils, I start to shout. Just tip me over and pour me out!”

Michael and Alex watched in morbid fascination, as Kyle sang the teapot song, while doing the actions. They both tried to suppress their laughter.

Kyle turned back to them, a smile of triumph on his face. “Do you guys hear that?”

Michael cocked an eyebrow at him, obviously confused. “Hear what?”

“Exactly! You don’t hear anything cos Noah’s stopped crying.”

Michael and Alex exchanged smiles, both walking to stand where Kyle was.

Noah had stopped crying and fussing, but was now just staring at the three boys in interest. His eyes would drift shut, but he would rub them with his fists, trying to stay awake.

“Maybe if we all sing it to him, he’ll finally drift off.”

Michael shook his head wildly. “No way! Uh uh. I am not going to stand here and sing I’m a little teapot and do actions to go with it.”

Kyle gave Michael a pleading look. “Dude, no one’s gonna see you, but us.” He threw a glance in Noah’s direction. “Come on, won’t you do it for the little guy.”

Pretending to be unhappy about it, Michael fixed his face into a scowl. “Fine, but I’m not going to enjoy it!”

Alex rubbed his palms together. “Alright. I guess it’s I’m a little teapot. After three. One, two, three.”

The three boys started singing. Kyle stood in the middle with Alex and Michael standing on either side of him “I’m a little teapot, short and stout. Here is my handle, and here is my spout. When my water boils, I start to shout. Just tip me over and pour me out!”

When they finished singing, Noah clapped his little hands together, his eyes drifting shut. Sleep had finally claimed the little boy.

Michael put his arms down, suddenly feeling really ridiculous. “Ok, I’m glad that’s over.”

Kyle gave him a smirk. “Me too. But next time, you should watch where you’re sticking your spout.”

Michael smirked back at him. “I wouldn’t have to worry if you grew another few inches to ya, Valenti.”

Before their little game of wits became interesting, Alex spoke up. “You guys, need I remind you. Sleeping, baby in our presence.”

Both boys looked to the sleeping baby on the couch. His curly hair was in disarray, his long lashes lay across his chubby cheeks that were slightly flushed, but it was a little tough to tell with all of the spaghetti sauce on his cheeks. They continued to watch as Noah’s hand drifted to his mouth, so that he could suck on his thumb.

Michael walked to the diaper bag that lay beside the couch. He pulled out the tub of wipes, proceeding to take a few. He kneeled down beside Noah, gently wiping the remnants of lunch from his face.

When he moved to throw them away, Kyle pushed the blanket back over Noah’s body.

“I don’t know how Max does this everyday. I mean on top of everything else....” Kyle’s voice drifted of, not knowing how to voice what he was thinking.

In reality, he knew he didn’t have to say a whole lot. He knew that Michael and Alex were thinking the same exact thing that he was. Max Evans sure was a hell of a guy.

**********

Max had parked the jeep in the alley beside the Crashdown. He held onto Liz’s hand, not wanting to let go, just yet.

“So, you’ll come on over with Maria and Isabel, right?”

Liz laughed at the eagerness in his voice. It was like he couldn’t stand the thought of having to go too long without seeing her. The truth was, that’s how she felt. She wanted nothing more than to tell him to forget his plans with the guys, but she knew how much that meant to him. He barely had time to act like a normal teenage boy, and just hang out with the guys. She knew that he had been looking forward to it, and she would never deny him any kind of happiness.

She kissed the tip of his nose. “I’ll be there. Have fun with the guys, just don’t get into too much trouble.”

He smiled at her, wrapping his arms around her waist. “I will and I won’t.”

Liz found herself giggling at his answer. She gently pushed away from his arms, putting some distance between them. “You better go before I decide to lock you up and keep you here.”

Max gave her a wicked grin. “Well, since you put it that way, maybe I should just stay here.”

Liz playfully slapped him across the chest, pushing him towards his jeep. “Go on, get out of here.”

Max’s laugh, rumbled in his chest. He blew her a kiss, then waved goodbye. “Love, you.”

Liz watched as he drove away, waving as she did so. “Love you, too.”

She hurried up the back steps that led to her family’s apartment, wanting to shower and change first.

She was in such a hurry, that she almost bowled over her dad.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Liz glanced up at her dad, then moved to walk towards her room.

Ever since the talk she had had with her parents, they hadn’t uttered so much as a hello or a goodbye to each other.

Jeff smiled at his daughter. “I think that’s the most you’ve said to me all week. You think you could spare a few minutes and talk to your dear old dad?”

Liz found herself smiling, despite herself. She followed her dad and took a seat from him at the kitchen table.

Jeff watched as Liz twiddled with her thumbs. He reached over gently, stopping their movement.

“I know I’m not much to look at, but do you think you could look at me while we talk?”

Jeff’s voice was more sad than it was angry or sarcastic. He just missed his daughter so much. The way her big brown eyes would look up at him with happiness and love. He didn’t want to lose her.

Liz saw the tears in her father’s eyes. It broke her heart that they were in this position.

“Lizzie, I know that we haven’t been on good terms for a while now. Heck, we’ve barely said a word to each other since that afternoon. Your mother and I, we miss you sweetheart. We want to get past this, and work together as family.”

Liz pulled her hand from her father’s grasp. “Yeah, well if you and mom are thinking that Max is just a thing to get past, you’ve got another thing coming. Max and I, we’re going to be together for the long haul. What we have......this isn’t just your average teenage fling, and I refuse to sit here and let you tell me otherwise.”

Liz stood up, making a move to walk to her bedroom.

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it.” He let his head fall forward into his hands. “You and your mother are both so stubborn. You’re always assuming I’m taking the other one’s side, but you guys haven’t figured out that this isn’t about sides. I love you both so much, and I feel like I being torn in two. I can’t say the right thing.....” He looked back up at Liz. “Tell me what you want from me Lizzie. Tell me what you’d like to have happen.”

Liz felt her heart constrict at the sight of her father. She hadn’t realized that she and her mother had been playing tug of war with him. She felt guilty for being selfish and not seeing it from her father’s point of view. How hypocritical was she? There she was, complaining that her parents wouldn’t take the time to understand things from her point of view, when she couldn’t even take the time to see it from her fathers.

She walked back into the room, pulling up a seat beside her father. “I’m sorry dad. I didn’t realize what I was doing to you.”

Jeff smiled through his tears. “There’s no need to apologize. I just want everyone to be happy.”

“I do too. I just want you and mom to get to know Max, before making all of these conclusions. I mean you guys haven’t even met him.”

“Invite him to dinner then.”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

Liz shook her head. “But what about mom?”

“Don’t worry about your mom. I’ll take care of it. Just make sure you invite Max to dinner.”

Liz stood up again, slowly nodding her head. She was about to go, when she turned back around. “Why are you doing this?”

“Because I think maybe it’s time to meet the young man that makes my daughter’s eyes shine brighter, and her smile to sparkle.”

Liz ran to her father, flinging her arms around him. “Thank you, daddy.”

Jeff placed a soft kiss on her temple. “I love, you sweetheart.”

*******

Max arrived at Kyle’s, knocking on the door.

He was greeted by a very tired looking Alex. “Hey man, come on in.”

He stepped aside to let Max inside.

Max looked to the living room to see Michael and Kyle crowded over the couch. He walked up to them, his hands in his pockets.

Kyle looked up. “Hey, Max. Glad you could make it.”

Michael stood up, heading for the vcr. “Pull up a seat. Let me rewind the tape so we can watch the game.”

“You mean, you guys haven’t watched the game yet?”

Alex slumped against the recliner. “Not yet. Noah was showing us the ropes of babysitting.”

Max chuckled slightly. “Yeah, about that. I appreciate you guys watching him.” He looked at each guy, wanting them to see his sincerity. “Thank you.”

“No sweat. It was like taking candy from a baby.”

Max gave Kyle a crooked grin at his funny analogy.

He turned around, and kneeled down beside Noah. He ran his finger down his son’s cheek, placing a kiss on his forehead. “Hey, little man.” Max gently picked up Noah, cradling him in his arms. As he did so, the blanket fell, exposing Noah’s duct taped diaper.

Michael, Kyle and Alex all gasped.

Michael spoke up. “We can explain. That was all Kyle’s idea.”

Kyle sat there, open mouthed, unable to say anything.

All three guys expected Max to get angry, but he surprised them all.

He just sat back and laughed. “Good thinking, Kyle.”

Alex sat up, watching Max with mounting curiosity. “That’s it? You’re not going to yell, or get mad?”

“Why would I? I think it’s a good idea if you ask, me. Those diaper companies should really look into making better sticky tabs for diapers.”

All three guys just burst out laughing.

They had to hand it to him. On top of everything else, Max had a very good sense of humor.

Michael jumped across the coffee table, sitting on the floor beside Kyle’s feet. “Y’all ready for some basketball action?”



All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 18-Sep-2001 3:14:41 PM
Part 44A

***************

Nancy Parker stood in front of her dresser mirror. She toyed with her hair, not quite sure how to have it. She pulled it into a tight bun and stared at her reflection in the mirror. Obviously unhappy with the image she saw, she pulled the pins out of her hair, letting her red hair fall across her shoulders.

“I’ve always liked your hair down better anyway.”

Startled, Nancy looked up to the mirror to see the image of her husband standing behind her. She watched as he moved closer, until he was but a few inches next to her. He placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Just relax, Nan. Everything’s going to be fine.”

She turned so that she was facing her husband. “Is it? I mean.....”

She looked at her hands, they were trembling.

Jeff took her hands in his own, giving her support. “It will be. We just have to let things happen. Whatever happens, happens. We really need to give this a chance, Nancy. If not for Liz, for me.”

Nancy placed her head on Jeff’s shoulder, allowing him to wrap his arms around her. “I will. I’m going to give this a chance.”

*******

Liz looked at her reflection in her full length mirror, playing with her hair. She couldn’t decide whether she should put it up or leave it down.

“Liz, babe. You’ve been playing with your hair for the last 20 minutes. I think it’s fine the way it is.” Maria lay back against her elbows, making herself comfortable on Liz’s bed.

Liz turned around, fingering the necklace that hung right above the cut of her dress. “I just, I want everything to be...” She sank down on her desk chair. Banging her head softly against her table, she started speaking. “Remind me again why I agreed to this?”

Maria sat up, walking towards Liz, finally kneeling beside her. Stroking her friend’s hair, Maria spoke softly. “You agreed to this so your parents could finally meet the love of your life and so that they could fall in love with him too.”

Liz looked up at Maria, huffing out a breath of air. “That’s easier said than done. I just don’t want this to turn out into a, a.....I just don’t want my parents to gang up on Max.”

“It won’t. I’m pretty sure you or your dad won’t let it come to that. Relax, hun. Everything will work out fine. Max will be his sweet, charming self, and your parents will just love him, and Noah too. That is, when they finally meet the little guy. Which brings up the question, when will your parents meet Noah?”

The phone rang before she could answer.

Liz reached across her desk, answering the phone. “Hello?”

“Liz?”

Liz felt her heart stop beating for a second. “Max? What’s wrong?”

Max paced across his room, running a frustrated hand through his hair. “It’s Noah.”

Liz sat up, her heart racing a little faster. “What’s wrong with Noah?”

Max fell on his bed with a thud. He covered his hand with his eyes. “He’s fine, just a little under the weather. I was going to leave him with Izzy and Alex since my parents aren’t home, but he’s just so irritable. He keeps fussing and he only stops when I’m with him.” Max paused, taking a deep breath. He really didn’t want to say what he had to, but he just didn’t see any other way around it. “I’m sorry Liz, but I don’t think I can make it to dinner tonight.”

Liz’s face fell. She totally understood how Max was feeling. He was thrown for a loop, but she had to find a way to get Max to come over. If he didn’t show up, it would give her mom more ammo to use against her relationship with Max. She wracked her brain, thinking of something to get Max to come to dinner.

“Bring Noah with you?”

“What?”

“I said, bring Noah with you then. If he’s only happy when he’s with you, I think you should bring him.”

Max sat up, eyeing his son in his crib. “Are you sure that’s such a good idea? I mean I don’t want to just throw Noah in your parents face.”

“You won’t be. Besides, they’re gonna want to meet him eventually. Why not kill two birds with one stone?”

“You’re sure? I don’t want you to feel like you have to-

“Max, I’m sure.” She looked at the clock that hung above her desk. “Look, I should let you go if you guys are going to get here on time. I’ll see you guys in a few minutes?”

Max stood up, walking to where Noah was. “Yeah. We’ll see you in a little bit. Bye.”

“Bye, Max.”

Liz hung up the phone and turned back to Maria. “Well, I guess that answers your question.”

Maria scrunched up her face in confusion. “Huh?”

Standing up, Liz smoothed down her dress and slipped into her shoes. “About when my parents are going to meet Noah. I told Max to bring him.”

Maria nodded her head. “Oh, I see. Well, as much as I’d love to stay here and watch the events unfold, I have a date.” She reached for her jacket, placing her arms through it. “I’ll talk to you later?”

Nodding, Liz pulled Maria into an embrace. “Thanks for stopping by. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

Maria chuckled, disentangling herself from Liz. “If you didn’t have me around, you’d probably have Alex sitting here telling you the same exact thing I’ve been telling you.”

Maria placed her hands on Liz’s shoulders, taking one last look “Perfect. I’ll see you later, hun.”

Liz walked Maria to the front door, waving goodbye.

*********

Michael looked up from where he was sitting on the back of his truck. “Ready to go?”

Practically skipping towards him, Maria wrapped her arms around his waist. “Yep. Let’s go.”

As Michael opened the door for Maria, he was blinded by the lights of an oncoming car. He shut the door, shielding his eyes from the glare.

“Oh, goody. It’s Max and Noah.” Maria's voice was laced with excitement.

Michael waited as Max pulled up into a space next to them, giving them a little wave. He got out of the car, opening up the passenger door to retrieve Noah and his things.

“Hey, guys.”

“That was quick!” Maria couldn’t keep the amusement out of her voice.

Max gave her a shy smile. “Well, I was already ready, and Noah, well-

Michael walked forward, tipping the Stetson off of Noah’s face. “Hey, little buddy. Give me a hi-five?” Michael held up his hand, waiting for Noah to slap it.

Noah held out his little palm, touching it to Michael’s. He gave a little smile before turning his head, burying his face in Max’s neck.

Smiling, Michael touched Noah’s little fist. “Now that’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.”

Maria slapped him across the shoulder, flashing him a smile. She moved to stand in front of him, trying to get Noah’s attention, but he just tried to disappear in Max’s sweater.

Looking apologetic, Max offered Maria a smile. “I’m sorry. He’s just a little cranky. He’s been that way since he woke up from his nap this afternoon, and I think he’s coming down with something.”

Maria touched Max’s shoulder. “That’s ok. Well, I hope you guys have fun at dinner.”

Max pulled the corner of his mouth into a smile. “I hope so.”

“See you guys, later!” Michael waved as he walked to the driver’s side of his truck.

As Maria was getting into the truck, Max’s soft voice stopped her.

“Maria?”

“Yeah?”

Max shifted his and Noah’s weight from foot to foot. “You think you could thank the sheriff for me? Noah loves the Stetson. He never goes without it now.”

Maria smiled. “No problem.” She waved from the truck as Michael pulled out of their parking space.

Taking a deep breath, Max made his way to the Parker’s apartment. When he reached the door, he turned to Noah. He pulled him higher up against his chest so that they were eye to eye.

“I know we already had this talk on the way over here, but I just wanted to make sure that we were on the same page. Tonight, it’s really important for Liz and I.”

At the sound of Liz’s name, Noah grinned. “Liz.”

Max returned his smile. “That’s right, pal. Liz is going to be here, and so are her parents.” Max paused, taking another deep breath. “I’m going to have to ask you to be on your best behavior.”

Noah just smiled wider. “Liz.”

Max just shook his head, raising his hand to knock. “This is it.”

Part 44B

****************

As soon as Maria had left, Liz busied herself with arranging the dinner table so that it would accommodate Noah. She had thought about going to her parent’s room to tell them the news of their extra guest, but she decided not to upon seeing her parents locked in an embrace. She felt like she was intruding so she just waited until they came out. When they did, she would tell them.

Jeff and Nancy walked into the dining room to see Liz fussing over the dinner table.

"Honey, what’s with the extra chair and table setting?"

Liz opened her mouth to speak, but the sound of the doorbell ringing averted her attention.

Nancy closed her eyes and took a deep breath. This was it.

"I’ll get it." She walked to the front door, turning the knob in her hand.

"No!" Liz dashed around the table, trying to get to the door before her mother could get to it.

She was too late. Her mother opened the door, revealing Max and Noah.

Max looked up from where his attention was focused. Noah had thought it was the opportune time to place the Stetson atop his head.

Smiling nervously, Max took off the Stetson. "Good evening, Mrs. Parker."

Nancy just stood frozen for a moment before stepping aside.

"Good evening to you too." Nancy bit her lip as soon as she had gotten the words past her lips. Her voice sounded strained, even to her own ears.

She swallowed a few times, finally forcing a smile on her face.

"Please, come in."

Max gave Nancy a slight nod of his head as he made his way through the door.

Once he step foot inside, Noah practically jumped out of his arms, attempting to propel himself towards Liz.

"Liz!"

His sweet little voice surprised Jeff. With Nancy opening the door, and Liz hot on her heels, he had missed the sight of their extra guest.

He watched quietly as Liz made her way towards Max. They exchanged brief smiles before Liz took Noah into her own arms.

Liz’s eyes danced with a light that Jeff had never seen, and a smile that lit up her face.

"Hiya, precious." Closing her eyes, Liz nuzzled the soft skin of Noah’s neck. She peppered his cheeks with kisses, delighting in the fact that he seemed to adore her as much as she did him.

Jeff felt the different emotions run through his body. He couldn’t quite name them all, but he could sure feel them. Seeing his daughter with Max’s little boy, he couldn’t find the words to express what he was feeling at that exact moment. So instead, he opted to help get the night started.

"Max, glad you could make it. And I have to say, what a lovely surprise it is that you’ve brought...." Jeff felt like kicking himself in the groin. For the life of him, he couldn’t remember the name of Max’s son.

Max sensed Jeff’s distress, so he offered a little help. "Noah."

He found himself wondering why Liz’s dad seemed so surprised to see Noah. Surely Liz had told her parents about Noah before they had arrived?

Liz rested Noah’s weight against her hip. She could see this turning ugly, so she spoke up.

"Mom, dad, I want to apologize. I was about to tell you that there was a slight change of plans and that Noah was going to be joining us for dinner. I was just about to tell you guys, but Max was already at the door...." She let her voice trail off, knowing that her parents understood.

If Max felt uncomfortable before, the way he was feeling right now, couldn’t even begin to compare. In his haste to arrive on time for dinner, it had completely slipped his mind to allow Liz a few more minutes to explain to her parents.

He pulled at the collar of his sweater, his eyes darting between Jeff and Nancy.

"Mr. and Mrs. Parker, I had no idea that Liz didn’t have a chance to tell you yet. If we present an inconvenience -

Jeff walked towards Max, cutting him off in the process. "Nonsense. You and Noah present no inconvenience. We’re delighted to have the company."

Jeff squeezed his wife’s shoulders, as she had come to stand beside him. "Jeff’s right. It’s a pleasure to have the two of you over."

Jeff smiled at Nancy, grateful for the effort that she was putting into this.

"Now that that’s settled, I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced." Jeff held out his hand for Max to shake. "Max, this is my wife Nancy, and I’m Jeff. It’s nice to meet you."

Max shook his hand gladly, extremely grateful that they were trying to make this work. He knew how hard it must’ve been for them to even invite him to dinner, but with the extra addition of Noah...

He could see where Liz got her good graces.

"I’m Max. Max Evans." He reached for his son, who had practically attached himself to Liz’s hip. "And this is my son, Noah."

Noah offered the Parkers a toothy grin and a shy little wave before hiding under his hat. He turned his attention back to Liz, who had come to stand behind Max.

She placed her hand on his lower back, offering him any type of support that she could give him.

When Noah caught sight of her, he tried to climb over Max’s shoulder, trying to get to his Liz.

Jeff smiled at the image Noah presented.

Nancy cleared her throat. "Well, if you’ll all excuse me, I’m going to check on dinner. It’s going to be a few more minutes, so you kids should make yourselves comfortable in the living room."

Before she was out of the room completely, she heard Max’s voice call out to her.

"Mrs. Parker?"

"Yes, Max?"

"Is there anything I can do to help?"

Nancy just smiled and shook her head. "Thank you, but I’ve got it all covered." She turned back around, making a hasty retreat into the kitchen.

Jeff watched as she walked away.

Turning to the kids, he smiled. "Go on ahead and make yourselves comfortable. I’m gonna help your mom in the kitchen and grab a booster seat from downstairs."

Liz led Max back into the living room.

They sat on the couch beside each other, with Noah slipping into Liz’s lap.

Max wrapped his arm around Liz, giving her a kiss on her forehead.

"Hey, what’s wrong?"

Liz idly played with the soft curls of Noah’s hair.

"I’m sorry. I was going to tell-

Max tilted her face upwards. "Hey, no apologies, ok? We’re in this together, remember?"

Liz nodded her head in the affirmative. "You’re absolutely right. We’re in this together."

She lay her head on Max’s shoulder, watching in amusement as Noah tugged on the chain around her neck.

Max gently pushed Noah’s hand away. "No. That’s not a toy, little guy."

Liz smiled up at Max, gently rubbing Noah’s arm. "It’s ok, Max. I don’t mind."

"I’m sure you don’t, but I have to lay down some rules. I’m already a pushover as it is. I can’t just let him do whatever he wants. If I don’t teach him what’s right and wrong now, he’ll never learn."

Liz listened to Max in silent awe.

She knew that he was a good father, but it always warmed her heart when she witnessed first hand how seriously he took parenting. She watched as Noah climbed into Max’s lap.

Max worked his magic fingers, causing the tyke to burst into a fit of giggles. Liz joined in the fun, tickling Noah right along with Max.

Nancy stood at the kitchen sink, washing her hands. She turned just in time to see Jeff with the booster seat.

"Dinner almost ready?"

"Just, about."

Jeff held his wife’s hands in his. "You know, I’m real proud of you, Nan. The way that you handled yourself.....Thank you."

Nancy let out a shaky breath. "I don’t know if I can keep this up, Jeff."

"Keep what up?"

"I mean, it was one thing to have him over for dinner, but his son too? I just.....this is just so much to take in. It’s like seeing him with his son, it makes everything more real."

"Real, how?"

Nancy continued talking, not skipping a beat. "It was so easy to tell Liz not to start a relationship with Max when I didn’t know who he was, or what he looked like. Because then I could make him into whatever it was that I wanted him to be. I could make him into this bad guy that was corrupting our daughter. Someone who was just going to hurt her. But everything I see and feel so far tell me that he’s good for her. That the reason why I’m so against this relationship is because I’m afraid of seeing our daughter grow up."

Jeff sat back in stunned silence. That was the first time that Nancy had admitted all that she had been feeling, all that she had been thinking.

"Does that, am I a bad person, Jeff? Am I terrible for reacting this way?"

"That doesn’t make you a bad person, honey. It makes you human. You acted on your gut instinct. There’s nothing wrong with that. You are not a terrible person. You’ve proven that by being here tonight and admitting to what it is that’s been bothering you."

"Do you think.......do you think Liz will forgive me?"

"If she hasn’t already, she will eventually. The two of you are so alike, and the funny thing is that you guys don’t realize it."

He placed a kiss on her forehead.

They both turned their heads in the direction of the living room at the sound of laughter. It had been a while since they had heard that around here.

"You wanna see what that’s all about?"

Nancy wiped at her eyes, finally letting her smile reach her eyes. "Sure."

Part 44C

**************

Jeff and Nancy walked into the living room, hands clasped together.

The scene before them was one that would forever be burned into their memories.

Noah was sitting in Liz’s lap, with Liz tickling him all over the place. The laughter that erupted from the two was like music to one’s ear. Liz’s hair had fallen across her face. Max slowly twined his fingers through her hair, pushing it out of her face, tucking it behind her ears. Smiling, he placed a kiss on her cheek before taking Noah into his arms, lifting him up in the air. He lifted his little t-shirt up, blowing zurbits across his tummy.

“You like that, little man?”

Noah was laughing so much that the Stetson had fallen off of his little head. He continued to squirm in Max’s arms, laughing and giggling like there was no tomorrow.

Nancy squeezed Jeff’s hand a little tighter, and he squeezed right back.

Liz looked up and found her parents standing in the doorway. “Mom, dad...”

Max craned his neck, bringing Noah back down to sit down into his lap. “Mr. and Mrs. Parker.”

Jeff couldn’t think of anything to say. He felt like he had just intruded on something too beautiful to be interrupted.

“I think dinner is just about ready, so...”

Liz stood up, smoothing down her dress. “Right.”

She reached for Max’s hand, and the two of them made their way into the dining room.

Nancy looked into her husband’s eyes, knowing that he was feeling the exact thing she was.

As hard as it was to watch Liz grow up and become a young woman, they couldn’t deny the beauty they saw when they watched her. She had come into her own. A young woman who stood strong in her convictions, and had a heart larger than life itself.

This dinner was only further going to prove those things to them, and possibly prove to them that she had made the right decision with Max. That he was probably everything she needed, and that she was everything he needed.

The three of them together was beauty in and of itself. It was hard to describe, because in all honesty, words failed what they were when they were together.

Letting out the breath that he hadn’t realized that he had been holding, Jeff pointed his head towards the direction of the kitchen. “Ready?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be.”

********

Dinner had started and it was filled with an awkward silence.

No one really knew what to say to break the ice, so they all sat in silence, eating their dinner.

Jeff thought he was going to pass out from the silence. They had made some small talk earlier, surely they could do that again.

“So Max, I hear that your family is from California?”

Max placed his fork down, turning his eyes towards Jeff. “Yeah, I grew up in the San Bernardino area.”

“Oh really. What made your parents decide to move out here to Roswell?”

Liz practically choked on the food in her mouth. She was tempted to kick her dad under the table, but chose to shoot him a glare instead.

Realizing his blunder, Jeff was about to retract his question, but Max answered.

“Well, my parents thought it would be better to raise Noah in a smaller town. We, uh...... Noah didn’t need all of that negativity around him.”

Max knew he wasn’t telling the Parkers the whole truth, but at the same time, he wasn’t lying either.

Nancy couldn’t help but let her curiosity get the better of her. Jeff had already asked a few questions that she had wanted some answers to, but there were a few more answers she wanted to hear from Max.

She knew that Liz would probably hate her. The glare she had sent to her father a minute ago had not gone unnoticed by her. But she had to know. One of the purposes of this dinner was so she and Jeff could get to know Max. What better opportunity than now, to find out more about the young man.

“So Max, I hope you don’t mind my asking, but I’m a little curious to know. Where is Noah’s mom? I mean you have a pretty unique situation. Not many boys end up with custody of their children.”

“MOM!”

If looks could kill, Nancy Parker would have been dead by now.

Liz was furious, and embarrassed to say the least.

She turned to Max, touching his arm lightly. “You don’t have to answer that, Max.”

Max picked up his napkin from his lap, wiping at his mouth. He turned to Liz, squeezing her hand on his arm. He gave her a small smile.

“That’s ok. You’re mom has every right to ask that question.”

Liz shook her head. “No she doesn’t. It’s rude, and-

“Really, it’s ok. It’s not like it’s a secret or anything.”

Max turned his gaze back to Nancy. “Noah’s mom, well, her name was Tess. She uh, she passed away when she gave birth to Noah. Her parents would have gotten custody of Noah, but uh, they,........I guess he reminds them of her a little too much. I think it was too painful for them to see her in him....” His voice trailed off, sounding a little strained.

Liz felt her heart breaking at the sound of Max’s voice. She knew how difficult it was for him to talk about what had happened. It bothered her to know that he was doing this all for her. That he was enduring all of this awkwardness, all of these questions, simply because she had asked him to. Nothing more, nothing less.

The sound of her mother’s voice broke through the haze of her thoughts.

“I’m so sorry, Max. I had...I had no idea.” She placed her hand against her mouth.

She felt like such an ass. What did she actually think she was going to accomplish by asking that question? Max Evans had been put through more hell than she could possibly imagine. From that piece of information, and everything she had seen, Max definitely wasn’t the rebel without a cause that she had played him out to be. He wasn’t a bad person.

Max Evans was just a boy who had made his share of mistakes while he was growing up. Mistakes that he was taking responsibility for now.

“It’s ok. There’s no need to apologize.”

Nancy felt lower than she had a minute ago. She knew that every word out of Max’s mouth was nothing less than the truth, and it made her feel awful knowing that she had placed him in that awkward position.

With all of the tension in the room, Noah had gotten upset. He was really sensitive to the emotions of the people around him, so it wasn’t a surprise that he had begun fussing.

He started crying, pushing the plastic bowl that sat in front of him, flying to the floor.

Max was on his feet in an instant.

He threw an apologetic look towards Liz’s parents. “I’m so sorry. I’ll clean that up.”

Jeff stood up, shaking his hand. “Don’t worry about it Max. Nancy and I will get that. Why don’t you take Noah into Liz’s room and see if you can calm him down a little?”

Max picked up Noah in his arms, nodding his head. He hesitated by the archway of the kitchen.

“Down the hall, second door on the left.” Liz gave him a reassuring smile. “You go ahead, and I’ll be there in a second.”

When Max was out of earshot, Liz threw her napkin at the table. She stood up, watching as her mother and father cleaned up the mess that Noah had made.

“I hope you’re happy, mom. Thank you for a wonderful evening.”

Nancy sank back against her knees, the tears flowing freely down her face.

“She hates me. God, why couldn’t I have just kept my mouth shut?”

Jeff crawled across the floor, wiping away Nancy’s tears. “Hey, you didn’t know. Liz is just upset right now, and Max, I think he understands.” His thumbs traced her cheekbone. “Look, I think maybe the four of us need to have a talk, as adults. We need to get all of this out in the open so that nothing is left to a misunderstanding.” He reached for her hand. “Come on.”

**********

Liz stood outside her bedroom door, not wanting to disrupt what was going on inside.

Max was cradling Noah against his body, gently rocking him back and forth.

“I’m sorry, you got upset out there little man. Things were getting pretty tense, but it needed to happen. Liz’s parents, well, they don’t know too much about me. And Liz, she’s just always looking out for me.” He traced a finger down Noah’s nose, feeling Noah’s hiccups shake his little body. “You’ve had a pretty long day, and I think maybe it’s time for some shut eye.”

Max walked around a little, his eyes glued to the restless bundle in his arms.

He knew that Noah was close to drifting off, and he knew that if he sang to him, Noah would be out like a light.

Max’s lips curled up into a smile, his voice coming out into a whisper. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,” he placed a soft kiss on Noah’s forehead. “You make me happy, when skies are gray.”

Noah’s long eyelashes fluttered against his rosy cheeks. He reached up his hand, curling his fingers around Max’s index finger. “You’ll never know dear, how much I love you.”

Max’s smile grew even deeper. He loved singing this song to Noah because Noah reminded him of a bouncing ball of sunshine. Noah was Max's sunshine when there was nothing but darkness in his life.

His voice grew even softer as he sang the last of the words. “So please don’t take my sunshine away.”

He placed one last kiss to Noah’s cheek. “Sweet dreams little man. I love you.”

Liz put her hand to her mouth, fending off the sob that wanted to escape her. The tears burned her eyes as she continued to watch Max quietly watching his son sleep, oblivious to the fact that he was being watched himself.

What in the world did she do to deserve Max Evans?

***********

“So please don’t take my sunshine away. Sweet dreams little man. I love you.”

Max’s hushed whispers, touched both Nancy and Jeff’s hearts.

They knew now without a doubt, that Max Evans was probably just what Liz needed in her life. The way he treated his son was a great indication of what kind of person he was. And judging from the scene that they had just witnessed, Max was one devoted father.

They knew it wasn’t an act and that Max was the real deal.

You couldn’t do better than Max Evans.

Jeff cleared his throat, catching everyone’s attention.

Time to nip this thing in the bud.

Part 44D

****************

Jeff pulled Nancy closer to his side, his voice coming out in a whisper, so as not to wake up Noah. “Max, Liz. I think maybe the four of us should go outside and have a little talk.”

Max nodded, shifting Noah’s weight into his other arm.

“We’ll give you a few minutes to settle down the little guy, and the two of you can meet us outside.”

Liz waited until her parents had turned around, before she walked into her room, closing the door behind her.

Without meeting Max’s stare, she walked to her bed, pulling the covers aside. “Here, why don’t you lay him down in my bed. We’ll put some pillows around him so he won’t fall off of the bed.”

“Liz.” Max’s voice was soft, but determined. He needed to have a talk with her before they went out there and talked to her parents. He knew that she was upset and that she was bottling it up. Instead of dealing with it and facing it head on, she chose to focus on inane tasks.

As if she didn’t hear him, Liz arranged the pillows around her bed. She walked towards Max, plucking Noah out of his arms.

When she did so, Max grabbed hold of her arm in a gentle grip.

He whispered into her hair, his voice pleading with her to understand. “Liz...”

Noah shuffled in his sleep, causing Max to let go of Liz. He watched her put Noah in her bed, tucking him under the covers.

“Sleep tight precious.” Liz leaned in, placing a soft kiss on Noah’s forehead.

It ate him up inside knowing that she wasn’t opening up to him. He continued to watch as she stroked Noah’s hair, watching him take deep and even breaths.

He sat on the bed across from her.

Liz felt the bed shift underneath her, but refused to acknowledge his presence. She didn’t know why she was acting the way she was. She knew that she was being childish, and overreacting to everything.

Max tried one more time to get her attention. He scooted over, tilting her chin up with his fingers.

“Don’t do this Liz....please....” The plea and sadness in his voice was unmistakable.

“I know what you’re going to say, Max, so you can just stop right there.” She stood up, pulling away from his touch. She wrapped her arms around herself, suddenly feeling very cold.

Max studied her for a moment before standing up himself. He made no move to get closer to her, sensing her need for space.

“Okay, since you know what I was going to say, then why don’t you tell me what it was I was going to say?” He shoved his hands into his pockets, waiting to get a response from her.

She threw him a steely glance. “Don’t patronize me, Max.” She crossed her arms in front of her, her body taking on a defensive stance. “I know you’re going to tell me that I should apologize to my mother, but I’m not going to. She was out of line!”

Max gave her an incredulous look. “So were you.”

Liz’s jaw practically fell to the ground. She couldn’t believe what was happening. She and Max were having their first fight.

Her voice took on an extra edge, anger lacing it. “I was looking out for you. I was trying to protect you.”

Max’s shoulders slumped. He walked closer to Liz, reaching out to touch her, only to have her shun his touch. He couldn’t deny how that had hurt him, but he understood.

He swallowed past the lump in his throat.

“I don’t need you to protect me, Liz. I’ve been able to take care of myself for a while now.”

The tears spilled over Liz’s cheeks, her shoulders shaking in the process. “Oh, well thank you for clearing that up for me, Max. I think I’ve got it now.” She turned away, not wanting him to see her completely breakdown.

Max bit the corner of his bottom lip, hating that all of this was happening. He came to stand behind Liz, taking a breath of her scent before placing a hand on her shoulder.

“I think you should go.” Her voice trembled as she spoke.

“I can’t do that.”

She turned to face him, wiping away her tears. “Why not? Why do you even care if my mother and I don’t agree on this.....on you...”

His hand reached forward, tentatively tracing the contours of her cheek. “Because I love you. And because I can’t just stand around and let you push away the people you love, just because you think you’re helping me.”

His hand cupped her face, his thumb tracing her eyebrow. “I know I didn’t make the right choices when I was younger. The truth is, I’m still learning from my mistakes. I can’t let you make the same mistakes that I made.”

Her eyebrows knotted in confusion. “What are you talking about? You and I already agreed that we weren’t, that we were....that we were going to wait.”

“I’m not talking about sex Liz, or, or having Noah. I’m talking about shutting yourself off. I’m talking about pushing away the people you love, and locking up all of your emotions until it eats you up inside and the only thing you can do is hit bottom.” He took a breath, his eyes pleading with her to understand him. “You may not realize it now, or even understand it, but your mom, she really loves you. She only wants what’s best for you.”

“If that’s true, then why can’t she accept that I love you, and that I want to be with you.”

“She’s just worried, Liz. I mean how did you expect her to react? Here she is, probably having to deal with watching you grow up faster than she expected, then I come along with a baby in tow. That’s got to be really scary for her and your dad. Putting all else aside, your parents have been very civil to me. They didn’t have to invite me to dinner, but they did anyway. They did it because they knew how much it would mean to you.”

He let his other hand drift to her hair, his fingers running through their softness. “I know that you were only looking out for me, and I appreciate that, but you have to understand that I’ve been dealing with this for a long time. I can tell when someone is only out to hurt me. And that definitely isn’t the case here.”

Liz shook her head, her lips curling at the sides, hinting at a smile. “How do you do that?”

“Do what?”

She curled her hand around his hand. “Make things clearer, make me understand things.....” Her voice softened to a whisper. “How is it possible for me to love you more with every passing second?”

Max shook his head, his amber eyes dancing with love. “Probably the same way it’s possible for me to love you more with each passing second.”

Liz pulled him against her body. “Thank you.”

His voice was muffled by her hair, but she heard him anyway. “No, thank you.”

Max gave her one last squeeze, reluctant to lose physical contact with her. “Come on. We should probably head on out there before your parents send in the national guard looking for us.”

Liz watched the corners of his lips curl into a smile.

“They probably think we’re halfway to Mexico by now.”

Liz let laughter escape her lips. She gripped Max’s hand in hers, leading them outside.

Max was right. They were in this together, and together, they could face anything.

Part 44E

**************

Nancy looked up from where she was nursing a cup of tea. With shaky hands, she placed the cup on the coffee table, waiting to hear what Max and Liz had obviously come to say.

She felt Jeff come to stand behind her, placing his hand on her shoulder for support.

“Is everything alright? You guys were taking a while.....we were starting to worry.” Jeff’s voice expressed exactly what he was feeling. He couldn’t help but feel anxious about this talk.

Max and Liz exchanged small smiles before making their way further into the room.

Their clasped hands did not go unnoticed by either parent.

Nancy felt her heart thumping wildly against her chest. She felt like she was getting ready to face the firing squad. Not that she didn’t feel like she didn’t deserve it. She knew that she had approached this thing the wrong way. All she had wanted was to make sure that Liz was making the right decisions and that she knew what she was getting herself into. She wanted to make sure that Max deserved every bit of love that Liz was certain to give him. And from every indication, from everything she had witnessed, Max Evans and his son could not be more worthy of her daughter’s love if they tried.

She had made her bed, and now she had to sleep in it.

Jeff’s eyes danced nervously, darting back and forth between Liz and Max. He had yet to hear a peep out of them. The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. He wished that someone would just say something, anything, just so long as they didn’t have to sit through the silence. It was absolute torture.

Max gave Liz’s hand one last squeeze, giving her a smile of encouragement. He brushed his lips against her forehead before giving her a slight push towards her parents.

Liz gave him one last look, finally walking towards her parents.

She took a seat on the coffee table so that she was seated right across from her them. With gentle hands, she reached forward, folding her mother’s hand in her own.

“Mom, I just......I wanted to apologize about dinner. I was out of line, and I just wanted you to know that I’m sorry. I realize now how scary this must be for you and dad, and so far you’ve been really great.” She glanced to where Max was standing in the corner, looking somewhat out of place. “I guess I just needed some reminder that you’re doing all of this because you love me. If you didn’t, then you wouldn’t be so upset.” She reached forward, wiping away her mother’s tears. “I hope you can forgive me, mom.”

Nancy’s arms flew around Liz, pulling her into a fierce hug. “No, Liz. If anyone should be apologizing, it should be me. I should have trusted your judgment. I’m just, it scares me to see you growing up so fast. Will you forgive me, honey?”

Liz nodded her head against her mother’s shoulder. She tightened her hold on her mother, not wanting to let go. They had both made their share of mistakes, and had come to see the error of their ways.

Jeff watched as the two people he loved more in the world reconcile. It had tore him up to see the two of them at odds, playing an emotional tug of war with him. He was glad that they had cleared that up. He wiped away the dampness at the corner of his eye, looking up in the process.

His eyes landed on Max who was trying his best to become invisible. He could see that the boy felt like he didn’t belong at this moment, but he’d have to change that.

Catching his eye, Jeff motioned for Max to follow him.

The two of them made their way down into the dining area of the Crashdown, which had been closed for the night.

Jeff motioned for Max to take a seat on one of the swivel stools at the counter. He busied himself with getting out bowls and spoons.

“So, Max. What’s your poison? Chocolate, Strawberry?”

Max shook his head. “That’s ok, Mr. Parker. I’m fine.”

Jeff smiled at the young man, heading into the kitchen. “C’mon, why don’t you just indulge me?”
He poked his head out from the service window. “So, what’ll it be?”

“Uh, how about vanilla?”

Jeff just smiled and went to the freezer. “Vanilla it is.”

He couldn’t help but chuckle. Vanilla was Liz’s favorite flavor. It figures that she’d fall for a guy that was perfect for her. They were like a match made in heaven.

He came through the swinging doors, carrying two bowls of ice cream. He let Max’s glide across the smooth surface of the counter.

“Nice catch.”

Max smiled, snatching up his spoon. “Thanks.”

Jeff watched Max carefully, trying to find the right words to say.

“Thank you, Max.”

Max looked up from his spoonful of ice cream. “For what?”

“For what you did up there. If it weren’t for you, the two people I love most in the world would probably be at each other’s throats by now.”

“I don’t.....I didn’t-

Jeff continued to watch Max stumble over his words. “Don’t try to deny it, Max. If I know my daughter at all, she was probably standing in her room, hands on her hips, refusing to apologize to her mother.” He saw Max’s lips curve into a smile. “Am I right?”

Max let out a little laugh. “Close. She did everything but the hands on her hips thing. She had her arms crossed.”

Jeff tilted his head back in understanding. “Ah, she got that one from me. The hands on hips thing is from her mother.”

The two men shared a laugh, actually enjoying themselves.

Jeff picked up a napkin, wiping off the stickiness of the ice cream from around his mouth.

“As much fun as I’m having with the two of us just talking, I did have another purpose for asking you down here.”

Max swallowed, waiting for Jeff to continue. He had known this was coming, so he wasn’t too surprised when Jeff had brought it up.

“While I haven’t said anything about your relationship with Liz, I haven’t been totally behind it 100 percent either. I have had my qualms, but I’m just not quite as vocal with my fears as my wife is.”

He saw Max’s amber eyes cloud over with sadness, dimming the light that had once been dancing in them. That was the first time he had really looked into the young man’s eyes, and he realized for the first time how beautiful they were. They seemed to change color with different lighting, expressing his every emotion. He had long eyelashes, that reached his cheeks.

If Jeff didn’t know any better, he would have said that eyes like that only belonged to women. But seeing them on Max, somehow, he knew they were perfect for the soft spoken young man. He felt awful for making his eyes change. He didn’t want to be responsible for marring something so beautiful.

Max found his voice, wanting to have his say. “I love your daughter, Mr. Parker. With all of my heart. I know there’s nothing I could say or do, that would assuage your misgivings about my relationship with your daughter. I know how hard it must have been for you and Mrs. Parker to invite me to dinner, and with the added bonus of my son. I have to say that you and Mrs. Parker have taken all of this gracefully. All I can say is thank you.” He took a deep breath before continuing. “However, I can’t just stop feeling. I can’t put a stop to what I feel for Liz. My relationship with Liz will continue regardless of how anyone feels about it. The only way that this relationship will end, is will be if Liz changes her mind and chooses not to be with me.

I’m not saying this to throw our relationship in your face. I’m saying this, so you realize how serious I am about Liz. This isn’t just a fling for me, but at the same time, I’m not trying to tie her down........ I just want a chance to love your daughter, sir.”

Jeff moved his mouth, but he couldn’t form any words to say. The impassioned speech that Max had just delivered brought tears to his eyes. He knew without a doubt that everything that Max had said was true.

Jeff found himself in constant awe of Max. He couldn’t have found someone more deserving of his daughter’s love than Max.

Liz Parker sure knew how to pick ‘em.





All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 18-Sep-2001 3:24:13 PM
Part 44F

*************

Upstairs

Nancy and Liz pulled away from each other, both laughing at the image they presented.

Liz looked around the room, and for the first time noticed that her father and Max where nowhere to be seen.

Chuckling, Liz verbalized what she was thinking. “We must have scared Max and daddy away with our tears.”

Nancy looked around to see that Liz was right.

Both of their heads flew to the bedroom where Noah’s crying filtered through.

***********

After putting away their dishes, Jeff led Max back towards the apartment, a tub of ice cream in their possession.

Max’s speech had given Jeff a lot to think about, but more importantly, Jeff realized that he and Max were on the same page. Both of them loved Liz, and they would do anything for her.

Jeff had briefly thought about talking to Max about being in an intimate relationship with his daughter, but he decided against it. They had already dealt with plenty tonight; that talk could wait. Besides, this relationship looked to be a lasting one, so Jeff knew that he had plenty of time to scare Max a little.

He chuckled at the though that he and Max would be comfortable enough to joke around with each other. Jeff had always imagined himself not liking any boy that Liz would bring home. Especially one that seemed so capable of taking away his only daughter. He found himself not minding if Max and Liz did end up together in the future. Not to say that he was quite ready to let his daughter go just yet, but when the time did come, he wouldn’t mind at all if he lost Liz to Max.

Jeff shook his head at the thoughts tumbling through his head. He had no idea why he was thinking about all of these things. He had just met Max, and yet he was ready to let Liz go with him when she was ready.

The sound of hushed voices broke him from his thoughts. He looked up to see Nancy and Liz on the carpet. Little Noah was sitting in Liz’s lap, his body slumped against hers.

Liz looked up at the sound of footsteps. She smiled when she saw her father and Max come through the door. She stood up, snuggling Noah closer to her chest. She stopped short when she reached Max.

Placing her hand in his, her eyes darted back and forth from Max to her father.

“Everything ok?”

Max smiled. “Yeah.”

Jeff held up the tub of ice cream in his hands. “We come bearing sweets.”

He caught the attention of his wife, tilting his head towards the kitchen. “You think you can give me a hand?”

Nancy wiped her hands against the front of her skirt, following her husband.

When they were out of the room, Max turned to Noah and reached out his arms, waiting for Noah to move towards him. “Hey, Noah. You wanna come to daddy?”

Noah shook his head, wrapping his arms tighter around Liz’s neck.

“Liz!”

Max put his arms down, laughing at their predicament. He scratched the side of his head, the laughter evident in his voice. “I guess I’ll take that as a no.”

Liz laughed with him, gathering Noah in her arms fully. She gave him a kiss, smiling at his baby face. “That’s ok sweetie. You can stay right where you are for as long as you like.”

Max shook his head, running his fingers through Noah’s hair.

“What are you doing up anyway? I thought we put you to bed already?”

Noah looked up at his father with sleepy eyes. He swallowed back a yawn, laying his head on Liz’s shoulder. His voice came out in a whisper.

“Liz.”

Max let the smile on his face linger a little longer. He and Noah were definitely father and son.
He knew exactly what it was like waking up and wanting to be around Liz. Too bad he wasn’t as lucky as his son, he thought ruefully.

*********

Jeff watched as Nancy made ice cream sundaes for herself and Liz.

“Are you sure you and Max don’t want any? I mean you didn’t even ask him yet.”

Jeff leaned back against the counter. “I think Max and I have had our fill of ice cream for tonight.”

Nancy just nodded, deciding not to ask if that had any underlying tones to it.

“So, is it safe to assume that you and Lizzie are alright again?”

Closing the freezer door, Nancy stopped her movement for a second. It was as if she was reliving the moment.

She looked into Jeff’s eyes. “Yeah, I think so.” She paused, reaching into the silverware drawer. “I mean, we still have some things to work through, but I think the worst is over. We finally understand where the other one is coming from, and from that, we can build back up.”

Jeff placed a chaste kiss on her cheek. “I’m glad to hear that.”

“Me too.”

************

Half an hour later.

Liz leaned back against the couch, pushing her bowl away from her.

“Please, someone take this bowl away from me before I eat it too.”

Her words caused laughter to bubble forth from her company.

Max stood up, reaching for it. “Here, I’ll take it.”

Nancy stood up, waving off Max’s attempt to help.

“That’s alright, Max. I can get it.”

Max smiled at Nancy, pointing to Liz who had Noah curled around her. “It’s ok, Mrs. Parker. I think I should at least do something for Liz considering Noah won’t let her have a chance to do anything.”

Nancy smiled, heading towards the kitchen with Max following closely behind.

She turned on the faucet, waiting for the water to warm up. “You can go ahead and just leave Liz’s dish right there.”

Max looked at her, a question in his eyes. “Are you sure? Cos, I could wash the dishes myself. In fact, it’s the least I could do for you and Mr. Parker for inviting me to dinner tonight.”

The sincerity in his voice was palpable.

How in the world had she thought she could hate Max Evans, was beyond her. Sure, he may not have been her first choice as Liz’s boyfriend, but the more she saw of Max’s heart and soul, it was hard not to like the young man.

Her lips curled up into a bonafide smile. “I know that I haven’t been the best hostess tonight, nor have I been the most understanding person, and I really hope that you can accept my apology, but I want you to know, that you and your son will always be welcome in our home. Always.”

Max felt the air rush out of his lungs.

Had he just heard her right? He and Noah were welcome in the Parker home? Always?

He opened his mouth to speak, his voice sounding a little parched. “Thank you, Mrs. Parker. You have no idea how much you saying that means to me.”

He turned to walk away, only to stop at the sound of Nancy’s voice.

“No. Thank you.”

She and Max exchanged understanding smiles.

Although they hadn’t talked about everything that they wanted to talk about that night, they had all come to an understanding. And from there, they could all move forward.

Part 45

Rated: PG-13


*************

Kyle brought over a tub of dirty dishes to the waitress station, throwing a dish rag over his shoulder.

Alex walked past him, giving him a smack on the shoulder. “Courtney Banks is staring at you again.”

Kyle threw Alex a frown, then looked towards the booth that Courtney was sitting in.

“Real, funny Whitman.”

Alex put his arm around Kyle, throwing a smile in Courtney’s direction.

When Courtney saw Alex smiling at her and Kyle looking in her general direction, she bowed her head, trying to look at anywhere but them.

Alex chuckled, ruffling Kyle’s hair. “See, what’d I tell you? She’s got it bad for you.”

Kyle shook his head, picking up the dirty dishes and heading towards the kitchen. “Yeah, right. Nice try, but I’m not falling for it.”

Alex opened his locker, untying his apron soon afterwards. “Oh, please. You already have fallen. It’s not like you haven’t had this secret crush on Courtney since we were like in third grade.”

“So? So what if I did?” He dumped the dishes into the over sized sink and turned on the pressurized hose. “You know, it isn’t nice to be playing games with your friend.”

“Who said anything about playing games? I’m just telling you things as I see them, and frankly, I’m thinking you should ask Courtney out.”

“Wh-what?!?” Kyle was so surprised that he had lost control of the hose, squirting water all over the place.

Alex grabbed the hose from him, turning it off. “You know, for someone who happens to be the Sheriff’s son, you sound awfully scared at the thought of asking out some girl.”

Kyle picked up a towel, wiping away the mess he had created. “Yeah, well Courtney isn’t just some girl.” He sighed, whispering to himself. “She’s my dream girl.”

Courtney Banks was a quiet and studious girl. She had beautiful blonde hair that made Kyle want to run his fingers through it. The truth was, he had had a crush on Courtney since they were kids. The minute she had given him her shy smile, he had been lost. As the years passed by, he had grown accustomed to watching her from afar, wishing in his heart that she would look his way just once.

Alex’s suggestion sounded simple enough. He liked Courtney, so he should ask her out. There shouldn’t be any problem, right?

Wrong.

There was plenty. For instance, what would Courtney see in him? She was in AP Chem, while he had been stuck in the same remedial science class for three years. Courtney was definitely out of his league, and he would just leave it at that. There was no need to humiliate himself when she shot him down.

Alex stood quietly watching his friend.

If only Kyle could see what he and other people saw. The truth was, it wasn’t the first time he had caught Courtney staring at Kyle. Those two were always sneaking glances at each other. That’s why it surprised him that Kyle acted so shocked when he told him that Courtney had been watching him the minute she had walked into the Crashdown.

*********

Max pushed the double doors to the Crashdown open, with books in his hands and his back pack half dangling off of his shoulder.

He caught sight of Courtney, making his way over to her. He slipped in the seat across from her, heaving out his apology.

“I’m sorry, I’m late, but my boss at the UFO Center wouldn’t let me leave any earlier, and I had to get my stuff, .........” Max’s voice trailed off as he looked up to make eye contact with Courtney, so she would see the sincerity in his eyes. But he noticed that her eyes were trained to the back room of the Crashdown. He turned his head, trying to figure out what had gotten her interest, but he could only see Kyle and Alex inside.

“Courtney?”

Courtney turned her head, and was surprised to see Max sitting across from her in the booth. When had he arrived?

She blushed a deep shade of crimson when she heard the concern in his voice.

“Oh, hey Max.” She began chewing on her bottom lip. “I’m glad you made it.”

Max started arranging his books out in front of him, his eyes on Courtney. “Yeah, about that. I really am sorry. I hope, I mean I know you said you like people to be on time, and well I usually am very reliable, but I have so much things going on-

Courtney gave him a shy smile. “That’s ok, Max. It’s no problem.”

“Thanks.”

She took out her books, gently twisting her pen between her fingers. “Could I, could I ask you something?”

Max looked up from the mountains of notes that were spread out in front of him. He was chewing on his pencil, a look of concentration on his face.

“Sure.”

“I, I know that you and Liz, well that she’s your girlfriend. I mean, why didn’t you just ask her for help in Chemistry? Why ask me?”

Max smiled. “You’re right about her being my girlfriend, and that’s the reason why I’ve asked you to help me. Liz and I together, well, uh, um, studying,” he made a wild gesture with his hands, trying to get Courtney to understand what he was saying without actually having to say it out loud.

He had already tried asking Liz for help in Chemistry, and well, that plan just didn’t work out too well.

“Max.....”

Liz threw her head back, at the sensations that Max was causing in her body. Everywhere his fingers touched was magic. And his lips.... Oh God, those luscious lips were doing wonders to her fevered skin.

In the back of her mind, Liz faintly remembered that they were supposed to be doing something important. What was it again?

Ch-clothes?

She looked up to see Max on top of her, his lips fused to the side of her neck. The first few buttons on his shirt had come undone, giving her a wonderful view of his muscular chest.

Smiling, she ran her fingers through his hair, marveling at it’s thickness.

The two of them together, they were insatiable. The heat that emanated from them was so hot, it surprised her that they hadn’t been burned yet. The chemistry between,-

That’s it! That’s what it was.

CHEMISTRY!

“Max?.....”

“Hmm?” He nuzzled the soft skin behind her ear, letting his tongue sneak out to taste her skin.

He felt her body shiver beneath him, causing him to smile.

“Max?” Liz couldn’t help the way her voice came out, almost breathless. She gripped his shoulders, trying in vain to do the right thing.

Max stopped his ministrations long enough to look into her beautiful doe eyes.

Her long eyelashes, fluttered against her cheek. Her tongue snuck out from between her lips, wetting her parched lips. Her chest heaved from the effort it took to calm down.

He ran his finger down her flushed cheek, basking in it’s warmth.

“Yeah, babe?” his voice was a notch huskier, deeper if possible.

Liz clapped him on the shoulder, pushing him up until the two of them were back in a sitting position.

“I, I think we were supposed to be studying chemistry, not actually testing it.” She couldn’t help the giggles that escaped past her lips.

Seeing Max looking ravished, and their notebooks scattered across the floor haphazardly, well she couldn’t help but find it amusing.

Apparently, she wasn’t the only one who thought it was funny.

Max leaned back against the foot of the couch, pulling Liz into his side.

“I think you’re right.” He kissed her temple, giving her shoulders a good squeeze. “Tomorrow, I’m gonna look for a new chem tutor.”


Max’s mind returned to the present time where he was seated across from Courtney.

He could feel the blush tinting his cheeks at the thought of why he had to ask Courtney for help.

It wasn’t that he and Liz couldn’t keep their hands off of each other, it was more like they had a hard time concentrating when it was just the two of them alone together. They worked well as a team during class when they were lab partners, but once they got out of class, well some things looked a little more appealing than studying, he thought ruefully.

He was about to continue trying to explain to Courtney why he had asked her for help, when the sound of an angel’s voice broke through their conversation.

Liz stood beside their booth, holding her order pad, and a pencil resting behind her ear.

“I’m really sorry to interrupt, but Maria’s shift is over, and I came to tell you guys that I’m going to be taking over her tables.” She gave them a warm smile.

“Is there anything I could get you?”

“Cherry coke for me.” Max looked to Courtney. “Courtney?”

“I’ll, I’ll have an orange soda, please.”

Liz nodded her head, walking backwards towards the counter. “Ok, I’ll be right back with your drinks.”

Courtney sat back, watching in mild amusement as Max watched Liz’s every move.

The guy couldn’t keep his eyes off of her. No wonder he asked her for help.

Liz came back with their drinks, setting them carefully on the table.

“One cherry coke, and one orange soda.” She wiped her hands on her apron. “Anything else I can get for you guys tonight?”

As soon as the words, left her mouth, Liz stumbled forward when she felt something attach itself to her legs.

“Lizzie!”

Liz tried to regain her balance, unceremoniously knocking over the glass of soda in front of her.

With graceful moves like a cat, Courtney picked up all of their papers before any real damage was done.

Liz covered her mouth. “I am so sorry. I, I was-

Her sentence was cut off short when the person attached to her legs, tugged on her waitress uniform.

“Lizzie!”

Courtney looked down to the little boy who had fixed himself to Liz’s leg.

She tucked her hair behind her ears, smiling at the little guy.

“Aren’t you adorable?” Courtney leaned down a little, gently touching Noah’s shoulder. “Hi.”

Noah looked up at her, letting go of Liz’s leg long enough to wave to her. “Hi.”

Isabel ran forward, picking Noah up into her arms. “I am so sorry, you guys. But I just couldn’t catch up to him. I mean the minute he caught sight of Liz....”

Courtney smiled. “That’s ok, no harm was done.”

Max stood up, reaching for Noah. He turned Noah to face Courtney.

“Well, seeing as he’s already made his grand entrance, Courtney, I’d like you to meet my son. This is Noah.”

Courtney felt her heart flutter at the pride in Max’s eyes as he introduced her to his son. She had heard the rumors about Max running around school. But she had never given it a second thought. It wasn’t any of her business, and it irked her that other people tried to make it their business. Especially Pam Troy. Courtney knew the girl was trouble, so it didn’t surprise her to hear that it was Pam that had been behind those nasty rumors.

But standing here today, in the presence of Max and his son, it was truly magical. There was just something in the way he gently bounced his son against his chest, and the way his eyes lit up, that made Courtney see what a beautiful relationship they had.

Max was really the nice guy she saw walking down the halls of West Roswell High, who only had eyes for one girl, and had the best friends a person could ask for.

She cleared her throat, reaching out her hand to Noah’s. “It’s nice to meet you Noah.”

Noah giggled, bouncing up and down in Max’s embrace. The smile he gave was one that mirrored his fathers.

Liz grabbed a few napkins, wiping as much of the mess as she could. She called to the back for some help.

“Kyle? Alex? Someone come out here and give me a hand. Bring some rags with you.” She called as she peeled off the sticky napkins from the table.

Kyle came through the swinging doors, a dish rag in hand. “Ok, where’s the emergency?”

When he came out, Noah clapped his hands together, excited to see one of his friends. “Lyle!”

Kyle shook his head, tweaking Noah’s nose. “Hey there, little buddy.”

When Noah erupted into a fit of laughter, Kyle poked his tummy. “Yeah, that’s right. It’s Lyle.”

Kyle could feel someone’s eyes on him, so he looked up. When he did, he felt his heart stop beating.

Under lowered lashes, the girl of his dreams, Courtney Banks was looking at him with that shy smile of hers. He felt his face flame up, so he looked at anywhere but her.

He turned his attention back to Noah, whispering conspiratorially. “And just so you know, you’re the only one allowed to call me Lyle.”

Kyle looked up again to see that Courtney had yet to stop looking at him. He returned her smile, feeling his palms sweat.

Oh boy!

That smile of hers was gonna get him into trouble.

Part 46

**************

Maria walked across her living room floor, looking each of one of her friends in the eyes.

“So, the plan is set. Let’s go over everything one more time just to make sure all the bases are covered.”

She turned her gaze towards Liz, tipping her head to the side, to indicate that it was her turn to speak. “Liz?”

Liz sat up from her spot on the floor. “Ok, I talked to my mom and dad, and they agreed to shut down the Crashdown for the night. I talked to Courtney, and she’s going to tell Max to meet her at the Crash for their study session.”

Maria nodded, turning her pursed lips towards Alex. “Ok, now that leaves Isabel.....Alex?”

Alex raised his hand, talking at the same time. “I’ve got it covered. I told her to meet me there, so we could go to the movies together.”

Maria tapped her finger against her chin, deep in thought. “Good, good. Now, I think that just about covers it, so...” She turned back to her friends, a smile on her face. “Let’s get this party started!”

***********

Max stood in his room, getting all of his things in his bag.

He looked up to the sound at the door, smiling when he saw who it was.

“Happy Birthday, Iz.”

She grinned at him, plopping down on his bed. “Happy Birthday to you too. Although, I recall already greeting you this morning.”

The two of them shared a laugh.

Isabel sat back on her hands, watching as Max moved about his room. “So, you have plans with Liz?”

Max looked up from what he was doing, and shook his head. “No. I have another study session with Courtney tonight.”

Isabel raised an eyebrow at him. “Again? Don’t you think you’re over doing it a little? I mean, Liz might start getting jealous.”

Max let out a hearty laugh. “I don’t think so. Liz knows I only have eyes for her, besides, she was the one who encouraged me to study with Courtney tonight.” He zipped up his book bag, swinging it over his shoulder. “Believe me when I say that, there isn’t anything I would rather be doing than spending time with Liz on my birthday, but at least this way, I’ll get to see her while she works.”

He leaned back against his desk chair, casually locking his ankles together. “How about you? You and Alex have plans?”

Isabel nodded. She sat up, picking at the invisible lint on her t-shirt. “Yeah. I’m meeting him at the Crashdown. We’re catching a movie together.”

Max stood back up, reaching into his desk drawer.

He pulled out a small, black, velvet box, handing it to Isabel. “Here. This is for you.”

She gave him a wary glance, accepting his offering. “Max? I thought we said, no presents this year.”

Max shoved his hands into his pockets, shrugging his shoulders. “I know. But I made a little extra last week, and well, I couldn’t resist getting it for you.”

Isabel let out an exasperated sigh, trying to hide the smile on her lips. “Max!” She tried to give him a glare, but she couldn’t quite bring herself to do it. How could she, when he was being such a sweet twin brother.

A smile tugged on his lips, his eyes dancing with an excited gleam. “Go ahead. Open it.”

Isabel gave him a full blown smile. Her hand, pulled back the top, making a popping sound.

A gasp escaped her lips, as she looked at the pearl earrings inside. She turned wide eyes to her brother. “Max, I can’t believe you did this....It must have cost so much....” She shook her head, snapping the box back closed. She pushed the box back into Max’s hands, stepping away from him.

Max looked at the box in his hand, then at his sister. “What are you doing?”

Isabel crossed her arms in front of her, straightening her shoulders. “I’m not accepting that as a gift, Max. That was way too expensive, and I highly doubt that you making a little extra money could let you afford that.” She shook her head again, her lips coming together in a tight line.

“Are you serious?”

He watched as Isabel gave an affirmative nod of her head. “We already agreed on, no presents. You can’t go back on your word.”

Max opened his mouth to speak again, when their mom poked her head in, holding Noah’s hand.

“Ok, kids. Your dad and I are off to dinner, so we’ll see you guys later.”

She looked down to Noah. “Say buh-bye, Noah!”

Noah let go of Diane’s hand, running into Isabel’s open arms.

“Bye.”

Isabel smiled at her nephew. “Bye, sweetie. I’ll see you later.”

She turned him towards, Max. “Say, buh-bye to daddy?”

Noah smiled at his father, waving at him from the comfort of Isabel’s arms. “Buh bye, daddy!”

Max walked up to his son, plastering him with kisses. “Bye, little man. You be good for gramma, and granpa, tonight.” He placed one sound kiss on his son’s forehead, turning back to his mom.

“Are you sure that you and dad don’t mind taking Noah to dinner with you? Because I could take him to the Crashdown with me.”

Diane walked to Isabel, taking Noah from her arms. “Now don’t be silly, Max. We love our grandson, and I personally think that we don’t get to spend enough time with him as it is.” She looked into Noah’s smiling face. “He’s just growing up so fast.” She turned back to Max, a wistful look in her eyes.

“Well, we better get going. We don’t want to be late.” Diane hugged her grandson closer to her, as she walked out of the room.

“Bye, mom!”

Isabel tried to walk out of Max’s room, without having to argue about the gift. But she just wasn’t that lucky.

“Hey, we’re not done talking yet.”

She stopped mid step, slowly turning around. “Look, Max. I really, really appreciate that you went out of your way to get me something so beautiful for my birthday. But I just can’t accept them. They’re too much.”

Max had an incredulous look on his face, as he dug into his pocket, revealing a brand new watch.

“And, what? This watch right here isn’t too much?”

Isabel closed her eyes as she watched her brother dangle the watch that she had bought for him. She had left it on his table this morning with a birthday card. She was well aware that they had agreed on no presents this year, but she just couldn’t resist.

She had been saving up all her money for a while now, and well, she knew that Max had been eyeing that watch for over a year now. She knew how much he wanted it, but he refused to splurge on himself, and instead, spending what little money he did have on his son.

She crossed her arms in front of her again, taking on a defensive stance. “No, it isn’t!”

Max looked at her wide eyed, tossing the watch on the bed. “Whatever.”

He stood up, adopting the same stance as his sister. “Fine. If you won’t accept my gift, then I won’t accept yours.”

Isabel felt her jaw fall to the floor. “You can’t no accept it! It’s my gift to you. A gift from me to you.”

Max gave her a smug smile, tossing the velvet box up in the air, and then catching it again.

“Well, that just it. I will only accept the watch, if you accept the earrings. I think it’s only fair.” He held out his open palm towards her, the velvet box sitting on it.

With his head tilted to the side, he eyed her warily. “What do you say, Iz?”

When she wouldn’t budge, he walked up to her, still clasping the tiny box in his hand. “Oh, come on. It’s our 18th birthday today. Don’t you think we should splurge? I mean, other than mom and dad getting gifts for us, we won’t be getting anything else.”

He gave her his best sad eyes, pouting a little. “Please? For your older brother?”

Isabel bit back the smile that wanted to plaster itself on her lips. She slowly took the box out of Max’s hand, but in the process, giving her brother a nice punch on the arm.

Max jumped back, rubbing his arm in pain. “What’d you do that for?”

Isabel finally let the smile form on her lips, throwing her arms around her brother. “That’s for being the most obnoxious, stubborn, older brother that you are. Thank you.”

Max smiled, giving his sister a good squeeze before pulling back. “Well, I guess I should thank you for being an obnoxious, stubborn, younger sister.” He rocked back on his heels, his eyes dancing with mirth.

“But I won’t be hitting you. I don’t believe in violence.”

Isabel made a face at him before walking backwards to her room. “Real funny, Max. You‘re a real comedian.”

Max held up his hands in front of him, shrugging his shoulders. “What can I say? I try.”

Isabel stuck her tongue at him, running to her room. “I’m just gonna grab my stuff and then we can go.”

Max walked up to his bed, picking up his brand new watch. He placed it on his wrist, twisting and turning it, as he watched the light play across the glass face of the watch.

He shook his head, laughing at the thought of what just happened. “So much for no presents this year.”

**********

Phillip pulled up into the alley way behind the Crashdown.

He got out, helping his wife with their grandson.

They knocked on the back door, knocking twice, taking a pause, then knocking once, taking another pause, before finally knocking three more times.

They waited until they saw Liz’s head pop out from behind the door.

She looked behind them down the street, then down to the other side of the street. Finally she looked at the Evans and smiled at them.

“They don’t know that you guys are here, right?”

Diane shook her head, a smile playing on her lips. “No idea. They should be here soon, though.”

Liz nodded, pulling the door open, letting them inside. “Good, come on in before they get here.”

**********

Max pulled the jeep into a parking space in front of the jeep.

“Max?”

Max pulled his keys out of the ignition, turning to his sister. “Yeah?”

Isabel fingered the hem on her shirt, her voice soft. “Don’t you feel a little awkward that we didn’t tell anyone that it was our birthday today? I mean, I’m feeling a little odd that we didn’t tell any of our friends.”

Max sat back in his seat, taking a deep breath. “Well, yeah. I mean I kinda feel like I’m betraying Liz and everyone else, but at the same time, I know that if Liz knew, she would make a big deal about it. I just don’t want her to feel like she has to do something, you know?”

Isabel just nodded, jumping out of the jeep.

The two of them walked to the Crashdown, when Isabel suddenly stopped, grabbing Max’s shirt sleeve. “Max? Do you notice something weird, different?”

Max looked at her, then at their surroundings. He scratched his head, trying to see if there was anything out of place. “Actually, no. Why? What’s wrong Iz?”

“Well, it just happens to be a Friday night and there doesn’t seem to be anyone around.” She looked around the empty street, as if to emphasize her point.

Max pointed to the row of cars on that were parked a little away from them. “Well, Alex’s car is right over there, and that’s Courtney’s. Maybe there’s a party tonight or something”

Isabel placed her hands in her back pockets, and started walking again. “You’re probably right.”

Max pulled open the Crashdown doors, the doors making their familiar jingling noise.

He didn’t know why, but he felt his stomach was all tied up in knots. He turned to Isabel, and by the looks of things, she was feeling the same way.

As they opened the door, they realized for the first time that the Crashdown was without lights.

“What the-

The room was suddenly flooded with light, and a chorus of voices rang out.

“SURPRISE!”

Part 47

*************

“SURPRISE!”

Max and Isabel both flinched as their eyes were hit with the lights as they were turned back on.

When their eyes came back into focus, they took in the scene before them.

The Crashdown was decked out in balloons and streamers, a big banner hanging above the service window reading, Happy 18th B’day Max & Isabel!

As they looked around some more, their gazes finally landed on everyone in the room.

Everyone they cared about, everyone they loved stood in front of them, smiles on their faces.

Isabel was the first to react, tears stinging her eyes. She held up her hand to her mouth, taking in everything around her, and thinking about it’s significance.

“I can’t believe you guys did this!” She took another look around the room, tugging on Max’s arm, pulling him with her as they walked further into the room.

When they stood but a few feet from everyone, Noah’s little voice caught the attention of everyone.

“Soopize!” He clapped his little hands together, sliding down from Liz’s arm, running towards his father and his aunt.

Max crouched down, opening his arms to accept his son’s embrace. He almost fell back with the force in which Noah had run towards him, but at that moment, he couldn’t care less. He couldn’t believe the sight in front of him.

All of this, for him, and Isabel. He just couldn’t bring himself to believe that anyone would make such an extravagant plan, such as this, just for the two of them.

He looked into everyone’s smiling faces, each giving them his most sincere smile. “Thank you.”

Isabel grinned wildly, clapping her hands together. “Thanks, everyone!”

Everyone kind of just stood there, until Kyle’s voice broke through the haze. “C’mon people, this is supposed to be a birthday party.” He gave a little salute to Max and Isabel. “Happy birthday guys!” He turned back to everyone, rubbing his hands together, a devilish twinkle in his eyes. “Let’s start this party!”

People started milling around the cafe, each one stopping to say happy birthday to the twins.

When it was Diane and Phillip’s turn to greet their twins, Isabel tried to give them a glare.

“I can’t believe you guys did this to us. I mean you’re our parents. And to think that you guys almost forgot about our birthdays.” She crossed her arms, still trying to put on the facade of being angry.

Phillip walked up to his daughter, putting his arms around her. He gave her temple a kiss, giving her shoulders a squeeze. “We would never forget, sweetie. Another wonderful milestone crossed. Happy Birthday kids.”

Max smiled at his dad, running his hand down his mother’s arm. “Thanks, dad, mom. I can’t believe you guys did all of this without us knowing.”

Diane shook her head, threading her fingers through Max’s. “Oh, we had nothing to do with it honey. Liz and Maria, and all of your friends were behind all of this. They just invited us.”

Max gave his mom a curious look, before his gaze landed on Liz, who was manning the soda machine.

Her eyes caught his, and the smile that she gave him, almost knocked the wind out of him. He felt his knees weaken, his breath quicken. How was it possible that she could that to him every single time he laid eyes on her?

Diane noticed that her son’s attention was elsewhere, and deservingly so, to the object of his affection. She couldn’t help but feel giddy at the sight the two of them made. Oh, to be a teenager again. She sighed, placing her hand on his shoulder.

“Go on, honey. This is your party. You shouldn’t be stuck here all night with me and your father.”

Max looked down at his mother, to tell her that he enjoyed her company, when she gave him a little push and a wink.

He squeezed her hand, before walking to the counter, taking a seat.

Liz was busy filling up a pitcher of soda, when she felt the hairs on her neck stand up.

“What does a guy need to do to get some service around here?”

She could hear the amusement in his voice, and it made her happy. She thought he might be a little mad at her for throwing a surprise party for him, considering that he was a pretty shy guy. It made her happy that she could make him feel a fraction of the happiness that he made her feel.

She turned around, the pitcher still in her hands. She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, trying to play it cool.

If Max wanted to play, she could definitely play.

“I’m sorry, sir. But I only wait on tall, dark, and handsome men.” She gave him her most demure smile, but her eyes were a stark contrast. Her eyes took on a wicked gleam, her tongue wetting her red lips.

Max’s eyes followed the movement of tongue. What he wouldn’t do to have it be his tongue instead of hers, touching her soft lips. He unconsciously licked his own lips, his eyes returning to hers. He returned her smile, still continuing on with the game that they had begun.

“Well, I am tall, and I do have dark hair,” he leaned closer to her, resting his elbows on the counter. He invited her closer with his finger, his voice softening a touch. “And not to sound cocky, but I have been told a few times that I am a handsome man.”

Liz leaned in closer, her face mere breaths away from his. “Well, I have to give it to you sir. You do have dark hair, and you are very handsome,” she took a dramatic pause, letting her eyes rake over his handsome face. “But I don’t think you’re all that tall.”

Max sat back, pretending to look offended. “I’ll have you know miss, that I am six feet tall. A lot taller than your five foot one frame.”

Liz scoffed, resting her chin on the palm of her hand. “I may be short, but at least I don’t lie about my height on my driver’s license. You’re more like 5’11. Close, but no cigar.”

Max pointed an accusatory finger at her. “So, you’ve been sneaking glances at my driver’s license. That’s how you knew it was my birthday!”

Liz returned to a standing position, placing her hands on her hips. “I’ll have you know that that’s not how I found out about your birthday. I am more resourceful than that.”

Max tilted his head to the side, studying his girlfriend. “Then how did you find out?”

Liz smacked the dish rag against her hand, giving Max one of her dazzling smiles. “Well, a girl’s got to keep her secrets, Max.”

She leaned down again, reaching across the counter for Noah. She sat him in front of her, lacing her fingers through his. She kissed his chubby cheeks, swinging their clasped hands in the air.

Max crossed his arms, a frown accenting his attractive features. He gave a little pout as he muttered under his breath. “So much for being the birthday boy.”

Liz looked up to see her boyfriend sulking. He was just too adorable for words.

She leaned across the counter, cradling his jaw with her hand. She looked into his eyes, whispering against his lips. “Happy Birthday, baby.” And with that, she gave him the kiss he had obviously been waiting for.

She could feel him smiling against her lips, causing her to smile as well. She parted her lips, allowing him to gain deeper access, when Noah started squirming.

“Cake!”

Max and Liz broke apart when they heard him speak.

Max bit back his laugh, instead opting to touch his lips that were now covered in Liz’s lip gloss.

“Cake?” He ran his hand down his son’s back. “Sorry buddy, but cake isn’t until later.”

Noah kicked his legs forward, his arms bouncing. “Cake!”

Max turned him around so that they were facing each other. “What is it with you and cake?”

Liz felt her cheeks warm up. She gave Max a sheepish grin. “I sort of told him he could have cake as a reward for staying quiet while we tried to do our surprise.”

Max nodded his head in understanding. “Well, now you know the secret to getting an Evans man to do something for you.”

“Huh?”

Max grinned at her, stepping off of the stool to stand up. “If you promise an Evans man with something sweet, then you’re guaranteed to have them at your mercy.”

A smile tugged on the corners of Liz’s mouth.

She reached her hand out to Max, walking around the counter to his side.

“I’ll have to keep that in mind.”

She gave him a wink, leading him towards the rows of tables of food that they had prepared.

He grinned at her, squeezing her hand.

Part 48

***************

Kyle took a seat beside Maria, following her gaze.

“You think after being married seven years, those two would have gotten past the whole PDA part of the relationship.” Maria shook her head as she watched her mother and her step father whisper and cuddle like they were still teenagers.

Kyle laughed, wrapping his arm around Maria. “Tell me about it. I had to ask Mr. P to give me extra hours just so it would get me out of the house. You think out of the four of us, those two were the teenagers.”

“At least they’re happy. I mean, that’s pretty much all that matters, I guess.” She gave him a sideways glance, flashing him with a bright smile. “It could’ve been worse. I mean they could have ended up being with someone else, and well, you know, I probably would have missed out on the pleasures of fighting with you for the bathroom.”

Kyle pulled back a little, his smile growing a little wider. “Why, are you actually saying that you enjoy being my sister?”

Maria turned serious, as she reached for Kyle’s hand. “Yeah. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” She gave his hand a squeeze, delighting in the fact that she made him blush.

Kyle cleared his throat, trying to act unaffected. “Yeah, well, same here.” He placed a kiss on her temple, hugging her close to his side.

His gaze traveled across the room, finally landing on the person he was looking for.

Courtney was standing at the food table, laughing and talking with Max, Liz, and Noah. For a brief second, she had looked up, catching his eye. She gave him a smile, causing him to sigh. Could she be anymore beautiful?

“Why don’t you just go over there and talk to her?”

“Huh?” Kyle looked down at Maria, wondering when she had started speaking again. He sat up, his gaze returning to Courtney. “What were you saying?”

“I said, why don’t you just talk to Courtney, already. You obviously want to, why not just do it.”

Kyle glanced back and forth to Maria and Courtney. “Me, talking to Courtney? I-I can’t do that Maria.” He let his gaze linger on Courtney, heaving a heavy sigh. “I just can’t.”

“Oh come on. If you can handle babysitting, then you can certainly handle talking to a girl. I mean, it isn’t as if you never talked to one before. You talk to me and Liz all the time.”

“You and Liz don’t count. You guys are practically my family. Courtney, well, she’s different. I just can’t talk to her like I do you guys.”

“Why not?”

“Because.......she’s, I just don’t want her to think I’m stupid. I’ve had the reputation of class clown since we were kids. What if-

Maria placed her hand on his shoulder. “Look, Kyle. You’ll never know if you don’t try. If you make a fool of yourself, it’s ok. Things like that are temporary. People forget. But regret is permanent. You’ll never forgive yourself if you pass up on this opportunity. You‘ll always be left wondering, what if......”

Maria stood up, pulling Kyle along with her. She grabbed his arm, looping hers through it. She started walking towards the food table.

Kyle felt himself being dragged along, panic setting in, when he saw where they were headed. ”Maria, what are you doing?” he hissed between clenched teeth.

She smirked at him, finally dragging him the last few steps to the table. “Doing a little intervening.”

**********

“Alex, I still can’t believe you guys went through all of this trouble, just for me and Max. It’s just, just...” she smiled, planting a kiss on his cheek.

“Thank you, Alex. I’m completely, and utterly speechless.”

Alex could feel the blush starting from the base of his neck, finally settling on the tips of his ears. “It’s not....no problem....” he grinned. “I’m just glad that you’re happy.”

Isabel linked their fingers together, giving his hand a good squeeze. “I’m always happy when I’m with you.”

This time, the blush refused to leave Alex’s face. It was like a permanent fixture now. But he didn’t mind it too much. Being with Isabel just made him happy.

“The same goes for me too.” He placed a soft kiss right between her eyebrows, his fingers gently caressing her knuckles. “Always.”

They both looked up to the sound of someone clearing their throat. “Sorry to interrupt, guys. But I was wondering if you guys have seen Maria. I just popped into the kitchen for a second, and the next thing I knew, she was gone.”

Alex watched Michael scratch the side of his eyebrow. “I think she was with Kyle a little while ago.” His eyes did a quick scan of the cafe, finally landing on Maria’s blonde curls. “Oh, there she is.”

Michael followed where Alex was looking. He smiled when his eyes landed on Maria.

Without taking another look in Alex’s direction, he waved, saying his thanks.

When he made his way over to Maria, he wrapped his arms around her, taking in the sweet scent of her hair.

She looked up at him, smiling as she wrapped her hand around his. “Hey. I was wondering where you ran off to.”

“It was nothing.”

She gave him a coy smile. “So, does that mean that we can have some fun now?”

“Sure, anything you wanna do.”

Maria pulled out of his embrace, pulling him towards the center of the room. “I wanna dance.”

Michael’s feet were rooted firmly to the floor. “I don’t dance.” He crossed his arms, trying to stick to his guns.

Maria gave him a pout. “But you said you would do anything I wanted, and I want to dance.” She batted her eyelashes, reaching out to touch him. “Please, pretty please?”

Michael gave her a scowl, before allowing himself to be lead out to the dance floor.

Maria giggled, glad that she could get Michael to dance with her.

She looked back to where Kyle and Courtney were standing. She just hoped that they would get the hint.

********

When Alex saw Maria and Michael head out to the dance floor, he stood up, extending his hand to Isabel. “May, I?”

She took his hand, allowing him to help her stand up. “Why, thank you.”

Alex lead them to the center of the room, wrapping his arms around Isabel.

The two of them swayed to the music, just enjoying being in the presence of the other.

********

Liz nudged Max with her elbow. “So, what do you say Mr. tall, dark, and handsome. You wanna dance?”

Max shrugged his shoulders, crossing his arms across his chest. “I don’t know. I’m still a little upset that you called me a liar.” He pretended to act upset.

Liz rubbed her hand across his shoulders, bringing her hands to wrap around his neck. “Oh, I’m sorry, baby. I was only kidding.”

When he still wouldn’t budge, she stepped closer to him, so that there was but a breath between them. “Tell you what? If you forgive me, I promise to make it worth your while.” She flashed him a mischievous grin.

Max’s curiosity was piqued. He raised an eyebrow at her, trying to keep his lips from forming the smile that so desperately wanted to escape. “Well, I do say you’ve got me intrigued. What exactly did you have in mind?”

Liz closed the space between them, leaning to the side so that she could whisper in his ear. “Like I said before, a girl’s got to keep her secrets, Max. I guess you’ll just have to wait and find out.” She nipped at his earlobe, smiling when she felt him shiver.

“So, how about that dance?”

Max practically dragged her to the dance floor, immediately wrapping his arms around her.

He kept her close, so close that they could feel each other’s body with every move they made.

Max buried his face in her neck, taking a deep breath.

Liz was going to be the death of him.

********

Kyle rocked back on his heels, watching as all of his friends paired of. He sighed, jamming his hands in his pockets.

If only he was so lucky. But he was never that lucky. He would never-

“Hey, Kyle.”

Kyle looked up to see his dreamgirl, standing right beside him. And she was, she was actually talking to him. Heck, she even knew his name.

Kyle tried to get his voice to work, but he had to swallow a few times first. “H-hey, C-courtney.”

Kyle felt like kicking himself for sounding like such an idiot. He couldn’t even talk to her without stuttering. He chose to look at his feet, not feeling worthy enough to look her in the eyes.

“Do you want to dance?”

His eyes flew up to the sound of her voice. Had he just heard her right? Was she asking him to dance? Him, class clown, Valenti?

When he didn’t answer right away, Courtney backed up, feeling embarrassed. “It’s, it’s ok. Don’t worry about it.”

She turned around, feeling her cheeks flame up. What had possessed her to be so bold as to ask Kyle Valenti to dance with her? He probably thought that she was just some geeky girl who did nothing but study. Which actually wasn’t far from the truth. She was just some geeky girl.

She kept walking, intending to hide herself in one of the booths, when she felt a hand on her arm. She turned around, looking to see who it was that had stopped her retreat.

Her breath was caught in her throat, when she saw Kyle smiling at her.

“Courtney, I’d love with to dance with you, that is, if you, you know, still want to.”

She saw the smile on his face, causing a smile to form on her own. “I still want to.”

Kyle held out his hand to her, wrapping her hand in his.

As they got to the dance floor, he whispered in her ear. “I guess this would be a good time to tell you, that I’m a terrible dancer.”

She grinned, pulling his hand around her waist. She let her hands link behind his neck. “That’s ok. We can be terrible together.”

Together.

He liked the sound of that.

Kyle felt himself tripping over his own feet, stepping on Courtney’s toe. He gave her an apologetic look. “Sorry. I told you I was terrible.”

“Don’t worry about it. Just relax.” Just as the words left her mouth, she felt herself stepping on his foot. “Ooops. Sorry.” She gave him a sheepish grin.

The two of them burst into laughter, both realizing how terrible they really were at dancing. But neither of them cared all too much. They were having the time of their lives.




All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 18-Sep-2001 4:02:50 PM
Part 48

************

Max ran his fingertips across Liz’s back, pulling her closer in his embrace as they continued to dance. His fingers would alternate running through her thick tresses, and the straps that held together her halter top together.

“Have I told you today how much I love you?” he whispered against her ear, his warm breath causing goosebumps to form on her soft skin.

Shivering slightly, Liz shook her head. “Nope.”

His warm lips brushed against the outer shell of her ear before making it’s way to her face. He kissed each of her temples, between her eyes, the tip of her nose, finally making contact with her luscious lips.

His kisses were feather light, almost as if a ghost were kissing her.

“I love you soo much, Liz.” He nuzzled her cheek with his. “Soo, much.”

His amber eyes burned into hers, his love for her, pouring out of them.

Liz felt her eyes water, and her throat to choke up. With those simple words, with that simple look, he had managed to show her just how much he loved her. How much he cared for her.

She could feel her heart soaring, knowing that she was on the receiving end of such beauty, such love. She would do everything in her power to make sure Max knew and felt the love that she felt for him, for the rest of their lives.

Most people would think that it would be immature to think that she and Max would be together forever, but somehow, someway, she just knew that what she and Max had was special. What they shared only comes once in a lifetime.

He was her first love, her one true love. And although she wasn’t his first love, he had proved to her that she was his first true love. With every gesture, with every look, he had told her that she was it for him. And nothing was going to change that.

“I love you too, Max.”

He smiled that half smile of his, eliciting a smile from her. He placed a soft kiss just above her brow, gathering her close to his body again.

Words weren’t needed, for they shared a connection deeper than that. It was almost as if they could connect on a higher plane.

They swayed to the last few bars of the song, only coming apart to hold each other’s hands when the song ended.

Everyone else had gathered around the table the had the food on it.

“Time for cake!”

Michael came out of the back, carrying a cake with the candles lit.

The lights were lowered just a touch, as people started singing.

Max gathered Isabel to his side, and carried Noah in his other arm.

Michael brought the cake towards them, stopping a few steps away from them. With shaky hands, he held out the cake to them, a smile lighting up his face.

All Max and Isabel could do was smile as they continued to sing. Everyone they cared about and loved was in this room. Life simply couldn’t get better than this.

As the song ended, Michael spoke up. “Alright, time to blow out the candles cos this cake is heavy.”

Laughs were heard across the room.

Max and Isabel looked at each other, getting ready to blow out the candles.

“Make your wish.”

Max shook his head. “I can’t.”

“Why not?”

Max looked towards Liz who was standing a few feet away smiling at them. “Because, all of my wishes have already come true.”

Isabel smiled, leaning her head against Max’s. “I know what you mean. All of mine have come true too.”

The two of them shared a smile, the same idea popping into their heads.

Max shifted Noah so that he was between him and Isabel.

“You wanna blow out the candles little man?”

Noah’s eyes were fixated to the bright colored frosting on the cake. “Cake!”

Everyone laughed when they heard his voice.

“How about we all blow the candles together?” Isabel looked at her nephew and her brother.

Michael’s eyes lit up. “Sounds good to me, cos this cake ain’t getting any lighter.”

The laughs started again, as Isabel, Max, and Noah blew out the candles.

When they were done, a chorus of cheers and claps were heard.

Michael put the cake on the table, and started cutting out slices for everyone.

********

Max and Liz had secured a booth in the back, as they ate their slices of cake. Noah was in his booster seat, doing his best to get the cake into his mouth, but only succeeding in getting the frosting all over his face.

With a soft chuckle, Liz reached over with a napkin to wipe Noah’s face clean.

“Poor guy, he’s been dying for cake and now that he has some, he can’t seem to get it into his mouth.”

“Yeah, well I think he enjoys getting himself messy just as much as he does eating the cake.”

As Liz continued to wipe down Noah’s face, he reached the table, taking another handful of cake.
With an opened palm, he held out the cake towards Liz.

Liz gave him a look, wondering what he was doing.

Max leaned over her shoulder, nodding in Noah’s direction. “He wants to share with you.”

Liz only nodded. She took Noah’s little hand, scooping a little frosting with her finger, then popping into her mouth. She smiled, placing a sweet kiss on his cheek. “Thanks precious.”

With a playful smile, Liz reached for Noah’s hand, directing it towards Max’s face. “Now, let’s see if daddy wants some cake.” With that, she smacked Noah’s cake covered hand into Max’s face.

Max was too stunned to say anything at first, but when he heard the giggles erupt from both Noah and Liz, he couldn’t help but laugh.

Reaching over for a napkin, Max wiped his face clean. “Ha ha. Very funny.”

Liz held out Noah’s clean hand, so that she could him a high five. She looked back up at Max, a devilish smile on her lips. “Yeah, I thought so.”

Max threw the used napkin on the table, a devious smile playing against his lips. “Well, Ms. Parker. You do know what the say about payback being a b-

Liz promptly reached out to cover Max’s mouth. “Hey, we’re in the presence of a very young and impressionable mind here.” She gave him a little wink. “You should know better, daddy.”

The teasing tone in her voice only made Max love her even more. He placed a kiss on her palm, placing it on his thigh. He reached his arm around her shoulders, pulling her tight to his side. He flipped her long dark her over her shoulder, whispering in her ear. “You’re right. I should know better, but know this, Liz. You aren’t going to get away with it that easily.”

He nuzzled her neck with his nose, finally nipping on her earlobe, just as she had done to him earlier.

Liz shivered against his touch. Her eyes were clenched closed, and her hand on his thigh held on for dear life.

Max smiled at the sight of Liz, glad that he wasn’t the only one that could get so lost easily.

“Time for presents!” Maria held out a gift bag, waving it in Max’s direction.

Max nodded at Maria, then returned his attention back to Liz. He reached for her hand that was clawing away at his thigh. He placed another tender kiss on it, then a kiss on her bare shoulder.

“C’mon babe. You heard Maria, it’s time for presents.” With that, he picked up Noah and vacated the booth, leaving a very sexually frustrated Liz.

Liz blew out a breath, letting her head fall back.

Oh yeah. Payback was definitely going to be a bitch!

Part 49

*************

After taking a few moments to compose herself, Liz stood up to join the others.

If Max wanted to play dirty, she was definitely up for it. Just because he was the birthday boy, it didn’t mean that he could get away with murder.

Watch out Max Evans, cos Liz Parker was a woman on a mission. Maybe it was about time that Max had a taste of his own medicine.

Maria had arranged the chairs so that they were all facing each other in a big circle. She had sat Max, Isabel, and Noah at the top of the circle with everyone gathered around them. They had placed the gifts in the middle of the circle for easy access.

Maria could barely contain herself, she was so excited. It was as if she was the one who was celebrating their birthday.

"Ok you guys, open up my gifts first." She held her presents out to Max and Isabel, her excitement just oozing from her pores.

As she did so, Liz made her way over to Max, taking a seat beside him. She let her hand rub across his muscular shoulders, giving him a seductive smile.

Max felt the hairs on his arms stand to attention. In the short few minutes that he had teased Liz, the air had cackled, changing the direction of who was in charge. Of who was going to win this game. How she managed to turn the tables on him every time, he’d never know.

If someone had asked him a minute ago who he thought would win in this battle, he would have said him, but now, watching his angel sit next to him, with that sexually charged smile, and those doe eyes that burned with passion, he knew that without a doubt, that he would be the loser.

Liz was no longer an innocent angel, but instead, a beautiful temptress.

Max gulped, trying to hide the fact that he was so easily affected by Liz. Just because he knew that chances of him winning this game was slim to none, it didn’t mean that he couldn’t at least try. Might as well go down fighting, he thought.

He knew that he had the same effect on her as she did on him. His earlier display had proved that. With that thought, a cocky smile plastered itself on his lips.

Maybe he wasn’t such a lost cause after all.

He was broken out of his thoughts by Isabel’s voice. "Thank you soo much, Maria. This is absolutely wonderful. I love it. It must have taken you forever to make it."

"Oh, it was nothing. I’m glad you like it."

Isabel threw her arms around Maria, pulling the smaller blonde in a tight embrace. When they pulled back, Isabel hugged the knitted blanket to her chest before draping it over her shoulders.

"It’s your turn, Max." Maria passed him her present.

Max reached over, giving Maria a gracious smile. He pulled open the gift bag, digging through the mountains of tissue paper.

"Geez, Deluca. What’d you give him? Tissue paper?"

Maria slapped Alex across his chest with the back of her hand, giving him a playful glare on account of his good natured teasing.

As usual, the room erupted in laughter.

Liz leaned over, letting her fingers brush along Max’s, taking the tissue paper from his hands. Her long hair, cascading over his arm, giving him a sensual assault. "Here, let me get that for you."

"T-thanks." Max cringed when he heard himself stutter.

Way to go, Max! That’s the way to win, he thought sarcastically.

He just couldn’t help himself. Everywhere Liz touched him, it was as if electric currents were being sent through his body. His body becoming hyper sensitive.

Taking a second, he straightened his shoulders, reaching into the gift bag. He had to play it cool from now on.

He pulled out a book, a smile on his face when he realized what it was.

"Of Mice and Men....how did you know?"

Maria gave him a broad smile. "Well, a while back, you mentioned that your favorite author was Steinbeck, and that Of Mice and Men was your favorite book. I remember you said that you were a little upset because you had misplaced the book when you guys moved out here, and well, I thought that maybe you could use a new copy."

Max stood up, letting the gift bag fall to the floor. He pulled Maria from her seat, enveloping her in his strong arms. "I can’t believe you remembered........Thank you, Maria," he whispered, placing a kiss on her cheek.

Michael stood up, pulling Maria from Max’s embrace. "Ok, I think that’s enough hugging and kissing. Besides," he tilted his head to the side, a sly grin on his face. "You already have a beautiful woman over there."

Max looked to where Liz was sitting.

Yep. He certainly did have his own, beautiful lady. His smile broadened when he saw Liz’s cheeks flush at Michael’s words. It was hard to believe that she was the same woman who was being overly suggestive to him just a few minutes ago. Not that he minded. It just made her that much more endearing to him.

"Ok, more presents."

Maria handed Max and Isabel both an envelope.

Kyle waved at them from where he was comfortably sitting beside Courtney. "Those are from me."

Max tore the envelope open, pulling out a ticket.

"It’s a years subscription to Sports Illustrated. I know how busy you are, so I thought I’d give you a chance to catch up with all the happenings in the world of sports." He explained.

Max smiled. "Thanks. I know I’ll definitely get a use out of these."

"Yeah, well just make sure you don’t line the bathroom floors with them." Isabel, joked.

She sat up, ripping her envelope open. "I guess it’s my turn." She held up the piece of paper, reading it against the light. "A $20 gift certificate to Bath and Body Works."

Kyle shrugged his shoulders. "See, I wasn’t really sure what you’re into, and well, Maria and Liz are always buying stuff there, I thought that maybe it was a chick thing."

Isabel gave him a bright smile. "Well thank you, Kyle. It was very sweet of you."

Maria handed another envelope to Isabel.

Isabel opened it, reading the card. "To Max, and Isabel. Hope you have a wonderful birthday. Love Courtney." Isabel looked up, smiling at her. "Thank you, Courtney." She pulled out a ticket. "Ooh, it’s another gift certificate."

Max pulled the ticket away from Isabel. "A gift certificate for Amazon.com," he flashed Courtney a smile. "Thanks, Courtney."

Courtney looked at the twins from lowered lashes. "You’re welcome."

Maria picked up two rectangular shaped gifts, wrapped in newspaper. "And these, are from Michael."

Michael scratched his head, ruffling his unruly hair. "Sorry about the wrapping. I, uh, you know, money’s a little tight....." he trailed off, not finishing his sentence. Everyone knew that he was an emancipated minor, and that he basically had to fend for himself, but he still didn’t like to talk about. Not even with Maria.

"You didn’t have to get us something-

Michael interrupted Max. "I know, but I wanted to. It isn’t much, but I thought.....I thought you guys might like it." He sat back, and watched with baited breath as Isabel tore her gift open.

Isabel pulled the newspaper away, letting it fall to the floor. She felt tears well up in her eyes as her finger traced the glass frame. Inside was a sketch of the stars at night. She could even see all the different constellations.

Isabel walked up to Michael, placing a kiss on his cheek. "Thank you....." She was speechless for a second. "How did, how did you know that I loved to look at the stars?"

Michael sat back, trying not to get emotional. "Alex may have mentioned something."

Isabel smiled, giving his hand a squeeze. "Thank you. I had no idea you were this talented."

"Yo-you’re welcome."

Isabel returned to her seat, placing her hand in Alex’s. She mouthed the words thank you to him, letting her head rest on his shoulder.

Max looked at the package in his hands, finally tearing away at the newspaper. His breath was caught in his throat when he saw what the sketch was of.

It was him and Liz sitting in a booth, with Noah sitting in between them. All of them smiling, just as if they were a little family. Max let his finger trace the exquisite detail in which Michael had drawn, Noah.

He stood up, pulling Michael into a manly hug. "I don’t know how to thank you, Michael......this, you don’t know how much this means to me."

Michael was going to pretend that he was unaffected by Max’s response to his gift.

Screw what people were going to say. He was around everyone that he loved. He threw his arms around Max, giving him a pat on the back. "No problem, man. Seeing how much you like it, well, that’s thanks enough."

They pulled back, smiling.

Max wiped at the tears that had formed in his eyes. "How did you even get, the sketch?"

"It wasn’t too hard, not when you and Noah practically live at the Crashdown."

Chuckles bubbled forth, the mood once again changing.

Liz pulled the last two gifts from the floor.

She handed one to Isabel, and one to Max.

Isabel sifted through the tissue paper, pulling out an embroided pillow. On it had stars and the words Stargazer written at the bottom.

Liz gave her a sheepish grin. "Alex gave me the idea of the stars, and well, Maria and I worked together. She knitted, and I did the needlework on the pillow."

"I love it, thank you."

The two shared a hug.

Max opened his gift bag, pulling out a cd.

Alex spoke up, trying to explain his gift. "That one’s from me. Liz told me who all of your favorite bands were, so I made you a compilation cd."

"Cool. Thanks." Max grinned at Alex, before scanning the track listing.

Kyle spoke up, pulling a large gift from behind his back. "Well, we do have one last gift, but it isn’t for the two of you." He walked over to where Noah was sitting on the floor, playing with the used gift wrappers.

"We all chipped in, figuring we would get the little guy something, that way, he wouldn’t feel left out."

Max leaned down, brushing away Noah’s hair from his face. "You guys didn’t have to do that."

Kyle shook his head. "But we wanted to." He pushed the box towards Noah, sitting cross legged in front of him. "Here you go, little buddy. This is for you, from all of us."

Noah looked at the package curiously, gently fingering the colored wrapping.

"Here, let me help you." Kyle ripped open the wrapping, smiling when Noah joined him.

Noah was giggling and smiling, having the time of his life. He tore away at the packaging, loving that he was allowed to make a mess.

Max sat on the floor, pulling Noah into his lap. "Look at that little man. It’s a car."

He whispered into Noah’s ear. "Say thank you, little man."

Noah clapped his hands together. "Dank doo!"

"You’re welcome, little fella." Kyle ruffled his hair, before pulling the rest of the gift wrap off, opening up the box.

He stood up, scratching the side of his head. "Uh guys, the car isn’t assembled yet."

"What?" Michael stood up, bringing Maria with him.

Maria burst into laughter. "Didn’t you guys read the package first, before you bought it?"

Alex crossed his arms. "I guess we know to do that now."

Mr. Evans stood up, taking the contents out of the box. "Here, why don’t I give you guys a hand."

************

45 minutes later

Kyle, Alex, Michael, Jim, and Phillip, all hovered around the toy car, trying to get it assembled so that Noah could play with it.

Liz sat down next Max, laying her head on his shoulder. "Just so you know, I did get you something, but I want to wait until everyone is gone before I give it to you."

Max kissed her forehead. "You didn’t have to do that."

"I know, I wanted to."

The two of them chuckled when they heard Kyle’s voice.

"Maybe next year, we could give Noah a box instead." He pointed to Noah who was sitting in the box that the car came in. He was pretending it was a car, talking and laughing to himself.

Alex clapped Kyle on the shoulder. "You maybe right. It would sure as hell be cheaper."

Once again, the room was filled with giggles, as they gathered around, watching Noah play with the box.

Part 50

****************

The party had wound down with people saying their goodbyes.

Diane held her grandson in her arms, waiting for Phillip to get their things together.

She turned when she felt a tap on her shoulder. A soft smile made it’s way to her lips when she saw who it was. “Hey, Max. You ready to go?”

“Actually, I was wondering if Izzy and I could stay a little longer. We sort of wanted to help clean up. I mean it’s the least we could do.” Max’s eyes danced around the Crashdown, eyeing the mess that everyone had made.

Diane smiled, securing Noah tightly to her chest. “Sure, honey. Daddy, and I will just take Noah with us.” She looked at Noah’s sleeping form in her arms.

“You guys don’t mind, do you?” Max reached over, running his hand down his son’s back.

“Of course not.” She brushed the hair out of Max’s eyes, looking at him with concern. “Just don’t be home too late, ok?”

“Promise.” He hugged his mom, walking her out to the car.

**************

“You guys don’t mind if I take a few balloons home with me do you?” Maria was busy tying a balloon to her wrist as she spoke.

“Help yourself. I feel terrible that all of these decorations are gonna go to waste.” Isabel grabbed a few of the streamers that littered the floor, throwing them into one of the black garbage bags.

Maria assessed the dining room as she headed towards Liz. “Are you sure that you’re gonna be fine with the rest of this stuff?”

“No problem. I’ve got it under control. Don’t even worry about it.” Liz pushed Maria in Michael’s direction, her voice filled with laughter. “C’mon, Michael. Get her out of here!”

Michael threw his arm over Maria’s shoulders, throwing a nod at Liz. “You don’t need to tell me twice. Later, Liz!”

Maria was about to say something else, but Michael pushed her to the front doors. “We’ll see you guys later.” He gave a little wave, pausing to say something else. “Oh, and happy birthday again, Isabel!”

“Thanks!” Isabel called out to them with a smile.

Kyle came out from the kitchen, his eyes scanning the room for Michael and Maria. “Hey, where’d Michael and Maria go?”

“You just missed them.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Annoyance was evident in his voice. “They were supposed to be my ride.”

Courtney looked up from where she was tying up one of the garbage bags closed. “I could give you a ride.”

Kyle couldn’t keep the excited grin from his lips. “That would be......that would be great.” He pulled on his jacket, making his way to where Courtney was standing. “Are you sure you don’t mind?”

Courtney nervously tucked her hair behind her ears. “No, not at all.”

“Great!” Kyle took the trash from her hands, holding his other hand out to Courtney.

Smiling, she placed her hand in his, letting him lead her to wherever it was they were going.

“We’ll just get rid of this on our way out, then we’re leaving, so, bye guys!”

A chorus of goodbyes were heard as Courtney and Kyle left, leaving Liz, Alex, and Isabel inside.

Liz pulled Alex to the side, making sure that Isabel couldn’t hear what they were saying. “So, are you still going to take Isabel for that drive?”

Alex watched Isabel from the corner of his eye. “Yeah. I’ve still got to give her my present.”

Grinning, Liz propelled Alex in Isabel’s direction. “Good! Why don’t you go ahead and do that right now?”

Alex stumbled forward a little, giving Liz a curious look. “Are you sure? What about the rest of this stuff?”

“Don’t worry about it. Max and I will get it.”

Upon hearing Max’s name, Alex nodded in understanding. “Ok, sure. I get it.”

He tugged on Isabel’s elbow, getting her attention. “Hey, what do you say we go for a drive? I still haven’t given you your present yet, and-

“Right now?” Isabel looked around the room. “What about all of this stuff?”

“Oh. Liz said not to worry about. She has everything under control.” With his head tilted to the side, and a goofy grin on his lips, Alex held his hand out to her. “Coming?”

Isabel wanted nothing more than to spend some time alone with Alex, but she felt bad leaving all of the work to Liz. She shot a look in Liz’s direction.

Liz just smiled at her, waving the two of them away. “Go on, you two. Get out of here before I change my mind.”

With her hand hanging right above Alex’s, Isabel gave Liz one last look. “You’re sure?”

Liz pushed the two of them towards the front door, laughing as she did. “Yes! Now go on! Scoot!”

When both of them were outside, Liz made sure that she secured the locks on the front door.

“Where’d everyone go?”

Liz turned around slowly, a wicked grin on her lips. “Oh, they all had to leave. You know, busy people, places to be.” She walked past Max, but he grabbed a hold of her waist, the two of them spinning.

“And your parents? I don’t think I saw them all night.”

Liz placed a delicate finger on his shoulder, letting it run down his chest before placing the palm of her hand against him. “Oh, they had to go to Albuquerque. They won’t be back till tomorrow.” She let her eyes rake over his handsome face, her tongue unconsciously licking her lips. “Something about them trying to get a good deal on some new fryers for the Crash.”

Max nodded, his eyes glued to her lips. “Right. So, does that.......”

Smiling, Liz nodded, her head leaning forward. “Yep. It’s just to two of us.” She ran her hands up across his shoulders, squeezing and kneading as she went.

Max’s hands wrapped around her small frame, gripping her around the waist to bring her at face level with him. He could feel her breaths hit his face in small warm puffs. She was so close, he could almost taste her.

Tilting his head to accommodate their lips meeting. Max let his eyes flutter close, his hand coming up to cradle the back of her head. He could feel her leaning in closer, her warmth surrounding him everywhere.

Just when he expected their lips to meet, he was abruptly pushed backwards. He stumbled back, trying to get his footing. He felt a little light headed, his mind trying to figure out what just happened. His eyes finally focused on Liz who had her back turned to him.

His eyes traveled down her body, finally landing on her slender hips. He watched as they swayed, side to side; her short skirt swishing across her shapely thighs.

He continued to watch with mounting interest as she bent down, picking up a wayward party decoration. His eyes were trained on her trim legs as they stretched when she started to return to a standing position.

He watched as her barely there skirt rode up her creamy legs, exposing more of her soft skin. Max stifled back a groan, his eyes landing on her tight little tush.

If he didn’t know any better, he would say that she was deliberately trying to torture him.

But she wouldn’t do that to him, right? Not his sweet, innocent, Liz?

Just then, her head whipped around, her body still bent down, a suggestive smile on her lips. “Enjoying the view?”

Max almost choked at his own surprise. His face a deep crimson.

Returning to an upright position, Liz turned to face him, finally throwing a party hat at him. “Back to work, birthday boy!”

Her sultry laugh filled the air, as she made her way back towards the kitchen.

Max let his hand run across his face. He could hardly believe it. She had played him.

When his hand fell away, a fiendish smile made it’s way to his lips.

So Liz wanted to play, huh?

Well let the games begin!


Part 51

Rating: R for suggestiveness.......

**********

Max pushed the swinging doors open to find Liz inside the kitchen, putting away the uneaten food.

“Anything I can help you with?”

Slightly startled, Liz looked up to see Max leaning against the door frame, a mischievous smile on his lips. His dark hair fell over his eyes, accenting their amber color. She watched as his biceps flexed when he crossed his arms across his chest, his muscular torso practically bursting at the seams of his shirt.

Hummanah, hummanah...........Liz could feel her jaw drop to the floor and her eyes bug out of her head, seeing his casual stance.

Damn!

How could he manage to be so darned handsome without even trying?

Liz knew that she was ahead in the game they had started, and she wasn’t about to be giving away any freebies. If Max wanted to win, he would definitely have to earn his keep. She’d make him work for it. Just because she was already weak in the knees, it didn’t mean that he had to know that.

She walked towards the sink, shaking her head. “Nope. I’m just, just, just about done in here. Just have to wash these dishes.” She walked to the sink, taking a deep breath. She had to calm herself down a little. He had managed to turn her into a blubbering fool in just a matter of seconds.

Boy, was she in trouble.

She turned on the faucet, waiting for the water to warm up.

Good, Liz. Just wash the dishes, and play it cool. Pretend that he’s not even there.

Liz almost groaned out loud when she felt Max come up behind her, his body flush against hers. His arms reached around her waist, his hands going under the stream of water.

Liz clenched her eyes closed, taking deep and even breaths.

How was she supposed to pretend he wasn’t there, when she could feel every move he made behind her? His warm breath was on her neck, the slight stubble on his chin, grazing her skin.

“You don’t mind if I wash my hands first, do you?” The smile was evident in his voice.

Liz forced herself to open her eyes, only to find herself looking into Max’s warm amber pools.

Biting back a curse, Liz shook her head, giving him a fake sugary smile. “Not at all.”

“Thanks.”

Liz saw the cocky grin pass his lips as he turned his attention back to washing his hands.

Keep on smiling, Max, because this victory of yours isn‘t going to last much longer.

Liz reached to the side to get the soap. She made sure to bump and grind her tush into Max’s body. Once she had the soap in her possession, she poured the liquid all over her hands. She reached forward, grabbing Max’s hands, lathering up both of their hands. She massaged each of his hands, letting his fingers slip through her own.

Liz had to bite her bottom lip to keep from laughing out loud. She could feel Max’s breathing get heavier, his chest heaving with the effort. She felt him take a step back, his body no longer hugging hers. There was a slight tremor in his hands as she let her hands glide across the soapy texture of his.

When she was satisfied that she had cleaned both of their hands, she pulled their hands forward, letting the warm water wash away the soap. Liz grabbed a hold of his hand, turning it so that his palm was facing the spray. She let her index finger trace a line from the top of his middle finger, all the way down to his wrist. She repeated the process, giving his other hand the same treatment.

Smiling, she reached for the towel that hung just beside them, drying his hands with it. “All done.”

“Th-thanks....”

He made sure to put as much space between them. He didn’t want her to feel just how much she had affected him.

“I’m just,” he pointed to the service table, “I’m gonna, I’ll just wait until you’re done.”

“Ok.”

Liz returned to washing the dishes. With Max on the other side of the room, she was given a reprieve. From here, she could figure out her next move.

That had been a close one.

“Liz?”

She looked up to see him perched on the service table, a sheepish grin on his lips.

“Yes?”

He pointed to the left over cake on the table. “You don’t mind if I eat the rest, do you?”

Liz had to laugh at the image he presented. He looked just like a little boy, at a candy store.

“Sure, hun. Help yourself.”

“Thanks.” Max reached beside him, devouring what was left of the birthday cake.

By the time Liz had washed all of the dishes, Max had eaten all of the cake.

Liz could hardly believe what she was seeing.

Max was licking his fingers, frosting decorating the corners of his lips.

“You ate the whole thing?”

Max gave her a broad smile, his white teeth showing. “What can I say, I’m a growing boy.” He gave his stomach a pat, a belly laugh erupting from his lips.

Liz sauntered over to him, coming to stand in between his spread legs. She placed her palms against his thighs, rubbing them up and down. “Well, growing boy. You seem to have missed a few spots.”

“I, I have?” Max looked into her face, then down to her hands that had suddenly begun tracing invisible patterns on his thighs.

“Uh huh.” She reached out her pointer finger, wiping off the frosting from the corner of his lip. “Right, here.” She held out her finger, a teasing glint in her eyes.

Max took her hand, letting it hover right above his lips before letting his tongue flick out to lick the tip of her finger clean. “Anything else, I missed?”

“Yeah.”

He gave her a feral grin, letting her wrist free. He watched as her finger scooped up the rest of the frosting that was residing on the side of his lip.

She held out her finger to him, waiting for him to repeat the process.

He obliged her, except, instead of just flicking the tip of her finger with his tongue, he grabbed her by the wrist, his mouth opening to accommodate her whole finger. He closed his lips around her finger, creating suction, when he let her finger go with a pop.

“Is that it?” His voice was deeper now, his eyes almost black with desire.

Liz nodded, her hair flying across her bare shoulders. “Yep. All gone.” She stepped away from him, grabbing the rest of the food and putting them in the fridge.

Max frowned. He was sure that he had gotten to her, just as much as she had gotten to him, but with the way she was acting so cool right now....

He jumped off the table, walking around the corner to where the storage fridge was.

He had to clap his hand over his mouth to muffle his laugh when he saw Liz standing with the refrigerator door wide open, trying to cool herself off. It almost looked as if she was trying to climb inside it.

“Ahem.”

Liz practically jumped out of her skin when she heard the rumble of Max’s voice.

With her face burning, she shut the refrigerator door closed, waiting to hear a sly comeback from Max.

But she never heard one.

She looked up to see what was going on, when she felt the heat of Max’s body in front of hers.

His hand reached forward, cradling the side of her face, tilting it so that he could kiss her.

Liz felt herself stumble backwards, until her back was against the stainless steel door of the refrigerator. She hadn’t expected that, but heck, she wasn’t about to complain.

His mouth was devouring hers, mating with hers, fusing their lips together so that it was virtually impossible to tell where he ended and she began.

Her hands reached forward, pulling his body flush with hers. He just couldn’t be close enough.

She whimpered when his lips left hers, leaving a wet trail down the side of her neck. She could feel the bulge increasing in his pants, and she couldn’t help but try to get closer to it.

It was Max’s turn to groan. If he thought Liz brushing up against him earlier was torture, then this was heaven in hell. He let his hand glide down her leg, bringing it up to wrap around his waist, his hips grinding into hers.

The moan that escaped her lips was music to his ears.

“Maaaax....”

It was only when he heard the sound of her voice, did the sexual fog lift from his brain. He backed away slowly, letting her leg fall back to the floor.

With his breathing labored, he leaned his forehead against hers.

She cupped his face in hers hands, her lips reaching out to taste his.

“Let’s go upstairs.”

With a nod of his head, she clasped their hands together, leading him to the back stairs.

Part 52

Rating: Heavy R, bordering NC-17?


**********

Standing outside Liz’s room, Max tightened his grip on her hand.

They both knew what they wanted, that part was obvious, but were they really ready to take that humongous step in their relationship?

If they walked down this road tonight, they knew that there would be no turning back.

He could feel her fear. Not fear of him, but fear of how these events would change their lives forever.

After this, things between them wouldn’t just be simple anymore. Things were about to get complicated, more than they ever could.

He turned to face her, his hand drifting to caress her cheek. “You know, we don’t have to do anything tonight. We could just hold each other, and that would make me happy...” A reverent smile lighting his lips.

“I..I know....but I want, this is...I want...” Liz threw her hand up in frustration. This is not how she envisioned things. She couldn’t seem to find the right words to say. They were practically on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn’t quite let them roll.

“Hey...” Max brought his other hand up to the base of her neck, his thumb running across her collar bone. “Why don’t we just take things one step at a time? Take things as they come.” His voice grew to a whisper, as he tried to calm her jangled nerves. “Let’s not put any pressure on ourselves. Whatever happens, happens.”

Liz gave him a faint smile, leaning into the caress of his hand.

He always knew the right things to say, the right things to do.

Panic rose in her when she thought about how far they might actually get. She wanted nothing more than to make love to Max. She had been ready to, for quite a while now. But this was her first time. She couldn’t imagine ever giving herself to anyone other than Max. Ever.

But she wasn’t his first. How would she compare? She was very inexperienced. The farthest she had ever gone was second base, but even that was stretching the truth.

How could she hold a candle to the girl that gave Max his first son? His first born?

Her thoughts were fleeting when Max’s lips found hers again. His kisses were different this time. It wasn’t demanding like before. It was as if he were reacquainting himself with her lips. His kisses were gentle, feather-like.

Of their own accord, her arms rose, resting on his shoulders, urging him to deepen his kiss. But he wouldn’t allow it.

No. He was going to take his time. He wasn’t going to rush this. Not this time.

His hand fell to the small of her back, pushing her closer to his body.

A soft sigh passed her lips. Max used the opportunity to taste her, his tongue mating with hers. She tasted so sweet. Just like cake, he thought in amusement. But amusement quickly turned into need, when she took control, slowly walking them towards the bed.

Walking backwards until the back of his knees hit the edge of her bed, Max held onto Liz’s elbows for balance. He let her take the lead, letting her do whatever she felt comfortable doing.

Liz gently pushed Max into a sitting position on her bed, pushing him until his back was resting against the headboard. She watched as his chest rose and fell with his labored breathing.

A small smile touched her lips, glad that she could do that to him. That she could put that look of passion in his eyes.

Slowly, ever so slowly, she climbed onto the bed, delicately crawling towards him.

Throwing one leg over both of his, she lowered herself onto his lap.

His eyes watched her every move, wondering what her next advance would be.

She didn’t disappoint. Her elegant fingers brushed the hair from his face, softly coming down to trace his eyebrows, his cheekbones, his lips.

He grabbed a hold of her hand, kissing the tip of each finger. Finally, he placed a kiss on her palm, letting her hand go to do as she pleased.

Liz leaned forward, cupping his strong jaw. She could feel him grinding his teeth, trying in vain not to lose control. He was letting her have free reign, putting himself in check, for her. Liz’s heart swelled to enormous proportions, her love for him growing by the second.

Her lips fluttered against his, a promise of things to come.

She placed open mouthed kisses all over his face, her lips dragging down to his neck. His skin was salty, the cords in his neck pulled taut. Her mouth found the sensitive spot at the hollow of his neck, her nimble fingers reaching for his shirt buttons.

One by one, his buttons snapped open, and kiss by kiss, she moved down his body. With his shirt hanging open, Liz sat back, and for the first time she openly admired his muscular physique. Sure, she had seen him shirtless on a number of occasions, but there was something about the moon shining through the window, casting a pale blue light across his golden skin, that just took her breath away.

He was an Adonis. Well, to put it more correctly, he was her Adonis. The thought only made her giddy, making her eager to take the next big step.

Her fingers danced across his bronzed skin, a secret smile playing on her lips at the sounds of his sharp intake of breath when she touched a sensitive area.

Curiously, she traced around his nipples, watching in silent awe when they hardened at her touch. Her fingers continued their downward journey, stopping to circle his belly button.

She was drawn to the way he was so completely lost. His eyes clenched shut, his hands balled up into fists on the bedspread.

Tracing one last circle on his belly button, her finger went further south, following his happy trail. She was about to snap open the button on his jeans, when his hands came up, halting her movements.

“My turn.” His voice was husky, his eyes a shade darker than it was a minute ago.

His fingers ran through her hair, delighting in the soft, silky texture.

As quick as lightning, he had flipped them over so that he was on top.

Just as she had done to him, he traced the soft curves of her face, his thumb rubbing her bottom lip. Her tongue peeked out from behind her lips, tasting him.

Max leaned over, his lips capturing hers in a breath stealing kiss. His hands ran down her neck, reaching behind her to undo the straps of her halter.

With leisurely pace, he peeled her halter away from her body. Each piece of skin that came to view was like a gift.

His breath caught in his throat when the scrap of material was shed, revealing her milky white breasts.

As a reflex, Liz pulled her arms to cover herself, having never been naked in front of a guy before. Add to that the fact that she was feeling slightly inadequate. She wasn’t a big girl, and she had always heard guys talk about the size of a girl’s rack. What if Max was a breast man? What if he didn’t like what he saw?

All doubt was cast out of her mind, the minute he pulled her arms away from her body.

His voice was tinged with wonder as he spoke. “God, Liz........you’re absolutely beautiful..”

Liz felt the blush start from her chest, reaching all the way to the roots of her hair.

She felt her chin being lifted up, forcing her to look into his eyes, making her see that he meant every word that came from his lips. “So, beautiful....”

His fingers danced across her shoulders, making their descent to her breasts. He watched her pant for breath, an excited gleam in her eyes.

Not able to resist, he leaned down again, letting their mouths meet again. This time, his hands reached down, cupping a breast in each hand.

Liz’s eyes flew open at the sensations that Max’s hands were causing in her body.

His hands squeezed, bouncing her breasts as if they were pieces of fruit. But she felt herself melt when his thumb and forefinger came into contact with her sensitive nipples. He had pulled away from her, watching as his ministrations turned her nipples into hardened peaks.

Scooting back further on her legs, he gave her one last smile before dipping his head down to taste her. Liz’s head fell back, her hands digging through his hair, trying to pull him closer to her. Trying to become one with him.

Her legs came to wrap around his waist, her hips grinding into his. She tried to ease the ache between her legs, but everything that Max was doing to her was just igniting the fire, making the fire burn hotter.

“Maaaaax....” Her voice came out in a strangled cry, her muscles tensing up in anticipation. Anticipation for what, she didn’t know. But she knew that she felt like she was falling. Deep.

Grabbing him by the ears, she pulled him up so that their lips fused together. Oxygen was a thing of the past. So what if they couldn’t breathe?

With all of her strength, she flipped them over so that she was on top. Her mouth refused to part with his, her lower body moving into a frenzy against his arousal.

She didn’t know what was happening to her, but she could feel it building in the pit of her stomach. It was building so high, it was practically begging for release. All she had to do was reach for it.

Max’s hands flew to her hips in an attempt to slow down her frantic movements, but they seemed to have a mind of their own. He gripped her tight, aiding her rabid movement. He was just about ready to die. His head flew back, the cords in his neck straining.

“Maaax.....what’s, what’s h-happening to me?......It, it feels like I’m going to fall....” Her voice sounded strained even to her own ears. What was happening to her? It felt like she was about to fall of a cliff, and all she wanted to do was jump.

His baritone voice was like music to her ears. “It’s ok, baby...Just let it happen....”

And with those words, the bottom dropped out.

Liz felt her body go rigid, finally releasing into sporadic tremors. Different colors flashed across her sight, making her feel slightly light headed. Beads of sweat rolled down her face, the tension in her body suddenly gone. Whimpers escaped her throat as she came back down from her high.

Max’s arms flew around her, bringing her down to lay against his side. With words of love, he brushed the wet tendrils of hair from her face. “I love you, Liz.......Thank you....”

Liz felt like crawling into a hole and dying. Her inexperience was obvious. Max probably thought she was a fool.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” He tilted her chin upwards, giving her no choice but to look into his eyes. “Liz?”

She buried her face in his neck, her warm tears spilling onto her cheeks. “How can you say that? God, I didn’t, you didn’t even-

He silenced her with a finger to her lips. He knew what she was thinking, and he wanted to prove her wrong.

“Look, everything about tonight, what we shared, it was perfect. And I don’t want you thinking otherwise.”

Liz looked at him with teary eyes. “What we shared?” She eyed the ever prominent bulge in his pants, knowing full well that he had yet to receive the same release that she had. With her lack of experience, and her emotions running high, she had only thought of herself.

Max gave a soft chuckle at the sound of her voice. “Ok, you got me.” He shifted to a more comfortable position, making sure that his jeans didn’t pinch. “So I may not be in the most comfortable position right now, but what happened to you, that was more than enough for me. Seeing you that way, that was the best gift you could’ve given me.”

Liz smiled despite herself. She knew that every word that Max spoke was nothing less than the truth. But she just couldn’t help feeling bad.

With a determined look in her eyes, she straddled his hips, her hands popping the button of his jeans open. Right when her fingers pulled his zipper down, an annoying beeping sound reverberated through the room.

His hands stopped the movement of hers, his eyes exchanging mixed emotions. “I really should get that.”

Liz nodded, scooting over to the side of the bed.

Before reaching for his pager, Max brushed his lips against hers.

“Love you....”



All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 21-Sep-2001 2:10:54 PM
Part 53

Rated: R bordering NC-17?


*********

Max dialed Isabel’s cell phone number, trying to figure out why she had paged him.

“Hello?”

“Iz?”

“Max?”

“Yeah, it’s me. What’s up?” Max shifted, trying to find the most comfortable position possible, but realized quickly that it wasn’t going to do any good.

Throwing a quick glance to where Alex had laid a blanket on the desert floor, Isabel turned her head, whispering into the phone. “Look, I’m sorry to be calling and all, but I was wondering if it would be ok if Alex and I stayed out a little longer. We kinda just got here, and well-

Max smiled into the phone, deliriously happy that his time with Liz wasn’t about to be cut short. “No prob, Iz. You and Alex take your time. I’ll just meet you back here at Liz’s later.”

The smile broke out on Isabel’s face. “Thanks, Max. I’ll owe you.”

Max looked back to the bed where Liz had slid under the covers, a secret smile tugging on his lips. “Don’t even worry about, Iz.”

*********

Alex wiped his hands on his pants, walking slowly towards the car to Isabel. “Everything, ok?”

“Yep.” She gave him a big smile, her eyes dancing with excitement. “In fact, everything’s just perfect.”

He returned her smile, reaching for her hand. “Great. C’mon, everything’s ready....”

Isabel bumped her hip against him, a coy smile on her lips. “So, what’s with all the secrecy, anyway? Why wouldn’t you let me see what you were doing up here?”

Reciprocating her movement, he let his hip bump hers, rounding the corner to where he had set up the blanket. “Well, then it wouldn’t be a surprise, now would it Miss Evans?”

Isabel was set to continue their playful banter, but words escaped her when they reached the blanket.

Alex had laid out a flannel blanket on the desert floor. There was a bouquet of yellow roses laying in the center beside a single candle. Of to the side was a thermos, and a small gift bag.

“You did all of this while I was on the phone?” Her voice was filled with wonderment, as she watched his face for his answer.

Looking down, Alex shuffled his feet. “Geez, Isabel. You make it sound like I did something special, or something...”

He felt his chin being pulled up by the tips of her fingers. “But it is. Don’t you see that?” She lead him to the blanket, the two of them sitting down. “No one has ever done anything like this for me before.”

The playfulness was back in Alex’s voice as he started speaking. “I’m glad.” He reached for the flowers that he had bought her, gently giving them to her. “These are for you.”

While he was out buying flowers, he couldn’t quite decide what color roses to get her. He had always heard that girls liked roses. He knew for a fact that Liz adored white, while Maria liked the red. He too liked the red, but he chose not to get them, not wanting Isabel to get the wrong idea.

He and Isabel, they were, well, they weren’t exactly a couple per say. True, they spent all of their free time together, not dating anyone. They basically did everything that a normal couple did, minus the kissing thing. They’d held each others hands, given each other kisses on the cheek, but they had yet to kiss each other on the lips.

Alex was absolutely smitten with Isabel. He would die a happy man if she agreed to be his girlfriend, but he wasn’t going to push her. If she wanted to just be his friend, then that would be fine with him. Their friendship was what mattered most.

That’s why he had decided on the yellow roses.

“Thank you.” She brought the flowers up to her nose, getting a whiff of their sweet scent. “These roses are gorgeous.”

“And since we’re here, I thought I might as well give you your present.” He reached for the gift bag behind him, a slight frown on his lips. “It isn’t much, I-

She took the bag from him, her voice cutting him off. “Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll love it.”

“I hope so,” he muttered under his breath.

“Did you say something?”

“No, no...uh, just, go ahead and open your present.”

Isabel let out an excited giggle. “You guys are spoiling me.” She pulled the gift bag open, throwing the tissue paper aside. Pulling out a cd, Isabel looked at it curiously.

Alex pointed to the cd in her hand, trying to explain to her what it was. “I made you a cd of my band.”

With a grin on her lips, she watched him with unadulterated awe. “You have a band?”

Alex gave her a sheepish grin. “Not exactly. It’s my dream to have one eventually, but it’s kinda hard to find band members in Roswell. I tried getting Kyle and Michael to do it, but they’re totally hopeless. Kyle is like tone deaf, and Michael is the epitome of the white guy that has no rhythm.”

Isabel laughed at the images that Alex’s words created in her mind.

“But I do have one prospect. Maria has an incredible voice, and I keep trying to get her to join me, but...”

“But what?”

Alex scratched his chin, obviously trying to conjure up the exact moment in his memory when he tried to coax Maria to join him. “I think her exact words were, ‘There is absolutely no way that I am going to get up in front of people and sing. EVER!’”

Isabel’s light laughter caused Alex to join her.

“Anyways, I’m still looking for band members, but in the mean time, those are some of the songs that I’ve written, and well, I thought you might get a kick out of it.”

“I can’t wait to hear it.” She went to return the cd back in the bag, when she felt something else inside. “What’s this?”

She pulled out a snow globe. Inside was a little boy and a little girl sitting on a rock together, their gazes held by the sky above them.

“Uh, well, I was shopping for your gift, and well I saw that, and well, it reminded me of-

“Of the first time we went star gazing together.” She finished for him.

“Yeah.”

Unexpectedly, she leaned forward, planting a tentative kiss on his lips.

To say that Alex was shocked, was the biggest understatement of the year.

He could tell that she was waiting for him to return his kiss, and he was more than glad to.

He cupped her cheek, bringing her closer to him.

They pulled back slowly, both giving each other shy smiles.

Isabel was the first to speak, her nervousness obvious. “I know that, we, that you and I......” Isabel decided to change her tactics. Might as well get straight to the point. “Look, Alex. I like you. A LOT. And, what we have, I want us to be more than friends.”

Alex could hardly believe what he was hearing. Isabel Evans, his goddess was saying she wanted to be more than just friends with him.

If he could have whooped and hollered for joy, he would have, but that probably wasn’t the most appropriate thing to do. So instead, he reached for her hand, his eyes, gazing intently into hers. “I want that too.”

That shy smile that she always gave him was in full force, and all he could was smile back.

“Well, I think this calls for a toast.”

Isabel watched him reach for the thermos. “A toast?”

Alex smiled as he uncapped the thermos, as if a revelation was just made to him. “Yeah. To us.”

He handed Isabel her mug, the hot chocolate, warming her cold hands.

She held her mug out, waiting for him to tap it with his.

“To us.”

***********

Kyle sat in the passenger seat, nervously tapping his fingers on the dash board. He and Courtney had been sitting in her car outside his house, both not moving or saying a word.

He shot her a quick glance, offering her a smile. “Thanks for the ride. I appreciate it.”

“Not a problem. You’re welcome.”

Kyle rubbed his sweaty palms across his jeans, hoping to calm himself down a little. “Right, well, uh, I should go inside.” He pointed to his house, reaching over to open the door. “Goodnight, Courtney.”

“Night, Kyle.”

Just as he step foot outside, she called out to him. “Kyle?”

He popped his head back in, wondering what was wrong. “Yeah.?”

Courtney started fidgeting. “About tonight, when you danced with me......I just wanted to say thank you. I don’t think I’ve had that much fun in a really long time.”

Kyle gave her a thousand watt smile. “Me too. Thank you.”

Her smile grew wider, as she gave Kyle a wave goodbye.

Kyle watched her drive away, the smile on his lips never fading.

**********

Inside the house, Jim and Amy both looked out the window to see Kyle standing outside smiling to himself.

“Those two would make such a cute couple.” Amy turned to Jim, a playful smile on her lips. “How long do you think till they get together?”

Jim pulled Amy into his embrace, giving her temple a kiss. “Well, if he’s anything like me I’d say it might take a while.”

She gave him a slap across his arm, her eyebrow raised. “Well I certainly hope not. Waiting 11 years for you to even strike up a conversation with me, was grueling.”

“It did not take me 11 years to talk to you,” he said with a pout. “I was just trying to find the right moment.”

Amy chuckled, burying her face in his neck. “Yeah, well, let’s just hope that Kyle has better timing than his dear old dad.”

He gave her a scowl. “How many times do I have to tell you, I’m not old!” He crossed his arms in front of him, feigning mock hurt. “I’d like to think of myself as mature.”

She grabbed his face in between her hands, planting a loud kiss on his lips. “Whatever you say, honey.”

****************

Max sat back against the headboard, his eyes fluttering closed as Liz peppered his neck with her moist kisses.

“Is everything, ok?”

“Uh, everything’s, yeah, um, everything’s g-great.” He had a hard time forming a coherent thought when Liz’s mouth seemed to be everywhere all at once, driving him insane.

“What did she say?”

“Who?”

With a soft chuckle, Liz sat back, admiring the way Max looked so ravished.

His hair was mussed, probably from the way her fingers continually tunneled through them. His eyes pitch black, his lips swollen from her kisses. His golden skin had a thin sheen of sweat, a blush settling itself on him.

“Isabel. What did she say?”

“Oh,” he sat up a little, “something about her and Alex staying out a little later than expected.”

A wicked grin passed her lips. “Good to know.” And with that, her lips descended on his, demanding entrance. Her tongue lashed out at his, both of them doing an age old dance.

Her hands reached down, tugging on his jeans.

Max complied, lifting his hips to help her. Once he was free from them, she pulled back, her eyes glued to that part of him that made him different from her.

His hands, clenched into the sheets, his breathing turning into pants.

He had been in this condition for too long, he was afraid that Liz raking hot looks at him continuously was bound to bring him to orgasm alone.

With a tentative touch, she reached forward, her finger tracing a path down his rigid arousal. She pulled her hand away when she felt it jerk. Her eyes flew to his, wondering if what was happening was normal. She didn’t want to hurt him.

Max felt a tightening in his chest at the look of wonder on her face. “It’s ok.....it, uh, does that sometimes....”

Liz nodded, biting the corner of her bottom lip. In a small voice, she asked him the question she had been dying to ask him. “Can I......can I see it?”

Max could only nod. His voice refusing to cooperate with him.

Her small hands caressed the taut skin just below his naval, causing Max’s eyes to roll back into his head. He felt her slip her fingers in the waistband of his boxers, pulling them gently off of his hips.

His eyes flew open at the sound of her gasp.

She sat there wide eyed staring at his naked form, her mouth agape.

With trembling hands, she took his erection in her hands, allowing herself to get acquainted with this beautiful part of him.

His skin was so smooth, warm to the touch. It was like touching the hardest steel covered in the softest silk.

“Oh.” Her voice came out in a surprised tone when she saw a little liquid dribble from the head. Her curiosity getting the better of her, her fingers reached to take some of the silky residue, rubbing it between her fingers.

She sat there for a second, wondering what to do. She thought back to what they were doing earlier, and she remembered how much he seemed to like it when she was rubbing up against him. With that thought in mind, she curled her hand around him, her hand slowly moving up and down his shaft.

“Liz.....liz.........oh god....Liz....” Max’s voice was hoarse, his breathing shallow.

She sat back in awe, watching in fascination that she could get such a reaction out of Max with just the touch of her hands. She felt his body tensing, causing her to tighten her grip on him, her movements picking up pace.

He was constantly licking his lips, his face contorted in a grimace of pleasure. Her hand came down for one more stroke, finally allowing him his release.

“LIZ!”

White lights burst in his head, his heart pounding wildly against his chest. His back arched, his body twitching.

Taking gulps of air like he had been without for years, Max finally opened his eyes to see a beauty staring back at him.

A shy smile tugged on the corner of her lips as she continued to watch him with unadulterated love pouring from her doe eyes. He reached forward, pulling her into his embrace. He placed a kiss in her hair, his hands flickering across her naked skin.

Nuzzling her neck, his voice came out in a deep whisper. “Liz, I love you...” He pulled back looking into her eyes. “Words escape me right now.”

They exchanged smiles, love oozing from their pores.

He pulled her against his side, placing random kisses anywhere he could. “This has to be the best birthday ever.”

She chuckled at the happiness in his voice. “But you haven’t even opened your present yet.”

He gave her a sly look, his eyes skimming her beautiful body. “I thought I already did.”

She smacked him in the chest, enjoying his jovial laughter.

“I’m serious, Max.”

“So am I.”

She rolled her eyes, reaching into her bedside table to retrieve her present. She pushed it into his hands, tucking her hair nervously behind her ears. “Go ahead, open it.”

He raised an eyebrow at her, his finger tapping the box. “You know, I told you, you didn’t have to get me anything.”

“And I told you that I wanted to.” She gave the box an insistent push. “Open it. For me?”

Jerking his head, he pulled away the wrapping, wondering what in the world Liz had given him.

**********

Maria swung her and Michael’s clasped hands as they walked towards her front door.

“I have to say, you made me very proud tonight.” The admiration in her voice, shining through as she spoke.

He halted their movement, cocking an eyebrow at her. “How so?”

Turning to face him, she linked her arms around his neck, standing on her tip toes. “Well, for one you were the perfect friend. The way you’ve opened your arms and welcomed Isabel and Max, and Noah so easily. I know how hard it is for you to open up your heart and your soul to people, and when you gave those presents to them tonight.....You let them see the real you, Michael. If I thought I couldn’t love you more than I already do, you certainly proved me wrong tonight.” She brushed her lips against his, pulling away to give each of his eyelids a kiss. “I love you, Michael.”

He gave her a soft smile. “Right back at ya, blondie.”

Maria smiled, not at all offended when he didn’t say the L word. She knew he loved her, but he was always scared to let all of his emotions show, to put himself out there, even with her. She understood. In time she was certain he would say it back, but she wasn’t going to push him.

They walked the last few feet to the front porch, both of them just looking at each other.

With a soft chuckle, Michael leaned down, his lips reaching for hers. He could feel her smile against him, causing him to run his hands down her back, finally landing on her hips. He bent his knees, trying his best to accommodate the height difference.

Just as the kiss was getting good, the porch light flipped on, both of them pulling apart suddenly.

Michael smirked, pointing to the light directly above them. “I guess that’s my queue to leave.”

“Yeah...... Call me when you get home?”

He only nodded, cupping her jaw to bring her in for another kiss.

From inside the house, Amy’s voice came out muffled. “Say goodnight, Maria.”

Michael laughed, giving Maria’s hand a squeeze. “G’nite, Mrs. Valenti.”

Jim yelled through the door, amusement lighting his voice. “Goodnight, Michael.”

Michael saluted at the door, the smile on his lips growing wider. “Night to you to, Sheriff.”

***********

Liz pulled the blanket higher against her chest, her anticipation mounting as she watched Max peel back the gift wrap on her present.

He shot her an amused smile, finally pulling away the last of the wrapper. He flipped the leather bound book in his hands, running his hand along the surface.

“What is this?”

“Open it and see.”

He gave her one last look, checking to see if she was giving away any hints as to what it was, but she just urged him to open it. He leafed through the first page, his eyes scanning down the page. His eyes immediately recognized the delicate cursive writing as Liz’s.

He looked up into her eyes, his own eyes clouded with confusion. “I don’t understand? What is this?”

“Just read it.”

He complied, his eyes darting across the page.

It’s September 7th, and I’m Liz Parker.

Five days ago, I fell in love.........


His eyes returned to hers, his voice a mix of emotions. “This is your journal......”

Her head bobbed in response. She bit the corner of her lip, her fingers twining her long hair in distracted patterns. “Yeah.”

Max tried to understand why she would be giving him her journal, but he just couldn’t come up with anything. “I....I don’t get it, Liz. Why are you giving me your journal?”

Liz wrapped her arms around herself, suddenly feeling self conscious. “I.....Well you see, I.......from the beginning, the first time I even met you, I felt this connection to you...All of these emotions were running through me, and I didn’t really understand what was happening. Anyways, I started writing in that journal to express everything I was feeling. Everything I was thinking.....The thing is, the more I wrote in it, the more it seemed like it was like some long unfinished letter to you.” A soft laugh bubbled past her lips, causing her to smile. “Everything written in there, is about you in one way or another.”

He took her pause as an opportunity to voice his escalating confusion. “I still don’t get it. If these are all of your personal thoughts; your feelings, then why are you giving it to me?”

Liz sat quietly for a second, trying to think of the best way to explain to him, her motivations behind her giving it to him.

“I guess in a way, I want you to know how much you mean to me. I want you to know everything.”

Max looked down at Liz’s journal in his hands one more time before snapping it shut. He placed it in Liz’s hands, his mind working overtime.

“I, I can’t accept that, Liz.”

Liz looked at him, hurt clouding her eyes. “Why not?”

His fingers tipped her chin upwards so that he was in her line of vision. “Liz, those are your personal thoughts. I, I can’t just read that. It wouldn’t be right.”

“But I want you to have it.” Her voice sounded so small, her lower lip trembling.

His heart broke at the sight of her. He tipped his face so that his lips were on hers.

His forehead leaned against hers, both of their eyes closed shut.

“Baby, I already know how you feel about me......I don’t need words in a book to tell me that.” The tips of his fingers tickled her jaw lightly, eliciting a smile from her.

She opened hers, to find Max’s solemn eyes staring right at her. “I know, but I still want you to have it.” She brushed her lips against his again, before speaking. “How about I make you a deal?”

He sat up, intrigued to whatever it was she was proposing. “I’m listening.”

She flipped through the written pages, as she spoke to him. “I know you feel like you’re invading my privacy or something, but you’re really not. Like I said before, everything I’ve written in this is like a letter to you, and I really want you to have it.” She looked down to the blank pages in her lap, her fingers lightly dancing across it. “I haven’t filled it up yet, so what I’m proposing is, that I finish writing in it. But when I do, I want you to have it.”

Max was set to protest, but Liz shook her head, silencing him with her fingers on his lips. “Max, you’ve shared so much with me. You let me into your life, and into Noah’s. You let me love you.....Please, let me share this with you.”

The plea in her eyes made his heart tighten.

How could he say no?

He pulled her into the comfort of his arms, her head fitting neatly beneath his chin. “Anything you want, Liz. Anything, you want.....”

Part 54

***********

Liz awoke to the sound of birds chirping, the sun shining, and the world a brighter place.

Sitting up in her bed, she stretched her arms languidly, the smile on her lips akin to the one she had been sporting all night long. The smile on her face took on a brightness that seemed to light the room as she remembered why she was in such a good mood.

Last night, she and Max had taken an enormous step in their relationship. A very big step in the right direction, she thought happily to herself. Their relationship took on a new intimacy, but she had managed to wake up with her virginity still intact.

Her eyes glanced to the alarm clock that resided on her bedside table, reminding her that work was but an hour away. She got up, slipping her slender arms into her robe, making her way into the bathroom to get ready.

Not even the burden of work was going to ruin her good mood. She had a feeling that it would take a disastrous event to dampen her spirits, but even the Gods weren’t that cruel to do that to her.

***********

Adjusting the bobbing silver antennas on her head, Liz looked up surprised to see her dad behind the counter of the Crashdown. A frown marred his appearance. There he stood, a pencil behind one ear, a chewed up pen in between his lips, his fingers furiously pressing the buttons on the adding machine.

“Dad. When did you guys get back?”

Jeff looked up from the paper work that littered the smooth service of the counter, his eyes finally focusing on his daughter. “Morning honey.” He placed a kiss on her forehead, returning his attention back to the adding machine. “Early this morning.” Without looking up from what he was doing, he continued the conversation. “So, how did the party go last night?”

“It was really great. Everyone had so much fun.” Liz moved around her father, the two of them working around each other with ease. “Oh, by the way, Max and Isabel wanted me to thank you and mom for letting us use the Crashdown last night.”

Jeff stopped momentarily to acknowledge the thanks that Liz was relaying to him. “Tell them that they’re welcome. I’m so glad that all of you had fun. I’m just sorry that your mother and I had to make an emergency trip to Albuquerque.”

“Speaking of, how did that go? Did you guys get the deal on the new fryers?” Liz watched the frown in her fathers eyes deepen, the happiness that was there a minute ago quickly replaced with frustration.

“Not so good. They’re practically trying to rob me blind.” He heaved a heavy sigh. “We’ll have to make do with what we have right now.”

“But dad, we really need a new one. Michael’s been complaining how it’s-

“Lizzie, I know. But I don’t really have a choice here.” He picked up the papers that were scattered in front of him. “There just isn’t any money.” He turned sad eyes on his daughter. “It’s either I buy new fryers, and lay off most of your friends, or keep the old one we have and keep all of your friends employed.”

Liz’s mouth fell open in shock. She hadn’t realized that business was that bad. “I’m sorry, dad. I had no idea things were that bad.”

Jeff gave her a melancholy smile. “Don’t worry about it, honey. It’s not any worse than any other year, but business is just slow this time of year. It always is. We just have to make a few cut backs, and hope that everything turns out ok.”

The swinging of the service door, and the loud bickering between Maria and Kyle diverted Jeff and Liz’s attention.

“C’mon, Kyle. Just ask her out already. You know you want to.”

Kyle rolled his eyes, tying a bandana around his head. “Will you give it up, already?”

Maria gave him a pout, her arms crossed in front of her. “But you two would make such a cute couple.”

Kyle shook his head, his eyes filled with mirth. “You know, that routine may work with Guerin, but it won’t work on me.”

Michael’s head popped out from the service window. “I heard my name? What’s up?”

Kyle side stepped Maria, going about his duties. “Nothing. Maria thinks that she can pull the pouty thingie on me.”

Michael gave Kyle a lopsided grin. “Yeah,” he scratched his chin, “I never could win when she does that.”

Maria raised a slender eyebrow in the direction of her boyfriend, effectively silencing him.

He threw his hands up in defense, walking back into the kitchen. “I’m staying out of this one.”

Mr. Parker and Liz laughed, enjoying the banter between the three teenagers.

Maria quickly followed Kyle, talking his ear off. “Well, what would you do if she just happened to stop by for breakfast?”

Kyle threw Maria an incredulous look. “You wouldn’t....”

“What wouldn’t Maria do?” Alex strode in, with Isabel right behind him. He reached down behind the waitress station, filling up the sugar containers.

Kyle opened his mouth to speak, but the jingling of the double doors stopped him.

They all looked to see Max walk in with Noah and Courtney.

Jeff sat back in silent amusement, watching the ongoing banter between all of the teenagers.

There was no doubt in his mind that he would never fire these kids. They had all grown up here, they were almost like his own flesh and blood. To hell with the budget, he thought. He wasn’t going to be responsible for ruining such a wonderful environment.

He just hoped that his decision was the right one.

Part 55

**********

The minute that Max had walked through the double doors of the Crashdown, time slowed to a stand still. His eyes locked on Liz’s, both of them sharing a secret smile that only he and she could understand. Both of them shared a glow, that had yet to diminish from their perfect night together.

Last night could only be described as perfection. They had crossed the fine line of intimacy that they had built for themselves. Sure, they had yet to have sex, for lack of a better description. Even as he thought of the word in his head, Max knew that it didn’t sound right. Whatever he shared with Liz, it would never be just sex. What they had done last night, they had made love.

He smiled at the thought, as he walked to the counter taking a seat with Noah in his lap.

“Hey, Max. Sorry we couldn’t be here for your party last night. Lizzie tells me that it was quite the occasion.” Jeff leaned his elbows on the counter, his face lighting up with a smile as he let Noah grab a hold of his fingers. “How, ya doin’ little fella?”

With a cheeky grin on his lips, Noah tugged on Jeff’s fingers, his little voice full of animation as he spoke. “Hi!”

Max only registered that Jeff had been speaking when he heard Noah respond to him. He tore his eyes away from Liz, trying to remember what it was that Jeff was saying. “Oh, hey Mr. Parker. Nice to see you back.”

Jeff looked around his surroundings, his eyes once again taking in all of the teens milling about. A smile crossed his face, taking away the crease lines that had shown his obvious frustration earlier, almost making him look a few years younger. “It certainly feels good to be back.” He returned to a standing position, grabbing all of his things. “Well, I better head on to the office. You kids have a good breakfast.” He reached over, ruffling the abundant curls on Noah’s head before he disappeared through the swinging door that lead to the kitchen.

Max opened his mouth to get Liz’s attention, wanting nothing more than to hear her soft angelic voice, but he was interrupted by Maria’s arm pulling him towards a booth. He looked over her shoulder to get a glimpse of Liz, but she had disappeared. He twisted his body to look for Liz, but he felt himself thrust forward into a booth. Maria took Noah from his arms, placing him in a high car, with Courtney sitting across from him.

Maria took out her order pad, tapping the pencil against the thickness of it. “Alright, what can I get you guys?”

Courtney scanned the menu, quickly looking back up at Maria. “Um, I guess I’ll just have the heavenly hash, and a glass of orange juice.”

Maria gave a ribald grin as she looked over her shoulder towards Kyle, making sure that her voice was loud enough so that he could hear her. “Well, what do you know? That’s what Kyle always gets here for breakfast.”

Kyle felt the hairs on his arms stand up, a crimson blush tinting his face. He chose to ignore Maria for the moment, trying to think of a way to get her back later.

Isabel stood at the waitresses station, burying her face in Alex’s chest, doing her best to muffle her laughter. Alex kissed the top of her hair, whispering in her ear. “You think Maria could be more obvious?”

Alex’s words only served to make Isabel laugh harder. She pulled away from him, giving him a good swat against his chest before moving towards the cafe to tend to their new customers.

Alex watched her go, a lopsided grin on his lips. He felt like screaming, “I’m the king of the world!” at the top of his lungs. He had no idea what their lives would have been like if Max, Isabel, and Noah hadn’t stepped foot in them. Actually, he didn’t even want to think about it. The three of them were a God send, and all he could do was be grateful.

Maria looked down at Max, biting the end of her pencil as she waited for his order, but his attention seemed to fixed elsewhere. She tried waving her hand in his face, finally shaking his shoulder. “Max! Max!”

Max turned his head to Maria, as if he just realized that she was standing there. He gave his head a little shake in an effort to clear it, but he didn’t feel it doing any good.

“So, what’ll it be, Max?”

He said the first thing that came to mind, well actually, the only thing that had been on his mind. “Liz.”

Maria chuckled, pointing to the menu in Max’s hand. “Well, I’m sorry to say, but Liz isn’t on the menu today, Max. You’re going to have to pick something else that Michael can actually prepare in the kitchen.”

Max felt the color drain from his face before he felt the blush settling in. His eyes grew wide when he realized what it was that he had actually said. “I, uh....um, yea, I’ll, uh....” his eyes darted across the colorful menu in his hands. “Um, I’ll just have the special, and some milk for Noah.” He thrust the menu in Maria’s hand, refusing to meet her eyes, knowing full well that she would never let him live down what he had said.

Maria slid the pencil behind her ear, reading their order to them one last time before taking it to the kitchen. “Alright, we’ve got an order for the heavenly hash, with oj, an order of milk, one special, and an order of Liz on the side coming right up.”

Max’s eyes flew up to Maria’s at the last part of her sentence. His cheeks flamed to a darker shade of red when she gave him a wink.

Oh, yeah. He was never going to live that one down.

Noah banged his hands against the plastic table attached to the high chair. “Lizzie!”

Max nodded his head ruefully, knowing exactly how his son was feeling.

Part 56

********

Max pushed the food around on his plate with his fork, making a mess.

Noah watched his father curiously, deciding to join him. He took the plastic cup in his hand, aiming it towards Max. “Daddy!”

Max looked up in time to see the milk coming at him like a rainfall. He blinked his eyes, his vision blurred by the droplets of milk dangling for his ridiculously long eyelashes.

“Oh my God!” Courtney sat forward, grabbing some napkins from the nearby dispenser. Struggling for a second, she finally grabbed a handful reaching over to hand them to Max.

“Thanks.” Max began wiping the milk of his face, much to the amusement of Noah. He pointed a stubby finger at his father, his continuous giggles wracking his little body.

“Daddy....milk....” he repeated the little mantra to himself, watching with unrestrained entertainment as his father tried to clean himself up.

Courtney hid her laughter behind her hand.

Max found himself turning to his son, giving him a stern look. “That wasn’t very nice little man. You know the rules, you’re supposed to be on your best behavior.” Noah gave him a quivering lip, his amber eyes shining with unshed tears. Max shook his head, wagging his pointer finger at Noah. “It’s not going to work this time, pal.”

His eyes turned to Courtney who had turned a few shades of pink from the effort she was exerting herself, by trying to keep her laughter inside. Max gave her a grateful smile, sliding out of the booth. “Uh, could you watch Noah for a minute? I’m gonna go into the restroom and see what I can do to get this milk out.” He held his shirt away from his chest, not at all enjoying the way the cold liquid was seeping through his shirt, making his skin sticky.

Taking a second to regain her composure, Courtney nodded, grabbing another handful of napkins to clean up the mess that was on the table.

As he stood, he gave Noah one last look. “Now, I want you to sit here and think about what you’ve done, little man.”

Once Max was gone, Courtney ran her hand through Noah’s hair, whispering some words of reassurance to the little boy. “It’s ok, sweetie. Your daddy’s not mad at you.”

Noah started hiccupping, silent tears pouring down his cheeks. Courtney’s heart broke at the sight of him. “Sweetie, don’t cry.”

As she did her best to calm him down, Kyle walked towards them, leaning down so that he was at eye level with Noah. He tugged on Noah’s balled up fist, trying to get his attention. “Hey, little buddy. What’s the matter? Huh?”

*********

Max let the water rush from the faucet, as he pulled his shirt off. He looked at his reflection in the mirror, then leaned to the side to grab some paper towels from the dispenser beside the sink. He turned his head when he heard a creaking noise come from behind him. Not seeing anything, he turned back around to face the mirror, only to jump back with fright.

His hand clutched the crumpled paper towels to his chest, as he tried to regain a normal breathing pattern.

Without opening his eyes, he addressed his visitor. “Geez Liz! You scared the crap out of me.”

Liz walked up to him, wrapping her arms around his waist. She placed kisses on both of his shoulders, her lips tracing a path up his neck. Her lips latched onto his earlobe, her tongue sneaking out to taste the outer shell of his ear. She pulled back a little, blowing on the wetness that her tongue had caused. She felt Max shiver, goose bumps forming on his skin, and the tiny hairs on his arms stand to attention. “I’m sorry, baby. I didn’t mean to scare you.” She let her hands run over his shoulders, her hands easing the tension from them. “But I just couldn’t resist following you in here. After last night.....well, I just missed you.”

Max bent his back so that his face could see Liz’s. He smiled at her, his hand coming to wrap in her chocolate brown hair. “I know what you mean. Ever since I saw you this morning, I’ve been dying to talk to you.” His lips brushed against her forehead, slowly making a descent to her lips. His hand cradled her jaw, angling her head back so that he had better access to her mouth. His kiss was teasing at first, his lips softly nibbling, nipping at her rosy, luscious lips. He could feel her smile against him, causing a brief smile to paste itself on his own lips.

But the smile was short-lived. He had been dying to kiss her since he had left her in her bed last night, only to come home to his own bed, alone. He wanted so bad to spend the night with her in his arms, for the two of them to wake up wrapped in each other; for the two of them to be nothing more than a tangle of arms and limbs. But he couldn’t do that.

So he was going to make up for it now.

His tongue peeked out from behind his lips, tracing hers, taking full advantage when her lips parted in another smile. With the expertise of a talented kisser, his tongue pushed past her teeth, trying to reach the deepest recesses of her mouth. A moan broke past her lips, giving him the go ahead that he had been so desperately seeking.

Their tongues collided, dueling for dominance. But it was a battle neither of them minded losing.

Max stumbled forward, his hand landing on Liz’s hip to steady her. He gave it a genuine squeeze, before his hand curved, making its way around to her shapely behind.

Liz gave a little squeak, her eyes flying open when she felt his soft caress. But even that wasn’t enough to stop Max. He continued to ravish her, walking until her back was against the cold tile wall. In the few steps that it had taken to get them there, his lips refused to part with hers, even though it had become increasingly difficult for the two of them to breathe. Breathing was over rated anyway.

Just as he had done the night before, his hand ran down her leg, bringing it to wrap around his hip. He tried to get closer to her, so close that even a breath would be unable to pass between their gyrating bodies.

After what seemed like hours, Max wrenched his lips away from hers. His chest heaved with the effort of trying to get oxygen to his starved lungs. His hand untangled itself from Liz’s hair, coming up to his chest to try and rub away the stinging that was the result of lack of air.

Liz looked up at him, her eyes dancing with a twinkle of amazement. “Well if that’s what you call talking, then we should definitely talk more often.”

Max blushed at her words, his hands bringing her leg back to the floor. He took a step back, but it was so small of a step, that Liz could still feel the rise and fall of his chest against hers. “I uh.....” He scratched the side of his head, the corner of lip doing a quick mouth thingy that Liz had so aptly nicknamed. “I guess I missed you a lot more than I thought.”

A deep rumble bubbled from the pit of his stomach, producing a boisterous laugh. Liz joined him, her hand landing on his still damp chest. She stopped laughing, pulling her hand so that it was inches away from his face. “What is this?”

Max looked at Liz’s fingers coated in milk, then down to his naked chest. He was so intent on giving Liz a good morning kiss that he had completely forgotten why he had come into the bathroom for in the first place. “It’s milk, actually. Noah thought it was funny if covered me in it.”

Liz laughed at the image of Noah throwing a cup of milk at Max.

Feigning hurt, Max took another step back his hands reaching for the paper towel dispenser on the other side of the sink. The ones he had in his possession earlier were nothing but a sad wad of mess on the tile floor. “I’m so glad you’re having a good laugh at my expense.”

Liz grabbed his wrist, taking the paper towels from his hands. “You know Max, you’re so sensitive sometimes.” She gave him a devilish smile. “Let me make it up to you. I’ll help you clean up.”

Max opened his mouth to speak, but instead of words coming out, a groan of satisfaction came out. Instead of using the paper towels to wipe the moisture off of his chest, Liz had bent her head, her tongue licking away the wetness.

His hands clenched at his sides, his breathing returning to the erratic state it was in earlier. She pulled back for a second, giving him a roguish grin. “Mmm, tastes good.” With that she spun them so that Max was standing against the wall. Her mouth was all over him at once, never ceasing to taste, to nibble his bronzed skin. As her mouth descended lower, so did her hand.

Her delicate hand came to a stop at the bulge in his pants. Max’s head fell back, his head hitting the hard tile. Her dexterous fingers squeezed and caressed his hardness, delighting in the hiss that passed through his clenched teeth.

Just when Max thought he couldn’t take anymore, he felt his zipper being lowered.

“Oh, God!”

**********

Michael wiped the sweat from his brow, throwing a dish towel over his shoulder. Balancing three plates in his hands, he briskly walked to the service window, his hand slapping the silver bell. “Isabel, orders up!”

Isabel ran to the window, handing Michael another order. “Thanks, Michael.”

Isabel turned around, only to bump into Maria. Maria reached out to help steady the plates, only letting go when Isabel stopped wobbling. “Sorry about that. I didn’t see you there.”

Maria smiled at her, pushing her in the direction of the dining area. “Don’t worry about it.”

She leaned her elbows on the ledge of the service window, her long fingers tapping against it. “Michael, table 4 has been waiting on their order for,” she looked at her watch, counting exactly how long it was they had been waiting.

Michael turned his head from the grill, the perspiration beading on his forehead. “It’s coming right up. I’m backed up in orders right now.” The grill’s fire roared, rising a little higher than usual. Michael slapped away at the flames with his metal spatula. “Just give me a few more minutes.”

When he turned his body towards the grill, the fire rose to the ceiling.

“MICHAEL!”

Maria’s earsplitting scream caused Michael to step back just in time, his arm coming up to shield his face.

The heat slapped him the way a whip would brand an animal.

Running to the other side of the kitchen, Michael elbowed the glass case which held the fire extinguisher. “Get Alex to come in here, NOW, Maria!”

Maria nodded, turning to run back into the dining room. “ALEX!”

Alex stopped wiping down a booth to look at the hysteria that was his friend. He dropped his rag, running to Maria, grabbing her by the elbows. “Maria? What’s wrong?”

“Fire! There’s a fire in the kitchen. You have to help, Michael!”

Alex nodded, releasing Maria, from his grip. He pushed the swinging door open, only to be engulfed in black smoke that caused him to choke. Waving his hand around to fan away the smoke, Alex called out to his friend. “MICHAEL?”

Michael toppled forward, his body nothing more than a mass of coughing flesh. He gripped Alex by his arms, shaking him with a ferocity that scared Alex. “The fire’s too big. I can’t get it to go out. We have to get everyone out of here! Call 911.”

Alex nodded, draping Michael’s arm around his shoulder.

The two of them came out from the kitchen with Alex half limping, half staggering under Michael’s weight.

“SOMEONE, CALL 911!”

Isabel ran to the phone, dialing it.

Kyle rushed to his friends. “What can I do?”

Alex looked around the room watching the horrified looks on people’s faces. “We have to get everyone out of here.”

Kyle stood up, turning around to escort the people safely out of the Crashdown. “I’m all over it.”

***********

As Liz helped Max button up his shirt, she turned her head in the direction of the door. “Do you smell that?”

Max buttoned the last button on his shirt, walking to stand closer to the door. “Yeah, it smells like smoke.” He reached to touch the door knob, only to find that the handle was hot.

Liz rushed to his side, touching his hand. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t-

Just then a loud crash boomed through the place, a faint screaming filtering through the walls.

“FIRE!”

Part 56

*********

"FIRE!"

The scream reverberated throughout the small bathroom, causing Max and Liz to look at each other with fear in their eyes.

Liz grabbed Max by his shirt sleeve. "Oh my God! Max, what are we going to do?"

Max felt the thundering in his chest, the blood pounding in his ears.

This couldn’t be happening. Not now! His mind was in a million different places all at once, not knowing who he should be more worried about first.

Should he be worried about Liz and himself possibly being stuck in a bathroom together when a fire was breaking out outside? God, he thought, Isabel was out there, and so were his friends. Then his blood ran cold, a chill running down his spine.

"Noah."

Max surged forward, his hand wrapping around the metal knob of the door, only to let go, his hand raw from the heat. "DAMMIT!" He kicked the wooden door with his foot, his hand flapping to ease the ache.

Another crash sounded from behind the door, alarm rising in both of them.

Liz looked around them, trying to find a way out. Her eyes landed on the small window to the side. It was big enough that the two of them could probably sneak out, the only problem lying in it’s height. Liz took hold of Max’s sleeve, pulling him towards the window.

"Max! We can get out through that window."

Max nodded, holding his hand out to Liz to hoist her up. "You go first."

Liz looked ready to argue, but Max beat her to it. "Just do it, Liz. It’ll be easier for me to jump out after you."

A blast caused the bathroom door to shake, causing Max to move faster. "We gotta go. NOW!" He took Liz’s foot in his hand, his other hand on her hip. Liz pulled the window open, twisting her body so that she could fit through the window.

Just as she was through, she shot another look at Max.

"Go! I’m right behind you."

Her voice came out in a harsh whisper, her voice full of desperation. "Hurry, Max!" With that, she disappeared through the window.

Max jumped, his hands grasping the window ledge. Just as if he were doing pull ups, Max pulled himself up. He could hear sirens in the distance, as he pulled himself all the way out. He fell, landing with a soft thud.

Liz leaned down, making sure that he was ok, but Max waved away her efforts, only one thing on his mind.

"We gotta find Noah." He was on his feet, running around the alley to the front of the cafe. His sneakers made a screeching noise as he skidded to a stop.

Main Street was in absolute chaos. People were everywhere. Some people had stopped what they were doing, trying to see what was going on. The Sheriff’s cruiser was parked haphazardly, partly on the asphalt, partly on the curb. The red lights continued to flash, the sirens silent. A fire truck had pulled up, the men setting up their equipment.

Max’s eyes scanned the people milling about, trying to find a familiar face. His eyes landed to an ambulance with the back doors open, a stretcher rolled out, Michael sitting atop it. Max pushed his way through, his voice booming. "Michael!"

As he reached his side, he grabbed Michael by the shoulders. "Michael! Where’s Noah?"

Michael was startled, a little disoriented. They had given him something for the pain due to the burn on his hand. His ankle was wrapped in ice, having twisted it as he run through the black smoke. "I...I don’t know."

The hammering in Max’s chest continued, his brain working a mile a minute. God, what if Noah was still in there?

Max turned to run towards the crashdown when a paramedic stopped him.

"That’s a pretty nasty burn on your hand. Come this way and we’ll take care of it." Max pushed the guy away from him, his eyes wild with terror.

"NO!"

The medic tried to grab Max again. "Buddy, you gotta get that looked at."

Max shook his head vehemently. "Where’s everyone else?"

The guy could see that he was on the brink. He answered his question, hoping to sate the young man long enough so that he could get a look at his hand. "They’ve got almost everyone out. But you don’t need to worry."

Max had stopped listening when the guy had said that they had almost gotten everyone out, meaning that people were still inside. He ran, not able to take the chance that it was Noah, or someone else that he loved. He would never be able to live with himself.

Max got to the front doors, rushing forward like a bull, but was halted by a bulky man wearing regulation fire department clothing. "Whoa! Hold on there, son. You can’t go in there."

Max tried to walk around the man, trying to get inside. "I have to!"

The man placed a large hand against Max’s chest, preventing him from moving further. "Look, you gotta let us do our jobs."

"MY SON IS IN THERE!" Max ran forward again, almost running the guy over with his determination, but he felt two people holding him back.

The Sheriff’s voice was in his ear, trying to calm him down. "Max, relax. You gotta let them do their job."

"NO!" Max kicked his legs, his arms struggling under the restraints of the Sheriff and his deputy. "Sheriff, let me go!" He was sobbing now, the tears flowing like a waterfall down his cheeks.

God, what was he going to do if Noah was still in there? He had basically yelled at him right before he left to go to the bathroom, knowing full well that Noah had started crying. What the hell kind of a father was he? He was supposed to be there.

When it seemed like the Sheriff and the deputy loosened their hold on him, Max tried to make a break for it, only to be pulled back.

His voice was hoarse as he screamed, the agony so thick you could slice it with a knife.

"NOAH!"

************

After Alex had staggered outside of the kitchen with Michael; Maria, Kyle, and Isabel had done their best to get everyone out of harms way without creating mass hysteria. For the most part, everything was under control. There was no pushing or shoving. But all of that had changed the minute a mini explosion had gone off.

The sound was deafening, causing everyone to flinch. On instinct, Courtney had picked up Noah, shielding him from the blast. Kyle had made his way over to them, making sure that the two of them were safe.

“Courtney, you have to get out of here with Noah.” He held onto her arm, pushing her to the entrance. Courtney nodded, knowing that she had to get Noah somewhere safe. Max would never forgive her if something happened to him.

As soon as the thought crossed her mind, Courtney stopped, her hand tugging on Kyle’s. “Oh my God! Kyle, Max is in the bathroom.”

Kyle felt his heart stop beating for a second. He threw one look towards the back, then looked back at Courtney and Noah. “You two go on ahead. I’ll go and get him.”

Courtney’s eyes were filled with fear at the thought of Kyle handing himself to danger. She was torn. She knew that someone had to make sure that Max was safe, but at the same time, she knew that she didn’t want Kyle to be the one playing hero. What if something happened to him? What if he got hurt?

Courtney shuddered at the thought, her stomach turning in silent anguish. Her head jerked in an uneasy motion, her throat too constricted for her to talk.

She walked through the open doors of the Crashdown, only to come back inside.

Surprised, Kyle opened his mouth to protest her staying, but he was instantly silenced by her lips on his. She pulled away, her eyes watching his face closely. His eyes were closed, his lips slightly parted from the onslaught of her mouth. He opened his eyes, his expression confused.

“What was that for?”

Courtney swallowed past the lump in her throat, trying to find the words to explain what she had just done. “I just didn’t want to never have done that.”

The sirens could be heard in the distance, alerting them that help was on their way.

Kyle smiled at her, his hand running down her arm. “Go! I’ll be right there.”

He watched until she was safely outside of the cafe until he ran towards the back to look for Max. Just as he was about to push through the swinging doors, he felt a hand on his arm, looking up to see that it was Alex.

“What are you doing here? Where’s Isabel and Maria?”

Alex panted, slightly out of breath from when he had jogged back inside. “They’re with Michael. An ambulance is here, and they’re making sure he’s ok.” He took a breath. “And to answer your other question, nobody seems to know where Liz is.”

Kyle’s face drained of it’s color, his palms turning clammy. “Oh, God! She was in the back with Mr. P......” His voice trailed off, the two of them turning towards the kitchen. They were halted when they heard another crash, both of them ducking from the shear force of it.

They felt themselves being pulled up by some people, their eyes trying to adjust to the smoke that had now made it’s way inside the dining room.

“Let’s go boys!” The fireman, pushed Kyle and Alex towards the front.

Kyle half turned, screaming at the firemen that were getting ready to combat the flames. “There’s still people in there! Our friends are still inside!”

The fireman looked at Kyle. “How many?”

Kyle was suddenly flustered, not knowing for sure who might still be inside. He knew for a fact that Courtney said that Max was still in the bathroom, and that Liz and her dad were in the back. The only person he was unsure of was Mrs. Parker. “I don’t know. Maybe three or four. One of them is in the bathroom and the other two were in the back office. We don’t know exactly where the other person is.”

The fireman only nodded. “We’ll take it from here.”

From there, Kyle and Alex had been lead outside. The two of them joined their friends, who were congregated by the stretcher that Michael was sitting in.

Maria was clinging to his arm, the tears falling silently down her cheeks. Courtney stood the side, trying to calm down Noah, with Isabel right by her side.

Isabel looked up first, realizing that it was just Kyle and Alex. “Where’s Max? And Liz? And Mr. Parker?” Her voice shook.

Alex walked up to her, holding her in an embrace. “The firemen are inside. They’re going to get them.”

Isabel pulled away from him, her expression horrified. “You mean they’re still in there?”

Alex didn’t answer, knowing that the answer that he would give her would just break her heart. And he didn’t want to be the one to do that to her.

Isabel took his silence as an affirmative. She pulled away from him, her head shaking from side to side. “No....no....it can’t......no....not Max......Oh, God!” She placed her hand over her mouth, suddenly feeling nauseas.

Why did all these bad things have to happen to them? Were they cursed? She looked at her friends, noting the different states of pain they were in. She shook her head, feeling guilty. It was her fault. She did this. Everywhere she went, bad luck seemed to follow. First, it had been Tess, now it was everyone here.

She walked backwards, not able to stand being in the presence of the people she had hurt. She saw Alex walking towards her causing her to break out into a run.

She had to get away. She was hurting everyone.

“ISABEL!”

Alex ran after her, finally catching up to her to wrap his arms around her.

She kicked at him, punched him, trying her best to get away from him. “Just let me go, Alex. Let me go!”

He whispered into her hair, his own voice weary. “I can’t do that.”

Isabel slid down Alex’s body, her own feeling defeated. “It’s all my fault.”

Alex sat down on the curb, with Isabel tucked safely in his arms. “It’s not your fault. How could it be possibly be your fault?”

She refused to look at him, feeling ashamed. “Everywhere I go, people just get hurt. First it was Tess, then it’s everyone here. God, Alex. Max is in there. What am I going to do?”

Alex didn’t know what words to say that would reassure Isabel. The truth was, he was just as shaken to the fact that Liz was possibly still inside. “I don’t know what to tell you, Iz, but all I can say is that it’s not your fault. You didn’t cause this. This was just an accident.”

Isabel didn’t believe him, but she chose not to say anything. She was just so tired.

*********

Maria brushed away Michael’s sweat, her hand gripping his uninjured hand tightly in her own.

“Are you sure you’re ok?”

Michael nodded, grimacing as the medic put a bandage around his slightly burned hand. “I’m fine. I just wish that we knew if they got Max and Liz out of there.”

Maria looked to where the Sheriff was giving out orders by his cruiser. She turned back to Michael, giving him an encouraging smile. “How about I go to the Sheriff and ask him how things are going?”

Michael bobbed his head, ready to agree to anything to know that his friends were alright.

Maria kissed his forehead, giving his hand a squeeze.

She walked to the Sheriff, determined to find out how things were going, but the minute he caught sight of her, he picked her up in his arms, pulling her into a bear hug. “Maria, thank God you’re alright!” He refused to let go of her, making sure that she was unharmed.

Maria gave him a small smile. “Jim, I’m fine. I just wanted to know if you guys found Max and Liz yet?”

Jim shook his head, his eyes solemn. “We’re doing the best we can.” He watched Maria’s eyes cloud over in pain, making him hurt inside. “Look, I’m going to make sure that everyone is ok. Meantime, why don’t you give your mom a call. She’s been hysterical since we got the call on the radio. Had to argue with her to stay home, so that she could stay out of harm’s way.”

“Sure.” Maria turned to go to a payphone, knowing that her mother was probably having a nervous breakdown at home.

*********

Courtney held Noah tightly to her chest, walking blindly in the sea of people that had congregated outside of the Crashdown. She let Kyle lead her, the two of them trying to find a place where they could calm down little Noah.

Kyle sat down on the curb outside of the UFO center, reaching out his hand to Courtney. She sat down, gently bouncing a crying Noah in her arms.

The loud blasts had made Noah’s crying worse. He had cried so much, that tears had stopped running down his cheeks, his soft cries gurgling from his chest.

“Daddy.....daddy.......daddy.....” He repeated the words over and over again, in between his sobs.

Courtney looked to Kyle for help, but he seemed just as lost as he did.

“What are we going to do, Kyle?”

Kyle looked at her, then at the burning building in front of them.

“Pray...”

Part 57

**************

Jeff ran through the upstairs apartment, screaming and yelling for his wife.

"NANCY!"

As soon as he had heard the initial blast, he had headed straight for the apartment, straight for his wife. He opened each door, poking his head in to see if she was there.

Finally, he ran down the hall screaming her name. She met him halfway, her eyes filled with terror.

She held onto his arms, her fear consuming her. "Jeff, what’s going on? First there was that explosion, then all of this smoke? And I can hear sirens....." Her hands gripped him tighter, trying to reassure herself that he was alive and well.

Jeff shook his head. "I don’t know. I think it’s a fire."

"What!?!" Nancy practically choked the words past her lips. Her eyes turned wild with fear, her thoughts and emotions running rampant. "Jeff, where’s Liz?"

"I’m not sure. But she was downstairs with the other kids. I’m pretty sure they got out by now."

Nancy felt her knees turn to jello, her legs unable to hold her weight. "No..."

Jeff pulled his wife back into a standing position, his voice taking on a commanding tone. "Nancy, you have to listen to me, alright? We have to get out of here. I don’t know how long before the fire spreads. We have to go, NOW!"

Nancy was in a trance like state. All she could think about was the possibility that her baby girl was still somewhere in the building. "No....we have to find Liz."

Jeff nodded, trying to make his wife understand the situation. "I know, honey. And we will. But first, we have to get out of here. We can’t help Liz if we get stuck here."

Nancy looked at Jeff, almost as if she understood what he was saying. She nodded faintly, allowing him to lead her to Liz’s room.

Jeff popped the window open, the two of them climbing out onto Liz’s balcony. They ran to the fire escape, Jeff, letting his wife go down first. When she had reached the bottom, he swung himself over the ledge, making his way down.

He grabbed her hand, the two of them running around the alley, towards the front of the Crashdown.

**********

"NOAH!"

Kyle and Courtney looked up at the sound of the blood curdling scream.

With a half excited gleam in his eyes, Kyle stood up, pulling Courtney with him. "That’s Max!" He gripped her hand in his, leading them through the swarm of people once again.

"MAX!" His voice thundered through the crowds, trying his best to find his friend so that he could reunite him with his son.

"MAX!"

Kyle pushed through a few more people, coming to stand by his father’s cruiser. He saw Max sitting on the floor, his head between his knees, rocking back and forth. Liz was beside him, trying to comfort him, but it was apparent, that she was suffering just as much as he was.

Kyle was stopped in his tracks, almost as if his feet were glued to the concrete floor. Seeing Max so broken, did something to him. The pain inside his chest grew, knowing how terrible this must be for Max. The thought of losing Noah was heartbreaking to him, and the two of them weren’t even related. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what Max must be going through right now.

"Daddy.." Noah spoke the word softly, his strained cries from earlier subsiding to the occasional hiccup. He twisted his body in Courtney’s arms, trying to reach out to his father.

Max refused to look up at first, thinking that his mind was playing tricks on him, that he was just hearing things. But the sound of Liz’s gasp, and Noah’s little voice calling out to him again, made him lift his head. He wiped at his nose, his eyes having a hard time trying to focus with the tears clouding his vision.

When his eyes finally did focus, he almost tripped over his own legs, in his haste to pluck Noah from Courtney’s arms.

"Daddy!" Noah let out a soft giggle as Max twirled the two of them around in a circle, hugging Noah as close to his chest as possible. Max placed kisses all over his son’s face, his arms, anywhere he could.

"Thank God, you’re alright!" His voice was still shaking, as was his body. Max stopped spinning, placing Noah on top of the cruiser’s hood. He ran his hands up and down Noah’s arms and legs, making sure that he was alright.

Noah turned his head, his eyes landing on Liz. He gave her a crooked grin, his chubby hand reaching out to her. "Lizzie!" His little bottom bounced against the smooth surface of the hood, his eyes twinkling with happiness.

Liz stepped up to Noah, bringing her arms to wrap around the little boy that she loved so much. She picked him up in her arms, her cheek nuzzling the soft skin of his neck. Noah giggle again, planting a wet kiss on Liz’s cheek. Liz squeezed him a little harder, speaking against his little ear. "I’m so glad you’re ok, precious."

Max stood beside Liz, his arm coming to rest on her shoulders. He turned his amber gaze to Courtney and Kyle who were holding hands.

"Thank you for making sure Noah was alright. I don’t what I would’ve done......" Max was unable to finish his sentence, not able to even speak out loud his worst fears. He gave them a sad smile. "I don’t know how I can ever repay the both of you."

Kyle shook his head, his own voice a little strained with all of his emotions running wild. "No need to thank us. We’re just glad that the two of you are ok. We were so worried. First Courtney tells me that you were in the bathroom, then Alex tells me that Liz was still in the back with her dad. I’m just glad that everyone is safe now."

Liz looked up from where her attention was focused on Noah. "Wait a second. I....I wasn’t in the back with my dad." Liz looked to the smoke infested Crashdown.

Her legs began to wobble under Noah’s and her weight combined.

Max took Noah from her arms, with Kyle coming up to put his arm around her waist to keep her from falling. He shouldered her weight, his mind working overtime to find a way to reassure her that everything was going to be alright, but he couldn’t bring himself to make a promise he couldn’t keep.

**********

Jeff peered over the tops of people’s heads, trying to find anyone he recognized. His eyes caught sight of the Sheriff’s Stetson. He tugged on Nancy’s hand, pulling them through the masses.

"JIM!" He curved his free hand around his mouth, his voice straining over the noise.

Jim looked up to see Jeff Parker waving at him, and Nancy Parker clinging to his side. He heaved a sigh of relief, pushing people out of the way to meet up with them.

Jim clapped Jeff on his shoulder, a smile lighting his lips. "Thank goodness the two of you are alright. We were worried you were still inside."

Jeff could care less that he was alright. All he wanted to know was if Liz was alright, and all of the other kids. He would never forgive himself if anything happened to those kids.

"Where’s Liz? And the other kids?"

"No need to worry about a thing, Jeff. Everyone got out safe and sound. The kids made sure of that."

Jeff had stopped listening when he heard that everyone had gotten out. "Where’s Liz?"

Jim nodded, knowing that Jeff wouldn’t rest until he saw physical proof that his daughter was alive and breathing. "She’s with Max. Last I saw them, they were sitting by my cruiser." He pointed to where he had badly parked the cruiser.

Jeff gave him a grateful smile, pulling his wife towards the cruiser.

"LIZZIE!"

Liz looked up to the sound of her father’s voice, seeing him and her mother. She found her strength again, throwing herself into their open arms.

"Mom, Dad...." She squeezed them tight, reassuring herself that they were really there.

Max stepped to the side, allowing them to have their little reunion. He smiled, glad that Liz didn’t have to worry about her parents being in danger.

"MAX!"

Max’s eyes darted up to the sound of his name and bounding footsteps. He smiled seeing Isabel running towards him. She wrapped her arms around him, her tears flowing down her cheeks and onto his shirt.

"You’re here. You’re really here...." She had fistfuls of his shirt balled up in her hands, afraid to let him go.

Max kissed her temple, giving her a smile. "I’m right here, Iz. I’ll always be here."

Alex slowly walked up to the group that had congregated outside of the Crashdown. He eyed each of his friends, his eyes flying to Michael who was still seated by the ambulance, Maria at his side.

He let out a heavy sigh, glad that everyone was here and accounted for.





All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 21-Sep-2001 2:23:11 PM
Part 58

********

It had been a week since the fire at the Crashdown.

The Sheriff had arranged for the Parker’s to stay at a nearby motel, until they figured out how much damage was actually done to the Crashdown and to their upstairs apartment.

The week seemed to last forever, at least for Jeff and Nancy, anyway. They had to meet with the fire inspector, the insurance guy, and dealt with all sorts of other things.

The cause for the fire were the fryers that Jeff had been wanting to get rid of and replace with new ones. The fire had completely destroyed the kitchen and bathroom, also burning the stairs that lead to the their apartment. The fire had only come to the waitress station, before the firemen had detained it. But it didn’t matter. The dining area was covered in soot, the glass windows of the Crashdown broken through.

They had deemed their apartment unsafe to live in, until all repairs were made.

Jeff and Nancy were in a bind. The Crashdown was the only source of income that they had. The money they were going to receive from the insurance company was barely enough to cover the cost of repairs for the Crashdown. Add to that the fact they were practically homeless......

To say that it had been the hardest week of their lives would have been an understatement. Jeff spent many a sleepless nights going over what it was they were going to do as a family.

The decision he did come up with was one he didn’t particularly like. But he couldn’t think of any other way around it.

********

Liz twiddled her thumbs nervously, waiting for whatever it was her parents were going to say to her. They had told her that they had come up with a partial solution to their situation while the Crashdown was undergoing repairs. They had told her that they had decided to keep the Crashdown regardless of the money troubles they were having. The Crash had been their livelihood. There was no possible way that they could part with it. It was their home, in all senses of the word.

Jeff cleared his throat, finding it hard to speak out loud the elaborate plans that he had made. “Liz, honey. I know that we said that we were going to keep the Crashdown open-

Liz’s eyes widened, her fear obvious. “You guys didn’t change your mind, did you?”

Nancy shook her head, her red hair fanning out around her shoulders. “No, sweetie. We haven’t changed our minds. The Crashdown means so much to us. Letting it go would be like losing a part of ourselves. We could never do that.”

Liz nodded her head, warily. “Well, if this isn’t about you guys not keeping the Crash, then what’s this about?”

Nancy turned to Jeff, indicating that maybe he should handle the next part of the talk.

Jeff swallowed past the lump in his throat, his eyes misting up. He reached over, putting his hands over Liz’s. “Well, the repairs are going to take a while. And well, the Crashdown was the only source of income we have.” Taking a deep breath, he continued what he was saying with much difficulty. “The thing is, while we wait for the Crashdown to be restored, we have no money whatsoever. Your mother and I have talked it over, and well, we’ve both decided to get other jobs to help while we wait for everything to return to normal.”

“Okay, so you and mom are going to get other jobs.” Liz nodded thoughtfully, a crinkle forming just above her brow. “Well, I’ll get one too. Whatever I can do to help.” She gave them her most encouraging smile, hoping to lighten their load, if just a little.

“Liz, we appreciate that you want to help, but we don’t want you to have to worry about that. We’ve had hit some rough patches before, and we will get through this.”

Liz looked at her mother slightly confused. “I don’t understand. If this just about you guys getting other jobs to help keep us afloat, then why...” She eyed her parents curiously, knowing that they were having a silent conversation that didn’t include her. “Is there something that you’re not telling me?”

Jeff reached his other hand out to his wife, gripping her hand tightly in his. “There is something.”

Liz could feel her stomach turning into knots. Whatever it was they were going to say didn’t sound good. “What is it?”

“Well, as we said, your mother and I will be pursuing other jobs as of now, but the truth is, there really isn’t much opportunity here in Roswell. Your mother and I have thought it over, and we’ve decided that Albuquerque would probably be the place for us to start over. We talked to your grandma Claudia, and she’s letting us stay with her until we get back on our feet.”

Liz felt her body go numb. “So we’re moving to Albuquerque?” The thought scared her. Moving would mean she would leave behind everyone and everything she loved. Moving away meant that she would be moving away from Max. A shiver ran down her spine, fear embedding itself in her heart.

Jeff and Nancy exchanged looks before Jeff spoke up again. “See, that’s the thing, honey. We’re not moving to Albuquerque. Your mother and I are.” Jeff’s voice shook a little as he continued. “Your mother and I have talked long and hard about this, and we’ve decided to let you stay here in Roswell. We know that it’s your senior year and that all of your friends are here. We could never move you away from here. We’ve talked to Jim and Amy Valenti, and they’ve agreed to let you live with them until your mother and I move back home.”

Liz was silent. She didn’t know how to react. Was she supposed to whoop and holler knowing that she didn’t have to leave Roswell, or was she supposed to mourn her parents leaving her? She was torn. Either way, she was losing something, and she didn’t like it.

There had to be another way.

Part 59

********

Liz stood on the Valenti’s front porch, staring at where her parent’s car had been parked. They had left a little over half an hour ago, but she had yet to leave the spot that she waved goodbye to them from.

Amy opened the front door, walking up to Liz. She put her arm around the petite girl’s shoulder, letting her head lean on her shoulder. "Why don’t you come on inside, honey. It’s starting to get chilly out here."

Liz wrapped her sweater around her body tighter, shaking her head slowly. "If it’s alright with you, Mrs. Valenti, I feel like going for a little walk."

Amy pulled back slightly, giving Liz a mock frown. "Now, enough of that Mrs. Valenti stuff. You make sound like I’m Jim’s mother or something. It’s just Amy, Liz." She gave Liz an encouraging smile, hoping to get Liz out of her gloomy mood.

Liz gave her a small smile. "Ok, Amy." Liz turned so that they were looking at each other. "Is it ok if I went for a walk? I just...I kinda..."

Amy nodded, placing her hand on Liz’s shoulder. "Sure honey. Just don’t take too long, ok? Dinner’s going to be ready soon, and your parents said they would call as soon as they get to your gramma’s house."

Liz threw her arms around Amy, pulling her into a tight embrace. "Thank you, Amy." Her voice was muffled in Amy’s coat, but Amy could hear her clear as day. "And not just for this...." She pulled back, eyeing the Valenti house, her shoulders sagging when she took a deep breath. "For everything."

Amy brushed back the tears that were threatening to fall down Liz’s cheek. "You’re welcome, honey. You’re always welcome in our home. You’ve always been like a daughter to me."

They shared another embrace before Liz went for her walk.

*********

Liz walked aimlessly down the lonely streets of Roswell. The sun had started to set, the street lights starting to glow. She shivered slightly, the cool night air breezing softly around her.

She had no idea where she was headed, but she just kept on going. Saying goodbye to her parents had been one of the toughest things she had ever done. Sure, they were only moving to Albuquerque, but the thought of not seeing her parents faces everyday, the small talks, the little I Love You’s...... She never thought that it would be this hard. She had always known that she would leave them one day to go off to college, but this was entirely different.

The three of them had lost something, and in order for them to get it back, they would have to be separated. She had spent the last week debating whether she would stay in Roswell, or go with her parents. It had seemed like a no win situation.

Moving to Albuquerque allowed her the precious time with her parents that was now becoming a thing of the past. Staying in Roswell meant that she could be with Max, Noah, and all of her friends. How was she supposed to make a decision like that?

She was thisclose to going with her parents, but they had refused. They had reassured her that they were only a phone call away, and that the situation was only temporary. Her father even went so far as to joke with her about most teenagers being happy at the thought that their parents were a five hour drive away, to which Liz responded, "But I’m not most teenagers".

Liz wiped at the tears that had begun clouding her vision. She looked up at the street sign, a small smile playing at her lips.

Mulberry Lane.

Of all the places that she could have unconsciously walked to, she walked to the street that Max lived on.

Seeing as she was already here, she walked to the Evans’ house. She poised herself, knocking on the door.

Max opened the door, a telephone in his right hand. He breathed a sigh of relief, his eyes glowing with a softness that wasn’t there before.

"Thank you anyway, Mrs. Valenti, but I have a pretty good idea where Liz is." He chuckled into the phone, his lips curling into a smile. "Sure will. I’ll have her home before curfew." He hung up the phone, tossing it to the table that was off to his right.

Before Liz could get out a word, he placed a kiss on her lips. His lips pulled away slowly, his forehead leaning against hers. "You had me worried."

Liz had yet to open her eyes, her senses taking over as she felt the vibration of Max’s lips against hers when he spoke. "Worried?"

He nodded, his long eyelashes tickling her cheeks as he opened his eyes. "I’ve been calling the Valenti’s for the last half hour, looking for you."

Liz gave him a smile. "Well, you’ve found me."

Max chuckled, his laugh shaking his whole body. "You’re right about that." He placed another kiss on her lips, his hand coming up to cup her face. His tongue teased her lips open, his tongue eager to reacquaint itself with hers.

"Max, who’s at the door?" Diane held Noah’s hand, her head tilted curiously to the side.

Max jumped back, the sound of his mother’s voice startling him.

When he moved out of the way, Noah brought his hands up to his lips, a smile tinting his face. With slightly wobbly legs, he ran to Liz as fast as his little legs could carry him. "Lizzie!"

Liz leaned down on her knees, her arms open wide, ready to accept Noah as he ran to her, full force. She stumbled back a little when Noah threw himself in her embrace. "Lizzie!" He placed an open mouthed kiss on her cheek, his pouty lips making a smacking noise.

"Hiya, precious." She returned the favor, giving him a similar kiss, leaving a red lipstick stain on his cheek. "I missed you."

Noah leaned his head on her shoulder, his arms wrapping tightly around her, wanting to be held. "Mish you.."

Diane walked to the three of them at the door, ushering Liz inside. "Liz, come in, come in. It‘s freezing outside." She gave Max a pointed look as she closed the door. "Max, you should know better, letting Liz stand outside in this weather. I wouldn’t be surprised if she caught a cold." Diane wrapped her arm around Liz, her hands running down Liz’s arms in an effort to warm her.

Max felt the tips of his ears burn when he realized that he was too busy trying to kiss Liz, forgetting to let her into the house first.

"Let’s go into the kitchen. I’ll make us all some hot cocoa." Diane led Liz into the kitchen, her motherly instincts kicking in.

Liz threw a helpless smile towards Max, watching as he stood at the front door. She couldn’t help but be happy with the way Max’s mother treated her. She treated her as if she was part of the family, almost like she were her daughter.

Her nostrils were filled with the scent of chocolate. She smiled, taking in her surroundings.

Maybe things were going to be ok.

*********

Amy watched Maria throw her coat over her shoulders, her car keys in hand. "I won’t be home too late mom. I just want to go and check on Michael, you know, make sure he’s ok."

Amy poked her head out of the kitchen. "Sure, sweetie. Just be home before curfew."

Maria walked into the kitchen, placing a kiss on her mother’s cheek. "Ok, bye mom. I won’t be long."

Before she could leave, the sound of Amy’s high-pitched voice stop her. "Wait!" She held up plastic bags full of tupperware. "I made some extra food. I want you to bring it to Michael’s. Make sure he eats this instead of just cereal, ok?"

Maria gave her mother a smile, taking the food in her hands. "Will do. Thanks, mom."

Amy waved goodbye, watching from the window as Maria drove out of the driveway. She turned around looking at the disarray of their living room. Huffing a breath, Amy went about picking things up, to tidy the place a little.

Jim was sitting in his favorite chair, reading that morning’s newspaper. He peered over the side of the paper, watching as Amy fluffed the couch cushions. "What are you doing?"

Amy gave Jim a look that said he should know exactly what she was doing. Jim just gave her a blank look. She picked up a pillow from the couch, throwing it in his direction. It missed hitting him in the head by about an inch. "For your information, I’m cleaning up. I know that concept may be foreign to you-

Jim cut her of, a sarcastic smile on his face. "Ha ha ha. That’s real funny, sweetie."
Amy raised an eyebrow at him, another pillow in her hands. "Well, are you just going to sit there or are you going to help me?"

Jim held his hands up in defense. "Ok, ok." He put the recliner back in it’s upright position, folding his paper up. "I’m gonna help. Let me just go and get Kyle." He stood up walking towards the bedrooms, but before he could get there, he tripped and fell, landing spread-eagle on the carpeted floor.

Amy hid her laughter behind her hand, watching as her husband struggled to get up.

Jim lifted his head up, leaning on his elbows. "Well, are you just going to stand there and laugh, or are you going to help me?" Amy walked towards him, kneeling down beside his prone form. After much effort, she helped him into a sitting position.

She gave his back a soft rub. "What happened anyway? How’d you fall?"

Jim was scowling. "I tripped on the stupid phone cord." He lifted up the cord with his foot, showing the proof to Amy.

Amy’s eyebrows knotted in confusion, her eyes following the trail of the cord. "I don’t get it. Why is the cord running towards the closet?" Her eyes flicked to the table in which the phone usually sat, but was now missing. She stood up, holding the line in her hands. She followed it all the way until it disappeared under the hall closet door. She gave the line a little tug, hearing a soft "Ouch!" come from behind the closed door.

Placing her hand on the silver knob, she twisted it, opening the door to reveal Kyle sitting cross-legged on the floor, the phone in his lap, rubbing the side of his head.

Amy didn’t bother to hide the laughter from her voice. "Kyle. Why are you sitting inside the closet?"

Kyle gave her an embarrassed look. He waved the phone at her before whispering into it. "Courtney, I’m gonna have to call you back-

Amy waved her hand in the air, trying to get Kyle’s attention. "Don’t hang up!"

Kyle’s head shot up. "What?"

"I said don’t hang up yet."

Kyle’s eyes grew wide, his attention returning to the phone in his hand. "Oh, no, not you, Courtney. I was talking to Amy." He gave Amy a look as he attempted to stand up. "Do you think you could hold on for just a second?" He smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. He continued to eye Amy warily, noticing the excited gleam in her eyes. He knew that look. Maria had the same exact look, and that look usually resulted in him getting embarrassed. He knew that Maria and Amy didn’t embarrass him on purpose, but their sometimes wacky ideas did nothing but lead to just that. He held his hand over the mouthpiece, his voice turning it a hushed whisper. "Why don’t you want me to hang up?"

Amy’s smiled like the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. "Is that Courtney on the phone?"

Kyle nodded slowly, his face turning into one of shock, when Amy snatched the phone from his hands.

"Hello, Courtney?.....Hi, this is Amy Valenti......Oh, thank you. It’s good to hear from you too....Actually, I just wanted to know if you’d like to join, Jim, Kyle, and I for dinner tonight.." Amy jumped out of the way when Kyle launched forward, trying to get the phone away from her. "No, no, it’s trouble at all. It’d be a pleasure to have you over...Dinner is almost ready, so you can stop by whenever you’re ready....." She gave Kyle a little smile. "And you don’t need directions, right?.....Good, I’ll see you in a little bit, then." Amy hung up the phone, handing it back to Kyle.

"I’m going to set the table."

Kyle stood there, his jaw still hanging open. What the heck just happened?

Jim finally pulled himself into a standing position, walking towards his son. He placed his arm around Kyle’s shoulders, a smile curling his lips. "Cheer up, son. It could be worse. Maria could’ve been home and then you’d have the two of them working together."

Kyle just gave his dad a look, resulting in laughter from Jim. Jim clapped him on the shoulder before heading into the kitchen. "You might want to change your shirt, put a clean one on."

Kyle buried his face in his hands, muttering to himself.

This dinner was certainly going to be interesting.

Part 60

*********

For the second time that night, the doorbell at the Evans’ house rang, alerting them to their guest.

As he had done before, Noah wobbled to the door with Max and Liz running after him.

Max picked up Noah, placing him on his shoulders, while Liz opened the door.

"Awex!" Noah waved to Alex, his legs kicking against Max’s chest.

"Hey, little buddy!" Alex reached his hand up, tugging on Noah’s little hand.

Max held onto Noah’s legs, trying to keep them from kicking. "Hey Alex, come on in."

He and Liz stepped aside, letting Alex walk inside.

When Alex caught sight of Liz, he placed his arm around her, pulling her into his side. "Hey, Parker." He kissed the top of her head, his voice turning into a whisper. "How you holding up?"

Liz shrugged her shoulders, the smile on her lips lighting up her whole face. "Ok." She looked around the Evans’ home, her eyes landing on Max who had run into the living room. He dropped Noah onto the couch, tickling the little boy mercilessly. "No, you know what? I’m better than ok. In fact, I’m doing great."

Alex followed her gaze. He couldn’t help the smile that formed on his lips. Max and Noah were good for Liz. They brought out this whole other side of her that made her glow, that made her happy. Not that she was never happy before, but it just seemed as if something was missing. It was as if Max and Noah were that missing part, completing her, making her into the beautiful woman that she was now.

"Alex."

The soft voice from the stairs averted Alex’s gaze his eyes landing on his own happiness. Isabel looked absolutely beautiful, even if she was just wearing an old pair of jeans and an oversized shirt. That’s one of the things he loved about her. Most other girls would probably spend hours putting on make-up, trying to find the right outfit to wear. With Isabel, it was different. There were times when she knew exactly the right thing to wear, accenting her full figure, but she also knew that she didn’t always have to dress that way. She was comfortable enough with herself that she didn’t feel like she had to put make-up on all the time, or wear an outfit too binding.

Alex was finally pulled out of his thoughts when Isabel reached for his hand. He hadn’t even realized that she had made it down the stairs. He gave her a smile, bringing their linked hands up to his lips, giving her hand a kiss.

Phillip’s friendly voice echoed from the kitchen as he stuck his head out. "Well, it looks like everyone’s here. It’s time for dinner."

*********

Maria opened the door to Michael’s apartment, finding Michael trying to hobble to his small kitchen.

"What do you think you’re doing?" She closed the door behind her, placing the grocery bags on the kitchen counter.

Michael looked at her like she had grown two heads. He pulled the refrigerator door open, taking out a soda. "I’m getting myself something to drink."

Maria marched towards him, pulling him towards the couch. "Not on my time you’re not."

As Michael fell back against the cushions, he gave Maria a questioning look. "Excuse me? But what do you mean, not on your time?"

Maria pulled a pillow from the couch, placing it on the coffee table. She grabbed Michael’s twisted ankle, gingerly laying it on the pillow. "You’re not supposed to be walking on your ankle, remember?"

Michael rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on. So, I twisted my ankle. I’m not an invalid."

Maria turned her watery green eyes on him. "Just humor me, will you? At least while I’m here?"

Michael looked up to see the tears forming in Maria’s eyes. He reached his arm out to her, moving to the side to let her sit down next to him. "Come here." Maria snuggled into his side, burying her face in his neck. Michael felt her warm tears slide across the skin on his neck, eventually landing on his shirt collar.

He cupped her face, turning it so that he was looking into her face. His thumb brushed back the tears that fell down her cheeks. "Hey. What’s with the tears?"

Maria choked on her own words as she attempted to speak. "It’s just, every time I see you hurt, I keep thinking about the fire, and how it could have been-

Michael silenced her with his finger against her quivering lips. "Hey, don’t think like that, alright? I’m ok. I may not be in the best shape right now, but I’m still here." He gave her a crooked grin, his eyebrow twitching slightly. "Besides, it’s gonna take a lot more than a fire, to get rid of me, blondie. I ain’t going away that easy."

Maria opened her mouth to speak again, but Michael hushed her. "Not now, ok? We’ll talk about it later." His eyes flew to the grocery bags on the counter. "Is that food?"

Maria slapped him on the shoulder. She wiped away at her own tears. "Typical guy, always changing the subject when the conversation gets too serious."

Michael stopped his attempt at changing the subject, letting out a deep breath. He put his fingers under Maria’s chin, tilting it so that they were looking at each other. "Look, you know I’m not real good about sharing my feelings and all that, but.......I just.....I want you to know........that, that.......I love, you, Maria."

Maria shook her head trying to make sure she heard him right. Did he actually say that he loved her?

Michael sat back, waiting for Maria to say something, but she just sat there. He felt weird saying that out loud. He knew that he had felt that way about Maria for a long time now, but somehow, he was just scared to voice those feelings. Afraid that he would be rejected, that she wouldn’t feel the same way. He didn’t like feeling vulnerable, he didn’t like putting himself out there. Without his barriers, without his stone wall, he felt naked. He was scared.

Just then, Maria threw herself into his lap, her lips attaching itself to his. "I love you too, Michael."

*********

Courtney stepped onto the Valenti’s front porch, her nervousness eating her up. She could do this. She could definitely do this. Heck, she had kissed Kyle already hadn’t she?

Just as she was about to knock on the door, it flew open.

"Hey."

Part 61

**********

Jim stepped aside, pulling the door open. He held his hand out, a grin lighting his face. “It’s Courtney, right?”

Courtney smiled, tucking her hair behind her ears. She smiled, giving Jim a firm handshake. “Yes, it is. It’s nice to meet you, Sheriff Valenti.”

Jim gave her a warm smile, pulling her into the house. “Oh, it’s just Jim tonight. I’m only the boss when I’m at work.” He gave her a wink, causing a little giggle to escape from Courtney.

Amy peered out from behind the kitchen wall, her eyes taking on a teasing glint. “I heard that!” She waved a wooden spoon at her husband before turning her attention to Courtney. “I’ll be right there, Courtney. Just make yourself at home.”

“Thank you.” Courtney allowed Jim to lead her into the living room, where the two of them sat down.

*******

Inside his room, Kyle stood in front of his mirror that hung on the inside of the closet. In all honesty, he never even remembered a time when he had actually looked into the mirror and looked at himself, worrying about what he looked like.

He tugged on the collar of the shirt he was wearing, making a gagging face. “Geez, if I had known that this shirt looked that hideous, I would have stopped wearing it a long time ago.” He pulled the shirt over his head, throwing it onto his bed.

He stuck his head inside the closet, digging for another shirt to wear. He pulled out a black shirt that Maria had given him for his birthday. She had said something about, spicing up his wardrobe, whatever the hell that meant. He pulled the shirt on, smoothing it over his torso. He turned to the mirror, looking at his refection. Kyle bit his fingernails, unsure if he liked the shirt. It seemed, what was the word? Tight? Like really tight.

He turned to the side, doing that thing that all women did when they looked into the mirror. He checked out his butt, standing on his tip toes. “Hmm....”

Amy’s voice called out to him from outside. “Kyle!”

Kyle turned his head towards the door, yelling. “I’m coming! Just give me a second.”

Kyle turned to the mirror again, checking out his reflection. As if realizing for the first time what he was doing, Kyle shivered, pulling the shirt over his head. “I really need to stop hanging out with Maria and Liz so much.”

**********

Amy sat on the arm rest of Jim’s recliner, her attention focused on Courtney. “Why don’t you go and get Kyle? He’s in his room, first door on the right.”

Courtney shook her head, her blond hair fanning around her face. “I, I-

Amy gave her an encouraging smile. “Go on. He’s probably playing video games or something. Meanwhile, Jim and I will finish setting the table.”

Jim looked at his wife’s face. “We will? But I thought-

Amy just raised her eyebrow at him, giving his forearm a slight pinch.

Being completely oblivious, Jim yanked his hand out of the way, trying to rub away the pain. He gave Amy a glare. “Ow! What’d you do that for?”

Amy rolled her eyes, resisting the urge to smack her husband upside the head. Men could be so dense sometimes, she thought. Instead, she pulled him up by his shirt sleeve, leading him towards the kitchen. “We’ll be in the kitchen, so you go ahead and call Kyle, tell him that dinner’s ready.”

Courtney watched Amy disappear into the kitchen with Jim. She couldn’t help but laugh a little. Well, at least they seemed to like her, she thought.

Taking a few deep breaths, Courtney stood up walking towards Kyle’s room.

As she reached the door, she gave herself a little pep talk before knocking on the door.

**********

Kyle grabbed one of his white t-shirts from his dresser drawers. There was no use in trying to change who he was. If he was going to get through this dinner, he might as well be comfortable.

While struggling to pull the shirt over his head, he opened the door. He didn’t even realize that it was Courtney until he heard the sharp intake of breath. When he did, he yanked his t-shirt all the way down, his eyes landing on a very stunned Courtney.

Her cheeks were flushed and she kept opening her mouth as if she was going to say something, but no sound came out.

“Courtney.”

When Kyle had said her name, Courtney finally seemed to find her voice. “Uh, yeah....um, Amy and your dad told me to call you. They said that dinner was ready.”

Kyle smiled when he saw Courtney slightly embarrassed in his presence. It wasn’t that he enjoyed other people’s discomfort, but at least he knew that they were on the same boat.

Maybe dinner wasn’t going to be so bad after all.

*********

The Evans’ dinner table was stretched to it’s full capacity.

Diane looked towards her husband, giving him a slight smile. The two of them watched in amusement as Alex sat next to Isabel, with Alex talking animatedly about some sort of new computer software that he had just got. They knew for a fact that Isabel could care less about computers, but it was nice to see her seem so genuinely interested by what Alex was saying. It was if, by Alex relaying the information to her, it made it seem like it was the most interesting thing to her.

Diane’s gaze flocked to the other side of the table where Max sat beside Liz. Diane noticed how they would look at each other and smile after every other bite. She also noticed how their hands seemed to be linked under the table, almost as if they were afraid to lose contact with each other. Had it been another time, Diane would have been worried about the closeness of Max and Liz, but she had become a firm believer of the love that they shared. The kind of love that they had only comes once in a lifetime, and she was glad that the two of them found each other. Before they moved to Roswell, Max was in a dark place. Liz and all of their friends had been the ones to take him out of his slump. They were the ones to breathe new life into her twins, and she couldn’t be more thankful.

Now, it was Liz who was in a bit of a slump. She knew how hard it must be for Liz to lose her home, and in a way, lose her parents too. She couldn’t even imagine how terrible Liz was feeling. But Diane had a feeling, that just as Liz had healed Max, Max and Noah would be the ones that would help heal Liz.

Almost as if he knew that he was being thought of, Noah’s little voice piped up, grabbing the attention of everyone in the room. His childish gibberish was music to everyone’s ears.

Noah started getting a little hyper, seeing so many people at one time caused his excitement level to rise. His little plastic bowl flew across the room as he shifted in his high chair.

Max stood up, hesitant to let go of Liz’s hand. He went to the other side of the room, cleaning up the mess.

“Ok, little man, I think that’s enough excitement for tonight.” Max pulled Noah into his arms, pushing the chair out of the way.

Noah banged his fists against Max’s shoulders, his head shaking from side to side. “No! No!” His eyes flew to everyone’s faces in the dining room, ultimately landing on Liz. He turned watery eyes at her, with a slight tremble in his lip. “Lizzie.”

Liz shook her head, placing her napkin on the table. It was funny to think how easily he could break her. Like father, like son, she thought ruefully. She knew that when Max gave her that look, she could refuse him nothing, and the same went for his son too.

Liz reached for Noah, allowing him the comfort of her arms. She placed a soft kiss on the top of his head, whispering softly to him. “I’m right here, sweetheart.”

She turned to face Diane asking for permission to leave the table. “Would it be alright-

Diane smiled warmly at her, not letting her finish. “Sure thing. Just don’t take too long, you don’t want your dinner getting cold.”

Liz returned her smile, thankful that Mrs. Evans was so understanding. “Thank you, and we’ll be right down.”

Liz led the three of them up the stairs with Max trailing behind.

***********

Maria walked into the living room, carrying plates of food. “So, what are we watching tonight?”

Michael sat up, inhaling the smell of a home cooked meal. “Uh, whatever. Max dropped of some tapes from Spacey’s this morning.”

Maria handed him a plate smiling at the thought that Max went out of his way to drop off some videos for Michael. “That was nice of him. Do you know what he rented?”

Michael scratched the side of his eyebrow. “Uh....let me see....Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and I think the other one was Traffic.”

Maria had made it over to the tv, waving the videos at Michael. “Which one?”

“How about Crouching Tiger? Max says it was really good.”

Maria popped the tape into the vcr, plopping herself next to Michael. “Crouching Tiger, it is, then.”

Michael put a forkful of food into his mouth, his eyes closing in utter delight as he chewed. “Mmm, remind me to thank your mother the next time I see her.” He continued to chew, savoring the taste of the hot meal that he was eating.

Maria smiled. “Well, you know my mom. Always aiming to please.”

Michael wiped his mouth with a napkin, placing a sound kiss on Maria’s lips. “Well thank you. I’ll have to thank your mom when I see her.”

“You’re welcome.”

*********

“So Courtney, where are you going to college?”

“I’ve decided to go UNM. It’s far enough away from home that I’ll be actually moving out, but it’s close enough to home that I could come back and visit my parents whenever I wanted.”

Amy smiled. “Well, it’s good to know that not all teenagers all ready to up and leave their parents. I honestly don’t know what Jim and I are going to do when Kyle and Maria leave. The house is going to feel so empty.” She finished with a sigh, looking around the house, remembering all of the good times that they had shared.
“Anyways, enough of that. Why don’t you tell us a little more about yourself, you know, what you like to do for fun, your interests. That kind of stuff.”

Courtney swallowed her food before speaking. “Well, there really isn’t much to say. Um, I’m so busy with school that I usually keep myself occupied with that.”

Amy didn’t want the conversation to come to a dead end, so she kept on asking questions. “Well, that’s good to know. It’s nice to know that you’ve got your priorities straight. Speaking of, do you have any idea what you’d like to major in?”

“I’m not exactly sure, but I do know that I want to be a nurse eventually.”

“Isn’t that nice. Right, Kyle?” Amy turned her attention to Kyle, hoping that he would join in the conversation. She could only do so much to keep the conversation going, and if Kyle wasn’t going to speak up, then they were definitely in a bind.

Kyle looked up from where he had been pushing the food around on his plate. It wasn’t that he was trying to act disinterested, but somehow trying to get to know the girl of his dreams in front of his parents was just not his idea of a good time. He and Courtney were still in that awkward stage of getting to know each other. Sure, for a brief second, they had shared the most incredible kiss that he had ever had, but that was in the heat of the moment.

Having an audience as you tried to work up enough courage to ask out a girl was definitely not a picnic.

“Yeah, that’s nice.” Kyle resisted the urge to gag at the words that were coming from his mouth. When did he become such a dork?

Deciding to be a man, Kyle took the napkin from his lap, placing it onto the table. He reached for Courtney’s hand, helping her to stand up.

“May we be excused?”

“But you guys aren’t even done eating yet.”

Jim looked at his son, a grin playing on his lips. He placed a hand on his wife’s arm, preventing her from standing up. “No, honey. I think they’re just about done. Right kids?”

All eyes turned to Courtney, waiting for her response. She was so nervous she didn’t think she could eat the rest of her food anyway, and she was curious about why Kyle was insisting that the two of them be excused. “Thank you for the wonderful dinner, Mrs. Valenti, but I honestly don’t think I could eat another bite.”

Amy seemed a little discouraged, but she smiled anyway. “Well ok.”

Kyle smiled his gratitude to his father then to Amy. As he walked himself and Courtney towards the back yard, Kyle stopped to give Amy a peck on the cheek. “Thanks for doing this. I appreciate it.” He whispered, leading the way outside.

Amy could barely keep the grin from her lips as she watched the two of them go outside. She felt Jim come up beside her, squeezing her shoulders. “Well, I think your work here is done, sweetie.” He kissed her cheek, his smile mirroring hers. “You’ve done a good job.”

***********

Liz had calmly and swiftly put Noah to sleep.

Max leaned against his closed door, watching as Liz tucked Noah under the covers. “You know, he has you totally wrapped around his little finger.”

Liz gave Max a smirk as she walked towards him. “Oh please, you’re one to talk, daddy.” She poked his chest with her finger, laughing when he jerked away.

He laughed with her, his hands coming to rest on her hips. “Ok, so my son has both of us wrapped around his little finger.”

Liz placed her head against Max’s chest, just enjoying the way his heart beat against his chest. She inhaled Max’s scent, her body moving closer to his, seeking warmth in his arms. “And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Max nuzzled Liz’s hair, his hands running through it’s silkiness. “Me either.”

His hands stilled when Liz moved, planting a kiss on his lips. Her lips nibbled, suckled, and caressed his. She urged him to open his mouth to allow her tongue to mingle with his, to make love to his, and he did so willingly.

All of a sudden her hands were everywhere. In his hair, on his shoulders, on his chest, then almost teasingly, her finger hooked onto one of the belt hoops on his jeans, giving it a soft tug.

Max abruptly pulled back, his lungs burning from lack of oxygen. “Wow!” His eyes were dazed as he looked into Liz’s chocolate brown eyes, that had turned into a shade of midnight. “What was that?”

Liz’s fingers danced around his collar, her finger’s slipping beneath the cotton to touch his warm skin. “I’ve been dying to do that all night.” She admitted.

Max smiled a broad smile, liking the fact that Liz seemed to crave him as much as he seemed to crave her. “You and I both.”

Liz had begun sucking the skin on his neck, her hands roaming the expanse of his muscular chest. “I’m glad you liked.”

Max brought Liz’s face up to his, stealing another kiss. “Oh, I definitely liked.” He leaned in for another kiss, his hands running down her back, stopping to cup her tush in his hands.

Liz gave a soft squeak, her hands gripping Max’s shoulders tighter. When he stopped kissing her, she wagged her finger in his face, a teasing glint in her eyes. “Why, Mr. Evans. You’re being very naughty tonight!”

Max’s jovial laugh started from the pit of his stomach, rumbling all the way to his lips. “I’m the one being naughty? If I recall, you’re the one who started this.”

“Ok, so sue me. It’s not my fault that my boyfriend is just so darned handsome.” Liz started giggling when Max blushed from his neck, all the way to the tips of his ears.

Max just shook his head, taking Liz’s hand in his. “Come on. We should go before we start something we can’t finish.”

Liz placed her hand on the door to keep Max from opening it. “You’re not mad at me are you?”

Max cupped her face with his free hand, his thumb tracing her cheekbone. “Mad at you? I could never be mad at you.” He kissed their linked hands, giving her a small smile. “I’m just saying, I don’t want us to work ourselves up for nothing.” He leaned in so that he was whispering in her ear. “Besides, I want more than just a few minutes to ravish you.” He nipped her earlobe, placing a lingering kiss on the base of her neck.

He opened the door, leading them down the stairs. Liz could barely make her legs move after that little stunt.

“Tease!”

Part 62

Rated: Heavy R bordering NC-17


***********

Kyle helped Courtney sit on the swing that hung on the tree in their yard. “Sorry about that whole thing in there.”

Courtney turned her head, pushing her hair behind her ears as the wind caused it to flutter about her face. “What are you talking about? Your dad and Amy are really cool. They’re so nice, and funny. I mean I could only wish that my parents were like that.” Courtney pumped her legs as Kyle continued to push her.

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. I mean my parents are always busy. I don’t even remember a time when we all sat down to eat dinner together.”

“Oh.” Kyle stood there for a second, trying to imagine what his life would have been like if Amy and Maria hadn’t walked into it. He didn’t have to think too hard, for an image of him and his father sitting in front of the tv with matching tv dinners flashed into his mind.

Courtney let the swing run out of steam, with Kyle holding onto the rope. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that my parents don’t care, it’s just with my older sister going to school in Texas, and me going off to school next year, well they’re just working really hard to help us achieve our dreams.” Her foot traced an invisible pattern in the grass. “I mean we all have to make some sacrifices.”

Kyle twisted the rope so that Courtney was facing him. “Well, if you don’t already know, Amy and my dad really like you. They don’t invite just anybody to dinner.” He finished with a grin.

Looking up to meet his gaze, she smiled. “Well, I’m touched. I don’t even know how I’m going to thank them for tonight.”

Kyle let the rope go, letting it twist into it’s original position. He reached for Courtney’s hand, leading them to the back porch steps. “Shall we?”

She took his hand gladly, liking the fact that he so willingly reached for her hand all the time.

They sat in companionable silence for a while until Courtney turned to look at Kyle. She noticed that he was deep in thought, his handsome face fixed into a frown.

Gently nudging his side, she offered him a smile. “Hey, you ok?”

Kyle wiped his sweaty palms nervously across his jeans. As soon as she had sat down next to him, he was overcome with her smell. She smelled just like coconuts, he thought dreamily. For the past few minutes, he had been thinking up a way to ask her out. It was now or never.

“Yea, I’m fine. You know, just thinking.”

When he didn’t offer anymore than that, Courtney felt compelled to push him just a little bit. They had shared so many emotions, so many experiences, this past week, that it seemed like the natural thing to do. “You know, Kyle. These past few weeks have been the most trying experience of my life. I feel terrible for saying this, but I’m a little torn about what’s happened.”

Kyle looked into her eyes, intent on listening to every word that she was saying. “Why would you feel terrible?”

“I feel terrible that Liz and her family had to go through that, that all of your family and friends had to go through that too. But what makes me feel really terrible is, that I can’t help but feel a little glad that it’s brought us closer together.” She let her eyes fall to the floor, afraid to look into Kyle’s eyes. “I can’t help but think, that if any of this hadn’t had happened, I wouldn’t even be here with you.”

“Go out on a date with me?”

Courtney looked up into his face. “What?”

“I said, would you please go out on a date with me? Let me prove to you that the fire isn’t the reason why we’re closer.” His eyes gave her all the answers that she needed to know that everything that he was saying was true.

She gave him that smile that always made him weak in the knees. He was glad that he was sitting down, because had he been standing, his knees would have buckled beneath him already.

“Yes.”

“Yes?” He couldn’t help but repeat what she had said, somehow afraid that he was hearing only what he wanted to hear.

“Yes, I’d love to go out on a date with you.” She reached for his hand that was resting on his thigh. She ran her fingers lightly over his, trying to soothe his trembling hands. “Your hand’s shaking. Are you ok?”

Kyle nodded, still trying to find his voice. “I’m fine, I’m just...” He chuckled at himself. “I just can’t believe you said yes. I was so scared you were going to say no.” He gave her a goofy grin, one that expressed his happiness. “Thank you.”

*************

Liz grabbed a few plates from the table, getting ready to take them into the kitchen, when Max took them out of her hands. “Come on, let’s go.”

She tried to reach for the plates again, only to have Max pull her towards the front door, his car keys in hand. “Max! We can’t just leave.” She hissed.

He winked at her, leading her towards the jeep. “Yes we can. I already talked to my mom, and she said it was ok.” As he put his key in the ignition, he glanced at the clock on the console. He tapped it with his finger, his smile lighting up his whole face. “And besides, you’ve got another two hours before curfew.” He put the jeep in reverse, heading out to the road. “I think we should make the most of it, don’t you?”

*************

Maria put Crouching Tiger back into it’s case, and put Traffic into the tape player. “So, what’d you think of Crouching Tiger?”

Michael merely shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know, it seemed like it was just a chick flick with kung fu.”

Maria rolled her eyes, positioning herself next to Michael. “Well, I thought it was good.”

Michael tried to hide his smile. “Well, that’s because you’re a chick.”

Maria tickled his side until he begged for mercy. “Well, what about Max? You said, that he said, that it was good.”

Michael wrapped his arm around Maria, his hand playing in her golden locks. “That’s because Max has that whole sensitive guy thing, going for him. Not that that’s a bad thing. I’m just more into guts and gore type of thing.”

Maria made a face at him, before she turned her attention to tv. “Shh! The previews are starting.”

**********

Max put the jeep in park. He walked to the back, grabbing a sleeping bag and a blanket. As he walked past Liz, she raised an eyebrow at him.

“What?”

She pointed to what he was carrying, but Max still didn’t get it. “Huh?”

Liz shook her head, linking her arm with his. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d have to say that you drove all the way out into the desert, just to ravish me.” She gave him a wicked grin, her hand creeping behind him, giving his butt a little pinch.

Max jumped, his eyes returning her teasing. “Why, Ms. Parker. You really need to get your mind out of the gutter.” As soon as he saw her jaw fall, he ran forward, hearing her soft footsteps behind him. He chanced a look behind him, but the blanket and sleeping bag had come apart in his arms, causing him to trip. He landed with a thud, and a little oompf.

He had yet to open his eyes, but he knew that she was there. “Poor baby.” She smoothed back his hair, her voice laced with a little laughter. “You should know by now, that you can’t run away from me.”

Max sat up, a full blown smile on his lips. “True.” He wiped the dust from his clothes, handing Liz the blanket. “Help me set this up?”

Together they lay the sleeping bag on the floor, the blanket placed at the top. They had decided to use it as a pillow because it was a little warmer out than they had originally thought.

Liz snuggled closer to Max’s side, her nose nuzzling his neck. “Max?”

“Yeah?” His hands alternated running through her hair, and down her arms.

Her voice sounded small, even to her own ears. Max had to strain his ears just to hear her, and she was just a breath away from him. “You remember on your birthday.....when we, you know....could you, um.......can you make feel that way again?”

Max could barely believe what he was hearing. Just a little while ago, she had been teasing and taunting him, and the day of the fire, she was the one who instigated the whole thing in the bathroom. And now, she almost seemed, timid, afraid to ask him......

Then it hit him like a ton of bricks. In every situation that she was the aggressor, it was only because she sought to give him pleasure. The difference this time, was she was asking him to pleasure her.

He couldn’t believe that she was so unsure of herself, so unsure that he would want to bring her to that place.

Well, he’d have to change that real, quick.

He leaned on his side so that Liz was on her back, his body hovering over hers. His lips sought hers in an open mouthed kiss, his tongue reaching the darkest recesses of her mouth. The moan that escaped her lips, fueled the fire burning in his veins. He let his tongue dance with hers for a few moments, before his lips made a descent down her chin and around her neck.

Her neck arched, allowing him to go anywhere he pleased. And he did.

His tongue traced a wet path down her neck, his mouth following it’s trail back up. She could feel his lips branding her, his teeth nipping at her delicate skin. The ache began in the pit of her stomach, an ache wanting to be filled. She shifted her hips, trying to get into contact with his, but she felt his large hands on her hips, stopping their movement.

His usually amber eyes were now black, the moonlight glistening in his eyes. “Patience, my dear.” His breath was on her ear, causing her to shiver. “When I said I wanted more than just a few minutes to ravish you, I meant it.”

When her hips stilled, his hands ran up her sides, his fingers teasing the sides of her breasts. She threw her head to the side, her bottom lip caught between her teeth. He was barely touching her, and her body was already on fire. She thought she would burst into flames when he finally did touch her.

One by one, she felt the buttons on her top come undone. She looked up to Max’s face, but his eyes were trained on every piece of skin that was revealed to him. He was mesmerized by her beauty. If a bomb were to go off right now, he probably wouldn’t have noticed, or cared for that matter.

He pushed the shirt over her shoulders. “Sit up for a second.” She did as she was told. He pulled the top away from her, throwing it to the side. She was going to lay down again, but Max caught her. “Not yet, baby.” His fingers traced the indentation of her spine, then came back up. When his fingers reached her bra, he stopped. With a flick of his wrist, the snap came undone.

He let her lie back down, but he had yet to pull off her bra. Max watched as her chest heaved, her breasts rising and falling with them. His hand reached forward, touching the satin material of her bra strap. He marveled at it’s softness as he pulled one bra strap down, after another.

Just as he had done the night of his birthday, he took a sharp intake of breath, seeing her beauty displayed to him. He had already burned into his memory what she looked like, but seeing her in the flesh, was nothing compared to an image in his mind.

His fingers danced across her skin, making her feel light headed. He leaned down to capture her lips in another soul searing kiss, his lips trailing down her chin, between her breasts, and finally down to her belly button. His tongue traced a circle around her belly button, making a quick sweep inside.

Liz threw her head back, her hands bunched into the sleeping bag. Who knew that your belly button could be such a hot spot?

“Maaax.....”

He looked up from where he was planting kisses on her stomach, his hands dancing around the edge of her skirt. “Yeah?”

“I need.....please.....Max....please....”

His voice was husky, his breathing out of control. His fingers weaved into her hair. “What is it, Liz? Tell me what you need.”

Liz was frustrated beyond belief. The ache between her legs was getting stronger, begging for release. “I need you...”

He gave her a brief smile, his love for her shining through. “Anything, you want, baby.”

His hands cupped her breasts, her nipples immediately hardening at his touch. She arched her back, trying to get closer to him. His fingers tweaked her nipples softly, before running a path to the underside of her breast. His tongue peeked out from behind his lips, the tip touching her nipple lightly. When he heard Liz moan, he opened his mouth over her breast, trying to take in as much as he could.

He suckled her breast gently, his lips releasing her breast, but keeping her nipple between his lips. Her hands dug through his hair, his name becoming a mantra on her lips. He treated her other breast to the same pleasure, his skilled hands working to ease her skirt off of her slender hips.

When he got them out of the way, he sat up a little, his fingers dancing at the edge of her panties, occasionally letting the tips of his fingers dip inside. Liz writhed beneath him, her body set aflame by his touch.

Just when she thought her senses were on overload, Max slid her panties from her hips, leisurely pulling them down her trim legs. Her thighs quivered as his fingers walked back up her naked legs, finally playing at the dark patch of curls between her legs.

“God. You’re even more beautiful than I could have imagined.” His voice was filled with love, and awe, as he seeked for her hidden treasure. With gentle pressure, his hands parted her legs, opening her up to him. His breath caught in his throat, as he sat witness to the beauty of Liz’s body. His eyes flew to her face that was burning with embarrassment. He let his hand cup her cheek, his thumb caressing her cheek. “Don’t be embarrassed. You’re the epitome of beauty.”

Not able to contain himself, he reached his finger to touch her folds, delighting when a soft whimper escaped from her lips. Coating his finger in her essence, he slowly slid his finger inside her, wanting nothing more than to taste her, to bury himself in her. But that would have to wait. One step at a time, and this step was going to bring her so much ecstasy, she was bound to see stars.

Her hips moved in time to his thrusts, her voice catching in her throat. He could feel her walls clamping down on his finger. Knowing that it wouldn’t take much longer before she reached her peak, he thrust his finger inside her one last time. She cried out at the loss, but her cry turned into a cry of pleasure when his finger traced tight circles on her nub.

Her hips bucked, her back arching, her cries making her voice hoarse.

“Maaaax.....Oh God...Max....” As the tremors in her body decreased, Max moved to lie down next to her. He grabbed the blanket, wrapping it around her naked body. He let her lay her head on his chest, his lips peppering her skin with his kisses.

When she finally came back to earth, she leaned her hand on his chest, her face looking into his. “Max.....thank you....that was.....that was absolutely incredible....”

He pushed the wet tendrils of hair away from her face. “I should be the one thanking you. You trusted me enough to do what I wanted, and-

She placed a finger to his lips. “Why don’t I just return the favor?” She gave him a devilish grin, her hand creeping down to the front of his pants. He tried to stop her, but she was too quick.

Her face was one of confusion when her hand came into contact with the wetness on his pants. “Max?”

His eyes fell, the embarrassment evident in his face. “I...when you....I’m sorry, I couldn’t wait.....” His voice sounded so guilty, almost as if he had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “When you let go....I just....”

Liz stopped his bumbling words with a kiss. She couldn’t believe that she could do that Max, to make him lose so much control.... A smile formed on her lips, as she lay her head back on his chest. “I love you so much, Max.”

“I love you too....”

They lay together, basking in the afterglow of their lovemaking, stroking, and gently petting each other.

“Liz?”

“Yea?”

The pads of his fingers flittered across her back. “I know that we haven’t really talked much about what happened after the fire. And I know how hard it is for you talk about it. I just wanted to say, that if you ever need to talk, I’m always here.”

Liz felt the tears sting her eyes. “Thank you for understanding.”

He placed a kiss on her temple, his voice growing to a whisper. “And....I just....I want you to know, that you’ll always have a home with my family and I.”

This time, the tears ran freely down Liz’s cheeks, seeping through Max’s shirt.

She was the luckiest girl on earth.



All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 21-Sep-2001 2:29:58 PM
Part 63

*********

“I love you too, mom......Tell dad I love him too.....Ok, I will.....I won’t.....I promise....oh, and tell gramma I love her.” Liz smiled against the phone, tucking her feet underneath her. “Ok, bye.” She hung up the phone, staring at it for a long minute before making her way into Maria’s room.

She closed the door softly behind her, trying to keep her footsteps light so as not to wake Maria.

“You don’t have to be quiet. I’m not asleep yet.” Maria turned so that she was laying on her side.

Liz bounded across the room, jumping into Maria’s bed after she had pulled off the covers. “Good, cause I’m not sleepy yet.”

Maria’s teeth glistened in the moonlight streaming through the window, as she smiled. “I’m guessing that dinner at the Evans house was good?”

Liz sighed, her eyes fluttering closed as she remembered why it was that she was in a good mood. “Dinner with Max’s family is always good. It’s what happened after dinner that can account for my good mood tonight.”

Maria sat up, poking Liz in her side. “Oooh, details, details.”

Liz grabbed her pillow from under her head, putting it in front of her to ward off Maria’s poking fingers. “No details, Maria. You know I don’t kiss and tell.”

“Somehow, I don’t think that the only thing that was involved was kissing.”

Liz blushed, but even in the darkness it was obvious. She buried her face in her pillow, her voice slightly muffled. “God. Am I that obvious?”

“Omigod! I didn’t even really believe it, but you and Max?” Maria began fanning herself. “Somehow I always thought that you wouldn’t take the plunge until you were married. But then again, with the way you and Max are together, you guys are already like married-

Liz shook Maria’s shoulders, trying to get her to stop babbling. “Maria! You’re like babbling right now.”

Maria nodded, taking a deep breath. “I’m sorry. It’s just, it’s not everyday that your best friend loses her virginity.”

“Losing my virginity? Maria, what are you talking about?”

“Isn’t that-.......wait a second. If you didn’t lose your virginity, then what was with the whole blushing thing? I thought I was going to have to hose you down or something.”

Liz shook her head, her chocolate brown hair flying across her shoulders. “No, no. It, Max and I....I’m still a virgin Maria. Max and I, we’ve just...

Maria nodded, tapping her finger against her chin, deep in thought. “So, you and Max haven’t done the deed yet, but you guys have done stuff, that constitutes all of that blushing.”

Liz nodded. “Right.”

Maria crossed her legs underneath her. “Ok, so how far have you guys gone?”

“We-

Liz buried her face in her pillow again, her cheeks burning. “Maria, I can’t talk about this. It’s-

Maria stopped Liz from babbling. “It’s ok hun. You don’t have to tell me what you guys did.”

Liz sat up, feeling a little bad. She knew that Maria wasn’t trying to be nosey, more like just insanely curious. The two of them shared virtually everything with each other, especially when it came to boys.

“We-

Maria covered Liz’s mouth before she could start speaking. “Chica, it’s ok. I was only kidding about the details. Whatever happens between you and Max is your business.” She pulled her hand away, giving Liz her patented Deluca smirk. “Besides, what kind of best friend would I be if I didn’t inflict some major embarrassment on my best friend.”

Liz threw her arms around Maria, giving her a good squeeze. “Luv ya, Ria.”

Maria smiled against Liz’s shoulder. “Luv ya too, babe.”

The two of them pulled back, both of them getting a fit of giggles.

Liz fingered the edge of her pillow as she spoke. “So, how’s Michael doing?”

Maria rolled her eyes in jest. “You know Michael, he’s always trying to do things for himself. I had to physically make sure that he didn’t move an inch while I was there.”

“How did you manage that?”

Maria gave Liz an evil grin. “Well, I have my ways.”

“Maria!”

Maria giggled uncontrollably. “Shh! Liz, anyone can hear you.”

Liz covered her mouth when she realized that her voice had come out louder than she had anticipated. “Oops. Sorry.”

Maria’s eyes took on a dreamy look as she remembered what had transpired between Michael and her. “Lizzie?”

“Yeah?”

“Michael said he loved me, tonight.”

Liz’s eyes grew wide. She threw her arms around Maria again. “Oh sweetie, I’m so happy for you.”

Suddenly, the door burst open.

Maria and Liz flew apart, thinking that it was either Jim or Amy coming in to tell them to tone it down.

Kyle threw a pillow at them, his voice coming out in a whisper. “You guys think you could keep it down? Some people are trying to sleep, you know.”

Maria pulled the pillow away from her face. “Come in and shut the door.”

Kyle did as he was told, propping himself up on one of Maria’s bean bags. He stretched his arms above his head, trying to get into a comfortable position. “So, why is it that the two of you are still awake at this hour?”

Maria spoke first, her voice taking on a sugary sweet sound. “Michael.”

Kyle turned to Liz, waiting for her answer.

She just shrugged her shoulders, a dreamy smile on her lips. “Max.”

Kyle shook his head, laughing a little. “I don’t know why I even bothered to ask.”

Maria moved across the bed, laying on her stomach so that she could face Kyle. “How about you brother dear? Something tells me that the reason why you can’t sleep is because of a certain blonde haired cutie, who has been consuming your every thought for-

Liz lay on her stomach too. “Oooh, you’re thinking about Courtney. That’s so sweet. You guys would make such a good couple.”

Maria turned to Liz, her grin growing wider by the second. “Mom invited her to dinner tonight.”

Liz felt her jaw drop to the floor. “Oh, how cute.”

Kyle waved his hands in front of Maria and Liz. “You guys, I’m still here.”

“Oh, right.” Maria shifted on the bed again, giving Kyle a big smile. “So, when are you gonna ask her out? Cos frankly, I think you should get a move on before somebody snatches her up.”

Kyle mumbled his answer, refusing to look up at either girl.

“What? I didn’t hear you.”

Kyle gave an exasperated sigh. “I already asked her out. We’re going on our first date tomorrow.”

Both girls jumped off the bed, squealing and bouncing on Kyle.

Kyle couldn’t help but smile. It felt good to know that Liz and Maria were happy for him. He actually found himself jumping and laughing with them.

The three of them couldn’t help but silently wonder if the fire had never happened, that things wouldn’t be the way they were now. They knew that all of their relationships would have taken these turns eventually, but it probably would have taken a lot longer for them to get where they were right now.

Out of something bad, something good was born for all of them. Maybe the fire was a sign to open their eyes and realize that life was too short for them to be sitting around, wondering ’what if?’. Whatever the reason, life as they knew it was changing for the better.

Part 64

***********

Max turned on his side, the smile on his face broadening as he continued to dream. He hugged his pillow to his chest, his cheek nuzzling the cotton surface. “Liz....”

Noah sat up in his crib, slowly rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He gave a little yawn as his hands reached for the wooden bars. With a snaillike pace, he hoisted himself up so that he was standing, looking over the side of the crib. His eyes scanned the room, a smile forming on his lips when his eyes landed on Max.

“Daddy!” He reached out his stubby arms to Max, but Max stayed dead to the world, completely immersed in his dream of Liz.

Max shifted again so that he was laying flat on his back. Once again, he smiled and laughed a little. “Liz..”

Upon hearing Liz’s name, Noah’s ears perked up. “Lizzie?” He walked around the crib, his hands gripping the edges tightly as he looked around the room for any signs of Liz. But to his disappointment, she was nowhere to be seen. Finally landing back to his original position, Noah reached for Max again. Deciding that Max was an ok constellation prize or at least until he could get Max to bring him to his Lizzie.

“Daddy!” Noah reached his arms out to his father, waiting for Max to pick him up, but Max continued to sleep.

Not being able to wait, Noah raised himself up and over the crib's edge. His little tush landed on the soft carpeted floor with a soft thud. He turned so that he was facing Max’s direction, crawling all the way until he bumped into the soft mattress. Clinging to the side of the bed, he raised himself up so that he could reach Max.

“Daddy!”

Again, Max continued to sleep, oblivious to Noah’s voice calling him.

Noah crawled onto the bed, planting himself on Max’s chest. He shook Max’s shoulder lightly, trying to wake his father up. “Daddy!”

Max refused to wake from his slumber, so Noah reached down, pulling Max’s eyelids open, his voice echoing in Max’s ear. “Daddy!”

When the sunlight hit his eyes, Max flinched a little. With a loud yawn, he whispered. “Ok, I give up. I’m up.” Max sat up, cradling Noah against his chest. “Mornin’ pal.” He gave Noah’s soft curls a kiss as he threw his legs over the side of the bed.

“C’mon, little man. Let’s get you cleaned up before breakfast.”

As Max walked past Noah’s crib to their personal bathroom, Max did a double take. He looked at the empty crib, then at the baby in his arms. He pulled Noah higher up against his chest so that they were eye to eye. “How did you get out of your crib, little man?”

Noah just grinned at him.

Max scratched the side of his head, when Noah offered no explanations. His eyes flew to the door, wondering if somebody had come in and taken Noah out of his crib, but the door was still closed. And if someone had found Noah awake, they would’ve taken Noah downstairs with them already.

Max looked Noah in the eye again. “Did you get out of the crib yourself?”

Noah just giggled, shrugging his shoulders as if he knew what Max was talking about.

Max walked to the crib, depositing Noah inside of it. He kneeled down so that he was at Noah’s eye level. “Ok, buddy. I’m gonna want you to do what you did earlier, ok?”

He walked away from the crib, sitting on his bed.

Noah stretched his arms out to Max. “Daddy!”

Max just sat on the edge of his bed, his arms crossed in front of his chest.

Noah called out to him again, but all of his cries seemed to fall on deaf ears as Max continued to sit on his bed unaffected. Getting frustrated, Noah threw himself up over the side of the crib, this time landing on his feet. He wobbled the rest of the way to Max, on his chubby legs.

Before he could make it all the way to Max, Max stood up, picking Noah off the floor. He twisted and twirled the two of them, his voice whooping and hollering.

“Oh my God. We have to tell your gramma and grampa. Oh, and your aunt Iz.” Max pulled his door open, running to the room closest to him.

Music blared through Isabel’s door.

Max rushed in like a tornado, the smile on his lips taking on a different light when he walked into Isabel’s room.

There she was, standing on her bed, rocking out with her stuffed toys as she listened to the cd that Alex had made her for her birthday, completely unaware of Max and Noah’s presence.

It was only when she heard Noah’s voice, that she looked up and saw father and son standing in her doorway.

Pretending that she wasn’t completely embarrassed at having been caught dancing with her stuffed animals, she jumped off the bed, turning off the music. She turned to Max and Noah, pushing away her unruly morning hair.

“Max.”

Max was in too good of a mood to tease his sister, so he grabbed her hand, pulling her into his room.

Isabel tried not to trip over her feet as Max practically dragged her to his room. “Max? What has gotten in to you?”

Max continued to walk to his room, his voice taking on an excited gleam. “Iz, you just have to see this.”

He motioned for Isabel to wait by his unmade bed as he put Noah in his crib again. He walked over to where Isabel was standing, and waited for Noah to do what he had done earlier.

When Noah figured out that neither Isabel or Max was going to get him, he raised himself over the side of the crib, walking towards the two of them.

Max and Isabel turned to each other, both of them jumping up and down, their excited voices carrying down the hall.

Diane and Phillip stuck their heads inside Max’s room, both of them obviously still half asleep.

“Max, Isabel. Why are the two of you up and screaming at this hour?” Diane questioned her twins as she tied the rope around her robe a little tighter.

Max and Isabel looked at each other and nodded.

Instead of explaining to them what had happened, Max put Noah in his crib again so that Noah could physically demonstrate why the two of them were so excited this early in the morning.

“Just watch.”

Four pairs of eyes watched as Noah extricated himself from his crib.

Diane and Phillip rushed forward, peppering their grandson with kisses.

“Oh, baby. When did you learn how to do that?” Diane and Phillip didn’t really care, but they were just so excited to be able to witness this stepping stone in their grandson’s life.

Max stood to the side, reaching for his phone. “I’m gonna call Liz.”

Isabel bypassed him, running to her room. “I’m gonna call Alex.”

Part 65

**********

Maria and Liz sat on Kyle’s bed, as he rummaged his closet for something to wear.

He pulled out his bowling shirt, a smile lighting his lips. “How about this one?”

Maria shook her head vehemently, making gagging faces.

Liz just tried to stop from giggling as she held her hand over the mouthpiece on the phone. She was talking to Max about what they could that day. Well, the conversation had led to that after they had gushed about how fast Noah was growing and how he had gotten himself out of bed, without Max’s help. “I don’t know, I think it’s kinda cute.”

Maria rolled her eyes at Liz, standing up to take the bowling shirt away from Kyle. “You would, Liz.” She looked at the shirt in her hands, shaking her head as she threw it over her shoulder. “Well, first thing’s first. We are you guys going for your date?”

Kyle‘s answer was simple. “Bowling.”

His answer received a slap on the side of his head from Maria. “You’re taking the girl of your dreams bowling for your first date?”

“Ouch!” Kyle stepped away from Maria, moving to sit next to Liz. If Maria was gonna go on a rampage, he might as well hide behind a mediator. “Yes, I’m taking her bowling.”

When Maria made a move closer to him, he jumped on the bed, cowering behind Liz. Liz fell back a little, squealing in the process.

”Liz, are you ok?”

“I’m fine, Max. Look, just meet me here in like a half hour?”

”Sure, no problem. I still have to get Noah’s stuff together. I‘ll see you in a little bit, then. Love you.”

“Ok, later. Love you too.”

Just as Liz hung up the phone, a chorus of I Love Yous were heard from Kyle and Maria.

Liz just made a face at her friends, clicking off the phone. “Real funny, you guys.”

Maria put her hand on her hip, looking thoughtful for a minute. “Well, I thought so.” She turned her gaze back to Kyle, walking closer to him.

Kyle held his hand up, backing away. “Now Maria, you stay right there. If you get any closer-

“ENOUGH!” Liz stood up between her friends, giving them a look that told them to shut up until she was done talking. “Alright, now that I have your attention. Maria, I think maybe we should leave Kyle alone. I’m pretty sure that he’s capable of dressing himself.”

Maria stomped her foot, and began whining. “But have you seen the way he dresses? I mean, dressing like that should be a crime.”

Kyle stood up, crossing his arms in front of him. “What’s wrong with the way I dress?”

Maria opened her mouth, but shut up when she felt Liz’s hand clamped over her mouth.

“Maria, don’t answer that.” Liz turned to Kyle, without taking her hand off Maria’s mouth. “Kyle, there’s nothing wrong with the way you dress. And I happen to think bowling is a good idea. It’s not too formal that you’ll get uncomfortable around each other, and it’s not like a movie where you don’t get to talk.”

Kyle smiled at Liz. “Why, thank you Liz.” He looked at Maria, sticking his tongue out at her.

Maria’s eyes grew wide, pointing at Kyle. “Liz, did you see that? He stuck his tongue out at me.”

Liz just raised her eyebrow at Kyle. “Ok, you two. That’s enough! Kyle, you go and ready for your date. Maria, you come with me, and help me get ready for my date.”

Maria’s mood instantly changed when she had gained someone else to make over. “Oooh, where is Max taking you today?....” Maria continued to talk a mile a minute as she walked to her room, trying to figure out ways to help Liz get ready.

As Liz walked out the door, Kyle grabbed her by the elbow, giving her a grateful smile. “Thanks, Liz. I appreciate it.”

Liz smiled back. “No problem. Just make sure that you and Courtney have a good time today, ok?”

Maria stuck her head out of her bedroom door, giving Liz an exasperated sigh. “Liz, are you coming?”

Part 66

**********

Kyle and Courtney sat in their lane, putting on their bowling shoes. “I can’t believe you’ve never been bowling before.”

Courtney laughed as she laced up her left shoe. “Why not? Is it really that hard to believe?”

Kyle shrugged his shoulders as he picked up a bowling ball. “I don’t know, it’s just.” Kyle shook his head. “Never mind. If you don’t know how to bowl, then I’ll teach you.”

Courtney smiled as she watched Kyle. “Sounds good to me.”

Kyle held the ball steady, his eyes focused on the pins. “Now, it’s all in the wrist.” He leaned down, letting the ball go. He turned around to face Courtney. “Did you get that?”

Courtney shook herself out of her daze. She blushed when she saw that Kyle was talking to her. Jeez. Had he seen her checking out his butt?

Kyle walked up to her. “Is everything ok?”

“Yea. Everything’s great.” She looked up at the lane and watched as Kyle’s ball ran smoothly down the lane, looking like it was going to hit all of the pins, but at the last minute, the ball changed it’s direction, running into the gutter.

“Hmm, maybe I should try that again.” Kyle joked it of to ease his embarrassment a little bit.

He threw the ball again, only hitting three pins off to the right. “I guess it’s your turn.”

He stood off to the side, watching as Courtney threw the ball down the lane without finesse. She walked backwards, watching as the ball knocked all of the pins down.

“Are you sure you’ve never bowled before?”

********

Liz opened the door before Max and Noah even reached the front porch. She ran out into the lawn, catching Noah as he threw himself in her arms.

“Hey precious!”

“Lizzie!”

The two of them shared a hug, acting as if it had been years since they had seen each other, when it was just yesterday that they were together.

“Hey, gorgeous. Got a kiss for me?”

Liz tried to bite back her smile as she stood back up. “Ok, but you’ll have to make it quick. My boyfriend’s going to be here, any minute.”

Max pulled Liz’s body flush against his, his lips hovering over hers. “Is that so? Well then, I’ll just have to make it real good.”

He leaned down, capturing Liz’s lips in a hungry kiss. There was no time for pleasantries as his tongue dipped into her mouth, coaxing her tongue to mate with his. She eagerly complied, as her hands gripped his shoulders, trying to become one with his body.

Max pulled back, his breath coming out as pants. “Wow!”

Liz grinned at him, but her attention turned to Noah when he tugged on her dress. “Lizzie. Come, play.”

Liz leaned down so that she and Noah were eye to eye. “Sure thing, sweetie. But first, your daddy has to drive us to the park.”

Noah clapped his delight, as Liz held his hand, the three of them walking to the jeep.

“Are you sure you don’t mind if we go to the park, today?”

Liz trailed her fingers down the side of Max’s face. “The park is a great idea. That way, I can spend the day with my two favorite people in the whole world.”

She planted a sweet kiss on his lips, allowing him to open the car door for her.

Part 67

***********

Liz shifted in her seat so that she could see Noah’s face as she spoke. "Do you see that, precious? We’re almost there." She pointed out the window, her eyes glued to the growing excitement on Noah’s face. "You see, there’s the swings, the seesaws, oh, and look, they have a sand box right over there."

Noah tried to shift in his seat so that he could look out the window to see all of the things that Liz was pointing out to him, but his car seat and seat belt held him in place. He tugged on it, hoping to get a slight reprieve, long enough to see what Liz was trying to show him, but it was no use. He looked up at Liz, his small hand tugging on the seat belt. "Help!"

Max laughed as he parked the jeep. He pulled off his own seat belt, turning a teasing look towards Liz. "Look at you, you’re getting him all worked up. I must say, Liz, you’ve really mastered the art of driving an Evans man crazy." He winked at her, before getting out of the car to un-strap Noah from his seat.

Liz took a few minutes to herself, blushing profusely. Was she ever going to stop with this whole blushing thing?

She was startled out of her thoughts when Max tapped his knuckle on her window. "Are you gonna sit there looking pretty all day, or are you gonna get down and dirty with us?"

Noah pressed his face against the tinted glass, his little hands, leaving prints. "Come play, Lizzie!"

Liz shook her head, laughter spewing forth from her lips. She unbuckled her seat belt, opening her door slowly. When she had stepped safely out of the jeep, Noah grabbed her hand, leading them into the park.

As they stood on the outskirts of the park, Noah’s eyes scanned the area, his eyes full of awe as he witnessed all of the different things that he could play with. It was as if all of his little dreams had come true.

With his mouth agape, he pointed to the seesaw, "Oooh..."

Liz leaned down, tucking her long brown hair behind her ear. "You wanna go on the seesaws first, sweetheart?"

Noah nodded excitedly, skipping as he led Liz to the see saws.

For a fleeting second, Liz turned around to watch Max as he tried to catch up with them. They shared a loving smile, a promise of more wonderful things to come.

*************

After each taking a few turns, Kyle relaxed some more, his bowling skills somewhat gaining momentum.

He sat back, watching as Courtney bowled another gutter ball.

"Ugh! I’m so bad at this, it’s not even funny."

Kyle waited until her ball rolled up again. He picked it up, walking towards Courtney. "Who cares if you’re not the world’s greatest bowler?" He grinned at her, handing her the ball. "Besides, we’re here to have fun, not to cause you misery."

Courtney graced Kyle with a smile, grateful that he was doing everything in his power to lighten the mood. He was doing his best to make her forget that this was their first date. No sense in putting pressure on themselves. They were here to have fun, and they were going to have fun if it was the last thing they did.

"Thanks, but I’m just really bad at it."

Kyle shook his head, grabbing Courtney’s hand that held the ball. "Here, let me help you then?" He gave her a shy smile, not wanting her to think he was just using this as an excuse to get all over her.

"Ok."

Kyle stood behind Courtney, whispering in her ear exactly what she was supposed to be doing. They walked together, his hand on her waist, keeping her steady. Together, they released the ball, watching as the ball slowly ran down the lane.

When the ball knocked down all of the pins, Courtney stood there, speechless. With an excited giggle, she threw her arms around Kyle, her giddiness flowing from her body to his.

Kyle smiled against her shoulder. "You see, you did it Courtney. You did it."

She pulled back, her happiness making her glow. "No, we did it, Kyle."

The silence that followed wasn’t an awkward one, more like an understanding between the two of them.

"I guess you’re right."

*************

Liz held Noah close to her body as the two of them flew up into the air.

Noah waved to his father on the other end of the seesaw, his childish exuberance consuming his whole body.

"Hi!"

Max waved back, the smile on his face as plain as day. He took a mental picture of how beautiful Noah looked in Liz’s arms, the two of them so blissfully happy in each other’s presence. Max counted his blessings, knowing that he had to be the luckiest man on earth. He wanted to spend the rest of his life trying to make Liz as happy as she had made him.

The three of them got off of the seesaws, with Noah leading the way to the sandbox. Max and Liz left him to play with the other kids, as the two of them sat down on a bench, watching Noah like an old married couple.

Liz leaned her head on Max’s shoulder, her hand clasping his in hers. "Look at him. He’s having so much fun."

Noah stopped picking up the sand long enough to wave hello to Max and Liz before returning his attention back to the new friends that he had made.

Liz looked up at Max, noticing how quiet he had become. "Hey, everything ok?"

Max looked down into Liz’s loving eyes, forcing a smile. "Yea, I’m fine."

Liz gripped his hand tighter, a frown marring her beautiful face. "Don’t lie to me, Max."

Max closed his eyes, breathing a heavy sigh. He pulled Liz’s hand up to his lips, giving it a soft kiss. "I’m sorry, it’s just, I don’t know......I mean, I look at Noah, and I see how fast he’s growing up, and I just, I’m just going to miss it, that’s all. I mean I‘ve always been there you, know? Pretty soon he‘s going to grow up, and he‘s not going to need me anymore." He held his head low, feeling ridiculous. "I know, it’s stupid."

Liz put her arms around Max, pulling him into the comfort of her arms. "Oh, honey. It’s not stupid. I know how tough this must be for you. You’ve been there for Noah for every time that he’s needed you, and now, he’s learning how to do things by himself. He’s learning to talk more, he can walk now, and now he can get himself out of bed. Noah’s never going to stop needing you. I’m mean even after he’s all grown up, he’s still going to need you."

Max shook his head, his eyes tearing up a little. "I know that, it’s just, I’m going to miss having a baby around, you know? I’m always going to look at Noah as my baby boy, but I’m going to miss all of the little things. Cradling him in my arms, staying up late, waiting until he fell asleep. I know that I was never ready to have a baby when I did, but I can’t even imagine what my life would be like if Noah wasn’t in it."

Liz gave Max a teary smile, completely touched by his words. The love that he had for his son was unfathomable, and she only hoped that if they ever had a child together, that he would be as dedicated and loving as he was with Noah. But deep in her heart she knew that he would.

She chided herself for even thinking about things like that. They weren’t even out of high school yet and she was already planning a future with him. She and Max hadn’t even talked about their future once they were out of school. They had always said that they would take things as they came, but she couldn’t help but wonder.

Would Max want to spend the rest of his life with her? Get married, have kids? She wanted all of those things, but was afraid to tell Max. She didn’t want to pressure Max into something he wasn’t ready for. If now was all he could give her, then she would be satisfied with that.

The two of them broke apart when Noah returned to them, completely covered in sand.

Max picked up his son, shaking his head ruefully. "What’d you do, pal? Bring the whole sand box with you?"

Noah held up his hands, a cheeky grin on his lips.

Max made a face before flipping Noah in his arms so that he was upside down. Max shook him up and down, his voice full of mirth. "Let’s see if we can get that sand out!"

He continued to hold Noah by his legs, shaking him until Noah’s t-shirt fell over his face, revealing his tummy. Liz joined in, planting raspberrys on Noah’s smooth skin, much to his delight.

To think that they were having this much fun and the day had just begun.



All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 21-Sep-2001 2:37:31 PM
Part 68

***********

Kyle handed over his bowling shoes to the guy behind the counter. "Are you hungry? Do you wanna grab something to eat?"

"Sure. I’m absolutely famished. Who would’ve thought that bowling required so much energy?"

Kyle laughed at Courtney’s joke as he led them to the parking lot. "Great. How about Mexican? I know this great place that makes the best tacos."

"Mmmm, Mexican sounds good."

Kyle smiled as he helped her into the car. "Mexican it is then."

***********

Max and Liz sat on the bench, with Noah between them. They watched as he tried to eat the ice cream in his hands, but getting it everywhere but his mouth.

Noah had begged and pleaded when the music from the ice cream truck, floated through the air, finally coming to a stop at the park. As usual, Max was putty in his hands, so that’s why they were sitting with an ice creamed covered Noah.

"You think you could stay with him for a little bit? I’m gonna go back to the jeep and grab a few wipies."

Liz looked up, smiling as she did. "Sure. Take all the time that you need. Noah and I are having fun, aren’t we, precious?"

Noah stopped licking the ice cream to smile at Liz.

Max smiled giving Liz a sweet kiss. "Ok, I’ll be right back." He leaned down and kissed the top of Noah’s head. "I’ll be back soon, little man."

Noah looked at his father, waving a sticky hand in his direction. "Bye bye, daddy!"

When Max was gone, Noah reached his ice cream cone to Liz. "Share?"

Liz grinned at him, taking a lick of the vanilla ice cream. "Thanks, hun."

"Do you mind if I sit down?"

Liz looked up to see an older women standing beside her. She shook her head, scooting down to the side. "No, go ahead. It’s alright."

The woman smiled her gratitude to Liz, as she sat on the wooden bench. "Thank you. I’ve been chasing my kids around all day, and I gotta say, I need a break."

They shared a laugh, as the woman pointed out her children. "Those are mine, right over there. That’s Kelly, and my youngest, Jenny."

"Your daughters are really beautiful."

"Thank you." She smiled at Noah. "I must say, your little one is pretty darned handsome as well."

Liz looked down at Noah then back to the woman. She began to shake her head, trying to explain that Noah wasn’t her son. "I, uh, he’s not-

The woman shook her head, a faint smile on her lips. "You don’t need to explain. I mean you see a lot of that nowadays, you know teenagers having kids."

"But-

"I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that as a bad thing, I’m just saying, you don’t have to feel like you have to explain. I think it’s great that you and your boyfriend take such good care of your son. I couldn’t help but notice when I saw you guys earlier, but the three of you are so great together." The woman looked at Noah again, then at Liz. "But I have to say, he doesn’t look at all like you." The woman was set to say more, but she stopped when one of her daughters called out to her.

"Mommy, over here!"

The woman waved at her daughter, before giving Liz another smile. "Well, duty calls. It was nice talking to you."

Liz watched as the woman walked away, leaving her slightly dazed. Just then, she felt a warm set of lips attach itself to her neck. "I’m back."

Max walked around the bench, coming down to kneel in front of Noah. He pulled back the top of the wipies, reaching in to take some out. He wiped away the sticky mess that Noah had made, when he caught sight of Liz. He placed a hand on her knee, his voice coming out a little concerned. "Is everything ok?"

Liz didn’t know what to say. She was still a little unsure how she felt after that little conversation. The woman had thought that she was Noah’s mother. Liz didn’t really mind, but how would Max feel when he found out? Would he freak out? Would he be upset? He had always been so adamant about telling Noah about his real mother, Tess, but Noah was still too young to understand that. Would Max think that she was trying to replace Tess, take her place in their lives? Would he resent her for that?

Liz was confused. She had absolutely no idea what to think.

Noah gave a little yawn, catching Liz’s attention.

"Maybe we should take him home. He looks a little beat."

Max eyed Liz warily, knowing that she was keeping something from him. He nodded, picking Noah up in his arms. "You’re probably right."

He decided to keep mum on the subject. He’d talk to her when they got home. His parents had left for Clovis early this morning for a company meeting, and Isabel was spending the day with Alex, so they had the house all to themselves. He’d talk to her then, see what was bothering her, because frankly, he couldn’t stand to see Liz upset.

"Let’s go."

Part 69

*************

Kyle tapped his fingers onto the table top, waiting for someone to come to the counter to serve them. A smile lit his face when a slightly heavy older woman walked over, wiping her hands on a towel.

“Rosarita!”
“Kyle, mijo! It’s good to see you.” She reached over the counter, touching his soft brown hair. “My, my, you’re so big now. And so handsome.” She smiled at him when he blushed. “How are you?”

“I’m good.” Kyle looked to Courtney who was standing beside him. “Rosarita, I’d like you to meet someone special. This is Courtney.” He reached for Courtney’s hand, gripping it in his. “Courtney, this is Rosarita. She’s the owner of this place, and she makes the best tacos in all of New Mexico.”

Rosarita gave Kyle a wink. “You better believe it.” She reached for Courtney’s hand, shaking it. “It’s very nice to meet you, mija. You’re such a pretty girl.”

Courtney blushed, not used to all of the compliments she was receiving.

Rosarita shook her head at how cute the two of them looked. Well, they were definitely in good company, with both of them blushing like that.

“So, what can I get the two of you today?”

Kyle turned to Courtney, asking what she wanted.

“I don’t. Whatever’s good.”

Kyle gave her a wide smile, as he eyed the menu. “Well, everything is good here.”

Rosarita laughed on the other side of the counter. “I’ve taught you well, mijo.”

Kyle shook his head. “No, I’m serious. If Amy wasn’t such a good cook, dad and I would probably eat all of our meals here.”

“Thank you.”

Kyle looked thoughtful for a moment, as he mulled over what they were going to order. “How about you give us a double order of my usual?”

“You got it, mijo. Coming right up.”

Kyle led Courtney to one of the booths, the two of them sitting across from each other. “So, is this place ok?”

“I love it. Rosarita is so nice.”

“Yeah, she’s awesome. She treats us like family instead of just customers.”

“So, how do you know about this place anyway?”

“My dad, when he was just a deputy, he used to always come in here, and he would bring me down here all the time, you know just the two of us. It was right after my mom left.”

Courtney was a little stunned that Kyle had divulged that piece of information about his life. She just figured that he would be a little guarded, afraid to let her in, but he was proving to her that he trusted her, and that made her happy, because she trusted him too. She had shared with him things about herself, about her family that she had never told anyone. In all honesty, she had never thought she would be comfortable telling anyone intimate details about her life, but with Kyle, he just made things so much easier. He always put her at ease, and he was always willing to listen.

He was everything she thought he would be and more.

“I’m sorry to hear about your mom. That must have been hard.”

Kyle smiled, appreciative of Courtney’s sincerity. “It was, but my dad made up for it more than enough. For the longest time, he was both my mom and my dad, but then, Amy came into the picture, and she’s the best thing that could’ve happened to my dad and me. And then there’s Maria. I love her like she’s my flesh and blood.”

Courtney smiled as she remembered a time in their childhood, when his statement about Maria was anything but the truth. “Gosh, I remember in grade school, you and Maria were always teasing each other. She teased you almost as much as she did Michael.”

Kyle laughed as he recalled what Courtney was talking about. “Yeah. Maria was always a handful, which always baffled me as to why she and Liz were such good friends. Liz was always so quiet, and Maria was always the one getting into trouble. Then there was Alex, who was always caught in the middle.” Kyle shook his head, as the thoughts tumbled through his head. “It’s insane to think that we’ve all been friends this long.”

Courtney had a forlorn look on her face as she remembered how much she wanted to part of their group dynamic, but never did. She looked up when she felt Kyle’s hand on hers. “But, I have to say, as happy as I am that we’ve all stayed friends this long, I’m even happier that our group is getting bigger and better.”

Courtney understood the underlying tones in his statement, only able to smile her gratitude for her voice seemed uncooperative at that moment.

Their moment was broken by a bustling sound of silverware, as Rosarita brought their order towards them. “Eat up, muchachos.”

****************

The drive to the Evans’ house was quiet.

Max and Liz had brought Noah into the house, the silence continuing. They brought him upstairs, trying to give him a change of clothes, but to their surprise, they had not taken all of the sand out of his clothes as they had originally thought.

Max held Noah’s tiny sneaker over the trash can, watching in mild amusement as the sand trickled down. “So, my statement about Noah taking the whole sandbox with him, wasn’t too far from the truth.”

His soft words elicited a small smile from Liz, causing himself to smile as well. Even if they had yet to talk about what was bothering her, it wouldn’t hurt to take her out of her sullen mood.

Noah stood in front of Liz, suddenly itching. Liz leaned down so that they were at face level. “What’s wrong sweetheart?”

Noah just got an agitated look on his face as he reached into his pants, scratching. “Itchie!”

Liz lay Noah on the changing table, a loving smile on her lips as she reached for a clean diaper. “How about we give you a clean diaper? Huh?” As she pulled the diaper off, she was torn between laughing, and crying. “Oh honey, you poor thing.”

Max stood behind Liz, looking to see what all the fuss was. A smile lit his face, as he shook his head. “Little man, what’d you do? Take a bath in the sand?” He took the sand covered diaper, throwing it into the trash.

“Maybe it’s time for a bath.”

Noah shook his head, sliding down onto the floor. “No bath.” He ran out of the room, half nekkid, screaming “No bath!” as Max and Liz chased him.

Max and Liz came to a halt at Diane and Phillip’s room.

Max held a finger to his lips, urging Liz not to make a sound. “Shh! I know exactly where he is.”

The two of them tip-toed to the closet, opening it as softly and quietly as they could.

Before Max could get it open all of the way, Noah ran out of the closet, running back into Max’s room.

“No bath!”

Max was set to run into his room to capture Noah, but he stopped when he felt Liz’s hand on his arm.

“Can I?....”

Max just nodded, standing in the doorway, watching as Liz walked into the room, with such grace.

He watched silently as she called out to Noah in that sweet honey coated voice of hers. He could barely believe what he seeing, when he saw Noah come out from his hiding spot, and quietly approached Liz. She had kneeled down, as she whispered softly in his ear, the two of them sharing a secret smile, as Liz picked him up in her arms.

Liz turned to look at Max, the smile of triumph on her face, making her glow.

“I think we’re ready for that bath now.”

Part 70

**************

Liz sat Noah on the bathroom counter, taking off his clothes as they waited for the tub to fill up with warm water.

Max was kneeled down beside the tub, pouring Noah’s bubble bath into the warm water, his attention fixated on Liz. She and Noah were in their own little world, oblivious to him. Liz was tickling Noah’s baby skin, her soft lips inundating his chubby cheeks with her sweet kisses.

Unconsciously letting out a sigh of envy, Max turned the faucet off, putting the bubble bath away.

“Bath’s ready.”

Liz looked up at him as if she had just realized that he was there. She picked up Noah, holding him against her chest. “You hear, that precious? Your bath’s ready.”

She kneeled down on the rug, placing Noah into the water, her hand steadying the small of his back.

“Could you pass me the wash cloth?”

Max could only nod, but Liz didn’t see, what with her attention focused solely on Noah. She only looked at Max when their fingers brushed against each other, causing an electric current to course through their bodies.

Liz gave him a shy smile, moving to one side of the rug. “How’s this? You hold him, and I’ll wash him?”

Max kneeled beside Liz, reaching over to steady Noah. “That’ll work.”

Liz soaked the wash cloth in the soapy water, bringing it to wash across Noah’s smooth skin, lovingly. She dipped her hand into the water, with the intention of rinsing out the wash cloth, but instead, coming up to brush against Max’s hands, tantalizing both of them.

Max’s hand curled around her soapy hand, his fingers entwining with hers for a short second. He gave her a tender smile, willing her to see all of the love that he felt for her.

Their staring contest was interrupted by a splash in the water, with Noah’s tiny voice echoing in the small bathroom. “Ducky!” He pointed to the side of the tub, where a yellow, rubber ducky sat.

Max was reluctant to let Liz’s hand go so that he could reach the duck, but his mood instantly changed when Liz’s silken lips fastened themselves against his jaw, mere inches away from his own lips.

A goofy grin pasted itself on his lips, refusing to leave. He gladly reached for the rubber ducky, handing it to his son.

Noah took it into his hands eagerly, squeezing the yellow duck with all of his might. When the duck squeaked, giggles consumed his whole body, his hands splashing in the water.

Max and Liz shared a look before they joined the laughter.

Liz reached for the baby shampoo, the bottle slipping out of her hands and into the water when she heard Max’s voice.

“I only hope that our other children won’t have us so whipped.” Max hadn’t even realized what he was saying, when he said what he said. The laughter died in his throat when he saw the stunned look on Liz’s face.

Her hands fumbled in the soapy water, looking for the shampoo bottle. When her hand finally found it, she took it out of the water her hands trembling.

Max reached out to steady her hands, but she dropped the bottle again, when she shied away from his touch. Hastily standing up, Liz wiped her hands across the skirt of her dress, her eyes looking everywhere but, Max. “I’m sorry.”

She hurried out of the bathroom, her footsteps the only thing Max could hear.

Max grabbed the towel from the rack, wrapping Noah in it, mumbling a curse to himself.

Noah’s round eyes looked into his father’s, searching for an explanation of what was happening. “Lizzie?”

Max looked his son in the eye, a promise held in them. “I’m gonna fix that, pal. Right now.” He ran down the steps, jumping when he reached the third step. He landed with a heavy thump, his legs turning into a run as he put Noah in his play pen in the living room. He pointed a finger at Noah, giving him his most stern look. “Stay put!”

He ran to the front door, yanking it open.

In his hurry to run after Liz, he almost tripped over her, sitting on the front porch.

“Liz....” He sat himself on a step above hers, his arms reaching out to hold her, but on second thought, he let his arms fall to his sides with a dull thud. “I....I thought you left.”

Liz wiped away her tears, sniffling a little. “I was....I just....I couldn’t bring myself to get past your front lawn.” She wiped at her nose, turning it a warm red.

Max felt like kicking himself in the groin for upsetting Liz. He hadn’t done it on purpose. He was merely thinking with his heart, instead of his mind. He had let the words slip past his mouth before he had the chance to think about what that would do to Liz.

He knew that they loved each other, that part was easy. But he didn’t want to scare her with thoughts of marriage and children. Having to deal with him being a father should be enough, but to project his own feelings and desires to her without speaking to her first......no wonder she ran out of the house in such a hurry.

“Liz.....what I said up there....I....I’m sorry...”

Liz halted his apology with her raspy voice. “Do you think about those things?”

Max was stunned into silence for a second, not exactly sure what to say. He knew that lying to her wasn’t an option, they had promised each other that their relationship wouldn’t be based on that. Besides, she had already heard him say the words.

“I do....sometimes....” His voice sounded tiny, almost afraid that if he spoke too loud, Liz would run away.

He heard Liz let out a heavy sigh, her small shoulders sagging a little. “Me too..”

His eyes flew to her face, looking for confirmation to what he was hearing. The shy smile in her eyes telling him everything he needed to know. He breathed a sigh of relief, almost feeling like a weight had been lifted off of his shoulders.

“So where does that....where does that leave us now?”

“I...I don’t know....” Liz looked frustrated for a second, her eyes flashing with so many emotions at once, that Max could barely make them out.

Tentatively touching her shoulder with his hand, Max felt his heart constrict at the sight of his beloved so distraught. He almost fell back when she threw herself in his arms, her tears running down her cheeks again, her chest heaving with hiccups.

He ran his hand down her hair, his other hand rubbing her back. “Liz....baby.....please tell me what’s wrong.” His voice hitched in his throat, as he spoke.

Liz buried her face in his neck, inhaling his unique scent to help calm her down. She sat back slightly, but continued to sit in his lap. A sad smile formed on her lips as his thumbs brushed away the tear tracks on her cheeks.

“I’m sorry, you must think I’m a complete basket case.”

He shook his head, his bangs rubbing against his forehead. “I don’t think that.....I just want to know what’s bothering you, so that we can get through this together.” He gave her an encouraging smile, his hand cupping her cheek.

She leaned into his touch, reveling in his tenderness. She pulled his hand to her lips, placing a kiss on his open palm. “It’s just.....every since that lady talked to me in the park...”

He lifted her chin up, his eyebrows knotting in confusion. “What lady in the park?”

“When you went back to the jeep to get the wipies, this lady sat down next to me, and she...she thought that I was Noah’s mom.” She sat back, waiting to get a reaction out of Max, but she didn’t get one. He just sat there, a blank expression on his face.

“Max?” She was beginning to get worried when he wouldn’t respond. But when his deep velvety voice reached her ears, she was put slightly at ease.

“What did you say?”

“N-nothing.....I couldn’t even get a word in, she just kept talking. Then one of her daughters called her, and she left."

Max nodded slowly, letting the information sink in. “How did that make you feel?”

Liz shrugged her shoulders, trying to find the right words to say. “Honestly?”

He nodded, his Adam’s apple bopping up and down. “Honestly.”

Liz got a far away look in her eyes as she remembered exactly how she had felt at the time. “I felt so many things....I was confused, happy, scared.....” She turned her eyes to his, allowing him to see the truth in them.

And he did.

“Well, how about we start with why you were confused?”

“Ok,” she took a breath, trying to find the strength to go on. “I was confused because it never once entered my mind that people would think I was Noah’s mom. I mean, we don’t even look alike.” She watched Max bob his head in response, urging her to continue. “I was happy because I want to marry you one day, have kids with you, and become Noah’s step mom.” She blushed a deep crimson, as she spoke the words, but she continued nonetheless. “And I was scared because I didn’t know how you would react to that. I know that you loved Tess, and that you want Noah to know about her. But I just keep getting this image of you getting mad at me because you think that I’m trying to replace her.”

Max stopped Liz’s bumbling words with a heart stopping kiss. He poured his heart and soul into the kiss, wanting Liz to feel his love for her.

When they pulled away, they were both trembling. They leaned their foreheads against each other, taking deep breaths.

“Max?”

His fingers traced the delicate lines of her face, trying to commit them to memory. “I don’t know why you would ever think I would ever get mad at you.” His lips brushed against her forehead, as his hand caressed her jaw. “I would be the happiest man on earth if you agreed to marry, have my kids, and more importantly, accept Noah as your own. You wouldn’t be replacing Tess, because she was never there to begin with. The best that we can do, is tell Noah about her, when he’s old enough to understand. Tell him that he had a birth mother who loved him, but never got a chance to become his mother.” A faint smile danced in his eyes, as they began to tear up. “And if you and I do get married in the future, Noah will be the luckiest little boy on earth, because he has two mothers that love him so much.” He gave her a shaky smile, hoping that she understood what he was saying.

“Do you understand?”

Liz smiled against her tears, bringing her lips to lightly pass over Max’s. “I do.”

Max smiled a grand smile, bringing her down for another kiss, but Noah’s voice coming from the open doorway, startled them both.

“Lizzie!” There he stood, in all of his naked glory, a grin on his lips, happy that Liz was still there.

Max buried his face in Liz’s shoulder, his laugh muffled by the material of her dress. “Oh God, my son’s an exhibitionist.”

Liz gave Max’s neck a playful kiss as she extricated herself from his lap. She took Noah into her arms, giving him a wink as she walked back into the house. “I’ve got to say, he’s body is almost as nice as yours.”

Max was left on the front porch, his mouth hanging open.

Part 70

***********

Max sat on the kitchen counter, with Noah perched on his lap, as he continued to watch Liz move around the kitchen.

“Ok, so tell me again why you’re baking a cake?”

Liz looked up from the big mixing bowl in her hands, brushing a lock of hair out of her face. “Well, I had to promise Noah something to get him to take a bath, and I know how much he likes cake,” she paused, the smile on her face taking on a mischievous glint. “And I distinctly remember that you seemed to really like cake yourself.”

Max sat back, remembering the night of his birthday, and how much he had enjoyed the cake, among other things, of course. He nodded his head, unconsciously licking his lips. “Yeah, I do like cake.” He finished the sentence, his eyes glued to Liz’s behind as she stuck her head in the fridge, reaching for the eggs.

“I definitely like cake,” he mumbled under his breath.

Liz shut the refrigerator door with a swing of her hips, her eyes landing on Max. “Did you say something?”

Max tried to look as innocent as possible, shaking his head. “Nope. I didn’t say anything.”

Liz narrowed her eyes at him, biting her bottom lip to keep from laughing. “If you say so.”

Max jumped off of the counter, placing Noah in his high-chair. “Need any help?”

Liz just pushed him towards a chair, wagging her finger in his face. “Nah uh. You’ve already baked me a cake. I only think it’s fair that I return the favor.”

************

After dousing her second taco with tabasco sauce, Courtney opened her mouth, taking a big bite. She chewed the food in her mouth, savoring the spicy goodness. “You weren’t kidding when you said that this place serves the best tacos.” She took another big bite, following it with a sip of her soda.

Kyle’s lips curved at the corners, enjoying the fact that Courtney was so at ease with him. Most girls that he had ever dated, had always made a point about eating light, trying to put on this facade that they didn’t eat a lot. Granted, he had never really dated a lot, but he had had his share of dates. He was glad that Courtney wasn’t into all of that superficial stuff.

“I was thinking, once we were done here, we could go to the quarry and wait for sunset.”

Courtney grinned her admission, finishing off the last of her food. She wiped at her lips, gathering all of their trash together. “I’m ready when you are.”

Kyle linked there hands together, stopping by at the counter before leaving. “We’re gonna get going now, Rosarita.”

Rosarita stood up from where she was sitting down, fanning herself with a magazine that she been reading. “Ok, mijo. You and Courtney have a good day.” She gave them a warm smile.

“We will.” Kyle gave her hand a squeeze, returning her smile.

“And don’t be such a stranger, mijo. And tell your papa to come and visit me soon.”

Kyle waved from the swinging door, calling out with his voice. “Will do, Rosa. Thanks!”

**********

Liz put the cake batter in the oven, pushing the frosting to one side of the table. She wiped her hands on the dish towel, turning around to face Max. “I’ll be right back. I’m just going to the bathroom to freshen up.”

Max tipped his head, watching Liz walk down the hall and into the lavatory.

Her voice carried down the hall as she spoke, not bothering to turn around. “And don’t touch the frosting while I’m gone!”

When the door clicked softly behind her, Max stood up from his seat, taking Noah out of his high-chair. He reached for the frosting, pulling back the plastic wrap, cringing when he heard the noise it made. He snuck a quick look down the hall, making sure that Liz hadn’t come out. Seeing that the coast was clear, he gave Noah an impish grin, putting a finger to his lips.

“I won’t tell her if you won’t.”

Noah just eyed the frosting in the bowl, dipping a chubby finger inside it. He pulled out his chocolate covered finger, sticking it into his mouth. “Yummy!”

Max covered Noah’s mouth with his hand, shaking his head. “You gotta be quiet, if you want some more frosting, little man. Otherwise, Liz is going to get mad at us, ok?”

He pulled his hand away from Noah’s mouth, dipping his own fingers into the bowl. He eagerly licked away the sticky sweetness, his eyes closing involuntarily.

After a few quick licks, he heard the bathroom door open. He hurriedly covered the frosting back up, pushing it towards the side. He placed Noah back in his seat, his eyes practically bugging out of his head when he saw that Noah’s face was covered in chocolate frosting. Taking the inside of his shirt, he wiped Noah’s face clean, jumping to his own seat just as Liz walked back into the room.

She turned on the oven light, making sure that the cake was ok. When she was satisfied that it was fine she turned around to Max, opening her mouth to say something, but nothing came out of her mouth.

Max was seated at the kitchen table, trying to look inculpable, as he twiddled his thumbs, whistling a soft tune under his breath. Her gaze turned to Noah, who was sitting in his chair, a grin plastered to his face.

Giving Max a suspicious look, Liz crossed her arms. “You didn’t eat the frosting, did you? Because I would hate for you guys to ruin your appetites.”

Max shook his head in the negative. “Nope, didn’t touch the frosting.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes indeedy.” Max bit the inside of his cheek to stop himself from talking anymore. He might as well just confess right now. Who the heck said, ‘yes indeedy’?

Liz eyed him warily, taking a seat beside him. “You’re sure?”

“Mhhm.” Max refrained from speaking, knowing that if he did, he would spill everything.

Liz smiled at him, her hand stroking his cheek. “Ok, just checking.”

When Max breathed a sigh of relief, Liz leaned forward, licking the frosting on his upper lip.

She pulled away, walking towards the sink. “You missed a spot.”

Max took a second to get his bearings back, but when he did, he headed straight for Liz. He turned her around so that she was facing him, pinning her against the sink.

“You must think you’re hilarious.”

Giving him a ribald grin, Liz leaned back a little, watching his expression. “I try.”

Before the laughter could reach her lips, Max placed a wet kiss on her lips, making her knees go weak. She was glad that he was holding her, otherwise her knees would have already given out on her.

Letting her hand dip under her shirt to feel his skin, she pulled away when her hand came into contact with the sticky substance just above his bellybutton.

“What’s this?” She pulled her hand from under his shirt, her nose crinkling when she saw chocolate frosting on her fingers. She placed her hand on his chest, pushing him backwards. She grabbed the edge of his t-shirt, lifting it up.

Sure enough, it was covered in frosting, as was his stomach.

She shook her head in mock disappointment, her eyes looking up into his. “Care to explain?”

Part 71

*********

“Care to explain?” Liz asked with a raised eyebrow.

Max kept opening and closing his mouth, trying to come up with some lame excuse, but he just couldn’t think of one.

“What’s the matter, honey? Cat got your tongue?” Liz taunted him, baiting him to confess how he had gotten frosting on the inside of his shirt. With her wild imagination, even she couldn’t come up with a way that would be plausible for his current state. And she had a pretty wild imagination, especially when it came to Max.

Max knew that he was already in trouble. He chuckled to himself, thinking how much he enjoyed the kind of trouble he was in, but enough of that. There was no need to tell Liz about Noah eating the frosting too. He was willing to suffer, all of the consequences. Actually, more like reap the benefits of Liz’s punishment for him.

Shaking his head a little, Max tried to get himself out of the sexual fog that was cocooning his brain. He opened his eyes to look at Liz, but instead of meeting her eyes, his hooded ones landed on her full lips, wanting nothing more than to kiss her again, to........

Darn it! He had to focus. When had he become such a horndog?

He looked at Noah from the corner of his eye, but stumbled back when Liz pushed him again.

“You fed Noah some frosting too?”

Max couldn’t believe it. How had she known? He barely even looked at Noah, yet she knew. He knew that she already knew, but it wouldn’t hurt to see how good she really was. He had cleaned off the evidence, how was she going to prove it?

“I didn’t.”

Liz looked at him, not trusting him as far as she could throw him right now. And considering how much bigger Max was compared to her, she wouldn’t be able to throw him very far at all. In all honesty, she wasn’t mad. She knew that Max was just having a little fun with her. It was inevitable that she was going to catch him in his lie, he was just trying to see how far he would actually be able to go with it.

It made her love him more, because these lighthearted moments, took the focus off the seriousness of their conversation from earlier. They were on the same page, but their conversation was far from over. But right now, she was having a little too much fun playing with him. And from the looks of things, Max looked to be enjoying himself too.

She kneeled down in front of Noah, coaxing him to rat out Max. “Did daddy give you some frosting too, honey?”

Noah just grinned at her, his front tooth covered in chocolate. Liz gave him a kiss, turning around to face Max, her hands resting on her slender hips. “Max, Max, Max.....you’ve been a very bad boy.”

Max feigned innocence, shrugging his shoulders like he didn’t have the faintest idea what Liz was talking about. “I don’t-

His sentence was cut short when Noah gave him a smile, his teeth glistening with chocolate frosting.

Max shook his head, putting on a pout. “I should’ve known you were gonna side with her.”

Liz stuck her tongue out at him, holding out her hand to Noah. “Give me a high-five, baby!”

Noah slapped his palm against Liz’s, but their hands were temporarily stuck together by the frosting that Max had neglected to clean off.

Max’s belly laugh, erupted from his lips, as Liz pulled her sticky hand away from Noah’s.

After cleaning herself and Noah a little, Liz walked up to Max, lifting up his shirt to expose his frosting covered stomach. “And to think I was going to help you clean up.” She ran her index finger just above his navel, scooping off some of the frosting. The grin on her face spread like wildfire when she felt his stomach muscles clenching at her touch.

With her finger poised right above her mouth, she gave Max one last roguish grin before slipping her finger between her lips. She watched with delight as Max’s eyes followed her finger’s every move, the groan creeping past his lips as her finger surfaced from between her pursed lips.

“As your punishment, you’re going to have to clean yourself up, with no help from me.”

Another groan made itself heard, as Liz stepped away from him.

This was not the punishment he had in mind. This was more like torture, but not the good kind of torture either. He puffed his chest, walking down the hall, pretending to have his pride still intact.

Noah was bound to fall asleep soon, and God help Liz when he did, because Max was a man on a mission, and he wasn’t going to lose this time.

***********

Kyle and Courtney walked hand in hand, down the rocky terrain, both of them sharing a smile when they reached their destination.

“Wow, it’s beautiful up here.” Courtney looked around, basking in the wonder of nature around her.

“Not as beautiful as you.” Kyle wasn’t saying the words just to spout off some cheeseball lines. He was just speaking the truth, and he wanted Courtney to know that.

Courtney had to swallow a few times to get past the lump in her throat. She thanked the heavens above for letting her be here with Kyle.

“I...uh....um, thanks, I think.” She felt like laughing at herself for sounding so silly. What was it that made her so tongue-tied around him? She glanced at him, watching as the muscles in his arms rippled as he moved to get into a more comfortable position. Oh, yeah. It had something to do with the fact that he looked like a greek god, and that all of this seemed to good to be true.

The rumble of his laugh, caused her to smile.

“Well, I would hope that’s a good thing.”

Courtney blushed some more, biting her lip to keep from squealing with happiness. Watching the way his blue eyes twinkled, with adoration and a little humor, put her at ease. She gave his shoulder a soft shove, before laying her head on it. “Stop it. You’re gonna make me blush all night if you don’t stop.”

Kyle wrapped his arm around her shoulder, letting her move closer to his side. “I don’t know, I kinda think you look cute when you blush.”

Courtney gave him a small pinch on his side, burying her face in his shirt. “Kyle....”

Kyle held his hand up in surrender. “Ok, I promise. No more teasing. Let’s just enjoy the sunset.”

Part 72

***********

Max stood in front of the bathroom mirror, a wash cloth in hand as he cleaned off the mess that was on his stomach. He had been mumbling unintelligible words to himself, griping at his predicament.

After that little stunt that Liz had pulled, all he had wanted to do was throw her over the kitchen table, and have his way with her. But she had banished him to the bathroom by himself, without any help. He remembered how she had helped him clean up the spilt milk on his chest, the day of the fire, and she had made it painfully obvious that she had the same idea today, but decided to punish him, by not accompanying him.

He couldn’t really blame her though. What exactly did he think was going to happen if she had helped him? There was no use in getting each other sexually frustrated. As much fun as that was, they were both known for not being able to control themselves around each other, and with Noah still wide awake.....

He just hoped that Noah would start getting sleepy soon. He loved his son dearly, but all he could think about right now was how much he wanted, and needed Liz.

Hanging up the washcloth to dry, Max grabbed a towel, drying the wetness on his stomach. Reaching for his shirt on the counter, he threw it in the hamper, walking to his room to get a clean one.

The phone ringing captured his attention, stopping his search for a t-shirt.

“Hello?.....Oh, hey dad.......We’re good......we went to the park......no, Iz is still out with Alex......I will....uhm......that’s nice.....you and mom deserve a weekend alone......don’t worry about us.....we’ll be fine....have a good time.....” Max hung up the phone, the smile on his face indicating a plan forming in his mind.

Pulling open a drawer to find a t-shirt, he pushed it closed again when he realized that today was laundry day. Oh well, he’d just have to go and get one out of the laundry room.

***************

Kyle ran the tips of his fingers down Courtney’s arm, his hand coming around to pull her snugly into his side. “You’re not cold are you?”

Courtney shook her head, her hair tickling Kyle’s neck. “No, I’m good.” She tilted her head so that she could look into Kyle’s baby blues. “You?”

He leaned down, placing a kiss against her temple. “I’m great.”

The two of them shared a loving smile, their hands linking together.

“Look, the sun’s starting to set.” Kyle extended his arm out, pointing to the colorful hues that were cast in the sky, as the sun began to set. He let his cheek rest on Courtney’s head, enjoying the silky softness of her hair.

“This has got to be the most perfect day. I just can’t imagine it getting any better.”

Kyle shook his head. “Me either.”

“Thank you.” Courtney sat up, placing a soft kiss on Kyle’s cheek.

He turned to face her, a little stunned to say the least. He couldn’t help but be drawn to her.

Before either one of them knew what was happening, they both leaned in closer, their eyes closing at their own accord. Their foreheads bumped against each other, their breaths mingling.

It was Kyle who made the first move, closing the distance between them, finally allowing their lips to meet. The kiss was tentative; tender. Kyle’s lips fluttered across Courtney’s, acquainting itself with the softness of Courtney’s lips. She felt just as he had remembered. So sweet, just like coconuts.

Their kiss this time was so unlike the first kiss that they had shared, where they had been both frightened for their lives, and the lives of their friends. This kiss was just about them this time.

When they finally pulled away, they both gave each other shy smiles, both of them wearing the same crimson blush on their cheeks.

“I think the day just got better.”

Kyle bobbed his head in response. “You’re right about that.”

***********

Liz was smoothing the frosting on the cake when Max had come downstairs. She was so engrossed in what she was doing, that she almost missed Max walking to the laundry room shirtless.

Almost, being the keyword in the sentence. Her head had promptly snapped up when she had caught a whiff of his scent, feeling the warmth of his body as he brushed past her.

With the cake long forgotten, her eyes followed Max’s every move, watching the way the muscles in his thighs rippled as he walked. Her gaze traveled upwards, landing on his round tush. Liz found herself, biting her nails, thinking how nice it would be to sink her teeth.....

She bit hard on the corner of her lip to suppress the involuntary moan that wanted escape past her lips, the moment he bent down, reaching for a shirt in the laundry basket. She watched with great interest as he held his arms above his head, letting the shirt fall over his head.

When he turned back around, Liz returned to the task of frosting the cake, pretending that she wasn’t all affected by Max’s little stunt.

She felt him wrap his arms around her waist, pulling her close to his body. He was so close, she could smell the tide fresh from his newly washed shirt. His fingers danced across her belly, making invisible patterns as he latched his lips to her neck, placing random kisses here and there.

“Is the cake almost ready?”

Liz just nodded, not trusting herself to speak. Having Max in such close proximity was making her senses go on overload, almost to the point of insanity.

Max placed a few more nips and licks on her neck, placing an open mouthed kiss on her pulse. “Great.” His hands squeezed her hips, as he walked to the other side of the kitchen, getting together some plates.

Liz’s body sagged in relief, trying to get her body back under control. In those short few minutes that he had touched and kissed her, she had become nothing but mush. Her knees trembled, as her breathing struggled to get air into her lungs. She could feel her nipples straining against the fabric of her dress, the place between her legs humming for attention.

The clanging of the plates brought her back to the present. She went to Noah’s high-chair, kneeling down as she ran her fingers through his golden curls. Noah’s head bobbed forwards, and backwards, as he tried to keep from falling asleep. The day had been a long one for him, and he had yet to take a nap. The day’s adventures were beginning to take it’s toll on him, but he refused to give in. His Lizzie had promised him cake, and he was going to have cake if it was the last thing he did.

Liz placed her hand under Noah’s chin, tilting it upwards. She knew that he was exhausted, but she also knew that he would fight sleep if she offered him that respite. So she played along, pasting a huge smile to her lips. “Cake’s ready, precious? You want a piece now?”

Noah’s head bobbed forward, his eyes closing. “Cake.”

Liz turned to Max who had begun slicing the cake. He handed her a piece, watching in amusement as she tried to appease the little man. She did have her work cut out for her.

Liz tilted Noah’s head up, taking a piece of cake in her other hand. Noah’s eyes opened briefly, opening his mouth to receive the cake. After a few messy chews, Noah’s head bobbed forward again, a small snuffling sound coming from his nose. Liz tipped Noah’s head back again, but this time, he didn’t open his eyes, instead continuing to sleep.

With a mouthful of cake in his mouth, Max walked behind Liz, placing his hand on her shoulder. “I think you finally wore him out.”

Liz smiled, gently taking Noah into her arms. “I’ll just put him to bed, then.”

Max put his plate down, offering to come and help, but Liz had refused, telling him to eat his cake. He smiled his thanks, as walked up the stairs.

***********

Max was savoring the last of his cake, when Liz returned downstairs. He looked up at her, offering his lap for her to sit on.

“How is he?”

Liz rested her arm across Max’s shoulders, leaning her forehead against Max’s. “Sound asleep. It was really cute, actually. He had this huge grin on his face the whole time.”

They shared a laugh, with Max running his hand up and down Liz’s thigh. “I didn’t get to say thank you, before, so I wanna say it now. Thank you.”

“You're welcome.” The words were barely out of her mouth before Max devoured her lips, his tongue seeking entrance in her mouth. She gladly obliged, opening her mouth in a sigh. Max cupped her face, angling her head back so that he could reach the farthest corners of her warmth.

Liz clutched at his shoulders, her legs unconsciously opening, as Max’s hand teased it’s way between her legs. His hand massaged the insides of her thighs, making her shudder. He continued to tease, getting close to her heat, but never touching her where they both wanted.

Max fought for control to get through this. But it was practically useless. Liz had begun writhing on top of his lap, the softness of her tush, grinding against his erection. He groaned, letting his fingers close the gap to her heat.

At his first touch, Liz sucked his tongue hard in her mouth. A simultaneous moan both escaping past their lips. Liz arched her back, allowing Max a little more room to move.

Deep in the back of her mind, a little voice kept talking, telling her to stop. She wasn’t in the mood to listen right now, so she chose to ignore it. Her eyes opened a crack to see what was taking Max so long, but in the corner of her eye, she caught sight of Noah’s high chair.

Just as Max’s fingers pushed her panties to the side, she stilled his hand with her own, pulling away from his kisses. “Max, we can’t.......” She sounded like she had just been running a mile, her breathing was so ragged. “Noah, he’s just upstairs..”

She felt Max nod his head, his eyes closing in defeat. His hand gave her inner thigh a squeeze, as he placed a kiss on the base of her neck. He stood up, planting her on her feet.

“Ok.” With that he walked into the living room, plopping himself down in front of the tv.

Liz continued to stand in the kitchen, completely baffled at the events that had just unfolded. When she had suggested they stop, she hadn’t expected Max to give up so easily. She knew that he was roaring to go, and yet here she was, standing alone while her boyfriend watched television.

***********

Max flipped the channels as if it were the most interesting thing in the world. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Liz standing in the kitchen completely confused. It had almost killed him to pull away from her like that, but as was the case, payback was always a bitch!

This battle of wills had been an ongoing saga for them, both of them trying to out do the other, until the point of spontaneous combustion. And after each and every round, Max always got the tables turned on him. Not that he didn’t enjoy that, because he did. It had more to do with the fact that he wanted to drive Liz as insane and hungry for him as he was for her. Although, if he really thought about it, he didn’t really have to try too hard because Liz wanted him just as bad.

He couldn’t help the half-smile that plastered itself to his lips.

***********

Liz walked into the room, sitting beside Max. But this time, she didn’t snuggle up next to him as she usually did, instead, she just tucked her legs underneath her, pretending to watch the tv.

Max chanced a look at her, noticing that she was pretending not to notice him. He sat back, trying to act casual, as she continued to sit there.

Not able to take it anymore, Max grabbed Liz, placing her on his lap again so that she was straddling him. Screw trying to get back at her. All he wanted was to feel her skin against his, to hear his name on her lips as she threw her head back in passion.

“Ma-

Max drowned out her voice with a vicious attack of his tongue. His tongue lashed out at hers, dueling for dominance in the waging war of lust and love.

With the way she was positioned, Liz started grinding her hips into his, seeking the release she desperately needed. She wasn’t about to question Max’s actions right now. His hands and mouth felt too good for her to even be thinking about anything but giving and receiving pleasure.

His hand snaked up and under the skirt of her dress, making a beeline for her heat. He pushed aside her soaked panties, shoving his fingers in her warmth. For a fleeting second, he stilled, afraid that he was hurting his love, but Liz had other ideas. Her small hands fumbled with the button of his jeans, trying to snap them open. When she finally did, her fingers pulled down the zipper. He lifted his hips, trying to accommodate her movement. She yanked down his jeans a little, her hand sticking through the hole in his boxers.

A guttural moan escaped his lips, his eyes rolling into the back of his head when her warm hand closed around his flesh. She ran her hand from base to tip, before carefully taking him out of his boxers. He opened his eyes, both of them sharing a heated stare before she scooted back a little on his legs. She gave him a sultry smile as she leaned down, placing a sweet kiss on the head of his arousal. Max threw his head back, his face contorted in a grimace of pleasure as she began to lick and suck the tip of his erection like it was a lollypop.

Before her lips could make a further descent down his manhood, his hand pulled her up by the chin, smashing her lips to his in a hungry kiss. His fingers began a steady rhythm inside her, making her squirm on his lap. Following his lead, her small hands closed around his heated flesh, tugging up and down, as she let him slide through her hands.

Their hands were in sync, meeting each other thrust for thrust. They swallowed each other’s moans as they continued to kiss with a hunger that couldn’t be quenched. Just as if they were one, they both felt the first tremors of release together, both of them flying over the edge.

Lights flashed behind their closed eyes, almost like a private show of fireworks, as their bodies convulsed with pleasure. It took a few minutes for them to return from their highs, both of them sharing a smile of awe at how much control they had lost. They were in complete abandon as they had sought to bring each other to that place of ecstasy. But even as their breaths returned to normal, they couldn’t bring themselves to speak, not wanting to break the mood.

This experience was special just as all of their experiences together, were. But there was just something about reaching orgasm the same time as your love, that was completely euphoric. They leaned their sweaty foreheads against each other, their chests heaving against each other. They leaned in for a sweet kiss, a polar opposite to kisses they had shared earlier.

They silently thanked the heavens for allowing them to find each other, sooner, rather than later in life.



All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 21-Sep-2001 2:43:54 PM
Part 73

****************

Max lay on the couch with Liz laying on top of him, placing sweet kisses on his face.

“Liz?”

Her fingers brushed the short hairs on his neck, her nose nuzzling his. “Hmm?”

“My parents called earlier......and well.....they’ve sorta decided to take the weekend for themselves.....and well.....would.....would you spend the night with me?”

The look of surprise on Liz’s face was enough to make Max become a bumbling fool again. “I..I don’t mean sex...I was...I just....”

Liz placed her finger on his lips, preventing him from talking anymore. She peppered his face with kisses, giving him her answer. “I would love to spend the night with you.” She gave him a lingering kiss on his lips, but pulling away before they could get carried away. She sat up, walking towards the phone. “Let me just call Maria.”

************

A little while later, Liz walked into Max’s room to see him having a hushed conversation with Isabel.

Isabel looked up, smiling when she saw that it was Liz. “Hey, Liz.” She stood up, heading towards the door. “Well, I still have a ton of things I need to do. Besides, I kinda told Alex that I was going to call him.” She waved at Max and Liz as she headed down the hall towards her own room. “I’ll see you guys in the morning.”

Liz felt her face grow hot as she closed the door behind Isabel. “You told Isabel?”

Max nodded, walking up to Liz to place a hand on her shoulder. “Yea. I hope you’re not angry, I just didn’t want her to accidentally walk in and see us, and get the wrong idea.”

Liz turned around, wrapping herself in Max’s arms. “I understand. And thank you, for thinking of that. The thought never actually crossed my mind.”

Max ran the tips of his fingers down the indentation of Liz’s spine, his lips mere inches from her ear. “How did it go with Maria?”

Liz chuckled a little, her hands finding it’s way under Max’s shirt. She couldn’t help but want to touch the warmth of his skin. “Well, she said that she would cover for us. But we’re gonna owe her big.”

Max smiled in Liz’s hair, swaying their bodies together. “Remind me to buy Maria a car when I see her again.”

Liz feathered the short hair clinging to Max’s neck. “But you don’t have money to buy her a new car.”

Max laughed, twisting their bodies. “Well, I’ll have to think of something else then.” He continued to let their bodies sway, dancing to imaginary music. He brought his hands to the small of Liz’s back, his lips pressed to her neck.

Liz noticed that they had begun dancing, and couldn’t help the smile from getting wider on her face. “What are we doing?”

Max pulled her closer, inhaling her strawberry scent. “We’re dancing,” he answered simply.

Liz’s musical laughter filled the air, as she let Max twist their bodies again. “But there’s no music.”

“Yes there is.” He stopped dancing, pulling away just enough so that he could look into Liz’s eyes. He put a finger to her lips, asking her to be quiet. “Can’t you hear it?”

Liz nodded her head, her eyes growing bigger with comprehension. “Oh, you mean that music.”

Max grinned a boyish grin when Liz began playing along with him. “Yeah, that music.” He gathered her petite body close to his again, as they continued to dance. Then, the soft baritone of his voice came out in hushed murmurs against her ear, making her skin turn into goose flesh.

“Looking in your eyes
Seeing all I need
Everything you are is everything to me
These are the moments
I know heaven must exist
These are the moments I know all I need is this
I have all I've waited for
And I could not ask for more.”

Max pulled back, looking into Liz’s eyes, wanting her to see the truth in the words that he was singing. The song embodied everything he felt when he was with her, and he wanted her to know that.

A single tear escaped from the corner of Liz’s eye as her heart thundered against her chest. She couldn’t find the words to say, to make him understand exactly what she was feeling at that moment, so instead, she let her lips reciprocate with a kiss all of her emotions.

The kiss was languid, both of them wanting to take the time to feel each and every emotion that the other was trying to project.

“I love you.”’

“I love you too.”

*************

Max put away his laundry, as Liz stood inside the bathroom, the door slightly ajar so that they could still speak to each other. She stuck her head out, an embarrassed look on her face. “Max?”

He looked up from where he was folding his clothes. “Yea?”

Liz buried her face in her hands, trying to get her composure back. “I know this is gonna sound really weird, but could I use your toothbrush?”

Max felt his heartbeat return to normal, when he heard Liz’s request. “Sure, go ahead.” He gave her a smile, waiting until she turned back to the bathroom. It wasn’t until she did that, did the dopey grin on his lips, refuse to leave. Liz sharing his toothbrush was another step in the intimacy department that they were crossing. He knew it was silly to feel so excited about that considering that they had done so many more intimate things together, but somehow, it seemed like it was a foreshadowing of their future or something. Not that he expected them to share a toothbrush when they got married, but they would be sharing things like this together.

Getting ready for bed, sleeping in the same bed.....Max shook his head, trying to get rid of thoughts about the bed. He was already getting excited with thoughts of spending the rest of his life with Liz. No need to make himself hyper.

He put the last of his laundry away, looking up to see Liz standing shyly in the corner. He opened up his arms, beckoning her to come over. “C’mere.”

Liz let herself be enveloped in Max’s strong arms, making her feel safe, making her feel like she was home. A sigh of contentment passed her lips, as his hands massaged the small of her back.

“Do you want a t-shirt to change into?”

She nodded, pulling away to let him get one. “Thanks. It sure beats being naked.”

Max’s head snapped up at her comment, his face blushing when he saw the teasing look in her eyes. He handed her a shirt, walking to the bathroom, mumbling something about staying in control.

Liz giggled, shrugging off her dress, and putting on Max’s shirt. She couldn’t help but pull the collar up to her nose, sniffing Max’s scent.

***********

After brushing his teeth, Max shut the light off in the bathroom, closing the door behind him. He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Liz lying in his bed, the covers pulled down, waiting for him to join her.

How many times had he dreamed of that image?

He cleared his throat, walking towards the bed. Liz looked up smiling as she scooted over to make room for him.

Max sat on the bed, not really sure what to do. He usually slept in his boxers, but he didn’t want to make Liz uncomfortable or make her think that this was some big ploy to get into her pants. All he wanted was a chance to hold her in his arms all night, to have her be the last thing he saw at night, and to be the first thing he saw when he first woke up.

He felt Liz’s hand brush his bangs off of his forehead. “You’re not sleeping in your clothes, are you?”

Max opened his mouth to explain about his sleeping attire, but Liz beat him to it.

“Let me guess. You sleep in your boxers, right? And you don’t want to freak me out. Am I right?’

Max nodded, surprised that Liz could read him like a book. That she knew what was bothering him without him having to say a word to her. “I could always wear sweats-

Liz shook her head, gripping the edges of his t-shirt, pulling it up and over his head. “Don’t worry about it Max. It’s fine. The only thing you’ll have to worry about is me making sexual advances at you when you’re practically nekkid.” Liz gave a throaty laugh at the look of shock on Max’s face. She couldn’t help herself. She just loved seeing that look on his face.

Holding her hands up in defeat, she lay down. “I promise, I’ll keep my hands to myself.”

Max gave her a wry grin, stripping down to his boxers. He lay down, pulling Liz close to his side so that her head was lying on his chest. He let his fingers play in her hair, as he spoke. “You know, about what we were talking about before. You, know, marriage?”

Liz bobbed her head against his chest, her ear listening to the beat of his heart.

“I know that we’re young, and that we’re not really ready for marriage, but I just wanted you to know, that you’re it for me. There will be no one else.” He took a deep breath. “I’m not saying this to tie you down, or to expect you to wait for me, but I just......I just wanted you to know.”

Liz placed a kiss to his heart, her chin resting on his chest as she spoke. “I feel the same way.” She kissed her fingertips, placing it on his lips. He kissed her fingers back, his hand returning to caressing his hair.

“Goodnight, Liz.”

“Night, Max.”

***************

Sometime during the night, Noah woke up, his eyes taking time to adjust to the darkness. He held onto the wooden railings, pulling himself up into a standing position.

His eyes landed on the bed, seeing Liz curled up on Max’s side. A small smile lit his face, as he reached for his baby blanket. “Lizzie.” He threw himself over the ledge with his blanket, making his way towards the bed.

It took a while for him to climb up, but he eventually made it. He crawled across the tangle of limbs that was Max and Liz, positioning himself so that his head was laying softly on Liz’s bosom.

Noah’s eyes drifted shut, the last word on his lips, being Lizzie.

Part 74

****************

The sunlight broke through the slightly open slats of the blinds, lighting up Max’s room to an iridescent glow.

Max was the first wake up, a smile touching his lips, seeing Liz curled up beside him. But what surprised him, was that Noah had somehow climbed out of his bed, making it to the ’big’ bed to join Liz, and himself. Noah’s head was lying softly on Liz’s chest, his thumb stuck in his mouth.

Max couldn’t help but reach out and caress Noah’s cheek, then reaching up to cup Liz’s cheek. He didn’t want to wake her up, but he just couldn’t help himself. She looked just like an angel, her chocolate brown hair fanned out over his pillow, her arm holding Noah close to her body.

If he wasn’t already so in love with Liz, seeing the image of her and Noah so comfortable in each other’s arms even in sleep would have done him in. Seeing this every morning was definitely something he could get used to.

Noah stirred, his long eyelashes fluttering against his soft cheeks. With a small yawn, he rolled over so that he was lying on his stomach. His eyes focused on Max’s and the two of them shared a knowing smile. Noah turned his head, his eyes lighting up to see Liz sound asleep. With a chubby fist, he reached out, taking a lock of her long hair in his hands, merely enjoying touching it.

"Lizzie!"

Max shook his head, putting a finger to his lips to keep Noah quiet. "Quiet, little man. We need to let Liz get some sleep. We wore her out yesterday."

As if Noah understood, he stopped talking, opting to lay his head on Liz’s chest again. Her soft breaths, calming him, almost making him sleepy again.

Max sat up a little to get a better view of Liz, wanting to soak up as much of her as he could. The smile on his face was imperishable, just as it always was when he was with Liz.

This is what heaven must feel like, he thought.

Not able to restrain himself any longer, Max placed a butterfly kiss on Liz’s lips, grinning when she smiled. Her eyes were still closed as she stretched her arms above her head. But when she finally did open them, they danced with a happiness that couldn’t be contained.

Leaning on her elbow, she reached out to touch Max’s face, running her hand across his strong jaw. She closed her eyes, returning his butterfly kiss from earlier. "Morning."

She pulled away, giving Noah’s head a kiss. "Mornin’ to you too precious." Liz sat up, cradling Noah in her arms. "When did you get here?"

When Noah didn’t answer, Liz turned to Max. He just shrugged his shoulders, laughter tinting his voice. "I don’t know, but he was already here when I woke up. Sound asleep I might add. Seems to me, the little man woke up in the middle of the night and made his way over to join the party."

Liz giggled into the pillow, just enjoying the quiet morning they were sharing. Waking up in the arms of her ‘boys’ was certainly a high.

"Well, I must’ve been dead tired, considering I didn’t even feel him get on the bed." Max shook his head laughing. He leaned his back against the headboard, pulling Liz to sit beside him.

"Me too. But I can’t say I’m not happy. This is exactly where I want to be, with my two favorite people." She stopped to give Noah a kiss on his head, leaning to give Max a lingering kiss. Her fingers were splayed across his naked chest as they continued to exchange kisses.

The phone rang, halting their kiss, as Max reached for it. "Hello?....Oh, hey Maria......Yeah, she’s right here....Oh, and Maria?......I just wanted to thank you for covering for us........I will.....ok....here she is......" Max handed the phone to Liz, taking Noah from her arms. He flipped him upside down, bringing him to the changing table.

After changing his diaper, Max placed zurbits on Noah’s round tummy, both of them laughing together.

Liz couldn’t help but watch the two of them together. Being here with them, seeing them like this was such a gift. Quickly hanging up the phone with Maria, Liz jumped from the bed, heading for Max. She let her fingers dance across his sides, finding his ticklish spot.

She caught him by surprise that he stumbled backwards, falling to the floor. Liz held her hand against her mouth, scared that she had hurt him, but Max’s hearty laugh let her know that he was fine. She looked to Noah, her co-conspirator, winking at him. "How about we give daddy some zurbits?"

Liz started on his chest, tickling the heck out of Max. Noah followed her lead, but couldn’t quite do the zurbit right. He ended up just placing wet kisses on Max’s cheeks. But Liz was an expert at zurbits, so continued down his chest, grinning when she felt Max squirm.

It was only when she reached the top of Max’s boxers did he jump up, running to the shower, muttering something about it being a cold one. Liz had to do a double take just to make sure that it did happen, since Max was so quick. She laughed to herself, pulling Noah into her arms.

"Well, I think daddy’s had enough zurbits for today," she finished with a giggle.

Part 75

**********

“Are we there yet?”

Max laughed at the sound of Liz’s voice when she asked the same question for what seemed like the millionth time during their drive. He glanced at her, shaking his head. “Were you always this...” he paused for a second trying to think of the right word. “Persistent as a child?”

Liz chuckled, sliding closer towards him. “I’m sorry, it’s just we’ve been driving forever. My butt’s starting to get numb.”

The rumble of Max’s laugh reverberated through the jeep. He reached into the glove compartment, reaching for a scarf. “Here, put this on.”

Liz looked at the silk scarf in her lap, fingering the softness of it. She looked up at Max who was busy reading street signs. “Why do I have to put this on?”

He gave her his half smile, looking at her from the corner of his eye. “Because, it’s a surprise.”

Liz looked at him skeptically, wanting to know what he was up to. “Max Evans, what are you up to?”

He shrugged his shoulders, giving her a pouty lip. “You’re not going to put it on? Even for me?”

Liz shook her head, in mock exasperation. “The things I do for you.”

Max laughed again, waiting until she had tied it securely around her eyes before he started driving again. They were almost at their destination, but he had driven around in circles for a little bit to get Liz to lose her bearings. He knew it was mean, but he wanted this to be a good surprise. He had only come up with idea while he was listening to her breathing as they slept last night.

Liz had given him everything he could possibly dream of, and he was hoping to return the favor for doing this for her. He knew how much it would mean to her, and he would whatever it was that was going to make her happy.

Finally driving into a residential area, Max looked in his rearview mirror to catch a glimpse of Noah in the back seat who had fallen asleep an hour or so ago. Max felt bad for dragging him all the way out here, but Liz had insisted that Noah join them. On the inside, Max was elated. Liz had already accepted Noah and him as her own, and it brought tears to his eyes just thinking about it.

He pulled up in front of a house, his palms sweating. As much as he knew that Liz would love his idea, he couldn’t help but have his stomach turning in knots. Behind that door, was another hurdle he was going to have to jump.

“Did we stop?” Liz placed her hand on the dashboard, feeling for the thunder of the jeep’s engine, but feeling nothing.

“Yeah, we’re here.”

She reached up to take the blindfold off, but she felt Max’s hand over hers, halting their movement. “Not yet. I’ll tell you when.”

Liz nodded, waiting patiently in her seat for Max to tell her when she could take off the blindfold. She could hear him moving around, opening the back door to get Noah.

Liz turned her head when she felt her door open. She felt Max reach over, undoing her seatbelt. He helped her turn her body so that she was facing him.

Liz smiled when she felt Max give her a peck on the lips before undoing the blindfold from around her eyes.

“Come on.” He held out his unoccupied hand to her, helping her out of the jeep.

Liz’s heart stop beating when she saw where they were. Tears pricked her eyes, as she realized what Max had done for her. “Max...”

Before she could get anything else out of her mouth, the front door of the house burst open.

“Lizzie!”

Max just gave Liz an encouraging smile, pushing her towards her parents. “Go on.”

Max stood on the front walkway, holding Noah to his chest as he watched Liz, her parents, and her grandmother have an impromptu reunion on the front lawn.

The five hour drive was worth it. To see Liz so happy. Max sighed, glad that he could give Liz an ounce of the happiness that she had given him.

**********

Liz looked over her dad’s shoulder as he hugged her with a love only a father could have for his child. She smiled at Max through her tears, wanting him to know how much this meant to her. She could barely believe that he had done this for her, but actually, she could. Because this was Max Evans she was talking about, and he was an angel sent to her from heaven.

Part 76

***************

Claudia watched as Liz and her parents hugged, tears flowing from their eyes. It was such a nice surprise to see her here. Her gaze fell on Max who looked a little frightened, standing to a corner by himself, with Noah tucked safely in his arms.

So this must be the young man her Lizzie was always raving about. The shy look in his eyes, and the protective way he cradled his son’s body to his chest, endeared Max to her. She could definitely see what drew Liz to him. He really did have soulful eyes, almost too pretty for a boy, but his eyes suited him well.

Claudia smiled, walking towards Max. Might as well introduce herself to potential family members, she thought amusedly.

***************

Max was so busy watching Liz reunite with her parents that he missed seeing her grandmother walking towards him. She had a warm smile on her face, one that reminded him a lot of Liz’s.

“You must be Max.” She peered over his chest, looking at the sleeping bundle in his arms. “And this must be little Noah.” She reached over, stroking the warmth of Noah’s cheek, as he continued to sleep soundly in Max’s arms.

Max untangled one his hands from Noah’s body, holding it out for Liz’s grandmother. “Yeah. It’s nice to meet you Mrs. Parker.”

Claudia waved Max’s hand away, throwing her arms around Max, pulling him into a bear hug. “Now, enough of that Mrs. Parker thing. It’s just grandma Claudia,” she finished with a smile. She couldn’t resist brushing the bangs off of Max’s forehead, grinning at the shocked look on the young man’s face. “My, you’re a lot more handsome than Lizzie’s let on.”

Max felt his face grow with embarrassment. This is not how he envisioned himself meeting Liz’s grandmother for the first time. He would have thought that she would be the hardest person to win over considering Liz was her only granddaughter, and well the fact that he was a single teenage father wasn’t something someone would go bragging about to their family. But she seemed more than ok with everything.

She lead him by the arm towards the house. “Let’s get inside so you can put the little one down.”

Max threw a look to Liz over his shoulder before Claudia pulled him into the house.

Jeff laughed at the slightly worried look on Max’s face. If he knew his mother at all, she was probably in the kitchen asking Max if he’d like some cookies or something. He shook his head, looking down at Liz, the smile on his face widening at seeing her in the flesh. He knew it was ridiculous to act like he hadn’t seen her in a long time, when in reality it had only been a few days since they had left Roswell. And it wasn’t as if this was the first time that they had left her alone, but this was the first time where they were leaving her, and they wouldn’t be going home. Well, at least not for a while. But he just couldn’t help himself.

He gave her another hug. “This is such a nice surprise, sweetie. We weren’t expecting a visit from you till two weeks or so.”

“I know, but it was all Max’s idea. I didn’t even know that he was bringing me here until I saw the house.” Liz pulled her parents towards the house, laughing as she spoke. “C’mon, we better get in there before Grandma smothers Max with cookies.”

**************

Claudia had Max sitting at the kitchen counter, as she puttered around, playing hostess. “Is there anything I can get you? A soda? Water? Maybe some cookies?”

Max shook his head, as Claudia busied herself trying to accommodate him. He couldn’t help but think of Liz when he saw her. “I’m fine, thank you.”

Liz walked into the kitchen, slipping her arm around Max’s as she sit down beside him. She gave him a tender kiss on the cheek, twining their fingers together. “Hey grandma. I take that you’ve met Max.”

Claudia put a tray on the counter filled with drinks smiling as she winked at Max. “Sure have. We’re old friends, now.”

Max smiled, enjoying how Liz’s grandmother was treating him as if were a part of the family, and they had only met a few minutes ago.

Jeff pulled out a seat for Nancy and himself. “It’s good to see you again, Max. I wanted to say thank you for bringing Liz out here. It’s such a pleasant surprise.”

Max blushed. “It’s no problem.”

Everyone’s attention was suddenly focused on Noah as walked into the room cautiously. Tears were brimming over his cheeks as he walked around the unfamiliar surroundings. He wiped away at his tears, his eyes trying to focus on anything that might look familiar. Finally he looked up to see Liz sitting with Max. He ran to her, wrapping his arms around her legs. “Lizzie.”

Liz picked up Noah, bringing to sit on the counter. She wiped away at his tears, kissing his cheeks. “It’s ok, precious. I’m right here.” She turned him so that he was facing Max. “And look, you’re daddy’s here too. You don’t have to be afraid.” She smiled at him, tilting his chin up to meet her gaze.

Max reached out his arms to Noah, giving him a smile. “You wanna come to daddy?”

Noah shook his head, wrapping his little arms around Liz. “No. Lizzie, mine.” He rested his head on her shoulder, swiping at his nose.

Claudia tried to bite back the smile as she watched the three of them together. The day certainly was going to be an interesting one.


Part 76

*********

Claudia sat beside Max on the back porch steps, watching as Liz chased Noah around the yard. "Those two make a pair, don’t they?"

Max chuckled as Liz lay on the grass, with Noah sitting on her stomach. "Yeah they do. If Noah wasn’t my son, I’d be probably be jealous with all of the time and attention that she showers him with."

Claudia gave Max a disbelieving look, causing him to laugh.

"Ok, so maybe I do get a little jealous." His lips formed a lopsided grin as he continued to watch the two of them. "How can I not? Liz is," he sighed, trying to find the right word to explain her, but couldn’t.

"There isn’t any one word that will describe her." Claudia finished for him.

Smiling, he nodded. "Yeah"

Max played with the edge of his sweater as if it was the most important thing in the world. But in reality, he was trying to find the courage to ask Liz’s grandmother why she was so nice to him. If he wanted to, he could just chalk it up to her being Liz grandmother, that in itself was a feasible reason. Liz was the most giving, understanding, and loving person he had ever met. He could see a lot of her qualities in her grandmother. But he had to know. Maybe it was because it seemed too easy. He didn’t know. All he knew that he had been burned too many times in the past, that he had to lay all of his cards on the table, and ask people to do the same.

"Mrs-

His voice faltered when Claudia raised an eyebrow at him. "What did I tell you about calling me Mrs. Parker? The only Mrs. Parker there is now, is Nancy. Besides, I think Mrs. Parker is a little too formal. It’s just grandma Claudia." She grinned at him, hoping to ease his jangled nerves a little. She could see his mind working a million miles a minute, the wheels in his head turning. She wanted him to feel at ease with her, make him feel like he was part of the family, and that he could come to her if he ever needed anything.

She knew so much about Max from the numerous stories that Liz had told her over the phone, and any holes that Liz had left, Jeff and Nancy had filled in. When Jeff and Nancy had first spoken about Max to her, they had been expressing their misgivings, and their worries about how a relationship with Max could very well hurt Liz. But that had been months ago. When they had moved in with her a few days ago, they had been the first to sing his praises. They had told her how it was Max that had saved Liz from the burning cafe, that it was Max who put a smile on her face everyday. Max was the reason that there was an extra shimmer in Liz’s eyes that had never been there before.

The smile on her face deepened as she thought about all of the wonderful stories that she had heard about Max. The way Liz talked about him, Claudia felt like she already knew him. That it would only be a matter of time before he and Noah were legally a part of the family, because in her heart, they were already a part of the Parker family. Max was responsible for creating a happier environment in the Parker family. Liz and her parents were closer now than they ever have been. And Liz had blossomed into the beautiful woman that she was now, with the help of Max’s love.

Max gave her a nervous smile, swallowing convulsively. "Grandma Claudia," he paused for a second, waiting a second to let the words he had just spoke reach his ears.

Claudia reached over, tapping his clasped hands. "Now, that sounds so much better." She tipped her head, urging him to continue.

Max’s eyes fell to the concrete steps, as he let the words rush past his lips. He felt like a heel for even thinking this way, but he just couldn’t help himself. "This is a really terrible thing to ask, especially since you’ve been nothing but nice to me and my son, showing us respect and kindness. But I have to ask, why are you being nice to me? I would have thought that you of all people would be the one who wouldn’t accept my relationship with Liz."

Max waited with baited breath for Claudia to speak. When she didn’t answer right away, he feared that he had offended her, but the soft lilting sound of her voice, told him otherwise.

"I don’t know what to tell you, Max, but that I always give respect where it’s due."

"But respect is something that needs to be earned. You don’t even know me."

Claudia gave him a smile, reminiscent of one Liz usually gave him when he was overreacting over nothing. "But I already know you, Max. I don’t need to spend hours sitting beside you, and visiting, to say that I know you. I know you from the stories that Liz and her parents have told me. Everything they’ve told me about you, tells me that I should respect you. But that isn’t the reason why I do."

Max bit the corner of his lip, looking up to meet her gaze. "If not that, then what?"

"I respect you because you were a boy who stood up and took responsibility for actions that you made, that may or may not have been the right ones at the time. You have an amazing little boy. I can see in the way that you look at him, that you love him with all of your heart. That little Noah is the basis of your existence, well that is of course until you met Lizzie."

Max blushed at her words.

"If you hadn’t stepped up to the plate and shouldered the responsibilities of being a father, Noah wouldn’t be the person he is today. You have yourself to thank for that, Max." She gave his hand a little squeeze. "You don’t need to earn my respect, because you already have it. You’ve had it for a very long time now."

Max felt the tears prick his eyes at Claudia’s words.

Yeah, she was definitely Liz’s grandmother. She shared the same uncanny ability to put to rest his sometimes, silly fears. And for that, he was glad.

"Thank you."

Claudia reached over, giving Max a motherly hug. "You know, I have a feeling that it should be me who’s supposed to be doing the thanking."

This earned a soft chuckle from Max, warming her heart. She pulled back, looking at the rapidly darkening smile. "It’s starting to get late. Maybe the three of you should spend the night."

Before Max could get a word in to disagree, Claudia had already made it back into the house.

"I’ll start making up the beds, and start on dinner," she threw over her shoulder.

***********

Liz sat up with Noah, a smile growing on her lips as she watched Max with her grandmother. She knew that her grandmother had already loved Max before she had even met him. And upon meeting him, she had it on pretty good ground that her grandmother was more than impressed with Max.

How could she not? Max was the quintessence of amazing.

He had proved that to her time and time again, not that he really needed to, because in her eyes he was perfect. Well as perfect as anyone could get.

Max continued to love her more and more with each passing day. She only hoped that she could reciprocate and let him know that she loved him just as much, if not more.

Liz leaned down, pressing a kiss to Noah’s cheek. "C’mon precious. Let’s see what everyone’s up to."



All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 21-Sep-2001 2:49:50 PM
Part 77

***********

Dinner was light and fun for the most part. Liz had told stories about what it was like living under the Valenti roof, and her parents had talked about how things were holding up on their end.

It wasn’t until the end of dinner did, things turn out a little more serious than anyone would’ve liked.

************

Liz placed her used napkin on the table, clearing her throat to get everyone’s attention. "Mom, dad? Could I please speak with you in the other room?"

"Sure honey. We’ll do that as soon as we get the table cleaned up." Nancy began gathering the plates, but was stopped by Claudia.

"It’s alright, Nancy. Max and I will get that. Why don’t you and Jeff take Liz into the other room and have that talk. They’re leaving early in the morning, why not make the most of the time that you do have together?"

Nancy shook her head, insistent that she clean up.

"It’s alright, Mrs. Parker. I’d be more than happy to help grandma Claudia clean up."

Claudia smiled at the sound of Max’s voice referring to her as grandma, warming her heart. "You hear that, Nancy? Even Max thinks it’s a good idea." Claudia stood up, taking the plates away from Nancy. "Now the three of you, shoo. Max, Noah, and I have some visiting to do."

Jeff knew not to argue with his mother, so he stood up, leading Nancy by the arm and into the other room. "Thanks, mom." He tipped his head at Max, signifying his gratitude. "Max."

Liz watched her parents leading the way. She threw her arms around Claudia, whispering words of thanks. She walked to Max, placing a kiss on his cheek. "It won’t take long."

Max nodded, standing up to help Claudia.

***************

Liz sat on the coffee table facing her parents. She glanced behind her to make sure that Max was out of ear shot. When she was satisfied that he wouldn’t be able to hear what she was saying, she turned back to her parents.

"Liz, what is it?" Nancy felt her fears rising at a rapid pace. She didn’t understand what all the secrecy was about.

Liz swallowed, taking a deep breath. "I got a letter in the mail today."

Jeff and Nancy just looked at her with a blank expression, wondering why she was speaking so cryptically.

"It was a letter from the University of New Mexico. They got my application, and they’ve accepted me." A smile touched her face as she continued. "So next fall, I’m going to be a student there."

Jeff shook his head to clear his muddled thoughts. It wasn’t that he was unhappy that Liz had been accepted to UNM, but he knew that she had had her heart set on Harvard for as long as they could both remember. He didn’t want her to be making some rash decision about what college she was going to go to without really thinking about it first. "But what about Harvard?"

"I know that I’ve been raving about how it was my dream to go to Harvard, and be head of molecular biology, and do all of those great things. But things change, people change."

Nancy tried to bite her tongue, but she couldn’t. As much as she had accepted Max into their lives, and as much as she had warmed up to him and Noah, she couldn’t help but be a little concerned that Liz was changing all of her plans because of them. "Does this have to do with Max?"

Liz nodded, realizing that it would be useless to lie to her parents. "I would be lying to you if I told you that Max didn’t factor in my decision about not going to Harvard. But he isn’t the only reason why I’ve changed my mind."

"Then what are your reasons?" Jeff watched Liz’s eyes, hoping to get some answers for all of the questions he had.

"First of all, going away to college costs money. We’ve just lost almost everything we have in the fire-

"There are always loans. You could even qualify for a scholarship."

"True, but I’m not guaranteed a full ride. I’ve been offered a full scholarship at UNM. UNM is close enough to home that I could home more often. And I could still take up molecular biology at UNM, that part of my dream hasn’t changed. The only thing that’s changed is where I’ll be going."

Jeff and Nancy shared a look, knowing that it would be useless to argue with Liz. She was an intelligent young woman, who had proved to them over and over again that she was capable of making her own decisions. Besides, she was turning eighteen soon. She would be legally an adult, and they really wouldn’t have a say in what they wanted her to do.

The best they could do was support her decision, and be there for her if she ever needed them. Because the last thing they needed was to be torn apart by something so stupid about where she was going to school. This was her life they were talking about. They had to let her do things as she saw fit.

Nancy was the first to smile, reaching over to pull Liz into a hug. "Congratulations, honey. Your dad and I are so proud of you."

Jeff reached over, wrapping his arms around Liz and Nancy. "We know you’ll make us proud in whatever you do."

Liz wiped away at the tears that had coursed down her cheeks. "Thank you for understanding. You guys have no idea how much it means to me that you trust me enough to make my own decisions."

Nancy brushed away Liz’s hair from her face. "Liz, it isn’t that we don’t trust you to make the right decisions for yourself. It’s that we want to make sure that it’s what you really want." Nancy laughed a little, her own eyes tearing up. "We’re your parents. It’s our jobs to worry about you needlessly."

"Dessert’s ready!"

The three of them looked to see Claudia waving an ice cream scoop at them from the kitchen, with Noah glued to her leg.

Jeff stood up, reaching for Nancy’s hand. "I don’t know about the two of you, but I’m in the mood for something sweet."

"Mom and dad?"

Jeff and Nancy stopped mid-step turning around to look at Liz. "Yes, sweetie?"

"Do you think we could keep this to ourselves for now? Max doesn’t know yet, and I want to tell him when the time is right."

"Sure. Anything you want."

**************

After the last of the dessert dishes were cleared away, Max reached for the garbage bag, heading out into the back.

"Let me help you with that, Max."

Max looked up to see Jeff walking out of the sliding door, walking towards him. "It’s ok, Mr. Parker. I’ve got it."

Jeff walked towards him anyway. "Thank you, Max."

Max looked up as he put the lid on the trash can. "No problem. I’m just putting the trash away. Nothing I haven’t done before."

Jeff put his hands in his pockets. "I’m not talking about the trash, Max. I’m talking about Liz. I want to thank you for looking out for her, and making sure she’s ok while we’re away."

"You don’t have to thank me."

Jeff shook his head. "Yes, I do." He turned to walk towards the house again, but stopping on the last step. Without looking up, he spoke again. "Just keep her happy. Can you do that, Max?" He looked up when he heard the determination in Max’s voice.

"I will."

The two men shared a smile, coming to an understanding.

*************

Claudia stood by the sofa bed, explaining a few things to Max. "I know this isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but it’s big enough for the two of you." She turned her gaze to Liz, pointing towards the spare bedroom. "Honey bear, I’ve set up the cot so you can sleep in the guest room with your parents."

She smiled, bidding everyone goodnight. "Well, I’m off to bed. Goodnight, everyone."

Noah waved at her from the comfort of Max’s arms. "Nite nite, gamma."

Claudia blew him a kiss. "Nite nite to you too, sweetheart."

***************

Max pulled back the covers, settling Noah on the bed, but he wouldn’t stay. Noah scrambled off the bed, clutching at Liz’s legs.

"No, Lizzie mine." He hid behind Liz’s legs, shaking his head wildly.

Max kneeled down beside him, untangling him from Liz. "Not tonight little man. Liz has to sleep in her own bed tonight."

"No, no, no!" Noah banged his fists against Max’s chest, his little legs flailing in the air.

Liz’s heart broke. She wanted to sleep with the two of them, just as much as they wanted to sleep with her, but that seemed almost impossible. She walked towards them, placing light kisses on Noah’s face to calm him down.

"Tell you what. I’m gonna go get dressed for bed, then I’ll come back out to say goodnight."

Noah had calmed down a little, but he was still upset.

Liz gave Max a peck, running down the hall. "I’ll be right back."

**************

Liz poked her head in the door, seeing her parents getting ready for bed. "Is it ok if I say goodnight to Noah first?"

Nancy stopped fluffing her pillow, giving Liz a smile. "Sure, honey. Give him a goodnight kiss from me and your father."

"Thanks."

Liz ran back down the hall and into the living room.

Her breath hitched in her throat when she saw Max lying on his back, with Noah perched on his chest. It didn’t matter that she had seen that image a number of times, she would always think that it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.

She climbed on the bed, placing a kiss on both Max and Noah’s heads.

Max opened his closed eyes, smiling up at Liz. "Hey."

The two of them shared a sweet kiss, before Noah crawled off Max’s chest and into Liz’s arms.

Max shook his head, reaching for Noah. "Not tonight, little man."

Liz shook her head, cradling Noah against her chest. "It’s ok. I’ll just stay until he falls asleep."

"Are you sure?"

Liz nodded, her voice turning into a whisper. "Absolutely."

**************

Nancy woke up as she turned to face away from Jeff. Her eyes took a minute to focus in the dark, but when they did, her eye caught the empty cot. She glanced at the clock on the bedside table, determining that Liz should have been back hours ago from saying goodnight to Noah and Max.

Getting up, Nancy put her robe on, making her way down the hall. She reached for the light switch when she noticed that the light still on.

Her small gasp made Claudia glance up, a camera in her hands.

Claudia put a finger to her lips, asking Nancy to be quiet.

Nancy nodded, walking into the living room.

Jeff walked down the hall, rubbing at his sleepy eyes. "Nancy?"

"Shh!" Claudia hissed at him. She waved him over to stand with her and Nancy.

A smile touched his sleepy eyes as he realized what all of the fuss was about.

Liz had somehow fallen asleep with Max and Noah. Her head was tucked under Max’s chin, with Noah lying in between her and Max. Noah’s head was nestled softly on her bosom, his little hand entwined with Liz’s. Max’s arm enveloped the two of them, almost as if he couldn’t bear not touching them even in sleep.

"Aren’t they adorable?" Claudia asked with amusement.

Nancy nodded, stifling back her tears. Max, Liz, and Noah were beautiful together. She walked towards them, pulling the blanket over the three of them. She gently touched Liz’s cheek, putting her hand to her mouth as Liz’s snuggled deeper into Max’s embrace.

If Nancy wasn’t convinced before that Max and Liz had found true love, she was convinced now. The way the three of them were so comfortable in each others arms in sleep spoke volumes of how much they were already a family. Nancy saw that now, and she couldn’t stand in the way of that, even if she wanted to. But the thing was, she didn’t want to. Love like that was hard to come by, and she’d be damned if she was the one who was going to keep Max and Liz from experiencing that type of love.

She had already found that love with Jeff. She only hoped that Liz would have as many years of happiness with Max that she did with Jeff.

Jeff wrapped his arms around Nancy, placing a kiss on her temple. "Come on. We should get to bed."

The three of them took one last look at the young family, shutting off the light as they went to bed.

Part 78

****************

Max awoke to the sunlight hitting his closed eyelids. A smile touched his lips as he realized that Liz was still in his arms. With a soft sigh, he pulled her closer, inhaling her soft scent. He was about to pull her into a morning kiss when his eyes flew open.

Panic coursed through his body as he saw the sunlight filtering threw the open curtains, bathing the room in it’s morning glow. He sat up, scrambling to reach for his watch on the table, his heart thumping wildly against his chest.

No. This couldn’t be happening. They were going to be in so much trouble. He hadn’t meant for them to fall asleep together. All he had done was cuddle up with Liz, both of them waiting for Noah to fall asleep, but it had taken a while. When Noah had fallen asleep, Max had tried unsuccessfully to pry Noah from Liz’s embrace, but even in sleep, Noah refused to let go of Liz. It was almost as if he knew what they were doing, causing him to whimper, his body moving in a restless sleep.

Liz had decided to stay a little while longer, making herself more comfortable, hoping to eventually transfer Noah into Max’s arms. But the little guy just was not going to be fooled. Liz was exhausted, her eyes falling close. Max didn’t have the heart to wake her, deciding to stay awake and wake her up at a later hour. But as the hour passed, Max’s eyes own eyes had become heavy. It was then that he pulled Liz and Noah into his embrace, placing chaste kisses on their heads as they continued to sleep peacefully. It was Max’s intention to wake up Liz, but she just snuggled closer to him, burying her head under his chin, her lips softly kissing his neck. He knew without a doubt that she was asleep, but it touched his heart, that while she was in slumber, she managed to be able to show her affection for him.

At that point, Max had decided to let her sleep a little longer. As she shifted to a more comfortable position, Max found himself once again getting sleepy. He decided to shut his eyes for just a second. Just a second, he told himself.

Obviously it had been more than just a second because it was now morning. He hurriedly reached for his shoes, yanking them on his feet. Maybe if he looked more presentable, they wouldn’t get into too much trouble when somebody found them.

Liz stretched her arms languidly above her head, a smile curling her lips as she inhaled Max’s scent on the pillow. Her hand reached across the bed with the intent of pulling Max into her embrace, but finding nothing but air.

"Max?" Liz had yet to open her eyes, her hands blindly reaching for her love.

Liz felt the bed jolt a little with Max’s weight as he began shaking her shoulder urgently. "Liz, Liz. You have to get up. We fell asleep."

Liz sat up leisurely, yawning as she did. She didn’t understand what all of the fuss was about. Sure, she had remembered falling asleep. She didn’t see the need for all of Max’s urgency. Her doe eyes opened to the morning sun, her eyes taking in her surroundings. At first, she was confused, wondering where in the heck they were, but then it hit her like a ton of bricks.

Max had surprised her yesterday, driving them to visit her parents and her grandmother. Liz jumped off the sofa bed, furiously running her fingers through her hair, trying to make herself look somewhat decent. She caught sight of Max running around the living room, tidying up, running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off.

With all of the jostling around, Noah sat up, a small yawn escaping his pouty lips. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes, taking in his surroundings.

"Lizzie?"

Liz almost jumped out of her skin when she heard Noah’s voice calling out to her loudly. Kneeling down beside the bed, Liz put her finger to Noah’s lips, whispering to him. "Mornin’ precious."

Noah smiled at her, opening his mouth to reply to her greeting, but Liz shook her head at him, once again urging him to be quiet.

"Morning everyone!" The sound of Jeff’s voice startled both Max and Liz, both of their heads snapping up to see him walking down the hallway.

Liz felt the color drain from her face as she tried to swallow past the lump in her throat.

Sensing her distress, Max walked towards her, placing his hand in hers, giving it a firm squeeze. "Mr. Parker, I can explain."

Liz stomped on Max’s foot, glaring at him for trying to shoulder all of the blame. There was no way Max was going to take the heat for her falling asleep with the two of them. She was a big girl. She could take it as good as she could give it. She had been woman enough to speak to her parents about her future yesterday, she was definitely woman enough to take whatever she had coming now.

Max hopped on his other foot, his mouthed open in an O shape as he wondered why Liz had stomped on his foot. He couldn’t believe it. She was the one who had stepped on his foot, and she was the one glaring at him. He opened his mouth to speak, but the sound of Claudia’s soft voice coming from the kitchen stopped him.

All eyes were on her as she stood by the archway, an apron tied around her waist. "Breakfast’s ready!" She finished with a smile.

Noah’s eyes lit up as he saw her. He slid off the unmade bed, running towards her. "Gamma!"

Claudia kneeled down, catching Noah as he launched himself in her arms.

Nancy poked her head out of the kitchen a teasing glint in her eyes. "Are you all just going to stand there, or what? The food’s starting to get cold." She exchanged a look with Claudia, winking at her. "And I know mom and I didn’t get up and make breakfast for nothing."

Claudia stood up, perching Noah on her hip. "Nancy’s right. Let’s get a move on. The kids have to get a head start on that traffic."

Jeff smiled, patting Max and Liz on their backs. "You heard them. Let’s go get some breakfast." He walked to the kitchen, kissing Nancy on the cheek as the two of them ooed and ahhed over Noah.

Max and Liz stared dumbfounded, their jaws hanging open. It was obvious that they had seen Liz spend the night sleeping with Max and Noah, yet there were no upset parents, or an upset grandmother. Instead, they were greeted with an almost too good to be true greeting.

Max looked at the kitchen doorway, watching as everyone else started breakfast. "What just happened?"

Liz’s gaze was trained on her family, shaking her head as if she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. "I have no idea."

Part 79

*************

Max and Liz walked cautiously into the dining room, watching as the adults laughed and talked like nothing was wrong.

Max took a glance at Liz who merely shrugged her shoulders at him. For the life of her, Liz couldn’t figure out what was going on. She knew that her grandmother would have been a little more understanding about the situation, but she didn’t understand her parents reaction.

Where was all the yelling? Where were the disapproving looks and the shaking of the heads?

Jeff looked up with a mouthful of eggs. "You guys should really try this."

Max sat down, his body in a rigid stance. He was waiting for the ball to drop. He turned a frightened look towards Jeff, wondering if he had some sort of weapon hidden in his lap, waiting for the opportunity to catch Max at his most vulnerable?

Ok, so maybe he was being paranoid, but Jeff Parker had basically trusted him to take care of his daughter last night while he was away, and what did he do? Max Evans, teenage father fell asleep with his daughter on the same bed, under her grandmother’s house no less. If Jeff Parker was going to lynch him, Max was just going to take it like a man. Fall to his knees and take the punishment, for he couldn’t say he wasn’t glad that it happened.

Sleeping with Liz was something he would never tire of. Somehow, it was almost addicting. It frightened him to think how he would go throughout the rest of school without having her in his arms, her soft her tickling his skin, her warm breath puffing on his bare chest, at night.

Claudia pushed a glass of orange juice to Max, offering him a smile.

Max gave her a tight smile, his nerves shot to hell. This was just too weird. Yelling, he could take. Dirty looks, he could handle. Jeff’s fist in his face, he’d prefer never to have to experience that, but if it boiled down to that, he would gladly take it. He just couldn’t take this silence, all of this smiling. It felt like he was being set up, or something.

"Drink up, Max. You guys have a long drive ahead of you."

Max nodded mutely, reaching for the glass of orange juice. As he reached for it, his hand began to tremble.

"Are you ok, Max?" Nancy put her fork down, looking at him in concern.

"F-fine. I’m fine, thank you." He finished politely.

Jeff tried to hide the smile behind his fork as he spoke. "So, how’d you kids sleep last night?"

Max turned six different shades of red, as he choked on his juice. Liz ran her hand up and down his back, trying to get him to calm down.

Nancy hit Jeff on the arm, shaking her head admonishingly at him, but couldn’t help a little smile form on her face.

Claudia reached for Max’s hand, giving it a soft pat. "Now, now, Max. Don’t pay any attention to Jeff. He just has a weird sense of humor."

Max had somewhat calmed down, his color returning to it’s normal tone. He saw the Parker’s laughing, and Grandma Claudia with a smile on her lips. What the heck was going on here?

Fortunately, Liz voiced the question in his head. "What’s going on? I know you guys saw us asleep together. How come you guys aren’t yelling, or, or, how come you guys aren’t mad?" When they all burst out laughing, Liz gave them an incredulous look. "And what is so funny? Why do you guys keep laughing?"

Claudia fought to gain her composure back to give a few explanations to the befuddled couple. "Honey, don’t mind us. We’re just having a little fun with the two of you." She grinned at them, loving how they wore the same expression on their faces.

Jeff leaned back against his seat, holding his stomach. "Your grandma’s right. We’re just poking a little fun. We didn’t think you two would take it so seriously."

Liz looked at her parents with a wary glance. "So....you guys aren’t mad?"

"Mad? There’s no reason we should be mad. The three of you fell asleep together. There’s no harm in that. Although I suggest that you guys don’t make it habit until you guys have graduated school. We don’t want Max’s mom having a heart attack." Nancy joked.

Max started another coughing fit, the room once again being filled with giggles.

Liz looked at her parents almost as if she didn’t recognize them. It was like they were different people, younger, almost. Who were these people, and what had they done to her parents?

But the thought dissipated from her mind as she watched her father lean over, giving her mother a kiss on the forehead as he had done a million times before. They were still the same people.

She thought back to the conversation they had shared yesterday about her plans for college, and how they hadn’t tried to change her mind. They hadn’t yelled, merely gave her their support and love, everything she needed to follow through with something as monumental as the decision she made.

A smile crossed her lips as she realized that just as she had grown as a person this year, so had her parents. Maybe even more so than her.

*********

Hugs and kisses were exchanged as Max and Liz loaded up the jeep, heading back for home.

Claudia handed Liz a plastic bag full of muchies and drinks for their long trip home. "Now, you two be careful. Make sure the little one is ok."

Liz smiled at her grandmother, giving her another hug. "We will. Thanks for having us."

"You’re welcome, honey bear. Now just don’t be strangers. Visit your old grandma more often, you hear?"

Max held Noah in his arms, as he bid goodbye to the Parkers. "Thanks for having us over. And we hope to see you home in Roswell soon."

Nancy smiled, giving Max a hug. "Thank you for everything, Max." She pulled away, letting herself be held by Jeff.

Jeff held his hand out to Max, the same knowing smile on his face. "You remember what we talked about last night." He paused, tipping his head back a little. "Just take real good care of her, Max."

"With my life." Max said with conviction.

Claudia hauled Max and Noah in her arms, giving them both kisses on their cheeks. Just as she had done when she had first met him, Claudia brushed back the hair Max’s forehead, giving him her patented Liz grin, as Max had referred to it. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Max." She squeezed Noah’s cheek, waving at him. "And you too, little fella."

Max smiled his thanks, reaching out to give Claudia’s hand a squeeze. "Thank you, Grandma Claudia. For....for everything."

Liz gave her parents a tearful goodbye. "I’ll miss you guys."

"We’ll miss you too, honey. You be good for Jim and Amy, ok?"

"I will." She wiped away at her tears, her hand trembling slightly. "I just wanted to thank you guys-

Nancy shook her head, halting Liz from saying anymore. "There’s no need to thank us. We’re just so sorry it took us so long to open our eyes and see that you’re a beautiful young woman, who hardly needs us anymore."

Liz shook her head, throwing herself in her parents embrace once again. "I’ll always need you guys. Nothing is going to change that. Nothing."

************

With one final wave, Noah grinned out of the open window. "Bye, bye!"

Part 80

***********

It had been a few hours since Max and Liz had returned home from Grandma Claudia’s. Max’s parents had yet to come home from their weekend alone, leaving a message on the machine saying not to wait up. Isabel had left a note saying that she was spending the day with the gang all of them hanging out at the mall, then going to a movie afterwards.

Noah had fallen asleep during the second hour of their drive, only waking up when they had returned home. They had played with him for a little bit, but the after effects of spending so much time in the car caught up to him, managing to knock him out for another nap.

So Max and Liz lay sprawled on the carpet, both of them idly stroking each other’s skin as they lay quietly together.

“Everything ok? You’ve been awfully quiet since we’ve gotten home.” Max let Liz’s chocolate colored tresses slip through his fingers, as he stared up at the ceiling.

Liz breathed a heavy sigh, snuggling closer to his side. “Nothing. Just thinking.”

“Thinking about what?”

Liz sat up, leaning her chin on Max’s chest, her hair fanning around her. “Have you thought about college, Max? I know you said that you planned on going to JC and then transferring out. But have you thought about it some more?”

Max sat up, folding his hands behind his head, his amber eyes piercing into Liz’s eyes. “I have, and I still plan on doing that.” Max sat up some more, as realization dawned on him. “Liz, if this is about you going away to school, you don’t have to worry. I’m not expecting to you to stay. You had this whole other life before me, I can’t expect you to just forget about that.”

A tear pooled in Liz’s eye, causing Max to reach for it before it fell down her cheek. “Hey....don’t cry. I’d wait forever for you, you know that.”

When Liz didn’t answer, Max got a sick feeling in his stomach. “Unless.....unless that’s not what you want.” It pained him to even say the words, but he did have to consider the possibility. If Liz was going away to school, he couldn’t just ask her to wait for him. If she had had enough of them, then he would walk away. If that’s what she really wanted. Even if it killed him, he would do whatever it was that would make her happy.

Max fell back as Liz placed a bruising kiss on his lips, her hands threading through his hair, demanding that he give himself to her. He did so willingly, allowing her to stake her claim, to claim him as hers.

With heavy pants, Liz whispered against his lips. “Don’t you ever say that, Max Evans. Don’t even think it.” Her hot tears cascaded down his cheeks, mixing with his own tears. “I would never want that. You’re, it for me too, Max. I couldn’t want anyone but you.” She peppered his face with kisses, her hands cupping his face.

He smiled at her, placing his large hands over hers. “Good.” He kissed her lips with a gentleness that sent tingles down Liz’s spine. The way he was touching her, it was as if he were afraid she would break if he wasn’t careful.

He traced her eyebrow, his amber eyes glowing. “I’m sorry for having these doubts. It’s just, every time I look at you, I wonder what I ever did to deserve you, because lord knows I’ve made my share of mistakes. I always wonder if I’m going to wake up and find that this was all some cruel dream, to show me all of these wonderful things, then to rip it away from me.” A sob escaped his lips, as he leaned his forehead against hers.

“I’m real, Max. I’m never going away......Ever.” Liz lay back down on the carpet, pulling Max’s head to rest on her bosom. She ran her fingers through his hair, calming him down.

They lay like that for a few minutes before Max looked up at her. “Why have you brought this up, all of a sudden?”

Liz shifted uncomfortably under Max’s gaze. “I just think that it’s something we should talk about. I mean, it’s already April. Before you know it, we’ll be graduating soon. I just wanna know where we stand.”

Max gave her a melancholy smile. “I meant what I said before. Wherever you go, I’ll be here waiting for you.”

Liz refused to meet his eyes, her hands shaking. With a small voice, she spoke. “What if I told you that you didn’t have to wait?”

Max sat up, confusion evident in his eyes. “I don’t....I don’t understand.”

Liz gathered up all of her courage, finally looking up to meet Max’s gaze. “I received a letter from the admission’s office at the University of New Mexico. As of next fall, I will be a new student there.”

Max felt his jaw working, but no words were coming from his mouth. Did he just hear her right? She was staying in New Mexico? A part of him wanted to jump for joy, knowing that she wasn’t going to be far from him, but another part of him, the part that was winning out felt guilty.

Extremely guilty.

He knew without a doubt that she had changed her plans for him. He wasn’t naive enough to think otherwise. As much as he wanted to be selfish and agree to let her stay in New Mexico, he would never be able to live with himself. For the rest of his life, he would have this nagging feeling in the back of his mind that he was selfish enough to keep Liz from realizing her dreams.

No. He couldn’t, and wouldn’t do that to her.

He stood up, pacing the length of the carpet. “You can’t do that.”

Liz stood up, a hurt look on her face. “I can and I will. You can’t tell me what to do, Max.”

Max stopped pacing, walking up to Liz. He cupped her face in his hands, the tears welling up in his eyes once again. “Please, Liz. I could....I would never be able to live with myself if I hold you back.....” He reached down, entwining their fingers. “Don’t hold back on account of me.”

Liz shook her head, her hair flying around her shoulders. “Maybe this isn’t all about you.”

Max’s head snapped up at her comment, but Liz had pulled away from him, walking to the window seat. She hugged herself, her body shaking with her sobs.

Her small voice carried through the room as she started speaking, not looking at him. “My decision about going to UNM, has a lot to do with you, but it’s not the only reason. My family lost everything we owned in that fire. We simply don’t have the money for me to go away.” She wiped at her nose, looking up to see Max sitting by her feet. “I could have lost my parents in that fire, Max. I can’t take for granted that they’re always going to be there.”

Max placed a hand on her knee, a sorrowful look in his eyes. “I’m sorry, Liz.....I, I didn’t even think, about it.”

Liz shook her head, fighting to find the composure to finish her speech before she totally broke down. “The main reason I’m not going away, is because of Noah.”

Max looked at her a little confused, but let her continue.

“I know that he’s your son, but....but in a way, I feel like he’s a part of me too. I know it’s stupid to think that, but I love him so much, Max. I don’t think I could love him anymore if I had given birth to him.” More tears escaped her eyes, her sobs consuming her.

“Don’t hate me for wanting to be a part of him, Max.”

Max closed the gap between them, crushing Liz in his embrace. “I could never hate you, for that Liz. Never.” He placed a kiss to her temple, his iron like grip around her tightening. “You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear that you love Noah so much.” Max pulled back enough so that he could look at Liz’s face. “I don’t care that you didn’t give birth to him, because in my heart, you’re already his mother.”

They shared a soft kiss, reaffirming their love for each other.

“If UNM is what’s going to make you happy, then I won’t try to stop you.” He smiled, tucking her hair behind her ear.

Liz buried her face in Max’s neck, breathing a sigh of relief as the two of them crossed another hurdle in their relationship.

“Thank you.”

Part 81

***************

Max sat at their usual table in the quad, his eyes glued to the piece of paper that was filled with chicken scratches. He felt a hand clapping his shoulder as his friends joined him.

"Hey, Max. What you got there?"

Max looked up to see Kyle sitting across from him with Courtney. He smiled at them, holding up the sorry excuse for a piece of paper. "Party list. Noah’s birthday is in a week."

Maria made her way to the table with Michael. "Who’s birthday is in a week?"

Isabel called out behind her, with Alex practically glued to her hip. "Noah’s."

Maria’s mouth opened in an O shape as her eyes grew wide with excitement. "Ooo, how exciting!" She smiled at Max. "Can I help?"

Max scratched the side of his head, breathing a sigh of relief. "I would love that. I’ve been working on this for weeks and this is all I’ve come up with."

Maria shook her head in mock disgust at the crumpled piece of paper in Max’s hand. She reached for it, reading what he had on it.

Noah’s Birthday.

Theme: Blue’s Clues or Pooh Bear.

Guests: <3LIZ<3, Maria, Michael, Kyle, Alex, Courtney, Parkers, Valentis, and Grandma Claudia.

Food: MUST HAVE CAKE!



Maria couldn’t help the grin from forming. She couldn’t help but smile at the way he had put Liz’s name in bold, or the way he put little hearts around it. But what made her laugh was the way he had capitalized the words, ‘must have cake’ under the food category. What made it even funnier, was that it was the only thing listed under food. Liz sure wasn’t kidding when she said that these two were big on cake, she thought amusedly.

Maria looked down at the paper, then at Max. "This is all you’ve got?"

Max blushed. "I’ve been, I’ve been kinda busy."

Michael shook his head, laughing with the others. "Speaking of, where is the person that’s been keeping you busy?"

As if on queue, Liz made her way through the quad, half running, half walking to the table. "Sorry, I’m late, but my government class just kept going and going."

She sat down beside Max, giving him a kiss. "So, did I miss anything?"

Max shook his head, pulling Liz closer to his side. "Nothing much. Maria’s just trying to help with Noah’s birthday party."

Liz smiled, pulling out her lunch. "Did you decide what theme you were having?"

Max shrugged his shoulders. "I don’t know." He looked to the rest of his friends, asking for their opinions. "Well, I’ve narrowed it down to two. It’s either gonna be Blue’s Clues, or Pooh Bear. What do you guys think?"

Alex called out from the other end of the table. "Oh, without a doubt. You gotta go with Winnie the Pooh. He’s like.......he’s a classic. You can’t go wrong with Pooh and the gang."

Max laughed a little, asking for the approval of everyone else. "You guys think that’d be ok?"

Kyle’s voice piped up. "What about the power puff girls?"

Everyone gave him a weird look, bursting out into fits of laughter.

"What? What’s wrong with the power puff girls?"

Maria shook her head, burying her face in her hands. "You really need to stop watching the cartoon network, Kyle."

"I don’t know, I kinda think Bubbles is pretty cute." Alex finished with a grin.

"You would. I’m a little more into, Buttercup. She’s a feisty one."

Maria looked at her boyfriend as if he had grown another head. "Can you guys even hear yourselves? You’re talking about cartoon characters."

Alex puffed out his chest, feigning hurt. "For your information, the Power Puff Girls are an elite crime fighting team."

More laughter came from the group, all of them enjoying one another’s presence.

"Ok, enough of that. Back to the party. How about we split up the chores so we can get this done faster?"

Max spoke up, feeling bad that everyone was doing work for the party. They were the guests, and he didn’t want them doing any work. "No, you guys don’t have to do that. I’ve got it under control. You guys are the guests. You’re not supposed to be doing any of the work."

"Max, please. You gotta let us help." Maria batted her eyelashes at him, giving him a sad puppy face. "Pretty please?"

Liz whispered in Max’s ear, her voice filled with laughter. "You might as well give in, now Max. Maria’s really into the whole party planning thing. She really wants to do it."

Max looked at Liz, then to Maria. "Well, if you really want to..."

Maria clapped her hands together her excitement getting the best of her. "Alright, here goes. Who wants to be in charge of decorations?"

"Me, me, me!" Isabel raised her hand, wanting to be picked. Alex gave her a half smile with a questioning look. "So, I like to decorate."

Maria turned serious, turning into General Deluca mode. She tore a piece of paper from her notebook to write down everyone’s tasks. "Ok, Isabel’s in charge of decorations." She looked up at Alex. "Alex, you think you could be in charge of music?"

Alex gave her a wide grin, showing his pearly whites. "My pleasure."

"Ok, Kyle and Courtney. Do you guys think you could pick up a few kid’s games? You know cute ones, like pin the tail on the donkey. That kind of stuff."

Courtney smiled at Kyle glad that they would be working together. "I think we could handle that."

Maria scribbled on the paper, talking at the same time. "Ok, Michael and I will be in charge of food-

Before Maria could finish, Liz blurted out, "I’m in charge of cake!"

She and Max exchanged a secret smile, but everyone saw it anyway.

Maria just chuckled. "Ok, chica. I’ve got you down for cake."

Max reached over, pointing next to Liz’s name. "Put me down for that too."

Maria gave Max a teasing grin. "I don’t know, Max. I don’t know how much work you and Liz will get done together. Especially working with cake and all."

Max and Liz blushed furiously as their friends tried to hold back their laughter with no success.

Maria touched Max’s arm, trying to talk through her laughter. "I’m just kidding." She wrote on the piece of paper again, writing Max’s name next to Liz’s. "Ok, Max and Liz will be in charge of cake."

As the bell rang signaling the end of lunch, everyone began gathering their things together. Before Maria walked away with Michael, she whispered to Max and Liz. "Just make sure that you guys leave some cake for the rest of us." Maria laughed some more at the couple, loving how easily she could make them blush.

Max shook his head as Liz buried her face in his chest. "I cannot believe her." Liz said with a chuckle. "And all I told her was that you liked cake."

Max grabbed Liz’s hand, laughing as they walked to Chemistry. As they neared the door, Max tugged on Liz’s hand stopping her from walking into the classroom.

"Liz?"

"Yeah?"

"Do you think we could talk, after school? There’s a few things I’ve been meaning to ask you, and well, I wanted to do it in private."

Liz smiled at him, stroking Max’s cheek. "Sure, Max. How about we meet by the flag pole after last period?"

Max kissed her forehead, pulling her towards the door. "Thanks."



All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 21-Sep-2001 2:55:03 PM
Part 82

***********

Liz was sitting by the flagpole, waiting for Max to arrive.

"Hey. You been waiting long?"

Liz shook her head, standing up to gather her things. "I just got here a few minutes ago."

"Come on." Max grabbed her hand, leading her towards the jeep in the parking lot. "Brody’s out of town and he wants me to clean out some of his old files while he’s gone. We can talk at the UFO Center."

Liz only nodded, letting Max lead her.

************

Max unlocked the employee door, holding it open for Liz. He tugged on her hand, pulling her to the back office. He moved some of the boxes around, making room for Liz to sit down.

"Have a seat."

Liz sat down, clasping her hands in her lap. "So. What’s with all of the secrecy? I’m dying of anticipation, here."

Max sat down in front of her, covering her hands with his. "Don’t worry. It isn’t anything bad, I just.....I just didn’t want to have an audience when I ask you what I’m about to ask you."

Liz gave him her most encouraging smile, letting her thumbs brush his hands softly. "Well, seeing as we don’t have an audience now, you can go ahead and ask me anything."

Max bobbed his head, taking several deep breaths. "Well, prom is coming up next month, and well, I wanted to ask you if you would go with me."

Liz shook her head, smiling. "Of course, I’d go to the prom with you, Max." She pulled on his chin, placing a soft kiss on his lips. "Was there ever any doubt?"

Max gave her his special half smile, chuckling a little. "Well, no. Not really. I just, you know, wanted to ask." He caressed her cheek, his eyes focused on hers. "Our relationship hasn’t really been, I don’t know....traditional?....I just, wanted to ask. For tradition’s sake."

"Max." Liz threw her arms around him, loving how thoughtful and caring he really was. "Could you get any sweeter?"

Max laughed against her shoulder, placing a light kiss there before pulling back. "Well, I don’t really know about that."

"I do, and I think you’re the sweetest guy in the whole world. And I love you for it." Liz gently rest her arms on Max’s shoulders, her fingers tickling the hair on his nape. "Was that all you were gonna ask me?"

Max’s Adams apple bobbed up and down as he swallowed. "Actually, that was the easy part. There’s.....there was something else I wanted to ask you, and I don’t want you to feel like you have to say yes, or anything. You can say no and I’d be completely ok with that-

Liz placed her finger on Max’s lips, stopping their movement. "Max, if you don’t ask me what it is, I’ll never have a chance to say yes or no." Liz grinned when she elicited a small smile from Max from her comment. She stroked his neck, leaning into his embrace a little more. "Besides, I doubt I could ever say no to you."

Max looked down for a second, his eyes filled with inner turmoil as he tried to figure out how to ask his question. He didn’t really know what he was expecting. The only thing he knew was he wanted to share this with Liz, and ask her for a little of her help. As close as he had become with all of their friends, Liz was still his best friend above all else. She was his other half. The person who completed him. If there was anyone he could talk about this with, it would be her.

"You know that Noah’s birthday is coming up."

Liz nodded, staying silent until Max finished talking.

"Well, it’s also...." his voice caught in his throat as he continued speaking. The tears blurred his vision all of a sudden, making it hard to continue, but he did anyway. He could do this. "It’s also the anniversary of Tess’ death."

Liz put a hand to her mouth, her eyes darkening with sadness. "Oh, Max. I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I forgot.."

Max waved away her apologies, with a shake of his head. "Don’t be sorry, Liz." He pulled her hand to his lips, giving it a kiss. "The reason why I’m bringing this up, was because I wanted to ask you a favor." He gave her a sad smile before continuing. "This is the part where you could decide whether you’re gonna do this or not."

"Ask away, Max."

"I...well, last year, on Noah’s birthday, Isabel and I took Noah down to see her, you know so she could see him. See how big he had gotten since he was born." Max had to choke the words past his lips as he remembered. "We couldn’t really stay long, because Noah wasn’t feeling too good that day. And well, this year, we won’t be able to go and visit her at all." The tears pooled in his eyes, eventually falling down his slightly flushed cheeks. "I know this is a really stupid idea, but....I thought that Isabel might like it.....I was thinking we could buy some flowers and plant them in our yard, kinda like in remembrance of her. That way, every time we see it, we’ll remember."

Liz placed her hands on the sides of Max’s face. "I think that’s a great idea."

In a timid voice, Max spoke. "You think so?"

"I do. I think wherever Tess is right now, she’s looking down at you, loving you even more for being who you are. You’ve done such a great job raising Noah....She’d be proud of you Max." Liz’s own tears had fallen down her cheeks, wetting her shirt as they continued to fall.

Max wiped away Liz’s tears, letting her do the same for him. "Isabel still has a hard time talking about her, as do I, but I was hoping you could go with me to pick out some flowers so Isabel and I could plant them together."

Liz smiled despite the film of tears building in her eyes.

"I’d be honored to, Max."

Part 83

***********

Liz stood on the front porch step, her arms wrapped around Max.

"Are you sure you don’t want to come in?" Max leaned forward, his bangs tickling Liz’s forehead.

Liz shook her head, standing up on her tip toes as she placed a kiss on the tip of Max’s nose. "That’s ok. I’ve gotta get the rest of my government paper done." Her hand caressed the back of his head, as she let her nose nuzzle his. "And besides. I think this is something that you and Isabel should do together. Alone."

Max placed his hands on the small of Liz’s back, pulling her closer to his body. "You know, you don’t have to leave. I want you to be a part of this, too."

Liz smiled at him. "I know that, and you have no idea how much it means to me that you want to share this with me, but I think this is something that you need to do on your own." She brushed the hair off of his forehead, placing light kisses on his face. "In time, we can do this together, but for right now....." Liz flanked the sides of Max’s face bringing his face mere inches from hers. "We have the rest of our lives to do this together." She chuckled a little as she continued. "I think Tess might appreciate if it were just the two of you for right now."

Max nodded, brushing his lips softly against Liz’s. "Ok. I’ll see you tomorrow. We can start on that cake." He gave her a wink, earning him a playful slap on the chest.

Liz squeezed his hand, making her way down the steps and to her car. Before she could make it onto the last step, Max pulled her back, kissing her with a certainty that they would definitely be doing this together for the rest of their lives. "Thank you, Liz. For coming with me to the store today, for understanding, and most of all, for accepting things the way they are and being ok with it."

"Max, you don’t need to thank me. I have the rest of my life to spend, thanking you for bringing me such joy and happiness. I can only hope that I can do the same for you."

Max opened his mouth to say something, but the sound of Isabel’s voice from inside the house stopped him.

Liz smiled at him, pushing him towards the front door. "Go. You can save the sweet talk for when you try to weasel a piece of cake from me tomorrow."

Max waved as Liz drove away, taking a deep breath as he turned towards the house. He picked up the box of flowers that he had just bought, making his way into the house. "Iz?"

Isabel bounded down the steps, smiling at Max. "Hey, Max. Was that Liz?"

Max shut the door behind him, nodding his head in answer to her question. "Yeah."

"Why didn’t you ask her to stay? She could’ve stayed for dinner."

Max balanced the box in his hands, as he walked forward. "She was kinda busy."

"Oh." Isabel placed her hands behind her back, almost skipping towards Max. "So, whatcha got there? It wouldn’t by any chance be for me would it?" She gave him a grin, the light reflecting off of her brown eyes, making them sparkle.

Max’s lip twitched, as he spoke. "Sorta." He walked to the sliding door in the back, walking into the yard. "You think you could give me a hand?"

Isabel closed the glass door behind her, walking cautiously down the steps. "You didn’t get a puppy, did you Max? Cause I don’t think mom and dad are gonna really let us have a pet right now."

Max chuckled as he kneeled on the grass, opening up the box. "I didn’t get a puppy."

Isabel gasped when she saw Max pulling out the flowers from the box, watching as he reached for some gardening tools. She walked slowly, coming to kneel down beside him. "Max, these are gorgeous." She held the pot of flowers to her nose to get a whiff of their scent. "What are these called?"

Max started digging a hole, pausing long enough so he could smile in Isabel’s direction. "They’re called Forget Me Nots. I asked Liz to go with me to the flower shop off of Sierra. Liz and I kinda thought that the name was fitting. Besides, I think they’re kinda pretty." Max picked up the pot of flowers, handing them to Isabel. "I know that Noah’s birthday is in a few days, and I know that we’re gonna be celebrating his birth and all that.....but we’re also mourning the loss of Tess."

Isabel found herself speechless as she continued to listen to Max talk.

"I know that you and I promised each other that we would Noah down to visit her on his birthday.....but, it kinda....it’s getting more unlikely that we’re gonna be able to do that." Max fingered the soft petals of the flower a dismal smile on his lips. "I know that this is a poor replacement of that tradition. The truth is, we should be back in California, and we should be their to pay our respects and be there to tell Tess that we love her, but it’s virtually impossible for us to do that right now." Max paused, to wipe the tear from his eye with the back of his sleeve.

"So I was thinking that we could plant these flowers in remembrance of her. That even though we’re miles and miles apart, we can remember every time we see these." Max could feel his chest tighten as he continued to speak, but he persevered. "I know it doesn’t make up for anything, but I thought it was something you and I could do together."

The tears began to course down Isabel’s cheeks, making her skin glisten in the setting sun.

"I know that you and I don’t talk too much about what happened, or even Tess herself. And I just wanted to take the opportunity now to apologize to you. I know that she was your best friend and that you loved her like a sister. When she....when she passed away, I acted as if I was the only one who lost her. I was too selfish to see that you were hurting too."

Isabel shook her head, trying to get Max to stop apologizing, but he wouldn’t stop.

"I’m so sorry, Iz. I know sorry will never be enough, but maybe it’s a start."

Isabel threw her arms around Max, crying onto his shoulder. "You don’t have to apologize, Max. I know how difficult that was for you. I never expected you to just forget about what you were feeling just so you could help me through my problems."

Max pulled away, shaking his head. "No. I should’ve been there for you."

Isabel smiled, despite her tears. "It doesn’t matter now, Max. That’s all in the past. All we can do is move on and do this together. Tess’ death was tragic. No one deserves what happened to her, but we can’t change that. As much as I wish it didn’t happen, a part of me knows that if those events didn’t happen, we never would have moved here. I never would’ve met Alex, and you would have missed out on finding Liz."

Isabel watched as the color drained from Max’s face, but she reached a hand out to him, trying to reassure him. "I know you feel guilty about that, because I do to. When I have thoughts like that, I wonder what kind of person that makes me. And I realize that I’m just human, Max. Just like you are. We can’t help but have these thoughts or feelings. Just like we can’t help change the past." Isabel squeezed Max’s hand, trying to offer him some strength. "Things happen for a reason, and while we may never fully understand why they happen, there is something more to it. I believe that Tess is out there somewhere looking out for us."

Isabel took the flowers from the pot, placing it into the hole that Max had dug. She reached for the dirt around it, covering it back up. She stood up, walking to get the watering can. After making sure that there was water in it, she handed it to Max.

Max took a second before taking the can into his hands and watering the flowers. When he was done, he stood up beside Isabel, watching as the warm hues from the sunset lit the flowers in an iridescent glow.

Isabel’s words echoed in Max’s head as he stood admiring their work.

The sound of the sliding door caught his attention, a smile lighting his face as he watched Noah running down the porch steps with Diane hot on his heels.

"Daddy!"

Max kneeled down, catching Noah in his arms as he pummeled forward. He placed a kiss on his rosy cheeks, looking up into the sky with a happy smile.

If Tess was up there somewhere, he hoped that she could see them now.

Part 84

Rated: R


***********

Isabel grabbed her purse from the kitchen table, keys in hand. “Ok, I’m gonna be gone for most of the morning. I still have a few more decorations I need to get before the party.”

Max looked around the kitchen that was filled with boxes of party decorations. “Uh...Iz? Don’t you think that you have enough decorations?” He picked up a bag of Winnie the Pooh party hats, wondering who was going to wear them considering there were only a few kids coming to the party. Diane had invited the young couple from next door who had a little boy the same age as Noah, and a baby girl. And only the handful of kids from Noah’s play group were gonna show up.

Isabel raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow at her brother, daring him to argue with her. When he just stood there, she walked backwards to the door. “I won‘t be long.”

Max nodded, putting the hats back down.

When Isabel left, he grabbed the decorations, moving them into the living room. Liz was going to be over soon to bake the cake and they needed room to move. His lips curled at the corners as he thought about baking a cake with Liz, alone.

His parents went to pick up their gift, taking Noah with them so Max and everyone could set up for the party. It wasn’t so much a surprise party, more like giving Max a reprieve while setting everything up.

*************

Liz cut the engine of her car, taking care to bring everything inside the house. Reaching out a shaky hand to ring the doorbell, Liz was startled out of her skin when the door flew open.

“Hey.” Max stepped forward, taking on a majority of Liz’s load as he moved aside to let her in.

“Thanks.” She gave Max a peck on the cheek as she looked around the living room. “Ok, where do the presents go?”

Max looked thoughtful for a moment before making a face. “Might as well just put it anywhere for now. Izzie will just rearrange everything a million times when she gets back.” He looked to the grocery bags in his hands, lifting them up in the air. “Where to?”

“Kitchen. I’ll be there in a sec. I’ll just put this stuff down.”

Max nodded, walking into the kitchen. He took out the contents of the plastic bags, laughing when he saw three boxes of cake mix.

“What’s so funny?”

Max held up the three boxes of cake mix, waggling his eyebrows in a suggestive manner. “Why, Liz? What’s with all of the cake mix?”

Liz could feel the heat rising from her neck, but she decided to play it cool. “Get your mind out of the gutter, Max. The party is gonna start in a few hours, and we certainly don’t have time-

Liz found herself unable to finish her sentence as Max pulled her up against his chest, a wolfish grin on his lips. “Don’t have time for what?”

Liz tried to look away from his amber gaze, knowing that she was gonna be a lost cause if she did. She placed her palms on his chest, a small smile playing on her lips as she felt his pecs flex under her touch.

Her eyes followed the path of her fingers, finally looking up to stare in the depthless amber pools of his eyes. The way he was looking at her made her body feel like putty in his hands, which of course was nothing but the truth.

Her eyes fluttered closed as she felt Max lean forward, his breath mingling with hers, making her anticipate his next move.

Boy was she glad that she bought the cake mix. It would give them more time to ah....what was the word?

All thought fled her mind as Max began placing light kisses on her face, starting at her forehead, then her closed eyelids, between her eyes, the tip of her nose, and then the corners of her lips, never touching his lips to hers. A smile broke out on her face at his tenderness, the way he always made her feel loved, feel delicate, like she was the most precious thing in the world.

Before she could mull over those thoughts, his lips captured hers in a delicate kiss, lightly tasting, and nipping. Liz could feel all of her nerve endings stand to attention as he stepped forward, placing his hands on the small of her back. A small whimper escaped her lips when he reached for her tush, pulling her body flush against his, making it hard for her to determine where she began and where he ended.

But at this point in time, she could hardly care. The way they were pressed up against each other, she could feel every movement of his body, and she meant everything.

His delicate kisses changed their tune when her hands ran the expanse of his back, her hands cupping his butt. The moan that floated from his lips caused a vibrating sensation to pass over his lips to hers, making her open her mouth to release a groan. Max took advantage, his hands flanking the sides of her face, pulling her up to stand on her tip toes.

His velvety tongue sought hers out, a simultaneous sound of pleasure erupting from both of them at the first touch of their tongues. Max brought her face closer, wanting to taste every part of her mouth, not wanting anything to be over looked.

Liz loved his thoroughness as he seeked to give her pleasure with his mouth. Her hands gripped his tush tight in her palms, pushing his arousal towards her as she arched forward. The animalistic groan that came from his lips excited her, making her repeat the process, her hips beginning a rhythm against his.

With what sounded like a growl, Liz felt herself being pulled up, as Max wrapped her legs around his waist, his legs walking forward blindly.

Liz’s gasp made Max open his eyes, a small laugh bubbling from his throat.

Liz untangled her legs from around Max’s waist, sitting up to pull her skirt to cover her behind. “Shut up. It’s not funny.” Liz poked him in the chest, as she spoke. “You try sitting on a cold tile surface with no pants on.”

Max gave her a sly look, moving up against the kitchen counter. He spread Liz’s legs apart, coming to stand between them. Without looking down, his hands began massaging her legs, slowly creeping up until they disappeared under her skirt. His fingers danced around the lace of her panties, his hands cupping her butt, pulling her until she was directly in line with his body.

Max licked his lips as his hand flittered across the crotch of her panties, causing Liz to throw her head back in abandon, leaving her neck exposed for his taking. His lips began a wet trail down her neck, his arousal throbbing painfully in his pants when he heard Liz’s broken pants, his name a mantra on her lips.

“Max....Max......Max...”

************

“Max?....Max!”

Max jumped back at the sound of Liz’s voice. His eyes took a second to focus, taking in his surroundings. From the looks of things, he was still in the kitchen the box of cake mix in his hands.

“What?”

Liz came up to stand in front of him, her arms running over his shoulders in a light massage. “I don’t know. I was hoping you could tell me. I came into the kitchen and you were holding the cake mix in your hands. You had this dazed expression on your face.”

Max smiled, shaking his head. “I was? I’m sorry, I guess I was just day dreaming.”

Liz linked her hands behind his head, her eyes dancing with a mischievous glint. “Must have been some day dream.”

Max grinned at her, placing a kiss on her lips. “It was.”

Liz’s curiosity piqued at the look of desire in Max’s eyes, exciting her beyond belief. “Care to share?”

Max took a step forward, his hands automatically reaching for Liz’s tush. A devilish smile plastered itself on his lips as he intended to show her just exactly what he had been day dreaming about, when an obnoxious knocking sound came from the door.

“Open up! We’ve got food and we’ve got plenty of it.” The sound of Maria’s unnaturally cheery voice seeped through the house, causing Max and Liz to both groan in sexual frustration.

Part 85

***********


“Hey guys.” Maria carried trays of food through front door, a sugary sweet smile plastered to her lips. “I hope you guys don’t mind that we came early. We thought we could help out before everyone got here.”

Maria continued to chatter a mile a minute, not really caring if anyone was listening. It was beginning to seem that she liked hearing the sound of her own voice.

Michael threw an apologetic look towards a very disheveled looking couple, knowing that he and Maria had interrupted something. He really had tried to stop Maria from coming over so early, but what could he say? Maria was Maria. When she wanted something, she stopped at nothing to get it, and even he, stonewall Guerin couldn’t compete with that.

“I’m sorry for coming so early, but Maria-

Max shook his head, helping Michael carrying some of the food to the kitchen. “Don’t even worry about it.” Max eyed Maria and Liz talking animatedly as the two of them discussed the upcoming party. “It’s probably a good thing you guys came over early.”

Michael chuckled, walking over to the sink to wash his hands. “So, when is this shindig gonna start?”

Maria wrinkled her nose, stopping her mile a minute babble to look at Michael. “Shindig? Michael, are you like living in a time warp?”

The giggles were contagious, everyone laughing.

“What? What’s wrong with the word shindig?”

Max, Liz and Maria burst into another fit of giggles, their faces turning red.

Maria held a hand to her chest, trying to regain somewhat of a normal breathing pattern. “Honey, I think only person who still uses that word is Jim.”

Michael let out a laugh, poking his tongue out his girlfriend.

Maria walked up to Michael, wrapping her arms around his waist. “Well when you start school at Albuquerque Community, maybe you’ll get to mingle with a variety of people instead of the same old crowd.”

“Yeah, well I like the same old crowd.”

Liz had moved to stand next to Max, her head resting on his shoulder. “I didn’t know that you decided on going to Albuquerque Community College. When did this happen?”

Michael blushed a little, not used to having all the attention directed towards him. “Uh...I kinda decided a few weeks ago. I mean, I don’t really know what I want to do for the rest of my life, but with everyone getting their acceptance letters, well, I thought it would be a cheap way to continue with my education. If I like it, I can stick with it. If I don’t, it’s not gonna hurt my bank account too much.”

Liz gave him a grand smile, walking towards him to give him a hug. “Well congratulations, Michael. I know how tough of a decision that must have been for you.”

Michael felt his cheeks burning again. He shook his head, looking for a way to divert the attention away from him. “Well, I guess a congratulations is in order for you too. I heard you got accepted to UNM.”

“Thanks. This might be like high school all over again. What with me, Kyle, Courtney, Alex, and Isabel going to UNM, and you, Max and Maria going to ACC.” Liz finished with a chuckle.

“A little help please?” Isabel’s muffled voice came from the front of the house, four sets of eyes turning in that direction.

One by one, they walked to the front of the house, laughing as the saw Alex tangled up in a mass of balloons and Isabel carrying various shopping bags.

“Hey, Iz.”

Isabel looked up to see Maria and Liz, dropping the bags onto the floor. “Ohh, I’m so glad you guys are here. We can do the rest of the decorations together.”

The three girls bounced with an energy that only teenaged girls possessed. “Does anyone know what time Courtney’s getting here? I was hoping the four of us could do this together.”

Maria was busy looking through the assortment of decorations, her eyes twinkling. “Well Kyle was on his way to pick her up when Michael came to get me.”

Alex looked at his friends, holding his hands up in frustration. “Excuse me? Remember me? I’m Alex, otherwise known as the balloon man. I could use a little help.”

Max and Michael leaped forward, helping to untangle their friend from the balloons. They had been so caught up in watching their girlfriends acting so girly that they had momentarily forgotten Alex’s current struggle.

“Guys got room for more?” Kyle tipped his head from the open doorway, smiling wildly when his friends welcomed him and Courtney.

Isabel rushed forward, pulling Courtney into the circle of girls. “Yay, now we can start.”

All four girls went about decorating the room, each giving ideas on how to get the most out of the decorations.

The four guys stood there watching with half amused, half unbelievable expressions as the girls busied themselves with hanging things up and clearing out the living room.

Kyle rubbed his chin, continuing to watch with mounting curiosity. “They do realize that the kids at this party are like 2 years old and aren’t really gonna care if the Happy Birthday Noah sign isn’t hanging completely straight, right?”

Max shook his head, the smile on his lips belying his mock disgust. “Yeah, well try telling that to Isabel. She’s like a control freak when it comes to stuff like that.”

Michael nodded, his arms crossed in front of him. “Tell me about it. When Maria even hears the word party, her ears perk up and she gets all militant on me, telling me to do this, or do to do that.”

Alex laughed. “Yeah, well I get the distinct feeling that we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

All four boys nodded, each of them eyeing their respective partners, all of them wearing goofy grins.

Isabel blew the hair out of her eyes, stopping when she looked at the four boys just standing there.

“Earth to Max!”

“Huh?”

“You think you could get started on that cake? Mom and dad are gonna be home soon.”

“Right, right.” He turned to walk into the kitchen, leaving the guys to the mercy of the girls.

Liz dropped what she was doing, making a beeline for the kitchen. Maria grabbed her arm, stopping her from moving.

“And where do you think you’re going, chica?”

Liz pointed in the direction of the kitchen, trying to get out of Maria’s grasp. “I was gonna help Max with the cake. You know, because it was our assigned job, to do....together. Max and I were gonna bake the cake, but you and Michael showed up-

“Wait a second. Baking cake isn’t a code name for....” Maria let her voice trail off, letting the suggestive tone of her voice make Liz blush.

“Maria!” Liz slapped away Maria’s arm, trying to glare at her but to no avail. “Very funny. Besides, nothing even happened. You and Michael showed up before things even got good.”

Maria held her mouth to her hand, an apologetic look in her eyes. “Chica, I am so sorry. I had no idea.”

Liz shook her head, smiling at Maria. “Don’t worry. I guess I can consider it a good thing. It was better you than Max’s parents walking in on us, using their kitchen in new and wonderful ways.” Liz winked at Maria, earning her a smirk.

“Girl, you are sooo bad.” She turned Liz towards the kitchen, giving her tush a soft push in Max’s direction. “That cake better be in one piece when the party starts!”

Liz turned around, sticking her tongue out at Maria.

Maria grinned, not being able to resist making one last jab. “Might as well make two cakes, you know, just in case.” She winked, leaving Liz with her jaw hanging open.

************

Once Liz had calmed down after Maria’s teasing, she stood under the kitchen doorway, silently admiring Max working in the kitchen.

He had already put all of the ingredients together, mixing everything in the bowl. Liz bit the corner of her lips, loving the set look of concentration on Max’s face as he continued to mix.

His amber eyes were trained on the chocolate mix, his lip darting out from the corner of his mouth. He took a quick look around, not noticing Liz standing by the door. Satisfied that no one was there, he put down the wooden spoon, dipping his finger into the chocolate concoction. His eyes closed as he sucked the sweet stuff into his mouth, a moan of pleasure making it’s way out of his lips.

Liz couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of the cake mix, wishing it were her that he was devouring instead. She couldn’t believe how turned on she was getting just by watching him devour the uncooked cake mix.

God help her if she was gonna survive the rest of this day without attacking him.

Making her presence known, she stepped into the light, her hands behind her back as she bounced on her heels. With a raised eyebrow and a playful grin, she caught his attention.

“Ahem!”

*************

Max’s head snapped up, his face wearing a guilty look for having been caught with his hand in the cake batter, literally.

“Liz.”

“Hey, honey.” She walked at a leisurely pace, almost skipping, but not really. “Looks like you’ve got a handle on things, here.” She stopped when she was standing next to him, picking up his chocolate covered hand, examining it. She gave him a grin, the tip of her tongue tasting his finger more than the cake batter itself. “Yum.”

Max mumbled, walking to the sink to stick his hand under the cold running water. He was hoping the cold water would help to keep him from over heating, I mean wasn’t that what you were supposed to do when certain extremities weren’t behaving? He only hoped that sticking his hands under the water would do because he didn’t have time to take a cold shower.

Max reached for the dish towel, wiping his hands as he tried to get his hormones under control. He was hanging on a very thin line, and he feared that if he broke, nothing, and he meant nothing could stop him from devouring Liz. Right here, right now.

He closed his eyes, his hands clenching and unclenching in the dish towel. The sexual frustration was killing him. Liz was a goddess, and more than once had she hinted that she was ready to take their relationship to another level. Max had always been wary, though, not because he thought that he would get hurt, but scared at the thought that he might hurt Liz. She meant everything to him, and he didn’t want to jeopardize that. It was true that he wasn’t ready before, but after recent revelations between the two of them about how they truly felt for one another, he had wanted nothing more than to consummate their relationship. To show her how much he loved her in more than just the physical aspect of sex, because whenever they chose to cross that barrier, it would never just be sex. Because everything with them was always something more. Making love for him wouldn’t be just about raging hormones, sweaty bodies, and loud moans. Making love was being so in love that you would comfortable enough to share your whole being with someone. To let them see you at your most vulnerable, and want that other person to share everything with you. Mind, body, and soul.

That’s what making love to Liz would about for him. When he and Tess had consummated their relationship, they had done it for all the wrong reasons. They were too young and naive to really understand what making love was really about. Max was going to make sure that when he and Liz made love, that it was special. That it wouldn’t be some quickie in the bathroom or the hall closet.

Liz Parker deserved much more than that, and Max was willing to hold back so that he and Liz could experience their first time for the beauty that it was going to be.

When he opened his eyes again, Liz had put everything away and had put the cake batter in the oven. He uncurled his hands from the dish towel, coming up to stand beside Liz as she watched the oven door. He placed an innocent kiss on her shoulder, offering her a smile. “Thanks.”

Liz gave him a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. She reached for his hand, a concerned look in her eyes. “Are you ok? I....I’m sorry if I’m making this any harder on you.” She gave him a pathetic laugh. “It’s just.....it’s getting harder and harder to keep my hands off of you.”

“I know. I feel the same way too.” Max’s face wrinkled, before he burst out laughing. “No, that’s not what I meant. I meant you, not me. I’m having a hard time keeping my hands to myself because of you.”

Liz’s musical laughter filled his ears as she buried her face in his chest.

The two of them just stood in each other’s embrace, reveling in the closeness of each other.

“MAX! Mom and dad are back! You and Liz better get out here. They’re walking up the front steps with Noah.”

Max shook his head at the excitement in Isabel’s voice. “Come on. Time to greet the birthday boy.”

Max held Liz’s hand, leading them to the living room. Isabel handed them party hats, instructing them put them on, just like everyone else in the room.

Isabel handed Liz an extra party hat, smiling as she did so. “Here, this one is for Noah.”

Liz knew there was a hidden meaning in the fact that Isabel had handed her the hat for Noah. The two of them shared an understanding smile, as Isabel stepped aside, letting Max and Liz stand by the door. Everyone else stood back, waiting for the door to open, noise makers in hand.

The light seeped through the opening door, as voices made themselves heard.

When the door was pulled back all the way, everyone blew into the noise makers, everyone yelling happy birthday.

Noah looked up, his eyes lighting up at everyone around him. He let go of Diane’s hand, running into the open arms of his father.

Max caught him, spinning them around in the air, finally stopping to place loud kisses on Noah’s cheeks. “Happy Birthday, little man!”

Liz looked over Max’s shoulder, placing the party hat on Noah’s head. “Happy Birthday, precious!”

Noah smiled at her, his small hand reaching out to trace the pictures of Winnie the Pooh on Liz’s party hat. “Pooh bear.”

Laughs were heard all around as Noah crawled into Liz’s arms, his eyes growing wide as he noticed for the first time, all of the decorations. Pictures of Winnie the Pooh and his friends were plastered to the walls, as well as many other things.

Jumping slightly in Liz’s arms, he pointed to the decorations. “Pooh Bear!”

Part 86

**********

An hour or so after the party had started, they moved the kids outside to the back yard where they had set up the pinata. Of course they were well aware that the kids weren’t able to hit the pinata, but Isabel just couldn’t resist buying the Winnie the Pooh pinata at the store.

The boys took turns hitting the pinata, but no one could crack it open.

Max was in the kitchen with Liz, putting the last touches on the cake.

Liz wrote Happy Birthday Noah across the cake with icing, as Max ran to the door after hearing someone knocking. "Who was it?"

"Lizzie!"

Liz dropped the frosting, running to greet her parents and her grandmother. "You guys made it."

Jeff threw an apologetic look towards Max, as he offered him Noah’s birthday present. "We would have been here sooner, but traffic was really bad."

Max took the present, smiling when he did. "It’s not a problem. We’re just glad you guys could make it."

Max led them to the back where everyone had congregated.

Noah had gotten bored waiting for the pinata to crack, that his eyes lit up when he caught sight of Claudia.

"Gamma!" He ran to Claudia, running straight into her legs. She smiled at him, holding his little hand.

"Well hello to you to, little fella."

Noah tugged on her hand, pointing towards the pinata. "Come. Pooh Bear."

Claudia indulged him, letting him lead her to the pack of children waiting for the candy to fall.

Max introduced Liz’s parents to his own, letting the adults mingle as he caught up with Liz who was seated beside Kelly who was holding her daughter Amber. Kelly and her husband Mark had just moved into the neighborhood recently. They were the couple with the little boy who was Noah’s age.

Max felt his heart thump wildly against his chest as Kelly let Liz hold Amber while leaving to go somewhere. His feet were glued to the grass as he watched Liz cradle the baby girl in her arms, cooing and smiling. It reminded him of the time when he had asked Liz to babysit for Noah, coming home to find Noah cradled in her arms just like that.

A smile touched his lips as he walked forward, taking a seat beside them. "Hey, whatcha got there?"

Liz smiled, turning the baby in her arms so Max could look into Amber’s smiling face. "Max, say hi to Amber. Amber, say hi to Max."

Max leaned forward, touching Amber’s cheek softly, smiling when she gurgled. "Aren’t you a beauty?"

Liz turned to Max with a teasing look. "You know, a girl could start to get jealous, what with you charming all of the ladies in the house."

Max shook his head, tucking Liz’s hair behind her ears. "I only have eyes for one girl." He leaned forward, brushing his lips against hers.

"Thanks for watching Amber."

Kelly stopped mid stride when she saw Max and Liz kissing. She felt bad for intruding on their little moment.

Liz looked up at her, a smile on her face. "Not a problem. The pleasure was all mine." Liz handed Amber to Kelly carefully, making room for Kelly to sit down.

Kelly shook her head, her blonde hair flying around her face. "Yeah, well whenever you wanna babysit, you’re more than welcome. I tell you, it’s a real task taking care of these two." Kelly nodded towards Jacob who was on the ground digging for the candy that had finally fallen on the floor.

After picking up more than he could carry, Jacob ran to Kelly, handing her the candy. "Mommy."

Noah had grabbed his own handfuls of candy, running after Jacob towards Liz. He watched curiously as Jacob called Kelly mommy, his eyes turning to Liz. He smiled at her, handing her his candy. "Candy," he offered to her, running after Jacob to the other children.

Liz just chuckled, glad that Noah was having a good time.

**********

Max carefully stepped down the porch steps, trying to balance the cake in his hands.

When people saw him, they started singing. The adults had strategically placed the kids around the table, with Noah in the middle. Liz was standing beside Noah, holding his hand as he got excited when Max came closer with the cake.

As the song ended, Max held the cake out for Noah, urging him to blow.

Noah huffed and puffed, but he couldn’t get the two candles to go out. "Help!"

Max laughed, blowing the candles out for Noah.

Diane took the cake from Max, slicing it so that everyone could have a piece.

***********

Isabel and the others brought out the presents, letting Noah tear apart the wrapping.

The majority of the gifts were toys that the children had played with together.

But as the sun began to drift lower, the majority of children waved their goodbyes, leaving in the arms of their parents.

Once they were gone, the party moved back inside where everyone lounged around the living room.

Max was sitting beside Liz on the carpet, both of them just enjoying watching Noah play with his newly acquired toys.

Max felt a tap on his shoulder, smiling when he saw that it was Claudia.

"Here. I thought maybe the three of you would enjoy this. Mind you I’ve got lots, but this one is for little Noah." She handed him the gift, leaving a wide eyed couple.

Max turned the gift in his hands, turning a questioning glance at Liz.

Liz held her hands up, looking curiously at the package. "I have no idea what that is. I’m just as lost as you are."

Max turned the package in his hands one more time, before tearing the gift open. "It’s a picture frame."

Liz pulled it from his hands, pointing at the glass. "Look, there’s a picture inside." She pulled it closer to her face to get a better view, when her breath caught in her throat. She looked up at Max who wore the same look of shock on his face. "Max. This was...

"This was from when we spent the night at your grandmother’s." He finished for her. He took the picture from Liz, tracing the outline of their huddled bodies, all curled up together. A slow smile crept up on his face as he reached for Noah, placing him on his lap.

"Look, little man. Grandma Claudia gave you a present." He pointed to the picture, giving Noah’s unruly hair a kiss. "Do you know who that is?"

Noah nodded, pointing to Max’s figure on the bed. "Daddy." He moved his pointer finger, landing on himself. "Me." He moved his finger again, finally coming to land on Liz’s sleeping figure. "And, momma."

Liz felt the blood rush from her face after Noah’s comment. Did she just hear him right? Had he said..... She couldn’t even finish the sentence, her stomach turning into knots.

Max turned Noah to face him. "What did you say?"

Noah just smiled, pointing to Liz’s figure again. "Momma." He turned round eyes to Liz, smiling at her. "Lizzie, momma."


All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 21-Sep-2001 3:00:18 PM
Part 87

**********

“Max.....MAX!”

“Huh?” Max looked up to see Isabel standing impatiently in front of him.

“Everyone’s getting ready to leave. You wanna say goodbye?”

Max nodded, picking Noah up as he stood. “Right, right.” He walked to the door, saying goodbye to his friends. “I wanted to say thank you, for everything. I think today would’ve been a disaster if you guys hadn’t helped out.”

Maria brushed away Noah’s hair, giving him a tender kiss. She leaned up, giving Max a hug. “Pleasure was all ours, Max.”

A chorus of goodbyes were heard as the rest of the group left for their cars, leaving Max standing with Isabel and Noah.

“I’m just gonna walk Alex to his car.”

“Sure.” Max turned to walk back into the house, but the Parkers and Valentis were headed his way.

“Max, we just wanted to thank you for a wonderful party, and happy birthday, little guy.” Jim, ruffled Noah’s hair as he walked through the door.

Noah smiled, waving to them. “Bye bye!”

“Thanks for coming.”

Jeff stood beside Max, placing his hand on her shoulder. “We’re gonna get going too, Max. We still have that long drive.”

“Of course.”

Nancy walked through the door, shaking Noah’s little hand. “Happy Birthday, sweetie.”

Noah just grinned, turning his attention to Claudia as she stood in front of him. “You take care, little one.” Claudia, squeezed his chubby cheeks, bidding her goodbye.

“Bye bye, gamma!”

Before Claudia could make it down the porch steps, Max called out to her.

“Grandma Claudia?”

Turning around, she smiled. “Yes, Max?”

“I just wanted to thank you, for the gift. I, it was the best gift anyone could’ve given Noah, and I.”

Claudia walked back towards Max, giving him a firm hug. “You’re very welcome, honey.”

********

Max waved to the last of the cars, watching as their tail lights faded into the night.

Taking a deep breath, he walked into the house to find Liz sitting on the couch by herself, absently fingering the fringe of the pillow on her lap. Max closed the door behind him softly, taking care not to speak so loud, so as not to startle her.

“Where is everyone?”

Liz looked up, surprised to see him. “Oh, well your mom and dad decided to call it a night. They already went to bed.”

Max’s head bobbed up and down as he made his way into the living room. “And Isabel?”

Liz pointed up the stairs. “Isabel’s on the phone with Alex.”

Max chuckled. “Already?”

Liz laughed with him. “Yeah.”

Max decided to seize the moment. He might as well confront the issue now before he let it fester. He took a seat beside Liz, pulling Noah to sit on his lap.

“Liz, about what happened before...I wanna know if you were ok with that.”

Liz tucked her feet under her, her hair falling over her face as she hung her head low. “Honestly?”

Max brushed back her hair, lifting her chin so that he could look into her eyes. “That’s all I ask for.”

Liz swallowed a few times, as a slow smile crept across her lips. “Honestly, when I first heard Noah say it, well I thought that I was just hearing things. That I was hearing something I wanted to hear. But when he said it again.....Max, I can’t say that it didn’t make me feel good to hear him call me that. Because in those few seconds, he made me the happiest girl on earth.” Liz felt her lower lip tremble as she finally let her eyes look into Max’s. “And if you don’t want him calling me that, I’d completely understand.”

Max silenced Liz with a kiss. “I would never want that, Liz.” He pulled back, smiling at her with happy tears. “Don’t you see that, Noah doesn’t want that either? He already thinks of you as his mother. Just like we do.”

Liz closed her eyes, nodding her head as a few more tears escaped from her eyes. “I’m sorry if I keep freaking out on you, Max. It’s just....everything, all of this.....This is all new to me.”

Max let his fingertips brush across Liz’s jaw, letting his hand drift to cup her cheek. “I know....this other stuff.....it’s all pretty new to me to. For the longest time, I was both Noah’s mother and father, and now.....Now, you’re here....... I know that some of this is pretty new and scary for both of us, but we can learn together.”

“I love you so much.” Liz closed the gap between them, her lips brushing softly over his, in the most gentlest of caresses. Max placed a hand on the couch, trying to get better leverage, but the sound of Noah’s voice startled him.

“Kissie!”

Max and Liz pulled away, laughing at the sound of his voice. Max lifted Noah in the air, shaking him. “You think that was funny, little man?”

Noah just giggled, as Liz and Max tickled him to exhaustion.

As the three of them cuddled downstairs, they hadn’t realized that they had come full circle.

While they had no marriage license to show, they were already a family in every sense of the word. They had won over the worst of the critics, and they were better for it. Stronger, even.

Part 88

*********

Prom Night

Max walked around his room in his black trousers, trying his best to get ready. He glanced at the clock, a smile tinting his face as he saw that he was making good time.

Instead of finishing getting dressed, he picked up Noah from the floor, holding him against his chest.

"Listen up, little man. I’m going to the prom with Liz tonight, and I won’t be home till later, so you have to be on your best behavior for grandma and grandpa while I’m gone. You’re a big boy now, so I know I shouldn’t even be telling you this stuff, right?"

Noah grinned, revealing his baby teeth. "Am a big boy."

Max smiled, his lips brushing the top of Noah’s head. "That’s right. You’re a big boy now." Max sighed, flipping Noah so that his stomach, laying on Max’s arms. "But you’ll always be my little boy. How about we play airplane, before I finish getting ready?"

Noah turned his head, an excited gleam in his eyes. "Ohhh...."

Max grinned back, twisting and turning Noah as if he were flying. "Zoom...zoom....airplane Noah coming through."

Noah held out his arms, making zooming noises as Max continued to twirl him.

Isabel stuck her head through the door, her hair in hot rollers as she wore a robe around her body. "Max?"

Max looked up, smiling at her. He stopped twisting Noah, pulling him to rest on his hip. "Hey Iz. What’s up?"

Isabel frowned at him, noting the way that he was playing with Noah. "Aren’t you supposed to be getting ready? You have to pick up Liz at the Crashdown, in like 45 minutes."

Max laughed, motioning to the coat hanger that was hanging on his closet door that held the rest of his tux. "I only have to put my shirt on, put my tie and jacket on, and my shoes and I’m all set."

Isabel made a face at him, finally throwing her hands up in the air. "I hate this!"

Max tried to hide the smile from his face, trying to sympathize with his sister. "Hate what?"

Isabel pointed a polished finger at him. "You...guys. I hate how you guys can take 15 minutes to get ready when us girls spend hours getting beautiful. You...you just jump into the shower, brush your hair, and put your clothes on, and voila....you’re ready to go." She placed her hands on her hips, standing tall. "Do you know that I’ve been getting ready for like three hours now, and I’m nowhere near ready? Alex is gonna be here in an hour to pick me up, and I won’t be ready." Her face fell as she made her way into the room.

She sank heavily on Max’s bed, her eyes dancing in a wild frenzy. "Oh my god. I’ll never be ready in time. I still have to finish putting my make up on, get dressed..." She stood up and began pacing. "That’s it. I’m not going."

"What?" Max put Noah on the floor, reaching for his shirt. He began buttoning it up as he walked towards Isabel. He placed his arms on her shoulders, stopping her movement. "Iz. Would you calm down and listen to yourself? We’re talking about your prom. You can’t not go just because you don’t think you’ll be ready on time." He gave her a small smile. "So what if you have to make Alex wait? I say let him wait. He’ll never know what hit him when he sees you walking down the stairs."

Isabel looked up at Max, a smile creeping across her lips slowly. "You really think so?"

Max nodded. "You’re gonna blow him away." Max chuckled as he continued talking. "And besides, I’ve always heard that being fashionably late is a good thing."

Isabel let out a full blown smile, throwing her arms around Max as she gave him a hug. "Thank you, Max. I don’t know what I’d do without you."

"Well, you’d probably missing out on your own prom is what you’d be doing." He pushed her towards the door, down the hall to her room. "Now go on and get outta here. I gotta finish getting ready."

Isabel smiled walking out the door. But before she could get out all the way, she turned towards Max. "Max?"

"Yeah?"

"I just...the real reason I came here was to wish you good luck, for tonight. I know luck doesn’t really have a lot to do with it. And even if it did, you wouldn’t need it."

Max smiled his gratitude, his palms sweating at the thought. "Thanks, Iz."

He watched her close the door to her room before getting ready.

*********

Max stood in front of his mirror, trying to get his tie straight, when he heard a knock on his door. "Come in."

Diane stood behind him, smiling as she saw the reflection of her little boy. Her heart tightened, when she realized that he wasn’t a little boy anymore. That he hadn’t been for a long time now.

"Here, let me get that for you."

Max turned around, letting his mother fix his tie.

"You look so handsome. And so grown up." Diane let her hand run through his ebony locks, before smoothing down his jacket lapels.

Max blushed, tugging on his collar. "Thanks. Although, I could do without the whole tux. It’s a little binding."

Diane laughed, once again seeing her little boy instead of the young man in front of her. "Well, I know that you’re leaving in a little bit, so I just wanted to tell you something before you go."

Max nodded, waiting for his mother to continue.

"I want you to have fun tonight, Max. Prom is something that you’re gonna remember for the rest of your life, and I want you to enjoy it." She smiled again, her hand grazing his cheek. "So you don’t have to worry about curfew tonight. Your dad and I won’t be waiting up."

Max gave her a wide grin.

"But I want you to know, that just because we’re not giving you a curfew tonight, that we don’t want you gallivanting around with Liz all night. I don’t know what arrangements she has with her parents, but I want you to honor that, alright?"

"I promise." Max pulled his mother in for a hug, placing a kiss on her temple. "Thank you for everything, mom."

Part 89

***************

Liz stood in front of her full length mirror, eyeing the way her prom dress fit graciously around her curves. The dress was a champagne color, that had spaghetti straps coming from the bodice. The top of the dress was a little too low cut for Liz herself, but it accentuated her firm breasts, giving them an extra lift. The bodice was fit to her body, flowing out into a ball skirt.

Liz had piled her hair up in curls, with a few stray curls hanging to make it look like she hadn’t spent hours fixing her hair. She turned around, smiling as she looked at how the back of the dress crisscrossed, showing her naked back.

Her heart fluttered in her chest as the phone rang. She walked towards it, cradling it softly between her ear and shoulder.

"Hello?"

"Hey chica. Just calling to see how things were holding up on your end."

Liz smiled into the phone when she realized that it was Maria. "I’m good. How about you?"

Liz felt as if she could feel Maria smiling into the phone, her voice was so excited. "I’m great. Just finished getting ready. I checked up on Kyle and he is looking pretty good. He could almost pass for a debonair spy or something."

Both girls chuckled into the phone.

"Yeah, well I’m sure Courtney will be stunned speechless. Or Kyle. Either way, those two will be all starry-eyed tonight."

"Speaking of starry-eyed, I just got off the phone with Isabel, and it seems as though your prince charming is on his way over to pick up his princess."

Liz felt her stomach flip, at the thought of Max. Her palms felt clammy, her heart beating wildly.

"Liz? You still there?"

"Oh...yeah. I’m still here. Sorry about that, I’m just....I’m getting a little anxious."

"That’s ok hun. I’d be a wreck to, if I was gonna do what you were gonna do, but then again, if I was you, I really don’t have too much to worry about. You and Max, you guys are the real thing."

Liz felt her eyes tear up at Maria’s sincere comment. It elated Liz to know that her friends could see what she and Max were about. That they understood them, and that they supported them.

"About that....I wanted to say thanks for coming with me. I don’t think I would’ve had enough courage to get it for myself. I mean I know it’s meant to be, but I can’t help but feel a little too aggressive."

Maria chuckled into the phone. "Chica, relax. I’m sure Max will get a kick out of it when the time comes."

A loud voice could be heard screaming in the distance. "Maria Alejandra Deluca, get your butt down here. Michael’s here and Jim and I want pictures."

Liz giggled, twisting the phone cord in between her fingers. "You better go. I think your mom’ll break your door down if you don’t go now."

Maria threw her arms up, shaking her head with a smile. "You know, mom and Jim seem a whole lot more excited about my prom than I am."

The girls shared another laugh. "I’ll see you at dinner, ‘Ria."

"Later, babe."

As soon as Liz hung up the phone, the door bell rang, making her skin turn to goose flesh.

Huffing a breath, Liz smoothed down her dress as she walked to the front door. She pulled the door open, her breath hitching in her throat as she saw Max standing on the other side.

His hair was brushed back, not hanging over his eyes. It brought out his amber eyes, his long eyelashes standing out more. Her gaze traveled down his tuxedo clad body, noting how nicely he cleaned up.

When she had opened the door, he had been playing with the plastic container that held her corsage. His eyes flew up, his eyes dancing.

Max could feel his mouth working, but nothing was coming out. Liz stood there in her champagne colored dressed, making him into a drooling fool. He wondered quietly if the dress were as smooth as her skin, but he realized that nothing would ever compare to Liz’s skin. It was the softest, smoothest skin he had ever felt. His eyes couldn’t help but stare at how her breasts were peeking from the top of her dress, tantalizing him. The champagne color complimented her olive skin, making her glow.

Liz smiled, feeling her nervousness triple. She spoke, trying to ease the silence. "Is that all you’ve got to say?"

Max nodded his head slowly. "Wow." He hadn’t even realized that he had said out loud. It was only when he saw a pink color tint Liz’s cheeks, that he realized what he had said.

Max cleared his throat a few times, hoping to get his jangled nerves under control. "I mean.....you look beautiful."

Liz’s lips curled up at the corners at Max’s honest concession. "Thank you. You look quite handsome yourself."

It was Max’s turn to blush at Liz words. He tugged on his shirt collar, holding out the corsage to her. "Here. This is for you."

Liz opened up the box, a gasp escaping her throat. "Thank you, this is beautiful." She twisted the container in her hands, facing it towards him. "Put it on me?"

"Sure." Max carefully took out the corsage, taking care not to crush it. He held the pin in his hand, finding a place to put it on Liz. He decided on putting it below her left shoulder, making sure that he didn’t stick her. His hand had a mind of it’s own, as his pinky finger reached to graze softly over her breast. His voice was a hushed whisper in her ear as he spoke. "All done."

Liz could feel her chest heaving at the touch of Max’s finger on her skin, his breath by her ear. "Th-thanks."

Max pulled back, reaching out for her hand. "You ready to go?"

The two of them exchanged shy smiles as Liz placed her hand delicately in his. She pulled the front door closed behind her, stepping beside Max.

He gave her his special smile, pulling her hand to his lips for a kiss.

"Let’s make this a night to remember."

Part 90

***************

Max and Liz arrived at Chez Pierre to have dinner with their friends.

Max held his hand out for Liz, making sure that she didn’t step on her gown. She smiled at him graciously, moving so that she was tucked into his side. Max grinned down at her, his hand running across her back, feeling her warm skin before coming to rest on her waist. He placed a kiss on her forehead, opening the door for them.

He walked up to the hostess, smiling. “Hi, we’re supposed to be meeting our friends here. It’s under the name Evans. Party of eight.”

The hostess smiled, leading them into the dining room. “Right this way.”

They were led into an elegant dining room, to their friends who were seated at a round table.

“Well, it’s about time you guys decided to show up. Poor Kyle over here, looks about ready to devour Courtney.” Alex grinned at his own joke, his eyes lighting up with a playfulness that only Alexander Charles Whitman could possess.

Giggles were heard, as Courtney and Kyle held their heads down from the playful teasing of their friends.

Max held Liz’s seat for her, helping her sit down. He unbuttoned his jacket so he could sit down, smiling as he looked around the table. The smiling faces of his friends, all decked out in their best made him feel like the eighteen years that he was, instead of the forty years he felt. He never had too many times where he could just be Max the teenager, without being a father as well. This was one of those moments, that made him feel like he was really a part of the group. That it didn’t matter that he had a two year old son, because these people around him would never think bad of him. He was just Max. And it made him happy that he could be a part of it.

He looked towards Liz, slipping his hand in hers under the table. That day at the Crashdown when he had first lay eyes on her had sent butterflies fluttering in his stomach. He could feel his stomach rumbling now, at knowing that she was his, and that he was hers. That they really were meant to be.

Maria held up her coke, tapping her fork against it. “Listen up, everyone. I wanna propose a toast.”

Cheers echoed around the table, everyone picking up their glasses.

“To friendship, love, family, and a certain two year old boy that’s brought us all closer together.”

Everyone leaned forward, tapping their glasses with one another.

“Cheers!”

***************

As Max put the key in the ignition, Liz placed her hand on his arm. “Max?”

“Yeah?”

“I know that we’re supposed to go straight to the Hilton with everyone else, but do you think we could stop by your house? I kinda wanted to see Noah first. I know that he’s probably already asleep, but I just wanna give him a kiss.”

Max smiled, loving how Noah was always in Liz’s thought. This was supposed to be her night, but here she was wanting to stop by at the Evans’ house, wanting to give Noah a kiss. “Sure. We’ll go wherever you want.”

Max made a u-turn, heading towards Mulberry Lane.

He pulled up into the driveway, walking with Liz into the house.

Diane and Phillip sat up, putting the bowl of popcorn down as they saw Liz walking through the front door of the house.

“Max? Liz? Is something wrong?” Diane stood up, walking towards them.

Liz gave her a shy smile. “No, nothing’s wrong. I just, I wanted to see Noah, before we headed off to prom. I hope that’s alright?”

Diane smiled, pulling Liz towards the stairs. “Oh honey, of course that’s alright. He’s up in Max’s room. He’s sleeping but you can go ahead and see him.”

Diane turned to Max, pushing him towards the stairs.

She watched as the couple made their way up the stairs, walking back to the living room. “Phillip, where’d you put the camera?”

*********

Liz tiptoed into the room, walking up next to the crib.

Noah was sprawled on his back, wearing his jammies with the feet. He had kicked off the blanket, the plush pooh bear, tucked into his arm. Liz leaned down, touching his rosy cheek.

“Nite, nite, precious.”

Noah turned to his side, hugging the stuffed toy in his arms. “Nite, nite.” He was still asleep, his deep even breathing confirming it.

Liz smiled, pulling the blanket over his body, placing a kiss on his cheek. “I love you, baby.”

Max wrapped his arms around Liz’s waist, his chin resting on her shoulder. “You ready?”

Liz nodded, linking her arms around Max’s. “Ready.”

The two of them walked down the stairs, surprised to see Diane and Phillip waiting by the stairs, a camera in hand.

“You guys don’t mind if we take a few pictures do you?”

Max and Liz just nodded, posing happily for Diane and Phillip.

After about twenty shots, Max held up his hands like he was fighting off the paparazzi. “I think that might be enough. Liz and I still have to take pictures at the prom.” He laughed.

Diane put down the camera, a sheepish grin on her lips. “I’m sorry, it’s just you took look absolutely breathtaking together. Kinda hard to keep snapping pictures.”

Max smiled, leading Liz out the door. “Goodnight!”

Diane and Phillip stood by the door, waving off the couple.

“Have a good time!”

Part 91

**************

Max and Liz held hands, looking around at their classmates.

“What do you want to do first?”

Liz smiled, pulling Max towards the line for pictures. “Let’s get our pictures out of the way. I see everyone in line already.”

Max let Liz pull him, joining their friends in line while they waited for their pictures to be taken.

Isabel smiled at them, as she leaned into Alex’s embrace. “Hey, what took you guys so long?”

Max stood behind Liz, wrapping his arms around her waist. “We went home for a little bit. Mom and dad got a little camera crazy. Actually, I think I’m still partially blind.”

“I know, mom took like two rolls of film of me and Alex.”

Maria shouted from the top of the line. “She couldn’t be any worse than my mom. She and Jim took pictures of me alone, then of me with Kyle, then me with Courtney, then me with Michael, then with the four of us.”

Everyone giggled at Maria’s straightforwardness, knowing that her description of Amy Valenti was dead on.

One by one each of the couples took their pictures together.

Finally, Max and Liz stepped up to the somewhat tacky background, waiting for instructions from the photographer.

“Alright. Aren’t we a handsome couple?”

Max and Liz just exchanged a look, both of them trying their best not to laugh. Max leaned his forehead against Liz, his eyes staring deeply into hers, like a star-struck lover. He just couldn’t help himself.

Before they realized what had happened, the photographer snapped a picture. “That was great. Now, how about we try it with the two of you facing each other, but your faces looking towards the camera?”

Max and Liz did as they were told. Max placed his hands on Liz’s hips, pulling her closer to his body, while she placed her palm on his chest smiling towards the camera.

The camera flashed again.

The photographer stuck his head out from behind the camera. “You guys seem like you’ve done this before.”

Max pulled Liz to his chest, placing a kiss on her forehead as he laughed. Liz placed her hand on his shoulder, her head falling backward as she laughed.

The camera man unexpectedly took another shot, capturing the playful ease that Max and Liz seemed to radiate. They were the only couple where he hadn’t had to put them in a tacky pose. He had just let them be themselves, snapping up pictures when he could.

The rest of the group made their way back onto the set, being arranged by the photo assistant so that they could take their group picture.

“Ok, smile like you mean it!”

All eight teenagers gave their cheesiest grins, letting the photographer take the picture.

Alex mimicked the photographer in good jest, causing everyone to burst out laughing.

The photographer, took another quick shot of the group laughing together, so carefree.

“Thank you, ladies and gents.”

**************

The group had found a table, putting their stuff on it, as they all headed out to the dance floor.

Max pulled Liz as close to him as possible, not wanting to be apart from her. He buried his face in her neck, placing light kisses all the way down to her shoulder. Her skin was so soft, he couldn’t resist the urge to nip at her softness.

Liz giggled, swaying her hips to the music. “Max, you do realize that this isn’t even a slow song, right?”

Max pulled back, his amber eyes dancing with a playfulness that sparkled in the shining lights above them. “So?”

Liz wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling his head towards hers. “But everyone’s staring at us.”

Max twirled Liz in his arms, dipping her backwards before pulling her up again. “They’re only staring cos they’re jealous.”

Liz looked at him with laughter in her eyes. “They’re jealous?”

“Uh huh. They’re jealous because I have the most beautiful girl in the world, dancing in my arms.” He winked at her, giving her a roguish smile.

Liz shook her head at him, her hand coming to rest on his chest as she kneaded his muscles softly. “Well, Mr. Evans. Keep laying it on thick, like that, and you may just get lucky tonight.”

Max waggled his eyebrows at her, his hands passing over her tush, giving it a quick squeeze. “You promise?” The look of pure astonishment on Liz’s face caused a belly laugh to erupt from his lips.

Liz nipped at his neck, her tongue sneaking out to ease away the pain. “Promise.”

Before Max could retort, Kyle’s voice worked it’s way through his brain.

“Hey, this is supposed to be a PG rated event.”

Maria and Michael made their way to them, dancing to the music. “Yeah, you guys. Quit gettin’ freaky on the dance floor.”

Alex turned his head, yelling over the booming music. “Who’s gettin’ freaky on the dance floor?”

“Max and Liz.”

Liz tried to glare at her friends, but it wasn’t working. “Funny you guys. Real funny.”

She turned around, her burning face laying on Max’s chest. “Remind me again why these people are our friends?”

Max just laughed, twisting them around. “Because, we love them, and they love us. Simple as that.”

Liz looked up, her smile the mirror image of Max’s. “Simple as that, huh?”

Max just nodded. “Yep, simple as that.”




All these words they make no sense
I find bliss in ignorance
Less I hear the less you'll say
But you'll find that out anyway


~*~*~

shut up when I'm talking to you


LP



posted on 21-Sep-2001 3:20:55 PM
Part 92

Rated: NC-17


***********
The prom had come and gone. And pretty soon, everyone began parting ways, wanting to spend some quality alone time with their significant other.

Max stood behind Liz, waiting for her to open the apartment door. She gave him a quick smile, leading him into the house.

“I’m sorry about the mess, but I haven’t had much of a chance to clean up since I moved back in.”

Liz had started walking to her room, but Max pulled her back, fusing his lips with hers. His warm breath tickled her skin, his hands caressing her face as he drank from her, tasting her with his mouth.

With heavy pants, he pulled away, greedily sucking in air. He ran his hands up and down her bare arms, loving the feel of her warm skin in his palms.

Sounding completely breathless, Liz kept her eyes closed, feeling slightly light headed after that kiss. “Wha- What was that for?”

Max let his hand drift to Liz’s cheek, coming down to caress the base of her neck. “I’ve been waiting to do that all night.”

Liz smiled, kissing his jaw. She linked their hands, pulling him towards her bedroom. “C’mon.”

As they got there, Liz reached for the light switch, but decided against it. Instead, she lit up the candles that she had decoratively put around the room.

Max had taken off his jacket, hanging it onto the back of her desk chair. He started with his tie, draping it on top of his jacket, then he unbuttoned the first few buttons of his white dress shirt, untucking it from his pants. He rolled up the sleeves, finally looking up to see Liz staring at him with unadulterated desire, making him shiver to the core.

Liz had grown silent the moment Max had started making himself comfortable, her eyes glued to the skin of his chest, as he revealed more and more to her hungry eyes. His bronzed skin glistened in the candle light, making her heady for more. She swallowed convulsively, hoping to wet her parched throat.

Their eyes met as he looked up, both of them sharing a heated stare.

Max kicked off his shoes, walking towards Liz. “You don’t mind that I uh...” he motioned to the rest of his tux that was laid out over her chair.

Liz shook her head, the dark curls of her hair bouncing atop her head. “N-no...I was....I was just about to tell you to get comfortable.”

Liz sat on the bed, taking off her pumps, throwing them across the room. “If I never see those pair of shoes again, I’ll die a happy woman.”

Max couldn’t resist the urge to laugh, taking a seat beside Liz on the bed. “What’s the matter? Why are you giving your shoes the evil eye?”

Liz stopped sending death stares to her shoes from the corner of the room, turning to look at Max. “Well you try dancing and walking all night in heels, and let’s see if you’ll be singing a different tune.”

“Come here.” Max leaned down, lifting Liz’s leg, taking her foot in his hands, giving it a gentle massage.

At first, Liz had tried to pull away, embarrassed that Max was touching her feet, but he insisted that he wanted to do it for her. Liz could feel her head lolling backwards, the intense pleasure Max was giving to her feet was absolutely amazing. He had magic hands. The way he paid close attention to her abused feet told her how much he loved her. I mean, how many guys would willingly give their girl a foot rub out of the goodness of his heart?

Right. I didn’t think so.

Liz opened her eyes as Max switched feet, giving her other foot the same exquisite experience. Her eyes watched the way his hands, delicately rubbed the aches away, making her smile.

All of a sudden, she pulled her feet away, upon seeing his hands. They reminded her of her plan.

“Did I....was it not good?” Max fumbled a little, not exactly sure what he done wrong. He had been sure a minute ago that Liz was enjoying his foot massage, but the way she had so abruptly pulled her foot away told him otherwise.

Liz shook her head. “No, no..it was absolutely perfect.” She reached out to stroke his face, gently running her fingertips across his cheek. “I just...well there was something I wanted to..uh....I wanted to ask you something before I completely lose my nerve, and well...I better do it now before I chicken out.”

Max watched with unveiled amusement, as Liz babbled incessantly. She looked totally adorable when she did it.

Not wanting to discourage her from continuing, Max just nodded, not speaking.

Liz swallowed a few times, reaching for his hand. She traced his ring finger delicately, before placing a kiss on it. “Max, you know that this past year has been the best of my life. The day that you walked into the Crashdown, I knew that my life was gonna change forever. That because of you, the sun is always gonna shine brighter, and the birds are always gonna be chirping. And then your little boy walked into my life and he stole my heart. The both of you did.”

Liz smiled, feeling the onslaught of tears coming. “I never thought about it before, but every time the three of us go out now....I get this amazing feeling in my heart when people realize that you guys belong to me, and vice versa. That the three of us were meant to be. I know that we already know it in our hearts, but before the year is over, I want to make it official.”

Max had to wipe away at the tears pooling in his eyes. Everything Liz was saying was true. He had been planning on giving her a similar speech, but that would have to wait until she was done talking.

Liz reached into her bedside table, taking out a black velvet box. Her hand shook as she took it out, holding it out for Max.

Max looked at her curiously, taking the box from her. “What’s this?”

“It’s for you.” Liz let out a nervous laugh. “Well, actually, it’s something for the both of us.”

Max gave Liz one last look, hoping to get some sort of clue from her, but she wouldn’t give. He snapped the black box open, his heart, thumping wildly in his chest.

Inside the black box, held two gold wedding bands.

By the time Max had looked up, Liz had gotten on her knees in front of him.

“Max Evans, will you marry me?”

Max smiled. “Isn’t that supposed to be my line?”

Liz reached for his hand, holding onto it for dear life. “Like you said. Our relationship hasn’t exactly been traditional. I thought we should keep up with that tradition.” She turned hopeful eyes at him, offering a nervous smile. “What do you say?”

Max shook his head, pulling Liz back to a sitting position. “I’d have to say no.”

Liz felt the bottom drop out, her heart sinking into her stomach. The tears wouldn’t even come.

She was so shocked that he had said no, that she hadn’t seen him move from the bed, getting down on one knee in front of her.

“I know that our relationship has been less than traditional, but this is something I’ve been waiting to do all my life. I just didn’t know it.” He reached into his pocket, pulling out a similar black box. He snapped back the top, revealing a diamond ring. “Elizabeth Claudia Parker. Will you marry me?”

Liz was stunned speechless. When had he turned the tables on her?

“Wha- Where did you get that?”

Max looked at the diamond ring in his hand, then up to Liz’s face. “I’ve had it for a while. I just never had the courage to...to ask you. Every time I tried to ask you before, I chickened out. And well, I’ve been planning on proposing all night, but you uh...you kinda beat me to it.”

Liz blushed at her own forwardness. “I don’t know what to say.”

Max looked at her with hopeful eyes, taking her hand in his. “Say you’ll marry. Say that you’ll spend the rest of your life with me. I know that I don’t deserve you, but I can’t help but be selfish.... Marry me?”

Liz jumped forward, landing in Max’s arms. She planted kisses all over his face. “YES! I’ll marry you.”

Max could feel his cheeks hurting from the intensity of his smile. He rolled them over, planting kisses on Liz. He grabbed the diamond, placing it on her finger. Liz reached for her own box, sliding the gold band on Max’s ring finger. He took the box out of her hands, sliding the matching ring over the diamond.

They both looked at their hands, silly smiles on their faces.

Max brought his lips down, placing a kiss on Liz’s lips. “I love you.”

“Love you too.”

Max pulled back to smile, but the smile died on his lips as he saw the compromising position they were in. Liz was lying on her back, with him laying on top of her. He was nestled between her legs, looking as if they were in the act of making love.

Max felt himself instantly harden, causing Liz to gasp.

They were both shocked at how quickly the mood changed.

Liz cupped the side of Max’s face, bringing his lips down to hers again. She moaned on contact, opening her mouth wider over his, seeking warmth in his mouth. They both sighed on contact of their tongues, their breaths coming out in sharp noises from the corners of their lips. They refused to part lips, their tongues dueling in a seductive dance.

Liz opened her legs wider, wrapping her legs around Max’s waist, trying to bring him as close to her as possible.

Max ripped his lips away from Liz’s swollen lips, making a wet trail down her neck. His lips suckled her skin, spending quite a bit of time on her pulse point. His hand drifted under the skirt of her dress, running up her naked legs.

Once he reached the barrier of her panties, he tried to push them out of the way, but Liz’s hand stopped him.

“I don’t want that....I want....I want you....Please make love to me.”

Max swallowed past the lump in his throat, taking in Liz’s ravished look. How could he say no?

He stood up, pulling her to stand in front of him.

He whispered in her ear, his hands running up and down her back. “Anything for my wife.”

He pulled up her hand, placing a kiss on her ring finger that held her rings. He gave her a slow smile, reaching to take the pins out of her hair, letting her brown hair cascade around her shoulders. He softly ran his fingers through her hair, giving her a reverent smile. “I’ve always imagined your hair falling over my chest when we make love.”

Liz could feel her breath quicken, her chest heaving.

With shaky hands, she unbuttoned the rest of his shirt, pulling it off his shoulders to land on the floor. “I’ve imagined that too.”

Max smiled, stealing another kiss from her lips.

Liz reached for the snap on his pants, but Max’s hand stopped her.

“It’s my turn.”

One by one, he pulled down the spaghetti straps of her dress, his eyes delighting in her olive skin. He traced her collar bone, reaching for the straps again. This time, he yanked them down, revealing her perky breasts. He traced a path from the top of her breast to the nipple, smiling as the nipple hardened under his touch. “So, beautiful.”

Unable to wait, Max dipped his head, letting his tongue taste her nipple. He opened his mouth over the mound, pulling her nipple to the roof of his mouth, before releasing it. He continued going from breast to breast, loving the breathy moans coming from Liz.

When her legs began to wobble beneath her, Max stood up, yanking the rest of her dress down.

He stood still, his manhood throbbing in his pants at the sight of her in a pair of white lace panties. The way she would place her weight from leg to leg, causing her hips to shift, did nothing to calm his raging desire.

Before conscious thought returned to him, Liz began unbuttoning his pants. “My turn.”

The two of them stood in front of each other in just their underwear, their chests heaving.

Taking the initiative, Max reached for Liz’s panties, pulling them down her slim legs. When he was done, she did the same for him, leading him towards the bed.

The two of them lay down, not really touching one another.

Max traced the contours of Liz’s face. “Are you scared?”

“Not anymore.” She reached for him, pulling him to lay on top of her. She spread her legs, letting him lie in between her legs.

They both gasped at the first contact of his heated flesh against her moist core.

“Max!”

He buried his face in her neck, trying to gain some semblance of control. “I know.”

Trying to slow them down a little, Max leaned up on his forearms, leaning down to devour Liz’s lips. She complied, loving the way he ravished her mouth like he couldn’t get enough.

His hands reached down, cupping her breasts, tweaking her nipples. Liz writhed beneath him, her hips bucking up.

Max groaned as he felt himself glide across Liz’s wetness. Pulling away, he sat up.

“No!”

Max looked back down to Liz, seeing her so ready for him. He felt himself twitch, wanting nothing more than to bury himself within her, but he couldn’t. He had to get the condom out of his pants pocket, first. He was all too familiar with how easy it was to get carried away, and how the one time you didn’t use a condom served to change the rest of your life forever. He had learned that the hard way. He wouldn’t subject Liz to that.

“I’m just...I gotta get-” He motioned to his pants that were haphazardly laying on the floor.

Liz grabbed his wrist, making him look at her. “Open the drawer.”

Max did as he was told, sliding the drawer open. His eyes grew wide when he caught sight of at least three different condom boxes. He looked to Liz questioningly, but she only blushed.

“I uh...I went and got those after the first time we went to Sitting Bulls Falls, but I uh...I didn’t know which ones to get, so I...I sorta got them all.”

Max smiled, leaning down to kiss her. He loved how thoughtful she was, and how she was always prepared. He reached for one of the condoms, tearing away the foil package.

As he began to roll the latex on himself, he felt the bed shift as Liz moved to sit beside him. “Can I...Can I do that?”

Her timid voice sent waves of desire to course through his body, making him visibly shiver. He chose to nod his head, knowing that his voice wasn’t in working capacity right now.

Liz slowly rolled the latex on him, taking the time to feel the strength of his flesh. When she was done, she ran her hands up and down, beginning a rhythm. Max grabbed her hand.

“N-no...Don’t!”

Liz flushed, thinking she had done something wrong, but Max brought her hand up to his lips. “You have to stop, otherwise, this is gonna be over before it even starts.”

Liz blushed again when she realized what he was talking about. God, he must think her a complete fool for being so innocent.

“Hey, stop it. Remember, we’re learning together. Just because I have a son, doesn’t mean I’m this great expert.”

Liz nodded against his hand, coming back to lie on the bed. She pulled him on top of her, kissing him again.

They continued that way for a while, until Liz’s incessant rocking of her hips began driving Max crazy. He reached his hand down, coating his hand in her essence. He slid his fingers inside her, thrusting to prepare her for a much larger invasion. When he realized that she was as ready as she would ever be, he pulled away his fingers.

Liz whimpered at the loss, but the whimper turned into a moan as she felt Max position himself at her entrance. He twined their fingers together, placing them above her head. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“If you...don’t do it....I will...” Liz panted against his chest.

Max nodded, letting himself probe deeper. He resisted the urge to push through like a raging bull, instead, going slowly to let her adjust to his presence inside her.

When he reached her barrier, he turned worried eyes to her. “There’s still time to stop.”

Liz shook her head, pulling his lips to hers for a kiss. “Don’t stop.”

“This is gonna hurt.”

Liz just nodded, biting her lip in anticipation. Max put one of his hands on her hips, helping to ease himself all the way in. As he tore through, he whispered against her lips. “I love you.”

Liz grimaced in pain, overwhelmed with having Max fully sheathed inside her.

Max knew this, so he lay still, planting kisses all over he face, whispering loving words to her.

After a few moments, Liz opened her eyes. “I’m ready.”

Max looked at her skeptically, not wanting to push too much on her, but his eyes closed in sweet agony as her walls clamped down around him.

“I said I was ready.”

Max took the hint, slowly thrusting in and out.

Liz closed her eyes, feeling the slight pain of having him stretch her to full capacity. But in the back of her mind, she could feel a tremor of pleasure, if only she reached for it.

Max’s groans of satisfaction excited Liz. She delved deep, reaching for the source of pleasure.

A loud gasp made it’s way past her lips as she found it, the pain becoming nothing but a dull ache.

She moaned, urging Max to go faster.

He placed a kiss to her breast, picking up his pace.

Their moans of pleasure, echoed through Liz’s bedroom walls.

Max opened his eyes, as his thrusts became more aggressive. Knowing that the end was almost upon him, he twined their fingers together, holding their arms above Liz’s head.

“Liz, open your eyes.”

Liz licked her lips, doing as Max’s voice asked.

He reached down a hand, rubbing his thumb over her nub.

Liz bucked her hips forward, her walls clamping down on Max. Max grimaced, feeling the bottom drop out as he let go, his seed spilling forth. Their eyes locked, and for that moment in time, they saw stars together.

Part 93

Rated: NC-17


***********

Max and Liz lay quietly cuddled under the covers, both of them unable to stop touching the other.

Liz grinned as the moonlight shined over the diamond on her finger, reminding her that she and Max had just proposed to each other. Her heart had almost stopped beating when he had refused her proposal, instead, proposing to her. If this was a dream, she never wanted to wake up.

Max kissed the top of her head, pulling her closer to his chest as his hands, wandered over her naked back. “Are you ok?”

Liz smiled against his chest, placing a kiss over his heart. She rested her chin on his chest, looking up into his amber gaze. “I’m great. This night couldn’t be more perfect.”

Max breathed a sigh of relief, letting his head fall back against the pillow. “So it was alright, then?” He felt his cheeks burn as he asked whether or not she enjoyed herself as much as he had.

Liz giggled, moving to lay completely on top of him. “It was more than alright. Words can’t even begin to describe how perfect everything was. How perfect you are.” She brushed her lips against his in a light kiss, loving the feel of their softness. “Mmm....you taste so good.”

Max grinned, his hands resting on the small of her back, pushing her down onto him. He moved his head forward, his lips latching onto the inviting skin of her neck. “You,” nip, “taste,” kiss, “pretty,” suckle, “good too.”

Liz let out a throaty laugh, moving so that she was straddling Max. She ran the tips of her fingers down his chest, watching with barely restrained amusement as his eyes blackened with desire. His eyes followed the path of her hands, finally landing on the apex of her thighs, slowly raking up the rest of her body. He licked his lips as his eyes landed on her round breasts, unable to keep his hands to himself.

With feather-light touches, his fingers danced around her breasts, moving towards her areolas, never touching her nipples. Her breasts bounced against her chest, as her breathing became labored from Max’s ministrations. She arched her back, thrusting her breasts forward, wanting him to quit his teasing.

Expecting to feel his fingers on her nipples, Liz let her head fall back, her eyes closing in torturous anticipation. Her audible gasp echoed in the small room, as his warm, wet mouth opened around her nipple, his tongue laving it with an agonizing slowness. Her hips thrust forward, her wetness gliding across his hardening member.

Max groaned against her breast, her unintentional seduction driving him to the point of insanity. Liz held Max’s head against her chest, her hands combing through his hair as his moan caused a vibrating sensation against her breast. Liz felt herself growing wet, her desire building in the pit of her stomach, threatening to consume her.

How was it possible to get this worked up so soon?

The question slipped from her mind as Max’s hands tightened around her waist, keeping her from squirming against him. He ripped his mouth from her breasts, his hand pulling her chin down to bring her lips down for a hungry kiss.

A low moan passed Liz’s lips as Max ravished her with his mouth, his tongue seeking to take her over. Unable to keep her passion in tact, Liz squeezed her thighs around Max’s hips, trying to get his attention.

Growling, Max ran his hands up Liz’s thighs, his hands giving them a firm squeeze. Reluctantly pulling his lips from hers, his breaths came out harshly against her lips as he tried to speak.

“Liz....are you...sure?”

Liz leaned to the side, pulling her drawer open. She grabbed another foil package, trying desperately to tear it open. When her hands continued to fumble with shakiness, she gave up, bringing the packet to her lips, tearing it open with her teeth. She spit out the foil, throwing the rest of the packet on the floor as she moved down Max’s thighs.

She took a second to admire his flesh, watching as he stood proud and tall, waiting for her attention. Just as it did the first time she had laid eyes on it, it twitched as if greeting her. Liz smiled, leaning down to place a kiss on the head.

Max fell back on the bed, his eyes shut tightly at the touch of Liz’s soft lips on his heated flesh. His hands curled up in the sheets as Liz’s warm mouth enveloped him, moving up and down, devouring him inch by glorious inch. He tried to still his hips, not wanting to force himself down her throat, but his hips had a mind of their own.

Liz let out a pleasure filled moan, encouraging Max to go further. Her hand gripped his hip hard, his delicate skin bruising at her touch. But he didn’t care. Her mouth was doing incredible things to him and it was all he could do to keep from exploding.

His eyes flew open at the thought, pulling Liz into a sitting position. He grabbed the condom from her hands, quickly rolling it onto himself. He reached for her hips, urging her to ride him.

Liz rose up, slowly sliding herself on him. Their mutual moans served to fill the silence around them, the candlelight flickering, casting shadows across the walls.

Liz experimentally sat up, sitting back down slowly. The low keening sound coming from Max’s throat and the way his eyes were shut tightly told her that she was doing something correctly. She smiled, glad that she was in control and that she was the one doing all of the work this time. She sat up and again, using her thigh muscles as leverage. She pulled up until only the tip of him was inside her, then quickly sank down his shaft.

Liz gasped loudly, enjoying the different sensation that this position provided. Encouraged by Max’s moans, she continued to rock up and down, going as fast as she could, trying to build a rhythm. Her muscles began to ache with the effort, but she chose to ignore it, continuing with the ferocity of her movements.

Her face was contorted in a grimace of pleasure as Max’s hands blindly reached for her breasts, squeezing them together, before sitting up to place his mouth over it. Her head fell back, sweat covering their bodies as they continued to glide against each other.

Liz felt the pleasure building to the breaking point, but her thighs began to cramp from their constant movement. A frustrated sigh escaped her lips, knowing she was so close, yet so far from ultimate pleasure.

Max felt her distress, his hands moving to her hips to help her. His hips thrust forward, their movements going that much faster. Their lips found one another as their bodies moved with a blinding fury.

“Oh God....Liz!” He buried his face in her neck, his slick forehead sliding onto her shoulder.

Liz bit her lip, her breath catching in her throat as her orgasm ripped through her body. Her walls thundered around Max, gripping him tightly, milking him to completion.

Max’s hips bucked uncontrollably, thrusting in and out of her till he was spent. His body went rigid as he poured himself inside her, his chest heaving with short breaths.

“Max!” Liz threw her head back, swaying back and forth as her body went limp.

Max breathed in her musky scent, fresh from their lovemaking, a smile on his lips. He pulled his face from her neck, placing light kisses all the way to her lips, his kiss a stark contrast from their frenzied movements from seconds ago.

With heavy hands, Max ran his hands down her back, his fingers dancing lightly down the indentation of her spine. He leaned his forehead against hers, a wide smile on his lips.

“Wow.”

Liz giggled, her lips capturing his in a playful kiss. “Definitely, wow.”

They stayed that way until their rapidly drying bodies shivered from the cold. They scrambled under the covers, their bodies snuggling together so that not a slip of paper could pass between them. Their hands linked, laying over Max’s chest, as their breaths evened out, both of them falling into a content sleep, smiles dancing on their lips.


Part 94

************

Max awoke just a little after dawn.

A smile tinted his lips as he felt Liz’s warm body laying next to his. Sometime during the night, she had shifted position, so that she was facing away from him.

Max moved so that he was lying on his side, his head propped on his hand as he watched her sleep.

She slept on her stomach, her long chocolate tresses cascading over her olive skin. The blanket was bunched around her waist, tangling around her legs. Max bit back a laugh as he realized that she was a blanket hog. He was barely covered in the blanket to be considered sharing, he thought amusedly. But he didn’t mind, because she was his blanket hog.

Unable to keep from touching her, Max lifted his hand, running it through her hair. His fingertips danced across her back, trailing all the way to the small of her back. He flattened his palm against her, running it back up, then down her arm. He pushed her hair to the side, his hand delicately grazing her shoulder.

Liz shifted, the blanket falling lower, revealing a glimpse of her tush.

Max grinned, enjoying the view of her completely immersed in sleep.

“Max....” Her muffled voice startled him, making him think that he had woken her, but the snuffling sound coming from her told him otherwise. He shook his head, feeling extremely giddy that even in sleep, she thought about him, just like he thought about her.

Watching Liz like this, he knew that this was where he wanted to be for the rest of his life. He couldn’t imagine making it through another night without having her in his arms, or seeing her face when he first woke up in the morning. He hoped that he could convince her to have an early summer wedding, because it was becoming increasingly hard for him to be away from her. Not to mention, Noah as well.

Max always felt his heart ache when Noah would wake up in the middle of the night, calling out for Liz, instead having to settle for the comfort of his arms, when the only thing he wanted was Liz’s scent, Liz’s arms holding him.

Whoever coined the phrase ‘Like father; like son’ sure knew what they were talking about, he thought ruefully.

*************

Liz stretched her arms above her head, grinning like a fool. She had had the best dream last night. It had been the night of prom. She and Max had proposed to each other, and they had made love. Twice!

It had felt extremely real too. She almost didn’t want to wake up to find that it was all a dream.

It was all Liz could do to keep from jumping out of bed, running down the hall screaming for joy. But being as she was never really a morning person, and that it was just a dream, she didn’t really see the point.

She rolled over, stiffening when she ran into a warm, hard body.

Omigod!

Liz slowly opened her eyes, flinching when the light hit her eyes. When they finally focused, she saw Max’s smiling face, watching her intently. His love evident in his eyes as he continued to watch her. Liz smiled back, moving towards him to place a kiss on his lips.

So maybe her dream wasn’t too far off.

“Morning.”

Max pulled her flush with his body, causing her to gasp.

Liz’s eyes practically bugged out of her head when she felt Max’s body against hers.
Correction, his naked body against her naked body. Did she mention the fact that they were both naked?

Max grew concerned, his hand reaching out to cup her cheek. “Liz. Are you alright?”

Liz held her left hand in front of her face, and sure enough a diamond ring and a gold wedding band adorned it. Her eyes flew to Max’s left hand, the same gold band on his ring finger.

So it wasn’t a dream. Liz took several deep breaths to keep herself from hyperventilating. The words, ’it wasn’t a dream’ tumbled through her head like a mantra, making her giddy.

Still obviously concerned, Max gently squeezed her shoulder. “Liz?” He waited expectantly, wanting to know what had gotten her so worked up.

“It wasn’t a dream.” The words fell from her mouth before she could think. She was still trying to come to terms with it, and to keep from mauling Max at the mere thought of it.

Max grew worried, not really sure how to react to what she had just said. The wild look in her eyes frightened him, making him think the worst. Did she regret what had transpired between them? Did she hate him for taking her virginity?

It was eating him inside, making his stomach churn. “Do you....are you upset?”

Liz sobered when she heard the torment in his voice. “God, Max...please don’t think that. Don’t ever think that I would regret anything that happened last night. It was the most perfect night of my life. So perfect that I thought that it was just something that I had conjured up in my mind.” She placed her hands over his cheeks, pulling his lips to hers for a love affirming kiss. “I’m sorry I gave you the wrong impression, but I just....I still find it hard to believe that this is happening to me. That you belong to me.”

Max smiled against her lips, breathing a sigh of relief. He brushed his lips against her forehead, pulling back so that he could look into her eyes.

She smiled back, using the smile that made him feel like he was the only person on earth.

“How long have you been awake?”

Max ran his fingers through her hair, chuckling as he spoke. “About an hour.”

Liz flushed, burying her face in his chest. “Why didn’t you wake me? This so embarrassing.”

Max pulled her chin up, grinning at her. “Don’t be that way. The truth is, you looked so peaceful, I didn’t have the heart to wake you. Besides, you seemed pretty spent after last night.” He winked at her, resulting in her cheeks turning a darker shade of pink.

“Max, quit it.”

Max laughed, kissing her head. “Ok, I promise I’ll stop.”

Max sat up, sighing as if the world was about to end. “I hate to do this, but I should probably get home.”

Liz nodded, pulling the sheet up against her chest as he stood up to put his clothes back on. She grinned as she eyed his butt as he bent forward to pull his boxers on. “I wouldn’t happen to be able to convince you take a shower with me before you leave would I?”

Max groaned, pulling his pants on before he could change his mind. “Don’t tempt me. I know my parents said no curfew, but I don’t think they meant I could stay out till six in the morning.”

Liz pouted, throwing her legs over the side of the bed. “Fine.” She walked to fetch her robe, wincing when the throbbing pain between her legs made itself known.

Max ran to her, helping her to sit down. “Liz? Are you ok?”

Liz gave him a sheepish grin as he helped her into her robe. “I’m fine. I guess last night’s activities are finally taking their toll on me,” she finished lamely.

Max frowned, his amber gaze clouding with concern. He opened his mouth to speak, but Liz beat him to it.

“Don’t even say it, Max. I don’t want to hear it. What happened between us last night was absolutely beautiful, and my being sore today is something natural. Besides, I hardly doubt that giving birth is a piece of cake, but it doesn’t make me want to have a baby with you any less. It‘s the same thing here. We made love for the first time last night, and with pleasure comes a little pain. But I wouldn‘t take any of that back. And I‘m hoping you feel the same way.”

Max had to smile at her logic. How did she know to say all the right things to calm him down?

He opened his mouth to speak again, but was silenced by Liz’s answer.

“Yes I’m sure, so don’t even ask me that question.”

Max chuckled, kissing her before he went to put the rest of his clothing on. When he was dressed he stood in front of her, playing with the gold band on his finger. “This is another thing I hate to do, but I’m gonna have to take this off for now. I don’t want to give my mom a coronary before the actually wedding.”

Liz giggled, pulling off the gold band from her own finger. She fidgeted with the diamond ring, looking up to meet his eyes. “Do you want me to hold off on wearing this for a while?”

“No! Why would you think that?”

Liz shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. I just don’t want you to feel awkward or anything.”

Max pulled her face to his, trying to make her understand. “Liz, when I asked you to marry me, I meant it. That ring is a symbol of our commitment together. I want people to see that ring on your finger and know that you belong to me, and that I belong to you. The only reason I’m not wearing your ring yet is because I don’t want my mother getting the wrong idea.”

Liz nodded, her forehead rubbing against his. “I understand.” She kissed him, smiling as she pushed him away. “Go, before I change my mind and keep you prisoner here.”

Max laughed as he walked backwards to her window. “Ok, I’ll go. But only if you promise to come to the house in like an hour?”

Liz nodded, wrapping her robe tighter around her body. “I promise. Now get outta here before I lose any control I have left.”

Max gave her a dopey grin, waving as he jumped through her window.

This is what heaven must be like, they thought.

Part 95

**********

Max held his tuxedo jacket over his shoulder as he walked into the house. As he had expected, everyone was still sound asleep. He walked quietly up the stairs, taking the steps two at a time.

When he reached his room, he closed the door behind him, walking up to Noah’s crib. He was still sound asleep, his long lashes resting against his rosy cheeks. As per usual, he sucked on his thumb, his other arm encasing his pooh bear. Max leaned across the wooden bars, placing a light kiss on his soft hair. He smiled, walking towards the bathroom, stripping as he went.

He turned the shower on, letting the water warm up as he looked at his reflection in the mirror.

The person looking back at him was so different from the person who he used to see. The person he saw was sickeningly happy, the several years of age wearing away with the permanent grin on his lips. He was sure that people were gonna be able to tell that he and Liz had consummated their relationship last night, just by looking at him. But he could care less.

He and Liz had given themselves to each other in the most intimate of ways, last night. There was nothing between them now. At first, Max had never imagined sharing with himself with anyone but Tess. He had thought that what they had was supposed to span lifetimes. But he had been wrong.

The love he shared with Liz was the love of a lifetime. It was what people called love between soul mates. He had never really considered Tess as his soul mate. He knew that he had loved her, but it wasn’t anything more than that. Liz was the epitome of a soul mate. She made him feel things he never knew existed. He never knew that it was possible to love someone so much that you felt like your heart would burst because it was overflowing with love. He knew that that probably sounded corny, and that it sounded lame, but it was the honest truth.

His smile grew a little brighter at the thought that Liz had agreed to marry him. He never would’ve thought that she was going to propose to him. When she had asked him, all else seemed to exist at that moment. It proved to him more than ever that they were so in sync, so in love that they almost shared the same thoughts, the same emotions.

He looked at his body’s reflection in the mirror and he couldn’t help but remember the night of passion they had shared. She had left her mark on him, a number of times, on a number of different places he thought wickedly. He shook his head, jumping into the shower as the bathroom began to mist up.

There’d be plenty of time to mull over that later, he thought.

***********

As he came out of the shower, refreshed and awake, his heart broke at the sound of Noah’s sobs.

“Momma!” His voice had grown hoarse as he continued to call out. He had pulled himself up into a standing position, leaning across the wooden bars. “Momma!”

Max plucked him out of his crib, cradling him against his chest. He rocked him back and forth, whispering in his ear. “Little man, don’t cry. It’s ok. Your momma’s gonna be here soon.” Max walked around the room, his large hand running down Noah’s little back, trying to soothe him. “You know, your momma misses you too. She even came by to visit you last night, but you were already sleeping.” He kissed his temple walking to the window seat. “I know how hard it is not having her around, because I feel the same way. But you don’t have to worry about that anymore, because your momma agreed to marry me last night.” Max grinned, thinking about their dual proposal. “We’re gonna be a real family. No one will be able to take her away from us.” He pulled back, looking into Noah’s face. He had calmed down, Max’s deep even voice, serving as a balm to his soul. “You like the sound of that, little man?”

Noah just reached out to touch his face, smiling as if he had understood everything that Max had said.

Just then, the door flew open, revealing a very tired looking Diane and Phillip.

Diane walked into the room, wrapping her robe tighter around herself. “Oh, hi honey. We didn’t think you were back yet so we came in here, cause we heard Noah crying.”

Max stood up, holding Noah against his chest. “He’s fine now. He’s just missing Liz.”

Diane gave him a sympathetic look, knowing how attached little Noah had become to Liz.

Phillip yawned from the doorway, waving goodbye. “Well, it seems like you’ve got everything under control here. We’re gonna head back to bed.”

“Wait!”

Phillip turned back around. “Yes, Max?”

“Well, seeing as you’re both up, there was something I wanted to talk to you about.”

Phillip walked into the room, pulling Diane to sit beside him on Max’s bed. “We’re listening.”

Max stood up, putting Noah back in his crib. He took his desk chair, pulling it up in front of his parents and taking a seat. He took a deep breath, giving his parents a nervous smile. “You guys have always said that I could come to you with anything, and that you guys would listen. You guys have already proved that whatever mistakes I make in my life, that you would never turn your back on me. That your love is unconditional, and regardless of what happens, you would support me and let me make my own decisions.”

Diane smiled, trying to be as encouraging as she could be. “That’s right, honey. Nothing’s changed that.”

Max gave her a tight smile as he continued. “Good, because there’s something that I wanted to share with you guys.”

Both parents looked at each other, then turning their attention back to Max. “Go on.”

“Last night, I proposed to Liz, and she accepted.” The dopey grin returned to his lips as he remembered.

Phillip smiled, speaking first. “That’s great, Max, but don’t you think the two of you are a little young to be thinking about marriage? I mean you’re both so young. You have the rest of your lives to get married if that really is what the two of you want to do.”

“Your father’s right, Max. It isn’t that we don’t like Liz, or disapprove of your relationship with her. The truth is, we love her like a daughter already. She’s the best thing that could’ve happened to you and Noah. But the truth of it is, the two of you are just about to graduate high school. Are you sure that the two of you are ready for that kind of commitment? Marriage is serious business. It isn’t something to take lightly.”

Max nodded, expecting as much. He wasn’t angry at his parents, because he completely understood things from their point of view. It only meant that they loved him so much to care that he knew what he was getting himself into. “I understand all of that. I never would have even asked Liz if I wasn’t really sure that this was what I wanted. I don’t see the point in waiting, when I know that she’s the only one for me. I love her so much it hurts. I can’t imagine graduating school without knowing that Liz and I aren’t going to make this final commitment. The truth is, marriage is just a legality that we have to go through. Because in my mind, in my heart, and in my soul, Liz and I are already married.”

Diane felt the tears sting her eyes at Max’s honesty. She had figured that that was the case, but she was his mother. Even though she knew that in her heart, she wouldn’t be herself if she didn’t make sure. She reached out to touch his hand, squeezing it firmly in her own. “If that’s what you and Liz really want, there’s nothing we can do stop you. The two of you are mature adults that are capable of making your own decisions. But I want you to know, that your father and I will be behind the two of you every step of the way to support you guys.”

Max teared up at his mother’s continuous support. “Thank you for understanding. Because it isn’t just what I want, it’s what we need.”

Phillip, pulled Max into a hug, his voice cracking a little. “I’m proud of you Max. I want you to know that. You have no idea what it does to me, that you feel comfortable enough to talk to us.”

He and Diane walked t